Leave the Past Behind - carleton97
When Tim Speedle was exhausted, at a certain point it felt like his body just stopped working properly; his eyes stopped tracking, his hands couldn't grasp anything, and there was about a three second lag between hearing something and his brain understanding what the sound actually was. As he discovered during his first go-round at Columbia, when he got that tired, no amount of caffeine could help him. The thing was, despite the absolutely shitty week he'd been having so far, he hadn't thought he was that tired today but the words coming out of Calleigh's mouth weren't making any sense.
"Tim, you love me, right?"
He thought that perhaps he should have been paying less attention to his computer screen and more to the seemingly endless story about college she had been telling. She looked so hopeful that Tim really didn't have the heart to remind her he wasn't going to love *any* woman like that. "Calleigh -"
"Come on, it's just for one weekend."
"Cal - "
"Don't say no, please. I know it's lame, but I have to go and I don't want to go alone."
"Calleigh, I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Weren't you paying attention before?" She crossed her arms over her chest and Tim tried to remember anything of what she had said while he was concentrating on writing his report instead of listening to her.
Oh, hell no.
"You want me to go to a wedding in Jacksonville with you?"
"I know it's not a thing you'd necessarily choose to do, but please?" He wanted to be able to tell her that the big, blue eyes routine didn't work on him, but he was doomed.
"I hate weddings, Calleigh. I hate *Jacksonville*." More than either of those things, Tim hated whining, but he couldn't seem to help it. He just knew he was going to end up at this wedding, but was determined to fight the good fight. "Why don't you ask Delko?"
Calleigh blushed slightly, but still managed a credible eye roll, "Because that wouldn't be at all awkward or fraught with pressure. 'Hey, Eric, I know we haven't dated or anything, but do you want to come to a wedding with me?'"
"I have to point out here that we haven't dated either."
She made a dismissive gesture with her hand and grinned at their shared secret, "Please, Speed, you and I both know exactly how much I'm not your type." And then Calleigh shrugged and delivered the killing blow. "I suppose I could ask Hagen if you absolutely refuse to go."
Well, fuck. Calleigh had been vaguely dating the detective for a while now, but Tim had never been able to banish the bad feeling he got from the man. It was never anything overt, but there was just something about the way he acted around Calleigh that set of warning bells for him. Luckily, Calleigh seemed to be pulling away from him and, if Tim weren't mistaken, starting to fall for their local underwater recovery officer.
He couldn't deny it made him the tiniest bit jealous, but Calleigh would really be much better for Delko than he would be, if just because the other man was unrelentingly straight. Besides, for all his grinning frat boy exterior, gay or straight, Eric Delko was the type of man who would eventually want to settle down and get married and that was one thing Tim knew he could never offer anyone.
Calleigh was right, though; taking Delko to this wedding would be wildly uncomfortable for both of them. If she was so determined to have an escort, he was the best bet. It did beg the question, though, why she was so desperate to have company on this little jaunt.
"So, why exactly do you have to have a date to this thing?"
She gave him a vaguely pitying look and shook her head. "It's a wedding, Tim. Moral support"
He waited a second for her to add something else to that rather cryptic statement and, when she didn't, he made a little 'continue on' motion with his hand. "Yeah, and..."
"You don't just go by yourself to a wedding, Tim. It's like asking to be pitied by already-married crowd. Even though I know I don't need a man to be complete, blah blah blah, it's a hassle I just don't need."
"So why even go?"
"It's a whole thing, actually. See, I went to college with the bride, Janine, and we just don't get along. Mostly because she's a rancid bitch. I know she only invited me because to her it's important that she's getting married and I'm still single. Never mind that I have a career I love and she demonstrates scrapbooks in her spare time, all that matters is that she's managed to snag herself a husband."
"So you want to beat her at her own game and show up with a trophy boyfriend in tow?" Tim resigned himself to a weekend spent fending off the advances of drunken, horny bridesmaids.
"Nope." Calleigh's smile sent a shiver of dread through Speed.
"What do you mean 'no'?"
"I mean you're going to just be yourself. Janine's family is extraordinarily Catholic and Janine is one of the biggest homophobes on the planet. I can think of no better escort to her wedding than you." She seemed so pleased with herself that Tim was surprised she didn't rub her hands together in glee.
