Love Kills Slowly
The creak of an old floorboard broke the silence. Darkness that once brought comfort now heightened my sense of isolation as I sat in this empty, abandoned house. This was our game, after all. Perpetual hide and seek; shanty town hop-scotch. The decrepit, decaying structures remained as a vacant reminder of things that used to be. The longer I lingered here, the more I wondered if they were also a lament for things that would never be.
I peered down from the rafters, watching a figure creep along the shadows. "How long are we going to keep doing this?" I asked.
She blinked up at me with a startled smile that faltered at my tone. It killed me to see her frown. Faint, skewered blocks of light illuminated her face, drawing my gaze to the curve of her jawline, lingering up across those high cheekbones, catching her straying green eyes.
"What do you mean?" she asked. Nervousness drew out the syllables, tightened her voice to a sound uncomfortably fragile.
I indulged her in this. How could I not when I wanted to spend every waking second with her? "This game, Kim. How long are we going to keep this up?"
Her jaw clenched at her name, like the sound of it from my lips was a sobering, cold reality. "I…"
"When you're lonely, you sneak off in the middle of the night to find me; but you never stay. When things go wrong, you seek me out for a shoulder to cry on, a listener, an opinion; but other than that, you never include me in your life. How long do I have to be your dirty little secret?"
Beautiful features contorted, she turned away. Something cold and boney clenched my heart. The shapes of light through the open blinds reflected off the bright vermillion of her hair, standing out with her eyes as the only color left in the room.
"It's complicated," she whispered.
Easing to the floor, I inched up behind her, gazing at the cool summer night outside the window. A gentle breeze danced through the trees, filling the air with rustling whispers, accompanied by a symphony of crickets. A beautiful night, and it was breaking my heart.
"You know that offer is still good," I said.
"I can't." She turned towards me, brows furrowed. "I can't just leave like that. I have obligations to—"
"You're afraid," I interrupted.
Red dusted her cheeks. "How do you figure that?"
"The idea of admitting out loud what you feel is just terrifying, isn't it?" I said, brushing my fingertips along her arm. "Hell, I'm not going to stand here and tell you what to do with your life. It's not like you would listen anyway." I turned, making it a few steps away before she let out an aggravated sound.
"You're not my dirty little secret. I told my parents weeks ago."
I paused, not expecting that statement in the slightest. I didn't care what her parents thought about anything. Kim held their opinion of her above almost everything. Caution crept along my skin like a chill. This was it. "What did they say?"
She shrugged, running her hands through that long, silky hair. "Dad didn't know how to react, but he just wants me to be happy. Mom said she didn't want me getting hurt." Those bright green eyes looked everywhere but at me.
The chill turned into pin pricks. "Then what obligations do you have?" I asked.
"Well, my job."
I frowned. "Really."
She gestured. "Fine, I'm scared, alright? You're older, smarter, more sophisticated—you're like freaking Carmen Sandiego for Christ's sake. How can I contend with that?"
I restrained myself from laughing, no matter how flattering it may be. "You could just start simple," I suggested, settling down on an old desk. "Ask me some geography questions."
Her jaw dropped. "I'm being serious!"
"Anything's possible for a Possible, right princess?" I said, quirking a brow.
She threw her arms up, pacing in front of the window. "God, stop doing that!"
"Stop doing what?"
"Being so damn smooth."
"We both know you like it. And call me arrogant if you want, but that's not the only thing you like about me." I leaned across the desk, stretching in a suggestive posture, giving her a bland look. "Have you been struck by a smooth criminal?"
"You're such a pain in the ass."
"You know, I think that offer has an expiration date now," I said, inspecting my nails. "I don't think I can take much more of this hot-and-cold game from you."
Those beautiful eyes narrowed. "Don't you dare—"
"Or you'll do what? Teach me a lesson? Kick my ass? Don't make me laugh."
I could hear her teeth grind from across the room. She took a deep breath, storming across the short distance between us. "You really shouldn't speak in such a condescending tone to your girlfriend."
"Girlfriend? I don't have a girlfriend."
She leapt on top of me, pinning me to the desk with a glare. "I'm your girlfriend."
