Disclaimer: I own nothing.
So I'm in between stories right now, and the fabulous Went asked me awhile back to write a twoshot for her inspired by "Sound of Your Heart" by Shawn Hook. I fell in love with the song, and here's the angsty story that came to my mind when I heard the lyrics. Sorry it took so long, Wen! I hope this was worth the wait :)
You were my courage, my sword and shield
Grace under pressure, my wall of steel
I was a stone weighing us down
You were the angel I chained to the ground
"I'm gonna get you!" Derek yelled playfully, chasing his four year old son around the couch of his apartment's living room. He grinned as he followed little Fox back toward the kitchen. The little boy dove beneath the small kitchen table, his back colliding with his older sister's feet.
Ainsley shot her little brother a glare and returned to swinging her legs as she read through her book. "Stop it, Fox," she said. "You're being annoying." She shot her father a look as well. "You too, Daddy."
Derek laughed, catching Fox in his arms and hoisting him in the air. He tucked his son under one arm, looking down at him with a grin. "Whatdaya say, champ?" he asked. "Think you and your old man should stop being squirrely so your sister doesn't glare at us to death?" He waited until Ainsley looked back at him to wink at her. His headstrong daughter finally relented and gave him a smile back.
"Daddy! Put me down!" Fox squealed. Giggles continued erupting from his belly, even as Derek set him on the floor. He kicked his little legs out, but his father's grip was too much for him, and he ended up sagging with laughter.
As Derek ruffled his son's curly hair, a knock from the door sounded. Instantly, he became alert. That would be Penelope coming to pick up their children. He really hoped her boyfriend would not be tagging along.
"That'll be your mama," Derek sighed, setting his son on his little feet.
Fox dashed toward the door ahead of Derek and excitedly opened it for his mother. Standing in the doorway was Penelope, and much to Derek's chagrin, her boyfriend of three months, Eric.
"Mama!" Fox exclaimed, overjoyed.
Penelope beamed and leaned over to give Fox a big hug. "Oh, I missed you, sweet boy!" she cooed, kissing his cheek. "Did you have a good weekend with your dad?"
Fox nodded vigorously. "We went to the park and played soccer," he reported. "Then Daddy made us Grandma Fran's mac 'n cheese."
Derek still had not said a word as he crossed his arms and shot a withering glance toward his estranged wife's boyfriend. They had been separated for almost a year now, and their divorce was getting ready to be finalized, yet almost four months ago she had met a new man to date.
The fact Eric was a complete narcissist only made Derek's hatred even more passionate.
"Ooh, Grandma's mac n' cheese is the best!" Penelope cooed. She finally looked up at Derek and gave him an uncomfortable smile. "Hi, Derek."
Derek's eyes flicked from glaring at Eric to Penelope. His expression softened, and he nodded. "Hey," he said simply.
"Where's Ainsley at?" Penelope asked, standing up straight again. "She ready to go?"
"Well, she knows you're here," Derek said. He looked behind him so he could call to the kitchen for his daughter. Before he could open his mouth though, Ainsley appeared, her backpack hanging from her shoulders.
Ainsley smiled at Penelope. "Hi Mom," she said. She went to give her mother a huge hug.
Penelope kissed the top of the little girl's head. She opened her mouth to say more, but Eric cut in before she could say anything.
"Fox said you guys had a good time," he remarked, fishing for an answer from Ainsley to see if she had had a good weekend as well. That irked Derek, and he wanted to kick Eric out the door. He said nothing, though.
Ainsley, who seemed indifferent to Eric much of the time, nodded. "Yep," she said. "I love spending time with my dad." She looked at Derek to smile.
Derek smiled smugly at Eric who pinched his lips in annoyance. Derek leaned down to kiss his daughter's head. "I love spending time with you two rascals, too."
The tense air between the two men did not go unnoticed by Penelope, and she coughed. "Well, I guess we should get going," she said. "Ms. Ainsley, I believe, still has some math homework to finish up."
Ainsley scrunched her face. "Can I finish my book before I start it?" she begged.
"Oh, ho!" Penelope laughed. "I don't think so."
Fox giggled beside her, ready to tease his sister, but Ainsley ignored him to speak to Penelope again. "Well fine," she huffed. "But can you at least help me with it?"
"I'll definitely –" Penelope began.
"Why don't I help you with it?" Eric piped up, interrupting her. Derek wanted to throttle this asshole for thinking he could walk all over Penelope. "I'm really good at math, sweetheart."
