On My Way
Finally!!! Yayyy! I'll try to post the next today. I'm sorry for the long, long, long long, long wait but hopefully, you enjoy it.
"You were devastated when she left."
Jackie’s voice, coming from the doorway of Lucas’ bedroom, penetrates the thoughts of Alaine dominating his mind and directs his brooding stare away from the blurry backdrop of heavy rain clouds turning Manhattan’s sky gray. It’s more her tone that catches his attention, really -- the sharp terseness that he’s unaccustomed to hearing her address him with and the cutting undertone of accusation that makes him bristle.
As if he was the one responsible for Alaine walking out all those months ago.
Her statement hangs in the air unfinished. She doesn’t come any closer, for that matter, and frown lines wrinkle his forehead while he looks at her.
Still ruled by his thoughts of Alaine, he keeps toying with the phone lying next to him in bed, his focus on calling her, and goes back to staring at nothing in particular.
The last time that Lucas had spoken to Alaine, Jackie had been present. He highly doubts that his housekeeper’s keen sense of hearing had missed the things he’d said or the harshness with which he’d said them, so, it’s not hard for him to deduce where she is going with this line of conversation.
Everything about her simple statement rings true.
That day, when Alaine had left him, and those following her unexpected decision to break his heart had done exactly that. She’d nearly destroyed him. That’s the simplest way to put it and had she not returned to glue the shattered remnants of the man she’d helped him to become back together, he’s not sure he would have fought hard enough to survive Angus’ attack. As a matter of fact, he probably would have willingly let death take him.
So why aren’t you fighting for her now?
It’s his brain that makes that accusation but the stabbing guilt shoots directly to his chest.
He looks at Jackie again, willing her to say something else while hoping that, maybe, if she manages to use that silver tongue of hers to string together the right set of words that he can be coached back to life with them and into winning this fight with his own mind.
“Do you remember?” Jackie prompts in the same prickly tone.
“Of course, I remember,” Lucas mutters but keeps his disdain for the question in check. Considering Jackie is the one preparing his meals, he’d hate to inspire any sort of retaliation.
He does ask, “is there a point to this?” with a mild show of irritation that manages to sneak through. “Is that all you really walked up a flight of stares to do? Try to aggravate me?”
Jackie’s shoulders visibly drop. She sighs heavily and the accusation in her eyes lifts, only to be replaced by pity. Or maybe it’s understanding that Lucas now sees. Whichever it is, for the first time, his hackles don’t immediately stand up in, what is now, a typical show of defensiveness. All he feels is defeat and a strong compulsion to cry and howl his anguish to the world.
This isn’t want his life is supposed to be; almost confined to a bed in one room of his house like he’s some kind of prisoner.
He should be with her where ever she is, right now.
“At the risk of being fired,” Jackie states with a soft sigh this time.
She finally crosses the floor deeper into the bedroom and sets the tray in her hand down on the nightstand.
“No, that is not all that I came to do,” she informs him.
She leans down to help Lucas situate himself in a position for easier maneuverability, before placing his meal tray over his thighs. Then she straightens to give him an earnest stare.
“She makes you happy and you are throwing that away,” Jackie says, her stern tone a contradiction to the gentleness in her eyes. “No one knows how you feel because we are not in your situation,” she adds. “No one can that say you don’t have the right to be miserable and mad or sad or bitter. Yet, your mood is far worse when she’s not here. When she’s not here, you hardly even make an effort. Not even to get out of bed,” she notes with a more pointed look at him where he is; still in the clothes he’d slept in the night before.
“But whatever you may feel, you have no right to treat the people who love and care about you in the manner that you are,” Jackie continues. “Alaine loves you. Your situation is not her fault and I’d be willing to wager that that’s exactly how she feels -- that you got...you know...,” she says with a little shudder and makes a little hand gesture in the general direction of is person. “...and it’s her fault.”
The frown lines around Lucas’ mouth deepen.
“I’ve never...” he starts to say
“No, you’ve never,” Jackie agrees.
The short statement is filled with regret and more accusation but her features soften even further.
“And you probably never would come right out and say, it’s your fault that I got...you know,” she continues with another such gesticulation in the general area where he’s lying down. ”But, actions speak louder than words and your words are already biting. She wants to be there for you. That’s all. She’s trying, out of love and probably a hefty dose of guilt, to be there for you.”
Jackie shrugs and Lucas swallows the lump in his throat.
“You’re a tough one,” she offers to encourage him. “I believe you will make a full recovery from this. When you do, don’t you want her by hour side? If you keep pushing her away like this, she won’t be. That’s all I have to say, sir. Do you need my help with your lunch today?”
