- Dust to Dust
Date: Friday, November 16, 2001
- Pat Christensen <email@example.com>
DUST TO DUST
Bright Saturday sunlight splashed across the brushed metal and
of the desktop as Laura prowled through drawers. A thin layer
betrayed by the morning light, showed no mark of anything upon
grimaced, looking at it, not sure if what annoyed her was the
dust itself or
the fact it betrayed, that no actual work had been done on this
since it's last dusting, which was probably last weekend.
And where had the cleaning staff been last night, she wondered.
She and the
normal occupant of this office had come in last night from the
end of a
difficult case -- she to do paperwork, he to pick up the jacket
behind in their "rush to justice" as he'd sneeringly
called it -- only to
find an empty office with none of the trash cans emptied, none
of the mess
cleaned up and, obviously, no dusting done.
She sighed and wrenched open another drawer, her hands pawing
at the sparse
contents. "You'll find the erotica on a shelf in the restroom,"
drawled from the doorway. She rammed one knee painfully against
the edge of
the open drawer as she jerked upright to find him leaning against
doorframe, looking at her with an indecipherable smile playing
"I wasn't looking for...erotica," she snapped, feeling
a traitor's blush
spreading across her face. "I can't find the key."
He straightened and strolled across to the other side of the
key would that be?"
"The key to the locked file cabinet in the lobby,"
she said, mustering as
much dignity as she could find under the circumstances.
"And you expected to find that with the, ah..." he
looked over the top of
the desk into the drawer she had open, "extra toner, stamp
pads and metal
"Who the hell knows where you'd put anything in this place?"
realizing that her tone was becoming strident and wishing she
could stop it.
Why did he ALWAYS have this effect on her? Why did she let it
take her over
so completely every time?
It didn't seem to have touched him. Either that, or that enigmatic
super-glued in place. "I believe the key you're looking
for can be found in
Mildred's top left-hand drawer. She needed it yesterday and never
it. And Mildred is obsessive about what goes where, almost as
bad as you, so
that should be where you'll find the key in question."
She squared her shoulders and brushed a strand of hair back into
"Thank you. That will be a big help." She moved around
the end of the desk,
heading toward the door and then stopped to look at him. "Which
the question, what are you doing here?"
The smile never wavered, in fact, it grew broader. "Looking
for you. And
where else would you be on a bright, beautiful Saturday? Would
you be out
for a walk in the park? Or playing tennis? Or taking in a film
or lunch or a
museum? Heaven forefend. No, you'll either be home, regrouting
your sink, or
here, looking for paperwork to do. I came to see if I were right.
were, in fact, in full flight from life itself. And," he
"here, in fact, you are."
"I'm not in 'full flight' from anything, thank you very
much. I'm just
doing...what needs to be done. Someone around here has to."
She turned and
gave the slightly dusty desk a pointed look and headed for the
caught her arm as she passed him and pulled her back.
"Really?" he said softly, too softly. She felt a shiver
climb up her spine.
"Then tell me, if you stayed last night to finish the paperwork
current case, what exactly is it you need so desperately from
closed-case file cabinet on this otherwise promising Saturday
"The Breakfield file." Her chin was as high as she
could maintain it and
still look him in the eye.
"The Breakfield file," he said musingly, the corner
of his mouth twitching
in time to the twinkle in his left eye. "Really?"
"Really." She suppressed an urge to back away.
"The file concerning the Breakfield case? That file?"
She nodded, wishing
he'd just explode or drop the whole thing. "The file on
a case we wrapped up
three months ago? The case we've already been to court on, been
and put to bed, which is why it's in that particular filing cabinet
first place? The case that's now deader than our client's sister-in-law?
That's the file you're sitting here on a gorgeous weekend morning
about? The Breakfield file?" He dropped her arm and his
"What?" she said, suddenly alarmed.
"You're sure it's a file you're looking for?" His eyes
bored into her, dark,
suddenly, and filled with an emotion she wasn't sure she wanted
"You wouldn't be feeling a sudden need for, say, the agency
gun? Laura, are
you in some kind of trouble you don't want me to know about?"
