Epilogue: Two Years Later
Carol stirred lazily under her thick down comforter, rolling over she saw that a layer of frost had accumulated on the window. It looked like a cold forbidding day outside but inside it was almost soporifically cozy. It was Saturday and her first day off in what felt like forever. She had just wrapped a long and involved murder case with the Bradfield CID and felt she had earned a bit of a lie in.
She finally forced herself out of bed almost tripping over Nelson as he meowed at her feet weaving in and out between her legs. She bent down and scratched under his chin causing him to purr contentedly.
"Good morning. I bet you're getting hungry." She said. She had collected him from Michael as soon as she had arrived back in the country. It wasn't until she brought him to the new flat that she fully realized how very good it felt to be back in familiar surroundings.
She crossed to the bathroom brushing her teeth and washing her face. As she toweled off her face she paused to survey her reflection in the mirror. Aside from a small scar by her left eye and thin white line that ran across the side of her neck she looked like her old self again.
She still had the occasional nightmare or flashback but those had steadily dissipated since she had testified at McMurphy's trial and finally seen him locked up. It had taken her longer than she had expected but she had found her way back to herself, slowly rebuilding the sense of security and confidence that had been shattered. She had done it and she was a better detective for it.
She headed to the kitchen pausing to look into the windowed nook that had long ago become Tony's study. He was already hard at work slaving over a mountain of students' papers that he had neglected while assisting on the case.
It had taken them a while to adjust to seeing each other without the intensity and pressure of a case always driving them forward, but with time they had acclimated to each other's habits. They had both grown to love the unfamiliar feeling of coming home to someone and being with someone who understood what they did and the odd hours it required.
Saying "I love you" hadn't miraculously changed everything. It had still been another six months before Carol was able to get everything arranged to return to Bradfield. Neither of them had suddenly become adept at sharing their feelings and there had been several speed bumps as they navigated the murky waters between being friends and lovers. They still fought each other for control, still clashed over cases, and still occasionally pushed the other away, but now it was done without the constant fear of scaring the other person away for good. They had moved in together a year ago and neither of them had ever felt more stimulated personally or professionally.
"Hey you." Carol said wrapping her arms around Tony's shoulders and kissing the side of his neck. He was sitting at his desk facing the window with his back to her.
"Good morning." He said turning his face to be kissed.
"How's it going?" She asked eyeing the stack of papers.
Tony groaned in response. "If this is the future of psychology I should probably just get out now. This kid has incorrectly interchanged Disassociative Identity Disorder and Paranoid Schizophrenia five times now. Five times, Carol! They aren't even that similar of disorders and I am only ten pages in." Carol couldn't help but grin at his exasperated expression. For some reason, picturing Tony as a professor still always struck her as comical.
"Sorry Dr. Hill, the price you pay for your fancy title." She said giving "Dr." a ridiculous amount of emphasis.
"Shut it, you," He said returning her smile, "Just once I should make you read some of these and see how long you last."
"Makes dealing with homicidal maniacs feel like a walk in the park does it?"
"At least I don't have to worry about them boring me to death."
"Do you want more coffee?" She asked eyeing the empty mug on the desk.
"Yes please." Tony said handing her the mug and looking just short of slamming his head down on the desk.
Carol walked to the kitchen, dumping out the dregs of the early morning pot and starting a fresh one. She scooped some cat food into Nelson's waiting dish before moving to the kitchen window and staring out at the snow covered yard. She had always liked the way snow seemed to change the world, coating everything in a thick layer of white and shutting away most of the world's troubles behind closed doors. It somehow made everything seem safe and quiet. After a few minutes Tony came and joined her at the window wrapping his arms around her waist.
"Did you give up?" She asked leaning back against him.
"No, I just realized there were other things that I would rather be doing." He said resting his chin on her shoulder and she covered one of his hands with hers. They stood like that for a long time in companionable silence, each alone with their own thoughts.
After a while Carol noticed that Tony's fingers had found the scar on her stomach and were absently running over its uneven edges. She knew from experience that this always meant that his thoughts had taken a melancholy turn.
"What are you thinking?" She asked wrapping her fingers through his and gently pulling his hand away.
"Sorry." He said realizing what he had been doing.
