Author: anolinde PM
When Keira Ford left her home at 18, she never looked back. Now a rookie at the SRU, she's done everything she can to bury her past. But when Team One gets a new recruit, she's forced to confront the reasons why she left... and the one she had to stay.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Mike S. & Jules C. - Chapters: 33 - Words: 88,406 - Reviews: 152 - Favs: 57 - Follows: 101 - Updated: 01-24-13 - Published: 07-26-11 - id: 7221234
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: I wrote this chapter before the Season 4 episode in which it's revealed that Team One starts its workout at five in the morning, which means that some of the details the first scene in this chapter don't work... Shh. ;)
Chapter Thirty-One: Brian Tags Along
For once, Keira was not running late to work. Normally, she wasn't a morning person—she was more of the "hit the snooze button about five times too many" type, which usually resulted in her scrambling downstairs, knocking back a glass of orange juice, and barely managing to kiss Brian on the forehead before running out the door with a piece of toast in hand. Today, however, she had woken up at five and, for whatever reason, hadn't been able to fall back asleep. Now, she was leisurely enjoying bacon and eggs while reading the paper.
At least, she was trying to read the paper. Instead she found that she was reading the same paragraph over and over again, the words swimming before her without forming into anything coherent. Alice had called her yesterday to thank her for saving her life, and to tell her what had happened since then. Keira had spent the past month tracking the case through the local papers, so she knew that Justin Kemp had been arrested and would soon face trial—but she hadn't heard that Alice had gotten a full examination at the hospital, hoping to unearth more evidence that the prosecutor could use against him. Even though she had taken a shower after the assault, there were still incriminating bruises and minor tissue damage. With any luck, they would put Justin on the path to prison.
Keira sighed, lowering the paper. Regardless of the eventual verdict, Alice had a long and difficult road ahead of her. Keira knew what happened when a rape case was brought to trial: all too often, the community rallied behind the rapist and shunned the survivor. "She was dressed provocatively"; "She was drunk"; "She was asking for it." Or, her personal favorite, "That poor boy's life is ruined." Never mind that no one asked to be raped. Never mind that no one should have to entertain the possibility of being raped when they decided to drink. Never mind that many survivors had been wearing sweatpants when they were raped. And never fucking mind the fact that someone's life already had been ruined.
(Some people wondered why rape was such an underreported crime. Keira wasn't one of them.)
She closed the paper and slid it over to the chair where Jason usually sat, no longer in the mood for reading. While the past month had undoubtedly been worse for Alice than it had been for her, it hadn't exactly been a time she would look back on with fond memories. Between the concerned inquiries from her teammates (no matter how discreetly placed), the lengthy silences that filled her meetings with Dr. Luria, and Greg's irritating new habit of shuttling her off to the command truck more often than not, the SRU was feeling less like a job and more like an unpleasant routine that she had to perform every day.
Then there was Donna's recent transfer to Team Three, the unwelcome cherry on top of the suck sundae. Despite the rocky beginnings of their acquaintance, Donna had astonished Keira by backing off completely and not mentioning Alice at all—not unless Keira brought up the subject herself. As far as the older woman had been concerned, if Keira didn't want to talk about it, there was no point in wasting any energy on an interrogation. There had been a certain freedom in that, a certain relief in being able to walk into the locker room without the fear of having to dissect her feelings. It helped that Donna and Will had hit it off, which meant that Keira could go out to eat with them at the end of the day and feel like she had some semblance of a social life.
But now Donna was gone, though by all accounts she was doing well on her new team; and while Keira was glad to see Jules back, Jules had never been one for ignoring the elephant in a room. She wasn't rude about her inquiries, not by any stretch, but she certainly wasn't going to let Keira pretend that the call with Alice had never happened. Keira had since taken to slipping in and out of the locker room at odd times, something she was sure Jules had noticed and would eventually call her out on.
The morning quiet was interrupted by Jason barreling into the kitchen, only half of his police uniform on. Brian was right on his heels, waving a plastic sword around and asking his father if he could build a fort.
"Not now, buddy," Jason said distractedly, opening the freezer and taking out a pack of waffles. "Keira, when are you leaving for work?"
"In a few minutes," Keira replied, raising an eyebrow at her brother's uncharacteristically disheveled appearance. "Why?"
