What I've Always Wanted
AN: Sorry to all my "Defense Teacher" fans. I just need to add a story to the meager collection of Peacemakers fan fiction on this site and I'll get on that and my other stories.
I'm not 'in the know' about forensics, but I'll try to make it seem real and to character.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, but I'll give them back after I'm done. I'm not exactly sure who they belong to, but my compliments to whoever the credit is due and I'd like to complain about why they cancelled this awesome show!!
Summary: Larimer Finch has always wanted something more than a lover, a good reputation, even a place to belong.
As Finch comes to realize, what he's always wanted was right in front of him all along. A case that turns interesting and a dangerous night in the woods just might open his eyes.
"Well, there goes my peaceful night," US Marshal Jared Stone deadpanned as he looked at the crime scene uneasily. "I wonder where Finch is," he commented to Katie Owen, who shrugged.
"I can get him," she said, bustling around, trying to make sure no one disturbed anything. "Or I can get Chipper."
"No, I'll get Finch," Stone said, putting his hat back on. "I need to get some breathing space, anyway."
Larimer Finch lay in bed staring at the ceiling.
'A whole year,' he thought. 'A whole year that I've been in this city.'
It was true. Finch could still remember the vivid details that had greeted him when he had first set foot in the city only a short year ago. Even the attitude that he adopted when first interacting with Stone; he was embarrassed now that he looked back on it. He hadn't meant to act like that at first. It was a nervous reaction that he still couldn't seem to get rid of.
He sighed and rolled over to face the wall. It seemed that he had garnered a reputation and he now had a place to belong, though how well he seemed to belong had yet to be seen. There were a lot of good things about this place: the close-knit community, the never-ending opportunities to test new equipment on, the otherwise quiet atmosphere…
There would be only one thing that would make this place absolutely perfect in his eyes. Unfortunately, he didn't know a whole lot of people who he could possibly choose-
"Finch, open up," a familiar voice sounded after a knock on the door. "We have a situation and we need your help."
He started as he was abruptly shaken out of his thoughts and called, "Hold on, please. I'll be just a minute."
'Time to get back into the game,' he thought as he hurriedly got dressed. He opened the door to find an anxious Stone waiting for him. "Where are we off to?" he asked, closing the door.
"Down a ways," Stone told him, getting on his horse. "Near the creek. One of those new miners that just got here."
Finch, having retrieved his gear, climbed up onto his own horse and followed close behind.
"What was the apparent cause of death?" he asked, mind already at work.
Stone just shifted uneasily and made a vague gesture with his left hand. "I don't want to say."
Finch nodded and drew up closer as they entered the trail. He had never really felt comfortable riding alone, especially in the dark. It wasn't a secret; he just never told anyone.
After a clump of trees passed, the pair had a good view of the scene and Finch could now see why Stone was so reluctant to tell him the details. He would be too if he was the Marshall.
"I don't think you need to answer my earlier question," Finch commented, climbing down from his horse and standing next to Katie. He looked down at the headless body and shivered. "Have you figured out when he died, Katie?"
"Not two hours ago."
Finch just shook his head and turned to look at Stone, only to find that he wasn't there. He looked around for the Marshal and sharply turned when he heard something in the bushes. The detective relaxed when a familiar hat made a brief appearance between the leaves and he sympathized with Stone before turning back to the scene.
The next morning, the rumor mill was in full swing when Finch finally surfaced for food. As he headed toward the Velvet Cushion, he heard some outstanding theories surrounding the late night murder.
He entered the saloon and spotted Stone at the bar. Approaching him, he paused as he lighted upon a pair of miners who were in light hearted conversation. His well honed detective skills told him that they were very good friends. A brief flicker of jealousy surfaced before a hand dropped on his shoulder.
"Finch," Stone said. "Everything alright?"
"Um, yes, quite," Finch mentally shook his head to clear it and cleared his throat. "Uh, yes, I was coming to apprise you of what I've found."
The two went outside to a fairly remote spot where they could be seen, but not heard. Stone motioned for Finch to get on with it as he kept an eye out for any unwanted interest in them.
"As it so happens," Finch began, "I was able to confirm Katie's guess at the time of death. I believe that the cause of death was in fact-"
"Don't say it," Stone shook his head. "That's just another nightmare to add to my collection. And it's a large collection as is."
