Title: We can blame Fabio for this
Ship: Dr. Claire Callahan/Dwight Hendrickson
Word Count: 10, 600
Disclaimer: They are not mine.
Spoilers: Everything up to Season Three, Episode 8 ("Magic Hour")
A/N: I have no idea where this came from apart from really liking Claire and wanting to see more of her. A MASSIVE thank you to my fabulous beta fringedweller.
Summary: Haven's a small town. Claire was bound to interact with Dwight Hendrickson eventually.
Everyone has a guilty pleasure. That little something that provides a small amount of comfort and is a way to escape from reality, if only for a moment.
Whether or not they admit it is another issue entirely.
Claire was not afraid to admit that hers was romance novels. (In all honesty, she wasn't afraid to admit it because people don't generally walk up to you and ask outright: Hey, what's your guilty pleasure?) She's fairly sure it began with her mother and her aunt. They loved the things, always trading them back and forth.
When Claire was ten, she snuck down to the living room and swiped one of them with a woman with long blonde hair and a fellow with his own blond hair to match. She sat huddled under her sheets with a flashlight and read the first chapter.
She didn't get it.
Nancy Drew was better.
Then she turned sixteen and her cousin Mary gave her a stack of Harlequins for her birthday.
"Just continuing the family tradition," she'd told her.
Claire rolled her eyes and shoved them under her bed. Then when she was out sick with the flu, she thought she'd give one a try.
Then she tried the next one. And the one after that, and the one after that.
Yeah, she got it now.
She'd always done well with science and math and really, romance novels weren't anything more than a tried and tested formula. Sure the variables could be changed, but the end result was pretty much always the same. Heroine A clashes with Hero B. There's a kiss around page 30, a deeper kiss around page 50 and so on and so forth. The obstacles to 'love' are overcome and there's a happily ever after - all tightly told in 300 pages or less. That kind of familiarity became extremely welcome to someone who was slowly coming to realize precisely how messed up, mixed up, and unpredictable people could be.
Claire had no illusions either. Reality was not like the books. While there were heroines and heroes, things in real life were always, always far messier than anyone ever planned for.
The last thing she expected or wanted was for someone to come in and sweep her off her feet. If she was being honest with herself, she wasn't sure she'd be able to believe in it if he did. (Too much science to take any of that kind of stuff seriously – nothing was ever black and white or that easy.)
So, she happily (or at least, contentedly) went about setting up her practice and doing what she could for people in Haven.
And if she sometimes found herself looking at Dwight Hendrickson as someone who really resembled those heroes in those romance novels, well…it's not like anything was going to come out of that.
The first time Claire actually met Dwight, she's not ashamed to admit that he scared the crap out of her.
It was quite late in the day and she'd just had word that Audrey Parker had Driscoll. While Claire had absolutely no ties or illusions about that…man, she knew several people in the community did. She'd need to make some calls and clear her week.
She was so focused on her calendar and notes, she didn't hear her front door open and close, nor did she hear the footsteps as they walked straight into her office.
In fact, she didn't hear anything until a throat cleared just in front of her desk.
"Jesus!" she yelled as her head flew up and her pen went flying into the air, smacking the large flannel-clad chest in front of her desk.
Dwight Hendrickson, larger than life and calm as anything, took a step back, looked down at the pen, and just said, "Glad that wasn't a stapler."
Claire blinked and then shook her head. "Oh, God, sorry about that! I didn't hear you come in. Sorry! What can I do for you?"
"I should have knocked, sorry," he said. "I'm Dwight-"
Claire smiled and stood up. "Dwight Hendrickson, I know who you are. Nice to meet you at last." She held out a hand which he shook (she told a pesky voice in her head to stop nattering on about what the significance of big hands meant). It was then she noticed blood on his shirt. "Oh, God. Are you hurt?"
He glanced down and shook his head, letting go of her hand. "No, no, this isn't mine." She raised her eyebrows and wondered if she needed to call the police, which must have been obvious on her face, as Dwight held up both his hands. "It's not like that either. Look, I know that you help people in this town when they need it. And I could really use some help."
"Of course," she said nodding. "Do you want to sit down?"
He looked confused and then shook his head. "It's not for me. It's for Sophie and Amelia."
Suddenly Claire understood. "You've got the Benton sisters. Are they okay?" He opened his mouth to say something and she waved a hand. "Don't answer that, of course they're not. What do you need?"
"They're safe, for now," he said. "And they're…eating. But they're still so, um, quiet. I just want someone to look them over. Make sure they'll be okay."
"Has a doctor been to see them at all?" she asked, opening to her bottom desk drawer and pulling out her first aid kit.
Dwight shook his head. "No. No doctors. The girls refuse. Besides no doctor is going to understand the situation."
"No, I suppose they won't," Claire said grabbing her coat. "Right. Let's go."
"Just like that?" Dwight asked sounding surprised.
Claire looked at him. "Mr. Hendrickson-"
"Dwight," she said. "You've come here asking me for help with two girls who are deeply Troubled and have been through a terrible ordeal; of course I'll come right away."
"Thank you, Dr. Callahan," he said looking at her intently.
"It's my job," she said smiling. "And it's Claire."
The ride to the house was quiet and Claire used to get her thoughts in order. She knew that Dwight himself was Troubled, hence the vest he always wore and she also knew that his daughter... She also knew that he was extremely reticent to talk about either, so she bit her tongue several times on the drive whenever the urge to ask him about his past struck her.
Her tongue was sore for days afterwards.
They pulled up to the house and Claire moved to get out of the truck, but his hand on her arm stopped her. She looked over at him in surprise.
"Why are you doing this?" he asked, looking at her with an expression she couldn't quite read.
"In general or helping these girls right now?" she asked him slowly.
"Both," he said, not letting go of her arm, but not tightening his grip either.
"Well, I'm helping these girls because no one should have to go through what they did and because they certainly won't be unaffected by what happened. If all I can do is provide an ear to listen, then I'll count that as a success," she said.
She took a deep breath, not quite understanding why she was about to bare her soul to him, but knowing that it was the right decision. There was something about him that just drew her in.
"As for why I do this in general." She paused and looked down for second and then back up. "I've lived in this town my whole life and I have watched people I know and love have to deal with extraordinary things. I've watched relationships and minds crack under the pressure of keeping things to themselves, thinking that no one is ever going to be able to understand, let alone believe them."
