2010-10-05: The Destination



Date: October 5th, 2010


From where they started, here is where they've come.

"The Destination"

Maggie's Apartment, Bathroom

The light is still on in the bathroom, shining ever-so-slightly through the cracks of the ajar door as a reminder of the morning. Hours ago. It's evening by this time — daresay night. The apartment's solitary resident steps into the door, bumping it open— reminded to turn off the light, now that she's home, now that it's no longer needed.

A hand half-covered by a vivid primary blue, cable-knit sleeve only just makes it to the light-switch; Maggie jumps back as if electrocuted by the switch she barely touched. "You're still here— !" She seems to take cover into her long, over-sized wrap sweater, hanging on to one of its untied ties while her other hand points in surprised gesture at the shower — the figure there. Blinking, but rapidly catching up to this turn of events — or rather, the apparent complete lack of events that have occured since she left — she pauses. No answer. She wastes no more time in striding to the shower, getting a hand on the glass door and ducking her head inside.

Hours ago, the water was turned off, but the occupant in the shower looks no less waterlogged. He's set to dripping a while back, yet the dry part has vividly escaped him. Squashed into the cramped space, at first glance, he would seem exact as she left him, but secondary examinations show small differences: one knee, the one boasting injury right above it, has relaxed some, jutting out towards the door and slanted vaguely to the side as though it just slipped there. The other foot is stuck being braced against the tiny incline shielding the rest of the bathroom floor from excessive water spillage. What arm was in the sling is now fair falling out of it, lending an especial feeling of momentum to the picture of an otherwise still man. As though, perhaps, he were in motion — and then abruptly stopped.

No movement now; his good arm draped over his lap — the clothes she left there are notably missing, the first big change — and his head drooped across his shoulder on that side. Those clothes are just at Maggie's feet in front of the shower separation, politely kept up into an orderly pile outside the water's reach. Now, most of it has evaporated, except for that on that consultant.

"Miles?" The unanswered query is followed by a worrying breath— "Oh-hh." The man's stillness is cause for alarm— anxiety mounts on every one of Maggie's features, but her movements are much more calm. She hangs around the sliding door, leaning down to give his knee a slight jostle. When there's no response, she breeches the shower space carefully, plucking her way into the box of glass and tile, stepping in without stepping him; it's something of a feat. Bracing against the wall beside her, she touches a couple of fingers to Laurie's neck where it's bent, prime for finding a pulse and the rising and falling of breaths. Whatever their state, she finds the signs of life. Relief is short-lived. She frowns — almost annoyed; concern wins out.

Maggie folds into a constricted crouch in the limited space allotted to her between the shower's handle and Laurie, and slides the towel out from under the other neatly folded things. Using a corner of the soft white terrycloth, she swabs his hair, the side of his face, and his wet collar all in one gentle pass while quietly encouraging: "You can let me know if you're comatose or passed out or asleep aaaany time now…"

His neck, while indicative of life, is cool; everything's cool. The persistent moisture in the open-windowed apartment has made the shower into a glorified refrigerator. But underneath it all, the beat is steady — enough — and as that towel touches his face, it flinches. Involuntarily at first, and unhelpfully after the towel's made its pass, his head dips away from the touch, instinctively wary. Reflexes assume the worst without awareness. But his head beginning to raise means that his eyes suddenly open — only to droop halfway closed again a second later. In the same one, his breath escapes quickly out his nose in a soft, noiseless start.

He'd almost seem to have slipped away again, except now his shoulder pushes up. His hand gropes for a concrete standing at his side. "Mmm, Powers… you're home…" Like she tried to creep into bed without disturbing him. Only consciousness is etching more and more into his face; and not just that. In a flash, his jaw's tightened, his forehead caving in with lines of distress. The bad leg pulls in, bumping lightly against Maggie's. Then, a sharp exhale and all of that, all the evidence, begins to systematically vanish. His face evens out, but there's no longer any mistaking; he's awake.

Maggie's ministrations against moisture are put on pause, the towel hovering a couple of inches away. "And you're still here…" she remarks with sharp question now that he can hear her. "Hi." Sheepishness; not in her voice, but in the wincing smile-then-frown that Laurie may or may not catch. She draws the towel back, only to unfurl it just so. She tips ahead on the balls of her feet to place the towel at least half around Laurie like a cape, laid lightly. "You must be freezing," she observes with as much feeling as she'd express were she in his shoes; she, certainly, doesn't like to be freezing. She's draped in a sweater and she hasn't been sitting in a cold shower all day. "Are you— can you get up?"

