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08 February 2007 @ 04:11 pm
Continued from Here

He doesn't all me on the lie. He never does. I think if I were to tell him I'm not alright, he'd have no idea what to do. He feels guilty enough, what with Darla waiting at home, he doesn't need anymore from my side to ad to that. I can carry my own guilt, my own pain, and besides. He didn’t really hurt me and he knows it. If he had, I would've told him so during the...erm...act. Gag or not.

"Good," I murmur, hiding my face in his neck when I finally feel him slide out. I hate that moment, it feels as though I'm loosing the connection I have with him when it happens. Visa versa as well of course. It's not true, but it's a feeling I cannot help but have. Sometimes I wonder if he feels the same. I never ask of course, and he never tells me.

"Hmm." Rough day. Yes, me as well. Between William and what's been written in that damn newspaper I think we both had a rough day. At least I made some progress on the case. I think I'm close to discovering whom has committed the murder. It's all very simple really, if you look at it from a different perspective. One I know Liam and McDonald don't have. They're always thinking to difficult. We're not talking about work though, never, especially not at moments like these.

He pulls the blankets over us just in time. I'm unable to keep a shiver at bay though, blinking when his apology filters through. The kiss threw me of track a bit. He's usually the one who shows affection, so it shouldn't really suprise me. Especially not after the rough day comment. But everytime he does, it surprises me. I'm not used to affection of any kind.

"No need to be sorry," I mumble, snuggling under the covers despite myself. I lift my head from his neck and look at him seriously. "You know I would've said something otherwise," I point out. It's happened before, for both of us. Not lately, it seems we've become more accustomed to each others needs and how far we can go. Doesn't mean we don't push.

Laying back down, I pillow my head on his shoulder. My hand is drawing idle patterns on his chest while his fingers keep through my hair. "How's Connor's study coming along?" I ask, touching on the one safe topic we can discuss. He's proud of his son and likes to talk about the boy and his achievements.
Current Mood: mellowmellow
Keep Me: angel gets his man_keep_me on February 8th, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC)
Just as I thought, Wes is quick to snuggle into the blankets I've tossed over us. It feels unseemly good to have him lie on top of me so easily. It does surprise me that he lets me cuddle with him after. I suppose maybe he thinks he's indulging my guilt over Darla, or my relationship with Darla, and that maybe I forget I'm with him when I do things like this. Things like hold him so close with just an arm coiled around his waist and a hand running through his hair. Like a child, like someone you could actually take care of.

Even if we could be open about all of this, Wes isn't one to be taken care of. He's made it abundantly clear that he's not about to take help from the police files I could offer him for his cases. He takes care of himself, and I'm not allowed to fight with him on that.

"I know," I murmur, but honestly wondering sometimes if I would know when no meant no. I already take plenty of advantage of him as it is. And I don't stop.

"He's doing well," I say softly, still not ready to move into the world of real voices and clothes and all the trappings of the outside world. "He's still going on about going to the police academy though. I can't seem to get it out of his head," I sigh quietly, my chest barely moving even with the huff of breath. "Studies seem to be going well though, if I can just get him to stop studying your Willow so much." I find it some kind of cosmic joke that our charges/children are attracted to each other. Of course they would be. Nothing about this relationship could be easy, could it?

It nevertheless prompts a small smile though. They are fairly cute together though. I think Willow is good for Connor's studies, now if she would just stop encouraging him about police academy we'd be fine. It's 'Willow says this' and 'Willow says that' non-stop these days. It's also unfortunate that every time he says Willow, I think of Wes.
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce_wes_pryce_ on February 9th, 2007 04:49 am (UTC)
He knows and yet everytime he has to ask. That to me signals that he either doesn’t trust me to say anything if he does go to far. Or he doesn’t trust himself? That I don’t know and I’m not going to ask. It’s a deep, black hole just waiting for us to tumble into and I doubt either of us will be able to climb out of that one.

