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Dark Night of the Soul

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Della sung quietly beneath her breath as she put the leftovers away. Elijah had insisted that she bring home enough for Samantha, since her shift at the hospital had somehow managed to turn into a double when Della hadn't been looking. She had missed having her at the meal, though it had been so wonderful to connect with her colleagues once more, especially after the major win that Sydney and Elijah had managed to pull off, thanks to Brianna's quick thinking. Even Jake had secured a happy ending for George, something she had never thought possible when he had first started on the case.

She was just about ready to head upstairs and slip into something a little more comfortable when the doorbell rang, and she frowned a little as she took a look at the clock on the oven. It was just past midnight, there would be no reason for anyone to be at their home unless something was seriously wrong, and she felt the bottom drop out of her stomach as she went over to the door and turned on the porch light. It illuminated the form of the very man she had just been thinking about, and she gasped a little to see the devastation on his face.

"Jake? What's wrong?" she asked as she drew him inside, locking the door behind him. He didn't answer her, instead just wrapping his arms around her waist in a tight hug as he began to sob, the cries sounding so painful and desolate to her ears. It was only as the embrace lingered on that she registered he was soaking wet, as if he had been out in the torrential rain that had started to fall a few hours ago. "Come with me, you need to get warm."

"I don't think I'll ever be warm again," he mumbled, and Della frowned a little to hear that defeated tone in his voice.

Pushing him away from her gently, Della took hold of his hand and led him upstairs to the guest bathroom, gesturing for him to take a seat on the edge of the bathtub while she opened the linen closet and pulled out a thick bath sheet and a smaller towel. After wrapping the bath sheet around his shoulders, Della rubbed the towel over his head, drying his hair as best she could before swiping it over his face to clear away the rain and tears. "I'm worried about you, Jake. Did you receive bad news?"

A mirthless laugh escaped his lips as he shrugged. "I guess that you could say that." He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a dampened envelope, handing it to Della before he fisted the towel closed over his chest. Frowning a little, she pulled a sheet of paper out of it, taking a seat on the toilet as she started to read the words there. From the opening paragraph, she was able to discern that it was a suicide note, and her eyes filled with tears as the realization that George had written this letter to Jake washed over her.

"Is this why you left dinner so early?" she managed to choke out, and he nodded a little, not looking up at her. "Oh, Jake. What do you need us to do? Samantha will be home soon, she knows how to deal a little more clinically with this sort of situation. All I can do is listen to you and pour you a glass of bourbon."

"I think that I would welcome getting blindingly drunk right now. Because this isn't the only bad thing to happen tonight." Finally, he looked up at her, meeting her eye steadily, even as tears continued to slip down his face. In that moment, she was so reminded of her own son, that her mothering instinct took over, holding her hand out to Jake. It took a moment before he clasped it with his free hand, and then she tugged him to his feet, pulling him after her as they made their way over to her study.

"Now, what else has broken your heart tonight, Jake?" she asked as she poured them each a generous glass of bourbon, handing one of them over to him. "I promise you, anything you say in here is just as confidential as if you were one of my clients."

He chuckled a little before knocking back half of what she'd poured out. "That's good to know, since it involves one of our colleagues. Sydney, well, she's back with Robbie. I went to her first, thinking that I could lose myself in her arms, that she would make everything better. I think that he saw me kiss her. She tried to make it less awkward, but there was no salvaging things from that moment. How can everything have gone to hell so quickly, Della? He seemed like he was finally getting his life on track."

"Perhaps what we saw as him getting better was really him putting his affairs in order so that he could feel free enough to quiet the demons in his head. Think about it, he reconnected with and forgave Melissa's mother, he met his son as an adult, and he had you to champion him, to believe in him, when no one else would. There are just some things that people cannot come back from, and being wrongfully imprisoned for so long probably deeply changed something in him. There was nothing you could have done to change this outcome."

"That's bullshit! I should never have left him alone, Della. I should have waited for him while he was talking to his son and then brought him to our dinner. If I had been looking after my friend, he wouldn't have had the opportunity to do something so fucking stupid!" She knew that he would regret his words, if he remembered them later, but Della also understood the pain behind them. As she took a seat on the sofa next to him, Della reached over and wrapped her arm around his shoulders, letting him choose his next move. "He was such a good man."

