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Behind the glass

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"Go on" Abby insisted, the motor still running as she looked at Carol who was sat frozen to the spot.

"What if she isn't there?"

"I'll wait"

"What if she is there?" Carol agonised. She did not want Abby to see her this way but she could not tidy her expression into a face of pride.

"Talk to her. Tell her how you feel!" Abby exclaimed allowing the frustration to seep into her words. "Carol, she needs to hear this"

Carol nodded her head. She, at the very least, owed her this moment. "Ok"

Abby watched her friend closely. She was parts admiration part jealousy and she resisted the urge to snap at the blonde, knowing that above all else she wanted Carol to be happy. With a pang of disappointment she acknowledged that Therese had made Carol happy in ways she never could. "Now go get her!" Abby was practically pushing Carol out of the car at this point and it brought a smile to both of their faces.

"You're a wonderful friend" Carol spoke with emotion and as she pressed a kiss to Abby's cheek she noted the way the brunettes eyes fluttered closed at the contact.

"You can pay me back with a good meal!" She jibed as Carol left the car with a backwards glance. "Good luck" She whispered as Carol's figure disappeared into an apartment complex.

------

Therese sat in a rickety chair drinking down a large mouthful of beer. She sighed at the taste and attracted the attention of a friend.

"Shall we go for a pizza?" Gracie asked as she poured over a newspaper, scanning the movie listings. "Then maybe a movie?"

"Whatever you like" Therese replied with a shrug of slender shoulders. She didn't care what she did as long as she didn't have to think. Gracie was a friend she had met when they'd paired up to do an exhibit of their work. She was a nice enough friend, someone she could call on, but her presence reminded Therese of just how alone she felt at times. Gracie did not know her, not really, and Therese knew she would never tell her how she felt about Carol because she kept that part of herself well and truly hidden. She was a mystery to people and it made her realise that she was not so different from Carol after all.

"You're in one hell of a sour mood Terry!" Gracie admitted with a look of questioning. She was interrupted by the shrill sound of the intercom buzzing to life and she got to her feet. "I'll just get that"

Therese remained seated in the rickety chair and she rocked on its legs despite the precariousness because she felt like damaging something other than herself for once. She heard the sound of muffled conversation and she pricked her ears searchingly.

------

Carol stood at Therese's doorstep with a hand poised to knock. She had knocked so many times without being heard and yet she remained here in the vague hope that Therese might be burrowed away somewhere in her apartment. There was no sign of life and Carol faced the full force of disappointment and regret. She was kicking herself now, wondering why on earth she had remained silent. How had she allowed Therese to flee her apartment? She didn't have an answer for herself other than she was a coward. Yes she was a coward and Therese had showed her just how brave she could be. Therese had the heart of a lion and she wore that cloak on her sleeve unflinchingly. She had the raw power of being honest, of loving Carol even though she did not deserve it. Carol knew she didn't deserve to be loved by this wonderful woman and she had made a complete tatters of the situation. Now she was laying the prize and as she returned to Abby's waiting car she couldn't help but wonder if she deserved this moment of shame and pain.

------

Carol sat at Therese's desk in the glum hue of early morning. Nobody save security were here at this time and she had sat in the darkness swallowed in the mouth of sheer silence. It was dramatic but she felt dramatic. Having spent the weekend agonising over Therese's departure she realised she had little faith that the younger woman would even be here today. A dozen thoughts had crept in like a stormy sea fog blanketing everything in gloom. Had she packed her bags and ran? Something told Carol that Therese was a roamer, a traveler and she could picture her carting a meagre ration of her worldly belongings, destined for some random destination. What if she never found her? The thought turned her insides to stone. What if she arrived this morning but had finally had enough of Carol's ever changing moods? What if she rejected her? It reminded Carol of the many times she had rejected Therese. How many times had she seen the sting of disappointment in Therese's beautiful eyes? Most difficult of all, what if she flung her arms around Carol? What if they both loved each other? What would love look like now? Carol didn't know, couldn't remember the last time she'd felt like this. It filled her with a sense of failure. Carol Aird had succeeded at, pretty much, anything she'd set her mind to and yet she knew she did not win when it came to matters of the heart. Everytime her mind seemed to spring a leak she would return to daydreams of the two of them together.

-----

Therese had not slept last night. Not able to face a weekend alone she'd spent hours in smokey bars sofa surfing with the cover of being too drunk to go home. The truth was she couldn't bear it. If she were home she would have to face the cold truth that Carol did not feel the same way as she did and that she would make no move to close the distance between them. How many hours had she spent agonising over whether or not to come this morning? She almost hadn't, had looked at her ashen face in Danny's bathroom mirror and wondered if she shouldn't just quit before Carol could fire her. Would she fire her? Therese felt pretty sure it would be a Carol Aird certified way to get rid of the problem. She imagined she would set Carol's coffee down and she would greet her with a terse smile. 'Why spoil such a good thing Therese?' She'd lightly scold before handing over a crisp, typed, termination. 'No hard feelings' She'd probably add as a meaningless consolation. Therese didn't know the Carol she conjured in her head, the Carol who could remain deftly silent after she had poured her heart out. She didn't know her but she had met her so many times.

