(I own nothing. Word of warning: I plan to focus on the SBR, not actually getting Rachel out of prison. Oh, and I didn't watch the series after Ally left, so if some details are wrong, you'll have to excuse me.)
Bailey cursed under his breath as the elevator doors slid shut. The elevator started its downward journey, and he contemplated the day ahead. He was returning from a meeting with Rachel and her lawyer. It had been four days since Rachel had been taken into custody; four days since the conniving congress woman had withdrawn all funding from the VCTF, giving them mere weeks to wrap up or transfer open cases before the task force would be closed for good. What a damn mess.
The elevator reached the VCTF floor and he stepped out, heading straight to his office. Agents were still milling around, more determined than ever to give their best foot forward even though the clock was running out on them.
He reached to push down the door handle and grasped empty air; his office door was open, and what's more, his office was occupied. He saw that John was half-sitting, half-leaning on his desk, and George and Grace were sitting in the armchairs. They weren't looking at him, but at someone sitting on the sofa. His gaze followed the eyes of his subordinates, and he stilled in surprise, his heart skipping a beat.
Sam turned her head instantly to look at Bailey, the thoughts of whom who'd started consuming more and more of her waking life. Her dreams had been a lost cause since the day she'd quit. She thought she'd steeled herself for seeing him again, but now that the moment was here, she could barely refrain from spilling her guts out right then and there. She beamed at him and said gently: "Hey."
Bailey looked shell-shocked, which was an apt description of the tumult of emotions coursing through his mind. Joy, relief, love, guilt, shame, all mixed into each other. "What are you doing here?"
She stood up from the sofa. "Say hello first, Malone. We can fight later." She expected him to step forward and give her a fierce hug, but instead, he remained where he was, seeming, for all intents and purposes, rooted to the floor near the coat hanger. He continued staring at her, and after ten seconds, she was forced to make light of the situation, in part to hide her own confusion. "Or now."
There were many things she cherished about her relationship with Bailey, one of them being that no matter how much time had passed since seeing one another last, they'd always been able to pick up and carry on from where they'd left off, as if they'd just parted ways the day before. She was beginning to realise that things might be different this time around, and it scared her a little.
The other agents in the room exchanged awkward looks before they jointly excused themselves from the office and filed out past Bailey, who was slowly beginning to snap out of his shock. He took off his coat and put down his case, to buy time for himself. He was wary of her presence; or rather, what it was doing to him.
She looked at him, half nervous, half thrilled to be seeing him again. "Don't I get a hello?"
He sighed and took a good look at her: "Sorry. Hi, Sam." She flashed him a smile and he was overwhelmed with the desire to close the gap between them and kiss her. Not a good train of thought, he reprimanded himself. To stay clear of such impulses, he repeated his question: "What are you doing here?"
The fact that he hadn't given her a hug stung her a bit. It meant that he was trying to keep his distance, and for the time being, she couldn't ask him about it. Not at the office, and not during the workday at least. She might as well explain why she'd come back.
"Grace called me three days ago, told me that the funding for the task force had been pulled, and what's more, that Rachel was behind bars. Care to explain to me why you didn't call me?"
"And tell you what?"
"That the VCTF was in trouble, that Rachel was being stalked! I don't know if you remember this, but I was a part of the task force once, and oh yeah, I know a little something about stalkers," she chided him. He'd gone to sit behind his desk, and she examined him closely. He looked tired, battle weary, really. The events of the past months had taken their toll on him, and he'd never been one to take care of himself properly. She'd had to remind him to slow down on several occasions, not to mention try to keep him from carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. She pressed for an answer, more gently this time: "Well, what do you have to say for yourself?" A small smile danced on her face.
"You retired," he offered as a way of explanation. His voice sounded equally lost and resigned.
"And what, you haven't heard of the phone?" she teased. "Well, I'm here now, so let's get to work."
Work? She was here to work again? To that, he had to object. "Sam, I can't let you help you with the investigation."
"Why not? I'm here because I choose to. I want to help. I've already cleared it with the regional deputy chief."
