|"Choosing the Fifth"
by Nace M.
Disclaimer: Don't own them yadda yadda yadda.
Category: Unconventional Couples
Authors Note: For the Fifthwheelers
|Alex walked down the stairway leading from Liz's apartment back to the
Crashdown. He entered the building through the back way heading straight for
the living quarters rather than through the café, he didn't really want to
know if they were all hanging out there. He knocked on the door and Liz's mom
answered. She said that Liz was downstairs with a few friends. Dammit. He
turned and headed back down the stairs. He reached the door that separated
the kitchen from the dining area and looked through the porthole. He saw them
all huddled in a booth laughing and talking together. Max, Liz, Michael, and
Maria. He knew he could walk up to them and they would invite him to join in,
ask how he was doing, what brought him here. But as he watched the two
couples break away from conversation every few minutes to engage in a few
precious seconds of coupleness, he chose not to. While he knew that they were
his friends and would not make him feel like the outcast sitting there with
them, that's exactly what he'd be. A fifthwheel. He looked around and didn't
see Isabel anywhere. He was almost glad she wasn't there. Every time he tried
to talk to her lately she ended up giving him the 'I just can't be with
anyone now' speech. He could have mimiced her word for word by now, that's
how many times he's heard it.
He goes back to watching the happy couples with a silent envy when he feels a hand touch his shoulder. He spins quickly with surprise and almost hits her, but she doesn't even bat an eye. Tess just stares right past his shoulder and through the little window. He briefly wonders how she got in here, and what she's doing back here, but never gets the chance to ask.
"It's like watching a fishbowl don't you think?" she asked. "You see them so content swimming around with each other on the inside, leaving you to watch them by yourself on the outside."
Alex ponders this for a moment. He's never actually talked to Tess. They've never even shared the same space in existence for more than a few minutes. He started to wonder if she was as interesting as her little analogy, but then she said something that he didn't like. Something that he was aware of somewhere in the recesses of his mind, but the optimist in him refused to believe.
"They're never going to love us like we want them to," she says still staring past him at the group in the booth.
He wanted to scream at her then, tell her that she was wrong about him. That she didn't know anything about him and Isabel, but he couldn't. It was one thing to be aware of a painful truth on your own. However when someone you barely know, someone whose sole purpose since she arrived seemed to want to hurt you and all your friends, was aware of that truth too. It carried some weight with him. She looked at him finally, her eyes filled with the same dull ache his had since Isabel broke it off with him. He felt any urge to scream at Tess squander away under her gaze. She didn't say what she said out of spite, she said it because she was in the same situation. One thing he couldn't help but feel sympathy for her. She was still looking at him when her hand touched his. He half expected it to burn like acid, that she was going to poison him with a touch. It didn't feel anything like that. It felt kind of nice.
"We're the same you know," she said.
"I don't know what you mean," he replied.
"Yes you do. You know it when you're with them and feel out of place. You know it when you're with Isabel and don't seem to register as high on her priority list."
He looked at her then, seeing her eyes focused on their still touching hands. Finding himself at a loss for words he merely nodded. He didn't understand exactly what was happening. He was pretty sure he was suppose to hate Tess for hurting one of his best friends, for trying to lure away his then girlfriend into the arms of another. But as he felt her soft feminine fingers interlace with his own, he found he couldn't hate her. Not when she had put her heart on the line with Max and failed miserably. Just like he had failed miserably with Isabel. She tugged on his hand then, pulling him deeper into the kitchen. Away from the two-way door with the little window, away from anyone that might see.
His mind shouted at him that this was wrong. That she wasn't Isabel, and must be putting what Maria called 'the voodoo' on him. His feet didn't listen, and continued to move along with her. Tess pushed him against the counter and began to move her mouth ever so slowly toward him. He had plenty of time to move away, to shout at her and tell her it was a mistake. He remained silent as the centimeters between them disappeared into nothing. Her hands locked onto his back as her lips attack his. As much as he tried not to, Alex couldn't help but compare her kisses to Isabel's. There was an extremely notable difference about the way Tess kissed him. She wasn't holding back when her skin melded against his, she wasn't afraid of what this could mean. She wasn't afraid of Alex at all. Not like Isabel was. She wanted him, what a difference a kiss made when it was wanted.
Her tongue darted across his lips demanding entry. He let her tongue explore his mouth while he willed his to do the same. Her hands were roaming everywhere. Underneath his shirt, across the back of his neck, along his face. She moaned into his mouth as his fingers gently traced a line across the skin of her shoulders, as his thumb ran tenderly across his cheek. She had never felt such an affectionate embrace he was sure, because when he did these things she whimpered like he was going to hurt her. Like she'd been hurt all her life.
She had him pinned between a plate of kilbasa and the deep fryer, not letting him go for a second. They only broke apart when oxygen became an issue. And when Jose came back from his break and caught them there.
Tess didn't say anything when she took his hand again and led him outside. She remained quiet as she led him all the way to her house. Once they arrived and the door had closed behind them, she kissed him again. Long and hard and never did it seem to stop. After who knows how long they stood there necking in her doorway, she took his hand once again and led him up the stairs.
"Aren't you tired?" she asked, looking at him with eyes where the dull ache seemed to be lifted, and a Tess he would like to get to know shone through. He knew what she meant by it. Was he tired of always being the one on the outside looking in? The one who watched all of his friends achieve happiness while he merely looked on. Yes he was tired, and so was she.
Now as he sat here in the quad in his familiar spot as the odd man out amongst his dating friends, he didn't really mind that Isabel still wasn't around to take that feeling away. Not when Tess walked by and flashed him a secret smile he knew was only meant for him. It wasn't a lonely feeling any longer, especially when you had someone there to understand. Someone who knew exactly what is was like. Nope. Being a fifth wheel wasn't so bad. Not when that's what you chose to be.
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