Crossing the Line - Part Four
Smoothing the Water
Written by M. the Cat
Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction. The characters belong to their various creators: Buena Vista Television / The Walt Disney Company and The Gargoyles Saga, and they are used without their express knowledge or consent.
Authorís note: The following is based on the Madame Destine story "Kaleidoscope Eyes" and follows the introductory chapter "Prelude" and the stories "Pushing Back the Shadows" and "Plausible Deniability". However it isnít set in the universe of Madame Destine or any other ficverse. It occupies a place and time of its own.
Thanks to Mooncat for setting me off on this little tangent.
* * * * *
I was ten minutes late for my appointment with Dr. Peter Ramsey but he didnít seem to mind.
"Elisa, Iím glad youíre here," he said. And he sounded like he meant it.
Ramsey got his start as a patrolman but he took enough psychology at night school to realize that what interested him most wasnít the criminal mind, but the minds of those who dealt with criminals. He got his advanced degrees and transferred off the beat into human resources. Heís good. Maybe too good sometimes and I wasnít sure I was ready to deal with his insights.
"How are you?"
A nice safe general opening, I gave him a nice, safe, general answer. "Fine."
"So," He leaned back in his chair and regarded me through steel rimmed glasses. "Kids in clown masks. How scary was that?"
I shrugged. "I never was a big fan of clowns. I like clowns with machine guns even less."
"I can imagine."
And so it went. He kept trying to draw me out. I kept rebuffing. The problem was if I thought too much about the shooting, then Iíd think about what came afterward and I was still trying to process the shame of my meltdown and what had followed.
Matt had taken care of me. Matt had protected me keeping quiet about how I had fallen apart on the way back to the station. I would have done the same for him - partners protect partners. But was that enough to rationalize away what had happened between us?
"Elisa? Elisa?" I snapped back to the present and Ramsey was looking at me with concern. "Are you okay? I asked you if you had any guilt over last night."
"Guilt?" I repeated, my voice cracking over the word as I pulled my thoughts away from Matt and back to the shooting. "I did what had to be done. Ms Hastings and her brothers chose to put on those masks and terrorize this city. They decided how the situation was going to end when they opened fire on Officers Perkins and Weaver and then on Matt Ė Detective Bluestone and myself."
"So you have no regrets?"
I closed my eyes. Regrets? Sure, I had regrets, I had taken a life and slept with my partner all in one night. But my actions at the shooting were rapidly dropping to the bottom of the list as I contemplated my actions after. "No," I said with barely a tremor in my voice. "Except maybe, if weíd arrived on the scene sooner, that perhaps we could have saved Officer Weaverís life."
He opened a jar on the desk, took out a peppermint and offered it to me. I declined and he unwrapped the candy and popped it in his mouth. "Whatís left of my afternoon is free. Is there anything else youíd like to talk about?"
I considered the offer momentarily and decided the better of it. "No thanks. Iím good."
He pounded a fist on his desk, hard. And for a minute I got a good look at the cop who had walked a beat in the East Harlem projects. "Do yourself a favor, Detective Maza, donít bullshit yourself. Right now, you think youíve got it all handled. The shooting was righteous. You and Bluestone were heroes for saving Officer Perkins from a couple a rich crazies with more money than sense. Well give it some time and the doubt is going to start creeping up on you. Youíre gonna started second-guessing everything you do from the way you tie your shoes to how you clean your gun. Youíre not gonna sleep so good and your family and friends are going to start to wonder why youíre either avoiding them or biting their heads off. Before that happens you get your ass back to this office because you canít deal with this alone." He handed me a card for a peer-counseling group for officers involved in shootings. "If you wonít talk to me then talk to them. They know where youíre coming from."
I looked at the card and nodded. "Yeah. Uh. Thanks."
He leaned back in his chair. "Weíre done here. Iíll tell your captain you can go back to work when she wants you."
I nodded dumbly again still stunned by his outburst and let myself out of the office.
* * *
I let myself out of the apartment complex into the late afternoon sunshine and found myself undecided as to what to do next. Logically, I should go home and hole up. I glanced at a newsstand and saw the shooting was all over the front pages. The coverage was uniformly schizophrenic. Half the papers were calling us heroes and the rest were yelling for our heads. I bought a couple of papers and hailed a cab.
"Where to, Mac?"
I gave the driver my address and we crawled into traffic. I leaned back against the seat cushion and closed my eyes.
"Shhh, baby, itís all right," Elisa crooned to me as I came up out of the nightmare. It was easy to reach for her, to hold her, to lose myself in her warmth. Our kisses were frantic and in my mindís eye I slowed down the action until we werenít taking comfort from one another, but giving it instead.
If I was being honest, that pretty much summed up my only regret about the night before. It was too fast and too needful. If Elisa and I were only destined to have one night together then it should have been a much more than frantic groping in the dark.
