Work Header

The Empty Space

Work Text:

Come and live with me
We'll have children of our own
I would love you more than life
If you'd come and be my wife
- Sting

Doug walked out of the hospital on Christmas Day into the lightly falling snow. He smiled to himself. The snow made things look pretty, even in the city. When he was a kid in Kentucky, they'd rarely had a white Christmas. His mother tried to make up for it, though, by shaving the frost off the inside of the freezer and, calling it a "snowball," let him throw it at the hickory tree in their backyard.

Christmas in Kentucky was never a family celebration. Doug was used to spending the holidays alone, even back then. He'd wake up on Christmas morning and run to the living room to see what Santa had brought. It was never much, but he never knew it back then. He'd yell and wake up his mother, pulling her to the tree, listening to her laugh. To this day, he loved his mother's laugh. Maybe because he'd heard it so rarely when he was little. He'd called her last week to wish her a merry Christmas. They were going to Vail again, their usual Christmas holiday. She'd found happiness in her later years, and for that he was grateful.

"Be careful skiing, Mom, I hear it's tough getting around in the snow with a cast," he'd joked.

"Well, don't worry about me. No skiing for this old girl. Just lots of novels and a few hot toddies ought to do it," she laughed. "What are you doing on Christmas?"

"I work Christmas Eve, then I'll go home awhile, then off to Carol's."

"Is she with her mother during the holidays?"

"Well, yeah, part of the time. I'm working Christmas Eve, and she's supposed to work Christmas Day. We'll celebrate by ourselves sometime later."

"Mmm hmm, and so, what's Carol getting for Christmas?" she baited him. "Anything exciting?"

Doug chuckled at his mother's boldness. "No, not too exciting."

"Oh, not too exciting. I see. And the reason is...?"

Clearing his throat, he became quieter as he answered her. "I want to ask her, I looked at, you rings. I'm...I don't know," he hedged.

"I'm not surprised that you're nervous, but really, from what you've told me, she might be expecting it."

"You know, no one at work knows, her family doesn't know. I can't see asking yet. Not yet."

"Well, when the right time comes, you'll know it. Say hello to her for me and I'll call you soon. I love you, dear."

"Love you too, Mom. Have fun."

I'm gonna love you night and day
I'm gonna try in every way
I'm gonna find a place to live
Give you all I've got to give
I would love you more than life
If you would only be my wife

Doug walked to the parking garage and started the car. He was on his way to his apartment for a while this Christmas morning. Carol had hosted Christmas Eve for her mother and some of her family. Knowing that they were coming to the house, he'd tidied after himself, masking his presence there, before he left for work, tossing his things in a drawer or the bedroom closet. It was getting difficult, hiding his existence in her life. In fact, truthfully, he was beginning to resent it. He'd been honest, forthright, and faithful for seven months with her and she still hadn't told her mother about them. So, he was on his own for a few hours until her mother left the house to go to church and off to visit with friends this Christmas day.

Carol had called at work a little after midnight. "Merry Christmas, Doug," she'd whispered into the phone. "I don't think Santa is coming. There's nothing under the tree yet."

Doug smiled into the phone. "Carol, have you been a good girl this year?"

She laughed quietly. "Very good."

"Well, then, be patient. I'm sure he'll make it down the chimney and leave something for you."

"Have a good night. I'll call when the coast is clear."

"Okay. I'll be waiting at my place." Doug said goodbye and hung up.


He pulled into a parking spot and walked up to his apartment. He stopped at his mailbox and found several Christmas cards waiting there. Stepping through the door, he tossed his coat aside and opened them. The cards he kept on the hall table were the only indication that it was Christmas. That and the presents for Carol. The one he'd bought her the other day was sitting on the kitchen table. Doug picked up the box and fingered it, hoping she'd like it. There were no decorations, certainly no tree. He'd never had one of his own. A few weeks earlier, he and Carol decided to go out to a Christmas tree farm out in DuPage County. He was easy to please and found several that he liked, but as usual, Carol was picky and looked over each tree as if she were planting it in the front yard.

"C'mon, Carol, this one's fine. Can I start chopping?"

