Lodestone: A Wynston/Ruth Alternate Universe
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01.12.2013 , 01:25 AM |
Epilogue, part 6: Second Thoughts, or, kabeone said I could rip open Wynston's psyche and pull out all the things. This poor man. In prime universe he went through his life in blissful ignorance and/or denial of a ton,
, of this stuff.
L+ 15 years 7 months
Ruth was a heavy sleeper, but she opened her eyes one night when the door opened to admit Wynston. He let it close slowly and quietly. A smell wafted in with him.
Ruth sniffed. "Is that…whisky?"
He stopped cold. "In point of fact, it is. Can I interest you in some?"
"You don't usually drink alone." She had never known he did.
"I can't tell if that was a yes or a no."
"It's a no, love. Is something wrong?"
"No. Which is itself rather unusual, as I was just thinking."
"You're expecting things to be wrong?" Ruth rubbed at her sleepy eyes. "Wynston, what time is it?"
"A little after three."
"And what is going on?"
"At the moment? You are lying in my bed. Our bed. We, jointly, have a bed."
"We've been sharing a bed for quite some time."
"Not like this. I mean, six months is a respectable run for partnered life to date…I suppose that's the point."
His matter-of-factness didn't bother her much, but the alcohol did. "You're starting to worry me."
"Don't, darling. I was just thinking."
"Talk to me."
Wynston moved in the darkness to lean someplace well away from the bed. His voice was low and pensive. "I've had partners before," he said. "Close ones, not as close as you, but all day every day company for months at a time. I get restless, Ruth. It gets crowded, stifling. The quirks get old, the predictable things get older. I want space, I want something new. I can't stand to be tied down. That's just how I am, it's one of the reasons I chose this way of life. Even with my oldest contacts, the only reason I'm still on speaking terms with Vector is he goes off to his respectable job for a while every few weeks. To be trapped inevitably goes from tolerable to chafing to torture as time goes on."
Her heart sank, but she thought he might be willing to work something out. "Then I can go for now," she said.
"That's the thing. It isn't happening this time. Maybe it's just that I'm in love with you, I don't know. I feared that might not be enough. But…here I am, and here you are, and there's nowhere else I'd rather be." He lapsed into silence for a little while. "What we had before, my coming to you and then going again. I know you accepted it, but for me it was more than nice. It was ideal exactly because I could leave."
Ruth's stomach twisted. "Is that how you decided when to go away? When you got bored?"
"I never got bored with you. But I lived in terror of the day I would. I tried not to get attached, and that failed, and that just meant that the inevitable ending would be even worse. So I left before it happened. Work was a good excuse; really it was the kindest thing to do. What do you think is worse: limiting our passion to maybe a tenth of the time, or sticking around only to turn around one day and say 'On second thought I'm tired of doing this, goodbye'?"
"Why were you so sure that would happen?"
"I told you I get restless with the work partners." His inhalation hissed a little. He held the breath for a moment, then spoke. "And there was a girl, a very long time ago. I was very young and clumsier I am now. I broke her heart and I didn't understand why I did it. One day I just didn't want to be there anymore; I couldn't explain or excuse it. My feelings – and, Ruth, they were deep, or so I thought – they ended, and hers didn't, and I still haven't forgotten the look on her face, the way she was after. What I did to her. Since then I disengage early, before unreliable feelings can take hold.
"I wanted to duck out early with you. Even before I loved you I admired you, your ideals, your resolve, your humor. You. I didn't want to hurt you. I wanted to have fun with you, help you if I could, but avoid getting your hopes up. Then leave. But I found that the only thing I wanted more than leaving was coming back. That complicated things. I'm drawn to you. I always was. I couldn't stop that, I could only try to compensate, to keep it from failing.
"Now I find myself in something of a bind. This seems to be lasting even when we're up close like this. But if it does just stop one day, then everything we've shared was a cruel waste of your time. And if it doesn't, then it would've been safe to stay earlier, and every day we spent apart was a cruel waste of your time."
"That's an awfully harsh way to look at a very good relationship."
"A relationship that makes me happy, Wynston. That makes us both happy, and has for many years. I'm not sure how much of the bitterness here is the whisky talking. I wish you hadn't done that."
"Honestly, I don't do it much. It's only when things go wrong and I can't talk to you or Vector."
"Ruth, I've had a relationship with this a lot longer than I've had one with you. Albeit on much less friendly terms."
"So are things going wrong now? Is that why you're up at this hour drinking?"
"No. I just wanted to see whether it looked different from here. It doesn't. I'm still in love with you and I still want to stay." He took a deep breath. "Amazing what one finds to think about at three in the morning. I didn't mean to get melodramatic."
"I never knew all this."
"No. This is the one I kept to myself."
The taste of whisky was sharp and unpleasant. She kissed him anyway. She wrapped her arms around him, letting his feverish heat warm her, and felt a little surge of happiness when he relaxed in her arms.
"I love you," she told him. "Everything you are. Everything you do. I don't know if that makes a difference but it's true."
"And I love you," he said. "That changes everything."
"If you ever want space, let me know." It hurt to say it, but if he needed it he needed it.
"If I ever want space I'm not sure I can face you again."
"Of course you can face me." She kissed him again, and he was warm and close and utterly good.
"I don't think of it this way all the time," he said softly. "Being with you like this, every day is paradise. When I invited you here there wasn't a thought in my mind but wanting you. No regrets, darling. I was just…this occurred to me recently and I had to think about it." He dove to hide his face against her neck. "Melodramatic. Stars, when I was away I could sort this sort of thing out myself without worrying you."
"I want to hear it."
"You want to hear everything. We should sleep, darling. I'll be here in the morning. And you will. And I'm going to be completely, insanely happy, again, because you do that to me. If that ever stops it'll be my fau–"
She cut him off with another kiss. He returned it in a way that clearly stated he was willing to end the conversation on this note instead. Then he subsided to rest his head on her chest, and she slid her fingers through his hair and went to sleep. If he was still worried in the morning she wanted to be rested and awake to reassure him no matter what.
I very strongly feel that unreliable men don't magically reform when they meet the right girl, so I'm not sure what to think of this. Except that separate field assignments every now and then might be to their benefit.
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