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to be so lonely

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Any rational person is well aware that there is an essential paradox to loneliness: no matter how thoroughly isolated one feels at any given moment, one is certainly not the only person to feel so alone, at that time or any other, and so one is, in fact, not alone.  Knowing such does not lessen loneliness, of course, does not truly reduce whatever feelings of isolation one may be experiencing, because loneliness is just that—a feeling—and therefore by its very nature not beholden to any sort of rationality. 

All of this is to say that, no matter how lonely one feels, one is certainly not alone in feeling such—and, to acknowledge, too, that the objective reality of the situation does not matter much, in the face of the emotional reality of being lonely.

Still, Angela can try to rationalize away loneliness, can tell herself that if she only reframes the issue, she will feel less out of place, less like she is always the odd one out, in any given situation.  She can try, but she will fail.

This, too, she can try: to categorize loneliness, to rate it, to place the abstract, the unknowable, on a scale, and from there try to treat it.  Pain is the fifth vital sign, so said physicians at the beginning of the millennium.  By now, Angela and others know that such is not true, that pain is not objectively measurable, or always treatable, know that although pain is always important, it cannot simply be fixed, and know, too, that as much as it seems all-consuming to patients, it still does not matter as much as the true vital signs, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and temperature. 

Pain is not so important as those vital signs, those four things which are essential to diagnosis, to treatment, to life, but it can still be debilitating, can still be disabling, can still seem just as important, when left unchecked. 

Like those doctors before her, Angela tries her best to categorize the uncategorizable, to measure the unmeasurable, to break down a feeling into a scale, as if she could solve the problem of her feelings, if only she could make them some tangible, measurable thing.

These are the kinds of loneliness, according to Angela Ziegler:

First, there is acute loneliness.  Sometimes, it is a brief, passing thing, to be lonely.  Most often, one experiences this type of loneliness due to a change in routine, or when plans are cancelled.  It is just a temporary thing, this sort of loneliness, a temporary feeling caused by not spending as much time with others as one is accustomed to, or knowing that one’s friends are busy with other people.  Such is easily remedied, going away as soon as the sufferer is able, again, to see the person or people that they are missing, is reminded that they have people who care about them, who want them in their lives.  Acute loneliness is only a fleeting thing.

Next, there is seasonal, or protracted, loneliness.  This lasts longer than acute loneliness, and is more difficult to cure.  Certain holidays might always feel lonely, for some people, because they may find themselves reminded that they have no family, or no loved ones.  Most often, this occurs in the winter months, or when a close friend has a wedding, or a child, and one is reminded by events that one’s life is different from the sort of life society tells one that they ought to want—a life with a spouse, with parents, with children.  This loneliness is particularly painful, but it subsides on its own, when the event that triggered this flare up has resolved itself.  Seldom does it last more than a week, two, and one is able to forget about it, for most of the year.

Third comes geographic, or situational, loneliness.  Sometimes, loneliness has more to do with where one is, than anything to do with one’s relationships.  A person who lives in a remote location, who is homebound, or who always works a night shift, may be made to feel lonely by their circumstances.  Sometimes, one cannot change said circumstances, and is left to work within their constraints to alleviate their loneliness, but if it is possible to move, or to change their schedule to the daytime, their loneliness will quickly enough be remedied.

Finally, there is chronic loneliness.  Sometimes, the cause of loneliness is not a disruption in one’s routine, not a condition of one’s relationship, or tied to one’s lifestyle.  Sometimes, loneliness is simply inherent to one’s being.  Many things might cause this—trauma, certain mental health conditions, something inherent to one’s personality—but the cause does not matter, here, so much as it does with other kinds of loneliness, for no matter what one does, this loneliness cannot be cured, only alleviated.

(Perhaps, if Angela were more honest with herself, she would be able to acknowledge that even here, even in this, the causes of loneliness do matter, but self-reflection is painful, and so she avoids it, when she can.  To think too long about why she is lonely would be to admit, perhaps, that she is not as well as she pretends, and therefore to be confronted with treating herself.  She has not the time for such a thing, nor the inclination.  So she tells herself that loneliness is simply a condition of her being, that it is something she must simply endure, and in its own way, that is easier, for it resolves her of responsibility, thinking that way.  Lonely she has always been, and lonely she will always be.)