Ainsley glanced at him, but then averted her eyes. "Uh…well, I just want my mom to help me with it."
Before anyone – namely Eric – could say anything else, Penelope spoke again. She clearly wanted to dissolve the tension between them all. "Well, my little Fox looks like he's ready to get into his jammies and go to sleep. I think we should get going."
Derek squatted down so he could open his arms for his children to rush into. He kissed the tops of their heads as he wrapped them in his embrace. "I love you two troublemakers," he teased.
"Love you, too, Daddy," Fox yawned against his father's chest.
Ainsley nodded. "Me too," she said.
Derek rose from his position and directed his children toward Penelope again. He gave her a small smile. "Have a good night, Penelope," he said.
Penelope returned the gesture. Yet again, though, before she herself could respond, Eric spoke again. "We will," he said, shooting Derek a territorial look.
Immediately, Derek's face lost its smile, and he cleared his throat angrily. "I'll see you at the office tomorrow," he added to Penelope once again before she and their children disappeared from view. He closed the door behind them. Rubbing the top of his head, he blew out a sigh and trudged back to his kitchen.
He hated this apartment with every fiber of his being, although he was pleased to have the secret cabinet high up where his children could not get into. Inside it he kept his rather large stash of alcohol. It made no difference if it was cheap or expensive liquor; he would drink it if it had alcohol in it.
It managed to keep his mind off the shit his life had descended into.
After he poured himself a glass of cheap whiskey, he plopped himself down on his couch and flipped on the television to have background noise while he drowned himself in alcohol. It had been this way since Penelope left him. He swirled the amber liquid in his glass, contemplating where he now found himself.
Their relationship was by no means unfriendly after the split, but that did not change there was some tension, particularly when Eric happened to be around. He placed no blame on Penelope, though. It was his own fault he lost her. Playing fast and loose with his life finally caught up with him. Selfishness – his own damned selfishness – became his downfall, and it had caused him to lose the woman he loved.
Driving the explosive-filled ambulance through New York City did not even come close to his actions at the hostage situation at Los Angeles' Union Station the previous year.
One moment he had entered the train station, unarmed and vestless, the next he was exiting in an ambulance. After an ear-splitting bang, he had woken up in the hospital, learning a bullet had grazed the side of his head and his wife would be leaving him.
He was thankful his children had been too young to understand the actions he had committed that led to their parents separating.
He was also thankful they and everyone else in his life were oblivious to the borderline alcoholic he had become.
One hour and three drinks later, Derek still sat on the couch. His vision was blurry, the shapes on the television screen having become one mass of bright light. Merely thinking of getting up from the couch made his head spin, but he wanted to get into bed. Blindly, he reached for the remote. He managed to fiddle with it for a minute or two while he searched for the power button.
Leaning forward, Derek went to set his empty glass on the coffee table. With his depth perception impaired though, he missed the table. Glass shattered on the ground. He groaned angrily, hating how he felt the need to forget his pain over Penelope. However, he was too tired to care. With Ainsley and Fox out of the apartment, he could forget about the glass until morning.
Rising to his feet, he stumbled toward his room. He slumped onto his bed, pulling off his shoes and shirt. The room began to spin as he tried to unbutton his pants, and he fell back against the sheets. His eyes fell on a crack in the ceiling, and he tried to imagine Penelope still beside him.
Just before the world became lost to him, darkness taking over completely, he almost believed he felt her body heat glowing beside him, and he swore he could hear the sound of her heart beating.
Two Weeks Later
Penelope poured herself and Eric each a glass of wine. She laughed as he continued telling her a story about when he was a kid and snuck into the living room when his parents were watching a scary movie and he peed his pants right there on the floor. Her few months with Eric had been fun, a distraction from her depression over the disintegration of her marriage. She was able to at least laugh with him. Not as much as when Derek told her jokes, but at least he brought a smile to her face.
"So that would have to be my most embarrassing story from when I was a kid," he finished, sipping the newly poured glass of wine she handed him.
She snorted a laugh. "Derek had something like that happen once, too," she snickered. "He was four years old, running buck naked out the door because he saw something scary on the TV!" She shook her head with laughter on her lips, but the giggle died when she realized she was bringing up another man when her boyfriend was in the room.
The truth was, she was not completely over Derek. She never would be. The only reason she left him was because he scared her to death. She was scared of losing him, and when that bullet in Los Angeles grazed his head, the prospect of his death became all too real for her to handle. He had not thought of them, of their children or her.
