Dawn was just starting to make its way past the rooftops of nearby buildings, setting Faith's fiery hair ablaze with warm light as she stood in front of Eddy's brownstone. There were four steps that led up to his front door. On any normal morning she'd race up them, let herself in, and head downstairs for their morning training/talking time. Today she stood rooted at the bottom, trying to prepare herself for how not normal the morning would be.
Charlie had offered to come with her, to drive her, to do just about anything to make sure she felt supported, but she'd gently declined. This was something she needed to do on her own. If the day ever came when she needed backup to talk to Eddy--her partner, overbearing brother figure, and one of her best friends ever--she'd know that things were too broken to be fixed.
So instead of standing there feeling cold, Faith forced her feet to move. "Eddy?" The silence that greeted her inside the front door was anything but encouraging. "I'm coming in." Locking herself in, she went downstairs to check the gym first, then the kitchen, then the rest of the house. A sigh pushed past her lips at the discovery of his undisturbed bed. She didn't know if it made her feel better or worse to know he hadn't slept last night.
Her own night hadn't been exactly restful. Despite being emotionally exhausted, she'd tossed and turned for hours before finally drifting into restless sleep. Running a hand over her tired eyes, the redhead wandered back to the living room to settle into her favorite corner of Eddy's couch. He'd come home eventually. She could wait.
Kardiac alit on the roof of his brownstone, scanning the area for anyone looking 'up.' It normally wasn't much of a concern, but he also usually returned before dawn, and it was far too bright for his tastes. He was just happy to be home. Eddy felt bad about missing his morning appointment with Faith, but given the events of last evening, he doubted she had even considered coming by for their normal practice.
Dropping down into his bedroom through the skylight, he peeled his uniform shirt off of his body. The sweat made a sickening noise as the Kevlar mesh peeled off of his skin, and he winced at the places where the fabric tugged on fresh welts. It had been a long night, and the verdant vigilante had been in possession of quite a bit of frustration. Given the source of some of that frustration, he reconsidered his feelings on missing his morning routine with Faith. He wasn't sorry after all. Better to leave that door closed for now.
Toweling off his chest and back, sometimes painfully, he stepped into his bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. Days like this, he never liked what he saw. Today it seemed worse somehow. Not for the argument with Roo and Aaron... That was becoming commonplace since their little road trip to Hell. It was the issues with Faith that haunted him right now... The argument he knew would come and the inevitable conclusion of that fight. And then there was the other issue... the Charlie issue. No... it wasn't Charlie. It was worse than that.
Splashing some water on his face, he dropped his goggles by the sink basin and slid his glasses over his ears. He needed to sleep, but first he had to check the news for signs of last night's troubles. Still shirtless, he tossed a towel around his neck and headed downstairs. he walked past the living room, barely feeling the slow, rhythmic heartbeat on his sofa, and headed into the kitchen. He swung open the refrigerator door and grabbed a bottle of Sunny-D and a mini-bar bottle of scotch and mixed them in a glass, that heartbeat scratching the back of his mind.
Putting down the first gulp, it finally hit him that there was one too many heartbeats in his house. Taking his glass with him, he headed into the living room and circled the couch. Eddy looked down on Faith's sleeping form. Even asleep, despite all the emotion and wear from the sleepless night before, she was a thing of beauty. He frowned, hating himself for thinking so. She was his partner, at least before yesterday, and he shouldn't let himself notice that kind of thing. Still... it was undeniable.
Setting aside unwanted musings, he stretched out a leg and shook the sofa on its feet. "Wakey wakey," he said, gruffly. "The Happiness Patrol is back in town." As she started to stir, he sat down on the coffee table in front of her. Eddy expected the worst from the conversational options set before him, but he had been prepared for that even before he had initiated the situation that made such a confrontation inevitable.
"I thought the room seemed brighter," she said without opening her eyes. Then, remembering she was supposed to be mad at him, the little redhead frowned as she stretched out along the length of the couch.