Pain, too, cannot be cured, cannot truly be measured, cannot be used to rate a person’s health, not accurately.  Pain can be lessened, yes, but unless the cause of pain is addressed, it is still there, beneath the surface, will still lurk when medication wears off.

Loneliness is a kind of pain, and as central as Angela feels it may be to her life, it is not truly a measure of her wellbeing, is merely a reflection of some other, deeper trouble. 

Still, even as she acknowledges that treating symptoms will never cure an underlying disease, she seeks out relief from loneliness, when and where she can find it.

Often, that solace comes in the form of work.  She is still alone, ultimately, when she is researching, is so lost in her own mind that she tunes out all those around her, but it is not lonely, to be so, is a respite, for so consumed is she by what it is that she is doing that she has not a moment to think of herself.  Even better is her work as a doctor, when she does not have time for distractions, during surgery, or is too focused on her patients, and putting on a good face for them, to spare a thought to her own feelings.  Her time as Mercy is most freeing of all—although she does not like to be on battlefields, there is no space for Angela and her needs when all the world sees is someone else, someone better, someone stronger.  When she works, she is free from herself, at last, is able be absorbed into something greater, to step into the role others have put forth for her, and to cease to exist outside of it, at least for a little while.

(It is not as simple as all that, of course.  The time right after missions is often the loneliest of all, for her, but that is after.  She is not the woman they think she is, and she is never so acutely aware of it as in those moments, and that is a sort of loneliness in itself.  People want Dr. Ziegler, the genius, or Dr. Ziegler, the caring doctor, or Mercy, on the battlefield, and she is never enough for them, is never the woman they expect her to be.  Or, she is too good at seeming as if she is, and the connections she builds when pretending to be those people, those other, better women, are all therefore hollow.  The doctor people know, the friend they think they have, is only a part of herself, and she thinks she could never let anyone know the whole of her—knows it would be disappointing—and so she will live always with this loneliness.)

Other times, she distracts herself in baser ways.  It is not really a connection, her ongoing series of one-night stands, but she is not willing to date anyone, to give that much of herself over to another person, to be vulnerable in the ways which such a commitment would require of her.  So, when she can, she finds attractive men, and she sleeps with them—just the once.  They do not love her, could not possibly, as they barely know her, but that is a relief in itself, for she cannot disappoint them if they have no expectations of her, and it does not matter that they do not truly love her, as long as the illusion is there, in the moment, as long as they are tender with her, in the ways that she likes, or hold her firmly, as long as they remind her, for forty-five minutes or so, that she is not alone in this world, remind her what it is to be held, to be touched gently, to be treated as if she were worthy of attention, affection, admiration. 

And rarely, very rarely, she finds a person who is lonely in the same way that she is, who knows what it is to feel what she feels, and then, they are the two of them alone together.  That, thinks she, is nicest of all.  Never is she less lonely for it, because even if they could bridge that gap, could be not-alone together instead, she does not try to, is unable and unwilling both.  To know that another person is in the same predicament as she is relief enough, even as she declines, time and again, to deepen that connection.

Loneliness becomes habit far too quickly, and Angela always chooses the devil she knows.

People exist, however, who tempt her to bridge that gap, whose mere existence invites her to imagine something else, something deeper, something better.  Sometimes, Ana says something that is the right sort of comforting, and Angela imagines what it would be, to accept her mothering, to truly allow herself to view her superior officer as a mother, as family.  Sometimes, Jesse leans against her, while they sit together in silence and watch the sunset, and she wonders what it would be like if they actually discussed their troubles, if they spoke about what it is that they are running from, the both of them, what keeps them from being happy where and how and who they are.  Sometimes, she meets a beautiful stranger, who is funny, and kind, and lonely in the same sort of way that she is lonely, and she thinks, it would be nice, to try and to be not-lonely together.

Unfortunately, she has not the time.