So onward we go to saver topics. I can’t help but smile when he calls Willow ‘my Willow’. I’m sure my aunt and uncle would love to hear that. I’m the responsible one, which is the only reason they’ve allowed her to stay with me while she goes to university. There has been some doubt since William is in the same town as well and he, apparently, had a bad influence. He’s not a bad boy, he just has a brain he doesn’t use all that often. Speaks before thinking, acts before thinking, gets in a lot of trouble before thinking. Willow is a smart girl though, far more then anyone gives her credit for.

I’m not touching the subject of the police academy again. We’ve already had several arguments about that one. I think Connor is very suited to go to the academy. I understand Liam’s worries of course, but Liam hasn’t gone to university. Which means being a detective is as high as he’ll ever get within the corps. Connor can do better and sometimes I wonder if that’s what Liam is afraid of as well. Not just the danger. I doubt it, but I’m guessing my own fathers influence is getting the better of me at times. Then again, look at me and my oxford education and where it’s gotten me.

“Well, what do you want him to become?” I ask carefully instead. “And it’s not my fault he studies Willow that much. I’m guessing that’s hereditary hmmm?” As if I’ve not seen how he likes to look at some ladies…and some ladies look at him. Not that I’m jealous or anything. Heavens no. That’s Darla’s job.
Keep Me: det callaghan_keep_me on February 9th, 2007 01:13 pm (UTC)
I blink at that question. I hadn't really thought about. I've just been so focused on him not going to the academy that I didn't really think about what he could do.

"I...don't know," I say after several heartbeats and several strokes of my hand over Wes' back. "I just know that there are more possibilities than working for the police and he should consider them. He could be a professor, a cook, I don't know, but he shouldn't just keep himself to Los Angeles and miss out on the world." That last part I know is me talking. Me wishing there had been more to my life. A rampage through Europe, a visit to the mother country, to China, to New York. Anywhere. He doesn't have to stay here.

He doesn't have to be like me.

"He shouldn't waste his life fighting the same endless fight," I say quietly, looking away. I know I've more than likely insulted Wes, but it's true, and especially so today when even my small talents for the job seem useless. Sure, I wouldn't give up helping people, helping them when they've got no one else, but it's never going to be over. There's not going to be any retirement, there's not going to be a promotion. I'm always going to be Detective Callagahan. It's what I do. Connor deserves better.

But we have enough depression in our lives without getting caught up in the future. I shouldn't be bringing us down with my mood so I try for some teasing. See if I can pull that off. "Hereditary? You mean that Callaghan men can't seem to keep their hands off your side of the family?" I give him a teasing leer, and let myself stroke a hand over his face, knowing I may in fact get a glare or a haunted look for doing so.
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce_wes_pryce_ on February 10th, 2007 10:45 am (UTC)
He doesn’t know. Why doesn't that surprise me? Liam has this bad habit of focusing one thing at the time and obsess about it. Be it no one finding out about us, or that one clue in a case or his boy not going to the academy. And this at times makes him loose perspective of the overall picture. It's a human trade, I'm sure I've done my fair share of it. But sometimes we need another person to point out the whole, big picture so we don't get lost in minor details.

My hand keeps moving soothingly over his chest while he rattles off a whole list of things Connor could become. He really doesn't matter and I'm suddenly once more reminded of my father. I didn't have a choice in the matter. I was to take over the firm and that was that. My whole life has been conditioned around that task, that goal, whether I wanted to or not. My dreams were nothing and out of reach, my wants were disregarded and tossed aside. And I wonder if Liam realizes he's doing the same to Connor, in a different, reverse way.

He's a good father, he just worries to much at times.

And thank you Liam, for pointing out how useless my job is. It makes me stiffen in his arms for a moment, my body going into anger flight mode before my brain takes over. He didn't mean it that way, even though hearing him say how meaningless it is what I do hurts. I force myself to relax, focusing on his hand brushing over my skin instead of words that have been tossed out without thinking. Seems to be another Callaghan trade. Though, Cordelia and William are good at that too. So's McDonald. Hmm, maybe I'm doing something wrong.

