You’re not an overly emotional kind of woman. Or so you like to believe but as you get behind the wheel of your rental car, your hands shaking and your teeth clenched together hard enough to grind rocks into powder, you actually entertain the idea of going back into the police station with the loaded gun from your glove compartment. Already on edge after several days worth of unanswered texts and hopping a flight from Washington to Philadelphia, being grilled by an asshole going by the name of Blake like you were some kind of stalker, has made your day go from bad to damn near homicidal.
“Excuse me? Sir?”
“Sorry, ma’am, kinda busy right now. If you’re here to make a report-.”
“I’m here looking for my fiancÚ, actually.”
“If he hasn’t been gone for more than 72 hours, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do. If it was just a fight over taking out the trash, I’m sure he’ll see the error of his ways-.”
“He works here!”
“Well…why didn’t you say so? Name?”
“Norman. Norman Jayden.”
“Funny. He’s never mentioned you.”
“And I’m sure he’s told you his entire life story after knowing you only a few days. You certainly seem friendly enough.”
“Getting an attitude with me ain’t gonna make me answer your questions any faster. I’m not his secretary, lady. Besides, this ain’t really the time for personal visits. We’ve got a missing kid to find, in case you haven’t heard. Ain’t nobody worried about you needing attention.”
You turn the key to keep from reaching for your gun. After fifteen minutes of that kind of back and forth bullshit, someone else had finally stepped in to give you the name of the hotel where he was staying. You knew the looks on their faces though. Why hadn’t Norman told you himself? They wouldn’t understand. You didn’t waste your time even attempting to explain.
Having never been to Philly before, you’re at least lucky enough to have a GPS installed in the dash and after fumbling with the input commands for thirty minutes, you manage to program it correctly. It takes another thirty to navigate traffic in the pouring rain with your already frayed nerves, your cell message tone alerting you just as you pull into the parking lot of the hotel.
You shouldn’t have come here.
Sad that it took you doing so just to get a response from him. Your shaking fingers waste no time replying.
I’m on my way up. Unlock the door or someone will have to solve your murder.
Then you drop your phone into your purse, grab the keys and climb out. There’s a beep as you click the alarm, sneakers splashing through puddles as you hurry to the covered awning at the main doors. You step inside the lobby, taking only a moment to get your emotions under control as you survey the room, and then your sneakers are squeaking on the floor as you make your way to the elevators. You don’t bother giving the woman at the front desk a glance, your purse clutched to your side, pretending you’ve done this many times before.
Your finger jabs the call button and you wait.
It used to not be this way. He has never been an open book, always keeping his thoughts to himself in regards to what he’s feeling or what he wants. Ask about a case and he’ll talk for days. You’ve even found him in his study talking to himself. Ask him how he’s feeling and you might as well be talking to a wall.
Part of the reason you love him. Having him trust you when he keeps the rest of the world at bay only makes it mean that much more. It’s not about confessions of love or bearing his soul. It’s the rare smiles that reach his eyes when he spots you from across the room. The soft kisses to your cheek while you’re still in bed as he heads off to work.
You’ve never doubted that he loves you even though the words are never spoken. It’s in the way he holds you. When he says your name. The small gifts you’ll find waiting at home when he leaves on a job. The random texts asking if you need anything.
But because you understand him, you know when something’s wrong. It’s been getting worse these past few months. Your guilt is because you haven’t said a word, knowing how good he is at his job and how much it means to him. But you know. You’ve known for a long time.
The elevator dings and you move inside the second the doors are open. Your finger nearly misses the floor button that you need and as the doors close you in alone, you rest your temple against the cold metal as you start to ascend.
Solve every crime that comes his way, right the injustices of the world that no one else can, no matter the cost. No matter the danger. Always so selfless. So determined. That look of fire in his eyes when the pieces start to fall into place. But not at the cost of his sanity or his life. You won’t allow that.
Another ding from the elevator and you emerge into the fourth floor hallway, footsteps muffled by carpet even as your heart beats louder than ever before. It should never have come down to this. If your sin is silence then his is pride and neither one of you will come out of this unscathed.
One by one you pass the rooms, eyes darting from left to right until you find the one you need. You don’t bother to knock, the knob cold against your palm as you turn it. Part of you is surprised when there isn’t any resistance. You expected him to at least hide out of shame or perhaps fear. Something must have-
You actually feel your heart breaking as you step into the room, letting the door click shut behind you. The room is nothing but a haze of grey, the only light coming from the large window overlooking the city, the rain beyond sliding down the glass and distorting the view. In that haze of grey you find him sitting on the floor, his back against the foot of the bed, knees pulled up to his chest and his head bowed.
“You deserve bettah than this.” quiet, the words muffled.
Only then do you see the lamp lying on the floor near the darkened bathroom, the glitter of broken glass beneath the window and the bitter smell of alcohol soaking into the carpet. You hate yourself for the feeling but you’re glad; glad that it finally happened, that he finally hit rock bottom. He never would have listened, even if you’d pounded your fists against his chest and screamed that those stupid glasses were ruining his life. Despite his intelligence and his fancy psychology degree, he’s a complete failure at figuring himself out.
Lowering yourself down on your knees, facing him, one hand settles onto his knee, the other on the back of his neck only to find him trembling and not because of your touch.
“No, I don’t deserve this, Norman,” you murmur. “That’s why I thank God every day for how lucky I am. That’s why I’m gonna help you through this. Yell and scream, tell me to leave, that you don’t want me here, but I’d rather you don’t waste the time we have.”
Little by little his head lifts, like it weighs a ton, as if the act itself is painful. “…you know.” It isn’t a question. “Of cos you do.”
His right hand lifts, the material of the glove soft against your skin as he laces his fingers through yours. There’s a tug from him as he drops his knees and your hand falls from his neck to his shoulder as you straddle his waist. He doesn’t look at you as his hand falls away, both of them settling onto your hips.
Your tears don’t start falling until his forehead touches your chest, his arms pulling you closer. To see him this vulnerable, this broken…
His hair is drenched with sweat as you run your fingers through it, “Where is it?” you whisper against the top of his head.
You feel his hands tense, his entire body shaking beneath you. “I flushed…I flushed it.”
And he stays there, for how long you aren’t sure only knowing that the shadows grow deeper and that the rain never stops. And after a while, his breath warming the front of your shirt, the shaking eases but not completely. He took the hardest step alone and even though you’ll never be able to say just how proud you are, you know it isn’t over. With the case still on going, every moment will be a test of his will, his determination, and that frightens you down to the very core of your being.
How far will he go to see this little boy brought home?
By the time you pull away, your back is aching and your legs are tingling from sleep. You place both hands on either side of his face, tilting it up before pressing your lips to his forehead. He still refuses to look at you though you aren’t sure if it’s out of shame or afraid of the expression he’ll see. Maybe it’s both.
Shifting your weight, you place your back to the bed next to him. “Come on. It’s not our couch back home but it’ll have to do.”
The whisper of clothes as he turns, lying down on the floor and his head coming to rest in your lap. Just like you’ve done countless times before, one hand rests on his chest, the other combing fingers through his hair, and in the fading light you see the tension ease from his face.
You don’t have to ask, not anymore and soon his voice fills the quiet room, growing steadier with every word.
“Shaun Mars, age ten, last seen wearing a green shirt-.”
You listen to the facts, even when the room gets too dark to see, asking questions here and there as he works through the puzzle in his head. Without the ARI glasses you’d like to crush beneath your shoe.
His gloved fingers absently twirl the ring on your left hand.
And the rain keeps right on falling.