Standard disclaimers apply. I make nothing, own nothing – just the sentiment.

Warning: Another misdirection – again, you will not know until the last line. It is a love story but not a romance.

I Never Thought I'd See Him Again
By Alfonsina

I was reading a book by my favorite author and was lost in everything about it. I disappeared into the words, the images, the dialogs, the tension, the magic. I love being lost when I don't have to use gas money in order to find my way home.

I felt someone standing behind me, without looking up I knew who it was. It had been a long time since I'd felt his familiar presence.

I said, "Hey stranger. What's shaking?"

"Nothing important. Just wanted to check on you. Haven't seen you for a while."

He hadn't seen me since I changed jobs and chosen to change my life. He looked tired, then again, he looked tired a lot in the time I'd known him. He always took good care of his body, treated it like a temple of sorts. In my mind, treating the body like a temple also had something to do with getting rest now and again.

"Nothing too exciting in my world, just the regular stuff. Keeping up on gossip, staying out of people's way, working the nine-to-five. I've decided to change my life by not changing my life."

"That makes absolutely no sense," he said with a smile.

I've missed seeing the smile, it was beautiful. I've missed seeing him. It's been hard not being part of his life. I leaned forward out of my chair and took his hand in mine.

"If I didn't have to, I wouldn't stay away," I said as I kissed that beautifully callused hand. "I think about you all of the time, I just don't want your life to be more difficult than it has to be."

"You've never…" he started to say. We both knew the next words out of his mouth would be a lie, one that I couldn't let him tell.

"Yes, I did. You know it. I know it. I think the whole world knows it. You just don't want to admit it," I said with a watery smile.

"I don't think I ever told you, but you are the love of my life. I just have a hard time expressing my emotions."

"Me, too." I was the pot calling the kettle black.

I couldn't keep up the wavering, watery smile. I had to bite my lips to keep them from trembling, but it didn't stop my chin from quivering. Those words, those few precious words were so important. I never thought I'd hear them, ever.

"Why are you telling me now?" So much had changed. There was so much water under the bridge. So much time had been wasted. I wanted to yell or scream, instead I put my arms around his waist.

"I've missed you," he said squatting in front of me. "I want you back in my life. I need you. To hell with everyone else."

"A lot of stuff has changed," I said quietly. Rex had finally died. I had owned the same car for two years. I took a job that paid the bills but offered little else. I'd finally decorated my apartment and it looked like a real grown up lived there.

I was existing, but not thriving. I hadn't bought a new outfit since I don't know when. Nothing was fun without him watching in the background. It wasn't like I'd really needed his approval, but he'd provided a safety net.

When I'd finally allowed myself to drift completely out of his life, I hadn't let it sink in. I'd done it a little at a time. I'd pick up the phone to call him and I'd dial a couple of digits and then hang up. Certainly he had better things to do with his life than be bothered by me. I found myself avoiding the haunts where I knew I'd find him. I'm pretty sure he was avoiding me, too. I had no proof, but the feeling had gnawed at me for a long time. I made alternate plans for holidays and weekends. I looked for things that didn't make me think about him.

I wanted to call him or see him when things were tough. I'd see him in public places and he would tilt his head to acknowledge me but then look down again just as quickly. We'd always had a connection, now it was looser; it had been a rope and now it was a mere thread.

"Were you ever ashamed of me?" I asked. I'd always wanted to know. He'd put on a face to the world was always calm and placid, even when I'd stood on his last nerve.

"How could I ever be ashamed of you? I've always been proud of you, always."

I smiled at that. It had been my greatest fear, possibly one of the reasons I'd let myself fade from his world.

"And now?"

"I need you back. I never wanted you to leave."

He was saying all of the right things. The inflection was right. The words were perfect. His face was giving way to emotion, something he didn't like to express ever.

The lack of emotion had been the hardest thing for me to cope with. I'd learned that lesson well, though. I'd learned to school my thoughts, needs, emotions, desires. He hadn't realized what a good teacher he'd been.

"Can I stay a while?" he asked.

I realized I'd been the impolite hostess. I hadn't offered him a chair, nor a drink, or much of anything other than my sparkling personality.

"Please. Can I get you something?"

"Water, if you have it."

I got up to get him a cold bottle of water and asked him to join me on the couch.

I snuggled into the big chest I loved, the one that made me feel safe and protected. He dropped a kiss on the top of my head and just held me loosely.

"You do understand why I stayed away for so long, don't you?" he finally asked.

"Yes." I understood but it didn't make things any easier.

"I hated being between the two of you when things weren't going well."

I knew and hated that he'd been in the middle of more things than he should have been.

"How is she now?" I asked. I didn't want to know, but I needed to know.

"She's finally gotten the therapy she needed for so long. She's made great strides," he said quietly.

"It was good that you stayed with her; supported her for so long. She needed you and I'm glad you could do that for her."

He nodded slowly.

We talked for hours, only moving from the couch to get more to drink or to use the facilities. It was the longest we'd ever been together that someone wasn't sleeping or there wasn't a crisis going on around us.

"I should get home and take care of her," he said as the witching hour approached. "Will you call me sometime, just to say hello? I don't want to lose you all over again."

"Of course I will. Thank you for coming tonight. I should have come to you a long time ago. I won't be far away, you have my word. Please visit whenever you want. You don't need a reason."

He stood to take his leave and I didn't ever want to see him go. At least this time I knew he'd be back, the invitation had been given and accepted.

I walked with him to the door.

"Want me to walk you to your car?" I asked not wanting this time to end.

"No, I'd just have to walk you back up here. I really do need to go."

"Ok. Goodnight then."

He leaned in to kiss my cheek.

"I love you, Stephanie."

"I love you too, Dad."

A/N: see, not all misdirection has to be a romantic pairing ... hope you enjoyed, even a little bit.