DISCLAIMER: This story is not intended to infringe on the copyrights of any of the holders of LA HEAT. It is just for fun, not profit; the characters are borrowed and will be returned, unharmed and unchanged at the end!!
Scant hours had passed since she had told him about
the opportunity which awaited her in another city at another Art Gallery.
Scant hours in which he had been given no opportunity to really consider
her ultimatum, no chance to think about what he should do about it and no
time at all to even begin to realise what her departure would do to him.
If he was frank with himself, he had not really given himself the opportunity
for any of these things to be considered. If he was brutally honest with
himself, he had to admit that, deep down, he had never really believed that
she would go.
But she had. Just like that. Gone, for good, and now it was almost as though she had never even existed. All he had left of the woman he had loved were a few discarded toiletries, a brief 'goodbye' note and the lingering aroma of her perfume.
The memories were the hardest to deal with. He had thrown away the almost empty shampoo bottles and the shower gel he had bought her. He had read and re-read and crumpled up into a tiny ball the 'goodbye' note. The smell of her perfume was harder to ignore. It was everywhere. It pervaded the entire apartment, every crevice, every nook and cranny. He had finally stopped driving himself crazy trying not to notice it and retreated into the only safe refuge - his studio. But once there, the memories began their assault. There was laughter, there was loving, there were good times and there were bad times. But through it all there was the image of the beautiful blonde woman whom he had loved to distraction. Even when she was driving him crazy with her demands that he give up what gave his life purpose - being a cop - he had never stopped loving her. She was everything to him, all that he needed, and he had lost her.
That was when the reality sank in, and, sliding to the floor of his studio, leaning against the worktable, his heart broke.
August had been sitting in his car outside Chase's beachside apartment for over ten minutes. He was still not entirely sure what had convinced him that he needed to be here. Maybe it had been Kendra, who, aware of Jody's departure, had told him, in no uncertain terms, that Chase should not be alone right now. Maybe it had been the 'lost' look in those expressive blue eyes, and the equally haunted expression on the mobile features when Chase had confessed that she had gone. Or maybe it was his gut instinct, telling him that, right at this very moment, what his partner needed was a friend - and a 'shoulder to cry on'.
Not that Chase would actually physically need a shoulder to cry on, August told himself, sternly. Chase bounced back from everything. Car chases, injury, the crimes they witnessed every day ... He would bounce back from this, too.
There was just one problem with this line of thought. August didn't believe a word of it.
Chase loved Jody with every fibre of his being. Anyone who knew him knew that. He had made no secret of how he felt. It was like everything with Chase - except for his family and his background - his enthusiasm was contagious, and his feelings for Jody were blazingly obvious. Discretion played no part there. It was almost as though he could no more hold back how he felt about her than he could stop the sun from shining or the moon from coming out at night. Sometimes the depth of his feelings had scared even August, who adored his wife and liked everyone to know it. Sometimes, August had pondered upon what would
happen to Chase should anything ever happen to Jody or, god forbid, she should leave. The conclusions he had reached had never been pleasant. In fact, occasionally, they had been downright frightening.
So, here he sat, in his car, trying to pluck up sufficient courage to get out of the vehicle, walk to the door, and knock. It was a daunting prospect. He had no idea what he would find when he was finally confronting his partner. Maybe Chase would be all right, having worked everything out. They would talk about Jody, have a few drinks, a few laughs and August would leave, having done his duty as a friend.
The more likely prospect was what made him reluctant to leave the security of his car. Chase was normally so happy-go-lucky. So goddamned cheerful. Such a wise-ass. But what he had seen in his friend's face when Chase had told him Jody had gone had given the black detective the chills. Gone was the humour which normally danced in those blue eyes -
replaced by a bleakness the depth of which August could not even begin to fathom. August was not at all happy about the prospect of seeing his partner falling to pieces in front of him. It wasn't that he couldn't deal with it - well, not entirely, although that was a major concern. It was more that he wasn't at all sure he was qualified to help put those pieces back together. He wasn't sure he was up to the task.
He shivered - knowing that it was not from the night air, which was warmed by the Santa Anas, and, taking a deep breath, pulled himself together. This was dumb. Chase would be fine. He was over-reacting. Sure, Chase had loved Jody - still loved Jody; after all, you didn't just stop loving someone because they were gone - but this was no big deal. Chase was a grown man, and he could deal with his own problems. Sure. August would just do his duty as a friend (and because he daren't return to Kendra without at least making sure that everything was okay. She'd know in a minute if he was lying), then he'd go home.
