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Lost and found

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Lost and found
by Nanuk Dain

 

The pain seemed to be more than he could bear. Way more.

The end of the case, the end of the frantic research for his revenge left a big, yearning hole in his mind and in his heart. There was nothing left to preoccupy his thought, nothing to numb his feelings. It was the moment he truly realized he was alone now. That the most important parts of his life were gone and would never return. Leo felt the tears running over his cheeks and knew he cried for his family as well as for himself.

The yellow circle of light the street lamp shed on the ground gave him the impression of isolation. As if the world outside the circle was not meant for him. For a moment he thought of the first time he saw Theresa and Cassie lying dead in the room at the morgue, and how he said he wished he was with them. This wish seemed to arise again, he wanted to take Theresa and Cassie into his arms, let them feel how much he loved them. But here he was, left-over of a family, cut loose of everything that was dear to him, alone and lonely.

With slow steps he began to walk into the general direction of his house. He didn't want to return there, the place was loaded with memories and the inevitably following pain. Cassie's voice of the answering machine was enough to make him break down. It seemed that Theresa and Cassie had just left the house, gone somewhere for the evening and he just had to wait for them to come home. The knowledge that they wouldn't was a fiery pain all over his body.

All the time since the accident he had avoided thinking about the rest of his life, now stripped of all plans, all love and hope. All the actions concerning his research to resolve the crime had helped him not to think about the future, he had put all his energy into this self-imposed task so he didn't have to feel at all. It had helped at that time, but now, with the task over and his energy spent, he sank into exhaustion and desperation so deep he wasn't sure he could escape again.

He saw the front of his house in some distance, it lay dark and empty, no signs of the life of the family that had filled it just few days before. A sigh escaped Leo's lips, he stopped for a second to watch the house, then he resumed his pace towards the entrance door. Every step was a fight not to turn around and run until he fell down because of exhaustion. What should he do once he was inside? The memories would crash him, that he was certain of.

When he took the last steps, he could make out a hunched figure sitting in the dark on his porch. Through the first impulse of alarm he struggled for his calm. As the figure moved, he identified it as Harry who turned his face towards him. It was impossible to divine his facial expression in the darkness.

"Leo." Harry's voice was dull and quiet. "I was waiting for you."

"What do you want?" Leo couldn't keep the slight edge out of his voice. He was still angry for Harry treating him like an invalid concerning the autopsy of his family. All in all, Harry seemed not to have been on his side over the whole research for the murderer of Theresa and Cassie, but at the same time, Leo knew Harry had only done his job.

"I don't want anything." There was a certain weary undertone that made Leo look up, even though he couldn't see much. "I am here because I am worried. I know you think I didn't do everything I could to help you, and I apologise if I gave you that feeling. I didn't intend to."

"I know you didn't." Leo sighted. He was grateful for the darkness. The traces of the tears he had cried earlier must still be visible on his face, as well as his puffy eyes and the exhaustion he felt gripping for him. He didn't want Harry to see him like this, at his worst, a complete mess. He was meant to be strong, rational, a decent boss. At the moment, he was neither.

"Harry, listen, it was nice you came by, but..."

"There's no need to torture yourself, Leo. You don't have to get through this all by yourself. You're not alone."

"Yes, I am."  Leo listened to his own voice cracked and knew he lost it. He bend his head, trying to keep it together, but then he tore a rippled breath and couldn't help Harry hearing it.

"No, you're not." Harry put his hand lightly on Leo's shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

Whatever possessed him, Leo would never know, but when Harry gave him a little, reassuring hug, he wrapped his arms around his waist and felt himself clinging to the other man. His restraint broke, the grief hit him like a massive wave and Harry was the only person here with him, his only lifeline to hold onto. With a miserable sob Leo let go and buried his face in Harry's chest.

Harry tightened his hold on Leo, letting his hand graze reassuringly over his back and through his hair. He said nothing, only stood there and held him, supported him, knowing there was nothing to say.