"Hey." More than water or cold, Laurie seems to be suffering from an inability to stretch upon waking; his whole body stiffened into place and unyielding to gentler attempts to resettle. His hand on the shower floor gets his shoulders at least even. Crooking his head to one side has his neck cracking definitively. "Uuaah…" he airs indistinctly, loosing that purchase on the tile to run his hand around his mouth, down his chin. His goatee is not actually terribly wet. Rolling to look at her, he blinks very slowly, twice, "Ummm… no— yes. I might've… had some trouble earlier— uh, yeah. Here, back up— " His hand bats in the small space left between them, demonstrating which direction she should move. "I'll just— " Something. Foot anchored against the door, he starts groping at the wall, but all in all, his body might as well be wired into place.

Maggie sort of weaves back and shifts this way and that, anticipating Laurie's struggles. "I didn't actually mean for you to be trapped in here…" she pauses to tip her head to the side and add, a faintly joking tone atop real apology, "…for that long." As for backing up— she can't. Both of them take up too much space, and Maggie makes no move to make more by leaving. She put him in here; now, she'll get him out. She pushes upright. "Here— " she offers, but expedites the process, reaching to take Laurie's cold grappling hand in one of hers; the other cuffs onto his forearm in a strong grip ready for a first heave upward. She braces, solid. "One, two— "

Protest from every limb lines the concentration back into Laurie's face as he lets Maggie's grasp support him with minimal complaint; his stiff body's doing enough of that on its own. It's easy to see where the trouble would have played out earlier; he gets a good solid brace with the one foot, pushing up with both and getting quickly wobbly on one side. To help, his good hand — now in Maggie's secure holdings — would've had to be able to support doubly so… and likely simply couldn't keep up the right leverage on the slick shower wall, or with that dud arm accomplishing nothing but improper balance. Now, half-escaped, that elbow won't give him the good push he needs to be working with the detective's haul.

Instead, he wrenches his hand from hers, slapping it further around her back so that he can pull. Maggie both does and doesn't have to work as hard; it's more about staying upright long enough for Laurie to get his feet under him. Meanwhile, his strategy is keeping her close where his breath — warm in the all-around cold — betrays his effort.

"O-kay," Maggie breathes, trying her commendable best to be an secure post. She stumbles rather unhelpfully toward Laurie for an instant, but one hand flies to the side to plant a palm on the wall, forcing some of her weight into it in order to protect her balance. She scoops her other arm around him, under his left, a would-be half-embrace; to his chill, Maggie, and her knit sweater, provide warmth, but it's purpose is an upward haul offers the necessary support to try and make sure that once he's vertical, he stays vertical. "How you doing— you all right?"

The struggle up is such a flurry of balances and adjusting hands that it's a stretched out moment of concentration before either seems aware that… they're standing. Arms around each other, Laurie's head bowed towards hers, his wet and clinging shirt stealing the warmth of her sweater: standing. A moment more. In and out, his close breath slows to their new situation. More balance that he's gained doesn't instantly affect the tightness of his press around her, though that might've seemed assumable. A little patter of extra droplets falls off him, their quietness inspiring his, even in practical tones: "… Well— I appear to be on my feet. So. That's better." Or is it. Persistent chill, bad leg, proximity: is he shuddering?

"You're cold." Or unsteadiness, or— whatever it is that seems to cause him to shudder. Cold is a certainty, felt as plain as day in the contrasts between them, so close. But not so many contrasts— as balances steady, Maggie stands stiffly, only in part to be an anchor. It's not the same solidity of her body that causes her hold to tighten against the hint of reverberations, and a brisk motion warms a tense back through soaked fabric.

A moment further: temporary. With her need to balance against the wall no so strong, her focus shifts to readjust the towel now falling from Laurie's shoulder. She starts to lean toward the open door of the shower, then, and her arm, around the consultant, begins to snakes away. Preludes to stepping out — and no doubt guiding Laurie; she's not convinced of his steadiness — but she stops. Her escaping hold only gets as far as the small of his back. She straightens, a calm purpose taking particular occupancy in her demeanor.

The towel, for what little good it's doing, drags down — off — and is let to fall out on the bathroom floor. Maggie looks into the face of the consultant, quietly searching, quietly concerned, but ever with that calm, those clear eyes. One finger of a time-worn hand presses to Laurie's lips, expressing silent, gentle intent: shh, don't speak, don't move, don't worry, or don't protest… don't protest something.

