Author: Elliott Silver (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: When too much of a past destroys the present, where does the future lie?
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place to search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you
The drawer stuck.
Already in the trashcan, the remains of three nails, two pens, and the letter opener.
It was a damn good thing her gun was in that drawer.
It was a damn bad thing the papers she needed for the meeting on Jarod, the one she had specifically called, were in that drawer too.
She grappled with the brass handle, took leverage, and wrenched the solid mahogany.
Half the muscles of her neck and back too.
Goddamn jackass sonofabitch –
Her desk chair, complete with anatomical wheels, sallied backward, and anatomically spilled her to the floor. Just as the frosted glass doors to her office clicked open.
Like Russian roulette, never knowing who was coming in until they were already there.
And it was too late.
Re-seated herself, smoothed a handful of loose ends away from her face, and regained the stolid mask of her composure.
What was left of it, anyway.
It was the one thing she couldn’t afford to lose, especially here of all places.
And, in truth, it hung but in tatters.
He swung through the door with his usual long stride, casually purposeful.
If you were into that thing.
The goodman devil.
Undercurrents of half-named emotions, vituperous, scribbled along her cheeks, her slender fingers tapping the polished surface of the desk, her eyes betraying her wobbling façade with their ultramarine gloss.
He was smart.
Smart enough to know not to interfere, to know the odds were she’d kill him if he tried.
Dumb enough to want to try, anyway.
Instead, went against his instincts.
Ignored everything he had seen, and extended a sheaf of papers over the broad expanse, the rigidly maintained distance, of her desk.
Her breathing, sinuous. Intricate.
Between them, an interregnum more violent than any storm.
Black parhelic circles half-masted her eyes, a cloudy murky blue. The lines of her face tight with the chords of tension and stress, the line of her mouth bluntly linear, but irreversibly broken.
The extent of damage.
No one else called her that.
Or in that tone.
Strummed. Close, closing.
He didn’t have to say anymore.
He didn’t have to tell her she’d been tacitly demoted yet again, her authority one shred of completely undermined.
He knew it.
And somewhere, she knew it too.
Wherever it was she kept those darkling secrets, whatever Marianas Trench.
He dropped the papers to her desk when she declined to reach for them and, for lack of a reason to stay, pivoted around.
The same, as ever.
Indecipherable as hieroglyphics.
But at the doors, halfway between her domain and the rest of the world, he paused.
He had done so before. Usually a glance, a stare, a side-ways look from beneath those lush eyes.
This was different.
Stillness. And want of something else to fill it.
And then he was gone, and she was alone.
Deep in the bowels of her mansion, she sank.
Rested on her couch with the air of defeat, though she never would have acknowledged it, and if someone had mentioned it, she would have immediately masked it with a consummate skill gained only from years of studious practice.
And no where to go.
She had walked her line so far out onto her current precipice, that it was impossible to walk back, because it was already falling.
Taking her with it.
Sinking, deep dark down.
So very cold.
She flicked one of the expensive lamps by the side of the couch, only for it to spasm and fail. Flooded in the harsh overtones of darkness.
Its electrical wick immolated, into minuscule particles never again put together.
Whatever light there had been was to be no more.
In front of her, the mahogany table, black oil gloss against her folded knees. Resignedly impeccable.
Save for the unannounced clutter.
A measure of adrenaline, a deepened breath.
Four crowded file folders, the intricate wooden music box from her mother, with its jingling melody and swirling ballerinas, and her silver gun. Stacked neatly, like building blocks.
The refuse of her drawer.
Like her life.
Piled, toppling though balanced.
And unable to be caught.
It was never pleasant to admit defeat, but that was what she had intended to do, and ironically, been thwarted when the meeting had been canceled. The one thing she had never wanted to do was the only thing she needed to do.
Because this was not living.
The files. Smooth cold manila.
The powdery skin of her corpses.
Contained every shred of information she had gleaned and compiled on Jarod since the beginning of her assignment. All those years ago.
It contained her resignation.
Her cell phone rang, vengeance and echoes in the emptiness of the house and the debris within her head.
Debated, then answered. Said nothing. Waited.
The formalism of his chosen words.
So matter of fact he made it seem trivial.
"What do you want?"
"What I’ve always wanted."
His voice, new.
Persuasive. Promising in this barren land of broken pieces and promises. And dark.
