I was awake long before he realised. I remember the feel of his hand as he tucked the duvet around me, and I hoped for a surreptitious kiss, but… nothing. Like I was a stranger.
And then, much later, after he had brought me a coffee, had sat on the very edge of the bed, our bed, as if he was the stranger and not the man I had held last night, he told me. Told me quietly, his voice almost too faint to hear. His eyes refusing to meet mine as if he was ashamed of himself. Or perhaps it was me. I couldn’t even listen, the words made no sense as if he was speaking in a foreign tongue. I wanted to reach out and grab him, to shake him, to see if it was really him, my Ed Straker, my life, but he was too distant. Too far away. Unreachable in more ways than one.
I couldn’t reply, couldn’t speak even. Just watched as he picked up his Glock and walked out. I heard him open the cupboard in the hall, take out the magazine and then slot it back into the gun. That was all he was thinking about. The bloody gun. The rules.
He came back in. In silence. A painful hard silence. I don’t know who was hurting the most. Him or me. Perhaps it was him. I hadn’t seen Ed like that, so distant, so controlled. It was as if we were back to that awful time when he just wanted it to be over… when he wanted…….
No. That was in the past. We have moved on. We are, we were, going to be married. But now? What is there now? If he doesn’t want to marry me where do we go from here? Have I to leave? Leave this home, this life I have made for myself, for us? Will I have to leave SHADO?
I watched him dress. Quick, economical movements, as if he couldn’t bear to be in the same room as me. As if my presence caused him pain. I said his name. Once. ‘Ed’ That was all, and he flinched. There was a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, as if he had hit me. But he would never have done that. Ever.
I leaned back on my pillows, unwanted tears filling my eyes as he moved, his head bowed, shoulders hunched, around the room, picking up everyday items; phone, watch, spare magazine. His eyes avoiding mine.
Enough. The memory of his kiss last night. His lips on mine. His hands. His caress before he fell asleep. What had changed since then. Nothing.
Or had it.
I remembered the phone call he took late last night, his quiet, hushed and almost despairing plea to whoever it was. His stillness when he lay down again. His body rigid, as if trying to convince me that he was asleep. But he hadn’t slept much. That was clear. His eyes lined with tiredness and dark shadows, his mouth drawn and thin. And he had cleaned his gun. He didn’t do that until he was dressed. It needed concentration he always told me. Guns had to be respected. They liked to be treated with due deference. And we had laughed, but it was true.
I spoke his name again, softly this time. ‘Ed’ and he turned to me, eyes afraid of what I was going to say.
There was nothing to say. I held out one hand.
And he came to me. Sat close. Hands, fingers twisting together as if afraid to release them. I reached out, touched his lips, his brow, my fingers gentle on his cheek.
‘Ed.’ Once more. And I held my arms out.
His face pressed into my neck, hands shaking as he clung to me. And I to him, desperate to be needed, to be wanted.
I eased him away, wanting to look into his eyes to know the truth, to hear it said properly. ‘Ed. Tell me again.’
So he did. How he didn’t want to marry me. Then those words that I had not heard the first time. Because he didn’t want to lose me. And this time I listened. Listened properly, and at the end, when his voice had faded, his eyes had turned away from me in despair and hopelessness, I smiled.
‘Ed.’ And I put all my love into that one word.
Later, when we had laughed about it, when we had kissed and held each other we talked about our future together, not as Commander and Colonel Straker, but Commander Straker and Colonel Philips. After all, what difference does a name make? We will be together. If the regulations say we can’t marry and still work together, well, I can cope with that. He needs me. Needs me there in SHADO, not just as his partner, but as his Security Chief.
Marriage or SHADO and being there for him. There really is no choice. As long as I still have him.
He brought me another coffee before he left for the meeting with Henderson. I don’t envy the IAC President, although he was just following the rules. Don’t we all? Chain of Command. It has its reasons, and they are good ones. Oh I know Ed would never show favouritism, in fact if anything he would go out of his way to disprove any suggestion that he was biased towards me, but others might ask questions. Ed has enough to deal with already without that added to his list of problems.
So. No wedding. Well, at least I don’t have to worry about where to seat Uncle Denis now. That is one relief.
I got up and opened the door. Ed had never looked in my wardrobe, ever. It hung there, mute, accusing, unworn, and now unwearable. In its heavy wrapper, on the beautifully decorated hanger that my mother had given me.
Heavy ivory satin, embroidered with delicate stars picked out in seed pearls.
My wedding dress.
I closed the door. Looked at the clock
08.10. I was going to be late.
LtCdr Feb 2011
Notes: Bloody hell. This just poured out of me. Late at night, after three glasses of Merlot. I have, right now NO idea whether it is total rubbish or not. I will leave that decision to my beta-reader.
But I think it is how Rachel might have felt.
Oh, and Uncle Denis? Yes, he existed. For real.