fleetingmadness: (john motherfucking watson)
[personal profile] fleetingmadness
title: tell me what all this sighing's about
warnings: death and grief.
summary: She's been dead for six days when she finds her way to his apartment.



They had only ever fucked. They didn't date. They didn't go to dinner or movies or carnivals where he'd try to win her a giant stuffed teddy bear she'd have literally no use for. She had no time for that and he didn't like her nearly enough.

So, they just fucked. They fucked often and with great intent. He liked the impressions her nails made on his back and she was fond of the brush of his mouth against her neck and that was it. They didn't talk, not really, not about anything important.

It was months before she realized that their trysts were the only thing she had to look forward to every week. She stopped calling, waiting for him to do it. He figured it out after a while and stopped calling, too. He would not be beaten.

They went three months without seeing each other. Three months of staring angrily at their phones and stubbornly fucking anyone who offered, desperate to find someone as good. Once he finally decided that a good fuck was well worth his pride, he knocked on her door only to find that someone else was living there.

They went two months and three weeks without seeing each other and then she died.

***

She's been dead for six days when she finds her way to his apartment. He's sitting on the couch eating a sandwich and she wants to slap it out of his hand. “I’m dead, you moron!” she tries to say, positioning herself in front of the television. She attempts to wave her arms around and in his face but nothing happens. She can feel them move, feel the air bend around them, but nothing actually happens. Being dead is fucking strange and she can’t seem to get the hang of it.

He rises and moves to the kitchen, cleaning his plate. She stays where she is and tries to scream at him. Spirits should have powers, right? They can move things and whisper get out in people's ears. Surely they can at least make people feel a chill or something. Not a single person has complained about being cold the entire time she's been wandering around. Not one.

She screams and screams, envisioning lamps and potted plants flying around the room, but nothing happens. He starts to whistle some upbeat tune she barely recognizes and she wants to cry.

Suddenly he pauses and turns his head in her direction, eyebrows furrowed. She tries to scream louder. Maybe this is it!

He walks past her and opens his door, greeting a neighbor or something. She doesn't stay to find out.

She tries to go back home for her funeral but she doesn't know how. She tries to will herself there, imagines standing on her estranged aunt's doorstep surrounded by people she hasn't spoken to in years, but nothing happens. Nothing ever fucking happens.

It takes her two days to definitively decide that she's not going to walk across the country and she probably has to make peace with him before she can ascend to heaven, anyway. Or something. Whatever, it's worth a shot.

When she gets back he's wrapped around a bottle of vodka and she knows she was right.

***

When he was twenty-one, he had his heart broken for the first time. She was a pretty thing, slender and frail, and sometimes he worried he would break her. Looking back, that might be why she left him.

He stopped dating a little while after that. He didn't stop fucking, though, and he was just fine with that, thank you very much. Sure, if he managed to find a good woman to make an honest man out of him, he'd settle down with a smile. But until then, he was just going to have a good time.

A few years after the slender woman broke his heart, he met her. She was different, all curves and red lips and wanting nothing to do with him. She was a friend of an acquaintance, and wanted to keep it that way. He tried to brush it off, but something about her stuck, like a thorn. It took months of running into her at the law firm, random parties, and the local bar before she finally fell into bed with him.

He didn't hear from her for a week after that but the important part is that she called first.

***

He smells like shit. She doesn't know why she can still smell, but she can, and he smells like shit. He's dirty and smelly and disgusting. She doesn't recognize him.

He's watching some stupid movie about love and loss and she wants to hit him. What is wrong with him? Why is he so different?

"Who are you?" she demands, angry when he doesn't respond. "What happened to you?"

He starts to cry again and she thinks about leaving. Heaven isn't worth this.

The phone rings and he ignores it. A voice she doesn't recognize comes out of the machine, commanding him to get out of his apartment. He doesn't move.

She stares at his face, this face she's never seen before, and feels sick. "Who are you?

