[XFVCU-fic] Before I Walk On Fire
Deslea R. Judd
DISCLAIMER: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
ARCHIVE: Yes, just keep my name and headers.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: XF Release, XFVCU Prism.
CATEGORY/KEYWORDS: Follmer/Wainwright, angst, missing scene.
SUMMARY: Her longings disturb her, and they mark her with inhumanity more than the ridges on the back of her neck, but when she feels them, she feels alive. An unofficial elaboration of a scene in Prism, but it can stand alone.
AUTHOR SITE: http://fiction.deslea.com
VIRTUAL SERIES SITE: http://xfvcu.deslea.com
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff. email@example.com
AWARDS/ELIGIBILITY: Spooky Awards 2004 eligible.
"You want it to stop," he said, holding her gaze with his own. He couldn't look away. "But you don't know any other way. You're outside, and you don't know...you don't know how to get back in."
-- from XFVCU episode 1x07 Prism, by the XFVCU team.
There are many ways to kill.
There is the practical kill, the kill as a means to an end. Andrew was one of those. Then there are the kills in defence of self or another, the many indiscriminate ones of war. Some are thought-out and considered, some impulsive and random, but fundamentally, they're two sides of a single coin of necessity. They are regrettable, but they are not significant. She does not dwell on them. They are over and done.
But then there is this. This, she dwells upon. She luxuriates in it. She remembers it late at night when she drifts into the sleep she no longer needs. She sinks into memory, into longing, and uses it to comfort herself when there is no one there to hold her. Her longings disturb her, and they mark her with inhumanity more than the ridges on the back of her neck, but when she feels them, she feels alive.
He doesn't pull away when she reaches for him. Doesn't flinch when she touches the pulse in his throat. He just looks at her, eyes grave and sad.
"Do you know what it's like for me to feel your blood like this, Brad?" she says. "To know that it's precious, and that it carries something unique and finite that will never exist again once it dies? Do you know -" her breath hitches a little "- do you know what I would give to be precious like that?"
His hand is folded over hers on the table beside her. She doesn't think he realises it. "No," he whispers. "I don't know."
She can hear the steady throb of his pulse. Can feel its beat against her hand. Warmth falls over her like a shroud. She loves him like this, loves seeing him and feeling him like this, and she wants...she wants...she wants to take it and touch it and feel it, wants to revel in it, wants to meld in the warmth of life and the silence and peace of death -
Does he know? Does he know, standing there, looking at her so solemnly in the dark, does he know how much she wants it? Does he fear it? Does he fear her? He looks as though he simply wonders what she's going to do. As though she had a choice. As though she ever had a choice about anything.
He said she wanted it to stop, and she supposes that much is true. But can she? *Can* she? If she can't, then all of it was in vain. Him standing here is in vain, and she may as well just kill him now. But does she want to do that?
She realises that she doesn't. Not now. Maybe not ever.
But then what does she want? she wonders, sitting there, poised, her hand still pressed to his throat. Dimly, she understands that she is at a crossroads. That what she does now will change everything. But she craves the warmth and the peace, she wants it so much, and why, why can't there be anything to pull her back? The realisation washes over her that this is all there is. She looks on him sadly, relishing the feel of his hand moulded to hers and wishing there was another way. She draws it away, ready to raise it to join its mate around his throat.
It takes only a split second for her to realise what she's done. To feel the coldness, the absence against the back of her hand. To realise that he has something to give besides his life, and she was just about to let it slip away.
She releases his throat, and she leans in and kisses him, instead.
His mouth falls open beneath hers and he lets out a sigh. She isn't sure whether it's of passion or relief, but she feels the tension leave her, dissipating through her body and falling away. As though he had taken that moment, poised on the brink, and released it for them both. She clutches his shirt in her fists, tugging him closer. He leans forward, his hands on her arms, and his mouth is tender even as it demands and claims.
"This doesn't change anything," he whispers desperately against her, and she isn't sure if he really believes it, but she does. That's why she chose him for this, chose him as her adversary and foil. Because she knew that he wouldn't let her down.
"No," she agrees. Absolving him, though there is nothing to forgive.
"I'm still going to-"
She doesn't let him finish. Doesn't let him think about what that means, that he will have to charge her in the morning. Doesn't give him time to wonder if maybe he's taking advantage of her, because he isn't, and she knows that even if he does not.
"I wouldn't expect anything else."
He slides his hands over her back, drawing her closer, and she can feel his indecision. She can feel his fingertips brushing the ridges high up on her spine. She sees renewed recognition in his eyes, that she is damaged and changed, and she wonders if he will pull away. She doesn't let herself think about what she'll do if he does.
Tentatively, he strokes her there. Moulds his hand to them and cradles them. His acceptance of her is like life's breath, and she lets out a long, low sigh of relief as he kisses her again. Thank God, she thinks, tugging his tie free of his collar with hasty, clumsy hands. Thank God.