It is on a relief mission in Jamaica that she meets Baptiste.  Dr. Augustin, she calls him, at their first meeting, for she assumes that he could not be a combat medic—he is concerned with his patients first, and thinks as a soldier second, whereas most combat medics are the reverse—and when he corrects her, it is kind, but she can see, there, that his polite insistence that he is just a medic hides some pain.

A pity, she thinks privately—he would have made a far better doctor than many of the doctors she has worked with, is a better man and better physician both.  All she does is tell him, when he insists that she call him Just Baptiste, that he may call her Angela, as well.

Her suspicion that he would have made a better doctor than soldier is borne out in the coming days.  He is careful, when he needs to be, and decisive, when the situation calls for it.  He is astute, and listens to their patients, but knows, too, when his attention would be better focused elsewhere. 

(To leave a man to die is a difficult decision, always, but some people cannot be saved, and when one has limited time and resources both, it must be done.  A good field medic knows this intimately, knows when treatment would only prolong pain, or worse, waste valuable time that could be spent helping those who have a chance, yet, at surviving.  It is a difficult decision, and she sees it weigh on him, but he makes it, time and again.  He makes it, and he does so with what kindness the situation permits them.)

Already, this is more than Angela expects from most of the people Overwatch has her work with—she would love to say that they work only with the best, that the caliber of doctors associated with their organization are unparalleled, but that simply is not the case.  The sort of people who would make for good doctors are most often working in hospitals, or in small practices, not working with Overwatch, which attracts mainly soldiers, and glory seekers, people who believe that they can be some sort of hero, who want that for themselves.  Baptiste is not one of those doctors, is the sort of man whom Angela could see working a general practice in his hometown, is far more connected to his patients than a soldier has any right to be. 

It is almost enough to make her feel inadequate.  She cares about everyone she treats, of course she does, but she knows, too, that in a disaster zone, like this one, many of them may die, and she cannot control that, has grown used to sending back out into the field soldiers who will only be shot again, and again, and again, until one day she is not there to bring them back from the brink.  As much as she tries to avoid it, she knows that those losses, and the fear of losing others, has led her to become hardened, has made her slower to open up.

(Or, perhaps, she has always been slow to be open.  Here is the loneliness, again.  She does not allow herself to be close to anyone, for fear of losing them, and she wonders if that has made the quality of her care suffer.)

But, then, one afternoon, a week into her two and a half week emergency aide deployment, she hears Baptiste make a joke, under his breath, about their patient, the dark, morbid kind she is used to hearing only from other trauma staff, and she realizes, then, that he is acting just as much as she is, that he, too, has to work hard to shield himself from the pain of losing people.  He thinks, most likely, that she will not hear the comment, or understand it, because it is French—but, of course, she knows French too, even if the dialect she learned in school was different from his own.

They are not so dissimilar, he and she.  At the end of yet another long day, she sees him across the room, at the makeshift mess hall they have set up in a massive tent, and realizes he, too, is alone.  They are sitting in groups of other people, both of them, he with the Caribbean Coalition, and she with Overwatch, and she realizes, then, that even surrounded by other people, people for whom he cares, he is alone, in his own way.

That is something she knows all too well.

So it is a similar sort of loneliness that draws her to him, on the night before she is to leave.  Already, most of the Overwatch operatives have shipped out—as the ranking officer, it falls to her to leave last, always, and so she will do, tomorrow.  But for tonight, she is still here, for tonight, she has time, at last, to make a connection, of a sort.

Baptiste is kind, and he is handsome, and he is funny, and maybe, if Angela were a different, more open sort of person, she would be speaking to him tonight about why it is that he is serving here, and not in Overwatch, which sorely could use a medic of his caliber, or maybe she would, at least, do something more lasting, exchange some sort of contact information, ask to stay in touch.  They have enjoyed working with one another, insofar as anyone could consider their job enjoyable, have spent the past week and a half sharing jokes, after the first one she heard him make, have worked well together as a team, too.  If she were not so unused—and, perhaps, unable—to make a steady connection, she might try and turn that camaraderie into a friendship, might say that she admires his work ethic, thinks he is an excellent medic.

