How could you possibly imagine what it would be like to live a hundred years knowing your life would be empty as you turned around to look back at it? He'd live a colorblind life in a vivid world of brilliant and beautiful color all around him… and worst of all, he'd seen it once. It was like loving the smell of fresh rain, or the strangely soft light of dawn, then being stricken senseless without time to brace for it. These were Nick's thoughts.
"Nick… talk to me." She'd waited for him at the exit every day since it all started, and today she did the same. "… Please!"
It's been weeks since it was weeks ago. How could she comfort her tormented admirer, and her dearest friend when he wouldn't say a single word to her. She might not have understood the extent of it, but she understood that it hurt.
Shortly after Nick had, in so many words, told her that he loved her as more than a close friend, she'd set a new routine of waiting for him every day. She would finish anything she was working on early and wait every single day for a chance to talk to him. And every day he would walk right past her with nothing for an acknowledgment of her existence.
"Nick please!" She grabbed the hem of his green shirt and tugged as he pushed harder through the door. "Tell me what to do!"
He said nothing and walked until she couldn't hold him back anymore. She was pulled to her knees as his shirttails were wrenched from her grip…
- Zimmerman MD family practice; Sahara square -
It was especially hard to sit alone, on an uncomfortable stool, in a deathly silent white room. She was perfectly healthy, but she had no more resources to turn to for help. The nurse had left the room at least fifteen minutes ago but that's always how it goes at the Dr's office isn't it?
She heard the click, and the door didn't move but an inch for a minute. That's how doctors enter the room. She went over her mental script one more time…
"Judy!" In hobbled an old white fox, she'd been seeing him since she'd come to the city. Of course, she asked for a bunny, but they were inexplicably in short supply in her area. After the night howler case, she had no further need for distrusting or disliking foxes, so she'd grown quite fond and chummy with him.
"Your charts look good Judy." He flipped the pages on his clipboard one at a time. "Blood pressure is normal… weight's good for your size… maybe a little lean for my liking." He chuckled at a joke that Judy didn't find all that funny, probably because it wasn't.
"Dr. Zimmerman, I'm not here for me." She hadn't planned on being sneaky about this. She wasn't sure, but she was confident there were no rules against coming into the doctor's office to ask some general knowledge questions. Worst comes to worst she'll have to pay out of pocket. "I have some questions about foxes."
He looked surprised, but then chuckled and set down his clipboard. "Well, I suppose you've come to the right place then… mind telling me why you're so interested in foxes all of a sudden?"
"It's a really long story that I really don't have time to repeat right now." She clenched her chest and took a deep breath. "I need to know about "perfect mates."
This really took the doctor by surprise, it was likely the last thing he was expecting, "and you're sure you can't tell me why? I'm a little curious."
She responded only with a brief nod, and the doctor moved from his rolling stool to a grounded seat closer to her. After crossing his legs and tugging out some of the wrinkles in his white coat he gave her his full attention. "What do you want to know?"
"What happens to a fox who loses their perfect mate?" She blurted it out, she knew it to be her most important, if not her only question.
"Well, nothing really." He seemed almost amused by the question. "They live healthy lives for the most part."
"For the most part?" She needed to know everything, this is how she planned on getting Nick back.
"It shouldn't have any adverse health effects if that's what you mean?"
"What about mental effects? I heard… hm-mm… that they can never find another mate again. Is that true?" She awkwardly cleared her throat, trying not to give away who all of this was in reference to.
"Well therein lies the real problem for foxes." He leaned forward and fixed his tie for a moment. "The effects of "perfect mate loss" are entirely mental in nature. Foxes ARE capable of finding another mate following the loss of a "perfect" mate… but mentally they'll be compelled to seek out their "perfect mate" at unpredictable intervals. It can be very traumatizing, and most foxes simply live the rest of their lives alone after losing their mates. It's all related to our biology… a genetic sequence that hasn't been bred or evolved out of our DNA."
