A/N: Yes, another one-shot! This one's a bit lighter, in fact there was two possible final lines that I ended up taking out that were definitely comedy. And yes, I know, again with me and the scar. Sorry, I think the scar is the detail I enjoy the most about hte whole thing. I'm odd that way. Anyway, enjoy!
Scenes From a Former Existence
Two weeks into the job, he'd grown comfortable with the routine. They were compatible, the two of them— once she was asleep around eleven, he could drift off himself, secure in the knowledge that, apart from a visit to the bathroom at around two in the morning, she wouldn't be doing anything of note. Then, he could take up his post at seven o'clock, watch as she rose and stretched sleepily, admire the tumbled masses of her auburn hair, watch her stumble to the bathroom, observe her emerge, fifteen minutes later, looking like an adult once more instead of a dreaming child. She would raise the curtains, smile slightly at the weather, make coffee, dress—
It was a full-time job, to be sure, but luckily he didn't have much of a home life.
Another few days went by, and nights came and went. He watched her meet with a few friends, mostly married couples that she seemed to have known for ages. The pattern repeated, the endless dance and detritus of a settled life.
It struck a wrong chord with him, somehow.
There should be more to it than this. She was young, she was charismatic, friendly, intelligent, and (God help him for noting this with something more than a detached professionalism) she was beautiful. Where were the men? The boyfriends, the would-be's, the hopefuls, the lovestruck young Starbucks clerks? She met with them occasionally, one or two, here and there, but always in groups, never alone, and they never made it back to her house. They never made it past her defenses. It baffled and disturbed him, that there was something deeper to her that he could never know, something dark that didn't fit into the bright puzzle of her everyday life.
Bothered as he was by this, this attracted him to her more than anything else.
It occurred to him once that she must know he was watching her, that she knew and was secretly, perversely glad. That she did everything with more grace because she knew his eyes were upon her. That the truth about the lack of men, the reason behind her being a loner, was that she wanted him.
No— thinking of it like that, pleasant fantasy though it was, removed most of the mystery and therefore, a considerable amount of her appeal. She had to remain an enigma, a puzzle for him to figure out.
That night, though, she did something unexpected.
He'd grown accustomed to seeing her emerge from the bathroom dressed in her sweat pants and a t-shirt; indeed, he found it endearing. But tonight, it seemed she couldn't be bothered to enter the other room to change, and began to strip down in her bedroom, in full view not just of him, but of the entire street. She unbuttoned her shirt from the bottom up, giving him a tantalizing view of first the curves of her stomach— nearly concave, he thought, far too thin— and then of her breasts, when he leaned so far forward he mashed his nose against the car window. She fiddled with the fly button of her pants for a moment, looking down at herself absentmindedly; then the trousers slid in a heap on the ground, and he leaned one cheek against the window glass to cool it.
She sat by the window, the light behind her making her a featureless silhouette— well, almost featureless, he amended, as she shifted, bringing her profile into view. Watching her then, it was very easy to believe that she was waiting for him to come home, and he actually had gotten out of the car and halfway across the street before he realized what he was doing. Well, there was nothing for it now. Even if she hadn't seen him, he was in plain view of the rest of the street. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he managed a display of nonchalance, moving so smoothly from a determined stride to an aimless walk that no one would think twice about his presence or apparent lack of purpose. He meandered towards her house, aiming for the side of her window; through the screen he could see that her eyes were closed, and slightly emboldened by this, he crawled over the hedge and crept close to the wall. No one could see him except Lisa, if she wanted; all it would take was for her to open her eyes and look down, for he had now come to rest crouched just beneath the windowsill. All it would take was that, and this job would be over in one of two novel ways. Firstly, she could decide to call the police—
Women don't sit in black underwear at their windows looking forlorn unless they are thinking about something very specific. This, he knew from experience. If her need, her desire, was great enough—
This, too, fit in well with his fantasies. And though he was much more a man of action, and though his skin felt tight and confining and her very proximity was producing in him a dull ache, he wasn't quite far gone enough to forget his job entirely and test out his theory about lonely women. After all, his job was what he got paid for. The only way he'd get paid for testing that particular theory was if he turned prostitute.
And what would she think of his profession, anyway? Crouched here beneath her window, shoulder shoved up against the wall, pushing himself against it to try and relieve some of the pressure he was feeling below the belt, collecting information on her, assessing her weak points, looking for chinks in her armor. Is this business or pleasure? he thought, a lazy smile pulling up one side of his mouth. There's a little bit of the voyeur in us all.
