Title: How Far
Warnings: adult themes, off-screen violence.
Characters/Pairings: Sheridan, Gwen, Theresa, Luis, original characters
Summary: prompt: I know. "I always mean what I say, Sheridan."
"I think it's admirable," Gwen mused as she seated herself across from Sheridan, "what Luis and his family have done with this place."
Sheridan repositioned her drowsy son in her lap, fingered his stubborn blond locks in an attempt to shape them into some sense of temporary order. She absently nodded her agreement, eventually giving up her fruitless efforts and casting her blue gaze around the Book Café. The searching nature of it, however, failed to escape Gwen's notice, and when Sheridan looked to her friend again, she wore a gentle, knowing smile.
"I'm sure he's around here somewhere," Gwen told her. "Why don't you just ask Theresa how he's doing?"
"Ask me what?" Theresa's smile was friendly and expectant as she fished a pen out of one of her apron pockets and flipped open the small notepad cradled in her hand. "The usual or do you want to try the cupcake of the day?"
"Cupcake of the day," Gwen and Sheridan simultaneously answered.
"Cupcake of the day it is," Theresa giggled in response. "Now," she slipped the pen and the notepad back into the deep pockets of her apron. "What was it you wanted to ask me?"
Taking the initiative for her uncharacteristically timid friend when it became apparent she couldn't unearth the courage to ask such a simple question, Gwen turned sideways in her chair and looked up into Theresa's large, dark eyes. "Tell us," she entreated, "how is Luis doing in his recovery?"
Theresa opened her mouth to reply, but movement in the back of the Book Café distracted her, distracted them all, and she and Gwen followed Sheridan's rapt gaze to the man himself. "I'll do even better," Theresa rediscovered her voice. "I'll let Luis tell you all about it himself."
Broken out of her reverie when she realized Theresa was intent on making good on her promise, Sheridan started to protest, but she was seconds too late. Pilar's young daughter was already at her brother's side, and Sheridan felt her very breath stall in her lungs when Luis's intense dark eyes met her own across the room.
"Looks like it's going to take more than a near-death experience…"
Sheridan frowned at Gwen. "What are you talking about?"
Gwen slowly shook her head, rising from her seat and carefully extricating the sleeping toddler from Sheridan's arms before she had time to react. "Josiah and I are going to take a little walk. Tell Luis he can have my cupcake."
"But…Gwen," Sheridan cried out, in equal parts frustration and panic, because suddenly, Luis was standing right there, holding a cupcake in each hand, and he wasn't quite smiling at her, but he wasn't not smiling either. Nothing had changed since that horrible, unending night when she'd waited with his family and the rest of his friends while a surgeon dug bits and pieces of a shattered bullet from his chest cavity, pumped blood into his body almost as fast as it bled out. Yet everything had. It was all there, the painful, exhilarating truth, in his penetrating dark stare. By his own admission, he'd loved her, once upon a time; maybe, she hoped, he loved her still.
"Cupcake?" Luis offered.
Sheridan bit her lip, released it and a shaky breath as she struggled to recover her wits. "Thanks," she murmured as he set the cupcake down in front of her. She studied him silently while he studied her. He looked pale but good to her wanting eyes, thinner and leaner than she'd ever seen him look but still strong; it was a welcome change from the last time she'd lain eyes on him, a shadow of the fierce, stubborn man she knew him to be. "Why don't you take a seat?" she proposed. "It seems I've been abandoned in favor of more agreeable company."
Luis glanced over his shoulder to see Theresa tugging her apron from her waist and hurrying after Gwen as she exited the Book Café for the alluring sunshine and cottony clouds of a late spring afternoon outside.
"I'm taking my break, Luis," Theresa called out.
Luis turned back to Sheridan, shaking his head as he accepted her invitation.
"What?" Sheridan asked with a curious smile playing on her lips.
"That's the third break she's taken today," Luis informed her. "I'm starting to wonder just how much work she gets done when I'm actually at the station."
"She does fine," Sheridan spoke up in Theresa's defense. "The customers love her."
"Whether the customers love her or not, my sister needs to learn to be more responsible," Luis sighed in reply. "This isn't some hobby. It's Maddie's inheritance, and Beth trusted me to take care of it until that little girl is old enough to decide what she wants to do with it."
Seizing the opportunity to change the subject, Sheridan questioned, "How is Maddie?"
"Maddie's," Luis paused to carefully consider his response, "she's Maddie. Loving and loyal with a new leeriness of letting me out of her sight."
Sheridan dipped a finger into the creamy frosting of the carrot cake cupcake in front of her as she listened, savored the burst of sugary sweetness on her tongue. "Her reaction is natural, Luis. Understandable. She almost lost you, we almost lost you. It's going to take a while before she stops feeling protective of you, if she ever does." She lifted her gaze back to Luis, her nerve endings tingling and her stomach somersaulting when she caught him in the act of staring at her mouth.
Clearing his throat uncomfortably, Luis rubbed a thumb over his own upper lip and glanced away. "You have some icing…"
Removing the icing with a napkin, Sheridan awkwardly thanked him, pushed aside her cupcake for later. "Luis, what you said, that night at the hospital, did you…"
"Mean it?" Luis finished for her.
"Yes," Sheridan answered him on nothing more than a breath of air.
"I always mean what I say, Sheridan."
Sheridan gave him one more chance to recant his words from that night, prayed that he didn't. "You'd just woken up from major surgery."
Luis shook his head again, searched her unwavering blue gaze for her full understanding. "I'd just had a major shift in my priorities. The drugs had nothing to do with it. I meant what I said, Sheridan."
Sheridan sank back into her chair, pressed her fist to her trembling mouth. "Why didn't you tell me? When I told you I loved you, why didn't you say anything?"
"I didn't know then. I didn't realize how much you meant to me. It wasn't until after that I even had the first clue that what I felt for you was more than this incredibly intense attraction. Then the trial and Josiah…I was too late, Sheridan, and I felt it was better if I didn't say anything at all." Obviously frustrated with himself and all of the missed opportunities between them, Luis drove an agitated hand through his hair, swept it down across his face, his stormy eyes.
"It's only too late if you never say it all," Sheridan softly uttered. She caught a glimpse of Theresa and Gwen lurking outside the window, Josiah perched on Gwen's hip, his thumb firmly rooted in his sleep-slack mouth, and once again, laid her heart on the line. "I still feel the same way, Luis. I always have, always will. It's up to you what you do with that information, whether you break my heart again or decide not to let our past dictate whatever future we might have together."
"I know," Luis said simply as he watched her stand, begin to pack up her things.
"I love you enough to forgive you for something that was never your fault in the first place. You, though? I'm not sure about you."
"Sheridan," Luis protested.
"Do you love me enough to care about and accept my son?" Sheridan declined the cupcake he offered her, tossed a sizable tip upon the tabletop as she turned to go.
Luis mirrored her position on the other side of the table, reached out for her, then dropped his hand back to his side when she took a step back. "Sheridan," Luis tried again.
"Gwen said keep the cupcake," Sheridan cut him off. Then, softening fractionally, she gave him a tiny ray of hope as she walked away, "You know where to find me."
Not my favorite chapter, but not my least favorite one either.
Hope you guys enjoyed it nevertheless.
Mistakes are all mine. Please let me know if there are any glaring typos as I'm posting this in hurry.
Thanks so much for reading!
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