Author's Notes: So got this idea before I ever saw "Forget Oblivion" just based off the previews. Seeing the episode just strengthened what I wanted to do with this Ed post-ep. Major Spoilers inside. Hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: The show Flashpoint and its characters were created by Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern and belong to them and its respective networks. I am making no money off this story and it is for entertainment purposes only. However, this particular story is my creation and should not be used without my express written permission.
The Words are Hard to Say
Ed Lane loved his job, at least most of the time. He'd decided at an early age that he was going to follow in his father's footsteps and that determination had never faltered over the intervening years even into adulthood. Saving lives and keeping the peace weren't just euphemisms but a way of life for him. He literally didn't know how to do anything else, nor would he want to do anything else even if he did.
It was not only a job he loved but it was one he was good at. He could believe and accept that without the least little bit of conceit but with a whole lot of pride. He was more than a cop; he was one of the elite – Strategic Response Unit. More importantly, he was Tactical Leader of the elite of the elites. He could admit with more than a little satisfaction that even after all this time, he still felt a thrill of achievement every time he donned the cool pants.
Lately however, that sense of accomplishment had been warring with a profound case of guilt. He could - at any given moment – make the tough call. He had even in the past been the one to force other members of the team to realize that those tough shots had to be made. In that moment, when lives were on the line, he could take the person out of the equation and see just the situation. And afterward, when the shot had been made and a life taken, he could console away the guilt with the knowledge that the shot had been justified. Lives had been saved and the peace had been kept while the city had been under his watch. Any major doubts that might linger after the call was wrapped up were banished once the team had backed up his decision in the debriefing and SIU deemed the matter closed. Minor doubts that lasted after that were annoying but of no consequence, like a gnat that wouldn't leave you alone.
The night a week before Valentine's Day on the rooftop of the Royal York should have been no different. Lives had been saved, peace had been kept, and SIU had closed the case. He'd been the one to bolster the team as they struggled with their own guilt about the death of eighteen-year-old May Dalton. Logically, he could rationalize his actions. She'd crossed a line and pulled a gun. She'd made herself a subject and become an active shooter. His directive had been clear and the Scorpio call had backed him up. He could argue his actions logically all day long. But logic could not convince his conscience. Not when his conscience could so easily picture the teenage girl looking at him earnestly while begging that he put a stop to her father's actions. She had made the wrong choice once she believed he wasn't going to keep his word.
He'd tried to ignore the signs that all was not okay. At first it had been easy. During work, he'd thrown himself into the job, giving himself no time to let his thoughts drift to what should have been or what could have been. To do that could cost someone else their life. He was too professional to allow that happen.
And when he wasn't at work, he was with his family. He'd sworn early in his career not to bring his work home with him. While he loved his job most of the time, he loved his family ALL the time, without question. As the job consumed him while on shift, he not only owed it to his family but wanted to be just as committed to them when it was their time. It wasn't fair to them if they only got a portion of him.
He was so sincere in that pledge he'd made to himself that he'd installed a lock box in the garage not long after he started at SRU. It wasn't for his weapons which, other than what he owned personally, usually stayed secured at headquarters. Instead, the box was where he locked away those calls that could weigh on him even when he was off the clock. It was there for those days when Constable Lane pulled into the garage instead of Ed, husband and father. He'd pause in front of the lock box and put away any lingering emotions the way he would properly stow his gear at headquarters before leaving. Once he was sure he could be the husband and father Sophie, Clark, and Izzy deserved, he would lock the bad memories away and enter the house.
Most of the time, his measures were enough, at least until he surrendered to sleep. Sometimes, no matter what precautions he took to leave the job at the job, his dreams and subconscious had other ideas. But even those, he'd learned to handle without drawing attention to himself or alarming Sophie. When anyone asked and he said he was fine, he was being honest even if his definition of the word didn't match the typical person's definition. He was fine and he could handle things on his own without help from anyone.
