Disclaimer: I don't own The Border or its characters…
Author's Note: Okay, pretty sure I haven't done justice to the characters, and the accuracy of some canon facts may also be questionable… but no one else was writing any Border fics (that I could find), and I needed my fix somehow! So I snapped and wrote my own. Enjoy…maybe? Someone? Anyone?
"That's not going to make it go away."
The voice startled Gray who was moodily contemplating his drink, sitting by himself at the bar. Normally, he would've been seeking out some companionship for the night, trying out his charm, hoping to feel alive and forget the troubles of the day.
But not this night...not this day. What he had seen this day would never leave him. And the only potential remedy was the temporary memory loss only obtainable through the wonders of alcohol.
Unfortunately, it was not proving to be the remedy he had hoped it would be. His drink was disappearing at a sluggishly slow pace. And now, it would really go nowhere, for Layla had unexpectedly shown up.
Ignoring her interruption, Gray picked up the pint and attempted to drown his sorrows with a record-worthy draught. Funny that he couldn't hold his breath worth shit underwater but when downing beer, his ability was unmatched.
"It's not going to make you feel better, either," She made a second attempt at dissuasion, this time with a frown instead of a hopeful smile.
"But it can make me forget," Gray replied matter-of-factly, placing the empty glass on the bar. He wasn't in the mood for one of their classic arguments. The barkeep was tending to customers at the far end. He'd catch him on his way past. One pint just wasn't going to get that room, the image of that broken little girl out of his mind…
A determined hand upon his arm forced his gaze from contemplating the various liquors lining the bar to the stubborn woman addressing him. Her eyes pleaded with him in a sad sort of way, so rarely blatant in their brown depths. On numerous occasions it was quite evident that she wasn't the happiest person in the world. However, rarely did she let it show, did it actually seem to bother her or interfere with her life.
"For how long, Gray?" She criticized. "A night? A few hours?"
Why did she care, anyway? What business was it of hers if he drank himself to death, if he couldn't handle the horrors of the day, if he couldn't make it through the night sober?
"And then what? You wake up with a hang-over and the pain is still there?!"
Maybe she was showing too much emotion. Maybe this constituted too much involvement. But the man was not only her partner. In fact, he was dangerously close to becoming a friend. And he was in pain, more so than usual. There was that persistent, off-putting cover of the annoying playboy, the devoted womanizer that was probably intended to push women away-not the women with passing physical and sexual interests, but the ones that threatened prolonged intimacy. But despite that, she wanted to help the sad little boy that was Gray Jackson.
It was that sad little boy that she always found in his eyes. And it was that sad little boy that called to her for help now. Even though the words that came from his mouth insisted otherwise, he needed help and she wasn't going to deny him it.
Silently, she pleaded with him to let go, to share his pain, to concede that she was right, that what he was doing, what he always did when faced with such emotional suffering just wasn't alleviating anything and never would ease his mind.
"Without this, I won't be able to sleep tonight," he offered as explanation of his action, like she hadn't already arrived at that conclusion. "Not after what I've seen today… I may never sleep again. What that monster did to that girl, what Gordon was going to do-"
"You helped save her," Layla pointed out in a no-nonsense sort of way. Things weren't always clear in their work. However, in this case, it was black and white to her. "What's done is done, Gray. There was nothing else you could have done. Now it's time to move on, help the next person in need of saving."
"What do you think I'm trying to do?" he snapped at her, the buzz of the beer not pulling its weight, failing to take the edge off her poignant words and the horror of what he had witnessed.
"This," she waved her hand to indicate the bar. "This, I call wallowing in self pity. You can't forget what you've seen, no matter how hard you try. And increasing your intake of depressants is not going to make you feel better about it!"
"Then what would you suggest?!" He wasn't normally a mean drunk, but he was on his way tonight.