Finch nodded, wincing at the mere thought of Stone's nightmares. "Of course. Not only that," he continued, "but we also found some coal dust on him, but not anywhere in the immediate vicinity."
"The killer moved the body?"
"As we can figure. The problem is where was the original site, why move the body, and where's the rest of him?"
"I'm not sure that I want to know," Stone shuddered slightly. "Anything else?"
Finch crossed his arms. "Actually, some of the miners are worried about this. They think that what has been going on here is in correlation with a few other miner camps from California. Apparently, there's been a serial killer on the loose."
"Oh, is that all? A serial killer? Finch, I don't want to have a killer in my town!"
"As I completely agree with," Finch raised a pacifying hand. "It seems that the method of killing is pretty much similar, but I have yet to receive an answering telegram."
"So," Stone said, shifting from foot to foot, "what chance is there that our killer will strike again soon?"
"Not very good, thankfully," Finch rubbed his other arm. "It seems, from what Chipper, Katie, and some others have managed to get out of them, the miners have gathered facts, well those who could get them and who are from the California area, that point to the killer's way of operating. Now, from what I've been able to gather, he waits for at least three days before going after another miner."
"That's comforting to know," Stone said sarcastically.
Before anything else could be said, two things happened at once:
Finch's stomach grumbled and…
… a gunshot rang out.
Stone pushed Finch to the ground and had his own gun out before the echo completely died. The townspeople outside either screamed and dove to the ground or screamed and dove into a nearby building. The miners that were in town that day had their guns out.
"Are you alright?" Stone felt underneath and slightly to the left of him for the younger man.
"Yes, I'm fine," Finch had his own gun out and was rapidly searching for a target. "Did you see where it came from?"
"I'm afraid not."
"No one saw a thing," Stone said a few hours later in his office.
Finch nodded, having expected that, and frowned at the bullet that he had pried from a wooden post near to where they'd been standing. 'Now, I wonder why I'm beginning to think that sniper was out to get us,' he thought sarcastically.
"Do you have anything to add?"
Finch snapped out of his thoughts. "No, actually. I have, though, found that this bullet," he held it up for Stone to see, "came from a Springfield rifle. One that is still fairly common, but I might be able to identify which one it came from if I could only get the weapon."
"If the gun it came from is common," Stone asked, following Finch as the younger man left for his lab with the bullet in hand, "how can you figure out where it came from?"
Finch fairly jogged into his lab, slipped on a sheet of paper, and would've rammed into his table had it not been for Stone's quick reflexes, which had been honed during the war and later in his years as a peacemaker, when he grabbed the younger by the collar and waist.
"Thank you," he said absently, before continuing on his trek. Stone rolled his eyes and keyed in when Finch started to talk.
"In answer to your question," he said, digging through some papers, "I can tell because, even though it's from a common gun, it still has the 'fingerprint', if you will, of the gun it was fired from."
He triumphantly held up a piece of paper with a victorious grin.
"What's that?" Stone asked. "Some kind of evidence?"
"Oh, no," Finch shook his head. "This is the list that I was supposed to give to the mayor this afternoon. I remembered it just in time, too."
Stone barely caught his mouth in time. Instead, he shook his head and turned to leave. "I'll be in my office when you get back."
"Right," Stone turned to see Finch watching him, looking like he was going to say something else.
"Well, are you going to say what's eating you or am I going to have to force it out of ya?"
"I was just wondering…" Finch fidgeted nervously. Stone was certainly not used to seeing this from him.
"Later, when I return… That is, if you would…"
"Finch, if you don't hurry up and say something, I will either shoot you right here or lead you somewhere out of town and then shoot you."
Finch nodded and took a deep breath. "I was wondering if you could, perhaps, accompany me back to the crime scene?"
Stone just stared at him in disbelief. Now, he knew that that wasn't what the younger man was going to say. If it was, Finch had no reason to act as nervous as he did. They had, after all, went over countless crime scenes over the past year that they'd been together.
Shaking his head to clear it, he shrugged casually. "I have to go back there, anyway."
Finch nodded, looking somewhat relieved. Of what, Stone didn't know, but he was determined to get it out of the younger man before the day was up.
"Alright, then," Finch nodded to himself. "I shall meet you in front of the lab upon my return."
"Fine by me."
"Why would he be nervous?" Katie asked as she and Stone walked back toward the lab two hours later. "He's basically ordered you to go before. I wonder what's so different now."
