Chris sat across from Rita at lunch as tension began to fill the air. She looked at him now questioningly waiting for his response.
“What? All of a sudden you have a problem with being a cop? Just a cop. Could you hear you there?”
Rita was astonished. She couldn’t believe what she had just heard leave his mouth. Chris had only been going out with this woman for a few months and she had him second-guessing his line of work. Rita was still trying to decide whether or not she felt angry or hurt. At that point she guessed it was both. After all their lives depended on each other out there. They both loved what they did, and now he’s almost ashamed of what he does. It was demeaning not just to him but also to her.
“I didn’t say that.”
Chris exclaimed defensively sensing the hostility brewing within his partner. Rita’s eyes shifted from his gaze as she played with what was left of her sandwich, till she wrapped it back up in its bag to throw away. Her appetite was lost. She tried to calm herself down, telling herself to breathe every now and then. It really bothered her to hear him talk down their profession.
Chris began. Rita could hear the soothing tone on his voice. She knew that he was still trying to explain himself, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear any more. When Rita refused to answer Chris repeated him self,
Rita bit back. Chris threw his head to the side as if to say, ‘what was that?’ Rita gave him a small apologetic glance.
“Talk to me Sam.”
Rita let out a huge sigh.
"It bothers me that you’re questioning what you’re doing. You love being a cop. Well at least I thought you did. I never thought I’d see the day you’d actually say what you did. It was almost as though you’re ashamed of what we do, like it’s not good enough of something.”
Rita’s voice trailed off. Chris could hear the disappointment and hurt on his partner's voice.
“All I said was…”
Chris began trying to justify what he said, but Rita cut him off. Now that she had started, she wanted to finish.
“It was how you said it Chris. The fact that you actually said it bothers me the most.”
“I’m sorry Sam.”
Chris apologised. He knew at that point there was nothing he could say that could make it right. He also realised that he had hurt her feelings by talking the way he had. He knew what the job meant to her, more than anything he knew how important their friendship was to her, as important as it was to him, Rita looked at him and gave him, a small nod, ‘So am I’ she thought to herself. As Chris watched his partner he knew that she would stew over it a little bit more.
After thy returned from lunch Harry Lipshitz noticed the difference between this two detectives. The undeniable tension that seemed to have evolved in their lunch break, had not yet broken.
“You got plans tonight Sam?”
Chris asked trying to keep an open communication between him and his partner. Although she had agreed to drop it he knew that she was toiling in her thoughts. Rita glanced up from the paperwork she was sifting through and met his gaze. She felt bad for being so hard on him but she couldn’t help it. It hurt that he could let a woman demean him that way, and in some indirect way he was demeaning her too.
“Actually I do. Eric is coming over.”
Before Rita could say any more she saw Chris bow his head down trying to hide the frown that began to form, Chris shook his head, he couldn’t believe she still that creep be a part of her life after everything that’s happened. He was an alcoholic, he was abusive, what exactly was drawing her towards him, he thought. As if to interpret his silence, Rita broke it.
“Spit it out Chris…”
Rita challenged. There was an edge to her voice as she countered him to speak his mind. It was as though she was looking for a fight. In spite of himself Chris took the challenge,
“He must have some pretty smooth moves to keep you coming back”
As the words came out Chris wanted to kick himself. He knew he had crossed the line. Rita’s face turned white with anger as her eyes blazed.
Without another word Rita rose from her chair and gathered her things. She passed the Captain’s office and bid him goodnight and headed out leaving behind a shocked and regretful partner.
Rita drove home angry and frustrated. She knew that she was responsible for letting it get as far as it did, but that didn’t change the fact that he crossed the line. Though she knew that Chris was only concerned for her welfare, she was still angry with him. If he’d given her half a chance, she would have told him that the sole purpose of dinner was to break up with Eric the right way.
Chris contemplated driving pass Rita's apartment on his way to pick up Jillian at the hospital. He wanted to straighten things out between them. To apologize for what he said. He was still kicking himself about it. He wished he hadn't taken her challenge and just let her be. He was about to turn to her street when Jillian called his cell phone advising him that she was off duty and was ready to be picked up. Chris hesitated; desperate to talk to his Best Friend but thought against it in the end knowing that they could use the time so both of them could calm down. Mainly for Rita to calm down.
Eric was at Rita's door by seven. Rita noted that he was sober, which was a first in weeks. Eric had hoped that dinner meant another chance and he was willing to give it a shot. Though for Rita she couldn't invest her emotions on some hope that he would straighten up. Experience told her that he never would, until he's ready to and she wasn't willing to wait eternity waiting for something that might never happen, to happen. Halfway through dinner Rita cleared her throat; she was trying to find the right moment but realized such a moment never existed so she decided to bite the bullet.
"Eric, I don't think we should keep dating. You have needs I can't meet, and I'm sorry, I'm not willing to meet. You have things to sort out in your life and to be honest so do I. It's not just you, it's me too. Sorting things out just isn't something we can do together. I'm sorry."
Eric was subdued as he listened to Rita reason with him as best as she could. Rita was grateful that he was sober. After dinner Eric excused himself to leave. As Rita walked him to the door, Eric stopped and turned around. For a moment he stared, then pulled her towards him. Taken aback Rita hesitatingly hugged him back.
"I'm so sorry for everything Rita."
"Hey, it's okay. Some things are just not meant to be. You take care of yourself okay?" Eric nodded. Rita closed the door behind him and sighed with relief. She somehow imagined the worst, but thankful it wasn't relived.
Just after midnight Rita was awoken by the banging on her door, grumbling she got up to see who it was. Surprised to see Eric on the other side of the door, Rita let out a deep breath. He was drunk. He was staggering and could barely keep himself up.
