Inside the Broken Prism
People who consider themselves victims of their circumstances will always remain victims unless they develop a greater vision for their lives.
- Stedman Graham
Following the incident in Spain, Ada found herself in New York City every winter, for one day, to see the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Rockefeller Center. There was something magical about the way the lights flared and burst, but remained frozen like paralyzed fireworks—scattered and unified at once. There was something beautiful about the way people reacted when the explosion of radiance hit, illuminating cheers and smiles and love in the night. There was something both endearing and frightening about the way her heartbeats escalated with the applauses when she saw him standing not too far away from her, with that leather jacket (same new one after Spain) she recognized and the trademark boyish haircut he'd never grow tired of.
He would say her name among the crowd and she'd able to hear it as if it were spoken right into her ear.
Leon, for the past four years, ended up at Rockefeller Center, too. There was a non-verbal commitment to meet on the day of the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony every year to watch the lights and bask in their display of miracles and hope to be reminded that life still throbbed despite the amount of deaths they came across.
But they also met to retain the knowledge that their bond was still pulsing, too, maybe even more actively with each passing year.
The first two years, she had seduced him into spending the night hotel room. The next two years, she was already in his before he even made it to the lobby.
She wasn't sure about tonight, and didn't even know if he was going to show up; but suddenly, she detected him standing behind her when his unique scent mixed with his intoxicating cologne was carried to her nose by the rush of a cold draft. His fingertips reached her shoulder, his hesitance even more apparent in the stutter of the first syllable of her name. Ada pushed her hands deeper into the pockets of the outerwear Leon complimented every year—a long crimson coat with an empire waist silhouette.
She was glad that he came tonight. It meant that their little tradition was still upheld despite what he knew; it meant that he hadn't underestimated her pledge, her capabilities, her.
He moved next to her and didn't speak till moments later, when the crowd grew more anxious.
"It's about to begin," he announced.
Ada nodded and fulfilled her urge to curl her arm around Leon's. She smiled when her fingers touched the leather surface of his jacket. She was afraid that he was going to wear something else this year after she complained about how the color was fading last winter, but Leon was just as stubborn and resilient as she was, causing her to adore him even more for that.
The voices and claps suddenly rolled to a devastating crescendo before diminishing to dreamy sighs and gasps.
"Breathtaking," Leon murmured.
"I'm sure," Ada agreed.
She was surrounded by movements and shuffling, and understood that the spectators were trying to get closer to the tree. She felt Leon turn to her and wrap an arm across her back, but before he could pull her toward his chest, a few goers accidentally pushed into her in their haste. However, she was quick to recover, her toes propelling her heels to find balance against the cemented ground even before she was struck by the force of the rush.
"You have to be faster than that Leon," Ada chided, in a tone that was mostly playful but partially serious, enough to put Leon to shame.
"I-I…" He sounded like his pride got stuck in his throat. "Sorry, I'll keep that in mind," he concluded with a defeated exhale.
Leon, searching for immediate redemption, took her hand and gently guided her to the right. He walked slower than his usual pace, his strides matching her shorter ones. He was so close to her that she felt they were practically glued by the arms, or handcuffed by the wrists. She could envision the latter more vividly as she often thought about their first meeting, on the first and only day he was a cop. He had been so protective over her, and for what?
You should have just listened to me, Leon.
He stopped, sensing there was something wrong. "What is it, Ada?"
She released her hand from his palm and nodded in the other direction. "We should go that way."
As usual, he had to question. As usual, she was going to prove she was right. "Trust me."
His cold fingers brushed against her wrist, but before he could claim her hand again, she folded her arms across her chest.
"Fine, you lead the way," he relented, a chuckle weaving through the words.
From experiences, she had always understood that natural quiet laughter to mean, 'you just have to have it your way,' and so her heart felt the beat of a quick pang when she had to question if the simple resonance still echoed the same expression.
"Ada…I-" Leon must have picked up on her thought, or seen the frown she tried to hide with the turn of her head.
"Is that a challenge?" she asked, before his regret turned to apologies she really didn't want to hear.
