Tomorrow You Will Walk on Water
by Kyllikki (email@example.com)
Rating: R for a few choice words, glossed-over solo sex, and seriously screwed-up mental states.
Disclaimer: Possession is 9/10ths of the law. Tim's not using him right now, so it's my turn to play.
PLEASE NOTE: This is a sequel, of sorts, to "Of Steamed Cabbages and Ancient Kings," but bears little resemblance to "Cabbages" thematically. In other words, it's not sweetness and light. At all. In fact, it is quite dark and twisted. If fantastically screwed-up relationships aren't your cup of tea, you should probably read something else. Additional notes at the end.
Spoilers through "Bombs Away" (episode 2.2), but nothing major.
It all begins so innocently. You just need a phone number. Her phone number. Not scary, not stalkerish, you tell yourself. She just forgot to give it to you. No, scratch that. You didn't give her the opportunity to give it to you. You were out the door too fast, scared out of your fucking head because you felt a measure of peace and -- possibly -- happiness. Not that you know what happiness feels like. Haven't let yourself feel that for a long time.
No, you took off like a Kentucky thoroughbred on Derby Day. Couldn't get out of Boston fast enough. Got to the airport five hours before your flight the next morning so you wouldn't have to deal with the consequences. Coward.
So you skulk back to your pitiful existence, vowing to stay away from the information-gathering temptation of the computer sitting on your desk. You bury yourself in work. Try to convince yourself it's still fulfilling. Pretend you don't see her every time you close your eyes.
Three days later, you give in.
Her number is unlisted in the general directory, but you have access to more information than the common citizen. Feeling the barest tendrils of guilt, you use your office computer to track her down, assiduously avoiding the other information available to you in the database. Just the phone number. Nothing obsessive. You scribble it on a small scrap of paper and shove it in your pocket, vowing to throw it away later and forget about her. That night, you take the slip of paper out of your pocket and lay it gently on the dresser next to your wallet. You dream about her, bizarre dreams with shipwrecks and a talking dog and tequila sunrises.
The next morning, your fingers hesitate briefly over the paper before reaching for your wallet instead. You get as far as the refrigerator before you return to retrieve it. By the time you get to work, your fingers have every nuance of the paper memorized. You fold it over and over again between your fingers, methodically, like a scrap paper rosary.
By lunch you've rubbed the paper into a pulpy mass. You think about throwing it away, but put it in your wallet behind your driver's license instead. You can recite the digits faster than your own Social Security number. You consider calling. You laugh out loud at yourself.
All afternoon, you stare at the telephone. It just sits there, inviting. Begging.
You put the phone in your desk drawer. You feign innocence when a colleague drops by and wonders why he called but couldn't get in touch with you. You begin to feel like you're fourteen again. You tell yourself at least you haven't dialed all but the last number and hung up.
That night, you dial all but the last number and hang up. You feel like an asshole.
The almost-call becomes part of your nightly routine. You come home, eat a late dinner, watch a few minutes of whatever game ESPN is showing, and pick up the phone. You dial without thinking, wondering how the hell you've come to this. You always pause after dialing the ninth digit, thumb hovering over the final button, wondering if tonight will be the night you grow the balls to go through with it. You hit the "end" button instead.
You go to bed, gritting your teeth against temptation. Not tonight, you vow. Not anymore. You're veering dangerously close to psycho territory, and it's not a pretty picture. You continue to repeat that to yourself even as your hand strays toward your boxers, and then she's all you can think about as you feel your dick grow hard in your hand.
You avoid your eyes in the mirror in the morning.
In May you get called back to Boston. You tell yourself you'll stop by her apartment, ask her to dinner. Maybe a ball game. You drive around through the late afternoon and evening, trying to get your head on straight. You get as far as her street corner before you realize she probably has a boyfriend by now, some hot young doctor or lawyer or insurance executive with a promising future and boundless energy in bed. You drive by her apartment anyway, looking up to see if there's a light in the window. There isn't and you don't know whether to feel disappointed or relieved.
In July, your phone rings again, a profile request from the Boston field office. There's a possible serial killer. Three victims in three weeks. You could go -- probably should go -- but instead you put together a profile and send your latest wunderkind in your place. He'll do just fine, he needs the experience, and you're only a phone call away. A phone call and 460 blessed miles.
He calls two days later to tell you they found a new victim. You discuss possible changes to the profile for a while before casually inquiring about the ME on the case. DuChamps, you are told.
You frown. Doesn't sound familiar. Not Cavanaugh?
He laughs. Cavanaugh is persona non grata around here right now, he says. Went off the deep end a few weeks ago and disappeared.
