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cracks in this fine social scene

By:
For:
anr (anr)

Fandom:
Stargate Atlantis

Pairing:
Torri Higginson/Joe Flanigan

Rating:
PG-13

Warnings:
N/A

Notes:
Takes place in some nebulous future, I suppose.  I don’t know their lives.  Also, this is sort of a combination of both prompts. Thanks very much to my betas.

Summary:
That's always been in the back of his mind, really. If he ever truly had her to begin with.


 
That she factored into the reasons for his divorce at all speaks volumes, but Joe didn’t have the words to explain it to his wife and he doesn’t have them now for Torri.

So he says nothing and waits.  He’s always had the worst timing where Torri is concerned.


* * *


Rachel mentions it at lunch, a rare occasion when they’re both in LA have the free time to meet.  She tries for casual, but Torri stills herself against the inevitable commentary on her relationship with her married (divorced) co-star (former).  She wants to ask how Rachel came upon this information, but she’s certain it’s either Jason or David.  Two of the biggest gossips she’s ever met.

“Why are you telling me this?” Torri asks instead.



Rachel takes a bite of her salad before she answers.  “Because, if you both weren’t so stubborn you’d already know about it.”

She’s right about the stubborn part, Torri thinks, wanting to believe that if things were different Joe would’ve called.

Then again, had things been different... well.  Of all the mistakes she’s made, she can’t bring herself to regret sleeping with Joe.  Not even because of what came after.








It’s been a long time, but Torri still remembers what David’s parties are like.  And because it’s been a long time, she enters with a set of rules in mind: drink to be social and have a good time, not to get drunk; leave at a decent hour; leave alone.

She’s pleasantly buzzed and having a lively conversation with Chris and Michael when she’s tapped on the shoulder.  Jason hooks an arm around her shoulders and plucks the beer bottle from her hand, taking a generous swallow before he leans and whispers into her ear, “Your boyfriend’s here.”



Torri hip checks Jason with a bit more force than necessary, but the action doesn’t stop her from looking behind them, seeking out Joe’s profile.



Moments later Joe finds her instead, taking her free hand in his and gently tugging her to follow.  Jason lets his arm fall from her shoulders and holds up what remains of her beer, calling out, “I’ll finish this for you.”

And just like that, she’s already partially broken one of her rules.



There’s no privacy to be had at David’s party, but Torri’s not sure it would matter anyway.  They make it as far as the hallway leading to one of the guest bathrooms when she pulls her hand away, and suddenly Joe is in her space, backing her against the wall before she can utter a word.  It’s like they’re picking back up where they left off, even though she hasn’t seen him in months.  A few teasingly dirty text messages doesn’t become this thing between them without provocation.



It’s not as if they haven’t been moving towards this moment, this one step where Joe slides his thigh between her legs; this one kiss that’s made the decision for them both.

Joe makes the first move but Torri pushes them over that unspoken boundary, clawing at the clothes she wore as armor.  Then there he is, beneath and inside, gasping breath and damp lips against her skin, “I knew – I knew it wouldn’t work.”

“Knew what?” she whispers, needing so much from him in this moment, including answers.



“That I can’t lie for shit.  We can’t be friends, ba-, Torri.  Torri.”  He babbles like he’s confused, and she wants to squeeze around him, make it hurt just a little.

She’s almost sorry she asked.  Feeling very much like that woman she promised herself she'd never become. But mostly, she’s sorry she's going to have to walk away.





Torri can never recall that particular memory without blushing. She curls her hand around her neck, covering up her flushed skin and takes a sip of water. Joe had never really belonged to her, so she knew putting distance between them was her only option.

Did she really expect Joe to call after all this time? Does she still?

(Yes.)

No, she thinks. It’s not likely at all.


* * *


For a while, Joe tries to fit more into the mold of a celebrity, mostly at Jason’s urging.  He attends the occasional industry shindig and blinks through the flashes of having his picture taken at various premieres.



He’s no longer the instantly recognizable television star, and he likes it.  He’s the 40-something genre actor trying to crossover into mainstream Hollywood, and what matters most are his recent projects and why he’s made an appearance at any given event.



No relationship details required, and Joe is grateful.  He spends so much time thinking of his own failed marriage it’s nice to see how little the press cares about it.

*

Joe is in the middle of an amusing story about an industry party gone terribly wrong when Jason interrupts him with an abrupt, "hold on,” then the distant sound of voices in the background, as if Jason is holding the phone away from his ear.  There’s always something going on at Jason’s house, so Joe doesn't really mind being put on hold.



He decides to wait it out with a beer, figuring it'll be more than a few minutes, and heads to the kitchen.  Holding the phone between his ear and shoulder, he grabs a cold bottle from his refrigerator, popping the top off with his hand and the edge of his t-shirt.