***

Something had changed between Leo and Harry.

Nikki watched them for a moment, studied them, and tried to find out what had changed. She couldn't put her finger on what it was, but ever since Leo had come back to work they seemed to be closer, even though the usual tension between them hadn't eased. They were still bickering, sometimes more, sometimes less serious, but the quality of their relationship had changed.

She frowned. She knew that the loss of his family had hit Leo really hard, and she still thought that he had come back to work way too early and that he only did so to avoid thinking about what happened. But the time he spend here at work with Harry seemed to help Leo, it did him good, she could see that. Not that Leo would ever agree with her aloud, but he loosened up around his younger co-worker, behaved like his old self again. She had even seen him laugh once or twice, and that bordered on a small wonder for her.

"How long do you plan on staring at me?" she heard Leo say and found she had indeed been staring. Hastily she looked away.

"I was lost in thoughts. Sorry." Feeble excuse, she knew. But unsolved mysteries always made her incredibly curious, they seemed to challenge her. And this new, somehow weird quality of Leo's and Harry's behaviour towards each other was definitely a mystery worth investigating. Something must have happened between them and she felt an inner urge to find out what that was.

"Must have been a very interesting kind of thought." Harry mused from the other side of the room where he was beginning to examine a body. Nikki gave him a short glare, then joined him at the examination table where she was supposed to work with him.

"Maybe."

"That means you will not give me any clues what these highly fascinating thoughts were about?" Harry asked with this typical tone in his voice that lay somewhere between teasing, amused and ironic.

"I don't think you would in any way help me with my thoughts." she replied with a little sigh. It was a pity, but she was honestly convinced that whatever had happened, she would never get any information about it from either Harry or Leo. So she had to find out herself. She gave Leo a short look, then stole a glance at Harry who was immersed into his work, and decided to concentrate on the task at hand for now.  Figuring out her withdrawn boss and her reserved colleague would probably take her some time anyway.

***

He hated the frequent meetings with his shrink. He knew he was ordered to partake them, but that did *not* mean he had to like it. Mostly Mrs Jenson just listened to him going on about work, how Harry and Nikki treated him somehow differently, as if he was made of glass and couldn't stand criticism. They annoyed him, both of them, but Harry was worse. His eyes that were so full of doubts, as if Leo wasn't able to do his work properly. His whole attitude drove Leo crazy.

Mrs Jenson sometimes asked pointy questions he neither wanted to hear, nor to think about, nor to answer. She normally didn't expect an answer, but she knew she made him think, even if he didn't want to. She understood his personality well enough to fully know he wouldn't leave something alone if he thought it important.

Today had been a horrible day, and that was what Leo was ranting about. Harry had been his usual sarcastic self, and Nikki had displayed her worry for him even more than she normally did. It had unnerved him, he just wanted to go back to the way things had been before his family's death. Somehow the atmosphere at the morgue had changed and was charged with tension, unease and carefulness that made work nearly unbearable. And even though something had shifted in his and Harry's behaviour towards each other since that day when Harry had come to his house and held him while he had let his grief out, they didn't seem to get along any better now. Leo had never told Mrs Jenson about that evening, it was something he felt not ready to share. And the way things were, Harry didn't seem to have told anyone either.

 "So what would you like to change?" Mrs Jenson asked when he finished his ranting, her hands on her notepad and a patient expression on her face.

"I want them to stop treating my as if I was made of glass." Leo growled and stopped pacing, sitting down in the chair opposite to Mrs Jenson.

"Is this maybe more about Harry than the rest of your colleagues?"

Leo froze and frowned. "Why do you think that?"

"He seems to be much more of a source of annoyance to you than the others. You mention him very often, he is the one person I have heard most about." She looked at him over the rim of her glasses and gave him a little smile. "He is important to you."

