And the plot thickens!
This chapter is very slightly based off a pair of Taylor Swift Songs, Ronan and 15. Neither of which I own. I also do not own Winnie the Pooh or Flashpoint.
Reviews get you macaroni and cheese, virtual of course! Oh the well balanced diet of a college student!
Cassidy stared at the roof, her senses coming back far too quickly. The pounding of her head confirmed what she already knew.
What she wasn't expecting to see when she rolled over was Spike Scarlatti sitting in her office chair.
"Holy shh-" She'd overestimated her body's recovery to the massive amount of alcohol she'd consumed, and promptly fell off the bed.
Spike startled awake and gave her a shy grin. "You woke up."
She rubbed her head and stared at him. "What're you doing in my house?"
"I thought we had this conversation."
Cassidy furrowed her brow. "We did? Spike, how did you get in?"
He shrugged nonchalantly. "I broke your doorknob. You really need to get better locks, you know."
She fought to stay patient. "Why did you break into my house?"
"You didn't show up to work. We got worried."
She grabbed her watch off her dresser. "What? What time-HOLY CRAP!"
Spike chuckled. "We'll call this one a sick day, I guess."
Cassidy shook her head. "Spike, I get that you came to check on me. But why are you still here?"
"I was worried." Spike ran his fingers through his hair, an obvious sign that he was nervous. He did that every single time he was uncomfortable. "You were really upset."
He nodded. "You kept crying that it was your fault. I'm still trying to figure out what that means…Is it Cole?"
That name was like a dagger, every time she heard it. When she'd first chosen it, it had had such a sweet, strong sound to it. Now, it just felt like pain. "How do you know about him?"
"I saw the paper…" He sighed. "He was killed by an ex-gangster, right?"
Cassidy nodded, trying to ignore the tears pooling in her eyes. "Two years ago."
"And he was your son?" Spike prodded gently, picking up yet another picture of the two of them, this one lying on her dresser.
"Yeah." She sighed. "He was the best thing that ever happened to me. I know that sounds so cliché, but with Cole, it was true."
Spike got up off the chair and sat beside her on the floor, leaning his back against her bed. She stared straight ahead and sighed. "Spike, do you remember being 15?"
She shook her head. "Do you remember how insecure you were?"
Spike nodded. "It's that awkward stage between being no longer a child, but not yet an adult. It sucks."
"When I was 15, I was so awkwardly insecure. I wanted to believe in true love. I mean, what girl doesn't? So when the first guy came along…I was so sure that I was in love, Spike. He said he loved me, and I believed him. I was so naïve, but I believed every word he said. And so when the time came, and he told me what he wanted…"
A sob tore through her throat, and Spike immediately had his arm around her shoulders. "Shh, it's ok. You don't have to talk about this."
She shook her head. "I'm fine."
'And you deserve to know the truth.' The thought tore through her mind. Everything that she had so carefully guarded, everything that she ran from...She was running back. Because of this man, who, for some reason, had taken an interest in her. He needed to know her, so that he could run the other direction and move on.
"I slept with him. And two days later, I found him making out with my best friend. Love, right?" She gave a short, humorless laugh. "Not only had I just been humiliated as a woman, but three weeks later I took a pregnancy test."
"Cole?" guessed Spike.
Cassidy nodded. "Except, I was a pastor's girl. Can you imagine the scandal when I found myself pregnant? My Dad was furious…He said that I had to give the baby up. Which made sense, I guess. But I don't know, Spike. I felt that somehow, that life inside of me was there for a reason. That there was a reason that I had to keep that kid. And I did."
"And your Dad?" ventured Spike, shifting his legs slightly and settling back in beside her.
"Furious." She smiled sadly, her soft coils of hair sticking to her damp cheeks. "I'd heard him preach forgiveness, so many times. And that whole church talk about how important it was to welcome people in and care for them." She snorted. "Bunch of hypocrites they were. I didn't have to have a Scarlett A stitched on my dress. The bump of my stomach was enough."
"But you kept him?"
"I had no choice." Cassidy shook her head. "I'd never felt so alone in my entire life, Spike. But with Cole, I wasn't so lonely."
She reached over and pulled the blue picture frame off her dresser and traced the little boy's face. "He was my angel. From the moment he was born, Spike, he was my savior. All of a sudden, I'm wasn't just the teen mom. I was his mom."
"He had these big blue eyes, little blueberries. We were best friends. He loved the Blue Jays." She gave a real laugh this time. Sad, but real. "I remember one time I was taking a bath and he was watching the game on TV. I still remember him hearing him screaming at the umpire, threatening to come over there and deal with him himself. He sounded just like me. He was going to play baseball. A third baseman, just like Brett Lawrie. He was good, too. We would spend hours playing catch and fielding grounders."
She rubbed a smear off the glass with the corner of her sweater and glanced over at Spike. He seemed to be just letting her talk, no sign of anger or shock. That would come, though, as she kept talking. She knew that.
"I used to watch this Winnie the Pooh episode with him. And Christopher Robin would tell him that 'If there's ever a tomorrow when we're not together, there is something you must always remember: You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the important thing is, even if we're apart…I'll always be with you.' We watched that episode so many times. And one day while we were watching a baseball game together, he turned to me and quoted it. I thought it was because he'd seen it so many times…"
She gave a loud sniff. "Two days later I lost him."
