DISCLAIMER: Copycat is the property of Jon Amiel and Warner Brothers, no infringement intended.
COMMENTS: I love this movie. There is most definitely not enough fan fiction focusing on these characters. I'm only trying to rectify that. If it totally sucks, forgive me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: What if MJ had returned to Helen's after the fire at Peter's house and found the psychologist there alone instead of kidnapped? What if all of that had come afterward? I decided to write this scene outside canon. It's my first published Copycat fan fiction, so if it's not up to par, you have to let me know so I can quit before I get way behind.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The knock at the door did not surprise Helen. She knew who it was. After all, MJ had called on her way over to let the psychologist know she was coming. Helen made her way to let the detective in, checking the peephole out of habit. She couldn't stop a brief smile at seeing the petite cop rocking on the balls of her feet as she waited for entrance.
"I should probably have you a set of keys made," she joked as she opened the door. MJ just smiled crookedly and scooted past Helen into the apartment.
"I'm not sure they would all fit in my purse," the shorter lady responded. She headed into the sitting area. "Have you been watching the news?"
"Of course. You want to tell me what happened?"
MJ was using the remote and flipping through the television channels, each station playing basically the same footage of the fire that destroyed much of the evidence needed to find and put away their suspect. Helen noticed the frown on the other woman's face and the worry lines crinkling her brow. For a second, the psychologist in her wondered when she had learned how to read the inspector so well, but that thought was quickly replaced by another.
"MJ, where is he now? He's destroyed his base of operations, which means he's planning something big and we have no idea of what or where he's planning."
The cop glanced up and sighed. "Your guess is as good as mine, probably better." She turned off the television and threw the remote on the couch before starting to pace. "I don't understand. Why would he do something so careless if he wasn't ready to follow through with his complete plan? Why lead us to his house?"
Helen listened to her as she continued to rant, knowing it was best to let the other woman vent before trying to answer any of her questions.
"I don't like it. Do you have any thoughts on his next move?"
"I'm surprised he hasn't shown up here actually. I imagine he's hiding out, enjoying the commotion he's caused. His appetite has grown in the last month because his attacks have been closer together. I do think he's on a time schedule, but he's also very patient, which means he's probably planned for this. He could strike again tonight or it could be days. I just don't know."
As MJ sank down into the cushions of the couch, Helen resumed the other woman's pacing, her mind moving faster than her feet. For a long while, neither spoke until MJ realized what Helen had said.
"You think he'll come back here?" she asked slowly. Helen stopped walking and looked down at the inspector.
"I don't know," she answered honestly. "Maybe."
"Then I'm staying here." She held up a hand. "No, I will hear no arguments. I'm staying here. I'll call the office and let them know and to add an extra round of surveillance outside."
Helen smirked as the detective, who was laying out reasons why she should stay, stood to reach for the phone.
"What?" MJ asked when she noticed the doctor's expression.
"Nothing. I, uh, I'm glad you're staying. I could, uh, use a friend tonight." Helen ducked her head at this, almost blushing at both the admission and the sudden thought that a friend was not the only thing she needed from MJ.
"Good, then you got one," MJ responded softly. Her cop voice, as Helen had come to call it, returned as she barked orders for more police protection around the doctor's apartment building. The inspector's eyes never left Helen's as she finished the call. "Thank you," she said at last and hung up the phone. "We're set."
Helen just nodded, which caused a strand of unruly hair to fall into her face. MJ found herself taking a step forward in a desire to push the curl back and caress the cheek it was tickling. She stopped before reaching out to follow through on the thought.
"So, have you eaten?" Helen asked in an attempt to give her hands and mind something to do. She moved toward the kitchen and felt rather than heard the inspector follow.
"Actually, no," MJ answered, grateful for the distraction. "I guess ordering take-out is out of the question, huh?"
Helen laughed before shaking her head.
"No need. I am a great cook. Comes from being in the house all this time."
"Ooh, what's your specialty?"
"You name it and I'll try it."
"I don't know. Why don't you surprise me."
