Disclaimer: Paramount owns them, I just borrowed them briefly to have my way with them. :-)
"Will, perhaps this was a mistake."
Her words were sincere; he could gauge that from her tone and from the myriad of emotional turmoil that shone undeniably through her dark eyes. They were words spoken honestly and heartfelt, for he knew she was capable of no less. Yet despite the awkwardness of the situation and the unquestionable instability her words *should* have evoked, he could barely conceal his knowing grin.
He knew her too well - had learned through the years to interpret the way her shoulders rose and fell based on the passion of her speech. The way her hands would constantly move to emphasize the motion of her body when she spoke with nervousness: breasts thrust out, eyes wide and filled with tears that rarely actually fell. The way her hair bounced with the motion of her head, ever shiny and luminescent - a dark contrast to the pink flush of her skin… All signs that painted a portrait of fear and immense unease.
He wondered briefly if she had any idea how intently he had studied her throughout the years, and how easy he’d come to know and interpret her: her moods, her quirks, the very real emotions between the carefully crafted walls of the seemingly unflappable ship’s counselor. Although he also knew that she could read him just as easily, empath or not, and there was a certain comfort in that.
He saw the hurt passed through her eyes when she realized that her words hadn’t had the effect on him she was probably expecting, and there was a comfort in that as well… Although he only gave it a passing thought before meeting her eyes firmly - determined to confront her with the truths he had long since realized.
"That would be far too easy, Deanna," he said bluntly, recognizing that his voice sounded harsher than he intended, but not regretting it. There was no way he was letting her off the hook… not this time.
His choice of words confused her, he read that in her as well, but he knew it wasn’t their meaning that threw her off. Deanna was more capable than anyone at reading people, at deciphering speech and purpose. Hell, it was her job to do it. Not to mention that she was extremely intelligent regardless- one of the many aspects of her he had fallen in love with.
So no, it wasn’t the words that confused her as much as it was his intent behind them. Not that he meant to keep her guessing for long.
"We could pretend the Briar Patch never happened. Write it off as the youth inducing effects of the radiation we just experienced, and pretend that we haven’t been secretly wanting, waiting… expecting this to happen for years," he deliberately punctuated each word with a flare for certainty, drawing closer and closer to her physically while maintaining eye contact. He had to make her see…
"We could imagine that I don’t love you, and you don’t love me," he continued brutally, feeling his anger rise - not that he intended to get angry, and not that he intended to hurt her with his words, but damnit, he couldn’t do this anymore. He couldn’t live with her, or himself, if he allowed their dance of the past eleven years to continue. "We can be the best of friends, entirely ignoring the fact that I want you, and you want me. I could persist in having restless nights dreaming about you - remembering your scent, the shape of your body, the way your skin feels naked and pressed against mine…"
Her eyes were wide and unfathomably dark as he moved closer still; the perfect window into a soul he knew as well as his own. And he read so much there - so many things that she would never say... She didn’t need to.
He saw her desire, her longing, her curiosity… her pain. Saw the remnants of a hurt he had inflicted on her years ago, and her fear that history might again repeat. And he understood all of it with painful clarity. Perhaps more than he was meant to. Yet enough to feel innate sorrow: not entirely ashamed of the admittedly brash and self serving decision he had made in youth - for he wouldn’t apologize for the path his life had taken, or the years they had known one another as friends. But repentant of the hurt he had caused her. And the wariness.
Still, he knew that now, in this time, in this instant, he was right about them, and he wouldn’t back down. He wanted her so badly. Wanted her more than he had ever wanted anything before; even her the first time they had met.
He moved to where he was practically leaning over her, on her couch, in her quarters, violating her space. Allowing his face to pause just inches from hers, so that he could bask in the heat they radiated- him and her. Bask in what it felt like to be so deliciously close: to have their breath mingle, and to hear her heart race in tangent with his own.
"I could go back to taking other woman to my bed," he whispered in her ear, desperate to keep the choke out of his voice over the prosperousness of the idea. He couldn’t do that again - refused to go back to it. Not after having Deanna these past few days. There would no longer be any satisfaction to it. Because he knew now, or rather he remembered, what true intimacy really was...
He felt as much as saw her shudder. Although whether it was in response to his words, or her sense of his own tangled emotions, he couldn’t say. "Could touch them, experience them - all the while searching for something they could never provide: the will to commit, the longing for someone they could never hope to live up to…"
It was a bold move to reach out and cup his hand over her clothed breast. He knew that. But he felt the innate need to establish contact between them, and she made no move to stop him. If possible, her impossibly dark eyes darkened even further, and he got the sense that he was drowning… falling… merging into her through them. But it no longer intimidated him like it used to during previously unguarded moments throughout the years. Not anymore.
