The Catalyst

It's funny how much you miss something once its gone. It's always there and you take that for granted. And then in the blink of an eye, it disappears. Not only has the thing you loved gone, but in its place is complete sadness and depression.

Well, that's how it was when Rob left, anyway. It has been three years now. To the day. February 13th. Funny, the day before Valentine's Day. How ironic is that?

I suppose I should explain how it started. The fight, that is (it was not so much a fight as it was a disappointing conversation). The catalyst.

We were at the garage on February 12th. He was taking a break from work, and I had brought him some food for lunch. He seemed happy then. I cannot really pinpoint the exact moment that that happiness vanished from his face.

It might have been when I received a call from Dr. Krantz, my FBI mentor. I was wanted at Krane, the military base that everybody claimed was shut down (little did everyone know that it was fully up and working). It was not an unusual demand, but Rob did not like it. He was always complaining that I was there too much, and that I did not spend enough time with him.

I just laughed and told him that it was fine, that I would be back by that night and we would go see a movie or something. He half-smiled and kissed me and said that maybe we would do more than see a movie. I grinned at the innuendo and returned his kiss faithfully.

Now I know what you're thinking. They had SEX???

Well, um, yeah. It was completely on a whim. But it was when Rob had first said he loved me and I was so ecstatic that I just threw myself in his arms and said he could do whatever he liked with me. Which he took literally.

Not that I was unhappy about it or anything. I was completely psyched that he actually took my offer this time. Its not like that was the first time that I offered myself on a silver platter. Well, maybe not silver, more like aluminum, but whatever.

But while I was at Krane, I was being interrogated, yet again, by Dr. Krantz. He meant well, I suppose, but the pressure of his job was getting to him.

So he took it out on me.

Well, he was actually a nice guy. He was not mean to me often, but that time really got to me. I yelled at him back, which did not surprise him too much, since I was not the most peaceful youth out there.

But that was the entirety of my time at Krane that day. I was only meant to stay for a few hours, but I ended up spending the whole day and part of the night there. I was on another assignment and there was a lot more involved in it than usual.

By the time Dr. Krantz noticed that I was beyond exhausted, it was 1 A.M. He sent another agent to take me home and by that time I collapsed in my bed and fell asleep.

I awoke the next morning to someone knocking on my bedroom door. Thinking it was my mother, or some other family member, I grumbled, "Come in!" I hoped they would say what they had to say and then skedaddle, because I was insanely tired.

But it was not someone from my family. It was, to my shocking glee, Rob. I was not, however, too happy when I realized how I must have looked.

I looked in the mirror behind him and winced. I was not a pretty sight then. Hair all askew, shadows under my eyes, and eye boogers formed in the corners of them. I looked gross, I knew it. He, however, did not glance away from me in horror.

"Rob," I managed to stutter out. "What…what are you doing here? And how did you get up here? My mom let you up?"

He nodded. "Mastriani…Jess." He cleared his throat and began again. "I was putting off telling you this for a while, because I didn't want to ruin what we had. But I realize now that…well, that its probably better that I do this."

I blinked at him in confusion. Do what? I voiced this question to him but he only waved it off.

"I'm leaving."

I stared at him in horror. "WHAT?"

"I'm leaving, Jess. My dad---I got a letter from my dad a couple weeks ago. He's out of prison. I'm going to visit him, to stay with him for a while. I wasn't really sure about it for a while, but after you didn't come back last night, I decided I was going to go."

I still stared at him, openmouthed. How could he do this? Leave me like that. Just because I stayed at Krane for the whole night? That isn't fair.

And that's exactly what I said. "Rob, you're not being fair. Look, I'm sorry I stayed there last night. Its not like I could leave anyway, even if I wanted to, which I did. Do you think I like staying there for hours on end, making my mind try and find people that most of the time are long gone? Well, in case you didn't know, NO, I don't like it. Why are you doing this? I have a job just like you do and you're penalizing me for it?"

He sighed. "Its not…you're making this harder than it has to be, Jess. Look, I know I said some things to you that made you think that I was always going to be there. Well, I made that mistake of saying those things. I'd like to be that guy for you, but, to be completely honest, I'm not."