"You're a rotten alarm clock and-" Finally looking at him, her blue eyes widened in surprise and concern. "Ohmygosh. Eddy..." Her fingers stretched out to touch the angry red mark along his bare shoulder. One of several, she noticed with another frown.
Eddy shrugged to cover up the quick intake of breath at her touch. He chalked it up to grogginess, but so far it was going better than he’d thought it would. Of course, he expected it to fall through the floor the minute he opened his mouth. With another breath, he told himself to rein in the sarcasm and just try to be honest with her about his reasons for what he’d done.
”You should see the other guy,” he said, completely discarding his previous train of thought. Realizing his utter failure to keep his emotional defensiveness in check, he sighed and turned his eyes away from hers. ”I had some things to work out,” he continued, being as honest as he could at that moment.
She didn't want him to be hurt, especially when she hadn't been there to help him. Drawing her fingers back, Faith reminded herself that being alone out there had been entirely his decision. "Really?" she asked, pouring on the false sympathy. "It must have been pretty hard on you. All that locking me up, abandoning me, and walking away from me."
There it was. And he deserved it, though he didn’t regret the decision he’d made. He was keeping her safe. He had to. But now wasn’t the time for him to suddenly come clean. Now was the time for him to have the argument... let her take out her frustrations. After all, he deserved it.
”Guilty as charged,” he said, frowning. ”And the choice was entirely mine, though Roo and Aaron backed the call.” And then, once again, his advice to himself fell on deaf ears. ”But it wasn’t just to protect you... I did it to protect me too.” His voice was low, soft... strangely forlorn and distant.
His change in tone didn't register. She sat forward to make sure he was listening to her. "I know, I know. I'm your responsibility and you can't let anything happen to me." She had the speech nearly memorized... just like the 'if I was ten years younger you'd actually be attractive' speech. "It wouldn't have hurt anything to spare two minutes to explain things to me yourself instead of dumping me on Corin. But whatever. I don't care. I..."
She wanted to reach out and shake him but there was no safe place to grab. "Eddy I needed you. I've never called for you before. Ever. But I needed you and you didn't come." She wanted to stay mad, to yell, to hit him, to do anything other than feel the tears start to slide down her cheeks. "You came back to debrief, walked out, and stayed out. And if I hadn't come here today..."
"I answered... and I should have got back to you," he said, happy for a change in the direction of the conversation. "but I had to focus on Garrett's family... and yours. And I couldn't stay after my debrief. I wasn't in any place to kumbaya over our 'dear departed friend'... I was dealing with keeping myself out of the gunsights of every cop in town."
"Besides... I didn't want to put myself between you and the thief," Eddy continued, a little more bitterness than he had intended seeping into his voice. "I'm afraid that I don't feel comfortable inserting myself into 'snuggle time with the felon'," he added, his already-defensive evasiveness being swallowed up by emotions and resentments he had been burying for too long.
After a beat, he took a deep breath and averted his eyes. "I'm sorry... I... I didn't... that came out wrong...."
"He has a name, you know," she snapped, wiping her eyes and glaring at him. Being angry was much easier than being sad. Especially since it didn't seem to matter to him at all that his absence had hurt her. "And I didn't even have to call Charlie. He just showed up. Good thing he did... since you weren't coming back for me anyway."
”Wasn’t coming back for you!?!” he said, spinning on her and throwing his arms into the air. ”The only reason he could ‘come without being called’ was because my first thought -- my only thought -- when I heard that your friend had gotten himself killed for running his mouth was getting you out of that bitch’s sights. You were her next target, and you damned well know that!” he added, beginning to pace with frustration over it all.
”I only went after that psycho to keep you safe! Because the thought of that killer hunting you...,” he said, stopping suddenly. He stopped pacing, his back to her. His shoulders slumped, despite the tone in his voice remaining steady, frustrated. ”The only reason I came back to the Doghouse after we got her was to see you, to let you tear me a new one, and instead of getting even a moment to deal with that, to explain, I have to watch that... criminal play the worrisome boyfriend while I get angry glares through tears that I can’t stop! How the Hell do you think that makes me feel?”
