Thank you all for your kind encouraging words. I'm sorry it took me this long to update but if you know me for writing my The O.C. fics, you know that I get severe writer's block. And this fandom is no exception.
Each foot placed itself in front of the other as they blankly carried her forward. Her feet softly thumped on the hard concrete below. The head that was shielded by a blonde halo didn't absorb the hectic chaos that circled her. Cars roared past her. People hustled and bustled as their voices, foot falls and shrieking cell phones added to the noise. The crowds of people rallied, paused and changed direction at the drop of a hat. Some travelled at a frustratingly slow pace. Lilly searched for a way past them but oncoming blank faces blocked her escape from the crowd. She suppressed a curse word under her breath as the aggravation built up. Despite everything, her feet continued to carry her forwards and her eyes remained fixed ahead.
Inside, her emotions were tossing and turning. Each one trying to be dominant. Was she scared to return to that place? That place where she was shot? Was she relieved? Hesitant? All Lilly knew was that inside her house with only two cats and her thoughts for company, life was a painfully abysmal existence. As much as she loved Olivia and Belle, pacing the floors, lying on the couch staring at the texture of the couch and walking around the block for a change of scenery was misery personified. As she lived in the silence, she had to remind herself that the revs of passing cars was nothing to be concerned with and the knocks on a door weren't gunshots.
Lilly felt like a speck of sand on a piece of paper.
She was falling alone.
Breathing in, Lilly reminded herself why she was returning to work.
She needed to.
She needed to be there.
She needed to make sure people were not forgotten.
She needed them to get justice.
Walking along the sidewalk, she saw the coffee stand ahead.
Then she saw him
Scotty was standing there. He was absent-mindedly spinning the spoon around in his coffee cup as he looked around him. She hitched her bag up onto her shoulder and walked on. She winced inside. Her tender scar was making its presence aware.
She knew it was stupid putting her bag on that shoulder. Yet inside, she knew that her colleagues would see that. Maybe they would think that it's not a bother. That she's fully healed and ready to be back at work. That she's not a fragile doll.
As she neared the stand she saw him notice her.
He smiled a greeting to which she replied lightly.
"Hey," he greeted.
"Hey," Lilly copied.
"How are you? Alright?"
"Yeh . . . I'm, I'm good," she replied looking beyond him, "can I get a tea please?"
"Sure," the vendor answered before busying himself with her order.
A silence came between them.
"Here you are," the man interrupted.
Lilly smiled her thanks and handed over the money.
"No triple Americano?"
"No, coffee – just – lost any taste," she lied smiling.
"So, you – uh – glad to be back?" he asked attempting to stir up a conversation.
"Yeh, it'll be good. Working," she replied brokenly, "what case are we working on?"
"Oh uh, a 1993 case. Thirty-nine year old widow ends up dead the day after her husband's funeral. C – O – D they said was asphyxiation. Never got a print, no leads. Went cold pretty quick."
"What's the plan for today?"
"We were all gonna go to the office and take it from there. Get any info we can from the job. It was only opened last night."
"It's great to have you back Lil."
"Thanks . . . I'm glad to be back and back working. I'm sure the cats were getting sick of seeing me around so much," she smiled softly.
A gentle silence came between them.
"Are you ok? You seem a little . . . ," Scotty commented unsure of his words.
Fiddling with the tag that fell out of her cup Lilly bowed her head, "I just didn't get a lot of sleep last night and I'm just a little tired."
"Ok . . . hey it's understandable," he replied seeing her fallen face, "I get a little cranky too if I haven't slept."
They stood together, sipping their warm beverages. They let the warm liquid flow through them. As she looked at the passing traffic, Lilly prayed Scotty wouldn't ask her how she was again.
She didn't want to be asked again.
She didn't want the shooting to be brought up.
She didn't want looks of pity melting onto people's faces.
She had enough reminders in the mirror and Lilly didn't want it mirrored on their faces.
"Morning Scotty," Stillman greeted coming up to them not seeing Lilly.
"Morning Boss," Scotty replied.
"Boss," Lilly added.
"Oh Lil, sorry I didn't you see there. Guess I need to wear the glasses outside more," he joked softly.
"I got Lil up to speed on the Keyes case."
"Good, Kat and Vera are on their way to PPD and Jeffries will be there in a few minutes. I was thinking that we could go and get the case and get an initial look in."
"Sounds good," Lilly and Scotty replied together.
Stillman took the coffee that the vendor handed him and after paying for it, they all headed towards the police department.
The sun above shone lightly on their faces and glinted meticulously off the glass of the building.
In unison, they all walked up the concrete steps and into the building. Lilly wondered what this place looked like when they were held hostage upstairs. 'Was the SWAT team van sitting in front of the building or over there' she thought.
After walking into the building, the cool air whisked past her face. It hadn't changed a bit. Nothing around her had changed at all. It was all the same. But she wasn't.
"Detective Rush, good to see you. How are you?" one of the guards called out to her.
"I'm good, thanks Steve," Lilly replied again.
Her response was like her own mantra. 'I'm good, I'm good, I'm good'.
As she continued to make her way towards the elevator she became increasingly aware of the number of people around her. Other officers passed her and she could feel their eyes staring at her. As each person moved she felt like she instantly drew their eyes. She felt like her hidden wound was screaming 'look at me'.
As she waited for the elevator, she kept her eyes focused on the silver doors.
Yet as everyone else went about their business Lilly could still feel their eyes on her.
