A/N: So...I don't own H:LOTS. And...that's about all for now.
There is still a faint scar over her heart.
Fourteen years later, it's all that remains of an afternoon that should've gone down with shift coming to an end and her going back to her childhood home to spend the weekend. Everything else that came along with it is gone: the IVs that after a while felt like they were permanently attached, the pain medication that she was afraid she'd become addicted to, and the fear that she wouldn't be able to return to work. It had been a long, hard wait for her, but in the end, it had been worth it, just to hear from department doctors that she was fit to come back.
Later on, the rest of her shift, the men she spent her days with and the ones she loved and sometimes hated, would joke that she'd been too damn stubborn to die. That nothing was going to slow her down, short of being forced to retire. She'd laughed along with them, sticking to a desk for those first few boring weeks, and then slowly taking back her place on the streets. Before long, she'd been right back to where she started: a nearly-perfect clearance rate, more names in black than in red on the board, and after a while, a sergeant's exam that served as yet another source of amusement to the rest of the guys.
Sergeant or not, though, she was still theirs, and they knew it.
Every now and then, she'd tell them that they'd ruined her for anyone else, but she didn't ever think she meant it until the rotation.
Three months after going into the Fugitive squad, she'd fully expected to be rotated back into Homicide.
She knew from what she'd heard around the department that most of the others would be heading back. Bayliss and Pembleton had both ended up in Robbery, where they'd remained partners. Kellerman had gone to Auto Theft and by some fluke, Falsone had ended up rotating from there into Homicide at the beginning of the three months. Lewis had gone to Vice, but Munch had stayed, the only one besides Gee who'd been left alone. The department had always been full of empty promises, and she'd known this for as long as she'd been a cop by that point, and yet some part of her had been unable to keep from hoping that she'd go back to a place where she'd actually felt that she belonged.
But as it turned out, things hadn't worked that way.
The brass would try to tell her that Homicide didn't want her back, that the detectives who'd gone in were of more use than a sergeant with a stubborn streak that rivaled the shift lieutenant's. She'd ignored them at first, but after a while, it got harder to do. Slowly, contact with the ones she'd always referred to as her guys slipped away. She fought to prove herself in the Fugitive squad in a way that she'd never had to fight in Homicide…at least, not after cracking her first redball. Once that had happened, the guys had learned that she was a force to be reckoned with, and she'd learned that they could take it and dish it out just as well as she could, if not better. Late nights turned into early mornings; too much coffee and too little sleep had them at each other's throats, but it didn't matter.
Even on their worst days, she'd always felt like she had a place inside that first shift circle.
She's been swung at, threatened, spit upon, shot and nearly stabbed on a few occasions, but she's always managed to pull through.
It's harder without the Homicide guys, because even now, twelve years after that first rotation, they are the ones she wants to lean on. Every now and then, she'll drop by the Waterfront, but Lewis is never there and if Bayliss shows up, it's long after she's already gone. Munch has been gone for ten long years now, lost to the streets of the city that never sleeps. He came back once, when the shift reunited, to find out who'd shot Gee, but since then, nothing. No one's heard from him, and if they have, then no one's bothered to tell her about it.
She's run into Kellerman on the street and walked straight past without recognizing him; seen Ballard and Stivers and Sheppard and Falsone and envied them their places as murder police. The old shift used to joke that once you were a murder police, you were always a murder police, but fourteen years after being shot and twelve years after leaving, she's come to the hard realization that it doesn't work that way. She went into the academy with eyes wide open, knowing what to expect, but not knowing that within a few years, it would all be turned upside down and she'd just have to roll with the punches and see what happened.
Now she sits in an office on one of the upper levels of a building in the Eastern district, captain of a squad she doesn't want to lead, stuck in a place that she's starting to think she won't get out of until she leaves.
It strikes her as incredibly pathetic that while she rarely, if ever, speaks to the shift she ran with back in the days when she was a detective, she keeps up with them.
She knows that Munch got married a fifth time, because somehow, an invitation found its way to her, but she'd been in the middle of a redball and couldn't make it, as much as she'd wanted to. She knows that Bayliss went back to QRT after Gee died, telling the rest of the shift that they could ridicule him all they wanted, but he couldn't stand to lose one more person he cared about and have to be the one looking into it. She knows that Frank and Mary Pembleton finally left Baltimore for a smaller, quieter town out in the county, and that Kellerman's playing lieutenant over the Arson squad's first shift. She knows Megan Russert came back from France and became a city prosecutor; that her late partner's two oldest children have followed their father's footsteps into the department.
In short, she knows everything about them, and yet whether or not they know anything about her is still yet to be seen.
She wonders briefly if they would recognize her if they saw her now. If they would see the detective who they could say anything in front of and the sergeant who kept a straight face when she was looking right at them, but who laughed the minute she thought they couldn't see her. If they'd see the friend and confidante that she used to be, and the friend and confidante that she still wants to be. She wonders if she even sees that in herself anymore, after all these years gone by, after losing contact that shouldn't have been lost in the first place, and wouldn't have been if she hadn't at some point started to believe that the ones in Homicide really didn't want her around anymore.
Fear, she thinks now, drives different people to different things.
And her own has driven her to stay away.
She thinks on the stories they used to tell.
At first, they'd all gathered around any given table in any given restaurant within walking distance from headquarters, usually after shift had ended and always to wind down after a long day. Later on, it had been at the Waterfront, where they'd sit between the tables and the bars, laughing at story after story of idiot suspects, and stupid things that they'd done during that day, or even that week. They'd let themselves go then, safe in the knowledge that no matter what, anything they said wasn't going to leave the confines of the shift, and that no matter what, no one else was going to judge them, because inevitably, something else would come along and they'd all forget.
She thinks of the New Years' Eve they spent in the squad room watching the documentary film that Brodie had made on them. Of watching Bayliss and Pembleton, both in real life and on the screen, as they solved a case and gave Brodie hell for catching them at the worst possible moments. Of seeing herself on the screen and thinking that she couldn't possibly really look that old, and then coming to the realization that maybe she did. That maybe the job had taken more of her than she'd thought it had, but that even if it did, there was no way she'd ever be able to leave.
She remembers the phones ringing as the clock struck midnight.
And she remembers feeling perfectly content.
Fourteen years after Gordon Pratt shot her through the heart, she stands in front of a mirror, naked, just looking at herself.
She's changed, and she knows it.
The scar over her heart is hardly the only one she has. There's one on the back of her shoulder, from being thrown backwards through an interrogation room mirror by a strung-out dealer when she rotated into Narcotics. There's one on the back of her hand, from accidentally falling backwards and catching herself on the pointed end of a curtain holder when she was a kid. There's one on the back of her neck from the day she and her brother decided it was a good idea to play with matches and see how long they could hold the flame to their skin before it really started to burn.
Her hand comes up to touch the one over her heart now, thinking back on that afternoon, on that hallway, on the sea of red that had been her blood, and Felton's, and Bolander's.
Things had started changing then, she thinks. There's no way they couldn't have.
They'd all come into this job for the sole reason of wanting to make a difference. And they'd done it.
They'd all come in knowing what to expect, but never thinking that it would all get turned upside down.
The scars they have and the stories they've told only serve as proof of this.
And she knows it better than anyone else.