Where You Belong – Epilogue
John couldn’t believe the amount of time that he had now that the Santi case was over and men in line to rule the dynasty were in jail. Months ago he’d thought the case was over, but it had only been an illusion. There were many things going on behind the scenes that had come to the light, just weeks after Padilla had been killed.
The trials would probably be postponed numerous times. The one thing money could buy was time when it came to legal cases. It didn’t matter. Half of them had plea bargained and the upper bosses were just holding on for show. He would have to testify whenever the case got underway. Not something he was looking forward to, but a necessary part of his job.
He was leaving early today. He was headed home to pack for a vacation. He hadn’t taken a vacation in 6 years and he was looking forward to it. Evangeline was excited about going to Miami for a few days. He couldn’t believe it was 6 months since he’d admitted that he wanted something more than friendship with her. How he had gotten along without her, he didn’t know.
What he’d had with Caitlin had been extremely special, but he was a different man now, and what he had with Van went so much deeper. She understood him to the core of his being. She was intuitive to his feelings, almost anticipating what he needed before he knew. It didn’t matter whether it was a hug or small talk or just the need to be near her. She soothed him and that was an amazing thing. He was home when he was with her, no matter where they were. She was his best friend. He loved her. Plain and simple.
I always thought that line from Jerry McGuire was a crock, but she completes me, he thought.
After he’d come to his senses and admitted his feelings and fears, they’d thrown themselves into getting to know each other better. They spent all their spare time together, which considering what they did, might not be much to other people, but they had real quality time. They really talked. They also spent time with his family. Van didn’t have any family and had been slightly intimidated by how they related to each other.
The first outing together had been interesting. She had been tentative and nervous. Not something he was used to seeing from her, but when he’d talked to her later he’d understood. She was alone in the world except for him and that hadn’t been a professional meeting, where she was absolutely in her element. She’d wanted to make a good personal impression. She knew how important his family was to him and she wanted them to like her.
It was funny, because despite the shyness Evangeline exhibited, his mother had adored her. Eve had called him the following day and asked if he thought Evangeline would like to have lunch with her. He’d told her to go for it. They’d gone to lunch and then shopping. They were now bosom buddies. It was almost scary sometimes when they ganged up on him.
The one thing that he really did appreciate was the fact that when Evangeline was mad at him, and he could make her mad, she didn’t run to his mother, even though they were so close now. She’d told him that she would never do that. She didn’t want to put his mother in that position. She could handle him herself. She was right, she could. She was an amazing woman and he’d been blessed with her. It struck him with awe every time he thought of it.
Mike also loved her. The two of them joked all the time. He would sometimes catch them at the diner waiting lunch for him. He felt great about the relationship that all the people he loved were developing with each other.
Things were even looking up for RJ. He and Lindsey were dating and it looked like it could get serious. Just a few weeks prior, he’d run into Van and John and actually been cordial. Van had told him about the discussion she’d had with RJ. He had at first been surprised that Van had told him about the night in the basement. Of course, she hadn’t given RJ any details, but she’d decided if that was what he needed for closure she would give it to him. She cared about RJ and she’d wanted to protect him, but she needed him to move on and let it go. It had obviously worked.
As John sat in his office thinking about her, he saw a young kid from the community center that was doing community service at the police station after being caught shoplifting at the mall. Evangeline had represented the kid in family court and had gotten the judge to give him another chance if he returned the stolen goods and worked at the police station for the next 3 months. He was a good kid that needed a break and some guidance to keep him out of trouble.
A couple of days ago, John heard him telling Antonio that he thought he might like to be a cop when he grew up. Van had been right in coming up with that compromise. That made him think of an argument they’d had a few months ago about their jobs and the potential conflict of interest since they were involved with each other.
3 months prior, Evangeline’s House
"John, I’m not dropping this case. My client needs the best defense and I’m going to give it to her."
"Evangeline, she murdered her husband."
"She did not murder him. I know that’s what a lot of people think, but that’s not what it was. He was 85 years old and ready to go. He was in pain and the machines were keeping him alive."
"So, you’re really going to do this."
"Yes. She needs an attorney and I’m it. She’s 75 years old. She couldn’t survive in prison. She’s already grieving like nothing I’ve ever seen."
"She feels guilty, Evangeline, and she should. She killed him."
"The evidence is circumstantial at best and you know it."
"Van, you know I’ll be testifying. How uncomfortable is that going to be?"
"It would be very uncomfortable if I was going to be the one cross-examining you, but I won’t."
"If not you, then who?"
"Nora, will be cross-examining you so that there is no chance of anyone bringing up conflict of interest. I’m not going to lose this case on a technicality."
"You think you’re pretty smart don’t you?"
"Actually, yes. I do," she said with a smile.
