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Sign of the Cross at the Door

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It was a little after 7:00 on the Friday night after the Father Andy case had wrapped up.  Marissa had  headed home an hour earlier after a strong suggestion to Bull that he wrap things up and head home too. A suggestion he hadn’t heeded.  Marissa didn’t really think he would be following her suggestion, when she went to say good night, she found Bull in Benny’s office eating pizza.  They weren’t working, they were relaxing after a long week and a difficult trial.  She said her goodbyes and headed out.

*****

Bull kicked off his shoes and tugged his tie loose, sliding down until his head rested against the back of his chair. 

“You okay there, Boss?” Benny asked as he kicked off his own shoes and reached for another slice of pizza.  He glanced at Bull who seemed lost in his thoughts.

“Yeah, I think so.  It’s just, I don’t know, this whole trial has me thinking about some things I haven’t thought about in a very long time, if ever,” Bull muttered as he took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes a bit before putting them back on.

“I’m guessing God and religion,” Benny said as he glanced in the direction of his boss.

“Yeah,” Bull muttered.  He wasn’t sure he really wanted to have a conversation about God with Benny, or anyone for that matter. 

“You want to talk about something?” Benny asked as he sat up a little, giving Bull an opening, if he wanted one.

“I don’t know,” Bull said as he propelled himself forward with enough momentum to get himself to his feet.  He paced around for a minute.  Benny just watched him.  He knew Bull well enough to know he was on the verge of opening up and the quickest way to stop that, was to open his own mouth.  “I envy you,” Bull said simply as he walked to Benny’s bookcase, running his hands over the books.  Along with the expected law books his eyes landed on Benny’s well worn copy of the Bible.  He tipped it out a bit before pushing it back where it belonged.

“Envious of what?” Benny asked when it became clear that Bull was not going to launched himself into a deep conversation.  “Brains, good looks, certainly not my height,” Benny teased, hoping to get his boss to maybe chuckle a little and relax.  It worked and Bull did laugh a little.

“No, none of those.  I envy you and your beliefs.  Your faith is so important to you.  And I don’t have that,” he said simply as he folded his tall frame into the nearest chair, throwing his legs over the arm.

“It bothers you that you don’t believe in God or a higher power?” Benny asked. 

“Yeah, it does, I suppose,” Bull admitted with a sigh.

“Bull, it’s not like you don’t have faith and beliefs.  You might not believe in God and that’s fine.  You don’t have to.  You have faith in plenty of things, you wouldn’t do what you do if you had no faith at all.”

“I know, but deep down I want to believe in something and it bothers me that I don’t,” Bull admitted with a sigh and a shrug of his shoulders.

“Did you go to church as a kid?” Benny asked, realizing he knew very little about his boss’s spiritual upbringing.  They’ve never discussed it and to his knowledge, Bull had never really discussed it with Izzy when they were married either.  They did have a church wedding but it was clearly because of Izzy’s wishes, not Bull’s.

“We went at Christmas and Easter as a family.  But nothing regularly.  Went with my grandmother sometimes.  Enjoyed it, but that probably had more to do with getting to hang out with Nana Rose.  She had a fondness for diner food and going to the track.  So after the early service on Sunday we would spend the day together.  She usually won at the track too, shared her winnings with me,” Bull explained, smiling at the memories.

“Sounds like a great lady,” Benny said with a smile.  “Sorry I never got to meet her.”

“She would have loved you.  She was fairly religious but I guess her faith in God just never wore off on me.”

“Faith isn’t just belief in God,” Benny pointed out as he stood up and grabbed the Bible off the shelf.  He turned to Hebrews.  “Here, read this,” he said as he handed Bull the Bible and pointed to a verse.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Bull said.  “Yeah, heard that before, of course.”

“I’m sure you have heard it before. You have tons of faith, in the system, in your team, in our clients.  You might not believe in a higher power, that’s okay. It’s a personal thing, between you and God.”

“Or not,” Bull muttered.

“True,” Benny said as he took the Bible back from Bull and set it on his desk.

“Feels a bit hypocritical though, what I said to Father Andy the first day we met him.  Praying to God during turbulence,” Bull muttered as he picked up his can of Diet Coke.

“Well, I can assure you, that in the case of turbulence, you are not the only one praying to something or someone you aren’t really sure you believe in,” Benny teased.

“Yeah, and then there was that time I was lying on the marble steps of the courthouse. Definitely prayed then,” Bull said wryly.  “I talked to Father Andy for a few minutes after the trial.  Told him a few things.  He offered to help me in my spiritual journey, if I decide to take one.  Jury is still out on that one.”

