Author: Javanyet PM
Schanke and Cohen are gone, and Nick has a new partner. Life, or something like it, struggles on. Oneshot.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Supernatural - Words: 3,825 - Reviews: 3 - Published: 01-05-08 - Status: Complete - id: 3994084
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The funerals had been almost a week ago, and Nick had been back on the job since too few days after. At home he was grousing about his new partner, the one he didn't really want. After eight years with Schanke he didn't want anyone at all, much less the commissioner's rookie daughter. He said as much to Maura after his second or third shift with her.
"Come on, Bats, it makes sense to partner a rookie with an experienced detective. More than 'experienced', you know that. And she has to be at least a little okay or she wouldn't be on the squad. I mean nepotism is a reality, but it doesn't usually extend into the detective unit." Maura tried to reason with him as usual, but times were anything but usual. Besides, he wasn't in the mood for reason.
"Yeah, yeah, join the chorus. Nat says the same thing."
Maura slid closer to Nick on the sofa, and ran slow fingers through his hair. "Well if we can get LaCroix to agree, we can make it a hat trick."
Nick ducked from under her hand and shot back testily, "Nice one of us can find the humor in this… you know how Schank loved a bad joke." Maura withdrew abruptly and sat back in the opposite corner of the sofa, eyes wide and suddenly liquid.
"Well if it makes you feel better, do just keep clawing away. I'm sure going at your new partner isn't nearly as much fun, since you probably can't find all the soft spots yet." She tried to sound nasty but all that came out was hurt. Nick opened his mouth to speak but Maura cut him off. "I can't imagine how it feels to be at work and look up and not see him, I really can't. But why don't you try to imagine how hard it is for me to remember not to ask 'how's Schank' when you come home, okay? I'm sorry your new partner isn't him. Surprise, surprise, I wish things were back the way they were, too."
Nick had worked much of his way through his initial storm of emotion with the help of Maura and his colleagues and even a visit or two to Angela Johnson, who made herself available to a detective division reeling from the loss of a colleague and a captain both. He still wrestled with the aftershocks and the stress came out in unfortunate ways, usually by way of sharp words and often only in Maura's presence. You spill the hardest stuff on those you trust the most.
"Luna I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you're not really one of us. I know, I know, you've learned a lot about the thousand-year outlook but it's not the same as experiencing it. It's really okay to be messed up over this."
She faced him with wide-eyed bewilderment. Her near-lifetime among immortals had left her honestly believing that mortal perspective was abnormal. "But I'm not one of them, not really," 'them' meaning true mortals, "so if I'm not one of you either, then I'm all alone…"
As sometimes happened in times of crisis Vachon found he'd overestimated his ability to communicate with mortals. "No, no, I didn't mean that," and he took Maura by the shoulders and looked in her eyes with more mortal understanding than he'd ever be willing to admit. "I mean just be who you are, okay? No need to hide. Hey, nobody here needs to hide from you, right? Fair's fair."
After a moment's consideration she hugged him tight and kissed his cheek. When he was right, he was right. "Thanks, Vash, I love you. You're the best friend I've found in a long time."
"Te amo tambien, Luna." Even after so long among mortals, the purity of the sentiment surprised him.
"Oh Maura, I'm sorry," he told her as he reached out quickly to hold her, "I don't mean to be like that, je t'aime, je t'aime beaucoup," he whispered that and more in French and English, and rocked her until her tears subsided. "I don't ever want to 'claw' at you, you believe me don't you?" He raised Maura's head from his shoulder and looked her in the eye, "I don't want to do it to anybody, but I especially don't want to do it to you." She nodded and took the tissue he'd pulled from the box on the coffee table – they'd had to bring in a huge supply recently, for both of them. When she blew her nose noisily Nick found his bitter mood softened. He touched her nose with a fingertip.
"That's a big honk for such a little snoot. Bet you were popular back west during moose season." He so wanted to erase that hurt look from her face, and was relieved when a rueful smile crept out.
