Chapter 7

Hashing out the demons of Todd and John took Evangeline and Blair into the sunrise and they were startled to realize the time and hear the intercom buzzing and security announcing a visitor at the front door, "I canít believe someoneís over here at this hour without calling," Blair says, "That can only mean itís the police, Lord, whatís Todd gotten himself into now?" Her voice was full of questions and concern as she rose from her chair. Van picked up their bowls and placed them in the sink as Blair headed for the front of the penthouse, left alone for a moment she had a sinking feeling it was indeed the police but not on assignment. Hearing Blairís voice call to her through the intercom validated her opinion.

"John, what are you doing? I thought we agreed to talk another day."

"I canít wait another day, Evangeline hear me out, okay?"

Briefly closing her eyes Van opened them and asked the security man and Blair to leave them alone to talk in the living room. Looking at him for a few moments she realized that he was every bit as drunk as she had known he was heading towards when she saw him earlier at Capricorn. Drunk, but perfectly lucid and appearing totally sober to anyone who didnít know him. She knew him.

"Well, we also agreed that weíd both be sober when we spoke; youíre not even close. Iíll put on some coffee."

"Wait, I just wanted to say, I need to say, to tell youÖ.why is this so hard for me? I came to tell you everything you want to know, have been asking about, the truth start to finish. I worked it all out in my head the words to say; I canít say the words. You know, if Iím never a part of your life again youíve given me this incredible gift, another gift that I donít deserve from you, andÖthank you, thank you for loving me. I need it from you, I donít deserve it but I need it. I justÖ.you saved me, do you know that? You saved me, Evangeline. And all Iíve done in return is hurt you. Forgive me, someday."

Caught off guard by his agitation and his words Evangeline response is from her heart, "John, donít you know youíve given me a gift too? Yourself, who you areóto the degree that you let me in to see you; laughter, a dream of the future that I never considered before. You donít have to thank me for anything."

"I do, and Iím still not saying this right. What I really mean and want to say isnít coming out."

Somehow they ended up in each otherís arms holding on tightly and swaying slightly together, "Iím trying to tell youÖ." John started again but the words were caught up in their kiss. Neither was sure how the kiss started there was only silent agreement of how much they missed this contact, needed to taste the other. John cupped her bottom in his hands and lifted her slightly and turned and they were on the couch, their mouths never breaking contact as the kiss went on and on. Evangeline felt her body engulfed in flames and pulled off the jacket to her pajamas, she felt Johnís hands twist in the spaghetti straps as his fingers slide them off her shoulders, and her legs shifted off the floor and over his thighs as she leaned in for more of his kiss and wondered vaguely how long they could go without taking a breath. Then something clicked unbidden in her head and Van recoiled back from John, putting one hand on his chest to push away and the other lifting the strap back onto her left shoulder. John was holding and stroking her legs and she couldnít completely break free of his touch; didnít really want to but in despair knew she had too.

"Stop. Weíre not doing this; Iím not having sex with you John."

"No, no weíre not making love; I didnít come here for that. Weíre doing things differently from now on. Iím sorry." Pulling a pillow onto his lap to cover his arousal he looks sheepishly at Van, "Iím sorry, truly, thatís not why Iím here."

"I know. Iíll, Iíll get that coffee started." Running her fingers through her hair as she stood, Van headed for the kitchen and a moment of calmness to regain he composure. Returning to the living room she heard Johnís voice before she reached the doorway, paused, listened and was chilled to realize his problems ran deeper than sheíd ever guessed. Deeper than heíd ever let her know or catch a glimpse of.

Entering quietly she saw John staring out the windows, looking down on Llanview ranting, raving and strangling one of Jackís stuffed animals. He was completely unaware of her presence and she was pretty sure he no longer knew where he was. She became genuinely frightened for his mental health and knew this went beyond the current serial killer and all the way back into Johnís past, probably as far back as childhood, isnít that where Blair said it started with Todd?

