A/N: Aqiran suggested that I write a post-"The Road" story. I was originally going to wait until after the season finale, to see if there were any further developments to inspire me, but Scotty invaded my head tonight, demanding that I write this, and…well…I just can't say no to Scotty.

Rating: T for language.

Disclaimer: As always, I don't own these characters. As always, I really wish I did.

Wherever The Road May Lead

I get home, rip off my tie, and fling it somewhere, not knowin' or carin' where it lands. It's been one of those days…one of those nights, really. Long day at work, as always, and then Boss gets a call that some jackass serial killer in West Virginia needs an escort back to Philly, and a confession along the way sure would be nice. Lil volunteered for it, of course. I kinda knew she would. I know she ain't been sleepin', not that she'd ever admit it in a million years, but I ain't blind. And, frankly, I'm a little worried about her. Well, okay, more than a little. Ever since she got shot, she's been…kinda…different, somehow. More fragile. Kinda like her skin's made outta eggshells. Sure, she acts all tough, like she always does, but I can tell, more now than ever before, that it's an act. And I knew, before she even asked me to come with her, that there was no way in hell I was lettin' her take that trip alone. In fact, I'm kinda glad she asked, 'cause I wasn't wantin' to force myself into that car, but I woulda done it, if that's what it took.

I cross to my bureau and grab the first bottle of booze I see. It's half full of scotch, but to be honest, I could care less what it is. I'm just thrilled I got any alcohol in the house at all. It's six A.M., and the sun's startin' to come up. Boss made us both take the day off, what with the crazy-ass night we had and all, and I should be collapsin' right about now, but I'm way too keyed up to go to sleep. I figure some booze'll take the edge off, and I kinda wanted to go to some dingy bar where nobody knows me, but of course, nobody's gonna be open at six A.M. Not even the hard-core alcoholic bars are open that early. So it's just me, my scotch, and my empty glass, sittin' at my kitchen table. I pour myself a shot, toss it down my throat, and repeat that a coupla times, then sit back with a sigh.

I should be kinda proud of myself, I figure. Me and Lil drove all the way to West Virginia, picked up John Q. Psychopath, and drove him back to Philly, confession in hand. Lil hightailed it back here before I did, and I heard she found Brenda still alive. I'm so happy for that; it ain't often we get a case with a happy ending, and…well…this one, more than any of the others…it needed a happy ending. Lil needed a happy ending. For once in her life, she got one, and…well…that feels damn good, knowin' I was a part of givin' her that.

As for John Smith…he's in jail right now, the bastard, where he'll sit for a few years until they mercifully decide to put the needle in his arm. I'm thinkin' I might wanna be there for that one. I don't usually show up for those things, but I might make an exception for this one. Just wish they'd get a little more cruel and unusual about it. Death…death's too good for a bastard like him.

I toss another shot down my throat. Just thinkin' about him is pissin' me off all over again. I knew right away we were dealin' with a special case, when he got all "Silence of the Lambs" on Lil and asked about her perfume. Lil never wears the stuff, I coulda told him that. Doesn't need to. She always just…smells nice.

Whoa. Where the hell did that come from? I'm talkin' about some sociopathic serial killer, and I got on some weird-ass tangent about Lil's perfume, or lack thereof. Must be downin' a little more scotch than I thought.

But it's still not enough, I realize. Not enough to make me forget that son of a bitch. I pour myself another shot and set the bottle down on the table with so much force that some of the scotch splashes out, but I don't care. I'm still pissed as hell at that guy. The nerve of him.

I mean, I'm used to perverts askin' if me and Lil have slept together. It's a common enough question, I guess, but just….the WAY this guy asked that…like it was somethin' dirty…somethin'…wrong somehow. Now, I ain't gonna lie and tell you I never thought about it. Lil's…well…she's beautiful. And I'm a guy. And I ain't gay. So, yeah. I've thought about it. Not dwellin' on it, like I would if I were actually…God forbid…interested in her. But I've thought about it. Thought about what it might be like to kiss her, thought about what it'd feel like to have those curves pressed up against me, thought about what it'd feel like to run my hands through her hair, looked at that gorgeous long neck of hers and wondered what sound she'd make if I kissed it, wondered just what she keeps under all that frosty professionalism. But, like I said…it ain't somethin' I let myself dwell on. Wouldn't want to. She ain't my type. Far from it.

