Always One More 9
It had been almost two hours. He hadn't meant to be gone that long, but there wasn't much pulling home. Every time he thought about turning to go back home, his feet kept him going in the opposite direction. Once he got going around the neighborhood it seemed stupid to turn back around so he made the circle around the golf course. He would have stayed out later if he hadn't been so cold.
Florida cold wasn't really cold, but at the same time, if he'd been in Pittsburgh at this time of year he wouldn't have been out walking the dogs in the first place. He was literally shaking when he got back to the house. He'd come home by taxi, a strange thing to have happen to him considering that he either had a hired car get him at the airports when he flew in and out of the city and couldn't have his own car with him.
When he'd gotten to the house and found it still empty he'd collected the dogs and had taken them on a walk around the neighborhood. It would have been a great thing, walking alone with the dogs, but half way out onto his walk it had started to pour again. He should have run home with the dogs, but somehow walking in the rain like that alone was what he needed.
Her voice came from the direction of the television room as soon as the front door slammed shut. "Chris?"
For a moment he thought he was going to get in trouble for that. If their day hadn't been horrible enough, it would be perfectly normal in Dani's realm of behavior to get on him about the door slamming too. "Yeah," he said.
This was a repeat of the other day, almost word for word. This didn't bode well for the rest of their day.
Had their relationship deteriorated so much that their fights were even now predictable? He knew the outcome even before he'd gotten all the way inside the garage door. They would fight, they would make up, make love, and go to bed that night laying next to each other but with their minds a million miles away.
To keep himself from running towards her voice, he picked up the dogs to carry them into the downstairs bathroom. It was going to ruin his shirt a bit to have dogs all over it, but he didn't care. It would keep him sane and that's what he needed.
"Where've you been?" she asked her voice now sounding as if it was closer to him.
"I was out walking the dogs." He pushed the door closed so that they would stay in while he stood in the hallway. "How's Tegan?"
"Oh," she said. "I'm not sure how she is. I left before the doctor came back, but Mere is going to call. She said thanks for helping out."
"Thanks," she said.
She shoved her hands in her pockets as Busta and Korea started to fight in the bathroom trying to get out into the hallway. "What are you doing?"
He pointed towards the front door. He didn't know why he did it, but he thought he needed to move or he'd freeze to death if he didn't keep his wet clothes off his skin. "It's wet out and they need a bath."
Tension was there. Her eyes were clouded with worry and he'd never seen her this tentative about speaking to him about anything. It was as if she was truly having a hard time figuring out how to react. "Oh."
"I'll be out in a bit," he said.
"Ok." She looked him up and down and smiled at him with some strange twist to her lips, as if she wanted to be amused by the fact that he was standing there dripping in the hallway, but because of the tension between them she was scared to have fun with the situation. "Do you want me to grab you some clothes to change into?"
He smiled, "The black sweats and grey Army shirt?"
Comfort. He needed comfort tonight.
"Sure," she said.
He forced himself to lean and kiss her cheek. It stopped him for a moment when he realized it was forced. He didn't like that. He liked natural, normal, not forced. He hated trying to push her away, but he wasn't done being alone just yet. "I just needed some time. I'll come talk to you when I get out of here."
Dani's eyes were dull, but she forced a smile and nodded. He didn't like that she was forcing things either. He wished that they both could come out and just admit that they were forcing it all. He shook his head a little and smiled at her. It was too early to give up. They needed to fight this until the end.
"I'll put your sweats on the counter in a bit."
He tried to joke with her. It was that or start a conversation that he knew would do nothing to fix things between them. "And the Army shirt?"
"And the Army Shirt."
Chris disappeared into the bathroom, stripped himself of his clothes, leaving them on the floor then pushed both the dogs into the shower with his foot before closing the door and turning on the water. Busta immediately scratched at the door and he pushed him away from the door to keep scratches from getting on there. Korea took the other approach to a shower and cowered in the corner.
"I feel ya girl," he said and leaned to pet her.
Upstairs was quiet even though she could hear the dogs and Chris in the shower on her way up the stairs. She went into Chris's closet to find clothes for himself and when she was pulling down the Army shirt that he wanted she knocked over a box of pictures.
Sitting down on the floor with them she leafed through a few before deciding on one thing. She missed that time in her life. She missed her career, which she'd not given up exactly, but had scaled back on so much that it wasn't really a visible part of her life anymore. She actually had been doing some behind the scenes reporting, feeding information to the person that they had hired to replace her as an on air personality.