John caught Vanís reflection in the window and turned to face her dreading the look he was sure to see in her eyes. To his surprise she wasnít afraid or repulsed. It was worse: the love was radiating from her, offered freely and all he had to do was step toward her emotionally, open up more than a little bit and sheíd be his again. He would be safe again with her, she would open her arms to him, he could freely lay claim to her heart, mind, body and soul and sheíd willingly be there for him. And he couldnít do it. He could hear himself trying, babbling about the past and the present, but nothing specific enough. He heard himself snap at her as she tried to help guide his thoughts and pick up on the smallest clue and unravel his terror from there. Then she put her face in her hands and for a moment he thought she was crying for him, for them. But she when she looks up her eyes are clear, sad and determined.

"This isnít about caring more about Natalie," he heard himself say, "Itís just that being with her is so easy. I can do it be what she needsóand what she always needs is someone to be her hero, someone to save her from herself, from her life, from the latest screw-up. I can do that with my eyes closed. Sheís a knee-jerk reaction; and youíve changed me. I canít be alone the way I was when we met. I donít want to be; I want you but if I canít have you--not if being with me only hurts youÖI can be with Natalie and wish for you in my dreams."

"John, thatís no way to live. Thatís unfair to me, you; hell itís enough to make me feel a little sorry for Natalie. To settle like that when you deserve so much more, you can have so much more, with me or someone else."

"If I canít have you, canít pull myself together enough to be what you need and deserveÖI donít really care what happens after us. At least Iíll make someone happy and IíllÖ"

"Youíll be content?" she asked her voice filled with sadness for them.

"Content? No. Iíll survive, thatís what I do, and thatís who I am. I survive long after everyone I love has left me to fend for myself. I survive. Even when I donít want to, even when I wish I were dead and youíd think in my line of work I could make that happen, still I survive."

They stood looking at each other as the minutes ticked by saying goodbye with their eyes and discussing all the things with their eyes, hearts and souls that werenít going to pass their lips. John reached out and brushed that errant lock of hair back from Evangelineís face and watched as she couldnít bring herself to be indifferent to his touch. Not yet she couldnít, but the day would come when her body would be well-schooled not to respond to a causal brush-by encounter with him.

"Iím going to put that coffee in a travel mug for you. How did you get here? You didnít drive did you?"

"No, I walked. Thought it would clear my head. Wrong again."

Returning with the mug Van was once again propelling him to the door, just as she did when she broke up with him. He had to go, she couldnít take much more. "John, I wanted you to deal with your demons because I thought it would help free you, make you stronger and yes, help you to become more emotionally available to me. It never occurred to me that it could just destroy you. So, Iím backing off now. Maybe these dragons inside you can and will stay asleep forever. If you can manage that, well, good for you. Iíll still hope for a happy life for you, John, even if you wonít hope for it for yourself. But you need to know this: I freely admit itís irrational, even more so considering I ended things between us, but if you sleep with Natalieóyouíre dead to me." She paused so he could absorb what she had said and know that she truly meant it. "DeadÖtoÖme."

Then she gathered herself, "Having said that, I still want to do what I can to make sure you donít break under this case. Iím sure if Iím hypnotized things could be pulled from my mind that might give you a lead to Natalie or how to break Hayes and make him talk. Lets not fight about this, itís my decision and Iím doing it with or without your help. Now, do you want to be in on this, yes or no?"

Days later John, along with the combined Balsam, Vega and Buchanan families are filling up the hospital waiting room taking turns to visit Natalie in small groups. Rex and Roxy were in with her now and John turned to find Viki and say a few words to her when he saw Vicki with Carlotta both of them holding Evangelineís hands and clearly thanking her profusely.

He hadnít had a moment alone with her since she underwent hypnosis and gave the police the clues they so desperately needed to find the last victim of the Killing Club. It was because of Evangelineís pressure on Bo that John was able to be the one to directly save Natalie. He hung back, unsure what he could say to her, awed by her generosity of spirit when he knew Natalie probably wouldnít have been able to do the same if the situations were reversed. Nat would offer to help, sure, but making big personal sacrifices for a greater good wasnít a trait John had ever seen her display. He was about to throw himself into the pits of a hell of his own making and doing and all of Vanís recent actions affirmed to him it was the right thing. Heíd never be good enough to deserve Evangeline or her love, and she would never completely let go unless he forced her to. He would have to do the unforgivable in her eyes so she would finally be free of him and could live her life as it should be, with a wonderful man, who could say the words, who was really right for her.