"Yes, that is what I'm saying," I murmur back at his tease, blinking when he slides a hand over my face. Unconsciously I start to lean into the touch before catching myself with an inward curse.

"Liam," I start, using my 'calm voice', which William insists would talk evil banshees out of trees. "I understand what you’re trying to do by not wanting to boy to go to the academy. But if that is what Connor wants? Being a police officer is what makes him happy. If he has his heart set on that, how do you think he'll feel if you keep telling him what a stupid idea that is? And how much do you think it'll do to the image he has of you?" The few times I've talked to Connor, it was so very obvious how proud he is of his fahter.
Keep Me: det callaghan_keep_me on February 10th, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC)
The teasing doesn't phase Wes a bit, but *there*, there, right there! I had him for a second before he pulled back. Well, not pulled back since he didn't move, but he didn't press his face into my hand anymore. His eyes stopped trying to flutter shut. That, that right there is more of what I want. I just... Can't have it. Just like I am never going to win this argument about keeping Connor from going to the academy.

I know he's right. He's always right. But Connor is *my* son. He's my *only* son. And I won't see him gunned down in some gang war or mob hit. I won't. I brush my thumb over Wesley's cheek. It's bad enough I have to worry about Wes as it is. It doesn't matter if he can take care of himself. I am always going to worry that some night he's not going to make it here because he's lying in Lafayette Park bleeding to death.

"Hmm," is my non-committal response. Even if Connor hates me the rest of his life, at least I could be safe in the knowledge that I did what I could to protect him. And I don't tell him it's a stupid idea. I just tell him he can't. I would never tell him that what he thinks is stupid... I wouldn't...

"What about Willow? How's she doing?" I murmur, changing the subject, knowing this is something we are never going to agree on, and it only ends in an argument, silence and Wes leaving. "She and Connor seem to be spending more time together lately." I know it's stressful for both of us, having them be involved, but I couldn't take that away from him too. It would be selfish, and I know what it's like to like someone who you maybe aren't supposed to like. Besides, most of the time, I think she's good for him. Calms him a little, keeps him from being rash and foolish like his old man. Grounds him. Not unlike as certain other part of her side of the family.
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce_wes_pryce_ on February 10th, 2007 06:06 pm (UTC)
Stubborn. Such a stubborn arse. A sigh gets out before I can stop it. It's a defeated one, because he sometimes makes it so difficult to talk. Of course that little voice in my head scoffs at that. Asking me why I would want him to talk anyway. Isn't this supposed to be only sex? Isn't this only supposed to be about getting off the way you *want* to? Then why would I want him to talk. Why would I want him to listen to me.

Not that he ever does. Listen to me that is. Not really. And he doesn't need to. I'm not his... wife. I'm not even a family member. I'm just the guy he shags in the dark every now and then, no questions asked. And yet everytime we end up talking. Or wanting to talk but not quite getting it right. Doesn't help that my cousin - who’s legal guardian I am for the time being - is dating his son.

I really wish I could just grab his shoulders and shake him. Yell at him about several things. It's not my right though, so I let the matter drop, swallowing down several remarks and sarcastic comments. He can't protect his son at all times. He knows that, he still tries. Just like I'll always keep trying to protect William, and Willow and even Cordelia. Family, its a strange concept at times.

"I know what you're doing," I murmur, not allowing him to get completely off the hook. Raising my head I give him a look that goes with that observation, catching his eyes and keeping our gaze locked for a moment.

"She seems to be doing fine," I tell him, letting the subject drop. For now at any rate. "Study is going well. Seems to be making some more friends, aside from Connor. And of course they spend a lot of time together," I tell him, raising one eyebrow.

