Wow, that turned out to be a lot. Like a lot, a lot.
She has spent so many years without him, maybe too many she thinks. Years that were spent thinking of him, trying to find a way to get back to him, but still they were years apart, years when they were both growing, living, surrounded by different people, different situations.
So it really should not be surprising that now, thrown back together, things are a little awkward.
He thinks he does it purposely now, trying to wear out his companions. Testing them, although he’d never admit that aloud. It took him a long time to consciously realise what it was he was doing, comparing everyone to Rose. Rose, who would always grab his hand and run, without questioning why.
It’s harder, so much harder, than she had thought it would be.
He stands next to her, fingers threaded through hers, but he’s so far away. His mind wanders across the Universe, remembering planets he’ll never see again, faces that are lost to him forever, sights and smells and sounds that the people in this universe, in this time, don’t even dream can exist.
Once upon a time, there was a girl.
Pink and yellow. All pink and yellow. But that’s not right. She’s not yellow.
Gold. Burning, glowing, eternal gold.
That is who she is. That is who he has made her.
Sometimes she thinks it would be easier if she didn’t know the Doctor, or the many aliens and different universes their friendship had inevitably led her to. Not easier maybe, but healthier.
Arthur is tall for sixteen, but skinny in that unappealing way that so many young men are. His hair, pale and stiff as straw, sticks up despite his efforts to tame it and he is, to his father’s extreme displeasure, terribly awkward in public, stumbling over his words and overturning serving dishes at banquets.
He is, so her nurse says, at an awkward age. Morgana understands awkward ages, in fact she’s not sure she understands any other kind.
Arthur lurks in the background, very much the son and heir, very much ignored by his father and by the castle gossips: there is no question as to who is his father. The hair, the build, the manner, all belongs to his father. His father’s first and Arthur’s second.
Gwen dreams of being Queen. Of never having to fetch another jug of water, to make another bed, dress another body other than her own. She dreams of nights spent on feather beds, surrounded by thick, warm curtains, and days devoted to whatever may fit her mood.
Morgana too dreams of being Queen. Of delirious nights spent in Arthur’s bed and stifling days in his court.
“I will die in battle,” Arthur says, breaking the silence, his voice strangely calm, his face expressionless. Morgana, sitting at his side, tenses and Merlin stares at him from across the table, shocked into silence. “Well, it’s true.”
“Don’t say that.” Morgana says sharply, turning her face to the side, away from Arthur.
“Nothing is set in stone Arthur.” Merlin says lightly, though a tingling on his skin when Arthur spoke the words tells him this is not true. Memories, flashes from dreams, sprint through his mind: images of Arthur, older, larger, stronger, lying bloodied on the ground, eyes wide but unseeing. Merlin draws his cloak more tightly around himself, for a chill that has nothing to do with the warm summer’s night seems to have settled on his bones.
There is little in this world that Arthur can call his own.
That which he takes for granted each day – his home, his food, his horse, his armour, belong not to him but to his father.
Even his face, his body is not his own. Too often in the evenings, with many dry tankards of ale strewn over the table, the old men will talk and boast of their youth. Too often they will remind Arthur that he is the image of his father when he was young. Even in battle, his steps match his father’s footsteps of old. Sometimes he looks into a glass and his uncertainty at what is reflected back makes him choke. It is hard to be his own man when he looks too much like another.
Little Mosque on the Prairie
Would you have waited? That’s the part that bothers me, because even now, I think you would have. I think we would have gone on, as we were, for a year or two, before you finally put your foot down and said, ‘Duncan, do you want to marry me or not?’
And you would have said that it didn’t matter that I lived in the drafty garret of the church, or that my salary was less than you spent on clothes for the year, or that your parents hated me because I was a minister.
You would have said that you couldn’t think of anything better to do than be as poor as church mice while living in an actual church. You would have laughed and told me that yes, your parents wanted you to marry Bob Lofter, with his big dairy farm and part ownership of the creamery, but that you, Marian Alice McCafferty, wanted to marry poor Reverend Duncan McGee. Because you loved him.
“Yep. All good here. Just a few too many late nights, one too many racquetball games with the Rev. You know how it is, the crazy, hectic lifestyles of spiritual leaders.” He says, a little too quickly, a little too brightly.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
His knees hurt, but he speaks through the pain, offering up his suffering along side his prayer.
It is dark outside now. He has been kneeling here for hours, praying, seeking distraction. He is hungry, a little light-headed, and tired, but he remains where he is. Partially, because he is too fatigued to rise, but mostly because he knows that if he leaves the chapel, his thoughts will return to her.
She haunts him. He hadn’t known it was possible for a living being to do that, but it is. When he eats, he thinks of her, sitting next to him, talking with him, smiling at him. When he visits parishioners in their little row houses, he thinks of her standing in her home, peeling potatoes, or working at the table, hands coated in cocoa powder, biting down on her bottom lip in concentration. When he sleeps, when he dreams, she slips into bed next to him and he assigns himself hours of prayer as penance for the things he imagines.
In the weeks after Dadda returns home, Ruby finds herself boiling with anger, just when she ought to be filled with peace and happiness. Her family is all at home, all of them safe. She should have nothing to complain about.
But even though they’re altogether again under one roof, nothing is right, nothing is as it used to be. Dadda is on tenterhooks around them, barely speaking these days for fear that one of his daughters will lash out at him. They’re all trying to forgive him, and they say they have, but in truth, they’re just waiting for something to happen, because this peace is unnatural and none of them know how to deal with it.
