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19 April 2011 @ 02:26 pm
Fic: Brick by Brick  
Title: Brick by Brick
Author: me
Fandom: Fairly Legal
Rating: PG
Pairing/char: Justin/Kate, Leo
Spoilers: the series
Summary: After a bridge burns, sometimes you have to clear the rubble before you can build it again.

Note: Thanks to sabaceanbabe for the beta. This is my take on what happens after the season finale.

The hotel hallway was crowded with people in suits, and Justin worked his way through, shaking hands and smiling as cheerfully as he could manage.

It was all right until he got to the table to check in and Margie from the office smiled at him. "Table one, of course, and this," she handed him a nametag, "is for Kate."

Unprepared for the comment, his smile froze and his breath caught in his chest. He realized he should've expected it after telling them that she was coming. That had been weeks ago - back when he'd thought they might work things out.

The nametag fell from his fingers back to the table. "She's not coming." And he knew his words were too curt, but he turned away and went to find the bar.

A glass of wine and a talk with Judge Moreno about the case he'd pleaded out yesterday settled him and let him forget for a little while. The lights dimmed a few times to get everyone to move into the banquet room to start dinner.

Davidson arrived to glad-hand everyone on their way to their tables. "Sorry I couldn't make it to the DA luncheon, but well-earned, Justin."

Justin smiled back and shook hands politely, wondering just how much Davidson had hated it when he heard Justin was getting the award. "Thank you."

"We're fortunate to have you in the office. Keep up the good work," Davidson wished him and managed to look sincere, before moving off to talk to some judges.

Justin found his table near the podium, and it was only after everyone had sat down that he realized the empty chair across the table should've been Kate's.

It wasn't anything new. She'd rarely made it to dinners or special events, and a year ago, he'd started to accept only for himself since she never showed anyway. But she might have tried to make it to this one since he was giving the speech to honor a judge they both knew. If he hadn't made her cry.

He'd never seen her cry before, not like that. Not even when her father had died. He'd never heard her voice hold quite the same desperate sound of anguish before, pleading... and he'd done that.

The napkin twisted around his hand tightly, and he unwound it and reached for his wine glass.

Maybe it was better this way: rip the band-aid off, make a clean break, admit he'd made a mistake and move forward.

It was a relief when beside him, Sonja March, president of the bar association, tapped his arm to get his attention to talk about the timing.

He picked at dinner when it was served, tearing his roll all to bits. Sonja patted his hand and teased, "I would've thought prosecutors would be used to public speaking. You'll do fine."

"It's not the speech," he protested reflexively, since he didn't care about that. Then forced a smile. "I'm fine."

She got up to give the welcome, and then introduced him, mentioning the Brightman case last February. Davidson had stuck him with that retrial, hoping to bury both Justin and the political hot-button case, so Justin had spent ridiculous hours in the office. Kate had ambushed him with the divorce papers in the middle of jury selection, after they had barely talked on the phone for two weeks.

That had annoyed him, too, that she was angry that he was never home this one time during a difficult trial, when more often than not, she was the one standing him up for dinner.

Damn it, let it go, he told himself.

He drained his wine glass, as Sonja finished up, "And here to introduce our honoree this evening, the awards committee chairman of the criminal law section of the San Mateo County Bar Association and the recent winner of our association's prosecutor of the year award, Assistant District Attorney Justin Patrick."

During the applause, he got up and gave his speech for Judge Yamada. After, the judge joined him, they shook hands, and he sat down again. After Yamada's short speech, people started drifting out the doors to return to their families. Justin hung around, talking NBA draft picks with Chuck and Riley before they all got trapped into listening to one of Judge Warren's war stories.

The small group went out into the hall as the hotel staff started to clear the dessert and coffee dishes, and Justin decided enough was enough. "I'm going to excuse myself and say goodnight; it's been a long day."

"He's got a looker for a wife," the old judge informed Chuck and Riley in an aside, as if they didn't know. "Have you seen her? I'd want to get home to her, too."

Chuck looked uneasy and glanced at Justin, checking to see what he should say.