She looked out the window towards the house. "I've watched people just give up and decide to be alone for the rest of their lives as opposed to trying to deal with what's happened all because they thin they deserve it. I just don't want anyone else to feel that kind of loneliness. Not when they don't have to."
She turned back and met Dwight's gaze. She held still and let him look, knowing that this interrogation was as much for him as it was for the girls' benefit.
Eventually she smiled. "Naturally, the other reason is that I'm a huge nerd and I like learning what makes people tick."
"What kind of nerd are we talking here? Lord of the Rings or Star Trek?" he asked seriously, but letting go of her arm.
She leaned forward. "Both."
He chuckled. "I can deal with that."
Claire hopped down out the truck and headed up the path behind Dwight.
"Out of curiosity," she said. "If I hadn't passed your test back there, would you still have let me try to help?"
"Yep," he said over his shoulder. "But I would have kept a closer eye on you."
He opened the door to the house and looked her up and down. "I may still keep a close eye on you."
Claire felt her cheeks flush but just said, "Just remember to knock so I don't throw something heavier than a pen at you."
After that, Claire saw Dwight on a regular basis, either as he cleaned up around town or when he dropped people off for their sessions.
When she'd finally mustered up the courage to ask him why he felt he needed to add 'taxi service to the shrink' to his long list of things he did for Haven, he'd just shrugged and said, "It's on my way."
She had come to regard him as an ally in town, one of the few people who were upfront about the Troubles and willing to help, not just ignore it when odd things happened.
And while she may have been more than aware of the fact that he was an extremely compelling man with a kind of handsome that took you by surprise, she didn't, you know, lust after him.
Until she did, of course.
"You can't make me!"
Claire looked up from her desk at the sound of the yelling coming from right outside her office door. She got up and opened the door, blinking in surprise at the sight in front of her.
Her two o'clock appointment, Debra Peters, an eleven year old girl who could turn stone back into sand, was being held by the scruff of her jacket by none other than Dwight Hendrickson.
He looked at her and said, "Do you want me to stay?"
Claire blinked again.
She still hadn't gotten used to the fact that he really was much larger in person than she thought.
And he'd asked her something…
"Oh, um, no, thank you, I think we'll be okay," she said smiling. She looked at Debra who was looking at her with a healthy dose of wariness. "Hello, Debra. Thank you for coming today."
"Didn't exactly have a choice," she said sullenly, fidgeting under Dwight's steel grip.
"I know, and I'm sorry about that," she said. "Why don't you come inside and we'll just have a chat."
"About what I do?" she asked, her eyes darting up at her.
"About whatever you'd like," she told her honestly.
Debra stared at her and then glanced up at Dwight, who was looking at Claire with what she thought was a thoughtful expression. She gave him a quick smile and then looked back at Debra.
She sighed and muttered, "All right. Better than being thrown around by a cave troll."
Claire smothered a laugh and said, "Glad to be the preferred choice."
Debra jerked out of Dwight's grip and stomped towards her office.
"I'll be back in an hour," Dwight said to them both. He looked at Claire. "Her parents'll want to know how it goes; what she tells you?"
"Yeah, right," she said with a laugh. He didn't join in. She stood up straight. "Wow, you're not joking. Mr. Hendrickson, when you come back to pick Debra up I will tell you how the session went in the blandest terms possible. I will tell you that it went 'okay' or 'fine' or I may go so far as to say 'We've made some good progress today.' But, I will not divulge anything further to either you or her parents unless I feel that she is in danger. As for the rest? That's up to Debra."
She looked behind her to see Debra sitting cross-legged on the big armchair near her desk, and staring at her with wide eyes.
"How does that sound to you?" she asked her.
She shrugged. "Okay."
"Okay," she said with a nod. She turned back to Dwight. "Okay?"
"Okay," he said, the corner of his mouth quirking up. "And for the fifth time, it's Dwight. Not Mr. Hendrickson. I'll be back at three."
"We'll see you then," Claire said. She gave him another smile, ignored the fact that the sight of his hands made her stomach quiver and made her think of those insipid (yet addictive) romance novel covers, and closed her office door pretty much in his face.
One hour later, she opened the door to find Dwight sprawled in the one small chair in her tiny waiting room, casually leafing through a People magazine and something inside her suddenly stood up and went: Oh. Hello.
He was gorgeous. The man was completely, utterly, mind-bendingly, flat-out hot.
And she didn't know what brought it on. Was it the fact that his hands looked massive holding that stupid magazine? Was it the light coming in through the window? Was he wearing some kind of mind-altering cologne that messed up a girl's mind so badly with want that she forgot to breathe?
He looked up and got to his feet with an astonishing amount of grace for such a large man.
Stop focusing on his size, she told herself sternly. And his hands. And his shoulders. And…oh, God. Stop it!
"How'd it go?" he asked.
Claire exchanged a look with Debra who grinned at her. She grinned back, then looked at Dwight.
"Okay," she said with a shrug.
Dwight looked at Debra, who mimicked her shrug and said, "Yeah, okay."
"Okay," he said shaking his head. "Let's go."
"See you next week, Debra," Claire said.
"Like I can avoid it," she said ducking under Dwight's arm as she dashed out the door.
Dwight actually rolled his eyes and Claire chuckled. He gave her a wink and then was out the door.
Claire shook her head and went into her office to write up her notes on Debra.
When she was done, she put her pen down, leaned back in her chair and said, "Right. Now what the heck is with the butterflies?"
She pressed a hand to her stomach and the image of Dwight's hands holding the magazine flashed in her mind.
She made a face and closed her eyes. "Knock it off," she said out loud. Another image of his hands flashed, this time he wasn't holding a magazine, but her hand. Her eyes popped open.
"Okay, okay," she said. "Approach this logically. You are in the beginning stages of fantasizing about a man that you already esteem and consider a friend. This is healthy and normal."
She took a deep breath. "However, it is highly unlikely it can ever go anywhere, so the best thing is to stop doing it."
Her mind clearly had other ideas because it flashed another image at her.
"Darn it," she muttered. "Fine. Focus on the 'why' of it. Why this man? Why him?"
She thought rationally for a moment, ignoring the part of her brain that was well on its way to fantasy-land.