What he said was attempting to sink in. And when it did, I was ashamed to realize that I had tears forming in my eyes. "So…when you said you loved me, you didn't mean it? You just said it get me in bed?"

How could I have been such an IDIOT?

"No, Jess, I…I didn't say it to get you in bed, alright? Its just…I meant it then, I really did. But now…I don't know. I still feel strongly about you, but I don't know what it means anymore. And I think its best that I just go away. I'm no good for you, as your mother so loves to tell me every second I'm near you."

The tears started leaking down my face then. "So you're giving up. Just because of a few obstacles, you're giving up. I thought you were better than that, Rob. I thought you were stronger."

And then he said, "I thought so, too," and turned around before I could react and walked out of my bedroom door, shutting it softly behind him. I saw him walking towards his Indian, and he got on it, looking once at my bedroom window, then shaking his head and speeding away.

As the last image of him disappeared, I thought to myself, Why was he going to stay with his dad? It always seemed to me that he despised his father. So why was he going to stay with him?

And that was the last I've seen of him, to this day.

After he left, I swore to myself that I wouldn't fall into depression. But, of course, that happened. It wasn't like, Oh-my-God-I'm-going-to-kill-myself depression. It was like Oh-Jesus-I-miss-him-so-much-why-won't-he-come-back? depression.

I drove by the garage and his house everyday, hoping to catch a glimpse of him or his Indian, but I never saw either. After two months of this, I gave up. There were sometimes when I thought I had seen him, but when the guy turned around, it was never his face that I saw.

I finally got up the courage to go see his mother and talk to her. My dad had told me a bunch of times that Mary had wanted to talk to me, but I was always too scared to go see her. Too afraid of what she would say to me.

But I had realized that fear was only keeping me from moving on. I had to talk to his mom and see what she had to say to me, whether it be good or bad (not that I think she had anything bad to say to me).

When I went to her house, I felt a pang of remorse. It was the same house that he lived in, obviously, so just being there made me upset. I was thinking about all those times that we watched movies on his couch, or I helped him when he was fixing up that Harley for me, or when we'd trudge up the stairs to his room when his mom was over at Gary's and we'd do some things that were not very proper.

When I felt the tears flowing down my cheeks, I remembered what I was there to do, and who I was there to see, and it wasn't him.

Wiping the tears from my face and eyes, I walked defiantly up the front steps and knocked on the door. My eyes were a little red-rimmed, I realized, but hopefully she wouldn't notice.

When Mrs. Wilkins opened the door and saw me standing there in a leather jacket and my red-rimmed eyes, she said, "Oh, honey," and enveloped me in her arms and brought me inside.

"You poor dear," she said and brought me into the kitchen to get some tissues. I broke down again and really started crying then. Somehow, it felt better when she was holding me than it did when my mom did. Maybe it was because Mrs. Wilkins actually cared.

Well, I'm not saying that my own mother doesn't care about me, its just that she didn't care for Rob, so she doesn't understand.

"I'm sorry," I managed to stutter out when I began to gather myself together. "Its just…being here…"

She nodded in understanding. "I know, honey." She hesitated before she said, "I don't mean to be rash or make you upset, but…have you heard from him?"

Forcing myself not to cry, I shook my head and mumbled, "no."

She sighed. "I figured, but I hoped that was not so. I thought my son was better than that, Jess. To just up and leave the girl he obviously cared a lot for…" she shook her head. "It's just unfathomable."

Like his eyes, I heard myself thinking.

I cleared my throat. "Mary…do you know…he told me he was staying with his dad, but do you know why he did? I thought…I always got the impression that he didn't like his dad."

She shook her head. "To be honest, I have no idea. Well, not for sure. He never really did like his father. After he knew what he did to me. But I keep thinking that maybe its because he was curious. He wanted to see what his dad was like."

I nodded. But that wasn't enough for me. I needed to know why he had left me. There had to be some other reason behind him leaving me for good. I know he said it was partly because he didn't love me anymore, and despite the fact that I pretty much believed him, there was a part of me that was still doubtful.

"Jess," Mary continued, "I just want you to know that I'm here for you, honey. If you ever need to talk or anything, I'll always be here. Whether it be about my son or anything."

"I…I know. And thank you. I think you're the only one that really understands."