"We've got a problem," Jason announced, shoving some waffles into the toaster with one hand while trying to adjust his shirt with the other. "I just got a call from Brian's preschool. Ms. Honen's having a family emergency, so—"
"Daddy," Brian whined, "does this mean I can't bring in my sword for show-and-tell?"
"No, Brian, not today," Jason informed his son, before continuing to Keira, "So the school's closed for the day. Normally this wouldn't be an issue, because Allie could just take him into work, but she has to be at court and she can't watch him there. Now, I would have taken him to work—"
"Daddy, are my waffles ready yet?"
"Not yet, Brian—except about two seconds after I hung up with Ms. Honen, my boss calls and tells me that there's a triple homicide—"
"Daddy, what's a hom-cide?"
"—and he needs everyone on deck, and since there's no way I can bring Brian to a triple homicide crime scene and still call myself a good parent—"
"Daddy, you're not listening to me!" Brian stamped his foot and, for added emphasis, drew out the word "me" until it was an impressive four syllables long.
Keira had an idea of where this was going. "Do you want me to call my boss and see if I can bring Brian in?" she asked.
Even as she spoke, she knew that this was a Very Bad Idea.
Jason let out a sigh of relief. "You are a lifesaver," he declared, reaching for the waffles in the toaster. A second later he hissed, having burned himself on the insides of the appliance.
"Hang on a sec, let me call him and make sure it's okay," Keira warned, not wanting to get her brother's hopes up. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out her phone and quickly dialed Parker's number.
Greg picked up on the second ring. "Hey, Keira, what's going on?"
As Brian started running around the kitchen, brandishing his sword and hollering like the phrase "indoor voice" was only a vague suggestion directed at other children, Keira hunkered down in her seat and blocked an ear. Pressing the other against her phone, she said in a rush, "I'm so sorry about this, but we're kind of having an emergency with Brian—basically his daycare canceled on us, Allie has to go to court and Jason was just called in on a triple homicide—and I was wondering if I could bring Brian in today? I'm so sorry, I know it's last-minute, but otherwise I'm going to have to take the day off, and I figured that if I brought him in at least there'd be someone at the station to keep an eye on him if we get a call, and maybe we won't even get a call—"
She could hear Greg chuckling on the other end of the line. "Keira, it's fine, don't worry about it," he told her. "We've all had those days when we can't find a babysitter." His voice sobered slightly, and Keira felt another pang of guilt: she knew he was thinking of his son, Dean, whom he hadn't seen in years. "You know, if we don't get a call, we can take things easy today, maybe show Brian around the station a bit."
Keira let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you so much, Boss. I appreciate it."
When they hung up, she twisted in her chair and looked at Brian. The toddler was busy stabbing an imaginary opponent with his sword, yelling things like "Take that!" and adding the occasional "I win!" for good measure. "Hey, sweetie, do you want to see where I work today?"
Brian stopped in his tracks. "I get to go to the police station?" he gasped, dropping the plastic sword.
Keira winked at Jason, who mouthed thank you back at her. "That's right, we're going to the SRU today." A flash of inspiration hit her, and she asked, "Do you want to put on your police uniform before we leave?"
The words had barely left her mouth before Brian turned around and raced out of the kitchen, scampering up the stairs to his bedroom.
"Thank you so much for doing this," Jason said, throwing the waffles onto a plate and haphazardly squirting maple syrup over them. "And tell Greg I'm sorry for the inconvenience. I'm going to leave the booster seat in your car, okay?"
"Aren't you going to eat something?" Keira asked when he put the waffles down in front of Brian's chair.
"Does a protein bar count as something?"
Keira rolled her eyes. "Bring a couple more for the car ride."
"Auntie K, I can't find it!"
Brian's screech resounded throughout the kitchen. "All right, I better go," Keira said, sighing. "Good luck today."
Jason chuckled. "Honestly? I think you're the one who's going to need it."
It took Brian and Keira several minutes to find the tiny police uniform, which had somehow found its way into Brian's toy chest, and by the time it was on its owner they were running seriously late. Keira did something that she was probably going to regret and allowed Brian to finish his waffles in her car, which completely thrilled him ("Daddy never lets me eat when we're driving!").
