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22 November 2010 @ 10:03 pm
Sea Patrol Fan Fic: Tumble  
Title: Tumble
Author: somebodysangel/
[info]nyafangirl  
Rating: PG
Genre: Angst/Romance
Pairing: Nav/Dutchy
Summary: “Do you really think I need a piece of… fabric to picture the face of the person I love most in the world?”
Loved,” he correctly quietly.
Notes: The first long-ish piece in my Navland universe... which reminds me, I should post the drabbles in here. I really think these two have a shot at happily ever after - but we all know that means I get to torture them a whole lot, first. Thanks to 
[info]griffin_wolf  for the beta and title.

Dylan woke with a start, and almost rolled off the couch. At the last second he flung out an arm, the coffee table halting his body. He winced at the ache of his ribs, bruised from the boarding this afternoon. He really had to stop diving headlong into dangerous situations.

A movement against his shoulder brought his attention to the woman curled beside him, and a smile spread over his face. Unlike most of the women he’d dated previously, Nikki hadn’t treated him with kid gloves when she heard about his injury. Instead, she’d rolled her eyes at the story of his stupidity, and put him to work setting the table while she finished cooking dinner. He loved that about her.

Though his fingers itched to touch her serene face, he didn’t want to risk waking her; he’d learned that lesson very quickly the first few times he’d stayed at her place. So he carefully slid his arm out from under her, and stood up gingerly.

What might his life have been like if he’d met someone like Nikki earlier? His brow furrowed every time he remembered the many nameless women who had paraded through his life (and his bed) over the few years. He’d rarely attempted to get to know any of them beyond the physical; and the few he had, well, he’d learned that it wasn’t only women who were objectified.

He paced through the dark house, wishing he could do for her all that she’d done for him. Thanks to Nikki, Dylan no longer hated himself for past mistakes. He no longer turned them over and over in his mind, wondering how he could have done things differently. Though he wouldn’t say he was at peace with his past, he was now able to move past it. He wanted to do the same thing for her.

Entering the bedroom, he noted how different it looked without Nikki. Though he’d been inside this room before, she had always been by his side. He noted the male clothes in the half-open wardrobe, the oversized flannel shirt Nikki often wore draped over a chair, Josh’s photograph on the dresser. How would she ever be able to move on when she was constantly surrounded by reminders of what she’d lost?

Before he was conscious of the thought, he was stripping clothes off hangers and tossing them onto the bed. This was what he could do for her, how he could help her look forward rather than back. He left the photo alone; it had already been moved from the bedside table to the dresser, out of deference to Nikki and Dylan’s relationship. The navy uniform Josh wore served as a reminder to Dylan; to always appreciate what he had, and never take Nikki for granted.

“What the hell are you doing?” Nikki’s voice was brittle, and Dylan froze. This was not how he’d wanted her to find out what he’d done for her.

He didn’t even have time to turn around before she was beside him, pulling the shirt from his fingers. She continued moving, walking past him to stare into the now-empty space in the wardrobe. For a long moment there was silence, Dylan thinking frantically of some way to salvage the situation.

“I just thought, if you didn’t have to see all these things every day…” he trailed off when she whirled around, pointing a finger at him.

“That I wouldn’t see his face first thing when I wake up in the morning? That a photo is going to help me remember the exact colour of his eyes? Do you really think I need a piece of… fabric to picture the face of the person I love most in the world?”

Loved,” he correctly quietly.

She glared at him. “You’ll never mean more to me than Josh does.”

Dylan reeled back, her words cutting deeper than he’d realised possible. She probably hadn’t even realised how tightly she’d wound her way around his heart.

Nikki wiped her eyes with the shirt, and he watched her inhale shakily, then freeze. Those angry turquoise eyes returned to his face. “What did you do to it?” She brandished the shirt angrily. “His smell, it was there this morning, and now it’s gone!”

Her face was streaked with tears, and Dylan reached out to comfort her. Thought he had known it would be hard for her to let go, he hadn’t realised how much it would hurt him, to see her in such pain.

She batted his hand away, and held up the shirt once again. “What did you do to him?”

“He’s been dead for three years, Nikki,” Dylan began, speaking as gently as possible. “Those shirts haven’t smelled like him for a long time.” He reached for her again, wanting more than anything to crush her against his chest and let her cry herself out.

The look on her face stopped him cold. It was as if she didn’t even recognise him. “Get out.”

“Nikki, I-”

“Get out!” Her face was furious now, despite the tears that continued to flow.

With one final glance over his shoulder, he left the room, and the house, regret permeating his every step.

………

When Nikki woke, the pillow beneath her cheek was wet, and her eyes itched; she’d fallen asleep. She reached out a hand to the other side of the bed, but was unsurprised to find the space empty, the sheets cold. Rolling over to face the wardrobe, she imagined Josh walking back from the shower, towel around his hips, toothbrush in his mouth. It was so easy to see his wide grin, his piercing blue eyes. If she closed her eyes, she could pretend he was really there.

He isn’t. She heard the words as clearly as if Dylan had spoken them, a thought that dropped like a bomb, and was just as devastating. Even more upsetting was Dylan’s intrusion into her mind when she was trying to think of Josh. Though she tried to force older memories to the surface, her brain continued conjuring more recent ones: Dylan’s arm resting lightly over her shoulders; Dylan looking back at her after he scored a try in touch football; Dylan blowing her a kiss as he stepped out of car when she dropped him at Hammersley. And, although she had no idea how it had happened, she found she could no more picture her life without Dylan than she could without Josh.

A frustrated growl escaped her throat as she threw back the covers and stalked through the house. How could she have let this happen? When Josh died, she had vowed to never open herself up like that again, never wanting to feel the paralysing devastation of grief.

Her fingers automatically touched a photo in the hall, the same way they did every time she walked past. This photo had kept her company all those lonely nights and days on Hammersley, just after Josh’s death. She no longer needed to look at it to see the grins on both of their faces, the bright blue of his singlet, the green of the island foliage behind them. And that was the moment, as her fingertips touched the glass, she realised she had lied.

Dylan might never mean more to her than Josh. But he meant just as much.

The realisation expelled the air from her lungs and sent her to her knees. Nikki leaned against the wall behind her, staring into the living room, unseeing.

Words swelled in her throat, and escaped her mouth as a whisper. “I love him.” Though she barely heard herself, she couldn’t help but smile, her heart thumping in her chest as she repeated the words. “I love him.”

Suddenly on her feet, she stumbled, and was unable to tell if it was because of vertigo or the giddiness she felt. She’d thought her heart irreparably broken and, somehow, someway, Dylan had mended it. With every breath she took, she could feel the empty spaces inside her soul, the ones that had first appeared when she fished Josh’s dead body out of the water, filling with the thought of Dylan.

She had to find him, to apologise. Sliding her feet into the thongs discarded the night before, Nikki shrugged on a jacket and stepped into the cold winter air. But she hadn’t made it two steps before she hesitated. A loud exhale sounded in the still night and, head hung low in resignation, she turned and walked back inside.

In her bedroom, she cleared out the drawer that had been Josh’s, gathering the clothes into a bundle and adding the shirts Dylan had taken out of the wardrobe earlier that night. Her washing machine held them all easily, and tears streaked down her face when she realised just how little of Josh she had allowed into her space. She’d been ready to marry him, yet his physical presence in her house amounted to little more than a load of washing.

The familiar rumble of the old machine began. “Goodbye,” Nikki whispered.

As the washing cycle continued behind her, she left to find Dylan.

fin.
 
 
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