You open your mouth to ask for more details, but catch yourself. Don't want to seem too interested. You dispense some more sage advice and quickly end the call.
A quiet inquiry with a friend at the Boston field office nets you some basic information about her last days in town. You dig up some back issues of the Globe and read about her role in setting Redding free from the mental hospital -- including the possibility that the prosecutor is now considering charges against the police who investigated the case for falsifying evidence. You dig a little deeper and discover that her father is one of the cops in question. You have a bigger part of the picture now, but you're certain there's a piece missing.
You begin to call in favors to get more information without raising red flags. You just want to make sure she's all right, you tell yourself. You're not stalking her. You ask your favorite "independent contractor" to hack into the Boston ME's computer system and learn that she was reprimanded and placed on a 30-day leave of absence just before she skipped town. You gain access to her bank statement and credit card bill and see her most recent purchase was two days ago at a gas station in Tempe. Your stomach twists in relief. She disappeared, but she's not dead.
You consider getting on a plane right away and flying to Tempe to find her. Your hand makes it halfway to the phone to call the airline before you realize how very fucked up this is getting. She's a grown woman and you haven't even spoken to her in more than six months. If she needed rescuing, you're sure as hell not the person she'd be calling. You have no right to force yourself back into her life as her knight in shining armor. Instead, you keep an eye on her bank accounts and wait.
That night it occurs to you that if she's not home, she's not going to be answering her phone. You dial all ten numbers this time and wait for the machine. When it clicks on, you close your eyes and soak up the sound of her voice. You hang up before you get to the beep. Sixteen times.
You hope to hell she doesn't have caller ID.
Two weeks later, the number of Boston murders has grown to five and you decide to head up there to lend a hand. The agents in the field office are more than competent, but you can't help feeling there's something you could see there that you're missing in DC. The fact that her ATM withdrawals are again coming from Boston has nothing to do with it.
You've spoken with DuChamps several times and admit a grudging respect for the woman. She knows the case cold, and she also knows when to talk and when to shut up and listen to you. Your profile is coming together better now, and with the help you're getting from the ME's office, you figure you have a 50-50 shot of catching the guy before he kills again.
Flipping through some files, you see "Cavanaugh" scrawled hastily on a report about a set of skeletal remains and can't help but think those odds would be 70-30 if you were working with her. You get the impression she's on thin ice at work, though, so you use it as an excuse not to see her. No need to disrupt an already tenuous position, you reason. But it doesn't keep you from making the nine-digit hang-up every night from your hotel room or from moaning her name when you come.
The next day you're taking a walk to clear your head when you see her sitting in the afternoon sun having a cappuccino at a little coffee shop a few blocks from work. Her eyes are obscured by her giant black sunglasses, but her posture you recognize at once, had seen it in yourself all those years ago: she is broken. You feel as though you've been punched in the stomach and ache -- ache -- to go her, to wrap your arms around her and pet her hair and murmur that everything is going to be all right, which is bullshit, but that doesn't mean it's not nice to hear.
You knew that if you go to her, though, you'll never leave. You'll get wrapped up in the sweet smell of her hair and the sultry tones of her voice and you won't care that she is broken and that you are absolutely the last fucked-up thing she needs in her life right now and you'll stay and wrap your arms around her and fall into the darkness together. And you can't imagine that being fair to her. An errant car horn behind you draws her attention, and as she lifts her head you're almost certain she sees you standing there ... but she ducks her head back down to stare at her coffee. You take it as some kind of cosmic sign -- good or bad, you aren't sure -- and turn on your heel to return to the office.
Within a few short days you're back on the plane for home. Catching of serial killers, triumph of democracy, justice for the victims, blah blah blah. You realize you should probably derive some pleasure from knowing your profile was dead-on, but as the miles pile up behind you, you feel oddly empty. One of the high points of your career and you can't allow yourself to enjoy it.
You look out the window toward the setting sun and try not to think about her.
You decide to substitute one self-destructive behavior for another in the weeks after you get back home, which is how you end up hearing about the hostage situation at the Boston Medical Examiner's office on the 11 o'clock news at the shitty bar du jour. You breathe rapidly and try not to vomit. You've got to get to her. Now. Having left six sheets to the wind far, far behind, you call a cab. The cabbie almost throws your sorry ass onto the pavement when he hears your destination -- after all, who in the fuck starts for Boston in the middle of the night in a cab, for chrissakes, and he has a family and his wife's gonna kill him and you're pretty damn drunk, buddy, are you sure you know what you're saying? -- but you wave a few C-notes under his nose with the promise of more and suddenly he's all smiles. You smile, too, grimly. You rarely carry this much cash but filled your wallet tonight with the dim idea in the back of your mind that you'd hire a professional to chase the demons away for a few hours. A leggy brunette with tousled hair and hazel eyes. You laugh mirthlessly. Apparently, the fates had something else in mind.