Helen thought about it for a minute before opening a cabinet and pulling out ingredients.
"I'll be the cook; you can be my assistant. First things first, set the table. You probably know where everything is."
MJ grinned and began getting out plates and utensils. She was slightly surprised that she remembered the layout of the kitchen as well as she did. When she had made coffee for the doctor after the last attack, she hadn't thought she had been paying much attention to the location of the silverware. Obviously, she was wrong.
After setting the table, she returned to the kitchen to find Helen chopping tomatoes.
The doctor handed her the knife.
"Keep chopping while I work on everything else."
The two women worked in companionable silence only broken by the occasional direction from one to the other. Before long, the kitchen was alive with a delightful aroma.
"Here, try this. Do you think it needs more oregano?"
MJ blew on the spoon full of sauce that Helen held out for her before taking a small taste. She smiled and shook her head.
"No, seems just right." She laughed when the doctor finished her bite.
"You're the paranoid one, remember?"
Helen just glared before belittling her expression by throwing a towel at the shorter woman.
"Good thing I have you to keep me grounded."
"Someone has to," MJ replied, which caused Helen to laugh.
The cop smiled as she watched the doctor continue making them dinner and allowed her mind to settle on the jumbled thoughts that came to her whenever she was in the other woman's presence. As long as she concentrated on the case, she was fine. But if she ever lost focus, it took her a little while to get it back. MJ knew she had made this personal, which she also knew was a mistake when working any case, but something about Helen demanded that MJ protect her.
"Hey, you in there?"
The cop quickly snapped back to reality at Helen's teasing jab on the shoulder.
"Oh, yeah, sorry. Just kind of zoned out there for a second."
"I noticed. I thought I had lost you."
MJ managed a weak smile for the other woman, who just quirked an eyebrow. The smaller woman had a feeling that her "lost in thought" moment would be a topic of conversation later in the evening. She could tell by the expression on the doctor's face.
"C'mon. Dinner's almost ready. Help me put everything on the table."
Again, they worked in silence until they sat down to eat. It was then that the psychologist turned her critical eyes to the detective.
"You want to tell me what's been going through your head tonight?" she asked as she took a sip of her wine. "And, please, don't insult my intelligence by telling me nothing. I know better than that."
MJ tried to glare at her but failed miserably.
"I've never met anyone like you before. It's only been a few days but you already know me better than most people I've known for years. How is that possible?"
"Noticing people and their personalities and attitudes is what I'm trained to do."
"Is that really it?" MJ asked, surprised by the rush of disappointment she felt that Helen could construed her as just another subject.
"No," Helen answered. "No, it's more than that. Frankly, I'm curious why you're even here, how you managed to sneak past every defense I've ever had to settle yourself so firmly in the middle of my life." The doctor shrugged. "I don't have all the answers, MJ, but whatever they turn out to be, I'm just glad you're here. Now eat."
MJ's grin spread slowly but soon quirked into the crooked smile that the doctor found completely charming.
"Well, doc, the more relaxed you become, the more I like you," she finally said and Helen returned the detective's smile with one of her own. The conversation from there took on a lighter tone for the rest of the meal.
"That's the last of them," MJ replied as she brought the last of the dinner dishes into the kitchen to Helen, who was putting them in the dishwasher. The pair finished cleaning up before going into the living room. "It's been a rough couple of weeks, especially the past few nights, why don't you get some sleep?"
"I could say the same to you." Helen sighed before continuing. "Look, MJ, I'm not sure that either one of us is going to be sleeping much tonight. There's really no point in trying to deny that something is wrong. We're both very aware that there is a serial killer out there who wants to see me dead. He killed Andy, he's been in my apartment, and he seems to enjoy torturing me. Sleep is not on the top of my to-do list."
MJ stared at the other woman for a long moment before doing something that surprised both of them. The detective leaned forward and quickly but gently brought her lips to the lips of the psychologist and applied a hint of pressure. The taller woman responded almost instantly by bringing her arms around MJ and dragging her closer. The cop took that as an invitation and deepened the kiss. Finally, MJ pulled away and, untangling herself from Helen's arms, stood and moved away from the other woman.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I I don't know what got into me. I " She was still breathing hard and couldn't meet the doctor's gaze. Helen moved the few steps it took to stand in front of the other woman and reached for her.