After a harrowing drive through early-morning traffic, which had Keira biting back several curses she would normally have let fly without hesitation, they finally arrived at the station. Keira herded Brian in through the front doors, delayed by the fact that he refused to let her carry him. ("Auntie K, I can do it myself!") He then insisted on gawking at everything in his path, which slowed them down even more.
At long last, they reached the front desk. Winnie was there, in the middle of a conversation with Greg; both of them glanced up when they heard Brian's shout of "Wow, it's so big!"
Winnie's face brightened at the sight of Brian in his police uniform. "I see someone's planning on joining the SRU when he grows up," she teased. "Are you Brian?"
Keira opened her mouth to respond, but Brian beat her to it. "I'm going to be a police officer when I grow up, just like my daddy!" he announced proudly, before biting his lip in perturbation. "How do you know my name?"
"Honey, these are my coworkers," Keira said, kneeling down beside him so that their heads were level. "The woman behind the desk is Winnie. She answers the phone and tells us where we need to go. And the man next to her is my boss, Greg. He's responsible for talking to people and making sure they don't do bad things."
Brian absorbed it all in, his eyes wide as saucers. "Do you tell Auntie K what to do?" he asked Greg.
Greg laughed in response, crouching down like Keira and extending a palm towards Brian. "That's right, I do," he replied, winking at Keira. "I'm a sergeant, just like your daddy."
"Wow!" Brian exclaimed, eagerly shaking Greg's hand. "That's really cool!"
"What is this, some kind of weird squatting exercise that no one told me about?" Spike asked, strolling into the reception area with Lou at his side.
Brian glanced over Greg's shoulder, gasped in delight, and yelled, "SPIKE!" Launching himself across the room, he flung his arms around Spike's legs with so much force that the man nearly toppled over in surprise.
Keira suddenly found herself on the receiving end of a very curious stare from her boss.
"Hey, buddy, long time no see!" Spike greeted Brian, ruffling the toddler's hair and cheerfully oblivious to the searching look Greg was giving him. "What are you doing here?"
"My school got canceled and Mommy and Daddy have work!" Brian reported gleefully.
"Lucky us," Spike replied, grinning so enthusiastically that, for a moment, Keira couldn't tell which of them was more excited. "And lucky Keira, too. Hey, has she introduced you to our friend Lou yet?"
Lou began muttering something about needing to hit the gym.
"Who's Lou?" Brian immediately asked, bouncing up and down with excitement.
"Ah-ah-ah, Lou, get back here," Spike ordered, reaching up and yanking none too gently at Lou's jacket. "Be nice and say hello to our visitor."
Lou looked down at Brian, smiled uncomfortably, and waved. "Hey," he said.
"Hi, Lou!" Brian replied, waving. "Are you a policeman, too?"
"He's definitely not as cool a policeman as you," Spike said to Brian, grinning.
Brian, however, wasn't paying attention. His face had turned whiter than a ghost, his eyes wide with terror as he stared at something over Spike's shoulder.
"What's wrong, buddy?" Spike asked, twisting around to look. Keira saw only Ed, dressed in full uniform as he came out of the locker room. Evidently, he was heading to the gun cage.
"It's the scary bald man," Brian whispered, clutching at Spike's leg.
For a moment, there was dead silence as everyone realized whom Brian was talking about. Winnie pressed a hand to her mouth and ducked behind the counter, shaking with silent laughter; Spike tried valiantly to hold it back, but when a smile broke through both he and Lou were done.
Keira didn't know whether to find the situation hilarious or completely mortifying.
"What's going on?" Ed asked, raising an eyebrow at the sight of half the team openly laughing at him. He glanced down, then looked back up. "My fly's not open," he added.
Chuckling, Greg responded, "Keira's nephew Brian seems to think that you're a—how did he phrase it?—a 'scary bald man.'"
"I'm so sorry," Keira said quickly, lest Ed think that she was encouraging Brian. "I told him not to last time…"
Interestingly, Greg wasn't taken aback by the revelation that Ed and Brian had met before; she supposed that Ed had told him all about their encounter in the grocery store, focusing especially on Will's role as co-babysitter. Just what I wanted, she thought.
"Well, I'm definitely bald, but I'm not that scary," Ed told Brian, taking a few steps closer. Brian squeaked in alarm and hid behind Spike, clasping the man's legs so tightly that he couldn't move. "Okay, okay, I can take a hint." Ed raised his hands and backed away, much to the amusement of his coworkers. "I'll be at the shooting range if anyone needs me."
