Distant

Summary: A young man has flashbacks about his dead wife. Better than it sounds.

A/N: Vielen dank Absent Pulse and dreamer99 for reviewing my other two stories. You two are awesome.

oOo

It was dark outside. The sun had already sunk below the jagged city horizon, engulfing it in darkness. A few stars dotted the sky. Inside a small apartment near the center of the city, sat a young man. He was in his late twenties. His hair was curly and thick, like a sheep's, but it was the darkest earthy brown. His eyes were a blue-grey and his face was soft, still boyish. The young man looked out the floor-to-ceiling window of his high-up apartment and looked out over the city. Lit buildings stood out against the black sky and the thousands of cars far below lit up the city streets like a bright maze. Some people might have found the view attractive, beautiful. The young man saw darkness. Only darkness.

Beside the chair where he sat on a small coffee table sat a small, handwritten note. It was a casual invitation to a party. One of his friends, Toby, was renting out a dance floor and a bar and having a party to celebrate his first anniversary with his wife. The young man didn't really want to go. He didn't care to dance—not anymore—and he wasn't an outgoing person. Not good for a party.

The young man thought about the party, though, and he couldn't help but feel lonely. He'd once loved to dance and have parties. Those days were gone, dead, along with something else that had died. The city outside his window seemed to shrink into the distance. He felt the shadows of the evening creep up the walls. He listened to the silence and the lonely feeling grew inside of him. It pressed at his throat and made him uncomfortable.

The note on the coffee table seemed to have little eyes that bore into the side of his head. It seemed to beckon him against his will. "Come, come on. You'll like it," it seemed to say. "Just get out of this apartment. Just for a night."

The young man swallowed down the bitter loneliness that swelled up inside him. He could go, he supposed. The sounds of distant, happy memories echoed in his mind. Yes, he would go. It wasn't too late, after all. The man stood up and went to the closet in the hallway. He found a dark trench coat and shrugged it on over his shirt. He checked himself once in the mirror, brushed his hair, and walked out the door.

The party was at a swanky little clubhouse in the heart of the city. It was nice—not too wild or anything—just nice. Eighties music blared out of several sets of speakers. There was a small bar along one wall and a wide, open dance floor filling most of the room. The young man didn't know many of the people there, but he knew enough to feel comfortable. He spotted Toby, who came over and gave him a hug.

"Hey, didn't think you'd come," Toby said. His eyes were wide and face was slightly reddened from alcohol.

"But here I am. This is a nice party," the young man replied.

Toby patted him on the shoulder. "Thanks. Oh, and enjoy yourself. It'll do you good."

The young man smiled, nodded, and Toby drifted back into the sea of bodies. After that, the young man kept to himself. He stood by the bar and observed everyone else. That was what he liked to do best—it made him feel safe, at ease. The number of people crammed into the room was amazing. The young man wondered how everybody seemed to have enough personal space between themselves and the next person. Most of the people were either huddled close together, talking, or spread out a bit on the dance floor. A few singles drifted around the room, looking awkward. The young man felt a bit like that, but at least he wasn't drifting around like a mindless sheep.

He relaxed a bit and actually seemed to enjoy himself. The music was nice, the people were friendly, and the atmosphere was welcoming. He was standing alone, but he didn't care. It was fun, at least, to see that everyone else was happy. He spotted several young couples who really seemed to have having fun together. It made him feel warm inside. He could see himself in those young men—happy and in love. It was an old self, though. A distant self.

What really caught his eye was a couple on the dance floor. The man was tall, handsome. The woman was beautiful. Her hair was long and red. Red. It made him remember.

The man and woman twirled around and the man dipped the woman down before pulling her back up to a standing position. A memory: the young man was in his living room, dancing with a beautiful young woman. Her hair was short, like a pixy's, but very red. She had a soft, gentle smile and intense eyes. He danced with her. Dipped her down until her arm touched the carpet. He lifted her back up and she nuzzled him.

The man and the woman slowed down a bit as the music changed. The woman rested her head on the man's shoulder. The young man was now in the woman's house. They were slow dancing to Roberta Flack. The redheaded young woman sighed contentedly and put the dip of her neck on the young man's shoulder. Her breathing was slow, her face was warm. Her body was warm against his. Then, a thousand memories—all in once second—flashed through his mind. Singing with the redheaded woman. Lying in bed with her, one arm around her slight frame. Kissing her again and again. The feel of her hands against his chest. The feel of her lips against his. Seeing those intense, intelligent eyes every day for three years. Hearing that voice call his name, talk to him. She loved him, and she told him every day. She held his hand every night when they went to sleep.

The young man blinked. He was still standing in the corner by the bar. His hand was closed around an invisible hand that no longer existed. His hand tightened into a fist and then released. Nothing, only air. The emptiness in the man's chest opened up again. It was like his hand—empty with nothing to put in it.

The young man went home. His hands trembled to open the door to his apartment. He felt so very alone. More alone than he had in a long time. On his way into his room, he passed a picture that hung from the wall. He was sitting beside the woman under a tree. She was reading and he was looking over her shoulder and nuzzling her on the cheek. The young man looked closer at the picture. The woman was as beautiful as he remembered. Her hair was silky and red and her face was ivory pale and very soft. Those beautiful eyes weren't looking at him, but they were looking up from her book to see the younger him—the happier him.

In the picture, he looked so peaceful. A smile played at the corner of his mouth. His eyes sparkled. God, he knew he didn't look like that anymore. He felt old, worn, faded. He'd faded with her.

The man went on his way. He felt tired, so he crawled into bed, miserable and agitated. His mind wandered back to the young woman with red hair. He couldn't concentrate much less sleep, but finally he sunk into a half-peaceful state. In his unconscious mind, the memories played over and over. The woman dancing with him. The woman standing beside him at the alter. The woman laughing. The two of them dancing again. His mind kept coming back to dancing, and when the young man woke up the next morning, all he could feel the warmth of his lost love. The feel of her head resting on his shoulder.

*Fin*

oOo

A/N: The hard part of writing stories like this is trying to imagine how the character would feel. Since I'm not a man and I'm not grieving over a lost spouse, this was tricky. Anyway, hope it's not lame. Please review!