"Yeah, but it was hell during rutting season." Maura studied Nick's face, looking for clues to what he was thinking in the midst of all the turmoil that was getting in his way. "Do you really think, what's her name, Tracy, do you really think it's not gonna work? I don't know if I like the idea of you going solo, you always needed the balance that Schank managed even when you thought you didn't." A twinge in the blue eyes, barely reflected in the rest of his face, prompted her to add, "I know, it's mostly that it's anyone but him." Now it was Maura who pulled Nick into her arms, pressing his head to her shoulder, "Never mind, it doesn't make sense to talk it to death unless there's something to say. I love you, Just Nick, and if Schank can't be here anymore I still need someone else that can help me watch out for you. Whoever you decide will work best is okay by me."
"I guess Tracy Vetter is as good a prospect as anyone. She does seem to have good instincts and it wasn't family that boosted her to detective, even if some people think so." He sighed deeply. "We just have to get on with it, don't we? Ain't' nuthin but is." Maura nodded and tried to smile for real.
"I'm so sorry," Nick repeated, "you've lost him too, I know you have. You don't have to be strong for me, when it's too much for you just come to me, let me help if I can." He framed her face with his hands and brushed at her tears.
"Okay." She broke again then, and clung hard to him.
"Just hang on love. We'll both just hang on, it's all we can do."
In spite of all of her words of advice regarding his adjustment to his new partner, Maura couldn't fight the twist in her gut at the sight of the lanky blonde seated at the desk opposite Nick's. That's Donnie's desk, her mind screamed, what are you doing here? She meant to say something friendly, she knew that this Tracy Vetter must be needing something like a welcome in the middle of all the angst she'd been dropped into. Not only was she a rookie with the constant spectre of nepotism shadowing her, she was stepping into the sudden void in an 8-year partnership. In spite of her best intentions all that came out of Maura was a hitching breath, a gasp and a painful sigh combined. The blonde detective was engaged in deciphering and arranging forms in logical order, not realizing what a foreign activity that was at this particular desk.
Before completely looking up Tracy asked automatically, "Can I help you?" but the question flattened out as she focused on Maura, whose picture she'd seen on Nick's desk. "Oh. Oh, yes." She was struggling for words. "You're looking for Detective Knight, right? Nick." She stood suddenly, scattering papers on the desktop.
At least that looks like normal, Maura thought. The precinct office had changed dramatically, and construction was still ongoing. Appropriate somehow. Still she didn't manage to speak, so Tracy reached out an awkward hand.
"I'm Tracy Vetter, Nick's partner." She swallowed. "New partner."
Pulling herself together, Maura shook the woman's hand. God, am I that obvious, she wondered. "Yes, I know. I'm Maura Logue." They stood there a moment looking at one another. "I'm sorry, Detective Vetter, it's just, well…"
Tracy's smile was hesitant but kind. "I know. And I'm so sorry. I know you were close to Detective Schanke, and this is all very strange. For me, too. It's one thing to be the new kid in town, but another to be… well, you know."
The twist was subsiding, but not fast enough. "Yeah, I so know. And you're right, I've come by to meet Nick when he comes off shift. It's not a real habit of mine, in case you were wondering," she hastened to add, not wanting Tracy to think she was some jealous witch keeping an eye on the attractive female partner. "I just thought, maybe, well I was at loose ends with my night off and all…" Something in the other woman's face told her she didn't have to explain so much.
"Why don't you have a seat," Tracy told her simply, "Nick's interviewing a witness, no telling how long he'll be but you're welcome to wait." She returned to the task of organization, gathering up the forms she'd knocked askew.
Maura sat quietly for a few minutes, looking around and taking in the new, somehow more darkly stylish atmosphere. So this is where the department "infrastructure improvement" money was going. She wasn't sure she liked it, but then she hadn't liked the previous low-rent institutional style either. No matter how it was dressed up or down it was still the place where the crime janitors gathered to clean up after the world's existential slobs, or so she'd mused to Nick one night when she'd had a couple of drinks before they left Raven. Now she just sat, trying not to watch Tracy Vetter as closely as she wanted to, as if she could read something in her that would give her the answers she wanted.
"Is something wrong?"
