Awake, Alert and Alive
Takes place the night after Rick Larsen takes Reese hostage in the episode "Powerless".
Reese awoke to a strange room, but sadly that was not strange for her. She was used to waking in odd places with barely remembered men she'd picked up in some bar for the sake of distraction. What was it the girls had said about the murdered bride…like she was punishing herself – yes, just like that? She laid there with the arm of an unknown man draped across her heavily, him breathing into the hair at the nape of her neck, awake but not yet ready to move.
Usually the room was dingy and drab, smelling of sex and cigarettes, but this room was clean and airy almost antiseptic in its cleanliness. Normally, there would be a deep shadows cast from the lamp in a room where the sun was shutout by some thick, gaudy rubberized hotel curtain that kept out the neon and the daylight, hiding it all in gloom. But the wall she was facing was bright white, lit by the sun beaming through the large window behind her. The ceiling in the room was at least nine feet high, not the claustrophobic seven foot ceilings of motels.
As she became more awake Reese focused on the closer sensory input. The man steadily breathing on her neck was tall, her legs intertwined with his, barely reached his calves. He was pale, but long and lean. His body was molded to hers from behind and his left arm wrapped possessively around her like a child holding a beloved stuffed animal. He did not smell of stale alcohol, sweat or cigarettes and what she could not feel was his skin against hers, instead the luxury of high thread count, clean sheets pleased her.
She tried not to wake him as she inclined her left arm to look at her watch. She could barely see her own wrist as the man's shirt sleeve covered her arm to the tips of her fingers. 11:21 it read - she stared at it – and it mocked her. She never slept this soundly or this late with her "lay of the week" and it sincerely annoyed her. Who was this guy? She shook lose of him and swung her legs over to get up, not looking back – she never did.
"Reese" a sleepy voice beckoned to her "come back to bed". She froze. He knew her name - they never got to know her name and she never asked for theirs. Worse yet, she knew that voice. Then the clean, expensive sheets, vaulted ceilings, sunlit room and the sparse décor slammed home for her. Shit! This was Crews' bedroom. And it was Charlie Crews that gently reached for and held her by the wrist.
He was dreaming. It was somewhere safe and sunny. It was warm, but not too warm. His nose was buried in the hair at the base of a beautiful woman's neck and he held her loosely against him. She smelled like sunshine to him but under that was a scent of something fruity. Maybe it was her shampoo or a body wash, but it was some hint of citrus that eluded specific definition. He wondered if hair care products ranged in the fruit and flavors department just to drive him personally insane. He somehow knew he wouldn't fall asleep in this sun and wake up burnt. She was petite, but strong and lithe. She fit to him in all the right places. He remembered bringing her home. They didn't have sex. She would have, but he didn't want to – not yet. Right now he was content just to hold her.
After prison, he'd tried so very hard to reconnect with life. His own life – the one lost to him – ripped away. But Jen had moved on and no matter how hard thye'd tried - she was someone else now – some where else. Their moment was gone. Bobby tried, but it was awkward and the guilt of his betrayal hung like a millstone between the two of them. Ted was – well, Ted. But he was a reminder of prison, someone weaker than himself that he had saved to remind himself that's what cops did – "protect and defend" - those who could not protect themselves. He did it to hang onto that which made him Charlie Crews, LAPD. Ted was a reminder that he could still be who he was before he went into Pelican Bay.
The prison shrink told him that prisoners are "often unable to re-assimilate into normal society" and they suffer from "permanent attachment issues". No one he wanted to reconnect with could fit him into their lives anymore. He seemed out of place in time with GPS, cellular phones, PDA, instant messaging – coming at him like something from a Jules Verne novel. And his partner….Reese made it quite clear when they met she wanted nothing to do with attachment either. They were like two polar opposites. Magnets that when pushed together actually repel each other – vigorously.
He knew Reese was saddled with him as punishment. At first he didn't know what for, but cops gossip like little old ladies and it wasn't long before he knew about her struggles with drugs and alcohol….and heard the rumors of her libertine lifestyle. Of course, he'd never even attempt to talk with her about it – she'd be mortified and genuinely pissed off - perhaps even enough to thrust him out of a moving car.
He remembered watching her those first few weeks; her knuckles taut as she gripped the steering wheel, hiding behind her Foster Grants. He got to know the lines of tension in her neck and the set of her jaw from surreptitiously watching her in the car or later as things relaxed actually turning in his seat to stare at her. There was tautness to everything she did - like she was a coiled spring waiting to be released. He remembered wanting to earn her trust, to be granted entry behind that high wall she built for everyone else.
The first time she actually smiled at something he said his heart did flips. It was an emotion he was so unfamiliar with he thought he was having an anxiety attack until he realized that the only person he really truly connected with (and was emotionally invested in) wasn't from his past at all. She sat three feet away from him all day long. He remembered thinking she wasn't the past, she wasn't the future. Dani Reese was his now. And he could live in the now.
