Warm my Heavy Hands

Cedar Creek 
Kenzie took a weight off his hands in accepting the beer. But in exchange came a slew of words too heartfelt and kindly to stomach, and the line she drew beneath her speech discouraged him from further comment. It was easier to soldier on with the unpacking.

A jug of cheap frying oil joined the other ingredients, as did two large fillets of fish; white and translucent. Fletch then began a methodical hunt through the kitchen drawers.

'You any good at chopping spuds?' Knife acquired, when he caught the tremor to her hands he hesitated. The last time he recalled seeing them shake that way, he'd almost had a wolf to contend with. His shoulders dropped fractionally with a sigh.

'This isn't an apology for turning you down.' Deciding to trust in her own judgement, he set the knife beside the bag of potatoes. 'Just hate the thought I could be taking advantage of you. The last thing I want is you to think I've come here on the scrounge.' He motioned to the spread of raw ingredients. 'Didn't want you to think -' his hand clapped against the counter, before he reached, finally, for the beer. 'Never mind. I'm making dinner, and that's that.'

"Sure." She extended her hand for the knife but saw him hesitate. Her brows rose in perplexion but then her heart sank as he clarified. Kenzie felt foolish and regretted opening her mouth, and a bitter thought uncoiled from a dark corner of her mind.

Then what did you come here for?

He had asked about the parking space. He had said he had only come back to shift with the band. He had not turned down sex alone. He had turned down a kiss. He had turned down laying beside her; and it was that final piece of rejection that really sickened her stomach and roused questions from whispers to roars. For all the closeness they had shared before, he seemed to want little to do with it now. Her pain and apprehension twisted to anger. Had he wanted to see her at all? Would he have come were he not in the predicament he was in? He hadn't even answered her text when she told him to come home because she missed him.

From the corner of her eye she glanced his way. Chewed her cheek as she considered how secure her grip was on herself to keep up the effort she was putting forth. If she had the fortitude to see it through or if she should leave before that hold broke.

"Okay." Kenzie tipped the bottle to her mouth for a long draw and left it at that. Decision made to be a friend. To simply be there for him even if it was at the expense of herself. To not judge and fault when she could only guess at what was going on. She had always been better at caring for someone else rather than herself. It was easier. Her empathy and compassion were cruel.

Before she picked up the knife and a potato, she rubbed the side of her face. Her jaw. It was aching. She hadn't realized she'd been clenching it so hard. Once the soreness was remedied some, Kenzie set to her task, halving and quartering the first potato, and further working it to smaller pieces from there.

"I know it can't be easy... but you must be glad to be reunited with Heather?"

Fletch, busy combining flour, baking powder and a few seasonings in a large bowl, paused. Glad when Kenzie chose to stay, to occupy herself with dinner alongside him, her question made him feel paternally defensive.

'My girls mean everything to me.' Spooning some of the dry flour mixture onto a plate, Fletch sought the bottle opener next and cracked open the third beer. Along with sparkling water, these two ingredients fizzed as he mixed them into the bowl. 'All I ever wanted was to be a good dad. Ever since I knew Catherine was pregnant.'

Establishing this, he set the batter aside and went on the hunt for a second saucepan. The alibi of moving about made it easier to admit what he had to say next. It meant he had no reason to look Kenzie in the eye.

'Heather's very angry I left. You know?' For all Kenzie was capable of forgiveness, he wondered if there had been a time when she resented the man who abandoned her. 'I've caused a lot of damage to them both.' Closing the cupboard, he reached for the oil. But his hands fell still on the stopper. 'I forfeit the right to be their father, and she gave me a second chance. Just want to do the right thing.' By the day, he knew less and less what that was. 'Just want her to know she still matters to me.'

In the face of Fletch having been reunited with a past he thought lost, with a daughter who meant the world to him, Kenzie suddenly felt quite selfish and all the more guilt-stricken. She had reason to be hurt, to be confused, and to be anxious. But as she honed in on his words, and watched his hands work ingredients into fish batter, she found a measure of clarity.

Fletch only wanted to be a good dad. Kenzie had resigned to being his good friend. So, she vowed she would do her best not to come between them. That she would support them however she could whether in the end it represented a loss to her or not. Fletch had only one family and this could well be his last chance to secure some place in their life again. Heather had only one father; Kenzie would have given anything to see hers.

Her pile of chopped potatoes slowly grew as she worked quietly, continuing to listen to him although her attention was divided some. In her mind she was plotting a course. Her seas were still rough even if she had chosen a direction in which to sail them. The first thing she had settled on was a commitment to separation. If Fletch found a job which had him working days, she would take what evening shifts she could. If he worked evenings, she would ask to work days. Until then she could work double. Find things to keep her out of the house and distracted.

"I get that," she murmured softly, as she turned her head toward him just to offer a small smile and a gentle look before her gaze swept back to the potato in her hand. "For what it's worth... I think the efforts you are making speak a lot to your caliber as a father."

Numbness was creeping in to claim her; her mind and body all at once exhausted.

Did she, though. As far as he knew, Kenzie had never held a tiny life in her arms and been charged with looking after them. Never had to decide what was best for someone, knowing that choice could haunt her, years down the line. She didn't know the kind of sacrifice necessary for children, nor shouldered that burden.

In the context, her outlook was worth very little. It was Heather's opinion that mattered.