I sighed and opened my eyes. I glanced at the shops lining the street to get my bearings and found we were half a block from my apartment. I saw the floristís shop and told the driver to stop.
Maybe I was nuts. I was certainly being reckless. I paid off the driver and entered the shop.
The bell tinkled over the door as I walked in. It was cool but not uncomfortable and smelled of greenery overlaid with the heavy spicy sweet scent of roses. They were everywhere. Single blooms in pastel shades from white to apricot, another display of brilliant yellows and oranges and then the inevitable reds. Red roses were everywhere arranged in simple sprays and elaborate arrangements interspersed with ferns and other flowers. I started questioning my sanity again and I think the shop girl noticed my unease. She looked up from the vase of white and yellow daisies she was arranging and gave me a friendly smile.
"Hello sir, looking to brighten someoneís day?"
I smiled back. It was easy to. She was pert, had sandy hair and looked like the girl who lived next door when I was ten.
"Yeah, I guess I am. Iím looking for something for my partner." I realized belatedly how broadly that term had come to be interpreted so I amended quickly. "My business partner. She and I, well, weíve had a rough couple of days. I wanted something to kind of smooth the waters."
The clerk nodded and she cocked her head to one side and pursed her lips as she considered the matter. "We have some lovely live plants. Very suitable for cheering up an office."
I looked at the split leaf philodendron she showed me and shook my head. "No, itís nice. But I think I need something a little more personal."
"Personal but business-like," she mused.
"Weíre friends as well as partners," I said trying to explain. "I guess I want something more on the friends spectrum."
"We have some nice daisies." She indicated the flowers she had been arranging when I entered the shop.
I shook my head. It still wasnít right. I felt the clerk sizing me up again. "I think I have just the thing." She led me over to a counter and showed me a display of spring flowers that was breathtaking in its simplicity. Pink tulips, bright yellow daffodils and blue iris were casually displayed among babyís breath and fern. It was perfect.
"Thatís it," I said, reaching for my wallet.
"Would you care to have it delivered, sir or will you take it with you?"
I glanced at my watch. If I hurried, I could go home, change and be back at Elisaís before she finished at the shrinkís. "Wrap it up and Iíll be back in twenty minutes." I paid for the flowers and reconsidered. Sara was in California at a policing conference and wouldnít return for a couple of days. Elisa and I needed to talk this through and we didnít need to be disturbed. "On second thought, Iíll take them with me."
Five minutes later, I was sprinting towards my apartment
* * *
I was shaking as I left Dr. Ramseyís office and realized that I was starving. I bought a candy bar from the vending machine in the hallway but knew I needed something much more substantial. I leaned against the wall as I finished the chocolate and considered my options. Iíd narrowed it down to Italian or Chinese and reached into my pocket for a coin to flip to make the final decision. My fingers closed around my cell phone instead.
I extracted it from the back pocket of my jeans and switched it on. It cycled and informed me I had six voice mails waiting. I decided dinner could wait as I paged through the messages. Goliath from early this morning telling me he loved me. Eva Sherman recommended an attorney. The attorney, Bill Hansen, suggested we meet and left his number. A couple of friends from other precincts told me to hang tough. And finally, a message from Matt, only minutes old, suggesting we get together at his place to talk things out.
"Oh joy." How was I supposed to talk to Matt when I wasnít sure what I wanted to say? Still, we couldnít let what happened hang between us. I decided for once in my life Iíd face things head on.
That decided the dinner question. I called Goliath back and left a message telling him Iíd be working a double shift, then called Matt and said Iíd be there. I asked him to call Han Laoís and put in an order. Iíd pick it up on my way over. He said that was fine. He sounded kind of nervous when he said heíd see me soon.
* * *
I hung up the phone and gave the apartment the once over. It wasnít too bad for a change. I picked up a pair of socks off the floor and scooped up the stack of mail Iíd been neglecting to go through and carried it all into the bedroom. The mail I dumped on my desk. The socks went into the hamper along with my shirt and shorts. The rest of the suit went into a sack for the dry cleaner to deal with later. I put on a pair of fresh boxers and a pair of comfortable jeans then took a cotton sweater from the dresser and carried it with me into the kitchen.
I was fidgety and knew it. I got the whisky out of the cupboard and poured myself a shot. I downed it then called the restaurant and ordered Elisaís favorites. I realized I didnít have much time so I hurried to finish getting ready.
I brushed my teeth and carefully combed my hair. For the first time I noticed the bite marks on my chest and I couldnít help grinning when I remembered how surprised I was to find out Elisa liked to nip. They could prove hard to explain but I decided Iíd burn that bridge when I came to it and shaved the bristle from my cheeks.
I was dressed, a nostalgia station played Sixties stuff on the radio and the flowers were tucked away safely on the kitchen counter. I was opening a bottle of wine when there was a hesitant knock at the door.
