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With the flu going around, we'd been taking turns being on call and doing double shifts. I was on the on-call rotation and had been, on more than one occasion this past week, called out either at the end of my shift or in the middle of the night. Twice, I was called out for a missing child only to find that the kid had either been hiding in the utility room of his building because he didn't get his way, or had run away to her friend's house because she got into a fight with her parents.
Those cases were easy enough and I was able to be home in time for her to come over and relax. But the other night, it had been quiet and then, as I had her writhing on my bed, her fists in my hair and my name about to spill from her lips, my phone rang. A domestic violence case in which a husband had locked his wife in their bathroom and she yelled to the neighbors for help. As it turned out, the wife had threatened him with a kitchen knife when she found out her husband had been cheating on her.
After all the paperwork and resulting headache from listening to the woman constantly yell at her husband through the walls of the interrogation room, nothing felt better than going home, crawling under the covers and feeling a warm body still there. I was afraid she had left after I was called out and that I'd return to a cold and empty bed.
In the morning, she let me sleep in but I am enough of a light sleeper to know when she was getting ready to leave for work. I told her to keep her things here in the event that she came over again that night. What I didn't tell her was that I liked looking in the bathroom and seeing a second toothbrush by the sink and her hair products on the counter. Seeing her things at my place is an unspoken promise that she'll come back again.
Then my partner and I drew the short straws and ended up with the double shift. She called and I could hear in her voice that she had had a rough day. My partner was sitting across from me, pretending to read a case but I knew he was listening to our conversation or to my half of it anyway. He knows something's been different in my life but I've yet to tell him what, simply because she and I have yet to discuss what exactly it is we've been doing. All I know is that when the day gets to be too much for her to handle on her own, she comes over and decompresses. Sometimes we'll stay up talking into the early hours of the morning. Other times, we say nothing at all. But, every time, for the last couple of months, no matter how the evening starts or ensues, the morning sun finds us together in bed.
"We're pulling a double tonight," I tell her and try to hide the disappointment in my voice so as to not arouse suspicion in my partner. "Maybe tomorrow," I offer hopefully. After the long day I've had, I want nothing more than to sit on the couch with her in my arms without interruptions, but, of course life doesn't give a shit about what you want and you end up with a double shift, spending the night sitting across from your partner of many years, doing paperwork and eating food that his thoughtful and loving wife has dropped off.
I've always envied my partner and his marriage. I've often wondered how his wife deals with how much he closes himself off emotionally, especially about things we see on the job. It must be difficult sharing a life with someone whom you know has a part of himself that you'll never be able to see. I can only pray for his sake that either she will forever be understanding of that, or he finds a way to share with her the impact this job has had on him.
Thank God the night shift was quiet. We even managed to take turns in the crib for a few hours of sleep between the two of us. We managed to pull off our regular shift as well with little incident. The guys we covered for have apparently recovered enough to come back to work. They're not a hundred percent, but with the lack of sleep we've had, we're all in the same boat in terms of fatigue. At least they've had their rest.
We're finishing up the last of our paperwork and I'm pretty pleased with myself. I close the last folder on my desk, toss my pen on top of it and lean back in my chair, stretching out my arms. My partner's cleaning up his desk, ready to head home and asks what I'm up to tonight and whether or not I want to come over for dinner with his family.
"I love you and your family, but I've been staring at your mug for too many hours straight," I tell him sincerely and he chuckles. We both get up and shrug on our jackets.
"After these past few nights, I just want to go home, turn off my phone, pull down the shades and have a night of zero interruptions," I say. "Just me, a hot bath and a glass of wine." And a certain blond in my arms, I added mentally.
He nods in understanding and then waves at someone behind me. "Sorry counselor, we're calling it a day so whatever you need or want will have to wait until tomorrow," he says.
I turn around and see the best thing I've laid eyes on in the past forty-eight hours, hell, in all of my life.
Knowing that my partner can't see my face, I give her a smile that I reserve for her and her alone.
She gives me a small smile, which I chalk up to the fact that she's facing my partner and can't reciprocate. She tells us she understands and that she wants us in her office tomorrow morning to go over our testimony for a case she's trying. And, with that, she turns on her heels and walks off without even a second glance my way. Way to play it cool, I mentally tell her and smile inwardly.
I leave the station house with my partner at my heels so I keep myself in check, trying hard not to look for her. When we part ways and he drives off in his own car, I glance around quickly but she's nowhere in sight. A small part of me had hoped that she would wait for me outside, but I knew that realistically, it would never happen. We weren't at that level of a relationship yet were we?
