Halloween Hiding Places
"Hey, Reese," Charlie began in his usually chipper tone – the one that made her want to garrote him with his tie, "it's Halloween. Have you thought about what you're doing for Halloween?" His smile was way too bright for 8AM.
"I should get drunk," she mumbled, hiding behind her sunglasses.
The look he returned was both pitiful and forlorn, yet somehow managed to convey his disappointment in her plans and her stated intent. He didn't actually have to say anything.
"I'm kidding," she told him guiltily, "three weeks sober."
"Three whole weeks," Charlie let out a long low whistle.
"Yeah, I'm on a streak," she cheered glumly. He opened his mouth and she cut him off. "Don't you dare say 'one day at a time' or I'll shoot you myself."
He snapped his jaw shut and sat silent for an awkward moment. "Kids generally won't make the hike up the hill to my house," he tested the waters. "So I was thinking I could come to yours and give out candy. You know? You, me and Tidwell – maybe have some pizza and hang out."
"Tidwell does not 'hang out' at my house," she corrected him.
"Right, well…whatever it is you do," he pulled at his collar seemingly a bit uncomfortable discussing what she and Tidwell did at her house. Now that he'd invited himself to her house.
"It may surprise you to know that Tidwell doesn't come to my house," she chastised him for his assumption and smiled at his discomfort.
"Oh," Charlie said sounding surprised. "Is everything okay there?" he fished as if you couldn't tell from the dark looks and stares she and the Captain had been exchanging for the past two weeks that something was wrong.
"Yes," she snapped sounding irritated. "He's okay, I'm okay, we're both okay." It pained her to let Crews into her personal life, but she had to or he'd just keep sliding vague hints at her until she gave it up. "We're fine – we're just not together anymore."
"Oh," he said in much lower tone, as if he actually cared that he'd horned in on her personal life against. She knew better. He'd waited longer than she'd figured he would before poking his nose into her business.
"So it'll just be you and me then?" he offered helpfully.
"I don't remember inviting you to my house for a holiday that I usually spend hiding out in a Mexican bar drinking Margaritas," her testy tone didn't even slow him down.
"I think we should give out fruit," he grinned.
"Yeah, won't all the kids love you?" she deadpanned.
"How about candied apples?" He offered a candy-coated alternative.
"That's expensive…. Oh, that's right you're rich," she delivered the snide barb which didn't come close to penetrating his armor.
"Riches aren't just money," he smiled blithely, "I'm also rich in friends."
"What friends? You have one. That creepy guy who lives in your garage," she argued.
"Ted's not creepy. Some people actually find him charming," Crews defended.
"Pfbttt," her nonsensical expression of disdain was effective.
"And he lives in an apartment over my garage," he corrected.
"I – don't – care," she annunciated each word distinctly.
"And I have you," he said softly, "we're friends – aren't we Reese?"
She hated when he did this. "What time?" she asked pinching the bridge of her nose and studiously ignoring his question, while somehow answering it - obliquely.
"Oh," he tried to project surprise as if he was really going to take a 'no' for an answer. "Eight?" he sounded unsure.
He was so annoying and now she was going to have to help him. She couldn't believe he'd dragged her into this, "the littler kids will come earlier - before dark," she offered sounding angry that she knew that. "And really little kids won't be able to manage a candied apple," she growled.
"Right," he acknowledged. "You're really good at this," he grinned. She groaned.
"What then?" he questioned sounding very perplexed.
"Does it have to be fruit? Or fruit like?"
He just smiled that smile she hated. The one that said you are going to help me and end up having fun – you'll fight me ever step of the way, but I'll still win.
"You could give out fruit roll ups, I guess," she suggested glumly. "Or orange slices – I think they even have Vitamin C in them – something every kid dreams of," sarcasm colored her tone at the concept of being far more helpful than she wanted to be. She was still annoyed at him, but resigned to the idea that this was going to happen.