"You know, you never cease to impress me." She heard him take three steps back.
His answer sealed every fissure in the wall of confidence she had taken ten months to erect with torments she was too proud to admit, leaving no cracks for doubts and self-pity. Ada pictured herself sitting on top of that finished wall now, observing the beauty she had once struggled to see, the beauty she had once thought to be bleak and ugly, the black emptiness intimidating and scarring.
She tapped her foot impatiently, waiting for the swarm to disperse before she began to follow the route of her mental map. She had arrived at the site a little early last year, and ended up killing time by walking around the block, accidentally discovering a white bench in a secluded corner behind a coffee shop packed with customers so desperate on seeking refuge from the cold that they never bothered to look elsewhere for seats. The area was calm, quiet, well hidden, and offered an unsurpassed view of the Christmas tree.
From the sound of his footsteps, she estimated that he was about a foot behind her. She was grateful for the familiar distance between them. No matter how far apart they were, one was always watching the other's back. Next time, she'd get his.
She began counting to ten in her mind. The frown returned when she didn't hear what she was expecting, but a few seconds later, sirens and whistles blared, the strident discord bringing a grin to her lips.
Leon stopped. "What the hell is going on?"
Ada paused too, but she didn't need to turn around to know what was happening behind them, at the vicinity Leon was trying to lead her to earlier. "Everyone's fighting to get to the entrance of the skating rink. Things always get messy though," she explained.
"I guess you were right," Leon admitted, sounding as if it were his broken ego speaking for him. "I'm not used to New York City."
Ada smirked. "Neither am I."
"Then how did you know-"
"Same thing happened last year, and the year before, and the year before that…"
"I guess I wasn't paying attention."
"I know," Ada answered. It pleased her to know what, or rather who, had been on his mind during those times. "If you're done, I'd like to get out of here."
Ada began walking again, reaching out a hand to touch the banister and prepare for the stairs that were approaching. She felt like a delicate slide being scrutinized under a microscope with Leon's eye through the lens. To cease his torture, she quickened her steps. Children's giggles reverberated at the end of her path. Luckily, their voices began to fade with their treads when she got closer, granting her easy passage.
Right, her mind told her. Bells chimed with the opening and closing of a door. She chose to remain close to the wall, to avoid the stream of people entering the coffee shop.
"Ada, you can slow down," Leon called, when she began maneuvering through impediments with the grace of a slithering snake.
She didn't wait for him. He'd catch up, as usual. "We're almost there."
She extended her arms slightly, rotating her palms in a way that was similar to how she used to practice Tai Chi, sensing and reacting to the energies and movements of those around her. At last, voices and motions dissolved like the weakening of a song's last note, summoning profound silence thereafter.
Ada intentionally bumped her leg against the side of the bench that was facing the tree before lowering to seat herself and patting the empty space beside her. "Sit."
The wood creaked beneath his weight, the noise wrapping her in a warm bubble of comfort and safety. They were alone at last. "You can relax now. I'm not going anywhere…yet." She leaned her head on his shoulder. His tension was so overwhelming and contagious that she could almost feel it rolling over her own skin.
"Trying, but it's always difficult to around you, Ada, especially now."
Though it didn't make a difference now compared to then, she closed her eyes anyway; it was out of habit whenever frustration got to her. "Let me guess. You still haven't gotten off your white horse yet. You're still riding down that non-existent path, trying to rescue me."
He took her hand and squeezed it gently but with a certain purpose. "Get out of my way and I won't need to," he said, the warning disguising a plea.
"I'm not planning on quitting, Leon."
She could almost hear his hope leave with his heavy breath. "I know," he replied in a distant tone, as if he were reminding himself before she stroked his hand, letting him know she was still here. "That's what worries me. Things will be more dangerous now."
Ada chuckled. "Because I can't watch over you anymore? Yes, you make sure to be more careful."
Leon inhaled deeply, but his amusement couldn't be contained either. "Maybe Krauser was right. Maybe you are just a bitch in the red dress."
