DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this tale is mine, save the premise and the specific arrangement of words. The characters and X-Files are owned by the talented Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, FOX, and a whole bunch of other people. I received neither money nor Christmas chocolate for this story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was supposed to be a happy little holiday story. It didn't quite turn out that way. And I'm not really sure how that happened, since it's a bit edgier than most of my stories (though, rest assured, it does have a basically happy ending). It's still fairly rough, but it's about as finished as I feel capable of making it. It's never going to be a great piece, but hopefully it will worth your time. As always, feedback is appreciated but never required.
SPOILERS: assume everything in seasons 8 and 9 is spoiled <g> the prologue is set right after the series finale.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
With Wishes for A Happy New Year
By ocean gazer
Monica Reyes sat up against the pillows, one hand clutching the cotton sheet up over her bare breasts. Even though she realized the gesture was patently absurd after all, the other woman had seen every inch of her during the night she felt as though the thin barrier was the only thing holding her dignity intact. She watched Dana Scully rifling through the pile of tangled clothes on the floor, picking out the ones that were hers. Though the other woman was still naked, it somehow seemed to give her an aura of power rather than leaving her vulnerable.
Of course, Monica mused, swallowing hard against the sudden lump in her throat, that was because all the power did rest with the other woman; she'd let it. She'd fallen hard for Dana the first time she'd met her surprising herself since she'd never bought into the idealized notion of love at first sight. Though she was relatively certain she'd telegraphed her emotions, she'd never verbalized anything to the other woman. And she'd kept her distance, allowing a friendship to blossom, but never stepping over any lines. The bond between Mulder and Scully was so strong, even in his absence, that it was enough to hold her back. She'd registered subtle hints of interest from the other woman, and picked up on a definite vibe of bisexuality from Dana. But she hadn't done anything about the hints despite her own feelings for the other woman not wanting to add another obstacle to the already complicated relationship between Mulder and Scully.
Even though she sensed that their relationship was based partly on their years of being unable to trust anyone but each other, she also knew there was genuine love and loyalty there. Whether those feelings were of the "friends with benefits" variety or something deeper, she couldn't quite discern. Regardless, she'd pushed her own wants aside, and told herself firmly that if she and Dana were going to be anything other than just friends, it would be up to the other woman to make the first move.
So when Dana had followed her home last night and pushed her into bed, on the heels of Mulder leaving town for good, she hadn't been able to resist. Even if she'd wanted to.
Despite knowing that the woman's soft groans and rough-edged caresses were a function of grief, Monica had been too caught up in her own fulfillment to worry about it. Now, with morning staring them both in the face, she knew the time of reckoning had arrived. She watched, silent and somewhat stupefied, as Dana scooped up the last of her clothing and headed into the bathroom.
Biting her lip, she pulled the sheet more tightly around her as though it could warm the sudden chill in her heart. She wasn't worried about their working relationship. She wasn't even worried that the night of sex would permanently scar their friendship. Dana was too skilled in the art of denial, and she was too experienced at hiding her truest self. What chilled her was the unspoken air of finality in the room the sense that there might never be anything beyond this.
Given the pain and the hunger she'd felt from Dana last night, she had no delusion that it would be the first and last time the woman would fall into her bed. She also had no delusion that it would be anything more than just sex to keep the demons at bay. It made sense in a twisted way; the other woman was no more geared for casual one-night stands than she was, so the only real option was to turn to a friend, hoping the trust and the connection would bring comfort.
She blinked hard and fisted her hands in the fabric. If life in general hadn't been so messed up, things might have been very different for the two of them. But between the unrelenting stress of the X-Files, the anguish of ensuring William's safety regardless of the cost, and the strain of trying to find Mulder and then keep him from being killed she knew the other woman had about reached her breaking point. And she felt as though she was not far behind. If the last year had not been so complicated and painful, Monica thought that she and Dana might actually have had a chance to deepen their friendship and see what developed from there. Unfortunately, that didn't seem like an option not with everything that had happened.
