A/N: I began this fic around episode 1.7. Even after tonight's 1.8, which was strongly Michael/Hannah, I'm sticking to my Michael/Tara guns, even if only for fanfiction's sake. This will be a multi-chaptered fic, structured like an actual episode. Enjoy!
"He's getting even better, you know."
Michael looked at Tara. Her gaze was fixed on Rex, watching him intently and—to Michael's surprise—proudly.
Of course she's proud of him, he told himself. She's his coach.
And it wasn't that Michael wasn't proud of Rex, too. It was strange, though, to hear anyone else talk about his son that way. And really, that was how Michael thought of Rex these days. As his son. Not as hisandHannah's, the way it used to be. Hannah didn't listen when Michael talked about Rex. Something about it hurting too badly. He didn't talk about his "dreams" with Hannah anymore. But he also didn't talk about the past with her. They talked about work. They talked about moving. They talked about moving to Oregon. About moving forward.
It was… heartening to talk to someone else about Rex.
"You think so?" Michael asked. On the tennis court, Rex prepared for a serve.
"Not just with tennis," Tara said. She looked at Michael then. "I mean, with everything. He hasn't gotten into any more fights. He seems happier."
"He has a girlfriend now," said Michael. "Emma."
"Oh, so she's his girlfriend?" Tara grinned lopsidedly. "She's been coming around to practices, but Rex never introduced us. I'm guessing things are better between you two?"
Michael looked at her silently. Tara's head cocked to the side, swinging her long, brown ponytail to rest over her shoulder. A single, free tendril wriggled away from her, tumbling down beside her ear. She seemed blissfully unaware of it. Michael, meanwhile, focused in on it. She was asking about his home life with Rex. She wasn't the first. Everyone did. The captain, Bird, Dr. Evans… But Michael didn't want to meet Tara's gaze head-on. His stomach always curdled at the cloying pity from everyone else. He faced it at work and in therapy. He wasn't about to face it every time he went to a game.
"Sorry," Tara said. "I didn't mean to pry… I know it's not really my place. I just… I want you to be all right. Both of you. It's better for Rex when you two aren't fighting."
Michael hazarded a gaze at Tara. Her eyes were downcast. Her hands folded on her knees and something in her voice that made Michael's stomach feel warm. He stared at her hands. They were long and brown from the sun. He smiled.
"No, you're fine," he said, catching her gaze just a moment before looking back out at Rex. He'd served the tennis ball at some point in time and was now watching it sail through the air with hawk-eyed intensity. Michael looked back at Tara. "Thank you for your concern. I know Rex appreciates it. I do, too. It's good to know someone else is watching out for my son."
When Michael awoke the next morning, Hannah was not beside him. He could hear her, though, in the shower. He smiled and went to join her. The bathroom was thick with steam. Through the fogged glass, Hannah's fleshed silhouette gave him pause to catch his breath and grin. And then he slipped in behind her.
"You're up early." Hannah turned to face him.
"Well," Michael said, leaning forward to kiss her. "You make getting up early worth it."
Hannah laughed, but turned to face the showerhead again before Michael could touch his lips to hers.
"You're sweet," she said. "But I've got to be downtown to meet some potential buyers in twenty minutes."
Michael groaned and nuzzled the back of her neck.
"Tell them traffic held you up," he murmured.
Hannah turned off the water.
"I can't, sweetie," she said. "I'm already going to be late as it is. I'll take a rain-check, okay?"
"We've been taking a lot of rain-checks lately."
"I know, I'm sorry. But there will be plenty of rainy days in Portland to make up for it, okay?"
Hannah squeezed past Michael and padded across the tile and back into the bedroom. Michael turned the dial back on. Icy water hit him right in the face.
Doctor Lee's office might as well have been a torture chamber. The air conditioning in the building was broken, so both men sat with loosened ties and rolled up sleeves, locked in their usual staring match.
"So," Dr. Lee said, leaning forward. "What you've essentially told me in the last ten minutes is that you worry Hannah thinks you're inadequate?"
"No," Michael gripped the arm of his chair. "I'm not 'inadequate', thanks. I didn't realize you were a certified sex therapist."
