Thank you for the comments and all the alerts. It's the first time I have the courage to publish a story, so your interest is very encouraging.
Here is the second chapter. I hope you enjoy it.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
When Tara woke up, the first thing she noticed was the disgusting taste in her mouth. She moved slightly. Bad idea. It was as if the headache exploded in her skull. What the heck?
It all came back in a rush. Her trip to Stanley's condo to pick up a top she had left there and wanted to take with her for their week-end; the noise that came from the bedroom, which was weird since Stanley was on his way back to DC and was going to meet her directly at her place; her shock when she opened the door and found them in bed, him naked in his bed, very much in DC, and her naked on top of him.
The pain, the hurt. It was all back now.
She started crying, her whole body seemed to wake up with her sobs. The pain was in every single one of her cells. There was no escaping it. She felt so miserable, so stupid. She curled up, buried her face in the pillow and cried herself to sleep.
She woke up again a few hours later but kept her eyes closed. She was not ready to face reality just yet. She had no reason to hurry and face the real world. She needed to sort out her next move and doing that in bed was as good a place as any.
Speaking of bed, she started to sense a strange feeling develop. The bed felt different. As in not hers. Panic aroused and she was in a sitting position in a second, eyes wide open, heart pounding, head hurting from the hangover and the effort of working at full speed.
Where on Earth was she?
There wasn't much light coming through the closed curtains but enough to confirm her suspicions.
This was not her bed. This was not her bedroom.
And she had no idea whose it was.
She looked around her. First thing: she was alone. Good thing? Well, she had not done anything stupid like having sex with a complete stranger since she was there alone and... still dressed. Yep, top and bottom were still covered in original jeans and…. Hold on. The tee-shirt was not hers. And it was too big for her. She held the round neck of the shirt ahead of her and looked at her body. Bra still on. Veeerry good point.
So what had happened? Where was she?
Tara tried to remember what had happened the previous night. She fought the nausea when she thought of them two in bed and forced her mind to move forward in time. She vaguely remembered driving. How she had managed not to get a ticket or have an accident was beyond her. But then she recalled stopping somewhere and crying. She was trembling so badly that, once she had calmed down a bit, she had decided that driving was not an option. She could not focus. So she had gotten out of the car and locked it. She was going to take a taxi home and would pick her car later on. She had looked around and realised that she was not far from work. She had recognized the street and located a bar where she had been with the team a few times, to celebrate birthdays or ends of big cases. Tara could not remember making the decision to go there, but she clearly remembered entering the bar, sitting down on a stall at the counter and ordering a drink. And that was about it. Nothing more.
"You stupid, stupid woman!" she thought. "You're an FBI agent and you got drunk at a bar! So drunk that you don't remember what happened, how you left the bar, with whom, how you got where you are now and where you are now! You stupid imbecile!"
She buried her face in her hands. She had to decide on a plan of action. She had to leave this place with as much dignity as she could gather, which wasn't much. She had to go home. With some luck, she would never see the owner of this place ever again. She just had to swallow her pride, get out of this room, say thanks, and go home. That was what she wanted to do. Once at home, she could feel sorry for herself as much as she wanted.
She took a few deep breaths and got out of bed. Her head and stomach were still aching badly, her legs shacking but she gathered her will and once she calmed down, she looked around her. Some light was coming into the room from the floor.
"Good, I've found the door" she thought.
Tara put her hand on the knob, closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. Once she was ready, well at least as ready as she'd ever be, she opened the door.
The attack was terrible. Too much light. Too much bright light. It hurt Tara's eyes so bad she thought she was going to be blind for life. And her head was pounding terribly. She held on to the doorframe to steady herself, head against the wood.
"Hey! You're up!"
That voice. She knew that voice. But she did not dare look up. "Please make it a dream" she thought. "Or a nightmare. Whichever, but not reality".
"You want me to close the curtains a bit?"
Did he have to be so nice?
She heard footsteps, then curtains being closed and felt the intensity of the light diminishing. She opened her eyes very slowly.
Bobby was by her side by the time she felt confident enough to release her hold on the doorframe and to look around.
"You want to have something to eat or a shower first?" Bobby asked as he placed his hand on her back, just below her neck.
The contact felt like a burn sensation to Tara and she could not help but move away from him.
"It's OK Tara, it's only me. You're at my place" he said in a soft voice.
Tara was fighting her shame. This was worse than she thought. She was not with a stranger, she was at a work colleague's home!
"Let's go to the sofa and I'll bring you something to drink, OK?"
Tara nodded slightly and walked slowly towards the sofa, Bobby following her closely. Once she was sat as comfortable as possible, Bobby left for the kitchen.
When he came back with the glass of water, he sat next to her and gave her the drink.
"Thanks" she said in a low voice.
"You're welcome. Do you remember anything about last night?" he asked after she had taken a sip. "At the bar I mean."
"Do you want me to tell you?"
Tara nodded slowly.