His voice dropped, frustrated but without anger, and with a heavy sigh, he drew a weak shrug. ”You’re the only thing I have in my life worth having...,” he added, shaking his head, briefly. ”Sometimes I think you’re the only reason I even do this anymore....”
She couldn't process. She could barely even find the words. "Eddy..." Talking to his back helped a little. "The only thing I wanted was for the only person who mattered to take a minute and hug me and tell me he was sorry my friend had died..."
Eddy dropped down to sit on the coffee table, back still to the sofa where she sat. ”I didn’t want him to die... I wanted him to learn. But he wouldn’t learn... and he was endangering you,” he said, still not wanting her to see his eyes. ”So I wasn’t sorry -- I’m still not -- and I didn’t know how to say I was. All I wanted was to hold you and let you cry it out. But I didn’t know how... and he was there.”
"I don't understand." Her voice was something between a laugh and a whine. This was not at all how she'd expected this conversation to go. Somehow it had all become her fault. With a sigh she leaned forward until her forehead came to rest against his back. It was as close as she could come to banging her head against something. "And I'm sorry I needed you to be something you're not. But Eddy... nothing ever stops you from doing whatever you want. Why would you let Charlie stand in your way? He knows how important you are to me."
Eddy flinched when her forehead touched his skin, the warmth of her skin against his. ”It’s not about who I am or who I’m not... and it’s not your fault,” he added with a sigh. ”I just don’t know... things are just... complicated. And he makes it more complicated.”
He leaned back, straightening her up before turning around on the table. He reached out and took her by the shoulders, looking her in the eyes for about a half a second before his gaze dropped to just below hers. ”I want to be the man you need me to be... but... it’s just... not that easy,” Eddy confessed, frowning. He had a lot more to say, but he couldn’t let himself say it... it was better if he kept certain things to himself.
"I'm sick of that word," she told him, reaching up to wrap her hands around his wrists. At least she could hold onto him. "So you have to un-complicate it. Because I hate being mad at you and if you yell at me again I'm gonna fall apart. And we just... we can't be messed up or complicated and broken like this or nothing else in the world is right. So just... stop."
Eddy removed his hands from her shoulders and without thinking slid through her grip until her hands were in is. He let their hands, together, fall to the table. He forced himself to look her in the eyes. "I can't uncomplicated things," he said, his lips tightening. "Because as messed up and broken as this is... there are only two ways to 'uncomplicate' things. And both options would only make things worse."
She gave him a confused look without words. There were tears in her eyes, and he couldn't bear it... but he didn't know what to say. The truth would just destroy what they had. How could he make her understand without telling her the one thing that he knew would ruin everything... "I don't want to push you away... but the other option is worse. There are things I just can't say, because they would ruin...," he paused, glancing away from her again. "They'd ruin everything we've worked to build here... ruin our team, our friendship... ruin us."
Faith was trembling, shaking with a fear that had her clinging to his hands as if he might disappear on her at any second. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..." She didn't even know what it was. Whatever that horrible thing was that made pushing her away the only good choice. "I'll fix it. Just don't..." This couldn't be the start of distance between them. "I promise, I won't push anymore. Just don't make me leave. Please."
He gripped her hands and kept her eyes locked onto his. This was going way, way in the wrong direction. He was the one ruining things, not her. "It's nothing you can fix," he said, still frowning. "I don't even know that it needs fixing...," he added, trying to reassure her. "It's just something I have to learn to live with... seeing you with... him." He stopped, realizing what he'd said, and hoped he hadn't said too much... hoped she hadn't read the truth between the lines.
