"Still Here Hoping That One Day You May Come Back"
Disclaimer: Don't own any Aaron Stone characters. Never will. Story title is from Noah and the Whale's "The First Day of Spring." Section titles are from The Gaslight Anthem's incredible song "We Did It When We Were Young."
Okay, I know it's been forever and a day since I last updated and I apologize for that. I had a REALLY hard time writing this chapter, mainly because of the second season of the show. I've seen a couple of episodes (random ones, not in order, which doesn't help) but I've had a hard time being interested in it for some reason. Charlie seems different and I'm not sure I like the comic store set up and the characters who come with it and I really want it to go back to the days of Charlie, Emma, Stan and Jason. I did see the series finale which did not wrap anything up, but I think that the writers didn't know it was the series finale so it's forgivable. Anyway, this is all to say that I had really bad writer's block and I'm sorry about that. This is the longest chapter yet. Does that make up for it a little bit? Maybe?
xxii. but i am older now, and we did it when we were young
"Could you pass the sugar?" the young man asked, his voice quiet, unobtrusive.
The redhead smiled as she picked up the shaker from the counter they were standing at. His eyes were downcast as to avoid hers, but she ducked down to meet them. "Here you go," she said, happily holding out her hand.
"Thanks," he mumbled, finally looking up. He took in her appearance. Dark green eyes so friendly he almost wanted to vomit. Auburn locks casually pulled back in a fastener, little hairs slipping out from every direction. And a tan turtleneck even though it was the middle of August. She was kind of a mess. And he could not look away.
She could though. Picking up her own mug of coffee, she headed back to her table where an open book laid waiting.
He didn't know what made him do it, but he followed her.
He never did things like that. Sure his college friends did and always encouraged him to get out there and try the dating scene, meet someone, hook up, fall in love. All that stuff he had never been very good at.
And yet, here he was.
"Is this seat taken?" he asked, trying to sound as if he was not hyperventilating at the thought of sitting next to this girl.
The girl looked up and around at the dozen of empty tables.
"Um, no I guess not."
"Thanks," he said, setting his cup on the table. The girl looked at him awkwardly for a moment, before turning back to her book.
"What are you reading?" he asked, as he reached for his bag to retrieve his own book.
"Oh, um," she said, as she held up her book so that he could read the title.
"The History of Love," he read aloud. "I've never heard of it. Is it good?"
She thought for a moment. "Yeah, it is. It's a little sad. I mean, it's about love so of course it's going to be sad, but. . ." she trailed off.
He shook his head. "What do you mean? Isn't love usually a happy thing?"
She paused again. "Reciprocated love is happy. Love that occurs at the right time is happy. But so often things don't work out. That's why it's sad. I mean, can you imagine being in love with someone but not being able to be with them? To love them your whole life, even when you know that there is no chance that it will work out between you? But to also know that no matter what you do, you can't erase that person from your heart? It's devastating."
He stared at her, as if he was seeing her for the first time, even though the first time he had seen her was only moments before.
She looked down at her book and blushed. "Sorry. My sisters always tell me I talk too much."
"No," he said sincerely, "You don't."
They sat in silence for a minute before she nudged her head towards his book. "What are you reading?"
Mirroring her actions from before, he held up his book.
She read the title. "Critical Essays on 'Battlestar Galatica'. Wait, isn't that a sci-fi TV show?"
"And people write critical essays on it?"
He nodded again.
"And you read them."
"Wow," she said smiling. "You're a dork."
He smiled back, feeling a bit more comfortable. "Technically we prefer the term 'geek.'"
"Oh," she nodded, knowingly. "Geek."
"Yes," he said, a small smile slipping onto his face.
They continued talking for the better part of an hour. Like him, she was a recent college graduate, somewhat unsure about the future and what might come next. While he had an internship with a well known physicist lined up, she hadn't made any formal plans. But listening to her talk about what she might want to do someday, even if that someday was a long way off, he couldn't help but be envious of her vision for her life. She wanted to be a counselor. To help people through their everyday lives, to help them make their lives better. He had never been that sure about anything.
"I don't know if I could listen to people talk about their problems for hours on end," he said finally of her future career.
She nodded slightly. "Why don't you think you could do it?"