'Must try harder?' Dry, he began loading the chopped potatoes into the pan. 'Dunno that Heather sees it that way. I think I'm a disappointment to her. Think she was expecting, well -'

As the last potato finished up, he added that to the pan and turned on the heat. Watching blue flames push condensation up the rounded, stainless steel walls, he sighed. 'Got her mother's high standards.'

She might as well shut up, she thought. There was no soothing or reassuring him and it felt to her that her words were doing more harm than good.

Kenzie shifted toward the sink to rinse the knife and cutting board. Quiet after, she watched the potatoes heating in the pan. Her gaze was distant. The beer held in her hand was a distraction that her fingers noiselessly tapped between the drinks she took.

Defeated as she was and hesitant to attempt engaging him, there was one question she did not want to let sit.

"Does Heather know? That you're a Were?"

Just like that, the walls closed in.

'Ah.' Secrets were like carbon monoxide. It only took a crack in the pipe for them to leak, and the more they spread, the more people were harmed. Fletch chewed the inside of his mouth as he thought on how to answer. Then he realised his deliberation made him look guilty anyway.

'She figured it out, aye.' It was an afternoon he put firmly to the back of his mind. There had been so many people out and about that day, some miracle had kept them turning mob happy. 'Smart kid.'

She acknowledged his answer with a quiet hum but no more than that. Too utterly weary to feel much more than she had already been feeling, Kenzie had only distant thoughts. There was no knowing how much trouble Heather's knowledge could mean for them both, but if nothing else it was one less thing to tiptoe around and hide.

"Is there anything else I can do?" She glanced toward Fletch as she set the plug in the drain and turned the taps, retrieving a drying rack and cheap lemon dish soap from beneath the sink. There was already a clean rag on the opposite corner from where the plug had sat.

'No, no.'

The sound of running water stopped him unpacking the fish. One hand drifted toward her.

'Leave that. I'll deal with it.' Washing up aside, he needed to drain the potatoes before roasting. 'You go and - just.' Just what, he wasn't sure he knew how Kenzie occupied her time save for reading. 'Take the weight off.'

Her eyes flicked to his hand. Hers twitched in temptation, a slight movement that she made to disguise by scratching a non existent itch on her thigh.

She wanted to protest. To insist that she do something. He did not need to tend on her and she would feel better for helping. But, thought Kenzie, maybe cooking dinner and washing the dishes was something he felt he needed to do. She opted not to argue; there had been enough tension and taking the weight off, as he put it, was a simple request to grant. So, she answered him with a small but warm smile.

Kenzie shut off the water set the dish soap on the sink. Turning her back to the counter, she braced her hands against the edge and nimbly hoisted herself up. Her heels clunked the cupboards. There. The weight was off. She picked up her beer and relaxed, but her heart lurched suddenly and sickeningly. Kenzie looked to the side at absolutely nothing, all at once anxiously aware that he had said to go.

Maybe he hadn't meant it so literally. Maybe he had. Maybe he needed the space. Maybe she was just that unsure of herself and everything now.

Well. Fuck.

She lingered for half a moment and then; "Hmm... On second thought... think I'll go see what Flint is doing. Couch is softer on the ass." Feigning a casual air with a click of her tongue, Kenzie slipped of the counter and took up a new perch on the couch.

She could only hope that was the right call as she set her eyes on the movie and took another drink of her beer.

When Kenzie slipped off to reconvene with her film, it was the same as the first, fat drops of rain that eased the tension of a coming storm.

Years ago, the act of frying fish and turning potatoes into oven chips were tasks so familiar as to soothe him into a trance. But Kenzie's kitchen was not his own, and his thoughts would snag on where to find cutlery, how the taps worked, which setting to dial the hob. Nevertheless, it was enough of a reprieve that by the time he had pulled the rest of the meal together he had managed the same for himself.

'Didn't know what you'd want with a fish supper,' he said, as he set her plate down. Tomato ketchup, salt and vinegar followed suit, as did a small bowl of tartare sauce. Fletch parked firmly in the realm of salt and vinegar, and doused his chips with both. He sat at the opposite end of the sofa to Kenzie, aware they occupied his bed.

'There's cookie dough in the bag,' he added, tucking into his food. 'For after.'

He tried not to dwell on the last time they'd shared the couch, and Kenzie's sentiments on cookie dough. Thoughts that stuck like splinters, when you ran your hand along unfinished wood.

Raw biscuit dough wouldn't damage her in the same way he would. Their relationship wasn't unhealthy in the same way as sugar. Fiberglass or smoking perhaps, or a deep-rooted love of the bottle. Benign on the outside, but the sort that rotted from the inside out.

This is me doing better, he tried to tell himself, and even then he knew it to be a lie. Here he sat, taking advantage of an offer he swore never to touch, in the company of a girl who cared for him more earnestly and deeply than he deserved. History repeating itself. He would never change.

Just your company would have been fine. If only you'd come closer...

"This is perfect, thank you." Salt found her fries in generous quantity, and ketchup was squeezed onto one corner of the pile for dipping. The fish was flaky, and the batter crispy and flavorful. It needed nothing, but Kenzie had never had tartar sauce. She discovered she liked it.

On the opposite end of the couch from her, Fletch sat as a poignant reinforcement to her decision to keep herself scarce going forward. She would not be able to weather too much of the sort of lancing pain she felt when he sat down. For now though, she did her best to hide the hurt behind a small, warm, and genuinely appreciative smile as she ate the dinner he had prepared for them.

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