"Not to rain on you parade or anything, Ms. Duquesne, but I kind of define 'straight acting.'" A fact which served him well in his law enforcement career.
"I'm not asking you to show up in drag, Tim, but I'm not going to lie if someone asks me if we're together."
This entire scenario had all the earmarks of a disaster waiting to happen, but he knew Calleigh well enough to know that she'd follow through on her threat to invite Hagen if he refused to go and that just wasn't something he felt comfortable with.
"Fine, fine. Just don't expect me to have sex with the best man to score you points in your little game with Janine the Wicked Witch of Jacksonville."
The smile Calleigh graced him with made all the hassle seem worthwhile. "You're my hero, Tim. I've already cleared that weekend for both of us with Horatio, so once I confirm the hotel and plane reservations, we'll be all set to go." She was out of her chair and halfway to the door before the implications of her comments hit and Speed realized he'd been set up by a master. He thought about protesting, but knew it wouldn't change the outcome so he decided not to waste his energy. He did, however, need to know which weekend of his life he'd signed away.
"Hey, Calleigh, which weekend is it?"
She caught herself on the doorjamb and answered over her shoulder as she took the corner, "March twenty seventh through twenty ninth."
And then she was gone; with no idea of the bombshell she'd just dropped.
March twenty seventh would be thirteen years to the day since the accident.
Resolutely, Tim pushed aside the memories of the frozen landscape twisting around him and mechanically completed his report before shutting down for the night. It had been one hell of a week already and it was only Monday evening. His mom had been calling him daily, wondering if he was going to make back to New York for his brother's high school graduation. A new lab tech had dropped an entire tray of his evidence, completely destroying their entire case against a serial burglar.
And now this.
Aside from the fact that it wasn't a violent offender who was going to walk because of the screw-up, and even that was cold comfort when he thought about the families who no longer felt safe in their own homes, the only consolation for Speed in the entire mess was that at least Calleigh had no idea of what she was asking of him. At least this tiny piece of himself, of his pain remained strictly his own.
He owed David that much.
It was days like these that Tim wished he could claim the luxury of a certain amount of sleep induced vagueness every morning. He knew some people woke in stages, not fully aware until after a shower and the introduction caffeine into their bloodstream. Most of the time he considered himself lucky that he was alert and completely cognizant of his surroundings from the moment he opened his eyes.
This was not one of those times.
He silenced his alarm after two beeps and sat up on the edge of his bed, cradling his head in his hands. It was March twenty seventh and he had promised Calleigh he'd attend a wedding in Jacksonville with her instead of engaging in one of the three nights of remembrance and ritual drunkenness he allowed himself a year.
Guilt crawled through him like a nest of agitated spiders and he knew that if it were anyone other than Calleigh, he'd already have begged off. He couldn’t do that to her, though. She was the closest thing he'd had to a best friend in over a decade and it felt good to work with someone who knew he was gay. That was one of the reasons he missed Megan so much; she hadn't exactly been a friend like Calleigh was, but she had known almost all of his secrets and hadn't judged him by them. It wasn't that he thought Horatio or Delko or Alexx were homophobes, or that he was ashamed of being gay, it was just easier to keep his personal life completely separate from the job.
He knew his glum mood wouldn't disappear today, so with a sigh he stood up, started his daily routine and hoped nothing else went wrong today.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen." Horatio glanced down at the papers in his hand. "Today appears to be getting off to a slow start. We have a shooting downtown, but other than that our little corner of the world is remarkably peaceful at the moment.
"Pray it lasts.
"Calleigh, Eric, please meet Alexx at our crime scene. Tim, I'd like you in the lab today."
Tim wasn't sure whether to thank Horatio for the assignment or to complain about it. He must look pretty ragged if Horatio grounded him without even giving him a reason. For the most part, he realized he'd be pretty useless in the field as distracted as he was, but running samples all day would give him way too much time to think about everything.
Or so he thought.
He hadn't been at his lab station much more than an hour before Hagen wandered in. "Speedle, just the man I was looking for."
Tim spared a moment to pray this was about case results. "Detective, what can I do for you?"
"I'm looking for the results of the fiber analysis I dropped off yesterday." He loomed over Tim for a second before stepping back and allowing him access to the outgoing file basket.
Tim raised his eyebrow at the posturing, but refrained from commenting. "Here you go."