So Bobby told her about the phone call he had received from the bartender, how he found her at the counter. He told her about Angry Tara, Funny Tara, Sick Tara, Pissed off Tara and Sick Tara again.
"On the way to your place, I thought he would probably be there waiting for you or calling you all the time. You would not have much rest. So I brought you here. He won't look for you at my place. I laid you down on the sofa but you kept on moving and nearly fell twice so I put you in my bed."
"Thanks" said Tara after a moment. "I'm sorry for bothering you and ruining your evening."
"Think nothing of it. That's what friends are for."
Silence fell on them. Bobby waited to see if Tara was going to talk but it didn't look that way. She had kept her eyes on her drink all the time and he had no way of knowing what was going through her mind. It was probably a very difficult situation for her to realize what had happened last night and that he was involved in it in some way. He knew that if she had wanted to call someone from work for help, it would have been the girls, Sue and Lucy, not him. He wasn't sure he was the right person to help her just now, they were not that close. She probably would want to leave his place as soon as possible, hoping that he would be discreet about the whole ordeal.
So he was surprised when she eventually opened up to him.
"I don't usually do this you know, drink alone in bars. I just wanted to forget the picture of the two of them together. I knew Stanley wasn't the one, but I never thought it would turn out like this."
"You don't have to justify yourself to me Tara. Breaking up is never easy. You have to give yourself some time."
"I was so shocked" Tara continued. "I just left the flat, ran to my car and drove away. It's a miracle I had no accident. I don't even remember driving. God, Bobby, I could have killed someone!"
"Hey Tara" said Bobby. She was shacking so much, he took the glass off her hands and put it on his low table. Then he took her face in his hands and turned her to him. "Don't do this to yourself. You did not hurt anyone. You did the right thing, you stopped the car. Right now, you have to allow yourself some time to process what happened, OK?"
Tara was crying. Bobby felt very inadequate. He was not used to having a crying woman on his sofa. He was worried of saying the wrong thing.
"I feel so stupid" said Tara as the tears were falling. "I feel like I'm the one who's done something wrong. I only went to his place because I had left something there that I wanted for the week-end. We were supposed to go away just the two of us. I can't help thinking that if it wasn't for this damn tee-shirt I wanted to take with me, I would never have known. Was it the first time? Was he going away with me as planned? Was he going to break up with me during the week-end? Before? After? Or would he have kept on going like that? How long has it been going on? How many women had there been? Am I really this blind?"
"Tara, stop!" the severity in Bobby's voice forced Tara to look at him. "You listen to me, Tara. You did nothing wrong. He's the one who should feel guilty. You gave him your love and your trust and he did not respect it. The problem is with Stanley, not you."
"No buts, Tara," interrupted Bobby. "The one who cheats never has a good excuse."
"It's a bit more complicated than that."
"I don't see how."
"I know her" she said very slowly. "I introduced them."
The douchebag! He slept with one of her friends! Could he fall any lower?
"Then she isn't worth your friendship. Forget about her."
"That's going to be difficult."
"She's my sister."
When Tara broke in tears, Bobby brought her to him and held her as close to him as he could. So many things were wrong in this story. If only he could take her pain away, or fast forward time until she had recovered from this mess and moved on. Anything rather than letting Tara face an unbearable reality.
He held her for as long as she needed, stroke her hair, her back. He could not do anything to help her and it was killing him.
If he ever saw Stanley again, he was going to hurt him badly.
When Tara eventually calmed down, Bobby got up to go to the kitchen and make some sandwiches. Tara asked him for some headache tablets.
"Thank you" she said when he returned with the medecine and a plate with food on it.
"You're welcome" said Bobby. "Help yourself with some sandwiches. They're the extent of my culinary expertise and they are also usually good, mainly because there's no real cooking involved so I can't burn anything."
Tara smiled. "You don't have to do all this Bobby. You've done a lot already."
"I have to eat too you know" he said as he grabbed a sandwich and bit into it. "So don't worry, it's not a problem."
Suddenly, Tara realized she had a time problem.
"Since when do you have sandwiches for breakfast?" she asked.
Bobby swallowed before replying to her.
"I don't. This is lunch. Oh! You might prefer toasts?"
"What time is it?" she asked, totally ignoring his question.
"It's nearly 2 p.m."
"Oh my God, Bobby! 2 o'clock in the afternoon? Why didn't you wake me up? I can't believe I've slept for so long! What time was it when you brought me here?"
Bobby felt like he had done something wrong but could not really pinpoint what. Tara had finally calmed down and suddenly, just like that, she was in panic mode. What was going on?
"It was a bit after midnight when we got here I think."
"Midnight? You mean I've slept around the clock?"
"Yes. You were tired, you needed to sleep so I left you alone. Why should have I woken you up?"
"Because you might have better things to do with your day than wait for me to come out of my drunken stupor! Oh my God. I remember Jack saying you guys were meeting up for lunch."
"Tara, it's OK. That's for Sunday. Tomorrow. Jack had something planned for today. Really, it's fine."
