A/N: For this one, I owe an infinite debt of gratitude to oucellogal… for letting me bounce ideas off her, and also for throwing out countless awesome suggestions that helped transform what started out as a vague and convoluted idea into something that could actually be worked with. So yep, many many many many thanks, for listening to my inane rambling, and for all the invaluable advice.
Also, just to clarify the setting a little bit. Technically, this fic is intended to take place during the end montage of the episode "Justice", at some random interval between the confession and the scene where Vera puts the box away and sees the victim. If you're not a stickler for detail, or can't remember the specifics, then setting it directly after the episode in its entirety works just as well.
…Somewhere More Familiar
Lilly Rush always did her best work at night.
It was a simple fact, like 'Nick Vera was a chauvinist jackass' or 'Will Jeffries had an unnatural obsession with country music'. There was no enigmatic logic behind it, it was simply the way things were. Thing was, she'd never noticed it, herself. People were always calling her on her workaholic tendencies, of course, and she would've been the first to admit that they'd been right… but she'd never associated her working habits with being a night owl. At least, not until recently, and she supposed it probably reflected badly on her skills as a detective that it had taken her this long to figure it out. But then, wasn't that always the way? She could spot the flaws in a complete stranger from a thousand miles away, but to see the same within herself was more than her inner vision would allow. She was just dedicated, she told herself, that was all. Dedicated to her work, to the victims she sought so hard to avenge. It didn't leave her much time to focus on her own habits.
The lie was convenient, and it was easy to convince herself that she'd always been that way. She'd always put her job ahead of her circadian rhythms, had always spent nights alone in the office until the sun crept through the shaded windows, finishing up paperwork and boxing up details. Difference was, it had never meant anything to her until now. It had just been who she was. Lilly Rush, insomniac workaholic. She'd been here because she'd wanted to be, because she'd found herself unable to sleep until a closed case was stamped and filed and boxed up and… well, closed. Wasn't enough to say it was closed, she had to see it with her own eyes. Only then could she take the photo off her bedside table and turn off the light.
It wasn't like that now. Suddenly, she wasn't here because she couldn't let herself rest until she saw the victim doing the same. She wasn't here because her mind wouldn't be quiet until that last piece of paperwork had been filed, with every 'T' crossed and every 'I' dotted. She was here because she needed something to do. Because she knew too well what was waiting for her at home, nightmares and sleeplessness, and she supposed old habits died hard. Even if she couldn't bring herself to grant this particular 'victim' his so-called peace, she was still a workaholic at heart… and, when sleeplessness came knocking at her door, she only knew of one truly effective way to deal with it. Her work was like a kind of medication; it soothed her, calmed her, made better all the little aches and pains and minute discomforts that filled her on a daily basis. It was a balm over her, and one she couldn't imagine having to live without. To know that, if she found herself unable to sleep, there would be nothing waiting for her here, in the sanctuary of the office? To walk in, restless and tired at who even knew what time, and find herself just as lost here as she was lying in bed and counting the seconds as they trickled past? No, she couldn't imagine that.
Besides, this particular case bothered her. She knew hers had been an unpopular opinion, that the rest of the team had been desperate to drop the damn thing as fast as possible, to let the doer slip through the cracks just because they were dealing with a victim who – yeah – deserved what he got. Oh, yeah, Lilly Rush would happily admit that they'd had a point, there. Tempers had been flaring high in the office long before they'd all made their bid to forget it, and she supposed she hadn't helped. Given the way things had turned out, maybe it would have been better to let the matter drop. Maybe. But she still had her doubts about that. It was always better to face the truth than to bury it, right? Even if the rules had to be bent sometimes.
