Worth the Wait

Hunter sat on his back porch, watching the sunset and trying to get through yet another book McCall had recommended. Truth be told, he really didn't care for reading, but if it was something she was interested in, he was willing to give it a try. He looked out over the ocean, thinking about her dinner proposal. He should have said yes - why was he being so stupid? He had been in San Diego almost a year now and still hadn't able to deal with his feelings for her. There were moments he had come close to telling her how he truly felt; but like he had done so many times in the past, he buried those feeling deep - pushing her away when all he wanted to do was pull her close. He had seen the hurt look on her face when he had turned down yet another dinner invitation and he felt horrible. He closed the book and rubbed his eyes. Knowing she was probably as lonely as he was right now, he went inside to give her a call.

McCall pulled up to Hunter's house, shut off the engine, and sat in silence. She had invited him to dinner yesterday and he had turned her down - for the 4th time that month. 'What the hell is going on with him?' she thought to herself. Ever since he had moved to San Diego, he had been so distant, so reserved. It reminded her of how he had acted the last year they had been partners - It reminded her of why she left. They had been so close for such a long time, that it hurt tremendously to watch him distance himself from her little by little over the years. She was sick of it - sick of the games; they had gone on too long now. McCall got out of the car and walked slowly to Hunter's front door. She planned on finding out what his deal was tonight; they would have dinner and talk, no more excuses.

Hunter had dialed the first 3 digits of McCall's number when his doorbell rang. It's her, he thought to himself as he slowly ambled towards the front door. He couldn't help but smile when he saw McCall's face smiling back at him through the peephole. Hunter pulled open the door slowly,

"Well look who it is," he grinned.

"I that a 'happy to see me' grin?" McCall queried, brushing past him into his two-room abode. As she slipped through the small path between Hunter and the doorway, she gently brushed up against his hard chest. She thought she felt him tense under her touch, but couldn't be sure. Hunter smiled back nervously,

"I just picked up the phone to call you," he stammered.

"MmmHmm."

"No, seriously. I felt bad about turning you down. I was going to see if you still were up for dinner."

"Why did you turn me down in the first place?" she questioned as she moved over to the sliding doors.

"I don't know," he answered quietly. He watched her as she stood by the doors looking out over the ocean. 'She is so beautiful,' he thought to himself. She was wearing a pair of tight jeans, a white tank top, and an opened navy blue collared shirt that clung to her frame's silhouette. Her body hadn't changed much through the years. If it was possible, she was even more beautiful now. "I take it we're going to a casual place" he finally continued, pointing at her flip-flops and painted toes. "Are you sure people will still want to eat after they get a load of your feet?"

"Rick Hunter, that is an awful thing to say," she said, stifling a laugh. She quickly picked up a pillow and threw it in his direction. Hunter laughed himself, catching the pillow before it hit him in the face. He marveled at the beauty of her smile; he loved to hear her laugh.

"Let me take a quick shower and I'll be good to go."

McCall watched him close the front door and walk over to his bedroom. She had willed herself not to stare at his body the entire time they had been in the room together. Other than the graying hair on his temple, he was the same lean, tanned Rick Hunter she remembered. The past 10 years had been very good to him, and she knew it was because he took care of himself. She remembered how safe his arms had once felt around her slight frame. And she flushed as she recalled the night they had succumbed to the passion they had felt all those years ago. A passion she often relived during the quiet moments she spent alone. She spent so many lonely nights wondering how different her life might have been had she not left for Quantico that next day. She walked over to his mantle and saw the picture of them taken over 19yrs years earlier. 'We looked like a couple,' she murmured to herself, 'no wonder there were so many rumors about the two of us'

"Did you say something?"

McCall, surprised, turned around to see Hunter buttoning up the last 2 buttons on his light blue shirt. She hadn't even remembered hearing the water go on - or off, for that matter; but she could definitely smell the crisp, clean scent of his after-shave from across the room. The shirt was just tight enough to show off his broad shoulders and narrow waste; he, too, had opted for jeans and flip-flops. "We match," she stated matter-of-factly.

"I guess we do - like an old married couple," he smiled. The two of them stood awkwardly, staring at one another, until McCall motioned forward,

"Okay big guy, I don't know about you, but I'm starving. There's a restaurant about 10 minutes from here that's supposed to be fantastic. It's within walking distance so we can have some wine and not have to worry about the drive home. Are you game?"

"Sounds great, let's go." Hunter followed and watched her hips sway as she walked out ahead of him. He shook his head as he locked his door. 'This is going to be one long night, Rick Hunter,' he mumbled to himself. He didn't trust himself with her, any more. At work, it was one thing - they were working cases, there were distractions. But when they were alone together, it was simply too much. He felt his mind wander back to the one night they had shared together - the feel of her lips on his, her gentle hands on his face & chest...That was why he kept his distance; it hurt too much to think about what could have been. Only on rare occasions did he even consider that the future might hold the possibility of something more intimate between them.

