Name:Five Unspoken Ballads
Summary:Five times Carl never told Perri how much he loved her.
Disclaimer:I do not own these characters!
Authors Note: By the way, this is slightly AU. It takes place during the series, but it has a few things that haven't happened. For example, Carl and Perri are romantically together by the middle.
"She'll only go after the people she loves. I think you're pretty safe."
It doesn't register in his mind when he's holding the knife over her head that he's shaking, that his hand is unsteadily gripping the sharp weapon. She stirs in the depths of her slumber, unaware of the treason occurring in the sanctuary of her home, and he inhales sharply. He blinks, willing away the tears, and tries to weaken the hold he's clenched in. It's as if some satanic force has snatched his body, a true Body Snatchers tale, and in any other situation he would log the experience in as evidence to the claims he's staked the last few years of his life convincing people of.
Yet now he's holding a knife in the air, the voice of a phantom encouraging him from the shadows, unwillingly about to perhaps kill his friend. He looks over his shoulder, silently pleading that there has to be another way, but she's there, her blonde hair cascading over her shoulders, a small smile on her lips. His wife.
"You know what you have to do" she repeats, the voice of a man reverberating from her transparent body. He looks back down and utters a prayer of forgiveness in his mind, the knife plummeting down.
Then it's over. The air's suddenly quiet for a split second. It is serene and calm; the evil that unveiled its trick vanished in the night, the uneasy restlessness of a victim fighting her demons that attack. All too quickly the silence dissipates and reality crashes back down. Ferocious knocking pounds through the apartment, muffling the music of the city, striking him like a grandfather clock hammering the sides.
He fetches the door, finding the cloaked figure of his friend fidgeting in fear. White washes over Jain's face as the knife slips from his hand, clattering to the cement floor, his body washed of energy. Carl Kolchak is defeated, his face marrying the guilty sag of his limbs. Following Jain's silhouette racing through the halls to the back bedroom, he collapses in the leather chair in the corner of the room.
He knows what Jain's going to say so when he fleets the room, unhooking the house phone from its cradle and dialing the office number, Carl knows he's forgiven for now. Yet he also knows that there will be no explanation for this one, not for a while anyway. The enigmatic is his specialty and if he's found difficulty in fully understanding the stretch of one man's mental capabilities, he has doubt that anyone else will comprehend the near fatality.
Jain reenters the room, Carl averting his gaze for as long as he can to avoid the man's distrusting eyes. He concentrates on Perri Reed. The thought still boggles him. If she's the prize, why was it him? And why did he go after her? The whole intention of Damon Caylor's justification of his recent crimes was to teach others the meaning of loss. Is this insinuating that Perri is his greatest loss?
Maybe the answer will never be his. Maybe this is the one question he's not meant to answer, the one clue not to be discovered.
"Are you going to tell her?" Jain asks, his voice barely a breath.
Carl finally looks at him. He's sure the same expression on uncertainty that shines in Jain's eyes reflects in his own. For her own good, they'll keep the incident to themselves and decide together when she's to be told. She has her rights to the information, just as reporters have theirs to share with their public, but sometimes people have to do what their friends need, not what they necessarily want. And the last thing Perri needs is to know that Carl almost murdered her.
He etches his way over to her, not answering Jain, and settles on the edge of the bed, the mattress sinking under his added weight. Jain slips out of the room without notice, seeing that Carl needs his minute with the breath-taking reporter who was as much bite as bark. Carl bites the inside of his lip and brushes a lock of her ebony hair from her delicate features. She stirs under his touch, her eyes swaying under closed lids, and moans, hand swiping at the pillow pressed to her cheek.
Her eyelashes flutter open, taking a minute to adjust to what she can't see, but she doesn't need to see to know who's with her. "Carl? What time is it?"
Carl shrugs and smiles weakly, bowing his head and sniffing. He only finds her eyes when she coats his hand with hers. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." he lies, shaking his head with a chuckle. "Nothing's wrong."
Perri shifts on her side, nestling her face against her arm tucked against the pillow, and watches him. She'll never figure him out. Another thing she'll never know is why he leans over and plants a kiss on the forehead, hovering close just to know she's real and she's alive.
And he doesn't have a problem with her never knowing why he whispers, "I love you."
It'll be their mystery and Carl won't who he was without a few of them.
The room is white. Not the soothing white of a cloud or paper. It's the fluorescent white that meant only one thing: Carl's in a hospital. He hates hospitals. Ever since he was a child when he was taken to one for visiting hours to see his dying grandfather and his curiosity had quickly been burned by the towering doctors and nurses, he had tried to avoid them at all cost. The way the nurses nag their patients, traipsing into personal space every free minute they had, or how the doctors sprouts that they were only doing their job when they insist on examining every inch of their patient's body aren't helping his hatred of the institutes.
