I'm marking this story as complete, but I'm not entirely certain that this is the end. I feel like this is the end, but then again I may get a nagging sensation once again and decide there's more to the story. (But fear not, if it's the end, I have a couple ideas for other LTM stories that I'm eager to explore. :)
Also, it may be a bit more OOC this chapter (esp. towards the end), but I tried to keep it close. :)
Thanks to those that read and especially to those that read and review!
Disclaimer's the same as always.
Loker pulled into the parking lot outside Ria's apartment building, grabbing a large brown paper sack from the passenger seat and exiting the car. Climbing the three flights of stairs, he finally arrived at her door, hesitating just a moment before knocking.
Ria opened the door, a beer in one hand, and a resigned look plastered on her face. It wasn't like she didn't expect Loker to want to talk to her after he talked with Gillian, but she had held out the slightest bit of hope that he would leave it to tomorrow, or maybe call her instead of showing up on her doorstep. But no such luck. She moved aside, letting him enter the apartment, then shut and locked the door behind him, neither of them saying anything.
As they stood there in the entryway of her home, the silence seemed to stretch out between them like an impassable canyon. She saw him eyeing her, trying to discern her state of mind, and barely refrained from rolling her eyes – even in her own home she couldn't escape it. Not that she always wanted to – but on rough days like today she already felt more than enough vulnerable.
"You can stop looking at me like that. I'm still on my first." She stated, gesturing to the beer in her hand, knowing that he was trying to ascertain her level of sobriety. He didn't say anything in response, simply nodded, but he couldn't hide from her the brief sign of relief that flashed across his face.
"So… what's in the bag?" She asked, trying to break this silence that was starting to become more and more uncomfortable as each second ticked by slowly.
He glanced down at the sack in his hand that he forgot he was holding. "Chinese. I thought maybe… you didn't eat a lot at lunch today, so I was thinking…"
Beyond rushing out of the office in a surge of emotions and deciding at the last minute to grab some takeout on the way, he hadn't planned what he would say or do once he actually got there. He didn't even really know why he was there, he had just acted on instinct, knowing he had to see her, see if she was okay. But his mind was only just catching up to his emotions and he suddenly felt very awkward at having rushed over to her apartment without invitation or even an advanced notice of his coming.
Noticing his look of discomfort, she put him at ease. "Great, I'm starved. Why don't you take those into the living room and I'll get you something to drink. You want a beer?"
"No. But I'd appreciate a glass of water." His face and tone didn't show any judgment, but the point he was making was understood, loud and clear. She walked into the kitchen and upended her bottle of beer into the sink. It wasn't like her to waste a good brewski, but considering her rash behavior in front of Lightman and his daughter the last time she drank too much and the regret she still harbored over it, she knew it would be better to stay sober, despite the immense appeal of 'drowning her sorrows'. When she walked into the living room, Loker noticed the two glasses of water she set down on the coffee table. He didn't comment but his face flashed another microexpression of relief.
Loker sat on one end of the couch, while Ria opted to forgo the couch and instead sat in a nearby chair, legs crossed beneath her. They'd been sitting quietly for a very long five minutes before Loker finally broke the silence. "For someone who's starving, you're not eating very much." No reply, no reaction. "Ria?"
"Do you think violence is genetic?" She asked, not looking at him, just keeping her eyes on the container of lo mein in her hands.
The question threw him off guard. It definitely wasn't what he expected her to say, but he went with it, just glad that she was talking. "Well, there've been a lot of studies done on the matter. They've showed some correlations between violence and genetics, but nothing conclusive. There've also been a lot of studies showing correlation between tendency towards violence and a person's previous exposure to it. Nature vs. nurture – it's a debate that never dies." He studied her face, looking for a reaction to what he said, trying to figure out what was going on inside her mind.
"I guess it doesn't matter for me anyways. Nature, nurture – either way I'm screwed." An expression of deep sadness settled onto her face. Loker had never seen her express her emotions so openly before and it was heart wrenching to watch the struggle she was going through play itself out on her face.
"What do you mean?" He asked, causing her to look up at him. She held his gaze, her eyes silently asking if she could trust him with her fears, if she could trust him with the doubts that plagued her about the very core of who she is.
Seeming to find the answer that she was looking for in his eyes, she started to explain slowly, though not really sure how to put it all into words. "Today, in the Cube, that guy – I felt so… enraged. I wanted to hurt him. The way his daughter had been hurt. The way I've been hurt. The amount of anger I felt towards him – . It was… I was… I just felt so out of control."
"You weren't the only one who was furious at the guy. I wanted to haul off and deck him. And you should've seen the looks Cal was giving the guy when he and Gillian came back after you… after the break."
She shook her head. "It's not the same. You don't understand. What if I… I mean, what kind of person would I be…how can I ever…" She was finding it extremely difficult to voice her deepest fears, which were doing battle with her deepest desires. She started again in a quiet voice, afraid of the things she was about to say aloud, afraid it would make them true, "How can I ever…" A deep breath, then "How can I ever be a mother? What kind of person would I be if I brought children into this world knowing that I…that I have the same genes that my father had, that I grew up in a violent situation, so I'm more prone to violence? What if I lost control? What if I did to them what he did to me? The thought of it –" Her voice broke as a single tear slipped down her cheek.
The sadness, the shame, the self-loathing displayed on her face made Loker sick to his stomach. He hated that her father still had control over her, that she still allowed him to control her life and her happiness, that she believed she wasn't worthy of anything better.
Getting up from the couch he walked over to where she sat and kneeled down in front of her. He took the takeout box from her, set it on the table behind him, took her hands in his, and looked her in the eyes, making sure he had her full attention.
"Ria. I want you to listen to me and I want you to really hear me. You're not like your father. I'm not an expert on the science, but I do know this: It's about choice. It's about deciding what kind of parent you want to be and making the effort every single day to be that parent. It's about asking for help when you need it, recognizing your limitations, and recognizing your strengths. I know you. I know that you're not a violent person. You're a person who has had a lot of violence happen to you, had a lot of violence in your life, but that doesn't make you a violent person. The intense feelings of anger that you felt today weren't directed at some innocent bystander or an innocent child. They were directed towards a bastard that abused his daughter and you identified with her, not with him. The anger that you felt today wasn't just for that guy, though. It was for your father, too, and I think it's completely normal that you would have such an intense level of hate and rage towards him. But you have to stop letting him control you. You can't live your entire life afraid of yourself, afraid of really reaching for happiness. You are not a violent person, Ria. I know you too well to let you believe that about yourself. You could never harm an innocent child, and definitely not a child of your own. Okay?"
She nodded and Loker could see a glimmer of hope in her eyes, could tell that he had really gotten through to her. The tears streaming down her face were like a cleansing flood, emptying her of the feelings of sadness, guilt and shame that she had carried around with her for so long. She leaned forward and pulled Loker into a hug, trying to convey all her gratefulness to him. She turned her head and kissed him on the cheek before whispering "Thanks Eli."