By Paul-Gabriel Wiener <email@example.com>
Submitted: November 2003
Summary: A romantic dinner for two leads to a difficult decision and an important realization.
"So," she said, "we have the place to ourselves?"
He turned his gaze up from his just-emptied plate and looked at her across the small table. She was so beautiful. In the soft candlelight that was the room's only illumination, it felt like they were the only two people in the world. He smiled, and, remembering her question, nodded.
"Alone at last." She stood and took a few graceful steps away from the table, her eyes locked on him.
He watched the sinuous movements of her legs, then looked up when she stopped. Her dress accentuated her gorgeous figure perfectly, her hair shone with the reflected glow of the candles, and her face smiled down at him more than warmly. He couldn't help glancing past her, though, when a flash of realization told him that she'd positioned herself between him and the bedroom.
She caught that flicker of movement and her eyelids dipped sensuously for a moment, not quite closing. "Mmmmm." The sound was not a moan, not a growl, but something almost in between, like the human equivalent of a purr.
He stood, and she pressed herself into his embrace. His hands moved over her soft curves, drinking in the warmth of her body. Her face was tilted up towards him invitingly, her eyes closed. He lowered his mouth to hers. Her lips were moist and salty. Salty? He pulled back.
"What's wrong?" She peered at him in the dim light, worried and confused. Unconsciously, she licked her lips, and her tongue found a droplet. Then a sparkle on his cheek caught her eye, and she drew in a small gasp of air. "Clark… you're crying!"
His hand moved to his face, felt the wetness as if he'd only just realized it was there. He looked away. "I'm sorry, Stacey. I can't do this."
"What… what is it?"
He looked back at her, his eyes red and pained. "Stacey, you're amazing. You're smart, you're funny, you're beautiful… you're everything a guy could ever hope for."
"But much as I tell myself I should, I… I don't love you. I can't go on fooling myself that this is right, that I'll just suddenly learn to start loving you. And I can't… use you like this, to stave off the loneliness I've felt for so long, and I can't take advantage of you, just to quiet… I'm sorry, Stacey. You deserve better." The tears were flowing now, brought forth by thoughts of what he'd almost done, of what he had done to Stacey, of what he'd thought he'd had, of what he'd almost given up. He batted the tears away, trying to dismiss the thoughts along with them.
"Yeah, Clark," she said quietly, vainly trying to hold back her own tears, "I'm sorry, too."
He watched as she walked out the door, wanting to do something for her, to ease the hurt he'd caused, but there was nothing he could do, nothing left to say. The door closed, all too softly. He stared at it for a while, then went to the window. He looked out over the campus, then, using his special vision, he looked further, searching for he knew not what. He caught sight of a woman looking wistfully out of a window somewhere far away. She was young, about his age, perhaps a bit younger. For a moment, it seemed that she was looking back at him, but of course that was impossible. He didn't know where he was looking, exactly, but it was miles away, and he suspected that he was looking through several buildings, trees, and other solid objects. If she was looking towards him, it was only coincidence. The feeling of being drawn to her, of being somehow connected, could only be wishful thinking.
He sighed and turned away from the window, back towards the rest of the room. He had the place to himself, at least until his roommates got back from their weekend road trip. The whole suite. The central living room/kitchen area seemed cavernous in the darkness, vast and empty. He trudged across to turn on the lights, then went to do the dishes. The water flowed over the plates, washing away the last traces of the meal that he'd put so much into preparing. As he scrubbed, a single phrase stuck in his mind. "Alone, at last."