Title: Out in the Cold
Spoilers: “Mind Games," “Tabu”
Summary: And now he had lost track of Megan, in this house of carven wood and wine-dark wallpaper.
Notes: Written for the numb3rswriteoff challenge; angst; prompt: bitter.
ETA: D'oh! Beta'd by my lovely friend feliciakw, in record time. :-)
Out in the Cold
She had fled the room without scarf or jacket, and he did the same. No one pursued them, for which Larry was grateful. This would be quite difficult enough without strangers (he chided himself for using such a term of Megan’s family, but it fit well enough) prying and prodding into what was none of their business.
Well, it was their business, but they were making a poor job of it.
And now he had lost track of Megan, in this house of carven wood and wine-dark wallpaper. Larry paused at the intersection of two hallways, recalling the furious stiffness of Megan’s posture, her long stride out the door, of the way she had clutched his arm after ringing the doorbell earlier that evening. “It’s a little...claustrophobic, coming back here, that’s all,” she’d said, and her laugh was short and breathless.
He doubled back on his path, taking a right towards a pair of French windows that opened on a wide patio.
There she was.
Standing straight, not shivering, nor even hunched against the cold, both hands clenched around the frosted black of the wrought-iron railing in front of her. A lamp shone directly overhead, casting halos of light onto her golden-brown hair, warming the shoulders and sleeves of her deep red sweater, and falling into the sparkle of crusted snow on the ground beyond the clean-swept patio.
Larry slid the French window open and stepped out. The wind was pure ice, cutting through all the layers of clothing he had so carefully selected against this brand of New England weather. Megan did not turn to him. Gazing out into the dark, she breathed out and then in, careful and strained. Her hands tightened on the railing, and then released; tightened, and released.
Stepping closer, he could see that her face had paled, nose and ears flushed a raw, wind-scoured pink. Each exhale sent out a swirling cloud of white to billow around her face and catch at her hair. She blinked, but there were no tears, just that steady, almost meditative breathing.
He took another step, alongside her now, his arm nearly brushing hers. If it was not so cold, he would have perhaps said nothing. Waited, instead, for Megan to find her center, to acknowledge his presence in her own time. But her fingernails were white rapidly shading towards blue. He reached out and covered her left hand with his right.
She spoke before he could. “This whole trip was a bad idea.” There were still no tears in her eyes, staring blankly into the evening dark. Nor in her voice: it was a pronouncement, a detached judgment. But her chilled fingers trembled beneath his hand, and Larry felt all her unspoken anger and despair well up in his own throat and eyes.
Megan had spoken so excitedly of this journey. He had thrilled to see the daring and hope in her gaze, in her smile. Had listened to her fret over what to say to her father, over whether he would even be there when she attempted to visit.
Larry had been relieved when the man in question appeared during the first course of the lovely dinner with Megan’s mother and next-eldest sister. But perhaps, after all, it would have been better if her father had kept to their pattern and stayed away.
She could have kept dreaming.
But then, too, one evening could hardly mend more than ten years apart.
He had not planned to say this, to grant any credit to the insensitive clod back in the warm sitting room. “Give him a chance.” Not for him, my sweet one. For you. For the laughter I watched go out in your face tonight, because of one thoughtless word. For the woman you are, whom he does not know, nor know how to approach. “It’s only been one evening.”
She snatched her hand from under his, curling it against her stomach, not looking at him, the rhythm of her breath faltering. “I can’t do this right now,” she said tightly. “I need--I need to be alone for a little while, okay?”
“All right,” he agreed. His hand tingled, wanting hers, wanting her not to turn him away, wishing he had more to offer her in this moment. “Shall I get your coat ? It’s cold–“
“No. No, that’s. . . .” Finally, Megan turned her head to look at him. He thought for a moment she would try to smile, but instead she shrugged. “I’m all right. I’m going to take a walk. As long as I keep moving, I’ll be fine.” She was already moving away from him, from the house, with slow sideways steps.
“Megan--" he began, not know what exactly he would say, but not wanting to see her walk into the dark like this.
“Don’t.” Now there was a edge in her voice, and she turned her face away. Another step, and another. “Not now. If you need to go back to the hotel, go. I’ll call a cab. See you then.” She had picked up her pace.
“I’ll be here,” Larry said. She did not turn nor did she answer him, striding into the dark of the huge yard, low heels crunching in the few inches of snow.
He watched her go and wrapped his arms around himself. The sound of her footsteps died away, leaving only the faint whistle of wind against the branches of bare trees.
The thought of going back into that warm room, of answering questions from overly-inquisitive relations, of telling them that he could not dissuade their daughter (and his girlfriend) from taking a walk in the snow at night, was . . . unwelcome. His coat and hat were there as well, but if she could last a while without them, surely he could also.
He would wait.
This fic was written for the Angst vs Schmoop Challenge at numb3rswriteoff. After you’ve read the fic, please rate it by voting in the poll located here. (Your vote will be anonymous.) Rate the fic on a scale of 1 - 10 (10 being the best) using the following criteria: how well the fic fit the prompt, how angsty the fic was, and how well you enjoyed the fic. When you’re done, please check out the other challenge fic at numb3rswriteoff. Thank you!
(Note: numb3rswriteoff is very slash-friendly. I have, with this fic, participated in one of their very few canon-het challenges. The other entries in this challenge should be safe for you, gen friendslist readers, but caveat lector on the rest of their archives.)