Title: Run, Sara, Run
Author: Klee Wyck
Spoilers: Season 7
Summary: "I would have died," he said so quietly that she held her breath so she wouldn't miss one single word. "I would have died, Sara, if you'd died."
A/N: I was in the middle of writing a lighter fic when this one jumped out and bit me on the ass. So, here we go. Because I can't stop thinking about Season 8, and what's going to happen. And I can't stop thinking about Sara, trapped under that car…and Grissom, trying to find her. And me…thinking about both of them…thinking about each other...
Shana, Adrienne...Thank you. You know why.
Time: 7:46 p.m.
Phone: Right hand.
Water: Left hand.
Music: Easy listening (Chantal Kreviazuk, Dixie Chicks)
She'd always loved to run, because it was easier than thinking and burned way more calories. She loved the solitariness of it, the incessant pounding, the droplets of sweat gathering and sliding down the back of her neck and between her breasts. The not thinking about anything but which route to follow, which turn to take, when to drink water, when to stop.
When to go home.
She had run furiously while Grissom had been away, the pounding of her feet matching the pounding in her head, in her chest. He's coming back he's coming back, was the refrain in her head, over and over. She ran until the sole of her right shoe came loose and she had to hot glue it back. Twice.
She ran so she wouldn't have to think. It seemed the perfect plan; more productive than sleep, healthier than beer, she allowed, grudgingly. Every time the noise and worries and fears got too loud and too close she pulled her running shoes out of the hall closet, caught her hair up in a ponytail, grabbed the cell phone that Grissom insisted she have with her at all times, and she ran. And tried to not think.
Except it didn't work.
Tonight, for example, she thought about:
Catherine and how she wouldn't mind having a close girlfriend to hang out with once in awhile and maybe catch a movie with and maybe even talk about men now and then and how that would probably never happen anyway.
Buying some meatless meatballs for dinner tomorrow night — there was a sale at Safeway, until Sunday.
Grissom and whether he still loved her.
The Girl with her needle. And the car. And the darkness. The loneliness. The absolute terror. The wondering if she'd ever, ever see him again, touch him again.
After several months of battling this internalized jabber, she realized she couldn't run from her thoughts after all.
So she ran from The Girl, who wouldn't stop chasing her.
They didn't talk about it, of course, not really, and she was, in a way, relieved. She didn't feel like talking and he didn't ask. Sometimes, though, once in a while, she would catch him looking at her — just for a split second — from across the room, or just before she dozed off at night. She would blink and look again and he would turn away, start whistling some tune she didn't recognize, or pretend to fall asleep.
It wasn't a look of love, or adoration, or even lust. He looked at her with an expression of what she could only describe as sheer agony.
And sometimes, in the middle of the night, when she was sleeping, or more often not, he startled, gave a small cry and his arms reached out wildly for her. When they found her he pulled her into an almost painful embrace, his hands moving up and down her body, his face burrowing desperately into her neck, her hair.
"What is it?" she whispered, feeling the violent hammering of his heart against her back, her breasts.
"Nothing," he invariably said, and even gave a little, unconvincing laugh. "Just a dream."
"About what?" She stroked his hair, his back, kissed his shoulder.
But he never answered.
She didn't press.
But as the weeks passed and they still didn't talk about it, and the look in his eyes was still camouflaged by whistles and forced busyness, and his dreams were still about nothing, she felt something was not right. Off kilter. She was back at work full-time, and Grissom was giving her more freedom, finally, bit by bit. Her ribs felt fine. The team had stopped nudging each other in her peripheral vision. Greg had stopped blushing and stammering every time she and Grissom were in the same room together. Life went on. And it was almost — almost — as if the thing…the thing they didn't talk about, had never happened at all.
Except for the waking dreams — hallucinations? — of The Girl. And the feeling that she was being followed. All the time. The night sweats. The jumpiness. The paranoia. The almost constant threat of tears.
The inability to believe the only man she'd every truly loved, loved her in return.
Other than that, she was fine.
Grissom had given her an iPod for Christmas. She'd unwrapped it and laughed gleefully, like a child, in absolute, joyful surprise.
"Grissom!" she said, blushing. "I wanted one of these."
"For running," he said, smiling at her happiness.