"No, this is a very serious process," she said. "We have to look at this for weeks, in the living room. This one's crooked."

Doug tilted his head, trying to see how on earth she thought it was crooked. "It looks fine."

"Nope, keep looking, Paul Bunyan."

Two hours and several frozen toes later, she proclaimed she'd found the "perfect" tree and told him he was free to begin chopping. Fifteen minutes later, they were holding hands, laughing as she held the ax and he dragged the tree behind them. After they paid, lashed it to the roof of his car, and started driving home, she opened up a thermos of hot cocoa for them to share.

"Do you want to stop at your house, get some decorations to add to the tree?" she offered.

Doug took a sip and laughed. "I don't have any, Carol."

Carol looked at him in amazement. "You don't have any? Why?"

"Well, I usually either worked on Christmas or I spent it alone."

The car was quiet as Carol pondered this, feeling a little guilty, knowing she'd put off telling him of her plans. "I'm supposed to work Christmas Day, but my mother and is coming over, Christmas Eve. She's staying until Christmas Day. Doug, I'll need you to go to your place when you get home from work." Looking over at him, she saw his furrowed brow. "I'm sorry."

"No, it's okay. When will I see you, though?"

"I don't know. I'm working the rest of Christmas Day."

"Well, when can I give you your present?" he asked.

"We'll figure something out," she promised, and gave his leg a reassuring squeeze.

The priest has said my soul's
Salvation is in the balance of the angels
And underneath the wheels of passion
I keep my faith in my fashion

Doug opened the box to look at her present again. He'd gone to a jeweler a few weeks before Christmas, on a whim, thinking about her. During all the time they'd been together, he'd never really gotten her a present of any value. This Christmas, though, would be different. He walked up and down the aisles. A woman in her fifties came over to help him.

"Hello, can I help you?"

"Hi," he smiled. "I'm looking for something, a Christmas present for my girlfriend. What's the birthstone for May?"

"May is emerald. We have some beautiful earrings and necklaces over on the other side." The woman walked over to another set of glass cabinets.

Doug followed. "You know, she likes to wear the kind of earrings that hang down. Do you have any emerald and diamond earrings like that? Maybe with a matching necklace?"

"Sure, right here."

Doug looked down into the cabinet and saw a pair of earrings that he liked. "Can I see these?"

"Sure," she answered and took them out, placing them on a velvet pad on the counter. Doug picked one up and laid it across his hand. It was beautiful.

This would look nice on her, he thought. "Is the quality okay on this? I mean, are they good ones?"

"Oh, yes, the are. The emeralds are whole stones, no breaks, and the diamonds, while they're not the highest grade, they are good stones."

"How about the necklace?"

"Yes, here." She handed the necklace to him and he laid it next to the earrings. They would look beautiful together, on her. "I'll take these, please."

"Very good, can I wrap everything up for you?"

"No, no thanks. I'll figure out what I want to do. I don't want to put them under the tree. I'll figure something out."

"Yes, sir, that's fine, I'll box them up, just for safe-keeping."

Doug took out his credit card and handed it to her. He hoped she'd be happy. She was usually so down-to-earth about things, she didn't usually like anything fancy. He'd already gone out and bought some other things. This, though, was his real present to her.

Doug started walking over to the cash register and stopped at the case that held diamond engagement rings. He looked over them for a few minutes. The saleslady smiled at him. "Sir, are you interested in any of these?"

Doug looked up and smiled back. "I'm interested, I don't know if she is yet."

The lady smiled back and said, "Have you thought of surprising her for Christmas?"

"No, no, not yet. Just trying to get some ideas." Of course he'd thought long and hard about asking her to marry him, but how could he if she hadn't let anyone know they were together again? Looking at row after row of sparkling rings in the cabinet, he remembered the one Tag had given her. On the rare occasions he'd allowed himself to look at it, well, even he had to admit it was impressive. Linda Farrell had droned on and on about it when they were in bed, the day they got back from the Bahamas. Finally, he cut her off and told her he never wanted to hear about it again. When Carol told him, in front of everyone, that she and John Taglieri were getting married, she did it with such a look of triumph on her face. It had hurt him terribly.