"Beats me," Stone looked around. He saw that some of the townspeople were still wary about earlier that morning, but most of them seemed to have forgotten the incident. "I've never seen him look like that."
The pair arrived in front of Finch's lab and Katie said, "While you boys are over there, I have to take another look at the body (Stone turned a bit green). I want to run some more tests before I do anything else."
"Sure. Hey," Stone spotted Finch hurrying toward them, looking a little hassled. The young detective fairly skid to a stop in front of them and Stone snorted in amusement as he saw one of those nosy journalists, who just arrived in town, hurry in the opposite direction. "What? No interview?"
Finch glared at his teasing, not taking it for the humor it was. "I'm ready when you are."
Katie excused herself, after telling Finch her plan while they were up there, and Finch turned back to Stone, who shook his head.
"I'm not going to say anything," the Marshal grinned, referring to the inside joke between the two about Katie and her job. "Knowing her, she'll probably hear it from one of these others," he gestured to lingering passers-by, who were interested to see them out in the town.
"Quite," Finch agreed before going into his lab. A few minutes later, they were on their way toward the scene.
"So," Stone said, staying alert on the horse next to Finch. "I get the feeling that you were going to say something else, before you left to go to your meeting."
"The meeting went as well as could be expected," Finch nodded. "I don't think the mayor listened to me at all-"
"Stop avoiding the question," Stone was trying to be patient. "Now, I've known you for a year now and even I know that you don't get nervous just because of a scene."
Finch sighed, giving in. "Alright," he said. "The real reason is because… well… I… Oh, blast it all."
"Any day now, Finch."
"Yes, yes," he waved a hand impatiently. "I know. I just… you'll probably laugh at me."
"Yeah, right. I know you aren't afraid of something like that. What is it?" Stone kept pestering him as the scene came into view.
Finch stayed silent, contemplating on how to best answer. "Alright. Do you promise not to laugh?"
Stone sighed. "Yes, I promise."
"Alright, well… You see, I'm slightly afraid."
Stone was surprised. "Of?"
Finch shrugged. "Well, I've always had this fear… I don't quite like being alone in the woods with a potential killer on the loose."
Stone shook his head. "Now, was that so hard?"
Finch looked surprised. "You are not going to laugh at some silly fear?"
Stone looked thoughtful as they stopped the horses and climbed down. "I wouldn't call it 'silly'. I even know what that feels like sometimes."
"Do you?" Finch was skeptical, he could tell.
"Well," Stone continued, keeping guard as Finch, still listening, started spreading out his equipment in that familiar routine of his. "During the war, I remember, when it was still early on, some of the boys weren't used to being on their own. One of them, he was in my group, didn't like to be on his own. So, we were out in the woods and me and this other guy were with him, trying to find a stream. We were watching the perimeter and he was filling canteens. The other guy wandered off to check a ways downriver, and I was around the kid, but behind some bushes. Suddenly, the kid starts to panic and starts yelling out for us. I've never seen anyone look that scared. Apparently, one of his friends from a few years ago got lost in the woods and didn't come back. He was afraid that the same thing would happen to him."
Finch, who stopped to listen, took up the forgotten task at hand. He knew how that kid felt. Usually, Finch wasn't like this, but this was one of those times and he felt entitled to have that fear.
"It also helps," Stone finished, " that you have a killer on the loose and no back-up. I get it that you'd want someone to watch your back."
Finch was grateful that Stone didn't dismiss his fear; instead, he reassured him that it was a perfectly normal fear to have. He was also pleased that the other didn't look down on him as a weakling, as he was sure others would think of him as.
Focusing on his job, he didn't notice Stone step closer to the edge of the river to investigate until the older man leapt back with an alarmed yelp.
"What's happened?" He rushed over to the Marshal, who overbalanced and fell as he tried to get away from the edge.
"I think we have a problem." He pointed over, gesturing that Finch go over and look. Doing as told, he leaned in and immediately agreed that they had a problem.
There, in the water, was another body. Headless, like the first.
"This is getting serious," Katie Owen commented as the two bodies were lain side by side.
"I wonder how we could have missed this," Larimer Finch shook his head. The time of death was the same and, as near as they could figure, the body was there that night as well.
"Well, we didn't know there would be anything in the river," Katie soothed. "I mean, the only reason we discovered it now was because the Marshal found it accidentally."
"Don't bring me into this," Jared Stone said from the corner he'd settled down in.