She said opening the door. Before she could do or say anything more he began to fall forward. Rita caught him in her arms and tried to hold him up.
"You...can't....say...it's OVER. I can't be."
Rita sat him down on the couch as he continued to slur the same words over and over again.
"Just shut up and sit there Eric, I'll get you a cab."
Rita grabbed the phone and called for a cab, while Eric called out every profane word ever invented. Rita shuddered at his words. When the cab arrived, Rita helped Eric get up using a soothing voice, praying it would help her get him into the cab safely.
"Come on, let's go. Let's get you home."
"You lied to me. You said you loved me..."
"No Eric, I never lied..."
Eric began to fall backwards forcing Rita to wrap her arms around from behind him. Drunk and bitter Eric broke free from her grasp. His full force sent Rita flying back and landing on her wooden table with a loud thump. Clutching an eye that came in contact with his elbow, she got up and rubbed where she had landed. Being more careful she eased Eric out of her apartment and into the cab.
Eric said apologetically, realizing what he had done. Rita gave him a small smile. She wasn't angry with him, she just felt sorry for him.
"It's okay. You'll be okay. Get some sleep."
Rita gave the driver instructions and money to get Eric safely into his apartment. After finally waving him off Rita walked slowly back to her apartment. Where she had landed was starting to swell and throb badly. She winced as she made her way in to the apartment. Painfully she bent down and tried to clean up the mess made. She knew that without a doubt she was going to get a shiner from the impact of Eric's elbow. Rita examined herself in the shower the following morning. She ran her hands gingerly around her ribs where she had landed. It hurt so badly, that she could barely breathe. She was tempted to take the day off, but that would mean Chris would come over and insist she was okay. For the meantime she wanted to put the incident behind her. With any luck she could cover the shiner with makeup and sunglasses. Hiding the pain on the other hand was another story. Rita made sure she would arrive at the precinct before Chris. It was so hard getting around that as soon as he saw her he'd know. But after twenty minutes she knew she couldn't do it. She knocked on Harry's door.
Harry Lipshitz glanced up and saw his detective look a little out of the weather.
"You okay Lance?"
He asked concerned. Rita gave him a small smile as she tried to keep still, to prevent her body from convulsing into its throbbing pain.
"Actually Cap I think I'm coming down with something. If you don't mind I think I'll go home."
Without hesitation Captain Lipshitz shooed his detective out of his office.
"Go, I don't want you spreading anything. Go!"
Rita broke into a grin as her hypochondriac of a Captain began to hold his breath in fear that she would breathe contaminated air on him. Just as she was on her way out she ran into Chris. Literally!
"Hey! Where you going in such a hurry?"
Chris asked hoping that the truce flag was up. Rita looked down hoping he couldn't see the black eye that lurked behind her sunglasses. Rita's ribs ached from the impact of running into Chris. Chris misinterpreted her anxiousness to get out of there as residual anger from the day before.
"You still mad at me Sam?"
Rita glanced up and tilted her head to prevent him from spotting the black eye.
"No, not really. It's okay. Really, listen I have to go, I don't feel so good so I'm going home. I'll talk to you later."
Before Chris could protest Rita gave his arm a gentle squeeze before walking away. Chris watched her confused. He observed how slowly she walked, her head down. He was about to run back up to her when the Captain called him in. Rita was on her way out of the precinct. Her gaze remained downwards as she walked. The glare of the sun affected her vision. Once again she came into collision with someone. This time hard enough for Rita to cry out in pain.
"I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"
As Rita heard the voice she knew who it was. Rita cursed herself for crying out in pain as she did.
"Hey Jillian, sorry about that. I wasn't looking where I was going."
Jillian realized it was Rita and flashed her a smile. Rita was the ever famous, 'Sam' Chris' Best Friend. Jillian was beginning to realize how big of a part Rita was in Chris' life and as much as she may not like it, she had no choice but to put up with it.
"Hey are you okay?"
She asked noticing Rita clutching her side, wincing with pain. Rita tried to compose herself as best as she could and smile.
"Yeah, I'm okay. Listen, I better go. You take care."
Rushing out of there, Rita didn't wait for an answer. Jillian walked through the department doors just as Chris was coming out of Harry's office.
"Hey baby. What are you doing here?"
Chris asked surprised.
"I wanted to make an advanced booking for lunch today."
She answered with a smile. Chris leaned over and gave her a small hug.
"Is that right?"
Jillian giggled and pulled away.
"Hey Chris, is Rita okay?"
Jillian asked, she was curious to know who she got the shiner from. She was more concerned about the gossip than about Rita.
"Yeah, I think she's coming down with something. Why?" Chris replied a little surprised that Jillian was concerned, she was hardly Rita's friend.
"Well when I bumped into her by accident she almost screamed. I was wondering if she was okay, that shiner was huge."
Chris looked up surprised. He realized why Rita had her head down while talking to him. It wasn't because she was still mad, it was because she didn't want him to see the black eye. It was all starting to make sense.
"Hey, can we take a rain check with lunch. There's something I have to do and I'm not sure if I'll get it down in time for lunch."
Jillian was about to pout in protest but she knew it would be no use. She relented after making him promise he would make it up to her. After she left Chris walked into the Captain's office.
"Hey Cap, can we talk?"
Harry looked up and nodded.
"What's up kid?"
Chris sat down in front of the Captain.
"When Rita came in to see you did you notice anything different?"
"You mean the shiner."
Harry answered. He noticed it when Rita grabbed her bag from the floor and the glasses slid off. He considered talking to her about it, but realized it would probably just embarrass her so he let it go, knowing if she needed to talk, she would.
"I didn't even see it. Jillian was the one that told me. Cap, she and Eric were supposed to have dinner last night."
"You think he would?"
Harry asked in concern.
"Cap, you mind if I go there now and see what's going on?"