Doug saw one that he thought was pretty. It was set in platinum, an emerald-cut diamond with baguettes on either side. "I'm not sure what she'd like, but I like this one." He pointed to it and she drew it out of the cabinet and handed it to him. Doug put it halfway up his ring finger and turned it, watching it sparkle in the light. "I like this. I don't know what size she is, though."

"Oh, that's not a problem, you can bring her in and we'll get a size on her, or if you want, you can take our ring sizers with you and come back without her. Or, if you really want to surprise her, trace around the inside of a ring she already wears on that finger, and we'll figure it out."

"Well, let me think about it."

"Okay, sir, here's your box. Please sign here."

Doug walked out of the jewelry store, thinking things over.

I would love you more than life
If you'll only be my wife

Doug put the box down and got undressed, then went to the bedroom to sleep until she called. He sighed. They should have been together last night, Christmas Eve, the night when she'd finally told everyone what they apparently already knew, that they were seeing each other again. The night he'd proposed to her. At least they would see each other later today since she'd swapped shifts with Conni. Sleep eluded him, because all he could think about the lame way he'd asked her to marry him.

He had thought again and again that he should have surprised her, had a ring on Christmas for her to open; ask her in private. But, deep down, he was so unsure, so afraid of what her reaction might be. Last night, though, he was pleased that she felt confident enough to let their co-workers know. So, he'd just taken the opportunity to ask in front everyone. It wasn't the way he'd wanted to do it. Even then, the words weren't right, and he felt so shy about it, he couldn't even look at her.

When, finally, he did, she'd looked shocked. But after a beat, she'd smiled, wrapped her arms around his neck, and kissed him. It dawned on him, though, that she'd never answered him. Not directly, anyway. She loved him, he knew. She'd told him that she did, but the words almost always came after he'd expressed his emotions first. This bothered him, too, but he tried to keep an even keel and take things as they came. Rolling over, he buried his face into the pillow, trying to push the doubts from his mind.


The phone. Somewhere, the phone was ringing. Doug looked up at the clock; 2 p.m. Searching on his night table, he knocked over an old beer can as he picked up the receiver.

"Yeah, hello?" he answered groggily.

"Merry Christmas, sleepyhead, you busy?" It was Carol.

"Sleeping," he replied, eyes closed, not quite awake.

"Can you come over? I have all kinds of food, and I made a pie for you."

He opened one eye, looking at the clock again. "You *made* a pie?"

"Well, I baked it, anyway. Apple, with ice cream on the side. Just for you."

"You baked a pie for me?"

"Yes, Doug."

Slurring, he said, "Thanks. Gotta shower."

"Okay, don't fall back to sleep....Doug?"

"Yeah, I'm here. I'm coming."

"See you soon."


Doug used his key to quietly open the door. He heard her in the kitchen and slipped her packages under the tree, then hid her jewelry so she'd have to hunt for it.

"Hey, Doug, in here!"

"Hey, Carol," he called out, walking to the kitchen.

Turning to embrace him, she held on for a while. She was happy he was here. It had been difficult for her to spend Christmas with her family and be apart from him.

"Are you hungry? I'm just getting everything out."

"Yeah, I'm starving. I've gotta drop some things off in the bedroom." Doug walked out of the kitchen to the bedroom and tossed something under his pillow. He walked back, whistling, anticipating their evening together.

They sat in the kitchen and filled their plates with a little bit of everything. Doug went back for seconds, then pushed himself away, claiming he'd have no room for dessert if he ate anything else.

"Do you want some apple pie?" she asked.

"It looks good, thanks. I'll have some later." He poured wine for the two of them and said, "Let's go sit near the tree."

"Oooh, my favorite part. Come on in, I have something for you."

They walked into the living room and Carol pointed to the couch. "Sit down." Her eyes were bright, her face full of pleasure as she gave him a present. "Here, open this first."

Doug smiled and gently shook the long, oversized box. "What is it, an umbrella?"

"Very funny. Open it."

Tossing the ripped paper aside, he worked next on the cardboard box, and opening that, pulled out a golf club.

She announced, "It's a titanium driver and it has a graphite shaft."

