|Meredith and Sam live a (cursedlife) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2012-07-08 18:26:00
|Entry tags:||sam winchester, stannis baratheon, tate langdon|
Who: Loren, Meredith, and later, Ian.
What: The roommates play happy household
Where: Loren's apartment
Warnings/Rating: Some violence
What he needed the most was time to think, and a supermarket was just the kind of place to get lost in. The harsh hospital glow of halogen was blinding. White tiles reflecting off of white ceiling panels so that the bone bleached surroundings felt magnified in their Kubrickian severity. Loren didn't spend a great deal of time in grocery stores, he was a man more preferential to gas stations for quick fixes to the gnarls of hunger and quarts of milk or cheap lightbulbs, whatever the day called for. But tonight Meredith's list was a montage of oddities that he was pretty sure no 7-11 would carry. The eggs and sugar were easy enough, but Loren ended up wandering the quiet aisles for close to an hour in search of semisweet chocolate chips and vanilla extract. He wasn't even entirely sure what extract was supposed to look like or how semisweet different from any other kind of chocolate chip. But it kept his mind off of things, and maybe an hour was what he needed to keep from seeking out Jules' little date and teaching him some manners.
And what did Loren care anyway? Loading the items onto the spinning rubber of the checkout conveyor belt, that was a whole new subject to lament. Jules could date and fuck and get manhandled by whomever the hell he wanted, Loren wasn't his keeper or his dad and.. what did that mean, that the boy just wanted to lay beside him and feel safe? It left him more confused than uncomfortable, although maybe there was some of that too. There was protests that this had nothing to do with sex, and Loren pretty much had to believe that because sex in and of itself was suddenly an alien thing he was having to consider. He'd never had time to give it much thought before, or much interest, and ever since Hannah died, all interests except vengeance went out the window.. but now he was forced to wonder how much of his easy acceptance when it came to Jules' compliments and Jules' brushing fingertips of soothing balm was Tate. How much of it was him? Maybe he was gay before his coma, although that didn't seem -- "Sir? $16.87, please." The cashier tilted her head impatiently and snapped her gum while he fumbled out the cash and headed out of the store without waiting for the change of his twenty dollar bill.
That's when he got Jules' message, and at least half the eggs in the carton must have broke when Loren flung the groceries into the back of the taxi and headed for the apartment complex. He read over the forum page a couple of times and was hung man silence in the backseat until the driver finally gave up on trying to make small talk with him. Paying his fare, Loren hit the stairs and knocked on the door with the toe of his shoe, as he'd left his only key in Meredith's possession. There were equal elements of fear and rage brewing, and part of him hoped she was holding a bookclub meeting with that desert dwelling son of a bitch in his living room right now. Oh, but the knock was cool and polite. Gentle even, tap tap tap. Honey, I'm home.
Possibly to Loren’s disappointment, there was no bookclub, nothing even close to that going on in his living room that night. Instead, there was Meredith curled up on the couch beneath a fleece blanket, having dozed off in the middle of some trashy movie she had found on the limited cable channels they had available. The sleep wasn’t so deep that she didn’t hear the knock at the door, though it did startle her into immediate awareness, sitting up, the blanket still tangled around her, red hair a mess and eyes bleary from sleep. There came the knock again, and while it was tempting to call out ‘Just a moment!’, Meredith didn’t make a sound as she got up to her feet. Black lounge pants and a green tank tank top made up her wardrobe that night, bare feet noiseless on the floor as she padded over and lifted up on her tiptoes to peer out the peephole, holding her breath until the familiar sight of Loren came into view. Dropping back down, Meredith unlocked the deadbolt and pulled the door open, giving a rub to her eyes as she stepped back to let Loren in. “Sorry. I hope you weren’t waiting long. I fell asleep watching a movie.”
The blue gray of death dust eyes lifted in slow regard of the woman when she opened the door. The tangled waves of her red hair that signified some disturbance of sleep, the bare feet, the barely attentive focus of her eyes as she took in the sight of him. Loren was more than a little disappointed that she didn't answer the door with gun in hand, focused and staring down the barrel at whatever came her way. Then again, this was the same woman discussing library accounts with a serial killer. Loren took a shallow breath and gestured to the two bags of groceries that he'd brought along with him. "No.. not long.. I got your text."
