Chapter 19--The final chapter of this older FF story...I hope you enjoy it and thanks for reading it and your patience and the comments!
C.J. recovered from her bullet wound just as she had recovered from the rest of them, given that she mended quickly. She drove the doctors crazy at the hospital wanting to leave while she still needed to heal and on the day she left, the harried doctor looked at both her and Matt and told them he never wanted to see either one of them again. Matt of course had wanted her to stay with him at his beach house to recuperate but C.J. knew if she did that, he would never give her a moment's peace. Thankfully, Gracie stepped in and said that she would stay with C.J. a while longer and help her out. C.J. mouthed a thanks to her former sorority sister.
She wanted some time to be alone so she could process the feelings that she had for her best friend and Gracie understood that.
"He's quite a guy you know," Gracie said one morning over breakfast," You must think so too since you took a bullet for him."
C.J. played with her omelet with her fork. Her appetite had come back quickly enough but she didn't like where Gracie was going in this conversation.
"He's my best friend," she said, "And yes, I think he's more than that but I don't want to jump into anything."
"Like you jumped into his bed in Tahiti."
C.J. smiled, sipping her orange juice.
"I did, didn't I?"
"And from what I hear from him, he's not complaining about it."
"He wants a physical relationship," C.J. said, "But what happens when he doesn't?"
Gracie shook his head.
"Of course he does. He's a guy and you're a beautiful woman," she said, "But he's a guy who is in love with you and that's different. You know that."
C.J. weighed her friend's words.
"I think I do," she said, "but that's now, what about the future? I couldn't face losing him as a friend if things didn't work out."
"All relationships involve taking risks," Gracie pointed out, "But I think the odds are with both of you if you ever get your acts together and just take it from there."
C.J. thought about that too. Both wanting something so much but being afraid at the same time which wasn't really like her at all. But her relationship built with Matt through a lifetime of friendship was just too important. Still Tahiti had been the best time of her life, spent in the arms of the man that she had loved and been in love with longer than she could admit.
"I'll talk to him later…after the party."
Matt had told C.J. that he wanted to give her a welcome home party and she had said that would be fine so he had picked today and it would be held at the office, with their friends and coworkers. Uncle Roy would be bringing Sophia and some of his culinary delights. Hoyt, his family, Jason and his girlfriend would be there too as would Elizabeth before she headed back home. C.J. had told Matt she hadn't wanted to make a huge fuss about getting out of the hospital and going back to work but she knew he probably hadn't listened much. After all, he was Texan born and raised.
Both she and Gracie dressed to get ready for the party and C.J. decided against going casual as she planned and put on a summer dress. A heat wave had returned to the City of Angels and she and Gracie had spent most of her recovery period at the beach. They drove down to the office, and sure enough when they got off the elevator, they saw that the suite had been elaborately decorated, music was playing and the guests had already begun to arrive. Elizabeth sat on the couch with a more subdued Ginger and Hoyt's young daughter was playing the piano with Murray. Matt and his uncle were laying out food and serving drinks at the wet bar but when Matt saw her, he left his task and walked over to her. They embraced and he kissed her on the cheek before taking her hand and announcing her arrival to the guests. Then he insisted that she sit down and rest.
She snorted at that.
"Houston, I'm perfectly fine," she said, "Stop treating me as if I were fragile."
"C.J., you just got out of the hospital a week ago," he protested, "You need to take it easy."
"You need to knock it off already," she said, "I'm only resting for another week and then I'm coming back to work."
"You'll still have your stitches."
She put her hands on her hips.
"Since when has that ever stopped you," she said, "You're constantly having to have yours redone."
He stopped talking, knowing that she had him there but he still worried that she might overexert herself.
"Fine but I'm confining you to desk duty," he said, before she could protest.
To his surprise, she nodded.
"Okay fine, one week behind a desk but then I'm coming back."
He chuckled at her determination and resisted the urge to touch her. Although he had spent time with her after she had left the hospital, he still didn't know where he stood with her. He remembered what she had said to him in her hospital bed but since then, she'd been keeping him at a distance. This was difficult for him because he wanted to pick up where they left off in Tahiti but he respected her wishes. Although her shapely form sheathed by her dress made that difficult…
"Houston, what's the matter?"
He looked at her and picked up his drink.
"Hmmm…nothing… though that's a pretty dress you're wearing."
"Thank you," she said, "I did think of throwing on a pair of worn jeans and a shirt but I decided to do something differently today."
"I'm glad you did," he said, "I on the other hand…"
"I know you hate tuxedos and I didn't want you to put one on for me so what you have on looks…just fine."
Houston smiled, knowing she spoke the truth by what he saw in her eyes. He had thought about it, but decided to follow C.J.'s wishes and keep the party casual…except for the décor of course.