Even in the days and weeks that had immediately followed the death of May Dalton, Ed had believed, maybe more than anyone else, that he was okay. Sure, the dreams were worse than what usually followed a harsh hot call. Yes, there were times as he stared down the scope of his rifle at the gun range, his mind wandered back to that night and he questioned his choices. And maybe it had taken him longer than usual standing in front of the lock box when he came home before Constable Lane retreated and he was ready to be Daddy and Honey again. Still, none of those things were serious things to worry about. It had been easy to rationalize and compartmentalize and ignore the idea that anything could possibly be wrong.
Then, he'd been forced to meet with Michelle Dalton, the mother of the young woman whose life he'd taken. Had she'd railed against him and blamed him, he thought maybe he could have taken it better. He could have allowed his righteous indignation to overshadow his guilt and he could have hidden behind the logic. Instead, she'd forgiven him. Not so much because she as a mother was that magnanimous but because her dead daughter would have been. Her forgiveness had put May's face squarely back in the equation and once back there, it would not leave again. He had taken the life of a girl who was kind and forgiving, not just a subject who had crossed the line. May once more became a person and not a situation that had to be handled.
The dreams had increased tenfold. So much so that some nights he avoided going to sleep until exhaustion left him little choice but to surrender. Fortunately, he seemed to be able to rouse himself from their powerful grip before he woke or disturbed Sophie. He was sure she knew something was going on but so far it hadn't reached a point that she'd confronted him about it.
The flashbacks were also assaulting him with a vengeance. The way the golf ball had exploded into a bloody mess and then morphed into May's face when he and Sam were target practicing had thrown him for a loop. He wasn't sure how he'd managed to deflect Sam's concerned questioning as he sat there breathing hard trying to ground himself in the reality of the moment rather than the tortuous flashes from before. It had been the worst flashback so far but not the first.
If the flashbacks came with any regularity; if there was a way to predict what would trigger them, it would be better. He could learn what those triggers were and either avoid them or be prepared when they attacked. But there was no rhyme or reason to the sudden visions. It wouldn't have surprised him if shooting had triggered them but thus far the golf ball had been the only target to morph into anything else. Other moments had been totally random and not related to the call at all. Seeing May's face pleading with him to help her and her mother in a random face in the park when he took Izzy to play in the sandbox. The rescue mannequin during his CPR recertification class that suddenly looked like May's dead body, her lifeless eyes staring at him with accusation. Looking in the review mirror while in the SUV and seeing May sitting in the back seat begging him to make things better. Nothing he could even begin to prepare himself for.
Then today had happened. Whether it was the close brush with his own mortality or seeing everything Elliot was going through, Ed was finally able to admit the truth he'd been vehemently denying to himself. Admitting it to Greg later had been even harder. He needed help. If he didn't get it, he would soon not be good at his job and he certainly wouldn't be the father or husband he needed to be for his family.
"I need help." No three words strung together to form a sentence had ever been so hard to say. Yet never had three words been more important for him to voice. He wasn't sure what reaction he'd expected from Greg when he'd admitted he wasn't as okay as he wanted to be. Oh, he'd known Greg wouldn't judge him or think less of him; their friendship was too strong and they had been through too much together for that kind of reaction. However, the calm acceptance and the promise to get him that help had almost immediately had a positive effect on him. There hadn't been any overwhelming worry or awkwardness. Greg may have been feeling it inwardly but it never showed.
Ed pulled into his driveway and pressed the button on the visor to open the garage door. Once the car cleared the entrance he pressed the button again to close it. Turning off the engine, he continued to sit in the car for a few minutes. It was one thing to admit to Greg that he needed help. It had been impossibly hard and the fall out of his admission scared him. However, he wasn't sure he was ready to have that particular conversation with Sophie. Maybe part of him was embarrassed or maybe he just didn't want to worry her. Either way, he had to get his emotions under control before he could even get out of the car and make his necessary stop at the lock box.