Despite her toughness, he seemed to sense the fragility in her, just under the surface, well hidden to everyone but him. It made him feel "in tune" in a very un-Zen like way that he alone could see it – and that she would trust him with it. It made him cautious and very gentle with her. Then there was the night before last. The night Rick Larsen decided to go after her.
Powerless… that was what he felt - listening to Larsen threaten her. Listening through the phone with Lieutenant Davis as they silently sped toward Reese's home. Larsen toyed with her, he taunted her, he belittled and berated her and Crews wanted to strangle him with his bare hands. But she didn't bite, even when she asked him to swing for the fences, kill a cop, she was in control. But Crews was quietly coming unhinged. He felt something unfamliar. He felt ....possessive - wanting to be near enough to save her - from Larsen and from herself. He listened in silent agony as the liquor soaked into her psyche and her demons clawed at her.
On the excruciating ride, Crews had an epiphany. Of all the numbers and people she could have called, Reese had summoned him. She trusted he would answer, he would understand and he would come – not to her rescue - because Dani Reese did not need rescuing but that he would be there. As he stood outside with Bobby providing Reese with her "moment", he could only think of the hell Reese experienced – her own prison with no bars or locks, but one that held her just as fast as his 8'x10' cell in Pelican Bay. "Hate is a prison"he'd said at the AA meeting. It didn't really matter if you hated someone else or yourself. He listened as Dani spoke of her prison,
"You wanna know me? You never shot up in a room where a guy blew his head of and you're thinkin' you're lucky because he didn't get his brains in your dope or find yourself lying in a pool of vomit and crap only you didn't care whose crap it was cause the whole time you're thinking you're so sick all you wanted was to get off and get well –you know that about me? You think you hit bottom Rick? You have no idea how far down this goes do you? You think you're bad? You think you got a demon inside of you? You don't even know what that means. You understand that Rick?"
He knew she was talking to him not Larsen when she said she needed a "moment", so he gave her one and she laid that cocksucker Larsen out on the floor with an empty vodka bottle. He'd never been prouder of her. She was as strong as iron and when she left to walk out of that little slice of hell in front of all the people who would talk about it later – she'd allowed him to lend her his strength and stability. She muttered something about needing a moment being Zen and although he'd been tempted to – he couldn't bring himself to smile or agree with her.
In Charlie's head, his hands were still wrapped around Larsen's throat.
They'd pumped her stomach because she's consumed enough alcohol to kill three WWF wrestlers, but they couldn't keep her in the hospital. She'd walked right out the door and when the hospital called Crews knew where to find her - sitting in the frame of the door to her house – the one he'd kicked right off its hinges about four hours earlier. But no amount of stomach pumping could make her sober.
He remembered thinking how like a wild animal she was just then - any sudden move would spook her. He spoke to her in calm, even tones, displaying his hands open with his palms facing upward. "See it's just me, it's alright – I won't hurt you". She looked at him without seeing, eyes wild - until he willed her to see him - really see him. "Its just me, Charlie – you're safe now – it's okay" and when her dazed eyes finally focused and connected to his - the depth of pain there made him want to weep. He gathered her into his arms and carried to his very exotic, very fast and very dark car and took her home with him.
"Okay, get up and walk out now". This was her usual MO, Reese thought. "Just grab her stuff and leave, never look back". But this wasn't going to be one of those nameless, faceless, guys she would never see again and part of her needed to know just how bad she'd screwed up last night. Reese shifted on the bed, still pinned at that single point where he held her wrist and looked at Crews.
He was framed by sunlight coming in floor to ceiling window behind him. The light made his hair more fiery and the reddish hairs on his chest more noticeable. But what she noticed next was he was dressed, mostly. He lay atop, not under the covers in his grey sweats and socks. He smiled lazily after obviously sleeping as soundly as she had.
When Crews was sure she wouldn't bolt, he released her wrist, bent his left arm at the elbow and put his head in his open hand, propping his head up to examine her. He spoke only her name in a long drawn out question that hung in the air between them ….."Reese?"
Then nothing was said between them for what seemed like a long time, allowing Reese to examine her own state of dress and to closely examine the man laying close enough that she could still feel the warmth of his body on the bed next to her.
The first thing she noticed were the scars that littered his chest. Some white and old, some still pinkish and some what newer, each of a different length and angle, some with small dots on either side where stitches or staples had been applied to seal the wound. What had Stark said – 241 stitches? Jesus Christ…..
He sensed her examination and his eyes darkened, knowing she was seeing the violence in his past – the wounds he had given and the ones he had received. He wanted to move, to escape her questing eyes, but he knew that he'd seen her at her weakest and felt the desire to reciprocate somehow – giving her the same level of power over him. "You want to know me?" echoed in his head.