She nodded. She was not completely in the dark when it came to Rob and I. She knew that not many of my family and friends approved of him. Whenever anyone saw me upset they would just assume it was about Rob and say, "oh, you're better off without that Grit."

But, inside, I know I'm not. I was absolutely ecstatic when I was with him. The only thing that would bring me down was when I was away from him.

Like now. But the only difference, I thought, is that I know I'm never going to see him again.

Mary pulled me into her arms again and let me sob on her shoulder. It was comforting, knowing that the mother of the man that caused me this pain was holding me and patting me on the back, saying that everything was going to be okay.

She finally pulled back from me when I stopped sobbing. I think it was mostly because I was too exhausted to keep crying, if that makes much sense.

She smiled at me and I was surprised to see tear streaks on her cheeks, too.

"You are a wonderful woman, Jess," she said to me as she was wiping away the tears from her cheeks. "I know Rob saw it, even if he left. I would have been proud to call you my daughter, not just a daughter-in-law. I would still be proud. Even if you're not my daughter by blood, you still are by heart."

I smiled at her gratefully and lovingly. Because that's what it was. Love. I loved the woman that was standing in front of me. She showed me care and adoration that no one ever really showed me before, except Rob.

The tears that swam down my cheeks then were not of sadness, but of joy that someone really cared for me, especially one so close to Rob.

"And I know that you have probably given up now, Jess," she continued to say. "But do not lose hope. Someday he'll come back to you. I can't say when it will be, but I can feel it."

I smiled gently. It was a forced one, for what she was saying could not be true, no matter how much I wanted to believe it. Rob had left me and made it clear that I was not able to be loved by him anymore.

I did not want to tell her that she was wrong, though. I just said, "Maybe."

That was the end of our visit that day. After I had cleaned myself up and made myself presentable again, I hugged Mary one last time, said thank you, and left the house that carried so many memories.

But I came back. Almost everyday. Maybe it was in the comfort that I might see him. Or maybe just because I talked to the one person that seemed to understand me.

I would always leave around dinnertime when Gary came back from the shop. Its not that I did not like Gary, or Mrs. Wilkins's cooking, but it was the glances that Gary would give me. Those pitying looks that drove me crazy. I didn't want anyone's pity, least of all Gary's, no offense to him or anything.

But it was all too soon that I was leaving. It was in March of the next year. Dr. Krantz had said that he was moving to an office in New York. He would stay in Indiana sometimes, but he would mostly be there. He said he would keep Krane open for me for work, but he asked if I wanted to go with him.

And, as much as I hate to admit it, I agreed. I think I would have taken any offer to leave my Indiana hometown at that point. Of course, I would miss my family and Ruth and Mrs. Wilkins, but I needed to get out of the corn state and start over.

And that brings me to the present. That's where I am now. At the FBI building in New York City, the Big Apple.

Well, that's where I work anyway.

My days usually consist of looking at pictures of missing people and trying to think of the location. The past few years my powers have developed more, since I've been able to focus more and more on that, instead of having a boyfriend.

And of course I've had other boyfriends. But they never lived up to the memory of Rob. I always told myself that I didn't love him anymore. But I really couldn't fool myself for long. I was still - and am still - hopelessly in love with him, after all that I have been through.

But never mind that.

As I am walking up to my office on the fifth floor (I've decided to take the stairs instead of the elevator, since a lot of the time, I'm too busy at work to exercise), one of my fellow agents stops me in the hall.

I look at her in question. "What's up?"

Johanna Reiner looks at me obediently and says, "Dr. Krantz would like you in his office."

I sigh. Already? I only just got here. I nod to her and tell her that I will be up there in a moment. She nods and walks away toward her office.

What does Krantz want from me? Its not like I haven't seen him in five years. I just saw him last night. God.

I shake my head as I'm walking to his office. I knock once on the door and he calls, "Come in," and I walk in and shut the door behind me.

"Ah, Jessica," he says to me. "What a pleasant surprise."

And I blink at him. "Surprise? Reiner told me that you wanted to see me."

He only smiles. "Of course. Take a seat, I have something to give you."

I stare at him uncertainly. It's probably another picture.

But why couldn't he have just sent it up to me with someone else? He never calls me to his office for a picture.