"Yeah," she nodded.
"You can put all your favourite songs on it," he said.
"And think about you while I run," she teased, making him blush.
"If you want," he said.
"I do," she said. He looked pleased. She kissed him, long and sweet. "Thank-you. Really."
She'd bought him whiskey, 21-year-old Bushmill's single malt. It had cost her more than she would ever let on, more than she'd ever spent on anyone, including herself.
But when they'd shared a glass and then made love, twice, beneath the glittering tree she'd bought and made him help decorate, it felt like magic. It felt like she'd never be sad again.
He was asleep. She was awake, listening to him sleep, feeling his chest rise and fall, rise and fall beneath her hands. Usually that slow, steady sensation was more than enough to lull her to sleep, her arms and legs entwined with his, one leading to another. But tonight she pulled away and moved as far as she could to the edge of the bed.
"What is it?" he murmured, his arm snaking out to find her.
"Can't sleep," she said quietly to the wall.
"What else is new?" he said teasing with a tired voice. He tugged on her shirt. "Come here."
She rolled a bit, looked at him.
"Come here," he said, pulling harder, a smile playing around his mouth. She slid over to him, her head tucking under his chin. He rubbed her back, slow, soft circles over her spine, her shoulders. She closed her eyes, fought back tears. His hands moved slower and she could hear his breathing slow, too.
"What do you remember about that night?" she said suddenly, surprising herself. She hadn't realized she was going to ask. His hands stopped.
"What night?" he said.
"You know." She kept her eyes shut but she knew his were open now. His heart had sped up, even. "The night The Gir— Natalie took me."
"I don't remember a whole lot," he lied. "It was very…busy…frantic."
"You must remember something," she said against his neck.
He remembered everything, which was the problem. The panic, the pain, the anguish, the dreams, the uncertainty of whether he'd drop in his tracks from a heart attack and the certainty that she was…gone…and he would spend the rest of his pathetic life alone and alone and alone. He'd spent the past eight weeks trying to forget everything and now she was asking him to remember?How dare she?
"Sara … I'm tired … It's been … a long day…" He pulled her as close to him as he could without actually hurting her, he hoped, and willed her to drop the subject.
"I'll tell you what I remember," she said. "I remember The Girl — that's what I call her, in my head — coming at me with a needle — " She felt him flinch but plowed on, determined. "And then I remember darkness, a lot of darkness, and being very cold and wet. It was so wet and so cold. I remember thinking about things. Different things. And I remember singing."
"Singing?" he said, against his will.
She nodded. "Songs…about rain," she said, laughing a little. "To help pass the time."
"Sara …" he started, but she stopped him suddenly, with a kiss. "I remember wanting to do that. Because I didn't know when…or if…I would again."
He nodded and bit the inside of his cheek to keep from crying.
"I don't…" he began, but she cut him off with another kiss, and another, and then she took him, hard and fast, made him cry out in fervent surprise, hardly giving him time to breathe or think or see that she was trying to keep from crying, too.
Time: 6:14 a.m.
Phone: Right hand.
Water: Left hand.
Music: Alternative (Veruca Salt, Ani diFranco)
Left, right, left, right. Pound. Pound. Pound. Pound.
Don't. Think. Don't. Think.
Left, right, left, right. Pound. Pound. Pound. Pound.
Water. Drink. Now.
Don't. Think. Don't. Think.
Turn right here.
Dogshit. Go around.
Pound. Pound. Pound. Pound.
Rain pounding on metal.
Weight on my legs, my back.
Turn left. Now.
Left, right, left, right.
Large, threatening looking man. Go around.
The Girl. The Girl. How could I have misjudged her? How could she have caught me so by surprise?
Pound. Pound. Pound. Pound.
Don't. Fucking. Think.
All the things he couldn't tell her included the dreams that continued to haunt him. He wasn't a superstitious person in the least — his scientific nature precluded that — but seeing Sara in his dreams, again and again, in the sand, in the morgue, pale, cold, still…
It was enough to make him want to avoid black cats, and walking under ladders. It almost made him want to pull out his mother's rosary, cross himself 100 times.
Forgive me Father, but I keep dreaming about my girlfriend, alone in the desert sands…
In the dreams they, he and Catherine, got there too late. They were simply too late. And she was gone.