"Well, how did you come up with that compromise?"
"Do you remember when you said, you’d rather not be on opposite sides?"
"Briefly. That was a long time ago."
"Well, I took that to heart. I don’t want on opposite sides either. So, I talked to Nora, who of course was married to Bo and she gave me some counsel. I think we can both do what we do best and still keep our professional lives separate from our personal even though we have to work together on occasion."
"How do you propose we do that?"
"Well, if you are directly involved in an investigation related to someone who needs a defense attorney, I agree not to take the client. If I’m appointed as counsel to someone that you are directly investigating, I will refer them to another attorney," she paused, before continuing, "However, if I’m asked to represent someone prior to you getting directly involved, you agree not to get involved in the case. By that I mean, that you can give direction to your officers on how to handle certain situations but you can’t be personally involved, no questioning, no direct contact to the client, etc. That way we both get to do the jobs we love without crossing the other."
For a moment John studied her. Then a smile grew.
"Counselor you make a strong argument, but what am I personally going to get out of this."
She responded by sitting in his lap and kissing him. After a few long minutes, she got up and walked across the room. Then with a mischievous grin she said, "If you disagree, that is what you won’t get."
He laughed at her then got a glint in his eye, as he rose from the sofa and chased her around the living room before catching her and pinning her to the wall, "What was it again that I wasn’t going to get?"
"John, let me go."
"No, I don’t think so. I like you right here."
He wrapped his arms around her waist and nuzzled her neck. He lifted her off the floor and she wrapped her legs around his waist. He carried her back to the sofa and sat with her in his lap.
"You were saying counselor?"
"I don’t remember," she said with a smile. The smile was contagious. He kissed her smiling lips.
"I agree with your argument earlier. I’ll talk to Bo tomorrow so he’s prepared in the instance that he needs to get more involved in a case."
"Thank you," she said as she removed herself from his lap.
He’d grabbed her hand and held her still. She’d looked down at him with a question in her eyes.
"I love you," John said. He watched as her eyes widened and her mouth opened as if to say something, but no words came.
Finally, she said, "What did you say?"
"I said I love you."
Instead of speaking, she leaned down and kissed him with such passion that his heart skipped a beat. He cupped her head to hold her to him. After a few moments he tasted salt. He pulled back opened his eyes and saw her eyes closed with tears on her cheek.
"Baby, what is it?" he asked concerned. She opened her eyes and the love that shown in them made him catch his breath.
"I love you, too," she whispered.
He pulled her to him and they ended the night in bed…
His breath caught when he thought about how intense their love making had been that night. Evangeline was so adamant about being in control of herself all the time and he’d been determined to make sure that she wasn’t that night. He’d wanted her dependant on him and he’d do just that. His body hardened as he recalled the sounds she’d made while he’d loved her.
He looked at the picture he now kept of her on his desk and traced her face. He felt a twinge in his shoulder and reached up to rub it. He looked back at the picture. He almost laughed as he remembered three weeks prior when he’d gotten shot in the shoulder during the burglary of a jewelry store. When Evangeline had found out about the shooting, he’d seen a practical stranger.
3 weeks prior, Llanview Memorial Hospital
"I’m looking for John McBain, an officer with the LPD. He was brought in earlier."
"Yes, ma’am. He’s here. Are you family?"
"Then, I’m sorry but I can’t give you any information."
"Nurse…Blackmon. I really need to find out if Lt. McBain is okay. He’s extremely important to me and he wouldn’t mind if you tell me."
"Ma’am, I’m sorry, but that’s against hospital policy."
"I don’t give a damn about hospital policy," she said. "You talk to whoever you need to talk to, because I need to find him."
She walked through the emergency room door into the treatment area.
"I’m looking for John McBain," she was saying to someone.
John, who was sitting on a gurney in one of the treatment rooms, heard her voice through the curtain.
"Evangeline?" he said from his position on the hospital bed. The bullet had gone straight through and not done any damage to anything major. The doctors had treated him and medicated him. His arm was tucked to his chest in a sling, but he wasn’t feeling any pain at the moment.
"John?" came her voice tentatively.
"Yeah, come on in here."
She pulled back the curtain with a trembling hand and moved quickly to the bed. She wouldn’t look him directly in the eyes. His chest was uncovered by the sheet and she placed her hand on his chest and started crying. With his good arm he’d pulled her to him. She’d rested her head on his good shoulder and cried her heart out.
"Baby, I’m fine. I’m okay," he said as he stroked her hair. He sighed, this was not good. "Evangeline, look at me."
She raised her head but still wouldn’t look directly in his eyes. She was looking at the bandages on his opposite shoulder.
"Evangeline, look . . at . . me."
She finally looked in his eyes. The terror he saw there caught him off guard.
