Derek walked home in a relatively good mood; the end of the day was always his favourite part, because it meant that he had managed to survive whatever horrors the night had had for him.
Of course technically the night was just getting started and he was still on duty, but Derek had seen the way that Casper had attached limpet like onto the cube when they had brought it in; and he shared Tony’s opinion that there would be no progress on the case until Casper had spent hours checking it from every angle.
Derek reached the end of his street and squinted down it. He couldn’t see his car out front and that probably meant that it was still in the shop. Derek rubbed his eyes; I hate walking to work, he thought; but then a little part of him told him to stop; he was used to feeling bad on this last bit of the walk home, but tonight he shouldn’t let it.
Derek could still remember the moment when that rifle had been trained on him, and even though he still felt that general unhappiness about going home to see his family; he was determined that this would be the one night where he would tell them how much they meant to him.
Derek started putting one foot in front of the other and started walking down the street. He hadn’t called ahead, so they should have no way of knowing that he was coming; but as he walked he scanned all the rooftops and trees for snipers anyway.
As he reached the half way point along the road something whistled out of an area that he could have sworn he checked, and slammed into his forehead. Derek caught the thing as it bounced off and removed the letter that had been tied around it.
He opened the letter and looked at it; it had a picture of a smiley face waving at him and the message ‘Hi Daddy’. Derek scrunched the paper up and put it in his pocket; it had been Christine’s idea to get Jade that nerf sniper rifle. Christine thought that it gave her a wonderful outlet for expressing herself; Derek couldn’t see what giving his daughter practice shooting him in the head from long distance had to do with art. Every time he came home he expected to find that Christine had decided that a real sniper rifle would be better as a learning aid; or not find, as was more the issue.
Derek reached his house and started on the front steps; he tried to keep his footsteps light and avoid making any sound; and in that he thought he succeeded. When he reached the front door he turned the handle slowly and opened the door so carefully that someone looking directly at the door would have to stare to be sure that it was even moving.
With the door open, Derek moved in as quietly as a mouse. There was the smell of curry in the air and the sound of a pot bubbling on the stove. Christine was sitting in front of the TV in the lotus position; Derek didn’t think she had seen him.
Derek started his whisper quiet walk again. He moved slowly down the entrance hall while keeping his eyes on his wife’s back the whole time. He had almost made it when Christine spoke.
“Oh, dear Derek; you really must remember to take your shoes off; or you’ll misalign your chakras”
Derek, who had already had his hand on the doorknob for the hallway, sagged and sighed, “Right,” he said, “sure”. He trooped back to the door; trying to shake off as much of the city’s mud as possible while he was doing it.
Once he had his boots off he walked back the way he had came, “How did you know I was there?” he asked; he was sure he hadn’t made a sound.
“Oh, dear Derek” she said, “a wife must always know where her husband is”
Derek noticed for the first time that the floor window next to the TV gave anyone sitting there a perfect view of his walk up the drive; and he decided to keep his opinions to himself.
“I’m going to see Jade” he said, and walked door the corridor without waiting for an answer.
Jade’s room was at the end of the hall and down a set of hidden stairs, which Christine had had put in on the grounds that a girl had to have some where that she could take boys without her parents prying eyes. Derek didn’t see why an eight year old girl should have to worry about boys; but Christine had said that it didn’t hurt to be prepared.
At the bottom of the stairs, Jade was sitting on her bed and reading a book; she looked up shyly as Derek walked in, “Hi” she said.
“Hi” Derek said back; and he sat down on the bed.
His daughter was adorable, he decided; in spite of all the improvised weaponry that was hanging off the walls, she was adorable and his heart melted to see her.
“How have you been?” he asked, and Jade gave a vaguely affirmative answer in a small voice.
This was where Derek started running into trouble; he had pretty much exhausted his ‘Talking to children’ vocabulary with his first two sentences. He let sentences stumble around in his mouth; trying to put into words the way he had felt when he had thought he was going to die without seeing her again.
In the end he just didn’t know the words that he needed; and he settled for patting his daughter on the back, mumbling “Good”, and walking back out of the room.
As he walked up the stairs, Derek bereted himself for his own weakness; it was just stupid that the one time when he wanted to tell his daughter something nice he wouldn’t know how.
He reached the top of the stairs and folded the wall back into place. He could smell the curry again, and wondered if he would have any better luck talking to his wife over dinner, when the phone in the hall rang.
He picked it up and answered automatically. Then he listened intently for about five seconds and put the phone down. He took a moment to just stand in the hall and sigh, and then he marched back to the entrance hall.
“I’m going back to work,” he called, “Don’t wait for me.”