"Okay," he happily agreed. "I'll get all the stuff and meet you at your place at what?"
"Six?" she said wincing.
"Then we'll order pizza," he continued to plan their evening.
"Wonderful," she said glumly. Knowing she'd now have to endure Zen anecdotes and Charlie Crews for an entire evening – alone - in her small apartment. The bright point seemed to be the frequent, random interruption of children – whom she pretended to loathe. She didn't truly dislike kids, just the constant 'when are you getting married and having them' mantra her mother ascribed to.
Things went just as Charlie had planned. He arrived at 6PM on the dot carrying bags of candy of all varieties despite his stated preference for fruit. He also carried two large cartons of individually packed candied apples. He was dressed down in jeans and purple t-shirt. A dark green hoodie hung loosely from his shoulders and he wore his traditional off duty, low wattage smile – a genuine one.
These smiles were her weakness. They weren't for show; they were for her and only her. They weren't plastic, overly large or sunny. These smiles reached his eyes and were soft and personal. He talked excitedly but in a conspiratorial tone about taking pictures of the kids on his camera phone, as he tinkered in her little used kitchen.
"Want help?" she offered still playing coy. "No? Okay…" she walked away, but his hand on her arm arrested her.
"Hey," he looked at her lips before continuing, "I got you something."
She rolled her eyes and turned to face him. "What? A hockey mask?"
He cocked his head to the side and said 'no' slowly like it was a question. "Why? Do you like hockey?"
"Bad joke, forget it," she brushed it off.
"It's this," he produced a brightly colored wrapped candy. The red attracted her attention, but there was brown, gold and others there in a tiny rectangle. "It's called Pocket Coffee," he was pleased with his find. "It's dark chocolate with an espresso center."
She smiled and examined the little cube of coffee. "How come there's only one?"
"I don't think feeding you six of these – at night – would be wise," he winked at her. He reached his hand into the pocket of his hoodie and pulled a handful out. "There's more where that came from sweetheart," he joked.
"Great," she remarked. "What are you? My dealer?"
"I like that you can joke about it," he held her eyes suddenly serious for a moment. "It shows you're in a better place," he waited until she nodded agreeing. "I just thought with you and Tidwell no longer being – well, you and Tidwell… you might…you know?"
"Fall off the wagon," she offered.
He nodded and quickly changed the subject asking if she'd ordered the pizza. He didn't wait for her answer before extolling the virtues of Hawaiian pizza with pineapple and ham on it. She dialed as he rambled and ordered while he continued to talk. He paused to smile at her order and then continued babbling some nonsense about pineapples and volcanoes that she didn't really listen to.
Sometimes he did this when he was nervous, just talked in circles – she couldn't imagine why he'd be nervous except this was the first time they'd been alone together since that day in the orange grove and then it hit her. He was nervous because Tidwell wasn't there – his security blanket, his built in buffer and now it was just him and someone he cared deeply for.
She wasn't a fool. She knew Crews loved her. What else could you possibly call it when someone cares enough to offer their life in trade for yours? But they'd never spoken of it; he preferred to just ignore it. She let it go, but it profoundly changed the way she looked at her life, the people in it and him. Truth be known, the way she looked at Crews began to change when she was at the FBI and made the choice not to betray him. He didn't deserve it.
When they began working together, she felt he was some kind of punishment, so did he. Then he became something altogether different. He became a odd sort of redemption, a penance for her past transgressions. He ended up being more than he imagined in some ways and less in others. He was more of a partner than she'd ever truly had. He was less of a pain in the ass than she'd imagined. About a week into her stint at the FBI, she realized she missed him – more than her sometimes boyfriend. That was unexpected.
It was the beginning of the moment when she realized that what she was doing with Kevin was wrong. It was fun, comforting, even nice; but she didn't love him and she never would. What surprised her was Kevin wasn't the least bit surprised when she broke it off – he didn't even put up a fight. He just kissed her on the cheek and left.