He's just tipping the bottle up to his mouth when he hears Lisa's voice, still at a distance but instantly recognizable.  Jason's gruff voice follows, quiet but distinct, and then another, someone new; muffled laughter, and Joe guesses the person is in closer proximity to Jason.  He listens carefully, setting his beer on the counter as if it'll make noise just by being held in his hand.



More murmurs, laughter mixed with Jason's loud guffaw, and Joe wonders if Jason's already started drinking.  He eyes the clock on the wall, drops down to glance at his own beer.  That voice again, familiar in a way he should be able to place if he could hear it more closely.  He doesn't want to assume...



Hell, who is he kidding?

Jason's voice is back before he can decide either way.  "Sorry, dude.  Lisa has company and I had to say hello."



"Don't worry about it."  Joe's not the prying type, but he wants like hell to ask.  And Jason's the type of asshole - best friend or no - who'll force his hand until Joe breaks.



Seconds tick by, then one minute and another, until Jason's chuckle filters through the phone.

"Fuck off," Joe grumbles, triggering more of Jason's laughter.



"Torri says hi, by the way."

Joe wonders what an adequate response would be.  He also wonders if she was smiling when she said it - that quick blossoming grin with dimples that he's never been able to forget in all the shit his divorce wrought.  It's not a question for Jason, but he wonders if she's missed him, if she's thought about him.



Wonders if Torri knows that while he may no longer be attached to Katherine, he's never stopped being hers.



That's always been in the back of his mind, really.

If he ever truly had her to begin with.


* * *


She's just leaving an audition when her phone vibrates with a text message from an unknown number.  Usually, Torri would delete the message without reading it, but a snippet scrolls across her screen and she taps to open:



<Hey it's Joe. Got a new #. Lock me in?>



Torri hesitates, though if she's honest with herself she's not really considering deleting his message.  She's just not sure she wants to answer.  It would be easy to save Joe's number to her address book and go about her day, pushing him aside until she's ready to deal with him.  "Ok, Joe," she sighs and begins typing.



<Got u. First time we've talked in mos. Thought u lost my #>

Joe responds immediately: <Never! I'm surprised you didn't lose mine. Sorry? I'll make it up to you.>

<Not really an apology if ur asking if ur sorry? :)>

<lol. I'm sorry Torri.>

Torri is typing a reply when another message comes in: <Missed you>

She hesitates again, though her fingers are eager to type honestly.



<Me too. Dinner when I'm back in town?

Torri takes a deep breath before sending the message.  He might say no.  Unlikely.  He might read more into the invitation than she intended.  Why is this a bad thing, exactly?



Torri suddenly laughs at the circular arguments she's having with herself.  She and Joe have never been difficult, only complicated in the best ways.



She looks at her phone - Joe has sent two more messages.



<Yep. I'm in Florida. Long story. Should be back in LA in 1 week.



Torri?
>

Finally, this is happening. <Tell me over dinner.  A wk is fine. Safe travels.>

Torri starts the countdown immediately.





* * *



The watch on his wrist tells him it's 15 till midnight, though it feels much later.  Joe has been up since 5 a.m. to squeeze in as much daylight as possible for a location shoot.  The director wanted realism, and Joe didn't see it as his place to object when he was getting paid to act his heart out in what'll appear on screen as the Florida Everglades.  He felt like he'd overstayed his welcome days ago, but by the end of the schedule the director had gotten what he needed and, not soon enough, Joe was on a plane back home.

Joe takes in his surroundings as he walks a slow pace from concourse D to E, his final destination.  He tries to avoid layovers when he can, but a longing to see his kids and to sleep in his own bed isn't the only thing driving his need to touch back in LA.  Now that he's finally gotten over himself and his fear of who the hell knows, he wants to see Torri.  Now that he knows he's not in this alone, he's gotten out of his own damn way.  He's done holding back.

And not even his dislike of red eye flights is going to keep him from seeing and touching her as soon as he's able.

*

The first thing Joe does after arriving at concourse E is to look for coffee.  He has his laptop and a book to keep him occupied for the hour layover, but once he settles into a seat he pulls out his phone instead, opening his inbox.  After answering a few emails - including a message to Kath and the boys - he finds himself reading over the conversations he's had with Torri over the past few days.  Since that initial step, he'd taken to sending her short messages throughout the day, or forwarding her a few hilarious emails from Jason or Browder.

Taking a quick look at his watch again (12:03 a.m.), Joe sends her a quick text.

<You up?>

Torri responds a few seconds later.