"I... we're divorced," Justin answered, trying to say the words levelly. Close enough to divorced, if not finalized, though he wasn't looking forward to calling Kate to remind her that it wasn't final until it was filed at the county clerk's. Not that he was in a rush to start dating again. He could let the whole thing sit for a few weeks more. He ignored the small, inner voice that laughed at that justification.

Judge Warren clapped a hand on his shoulder hard. "Ah, sorry to hear that. But hey, there're always more fish in the sea, son. My daughter's about your age. How do you feel about kids? She's got two -- they're demonspawn, I think, but don't let that put you off --"

Kids. That was just what he didn't need tonight.

He interrupted, "I'm sorry. I've got to get going. See you on Monday at the office," he told Chuck and Riley and walked away.

Right now, going back to his place and watching something stupid on tv was about all that he could handle.

Until he turned the corner and saw a familiar, curly-haired head in one of the overstuffed chairs in the middle of the lobby.

Jesus, not this. Please not this.

But of course it was. Leo would've known the time and place of the dinner because he kept Kate's schedule, even for things she missed. He was surely here on her behalf, probably to hand him the papers she'd finally signed so he could take them into work and file them downstairs.

Just go do it; take the papers and whatever he wants to say to you, and then it'll be done. It's what you wanted. You wanted it over, so now it is. Damn it.

He shut his eyes for a moment, inhaled a deep breath and walked over to Leonardo.

Leo glanced up then, saw Justin approaching, and it was clear from the lack of surprise that he'd been waiting for Justin, not coincidentally hanging out in the Sheraton lobby for some other reason.

"Leonardo. Please don't tell me you've been waiting this whole time?" he asked wearily.

"Not the whole time, no. And I had the hotel Wi-Fi to keep me busy - " and he held up his iPad -- Justin's iPad-- as he stood up.

"So? Where are they?" Justin asked when Leo was taking his time getting to the point.

Leo frowned. "Where's what?"

"Didn't Kate send you with the papers?"

"No. She didn't," Leo answered. "Send me, or papers."

Justin frowned. "Okay, then what's this about?"

Leo leveled a stare back. "You know."

"Kate." Of course. He let out a sigh, and had the thought that he should tell Leo to mind his own business. But Leo probably wouldn't listen anyway, and Justin didn't want to make a scene with his coworkers and judges milling around. "I didn't drink nearly enough at the dinner for this conversation. You want to talk to me - we're going to the hotel bar."

Justin marched off across the lobby and didn't have to look to know Leo was following. He took one of the low chairs at the corner table of the lounge area, folding his jacket over the back. Leo laid the iPad on the chair arm between them, making sure it was flat and safe. Justin eyed it, tempted to take it, but the server came over and the moment passed.

Justin ordered beers for them both and leaned back, regarding Leo for a long moment before giving in. "Fine. So. Kate. How much did you hear?"

"All of it," Leo admitted. "'Christmas and bombs', man? Really? That was harsh."

Luckily the server came back with the beers and Justin could dig for his wallet and make sure his expression wasn't giving anything away. He felt guilty enough without Leonardo trying to make it worse. Then, after the drinks were taken care of, he felt ready to answer, neutral and calm. "I got a little carried away in my metaphor, but," he shrugged and picked up his glass to drink. "That's what it is, Leo. Every time I get excited that maybe this time things'll be different, they're not."

Leo didn't touch his drink, instead leaning forward, earnestly holding his eyes. "She loves you."

Why did people think that made it easier? It made it worse. At least if they hated each other, he wouldn't want to see her again. "I know that. And I love her. But --"

"No, no 'buts'," Leo interrupted. "You think it's that easy? You think people find love all the time? No. Not like that. You just have to talk it through."

"We tried," Justin started.

Leo shook his head and pointed at him in accusation. "You did not. You two are great talkers- you get awards in talking, for god's sake - but you're so bad at it with each other. I don't get it." He gave Justin a frighteningly considering look as if he was plotting something in that fiendish brain of his. "I have this dream where I lock you both in a room until you figure this out. Because it is killing me - like, literally killing me - to watch you throw this away because you won't try." Then before Justin could respond, Leo reconsidered, "No, not one room. I know what happens when you're in a room together. Too much. I mean, really, in the office? Don't get me wrong - you're both fine looking people, but I didn't need to see quite that much of either of you." He briefly covered his eyes with his hand, as if trying to block it from his memory, and Justin chuckled, though it had been very embarrassing at the time. "Anyway, you two need some sort of barrier between you," Leo finished. "And to talk."