In his dreams he dropped down beside the car, gripped her cold and lifeless hand, and he sobbed. He tried to pull her out, but he couldn't move her. He begged for her to wake up, to get up, to come back to him. But she was dead.
He wasn't a superstitious person. But every time he dreamt of her, like that, he lurched awake, heart pounding and mouth dry, certain he would reach out blindly and find her gone.
But Sara was alive.
But he wasn't a superstitious person, so he tried to not think about the dreams, or the secret fear stored in a primeval segment of his brain that dreaming about someone's death meant they would die. But every once in awhile he'd catch himself watching her from across the room or just before she fell asleep, her hair, her face, her very life force, and he caught a fleeting image of life without her, what it would be like.
Then he would whistle an obscure aria, something from La battaglia di Legnano, and turn away or pretend to sleep, pressing a hand hard against the frantic banging of his heart.
He wondered, when she caught him looking, if she could tell what he was thinking.
She sat on the couch, late, flipping through the TV stations, up and down and up again. Blue light flickered on the walls, on her face. Grissom had gone to bed hours before. He'd kissed her cheek briefly, asked her how long she'd be.
"Not long," she'd lied.
Flip, flip, flip.
Nothing looked interesting. Nothing grabbed her interest.
The problem was she didn't know what she was looking for.
She didn't remember falling asleep, but she must have because when she awoke the TV was dark and she was stretched out with a pillow under her head and blanket carefully tucked in around her.
She rose and padded quietly through the dim apartment, the blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Grissom was asleep, breathing deeply, his arm thrown across the empty space beside him. She watched him, the familiar shape of him beneath the sheet, and something inside her fluttered. She watched as he startled suddenly, his arm reaching, hand groping. He muttered something, then went back to sleep. She realized she was going to cry so she closed her eyes and willed the tears away.
She turned and went back to the couch.
Flip, flip, flip.
"I think I need a vacation," she said the following morning as she drank a mug of green tea and leafed idly through a magazine: American Scientist.
Grissom, eating toast and making notes on a legal pad, raised an eyebrow.
"Really? Where would you go?"
She glanced over at him, her eyes dark. She shrugged, one shoulder.
"I don't know." What's the furthest place from here? "Tasmania?"
He swallowed his toast, eyes suddenly alight.
"Interesting choice. Home of the Broad-toothed Stag Beetle: Lissotes Latidens. Endangered." He paused. "You'd like it there."
He didn't say "we."
Time: 8:13 a.m.
Phone: Left hand.
Water: Right hand.
Music: Rock (AC/DC, Def Leppard)
Left, right, left, right.
Left, right, left, right.
He didn't say we.
"—no more mistakes on this case, Greg." Breakroom, cool, dim. Grissom was talking and Sara wasn't looking, was barely listening, head down, doodling on her notepad. "You're with Catherine today, processing at the Barton house. We need something that puts Jerry at the scene."
"Warrick. You and—" he paused. Sara still didn't look up but she could feel his eyes on her. "Nick head out to the car lot. Get that SVU towed back here immediately. We're missing something. I can feel it."
"Sara," he went on.
"I'm in the field today," she said, head snapping up.
"Not today," Grissom continued smoothly. "You're in trace. Jerry's clothes, gym bag, toiletries. I need fibres."
"Greg's been over those, twice," she could feel the colour in her face rising along with the tone of her voice and she fought, unsuccessfully, to control both.
"And you'll do it the third time," he said calmly, as if he were talking to, well, anyone. "The evidence needs a fresh pair of eyes. Yours."
"I'm in the field," she said again, her voice betraying her anger. She would have made a shitty poker player. "I started at the Bartons with Catherine. I think I should finish."
Everyone was looking at her now.
For a moment Grissom looked as mildly shocked as the others, the others who were desperately trying to look anywhere but at them. Then the veil was drawn, the composure restored.
"Sara–" he began, but she slammed her notebook shut, cutting him off.
"Forget it," she muttered. The team took this as a sign to vacate, immediately, and hurried out, Warrick muttering something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like Trouble in paradise.
She hurriedly gathered up her belongings, cheeks red, eyes down.
