a/n: this is the final chapter. the rating went up a little, mostly because of content. thanks for reading and reviewing.
v. Impossible Things
The morning began to pass quickly, mostly due to my constant avoidance of him after the conversation in the living room, which ended with a lousy, I'm going to go... freshen up, followed by a hasty exit compliments of yours truly.
Of course, if anyone could avoid Mac Taylor in his apartment, it was me. I pretended to busy myself with trivial things, but he probably knew better. He kept his distance throughout the morning, shuffling around the apartment, staying away from the room I had borrowed, as though willingly repelled by the walls I'd built in his dwelling without his permission.
At the same time, there was an ever-present fear within me, of what would happen when one o' clock PM came and we would both have to go into work, and get back to our lives and the be the people we were supposed to be, complete with the professional relationship we were supposed to have. Strangely enough, I wondered if a professional relationship could ever happen between us again, and wondered further if that was even what I really wanted. As if I had to wonder at all.
I sat cross-legged on the guest room bed and tried to mediate on my thoughts and feelings, hoping that they would stop running around like crazed five-year-olds and settle down so I could evaluate them. But the more I pondered, the more perplexed I became, and when my inner musings finally did come to a standstill, I was afraid to examine them. What if all my rational thoughts just drifted away leaving behind just a bunch of jumbled feelings? What if I mediated and found that there was no real answer to any of this? Maybe I was on a wild-goose chase, and maybe it was leading me no where.
I couldn't face that again, I'd been faced with so many long, unending roads, that the prospect of there being yet another one, nearly twenty years after I'd finally gotten out of the orphanage, was nothing short of absolutely devastating.
Predictable as I am, I sought out the only person who had ever been able point out a clear, rational destination in the midst of scheming world.
I was only slightly disappointed to find Mac lying on the same couch that I had hours earlier, hands folded across his chest, as though he had been scolding the ceiling before he'd fallen asleep. His eyebrows were knit into a complicated expression, half-grimace, half-observant frown. It was oh so tragically normal of him, to fall asleep on his couch, the remnants whatever problem he'd been trying to solve previously, written all over his face.
I tiptoed into the kitchen and thought briefly of the irony of the moment, before assuming command of the room and turning on the tap. I washed the dishes from that morning, taking my time, trying to recall the exact way I'd felt when I'd awoken to find him hovering above me, whispering "It's okay, it's me."
I shivered, thinking of the reassurances in his eyes, and suddenly was able to recall his hands, suspended in the air, close to my shoulders but not touching them because that would have been fraternizing.
Then the memory was gone as suddenly as it had appeared, and I mourned the fact that at that time, I hadn't noticed the closeness, hadn't bothered to remind myself of all the times I'd dreamt of waking to see his face, his eyes, his hands. His hands... his hands...
... were on mine.
Right there, in the kitchen of his lonely apartment that was beginning to feel less and less lonely by the minute.
"Mac?" I panicked briefly.
"It's me," he said, his breath warm and unexpected on my neck.
I might as well have told him that I was afraid if I stayed at his place, we'd end up having impromptu sex on his kitchen floor.
I felt like sticking my head beneath the tap, if only it would alleviate the burning sensation that had started in my cheeks and was spreading throughout my body. Except that, the tap was off, and I couldn't remember how that had happened, but suddenly it didn't matter, because his hands went away from mine and I was shocked by how cold they felt as a result.
"I have a dishwasher, you know," he said, enveloping my hands with a checkered dish-towel that had appeared from nowhere.
"I've never used one before," I turned a little, pulling the cloth – and my hands – from his grasp.
I shook my head and looked at the floor, "We didn't have one at the orphanage until I was fifteen. I was conditioned by then."
He smiled at that, and it may have been the first time that that smile did nothing to alleviate the emotions tearing carelessly at my resolve. I moved to wrap my arms around him, hoping that the closeness would help, the way it usually had.
It did exactly the opposite.
The second I felt him reciprocate, the dam broke, and even as his shirt grew wet against my cheek, I couldn't stop myself from crying. The explanation was there, I knew why I was upset. The fire, the AIDS scare, Frankie, and the conversation on the couch this morning, when Mac had been so close, so far, so utterly and entirely everything that I had ever wanted.
I could voice none of these thoughts. So I cried the feelings out, and if tears could speak, then any chance of a professional relationship with him would have disappeared immediately.
It did so anyways.
I felt his lips against my cheek, close to my ear, and tried to judge whether or not it was a kiss, or just an accidental brush. I tried to rationalize the situation, so that it didn't seem like he was holding me tighter, whispering strange, indecipherable messages into my ear.
"This can't be happening," I said once I'd run through all the possible explanations as to why we were still joined, long after the tears had stopped, "Mac, why is this happening?"
I relaxed a little, tried to except that – after the sixth kiss against my cheek – everything I had ever done to stay away from him, had been a mistake. The stubbornness. The adamancy. Frankie and the countless other nameless men before him. And the only thing that hadn't been a mistake, this sudden feeling that everything was about to change, was hardly believable, even as I began to feel his warmth mesh together with mine.