He grumbles in his seat, instructed to sit still in his perched position on the edge of the cot, and focus' elsewhere as the doctor clasps and unclasps the tape to his neck. With each mere poke or brush of the gauze the wound burns, causing Carl to grit his teeth irritably. He just wants out of there, wants to have the burns protected enough that he can go home, maybe take a shower, and sleep. The shower's out of the question for now, the doctor tells him, but as far as sleeping he's been given the next day off on account of the situation. Whether he'll take the luxury or not is going to be debatable.
He fidgets again, rubbing his hands up and down his denim-encased legs, igniting a sort of anxiousness. Perri snickers in the corner, her hand smothering the girlish giggle. Carl narrows his eyes at her from around the cookie-cutter man, sending faux death glares to her, despite her haste at getting him to the hospital he's now trapped in.
"It's not funny." he says, still looking at her trying to contain her amusement.
Perri drops her hand and attempts a serious face. "No, of course not. You could've really been hurt." Yet she can't keep the smile off her face. Or the giggle in her throat. Carl rolls his eyes. "It's just…Kolchak can handle morgue's and psycho killers and Vincenzo on deadline, but when it comes to hospitals…"
"Morgue's, killers, Vincenzo, oh my." Carl growls, mocking her, what he calls, front-page exuberance.
Perri stops and stalks over to him, eyes narrowed menacingly, face stone. Carl shrinks back slightly, waiting for the impending assault, and it comes with a quick swat on the shoulder. He yelps, hand flying up to shield himself.
"Hey." he protests.
Perri flicks the side of his head lightly, rewarded by a flinch, and arches her eyebrow in satisfaction, grinning. "It's what you get for mocking me after I practically save your life."
"I love you." And he smiles.
Her tongue sticks out, face contorting briefly, and he fires back with the same gesture. They're children occupying time, playing tag with new rules, siblings defending their stature of who's more liked. The doctor smiles at their antics and gently smoothes the tape of its wrinkles, beaming as if he's completed the most impossible task.
Then again, dealing with two reporters at three in the morning, a man and a woman who appear to have so many uncommon traits to be torn apart, is a job in itself.
They have their first fight a week after Carl gets out of jail. It's over the most absurd thing and it resembles a lovers quarrel too closely for them to notice. They stand over the stove in Perri's apartment, steam clouding the air around them, the pot's lid held over the spaghetti sauce in Carl's hand. They don't yell or scream, but exchange heated words that seem to veer off the topic of how much parsley to put in the sauce.
"Why don't we just order take out like every other sane person in this city?" Carl inquires, dropping the lid on the counter with a clank.
Perri smiles in astonishment, her hands creaking together in front of him as if she wants to crush his brain. And, by the look in her eyes, she just may. "These are my parent's, Carl. I always make them dinner."
Carl's eyes migrate to the island beside them, overwhelmed by food to serve. On one end, a bowl of lettuce presides beside three cutting boards sprinkled with separate ingredients, including a half-chopped tomato, it's other shredded pieces lying lifelessly on the side, two cucumbers and strips of carrots. Completing the circle for the salad, three different bottles of dressing are lined up neatly amongst the clutter of breadbaskets. A red velvet cake, hoisted on a dais, crowds the center of the island, reigning over all the other items. On the opposite end of the salad battlefield is an assortment of drink selections, ranging from three different types of wines, Diet Coke, and a pitcher of freshly brewed tea.
When Perri makes dinner, she makes dinner. Carl props his hand on the counter and purses his lips. "Why don't you let me take care of this while you finish the salad that will never be done."
The first handful that's thrown is a blatant opposition. Perri stands with the salad bowl tucked securely under her arm, hand buried inside in anticipation. A fight swiftly ensues, noodles twisting in hair, lettuce coating the floor, bread sticks bopping on body parts and the dressing bottles busting open to use as weapons. Fifteen minutes into the war, Perri dodges clumps of sauce, grabbing the tomato and whirling it at her opponent, and crouches behind the island. With a shriek as Carl comes at her, dosed in dressing, noodles tangled in his hair, she darts for the living room, her heels clacking on the hardwood floor.
Within seconds, she's on her back and Carl's straddling her, pinning her squirming form underneath him. One by one he peels the noodles off his body, stripping it first from the sleeve of his burgundy sweater, and scatters them lazily on her body, starting with placing the slithering snakes in her hair. Squealing like a girl being forced to touch a jostling fish, she endures the torture Carl is enjoying only long enough to wait for his weak moment to flip him on his back. They roll on the ground multiple times, Carl finally digging his knees into the floor.