Either way he had her full attention, as she had his. She always had, really, if he were honest with himself. And for the first time in years; he was trying.
Her utter silence was deafening, crashing in on both of them but he refused to stop… not until he was finished. Not until she knew undoubtedly where he stood.
"And you," he breathed, forcing himself through the next part, hard as it may be. "Can see other men. Can pretend, as I have, that there is a chance, one day, that we might both forget. Even though that day hasn’t come in almost twelve years."
His voice cut off when he felt her mood change. He could almost physically see his words sink in. Could watch as the truth of them dawned on her: without the pretense of fear, or intimidation, or change to mar their honest complexity.
Neither she, nor he, were very good at lying; at least not to each other. And yet, for years, they had. He had realized that the moment that, by the grace of whatever holy being was out there, he had been allowed to touch her as a lover once more. And now she knew it to. Or, at least, he had forced her to see what they had been doing from behind the shield of self-preservation.
It had been so easy to hide behind their fears, combined and separate. So easy to cling to the job, the ship, the crew, their past, their present, and a multitude of other reasons to remain safely platonic and never risk losing control.
Yet without the tainting of their past experiences, they were simply a man, and a woman, who had never really learned how to love… except with each other.
"I believe you psychiatrists have a word for it," he finished at last, breaking her moment of clarity, driven to complete all that he had intended to say, even if it was no longer necessary. "Denial."
Her eyes burned into his, at once indignant and knowing. And for awhile she contented herself to remain that way: quiet and staring, until she reached up slowly to caress his clean shaven cheek with a light touch of her finger tips. Her lips turned up in a small smile, amazingly fitting despite the awkwardness of the moment just seconds before. Her fingers seemed to burn where she touched him, but it was a good kind of burn. Pleasant. Electric. The kind he had sought for years after leaving her that first time, but had never quite found.
"I miss the beard," she announced, jolting him out of the charged tension that had fallen between them, seemingly denying him a response to his earlier allegations.
"But you’re the one that wanted it off," he couldn’t help but explain, only briefly confused, before he realized what she was doing and why.
"I made a mistake," she replied simply, an eerie echo of her earlier words. Her smile grew as she regarded him, a brilliant light coming to sparkle in her eyes… One that hadn’t been there before, through the cloud of uncertainty that had existed when she had first spoken. "It appears we’ve made a lot of mistakes, you and I."
"But not this, not now. Not with anything that has happened during or since the Briar Patch," he answered fiercely, longing to reach out and clasp her to him, but holding back. She had to say it...
"No," she agreed, at last. "Not in anything that has happened between us these past few days."
His own smile grew, he felt it as surely as he felt the increase of his pulse and the ever increasing rise of his love for her. And he knew that the look on his face was undoubtedly a combination of triumph, and happiness, but he wouldn't dare censor it. Not this time. He wanted to love her freely. Wanted to know she wouldn't shy away this time. But she still had yet to say...
"For the record, 'denial' would never have been the word I would have chosen to describe the status of our friendship. We made great friends, Will," she continued, tracing the outline of his lips while visibly collecting her thoughts.
"But...," he inserted for her, knowing there was more, yet also realizing it was a step for her to voice it. They had known each other so long, briefly as lovers, but mostly as friends. They had seen the best and worst of each other. Had been with each other through the harshest of times, and also the happiest. Yet through it all they had struggled to resist the pull that gravitated one to the other. Years spent training themselves to reign in their emotions, to school their features to hide the depth of the feelings within.
It would be hard, he knew, to adjust. He wasn't expecting it to be easy. But he desperately wanted to try. He wanted her to try too.
He had been waiting for years to try again. Everything he had worked for - had once held sacred above all else; he wanted to share with her. Already had, in a way. But it was no longer enough, and it hadn't been for a long time.
"But I love you," she said at last, taking that final, courageous step by her own accord.
And finally, he reached for her. No longer able to resist, no longer needing to. He squeezed her tightly to him, trying to convey the depth of his feelings for her through the warmth of his embrace. He took in her scent, her taste, the way she felt, small and wonderful, in his arms and he closed his eyes, overcome by the power of his own emotions. It was ecstasy to hold her - heaven to finally admit his own long kept desire.
"I love you too."