Stifling a yawn with the back of one hand, Meredith pressed the door closed behind him, automatically throwing the locks and leaning back against the steady surface it provided. It took several moments for his words to sink in, the sight of the bags in his arms, but eventually she took notice, a smile pulling at her lips as she stepped forward, suddenly awake. “Thank you!” she chirped with as much brightness as could be expected from someone awake for less than five minutes. Reaching out to take the bags from him, Meredith took a peek inside as she took them to the kitchen, setting them on the table and starting to unpack and put everything away. “I’d make them right now, but I’d probably set fire to something since I’m not completely awake. But tomorrow. Cookies.” She turned back around towards him, pushing a hand back through her hair, fussing some sense into it as she looked him over, the smile fading from her lips just a bit. “Are you okay? Did- did something happen?”
He followed her into the kitchen after a moment, making slow progress at her back while mapping the details of her pajamas. From behind, his eyes were unseen, and that was probably for the best because in this moment, they betrayed everything. Skepticism was at the foremost, flanked by inklings of betrayal and distrust as Meredith began to unload the plastic bags. "I think.. some of the eggs might.." The words kind of faded off because there was no need to explain any further on that, she'd see soon enough. The carton was leaking with busted yolks and fragments of shells. Loren was back to all that cool stone and stubble when Meredith turned with that fading smile. "Actually, something did happen. Can't really understand it.. maybe you can help me.." Fishing the phone out of his pocket, Loren extended the glowing screen toward her. It was the link that Jules had sent him, of Meredith's discussion about books with the man from the desert. He waited for her reaction, and the emptiness in his expression was one more prepared for death than desertion.
At his mention of the eggs, she peered into one of the bags, her eyes widening for a moment at the mess of yolk and shell, but she tried to look on the bright side as she poked the carton open. “A couple survived. It’s enough, and I’ll get the mess cleaned up.” Wiping her hand on a nearby towel, Meredith turned back towards him, taking note of the expression on his face as he extended the phone towards her. It took a moment for her to focus on the screen, the conversation she had had on the journals staring back at her in black and white, impossible to deny, though she hadn’t really been trying to hide it. Glancing back up towards him, her brows furrowed down but she said nothing. Instead, she bit her lip lightly and turned away from him, busying herself by picking through the mess of broken yolk and shattered shells, saving the few eggs that had escaped destruction.
She knew talking to the anonymous man was wrong, that she shouldn’t have done it, but it was an innocent thing when it came down to it. Just... books. Like anyone else she would have talked to on that post, like any other person might have done. But that didn’t mean she was ignorant of the fact about who she talked to, and that she should have left the conversation where it was and stopped replying. Her stomach rolled, nausea swelling, and she paused with her hand wrapped around one of the messy eggs as her eyes closed tightly.
"What did you tell me?" Through grit teeth, the anguish and rage of this entire evening pulsed through the clench of his jaw. "You said you'd stop speaking to him, you said you'd.." Disgust flickered, disbelief and the weight of the world slayed his shoulders down when he advanced on her. Snatching her wrist so that his fingers closed on her fist and all that raw egg seeped between the clutch. A shiver of nerves worked its way up his arm as he tried to push everything else about his night out of his mind, everything with Jules.. which he couldn't fix either. If Jules wanted to put himself in the hands of fucked up people, that was Jules' problem, but Meredith was a new issue and the addition was too much. "I'm doing everything I can to fucking keep you safe, and you're LYING to me!" His voice broke on that shout, but to hell with the neighbors. The tension in his hand closed tighter, cracking bits of eggshell between their fingers. At least it wasn't Meredith's tender neck. Although that idea had his faded blue eyes dropping to the column of her throat. That swan pale stretch just begging for a knife or a noose apparently, whether she accepted it or not. Instead, he dropped his mouth there. Without permission or invitation or even fucking thought, his teeth took a scrape against that pale skin, as if he intended to chew the answer out of her. Hopefully before he came to his senses. If she wanted to be the prey, she'd be the prey.
A surprised yelp escaped her as he moved in closer, soon finding herself with a handful of broken shell and slimy yolk, her other hand planting itself on his shoulder to try to push him away, at least until he yelled. The sound of his voice, the raw emotion that broke in his words, it sent her still as stone, blue eyes impossibly wide with the flame of red hair framing her face. There were excuses she could give, stammered apologies, but none of it would suffice then and there she knew. She had told him she would stop speaking to him, and then she had gone and done it again. Meredith made a small noise in the back of her throat, swallowing hard past the lump that had risen there, just in time for his lips to land on the side of her throat. Her fingers clenched, her heart hammering a panicked rhythm in her chest, and she tried to push him away with her free hand even as his teeth scraped and she took a step back until her back was pressed against the counter behind her. “Loren, Loren, you need to stop this,” she stammered out, her voice weak. It was a plaintive attempt to calm him, to end this chaotic situation.