"Books!" she said out loud. "All those romance novels you used to read." She paused. "And still read. It's the covers. Clearly the image of a large, muscular man has imprinted and your mind is simply responding to familiar stimuli."
What about the man himself? a part of her mind whispered. He's a good person, too. Helping the Troubled…
"You barely know him outside of this office and that is no basis to base a proper impression on," she told herself, straightening up her desk.
Um, isn't that what you do professionally? Create impressions of people after meeting them? the annoying voice asked.
"Beside the point," she said briskly. "And you've just spent the last fifteen minutes talking to yourself which is definitely fourteen minutes too long."
Claire got up from her desk to check if her next appointment had arrived and continued to ignore the images her brain was flashing at her.
Naturally, just when she figured out how to deal with him being inexplicably hot, a week later, he had to go and be thoughtful.
"Well…heck," she said looking around her just this side of destroyed office. "This is what you get for holding a session with a thirteen year old who basically turns into Eddie Munster and can't manage their impulse control."
She stepped over the remains of her comfy armchair and grimaced at the scratch marks (more like gouges) on the side of her desk.
"Should've held your session outside," she muttered bending down and picking up the files that had been strewn about the place. Luckily, her filing cabinet was too heavy to be knocked over by the boy, despite his good effort.
A knock on the door frame had her turning her head so quickly, she over-balanced and fell over; cursing as she went.
"Are you all right?" a deep, amused voice asked.
She looked over at Dwight who was making his way across the messy room and said, "I'm really having one of those days. You know? The kind that your parents used to complain about, saying you'd understand when you got older?"
"Your parents complained about pre-teen boys tearing apart furniture at the first whiff of puberty?" he asked holding out a hand to help her up.
"More like traffic jams and long lines at the bank, but the principle's the same," she said slipping her hand into his and letting him pull her to her feet.
She resolutely ignored the spark that travelled up her arm and settled warm and wibbly in her abdomen.
"I can't remember that last time I stood in line at the bank," Dwight said.
"Me neither," Claire said with a sigh. She tilted her head to the side. "Actually, I do. But that was because one of the teller's hands had turned slightly adhesive and quarters kept sticking to her fingers."
"Poor Karen," Dwight said in a decent deadpan.
Claire smiled. "What brings you by? Is everything okay? Do you need my help with anything?"
He raised his eyebrows. "You're the one standing in a room filled with broken furniture and you're asking me if I need help?"
"It's my job?" she offered.
"Well, this is mine," he said giving her hand a squeeze and then let go. The spark in her stomach flickered. "I'll get everything in order."
"Oh, no, you don't have to do that," she said shaking her head. "I'm sure you have more important things to be doing. I've got this."
Dwight pointedly looked at the broken armchair and the door that was barely hanging on to its remaining hinge.
Claire pursed her lips. "Okay, I might need a hand with some of this."
"Why don't you go out and I'll get this all fixed?" he offered.
She shook her head. "I need to get my files in order first, if you don't mind. All the confidential things, you know."
He nodded. "No problem."
While Claire tidied up the papers that had been thrown around the room, Dwight got to work taking down the door. It was a warm day and he'd taken his jacket off, revealing a fitted black t-shirt that bulged around the bullet-proof vest he always wore.
"Doesn't that get hot during the summer?" she asked. He looked over his shoulder at her. She nodded at his chest. "The vest."
"Cooler than a bullet," he said.
"Fair point," she said getting the last of the files into the cabinet.
"Can I ask you something?" he asked after a few minutes.
"Of course," she said re-filing some medical records.
"Why haven't you ever asked me if I wanted to talk about it?"
She paused and then turned so that she could see him. "Because I know a decent coping mechanism when I see one."
He stopped unscrewing a hinge and met her eyes. She nodded at the tools in his hands. "You clearly have found something that satisfies you, in both mind and body and its helping you cope in a way that I'm not sure therapy would." She smiled a little. "Not that I don't think you could benefit from having a good session every now and then."
He stared at her for a minute, just long enough for her to start to feel self-conscious. But then he said, "So you don't think you can fix me?"
Claire was taken aback. "Fix you? You don't need fixing." She leaned forward. "Why? Did someone say that to you? Do you think you need fixing?"
He chuckled. "Anyone ever tell you that you ask a lot of questions?"
"Professional hazard," she said waving a hand in the air. "Back to you. Fixing?"
"I just thought that's what you did," he shrugged.
"I don't fix people." She leaned against the filing cabinet. "I just listen. And offer suggestions so they can figure out how to…adapt." She bit her lip and then met his eyes. "If a person thinks they need to be fixed, then that usually means they think they're broken. And I don't think you're broken."
"Thanks, doc," he said seriously, although the corners of his mouth lifted up. "Can't say the same about your door."
He turned back and lifted it off the hinges. Claire groaned. "God. Seriously. Outdoor sessions."
She stepped away from the filing cabinet and heard a crunch under her heel. She looked down.
"Oh," she said quietly. She knelt down and picked up the pieces of the ceramic magnolia that had been her mother's. Her mom had given it to her when she turned twenty and it always cheered her up when she looked at it. She cupped the broken white petals and put it on her desk. She sighed. "Damn."
"Valuable?" Dwight asked.
"Not really," she said. "I mean, not money-wise. But it was my mom's and so, you know." She made a face. "I really, really do need to hold more sessions outside."
"The park on Williams Avenue is often empty during the day," he said easily lifting the door off the hinge.
"I'll look into that," she said.
"Why don't you check it out now?" he said. She turned to face him
"Are you trying to get rid of me?"
"Yep," he said giving her a smile that did things to the spark in her stomach. "It won't take me long. Come back in a couple of hours."
Claire stared at him and he stared back, radiating 'trust me' vibes that Claire knew she was no match for.
"Fine," she said after a minute. She locked the filing cabinet and grabbed her bag and notebook. "I'll be back in three hours."
"Enjoy the sunshine," he said with a straight face.
She just chuckled and patted his arm (and doing her best to not let her hand linger, Jesus, the man was built).
Three hours later, she came back to a pristine office complete with a new door, a new armchair (this one blue instead of green), and the gouges on her desk all touched up.
Her mom's magnolia sat on the desk carefully glued back together.