Instead, she does what she knows how to do.  She seeks him out, at the bar he mentioned to her that he was going to visit, the day previous, sits down next to him, and pulls the tie out of her hair.

He is kind, he is handsome, and he is funny, all of this is true.  In some other life, were they other people, she more open, and he, too, less lonely, less guarded, in his own way, then she thinks that maybe this could be the start of a romance.  But this is not that world.

In this world, there is this: they have similar senses of humor, and they are both attractive people.  For the past two and half weeks, they have been through a very stressful experience, working to save as many people as possible with limited time and resources, and Angela, at least, would very much like to blow off some steam, would like to have some time to think about anything but what they have just been through, and he seems the right kind of person to forget herself with, for a little while.

Around him, she does not feel lonely, and she knows that is a temporary thing, she does, knows she is not ready, now, for what it would mean to pursue something that is not temporary, either with him or anyone else.  She knows that all this will be is a night of fun, a night when they pretend that they are not the people who they are, that they live different sorts of lives, where they do not spend all day up to their elbows in others’ abdomens, where they do not see the unspeakable every day, and have to continue on as if nothing is wrong, stay happy and calm for the sake of their patients and friends. 

And she is fine with that, she is, is perfectly happy to take him up on the unspoken offer that accompanied his suggestion that she might like to have a drink to unwind, too.  This is will not cure her loneliness, but she is not looking for that sort of thing, not right now, is only looking for a pleasant distraction.

So too, it seems, is he. 

Here, now, it does not matter that she will be leaving tomorrow afternoon, does not matter what circumstances under which they met, does not matter that she, at least, has neither the desire nor the wherewithal to pursue anything deeper than this.

What matters is this: Baptiste is kind, and he is handsome, and he is funny, and when she is with him—when she is with him, and they share a smile, or a joke, or a gentle touch, it is easy to forget, in that moment, just how alone they both are.

Sometimes, that is all that matters, the ability to forget.

With him, Angela feels like a normal person, can imagine, for a moment, that she leads an ordinary life, and that, when she opens her eyes, she will not be here, less than five minutes from the site of a mass casualty event.  Despite everything he has seen, done, Baptiste seems so very normal, so well-adjusted, and although Angela cannot say the same for herself, she is certain that his good humor rubs off on her.

Also rubbing off on her, somewhat more literally, is the taste of his drink, still on his lips even after they have made their way back to her tent.  It is something saccharine and fruity, not at all her taste in alcohol, but on him, it is nice, fits his personality well.  He, too, is surprisingly strong.

(And she does not just mean physically, although certainly she appreciates his muscles.  For all that he does his best to appear happy-go-lucky, for all that he tries to act as if he is completely unphased, in front of patients, she knows that what he has seen affects him, too, and that he is simply better at hiding it than most.  When he needs to, he can make difficult decisions, even as his demeanor belies the seriousness of his character.)

Firm is his grip on her wrist, when she moves to undo the buttons on his shirt, and for a second, she worries she has made a mistake, has overstepped, somehow, by so doing, but he just wants to ask her, “You’re sure about this?” before they go any further.

“Of course I am,” says she—each of them only had one drink, not enough to be intoxicated, and she was planning on this even before she joined him at the bar.  Still, it is a fair question, an important one, so she asks him, too, “Are you?”

“Of course,” says he, and she wonders if its deliberate, the mirror of her phrasing, but then he smiles, slow and broad and just a little lopsided, and she decides it does not matter, really; she would much rather be kissing him than thinking about anything.

So she does.  She kisses him, and she gives him a playful push down onto her cot, and moves to straddle him so she has a better angle, does not have to tip up on her toes to put her lips on hers, and leaves not enough room between the two of them for thinking.  It is better that way, for the both of them, and he certainly lodges know complaint, lets himself be moved into a better position for the both of them, waits until she has settled herself upon his lap to put one hand on her waist, anchoring her in place, and the other hand on her left thigh, thumb moving to rub at the inside of it.  Everything is through her clothes, still, but she rather doubts that will last for long.

