Set after episode 13.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.


He stretches. Leans back with his arms above his head, fingers lock. Lets out a content sigh with the various relieving pops of his joints.

His arms fall back to his sides, holding on to the rim of the stool he's sitting on.

He doesn't know how late it is. It's late, definitely late, but he was awake. Finishing a painting, adding the last dashes of color.

The subject matter is something even he doesn't understand. To him, it's just obtuse shapes and conflicting colors. But, it's liked so he keeps working his magic.

With the last flick of his wrist, he drops the paint lathered brush into dirty water and decides he'll clean it later. Like, after he sleeps for a few hours.

Which is what Tyler was planning to do. Sleep. Oh the wondrous sleep.

But, luck was not on his side.

A knock sounds at his door and he groans. Automatically annoyed.

Altering his direction he looks longingly at the messy bed and frowns at the door. Who would be here this late?

Ah.

Her.

He drops the frown. (He really can't help it- it's an automatic reaction to somehow brighten a bit when she walks into a room.)

Looks her over.

Frowns again.

"I'm sorry." She says right off the bat. She's not smiling, he's not detecting any sarcasm. Something's wrong.

She's not herself. Tyler can tell that instantly as his grip on the metal doorknob turns moist with worry. What's wrong? He can't seem to ask.

Candace isn't looking at him, she's looking through him with strangely empty eyes. She's wringing the ties of her coat between fidgeting fingers and he can't do anything but look at her.

"I'm sorry." She repeats, coming back to herself. Something he can't name flashes across her eyes when they connect with his. She turns away, walks away. "I shouldn't have come. Sorry."

"Candace." That's all he says, his brows furrow and his arm reaches out to grab her elbow.

She's still. Stone still. And quiet.

"What's going on?" He asks, tugging at her arm until she's facing him. He's frantic when he questions, "Should I call Alex?"

Her eyes are shiny now, welling with tears. She shakes her head mutely. Her hair, already in a disarray slaps at her reddening cheeks.

She takes a shuddering breath. At any other time, he'd think it was his doing but he sees her tears and knows otherwise. Her brown eyes don't look at him but up, willing the water not to cascade into a waterfall.

"I didn't know where else to go." She finally says and it's so quiet he almost missed it. Roughly, angrily, she swats at her eyes. "I shouldn't've come."

He's pulling her in now. Into his loft. Into his arms. He doesn't make anymore advances. Leans against the closed door with Candace sniffling in his arms.

"What happened?"

She doesn't answer for a long time.

"I spoke to my ex today. Finally got up the courage to do so." She pulls back and shows him her watery smile. But it's broken and broken things fade away. He wants to tune this conversation out. What guy wants to know about a girl's ex? But he doesn't because he's being dependable. "Lindsey told me I should probably try. So I did."

"And?" He prompts, in the back of his mind he notes that he's probably covered in paint and her clothes are going to be ruined after this. But he doesn't remove his arms from her form.

"We argued. A lot. He's still angry at me and doesn't understand. He's hurt and I get that. But still, it hurts, you know?"

He doesn't know if he should actually answer and settles for a bob of the head.

She shifts. Her enclosed arms move against his chest as she rubs her nose. Wipes her face. He realizes he's drawing on her back. Soothing circles with a forefinger.

"I didn't want to be alone." She continues and tears thicken her voice. "So, I went to talk to Lindsey. Her door is always opened for this kinda stuff. Us girls gotta stick together." A watery hiccup-laugh.

"But her door was locked." Her voice goes high on the last word and his first reaction is to pull her closer. "Her door is never locked unless she's on overnight trips so I just used my key…" She trails off, her voice hitching and she can't continue.

One of his hands smoothes her hair. Her face presses against his chest, just under his chin. He can feel warm and wet and he starts slowly leading her, step by slow step to the bed.

Not for anything dirty. Though, at another time, under different circumstances, it would be a different matter.

She's sitting and talking, "Lindsey isn't there. The house is cleared out, Tyler. She's gone." A fresh round makes their trek down her cheeks and from his kneel position in front of her, he uses his thumb to make them disappear. "She didn't even say anything to me." Under his hand, he feels the movement of her jaw and he cups her face.

"Shh." He whispers making her look directly in his eyes, "We'll figure this out." He tells her, convinces her.

Soon she's asleep on his bed. It's too late to send her home and she's too emotionally distressed to be able to make the journey.

And part of him doesn't want her to leave.

When she's dead asleep, he undoes her coat and slides it off along with her boots and covers her with his comforter.

Studies her a moment. Something in his heart wrenches at the sight. From how perfect she looked in his bed or from how upset he is that she's upset, he doesn't know.

But both are two things that are true.

Despite the late hour, he makes a call. Moving to the other side of the loft, careful not to make too much noise.

"Alex, it's me. Call me when you get this. It's important."

That's all he says before ending the call and moving back to the girl.

He debates with himself. Sleep next to her (it is his bed after all) or take the couch.

He ends up on the couch. She's already having a freak out and he doesn't want to deal with another one because of something so trivial.

Tyler finds it ironic. Candace sleeps over, in his bed and he's both fully clothed and on the couch. He's a bit bitter in the matter but, if it makes her happy…

-.-.-

In the morning, he aches but he gets to see Candace momentarily forget her troubles to yell at him. Like any other day.

But, today, he can say he was the first to see her.

And that's enough.

For now.


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