So she left him. If he would put a case above his family like that, she would not be a part of it any longer.
The only problem with her decision was she love him with as strong a passion as when she first realized her love for him. She just could not bear to allow her heart to hurt with all the risks he took in his job every single time he left for a case.
Eric coughed with discomfort at her mention of Derek. "Oh," he said. He was silent a moment before he sighed. Leaning forward, he set his glass on the coffee table and turned to face Penelope. He took her wineglass from her as well, and set it beside his so he could take both her hands. The look in his eyes was an intent one.
Suddenly, she became uncomfortable. She could not quite tell what was in his gaze, but he appeared a man on a mission.
"Penelope," he began. "I…I…" He bent his head and chuckled. "God, I have no idea how to say this without messing it up. I guess the best way would be to just do this." He reached into his pocket and produced a small velvet lined box.
Her stomach turned with nausea. Oh, God. Was this really happening? After only a few short months? They had not even moved in together. There was no way she could say yes to him, to this question he was about to ask her.
Eric opened the box to reveal a diamond ring. "Penelope, would you marry –"
Before he could finish his question, a fierce and booming sounded from the front door of her house. She jumped, not expecting anyone to be knocking at ten o'clock at night. She prayed the person incessantly pounding on the door would not wake her sleeping children.
However she was more than grateful the universe had sent her a distraction from Eric's less than romantic proposal going on right now.
"I'd better get that before whoever it is wakes up Fox and Ainsley," she said, heading for the door. She ignored Eric's stuttered protests and sped toward the door.
As soon as she opened the door, she gasped. "Derek?"
Before her stood her husband, his eyes bloodshot and the smell of alcohol all over him. He stumbled, falling against the doorframe. He barely caught himself on it. Mumbled words, barely audible, filtered out of his mouth. When he looked up at her, the pained look in his eyes broke her heart.
Unable to stand the sight of him like this, Penelope rushed forward to him. She caught part of his wide, muscular frame to keep him from tumbling to the ground. The other half of him was slumped against the doorframe.
"Derek," she murmured, touching his stubble-covered face. She became sick to her stomach all over again. "Please, please tell me you didn't drive here!"
Derek nodded, his forehead falling against her shoulder. "Yeaaaa," he slurred. "No other way to get here."
Tears filled her eyes. What the hell had he been thinking? "You could have been hurt," she murmured.
"Penelope?" Eric came up behind her. "What the hell is he doing here? And he's really fucking drunk."
Turning her head, Penelope glared at Eric. "Not now," she hissed, supporting Derek inside the house. She shut the front door with her foot and led Derek to the living room where she sat him on the couch. He fell backwards against the cushions, not letting go of her arms. She sat down beside him, holding his hand gently. His eyes were glazed over, and his head tilted to the side so he could look at Penelope.
"Honey, what are you doing?" Eric demanded. "Why are you putting him on the couch?" He put his hands on his hips, waiting expectantly for her answer. "Send him the fuck home!"
Penelope's head whirled to face Eric again, her face blazing with fury. She could barely believe she had just been laughing with the jealous man in front of her. "Does he look like he can drive anywhere? He could barely walk in the door."
Scoffing angrily, Eric threw his hands up in exasperation. He stormed out of the room without doing anything but grumble.
I'll find a way to deal with him later, Penelope thought with a sigh. She knew this was not fair to Eric, but truth be told, she did not care. Derek's safety mattered more to her than a pissing match.
Returning her attention to Derek, Penelope touched his cheek. "Derek, why did you drive over here?" she asked, knowing there was a strong possibility she would not get an answer. "You could have gotten into a car accident. You could have…" She choked on the word. Died. He could have died.
Yet again, he had risked his life without thinking. Of course, this time alcohol had clearly stopped any semblance of thought process for him.
She should have been angry with him for not thinking of their children yet again. But all she felt was pity for him, sorrow. Was this what happened to him every night? Did he start drinking because of their family's situation?
Derek's eyes were closed, and she feared for a moment he had fallen asleep. But then his lips started to move, and he opened his eyes to look at her.
"I…" he started to say before his voice trailed off.
Her tears started to trickle down her cheeks as he leaned forward and rested his head against her shoulder. Fumbled words fell from his lips. She shook her head, not understanding.
"I can't hear you," she said.
He tried again, leaning his head up to look at her this time. "Love…you," he whispered.
The moment her brain processed the words, a sob came from her throat, and she could no longer hold in her tears.