Summary: Elle has been lying to herself, but there's one person who can bring the truth out in the open. Elle/Gideon, set just after 'The Boogeyman'
A/N: For Bowserbabe over at Livejournal, the winner of my story auction at Help_Japan: Thanks for your contribution to the Red Cross' efforts to help the people of Japan-You're awesome!
Elle couldn't stand being in this house.
However, she had to clear it out, pack up her belongings and clean up before she could move on, before she could start her life over.
From the open doorway, her eyes immediately drifted to the spot where her couch used to sit. The thing was gone now; too horribly stained with blood, her blood, to be salvaged. But the indents in the carpet where its legs had stood still remained.
She braced herself and walked in.
Dropping her load of unfolded boxes next to the door, she sighed heavily, then got to work turning them into cubes. She only had two boxes done when a knock at the door startled her, causing her heart to skip a beat and pound noisily in her chest.
She berated herself for being so paranoid. She practically came out of her skin from the simplest and most benign things and this was just a knock at the door. It was probably just the landlord coming by to inspect the place and she was simply over-reacting.
But still, she was wary and cautious as she headed for the door and not for the first time, she wished she was still armed. Carefully, she peered into the peephole, then felt her heart drop when she saw who was standing on the other side of the door.
She didn't want to open the door at first. She knew what would happen if she did. First he would give her a deep, knowing look, seeing right through her facade and then he'd slowly, but surly break her carefully constructed walls down brick by brick. She was helpless to fight him, that's why she told Hotch to say good-bye to him for her...she didn't want to do it face to face...it would have been too hard.
"I know you're in there." Gideon's voice came through the door. "Please, Elle. Just open the door."
She closed her eyes and sighed, there would be no more hiding from him, she owed him an explanation, even if it hurt.
She turned the deadbolt then slid back the chain, opening the door a moment later.
"What are you doing here?" She asked. Gideon didn't wait to be invited in, he merely strode across the threshold then stood calmly in front of her, close enough for her to smell the commingling of aftershave and coffee emanating from him. God, she would miss that smell.
"I couldn't help but see the U-haul truck parked in your driveway...you leaving?"
"Where?" He challenged.
"I have a friend in Baltimore and I'm going to stay with her until I find a new job and place. I just uh...couldn't stay here anymore."
Gideon nodded. She didn't meet his eyes, she knew if she did, she would be met with concern and pity...neither of which she wanted from him.
He sighed then looked about the place. Nothing much had been packed away yet and his gaze landed on the pile of boxes she had just started putting together.
"Looks like you could use some help."
"I can handle this..."
"Really?...seems like a lot for one person to take on alone." She could see that he wouldn't let her take 'no' for answer and she knew that he wasn't speaking of just the process of moving. He'd tried before to get her to open up, but truth was...she was fine...really.
She didn't regret anything. The only thing she hated was the way her teammates and friends looked at her now...the questioning stares, the look of incomprehension at what she had done, like they all suspected that she was mentally unstable. They might think she was crazy, but no matter how they perceived her, she herself had never felt so sane in her life. She made a mistake, yes and led to that bastard, Lee walking free, but she made up for it and she did the world a favor taking him out of it. He had destroyed so many lives and she would never apologize for his death.
"It's not that much, really. I don't need any help."
"You know, Elle. Sometimes you just got to accept help when it comes along. It's not a bad thing or a sign of weakness...besides, I don't have anything else to do today and things would go a lot faster if I pitched in. So, what do you say? Can I help?"
She blew out a breath in resignation and gave up trying to fight him. "Fine...I suppose I could use a hand with the heavier stuff."
They got to work after that, filling up boxes, hauling out furniture and loading it all up in the moving truck. Thankfully, Gideon had spared her any questions besides asking which boxes to put things in and such until he slid the last of her things into the U-Haul.
"So...I guess this is the last of it." Gideon said.
"It should be." She replied.
Gideon reached up and grabbed the handle of the cargo area's door, pulling it down until it was completely closed and latched tight.
When he had finished with that, he stood nearly toe to toe with her and caught her eye. She shifted uncomfortably under his gaze then cleared her throat.
"There's a few beers left in the fridge. We might as well drink them, otherwise I'm just going to have to throw them out."
Gideon hesitated for a moment. She knew the questions that had to be on the tip of his tongue, but she didn't want to hear them, yet at the same time, she didn't want him to go.
"Sure...can't let good beer go to waste."
He followed he back into the home and to the kitchen where she grabbed a couple of beers and twisted the tops off of them for both of them. She handed one off to him and he appraised it with a little grin.
"The things you learn about people from the beer they drink...I gotta say I'm surprised, I never took you for a Miller High Life kinda girl."
"Well...it is the champagne of beers, ya know." She came back with a coy smile then pulled in a mouthful of the amber liquid.
