Title: It Had to Be You
Rating: K+, just a discreet mention of adult situations here and there
Summary: Our favorite FBI team is on the trail of a serial killer.
A/N: I'm back! With another AU story of sorts—an AU story with a twist. I got to thinking…what if Sue had never joined the FBI? And this came pouring out. I would love to know what you think about this one! Oh yes, need I even mention who the romance involves?
Sue Thomas, head dessert chef of the Four Seasons, sprinkled chocolate bits on top of the tray of tarts and added blueberries as a finishing touch. She stepped back to survey her work with a critical eye. After a few seconds, she nodded in satisfaction. She walked over to a young man prepping an order for dessert.
"The tarts are done. Would you mind putting them in the fridge for me?"
"Sure. As soon as I do this."
"Thanks," she smiled. As she turned to begin the next dessert, she felt her Blackberry go off. A glance at the caller ID revealed it was her fiancé. "Hello, Jeff."
"We won! We won!" scrolled across the screen. "We did it!"
"Congratulations!" she said delightedly. "I knew you would!"
"Can you get away to celebrate?"
She glanced around the kitchen. "I can't. You know how busy we are on Friday nights."
There was a long pause where no words appeared on the screen. She knew he was disappointed.
"I'm still here. Will I see you tonight?"
"I don't know. We're short-staffed since George is still out." She had to prep for tomorrow. "I'll try."
"I'll really try," she promised. "And Jeff?"
"Congratulations again," she said softly. "I'm so proud of you."
"Right." The phone call ended.
For a moment, she considered asking her boss if she could leave early since it seemed to matter so much to Jeff that she be there to celebrate his victory with her. But one look at Terry shouting orders to assistants put an end to that idea. Some kind of bug seemed to be making its way in the catering staff and they were already missing several people. Customers still had to be fed. They didn't care what happened behind the scenes. With a sigh, she gathered the ingredients to prepare the next batch of desserts.
Wearily, Sue slumped against the side of the elevator. Tired as she was, she wanted to see Jeff so he'd know she supported him. This case had been an important one to him. It was an opportunity to make an impression on the senior partners in the law firm.
When she unlocked the door to his apartment, she noted how the moonlight streaming through the windows illuminated the room. It was bright enough for her to spot a dark blob on the floor. She bent down to pick it up—it was Jeff's coat. She frowned as she neatly laid it over the arm of the sofa. That was strange, she thought. Usually he's so neat. The celebration must have included several drinks if he just dropped his coat on the floor.
As she took another couple of steps, she saw something else on the floor. As she held it up, she became very still—it was a woman's coat. Slowly and precisely, she draped it over the back of the armchair.
Unexpectedly, the door of the bedroom opened and a light flicked on. Blinking to adjust to the sudden brightness, she could see two people framed by the doorway.
"Sue!" exclaimed a startled Jeff. He was dressed with only a towel around his waist. The woman beside him had on his robe. It didn't take much imagination to know what had been going on.
"I…I didn't expect you," he stammered.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. "It seems I've interrupted something." She spun on her heels and headed for the door when she felt a hand grab her arm.
"I can explain," he pleaded.
Her large eyes looked at his and then down at his hand still on her arm. He followed her gaze and immediately released her.
"I can explain everything," he repeated.
"Please don't." She opened the door and headed for the elevator. White-faced, she bit her lip to prevent it from trembling. If she could only get home before the threatening tears fell, she thought. To her dismay, the elevator stopped on the fifteenth floor.
"More coffee?" asked Ginny Webber to their guest.
Bobby Manning held up a hand. "No thanks. In fact, I should be going. I have a meeting tomorrow at eight o'clock sharp and it's already…," he peered at his watch. "I can't believe it! It's midnight!" He looked up at his hosts. "You should've chased me out hours ago!"
"We've enjoyed having you," said Don. "Besides, how often do you come to Chicago?"
"Not often enough," Bobby admitted. Don Webber had been one of his trainers at Quantico when he first joined the FBI. They had hit if off immediately and formed a bond that still lasted ten years later.
He stood up and kissed his hostess. "Thanks for the wonderful dinner, Ginny. I always told Don he was a lucky bloke the day he met you."
"You keep on reminding him," she replied. "Next time, don't make it so long between visits."
"I'll try." He turned to his friend and held out his hand. "Thanks for the invite, mate."
"Any time. It's always good to see you, Bobby."
After another round of good nights, Bobby headed toward the elevator. When the light went off, he waved to his friends and entered the car. Expecting it to be empty at this hour, he was surprised to see someone in there. Stepping in, he turned to face the front. His sharp eyes had noted the distress on the occupant's face. Discreetly he observed her. He could see a tear trickling out of the corner of her eye. She lifted a hand to brush it away but another followed and then another. She fumbled in her purse searching for something.
Guessing what she needed, Bobby reached into his pocket and handed her a handkerchief. "Would this help?" he asked.
Startled, she looked up at him. "I…I…"
To his horror, she burst into tears. For a moment, he didn't know what to do then awkwardly put his arms around her as the elevator doors opened to an empty lobby. Stepping out, Bobby looked around for somewhere more private. Finding none, he continued to hold the woman. Not the way he imagined his visit ending, he thought wryly. But obviously something terrible must've happened to affect her like this. If what she needed were a few minutes to cry, he would spare the time.