Mike Delaney. 1982. Bastard had been on top of the world… and, boy, had he made sure every damn girl on campus knew it. Lilly felt her stomach churn in sympathetic anger, even as her shoulders tightened with the assurance that – in spite of that – she'd been right. They'd found the doer, hadn't they? The case had been laid to rest. And maybe Delaney's soul didn't deserve to be put to rest, but Jimmy Bartram's sure as hell did. Sometimes the guy whose name was on the box wasn't the true victim, and it was their job, as detectives – Homicide or otherwise – to make sure the victims saw justice served, however long they had to wait. It wasn't about Delaney; maybe the rest of the team had been unable to see that. But she had. She always saw things that the others didn't, she mused… but then, they all had their own specialist skills, and maybe this was hers. The ability to see beyond the justifiable homicide of a serial rapist, and see the people who had truly suffered. To grant peace to those victims, the ones who'd sat on their experiences for more than twenty-five years, and to let them finally start living. The hell with Mike Delaney and all he'd stood for. So what if his was the name on the box? He wasn't the one who had deserved justice and, for once, it seemed fitting that he was the one who hadn't lived to see it served.
It had been an uncomfortable case, for everyone involved and for the team as well, but Lilly felt vindicated by the knowledge that she'd been right all along in her pursuits to see it complete. It was their duty, no matter how old the case and no matter how dislikeable the victim. And now, restless as she was with insomnia and the promise of those damn nightmares if she tried to sleep, she'd take the opportunity to see it put to bed. To cross those 'T's and dot those 'I's and make sure every last piece of stray paperwork was filed away.
As she let her eyes adjust to the dim lighting of the office – barely noticeable in broad daylight, but quite painful on the eyes after the sun went down – she realised that, through all the infinite case-related thoughts that had been swirling unchecked through her brain, never once had the possibility crossed her mind that she might not be alone in her bout of insomniatic productivity. Lilly was a woman who prided herself on considering every possible outcome to every possible scenario, and yet she had to admit that she'd completely overlooked this one; the likelihood of such a thing was so infinitesimal that – if she had considered it – she simply would've laughed at herself for indulging in paranoia. Nobody else on the team was dedicated enough, drive enough, or just plain crazy enough to come into the office at who-only-knew-what time of the night for the sake of putting to bed a case that could just as easily wait until morning. At least, that was what she'd assumed.
She stood there for some time, unnoticed, watching. It was another of the things she did well. Observing. Seeing. A good detective didn't need to hear an answer spoken aloud to know what it would be. A good detective could pluck an answer out of thin air, even before the question had been asked, and – ten minutes later, when all the words had been spoken – smile in satisfaction at the fact that they'd got it right. That was what a good detective did, and it made no difference whether she was in the witness room or a suspect's own living room. A good detective never stopped observing, even when off-duty. After all, you could never tell when you'd miss something important. So she stood there now, quiet and observant. Waiting for the perfect moment to ask that question aloud, waiting for the opportunity to hear the answer spoken, waiting for the release wherein she could smile with the knowledge that, yet again, she'd got it right. Observing, seeing… knowing when to make a move.
"Isn't it past your bedtime?"
Predictably, the question was followed by a startled yelp and the clatter of a pen hitting the floor (and, with it, a notebook and two-dozen loose sheets of paper), the noise reverberating loudly through the empty office; it was all Lilly could do to keep from laughing.
"Dammit, Lil!" For her part, Kat Miller sounded anything but amused. Clearly, she hadn't been expecting the need to share her late-night paperwork with anyone, either, and Lilly could practically see her struggle to get her pulse back under control as she glared furiously. "You tryin' to give me a heart attack!?"
Lilly allowed a brief chuckle to escape her lips, and shook her head. "Not intentionally," she offered, in as close an approximation to 'apologetic' as she ever got. "Just asked a simple question."