"No you're not," I snapped, letting her keep my wrists pinned. "You know what we are Kimberly Ann Possible? Fuck buddies. Friends with benefits. You won't let me be your girlfriend."
Her eyes widened, lips parted. I laid beneath her, still as stone, watching the woman I loved come to grips with the revelation that she was using me. She sat back, letting go of my wrists. She wouldn't look at me. "You're right. I'm not being fair to you."
I propped myself up on my elbows. "Talk to me, Kim. Just once. Please?"
She tried to climb off the table. I snatched her waist, keeping her on top of me, only adding to the tremble that shook her shoulders.
"Damnit." She wiped her eyes, looking away. "I'm terrified. I can't bear the thought of you breaking my heart. Or me breaking yours. Back when we first met, it was easy, you know? But this…" She bit her lip, arms wrapped around herself. Those tear-rimmed, emerald eyes finally locked with mine. "This is hard, Shego. It's taken years to get to this moment, and I don't want to screw it up."
God, did I love her.
I sighed, wiping a stray tear off her cheek. What do you say in return to that? That her fears were justified? That despite love and compatibility, there was a very good chance that she and I would end in heartache? I couldn't lie to her.
"You just have to trust in yourself that no matter what happens, good, bad, horrible; you will be okay. Because ultimately, in your world, you should be the most important person," I said.
She peered at me, fiddling with her shirt. "Then what's the point of love?"
"A necessary evil, I guess." I agonized over the very concept myself. Twenty-eight years worth of misery, and I still didn't really know. "Existing would be boring without someone around to give you hell. Someone to laugh with you, and at you. Someone to tell you when you're wrong, commend you when you're right, and know when to say nothing at all."
"That's quite a romantic concept." She delivered that statement with a bland expression, eyes flickering between me and the window. "Everyone always says that love is forever. Love makes everything better. Love makes life worth living. I don't believe it.
"I think love is in the now; a series of moments, memories, and expectations. It's ever-changing. Love has the ability to be a great thing at one moment, and terribly cruel the next. Its living life that makes love worth something, otherwise it's just… roses on a Hallmark holiday. A pretty lie. A four letter word." Those intensely green eyes locked with mine. "Love kills slowly. And I really think you should suffer with me."
I was left speechless for an obscenely long pause. Before she could look away, I touched her cheek. "What makes you think I don't suffer already?"
She smiled; a shy, unconditionally beautiful gesture. Her fingers slid to the back of my neck as she leaned forward, lying on top of me in a closeness I could never get enough of. My own hands ghosted up and down her back, tracing across the exposed skin between her shirt and jeans. Her lips hovered just out of reach.
"Nothing makes me think that," she said. "I can see right through your bravado, you know."
My heart thundered in my chest like a thousand drums. "Did you just tell me that you love me?"
"Absolutely," she whispered, letting her lips brush against mine in the softest of kisses. After years of wandering, devoid of emotional attachment and intimacy, Kim let me remember what it was like to get butterflies.
"Come with me," I said between lingering kisses. I loved her. God, I loved her. The thought of always being on the outskirts of her life left me with a cold, lonely ache. I wanted her close. To wake up to her smile. Fall asleep with her in my arms. "I'm not asking for forever. I'm asking for now."
She sat up, gaze running over my expression as she laced her fingers with mine. I could see the thoughts churning behind her eyes, cycling through a rapid montage of possibilities while I waited in queasy silence. Something mischievous flashed across her smile. "I can have the left side of the bed?"
Oh no she did not—goddamnit. The left side was mine! That was a dirty play. She laughed at my scowl, and just the sound of her happy made me melt.
"You can have whatever side of the bed you want, so long as I'm in it with you," I said.
"And I can redecorate the living room?" she asked, adding after my confused stare, "everything's green."
"I like green," I huffed, pinching her as she squirmed on top of me. "Quit being a brat."
"Alright, alright!" she laughed, leaning forward to kiss me. "I accept your offer, Carmen Sandiego."
Indescribable elation made me dizzy. I wrapped my arms around her. She nuzzled my cheek, purred in my ear, reducing me to a puddle of goo. I smiled, trailing my fingertips along her side, hooking them beneath the top of her jeans.
"Now, about those geography questions."