Grabbing up the shirt and shoving the pictures back, she found Chris's sweats then skipped her way back down the stairs. She went to find her cell phone immediately then found the piece of paper with Liam's number on it.
Her heart was in her throat as she dialed the number. She hung up three times before she finally let it ring then wondered what number she was calling. If it was the hospital number she wasn't sure if she wanted to ask for him or if she wanted to leave a message. If it was home she wasn't sure what she should say on the machine. If it was his cell phone and he answered she thought she might throw up.
The phone rang four times before he picked up. "Dr. Cross."
Her eyes scanned the room quickly then she sighed. She somehow was shocked with the idea that he was a doctor. She knew that he worked at the hospital and she'd seen the white coat and all, but having him state it the way he did gave her a start. "Liam?"
He sighed. He sounded tired. "Yes?"
"It's Dani," she said nervously, "You met me in the--"
"Oh," he said. He sounded distracted and she heard a noise that sounded as if he'd put the phone up against his shoulder and was holding it there tightly while doing other things. His voice perked up. "Hello there Miss Hockey."
"Hi," she said with a laugh at his accent.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.
"I was wondering if the offer is still open--" She took a deep breath. "--For me to go to the game with you--to see your brother. I'd love to talk to him about being on the other side of the game. I've never really done that before."
"Sure," he said then seemed to be trying to speak to someone that was standing there with him. It was sounding as if she'd caught him in the middle of some medical crisis, "Let me check the schedule and see when I can get to a game on my day off."
"Oh." She tapped her fingers on the counter nervously and looked at the door. She wasn't sure when Chris would be back and she definitely didn't want him to hear this conversation. It was another story all together about how she was going to explain her sudden need to go to a hockey game, but she'd think about that AFTER she got over this. "I forgot about that."
"Yes," he said, "Being on call is a bit of a pain."
She tapped her foot and let her eyes scan the room. She needed to clean up. It wasn't that the place was a mess. It wasn't that bad at all. It was just the fact that she had a moment to stand still that afternoon that allowed her to see each and every speck of dirt on the counter. Crumbs from the toast they'd shared for breakfast had gotten caught near the napkin holder and the change cup they kept on the counter. A few drops from the tea they'd had that morning had dried on the light colored counter also leaving her feeling as if she needed to steam clean the place. "Well why don't you check your schedule and get back to me."
"Sounds like a plan," he said, "Is this the number that I can call you back on?"
Her eyes whipped to the toaster as she tried to stop picturing her and Chris that morning. They'd been slightly distant, yet somehow seemed to have co-existed that morning with some sense of truce between them, as if that morning wasn't going to be ruined by the fights they were having.
"Dani?" She heard his voice on the phone.
"Sure," she said, "Is this your cell number?"
"Yes," he said, "I hate the blasted thing, but it's a need that I have to indulge myself on."
"I can imagine." She took a deep breath. "Well I'll let you go. You sound busy at the moment."
"I'll call you later to chat about this," he said.
When she heard the dogs toes on the flooring in the kitchen she looked up to see them come around the corner into the kitchen. She loved those two. The kids. It was funny how through all the time that she was away from him, she thought more about how the dogs must have been feeling. She'd abandoned not only Chris, but their life, their house, their kids. She hoped to never experience divorce in the future. If it caused even half the amount of pain that their breakup had caused, then she would die if it happened.
"You there?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, "The dogs got out."
He coughed and then spoke to someone standing in front of him before he turned back to their conversation. "Well I'll call you back when you don't have dogs to take care of."
"That might be best," Dani said pushing Busta back with her foot a little. As much as she loved the little devil, he knew better than to jump up on her. Tough love with this one. He needed discipline even though she had to admit that most days when Chris had been on tour all of their rules had gone out the window. The dogs had slept in the bed with her when Chris hadn't been there with her.
"DANI!" Chris yelled into the hallway.
"Talk to you later," she said quickly and hung up the phone to bring Chris his clothes.
She found him leaning out the door watching her with a slightly upset look on his face.
"Sorry," she said, "I was on the phone."
"The station," she lied, "I got invited to go to a game next weekend."
She expected him to fly off the handle, not because he didn't want her to go to the game, but because she thought he'd realize that she was lying and would immediately want to know about Liam. He didn't. He wiped his face with his hand then wiped it on his towel.
Instead he shrugged, "Cool."