Jay eyed Erin through the partially open blinds of the break room. He could see her refilling her coffee cup for the third time that morning. She had been replacing sleep with caffeine it seemed for the last week or two. The dark circles under her eyes were evidence of her lack of sleep. Even during the few nights they had spent together in the last week or so, he was aware of her slipping out of bed in the middle of the night to mindlessly watch TV, only returning to bed in the wee hours of the morning. He had repeatedly asked her if she was okay, getting cursory "I'm good" responses in return. A few times she had admitted she was "working on getting back to normal" or "getting by." Any pressure Jay put on her seemed to result in her backing off from him for a few days.
Jay sighed. He knew she was struggling. It had only been a month or two since the ordeal with Yates. While in some ways his death at Erin's hand could be seen as closure, it had also brought up a lot of emotions and memories that Erin had not really dealt with the first time. He had tried to be there for her, but she had her walls up and would only let him in so far. He could sense her pushing him away. If not physically, then emotionally.
He just wished they could get away from it all. Spend a few days alone just the two of them. A chance to reconnect, enjoy each other's company, and put the stress and pressure of their jobs aside for a few days. Eyeing the calendar on his desk, he tried to ignore the fact that Valentine's Day had come and gone over a month ago. Erin wasn't much for romantic displays and since it had followed only a few days after she had ended Yates' life, Jay had let the day come and go without any observance. He had wanted to though. He had wanted to show her that he cared and wanted to be by her side through even the tough times. Times like now. Instead he had just accepted her announcement that she was going to spend the evening with Burgess, trying to keep their friend's mind off of her recent break up. She had stopped by late in the night after leaving Kim's apartment, but it wasn't the romantic night Jay would have liked to plan. He hadn't envisioned anything too fancy, he knew Erin better than that. He had just thought a nice dinner, a few glasses of wine, some good non-work related conversation, and maybe him giving her the bracelet he had bought her. Instead the jewelry box lay tucked inside his sock drawer, and they drank a few beers before heading to bed. Not really the romantic night he wanted.
March, too, had come and gone with little fanfare. Work had been nonstop, and the cases had been difficult. With winter lingering, days had been long and dark with little to brighten things up. A few late night dinners here and there. A few nights out with the team, and that was about it. With the exception of periodic sex, Jay barely felt like they were even a couple. It wasn't exactly how he imagined their second chance at a relationship would be. He needed a change.
Pushing himself up from his desk, he made his way over to the break room, a quick glance around the squad room ensured that the rest of the team was engaged in work and not paying any attention to the two co-workers. While the team was aware they had an off duty relationship, everyone tried to ignore it the best they could. Erin glanced up as he entered the room and offered up a weak smile. He could see that the emotion didn't quite make it up to her eyes. She offered up the coffee pot, and Jay filled his own cup while Erin set out to doctor up her own drink.
"So…" he began, "I was thinking of taking off for a few days at the beginning of next month." Erin's eyes jumped up to meet his questioningly. "Maybe heading up to the cabin and doing some fishing?" He let his voice rise making it seem like a question. He looked at her expectantly, hoping she would understand he wanted her to join him.
Erin dropped her eyes back to her drink as she stirred the cream and sugar around in the mug. She murmured quietly, "Cool." If she had caught on to his silent invitation, she ignored it.
Leaning his back against the counter he took a quick sip of his hot coffee, almost burning his lips. He gave her a sideways glance. "I was hoping you'd come with me."
He could see her tense a bit, her jaw clenching before she gave him a brief grin, "Wisconsin, again?"
Jay crinkled his eyes at her. "Come on, big fire place, trees, nature. It'll be fun."
Erin made a face and let out a soft laugh. He saw a softening of her eyes for just a brief moment before she gave him a tight smile. "Voight will never give us both time off."
Jay shook his head. "He might. We can ask." He held on to that softness that had briefly crossed her face. He knew there was a part of Erin that wanted to say yes. Wanted to go. Even if they couldn't get Voight to okay it. Just her willing to say yes would mean she was feeling that desire to reconnect with him as well.
Erin shook her head. "No, I don't think it's the right time for me to take off. You know how spring is. All the crazies come out as soon as it warms up. It's a busy time of year for us."
Jay took another sip of his coffee while he tried to think of a way to convince her. "It doesn't have to be Wisconsin. We can go somewhere nicer for a few days." He gave her a hopeful look.
Erin shook her head again, "You should invite Will," she countered. "After all this lawsuit bullshit, he could probably use a break."
Jay nodded slightly and dropped his eyes to study his coffee, "Yeah, maybe." He tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice. He glanced out the window, not wanting to meet her eyes yet. Maybe a weekend away was pushing Erin a bit. She was always so skittish about their relationship. Deciding to try a different approach, he tried another offer. "How about I make a reservation at the Purple Pig for Saturday night? Get dressed up, good food, nice night out?"
