Title: Tie Up My Hands

Author: Anna Rousseau annadelamico@yahoo.co.uk

Fandom: Signs

Genre: Angst/Supernatural

Pairing: MH/OFC

Rating: PG-13

Set: Post-Movie

Summary: A freak blizzard on an autumn night, a chance meeting and memories of another time make for an unusual evening in the Hess household.

Notes: Yes, another first time effort in this genre, and seriously (I know everyone says this) but this is not Mary Sue, the original character in here is for narrative purposes mostly. If you want to envisage the character, take an actress like Romola Garai (I Capture the Castle, Daniel Deronda), she has that sort of innocence and jeunesse I wanted the character to evoke.Excuse the unseasonable setting, but I just need some ideas like this to cool me down in the hot weather we've been having. And no, the title isn't meant to suggest S&M!

For all you non-Brits, a haggis is a Scottish speciality - oats, meat and blood boiled in the stomach lining of a sheep. It actually tastes much better than it sounds!

Songs: The first song quoted is 'The Way Young Lovers Do', written by Van Morrison (a fabulous cover is available courtesy of Starsailor with terrific vocals from James Walsh can be found on WMP's Media Guide). The second song quoted is 'Tie Up My Hands' from the hauntingly beautiful debut album from Starsailor, 'Love is Here'. These two songs eloquently depict in their lyric young love in a sophisticated yet innocent way, love found and love lost, unrequited love etc. exactly what I wish to convey in this short story. I urge anyone who hasn't discovered Starsailor to get a copy of this album, it's truly enchanting, and literally breathtaking.

Disclaimer: All characters etc belong to M. Night Shyalaman - and no, I don't own Joaquin Phoenix. Damn. Songs courtesy of Van Morrison and Starsailor.

'TIE UP MY HANDS'

=================

Merrill Hess peered up at the October night sky, breathing a sigh of relief as he chanced a guess that the snowfall was beginning to lighten up. A few snowflakes fell in his eyes; he blinked them away and turned his attention to the metre on the gas pump. Shifting impatiently from foot to foot, trying to bury his face even deeper into the collar of his black duffel coat to warm his red nose, Merrill surveyed the Main Street. It was only a quarter past seven, but the last ten hours of continuous snow had proved to be too much for some, the streets were quiet save for the odd pickup truck trudging carefully through the snow to check on the livestock. The scene could have been lifted from a post-apocalyptic blockbuster. He thought back briefly to the events of the summer. Or from real life.

The contents of the Hess's truck revealed the reason why Merrill, who like everyone else would've rather been at home sitting by the fire, was the only one in town. Bo had wanted him to check on her favourite cow, Ermentrude, in some land the Hess's rented on the other side of town, and he had been instructed to take extra provisions for the bovine beauty. Dutifully, and so not to lose his title of Favourite Uncle, he had done so, and run out of gas in the process.

Two minutes later, and thirty bucks worse off, Merrill was about to climb back into the car when he thought he heard someone calling his name. Looking around, he caught a glimpse of a tall figure outlined against the bright glare coming from the service station window.

"Um, hey," Merrill replied taking a step closer, sensing that the voice had been female. "Do I, um, can I help you?" He couldn't quite make out who the person was, being as they were, wrapped up in a three quarter length wool coat and voluminous scarf.

A clear laugh rang in the still air, only slightly muffled by the scarf, and a soft English accent replied, "Could you give me a lift to somewhere that's not below freezing, Merrill. I feel like a Siberian peasant."

A smile spread across his mouth as he instantly recognised the laugh, and the voice, of the person standing in front of him holding on to a couple of battered suitcases. "Kathryn," he answered falteringly, the smile slowly melting from his face as a memory asailed him.

"He remembers!" She replied with a nervous laugh, walking over to him, lifting her cases carefully above the snow level as her feet sank through the freshly fallen powder. "Thank God, I thought I was going to have to sell my left kidney to the pump attendant to get a warm room for the night."