Benny chuckled.  “I’m sure it is.  As for praying when you think you’re about to die, you’re certainly not alone there either.  And for the record you had plenty of people praying for you when you were in the hospital.”

“I know.  And I thank you all for that.  So, I’ve never asked and if it’s none of my business, tell me to go to Hell, where I’m already headed anyway, according to Father Andy.”  Benny chuckled and motioned for him to continue.  “I know you go to Mass every Sunday morning but what else?” Bull asked, suddenly feeling like he was intruding on Benny’s private life.  He made a little gesture towards Benny, signaling that he wasn’t really expecting him to answer.

“BulI, have no problem answering your question.  My faith is not something that’s a secret.  It’s fairly well known here at TAC.  Yes, Mass on Sunday morning.  Try to go to confession on Saturday but sometimes my work schedule gets in the way of that,” he teased.  Bull smiled.  “If I get up when the alarm first goes off, and that’s a 50/50 shot, I spend a few minutes reading the Bible while the coffee brews.  I pray the Rosary before I go to bed most nights, give what I can to the church and in general try to be a good Christian man.  Does that answer your question?”

“Yeah, it does, thanks for sharing,” Bull replied before draining the can of soda and pitching into the wastebasket.  “I don’t know where my mind is regarding all of this.  Obviously, this case has brought up a lot of personal stuff, questions I can’t answer now and maybe never will be able to answer.  I was watching the movie Angels and Demons a few nights ago, one of a few religious themed movies I watched while I wasn’t sleeping well this week.  At the end of the movie, Robert Langdon is asked about his beliefs and his answer was something that has stuck with me, I even jotted it down,” Bull said as he pulled his phone out of his pocket and opened up his Notes.  He said---Science tells me God must exist.  My mind tells me I will never understand God. And my heart tells me I’m not meant to.”

“That definitely seems to fit you,” Benny agreed.

“I thought so.  Anyway, it’s time to go home.  Thanks for hanging back and listening to me ramble,” Bull said sincerely.

“No problem, Bull.  And thanks for the pizza.  I’ll make the same offer Father Andy made, if you want any help or someone to just listen while you try to get things straight in you head, and in your heart, I’m here.”

“Thanks, that means a lot.  And thanks for prayers, which apparently worked, cause I’m still here,” Bull chuckled as he tapped a finger on his chest over his heart.  “Promise I won’t bother you tomorrow, you’ll have time to go to confession.  So, go out tonight and do something you need to go to confession for,” Bull teased as he turned to leave.  “See you Monday.”

Benny chuckled as he powered down his laptop. “Have a nice weekend, Jason,” he said as his boss walked out of the office.

*****

Bull wrapped up a few things and packed his backpack to head home.  He was tired but restless and a little on edge.  He thought about texting Marissa to see what she was up to but he’d been really good about boundaries and at almost 9:00 on a Friday night a text would probably be overstepping his work boundaries.  But would it overstep his personal boundaries, he mused. Luckily for him, Marissa texted him first, saving him from giving himself a headache trying to decide what to do.

 

MM-tell me you left the building.

JB-okay, I left the building.

MM-are you lying?

JB- yes but I’m packing up to leave.  What are you doing?”

MM-just sat down to eat something and maybe watch a nice Lifetime movie

JB-sounds like a horrible evening.

MM-I wasn’t inviting you to join me (insert some sarcasm)

JB-inserted.  What are you doing tomorrow? Have you seen the tree yet?

MM-We see it together every year, of course I haven’t seen it yet.  Want to go tomorrow?

JB-sure.  Bouchon Bakery at 9:00?

MM-perfect.  Now go home and get some sleep.  I know you haven’t been sleeping well this week.

JB-how do you know that?

MM-dark circles under you eyes and the fact that you fell asleep on your couch more than usual.  And before you ask, you like me cause I’m cute and amazing.

JB-yeah, yeah.  See you in the morning.

MM-Good night Jason

JB-Good night Riss

*****

Bull meet his driver downstairs 15 minutes later and less than an hour later he was curled up on the couch in his pajamas with a cup of tea and 4 episodes of Jeopardy on his DVR.  By the end of the second episode he was sound asleep on the couch, thanks to a sleeping pill and some Sleepytime tea.

*****

Marissa arrived at the bakery first the next morning.  She got coffee and muffins, coming back out to the sidewalk as Bull was rounding the corner.  She gave him a once over before he saw her waiting for him.  Dressed in well worn jeans, boots, flannel shirt and a dark green jacket he looked rather adorable.  More importantly, he looked as if he’d gotten some sleep the night before.  He caught her eye and gave her a big wink and a smile.  She held out his coffee and when the cup was safe in his grasp, she reached up to kiss his freshly shaved cheek. Even though it had been a few months, she wasn’t still used to the fact that he was clean shaven most of the time.  She kind of missed the stubble.

