I see Monica standing at the edge, hands resting on the parapet, and even from this view, she appears to be calm. I wonder why she's standing in the cold with no coat. Maybe she's not aware of the cold. Maybe she's on fire like I am.
She lifts her arms out to her side as if she's going to fly, as if she's going to jump from the building and test her wings. I hold my breath.
Her head tilts up for a long moment, like she's worshiping the stars in the sky, and she turns her hands over, palm up, in what must be a dance move, it's so elegant. Her fingers curl and uncurl. And I know now that she's not trying to fly and she's not worshiping the heavens.
She's casting another spell.
I move to her and I'm scared to death that this is a dream and that she does not want me. By the time I reach her, her hands rest once again on the parapet. She doesn't hear me behind her, such is the street noise. I put my hands on her waist. Her own hands are like ice as they clasp mine and she pulls me closer. She's not startled that I'm here; perhaps she knew I was watching her all along. I kiss her frozen back and rest my head between her shoulder blades. This is exactly where I want to be and exactly who I want to be with. I'm a glowing ember, steadily burning hot against her cold back.
"Dana Scully," she says hoarsely.
I kiss her between her shoulder blades again. She lifts my hands to her lips and kisses them. She's got me stretched taut against her back. She'd better proceed with caution, or I'll take her right here.
I don't know how long we stand like this, with her lips on my fingers, with my head against her back, before I realize that something's wrong. "Monica."
She kisses my fingers, and I feel the wetness of tears.
"Hey." I pull away and turn her around. Her eyes are shining, but she smiles. "What's wrong?"
She touches my face and her fingers are icicles. "Nothing," she says. "Everything's right. Everything's beautiful." Her thumb traces my cheekbone. "You're beautiful," she says, and leans down to kiss me.
She's the beautiful one, but I don't have the vocabulary she has; I don't have the eloquence to say how beautiful she is. I keep showing her my desperation, and I hope she understands. It's all I have to give her.
Her hands rest on my hips. We kiss languidly, leisurely. I don't want to take her; I want to be taken. I want this roof to be ours and this night to last forever. I want to shed my clothes and feel her naked against me. I want to undo her like she's undone me, like she keeps undoing me.
I'm not one to lose control, but I'm losing it to her. It's the only way I can show her my love. I arch up to her again, to beg for another kiss. She's generous. I'm molten, liquid fire, and all I want is to be poured onto the ground beneath her.
Monica leans back to gaze at me. She gives me a devastating look, one that I know even in the moonlight, and pulls me to her again slowly and tenderly, kissing my cheek, whispering my name. Our mouths are together again, and I could kiss her for the rest of my life. I'd never grow tired of her lips. I want them to tell me a thousand stories. I want them to say my name every morning and every night.
I want to be the only one she thinks about. I want to deserve her love. I want to know why she chose to be with me rather than her friends when that fellow died.
"Tell me about Marty Cheron."
Her back straightens. There's a subtle squaring of her shoulders. "Where did you hear that name?"
"I've been hearing it all night. The Cheron this, the Cheron that. I finally asked Stephanie, but she wouldn't tell me the whole story. Just that it's a sculpture by a man who died recently." I look at her, but she's hiding her face from me, in the shadows.
"And what did she say exactly?"
She's being unduly cautious. Cautious enough so that I'm suddenly jealous. I wonder why she wants to protect the dead man from my scrutiny. "Evasion doesn't become you, Monica."
She scowls and turns away slightly, hands twisting, fingers clasping and unclasping. I put my hand on her arm. My fingers graze her breast, but she doesn't notice. "Tell me."
She remains silent.
"Fine." I want to throw a tantrum right here. My emotions have run the gamut since my pregnancy, and I blame hormones. But the fact that my emotions are so extreme, I blame on Monica.
I don't throw a tantrum, just let go of her arm and wait. She seems to be literally chewing her words before she spits them out. Her jaw is moving, but her mouth isn't opening. Finally, her lips work over each other, pressing and pursing, and she says, in a voice I hardly recognize because it's so wired with tension, "He died."
"I know he died. I know he sculpted a piece of art for you. I know that it was a freak motorcycle accident. And I know that you were with me delivering William when his funeral took place." Saying the words makes me realize why I brought up the subject to begin with - to thank her. I stroke her forearm. "Tell me why you were with me."
She tells me exactly what I want to hear. "It was a choice. Life or death. I chose life." The words come out splintered; she's still tense.
She can't be any tenser than I am. "And you regret that?" I unfold her arms, take her hands, rub her fingers.
