by Croupier

She had never gotten anything she wanted.

The allowance was nice, but she could do without.

The discount was nice, but she could do without that, too.

Some girl who'd been in a convent for ten million years had slept with the only man she'd ever loved.

Her father had slept with the only girl.

She'd never had a real friend--brief flirtations, hi/hi, pats on the ass in the hall, no one to call late at night. She'd watch Johnny, and find some relief in her love for her brother. She hated being forced to babysit him, but she never minded the sitting itself. They would play with his dollhouse, and she had gotten to name some of its inhabitants. Sometimes she could make him laugh. But that was before Laura came. She shone, but Laura shone brighter. She would smile at him, but only Laura could make him smile back. She hated Laura for that, and loved her, too. One day, Laura had come to her bedroom after a session with Johnny. Audrey, petulant, had pretended she didn't want to talk. Laura had spread her hands, her face damp. She seemed withered. She had said simply, "I'm sorry." Audrey knew she meant it but had hated her anyway. And loved her, too.

Audrey was alone, wildly alone, more so than the usual adolescent alienation. She and Laura recognized that common spark between them, a glimpse of fire at the end of the hall, eyes meet, look away, betray no recognition. Audrey knew or could guess almost all of Laura's secrets, and for that, Laura was sometimes glad the pair were not closer. She didn't want to draw Audrey down the rabbit hole after her. Save your fire, she prayed to Audrey, late at night, after Bob had left. Save your fucking fire, Audrey. Laura began avoiding her eyes, and, although Audrey knew it was too late, she still brushed Laura's hand as she walked to class, her flesh lingering just long enough to feel what was left of Laura pulse forward, and then shudder back, away wherever she went when such things became too much to bear. Audrey wanted to stop touching Laura- -to stop feeling her wake and die, and die again every time their hands brushed--but, really, she didn't know how. Privately, Audrey said her goodbyes to an empty room, praying to Laura the way that Laura prayed to her. Publicly, she had moved on. No one noticed her touches, save for what was left of Laura.

And what was left of Laura knew just the way to make Audrey want to stop touching.

A photograph on Ben Horne's desk. The knowledge that Ben Horne had been with Laura and, more painfully, the knowledge that Laura had been with her father.

Audrey knew Laura was in trouble, and knew Laura was dying long before anybody else, before even Laura. Audrey wanted to rescue her, just so she could know that she wasn't the only one in Twin Peaks. Wasn't the only star. Laura was brilliant, beautiful, shining--everything Audrey was. The difference was, people noticed it in Laura. Agent Cooper came to see what Laura herself had seen, watching Audrey grow through junior high and high school: Audrey was too bright, too blinding. Looking directly at her for too long would burn your fucking eyes out. Cooper remembered the first night he understood that about Audrey, dancing at the Milfords' wedding. He thought of his hands on her waist, the way she had moved under them. He could feel her intensity, her burning, could practically feel her going supernova under his palms, palms that sweated when she was near and itched when she was away. She was, she was going to be...amazing. He wondered what she would be like at twenty, at thirty. He wanted to be there to see it.

And Audrey sat and waited, waited for her new heart.

She had wanted to grow up, so she had tried running the business.

She had wanted her father's love, but he gave it to Laura instead.

She had wanted Laura's love, but Laura gave it to her father instead.

She had wanted Agent Cooper, but had settled for John Wheeler instead.

She had wanted to save the world, and had wound up with an eight inch scar down her thigh instead.

She waited for her second heart.

She felt him coming, smelled doughnuts in the air. The scent of powdered sugar and damp wool, hanging on his skin, his suits. The coffee smell of his breath on her face. She clenched her legs together, clenched her stomach muscles, willing her wanting away, and waited for her second heart.

At the doorway, he sometimes appeared. Sometimes he stopped, left a pause in footfalls at her door as a message, and the scent of sugar as his mark.

A knock, the sound of knuckles on wood, and then he was inside her room, lips fumbling for the truth they shared, hands holding her waist like he knew the world would end if he let go.

It began on a night like the thousands she had spent, holding back the wanting, with no end to it in sight. The hunger that threatened to consume her, she had long ago stopped trying to fill. She had thought sex would settle it, but it only fueled her fire. Fucking John Wheeler--let's call it what it was, Audrey--had made her realize how badly she needed Cooper. Nothing helped.

She tried losing herself in the music she used to love, and was attempting to lose her fingers between her thighs when the first knock of her new life came at the door. Reluctant to answer it, she waited until Cooper announced himself before cautiously pulling her skirt over her thighs

tugging down to hide the scar
and calling to him to come in.

He sat on the bed, and she couldn't hear a word beyond his smile. Damn him. Damn him. She watched his lips, still hypnotized, and was not sure what he said. What he said was this: it was not coincidence their lovers had both left the town, Annie in terror and John in flight. What he said was this: Annie's innocence had appealed to him mainly because it resembled Audrey's own, and was a pale comparison at that. When he stopped saying the name--he finally stopped saying the name--the white hum that engulfed her when she saw his smile died down, and she started to hear him better then. He took her hand; she focused, tried to pay attention. Since, he said, their lovers had gone, and since the evil had left his body, he felt like he had been given a second chance--more like a third, he smiled again, and the white hum swallowed her room--and he wanted to know if she would like to develop their friendship into--

He was in the middle of that, gesturing with their interlocked fingers. He was in the middle of that when he caught the scent on Audrey's hand.

He had her sweater off in less than a minute.

She pulled away.

He lay there, looking at her.

She went to him.

He always made her feel--well, her age. Like a teenager, instead of like the messenger between her adult self and her young body. After years of waiting for the world to speed up, trying to force herself to slow down, she let go under him, on top of him, with her back against the wall and her legs wrapped around him, with his back against her headboard, making noises that do not travel through the walls of quality motels.

After sex, they spoke, attempting to catch the months they had spent without conversation, and the years they had spent without each other. Trivia of their adolescent lives, ideas they both found interesting. Their need for each other, and, later, their love. At length, what to order from room service, Audrey shrieking and bouncing on the bed, Cooper tackling her and pinning her to the mattress before diving for the phone. Never, in those tentative initial days of their relationship, Cooper's days under Hawk's care, waiting for the evil to emerge; never then, either, Audrey's silence during that time, her sudden withdrawal from the world, her mania confined to long walks in the silent woods, secretly hoping to brush against whatever evil had claimed her Laura and her Cooper, so that she could join them, the scar in her leg burning as it stretched with the pale muscle. She waited, and that evil never came.

For this, too, Cooper was grateful.

So now, they were together. Endlessly, wordlessly, and often angrily. They had been dumb enough to let eighteen years keep them apart. Let their bodies do the catching up. Their hearts, both of them, had all the time in the world. Their hearts would beat for the rest of their lives.

Their hearts would beat for the rest of their lives.


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