Harry shook his head. He knew if Chris didn't go he would be useless around the precinct anyway, as he always is without his partner. Rita got changed back into her Pajamas and made herself comfortable on her couch. She was drifting off to sleep when someone knocked on her door. Annoyed she got up to answer the door. She wasn't surprised to see Chris. Though she was surprised to see him that early. Rita let her hair fall on the side of her face as she answered the door.
Chris watched her carefully walk back to the couch.
"When exactly were you going to tell me?"
He asked. Rita could her the anger on his voice. He hated it when she didn't tell him what was going on. Especially if something happened to her. Rita looked up, and Chris was taken aback by the shiner on her left eye. Without the makeup and glasses it was hard to miss. Chris rushed over and took her in his arms. His touch comforted Rita at the same time inflicting serious pain. Chris heard her groan. He pulled away and looked down remembering what Jillian had said. Without asking for permission or consent he lifted her sweatshirt from behind. Rita didn't protest, she heard him gasp. She saw the fury in his eyes.
Rita placed a hand on hid chest.
"No Chris, it's over. He was drunk, but I ended it last night. It's okay. I'm okay, really."
Chris pulled her into his arms again, careful not to squeeze her too hard. He was so scared. The idea of anyone laying a hand on her made him furious. Rita leaned against him feeling comforted for the first time since the night before.
"Why didn't you call me?"
Rita shrugged her shoulders.
"It was late...I didn't want to worry you. That's also the reason why I didn't tell you this morning. I thought if I rested today I'd be okay and no one would have to have known anything."
"You didn't really think you could get away with all that did you. Between the Lip and me?"
Rita laughed, she realized that she wouldn't have, she didn't.
"Have you been checked out by a Doctor?"
Chris inquired knowing full well that she wouldn't have gotten herself checked out. Rita tried to smile herself out of it,
"That won't work Partner. Get dressed. I'm taking you to the emergency room now. And don't but Chris me either...it wont work. Now go Lance. Go!"
Rita grumbled as she painfully made her way up to her room to get changed. They arrived at the emergency room an hour later.
"Sam, I told you I'm okay. We don't need to be here."
Rita said trying to assure him that she was fine. Sore but fine. Chris smiled at her and ignored her comments. Just before Rita could come up with a response the emergency doors flew open. On a gurney lay man as paramedics worked on him extensively. Chris and Rita stood back as they rolled him in. Rita gasped to see the man who lay before them...Eric.
"Thirty two year old man found unconscious in his home..."
The words that followed seemed a blur after that. Chris caught Rita just as she was about to fall down.
Guilt filled her as she watched them take him into an operating room. Rita shook in Chris' arms, as he tried to whisper words of comfort into her ear, but it fell on deaf ears. She couldn't hear anything except her own conscience, telling her she should have made sure he was okay. After Rita was examined she insisted on staying. Chris wouldn't leave her for a moment, every time he moved he sensed Rita's need to keep him near. His arms remained around her till the doctor came out of the operating room Eric entered. Chris informed the Doctor what they were and their connection to the patient.
"I'm sorry Ma'am, we did all we could. But he arrested, and it was too late."
Rita could feel her knees begin to shake once more. She wanted to be strong and be okay, but she knew her defenses were fast diminishing. It was all too much. Chris pulled her into his arms immediately and offered his comfort. Rita stood there in his arms, her own arms by her side. As much as she wanted to return his hug, to accept his comfort she couldn't. She wriggled and broke free.
"I, I have to go."
Without waiting for a response she ran out of the emergency room and hailed a cab. Chris ran after her only to find that she was already inside the cab.
Rita went straight home and threw herself on her bed. She lay there staring at the wall, trying so hard not to think, but her mind was running, thoughts were circling.
Chris stood outside her apartment for awhile, knowing she needed time to herself. He informed the Cap what was going on and made a promise to make sure she was okay.
The next day Rita showed up to work as though nothing happened. Chris eventually knocked on her door the previous night, and after direct instruction to leave her alone, he granted her wish. Chris watched her walk in with her bravado, trying to convince the world that she was untouchable, but he knew her better than that. She couldn't hide from him. He got up from his chair and came over to her. As he reached over and gave her a hug, he felt her whole body become rigid in his touch. As if nothing happened Rita stepped out of his embrace and walked towards their desk.
Days passed and no one could get through to Rita. She remained closed off and unapproachable. She was polite and courteous to anyone in her path but nothing more. As though she closed herself off from the rest of the world. It killed Chris to see her in such a way. She closed herself off even to him. Though he had seen her like this, he had never seen her this bad. Rita refused to attend Eric's funeral. Chris sat outside her apartment hoping that she would open up to him. Harry came over after the funeral, though he didn't really like Eric, he wanted to pay his respects, for all of them. Harry found Chris at Rita's doorstep, together they knocked on her door.
Rita answered the door, and looked at them questioningly. As though it was such a surprise too see them. As she gave them a small smile, her eyes were blank. Chris searched her eyes hoping to see e glimpse of his best friend, but he could no longer see through to her soul. His best friend had closed the door, even to him.
Harry's heart began to break as he watched one of his detectives, a young woman that had become like a daughter to him self destruct in such a way. Wanting to end it at all cost he began.
"You can't do this to yourself Rita. It wasn't your fault that he died. He was the one who chose to drink as much as he did."
Rita looked up from where she stood. Her eyes flashed with anger. Nobody could understand.
"Don't you think I know that?"
She said raising her voice.
"But it is my fault. If I hadn't broken up with him he wouldn't have... If I took him home instead of grabbing him a cab, I could've gotten him to the hospital and he wouldn't have died."
Chris walked towards her and held her by both shoulders. Rita refused to meet his gaze as he pleaded with her,
"No Sam. It wasn't your fault. Eric died because he was an alcoholic."