She sucked in a breath and gently picked it up. She saw the faint lines where the petals had broken off the stem, but only because she was looking.
The spark in her stomach erupted into a bonfire of warmth and she sat down heavily in her chair.
"You're not helping, you know," she told the ceramic flower. "How am I supposed to avoid a full-blown crush now?"
Spoiler alert: she couldn't.
Claire stood in the frozen food aisle at the grocery store debating with herself.
"Have the peas offended you?"
She grinned and said, "No. I'm just weighing the pros and cons of buying both Chunky Monkey and Chocolate Fudge Brownie."
"Tough choice," Dwight said coming to stand next to her. She glanced at his basket and groaned.
"Oh, my God, look at all those vegetables," she said. "Thanks. Now I feel guilty for even considering ice cream."
"I'm a growing boy," he said simply and she laughed.
"At least lie to me and tell me that you've got frozen pizza at home," she said.
"I've got frozen pizza at home," he said deadpan.
"Thank you," she said. She opened the freezer door and took out the Chunky Monkey.
"Only the one?"
"Your vegetables guilted me into it."
"Sure you don't have a Trouble?" he asked walking next to her as she headed towards the checkout. "People don't usually let vegetables influence them so much."
She shrugged. "I'm very susceptible to good habits." She eyed her basket and the bottle of red wine next to the ice cream. "Mostly. Besides, I'm just replenishing supplies for the tried and true Callahan Coping Process."
"Ice cream and wine?" he asked.
"I've got pasta and tomato sauce, too."
"You really should have something green."
"Doesn't pesto count?"
"Carbs contain energy," Mary, the checkout lady, said.
"See? Thank you, Mary," Claire said smiling at her. Mary winked and kept moving her items over the scanner.
"Do you consider diner food part of the Callahan Coping Process?" he asked sounding like he didn't care either way but the question sent Claire's thoughts swirling through her mind.
"Absolutely," Claire said putting her items on the belt and trying to appear calm, while inside sixteen-year-old her was shrieking and dancing about. "Onion rings are practically essential after the ice cream and wine."
"Feel like going over and replenishing at Martha's?" he asked.
Claire told sixteen-year-old her to knock it off and simply said, "I can always replenish at Martha's."
Mary's eyes flicked back and forth between the two of them, while her hands kept moving items over the scanner.
Dwight nodded and opened his mouth to say something else, but (because this was her life and this was Haven) his phone rang. He grimaced and gave Claire an apologetic look.
"Yeah," he said answering his phone while Claire paid Mary and put her groceries into her bag. "Out by the highway? Yeah, I know the place. I'll be right there."
He hung up and looked at Claire.
She waved her hand. "Go. It's okay. I've got ice cream."
"Rain check?" he asked.
"Absolutely," she said nodding.
He gave her half a smile, then looked at his groceries and then at Mary, who simply said, "Shoo, big man. I'll hold them for you."
"You're a good woman, Mary," he said.
"I know," she said looking smug.
Dwight gave Claire another smile and then went out the door. Claire let out a sigh.
"That's a darn shame," Mary said. "I was really rooting for you."
"So was I," Claire said feeling absurdly down. "At least I've got Ben and Jerry to help me through it."
Mary nodded. "We've got a special on potato chips, if you're interested."
"One vice at a time," Claire said. "But thanks anyway."
Heading home, she tried to reason out why she felt so bummed.
It's not like you two are anything anyway, she told herself.
I know that, she thought back. I guess…
She ran her hand through her hair. "I think it's the fact that we could be," she said out loud. She shook her head. "Stop thinking about it. It was just dinner. He's not some knight in shining armor; he's just a guy."
She really needed to stop giving out blanket statements like that.
Claire, along with everyone else on the sidewalk, stopped in her tracks when large meteors fell from the sky.
"Oh, no," she muttered. "Not good."
Suddenly, a large hand grabbed her upper arm and yanked her off the sidewalk. She gasped but followed Dwight as he dragged her towards the ice cream parlor. He swung her around and pressed her against the wall of the building, shielding her with his body.
Claire kept her eyes open and was overwhelmed with the presence of him and the sheer heat that radiated from his body.
A bit of the parlor's gutter fell down and glanced off his shoulder. He grunted with the impact of it and Claire cupped the back of his neck with her hand and pulled him closer.
When things quieted down, she lifted her head and met his gaze. Dear God, he was so freaking tall.
"Are you okay?" she asked, her voice not exactly steady.
"Yeah," he said, sounding equally unsteady. "You?"
She nodded and then started patting at his shoulders and arms. "Oh, God. That really hit you. Seriously, are you okay? You just took the brunt of that! Why would you do that? Jesus."
He caught her hands in his and she blinked at him, still just overwhelmed by the warmth and breadth of his…well, everything.
"I'm fine," he said firmly. "Now, get out of here before it starts up again."
He was gone with that stupidly quick grace of his before she could say anything.
She frowned and looked around at people slowly getting to their feet and the paramedics just arriving. One of them waved at her and she waved back, knowing they'd probably need a hand.
"You can't tell me what to do, Dwight Hendrickson," she muttered and then went to go see what she could do.
An hour later, as she placed the last bandage on one of the ladies that worked at the yarn store, a large shadow fell over her.
"I thought I said to get out of here," the shadow said.
"Not to sound like a five year old, but you're not the boss of me," she said tying off the bandage. "There you go, Mrs. Harris."
"Thank you, dear," she said slowly getting to her feet. She glanced at Dwight and then back to Claire. "And dear, there are certainly worse specimens out there to let boss you around."
Claire grinned, saw Dwight's face go red, and grinned harder. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Do," Mrs. Harris said, patting Claire's cheek. She stepped up to Dwight. "And I'll expect you on Thursday afternoon, young man. Those daffodils won't plant themselves."
"What happened to the tulips?" he asked wryly.
Mrs. Harris shrugged. "Changed my mind." Then she patted his cheek before whispering to Claire, "Take me word for it, a lot worse."
Claire and Dwight watched her walk away, then looked at each other.
"Daffodils?" she asked.
"She likes flowers in her window boxes," he said.
"And having a strapping young man getting his hands dirty in full view probably has nothing to do with it," Claire said nodding.
"She does tend to change them regularly," he said.
"You really do look out for all of us," she said.
