Disclaimer: Sunset Beach characters belong to Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent, Gary Tomlin, NBC, et al and are used here strictly for non-profit entertainment purposes. Hannibal series characters belong to Thomas Harris, St. Martin's Press, Dell Publishing, et al and are used here strictly for non-profit entertainment purposes.
Rating: PG 14
Spoilers: All Sunset Beach episodes up to and including #40. All four Hannibal novels are fair game, but major spoilers for Hannibal.
Summary: Gregory makes good on his threat to send Olivia away, where she begins therapy with an unorthodox psychiatrist.
Chapter One: "Not Yourself"
Late Sunday evening
To begin with, Gregory was hot. The heat slithered around him, coiling to a painful noose around his neck. The air was spicy, perfumed with an undecipherable scent that greeted him the moment he stepped off the private plane. He could feel it suffocating him still, reaching out with heavy hands that pressed into him. With a grimace, he followed the doctor through the doors. The tile swallowed his footsteps, echoing in the vast expanse of the courtyard. A pitiful breeze wavered, one that barely stirred the palm frond.
"Mr. Richards? This way."
He pushed through the door, following the doctor down the long hall. Exhaustion burned his eyes, a blessing from the fifteen-hour flight and the countless papers that had been thrust upon him. The hall was dim and cloaked in an unnatural silence as he followed the doctor into the bowels of the private hospital. Into the depths of hell, he thought to himself as he spied a closed door at the end of the hall.
Dr. Hammond's hand grazed the handle as he turned back to Gregory. "We had to sedate her again," he explained softly as he pushed open the door.
Shadows and moonlight filled the room as a nurse stood from a chair by the bed. A large window was opposite the door, affording any watcher a generous view of the Rio de la Plata. Thousands of stars glittered in the dark, silent witnesses to nightly escapades. A large bed sat forlornly nearby, swallowing its inhabitant. The space between Gregory and the bed diminished, his knee brushing the mattress as he looked down. "Why?"
The doctor sighed, standing next to Gregory as they looked down at the bed. "She became hysterical when she woke up." He reached down and pushed up the sleeve covering Olivia's left arm. "She ripped the I.V. out of her arm." He turned her arm to the moonlight and looked up when the breath caught in Gregory's throat. "It will bruise for several days," he explained quietly as he stepped back from the bed. He gestured for the nurse and they left the room quietly, closing the door behind them.
Gregory sank to the mattress, cradling her arm in his hands as if it was a wounded animal. The angry red bruise was a stain on her smooth flesh, an intense counterpoint that was impossible to miss. He tore his eyes away and allowed himself a glance at her face. It was still, slightly turned to the window as she breathed deep. He sighed and looked down, unable to hold her gaze even when her eyes were not awake to pierce him.
The moonlight was just right, playing on her face the way it did the night he met her. He closed his eyes, sighing deeply as the image of her waltzed through his mind. Her smile had intrigued him and her eyes had seemed more luminous in the moonlight than anything he had ever known before. When she had moved toward him that first time, it was as if the heavens parted and a paradise descended to Earth.
Night blooming jasmine whispered on the air from the open window and he opened his eyes slowly, the Olivia in his memory merging with the Olivia before him. With a caution that sang of regret, he lowered her arm to the bed and smoothed the silk over it. Her lips parted, a mournful sigh filling the space between them as he froze next to her. Her chest swelled, filling to capacity before the breath rushed from her lungs with a purpose.
He leaned forward, brushing the hair from her face. His fingers curled against her cheek, the cool flesh giving him pause. He swallowed hard, his mouth brushing against hers with a feather touch. "It didn't have to be this way," he whispered, looking into her closed eyes. "It didn't."
Earlier that day
"Mr. Richards, did I lose you?"
Gregory leaned back in his chair and glanced down at his hand. "No, Dr. Hammond. I'm still here."
The doctor's voice crackled out of the handset and he closed his eyes. "You do realize, of course, that once we set these plans into motion, there is no going back."
He nodded, gripping the handset. There could be no second guessing. There could be no doubt. There could be no fear. Yet, that is all that he thought of. Even fear, he realized with a measure of disgust. He sat up, squashing the sick feeling that rose in his throat. "I understand," he replied softly.
When he opened his eyes, they fell on the picture of Olivia that stood in the corner of the desk. Caitlin had convinced her to sit for the portrait, arguing that a passing grade for her freshman photography class was on the line. He could remember the way Olivia sighed, dropping her briefcase to the tile floor as she followed Caitlin onto the patio.
He reached for the frame, pulling it toward him. Caitlin had relinquished the print to him when her professor was done with it, so delighted with her passing grade that she didn't ask why he wanted it. Olivia was staring straight into the camera, almost as if she dared Caitlin to take the shot. Her lips pursed together, her cheeks rising as she smirked. Smirked at him, he realized, to his eternal torment. Golden sunlight swathed her in a delicate embrace and he could have sworn her eyes flashed, timeless in the portrait.
"Mr. Richards?" The doctor's voice was distant, a far away echo as it traversed the trans-continental phone line. "Are you there?"
He set the picture aside, turning away from the beguiling eyes that taunted him. "I am," he murmured as he reached into the desk drawer. The leather covers of the passports slapped against the surface of the desk. "I'll see you tonight."
Olivia grimaced and covered her mouth as Rose set a plate of food before Sean. She swallowed hard as bile rose in her throat and her stomach turned. With a sharp inhale, she sucked the raw air into her lungs and lowered her face. Her head throbbed, her skull cracking open with the force of a cleaver as her son's fork clinked against the plate.
