What's So Good About Goodbye by musingonsoaps

 

Chapter 5

Sleep had been added to Johnís growing MIA file, that Natalie was still among the missing was just a given, Vanís love had gone on holiday from him and now the killer had slipped past his security to reach her at her office, tossing the place and leaving a threatening note. Now days later the murderer or his accomplice had thoroughly trashed her home and left a note specifically for John in the process, sending Johnís beloved into complete terroróobvious only to his tutored eyes. The lunatic made it clear that he could reach out and take Evangeline from John no matter what security protocols were in place.

After leaving instructions with officers on securing Vanís home and taking Layla to Noraís house for safety, John and Van were at the police station finishing up her statement. Her eyes were enormous bowls of chocolate pudding with stress and fear removing their usual luminous glow and anxiety making faint circles on her skin around them. How could he have let it get this far? Never, never, never was Evangeline to be touched by his job or his personal demons; now she was wrecked and hiding it from everyone, from him. Thinking of her situation John discovered a possible silver lining to the mess.

"Why arenít you staying at Noraís with Layla?" John asked. He had been puzzled by Vanís insistence that only her sister stay there instead of the two of them. Nora had been equally insistent that with Matthew at camp there was room for both the Williamson sibs. As the new DA and the ripples from Noraís marriage to a murdering DA still fresh there was still a big security presence around Noraís house and in her neighborhood. Of course, cops hadnít stopped the killer from decimating Evangelineís personal spaces of home and work. There was still one way to keep her safe, if he could convince her.

"No one should be subjected to both of us under one roof. We drove our parents insane with our fighting and making up. Iíd like to keep Nora as a close friend." Van replied.

"Should I take you to a hotel? The Bayberry Innís more out of the way and easier to guard."

"I wonít feel safe at a hotel. Normally, Iíd go to work and lose myself in cases; canít do that now. Heís ruined even that refuge for me."

Closing his eyes John rocked back slightly on his heels, there was no place of safety for her after all sheíd already gone through. His fault, all his fault, HE should be her refuge. "Stay with me," he said hesitantly, "stay at my place, nobody gets past Roxy." He said with a tiny smile.

How she loved his mouth, especially when he was trying not to smile, she missed those lips moving over her, tantalizing and awakening everything in her. Stop this! Van sternly ordered herself. Ruefully shaking her head she responded with a quiet laugh, "Thereís absolutely no way that would work, John. Donít worry about me; Iíll come up with something."

"I do worry about you, even though Iíve lost the right. Youíre not on your own and all alone in this. If you wonít place yourself under me," the words hung in the air a beat as she swiftly looked up at him, "Öunder my protection then at least go visit your mom. I doubt heíll follow you there."

"No, not an option right now. I want to be here when this case is solved and Natalieís safely home. I promised her weíd get through this together; Iím safe, sorta, but sheís nowhere close to that."

Opening his office door they stepped into the back hall as Todd exited from Boís back door, "Evangeline," Todd called to her "Iím glad to see youíre alright. McBain, how did you let this nut case get so close to her not once, not twice but now three times? I donít consider this the best use of my tax dollars."

"Todd, stop, John and everyone else in LPDís working their hardest and more to catch this manic." Casting a glance at John she saw the guilt flare to the forefront of his eyes and posture. Evangeline knew John didnít need Todd raking him over the fires and adding to his stress. Why did she still care so much? Still so on the alert to the subtleness of his moods and feelings? When would it stop being second nature for her to pay attention to his needs? He wasnít paying any attention and nor wrapping himself up in her wants and needs.

"You canít go home to a crime scene, you canít go to work, and the cops donít know how to protect you or find my niece for that matter. Let me offer protection Manning-style. You know I have Blair and the kids under topnotch security 24/7. Itís not a problem to add you to that. Hey, stay with us. I have to go away on business, Jackís at camp and Starrís going away soon too."

"I couldnít imposeÖ"

"Youíre not, we have the room, and Blair could use some company and the distraction. Sheís still a bit on edge, youíd be doing me a favor." Thinking this a more than viable solution Todd proclaimed, "Itís done. Finish up here and Iíll take you home, to my place."