"If you weren't there," Finch turned to face him, "we wouldn't have found this other one."
Stone didn't touch that one, considering their conversation before the discovery. He just nodded and turned back to the window.
"Say, Katie," Finch remembered, "about those tests you took…"
"Oh, yes," she nodded and rifled through the papers sitting on the desk. She held up a sheet of paper. "I took some notes."
Finch took it and scanned the writing. "Well, this is interesting."
"What?" Stone hated to be out of the loop.
"Apparently," Finch went over to Stone to show him Katie's notes. "He was drugged with a relaxant similar to the one of our very first case."
Stone gave him a look.
"Oh, not to worry, Marshal," Finch adopted his snooty tone. "I am well aware of my earlier behavior and, though I regret this, I shall have to bring your attention elsewhere."
"Oh?" Stone fell into the role he was assigned, both paying no attention to an amused Katie, who marveled at how these two complete opposites managed to get along so well.
"Yes, you see," Finch, to Stone's disappointment, stopped playing and pointed to something on the paper. "It's no wonder that no one heard anything. Rather, when they went to sleep, they were already dead."
"Yes." Finch nodded thoughtfully. "Someone poisoned them and then cut their heads off. Well done, Katie!"
She nodded and beamed at the praise.
"Now for the two questions that've been bugging me," Stone said. "Why cut off their heads and why take them to another location?"
Finch and Katie just shook their heads. They had no idea, either.
"Also," Finch added, "is there a connection between these two, and if so, what?"
"All very good questions," Katie said. "But no answers."
"Well, we have to start by finding them," Stone said, putting his hat back on and leaving the room.
Finch and Katie stayed to do their thing and parted ways some time later in the evening. As Finch walked toward his lab for some last minute tinkering, he wondered about the case.
He turned to see the Marshal standing on the platform of the general store. "I didn't expect you to turn up," Finch told Stone as the older man joined him.
"Me either," Stone shrugged. The two went on to the lab and Stone hung around for a while, Finch weaving around him, keeping a commentary for Stone.
"Hey," Stone interrupted him mid- step. "Is everything alright?"
"What do you mean?" Finch was genuinely interested in the other man's answer.
"Well," Jared shifted slightly on his perch against the lab table, "you've been… I don't know. Different."
"I can't explain it," he ran a frustrated hand through his hair, hat in the other hand. "I just get this feeling that… You aren't like you were when you first got here."
"Perhaps," Finch said softly, coming to a stop beside him. "But I don't know what you mean."
Stone thought for a minute before going on.
"You don't exactly seem as enthusiastic as you did about the day. It seems like all you do is work. I mean," he got out, "haven't you made friends or something?"
"Oh, yes, I've made friends…" Finch allowed. "I just don't get to see them much when a crime is to be solved."
Stone nodded. There was something that the other man wasn't telling him. There was a certain sadness, a… yearning… in his eyes. Yearning for what, he didn't know, but whatever it was, he wanted to help his friend- yes, he considered the younger man a friend no matter what anyone else thought or said; he would even go so far as to say best friend- wipe out the sordid feelings in his eyes. Stone was certain that Finch didn't know what his eyes told and he wasn't in any hurry to tell him.
"Well," Finch broke the silence, "I believe it's getting quite late. Would you like me to walk you to your office?"
"Nah," Stone shook his head before setting his hat back on. "I'm good."
Finch nodded and turned. "Finch?"
"Yes?" He turned back.
"If somethin's eating you, I'm right down the road," Stone offered.
"I'll take it into consideration," Finch was slightly touched that the other was concerned about him. "Thank you for your concern." Finch swallowed nervously. "I really appreciate it."
"No problem," Stone said, uncomfortable with the way the conversation was going. "If you ever need someone to watch your back, shout at… you know. I'm right down the road," he repeated unnecessarily, rubbing the back of his neck.
For a second there, Stone was afraid that Finch was going to- dare he say it- cry. Unshed tears were present in Finch's blue eyes as he nodded and ducked his head shyly.
"Well, I'll be going," Stone said as he turned to the door. He continued when Finch didn't call him back, but he didn't hear the heartfelt 'thank you' that issued from the detective.
As Finch watched Stone disappear into the night, he felt good. Good to know that someone was concerned about him.
At that moment, he didn't realize that Stone displayed the very behavior that he had been yearning for since he was a little boy.