Staring down at his lunch in his lap, Lucas shakes his head. What he wouldn’t give to have a burger instead of all this bland tasting goop, soup and vegetables. For fear of blood clots and other life threatening ailments that could develop during his extended period of convalesce, his stupid doctor won’t allow it. Neither will his stupid, weak heart, apparently.
What more wouldn’t he give to have Alaine look at him with love and trust and admiration in her eyes again; instead of wariness and hurt? Always wariness and hurt, these days.
The same weak heart.
The answers comes swiftly from within him. Jackie’s caution resonates in his soul because he knows that it is the truth. If he keeps erecting walls to keep Alaine out, one day, he’s going to successfully accomplish exactly that. Time, he knows, has done very little to diminish her skittish, defensive nature and without Alaine in it, his entire outlook on life is the dreariest it’s ever been. He knows that he doesn’t want to be without her. Yet, he’d done just about everything to keep her at arm’s length.
What kind of person deliberately hurts the one they’re supposed to love and cherish and care for?
Maybe you’re more like Claudia than you think.
His brain levels that accusation at him and Lucas feels it like a knife twisting in his belly. The bitter taste of bile rises to the back of his throat and he has to force back the urge to vomit. The more he thinks about it, the more inclined he is to believe that there is some merit to the charge. Just like Claudia, he’d knowingly delivered each blow that put the hurt in Alaine’s eyes. Then he’d watched every time, without apology, as she’d pulled the shutters down over the damage so he wouldn’t witness the way it was slowly destroying her.
He feels like cad and an idiot now.
He makes up his mind to call her, so wraps his fingers around the phone to pick it up. That decision lasts for about three seconds before he drops it back to it’s resting spot. An apology over the phone doesn’t seem adequate enough to say how truly sorry he is for those careless deeds. He’s been an ass to everyone. While an act of contrition is warranted in each case -- to his father, his brothers and sister, even Shanice -- his penitent heart’s first priority is Alaine. For now, she’s all his spirit craves.
The day before, she’d wanted to take a walk and he’d shut her down cruelly. He could start there. He’ll show up on her doorstep and rescind his refusal. That seems like a plan and his heart agrees because it flutters in his chest in a familiar way that has nothing to do with the stress he’s suffered since the shooting.
Considering that a woman’s perspective might be warranted, he looks to Jackie to ask, “what should I do?”
To that, she offers him a pleased smile. “I’m past my time in these games of love that you young people play but I imagine a call, to start, would be perfect.”
Big on grand gestures when it comes to Alaine, Lucas scoffs at the idea. “Indeed, you are,” he quips.
The small return of his sense of humor and the little smile tightening the corners of his mouth make Jackie chuckle. “Well, a smooth cat like you, I’m sure you’ll think of something,” she tells him.
Outdated, though it is, Lucas still uses Jackie’s advice. Twelve times, he tries to call Alaine. Twleve times over the course of half as many hours only to receive a response from her voice messaging service each time. While trying to convince himself that nothing is wrong with her, Lucas can’t help but be worried. Angus’ accomplice is still out there and he chastises himself brutally for not caring enough about her to keep the sleeping threat at the forefront of his mind. His level of concern for Alaine safety should have been at DEFCON one. Instead, he’d been so focused on his debilitation that all he’d done was drive her further and further out of his life in an effort to keep her from witnessing him at his weakest.
His hands develop a tremor both from anxiety and the effort that it takes to keep the large device pressed up to his ear. A simple task as this shouldn’t be a chore but it is and maybe if he had the strength in his arm, he would have hurled the infernal thing into a wall.
To remind himself of his purpose, Lucas takes a calming breath. He reaches for the ear piece resting on the night stand and stuffs it in his ear before calling Seth.
“I know you’re still on leave and I don’t mean to bother you,” he explains when Seth answers. “But I need a ride to Alaine’s apartment.”
Feeling a little abashed, he mumbles, “I’m probably just over reacting, but I’ve been trying to reach her all afternoon and she’s not answering. Neither is Tawny and...”
“You don’t need to explain missing your girlfriend to me,” Seth chuckles and Lucas scoffs.
“Also I need to get some flowers on the way,” he explains. “And chocolates. She likes those. Nice ones. Expensive ones,” he adds.
In his apartment, Seth shakes his head in wonder and considers that his new job description must be some kind of punishment because he’d gotten shot. He’s been reduced to the role of Lucas’ Personal Assistant. Still, he mumbles a disgruntled agreement.
“Do you have any idea what kind of flowers she likes?” Seth asks.
