I got a prompt on Tumblr for "Waige + morning after" about a week ago, and I finally got around to writing it. I do want to apologize on the sporadic updates of Serendipity and, especially, What Comes Next. My mental illnesses have been really unpredictable the past few weeks and unfortunately one of the first things affected when I'm like this are my energy levels.
Walter had no idea what to do.
It wasn't like the movies, where someone wakes up next to another person and was alarmed and confused. Walter remembered even before opening his eyes that Paige Dineen lay beside him. She was on her back, a hand resting on her stomach, her head tipped to the side. Her breasts and neck were dotted with the marks his mouth had left. She looked relaxed and content.
He wanted to just be happy. He loved her. She knew, and she loved him right back. But it wasn't enough. Just feeling the way he did about her wouldn't carry them through. He didn't just want to love her within the confines of the three words he'd shouted at her, frustrated and tired, not eight hours ago.
He wanted to love her thoroughly and completely, and exactly how she deserved.
Last night, well, it had been wonderful, but upon waking Walter was greeted with a fresh wave of anxiety and regret. This had come out of an argument, the tension that had been uncomfortably between them of late putting too much pressure on and bursting into shouted confessions, relieved gasps, then lips on lips and hands exploring and feet shuffling and thank god his bed was there for their bodies to fall upon because the two of them were going to land somewhere.
They'd been fueled by pent up feelings being, at long last, given a place to go. But what about now?
They should have talked first. They should have talked more.
He hadn't said everything he wanted to say. He got out what was most important – I love you – but not a word about exactly how much. She didn't know how often he thought of her. She didn't know that he was aware of all the times he'd hurt her and he hated himself for each and every one and he would do anything to never hurt her again.
She probably could figure out that he'd never felt this way before. But he still wanted to tell her.
But he felt that all those confessions should have already happened. Those conversations belonged on the other side of the line they'd crossed, and it wasn't a line that they could step back to the other side of. They were here.
She deserved better than this. She deserved to know exactly how much emotional intimacy he was capable of offering her before they became intimate physically. She deserved to know exactly what she was committing herself to.
But how in the world could he look her in the eye and tell her he regretted the previous night? That her hands shouldn't have run all over him, that it was wrong to hold one another in their arms, that he wished he hadn't pinned her down against that mattress?
He'd be lying.
She stirred, groaning quietly and stretching, pointing her toes and pushing her chest up toward the ceiling. Then she rolled lazily onto her side, facing him, and opened her eyes. "Hey."
He cleared his throat. "Hi."
She scooted closer, pushing her nose into his cheek and sliding her hand over his chest. "Paige," he said, moving to sit up. "We need to t-talk."
She nodded. "Things happened pretty fast last night." She reclined slightly, against the pillows. "Are you okay?"
"No." He was alarmed at the look of concern on her face. "I mean..." he furrowed his brow. "I just think...we didn't talk. First. Before."
"We sort of got away from ourselves." Paige said. "But we can talk now."
He hesitated, unsure of how he was supposed to begin. But he'd spent far too long silently tripping over his words – that was part of why they found themselves in this situation.
"I know if we are together I'm going to make mistakes. I don't...ah...I don't know how...to be..." he cleared his throat, reaching up to scratch his head. "The kind of person that you deserve to be with. I have no many things I still need to work on. I want to love you right. But I honestly...don't know how to do that. And I feel like we shouldn't have...done this...until you understand." He bit his lip. "I know that my actions have been, uh...less than pleasant for you. In the past. I wish I could take all of those things back but I can't and I just keep thinking about how I'm sure to hurt you again because I'm me."
"Tell me this, genius," she said, her smile affectionate. "Who in the history of the world has ever been absolutely flawless before entering into a relationship?"
"Well, history is your thing," he quipped.
She rolled her eyes. "I mean, what kind of person would I be to expect you to never mess up?" She scooted closer to him again. "Walter, I'm not perfect either. It's okay. What I need is someone who communicates with me. Who cares about me and makes me feel good." She slid her hand into his. "You make me happy, Walter. You think Ralph and I stay late all the time because we're acclimated to the temperature of the garage?"
"It is a very nice temperature."
She giggled. "Walter, my point is, people in relationships can work on themselves while in the relationship. And you know..." she shrugged. "I'm not perfect."
Walter knew she was trying to make him feel better. It wasn't working. How was he supposed to be comforted by knowing she would make mistakes too? All of his history with computers and data told him that was a disaster waiting to manifest itself.
But if he had learned anything these past years, it was that people and technology operated in very different ways.
"Will you tell me if I'm doing something wrong?" He said worriedly. "If I'm being selfish. Or if you feel ignored. I sometimes let myself get carried away on my projects."
"I'll talk to you," she said. "But you have to talk to me too." She raised their hands to her lips and rested them against his fingers. "I know that's hard for you. But this isn't going to work if you don't communicate with me. Words...they're...they're something that I do need."
And words were exactly what he'd failed to give her before they'd fallen into bed. "What about last night?" He asked.
"What about it?"
"It was...I mean." He frowned again. "I'm having a hard time evaluating it because what I was feeling then is so different than how I feel about it now."
"Well, I thought it was good." She smiled.
"No, it was, it's just..." he threw his hands up. "How do we make it good again? That was...it was passion derived from months of torment and frustration and fantasy. That...that buildup is gone." Were they supposed to spend the next several months not touching each other in order to get that tension back? It was all he could do to not touch her again now. He shook his head slowly. "I'm sorry, Paige. I just don't know how to do this."
"And I don't expect you to learn overnight," she said. "Just because we've slept together doesn't mean you have to have all the answers."
"I just feel like that is what it means. Even if you don't say it. Even if you genuinely don't think it."
Paige bit her lip. Walter wondered if his continued feelings of inadequacy were already taking a toll on her. But didn't she tell him she wanted him to say these things? "I'm sorry," he blurted.
"Walter," she said, placing her hand on the far side of his face and making him look right at her. "I love you. I didn't fall in love with some idealized version of you that only exists in my head. This – us – is a starting point, not an ending when you're supposed to know all there is to know."
Walter supposed she was right. "It's just so difficult to get out of my head."
"Hey look," she said, rolling over and putting her chin on his chest, smiling up at him. "You were out of your head last night and you survived."
"I just hate that it happened like that. I..." he grunted as he shifted his weight. "Whenever I imagined it, it was different."
Paige rolled her upper lip under. "I always imagined it differently too," she admitted. "But hey, think of it this way." She smiled at him. "If it was amazing when things were out of control, imagine how it will be when we do it again, knowing what our chemistry alone can do? And what...what about when we go slow?" She wiggled until her lips could press against his own. "When we add some romance to it." She kissed him again.
She leaned back in confusion. "No what?"
"We can't do this right now."
She looked disappointed, and if he was honest with himself, he was too. He wanted to do this again, but he didn't want to end their conversation with sex. If they weren't careful, they would just end up relying on the physical aspect of their relationship to distract from any problems they might have. And he didn't want to do that.
"How about this," he proposed, sliding her arms around her and linking his fingers at the small of her back. "End of today, we go out, get some dinner someplace nice. Ralph will probably love spending another night at Sylvester's. So after dinner we can come back here and..."
"Improve upon last night?"
He chuckled, leaning in to kiss her again. "Exactly."