Another minute of kissing, two, three, four—certainly Angela is not one to complain, as she is enjoying herself, and positioned on his lap as she is, she can tell that Baptiste is, too, but she is just beginning to wonder if they are ever going to get any further when he finally slips his hands under her shirt, running them from the small of her back up to her sides, stopping when his thumbs are placed just at the edge of her bra.

“Mind if I take that off?” he asks her, mouth far enough back from hers that he can speak clearly, but not so far away that she cannot feel the warmth of his breath on her face.

“Normally I’d say yes,” Angela says, and she would, “But, ah, it’s a sports bra, and it doesn’t have clasps.”  Ideal as it is for the weather today, given its breathability, it has to be pulled over her head to be removed, and that is not always comfortable when she does it to herself, let alone when someone else tries to do it for her.

“Got it,” Baptiste says, and she is glad he does not try and insist that he could do it, “I’ll just get myself undressed while you do that.”  There is a pause, while Angela is still unbuttoning her own shirt, and then he adds, “I’m going to need you to stand.”

“Right,” Angela agrees, and hopes she is not blushing too hard as she moves off of him—his shirt, he could certainly remove with her sitting there, but she might want his pants off, too, if things are going to go any further.

Partially to hide her blush, and partly because years in a locker room have made it second nature to turn towards her belongings when getting changed, Angela keeps her back to him as she takes off her shirt, her pants, her very utilitarian but decidedly unsexy underwear, and her sports bra.  Somewhat uncharacteristically, she even packs her clothing as she goes, not wanting to lose anything before her flight tomorrow morning.

“Sorry,” says she, as she turns back around, “I just don’t want to forget to—” Well, it does not matter so much what she was worried about forgetting, when her mind catches up to what she is seeing—Baptiste, lounging on her cot, one hand behind his head, and the other on his cock.

She must stare for a moment too long, because he sits up, takes his hand off himself, looks distinctly embarrassed, asks “Too much?” 

“No!” she says quickly, because she does not want him running off now, “I just—I wasn’t expecting…”

“You sure I didn’t look too ridiculous?” he asks her, but his tone is different, now, and she can tell he is just fishing for a compliment, apparently very happy to know he rendered her momentarily speechless.

Angela is not one to give in so easily.  “Well,” says she, moving towards him all the while.  “I suppose you looked good enough,” and she moves on top of him again, on her hands and knees, face right up against his as she moves to kiss him, “But I think you look better like this.”

Instead of kissing her back, he laughs, “I’m sorry,” says he, collecting himself after a moment, “But that was corny.  Did you practice it?”

“No!” says she, but she is laughing too—it was a little silly.  Given how they have spent the past week, she thinks it a good thing that they can still laugh, does not think it such a bad thing that they find some amusement in one another.

 Then the laughter fades, and one of his hands finds her wrist, two fingers over her pulse as he grips it loosely.  If her pupils are half as large as his own, she thinks he will hardly need her heartrate to tell that, despite the laughter, she is still very aroused, and the gentleness with which he is touching her contributes to that.

His hands are strong, this she knows, has seen him work, but he still touches her as if she were some delicate thing, as his free hand moves upwards to the space between their faces, pushes her bangs out of the way so that he can pull her in for a kiss without the worry of her hair being in the way.

Angela is not delicate.  She does not need gentleness.  Life has rarely offered her anything of the sort, and usually, she would be desperate for this sort of contact, would think she needed it, but most of the time, the tenderness is from men who think she will break, not from someone who understands her.  That changes everything.

Does she still want it, that gentleness, if it comes with the risk of connection?

She does.  She does.  She really, really does—and that scares her.  After tonight, it is likely that she will never see Baptiste again, and she does not want for this to go this way, is afraid of the sort of vulnerability he is inviting from her.

(Of course, that she will not see him again is only an excuse; her real fear is not being vulnerable with another person, but instead with herself.  Never has she been the sort of person who can sit in silence with herself, at the end of the day, and to be treated with any tenderness just now, after such a hard week on both of them, might make her cry.  He should be taking care of himself, not her.)