The doorbell rang disturbing her introspection. Crews handed her the candy bowl, ostensibly because he had to take pictures and prodded her towards the door. "Go on, Reese," he urged.
Their first trick-or-treaters were a couple of barely five year olds dressed as a princess and a pirate. Their young parents hovered protectively as the mute youngsters stood with orange plastic jack-o-lanterns extended. Dani had to bend over to get to their level and when she did the little girl smiled broadly. Her instinct made her mirror the girl's smile and the boy then broke into a toothy grin.
"Twins?" Dani asked the parents, who nodded and beamed. "Cute kids. Great costumes," she remarked. The mother waived and father thanked her and ushered the kids back to the main sidewalk. She turned to find Charlie staring at her.
"What?" she scowled.
"You didn't make'em say 'trick or treat'," he said in mock disappointment.
"They were little kids, Crews. Scared half to death," she defended.
"Okay," he acquiesced, "but I think you should follow the rules."
"What damned…" she started to object when the bell rang again and he pointed.
She gave him a dirty look and opened the door for a football player, a cheerleader and a ghost – all about seven or eight. They promptly sang out the requisite phraseology. "I think it's time for you to break out those apples," she reminded him.
He pocketed the camera and dug into the bag. The kids all looked crestfallen at the prospective of fruit as a treat until Charlie proffered the bright red candy shelled things. Then their smiles returned and they eagerly took the proffered gifts and returned shouting excited thanks to show off their bounty to their waiting escorts. Waves of appreciation and smiles followed and Dani shut the door again.
"Where'd that pumpkin come from?" she asked in accusatory tone.
"Maybe some kid left it there," Charlie offered helpfully.
She eyed him skeptically and pronounced, "I don't decorate," she remarked, "I don't even know why they'd come here," she commented. "Most Halloweens I don't get many kids and I just ignore them until they leave."
I know," Charlie said.
"You know? How do you know?"
"Well, it's plain to see you didn't decorate," he peeked out her window. "No scary spider webs, no carved pumpkin – until recently," he qualified. "There are no sound effects or lights. That's why I told all the guys in vice and homicide to bring their kids here," he grinned triumphantly.
"You did not?" she objected, her eyes narrowing and glittering darkly, but she was interrupted by another ringing bell.
This time it was Officer Bobby Stark and his two youngest boys, who were gleeful about the candied apples. Stark and Crews shook hands and there was an awkward moment where Stark's wife, Leslie waived from the car and Crews' tight smile showed his discomfort. Then they were gone.
"And Bobby," he admitted. "I told Bobby to bring his kids," Crews admitted the obvious. "Just vice, robbery, homicide and Bobby," he stammered over his embarrassment.
"You wanna tell me what that was between you and Stark's wife?" Dani inquired.
"She doesn't like me," Charlie stated the obvious.
"No shit?" Dani deadpanned, but was interrupted by the doorbell (again).
Kids came non-stop for the better part of forty minutes prevent her from pursing the matter further, but he'd only gained a respite and knew it. By 7:30PM the kids were trickling in and by 8PM they were gone entirely. Luckily, the pizza guy was running behind because of the holiday and it arrived only just before the last of the kids.
"Turn off the porch light," he counseled, "or your pizza will get cold."
"Since when did you know so much about trick-or-treating Mister?"
"Oh, Jen and I," he paused as cheese ran from his slice to his mouth and he tried to capture all of it. "We used to do this every year."
While he went to get plates and napkins, she picked up his phone and scrolled through his pictures. Most of them were of her – smiling, handing out candy, waving at parents. The kids, every so often, would manage to be in the picture too, but it was clear the subject of his work was her. She put the phone down before he got back.
"Wanna watch a scary movie?" he asked halfway through the pizza. Dani had two slices and quit, but it was clear that Crews intended to eat the entire pie.
"No," she said pointedly.
