author : oro
notes: stretching my ficcy limbs. thanks, manda, for the beta.
When they were younger, she drunkenly staggered outside of his apartment at 4 in the morning. He was asleep and his pillow smelled like her hair.
The next day, his wife came back, and he remembered that scent. It fueled his fantasies, and, in the end, his lack of desire.
"Do you like to draw on the windowpanes when it freezes?"
They're learning and re-learning each other. "Do you like sad movies or happy movies?" "Do you like Ezra Pound or Amy Lowell?" "Do you need a few minutes before you can get out of bed in the morning?"
They're like handicapped people who learn how to walk again, and it's painful. Their muscles are numb, and every feeling opens up a new bruise they forgot they could feel.
They hide their relationship so much it sometimes seems as though they hide it from themselves. She still forgets that she needs to pick just one side of the bed, and he forgets that he doesn't sleep in his apartment anymore. When Josh asks why they aren't taking separate cars ("you live on two different sides of the city, it can't be cheaper this way!"), they stammer.
She's the press secretary, so she's better at lying. She says they have some more work to do. It's always work, and then she acts sleep-deprived and says something about Toby being an obsessive schmuck. When Josh leaves, her fingers apologetically search for Toby's.
At night, they unfold into each other clumsily. They're older and more afraid (she's fiercer, he's more somber), their pieces don't quite fit together. He takes out his white-out and edits their words to mean something new and she repeats it to him until he is pleased.
His fingers move over her stomach in letters, aimlessly. She tries to guess what they mean, but she never can. His fingers spell out, 'I love you,' and 'I am scared'. She thinks it means, 'I am using you as an excuse', and 'I'm not going to be here tomorrow.'
But he's still there the next day.
She rolls into his arms and doesn't sleep.
Sometimes, he brings her presents to test her patience. He brings her a book about New York and says they should go back someday. She uses it to hit him over the head and goes to not speak to him in the bathroom.
What he remembers about New York won't fit into a book; the people and the smells, that particular bakery only he knows that has the best cinnamon buns and the butcher who always pays you extra attention if he sees you know what you're talking about, and the bar that has so many kinds of alcohol it can make your head spin.
She only knows the bar, he remembers after a while of pleading with her through the door.
He never quite fit into her lifestyle; he hated the stupid sand and the stupid thin people and those stupid palm trees.
She hates him for forgetting.
Sometimes, he still goes back to sleep in his own apartment.
What she remembers about New York is the rain that started to fall without any notice. She couldn't see it through her own pain, her eyes half-blind as she hailed a taxi cab. She saw it only as it fell on the windows and it felt as though she was crying.
But she wasn't.
When Andi came back, he stopped saying anything to her. It was like nothing happened, except worse, because it had, and they could still remember what the other looked like naked and how it felt to be inside during the rain.
That was the first night she felt the rain in her very core.
It rains hard in Washington, D.C.
They close her apartment window and listen, saying nothing. He takes her into his lap like they aren't too old and too experienced for this schtick.
They know they won't be ready for it when thunder strikes them again, but they do it anyway.
His breath is warm on her neck and she squeezes his hand, hard.
"Do you like to run away when I get too close?"
They learn each other's reflexes, the way she flinches like a deer caught in the headlights and he just gets silent and dark (well, more so than usual). They ask each other questions and never the important ones, just the little ones, but they make them important.
When the sun finally shines, it's slow and careful, tiptoeing into daylight like they do into remembrance.