She couldn't say that she understood Nick, but she was starting to understand why. Simply because she wasn't straight, Nick was cruelly doomed to live his entire life alone… seeing Nick in a romantic light or not… it still broke her heart.
"I'm going to assume that the fox you know that this is in reference to is younger… about your age? … If so, it's best for him or her to start counseling right away."
"What if they just needed time to mourn!?"
"Hm!" With a single sarcastic scoff of a chuckle, he shook his head. "Well, that certainly wouldn't be the case. They can try to "mourn" as long as they want, it's not something they'd be able to put behind them completely. They would need lifelong counseling to live that sort of life after a mate loss."
She hadn't actually done anything… but she'd still somehow managed to nail Nick into a coffin of loneliness he wouldn't be able to escape for the rest of his life?
She was sucked into crushing anguish. He didn't deserve that, no one did, but what could she possibly do? She couldn't change who she was… but she couldn't allow Nick to live the rest of his life alone. He'd done so much for her, he was her closest friend…
- Thursday evening; ZPD concord -
He expected her to be waiting by the exit, just like every other day. He went through rituals of his own, preparing himself mentally to callously ignore someone who gave his life meaning… someone who didn't deserve to be ignored. It served only to compound his misery, that he should have to live his life without love, and shun his only source of friendship at the same time.
He was a little surprised to see that she wasn't there today. He was suspicious, why wasn't she there?
He was cautious as he went through it. Once he was on the other side he had his answer. She was right there… on the top of the flight of steps leading away. "Is she wearing a dress?" he thought.
She was wearing a dress. For as long as he knew her he'd never even once considered that she owned a dress… let alone that he would ever see her wear one. It served to deepen his suspicion. Why now of all times choose to wear a dress? Was it a tactic to get him to talk to her… it might work. He DID still have feelings for her, and he'd never seen her look so… "beautiful" before.
"Come get coffee with me and Mary." That's all she said.
He averted his gaze and redirected his course around her. After a few steps, he saw that she moved right into his way, she was wearing a soft, but serious expression. He could easily ignore her pouty temper tantrums, but he had a feeling it wouldn't work out in his favor this time.
"Why're you doin' this to me fluff?… Was I not humiliated enough?… You wanna' force me to move on immediately? I told you I need time to mourn."
"And that was a lie," she said.
"And what do you suggest then, carrots?" He was getting annoyed. She had no idea what she was talking about. "You think that sitting me down at a table so I can watch you be all mushy with your doting girlfriend is going to make me get over it? Is this like exposure therapy?"
She closed her eyes.
"Nick, I love you too."
An ice cold shockwave erupted on the back of his neck and traveled the length of his spine. It was replaced with burning regret and humiliation. "… You got a lotta' nerve-"
"I can't change who I am." She stood tall with her hands planted firmly on her hips. "I can't help that I like girls Nick… but that absolutely does NOT mean I don't love you."
His storm of rage receded, he didn't know what to think.
"You'll always be my closest friend," her confident and heroic stance vanished, she was admitting to things she hadn't been willing to accept a few months ago, and it made her vulnerable. "I need you, Nick… no matter what else is happening in our lives, I need you… and I will do ANYTHING to get you back… please come have coffee with me."
He'd spent all of his time brooding over how misunderstood he was, and he didn't know anything. He never could've imagined that she could feel that way… he still didn't… he couldn't… because if it was true then he had to agree.
Nick's love wasn't the kind to put her on a shelf to admire until it fades away. His was the kind to want to be a part of her life no matter what context it might be in, or how much he might suffer. Nick was compelled to endure seeing someone else make her happier than he did, just so long as he was also allowed to contribute to that happiness… even if it should pale in comparison, and even if she gave all of the happiness she had to give… to someone else.
"Alright carrots," he put on his bravest front, and played the part of foolish and sarcastic Nick… the Nick that gave her a big stupid grin… and a lying, unfunny insult just to make her feel better… "but you're buying."