Spike stared at her. "How'd it happen?"
She stared at the hardwood floor in misery. "I was finally ready to try for love again. So I started going out with this guy I met at the gym. His name was Blake, and he seemed really nice. We dated for a couple months, and he started to take an interest in Cole." She sighed. "I always felt so bad, for not being able to give him the attention he craved. He always loved having men in his life. He was always looking for that Dad figure. And I could never give it to him. So when Blake came along…Cole had never been happier. I thought everything was perfect. All of a sudden, I'm dreaming of a wedding again, of Cole walking me down the aisle and actually having a Dad in his life. And all of a sudden, that one place of your heart that you vow no one's ever going to see open's up, and all of a sudden you're living again."
"What I didn't know was that Blake was using me. He was doing his job. Can you imagine that, Spike? He worked for a gang, and he was doing his job by getting me to fall in love with him. So that he could get to know my house, figure out where I kept my valuables and bank cards, rip me off, and walk away. But it didn't work that way."
Spike pulled her closer, and this time she didn't resist, but rather leaned in, drawing the strength while she could for what came next. "I lived on this little acreage at the time. My dad was renting it for Cole and I. Blake came over, and we took our quads out for a drive. His buddy, who I'd met a couple times, came over and said that Blake had asked him to watch Cole, so that he could take me out. And here I am, thinking, 'How romantic is this?' So of course I say yes, and we go out. We drove down to this creek that I'd taken him to a couple of times, and sat down by the river bank. It was ten minutes later that I heard Cole scream."
"He was screaming for me, from that far away, I could hear him scream. So I get up and run over to my quad, but who do you think stops me?"
Spike winced. "Blake."
She nodded. "It was then I knew that something was really wrong. I slugged him pretty good, but not well enough, I guess. I got onto my quad and started tearing towards the house. But he got on his behind me and ran me off the road. I was 700 feet away when he pushed my quad into the ditch. I couldn't brake in time, and I hit the barb wire fence."
Spike sat up like a shot. "You hit the fence?"
"Yeah." She pulled up the sleeves of her blue sweater and showed him her inner arms, full of jagged scars. "That's how I got these things."
"I pulled myself off that fence. My little boy was still screaming for me. And I couldn't get there in time. It was when I heard the shot that I knew."
She started to cry, her sobs hard and choppy. "I couldn't get there in time, Spike. Cole needed me, and I wasn't there. He tried to protect the house, to be the man, and they shot him for it. He was four years old, Spike! Four years old! They didn't need to do that. But they did, and oh god, I hate him for it. GOD, I hate him!"
"I ran through the back door as they were leaving through the front. And my son, my best friend, lay bleeding on my kitchen floor. There was so much blood…I couldn't save him, Spike. I couldn't protect him in the first place, and I couldn't save his life." She put her head down into her knees and sobbed. Her muffled voice came through. "That kid was my best four years."
She put her head down and sobbed, the hardest she had since that day when Cole had died in her arms. Every moment of pain, regret, and anger flowed out like a cascading river. She was semi-conscious of Spike's arms around her, his voice trying to soothe her.
She sat up and looked at him, for a moment losing herself in his deep brown eyes. "It wasn't your fault." He whispered.
"Yeah," she snorted. "Yeah, it was. Spike, I was supposed to be his Mom. But I wasn't there. I wasn't smart enough to see the danger I threw him directly into. If I had been there, I could've protected him. But I wasn't."
Spike shook his head. "You can't blame yourself for that! You had no idea!"
"But I couldn't even love him enough to give him up. I was so selfish, Spike. I kept him for myself. If I had given him up, put him up for my adoption like my Dad said…He'd still be alive, somewhere."
Spike shook his head and took her hands into his. "Cass, you can't live like that. You can't live in what might have been with a different choice. It doesn't work that way. For all we know, he could've been killed in a car crash, or by leukemia, or who knows the heck what!"
He paused, and took a deep breath. "You said that he was your best four years…I have a feeling that you were his."
She stared at the floor, tears streaming down her face. "I miss him so much."
"I know," Spike whispered, pulling her into his chest. She buried her face, her body trembling. "I know. But you know what?"
She looked up at him, big grey eyes wet with emotion. He traced away a tear from her smooth cheek. She trembled at the warm touch. No matter what she had believed, he was still here. He was still sitting beside her, holding her. And that meant more than he would ever know.
"Cole was smarter than even he knew. He knew his Mom well. Because you are braver, stronger, and smarter than you know. You're here, taking down the bad guys and doing what you know is right. That takes guts. And I think that he was right, that he'll always be with you. Because you two loved each other, I can see that. And my Dad used to say that when you love someone, no matter what happens, you can never really lose them. That's what you've got to believe."
They stared at each other for a moment, suddenly conscious of the closeness between themselves.
"Spike…" she whispered.
He stood up. "Come on." He offered her his callused hand, and she took it tentatively.
"Where are we going?"
"You'll see…" he said with a small smile. "I hope you like Italian cooking."