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"Why so quiet?" Hunter questioned as he squinted at the menu.

"No reason" she stated lightly. She cursed herself for her quietness. It had been her idea to get him here and confront him with his distant behavior. Now it was she who was being distant. Truth was, she had no idea what to say to him. They had such a pleasant walk over, laughing and kidding each other like they used to do, that it caught her off guard.

After a brief perusal of the menu, both decided on swordfish and settled into a pricey bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

"This wine is extraordinary," McCall commented. Hunter watched her half close her eyes as she took her second sip, watching the muscles in her neck contract as the nectar slid down her throat as she swallowed. He shivered.

"What?" she questioned, eyeing him suspiciously, did she just catch him staring at her?

"Nothing," he smiled. "I was just about to agree with you. The wine is very good." He cleared his throat, " You know, I'm really glad you came over tonight. I needed to get out of the house"

"That's why I've been trying to get you to go out to dinner with me."

"You mean it's not because you enjoy my charming wit and sparkling dinner conversation?" he teased.

McCall took a deep breath and plunged forward, "Look, I'm just going to say it. You haven't seemed...I mean...I haven't been able to read you lately. You've been so distant and I don't know if it's something that I've done to make you so uncomfortable. "

Hunter was caught of guard, had she really thought it was her fault? In a way, he supposed it was her fault, although entirely unintentional. She had no idea how good he felt when he was around her - too good.

"I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings," he said soberly as he reached across the table to touch her hand. A bolt of electricity ran through him as they touched and he saw something change in her eyes - what was it? "I guess I've had a difficult time getting used to the area, " he lied, "as well having to get used to our ever-changing roles."

"Ever changing roles?"

"Well, we're partners, but not technically. It's just that, now we have a different working relationship than we used to have. I guess I just miss they way things used to be."

"Me, too," she sighed, "Leaving you and Parker Center was such a difficult decision. At the time, I thought it was the right decision - for the both of us. Things didn't really turn out as I had expected them to; now we find ourselves together again, in another city. It's funny how things work out." McCall looked into Hunter's eyes looking for some sort of response, anything. Was he happy that they were back together again? Was it what he wanted, she wondered?

"You're right, things do have a way of working out," Hunter answered with a hesitant smile. Something was bothering him about what she had just said. What did she mean when she said that she thought it would be 'better for the both of us'? he asked himself. He opened his mouth to continue, but the waiter returned with their salads. Regretfully, he pulled his hand away from hers and picked up his fork.

The two of them chewed silently for a moment, then Hunter mustered enough courage to utter one simple phrase, a question he had wondered about for what seemed an eternity,

"Do you ever think about us?" he muttered casually.

McCall swallowed hard, then froze. She wasn't sure what kind of answer he was looking for, and was scared that she would say something he didn't want - or wasn't ready - to hear. "What do you mean?"

"Well," he hesitated, "I mean, do you ever think about what might have been...between us?" Maybe this was a mistake, he thought to himself - if it was, it was too late to turn back now.

"Oh...Well, you and I have experienced a hell of a lot together - more than most married people. You've been there for me through some really difficult times, you know. There's definitely something between us, " McCall wavered, "We'll forever be bound together in some way. So yeah, I used to think about the possibility of us a lot, I guess"

What did she mean 'used to', he wondered. He was starting to get a headache. He was about to respond when she pushed forward.

"Remember when we were baby-sitting that creep Fabro?

"Yeah."

"There we were, spending nearly every night together for a week. I started to think about it would be like if, well, if there was more to our relationship than just friendship. We were so close at that time - it was just a matter of time before we...well, you know, before we took it further. We just never really gave each other a chance - our friendship was more important to us at that time." Why couldn't she bring herself to talk about the night they had shared together? Hadn't they re-hashed this very topic years ago in Dr. Tate's office? Then she remembered how Hunter had made it clear to her then that he wasn't interested in anything more than friendship when she had invited him in for coffee that second time and he declined. She decided that she really didn't want to talk about this anymore - it hurt too much. She silently thanked God when the waiter came with their entree.

Hunter was touched by her honesty, yet couldn't bring himself to respond. He struggled to say something, anything, when the waiter came over with their dinner. He blew his chance and he knew it.

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The rest of the dinner went well. The pair discussed work and family with the ease they once shared, never returning to the topic that had begun the conversation. They managed to polish off 2 bottles of wine, and both were glad neither had their car. The walk home in the cool night breeze would hopefully serve to sober them up.

