Solitude and Loneliness
A GunSmith Cats Anime Fic

by J. Robinson
05/19/'03 - 05/22/'03

Rally lay in bed and listened to the storm crashing against her windowpane, all howling wind and booming thunder, flashes of lightening lighting up the darkened room every so often. She couldn't sleep, and it wasn't because of the storm. Everytime she closed her eyes, she saw Radinov's face, the look in the madwoman's eyes as Rally's finger tightened on the trigger; she heard the sound of the gunshots echoing again. The blood....
Rally turned over in her bed, determined to stop thinking about the dead Russian. 'It doesn't matter. She was going to kill me! I had to do it!'
Finding that this just wasn't going to work, Rally reluctantly dragged herself out of bed and downstairs to the kitchen, where she set about making herself some hot chocolate. The sweet drink had often helped soothe her restless soul when she couldn't sleep; it would, hopefully, do the same thing tonight.
The young bounty hunter sighed as she sat down at the table to wait for the water to heat up. She rested her elbows on the table and her chin in her hands, her mind whirling again. But, for once, not about Radinov.
'Bill. He saved me again. He was leaning on that girl.... He must have been hurt. But how, and when? How bad is it? Is he ok? Where is he now? Is he with that girl?' Finding that her endless, unanswerable questions were only making her agitated, Rally heaved a great sigh and stood up again, walking over to the kitchen window to look outside.
Her vigilant eyes automatically scanned the area, making sure everything was alright. To her great surprise and consternation, she saw the halfway-familiar form of a strange, dark van sitting out on the street, half a block away from her house. The last time she'd seen a van like that on her street had been when Bill was surveiling the house....
She cursed softly and darkly. Was the idiot man back out there, or was it someone else? Either way, it only boded trouble for Rally. She stood at the window, staring out at the dark van, wondering if Bill was in it or someone else.
After a few minutes, the tea kettle hissed, alerting her that the water was boiling. She turned and went to the stove, removing the kettle and pouring a mugful of the hot water. She added a packet of instant- cocoa, and picked up a spoon to stir it. Returning to the window, she looked out again, absently mixing the hot chocolate. The van was, of course, still there. She snorted softly.
'What does he think he's doing? The thing with Radinov is over; he has no reason to be out there. Why would he be there?' Abruptly her thoughts took an alarming turn. 'What if there's something going on that I don't know about? Am I in danger? Is May? What's going on here?!?' She clutched her mug tightly, barely noticing the scorching heat under her fingers.
'Maybe I should just go out there and find out if it is Bill. If it is him, I can make him tell me why he's here....' Rally slowly raised the mug to her lips, sipping carefully at the hot liquid inside. 'If it's not him, I can make them get the hell out of here. All I need is my gun....'
Rally smiled. Taking her time, she drank down the hot chocolate, and then went into the front room. In the closet she found her light jacket, which she pulled on over her sleeping clothes; an ancient t-shirt with more holes in it than fabric, and a pair of shorts that were actually a size too small. She also retrieved the small handgun she kept in there, and checked to make sure it was loaded. With satisfaction she spun the chamber and snapped it back into place. Then she tucked the pistol into the back of her shorts and headed for the door, still wearing her fluffy bunny slippers.
*~*~*~*
Out in the surveilance van, Bill sipped at his lukewarm coffee and wished for the umpteenth time that it was still hot. He sighed and glanced at the rookie manning the audio-equipment station, who had fallen asleep some time in the last few hours. He rolled his eyes. 'Stupid rookie, can't even stay awake through a stake-out.' He harrumphed and gulped down the last of the crappy coffee.
'Well, I feel like getting a breath of fresh air,' he finally thought. The house was completely silent, so he wasn't worried about Rally or May for the moment. 'They're probably both sleeping safe in their beds.' He shivered slightly at the thought of Rally in conjunction with a bed, and then ruthlessly squashed the thought down. 'Bad Bill! You know she'd more likely shoot you than look at you, so why are you torturing yourself thinking about her?' After that mental pep talk, the ATF agent sighed. He pulled on her coat and opened the back door of the van, preparing to jump out.
To his great surprise, he was greeted by the startled face of one very wet Rally Vincent, who was standing about a foot back from the van. One hand was raised as if to knock on the door. The other held a small gun. He sighed. 'See? She's going to shoot you, just like I said.'
"Well, that answers one question," she muttered to herself, staring at him.
"Hello to you too, pussycat," he greeted her with a genial grin. She narrowed her eyes at him.
"Haven't I told you not to call me that?" she spat, waving the gun in his direction.
"Calm down, Rally," he said obligingly, raising his hands in surrender. "No need to get violent."
She glared at him for a moment, and then shivered slightly. He saw it, and tried to hide his concern, knowing it would be unwelcome. 'It's too cold and wet out here for her to be hanging around in it,' he thought to himself. 'She'll catch a cold or something.'
"It's too fricking cold to do this out here," she finally hissed through her teeth, gesturing with the weapon for him to get out of the van. "Follow me."