"MJ, it's okay. I wasn't complaining. Actually, I think if you will recall, I was just as much of a willing participant in that kiss as you were."
The statement made the shorter woman crack a smile but MJ still didn't look at the doctor. Helen ducked her head until their noses touched and kissed the cop again. Although surprised, the taste of Helen's lips was an unexpected treat to MJ, who thought she had screwed up by kissing her friend just moments before. It was several minutes later before they separated and each had to take a lungful of air. With their foreheads touching, both had their eyes closed as their breath mixed.
"I've wanted to do that for days," the petite woman sighed.
"What took you so long?" Helen asked before kissing the other woman again. Her hands found themselves tangling in the detective's long hair and she felt her companion's slender fingers tickling her hips.
"We have to sit down," MJ panted when they parted once more. She guided the doctor to the sofa and pushed her into the seat before dropping down to sit next to her. Helen had no time to respond because MJ's lips were already caressing her own. A thought occurred to the slim inspector that she had wanted to taste this woman's lips since their second meeting but had pushed away the idea. A faint ringing broke through the haze of their growing passion and MJ leaned her head against Helen's shoulder when she realized the ringing was her cell phone.
"It's okay, MJ, go ahead and answer it."
The smaller woman disentangled herself from her friend's arms and reached for her purse.
"Monahan. Yeah. Where? Yeah, okay, I'll be right there."
The inspector turned slowly to face the psychologist, who was still sitting on the couch.
"I have to go back to the scene. The captain seems to think we're missing something. Will, uh, will you be alright here? He said he was sending another guard over to stay with you while I was away."
Still flushed from their heavy make-out session, Helen just nodded her acceptance.
"I really don't want to go," MJ said as she joined Helen on the sofa once more. "But I have to. I'll be back as soon as I can. Call me for any reason."
"I'll be okay. Just go so you can come back."
MJ grinned and leaned forward to kiss the other woman breathless before rushing out the door.
"I'll see you soon."
Helen returned the smile even though the cop couldn't see it. Well, she thought, this is turning out to be more interesting than I thought it would be.
"It's open," I yell from the bedroom. The doorbell had echoed loudly throughout my silent apartment and, for a moment, I think it's a figment of my imagination. But then I hear the door open, slowly, and decide it's best to check out my visitor. My cop senses aren't prickling, so I'm not expecting anything dangerous but caution is a police officer's best friend. I make my way down the hall, into the kitchen. Then I see her. Dressed in black, peering around my living room, learning little about me from the few personal items I have lying here and there. I stand in the entrance for a long moment watching her. I know she knows I'm here. I admit to being surprised at seeing her. Even after all we've been through in the last few days, I wasn't sure she would be spending much time outside of her apartment.
"I, uh, I thought I would go to the funeral with you," she says as if reading my mind. She turns around to face me and offers an uneasy smile. "I hope that's okay." My thought processes are slow in starting but eventually I nod.
"Of course. I'd appreciate the company." The lopsided grin I've grown accustomed to in the last couple of weeks returns and I feel the accompanying jolt I've also come to expect. We stare at each other before I realize that I probably need to move. "Uh, make yourself at home. There's plenty to drink in the kitchen. I've got to finish getting dressed." I disappear upstairs to the bedroom once again, leaving her to continue her explorations. I return a few minutes later and again find myself just watching her.
"We're going to be late," she says as she picks up a picture of me and my father. Putting it back on the shelf, she finally turns to me. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm good. A little sore, but the bullet just grazed my shoulder. I'll live." I cringe at my choice of words and she smiles sympathetically. Wanting to be nearer, I move closer to her and catch her eyes. "It seems like years since I've seen you. How are you?" She laughs humorlessly and ducks her head.