"Let me get those for you," Merrill smiled uneasily, taking her cases. He paused and looked at her face in the light. The snow had frosted the crown of her head and eyelashes and her face was red, if not slightly thinner than he remembered. Still, her nervous smile was the same one that used to make his head rush when he was younger.

Self-consciously Kathryn brushed off the top of her head; "I must look like someone dumped a bloody big box of icing sugar of icing sugar on my head." She cast an appraisatory glance over him, "You look on form, but I must not make the best first impression after eight years."

"No. You look great," Merrill said quickly, immediately blushing profusely as he saw her embarrassed reaction. "What I meant is, I'm glad to see you again."

Kathryn gave him a small smile, her green eyes sparkling in the fluorescent light. "You too."

He watched her, as if waiting for this girl he hadn't seen since he was eighteen to explain why she had apparated in the middle of a blizzard seeming from out of thin air, just as she had disappeared without a trace those eight years ago. No goodbye kiss. No 'Dear John'. No reasons. So many questions left with no answers.

Reading his face, Kathryn gestured to her cases. "I got into Philly really early this morning and I've been trying to get to the old place, but I can't get a taxi. Been waiting about hoping someone would save me."

"Why didn't you tell us you were coming?" Merrill asked, tackling the question head on, wanting to ask her really why she had gone in the first place, without so much as a goodbye, and why after all these years not knowing how she was, she turned up when he least expected her. Kathryn looked down at her gloves as if she had just noticed they were there. It was a question they both must have returned to a million times, and in her mind not one to be revisited right at this moment.

"Could you give me a lift to my Aunt's place then?" Kathryn asked, as if his sentence had never been uttered.

Merrill swallowed, "Well road's closed down Spring and 15th and over Greenhill way, so..."

"No chance then," Kathryn sighed. "Is there a good motel round here, then? There was that place on Bellevue Terrace..."

"Don't be stupid, Kat, come back to ours," Merrill protested, opening the trunk and carefully shifting a bag of hay backwards so he could slide her cases in. "Graham would love to see you, I'm sure. There's a spare room, hot water and edible food... well, I'm not cooking tonight at least."

This failed to raise a smile; Kathryn's arms were folded in an attempt to conserve warmth and a troubled expression lined her face. "I'm not so sure."

"Why?" Merrill asked, closing the trunk and then opening the passenger door for her. He all too well knew her reasons: they were the same as his. Why pour salt on old wounds; old but incurable wounds. "I'm a good driver."

She looked as if she had considered another reply, but then decided that she was too weary for a confrontation. Her mouth lifted into a slow but tired smile. "Driving wasn't exactly the best thing you used to do in the car."

Merrill managed a chuckle as she brushed past him to get into the car, her mahogany hair dusted with snowflakes. "Oh yeah, what might've that been, then?"

She looked up at him, his face red with the cold and unease, and her expression seemed to soften as a memory broke free into her consciousness. "You know, Merrill."

Shutting the door, he dashed around to hop into the driver's seat, the snow crunching beneath his feet as thousands of images crowded into his mind.

Moments stolen amongst the waving corn. Summer breezes. Fire flies. Blankets spread on the ground. Her laugh. His vows. Her lips on his. Heady caresses. His arms around her waist. Fingers tangled in hair. I love yous. Eternal promises.

Promises broken.

***

We strolled through fields all wet with rain

And back along the lane again

There in the sunshine

In sweet summertime

The way young lovers do

***

"Uncle Merrill's back!" Bo shouted through the kitchen to her father who was frantically searching through the cupboard under the stairs, searching for the final ingredients needed to perfect his daughter's superhero Hallowe'en costume.

Graham Hess was preoccupied, however, with the seemingly infinite amount of junk that had appeared to accumulate in the depths of the cupboard. "Yeah, great honey. Tell Morgan that we're going to eat soon."

"He's got a lady with him," Bo called back. "Morgan, Dad says you have to set the table."

Graham paused, mid-search. "Huh?" A stack of old magazines promptly fell on his head.

He rushed through to the kitchen as soon as he recovered from the shock of being attacked by a hundred or so copies of Newsweek, mentally preparing himself for a confrontation with Merrill over his latest unsuitable match. Bo was standing with her nose pressed against the cold glass panes of the door, peering at two figures who were trudging through the snow.