And he was quite certain she wouldn't like the answer he was going to turn in to his superiors tomorrow. It was downright sad, and no one wants to be confronted with the embarrassment of hearing the truth about themselves.
Her weak point is her ever-lovin' daddy— because the only men of note in her life are her father, her dentist, and her stalker.
The window just above his head slid open, letting a blast of near-frigid air in on the near-naked woman behind it. He was so tense he thought he'd shatter; just the knowledge of what she must look like made sitting still hard to bear. And he was stuck for it now— precariously hidden as he had been, any movements on his part would certainly betray his position now. So he sat, drawing only shallow breaths, and listened to her breathe above him.
He awoke still crouching in her flower bed in the early morning light. The sun just now approaching the horizon, it was too early for Lisa or anyone else to be up yet. He pushed himself straight, wincing and swearing quietly to himself as his knees popped emphatically and his back lit on fire. There she was, right in front of him, still clothed only in her underthings. She'd fallen asleep at the window and her smooth skin was dotted with goose bumps from the early morning chill. He caught himself staring, bumped painfully against the wall as he turned to go, and staggered, still stiff from the position he'd held all night. She'd be up and about soon. He made his way back to the car and settled into the seat, sliding down till he could just barely see out the window. Blue eyes fixed on her house, he thought furiously.
When had she stopped being a mark and become a guilty pleasure?
This was going to make his job so much harder. Not impossible, of course— his one piece of optimism was reserved for the idea that nothing was impossible, at least, not if he was doing it. He was adept at finding a way, at training his impulses, at masking his thoughts and emotions—
Perhaps, after all, she would be nothing but practice. And practice would, eventually, make perfect.
He began smoothing the steering wheel with his fingers, absentmindedly at first, stroking rhythmically, over and over, harder and harder. His breath came faster and he could tell he was about thirty seconds from racing back to her house and waking her up in a very surprising way. Practice. He brought his fist down on the steering wheel; it slipped off the edge and hit the horn. Dogs awoke and a cacophony of barking began. Pet owners shouted, doors slammed, and Lisa Reisert, totally unaware of how close she'd come to having some of her fantasies from the previous night fulfilled, awoke in time to see a small, neat, unobtrusive silver car rev up and go racing down the street.
He was back not too long after that. A different car, as he'd been too noticeable in leaving. Different clothes; he'd shucked off the ones he wore all night and tossed them in the washer immediately, before taking a long hot shower. He hated having to get dirty, and hadn't quite reached the point of admitting to himself that spending the night in her garden hadn't absolutely been a necessity. Afterwards, stepping out and realizing he'd forgotten again to put down the mat, he stood dripping on the linoleum and wiped steam off the mirror. A familiar sight, of course, but now he thought of himself in terms of Lisa. Two thin bodies, two pairs of long legs twined amidst the sheets. He rubbed one hand just below his navel and could feel her thighs sliding over him there as she pinned him down on the bed, held him, gripped him tight. He wondered absentmindedly if he could wear her pants, and she his. They looked about the same size.
That day passed like any other, and he was too preoccupied with the cockeyed fantasies taking over his brain to realize that she moved a little slower today, seemed a little sadder, her smile dimmed and her eyes lowered. It wasn't till later, that evening in fact, that anything struck him as odd.
He was wondering if there was any possible way he could kidnap her after it was over— he still thought in those terms, being fairly confident by now that he'd be able to complete his job and then go from there, no hassle, no problems, no trouble, no fuss— as he watched her dress for bed. This time, the pajamas reappeared, and were put on immediately, circumventing the rising excitement he'd felt when she started to undo her buttons. He put an elbow on the steering wheel and leaned his chin on his hand, eyes following her as she moved slowly through the house. She went to the kitchen next, poured a glass of red wine.
This is getting interesting.
She turned down the knob on the dimmer switch and he muttered curses to himself. It took only a moment to convince himself that he should get closer, just in case— just in case what? He didn't have an answer for that— and as he crossed her hedge, he was startled by a small flare of light from the dark room— a match. He watched as she lit a candle and placed it in front of her on the table, her eyes glittering in the flickering light, her face shining dim and ethereal.
What was she doing? What occasion was this?
Something serious, clearly; it wasn't a celebration, but an observance. Something from her past, something that had to do with her lone-wolf ways.
I'm intrigued, Lisa— you've got my attention. Now show me what's going on.
