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The Story Behind the Story
"About what exactly?" Erin replied faintly, her fingers tightening around the blanket over her.
"Well," Dave drawled, wanting to relax her, the wariness evident in her tone and in her eyes, "we could start with the fact that your assistant has claws."
Her lips twitched as she thought of Amanda...her self-appointed guardian of the last few years. "She's very loyal to me," Erin commented vaguely.
"Massive understatement, Erin," Dave snorted, settling back in his chair as he kicked his legs out in front of him. "The woman wants to use my eyeballs as a stress ball."
"Sounds like Amanda," Erin sighed, shaking her head slowly against the pillow. "She's a good girl, David. If anything happens, please make sure she finds a good position at the Bureau. She deserves it."
"Find her one yourself," he automatically denied, hackles rising at the thought of her not being around to do those tasks herself. "You'll be around...despite the cracked rib."
"David, please," Erin whispered, turning to face him, meeting his eyes in a soft plea.
Lips tightening, Dave nodded grudgingly, "I'll take care of the kid if it comes to that. But it won't. The cardiologist says you're on the mend."
"How wonderful," Erin murmured with no real feeling.
"You know, for a lady that went three rounds with the Grim Reaper, I expected you to be a little happier," Dave remarked, examining her face, attempting to read behind the façade that she was able to maintain even after the traumas she had experienced.
"Sometimes death isn't the black cloud everyone dreads," Erin shrugged, the philosophical thought easing off her tongue.
"Bullshit," Dave snapped, his brows drawing together. "You're a fighter, Strauss. You always have been."
"Maybe I'm simply tired of fighting, David," Erin declared, wearily turning her head toward him again. "It's not nearly as fun as it used to be."
He owed her the truth. Looking in her distant eyes, he knew it. Swallowing, he said softly, "I know everything, Erin."
"Everything encompasses a lot of ground, David," Erin replied, her eyes wary as she stared back at him. Don't give anything away, Strauss, her mind urged. Tread carefully. He's hurt you before by using information against you. Don't let him do it again.
"Don't be coy," Dave demanded, no real heat in his voice. "You know exactly what I'm referring to."
"Don't, David. Don't do this to either of us," Erin whispered, her lips trembling in spite of her best effort to remain neutral. While she may have been unconscious for the past few hours, she was quickly becoming cognizant of the current situation…and she was not thrilled at all. "It won't do any good for either of us to revisit the past, no matter what you think you know."
"But that's just it, Erin. This time, I don't think. I do know. Your most guarded secrets have been disclosed by a loose lipped nurse, a pissed off assistant, and a reluctant Jason Gideon."
"I always knew Jason would end up telling everything he knew," Erin ground out, her fists clenching around the hem of the sheet.
"In his defense," Dave murmured, "it did take him over two decades to get around to it. And I didn't really give him a choice. You see, your nurse revealed the bombshell involving the miscarriage...the assault," he stated softly, watching her face clench.
"Stupid," Erin hissed. "My own fault. I always kept my service weapon in the bedside drawer...it was the one night I'd left it locked in my desk," she shook her head.
"It wasn't your fault, Erin," Dave whispered, reaching for her hand. "I'm a quarter of a century late in telling you that...and I..."
"David, don't," Erin bit out, jerking her hand out of his warm grasp, unable to allow herself to accept his comfort. "I neither want, nor need, your pity. I made the decision to let you believe your own version of events."
"But, why, Erin?" Dave breathed, capturing her hand again as she averted her face from him, this time refusing to let her go. "Tell me why."
"Because I was broken," she rasped almost violently. "I'd lost my child...I'd lost my sense of security...I'd lost my ability to have children. What the hell did I have to offer anyone, let alone the man I loved?" Breathing heavily, she continued, "You wanted children...your children. You'd made that all too clear during our time together. It's the reason you and Kate never worked. I knew that. After it happened...our relationship seemed rather pointless. I was never going to be able to give you what you wanted. The kind thing to do was to let you go on believing exactly the version of events you'd painted for yourself. I'd rather you have hated me than pitied me."
"I would never have pitied you," Dave denied, clutching her hand tighter as she attempted to pull away. "I would have been sorry. Hell, I am sorry! But I don't pity you."
"Don't be," Erin said tersely, her chapped lips pursing. "I'm fine."
"Jesus, Erin, you aren't fine! I almost fucking killed you forty-eight hours ago!" Dave growled. "All because of a years old animosity that should never have stood between us in the first place."
"So what?" Erin snapped, jerking her head around to glare at him. "I owe you now? Because you saved my life?"
"The only thing I want you to give me is a chance, Erin," Dave replied slowly, smoothing his thumb across the top of her hand.
"To what? Break another rib?" Erin asked stiffly as her eyes assessed him.
Releasing a bark of laughter, Dave murmured, "I'd forgotten your sense of humor. No, I don't wanna break another rib. At least not today."
"Then what?" Erin asked suspiciously, her tired eyes narrowing. "What do you want from me?"
"I want us to try and go back to the beginning and try to do that part we never got around to," Dave explained gently, his deep voice hushed.
"What part?" Erin asked, relaxing slightly as she listened to his words.
"We've been lovers...and we've been mortal enemies. We never tried being friends," Dave commented evenly. "I think we should give that a shot."
"Friends?" she echoed.
"Friends," Dave nodded, squeezing her hand as he leaned forward. "Hell, Erin, what the hell could it hurt at this point? We've loved each other AND tried to kill each other. This might be a welcome change of pace."
"I suppose it couldn't hurt anything," she murmured, eyeing him carefully as she allowed herself to actually consider the option.
And as Dave met her crystalline gaze, he saw an odd mixture of hope and disbelief. But he was certain the positives could outweigh whatever negatives they had created between them.
And that...he could work with.
Author's Note 2 - Please let me know if you, the readers, would like a sequel to this story. As always, we appreciate each one of you!