Jake's voice broke on that last word, and Della nodded as his head came to rest on her chest, his cheek rubbing against the fuzzy material of her dressing gown. "Suicide does not distinguish between good and bad people, Jake. Life just doesn't work like that, though it's a hard thing to hear as you're grieving. Sometimes, even though we think we've won, life throws a spanner into the works, and undoes all the progress we've made. George was drowning, and no one noticed, because he put on a brave face. Don't let his decision push you into a making a choice that you might come to regret."

"I've already done that, Della. I might as well tender my resignation to Elijah, since I don't know if I'll be able to look Sydney in the face ever again. God, how could I have been so stupid as to kiss her?"

Della ran her fingers through his hair, trying to soothe him as she thought of what to say to him. "I do not want to lose one of our best, most compassionate, fiercest, lawyers over something as insignificant as a rash decision made while you were grief stricken. It was just a kiss. You misread a signal. It happens to all of us, even me, and yes, it is very embarrassing in the moment, but you need to build a bridge and get over it, honey. I know that sounds harsh, but sometimes we need to hear the harsh truth. You are probably going to conflate George's death and your misstep with Sydney, but you can't do that forever. The two incidents, while happening in rapid succession, are tenuously linked."

"How do you figure that?" he asked as he pulled away to look up into her face. She gave him a tender look as she moved her hand up cup his cheek, feeling her heart break a little more for the younger man.

"Because correlation is not causation. You could have been rejected by Sydney on any day, it just happened to occur in a moment that you were extremely vulnerable." Jake nodded as he finished off the rest of his bourbon. "Now, I do not feel comfortable with you driving home tonight, so I'm going to show you to the guest room. After you've undressed for the evening, leave your clothes outside your room, and I'll wash them when I get up. I have the feeling that you're not going to be waking up at the crack of dawn tomorrow."

Della watched him nod, dislodging a fresh round of tears, and she hugged Jack close once more before gently prying the glass out of his hand and setting it next to hers, then helping him to his feet. The short journey to the guest room seemed to take much longer than normal, as Jake weaved and bobbed, exhaustion, grief, and alcohol combining to create a perfect storm of sluggishness in the man. Finally, though, she was opening the door to the room and Jake stumbled inside and over to the bed, sitting heavily before looking up at her. "Della?"

"Yes, Jake?"

"Thank you for not turning me away, too."

Della blinked back her own tears as she nodded. "You are always welcome in our home, Jake. I'll see you in the morning." He gave her the tiniest of smiles, and she returned the expression before closing the door and making her way back to the study, picking up the used glasses and bringing them down to the kitchen to be washed. It was a shame to waste good bourbon, so she drank what was left in her glass before rinsing them out and gently turning them over onto the cotton towel next to the sink.

By the time she was upstairs once more, Jake had completed her request, neatly folding his clothing into a pile that rested outside his door, and she smiled sadly at that, wondering what had been going through his mind that he felt he had to be so tidy. Shaking her head a little, Della went down to her bedroom and slipped out of her robe, hanging it on the back of the wardrobe door before going over to her bed and crawling beneath the covers. The moment her head hit the pillow, all sleep seemed to run away from her, and she stared up at the ceiling, trying to process her feelings.

She wasn't surprised when she started to cry, finding herself able to finally release the emotions she had locked inside in order to comfort Jake. There had been something so bereft about the way he had looked at her, as if he had lost his mooring with the passing of George. Della also knew that his grief was magnifying every interaction that he had had following him finding out what had happened, which had led to the downward spiral that she had witnessed earlier. Turning onto her side, Della curled up into a ball as she hugged her wife's pillow close to her chest, breathing in the comforting scent of her perfume and letting that soothe her into a light sleep.

In the morning, she found Samantha curled around her, her arms ringing her waist as they shared a pillow, since she was still holding onto hers. Glancing over at the clock, she saw that it was eight o'clock, and she had managed to sleep in for two hours. Shaking her head a little, Della carefully extracted herself from her wife's embrace, placing her pillow back in her spot before kissing Samantha's forehead tenderly. "Come find me when you wake up, dear," she whispered as she slipped out of bed and went over to the wardrobe, stripping out of her pyjamas and changing into fresh clothes before heading out into the hall.

The guest room door was still closed, and Jake's clothes were still in their neat pile, and she let out a little sigh as she walked over and picked them up. Spreading her hand out on the door, Della murmured a quick prayer for George and Jake, feeling tears prickle her eyes once more. Trying not to give in to her maudlin thoughts, Della made her way downstairs and into the laundry room, placing his clothes in the washer. She made certain that there wasn't anything in his pockets, pulling out a picture of Sydney, along with a few crumpled dollars and a tissue. Chuckling bleakly, she added detergent to the machine and the started it before going into the kitchen.

