Name: Still Bright To Me
Summary: Allison and Doug reunite when Doug leasts expects it.
Disclaimer: I don't own either character
It takes twenty-seven weeks for Allison to migrate to Indianapolis. She doesn't call or text, doesn't operate any form of communication Doug had hoped for. She's just…there, in aisle three of the nearby supermarket, to the left of the vegetable oil and right of the Splenda, cross-examining the allotment of coffee bags.
Doug rounds the aisle from number four, cart pushed out in front of him, the squeaks of the rusting wheels marked but natural over the tunes cast over the intercom, some old pop song from his day. He's so impelled by his search for baking flour that the brief glance he gives the other patrons in the aisle nearly overlooks her, only sees a teenager about in lazy Saturday garb and not the young women he'd gotten to know so intimately. It takes several more glances for his mind to place her.
He's flummoxed and has to catch himself before he calls out her name (any of her parcel of names); he, instead, inspects her in the minutes before she turns her head and spots him.
Thumbnail pushed between her teeth, Allison scrutinizes the shelves behind blindingly neon pink sunglasses, all her weight resting on her right foot while her left is lifted until only the tip of the black Converse sneaker touches the stained tile. Her hair, redder than he remembers it but as disheveled and uncombed as ever, is gathered over her right shoulder, long cigarette fingers fisting the knotted waves. And for once unostentatious, she's straggled together in painters jeans—its back left pocket seemingly ripped off—held to her lithe frame by a nylon cord and a long-sleeve swamp green and ivory baseball jersey pulled over her knuckles, no fishnets enmeshing her legs or dysfunctional high-heels on her feet.
Suddenly she taps the basket at her feet in a subdued expression of mounting agitation, jaw set, gritting her teeth. The assortment before her—decaf, black, roasted, blended, French, Italian, amongst others—is getting to be too troublesome a choice, one not fit for a person of such limited patience. Doug shakes his head and chuckles to himself, tottering around so she's in the corner of his eye.
Better, perhaps, to leave her be and let her approach him if she please.
He doesn't see, therefore, when she pivots around, eyes alight with ire, lashing on the tip of her tongue for whomever is laughing at her, and then stills in shock, misses the gaping fish visage. "Doug?" she sputters, voice clear of a smoker's rasp, more startled than curious, he unmistakably in appearance.
"Allison." Doug smiles and Allison's brow arches.
Pulling the cart behind him in one hand, they meet halfway, standing face-to-face for the first time in almost seven months, his stomach a little fuller, she a little more pieced together.
He doesn't tell her that he wishes she'd called before now, that a month is too long to go between check-ins. He doesn't tell her Lois asks about her frequently. He doesn't tell her he found a picture she took of herself on his phone, she sprawled on the newly-sheeted mattress, hair fanned around her, sticking her tongue out at the lens directed above her.
She doesn't tell him she's picked up her cell and even a few payphones to dial his number when things got rough. She doesn't tell him about the diner she ate at in Louisville, that she'd eaten a steak frites sandwich and thought of him the rest of the day. She doesn't tell him she stopped turning tricks three cities ago, hasn't stepped into a strip club in longer, has taken odd jobs here and there, enough to keep her moving and fed and a roof over her head.
Neither say how much they've missed the other. Neither need to. It's there, tacit, when Allison sticks out her hand for a friendly shake and sharply fools him, yanking her hand back just as he's reaching for it and smoothing it over her ear, giggling as she does.
"How long you been here?" Doug queries.
"How long are you staying?" Lois will want to see you.
Allison shrugs, hooking her index fingers in the belt loops of her jeans, thumb fiddling with the cord. "Don't know."
Doug peers around her to the half-filled basket she neglected on the floor a few feet behind her. A loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, apple juice, and Oreos. "Done with your shopping?"
"Mostly, yeah," Allison replies, following his line and staring at it over her shoulder. She props her hands on her hip as if daring him to comment more.
But he smiles, pats her arm and says, "Okay."
Like the very base of their enigmatic friendship, Allison plucks a bag of black roasted coffee grinds from the shelf, deposits it in the basket she cradles on her wrist, and follows Doug down the rest of the aisle, immersed in a comfortable silence as they continue with their shopping, weaving the aisles to and fro.