Disclaimer: I do not own Southland

Looking up at Lurch

You catch sight of him across the bar, reaching for the bottle the bartender has just placed in front of him. At first, you think you're seeing things, but then his face is turned towards you and you know it's him. You quickly look away, hoping he hasn't noticed you, and choke down another swallow of your own beer. You watch him out of the corner of you eye, only looking up when he's no longer looking your way, and you glance at his hand. The tan from his wedding ring is more obvious to you than it should be in the dim light, and you wonder if you should say something.

But you've been where he is, you know how it goes, so you leave it. It's none of your business anyway.

You've settled yourself to forget about it, becoming very interested in the twink sitting next to you (not your type, but he makes for interesting conversation) when he comes over to you. He stands there, all awkward and tall, like he always is, and your foggy brain wants you to laugh, but you hold it back. You know he's looking down at you, mostly because the twink's glancing from him to you, a frightened look on his face (one you don't understand, since the awkward prevents him from being intimidating…but no one ever said a drunk twink had any sense).

"I'd better…," the twink says, and he disappears into the crowd. You heave a sigh and turn around and he's looking down at you, and you feel like you're Gomez Addams looking up at Lurch, what with the way he just stands there.

"Russ," you say, raising your bottle to him then taking a swig. He nods and sits next to you, toying with the label on his own bottle. "Y'know, that's a sign of sexual frustration," you say, not entirely sure why. He looks over at you, his lips pursed, his eyes bright, innocent. "You haven't done anything yet, have you?" you ask, but it's not really a question. He nods. "Good," you say, and finish your beer.

You pile some bills on the bar and get up, pushing through the mass of bodies towards the door. When you're outside, you take a deep breath, glad to be out of that stifling bar. You turn towards your car, but a hand on your shoulder stops you, and you grit your teeth and turn to him.

"What do I do?" he asks, his voice breaking a little. "I don't…I can't." He shakes his head and his hand drops to his side. He slips it in his pocket and pulls out his ring, staring down at it as he turns it over between his fingers.

You reach out and wrap your hand around his, and you're as confused as he is, but it gets him to stop. You look up at him, impressed with how much he can say when he isn't actually talking. "Don't," you say. "Just don't."

"It's not that easy," he says, and you laugh, dropping your hand down. He glares at you as he slips his ring back onto his finger, and you want to laugh again but you bite it back and just shake your head.

"You think I don't know that?" you say. "I've been where you are, Russ, I know how it goes."

Russ nods. "That's why-"

"I know," you cut him off. You look past him, back at the doors to the bar, and shake your head. "This isn't the place for you," you say.

He shakes his head and reaches out to you, laying his hand lightly on your shoulder, and you can see why Lydia has him talk to the families they're working with, especially the women. His eyes have this sincerity, this vulnerability, that you rarely see in cops, especially detectives.

Working your way up is hard on the soul.

But Russ is so open, like a tall, awkward book. And you want to fix it all for him, make all of this stop, but you know you can't do that, so instead you pull away from him, looking down at the sidewalk beneath your feet. You clear your throat and you feel him watching you and it's more unnerving and intimidating than you ever thought Russ could be without a gun.

"Go home, Russ," you say. "Go back to your wife." You turn away, heading towards your car (it's nearly blocked in by some asshole's SUV, and you grumble under your breath as you try to figure out the logistics of backing out without nicking the paint). You're climbing in when he speaks, more words than you're used to hearing from him.

"How did you know, Cooper?" he asks, and you blanche. This isn't a question you're ready to answer; it isn't one you ever get. You just say you are when you have to (comes in handy when you're fending off blind dates), a fact that you've never had to explain. But here's a man having an existential crisis, one you've been through, and you have nothing to say that'll help him.

You don't look back. "I just knew," you say. And it's mostly true. You climb into your car and drive away, keeping your gaze away from Russ, just hoping that he goes home, because if he goes back in, there's no turning back.