"Sara," he said again. She stopped, met his cool gaze, thinking he was going to say something along the lines of Sorry. "I expect your report before end of day."
She smirked, shook her head.
Three hours later Greg stood in his office doorway, sweaty, fidgety, clutching an evidence bag.
"What are you doing here?" Grissom said, none too politely. His exchange with Sara had left him rattled and irritated and seeing Greg hovering, looking like a wounded puppy, was enough to push him over the edge.
"Uh…found something rather interesting at the house. Something, uh, sexual in nature, if you know what I mean. Might be our big break, right? Anyway, Catherine figured we should bring it back stat for, uh, Sara to process since she, Catherine, I mean, had to come to see—"
"So?" Grissom cut him off sharply. He could feel a headache building insidiously around his temples, at the base of his neck.
"Uh…" Greg wiped his forehead. "So?"
"Take it to Sara." Grissom said slowly, going back to his paperwork. He sensed movement in the doorway and looked back up. Greg was still standing there.
"Well, that's the problem. I mean, I would, I'd love to take it to Sara, and I know that's what I'm supposed to do, but see, she's not there, in trace, and I looked in the lab, also, and, uh, the drying room. I even got Catherine to check the women's, uh, facilities, you know, but no one has seen her. So. Just wondered if you happened to know. Where she was."
Somewhere immediately following the ominous phrase She's not there, Grissom's pulse started to rise and a thin film of sweat broke out along his hairline, followed by prickling on the back of his neck. He stared at Greg but found himself unable to respond for a full six seconds.
"What do you mean, no one has seen her?" he repeated loudly and stupidly. Seeing the look on Grissom's face made Greg, if possible, even more fidgety and red-faced.
He held up a placating hand.
"Oh hey, I mean, I'm sure someone has. I mean, she's here, right? She was here this morning, remember? You two were, uh, anyway. I'll just go, you know, look around some more and ask—"
Grissom rose, rounded his desk and pushed by him so roughly that Greg had to grab the door for leverage. Then he had to run to keep up as Grissom strode down the hallway to the trace lab.
The Barton house evidence was spread neatly on the viewing tables but the room was otherwise empty. It was so unlike Sara that Grissom gripped the doorjamb, white-knuckled, head suddenly pounding violently. He closed his eyes and opened them again.
All right. He knew, logically, that she hadn't just vanished. She was in this building. Somewhere. Right? But he also knew, logically, that people did just vanish. It happened. And she had already, once before.
He honestly didn't know if his heart could handle another vanishing.
He turned and broke into a run. Greg ran after him. They passed Catherine as she emerged from his office.
"You seen Sara?" she said. Greg waved frantically at her and shook his head No. "What's going on?" she called after them. He hurried past labs, their glass walls revealing no one who resembled Sara. Conference rooms. The breakroom. Back to his office. And around again.
When he finally did find her, it was all he could do to not grab her, gather her up to him, like he did after one of his dreams, his hands running over her body to make sure she was here, she was real.
She was in the darkened A/V lab, sitting calmly beside Archie, wholly fixated on the flickering screens in front of her. When he finally tore his frantic gaze off her, he saw what she was watching.
Surveillance tapes, black and white, grainy, of the night she'd been abducted. Natalie, arms raised, stepping towards her. Sara, arms raised, falling back.
"Again," she said quietly. Archie punched a few buttons and the tape replayed from the start.
"Sara," Grissom said. His voice sounded unnaturally loud in the quiet room. Sara looked up, her expression both guilty and defiant. "What are you doing in here?"
"I'm on my break," she said, gazing at him steadily.
"Your break…" he murmured. He'd never known her to take a break from anything, and certainly not in the middle of an active investigation. "A break is 10 minutes. We've been looking for you for half an hour."
He could hear the anger and frustration in his voice, looking for a release, and he'd found it. He'd never been this close to yelling at one of his team, ever. Sara watched him, her gaze beginning to waver.
"Greg has evidence, evidence that could crack this case for us, and you're on a break?" He jabbed a finger at the screens. Natalie advancing, Sara retreating. He looked away. "Archie!" he barked. "Turn that off." Archie did, quickly. Back to Sara. "Doing what, exactly? Why are you even in here?"
