DISCLAIMER: Not mine. These ladies and some of the other characters belong to Nancylee Myatt and Co.
FEEDBACK: To whedonistic.tendencies[at]gmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Whispers and Ashes: II. A Way to You
By Whedonist


Jillian Lee Flemming

Dr. Lint's office has always been the coolest with its slate colored walls and dark blue ceiling. The furniture is wood and leather; the desk a rich mahogany that looks antique in the not pretentious way. The couch we sit on is a creamy, purposefully dirty white leather that you sink into. The carpet is thick, plush and matches the ceiling. He's always got some blues playing quietly in the background. It's all meant to make you feel safe.

It does.

I'm grateful for it.

He sits across from us in a matching club chair and waits. He's really good at that. Sort of annoyingly too fucking good at that.

The silence since our session started has been pretty…pregnant. I tuck the hair that's fallen in front of my left eye behind my ear and worry my lower lip. I should just…

"It's good," I blurt just trying to fill the silence with something and since the something that's been on my mind for the last two weeks won't seem to shut its fucking mouth, I may as well just get it out there.

I hear Annie sigh next to me. I feel her shift so I try to give her space, backing up against the right arm of the chair, kicking off my shoes and spinning to face her way while I bring my knees up to my chest. I wrap my arms around my jean clad knees and look at her. Her hands in her lap, her shoulders a little slumped.

The sight of her makes me feel like shit all over again.

Love should come with some goddamn warning labels…an instruction manual wouldn't go unappreciated either.

"What's good?" Dr. Lint finally asks as the lack of anything else stretches on too long.

I pick at a loose string from the bottom of my jeans and shrug. I lick my lips and look between my wife and our shrink.

Screw it.

"You know about Nora, right? I don't need to go through that again?" I ask, not really remembering how much we've talked about her.

He nods. "Ann's ex," is all he gives. It's all he ever gives. A few words here and there. Sparse, direct, sometimes cutting, sometimes the only thing you need to hear is an 'it's okay' from him. Which when we first started to see him, I was surprised with. He's six-foot-four, short cropped blonde hair, green eyes, and is always in black slacks and a dark colored polo. He's also got massive shoulders and a chest, in the football player way, so his looks belie his demeanor. It was the best wrong first impression I've had.

"Right," I lick my lips again and swipe away the last vestiges of the lip gloss I'd put on this morning. "Well, we went down to see her a few weeks ago. She's got a girlfriend. I think it's good."

"What's that mean?" Annie asks, hackles raised, tone defensive. It's not unexpected. She's as fiercely protective of Nora as she is me. Saying things about her in a not one-hundred-percent positive light or tone…she gets bitchy and there's a fight.

I look up at her when I feel her staring. The corner of my mouth turns up at my wife. With her stiff, straight back and set jaw, she's less Annie and more 'protective dog'. It's sweet.

But I don't try to back track. I say instead, "It means that unless you were fucking comatose there's no way you missed Nora going ass over teakettle with Nikki. Which, like I'm trying to say, is a good fucking thing."

"Why?" Lint asks unfazed by my love of the word 'fuck'.

I ignore the 'why' and scooch over to my wife. Disregarding her grunt of annoyance as I reach down and remove her shoes. She draws her legs up, crisscrossing them underneath her. "Sorry," I say sheepishly as I flip myself around and rest my head in her lap. She doesn't look that impressed, but the little, begrudging smirk gives her away. "I'm a tactile girl. More with you than anyone else live with it."

She shrugs and lets me tangle our hands together.

I ask, "We're still in 'safe place, shrinks office', right? If I say a few things, I'm not going to pay for it for a week, maybe two, later?"

"Depends," she answers honestly.

My mouth screws to the side as I gauge the response. Yes, it was honest, but it's also a warning to tread lightly. "Right," I sigh. "So here's the thing with Nora that…no, wait, what I'm saying, babe, is that our love," I squeeze our entwined hands resting atop my stomach, "it's conditional. Which isn't bad. It just is. Nora, though, that's the thing with her, she doesn't do conditional love. It's sort of an 'all or nothing' thing with her. It's why I was fucking impossible to deal with the first year."

"You're finally admitting you were being an irrationally jealous bitch?" she asks with no hint of tease or amusement.

I really was. I shrug. "Maybe."

She snorts.

"Fine, yes, but you can't…" I look over to Lint, who's just watching us, "she can't blame me."

"The hell I can't," she states above.

"Okay, so you can, but you won't. And you won't because I'm right. You two were together when I came down. She loves you, Annie…"

"She loves you too," she points out.

"She does, 'cause she's fucking amazing that way, but you're missing the point. The point, my beautiful jackass, is that she loved, loves, you unconditionally. She loved you enough to know that you and I were end game." I smile up at her, trying my best to say this as positively as I can. It is positive. It's just…complicated. "I couldn't have done what she did. I'd have fought, hard. I'd have probably tried to run me out of town if the roles were reversed. Nora didn't. She supported us."

"So then…?" Lint asks, trying to get to the point.

"I thought when I went to New Orleans that I knew how to love you. I knew I did love you. I knew I wanted to be with you, but when I stayed and watched, I knew that I didn't know how to love you, not like the way Nora loves. She taught me how, even if you or her didn't know it and watching her with Nikki a few weeks ago, seeing that happen, it…I remembered why I was a jealous nut job to begin with."

"Seeing what happen?" Annie's brow crinkles with the question.

"Seeing her meet her end game," I answer. "And I'm incredibly happy that she's happy and that Nikki seems to love her just as much. I've just been thinking about it. Which is how this conversation started. It's a good thing. I want her happy just as much as you. And…" I press a finger to her parted lips before she can interrupt me, "I've been brooding about it for a week and I wanted to say something. She deserves it and she needs that."

"So?" Lint speaks up again.

Her lip turns up in disgust. "My wife's an idiot. I'm not leaving her. Nora's in love and yes, Jill, it's a great thing." Her cheeks puff out for a moment then deflate as she asks, "It still doesn't explain you being next to impossible this past week or so. I counter you with a 'What the fuck, Jill?'"

I don't have an answer to that. I have a large amount of guilt for the closed off, broody mess, I've been, but that's all. And despite the "safe zone" of our therapist's office, I can't share other parts, thoughts and feelings about our relationship I refuse to voice, with either of them.

Probably not ever.

I shrug up at her and swipe away the tears that have leaked from the corners of my eyes and over my temples. I turn my head into her stomach and feel her take a deep slow breath. As she exhales, she leans down and I kiss her neck.

"You're impossible," her lips press against my forehead, "impossibly frustrating, Jillian. I love you though, so there's that."

"Asshole," I grumble back at her.

"Just means we make the best team," she says and kisses the tip of my nose.

Part 3

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