Instead of giving her too much time to think about it, he grabbed her and pulled her into his arms, her head resting on his chest and his hands gripping her to keep her from seeing his eyes. "I'm not going to push you away... I can't," he said, the scent of her hair forcing him to close his eyes and concentrate on every word. "You're the only good thing I have to hold on to." he hoped that those last few words might be enough to distract her from his previous statements... hoping she'd forget what he very nearly confessed.
He loosened his grip, giving her a way to escape the embrace. "You're my heart." he said, trying to make it sound 'brotherly' instead of letting it sound the way he really meant it.
Faith didn't let go. Arms wrapped around him, she hid her face against his chest long after the pressure of his hug had ended. "You scared me," she whispered. And that was putting it mildly. Terrified. Devastated. Those were far better words. As much as it had hurt to have him put her safety above her feelings, the thought of losing their... this... was far worse.
Perched precariously on the edge of the couch, she closed her eyes as she held onto him. She was dangerously close to falling into the tight space between couch and coffee table, but she was pretty sure he wasn't going to be dropping her anytime soon. That meant she finally could take a minute to think. She'd been so ready to yell at him, to force him to understand what she'd been going through, that she hadn't taken the time to consider his side.
But his side was complicated. He was...
She stiffened in his arms before she could force herself not to react. There were certain paths her thoughts were strictly forbidden to wander down. She was not going to think stupid things. But sitting here listening to his heartbeat, it was awfully hard not to. "Eddy..." She didn't even know what to say. Lifting her head just a little so she could look up at him, she bit her lip before asking, "We're going to be okay, aren't we?"
”No,” he answered, peeling her off of him and pushing her back onto the couch. He was so sick of this... sick of being the one who always did the right thing for what everybody else perceived to be the wrong reasons. He was sick to death of always being the ‘bad one’ that Momma Wolf had to reprimand. His “friends” didn’t know who the Hell he was anymore... they’d been gone too long to know anything, and they just wanted to pretend that time hadn’t passed and he hadn’t changed.
Well, screw them! Just because Mom and her girlfriend were back in town didn’t mean he was going to let them drag him back into old roles. He was done with that, and he wasn’t going to let that person he was get in the way of his relationship with Faith. He hadn’t always been honest with her, but he always trusted her... and they needed to deal with this before it got one of them killed. He needed this to be over for his own good, and his past be damned!
He’d never get over these damned ‘feelings’ to go away until he got them out... then maybe he could let go and she would be able to change her presence in his life enough to let him move on with it.
He looked her in the eyes, his face serious and straight. There was a mix of frustration and release in his eyes. ”We aren’t going to be okay, because we’re not okay... and we can’t be okay until you know the truth. And right now, I don’t care if that truth damns us, because I can’t keep lying to you. It’s killing me... and last night it damn well could’ve killed you.”
He stood up and walked to the other side of the table, imposing that small ‘something’ between them. She gave him a concerned look, her eyes welling, and he steeled himself against those tears. She opened her mouth to say something, but he raised a hand and stayed her voice. No... not this time.
”I can’t keep walking on eggshells around you, because it’s going to get me killed. It’s a constant distraction, and that doesn’t do either of us any good in the field.” He stopped and turned to face her again, letting the gap (and coffee table) between then steel his resolve. ”I wish I didn’t trust you so much out there... wish you weren’t so damned competent, because then I would have an excuse for being distracted... but I don’t. You don’t need me to babysit you anymore, and the truth is that I’m damned proud of the way you’ve grown... but I still catch myself paying more attention to you that to the people we’re trying to fight... and it’s gonna get me killed”
”Eddy...,” she said, leaning forward with a confused and hurt look, about to reach out for him. He took a step back and looked away from her, putting his hand out and snapping his fingers together in a ‘shushing’ motion.
”I’m not finished...,” he said abruptly and a bit more sharply than he’d intended. ”And if I don’t get this out now, we’re going to be right back where we started. So please do us both a favor and just listen.” He took a deep breath and turned back to her, but avoided her eyes. ”I can’t stop watching you... and then it ends and we tie up the bad guys and before you know it, I’m dropping you off and heading home.”