"Don't do that, Bo, sweetie," Graham said, squinting into the dark. "Your nose'll freeze onto the glass."

"I breathed on it first," Bo replied nonchalantly.

"Smart Alec," her father said, dragging her away to the table. "Come on, let's fix you up with this space-age super-fantastic high-tech utility belt."

Morgan, who had just walked in, raised an eyebrow. "It's a piece of foil."

Graham was just about to give him a look when the kitchen door opened and two snow-dusted figures rushed in from the porch, their cheeks and noses scarlet and each carrying a battered leather suitcase.

"We're back," Merrill announced, brushing the snow off the top of his head and placing the suitcase on the floor.

Graham stood up from where he had been crouching down beside Bo. "There was only one of you when we sent you out," he said curiously, wondering what dubious specimen of the opposite sex his brother had trailed home tonight. Barmaid, perfume saleswoman, go-go dancer, he'd seen them all.

Merrill rolled his eyes. "Graham, you remember Kathryn. Kathryn, this is of course my wonderful brother."

"Kathryn?" Graham replied, his eyebrows raised ever so slightly as the name triggered off memories of the summer he and Colleen had got married and bought the house and farm with the money left to his wife by her grandmother. Kathryn had pulled off her gloves and scarf and her mouth was taken over, as always, by her nervous smile.

Graham extended his hand, "It's been a while."

"Yes, it has," Kathryn replied, shaking his hand. She turned her gaze to the two children. "I don't believe that we've met, though."

Merrill indicated to his nephew and niece in turn. "Uh, this is Morgan, and here's Bo. Bo, Morgan, this is Kathryn McKenzie, her aunt's farm was the next one along from here. She was heading there, but the snow's blocked the road."

"Well, it isn't going to be in our family for much longer," Kathryn corrected, her words sounding cool and rehearsed. "I'm selling it, you see. After the... what happened... well, I don't think that I can really hold on to it, too many memories."

Seeing her discomfort in talking about her recently deceased aunt, another casualty of the attack a few months beforehand, Merrill cleared his throat. "Um, it's fine with you if Kathryn stays over till everything's sorted, right?"

Graham nodded, wondering how the situation between her and his brother was going to develop after nearly a decade of silence. "Yes, of course. For as long as you want. The guestroom should be tidy, and dinner's ready in ten minutes. It's pasta, but we've got some hot apple pie for dessert."

"Thank you," Kathryn smiled gratefully, unbuttoning her houndtooth knit coat. "I hope I'm not putting you out."

"Not at all."

Merrill took her case from her and picked the other one from the ground. "I'll take these upstairs then."

Kathryn turned to him, "Oh, I think I left my phone switched on in one of those, I'll need to go sort that out."

"I'll give you a guided tour if you like," Merrill replied, and as if sensing the tension on his brother's forehead he added, "don't worry, Graham, I'll only show her the tidy rooms."

The two left the room for the stairs and Graham murmured under his breath. "It's not that that I'm worried about."

***

"Here you go," Merrill said, flipping the switch on the light and placing the cases next to the wardrobe. "Uh, nice view over the fields through that window," he indicated, "breakfast is whenever you feel like it, and the bathroom's just across the hall. There should be some towels... yep, here..."

He unbuttoned his coat and pulled open a cupboard, taking a large and small towel down from the top shelf, and passing them down to Kathryn who stood only a matter of inches shorter than him.

"The door on the bathroom swells sometimes, but if you do get stuck, just yell and someone will let you out," a smile played in the corner of his mouth, "unless they're feeling especially vindictive."

Kathryn had placed her coat on a hanger and was pulling her boots off when she noticed that he was still looking at her, his forced hospitality failing him.

"Everything OK?" She asked with concern, "I should've really taken my shoes off downstairs, sorry."

"No, don't worry," he replied, waving a hand before taking his coat off. "I was just thinking."

"About...?" Kathryn prompted, straightening her black roll neck and drawing half her hair up into a clip taken from her corduroy skirt pocket.

