Title: Phoenix
Author: Fialka
Summary: A close encounter of another kind.
Spoilers: none
Category: V, S/O
Rating: R
Archive: Auto-archives, Gossamer OK. Others please write for permission, though I generally give it.
Disclaimer: Don't own them, just borrowing, promise to put them back in a reasonably unmutilated state.
First Posting: 28 Nov 99
Feedback: Yes. Feed me. <fialka@t-online.de>
More candy - http://welcome.to/TheCandybox
The real meal - The Annotated X-Files - http://smart.issexy.com

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PHOENIX
by Fialka

It's near the end of a long boring shift when she walks in the door. Tiny little redhead. Cute. As out of place in her high heels and trim little suit as I with my ripped jeans and t-shirt would be in her world.

She walks in, swinging a briefcase and stops. Letting her eyes adjust to the darkness. Letting herself adjust. The bar is dim even in the afternoon, and she...well, she has the look of someone who doesn't go to bars much. Not of any sort.

She sees me, swiping the counter with a half-hearted interest, and bellies on up to the bar.

Well, bellies probably isn't the word. As I said, tiny, even in the heels. The bar comes right up to her shoulders. She just stands there, a bit nervous, as I toss my rag in the sink and belly on up to my side. I've got the platform, and I'm pretty tall, so I wind up towering over her.

'What can I get you, Red?'

Her eyes flatten out a bit at my remark.

'Surely you must know that no one with red hair actually appreciates being called Red,' she says coolly.

Oooh. There's fire in them thar hills. The afternoon just picked up.

I lean on the bar, arms crossed, ready to gabble a bit. That's the nice thing about the afternoon shift. Evenings are too busy for much more than a bit of meaningful eye contact, but the afternoons are slow. I've got two customers besides her, sipping cappuchino in the corner, hands sliding up each other's legs.

'Maybe it's just a goad to get you to tell me your name,' I say, flashing her my killer grin.

She is phenomenally unimpressed. 'Asking often works.'

I laugh. 'So what's your name, Red?'

She rolls her eyes, but there's a smile in there, tugging at the corners of her mouth. She gets it under control much too fast.

'Donna,' she answers, but her eyes slide just a little off mine and I know she's lying.

Closet. Okay, whatever. She can call herself Spot or Treacle for all I care. It's none of my business. 'Donna, fine. What can I get you?' A cappuchino, I'm betting. Or a latte. She has the look of a trendy coffee drinker.

'White wine, please,' she answers. This is why I never bet for real.

I fill a glass and place it in front of her. She's climbed up on one of the high stools by then, and I mean climbed. Must be a bit difficult for her, without rungs, especially in heels. She does it with surprising grace, settles herself in and starts studying her hands.

'First time?' I ask. She lifts her eyes. Nice eyes, a surprising colour, something between grey and blue.

'Here? Yes.' She lowers her eyes back down to her hands, then reaches for the glass and takes a sip. A little flicker of the lips.

'Yeah, we don't serve the best.' I shrug. She looks like she'd know a good wine. Looks like she'd know a lot of stuff like that.

'It's fine,' she says softly. She seems suddenly, inexplicably sad.

'So what brings you in? Hard day out beating up the boys?'

'You could say that.'

I'd like to ask more, but the cappuchino duo are raising their cups, calling me away. When I get back again, not fifteen minutes later, her glass is empty.

'Want another?' I hover the bottle.

'I shouldn't,' she answers, but her tone says go ahead, so I fill her up again. And again fifteen minutes after that. She's still staring at her hands, drinking with the kind of concentration that says there's something she's trying to drown.

'I get off in fifteen. Can I buy you another?' I ask. I don't usually do that, chat with the customers after hours. It makes them expect freebies next time they come in and you can't just have a bar full of drunk girls with nothing in the till. Manager doesn't like that. But I ask her, because she's got the look of someone that needs a little anonymous companionship, and apart from the vague hope that I might get lucky with that, something tells me she won't be coming in again. Or if she did, she's not the kind to ask favours, not even from friends.

She lifts her eyes without lifting her head. Ooh, she's lovely, really, the kind of quiet beauty you need to look at for awhile to truly appreciate. I have the sudden idea that I could look at her all night, from every possible angle. I could even look at her over breakfast, and it's not too often that I say that.

I tilt my head towards the last corner booth. It's the quietest table we have. 'Meet you over there in ten,' and she actually nods and slides off the stool, a little less graceful than when she came in.

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A bottle of wine later, she's standing inside the door of my apartment, toeing off her heels. Without them, she's smaller in every way.

I come up close, testing the waters. Her cheeks grow brighter, but she doesn't step back.

'I promised you dinner,' I say softly, slipping the strap of the briefcase from her shoulder. I'd like to take a lot more off her, but to be honest, I'm still not sure I'm going to get the chance. 'Come in, sit down, dig through my CD's. Make yourself comfortable.' A light hand between her shoulders, which she also doesn't seem to mind, and I get her moving into my living room. She's remarkably steady for someone who's just put away a bottle of wine on an empty stomach.

I glance at her over my shoulder as I head for the kitchen. She's standing in the middle of the room, taking it all in. There's not much to take. Ikea basics, and a couple of old movie posters; Ingrid Bergman and Kate Hepburn, young and gorgeous.

I see her walk over to my bookcase and run her fingers over the spines. Yeah, and she headed right for the good shelf, too.

She turns around and catches me looking at her.

'You're beautiful,' I say, completely without thought. She blushes, hard, and looks down at her feet.

Sweet, oh god, she's sweet. When's the last time I saw sweet? And no youngster, either. Her skin is terrific, but I'd still put her past thirty.