She's too…standoffish. Independent. Like she don't need any help from anybody, thank you very much. She's the Ice Queen, and I respect that. It makes her a great cop. But me…I got a soft spot for women who need somebody to rescue 'em, I'll admit it. And, well…I like the rescuin'. Makes me feel like I've done right by 'em, like maybe I'm on this planet to do some actual good insteada just wastin' space. Prob'ly that's why I'm a cop, although I ain't never really given it much thought.

So where was I? Oh, yeah. Son of a bitch, piece of work John Smith. Makes me ill just thinkin' about him, the way he'd trap those girls in those tiny little dungeons and just slowly, gradually rob 'em of their will to live. Gets him off the hook, he thinks; he ain't pullin' the trigger, he's just makin' 'em see that they don't have anything to live for, and gets off on watchin' em give up and die alone. That's the most fucked-up thing I ever heard, and I'm a cop, for God's sake. I ain't supposed to get shocked by anything. I've seen the darkest, filthiest depths of humanity, and most of the time, it doesn't get to me, but guys like this…guys like John Smith and George Marks…they even rattle me. More than I'd like to admit.

George, I threatened. I told him when he had Lil holed up in those goddamn woods that if he hurt her, I'd murder him. And I would have, too. If she didn't come outta there in one piece, no tellin' what I woulda done. I let myself indulge in some pretty violent fantasies about George that night while I was standin' there waitin' for gunshots. I pictured just where I'd bury his head once I shot it off, or what I'd do with his heart after I ripped it out of his chest and showed it to him. I realize that there's actually a pretty fine line between cop and criminal. I think we're made out of a lotta the same stuff, truth be told. It's just…what are you gonna do with it?

I tried the criminal life. Well, not really. But my undercover days…I was Ramiro's driver. I'd pick up the girls from the airport and take 'em to the hotel where he got the cookies out of 'em. And…I kinda enjoyed it, if I'm bein' real honest. And booze…well…it's got a way of makin' a guy honest. It was fun, dammit, and I liked it more than I wanna admit. The danger…the rush. The fear of gettin' caught. It was like a drug in itself.

I shoulda been proud of that job…it was part of a major sting, and I shoulda been proud of bein' a part of bringin' that operation down. But…I couldn't. Not after Ana Castilla. She got into my head, and she needed rescuin'. Elisa, back then, wasn't lettin' me rescue her. I knew there was somethin' wrong, somethin' funny upstairs, but she insisted she was just stressed out 'cause I wouldn't nail down a wedding date. Of course, I ain't gonna want a wedding with somebody who's all of a sudden started hearin' voices without knowin' just what, exactly, I'm signin' up to spend the rest of my life dealin' with. And Ana seemed…easier. You wouldn't think a Colombian drug mule would be easier than your childhood sweetheart, but there you have it. Ana didn't want much; just enough money to get back to Colombia and be a secretary. She didn't have big, wild, unattainable dreams. She just wanted a shot at normal, a shot that all the rest of us get and take for granted. And…dammit. I wanted to make that dream of hers come true. So I gave her my goddamn number, and…well…

We know the rest of the story. She would up dead. I might as well have been the one with that knife cuttin' her open. And my undercover days are over. It's just as well. I don't need the temptation. I don't need any more opportunities to screw up.

And, of course, Elisa died, too. I couldn't rescue her, either, goddammit. Woulda given anything to be there, but I wasn't…and she jumped.

So…I've been keepin' women at a distance for a while now. They all end up disappearin' on me anyway, usually 'cause of somethin' I did, or, more often, didn't do. I can't have any more blood on my hands. I can't be responsible for any more epic failures. So I've been keepin' my heart out of it. There ain't even been that many recently; just Charlene in Nashville; at least, I think her name was Charlene. That sounds Southern enough, anyway. And of course, Alex. I don't know what the hell I was thinkin' with her. Prob'ly I was thinkin' that she was so the opposite of what I usually go for that there was no way in hell I could screw that up. And you know what? I didn't. She did. And, what's more, she didn't break my heart, 'cause I never gave it to her. It's better that way, really. Keep your heart out of it. It only leads to trouble. Besides, Alex didn't need me. She didn't need rescuin'. She was fine on her own.