Looking from Todd to John, Van realized it was a good solution, almost elegant. Todd did have a huge security team around his family, and they werenít cops reporting to John so they could easily run interference for her should he show up looking for her on unofficial business. "Alright, I accept and Iím ready to go." Turning to John she asked, "Is it okay for me to go home and pick up some clothes?"

"Yeah, Iíll call ahead and notify them to let you in." John was reeling and ticked, now Nora, Layla AND Todd had placed themselves between him and Evangeline. Van was going home with Todd, it didnít matter that it wasnít sexual; she was letting another man take her home, trusting him with her safety and well being. Trusting Todd, Todd Manning, but not John. If it wasnít police business how would he ever get alone time with her? How could he ever speak his heart, his soul? Sighing he concluded it didnít really matter, she didnít want to hear it anyway.

John spent several days trying to figure out how to casually run into Evangeline; he was reduced to actually calling Michael and requesting updates, no waiting for Mikey to finally volunteer a morsel of information. It had settled into ritual, when he answers the phone John asks "Mikey, have you seen her? How is she?"

"Why do you get to call me Mikey, which I hate but I canít call you Johnny?"

"Iím older thatís the why it is, deal. Have you spoken to Evangeline, is she alright?"

Apparently, Todd and Blairís fortress home provided every comfort and distraction because she wasnít leaving the building. He knew Nora and Layla and been in and out visiting her there. It was Antonio who informed him that Todd had set up an office for Van in a spare room of the penthouse. Manning was keeping both women tightly secured and very well protected. Knowing he should only feel gratitude that Evangeline was safe was all that kept John away.

The lack of movement in the Killing Club case was destroying him and then his old pal misery upped the stakes once more and Marcie and Rex went missing. The irony that two women, Evangeline and Adriana Cramer would deliver vital information to him before it was even fully confirmed that anyone else was gone wasnít lost on John. His serve and protect credo was seriously tarnished and taking beating after beating. Having to call Michael and tell him about Marcie made John want to find a hole to crawl into and die. This was not the kind of news a big brother should phone his little brother with; especially without a clue as to where sheíd been taken.

Bo glanced at John and put his "no arguments" tone in his voice, "You are the walking dead and doing no one, least of all Marcie and Natalie, any good like this. Iíll have an officer take you home."

"We canít spare anyone for that, Iíll get myself home. Someone should escort Evangeline and Adriana back home."

"John, no. I need to make sure you get home in one piece. Once youíre rested and your mindís clear you have a case to solve, a murderer and his accomplice to catch." Bo looks around to see which cop he could spare when Van steps forward, "Donít worry, Bo, Iíll take John on home. This way he wonít worry that a copís being pulled off the case to be a driver."

"I can drive myself, or walk. The air will help."

"No!" Van and Bo say in unison, "Youíre in no shape. Evangeline will drive you home. Thank you for doing this." That settled Bo goes back in his office.

"Are you ready to go?" she asks wondering why she didnít suggest Bo call a cab or for Asaís limo. Turning to the security man standing off to the side intently keeping his eyes on her she beckons to him, "Iím taking Lt. McBain home, Iíll drive his car and you can follow."

Evangeline leans slightly against the doorway as John enters his room and flicks on the lights; truly the place was now a hovel, in shambles and neglected obviously John wasnít even sleeping or eating there these days and it showed. "You can come in, I wonít bite." John said with raw emotion in his voice, "I just wanted to thank you for getting me home, and you know, you left some brandy here. Iíll never drink the stuff without you and I donít know anyone else who would appreciate it."

Stepping inside Van closed the door quietly behind her, seeing the security guard leaning against the wall in the hallway before the door shut completely and she was alone with John. "No, you keep it or dump it; Iíve lost my taste for it. Maybe a hot bath will relax your mind enough to let you sleep. You need to really rest John. Wake up refreshed and clear and able to focus again. Iíll leave you now, goodnight."