Reese finally made eye contact and he saw not pity, not fear, but admiration and respect. He was a survivor, like her, someone who had been down there who knew how far down "it" went and lived to fight another day. There were unshed tears, but recognition that burned them both to the core. This was another soul who knew pain and felt that same darkness chewing at the edges of their life.
Blinking she turned her examination to herself and noted she was wearing a very large, presumably expensive, long sleeve dress shirt that probably belonged to Crews over a white tank top she remembered wearing to the hospital and no pants, socks or shoes, but she was still wearing underwear. As the gears turned in her head, she finally gave up and just asked him "what the hell happened?"
Crews smiled softly and pushed himself to a seated position against the bed's headboard. "I don't know what you're thinking, but it isn't anything you need to worry about" he said gently. "When you left, the hospital called me. I found you home alone and brought you here where you'd be safe" he said with a finality that left no question. She could be certain that nothing occurred between them beyond sleep. She still had an instinct to flee, but knew her legs wouldn't support that kind of an adventure and sensed no immediate danger, so she settled for an non-committal response of "oh" and released the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding.
She could have sworn Crews chuckled as he rolled out of bed, explaining while he moved "I'm going to use the bathroom, brush my teeth and then leave the shower to you". He paused to see if she would agree "When you're done, we'll get breakfast and then go to the hardware store and get the stuff to fix your door. I'll take you home and repair the damage, so it will be safe for you to stay there."
Reese never moved, but her eyes followed him. Now alert to the situation, she was assessing how to extricate herself from it. Crews seemed to sense her discomfort and paused directing his clear blue eyes directly at her, pinning her to the spot. "You can stay here with me as long as you want to – I mean – I with me, but not with me….unless you want to. I mean I have lots of rooms, this house, my house, has lots of rooms where you can stay – here - if you want." His discomfort was nearly palpable and in spite of herself, she found herself assured and amused by his rambling lengthy speech. Reese smiled slightly and Crews smile broke into a large, toothy grin usually reserved for the discovery of some new and interesting fruit or Zen tidbit to torture her with.
Crews walked into what she assumed was the bathroom and seconds later she heard water running and teeth being vigorously brushed. She examined the room - not that there was much to see; her jeans were hung over a chair and she found it wiser not to think about how those got off. Crews emerged from the bath proclaiming he was "minty", smiling brightly.
She said "Christ Crews, between you smiling and the sun pouring through that window, I'm going to have a killer headache". When he produced a short glass of water and opened his palm to reveal two aspirin, she wanted to kiss him. Crews was pleased when his simple gesture earned him a smirk from Reese and while she downed the pills, he pulled an LAPD sweatshirt from his vast closet and handed her a fresh, fluffy, Egyptian cotton towel. Crews remarked absently, almost to himself "I like the light, but if you want…" he trailed off - offering to shutter the room – but Reese shook her head. Light was cleansing, it was good for both of them and she knew it. He quietly closed the door, disappearing down the stairs to give her some measure of privacy.
Reese wandered to the bathroom and was amazed to see almost no sembelance of a normal bathroom. Most surfaces were tiled or covered in marble and in addition to a large jetted bath tub; there was a standup shower with sprayers on three sides. She walked in, stripped and climbed into the shower. Turning the water on as hot as she could stand it, she stood under the jets letting the water wash over her. She thought back to the shower in that crack house on their very first case and how completely and quickly Crews grasped her panic about the coating of dope from the shotgun blast. She remembered his strong arms lifting her into the tub and holding her upright while she washed away the filth.
Finished showering Reese redressed in her underclothes, pulled on the oversized sweatshirt and rolled the sleeves up twice before giving up. She walked into the bedroom and pulled on her jeans and sneakers, before walking to the window and looking out across the city. From here you could see all the way to the ocean and then closer that sleek, black, fast foreign car that Crews whisked her away in last night. She could hear him whistling downstairs; the absence of furniture making the sound carry through the largely empty house. Now fully awake and sober, she reasoned there must be worse things than being saddled with an insanely rich partner with a big house, expensive cars and an unbridled passion for fruit.
Nearly a week had elapsed between that night and her first meeting. Dani stood and walked deliberately to the front of the room to proclaim she was powerless over her addiction to drugs and alcohol. Charlie stood in the back of the room, thinking she was the least powerless person he knew, but understanding the vacuum that darkness represented in a way few people in that room could truly appreciate. They both danced with the devil and now only standing "back to back" did they feel safe against the outside world.
Dani built a wall, but she had let him in. Charlie had attachment problems, but found himself attached to the most unlikely person, in the most unusual way. Sure she was Jack Reese's daughter, but she wasn't Jack Reese. She was his partner, the yin to his yang and perhaps the balance he was seeking. He would never be the unwobbling center of the universe, but when he could be an anchor for her. Some times around Dani, Charlie felt still and lived in that moment. He did not think about where is he was going next as long as she was going with him.