"Yes," he said stepping in close. "Which is why I told you to go."
Claire shook her head. "And you're still not the boss of me. This is what I do, too, you know. So…deal with it."
She was surprised when he gave a deep sigh and said, "I'm not sure if I can."
Then he turned and walked away, leaving Claire standing there with her jaw somewhere around her knees and her eyes wide.
Claire stood a few feet behind Audrey as she talked to Duke and then eyed the man inside Dwight's truck. He was certainly exhibiting defensive behavior, and if she wasn't completely insane, there was something extremely canine about it.
Which couldn't possibly be true.
This is Haven, a voice in her head said. Anything is possible.
She made a face, and then glanced over at Dwight who was staring at the man in his truck with a resigned look on his face.
He looked over at her and she smiled sympathetically. "Sorry about your truck."
"So am I," he said grimacing. She caught a glare exchanged between him and Duke and made a mental note to find out more about that.
"So, you're shadowing Audrey," Dwight said.
"Yep." She smiled at him. "She's a landmine, you know. It's kind of fascinating." She hurried to add, "Not that that's the only reason I'm shadowing her. She needs help. A lot of it."
"And if there happens to be a mountain of intriguing and weird mind stuff involved, that's just…what? Icing on the cake?" he asked starting to smirk.
"Don't be mean," she said lifting her chin. "I like her."
"So do I," he said. "I also know her, so…be careful, okay?"
Claire frowned. "You think she's dangerous?"
"I think danger follows her very closely and she has a knack for getting into tricky situations." He sighed and stepped in a little bit closer. "And I also know that I'm not the boss of you, but please…just be careful and keep your eyes open."
She nodded, feeling touched and concerned about Audrey and not a little giddy. "I'll keep my eyes open," she told him.
"Good." Then he turned and headed back to his truck.
"Wait? 'Weird mind stuff'?" she called after him. "This isn't science fiction, you know!"
"People are acting like dogs," he called back. "That's definitely science fiction. I thought a nerd like you would recognize that!"
She grinned before hurrying after Audrey.
Claire stared at the plate of food that Doris had just served her at the diner and felt queasy.
The images that Audrey had shown her just wouldn't leave her mind. She pushed her plate away and decided to see if Doris could just get her a doggie bag. Maybe she'd be able to eat later.
She pulled her cup of coffee closer and opened her notebook, making a list of all the case studies she needed to look up. Buried memories, for a start; followed by fetishism, human sacrifice, and serial killing.
And that is some lovely bedtime reading you've got there, she thought, tapping her pen on her notebook.
Claire looked up in surprise and smiled a little ruefully at Dwight. "Not really. And now I feel bad about ordering it. Help a girl out and eat her dinner for her?"
"Certainly had worse offers," he said sliding into the booth across from her. He looked wonderful, she thought to herself. Familiar and strong and just being near him settled some of her worries. She hadn't spoken to him since the day with the dog-men and she hadn't realized just how much she counted on him being around. She pushed her plate over to him and he breathed in.
"That's a hamburger with Doris' special sauce, are you sure you don't want it?" he asked, hands hovering over the plate.
The photos flashed in her mind again and she shuddered. "I'm very sure. Have at
He picked up the hamburger and ate a third of it in one bite. He chewed and swallowed, then asked, "Everything okay?"
"Not really." She sighed and tapped her notepad. "I'm worried."
"I can tell," he said. "Want to talk about it?"
"Hey, that's my line," she said grinning.
He flashed her a smile that, honest to God, made her knees tingle. "And I don't think you get asked it often enough. Come on, Claire, what's going on?"
"I don't know that I can tell you," she said slowly.
"Is it about the bolt gun killer?"
She nodded. He took another bite, she watched his jaw move as he ate, wondering when that became a thing she liked to see.
"Is Audrey worried?"
"I think they're all worried." She propped her chin in her hand. "I think the entire town's worried."
"With good reason," he said. "But what specifically has you worried?"
"Specifically?" She traced the rim of her mug with her finger trying to collect her thoughts. When she looked up, Dwight was staring at her finger, but quickly blinked and went back to his food. She felt warm all over and that made answering him a little easier. "I'm specifically worried that this person is beyond my abilities. And that he is…not right."
"I figured that was sort of obvious," he said.
"It is and it isn't." She tapped her fingers on the mug. "There's history here. There's possibly close to sixty years of something driving this person and I have a feeling that's going to be hard to defeat. And if he's doing what Audrey thinks he's doing…"
She wrapped her arms around her middle and shook her head. "God, I really hope he's not doing what she thinks he's doing."
Claire looked up to see Dwight staring at her with an unreadable expression on his face and his hands clenched into fists.
"I won't let anything happen to you," he said quietly, but firmly.
Her eyes widened and she felt light-headed. "I, I know that," she said haltingly. "You'd do anything to protect this town."
He shook his head. "I'm not talking about the town."
Claire's heart stuttered and her breath caught. She couldn't seem to find any words and so she just sat there and watched Dwight stand up, dig out some money and drop it on the table.
"Thanks for dinner," he said gruffly. Then he was out the door.
Claire simply sat there, staring at her empty plate and feeling her heart race.
"Oh," she breathed. "You are going to analyze this eight ways to Sunday, aren't you?"
Short answer? Yes. Yes, she was.
Claire stood with the others and watched as Holloway House exploded and fell to pieces. Her heart just about broke thinking of the poor woman and her children and what she'd been driven to do. She noticed Audrey staring at the house looking sad and determined. Duke hovered just behind Audrey, looking at her. Nathan stood close to Jordan, who had her hand curled around his forearm.
Interesting, Claire thought. It would be some time before she could get the image of Jordan pointing that gun at her out of her head. Claire had never gotten over the fact that she'd completely failed Jordan. She hadn't been prepared to deal with her and what Jordan had had done to her and what she'd done in return. And that unpreparedness had shaken Claire to her core. So she'd done what she usually did when her abilities let her down, she fallen back on professionalism and told Jordan to find another therapist, one who could help her.
She hadn't and Claire didn't blame her in the least for her anger. Anger that Claire felt when Jordan brushed past her, Nathan staring after her, Audrey staring after him.
"Oh, heck," Claire muttered. "This isn't messy at all."
Audrey looked over at her and Claire gave her a small smile. "Happy Halloween?" she offered.
