Rating: R (language and sexual situations)
Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue
Summary: Laurence and Adelle have a few much needed moments to talk.
Adelle was awakened by a particularly enthusiastic shout from the main room of the cabin. The knowledge that there were other people around and that this location had been deemed safe for now was sufficient to allow her to take a few moments for herself.
She stretched, enjoying the relative novelty of sleeping in a bed, even if it was too short. Her thoughts did not stray to their narrow escape a few hours earlier, or to the discovery that Rossum was serious and determined in their pursuit of Topher. Instead, they fastened onto a single occurrence and gave it the serious contemplation it warranted. Laurence Dominic had called her beautiful.
True his expression immediately afterwards had been comical – a classic case of someone thinking, “did I just say that out-loud?” His relief at being able to avoid further discussion by the more immediate need to defend them had been palpable. Once the crisis was over all of her attention had been focused on keeping Topher calm during their slow journey here, while Dominic had coaxed the damaged Jeep to carry them this far. But none of that changed the words that had slipped from him.
She had been called beautiful before – although perhaps not as often as other people assumed. In her family intelligence and discipline had been highly prized and physical beauty looked down upon as something rather plebeian. Her appearance had been viewed with disquiet by her older and rather reserved parents, who had hoped for a quiet and bookish daughter to bring comfort to their old age. Fortunately she had proved to be intelligent as well, although her mind had been easily distracted from the rigours of research and academia. Only her parents had mourned her focus on business within Rossum.
She smiled slightly as she considered the fact that her former Head of Security might not actually hate her. Despite what a fair proportion of her past colleagues had seemed to believe there had never been anything beyond a smooth and successful working relationship between them. She'd noticed, of course, that he had stunning eyes and that his physique was that of a man who made sure he stayed in excellent shape. That they'd moved easily together and that she could look him in the eyes hadn’t exactly hurt either. But it had never gone beyond that. She'd had access to other outlets to assuage her loneliness and had spared herself the indignity of an office affair gone badly wrong. Other indignities had come of course, but she'd survived them and for the first time in months that survival seemed more of an achievement and less a cruel twist of fate.
In the wreckage of everything she thought she knew it mattered more than she had expected it to that, to one person at least, she was still beautiful. The identity of the person in question just made things even more intriguing.
When she checked on Topher he was sitting up in his makeshift bed, busily scribbling something or other. A quick glance revealed a set of complicated looking equations but he seemed happy enough, so she ruffled his hair and left him to it.
The sound of voices drew her to the cabin's large main room where she found a number of young children, who were replaying their car chase, and Laurence Dominic. The latter was chipping in with advice as the children rolled toy cars around the floor of a room that already looked as though a small tornado had hit it.
She took a moment to admire the fact that he was only wearing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, which meant the physique she'd been thinking about only moments before was on display. His state of undress was clearly related to the wet cloth wrapped around his injured thigh and she allowed her gaze to linger for a second more before she admonished herself sternly for the direction her thoughts had taken.
“I believe that was the point at which you slammed on the brakes, span the vehicle and jumped out to confront our pursuers.”
At her interjection several pairs of eyes turned towards her – only one pair were blue and slightly bloodshot. He opened his mouth to speak only to be forestalled by the emergence of Kelly from the kitchen. “Oh, you're awake. Did you manage to sleep? I know the children are noisy but…”
“I slept very well, thank you. How's your patient?”
“Pretending he isn't hurt.” The two women shared a conspiratorial smile, which was progress. When they had first arrived, despite greeting Dominic warmly and putting Topher at ease, both Kelly and her husband Craig had seemed to be intimidated by her. “Would you like some tea? I can just...”
Adelle looked at the young woman; six months pregnant with a toddler attached to her hip and two other children. She looked exhausted and the sudden arrival of a rather bedraggled set of visitors couldn't have helped. “Sit down,” she said firmly – steering Kelly to a place beside Dominic. Next she looked down at the children and summoned the voice that had once made grown men all but weep. “Mummy is going to have a rest and we are going to help her by clearing up – aren't we?” Twin nods were her only response, but it was more than enough.
Twenty minutes later tea had been made, toys had been tidied away and the table set for dinner. Her little helpers seemed convinced that they were playing a game and she didn't have the heart to tell them otherwise. Kelly had taken the opportunity to put her feet up, her youngest child curled up with her, thumb firmly in his mouth.
“Can you leave her here?” She said, looking over at Dominic. “I can't get them to tidy up like this.”