Once he felt composed enough, he left the car and fumbled with his keys to unlock the box hanging on the garage wall. Swinging the door open, he looked at the objects that he'd accumulated over the years that marked his difficult calls. He remembered each and every one of them, although fortunately most had lost their sting as time had passed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the misshapen bullet that had almost cost him his life earlier. If anyone had thought it was odd that he'd wanted to keep it after it had been pulled from the Kevlar vest, no one had said anything. He rolled it between his fingers, considering it. A bullet, so small so deadly yet so deceptively innocent looking. How could such a thing cause so much damage either physically or emotionally?
"Eddie?" Sophie stood in the doorway leading into the kitchen watching him in concern.
Setting the bullet on the floor of the box, Ed closed the door to his bad memories and locked it back up. He made his way to his wife and wrapped her in a welcoming hug. She returned the hug, clutching at him almost desperately. He winced; his whole body but especially his chest was sore from where the bullet had collided with his Kevlar. Fortunately Sophie's face was buried in that aching chest and couldn't see his reaction. He didn't want to worry her.
However, a second later, she pulled away and began to unbutton his shirt yanking it almost desperately from where it was tucked into his pants. Ed covered her hands with his, stilling her movements. "Soph, we're in the middle of the kitchen. Not that I'm protesting but don't you have plans for tonight?"
She looked up at him, her expression serious. "Marina was over here this afternoon; she was getting my help planning something for Greg. He called to tell her he was running a little late. He told her what happened to you and she told me. I want to see how bad it is."
He kept his hands over hers and leaned down and kissed her. "I'm fine, Sophie. The Kevlar did its job and I'm fine."
She frowned but pulled her hands free and continued to unfasten his shirt. "I'm grateful for that, believe me. Because otherwise I would be severely pissed off. However, I also know that even when Kevlar does its job, it leaves a mark. Let me see how bad."
Ed nodded and let her open the shirt and push the material aside. He'd already seen the bruise that was forming and waited for her reaction. She sucked in her breath sharply as her fingers traced the outline of the discolored area. Then she planted a light kiss on it before looking up at him. Her expression said what words could not. He reached out and lightly caressed her cheek.
"Seriously, Sophie, I'm fine. Looks worse than it feels. I promise. Yeah it could have been bad but the team had my back. Just like they always do. No worries."
She nodded. Stepping away from him, she went to the freezer and retrieved an ice pack. After wrapping it in a tea towel, she returned to him and placed it against the bruise, holding it in place. She regarded him thoughtfully. "Maybe I should cancel tonight. Stay home instead."
Ed shook his head. Once a month Sophie met a few friends for dinner and drinks. It was her chance to unwind and relax. He didn't want to keep her from that. "No, go. I'm fine. You've been looking forward to your Girls' Night Out all week. I'm looking forward to my Daddy and Izzy time. Go; have fun. Don't worry about me. It's not like it's the first bruise I've ever gotten. Nothing to worry about."
Sophie cocked her head and lifted an eyebrow. "Are you sure? They would understand."
Ed pulled her close and hugged her again. "I'm positive. I'd feel bad if you cancelled. It's just a bruise. And if you want, when you get home, you can show me exactly how glad you are that I'm still alive."
She smiled up at him. "I could stay home and do that instead."
"And have you complaining the next three weeks how you missed out on lime margaritas with the girls? No thank you. Now, I love you Soph, but go get ready. Izzy in her play center in the living room?"
Sophie nodded. "Yeah, she added a new word to her list today."
Ed smiled in a way that only his little girl could bring out of him. Hard to believe his baby girl would be turning two before he knew it. Where had the time gone? It seemed like every day she was adding a new word to her limited but expanding vocabulary. But so far, the one word he wanted to hear, she refused to say. It was almost like it had become a game to her. There was something in Sophie's tone that said this wouldn't be a word they put in her baby book. "I'm in trouble aren't I?"