His hands grow surer, crossing over the planes of her back to draw her harder against his body, and she slides her arms up around his neck and plunges her hands into his hair. Her legs fall apart and she wraps them around him and uses them to tug him between her thighs.
They break the kiss, staring at each other. Moonlight splashes over them through the window. Their breathing is slow and heavy, drowning out the staccato of rain. She kisses him again - she can't keep away, she needs to devour - and she tugs uselessly at his shirt with her hand. He lets out a hungry sound into her mouth, sliding his hand beneath her sweater and dragging it high up her spine.
"Yes," she whispers, her flesh warm and tender beneath his touch. She feels the muscles in her back grow tight then loose again, making a delightful friction with his hand. He eases it down and around her body, coming to rest between them, finding the swell of her breast and brushing her there with his fingertips until she aches with need.
She lets out a shaky sigh, breaking their kiss and resting her head against his cheek. She gazes down between them. She sees his hand, touching her there with hesitancy and wonder. She dresses to be the woman she has become, but now that he has her like this, her unageing body belies her. It occurs to her that he probably hasn't touched anybody this young since he was a teenager himself, and she wonders if he is afraid he'll hurt her. She isn't seventeen any more, and hurt - that kind of hurt - is far behind her, but his gentleness touches her, just the same.
"Brad," she sighs, stroking his arm with new tenderness, and he turns his head and dips a little to kiss her. This kiss is slow and gentle, but his hand grows surer and firmer on her body. She arches her back, drawing in her breath with a hiss as sensation darts through her body, settling between her thighs in a dull ache of need.
Her hand drifts down over his hip, and she slides it down around him, feeling the well-formed curve of his ass with unexpected delight. She has a jaded view of physical elegance - she thinks of her own as manufactured and false - and her appreciation of this detail surprises even her. She strokes him through his slacks, eliciting a whimper from him that makes her smile against his mouth, and he edges closer, banging his legs against the table. She tightens her arm around his shoulders, ready to pull herself hard against him, but he stops her, stroking his palm down her body between them. She hisses again when his fingers reach the crease between her thighs, tracing it through her trousers with his nails. She feels it as vibrations rippling through the hardness of the seams, and she writhes against him, gasping his name, watching him with wide-open eyes.
He strokes her face with his free hand, and she leans into it, nuzzling the joints in his fingers with her lips. She whimpers helplessly when he leans in to kiss her throat. Her sounds turn into tiny cries when he parts her folds through the fabric and teases her with his fingers. She feels the moisture inside her well up and let go, her body opening up and waiting to be filled. Her hand is in his hair, urging him on against her throat as he touches her, dragging her trousers with delightful friction over her sex, and she clutches at his shoulders, overwhelmed, her head bowed against him when she comes.
"Shh," he soothes, stroking her hair, kissing her temple. She turns her head and kisses him, lightly, with tender lips, cradling his face with her hands as the tremors fade. She unbuttons his shirt with trembling hands and tugs it out of his trousers, and he makes a hitching sound against her mouth when the air washes over his body. She feels goosebumps rise on his flesh beneath her fingertips, but they go down again when she strokes him and warms him with her hands. His fingertips slide beneath her waistband at the back, tracing circles on her flesh, and she arches against his hand, grappling with his belt, eager to expose him and be exposed. She breaks the kiss to look down between them and see what she's doing, and he rests his head against her. His tender, heavy breaths are warm and comforting against the side of her face. She sighs with longing, meeting him, kissing him again as she finally gets his belt undone.
She opens his trousers with deftly questing hands, and he moans into her mouth when she eases his briefs down over his hips. She strokes his shaft with firm, inquisitive palms, tracing the smoothness and the sudden rise of the head, stroking the ridge where they meet with her fingertip. His hands, stroking her back beneath her sweater, grow erratic, and his kisses become less fluid. She misses the languid ease of his touch, but she smiles against his mouth, pleased by the reaction she has drawn.
She stands up, her hips pressed hard against him, cornered by the edge of the table behind her. He leans down to kiss her throat, and she arches, bracing herself with her hands behind her and hooking one of her legs around him. He leans forward with her, grinding down hard between her thighs. She is held taut, stretched out beneath him as he pushes up her sweater once more. Her breasts are thrust upwards to meet him, nipples hard and proud in the cool night air, and he takes them into his mouth, hungrily, first one, then the other. Ripples of longing course through her as he presses up against her, and she considers falling back and having him there on the tabletop, but she wants-
"Bed," she whispers. "Where-" and that's all she gets out before he takes her hand and tugs her back towards him.
They are waylaid with kisses and touches, sighing and moaning and laughing out loud, but finally they make it across the room to his bedroom. Once there, she pushes him against the wall. She drops down on folded knees before him, taking him into her mouth, taking him by surprise.
