Tate stepped cautiously through Lydia's open door and felt as though he had stepped into a dream. Long candles flickered warmly away in an elegant candelabrum, casting her shadow against the bare walls from where she stood. In the center of her warm nest of red and orange afghans and blankets, her hair jutting out in inky angles in the dim glow, she resembled some sort of ethereal being, dancing in the fleeting moments between when she came and when she'd eventually leave.
"Do you like what I've done with the place?"
"It uh…actually looks like a room now." He chanced a further step in and then another, surveying the small area carefully, not wanting to disrupt any of her elements.
She stretched her arms long over her head and stretched her neck before folding to the floor, bare feet pressed together in front of her. "Yeah but it's still missing something. And I was hoping you could help me find it, Tate."
It echoed in his mind, the way she constantly said his name when addressing him. He could've listened to it all, consuming him slowly and growing, calling his attention to her every word and immerse himself in just the thought alone. Sometimes he caught himself going over the memory repeatedly, attempting to focus on every innate detail of the sound.
His name was sharp and quick, hardly appealing in any sort of aesthetic sense, but she made it sound inviting. Long and drawn out on her slow, playful, articulate tongue that grazed the back of her teeth as she began and almost smiled through the interim before pouting her lips and raising an eyebrow at the end of it. It was the same every time, but every time he had to pay careful attention to all the details and spare himself the curiosity of missing something.
"What'd'you mean?" He asked, confused.
"Well," She began, pulling her messy hair into a spiking ponytail and dragging her over packed duffle bag closer. Tugging the zipper open, she began to rummage through the budging canvas, shoulders rising and falling in round, fluid movements. "I brought a couple of records with me-sentimental reasons, really. I know they seem kind of…I dunno, stupid of me, I guess but-"
"That's not stupid." Her eyes shot up at his, his brow harsh but gaze sympathetic and relaxed despite his urgent tone. She cocked her head, still staring up at him, nearly begging for him to continue and push her vacillation away, give her something to find solace in, somewhere to feel okay while doubting herself. In a glance, she put some trust in him.
He had her.
That glance was all it took for him to know that he wasn't going to be suffering a loss. He could tell her things, show her things, do things, have her do things, say things; it could all be so perfect, in its own way, to finally have some control and inherent understanding of a situation, to form something and keep it.
But it was going to require some work.
Not to say he wasn't enjoying himself.
At this point she had retreated back to searching through her bag and pulled out a small stack of 12" album sleeves. "Yes it is." She scoffed, shaking her head.
He kicked off his shoes and strode closer to sit in front of her, duffle bag between them. "It's not." He assured her and this time when she looked up, she didn't look away. He pushed the duffle bag out of the way without having to sacrifice any of their eye contact. He wrapped one firm hand around both of her feet and pulled her closer, sliding across the blankets on the wood floor. The corner of his mouth curled in a smile, their knees touching and toes squished up against the others.
"You have something important to hold onto. Something that makes you feel shit. Everyone needs that. For when you're empty and carved out and hollow and you beg that the darkness swallows you up before anything else on this spinning pile of shit does. You have something to pull you out of that. And that's not stupid."
Softly, she smiled.
Tate felt these moments arising more and more often, though fleeting, he still noticed. Little glimpses into Lydia, uncovering bits and pieces of her, relics of her own pain. And after years of solitude spent tangled up deep inside his own self, he was finally finding his own comfort and warmth, a place to escape to and be himself and feel something when there was otherwise nothing left. And looking at her, now, the way she was looking at him and seeing that and smiling, made him feel as if it might not be so bad for her to know that.
"C'mon, I wanna show you something." He stood up and held out an open palm for her before she could say anything else. He didn't need her too. All she'd be doing would be telling him what he already knew; that he was right.
She gingerly placed her own delicate hand in his and he helped pull up off the ground. He dropped his hand, still enclosing hers. She looked up at him, unsure as to if she should continue on and follow him, hand in hand. He rubbed his thumb over the warm creamy skin of her hand and gave it a light squeeze then relaxed. As if by an inherent effort, she weaved her fingers around his and saw a slight smile start before he turned his head to hide it from her and led her out into the hallway.
"Where are we going?" She asked after a moment's silence as he gently pulled her along. He dropped her hand and walked a few steps ahead of her before stopping. "You'll see." He grunted as he reached his hand up and pulled on the drawstring dangling above his head to reveal the stairs to the attic.
"After you." He gestured towards the stairs and stood aside as she looked on wide-eyed.
"And they say chivalry is dead." She nodded, passing him and making her way up.
"Well I either brought it back to life or it's just an excuse for us guys to let you go first so we could check out that ass." He grinned to himself as he followed after her. She craned her neck over at him to catch him doing just that.
"I can't really blame you." She pulled herself up to the attic floor and brushed herself off as she waited for him to make his way up.
He laughed. "Please, don't be modest or anything."
"There's no need to be if you're not going to give me a reason to." She tossed her fringe out of her eyes as he slowly realized she was right. "So what'd you have to show me?"
They stood among the dust-covered trappings of the past, the rubber suit hanging ominously before them. Artifacts cast long, narrow shadows by the light of the moon, shining in from the tall window in front of them.
"Follow me." He said, ducking out of the shadows. He walked over to the window and with some effort pulled it open while Lydia stood and watched. He straddled the sill, one leg in and one leg out and grabbed onto the ledge of the roof outside. Lydia walked over cautiously and leaned her head out of the window to watch as he swung his other foot around, skillful footwork gained from countless visits to the roof, and pulled himself up.
"Do you need help?" He asked, smiling down at her, as she looked up, confused as to how she would follow him without falling to the ground below. But even with her life at risk, she was in no position to ask for his help.
"I think I can manage."
She followed his actions and, though with less grace, met him on the edge of the great house.
"Wasn't so hard." She grinned but he only gazed at her wistfully.
"Nothing is hard up here." He turned his head to the sky. "I just feel so far away from it all up here. It's like I can finally just rise above everyone else and look at all these fucking stars and I can't help but feel like I'm not alone in this, you know? Like, with all the fucking burning intensity of space and all that inhabits it, I kind of have at least some sort of basic connection to it all. Like I'm not just a missing puzzle piece. I can kind of fit in for once."
She watched him intently as he searched the stars for some greater existential solace, but found him there all the same.
"You don't need to fit in, Tate." She placed a small, careful hand on his shoulder. "It's okay that you're not like everyone else. Because the truth of the matter is, everyone else sucks. But you…you're not so bad. And sometimes when you try and find yourself in other people, you lose sight of who you are. So you have to stop looking. And just wait. Because every now and then, you'll find someone who doesn't need you to fit in just to find some common ground."
"Yeah. She used to walk down this street every night." He laughed and nudged her playfully in the ribs. She smiled, though sobered quickly as she watched him laugh, so care free for once.
"Do you really mean that or is it just some lame line again?"
And they laughed again, though this time together and this time it lasted a long time until they were close together and laying down on the cold shingles under the cool, clear November sky and for once, neither of them were alone.