The touch vanishes, and the next thing anyone knows is the surge of water rushing down. Warm, instead of icy; rainfall, rather than a violent storm. In the downpour that she is, again, not exempt from, and is in fact gradually drenched by without complaint, Maggie's light, nurturing contact follows the path of the water over the side of Laurie's face. It's as if she's further encouraging it to chase away his coldness — and maybe his pain, too.

"No, I'm fine." A reassurance for deaf ears, considering the woman's next motions, but one accompanied by a convenient stilling in the consultant's shakes. Mostly. Here and there, they escape against his willful covering of them. Paired to her first movements, his hand detaches from her back, slipping to cup her shoulder in a slight press down in order to back-up his first step — one that doesn't quite come. While he's moved forward, leaned his weight in and, therefore, towards her, she's stopped; barreling Maggie to get out the door remains a plan unused.

His eyes only follow the towel a second, able to naturally conclude its fate by that initial slip. Some crease above one eye precedes thought, but his head tipping towards her is met by that silencing finger. Disobediently, his mouth moves. Open and shut on some imagined sentiment, running lips along her stilling finger, tempting bad behavior.

Gentler though the rain may be, his body's reaction is to tense against first contact, before gradually relaxing — back to stiff — and then, with further massaging warmness, into vague normalcy. Temporary, but welcome enough. He blinks languidly against the lighter spray, all of the dampness of his hair and clothes reigniting quickly into soaked. Maybe even more languidly when it's Maggie touch instead… only to rock slowly backwards, fetching his weight onto his heels and running her fingers in the direction of away, even when he doesn't directly pull them off. Less shunning is directed at the woman for her efforts, he doesn't flinch with disgust. It's as if he's sensed her exact purpose — and denies himself. Shyly, his head seems to dip under the attention, but he finds a reason for it where his hand lays at her shoulder. Raising, fingers pluck at the sweater there in a lackluster tease. "Now see what you've done."

"Wellll," Maggie considers lightly, unconcerned, watching Laurie perceptively through every one of his little acts of defiance. "I might deserve to get soaked," she says of her drenched sweater— and drenched everything else, Proving a point — to make his invalid — she slides her way, sleeve by sleeve, out of the heavy, awkward thing her wrap sweater has become, and she's left in the darkening grey of a sports-like tanktop. The sweater goes the way of the towel. See how much she cares about that. Her focus isn't on herself; it's on him. "But so did you."

Of course, Maggie's water treatment is not so cold and shocking. On the contrary, the constant warmth steadily loosens her, even in the strange circumstance, from her own hard-set pose; she seems to relax as much as her calm gaze and docile touch should suggest and eases in where Laurie eases back. Blinking as rivulets of water and strands of hair stream down her forehead into her eyes, she reaches again for Laurie, but hesitates near his face, wistful, and almost falls, only to eventually find purchase in a firm and perhaps too-familiar grip at his neck. For a moment, she lets the water just fall and do its work. Steam forms here and there only to drift out the open doors.

"I'm sure you're angry about that," Maggie says belatedly, though actually, she doesn't sound too sure about the statement; more searching. In low-voiced sympathy that could almost be swept away in the sound of the shower, she adds, "I know you're in pain."

In removing the sweater from the debate, she also displaces his hand; it sweeps away to his side, unoccupied. Her focus finds that the sheen of water arcing between them makes picking up distinctively subtle lines of expression even easier to miss. But where looking fails, touching seems to have set in. His hand, again, comes to her. Fingers brush at her forehead, purposefully sliding clinging strands of hair into softer sweeps. It's a clinical motion in theory, but the reality of their surroundings cannot escape a certain intimacy, that he nearly obliges. His touch sweeps finally away from the more 'friendly' top of her forehead to nestle that loose hair around the side of her face, tucked next to an ear… in the midst of dropping entirely.

He remains wishy-washy on giving a visible, or even verbal, response to any of her promptings. Even when the ease against his neck brings his head forward, his face tucked in towards hers where even the water cannot fully separate them much longer. It's tossed out careful, in parody: "I might deserve to be in pain."

It's Maggie's turn to shift, as if to turn away from the sweep of her hair, whether it's practical or not; her chin jabs down and her gaze follows demurely. There she stays looking downward in expressionless thought while, around them, the hot water continues on, warming the whole shower, the whole room. The mar in her ease is momentary; her hand shifts on Laurie's neck, as if reaffirming its presence there, and she looks up into his face.