"Yes," she finally manages. "And no." She presses her lips together, pauses. "I regret that I couldn't be in two places at once, but I don't regret the choice I made. Marty was dead; there's nothing I could do for him. But I could help William make it safely into the world."
"Stephanie said they needed you - your friends did. She said that they needed you to investigate his death."
She stares blankly.
"But you haven't?"
She shakes her head. "No. There hasn't been -" she clamps her mouth shut on the rest of the sentence, but I know what she's saying. She hasn't had time to investigate his death.
"I've been keeping you pretty busy, haven't I?"
"I didn't want to leave you; I was worried about you and your son." Her words are bitter again when she mutters: "Mulder's son."
Bitterness is an especially vile thing when it's coming from her mouth. I don't want to cause her regret. "You've done a lot for us. Don't think for a minute that I don't realize that, Monica." I feel suddenly ashamed. "I haven't been good at thanking you for all you've done for me. You've kept me sane. You've saved my life in more ways than one." I squeeze her hands. "My son's alive because of you."
"I don't know about that," she murmurs. She still won't look at me.
"I do." I draw her closer, wrap my arms around her, but she's not yielding. I kiss the hollow of her neck and run my hands up her bare back. I kiss her throat. I feel her begin to relax. "You've done more for me in the past few months than a lifetime of friends."
She reaches down, runs her fingers through my hair. "I'm angry at Mulder," she says. "For deserting you."
I shake my head. "He didn't desert me. I asked him to leave."
"Oh." Her face tilts toward my lips.
I lean up to meet her kiss. I inhale her breath as she flicks her tongue inside my mouth. She tastes like cigarettes and alcohol, a combination that reminds me of smoky bars, pretty women and sex. It's a taste that excites me, and I arch toward her like the needy person I've become.
She probes me with her tongue, and I let her; I'm pliant in her arms. I'll let her lead for now. I'll let her lead for as long as she wants to. If I wasn't so tough, if I wasn't so frozen, I'd melt on the spot, and still, it's all I can do to hold my own. I'm so frightened of how good she makes me feel that I want to run away, but it's been so long since I've felt this. And I'm not sure it was ever this intense. I'm in love and I'm scared to death.
I pull away. "Where was the accident?"
Her body stiffens again. "North Carolina."
"Is that where he was from? Where he was buried?"
"No. Macon, Georgia."
"You seem to have quite a few southern connections for someone who was raised in Mexico." I know that this is coming off as an interrogation; still I have to know these things.
She smiles, but it's brief and tight. "Yeah, I guess I do."
"Raney's from Atlanta, right?"
"Not originally, but that's where he lives now."
"Yeah, she was born and raised in a small town in Georgia. Not as small a town as Doggett's, but there aren't many as small as Democrat Hot Springs."
Cheron, Laos and Pritchard. I wonder that Monica's three best friends at Brown were all from Georgia. And Doggett's from Georgia, too. It's a curious thing for someone raised in Mexico. "We'll go there on Monday, okay?"
She looks puzzled.
"North Carolina. We'll start an investigation of our own."
"Oh." She shakes her head and frowns. "I can't. Stephanie's staying here with me until Wednesday and then she's driving down to Florida for Thanksgiving."
The holidays; I forgot. "What are your plans?"
"For Thanksgiving? I'll go home when Stephanie does."
My heart sinks. It would be nice if she didn't have plans. It would be nice to see her sitting at my mother's table. Every person in my family will adore her; Mom already does. "When will you be back?"
She grimaces. "Sunday."
"How am I going to go that long without seeing you?" I mean to tease her, but it comes out petulant.
She smiles, a full radiant smile at me. It makes me so happy that I grin right back at her. Her hand strokes my hair, rubs my back. "Guess I have bad timing." Pain flicks across her face. "Having this party tonight."
She's holding something back from me, and I don't want her to. I need to know everything. "Sounds like perfect timing to me. Stephanie gets to stay with you while she's on school break; you get to catch up with her. And all your friends were able to be here tonight."
She looks away. "It's the first time I've seen most of them since before Marty died." She twirls my hair absently. "Some of them haven't forgiven me for not being there. They don't understand."
"I don't see it. Everyone looks thrilled to be here and to see you."
"I don't know." She's still far away. "His parents hate me." She shakes her head slowly, as if this still surprises her. "They hate me for not being there. At the funeral."
"You must have been very close to him." I know she was, but I don't know the nature of that closeness. Were they friends? Lovers?
Oh, God. Were they married?