If Meredith pushed, he didn't feel it. The yelp of surprise and the stammer of her words were lost to the hammering of his heart, the spastic whirl of blood in his ears when she backed into the counter. Loren pursued without giving her an inch of room to breathe, the line of his predator body was all lean gristle beneath the thin cotton of that tee shirt and gray sweats. Releasing Meredith's captured wrist, his palm coasted up the side of her body in a new and panicked exploration, smearing egg yolks and bits of shell all along the way as he tried to force the night's worry out of his head, escape the spun sugar and sweet tea of Jules' voice. That cell phone with the evidence was lost somewhere on the counter behind them when he mouthed his way up her jaw, tasting the subtle perfume of her skin without a word. Egg-slick fingers caught the mess of her hair at the nape of her neck and tugged gently to direct the tilt of her skull in order to offer up a better angle of her jaw to his lips and teeth. Loren was panting, eyes clenched closed. Remembering his conversation with Jules about how long ago it had been since he'd touched a woman, how could he stand to after what he'd seen happen to Hannah? The thoughts were a storm, they wouldn't stop, he tried to ignore the memory of Hannah's decay.. and he made a choked, rabid sound against her neck when his free hand moved for the hip of her pajamas, clean fingers knotting in that fabric. Ready to tug or tear, even if they just tangled there, frozen for a second.
The panic was starting to creep up through her, from the tips of her toes to the very top of her head, every touch lighting her on fire in a way that she did not enjoy. A flush had spread its way up her chest, creeping up her neck and to her cheeks as she shoved at him again even as his fingers made their way into the tangles of her hair. She whined then, all too aware of his lips and teeth on her neck, giving another shove to his shoulder to try and push him away, though nothing she did seemed to get through to him. A voice in the back of her head kept repeating that this wasn’t happening, this was certainly not happening, but it was and she couldn’t wake up from this nightmare. “Loren!” Meredith shouted at him this time, finding her voice from somewhere unknown as she starting hitting his shoulder in any effort to get him to stop. “Loren! Stop this!” Meredith yelled at him again, her voice breaking with something akin to a sob at the end, panic starting to turn to fear as fingers tangled in her pajama bottoms. “You’re scaring me!” Her voice was shrill, frightened and panicked.
Perhaps calling ahead and giving some advanced notice of his intention to drop by would have been polite, but for this, Ian wanted the element of surprise. He tried and failed on multiple occasions to understand how Meredith could live with a stranger, to put her trust in this Loren man, and all the while carry on conversations with the man--or woman, though he suspected the former--who had threatened her and already had more than one murder under his belt. In this, he could only conclude that she was lacking in good sense, which was why she needed him to have enough for the both of them. His background check on Loren had been uneventful, but instead of reassuring him, it only made him more suspicious. There was a blankness that encompassed most of his life, which either meant he had an exceptionally clean record or he was hiding something. He’d found, in his line of work, that more often than not it was the second possibility. Criminal records were one thing, but transgressions that one cared enough to get rid of, history that came up conspicuously vague, that was something else entirely. While he could have been wrong, Ian preferred safe over sorry, and he wasn’t about to give this man the benefit of the doubt simply because he could be a decent human being. He could also be a sociopath. One could never be sure.
Thus, it came to pass that neither Meredith nor Loren were expecting his arrival as he sought out the right apartment in the midst of hallways and rows of doors. Ian had left his gun at home, but he had a taser in his interior jacket pocket, and years upon years in law enforcement had taught him how to be effective without any weapons at all. As he neared Loren’s apartment, the sound of raised voices reached his ears, and he thought he might have gotten the wrong number before a distinctly female, audibly frightened and very familiar voice sounded from behind the door.
“Meredith!” He pounded on the door, finding it locked, and tested its strength with his weight. “Meredith, it’s Ian. Open the door!” If need be, Ian was fully capable of breaking down the slab of wood that stood in his way, and he was about five seconds away from doing just that and arresting the bastard--likely Loren--who was responsible for her screams.
