So this is a companion piece to "Defective", which I wrote in December. I don't know if you have to read that to get this, but I would, if only to understand how I've gotten Scotty and Kat to connect. I don't really like this that much, and I strongly considered not posting it once I finished, but I figured there was an off chance that someone might like it. It kind of takes place during the finale, at least with the whole deal w/ Bell asking Kat out. It can be taken at points as romantic, if you want to take it that way, I purposely left it ambiguous. And if you look close at the end I have Kat say why I don't ship LS anymore, even though I love Lilly. : ) Sorry about the long A/N.
It's a Friday.
A Friday in late May, and Kat sits behind her desk, spinning in her small, navy chair. Legs kicking. Reading a file about a new case they just caught, long and involved, stuffed out of order into a manila folder. Nearby, Lilly also sits. She is also reading a report, but she doesn't fidgit. She's not restless, not the way Kat is.
Jeffries and Stillman have retired to Stillman's office. Kat figures they might be sharing the bottle of wine that she knows the boss keeps behind his desk, and so she doesn't disturb them. She reads, not retaining the information, twirling a tiny piece of her long, curly hair between her fingers.
Scotty comes by. It's his birthday. He is wearing his typical black suit and tie, the spicy scent of his cologne mingling in the air near her.
He drops a note on her desk. It's folded up into fourths, and she quickly puts down her folder to grab it, fingers fumbling rapidly to open it under her desk like she's in the sixth grade.
It simply reads, drinks tonight? in Scotty's unmistakable sloppy scrawl.
She looks up. Scotty is sitting at his own desk now, watching her intently, grinning, as if waiting for her answer. She laughs, actually laughs, which seems to take him by surprise.
From her desk, Lilly glances from Scotty to Kat and back again—not missing anything, of course, the woman never missed anything—and puts her head back down, pretending not to notice.
Scotty is still smiling at her, still expectant.
She sticks her tongue out at him, and grins back.
"You and Scotty going out tonight?" The sound of Lilly's voice surprises Kat, after almost two hours of silence, in the squad room.
Kat shrugs. Veronica has a sleepover tonight with one of her girlfriends, so it's not like Kat actually has an excuse not to go out. Though she's found in the last several months that she looks less and less for excuses not to hang out with Valens—it's become their thing, every other week or so. It's been about half a year, and they're almost friends. She is reluctant to use that term, but can't come up with a better one.
They joke about work, mostly, or dumb things on TV. Scotty always rattles on about how much he wants a motorcycle, but they're so expensive, but he'd look so damn cool on one, he says. She rolls her eyes at him, informs him that he sounds like a child, and if she weren't off duty right now, she'd have a moral obligation as a cop to arrest herself for drinking with a twelve-year-old.
"You're invited," Kat says. "More than invited. Strongly, strongly called upon to come." Lilly joins them occasionally, and it's always fun—they order a few drinks, joke about cases. Kat always leaves first—having a child at home—and Lilly and Scotty never stay longer together, not if it would be the two of them alone. Kat isn't entirely sure why. She never asks.
"I don't think so," Lilly says slowly, as if trying the taste of the idea in her mouth, and finding she doesn't like it.
"Oh, come on. Your jackass partner is somehow less annoying when you're there. You've got the magic touch."
Lilly laughs, partly at Kat's predictable sarcasm, partly at something else. There is some kind of fiendish gleam in her eyes that Kat doesn't recognize, that is gone in the next moment. "There's no shame in acknowledging you enjoy his company, Miller."
Kat doesn't miss a beat. "'Enjoy' is such a… strong word."
Lilly laughs. "Oh, yeah. I've always thought so." She pauses. "I'm going home. Watch some old movies, stay up late. Your car out the shop?"
Kat is surprised Lilly remembers something she mentioned two days ago, but she shouldn't be. Lilly never gives away much of herself, but she always listens vehemently to everyone else. "No. Not yet. I'll take a cab home."
Lilly wrinkles her nose. "A cab? At night? Alone?" She sighs. "You ever heard of the Fairmount Park rapist?"