She looked up as Scully walked out of the bathroom. The woman's clothes were a bit wrinkled and her face was barely made-up, but other than those minor bobbles, she looked like her usual cool, professional, unflappable self. Monica wanted to say something anything to the other woman, to give voice to all the things trying to claw their way out of her chest. But the words wouldn't form, or couldn't get past the lump in her throat. All she could do was sit there, holding her sheet, while Dana gave her a sad half-smile and walked quietly out the door.
With a sigh of resignation, Monica flopped back down on the mattress, letting the sheet fall beside her. Achingly alone, she accepted that the time for words was gone. And as much as she wanted to set her mind to refuse to fall into bed with the woman again, she knew she wouldn't. Dana was her weakness like nothing she'd ever felt before and she had a sense she would never want to refuse the woman anything. Even if it cost her a measure of self-respect, she'd never be able to turn her away. She gave a soft snort and a mirthless chuckle. Love wasn't only blind; it was also incredibly stupid.
Taking deep breaths, Monica forced her thoughts and feelings back into their usual lockboxes. Having years of practice in that particular technique, it wasn't long before she was able to look at the situation with coldly rational eyes. She'd known the score last night before the first kiss; the time to back down would have been then. There was no use crying over spilt milk. Closing her eyes, she took a series of slow, deliberate breaths, to help her mind and body relax so she could get some sleep.
She had a feeling it was going to be a long week.
Seven months later
Monica hummed along with the Celtic Christmas collection in the CD player as she combed her hair. For a moment she froze, staring at herself in the mirror, wondering why she was bothering at all with her appearance. Then she laughed at herself. If Dana had simply been looking for some sweaty physical comfort, her phone call would have been to say she was dropping by, not to invite Monica over for the evening. While the two of them spent plenty of time hanging out at Scully's, they'd never had sex there. The monthly trysts were at Reyes' apartment where the other woman could leave when she wanted and have no daily reminders about that hidden and unspoken part of their friendship.
She gave herself a once-over in the mirror. Satisfied, she trotted out of the bathroom, her humming growing louder as the CD's volume increased with proximity. When the last strains of Nightnoise's "Whiter Than Snow" faded away, she pressed the stop button, then powered down the unit. She headed over to the breakfast bar, picking up her purse with one hand and her cordless phone with the other. There was one last thing she wanted to do before she headed out for a quiet evening. Punching John Doggett's number from memory, she leaned against a stool while she waited for his answering machine to pick up. She already knew he wasn't at home he and his ex-wife were working on reconciling and he was spending Christmas with her. Which was a good thing, as far as Monica was concerned; and though she didn't want to interrupt the two of them, she wanted to at least touch base and let him know she was thinking of him.
Once she'd finished recording, she looked down to notice the low battery indicator blinking. She set the phone down in the cradle, figuring she'd better recharge it now while she was thinking about it. By the time she stumbled in later that night, she figured she'd be too tired to remember something so mundane. The past year had drained her on all levels mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally and she was always tired, always feeling like she was just barely able to keep up with the little chores of daily life. Even the strong coffee and sugary snacks that she'd eat at Dana's wouldn't recharge her energy levels they'd just keep her going long enough to fall into bed.
She was glad that the next day was Christmas. Not because of presents or decorations or all the seasonal delights she'd loved since childhood. This year she'd been too run-down and busy to get any sort of tree, let alone decorate and bake. There weren't many presents this year from her few remaining friends and family nothing at all to excite her. She was looking forward to tomorrow for one simple reason; she could stay in bed all day and catch up on her sleep.
Smiling dreamily at the mere thought, she threw on a jacket, snatched up her keys, and headed out the door. The chill wind bit through her layers of clothes and she was grateful when she slid into the front seat of her car and slammed the door shut. Starting the engine, she set the heater on high and cranked up the volume on the classical station, which was running a Christmas marathon. While most seasonal music irritated her, since too many vocalists seemed driven to "improve" on songs by playing with their rhythm or style, the instrumental versions of beloved songs tended to be fairly consistent.