"Maybe… maybe not," she replies. No parody here. Only her calm, even opinion. "I don't think so. It's just…" she gives her head a shake that sways the strands of her wet hair. "A consequence of where you've been. Not what you've done." Maggie looks up beyond his height while she mimics him by pushing his hair off his forehead with a thumb. "It shouldn't be our actions that define us… but how we live with them." There's an honesty to her words, spoken guilelessly, quoted from nowhere but her own personal wisdom. "I think we deserve to feel pain some times more than others, because pain lets us know we're alive." Her brows drawing together, her fingers just lightly curling to the knuckle against his temple, she suddenly finds his eyes with her bright ones; everything pauses in this way like a realization settling in: "I just wanted you to be alive."

His eyes, as intense as hers, have been staring back effortlessly all the while, causing them to meet in that pause — a quiet, serious — and dreadfully fleeting thing. Without the expanse of time necessary to honor her kind of revelation, mirth begins to creep at the corners of Laurie's mouth, gaining in power until he's smiling. A breath of laugh dares the water to come in, and he licks his lips of excess while shaking his head — softly, but able to dislodge Maggie's hand if she isn't adamant.

"That makes one of us— " a fly-by sentiment, so speedily, so breezily done — effortless and weightless, he's barely said it before his fingers are suddenly around her, slipping beneath her ear where his hand can cup her face, his thumb so possessively pressed at her cheek. His presence at her neck is just the tips of those fingers, but with a nudge they bring her to meet him. Wet lips to wet hair; he presses his mouth just so to the clean line he made where her hair is swept back.

His hand retreats even before his lips; both there long enough for an impression, short enough not to sink in. "I'm once again embarrassed to not be as deep as you say I am," he's proclaiming in a mood un-acknowledging of his latest action. Close up, his face curves from one smile to its self-deprecating neighbor, head bowing in withering bashefulness, "I only meant what an asshole I was being earlier."

There's a delay; impression of affection is there and gone and Maggie is unmoving, only given the impression of movement by the constant streams ricocheting gentle off her outline. Her wide-open eyes, forgoing most blinking now, drift off to the right. Their space is so tight that there's barely a line of view that doesn't include the other; adrift, her gaze still misses nothing. Her hand, having been jarred, draws back.

Glancing down, then up at Laurie, Maggie's expression takes a chastising turn, catching up with Laurie's breezy comment and disapproving. But it's on the heels of a smile that puts hot water flushed cheeks at the forefront, warm but melancholy around the edges. "Oh I know," she proclaims good-humouredly. "And you were, that's why it was very satisfying to throw you in here. But— " But, the glossy apples of her cheeks fall. " — you know everyone's more complicated than they look. Job hazard," she says, easing into seriousness without a hitch. "You can't fool me, Miles."

And just like that— she smiles again, scarcer, a joking glint in her eye atop a more serious depth. The water shuts off, thanks to her vanished hand. It would seem it's time for the sopping wet pair to end their impromptu … showering, and Maggie takes the first step out. The detective's extrication from Laurie is quick, but careful, glancing to him once with raised brows as if to say still good?. She stands just outside, picking up the towel and clothes. "I know you're more than just a pretty face."

"Nope," interjects Laurie with blustering confidence. He leaves it at this a second when, as Maggie steps out of the way, his hand braces him to the wall and he gives his head a more serious shaking: shaggy dog. "I refuse to mold to your stereotype— shallow as a bird bath," is the fluid continuation as he brings knuckles against one ear to rub for water stuck there. "And kind of feel like one, too…" From his random administrations, his head suddenly juts up sharply. "What lies have you been spreading about my face?!"

All preamble to his move into the doorway; all in all, it's more of a lean, as he gets a hand on the divider and brings his legs over afterwards. Warm water was its own massage but, gone, now the body is left to make its usual complaints and sensations. The chill of being wet looms right outside the open door, the muggy condensation that's become of the bathroom. Bit by bit, Laurie eases his frame away from that of the shower to small winces at the corner of the mouth, or jabs of discomfort digging above his eyebrows. They ease away when he makes for a casual lean against the outer side of the stall door closed on him hours ago, and sentry since.

As Laurie adjusts to the world that promises to become less like a sauna by the second, Maggie doesn't look at him — or reply: instead, she wears a small continuous smirk and sets about idly placing the things on the counter and reaching, with an easy stretch, to thoughtfully crank the heat all the way up. A glance aside. She takes the majority of her hair between both hands and quickly wrings it out into the basin of the counter's sink.

When she, at least, is dripping everywhere slightly less, she takes the few short steps back to Laurie. She only raises both eyebrows at him, creating innocuous lines in her forehead, before she goes about undoing his sling. It's already loose, and she's familiar with the contraption; it takes no time at all. Gesturing with it along with a nod of her head, either toward the counter where the towel sits or the door across, she says, lightly, "Come 'ere," and heads that way. "Unless you're taking up residence in my shower permanently. Do I have to start charging rent?"