Maura started, again caught out. "Um, no. Nothing's wrong. Well maybe just. Look I know I shouldn't ask you this, I mean it's a rule of ours that I stay out of Nick's work, but I'm wondering with everything that's happened."
Tracy shook her head, clueless. "Maybe you should just ask. I promise I won't tell Nick."
That bit of sly humor set Maura at ease. "Okay, thanks. I was just wondering, how do you think Nick is adjusting? Is he giving you a hard time? If he is, I don't think it's because of you personally. Then again, I'm not sure how he is when he's starting out with any partner, but the way he's been lately I just thought I'd ask."
Tracy was taken by Maura's awkwardness. Funny, she'd gotten the impression from the other detectives and Natalie Lambert that Knight's girlfriend was unshakably sure of herself. Even, some said, when she should be more uncertain.
"If you mean has he been rude or petty, not at all. Nick's been the perfect gentleman. Painfully so. To be honest, he's shut up tighter than a bank safe. Sometimes it's hard just to get his attention, but I figure there must be a lot of wheels turning inside him about now."
"Most new people in Nick's life just think he's weird."
Tracy tried unsuccessfully to cover a laugh. "Well there is that, too. I guess you'll tell me it's part of his charm."
Maura leaned back in Nick's chair, and managed somewhat darker a laugh of her own. "Not exactly. But it does keep life from getting boring. Don't worry though, it doesn't affect his work, it just sort of, well, affects his style sometimes." She returned upright and leaned forward on the desk. "Seriously, they couldn't have partnered you with anyone better. He'll teach you things about the job that aren't in any book or academy training, not-in-the-manual things that can help you be a better cop, and even save your life."
Tracy sensed something more. "Or his. I'm sorry, Maura, I seem to keep trampling on your attempt to be subtle. You know who my dad is, I'm sure Nick's told you. In spades. So I'm no stranger to the spouse-partner thing because I grew up seeing my mom worry and wonder if dad's partners were up to the responsibility that she, not the department, placed on them. Believe me dad's partners would rather have had IAD down their throats than mom."
Maura shrugged a little sheepishly. "Nick told me you had good instincts. Don't look so shocked. And for the record, he's harder on himself than he could ever be on anyone else. Not that I want to give away his secrets, but it might help to know that. Until he settles down, you know? If he seems, well, hard or distant don't take it personally. It's just those wheels turning. I hope you can be patient until he comes around, I think it'll be worth it for both of you. And thanks for being gracious enough to claim I'm trying to be subtle. Subtle isn't my strong suit, I'm afraid."
"I'd swear to that under oath," Nick said as he returned from the interrogation room to stand behind Maura. "Now why do I smell a conspiracy here?"
Bless her, Tracy's expression was all wide-eyed innocence. "Now Nick, Maura just came by to meet you after your shift. I was just making small talk until you got back."
Given the new surroundings and people Nick withheld his usual kiss of greeting, instead planting his hands gently on Maura's shoulders as she tipped her head back to say, "Yeah, what she said."
"I'm just getting to know my partner's partner, is all," Tracy elaborated. She saw Maura flinch and Nick draw a little closer behind her. She must have touched a nerve. So many were still raw here; no matter how carefully she tread Tracy still scraped them from time to time in Nick and others.
Maura could see. "It's not you, honest."
"I know. It's, well, everything isn't it?"
Maura smiled up at Nick. "Speaking strictly as a completely uninvolved civilian I think she might be a keeper."
Ignoring the comment, Nick suggested, "Come on, as long as you're checking out the new talent, let me introduce you to the captain."
"Now wait a minute," Maura protested as she rose from Nick's chair, "I am not 'checking out' anybody. I just came here to pick you up, I swear!"
Nick winked over her shoulder at Tracy. "Good thing she's not interested in a life of crime, huh?"
"Or poker," Tracy quipped. Maura whipped around to gape at her in surprise. "Hey, I gotta make nice with my mentor, you know? Nice meeting you, see you later I'm sure," and she smiled and shook her head as Nick ushered Maura to the captain's office. No matter how it worked out between her and her first partner, Nick seemed like a good cop and a good guy. Tracy had the feeling the darkness he'd displayed so far was part of the transition he was struggling with.