As she drove through the sparsely populated "back" streets, she noticed the first tiny grey flakes of snow. Between the sight of that and the Christmas tunes, she felt her spirits beginning to lift. Other than her continued and sometimes painfully complicated friendship with Dana, there hadn't been a whole lot to smile about the last several months. Particularly on the work front, since she and John had taken the fall for Mulder's actions and subsequent re-disappearance. Scully would have fallen with them, but she'd resigned before the Bureau had a chance to reprimand her. And Monica rather suspected Skinner or Kersh had pulled some strings, since the woman had been allowed to keep her teaching position. She and John had been lucky in their own way, since they both still had jobs with the FBI, but they'd had to deal with most of the fallout from the whole situation. John had somehow managed to remain a field agent, though not in the X-Files section. She, however, had been taken out of the field and dumped in Analytical.
The situation had depressed her for quite a while, since it wasn't what she'd trained for. But she'd finally managed to find her niche. Just in the last three weeks, she'd realized that she really liked the work she was doing. She liked working mostly on her own, liked using her mental database to help her find correlations and piece disparate bits of information together to form a pattern. It was like a puzzle and one of the few areas in which her intuition was clearly valued, rather than ridiculed. Her satisfaction with her job had helped her overall mood considerably.
And now it was snowing and she was off for a long weekend. And she was going to spend some quality time with Dana this evening, not just time finding physical release. All in all, it was no wonder that she was feeling better about life than she had in a while. She was so caught up in her own thoughts (and humming along with the music) that she felt a sense of surprise when she realized she'd just hit Dana's street. Pulling up to the curb, she set the car in park, turned off the engine, and sat for a moment, watching the snow fall. The flakes were fatter now fluffy and white and it didn't take long before a thin layer covered the windshield.
Getting out of the car, she was surprised to see Dana standing in the doorway, clearly waiting for her. Despite the fact that the snow barely covered the ground, she still walked carefully, cautious not to slip on the wet walkway. She smiled at Dana as she walked up the front steps, and received a wide smile in return. The other woman stepped back into the house, still holding the door open, and Monica entered. Carefully, she wiped her shoes on the mat, getting ready to take them off.
She felt a hand on her arm and looked over at Dana, her attention focusing in on the woman's eyes. Sorrow, joy, relief all three were reflected in the blue-green gaze. Before she had time to wonder about it, or ask about it, Scully's quiet voice met her ear. "Go ahead and take your shoes off and hang up your coat. I'll get the coffee started."
Monica nodded briefly in response. Watching the other woman flit out of the entryway like a shadow, she stared thoughtfully after her. She knew Scully's year had been exceedingly rough but there was a vulnerability about the woman tonight that was new. She'd been there through it all watching as Dana put on her practical face to give William up for adoption, her stoic face to let Mulder leave again, her no-nonsense face to deal with the Bureau, and her dispassionate face to cope with the disapproval (and subsequent alienation) from her mom and brother. Through all those times, she'd never seen the other woman as anything other than in-control and tough. Even when she and Dana were in bed the one way in which she'd seen the other woman grieving over her losses there had never been vulnerability. The other woman was always in control. She loved Dana, and wanted to comfort her and make her happy so she lay back and let the other woman set the pace, do what she wanted, take what she needed.
Seeing the vulnerability now, her heart ached for her friend, realizing for almost the first time just how much the other woman kept bottled up inside.
She casually hooked her jacket on the coat rack and kicked her shoes into the corner. Odd as it felt, she carried her purse with her and set it down under the desk in the living room. While she could have left it in the entryway with the rest of her stuff, her years in the FBI had taught her never to leave something so personal out in plain sight. And especially not on this night, where thieves were just watching for homeowners to head to church, leaving their presents out under their trees, or other easy targets. Of course, with presents being wrapped, the thieves didn't have the best odds in the world of getting something actually worth cash money. She had to wonder if there were ever times when a Christmas burglar walked away from an evening's "work" with nothing more than huge bundles of underwear, socks, and sweaters.