So she takes control, kisses him harder, moves so that they are pressed closer together.  Perhaps if she were a different sort of person, she would have a conversation about this, would explain her fear, or at least let him know some of what she is feeling.  But Angela is not a different sort of person, Angela is herself, and as close as she thinks she could get to Baptiste, this is the last night they will see one another, and is the only time they will sleep together.  Such conversation would be for a partner, if she were the sort of person who had relationships.

Fortunately, he does not seem to mind the change in pace, allows her to push him to lie all the way on his back so that she can get a better angle as she kisses and sucks her way down his neck, to the spot on his collarbone where she has seen sweat drip, in the heat of the day.  She runs her tongue in the divot, feels him squirm in response.  Apparently, he is ticklish, but when she pulls back just enough to blow on the damp patch he shivers.

Lower she goes, and lower, and finds, to her delight, that he is very sensitive everywhere, the muscles in his abdomen jumping beneath her touch.  In any other context, she might find it cute, how much he reacts, but here, she is more focused on the changes in his breath, the way that, when she moves to the v of his hips, he makes a little noise in the back of his throat he cannot quite restrain.

Just as she is moving to finally put her mouth on his cock, he interrupts.

“I think,” says he, voice colored by arousal, “That’s enough teasing for me.”

“Oh,” says Angela, a bit disappointed, but only because she was enjoying the thought of seeing what other reactions she could draw from him.

“Or we could take a moment, if you’d prefer,” he says, sitting up so that they can look at one another, “But I thought that you’d maybe like a turn?”

Ah.  Angela appreciates the offer, she does, but unlike most of her partners, Baptiste has some medical training, and part of her worries that if he looks too closely he could see the scars from her vaginoplasty.  She has healed completely by now, but if one is looking, the scar is there, very small and very faint, and although she nearly certain Baptiste would not react badly, she still does not want him to find out she is trans because he recognizes the scar.

(If she was going to say anything, she ought to have before they were even back in her tent, because experience has taught her that even a man as good and kind as Baptiste can react badly, if he feels he has somehow been tricked.)

“I appreciate the offer,” says she, “But I’d honestly prefer we skip that.”

To his credit, he does not question it, or attempt to negotiate with her.  “I should’ve shaved the beard, huh?” he asks, one hand coming up to rub it, chagrined.

“Some women like that,” she tells him, trying not to laugh, “But no.  I’d rather have you inside me.”

By now, her candor ought not to surprise him.  She is even more direct in the field, after all.  Nonetheless, his eyebrows raise at that statement, and he seems taken off-guard—albeit in a very good way—to hear that sentence.

“I’m certainly not complaining,” says he after a moment’s pause, “But I didn’t bring a condom, so unless you happen to have brought one with you…?”

“We won’t need one,” says she, even as she wonders what his plan was, then, when he came back to her tent—oral sex?  Mutual handjobs?  Would he prefer that?

Before she can ask, he has a question of his own, “You’re on birth control?”  She nods, and he continues, “It’s not that I don’t trust you, but we pulled some very long shifts in the past two weeks.  Are you sure you took it consistently?”  And then, half-jesting, “I’m not ready to be a father.”

“I have an IUD,” she says, and it is a lie—she does not need one, on account of being trans, but she already decided that she was not going to tell him that, and his major concern, a pregnancy, is quite impossible, so she is not so uncomfortable in telling such a lie.  “And I don’t have any infections,” she adds, for good measure.

“I’m clean,” says he, “So, in that case, if you’d like to…”

“I would,” says she, and nothing more, because she kisses him again, then, and moves on top of him, pushes him down to the bed and finally, finally, gets him inside her.  She is impatient, and it stings, just a little, on the wrong side of pleasant, and he notices, of course, she can see it in his face, but he follows her lead and does not say anything, just stays perfectly still until she relaxes, and starts to move against him. 

At first, she takes her time.  Although she does not want this to be too delicate, too gentle, does not want him to treat her with such kindness that she crumbles under it, does not want to do anything that will make her miss him, she still does not want to rush things, wants for him to enjoy this, too, and he has given her no indication that he wants for things to be fast, or rough.