“It's the accent,” he replied. When Adelle shot him a reproving look the sudden mischief that appeared in his eyes was impossible to resist.
“Mr. Dominic if the next words out of your mouth are Mary Poppins I won't be responsible for my actions.”
“The thought never crossed my mind,” he responded and she raised an eyebrow. “I'll just go and get Topher.”
He pushed himself up, only to arrest the motion when she placed her hand on his shoulder and said firmly, “I suggest you rest your leg while you can.”
“You're feeling better,” he observed as he settled back into the chair. She couldn't dispute the analysis, he'd pulled her back from the darkness and there hadn't been an ounce of pity in his expression as he'd done so.
“I am,” she agreed, before adding quietly, “thank you.”
Kelly was watching them, her expression far too interested and Adelle retreated, stepping away only to stop when he grasped her wrist. “You're welcome.”
* * *
In the pleasant silence attendant to the beginning of a meal for which everyone seemed to be hungry, Laurence Dominic regarded Topher Brink. The neuroscientist seemed to enjoy being around the kids, even if the kids weren’t sure whether Topher was an adult or just a tall peer. His eyes shifted to Adelle DeWitt and he returned her wry smile before refocusing his attention on his food.
His thoughts, however, remained with Adelle. He’d always considered her to be strong, competent and, when necessary, ruthless. She was all those things and more. Much more. He’d seen Adelle struggle through challenges that would’ve driven most people into the depths of despair, never imagining he would actually see her in that state or nearly. It wasn’t the flat, emotionless tone in which she’d spoken words that demanded emotion. Her expression had thrown him into a tailspin. He could only describe it as utter and abject desolation crossed with a massive dose of guilt. Before that moment in the Jeep, he hadn’t known the human face could express such a thing so clearly. He’d started talking, because that expression had to go. It made her beautiful face into something ugly. Something Dominic had no name for. It wasn’t evil, though. He knew that. Evil had a beauty of its own.
He’d shot from the hip then. Talked without forethought or a plan. Told what he thought was the truth. Dominic wasn’t sure whether the words banished the expression or the events that followed. It doesn’t matter. She seems better. At least for now. And she hasn’t made a big deal out of the beautiful woman thing either. Thank Christ.
A laugh with a decided British lilt drew his eyes and his breath caught in his throat. The difference between the woman he saw now from the one of last night was so vast he doubted it could be put into words. Trying to make sense of things, Dominic acknowledged his two trips to the Attic. What she had done to him was unspeakable, but he had done unspeakable things as well. Perhaps not to her, but he had done them. That they were both capable of such things might just keep them alive in this world they’d created long enough to change it for the better.
“Do it hurt bad?” asked Toby, the four year old, as he poked Dominic’s thigh with his small fork.
Years of discipline kept the scream in Dominic’s mouth and his expression, he hoped, more or less neutral. “Yeah,” he muttered through gritted teeth. Following the odd angle of Adelle’s gaze, he realized he was gripping his own fork and knife with near white knuckle intensity.
“Can I see?” asked five-year-old Carrie, reaching for the cold water soaked cloth covering an impressively nasty, undoubtedly bone deep bruise.
“No,” Kelly said, nudging her husband with her elbow. “Stop her, Craig.”
Putting down his knife, Dominic caught the small girl’s hand and shook his head. “Is it icky?” she asked.
“Very,” Dominic muttered, swearing he could feel where each of the tines of Toby’s fork had pressed.
“Will it be better soon?” Carrie asked, aiming big brown eyes up at Dominic.
“Very soon,” he said, wishing to be delivered from the inquisition, knowing he wouldn’t be because Craig and Kelly, understandably, were somewhat relieved when Carrie interrogated others.
“How soon?” said the tiny inquisitor.
“I just told you how soon,” Dominic said, playing a hunch.
“The rabbit is delicious,” Adelle said, stepping into the brief lull caused by Carrie’s effort to recall exactly what Dominic’s answer had been to her previous question.
“You haven’t lost your touch, Kelly,” Dominic added in an effort to deflect the conversational attention to someone else.
“Thank you,” Kelly said, smiling at Dominic. “Neither have you.”
Sensing danger in her tone, Dominic contemplated showing Carrie his bruise to derail the subject change. The hesitation cost him. “How so?” Adelle asked.
Leaning closer to Adelle, Kelly said, “Dominic has virtually every female he comes in contact with trying to take care of him.”