"It's okay. It just always means that there is something on your mind."
"Can't give the detecting a rest even on your day off can you?" Tony said with a grin, clearly evading but not shutting down.
"Oh, like you don't use your psychologist tricks on me from time to time." Carol said with a laugh, disentangling herself and going to pour them each a cup of coffee.
"They're not tricks." Tony said defensively. Carol arched an eyebrow at him and he relented. "Fair enough, let's call it even." He said with a shrug as they headed into the living room and settled into their usual seats on the comfortably worn sofa. He took a sip of his coffee.
"Yours always tastes so much better than it does when I make it," He said shaking his head, "I was just thinking that sometimes I can't believe we actually made it here."
"We certainly took the long way around." Carol agreed wondering where he was going with this.
"Do you think our relationship 'damaged' you?" Tony asked.
"Damaged?" Carol questioned feeling herself get a bit irritated. "Tony, where is this coming from?"
"It was something that Alex said to me a long time ago and its always bothered me."
Carol sat for a second considering the question privately thinking that Alex should mind her own business.
"In some ways yes," She said " But it was as much my fault as yours. I was at a particularly vulnerable place in my career, on the verge of truly being promoted into the boys' club, and as much as I hate to admit it, I was terrified. "
"Of what?" Tony asked a little surprised.
"Of failing, of not living up to the scrutiny, of a lot of things. You and your help offered a very tempting safety net right when I needed one the most and I definitely took advantage of it."
Tony nodded, a bit crestfallen.
"But I don't know that it's any worse than the mess I've made constantly pulling you away from your responsibilities at the university," Carol added, "We've almost gotten you fired how many times now?"
"Honestly, I've lost count." He added with a grin.
"Besides that, we may not have been on the most traditional team, but we saved numerous lives and put some of the most depraved killers I've ever encountered behind bars. It may not have done my professional reputation any favors, but it was worth it. We were an effective team. We still are." Carol continued more seriously.
"You've only mentioned our professional relationship." Tony said after a brief silence, unable to resist the urge to know more even if he didn't like the answer.
"Oh, are we implementing a full disclosure policy now?" Carol said, raising her eyebrows, "Are you sure you want to do this? You will be expected to reciprocate." He nodded reluctantly. She took a long sip of her coffee and then continued. "Personally I had hit a point where I had fully realized that I had chosen my career over all of the things that I was supposed to want and while I was sure that this was the right decision for me, the finality of it was jarring. I was starting to realize that I was living my life surrounded by people but none of them actually knew me. I wanted someone to know me for who I was not what I did., but I wasn't even sure I knew who that was anymore," She paused feeling like she was rambling, "You saw me without even really trying and that was intoxicating. We worked well together, we got on, and before I really realized it I was hooked."
"You absolutely terrified me," Tony said after she had finished, "You repeatedly saw me at my worst and you never pulled away. You were the first sane person to ever have that reaction to me."
"I should probably have that engraved on a plaque or something 'first sane person to ever love Tony Hill' its quite a distinction." Carol said with a smile.
"I just wanted to tell you that I was sorry. You were…are the most important person in my live and I don't think that I ever told you that." Tony said meeting her eyes.
"Thank you, Tony." She said genuinely touched. They were both still very rarely outspoken about their affection. She reached out and took his hand. "I'm sorry too, for a lot of things, but I wouldn't change anything about what we have now."
"No, me neither." He said reaching across the small distance between them and kissing her. Carol kissed him back pulling him closer. It had been a long week and she was fairly certain they could think of several interesting things that they could do with their day off. He laid down against the cushions of the couch pulling her on top of him as he went. She kissed him deeply, relishing the feeling of being able to take their time. It was rare to get to be together like this without deadlines or exhaustion pressing in on them.
Tony traced the side of her neck with his mouth lingering over the small hollow at the base of her throat that he knew was one of her favorite spots. Carol let out a sigh of pleasure, her fingers tangling in his hair. She pulled his face up towards hers again, fiercely claiming his mouth with hers. She leaned back for a second undoing his pants and sliding them down. He hurriedly slid them the rest of the way down and kicked them off. His fingers hooked in the waist band of the pants she was wearing and worked them off of her hips, Carol shimmying the rest of the way out of them and letting them fall into the growing pile of clothes on the floor. She found the hem off his shirt and slid it off over his head, smiling at how this caused his hair to stick up. He smiled back, taking her face in both of his hands and kissing her again so deeply that when they finally broke apart they were both a little light headed.
