parallel

nc-17 | sexual content, violence

"I want Samantha!"

She didn't really know if he'd actually said it, or if she imagined it. He didn't usually make appearances in her dreams, or at least if he did, she didn't remember them. There were times when she would wake up and her body would tell her that he had - his phantom caresses had warmed her skin - but she was never allowed to retain the actual memories.

Sometimes it felt like everything was stolen from her.

Everything was hazy. Everything was muffled. Everything was happening too quickly for her to think. No, it was too slow. Everything was wrong, and she kept trying to pinpoint exactly when she had lost control of the situation as if that could somehow save her.

Maybe this was a dream, and if she closed her eyes, she'd wake up.

No, that wasn't right. She'd never dreamed about him.


"I want you."

He was stating the obvious at this point. His hands were bunched up in her shirt as he raised it over her head. He could have let his gaze fall down to her exposed chest, but he kept his eyes on hers.

He made no comment on the fact that she wasn't wearing a bra. She could tell that he wanted to ask her. He wanted to know if she had expected him to make love to her when he came over. If that was why she had removed it earlier, when she slipped off to the bathroom.

Actually, she took it off because it hurt. The last time she went underwear shopping, they hadn't had a white bra in her exact size. So she went one size smaller, because she was tired of shopping and needed a new one. She figured it wouldn't make that big a difference. And it hadn't at first. But as the day wore on, it became more and more aggravating, until she finally had to get out of it.

She would have taken it off at the office, but people would have talked.

More.

She undid the buttons on his shirt as if they did this everyday. Like he came home to her at night and this was part of their nightly ritual. Once she was done with her task, she pushed it off his shoulders, letting it join his jacket and tie on the floor.

"What's in it for me?"



Jack was still talking, but it was becoming hard to hear him. There was a buzz in her ears that wouldn't go away. Her lips were trembling, and she tried to bite down on them to get it to stop, but her mouth wasn't cooperating. Barry and the hostage - what-was-his-name-she-couldn't-remember-his-name - had turned into a blur. She was almost afraid to blink. Afraid that if she let her eyelids slide shut, they might never re-open.

Someone said something about bleeding to death, but that wasn't true, was it?

It wasn't that bad. She was okay. Everything was fine. It wasn't that bad.

"Well...what do I get in return?"

Ted. The hostage's name was Ted.

She wasn't bleeding to death. She was strong. It wasn't that bad.

Maybe this was a dream, and if she closed her eyes, she'd wake up.

She knew the answer even before he offered it. Her mouth and brain tried to function, to squeak out something, but they failed.


"Me. I wasn't aware that you needed more."

Many meanings lingered behind those words, but she chose to ignore them for the moment. This wasn't the time to bring up what she wanted or what she needed or what he would never give her.

She thought too much during these encounters. Or maybe she thought too little.

No. She had never been able to turn off her mind, even during sex. Even during sex with him, when perhaps it was best to stop thinking for a while.

She played the tease, slipping from his grasp and smirking at him as she licked her lips.

"Oh, you wanna play hard to get?"

"Don't I always?"

It was an odd statement, and wholly untrue, but he didn't call her on it.



"Me."

Her voice box refused to work. Her lips moved in some semblance of speech and her lungs pushed air through her trachea, but she still remained silent. Maybe her brain didn't want to object.

She wanted to live. She wanted him to save her - to save everybody. She wanted to go back in time to the instant where she hid her gun away, so she could have done it just a few seconds faster and that idiot wouldn't have seen her do it. She wanted to go back even farther, and have Vivian take her place. If Viv had been here, this wouldn't have happened. Vivian would have handled it better. Vivian wouldn't have let it get this far.

It was easy to think that. She wanted something to be easy for once.

Her life had never been easy, but she had never complained. She tried not to, anyway.

She wanted to close her eyes and sleep.

Maybe this was a dream, and if she closed her eyes, she'd wake up.

She wanted to remind him of his children.

She didn't want to die. But she didn't want to trade their father's life for hers. It wasn't fair.

There were times when she thought she had already taken so much.


"You're so bad."

She didn't know what made this time different. Normally it was so solemn. Serious. But now she felt almost giddy. Playful. Maybe it was the horror of the case they had solved earlier in the week. Maybe it was the drop of ketchup that had fallen on his bright, white shirt and the way his fingers had only smeared it, making the stain worse. Maybe it was the humidity.

She didn't know and really didn't care right now.