"I should be used to you leaving me, shouldnít I? I donít need a bath or a drink; Iíll be asleep the minute I stretch out." John was moving into the bedroom and Evangeline hesitated and turned toward the front door to go, something told her to just check and make sure John really was planning to go to bed and didnít stay up looking at case files. Walking quietly to the doorway of his bedroom she watched a ritual sheíd grown used to and missed the rhythm of: John checking his gun and placing it within quick reach if he heard a noise; his wallet and badge went behind the gun and to the left of it; pocket change on the edge of the end table, his watch next to it. This was a routine she knew; this was part of life with John. She missed it, the routine plainness of it all.

She was startled by Johnís harsh laughter as he undid his shirt, "Iíve been scheming on ways to get you alone to talk for weeks now; and here you are and in my bedroom no less, where I never thought youíd be again and Iím too exhausted to make the best use of this surprising moment with you. Good night, Evangeline."

"Good night, John," she waited for him to turn off the light on the night table but he threw his arm over his eyes and she realized he was out that fast. Van was now seriously alarmed for his health; unless he was coming down from the high of repeated, long lovemaking sessions with her John couldnít just turn off his brain, the job and his cases and go to sleep. His stamina had finally given out on him.

Walking towards the light she bent slightly for the switch, glanced down and saw herself looking back. The paper was nearly two months old now and the photo showed signs of being handled, touched and often. Van pulled it out from underneath Johnís gun checking to make sure she didnít wake him, unfolding the paper more photos fell out and she saw John had made prints of several of the digital pictures she had taken of them after his surprise birthday bash. A scrap of paper fluttered to the floor and she reached for it, it was barely still in one piece, unfolding it too quickly would tear it, picking it up the wrong way could rip it. Before her fingers touched it she froze realizing what it was her impromptu birthday gift, "I Love You, E" on a cocktail napkin from the Palace. She picked it up tenderly; gingerly clearly he had opened it and handled it many times. The words were slightly smudged and she wondered why then realized his tears and moistness from his lips kissing the napkin had smeared the words a bit. She could see the faint whorls of his fingerprints as he desperately tried to keep the words from vanishing into nothingness like she had as though sheíd never felt the emotions, never said the words.

Van slumped to the floor and scooted closer to the bed, she touched Johnís outstretched hand and lightly pressed her face into his hand; he didnít stir and she was reminded again of how far past exhaustion he must be for the cop in him not to react to being touched. She knew exactly why she had left him but now she was unclear as to the importance of it all. If he was caught in the crossfire between the killer and his friend and she heard the news what would be her biggest regret that she left when she shouldíve stayed? Long ago she had told John that she could hang in there for a very long time if she believed in them, felt he was trying. She knew he was trying, had tried so hard so when did that stop being enough?

"God, donít tell me I just threw us away in the midst of having a really, really bad week. A hissy fit. I had real and legit concerns," she whispered, "we have serious issues we canít get past. But did we try the hardest we possibly could? Or did we both let go too fast?" she wondered, "Neither of us wanted to hurt or be hurt, did we not fight hard enough? Were we expecting it to be simple and easy because so much between us was just natural and comfortable and so smooth? ĎNo worriesí was our defacto motto. But life and relationships is about struggles and worries and how you handle them; and how you accept and welcome the love. And John canít accept my love, he doesnít believe in it, wonít let it save him. No, I did the right thing, I just feel soÖawful."

Getting up Evangeline turned off the light and headed for the door, she glanced back at the prone figure and her heart filled, broke and spilled over. In the living room she flicked the switch by the front door and the apartment was plunged into darkness and stillness except for the sound of Johnís breathing. Her feet turned of their volition as her eyes adjusted to the dark Van put her purse on a chair, kicked off her shoes and walked back into the bedroom. She sat on the bed watching him sleep for a moment and then lifted his arm off his eyes, stretched out next to him then turned to bury herself in his body. She knew he still wasnít awake, if anything he thought he was having an especially good dream but she felt his body exhale deeply and relax into full sleep as she pressed against him. Her body responded to the familiar and before she could think again about the wiseness of this action Evangeline and John were breathing steadily together, asleep in each otherís arms.