He fingered the edge of the tank top that she was wearing, itching to pull it off. He paused for a minute to look her imploringly in the eyes before doing so. She had rarely been on top since the attack and never in broad daylight like this. She hated the look Tony got every time that he caught sight of the disfiguring scar that ran along her stomach, the flash of guilt that she knew meant he thought that he had failed her. Carol couldn't help but think that it made her look like some sort freak, some sort of victim. She pulled away slightly momentarily unsure.
"Carol, its okay. If you don't want to…" Tony started. She cut him off by slipping her shirt over her head and giving him an unobstructed view. It seemed like a day for reclaiming things. Tony stared at her unabashedly for a long moment still as always a little overwhelmed that someone so attractive wanted to be with him.
"You are so beautiful." He breathed out sliding his hands to her breasts running his thumbs gently over her nipples. Carol closed her eyes trying to lose herself in the sensation, feeling him grow hard against her. Tony's hands roamed from her breasts to her hips pulling her against him as he entered her. The novelty of the position and the release of the tension of the week caused them both to come quickly. Carol collapsed against him when it was over.
"Bloody hell, Tony, that was fantastic." She said, looking up and kissing him. He gave her the same confused half smile he always gave whenever she said anything remotely complimentary.
"We should start every morning like this."
"Agreed, although I doubt we would ever make it to work on time." She said shifting slightly as Tony pulled the blanket off of the back of the couch and over both of them. They had just gotten comfortable when the phone started to ring.
"Ugh," Carol groaned before reaching over his head and grabbing the phone off of the end table, "Carol Jordan," She listened for a few minutes then said, "I'll be in as soon as I can."
"No chance that was a wrong number?" Tony jokingly asked after she hung up and put the phone back on the charger.
"I'm afraid not. There's been a shooting a few blocks from here and the victim was wanted in connection with a cold case, a drug related shooting from six years ago."
"Sounds complicated, need a hand?" He asked a little too hopefully.
"No, It sounds like fairly straight forward police work," Carol said climbing off of the couch and collecting her clothes off of the floor, "Try not to look so disappointed, you get to spend your afternoon cozy inside with the brilliant insights of the next generation of psychologist to keep you entertained. While I go freeze my bullocks off in the snow on my one day off." She said before disappearing into their room to shower and get dressed.
Tony smiled to himself as he collected his clothes off of the floor and got redressed. No matter how much she complained he knew she loved it. He reluctantly walked back to his study and the waiting pile of papers, pausing in the kitchen to refill his coffee. He stopped in the living room for a second taking in the two pair of salt encrusted boots by the door, the stack of her notes piled on top of his books, the other half finished mug of coffee on the table. It was still hard for him to believe that he had actually made a home with somebody else.
Carol walked out of the bedroom fully dressed and together. She stopped at the door to bundle up and step into her snow boots.
"I'm not sure how long this will take, but I'll hopefully be home by dinner. Do you want me just to grab us a curry on the way home?" Carol said as she rummaged in her coat pocket for her keys.
"That would be great." Tony said grabbing her keys off of the kitchen counter and walking over and handing them to her.
"Thanks," She said taking the keys and kissing him briefly in good bye, "See you tonight."
"See you tonight." Tony said with a smile as she disappeared out into the cold.
As he settled himself back at his desk he couldn't help but marvel at the fact that they had forged a life together out of all of the violence, disappointment, and pain they endured. They had found a spark of hope and kindled it to life and like two types of metal melted together they were each the stronger for it.