The odd tangent of her thoughts had her chuckling as she headed into the kitchen. Not surprisingly, Dana looked up quizzically at her. She smiled at the implicit question and mumbled a summation of her thoughts. The concern she'd felt earlier about the woman only intensified when the comment didn't even merit a smile. Despite her outwardly cool persona, Scully had a quirky sense of humor really, who could work for years with Fox Mulder and not develop a weird sense of humor? Monica had expected some sort of amusement at her statement, but instead the other woman was frowning as she poured the mugs of coffee. She studied Dana for a long moment as she stirred cream and sugar into the drinks, seeing the fatigue lines in a too-thin face. She hadn't really noticed before that her friend-cum-bedmate had lost so much weight in the past year.
The sudden observation froze her in place for a moment, and she was glad that the other woman was still puttering around, putting the cream back in the fridge and plating up a variety of store-bought goodies. It alarmed her that she hadn't noticed any of this before now. Granted, she'd had her own serious issues to deal with. But still, she should have noticed something as telling as this. Of course, she thought with a rare burst of bitterness, Dana had been using her for sex so that they didn't have to talk about some of the things that had happened.
Abruptly, she picked up the mugs of coffee and headed into the living room, leaving the other woman to finish in the kitchen. While she knew it would look like a helpful gesture, it was really so that she could have a moment alone with her thoughts. It was so easy to lay all the blame on Dana to say the other woman was at fault for using her without regard to her feelings. And it was true that there were so many things they had never talked about. And yes, there were times when she was angry, justifiably angry, that the other woman had never asked if she was okay with the change in their friendship.
Then again, she'd never said otherwise. She'd never once refused when Dana asked if she could come over. She'd never said or done anything to indicate that she was uncomfortable with what was happening between them. She'd never been anything but responsive and enthusiastic when they had sex. She'd never once asked any of the hard questions about Mulder or William.
The truth was that if she had been used, she was the one who let it happen. Not even out of some lofty sense of love, because Monica Reyes was anything but a doormat. Yes, she loved the other woman, had a weakness for her, and would never refuse her. But she'd let things play out the way she had because she wanted the intimate contact. She'd been able to fulfill a number of fantasies by letting Dana Scully in her bed. If she'd ever said "no," she knew that the other woman would have stopped. And while she'd been holding a pity party in her own mind about the crappy year she'd had, she'd fully ignored the signs of what was going on around her.
Clearly, being a sensitive didn't always mean sensitivity.
She blew out a breath she wasn't aware she'd been holding. Setting the mugs down on the aptly named coffee table, she moved over to the picture window, pulling back a corner of the curtain so she could see outside. She stood watching the snow fall, feeling her negative thoughts calming, subsiding. What had happened up to now could not be changed but the future would be what they made it. Where that thought came from, she didn't know, but it gave her a sense of perspective that she had been lacking up to now.
A sound behind her made her turn, and she saw that Dana had set down the plate of treats and settled herself on the couch. She let the curtain fall back into place and padded over to the couch, sitting down and reaching over to pick up a piece of fudge. Munching contentedly, she surreptitiously watched the redhead take tiny sips of her coffee. Swallowing, she picked up her own mug and washed down the chocolate with the highly sugared caffeine. She felt like she should be saying something, but she really didn't know what. To cover her own sense of uncertainty, she picked up a sugar cookie.
Thankfully or perhaps not so thankfully Dana saved her from having to start any conversation. As she swallowed the last bit of cookie, she heard the woman's quiet question. "When I walked in, you looked so serious and so off-kilter. What were you thinking about, Monica?"
She took a quick swig of coffee, to avoid choking on any residual cookie crumbs. Then, she took a deep breath, not entirely sure how to answer that particular question. Before she consciously knew what direction she wanted the conversation to go, her subconscious took over. Her words were as quiet as Dana's had been.
"I was thinking about you and me us our relationship, whatever it is. Everything."