The thought makes me sick. But those photographs of Marty, those photos of the girl. What if she was married? What if she had a child? Impossible - I'd know. Monica's wide open; what you see is what you get with her. But it was Stephanie who told me that there were things Monica wouldn't talk about, and I think Stephanie would know. I think they were lovers at one time.
What do I know of Monica's past? I don't even know much about her life here and now.
She continues looking beyond me.
What exactly did Stephanie tell me about Marty? That most of his artwork was for Monica. That everyone expected her to be at the funeral and they expected her to handle the investigation into his death.
His parents were particularly upset that she didn't make the funeral. My mind runs over the various possibilities and the probabilities. Why did she come to Washington? Doggett had called her in to help out on a case and called her again to get me to safety when William was due. Then he asked her to join the X Files division and I've kept her running ever since.
Her face is slack. She's in a painful place right now, thinking about this dead man.
"I'll go on Monday and stay a couple of days. Check out the situation," I tell her.
I suddenly have her attention. "What?"
"I'm going to leave on Monday, go to North Carolina."
"No." She's vehement. "No." She touches my face, becomes gentle again. "It's Thanksgiving, stay here, with your family."
Sure, it's Thanksgiving. My best friend, who happens to be my son's father, and the woman I'm in love with won't be here to share it with me. It'll just be another family reunion. "I'll leave Monday morning. They'll have to cover for me at work. I'll come back on Wednesday." It's a lie. I'll leave tomorrow and I won't come back until I have some answers. It's the least I can do for her.
"Dana." Her word is a warning. "Don't." She shakes her head. "Okay? Just don't." She kisses me. "Please just stay here and rest and have a good Thanksgiving. Okay?"
"Will I get to see you at all?" Damn. I'm whining.
"Yes." She kisses me.
"When? You're leaving Wednesday. When do I get to see you?"
"Well, there's tonight." She kisses me.
"And there's tomorrow." She kisses me.
She smiles on my lips. "You know where to find me. I'll leave the rest up to you."
I think about how I frightened her earlier with my intensity. I made her cry, and I don't want it to happen again. "Maybe you shouldn't leave anything up to me, Monica."
"Why not?" She kisses me.
"Because." My hands are squeezing her arms too hard. My teeth bang against hers. 'Because I'll only hurt you again,' I think. 'And because you'll let me.'
The guests have left. Most of them, anyway.
Monica's sitting in a club chair, thinking about Stephanie, who has taken a young woman to her bed, and about Raney, who looked resigned to that fact when he left. The two women are in the guest bedroom now, and we can hear them bumping and laughing. I've waited an eternity for the party to end. Whether Monica loves me or not, whether she's bi or gay or even straight, she's going to be with me tonight.
She must feel me eyeing her, because she looks up at me and shudders. I'm ten feet away from her, staring. I gaze at her legs, her skirt, her blouse, her arms, her breasts. I can't wait for this any longer. I won't.
She leans back in the chair and I move one step forward. Her chin tilts up and her lips part. I take it as an invitation.
Her mouth is open before mine even gets there, and I push my tongue inside. It's deep, but I want to be deeper. I support myself by propping up with my left hand. My right's tangled in her hair, and I open my mouth wider to devour her.
She moans in my mouth.
Kissing her isn't enough. I want her on me, inside me. I want to be inside her. She's been everywhere for the past few months, but not close enough. I push my knee between hers, and she moans again. Her hands are on my back. My fingernails are digging into her skin, and I don't want to cause her pain, but I can't let go of her either.
"Dana," she says, trying to pull away.
I'm bruising her mouth. With a conscious effort, I move my lips down her face, along her neck, until I can take hold again. I bite her, sucking her in. Her moan isn't soft this time and her chest heaves beneath me. I push her against the back of the chair and hold her there. I have her pinned, my pretty butterfly, and I release her long enough to gaze at her like a prize.
What I see surprises me. Monica's eyes are mere slits, her mouth open. "Please," she says, wanting more. She looks at me from behind heavy lids. "Please." She places her hands on the back of my head and pulls me down to her lips.
Her bare thigh jumps beneath my touch. I'm not playing, so I don't caress her, I just push my hand up under her skirt. She's so wet that I cry out. I didn't know before tonight that she wanted me at all. And I never would have guessed that she'd want me this much.
I keep my hand where it is but I pull my face away again to look at her. I do stroke her now, through her panties. Her hands are on my back; she's not holding me so much as hanging on. Her breath catches and her eyes drift shut and open again. We're staring at each other when she comes, her eyes growing wide, then narrow, fluttering shut.