What was it about wanting what you couldn’t have?
The gun on the table shivering in her eyesight. A hand pressed to the side of her temple, where it always hurt the most, where the first icepick never failed to stab, and stab viciously.
Her world, crumbling without repair.
"Come with me."
That voice, reverberating off her skin.
She looked up, watched him merge out of the shadows.
Settle before her, across the table, across her gun. Her means of defense and maybe even restoration.
She made no move.
Neither did he.
Never once glanced at his biography on the table. At the truth and lies, so many, strung between them.
Stared straight into her soul, if she still had one left.
"Come with me."
Frozen, burned into place.
He had always had the ability to do that to her.
To compress the world.
Until it contained just the two of them.
Her thoughts, traitorous, treason. Wanting.
Wanting the repair he offered.
His hands skimming through hers, playing unfair and pulling her closer and closer and closer.
Into his kiss.
"Come with me."
His voice, his words. Dangerous.
Because she could not disagree.
Where she was going, where she had come from.
Never look for a reason.
But looked for him.
He came at her.
And she let him come.
Let him kiss her.
Took no active, opposing part.
His touch practiced but not experienced.
His teeth on her ear, his mouth on her throat, his hands in the small of her back.
Needing to be close.
He held her.
For the moment. For the present.
And she felt herself fall.
Until she lay there, alone next to him.
Waking, sweat suffocating her skin.
Jarod, close. Too close.
Unable to breathe, too able to think. Remember.
"Demons in your dreams."
His whisper. Her words.
She swallowed breaths like the Scotch she took neat.
Lay back into the pillows, waited for him to hold her.
To tell her without words this, they, were right.
But he didn’t.
Darkness stretched on for miles, and miles after that.
Like a blade along skin.
Bayonet, hunting dawn.
The roadblock outlined in stark sharp contrast.
Like the French Revolution, and the early thunder only the March of the Fishwives.
So predictable she should have seen it long ago.
Coming, unstoppable, crushing.
And knowing, too late, or all along, this was a fool’s paradise.
The present, not the past, under guillotine.
He stopped the car without argument.
Without running away.
He was working for them, the Centre.
How extraordinary he should take over when she left off.
The ignition cut, like a jugular.
As he stepped out into the brackish still-night.
He was a Pretender.
And to pretend, was to deceive.
Intrusion, wrecking the world between them to ashes.
Stood up, before her judge and jury.
Away from him.
She had been used before.
But never as coldly and cruelly as this.
Not by someone she once loved. Who had once loved her
Because it had been truth, almost as much as the lies.
Because it hadn’t been meant to be more.
Her words reflective not of control or choice, but of the instant.
"Et tu, Jarod." Drew in a shallow breath. "You set me up."
Ballistic to his chest.
Carved him, hollowed him out.
Usually did that.
"I didn’t have a choice."
Not even a flicker of her eyes.
The one person most associated with refuge, the only one that could not offer it to her.
"Miss Parker – "
"No." She didn’t move, except maybe a slight bob of her head as she excluded him from her line of sight. More cutting, devastating, than any words could possibly have been.
Hands closed on his upper arms. Let himself be taken away.
As she had let him take her.
Using him as he had used her.
Nothing but lost breath, and silence.
Strung tensile and fishing wire thin.
Like heads on pikes.
Like too much of a past.
Darkness, no closer to dawn.
Still captive, garroted by night.
Through her unsurprised eyes, watched her father walk away.
Slip into the car with Jarod and fall into the night without conclusion or even a kiss good-bye.
A crescent of a smile on Brigitte’s face. Of knowing and not telling.
Her tongue, a sliver of silver piercing, swirling over a dripping red lollipop. A tip of her platinum hair candy-coated red.
The faint echo of exhaust, of shifting gears. Until there was no sound, no proof, her father or Jarod, had ever existed.
Across the indiscriminate space, found his eyes.
Across the space, together.
The world suspended on its axis, and wondering how unmotion could be so simple.
Like the moon.
Brigitte, sheathing her gun and turning to Lyle, whose eyes never deviated from their target.
A moment. A slow moment.
A slow kiss to his stubbled cheek, a hand, unsteady, on his upper arm. So uncharacteristic. Both the kiss and the stubble.
Sinking into the black car and dropping into the still-night.
To the other side of nothing.
She knew where that was.
Left all alone.