He was grinning widely. "So I see." Standing up, gripping the club, he swung it gently, turning his head to look at her. "How did you know...?"

"Do you like it?"

"I love it," he said, chuckling. "How did you know what to get, what size?"

"I just took your whole bag down to the golf shop one day and asked him what else you needed, and he just took it from there."

Doug was obviously happy with her gift and her efforts to please him. "C'mere, you, this is great. Thank you." Carol stood up and accepted his hug and kiss.

"That's not all," she added. "Something else comes with it."

"Carol," he admonished, "this was expensive enough as it is."

"Shhh...don't spoil my fun. Here," she said, handing him an envelope.

Seeing what she offered, he looked up at her in disbelief. The envelope was from Cog Hill Country Club. He took it from her hand and opened it. It was a gift certificate good for one round of golf on Cog Hill's Dubsdread course. The same course the pros played, at the Western Open. He'd always wanted to play it.

"How did you know about this?"

Ducking her head, she smiled deeply, dimples dotting her face. "I asked around. I'm pretty resourceful when I have to be."

Touched, he bent over and kissed her. "This is very nice, Carol. Thank you."

Looking back with love in her eyes, she answered, "I'm glad you're happy. Merry Christmas."

Doug sat down, took a deep breath and smiled. "Did Santa come this morning?"

"No, I don't believe he did."

"Better check again. You never know."

Carol grinned and looked under the branches. There were three boxes with her name on them. "Ooo, he did come, Doug." She opened the first one, a bottle of Obsession. "Thank you, I love this."

"Well, seeing how I've acted over the past few years, I thought at least the name was fitting," he joked.

She kissed him and started on the second box. It was a purple silk sweater. Running her hands over it, she thought she'd never felt anything as soft. "This is lovely. Thank you." The last box was smaller, and when she opened it, she found a pair of leather gloves. They were soft and would match her coat nicely. Carol looked up again and kissed his cheek. "These are all beautiful. I love them. Thanks."

"You're welcome. Merry Christmas." Pulling her on his lap, he kissed her, enjoying this Christmas night together. "Uh, Carol?" he whispered. "Santa told me you didn't look hard enough."

"What?" she asked, smiling slightly.

"He told me that there's another present somewhere."

"Are you going to tell me where?"

"Did you think I would make it easy?" he grinned.

"Well, I just didn't think I'd have to play hide and seek for a Christmas gift."

"Want a clue?" he asked.

"Please!" she laughed.

"Okay." Doug looked down and took her hand in his. "You know, I..." Doug stopped a minute, swallowing hard. Carol dipped her head slightly, bending down to look at his face and saw his eyes filling.

"What is it, Doug? What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong." He took a deep breath and began again. "Before we were together again, I had lots of time to think miserable my life was without you in it. I swore that if I got the chance, I'd...make it up to you for the times I was..."

Carol interrupted, "It's okay, really."

"Let me finish. I without you. Now, you've made me so happy. I don't want any emptiness in my life, around me anymore, and when I looked on your..." He looked up at her now, tears gone, smiling into her eyes. "...on our Christmas tree, I found an empty space and I just thought I needed to fill it for you."

Looking at him with wonder for the blatant emotions he had shared, Carol kissed his hand and then held it tightly. "I...I don't know what to say...."

"Say that you love me." His deep brown eyes were so unsure of themselves, so full of hope.

"I love you," she whispered.

Doug smiled and gently kissed her. "Go find your present, Carol," he said warmly.

Her face bright with anticipation, Carol searched among the branches, moving decorations aside. She worked her way from the bottom, and halfway up she stopped and gasped. Hanging from the branches were two earrings; a round emerald encircled by a ring of diamonds, with a tear-drop emerald hanging from a gold bar below. Next to them was a gold diamond and emerald necklace that matched perfectly.

"Oh, my god. Doug, these are beautiful!"

"I was hoping you'd like them."

"I do." The earrings sparkled as she turned her hand to admire then again. She was utterly speechless. He'd never given her anything like this before. Not for Christmas, not for her birthday. Never. "You've made this a wonderful Christmas for me," she said quietly.