I head home and pick up some take out for two on my way. Just in case. We did sort of agree that we'd see each other after the double shift. By the time I get into my apartment, I'm starving so I start in on the food while I draw a hot bath. By the time the bath is ready, I light some candles and pour myself a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and slip into the tub, letting the water sooth my skin and muscles. I close my eyes and rest my head against the edge of the tub, shutting off my mind, but all the while, keeping my ears open for the sound of the buzzer.
By the time I've finished my wine, the bath water is no longer hot so I get out, dry myself off and throw on a robe. I put the food away into the fridge and pour another glass of wine and flop onto my bed with a book I had been meaning to read.
I had no idea I had fallen asleep until I woke up to the sound of my alarm clock. I checked my phone. There were no text messages or voicemails. I felt a slight sense of disappointment. I had hoped that even if she didn't come over, she would at least call or text me about her day. I showered and headed into work. As soon as I reach my desk, I'm turned around by my partner. Right, we were supposed to go see her to go over our testimony.
We stop on the way up to her office to get some coffee and I pick up a cup for her. My partner gives me a questioning look. I shrug it off and tell him I'm just being polite and playing nice the way he's always warned me to play. I keep my tone light and he doesn't question me any further. We knock on her door and she calls for us to enter. She looks tired and serious but her posture straightens when we come in. I hand her the coffee cup and she takes it gratefully. We jump straight into business and after about an hour, she's happy with our answers to her questions and considers us ready to take the stand the next day.
We leave her office and I tell my partner that I've forgotten my coat. I neglect to tell him that I had forgotten it on purpose. I go back to her office while he heads downstairs to wait for me. I knock on her door and poke my head in after she acknowledges the intrusion. I tell her I came for my coat and she simply nods. I grab the jacket off her visitor's chair and ask her how she's been, wondering where she was last night. She tells me she was tired so she had an early night, avoiding my eyes.
I come around her desk and stand beside her chair, leaning on the desk's edge. I ask her if everything's okay and she nods. I know the look on her face and the way her jaw is set means she's not in the mood to talk. I try to give her a smile and tell her that the guys have returned from their twenty-four hour flu so no more double-shifts, at least not for the time being.
"Good, maybe you'll be able to get some rest and catch up on your sleep," she says quietly. I feel as though she can't wait for me to leave her in peace and so I do just that. She's not in the mood to talk and I've basically let her know that I'm free tonight, but I won't push. She knows she's always welcome at my place.
After we sent Michael Gardner's victims home, I finally had some time to go to the restroom and check on my cheek. I studied my face in the mirror and it was already beginning to bruise where the sonofabitch had punched me when we arrested him earlier tonight. I'll have to put some ice on it tonight when I get home, but judging from the redness and slight puffiness, it might be too late. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the bathroom door open and a blond head appears.
I half expected her to leave after her talk with Gardner and his lawyer so I was slightly surprised to see her in here. I hadn't seen or heard from her in over a week except for when I was in the witness box in the courtroom being questioned by her. She had only called my partner for work related things and seemed to come by the station house when I was not around. I had felt that something was amiss, but my calls and messages had gone unanswered and unreturned. I knew a hint when I saw one. I just didn't know what I had done wrong.
For the first couple of days after we met in her office to go over our testimonies, she had been absent from my apartment after work. I chalked it up to both of us being tired. She had been in court every day while I was trying to catch up on my rest. After the third night of her absence, I couldn't help but wonder if something was wrong. Not only had she not come by after work, she hadn't called or messaged me at all. I had never been a needy partner in any relationship in the past and I didn't want to be one of those people who needed to see or hear from their lover or significant other every day. But the simple truth was, I missed her and my days didn't feel complete without seeing her. So. after three days of not seeing her, I swallowed my pride and called her. I got her voicemail. I left a message. The next morning, I still hadn't heard back from her. I called again. I got her voicemail again. I left another message.
The cop in me started to worry. What if something had happened to her? I was about to call her office when apparently she called my partner to request a file on one of our cases. It was clear that she was not kidnapped, hurt or sick. She just wasn't returning my calls and I was clueless as to why. We hadn't fought, we hadn't argued, yet she was avoiding me.
I tried to recall our recent conversations to see if there was something I had said or done that would have made her keep her distance. The only awkward moment I could think of was when she called me to tell me about her lunch with her mother and had wound up asking me if I thought she talked too much. Based on the tone in her voice when she asked me, I knew there was no good answer. I had never lied to her before and I wasn't about to start. Yet, at the same time, the truth wasn't really a choice either. What she had asked me was the equivalent of the "Does this dress make me look fat?" question that all men fear from their women. I would have preferred that question instead.