He did as she commanded, jumping down from the van and closing the door behind him. Then he waited for her to go somewhere so he could follow her as she'd said.
He didn't have to wait long. She turned her back on him and stalked back down the street to her house, silent and fairly radiating anger. Bill followed her, not speaking, slightly afraid of the mood she was in. They reached the house and she flung open the door, stomped in, and threw her gun at a nearby chair. It bounced once, causing Bill to freeze in panic, and then landed and was still. The agent let out a shaky breath.
"Sit down," Rally told him in a calm, controlled voice, pointing to a loveseat nearby.
"Are you sure? I'll get it all wet," he reminded her.
"Damnit!" she cursed softly. She looked at his sopping clothes for a minute, and scowled. "In the kitchen, then. It'll be easier to clean up in there." She stomped off toward what he remembered was the door to the kitchen. He followed.
She gestured for him to sit down at the table silently, and walked over to stand by the stove. He pulled out a chair facing her and sat in it. "So...I understand you wanted to speak to me?" he said after a few moments of silence.
She looked up at him and gave him a smoldering glance that made him flinch slightly. "Tell me, snake-lips, why are you watching my home...again?"
He flushed at the not-very-nice nickname. "Ahhh, well, that's my secret, isn't it?"
"I have a right to know, Bill!"
He blinked in shock. 'My name...? She said my name.... She said my name!' He stared at her, eyes wide, for a moment, before clearing his throat and looking quickly away. "I just...have been worried. We still don't know if we got everyone involved with that last case, you know. Haints has a lot of friends...he could very well try to arrange a hit on you from the inside."
Rally paled. "I...hadn't thought about that," she said slowly.
"Well, I couldn't get the idea out of my head for some reason. So here I am, your loyal protector, at your service." He gave her a mocking salute. She flushed with anger, and he smiled. She was even more beautiful than usual when she was angry.
"What if I don't want you to protect me?" she fairly spat at him.
He tried his best to look heartbroken. "You don't want me?" he said sadly.
To his surprise, she blushed lightly. "I don't need a babysitter," she told him after a moment.
"I know, Rally. I was just worried about you, I guess." For some reason, Bill didn't feel like playing the game anymore. He sighed deeply. "After all, it's my fault that you got involved in all this, anyway."
"Bill.... Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself." She sounded vaguely uncomfortable, and looked embarassed.
"I know that too, Rally." He smirked, but there was a mournful tinge to it. "I've seen you in action, remember?"
"Oh...yeah." She looked like someone was strangling her. "In action, with my shirt ripped apart and my bra hanging on for dear life."
"And what a lovely view it was," he sighed under his breath.
"What did you say? I didn't quite catch that," she said, glaring at him.
"Nothing, Pussycat," he said, giving her a smarmy grin. She scowled.
"Sometimes I wonder why I don't just shoot you and be done with it," she muttered.
"Because you love me?" he smiled mockingly.
She narrowed her eyes at him angrily, and then sighed, closing the beautiful portals to her soul. "Is there something about me that just draws jerks? Because I don't recall doing anything in a past life that was nasty enough that you would be my karma."
"Aaah, but perhaps I'm not a jerk, simply a man," he said, staring at her seriously.
She stiffened and opened her eyes, returning his stare. "I'm not sure I want to know what you mean by that," she said slowly.
"As you wish." He smiled, but it was a painful expression. He stood up and started to leave, intending to go back out to his van and pray that no baddies showed up.
"Wait...." Her voice was soft, uncertain. For once, she sounded like she didn't know what was going on.
"What?" He hadn't meant for it to come out that way- so...flat, emotionless. Dead.
"I just...would you like some hot chocolate?"
Bill's eyes widened. "You're offering me...a drink?"
"Well, it is awfully cold and wet out there, and you've been sitting around in your wet clothes for half an hour. I can't have my protector catching a cold, now can I?" She was teasing him! He could barely believe it.
"Ahhh...ok." He stared at her, having turned around without noticing doing so. She smiled at him, actually smiled, and he felt his heart skip a beat. 'Damn, but she's beautiful sometimes. Like, when she's not threatening my life.'
"Ok! Just let me heat some water for you, it'll only take a few minutes." For whatever reason, she seemed...cheerful. He wondered what could have caused her change in mood.
*~*~*~*
Rally puttered about making another cup of hot chocolate, trying not to think of the way the damp agent behind her had disturbed her when he'd claimed that he wasn't a jerk, simply a man. Disturbed, perhaps, wasn't quite right; more like...alarmed, embarassed, slightly frightened, and above all else, weak-in-the-knees as she suddenly saw him as a man and not an ATF agent. And a damned handsome man, at that. It gave her the creeps to look at him and feel.... Well, like a silly schoolgirl with a crush. This was Bill Collins, the snake-lips man! Evil incarnate! The one who called her 'pussycat!' She shuddered slightly.