Rita fought to break free from Chris' grasp.
"That's my fault too. I made him drink. I'm the reason he drank that night."
Harry cried out sadly, he wanted to just take her into his arms and hold her but she kept moving away as anyone walked towards her.
Chris walked took a huge step and caught her in his arms. Rita wriggled and tried to break free. She banged her fists against his chest as she tried to free herself from his arms, but Chris arms just kept tightening around her till she was too tired from fighting and sunk to the floor, in his arms.
"It's all my fault. It is."
Tears began to run down Chris cheeks as Rita rocked herself repeating those words over and over again as she began to cry uncontrollably. Harry watched Chris hold Rita in his arms placing a kiss on top of her head repeatedly while whispering words of comfort in her ear. After a few minutes he let himself out of Rita's apartment and drove home, saying a silent prayer for his detective.
Rita fell asleep in Chris arms on her floor. Chris gathered her in his arms and took her up to her bed. He tucked her in and kissed her forehead. He was about to leave the room when Rita awoke.
"Please don't go."
It was so quiet that he almost didn't hear. Without a second thought Chris took his jacket off and lay next her. He wrapped his strong arms around her as she snuggled against him. Her head lay on his arm, while her fingers were entwined with his other hand close to her face. Chris' head rested just behind hers, it felt good to be able to comfort her.
"Thank you, for always being there."
Rita whispered bringing his hands to her lips. Chris moved closer and tightened his arms around her.
"Any time Sammy."
Under direct orders from the captain himself Chris and Rita had the rest of the week off. From that night onwards, Chris and Rita didn't leave each other side. The only one who could contact them was Harry. They hardly spoke. It was more the physical presence that helped Rita begin to open up again. Slowly, yet surely.
After a few weeks, Rita had begun to heal. With Chris she visited Eric's grave and faced her demons. She knew it wasn't her fault Eric died, she always had. Yet it was so hard to accept that. She was the old Rita again, but not exactly.
"You got plans tonight Partner?"
Chris looked up at his partner regretfully. He did, with Jillian. She had been insisting on quality time, since the last few weeks were devoted to Rita.
"Yeah Sammy, Jillian and I have dinner plans."
Rita gave her best smile, covering up any misgivings she had about Chris' girlfriend. She promised herself she would give Jillian a chance. For Chris' sake alone.
"That's great Sam. It's been awhile, sorry about that."
Rita hated herself for apologizing, after all he was her best friend. The prior ownership was taking over again. Rita cursed herself for heading towards that direction again. Chris looked up and flashed her his famous smile.
"Don't Sam. You're my best friend. I wouldn't have been anywhere else."
"Careful Sam, I might begin to think you're trying to sneak up on my good side."
Rita grinned as she planted a kiss on his cheek before heading out. She heard Chris scream out after her.
"Am I there?"
Rita continued to laugh and chuckle as she drove home. She and Chris had been through a lot the last couple of months. She knew that their friendship was strengthened. It felt good to have him around.
"What do you mean we Jillian?"
He asked astonished that she had planned their whole life without even asking him for his input.
"Boston is a great opportunity for you. My work is here."
"Come on Chris you can be a cop anywhere."
The words slipped out before she could control herself. Chris looked up and for the first time he saw what Rita had pointed out. Jillian looked down on him and what he did. What was worse was that she had him thinking that she was better than him without knowing it. Chris rose from where he sat.
"Chris, please. Let's talk about this. I love you."
"I love you too, I just need to think okay."
He left her at the restaurant and drove to the beach to think. He loved Jillian, but now that she could plainly see what Rita had seen from the very beginning, he was bothered. After an hour he found himself knocking of his partners door.
Half asleep watching 'An Affair to Remember' Rita was startled to hear soft knocks on her door. She got up from where she lay on the couch and answered the door. Chris grinned at her attire Sweat pants, an over sized jersey she had long since inherited from him, socks scrunched down to her ankles, topped of with her hair in a pony tail.
"Modeling for cosmopolitan again huh Sam?"
He teased leaning over and hugged her hello. She returned his hug and playfully elbowed him in the stomach. She shoved him towards the couch, flopping back down on it. They sat there in silence as the movie continued to play. Silence was something they were used to, especially the last months. Rita could sense that there was something on his mind, and she was just waiting for him to begin.
Chris said finally breaking the silence. Rita looked up from the TV and saw the seriousness in his eyes. It scared her. Rita turned the TV off and shifted to face him.
"Jillian got promoted and she wants us to move to Boston."
Rita tried to keep her composure as she sat there. After a moment she started talking.
"The question is Sam, do you want to go with her?"
Chris shrugged his shoulder, he didn't know. He didn't want to leave Palm Beach, his job. Most of all he didn't want to leave his partner. Then again, he did love Jillian. She's the longest relationship he's ever had.
"That's not an answer Sam. Do you love her?"
Chris nodded. Rita sighed. As much as she didn't want him to go or say the following words, she wanted to be supportive. She wanted him to choose knowing that she was with him all the way.
"Then why not? There's always another precinct out there that could use your talent. You know before you get to old that is."
She added lightly, hoping to break the sudden seriousness of the conversation. Chris didn't even take the bait.
"I don't want to leave you."
"I wouldn't want to leave you either but, this is your future we're talking about Chris. You and I will always be friends, where are you going to find another Jillian. She loves you an awful lot Christopher. She survived the last months with you constantly at my beck and call. Any other girl would have dumped you long ago."
Chris broke into a smile in spite of himself.
"When you call me Christopher like that I feel like I'm twelve again and I'm in trouble off Grandma Rose."
Rita chuckled and ruffled his hair affectionately.
"Have a good think about it Sam. Whatever you decide. I'll back you up."