She couldn't look directly at the woman as she spoke, instead focusing her attention on the wooden tabletop. This was the conversation they should have had a long time ago and she wasn't entirely sure she wanted to be having it now. In a flash, she realized just why she hadn't asked any questions, why she hadn't ever turned the woman out of her bed. She had wanted to keep what they had flawed and painful as it could be rather than take the risk of losing it all if a conversation showed that they wanted two entirely different things.
When she heard a profound sigh, she turned her head slightly to look at the woman sitting beside her. She couldn't read the expression on Dana's face, and her tone was almost studiously neutral. "It's times like these when I realize just how psychic you are. That's actually the reason I called and asked you to come over tonight." Then the neutrality bled out of the woman's tone, and Monica was surprised to hear notes of both fear and sadness. "We should have had this conversation a while ago, but I'm a coward and could never bring myself to do it. I've already lost so much I couldn't bear the thought that I might lose you too."
Whatever Monica had expected to hear, that wasn't it. She felt the old protectiveness and instinct to comfort coursing through her. "It's okay, Dana. You're not going to lose me. You could never lose me." Reaching out, she put her hand on the woman's forearm, caressing gently. She was surprised when the other woman shook off the contact.
"Don't make promises you might not be able to keep."
She sat shock still on the couch, feeling as though she'd skipped over a few lines in the conversational script. Intellectually, she knew she hadn't that she hadn't zoned out and missed something important. But she was clearly not on the same page as the other woman. She fought to find words, feeling as though she should be saying something. A tiny nudge from her subconscious told her to stop, told her that in this as in so many other things she ought to let Dana take the lead. Trusting that inner voice, she sat still and silent, waiting.
She watched as the other woman ran a shaky hand through messy auburn hair and sighed deeply. "God, this is hard, Monica. I I don't even know what to say where to start."
Her fingers itched to reach out again and offer a reassuring touch. Somehow, she restrained herself, knowing that right now there was nothing she could do to make things easier for her friend. It had always been her default, to step in and try and fix everything for the people around her. Sometimes, like now, she was starkly reminded that there were things that she simply couldn't (or shouldn't) help with.
When Dana shifted on the couch and turned to look at her, it surprised her. She licked her lips nervously, responding to the serious look in the woman's eyes, and forced herself to sit still and concentrate on her obviously tense friend.
"Before I say anything else, I owe you an apology." Dana's words were quiet, and laced with genuine regret. "I've been incredibly selfish, taking advantage of our friendship and of your giving nature. I'm sorry for making you feel like you needed to sleep with me to comfort me." From the way the woman's voice caught in the middle of the sentence, Monica could tell how hard this conversation was for her, and was struck anew at her friend's strength of will for doing it at all.
She wanted to respond to the apology, but didn't speak quickly enough. Dana's voice was shaky, but the words were a steady trickle, like water trapped behind a dam finally finding a hole to break through the barrier. "I knew that you weren't interested in me romantically, and it was selfish of me to indulge my own fantasies I used you and I'm I'm ashamed of myself for that." There was a measurable pause, during which Monica wondered if her ears were deceiving her, before Scully continued speaking, her tone now laced with fear.
"I didn't want to talk about any of this, because I can't imagine my life without your friendship. But I can't go on like I have been acting like a spoiled child and hurting you in the process because I have seen how much this hurts you. I need to stay out of your bed and need to stop disrupting your life every time I'm feeling lonely. It's not fair of me to take advantage of you like that, when I know the only reason you've put up with it this long is because you feel sorry for me. You deserve so much better than that than me."
She saw that Dana had dropped her eyes to her lap and realized she needed to say something, particularly after that last, startling sentence. Ok, so yes the woman had used her and she'd let it happen. But the conversation had taken an unexpected turn several words back and Monica couldn't help going back to that point.
"What do you mean 'I knew you weren't interested romantically'?"
Greenish eyes popped up to focus on her and she could see the puzzled look in them. The confusion was even more evident when Dana opened her mouth. "When I first met you, I got the feeling you had some interest in me as something other than a friend. But you never responded to any of my flirting or to any of the hints I'd dropped. And you kept asking about Mulder and I and I just well, I assumed that was your way of telling me you weren't interested in me."