That is fair enough, she thinks.  People do not treat Baptiste with the tenderness he deserves, she thinks, has seen it, in the way the other surgeons talked to him, in the assumptions the patients made about him.  What pressure he faces in the field is, in many ways, opposite of what she experiences, people expecting her to be gentle or sweet. 

So she will be kind with him, as well as she can be, and because he did not ask it of her, or expect it, she truly does not mind obliging, as long as she is allowed to control the pace, to stop him from being quite as gentle with her.

(He needs to be close to someone as badly as she does, she can tell, and she does not want to ruin this by falling to pieces just because she does not believe that she deserves the sort of kindness he gives so easily.)

Her non-dominant hand she moves to place atop his dominant one.  It is affectionate, yes, is comforting to him, is the kind of contact he seems like he wants, but it keeps him from touching her, too, without warning.  Besides his gentle, gentle hands—besides her inability to accept their touch—the chemistry they have is good, and soon enough she finds a decent rhythm that seems to satisfy the both of them, if the funny little facial movement he makes on each downstroke are any indication.  It is clear that he is trying to keep from making some sort of face, but the end result is funnier than if he just let himself relax. 

“You don’t have to hold back,” she tells him, and she means his expression—that he does not worry about embarrassing himself in front of her, because really, sex itself is embarrassing enough—but she supposes that without the context it sounds like she means sexually, like she is encouraging him to do something.  Certainly, he takes it that way, thrusts harder to meet her movements than he had before.  That is just fine by Angela, who quite suddenly finds herself enjoying things enough that the funny faces he makes are no longer at the forefront of her brain.

Just to be sure she does not slip up and laugh at him, though, she leans down to kiss him, again, enjoys the way he moves one hand to the back of her head, and the other, which she had been holding, he moves down to her hips.

(In this position, too, the angle is such that on the deeper thrusts, he puts pressure on her prostate.  Certainly, it is not near so sensitive as it was before she started estrogen, and vaginally is still not the best way to reach it, but this way feels good—feels natural.  There is not the uncomfortable rush of dysphoria she always experienced alongside the arousal before, is only pleasure.)

Knowing he seems to prefer gentleness, she brings a hand to cup his face, balances her weight on the elbows instead.  The skin of his cheek is much softer than her calloused thumb, and his lips, too, are soft on hers, when they kiss.

By this point, however, the kisses are less frequent, because they are, both of them, getting a little out of breath, and are too focused on feelings elsewhere to concentrate properly on kissing.  Still, even when Angela buries her head in Baptiste’s neck, preferring that to breathing on his face, she keeps one hand against his cheek, feels him lean into the touch as one of her thumbs strokes the soft skin there.

(Even if she does not want him to be gentle with her, does not feel capable of handling such, that does not mean she cannot be kind to him, does not mean she cannot treat him delicately.  He deserves it, needs to know that he should have a better life than the one the two of them lead, ought to, if the world was fair, be a family practitioner, somewhere far from here, from the pain and suffering they see every day, somewhere where he can be happy.)

Angela’s heart is racing, now, and she thinks that if she moved a hand to Baptiste’s chest, his would be, too.  Maybe if she knew him better, if she were a person more readily able to understand kindness, gentleness, between two people, maybe if she were another person, she would do that.  Instead, she moves her mouth to just over his pulse point, mouths over it, as if she is considering leaving a mark, and instead just feels his pulse, how fast it is.  They are alive, both of them, and are capable of more than just saving lives, can be happy in their own, too—at least in this moment.

And this moment is good, very good.  Her skin is hot not just from the weather now, or the exertion, but from the arousal, and the tension she is feeling at this point is decidedly the good kind.  Right now, she does not have to worry about being asked to follow orders she does not believe in, does not have to worry about making one small mistake and it costing someone’s life, does not have to worry about the way other people perceive her, and being the woman they want her to be.  Here, now, she only needs to worry about her needs, and Baptiste’s, and that—that is something, for once, that feels manageable.