"It would be so depressing. People have a lot of crap going on in their lives. I don't need to know about it."
"Maybe. It depends on your outlook on life I think. Why do you think your outlook is so opposed to a counseling lifestyle?"
"I don't know. . . wait a minute! Are you trying to counsel me right now?" he exclaimed.
She smiled as she raised an eyebrow. "Maybe."
He laughed a full laugh. One he hadn't done in a long, long time. He nodded approvingly. "You'll be great."
They fell into a comfortable silence.
"Well, geek, would you like some more coffee?" she said eventually, lowering her tone. "I come here so often that Bart lets me have free refills."
He looked down at his half empty cup. "Sure, thanks." He watched her walk up to the counter as if the small shop was her home.
A few minutes later she sat back down. "I got you 'Jamaican Me Crazy.' It's my favorite. You'll have to let me know what you think."
"Will do," he said, taking a sip.
They both went back to reading, pages turning almost in sync with the smooth jazz that poured out of the stereo system.
A half an hour later the girl slipped her book in her bag and got up to leave. His head snapped up as he watched her walk away, helpless to bring her back.
Suddenly she stopped and walked back to him. "I come here a lot, so I might see you again and I just realized that I don't even know your name. I'm Laura." She stuck out her hand.
Standing and shaking her hand, his eyes met hers once again. "Elias."
xxiii. there are no reasons to believe : i buried my faith in another plot
"That's them. Over there." Stan said from his position low in his seat.
"Are you sure?" Charlie asked. He held up the photograph. "The little girl looks a lot older."
"She is older. Kindergarten aged, I think. Our intel said that that photo was taken almost three years ago. It's them, Charlie."
"Okay, let's do this," he said, hand reaching for the car door handle.
"Wait," Emma said from the backseat. She had been strangely quiet for the entire ride.
Charlie turned and looked at her.
Emma searched his eyes for a moment. She knew those eyes so, so well. Chocolate brown. Friendly. Usually so calm and collected. But at that moment, his eyes were cloudy, as if Charlie was in some sort of daze.
"Emma, what is it?" Charlie asked, impatiently.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" she asked firmly. Emma knew that if anyone was going to get through to him, she had to be the one.
He looked away briefly and then leaned forward.
"Emma, I have to do this. And I can't do it if you are constantly questioning me. I need your support, I need you. . ." he paused, his voice breaking just a little. "I need you backing me up here. You said you were with me no matter what."
"I am, Charlie!" she exclaimed, louder than she had intended. Stan snapped his head around at her voice. "But it's also my job to make sure you are sure about this. Eight hours ago you were completely against this idea. You talked me out of it. So I'm going to ask you again, are you certain you want to do this?"
"I am," Charlie said, resolutely, turning back in his seat.
"Okay," she said quietly, nodding.
He placed two small plugs in his ears, reached for the door handle and stepped out of the car. Emma plugged her own ears with the small bits Stan had given them and followed behind.
They approached the school bus stop where the red haired woman and her young daughter stood. Thankfully no other children or parents had arrived yet.
"Mrs. Greene said that the field trip will be next week and yesterday Brandon asked if he could sit next to me on the bus," the girl was saying. "But I don't want to sit next to him and I don't have to, right?"
The woman smiled, "Of course not. You can sit next to whoever you want."
The girl grinned back.
Charlie cleared his throat, catching the attention of the woman and girl.
"Laura Powers?" he asked.
"Yes?" she questioned, instinctively pulling her daughter closer.
"I'm going to have to ask you and your daughter to come with us," Charlie said.
"Who are you?" Laura asked, her brow furrowed.
"It's best if you ask questions later," Emma said, pulling a small device from her pocket.
Laura started stepping backwards, pulling her daughter with her. "We're not going anywhere with you."
Charlie turned and gave Emma a slight nod. With the push of a few buttons, a small signal emitted from the device and both Laura and her daughter dropped to the sidewalk, unconscious. Stan quickly drove the car around as Charlie and Emma loaded their new detainees into it.
Hurriedly they hopped into the car, as Stan drove off into the daylight.
"I've never committed a crime before," Emma whispered.
"It's a new day for all of us," Charlie commented, coldly, removing the plugs from his ears.