He took another breath. ”But I never go straight home... because I know where you are. You’re with him, even if you’re just crashing for the night, and it’s all I can think about while I drive off. So instead of doing the smart thing, I take my exhausted ass back out onto the street and fight. I take out my frustrations on whatever loser is stupid enough to cause trouble in my city because it’s easier than thinking about you laying next to another man... you getting back to your life and being free of me while I can’t be free of you and I can’t let myself find another life while I’m trapped in...,” he looked around the room and swung his arms wide, encompassing not just the room but their entire situation.
”...this!” He let out a harsh sigh, then turned and took a step to the side where he didn’t have to see her eyes. ”And I don’t even know what this is... it’s certainly not what I intended it to be... or even what I wanted it to be... but here we are.”
He turned his back on her completely, his back muscles tight and tense. ”I shouldn’t be here... shouldn’t have let this happen, but here I am and I don’t know how to stop...,” he added. ”But I know it’s wrong, and I know you don’t feel that same way that I do, and it’s just going to keep getting in the way and putting us both in danger, so you needed to know so we could decide what to do about it.”
He sighed again. ”I know it’s a shock, and I know this is probably the absolutely wrong time for this to all come out into the open, so please... if you can’t deal with this -- if you can’t deal with me being like this -- please just go now... because I can’t keep hiding it. And if it’s going to make you uncomfortable, if you can’t get past it, I need you to just leave so I can move on.”
”But if you can get past it... if you still want me for a partner and you are willing to put up with me while I get over yo... this... insanity... then I’m willing to try,” he said with another deep breath. ”You’ve made me a better person and a better ‘hero,’ so I’m not gonna push you away... but I can’t just let things keep going the way they are either.,” he said, finally... carefully examining the wall, his back still to the room and to her.
”You had to know.”
A heavy silence fell over the room as Faith sat there staring at his back. Speechless was not generally a word that could apply to her, but Eddy had managed to steal every coherent word, and thought, from her mind. She couldn't have expected this, not in her wildest dreams. This was exactly what she refused to let herself even think of thinking about. And now it was sitting in the room, filling the space between them, and leaving her staring in open-mouthed shock.
Her hands ached as she forced herself to let go of the arm of the couch. Of course she'd been holding on too tight; her world had just shifted. If he hadn't pushed her to sit down she probably would have been thrown out of the room.
Without a word she left the couch and came to stand behind him, surprised at how strangely calm she felt. Her fingers came to rest on his shoulder, brushing along his skin and down his arm until she could get a good grip on him. His muscles tightened beneath her touch. "That's the second time in the last two days that you've done the right thing in totally the wrong way."
Amazed that she wasn't trembling, Faith turned him around to face her. Her free hand gently found his cheek and she couldn't help but give a little smile at how thoroughly he'd convinced her that he would never in a million years feel anything more than brotherly affection for her. "You're so..." She couldn't find a gentle word. "Wrong. Because we are going to be okay. And I'm not leaving. And I do..."
He looked back at her, obviously confused. "...do? Do what?" he asked, honestly. He really had not yet caught up to speed on what was happening here. It wasn't going the way it should.
She forced an awkward smile for his benefit, though it didn't seem to fit her face. "I do feel the same way."
That took a few second to register. And even when it did register, it took a couple more to sink in. Eddy just looked at her for a moment, trying to figure things out. That was not supposed to be her reaction to the craziness he'd just unleashed. He didn't know what to say here... wasn't prepared for that response.
So, like a mute fool with no other recourse, he kissed her. It wasn't the kind of kiss that songwriters and romance authors write about... not at first, because his brain was having a hard time keeping up with his actions. But the two eventually synched, and the kiss became what it was meant to be.