From freezing cold to damp to steamy to… this: there's got to be some havoc in all these temperature changes, but Laurie is casual about the way he leans, bringing his arm around the front to give it a stretch as far as he can. The arm is forced to drop when Maggie's hands come in, working to his failing sling. Good hand captures once-trapped wrist, holding it vaguely where it'd been hanging. Staring idly downwards, he rolls the hand outward inch by inch, bringing the arm with and stretching that mending shoulder.

He misses her gesture while performing this test of functions, but his head raises in reaction to her voice. Head, then eyes, in that order, making a slight delay and turning his gaze distracted. "If I recall," he mutters, as lightly, hobbling that uneven way a couple of steps forward — but doing so as if it were perfectly natural to be uneven, "You're the one who wanted me in here— " His eyes had fallen but he lifts his gaze a second time to eye with lips-pouted sympathy, "Having a pet not as fun as you thought?"

"Plus I'm not home to feed them, so," Maggie plays along, breezily deadpan as she leads the way for Laurie, so that she may … sit on the counter. She hops up onto the edge, denim-adhered legs dangling. Her feet aren't far from the floor; still, she's given a small height boost for her new perch. She spreads her hands apart — a sort of pacifying gesture prior to her lean ahead to take hold of the hem of Laurie's shirt in either hand. Firmly, too — no quick getting away from her intentions.

"I don't want you to freeze again. And I suspect you're going to have some trouble and you won't ask for help." Can't fool her, remember. "So don't be alarmed," Maggie says cavalierly, though she offers a small, nearly sympathetic smile afterward, "but I'm going to take your shirt off." Before he can protest or otherwise react, she starts curls into the wet blue fabric and peels it away from the surface beneath as respectfully as possible, just starting to haul upward. As she's conscientious of Laurie's injured arm, it's by no means brisk and Maggie, besides, is still gauging him. "Good arm first," she encourages, soft, distant; not that the process has gotten as far as an arm, "come on."

Instantaneous instinct — Maggie may have lured him over to the counter, but her soft reassurances do not stop the leap of his hands to hers — both of his hands; even the injured one comes to his defense, as fingers nab Maggie's wrists. Where she's begun to lift fabric, hints of skin below blue. He can stare straight ahead into her eyes now, and his blues have become sharp questions hardened by warning. Neither sentiment comes out in words, trapped behind a clamped jaw and no-nonsense stubbornness that has him squeezing her wrists even when one of his arms should not have the strength to do so. When muscles flex, unclaimed vulnerability springs into those eyes, knocking back the warning.

They're frozen there — different than the condition she was trying to avoid by starting this — when she pauses under his equally hesitated physical complaints. No pushing her hands away, he also doesn't relent the position. Not until some secret process has made it all the way around. Seconds counted by drips of water are only that — seconds. There really doesn't pass all that much time at all… then the stubbornness has rounded into what the discomfort has made it: acceptance. His hands fall away; she finds heavy quiet compliance to her task.

Maggie is completely patient. Any surprise that flashed has since faded into an accepting calm. She waits a moment longer now, observing, before the process begins again with a subtle nod. Both hands work to pull the shirt up, off his left arm, and up over his head. Nurse-like movements shed the clothing, mindful of what lies beneath: pain, skin, scars. There's no struggle, on her part — no awkward wondering how to go about it — strangely speaking to a familiarity with maneuvering someone out of their clothes in such a way.
Next, the injured arm. The shirt is guided over Laurie's shoulder, ginger but unhesitating. Arm, elbow. Hand. His and hers. The shirt becomes a bundle of damp blue that she drapes over the sink, but one of Maggie's hands keeps Laurie's arm in the position it ought to be, were it still in a sling: across his body, right to left, by holding her hand atop his. Fingers overlap fingers.

But then the touch overlaps too far; Maggie twists to get something from the counter and fingers slip innocuously— to angry, uneven skin, a troublesome scar she's seen before. On tensing of muscles under her fingertips, impossible to ignore, she stops what she's doing, and it's only then that she really looks. There's a shift of her jaw, a subtle, empathetic tension tightening in her neck — but she doesn't move, not of her own accord. Her eyes are quick to search out Laurie's. "What is it…" she begins, studying without judgment, "…that makes you so protective?"