He tensed up when he saw the label on the small bottle next to her. Sleeping pills— he wasn't about to be cheated out of a successful job just because his mark OD'ed. Not a chance. But she took only two; held them in one hand and the wineglass in the other, holding them up like a salute.
The windows were closed and he couldn't hear her voice, but he saw her lips move.
The pills were swallowed with the aid of the wine, and she sat for a few moments while he pondered.
Two years— since what? What had happened to her? And why the pills? She'd never had major trouble sleeping before, and she wasn't the sort to take meds when they weren't needed. Whatever this anniversary was, it must be something that she knew would keep her from her sleep. Perhaps it gave her nightmares.
She blew out the candle, and one of his hands crept up to finger the windowscreen, rubbing it carefully with the pad of his finger, just over what he could see of her face in the dark.
She slipped into bed, turned her face to the window, and was out. He crept close to her bedroom window to look in on her, stared for a while at her outstretched arm, the fingers crooked as though they were beckoning him in.
So kind of you to invite me—
He had considerable experience with picking locks, and he was through the door before he even had a chance to think about it. He knew the floorplan of the house by heart, and found his way through the rooms with ease, only nudging into the odd article of furniture here and there. He moved with grace and economy of movement, feeling the way with outstretched arms, eyes wide open though blind in the dark.
At the doorway to her room, he paused. A little light came in through the window from the streetlamp by the roadside, enough light for him to see her form, the sheets pooled around her as she'd kicked them off; a slight rustle denoted her shifting, turning slightly so she was on her back, her face still towards the window. In a few short strides he'd made his way around the bed to stand in front of her; swiftly he dropped to his knees and scrutinized her features. The light illuminated flawless skin and auburn curls— he bent closer, following the lines of her chin and mouth with his eyes and then his fingers. All that was between them was a soft blanket of sleep; even if she awoke now, with the light behind him he would be a featureless blackness, something not out of real life but out of a nightmare. Emboldened even more by the thought, he allowed his fingertips to slide closer, slipping his hand forward to cup her cheek, feeling the softness of her skin with strokes of his thumb. He'd thought about her like this, eyelashes lying long and black on her cheeks, her mouth slightly parted, the warmth of her in the cool of the night—
No. Not exactly like this.
The woman in his dreams was always aware of what was going on; she always had the ability, the freedom, to fight back, or cry for help, or respond. He wasn't much for moralizing, but this was a sort of innocence that he wasn't willing to take advantage of.
He leaned closer still, hand sliding down her throat, thumb on her chin, and took her lower lip in his mouth, carefully. She wouldn't awake, and she would never know, and all he wanted was a taste.
A sigh escaped Lisa as she somehow recognized the contact. She shifted towards him and when her mouth opened further beneath his, he wasn't quite capable of resisting the temptation.
Deeper he kissed her, this sleeping child, with no knowledge of anything that went on; deeper he moved into it, slid into it, opened to it, breathed into her, wondering how long it had been for the both of them— and then a sudden, hurried withdrawal, his lips grazing her chin in his frantic haste to separate as a highly unwelcome thought struck him.
Had he just made it impossible for this job to be carried out successfully?
Breathing a bit harder than normal, he sat back and stared at her, trying to assess how he felt. Looking at her now, a peaceful dreamer, a definite satisfaction on her face that certainly hadn't been there a moment or so ago— it was difficult to be sure. How would he handle it now, now that he'd gone so far, stepped so far over the line?
His eyes drew downwards, and he saw the scar on her throat, beneath her collarbone. He'd dislodged her shirt somewhat, he realized with a strange absence of passion, and now he could see what he hadn't noticed before. An ugly wound, almost definitely caused by a knife, and old enough to be white instead of a new, angry red.
Two years old?
His fingertips returned briefly to her face, following the line of her jaw.
"Oh, Lisa," he whispered. "Will I ever find out?"
The scar made it worse. Everything he felt, the tumult of emotions exploding inside him at the kiss, her soft sigh, the feel of her, her vulnerable body lying there asleep— all were made inexplicably worse by the presence of that scar. Bad things had happened to her, things he could only find out by asking her, and he could only ask her—
Once the job was underway.
He cursed to himself very quietly, and leaned over as he stood up, to press his lips once more against hers. He was about to screw up her life, true, and mess with her mind— but all he really hoped is that she wouldn't make trouble. She and that scar of hers.
Leaving her house and headed back for familiar territory, he thought of the way she'd looked, felt, tasted, smelled— and shivered. He thought of that scar, a white wound spread across her skin, telltale of a former existence he knew nothing about.
He hoped to God he'd be able to forget it.