He rolls himself over to a shelf in the corner of the room. On the lone shelf is an envelope, some writing scrawled on the front, a stamp, and from what I could make out, no return address.

Oh, great. A threat letter. Perfect. Like this day could not get any worse.

"Have you opened it?" I ask. It's a routine thing. I get threat letters constantly. One of them even resulted in me getting a bullet in my leg. Long story.

He nods. "Of course. Why would you think I didn't?"

I shrug. I was just asking, actually. Not because I like the sound of my own voice or anything, but just because I felt like it.

He rolls back over to the desk and hands the letter to me. The writing on the front, written in blue ink, is slightly smeared, and looks oddly familiar.

"Who is it from?" I ask. Not that it really matters. Threat letters usually result in the person asking me to meet them somewhere unarmed and then the person gets caught.

"We have an idea, but we're not sure. Just open the letter."

I roll my eyes. "Jeez, no need to get jumpy."

As I take the many-times folded piece of paper out of the envelope and read over the message, my heart hammers in my chest.

No, it can't be.

Dr. Krantz sees my reaction. "Is it his handwriting, Jessica?"

I look back at the letter, which reads:

Mastriani,

Meet me in the lobby of the Park Central Hotel on Friday night, February 13th, at 7 pm.

-Rob

I drop the letter to the floor. How could this be happening? Is it really him writing this letter? Or is it someone who knows about Rob and is just doing this to get to me?

Then I see the date. The 13th…but that's tonight. I voice this to Dr. Kratnz and he nods.

"I am quite aware of that, Jessica. Well, are you going to go?"

I look back at the letter on the ground and then at him. Should I go? What if it really is him? What would I do?

"I think you should go, Jessica," comes Dr. Krantz's voice softly from behind the desk.

Well, what have I really got to lose anyway? He'd already taken everything with him when he left. My heart, my dignity…

I nod to Dr. Krantz. "Yes. I…I'll go."

He nods curtly. "Splendid," he says. "I'll contact a few agents and have them posted outside the hotel and one in the lobby in case its not him."

I nod, not really hearing what he's saying. Because, all I'm thinking about is Rob. How had he found out what I'm doing, where I am? Surely my mother would never say anything to him and….

Mrs. Wilkins! Duh. I always write to her and tell her of the things I have been doing. Of course she'd tell her son where I am if he is looking for me. She still has faith that everything will work out just peachy keen.

Dr. Krantz is looking at me worriedly. "Jessica…are you alright?"

Of course I'm not alright, you ass. Well, that's what I feel like saying to him anyway. Instead, I just nod and mumble a 'yeah'.

But he's still looking at me like I'm going to hurl.

"I think you should take the rest of the day off. This is obviously having a big effect on you." He pauses and then says, "Good luck tonight. I hope everything goes well."

And that's that. He turns around toward his computer and I guess that's my cue to leave. Well, I guess he's being generous. He very rarely says that I can have the rest of the day off. And when he does, its usually when I can barely walk up the stairs and that I look green and am seconds away from barfing on his beloved coffee machine. Then he lets me go home.

I leave his office, tucking the crumpled letter in my jacket pocket.

I take the bus to my apartment in a dream-like state. Daydreaming about what might happen tonight. Maybe we'll get back together and he'll have booked a room in the hotel and we'll spend all night and part of the next morning having three years' worth of make-up sex.

But of course that's probably not going to happen.

I'm keeping my options open, though.

Even though I secretly hope all that is going to happen, I know it won't. Because I'm furious at him. The fact that he left me and hasn't contacted me for three years…and then expects me to go meet up with him when he sends me a letter…

But I can't save my pride and not go to meet him. Because what if he does want to be with me again? What if there was some misunderstanding those three years ago and he never meant to leave me for that long? Not that that's likely, but it might be what happened.

If I don't go, I might never see him again. Its too tempting to see him, to see his face and possibly touch it…or better yet, kiss it…

I sigh as I walk up to my apartment. I put the key in the lock and turn it, go in and shut the door behind me. The lights flicker on and I see that the place is a mess. Well, so much for hoping that it will clean itself up while I'm gone.

I take my coat off and put it on the rack next to the door, along with my hat.