Not only muscles greeting her, under their rough skin, but a hardness foreign to a body — that was never meant to be in one. Laurie, who remained neutrally and wordlessly docile to Maggie's work, sought to sway backwards in the natural movement of the shirt coming off him. It would've been a smooth thing, lead into so perfectly — but for the touch. On a hand, his fingers… his skin there. His eyes have already fallen, absent to her search, casting their gaze instead to the problem area where her fingers — toughened by the truth of her job, but distinctly feminine — are on his destroyed skin, marking that distinctive arc. Rather than retreat, he appears summoned by even that small contact, and in leaning in, their legs are touching.

"It's funny," he speaks, chapped, as though his throat's been dry a long time and has become unaccustomed. Obligingly, he swallows; he chuckles, breathlessly. Even that swells in him visibly, pressing notably to that troubled spot. "Everybody wants to know… the story…" Inching along skin, the fingers of his propped up arm have found hers again. But, though they rest nearby, they do not push away. He does not seem capable of it. Hidden eyes carry a much different, much more telling note.

He hums aside from this feeling, musing. Plucking words out of memory that are always said more light-hearted than his own, careless because there's no commitment to another's ruling: "There have been periods of history in which episodes of terrible violence occurred…" But unable to rob Maggie's fingers of their post, he's found others since. His loose hand noting where skin never healed after a rough burn near his side. A sleek line of long gone stitching runs over one hip, dipping invisibly beneath his jeans, and his stomach is marred by that same breaking Maggie once saw paper-towel on: "A history…" Untouched, but all present. "Of violence."

Maggie looks from scar to scar to scar. It's as if, only then, as they're acknowledged, does she have permission to let her eyes wander. There's a certain fascination drifting along with her gaze, but it's distant — not attached to the marks themselves. She gets briefly stuck on the old "motorcycle accident" wound, her mouth moving as if to comment on that piece of history, but she's slowly drawn up bit-by-bit by Laurie and his words, to which she has been listening with an ever-present awareness. Blue eyes are as in-the-moment as they usually are; as constantly, vividly watchful.

"It's all just… a— " Maggie's soft voice falters, like her breath catches for an instant; unhindered, she goes on serenely, her head bobbing here and there as she explains, " … a … map. A couple of points, along the way." Yet when her hand stretches ever-so-slightly, a motion so light she may not realize it, and it splays long fingers loosely over everything in its path — be it damage, Laurie's hand, or his chest — her touch is reverent. She wouldn't make light of his battle scars, after all. But her attention is on the man behind the them. "I'd be more interested in the destination."

Still though he stands, every part of Laurie is high-strung in attentiveness to even that reverence. It's obvious in the tightness of every muscle in a chest and stomach defined by such — his skin may be marred, but the consultant is in almost obsessive shape. Retirement and rest-time did not extend to every aspect of life after work. Continued avoidance in his gaze has him briefly glancing away to the open door of the bathroom, for something to look at as he scoffs bemusedly. At first it's only a noise, and then his head swings back around; he looks at her shortly, a glance off the eyes where his eyebrows raise.

The same time, his hand comes down, bracing at the counter and tugging randomly at its rounded edge, vaguely peeling caulking underneath. It, even that little bit, moves him in closer, doing its part to press her touch more firmly. In contradictory fashion, his bent arm slides in, his fingers giving the top of her hand a stiff pat — an okay, good job, you can be done here — before it retreats. His speaking is similarly dismissive — reminiscent of absolving — relieving her of having to be 'interested'. "There's no treasure at the end of this one… and the destination's come and gone."

Gone doesn't describe the touch Laurie dismissed, however. Maggie's hand moves, slipping away — but not to the end he intended. The opposite happens: she takes the hand that would dismiss hers, wrapping lightly into it. Her features are more firm, hardening, her gaze almost stern on him. "It doesn't have to be like that," she says evenly; on her word, it sounds more like a fact than a simple viewpoint. She adds, lighter — no less even with well-meaning intent, "You have to work on your metaphors, Miles. The destination doesn't go anywhere." She gives his knuckles a distinct, warm squeeze that seems to take the grand scale out of her next statement, bringing her meaning into the here and now. She smiles, small but just warm enough to be dimpled. "And you don't have to either."

But perhaps there are mixed signals in her actions somewhere. Maggie — quick, as if reminded — directs her attention down to the counter for a second, the towel and clothes Laurie is meant to benefit from. As her hand-hold on him starts to loosen, her hand-hold on the counter's edge next to his tightens. Muscles spring to life, she pushes into a slight lean ahead, ready to slide off the counter, and damp knees ease ahead— only then does she twist her neck back around. "You should put these on— "

"No," he mutters out on the tail-end all that, "But sometimes you pass it by anyway." His fingers curl under and around hers, not as companion to her hand-holding but a mere reflex — not wanting to be still, but not having much to do, either. With no more warmth of a hand to fool his chest, there's just the reality of hovering about without one's shirt. Clearing his throat a bit, Laurie's head jerks to the side after hers, following her intention with his eyes as well. The distraction is a refreshing change to what he was avoiding sharing with her all this time. Carelessly, his focus flits ahead along with this look.