"Didn't they catch him?"
"I don't think so." She laughs. "We should know this, shouldn't we?"
"I'll google it."
"Okay," she turns to gather the bag holding her lap top. "Text me when you get home, you know, so I know you're not at the bottom of a ditch somewhere."
"You ever seen a ditch in Philly? Because people always say that, and I've never seen one."
"Fine, strewn out in an alley, then. I'm pretty sure we have those." She snaps off her lamp. "And don't let Valens keep you out all night," she laughs.
Scotty waltzes in then. "Lil's headed for her rockin' chair," he quips affectionately. "You ready, Kit Kat?"
Lilly raises an eyebrow at the endearment, but Kat isn't fazed in the least. "In a minute." She dials a number on her cell phone.
Lilly looks to Scotty. "You two getting close, huh?"
It's a question, but it's not a question. Not really.
Scotty shifts uncomfortably. "Close isn't exactly the word I'd use."
Lilly, surprisingly, breaks into soft laughter. "You two are exactly the same," she informs him, laying a hand on his shoulder. She winks at him, and walks off.
Kat is still sitting at her desk, on her phone. "You're where?" She's saying. "Okay, when are you going to bed?" Another pause. "Yes, I'm asking. When?"
Scotty taps his foot, impatient. "Come on," he prods Miller, who ignores him.
"You packed everything? Make sure you wrap your hair."
Scotty shifts from side to side, rolling his eyes. "Who are you talking to?" he whines.
She glares at him, but doesn't answer. "Okay. Be careful. Don't break anything." Another pause. "No, I'm not." A giggle. "No, honey," she says, but amused this time.
Scotty sighs. "We're missing the drink special," he grumbles to her.
"Okay, I love you. Okay. Bye." She hangs up, and glares at him.
"Who was that?"
"My child, Scotty. Unlike your sorry ass, I actually have responsibilities."
"What're you interrupting her sleepover for? You're one of those mothers, aren't you?"
"Stop being a jackass, before I change my mind," she replies, rolling her eyes at him. They stand to leave. She turns off the light and he walks beside her, hand on the small of her back, as if out of habit—before seeming to remember who she is and what they are, and quickly removing it.
"Move it, Grandpa," she grins at him. "Get those old bones in gear."
"Shut up, Miller."
The second time he ended up in a bar alone with Kat, Scotty had been extremely confused. Mostly because the first time was almost accidental, and the second certainly on purpose. She had asked him to come. He had stood there, gaping, he was sure; entirely caught off guard. And then he collected himself, and replied with the cocky grin and seductive lilt in his voice that came so naturally to him: "Of course. Can't refuse a beautiful woman."
He thinks about this now—he is sitting with her, alone, on his thirty-fifth birthday, like it's nothing. And it's okay.
Kat tugs on one of his sleeves. "I like these," she says, indicating his cuff links. "Who got them for you?"
Scotty raises an eyebrow. "Lil. This morning. Unlike you, Miss 'I didn't forget your birthday, I left your gift at home when I was running out.'"
"I'm sure. How'd you know I didn't buy these?"
Kat grins—an almost predatory, dazzling grin. "Lil's got better taste than you, turns out."
He shoves her lightly on her barstool, earning a laugh even as she flinches away. They may be friends, but the touch barrier hasn't come down. He doesn't think it will.
"Doubt it. You're talkin' about the woman who asked me who Calvin Klein was."
She breaks into a laugh, an honest-to-god, head thrown back laugh. "She did not."
"Totally did." He considers her. "You know, you oughta laugh more often. Makes you look less disgusting than usual." He doesn't know why he's saying that. Maybe just to be obnoxious.
"Fuck off. I laugh."
"And listen, too. You women never listen." Okay, so he's really just being obnoxious. "I said laugh more."
"Charm like that, it's no wonder you're spendin' your birthday with me instead of a real date, jackass," she says, but it's good-natured. Getting under Kat Miller's skin is damn close to impossible. "You know, it's supposed to be a happy occasion, so try not to spoil it by being yourself."