"I'm going to need the biggest box of cupcakes known to man," Audrey said.
"Tell me about it," Claire said wrapping her arms around herself.
"I need a drink," Duke said. "A massive one." He turned to Audrey. "Take you home?"
Audrey nodded absently, still looking Nathan. "Yeah." She glanced at Claire. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."
"Yes, you will," Claire said firmly. Audrey gave her a weak smile and then headed towards Duke's jeep.
"Bye bye, Buffy," Duke said giving her a half-hearted leer.
"I have a stake somewhere and I'm not afraid to use it," she called after him.
"I believe it," Tommy said coming up behind her and chuckling. He looked up at the rubble and shook his head. "Haunted houses. That's new."
"Welcome to Haven," Claire murmured staring at the house herself. The breeze picked up and she shivered.
"Hey, you need a ride somewhere?" Tommy asked.
Claire opened her mouth to accept, but a voice came from her other side.
"She's got one," it said. She turned to see Dwight standing there, cowboy hat knocked off his head.
It occurred to her to protest. To say that it was fine, she was fine and that as always, he wasn't the boss of her. But nothing came out.
Maybe it was the fact that it was Halloween and he was dressed up like a freakin' cowboy. Maybe it was because of the house.
Or maybe it's because he said that he wanted to protect you,, a voice whispered.
Whatever the reason was, she didn't say a word.
"All right then," Tommy said looking between the two of them. "See you around, Doc."
"Bye Tommy," she said absently as he walked off to his car.
She stared at Dwight staring at her until another breeze blew past and she shivered again.
"Come on," he said turning and going to his truck. Claire followed and smiled when he opened the door for her. He didn't smile back and Claire suddenly felt nervous.
Her nerves calmed a little when he immediately turned the heater on when he started the car. She held her hands up to the vents.
They drove towards Claire's tiny house situated close to town. She didn't ask him how he knew where she lived, she simply figured he knew where everyone lived. She glanced at him and noticed his hands tightly gripping the steering wheel.
He still hadn't actually said anything to her.
She cleared her throat. "So, you just happen to have dynamite lying around?"
"You never know," he said shortly.
"Right," she said with a nervous laugh. "That should be the town motto. Haven: You Never Know."
She chanced another look. Nothing. Not even a grin.
He was in a bad mood? Fine. It wasn't as though she'd had a stellar evening either.
He hadn't had someone put a gun in his face or watch doors disappear and then reappear in a freaky house that was trying to kill everyone in it.
He hadn't spent every night since he'd eaten her dinner analyzing every word that had ever come from his mouth, trying to figure out what it all meant.
She crossed her arms over her chest.
He wanted to sulk?
Claire could sulk, too, damn it.
He pulled up to her house and she was out the door with a "Thanks, Dwight," before he'd even put it into park.
"Wait, Claire," he said getting out of the car and following her up the path to her front door.
"It's been a long night," she called over her shoulder. "I'm sure you just want to go home."
"Wait a minute," he said catching up to her quickly and grabbing her hand.
"What?" she said loudly as she spun around to face. "Why were you blanking me in the car?"
He gritted his teeth, but didn't say anything. She made a face and turned to go inside. He tightened his grip and stopped her.
"Wait," he said. "Please."
Claire turned at the sound of the slight break in his voice.
"What is it?" she asked quietly.
"What were you doing there?" he said quietly, his eyes pinning her in place.
"I went to help Audrey," she said lifting her chin and not regretting her costume in the least. (Yeah, that was a lie. She was totally freezing.)
"Audrey has plenty of help," he said taking a step closer. "Why can't you just…stay out of this?"
"Out of what? This town? Its citizens?" she asked feeling hurt. She poked a finger into his chest, feeling the hard bullet-proof vest beneath his shirt, and said, "Look, you. I don't tell you to keep out of things, so don't you go telling me to stay out. This is my job!"
"No!" he said crowding her against her door. "Your job consists of sitting in an office and talking calmly with people, not getting trapped inside a haunted house that tries to kill people."
"I'm diversifying!" she yelled. "And I go where my patients go. And you have no right to tell me what to do! So…you just back off!"
She glared up at him (way up) as he glared down at her.
"I can't," he said quietly.
"You can't what?" she bit out.
"I can't back off."
"Why not?" she cried. "What do you mean when you say stuff like that?"
"I mean this," he said and then he was kissing her. As in, his big hands framed her face with his mouth was hard and hot on hers.
It took Claire a moment, but then she was kissing him back. His hands swept down her back and pressed her close to him. She arched her back and rose up as high as she could on her toes to keep kissing him. His tongue pressed against her lips and she opened for him with a slight moan.
She felt hot everywhere her body was in contact with his and her thought processes simply shut down. She just kissed him; kissed him fiercely, her hands roaming over his shoulders and up through his hair.
After several moments of quite possibly, the most intense make-out of her life, he slowed down. Claire dropped down off her toes and blinked hazily at him. His collar was askew and his hair stood up at the back where she'd raked her fingers through it.
He swallowed hard and then pressed a soft kiss to her forehead. Claire just stared up at him.
"See you tomorrow," he said sounding perfectly casual, if a little out of breath.
Claire watched him walk back to his truck and get inside. She stood there watching him watch her and finally realized that he was waiting for her to go inside.
She fumbled with her keys and once she was inside, he flashed his lights and then drove off down the street.
Claire closed her door and locked it. Then she ran to her bedroom to look in the mirror, wanting to make sure that she looked as thoroughly kissed as she felt.
"Red lips, hair all over the place, and your face is bright red," she muttered staring at her reflection. "Yep. You got kissed."
She ran her fingers over her lips and grinned.
"You really got kissed," she muttered. "That was…wow."
She took a few steps back and then fell backwards onto her bed. She stared up at the ceiling grinning like a girl with a crush which, let's be honest, she was.
Then she sat up.
"Wait. What happens now?" she asked herself.
Claire managed to delude herself into thinking that she could ignore the kiss. She had a busy day of appointments and she really needed to track Audrey down at some point to talk about those flashbacks.
She'd deluded herself so completely that she was totally taken by surprise around eleven o'clock when Dwight showed up.
Standing with her back to her office door while she straightened her journals, she heard a knock on the door frame.
"Hi, Fran, you're early," she called out, "but come on in."