It was a statement, not a question. And Leo knew his shrink well enough by now to know she never made such statements if she was not certain of what she said. Several month of weekly meetings had taught him that. So just the fact that she got to this conclusion and said it aloud was reason enough to think about what she had said. That was the only reason that kept Leo from immediate denial.

"And that means what to you?" he asked instead.

"The question is not what I think that means, but what you make of it." She gave him a pointed little gaze before shifting her eyes to the notepad in her hands. When Leo remained silent, she continued her trail of thought.

"This is the first time after the death of your family that I saw you care enough for somebody to get this agitated about them. Did it ever cross your mind that Harry might simply be worried about you?" She stated calmly, waiting for his reaction.

"More likely worried that I screw up a case." Leo snorted, got up from his seat and took up his pacing again.

"What makes you say that?" She had a small line between her brows and gave him a firm but questioning gaze.

"If Harry is worried, he is a genius at hiding it. He is his usual sarcastic self, no difference in that area." He looked at Mrs Jenson for a moment, then continued his pacing.

"Does he normally display his worries or concerns openly?"

"No. He is pretty closed in matters of personal nature." Leo kept her gaze and tried to divine where she was heading with these questions.

"What would be his standard reaction to worries or fear?" she asked further and didn't break her firm glance.

"Sarcasm. Indifference. Aggression." Leo replied without having to think about it and the moment he had said these words, he understood what Mrs Jenson was trying to point out. They described pretty well the way Harry treated him since that night he had broken down. Keeping him at a distance but at the same time close.

Mrs Jenson seemed to see the wheels working behind his forehead and threw him a small smile. "Maybe that should make you think."

"What do you mean?" Leo wanted to know, brows furrowed and expression sceptical.

Mrs Jenson gave a small laugh. "Really, Mr Dalton, you should know better by now than to expect an answer to that question from me. I'm not here to give you answers, but to make you think."

Leo sighted. Of course he had not truly thought she would answer him, but it had been worth a try. Now he was just left with more questions in his head, and several of them concerned his younger colleague.

***

Harry let out an exhausted sigh as he stripped off the latex gloves, threw them into the bin and left the examination room behind. It had been a long, tiring day, and young teenagers on his examination table never left him with a good feeling. He knew it was part of the job, to have to go over bodies of human beings that were way to young to be under his scalpel. But that did not mean he liked it - adjusted, adapted to the fact as a necessity, but not like it or feel nothing for it. It still got to him, every single time.

Harry walked through the corridors that led to the changing rooms, wanting to get out of his dirty scrubs and into his street clothes, then write his report and go home. This day had already been too long, he could barely wait for it to finish so he could settle on his couch with a beer and the novel he had started to read some days ago. That would get his mind off things he didn't want to think about at the moment.

Without paying attention to his surroundings, he pushed the door to the changing room open and was about to walk over to his locker, when he saw a lonely figure sitting on one of the benches, hunched over as if in pain. It took him just a split second to realize it was Leo, then he stopped dead in his tracks. Leo hadn't moved, like he hadn't even noticed somebody entering the locker room.

"Leo?" After a short moment of hesitation, Harry slowly approached the older man, not at all sure what to expect. He rounded the bench and came to stand next to Leo, never taking his gaze off him. Something was wrong, he could feel it, knew it – not only because his boss was not reacting to his name.

"Leo?" Harry knelt down so he could see into Leo's bent over face, but it was still hidden from his view and Leo didn't show any signs that he had heard Harry calling him. So Harry decided it was time for more direct actions, reached out and let his hand come to rest on Leo's shoulder, giving it a soft shake. He could hear Leo draw a shaky breath, the only sign of reaction, and felt weirdly reminded of the night he had come by Leo's house.

"Leo, look at me." Harry gave his voice a firm but soft tone, certain that was the only way to get to Leo. And he was right, after a moment, Leo lifted his face and looked him straight in the eyes. His gaze was endlessly sad and told Harry more about Leo's pain than any words could have had. His eyes were dry, though.