I'm so grateful that I want to be gentle with her, but I still need her so much that I can't be. My desire is overwhelming. I balance between these two extremes. Her hands are on my face again, her eyes are moist and grateful and loving. "Dana," she whispers.
My hand's on her neck, in her hair. I want her desperately. "Say it again."
"Dana," she whispers.
My hand's beneath her blouse, on her breast. I need her desperately. "Say it again."
"Dana," she moans. Her long legs are lifting, bending.
My hand's inside her panties, inside her. I love her desperately. "Say it again."
And this is when I realize that some women are so powerful they can bring you to orgasm merely by saying your name.
I've never held a live wire before, but I imagine the feeling is similar. Dana's so intense that heat radiates from her body. She's tiny, but she's a force. She's got me trapped in the club chair. I sat down to rest my feet, and Dana just walked boldly up to me, leaned down and began fucking my mouth. She still is; her tongue could be down my throat if I wasn't twisting and turning beneath her. Everywhere she touches makes me quiver.
She must think love is war, and that she has to conquer me, because that's how she's kissing me. What she doesn't understand is that she's already won the battle, and her victory wasn't marked by my orgasm, but hers. I wasn't even touching her when she came, just saying her name and hanging on while her hands roamed all over my body. I wonder if she climaxed so easily because she's in love with me or because her emotions are so intense that she's always on the verge of erupting. Whatever the reason, I know I've never felt as powerful or as grateful as then, when her body tensed, her eyes squeezed shut, and her hand stilled.
I touch her face, her hair. She's beautiful.
"I think we should take this to your bedroom." She kisses me. "Don't you?"
Yes. No. The thought terrifies me - I want her, but it's too much right now. I'm anxious enough the first time with somebody, and for the past fifteen years, those somebodies have been men. I shouldn't be so nervous, and maybe if we just sat here a while longer, I wouldn't be.
I don't know how to please her in bed, but this isn't really what concerns me. Her intensity is what's so disconcerting. She's going to burn me. I just want to kiss her for the rest of the night. I pull her down on top of me in the chair and run my hands up her back. The kiss I give her is steady and slow. I want this to last forever. She might be disappointed if it goes any further. I know I will. Sex is never as good as cuddling.
"Monica." Her lips move on my mouth and then she pulls away to kiss my cheek. "God, you've got the sweetest kisses." She takes my hand. "Come on."
I press my lips together and look away. I'm 34 years old and I've had sex plenty of times. There's no need for me to be afraid, especially of her. But I'm terrified, especially of her.
She pulls away. "Or I can leave."
Whatever dark emotion's on her face makes me feel worse. I shake my head. "I'm just nervous."
"It's been a long time," my voice dips so low that it cracks. I clear my throat. "Since I've been with a woman."
She turns my chin. "Monica." Her voice is a soft reprieve.
"I'm afraid." I'm afraid of falling in love with her. I'm afraid I already have.
"We don't have to do this." Her face is gentle.
I kiss her my gratitude. My hands are in her hair, my mouth opening beneath her. Her kisses are giving me everything I want. We don't need to take it any further.
Dana's tenderness is momentary. Her tongue's deep inside my mouth, her fingernails scrape across my neck. "But I need to leave if we're not going to, okay? I need to leave now."
I kiss her again, slowly. Why can't we kiss all night?
Both of her hands are in my blouse. "God," she murmurs. "Monica-"
My lips kiss her talking mouth, but she pulls away. Her hands are still on my breasts, fingers circling the nipples. "If I'm not staying here tonight, we have to stop this now." Her voice is ragged. "While I can. Do you understand?"
While she can. The thought of her forcing herself on me sends shivers down my spine. I nod, wordless. I don't want her to leave, but I don't know if she should stay. My feelings overwhelm me.
"What's it going to be?" Her fingers pinch me inside my blouse. I look down at them and shiver. Dana Scully's hands are on my breasts. "Monica?" Her voice is a warning. I look at her, but away quickly, because her face is raw lust. "Am I making the decision?" She pulls her hands out of my shirt, caresses the deep V line of my blouse. "Look at me." It's a command, and I force myself to meet her eyes. She's questioning me, but I can't answer. I'm so afraid of this. "You want me to make the choice?" Her voice is soft, but it still sounds like a threat. Her eyes dip down to her hands and then back to my eyes. She yanks the shirt open, tearing it savagely. And she looks victorious at my shock.
Her mouth is on one of my breasts, sucking and nipping, and then it's on the other. I'm trying to hold still, but I can't. I stifle a scream when she bites my nipple. She pulls away, leering at me. I don't know what I've gotten myself into. I'm terrified and so, so wet. "I can fuck you right here," she says. "But I'd rather fuck you in there."