Merrill leaned against the door, his arms folded over his navy blue sweater. "Summer '94, or rather, the end of it."

Kathryn collapsed into the bed; her green eyes fixed on his brown ones as she fiddled with the zip on the case she had pulled up next to her. "I need to talk to you."

"You could have done that eight years ago and saved me a whole load of worry," Merrill replied quietly, his eyes following her as she frantically diverted herself by searching through her case.

"Do you mind if I wear slippers? I don't have anything else and I just don't want to ladder my tights," she replied distractedly.

He ignored her and moved over to the bed, crouching in front of her. "Your aunt didn't know where you were, I didn't know what had happened. You said that we'd-"

Kathryn placed her stockinged feet in the slippers and paused; finally letting her eyes come to rest on Merrill. His eyes seemed to entreaty her to explain everything. To leave no stone unturned. They were filled with confusion, his eyes, brimming with the hurt and the disorientation resurfacing after so many years. She studied the sharp line of his jaw, tempered by his soft and entrancing eyes and was reminded too suddenly and vividly of a time which seemed so long ago. Times when his eyes could hold her hostage, when she could be taken prisoner by his lips.

Things had happened. She wasn't the same now.

"We both said a lot of things," Kathryn admitted, "but how many of them did we really mean? We were young-"

"We're still young, Kathryn," Merrill replied.

"I've changed."

Merrill looked at her, his eyes darkly serious. "Everybody does."

"Merrill," Kathryn sighed, unable to keep track of the volleying phrases. "Can we talk about this when I'm less jet-lagged. Isn't small talk so much easier at the moment?"

"I don't think I can build a meaningful conversation around your slippers, Kathryn," Merrill managed to smile.

Kathryn shook her head with a small chuckle; "I don't need meaning tonight, Merrill."

"OK," Merrill said with a small nod. "Tonight we'll talk footwear, but tomorrow-"

"Yeah," she replied. Standing up from the bed, she closed her case then moved over to him. Kathryn softly placed a hand on his shoulder, her cold hand heated from the warmth coming from his skin. Quietly, with no more sound than an intake of breath she murmured. "You know that I loved you, Merrill. That summer, you were the world for me."

"What changed then?" He whispered back, as if afraid to lose the confidence she had given him in uttering the words. He turned to look up at her, but her head was turned the other way, then her hand left his shoulder and returned to her side.

"Everything."

***

I kissed you on the lips once more

Said goodbye at your front door

In the night time

Lord it's the right time

Yeah the way young lovers do

***

"She'll be down in a second," Merrill announced, walking into the kitchen, Kathryn's boots in one hand, his other hand rubbing his forehead. "I'll put these away," he said with a distracted air.

"Right," Graham replied, straining the pasta over the sink. "Merrill?"

"Yeah?"

"Come here a sec."

Merrill returned from the closet and came over to the sink, his hands on his hips. "Yeah?"

Graham studied his brother's face. "So?"

"So...?"

"So, Kathryn?" Graham said, tipping the ravioli into a pan and stirring in some sauce.

Merrill nodded with the same air of despondency as he bent down to check on the pie in the oven. "Yeah, I saw her waiting for a taxi in town and, y'know, the road's blocked and I don't s'pose it's pleasant staying in that house after what happened-"

"I didn't mean that," Graham said pointedly, trying to make eye contact with his younger brother.

Merrill sighed, opening a cupboard and taking out some glasses. "We're going to talk later, Graham. Just not right now."

"Right, then."

"Can I help?"

Merrill and Graham turned around as Kathryn walked over to the counter, her hands clasped behind her back in a manner suggesting that she didn't want to intrude.

"Everything's under control," Graham replied with a good natured smile. "Besides, in this house the kitchen is a male domain."

Kathryn smiled, "Okay then, I'll take your word for it, but your tomatoes are smoking." She pointed at the frying pan which had quietly started to secrete small black plumes of smoke.

Merrill quickly shifted the pan over to another hob. Graham coughed, "Tomatoes fumé, old French recipe."

"If you say so," Kathryn laughed, looking around the kitchen. "I like what you've done with the place."