They had managed to close the restaurant; Hunter paid the check, much to McCall's chagrin, and the two began the trek to Hunter's beach house. The street was empty and silent. McCall was leaning against him slightly, her arm entwined with his. The alcohol had served its purpose by dousing any self-conscience feelings she may have had. He smelled wonderful and felt even better. She was going relax and enjoy this simple moment for what it was worth. Hunter, grateful for his height - and his tolerance - looked down at the woman he adored. She was handling herself well, he thought, as she stumbled slightly here and there. Neither had said a word since they had left the restaurant, until Hunter felt the first raindrop.

"Is it rain..." He barely had the word out of his mouth before the sky opened up and gave way to a downpour. McCall, sobered by the sudden change in weather, was instantly drenched. Hunter pointed out a palm tree a few short feet away that would serve nicely as a shelter, at least for a short time, and the two ran haphazardly toward the only dry spot they could find. Out of breath and laughing hysterically, the two leaned against each other for support. McCall's hands were on his chest and his were around her waist. They stared at each other for what seemed like a lifetime, neither said a word. Hunter wiped some of the wet from her face, and she shivered at his touch. It was he who finally broke the silence,

"Back at the restaurant..." he took a deep breath, "Back at the restaurant I never had the chance to answer my own question. I asked you if you ever thought about us and you answered honestly. I didn't say a word."

McCall watched in silence as Hunter grasped her hands in his own and stared into her eyes. Though the rain had brought a cool breeze, she felt her face involuntarily flush under his gaze

"Dee-Dee, do you remember that first week we were together as partners? You were an absolute enigma to me - I couldn't figure you out. Even as early as then, I wondered what it would be like to know you in a different way. The more we worked together, I saw how the other guys on the force treated and reacted to you - and I saw your aggravation with not being taken seriously. I was embarrassed by the way the guys would try to get you to go out with them, yet I marveled at the many ways you found to turn them down. I never approached you then because I didn't want to be another jerk cop hitting on his partner. As time went on, though, you and I became close, closer than I had ever been with any other woman in my Life. I looked forward to seeing you every day, teasing you every day. Our innocent flirting was what I lived for, and I found that the relationships in my personal life began to falter due to the relationship you and I shared. As time went by, I tried to push my feelings aside, but it got to the point where I was thinking about you all the time. The last couple of years together, I tried to distance myself - spend less time with you, act like what we had was strictly business..."

"But why didn't you...why couldn't you talk to me - especially after what we shared in Dr Tate's office? I invited you in for coffee that night and you said no."

"I was terrified! If I said yes, you and I both know what would have happened that night. I knew then that what you wanted most was a family and at the time, I wasn't sure that was something I could give you. Besides, I'm a cop. Earlier, you mentioned that week with Fabro – do you remember what you said that last night? You said that the next time you married, he wouldn't be a cop because of what you went through with Steve. I was there, remember? I was the one that had to tell you Steve was dead. I watched you struggle at his funeral. I saw how long it took you to be able to live a normal life again. I didn't want to be the source of that pain."

Hunter couldn't pull his eyes away from hers. Her eyes were darting back and forth as though she was putting together a puzzle with her mind. He couldn't distinguish between her tears and the rain.

"Do you honestly think that I would react any differently if - god forbid - something happened to you if we were just friends? Rick, I don't know what I would do without you in my life. When I left you in LA, I didn't know what to do myself. I married Alex because I thought he was my last chance at a family. I knew deep down that it wouldn't work. He wasn't you. I think part of me thought that telling you of my impending marriage would spur you into action. I thought that if you did have feelings for me, you would say something then. But you didn't say a word."

"I thought you were happy."

"I was happy with you, but you continued to distance yourself from me and I panicked. I don't care that you're a cop - I don't even care if you don't want a family. We've wasted so much time already. I want you in my life. I just want us to be close the way you and I used to be – No, I want more, I..."

"No, let me to be the first to say it," he took a deep breath, " I love you, Dee-Dee - I love you more than I could ever possibly say." The words were finally spoken, and it was like a dam had been broken, all the frustration & heart-ache was finally released; Hunter felt as though an enormous weight had been lifted off of his shoulders.

"I love you, too." she whispered through her tears.

McCall reached up to kiss him and he bent down to meet her halfway. The two clung to each other in a deep embrace as if the closeness would confirm that their roles had changed. His mouth tasted sweet from the wine and his hands around her waist were strong and comforting. Her hands were everywhere – cupping his chin one moment, caressing his back, the next. They pulled back from the kiss moments later, breathless and shy.

"That was nice," Hunter smiled, moistening his lower lip.

"I can think of something more satisfying," McCall teased.

"Oh yeah?"

"MmmHmm." McCall murmured huskily as she traced the outline of his mouth with her finger.

Hunter swallowed nervously with anticipation, "Shall we make a break for my beach house?"

"Let's walk...We've waited this long, we can wait a little longer." McCall grabbed Hunter's hand and slowly pulled him out into the downpour.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to the Hunter television show, nor do I own the rights to the characters. This is simply a fun little writing exercise.