"They seem to be..." my nose wrinkles at the concept of it, "...in love." Love. Tricky concept. I've never been in love, so I wouldn't know. And as long as I don't look into Liam's eyes whenever I say or think that, I can keep on lying to myself.

"I think it's cute," I say, giving him a crooked smile.
Keep Me: det callaghan_keep_me on February 10th, 2007 08:41 pm (UTC)
I return his look with one of my own. One that says Connor is my *only* son, and I will do what I have to do to protect him. Whatever I have to do. Wes should know that by now.

Connor's the only child I'm probably ever going to have - after Connor's birth, there were complications, and I didn't think Darla was going to make it, but she did, only the doctors told her she wouldn't be having any more kids. She took it stoically, but a few days later, I found her crying next to Connor's bassinet, and I knew it cut her deeper than I imagined. I held her for hours, feeling my own tears, but being so grateful to have Connor. The only light after so much darkness.

I've never told Wes about all that, but I think he knows how I feel about my son. I don't know if there are many people that don't. Connor's one person I don't have to hide my feelings for, or tiptoe around, worrying that I'll say something I'm not supposed to.

"I think it's cute, too." I say shyly, returning his crooked smile with one of my own, hand sliding over the back of his neck, and twining into the hair at the back of his neck. It's on the tip of my tongue to say he's cute too, but I learned my lesson about that a long time ago. Instead, I raise my chin up to kiss him softly. Too softly for us, but...

"What is it that I'm doing?" I ask innocently, parting from the kiss and echoing his earlier statement. I know perfectly well what he meant then, and I know he knows perfectly well what I'm doing right now. But one more lecture isn't going to get me to change my mind tonight. He's given me something to think about, but I'm not wasting our time together arguing over my parenting choices. Kissing is much better. Talking about how they might be in love...it makes my heart twist, but it's nice to think that we've got two good kids, and that they might actually be happy.
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce_wes_pryce_ on February 10th, 2007 10:00 pm (UTC)
That admission gets him a blink. And once again I find myself wondering if Darla ever sees this side of him. That shy, soft side that on one is supposed to know about. Probably, if anyone has a right to see that side it's her. I have no right to see it and it makes me slightly uncomfortable. As well...something I'm to afraid to name. To afraid because then it would make things more real. And more difficult.

More complex. The last thing we need is complex.

Which is why the kiss catches me completely of guard. It's to soft, to gentle and I like to far, far to much. I find myself kissing him back with the same gentle softness, eyes closing as I revel in the moment. I almost find myself lost when he finally pulls back and I snap into the sharp contrast of reality once more.

I can't have soft and gentle. It's not mine to have, it's not his to give to me. And yet I crave for it like any other human being. Unable to say no when it's offered, even when I should know better.

"You know perfectly well what you were trying to do," I tell him, still reeling from that kiss and not knowing what to do. A big part of me wants to get away. Slide off of him, gather my clothes and get out. Run, run as fast as I can. Just like I've always done. Which is probably the reason I slide of his body and onto my back. The next step is actually getting out of the bed.

Funny, for someone who feels the need to run, I have to force myself to actually do that. Doesn't seem I'm quite convincing myself, considering I haven't left the bed. Yet.
Keep Me: angel gets his man_keep_me on February 11th, 2007 12:44 am (UTC)
This is what I needed. I sigh into his mouth as he returns the kiss as gently as I gave it. I silently thank God that Wes is giving in and unknowingly giving me exactly what I needed today. I'm sure he thinks he shouldn't be doing this and will pull away any moment. The more moments that go by and he doesn't pull away, the more surprised and pleased I get.

I can visibly see him snapping his armor back on when we part, his face shocked and showing how much he's chiding himself internally.

I have to steel myself not to get upset when he rolls off of me. Away from me. I knew it woul happen and I shouldn't have been so careless and stupid with that kiss. Shouldn't have indulged myself. I know I've pushed too far in a very different way, and I'm lucky he's not in the shower already or half dressed.