Chris moved closer and pulled her into a hug. Rita leaned against him and turned the TV back on.
The subject of Boston was never raised after that night till a week later. Chris sat across Rita on their joint desks. As he watched her he wondered how he was going to say what say what he had to say. Chris kept glancing at her as though looking for some form of sign for the right time for an opening. Rita could feel his stares, she knew he had something to say and was just waiting for him to begin. She waited a few more minute before meeting his gaze and locked on.
“You want to talk Sam?”
She offered, as Chris smiled at her appreciatively, thankful that she had broken the silence.
“Yeah come on Sam. Let’s go to lunch.”
Rita got up without protest and walked beside him in silence.
“What’s up Sam?”
Rita asked. She could feel the hair on the back of her neck begin to rise.
“I’ve made a decision about Boston. Uh, Sam. I think I , I mean, I will go. I owe my relationship with Jillian a chance. “
The words hit Rita like a slap on the face. She couldn’t believe he was going to go. Before Chris could see the look of hurt and betrayal she felt. Rita leaned over and hugged him.
“That’s great Sam. I hope it works out for you.”
She whispered in his ear. Chris returned the hug fiercely hoping against hope that he had made the right decision. Rita closed her eyes holding back the tears of disappointment and sense of loss.
“Hey Partner, you got plans tonight?”
Chris asked in a a hopeful tone, wanting to spend time with his best friend.
“Yeah sorry Sam.”
Rita replied lying. She didn’t have plans, but at the same time she needed to be alone with her thoughts. To get used to the idea. To get used to his absence.
He teased hiding the disappointment that filled him.
“I guess one could call it that.” Chris watched his partner leave sensing a change between them. Rita let out a huge sigh as she drove home and thought about everything. Taking a detour she found herself on the beach. Their favourite hang out. It was their place. How was she supposed to put her best friend on a plane and wave him goodbye with a smile on her face? She was going to be alone, again. Lost in her agonising thoughts she failed to hear Chris’ arrival. He had spotted her sitting against their favourite rock yards away.
Rita’s eyes flew open as she turned and glanced up at him.
“Hey what are you doing here at this hour?”
She asked realising how late it was as she looked at her watch. She had been sitting there for hours, thinking.
“One could ask you the very same question. I went by your apartment to see if you were home already and when you weren’t I came down here to think and pass time...”
Recognising her outfit he paused.
“You’ve been here since you left the shop huh?”
He said accusingly. Rita nodded. Chris flopped himself down next to her.
“The jeep steered its way over here. Who was I to argue?”
“Sam, you okay about Boston?”
Rita shrugged at the question, what could she possibly say at that point?
“Yeah I guess. I mean I’ll miss you and all, but I think you’re doing the right thing by following your heart.”
As Chris listened to her answer he found himself almost disappointed that she wasn’t putting up a fight.
“Have you told Cap?”
Rita questioned. She could almost imagine Hurricane Lipshitz in the midst. The captain was protective of his officers, even more so of Chris and Rita who had become his own children. The captain saw through Jillian almost immediately as Rita did. The difference was he verbally expressed his disapproval whenever an opportunity arose. Chris shook his head.
“I was hoping you’d come with me tomorrow morning Sam. Please.”
Rita groaned. She wasn’t up for the storm but she couldn’t refuse.
As predicted Harry Lipshitz erupted like a volcano. He paced his office waving his hands up in the air. Chris watched helplessly while Rita tried to come up with a way to calm both of them down. Chris began to crumble at the Captain’s evident disapproval. Harry’s opinion meant a lot to Chris. He looked up to him as a father and it devastated him to see him so mad at him.
“Cap, Chris owes it to his relationship to Jillian to give this a shot..”
Rita interrupted intervening for Chris who sat there with his head hung low. Chris glanced up and threw her an appreciative smile. Harry caught Rita’s eye pleading look as she spoke. Relenting he shrugged his shoulders, and threw his hands up in the air in defeat.
Chris exited his office without a word, his head remained focused to the ground as he made his way back to their desks. Instead of following him Rita closed the door behind him. Harry looked up at her in disbelief. He couldn’t believe she was for it.
“Don’t tell me that you’re all for this Lance?”
Harry barked. He hated to take it out on Rita but she was the one who was standing in front of him. Rita sat down on the seat facing him exhausted. She looked at him in the eye,
Harry nodded in acknowledgment.
“Of course not. I don’t want him to go, but we can’t guilt trip him into staying Cap. That’s not fair. Besides I don’t want him to stay here and be miserable. If things don’t work out, he knows he can always come back. He knows things are bound to change after he leaves but he’s willing to take that risk and I think we should let him. He’s a grown man Cap. We have to respect what he believes is best for him.”
Harry grumbled knowing that she was right. He didn’t agree with it, but it was right. Rita smiled at her frustrated Captain. He asked her to call Chris in. Rita rose form her chair gave his hand a gentle squeeze.
Rita motioned for Chris to come back in and shut the door behind her as she left them alone to talk. Emotionally drained Rita grabbed her belongings and headed out without a word. She knew Harry still had a few things to say, and she wasn’t willing to wait. Rita could feel herself keep Chris at arms length, though it wasn’t visible she could feel it within her.
“You sure about this Lorenzo?”
Harry asked sternly. Chris nodded in response. Still treading lightly, not wanting to set him off again.
“Fine, you have my blessing. Go and I truly hope you’re happy.”
Chris looked for sarcastic undertones and found none. He realised that he did have Harry’s blessing. Chris broke into an appreciative smile.
“Don’t thank me Lorenzo. Thank your partner. Because if it wasn’t for her we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Chris nodded. He understood. He bid the Captain farewell and left his office. Chris was surprised that Rita had left without saying goodbye. Assuming she was tired he thought nothing of it and headed over to her place. Rita inwardly groaned when she heard knocking on her door. She knew it was Chris. Sighing she yelled from her room where she was comfortably situated on her bed under her blankets in front of the TV.
