Author's Note: This isn't my usual style, but inspiration struck. To make up for it, I promise to share something happier later this week.
Thank you to everyone who added my story "Midnight" to your favorites. I'm amazed and humbled.
He thought it would be okay. He thought that he could deal with it, be alright with not hearing her say it—to not hear her say it back.
He considered himself lucky. He figured that having her in any capacity would be acceptable, that her being there could be enough for him. Slowly, and painfully, he began to realize that it never would.
She was still a ghost of a woman and, somehow, in her wake she created a phantom of a man. Maybe it was the tangible loss of the real Kate Beckett, or maybe it was just the air of depression that followed her around, but somehow her presence began to make him miserable, just like her.
It was not her doing. Or, at least, he would never blame her. She was struggling, and he could not ever resent her for her grief. It was rather the absence of her that made him gloomy. In part it was the memories he shared with the old her, but it was also the memories he had dreamt up and wanted to bring into existence.
Her cloud also suffocates him. He feels the mist and heavy air and he struggles to inhale that air. It is hot and dense, too much so to be comfortable. It sets his lungs on fire, burns his throat and makes his voice come out in dry croaks.
It had not been as natural as he always thought it would be. Again, at least she was there, he had thought. But now, without improvement, he can no longer take it.
Their moments, whether of seriousness or teasing each other, began to grow less frequent. They would laugh, but their laughter always seemed to die, to be sucked into some pit, and the emptiness would take over once more.
His emptiness had become so apparent that his mother and daughter had started taking interest. He always brushed aside their worries with a hollow smile and a brash, "I'm fine." But now, after so many mornings and evenings of their worries, he could no longer pretend.
It broke his already demolished heart when he picked up the phone with intent. He did not want to, never wanted to have to do what he was planning, what he had promised he would never do, but he also knew it had to be done.
After only a moment's hesitation, his finger descended onto the 'talk' button. Faintly, as if he were underwater, he heard the phone ring.