"That's what you wanted though, isn't it?" he asked, calling after her as he plunked himself down on the bed. What the hell was the matter with her? She wanted him as much as he wanted her. What did it matter what words they used to describe it? Women. Sheesh. Can't live with them, can't live... well, you could live without them, but life would be boring. "And I'm not in a bad mood," he continued. "I'm just..." What was he then? He quieted a minute to think that over.
"Oh, for God's sake, John," she snapped, pausing in the door to the bathroom to frown back at him. "Just because I want you doesn't mean you can expect me to lie back and do as I'm told. I'm not asking you for romance, for crying out loud! A little effort beyond the strength it takes to undo my clothes would be nice now and then, that's all." And really, how much would it cost him to ask sometimes? She stormed into the bathroom, only just stopping herself from slamming the door. It was two am, after all.
He was furrowing his brows further, trying to figure out what she meant by that. What was it she wanted then? He made an effort, didn't he? He glanced over at the bathroom door, wondering what exactly she wanted from him. Did she want him to light candles and play Barry Manilow? He shuddered at the thought. That just wasn't him. He felt confused. She had wanted him; she was sure of it, so what had he done wrong exactly?
He was over-thinking the situation, as usual, and Ailis wasn't going to help him work this one out. She loved him, he knew that, and yes, she wanted him. She knew he wasn't a romantic man, but he could be gentle, tender, when he chose to be. Was it really so much to ask for a little bit of that tenderness before he'd had her now and again? She didn't think it was, but at the same time, she had no idea how to tell him that. She didn't dare tell him that she'd like to be seduced on occasion; he'd probably laugh at her. Calmer, she returned from the bathroom, moving toward the dresser to drag out a tank and shorts to sleep in, deliberately avoiding looking in his direction. This wasn't an area she was going to give in on, she'd already decided, but where John was concerned, she was alarmingly aware of a certain softness in her nature that had her bending more often than she was used to.
He was still sitting on the bed trying to figure it all out when she came back out. He heard her, but didn't look her way, too lost in his thought process or maybe afraid if he looked her way, he'd cave and appear pussy-whipped. "It's not like I don't... you know... care about you," he said, awkwardly, beating around the bush. Why was it so hard to say I love you? He'd said it before. Was it just because she wanted him to? She was an adult; she could do what she wanted. He had no claims on her, did he? It wasn't like they were married. He wasn't even sure she'd want that.
She sighed, leaning against the dresser with white knuckles for a moment. "John, I'm really not fishing to make you say it," she informed the wall in front of her face, trying hard not to snap at him again. And there it was, the softening she'd been trying to avoid, brought up by the awkward tone in his voice. "Just forget I said anything, all right? It doesn't matter. Just me being a girl." She shucked out of her underwear, tugging tank and shorts on over her long limbs before bending to catch up the fallen clothing and drop it on top of the laundry pile in the corner.
"No, I..." He turned to her with a very confused look on his face, if she could manage to see it in the shadows. "I want to know what I'm doing wrong," he insisted. He must be doing something wrong or they wouldn't argue so much.
She sighed again, closing her eyes. Was it a weakness in her character, that she wasn't prepared to fight for this? She didn't know. "You're not doing anything wrong," she told him, and it was true, in a way. "I told you, it's me. I shouldn't expect anything from you you're not prepared to give, so I'm the one in the wrong, and we really should just forget this." She turned back to the bed where he sat, contemplating how to get in without dislodging him.
He wasn't budging, turning to face her as she approached, but not budging from his spot on the bed and still almost completely clothed, except for his boots. "If I'm not doing anything wrong, then why are you mad at me?" Whether she wanted to forget it or not, he was clearly not willing to do so just yet. "What do you want, Ailis? Do you want me to bring you flowers? Take you dancing? Tell you I love you?" He did love her; he thought it kind of went without saying, but maybe it didn't. Why was she acting like such a... girl?
"No ... God no," she shook her head, her hands finding a resting place on her hips as she looked down at him. "Well, yes, it's ... it's wonderful to hear you say you love me, but I know it's not in your nature to say it often. I don't want flowers, I don't want the cliches." Ailis sighed, shifting about to drop down and sit on the bed beside him. "John, how much does it cost to ask me sometimes, rather than just expect me to play along? I want you all the time, I love you, but that doesn't always mean that I'm ready then and there. Does it really cost your pride so much to coax me now and then, the way I do with you? Or should I always be ready to drop my trousers at a moment's notice, with barely a kiss or a touch beforehand?"
He had that confused look on his face again that men got when they were trying to understand but weren't quite getting it. How was he supposed to ask? That sounded awkward. And he would have touched her and kissed her if she'd given him half a chance. "I didn't... realize..." he said uncertainly, still not quite sure what he was doing wrong. Was he really that lousy a lover?
She could have read his mind, given her next words. Her hand rose to turn his face toward her own, pale eyes seeking his in the gloom around them. "You're a wonderful lover," she told him firmly. "And I don't mean ask as in ... coming right out and saying it, I ... God, this is awkward." Her hand dropped back into her lap as she looked away, chewing on her lower lip for a moment. Oh, well, nothing for it. "I'm not that hard to seduce, John. I'm not asking you to say it out loud, but ... is it so hard to let me feel loved before we come together? Not all the time," she added hurriedly, "just ... sometimes."
"But... I do love you, Ailis." There, he'd said it, and he'd meant it, too, watching her in the dim light, trying to sort out her feelings, as well as his own. Their relationship had always been rocky, full of plenty of bumps in the road, but there was an underlying passion that neither could deny and that he could only describe as love. "I'm sorry," he said, unsure what exactly he was apologizing for. He'd never been in this situation before. He was a soldier, not a lover. "I didn't mean to make you angry. I... was having a bad dream and..." He was making excuses and he knew it, but how was he supposed to tell her that she helped him forget about the things that haunted his nights?
He didn't understand, and she couldn't blame him. She didn't know how to explain it so that he did understand her. All she was doing here was making him feel worse, which was never her intention. "Don't apologize," she told him quietly, leaning close to kiss his cheek. "Like I said, it doesn't matter. Forget about it, John, please. It really isn't important. I'm sorry I brought it up." Her lips brushed his with slow, tender kisses, unwittingly showing him what she hadn't been able to say ... that gentleness, tenderness, a moment of time to savor; these could all make you feel loved, without any sense that anything more was expected from you.
He really was trying to understand. He remembered the touch that had brought him out of his sleep - tender, gentle, loving. The way her kiss always warmed him inside, soothed his troubled heart. Was that what she meant, or was it something more? "I'm sorry, Ailis," he apologized again, frowning against her lips, even as she kissed him, reaching to brush his fingers against her cheek in a touch that was surprisingly tender for a man who considered himself nothing more than a soldier. "I'm not very good at this sort of thing, I guess."
"Stop that," she murmured to him, smiling under the gentle caress of his hand to her cheek. "You've nothing to apologize for, love. I knew what I was getting into; I've drunk too much tonight to keep my expectations from getting too high. That's all this is. It'll be forgotten tomorrow." That was a lie, but it was meant kindly. She would rather hurt herself with a lie than hurt him with the truth. Her lips touched his once again. "We should get to sleep."