He seems limp next to me, and I stay silent as he stares at the ceiling as if gearing himself up for something. Fearing the worst, I jump into action. Well, figuratively.

I roll to my side and put a hand on his hip. Possessively, my mind supples, though I know I didn't intend it that way. "Shower with me?" I ask, tentatively, fully expecting a harsh 'no.' I'm not ready for our night to be over yet, and I know I've already blown things with my gentle kissing. He can at least let me touch him a little while longer. I hope.
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce: Wes red shirt body (remember_nomore)_wes_pryce_ on February 11th, 2007 01:56 pm (UTC)
We're going to far this evening. I don't know what happened to him before he got here, but it must've made quite an impact. Enough of an impact that he's seeking, needing something from me that I usually would think he'd get from Darla. Or maybe I'm have an entirely wrong impression of Darla, considering she's the...wronged party here.

It's going to far and I can't let it go on.

When he asks me in that soft, tentative voice that's so unlike Liam to join him in the shower? It takes every resolve I have not to say yes right away and tug him into the far to small shower. It wouldn't be the first time we've shared a shower, but it just feels so wrong this time to say yes. Even though I want to. God do I want to.

Swallowing hard, I try to ignore the hand on my hip and stare up at the ceiling. "I have to go," I murmur, trying to sound convincing and not to harsh. I know he'll be disappointed anyway. I know I am. It's just... We need to stop before we really go to far. "Willow will be home soon." Its a lie, but he doesn't know that. I've told her I wasn't going to be home when she got there.

With some force I roll over to my side and slide out of bed. Can't look at him and see that disappointment in his eyes, or the hurt I know will be there even though he's trying to hide it. If I do, then I know my resolve will crumble and we'll be in that shower in no time at all. "I...have some paper work to catch up on as well." I pause next to the bed, wondering what to do next before mechanically moving toward my clothes.
Keep Me: angel gets his man_keep_me on February 11th, 2007 02:24 pm (UTC)
His voice is hollow, and I can *hear* him drawing away from me more. I can just *hear* it. It makes me angry that he's trying to brush me off, but it also makes me sad. Sad that even asking for a shower is too much. Sad that he won't let himself have this. He's so far away now and he hasn't even moved an inch. I don't even care that he's lying to me, and I know I should just let him go, just let it all go, but...

He won't even look at me now.

And I know I have no right to ask this of him, I have no right to ask anything of him - he's not yours! - but I can't seem to stop the word from tumbling off my lips no matter how hard I clench my fists and try not to.


It echoes through the room, and the sad thing is, I know he wouldn't think a thing of it if this were one of our games, but it's not and we both know it. We both know I'm just sitting here on a seedy motel bed begging him to stay with me. To stay fifteen more minutes. To stay because I asked him to. It's got to be rather pathetic, really, and I find myself feeling like I should cover up and get dressed or do something to get the shame off of me.

I sit and watch him, his back turned to me with the blankets draped over my lap, and I wonder if I've finally pushed him away for good.
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce_wes_pryce_ on February 11th, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC)
Why is he doing this to me? Why is he doing this to himself? To us? He knows we can't let it go to far. Its just sex and nothing more. Though if the number of times I had to tell myself that this evening is anything to go by... and I really don't want to think of that either. I can practically *feel* his disappointment and need boring in my back.

I start to gather my clothes, keeping my back firmly turned toward him. Can't look at him, can't look at those eyes and say no. But when he speaks I can feel my heart break a little and have to close my eyes. A sharp breath gets sucked through my teeth, held and then pushed out slowly. God, is he trying to push me away? Is he doing this on purpose.

"I can't," I whisper so quietly I wonder if he even heard that. I can't stay. If I stay I'll be admitting that I care. Love. It can never be that, ever. He's not mine, he'll never be mine. I'm not even the other woman, I think bitterly. I'm nothing. I have to be nothing but a body to him he can use to find his release.