It was the shrill dove of panic cast loose in her soft voice that detached Loren even before the pounding on the door began. He stumbled back, remembering himself in the wake of what felt like some disconnected dream; dead bodies in deserts and Jules playing to the abusive and blood and bullet casings and things only half remembered. Loren's exhale was rough, sandpaper in the throat when he gripped the counter with one hand and smoothed the overgrown angle of his jaw with the other. "I'm sorry," he whispered even as the pounding on the door grew insistent. Frowning, attention drawn as casually as a heat-seeking missile, he looked to the door. "Where's the gun?" Glancing back at Meredith, who was notably shaken and therefore of little use in the department of quick answers, Loren huffed and gestured her toward the door. "Nevermind, answer it," the man was calling her name after all. Loren waited for her to start in that direction before he pulled open one of the kitchen drawers and withdrew a steak knife. Such a simple, serrated thing. Loren twisted its handle in his palm, so that the skinny blade balanced hidden behind a bare and muscled forearm, which Loren kept at his side as he followed Meredith. Collecting the remote momentarily from where she'd forgotten it during her nap on the couch, Loren raised the volume on her trashy Lifetime movie a couple of notches while Meredith messed with the locks on the door a few feet away.
With the chasm of space between them, Meredith pulled in a great, gulping lungful of air, a shudder chasing through her as she grabbed for a towel to clean her hand off, her hands trembling something fierce. She couldn’t bring herself to look at him, even after his whispered apology, too on edge to think further than a few moments ahead. It was then that the pounding on the door drew her attention and she looked towards the front door with widened eyes, not yet comprehending the voice, or even the name. Before she could think any further on that, Loren was talking to her again, his words going right past her as she continued to wipe her hands on the towel, over and over again. Directions were easier to follow as she tried to recover from the attack from Loren, still unable to give a look to him as she padded towards the door, her hands red from all the wiping she had done. Fingers undid the locks one by one and it was only moments before she pulled open the door to peer out, fiery locks, pale skin, and blue eyes that were impossibly wide as she looked out towards Ian, the door open only a crack.
The screaming had stopped, replaced by voices too low to be audible through the door. Ian strained to listen, his insistent pounding having ceased on the heels of the new silence, but he was far from reassured. “Meredith,” he called again, before the television volume was raised and drowned out whatever other sounds might have come from the other side. He cursed under his breath, a rare show of frustration, and had the locks not come undone when they did he likely would have broken down the door with every ounce of strength he possessed.
It took a moment for him to register that the wide blue eyes and pale skin that peered out at him through the crack in the door belonged to Meredith, but when it did, he exhaled in visible relief. “It’s only me, Mere,” he told her, voice intentionally slow and soothing. “Ian. Are you alright? Can you let me in?” He could have a dozen officers here in minutes if he so desired. For all he knew, Loren could have been holding a gun to her head out of sight, and he considered it as a very viable possibility.
The sight of her uncle paired with the familiar voice was what had her unwinding, pulling the door open as quickly as she could, any thought of Loren behind her evaporating as she moved in towards Ian. Meredith didn’t cry, didn’t make a sound other than her heavy breath, but she held tight to Ian, her heart beating like hummingbird wings in the cage of her chest. She wasn’t afraid, not right then, just relieved to have someone else there, someone that wasn’t Loren and those dark eyes that had surprised her, had stared at her with such loathing for those moments.
Ian’s first instinct was to scan the apartment for threats, and as his gaze fell upon Loren standing a few feet away he immediately categorized him as one. He knew what he’d heard, and Meredith’s screams had been very, very real. “You’re fine now,” he reassured her, returning the embrace with solid certainty. “I’m here.” He wanted her out of the apartment, far away from here, and his expression was sharp steel and ice over her shoulder-- managing to convey a message of keep your distance to the other man without a single word being spoken. “Did he hurt you, Meredith?” The question was asked in a low whisper, meant for only her to hear, and for her to respond.
Loren tongued the edge of his mouth, playing witness to something he would never understand. The connection of family, the protective embrace, the reassurance. These were alien visions, although he caught glimpses of them from time to time on the Strip. So many things that he didn't understand, couldn't remember. Something inside him whispered that even if he could remember his past, it would hold nothing of this. No warmth. Loren didn't need the man's bristling stare of warning to keep his distance, he remained by the arm of the couch. Meredith obviously knew this gentleman and trusted him, associated him with safety. Still, Loren kept that steak knife lined up against the back of his arm while he waited the scene out.