She pulls me up. This is just like being with a man; it's pure sex. She walks me to my bedroom. But sex has never felt like this. My shirt is torn open and it's barely hanging together. I'm extremely aware of the chill of the air on my breasts where her saliva is beginning to dry.
I stop inside my room, and she closes the door behind us. I just stand here, uncertain, feeling nervous. I've never been so turned on in my life, but I'm paralyzed. My heart's about to jump out of my chest; my knees are almost knocking.
She's behind me, removing my blouse. It's ruined, and the sight of it as she drops it to the floor makes my legs weak. This is what she's capable of, such violent lust. Her hands are on the zipper of my skirt. She'll have me undressed in a moment. No. I grab her wrists to stop her, but release them and turn around to face her.
"Don't make me stop," she whispers, and puts her hands on my waist and begins kissing my breasts so sweetly that I can almost forget how she tore my blouse to get to them. She kisses my breasts and my neck, and I'm bending toward her. She's kissing my lips, opening her mouth beneath me, letting my tongue slip inside. Her hands are on my zipper. I'm shaking. I feel like a virgin.
I can't. I can't let her undress me like this. It's too fast. I push her arms, slide my hands down to her hands and hold them. She leans against my chest, breathing heavy. "Okay." But her voice isn't resigned, it's agitated. She kisses my chest between my breasts very softly. She kisses my collarbone the same way. She kisses my throat. These kisses are so chaste and sweet that I don't realize she's pushing me back toward my bed until my calves hit it.
She looks up at me, smiling. But her eyes flash with that frightening passion, and her hands break out of my grip, and she's easing me down onto the bed. I think I'm having a heart attack. I don't want it to be this way, but I do. My legs are already opening for her. She's between them, pushing my knees. I'm still wearing my boots, and I dig them into the duvet, scooting away from her, but giving her better access. Dana stares at me and reaches beneath my skirt with both hands and very slowly pulls my panties down. I raise slightly, and helping her in this tiny way causes her to pause for a moment, her mouth dropping open. Then she has them down my thighs, over my boots. She stands and pulls them off me completely and drops them on the floor. Her hesitation is brief. She must be contemplating whether or not to finish undressing me, because her eyes roam down to my lower body and back up. The sight of her makes me weak; I want her to make up her mind and do something already.
She kneels between my legs, kisses me on my chest, my breasts, the same slow, sweet kisses that she seduced me with before. I touch her head, tease my hand through her hair, and she seems to adore this. She runs her tongue along my neck. "Monica," she says softly, and moves her lips to my face. She kisses it everywhere before settling on my mouth. Our kiss is unhurried. I have both of my hands in her hair now, then on her back. She's so gentle and this is so good that I'm beginning to relax.
If it would stay like this, I'd be fine, but her tenderness is barely concealing something rawer. She's moving away from my mouth and now comes the moment I'm frightened of. This moment, when she touches her hands to my thighs and spreads them, when her face dips down and she darts her tongue out to taste me. I practically vault off the bed at the sensation. She moans and buries her face between my legs, and she stays there, her hands holding my skirt at my waist, holding my thighs open, until she's made me come in her mouth.
Dana must realize that she's won the battle, and that I'm hers, because she finally sits up. Her mouth is wet. She looks at me silently then unzips my boots and pulls them off. She's completely serious and deliberate, placing the boots beside the bed and then standing to look down at me. She pulls her blouse over her head, like it's time for her to get to work. I guess her shirt was hindering her.
"Oh, God." I actually say this aloud. She must shop at Victoria's Secret. I never would have pegged her as the type. And I never would have thought that I'd be the type to ogle. Her face flashes a self-conscious look, and then she tosses the blouse on the floor. I want to touch her. She looks vulnerable for the first time tonight. Even when I hurt her earlier and she was trying to escape, she'd had her guard up.
I wiggle away from her and sit up. I want to hold her so badly that nothing else will do. I reach over and touch her shoulders and pull her to me, awkward and clumsy, until I have her in my arms, and she's leaning against me and she's between my legs, and I'm sitting with her cradled in my arms. I hold her and brush her hair back and kiss her slick mouth, and taste myself there. I hold her head in the crook of my arm and kiss her over and over. I kiss her until my fear is gone; I kiss her until she's the one that grows frightened. She doesn't want to be exposed and vulnerable. I try to kiss away her fear. I kiss her until she's pliable in my hands, her eyes closed, her lips trembling.