The party continued for more hours and everyone had a great time. As it begun to unwind, Gracie and Sophia were in the kitchen putting things away with Chris. Ginger hadn't gotten too drunk and Elizabeth was set to drive her back to the hotel. C.J. said goodbye to both of them and had embraced Elizabeth wishing her well in her life. She stuck to saying goodbye to Ginger from a distance and the older woman grudgingly returned the favor. It was clear the two of them would never be great friends but Ginger had dropped her plans to file assault charges against C.J. for the night of the gala.
"It's been nice," Ginger said, "But let's not do this any time soon."
Elizabeth shot C.J. another smile and the two women walked off. C.J. shook her head and took off her heels as she joined Gracie in the kitchen.
"What are you doing in here," her friend said, holding a dish, "You're supposed to be relaxing."
C.J. blew a strand of hair off her face.
"Will you lay off," she said, "I can help with the cleaning up."
"Matt's out talking with Hoyt and Jason about that hit man who shot you," Gracie said.
"I crossed paths with him at Harvard a time or two," she said, "It's funny how life turns out."
"Well, the case has been closed on him," Gracie said, "And they made a few other arrests based on a CD they found on him. They were apparently bioterrorists who were working with others to launch attacks on different venues in this country."
C.J.'s eyes widened.
"Wow," she said, "He seemed very disgruntled in our brief conversation before he shot me."
"They're breaking up the entire ring," Gracie said, "Once again, you and Matt saved the day."
Maybe, C.J. thought to herself, only knowing she was glad it was over and they could put this episode behind them.
Later, after Gracie had left her alone with some excuse to check out a jazz act for her own business, C.J. had poured herself some of Roy's juice and walked out on the helipad to check out the expansive view of L.A., a city that could sleep peacefully now that a terrorist plot had apparently been averted by the death of one of her own college mates. She enjoyed the blinking lights that were displayed in front of her up to the horizon and sipped from her drink, thoughtfully.
She heard the footsteps behind her.
"Mind if I join you?"
She smiled and shook her head and soon enough, Matt stood beside her looking out at the city.
"Makes me feel tiny up here," he said, "In the face of all that."
"I think that's why I come here when I'm thinking about something."
"Me too," Matt said, "And I've got something on my mind right now."
"I'm not going to push you into anything you're not ready for or don't want," he said, "but when I nearly lost you the other night…"
She turned to face him.
"It's not about what I want or don't want," she said, "I don't want you to base a decision on fear of losing someone."
"Do you think that's what this is about," he asked.
She thought about it and then slowly shook her head.
"No I don't," she said, "You were the one who wanted to change our relationship. I was the one who held back."
"C.J., no matter what happens to us, it's never going to change the way I feel about you," he said, "I just think that we have the chance to build something better and I'd like to take it."
She turned away to look at the horizon again.
"It just scares me," she said, "To want something so much and yet…"
"You feel like it's going to be taken from you," he said, "Like your father was when you were a little girl."
"How did you…"
"I remember that conversation we had when you were seeing Robert," he said, "and what you told me, but I'm not going anywhere."
"You could get killed tomorrow," she said, "God, now I sound like Elizabeth."
"Anything could happen to either one of us, but we can't be afraid to live," he said, "and I've never seen you like this about life."
"It's different with you," she said, "I look at you and I want so many things. I want to build that life with you. I want to experience everything with you. I want a home. I want children… but is that what you really want?"
"More than anything," he said, "I've been thinking about that since we got back when I haven't been chasing bad guys."
She bit her lip.
"Me too," she said, "and that scared me especially when I thought I might be pregnant. For the second time in two years by two different men."
"I would have been there with you," he said.
She knew that to be true. After all when she thought she might be pregnant with Robert's child, she had never felt more alone. She had been nursing a broken heart after she had worked with Matt to set up her boyfriend and send him to prison. The thought that she might be carrying his child had nearly broken her but when she had finally told Matt, he had been there for her every step of the way whatever she decided, even if it was to raise the child. She had found out soon after that she hadn't been pregnant and life had gone forward.
"I know," she said, "and part of me was disappointed when the tests came back negative."
He furrowed his brow.
She reached for his hand and took it in hers.
"I do really want this," she said, "but I want to start back at the beginning."
He looked puzzled and then he brightened.
"You mean you want me to ask you out?"
"Well isn't that how it usually goes?"
He thought about that and nodded.
"Okay," he said, "I'll tell you what, I'll get my secretary to call your secretary and set up a date…"
She laughed and pulled him away with her walking to the penthouse.
"We'll skip the middlemen and you've got a deal."
He smiled at her and drew her closer to him as they walked back inside the suite and towards their new life.