With her uncle so close, so real and secure, Meredith could feel herself start to calm, the edge of panic dulling, her heart slowing to a beat that was closer to regular. Drawing in a deep breath, she gave a shake of her head as response to Ian’s question, not yet daring herself to speak. She was a mess of sticky egg and tangled hair, but no harm had been done to her save the faint marks left on her neck from Loren’s mouth, marks that would fade within the hour considering their general brevity. Slowly, she turned to press her back against Ian’s chest, looking over towards Loren with something sad in those sky-coloured eyes.
Meredith's unspoken no was a reassurance, but not enough of one to permit her to go anywhere near Loren or vice versa. Perhaps the man simply hadn't had a chance to do any real harm before Ian himself had arrived. He liked facts, which he was lacking in right now, and the cop in him was tempted to stick them in separate rooms to see if they gave conflicting versions of what, exactly, had occurred. "I heard screaming," he said slowly, looking between Meredith and Loren for reactions. "What happened?" The question was intentionally broad, to see who answered first and how. He kept a protective hand pressed just against Meredith's wrist, not restraining her, but strategically placed in order to be able to pull her behind him should Loren make any sudden moves forward.
His head was throbbing, all barbed wire between the dreams that felt more like memories and the voice of a psychopath bouncing around inside his skull. Sometimes things made sense that shouldn't make sense, and that was no excuse, Loren had no excuse. Saying that Jules made him do it with all that weird sexual suggestion shit like Chris Angel Mind Freak was going way too far, and in the end Loren knew that whatever advances he'd put on Meredith were his own fault. Unspeakable actions that even know he could barely recall save for the bits of broken eggshells that turned his knife wielding fingers into a mosaic of hard white and crusting yellows. Loren didn't need the knife, that much was clear by the way Ian stood protective against Meredith. She was certainly his niece, and not the killer. Part of Loren was disappointed, it would have been nice to take the new budding rage out on something other than a defenseless girl.. the thought made him cringe. Turning, Loren dropped the hidden knife onto the arm of the couch where he'd been standing. It was a harmless object considering its blunt back and barely serrated teeth, but there was something cloudy in the back of his head that told him there were six ways to kill a man with a mechanical pencil.. so a WalMart issue kitchenette set steak knife seemed like a pretty good choice. He raised his hands while backing away from the couch's arm with its newly bared knife, as if this was something he'd done a few times before. He hadn't, but as a security officer of the Palace, he'd been on the other side of this kind of distrust a time or two. Bypassing the both of them as a wide sweep so that no violent intentions could be formed, Loren grabbed his forgotten phone from the counter. The mess of busted eggshells the only sign of previous chaos. Circling back the other way, he waved the phone, which was obviously opened to a very public forum page, in front of detective Uncle. "Why don't you ask her why she's starting up a goddamn bookclub with a serial killer?" Taking a quick blink at the screen, he confirmed. "Tony Hillerman.. Tuesdays with fuckin' Morrie, the Ya Ya Sisterhood.. you two are just going to meet up and have some hot tea and debate setting and fuckin' structure, huh?" Loren eyed the two of them, equally disgusted with what Meredith had done as well as what he himself had done to her. "Excuse me," was all he said before vanished behind the closed door of his bedroom for a few minutes.
The appearance of the knife didn't surprise Ian so much add it angered him. Any semblance of a benefit of the doubt he might have given Loren was gone, replaced by distrust and outright hostility. Meredith was living with a dangerous man, judging by the screams, and perhaps this was the wake up call she needed to realize it was time to move. He nudged Meredith behind him as Loren moved, becoming a protective human shield, and he eyed the other man warily even as he brandished his phone. Oh, he'd seen the conversation in question, and he'd had every intention of speaking to his niece about it; that much was visible in the way his eyes narrowed and his mouth twitched. Yet, he said nothing, and only when Loren had left the room did his posture loosen as he turned to face Meredith. "We will talk about conversing with murderers," he said slowly, "but first, Mere, I need you to tell me what happened before I arrived. Please."