***

He made her feel good for a reasonable amount of time once a week for six months. It was penned into her calendar like a business meeting, but make no mistake: she did not think of it as business.

It was the only thing in her life that wasn't business, really. It was only once a week that she got to tear off her pantsuit and not be called ma'am. God, she hated when people called her ma'am.

He didn't call her Ma'am or Miss or even Ms. He didn't call her anything other than her name, and only in a throaty groan or panted against her collarbone. She liked that more than she was willing to admit, but she never returned the favor.

She tried to stay silent, to make him work for every moan. It was only once a week that she got to be in charge and she wasn't going to give that up. It took six months of this before she realized that she called first. She always called first. She wasn't the boss over the intercom; she was the secretary trying to set up a meeting.

She deleted his number and tried to pretend she didn't already have it memorized.

***

He's out with a friend she'd never met and she's sitting on the floor of his apartment staring at an empty soda can he left out like a slob. She stares at the can and pictures it flying across the room or flattening into a disk or even just moving ever so slightly. She tries to smash it, to poke it, to touch it but nothing ever happens. She can't even see herself pass through it. She can't see herself at all.

How is she supposed to make peace with him or whatever she is meant to do when she can't interact with anything? She can't hold him or write on walls or whisper in his ear I'm here, I'm here because she's not and it hurts. She can't do anything but listen to his soft sobs when they come and try to reach out with all her might. Why is she still here?

Someone's jingling keys at the door and she stands. There has to be some way to reach out to him, some way to make him feel –

"Are you sure I didn't love her?"

She bristles. He's being carried by his friend, slumped against him, and it briefly registers that this is the first other human she's seen in a long while. He looks unrecognizable again. The friend drags him over to the pull-out couch and settles him in, eyes soft and understanding. "One hundred percent sure, man."

"Then why does it hurt so much?" His voice cracks and she suddenly wants to hold him.

His friend doesn't reply, just drapes a blanket over him and smiles slightly. She follows him out, studying him. She wants to ask him what his answer would have been, whether he even had one, but she can't. She can only not-exist beside him as he walks the long path back to his own apartment in silence. It's so frustrating and confining and she tries to remember what it felt to walk and talk and be noticed.

She can't do that either.

She leaves the friend and slowly makes her way back to the place she now calls home. He's passed out already. She settles in beside him, tries to stroke his hair. She can almost feel it and it's enough for now.

With his face slack and calm with sleep he almost looks like he did before. He looks young and handsome, like he isn't rotting away with misplaced grief. She stares at his face and tries to remember how she felt about him when she was alive. Had she loved him? She remembers the feel of his hands against her skin, the rush of being together, but she can't remember love. She remembers how blue his eyes were and the way they looked when she straddled him but she can't remember if her breath caught in her throat or her stomach fluttered with butterflies or anything you're supposed to feel when you're in love. She feels something when she looks at him, some small and tingling thing, but she cannot name it.

She decides that she had not loved him, but she had not hated him either. She waits for heavenly light to surround her but it doesn't. He continues to sleep and she curls up next to him, painfully aware of her hand not resting on his stomach.

"Come back to me," she says. "I know you can."

***

He's still in bed but he's sober now. She's next to him, watching the TV and pretending she doesn't notice his eyes not moving from the vodka bottle on the floor.

"I think vodka was your favorite."

She slowly turns to look at him. There are dark circles around his eyes. She wants to kiss them away.

"I don't know for sure," he continues, still staring at the bottle, "But you always had some when we met here. You drank it like you didn't get to very often." He chuckles lightly, running a hand over his face. "I always pictured you forcing yourself to drink scotch at office parties, like you thought that's what you were supposed to drink."

She smiles slightly, feeling weathered and worn. "I did sometimes."

"It was always just so funny to me, to picture you sipping at a scotch to keep up appearances. It seemed like something you would do." He gets quieter now, closing his eyes and sighing deeply. "But I didn't know you well enough to know that, did I?"