She swallowed, audibly. "You know why I'm in here," she said softly, her eyes begging him to understand. But the throbbing in his head, the anger, the adrenalin rush, overrode anything else.
"I gave you explicit instructions!" He was yelling now, louder than he ever had at work, louder than he ever had in his life, it seemed. People up and down the hall turned to see who on earth was earning the wrath of a man who rarely, if ever, raised his voice. "I'm your superior Sara, in case you've forgotten. No discussion, no debate. If you can't follow my orders, you don't belong on my team."
He could see the shine of tears in her eyes and the look of utter astonishment in her face.
He didn't care.
"Gil." Catherine, softly, her hand on his arm. "Gil, come on." She looked at Sara, shook her head imperceptibly. "Come on."
"Go do your job," he said to Sara, the pounding so loud he could barely see her through it.
"Come on," Catherine said again.
And she led him away.
"Trying to give yourself a stroke?" Catherine handed him a cup of cold water. He took it, gratefully, leaning back against his office couch. He closed his eyes, sipped the water, wished he could start the day over, as a different person.
"Not intentionally," he said finally. The throbbing had eased. Perhaps this one wouldn't morph into a full-blown migraine. Thank goodness for small miracles.
"You were pretty angry at her," she said, perching on the edge of his desk. He looked up at her, raised an eyebrow.
"You think anyone overheard?"
"Oh, a few people," she smiled. "Now, if it had been Ecklie having a tantrum, no one would have batted an eye. But mild-mannered Gil Grissom? I mean, if you're trying to keep this secret romance of yours under wraps, that definitely is not the way to go about it."
Grissom sighed, examined the paper cup in his hand. He was starting to remember bits and pieces of the past hour. Her face, her expression, Good God, the tears in her eyes.
Mostly he remembered his fear, overwhelming, threatening to choke him into oblivion.
"I need a vacation," he said, dropping his head into his hands. "I'm starting to act…crazy."
"People who are in love tend to do that," Catherine said. "Or so I've heard."
She took his cup, poured him more water from the bottle on his desk.
"It may be none of my business," she began tentatively, handing him the cup. "But are you two…okay?"
Okay. How to answer that? He gave a mirthless laugh, drank his water in one gulp.
"We're … fine," he said finally because he didn't even know where to start. The dreams? The distance? Sara's obsession with talking about it? His inability to listen to her talk about it?
"Listen Gil, I may be stating the obvious here, but you and I…we don't have many friends, you know? People to just…chew the fat with." She walked over and sat beside him, clasped one of his hands tightly. "If you need to…you know, talk, I'm available."
He smiled, for the first time in awhile, it seemed. "I know Catherine. I do. Thank-you."
He just wished he knew what the hell to talk about.
He avoided Sara for the rest of the day. He supposed she had the same idea because he only caught glimpses of her back, her hair, as she sped by his office, head down.
At 8:30 he finally closed his last file, placed it neatly on the corner of his desk, removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes.
When he opened them he saw her, hovering in the doorway, a file folder clasped in her hand.
"You wanted this before day's end, right?" she said brightly, smiling at some spot just above his head. She crossed and dropped it on his desk. "The original evidence revealed nothing new, which I had suspected because Greg, well, he may be green and kind of goofy at times, but he's good, you know? And he did a bang-up job processing. But, the new evidence, the condom, sperm I found there matches Jerry Conley's DNA. I think we got him this time." She took a deep breath and smiled again. "Okay, well, I'm done here for today, I think, and I'm gonna head home, okay? Good. Later."
And then she was gone. He sat in his chair, listening to the purposeful stomp of her boots — her ass-kicking boots, she called them — recede down the quiet hallway.
He was alone.
Time: 9:07 p.m.
Music: Angry Chick. (Bikini Kill, L7)
Fuck fuck fuck fuck.
In front of everyone.
In front of Catherine.
Fuck fuck fuck fuck.
People walking. Go around.
"Sorry," she muttered as she clipped the woman's elbow.
Her left hand was vibrating. She glanced at the LCD panel.
It vibrated two more times before she finally stopped, pulled out her earphones, punched the talk button.
"What?" she said.
"Sara," he said, making her heart thud harder than it already was. He always did that to her heart.