Her skin is soft under my fingers. I touch her neck, feel her pulse there, and kiss it tenderly. I want to be gentle with her, gentler than anyone has ever been. I kiss her mouth again. She's so quiet and serious. I touch her breast, first through her satin bra, and then pulling the strap down, kissing along her shoulder, I touch her breast. She jerks beneath me, but doesn't make a sound. I want to take her in my mouth and make love to her. This is who Dana Scully is, this fragile woman in my arms who tries to be tough all the time, who's so accustomed to depending on no one but herself that she's built up walls around her heart. And she's trusting me now by letting those walls slowly collapse.
I lay her down, and her eyes become large and questioning. I cover her face, her neck, her chest with kisses, and undo her bra, and my lips are all over her breasts, and this will never be enough for me. I want to show her what love is and how warmth can be more fulfilling than heat. I want her to see that she's right to trust me.
I trail kisses down her stomach and unzip her pants. And they're so tight I can't pull them down. This makes me laugh. She stares at me, indignant, and then she begins laughing, too. "I didn't think I'd get this far tonight. I'd have worn something looser." Her hand is in my hair and her eyes are shining with affection.
My heart skips a beat at this look. She's softer than I've ever seen her. "You're saying you didn't wear them for my benefit?"
"Oh, I wore them for your benefit. Just thought it would take a little more than tight pants to get you into bed." Her eyes wink. "Did you wear that blouse for me?"
I turn really red.
"Backless?" Her hand's on my face, cupping it. Her thumb moves to my lips. "Monica? You devil."
"I'm in love with you." It pops out of my mouth, and I didn't think it and I didn't plan it, it just pops out.
Dana's lips form an 'o' but she makes no sound. She pulls me down on top of her and kisses me so hard and for so long that I forget for a moment where we are. I'm somewhere floating, my ears are ringing and I'm falling and falling in love, over and over. I have to return this gift. She has to know how she makes me feel, and how I love her. I have to make her see how special she is.
I pull and push her pants down. She helps me; she squirms and wiggles them off, and she's nothing now except dark green Victoria's Secret panties and matching bra, unclasped. My hands are touching her, exploring her everywhere, and she's making little noises, moans, whimpers. My feelings are so deep that my fingertips tremble on her skin, and I want them to heal her. That's what I focus on.
Her chest rises and falls in a more rapid pattern now, and finally I have her naked and I kiss her breasts, her stomach, her thighs. Seeing her vulnerable like this overwhelms me. I want to make up for every bad thing that's happened to her. There are scars all over her body. It breaks my heart.
"Your skirt," she breathes.
I take it off and lie down over her, and this is when I'm really aware of how small she is. I'm afraid I'll hurt her, so I carefully distribute my weight to my elbows, my knees. I'm positioned so that our breasts touch, and it's unbelievable, this softness, this emotion. I try not to cry from the sweetness of it.
This is the first time I make love to Dana Scully, and I act like it's the last time. I pour every bit of love I have for her into kisses. I kiss her entire body little by little, and when I scoot down the bed and have my head between her thighs, I'm still taking my time. She doesn't allow this, though; it seems she thinks she's been still long enough, and she grabs my hair and pulls my head up roughly. The look on her face makes me weak. Then she's pushing and twisting until I'm flat on my back again and she's straddling me. It seems to be a position she's fond of; she looks triumphant. I just smile at her, though, because I know her secret. It's the same as mine.
"What?" She pinches my nipple, then leans over to take it between her lips.
I don't answer her, just run my hands through her hair and down her back and across her hips. I slip my fingers between her legs at the same time her fingers push inside me, painfully scraping. My fingernails aren't as long as hers, and they won't hurt her, so I follow her lead and push myself inside her forcefully. She gasps and bucks, and she's sweating and breathing hard and we're slow, sweet burning suddenly exploding. We're liquid fire, and we melt and drip and die and moan and come and come and come.
"Edain." I don't mean to say it. Edain's an Irish legend - the most beautiful woman in the world.
Dana's eyes are mere slits; the lashes flutter and close. "Hey," she breathes, smiling.
I stare down at her for a long moment. I've never been in bed with anyone like her. She radiates heat and she's constantly coiling and uncoiling, pulsing in the night. She's almost still now, her breathing a steady vibration; she's fallen asleep again. I kiss her gently on the lips.
She sighs. "Are you waking me up?"
"No." I whisper. "Go back to sleep."
She does, for a minute. Then her eyes open again. "Hey."
"Hi," I squeak. I'm dumbfounded by her beauty.
"You're staring at me."