Once the doors opened, she stepped in closely followed by Stillman and Scotty and several other people.
As they waited for their floor, Lilly felt as if the others were looking over their shoulders and leering at her. In her head, she heard severe voices hissing, 'I thought she was dead', 'Oh she's back. Probably can't do her job properly now', 'He should've killed her'.
The voices built on each other, drawing energy from the other and torturing her with their cruel words. This is what will be. This is what her mind is telling.
Lilly knew that it was only her imagination. She repeated it to herself over and over but it was no use. The flames had begun.
The elevator stopped at their floor.
Lilly, Stillman and Scotty filed out of the lift.
Lilly released the breath she forgot she was holding.
Nobody seemed to notice.
Instinctively, her free hand rubbed her opposite arm and lightly squeezed her muscle before taking a sip from the tea. Passing a bin, she dumped the cup in it before walking over to her desk.
She was back in the bullpen.
The last time she was here, she was being wheeled out feet first on a gurney with her crimson blood flowing from a gunshot wound or a GSW as she heard the paramedics rhyme off in the ambulance.
An abbreviation for something so serious.
Once she entered the bullpen, the other detectives looked up from their work and stared at her as she tried to nonchalantly make her way to her desk. Lilly simple kept her head down and her eyes fixed to the floor. Shaking inside, Lilly set her bag down on the floor and looked at her desk. It was covered in unopened envelopes and several cards were set out. She looked at it all.
"What's this?" Lilly asked Scotty holding up an envelope before opening it.
"Oh um the department got sent some Get Well Soon cards which were addressed to you and we thought it would a nice surprise for when you came back. You know, to see how much we all care about you. We got some cards sent by regular people and some people who we've helped in the past . . . this one's postmark says it's from a Mrs Bistrong."
"Angus Bistrong's mom," Lilly added, "I remember she hugged me."
"It's amazing who remembers you. A lot of these are from families we've helped."
"And all this from being shot," Lilly muttered under her breath.
"Nothing, just clearing my throat."
"Hey guys," Nick voiced coming towards them with Kat closely behind.
"Hey," Lilly and Scotty replied.
"How are ya?" Nick asked Lilly.
"Good thanks," Lilly answered simply.
"It's good to have you back Lil," Kat added, "and I hope you don't take this as me telling you what you should do but you know there wasn't a rush in you returning to work. I know that when I got shot I took a while off. Got myself sorted out."
"I know and I appreciate that but I just want to get back to work. I just want to do my job," she said looking down and lifting up the envelopes and putting them away.
Her colleagues simply nodded their heads lightly and looked at her hiding the concern that was starting to build up inside them.
'I don't need advice. I don't need to be questioned. I just want to get back and do my job. My job that admittedly got me shot in the first place but my job. I want to be here. Be busy. Just stop thinking about it. Move on'. Lilly muttered these words frantically in her head as she worked to clear her desk.
"Lil?" Scotty tried gently.
"Lil?" Stillman called from his office in unison with Scotty.
Lilly whirled her head around to face Stillman. She plastered a look of contentment on her face.
"Can I have a word with you?"
"Sure," she answered confidently.
Hiding her insecurity, Lilly made her way over to the Lieutenant's office.
"Would you close the door?"
Without saying a word, Lilly reached behind her and pulled the glass door shut. She noticed that the glass pane had been replaced.
"I hate liars," she recalled Ed hissing with venom. Lilly remembered how she jumped when the gun had been fired. How she jumped at seeing her Boss buckle from being shot. How his shirt became stained with crimson and how his face paled at a sickening speed.
"I didn't get the chance to ask earlier but how are you?"
He looked at her, unhappy with her simple response.
"How are you? Really?"
A part of her knew that he was seeing beyond her surface. She knew that he could read through people's emotions. He did the same with Scotty when Elisa died. She wondered if Stillman had used these exact same words when asking Scotty how he was feeling.
"I'm ok. I'm good," she repeated.
"Look, Boss. You may not believe me but trust me, I am fine. I know what you're going to say and I've come to terms with what happened. I know that it's not something petty and that can be easily overcome but I can't do that completely at home. I need to be here," she argued delicately.
"Boss, you were shot too. You're here."
"That's different Lilly, you almost died. You put yourself at risk. A risk you didn't need to put yourself in. I was looked at and discharged that night. You weren't. I need to make sure that you are one hundred percent. Hell, one hundred and ten percent for good measure. The wellbeing of my detectives is my responsibility and I wouldn't be a very good boss if I let you work when you are not ready after such an ordeal."
"And I appreciate that, I really do. But trust me. I'm ok. I've been cleared to come back to work."
"By a doctor. You may be physically ready to come back but you may not be emotionally."
'Great, he's telling me how I feel' Lilly thought to herself bitterly.
"What do you want me to say?" she finally asked looking at him.
"How you feel. How you really feel."
'This is going in circles' she voiced in her head, 'No matter what I tell him he's still going to think that I can't do my job. That I'm not "ready" to be back.'
"I really feel fine. I'm ready to be back at work. I can't say want you want me to because I don't feel it," she said tenderly.
John looked at her. He couldn't tell if she was putting on a façade or not.
"Ok. Welcome back and I want you to go and get Scotty and get that case. I see Nicky and Millar are here. So get the box and read over the case. Try to get some leads."
Lilly nodded and left.
Stillman watched her as she left and went over to her gathered colleagues.
I've changed the case that is supposed to be for the premiere for those who have read the spoilers. I wrote this before I read that and I'm only posting it now. Sorry again.