"Come on Reese," he pressed. "Just a harmless slasher film or something with poltergeists or demons in it?" he eagerly suggested.
Dani plunked down on the couch beside him and he jumped like she'd bit him. "I don't want to watch a scary movie in the dark with you, Crews. Now you gonna tell me that's really your play? You can't do better than a drive-in? What are we fifteen years old?"
He swallowed hard and tried to act shocked. "Um…I'm sorry what?"
She almost lost her nerve right then. She could feel the flush creeping up her neck and the muscles in her thighs tensed as she prepared to rise from the couch, but his warm palm covered her thigh. She looked down at his hand and then up at him. He seemed surprised to find that he was touching her.
"I don't wanna watch a scary movie with you," he confessed.
"And the candy? The kids?"
"I just wanted to be with you," he admitted, "be around you. I just wanted to be around you, not with you – because we're not together. I just thought with you and Tidwell, not being you and Tidwell anymore…Well, I mean you're still you and he's still Tidwell – you're just not…" he talked in circles until her fingers on his lips stopped him.
"I swear you must talk in your sleep," she exhaled in exasperation.
He gently removed her hand. "Is that something you'd like to find out about?" he winked at her cheekily.
"Is it even possible for you to stop talking?" she teased with a hint of smile.
He nodded but make no further effort to speak or move. As far as she could tell he might not be breathing either.
"So…what now?" she asked.
He didn't know. He couldn't say what he wanted, what he'd dreamed about, so he said all he could think of, what they kids were supposed to say, "trick or treat?"
Her smile was knowing and predatory. "Close your eyes," she ordered.
He shut his eyes instantly. He felt her lean away and then heard her reach into the bag of candy, plastic rustled as she searched for something particular. He was hoping she intended to give him something sweet instead of a slap in the face.
She unwrapped the candy and put it in her mouth. She stood gazing at her partner. He sat back on her couch, his hair brassy in the lamplight, his eyebrows little slivers of orange wiggled as he attempted to keep his eyes shut when he desperately wanted to look. His hands fumbled together anxiously in his lap. She walked to stand in front of him – this was the moment. Everything changed right here – they'd forever be different. She wanted to remember him just like this: goofy, earnest and slightly nervous. His lips twitched as he tried not to smile and to remain quiet, both very difficult tasks for him.
She eased a knee onto the couch beside him; he felt the pressure change and his breath hitched. He forced himself to relax while his mind raced with possibilities. She could just be leaning down to give him a piece of candy. Then her other knee settled on the other side and her bottom rested in his lap. This was an unmistakable change in things. His hands found purchase on her jean-clad thighs, sliding up them. She framed his face with both hands amazed his eyes remained closed and kissed him.
She tasted of coffee and cherries, a mixture of rich mocha and sweet complex fruit flavored candy. He held very still waiting for her to break the kiss, but she didn't. She tested his lips with her tongue and rocked against his lap. He groaned and her quick pink tongue licked at the entrance to his mouth. His hands were on her buttocks without thought. He pulled her tightly against him as his mouth drew her in. She transferred the candy to his mouth, something he hadn't done with a girl since high school and she withdrew.
His eyes opened. Pale blue regarded deep brown; her eyes held a question. He took the candy from his mouth and placed it on the nearly empty pizza box. Then he reached for her, his hands in her hair and his mouth fused to hers in a searing kiss. There was no fruit, no candy as sweet as the woman in his arms. She pushed the hoodie from his shoulders; she tugged at his t-shirt until it came off over his head. He was stripped to the waist, with this fiery woman sitting in his lap. His jeans were painfully constricting but not for long as she reached between them to unbutton and unzip them. His eyes widened as she reached into his pants to touch him.
He gasped and she returned to kiss him. He wanted to take her clothes off but couldn't seem to remove his hands from her firm ass. He lifted her higher until she could not reach into his pants. She was perched above him, giving her a height advantage she rarely enjoyed. He rocked up and stood holding her against him. Her legs wrapped around his waist and he asked her breathlessly, "where's your bedroom?"