“Use your keys Chris.”
Chris dug the keys out of his pocket and let himself in. He found her comfortably snug on her bed. He smiled and dove towards her.
Rita screamed as he landed just beside her. Chris wrapped his arms around her in a hug.
“Thanks Sam. You know for talking to the Lip.”
“Nothing to it. You would have done the same for me.”
She answered brushing it off. She wasn’t exactly proud of sensible self. She wanted to add to Harry’s comments, not discourage them, but she couldn’t do it to Chris. His happiness meant a lot to her. As much as she was going to miss him, she had to let him go.
Jillian moved to Boston immediately while Chris was to stay for a few more weeks to tie off last minute lose ends. A week before Chris was scheduled to move Jillian insisted he fly up for her birthday. In the back of Rita and Harry's mind they hoped it would be his trial weekend that determined his permanence in Boston. The night before Chris was to leave he and Rita went for a walk on the beach.
"You know Sam, this time in a couple of weeks we'll be saying goodbye for real?"
Rita brought up quietly. Regret lingered in her voice. Chris nodded silently. He had been thinking of the same thing since they left the cop shop. It was so surreal. It was as though it was something that was never going to happen. It hadn't fully sunk in that the decision he made will last a lifetime. The moment he steps into the plane, everything would change. Dramatically, for both of them.
Rita began but she couldn't continue. She didn't quite know what to say. Chris turned to face her. In the darkness he could see the tears that were beginning to form. Chris cupped her face with his hands and placed a kiss on her nose, before pulling her into a long tight hug.
"I'm going to miss you Sam."
He whispered, as his own tears began to fall from his cheeks. It was so hard to say goodbye to her. She had been the most important person in his life for the longest time. It was her who had been there for him like no else had ever been before. How does he say goodbye to all that? Rita did her very best to compose herself. She wanted him to think that she would be okay. Chris pulled away to look at her. For a moment Rita thought he was about to say something, but he didn't. It seemed eternity as they stared into each other's eyes. There were so many words that needed to be spoken, but how to begin was the hard part. They weren't getting anywhere and it was late. Rita sighed,
"Let's go Sam. You're flight's in the morning."
She grabbed both his hands and planted a quick kiss on his lips as she had times before. Though this time she felt Chris' lips lock into hers. In spite of herself she found herself kissing him back. His hands caressed her face. Rita's eyes remained closed as her arms found themselves around his waist. She could feel his hands work their way around her body. Gently Chris lay her on the sand. She looked at him expectantly. Not knowing what was happening. Torn between wanting him to stop and wanting him to keep going. Not knowing what she wanted herself. Chris began to kiss her again, this time Rita pulled back.
"Sam. Are you sure you want to do this?"
She asked, needing to know it was something they both wanted. Chris looked into her eyes and nodded with a whisper.
"I love you Sam..."
Rita woke up early the next morning in Chris' bed. For a moment she thought she was dreaming, but smiled to herself as she remembered what happened. Her smile disappeared as quickly as they formed. She saw that Chris had gotten up. Almost instantly she knew the night before was a huge mistake. Now knowing what to say to him. She grabbed a quick shower before heading downstairs where he sat alone with his thoughts.
Chris heard the shower. He sighed. He wasn't sure what happened between them. It wasn't so much he regretted what happened, it was more he was scared of what would happen between them. The next step.
Rita did her very best to pull herself together. She knew she had no regrets about the night before. She loved Chris and she knew she always had. Yet, she also knew Chris loved Jillian and the night before shouldn't have happened just because they were both trying so hard to hold on. She had almost convinced herself that nothing happened the night before when she had emerged from the bathroom. She found Chris sitting on his kitchen counter his gaze focused on the ground. Rita stood from the foot of the stairs and waited for him to say something. Chris looked up as he watched her sit down, awaiting for him say something.
"We shouldn't have done what we did last night Sam? It was a mistake."
Rita felt as though she was slapped in the face as he said the words she feared he'd say. She listened as he continued. She couldn't believe he was doing this to her. He was supposed to be her best friend. Didn't he know what it took for her to go as far as they did the night before?
"I guess we were both just taken by the moment and grief..."
Before he could say anymore Rita interrupted him. Not wanting to hear anything more.
"Don't Chris. Leave it at that."
Rita's face bared no expression, he knew that if he looked closer he would have seen the hurt in her eyes. He couldn't face her. Rita grabbed her shoes from the side of the couch and slipped them on.
"We better go. You might miss your flight."
Silently Chris nodded and gathered his things together. The drive to the airport was silent. As Chris' flight was announced to board they looked at each other uncomfortably.
"I better go. Thanks for the ride Sam."
Chris felt Rita's whole body grow rigid as he hugged her goodbye. It tore him apart to have hurt her the way he had.
Without waiting for a response, Rita turned around and began to walk back to the car park. She could feel the lump that was beginning to form in her throat. She hated herself for not stopping him the night before.
Rita spent the weekend at home. She found herself watching the phone to ring and her beeper to beep. But neither happened. Every time it would ring, it was Fran or Diana making sure that she was okay. As much as she wanted to tell Diana what happened between her and Chris, she couldn't. She felt ashamed of what happened between them. Chris had made her feel that way by what he said and the regret she heard in his voice.
Monday morning Rita sat on her desk not exactly excited for the return of her best friend. Harry watched her from his office. His gut told him something was up between his two detectives. He waited for his other detective to walk in through the door. He had 5 minutes to make an entrance before he was late. Interrupting his thoughts his phone rang.
A voice said on the other line.
"Lorenzo, where the hell are you?"