"It was only yesterday, but I'm fine. Better than you thought I would be." I smile sheepishly and wonder when she had time to learn me so well. "I never left your side in the hospital that night." Her serious tone surprises me. "It wasn't until the next morning, yesterday, when they assured me you'd be okay, that I left to answer questions." Her admission means more to me than I'm willing to admit to myself or to her. But I have the feeling, from the look in her eyes, that she knows its importance. "We should go."
I nod and mentally try to prepare myself for the task I am about to perform. We're silent during the ride to the funeral home, and I want to continue with that all the way through the service. But as I enter the chapel, my fellow officers want to share my grief and their own with me. I offer slight nods and short replies to their questions and condolences. She never leaves my side. I feel a tug on my jacket and turn to see the disheartening face of Nico.
"Hey," he says quietly. "How ya doin'?"
"I'm okay considering all that's happened. You?" He just nods and tries to smile. I feel for him because I know that he's suffering almost as much as I am. Helen's hand on my lower back brings me a comfort I don't deserve but I lean into her touch anyway.
"It's about to start," she tells us softly. I'm about to follow her when Nico reaches out to stop me.
"If you need anything, just tell me."
"It's okay. Helen's taking care of me." He seems confused by my statement and I wonder briefly if my expression mirrors his. Before I can put anymore thought into it, I glance up at her to see the hint of a smile gracing her face. Instead of analyzing, I let her guide me to my seat. Soon we have only a walk to his grave, followed by another short service. At the end, after they have lowered him to the ground, is when I say my goodbyes. She stays a respectful distance away until I start to cry. I feel rather than hear her arrival by my side. I keep my eyes on the now covered grave as I tell her how Reuben and I first met and how he could always make me smile. As I'm telling her about the last stake-out we had conducted, I turn to look at her. I'm laughing with tears running down my cheeks, and she smiles along with me before we both fall silent. Then she surprises me by wiping away the only evidence of my sadness.
"I wish there were words to make you feel instantly better," she whispers. "But knowing there aren't, all I can really offer is my time." She waits a heartbeat before continuing. "Let's go home." Walking away was harder than the actual funeral had been, but Helen stays close by. We make it back to my apartment without saying a word to each other and before I start to cry again. I'm barely inside when the tears begin. All I really remember is her leading me to the couch and hugging me tightly as everything from the last few days catch up to me. I fall asleep in her arms and wake a little while later out of them. I stumble from the couch into the kitchen where she is sitting at the table reading the paper. I smile sleepily and she motions to the coffee on the counter.
"Thanks," I tell her, glad that she's still here.
"I thought you might need it. God knows I did. How are you feeling?"
"Better. I, uh, thank you. I mean, for earlier, for staying. I'm glad you're here."
"Me, too. Are you hungry? We could order in if you're feeling up to it?"
"Sure, that sounds great. There's some take out menus next to the phone. I think I'm going to go take a shower. Order whatever you want. I'll eat just about anything." I put my glass in the sink and disappear down the hallway. I take my time and let the hot water beat down on me to wash away a lot of the stress from the past 48 hours. I hear the doorbell and finally decide it's time to get out. When I finally make it back to the living room, Helen has the food containers lined up on my coffee table, along with plates and utensils.
"It's about time," she says as I join her on the couch. She gives me a fork and tells me to eat. "I hope you like Italian food. I had a craving for lasagna."
"No, this is good. It's been so long since I've had this that it's even better than I remember."
"Food is not on your priority list, is it?" I have to swallow before I answer her.
"Well, no. Not that I forget to eat. It's just, sometimes, I have other things to do. It's all hours when I eat. It's hard not having a real schedule. I've learned to adapt."
"Because you're the big, bad cop who has to solve all the crimes?" she teases.
"Yeah, something like that."
"MJ, what do you remember about that night?" she suddenly asks. I think about it before answering her.