AN: Well that's all folks! I hope that you enjoyed it. This is a bit random, but here is the list of the music I listened to while I was writing this story. I thought that it might be fun to share it with you guys. Let me know if you have any problems finding the songs. Have fun:
1. "Strange"- Tokio Hotel and Kerli (Theme for show)
"A freak of nature/ Stuck in reality/ I don't fit the picture/ I'm not what you want me to be/ Sorry…I feel so absurd in this life/ Don't come closer in my arms/ Forever you'll be/ Strange"
2. "Whatya Want From Me"-Adam Lambert (Song that inspired the story…don't laugh)
"Yeah, it's plain to see/ That baby you're beautiful/ And it's nothing wrong with you/ It's me, I'm a freak/ But thanks for loving me/ Cause you're doing it perfectly/ There might have been a time/ When I would let you step away/ I wouldn't even try/ But I think you could save my life"
3. "All I Want"- Ahn Trio and Susie Suh (Carol's decision to go to South Africa)
"Too many times, I have wanted/ To turn around and walk away/ Knowing deep inside, you can't provide/ What I need from youanyway"
4. "Searching For the Ghost"- Heartless Bastards (Carol's thoughts about seeing Tony again)
"You and I didn't end the place/ We've all been looking for/ We've been searching now forever/ And it's right behind the door/ And now I've been searching/ Searching for the ghost/ I saw an apparition once/ A long, long time ago"
5. "Who Am I"-Will Young (Tony, thinking in the Carol's apartment)
"It's not as though I always listen/ But there's so much I don't hear/ Maybe I'll never be what you want/ I know that all you're asking for/ Is a little piece of my heart/ But I don't find it easy to give"
6. "A Beautiful Lie"- 30 Seconds to Mars (Carol's late night musing)
"Lie awake in bed at night/ And think about your life/ Do you want to be different?/Try to let go of the truth"
7. "The Walk"- Imogen Heap (Carol/ Tony)
"That's where this ends, no mistakes no misbehaving,/Oh, I was doing so well, can we just be friends,/ I feel a weakness coming on."
8. "For What It's Worth"-Placebo (Tony and Carol's crazy lives)
"No one cares when you're out on the street/ Picking up the pieces to make ends meet/ No one cares when you're down in the gutter/ Got no friends, got no lover"
9. "Don't Leave Me Behind"- We Are the Fallen (Killer's P.O.V.)
10. "Undisclosed Desires"- Muse (Carol/ Tony)
"Trust me/ You can be sure/ I want to reconcile the violence in your heart/ I want to recognize your beauty's not just a mask/ I want to exorcise the demons from your past/ I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires of your heart"
11. "Inside Out"-Emmy Rossum (Tony to Carol, scene in the kitchen)
"Unsew my seams, look inside if you dare./ Do you still like what you're seeing now?/ Secrets and sins all exposed, spilling out./ Am I still safe here on this fragile ground"
12. "Let's Get Lost"- Beck and Bat for Lashes (Kitchen scene etc.)
13. "Heavy in Your Arms"- Florence + The Machine (Tony's perspective, reverse genders)
"I was a heavy heart to carry/ My beloved was weighed down/…My love has concrete feet/ My love's an iron ball/ Wrapped around your ankles/ Over the waterfall"
14. "The Story"- Tristan Pretty man (Carol's perspective, staircase scene)
"I'll look at you as you let me down lightly/ Oh the story always ends up like this/ Another opportunity that you're going to miss/ So you write the title/ And I'll write the chapters/ We could read the story of love gone disaster"
15. "Hurtful"- Erik Hassle (Tony waiting for news in the hospital)
16. "Enough"- The Autumn Film (Tony/ Carol, three little words)
"My heart's been ripped wide open/ By all the things I do not need/ And your heart's been/ Ripped wide open/ As I keep chasing other things/ My love don't run I want you/ Wait here I'll come for you/ My love don't hide I'll find you/ Wait here I'll come for you."
17. "The Scientist"- The Coldplay (Tony/ Carol)
"I was just guessing, at numbers and figures, pulling the puzzles apart/ Questions of science, science and progress, do not speak as loud as my heart/ Tell me you love me, come back and haunt me, Oh when I rush to the start)
18. "Start Again"- Red (Tony/Carol)
"What if I let you in? /What if I make it right it? /What if I give it up?/ What if I want to try?/ What if you take a chance?/ What if I learn to love?/ What if, what if we start again?/ All this time/ I can make it right/With one more try/ Can we start again?"
19. "Can This Be" The Autumn Film (Epilogue)