NOTHING LIKE THE SUN (for ShannonB)
Attachment causes suffering.
He tried not to believe, not to think about it, about her, about promise, about hope, about the future he said he didn't believe in.
The look she gave him through the windshield was one part awe, a sprinkling of admiration and a touch of mirth, so tempting that he had to avert his eyes.
He looked skyward into the blinding LA sunshine to burn away his attachment.
By the time he looked back, she'd climbed from the car and walked until she stood under his chin staring at him. Promising developments… he dared think, to believe. Perhaps his smile gave him away, but in all likelihood he'd never know.
Her reaction was nothing like what he expected. He didn't know what he expected, but certainly not this. He could feel her nearness; he could smell her. Oh, how he'd missed her scent….that mixture of coffee, cherries, chocolate and something spicy and indefinable. He took his time, readying himself to look upon her face, the one he'd missed so much in the past month. He longed for her rich brown eyes and the shape of her lips so permanently pursed in disapproval – of him.
It was then that she slapped him.
His head snapped down, eyes instantly open. His hand travelled of its own accord to his still stinging cheek. His eyes watered, but he did not look away.
Dani did nothing in half measure. She'd hit him hard. Not as hard as Roman, but forcefully enough to get his attention. Her anger had returned with a vengeance. He'd seen it before. But he couldn't understand what he'd done to earn it – this time at least. Then it came to him.
He'd witnessed this kind of fearful rage and what provoked it before. It was love, deep abiding and unfathomable love. Parents reunited with their beloved children, who slapped them first, before clutching them to their breast and crying silent tears. He wondered if that part would come. But it did not.
She fumed, the anger coming off her in waves like the shimmer of heated asphalt.
"Hello Reese," his expression hovered at the edge of a smile, but he restrained himself. "How are you?"
She looked as though she might explode with the force of a nuclear detonation.
"How? How am I?" she asked him in a coarse whisper. This let him know how close to tears she was, how profoundly affected. "I can't believe you can stand there and ask me that. You….you… you just…." She ranted.
Behind her he noted Bodner, lurking and then leaving. Coward he thought, but then he realized Bodner probably yearned for his own reunion of sorts, perhaps without the slapping and shouting.
"Did you miss me?" he pressed his luck and her anger.
Bodner walked faster in the opposite direction, trudging up a trail of dust in the sandy soil.
Charlie wanted to remember every single detail. The verdant hue of the trees, punctuated with spots of yellow and orange; the dust in his eyes, on his skin and in his throat; the darkness of her dress and her look; the rage that shook her and left her speechless. She gaped at his audacity and nerve. Words would not come.
Her small fists clenched and released; clenched and released as she reached for a balance that would not come. Her audible ragged sigh expressed both relief and exasperation. She was so terribly angry. An anger borne of fear, but she seemed unable to give voice to what frightened her.
"He's gone," Crews held her eyes and promised her safety. "He'll never hurt you again." He waited a moment for the words to sink in. "Reese? Roman's gone."
She heard, but she couldn't process, understand or accept his words. "How? How did you? How are you here? How are you not dead?" her words came tumbling out. Still angry, but questioning and seeking answer beyond her simple questions, looking for something she couldn't lay name to.
Though he trusted her, it was a little too soon to lay a murder confession at her feet. Reese would feel responsible and the blame for Roman's death was not hers; so he hedged, using humor as a tool, to get them around the point of how he'd escaped.
"Guess it's just not my time yet," he joked. Lying to her seemed wrong, made him feel guiltier than murder. He disconnected from the penetrating gaze of her deeply concerned coffee colored eyes to avoid the shame he felt.
"Don't you do that," she barked. "Come back here," she made him return to her.
He really was powerless when it came to her. He had come to that simple realization in the past few days. His emotions built speed and power like a runaway train going downhill. It reached a pace he couldn't control and set them on a collision course he couldn't forestall. But he stilled and gave her his eyes, his attention and didn't bother to hide his concern, his longing or his desire.
He casually touched her face as he brushed an errant hair from it. "I'm here," he promised, "I'm not going anywhere."
Now that she had him, she balked like a shy filly at her first fence. Something in the honesty and seriousness of his gaze frightened her more than a week in a dark basement under a hood. But Dani needed to know – in the way people need to know things. Crews had warned her before about learning thing you couldn't un-know and cautioned her not to look too hard. Were they there again? Was that now?
Her voice sounded small, even to herself as she quietly asked him a very serious question, perhaps the most serious question of their partnership. "Why'd you do that, Crews? Why'd you get in that SUV….Bodner said without a plan to get away?"
He paused a very long moment and looked deeply into her eyes. She did not look away, but her expression was neutral and impossible to read.
"You know why," his voice was low and unintentionally seductive. She did that to him and he was past caring if she knew. Ten minutes from now, the cavalry would come charging in here. Captain Kevin Tidwell on his white charger with a sea of soldiers in serge would descend upon them and sweep her away, but now….in this moment, she was his.
He tucked her errant strand of unruly hair behind her ear and his thumb grazed her cheek. She looked paler than he recalled, but she remained warm and her cheek was smooth against the pad of his thumb. Her eyes fluttered and she leaned into his caress, just a fraction of a second, but long enough that he noticed.
Her eyes slipped closed and he couldn't help himself. He leaned in and kissed her. It should have been a light brush of his lips on her forehead, comforting, collegial, filial, but it wasn't. His lips found purchase right where he wanted them to be, squarely on hers. She exhaled his name against his lips. It may have been a warning, but he was past caring.
It would have been fine if she'd have just let him kiss her; not great, but okay. From that they could have recovered. But she didn't just let him kiss her; she kissed him back.
Her lips parted and his mouth slanted across hers deepening their contact. His tongue reached for hers and they tangled. Her hands rode up his chest, under his coat. She had to feel the hammering of his heart beneath the thin pale blue shirt. It went on for just long enough for him to know it wasn't a fantasy. Then she pushed him away, hard.
She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "What the hell?"
He stood there staring like a fool for a few moments before he recovered. But when he did recover, it was quickly and completely. He slammed his defenses into place and his walls went up.
"Turns out I missed you," he joked, "more than I'd thought." When he finished his eyes were dark and his countenance mildly threatening. She'd hurt him more with her refusal than her hand.
"You," she was clenching her fists again. "You can't kiss me. Crews! You can't kiss me."
"I just did," he chuckled and took a step towards her. He was a bit angry himself at the moment. She did things to him. "And I didn't just kiss you, honey," he grinned broadly, "you kissed me back."
She pulled her arm back to slap him again, but he stopped her. She was right, he really did have a mean streak, but it was earned.
"Any more slapping counts as foreplay," he teased.
She flushed crimson in embarrassment or anger; he'd never know which as right on cue, the sirens, which seconds before could not be heard, came closer.
They seemed to arrive in an instant, pushing out the roaring in his ears. He stepped back, a proper distance, the distance of a partner, not the close quarters of a lover. It was then he noticed it, she wasn't only angry, she was blushing.
She was affected by their closeness. It wasn't a simple kiss. Something profound had shifted, gravity failed, physics didn't seem to apply. She was off balance, far more from this than from being held captive for a week by a maniac. She raised her hand to her face and seemed to wonder "what have I done?" without giving voice to it.
"Reese," he entreated gently, taking a step in her direction. "I…." he wanted to explain something he couldn't even begin to.
"Don't you fucking touch me," she warned through clenched teeth.