Stan continued driving for several hours before announcing that they needed to pull over for gas. Emma propped a pillow under Laura's head to make it appear that she and her daughter were sleeping.
"Just in case anyone at the gas station sees them," she explained.
Stan pulled the car over by the gas pump and Charlie hurried out. "I'm going to the restroom," he said.
Stan shot a look at Emma, so she followed him.
Slowly she opened the sketchy bathroom door. "Charlie?" she called out, as she took in the graffiti covered walls.
He was hunched over the sink, splashing water onto his face. He jumped when she approached him. "Emma! This is the men's room. You're not supposed to be in here."
"I know," she said quietly. "I just wanted to make sure you're okay."
"I'm fine," he said, his voice absent of any emotion.
"Yeah, and I'm the Queen of England." She searched his face for any sign of his true state. "Tell me. What is it?" she said, reaching up to touch his face.
He leaned into her touch which she considered to be a good sign. He closed his eyes. "I have to stay guarded. Otherwise, I won't be able to finish this. I . . . I can't have any emotions."
She shook her head. "That's not true. You have to stay in touch with your emotions. That's what makes you different from him. Your emotions are what make you you."
He didn't respond so she tried another approach.
"Charlie, look at me."
He finally opened his eyes to meet her gaze.
"You will never be like him. You can't. It's not in you. So don't do this, this thing where you retreat into your own head. We can't win if you're all up here," she said pointing to his head. "We need this too," she said, placing her palm on his chest, over his heart.
"Okay," he whispered. He took a deep breath. "I'll try."
She smiled, "That's all I wanted to hear." Emma grabbed his hand and led him out of the restroom.
He stopped her right outside of the car. "I haven't even asked how you're doing. Talk about being the worst boy—" he stopped himself short of saying the word boyfriend. With everything going on, they hadn't really talked about labels. "Er, friend ever," he said, recovering.
He saw a flash of something reflect on Emma's face, a mixture of hurt and something that looked like understanding. She touched his arm. "I'm fine," she said, echoing his earlier words, as she got into the backseat.
Mentally kicking himself, he looked up at the sky, a swirl of purple and pink, clouds and sunset, and got into the car.
Some time later, when the pinky sky had melted into a dark midnight, Charlie turned and looked at Powers' family. They looked so normal. How could this nice young woman have been married to Elias Powers? How could she had fallen in love with him? How does one love someone so evil? Turning back to watch the road pass beneath them, Charlie realized that maybe he didn't really know anything about love.
Love. Just the thought of the word made him feel scared and exhilarated at the same time. And he couldn't help but think that it all had to do with a certain weapons specialist who was asleep in the back seat.
"What are you smiling at over there?" Stan asked, curious.
Charlie straightened up. "Oh, um, nothing." He stretched his arms. "Where are we going anyway, Stan?"
Stan shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Right. That. We're almost there actually. We've located Powers. He's planning on arriving at—"
Suddenly Charlie recognized his surroundings.
"Stan. We're going home?" Charlie asked, incredulously.
"Shh!" Stan exclaimed, motioning to the backseat. "Yes, we are going home. We think Powers was planning on attacking your family tonight. Before you say anything else," he said, holding up a hand to silence Charlie's protests, "we've moved them. Dan 'won' a free weekend getaway and convinced your mother and Jason to go with him, as a thank you for their hospitality."
Charlie let out a breath he wasn't aware he was holding. "So they aren't home?"
"No. But Powers doesn't know that."
Charlie sat thoughtful for a moment. "All of this running only to wind up right back here," he said, as Stan pulled in the familiar driveway.
"Back here to fix things. To make everything right again," Stan gently corrected him.
"Yes, to make everything right again," Charlie repeated, as if trying to convince himself.
Stan reached over and gently squeezed his shoulder. "Let's go face Elias Powers, Aaron Stone."
Charlie smiled at the mention of his name. Aaron Stone.
xxiv. we were strangers many hours . . . and i missed you for so long
"Ready?" Emma asked.
Charlie checked the knots on the ropes holding Laura's hands and those on her daughter.
"Yes," he said. Emma pressed a few buttons on the device they had used earlier and another small signal woke Powers' family.