"Is everything ok?" She started at the unexpected question, very nearly burning her hands on the stove. She tried to ignore the chills running down her spine.
"Yes, everything's fine," she assured him cheerily. 'Act happy, it'll throw him off his guard,' her mind advised her.
He was quiet for a minute, and then he spoke again. "Are you sure?" It sounded to Rally as if his voice was closer than it had been. She prayed that that wasn't because he was, in fact, out of his seat and moving toward her.
"Yes...?" she said, and mentally cursed herself for sounding as if she were asking for his approval.
"Are you asking me or telling me?" Yes, he was definitely moving toward her. Slowly, though, which made her wonder if he thought he was sneaking up on her. Impossible- he couldn't be that gullible, could he? She was a rather ass-kicking bounty hunter and all....
"Um, telling you?" Again with the questioning tone! Rally mentally screamed at herself, wondering if she was secretly a sadist or something.
"You don't sound like it," he said, his voice lower and huskier than Rally was really comfortable with. He also seemed to be standing right behind her now, close enough that he could reach out and wrap his arms around her if he wanted to. She blushed darkly at that thought, lowering her face to hide its color.
"I think there is something wrong," he said in the husky voice again. A series of chills ran down Rally's spine and she leaned away from him a little. "I think you're...hiding something from me."
"Why would I do that?" Rally heard her own voice, and to her horror, it sounded high-pitched and breathless, like a little girl's. She winced and clamped her lips shut.
"Maybe you're afraid of me," he suggested, his voice going even lower and raspier. She flinched.
"I....am not afraid of you," she told him, wondering what on earth he thought he was doing.
"Are you afraid of what I would do if I found out what's bothering you?" Bill seemed to be smiling, not that Rally could see it or anything. But she could hear the smug satisfaction in his voice.
"No!" Rally was protesting out of habit, now. She'd actually kind of forgotten what they had originally been talking about.
"I think you're lying to me, Rally Vincent," he said, his voice actually a purr. She shivered, unable to control her response. "Why would you lie to me? Bill, your loyal snake-lips and personal protector?" He sounded amused now, which made Rally's eyes narrow in slight anger.
"Oh yes, so loyal," she spat, straightening up and pushing herself back into him with the intention of forcing him to move away.
To her great shock, he simply stood there, her back against his chest, and she felt an unyeilding strength in him that was startling, to put it lightly. Before she could gather her scattered wits enough to move away, his arms were wrapping themselves around her, holding her in place, pinning her against him. "Rally," he said, and she was slightly afraid at the hoarseness of his voice. "Rally."
"Bill...?" Her voice was small and timid, and it sounding again (to Rally's great dismay) like a young girl's. "Bill, what are you...."
"Shhhh." His voice was very soft and very loud at the same time in Rally's ears. Slowly, she felt his hands enclose her shoulders, and he turned her around to face him. She stared into his broad cloth-covered chest for a moment, and then her eyes flicked up to his face. He looked down at her, his gaze smoldering, and she felt...weak. Boneless. As if she were going to just collapse into his arms any second now.
She began to bring her hands up between them, to try and push him away, but they stopped halfway and merely lay against his chest. She could feel his heartbeat racing beneath one of them. She could also feel how shallowly and quickly he was breathing, and she began to feel afraid. Not afraid of Bill.... But afraid of the way he was making her tremble...the way he was making her feel.
*~*~*~*
Bill stared down at the fragile creature, soft and warm in his arms, her hands laying flat against his chest, neither pushing him away nor pulling him closer. He swallowed hard, his mouth suddenly dry. He could feel her trembling slightly, and wondered if he was scaring her. His eyes roved over her sweet, upturned face, looking for clues as to why he found her so very...irresistible.
Her eyes were wide and unblinking, staring into his face. He could see no fear in them, only apprehension, nervousness. Her mouth was drawn in a tight line, but he could see that her lips trembled. Her nostrils flared slightly each time he breathed out. He suddenly found that to be almost unbearably meaningful; she was breathing him in with each breath he gave her.
'What are you doing?' he asked himself, the very same question he had stopped her from asking. The truth was, the answer was painfully obvious, and yet Bill couldn't admit it to himself. He tightened his arms around her slightly, drawing her closer to him. One of her hands slid up to clutch at his shoulder, while the other remained over his heart. She was so very delicate and precious to him....
'Rally isn't delicate.' He knew this, logically, as he had seen her defend herself on more than one occasion. She was as dangerous with a gun as he was. She was no damsel-in-distress, she had no need of a knight in shining armor. She could take care of herself.
And yet....
Sometimes she did need a protector. Bill flashed on that terrifying moment when he had seen Radinov lunge toward Rally from the ambulance, flailing wildly with an axe of some kind. His arm had been up, the gun pointed, before he could blink. His finger had tightened on the trigger, and he watched as the bullet smashed into the madwoman's hand, flinging her weapon away. Then he had heard the sharp reports as Rally fired, over and over again, and he'd seen the assassin's body jerk with each shot. He had also seen the horrified look on Rally's face, and of all the things he had experienced in those few seconds, that look would be, perhaps, the only one he could never forget.