"I'm glad." Doug stood up and walked over to her, and taking her into his arms, started nibbling on her neck, kissing her ear gently. "Carol, I have one more gift for you tonight."

"Oh, really? And when do I get it?" she teased.

"Whenever you want it. Of course, you need to go to your bedroom for it."

"Why am I suddenly suspicious?"

"Don't be. C'mon, I'll show you."

"Wait, first, could you put the necklace on me? I want to wear it."

"Sure." Doug took the necklace and Carol turned around, her back to him. She used both hands to lift her hair off of her neck, and the sight of her, arms raised, her neck exposed, gave him a rush of desire. He slipped the necklace around to the front and clasped it behind her. He moved in closer to her, his lips skimming the nape of her neck, the tip of his tongue playing on her soft skin. She moved back to him, feeling his hardness press against her. His mouth never stopped as his clothes came off, as undressed her.


If I could break down these walls
And shout my name at heaven's gate
I'd take these hands
And I'd destroy the dark machineries of fate,
Cathedrals are broken
Heaven's no longer above
Hellfire's a promise away
I'd still be saying
I'm still in love
Still in love
Still in love
Still in love...

Doug held her hand and let her to the bed. She was cold and burrowed under the thick comforter, quickly cuddling up to him, relishing his body heat. His arms were around her, pulling her to him. "Warm yet?"

Carol kissed his neck, his cheek, and smiled. "Getting there. Now, what did you mean, my last present?"

"Tonight, just relax and let me take care of everything." Doug brought her into his arms and stroked the small of her back, barely touching the skin, listening to her, feeling her respond. Kissing her deeply, he let his hands roam up and down her back, lightly skimming, making her press her breasts into his chest. Rolling her over, laying her gently back, he gazed at her, smiling, enjoying her beauty and the softness of her skin against his.

He drew her right arm away from her body, toward the headboard and reached under his pillow. She felt something slide around her wrist. It was one of Doug's silk ties. Doug looked back down and smiled at her. "Is this okay?"

She looked up at him, unsure. Intrigued. Aroused. "What do you want?"

"I want you to submit to me tonight, Carol. To my body. To my desire."

"Then, how is this *my* present?" she smiled slyly.

"Well, it's a present for me, too. It's something I've wanted to do for a while now. Because my desire is to make love to you." Tenderly kissing her shoulder, he continued, "I want to play with you, thrill you. Make you come. It's my present to you. Will you let me?"

"Yes," she whispered, briefly closing her eyes, anticipating his touch.

Doug gently restrained one wrist, then the other, to the headboard. He gazed at her for a moment, seeing the desire in her eyes, watching her breasts rise and fall rapidly as she became aroused. Her vulnerability made his excitement grow. He leaned over and kissed her deeply, his tongue twirling around hers, his lips soft against hers. Her cheeks, her jaw, her neck were devoured by him, and then he wandered aimlessly, kissing whatever, wherever he wanted, sucking sweet parts of her soft, supple body into his mouth, making her writhe on the bed, igniting her passion.

"You're so beautiful," he whispered. "The necklace looks pretty against your skin. I love you."

Trying to angle toward him, unable to touch his body, she strained to press her flesh to his mouth. Taking his time, visiting her breasts, her hips, her thighs, he nipped and tugged at her leisurely, enjoying her helplessness. His fingertips lightly stroked her sides, her hips. Slowly venturing near her wetness, skittering past her dark, curly hair, down to her inner thighs, tracing the dark triangle now pounding with hunger for him.

"C'mere, Doug, I want you in my mouth."

"Not tonight," he murmured quietly. "Tonight is for you."

"Ohhh...." she whispered."

Lowering his mouth between her legs, Doug tugged on the thick hair with his lips, making her press against him, then gently parted it with his hands, exposing her delicate skin. His mouth was sweet on her, it worshipped her. His touch against her skin felt tentative at first, then became more deliberate, more demanding, as he searched within her fold; then he was barely touching her, making her ache for him. He felt the soft skin grow in his mouth, stiffen, saw the color deepen and watched as her legs tensed. Easing the pressure, his tongue tickled her gently, then he moved away and kissed her thighs, her stomach, avoiding the very spot that was pulsating with desire.