"I don't think so." he says, drawing closer to her, his breath heaving on hers.
They're interrupted, brutally and just before their lips connect, by a knock on the door announcing the arrival of their guests. They lie on the floor, both gaping at the incessantly polite knocks, wondering if it'll go away if they leave it alone, but it continues and they're forced to their feet. Laughing, they brush each other off as well as they possibly can considering the circumstances, Perri plucking a stray noodle from Carl's messy locks.
It definitely isn't the way she imagined her parents would meet her boyfriend, but it's undoubtedly the most unique way. They're chagrined faces, smiles plastered on in an attempt that they'll not notice the consequences of war, welcome the perplexed looking adults into the apartment. When Timothy Reed shakes Carl's hand, he pulls out a string that managed to lodge itself in the cuff of his sleeve. The older man merely hugs Carl and laughs, his husky laughter shaking the nervousness from Carl's stomach. Pamela Reed rolls her eyes and looks her daughter up and down, commenting on how healthy and glowing she appears, even as casual in a cream sun dress.
The parents turn to the mayhem that is the kitchen, their hands lacing together, and shake their heads. "Perri totally started it." Carl quips, pointing dejectedly at her.
Perri swats him, but he catches her wrist and kisses her cheek. "Sorry about the mess. We had a little…domestic disturbance."
"I'll say. Food fights were always my favorite fight to win." Timothy agrees.
Pamela drops her purse on the couch, shrugging off her coat and hanging it in the closet, and maneuvers around to grab the broom from the closet, plucking out a dustpan as well. "You two go get cleaned up. We'll help clean."
"No, Mom, that's not necessary. You're our guests—" Perri objects, waving her hands to get her mother to stop cleaning.
"Nonsense. It's fine. Go change, get the food out of your hair, and Tim will order take out. Chinese all right?"
All Perri can do is nod. Carl, however, cheers as if he's won a game. Rolling her eyes again, she takes his arm and drags him down the hall to her bedroom, her embarrassment mitigated when Carl playfully shoves her, instigating a chase into the bedroom. She's become used to this good-natured man, accepting that the dark demeanor he displays is nothing more than a public persona. He does know how to have fun and, luckily, he manages to get her to renegotiate her definition of the word.
He catches her in a kiss before she disappears into the bathroom.
"So, how did Per wrangle you into meeting us?" Timothy asks an hour later from his spot opposite Carl.
He glances up briefly as the porch light clicks on, noticing Pamela extract herself from the warmth of the apartment onto the cool breeze of the apartment balcony. Carl munches on the noodles stuffed in his mouth, looking over the vastness of the city before turning his attention to Timothy.
He sees the sly smile smothered under Perri's chopsticks. "Well, you can't really say no to her, can you?" Timothy laughs, muttering agreements as he picks at his chicken. "No wrangling, actually. She always speaks so highly of you two and when she told me you two were flying in I asked to meet you."
"Now,"—Pamela swallows a chunk of egg roll—"you two are together, correct?"
Carl and Perri look at each other simultaneously. They've never really discussed what they are. They're romantic, no arguments, but they've chosen to separate their personal lives from the office. Perri chooses to answer. "Well, yeah. We're dating, but we also work together so we decided actually a couple nights ago that we're going to stay under the radar. Not like a secret, but we just don't want our relationship to interfere with our work, is all."
"Have you told anyone?"
"Um, did you tell Vincenzo?" Perri asks pointedly at Carl.
Carl nods, managing to secure as piece of chicken between his chopsticks. "That must've been fun. I hear he's quite strict."
Carl shrugs. "Yeah, I guess. He had a few conditions, but nothing that wasn't already in motion concerning us, so it wasn't that big of a deal yet. We just haven't told Jain yet." He notices the curious looks. "He's a friend of ours at the Beacon."
"He's a photographer that basically idolizes Carl." Perri adds.
"He does not." Carl scoffs.
Perri nods matter-of-factly. "So does. He always talks about you in that worshiping away. He tries to act like you too when you're not looking."
"See, I just don't know how you put up with her." Timothy interjects, pointing at his daughter amidst the statement.
"Dad!" Perri cries, crestfallen.
Carl laughs, coughing on his food. "I think she has to put up with more from me. What with the stubbornness, the pet peeve about spelling, the all-nighters—"
"The wild goose chases, the crankiness, the constant believing you're right…" Perri teases.
"Well, so much for your parents liking me."
Pamela smiles and pats Carl's hand assuredly. "I like you, Carl." Timothy says.
"Good. Because I love your daughter, Mr. Reed." Carl tilts his head back so he's staring at Perri. He mouths the amicable sentiment. She mouths it back.
"I can see she loves you too." Pamela says.