Hagen flipped open the file and started to read as he turned to leave. Just before the door he stopped and turned his head back towards Tim, "Did I hear you were going out of town this weekend?"
Shit, just what he needed to make the day complete. Calleigh's not-quite ex not-quite boyfriend getting all Neanderthal on him. "Just going to a wedding with a friend."
"Huh." Then he was gone and Tim had to shake his head at Calleigh's horrid taste in men. For an intelligent woman she really made stupid choices sometimes.
He shook off his contemplation of Calleigh's love life and threw himself back into his lab work, hoping to distract himself from brooding about today's anniversary. He was only partially successful, but it was enough to keep him on a relatively even keel until Delko joined him just after lunch.
"Hey, man. How's riding the bench treating you?" He dropped into the seat next to Tim with the same athletic grace that had first drawn his attention to the younger man.
"Funny. What's the deal with the crime scene?" Tim finished labeling his first set of samples and moved on to the second. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Eric gesture dismissively.
"Bunch of gang bangers got in each other's crossfire. Looks pretty clean but Calleigh is in ballistics double checking." Delko began fiddling with the pencil Tim had abandoned on the lab table. "So, uh, you're going away with Calleigh for the weekend?"
Speed didn't know whether to roll his eyes or smirk at the younger man. At least this answered his question as to whether Calleigh's tentative interest in Delko was returned. "Not like that, man. We're just friends and she wanted a no pressure date to some wedding."
"Huh." Delko stood to leave, but only made it a couple of steps before he turned around again, "Oh, H said to tell you that it looks like it's staying quiet today, so you've got to stay in here. Sucks to be you."
On March twenty seventh it did.
At nine thirty on a Friday night, the gate areas of the Jacksonville International Airport seemed pretty much deserted, but Tim supposed that had more to do with post-9/11 security measures than anything else. Despite his own prejudices against Jacksonville, it did have the largest land area of any US city; people must choose to visit it. He was proved right when they entered the small rotunda where all of the gate walkways converged and were immediately surrounded by an impatient mob of family and friends. He felt Calleigh grab a handful of the back of his shirt and he had to smile at the image they must have presented as he cleared a path for her through the milling people.
The crowd thinned out quickly, but Speed was glad they didn't need to brave the baggage claim area. Calleigh stepped out from behind him as they neared the escalators, following the signs towards the rental car counters.
"So tell me more about this wedding. I feel like I'm walking into an ambush." A sudden and terrible thought occurred to Tim. "Your brothers aren't going to be there, are they?"
Calleigh laughed at him, obviously not understanding the true horror the idea of a half a dozen protective brothers from rural Louisiana held for a man escorting a woman anywhere. Even if said man were completely gay. "No, these are people I knew in college. I was in a sorority with most of the bridal party."
Tim knew better than to make any comments about the sorority. Delko had made that mistake once. He could now recite the entire history of Kappa Kappa Theta, both nationally and at Tulane. "So why is the wedding in Jacksonville?"
"Janine's family is from here, but she and her fiance actually live in Miami. He's a graduate student in nuclear physics at Miami."
"Nuclear physics? And she demonstrates scrapbooks?"
"To be completely honest, Janine has her degree in chemical engineering, but she's never had to work since her parents are richer than god. In fact, they're picking up the tab for the entire wedding. Guest lodging and travel for 150 included."
Tim had grown up comfortably, but couldn't conceive of doing something like that. "That's... pretentious."
Calleigh shrugged before stepping up to the rental car counter. "That's Janine."
She dealt with the details of claiming their rental car and soon they were stepping out into the damp, north Florida night.
"Tim, what's that smell?" Calleigh wrinkled her nose as they headed towards their rental.
"Tim, I'm serious."
"So am I. It's what Jacksonville smells like. It's a combination of sulfur dioxide pollution and sulfur deposits. There was actually a huge push in the eighties to cut back on the pollution and the air quality has improved since then, supposedly. It's not just the air either, the water smells like sulfur too."
"Well, there goes my idea for a hot bath tonight."
Speed headed down the row to where their rental was parked, "So where are we staying and how do we get there from here?"
She dug in her purse for the directions to the hotel. "We're staying at the Downtown Adam's Mark. 'Jacksonville's premiere luxury hotel.' Take I-95 to... the Union Street exit once we hit downtown."
Tim finished stowing their bags in the back seat and dangled the keys, "Drive or navigate?"