Guess that's probably why that was pretty unfulfillin'. I can't help it. I need to be needed. I need somebody to look at me like I'm their fuckin' knight in shining armor. Guess it's just the way I'm wired. I ain't gonna dwell on it, though. I am what I am.

And once…one brief, shining moment a few months ago, Lil needed me. She needed…me. And only me. She coulda called anybody, but she called me, and she said hey, and right there, there wasn't a damn thing I wouldn't have done for her. I woulda taken that goddamn bullet myself. I wished I could have, thousands of times. I knew I could handle it. I ain't never been shot, but you don't know how hard I wished it woulda been me, slumped against that wall, bleedin' and barely conscious, instead of Lil. She sure didn't need that. Her mom died the day before, and I was worried about her already. She was kinda empty when I went to talk to her, like a shell, like somebody'd just hollowed her out and taken out all the stuff that made her Lil and replaced it with…just…Styrofoam fillin' or somethin'. I can't really describe it, but I know what that feels like. I've been there.

When Ed Marteson took her hostage…man alive, I woulda climbed up the side of the building by my fingertips if I'd had to. I ended up takin' the stairs two at a time, gun drawn, wonderin' where she was, and when they told me she was in the observation room, alone, unarmed, and with Ed…my blood ran cold. I was never so relieved as I was when she called me and said, "Hey." There was somethin' I could do, somethin' she needed me for. I had a chance to save her.

And, of course, I fucked it up, like I do with everything else in my goddamn miserable existence. Oh, sure, I took Ed out, but not before he shot Lil. If I'da just run a little faster, shot a little sooner, maybe she wouldn't have gotten shot at all. And seein' her now, like she's all hollow and empty, knowin' she ain't sleepin', knowin' she's got that scar on her shoulder for the rest of her life…I blame myself for it. I think I shoulda stopped it somehow.

I gotta be honest, Lil gettin' shot scared the absolute shit outta me. I ain't never been so scared in all my life, just lookin' at her, slumpin' towards the floor. I remember catchin' her, holdin' her in my arms, screamin' at Will to call the paramedics, cradlin' her to my chest, tryin' to stop the bleedin' with my hand, tryin' to keep those goddamn tears in my eyes where they belong and not leakin' out all over my face, pacin' the hallway in the hospital, realizin' I got her blood all over my tie…and all the while wonderin' what the hell I'd ever do without her. She's…basically the only thing in my life that hasn't changed. She's the only thing I can count on. She's just…Lil. And losin' her? I already went through losin' somebody once. Not that…losin' Lil woulda been the same as losin' Elisa. I was in love with Elisa. I wanted to marry her, at least…at one time, I did. We'd been together since were fourteen, so of course, it broke my heart and messed me up real good.

Now, me and Lil are different, of course. For starters, I ain't in love with her. But we got this bond…I don't know when it happened, or how, but it's like we're…connected, somehow. We know what each other's thinkin'. I know how to help her, she knows how to help me. Which is no small feat, considerin' that neither one of us likes acceptin' help of any size, shape, or description. But Lil…she gets me in a way that nobody else does. And I like to think, anyway, that I get her…at least, as well as anybody can. Which ain't that well at all, really. But we just understand each other. We're in each other's souls. And it terrified me to realize that, if Lil died…it woulda torn me up just as bad as Elisa did…for completely different reasons of course…but the pain woulda been just as bad. And it woulda been all my fault.

So tonight, when John started askin' Lil all those questions, and I just had to sit there and watch her suffer…well…it was more than I could take. It was the last straw. She'd suffered enough, goddammit. I don't know what got into me; one minute I'm drivin', and the next minute, John's sayin' Lil's got experience with not lookin' for a way out or somethin' like that; hell, I don't even remember what he said. Next thing I know, I'm whippin' the car off the road and pullin' him out, throwin' him to the ground, and just kickin' the shit out of him. I'm seein' red, my blood's boilin', and I'm so livid I don't even feel like I'm in control of my own body anymore, just kickin' and kickin' and hopin' to God I kill him then and there, or at least knock him unconscious so he can't spew out any more of his bullshit, and maybe Lil won't get hurt anymore on my watch. I've done her enough damage.