The parents watch as Carl takes their daughters hand and gently kisses it. He's a part of a family again. It's something he didn't realize he'd find again after his wife's death and now that he has it again he can't remember how he managed to live without it.
"If he thought something had happened to you, or to me—even if it was just a crazy feeling—he'd check on us. He'd make sure we're okay."
His gut leads him to her side. It was a gut feeling, one that had curled sickeningly after hearing Timothy's voice say she had left after dinner. He hates how close he was to losing her. Another few seconds and he would be holding the hand of a half-masticated corpse rather than her warm flesh.
Her grip isn't strong. It isn't even a grip. Her hand is cupped in her own, the lifeless limb held up like he's holding her together. She can't blink or smile or speak. She's frozen in a state of consciousness, able to feel everything but unable to react to any of it. She stares up at him with the same look of fear as when he found her and he's afraid that experience of terror will never evaporate. It'll be her nightmares in the day and at night, unsettling her soul.
The ambulance jostles him, throwing his hazardously against the compartment wall, but he can't feel the pain that comes with the thrashing. The paramedics scamper around him, ducked in the moving vehicle, talking to each other about what has to be done. Right now they can't do anything. There's isn't much they can do until she's submitted to the hospital. There she can rest in safety while her body is dispensed of all the toxins and poisons that were injected in her.
He's aware that he left Jain and Vincenzo with more questions than answers. He's aware that he neglected his Ford Mustang GT on the street. He's aware that once she's admitted he'll have to call Timothy and Pamela with the news. And he's aware that she's a statue because of him. But he doesn't want to be aware of is the possibility of a future without her. He knows it's melodramatic of him to think such a thing, but with her life in jeopardy it's the only thing he could think of.
But, thankfully, she's alive and with him. He can hold her hand. And he can talk to her. They can forget about who did this and about every other source of evil there is because they've vanished from prying eyes for a ten-minute car ride.
He gingerly strokes her hand and cradles it close to her face. "I'm here, Perri. I'm not leaving you, I promise." He kisses her knuckles, his eyes never peeling from her vigilant ones. "I love you. Don't leave me. I need you here."
She doesn't nod or acknowledge his words, but he knows she hears him. Right then he decides he'll never put her in harms way again. His commitment to that eclipses any other desire to chase the shadows.
"Kolchak loves you."
There are moments when she reminds him of his wife. She doesn't laugh or smile the same. Her eloquence is too sophisticated. She doesn't dress the same nor have the same look. They don't kiss the same. But she likes the same kind of wine. She has the same bedtime rituals. She's attracted to the same kind of people and friends. And she knows the tricks to making him smile and loosen up.
The three of them have a tradition. After a very hard day, after they've accomplished something not only as reporters but also as people, they crash in Carl's living room on the bluff and relax. They drink a couple bottles of wine, soil the cushions, and exchange amiable chatter and laughter. They take turns bringing music, finding that it's easier to relax if there's something filling the void. It's the only way they know how to forget about the world and enjoy others company. Because it's too hard to enjoy the company of people that aren't them. They've seen the same things and they've read the stories behind the stories.
They've read each other's stories. They know too much about each other. And they wouldn't have it any other way.
"Okay, a toast." Jain bubbles, scooting up on his cushion so his knees knock against the coffee table. He raises his glass in the air, centering it so it's reachable, and is soon joined by Carl and Perri. Jain breathes deeply. "To a tumultuous beginning."
Perri smiles. "To a sane now."
"And to an infinite soon."
They clink their glasses together and sip the freedom. Perri stands, glass of red wine in hand, kicking off her chic heels, and ambles to the stereo, changing the song selection on Jain's CD turn. Soft piano keys fill the silence, the bars striking the beautiful chords. An opera singer comes out strong.
If I can stand a thousand trials
The strong will never fall
But watching stars without you
My soul cries
Heaving heart is full of pain
Ooh, ooh, the aching
Cause I'm kissing you, oh
She sways in the lost ballad, setting down the glass on the stereo, and hugging her arms as if she's her own lead. The men watch her, caught in the vanity of comfort. As the piano keys strengthen with the singer's voice, Carl stands, abandoning his wine, and takes her in his arms, framing her to fit his lead. She rests her head beside his, their eyes closed, arms clinging tightly around his neck. He leans in first, catching her lips with his, their audience melting away.
He draws back and rests his forehead against his. "I love you." he whispers.
She smiles, her hand stroking his cheek, fingers grazing the hairs of his beard. "I love you too."
They kiss again. There are moments when she reminds him of his wife. But, at the end of the day, she'll never be his wife. She's an entirely different person and he'd be a fool to compare the two.
A/N:Sorry for the length. I've been working on this all day. So, what'd you think? Can you tell me in a review?