You stop on your way out of town for a fifth of Absolut and another $250 from the ATM, and he's on his cell phone explaining things to his old lady when you climb back in. Apparently she's pretty pissed that he's not coming home tonight, but you slur something about a big tip in the general direction of the front seat and he manages to calm her down. At first he tries to make small talk on the way out of town, but when you only grunt in return for long enough, he gets the idea.
The vodka burns down your throat as you stare ahead at the near-empty interstate and your mind chants gettohergettohergettohergettoher, and you can't figure out why your legs are aching until you look down and realize you have them pressed as hard as you can against the passenger seat as if by sheer will you could move the car down the road faster. Eventually the hum of the road and the weight of the alcohol starts tugging on your eyelids, and you slip into a fitful doze peppered with images of her.
You roll into Boston just before sunrise and after directing the cabbie to her neighborhood, thank him, pay him handsomely, and send him back home to his wife. You're sure he's giving you a concerned look as you walk away into the early morning gray, but you're equally sure he'll have forgotten about you before he hits I-95.
This time there is no hesitation in your stride as you ascend the stairs and buzz her apartment. No answer. Shrugging, you retreat across the street to a semi-secluded spot on a stoop and hunker down to wait. Climbing through the red tape has probably kept her busy most of the night. You're content to wait it out -- because come hell or high water you're not going to back out now. She's gonna be all fucked up after this -- nearly being blown to bits tends to do that to people -- and you've certainly been there. You need to do this for her. She needs the comfort of someone who's been there, who can help her through this. And then maybe, just maybe, you can climb out of the darkness together. She doesn't deserve to go home to an empty apartment after trauma like that. You flex your hands convulsively, imagining how it will feel to hold her again, to pet her hair and wrap yourself around her and keep the monsters at bay. Just have to wait for her to show up.
Still exhausted from your rather interrupted night and feeling the first tendrils of your impending hangover, you allow your eyes to close, just for a moment, and then you hear her laughter. Blinking against the too-bright dawn, you peer across the street and see her approaching the front of the steps leading up to her building, companionably arm in arm with a tall, handsome man. He seems vaguely familiar, and you try to remember why. Ah, yes -- the serial killer case. You met him briefly in one of your meetings with DuChamps. What the hell is his name ... Hughes? Hought? The light bulb comes on. Hoyt. Woodrow Hoyt. You remember him now -- friendly, unassuming guy, not nearly as cynical or cocky as the BPD detectives you usually encounter on the job. The kind of guy who would walk a traumatized woman home after a harrowing close call. You smile inwardly, thankful that Jordan has people keeping an eye out for her.
But then as you watch, she turns to him, standing on tiptoe to whisper something in his ear. He smiles ear-to-ear and you see her grin saucily in return before taking him by the hand and leading him up the steps. He stops her, gently tugging her by the waist and pulling her into an embrace. A "we're-more-than-just-friends" embrace. You feel your heart drop to your stomach as you watch him hold her face so tenderly, as you watch him stroke a thumb over her cheekbone and murmur something before leaning down to kiss her. You want to look away, but you can't. Your eyes remain fixed on the scene as the kiss changes from sweet to passionate, her hands roaming over his back and playing with his hair.
You remember back to your brief encounter with him, how he seemed so on edge, so tense. You attributed it to the stress of working a serial case, but now you realize it was something else entirely. You wonder how long the bastard has been in love with her and feel a momentary swell of satisfaction in the certainty that she will steamroll him without even meaning to. The very naivete you saw in him will be his downfall, you're sure, and you can still so very easily insinuate your way back into her life to help her pick up the pieces.
But then they finally come up for air, and the expression of sheer joy suffused across her face stops you short. How can you deny her this? How can you force her to trade in a stand-up guy for a scarred, bitter relic? You bite your lip and taste blood. She deserves better than you, better than some sick fuck who spent most of a year running from his feelings and ogling her like an inept high school kid. She deserves someone who will dial all ten digits of her phone number. You blink hard and watch them climb the steps together; you take a long look at her, drinking in her essence one last time. You won't be back.
When the door closes, you hail a cab and head for the train station.
Author's notes: I fudged the timeline a little bit here -- the show said Jordan was gone for six weeks, so in my mind, she left in the middle of June and came back at the beginning of August.
Thanks as always to jael for beta and for doing her part to keep Ma Bell in business.