Title: Take Your Cat and Leave My Sweater
Author: Beth Pryor
Summary: A one-shot about the day Kim Hall's life changed. Pre-series.
Disclaimer: I own nothing including the Keith Urban song from which a line is taken for the title of this story.
Take Your Cat and Leave My Sweater
When she pulled into the driveway, Kim Hall knew that her life was about to change forever. Of course she didn't really know. There was no way she could have known empirically, but she had a horrible sense of impending doom. It wasn't as though she was a stranger to the idea of bad things happening; it was just part of the job, but this feeling was different. If something had happened to Don at work she would have known; they would have called her by now. This was different. As she collected her bag from the passenger seat and locked her car, she glanced over at Don's. There was a suitcase in the back seat, a large suitcase. Kim sighed and walked to the back door. She should have seen this coming.
It wasn't that she didn't know that Don's track record with women was as dismal as his bureau career was dazzling. It wasn't that she didn't know about Terry Lake and Nikki Davis and all the others before her; all the others he'd left. She'd just somehow though it would be different with her. They had been living together for months. They were engaged, for God's sake! He could not be leaving her. She simply wouldn't stand for it. Indignantly, she burst through the door to find him sitting in the dark at the kitchen table.
Before she could say anything, he looked up at her. She took one look at his face and slid into the chair beside him.
"What happened?" she whispered.
He sighed heavily and ran his hand through his hair. When he let his right hand drop to the table, she placed her left one on top of it. He just shook his head.
"Don?" she prodded carefully. "Please, you're scaring me."
"I have to go." He couldn't even look at her.
"I saw your car." She pulled back her hand, feeling foolish for giving him the benefit of the doubt.
"I wanted to tell you before you saw." She pushed her chair back from the table and stood. "Wait! Kim. It's not what you think."
"I don't really want to hear it right now, Don." She backed toward the door but he stood and grabbed her hand.
"It's not that Kim. You have it all wrong." He dropped her hand and turned his back on her. His shoulders rose and fell and she heard his breath catch in a sob. She stood silently in the corner of the kitchen, her eyes wide. She'd never seen him cry, even when he lost an agent.
Slowly, she crossed the room and snaked her hands around his waist and up to his chest. She placed her head on his back. He turned so that they were chest to chest. Dropping his head to her shoulder, he let her hold him for a few minutes more. She smoothed back his hair as he looked down at her. Finally, he spoke.
"My mother has cancer. She's dying."
Kim's mouth dropped open. She was so ashamed of her own selfish thoughts just a few minutes earlier. "What do you need me to do?" she finally asked.
Don told her that he was driving to L.A. as soon as he finished packing and that when he knew more he'd call her. She asked if he wanted help packing. He said no.
Three months later, she learned that he was leaving the Albuquerque office. He had asked for a transfer to L.A. It was for less pay and less responsibility, and presumably it was temporary, but as far as she was concerned, he was gone.
Three months after that, while she was visiting her sister in Atlanta, he came back to their apartment and cleared out all the rest of his stuff. He left a note on her coffee table explaining that his father and brother needed him to stay. Inside the note was a check for his part of the rent and utilities for the rest of the year. At least it wasn't cash. That made her feel a little less like his whore, but not much.
Still, she waited another three months before she mailed the ring back. He wasn't answering her phone calls and the one time she'd phoned him at work, Terry Lake answered at his desk. She guessed that was really all she needed to know, but she knew he was hurting. She'd wanted to pretend that's all it was, but eventually she knew she had to let go. Don wasn't coming back and he wasn't asking her to join him. He didn't want her to be a part of his life anymore.
As she wrote out the address of his new apartment in L.A., she thought back to the day nine months earlier when she had pulled in to find his suitcase in his car. When she pulled into the driveway, Kim Hall had known that her life was about to change forever. She wished that she had been wrong.