"Well, it's certainly no show home," Graham said with a chuckle. "Not much time to keep the place tidy, what with me managing the parish, and Merrill running the farm and generally keeping both eyes on the kids. Which reminds me," Graham raised his voice. "Morgan! Bo! Table!"

Kathryn raised an eyebrow; "You're handling the farm, Merrill? But you're afraid of chickens."

"We don't have any chickens," he said with a nervous smile, leading her over to the table and setting the five glasses down. "We've got some cattle, some wheat, an orchard and y'know, um, the corn fields."

She suddenly seemed very quiet, absorbed in her own thoughts. "Yeah," she murmured. "The corn fields."

***

"So, we're you and Uncle Merrill best friends, Miss McKenzie?" Bo asked as she finished her last forkful of warm pie and cream.

"You can call me Kathryn," she replied, taking a sip of water. "And, yes, your uncle and I were very good friends. I visited my aunt every summer from about the age you are now. I helped her with picking her strawberries, making jam, baking tartes, and usually your uncle would drop around hoping he'd be in time for some."

Bo looked at her uncle as if to seek a second opinion on the matter. Merrill, who had a mouthful of pie merely nodded, his eyes meeting Kathryn's across the table for one moment, then darting back to his plate.

"And, where are you from," Bo inquired, reaching for her glass of milk. "Are you Canadian?"

Kathryn smiled, "No, I'm from England, but my family's Scottish, we just moved South when I was two with my Dad's work." She leaned over to Bo in a conspiratorial manner. "I even have a kilt."

"I've seen it," Merrill confirmed with a small smile. "And her bagpipes."

"I don't have bagpipes!" she protested, digging into her pie.

Bo laughed and took a long gulp of milk.

"Actually, I just moved back up to the Highlands two years ago," Kathryn explained to Bo, her captive audience. "I studied Ecology at University, so I'm helping with a project about wild otters and other fascinating stuff like that, all these wild creatures. To be honest, I just love seeing all those men in kilts!"

Bo giggled.

"So these wild creatures are actually Scots with hairy legs?" Merrill asked, trying to suppress a smile.

Bo interjected before Kathryn could reply. "Have you seen a haggis?"

Kathryn choked on her pie and held back a laugh, her eyes starting to water. "Oh, no, Bo! The wild Highland Haggis is as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster. I'm afraid many people spend years out on the moors without even seeing so much as a haggis' tail."

Graham was looking at his daughter affectionately whilst Morgan and Merrill looked that at any moment they were going to burst into uncontrollable laughter at the expense of Bo's innocent confusion.

"I think it's time for bed, you two," Graham said, pushing his chair out and piling the children's dishes.

After a series of protests and pleas, Graham finally managed to herd Morgan and Bo up to bed, leaving Kathryn and Merrill alone at the kitchen table. An uncomfortable silence fell on them after the two hours of laughter and joking which had accompanied the meal.

Merrill leant on the table with both his elbows and looked at Kathryn who was relaxing back into her chair, her wavy hair tumbling about her face.

"I'm sorry about your aunt," Merrill said quietly. "She was a wonderful person and I know how close you were."

Kathryn sighed, leaning forward to the table and picking up her empty glass, absentmindedly. "My mum just couldn't come out here to sell the house. She just didn't want to see where it happened. I must say that I'm not looking forward to it. I'd rather just remember it for how it was... I don't want to have to go in and see everything there as usual, but without her. Without life. Like a museum." She seemed to shudder at the thought. "She left it to me, the house. But I can't live there, not after that... there's nothing left here for me."

Merrill drew in a sharp, shallow breath. Kathryn looked up at him, biting her lip. "If you're ready, do you want to have that talk," she asked quietly.

He studied her for a moment, her classical features lit softly by the wall lights, her green eyes more sombre than he had remembered. A femme fatale she was not, yet her actions seemed to contradict her appearance and nature. He yearned yet dreaded the explanation he knew may come from this 'talk'.

His mouth was dry, his voice cracked. "Yeah."

"Is there someplace quiet we can..."