It's impossible not to. I'm mesmerized by her eyes, drifting open and shut. I love her lips. I brush them tentatively with my own and let them rest there for a moment. It's impossible not to stare because she's the most beautiful and brave woman I've ever known.
We kiss, and she falls asleep again.
Sometime later, I wake up, and our hands are on each other. I don't know who started it, but it's tender and soft until our mouths lock together. Then our hands are rough, fast and desperate.
I'm too hot, and I sit up, needing air. Dana rises to meet me, scoots up close and wraps her legs around my waist. Her palms are flat on my back, and something about this touch makes me feel strong and protective. I hold her, stroking her hair, and we kiss. And this kiss is not about sex at all. And every kiss after is not about sex at all.
"This is incredible," Dana breathes, her lips on my clavicle.
"This is love," I tell her.
I'm sitting on the sofa with my arm crossed around one knee. I have on one of Monica's t-shirts and nothing else. My hair is slicked back wet, I smell like soap, and there are angry red marks on my neck.
Monica's sitting in the club chair again, with her legs crossed at the ankles. She has on a robe and nothing else. Her hair is a damp mess, she smells like shampoo, and there are angry red marks on her neck, down her back and across her hips.
We stare at each other.
No sound has come from the guest bedroom for hours. Stephanie and her companion are asleep. It's almost 5:30 in the morning, and Monica and I haven't slept very much, but I don't think either of us cares. We kept waking each other up with touches and kisses until, finally, we gave up and put on a pot of coffee.
And so here we sit, drinking. Monica smokes and watches me stare at her.
I don't know about this woman. She's beautiful, kind, and smart. She doesn't play games, she doesn't lie, and she doesn't wear a mask. There have been other women, pretty and sweet and trustworthy, but they aren't her. No one's ever been her.
She said she's in love with me, and I don't doubt her. Not really. It's just that the image of Marty Cheron, dark-haired, dark-eyed, with his hand on her chest, claiming her heart, burns me. It nags at the back of my mind. I want to look at the photograph right now, to see if the expression on her face is the same as the one I've seen tonight, to see if she loves us the same. I have to know who he was to her. I have to know that I'm more important.
"Are you okay?" Her voice is soft. She's finished smoking, has put out her cigarette and sits with her hands folded across her stomach.
I shake my head, no. No, I'm not okay. I won't be okay until I know that she's mine, and that no part of her belongs to that man or anyone else. I may not be okay even then. I may burn like this forever.
She rises slowly, wincing. I know she's sore; she should be. "What is it?" She walks to me.
I stare at her, wanting her. I see Marty Cheron with his hand on her breast.
She stands before me, tall, sleepy, and beautiful. I place my cup on the coffee table and reach up, opening her robe. She shudders. My hand reaches between her legs.
Dana's showering again. I'm on the roof.
I came up here to open her loft-warming present. I'd forgotten all about it until I put on the coffee earlier. I wanted to open it somewhere private.
I rub my fingers over the paper, take the ribbon between my hands, and pull. I wonder what kind of gifts Dana gives. It looks like she had the flat box store-wrapped, and I wonder if that means what's inside is as impersonal as the paper that covers it.
Or maybe it's very personal. "You might want to open it later," she said. Why? Maybe she's bought something that will give me an indication of how she feels about me. Maybe what I'm holding is what she thinks of me, what she thinks I like or what she thinks will touch me.
"It's an ashtray. A huge one."
I whirl around to see her laughing. And what a sight she is. Her face is scrubbed free of makeup. She's wearing another one of my t-shirts - the other having become soiled - and a pair of my jogging pants under her leather coat. The t-shirt is a bit big on her, but the jogging pants are ludicrous. They're scrunched around her ankles. She has on the shoes she wore last night - chunky ankle boots - and she looks ridiculous. I decide immediately that I really, really like sloppy on her. And I want to kiss her. She looks more rested than I've ever seen her, despite not sleeping much last night.
"I'm kidding," she chuckles. "Open it."
I look again at the paper.
"It's not much, Monica. Not enough for you to ponder like this." Her eyes are looking up at me, and her teeth are white, biting her bottom lip. "I didn't know what to get you," she says shyly. "I didn't know you well enough. I still don't." I close my eyes and slowly reopen them, and she's still here, and she smells like my soap and my shampoo, and she used my toothbrush this morning, and she's wearing my boxer briefs and my jogging pants and my t-shirt, and I kiss her. I'm so happy I could cry.
"Open it. Get it over with."
I never would have guessed what's inside.
"It's a hex sign," she says, her lips twitching.