I wiped my hands against the thighs of my jeans and let Elisa in.
She handed me a box full of bags and take out cartons. "Hungry?"
Actually, I was. "Starving is more like it." I carried the food into the kitchen and toyed with the bouquet of flowers suddenly wondering if they were a good idea. They were bought and paid for. They were beautiful and Elisa would think so too. I carried them into the living room where she was waiting.
Wordlessly, I handed them to her. She seemed understandably surprised and took a step back before accepting them. "For me? Matt, theyíre beautiful but you shouldnít have."
I shrugged. "I know. But I felt like I owed you an apology-"
* * *
The flowers were gorgeous. That a carefully arranged bouquet could seem so carefree was a credit to the designer. I had no doubt the trip to the florist must have set Matt back a small fortune. I heard the word Ďapologyí and looked up in surprise.
"For what?" I said. And then I realized that I wasnít ready to go into it yet. I was tired and hungry and we had a long night in front of us to work this out. I cut him off before he could reply. "On second thought, youíre right. You do. You lied to me, Matthew Bluestone and I want to know why. But first, I smell Kung Pao Shrimp and itís making me crazy. Letís eat, okay?"
He smiled at me, kind of tentative, and we went together into the tiny kitchen to unload the feast heíd ordered for us. I realized I was still holding the flowers cradled in my arms and he half-smiled again and took them from me. He had no vase so he pulled a soup pot from a cabinet and filled it with water. He placed the flowers in it. It suited them and I said so.
* * *
Elisa was keeping me completely off balance and I wasnít sure if it was deliberate and she was punishing me or if she was still so off balance herself that she was reacting to the situation moment by moment.
I heaped my plate with shrimp, egg rolls and dumplings and poured the wine. Elisa accepted her glass and we went back into the living room to eat.
She sat on the floor in front of the coffee table and I did the same. It was nice. We ate in silence for a little while. I brought in the carton of kung pao shrimp and some stir fried beef with asparagus and the wine bottle and we argued over who was going to get the last potsticker.
She snagged it with her chopsticks and took a bite and then offered it to me. I laughed and let her feed me. It seemed a world away from the tension of our afternoon coffee.
* * *
We worked out way through three kinds of appetizers, two stir fries, steamed vegetables, noodles, fried rice and almond cookies and carried the plates and containers back to the kitchen. Matt emptied the last of the wine into my glass and opened a new bottle. We returned to the living room but this time we moved onto the couch. I was feeling comfortably full and relaxed and finally like I was ready to talk to my partner.
"About last night." We said at once and the laugh we shared was rueful.
"My turn," I said. "Forget about last night, Matt. At least for a minute. This is about a lot more than last night."
The wine was making me a reckless, but only a little. "No," I said firmly. "You look. The shrink said I shouldnít b.s. myself about my feelings and heís right. Thereís something going on here. I know that now. Weíve been fighting it, denying it, but that doesnít make it any less real. Itís not really over between us, is it."
He swirled the pale yellow wine in his glass and shook his head.
"I didnít think so." I picked up my glass and toyed with it for second and then set it back down on the table. "So what do we do?"
He put his arm around me and I leaned against his chest. "I donít know, sweetheart. Itís not like I havenít tried not to love you."
His admission still seemed unreal. For the most part, heíd hidden his feelings well. "Iím that irresistible?"
Matt answered by kissing me. When we broke it off a minute or so later he sighed. "You have no idea how long Iíve wanted to do that."
Heíd kissed me dozens of times yesterday, but never like that. I realized I wanted him to do it again.
* * *
Now Iíd done it. I kissed her, really kissed her. When I finally broke it off my heart was racing so badly I was breathless.
I drank some wine and tried to regroup. Elisa left her arm curled around my waist so that now she was holding me too.
"I thought it was just a crush. You know the usual thing. Youíre smart, youíre beautiful, youíre good at what you do. I admired you."
"So what happened?"
"Iím not sure. When you hooked up with Goliath for real I realized Iíd blown my shot so I tried to put my feelings behind me." I shrugged. "They never really went away. The night we were exposed to the drugs pretty much threw everything back in my face. I realized I wanted you more than ever."
I reached for Elisaís hand and she gave it to me. I pressed it to my lips then took it in mine. We sat that way for a while, my arm over her shoulder, hers around my waist, the fingers of our free hands entwined. "So when did you, you know?"
* * *
Would it hurt his feelings if I admitted how recently I noticed him? That for the first years of our partnership I was so besotted with Goliath I barely realized he was male? Let alone desirable? "That same night," I admitted. "I realized you werenít being entirely truthful with me then and it made me reexamine our relationship. It made me realize that I had feelings for you too."
"So I havenít been crazy," he exclaimed. "You have been checking me out."
I blushed so suddenly it burned my cheeks. "Maybe a little."
"Maybe a lot." He pulled me to him and kissed me again.
* * * * *