At first, her hands fell against him as if to push him away or resist. But that didn't last for long... but the kiss did. He didn't break their embrace for what felt like forever in an instant, as if he feared that its end would mean the end of it all... that she'd come to her senses and run while she had the chance.
When he finally stopped, he continued to hold her, not sure what to do next. So he just looked her in the eyes and held her gaze... thinking about nothing and everything at once.
If she'd needed proof that he wasn't joking or toying with her in some way, she'd certainly gotten it. Breathless, she stared at him, her thumb coming up to touch her lower lip as if she could still feel his kiss. "I think that's three," she told him, sounding slightly dazed.
Her hand returned to its resting place on his chest, keeping him - no - keeping herself from doing it again. "Eddy... we... I..." Shaking her head to try to clear it, she pointed at the couch. "Just... come sit down with me. And no yelling."
Then, afraid he'd take the request as rejection or proof she was going to walk away or a sign that he hadn't just given her the most amazing kiss in the history of kisses, she took his hand and started over. "I've been yours since... well, a long time. But you know as well as I do that things are complicated." Despite everything, it was somewhat satisfying to use that word on him.
Eddy walked with her over to the couch and sat with her, turned towards her. ”I’m sorry for... well... I’m not sorry for the, y’know... but I am sorry it was...” he paused, sighing in frustration. ”I panicked, okay?” he said, unnecessarily defensive. Then he caught his tone and adjusted it. ”You’re just so... I’m an idiot.”
She shook her head as she started to answer him, but instead she just smiled slightly. He started again before she got the chance to speak. ”Look, I know it’s complicated... more complicated than I think you’re talking about... especially with the thi -- Charlie --,” he said, choking out the name with obvious distaste. ”But I... feel... the way I feel, and if you’re not running away from that, we have to figure out what we’re gonna do about it...,” he added, ”Because it’s eating me up inside and keeping me from thinking straight in the field.”
Eddy shrugged, his eyes drifting from hers subconsciously. ”And if you do feel the same way,” he said, not challenging her veracity but trying to reinforce the belief in it within his own, thick skull. ”Then I don’t know what to do... because I wasn’t really prepared for that....” He smirked slightly despite himself. She felt the same way.... ”My system doesn’t deal very well with ‘happy’.”
"You better get used to it." Realizing what she'd just said, Faith blushed and looked away from him looking away from her. It was the sort of thing she would have said to him before, but now... he was hers. Or he could be. Or would be. Or...
Her hand was on his arm, suddenly needing reassurance that he was real and she could touch him anytime she felt the urge. "We're going to figure this out," she told him with her usual confidence. "And it's going to work. Because I'd be a pretty bad partner if I didn't help you think straight in the field."
Despite the smirk that tugged at her lips, she was serious. The thought of him distracted or endangering himself in any way was not something she wanted to consider. "But it's not going to be easy. And not just because of Charlie." The smile faded from her face. "No matter what you think, he's... amazing. And he so didn't deserve me kissing you like that. That's why we're not doing that again until I've talked to him and sorted this thing out." She decided to leave out the part about really, really wanting to kiss him again as soon and as often as possible.
"But even then... Eddy, I'm your sister's husband's cousin. It's the same big, complicated family. We're in the public eye and you'll have to deal with that. Unless..." She paused and bit her lip. "You plan on keeping me a secret." Pushing ahead, she decided that she wasn't going to get upset over possible future complications... yet. "I mean, I could handle it if that's what you need. I keep secrets all the time. It would just be a little weird. But I could get used to it. I'm just afraid..."
She didn't want to finish the thought. He'd started this whole crazy conversation when all she'd been expecting was a nice little fight, to make him understand why she was upset so they could move on and everything would go back to normal. Except there was no normal anymore. "You've been dealing with this... thing..." There was no way she was going to be the first one to name it. As far as she knew, none of the normal relationship-ish words fit the situation anyway.