<Yes. Flying back home tonight. You?>

<Also flying home. Layover till 1ish.>

<Me too. Strange that. Where are you.>

Joe smiles as he types: <Atlanta.>

<Come see me.>

<Would if I could. I'd use you as a pillow.>

<Lol. No really. Concourse E in the sky lounge. I've got privs.>

Joe's head snaps up and he looks around, scanning for Torri.  The concourse looks different when it's not crowded with people rushing to and from various gates.  At any other time he'd be more appreciative of the quiet.  "Hmm... sky lounge." he murmurs to himself, and finally catches sight of a sign pointing toward the lounge.

Gathering his things, types a quick message and starts walking.  <On my way.>


* * *


Torri adds him as her guest the second his message comes through, and waits for him at the entrance.  Joe's eyes widen when he comes inside, taking in the plush furniture and wide screen televisions, a fully stocked bar and snack shelf.  He meets her eyes, says, "So this is why you travel on the red eye so often.  I get it." He turns in a circle just to take everything in, and she finds herself waiting.  For the inevitable, she supposes.  After nearly six months of silence (or years, if she's being honest), of talking around each other to mutual friends, and they end up here.

Before Torri has a chance to consider just how awkward things could get between them in an airport lounge of all places, Joe grabs her in a hug, wrapping his arms tight around her waist.  Her arms go around his shoulders without much thought to the handful of passengers in the lounge with them, and she leans her forehead into the side of his neck.  Sighs, and holds on.

*

"You probably already know this, but Kath and I got a divorce about six months ago."  Silence.  "I uh - I guess I just wanted you to hear it from me."

She laughs.

*

Joe watches as she wipes tears from the corner of her eyes.  "I guess that announcement was about five months too late, right?"

Torri nods "Just about," she says around a giggle.

"Ok," Joe sighs and rubs the back of his neck.  "I fucked that up.  Good thing I wasn't already self-conscious about having this conversation with you."

Torri turns to face him and he threads their fingers together, a wry smile on his face.  "Yeah, good thing," she says softly.  She smiles suddenly after a minute or two of silence.  "You deserved it."

"I did."

Joe leans forward, resting his stubbled cheek against their joined hands.  He releases a soft sigh when she brings her other hand up to card her fingers through his hair.

She wonders what he's thinking, what more he has to say, bent over like he has so many things to confess.  She can't be that person for him; can't absolve him of every dirty thought he'd had about her during his marriage to Katherine.  Torri doesn't regret the longing and the temptation and the sex.  She wouldn't take it all back even if she had the power to do so.

She moves in, pressing a soft kiss to the corner of his mouth.  "Listen, I'm still a little pissed at you, but I'd rather not redo the last few months."  Joe nods and she continues, "I'm ready to start over.  You?"

He pulls back and cups her face in both hands - warm and a little rough against her cheeks – pressing his mouth to hers.  When she lets out a small breath he deepens the kiss, easing his tongue inside.  And it's slow and sexy and makes her want things she can't have until they're back in LA.

The kiss tapers off naturally, and Torri swallows harshly, suddenly unable to look him in the eye.  She has to be careful.  It'd be so easy to fall for him kiss-first.

Licking her lips, she finally meets his gaze.

Oh.

Or, maybe she has nothing to worry about if he's already fallen first.



* * *


Torri grins at him – a quick blossoming smile with dimples that he wants to trace with his fingers and feel with his skin so he never forgets.

And that's all it takes.

 Comments

 Left By:
Little Red (mylittleredgirl)

At:
2010-12-26 20:03:32

 
JASON. Oh, I love it! This is lovely and fun and I lol'd and felt bad for Joe, because all the women in his life are mad at him, but he totally deserves it, so there's that. :) Great story, mystery author!


 Left By:
anr (anr)

At:
2010-12-30 17:48:33

 
This was awesome -- thank you Santa! I love that they're both so confused, and unsure, but at the heart of it they're both thinking the same thing -- that they want each other no less. The airport scenes were wonderful -- thank you for answering my prompts. :)


 Left By:
Jen (phrenitis)

At:
2010-12-30 22:25:55

 
I love that it's not all roses after the divorce - that there's this awkward, delayed, distance that grows between them. And Jason! Ahaha, fabulous addition. Great fic!


 Left By:
dirty diana (dirty_diana)

At:
2011-01-01 01:44:00

 
Mmmn. Very bittersweet really, but with that flush of hope at the end. Lovely.


 Left By:
llaras (llaras)

At:
2011-01-27 04:30:36

 
I really appreciated how uneasy this was, how they didn't just jump to a happy ending, but you could still have a glimmer, an expectation of a happy ending somewhere along the line. Very nice.


 Left By:
Guest (Coazonaps)

At:
2011-10-31 22:25:03

 
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