"The girl looked like Cassie had on the examination table..." It was barely more than a whisper, yet Harry had heard it clearly. He felt a chill run down his back, at loss for words, so he simply stayed where he was, kneeling on the floor with his hand still on Leo's shoulder.

Leo took a deep breath and seemed to steady himself. "It has been eight months now, but it doesn't really get better, you know."

For a moment, Harry was truly surprised by this unexpected and sudden display of honesty. In all the time since that night, Leo had kept to himself with his pain and worries, not really letting Harry close again. And Harry hadn't tried too hard, he knew there was nothing he could do to take the pain of the loss away, and so he had respected Leo's desire for solitude. Right now he wondered if that had been the wrong decision.

"You think you finally start to get better, not everything reminds you of them any more, and then something happens, maybe even something as little as hearing a laugh that sounds so similar to theirs, and you're back in pain and memories." Leo lowered his gaze to his enfolded hand, a little frown between his brows.

"To be honest, I don't think it's possible not to hurt when something reminds you of the loss of somebody you loved." Harry decided to be as open as Leo was with him right now. "And I doubt that some month can lessen the pain when you loved somebody for decades – and still do."

Leo looked up, searching Harry's expression, even though Harry wasn't sure for what. "They were your family, Leo, and they will always be. They were a very important part of your life. You can't expect to overcome their death within some months, as hard as you might try to."

Leo gave him a weary smile, pain plain in his eyes. "So I've realised."

"But you don't have to deal with the pain all on your own. You have friends who are more than willing to help you through this if you would just let them come close." Harry gave Leo's shoulder a little squeeze to emphasize his point. "Nikki and I might not exactly know how to treat you from time to time, but that's only because you never let us know how you felt. I know we're only your colleagues and it's non of our business, but that doesn't mean we don't care."

"It's too painful to even think about, so the last thing I wanted to do was speak about it." Leo held Harry's gaze firmly, open. "The only time I let go was when you came by that night."

Harry couldn't keep from a worried frown. "I thought you had to go to the shrink. And even so you've not talked about it ever since?"

Leo shook his head, a slow, resigned motion. "Not once."

Harry's reaction was so spontaneous and crude he was surprised by it himself and couldn't explain it later. He was overwhelmed by the thought of how lonely and hurt Leo must be that he simply bent up and drew Leo into a hug.

"I already told you, you're not alone." Harry mumbled into the soft hair at Leo's temple and let his hand caress his back. He could feel Leo relaxing into the embrace, first slowly and hesitantly, but then with plain relief. Something seemed to have clicked in his head and after a few moments Harry sensed Leo's arms slowly but steadily sliding over his back and wrapping around him, holding him close. Maybe Leo finally started to believe him.

"Thank you." he heard Leo murmur in his arms and felt his breath against the skin of his throat.

Harry smiled a little, even though he knew Leo could not see it. "You're welcome."

***

Something had changed again.

Nikki looked up from the report she was writing and peered towards Leo and Harry talking in the hallway outside the office. She couldn't help watching the two of them, her curiosity forced her to secretly observe them whenever they interacted. It was the urge to finally find out what it was that made her so certain something had changed between them compared to the way they had treated each other before the death of Leo's family about ten months ago. But now, something had changed again.

It was Monday, and Nikki was willing to swear that Leo and Harry were somehow different around each other compared to Friday. But again, she was just not able to say what gave her that impression, and that made her curiosity climb up to a maddening level. She would like nothing more than to ask one of them, but she was a hundred per cent certain she would never get an answer to a question like that. She let a soft sigh escape, thinking about the best alternative way to find out what she wanted to know.