Amused in spite of himself, Justin suggested, "Visitation room in lockup?"

"Not that I would know what that looks like, but yes," Leo agreed. "Just talk to her," he pleaded. "Pretend I'm Kate, what would you say?"

"That this isn't going to work," Justin said. "Look, Leo, I'm glad you're her friend, but if you're trying to - I don't know - parent-trap us back together, it's too late. She filed, I agreed, and we let it linger too long. It's over." He gathered his jacket, preparing to leave.

Leo held out an arm, trying to block his way. "No," Leo insisted. "You're not giving up so easily. I don't buy it. C'mon, talk it out with me. What you said in her office, that can't have been all."

Justin hesitated then shook his head. "And then you're going to go tell her whatever I say? Is that the plan? Because, no. Not interested."

"I won't tell her anything," Leo promised and crossed his heart. "Scouts honor. But I know her and I know you and if anybody can help you, it's me. You know I'm right." He must have seen something in Justin's face that he took as encouragement, because he smiled, very winningly. "Yes, there you go. So, you were angry about the false alarm?"

"No," Justin said, then corrected himself, settling back into the overstuffed lounge chair, "well, a little. I know it was a mistake. And that happens. But she laid it on me at lunch, then disappeared until I had to come track her down myself, and then said, oops, no, sorry, it was never true anyway. So mostly I was mad that all afternoon she couldn't be bothered to talk to me about my own child. Or to tell me she'd learned it wasn't true. Or, anything. Because someone else took priority. And someone else is always taking priority," he added bitterly. "She was late to my award luncheon, because she's always late. And y'know, I have shit to do, too. My inbox has a pile of cases, I have interviews and meetings and court I have to get to, dinners --" he waved a hand in the direction of the ballroom. "And somehow I manage."

"She is late, a lot. That was one of the reasons Lauren fired her."

Justin stared at him and wondered absently if working with Kate had taught Leo all too well about how to drop bombshells. He repeated incredulously, "Fired her? Lauren fired Kate? Really? I thought they were getting along better."

"Nope," Leo confirmed, looking both rueful and slightly pleased by the result of his revelation. "I heard that conversation, too. It was right before she came into her office with you."

"Oh. Damn it." He reached up a hand to rub his face and then grabbed for his glass, feeling awful. He'd managed to unload on her at exactly the wrong moment - not that there was a good moment, probably, but it hadn't been that one. "I didn't know that."

"That's why I thought you should know. I think finding out about David Smith was Lauren's last straw."

"I told Kate to tell her." He shook his head once. There had been no way that was going to stay buried forever, and keeping it secret had been petty. "I feel sorry for Kate, but hell, I can't blame Lauren that she finally got fed up, too. Kate's so smart about some things and she has a big heart for total strangers, but sometimes, she's such a spoiled princess. The rest of us have to arrange our lives around hers, because she doesn't respect other people's time and work."

"You don't think she does? Respect yours?" Leo asked.

Justin gave him a look. "C'mon. She thinks I'm perpetuating an evil system. When I'm not being cold because I don't care about the poor little misunderstood criminals, I'm the bad guy because I can't magically file cases without evidence, depending on which side is tugging her heart a little more. She steals my files, uses my name to get her own way in her own work, and then she doesn't even apologize when it gets me in trouble. Because somehow her client is that much more important than my job is to me."

Leo hesitated, glanced at the dark screen of the iPad, and observed quietly, "That can't be always true."

"No, not always, of course not," Justin admitted. "But often enough. I... look, like I said, it's no one thing, Leo. Kate being Kate. And when we weren't seeing each other a lot, it didn't matter because when we were together, things were really good." He stared at the remnants of his beer, studying it, wishing he could go back and tell his younger self to not be so starry-eyed with the beautiful, passionate Kate Reed, and realize the two of them had nothing in common besides being lawyers.