The moment I turn around because of some justice feeling inside me that he has a right to seem my face, I know I've made a mistake. It's the look on his face that makes my own fall before I can even attempt to school it into a blank expression. So I stand there stupidly, a shiver running through me that has nothing to do with the cold as I clutch my briefs between numb fingers.

"We can't," I finally murmur desperately, looking down at the floor at those words. Coward. Can't even look into his eyes when you break his heart. "I have to go."
Keep Me: angel gets his man_keep_me on February 11th, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
I can hear the desperation in his voice. I can hear him telling me to stop asking him for things he can't give. I can hear him telling me to stop making him want the things that I ask him for.

Something in me tears at his words. The pain in my chest turns from sharp quickly to a dull throb, something mundane and boring that could be easily ignored. But it's never going to go away. I look at him for what seems like an eternity, face blank. There aren't any words to say. I can't make this different. I can't. Too many complications as Wes always says.

Instead, I silently steel myself to be alone in this world. I grab my clothes slowly and pad into the bathroom, knowing he'll be gone when I get out. He can't stay. I may have Connor, and I may have Darla, but that doesn't make me feel any less alone right now. Closing the door behind me, I lean against it heavily and close my eyes. What was I thinking? Was I hoping this would turn out differently tonight? Did I forget that the world hasn't changed?

It was just a shower, a tiny voice whispers. You didn't ask for the moon. But the next thing you know I'll be buying him ties or tea, looking for nice hotel rooms, and be thinking about leaving Darla. We can't. He's right, he's always goddamn fucking right. I hate it, hate him for always knowing what's best. For sacrificing everything for me. I hate him. I hate him. Because if I didn't, I would tell him I love you a thousand times over. And one of us would have to admit that this is more than just sex.

Turning on the taps, I finally let out a choked sob and smash my fist into the tile. The tile cracks and I only succeed in making my knuckles ripped and smeared with blood, one drop dripping down the tile. Bracing myself against the wall with both hands I let my head hang, tears dripping unwillingly into the pool of pinkish water at my feet. Please let him be gone. Please don't let him have heard that. Please don't let him see me like this. Because of him.

I watch the blood trickle and ignore the water scorching my skin.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce_wes_pryce_ on February 11th, 2007 05:26 pm (UTC)
He doesn't say a word. No angry 'fine'. No stoic 'see you around'. Nothing. Not a word. And that alone is more telling then anything else. What's even more telling is the way he suddenly jerks out of bed, the sudden movement making me take a step back. Wearily I stand there, clutching my own clothes and watch him gather his clothes and stomp off into the bathroom.

The door doesn't slam, but I can hear it's ghostly echo bounce of the walls anyway. Taking a shuddering breath I glance at the now empty bed and sigh. Perhaps the time has come to put a stop to this, I realize. Perhaps the time has come for him to go home to his family and know that'll have to be enough for him. Perhaps the time has come... to let go.

Rubbing my hands over my face, I let out a frustrated growl before starting to get dresses. Jerking moves making it difficult as I pull on my briefs, socks and slacks. I still haven't heard the shower being turned on and that worries me. While sliding on my shirt, I pad over to the bathroom door and lean in to listen. Maybe I can hear something.

The sound I do hear isn't one I've been expecting. I jump back and stare at the door with wide eyes, as though it'll give an answer to all the questions crowing my mind. He's crying. And he's obviously assaulting the bathroom tiles. I feel crushed, not knowing what to do. "Liam?" I murmur quietly, at the same time I hear the sound of the shower being turned on.

I take one step back to the door. Another tentative one. My hand comes up to hover over the doorknob, ready to turn it and demand to know if he's alright. I move it away again when I realize how stupid that question would be, since he's obviously not. Then I move it back to the door, hover over the knob again before pulling it back.