I was planning on making some tea to keep me awake, but what is the point? I just take my jeans off and throw them on the floor, climb into my cozy bed and fall asleep.

When I wake up again, I see that its getting dark out. At first I think, good, I'm going to go back to sleep. But then I remember what I have to do tonight. I look over at the clock. 5.26 PM.

I have an hour to get ready. It will take about twenty minutes to get a cab and get over to that hotel.

I hop in the shower and then blow dry my hair when I'm finished. I put on my makeup and my jeans from earlier, throw on a nice tunic-type shirt, some Uggs, and my trademark leather jacket, which keeps me warm even on the coldest days of winter.

I grab a banana to hold me over until I get home later, because I might need a quick escape before I can get anything to eat over there.

Then I walk down the stairs and to the front of my apartment building and hail a cab, which does not take as long as I anticipate. I tell the driver to drop me off at Central Park, because I have some time to kill before I have to meet him.

I walk around Central Park for a good twenty minutes before I admit defeat and start walking over to the Park Central Hotel, which is located conveniently near the famous park.

When I first walk in, I instantly see that I am underdressed. Everyone is walking around in fur coats and dresses and pearls and suits. Meanwhile, I'm wearing a leather jacket and jeans. Hmm…oh well.

The lobby is decorated for Valentine's Day and only reminds me further of what happened three years ago today.

I thought it would have been difficult to find Rob in the crowd, but it is actually very surprisingly easy. Because he's dressed exactly like I am. Leather jacket and jeans.

I see him before he sees me, which gives me the advantage of checking him out. He looks almost exactly the same as when he left, only he looks to be a little more muscular, if that's possible, and his hair is slightly longer.

Its only a second before he turns around and sees me.

Involuntarily, I gasp. He's still as gorgeous as I remember. The perfectly chiseled face, those sweet, scrumptious looking lips, and those fog-colored eyes. However, the eyes are not the same. They are the same color and shape, but it seems as if they have lost their luster, as if there is no twinkle left.

This is proves to make me uneasy. Whenever I looked into those eyes before, I always felt as if everything would be okay. But when I look into them now, it does not seem that way.

He is walking toward me and musters up a smile. I do not return it. How could I? Especially when I remember what happened the last time I saw him.

"Mastriani," he says, converting back to the old nickname he had for me. I notice that his voice is gruff and, well, it sounds sexy. It was always sexy, but now it just…well, never mind that.

I see that people are looking at us strangely. Not only are we dressed completely unlike everyone else, I probably look as if I want to punch him.

"Wilkins," I reply as he takes my arm and steers me in the direction of the entrance to the hotel. I shiver from his touch. Its not a bad shiver, instead one that makes me want to take a cold shower when I get home. I'm also very surprised at myself for not prying his fingers off my arm in disgust.

We're walking out in the cold, in the direction of Central Park. Why couldn't he have just told me to meet him there? It would have made things easier.

When I'm able to speak again I voice this. And he just shrugs and walks on further, finally dropping his hand from my arm. And as ashamed as I am to admit it, I miss the feeling.

As he finds a bench in the park and we sit down, he asks me, "How are you doing?"

I blink, not sure how to answer that. Do I tell him that ever since he left I have been a mess and consequently have never learned to love any other man except him?

I don't think I need to give that much away.

I shrug in answer to the question. "As okay as I can be, living in New York and working for the FBI."

He nods. Of course he knows all this, considering his mother must have told him all about what I've been up to. Not that I blame her. I actually considered the fact that he might go to her one day and ask where I was and what I've been doing. I never thought it would actually come true, though.

Having enough of small talk, I blurt out, "Why did you want to see me?"

He puts his head in his hands and I hear him sigh heavily. He does not look at me as he answers my question. "I made a mistake."

I blink. A mistake? That could mean anything.

"What kind of mistake?" I deign to ask.

Did he get some girl pregnant or something and wanted me to get her off his back? Well, no way was I doing that.

"I…" he trails off, as if carefully deciding what he is going to say. "I never should have left."

Well, I could have told you that, buddy.

Seeing what I was probably going to say, he quickly says, "I was scared, Jess. Alright? I admit it. I was afraid that I was getting myself in too deep. I didn't want to hurt you if I decided that later on I didn't want to be with you anymore."