The glare didn't abate, but the fury behind Miller's eyes faded ever so slightly as she shrugged. "Could ask you the same one," she threw back, and dropped down to rescue the pen and miscellaneous paperwork she'd dropped in her surprise. Lilly made a point of not offering to help, instead falling back into her previous role of silent observer; this time, however, it was as much for her own self-preservation as it was a means of determining Miller's reasons for being here. The last thing she needed was the team's most unnervingly insightful cop to see behind the cracks in her own mask, not when she was the one whose place it was to come in here at night and do this sort of thing. They were on her territory now, dammit, and the focus was going to remain on Miller, at all costs. Lilly Rush, the first (albeit no longer the only) female murder cop in Philly, would make sure of it.
"C'mon, Miller," she said. "You're never in here after hours if you don't need to be." I should know, she thought. I'm in here often enough myself. Aloud, she waited for her prior words to settle, before continuing. "Won't Veronica be wondering where you are?"
Kat grunted as she pulled herself back up into her chair. "She's staying with my mom," she explained, and dropped the rescued paperwork unceremoniously back onto the desk, glancing up at Lilly with an expression of world-weary frustration. "Thanks, but I got it," she went on, sarcastic, as she set to work putting it back together into something vaguely resembling a legible order. "Really, it's fine. I got it. Don't gotta strain yourself rushin' to help or anything…"
"Sorry," Lilly offered, well aware of the fact that she sounded the exact opposite of sorry. "Didn't mean to scare you. I just wasn't expecting to have to fight for paperwork, at this time of night…"
Miller shrugged, but the tension in her posture loosened ever so slightly; clearly, she was taking on board what Lilly was saying, and thinking about it. "Don't even know what I'm doing here," she admitted. "Just… didn't wanna let this damn case sit out overnight."
Despite herself, Lilly grabbed the nearest chair, and sat herself down at the desk opposite Miller; she wasn't the sort to actively seek out closeness when she didn't need to, but she'd felt a flare of empathy and it was now beyond her power to fight it. "They get to you," she said, unassuming, "cases like this."
It was a statement, not a question, and Miller didn't even bother denying it. Lilly supposed it helped that she'd kept her words ambiguous, using a 'you' that could just as easily have been an 'us'. There was comfort in knowing one wasn't alone in feeling overwhelmed by little things, and – though she'd deny it to her final breath – Lilly Rush knew that tragically well. And, yeah, it was obvious with the Delaney case; they'd all been affected by it, and it wasn't just because it was their first case without the boss standing by to hold their hands. Lilly supposed she was at part to blame for the others' discomfort, with her insistence that they keep pushing, but she refused to feel remorseful over that. Besides, she'd been there when Miller had lost her temper over Nick Vera's trademark insensitivity, and she'd known as well as anyone that the argument would have escalated to dangerous levels if Jeffries hadn't intervened. It wasn't like Miller to get so overwhelmed by rage over one of Vera's innumerable chauvinist moments, and it wasn't like Vera to get so damn hyper-defensive even after he'd realised he'd put his foot into his mouth… and that had happened long before Lilly had taken the case into her own hands. No, that hadn't been her fault. She hadn't helped the unease … but she sure as hell hadn't caused it, either. Delaney had done that, all by himself, nearly thirty years ago. If anyone was to be blamed for the backlash of his actions, it was him.
"They do," Miller agreed finally, after a few moments. "Guess they cut too close… whatever the hell Maggie Lafferty says about life back then being so damn different." She sighed, and the pen fell from between her fingers again; the look on her face suggested that – this time at least – the gesture was intentional, and Lilly countered the other woman's sigh with one of her own.
She expected, and had been expecting almost since Miller had caught her standing there, that she'd find herself faced with the Spanish Inquisition over why she'd been so damn enthusiastic to keep the case going. She'd dwelt on the subject enough, and she'd been ready to face it; truth be told, it would've been a far easier subject to broach than that of why she was here at this time of night (and she still had no intention of allowing that particular question to be asked), but it was a subject that Miller seemed to have no intention of broaching at all. Her silence, her refusal to ask any question at all, beyond her prior offhand remark that she could've just as easily have thrown Lilly's own question back at her, was unnatural, and Lilly caught herself frowning a bit.