Quickly I button up my shirt and slide into my over coat. Stuff my feet into my shoes and try not to think of why he's crying. I don't want to know, I can't know. Because if I know I might want to do something about it and that's not possible. Not in this world, not in our lives.

It's not until I'm already in my car on my way home that I realize I've left my tie back on the bed in the hotel room. Knuckles turn white around the steering wheel as I try not to think of how much of a painful reminder that has to be for Liam right now. Please.

He's fine. He has Darla. He has Connor. He has his career, his friends, his life. He’ll come around and he'll be fine. And what about you?

Doesn't matter.
Keep Me: det callaghan_keep_me on February 11th, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC)
The frustration, the anger, the helplessness roll over me so heavily I can barely breath, barely think. I honestly don't feel the water burning me. I feel numb. Maybe it's over now. Maybe this can all be finished, and we can go back to being...colleagues. I know that's a lie and I laugh a bark of a laugh like a madman. Why did I have to ask about the shower? I didn't even want to shower.

I have to shower though, have to get the smell of him off me, all traces of him. Can't let it linger, can't let Darla find out. I remember the first time I tried to leave without showering and I thought Wes was going to punch me out, he was so startled and enraged at me. All very calmly, of course. He was so worried I would get caught. For me. Not for himself or...us.

My skin is flaming red when I get out from the heat, from the futile, ruthless scrubbing, and I know if I look in the mirror my skin will be as red as my eyes. Red like the scrape on my knuckles. I glance back at the broken tile and realize we're probably not going to be welcome here again. Towel wrapped around me, I listen carefully, silently to see if he's still there.

I hear nothing, and pad out in a haze dragging my clothes with me. My eyes don't focus right away, but I know he's gone. Not a trace of him. I make the mistake of glancing back at the bed, knowing there's a trace of him there, and feel all the blood drain from my face. Waves of nausea wash through me and I vomit in the trash can next to me.

What is happening to me? I think as I stand there for long moments hands braced on my knees as I try catch my breath and stop the new wave of tears. My chest aches, my eyes are dried out, and my skin burns. What have I done to myself? I think as I try to straighten up and get dressed. Rinsing out my mouth back at the sink, I turn my eyes away and try to pull on my usual impassive mask.

It nearly works until I flounder at his tie again. I swallow down the nausea this time and wrap the painful thing around my wounded hand, the beautiful blue and silver staining with dark, ugly reddish brown.

I leave some extra bills to compensate for the tile and leave quickly as soon as I've got all my clothes on and I've made sure there are no other signs of us in the room. The drive home seems endless, and I do it as if sleeping. There's a faint glow in the living room, and I know Darla's waited up for me.

Inside I shrug out of my coat and feel her hands smooth over my shoulders, taking it, asking me if I've eaten. I nod, one more lie, and turn to her, feeling the strongest urge to go check on Connor and brush light fingers over his hair like I used to do when he was a boy. He's not a boy now. He doesn't need me to make his decisions for him, or to tuck him in at night.

She takes my hand and tells me to come to bed, only asking once if I'm alright when she sees the shallow wound on my hand. I don't answer right away, slowly letting my clothes drop to the floor, my hands undoing buttons, belt buckle, shoelaces, wristwatch with underwater slowness. Darla's strong. She wouldn't need me either. Might even miss me. Maybe after this case is finished, maybe I should just get out of town. Let everyone have their lives back. Disappear.

"Rough night." I say stoically, closing off all my emotions from the evening and locking them away, feeling drained and lost as I climb in bed with her. With her softness and curves. She doesn't kiss the wound on my hand like I want her to, she doesn't run her fingers through my hair and give me a long understanding look. But she does pull me close and press my head to her nightgown, slender arms wrapping around me, whispering, "My dear boy, my darling boy..." several times over.

If I didn't feel so numb, that might have actually comforted me. Instead, I nuzzle between her breasts, hiding from her and from myself, hoping that tomorrow things will feel different.