"I remember most of it, I think. I remember seeing you, and then not seeing you. I knew you had to be there somewhere and I had to find you. I remember trying not to panic, of aiming." I sigh as the memories come back to me. "I'm not sure how long we sat in that doorway. I remember being moved by the backup I had requested after they tripped over us a few times to gain access to the roof. I remember you insisting I go to the hospital to get checked out. I don't recall the bundle of questions from reporters and officers that were thrown at me on the elevator ride and short walk to the ambulance. I do remember you holding my hand and I remember giving my report to the chief at the hospital before I was pumped full of pain pills." She laughs with me at that. "I I, uh, I also remember waking up yesterday morning and seeing you there."
"I wouldn't leave until I knew you were going to be okay. It seemed like the least I could do."
"I was relieved although I don't know what happened after that until I woke up again a few hours later."
"They whisked me away for questioning and your fellow officers kept a vigil over you until you demanded to be released."
"I asked about you. The chief would only tell me you were well and safe. He had Nico take me home and wouldn't let me come see you."
"He told me."
"You talked to him?"
Helen nods her head as she answers.
"Briefly. He was the one who told me about Reuben's funeral arrangements. He asked if I would give you some time and assured that he would keep an eye on you for me."
"He never said anything."
The smile she sends me then has me thinking that I've missed something.
"I think he believed you would try to break one more rule to set a record for the night."
"If I could have walked, I probably would have," I retort.
She mocks me for a while before we move on to other subjects. We spend hours talking, laughing, remembering. At some point, we become silent again, and I notice her far away gaze.
"Penny," I say, capturing her attention. She laughs softly.
"I was just thinking how things have changed in 72 hours. Until three days ago, I hadn't been outside of my apartment in over 13 months. I hadn't had physical contact with anyone but Andy and a few of his friends during that time. Now, I haven't been home in days and I can't seem to pull myself away from you." Her admission catches me unaware, and when I look up, she's watching for my reaction. I think she surprised herself as well.
"Well, good because I have no intention of letting you go." I pause to gather my thoughts before adding, "I don't want you to go anywhere. In fact, I'd really like it if you would stay with me tonight." If she wasn't shocked by her own admission, I know she is with mine. I wait for a long moment for her response, too afraid to tear my eyes from hers or to move when she scoots closer to me.
"I'd like that," she says softly, then very slowly leans forward. My senses return in time for me to meet her lips half way. The first touch is deceivingly gentle and far too short. Just as I'm about to complain, she captures my lips with hers again. This time, our kiss is more demanding, passion overwriting tenderness, and I feel her pushing me down further into the couch cushions. I don't protest and mold into her body easily. I've never been attracted to another woman before, but Helen has overwhelmed my mind. "Mary Jane," she whispers in my ear. The heat from her body as she hovers above me distracts me from actually listening to her. She has to repeat my name several times before I realize she's questioning me. "Mary Jane, are you sure?"
"I've never been so sure of anything in my life. I'm so sure it scares me." I barely get the words out before reaching up to capture her lips again. I have to have her. It's only been a matter of weeks since we met, but we've put this particular activity off far too long. I move from her mouth to her neck and follow the curve to nibble on her ear. When I hear her giggle, a sound I would never associate with her, I smile against her smooth skin before moving back to her lips. "Say it again," I tell her as I feel her hand slipping up my hip. She nuzzles my cheek and whispers my name in my ear.
We move slowly, learning as we go how to touch each other and what we really like. I enjoy mapping her body with my tongue, tasting every part of her as I take her clothes off. This may be a new experience for us but by the time our skin comes in contact, we're both ready to consummate whatever it is we've started.
Hours later, we still lay on the couch. We're completely spent and wrapped around each other in a most possessive manner. I realize, despite the recent events, that I am completely content. Helen is asleep, and her steady breathing is a comfort to me. I want to wake her and ravish her one more time before morning. Since we didn't talk about the future, I'm not sure I'll have her after a new day starts.
I wake to an unfamiliar weight across my stomach. Glancing down, I see M.J.'s right arm hugging me tightly and smile at the memory of last night's activities. I remember falling asleep on the couch, but at some point we kissed our way up to her bedroom and exhausted ourselves in each other's bodies. When she opens her eyes and our gazes meet, she smiles shyly at me.