"I don't know," he replied, and I could no longer hold back.
I pulled back for a second, to glimpse briefly into his eyes, and seeing no objection there I leaned in to close to gap between us in what may have been the most daring thing I had ever done in my entire life.
I'd spent many a lunch break imagining what kissing Mac Taylor would be like. Lindsay had jeered at me before for my inherent ability to just stare at him when he wasn't talking. You'd think that my constant study of his face would make it easy for me to measure at which degree at I would have to tilt my head for our lips to meet smoothly.
Surprisingly enough, none of that came into play when our lips did touch. I moved entirely on instinct. And well, that unmistakable desire to kiss him, reached its pinnacle after fifteen years of being shunned and ignored.
It was the most human thing I had ever done, and I learned more about myself in that moment than I could ever hope to know.
Well, there was just one more thing.
"You are an excellent kisser."
My eyes widened and I stumbled backwards, knocking into the counter behind me. When I regained whatever composure that was still salvageable, I tilted my head upwards and started at him in shock.
He looked almost amused, "You know, if anyone should be shocked, it's me."
The reality of the situation came crashing down on me, "Um... you're right. Listen, I know we're colleagues and uh... wow, you're my boss, and... shit, uh well you could technically fire me and then peg me for sexual assault and-"
"That option is null and void. I just admitted that you were a-"
"Don't," I held my hand up, "J-just... let me wrap my head around this.
He folded his arms around his chest and continued to stare at me with an outrageously bemused smirk.
"I'm glad you find this hilarious," I shook my head, trying not to hyperventilate, "I... I just kissed you."
His eyes were level with mine.
"A-and... you!" my heart thundered against my chest, "You kissed me back."
I was speaking mostly to myself at this point, and with good reason. He had already accepted both of those facts, perhaps in the very moment that they had come into existence. Either he was more brilliant than I had expected, or I was just the most emotionally dysfunctional person on the face of the Earth.
Past experiences have lead me to believe the latter.
"That is what happened," he shifted his weight from one foot to another, and I realized that it was the very first time in a long, long time, that he appeared to be nervous, "Unless, it's something that you wished hadn't happened, in which case... I'm sorry."
Oh, ever the gentleman. As if it had been his fault in the first place.
"I don't know what to feel," I said, sinking down against the cupboards, shifting over to make room for him as he did the same.
"Myself as well. I haven't known what to feel, if I should even bother feeling anything, for the longest time."
"Since you... moved in."
I had a vague feeling that I quickly dismissed as a delusion, that he wasn't just talking about the room I'd inhabited for less slightly more than twenty-four hours.
"I always wanted to. You know, move in, not literally, but... you know?" I asked, ridiculously, but not quite rhetorically.
"You know. Right."
He smiled a little, provoking me to do the same despite the fact that I was absolutely horrified about everything that there was to be horrified about.
"And... Mac, I know it's going to just complicate things but..."
"Well, I was thinking and-"
"We could... you know."
"Yes, we could."
"And what if?"
"Then we'll handle it."
"And what will they?"
"It doesn't matter."
"So then that means you-"
"Yes," his eyes gleamed with regret, and a tinge of something else, "It's you. More than anything, or anyone, it's you, Stella."
He hesitated, "Since before the lab, maybe even before Claire, not to say that I didn't love her. I do love her, I always will..." he rubbed his forehead with the palm of his hand, "But it's different with you."
I thought hard, trying to wage the truthfulness of his words as though there was even the slightest possibility that he was lying. Which there wasn't, and Claire, God bless her soul, would have backed that without a second-thought.
I felt his fingers brush my hand, and there was a moment of mutual agreement between us before his pressed his lips to mine once more and whispered against them, "You were crying in your sleep."
I didn't bother to ask what for.
An irrelevant amount of time later, Mac Taylor divulged the tragic history that ran through the walls of his lonely apartment, eradicating every last pleasant memory of what his life had been like before the towers fell.
"How does it feel..." he said, gingerly rolling the beach ball in his hands, "... to know all of my secrets?"
I reached out to touch him, sliding my hand down his arm, tracing the curve of his elbow before finally entwining my fingers in his. He set the beach ball down and looked at me. I wish I could say that I was ashamed as we kissed, touched, and did other things near and on the plastic-covered couch, surrounded by boxes filled with all sorts of trivial things. But I wasn't ashamed. Just a teensy bit guilty, but that was nothing compared to the way I just came apart in his embrace when he looked at me in the height of passion with the whole world in his eyes.
Afterward, as I lay cushioned into his side, I looked up at him to answer his question, "I must admit wasn't really expecting the one about Lewis Carroll," I said, motioning to the leather-bound book that remained the only unpacked item in the apartment, "But for the most part, there's nothing too shady about you."
He smiled, "There's one more thing you might want to know."
"What's that?" I kissed him quickly, playfully on the lips.
"I am technically homeless now."
Anyone else would have rolled their eyes, but I could only smile until my cheeks hurt.
"Well, I don't have an extra room," I felt his arms squeeze tighter around me, "But as long as you don't mind sharing..."