"Well, I guess it was all for nothing then, wasn't it? Because you did hurt me, Rob. Big time."

He sighs again. "I know. But…it wasn't all butterflies and rainbows for me, either. Living with my dad…well, it wasn't exactly a picnic."

The question from three years ago rises up. "Well then why did you do it? I thought you hated your dad."

He laughs without any humor. "I did. I still do. Living with him only proved to deepen that hatred."

I blink, exasperated. "I don't get it. Why did you put up with him, then? You could have come back and saved both of us from being hurt. You could have come back to me."

To my utter horror, I feel tears welling up in my eyes. Oh, just perfect.

"Jess, I…I'm sorry. I know it probably doesn't mean much now, but I really am."

"You still haven't answered my question."

He looks at me then. Those foggy eyes looking glassy, like he is about to cry. This only serves to make me want to cry.

"My mom told me some things that he did to her. I don't think she meant to, she was really upset. And when that letter came from my dad, I just…I knew I had to go see him. I wanted to make him pay for the things he did to her…" He takes a deep breath and turns away from me again. "When I got there he seemed so happy to see me, and I couldn't do anything that I'd planned. I just couldn't. But then…he had some friends there, too. And when I told him I was going back to live with Mom, he freaked out and…he made me stay."

I'm confused now. "He made you stay? But Rob, I'm sure you could have taken him."

He laughs again, but not as if anything is funny. "Not when he's got three other guys that are twice my size."

"Why didn't you call me or something? I could have done something. I--"

"I did call you. But your mother had told me that you didn't live there anymore. She wouldn't tell me where you had gone to, so I was stuck there. It was only last month that I managed to escape and went to see my mom. That was when she told me that you were here."

I am speechless. So this whole time…he couldn't get to me. He might have wanted to but he couldn't. His own father kept him caged up like an animal.

Oh…my God.

"Oh, Rob," I manage to say. And then I lean over and hug him and bring him close to me. He doesn't protest, just lets me hold him. I can feel him softly crying into my jacket. Somehow, this makes me feel better. The fact that he feels he can cry when I'm around.

He stops crying only after about a minute and pulls himself away from me, wiping his face off before I can see it.

"Rob…look at me."

But he doesn't. He's looking at the ground, keeping his face hidden.

"Rob, I'm serious. Its alright now. I…I understand." And its funny, because as soon as I say that I realize I do understand. And its like, whatever happened between us these past three years, or whatever didn't happen between us, is forgiven. Because now I know that he didn't intentionally stay away from me.

"I'm sorry," he says, his voice sounding gruff again. "I let you down."

"Rob? Rob, no. Look at me, please. Its okay now, alright? Everything is---"

But I don't really get to finish, considering he smashes his lips on mine and kisses me. I respond quickly and passionately, betraying my will to resist.

"I'm sorry," he says after breaking away, breathing heavily. "But I love you and this time I swear I will always be there. There's no mistaking it this time."

"Oh God," I say, because I can hardly believe that this is happening. "I love you, too."

And then we end up making out on that bench in front of everyone, with little kids watching interestedly from behind a tree. Their parents shoo them away and make insulted noises.

"Rob," I gasp, realizing that the making-out-in-Central-Park thing has to end. "Do you want…want to go---"

He nods and kisses me again. "Badly," he growls.

I smile and we go get a cab and not ten minutes later we're making out in my bed in my apartment.

"Oh God," I mumble into his hair as he's kissing my neck. Because, well, I still cannot believe that this is happening. The fact that he's here with me and he's kissing me and we're…well, we're not too far from reuniting intimately.

And before I know it, he's collapsing beside me, trying to catch his breath. He's coated in sweat, as am I, but its not repulsing. It just makes me think of what we just did and how much I enjoyed it and how happy I am now.

I look over at my alarm clock and it reads 12:07. I smile at Rob, who's giving me a special grin of his own, and say, "Happy Valentine's Day."

And when I look into those gorgeous fog colored eyes now, I see that the twinkle is back and that he is just as happy as I am.

Well? This was completely on a whim. I missed writing 1-800 stories, but I didn't want to start a whole new story, so I just did a one-shot. As you can probably see. Well, tell me what you think in the form of a review. I'd greatly appreciate it.