He doesn't talk about it. Even now with so much time passed. It sits on his chest heavily; the elephant in the room. The very large and enormous neon-colored elephant that never goes away, no matter how desperately he wishes it would.
It still stings. Still rubs at his already impossibly raw skin. It doesn't help matters that every time he closes his eyes, he still sees their lifeless bodies imprinted on the back of his eyelids; the three girls that he failed.
Now he focuses all his time and energy on Danny's case, because he can still solve this one, because he hasn't failed him yet.
She thinks he doesn't care, but the truth is that he cares too much. Because if he can solve this case then maybe he won't feel so guilty, so numb; maybe he could feel something other than this bubble of failure that he has allowed to encompass him. Perhaps, she will be the pin to pop it; the beacon to guide him back. It's what propels him forward, causes him to run harder. Because secretly he wants to come back.
The only thing that he hears is the sound of his feet hitting against the dock and it's so loud, it makes his ears ring. Each time rubber sole meets another wooden plank the noise increases; sounds like the firing of a gun, and it makes his head hurt.
She is somewhere behind him, he can sense her closeness. It somehow comforts him. But he doesn't dwell on it for too long. He shakes it off like an annoying fly and continues to run, both metaphorically and literally speaking. He's always running from something or someone, but this time he is chasing.
Chloe's boyfriend runs just ahead. And there's water everywhere. So much damn water. It surrounds him from every side and he hates it. It makes him feel unsteady, almost like drowning, even though he stands on solid ground. It takes away his breath; his ability to breathe.
Their suspect rounds the end of the pier and there's only a small boat and the open sea to meet him. Carver automatically draws his gun. "Stop right there."
The boy hesitates for a moment, his body jerking as he weighs his options. Miller appears beside him, her own gun drawn and aimed. Her finger hovers over the trigger and he counts down the minutes, waiting to see what the young man will do. Will it be the boat or will it be the sea? But it's neither. He drops to his knees and lifts his hands in the air to surrender.
And suddenly the pier is moving; swaying back and forth, as if hit by a wave. He glances at her, but she doesn't seem to feel it. Doesn't even move, her eyes trained on their suspect. His heart is pounding so loudly in his chest that he thinks it will explode. He feels unbalanced, as though he will lose his footing at any moment. As though he will fall into the water and simply drown. He crutches down, trying to still the movement. He's paralyzed, unable to move, although he needs too. Luckily, she does. And in the blink of an eye, she has the boy handcuffed.
Only then does he breathe, and she glances at him from over her shoulder. She stares at him so intensely that his skin starts to burn beneath her scrutiny. He almost expects to find it blistered and red. He can see the concern on her face; it's warm and radiate like the sun. He takes a moment to bask in it, catching her eye. "Are you okay, sir?"
Then everything is back to normal. He doesn't answer her, hoping his silence will indicate that the topic is off limits. And it works for the time being. But he can tell that she's not done with it.
Later, when she confronts him about it, he is momentarily distracted. He doesn't know what to say, so he stares at her face. And her eyes are so blue and her hair so blonde. And she is so in focus, so clear, so sharp; that her intensity is the only thing that he can see.
He is grateful for the distraction that Beth provides, sitting in a side office, waiting for her. She turns only for an instant, to say she will be right there, but it offers enough time for him to sneak away. And then he's gone, but he can still feel her, and it shakes him.
He doesn't know what to tell her; certainly not the truth. That makes him too human, too weak. He's not ready for her to see him like that yet. And if he learned anything from his last case, it's that being human and weak is no longer an option.
So he did what any normal person when do in his shoes. He closed himself off, became numb. And somewhere along the process, he had forgotten how to interact with people; no longer even cared too. That is, until her.
She has an effect on him. He doesn't understand it, but he knows it's dangerous. She's his partner. She's married, for god sake. But she's also soft and feminine and very much present and alive and he can't take his eyes off her, no matter how hard he tries.
She's guiding him back and he's not sure he's ready to come back, to return to this world. So he resists her at every turn. He pushes and pushes and pushes, till he swears he can hear her back hitting that invisible wall that he has pushed her up against.
There's fire in her eyes and her voice is angry. He knows it's coming, so he waits for it. But what she says next surprises him. She has to repeat it because he's not sure he has heard her correctly. "Would you like to come to dinner?"
"Wait, what?" And suddenly he feels like he is standing on that dock again. Everything is moving; the ground, the trees, the houses, but not her. Somehow, she stays in focus, almost becoming sharper, clearer.
"Why?" He's confused, and she's standing too close to him; too human, too alive.
"Because you're new in town and this is what normal people do. They come over for dinner," she explains it to him in a voice tone that sounds like she is talking to a child.
"What would we talk about?" He says it more to himself then her. Communication feels alien to him, but it also makes him feel something else; makes him feel present and alive.
"Hopefully not work," she says, before adding, "Just say yes."
So he does, and for a moment, he's not drowning anymore. She has tossed him a life preserver and he clings to it tightly, wanting to live, wanting to be present. And he thinks, maybe it's time that he comes back after all.