Monica had fully intended to take a sensitive approach to this conversation, knowing how nervous her friend was. But that plan went out the window with her sheer incredulousness at what she was hearing. Not pausing to think about phrasing or anything, she blurted out, "You've got to be kidding me." Seeing the hurt look that crept onto Dana's face, she quickly amended, "I didn't mean that in quite the way it sounded. It's just "
She paused for a moment, putting her thoughts in order, deciding to lay everything out on the table since this could well be one of the most important conversations of her life. "I fell for you the first day I met you, Dana. Maybe you were using me, but I let you do it. It's easy to say that it's simply because I love you and could never refuse you anything but it's got a lot to do with the fact that I wanted everything I could get from you and having you in my bed fulfilled a number of my fantasies. It hurt because I thought you were just looking for comfort, but it didn't change the fact that I love you and value your friendship." She paused again then added quietly, "I picked up on your hints, but didn't act on them because I knew you loved Mulder. I wasn't entirely sure in what way you loved him, but I swore to myself that I would never get in the way of that. It wasn't because I wasn't interested just because I didn't really know if you were."
From the look of surprise on the other woman's face, she realized for the first time how her attempts to be noble and self-sacrificing had come across as something entirely different. And it occurred to her just how damaging a lack of communication could be. She was suddenly aware that a good portion of the angst both of them had suffered over the past few months was due to the fact that they'd never once talked about any of what was happening. And the blame for that lay with both of them.
With a tiny laugh of disbelief, she said ruefully, "If this were a movie, it would be something of a tragicomedy about the effects of miscommunication."
She watched as Dana processed that thought, and felt a sense of relief when a small smile lit up the woman's face. "Given just how messed up things seem to be, it would probably be more of a farce."
The comment made her chuckle quietly. Then, recalling the heart of the conversation, she sobered and said, "I'm sorry," at the same moment that Dana said the exact same thing. The synchronicity made them both smile and Monica felt a subtle lightening of her spirits, a relief that they were finally dealing with the proverbial elephant in the room that had been haunting them for the better part of a year.
She opened her mouth, and then shut it again, not quite sure what direction she wanted to take things from here. Before she could come to any conclusions, she heard Dana's voice, tinged with layers of emotion she couldn't quite decipher. "Before we go any further in this conversation, there are two things I need to say. One is that I do love you as a friend, and I hope I'll have the chance to see how much deeper that love can go."
The careful phrasing almost made Monica smile, since if their lives had been made into some kind of movie, the scene would have called for a declaration of undying love. Dana's statement clearly didn't qualify. But seeing the intense and serious look in the woman's eyes, she kept her amusement to herself, and took the sentence as it was meant: that Dana had feelings for her, and was asking for a chance to see if they would blossom into romantic love.
And then, she was distracted from her own internal monologue as the woman continued speaking. "The second thing I need to say is that I am sorry for all the pain I've caused you, all the misunderstandings I've allowed to build up. I don't expect you to forgive me, but I hope you know how much I regret what I did, and that I would change things if I could."
It sounded like Scully had more she wanted to say, but Reyes could see the sudden glassiness in her eyes. Without thinking, she scooted over on the couch, and covered the woman's hand with her own, caressing gently. She made her words as emphatic as possible wanting to make sure Dana really understood what she was saying. "Tell you what: I'll forgive you if you forgive me. I should have asked what was going on instead of just assuming I knew and feeling like I was being used." She silenced the other woman's automatic attempt to shoulder the full blame with a gentle hand over her mouth. "Ok, so you feel like you used me and I feel like I should have told you what I was thinking and feeling and I should have asked what was going on in your head and heart."
She let that thought hang in the air for a while, giving Dana time to absorb it, and trying to sort out what she was feeling right at that moment. The thought she'd had earlier while watching the snow came back to her, and she swirled it around in her brain for a moment, weighing its truth against her truth from the past several months. And with one of the flashes of insight that tended to mark all the important decisions in her life, she knew what she needed and wanted to say.