Of course Loren would brandish that journal post to the world, of course he would. Meredith was silent through his tirade, pressing her head against Ian’s shoulder when he moved her behind him, silent and still until the sound of his bedroom door closing echoed in the small apartment. Meredith looked up towards Ian when he turned towards her, meeting his gaze, that familiar face, but she didn’t answer his question, not yet. “I need something to drink,” she said softly, pushing past him towards the kitchen and the mess of the eggs, getting herself a glass of water before she returned back to the living room. A glance was tossed in the direction of Loren’s bedroom door, but she shook her head and sat down heavily on the couch, finishing her water and composing her thoughts before answering her uncle.
“He came home angry about that post on the journals,” she finally said, her voice a little thing that barely filled the room, her gaze focused on her bare toes peeking out from beneath the hem of her pajama pants. “He grabbed my wrist and pushed me back against the counter. I was just scared, that all. I wasn’t hurt, just... scared.” Because Loren was scary at times. She remembered that first visit when he cornered her in her own kitchen, that brief moment where she was afraid that he was going to kill her. A shake of her head and Meredith looked back up towards Ian, studying him for a long while. “I’m sorry. I’m making a mess of things. I should have just stayed in Colorado, for all the shit that I’m doing here.”
Ian wanted answers, but he could be patient. Pushing her would get him nowhere, especially after whatever had occurred with Loren, and so he nodded, simply watching as she made her way into the kitchen for a glass of water. He was glad that she didn’t attempt to go after Loren; he thought it best if they spoke alone, and if things turned out the way he hoped, she wouldn’t be staying with him for much longer. When she sat on the couch, he eased himself down next to her, though not close enough that she would have reason to feel crowded.
“He shouldn’t have laid a finger on you.” There was no chastisement, no scolding, just firm belief that Loren had no right to so much as touch his niece. “I don’t care how angry he was, if he cannot control his temper, then living here isn’t safe,” he continued. “Why would you want to stay with someone who frightens you?” Because Ian knew there had been fear in her eyes, and who knew when Loren might progress to behavior that would hurt her? He had seen firsthand how quickly these situations could escalate, and he wasn’t going to allow Meredith to become another statistic. He shook his head when she apologized, an instinctive reaction. “You have no reason to apologize. You may be in some trouble, Mere, but I can help you.”
After Ian had settled himself on the couch, Meredith shifted over to rest her head against Ian’s shoulder, tension running through her thickly, her neck and shoulders a knot that would not loosen easily. She didn’t say anything for a long while, just listening to Ian’s words, playing with her fingers as she looked down at her hands. He had valid questions. Good questions, even, and Meredith was afraid that she didn’t have good answers for any of it. A long breath escaped her as she lifted her head, looking up towards her uncle before she gave a small shake of her head. “I don’t know why I’m here. He offered to help, and I- I couldn’t say no. I did trust him to help me.” And even though at first she had trusted Loren, he was more scary than anything at times, and she didn’t like how she felt as though she were walking on eggshells around him. “I should just go back to my place. Stop... bothering everyone. Figure this out on my own like I always have.”
Regardless of what he thought of her answers, Ian wasn’t all that surprised. It simply wasn’t in Meredith’s nature to turn people down, and she always had tried to please them however she could. Which, in and of itself, was not necessarily a bad thing, but without limits it could be exceedingly dangerous. “I’m sure he did,” he said, “and perhaps he was even genuine in his offer, but it’s not safe for you to be here now, Mere. Not with his behavior, and certainly not with that man threatening you.” He shook his head in response to her lamentation that she should return to her place, and he was certainly not going to leave her to deal with this on her own. “You are not alone. Let me help you. Come stay with me, where you’ll be safe, at least until this man is dealt with. All I ask is that you’re careful, and you tell me where you’re going so I know where you are should something happen.” His profession was certainly a bonus; he had contacts in every level of the LVPD, and he was certain he could find a way to track her movements and ensure there was surveillance on her at all times. The apartment would be secured as well, of course. “As well, Meredith, you must stop speaking to him. Even if he contacts you, ignore him. Every word you say to him is ammunition, and revealing information about yourself is exactly what he wants.”
“Apparently I’m incapable of being careful, Ian,” Meredith said quietly, though the prospect of his help, from someone she knew so well, of someone that was family did lighten her spirits just a bit. “I really appreciate the offer,” Meredith began, rising to her feet and moving over to collect the large stuffed bear that had arrived only the day before, turning towards him. “But you’re just going to put yourself at risk if you do so. Only you and Dahlia knew I was here, Ian. And this is from him.” Her arms were wrapped around the neck of the bear, turning her face down into it with a slump of her shoulders. “He’ll just find me no matter where I go. And I don’t try to talk to him. He just ends up showing up when I say anything on the journals. Like he’s waiting.” It was enough to have her on edge again, that thought that someone was out there watching, waiting for her to slip, and it had her stomach churning in response.