The ring was still on his finger, but if she kept looking at his face, she wouldn't have to see it.

He wouldn't take it off, even when they were in bed. She would feel his warm, warm hand caress her skin and the cold, cold metal would burn a path along her body. She would ignore it and he would ignore it and for a few minutes, they would be the only people on the planet.

She squealed as he made a grab for her arm. Wagging her finger at him, she stepped backwards, towards her bedroom.



The voices were getting louder. Barry was backing up, and it seemed to her that Jack was no longer asking, but ordering. Everything was still blurry, and her voice still was lost somewhere in limbo. There were noises in the room, but they weren't coming from her.

Or maybe they were. It...she...didn't know.

This was stupid. It was against procedure. He shouldn't be doing this. And if it were any other agent, he wouldn't be doing this.

If Danny were here, he wouldn't be doing this. But if Danny were here, he wouldn't have screwed up - yes-this-was-her-fault-if-only-she-hadn't-screwed-up - and Jack wouldn't have to be doing this.

For a horrible, awful, terrible moment, she wished that it was Danny who was lying on the floor, bleeding to death. Not her.

No. She wasn't bleeding to death. She was strong. It wasn't that bad.

And she didn't want Danny to be here. That was a horrible, terrible thing to think.

Maybe this was a dream, and if she closed her eyes, she'd wake up.

"No..." she whispered. But it was too late. Jack was in.


She wasn't paying attention to where she was going. It was too entertaining to watch his stare as he let it wander over her body.

He was staring at her breasts
now.

There was arousal in those depths, and she never got tired of seeing it. Once upon a time, she had wondered if she just imagined the emotions there. Even when they had consummated their relationship, she still wondered that. Even when he moaned her name into her neck, she still wondered that.

Even when he was in her, and her body claimed him and held him prisoner, she still wondered that.

It was her home, but she failed to maneuver around the ottoman that she knew was in the center of her living room.

She was falling before she knew what happened.



Now Jack was walking backwards. For a moment, she worried that he might step on her. The pain was too much; she couldn't make out much of anything, but as he moved around her, she could see the light glinting off the gold band on his finger.

The tiny band of gold that whispered 'he's not yours' every time she saw it.

She was stealing him from her all over again.

It wasn't stealing, it wasn't stealing.

And then he was there, hovering over her and touching her face.

She wanted to tell him to tell Danny she was sorry, although she didn't remember why anymore. But it was important and she wanted to say it and her mouth wouldn't work. It just wouldn't work right.

Maybe this was a dream, and if she closed her eyes, she'd wake up.

No, that wasn't right. She'd never remembered dreaming about him.

He didn't touch her with that hand.

"How you doing, sweetheart?"


"You okay?"

He was laughing even as he asked. She tried to be mad, but it was hard. Any irritation dissipated when she saw his eyes locked on hers. He could communicate so much with just a look, and it was impossible to be angry when she got lost there.

There were tons of reasons why she could be mad at him. Tons of reasons why she
should be mad at him. But they never seemed to matter when they were together.

"This isn't funny," she grumbled from her position on the floor. Rolling partially onto her side, she rubbed her coccyx and groaned. "I could have really hurt myself."

"Aw. I'm sorry, sweetheart."

It was the first time he called her that, and she somehow knew that he would never call her that again.



"'M Okay," she lied, since she knew - thought - suspected - that he didn't want the truth.

Nothing was okay. Nothing in her life had ever been okay. As a child, she always felt like the one that never did anything right. The years since then had built confidence and self-esteem, but inside there was always an insecure little girl with frizzy hair and clumsy knees who expected everything to fall down around her.

Her inner child chased her everywhere, even as Samantha tried to lose her.

With one glance, he destroyed what little resolve she had left. The tears came now and she made no attempt to stop them. He continued to comfort her as he lifted her up. The pain intensified, to the point where she almost wanted him to put her back down and let her die.

Death would be easy.

Maybe this was a dream, and if she closed her eyes, she'd wake up.

He kept telling her that it was okay, even though it wasn't, and he knew it as well as she did.


He extended his hands to her, and she thought he was offering her help to get up. She reached for him, but instead of taking her hands, he wrapped his arms around her and hoisted her up, grunting as he lifted her in his arms. Her bare chest made contact with his, and she almost thought she could feel his heart beating against hers.

Its rhythm seemed so much like her own.

But the cold, cold metal of the ring stung her back, and she could almost envision it marking her.