"What?" she said louder.
"I'm just…uh…you weren't here when I got home. I was just checking…to make sure you…"
"I'm running," she said. "I'll be back soon."
He didn't say anything.
"Okay?" she said. "Okay?'
"Okay," he said.
Fuck fuck fuck fuck.
She went straight into the shower when she arrived, taking extra time to wash her hair, twice, and condition it, once. She remembered Grissom washing her, here, the day she got home. She remembered how tentative he'd been, how gentle, how he'd made her stop crying, for a little while at least.
As she carefully combed her hair she remembered watching the surveillance tapes today, how mesmerized she'd been by the distant, grainy images on the screen. They, she and Natalie, had looked so tiny, so inconsequential. Natalie had looked…harmless. Sara couldn't see the needle in her hand, but when she'd raised her arm and advanced, Sara had flinched, even sitting next to Archie, who had looked at her with concern.
She pulled on her sleepshirt and stood looking at her reflection. The same old Sara, she decided. But different, somehow. More wary. Sadder. Angrier, if that was even possible.
She slid into bed and lay on her back, feeling nothing but space between her body and Grissom's.
"You embarrassed me today," she said finally, instead of saying I love you and I'm sorry and I wish I could start this whole day over.
He looked at her. She tried to remember the last time he looked that tired. Then she remembered. It was the morning he'd found her, as he struggled to keep up to the paramedics, struggled to keep her face in his sight.
"Ditto," he said.
August, late afternoon, still and stifling. The window A/C banged noisily but provided minimal relief. He wore boxers and a T-shirt; she, a tank top and shorts. He was reading in bed (National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies) and she was lying beside him, twirling a lock of hair with one hand and absentmindedly playing with the hem of his shirt with the other.
She tried to think of all the questions she hadn't asked him yet. Favourite colour? Day of the week? Hair product?
"If something had happened that night…could you be with someone else?"
He stopped, his lips parting in utter astonishment. She could have asked if he planned on quitting his job and becoming a cowboy or buying a Harley and traveling to Mexico or…cutting off a body part and waiting for it to grow back and he wouldn't have been more surprised.Be with someone else?
"I mean, you must have thought about it at some time," she pressed on, laying her head on her arms and watching him read.
"Thought about what, exactly?" He could barely look at her, could barely breathe. He did not want to do this. Drop it, he pleaded. Drop it, please.
"What you would have done…if I'd died that night." She said it so casually, so flippantly he thought he hadn't heard her correctly at first. He licked his lips but found he had no saliva left in his mouth.
"Sara…" He could feel her eyes drilling into the side of his face but still he refused to meet her gaze. Words…he frantically searched for words to fill an unfillable void. What words would do justice to the most horrible thing that could ever happen to him? "I don't really want to talk about this." He finally said. There. That should do it. Let's move on.
"Why?" She sat up, eyes blazing. "Why can't we talk about it?"
He tried to focus on the words in front of him. Maybe he'd find the right ones to use. Chrysalises….Swallowtails….Fritilaries. "Because it's…" Terrifying? Heartbreaking? My absolute worst fucking nightmare? "…silly."
"Silly." Her voice: Angry, no, furious. And hurt. And livid. "How, in your, uh, professional opinion, is my almost dying silly?"
Something in him broke then. How to make her understand? He put the book down and looked at her. He wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her because he didn't know how else to impart his absolute terror and frustration. He wanted to yell at her. He wanted to kiss her, hard.
"Because, Sara, you didn't die. You didn't." His voice rose sharply and he fought to control it. "So, in my professional opinion, it's silly to keep talking about the what ifs. There are no what ifs. We're here and you're alive. End of discussion."
He sounded so fucking pedantic even to his own ears that he grimaced, but for the first time in weeks he also felt a tiny bit of the pressure, the immense weight that had been pulling him down, lift.
"End of discussion," she said flatly, not looking at him.
"Yes." He swallowed.
"Then I guess there's nothing else to say, sir," she said. His eyes snapped over to her, to her flushed, beautiful, angry face. "Sorry I took you away from your precious reading time."
"Sara, for pity's sake—"
"I'm going running," she said. "If that's all right with you." She rose from the bed and walked out. He watched the empty doorway, his heart doing a frantic little patter before he rose and followed her.
