Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is one of my favourite books. As I was rereading the story again, I suddenly felt like writing this. If you don’t know what Wuthering Heigts is about, or if you hate it, I suggest you skip this fic. (Beta by Tinhutlady.)|
Saturday night and there she is: snuggled up with a blanket and her pillow in the corner of the sofa, wearing sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt. No gloves, no scarf, no socks. With all the younger students in bed and the older ones out on their dates, there isn’t anyone around to touch. Well - maybe except for him.
She doesn’t look up when he enters the room -- she’s watching a movie. He stops for a moment and hesitates. Maybe seeking her company isn’t such a good idea. Maybe she’s waiting for her boyfriend to join her. Maybe she just wants to be left alone. Even if she’s feeling lonely, he doesn’t think he’s the right company for her. Still, he’s drawn to her like a moth to a flame.
“What are you watching?” he asks in a soft voice, trying not to startle her.
She looks up, pleasantly surprised to see him. It’s the look she always gives him when he’s initiating contact. He has to give her credit, even though she still has a crush on him, she lets him be. She only starts talking when it’s functional, and she never asks for his attention without a valid reason. She knows he needs his space, and she respects that. In return, he spends quality time with her while he tries not to encourage her feelings. It’s a tough combination, and he knows he’s screwed up more than once already.
“Wuthering Heights,” she says. “Did you see it?”
He’d read the book once, a few years back in a sleazy hotel room. The previous owner left it on the night stand, and it helped him to get through one of his many sleepless nights. He thought it was alright, considering the fact that he doesn’t believe in eternal love, or the type of love that’s ‘meant to be.’ Sometimes he even doubts the existence of love in general, but still, there were moments when the story had captured him.
“I liked that Heathcliff-guy. Would’ve bought him a beer,” he says, half-smiling.
She returns his smile with caring eyes. Too caring. He should be going, but he can’t seem to turn around and leave.
“Want to watch the rest with me?”
There it is: one of those innocent little questions. They seem so insignificant for someone who doesn’t know her true feelings, but he’s aware that she longs for these moments. Maybe he does, too, but he’ll never admit that out loud.
“Sure,” he answers, and he walks up to her while she moves over.
He sits down, boots on the table, and she puts her bare feet on his lap. It’s a little ritual they’ve grown accustomed to. He covers them with the blanket, although he knows it’ll be too warm for him. She likes it that way, though. It’s an insignificant sacrifice.
She snuggles a bit deeper in the corner, gives him a sweet smile and then she’s watching the movie again, wiggling her feet a little, like she always does when she’s a bit nervous. He stops them by lightly pulling one of her toes, and it makes her giggle.
“Alright, I’ll stop that. Sorry.”
Together they watch a few scenes. He unconsciously caresses her feet and ankles. She’s very aware, but she reminds herself that it doesn’t mean anything to him.
After a while, she asks, “What do you think of Edgar?”
“Dull,” he says simply. “I can’t understand why Cathy chose him.”
“I think I can,” she mumbles, but regrets it right away.
She wonders what he means: why does she know, or why does Cathy choose Edgar? She assumes the latter.
“Well, the first word I thought of when I read about Edgar is ‘peace’. Steady, safe calmness. He’s a calm lake in the summer, rippling but still reflecting the sun. You know for sure that you are safe when you go out for a swim. Nothing exciting and nothing scary. It’s safe. *He* is safe.”
“Right,” he answers. “Dull. He’s the good guy. The guy who sticks around. So - what do you think of Heathcliff?”
She suddenly feels a bit awkward. Are they still talking about the movie? Or about them? About her boyfriend and her? About their team leader and his fiancé? She tries to find the right words.
“Heathcliff is passion. Not just passion in love, but passion in life, too. In a way, he *is* life. There is so much energy around him. He’s a stormy sea, swirling, waves and wind. Cathy can get sucked in and never see the surface again.”
He considers her answer for a moment while his warm hands stop the gentle strokes.
“Fair enough. But what if she survives his passion? She could have the adventure of a lifetime.”
She stares at him. Is he trying to tell her something?
He feels her intense gaze and turns his attention to the screen again, wondering why he’d said that. He feels the need to explain.
“Jean told me once that women flirt with the bad guy. They marry the good. Guess that’s what Cathy did, too.”
“I guess so,” she whispers, but continues staring at his profile.
His hands start moving again, and she closes her eyes and allows herself to feel her love for him for just a minute.
After a short silence, he faces her again. “You think Cathy did the right thing when she married that dweeb.”
It’s not a question, and she realises that he’s right. She’d always thought Cathy and Heathcliff were meant to be, but maybe that was a fairytale. Cathy had someone - Edgar - who loved her. Heathcliff left without saying goodbye, and Cathy didn’t know if he would ever return. Even if he would, she wasn’t sure he’d return for her, so it only seemed logical to marry the one who stayed and showed her his love. The good guy.
She agrees with both Catherine and Jean, now that she really gives it a good thought. Her heart tells her otherwise, though. Realising that she’s giving up on fairytales, she answers, “I think I understand her motives.”
