Exaggeration and Blank Verse
Room to Breathe
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series

It's indefinite leave; "take as long as you need," they told him. As long as it takes to get your head straight and to be sure that there won't be any meltdowns on department time. He gets it. He hears what they didn't say.

And it's kind of nice, really, not to have a deadline looming in the back of his head. "You must be better by this date or else." It can't last forever, and he wouldn't want it to- he was raised to believe in a work ethic, that a man doesn't sit around and watch the world go by while he's still got the strength to do differently- but for now, it's nice. It's what he needs.

Three times a week he sees a shrink down in Dallas, and on Sundays he goes to church with his parents. Those are the signposts in his week, markers in time that otherwise shifts and wanders, disappearing into the sky and the wind and the wide flat pastures of the ranch.

He breathes in as much of that dry dusty air as he can and savors the feeling, the tension in his chest, the knowledge that he can let it go and there will be more waiting. He loses hours out here, his skin going first tight and red and then tough and brown from the sun. The only horses his parents still keep are the same ones they had when he was in high school, the ones he'd ride up into the hills with the girlfriend of the week. Now they're elderly, dignified creatures who ignore any requests to move faster than a shuffling walk. That's all right. He's in no hurry.

His cell phone rests on the desk in his bedroom, where he plugged it in to charge on the night he arrived. He hasn't touched it since. The screen solemnly informs him that he's missed two dozen calls. He can imagine the list- Warrick and Catherine, plus a handful from Sara and Greg. Maybe even one from Grissom, if the Lord felt generous with His miracles.

They have the ranch number too, and they haven't used it, so he figures they must understand. He's grateful to know they're thinking of him, but not ready to go back yet, not even in his head. He's stepped out of Las Vegas, for just a while. An indefinite while, he tells the horses, but not an infinite one. They give no sign if they believe him or not. He appreciates the courtesy.

Probably just a few more weeks and he'll be ready to call them back. Just a few more weeks of wind in his face and sun on his skin and clean dry air in his lungs, as much as he could ever want and need.

Just a few more weeks. It's barely summer now, and he's not waking up screaming in the middle of the night as often anymore. He's making progress. Who knows, maybe soon he'll be able to turn the lights off when he goes to sleep, or sit still for more than five minutes without feeling things crawling all over his skin. Pretty soon. Any time now.

He rests his hands on the sleepy old horse's neck and watches the wind chase the dust across the pasture. He breathes in air and space and freedom and tells himself, again, that he has time.

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