"Y'know," he murmured. "I never really understood what she saw in me. I fell for her, so hard -- so, so damn hard, Leonardo. But I can't live in this space where we're only together when it's convenient. Marriage should be more. I want what my parents have; I want a partner, someone who understands, someone who's ... there. But Kate doesn't want that. Or maybe she does, but she can't. I wish it was her, because I still can't help wanting her in my life. But maybe... some things aren’t meant to be."

He finished his beer and was suddenly exhausted. It was time to go home, pop the tequila, and find a game to take his mind off her. Leo didn't try to stop him this time as he stood up and put his suit jacket back on, shrugging it into place. "Thanks for listening, Leo. But I think you can tell there's nothing you can do. That ship's sailed."

To Justin's uneasiness, Leo smiled. "Oh, clearly you run in different circles, because among people I know? Some ships are forever." Justin frowned, wondering what Leo was talking about -- probably some gaming thing. He didn't ask.

"Good night."

"Good night, Justin." Leo waved as Justin left.

At the door, Justin glanced back to see Leo with the iPad on his lap and his mostly untouched beer still in front of him. It had felt strangely good to say all that, and he wished somehow Leo would use his super assistant powers to fix everything.

But he knew a losing case when he saw one, and it was time to plead it out and get on to work he could do something about.

* * *

The sun was unusually hot out at Kate's boat again, and Leo was glad to see that she seemed to be in decent spirits, despite everything.

"The office is packed," he announced. "And you -- we -- are ready to go on with, well, whatever we're doing next."

She smiled brightly at him. "Thank you. That's fantastic news."

For a moment, he was unsure about his plan and decided to test the waters a little first. "I saw Justin last night."

She froze and her smile faded, before she turned her head and pretended it was no big thing. "Oh, really. Did he ... say anything?" she asked.

Relieved by her reaction, he nodded. "He did. A lot actually. I figured the next best thing to forcing you two to talk to each other, was to make you talk to me. So..." He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a thumb drive. "He talked to me. You should listen to it."

He told himself not to feel guilty as he handed it over. He had only promised not to tell Kate - he hadn't promised not to record what Justin said and give it to Kate. But luckily Justin would only find out about it if all went well, and he wouldn't put Leo in jail for trying to save his marriage. Hopefully.

Kate's fist closed around the small drive, tucking it safely in her hand, so it wouldn't fall in the water. She didn't ask how Leo had made a recording. "He ... talked about me?" "

Leo nodded slowly, holding her eyes. "Just listen to it. I ... I know it might be hard, but listen. He wants so badly to fix things, Kate, but he doesn't know how. That's what you do. You fix things. So fix this."

His hand closed on her shoulder, gently squeezing, and she nodded, looking more and more determined.

"I will," she promised, and opened her hand to look at the little box containing Justin's words.

* * *

On his bike, Justin crossed the bridge and headed up the peninsula, telling himself he wasn't going to take the exit to go down to the marina. No, he was going for a ride to clear his head, feel some fresh air, and not to wind up at her door like a loser with nowhere else to go.

The exit came up on the signs, looming larger than it should.

Maybe he should see her. He should at least apologize for being so harsh right on top of Lauren's firing. But... wasn't that exactly what he shouldn't do? They should stay angry at each other, so their relationship could finally end.

Nevertheless he switched to the right-hand lane, preparing to exit. It was a reflex action by this time since he rarely came out here without stopping by.

It was a habit he had to stop. No matter how much it hurt, he had to give her up. Let the feel of her finally drain away from his fingers, and let new scents fill his nose. Not keep after her, praying this time something would be different.

Treacherously his brain reminded him that she'd been fired from Reed and Reed. Things were going to have to be different.

No. He pulled on the handlebars, forcing the bike to stay on the 101. He had to be rational and let go.

It didn't make him feel better as her exit receded behind him.

God damn it, you are pathetic, Justin Alexander Patrick. You love her but she drives you crazy. You're all but divorced, and anyone else would be smart and give it up by now, you stupid son of a bitch.

The car on his left started to move into his lane. Alarmed and irritated that the driver hadn't even looked, he jerked right, trying to get out of the way. The move put him right into the path of another car, coming up the merge lane and going too fast.

He barely had time to register it, understand they were going to collide, and accelerate the bike into a desperate swerve.

The balance shifted and the bike tipped over, starting into a spin.