As Maggie slides into him as an indication to go, bumping knees and thighs, all he does is feel. Not think. Feeling her come forward, in a unthought, unplanned notion, his hand claps to her leg. The counter is not high, she isn't unsteady; nothing makes it necessary. It just happens.

While, at the same time, his head turns on her word, unwittingly follows hers. He swivels to the right and up, chin lifting attentively to catch her instruction. For the first time since this started, he's looking her in the eye. Proximity, in fact, makes it extremely difficult not to do so.

Exhale… right to her. Breath co-mingles, hot in the cooling bathroom where moisture's embrace is yet a soft sheen on every surface. One, steadying, focusing breath takes inventory of their combined shapes: her knees riding on his, his fingers pressed against her jeans. And the miniscule amount of effort it would take for either of them to erase distance apart. It nearly happens when Laurie finds it timely to lick his lips after that span of breath. His mouth remains just barely parted up to the final forming of words, each deliberately pronounced, still casual, heavy, playful but not — an amalgam of possibilities that might be read by the soft sensations of closeness more than heard. Meanings are doubled, and tripled: "… are you asking me to take off my pants…?"

"What?" It would be as easy for Maggie to roll her eyes, and perhaps hit him, as it would be for her to move. Neither happen; she's caught. She takes half a breath into her lungs with a tense rise of her chest; the breath between them is mostly his. Finding the man so close, she is quick to focus into the eyes looking straight at her, and her gaze — searching, not still — at first sharpens, aware completely of every detail, of just how close they are. Crystal clear vision, one pair of blue eyes to the other. But seconds start to pass — no one's moving — her usually solid stare hazes out into an indistinct, but distinctly warm, place.

Her own hand clamps overtop that on her leg, Maggie's fingers flexing stiffly, and she moves it along the curve of her thigh 'til it hits the counter. Conversely, she inches her knees ahead; they're closer yet. A push on the counter's edge resumes her slide off it. Of course, there's exactly no space between bodies; to stand up is to be combined. That's exactly what happens— they're aligned with nothing but heat, wet cotton, and this acutely defined but unsure quality of potential in-between. Maggie's eyes skirt purposefully toward the door and return. She remembers to breathe again. Lowly, casually dismissive, even faintly chastising, she says, "Obviously … not— while I'm still here, Miles… that would be inappropriate." Not so obviously at all when, speaking, her words are murmured straight onto him.

In a reversal, the hand only remains in place but for Maggie's interference; the second she lets it slap counter, he retracts the fingers with a swift, guilty swipe to his side. There, they slow, cupping thin air by his own leg as jean rubs against jean — just fingers poised halfway between flexed and fisted. Denied their portion, now defensive of the boundary the woman slips and slides her curves along. They're curves that match to the lines he makes, paired one to the other. Now it's the gentle wetness of gray that tempts that trigger area along his ribs. Now, his eyes don't stray. His body, unlike his hand, a steady sentinel to the spot; he holds.

Steady as a rock, his face relaxed around his words — there's only the eyes left to house that energy. Bright, piercing blues from which nothing can escape, igniting ambience — maybe even stealing the breath Maggie finally remembers. They ask, they answer; they do not tell. But as Maggie lowers herself, not just down but against him, his chin dips that little bit, keeping level the playing field; at the same time, eyelids droop lazily, masking blue.

His other hand has since been set against his torso, under his chest, leaving it trapped — a little bit of the right — wrong? — kind of movement by it would be definitely inappropriate to where her body matches his across the… not across, just there. Yet, between their breaths, knuckles rise as fingers curl… slowly flatten again. Reflex. Nothing more. Plaintive, with a subdued but sincere concern, through casual deliverance, he persists, "But what if I have some— trouble with them?"

Behind Maggie is an image of paused momentum: both of her hands do a good job of denying themselves of anything but the edge of the counter, which they grip tight as can be. Bare arms extend at length, pushing her shoulders toward her ears and her presence ever-so-slightly careened ahead instead of leaning back. All it would take is the effort of bending an elbow or two. Her mouth opens to say something — more serious, by the look of it — but it only stays apart, gaping. Staring. Until— a few blinks lead gradually to a glance down, a fall of damp hair, her cheek brushes his goatee. A shallow breath seems to cause a domino effect of tension all the way down to her stomach like a shiver — and to Laurie's, by proxy.

