A/N: AU fic because I can. H:LOTS isn't mine. Mentions of the conversation that takes place here and the incident for which Kai's actually in trouble will probably come up again in other fics, but for now, this is it.
Her feet were swinging a good six inches off of the floor.
This, of course, was mostly because she was actually sitting all the way back on the bench outside of the principal's office, and judging from the defiant expression she was wearing, he could tell she'd probably already been lectured. That, and the fact that she hadn't even bothered to look up to see who it was that had come to get her this time around. It was clear from her expression that she wasn't in the mood to hear any more lectures just yet, but then, that wasn't why he'd come.
"Figures Dad would send someone else to deal with this," Kai said finally, without looking. "I'm not talking about it, Tim."
"I didn't ask you to. Move over."
She did so, and Tim sat down beside her, shaking his head as he continued. "You know, you're lucky I'm the one who showed up. You could be dealing with Gee right now."
"Yeah, and I'd probably tell him what happened, too, but I'm not telling you, Bayliss, so the backdoor method of getting me to talk like Frank does isn't gonna work."
He hadn't really thought it would, and in truth, that hadn't been what he was doing, but he decided not to point this out, instead casting a sideways look in her direction that only made her glare at him.
"Quit staring at me."
"Aren't we irritable this afternoon? I haven't done anything to you, kid, so let's drop the attitude, huh?"
"Then quit staring at me. I got in a fight. Big freaking deal. Ricky deserved exactly what he got, and I'm not apologizing to him. I don't care what his dad says."
Tim stared. "Please tell me that you didn't get into a fight with Ricky Gaffney," he said. Kai looked away, scowling now.
"If he hadn't started running his mouth, none of this would have even happened," she replied. "But no. He has to go and…damn it, Tim, you did it again."
"Watch your mouth," Tim said, almost automatically, earning himself an eye roll that he ignored. "I mean it. Just because you hear it doesn't mean you have to repeat it."
"You sound like my dad."
"Well, he's not too happy with you, either. You know better than to get involved in something like this."
"Spare me, will you? I've had it up to here with lectures today, and it's not even three o'clock yet."
"Did you ever think you might have talked to him before beating the living daylights out of him?"
"No. I already tried that. In fact, I've been trying it all week, and so has Ally, but he doesn't want to listen. We had to do something."
"Might have told someone. It's not up to you and Ally to shut him up if he doesn't want to listen to reason, squirt," said Tim, slightly amused by the fact that somehow, Ally Felton had become involved as well. "Where is Ally, anyway?"
"Luce came to get her already. And Ricky's gone too, his mom came around first. Should have seen the look she gave me."
There was a twisted sort of satisfaction in Kai's voice at this, and Tim bit back a laugh, shaking his head at her again.
"I can imagine," he said, and really could, too. Katrina Gaffney had always been the sort that seemed to look down at her nose at everything, particularly people whom she thought were beneath her…which was mostly everyone.
"You know, it's a good thing she doesn't come around the squad room much," Kai remarked, breaking Tim out of his thoughts and returning him to the present. "She'd probably have a heart attack."
This time, he laughed. "Yes, she probably would," he said, and looked at his watch. "I'm supposed to take you on down to the squad room."
"I'm not under arrest, am I?"
"No, you're not. But that really depends on whether or not his parents decide to press charges. What's the damage, kid?"
"Probably a broken nose and wrist, 'cause he fell on it wrong when Ally knocked him over."
"Lovely. Your father's going to be thrilled. Come on, let's go." Tim reached down to retrieve her backpack from the floor and pulled it over his shoulder before getting to his feet and starting out of the office. She followed him.
"Exactly how pissed off do you think Dad was when you left the squad room?" she asked, almost warily. "Was it like the time I skived off to see you in the hospital last year?"
"Less than that, I think," said Tim, even though this wasn't really true, but then, it wasn't a lie, either. "The only reason he got so angry with you when you did that was because we didn't know how many people from Mahoney's lot were still gunning for the shift, and it was right after…"
"Yeah, I know," said Kai, "The squad room shootout. I was there."
And she had been. But none of those who'd been involved had known it until she'd emerged from beneath Meldrick's desk, where she'd been sitting, doing her homework, her face completely bloodless.
"So you don't think Dad was as pissed off as that, then?" she asked, picking up where she'd left off, and Tim sighed.
"I really couldn't tell you, kid," he replied. "But I can tell you that he's going to want to know what happened."
"Of course he's going to want to know. The principal wanted to know, too, so me and Ally both told her, and then Ricky had to open his big mouth and say that we were lying."
"I'm sure the school will conduct their own investigation into what happened," said Tim. Kai smirked.
"Yeah, right," she replied. "Ally's been in trouble before, and so have I. Usually nothing that'll get us anything more serious than detention, but still. Ricky's got a clean record."
"You sound like a cop." Tim trailed off for a moment, and looked at her again before turning in the direction that would take them to the headquarters building and the squad room. "You're really not going to tell me what he did to piss you off, are you?"
She shifted in her seat, then, uncomfortably, and stared out the window. "I really don't want to talk about it."
"It's not going to help your case if you don't have someone to argue it for you."
"Either way you look at it, I'm gonna be grounded for the rest of my life, so does it really matter?"
"It matters to me. I know you wouldn't have done this unless you thought there was a damn good reason for doing it, and the fact you won't tell me is starting to make me think that it was something trivial."