She gasped, feeling an unwanted laugh rising in the back of her
Oh, lord, it's nothing like that! Honestly!" She was relieved
to see the
dark clouds begin to withdraw from his face. "I just..."
"Just what, Laura?"
"Well, I..." she swallowed. Hard. "I was finished
with, with the case we
were working on last night and I was kind of...well..."
"Just say it, Laura," he said, the smile suddenly returning.
"The sink was already regrouted and you were at loose ends."
The flush rose
to her cheeks again and she swung away from him.
"Excuse me, but I have work to do!"
He caught at her arm again and pulled her back. "Work? Laura,
there is no
work to be done here today and you know it. You're hiding and
"I'm not hiding from anything. I'm here to work!" She
stopped and looked up
at him. "Work. You know what that is, don't you? You don't
do any of it, but
you know what it is, right?" She looked pointedly at the
desk and his gaze
followed hers. She was gratified to finally see confusion there.
"Is there something about my desk that bothers you, Miss
Holt?" he finally
said, mildly. "Perhaps the lack of towering stacks of unfinished
abscense neat rows of pencils and pens? The carefully bundled
stacks of old
memos that simply aren't there?
The invisible, small, but growing chains of paperclips? The odd
of used-and-re-bent-staple sculptures that aren't gracing it's
surface? What exactly is bothering you most about my desk at
"Dust," she said through tightly-gritted teeth.
"Dust?" His left eyebrow ascended to heights hitherto
"Mr. Steele, this desk is dusted once a week. On Fridays.
whatever reason existed, it wasn't dusted."
"I can see how such an oversight could conceivably annoy
you, but this
regrettable condition exists throughout the office at this time.
Mildred's desk, even the two square inches of unblemished space
on your own
desktop, I'd dare say."
"Yes, but the dust on Mildred's desk and whatever dust might
have landed on
my desk over the course of this week isn't the same as this dust.
is settled. Practically domesticated. And untouched by human
"Your point, Miss Holt?"
"My point is..you...there is no...you can't see that...argh!!!"
her hands up in the air and turned toward the door once again.
This time he caught her around the waist and pulled her back.
The warmth of
his palm slid under her jacket and pressed against the thinner
fabric of her
blouse. It never occurred to her to simply reach down and move
Instead she froze in place, not moving, staring up at him, her
straining against the cage of her chest, praying he wasn't aware
effect he was having on her.
Her prayer went unanswered. His free hand began to stroke the
lapel of her
gray, striped blazer in a way that was only slightly short of
my dust is causing you...discomfort." His eyes locked onto
hers. "I wonder
what I can do to...relieve the situation? I only want you to
be...comfortable. I mean, you are forced to spend time here,
under...intimate circumstances and comfort is so very important
those...trying circumstances. So what can I do to make the situation
more...comfortable for you. I wonder..." One hand stroked
the lapel, the
other still warmly encircling her waist, he only had to lean
slightly and she was suddenly just off balance, head tilted,
back, just brushing the top of the desk in question.
"What do they call this?" he said, still fingering
The word "assault" rose to her mind and for once in
their long and troubled
relationship, she actually managed to bite it back. "This
"Your, um, jacket. Don't they call this a 'duster'?"
His hand moved up along
the lapel and across the back of her neck, his fingertips brushing
hairs near the base of her skull. "Loose, flowing in the
of...swirly. They call this kind of thing a duster, don't they?"
She was finding it hard to breath. Or focus. "I...think
so. I don't really
"Then, perhaps..." he muttered. And suddenly she wasn't
poised just above
the desktop anymore and his breath was warm on her face for that
moment, just before his lips covered hers. And the world went
away for an
uncounted span of time. She wasn't aware of her feet leaving
the floor. He
spoke from time to time, but the words fell across her consciousness
feathers and blew quickly away. She was more aware of other things.
things. Intimate things. Wonderful things.
Later, she would find it almost impossible to look her dry cleaner
eye. But before they were done, there wasn't a speck of dust
to be found
anywhere on that particular desktop.