I was pretty damn surprised when I felt somebody pullin' me offa John, 'cause the only other one there was Lil. I didn't know she was that strong. But there she was, grabbin' my arm and tellin' me to stop, and I was so shocked that I had no choice but to do just that. That bastard was just laughin' at me, like it didn't even hurt, and that's when I know the man's got no soul, 'cause I know how hard I was kickin' him. My foot still hurts, for God's sake, so there's no way in hell it didn't hurt him, but he didn't give me the satisfaction. Fuckin' tool.

So I drove him back to Philly, threw him in the slammer, and now I'm here, wonderin' what the hell got into me. Why the hell seein' Lil suffer pissed me off so much I actually woulda killed the guy if Lil hadn't stopped me.

God. Lil… she's just so…amazin'. Intimidatin'. Enigmatic. The woman's one big mystery wrapped up in a beautiful blonde package. I know she's been hurt so many times in her life, and I'd give anything to be able to make those hurts go away, to make her realize that she's worth more than she's let herself have, to make her realize that somebody out there could love her more than life itself, could wanna spend the rest of his days makin' her smile, makin' her laugh, holdin' her up when she just can't stand up anymore, makin' her forget about all the shit that's happened to her, makin' her so damn happy she can't see straight. Lovin' her….like she deserves to be loved.

I think about that, I think about the kinda guy I'd like to see Lil with. Somebody strong, that's for damn sure. Somebody smart, who knows her inside and out, who knows when to call her on her bullshit and knows when she needs some space. Somebody who can understand her crazy dedication to this goddamn job, somebody who can understand her obsessive need to take all the scumbags off the streets and put 'em in the slammer where they belong. Somebody who can get behind those six-foot thick walls she's got built up around herself, somebody who she might actually let her guard down around, just for a minute.

The more I think about it, the more I think there ain't a guy in this world that fits that description, and that's a fuckin' shame, because she, more than anybody, deserves to be loved. Truly and completely, just 'cause she's Lil.

She ain't had that many guys in her life since I've known her…Kite was all wrong for her, I knew that from the moment I met him. Ivy League jerk just didn't get her. Course, neither did I, not back then, but Kite didn't have a fuckin' clue. And Ray…that dude on the Harley. I don't know who the hell he thought he was after, but he didn't know Lil like I do. Sure, they grew up together, but he took off, what, like, ten years ago or whatever. So he doesn't know her now. I think he still wants her to be that crazy nineteen year old who almost married him, for some reason I can't even begin to fathom. The dirtbag. And I didn't like Joseph much, either, but I figured that's 'cause of how she fell for him when she thought he was dead, and how she almost flushed her career down the can over him. He wasn't a bad guy, but he wasn't the right guy for her. Not by a long shot.

And all of a sudden, I realize that it doesn't bother me near as much as it should that I don't think there's a guy in this world who's right for her. In fact…what the hell? I'm burnin' with what feels dangerously close to jealousy at the thought of any other guy even touchin' her. It occurs to me then that…that I don't wanna picture her with anyone else, can't picture her with anyone else…

…because all this time, I've been picturin' her with…with…

Oh, shit. No. No, no, no, no, no. No fuckin' way. Oh, hell, no. No. No. Absolutely not. Shit, no. No. Please, for the love of God…no.


My heart's beatin' a mile a minute, and I'm even more lightheaded than I was before. I fling my empty scotch glass against the wall, and it shatters into a million pieces, but I don't give a rat's ass about that. All I'm thinkin' about is how to wrap my mind around what I just realized, how in the hell I managed…

…to fall for Lilly Rush.

Oh, I can deny it all I want, but I've been in love before, and I know the signs. I know what it feels like. And I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that somehow, some way, I've…goddammit…fallen in love…with Lil. I can feel the truth in my bones.

How the hell did that happen? When the hell did that happen? And how can I be so dumb to not have known it until now?

And, more importantly…what the hell do I do about it? We're partners. We're friends. I slept with her sister, for God's sake. And I know she'll probably never think of me as anything more than a friend and partner.

I get up and sigh and then just start chuggin' scotch straight from the bottle. My day, my night, just got a whole lot worse. I chug more than I should, wipe my mouth with the back of my hand, and stumble towards the bed before the room starts spinnin' and I pass out on the floor.

I'll deal with this tomorrow. I'm sure I'm just drunk and delusional, and when I wake up, I'm gonna realize that this is all just some crazy-ass dream.

At least, I sure hope it is. 'Cause I don't know what the hell I'm gonna do if it ain't.