Sophie shrugged as they made their way to the living room where the toddler was safely ensconced in a protective play area surrounded by her toys. "I'm not sure which of is the guilty party. Fortunately her s was silent but I'm pretty sure it was implied in her sudden outburst of 'hit.' We've got to remember we've got a little parrot on our hands now. I'd hate for us to be in public when she manages to get the word completely right."
"Copy that." Ed agreed. "I'll have a talk with her about her word choices. We'll come to an understanding."
Sophie rolled her eyes. "Right. I know how that'll go. She'll flash you that toothy little grin of hers and you'll agree to whatever she wants. But seriously tonight for supper, no chocolate. Healthy food only."
Ed frowned. "For her or for me?"
"Both of you. I mean it, Edward Tucker Lane, real food, no junk. I'm going to get changed. I love you."
He kissed her once again. "I love you to. More than I can say."
She gave him an extra hard look. "You sure you are okay?"
He nodded. Meanwhile Izzy had looked up from her toys to realize that her parents were standing in the doorway. She rose up on chubby legs and held on to the edge of the play gate bouncing up and down. "Up. Up. I-hy up. Peas."
The undisguised delight his daughter seemed to take in his presence never ceased to make his heart swell. He'd had similar moments with Clark but it was nothing compared to the complete adoration he received from Izzy. He guessed what he'd always heard about daughters and their daddies was true. He set the ice pack down and lifted her up out of the play area, ignoring the twinge in his chest with the action. "Hey there Izzy. Did you miss me?"
She nodded emphatically and then planted a sloppy kiss on his lips. He carried her over to the mantle where Sophie had placed their most recent family portrait in a place of prominence. It had become a daily ritual for him. He pointed out the image of his daughter. "Who's that?"
She pointed to herself. "I-hy"
He tickled her stomach which garnered him a burst of giggles from her. "That's right. Izzy's a beautiful girl." Then he pointed to Clark. "And him?"
"Ark." She looked around the room and held her hands out palm up as if in question. "Where Ark?"
Ed could explain that Clark was at a function at school but it wouldn't do any good. The toddler wouldn't understand. Instead he pointed out Sophie in the picture. "And her?"
"Three for three. My Izzy's a smart little girl. And what about him? Who is that?" He held his breath hoping this time he would hear the word he'd been waiting for since she'd started attaching meaning to the sounds she was able to create. But she wrinkled her nose and laughed before pointing to him. He sighed. She absolutely refused to say any variation of daddy. It wasn't that she couldn't. All of the letter sounds needed to form the word were in her wheelhouse but she wouldn't put them together. He knew it wasn't personal. She knew he was wanting her to say it and it had become a game to her not to say it, right up there with peek-a-boo. He hugged her again. "Daddy loves you even if you do drive him crazy. You know that don't you?"
Whether she really understood the question or not, she nodded seriously. He smiled at her, wondering not for the first time how someone so small could fill his heart with so much love. Then Izzy noticed the bruise on his still exposed chest. She poked it slightly with her finger and her lower lip jutted out and quivered, she looked at him with now water eyes. "Boo-boo?"
He cradled her protectively against his body. He wished she had the words to understand if he told her he was really okay. They'd discovered at an early age that she was a sensitive child, hating to see anyone in pain or distress. The nurses had reported in the nursery after she was born that she would be sound asleep until another baby began to cry and then she would fuss until the other baby had been settled and then she would be fine as well. Even now if they were at the playground and another child got hurt, she was almost inconsolable until they could assure her that no lasting harm had been done. "Daddy's fine, Baby Girl. You ready for supper?"
She nodded. "Chokit?"
Her eyes brightened at the possibility, traces of her worry about his injury erased with the thought of getting her favorite food. Sure enough she grinned showing off her perfect baby teeth and Ed felt his heart melting. Dimly he could hear Sophie telling him that she had to have healthy food but could a little chocolate hurt?