"You shouldn't let Vera get to you…" she said. It was a dangerous statement, and she was conscious of the fact that she was stepping onto very thin ice long before Kat raised her eyes in a deadly warning. "I'm just saying," she back-pedalled cautiously. "He's a jackass, we all know that. He doesn't think before he opens his big mouth… but a big mouth is all he is. Just a lot of talk."
"You defending him?" Miller demanded, in a tone of voice that suggested she wasn't joking in the least. Lilly sighed tiredly, and shook her head, but she never got the chance to elaborate before Miller was off and running again. "He's almost as bad as Delaney," she went on, and Lilly blinked in surprise; Miller and Vera had called each other every rude name imaginable, but she'd never heard either of them compare the other to a criminal as heinous as Delaney; had it not been for the blinding flash of rage in Kat's eyes, Lilly would've interrupted right then and asked – as gently as possible – if she realised quite what she was implying. Clearly, though, Miller was perfectly aware of it, as she went on, anger never once abating. "You wanna defend him, go right ahead. But you tell me… you tell me, Lil… how in the hell you're gonna explain 'no means yes' to any one of those victims."
"That wasn't what he meant…" Lilly said, flailing a little. It would help, she thought with a touch of irritation, if Vera just once stopped to think about what he was saying; she couldn't even use the argument that Miller had been the one who'd said 'no means yes', because even she couldn't deny that Vera had implied it. And, no, he hadn't meant it. She knew that. Miller probably knew it, too. If she took five minutes to cool down and realise that she was talking about the guy whose foot practically lived in his own mouth, maybe she would've been a little gentler before leaping on him for yet another verbal screw-up. But Lilly had seen how angry she'd been at the time, and that was an anger that she knew too well wasn't about to abate swiftly, so she let her defence rest there for the time being. "You need any help on that paperwork?" she asked, changing tack as casually as she could, and throwing out a peace offering.
Kat blinked; clearly, she'd been so caught up in her tirade (heaven knew, when that girl got wrapped up in a subject she felt passionately about, there was simply no stopping her) that she'd forgotten why she'd been here in the dead of night at all. "All yours," she said, more than a little sulkily, shoving the scattered paperwork across the desk and refusing to meet Lilly's gaze. "Knock yourself out… I'm done with this crap."
In spite of the situation, in spite of the bitterness in the other woman's voice, Lilly couldn't help smiling. It was just like Kat Miller to take an innocuous (albeit admittedly ill-thought-out) comment, blow it out of proportion, and spend half an hour in the middle of the night ranting about it. Really, she supposed, she shouldn't have been wasting her time waiting on Miller to start interrogating her at all. Not when she had her own issues spinning around, just waiting for someone of like mind to off-lay them onto. Miller wasn't a feminist, Lilly knew. In fact, she was quite the opposite; when she'd admitted during the case of gender-confused Samantha Randall that she'd been a tomboy herself as a child, it had been all Lilly could do to keep from saying 'well, duh'. Feminism wasn't something that had ever been on the cards for Kat, at least from what Lilly knew of her… but what she was (and what, to some extent, though she would deny it if questioned, Lilly envied in her) was proud. Of her colour, of her daughter, of her double-X chromosomes. Of every tiny facet of what made her Kat Miller. That mattered to her. It mattered enough to fight for, to spend a half-hour ranting about in the middle of the night, to do anything that would allow her to keep hold of it, and may the Lord help anyone who dared try to challenge her. She was brutally passionate, to a fault, and that was a characteristic that Lilly saw in her all the time. Pride. The problem, and it was one that no amount of logic or rationality could ever make her see, was that there was such a thing as being too proud… and, right now, glaring at the tabletop and muttering curses under her breath, Kat was close to that line.
"Go home," Lilly said quietly, in a voice she'd heard the boss use too many times to count. It wasn't an order, but it carried with it the suggestion that – if Kat knew what was good for her – she'd obey. "You're clearly exhausted, and you're not helping anyone by shooting your mouth off right now. Go to bed."