Kai glared. "It wasn't trivial," she insisted. "I had a reason. It's just not something I wanna talk about, all right?"
"No," said Tim, and then, "At least tell me if there's anyone on the shift that you might tell about it."
Kai shook her head. "Hell, no," she said, and ignored the look Tim gave her. "Don't look at me like that. I mean it. I wouldn't tell anyone on the shift. Not even Gee."
"So, if we ask Ally, she'll have the same answer, right? She's not going to tell us what happened either, is she?"
"I doubt it."
Silence. Somehow, Tim got the feeling that this wasn't like other times when she wouldn't tell the members of the shift what was going on, and ended up telling them later, either because Frank had gone the backdoor way of getting her to talk, or because she'd slipped while talking to Kay and hadn't had much of a choice but to tell.
And then, just like that, realization hit. "He was talking about me, wasn't he?"
"You're turning into Frank," said Kai, looking away and out the window again. "How'd you know?"
"Well, at the moment, it's the only reason that I can think of as to why you wouldn't tell anyone on the shift, and why you're being so difficult about telling me."
"I'm difficult about telling you a lot of things, Timmy. So is everyone else."
"Yeah, I've kinda figured that out over the past few weeks. No one seems to want to look me in the eye."
"They're all a bunch of idiots. Even Dad. This whole thing is so freaking stupid. Why does it even matter?"
A question he didn't want to answer. He sighed and pulled into the parking area at the headquarters building, shutting the car off and turning to look at her.
"It matters because we're cops," he said. "I guess you could say that there's a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, and now they think they know, but I don't see how they could when I don't even know."
"You don't?" Kai asked, looking somewhat startled by this. Tim gave her an amused look.
"Not at the moment, no," he said, "But that's the point. Everything that's been floating around…I guess it has them worried. I don't know. I don't really want to know. It bothers me that they'd have issues if it turned out that I was, but if it ever came to the point where I had to worry about backup never coming if I needed it, I'd leave."
"But…They wouldn't. You know they wouldn't."
"People do stupid things when they're afraid of something."
"Timmy, you're the youngest one on the shift. The only one on the shift that they're actually afraid of is Gee."
"That might not be true anymore."
Silence fell, then, when Kai didn't answer, instead choosing to look back out the window. There were a few uniforms standing around, just watching them, and as tempted as she was to get out of the car before Tim could stop her and say something to them, she didn't.
"So, are you still not telling me what Ricky did to piss you off?" Tim asked finally, quietly, breaking into her thoughts and returning her to the present. Kai gave a frustrated sigh.
"He was just…he was saying all kinds of stuff, Timmy, and it was just…rude. I don't think he even knew what he was saying, I think he might have just been spouting off whatever his idiot dad said, but…Ally and I tried all week to get him to leave it alone, but he kept spouting off about this website that he said was yours, and all the rumors floating around the department about you and we just kinda snapped."
"Kind of?" Tim asked, looking at her with raised eyebrows. She rolled her eyes at him.
"Yeah, kind of," she said, and then, "Are you happy now? Ally and I beat the living daylights out of him because he was saying things about you that I'm not gonna repeat, because it's just...no."
"Don't make fun of me. I'm serious. And I meant it when I said that I wasn't going to apologize."
"You might have to."
"Yeah, and he should be made to apologize for everything he said about you, too, but no one's going to make him do that, are they?"
In all honesty, Tim highly doubted this; he didn't know exactly what it was that Ricky Gaffney had said, but from the way Kai was letting herself get so worked up over it again, he figured it must have been something. Suddenly, he was somewhat glad that he'd been the one delegated to retrieving her from her middle school.
"I don't get it," said Kai, finally. "It shouldn't even freaking matter, but everyone's acting like it's such a freaking big deal, and you're still…You're still you, Timmy. That's not going to change…is it?"
"No," said Tim, and wondered how she seemed to know so much about all of this when the entire shift had been careful not to say much about it. "That's not going to change."
"So why is everyone freaking out about it? If nothing's going to change and you're still going to be the same as you always are, why does it even matter?"
It figured that it wouldn't occur to her, the one reason why it would matter to the shift, and to everyone else, since apparently, it didn't really matter to her beyond taking on with Ally to get Ricky to shut up. And he didn't really want to tell her the reason why, either.
"It just does," he said, finally. "I don't know why."
The look that Kai gave him told him that she knew he was lying, but she didn't press the issue, and instead, rolled her eyes, yet again.
"Whatever," she said. "I still think they're being stupid about it. There are way more important things for people to be worried about."
And with that, she pushed open the door and got out of the car, to face head-on in the squad room what he'd bee half-heartedly avoiding all day, as simple as that.
Tim watched her go, waiting until she'd disappeared from view, before following after her. It was easy enough for her, he thought, to deal with whatever might have been said in the schoolyard, but the squad room was a different place, and the only thing there was left for him to do was ignore it. Then again, it was something he'd gotten used to over the years.
Apparently, she had not yet figured this out. In fact, he had the feeling that it bothered her a lot more than it bothered him, which was why she now found herself suspended for five days and why he found himself faced with having to really explain it later on, because the explanation he'd given moments before wasn't going to fly, and on some level he knew this.
But she was right on one thing. There were more important things to worry about.