She threw her head back and laughed, "let me down and I'll show you." She slid down his body as he released his grip. She took his hand and led him down a darkened hallway into a room as dark as a cave.
"How can you see in here?" he wondered.
"Don't need to," she walked him back until his legs hit the back of her mattress. She pushed and he sat down. "Take off your pants," she demanded.
He grabbed her by the waist and made his own demand, "you first." His hands unbuttoned her jeans and slid them over her hips. Her exposed belly was too tempting to ignore. He pulled her between his legs and nuzzled her navel and nipped lightly at her sides as he drew her shirt up over her head. He'd seized the advantage and as he kissed her, his free hand worked the clasp on her bra. He released her and she stepped back, shucking her pants as he drew her bra down over her arms.
She was naked and glorious. He would have preferred more light, but he could make out her contours and the softness in her hips and thighs. She was warm and smooth against his palms, as he pulled her back into her previous position, kneeling over his lap. This time however he wrapped his hands around her naked back and his mouth closed around the nipple of one breast. He proved as talented with his tongue as she'd hoped and she arched her back to give him better access.
His free hand rode over the curve of her ass and down to the hot wetness at her core. His fingers stroked her and she pulsated in time with his ministrations. She rocked against his hand and moaned softly. His breath came in deep ragged gasps as he reveled in the responses he coaxed from his partner. The noises she made spoke of pleasure and he wanted more of that, more of her. He withdrew his hand, rose, pivoted and gently laid her on her back and moving to cover her.
His hips sunk between her legs. She felt the texture of his jeans against her legs and abdomen and she growled her dissatisfaction. She pulled against the waistband of his jeans, sinking her hands into his back pockets, forcing them down fractionally over his narrow hips. He chuckled and pushed away to take off his jeans and boxers. When he returned, it was skin against skin, his mouth connected to hers and their hands wandering, roving, exploring.
Every inch of her skin was sweat slicked, hot as his tongue swirled in circles around her torso, visiting her breasts first, then her belly button. He drew hot lines with the tip of his tongue, curving up her belly and raked her sides with his teeth, causing her to squirm and make a noise that sounded a lot like a giggle. He leaned back and examined her smiling. Finally, he spoke, "did you just giggle?"
She shook her head vigorously no, simultaneously uttering a devout denial, "absolutely not."
He grinned and announced, "Well, I'm devoting myself to getting you to make that sound again, repeatedly."
She growled and pulled him to her, "Don't you ever invite Bobby Stark to my house again."
"That would imply," he offered, "that I'm going to be at your house again." He kissed her, "and again, and again." Each again punctuated with a kiss. He stopped and looked into her eyes. "I want to be here," he told her honestly. "I want to be with you."
"You are with me," she stated the obvious. "Aren't you? Unless this is one of those times when you are just as likely to be somewhere else…" she toyed.
"No," he chuckled. "I'm here, all here."
"Then be here," she demanded.
And he was there; he was everywhere. They became indistinguishable from one another. He filled the space she could see, hear, feel, breath. It should have felt stranger when the words "I love you," tumbled from his lips; the deep husky sound of his voice filling her ear, but it wasn't something she had to get used to. She'd had hours, days, weeks, months to get used to the fact that Charlie Crews loved her – and that she loved him.
She waited until he fell asleep, exhausted and sprawled across her bed, before she whispered, "I love you, Crews," against his temple. He tugged her hip against his chest, snuggling her close and replied, "love you too," into her hair removing any doubt. So maybe not as asleep as she'd hoped, but her affection for him could not have been a surprise to him at his point. His breathing matched hers and leveled out, they fell asleep together in the early hours of All Saints Day. Crews would remind her of this often over the next twenty something years. He'd tell anyone who'd listen, much to her dismay that their anniversary was Halloween and it was his favorite holiday bar none.