I had answered as honestly as I could without hurting her feelings or causing any awkwardness, but I suspect that I hadn't been entirely convincing. Was she upset that I hadn't told her what she wanted to hear? The thing I didn't get a chance to tell her was that not only did I not mind that she liked to talk, but in fact, I love it that she talks to me. Then she stopped coming around and I missed her presence and her conversations all the more.
I'm pulled from my thoughts as she's over by my side, worry etched on her face. It takes her all of half a second before her soft hand is on my cheek, her thumb gently brushing over the bruise. "How does it feel?" she asks quietly. I'm surprised she's in here, never mind that she's actually touching me in a place where we can be walked in on at any given minute.
"Feels like I got punched," I state the obvious, a mixture of irritation and relief stirring inside me. I'm irritated that she's acting like she cares even though she hasn't spoken to me outside of work since the night I had to do a double shift, yet I'm relieved that she seems to care. The latter thought is comforting.
"We should get some ice on it," she says, and the words make me flinch.
"We?" I ask her and the sarcasm I've been holding back slips out. "I haven't seen you in days and all of a sudden it's 'we'?"
She mutters my name and her hand drops to her side. She begins to tell me that she's been busy but then realizes how lame the cliché sounds.
"You've been busy, or avoiding?" the words spill from my lips before I can stop them, "Or busy avoiding?"
She can't meet my eyes and I've had enough of this song and dance. My face hurts, I'm tired and I just don't have it in me to get into a fight or argument even though I'm angry. I'm angry that she's jerking me around with her "hot and cold" attitude, and I'm angry at myself for caring.
I give in and ask her where she's been. She tells me that she wanted to give me some space. I ask her why she would think that I needed space. She sighs. "Can we not do this here?" she asks, desperation in her voice.
I sigh as well and tell her I'm tired and that I'm going home, and if or when she's finished avoiding me, she knows where to find me. I leave the restroom without waiting for her response, grab my jacket and head home. She must have followed me because as soon as I close my apartment door, my buzzer rings. She asks me to let her up. I want to tell her I need my space, but I'd be lying, so I press the button and let her up.
She comes up to the apartment and I let her in wordlessly. She gives me a grateful look for not denying her access. As if I could refuse her. I leave her standing at my door and head to the bathroom to wash my face.
The cool water is soothing on my skin, washing away the makeup and grime from a long day. I reach for a towel and dry off my face. As I open my eyes, I see her standing in the doorway, a wrapped up towel in her hand. She walks over to me and holds it up to my cheek. She presses the cloth against my skin and slowly I feel the relief from the ice inside.
I reach up to hold the towel against my face and her fingers brush with mine as she releases it. We walk out to the living room and I see two glasses of wine on the coffee table and can't help but smile. I sit down on the couch and she joins me. I finally allow myself to look into her eyes and the anger that was within is gone.
"Thank you," I tell her quietly and she gives me a small smile.
"I'm sorry I've been avoiding you," she says.
I ask her why she's been staying away and she says doesn't know how to explain the problem.
"Just talk to me," I try to encourage her.
"That's actually the problem," she finally says. "I talk too much. I've been realizing that I keep burdening you with things that you shouldn't have to hear or deal with. And then I heard you tell Elliot that you wanted to have an uninterrupted evening, I thought and felt that maybe I was coming over too often and you needed a break from me."
I put the ice pack on the coffee table and turn to look at her. It amazes me how such a smart and strong woman can be so insecure and wrong. I tell her that my comment to Elliot was about not going to his house for dinner and how happy I was not to be on-call after that hellish week. At the end of the day, there's nothing I want more than to see her, sit with her, hold her, talk to her and more importantly, listen to her. I know she's an extrovert and that she feeds off my energy, and that coming here and spending time together is how she recharges.
She asks about me, how I recharge if she's draining my energy. She doesn't drain me. She feeds my soul every time she's here. I'm sure there will be times when I'll be too tired to listen, but there have been days when all we've done is sit in silence and draw strength from one another. What recharges me is the knowledge that I get to see the side of her that no one else gets to see the vulnerable side, the hurt side, the loving and caring side, and even the tired and exasperated side. She keeps these parts of herself from the world but gives it to me and me alone. Why would I ever want to give that up?
She nods her head. I can tell that her heart believes what I tell her, but her head still has doubts. I get up and go over to the utility drawer in the kitchen. I pull out a spare key to my apartment and return to the couch. I sit down, take her hand in mine and place the key in her palm. I close her fingers around the metal object, my fingers wrapped around hers. I look into her eyes and slowly a smile forms on her lips as her head is finally in agreement with my heart.
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