“Waiting long?” he asked as he took her by the elbow and maneuvered them out of the stream of foot traffic.

“Just long enough to get breakfast,” Marissa replied as she tucked her hair behind her eyes, wishing she’d thought to put it up as it was a bit windy.

They walked across the street, heading for the tree.  It was early enough that it wasn’t too crowded but both knew that wouldn’t last long.  Although it was a bit windy the sun was shining, the crowds were definitely on their way.  They found a spot in the sun and out of the wind.  They drank their coffee and ate their muffins while admiring the tree and the early morning skaters.  Bull shared a little about his conversation with Benny, not going into great details but giving an abridged version.  Marissa wasn’t surprised at all that the conversation had taken place.  She knew the case had gotten Bull thinking about his own relationship, or lack thereof, with God.  Seemed like all the cases they’d had since Bull had returned to work brought up questions, memories, regrets for Bull.  To Marissa’s relief he was pretty good about talking and not keeping things inside.  He talked to her and he also met with his therapist every other week or so.  She never asked about his visits and so far he’d offered very little insight into them.  But as with everything else, she knew eventually he’d be ready to talk.  And as always, she’d be there to listen.

After finishing their breakfast and wanting to get walking to warm up a bit, they circled Rockefeller Center.  They ended up walking up 6th Avenue, making a right on 50th St.  The Lego store caught Bull’s eye and they headed in that direction.

“You really are just a big kid, aren’t you,” Marissa teased.  Bull had a small collection of Lego Architecture pieces on the bookshelf in his office and she was known to tease him about it once in a while.  But she actually found it endearing.

“Yes, I am, but I want to get Andy something for Christmas,” Bull smirked as he held the door open for her.

After much discussion and debate between DC vs Marvel, themed sets vs Classic sets, Bull texted Alex and asked for his opinion.  His answer was a Classic set, Andy had plenty of themed sets and trying to figure out which ones he had was not something Alex was in the mood to do at that moment.  Bull picked out a set while Marissa picked out a few Marvel mini figures for their young friend.

Back out on the street Bull looked to his right and his gaze landed on the grand silhouette of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  He took a deep breath and motioned towards the church with his free hand.

“Sure,” Marissa asked, answering his silent question.

They walked across 5th Avenue and entered the church through the main doors.  It had been a long time since Bull had been in any church.  He had no idea the last time he’d been in St. Patrick’s, decades probably.  He took a few steps in and stopped short, taking a deep breath.  Marissa squeezed his arm gently and when he didn’t really move, she slid her hand down to grab his hand and pull him out of the way of the people behind them, trying to get through the narthex. 

“Sorry,” he muttered as he let her lead him off to the right, out of the way. 

“Jason, are you okay?” she asked, genuine concern in her voice.  She loosened her grip on his hand but he made no attempt to let her go completely.

“Yeah, just been a while,” he explained as handed the shopping bag to Marissa so he could unzip his jacket as he was suddenly feeling a bit warm.

Marissa let him take the lead.  They wandered for a while, admiring the architecture, the stained glass windows and many statues throughout the cathedral.  Like most visitors to St. Patrick’s they stopped to light a pair of candles in memory of loved ones.  Eventually Bull took a seat in one of the pews.  Marissa started to sit next to him but reconsidered.  She put her hand on his shoulder and leaned over to whisper in his ear.  “I’m going to give you some time alone.  Meet me outside when you’re ready.  Take your time.”

“Thank you,” he whispered as he reached to pat her hand.  Marissa picked up the shopping bag and pressed a kiss to the top of his head.  She headed back towards the door. Looking over her shoulder, she took one last look at him before she lost sight of him in the crowd.  He was leaning forward, elbows on his knees, chin propped up on his clasped hands. 

Bull sat quietly for a few minutes.  A slew of different emotions and thoughts were fighting for space in his mind and he made a conscious effort to quiet all of them.  He took time to do some deep breathing.  He wasn’t sure why exactly he was sitting there in the Catholic center of New York City, but something had drawn him there, something he couldn’t put into words.  But he realized that was okay.  As much as it annoyed him at times, given his line of work, not everything needed a clean-cut explanation.  Some things just happened for no apparent reason.  He sat up and spent the next 5 or so minutes listening to the organ music and feeling himself relax. 

When he felt a bit more centered and calm he stood up.  As he zipped his jacket back up he paused to  gently place his hand over his still beating heart for a second.  He looked towards the altar and mouthed, “thank you.”