"My place," he suggested, gesturing over to the garage house. "I'll get our coats."

"Right," she replied, watching him as he stood up slowly, a large weight pressing on him. "I'm sorry about Colleen, Merrill."

"I guess we've all had losses to cope with this year," he breathed, looking out of the window, haunted by the cornfields, lying under their shroud of snow.

***

And then we sat on our own star

And dreamed of the way that we were

And the way that we wanted to be

Then we sat on our own star

And dreamed of the way that I was for you

And you were for me

***

A few minutes later they were sat on Merrill's sofa in his room, their snow speckled coats tossed on the bed and her boots sat next to the electric fan heater, drying out. The snow had started to fall thickly against the windows and the room was dark save for the light of two lamps on Merrill's desk.

Kathryn curled her legs underneath her and sat sideways facing Merrill who had kicked off his shoes and seemed to be deeply interested in his jeans. Both of them were avoiding eye contact, as if doing so would delay the inevitable.

Finally Kathryn broke the ice. "In all honesty I couldn't've told you why I left that summer before today, Merrill."

He glanced at her incredulously, his whole body tense, fiddling with a worn area of the upholstery.

Kathryn sighed and closed her eyes, wrapping her arms around her knees. "Actually, I never told anyone. I couldn't even admit to myself what had happened. If I'd told anyone this before this summer they would've had me committed." Kathryn slowly opened her eyes and her voice sank into a whisper. "Merrill, I didn't leave. I was taken."

A moment of silence fell heavily over them as they searched each other for some reaction or clue respectively. "I don't understand," Merrill frowned, his voice low and broken.

"Them. They took me, I was walking home through the corn fields from the river where I'd met you," Kathryn whispered, her eyes fixed in the mid-distance as she remembered that day. "Everyone presumed I'd run away, gone back home. No one would have considered it, I mean, who would? Extra-terrestrial abductions, for heaven's sake. What was I supposed to do? I hardly believed it myself."

Merrill looked at her dumbfounded; his hand reached out to take hers. "You should have told me."

She looked up at him, clasping his hand; her eyes watery and she shook her head. "I didn't know what to do, Merrill. I can't explain what it was like; it was just this fear, this feeling of violation and after... after, this immense self-disgust. I just couldn't come back here. I couldn't face it, I didn't want to believe it, not at least have to admit that it did happen."

Tears had started to course over her pink cheeks, her body shivering with the memory of shock; the mental scars of the event were so deeply felt. Her voice broke finally as she gave in to an unrelenting tide of sleep-deprived melancholy. "Oh, I couldn't Merrill... I just..."

"Shh," Merrill murmured, moving across the distance separating them on the sofa and drawing her to him, his heart racing with the shock of Kathryn's long held confession and the sensation of her body shuddering in anguish against him, making her feel much frailer and smaller than she was.

"It's okay, Kat," he whispered, stroking her back as she collapsed against his chest, her head coming to rest on his shoulder. "I know what it's like."

"How?" Kathryn said into his knitted sweater, her throat dry and hoarse.

Running his fingers over her hair Merrill closed his eyes. "They surrounded our house, we were trapped. We thought it was the end... we were just helpless, afraid, unable to predict what would happen next."

Kathryn now lay still and quiet against him, her fingers clinging onto his sweater as if she were afraid that to let go would mean to be lost once again. To be taken away. "Did you ever imagine what would happen if they took you?" Her voice was no more than a breath exhaled with great effort.

Merrill opened his eyes and stared blankly at the wall behind her. "Harvest our organs, perform tests, kill us. Every story I'd ever heard about abductions and every scenario from every B-movie we'd seen as kids... all of it came back to me. And all I could think about was how Bo and Morgan shouldn't have to feel this fear, this terror."

"You're a good support for them, Merrill," Kathryn whispered, her eyes wet as she drew back from him and placed her hands either side of his face, studying his hazel-green eyes. "For the kids and for Graham."

Merrill's eyes glistened by the dim light coming from the window behind them as he bit his lip. "I would've liked to've been there to support you... I was there. Why didn't you ask me?"