"Good morning," she says hoarsely. I feel her sigh of contentment slide across my collarbone as she snuggles deeper into my embrace. "Did you sleep well?"
"What little sleep I got was good."
"I didn't hear you complaining last night," she replies as she pokes me in the side.
"No, no complaints." I hesitate before asking, "Do you have any plans for the day?"
"Yes," she answers and a moment of panic hits me as my doubts and paranoia resurface. "I plan on staying right here with you," she adds sensing me tense. She leans up onto her elbow and looks down at me. "Helen, I'm not going anywhere. At least for a while. I still have a few more days off."
"We've been together so much over the past two weeks; I thought you might want a break. I know I can be difficult at the best of times."
"You were at your best last night and I can personally attest that there was nothing difficult about you. As for being together so much, that's been by choice. My choice if I recall correctly. If you want a break, just tell me. I'll back off. Otherwise, you're stuck with me."
I don't know what to say to her at that, so I lean forward to softly kiss her lips.
"I'm glad I'm here," I tell her as we part.
"I don't want to leave."
"But I do have to go home sometime. I need to see what kind of shape my apartment is in and get some clothes."
"I'll take you. Let me grab a shower and we'll head over there." She kisses me once more before getting out of bed. "You want to join me?" she asks cheekily and I laugh as she wiggles her eyebrows comically.
"Go. I'll meet you downstairs."
"Make coffee," she calls over her shoulder as she disappears into the bathroom. I get out of bed and pull on her white, fluffy terrycloth robe. Downstairs, I have to open several cabinets before I find everything I need for the coffee but soon the soothing aroma surrounds me. I take a chance and check MJ's front steps. Her newspaper is near the apartment and I open the door enough to reach it. Before I get to start reading, however, the phone rings. I'm hesitate to answer it but the sound soon grates on my nerves.
"Uh, hi. Is MJ there?"
"She's in the shower. May I take a message?"
"Yeah, just tell her that Nico called. She knows how to reach me."
"Hey, uh, is she okay?"
"She's very well," I answer and blush at the sudden flash of just how okay she is.
"Good, good. Will you, uh, tell her that I called and that I'd like to see her tonight, please?"
"I'll tell her."
I'm left with a dial tone before I can say anything else. I stare at the phone in my hand for a long moment and grabble with the feelings the caller enlisted in me. Nico. MJ's ex-boyfriend. The man whom she's shared her life and her body with. I know it's less jealousy that I'm feeling and more the anxiety of a budding relationship. I'm not the most stable individual in the world on a good day. Add to my usual insecurities the fear of losing the first person I've ever truly cared about and I'm going to crazy in my skin. Taking a deep breath, I try to push away all the negatives I'm thinking so that I can focus on the positives, the main of which I hear coming down the stairs.
"Nico called while you were in the shower," I tell her when she joins me in the kitchen. I'm sitting at the table nursing a cup of coffee.
"Okay, I'll call him later. Thanks."
As she continues to dry her hair by rubbing the excess water out of it with a towel, I notice her movements are a little stiff.
"How's your shoulder?"
"Sore," she replies smiling.
"I guess last night's activities didn't help it any."
"It's worth it," she says as she stops what she's doing to really look at me. "Helen, what's wrong?" Her voice is laced with concern and I cringe since I don't know how to answer her. "Helen?"
She takes the chair next to me and reaches out to hold my hand. The towel she was using is in her lap and I smile as I watch the ends of her hair curl. I remember the way it tickled my stomach as she kissed the underside of my breast.
"You should call Nico. He wants to see you."
She shrugs and squeezes my hand tighter.
"I don't want to see him. Not right now," she says and takes a sip of my coffee.
Her blasé dismissal of her former lover bothers me for reasons I can't explain. When she disappears into the living room looking for her hairbrush, I follow her.
"Why do you go by your initials?"
She looks surprised by my question but shakes it off to answer.
"Because because I just do "
"Mary Jane," I warn.
"In the business that I'm in, it's better not to let anyone know that I'm a woman until the last possible moment," she says frustratingly. "People in this line of work still tend to harbor prejudices against the fairer sex, whether they mean to or not."