I nod. I know what it is, but I've never seen one like this. I've seen them in ceramic, large white disks that hang over doorways of barns and houses in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, but I've never seen a stained-glass one. "Do you know what it means?" I ask her.
"It's supposed to bring you good luck and peace."
I nod again. I need to sit down, because tears are blurring my eyes and I don't want to drop it. I sit down right there on the spot and lift it out of the box - it's larger than a dinner plate and heavy, leaded glass - and I cast the box aside so that I can hold my loft-warming gift up to the sunlight. After a moment of silent gratitude, I begin pointing to the parts and explaining their symbolism to her. I circle the rosette, whose leaves are in varying colors, with my fingertip. "The flower represents good luck. It has twelve petals, one for each month of the year."
Dana kneels beside me.
"Everything in it means something, even the colors. Blue is tranquility and peace, white is faith, yellow is health, purple represents something sacred." I look at her. "Red is passion." I trace the rosette. "It's outlined in black to hold all of these elements together, and black's also the color of protection." She's looking at me, not the hex sign, but I keep on anyway, because I want to tell her what she's given me if she doesn't know. The artist went to great lengths to incorporate a lot of symbolism in the piece, as if there was someone important he wanted to protect in every possible way. I point to the circle that separates the inner part of the rosette from the petals. "The circles represent continuity, the life cycle and everlasting love." Our eyes meet, but I don't expand on this particular bit of symbolism, because it's doubtful that she bought the piece of stained glass for that reason. I know why she bought it. It's my favorite part of the artwork.
"The doves symbolize peace and happiness. That they're crossed over each other represents true friendship." The doves are inside the rosette, in the center. They look away from each other, and a heart is centered between their heads. My throat is scratchy and my voice becomes hoarse. "The tulips symbolize faith and trust in mankind." And for this reason, the tulips are my favorite part.
Her hands are on mine, she's easing the heavy piece back in the box, and then she's touching my face and kissing me softly, her hands running through my hair. "You're amazing," she murmurs. Oh, she's opened up so much since yesterday. So gentle.
"This was your hex," I tell her. "I told you that story about Svetlana canting a hex on Irina. You came here last night to cast a spell on me, didn't you?" I'm teasing her playfully, but this means so much to me, it's so wonderful, that I'll never forget it.
"It's corny," she says at once. "Anyway, you're the one who cast the spell." Her voice is shy, and a blush rises to her face.
"It's not corny at all." I hold her loosely in the chilly breeze, on the cold roof. "It's beautiful." I say, looking over her head at the blueness of the sky. "So is this day." She looks, too, and we slowly stand and gaze out at the city.
I walk to the edge of the roof, lost in my thoughts. I'm listening to the music of noon in Georgetown; church bells are ringing. The smell of grilled seafood wafts to us on the breeze, making me hungry. And I feel so alive that I'm certain I can catch the atmosphere in my hands like a little bird and release it back to the sky.
Dana's lost in other thoughts. "So. Think you could stick with me for a while?" she asks in a tentative voice.
'No,' I want to say. 'A while isn't long enough.' I inhale and exhale again, and decide that such emotion might frighten her away. She's more vulnerable than I've ever seen her, and I don't want her to fly off. "I don't know. There's the work thing."
She arches her right eyebrow, the one that arches the highest.
"Getting you away from it," I say.
Her eyes slip over my body. "I suppose you could seduce me away."
"Really? Once a week? Saturdays, maybe?"
"Sundays, too, possibly."
She looks to the sky, as if considering her schedule. "I think most of my Mondays are open." Her eyes move back over me very slowly. "And Tuesdays are never bad."
I smile and stretch my arm out to her, touching my fingertips to hers. "What about hump day?"
Her lips twitch and then purse. She's trying hard not to smile. "Oh, I'll give you my hump days." She curls her fingers around mine and she stares at our hands. Her face takes on an almost bashful look. "I'll give you every day you want, Monica." And then her eyes are boring into me, direct and intense.
"I'll take all of them," I tell her, and raise our entwined hands in victory. We've escaped this emotional wasteland. The sky is beautiful blue, deep, inviting, and pure. I tilt my head up and stretch my other arm out. The breeze blows through me and washes me, and I don't feel quite as stained as I did yesterday. Even though D.C. is still soulless and cold, it will be my home as long as it's her home, for as long as she lets me love her.
And maybe one day we'll leave here and go to a place where the air is sweet and clean, and the land is covered in trees and green, green grass, and there are no conspiracies and no lies and no mysteries and there are no secret birds locked away because they're all free, singing and soaring.
Like love, uncaged.
THE END, 'Secret Bird' by Politic X email@example.com