Caroline in the City is not mine, I write for fun and for the feelz.
She woke, or something like it.
This didn't feel quite like "awake." It was still dark. Her head was throbbing, her stomach turning uncomfortably, and her bladder was about to explode. Acting on that particular impulse first she removed the heavy (vaguely familiar smelling) covers from her legs and sat up. This was a mistake, Caroline realized as her stomach did a full-on flip and her head finished cracking in half. She didn't know exactly where she was, but for some reason knew she the bathroom was somewhere to her right. Making no more sudden movements her feet deliberately swung over the right side of the bed and landed with an "Oof!"
She removed her feet from the squirming floor only to lean over and discover a squirming man instead. Who the-?
"You know I need that lung to breathe," said a voice that answered her previous question.
"Richard?" she asked in a broken voice.
He sat up, somewhat reluctantly it seemed, and was reaching out for something. His glasses, she realized when he brought them over his face. She was still trying to figure out why she was looking at Richard as he glared back up at her.
"Still my name," he assured her. "Did you need something?"
She realized she had started leaning in to him only when he caught her shoulders before she fell off the bed. She was still drunk. The last time she had had so much alcohol was... she didn't know, but she suspected it had been over a decade ago, when her body was actually capable of processing the copious amounts of alcohol.
"Hey, hey. Are you ok?" he asked with a different tone in his voice.
She would be touched later. "Bathroom."
He got up hurriedly and ushered the small redhead to the corner of his house. She slammed the door behind her and he was left alone to hope she would be ok on her own in there. Richard made his way toward the only lamp in his apartment and waited by the bed until he heard the flushing toilet and the running sink. He was pleasantly surprised when she came out looking rather disoriented but still better than he would have expected after only one hour of sleep.
"So that was the rush to run me over? I thought you needed the toilet for something else," he told her raising his brows.
She blinked in his direction and the step she was about to take forward was thrust back as she hurled herself back into the bathroom. In every sense of the word. He just had to say something, didn't he? Richard reprimanded himself. She hadn't bothered to close the door this time either. He collected a glass of water for her and waited outside till she was finished.
As humiliating as this was, she did feel much better when she was done. She flushed the toilet and waited a moment before facing him again. This was so pathetic. Here she was drunk and throwing up in her employee's apartment after a bad breakup with her boyfriend. This could only happen to her. She slowly lifted herself from the floor and washed herself up in the sink, swishing away the taste of acid in her mouth with some murky water.
When she finished composing herself she turned to find Richard waiting in the doorway with a glass of water and that look on his face. She frowned. Caroline's head was still spinning, but was now a bit more aware of what was going on around her.
"I'm sorry you had to hear that," she whispered and stepped out of the bathroom.
"Me too," Richard said more for his benefit than hers.
He saw her sway lightly and gave her the water as he directed her back to the bed. She took two sips and then returned the glass to the floor. She just wanted to get back into a supine position.
"Richard?" she asked when, for the second time that night, he began tucking her into his bed.
"Hmm?" he said making sure her feet were under the covers.
"Did we do anything tonight?"
His foot caught the side of the bed as he went to turn off the light. He bit down his lip to keep from cursing and instead looked back at her with fearfully large eyes. "What?"
"You know, I mean..." she trailed off and hid her face in his covers.
"We talked!" he said turning off the light so that she could not see his ears go red. "And then you fell asleep."
"That's it?" she asked, almost certain that at some point while she had been here she had been close enough to him to smell him, and feel his warmth, and hear his heartbeat under her ear.
"Of course that's it," he said angrily making his way back to the floor beside her.
Then again, if he said nothing happened, she had no reason not to believe him. Maybe they had just hugged. Maybe she had been dreaming of that night they danced at the award ceremony. She remembered all these things about him from that night.
"Oh," she turned towards him and curled up in the covers so that she could see him over the side of the bed. "Right. I guess I forgot you don't like to touch me."
"What?" he asked feeling something between anger and sadness.
"It's all right. I already know you don't like me very much. You're always so tense whenever we touch."
He turned to find her hand coming towards him and touch him gently on the cheek. "See?" she said feeling him go rigid.
"Caroline," he said in that way only he knew how, "You're very drunk. You should go back to sleep. I think that's better for the both of us."
He took her hand in his and set it back over the bed, near her face. She could have been imagining things, maybe it was the alcohol, but she could have almost sworn his fingers stayed over hers just a bit longer than was necessary. No, no, her time perception just had to be off.
"I'm sorry I'm making you sleep on the floor tonight," she said sincerely apologetic.
"Honestly there's not that much of a difference between this and my mattress," he said, again mostly to himself.
"I guess it's always you isn't it?" Caroline mused, slightly slurring.
"Caroline, go to sleep."
"It's always you I need to see when things get messy."
He sighed, loosing hope that he was getting back to sleep anytime soon.
"Because you always make me feel better. Isn't it funny that someone as gloomy as you can always cheer me up?"
Richard had actually never considered this. He didn't know he could cheer anyone up, let alone little Miss Wisconsin Sunshine. "Yes, ironic."
"Why do you think I try so hard to make you happy too? But, I think all I end up doing is annoying you."
"You're not annoying," he said sweetly, "Well, you are but, most days you make me happy too."
"You were there to help me save face in front of Del that first day remember? You went to Wisconsin with me and listened to my speech while everybody was busy loving Chris. You went with me to search for Stella Dawson. You took me to that award ceremony and were a wonderful dancer, once you loosened up. For goodness sake, you helped me bring a baby into the world."
That last one sounded kind of funny in Richard's opinion.
"The only day you weren't here was that day I called off the wedding with Del. For some reason I thought it was very important to tell you first. You know, you were also the first person I told about the engagement."
That had not been a pleasant day, Richard remembered. Either of those days.
"But when I came and you were gone..." she trailed off and Richard heard a small little whimper from under the sheets.
Women and tears did not bode well with the artist. Especially hers.
"I didn't know... why. I felt guilty and sad and angry and scared. I thought it had been my fault you left. I wanted to fix it but. You weren't even."
"Hey," he said placing his hand back over hers.
She looked up at him with those impossibly sweet eyes and he hesitated. It was always like this whenever he got close to her. He wanted to tell her. Always and everything. But somehow it felt as if his feelings would taint her, infect her with something she was much too good for. And so as always he pulled away and swept his feelings under the rug.
"I'm all out of aspirin. I'll just run to the corner drugstore and be right back."
She looked at his retreating form quizzically. She wanted to tell him to stay, but for some reason she imagined it was not something he wanted to hear. So instead she nodded as he suggested she try to get some sleep before slipping out the door.
He would be back after all. In spite of everything, hadn't he always come back?
Wow, finding this fic after so long (Years and years!) and re-reading it was like reading it for the first time. Kinda freaky with your own work. Anyway, I know Caroline in the City is a very old fandom but for those of you who read, I hope you liked it and hope you have time for a review?
Thank you! Happy readings!