His eyes lock onto hers, and she knows he’s scanning her feelings.
“That doesn’t mean I agree with her,” she hurries to tell him, before he sees her doubt.
“But you’d do the same.”
She shrugs. “I don’t know. Heathcliff never told her that he loved her.”
“He shouldn’t have to,” he answers quite heatedly. “It’s obvious she means the world to him.”
Again they stare at each other, and again his hands are motionless on her feet.
He senses that both their hearts are pounding too fast, both their respirations a little too superficial. He takes a deep breath and feels the tension leaving his body again.
“He left her,” she finally says, a bit aggravated, and she tries to sit up straight.
“Because she was too scared to admit her love for someone like him,” he replies almost growling.
Now she doesn’t know what to say, and neither does he. The movie continues, but they aren’t paying attention anymore. His gaze is turned to the blanket, and he feels the warmth of her bare feet on his lap. He’s slightly puzzled by his own words.
She, too, is trying to figure out what he’d meant. And while she tries to find a comfortable way to snuggle up again, he can’t help but smile. He enjoys watching her while she isn’t aware of his presence. Like now, when she plumps up her cushion.
“Come here, kid.”
His arm stretches out and grabs her shirt by the sleeve. She’s surprised, but lets him pull her close to his side. She turns around, and now her feet rest on the pillow. She hesitates. It’s clear she doesn’t know how to lean against him, but he resolves her problem by tapping his thigh.
“It’s okay. Lay down.”
She carefully rests her head on his right thigh, facing the TV, and she feels him tucking her in with the blanket. She’s a little nervous again at first, but then he lays his right hand on her upper arm, and his left starts caressing her hair. She calms down.
He watches as the girl--no, young woman, curls up next to him, and he marvels how she always makes him feel so protective around her. Her hair is soft and it smells so good he wants to nuzzle it. He sometimes seriously doubts his sanity when she’s this close.
He tries to concentrate on the movie, but he can’t seem to focus. While he wraps her white streaks around his fingers, he feels one of her hands on his knee. She tentatively starts stroking his jeans.
In a small voice, she asks, “Do you think Cathy should’ve waited for Heathcliff’s return?”
He looks down at her, and he knows his answer is going to be important. It’s not just about the movie or the book, this is about them. Their future. Possibly together.
Is he up to it?
He sighs and rests his head against the couch. Even while he tries to think of an easy way out, he already knows that there isn’t one.
“No. I think Cathy did what was best of them all. They weren’t ready for a relationship. With each other, I mean.”
Unexpectedly, she turns to her back so she can face him. He vigilantly lifts his hand from her arm, just in time to avoid an accidental brush against her breasts. For a brief moment he’s considering how to hold her. Then he decides to stretch his arm on the back of the couch, not touching her at all.
She feels her blood pounding in her ears. She suddenly realises that he’s sentient of her curves, otherwise that unintentional touch couldn’t be avoided. It’s a discovery that sets the butterflies in her stomach free again.
“Why weren’t they ready?” she asks, nervously fumbling with her blanket.
“They both needed to grow up one way or the other,” he answers, avoiding her stare.
“I see.” Then she adds thoughtfully, “She needs to learn to follow her heart, and he needs to learn to care for himself before he can actually love her. Right?”
Her eyes search for his, silently asking his approval. He can’t help but tenderly let his index finger caress her eyebrow while he faintly smiles.
Silence falls in again, and they both notice the movie ended sometime during their conversation. She searches for the remotes, and after finding them, she switches off both the TV and the DVD-player. Neither of them wants to get up, though.
She’s the first to speak again. “Cathy and Heathcliff had to die before they finally knew what they’d done wrong.”
Still facing him, her head on his thigh, she’s expecting him to say something. He puts his hand loosely on her stomach and hopes she’s okay with that. She pulls her sleeve over her hand and touches his knuckles through the fabric, showing him that she is indeed comfortable with his touch. He doesn’t know what to say, so he remains silent.
Somehow it feels wrong to be there without the excuse of watching a movie. Without any excuse but just *wanting* to be with her. He starts to feel restless again, and she senses it. She sits up straight, and the moment she starts gathering her pillow and the blanket, he gets up as well.
She watches as he heads toward the door, and she decides to take a risk.
“Would you promise me something?”
He stops in his tracks and turns around to face her. “Again?” he asks while he quirks one eyebrow.
He thinks about it, watching her carefully. “Shoot.”
“When you leave again - promise you’ll say goodbye to me.”
He sees her love for him while she’s holding the pillow in her arms. It doesn’t surprise him. He’s sees it all the time, even when she tries to hide it. But this time, he also notices something else. Patience. An accepted patience.
He feels calmness wash over him, and he allows himself to relax. She needs hope, he realises. Something to hold on to. The one thing Heathcliff neglected when he left his true love. So he tries to find the right words.
“No, darlin’. When I’ll leave, I’ll ask you to wait for me. How’s that?”
When he sees her bright smile and her blush, he can’t help but smile, too. Time for him to leave the room.
He hears her softly spoken answer when he’s halfway down the corridor.
“I’ll stay put.”