So why did that feeling of dread insist on pervading his very soul? Why couldn't he believe in his own arguments?
Chase was probably fine.
And the moon was made from green cheese.
There was no reply to August's tentative knock on the beachside apartment door. Not that he had expected one. His knuckles had rapped so lightly that it had been an effort for even him to pick up any sound. In fact, he could hear absolutely nothing. Just the gentle crash of the waves breaking over the sand in the distance. The cries of the seagulls as they flew across the beach. The distant hum of traffic. No noise, however, from within the apartment itself. He didn't know whether to be worried or relieved.
He settled on worried.
He rapped again, this time putting more force behind it. Still no response from within. Now his worry began to take a more insistent hold and cautiously, he tried the door. It was open. Of course. Chase always left the door open. In the past, he had marvelled that his partner had not been robbed a dozen times over, or beaten senseless within his own home, or - gods forbid - killed. For a cop, Chase sure didn't have much sense of self-preservation when it came to home security. Maybe it was that 'Guardian Angel' thing. Or maybe he just had a very sophisticated, very devious security system - but if that were true, he was sure keeping it a secret from his partner.
Not that that would have been any surprise. Chase was good at keeping secrets - about certain things.
Bearing all this in mind, August warily made his way down the stairs, half-convinced by now that some silent alarm was going off at the local station, and that in a couple of moments, he would be attacked by several burly police officers, demanding to know what he was doing in someone else's apartment. And what would he tell them? "Oh, my partner's girlfriend left him and I was worried about his emotional state."? Yeah, that would sure go down well. With the rest of the department, with the Captain, and with Chase.
Speaking of his partner - where was the aggravating little SOB?
He tried again. "Mac! Are you here? Come on, answer me, man!"
Still no response.
August had gone right past worried. He was now verging on panic.
He knew Chase was here. The jacket he had worn earlier was strewn across the sofa, and his boots were laying haphazardly on the rug beside it. His badge and his gun were on the coffee table. *Dangerous place to leave your weapon with the door open, Mac,* he silently reprimanded his partner. *Very dangerous* Silently, August picked up the gun and stuffed it into his belt, drawing his own - just in case.
"Chase!" he tried again. This was getting ridiculous. Chase was here, somewhere. He knew it. Why didn't the little shit answer him? Where the hell was he? More importantly, how was he? "C'mon, Chase!" he yelled. "Stop playing around!"
Silence met his demands.
His panic was increasing. If he didn't take a hold of it now it was going to overwhelm him. Taking a deep breath, he moved further into the apartment. As he stepped forward, he crushed something underfoot. Stooping to pick it up, he was appalled to discover, upon unfolding it, that it was a note - a goodbye note from Jody. Some of the ink in the letters had run. As if someone had been crying when they wrote it ... or when they had read it.
"Oh god," he whispered, involuntarily, then, more forcefully. "Chase!"
Still no sound. No indication that his partner was even in the house. Surely he had heard August's increasingly desperate calling of his name? Why wouldn't he answer. Unless ...
"Oh geez! The studio!" The detective barely restrained himself from slapping his own forehead in exasperation at his own stupidity. His feet were already moving, seemingly of their own accord, toward the large room at the back of the apartment - Chase's refuge during his fights with Jody. His 'inner sanctum'. A room so well insulated because of his sculpting that it was almost soundproof. No wonder the other cop had been unable to hear August's frantic cries.
"MacDonald," he rasped, as he opened the door to that inner sanctum, and strode in, fear transforming quickly into irritation at what he perceived to be Chase's utter thoughtlessness. "Next time I call you, you better ... " His words tailed away and his feet came to a dead stop as his eyes alighted on the slumped figure, his heart contracting at the sound of sobbing. "Mac?"
The younger detective seemed completely oblivious to his presence in the room and for a moment, August found himself rooted to the spot, face to face with the desolation he had tried his best not to consider back in his car. Then, suddenly, it was almost as though, finally confronted by the evidence of that fear, which had been close to overwhelming him earlier, the discovery brought everything back into focus. Without even thinking, acting on pure instinct alone, the wrenching sobs tearing at his heart, he suddenly found himself on the floor
beside his partner, the blond head nestled into his shoulder and his arms wrapped protectively around heaving shoulders, crooning nonsensical words of comfort.
"It's okay, Chase," he whispered, stroking the blond hair soothingly. "It's okay. I'm here."
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