Struggling against her restraints, powerless, Carol groaned, about to come, wanting him to take her into his mouth and suck on her clitoris, on the engorged lips. "Doug, don't stop. Please, I'm close."

Doug smiled and continued his lovemaking, traveling up to her breasts, licking underneath, tracing them with his tongue. He watched as her nipples began to wrinkle, to grow and harden, taking on a deep rose color. Licking his thumbs, her breasts in his hands, he rubbed over her nipples, making Carol arch her back, pleading for him, begging to come, then she gasped as she felt a finger inside of her, sliding in and out of her, getting slippery with her excitement.

"You feel warm right here," Doug said, his finger deep within her.

Stiff, red nipples beckoned to him and he sucked one, then the other. "Oh, that feels good. Suck them...harder," she begged, and he took one in his mouth, then the other and sucked hard, making her strain toward him.

"Carol...will you marry me?" He took her nipple into his mouth again, between his teeth, gently pressuring it, flicking his tongue over it.

"Oh, Doug...." Then silence.

He was desperate, needing her answer. "Please...."


Happiness overwhelmed him and his mouth retraced its downward path, needing to eat her again, wanting to build the tension, and, finding her softness, his tongue stroked and caressed her. Barely flickering over her. But she groaned, not able to withstand his tease, and then his tongue ventured inside, feeling her body vainly grasping at it, her muscles contracting. He was drugged by her now, his breath ragged, his body throbbing, hungry for her.

"Mmm...I love the way you taste."

"How do I taste?" she asked breathlessly. She was right there, the tingling, the sensation was growing.

"You taste like a woman should taste. Delicious." Barely grazing her now, he once again felt her tense in anticipation of her orgasm. Quivering; on the edge.

"Doug...please...I want you now."

Doug shifted his body, anticipating her warmth. Ready to plunge into her. She opened her legs wider and felt him, so close and tempting, the head just at her entrance.

He pressed against her, spreading her apart, pushing at the wet, swollen opening and he entered her slowly, moving forward a little, gliding into her, so that his shaft was rubbing against her clitoris. In one smooth motion, he reached up and pulled at the neckties that restrained her and let her loose. Her arms drew him near.

"Carol, you feel like butter. You're making me all wet."

She groaned, every inch of her was trembling, getting ready.

"I'm going to take what I want from you, now. And I'm going to make you scream."

Doug quickened his pace, watching her. He leaned over to suck her nipples, pulling them into his mouth, one after the other and she moaned louder.

"Come, Carol. I want to feel you come, feel you squeeze me. Watch you rise up to me. That'll make me come. I'm waiting for you."

His thrusting became deeper, harder. Demanding. Powerful. She felt him overwhelm her with his strength, his passion, holding nothing back as he conquered her body with his own, and in her submission to him, she found sweet release. He could feel her tensing around him, pulling him in, her shoulders, her body off the bed, moving closer to him. Finally, the ache was diffused and hot waves of pleasure came from within her; his name, her love for him, a desperate cry of passion poured forth from her.

Hearing this, seeing her throat exposed as her head fell back, pushed him over the edge and he came with her, pumping, throbbing, his face buried in her neck, assaulting her soft skin with his mouth, submerged in her pleasure, in her joy.

It took a few moments, but she slowly quieted down and they lay motionless in each others' arms, prolonging their intimacy. Doug sucked gently on her earlobe, making her shudder one last time.

"Oh...." she sighed, placing her arms around his neck, then stroking his back, and up his arms. "Doug?" Her voice was quiet; subdued.


"That was...I've never...had that happen, that way before."

"I know," he said softly.

"Is that what you meant? My present?"

"Um hmm."

"Was it important to you, having it happen this way?"

Doug picked his head up and looked at her, smiling. "No. That doesn't matter to me. I wanted you to enjoy yourself. And to show you how much I love you."

"I love you, too, Doug."

His eyes were warm and loving. "Did you mean what you said when I had you in a...somewhat compromising position?"

"Yes I did. And I will," she smiled, reaching up for a kiss.

"Merry Christmas, Carol."

"Merry Christmas."

When we dance
Angels will run and hide their wings

The End