“Carrie wasn’t interested in the extent of my injury beyond unveiling it at the table in order to make Toby turn green,” Dominic said. “She’s all about the drama.”
“Our little drama queen,” Craig said. Dominic raised his glass of milk to him.
“Give her another five years,” Kelly murmured, gazing affectionately at her daughter for a moment as if envisioning the ten year old to be. “We all want to take care of him, Adelle. He can’t avoid that, but he’s been remarkably proficient at eluding the contingent who wants to take him home and keep him.”
“I can’t stay too long in any one place, Kelly,” Dominic said. “You know that. What I do requires me to move around. Otherwise, my information would get too stale to do me or anyone else any good.”
“That sounds really plausible, Dominic,” Kelly said, smiling indulgently at him. She turned to Adelle. “But I think the issue is that he won’t stay anywhere for any length of time, because he might meet someone who would force him to admit he has emotions.”
“What is eee-moe-tons?” Toby asked.
“Nasty things that get in the way of you living your life,” Dominic muttered, wishing for something far stronger than milk to drink.
“Dominic,” Kelly admonished. “Don’t tell him that.”
“What?” he asked. “Don’t tell him the truth?”
Kelly’s eyes filled with tears. “What happened to you that you feel that way?” she whispered, unconsciously, Dominic would bet, reaching for Craig’s hand. “That’s one of the most cynical things I’ve ever heard. I can’t believe you believe that.”
Dominic looked away. Standing a bit awkwardly, he said, “Thanks for the dinner, Kelly. I need to get the Jeep running, so we can get out of your way.”
* * *
Dominic was already leaning over the Jeep, tools scattered around him, when Adelle emerged from the cabin. Judging by the frustrated growl that emanated from roughly where his head ought to be, the prognosis wasn't good.
“Will she live to fight another day?” She watched the way his back tensed at the sound of her voice. When the same muscles relaxed a split second later she realised it was because he had deliberately controlled his response.
“A Jeep is not a 'she'” he pointed out and without waiting for a response added, “the collision made a problem I was having with the serpentine belt worse.” As though knowing she didn't have the slightest idea he continued, “I should be able to repair it.”
“So she'll be roadworthy soon?”
“A couple of hours,” he said, before going back to whatever he had been doing – which seemed to involve some hammering and occasional grunts. But she wasn't that easily dismissed and she sat down on the step, arms wrapped around her knees and watched him work while she tried to decide the best approach to take.
He'd taken the time to change out of the relatively clean clothes he had been wearing and now, from what she should see, engine oil was contributing an additional layer of grime to an old shirt and jeans that were already coated with all sorts of things she probably didn't want to identify.
“Kelly didn't mean to tell you off,” she said after a long silence, “I think she's a little too accustomed to remonstrating with small children, she forgets that not everyone's world is so simple.” In fact Kelly had been devastated at the thought that she might have upset Dominic and it had taken both Craig and Adelle to calm her down. She'd insisted that Adelle come out here to make sure Dominic was all right, even though Adelle wasn't sure she had the skills for the task. But, given their recent interactions it was at least worth making the attempt.
As it happened she thought Kelly's question had been a pertinent one – she just wasn't sure there was a right moment to ask it.
“It's fine,” he replied shortly and she almost smiled at how clearly he was transmitting the fact that it was anything but. “My leg was killing me, I didn't mean to snap at her. I'll apologise before we leave.”
It was soothing to just sit and watch him, not having to worry about Topher who was happy enough with Kelly and Craig, or about Rossum coming for them. The view his current position afforded didn't hurt.
“Will they be safe?” She asked, “if Rossum are that serious about finding Topher they could follow us here.” It wasn't a thought she really wanted to finish. She knew that just now very few places were safe, but that was very different to bringing the Rossum brand of trouble to someone's door.
He straightened up, rolling his shoulders until his neck gave an audible crack. “There are other cabins - further into the park, harder to find if you don't know the paths; they'll head there when we leave.”
“I want to wait until they leave, make sure they get away safely.” He didn't move for a moment, his expression as he looked at her was completely unreadable though her strong impression was that he wasn't really thinking about what she had said.
He snapped out of it quickly, “agreed.”
He looked tired, she decided – more tired than before; though he hadn't taken one of the little red pills for a while. He was already on edge and slightly irritable, she knew it probably wasn't a good idea to push him on a sensitive subject – but it was that or ask him why he was so adamant that emotions were bad.