"Chloe knows that I have to do this, and I gave her my word that nothing would happen to me, that I'd never be in harm's way. I promised to call her every morning and night. She trusts me. And you need to trust me when I say that I want to be here."
Bailey was about to interject when John strode into the office, anxious to get the ball rolling. "Did you kiss and make up already? We have cases to solve!" Both agents lamented in their minds that they were light-years away from making up, let alone kissing.
The hours flew by, with Sam familiarising herself with the cases Rachel had been heading. She soon fell into her normal working repartee with John, Grace and George, but she and Bailey couldn't find their groove, both too perturbed by the emotions they were going through.
At half past seven, the core agents of the task force decided to call it a day. This raised the question of where Sam would be sleeping in the minds of the two best friends. Sam had been hoping to stay at Bailey's place, so she could broach the second reason for her return as soon as may be. Bailey was torn between wanting her in his home and fearing what havoc she might wreak there.
Grace forced the issue to come to a head. "Sam, I didn't even think to ask if you'd want to sleep at my place. It's a little small, but you can fit in with me and Jason."
Sam shot a nervous glance at Bailey, trying to figure out a way out of her predicament. "Thanks, Grace, but I promised Chloe that I would sleep at a hotel. That way, she knows I'm coming home soon. Can't afford a long stay," she joked.
Grace watched Sam and Bailey exchange glances at one another, never allowing their eyes to linger for more than a few seconds. Things were definitely haywire between the couple. "Oh, alright then, I'll see you tomorrow." Grace bestowed a hug on her friend. "It's great to have you back, even if it is only for a short while."
Sam smiled at her friend. "Thanks. Give my love to Jason." Grace nodded and exited Bailey's office. Sam watched her go before fixing her eyes on Bailey, who was looking at her. Neither wanted to jump the gun, as it were, and make a decision about her living arrangements back in town, a decision that seemed formidable all of a sudden. As the silence spanned, their inability to commit to one or another recourse of action started to daunt them.
Finally, Sam relented, her heart just the tiniest bit broken. She would have to climb over many more walls than she'd anticipated to get to Bailey. "So... I guess I'll go check into my hotel. See you tomorrow?"
"Yeah." As Sam gathered her stuff and walked out, Bailey was seized by a wave a self-loathing. She'd obviously wanted to sleep at his place, so why hadn't he offered? He should have offered, but his walls of self-preservation had been in place since the day she'd quit, and he feared what would happen if he allowed just the tiniest fracture in them. His denial, his stubborn refusal to embrace his feelings for Sam had tied him up in knots for the past eleven months. And yet, he couldn't let his guard down.
He tidied up a few files on his desk, cast a look at the deserted main floor of the task force, and got up to trudge to the elevator. He picked up his suit case from the floor and took his coat off the hanger. He pressed the call button absent-mindedly and closed his eyes, reliving instantly his surprise at the sight of Sam. He disbanded his thoughts of the blonde and pressed the call button again, noting that the elevator wasn't making the whirring sound of descending or ascending. He realised that the elevator must be stuck somewhere. Had Sam made it out before the elevator stopped operating?
He dropped his belongings and returned to his office, quickly dialling the number of the lobby. The clerk answered on the second ring. "Federal Robert Ressler Building, lobby."
"This is Special Agent Malone. It seems like the elevator number five isn't working."
"Yes sir, we just noticed and alerted the super."
"Has Samantha Waters exited the building?" Sam would have sign out at the lobby desk when she left, owing to the fact that she wasn't a current employee.
"No, sir, she hasn't."
"So she must still be on the elevator."
"Sir, no one has made contact from inside the elevator."
"No one?" If Sam were trapped, why wouldn't she contact the lobby? Or him? He felt a chill run through him. He asked for the lobby officer to wait on the phone while he tried to reach Sam on her cell phone. The call rang for a long time and finally went to voice mail. Bailey didn't bother leaving a message.
"Do you know if the elevator is stuck between floors?"
"It's stuck on the floor -2. We should have the doors open in a few minutes." Floor -2. He was on floor -7. Five floors to climb up. "Open the doors as soon as possible, and open the electronic lock on the staircase door leading to floor -2. I'm taking the stairs." Bailey hung up, ran to take a bottle of water from the canteen and jogged to the door leading to the staircase.