The door closed and a voice said, "It's not Fran."
Claire froze, her hand clutching an issue of Psychology Today (March Issue). Then she turned to see Dwight standing just inside her office, his white Henley shirt stretched tightly across his shoulders and smudged with dirt. He looked… Well, he looked delicious, that's how he looked.
God, you even sound like a Harlequin now, she thought. Snap out of it!
"Hi," she said, her voice squeaking. "How are you?"
"Fine," he said casually. "Just finished putting up a no trespassing sign out by the Holloway property."
"Think people will pay attention to it?" she asked.
"Doubt it," he said shrugging. "But, I'll keep any eye on the place."
"I know you will." She worried her bottom lip and then blurted out, "I read romance novels!"
It was to his credit, she thought, that he didn't burst out laughing. Instead he just looked mildly amused.
"Okay?" he said raising his eyebrows.
"Yes," she said, not entirely sure where she was going to go with this, but determined to make a point. Somehow. "I read these books and it's kind of a family thing." She frowned. "Not that we read them all together or anything, just that my mom read them and now I do. They're sort of, um…"
"An escape?" he offered; his eyebrows still raised, but his voice was gentle.
"Yes, exactly," Claire said pointing at him. "An escape. I'm coming to realize that they may have been more formative than I thought. And I really don't want to be that person who thinks that everything has to fit into some perfect formula, because I'm not. That person, I mean." She frowned again. "I do have a point."
"I'm sure," he said starting to smile. "You usually do. They're usually right, too."
"Oh, God, don't say nice things like that," she said, her shoulders slumping. "Look. I know that last night was crazy and it was Halloween and you were probably just reacting to the adrenaline, so I completely understand that you'd like to forget it ever happened."
"Forget what ever happened?" he asked slowly.
"The kiss?" she said, feeling her stomach churn and not in a happy way. "I know how adrenaline mixes with the chemicals in the brain and a body naturally seeks out further stimuli to maintain the high that's produced and so that's the reason you kissed me and I kissed you back."
"It is?" he asked sounding way too amused.
"Yes," she said. "It is. So…you don't have to say it."
"Say what, Claire?" he asked softly and taking a step towards her.
Her head tipped back as she stared at him. "You don't have to say…everything I just said."
"Oh. I see," he said taking another step forward and goodness gracious, not to belabor the point, but he really was much too tall. "I don't have to say that the kiss was just a by-product of adrenaline and that we can just forget it ever happened?"
"Yes," she whispered. "You don't have to say it. Because, um, I…"
"Because you already did," he filled in.
"Just one problem with that," he said.
"What?" He really was too close, she thought.
He smiled. "I wasn't going to say any of that."
"Wait. What?" she asked straightening up.
"I wasn't going to say any of that," he repeated. Claire just stared. He chuckled. "I meant everything I did last night and I don't want to take any of it back or blame it on chemicals. I also meant it when I said that I'd protect you and when I said that I wanted you safe. I have never said anything I didn't mean to you."
"Oh," she said, her heart beat faster and her hands tingled. "So…you want this?"
"Yes," he said.
She paused. "Now?"
"If you can spare the time."
"Oh, thank God," she said before cupping his face with her hands and kissing him.
He stumbled slightly and then wrapped his arms around her and pulled her up on her tiptoes to kiss her back. Hard.
She ran her tongue along the seam of his lips and it was his turn to moan and open up to her. His hand smoothed down her side to her thigh, which he pulled up. The unfortunate phrase 'climb him like a tree' flitted through her mind as she hitched her leg up to his hip, but then he was pulling her up his body and they both groaned at the sensation.
He spun her around and pushed her against her office door, his mouth leaving hers to trail kisses down her neck.
"Oh, God," she said breathlessly. "Don't ever stop doing that."
He grinned against her throat and then kissed his way back to her mouth. She rolled her hips against his and he pressed her hard against the door.
The sudden knock on the door right beside her head made her yelp.
"Dr. Callahan?" a soft voice called. "Um, are you okay? Are we still having our session?"
Dwight pulled his head back just enough for Claire to say, "Ah, yes! Yes, we are! Just a, um, just a minute, Fran!"
Claire bit her lip and stared at Dwight, unsure if she should freak out or burst into laughter. She went with the second option and tried to stop her giggles, but the matching grin on his face really didn't help.
He slowly let her legs fall back to the ground and she swayed towards him kissing him lightly.
"So, this is something we're doing now?" she asked.
He nodded. "Yeah, it is." He tilted his head to the side. "Just how much are you going to analyze this when I leave?"
"A lot," she said nodding. "A whole, whole lot."
"I'd better come find you later, then," he said kissing her cheek. He gestured to her neck. "And you might want to find a scarf."
Her hand flew up to her neck. "Oh, my God! Dwight Hendrickson, you jerk!"
"Shouldn't that be rake?" he asked starting to smirk. "You know, keeping in line with those romance novels?"
"Out," she ordered him, pointing at the door.
He winked at her and opened the door, nodding at a wide-eyed Fran.
Claire sighed happily and said, "Come on in, Fran."
A few days later, Claire was deep into a case study about buried memories (her seventh that week, Audrey better appreciate the sheer amount of reading she'd been doing for her) when there was a knock at her door.
She set down her laptop and went to check the window. She blinked and bit back a smile, then opened the door.
"It's a little late in the evening for repairs, Mr. Hendrickson," she said sternly.
"Then I'll just have to be here for something else," he said as he leaned in and kissed her. He smelled like fresh air and she knew that he'd driven all the way back from where ever he'd dropped off the paramedics with the window open.
She sighed against his mouth when he pulled her closer.
He drew the kiss to a close and leaned his forehead against hers. "Sorry I'm here so late, but I saw your light on," he said. "I don't have to stay."
"Mmm, stay," she said taking his hand and pulling him inside. "Would you like something to drink? Coffee?"
He grimaced. "I've had too much already today."
"Water? Beer? Whiskey?"
Claire shrugged. "I had a professor who said that everyone who held a medical degree should have at least one bottle of whiskey to hand. For medicinal purposes, of course."
"Of course," he said with a nod. "And whiskey sounds good."
"Good." She rose up and kissed him again, marveling at how easy everything felt. Wasn't she supposed to feel nervous? Or apprehensive? This was the first time he'd been in her house, why wasn't she freaking out?