She wants to tell him that he knew her well enough to guess right but she can't. It proved nothing, anyway.

"What if you were my last chance at love and I fucked it up? What is we were meant to be together but we didn't know it?"

She glances at the floor. Is this what he's so upset about? He opens his mouth to speak again and she wants the words I miss you to come out. Instead, he says, "What if when you stopped calling you were really just busy? What if... what if things could have been different? If I hadn't stop calling, would you have been with me that night instead of on the road?"

She stares at him, jaw tightening.

"Could I have saved you?"

She leaves and she doesn't come back.

***

She's starting to forget things. It takes months of wandering around before she finds somewhere familiar. She moves slowly through the little town for a while and finds herself drawn to the cemetery. She finds a headstone and knows that it's hers. This is her hometown. Somewhere out there are cousins who don't really miss her. That's not fair. She can't know that. She's the one who stopped talking to them. Maybe they still loved her. Maybe family meant more to them than that.

The old town is quiet and still and she can't stand it. She leans against her headstone for weeks, staring at the earth beneath her. Her body's in there. Six feet under, her corpse is rotting and falling apart but she's still here.

She forgets her name every once in a while and she has to turn and look behind her at the letters engraved into her perch. She can't remember any unfinished business she might have had. Sometimes there are flashes - a face, a pang of regret, some words unsaid - but she can't decipher them. Sometimes she sees a face, young and handsome, but she can't remember who it belonged to. She sees it every time she closes her eyes and she wishes she knew why.

She wants to leave, to try and find that young and handsome face, but she feels weighed down. Anytime she tries to move it feels like there are chains wrapped around her legs and arms, keeping her there. So she stays. She stays for weeks and then months, and then she forgets that she ever had a name.

One day a man visits her. He kneels in front of her and sighs heavily. "Hello there," he says. "I'm sorry I haven't visited."

"It's all right," she responds, happy for the attention. The only man who stalks around the cemetery with a flashlight never talks to her.

"I still can't believe they put you here. I know you hate this place."

"Oh, yes, very much so."

"You know, I've been a mess for a long time."

"That's too bad," she says.

"It's your fault," he says, smiling slightly. "It's all your fault."

Her brow furrows and she replies indignantly, "I don't see how that's possible."

"You left me all alone. I didn't know I was alone before, until you left."

"Oh," she says guiltily. "I'm sorry."

"I thought I loved you," he laughs. "I really did."

She laughs with him. "That's nice of you."

"I don't think I really did, though."

She frowns. "Oh."

"I liked you. Hell, maybe I... You were the closest to love I ever came, so maybe it counts." He smiles, eyes glistening. She stares at her feet, embarrassed.

"I don't really know why I'm here. It's a bit late for all this," he continues, clearing his throat. "I've always had terrible timing."

She cocks her head and meets his gaze uncertainly. "Who are you?"

"I'm sorry for that."

"Who are you?" she insists.

"I'm sorry for a lot of things."

"Please, tell me who you are."

He places a small flower at her feet and bends to kiss the headstone, eyes closed. She touches her cheek, eyes wide.

"I miss you," he whispers.

He stands and turns away, pulling his coat tighter around him. She stands, cries out, "Wait!" but he doesn't hear. He keeps walking. "Wait, please! I remember now!" She runs after him, begging him to stay. He gets into a car and she tries to bang on the window. "Please, no! I don't want to forget again," she sobs, and he starts to car.

"I shouldn't have left, I know, please don't leave me now," she chokes, fingers scrabbling at the door handle.

He pauses and turns his head, meeting her gaze. She almost feels her heart beat. He stares through her, and then the car moves forward and away.

She falls to her knees. "Please, no," she whispers. "I need you."

The air around her grows still and everything starts to glow. She thinks But I haven't done anything, and then she's gone.


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