To her surprise – and possibly not hers alone – Miller burst out laughing. Lilly blinked, trying very hard to figure out whether this was a good sign, or simply a warning that Kat had lost any remaining shred of sanity she'd once had and was about to take her own life through creative use of a staple-gun. Frankly, she wasn't entirely sure whether she wanted to know, but the explanation was taken out of her capacity to seek it out, as Miller shook her head in sudden mirth and slapped the tabletop so hard that the resounding 'smack' almost caused Lilly to jump out of her skin in unrestrained terror (of the kind that, again, she'd deny if questioned).
"Lemme get this straight…" Miller was saying, every other word punctuated with obnoxious emphasis. "You're telling me that I've gotta get my ass to bed… 'cause I'm clearly exhausted?" She let the question hang on the air for a moment, while she got another explosive laugh out of her system, during which time Lilly struggled to figure out what was so damn funny. Eventually, and just as Lilly was about to take the woman by the shoulders and shake her until she either calmed down or explained herself, she found the self-control to continue. "You looked in a mirror lately, Lil? 'Cause… you tellin' anyone they need to get more sleep is like—" she trailed off for a second, apparently hunting a suitable analogy. "—like Vera tellin' Valens he needs to go on a diet."
It may not have been a suitable analogy – at least not by Lilly's perception of herself – but it had the dual effect of leaving her reeling with laughter of her own, and causing her to bristle with offence at the implication. "I don't need to get more sleep," she said, hyper-defensive, her barriers going up almost so fast and so sharp that she could feel them doing so. There was no way that Miller wouldn't recognise the lie in what she was saying, but it was in her very nature to make the assertion anyway, to push that image of being fine and perfect and everything that was Lilly Rush, whether it would be believed or not. She could no more keep the lie from falling off her lips than she could've surrendered to sleep that night in the first place. "I get plenty of sleep."
"Sure you do," Miller shot back, not missing a beat, and now she did meet Lilly's gaze. There was a glint of mischief in her eyes, drowned almost within the darkness, but there was no mistaking it, and Lilly couldn't deny being more than a little afraid. Almost more even than when she got caught on a tangent of principle, Kat was nothing short of terrifying when she was on a mission of mischief. "You still seeing the shrink?"
The question came out of left field, and Lilly felt her breath catch in surprise. Her reflex reaction was to warn Miller that the subject was none of her damn business, but there had been no malice in the words. There had been nothing in them at all, in fact, but curiosity and faint trace of empathy (carefully concealed, of course… because, if there was one thing everyone knew about Lilly Rush, it was that showing empathy was a sure-fire way to get one's head bitten off). Strange thing was, with the question out in the air now, it seemed almost anti-climactic. Lilly had been waiting for the subject of her own sleeplessness to be raised, had been preparing herself to shoot down any accusations even before they were fired, but Miller had dodged the subject – or made a show of dodging the subject – while simultaneously, somehow, remaining fixed neatly on it without having to actively raise it. If she knew about the sleepless nights, she'd know about the cause of them – or, at least, she'd think she did – and, by broaching the subject of the shrink, she was presenting a buffer for the real issue. It was cruelly clever, but at the same time quite dangerously devious. Lilly didn't know whether to admire Miller or to hate her.
"No," she said, pointedly, and now it was her turn to glare at the tabletop. "Last session was a couple of months ago. Didn't see any point in sticking around after that."