"Morning Miss Belivet" The receptionist greeted her as she walked into the building.

"Good morning Celia" Therese replied congenialy. She gave a slight bob of her head in greeting but she could not shake the sense that she was walking her last steps in this building.

By the time the lift carried her to the top floor she could feel her pulse begin to thunder to life. She looked at the watch on her wrist. Carol would not be here for at least another hour. If she wanted to she could type out her letter of resignation, leave it on Carol's desk and be gone before those heels strode into the office. Yes perhaps that would be for the best? She could then at least leave this catastrophe with some semblance of self-respect.

She began unbuttoning her coat with the seed of a plan in mind. Walking into the office she did not, initially, notice the figure propped on her desk. She flicked on the lights, shedding her coat and then turning on her heels with a fright. "Carol?" She brought a hand directly to her chest in shock, hoping to somehow ease off her near heart attack.

Carol remained entirely still, rooted to the desk top by two outstretched hands. She felt herself blanch. A spark of joy upon seeing Therese, here and solid in the flesh, was undone by a fear she had never felt before. What now? Her mind demanded. She was here. She had came after all and yet Carol could not vocalise a single thought.

"Why are you sitting in the dark?" Therese asked as she turned away from the beautiful blonde to hang her coat, and put some distance between them. "You're not usually in at this time!" Therese rattled on despite the intensity which had engulfed the room.

"I...I wanted to see you" Carol forced the words out and they sounded strange to her ears. She pushed herself off of the edge of the desk hoping the momentum would galvanise her into action. "I needed to see you!"

"Is that so?" Therese was standing with a hand on her hip now and her face was organised into a look of disbelief. Carol resisted the urge to tell her how adorable she looked when she meant business.

Carol moved forward standing directly in front of Therese. She could see the dark circles under Therese's eyes and she knew she had caused her so many sleepless nights. "I looked for you" Carol told her and she watched the surprise toying at Therese's pained eyes. "Over the weekend...I tried to find you"

"I didn't want to be alone in my apartment" Therese admitted. Her mind was racing with thoughts of Carol on her doorstep. She couldn't believe she would make any kind of grand gesture and she wondered if Carol were playing with her.

"Therese..." Carol swallowed hard and she gripped Therese's hands in her own, continuing even though the younger woman flinched and pulled her hands away. She missed the contact instantly but she held her hands up in protest. "I didn't want to leave things like that"

'Here it comes' Therese thought miserably. She was waiting for Carol to reject her and she closed her eyes fearful of how easily they might tear up. But Carol was gripping her face now in two delicate hands, cupping her cheeks until she had no choice but to open her eyes. Carol's face was framed with concern, blue eyes were plagued and her mouth was set with the tension of the moment. "I was shocked" She explained, holding Therese tighter when she shook her head. "I was shocked because I didn't expect you to say those words to me"

"Can you even bear to say them aloud?" Therese cried. She had brought her hands to Carol's with the objective of moving them away but instead she gripped them tightly. "That I love you? Can you bear it?"

"I was surprised because I feel the same" Carol finally managed. "Because I'm in love with you. And you're right...I am afraid. More than that I am terrified" Carol was trying, she was trying desperately hard, even though it filled her with utter horror. She was out of her depth but she would not bury her feelings, not this time. No she wanted to feel the full weight of her emotions and when her eyes filled with tears she did nothing to stop them spilling forth.

Now it was Therese's turn to be stunned into silence. She stood fixed to the spot, holding Carol's hands to her face, watching as tears traced tracks to her chin. She replayed Carol's words, drumming them into her mind like she was reciting a verse. 'Because I'm in love with you' They were words her mind could not compute. "Carol, it's ok to be afraid" Therese insisted and she moved her hands to Carol's face, cupping milk soft skin with an urgent hold. "I'm afraid...I don't know what to think or feel. You've completely taken over my life. From the moment I met you I haven't been able to get you out of my mind"

"And do you want to?" Carol interrupted. "To get me out of your mind?" She was vulnerable, standing with Therese holding her face.

"No. No, I don't want to miss a thought of you" She whispered, leaning in until their mouths hovered mere inches away. "I want to be with you"

Carol's heart soared. Bravado, pride, was nothing more than a uniform she had shed the moment Therese had switched on that light. "I want to be with you" Carol repeated and she meant it. In whatever capacity, she knew she needed to be with Therese. "I want us to be together" Carol assured and she kissed Therese softly, tenderly, feeling a weight lift from her shoulders.