"Your problem isn't unique," Dr. Lee said as though Michael hadn't said anything. "It's not uncommon in marriages, after the loss of a child for sexual appetites to wane or disappear altogether in one or both partners."
"I'm not inadequate."
"I'm not talking about you, Michael." Dr. Lee leaned back. "But have you considered that maybe Hannah is… uninterested in sex? That maybe this is a new manifestation of her grief? Or perhaps stress? You two are selling your house and she's preparing for an entirely new career."
"You're saying Hannah's not attracted to me because we're moving to Portland."
"Give her time. The best thing you can do, as her husband, is be sensitive to her needs. And try not to take it personally."
"Not take it personally?" Michael echoed. "The hell it's 'nothing personal'."
Dr. Lee rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"It might not be a rejection of you. Hannah might not be attracted to anyone right now."
"Yeah, well, trust me. You're wrong. She was plenty interested when she said she wanted a new baby—God, what am I doing? Why are we even talking about this? I don't need to discuss my wife's bedroom habits with you."
Dr. Lee pulled his silver reading glasses from his breast pocket and began to write on his oft-untouched legal pad. He looked up at Michael from it.
"That's interesting…" he said. "When you say she 'wanted a new baby', you're referring to…?"
Michael shut his eyes and sighed.
"Nothing. Never mind, it's not important."
"Let me ask one thing. Did she say she 'wanted a new baby' before or after the accident?"
"Twenty-nine stab wounds," Bird said, shaking his head. "My God, I can't imagine why anyone would need to stab somebody twenty nine times. Let alone once."
The woman spread out on the medical examiner's table must have been pretty once. Her dark hair hung in limp curls now; the freckles across the bridge of her nose were washed out under the morgue lighting. Even her eyes—big and green—looked like dusty bits of glass. Michael shook his head.
"Domestic dispute," he said. "We've seen it a hundred times, Bird."
"Still sad, though," said Bird. "I mean, when my wife left me, I never raised a hand to her. Didn't even raise my voice."
"That's probably for the better," Michael said. Then looking at the paperwork added, "Do you think he had a motive? The husband. Maybe she was leaving him…?"
"I wouldn't blame her," Bird said. "They've got a history of violence. Cops have been called over there three times since last fall. The witness said she heard the screaming."
"Emily Wood. Twenty-nine, lives three houses down. Says she was walking her dog when she heard our suspect and our victim shouting."
"And the husband?"
"Jack Wilmont. We have him in custody already."
Jack Wilmont's sandy hair and oil-tanned skin paired with his paunchy belly gave him the look of an overgrown surfer dude. The seashells around his neck did nothing to contradict the assumption. His brown eyes were ringed with sleeplessness and wild with what Michael could only assume to be either fear or shock. Possibly both. If Wilmont had been crying, you couldn't tell. His cheeks were untarnished by tears; his eyes were not red-rimmed. Instead, he fidgeted in his seat.
"Open and shut case," Bird mouthed to Michael before sending him from behind the two-way mirror and into the room.
"I want a lawyer!" Wilmont said, the second Michael walked in the room. "Don't I get a lawyer?"
"Well, as I'm sure someone told you before you got here, you have the right to an attorney," Michael said, sitting in the seat opposite Wilmont. "If you cannot afford one, the state of California will hire one for you."
"This is bullshit," Wilmont said. "I didn't kill my wife. What kind of sick bastard kills his wife?"
Michael leaned back a little in his seat.
"That's what we're trying to find out. I mean, why would someone kill Norah?"
"Hey, man, don't fuck with me," Wilmont said. "I know what you're doing. You're doing that cop shit. Reverse psychology or whatever. But it isn't gonna work. I didn't kill my wife."
"No one is saying you did," said Michael. "We're just trying to get your wife the justice she deserves. The report says you and Norah fought a lot. Is that true?"
"We were married." Wilmont said. "Fighting is in the job description."
"Not like this, though. Not loud enough that the neighbors have called the cops three times since October."
"This is stupid. I wasn't even there. I didn't know this was- I want a lawyer."
"You didn't know…?"
"Nothing," Wilmont snapped. "I didn't know nothing."