Vaguely Bill realized he had bent his neck and buried his head in Rally's hair, nuzzling his face against her softness like a pup against its mother. He sighed deeply, causing a bit of her hair to fly up in a cloud. "Rally," he murmured.
"Bill," she replied, her voice muffled by his chest.
"Rally, I...."
*~*~*~*
And it was, of course, at that rather inopportune moment that the tea kettle chose to whistle. Bill released Rally on reflex, jumping back, and she turned toward the stove, hiding her scarlet face. "Looks like the water's ready!" she said in a falsely cheerful voice, reaching to take the hissing kettle off the heat source. "Just have to mix in the instant-cocoa now!"
"Wonderful!" he replied in the same falsely cheery tone. She gave him a rather startled glance over her shoulder, and he pasted a fake smile to match his tone upon his face for her benefit. She blinked at him a few times, and then turned back around, shaking her head slightly. He smirked.
"So, um, this is going to be pretty hot," she said as she reached for a nearby coffee mug off the rack, and retrieved a stirring spoon from the silverware drawer. "Be careful. I don't want you to burn yourself," she blushed lightly.
"Thanks, pussycat," he said in his 'normal' smarmy tone, inwardly pleased at her show of concern for his wellbeing.
"Yeah, well, you can't very well protect me if you get yourself hurt, can you?" Her tone was harsh, but the apologetic glance she sent him as she opened a packet of chocolate powder and emptied it into the mug of steaming hot water made that all worthwhile.
"So now you acknowledge that I'm trying to protect you?" he murmured, drawing one foot up to rest on his other knee.
"Well, it seems like you're set on doing it, with or without my acknowledgement, so I might as well go with the flow. Less stress is essential for a healthy lifstyle!" Rally grinned at him.
He returned the impish smile. "How very...zen...of you."
Her grin deepened into an amused smirk. "I try," she said lightly, fluttering her eyelashes at him. He tried not to let his surprise show on his face; was she flirting? With him?
"Hmmmm," was all he could think to say without making an ass of himself. She chuckled softly, and turned toward him, bringing the mug of cocoa over and setting it down on the table in front of the chair he had reclaimed after the...incident.
"Speaking of hurting yourself.... The other day, um, when...Radinov was killed...I saw you were leaning on that, um, girl pretty heavily. Were you injured?" She looked at him with real concern in her eyes as she lowered herself into the chair across from him, and he felt touched.
"I was....well, am still, I guess, slightly toasted. My partner and I were checking out a site where Radinov had been staying, looking for information on what her plans were. His name was...was Kenny." Bill's voice lowered. The grief shone fresh in his eyes. "He was too damn green for his own good...his curiousity made him careless sometimes. I found pictures of you and May with info-sheets, making me realize she was going after the two of you, and I remembered what you'd said about 'going over (my) head,' and we also discovered that the phone there had been used to call Haints' office. I figured out about the rally.... I had run out of the building, heading for our squadcar, when he set the phone receiver back in the hook. It...set off a bomb she'd left behind. He died. I only caught the edge of the blast. I have some burns on my back, nothing major." Bill lowered his eyes, staring into his hot chocolate so she wouldn't see the pain and loss. "He was only a rookie...."
"Oh, Bill...." He looked up at her, and saw her looking back at him with a sad, regretful face. "I'm...I'm so sorry."
"Yeah." Bill's voice was slightly hoarse. He sipped at the warm, sweet drink. Then his eyebrows went up. "Hey, this isn't bad," he mumbled in something like shock.
"Thanks." She gave him an honest smile, and he vowed to compliment her more often if it meant he could see that beautiful smile. "It's just instant cocoa mix and boiling water, that's all."
"Must be the love that went into the making of it," he murmured, his eyes slightly unfocused for a second. Then they cleared and he smirked at her. She rolled her eyes, shook her head, and grinned.
"Oh yeah. Love." Rally's voice was startlingly deadpan. She was struggling not to laugh, though, and that ruined the effect. "Riiiight."
He smiled again and took another drink of his cocoa. They were quiet for a minute or so, each absorbed in their own separate thoughts. Then, she surprised him with a question. "So...who was that girl?"
"Hmmm?" He looked at her, confused.
"The one you were leaning on when you shot Radinov's axe thingie." Rally waved her hand in that universal gesture that means, 'you know what I'm talking about.'
"Um? Oh! Kathy! She works for the ATF...wait. Why are you asking about her?" He narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
"Why, Bill, I'm just curious," she murmured, her eyes going wide and 'innocent,' or as close as Rally could get to it. "With you involving yourself in my life, I figured I should return the favor. Shouldn't I know your girlfriend's name, so I can be polite to her when she starts calling here looking for you at all hours of the night?"
