A/N: H:LOTS isn't mine. For those of you keeping up with this AU of mine, Michelle is Abby's niece and Rose's daughter. Set directly after the s7 ep "Zen and the Art of Murder".
He ends up sitting on the dock at around two o'clock in the morning, an open can in one hand, and five more in plastic rings beside him.
It probably isn't the greatest idea in the world to be sitting there drinking, and he knows it, but he's doing it anyway. In the morning, he will more than likely be somewhat hung over, though he isn't planning on getting drunk enough to actually have to take a sick day. Granted, it's probably going to be the only way to make whatever it is that he's currently feeling go away, but he doesn't want to think about it. There are a lot of things that he's had to do over the years in Homicide, but until a few hours ago, no one had ever died by his hand.
This is, he thinks, looking down at the can that he's holding, more due to luck than anything else, but apparently, luck has run out. This is the problem with being a homicide detective, though; everything is unexpected, and if one never learned to just go with it, then they were screwed and that was that.
And sometimes, lessons were learned the hard way. The can in Tim Bayliss' hand is empty now; he casts it aside, but doesn't bother to open another one. The water below him moves with the wind, high enough to reach his shoes, but he barely notices it over the sound. He's starting to wish at this point that there was some kind of switch to turn off a person's thoughts, but there isn't and this is another problem. He doesn't want to think about the name in black on the board underneath his own, doesn't want to think about the fact that he's taken a life.
In the morning, there will be IID, and desk duty until they reach the conclusion that it was a clean shoot, but even then, it'll still bother him.
Just as he starts to really dwell on this, a voice breaks into his thoughts.
"Yeah, this is really 'Zen', Bayliss. You have any idea what time it is?"
"What are you doing here, Michelle?"
Tim can almost see Michelle McFadden smirking behind him, and sure enough, when he turns to look, that's exactly what she's doing.
"Abby told me she thought you might be here," she replies. "Everyone else is down at the Waterfront."
"Meldrick hasn't kicked them out yet?" Tim asks. Michelle shakes her head and comes to sit down beside him.
"I think Meldrick might've been kinda drunk, himself," she says. "What are you doing here?"
"I asked you first," says Tim, just to be obnoxious. Michelle rolls her eyes at him.
"Came looking for you," she tells him. "Guess you could say I drew the short straw."
"That makes me feel so much better."
"You're not drunk, are you?"
"So what are you doing down here instead of at the bar?"
"I wanted to think, and I didn't really want to deal with the rest of the shift, so if they sent you down here to spy on me..."
Michelle casts an annoyed look at him, but remains where she is, anyway. "Why would they bother? They're all afraid of you, remember?"
"Don't remind me." Tim glances down at the water, even though he can't really see anything, and sighs. "Did they tell you what happened?"
"Abby did," Michelle replies. "Wanted me to ask you if you were all right."
Tim laughs, but shakes his head. "I killed someone, Mish. Do you really think I'm all right?"
"The guy had a gun on you."
"And that makes it right?"
Silence falls when Michelle doesn't answer. She has been around the shift long enough to know that considering the circumstances, by department standards, he was well within his rights to do what he did. But she has also known him for long enough to know that he'd still think of it as wrong.
"You did what you had to," she says finally. "No one can fault you for it."
"I know." The water comes up again, cold and unyielding, but Tim doesn't move. "It just doesn't feel right."
"Well, I can't imagine it'd be the easiest thing in the world to come to terms with," Michelle remarks. "It probably won't feel right for a while."
"I don't think it ever will."
"Is this you talking, or is it the Zen thing again?"
"Both, I think." Tim trails off for a long moment, and then goes on. "I don't really know."
"Then what do you know?" Michelle asks, and he gives her a sideways look.
"I'm not sure," he says. "I'm just...I don't know what I'm supposed to do about this. I don't know how I'm supposed to deal with it. This isn't...it's not just something you can get over."
"It's something you have to live with," says Michelle, and he nods.
"Then what happens when you don't think you can?"
The question comes out seriously enough that it scares the hell out of her, and so she looks at him for a while, saying nothing, but he doesn't say anything, either.
"You talk to someone about it," she tells him. "A friend, a shrink, your partner..."
"Somehow, I doubt John wants to hear it."
