AN: I really need to start naming these better.
Anyway, I love Zoe. To ridiculous levels. So this is a paean to my most favourite character ever.
Also I kinda took a lot of liberties with canon here (with Zoe's background and Lily's description), so uhmm, beware, I guess.
Zoe has always been hungry for family. A big, sprawling family. Growing up in a group home with only a younger brother and no parental units has that effect on people.
It's the reason Max is almost her father. The reason she lets Doris fret over "how thin you've gotten, young lady!" whenever she and Liam turn up for dinner, which is nearly three times a week.
Zoe was always one to fall hopelessly in love at first sight.
She's never been very maternal. But the minute she met the bouncy eight-month-old, there has barely been space in her heart for anything else. Lily has monopolized her attention and she couldn't be happier.
So she throws herself into raising the little happy baby girl, and she secretly exalts in knowing that she'll probably be a larger influence on Lily than most others, by virtue of her age and gender. Secretly, because she's almost ashamed of herself for thinking so. Selfish, she half-heartedly chides herself.
It comes as no surprise (to everyone but her), when the one-and-a-half-year-old casually points to her and says, "Ma."
She knows someone has been teaching her that, and she doesn't know who, but she'd like to hug whoever it is.
She glows with the feeling.
Zoe has always been one to have the rug pulled out from under her feet.
It happens when Lily is three. She sits on the couch across from Zoe, an adorable little frown on her face.
"Why does everyone call you Zoe, Ma?"
"Because that's my name, love."
"Zo-ee," says Lily, drawing out the syllables, tasting how it feels on her tongue. "Can I call you Zo-ee?"
Zoe fights the lump in her throat. "Of course you can, honey."
She cries into her pillow that night.
Years later, Zoe would see how silly she had been.
Because it doesn't matter that Lily isn't her daughter in name, or in blood.
Because in everything Lily does, it's evident that there's some Zoe in the mix. The way she furrows her brow and purses her lips when confronted with a particularly difficult language. The way she rolls her eyes and puts her hands on her hips when annoyed. The way she hunches slightly when poring over a thick book. The tiniest hint of an Irish accent creeping into some of her words (that was more Liam than her, but Zoe'll take what she can get). The way she speaks Irish Gaelic, as naturally as she speaks English. Hell, even in the way she holds her controller while playing Splinter Cell.
Zoe is in nearly her every action, and she thinks she'll explode with the feeling.
And she loves that Pooh Bear is protective of her. That Fuzzy treats her like a little sister. That she and Noddy have impromptu workout competitions in the barn. The way Stretch teaches her how to properly use a Barrett. The way she and Lily gang up to get Sky Monster's goat. The way Jack loves to play with her hair (when they're sure that they're alone).
She has a family now, a large, haphazard family, and she's content.
Zoe's always one to take things harder than she should.
Seven months after Liam's death, she flies out to Australia for the first time since she'd dropped Lily there. She's gotten most of her grief out, she's had enough of quiet and now she wants people.
Jack seems happy enough to see her. But he doesn't say anything about them, prefers to tiptoe around the subject. Doesn't notice her hints that she wants to move in, ask me goddamnit.
The slight Irish lilt in Lily's speech is gone, to be replaced by a more clipped Aussie accent. Was she imagining it before, she wonders.
She spirals downwards. Because Liam's gone and she's alone and nobody's here and Jack doesn't need her anymore and Lily doesn't need her anymore and she's lost everything, everyone.
The night she lands in Dublin, she meets Cieran Kincaid at HQ. He plays on her loneliness; she plays right into his game.
Zoe has always been one to self-destruct.
Zoe has always been lucky enough to heal, to be given a second chance.
"We're engaged!" they announce to their gathered team and amidst the cheering and clapping, Lily bounds up to her, beaming.
"Can I call you Mum now?"
Zoe smiles. "Of course you can, love."