"Look, Dana, we can sit here and keep playing the blame game, and it's not going to change anything. We both were in bad shape emotionally with everything that had happened, and we both made mistakes. It wasn't just you I screwed up too. We can't change that. But what we can do is talk about it, get it out in the open, and try to let it go. I know it's not quite that simple the residual feelings of guilt and hurt might take a while to heal completely. But once we clear the air, once we get out all the stuff that we've kept bottled up, we'll be on the right path. The bottom line for me is that I still love you, and nothing that's happened has changed that. And if I'm hearing you right, you have feelings for me and want to see if a relationship between us would work."
Pausing for a minute, she watched Dana closely, seeing the hope painted openly on the woman's features. Then, she continued, her voice clear and strong. "In a week, we'll be ringing in a new year. Let's put the past behind us and look together towards the future. We've both already lost so much we deserve a chance at happiness."
As she sat, waiting to hear the woman's response, she took a deep breath, focusing her attention on the far wall. Exhaling slowly, she felt a sense that a burden had been lifted from her shoulders. No matter what happened from this point on, she knew she had let go of some of the baggage she'd been carrying around.
She felt a slightly calloused hand squeezing hers, and turned her gaze back to the woman sitting next to her. There were tears in Dana's eyes, but she got the sense that they were from relief from happiness. And when the woman spoke, her voice slightly husky, Monica knew that things were going to be alright. "You're right; we can't change anything that's happened. And even though I still think the blame is mine, I'll forgive you if you'll forgive me." There was a pause then, and she was caught slightly off-guard when the woman leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to her cheek. "And yes, I do have feelings for you, Monica I don't know quite what to call them but I want us to be together. I'm amazed that you're still willing to give me a chance, but I'm glad you are. I can deal with everything else in my life, as long as you're a part of it."
The heart-felt sincerity in the words touched her deeply, and she reached out to pull Dana into a hug. This was more than she'd ever dared dream, more than she would have let herself ask for. She knew they had a long night ahead of them, since they needed to talk about everything that had happened. But she couldn't help but feel a sense of optimism, a sense of rightness. This was the path she was supposed to be walking, and she was glad she'd listened to her inner self to be able to follow it.
She felt the other woman pull out of the embrace and loosened her hold. While there were still traces of tears on the other woman's face, there was a peace in her eyes that Monica had never seen there before. She couldn't contain her smile at the sight.
Her smile widened when Dana reached out and traced a single finger down her cheek. The touch was both innocent and intimate. It amazed her a sense that despite the physical intimacy they'd shared during sex, they'd never really touched in this way, with their emotions open and unguarded. She wanted to share the thought with the other woman, but knew that now was not the right time. They still had too much to sort through, and their feelings were still too raw. So in an odd way, it was a relief when Dana moved her hand away and cleared her throat.
"Since it looks like we're going to be up for a while, I was thinking about making some fresh coffee." Monica looked reflexively at her now-cold mug as Dana spoke, and wrinkled her nose in distaste. The other woman obviously saw her reaction, since she heard a soft chuckle.
She nodded in response to the idea, but dovetailed on it with her own thought. "I don't know about you, Dana, but I didn't really have a chance to eat dinner. And while sugar is one of the five major food groups and all, I'm thinking maybe we both could use something a little heartier. Maybe we can find a place to deliver Thai or Chinese or something."
When she saw Dana's enthusiastic head nod, she smiled. "It's funny when you first got here, I was anything but hungry, even though I haven't eaten all day. But suddenly, I'm starving. Tell you what, you go make the coffee and I'll start making phone calls."
She didn't bother to respond verbally, just picked up both mugs in one hand and the plate of goodies with the other, and headed back into the kitchen. Fishing around in the freezer, she pulled out a bag of French Roast and started measuring it out into the filter. Humming a Christmas tune, she got the coffee brewing. Then, still humming merrily, she emptied the cold contents of the mugs, rinsed them, and dried them. Once that was done, she got out the foil and wrapped up the plate of holiday treats. As she wiped down the counter top, where she'd managed to spill a few crumbs, her humming gave way to a burst of song.