Ada rolled her eyes, but it wasn't easy holding back a smile. She touched his arm with her free hand, her fingers running across the patches of tattered leather.
"You know, I wasn't going to wear this today."
"I'm happy you did though."
"I knew you'd be. That's why I had mentally prepared myself to be groped by both females and males as an excuse to usher me into their shops to buy a ridiculously expensive brand name jacket."
Ada pressed her cheek to his as her hand left his arm and wandered into his open jacket, her palm gliding over the ripples of muscles expanding against his tight shirt. "Can you blame them?" she purred. Against the December breeze, the heat emanating from his face was detectable, unmistakable. She turned her head, her lips pressing into his skin to absorb the warmth of his blush.
He suddenly cupped her face; and though his hands were growing hot, Ada felt the chills around them return, the fragile, playful vibe they had built plummet like a thick teardrop. He proceeded to remove her shades as if he were lifting a wedding veil, except she knew he wasn't going to like what was being concealed. But, she relaxed in the awareness that he would still accept her, and that banished her fear of facing him in her full vulnerability.
Ada opened her eyes till they could widen no more, letting him look into the dark depths, pools where lies, admiration, and affection had swum from the instant they met till now. She felt some satisfaction and joy in knowing that at this moment, they were sharing the same sight—he was seeing the same darkness she witnessed every day. She wondered what could be going through his mind as his hands began to tremble, but she didn't ask him; instead, she reminded herself that she had to search for answers just a little differently now.
But with Leon, she never had to search for too long.
His forehead fell on top of hers, dragging the rest of his body with the motion. "God, Ada. Why didn't you tell me? Why did you let me find out ten months later, one week ago?"
"When have I ever told you things ahead of time?"
"There has to be a way to…I mean…surgery, something that can…"
It was like cradling a tilting tower, knowing that all the support would collapse if she didn't do anything soon. She had felt this way once before, twelve years ago, on the night her revelation and betrayal disassembled a rather solid bond. But Fate, the talented, troublemaking blacksmith She was, ended up forging a new one with the shattered pieces She thought to be precious, presenting Ada with a creation that was far from gold. Their new relationship was more malleable than ever, and even after all these years, the imperfections were still there. Refining them was a slow process, but she was sure that one day—maybe next year, or in another decade—she would have an unyielding product both she and Leon were going to be satisfied with.
Until then, she would see that they were going to be what she wanted their relationship to end up as.
She pushed him back, straightening him to the pillar of strength she knew he was. "Pull yourself together, Kennedy. Don't you dare make me doubt myself."
His next moved surprised her. More often than not, she was the initiator, of troubles and deceit, pain and pleasure. And so, she did not expect to feel his aggression in one of the most fulfilling ways possible, but then again, she was always a little off-guard whenever she was with him. The kiss was exhilarating, like she was finally sinking her teeth into the fruit on a tree that was always out of reach. It wasn't as sweet as she had often visualized it to be in the last ten months, but how could she possibly compare her monochrome dreams to reality?
She placed a hand against his cheek to steady the intensifying kiss, her nails brushing past a bead of moisture crushed too soon by the constriction of muscles around his eye and swept in by his lashes.
She wanted to tell him that it wasn't his fault and he shouldn't feel responsible for not being able to prevent her accident, but ironically, he was getting better at reading her now that her thoughts and emotions were revealed even less on the surface.
"I know," he broke the kiss to declare.
It felt surreal and wonderful, like soaking in sunrays at midnight, to hear him say it, and realize that obstacles always brought them closer, in ways she had never thought possible.
In the distance, light footsteps thumped with the rhythm of her heartbeats. It appeared others would soon discover their private sanctuary.
Ada stood up before pulling Leon to his feet. "So Handsome, my room or yours tonight?"
"You decide, and you lead," Leon whispered. "I'll follow, without the horse."
A/N: I've never written a Leon/Ada story before, so I wanted to give it a shot. It was pretty difficult writing blind Ada, as I wanted it to be obvious without being obvious. Not sure if worked out, but this idea was in my head for some time and I wanted it to stop haunting me. ^^;
Thanks for reading!