"Captain Reese, if you have a minute I have someone I'd like you to meet," Nick preceded Maura through the open office door. Gone were Captain Cohen's family photos and few Asian artifacts. Now the room was strewn with overflowing file boxes. Papers flowed like water over every horizontal surface. Nobody appeared to be in the room, but rummaging sounds and grunts of frustration issued from under the desk.
"Captain? Is this a bad time?" Nick tried to peer over the desk.
"No, that's okay Knight, just trying to… oomph, get this drawer back on track," there was a snapping sound. "Aha! Okay then," and from behind the desk a burly black man struggled to his feet and tried to regain his decorum. "Now what was it you wanted to tell me?"
Nick drew Maura in behind him. "I just wanted you to meet someone," he stood aside and pulled Maura further into the room. "This is Maura Logue, you've heard me mention her. I thought she'd like to meet the new boss."
The captain smiled, a bit embarrassed by the circumstances. "Joe Reese, a pleasure," Maura took the hand he extended. His grip was strong but not brutal. "Anyone who can back up my detectives at home gets all my respect and admiration."
His instantly proprietary attitude put her off a little. "Thanks. I hope you're settling in okay," she cast a doubtful eye at the disorder that surrounded them, "you have some big size fives to fill." Nick frowned at her, clearly finding the comment inappropriate.
Reese took it in stride. "I suppose I do. I can only do my best, Ms. Logue. I hope that's good enough for everyone."
"Sorry, that came out wrong. I'm just an outsider here, but it's a big change, isn't it?"
"You're right about that. Well I hope to see you at the family stuff I'm told they have here. Captain Cohen has established a fine tradition of appreciating her department; I hope to continue that." Reese paused uncertainly, "if they'll give me the budget."
"If they don't you can bet my boss will be in touch."
The captain looked puzzled. "Your boss? Do you work for the city too?"
"In a manner of speaking," Maura replied cryptically. She left it to Nick to explain.
"Maura works at Club Raven. It's become something of the 'social center of choice' for this division in the past couple of years. The owner, Janette duCharme, would be very disappointed to lose the business."
"Well I'll do my best. The last thing I want to do is trample on tradition. Speaking of which," Captain Reese slid open the now-functioning desk drawer. "This seems to have been left behind. " He pulled out a small Kuan Yin carved of pale jade. "I think this belongs with someone who worked with Amanda Cohen, instead of just sitting on a shelf here gathering dust."
Nick took the figurine and smiled sadly at it. "Thanks, captain, you're right. We'll give it a good home." He handed it to Maura, whose expression echoed his own. She slipped it into her pocket.
"Nice meeting you, Captain Reese," Maura said as she took Nick's arm and smiled affectionately. "I'm confident you'll keep this loose cannon in line, but if you need any pointers give me a call."
Reese grinned broadly. "I'll keep it in mind."
As they headed for the elevator Maura told Nick, "You know, he reminds me a little of Stonetree. Another big bruiser who seems like a real sweet guy down deep."
Nick shuddered as the doors slid shut. "You haven't seen him angry yet."
When they got to the ground floor Maura hesitated before crossing the lobby to the street exit.
"Something wrong?" Nick asked.
She shrugged a little, and her voice faltered as she looked around. "It's all different now, isn't it? So much won't ever be the same." She was on the verge of tears again.
Nick put his arms around her and admitted, "No, it won't. But we're still here. And Nat, and Vachon and Janette." He lifted her chin and coaxed a smile from her. "Right?"
"Uh-huh." Maura stepped back and wiped her eyes with her sleeve. "And let's not forget LaCroix, as long as we're looking at the big picture."
Nick scowled at first, then smiled instead. He was weary of grieving and tears, and knew well how thoroughly Don Schanke and Amanda Cohen would disapprove of prolonging such things on their account. "C'mon, let's go for a walk. Full moon tonight, and I'll bet the loons are out by the water."
He meant the waterfront walk, of course, but Maura couldn't resist. "The loons are all over town, Bats."
Nick laughed and took Maura's hand to lead her out the door. "I'll bet Schank would say in that case we'll blend right in."