"Well I have too. Because right from the start I've been too young for you and too much like a sister and everything else. So while you were out beating guys up and being distracted in the field because of it, I was making sure I didn't even start thinking about it. I found a boyfriend, a really nice guy who adores me and who the rest of the team loves. Because nothing was ever going to happen between us. We were just partners. And it didn't matter that my boyfriend used to steal things because he's good. My parents love him. He takes me to the ballet and to charity functions. He watches out for me. And I do love him. It's just..."
She couldn't look at him, not when she was this close to tears again. "... he's not you."
Eddy slid off the couch to sit with his legs folded beneath him. He took her hands and looked up into her moist eyes. ”This is why I didn’t tell you... why I didn’t want you to know.” He lowered his eyes as he continued. ”I’ve spent my entire life screwing up my entire life....”
”Eddy,” she said, abruptly, placing her fingers to his lips. But before she could continue, he gently removed her hand from his mouth and lowered it back into her lap, his eyes once more locking on hers.
”No,” he said, smiling slightly. ”Let me finish... this is going somewhere.” She nodded slightly, her eyes a little more wet than when he’d seen them a moment before. ”I’ve been bad for myself... and for everyone I’ve ever tried to have any kind of real relationship with... Lexi, Viv, Jen... heck, even my own sister. And the thought of spoiling you somehow... it terrifies me.”
”But I’m not that man anymore, no matter how much I’m still haunted by him,” he continued. ”Aaron and Roo don’t see it. They don’t want to admit that their time away changed them, and because of that, they can’t accept that I’ve changed... ands it’s been bringing the ‘old me’ to the surface more and more often lately.”
He shook his head, lowering his head for just a second and raising it as he continued to speak. ”But he’s not me... not anymore. You told me once that you thought Sil had been good for me, but you were wrong. It wasn’t her... it was you. I needed her because I needed a bridge to pull me out of what happened with Viv, but it wasn’t until I met you that I realized I was free of that.”
”From the first time I met you -- the first time I really met you, it was you I tried to convince myself otherwise... tried to be Batman to your Robin or ‘Eddy’ to your ‘Anna’... but that’s not what it really was. Because it wasn’t some empathic power that broke me free from that rage that had been poured into my soul that day... it was your eyes... the sound of your voice.”
He squeezed her hands. ”But I can’t hide it any more. I lo..., he paused, catching the word in his throat. ”...look at you and I see me differently, because I see the man I want to be for you. The man I can be because you believe in me.”
He took a deep breath, his face going from serious to grave. ”But this isn’t fair to lay on you... to drop on you out of nowhere. You’re right... you moved on. And I can’t ask you to turn your back on a good guy just because I’ve finally pushed myself beyond my own cowardice. So I won’t,” he said, frowning.
”I can’t say ‘dump him for me’... because it’s not fair. But,” he continued, bringing his speech to its conclusion, ”you are going away for a couple of days... with him... and I’ll be here... so we’ll both have time to think. To adjust... and I will learn to live with whatever decision you make... for you. Because you -- your welfare and your happiness -- are all that matters to me.”
It was quite possibly the most perfect 'I have feelings for you' speech she'd ever heard... not that she'd heard all that many in her life. And the fact that it had come from Eddy made it even better.
It was also officially more than she could take emotionally.
Without a word she threw herself into his arms, wrapping her own arms around his neck and holding on for all she was worth as she cried on his shoulder. Her friend was dead. She was about to break Charlie's heart. And, somehow, amazingly, she'd had Eddy's heart all this time. And right now, he was holding her... letting her melt into his arms.
As her tears rolled across his skin the storm of emotion began to subside. This was exactly what she needed. Not a fight or even an apology for locking her up without talking to her. Just the most important person in her world holding her while she cried.
After several deep shaky breaths and a half hearted attempt to wipe her eyes, she began to calm down. She also became aware of the fact that she was practically sitting on his lap and that he was still very shirtless. "You know, it's awfully hard to cry properly when you're being so distracting," she chuckled shyly, running her fingers across his collarbone.