He could see that Tara was struggling to regain her composure. He wasn't sure if he should go to her again or give her some space. He wasn't sure what the right action was. But he knew he did not want Tara to feel embarrassed with him.
So he decided to make his view on the situation clear. He went to her and sat down on the low table in front of her. She had put her glass down and her head was in her hands again.
"Tara, look at me" he said quietly. But Tara would not move. She was crying again. Without thinking about what he was doing, he placed his hands on the sides of her knees. Tara kept her hands on her face but her crying seemed to reduce.
"I know how hard breakups can be. And I've indulged in a few drunken nights because of them. So I know how the morning after feels. And from what you've told me, this is not your first hangover." Tara chucked. So she was listening. Good. He continued. "I'm glad I was there for you yesterday. You're my friend, if there's anything I can do to help, I will. But I can't take your pain away. I can, however, let you sleep as much as you need, because I know you're going to need all your strength to face reality when you wake up. So believe me when I say, it's not a problem."
Tara lowered her hands to rest them on her legs and raised her head to look at Bobby. He moved back a little, suddenly worried he might have gone a bit too far.
"I'm not used to relying on someone. I usually deal with everything on my own. So I feel like a burden to you. I'm sorry…"
"No Tara, don't. You are not a burden. You can stay here as long as you want. I mean it."
"Thank you." Tara took a deep breath and tried to control the tears that she could feel coming up again. "It's just so hard. I've had breakups before so I should be able to overcome this one as well but…" The tears were falling again. "I feel… so helpless. It's like… what's the point? It hurts so much." The tears overwhelmed her and she could not speak anymore. Bobby felt an urge to remove the tears but somehow his hands refused to move away from their place on her knees.
"It's not the same Tara, not this time" he said in a low voice.
"It's a breakup, ….just….like… others" she managed to mutter.
"I mean with your sister."
The tears won over again. Bobby sat by her side again and took her in his arms. He didn't know what to make of the fact that she had walked on Stanley in bed with her sister, but it seemed that Tara was not able to deal with it either. She would get over him eventually, but her? How could you forgive your sibling for such a betrayal? He was a lonely child so he could not even begin to imagine how that felt, and to be honest, he did not want to. He could see the effects though.
What was she going to tell her parents? Would she tell them? Or was it something you could fix without involving them? Surely parents would suspect something was wrong.
"I don't…. know….what...to…do" Tara said between cries. "How…could…she?"
Bobby remained silent. He had no answer to that and he doubted she would ever find a suitable one. This was going to be the most difficult thing to overcome.
He held her closed, gently striking her hair. He let her cry and waited till she had no more tears.
It took a while.
Tara's breathing was still a bit laboured but it calmed down. Bobby started wondering if she was falling asleep but then she started to extricate herself from his arms. She removed the last tears from her cheeks and saw that his tee-shirt was wet.
"Sorry. Seems I've ruined your shirt" she said, using the excuse of cleaning her face so she did not have to look at him.
"It has seen worse, believe me" he said quietly.
"Speaking of which, what happened to my blouse?"
"Oh!" said Bobby. He suddenly felt like a little boy who had been caught up doing something naughty. "It was…well, dirty, you know. I didn't think it would be a good idea for you to wake up with that smell around you so I gave you one of my tee-shirts to sleep in and washed your blouse." He had been saying the last bit very slowly, embarrassed by what it implied.
Tara gave him a dubious look.
"OK, yes, I changed your top. You were out when it happened but I promise I did not look! The room was dark, I did not see anything!"
He was really worried about her reaction. She was so volatile; he didn't know which Tara was going to show up now.
She laughed. The way he told the story and the look on his face made him look like a child trying very hard to justify his actions to prove his good intentions and avoid punishment.
"Sorry, Bobby" she said with a smile. "I should have known that if you can be a knight in shining armour, you can also be a gentleman. Thank you."
Bobby released the breath he was holding.
"It's OK. I've never been called a gentleman and a knight in shining armour in the same sentence. It's really nice."
She put her hands on his.
"No Bobby, thank you" she insisted. "I really don't know what I would have done if it wasn't for you. It scares me to think what could have happened if the bartender had not called you."
"Oh, I can think of something."
"Yeah. He could have called Myles, think about that."
Tara laughed again. Yes, things would have been very different if their colleague had been the one to come to her rescue. Not that he would not have helped her somehow. She knew that below this superior appearance he liked to show was a very caring person. He just did not like to let people see it for some reasons.
"Would it be OK with you Bobby if I took a shower before I go home?"
"Of course. I can't offer a change of clothes I'm afraid, but your blouse is clean, let me grab it for you."
Bobby got up and left the room. She was alone for a minute or two. The smile on her face disappeared. Laughing had been good for the time it lasted. But once its effects cooled off, the emptiness took over again. She had to go home. She could not hide here indefinitely. Stanley was not the problem. The relationship at stake here was the one with her sister. She had no idea how she was going to handle it, what she was going to do. But if Stanley was waiting for her at home, then she'll just hand him over his stuff and ask him to return hers. And that would be it.
Kate, however, was another story.