“How often do you need to take the pills?” She made sure her voice was level and non-judgmental; not as much as a hint of an accusation.
“Supposed to be every 12 hours or so.” He'd taken at least two more frequently than that but pointing it out probably wouldn't help.
“Are there any side effects?”
“When I don't take them I get tired and can't protect you.” She got to her feet and stepped towards him.
“I'm not about to deliver a lecture on the perils of illegal substances – credit me with some intelligence. But, since you are our protection I need to know what you're taking and what it does.” He narrowed his eyes, she raised an eyebrow and they gazed at each other until he surprised her by conceding first.
“They're refined amphetamines; originally designed for troops in the field so they could stay alert during bombardments. Not exactly freely available now, but not hard to come by either – if you know where to look.” Clearly he did, or knew people who did.
She nodded, noticing the wariness in his expression and the way it twisted into something new when she said, “we do what we need to in order to survive, normal rules don't apply.”
“You got that right.”
* * *
Laurence Dominic was beginning to rue the day he took this old Jeep from the garage of someone who obviously doted on the damn thing along with what had seemed like a million spare parts carefully hoarded and crammed into every spare inch of space. He couldn’t anchor the belt and guide it at the same time. A glance over his shoulder revealed that Adelle DeWitt had retreated to sit on the steps at some point in the prolonged, admittedly comfortable silence that had fallen after she’d granted absolution of a sort to his use of boosters. “Come here, please,” he said, unable to interpret the expression on her face when she met his eyes. Knowing he should return his attention to the Jeep while Adelle approached didn’t make that happen.
“How may I help?” she asked, glancing down at the Jeep as though it was a snake that might be poisonous.
Pointing to the tool in his hand, he said, “Take this and hold it steady.” The handoff was a little awkward but they got it done. “No, not like that. Rotate your wrist.”
“I’m not certain what you want me to do,” she said, turning those green eyes on him. Staring into them, he reached over and positioned her hand.
“Sorry,” he muttered. The dark smear of grease on the back of her hand looked like soot on porcelain. “Just hold it like that, ok?” Her nod freed him to slide beneath the Jeep and position the belt.
“I believe my offer of aid entitles me an answer to a previously posed question sadly lacking a response,” Adelle said.
“Go,” Dominic muttered, attention absolute on his current task.
“What are the side effects of those refined amphetamines of yours — other than you becoming tired?”
“Elevated heart rate,” he said. “Sometimes it … I don’t know, sort of stutters too.” Grinning at a minor success with the serpentine belt, he added, “increased body temperature goes with it. I’m never cold.” He grunted when his slide along the ground jostled his thigh. “Until I come down.”
“What is that like?”
“Are you holding that steady?” he snapped.
Sliding out from underneath the Jeep, Dominic wearily rose. Coming around to the front, he peered under the hood and sighed.
“If my technique is not to your liking, Mr. Dominic, do correct it.”
The demand in her tone was a call to arms he wasn’t sure he could heed. “You … your center of gravity needs to be lower.” In response to her artfully raised eyebrow, he stepped behind her. “Spread your feet wider,” he said. She complied. “Now hold it like this,” he said, correcting her grip as they bent over the Jeep together. Mindful of her clean clothes and his filthy ones, Dominic tried to avoid contact. Bringing her other hand to bear, he said, “Anchor the tool by steadying your wrist with this hand.”
“Like this?” she asked, looking over her shoulder at him.
A few heartbeats later, Dominic glanced down at her hands. “Perfect.” Gaining the relative safety of the narrow space beneath the Jeep, he asked, “Kelly was really upset, wasn’t she?”
“She thought she upset you,” Adelle said.
“Kelly was the one who seemed upset.”
“She is obviously in love with her husband,” Adelle said, vocal cadence slow and careful. “A blanket assertion that emotion is an obstacle to living rather than a reason for it couldn’t have been expected to sit well with her.”
“So I should’ve kept my mouth shut?” he asked, more eager than he cared to admit for her answer.
“Or explained yourself,” she suggested.
“I couldn’t. Not to Kelly. She’d never understand.” He closed his eyes for just a moment in an effort to dispel a wave of fatigue-induced dizziness. “Even if she could, I wouldn’t want her to understand. She doesn’t need my shit in her life.”
“Laurence,” Adelle murmured, “might you explain it to me?”
“Yes, but I don’t want to.”
Sighing deeply, Dominic hauled himself out from beneath the Jeep. “Because it’s in the past, Adelle.”