And for the first time in days, Eddy’s lips curved into a genuine smile. Even now, at this confusing and emotional time, she could make him smile. He wanted to kiss her again, but this time it would be deliberate... intentional, and as much as he wanted it, he couldn’t. Not yet. He knew Faith, and he knew that, with her seeing the thief so soon after, a premeditated kiss would make her feel incredibly guilty.
Hell, she’d already feel guilty enough over the first kiss... so that one would have to do. It would have to last until they could truly be together. So instead, he settled for gathering her into his arms and squeezing her... perhaps a bit too tightly, leaving a small brush of his lips across her cheek as he released her back onto the sofa. ”And for the record... I meant what I said. I’m done hiding. If you decide that we are going to do this, we aren’t going to keep it from anybody except the bad guys.’
”Sylph and Kardiac,” he continued, ”will just be partners in the eyes of the public and the underworld, but the team will know the truth... and ‘Eddy, the undeserving ne’er-do-well artist from the Wells’ will be on the arm of Garrison City ‘princess and celebritantte, Faith Kavanaugh’... for good or ill.” He looked her in the eyes, and a thin smile crept back to his lips.
”If you want me... I want to world to know,” he said, his smile widening mischievously as he continued. ”Because, Hell... nobody would believe me otherwise.”
Though her cheeks were still wet, her smile grew to match his. "You know all those times you managed to get out of dressing up with me? Well those days are over, mister." She reached out to touch his face then blushed. This was bizarre new territory that she couldn't wait to explore... after she took care of everything else.
"I really did mean to talk about yesterday. But we kinda got off topic." She grinned at him again. "And I still can't decide if I want to send you upstairs for a shirt or not. But before I let you go anywhere and especially before I leave to go check in on my parents and take some alone time to think, I have to make sure..."
Running her hands through her flaming hair, Faith relaxed into a comfortable not-touching-him position on the couch and gave a sigh. "You just told me that you've been all distracted and not able to focus in the field and we both know I'm going out of town soon so how am I supposed to not worry about you now that I know what you've been doing to yourself?"
”You worried about me before you knew how I felt,” he said, smiling. ”And I worried about you before I knew how you felt.” He brushed her hair behind her ear. ”We should just accept that we are always going to worry about each other... it’s just who we are and what we are to each other.”
”It is impossible to be this connected without certain side effects,” he added, his hand brushing her cheek on its way back to his side. ”But I can put aside the worry... if you can.”
She nodded, a little smirk tugging at the corners of her lips. "Of course I can. I worry about you every time I'm not around to watch over you. This is nothing new." Watching him for a minute, Faith let herself see him in this new light...the way he smiled at her, the gentleness in his touch. It was a big complicated mess, but it was wonderful.
And it was all still a little hard to believe. So she gave him a teasing smile and changed the subject. "I still can't decide if I want to press my luck and try for an apology or not."
Eddy sighed dramatically. ”Fine,” he said, rising back to his feet. ”I’m sorry,” he continued. ”...that you think I need to apologize for trying to keep you safe.”
She rolled her eyes and laughed at him. Rising from the sofa, she turned towards the door. ”You’re impossible!” she replied, shaking her head.
Eddy reached out and grabbed her wrist, spinning her around and into a loose embrace. His eyes fell to hers, his lips impossibly close. ”Not anymore,” he said, smiling with just the corners of his lips. He was there, holding her... he was hers... and all she needed to do was reach out. ”I’m very possible.”
She wanted to kiss him, but she couldn’t... not again. Not yet. So she gently twisted out of the embrace and took his hand, her eyes going back to his. ”I have... I have a lot to do. More than I realized,” she added, the last part a little softer than the rest. She led him down to the front door.
”I know,” he said, and that was all. Eddy let go of her hand and watched her leave, knowing this time that she would be back... and for more than just work. As the door closed, he looked at it one last time. ”I’ll be here.”