Bill stared at Rally disbelievingly. 'What's she plotting? She's got a funny look in her eyes....' He swallowed another drink of his hot chocolate. "Well, I don't...." Then he fixated on something she said, and his eyes widened considerably. "You think she's...Kathy's my....ah, hahahahahahaha!"
Rally watched, slightly startled and slightly afraid, as Bill almost fell out of his chair with laughter. She giggled nervously, and reached out to steady his coffee mug so that if he did fall, he wouldn't take it with him. She very patiently waited for him to calm himself down.
"Oh, Rally, you crack me up sometimes," Bill finally said, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. "Kathy's not my girlfriend. She's just this...girl I work with sometimes, that's all."
Rally snorted disbelievingly. "That's what you think," she muttered, shoving his chocolate at him carefully. He took it and took a sip.
"What do you mean?" he asked her, his eyes wary.
"I saw the way she was looking at you, snake-lips. The girl obviously adores you." Rally rolled her eyes, chuckled softly. "Not that I'll ever figure out why."
Bill pursed his lips. "Yeah, I guess she might have a little crush on me, but I.... Well, to be honest, she's not my type."
Rally quirked her eyebrow at him questioningly. "Oh? And what is your type?"
"Well, someone who's not...clingy, for starters," he said. As he began to list the qualities he preferred in women, his eyes clouded over. "She ought to be intelligent, someone who can think for herself, figure things out on her own. Someone resourceful. Someone who's not useless in a fight...but maybe she still needs me to jump in and 'save' her every so often. Someone funny, someone who makes me laugh, and who laughs at my jokes. Someone kind, and generous, and loyal, someone who'll let me take care of her when she needs it, and someone who'll take care of me when I need it. Someone who's not afraid to be who she is, who she wants to be. Someone who doesn't hesitate to give back as good as she gets when I tease her. Someone...." His voice faded out, but his mind finished the phrase for him. 'Someone like you.'
"Well, that's a pretty restrictive list you got there," Rally said after a moment. She stared at the table between them. "You're never going to find someone like that who's also available, and willing. Trust me. I've been on the lookout for a good man for a long time now, and I've yet to meet one who fills all my requirements." She smiled sharply, but he sensed the sorrow and loneliness behind her words.
"Oh? And what are they?" he said with no little amount of interest, hidden under cover of his nonchalant tone and expression.
"I don't want to bore you...."
"Oh, come on now, pussycat. I spouted off to you about my perfect woman, and you sat through it. I owe you the same courtesy at least, so go right ahead." He smirked when her eyes narrowed at the 'pussycat.'
"Well...." she hesitated, fidgeting nervously.
"Rally? What are you so nervous about? I would never laugh at you, if that's it." Bill's tone was uncharacteristically gentle, and she looked up at him quickly. His expression was utterly genuine. She blinked in shock.
"It's not that," she finally admitted. "It's just.... I've never actually...you know, sat down and thought about what I really want in a man. I just...always looked at the guys I was with, and there was always some...flaw, something that wasn't right."
"Well, take a minute or two to think about it now," he advised her gently. "Can't hurt to make yourself up a list."
She stared at him for a minute, and then slowly smiled. "Well, first of all, he has to be strong," she began. "He has to be a man who's not afraid to take action when action is required. A man who knows how to defend himself and others, and who's not afraid of a woman who can do the same thing. That's rarer than you'd expect, you know." She smirked. "I need a man who is smart. Intelligent, resourceful, witty, anything, so long as he has a brain and can use it. I don't want to be the one who does all the thinking in my relationship. And also, I want a brave man, one who can do what's necessary even when he's afraid or doesn't want to do it. I can't have someone who'll run away when the pressure gets too high." She shook her head. "I want someone funny, somone who can make a joke. And someone who isn't useless around the house, you know, maybe he can fix something if it breaks. Not one of those 'home improvement' nutcases, just a guy who knows which end of a screwdriver is which." They both smirked at this. "I want someone who wants a family," she continued, and he had to hide his surprise. "I want a man who wants kids. But...not right away. When I'm ready. Now isn't the right time, but eventually, I want to have children of my own. He has to be ok with that." She nodded decisively. "I want someone clean and sober, someone with no addictions, none of that junk. And I will not stand for a man who is disrespectful of me- I will not stay with someone like that. I will, also, never allow myself- or my children- to be abused." Her eyes narrowed, but she wasn't looking at Bill, so he felt slight relief. "I want...I want a man who...who loves me, and I want a man I love." Suddenly her voice was soft and hesitant, and he realized that this, this was probably the most important thing of all to her. He nodded understandingly, his eyes on her troubled face. "I want someone I know will never leave me, or our family. Someone I can trust and believe in. Someone who knows who he is, and believes in himself, and in me. Someone who loves me for who I am, who I really am." She smiled slightly. "I want someone who's seen me at my best and at my worst and who loves me anyway." She looked down at the table, and then back up at Bill, smiling softly. "I guess that's it."
"That's a good list," he told her solomnly. "Any man who could fill all those requirements would be a good man, as you said." He struggled not to let his thoughts show on his face. 'Could I ever be that man?'