"I’m fine. It’s practically a flesh wound."
"You could have been killed."
"But, I wasn’t. I’m here. I’m fine."
"I was so scared when Michael called me. All the way here it was all I could do, not to fall apart."
Nurse Blackmon and the security guard made an appearance at that moment.
"Adam, this is the lady that just stormed in here after I told her she couldn’t find out any information. Can you please get her out of here?"
Evangeline turned on her heels. Her hands were clinched at her side.
"I’m not going anywhere," Evangeline said in a low voice that John had never heard before.
"Ma’am, I’m going to have to escort you out of here."
"If you touch me, there will be a fight in this emergency room. I told you, I’m not leaving."
John interrupted before an argument could start. He could only see it going down hill from here.
"I need her to stay."
She glanced at him over her shoulder with a hint of a smile.
"But sir, if she’s not family…"
"She is my family. She can stay. You can check with Dr. McBain. He’s my brother."
"Well, sir, if you’re sure."
"I am," John said to the Nurse before she turned to leave. He looked back to Evangeline as she turned back to him. He grabbed her hand and asked, "What was that about?"
"She wouldn’t tell me anything about how you were and where you were when I got here. I couldn’t take that."
"So you just walked in."
"Yes, I’d go through practically anything for you. I love you. I don’t think I realized how much until I got that call from Michael. I don’t remember anything he said after he told me that you’d been shot and were here. I just knew that I had to get to you no matter what."
"Thank you for being here."
"Where else would I be?"
Later they’d talked about his job and the effect it could have on their relationship. Evangeline had been adamant that she could handle whatever happened as long as she knew what was going on. She’d said life wasn’t promised, so she chose to spend as much of hers with him as she possibly could. She didn’t want to look back and regret that she hadn’t made the most of her time with him. She was more that willing to risk the heartache later for the joy she got out of being with him now. She wasn’t going anywhere he didn’t go.
After that discussion, he’d included her in his medical information as a person who could obtain information about him no matter what. That way he could ensure that she wouldn’t get arrested if he was ever hurt again.
He arrived home that afternoon and went straight to the bedroom to finish his packing. He found his bags already packed and sitting on the floor by the bedroom door. Someone had been busy this morning. With that thought he went to the kitchen, where Evangeline was standing at the kitchen counter washing vegetables for dinner. He smiled and took a minute to watch her. He walked up behind and slid his arms around her waist and kissed her neck. She tensed for a second, and then relaxed into his arms. She finished washing the vegetables, before turning in his arms and kissing him hello.
"Hi," she said after the kiss.
"Hi," he said, "What have you been doing?"
"I finished the packing, cleaned the house, and got all the stuff that would be bad by the time we get back out of the fridge. Now, I’m cooking you dinner."
"Is this a special occasion? Did I forget something?"
"No, this is just me loving you," she said with an impish smile.
"Okay, I’ll take that," he said with a laugh.
"Why don’t you get a beer and get out of here, so you won’t distract me."
"Yes, ma’am. I’ll be in the den watching football."
After a dinner of grilled chicken in teriyaki sauce and steamed vegetables, they had ice cream for dessert.
"Miami is going to be so much fun and it’ll be warm," Evangeline said around a spoonful of cherries Garcia.
"I know. I can’t wait."
"What Mr. Top Cop is excited about a vacation?"
"I’m excited about being away with you. No pagers or cell phones. No interruptions, just us."
"Yes, just us," she said as she looked into his eyes, "You are a wonderful man John McBain."
"Where did that come from?"
"Just an observation. You still have problems taking a compliment."
"Well, not for lack of you trying to help me over that hump," he grumbled.
"I know it. You’d think by now you’d be used to them," she said in a teasing voice.
He rolled his eyes, before kissing her.
"What was that for?" she asked.
"You’re you and I’m me and I love you."
She kissed him back. One thing led to another and the next thing they knew the bowls of ice cream were sitting on the floor and they were in bed.
In the middle of the night, John slid out of Evangeline’s embrace and looked down into her sleeping face. He brushed the hair that was covering her face and caressed her cheek. Even in her sleep, she turned her face into his hand. He kissed her forehead and got up from the bed. As he moved, she opened her eyes. He knew she was only half awake. It was not unusual for him to have to go to the station in the middle of the night. She always woke up when he was leaving the bed.
"I’m not going anywhere. Go back to sleep," he said as he kissed her.
He felt her relax and knew that she was already asleep again. It amazed him that she could fall asleep that fast. He moved to the chair in the corner and checked his jacket pocket for the small jewelry box he’d picked up that morning. He found the box and slid it into his luggage for the trip. Evangeline didn’t know just how momentous this vacation would be. He couldn’t wait to see her face. After this trip there would be no question. They would always know where they belonged.