Leo said something that made Harry smile, a small smile, one that not everybody was meant to understand. Nikki frowned, she tried to remember when she had last seen such a smile on Harry's face. A long time ago, when he had that girlfriend and he had talked to her on the phone. She desperately wished she could have heard what Leo had said, because everything seemed too confuse to make any sense. Leo turned to leave, and Nikki sat up straight when she saw him brushing his hand over Harry's, such a small, fleeting gesture most people wouldn't even have seen it. But she wasn't most people, and she was trained to observe, so it didn't escape her how purposefully Leo's fingers traced the inside of Harry's hand before letting go and turning towards another corridor.

Without any pretence of working Nikki stared at Harry who himself stared at Leo as he walked away. When he turned to join Nikki in the office, this little smile was still on his lips. Now Nikki was seriously curious, because some very new possibilities just seemed to open up in her mind, possibilities she had never really thought about before. Interesting possibilities, definitely worth some thoughts.

 When Harry entered the office, Nikki pretended to be immersed in her work. She didn't need to pretend for a long time, though, because only some minutes later the whole team was called to a crime scene. Before she had any time to spend some thought on the new possible developments, she was knee-deep in an investigation and needed to focus her attention on other things than her co-workers. It took some time before the team could take the bodies back to the morgue, but as soon as they had them, work began for real. There were three bodies, enough to do to fill the day and her head.

And the day became very long. When Nikki finally could go to change in her street clothes, she thought she the only thing she was still capable of was falling asleep as soon as she reached her apartment. She took neither care nor time to dress, just pulled on her jeans, her jumper and her jacket, got her bag and left. The report could wait until tomorrow morning, she wasn't capable of writing in this condition anyway and trying would be of no use.

When she passed her office on the way out, she thought she should send Leo a text to let him know she went off. She had just left the examination room when they were finished and hadn't given it a second thought. He probably guessed, though, it was in the middle of the might and apart from him, Harry and her, nobody was around any more. Still, she decided to text him and searched for her mobile, but couldn't find it in her bag. She tapped her pockets, then gave a sigh and turned to go back to the locker room. She must have lost it there while dressing, and she didn't really want to leave it there until morning, so she hurried to retrieve it and get out of here.

She had just started to shove the door to the locker room open when she heard Harry's voice and stopped dead in tracks.

"Why did it have to take that long today? I really wanted to have that dinner you promised me. At a decent time."

"That's the job's curse, you know that." Leo answered. Nikki heard some rustling of clothes and for a moment she cursed the fact that the room was built so that you couldn't see the persons inside from the door.

"We can get a midnight pizza on the way home, though." Leo suggested and Nikki heard the smile in his voice. "If that satisfied you for tonight instead of the real dinner."

*Their* way home? Nikki wondered, then placed that bit of information to the others she had already collected. That meant they went home together, to one place. Interesting. Some more rustling could be heard, then a soft growl that made Nikki raise her brows in surprise. Sounded as if it came from Harry.

"You know", Harry again, "the pizza might be enough for dinner, but", then the unmistakable sound of a kiss, "definitely not enough for tonight."

Nikki had to keep herself from making any noise that could have told them somebody was listening. Especially when she heard Leo's voice, slightly rougher than it normally was, answer: "I think I might know a solution to that problem."

Then there was some rustling of clothes again, a step and a soft moan half stifled in what sounded like a pretty decent kiss. Who would have guessed that? Leo and Harry. Nikki smirked. On the second thought, maybe it was not *that* surprising. And Harry was good for Leo, she was certain of that. He had made her deeply hurt and sad boss smile again after ten months of misery.

"Come on, let's get out of here." she heard Leo say and decided it was time to leave her spot half inside and half outside of the door. Silently, she retreated, closing the door slowly to avoid any noise. She couldn't help a little smile to settle on her lips as she turned away from the locker room and decided her mobile would still be there tomorrow.

At least the mystery had been finally solved.

 

*** End

A/N: I hope you liked it. Became a bit longer than I planned... I would be very happy about some comments – and even happier if someone would decide to write a Leo/Harry fic of their own... *hoping*