He shut his eyes as he fell, remembering Kate's beautiful face and her brilliant smile.

I'm sorry... he tried to tell her, as the ground rushed up to meet him.

* * *

Kate listened three times to the audio file Leo had made her, experiencing different emotions each time. The first time through she'd gotten angry and defensive. She went below to find the boat toaster and it made a very satisfactory thunk as she hurled it into the trash can on the dock. Spoiled princess? So that's what he really thought of her? Like he was mister perfect.

But her temper cooled, and his other words started to creep back. 'I wish it was her, but maybe some things aren't meant to be.' She listened to it again, this time more hurt and upset, brushing away tears as she heard only the words that meant he'd given up on her. She went back to the dock and fished the boat-toaster out of the trash, propping it up on the cushion beside her.

But the third time, she could sit there calmly and listen. A lot of it she'd heard before, but there were some new things he'd never mentioned to her, not like that. How had he gotten the idea that she didn't think his work was important? She'd only ever objected to the most outrageously unfair of his cases.

But... a little guilt wormed its way inside, remembering how weirdly upset he'd been at his ringtone. She'd thought he didn't care that much when he didn't mention it again, but now she had a feeling she'd failed some sort of test.

Taking out her phone she flipped to his number and the Tin Woodsman background, and her thumb hovered over the call button and the menu command to change the background. She didn't want to change it, not without explaining to him that she'd chosen it because the Tin Woodsman had always had a heart, and he certainly had hers. But she hadn't taken his complaint seriously and so she hadn't said that, and now... the Wicked Witch was winning and her Tin Woodsman had lost his faith in her.

How was she going to fix this mess when he wouldn't talk to her?

Then the screen flashed and the phone vibrated in her hand, his tone starting to play. Stunned and pleased, it took her a moment to accept the call. "Justin?" she asked, a little breathless with hope that he was calling to talk.

But it wasn't Justin's voice. "I'm calling for a Kate Reed who is listed as Justin Patrick's emergency contact?" an unfamiliar woman's voice asked.

Kate shook her head once to clear it, frowning. "This is Kate Reed."

"Ms Reed, my name is Angela Pham, I'm in admissions for St John's Hospital in San Rafael. Mister Patrick was brought into the Emergency Room."

Kate felt like her entire body turned to ice and her hand tightened painfully on her phone. "He... he's in the ER? What happened? How is he?"

Angela hesitated. "I'm not able to tell you, unless you're his next of kin. I'm sorry. In fact that's what I’m looking --

Suddenly Kate was fiercely glad she'd never signed the papers. So she didn't have to lie as she interrupted, "I'm his wife. Tell me. How is he?"

"He was in a serious motorcycle accident," Angela told her. "I don't have any details, but I do know he was taken from the ER for immediate surgery."

"Surgery?" Kate repeated in horror. "Oh God."

That stupid motorcycle -- she'd told him he was going to get hurt. She'd told him, they'd argued about it, and now he was in surgery in the hospital.

She inhaled a shaky breath. "You're in San Rafael, you said? I'm not far. I'll be there soon."

After ending the call, she stared at the screen for a moment, trying to breathe. Justin. He wasn't going to leave her like this. No, that wasn't going to happen -- that couldn't happen.

She had to go back below for her purse, but soon was in her car on her way. Both hands white-knuckled on the wheel, she drove too fast, nearly getting into an accident of her own heading north.

* * *

The waiting room was a special kind of hell. Somewhere above her they were operating on Justin's multiple fractures and internal injuries. She felt cold and nauseous waiting for word. He was going to be fine, she told herself repeatedly, but she didn't manage to believe it. Not as the minutes and hours continued to pass without word.

She held her phone, knowing she should call people, but unable to make the calls until she knew how he was. None of the well-thumbed magazines held her attention for more than a few minutes, and every creak of the door was like a bell, drawing her attention like a dog to dinner.

Finally the door opened. "Mrs. Patrick?"

Kate examined her face, looking for a clue. The nurse would be smiling if it were good news, right? Why wasn't she smiling?

Clutching her purse in both hands, she stood up and didn't think to correct the assumption. She could barely push her voice through her constricted throat, as she said, "Yes?"