After a quick search of his memory, Lucas realizes that he’s bought Alaine many things, expensive things, but he’s never fulfilled the simplest of romantic gestures - buying her a bouquet of flowers.
“She worked in flower shop,” he replies after coming up stumped. “I’m guessing all kinds?”
“Well, I know only two kinds,” Seth says with a huff. “Roses and Sunflowers. It’s your pick.”
“Roses,” Lucas states. “Definitely those. Not red, it’s not that kind of occasion. Maybe pink. What do pink roses say?”
“I don’t know!” Seth says, incredulous. “That you’re a whipped...,” he sputters but comes up with nothing but insulting words and so keeps them unspoken. “I don’t know, okay,” he offers. “I’m not really a flowers guy either. And there’s no shame in that,” he makes sure to mention. “Most girls like pink, so yeah, pink, I guess. And the chocolates?” he asks scribbling across the back of a crumpled take out bill.
Lucas smiles a little smile as pleasanter memories that he'd shut up somewhere in a vault start trickling in. There’s no way he wouldn’t know this one. How many nights had he sat watching her nibbling on those morsels before he got jealous of the attention she was paying her chocolates? He’d distracted her with kisses, enjoying the rich sweetness from her lips. It was the best way to eat chocolates and then he’d taken the taste of it with him to sample the rest of her body until he was deep inside her and had her moaning her delight for a whole other reason.
“She especially likes Lindt,” he whispers, making Seth roll his eyes at the wistfulness in his tone.
Thoughts like those should have been happy for Lucas. They were anything but, since they reminded him of a time that seems so far away now and what he may never have again.
“Okay, Roses and Lindt,” Seth repeats.
His voice serves to pull Lucas out of his pity party and gear his focus back to the matter at hand.
“Will that be all, sir?” Seth prompts.
After ending his call, Lucas rings for Jackie, however, reluctantly. He hates this part of his life -- the dependency on others -- to fulfill the most basic acts. He bites down on the disdain and loathing and puts on the most agreeable look that he can manage. Something tells him, his face probably still looks like he'd stepped in dog poop, but it's the best that he can do.
"I need some help getting ready," he grumbles.
"Ready?" Jackie questions. When understanding dawns, her features light up but for fear of dissuading him, she says nothing.
Silently, she hustles to his closet for an assortment of clothing for him to choose from. Then they go though the painstaking process of grooming him.
Lucas has to grit his teeth through the entire process to endure it. Rather than give into his surly thoughts, he tries to fill his mind with what he will say to Alaine once he sees her.
"This isn't so bad," Jackie chatters on to distract him and Lucas harrumphs at the suggestion that it isn't as he stuffs his arm through the sleeve of a t-shirt she's helping him into.
"And why is that?" he asks with no small amount of scorn.
"Well..." she starts to explain but comes to a stop when the door to his bedroom swings open.
Lucas scowls his disapproval at Seth, standing in the doorway.
"So you take a bullet for me and suddenly forget propriety," he scolds, though only half-heartedly.
Both Jackie and Seth exchange looks and hide their humor.
Impatient to get on with his plans -- to find Alaine -- Lucas brushes Jackie's had aside when she makes a move to sleek his hair again like a mother readying her geeky, awkward son for prom.
She relents, grabs his cane to hand it to him and takes a grand step back, putting enough space between them to curtail the desire to help him up from his sitting position on the bed.
He leans heavily on the metal stick and it takes a bit of doing and grunting and muttered oaths on his part, but he does it while avoiding the pitying looks he expects his audience to be wearing.
Seth clears his throat when he's finally on his feet and does his best to eliminate the emotion from his voice before saying, "so there are a quite a few flower shops and stalls en route.”
Lucas notices his discomfort and starts regretting his decision to leave the apartment. The urge to demand that they just leave him be so he can go back in hiding rises inside him. All that stops him really is Alaine. He's doing this for Alaine and with that reminder, he takes a slow step forward.
“Come on,” Seth tells him. “Your new driver is waiting in the garage. I’ll go with you.”
It takes all of Lucas’ strength to make it through the long walk to the elevator and the even longer ride to the ground level garage, on his legs. He has to lean on both the walls in the enclosed space and Seth to maintain his balance and a thousand times, he considers changing his mind and waiting until Alaine either decides to return his calls or show up.
However, the part that needs the love of his lady keeps him going. With a sigh, he accepts the hand Seth offers to help his journey to the parked car.
“Sir,” his temporary driver, the man filling in for Seth, greets before opening the door.
“I like him better than you,” he says to Seth.