Laura looked up groggily. "Where am I?" she asked.
Charlie looked around. Even with only one dim light on, his living room was just as he had remembered it. Pictures of him and Jason at various ages. A vase holding fresh flowers on the coffee table. Jason's video game equipment lining the floor around the television. It was comforting and unsettling at the same time. Even though their living area looked the same, he couldn't help but question how much had changed within his family since his "death." Probably a lot.
"Anna? Anna?" Laura called out. "Where's my daughter?" she demanded.
"I'm right here, mommy," the little girl called out from next to her. Her chair was slightly behind Laura's, enough that she couldn't see her.
"Are you okay, baby?"
"Mmhmm," Anna responded.
"Why are you doing this to us?" Laura pressed.
Emma turned to look at Charlie. He knew he needed to be the one to explain this.
"We're not doing it to you, per say," he began. "It's more because of someone in your life."
Laura looked confused for a moment before recognition passed over her features. She closed her eyes. "Elias. What have you gotten us into now?"
"Listen, I'm Charlie. This is Emma. We don't mean any harm to you or your daughter. It's just that Powers has. . . he's threatened me and my family and the only way to make him stop, to end all of this was to involve you. We don't want to hurt you at all. We just needed a bargaining chip," Charlie half-apologized.
"A bargaining chip? A bargaining chip? My daughter and I are not a bargaining chip," Laura stated.
"No, no. I didn't mean it like that," Charlie said, flustered. He turned to Emma for help.
"Laura. Anna. We don't want to hurt you. We just need him to remove the threat against Charlie's family. Then both of you'll be free to go," Emma supplemented.
"I don't know anything."
"What?" Charlie asked.
"I don't know anything. About his plans or what he intends to do to your family. I haven't seen Elias in almost two years. Anna barely remembers her father. Why are you bringing us into this? We have no part in it," Laura stated.
"I know, it's just. . ." Charlie began.
"No, you don't know. You have no idea what it's been like." She paused, eyes downcast. "He wasn't always like this you know. He was kind, funny, gentle. All of that changed when Eliana was killed," she said quietly.
"Who's Eliana?" Emma asked.
"Who's Eliana? You really don't know anything, do you? Eliana is, was, Elias's twin sister."
"There was nothing in his file of a twin sister," Stan said, entering the room.
"Well, there probably wasn't much of a file before her death, now was there?" Laura said, her voice raising with every word. "Eliana worked for some sort of organization. I never knew what it was. CIA maybe. FBI. Something. She was just as smart as Elias, so it was really no surprise that she would work for the government. They thought she was a double agent. So she went off the grid to clear her name. Elias spent a year looking for her and for evidence that would save her reputation. A year that was pure hell for me and Anna. He was completely consumed with finding her. Nothing else mattered. Not Anna saying her first words or taking her first steps. He didn't care about anything else. One day he had a breakthrough. He stumbled across some information about her location. He must of hacked into some government database or something, but by the time he got there she was dead.
"That was it. He flew home and began working even more profusely than before on something he wouldn't tell me about. I searched his home office one night when he was sleeping and found what looked like to be an anti-government plan. He found me looking through his things and told me that it was our own government that had killed Eliana. That she was innocent but that they killed her anyway. And he packed his things. He said he couldn't do what he needed to do with us around. I begged him to stay, to go back to the way things used to be. Back to when we were young and in love and got married and had Anna. But he told me things could never go back to what they were. That this was how things were now. And he left. I haven't seen him since," she finished, two tears barreling down her cheeks.
No one said anything.
"So you see? I can't help you. He doesn't care about us. You can't use us as a bargaining chip or whatever you plan to do. He wouldn't trade anything for us," she concluded.
Charlie, Emma, and Stan exchanged a look. Powers had been their enemy for so long, it was difficult to think of him in any other light. But what if Eliana had been Jason? Charlie thought to himself. Wouldn't Charlie have sacrificed everything to find him?
It was a lot to take in, but he couldn't think of that for too long. Because at that moment, Anna looked behind where they were standing and exclaimed, "Daddy!"
A/N: Thanks to all my faithful readers. If you're still reading this, you are amazing and I appreciate it. Please review and love to all.