DISCLAIMER: CSI and Cold Case are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Next part in the finally named series ‘Love me or Leave me’, sequel to “Waiting for you”. Remember the call Lilly made in Cold Case 3.19? This time she calls someone else.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A Phone Call Away
"At least I'm not alone." Her mother's words still stung, and even the Jack Daniels in her hand and the cold night breeze against her skin couldn't change that. Lilly leaned against the rough wall and closed her eyes for a moment.
It had been a mistake to agree to meet her mother and her latest fiancé for dinner.
Had she really expected her mother to change?
After all those years she should know better and still like some puppy she always came back for more and more. She never learned her lesson and tonight it had been especially hurtful. She was used to the fact that her mother saw herself as the caring type that she twisted the past to an even sicker version where her broken jaw and all her other defending wounds were nothing but a fall from the stairs. But it really hurt that despite everything, her mother found happiness, even if only for a short time, but she couldn't. Her mother wasn't the one out here in the cold with only a drink in her hand to warm her; no she was inside there in the arms of the next man of her life or at least for the next few months.
The Jack Daniels might warm up her stomach but it didn't do anything for the coldness she felt elsewhere.
She was alone, even more than ever and it was all her fault. Lilly wanted to blame it on her mother, her childhood that made it so difficult to trust anyone, but in the end it was her own fault.
It wasn't that there hadn't been possibilities, offers of warmth, care, maybe even trust and love, but she had pushed them all back, the last one hurting the most, her greatest regret.
She wanted to change, she really did.
Lilly pulled her cell phone from the pocket of her coat. It couldn't be that simple, could it? The last four months it hadn't been, why now?
Because now she would tell her how she really felt.
She needed to and she needed to do it now.
Another gulp from her friend Jack and she felt bold enough to press the speed dial button.
Lilly didn't need to wait long till the answering machine of Sara's home phone asked her to leave a message. "This is stupid. This is really stupid." She swayed slightly and reached out to the wall. "It's Lilly." With another gulp she emptied her glass, nearly toppling over when she tried to set it down onto the ground. "I'm just standing here in the freezing cold, thinking about you. I know I messed up and I told you to take all the time you need, that's not why I'm calling . I know it's my fault." She stopped when a man left the bar and walked past her. She felt his scrutinizing gaze, labeling her as a drunk, but she was far from drunk. Lilly should know, she spent the first 18 years of her life living with and caring for one and she wasn't even close to that category. "I'm not drunk, "she continued when he was gone. "It's just . I don't want to end up like my mother. I don't want to go on like this either. So I'm done. She can't do it, but I can. I can change. I don't want to be alone anymore." She rested her cell phone against her forehead and took a deep breath, forming words was more difficult than she remembered. "I miss you."
The blonde closed her cell phone on reflex.
Sara wasn't supposed to be home. She never was at this time otherwise she would never have called her. Suddenly the world swayed to her left and Lilly reached out for the wall. She had misjudged the distance, falling slightly forward, but catching herself before she could harm herself. "Damn." She cursed, only realizing now how drunk she really was. There was a bitter taste in her mouth, different than the one of strong alcohol. She just had time to lean forward before her stomach revolted.
If she ever had a chance with Sara, now it was definitely over. Her cell phone rang and she didn't need to see the caller ID to know that it was Sara, trying to reach her. She couldn't talk to her, not now; so instead she turned her cell phone off and hailed the next free taxi.
When she arrived home she ignored the bright red light of her answering machine, blinking angrily at her. "I know I messed up." She snarled at the offensive machine, startling her cats that had been resting on their favorite place, the couch.
She looked after the fleeing animals. "I'm sorry," Lilly whispered, unable to contain her tears any longer as she slipped down to the floor. Her arms encircled her knees and she lowered her head to rest against them, letting her tears fall.
A lousy night later, first spent on her floor, later on her couch, surrounded by her cats, Lilly woke up, feeling like crap. The heavy feeling in her stomach didn't even stop after she swatted away the cat that had chosen her stomach as its pillow. She ignored the snarling protest as she sat up and rubbed her face, in the futile attempt to clear up. Damn, only three Jack Daniels and she was already knocked out. She definitely didn't have her mother's drinking genes.