She eases the flap open, careful not to rip the fine paper. He touched this, she thinks. His fingers were once exactly where mine are now. She pauses when she thinks this, raising the letter to her nose, inhaling, trying to catch some of his scent. It’s not there. Other priests smell of incense and candle wax, but not him. He smells of wood and grass and soap. Good, clean smells. Smells Iris has always liked. She told him that once, just after he came, and he had blushed. It was the first time she had seen a priest blush, Father Wolfe never did, and she thinks that then, in that exact moment, she fell a little bit in love with him.
“No, of course I shouldn’t ask. It’s just I thought…” He pauses again, not knowing how to classify his thoughts. Seeing them together, at the gate, he’d been unable to feel anything but shock. Yet the more he thinks about it, the more pleased he is by the idea of their romance, if one does indeed exist. “Sadly Sam, retirement has left me with little to investigate save the personal lives of those near to me.”
Foyle goes with them to the hospital. What a strange place, he still thinks, to have a child. But safer, he knows, than home births. Still, it doesn’t seem right, the juxtaposition of all this life with so much death.
“Most people look forward to the end of the war but, do you know, I dread it. I really do. Because then, all of this will stop. I can’t hope for something this exciting to ever happen to me again. These past four years have been everything I ever dreamed of, ever hoped for growing up and I know they can’t last, I know that, but I wish, I wish…”
“No, it’s alright really. After all, it’s not like I ever want to see another dead body again, or be shot at. But when you consider the alternative…”
“And what’s that?”
“Work as a secretary maybe, which would be a disaster with my typing skills. Get married. Have children, I suppose.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
The West Wing
She wakes up with beard-burn on her thighs and little to no memory of the night before. The bed she’s lying in is empty, but that doesn’t mean anything. She can smell him on the sheets, on her skin, and for the first time in fifteen years she wishes that he had stayed with her until morning.
She rubs the back of her hand against his beard, curling herself closer to him under the covers. He stirs at the contact but his eyes remain closed. Her fingers traverse his features next, caressing his eyes, his nose, his cheeks, his lips. She jumps when he suddenly grabs her hand, just as she is reaching up to touch his forehead.
“Don’t.” He mutters darkly.
“God, don’t scare me like that.” She gasps, withdrawing her hand and holding it to her chest. She can feel her heart beating abnormally fast. Part of that, she knows, is from his unexpected awakening, but mostly it’s just from being here with him again. She’s embarrassed by that; she’s forty five and she’s behaving like a teenager.
“Then don’t wake me up at absurd hours.” He finally opens his eyes, glaring at her from under deceptively long eyelashes.
She’d been standing in line, contemplating the merits of a vanilla swirl cappuccino versus a large hot chocolate with extra whipped cream. The many muffins had posed an even greater problem. But then he had walked into the almost empty shop and, for perhaps the first time in her life, any thought of food fled from her mind.
“You look happier.” She said, starring at his face before covering her mouth with her hand. “Was that impertinent? I didn’t mean that you didn’t look happy before, you just look happier now. And tanned. And skinny, too skinny though. That doesn’t help with the making you look happy, not that it makes you look unhappy.” She rambled, too embarrassed to stop, although willing herself to do so.
This is what she lives for: the adrenaline boost that comes after forty straight hours of work, the tears that fall after a hard fought victory, the feeling of kinship she has with all those that work around her. For so long, this is all she has ever needed.
But then he came into her life, with his beautiful black hair and bright blue eyes, and his masterful prose and high ideals.
Ever since that moment, she’s needed more; she’s needed him and all that comes with him: the soft touch of his fingers on hers, the first glimpse of his face next to hers in the mornings, the smell of his body on her sheets.
Because, somewhere in her twisted mind, love and hate have always been linked. Maybe that was his legacy to her.
He has to see a therapist before he can go back to work. It’s departmental policy for all officers injured in the line of duty: one month’s leave and therapy. He tries to get out of it, because, really, he’s the Sheriff and he’s perfectly fine. Some mornings his arm is a little stiff and he has more headaches than he has aspirin, but all in all, he’s fine. He’s healthy, he’s sane, and he’s alive.
His therapist just doesn’t get that.
“Tell me about that night.” He starts with the same question, every session. Don wishes he weren’t on leave, wishes he could carry his gun, because it would come in handy during these sessions. Dr. Howards is maybe a year or two older than Don and was so obviously the kind of kid Don hated growing up. Whiney. Self-righteous. Too smart for his own good. Every week, Dr. Howards sneers at Don, dismissively, and Don can’t believe that he bothers coming back. He does, but only because he loves his job.
He was an ugly child. Not a repulsive one, but certainly not a pretty one. He was gangly and pale and his eyes were far too big for his face. It hurt his mother to look at him, to see him staring up at her, imploring her to feed him, to love him, to care for him. A quick slap to his pale cheek and he would go away, sallow skin red, big eyes shiny with tears.
In the darkest hours of the night, lying awake on his pallet in their cold, silent camp, Much has imagined some rather horrific outcomes for their little group.
This was never one of them.
She never dreamt of grand romances or dashing knights rescuing her from her dreary, tiresome life.
He loves when she wears blue. He never tells her, never lets his gaze rest on her any longer than would be appropriate, but he has a special smile for those days.
“From her we do not steal.” Robin warned.
“From her we hide.” Much added.
Robin likes to know that he was her first kiss. She doesn’t like to correct him. He remembers a bright spring day, leaning against a tree, his hands on her wrists, thumbs at her pulse, lips on hers, and a horsefly buzzing at the back of his neck. It is a good memory.
It is a good memory for Marian too, but it is not the memory of her first kiss.