"Yes," she said with a sigh, slumping in her seat. "And, of course, he probably doesn't exist."
"Maybe, maybe not," was his rather cryptic reply. She looked at him, curiousity and suspicion warring for dominance in her expression. He gave her a gentle smile. "All I meant was that you shouldn't give up. If you lose hope in him, won't your soulmate be disappointed?"
She stared at him, eyes wide and shocked. He winked at her and sipped from his now-tepid drink, then chugged what was left and clunked the mug back down onto the table with a satisfied sigh. "Ahh, good stuff."
Rally shook her head as if to clear her mind of whatever cobwebs lingered there. "Um...." Then something seemed to hit her, and she sat up straight. "Bill?"
"Hmmm?" He looked at her expectantly.
"Have you slept lately?"
"Ummm...." The ATF agent tried to remember when the last time was that he'd gotten any shut-eye.... And couldn't. "Not really?" he said with a weak smile.
She sighed deeply and closed her eyes for a second. "Do you have to stay out there in that van?"
"No, there's another guy in there, he's supposed to be watching the audio monitoring equipment." Bill wondered where she was going with this. "But he was sleeping when I left."
"Hmmm. I was thinking...you don't really need to sit out there, do you? You can just as easily protect me from here in the house...." Rally was distracted, her eyes clouded, her voice a bit strained.
"I guess...." Bill replied vaguely, his confused eyes glued to her face.
"Well....why don't we put you in the guest room, then, and let you get some sleep?" She smiled brightly.
"Er...guest room?" he repeated, and then understanding smacked him in the head. "Oh! You're offering me a place to sleep?"
"Well, duh," she said, and laughed. He grinned in response.
"I'm touched, Rally," he said, putting one hand over his heart.
"Touched in the head, maybe," she retorted dryly. He smiled widely. He loved it when she argued with him!
"Thanks, though. It's been a while since I got any good sleep." He looked down at the table. Then grimaced. "I can't sleep in these wet clothes.... I don't suppose you have anything I could borrow overnight?"
Rally blushed deeply, which Bill found fascinating. "I, um, well, that is, May might have some of her old boyfriend's sweats still around. I don't know how well they'll fit you. You're taller than he was."
"Better than nothing," Bill smiled at her.
"Hmph!" Rally crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at her...well, whatever he was. "You really get on my nerves sometimes," she informed him, half-serious, half-teasing.
"It's a talent," he replied nonchalantly. "I would like to find out if those sweats will fit me though."
"Oh yeah!" Rally giggled. "I forgot. Well, come with me." She got up and walked out of the kitchen, up the stairs, and down the hall to May's room, where she instructed Bill to wait for her. She slipped inside, taking care to make no noise, and went to the closet to find the old clothes. After searching for a few moments, she had located a pair of sweatpants, but the only other piece of men's clothing she found was a ragged old t-shirt. She sighed and took the t-shirt and sweatpants and crept back out of May's room.
"Here," she said softly once she closed the door. She handed Bill the clothes and pushed him down the hall into the bathroom. "Get changed, and then I'll show you to the guest room."
"Gotcha, pussycat," he murmured as he closed the bathroom door behind himself. He listened and heard a soft snort from outside the door. He smiled to himself and began taking off his wet clothing.
After struggling with the slightly too-small sweatpants, he pulled the t-shirt over his head. It was also slightly too small, and hugged his body like a muscle shirt. He wondered what Rally would think when she saw him, and grinned. He knew very well that his body wasn't too bad. Maybe she'd be interested.... His smile faded. No, not Rally. Rally hated him. He met his own eyes in the mirror and was slightly shocked at the hopeless look in them.
He shook his head, gathered his wet things, and took them with him out into the hallway. "Rally!" he called softly when he didn't see her right away.
A moment later, she stuck her head out of an open door halfway between the stairwell and the bathroom at the end of the hall. "Here I am," she said unneccessarily.
"Is that the guest room?" he asked, approaching her and looking into the room.
"Yup," she said, going back over to the bed and continuing to turn down the blankets. "Becky stays here sometimes, when she's over," she said, pulling down the top sheet. She turned and smiled at him.
"Thanks," he said softly, putting his stuff down in a pile on the floor. He gave her a big grin.
Rally, on the other hand, was quite occupied with staring at Bill, and didn't seem to notice his expression. Her eyes were wide as they roamed over his body, taking in the way the fabric of his shirt hugged him, tracing the lines of his chest and the ridges of his muscles. She wasn't drooling, quite, but she looked like she was close to it.
'Hmmmm,' Bill thought with a smirk. 'Maybe she is interested....'
Rally shook her head, blushing deeply, and turned away. She pointed to the bed, and her finger trembled. "Sleep, um, there. Goodnight." She turned and tried to dart past Bill and out the door, but he barred her way, his body filling the doorframe. He looked down at her with a smirk.
"Don't I get a goodnight kiss?" he asked, his tone only halfway teasing.