The resulting chuckle, tells him that Seth doesn’t believe it. He shouldn’t. He is eternally indebted to Seth. More than that, he appreciates the friendship.
“I can do it myself,” Lucas grumbles forty-five minutes later, while standing across the road from Alaine’s apartment. “I have to do it myself.”
“Let us help you across the street,” Seth protests, hooking his arm through Lucas’ despite the opposition. “You can’t carry the flowers and chocolates, okay?” Seth reminds him.
With a deep calming breath, Lucas agrees but not without declaring his resentment. Safely there, he pushes Alaine’s doorbell nervously and waits, and keeps waiting after trying a few more times.
“Okay,” he says to Seth, who refused to abandon him. “Something’s wrong,” he adds with his scowl still in place. “Get a trace on her phone," he orders while berating himself for not doing that earlier.
Seth gives a firm nod, his brow cinched with his own worry and he moves to help Lucas hobble across the street back to the car. After being situated, Lucas tucks the flowers and chocolate beside him and waits impatiently while Seth finds Alaine's location. In the meantime, he sits there stewing in his fear and guilt.
The sleeper hasn't made any attempt to contact him or Alaine. Thanks to Tawny putting a bullet through Angus' leg, he's safely behind bars and poses no immediate threat. Yet, Lucas groans inwardly at his negligence. He should have kept a closer eye on Alaine.
“You’re not going to like this,” Seth says.
His voice commands Lucas out of his self-recrimination and just those words have his heart hammering against his ribs.
At that exact moment, Lucas’ phone rings and when he sees Tawny's name on the display, he answers eagerly, his voice breathy with anticipation and nervousness.
“Sir,” Tawny says, in a regretful tone that sends Lucas’ heart rate through the roof.
He listens quietly, with his eyes shifting quickly while trying to makes sense of Tawny’s words. “What?” Lucas hisses into the phone . “When? How?”
Staring out the window it takes all Lucas’ strength to lift his weak hand to run through his hair in expression of his anger. “We need to get to Idaho,” he tells Seth. “Like, yesterday.”
He won’t be talked out of going.
...and Seth is a traitor.
Lucas glares at his driver and notes that he doesn't seem to be perturbed, not even in the least, that he'd tattled on him like some sort of child.
He huffs his complaint but at Dion's behest sits glumly, with help of three pairs of arms reaching for him, to occupy one of the chairs in the departure lounge at the airport. Their coddling should have riled him, instead, it's the fact that they're all trying to keep him from boarding his flight that him feeling like his swimming in a pool of concentrated lime juice. He's upset. His mood is foul and he wants to meet out his vengeance on someone.
If anyone deserves to be punished for what he'd just learned happened to Alaine, it should be him. By pushing her away, he'd precipitated it all.
Why hadn't she come to him with her plans before skipping clear across the country? What had she been thinking? Better yet, what the hell had Tawny been thinking?
The fact that neither of them, specifically Alaine, thought to inform him of her intentions, speaks volumes. He’d messed up and it cost him her trust. This is something Alaine would have shared with him. It’s something she would have shared with a different Lucas. The previous version of himself. The one who showed her every day, since they met, that he cared.
Not this one, though. This one was snappish and brutish and easily prone to fits of temper. This one had fought with every kind gesture she'd shown, every smile she'd given and every healing touch from her hand. This one broke her.
“I’m an idiot,” Lucas says to himself. “Such an idiot.”
“No arguments there,” Dion tells him.
“Whether or not you clear me for that flight, I’m going,” Lucas announces. “You can’t stop me.”
“You’re cleared,” Dion tells him. “Nothing is wrong with you flying. I’m just here to ensure you don’t do anything more idiotic than whatever it is you’ve already done.”
Both Seth and Dion continue to joke at his expense. Lucas is too wound up to care or even respond with the usual scathing quick wit he is known for. His mind is already transported across the thousands of miles between him and Alaine. She’s still not answering her phone. Now, he suspects that it’s deliberate and that knowledge on serves only aggravates him further.
Dammit, he doesn’t want to fight her if that’s what she thinks.
He just wants to hear her voice. He just needs to know that she is okay.
What had he done? This is on him.
Knowing that, he picks up his phone and concentrates intently on commanding his weak fingers fire off a series of texts as swiftly as they can move across the screen.
Lucas: Please answer.
Lucas: Call me.
Lucas: I’m sorry
Lucas: Just tell me you’re okay
Lucas: I’ll do everything to make this better. I promise
Lucas: I’m on my way.
To each message, separated only by a few nervous, agitated minutes, Lucas receives nothing in reply.