No one, nowhere.
Brakes skittered on the asphalt.
The door flung open.
That voice, those eyes.
The beginnings of light.
When shadows fell, transmuting night into day.
"Come with me."
They drove until the storm overtook them.
The rain had started piteously at first, but now lashed back with a vengeance.
The wipers of the car dashed madly from one side to the other, and overall, made no difference.
The road, nothing.
The wheel slick in his hand as they shifted off the highway, onto the shoulder. A semi roared by them heedless of the weather, going nowhere fast.
Not bothering to wait out the onslaught.
Out of the corner of her eye she watched him.
Beside her, he sat stock still, both hands caressing the wheel.
Trying to prolong simplicity before it all got complicated.
"I don’t understand."
"I – "
His mouth encompassed hers, suddenly, shockingly, answering her questions before she even knew what she was going to ask.
Understanding, now, so suddenly that she must have known somehow before, without words.
Not being simply rescued, but saved, both.
His touch experienced, but not practiced.
Waited for her reaction, then drew her in, made her kiss him back.
And she did.
She opened her mouth under his, touched the tip of his tongue with her own, debated whose mouth they were going to play in.
She pushed, he pushed. They argued.
His tongue came back into her mouth, the outline of his lips against hers betraying his smile.
He reached out, hesitated, then touched the side of her face, let his fingers slide down her temple.
The smooth slick skin of his scar.
A shiver, shared. Leaned closer.
Saw what she thought they had escaped for.
What she had never let herself see before.
And it was a good thing.
It was okay.
His eyes beckoned then, after her reaction, to the backseat, to the music box and her silver gun, should she still want it.
And she understood.
That’s what it was about him. What she had never been able to pinpoint.
A stark portrayal of hazy indifference, masking, hiding, the real intensity, emotion.
Once let out, never recorked.
Safer that way, sure.
What they would do with it.
Could do with it.
Her breathing accelerated, deepened.
Flames and ether.
He wasn’t luring her with love, with promises, with paradise.
With things neither could be certain still existed, or ever had.
Abstract, random things.
But only what he felt, had felt for a long time and dared not to listen to.
The voices they had never heeded.
Knowing if they had, it might never have come to this, the other side of nothing.
Never knowing why they had come back before now.
Before each other. And knowing maybe that was the reason.
Two semis guzzled by, dead-even in a race to nowhere, to nothing.
The road, through darkness, visible again.
The windshield wipers fanning away the drizzle, the steam, the hazy, transparent view.
They were free.
Of blinding darkness.
They could go anywhere they chose. Anytime.
His eyes, ultramarine. And where they’d always been.
Outside, another tractor-trailer railed by on roller-coaster wheels sending a valance of run-off water across the hood of the car.
The corners of her mouth quirking upward, again, a newly unusual – sensual – feeling.
And she kissed him again.
He wondered about her often.
Every day he didn’t see her.
Wasn’t with her.
What he had done.
Until he saw her.
Sometime, something inside of him would have rejoiced.
It was different.
And he understood.
At least, her escape.
Not into the night, but out of it.
Still not able to fathom how he had sentenced her, only to be sentenced himself.
But loving someone was dangerous.
He had let her go because he had to, but someone had to let the other go.
Who actually loved enough to let them be free.
Something he could not do. Had not done.
He breathed, reached out and touched the photograph, searing, cold, and gloss slimy.
Didn’t see the image but only flames of the bridges he had burned so recklessly.
And through those flames, the harsh, iodine flames, she on the other side.
The scarring heat, the hot muggy incarcerated heat of Triumvirate Station.
She wasn’t alone.
Not alone, and not with him.
And he knew.
Whatever good had been in him, had been from her.
The truth, not in him, but her.
You never realized how much you needed something until it was irreversibly gone.
Like water, in a drought.
Like water, in a fire.
Free, at last.
And the ring on her finger now, not his, and so blindingly beautifully bright.
I’m the voice you never listened to,
And I had to break your heart to make you see.
He’s the one who will be missing you
And you’ll only miss the man, you wanted him to be.
Email Elliott Silver
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Disclaimer: The characters of "The Pretender" are not mine; they rightfully belong to NBC, MTM, and Pretender Productions, as well as the actors and actresses who give paper and ink a life and a voice. I am making no profit from these writings; imitation is the highest form of flattery.