Calleigh snatched the keys out of his hand and passed him the directions. "Buckle up."
"So this place is nice." Tim handed off his bag to the porter who had stepped up as the valet drove off with the car.
"Yeah, they weren't kidding about the prestige." Calleigh led the procession towards the front desk and smiled at the woman wearing a nametag that said 'Sharon' who was behind the desk. "Hi, I'm Calleigh Duquesne, D-U-Q-U-E-S-N-E, and I have two rooms reserved."
"One moment, please, Ms. Duquesne." Sharon typed for a few seconds, frowned, typed more, and then sighed. "Ms. Duquesne, it appears that there was an error made in processing your reservation and there is only one room booked under your name."
"Let me guess, the hotel is fully booked." Calleigh pinched the bridge of her nose.
"Yes, ma'am." Sharon clicked a few more keys. "It is a double room, though."
Calleigh nodded absently and looked over her shoulder at Speed, obviously not having a problem sharing a room with Tim as long as he was fine with it. "What do you think, Tim? Can you stand to share a room with me?"
Tim figured it was like sharing a dorm room, only with Calleigh. "Are you going to leave your girly things all over the place?
"You know it." She winked at him and turned back to Sharon. "The one room is fine, thank you."
Sharon smiled, obviously grateful they weren't going to cause a scene. "You'll be in room 546, on the river side of the building. Thank you for choosing the Jacksonville Adam's Mark."
The bellboy took their keycards and led them towards the bank of elevators. A car appeared as if by magic and once he was inside, Tim leaned against the back wall, exhaustion creeping over him after the stress of trying to keep it together today. He half listened to Calleigh effortlessly charm the bellboy and wished for things to be different. For a split second he was overwhelmed with the fierce desire to have never heard the name David Welsh.
Shame ripped through him at the thought. How could he even think that? How could he betray ...everything by wishing it away. The elevator glided to a stop on their floor and Tim knew he had to get away, but he couldn't think of how to escape from Calleigh.
The bellboy slipped a room key into the electronic lock and was about to push the door open when an ear splitting shriek echoed down the hall. Tim spun towards the noise, automatically reaching for his absent gun, and was nearly overrun by the incoming hoard of bridal-veiled women.
They surrounded Calleigh, enveloping her in a gin scented group hug and an almost visible wall of laughing voices. It was overwhelmingly female and Tim found himself backing away from the melee, feeling unaccountably threatened. He bumped into the bellboy, who obviously felt the same way.
The younger man shook his head, "The one thing I've learned working here is to never get caught in the middle of a drunk bridal party."
Tim pulled out is wallet and generously tipped the younger man, distracting him from his horrified fascination with the drunken women running through a garbled chant in, god, was that supposed to be Latin?
"Thank you, sir." The bellboy handed Tim the room keys before backing down the hall, warily eyeing the raucous group. "Enjoy your stay."
Tim eyed the door to the room, but decided braving the mob just wasn't worth it. Maybe they'd disperse before he caught their attention.
"And who is this dour yet attractive man you've brought along for us, Calleigh?"
Then again, maybe not.
Calleigh worked her way to the outside of the group. "This is Tim Speedle, a friend and co-worker of mine. Tim, these are some friends from college, Katie, Dorrie, Becky, Laura, Stephanie, Melissa, and Cappy. And he's not for you all."
One of them, Tim thought it was Dorrie, gasped dramatically and wrung her hands. "You're not *serious* about him, are you, honey?"
Calleigh rolled her eyes and started smirking. "We're not together and he's still not for you."
Becky seemed to be the only one sober enough to catch on. "You didn't."
Calleigh grinned and pushed her hair back over her shoulder. "I did."
"You always did have more balls than a bull, girl." Becky started laughing. "Janine is going to kill you."
"Holy shit!" That was Katie finally catching on, Tim thought. "You brought a gay to Janine's wedding."
Speed squirmed as eight sets of eyes focused on him. "Uh, Calleigh -"
"What? What's going on?" Cappy was using Laura to hold herself up. "Did we miss something about touchable Timmy?"
Melissa huffed out a sigh and wedged herself under Cappy's free arm. "He's gay, fool."
"No!" Cappy turned comically surprised eyes towards Tim, "Really?"