"John doesn't want to hear anything half the time. And you wouldn't dream of bothering Frank with all of this, would you?"
One of Michelle's shoes hits the water with a rather loud splash. She looks down at it, shaking her head, as Tim turns to look at her again.
"Sometimes I think you know me too well," he remarks. Michelle smirks.
"That's what happens when you spent time with someone," she says. "You get to know them."
"So what happens when the people that you think you know aren't sure that they know themselves?"
"I don't know." Michelle trails off this time, still looking down at the water. Her shoe has completely disappeared. "Guess you stick around until they figure it out. There's not really anything else that you can do."
But it goes without saying that it doesn't always work that way. Both of them have been around the department and the city long enough to know that the things taken for granted are always the things that go first.
"You know, up until this afternoon, I didn't think I'd ever draw down on someone and actually have to shoot them," Tim says after a while.
Michelle leans back on her palms, arms stretched out behind her. "You shot at Junior Bunk."
"Everyone shot at Junior Bunk. He shot at us first. This guy today, he didn't."
"But he could have."
"That's not the point."
"Then what exactly is the point? You're sitting here on a Baltimore dock in the middle of the night by yourself with a six pack and dwelling on this, but you haven't even done anything wrong. There's nothing for you to feel guilty about."
"How can you be so sure of that?"
"You're still here, aren't you?" Michelle blinks, once, and looks away from him. Earlier on, the idea that someone had actually drawn down on him hadn't bothered her, but now that they are actually talking about it, she realizes it scares her more than she'd thought it did.
Tim doesn't answer. she looks up from the water and over at him as she goes on.
"You're not the only cop who's ever had to shoot someone to save themselves," she says. "I don't know about anyone else, but I'm damn glad it wasn't you."
"You sure about that?" Tim asks. Michelle glares.
"Yeah, I am," she says. "I'd rather see you judged by twelve than carried by six, thanks, and I'm sure your mother wouldn't mind it, either."
"Let's not go there."
"We'll go there until you see my point."
"I see it."
Again, no answer. Michelle gives an exasperated sigh and shoves her hair back out of her face.
"This doesn't make you a bad person, or a bad anything," she tells him. "Like I said, you did what you had to."
"That still doesn't make it right. I didn't have to shoot to kill, it could have gone differently. I just..." Tim cuts himself off, frustrated, and then goes on. "I thought I knew myself, Mish. I thought I knew that if it ever came down to this, I would be able to make the right decision, and now I'm not sure I did."
"Everyone has those moments." Michelle retorts. "It doesn't always go away completely, but it's not going to stay at the front of your mind forever."
"Meanwhile I'm stuck inside someone who hates me because I had to take a life to save my own."
There is a note of something in Tim's voice at this point that neither of them can place, and neither of them are sure that they want to. Even so, Michelle takes his hand, anyway, and squeezes, hard.
"What do you want me to tell you, then?" she asks, sounding about as frustrated as he's feeling. "I gotta tell you, Tim, if you're looking for me to tell you that you're a bad person, or that you're evil because you did this, I'm not going to. And if you want me to leave, then I'll leave."
"I don't want you to leave," Tim replies, without looking at her. "I don't want to be alone with myself right now. I can't...I don't think I can do this anymore. I hate this feeling. I hate not knowing who I am or who I thought I was."
"Then I'll stay," says Michelle, and falls silent again, keeping her grip on his hand.
"You sure that's such a good idea?" Tim asks. She rolls her eyes.
"Yeah, I'm sure. You aren't so far gone yet that I can't still find you."
The meaning of this is not at all lost on Tim; Michelle leans against him and he lets go of her hand to put an arm around her.
"I think you're still the same as you were before, but maybe something's missing now, and you're not sure what it is," she says, picking up where she left off. "It's not really turning into someone you don't know."
"Then why do I feel like I can't stay here in my own skin?"
"I don't know." Michelle turns her head so that she is looking up at him and goes on. "But I do know that it doesn't make you any better, but it doesn't make you any worse, either."
He offers up a faint, half-hearted smile and reaches out to brush her hair out of her eyes. "I don't think I'm any good for you, Mish."
She shakes her head at him, again, and reaches up with her free hand to touch his face. "That's for me to decide," she replies, and gets to her feet, pulling him up with her. "Come on, I'll take you home."