That was mostly true, if not entirely so. Telling her deepest secrets wasn't something that had ever come easily to her, and she didn't know why in the hell people assumed it would be easier to tell them to a total stranger than someone she actually trusted (not that there were very many of those running around, either, but that wasn't the point). It would never have worked out, not for herself or for the shrink, whose frustration had been painfully obvious in those final few sessions. No, it was better this way. Scotty had once said, all cops he knew were lone wolves, and she was the finest example of that either of them knew. She dealt with her problems herself, or she didn't deal with them at all. And, even if it did turn out to be more the latter case than the former, well, at least she wasn't involving anyone else in her personal business. What the hell right did some stranger with a 'certificate' have, telling her what she should and shouldn't feel? What the hell right did Miller have, now, asking her about it, looking at her in that way, as if to imply that she should've stuck with it?
"Didn't see the point, huh?" Miller repeated, and Lilly had to fight the temptation to slap her. She nodded, though she knew it was a rhetorical question. "That's BS, and we both know it," the other woman went on. "You just can't stand the thought of actually opening up to someone, can you?"
Lilly choked in indignation. "Right," she growled. "'Cause you're an open book."
Miller smirked; clearly, she'd been expecting that. "Least I was smart enough to keep seein' the damn shrink as long as I needed, and the hell with what other people thought," she retorted.
Stunned into silence, Lilly almost choked at the directness of the comment. She'd never heard Kat talk about her own shooting before, though she knew Jeffries had raised the subject once; hearing her talk about it now, as if it was something as mundane as reading the morning paper, struck Lilly as the most unpleasant kind of shock, and she flinched for just a single moment. It hadn't been the same, she knew, but to hear even a vaguely similar scenario raised so candidly was the furthest thing from helpful she could have imagined.
Thankfully, her self-discipline came flooding back a few seconds later, and she rolled her eyes. "Least I don't stay up all night filling out paperwork just 'cause I'm mad at Nick Vera for making a comment he didn't even realise he was making," she retaliated. Miller's face darkened at that, and Lilly could sense another oncoming tirade, so cut it off before it started with a wave of her hand. "Save it, okay? I don't care why it bothers you so much. Doesn't matter to me. It matters to you. Your issue, not mine. I don't pretend to understand it—"
Miller sighed. "—And you don't want me to pretend I understand yours." She sighed again, somewhere between angry and resigned. "But I do understand it, Lil. Been there, done that." A sad smile crossed her lips, but only for a moment, and Lilly felt her barriers falter momentarily. "You're not alone in this."
Yeah, I am. The thought came as reflexively as breathing, and it was more than Lilly was capable of to ignore it. The problem was, Miller didn't understand. She understood as much of the situation as she wanted to, just as everyone else did. Granted, the tiny fraction that she did understand, she understood far better than any of the boys – except, ironically, the boss – but it was still just that, a tiny fraction of something infinitely deeper and more complex. Lilly Rush wasn't a simple person at the best of times, but she'd been through more over the course of a single case than even the most complicated cops went through over the course of a lifetime. No way in hell could Kat understand that, for all her inherent insight. And why should she? Lilly Rush had been shot. Lilly Rush had nearly died. Nearly, but not quite. Surely that was the important part. Why would anyone waste their time wondering about all the tiny little other things, when that was clearly the bit that mattered? She laughed, a touch harshly, not realising that the sound had been made aloud until she caught the puzzled frown on Miller's face.
Problem was, it wasn't the full story. It was the part of the story everyone would remember, while the rest went forgotten and unnoticed… and, as with so many stories that got twisted and distorted and broken over the course of time, those forgotten moments were the ones that cut the deepest. Just as Miller no doubt had her own intimate and deeply-buried reasons for reacting so violently to Vera's chauvinistic ignorance on this one occasion, Lilly too had her own dark secrets, her own issues to deal with, and they were issues that nobody on the team could understand, however desperately they clung to the self-involved delusions that they could.