Lilly groaned when she remembered everything that had happened last night, especially the phone call. She wanted to blame her mother for bringing up bad memories and reminding her of her pathetic life, but it wasn't that simple. Nothing in her life ever was.
Her glance fell onto her answering machine which held four calls, all probably from Sara. She winced, when she had come home there had only been two messages.
The throbbing pain behind her eyes made it nearly impossible to come up with a plan, but she needed one, if she didn't want to mess this up even more. In the end she did what she could do best, she ignored the conflict and headed for the shower.
The shower was followed by a coffee for herself and breakfast for her cats, as they still seemed to be rather miffed by their earlier handling. Two cans of the special feed she kept for occasions like this and a round of good scratching behind ears and her cats were finally generous enough to forgive her. "Thanks guys." A rub against her leg was her reward and peace-offering.
"It's only you and me now," she called after them in a sudden touch of self-pity, before she followed them into the living room and sat down next to them on her couch.
Once again she glanced over at her phone, knowing that she couldn't prolong the unavoidable any longer. Taking a deep breath she reached over the back of her couch to the dresser where her phone and answering machine were placed and hit the button to play the messages.
"Lilly, it's me, Sara. We need to talk. You can't just call me, telling me all these things and then refuse to talk to me." The brunette said annoyed. "Give me a call." How often Sara had tried to reach her over her cell phone before she had settled for the home phone, Lilly didn't know; her cell phone was still turned off, resting in the pocket of her coat.
"Sara again. Don't do this to me, Lilly. Not again. Pick up your phone." The annoyance was gone, replaced by anger.
On the third call she didn't even tell her name. "This is ridiculous. I thought we were past this stage. I hope you aren't still in a bar, drowning your brain in alcohol. Call me!"
The fourth call began with a deep breath. "Okay, you're probably too drunk to return my calls." The anger vanished from her voice, being replaced by something that Lilly wanted to interpret as concern. "Just don't do anything stupid, okay?" There was a pause before Sara continued. "Please, just call me. We can work this out."
Lilly closed her eyes; Sara's last words were barely about a whisper. She wanted to believe her, wanted to believe that they could work around this incident, maybe even forget it some day and continue where they had left off.
Last night in her drunken state of mind it had been so easy to call Sara, but now she was so nervous that she dialed the wrong number on her first try, hanging up with a curse, when a dark male voice answered. On the second try her fingers slightly trembled, but this time she managed to call the right number, not sure if that was for the better or the worse.
"Lilly?" Sara answered.
"You weren't supposed to be home," she gave back instead of a greeting, wincing at her own harsh words and the underlying accusation.
"I maxed out on overtime." It wasn't the first time since she knew Sara that she had maxed out, but till today the brunette had always been able to make a deal with Gil Grissom, no field work, just desk duty, but at least she was allowed to come to work.
"Finished all your paper work already?" Lilly tried for a lighter tone this time, succeeding only fairly.
"Yes." It was obvious that Sara had decided to make this as hard as possible for her, sticking to short answers.
The CSI could work with silence, she liked it, but Lilly was different, she never had been able to bear it for a long time, always eager to fill it. "I'm sorry I called you. I was drunk." It was a lame excuse, they both knew it. "I was so angry at my mother, the things she said to me Please forget that I called."
Sara knew exactly how to make her suffer as she took her time before she answered, "I can't do that."
Lilly nodded, of course Sara couldn't forgive her. Her mother was right; she was supposed to stay alone. She nearly missed Sara's next words. "Did you mean what you said?"
"Do you miss me?"
That question was easy to answer, but the answer was hard to voice. She had already told her once in a small Diner in Las Vegas. Back then it hadn't been enough; friendship had been all Sara had had to offer. And even that had been a small miracle, considering that Lilly had refused to talk to Sara for three months. She wouldn't repeat that mistake. "Yes, I miss you." She rested her phone against her forehead, collecting her thoughts before she pulled it down to her mouth again. "I know we talk at least once a week, but since ," she stopped in search for a better approach. "It has changed. Now I'm always afraid I might say the wrong things, cause you to withdraw." There was a sigh and she hoped that Sara would interrupt her, tell her that she was wrong, that nothing had changed, but the other woman remained quiet. "Before I was able to call you whenever I needed or wanted to. I know I still can do that, but it's different now. Now I always hesitate before I call your phone and I hate myself for that. It's my fault, I messed this up." Unshed tears burned in her eyes and she rubbed her eyes, frustrated that she was this weak.