Preparing himself for a battle of wills typical to their relationship, Gray was surprised by her reversal in demeanor. The determined, contentious set to her jaw melted into a warm smile and she grabbed his hand, making him jump. Besides for getting his attention and matters of necessity, she had never really touched him before, especially not in a friendly manner…
Maybe it was the shock that allowed him to be dragged from the bar by Layla. Maybe it was the hope that she did indeed have a better solution to dealing with the pain…
"A musical? You have got to be kidding me!" Gray criticized his partner's choice in cinema from where he sat beside her on the woman's living room couch. She must have thought his situation really desperate to force such torturous fluff upon him.
"Hey, it's worked for people for over seventy years," Layla countered.
"And this is what you do when you're feeling down?" Gray asked incredulously. "Watch the Wizard of Oz?"
"It's relaxing," she insisted defensively. "You can't watch this movie and be upset. It's just not possible."
"Isn't the Wicked Witch a little frightening?" Gray teased. He'd never admit it, but he was already feeling better. Layla's friendship was a welcome distraction from the darkness that would forever shadow his mind.
She stopped watching the revelries of the munchkins and looked at him for a moment, an infinitesimal (but still present) sparkle in her eye. A nascent smile danced upon her lips.
"If you get really scared, you can always hold my hand."
He scoffed at her incredulously, not over the suggestion that the Wicked Witch could terrify him, but that she had flirted with him on any level. 'Cold shoulder' readily came to mind whenever he considered his relationship with the vivacious female agent. But he had figured that was just her way, not necessarily a reflection of genuine dislike.
But this Layla… was friendly…to him. Perhaps it was just pity for his failure to 'deal' with the horrors of the day, to bottle them up, shove them into some dusty corner of his mind to be ignored indefinitely. But with his lifestyle, Gray would take what friendship he could get.
"I appreciate the concern," he countered. "But if you were really worried about my mental well-being, you wouldn't force me to watch a musical. You must know it's like torture for guys."
"Not all guys," Layla replied smartly.
"Okay," Gray corrected himself, enjoying the light banter. "It's torture for straight men."
Layla laughed. It was a brief melodic event.
"Too bad," she said, wearing a facetious, commanding look. "Because we're not watching a stupid guy's movie with kung-fu, explosions and half-naked women."
The last part in particular sounded appealing to Gray, but he knew better than to say so. Layla might have been in a good mood, but that didn't mean he couldn't offend her in his usual way of supposedly objectifying woman. Instead, he decided to tease.
"You're telling me that you, a highly trained agent, who carries a gun around nearly everywhere, do not like action movies?"
"I didn't say that I didn't like them," Layla pointed out. "I just rather not watch a whole bunch of pointless violence when I…"
She seemed to decide that she didn't really want to say what had begun to pass over her lips. Gray stared at her inquisitively in an attempt to figure out what she was thinking, feeling. It was difficult to pin down, but there was a fleeting flash of sadness in her warm, chocolate eyes. He had always thought it strange that she behaved so reservedly with such warm eyes.
Her previous hesitation diminished, it looked as if she would relent to his silent imploring. And she did.
"I have bad days, too, Gray," she admitted. There was an extra sheen to her eyes that revealed she was on the verge of tears. He had inadvertently made her cry…well, almost cry.
So much for some friendly and blissfully banal palaver.
"How can you just move on, forget, repress it all?" he asked with an uncharacteristic amount of conviction in his voice. His intention wasn't really to offend her, but he couldn't help but sound accusatory. It frustrated him how easily she seemed to deal with some things. Of course, there had been that whole incident with shooting that boy-terrorist. Though, she hadn't opened up to him, then, either.
"I never forget," Layla replied sadly, much to Gray's relief. He had been certain that she would've snapped at him for such an insensitive remark. "And I guess that's how I know I can keep moving on, keep doing the job despite the bad days. It's when I do forget, or don't feel depressed after a day like today. Then I'll know it's time to stop."
Gray simply nodded his head in understanding, realizing he had learned more about Layla in a few minutes than in months of being her partner at ICS. He gently took her hand in his.
"It's not so scary," he said quietly as the Witch set the Scarecrow on fire and cackled menacingly.
A/N: Any other fans out there? If so, where are your fics? And why can't I find/read them? ((pouts))