'Which was your favourite Angel?' I ask, walking back over to her. It's a trick question, really, but she laughs a little and looks up at me.

'Sabrina, I guess. She was the smartest.' She's smiling now, her shoulders relaxing just a fraction. 'And the least girly.'

I smile back. She's just told me a lot...definitely past thirty, and definitely with potential.

'I'd like to kiss you.' Her eyes flare wider, but her mouth is still slightly open, plush pink and inviting. The red lipstick she was wearing earlier has all but worn away. I come up toe to toe, but not so close she can't step back if she needs to.

'May I?'

She tilts her face up, and closes her eyes.

Something about that hits me right in the pit of the belly, in that place where I don't let anything hit me. Not since...well, just not.

Did I say she was sweet? Sweet doesn't even begin to describe it. How sweet is innocence, how sweet is delight? That kiss lasted maybe thirty seconds, thirty seconds where her mouth stayed soft and slightly open and I tasted her lips, and yes, she tasted not of lipstick but of wine. Wine and something else, something I knew she was tasting on my lips as I tasted it on hers.

Loneliness. Oh yeah, no one had kissed my little beauty in a very long time.

But I was okay. No, really, I was. I mean it wasn't that deep a kiss. I was okay until I pulled away and she made a little noise, a mixture of a whimper and a sigh. And my belly just rolled over. At that moment, if she asked me to open a vein for her so she could drink my blood, I'd have done it, no questions asked, right there on my beloved mexican rug.

That's why I make myself step back from her. Because before this goes one kiss further, I have to know.

'Have you been with a woman before?'

Her face is flushed and her eyes are the colour of a windswept sky. 'Yes,' she answers, and those steady blues say she's not lying. 'But not for a very long time.'

'So you're all right with this?'

'I'm all right with this.'

'Do you want to eat first? You must be starving.'

'Yes,' she whispers. And she steps right up, stretching herself against me to pull my mouth back down to where hers can reach it.

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I said she was lovely, and sweet and she is, all those things. But she's also hunger and need and darkness. Freed from the confines of that suit, stripped of her hose, she's not made of sugar. Rather, she is fire, banked and waiting. I put my face between her legs and blow softly on the embers.

She roars back to life.

When we are finished, lying tangled and sweaty on my mexican rug, listening to our stomachs rumble and picking dust bunnies out of each other's hair, I tell her she has chosen the wrong tattoo, that it should have been a phoenix. Her face changes then, goes from sated to sad. She hides in my neck where I won't see it.

'I'm sorry.' I stroke the tattoo, as if to make up for insulting it. 'It's gorgeous, really, it is. Most unexpected on you.' Still, she says nothing. I've seen other things on her body, scars of a peculiar shape, one on her front, the other on her back. I don't ask what made them. People with scars should never be forced to share those stories.

I stroke as much of her as I can reach, until she melts open over my thigh. 'I'm being very selfish,' she murmurs, face still buried in my neck.

'Not remotely. Some gifts may be better to receive, but receipt in sex is a greater gift to the giver.'

She laughs softly and raises her head. Her mouth enchants me, plump little lips pressed demurely together. Abandon is in her repertoire only briefly.

'Then perhaps you're the one being selfish.'

'Perhaps.' I answer. 'We could right the balance.'

Her stomach takes that moment to remind us quite loudly of what we have forgotten. She laughs, a real laugh this time, head back and mouth open. In that moment she is nothing less than exquisite.

And I am lost. Was, really, from the moment our lips met.

Can you fall in love in thirty seconds?

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The balance is righted, outweighed, righted and righted again. She sleeps the sleep of the thoroughly loved, the sleep of a child who is certain that every wish will be granted. She sleeps as one who always sleeps alone, curled on her side, arms wrapped around her chest.

I watch her sleep and wish the sun not to rise, wish the night not to pass.

I hoped to warm myself at her morning fire, but my body wins and I waste the last precious hours, only to wake as she does, startled at the unfamiliar. There's a phone, ringing in her briefcase, demanding attention.

She groans her way out of bed. I hear her in the other room, beating the case for its rudeness. Her world, calling her back.

'Yeah.' She does not sound pleased about it.

I make my way to the door, listening. Nothing more to hear. She paces on the mexican rug, a cellphone held to her ear, hair burning in the sunrise.

'Yes. All right. I'll meet you there.'

She clicks off the phone and stands there a moment, all peachy breasts and rusty fur. I bring the bathrobe from behind my door, wrap it around her.

'I'm sorry,' she says, looking up with only her eyes. 'I'd wanted to stay a little longer.'

'You could come back,' I answer. I wonder if it shows in my face, what I would give to be going home, just once, knowing she would be there.

'I can't.' The regret in her own face seems honest.

'Lover?'

'No.'

'Closet.'

She looks away and sighs.

'I'm sorry. That was unfair.'

'No. No, it's not unfair.' She wraps my robe a little tighter around her. The ends of it are trailing on the ground and for some reason that, more than anything, makes me want to cry. 'I don't have a closet, I have...a void. I don't have lovers. My work is my life. That's what I've chosen.'

'And this choice is irrevocable?'

'It's...It's beyond explanation. If I could...' Her voice slips out of control. She stops and tries again. 'If I could, if I ever can...'

She can't. She gives up and begins to gather her clothing from where it fell when I stripped her world away.

'Donna...'

She reaches up and puts her fingers over my mouth. She is looking into my eyes, thinking, hard, and I see her choose.

'Dana.'

It's the last thing she says.

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I hold her name like a gift, like the note that appeared at the bar a few weeks later.

I remember. That was all it said.

I don't wait. I don't hope. But sometimes, when I catch a flash of red hair, I taste her name in my mouth as I once tasted the loneliness on her lips. And I wonder if she ever can.

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