Beneath her, she notices Baptiste’s rhythm is beginning to falter somewhat, and she focuses on that instead, does not compare this moment to anything else any longer, because thinking about anything besides what it is that she is feeling is getting difficult, and she wants this to last, or at least wants to enjoy it while she can.

Of course, she could ask Baptiste to wait, could draw this out, but she is close, too, knows that if she were touching her clit she could have come already; that is part of why she has not done so.  Right now, she feels safe and cared for and it is a little overwhelming, so it is easiest to just focus on the way she can feel him trembling beneath her, clearly holding back for her sake, or the fact that she cant help but tense her own muscles, free hand all curled up in the single thin sheet she has on this cot.  Easiest to listen to the sounds he makes, and how the insistent pressure of arousal she can feel is just that much more noticeable in response.  Easiest to notice that, when he grips her just a bit too hard—for his own taste, not for hers—Baptiste has to consciously unclench his fist, and afterwards, his flat palm smooths over her hip, an apology.

He moves the hand then, between them and to her clit, and she almost tells him that he does not have to.  Normally, she prefers to handle that herself, only because she does not like the idea of someone else being in control of her pleasure, but this time—this time she lets him touch her, and she does not regret it, mumbles a few instructions, harder, and roll it, and just there, please, which he obeys quickly.  It is not long before her arousal transitions from formless to something more tangible, the tightening that accompanies an impending orgasm.  Just a little more, just a little more, just a little—

—He breaks the rhythm, stops moving.

“What ar—”

“Should I pull out?” he asks, voice tight.

No,” says she, perhaps a bit more enthusiastically than she intends.  At least she does not have to say that she prefers he does not.  Her tone made that much clear.

In lieu of a response, he begins to move the hand on her clit again, more urgently than before.  When she rolls her hips this time, she can feel him shaking, can tell that he is trying to hold back to get her off before he comes himself.  It is a nice gesture but really—

“You can come,” says she.

(Other people, she might have given an order to, but she does not think Baptiste would like that.  It is not that he was waiting for permission, even, he just wants her to be satisfied, too.  Now, he knows she will be.)

So, only a few thrusts later, he does come.  His hand on her falters a bit, but it feels so good, him beneath her, him inside her, that it hardly matters.  The air around her is so hot, and so is the feeling of it, when he comes inside her, and the burning under her skin is growing and growing and she thinks she will combust if she does not come soon.  Back home, alone, she is always so cold, and normally she would run from this kind of heat, but right now she wants more, more, more, until the feeling consumes her entirely.

He stills, catches his breath for a moment, too, and she cannot see his face, because she has buried her own in his neck, but she can hear the smile in his voice, the contentment, when his hand on her clit starts moving properly again, and he tells her how good she is, how perfect this was, how beautiful she looks, and normally she would run from this sort of thing, this sort of praise, but coming from his mouth it feels right, and she is so close, so close, so close—

—Until, suddenly, the angle as he rolls her clit between his thumb and forefinger is just right, and she is coming so hard she almost forgets to breathe.

She shakes, and she gulps for air, and she collapses completely against him, and for a moment, it feels like this could last forever.

Then it ends, and she is hot, and sticky, and she is sure his arm under her is uncomfortable.

The cot is too small for her to roll off of him, so she has to sit back up, even if she would have preferred to stay in the post-coital haze with him for a bit longer, to pretend that things could stay that way. 

“Are you alright?” he asks her, when she sits up.

“I’m fine,” says she, and she is.  She is.  She has to be. 

(Thinking about the fact that she will not see him again is less fine.  He could have been more than a friendly face, she knows, could have been more than a good lay, but he will not be, not in this lifetime.  In the morning, she is going to return to Overwatch, and he to the Caribbean Coalition, because the world needs them more than they need to be with a person who understands them.  Such is the way of things, and it always has been.”

“Just ‘fine?’”

This time, he is not fishing for a compliment, but she will give him one, and it will be honest, “You’re more than fine.  You’re perfect.”

It feels true, in the moment.

But there is no room in Angela’s world for perfect things, no room for good, kind, happy people among the death and disaster she sees every day, no time for humor or for love.

She is better suited to loneliness, anyway.