Disclaimer: Obviously not.
Playlist: You went Away by Tegan and Sara / Maybe Tomorrow by Stereophonics / Teardrop by Jose Gonzalez
Scotty stepped out of his car and looked across the road. There was a neighbourhood fair going on, and brightly coloured balloons floated above the head of the milling crowd. A red balloon broke free, floated past the tree towards the open sky. Scotty heard the cry start, and figured the kid had just let their parent know they needed another balloon.
"So who are we looking for?" Jeffries was looking up at the building in front of them. It was twelve stories high and held the current address of one of many possibles in a '73 murder case.
"Ronan Maine. Should be in apartment 12B." Jeffries nodded, sighed.
"Figures. Twelfth floor. Bet this is too old to have an elevator." Stepping into the building, they both sighed as Jeffries was proven right, and started towards the stairs.
After a long interview they got nothing more than a glass each of tepid water and a solid alibi for Mr Maine. Depressing as that was, to add insult to injury Maine was pushing eighty and looked as if he'd be able to handle the stairs better than they did.
"Hey, you ever have one of those snow cones they have at these things? Ice shavings packed into a cup, cordial over the top?" Will shook his head as Scotty motioned towards the fair. He hadn't been jogging or to the gym lately since the heat wave had overtaken the city, and the stairs had let him know he should get back to it.
"Hey, is that Joseph?" Across the road, snow cones in hand, Jeffries pointed his to a guy crowded by kids and holding a basketball. Scotty nodded slowly. He'd looked at the face so much in the photograph that it was almost alternative universe seeing him in the flesh. Taking a vicious bite out of his snow cone, Scotty started turning away from Joseph until a blonde woman came up to him and, leaning over him, put her arms around him, letting her head rest on his shoulder. He said something and handed off the ball. The kids ran for the court, started playing. Their shoes scraped on the asphalt, but Joseph wasn't watching. He'd turned, had embraced her back. Her hair was messy, tied up in a pony tail, her back turned to them, but Scotty would've sworn-
"I'll be damned, is that Lil?" Jeffries immediately started walking towards the happy couple. Scotty gritted his teeth, followed behind. She'd come back to work after Joseph's case but something had happened to her. She didn't look like she wanted to be there anymore, and one day she just didn't come back. Stillman broke the news to them on a Thursday morning; Lil had taken her leave and handed in her resignation. After a week without her, it finally sank in; she really wasn't coming back. It seemed there should have been more to it. An office party, or a night down at Jones Tavern. Something to let her know how much she'd meant to the team, and how empty it felt without her despite the new guy who had transferred in and who had the same dogged determination that had possessed Lilly. It wasn't the same, though. This guy didn't make the same offbeat jokes, didn't look half as good in a suit and didn't have the same finesse in the interview room. Scotty had gone to see Lil in that second week, but her apartment had been empty. He'd tried calling her phone but whenever it was actually on, which was rare, she never answered. He'd talked to the Boss, who'd obviously been in contact with her to finalise her employment details, or lack of them. Stillman had passed on the message that she was fine, but that was as much as he knew as well. Scotty didn't pretend that it didn't hurt; as much as it had seemed that she'd abandoned them when she'd taken the sick day to chase up things for Joseph, this was far worse. She wasn't coming back from this leave, wasn't going to answer the door to him and let him know she thought she was going crazy. Let him know anything.
"Lil!" Will had reached her, and she turned, letting Joseph go. The smile was quick to come, and despite the fact that she was wearing less makeup she looked less drawn. She wasn't as pale anymore, and the light tan worked on her; brought out the honey tones in her hair and made her eyes look even bluer. Scotty wondered if any of the people around knew she'd once been a hard-arse detective capable of making grown men cry in interview rooms. Then again, she wasn't working hard to sway their opinion from making her as just another civilian; the blue t-shirt she wore had a logo for the Rolling Stones on it, and there was a tear in the knee of her jeans. She looked like she might have put on some weight; enough to make her look like she wasn't fragile, about to break. Obviously leaving the hot squad had done her good.
"Joseph! We need you to keep score!" One of the kids had his fingers curled through the wire in the fence, was yelling out. Joseph shook Scotty and Jeffries hands quickly, left Lil with a kiss on the cheek and a reluctance to let her hand go. She smiled after him before turning her attention back towards Will.
"So, what are you guys doing here? You didn't drive all the way out here for a snow cone, did you?" Turning towards Scotty, she smiled again. She had smiled at work, but not terribly often, and not without a reason. Now, it seemed, she was smiling all the time for no reason, except that she might just be happy. She looked happy here, amongst the throng of neighbourhood people, with Joseph. Scotty shifted his feet, let Jeffries take the lead while he found a bin for the snow cone. Suddenly, he wasn't feeling as hungry and it felt slightly emasculating to be standing in front of Lil holding a snow cone.