Cops got shot all the time. Kat Miller knew it. John Stillman knew it. Lilly Rush knew it. She'd been in the game long enough to know how it worked, and she'd seen it happen enough times to know what to expect. There was nothing new in it, nothing to shock her or startle her, or do anything more than cause her to feel a few weeks' worth of real uncomfortable pain. She'd gotten over it. That part was true… and maybe the shrink had helped, though Lilly frankly couldn't see how. It had taken a while, probably longer than it should have, and she had her suspicions that the boss had seen that in those first few weeks. Offering up the Assigned position to Scotty instead of herself had been the first clue, but there had been many. And, looking back now, he'd been right. She hadn't been ready, she'd come back too soon because she'd always been at her best when she was kept busy with work, and she'd convinced herself that no tragedy would ever be enough to suck out her love and dedication to her job. And, with time and by process of throwing herself back into that job, she'd come to terms with that side of what she'd endured. Yes, her nightmares had stopped being about the gunshot ages ago. Long before now.
'Is there anyone we can call?'
That was the heart of it. The heart of the nightmares, the heart of her trauma, and the heart of the haunted, cold look that she had no doubt was tracing enigmatic patterns across her face right now. Murder Cops faced death every single day of their lives. Anyone not comfortable with their own mortality had no right being in Homicide, Lilly had learned that the hard way the day she'd faced down George Marks; he'd caught her by surprise, and she'd been traumatised. She should've been better prepared than she was, but he'd gotten under her skin. He'd known her, known her too well, and it had thrown her so much further than she should ever have allowed it to. It had been a wake-up call, of the worst possible kind, but also the best. She'd needed it, had needed to know beyond all doubt that she was able to deal with her own mortality as well as that of the victims she avenged. She'd come out of it scarred but safe. And she'd been content. If the incident with Ed Marteson had taken place at any other time, any other week, any other moment… right now, she would have been fine. She would have been better than fine. She would've picked herself up and put the moment behind her. It was a learning experience, and one she would – over the course of time – have come to be grateful for the opportunity to live through.
But not like this. It shouldn't have happened like this. Not when she was feeling so shattered, so fragile… so mortal, already. Not when she'd already looked into the cold dead eyes of her own mother – the woman who, though she'd never been there, had always been there – and seen death in a way that she truly had never seen it before. She dealt with it every day, like they all did… but she'd never seen it like that before.
No way in hell could the others on the team claim to understand that. Not without having lived through it. And she wanted to appreciate their comfort, wanted to look at Kat Miller right now and believe her when she said she could understand, that Lilly wasn't alone. But it wasn't true. There was faith in Miller's eyes, though, deep-set and honest and genuine. She believed, truly believed with every fibre of her being, that she understood. That it was all about the bullets. Lilly watched her, studied her face, that faith dancing through her eyes like tiny fireflies, and she just couldn't bring herself to break the other woman's heart by admitting the truth. It was just another in the countless ways that Miller was wrong tonight. Lilly wasn't afraid of opening up, not right not. Oh, she didn't want to. Oh, if she could, she probably still wouldn't… but that wasn't what kept her from doing so right at that moment. Miller was a good cop, and a good person. Lilly Rush couldn't be the one to break her heart by telling her she'd got it wrong. She couldn't be the one to chase away those fireflies in her eyes. After all, who wanted their delusions of grandeur to be shattered by something so unimportant as the truth? The truth just got in the way.
"You're right," she said, quietly, and watched sadly as Miller's face lit up with pure joy at being the person who had brought about such a rare and precious confession. Did it really matter that it had been a false one? Did it matter that Jimmy Bartram's confession had been false? Justice had been served… right?
"Y'know what I think?" Miller asked, and Lilly shrugged in the closest approximation to actual curiosity as she could muster while really just wishing the other woman would leave her alone with her precious paperwork. "I think this damn Delaney case is messing with our heads. I think… emotions are runnin' high anyway, what with the boss being outta commission… and this damn bastard case just made everything worse." There was venom in her voice then, and Lilly rolled her eyes; if Kat let herself slip into another damn rant about Vera's insensitivity, then Lilly would quite seriously consider jumping right out of the goddamned window. "It's got us all depressed," the other woman went on, rather thankfully lacking in venom this time. "And you know the best cure for depression?"
