Title: In This Passing
Category: Romance, Fluff
Spoilers: General 1-5 warning. Vague reference to “Both Sides Now.”
A/N: I have about a million other stories going that need to be finished but I decided to do a one-shot. I guess this would be classified as AU or Future fic or…something.
Spring is the grandest of all the months, she thinks. Darkness fades with the lengthening of the days, the addition of hours onto the monthly calendar. Life stirs from the sleepy slumber of passing time and arises again, mimicking something reminiscent of emergence from primordial beginnings and morphing from nothing into something.
Most of all, it is the chance to begin again and grow, to become something different and better. Perhaps the seasons touch them and change them, but he never seems affected much and she isn’t sure that bothers her. Maybe because it is comforting in its lack of nonconformance or because it is staunchly him. Either way, the tapping of her pen against her desk rings deep in her ears as he bursts through her office doors and she knows she wouldn’t want to miss this for the world.
With the breaking through and shifting of the world, against the sun and the clouds and everything lovely, there also comes rain.
At first it is a sprinkle, a tiny pitter-patter on the glass and a dampening of the sidewalk. Somewhere in the afternoon, it rears its head and begins to come down in translucent sheets. She stares out her living room window, for once at home and not really knowing why. The space seems large and gaping as she stands barefoot on the chilled wooden floor. Pondering comes with rain and lack of activity but the crash of knuckles into surface shatters her foray.
Opening the barrier not only becomes invitation of escape from the deluge but also the welcoming of it. There are no literal fires when their lips meet but she can feel it in her chest, burning and raging. It’s been far too long and they know that time has done little other than to etch wrinkles into youthful faces.
It’s a distant thought to them now, of him coming home when the leaves had begun to fall from the trees and the Earth began to cool. His ghosts fell back into the crevices of his mind and she did nothing but leap forward.
Always forward internally but never outwardly.
The clouds become the cover for a torrid swirl that, in the past, never culminated into much more than a broken kiss and crackling memories. They are both silently glad that they never acquiesced to the phase of pictorial cataloguing during their college years as he lays her on the never-ending hills the sheets of her bed create. It makes whatever this is between them that much more transcending.
Before either of them know it, summer burns but it has been another countless amount of time since they came together on a rainy spring night.
Not that either of them feel the age pulling at the tethers of their bodies but they both know they are not full of sprite and energy. There is still something beautiful in it and the fact that they have come to rely on the others presence as a constant in their lives. Early and late fifties of lives become only passages of time and neither really reflects back with sadness about crossing the numerical threshold of midlife years ago, the inching closer into no life at all.
“Did you ever imagine we’d be here, thirty odd years later?” he asks one scorching sunset as they sit on the still sizzling rooftop of the hospital, gazing out at New Jersey on fire.
“No,” she admits.
There is little to be said in the heavy vapor of the air and the swaying dangle of their feet over the ledge. Sweat beads and crawls, leaving trails and pathways down their bodies. The shimmer of the solar orb beats like a heart then begins to grow faint. His beeper sounds and he tosses a small smile in her direction.
“Time to go save another life,” he says, laying his hand against hers on the brick of the building.
She doesn’t turn around as he leaves and breathes into the soft breeze.
A time comes when she is finally tired of the medical flow and Rachel has been through two cap and gown ceremonies. She smiles as her daughter gushes over the line about her first job as a kindergarten teacher. The innocence of youth has captured Rachel’s interest and she wonders if this has anything to do with her own affinity for the life of a child.
After the call, she hangs up and glances around her office. It seems almost like a rite of passage, the beginning of one career and the ending of another. It’s past time to walk away.
She enters his office and announces this to a team of baby faces not too far removed from adolescence. They exchange looks to one another but she knows none of them particularly care, only him. He stares at her and says nothing. She doesn’t either. Their eyes meet, blue against blue.
“It’s been a long time. We’re too old for this,” she tries to say with her eyes.
She pivots and leaves his office. At her back, she can still feel him fighting, never ready to give up and throw in the towel.
“What’s your best memory of us?” he asks, shifting his weight on the couch.
She sits a moment, really trying to remember everything to their growing forty year history. Most of it seems a blur, only certain pin points of lucid light shining through. It’s a travesty to be losing everyone, especially him when he sits right next to her.
She plays a role, as much for his morale as for her own. Never would she admit that she wakes up and forgets where she is, that she has a daughter and grandchildren on the opposite coast. That sometimes, she can’t even remember her own name.
Her arms link and twist around his and she rests against his body.
“What about it?” he asks, dancing his fingers along her palm.
He never mentions the arthritis or the loss of music in his fingertips. The piano of his has long collected dust and only sits with the ghost of notes on its keys. They have both lost more than either care to think about.
“Back in the time of the pencil and notebook paper, I seem to remember a dashing gentleman sticking his nose close to my endocrinology final exam,” she laughs.
“I was just making sure you had studied.”
“Methinks someone had forgotten to study himself.”
He huffs and lays his head against her gray curls. “But, out of everything, why that?”
“We were young and lovely. You had so much promise and gumption. Despite looking off of my test, I always knew you had the answers. And if you didn’t, you’d do everything in your power to find them.”
He says nothing and keeps his eyes fixed on the fireplace. After a few moments of silence, she turns the inquiry to him.
“Well, what about you?”
“The first time we made love,” he answers without hesitation.
“Of course you’d say that,” she snorts with mock distaste.
“Now hang on a minute, not for the reasons you think.”
“Oh, so it wasn’t to see the ‘funbags’ for the first time?”
“Although those were nice,” he smiles, “It was just, fruition I think.”
“Cuddy, we spent so many years putting up walls and running from each other. That first time, you were stripped of everything you worked so hard to control. But you weren’t vulnerable. You were soft and warm and…” he trails off.
She doesn’t try to finish for him or press him to do the same. She has no idea what would fill his blank.
“Do you ever resent me for not proposing to you?” he asks.
The question blindsides her and she turns to look at him.
“Where did that come from?”
“I was just wondering. Don’t read too much in to it,” he smirks.
Her lips purse and her brows furrow. He waggles his eyebrows, trying to make light of the situation. At least the years haven’t taken his sense of amusement, she thinks to herself.
“I don’t,” she says finally, firmly.
“Would it have changed anything?”
Slowly, she leans in and kisses him. He never responds at first, almost like none of it is happening even though they have by one another’s side for years. She thinks that maybe it is his stubborn nature, him coercing her to make the first move. Long ago, she stopped caring about the tug and just let go of the rope, joining him on his side. His lips are a doorway to home and she loves the feel of him under her skin.
“No,” she breathes against him.
His hand traces the side of her face and brushes a strand of hair out of her eyes. Her head comes to rest on his shoulder and he scoots closer to her to where no space exists between them, the way it always should have been. Nothing sounds in the air, save for the crackle and breathe of the fire.
“What would happen if the cortrosyn stimulation test is done on a patient with adrenal insufficiency because of intrinsic adrenal dysfunction?” he asks, stirring her slightly as she begins to doze.
He smells of laundry detergent and cologne and she inhales against his shoulder, breathing all of him into her. She tightens her grip on their clasped hands and starts to speak, but stops. She doesn’t answer the question and turns her gaze away from his eyes. The night creeps along and the winter wind howls outside. As she drifts into slumber, she admits to herself she doesn’t remember the truth to his question. It’s part of another life she has already seemed to have forgotten..