"Mister Patrick's been moved to recovery. If you'd like to speak to his surgeon?"

'Recovery'. Thank God.

Light-headed with relief, Kate followed the nurse, to where an older woman in scrubs was waiting.

The doctor told Kate words that she barely listened to - fractures and damaged spleens -- but it all added up to Justin was going to be fine. He wasn't going to die and leave her.

"Can I see him?" she blurted anxiously.

"Of course. This way." The nurse led her past the station into an ICU room with two beds, but only the one near the door was occupied.

Kate's hand flew up to cover her mouth, as her eyes felt hot with tears. For a moment she couldn't move, couldn't breathe, frozen with dread suddenly made real.

He had a cast on his arm and another on his leg up to the hip, both supported by a traction frame over the bed. There was gauze along his jaw, and the loose hospital gown didn't cover the dressing on his opposite shoulder from another injury. He was attached to too much equipment -- EKG pads on his chest, tubes in his nose, blood pressure cuff on his arm, and an i.v. into his forearm. His face was pale and drawn, with dark shadows under his eyes and a developing bruise on one cheek.

She was at his bedside without realizing she'd moved and let her purse slip to the floor. Her fingers were shaking as she held them out to touch his arm.

"Justin?" she whispered.

His skin was warm, and she drew her fingers down, smoothing the hair of his forearms, to his fingers. "I'm going to show you," she promised, voice cracking. "I'm here."

He slept, and she tucked her feet beneath her in the chair next to his bed to watch him breathe.

* * *

He woke up slowly, looking drowsy and vague at first, wincing with pain when he tried to move.

"Justin, stay still," she murmured, drawing his attention. "You're in the hospital."

Recognition was a little delayed when he looked at her, but then his eyes lit up. "Hi there," she greeted him with a smile.

"Hey," he returned hoarsely and cleared his throat, licking his lips. "Water?"

"You can have ice chips, the nurse said." She grabbed the cup and gave him a few pieces on a spoon. His lips trembled, trying to take it, and she bit her own lip in distress at the weakness, but smiled again in encouragement when his gaze went back to her face. "More?"

He shook his head minutely in answer. His eyes went to the casts and equipment and he frowned in confusion. "What... happened?"

She took his good hand in hers, glad when he gripped back. "You wrecked your bike. You broke some bones and lost your spleen. You're lucky to be alive. But you're going to be fine."

His eyes shut, but his grip on her fingers remained, so she ran her thumb over the back of his hand gently, waiting as he rested. Then his eyes opened again. "Kate?" he asked, sounding a little worried that he'd imagined her presence.

"I'm here," she reassured him. "You're going to be fine, Justin. But if you ever ride that bike again, I'll kill you myself. Got it?"

His lips twitched in faint amusement by her not-actually-joking threat, but his eyelids sank again.

"It's okay," she murmured. "Rest, baby."

His fingers loosened as the drugs pulled him back down into sleep. She patted his hand and went to make phone calls, relieved he had awakened, while she waited for him to wake up again.

* * *

They made her leave overnight, but she presented herself to his new room the instant visiting hours started.

He was awake and turned his head at the sound of her heels. "Good morning," she greeted cheerfully, bringing in the balloon tied to the cutest bear she could find last night, and set the bear on the little table holding his water cup where he could see it. "This is for you. From me. So it can stay here, even when they kick me out."

Then she came to his side and bent down to kiss his cheek. "How are you feeling?" she asked, regarding him seriously. They'd moved him from ICU and taken away the oxygen, so he was better. But he still looked pale and fragile, and his eyes weren't completely alert, because of the little bottle feeding into his i.v.

"Tired," he answered honestly. "Hurt."

"I'm sure. You got pretty banged up. But you'll get a little better each day." She folded her fingers around his. "I tried to reach your parents, but I had to leave a message."

"Oh shit," he muttered. "They're in Egypt. My mom's been looking forward to it for months. I hope they don't check the machine and rush back."

Stricken, she bit her lip. Damn it, she couldn't keep from screwing up even when she was trying to be helpful. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't -- "

His eyes went back to her face and he pressed her hand. "Hey, I didn't mean -- it's okay. I know they'd want to know. Timing sucks, that's all."