"Happy occasion. Yeah, okay. Comes a point when birthday's go from being happy occasions to indifferent occasions. I'm headed into stage three."
"Ridin' them out in the fetal position." He takes a swig of his beer. "Shots?" He asks. That's the kind of night it's going to be. It's definitely a Tequila shot sort of night.
"Sure thing, Grandpa." She shoots him a saucy grin. "Getting' older, huh? Too old to be chasin' criminals down. Good thing you ain't still at West."
She's joking, but Scotty sobers. "Definitely too old for West," he says, and can't understand why he suddenly feels so heavy.
"Don't start looking sad. You know I can't handle that."
"Cause you're emotionally stunted."
She flinches. "Don't gotta get personal."
He shakes his head. "I'm sorry," he says, even though he knows she hates apologies. It's a weird thing to hate, but they've talked about it before—apologies make her uncomfortable, she says, make bad situations worse. She'd rather just glide past the bad stuff. Because she's weird.
"Do you ever miss it?"
"Do I ever miss what, Scotty?"
She frowns. "That's a weird question. Do you miss West?"
"Not too much. But, you know—it was a young man's job. It was always such a rush, even under cover—thinkin' I was gonna get made, but not—thinkin' I was gonna die, but gettin' out of it at the last second." He looks at her. "I guess I got thrill issues."
But he already knew that. He was twenty-three when he went under, he was twenty-eight when he left West for Homicide. A part of him was always wanting to get out, move up—but a bigger part had loved it just fine. Chasing suspects, lying to Ramiro and all of them about who he was. Being Alvaro, before it all went to crap, before he met Ana, and he realized he would always be Scotty. No matter what.
He remembers Ramiro's words: You liked it out there, you liked it in the dirt. He was right, sick as it was. His job now feels so… clean. Like he's gotten too old for the adrenaline.
"Okay," he says, after the long pause. "Guess it's just me." He doesn't know why he expected Kat to understand—it's a strange thing to feel, a weird thing to miss.
"No," she says. "No, I get it." She pauses, as if picking her words carefully. "When I was in Narcotics, I got the rush. Goin' under in North Philly, chasin' bangers. Comin' within an inch of my life." She stops. "You have to have that reckless thing, you know, to ever be any good at it. And I did. I was." She takes a sip of her drink. "But I was selfish. I had V, and I was actin' like it was just me, chasin' adrenaline like I didn't have to think about her. But I was young. You were young."
"And we're not now."
Kat shrugs. "No, we're not. But what do they say? 'Each phase of life has its fulfillments.'"
He smiles. "And where did you see that?"
"Maybe stitched on a quilt somewhere."
He is still, and silence reigns. He sighs. "Do you think it's true?" He doesn't know why he's talking like this. It's not like he's old, not by a long shot. But he's not young anymore, either.
"I don't know," she says. "But I don't think life ends at thirty-five." She reaches over, and pushes his chin up. "So buck up."
It's classic Kat. She'll flinch one day when he touches her, and the next reach over, like now, and tug his chin. She's wildly different from day to day—between bubbly, friendly, excitable, and other days detached, crisp, wound-up. You never know, but it's all her.
Kat turns her attention to the bartender—a young, blonde-haired white guy maybe ten years their junior—and orders two shots of Vodka. She orders with a cheerful, effervescent smile, maybe knowing he's been watching her for the last ten minutes with unmistakable admiration, and turning narrowed, mischievous eyes on him.
For his part, he replies, "On the house."
She peers up at him through her lashes, feigning surprise at the generosity. "That's very nice of you," she says, and he scuttles off to find two shot glasses.
Scotty, watching, is thrown by the fact that he's just watched Kat Miller flirt—that she knows how to flirt in the first place—that she's the kind of woman who flirts to get free drinks.
Kat gives him a knowing look. "Still got it," she says, flashing him a sassy smile.
He laughs. She does.
Ten-thirty. Too much Tequila? Possibly, she thinks. Scotty wants to leave the bar, but not go home, he specifies—just a little change of scenery. She reminds him that it's pitch dark, they're drunk, there's not much to see that they haven't already seen with the sun out, and sober. But he insists.