"Buddy, buddy, Ed doesn't bite," Spike assured Brian, gently disentangling himself from the boy's grasp.
"But he shoots!" Brian insisted, to gales of laughter from the others.
Spike could hardly argue with that.
A couple of hours later, Keira left Brian with Spike—who was clearly itching to show off Babycakes, even though his audience would be a toddler to whom the words "don't touch" meant just about nothing—and took the opportunity to duck into the locker room. She had worked up a sweat from the drills, and the tiny beads trickling down her spine were uncomfortable at best.
Since she was completely alone, and wasn't expecting any company—Jules was at a doctor's appointment—she took off her shirt and attempted a makeshift bath in the sink. Though it was undoubtedly more expedient than the shower, the sink did have its drawbacks: namely, the mirror above it. As she soaked a fistful of paper towels and dabbed at her back, the scars in her reflection rippled and twisted with every movement. There were so many of them, it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began. Her torso was a patchwork quilt of burn marks, each of them uglier than the last.
She remembered it like it was yesterday: the smell of gasoline right before she learned what hell was, the excruciating pain as her t-shirt melted onto her skin… but most of all the screams, hers and her mother's. They had been almost inhuman, the screams; a horrible, unearthly sound like nothing that had ever come out of her mouth before, nor since. Sometimes she dreamed about them, all those howls and shrieks clawing up her throat until she was choking on the agony. And when she ran out of breath, that was when her flesh started boiling down to the white bones beneath.
Keira suddenly realized that she was standing utterly still in front of the mirror, the wet paper towels dangling uselessly from her clenched fist. She grimaced and went back to work, scrubbing harder at her skin than she should have. The burns were shining red and raw by the time she was done.
It had been a long time since she had remembered in that much detail. At first, she hadn't been able to even think about it—the faintest trace of memory would probe at her brain and she would immediately shut down, telling herself, I'm not thinking about it I'm not thinking about it I'm not thinking about it cars carrots fruit vegetables la la la I hope Jason comes to visit me soon I hate this hospital no I won't think about it I'm not thinking about it I'm not thinking about it snowmen ice penguins sharks whales I'm not thinking about it.
But over a decade had gone by, and her burns didn't hurt anymore, and she had learned to deal with the memories. She had forced herself to relive that night, over and over again, until the only reaction it evoked was hatred. Then she had turned on the stove and stared into the flickering blue flames, switching them on and off until Jason had found out and made her stop—but not before she had conquered her fear of them.
At the sound of footsteps, she hurriedly pulled her shirt back on and threw out the paper towels. No one on the team besides Spike had seen her scars, and she intended to keep it that way.
"Can I help you, ma'am?" Wordy's voice met her ears as she emerged from the locker room. Keira glanced over at the front desk, but the visitor was blocked by a support column. Shrugging, she headed towards the water fountain. Sometimes family members came in during lunch hour, which was how she had met Wordy's wife and Lou's parents; and sometimes it was a significant other, which was practically guaranteed to become incredibly awkward for whoever had invited them in.
The running water muffled the woman's response, but when Keira turned off the fountain and straightened she heard the tail end of Wordy's reply. "…back in a moment." After a pause, the constable added, "That's a nasty bruise you've got there." His tone was gentle, yet inquiring.
Curious, Keira approached the front desk. She could see Wordy now, his face dark as he exchanged a concerned glance with Winnie. The visitor's back was to her, but, judging by the hair and the stooped shoulders, it was an elderly woman. Keira grimaced, wondering if she was disoriented. Most people went to the hospital when they were injured, not the SRU.
She wasn't the only one who was checking out the visitor. Lou and Sam were ostensibly working out in the background, but neither of them were lifting the weights in their hands. At one point Sam leaned over to mutter something to Lou, his eyes never leaving the woman. Lou shrugged uneasily.
As Keira approached, planning on walking by and casually turning her head to see the bruise that Wordy was talking about, her teammate glanced up and saw her. The look on his face froze her in her tracks, though for a moment she didn't understand why. Then the elderly woman turned around, and all the air left Keira's lungs with a sickening whoosh.
"Mom?" she whispered.