“Evidently not, if whatever happened occasioned you to make the statement you did at dinner.”
“You can ease up now,” he murmured, leaning a hip against the Jeep.
“I don’t think I should,” Adelle said.
He smiled. “I meant on the tool,” he said. She handed it to him without delay, her entire body emoting concern and curiosity. “I’m not sure you want to hear this,” he said.
“Do you think to shock me, Laurence?”
“No, it’s just that it has to do with … the Attic.”
“Oh.” Before his eyes, Adelle withdrew, caught herself and faced him. “Tell me.”
“I … God, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve replayed the scenario in my head. The number of different possible outcomes. Most of them better for me and maybe better for everyone in the end. But … the choice I made … damn.”
He felt Adelle’s eyes on him as he stared at the Jeep’s innards in an effort to regain the calm he felt slipping away. “Laurence? What scenario?”
“The one with Echo, Topher and Ivy in your office when everything went south for me,” he said, seeing it again in his mind’s eye. Going through the analysis that had seemed brilliant, or at least eminently pragmatic at the time. “The ‘evidence’ Echo had was beatable in any number of ways. I knew that. I knew it, but I fucked up.”
“You know I was uncomfortable with how Echo was … evolving for lack of a better word. More than that, I was disturbed by how you seemed to approve of it. And into my lap fell an excuse to eliminate her. To preserve my cover. To serve my mission.” Clenching his fists, he muttered, “I made an emotional decision and it cost me a few years of my life. And it may have cost everyone else more. If I hadn’t been in the Attic, I might’ve been able to help you stop Rossum. I could’ve brought the NSA in before it was too late. But I took a shot because I was engaged emotionally in Echo not becoming Alpha number two. Is it any wonder I think about emotions the way I do?”
Fatigue washed over Dominic. Blinking rapidly, he swayed on his feet. A hand closing on his bicep steadied him. To Adelle’s questioning eyes, he mumbled, “I’m more tired than I thought. I may need a booster to finish this.” Belatedly, he gestured toward the Jeep to give context to the word “this,” noting the slightest hint of a reaction, likely to his admitting “need.” Taking that as a challenge, he bent over the Jeep again to ensure that everything run by the serpentine belt was properly aligned.
Adelle DeWitt didn’t move from his side. Nor did she speak for some time. “Is an emotion driven mistake an appropriate basis for a blanket indictment of all emotions?” she eventually asked, her low vibrant tone drawing Dominic’s eyes.
“A mistake that monumental is.”
The openness in her expression and the vulnerability in her eyes held his gaze. “What did you believe would happen when Echo unmasked you?”
“That doesn’t matter,” he muttered, forcing his tired mind back to checking that the power steering was on line.
“Laurence,” she murmured, her hand making slow soothing circles on the small of his back. “Let’s have this over.”
I’m too damn tired for this. He turned to tell Adelle just that without realizing how close she was. His instinctive attempt to step back was unsuccessful due to the very solid presence of the Jeep behind him. Adelle stilled the hand now resting comfortably at his waist and looked up at him expectantly. “Let … Let’s just say I compounded my monumental mistake and leave it at that,” he said.
“In what way?” Clearly a question rather than a demand or an attempt at an order, she left the choice to him.
“Adelle, I don’t think this—.”
That word on those lips sped his heart up faster than any booster ever had. Something must have shown on his face, because Adelle said, “I don’t use that word lightly.”
“You use it effectively,” he muttered, looking past her toward the cabin, down at the exposed inner workings of the Jeep, trying to see a way forward.
“Do I?” she asked, her voice taking on a light, almost teasing quality.
“Adelle, stop.” Christ, when did she become Adelle to me?
To his mild relief, she looked startled too. Dominic’s instincts told him the feeling was genuine. “What do you wish me to stop?” she asked.
“Whatever it is you think you’re doing,” he muttered. “I … I’m just too damn tired for this conversation.”
Nodding slowly, Adelle whispered, “I don’t think we’d be speaking of these matters if you weren’t tired and I sense we must.” Her other hand pressed his cheek lightly. “What were your expectations when you were exposed as a spy?”
He sighed. “I think this is … pointless.” Frustration welled within him along with an odd sense of helplessness and inevitability. Adelle waited and once he started to talk, the words simply spilled out. “I expected to be able to explain to you that it didn’t matter,” Dominic said. “I thought you’d see the advantages of having access to the NSA. I thought you trusted me enough to give me a chance to prove myself. I thought the three years meant something.”