"No good time for getting hit by a car," she pointed out, rewarded by a faint smile.

"The road hit me first," he answered wincing with the memory.

"Poor baby." She used her free hand to trace down his cheek. "You have to be more careful," she murmured. "God, Justin, when they called me, I thought --" Her voice choked in her throat remembering how she'd feared he was going to die. "So now that I have a chance, I want you to know ... I couldn't sign those papers because I don't want to. Every time I tried, I couldn't do it. I know I'm the one who brought it up, since we weren't seeing each other and I realize so much of that was my fault. I wasn't trying. I thought it'd be easier, but I was wrong. So wrong. It's not easier - it's horrible. Imagining you not in my life anymore, I ... can't."

Now that she had the words, they were pouring out of her like a waterfall. She had to say these things, all these things, everything she'd held back, everything he'd misunderstood. She couldn't leave any of them unsaid, not when she'd come so close to never being able to tell him. "You want to know what I see in you?" she leaned down, caressing his face in both hands gently. "I see a passion for justice, and a big, giving heart that somehow managed to put up with me way longer than you should have. You are strong and honest and -- and steady and brilliant and somehow there's this nobility in you that shines." She took an unsteady breath, trying to get it all out, even while she could barely breathe and her heart was so full of everything she had to tell him. She put her fingers across his mouth to make him stay quiet, shaking her head. "And - and I'm so sorry that I made you think I took you for granted. But you are never second-best, Justin, and I should never have let you believe that. Because ... " she bit her lip and blinked back tears, "because you make me feel like it's Christmas when we're together, and I -- I can't -- I don't want to let that go."

The tears spilled free, dripping down her cheeks and blurring her sight of his face. She hiccupped to finish, hurrying as he opened his mouth. "I promise I'll go away if that's what you want. But I had to tell you that."

He reached up with his free hand to wipe her tears. "Don't cry," he pleaded in a hoarse whisper. "I can't make you cry twice in a week. When I was on the ground -- and I hurt -- God, I hurt so much and I thought I was dying. All I wanted was to see you again." His thumb traced her lips lightly. "Only you."

She could feel his fingers trembling, and she reached up to hold them to her cheek. Her eyes met his, and when she saw the brightness there, tired and pained but full of love, she bent down to kiss him.

His hand tangled in her hair at the back of her neck, and she kissed his lips, the side of his face and jaw. "I love you -- don't ever, ever think I don't," she murmured. "We'll get through this. And I'll show you even spoiled princesses can be there for you when you need me."

"I don't want you to go away," he murmured. "I never did."

She lifted her face to look at him with a wet, tremulous smile, trying to lighten things up even through her sniffles. "I won't. You're going to be stuck in bed. I have no job. You said you wanted time to talk."

"This wasn't quite what I had in mind," he said dryly, with a glance at his arm cast. "But I'll take it."

"All the time and talking you want," she promised.

"I'm going to be moody and grumpy," he warned, flashing a tired smile. "You might want to rethink that."

"Nope. Still sticking like glue," she promised softly, laying her head on his shoulder, and running a finger along the top of the top of the cast on the opposite side. Her voice dropped to a whisper, in a fervent promise. "Justin. I let so many things -- so many important things, including you -- fall out of my hand. I didn't mean to. I swear I'll fix it."

He let out a long breath that stirred her hair and he relaxed beneath her. He murmured, "Love you, too."

When she raised her head again after a few moments of silence, she saw that he'd drifted back to sleep.

She kissed her fingers and pressed them to his lips. He was broken, but he would mend. Just like them.

* * *

While he slept, she slipped out of her shoes and tucked her feet up. A nurse came in to fill out his chart and examine his i.v. and his bandages. "He's doing very well," she reassured Kate. "You can get some lunch. He'll sleep most of the day."

"No, I'm staying." The nurse accepted that and didn't bother Kate as she finished her checks and quietly left again.

Putting the bear on her lap, Kate called Leo. "Justin doesn't have Davidson's phone number on his phone, could you find it for me?"

"You're going to call the DA?" Leo asked, sounding both scandalized and resigned.

