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A Changing Constellation

anr (anr)

Stargate Atlantis



For sugargroupie, who requested torri/joe and blurring the lines.

More by accident than by design.

Torri sits on the last stool at the bar, back perfectly straight and one foot slowly tapping in time with the jukebox. There's a martini in front of her, untouched, and a bottle of Coors in her hand.

"I've been thinking," she says as you slide onto the stool beside her, "we should get you a dog."

"I don't need a dog." You order a beer from the barman and flick the rim of the martini glass with your fingernail. "Who bought you the drink?"

She shrugs. "Some guy." There are fairy lights hanging above your heads in uneven loops, pinpricks of white light glinting off the sunglasses she's using to keep her hair back. "What about a malamute?"


"Poodle cross?"

"No dogs." You take the beer the barman hands you and tilt it in Torri's direction. "Merry Christmas."

She rolls her eyes. "Bah, humbug."

Kathy thinks you're having an affair with Torri. You're not, but apparently that detail is irrelevant. You made the mistake of saying as much to her once and you're pretty sure every argument the two of you have had since then has resulted from that one, sarcastic observation.

Torri plays pool carelessly, sinking shots more by accident than by design. In the beginning it would drive you crazy, watching her simply smash the balls around a table, but now you're used to it. She always gets the same surprised, pleased expression on her face whenever she sinks a ball.

"So, what happened?"

She's asking why you're here, why you've called her up for drinks on Christmas eve instead of spending time with your family, but that's a question you're not so sure either of you are ready to hear the answer to. "Do you ever get the feeling that your life is your life only because somebody else decided there were different -- maybe even better -- options for theirs?"

The two ball shoots across the table, rebounding off a cushion and into the corner pocket. She smiles. "That's pretty deep, Flanigan," she says, straightening up and walking around to stand beside you. "Even for you."

"Hey, I can be deep."

"Like an ocean," she agrees dryly, nudging you out of the way with her hip. "Recede, please."

You step to the side and watch her aim for the nearest clump of balls, scattering them across the table. None go in and she shrugs, handing over the pool cue.

"I'll go get us another round while you take a turn," she says, already walking away. "Don't cheat."

You haven't yet.

Kathy came up with the idea to move back to LA. She said it would be better for the boys here, better for her. Though she's never said it, you have a feeling the question of whether it would be good for you, or for your marriage, wasn't high in her list of considerations.

Torri makes cracks about the rampant commercialisation of Christmas and the superficiality of the season now that they're in an era of gross self-indulgence. She mocks the lights strung above the bar, the small fibre-optic Christmas tree sitting above the cash register, and the fake snow sprayed around the windows facing the street.

"Whatever, Charlie Brown," you say, rolling your eyes. "How many decorations did you put up again this year?"

Torri loves Christmas. She sends out dozens of cards, listens to nothing else but Christmas carols from December fourteen on, and spoils her family rotten with gifts. You're pretty sure a part of her still believes in Santa Claus too.

"Me being a hypocrite doesn't change the fact that the true message of Christmas has been lost under sheets and sheets of non-recyclable wrapping paper."

"A sad commentary on society today," you agree. "What did you ask Santa for this year?"

"Nothing." Her smile is somewhat crooked. "What I want isn't ready yet."

Kathy didn't give you any gift ideas for her this year, nor did she request any ideas from you. The fact that you didn't offer or ask for any either probably says more about the state of your relationship than you'd care for it to.

Torri lets you kiss her on the cheek when you finally leave the bar, your mouth brushing dangerously close to the corner of her mouth.

"Goodnight, Joe," she says, one hand resting lightly on your arm. "Merry Christmas."

"I'll see you soon," you say. It might be a hell of a work commute, but at least it's easier to catch up during hiatus now. "Say hi to Santa Claus for me."

Her laugh is bright and appealing; a test for your willpower, maybe.

She blows you a kiss as she drives away.

Kathy's giving you a divorce for Christmas this year.

It's almost hard not to look forward to it.

The End


 Left By:
2007-12-25 10:23:35

Oh, this is lovely. They're towing that line gracefully, but the intentions of Torri and Joe are both clear. And the banter and affection between them is written so well. Thank you very much!