* * *
This conversation had been inevitable from the moment he’d appeared to disrupt her living entombment. Where was Topher when you needed him, she thought ruefully? Why was there never an interruption to be had when one was desperately required? But she’d pushed him to this point, for good or ill, she couldn’t retreat now even though she suddenly had far more to lose than she had ever imagined. The woman who had once been proud of her persuasiveness was nervous now – stomach twisted tight with anxiety.
The longer she waited to answer him, the greater the chance that he wouldn’t be receptive to what she had to say. But finding the words wasn’t as simple as it had once been. Her dilemma was simple, but admitting it, sharing it, meant facing something she had been avoiding for some years; since she’d sentenced him to languish in the Attic in fact.
“The three years did mean something,” she ducked the cool blue gaze, it was too penetrating given how vulnerable she was making herself. “They meant that I trusted you, as much as I trusted anyone. When I discovered you were a NSA spy I was angry, humiliated, betrayed. I believed you had exposed the House and all the people in it to Rossum’s wrath and I believed I couldn’t afford to be creative, or clever in my response.”
He was watching her carefully and she drew a breath, the next words coming out on a shaky, bitter laugh. “I don’t know how I can continue without compounding the prejudice I set out to understand and perhaps overcome.”
“Try.” He said firmly and she could see his fists clench as though he was bracing himself for something he knew would hurt. Deliberately she made sure her voice was quiet, it wasn’t difficult – this wasn’t a situation that called for stridency.
“I’m guilty of the same crime as you are Laurence – will you condemn me for it? I made an emotional decision based on anger, fear and betrayal. I thought everything I had tried to do within Rossum’s strictures was about to be undermined by the one thing I hadn’t seen coming. I had to banish you – to protect us from Rossum but also so I wouldn’t have to be reminded of my error.”
He pulled away, turning his back on her but not before she saw the anger and desperation etched onto his face. “You could have listened to me, we could have…”
“Of course I could!” Her voice overrode his, “I could have done all manner of things, as could you. The point is I didn’t. We didn’t.” She took a step towards him and then stopped – she was prepared to explain herself, but she wasn’t going to beg for forgiveness. “Have you even considered what would have happened if you’d killed Echo, killed all of them? Or does your particular streak of masochism not extend that far?”
“You have a hell of a nerve,” he ground out – eyes alight with rage now and, absurdly, she was grateful to see something different there.
“As I was told once, I’m a real piece of work. I can’t change the past and neither can you. I can live with my actions, not always easily and perhaps one day I will be called to account for them. But I am starting to realise that living is a challenge, not a burden or a punishment. You have every right to be angry with me; your guilt at getting caught and making the decision that you did is understandable as well. But they’re emotions Laurence – and they are what makes you different from the butchers and the dumb shows. The world we helped make will challenge you enough, those challenges will overwhelm you if you shut yourself away.”
“I’m not the one who was living in her underground castle with her kingdom disintegrating around her.”
“There are other types of prisons.” His expression twisted and his gaze slipped away from hers. “I think part of you wants to move past this, but something is holding you back, something you want to protect yourself from perhaps.” She was damn sure that his attitude to emotions was just as significant as his reluctance to rest and his need to avoid staying in one place for too long. She hadn’t quite determined if the Attic had done this to him, or if some pre-existing propensity had been magnified by the experience. “I can’t decide for you Laurence.”
“It wouldn’t have bothered you once.” It was a truth too obvious to be denied, but other things were true as well.
“I’m a changed woman these days.” He didn’t respond and suddenly she wanted nothing more than for this moment to be over. Retreat wasn’t a characteristic she admired, but sometimes it was good strategy. “I think we’ve ripped open enough wounds for one day, don’t you?”
“More than enough,” he started to turn away and she stopped him, rubbing her thumb over his cheek in an effort to remove a patch of grime. The hitch in his breathing was, she assumed, involuntary and even as she registered surprise that she could do that to him, he had shrugged her off.
“I need an hour or so more, tell Kelly and Craig we’ve leaving and that we want them to get away first.”
“Will you be all right?”
“I’ll take a booster.” She wasn’t sure that was an answer to the question she had posed, but she let it pass. As she turned back towards the cabin she reflected sombrely that somewhere in that conversation a door had been closed. What made it worse was that it was a door whose existence she hadn’t even been aware of, let alone recognised as being open to her.