He nodded hesitantly, not entirely sure where this was going. He didn't expect all seven of them to start hooting with laughter, though. When they recovered, Dorrie wrapped an arm around Calleigh's shoulders. "Janine is going to have an entire litter of kittens. She already threw a fit because Andy's best man is gay."
Another bout of laughter had a door opening down the hall and Becky realized they needed to take the party inside. "Come on, Calleigh. We're having a pre-wedding girl's night and there's a veil with your name on it down the hall."
They started dragging Calleigh down the hall and Tim jumped forward to give her one of the room keys. She smiled her thanks and Tim breathed a sigh of relief as the group's echoes faded down the hallway. He shouldered their bags and let himself into the room, flipping the light switches in the short entryway with his elbow as he passed them. The casual elegance of the room was totally lost on him as he automatically pulled his suit and, after a second's deliberation, Calleigh's dress from their garment bags to hang in the cedar scented closet. After that, it was a moment's work to leave Calleigh a quick note letting her know he was going to be in the hotel bar.
For the foreseeable future.
Tim knew from experience the bartender would stop serving him long before he was ready to stop drinking on nights like tonight so, despite the outrageous mark-up, he simply bought a bottle of Wild Turkey from the bar.
"Are you sure that's what you want?" The bartender stopped wiping down the bar and straightened up. "Normally I wouldn't say anything, but that stuff'll make you go blind. Only teenagers and winos can stomach that crap."
"Sentimental reasons." Tim shrugged, compelled to make an explanation even though the bartender was already reaching below the bar for the bottle. He paid for it and left a good-sized tip. "I'm staying in the hotel and eventually someone will be down to bring me back to my room. All I need from you tonight is a glass and privacy, okay?"
The bartender held up his hands in surrender and Tim stepped away from the bar, scanning the posh room for a dark corner. One of the two truly secluded booths was currently occupied by someone already peering into the bottom of his glass, so Tim chose the twin booth on the other side of the room. As he sat down, he licked his fingers and loosened the light bulb in the hanging fixture, effectively halving the light shining down on the table.
He broke the seal on the bottle and poured a healthy measure into his glass. He took the shot and poured another while his eyes were still watering from the shock of cheap liquor to his system. He repeated that four more times before letting himself take a full breath, shuddering as the alcohol burned its way down to his stomach. He poured again, this time sipping until he felt the initial softening of the world that indicated he was drunk enough to let himself think about David.
The cloying aftertaste of whiskey on his tongue reminded Tim of his first kiss, of being fifteen and unsure about the amber bottle David had snuck into his room. He remembered the dizzy rush of alcohol in his bloodstream being erased by adrenaline when David leaned forward and kissed him until he didn't *want* to breathe ever again. Then David had sat back and smiled, and Tim knew he'd never want anything more than that for the rest of his life.
But tonight was not a night for remembering the good times. Tonight was a night for remembering the bitter chill of a late season cold snap and the sound a snowmobile engine makes when it echoes back across a valley; for remembering the feel of a ski-jacket covered back against his cheek and how *hard* the ground is when you hit it at forty miles an hour; for remembering the smell of gas in the air and how blood looks in the snow.
He let the memories of that day circle around him as he drank his way through the bottle of whiskey. He didn't think he'd ever forget how cold it had been, kneeling on the frozen ground next to David's broken body. It was one thing he'd always appreciate about Miami; no matter how miserable the tropical temperatures could be, it was never truly cold. He thought that if he had to live in a climate where half the year reminded him of the accident, he'd probably go a little crazy.
Tim shuddered once with a phantom chill, nearly dislodging the half empty bottle in his hand. The accident had been just that, an accident. It was a freak mechanical malfunction teamed with a snow-covered patch of ice that left one young man paralyzed and was still slowly killing another thirteen years later. It didn't matter to Tim that the doctors told him he was lucky to be alive, let alone unharmed. It didn't matter because David had died on that path. Not in body, though that happened soon enough, but in spirit.
On the rare occasions David had been completely conscious when Tim visited, he had seemed upbeat and joked about Tim curing him, but Tim could see how being trapped inside his body was killing him as surely as his disintegrating organs were. His doctors had been surprised David had survived as long as he had, actually. Just over two years confined to a hospital bed, dying by inches as his body slowly stopped sustaining itself after the damage it had taken.
