torch, November 1997
flambeau@strangeplaces.net

Disclaimer: The characters belong to CC and 1013, and I'm not trying to make any money from playing with them. Another 500-word challenge story, the sequel to Awakenings I. Do not archive this story without permission.

Awakenings II: The expense of spirit

I try to hide under a pillow, but the light has found me, teasing at my eyes. Time to get up, or it will be soon enough, but I'd prefer to ignore that. It took me a long time to fall asleep, for many reasons. Here I am, back in my bed again, this bed that never shelters me alone. It's warm here under the covers, but not even the doubled body heat can keep the chills of regret away. I regret what I did; I regret my own increasing folly.

Last night was different. Tenderness was a stranger to this bed for so long. It was almost hard to remember the simple gestures of it; harder still to receive the gentlest of caresses, all the more overwhelming from one so strong, and to see the hesitation and insecurity in one usually so self-contained and seemingly unafraid. I learned to touch softly again last night, and my hands are full of memories now.

I turn carefully, away from the warmth of company and into my own solitude. What have I done? What did we do... and I know the question is not really what, but why. I don't know how to face the coming day; I wish I could fall asleep again and make everything disappear. All I have done is to make things more impossible for myself.

This wasn't supposed to happen. I broke a promise I'd made to myself, and broke it so easily, too. My control, my determination turned out to be illusory, capable of withstanding everything except opportunity. I can say that at least, that I did not initiate this. But apart from that, I can make no excuses. It's just that it had been so long, and I was starving for that contact, skin on skin, mouth on mouth, and when it came...

Tender, so tender, and so surprisingly sweet. All through the night there was sweetness, annihilating sweetness, to soothe my pain. And in the middle of it, I missed the violence, missed the frantic brutality, the pounding, heart-stopping desire of other nights. I don't know if it's my body or my heart that's betrayed me — I do know I was given a gift I don't deserve and cannot return in kind, however much I tried. I'm sick. Yes. Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick, indeed.

I keep doing the wrong thing, and I don't seem to be able to stop. I was given something precious and I'm going to destroy it. And what I really want is going to destroy me.

Turning again, I reach out and use only the tips of my fingers to brush tendrils of hair off a sleep-warm cheek. "It's time to get up," I say, and my voice catches in my throat, choking on words unspoken. "Time to get up and go to work."

And silently, Oh God, Scully, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.

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Awakenings III

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