Therese scooped Carol into her arms and she held her so tightly she feared she might take all the breath from her lungs. Carol hung onto her, gripping her back as they kissed until they were forced to part for air. She rested her forehead against Carol's closing her eyes to the sensation of having her in her arms. Carol had given her a part of herself Therese knew never saw the light of day and in doing so she was vulnerable, exposed. It made Therese want to keep her here in her arms, to ease away her fears, and to promise her that no matter how hard things became she would be here, waiting for her, at any cost.

-----

"Somebody could come in" Therese warned her, reluctantly tearing her lips away from Carol's exquisite mouth. Carol had her leaning against the wall of her office deliciously trapped by the full weight of the insistent older woman's frame.

"Let them" Carol insisted returning to Therese's pouting lips. The room had become warm with their heated kisses and she lapped up the sensation like the quenching of a heavy thirst.

"We're going to need some boundaries Carol" Therese's voice was muffled by their joined mouths and she gripped Carol's shirt collar stroking the material between her fingers and thumbs.

"I don't like the sound of that at all" Carol shook her head lightly but allowed enough space between them so she could capture the sight of Therese attempting to be sensible.

"You have a job to do" Therese reminded her even though she relished the spark of mischievousness in Carol's eyes.

"Let me worry about that" Carol gripped Therese by the hips as the younger woman's hands circled her lower waist. She was enjoying the feel of the younger woman in her arms and she had no intention of relinquishing her, not just yet.

Therese allowed Carol to slip her hands into the lapels of her jacket even though the contact brought her dangerously far from sense. Carol's hands pawed at her through her silk shirt and she felt a shiver of excitement dance along her spine. "You have a meeting in an hour"

Carol sighed. "When did you become so sensible Therese?" But Carol knew she was right. Carol knew she wanted to hole up in Therese's office, with her in her arms, because she had been so undeniably worried that she had lost her. She kissed her long and slow, the kiss severed abruptly as Therese appeared to dart from her very arms and curtail it to her desk. Carol watched utterly puzzled as Therese began to sort papers on her desk.

"Come in" Therese called out shooting Carol a hesitant glance. It gave Carol just enough time to smooth the creases from her shirt and organise her expression into a look of professionalism.

The door opened and Brian from accounting sauntered into the room greeting Therese with a warm smile. "Good morning. Where's the bloodhound?" He laughed lightly at his own joke even as Therese's eyes nervously darted in Carol's direction.

"The bloodhound?" Carol asked curiously, watching as the colour drained from Brian's face and the smile dropped from his features. "Is that the latest nickname to do the rounds?"

"Carol...I..." He spluttered and Carol silenced him with a raised hand.

"You're especially lucky that I'm in a good mood!" She smiled at the way he squirmed in front of her eyes. Brian had always been such a smarmy weasle. "I need you on hand after my meeting" She addressed Therese unable to keep the warmth from her words. She smiled at her with a look of mischief gracing her with a delighted wink before she left the room.

"God damn it!" Brian grimaced. "She's all seeing! I don't know how you manage it Therese"

"She's not so bad" Therese replied with a shrug of her shoulders, even though it felt like a lie. She's marvellous, she wanted to say. She's more beautiful than you know. But it was her Carol and she didn't need to justify her to anyone.

-----

Therese knocked at Carol's door. The day had trickled by like a dream. Therese had devoted hours and hours to dwelling on the events of this morning. She thought about Carol so often that it made her chest hurt and her heart feel tight.

"Come in" Carol called out in her clipped, orderly, work voice.

Therese opened the door and then closed it behind her, relying immediately on its solidity for grounding. The sight of Carol shot through her in an overwhelming wave. She was sat at her desk hair pulled up and out of her face with the top buttons of her shirt opened to reveal cream soft skin. "Lock the door?" She suggested with a wiggle of her eyebrows. "We don't want any unwanted guests"

Therese locked the door and came to Carol instantly, slipping onto her waiting lap to be held tightly. Her legs were at either side of Carol's hips and she slipped her arms around Carol's neck studying her from a distance. She didn't know why but she felt she might weep. She could feel the sting of tears in her eyes. The close proximity, the warring emotions, had left her feeling completely overwhelmed.

"Hey? What's wrong?" Carol enquired with a look of concern. She studied Therese's face, noting the way her hazel eyes were glassy with unshed tears.

"I don't know" Therese whimpered, allowing Carol to grip her in her arms. "It's hit me all at once"

Carol understood. It was how she felt and she marvelled, once again, at Therese's ability to spill out her raw emotions without refrain. "Let me take you back to mine? I'll cook us dinner and we can spend the whole evening in each other's arms" Carol was stroking her back gently, bringing her head to rest against her shoulder while she soothed her.

"I like the sound of that"