Lilly grimaced. "Does it involve donuts?"
"No…" Kat said, sounding vaguely puzzled. "But thanks for makin' me hungry when there ain't a bakery open for a thousand miles." She shook her head, dismissing the issue as one of unimportance – at least for the time being – and returned to her apparent task. "We need a girls' night out. We need to go someplace loud, someplace with lots of booze… and we need to get drunk."
Lilly stared at her for a handful of extremely long seconds. "No," she said, when she'd finally found her voice again. "Maybe you need to get drunk… but you sure as hell are not taking me with you."
"Yeah, I am," Miller retorted, with the self-satisfaction of someone who considered the discussion over; it was the same near-arrogance that Lilly often saw Scotty and Nick turn on suspects in the witness room, and she made a mental note to put in a plea with Jeffries to keep Miller from fraternising with the boys from now on. Clearly, it bred bad habits. "I am," she repeated. "You know why?"
Impatient, Lilly rose to the bait. "This should be good," she deadpanned. "Why?"
"'Cause I understand you," Miller replied, and Lilly grimaced again; if Miller was planning on using that line as a ticket to bribery, Lilly would make no hesitation in rescinding her fabrication. It would be worth seeing the light of optimism go out behind her eyes if it meant not having to deal with hearing that damn sentence spoken aloud every time she wanted something. No, that was something Lilly Rush had no intention of dealing with, and she'd already opened her mouth to correct that assertion, when Kat continued. "I understand you," she repeated. "And you understand me."
Lilly blinked that at. Understanding victims, understanding criminals, understanding all the subtle nuances that made up a murder investigation… that, she was an expert at. But understanding her colleagues, understanding the inner workings of the people she sat beside and talked to and worked with every day? That was beyond her realm of comprehension, and she made no effort to hide the confusion and disbelief that she felt swimming across her face at the statement. "I think you're putting too much faith in me," she offered, simply.
"No, I'm not," Miller replied, that damn unshakeable smugness firmly in place; Lilly was beginning to hate it. "You know what it's like to be me… mostly because I never stop complainin'." She grinned, a little sheepishly, and Lilly felt a small chuckle bubbling up inside her; at least Miller was honest in that respect. "You know damn well how long it's been since I got a night off without havin' to worry about Veronica, 'cause you've been right there for the past three months of First Thursdays." Lilly watched with a wry smile as Miller's fingers twitched reflexively, resting on her cellphone for just a moment. "And you know as well as I do that there ain't much scope for a girls' night out round here, workin' with the testosterone-fuelled jackass brigade we got in this dump."
Rolling her eyes, Lilly busied herself with the paperwork. "It's not gonna work, Miller," she said coolly. "You might as well give up now. I'm going to finish writing up this case, and then I'm going to go home."
"No you're not," Miller observed. "You'll find some other case to write up or report to file or whatever, and then it'll be morning and you'll be running on empty. And, hell, if you're gonna be runnin' on empty anyway, might as well be doing it in the aftermath to a kickass night of cutting loose, right?" She didn't wait on an answer, even as Lilly felt herself sigh heavily with irritation. "Besides… I ain't going home either. So you either dump this goddamn paperwork on Vera's desk and let him finish writin' up his buddy Delaney's case while we go out and get soused… or I sit right here and spend the whole night explaining in intimate detail exactly why he's such a loudmouthed obnoxious jackass who needs a swift kick in the privates. Your choice."
Lilly allowed her head to drop forward until it connected solidly with the desk. The contact was mildly painful, but substantially less so than either of the two options she was now facing, and she allowed herself to draw comfort from it. "Just curious…" she heard herself murmuring, the words muffled and indistinct against the cool wood of the tabletop. "That mouth of yours is registered as a lethal weapon, right…?"
She didn't even need to raise her head to see the grin spreading even wider across Miller's face. "Shut up and get your coat."