He hisses. He thrusts into her hard for a moment, too hard, but it thrills her too, brings up her arousal and makes her want to devour. His hand grasps blindly at the wall beside them, stretched out taut as he gets control of himself, and his breathing is rasping and erratic as he backs off and lets her set the pace. She takes it slow, licks the head of his cock, relishes the salty taste and strokes the fluid over him with her tongue, cradling his balls with her palm. She only does that for a few moments before he takes her hand and tugs her upwards. He says, "I won't last if you-" and she silences him, kissing him once more.
He breaks the kiss, just long enough to lift her sweater over her head. The bottom edge drags up over her breasts, already sensitive, almost to the point of pain. She bites her lip, rocking on her heels, clutching at his arm for support as he slides his hands over her ass, cradling and kneading her curves, nudging her trousers and panties down over her hips and easing them down her thighs. She fumbles with his open trousers and briefs and somehow manages to get them off him, and they fall into a pile around his feet. He steps out of them, guiding her backwards and easing her onto his bed, and she reaches up and pushes his open shirt off his shoulders when he joins her.
His brow flickers as he strokes her hair, splayed out around her on the pillows. "You're beautiful, you know," he murmurs, unexpectedly solemn.
She swallows hard. "This isn't me," she says, shaking her head, but she rifles her fingers through his hair to soften the rebuke.
"Yes, it is," he says. She frowns, considering the idea that he might be right.
"I've done terrible things," she says finally. Hoping he won't whitewash it. She chose him because she believed he wouldn't.
"Yes," he says without rancour. "But not tonight."
Emotion wells up in her, a jumbled mix of things she cannot name. "Brad," she whispers, and she wraps her arms around him and tugs him down against her, clutching at his shoulders with her hands.
"Yolanda, don't," he says, settling down to cover her, warm flesh moulding to hers. He cradles her with his arm, and his caress is firm, but tender, tracing over her from the curve of her shoulder, down over her arm and her side and down the back of her thigh. That brings her desire up, and her legs fall open for him, and he moves with her, fitting his body to hers.
She kisses him, unhurried and tender, when her body opens up for him. She feels him parting her, making a path within her, and they hold each other with wide, unbelieving eyes. She wants to tell him she loves him - and she does, in her own fucked-up way - but the words seem trite, and so she tells him with gentle lips and fingertips instead.
He seems to understand; he kisses her forehead and sighs when she dips her head to kiss his throat. His hand drags slowly through her hair, demanding and tender in equal measure. She rests her head there for one long, heady moment, listening to the comforting throb of his pulse, steady and strong, and she wonders why she ever wanted it to end. Her eyes are bright with sudden tears when she looks up at him, and she can tell he wonders why, but she silences him before he can ask with a kiss that is slow and gentle and deep.
He finds her hand with his, and laces his fingers with hers over her breast, drawing her up into the crook of his arm. He fills her with long, even strokes, and her breathing deepens as she closes around him, moving with him with exquisite, languid rhythm. Their heads are bowed, foreheads touching, calm and serene even as their tempo builds where their bodies are joined. Her eyes drift closed and she rests against his shoulder as she feels the tension leave her in waves. She feels it not as an absence, but a presence, as real as his body spilling over into her and his hand seizing convulsively with hers. It floods her body with the warmth of comfort and the euphoria of release. They come to rest, not all at once, but in scattered touches and sighs until both are still.
She stays there for a long time after his caresses and his murmured words subside. She is lulled by the steady rise and fall of his chest beneath her cheek, and for a while, she allows herself to believe that there is time. But there isn't, and so she kisses his hand, and carefully, reluctantly, she pulls away.
Cool, white light spills in through the windows and bathes him. She wraps her arms around her knees and wrestles with the knowledge that the next time he touches her, it will be to arrest her. She tries to imagine him being rough with her, and the picture will not form.
Are you sure you want to do this? Shannon had asked her when she witnessed her affidavit earlier that day. Then, she was sure. Now, it occurs to her that she could leave here, and be far out of his reach before he wakes, but she knows in her heart that she will not. She grasps, dimly, that he was right - that this is her, for better or worse. She is one, not two; she is not the before and the after, the good and the bad, and she proved that tonight when she chose to be one over the other. And from that truth, other things must necessarily flow, accountability and restitution among them. Otherwise it will all have been for nothing, and she cannot accept that. She was a soldier once, she defended the blameless (or so she had believed), and the cost, waged in the blood of the blameless is far too high.
And yet she looks at him, listens to the steady throb of his pulse in the dark, and she wishes...she wishes...
"This doesn't change anything," she whispers when the tears have been and gone and she sets down her confession at his side. She knows that it is the truth. After all, that's why she chose him.
Because she knew that he wouldn't let her down.
I don't want somewhere to run to
I don't want somebody I can shake
Lord, I want my dignity again
Before I walk on fire
You've got to look me in the face
I won't flinch and I won't turn away
-- Sophie B Hawkins, Before I Walk On Fire
See also the companion story Prism.