She had a dream once, where she got out of the shower and there were burn marks all over her body, lines proving to anyone with eyes where he had touched her. Red marks identifying her for what she was. She would go to the office and everyone would see and everyone would know. They would all point. They would stare. They would call her...

She couldn't even think it. She didn't want to think it.

She wanted him to take it off. Just for a little while. Just for five minutes, so she could pretend that what they were doing wasn't...

She didn't want to cry. If she kept thinking like this, she was going to cry.

"It's okay. It's not that bad. I can still walk..."



His arms were around her, but this time it wasn't to comfort or arouse. He was lifting her up to carry her out, and when he did, he would leave her, and he might not come back.

He was always leaving her. He was always the first one to get out of bed. Always.

There was pain. So much pain. She couldn't take it anymore.

She felt like she was falling. It didn't make any sense - he was lifting her up - but her body seemed to be falling. She wondered if maybe she had injured her equilibrium center somehow. Or maybe she was really shot in the head. Maybe she was dead and this was some bizarre exercise in purgatory.

Maybe this was a dream, and if she closed her eyes, she'd wake up.

She let her eyes close, just to test her theory, but fear pried them back open again.

She wasn't going to give up.


He didn't say anything to her as he wound his way to her bedroom as if he lived there. He set her down and ran his hands over her rear as his lips brushed the tip of her nose.

"Feel better now?"

"Yeah."

They kissed again, and the old desperation returned. He always seemed to kiss her as if he expected his world to collapse in on them at any moment. She returned his passion because for all she knew, he was right.

Every time he kissed her, it made her want to cry. Because she belonged to him, but he didn't belong to her. And she feared he never would. He gave her his body, and maybe even his heart, but technically, legally, in the eyes of society, he wasn't hers.

Maybe that shouldn't have mattered to her, but it did, and she defied anyone in her situation to truthfully say that it didn't.



"Okay, grab me."

In another time, another moment, she might have teased him about that line. Even with the pain and the fear of the moment, her brain informed her that his words could be perverted into something with a sexual connotation.

He chastised her once for teasing him in public. Something she said - she-couldn't-remember-now-but-she-was-sure-it-was-stupid - had embarrassed him. Fortunately, she had only said it in front of a local cop - someone who didn't know them and couldn't have possibly made any kind of connection between them.

Sometimes since then, she wondered if something she had said was inappropriate. But he never said anything to her.

His arms were strong and it was so easy to relax in his embrace, even with the pain in her leg. He always did that to her. Even when he was making love to her and every thrust and grunt seemed to threaten to destroy their little paradise, he could wrap his arms around her and everything was okay.

She could hear him panting with exertion. It was a short walk from where she had been lying to the door, but she could swear he had been walking forever and they still weren't there yet.


Strands of her hair were captured by his fingers as he continued to kiss her. He used them to gently hold her head in place as he deepened their union. She ran her fingers over the leather of his belt before unbuckling it and then unzipping his pants. When her hand slid into the cloth, seeking out his erection, he tilted his head back and moaned.

She took advantage of him releasing her and lowered her own head to his chest. She could taste the salty tomato flavor from where the ketchup had seeped through the cloth. He pushed her back and she fell again, this time onto the softness of her mattress.

The rest of their clothes were tossed aside.

When he joined her in bed, he tugged her comforter out from underneath her and used it to cover them. It was a familiar ritual. It didn't matter if it was ten degrees outside or ninety. He always pulled a sheet over their bodies, as if he was afraid someone might be watching them.

She wanted to ask him if he did it when he made love to her, but she was scared of the answer.



There were only three times in her life when she actually felt like time was standing still.

All three times involved Jack Malone.

The first time he kissed her, in some hotel room somewhere - she-should-remember-where-but-they-all-blended-together - everything around her seemed to fade into the background. It was as if the world paused to witness the event. She had frozen in fear or shock or joy or something, but he didn't seem to notice.

Then he pulled back, his lips full and swollen, stained by her lipstick, and time started up again, reminding her that even though everything had changed, everything was still the same.

The first time he made love to her, in her bed - not-their-bed-they-didn't-have-a-bed - she closed her eyes and everything stopped once again. He was moving and she was moving, but time once again waited for them to finish before resuming its course. She wasn't sure if time was respecting them or refusing to allow them to taint it.

And now, as he carried her out of the place where she was sure she was going to die, the world halted its pace and stood by, watching them.