The two glasses that she had rinsed out the previous evening had already been washed, which told her that Samantha must have eaten something before she had gone up to bed the previous evening. A small smile spread across her face as she put two slices of bread into the toaster before getting out two eggs and quickly frying them as she waited for the toast to finish. After eating, she brewed a pot of coffee, pouring herself a mug before making her way out onto the porch. It was a cool morning, but she welcomed the crispness, as it cleared her thoughts.

In the background, she heard the phone begin to ring, and she sighed as she got up from the swing and went back inside, picking up her cellphone and answering. "Della? Is Jake with you?"

The frantic tone in Sydney's voice told her in that moment just how much she cared for Jake, but Della wasn't certain if it was the care of a friend, or of something more, so she decided to hedge a little. "You don't to worry about him today. He is in safe hands, Sydney."

"Then he is at your home. Have you, did he…do you know that George is dead?"

"He did tell me about what happened, yes. It is a tragedy that we should have been able to avoid, but there are some demons that never go away, no matter how pretty a mask we wear. George faced his dark night of the soul and couldn't find a way out of the darkness. It's up to Jake if he finds his own way out of his. We all need to be there to support him, no matter how messy or embarrassing that support might be to some of us."

She listened to the younger woman groan on the other end of the line, and could just picture her covering her face with one hand. "He told you about the kiss, didn't he?"

"Yes."

"I reacted so badly, because it was really awkward. Robbie and I, we're finding our way back to each other again. And I know, that is a completely soppy way to look at what's happening, but I don't think there's another way to describe it. And to have Jake appear on my doorstep less than an hour after I went to bed with my ex-husband? Fuck, that's just…cosmically tragic? Because if he had told me that he cared for me that way, I don't know if I would have gravitated towards Robbie quite so much. I don't know who I would have chosen. Jake's always been my friend, sure, a friend I flirted with, but a friend nonetheless. God, please do not tell my father about this cock up. Please?"

"I am only here to listen to you both, dear. And I will mediate if things get to be too awkward at work. Just, give him a few days to work through this heartbreak, okay?"

"Of course, Della. And without telling him any name, let him know that he is loved?"

"Yes, Sydney." They ended the call and Della let out a long breath as she slipped the phone into her pocket and made her way back to the laundry room. The wash cycle was complete, so she stuck Jake's clothes in the dryer before heading back onto the porch. There was something about the crystal clear sky that seemed to be a balm to her own wounded heart, and she let out a long sigh as she curled up on the swing once more, using her toe to move it back and forth as she stared out at the sky.

"You didn't wake me up."

Della looked up into her wife's face and gave her a small smile. "I didn't know what time you got in, and thought that you should sleep. Besides, I don't think that I'm fit company this morning, and you don't need these negative feelings, darling."

Samantha bent and kissed her forehead softly before taking a seat next to her on the swing, wrapping her arm around Della's shoulders and tugging her head down to rest on her chest. "I see that we have a visitor. When did he drop by?"

"Around midnight. Did you happen to notice if the dryer had finished before you came out here? His clothes were soaked last night, and I…"

"Became a total mother hen and went into protection mode?" Samantha teased as she rubbed Della's shoulder softly. "And no, the dryer was still going when I went past. What happened to Jake, though? Did he have a fight with Sydney?"

"I wish it was as simple as that, honey. No, his client and friend, George, took his own life yesterday. He couldn't cope with all the focus that had been thrust upon him with the acquittal, and he just couldn't fight any longer. I adored George, from the little interactions I had with him, and I am so devastated this happened. Jake moved him into his apartment, and was such good friends with him, so I can only begin to imagine the amount of grief that he is experiencing right now. I'm just glad that I could offer him a safe harbor from the night."

Samantha nodded as she pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "That is why I fell in love with you, you know. You have the sweetest heart, despite all the bullshit that's been thrown at you. I am so lucky to call you my wife. Now, before you freeze into a Della popsicle, please head inside, and we can curl up together in the sun room." She nodded and slowly got to her feet, taking one last look at the sky before she headed inside and began to make plans for the day, hoping that Jake would stick around for a little while so that they could take care of him some more. And maybe, just maybe, help his heart start to heal.