"If Daddy gives you chocolate for supper, Little Miss Izzy, then he's not going to get his dessert when Mommy comes home." Sophie warned them both as she came back in to the living room. She kissed first Ed and then Izzy. "There's spaghetti in the fridge that you can warm up for the both of you. I should be in early. You two have fun."
After Sophie left, Ed carried Izzy into the kitchen and set her in the high chair. He buttoned his shirt up so the bruise wasn't visible to his daughter's sensitive eyes any longer and busied himself heating up the meal his wife had mentioned. Before placing the messy concoction in front of Izzy, he put one of her large plastic bibs over her head. The closer she got to being two, the more independent she seemed to be getting. She insisted on feeding herself now but usually ended up wearing more food than actually made it to her stomach. But any attempt on his or Sophie's part to help her met with immediate resistance and the insistence that she could "dood" it herself.
Sure enough, Izzy was having trouble getting the spaghetti on her safety fork and was getting frustrated about it. By the time she got the fork to her mouth, the noodles had slid off again and her fork was empty. Ed watched several failed attempts and then made the offer he knew would be rejected. "Want Daddy to help?"
She shook her head. "I dood it."
He nodded, trying to decide which described Izzy better: independent or stubborn. Any time he mentioned that to Sophie, she would shake her head and remind him she could say the same about him. He watched her fail once more and had to help before she became too frustrated and unleashed her new word. No way he really wanted to have that conversation with her. "Izzy, watch Daddy."
He picked up the piece of garlic bread he'd warmed up as well. He used the bread to push the spaghetti onto his fork before raising it to his lips. Izzy clumsily copied his motions and this time managed to actually get food in her mouth. She grinned back at him with a now sauce covered mouth.
Once supper had been consumed and the kitchen had been cleared and Izzy practically hosed down, Ed carried her back to the living room. It didn't matter to him that she could now not only walk but practically run everywhere; he loved carrying her and was content to do so until she became just too big to do so. Before lying down on the floor with her so they could play with her toys, Ed retrieved the discarded ice pack and placed it under his shirt against the bruise.
While Izzy had plenty of just regular toys, Sophie had insisted that most of what they bought for her be toys that were more educationally or developmentally based. So Izzy was busy trying to put different shape blocks into the right holes in one toy. She seemed determined to make the square block fit in the smaller triangular hole. He resisted the urge to help her even though he knew her attempts would just continue to meet with failure.
For a moment, he allowed his thoughts to drift. Was this how the team had felt in the last couple of weeks about him? Had they watched him slowly unravel and not say anything to him because they knew their attempts would just meet with failure? So much of Izzy's personality seemed to match his; was he teaching her independence and self reliance or was he instilling in her a sense that it was never okay to ask for help? The question hit him harder than the force of the bullet slamming into his vest. Is that what he wanted for his beautiful little girl?
"Hit!" Izzy cried out suddenly and threw the wooden block across the room. She crossed her arms at her chest and began to cry.
Ed sat up and gathered her to him. He'd let the word choice go; he had a more important lesson he wanted to instill in her, even if she was too young to really understand it. "Izzy, Sweetheart, it's okay to ask for help sometimes. We can't always do everything on our own. Sometimes we need other people to help us out at times. Nothing wrong with that. I don't want you to ever think you can't ask for help when you need it. It's not a sign of weakness. In fact it may mean you are even stronger because you can admit you need it."
He knew he was probably speaking more to himself than the little girl but just his hugs and his tone seemed to be easing her upset. After a moment she wiggled out of his grasp and went and collected the block and the toy. Coming back with both of them, she plopped down in his lap and offered him the block.
"Dada 'elp I-hy"
Ed closed his eyes as his own tears threatened to overflow the rims. Maybe she understood more than he thought. "I need help" might have been the hardest words he'd ever uttered but his daughter's three words, especially since it started with the name he'd been desperate for her to say, were the sweetest he thought he might ever hear.
He guided her little hand that was still holding the block toward the square opening on the top. He kissed the top of her head. "Yeah, Izzy. Daddy will help you."