With thanks, as always, to recoilandgrace and #LTMTEAMAWESOME. xx

Lyrics from 'Candy' by Paolo Nutini *snigger* ;)


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I'm a heartless man at worst, babe, and a helpless man at best.
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She thought it was just the storm at first, the thunder having already woken her a few times during the night. She sighed into the pillow, pleading for a peaceful couple of hours until work. The thunder clapped again, low in the sky and rumbling heavily right above her house, or so it sounded.

Lightning.

Thunder.

Lightning, thunder...and something else. Something definitely not the storm, she decided. Her eyes were suddenly wide awake, her entire body stilling as she waited for whatever it was to sound again.

Her heart was fluttering furiously against her chest when it happened again, muffled through the closed bedroom door but loud enough for her to hear. Her hand crept over the mattress and into the bedside cabinet drawer. It stilled when she heard a voice accompany the noise: Cal's voice.

She threw the covers to the side and grabbed her robe as she padded through the house.

If the storm had not yet woken the neighbors, his clenched fists on her front door certainly would. She flicked on the hall light and nudged the net aside, peering at him through the window. He was swaying beneath the porch light, his hair dripping and clothes soaked through to his skin.

Her brow knitted into confusion as she unlocked the deadbolts and chains and swungthe door open to a gust of cold, fresh air. "Cal?" she croaked, clearing the grogginess from her throat. "What's wrong?"

"I justwanted to... to say that," he wiped his hand over his face, the rain spraying from his fingers when his arm dropped back to his side. "I've enjoyed our friendship. Thanks for everything." He turned on his heel and took a step back into the rain.

"Wait...whatare you talking about?" she asked, opening the door for him to pass her into the house.

He looked back over his shoulder but kept walking into the rain-soaked night.

"Cal? Cal!" She grabbed her raincoatfrom the hook and slammed the door behind her. The storm was beating onto the sidewalk, the puddles deeper than she anticipated in her bare feet. "Cal, would you stop?"

He turned on his heel, watching her chase after him through the voids of orange light from the street lamps.

"What are you talking about? You've 'enjoyed our friendship?'" She almost shouted above the storm. She folded her arms over her chest, closing the jacket around her. Her head was dipped slightly, letting the water run off the peak of her hood.

He was absolutely soaked and barely flinched when the lightening illuminated the sky, followed closely behind by another resounding clap of thunder. The rain was dripping from his hair, his eyelashes, his stubble. "It won't be long 'til you leave too," he shrugged. "Thought you should know that."

"Cal, what the hell are you talking about? I'm not going anywhere!"

"Sure you are. Everybody leaves," He shoved his hands in his pockets, his shoulders dipping even more, his back curving into a pronounced slouch.

She was used to his posture; she admired how he managed to make it exude confidence and cockiness in spite of its laid back connotations. But now it just screamed defeat. "I told Torres once that..." his feet shuffled in the stream of water that flowed down the street, "that I only trusted three people in the world implicitly. Jeffrey Buchanan, Terry Marsh... and you.

"Well," he raked a hand through his sodden hair, "Jeff and Terry have gone so, y'know... You've stuck around a hell of a lot longer than any of them did. Sequentially, I mean. So it's gotta be time for, for something to happen to take you away from me. I wouldn't blame you, I wouldn't. So... thank you." He waved his hand down the path she'd just taken, "Go back inside."

He turned to leave again, but she grabbed his arm and spun him back to her. "Cal, I'm not going anywhere. I promise you."

His chest pumped as he gave a humorless snort.

"Hey," he placed her hand on his cheek, the days worth of stubble prickling her palm as she forced his eyes to meet hers. "I mean it. I'm not going anywhere."

Her whole body practically deflated when he finally looked at her; the sadness, the vulnerability, the almost fear that spoke to her from one look. She threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly as the rain continued to fall around them. Her hands were lost in her sleeves, but her fingers were splayed across his back, feeling him lower his head to her shoulder.

He fed his arms around her waist, holding her tightly to him.

She jumped when the thunder exploded above them. "Come on," she pulled away, her hands clasping his arms. "Let's get you dried off."

He really held on, squeezing her as he buried his face in her shoulder. "I promise," she whispered. She pulled away, "Come on, let's get you dried off..."

He flicked his collar up as he fell into step with her, her arm winding around his as she guided him back to her home.