She turned pale, and then red. "Um! No!"
"You're not leaving until I get my goodnight kiss," he told her, a sneaky grin on his lips. She looked up at him, her eyes daggers.
"Get out of my way," she growled angrily.
"Not 'til you kiss me goodnight," he retorted calmly.
She narrowed her eyes to slits and hissed at him, "I wouldn't kiss you if you were the last man on Earth!"
Bill felt like something sharp had just encounted a very dear part of his body, probably his heart. He tried to hide the pain her words brought him, but it must have shown anyway, because she suddenly stepped back from him, her eyes wide and full of sorrow. "I...I'm sorry, I didn't mean that to come out the way it did," she said quickly.
"That's ok," he said, his voice low and flat. "I should've known better than to tease you like that." He quickly moved past her into the room, clearing out of her path. "See you later," he said without emotion.
"Bill...." Something in her voice froze him, unwilling, in his tracks. He was rather startled when he felt her arms snake around him from behind, and her body pressed against his back. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you." He didn't- couldn't- respond. "I...I want to thank you.... For saving my life." She slid around him, her arms still encircling his waist, and looked up into his face. "I owe you something...maybe a kiss will do."
He stared down into her large, frightened, determined eyes, wanting both to push her away and to bring her closer. Without his permission his arms decided for him, wrapping around her and pulling her against him.
For whatever reason, she melted against him, her body soft and molding to his. He felt himself draw in a harsh, sharp breath. She looked up at him, and he was again struck by how beautiful she was. "Well? What are you waiting for?"
"You're serious about this?" he finally said, after blinking in shock for a few minutes.
She quirked an eyebrow at him. "I may sometimes accidentally say things I don't mean, but I never lie," she told him with a slight grin.
He looked at her for a minute, and then smiled. "If you say so," he acquiesced, and then leaned down, bringing their faces close together. He watched, fascinated, as she closed her eyes and licked her lips. He smiled widely, and then- as sweetly as he could- brushed his mouth against hers.
Her eyes flew open, and she stared at him for a minute. He pulled back a little, smiling softly. "Not so bad, hey?" he murmured, his breath wafting against her slightly-open lips.
She licked her lips, once, twice, three times. Her eyes were clouded and unfocused, and her hands were clutching Bill's upper arms so tightly they were digging into his flesh. Finally, her eyes cleared, and she looked up to meet his gaze. "Not enough," she murmured hoarsely, and then pressed her lips to his.
His eyes opened wide, and then closed as she kept kissing him, her lips sweet and soft and demanding. He responded, pulling her closer, and felt her hands slide up his arms to his shoulders. He opened his lips slightly and licked at hers, asking silently to be allowed in. To his delight, she opened her lips, and he plunged in, exploring her hot, wet cavern. She moaned, her tongue dancing with his, and tightened her fingers on his shoulders. When they broke to breathe, he felt his heart racing, and hers as well through her chest, pressed against him tightly.
"Rally, I...."
"Bill...."
Neither one could get out more than that before they were kissing again, devouring each other like starving people. Bill crushed her against him, unable to control the rampant hunger that had been unleashed within him when she kissed him. She moaned softly against his mouth, and then whimpered when he pulled back again. He was panting, but he forced himself to calm down, deepening his breathing and pacing it out. After he had himself firmly under control, he looked up at Rally with guarded eyes. "This is a bad idea," he told her. "I want this very much. So much it's painful. But I won't have anything to do with you if you're only using me. That's not what I want from you." He spoke honestly and calmly, tired of messing around with teasing words and other such silliness.
"What do you want from me?" Her voice was small and weak, and he saw that she was trembling. He longed to take her into his arms and comfort her, and held himself back merely by the strength of his will. She was staring at the floor by his feet, seemingly unable to look at him.
"What do I want from you? What do I want from you. I want.... Oh, for Christ's sake!" Bill ran one hand through his long, slightly damp hair in frustration. "Rally, I want...I want you! All of you, everything you have to give! I want...I want you to realize that you are everything I told you I wanted in a woman and more, and I want you to let me be the man who fills your requirements, because I know I can do it if you give me a chance. I don't drink, I'll stop smoking, I love kids and I would never harm my own, I love the way you fight with me and the way you don't always need to be saved! I can be everything you want, I want to be everything you want.... I want you to love me, to need me, to want me.... The way I want, and need, and love you." He stopped talking, knowing he was just digging himself in further. He turned away from her, muttering under his breath, "I knew this was a bad idea, I knew it!"
"Bill?" she said in her small, trembling voice.
"Yes, Rally?" He sighed, wondering if she was going to order him to leave her house and never return.
"I.... I don't really...want that perfect man.... I just want to be happy...with you." Her voice suddenly filled Bill's ears, and he turned to look at her. He saw tears in her eyes, and felt his heart breaking.