"Someone has to tell him Justin's not going to be able to go into work for at least a few weeks. I'm sure he'll appreciate a heads up." He probably wouldn't, since she knew Davidson was threatened by Justin's growing influence, but he would act like he did. And maybe Justin's absence would teach Davidson a lesson about how much he needed one of his senior assistants. "He'll take a call from me, at least before he finds out I'm not with Reed and Reed anymore," she answered, with a sigh. "Speaking of... since Justin's going to need help, I'm going to have to hold off on starting up the new practice."

Which meant no work for Leo either and made her feel a little regretful, but at least she had some savings to pay him something until she could get her business off the ground.

"Of course. I think that's a great idea. Not that it was great that Justin got hurt," Leo added hastily, "not at all. You know I'm very sorry to hear that. But I'm glad you're going to stay there, with him. Did you listen to that thing I made?"

"I did. It helped."

"I hope so," Leo said. "Give him my best. Tell him I have an iPad I can lend him for his recovery. He'll like that."

"I will. That's nice of you, I'm sure he'll appreciate it," she told him, wondering why that made Leo laugh, but then added before he hung up, "Oh, wait. Leo?"

"Yes, Kate?"

Leaning back in the hard, old hospital chair, she instructed, "Find the divorce papers, wherever you packed them. And tear them up."

Leo hesitated for a moment and then asked, sounding very pleased, "How small do you want the pieces?"

She glanced at Justin's sleeping face and smiled. "Tiny. Itty-bitty. I don't want to see them, ever again."

"You fixed it?"

"Not all the way," she admitted, "not yet, but I will."

Justin stirred and she hung up, leaning forward so he could see her more easily. She offered him the straw to sip at the water, pressing her lips together in sympathy as he shuddered at the pain from even that small movement. He rested, eyes closed, and then tried again. "Were you talking? To someone?" he asked.

"Leo. On the phone."

"Oh. Do you have to go?" The disappointment and resignation was plain to read on his face, as if it was something he'd expected all along. "Someplace ... you need to be?"

"No." She curled her fingers over his and smiled at him, rubbing her thumb across the back of his hand. "There's nowhere else I need to be, right now, except right here. With you."

He smiled back, and if there was a flicker of doubt in his eyes, that only made her that much more determined to make her words true.

She leaned closer. "You better get used to having me around. Because I'm not going anywhere."

the end.
(Deleted comment)
lizardbethlizardbeth_j on April 20th, 2011 07:43 pm (UTC)
I just let my inner babbler go free for Leo. :He talks like I think, so that was easy. :)

thank you!
Une Frakkante Cylonne: Samders- beauty shot- geekbynight.sunshine_queen on April 19th, 2011 10:34 pm (UTC)
My heart, my heart! I didn't expect this fic to be this long and plotty but it was such a pleasant surprise! This was great, and I think you did really well with everyone's voices and motivations. Especially the way that they're all destiny OTP BECAUSE THEY ARE.

In conclusion: ♥ ♥ ♥
lizardbeth: FL-Kate-Justinlizardbeth_j on April 20th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
lol. You are new to my flist, aren't you --- "long and plotty" is my default. I can do shorter if I have to,but usually it's kind of like one potato chip. need MOAR. :)

ARGH DESTINY OTP YES. If they get their act together.

cujoy on April 20th, 2011 12:34 am (UTC)
Oh schweeeeet! Leo always knows just what to do. I had a feeling that he was up to something with that i-pad. But poor Justin to have to suffer so.
lizardbeth: FL-Kate-Justinlizardbeth_j on April 20th, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC)
Clever Leo is clever. And frustrated with them.

I know, I'm mean. Poor Justin. At least this way they both STOP MOVING for a couple of weeks.

I'm amused by my own conviction that Justin has a motorcycle. Because he HAS to, right? lol

mages just love me: hairin_the_blue on April 20th, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
I really like your exploration of Justin's thought process in the first half of this fic. His thoughts on Kate and her lack of responsibility and accountability and all the things that went wrong and all the ways things could have been improved in their marriage mesh really well with what we know of him (& them) from canon.
lizardbethlizardbeth_j on April 21st, 2011 10:37 pm (UTC)

I can really feel for Justin, since I share a lot of the same frustrations and contradictory feelings toward Kate. *g*