A.N. These characters do not belong to me, and the only payment I received for writing this was a slight lessening of the anxiety that's been plaguing me for most of the night. Also, I stole the title from Philip K. Dick (points if you can find the reference in the text! God, I'm so pretentious). Also also, there's a line in here that Garrison Keillor may want back.
It's past midnight. It's past midnight, and his stomach is all twisted up with memories and acid, and he can barely breathe because it's past midnight and God, why did he have to go and make a stand now, now when this new thing between them is slim and slight and tenuous as a stalk pushing its way out of dead winter ground?
It's what their lives are now, dead winter ground.
It's the Fourth of July, well the fifth of July now that it's (has he mentioned?) past midnight. And the thing about the Fourth, the Fourth of July, Independence Day, is that Eames gets-patriotic. Gets sentimental, gets stubborn-well, more than usual, gets loyal to a fault (not that she is ever less than loyal to a fault, and is it his fault if he can't stop blaming himself for the last time she was dedicated above and beyond the call of duty?). And the thing about Eames getting patriotic on the Fourth, the Fourth of July, Independence Day, is that there are things you cannot say, things any other day of the year would get you a tight smile and a turned head and a few hours of silence, but on the Fourth gets you ice in her eyes and crossed arms cutting you off from her, cutting you away from her, her mouth cutting you with words, and then ice-shard silence. Until past midnight.
And she's still not here.
Here is the bed, where she's supposed to be, bedrock, foundation, something upon which he can build his sanity. How did he think he was going to make a stand if she took the thing he was supposed to stand on (stood off from him), hold onto? The sheets are sweaty like his skin and twisted like his stomach, knotted, knotting, not the way it's supposed to be. Defective (detective) neglected rejected-
Breathing would be easy if these sheets weren't strangling me.
"Hey," she says, and all his words collapse into a crumbling spiral at the sight of her silhouetted in the doorway.
She makes a move as if to go to him, and then stops. His heart soars and plummets in less than a second.
"I meant it," she says.
He nods, slowly. Can he risk it? "I...meant it, too."
She nods too. Looks down at her feet. Looks back up. The light from the kitchen casts her face in shadow, lights a halo in her hair like an avenging angel in pale blue pajamas. "I didn't mean-you couldn't have an opinion. I didn't mean to cut you off."
He can see how hard it is for her to say, and it makes him ache from behind his eyes down to his toes. "I didn't mean to, to attack you."
"I know." And she does come towards him now, sits on the bed next to him and touches, hesitantly, his hair, runs her fingers through it until he reaches out and tugs on her arm, pulls her down to lie on the pillow beside him.
"It's just...hard, now," she says into his shoulder, and he knows what she means. He squeezes her tight.
There are tears coming out of his eyes, and he knows he should let go, it's a hot night (in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, where one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions) and she'll want to curl away from him, drift to sleep on the cool cotton sheets, but he has to keep holding on to something. Love is a thing that flows out of you, and the best kind flows in one direction and can never be called back.
Never go away from me.
"Okay," she mumbles against his pajama top. Then adds, sleep seeping into her voice, "We're going to talk about this in the morning."
She tastes like resignation and too much tequila when he kisses her goodnight. It is, oddly, more than enough.
They have no need for fireworks.