Raucous laughter from the other end of the bar distracted him from memories of David's death and he was grateful because neither was today about remembering those final days. Tim glanced at his watch and was a little surprised to realize he'd been lost in his memories for over two hours and that bar time was rapidly approaching. He had been positive Calleigh would have ducked out on the bridal party to check on him by now and he wasn't sure he'd be able to make it to his feet, let alone the room without assistance.
The edges of the room spun around Tim as he tried to distract himself from the memory of David. He was too drunk to focus on much of anything, but the booth opposite his caught his attention. He thought it was the same man who'd been there when he first came in, but the other man had pretty obviously been drinking just as heavily as Tim had. The man didn't seem to notice Tim's attention as he was completely focused on the paper he was folding. He finished his folding and held the obviously crooked paper football up to the light before taking careful aim and flicking it at the bartender. When his shot hooked towards the restrooms, he screwed his face into an exaggerated frown and pantomimed taking the shot again, obviously trying to figure out where he went wrong.
Tim could see the moment he made the decision to recover the errant projectile and, drunk as he was, even Tim knew it was a bad idea. He unconsciously shook his head and whispered, "Don't do it, man," just before the other man tried to slide out of the booth and ended up on the floor. There was a blur of movement in the corner of his eye that turned out to be a tall woman hurrying over from the entrance to haul the man up off the floor. The scolding tone of her voice carried across the bar, but Tim could see how carefully she handled the awkward body of her friend even though he was feeling no pain.
He turned his head slowly and had to blink a couple of times to bring the speaker into focus. "Calleigh, hey."
"Ready to head upstairs?" There was something off about her voice and Tim squinted at her, trying to figure out what was wrong, but she had him by the arm and was tugging him out of the booth. She somehow managed to lever him up and wedge herself under his shoulder before he could even protest the manhandling. She reached around his back and grabbed his belt, using the leverage to propel him towards the bar.
"Does he owe you anything?" The bartender looked up at Calleigh's question and shook his head.
"No, ma'am. Do you need some help with him?"
"Thanks, but I've got it." Calleigh pulled on his belt, easily maneuvering him around the tables and into the elevator. She pulled out her room key while effortlessly keeping him propped in the corner of the elevator car and when it filtered through to Tim's drunken brain why she seemed off, he could have kicked himself.
"I'm an idiot, Calleigh."
"Well, drinking yourself stupid the night before a wedding in the hotel bar was probably not the brightest thing you've ever done."
Tim winced at the tone of her voice. "Not that. Well, yeah, that, but no. I'm sorry you had to come get me. I usually do this by myself."
Calleigh's face softened with forgiveness and concern, "Tim, you shouldn't do that."
"I have to, Calleigh. These nights are important to me." He shook his head, frustrated he couldn't make her understand, and knowing that for some reason, he needed her to. He needed *someone* to understand. The elevator doors opened and he let her guide him into the hallway. "It's the three nights a year I remember; his birthday, the day he got hurt, and the day he died."
"He who?" Calleigh unlocked their door and led Tim inside, sitting him down on the edge of one of the beds.
"David, of course." Tim kicked off his shoes as Calleigh began efficiently stripping his shirt off of him.
"David. Of course." She stood him up and made quick work of his pants before urging him back down and into bed. He went willingly enough, following her with his eyes as she brought over a pitcher of water and filled up a glass, forcing him to drain it several times.
She disappeared into the bathroom for a couple of minutes and came out wearing her pajamas. She turned off the lights and Tim waited until he heard her settle into the other bed. "We were supposed to go to Europe, did you know that?"
"You and David?"
"For graduation. We had it all worked out, you know? We'd graduate, backpack around Europe, go to college, then live our life. Always together. We were waiting to tell our parents until we were both eighteen, but it was a freak accident and I didn't even get hurt. So I give him three nights a year. I know it's not enough, but he was my David so I do this for him."
Tim felt unconsciousness creeping up on him and he settled back into the pillows, "It took him two years to die."
He hoped Calleigh understood.
Tim could never decide if the dreams that always accompanied his anniversary binges were the result of poking around in his memory or the copious amounts of terrible whiskey required for him to build up the courage to remember. To make matters worse, it seemed he had the circus on his mind this time. He was fine with Alexx as ringmaster, Calleigh performing horse stunts, and Delko swinging from the trapeze, but the image of David and Horatio dressed as a sad clowns was too much and finally pushed Tim from the dreamworld. Creeped out and not a little concerned about his subconscious, he startled awake, sitting straight up in bed before realizing that much movement was a definite mistake. He closed his eyes and took stock while waiting for the room to stop spinning around him. His head hurt and felt like it was floating about two feet above his neck. He was vaguely nauseous and the inside of his mouth felt and tasted like something hairy and diseased crawled in there to die.