Sam let out a sigh as the elevator doors closed. Not the glorious welcome back she'd expected. Well, she knew she wasn't in a position expect much of anything from Bailey, but her hopes had gotten the better of her. It was clear that she'd need much more time before she told Bailey her real reason to come back.
Sure, helping out Rachel was part of it; the redhead had rescued her and she felt beholden to help her in turn. But a considerable part had to do with the fact that she'd missed Bailey every day since her departure and had come to tell him how she felt, tell it in words this time and pray he'd reciprocate the feelings.
She was startled out of her musings when the elevator jolted to a stop. The doors didn't open, so she checked the floor screen and pressed the button for -2, to no avail. She pressed other buttons, too, but the elevator made no sign of function.
She tried to stamp down the rising wave of anxiety, of feeling trapped. She hadn't been a fan of closed spaces since she'd been held captive eleven months ago; in fact, the surest way to trigger a flashback was to feel trapped, enclosed in a space with no means of escape. She tried to get her breathing back under control, to relax her mind, but her heart kept pounding in her chest and her surroundings began to swim with light, reminiscent of the room where she'd been held against her will.
The flashback had claimed her, and so she didn't hear Bailey's call, lost in the memories of her torment. The flashback lasted only a few minutes, but it left her physically exhausted and mentally drained. She was attempting to breathe normally when the doors flew open. She realised she was on all fours, so she stood up with some effort and staggered out of the elevator, steadying herself by reaching out to the walls. She made it clear of the doors and she let herself slide down to the floor, to lean on the wall while sitting down.
That is how Bailey found her a few minutes later, emerging from the staircase running next to the elevator shaft. He could see with a glance that she hadn't coped well with her entrapment. Her head shot up at the sound of his approach. She offered him a feeble smile but was unable to stop her head from lolling back to meet the wall.
He hastened to kneel beside her, placing the water bottle on the floor. He placed one palm under her chin while he gingerly pried her head off the wall and made sure she hadn't drawn blood. Finding no sign of injury, he placed his hands on both sides of her face and looked her in the eye. "You okay?"
"I am now. But for a while there... Not a particularly nice experience," she admitted, happy to be regaining her strength. She closed her eyes and took a moment to enjoy Bailey's proximity, the feel of his hands on her cheeks and the heat of his body, so close to hers.
Bailey watched as her eyes drew shut and she concentrated on breathing. He realised that his thumbs were moving involuntarily, caressing her cheeks; something she didn't appear to have realised. He moved his hands, one clasping her shoulder and the other finding the water bottle he'd brought for her.
She opened her eyes, feeling bereft at the loss of tactile contact. She took the proffered bottle and tried to prise it open, but she hadn't calmed down enough and her hands continued shaking. She dropped the bottle and shook her hands, trying to release the pent-up fears still coursing through her veins.
Her hands still betrayed her emotional upheaval, and she was about to tuck them behind her back when Bailey reached out and enclosed her hands with his. She happily let him hold her hands for a moment, before her desire for a more hands-on comfort won out. She broke off Bailey's hold on her hands, reached out to the lapels of his coat and pulled him towards her. Her hands remained there, while her head ended up just above her left hand. Bailey wrapped his arms around her and lowered his head, to be closer to her and to monitor her breathing.
"Did you have a flashback?" She gave a tiny nod. "I don't think it was a good idea for you to come back."
She tugged on the lapels of his coat a bit, frustrated: "I had the flashback because I was trapped, not because I came back to you. Okay?"
Back to me? Bailey chalked her words up to her distressed state. "Okay." He wouldn't let Sam spend the night in some anonymous hotel after her ordeal, and so he wondered how to mention it to her, so soon after his obvious refusal to extend the offer in the first place. He decided to just bite the bullet. "You're staying at my place, alright?"
Sam breathed out a happy acquiescence. She was in Bailey's arms, and that was all that mattered at the moment. She suspected she'd climbed over one wall tonight after all.
Bailey listened from the kitchen as Sam talked to her daughter on the phone, explaining the change in her accommodations. They then talked of the little girl's day, and he tuned out, puttering with a late dinner and trying to control his racing mind. She would be sleeping in the small guest room, and she'd taken some clothes out of her bags before calling Chloe.