Erin couldn't hide the apprehension that skimmed across her face at his request. Jay's heart sank a bit. It confirmed what he already knew. Erin wanted some space. Instead of moving their relationship forward, she was trying to distance herself from him.
Hearing voices outside the break room, Erin's eyes darted towards the squad room where Olinsky and Voight had just returned from interviewing a witness. Seeing it as an out, she gave Jay a quick glance. "Why don't we wait and see how this case shakes out? Might be a long weekend." Noting the hopefulness fading from Jay's face, Erin tried to reassure him with a pat on his arm as she walked out. It felt awkward, even to Erin.
Erin made her way back to her desk as Voight slapped a few photos up on the board and waited for the team to gather around. She noted the slump of Jay's shoulders as he walked back to his desk and dropped into his chair. Almost unwillingly she met his eyes. She could see the frustration on his face. She felt bad, she really did. It had been a difficult few weeks at work, months really. Over the last few months, tension between her Hank had begun to escalate. They seemed to disagree more and more about how to handle and approach cases. The Yates situation had disintegrated their already fragile relationship. Erin didn't like to be told no, and Voight liked having control. At times Erin thought it might be better if she worked in a different unit. At the same time though, she loved her job. It was the only thing that gave her any satisfaction.
While Voight continued to give a rundown of the current case, Erin risked another glance at Jay. His gaze was focused on Hank, and Erin was able to study him for a moment. She knew she was messing things up with him. It had seemed so natural in the fall to reconnect with him and resume their intimate relationship from the year before. There was always a lightness in Jay that she appreciated. Helped keep her out of the darkness that often threatened to envelop her. She found comfort with him, and she liked to think that it was reciprocated. That she was the person he could turn to when things got tough for him as well. They made a great team. Partners in and out of bed.
The last month though, she didn't really want comfort. She felt she needed to get through this on her own. If she kept depending on Jay to keep her from going under, what would happen to her when he wasn't around to lean on? At some point, they wouldn't be partners and might not even be involved anymore, and Erin didn't want to fall apart without Jay. She needed to know that she could handle it all on her own. She was independent and always had been. Depending on Jay too much wasn't healthy. Figuring out all this on her own would make her stronger in the future. If she could get her life together, maybe they could work things out. Maybe then she'd be ready to move forward with Jay.
She was startled from her daydream by Hank barking out assignments. She let out a relieved sigh to hear that Voight wanted her riding out to interview a family member with Antonio. She wasn't too keen on the idea of sitting in a car with Jay for a few hours. He'd be sure to bring up getting away for a few days, or a dinner date, or if she was doing okay… Those kind, hopeful eyes could see right through her flimsy excuses. She just wasn't in the mood for questions and concern. She had to work it out on her own.
She thought about spending a weekend away with Jay. It sounded… stressful. His attention was sometimes overwhelming. Sometimes she loved spending time with him. His sense of humor could have her laughing until tears leaked out of her eyes. Conversation was stimulating, despite spending most of their time together. He liked to talk about random Google facts, current events, and amusing anecdotes of his teen and early years. And of course their physical chemistry was off the charts. But sometimes when they were together, she'd start to feel overwhelmed with guilt. It was like she should not be allowed to have this kind of happiness when there were those in her past that didn't get that chance. Like Nadia.
Erin knew it was self-destructive. She had even made a point of talking with Dr. Charles about it. In his subtle and not so subtle way he had confirmed her self-sabotaging. Every time she told herself she was going to let it go and let Jay in, she tensed up. Even the suggestion of a weekend away. For the briefest moment, she had envisioned them curled up under a pile of warm blankets in front of a blazing fire. As quickly as the image had flashed in her mind, fear had consumed her. She wasn't even exactly sure what she was afraid of. Jay? Getting too serious? Happiness? She'd used Voight as an shield to get out of that situation.
She wasn't quite sure why she balked at dinner this weekend. They'd had dinner together dozens of times, both as a couple and not as a couple. She just didn't want that pressure. To dress up, smile at dinner, pretend like her thoughts were filled with violent images of Nadia and Yate's other victims. Lately she had been consumed with the victims of their cases. The women from the shelter, the teen girl assaulted in her sleep, the drug users. She seemed to see herself in each one, and she felt helpless to help them. A nice night out just felt…false. She just didn't think she could do it, and she didn't want to do that to Jay.
It did pain her to hurt Jay. He meant a lot her. Everything, if she was truthful. He was her future. She just had to make sure that she could get through all this on her own. That way they could have the future together she thought they both wanted. That she would be a woman worthy of someone like Jay. A woman who didn't freak out at romantic dinners and weekend getaways.
It's my first new story in ages! Hope you all like it. Since there has been a lack of Linstead on screen, I decided to work it into relationship drama for them. Hopefully I will get a chance to update often. Review please, and let me know what you think.