"It's the most wonderful time of the year "
Monica woke up slowly, warm and drowsy under a thick down comforter. It was a rare morning when she didn't have to wake up to the blare of the alarm, and she reveled in the sensation, lying still under the blankets and keeping her eyes closed. For several moments, she drifted in and out of a light doze.
She wasn't sure what finally woke her brain up for good: the faint aroma of coffee or the sensation of light against her eyelids. It didn't really matter, as the end result was the same. She didn't open her eyes immediately, but was still struck by the sense that something wasn't quite right. The sounds weren't quite what she was used to hearing from her apartment, and the mattress felt a little softer than usual. Frowning, she tried to figure out whether she was just overtired and imagining things. Then it came back to her in a sudden rush. She wasn't at home. She was at Dana's.
Slowly, she opened her eyes and reached up to rub them sleepily. Her vision was blurred and she squinted at the bedside clock. The green digital display told her it was one o'clock. A glance at the grey light filtering through the white gauze of the curtains let her know it wasn't AM. Of course, she thought with a mental chuckle, given that she and Dana had been up talking until nearly five in the morning, it wasn't so surprising that she'd slept so late.
Then it suddenly occurred to her that something was missing and she glanced to her right. The comforter on that side of the bed was pulled neatly up against the pillow, telling her that her bedmate was already up and awake. Then again, if she'd been thinking more clearly, the smell of coffee would have told her the same thing.
Once again, she laughed, but this time it was out loud. Last night was the first time she and Dana had ever slept in the same bed without, well, sleeping together, in the common sense of the phrase. After their long, exhausting, and emotionally draining conversation, it had felt incredibly good to curl up in the other woman's arms and fall asleep cuddling. There was something reassuring about it; a sense that there was a bond between them that transcended friendship and wasn't entirely based on sex. Whatever it was, the mere memory of Dana's fingers gently combing through her hair and soothing her to sleep warmed her through and through.
Reluctant to face the chill of the room, she nevertheless pushed the blankets aside and padded off to the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth. When she'd come over the night before, she hadn't intended to spend the night, so she was thankful that the other woman kept plenty of guest supplies around. She'd slept in one of Dana's over-sized sweatshirts, so her own clothes were relatively unwrinkled and wearable. Once she was finished washing up, she dressed quickly and headed back to the bedroom to make the bed. Then, she followed the smell of coffee and headed to the kitchen.
She poured herself a cup, noting that the other woman hadn't yet drunk more than a cup herself, judging by the amount still left in the pot. Taking a cautious sip, she tasted the subtle flavor of Chocolate Hazelnut Blend, and decided to drink it black. Flavored coffees weren't usually her thing, but during the time she'd spent hanging out with Dana, she'd discovered she had a taste for this particular one.
Having a pretty good idea where she'd find the other woman, she picked up her mug and walked into the living room. Either Dana was completely lost in thought, or she'd been moving far more quietly than she'd planned. The other woman had opened the curtains and was standing immobile in front of the window, and didn't as much as turn around when Monica entered the room.
For a long moment, she stood still and watched her, feeling a wave of tenderness and protectiveness. And she also felt a sense of awe that of all the people in the world, this amazingly intense and strong and intelligent woman wanted to be with her. They still had issues to deal with, and there was no guarantee that things would work out for them in an actual relationship. But they had the foundation of friendship, and last night they'd made a promise to each other that no matter how difficult, they would talk things out. That was more than she'd had in most of her past relationships, and it gave her a sense that the two of them would be okay.
Clearing her throat, she put her mug down on the coffee table, and walked over to stand behind Dana. She wrapped her arms around the shorter woman and smiled when she felt her leaning back against her. They stood in silence, looking out over the thick snow that had fallen overnight, blanketing everything. Apart from tire tracks weaving down the middle of the street, the layer of white within their view was undisturbed, making the world appear clean and new.
The sky was grey, forecasting more snow to come, and she felt a deep sense of contentment as she stood there holding the woman she loved.
She had a feeling it was going to be a good year.
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