He nodded then drank, neither of them saying a word to each other for several moments. She watched as his face grew pensive and then, after one more gulp of beer, he spoke.
"So...you think Baltimore will be far enough away?"
"Excuse me?" She asked
"I was just wondering if you think Baltimore will be far enough away for you to run."
"I'm not running, Gideon." She lashed out at him, but he wouldn't back down. He walked ever closer to her and she felt her face burning.
"No? I'm just calling it as I see it. If it quacks, it must be a duck, right?"
She found she couldn't look him in the face any longer. "You know it doesn't have to be like this. You could stay in town...maybe take some time off and get your head back on straight. The team would understand and when you're ready you could come back. There's no shame in that."
She shook her head, trying her best to will the tears threatening to break loose to remain at bay.
"How can I go back? I see the distrust in everyone's eyes and I know what they're thinking...that I snapped, that I was so mentally fractured after being shot that I went over the edge. You don't understand...you never can." She whispered those last three words, her throat getting tighter by the second. She didn't even realize how close he had gotten to her until she felt his hands taking hold of her forearms and squeezed them firmly.
"Just tell me, Elle." he insisted, his voice soft but firm. "Tell me what I don't get, because I've been in your shoes before. I know what it's like to feel like your world is crumbling around you, to lose faith in your own judgment and to feel the eyes of everyone around looking at you with disdain. I sent six men to their deaths in Boston...six! And I know what it's like to look at every serial killer, rapist and child molester that we've caught and see the face of the man that murdered my team and hurt me so deeply. Trust me..I get it..."
Elle looked up then, unable to hide her tears any longer. He did get it.
She closed her eyes and let the tears flow, feeling his hand cup the side of her face and gently wipe them away. "You don't have to tell me the truth if you don't want, but you can't hide it from yourself and you can't run away from it. It doesn't make the pain or the guilt go away."
She sobbed even harder, letting her resolve to keep this all inside to falter. He drew her in close, his arms wrapping around her while she bawled into his chest, soaking the front of his shirt, but he didn't seem to care, he just held her.
"Oh God..." She choked out. Her emotions crashed into each other at high speed. Guilt colliding with shame while fear, anger and desolation fought for superiority. As much as she tried convince herself that killing Lee had been justified, that she had only been acting in the best interests of the women he had raped, she could no longer deny the fact that she had killed him because he represented in her mind, all of the vile, evilness in the world that had led to her being wounded and brought to the brink of death. She could no longer fool herself into thinking that it hadn't been revenge that had fueled her the night she shot him. "If I told you what really happened...you would hate me. I hate myself..."
He held her tighter and then she felt his lips softly kiss her forehead and stay there. "I could never hate you, Elle. No matter what."
They stood there like that for a long time until the tears dried up and she was left feeling empty and like her home, hollowed out and vacant. Her only source of comfort came from the man that so patiently embraced her and waited for her to pull the pieces of herself back together.
He was warm and firm as his hand caressed her back and for a moment, she wanted more. She wanted to push all of her shame aside and feel good or once. Before she really knew what she was doing and stop herself, she pulled back from his chest and met her lips to his, desperate for the goodness in him to somehow be transferred to her, to feel him deeper within herself. She felt her kiss being returned until their mouths crushed into each other.
His hand slipped upward from her back and into her hair, tangling within her tresses. She let go and let herself feel alive again, to allow the electricity between them to flow. Tongues found each other while hands searched and explored. Frantically, she began pulling at the zipper of his pants, but that's when she felt him disengage and pull away.
"Elle...Elle. Stop." He panted, his forehead resting on hers.
"Please." she pleaded, not wanting this spark of raw and good feelings to go away.
"No...I'm sorry." He sighed...his voice heavy with sorrow. "You know we can't. We're both too vulnerable for this right now and you're not ready, not yet. And this...it might make you feel good for a little bit, but when it's over..."
She knew he was right. If they did continue, she might feel something other than remorse and self-loathing for a brief time, but then those emotions would be back again in full force. There was just no escaping it.
"I know." She whispered, her tears returning.
"It's not forever, Elle. There will come a time when you are healed here..." He touched her forehead then touched her heart. "And here. And when that time comes, you'll know and I'll be waiting for you. In the mean time, I'll give you all the help you need to find that healing and you'll get there. Just take it one step at a time."
She met his eyes, they sparkled with tears and she had truly never felt so loved before. He cared for her in ways that went beyond sex and she felt her heart swell.
She determined right then and there that she would get better for him and put the puzzle of her life back into a coherent picture. There would be no going back to the Bureau, she knew that and he knew that as well. That was her past and it was time to put it behind her, but her life was not over, it was simply beginning anew.
Elle would take it one step at a time like he said, facing her demons head-on instead of running from them. And she would start by letting him help her unload the moving van and bringing everything in it back into her home.