They should have been to the door by now. They should have been safe by now.

Maybe Barry had changed his mind and shot them. Maybe they were dead. She didn't know if she cared anymore.

At least if they were dead, maybe then they'd be together. Maybe then, she could have him.

That was sick and selfish and wrong, but right then, she didn't care.


The ring was cold.

The ring was always cold.

The ring was always cold. He always pulled the sheet over her. She always closed her eyes. He always said her name, over and over. She always wondered if it was to remind himself of who he was with. Then she always chided herself.

It was always so routine, but she looked forward to each encounter anyway.

She clung to his body, pulling on him even though he was as physically close to her as he could be. She remembered reading a Greek myth once - a version of the story of Hermaphroditus. The child of Hermes and Aphrodite, he had been spotted by a nymph who fell madly in love. She cried out to the Gods, asking that she never be separated from him again. Her wish was granted ... in that their bodies were joined together for eternity.

Sometimes when they were together, she silently made the same plea, greedy as it was, that she never be parted from him.

It never worked.

She came, hard. There was no moaning or writhing or impassioned screaming. It was the climax of a woman having a secret affair - a tiny whimper released as she bit her lip, as if his wife was right next door, and they might be discovered otherwise.

"God, I love you," she panted as he found his own release.

She felt his body stiffen.



The air outside the bookstore was cold. Or at least it seemed that way, after the heat inside. His hands slipped, just a bit, or maybe that was just her mind playing tricks on her. She contemplated the thought that he was just going to drop her on the pavement and walk away.

She had somewhat expected him to carry her all the way to the ambulance, or maybe even all the way to the hospital. Or maybe all the way to his home, where he'd lay her on his bed and care for her. Instead, he placed her down on a bench - a bench that she hadn't even noticed when she had gone into the store.

She got to mark him this time. Her bloody hand reached up, almost as if she subconsciously wanted to mark him. Remind him that she was still here. Maybe her blood was her parting gift to him.

He said something, and she responded, but her mind was so foggy that she wasn't sure what was happening. For some reason, she was sure he was going to die, and she wanted to be able to remember the last thing he said to her.

'I love you,' she wanted to say. 'I know it's wrong in so many ways, but I don't care and I love you.'

He stepped away from her and she was confused. Where was he going?

Back in the store.

It was an exchange, not a rescue. Him for her. She forgot.


He didn't say anything as he got up and found his pants.

They had never uttered those words. She assumed it was just understood between them, but she had been afraid to offer it first.

Apparently with good reason.

He wouldn't look her in the eye as he stood up, zipping up his slacks.

"I should go. It's late."

"Do you...want to get a shower first?" She pulled the blanket up to her chest, even though his mouth had recently been on those breasts and it seemed silly to cover them up now.

"No. It can wait until I get home. Thanks."

Home. Home was where the heart was, wasn't it?

He glanced back at her, almost looking...not ashamed, but...something.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't...Sam, don't apologize. It's okay."

It's okay, not...

He hesitated, then leaned over and kissed her forehead.

She felt like crying, but refused to do so. She was a grown woman who had willingly entered into this relationship. She wasn't going to cry.

He slipped out through the door, and for an irrational moment, she wondered if she'd ever see him again.



She was too weak to hold on to him and keep him from leaving. He was always leaving. He was always leaving.

She didn't want him to go. She knew that if he didn't, those hostages would die, but she still didn't want him to go. Maybe he could stay with her and someone else could save the hostages. Maybe Barry wouldn't kill him. Maybe Barry would just give up.

Why couldn't someone else go in? Send Martin in. Send Vivian. Van Doren. Someone.

He was leaving her - maybe for good this time - and maybe this was how Maria felt when he had left her.

Maybe this was a dream, and if she closed her eyes, she'd wake up. And he'd be in her bed - no, their bed - and everything would be okay.

She closed her eyes, but she didn't wake up. The only thing that changed was that the world got darker.

She had to tell him she loved him. She had to. She hadn't said it often enough. It didn't matter if he said it back or not, she needed to say it. There were noises around her that indicated that people - probably SWAT - were approaching. They would hear. They would report her.

She didn't care.

But her voice failed again. He was running away from her, too quickly for her to get the words out.

She felt like crying, but refused to do so. She was an FBI agent. She was a strong woman. She wasn't going to cry.

He slipped in through the door of the bookstore, and she closed her eyes in pain as she wondered if she'd ever see him again.

(fin.)