"…So we had to walk all twelve flights then wait at the top until we stopped puffing." Scotty came back as Will finished the story of their interview. Lilly laughed out loud, a proper delicious giggle that he didn't think he'd heard from her before.
"You live around here now?" Scotty shaded his eyes from the sun, waited for her answer.
"Sometimes. We've got here and out at the farm. Joseph helps out with some of the kids groups around here, trying to keep them out of trouble until they're old enough to figure out that on the streets isn't the place to be." She shrugged, smiled again. Will's phone rang and he turned away as he answered, thrusting his snow cone at Scotty. He'd specifically walked ten metres away so he wouldn't have to hold a dripping ice confectionary, and now he had another one under his nose.
"Things at the office are good. We got a new guy in." When it was obvious she wasn't going to ask, Scotty filled the silence. He wanted to ask her why she left, why she decided to throw everything away on some guy she'd barely known. But, as usual, he chickened out. The old Lilly had never really been open to discussion about herself. He wasn't sure about the new one.
"That's great." She nodded, didn't look as interested as Scotty had wanted her to. It had only been a few months and he needed her to be as upset about her leaving as he was. Didn't look like it was on the cards though.
"You still turn on your phone?" Scotty asked. Lil shrugged a little, wound a strand of her hair around her finger.
"Not really. No need anymore."
"That was the boss. Wants us back in the office." Jeffries came back and Scotty handed him his snow cone. It had turned into a puddle in the bottom of the cup.
"Well, it was great to see you guys. If you're ever in the area again…" Lil trailed off, and Scotty knew it was an empty offering; she hadn't given them a specific address and she was basically uncontactable by phone. Then again, they were detectives and information was something they could do. Scotty hadn't looked her or Joseph up yet, but he'd been tempted.
"Good to see you, Lil." Will gave her a kiss on the cheek, started walking through the crowd, leaving Scotty behind to shuffle his feet, think of something to say that might let her know how much her leaving had hurt them all.
"Tell everyone I said hi, okay?" Her ponytail had fallen over one shoulder. Her hair had grown in the brief time she'd been gone and it hung down in a straight sheet of gold.
"Yeah. Lil…" Scotty sighed, looked at the ground. He had to get back to the office, back to Jeffries who was probably sitting in the car by now.
"Why did I leave?" She asked the question everyone had been desperate to know ever since they'd noticed her desk seemed peculiarly uncluttered and Stillman had come out of his office to tell them he'd just found her resignation letter on his desk.
"Yeah. I mean, you were married to the job. You loved it there, didn't you?"
"It was good…" She half shrugged and looked into the distance.
"So you don't miss it?"
"Less and less every day." As usual, she'd answered with words that didn't quite reveal anything. Her eyes wavered on his and the smile that seemed to be ever present was back.
"You'd better go. Jeffries'll start beeping soon." Scotty nodded, wondering how to say goodbye to her. It felt like this was the time to catch up on what he'd wanted to say and do before she left. But he'd run out of time; boss was calling. And, it seemed, so was Joseph.
"Hey, Lil. Can you bring me a water?" She turned, waved, yelled back that she'd be there in a second.
"Well, guess I'll see you around." She offered her hand and Scotty looked at it. Her nails were still the same, cut short, neatly filed but her hand was no longer pale. The darker hue to her skin made her fingers look longer and Scotty shook her hand. There was still a reassuring firmness to her grip and he nodded as they both let go.
"Goodbye, Lil." He watched her walk off to the drinks stand, pay for a bottled water. A little girl in a yellow dress ran up to her, said something that prompted Lil to take her hand and walk her over to where Joseph was. She handed over the water, accepted the kiss that was coming before settling herself against the fence cross legged, girl sitting down next to her. Scotty sighed, turned to walk from the fair as his phone buzzed. No doubt Jeffries had been sitting in the car with the air conditioning going for the past few minutes and was ready to go. Suddenly, Scotty felt the need to get out of there as well. It was a foreign place; when he was a kid he'd been to plenty of these fairs but after he grew up, started wearing suits more often and stopped visiting his family as much he started becoming less comfortable with things he'd grown up with. It wasn't just the fair, either, with the crowded strangers; it was Lil, who seemed to be as much of a stranger now as anyone else here. Once, they'd shared a lot of things. He'd almost ruined it when he'd made the mistake of Christina, but slowly they'd rebuilt, been able to talk again. He still remembered the night at her house, when she'd confided in him about Joseph. That she thought she was losing her mind. Today, she hadn't even been able to give him a straight answer about missing the department.
Less and less every day. What the hell did that mean? Scotty shook his head as he climbed into the running car, putting on his seat belt as Jeffries drove off. Had she missed it at first? Had she missed him?
As always, please review. I'm really not sure where this is going, but it demanded to be written. Not that I want Lilly to leave; she basically makes the show, but it would be an interesting AU, right?