Because he's given you no reason for it, she thought. You trust him.
Feeling a bit more mollified now that she'd analyzed the last five minutes, she asked, "Everything go all right?"
"Yep," he said dropping onto her couch while she went to the kitchen. "Everyone's settled."
"Good," she said coming back with two glasses and her bottle of whiskey. "I won't ask where they are."
"Thanks," he said. She could feel his eyes on her as she poured and felt a flush starting in her cheeks, but she ignored it and handed him a glass.
"Cheers," she said holding up her own glass.
"Cheers." He clinked his glass to hers and then took a decent sip as she did. Then she sighed and leaned back.
He followed her and they just watched each other for a while. Finally Claire shook her head and said, "You can take that off, you know."
He gave her a look and she snickered. "I meant your vest. Although…"
Dwight just set his drink on her coffee table and glanced at her laptop screen still showing the serial killing site. "Cheerful," he said taking off his flannel shirt.
"I know," Claire said making a face and leaning forward to close her laptop. He reached forward at the same time she did and her drink was knocked out of her hand onto her jeans. She squeaked and jumped to her feet.
"Oh, crap," he said standing up and sounding appalled. "I'm sorry."
"So not your fault," she said laughing and setting her glass on the coffee table. "I'll just…um, change."
She looked up to his face still smiling. But her smile faded when she saw the tense look on his face. She reached up and traced the outline of the vest over his gray t-shirt.
"You really can take this off," she said softly.
"I don't know if I should," he said just as softly, his hands coming to rest on her hips.
"Why not?" she asked, stepping closer, which invited his hands to slip over her hips to slide up her back.
"Because if I do, I won't want to leave," he said bending his head down.
Claire bit her lip, told herself to not analyze every word for once and moved her hands to the Velcro fastening on the side of the vest and undid it. The rip of the Velcro was loud next to the sound of their breathing. She loosened the straps and helped him take it off. He dropped it on the floor, then cupped her face and kissed her hard and fast, leaving her head swimming and every nerve in her body fired up.
Blindly, her hands found the waistband of his jeans and dipped below it to tug at the hem of his t-shirt. She pulled his shirt up as far as she could, then he lifted his mouth from hers long enough to pull his shirt off completely.
For a moment, all Claire could do was stare.
"Are you okay?" Dwight eventually asked sounding amused.
"Yeah," she said faintly smoothing her hands over his chest. "Just…you know. Imagination sometimes comes up really short compared to reality."
"Tell me about it," he said leaning down and capturing her mouth again with his. He slipped his hands beneath her thighs and hitched her up. She absently thanked her cousin for giving her that Pilates DVD for Christmas as she wrapped her legs around his waist, because that move was not as effortless as it looked in the movies.
Dwight started to carry her off, but stopped and said breathlessly against her mouth, "Bedroom?"
"Up the stairs," she said kissing her way up his neck to nibble on his earlobe.
He took the stairs two at a time and she laughed the whole way. He grinned at her as he entered her bedroom and unceremoniously dropped her on her bed.
She grinned and immediately lifted her hips to take her jeans off. He stood at the foot of her bed and just watched her. She let her grin soften into a small smile and slowly took off her shirt, which she then playfully threw at him.
The man actually growled at her, properly growled, then crawled up her body to situate himself between her thighs.
"I don't have, Jesus, I don't have anything," he said, his hands tangling in her hair and kissing the length of her neck to the tops of her breasts.
"Oh. Oh! I do." She pulled away to stretch across her bed, giggling a little as he kissed her side and back. She rummaged in her bedside table before her fingers found a small foil packet. Grabbing it, she turned back to Dwight and gave it to him
He took it, glanced at it, and then looked at her with raised eyebrows.
She settled beneath him and rocked her hips against his, making him close his eyes and groan. "They're from my cousin's bachelorette party. Don't judge. Or I've got orange, green, or pink, if you'd prefer."
"Purple's fine," he said quickly, kissing his way down her body, slipping her underwear off as he went.
Claire's breath hitched as he found some place interesting and then his jeans were off and they couldn't get close enough and then…oh, yeah.
Purple was absolutely fine.
Claire curled up next to Dwight, her head on his chest, and sighed as he trailed his hand up and down her naked back. An odd thought occurred to her and she snickered.
"What?" he asked, his voice a pleasant rumble beneath her cheek.
"I just had a thought. What if I'm Troubled and this is my Trouble?" she said.
"No," she swatted him. "Although, thanks for that. No, I mean turning life into a romance novel. What if this isn't real?"
"Feels pretty real to me," he said, his hand slipping beneath the sheet to caress her thigh. "And I don't think you're Troubled."
"Are you sure?" she asked, only half-serious and propping her chin on his chest to look at him. "I mean, did you ever think this was going to happen?"
"Yes. If only because we don't know how much time we have," he said quietly. "And because I'm tired of denying myself happiness. And because we care about each other."
"Possibly more than care about each other," Claire said softly. He smiled.
"That too," he said. "This happened because we wanted it to, not because you're Troubled."
She sighed. "I'm just not used to seeing an easy relationship, I suppose."
"I wouldn't worry about that," he said. "Just because we're not like Nathan and Audrey or Jordan and Nathan or Audrey and Duke, doesn't mean we won't have issues."
"I can't believe you got them all straight," she said grinning.
"Who needs tv when you live here?" He shrugged. "Besides, life isn't like a romance novel. Just because we're here doesn't mean it's the end of the story."
"True," she said. "We're way past page 300 and it's going to keep going."
They settled back against the headboard, Claire's head resting on his chest while his fingers sifted through her hair.
"You really think something big is going to happen soon, don't you?" she asked tapping out the tha-thump of his heart with her fingers.
"Yes," he said.
She sighed. "So do I." She bit her lip. "If it is, Audrey's going to need all the help she can get."
"Audrey and the rest of this town," he said pressing his lips to her hair.
Now or never, she thought. How can you help everyone if you don't have all the facts? For that matter, how can the two of you trust each other?
"Dwight?" she asked pressing her hand to just above his heart. "Will you tell me about the tattoo on your back?"
Claire's heart started to pound.
But, then he started to talk.
~The (almost, but not quite, because things don't actually end in real life) End~