She flinched and sat back in the high backed chair, drawing the thin silk of her robe around her. Every muscle in her body screamed, aching painfully as she closed her eyes behind the large sunglasses on her face. Her skin crawled and she felt Sean's eyes on her, felt them in the way his fork clattered to the table. She winced, a sharp pain tripping her head as he pushed his chair away from the table and stormed from the room.
Her head fell into her hands as she leaned forward, sighing heavily. Another morning, another day to be ruined. An unending pit of disgust churned in her stomach and she licked her dry lips. The sun stung her eyes, mocking the sustained repulsion that coursed through her veins. She frowned as a feather touch grazed her shoulder and she looked up slowly. "What?"
Gregory nodded to Rose, who placed a steaming cup of tea in front of her. "Rough night?" he asked, taking the seat that Sean vacated only moments ago.
Rose's receding footsteps echoed in the silence and Olivia shrank back in the chair. "Please," she muttered, brushing the frame of her dark glasses. She looked away, wrapping her arms around herself.
"While you were upstairs occupying yourself last night, I was downstairs reminding George and Valerie of the dinner we had with them."
His voice grated her already sensitive nerves and she flinched, rubbing her ear as she watched him quizzically. "Dinner?" she mumbled.
He sighed, glancing down. "Yes, Olivia." He pushed the cup closer to her, the china warm to his touch. "The night Del was murdered…we spent the evening with Congressman Bellaris and his wife."
She nodded slowly, wrapping her hand around the hot teacup. She blew on the surface gently, a soft gust that rippled the tea. With a sigh of resignation, she sipped it gently and grimaced. "It's bitter," she snapped.
He reached over, ripping the dark sunglasses off her face. "Wake up, Olivia!" he growled as she blinked her eyes furiously. Fury ripped through him, destroying the curse of second thoughts that rocked him moments ago. Her bloodshot eyes looked back at him, pitiful in the morning light. Her porcelain skin was tinged green and he threw the sunglasses aside with a measure of disgust only she could inspire. "Say it: we had dinner with George and Valerie."
Her face wrinkled and she looked away, taking a plentiful sip of the hot tea. "I'm not worried about anything," she said softly. She smirked into the cup as he sucked in his breath, irritated. "I didn't do anything wrong." She glanced at him sideways, her eyebrow arched. "You're the one so desperate for an alibi."
His fingers drummed the table, solid beneath his fingertips as his mouth tightened. She turned to him, no doubt pleased with herself as her triumphant smirk attested. His breath was a shallow whisper in the tense silence until she whispered: "I wonder why."
He cocked his head. "Do you?" Her eyes flickered and he leaned in, grasping her wrist. It was cool to the touch and it trembled within his hand. "Wonder?" he clarified. She watched him carefully now, sensing the value of his question as his eyes darkened. She raised the teacup to her lips as he continued, "I wonder what Caitlin saw last night that upset her so much."
There was a spasm in within his hand and he tightened his grasp as her eyes narrowed. "Rather, who she saw you with." Her throat worked as she took the last steadying sip of tea and pushed the cup away. "Del's dead, but we could always go through the usual suspects."
Her nails dug into his hand, twisting into his flesh as she hissed, "Green was never your color."
He grabbed her wrist, wrenching it free as he dragged her closer to him. "You've made it mine. You're my cross to bear."
Olivia's face contorted, struggling against the iron around her hand. "Bear? Bear!" He stood, pulling her up and to him. "You haven't bothered to bear with anything in your life." Her eyes blazed and she leaned against him, her chest flush against him. "Your patience isn't unending, remember?"
He smirked, brushing a lock of hair behind her ear. "So, you do remember last night?" Her face melted and hateful eyes glared back at him as he chuckled. More of her weight rested against him and he tightened his grip. "Fear does funny things to a person. It makes you forget. But that was no nightmare last night."
Her mouth twitched as she blinked and shook her head. Her head swam and she sighed as she murmured, "You're sadistic."
He clucked his tongue as she gripped the lapels of his suit. "I get no pleasure from this," he said softly as she hung her head. He nudged her face up, cupping her chin. Her mouth worked as she blinked rapidly, her eyes darkening. "Olivia?"
She sighed, her chest heaving as she looked away. "I- I don't…" Her breath ran shallow as she met his eyes. "Grego-"
Gregory caught her as she slumped against him, holding her tight as he swung her into his arms. Her head fell against his shoulder, her dark hair spilling over his arm as he carried her out of the dining room. She fit perfectly in his arms, her head tucked neatly beneath his chin. It had taken years, but he had perfected the act of carrying his semi-conscious wife to a near art.
He lowered her to the sofa and she looked up at him with heavy eyes. Her chest heaved and she gasped as a weightless fog enveloped her. Her vision swam, multiple Gregory's blurring together and then apart as her mind began to dim. "Gre- wh-" she mumbled, her voice thick as his intense stare became the last thing she saw before she succumbed to darkness.
He grabbed the quilt from the back of the sofa and tucked it gently around her. He sighed tiredly and took her hand. "Why?" he asked, imagining the question that died on her lips. "You're not yourself, that's why." His thumb grazed her knuckle, caressing it gently. His voice was a whisper, barely audible in the hushed silence. "You're not yourself and I-" he faltered, gripping her hand. He shook his head as the truth rose in his throat. "I want you back."