Word Count: 1,203
Spoilers: set right before 2x09
Summary: Miss Lonelyhearts has one last go. A prelude to “Stop Loss.”
Author's Note: ... I got up early today to work on homework. And then, as I was drying my hair, I thought, 'Hey! Isn't it interesting how Roger showed up in 1x09 and 2x09?' And then it was like, damn it.
Poor school. Poor my grades.
Also, in case any of you haven't seen it, OH SO HEARTILY I recommend this vid!
with my sad picture of girl getting bitterer
and if i had a star to wish on
for my life i cant imagine
any flesh and blood could be his match
-The Dresden Dolls, ‘Coin Operated Boy’
Funnily enough, it has been one year almost exactly, when the day rolls ‘round that Anthony Ceccoli’s contract is up. And if, once upon a time, she’d vowed never again – well. One last slip hardly matters in the grand scheme of things, now, does it?
It is already dark outside when he arrives. Annoyance has begun to simmer in her. When the doorbell rings, she leaves her drink on the coffeetable, not bothering to find a coaster.
She opens the door and there he is. She’d expected him to look happier to see her. Perhaps there are circles under her eyes; perhaps her blouse is a little rumpled; he ought not to care. He ought to look upon her and be awestruck by the exquisiteness of bleary eyes, of neglected apparel. Wonder what on earth he could have done to deserve a creature of such perfection. Compose a damned sonnet or two.
In the shadows, he is less distinct. His dark hair, his thoughtful expression: yes, he really does look very much like Roger right now. Roger, of course, was more classically handsome – no puppy-dog eyes or funny ears. A bit taller as well. But the resemblance had struck her five years ago, watching him walk through the Dollhouse the first time, and, well. Good enough. There’s not much sense in being picky.
“Your hair,” he says.
For of course it’s been a very long time. She marvels for a moment at her own restraint. At present, it seems extremely pointless.
“It was a very hot summer,” she answers bluntly, moving aside so he can come in. “Do you like it?”
“Yes, yes, of course,” he says. He seems distracted. Still, he gives her a smile, lets his eyes rest on her. There is a well of uncommonly soft feeling in her: she thinks of sunshine and the sea and pink dresses, sweet little weaknesses that seem so very unlike her now. That she has not allowed herself to miss. “More of you to see.”
“Yes, well, now that we’ve ventured upon that happy subject—” She wraps a hand around his neck, nods toward the bedroom, “—shall we?”
He gently encircles his wrist with his steady fingers, guides it down. “I’d like to sit down first, if you don’t mind. Have a drink. Jetlag.”
“Of course,” she scowls. The words come out bitter, but the great draw of this whole situation is that it does not matter. Of course.
When he realizes that she’s hardly tripping over herself to grant his request, he reaches for the decanter himself. She settles back onto the sofa, slumping a little, not bothering to cross her legs. For awhile, she just watches him sip his drink. He’d taken the chair across from hers. Funny, that he isn’t clamoring to be close to her. All the same, it’s not as if she’s complaining. She didn’t have him sent over here to cuddle.
“It’s been a very long time,” she finally says. The silence bothers her.
“Yes,” he agrees, contrite. His glance falls over the room. “I haven’t been ‘round for awhile now, have I?”
“No,” she says, “you haven’t.”
“Work. Sometimes it’s impossible to get away. To find the time.”
She snorts. “God knows you don’t have to tell me that.”
“Ah, yes.” He makes sure to set a coaster down before he puts his glass onto the table. He leans forward, elbows resting on his knees, and considers her with all the attentiveness in the world. Perhaps even a little extra. “The Dollhouse. How is it?”
She thinks of Topher, forever looking at her as if she’s a wicked storybook queen who’ll demand his heart be cut out and served at lunch any second. Of Mr. Langton, who does not even pretend respect toward her anymore: it’s truly a marvel, the amount of soulful, righteous disapproval that can be projected out of one pair of eyes. Adelle is not about to claim that giving Topher’s plans to Harding was her finest hour, but she did what she had to do in order to regain control. It’s reached unparalleled levels of maddening, that no one around her seems capable of understanding that. Good Lord, it’s not as if they’re running a soup kitchen. Standing outside grocery stores and ringing little bells beside Salvation Army buckets at Christmas. She misses the days when the people around her actually understood the demands of what they do, and the fact that quaint little notions like morality are a luxury more than anything. She misses having a Head of Security who actually – God forbid – got the job done, no questions asked, no qualms, no hesitations.
And of course, he’d been so very good at getting the job done. Her fingers curl into a fist, nails biting palms.
“Let’s not talk about that,” she says.
His brow furrows. (The action is jarring to her, for there’s something in it that is not like Roger at all. It is all Victor, earnest and well-meant and empty, eating fresh fruit for breakfast or clipping at bonsai trees. She retrieves her drink from the coffeetable and finishes it off in one sip.) “We always talk about that.”
“Well, not this time,” she snaps.
“Fine,” he says. She can tell he’s startled. He looks at her as though he can’t quite recognize her. She could laugh. This man is programmed to love her, he exists to be wild about her, and even he is looking at her like that. What truly magnificent heights she’s reached. She stares evenly back. Lifts an eyebrow. Finally, his expression changes, turns kinder. “I did miss you, my darling.”
Oh, how he means it. Feeling positively drips from the words. And yes, all right, it’s false, but it’s ardent and it is hers, just hers, and so she crumbles. She allows herself this: just this, just for tonight.
“I missed you,” she says, sounding honest for the first time in a very long while. Slowly, he rises from his chair and comes to stand in front of her. She looks up at him. The fondness in his eyes – the sweet, worried line of his mouth – God, she thinks she could drown in that, die in that. (If the job or the liquor cabinet don’t claim her first.) He touches her cheek.
“Oh, Katherine,” he says, the words little more than breath.
Very suddenly, she can feel tears coming on. She stands in a movement that is abrupt and ugly, and in a movement that is abrupt and ugly she kisses him. Because she paid for this (and never mind if it was not in money; she has been paying in steady increments of soul for years). Because he is hers. Because she can do whatever she damned well pleases with him.