A/N: Muse's attempt at writing out Det. Gharty and Det. Ballard after watching s6 last night. This particular fic is meant to be set after the s6 ep "Something Sacred, pt. 2". H:LOTS isn't mine, but you already knew that.
She can tell that this is one of those cases that'll stick with her partner, just because he's been such a pill about everything lately that there isn't really any question about it.
In all honesty, she's not really surprised, given the fact that she's come to know him somewhat as a religious man: the sort who goes to church on Sunday, reads the Bible every now and then and still comes to work on Monday wondering what the point is. She, on the other hand, is a self-described die-hard agnostic, someone who believes that God could exist and likely does, but who also believes there is no way to really prove this. She thinks that this might be a reason why this case hasn't had as much of a profound effect on her as it has had on her partner, but then, that's just the way it is.
It is for this reason that Laura Ballard finds herself walking across the rooftop of headquarters, towards the lone figure sitting all the way on the other side.
Every now and then, the Homicide unit picks up one of those cases, one that makes them doubt whether or not Lieutenant Giardello's theory of there being no higher calling than being one of the murder police is really true. This has been one of those. Two priests are dead. An entire city is at a loss, even though the answers everyone's been looking for have finally been given. And in the middle of the storm are two detectives, neither of whom are all that sure that they know exactly what it is that they're feeling.
"You know, sitting up here isn't going to do you any good," Laura remarks, once she gets close enough for Stuart Gharty to actually hear her. "Thought you said you were going home."
"Changed my mind," Stuart replies, without turning to look at her. "What brings you up here?"
"One of the other guys said they'd seen you come up. Figured I'd see how you were doing." Laura comes to a stop next to the table that her partner is sitting on and continues. "Everything all right?"
"I don't know," Stuart tells her, and thus confirms exactly what she'd been thinking on her way up. "I'd like to think everything is, but there's no way to tell for sure, is there?"
"Not that I know of," says Laura, and climbs up to sit beside him. "This is still eating at you, isn't it?"
"It's not the easiest thing in the world to have your faith shaken, Ballard."
"I noticed. I, however, have no faith in anything besides cold, hard evidence, therefore, I don't have to worry about that."
She doesn't really expect the comment to draw any sort of reaction out of Stuart, and so when it doesn't, she isn't particularly surprised.
"Somehow, I don't think it has anything to do with what you believe in," she says after a moment. "Does it really matter? We got the guys we were looking for."
Stuart gives her a look. "It matters," he said. "Those men who died never did anything to anyone."
"Neither did a lot of people who die in this city," Laura replies dryly. "What's your point?"
"My point is that it doesn't sit right. We might have the answers we wanted, but at what cost? Two priests are dead, and for what? Because a bunch of teenagers felt like going on a joyride and seeing how many people they could kill before they got caught?"
And there it is, that flash of anger that Laura had been half-expecting to come, the one that had gotten Stuart thrown out of the interrogation room in the first place.
"Hey, don't take it out on me," she says, with a note of warning in her voice that makes him cast a half-apologetic look at her. "It doesn't sit right with me, either, y'know, agnostic or not."
Stuart gives her an amused look. "Then you admit that you do have some kind of faith, however hidden it might be."
"Maybe. I don't know." Laura turns away from him and glances towards the sky. The sun is starting to set already. "Sometimes I wonder."
"This. Life, in general. Why I'm sitting here working Homicide when I could be doing something else, why good people die for stupid reasons…Whether or not God exists."
This, in itself, has become a talking point for the two of them over the past few months that they've been partners. It usually turns into a debate; Stuart grew up right there in Baltimore, in a family who went to church every Sunday, rain or shine, no questions asked. But Laura grew up on the other side of the country, in a family that didn't particularly care whether or not she went to church, mostly because neither her mother nor her stepfather went themselves.
"God exists," Stuart is saying, when Laura starts paying attention to him again. "Things like that couldn't happen if there was no God."
He is motioning to the sky. A faint smirk crosses Laura's face at this, because she knows what he means, but she can't help but poke at him anyway.
"You know, a lot of people say that the colors come from the amount of pollution in the air," she says. "Just because you have a pretty sunset doesn't necessarily mean that God exists. It's not exactly a miracle."
"Sometimes I wonder if there's any point in talking to you about this," Stuart remarks. Laura shakes her head.
"Probably not, but it makes for an interesting conversation," she replies. "If God exists, then why do things like this happen? Why do people end up dead for no good reason, if, in fact, there is a God?"
"People end up dead because other people don't have any respect for them, or for life as a whole," Stuart tells her. "That's why. No one's perfect. We weren't ever meant to be."
"Then what exactly were we meant to be?"
"Whatever we end up as. You make your own choices in life. Some of them might be a bit more stupid than others, but you still make them yourself."
"So these kids, then, they were just making their own choices?"
"No one told them to go out there and start killing priests, Ballard. They did that on their own."
"But it doesn't make sense to you."
"Can you really look me in the eye and tell me that it makes sense to you?"
Laura doesn't answer. Stuart has her there, and she knows it. It's almost annoying, but at the same time, it's not, because as much as it doesn't make any sense to him, it doesn't make sense to her, either.
"I might not be the most religious person in the world, but no," she says finally. "I can't look you in the eye and tell you that it makes sense to me, because it doesn't."
"Well, then, I'm not the only one."
"I doubt it makes sense to anyone else down in that squad room, either. Here we are, sitting around at our desks, when all of a sudden the phone rings, and a priest, someone who's never done anything but try to help people, is dead." Laura trails off and shakes her head. "And then, not even a day later, another one goes down."
"Makes me wonder what this town is coming to," Stuart remarks, and Laura looks at him, but there is enough sarcasm in his voice to let her know that he isn't actually serious.
They are, after all, detectives. It's not up to them to wonder what Baltimore is coming to; it's just up to them to find out why it's going in any one direction.
"So, the city loses two important residents," Stuart says, picking up where he left off, "And we're supposed to do what? Write the names up in black on the board and move on?"
"Well, yeah," says Laura. "We're cops; it's what we do."
Stuart nods, briefly, and says nothing. The sun continues to move down in the sky until it is no longer visible on the horizon. Somewhere below them, streetlights start to flicker on.
"You know, it might not be hard to have your faith shaken, but what is faith anyway?" Laura asks. "It's nothing more than trust. You can't see what you believe in, but you believe that it's there anyway. Why?"
"Because it gives me something to hold onto," Stuart replies. "Every now and then you get one of those cases where you don't think you're going to make it through this job if there isn't something for you to fall back on."
"And faith in something or someone you can't see…that's what you fall back on?"
"It's better than nothing. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there." Stuart turns to look at her and goes on. "Maybe it would do you some good to find out what you really believe in and what you don't."
"I don't think I could fall back on something I couldn't see," Laura replies mildly. "The thought doesn't sit well with me."
"D'you believe that there could possibly be some measure of good in someone, without seeing it?"
"Well, yeah. You can't judge a book by the cover. But how are you just supposed to follow after something without being able to see where it's going to take you?"
"You just do. You said it yourself, faith is trust. There's nothing for you to do other than follow after what you believe without ever knowing which way it's going to take you."
Silence. Laura hasn't ever been one to particularly enjoy having her words thrown back at her, but this time, she finds that she doesn't mind.
"So, you move on, then," she says. "And you fall back on your faith and God and whatever else it is you believe on, and you quit sitting around up here waiting for it all to come crashing down on you."
She gets to her feet and continues. "Go home, Gharty. I think we've had enough for one night."