"You use the fact that you're a woman to your advantage. I've been on the receiving end of that innocent charm. I'm willing to bet that you were called MJ before you began working at the police department. You said last night you have a brother?"
"Don't do this, Helen. Don't analyze me. I'm not one of your patients."
"Then what are you?" I shout. Taking a deep breath, I break eye contact with her and shake my head. "I just, I feel like I know everything about you except where I stand in your life. Are you ready for me, for an us? Am I ready?"
"We're ready for now," she whispers and takes a step closer to me. "We'll get ready for the future as it comes." She glances at me before sighing softly. "I'm sorry, Helen. Maybe I pushed too hard too fast."
The self-resignation in her voice makes my heart ache and I reach out to her without thinking. I have to tug on her wrist before she slides into my embrace.
"No, I wanted last night as much as you did. Maybe more." I close my eyes and kiss the top of her head as her arms encircle my waist. "I don't know what's happening. One minute I'm pushing you away and the next I can't let you go. I just met you a couple of weeks ago, yet you're more familiar to me than anyone I've ever known."
I feel her chuckle against my shoulder and squeeze me a little tighter.
"I know the feeling." We let the silence surround us as we take comfort in each other for a long moment. "You want to talk to me about what got you so wound up?" she finally asks and I laugh quietly.
"No." She nods but I can tell she's smiling at my petulant tone. "I'm afraid of losing you, and I shouldn't be."
"No, you're right. You shouldn't be."
I pull away from her and begin pacing around her living room. She watches me intently, her eyes taking in my every movement.
"Why not? We barely know each other. You had a life before you met me and all my problems. Why should I expect you to hang around? It's not fair to you."
"Helen." Her voice is firm and it forces me to look at her. "The only thing that's not fair is if you dismiss me from your life because you think it's what's best for me. Being with you should be my choice. I know it won't be easy. It never is when you get two strong-willed, opinionated people together, especially women in our business with our pasts. But for reasons I can't explain, we've bonded. You felt like someone I had known forever after our second meeting. That kind of connection doesn't happen often. I, for one, am not going to give it up." Her tone softens and she comes to stand before me again. "Look at you. You're out of the house, you managed to escape from a dangerous situation, you've let another person into your life," she smiles as she adds, "and into your bed. I want to be with you, in any way I can, in every way. We'll work everything else out as we come to it."
"Nico?" I ask and feel foolish for being so irritable at the very sound of his name.
"What about him?" I only shrug as she studies me, and then she laughs. "Helen, are you jealous?"
"Of course not! I mean, I don't know what I am." I sigh at those words. I've been saying that a lot here lately. "I'm new at this. I've never been faced with the issue of an ex-boyfriend before, especially one who works with my with the person I'm " Unsure how to describe our relationship, I wave my hand between us.
"I think the term you're looking for is girlfriend," she replies. "And as for Nico, he and I will always be bound together because we shared a life and because we work with each other. But you have nothing to worry about concerning him. He and I are just friends. We couldn't stay together because we couldn't get along for more than a few hours at a time and because we didn't have the kind of love that a lifelong relationship should be made of. We never had it and we never will." She takes my hands and ducks her head to catch my eyes. "Helen, I never, not once during the entire time he and I were together, felt about him even an ounce like how I feel about you. When we're together, I feel whole. Like I've finally found the piece I never knew was missing. I know it's early yet, but I really believe that we belong together." She tugs on my hands until I smile at her. "Now, what do you say to giving us a chance, hmm?"
"Since I really don't think I can live without you now, I guess I don't have a choice." My words have the desired affect and she grins at me.
"Get dressed and we'll go to your place." She kisses the tip of my nose and starts to grouse over her missing hairbrush again. As I head upstairs, I stop to look down on her. The scene playing out before me seems so homey and I smile at the ridiculous feeling of happiness spreading through me. I know our future is uncertain and I still have plenty of issues to work out, but I know that I'm no longer alone. Sappy as it sounds, the world doesn't seem as big anymore.
Sequel What's Next
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