***

I want to love you but my hands are tied

I want to stay here but I've been denied

I want to lie here until we've killed this bitter down

I want to hold you but my hands are tied

I want to stay here but I've been denied

Let's watch the clock until the morning sun does rise

***

Graham softly walked into the kitchen after having put the children to bed after their baths, hoping not to disturb the conversation he was sure that his brother and Kathryn were sure to be having.

But peering into the kitchen he was surprised to see the room deserted and the safety chain hadn't been replaced on the door. Walking over to it, Graham opened the door and the screen before stepping onto the porch where two sets of freshly made footprints were fading as fresh snow filled them like jelly moulds. Glancing in the direction of the garage house, Graham saw a slant of slight falling from a window like a lighthouse lamp in the fog warning sailors off rocks.

He wondered if he should warn his brother about the rocks.

***

"I had no choice."

"You had me."

Kathryn's hands had fallen from Merill's face, and her eyes fell away from his. "I wish I could go back and do things another way, but it changed me."

"Changed," Merrill repeated under his breath. "How?"

"I can't close my eyes without seeing that night," Kathryn said, her eyes wide as if to ward off any such visions.

"But, why can't we go back," Merrill asked, tipping her chin upwards with his index finger, trying to look into her eyes, trying to divine some hidden connotation in her words. "Start where we left off."

"We're different," Kathryn repeated herself again, like a mantra.

"So?"

"We loved each other then, and now..." she trailed off, her eyes fixed on his, sadness lying in her green irises.

Merrill rested one hand against her cheek and let the other fall upon her waist as she leaned against him fot support. "Why not again?" The undertones of his voice seemed to plead with her as his touch aroused long forgotten memories of walks in woods damp with summer showers.

Her lips opened halfway in protest, but she moved closer to him, cruelly torn between the paradox of the past and the present. "Because..." she breathed, letting her heavy eyelids close shut as she felt his warm breath caress her lips.

Merrill let his mouth fall upon Kathryn's parted lips, meeting her protest with a tender kiss, his heart aching as she responded, her body trembling with suppressed sobs. Pressing her against his chest, he felt Kathryn's breast fall with a sigh which seemed to release her sorrow as they parted, her breath falling heavily upon his lips.

Kathryn let her eyes remain closed. "Do that again and I may forget my reasons," she murmured as Merrill started to kiss her softly, kissing her tear stained cheeks, her snow-sore lips. "My well," she let her hand slide over his shoulder to his neck, "prepared," he buried his left hand in her mahogany curls, "reasons." He tugged her bottom lip softly with his own as finally they drew away, still leaning against one another for support as they breathed shallowly and quickly.

"What were your reasons?" Merrill asked, his voice low, the sound reverberating through her body from his torso as he wrapped his arms about her, taking one of her cold hands and pressing it to his lips.

"I'll tell you in the morning," Kathryn replied sleepily as she settled into his embrace, leaning her head against his chest as it rose and fell.

Merrill lay back into the sofa and pulled a throw which lay over the old armchair next to the sofa towards them. Draping it about them, he felt Kathryn's breathing fall into a regular pattern as sleep stole her away from him. He kissed the crown of her head, enveloping her in his arms, never before feeling so far away from her her when she was so close. It had changed. She was right. Everything felt different. Merrill sighed, whispering into Kathryn's ear, "Just love me again, like before."

But his words fell as silently as the snow outside, as he watched over her until the tempest cleared and morning light shone on them once again, ignoring the temptress sleep beckoning him away from the one in his arms.

***

I want to love you but my hands are tied

I want to sleep here but I've been denied

I want to stay here till we've killed this bitter down

I want to hold you but my hands are tied

I want to sleep here but I've been denied

Let's watch the clock until the morning sun comes out

***

THE END

***

Feedback much appreciated for this virgin foray into Signs-fic. I wanted to try something realistic, so perhaps you may find it anticlimactic. But real life is like that, isn't it?

Via ff.net or annadelamico@yahoo.co.uk

Visit www.angelfire.com/indie/annarousseau/index.htm for more of my fic.

***