All in all, not too bad for March twenty eighth. He was a little surprised he felt as human as he did, actually. It usually took a good twelve hours of being awake before he even began to approach this kind of functionality. Then he remembered stumbling into the bathroom sometime before dawn to throw up everything he'd ever eaten. Calleigh had helped him back into bed, he remembered, and forced him to drink more water and take some painkillers before he passed out again.
Shame and guilt crept through him as he remembered the rest of last night. It was bad enough he had humiliated himself in front of a co-worker, but he had also put a friend in an uncomfortable position. He knew Calleigh had probably already forgiven him; it wasn't in her nature to hold a grudge, but he really should have thought before drinking himself stupid last night. And he should have thought before talking about David. He'd never done that before, not even when Megan had pulled him out of a bar on what should have been David's twenty-fifth birthday. He had felt compelled last night, though and now he could only hope that Calleigh would leave it alone.
He twisted his watch around until it was facing the right way on his wrist and then blinked at it until the position of the hands made sense. One fifteen. For a moment he thought he had slept through the wedding and felt a sickening lurch in his stomach at the thought of facing Calleigh's wrath. Nausea chased away the blind panic and he remembered the ceremony wasn't set to start until four. Tim eased himself back against the headboard as the adrenaline faded from his system, leaving him even shakier than before. He spotted a glass of water on the table next to him, along with more painkillers, and wondered how difficult it would be to have Calleigh canonized.
The water helped immensely and sooner than he thought possible, he levered himself out of bed and started shuffling towards the bathroom. Another glass of water, this time spiked with Alka-Seltzer, had him feeling almost human and when he bent down to turn on the shower, he barely felt dizzy. As the hot water steamed up the small bathroom, he stripped out of his t-shirt and boxers, wrinkling his nose at the sour, alcohol smell clinging to his skin. The smell reminded him of the lingering taste in his mouth and he unpacked his toiletries bag, setting his shaving stuff on the counter as he looked for his toothbrush. He couldn't remember ever feeling quite this desperate to brush his teeth before, but he was nearly positive spontaneous combustion was a real possibility if he didn't do something.
Brushing his teeth felt like finding god and Tim felt a thousand times more human afterwards. Stepping under the hot spray of the shower helped too, even if the steam was making him a little lightheaded. He scrubbed down quickly, knowing that if the fall didn't kill him, he'd do it himself if Calleigh had to haul his unconscious body out of the shower.
Finally feeling clean again, he turned off the shower, dried off, and pulled on a clean pair of boxers before opening the bathroom door and letting the room air out. As soon as the mirror was clear, he started shaving. Most days he thought it was a wasted effort since he knew he'd have the dark shadow of a beard within two hours and today was no different. It had been that way since he'd started shaving and David had always -
Crap. A spot of bright red bloomed on the curve of his jaw when his hand jerked reflexively. Fuck. Tim wasn't sure what was more painful, the stinging cut or the unexpected thought of David. After all, the whole point of his remembrance days was to avoid random David-thoughts. He scrambled for some toilet paper, disgusted with his lack of control. As he dabbed at the cut, he heard the room door open. "Calleigh?"
She leaned against the door jam and watched for a moment as he tried to staunch the annoying trickle of blood from his jaw. She opened and closed her mouth once in hesitation before straightening away from the door with determination, "Tim-"
"Don't." Tim forced himself to meet her eyes in the mirror. "Please."
Calleigh relented, obviously frustrated by his reticence, and leaned against the doorframe again. "I brought coffee and bagels. You should probably eat something before the dinner."
Tim nodded and finished wiping the traces of shaving foam off his face. Calleigh watched him for a few more seconds and then turned to leave. Tim again felt compelled to speak when he normally would have let things go. "Calleigh, wait. It's not you; I just...can't."
She nodded, still a little doubtful, but making the effort to smile. "Come on. You need to eat and I need to get ready."
"Calleigh." He stopped her from leaving again. "Thank you. For everything."
When she smiled this time, it was real.
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