He couldn't help but wonder what would become of this fine mess they were in. On top of the fate of the task force, he would now have to contend with his feelings for Sam. He'd brushed them aside eleven months ago, and even before she'd quit, he hadn't had time to grow comfortable with his new-found feelings.
He wasn't sure of his footing with regard to his beautiful best friend. In the moment they'd said goodbye in her office, he thought he'd glimpsed unspoken love in her gaze after she'd handed him the letters. Later, as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, he'd begun to suspect that he'd imagined the look loaded with meaning. He felt guilty for even imagining such a thing, just as he felt guilty for his own feelings. The last thing Sam needed was for him to tell her he'd fallen in love with her, his best friend, somewhere along the way. She would see his confession as destroying their friendship.
Bailey realised that Sam was approaching him, still on the phone: "Here's Uncle Bailey. I'll talk to you tomorrow morning. I love you. Bye." She handed the cell phone to him, and he greeted the little girl.
Sam signalled to Bailey that she'd take over the cooking duties while he talked on the phone. He ambled to the living room, finally ending up on the sofa. She observed him surreptitiously while he spoke with her daughter. He was lively, warm, engaged – something he hadn't been with her up to this point.
She couldn't blame him; she knew he must be wary of her return. He seemed to keep a strict leash on his emotions, and that was something that pained her, as it was such a drastic change from the way he'd been before. Before what? Before she'd left. You made your bed, Sam, and now you have to lie on it.
The rest of the evening passed quickly. They were still fumbling along in their discussions, not daring to approach any personal topics. At eleven, Sam decided to call it a night, and after a brief exchange, Bailey had agreed to go to sleep, too. They both retired to their bedrooms, hoping that the new day that was to greet them in a matter of hours would guide them.
In the middle of the night, Bailey stirred awake by a quiet noise. He listened intently, but couldn't hear it again, and yet he knew he hadn't imagined it. He decided to check on Sam. He padded quietly to her bedroom, only to find the bed empty. He glanced at the bathroom, but no light came under the door. He then realised he'd heard the soft click of the patio door. She was out in the back yard.
He walked out on to the patio, and saw her kneeling down, near the bushes on the left side of the yard. He walked toward her, not caring that the late hour meant that the ground was cold and wet with dew.
Sam was petting the cat she'd heard meowing after she'd stepped onto the patio. A nightmare had woken her up, and she needed some fresh air before she'd be able to fall asleep again. She heard Bailey call her name quietly and turned around to watch him. He was wearing a t-shirt and boxers. She gave her feline friend one last scratch before standing up. He was already by her side.
"Hey. Why are you up?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "I just woke up, couldn't get back to sleep."
He peered at her. "Was it a nightmare?"
She attempted to spare him some worry. "No."
His eyebrows shot up high. "Yeah it was. Damn it, Sam..."
"It isn't a big deal. It's only to be expected after a flashback. My mind was just sorting out the memories," she pacified him. She watched as the cat ran along the bush, disappearing into it when he reached the corner.
He mulled over her words. The memories of days she hadn't shared with him. He hadn't read the case file which included her account of the events. Doing so would somehow violate her trust. "Do you have flashbacks often?"
"Tonight was the first in two months. It only happened because I was trapped, not because..."
Bailey was tired, thereby accounting for his lapse of judgment: "Not because you came back to me. I know."
She stiffened suddenly and cast a wary look at him. Had she really said that to him? Granted, she had been quite shaken by the flashback, so it didn't come as a huge surprise. She wondered how he'd taken her words. By all accounts, it seemed like he hadn't guessed the true meaning of her statement.
Bailey squeezed her shoulder and said: "Come on, let's go back to bed."
She looked at him to see the same withdrawn mask in place on his face, and suddenly she knew she couldn't go through another day of the same polite chit chat, the same mind-numbing distance.
She called out after him: "Bailey, I'm sorry if this startles you or upsets you, but the truth of the matter is... I did come back to you. For you." He slowly turned around.
"I came back because I'm in love with you."