Harry said in a yell loud enough that Rita looked up.
"Cap, I'm still in Boston. I just need a couple of more days Cap. I just need to sort something out."
Harry could hear the defeat in Chris' voice as he pleaded for him to understand.
"You okay kid?"
Harry asked in concern.
"Yeah Cap. I'll be okay. Cap, how's Rita?"
"You want me to get her..."
Harry offered but Chris refused profusely. Suspicious and concerned Harry pried.
"What's going on?"
"When I get back Cap, I'll buy you a beer. I promise. For now, just tell me she's okay."
Harry looked up to see Rita pretending to be absorbed in what she was doing. He carried the phone with him as he shut the door to his office.
"She looks like hell Lorenzo. She looks like she hasn't slept in days."
Chris rested his head in his hand as he listened to the Captain.
"Listen Cap, I'll be there in a couple of days. Take care of her for me okay?"
After Harry hung up he called Rita to his office. Reluctantly Rita got up and sat before him in his office.
"You don't look so good detective."
"Thanks Cap. You sure know how make a girl feel special."
She answered with the sarcasm oozing from her voice. The last thing she needed was to be given a hard time. Harry pushed his glasses down to his nose and looked at her from the rim of them.
"Sorry Cap. Just feeling a little out of the weather."
"Your partner called, he said he'll be back in a couple of days."
Rita nodded as though she wasn't interested. Harry's chest began to tighten as he tried to guess what happened between the two of them.
For the next couple of days Rita worked like a robot. When she heard that Chris was arriving the next day Rita requested for the rest of the week off.
"Chris needed his time to sort himself out and so do I."
Rita stated. She wasn't asking for permission and Harry could see that. Granting her wish he nodded and walked her out to her car.
"You take care of yourself okay? Don't forget Chris' farewell dinner at my house on Friday."
Rita nodded without having any intention of being there to farewell him. She had been doing a lot of thinking in the last couple of days and it was safe to say that she was angry at Chris. Rita went home and did the only thing she felt she could do. Run away. She packed a bag and dumped it in her jeep. Without a word to anyone she left heading for no where in particular. She had nothing to say to Chris. She wanted to come back to work Monday morning and pretend that nothing happened. That the last six years didn't happen.
The hurt from the argument they had months before resurfaced. He had basically stated that Jillian was better, in every way. Angrily Rita wiped her tears away. Frustrated at herself most of all.
Chris went straight to Rita's apartment as soon as he got off the plane and found that she wasn't home. He called Diana to see if she was with her. He had tried calling Rita's cell phone endlessly that by the fifth time Rita recognized his number, instead of just hanging up she just turned her cell phone off. But that didn't stop his constant beeping wondering where she was. In the end she took the batteries off and chucked the beeper in the bottom of the glove compartment. Chris waited on her couch waiting her to return. He was surprised to wake up the next morning to see that she had not come home. Worry began to fill him. Had something happened to her? If it had? His mind raced. When he walked into the precinct Harry received a beep that said not worry about her and that she was okay. He motioned for Chris to enter his office.
"You sort everything out with yourself Lorenzo?"
He asked sternly. He wasn't happy to see his detective team in the state they were in. Chris nodded.
“All I need to do now is talk to Rita. You know where she is cap?”
Chris asked hopefully. Harry shook his head.
“No idea kid. I don’t think she’s in Palm Beach. She just beeped me to tell me that she was okay.”
Chris had a feeling that she wasn’t in town. That she was avoiding him at all cost and he couldn’t blame her.
“Cap, can I?”
“Don’t even think about it Lorenzo. You just got back. Besides, she’ll come home when she’s ready. Just give her time.”
Harry added softening a little. A couple of days later was Chris’ farewell party. As Harry had predicted Rita made no appearance. He knew it the moment she beeped him to tell him that she was okay. Chris called her cell phone and beeped her endlessly to no avail. Rita answered no calls.
Rita was staying in a motel across from the beach hours away from Palm Beach. As hard as she tried to keep Chris from her mind, he kept popping up. It sure didn’t help to find his messages one after another in her beeper service. She sighed. She wasn’t about to give into it. She wasn’t about to give into herself either. She could feel the need to see him, but her pride got in the way. Her judgement was clouded by the hurt she felt.
Chris sat at his farewell party longing to see his best friend. To speak to her, to just explain to her how he felt. It felt as though his whole world had collapsed and it was his fault. He had everything at his fingertips and he let it slip away.
Chris was scheduled to leave Saturday morning, and it was Rita who was supposed to take him. As Rita drove home she could imagine Chris on his way to the airport. As she passed the airport she felt her heart sink. She glanced at the clock and realized that he would have boarded by that time. In spite of herself she turned towards the airport and parked the car. It wasn’t as though she wanted to see him one last time, or try to stop him from leaving altogether. It was more that she had accepted that he was gone and she needed a closure. She wanted to see his plane take off and fly away. As hurtful and sadistic it may be to herself. It was something she needed to do, to be able to close the door. The time to herself had made her realize that as much as Chris’ friendship meant to her, it couldn’t continue after what had happened. It was all or nothing. Rita followed the signs that lead her to the plane headed for Boston, out of her life. Rita made it just in time to see it pull away from the terminal. Slowly the plane began to reverse. Slowly Rita’s heart began to pull into shreds. A sound escaped from her lips, a cry of regret, longing and loss, she couldn’t believe he was gone, she was alone.