She was grabbing her shoes from the front hall closet. He watched her from across the room, his hands balled against his thighs, his mouth set. His jaw ached from the clenching. He wanted to hit something. A wall, for instance. With his head.
I'm making him angry, she thought as she tied her shoes, pulled her hair up into a ponytail. I'm hurting him.
"When will you be back?" he said finally, not moving towards her. If she'd been paying attention, if she'd looked, or listened closely, she would have seen the naked hurt, the agony which wasn't agony after all but pure, pained love, in his eyes again, and the tiny tremor in his voice.
But she didn't. And so she didn't.
She stopped, her hand on the doorknob, her head down.
"I have no idea, actually."
And she was gone.
Her cell phone and iPod sat on the hall table, untouched.
"Your phone…" he said to no one in a very quiet room. "Your music." It occurred to him she didn't forget them in her anger. It occurred to him that she hadn't wanted to take any part of him with her.
Time: 4:46 p.m.
Flap, flap, flap.
She stopped. The sole of her shoe had come loose, again. She crouched, breathing hard, head low, feeling the droplets of sweat roll down her neck, between her breasts.
Sometimes, sometimes she wished she didn't love him so fucking desperately much. It would make it so much easier to just…not stop running.
It was so dark and quiet when she opened the apartment door she didn't see him at first, sitting slumped back on the couch. He'd pulled the blinds against the summer sun and cranked the A/C.
She'd been gone too long.
She stood and waited and let her eyes adjust to the darkness, afraid of what the light would reveal.
For the first time in weeks he didn't look detached, or nonchalant, or angry or … in agony.
He looked … defeated.
And then she realized they'd both lost something.
He held a glass in his hand. A bottle of whiskey sat on the coffee table. The whiskey she'd bought him for Christmas. The night she was sure she'd never feel sad again.
He was drinking. He was halfway to drunk.
She'd been gone too long, and she hadn't called. She wanted to say Sorry. More than anything, she wanted to say I take it back. All of it. She wanted to climb onto his lap and kiss his face and taste his mouth. Instead she stood, sweaty and tired, by the doorway and watched his exhausted, beautiful face watching her.
She'd been gone too long.
"I would have died," he said so quietly that she held her breath so she wouldn't miss one single word. "I would have died, Sara, if you'd died."
He took a breath and a drink and her heart constricted painfully. What am I doing to you? she thought. What the fuck am I doing?
"I'm not…not used to this, you know. Having to think about someone else…worry about someone else. I worry about you. All the time. Not even just about the big stuff. I mean, I worry about whether you're eating enough and sleeping enough. I worry about whether I've hurt your feelings, when I say something, the way I do. The way I've always said it. It's just me, the way I am, and I've never given it much thought before. I've never given me much thought. Never had to. But…now there's you."
He took another drink. Sara closed her eyes, leaned back against the door. I'm sorry, she thought. I'm so sorry."And the thing…the thing is I want to think about you. I want to worry about you and where you are and what you're doing and….when you'll be home."
He closed his eyes and pressed a hand to them.
"And I don't want to, you see." Her heart broke, but she said nothing. "If I wasn't happy before I knew you, I was at least…content. I think. I worked and…taught. And worked some more. I lived. I didn't give other people, the live ones, anyway, much thought."
He finished his drink and put the glass down.
He looked up at her and fixed his gaze steadily on her, pinning her. She couldn't move, couldn't breathe. It was so quiet.
"I'm not used to this…this loving someone more than I love myself. More than my own life, even. I don't know if I'll ever be used to it. But, there it is. I can't change it now. Wouldn't if I could."
"Is that what you've been waiting to hear?"
She went to him then, her eyes spilling over with the tears she'd been fighting for weeks, months. She straddled him and his arms found her waist easily, pulling her tight, tighter against him. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, pushed her face against his neck and she cried. And he held her and rocked her a bit. And she pulled back to kiss him, his face, his whiskey mouth, his hair. She was crying, but talking at the same time, kissing and whispering Sorry, over and over.
And he was whispering something, too, just below the sound of her crying and it took her a moment to figure it out, figure out what he was saying over and over and over.
I love you, Sara.