"Oh, Rally...." He took a few steps toward her, and then she threw herself into his arms, and he held her close, feeling her shaking in his arms, and feeling his borrowed t-shirt slowly get soaked through by tears. He smiled, uncaring, and looked down at the top of her head lovingly. "You are the most amazing woman I've ever known," he told her, not knowing and not caring if she could even hear him.
She moaned, tightening her arms around his waist, and he grinned. "If you'd like," he said slowly, a little hesitantly, "we could...stay together tonight...."
She looked up at him, conflict plainly showing in her eyes. He wondered what she was thinking as he watched her struggling mentally with something. Then, his eyes widened as a revelation hit him, and he rushed to explain his statement to her. "No, no, not like that. I just meant...you know...sleep in the bed together. I make a good teddy bear, really I do!"
She put her head down against his chest again, and a moment later he felt the vibration of her laughter rolling through her and into him. He grinned in relief. She nuzzled him gently, and his grin morphed into an honest-to-God 'goofy besotted school-boy grin.' "See? Aren't I just cuddly and wonderful like that?"
"You...are a dork." she responded, her voice muffled by his body. He could still hear the amusement in it, though. He smirked.
"I'm your dork," he said softly, and she looked up at him with a glance that was halfway between annoyed and fond. He grinned again. "So? Wanna sleep with me tonight?"
She closed her eyes and rested her chin against his chest for a minute, then looked back into his eyes. "Yes."
He smiled widely. "Alrighty then." He released her and approached the bed, then stood and waited until she followed him over. He felt slightly uncomfortable in his tear-dampened shirt, which was now sticking to his skin. He sighed. "Hey, Rally, um, I was wondering if it would freak you out if I took off this shirt? It's small, and, um, wet."
She froze for a minute, then seemed to sigh. "Go ahead. I suppose I can't complain...after all, it's wet because of me."
He grinned victoriously and stripped the shirt off. Feeling much better, he sat down on the bed, and then shifted into a supine position. "I like this bed," he mused aloud. "It's nice and soft."
"Er." Slightly confused by Rally's response, Bill looked up at her. She was still standing in the same place she had been when he asked about the shirt, looking as if she hadn't, or more likely couldn't, moved an inch. She was staring at him, her eyes roving over his bare chest. He was rather startled at the look of naked hunger that passed swiftly over her face and then vanished.
She looked up, her eyes still wide and slightly glassy, and gave him a falsely cheerful grin. "Bedtime!" she said in a fake voice that matched the expression on her face, and then went around to the other side of the bed and slipped in. Immediately she pulled the top sheet up over herself, causing it to flip up on Bill's side as well. He grinned.
"So...." he said after a moment, becoming bored with the silence.
"Hmmm?" she murmured, her voice sleepy.
"Do you think I have a nice chest?" he asked, knowing he'd get quite a reaction to that.
Rally made a strange noise that sounded like a cross between a cough and a choke.
"...Are you ok?" he asked, alarmed.
She coughed a few times and then he felt her sigh. "I'm ok," she said, her voice slightly hoarse. He rolled onto his side facing her, still worried.
"You sure?" he asked suspiciously. She turned her head to the side and looked at him. Her eyes were shining with a mixture of amusement and something...else.
"I'm fine," she informed him with a small smile. He reached out and touched her face gently, caressed her cheek and traced the outline of her lips. Her smile widened and her eyes drifted closed. "You touch me like I'm something fragile...." she murmured softly, and he felt a knot in his stomach.
"Not...fragile," he murmured in response, inching a little closer to her. "More like...precious."
"That's sweet," she said with a slow grin. He smirked.
"You ever going to use me for a teddy bear?" he inquired, wanting to hold her again.
"Oh, so you're saying you want to cuddle." Rally sounded amused.
"What's wrong with that?" he protested, pouting.
"Nothing at all," she said softly, and rolled over to land against him. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her firmly but gently. She snuggled against him, and the feeling of her face against his bare chest was a sweet torture for Bill. He smiled, and let his eyes drift closed. Before long, he felt her breathing slow down into a sleep-rhythm, and then he was asleep himself before he knew it.
*~*~*~*
"Rally...?"
A shocked, feminine voice woke Rally up out of a deep, comfortable sleep. Growling slightly, Rally raised her head to glare at whoever had awakened her, and then she noticed Bill curled around her. Her eyes went wide, and she started to push him away. Then, she remembered the events of the night before, and she blushed and smiled deeply at the same time. "Good morning," she greeted a wide-eyed May.
"Ummmm.... Am I seeing things, or is that...?"
"May?" said a rather sleepy Bill, craning his head to look at the small woman standing in the doorway. "Do you mind? We were up late last night."
"Sure, sorry, bye," squeaked May, her face flaming, and then she fled, closing the door behind her. Rally sighed and snuggled back down in Bill's embrace. He closed his eyes again, still smiling.
"Now you've gone and given her the wrong idea about us," Rally murmured into his chest.
"Won't be wrong forever," Bill replied with a sleepy smirk. "Go back to sleep."
"Ok."

THE END