In a couple of minutes, the torrent of tears abated.
"I…I'm so sorry," she gasped between sniffles. "I didn't mean…I don't usually…"
"There's no need to explain," he said sympathetically. "You needed a shoulder to cry on and mine happened to be there."
"But you don't even know me!" she moaned. She blinked and saw the tear stains on his coat. "Look what I did! I'm so sorry! If you give me your name and address, I'll send you a check to pay for the dry cleaning."
"Don't worry…it'll dry," he assured her. "The more important question here is are you all right?" He gave a quick smile. "I know you're not all right but are you all right enough to get home?"
"I…I think so. Wait!" she said in dismay. "I forgot…I had a friend drop me off. My car's in the shop."
He looked at her carefully. She still looked as though she was in shock.
"What say I drive you home?"
"You're a stranger!" she protested. "I can't get in a car with you!"
"A very good safety rule in general. However, you can make an exception in this case." He reached in his pocket and brought out his badge. "My name is Bobby Manning and I'm with the FBI. If you like, I have a friend who lives in this building who can vouch for me. I'm honest and trustworthy and I promise to get you home safely," he said with a little smile.
"It looks real," she responded dubiously as she scanned the card.
"That's because it is real."
She stood there silent while she considered his proposition.
"Or I could call you a cab."
She looked at him hesitantly. "I live forty-five minutes away. Are you sure you don't mind?"
It looked like he wasn't going to get much sleep tonight if it was forty-five minutes to this woman's place. That would put him an hour away from his hotel. But never let it be said that Bobby Manning would leave a damsel in distress.
"I don't mind. Come on," he said gently holding her arm. "Let's go." As they walked to his rental car, he asked conversationally, "I've told you my name."
When she didn't respond, his eyes turned to his unexpected companion. Was she so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn't hear him?
As though she could feel him staring at her, she looked at him and noticed his expression. "Were you talking to me?"
"I was just saying you know my name…" he began meaningfully.
"…and you want to know mine," she finished. "That's fair. Sue Thomas."
"And what do you do, Sue Thomas?" he asked with a smile. He thought engaging in small talk would help take her mind off her problem.
"I bake," she replied simply. She knew what he was trying to do and appreciated it. The least she could do was be polite.
"Chocolate chip cookies? Apple pies?" he asked with interest.
"How did you know?" he grinned.
"A good guess?"
"Maybe you should work for the FBI!" he suggested jokingly.
"Maybe I will if this baking thing doesn't work out."
They reached his car.
"Where to?" Bobby inquired as he opened the door for her.
She gave him an address as she slipped into the passenger seat.
"I'm not quite familiar with the area," he replied as he opened his door. "Which way do I head?"
He slid into the driver's side and waited expectantly.
"Yes?" Sue asked.
"I said you'll have to direct me on how to get there," he answered wondering why she hadn't heard him.
"Were you talking to me before you got in the car?"
He nodded. Why did that matter?
"I'm sorry. If you don't face me, I can't read your lips," she apologized.
"Read my lips?" he repeated wondering if he'd heard correctly.
She nodded. "I'm deaf."
"You're what?" he asked in amazement.
"You read lips?"
She nodded. "I can sign, too."
"You bake, read lips and sign," he said admiringly. "A woman of many talents. How are you at giving directions?"
She looked at him quizzically.
"I'm driving you home, remember?"
"Oh, right." For a moment she'd forgotten the scene back at Jeff's apartment. This stranger…no, not a stranger but not a friend…this angel in disguise had helped her to forget for a little while her heartache. "Okay. Head north for two blocks, make a right…"
To his surprise, the forty-five minute drive passed pleasantly. While not chatty, Sue had made attempts to carry on the conversational ball. During the quiet moments, a quick peek in her direction revealed the unhappiness clearly etched on her face. It must be a guy, decided Bobby. A woman wouldn't look that miserable unless it involved a man. He must be quite the s.o.b, he thought. This Sue seemed to be an all right sheila.
"Third building on the right," Sue announced.
When he pulled over, she turned to him. "I don't know how to thank you for everything you've done," she confessed.
"A dozen chocolate chip cookies?"
She tilted her head as she considered his suggestion. "That's a thought."
"I was joking."
He opened his mouth to say something then snapped it shut. She was probably being polite. "Will you be all right?"
She shrugged a shoulder. "Yes."
But not any time soon, he thought. He reached into his pocket and brought out a card. "If you need someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on, call me…any time. My cell number is on here," he instructed her handing her his business card.
She glanced at it and then at him. "Thank you, Bobby Manning," she said gravely.
"You're welcome," he responded equally seriously. "I'll walk you to your door."
She put a hand on his arm to stop him. He noticed the sparkling engagement ring on her left hand. "There's no need. I'll be fine."
"Are you sure?"
"You've done enough." She slipped out of the vehicle and lightly ran up the steps to the building entry.
Bobby watched her progress up the stairs. At the top, she turned to wave, then disappeared into the lobby.
Whoever the guy was, he hoped she'd give his ring back, he thought. Oh well, she didn't ask for his advice. He turned the key and started the car. An hour drive back, he sighed. Good thing after the eight o'clock meeting and workshop at ten, he had the rest of the day free until the banquet in the evening. He could catch up on his sleep then.