Title: Twisting the Knife
Author: kenzimone
Disclaimer: Don't own.
Rating: PG
Summary: Change in altitude has no effect on a lifeless Cupid's heart, and Kate has to live with the repercussions.
Note: This is a What If? fic. In The Love, what if Ross Bowman's heart hadn't been restarted by the helicopter ride? What if he had remained dead, unable to bring Nick back out of his childishly happy state of mind?

It's frightening how the sudden changes in habit so easily become routine.

Their shift ends, and Sam grabs his jacket and asks if she'd like to check out the Thai place across the street. She would like to, she really would, but she knows she has to say no.

There's this feeling in the back of her throat; it tells her that something is wrong, that she has to get home quickly. It's always there, always telling her such things, and usually when she opens the front door of her apartment she finds it just as she left it.

There's never anything wrong, yet at the same time every possible thing is lopsided and distorted.

Nothing is real.

Carl declines Sam's invitation with a grunt, because that's all he's ever had to say to Kate's new partner. He doesn't like the tall blond, just like he had claimed to not like O'Malley back in the day; lies, though, they were all lies, because Kate knows the wistful lilt that appears in the gnome's voice whenever he recalls beatings and insults shared with the lean, dark haired detective.

She recognizes it, because she's sure it frames her own words on those long nightly stake outs when she tries to pass time by telling Sam all about Nick; when she tries to make him understand why Captain Page bites their heads off when they come back in bruised and broken, and why Jonathan leaves no room for banter in his lectures.

She tells him of adventures in anger management class and a never ending parade of women and 'I'm glad you're my partner'. Usually those conversations stutter to an end in awkward pauses and Sam acts like he doesn't notice her need to turn away and blink the tears out of her eyes.

So now, when the blond shrugs on his jacket and asks if she'd like to have some Thai food, she says no and grabs her keys and Carl mutters something that sounds like 'say hello to O'Malley for me'. She hurries up the station stairs and through the dry cleaning front because this is what she has done every day for the past three months.

She drives quickly but controlled, the feeling in her throat swelling and making it hard to breathe; this is where she gets time to herself, to be all alone with her thoughts, and she never likes it much because usually the static of the silence in the car calls forth the very last thing Nick O'Malley had said to her in a lucid state: 'We've got until nine AM'.

They hadn't.


Nick is waiting for her in her bedroom. He's sitting on her bed, crosslegged, dressed in a T-shirt and a pair of jeans and his hair is in disarray because she forgot to comb it this morning before she left for work. He watches as she walks into the bathroom, remains silent as she splashes water onto her face and stares at her reflection in the mirror and tries to convince herself that she'll get through this. She always gets through this.

When she reemerges, she runs her fingers through his hair in passing. "Hi, Nick."

He simply beams at her, innocence and childlike naivety shining from his eyes, and looking so unlike her Nick that it makes her want to cry.

She folds back the cover of her bed and sinks down beneath it, because even though she's hungry and still wearing the same clothes she's worn all day she's also tired, and that takes precedence. She's always tired, and sleep always takes precedence.

And Nick never seems to mind; he simply snuggles up beside her, head buried in the crook of her neck and too long hair tickling her chin. He wraps his arms around her and breathes on her skin and whispers 'I love you'.

When Kate starts to cry, silent tears that mark wet tracks down her cheeks, he simply tightens his hold and the whispers turn into a chant, like he's reassuring her that it's completely and honestly true, cross his heart:

'I love you, I love you, I love you.'

And the only thing Kate can think of is that she'd trade a lifetime of this kind of love for the life of one Ross Bowman.