Rita sat there until the plane had taken off. As she stared into the empty lot where the commercial plane had been her mind was a blur. Every possible emotion seemed to fill her. Letting out a deep sigh Rita got up and returned to her car. Instead of driving home, she drove to the beach, one last time. She made a pact with herself. She no longer wanted to visit the significant places. It hurt too much. The problem was every corner was filled with some form of memory. Everything held some significance. When she got out of the car and began to walk down to the dunes, where their special place was. She found herself stopping midway. She couldn’t bring herself to move any closer. From where she stood she stared at the place where they had spent so much of their time. Talking, laughing, crying. It seemed most of their significant moments was spent in this place, and it was hard to imagine not seeing it again. But it was even harder to see it without him. Rita sat down on the spot as she felt her knees begin to weaken. The tears began to roll down her cheeks. Rita brushed them away trying her best to hold them in, but she couldn’t. It wasn’t long before she buried her face into her hands as she wept for what could have been.
He stood meters away watching her. They were strangers now, yet the connection lay deep within. Buried beneath the hurt, anger and regret. He had seen her at the airport as she sat there. All he wanted to do from the moment he laid his eyes on her was wrap his strong arms around her and never let go. But it wasn’t that simple.
Rita hated what was happening. She hated feeling so vulnerable. The reality of knowing what she had lost. How much she had relied on him, only for him to leave her. As others she had loved before him. Everyone seemed to desert her in the end. It wasn’t fair. She brought her knees to her chest and rested her chin upon it as she continued to stare at their ‘special place’. Lost in her misery she failed to hear the gentle footsteps headed towards her. It wasn’t until she smelled the familiar after-shave that it hit her. She closed her eyes and wondered if she was hallucinating. She was torn from wanting to throw her arms around him and thank him for not going. To beg him not to go, while another just wanted him to leave. To take with him all the hurt and disappointment he had brought upon her. Chris stared at her as she toiled in her thoughts.
He whispered softly. Scared of the reaction. Rita’s eyes opened slowly, as she gathered her thoughts. When Rita turned her head to face Chris, it was as though he was looking into a stranger’s eyes. The love, laughter and happiness they shared no longer glowed in her eyes as it once did. They were now replaced with expressionless, distant, weary eyes that looked at him as to question who he was and what he was doing beside her. It broke his heart to see he had crushed her spirit. To the blind eye she was a pillar of strength, to him, he knew that he had taken away the trust she gave him without reservation.
“I want you to hear me out okay…”
Rita made no move to acknowledge what he’d said, as Chris started.
“I’m no going to move to Boston. I realize what a mistake that would be. With everything we have shared, our friendship. I can’t leave that”
Rita sighed. As she looked at him. Chris looked up knowing she wanted to say something. He searched her eyes for his partner, his best friend.
“Is that the reason why you want to stay? Because of what we shared? If it is, let me be the one to tell you not to bother. Because that isn’t reason enough. Besides, in case you haven’t noticed, there isn’t much to salvage.”
As Rita finished she saw the look of despair that swept across his face as her hurtful words hit him within.
“You don’t really believe that do you?”
He asked in plea. Without emotion Rita shrugged her shoulders, she didn’t know what to say. She knew she wasn’t letting herself feel anything at that point.
“Rita, I don’t think what happened that night was wrong. The thing is. It was so right I couldn’t think straight. It frightened me.”
“Don’t you think I was frightened too. How do you think it felt when you said it was a mistake?”
“I’m sorry. Sam, I don’t know what else to say.”
Rita didn’t know what to say either. The last week had taught them a lot. Rita wasn’t sure if she liked what she learned. All she could think about was that he had left her. She couldn’t get past it.
“Rita, I have never loved anyone as much as I love you. From the moment we met I felt it. Then we became the best of friends and I treasure each moment. But it made it harder for us to follow our true feelings. So when the time came, you were ready, but I wasn’t. You were willing to accept the new level of our relationship but I wasn’t. I didn’t want to ever hurt you, and by not wanting that so much, I ended up doing the most hurtful thing I could do. I left you. I can never say sorry enough for that, and you have every right to be angry at me, to never forgive me, but Sam I love you. I just want you. I don’t care how, I just want you. Whether we’re friends or more, it doesn’t matter. Just to know you’re still my Sammy, to have you in my life is enough; I know that I don’t deserve to be after everything I have put you through, but I love you Sam.”
Rita was mesmerized by his expression of emotion. She wanted to reach out to him and tell him that everything would be okay from that moment on, but she couldn’t. She wanted to believe in him and she knew she could. But her wounds were fresh and weren’t willing to subside as fast as she wanted it to. Chris watched her every expression as she sat there and thought about everything he had said. After a few more moments of silence he spoke up once more. His voice was filled with anguish and regret as he asked the words.
“You don’t believe anything I say anymore do you?”
Rita looked up from where her gaze was fixed on the sand in front of her. She could see right through his soul as he spoke. There was no doubt in his sincerity, his confusion. He looked as lost as she felt. She could feel her anger begin to fade away slowly as she felt for him. She brought her hand up to his cheek and caressed it.
“I believe you Sam, a huge part of me doesn’t want to, but I do. I love you too. You’re just going to have to give me time Sam. What you did hurt a lot, and its hard to even think about going back to being friends as we once were, to moving up to another level. For now, I want to work on our friendship. Maybe this will be a learning experience that will strengthen our friendship. Who knows? For now that’s all I’m ready for. That’s all I can give you.”
Chris broke into a smile as he listened to her. He was thankful for the hope that lay before them. He knew all they needed was time and everything would be okay. He knew it, he felt it, he believed in it. After a moment of hesitation Chris threw an arm around her and pulled her close. At first Rita froze against his touch but as soon as she was encircled into his arms she felt her hesitation and reluctance fade away. She buried her face against his chest and breathed him in. In each other’s arms it seemed as though everything was okay. Though a long road lay before them, they were both willing to give it their best shot. Crossing the line of friendship was a hard task. With everything they had to go through to get as far as they had and everything else they have yet to go through. It was to be a long process, but they were both up for the challenge.