John watched as Michael approached Van and then they were both moving towards Natalieís room when he intercepted them, "Hey, whatís going on?" he asked Michael as he kept his eyes on Evangeline, "Natalie asked to see me, so Iím going in for a few minutes. How are you? When do you plan to go home and rest? Sorry, not my business. The case is closed now John, let me suggest that you put down the cross."

Entering Natalieís hospital room Van is as curious as John as to why Natalie wanted to speak with her. She was weary from people thanking her for making the rescue possible; she was ticked at the pity and sympathy in everyoneís eyes as they assumed, rightly she knew, that John would put Natalie in her place. She sensed that Vicki was uneasy with the thought of Natalie and John and probably knew that Johnís version of love for Natalie might be the worst thing that ever happened to her long-lost daughter. But Van had told Nora she was out of this mess now and she meant it.

After being thanked by Natalie and making small talk Evangeline got up to leave, "Vangeline, about John, I just wonderedÖ" Van stopped and looked at her; she was always displeased that Roxy and Natalie couldnít find the ĎEí at the beginning of her name, "What about him? Oh, do I plan to get back with him? Not my plan, no. Does he plan to chase after me? Possibly, but Johnís not at a point where he can admit that, even to himself. But if what youíre really asking me is will I resort to low-cut blouses; chasing John all around the town to be in his space and get him to notice me; fake scenarios where I need John, and only John no one elseís help will do, to rescue me and even if heís in a relationship with someone else publicly disrespect that relationship by running after another womanís man? No, sorry, I was raised better than that, if a man wants me he can show me and weíll see where it goes. Is there anything else, Natalie?

Closing her mouth from Evangelineís meticulous recounting of the hoops she had jumped through to be noticed by John, Nat silently shook her head "no" and pulled the covers up to her neck. "Natalie, one thing you should remember if you recall nothing else Iíve ever said: wanting, often times is so much more satisfying than actually having. Itís illogical I know, but it is often true. Actually, Mr. Spock said that and it has stuck with me all these years since itís played out as the truth more often you can imagine."

Van turned toward the door just as John pushed it open and she stepped past him, he caught the scent of her perfume and the clean smell of her hair, "I have no doubt that you and John will get the life you both so richly deserve. No worries and good luck to both of you, I think youíll need it." Then she was out the door and John and Natalie were left with only each other and undeniable knowledge in the back of their minds that neither was prepared to face.

"Hey sweetie, what are doing here?" Nora asked Van as she nearly ran her over heading swiftly for the elevator, "I just gave Natalie and John my, I donít know, blessing not to worry about me and Iíve had enough of being a pillar of strength and understanding. I want to go someplace and seriously kick ass, but if I go to the gym everyone will assume Iím blowing off steam over John and his new/old girlfriend and theyíd be right. I canít have them be right." Then she looked directly into Noraís eyes and felt her eyes filling, "Nora," she gasped, "help me out of here, please. I canít bear to run into another Vega, Buchanan or Balsam."

Pulling her into the elevator Nora pulled Van close as the doors closed and held her rubbing her back. "Is there anything short of putting a hit out on them that I can do to make this tolerable for you?"

As they left the hospital and stood for a moment on the sidewalk Van fished around in her bag and cursed under her breath, "There is something, can I borrow your phone? Mine is I have no clue where."

"Sure."

"The goings getting tough and I need some reinforcements." Turning slightly away from the noise of people, cars and sirens outside the hospital Evangeline waited impatiently for the call to be answered, "Hey, itís me. You said if Iím ever falling, ever in danger of becoming a country and western song over the pain some man has caused me, to call you. Iím falling, Iím in agony. I need you to beÖyou, can you come to Llanview? Believe me if my case load would let me leave right now, I would." Nodding into the phone and aware of Noraís heightened curiosity, Van listens and responds, "Thanks, this means everything to me right now. I just need somebody on my side, looking out for me without prompting, just because I deserve it. See you as soon as you can break away, thank you again, Jax."