"Then— " she says quietly, slightly distant — and belated, as if she's been paying the least amount of attention to the line of dialogue Laurie keeps up. "Try harder." Like the way she's trying hard to— to stay still? To leave? She leans back on her hands— no, just one. The other is a hand suddenly on Laurie's better shoulder, pushing, not forcefully, but nevertheless determined. "Lemme past, Miles…" she says, sounding nonchalant as she tries to squeeze out from between him and the bathroom counter, "I'll," she pauses on a tiny hitch. It could be awkward; it's not quite, partly saved by the natural smile she gives next, casual, cheery, speaking little of recent — perhaps still occurring — events, "be out there."

For the first half of her campaign to leave, she has to prove that she really, really wants it; Laurie's shoulder caves by her push only as much as that. Getting out is graded by more of that sliding against. But then Laurie suddenly folds in, his hands propped innocently by his sides, that shudder some with a soft, suppressed laughter. A twist rolls him right out of her path, further into the small room, almost stepping him into his old cage as punishment for these just abruptly ended transactions. There is no saving grace here; he misses that smile that would seek to fan out the awkwardness. Laurie's found some other spot to be interested in meanwhile, in just as absent a manner.

Which makes his sudden grab even more surprising— but not for her, after all; he scoops up the left NYPD t-shirt from off the counter. It's a languid movement by him, in the end — but in the fading crackle of what was just going on, intentions still blur. "Good, good," is muttered out. Not for any glumness, just a laziness in speech while he focuses wholeheartedly on getting an arm in a sleeve like it's any day.

The movement, the reach— Maggie turns around on a quick reflex in the midst of turning toward the door. She's halted for an instant before making her way out, a couple of easy steps— another halt; she pauses in the open door looking back. "Okay," she says calmly to Laurie's murmured good, good, hers a contented sort of approval that he's getting dressed.

She shuts the door behind her. The smile she had, missed though it was, was genuine, easy enough, but it barrels away at freight-train speeds the second she hits the little hallway and reaches for the door across the way. Not quite like it's any day.

The apartment is left in quiet, sitting silent between moments — its resident and visitor separated by walls and doors, space and thoughts. Perhaps not thought; distance managed, an air refuses to be dismissed — of something. It hides inside the complacency of a quiet main room while shuffles and rustles are the order of places closed off but distinctly aware of being occupied.

Then a door opens, breaching that neutral ground. With a twist of body, the hand quietly navigates it shut again. The bathroom. From here, it's a turn and a couple of long, cane-aided strides to the barrier of the front door. "Hey, Powers!" is called out mid-stride, "Thanks for everything! I really mean it…" The last, quieter, precedes Laurie giving the front door an opening yank.

"Of course!" The welcoming reply comes from behind, a call from the tucked-away hallway, delayed but only slightly as, on the front door's opening, Maggie has already emerged from her own personal hideaway where she's since become wrapped in all things warm and dry. Her steps are hurried, to make up the distance between herself and her vanishing guest, though she doesn't really, in the end. In fact there's plenty of space between them, and Laurie, besides, seems free to go without more intervention from her. She stops at the edge of the entryway, wrapping her arms about herself, a sweatshirt in turn wrapping about her, and there she stands in the world's most boring pyjamas.

A warm "Take care," is offered; demanded, more like. An air of skepticism clings to it — when does he ever. Take care. Maggie leans her shoulder against the wall to her right, smiling just faintly, and watches Laurie's departure. "… See ya later, Miles."

He's halfway departed already come the pleasantries, but he affords them enough graciousness to spin around, putting his back along the door where he can see Maggie as she leans. Her skepticism is well supported; the legs that he twists on to greet her are clad up in dark and clinging jeans. But his smile tips up mysteriously, to match that mischievous note in his eye as he brings a hand to cock, saluting, against his forehead at her. "Or so you say— " and he, and his distant amusement, have rolled right out the door. It shuts.

Click; the noise that marks the shift in atmospheres, leaving the apartment emptier than it was, its more usual state. If not emptier. But something lingers; in Maggie, at the door. Habit makes sure that it's secure, and her hand curls around the main deadbolt, but it's not habit that has her lingering. There's no practical purpose to standing in front of a closed door with one's head bent and eyes cast down in thought and concern. She frowns; smiles; frowns again; sooner or later her mouth is just a straight line. She slides a hand over her damp hair, the gesture freezing halfway through until she starts to turn. To get on with her night. She twists the deadbolt and grates the chain lock above it into place with a certain finality.

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