Ian resisted the urge to inform her that everyone was capable of being careful; she simply wasn’t taking the right measures to do so. “You’ll simply have to learn, then,” he said instead, a poor attempt at lightening the mood, but she was already so upset, and he saw no reason to make that worse. His lips twitched into something like a smile when she said he was going to put himself at risk. “I’m a detective, Meredith. My job puts me at risk every day. It’s nothing I haven’t experienced before.” His expression darkened when he saw the bear, and it was worrisome, that this man had managed to discover where she was staying. “Better you’re with me than on your own,” he said firmly, rising a few moments after she did. “I’ll need the bear. Evidence,” he explained, even though too much time had likely passed for it to prove useful. “When he does that, you need to refrain from responding. Ignore him. Can you do that?” So far, it seemed she couldn’t, but continued interaction would only spur the murderer on further.
“I know your job does, but I don’t like being the source of further risk.” Moving back over to meet him, she gave up the bear without even a moment of fight. It was just a reminder of the guy, things she didn’t want to think about, and having it out of sight, out of mind, would do her a world of good. Meredith wasn’t completely surprised at his insistence of her not talking to him, but as she started to gather the few things she had brought with her to Loren’s, she thought on his words. “I know I shouldn’t talk to him,” Meredith began, fingers running over the blanket she had picked up from the back of the couch, some old fleece thing she had brought from Colorado, well loved and well worn. Folding it neatly, her attention was on the task instead of her uncle when she spoke next. “But doesn’t it give you information on trying to find him? You can’t find someone who’s quiet. He’ll slip, eventually. Say something that will let you identify him.” Glancing up, Meredith steadied Ian with a long look, those blue eyes so very tired. “I could draw him out, Ian.”
It was touching, in an exasperating sort of way, that Meredith was so concerned about the risk she presented by being around him. “I’m trained for these types of situations, and I deal with people like this man on a daily basis. You are first priority. I’m not going to let him claim another victim, Meredith, least of all you.” It was his duty to protect the innocent and bring the guilty to justice, but this had become personal now, which meant Ian was all the more determined to catch the killer before he could strike again. Even if the bear held no physical evidence, it was still a clue in itself. Clearly this man enjoyed toying with his prey, taking his time with them, rather than striking quickly and being done with it. Unfortunately, that could also mean that he would not lose interest so easily. He studied the bear for a moment before setting it down, making a mental note to make a call to the lab later. “That may be true,” he admitted reluctantly. “His tendency to speak on the journals gives us an advantage, but it’s too dangerous for you. He knows what he’s doing. You don’t. It only takes the smallest slip for him to find a way in.” He tried to keep his tone gentle, rather than chastising, and while it was not unheard of for victims to be used to lure out a suspect, it was only done with full and legitimate consent, and he was certain his personal connection compromised him. “No,” he said firmly. “You are not going to use yourself as bait. I want you to promise me that you won’t take it upon yourself to do so, Meredith.”
Meredith appreciated the words her uncle offered, and she could see the sense in his reluctance for her to do anything, but that didn’t mean she was pleased with it. Her shoulders shrunk up towards her ears and she gave a shake of her head. “I won’t take it upon myself to do so,” she finally said, but the words had a second meaning hidden behind them. She wouldn’t do it on her own, but if the opportunity arose to be able to help someone else bring him down, then she wouldn’t say no. “Can we just... go?” Meredith asked after a moment, glancing towards Loren’s closed door. “All my stuff is in here. I can just... tell Loren I’m going. I don’t think he’ll care at this point, though.” Things had gone south there in a hurry.
She didn’t wait for an answer before moving over to Loren’s door, rapping on it twice with her knuckles. “I’m leaving with Ian, Loren. I’ll-” Meredith paused, glancing back over her shoulder towards her uncle. “I’ll be in contact with you. Thank you for your help. I really appreciate it.” Her hand fell away from the door and she stepped back, grabbing up her few things that littered around the apartment on the way to grab the couple of bags that still sat near the door where she had put them when she first arrived. “Let’s go,” she said to Ian, moving to the door and taking her first breath of fresh air since all of this started.