"I miss these things too." Sara's voice seemed different, strangled and Lilly didn't know if it was due to the connection or something else.
The sound of her fast beating heart resonated loud in Lilly's ears as she waited for Sara's answer.
"I've been thinking the last few days," the brunette said, avoiding a direct answer to her question. She only added to Lilly's already growing edginess when she didn't continue.
"That bad?" The blonde tried a joke, but both of them heard the high, nervous pitch in her voice.
"I thought about taking the next step," Sara continued, as if she hadn't even heard Lilly's try to lighten up the mood.
Lilly stopped mid breath and untangled her legs to set them down and rest her elbows onto them. "How did you decide?"
Again the blonde was met by silence and her grip around the phone tightened. "I'm not sure," Sara finally answered.
Lilly only nodded, her throat too tight to answer. "Okay," she was finally able to croak out and cleared her throat to continue. "It's because I was drunk." It wasn't a question.
"No." Even without Sara saying it, Lilly could hear the big 'but' all the way from Las Vegas to Philadelphia. "but I can't be with someone who shuts me out whenever it gets complicated."
Sara was right and it hurt Lilly physically to admit it. Once again she had cut herself off from any contact, refused to answer her phone and even turned it off. The same thing, she had done after Sara had tried to kiss her. It had been the reason why Sara had withdrawn from her in the first place in the need to protect herself from her.
"I'm sorry." She had said, knowing that it was too little. "I didn't do it to shut you out." She flinched at her own words. That was the problem, wasn't it? She was so used to being the one to be hurt, that she didn't even consider the feelings of others, hurting them in the process. "I don't want to be like my mother. She never told me she loves me, not when she was sober." A bitter laugh escaped her throat. "If she ever was sober. She only told me when she was drunk, or when she needed me to get her new stuff. I don't want to be like her. I don't want alcohol to be the reason I'm finally able to tell you how I feel. I want to change." The next words were the hardest, the ones that frightened her most, but she said them nevertheless. If she didn't now, she never would. "You're the first person I want to change for."
She heard Sara's breaths through the line, sharp intakes, followed by slow controlled breath outs. "Please, let me change for you." Lilly pleaded. She closed her eyes, listening intensely to the sounds on the other side of the line.
It took Sara a few breaths before she was able to answer. "It's complicated."
Lilly shook her head. "We can try simple." All through her life she always had opted for the complicated way and it had taken her nowhere.
A throaty laugh, still close to tears was her answer. "Lilly, we're both too complicated to make this simple."
"We can try." The blonde answered softly. She would do anything to keep Sara in her life.
Again she had to bear the torture of silence before Sara answered. "How?" She sounded small and Lilly wanted to reach out and take her hand, reassure her that they would find a solution, but instead her free hand reached around her own waist as a slight tremble went through her body.
"Let's get away." The idea was born out of the moment, only formed when she was already voicing the words. She could already picture the scenario, driving down an endless highway into the sunrise, the first rays of sun playing with Sara's curls. The brunette of her daydream turned to face her, a smile gracing her lips.
"Away?" Sara didn't seem convinced of her idea, but the sadness was gone. It was enough to keep Lilly going.
"Let's take a few days off. We could rent a car and just drive around wherever the street takes us. We could visit the Grand Canyon or every museum of modern art in New York. We go wherever you want. I'll even go to Chattanooga with you." Lilly promised. She would go everywhere with Sara, as long as the brunette was willing to give her another chance.
"I don't want to go to Chattanooga." The brunette answered amused.
"But we could. Just you and I, no crime scenes, no supervisors and no mothers to complicate things, just you and I, nothing and no one else." Getting away was exactly what they needed, a vacation away from all the things that complicated their lives. They would simply be Lilly and Sara, figuring out if they were meant to be together or not. "Say yes, please."
The next few moments were the longest in Lilly Rush's life till Sara finally answered.
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