And hell, it's his birthday. Let her tell him no any of the other three hundred sixty four days of the year. God knows she does it enough.
After they've gone two blocks—laughing amicably, bumping each other sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose—Kat realizes they're heading towards Rittenhouse Square. Scotty, being in possession of a bottomless appetite, notices that they are coming up on a Ben and Jerry's.
"I am not getting ice cream with you this late, Valens." Kat hopes her voice is firm.
It must not be. He gives her a rougish wink. "Kit Kat, come on. Chunky Monkey. Coffee buzz buzz buzz."
She pulls a face. "I'm cutting out sweets," she says.
Scotty laughs. "And what was that Margarita you just had? A salad?"
"I'm watching my figure." It's something she would have never said if she were sober, and she can almost see the wheels in Scotty's head turning, as if trying to figure out the best way to capitalize on her slip.
He lets his eyes stray over her in an exaggerated way, like he's checking her out. "So am I," he says. She rolls her eyes. Bastard.
"I guess they might have Frozen yogurt."
He pulls a face. "Miller, that stuff tastes like clay."
Ten minutes later, she's holding a cup of butter pecan ice cream, and he's laughing at her, but has the sense not to say anything. He's licking a waffle cone with Chunky Monkey inside.
"To thirty-five," she says, holding up her ice cream, as if to toast him.
"To the first anniversary of my thirty-fourth birthday."
Kat looks up at him; he's licking the sides of the cone, trying to keep ice cream from dripping onto his suit jacket. Like a little boy.
"So, Kit Kat," He shifts his briefcase to the other shoulder, and leads the way to Rittenhouse square, across the street. "Tell me something good."
"Good," she says. "Well, I hear the Stock Market's leveling out."
He laughs. "Nah, something good about you. Anything exciting happen today?"
"I got through the whole day without Vera eating any of my food. It was really exciting, some kind of personal best."
"That's it? No Bell's ringin' Friday night, by any chance?"
"Bell's ringing?" She's confused, and then she's not. She smiles. "I've got no idea what you're talkin' about."
"I'm sure." His smile is knowing. "He's takin' you out, huh?"
"How the hell did you hear about that?"
"The night has a thousand eyes."
"Ah." Kat says. "Vera."
"About time he grew a set, I say. Bell's been givin' you the side-eye for months now. Actually asked me your story. Your story, Miller. Like it was fucking ninth grade."
Kat laughs. "When was that?"
"Few weeks ago."
"And you didn't tell me? I thought we were tight."
Scotty dropped his eyes on her, surprised. "You think we're tight?"
She frowns. She never really thought about it. "Well, we aren't… loose."
"Comin' from you, I'll take that." He pauses. "There's one thing, though. I don't know if you can do Friday night."
Kat is confused. "Why not?"
"I'm drivin' to DC, to see by sister," he says, like that explains everything.
"So? You plannin' on chaperoning from the coat room, Grandpa?"
"No. But who's gonna drive you home, and explain to Bell that you ain't comin' back from the ladies room?"
She jabs him in the side with her elbow. "Shut. Up." She sighs. "I knew I shoulda called Lil that night."
"Because Vera's a jackass, just like you're a jackass. Stillman's my boss, and Jeffries may as well be." She shakes her head. "Goes to show how fucked up I musta been, callin' your sorry ass."
"So why didn't you call Lil?"
Kat stops. She doesn't really know. Does she think Lilly wouldn't have come? Of course not. Lilly has more empathy than any of them, she has it in spades. Of course she would have come, but Kat would never have called. "I don't know. It just didn't seem like a thing to do."
It's not very articulate, but Scotty nods like he understands. "You're a smart woman, Kit Kat."
The nickname, which started a few months ago, meant at first to irritate her, and then to put her at ease, has become an endearment in every sense of the word. Even though she'd never refer to it that way.
"Christ, Miller's datin' Bell. What is with this department and the goddamn ADA's?"
Kat shrugs. "Just me and you. It ain't that weird."
Scotty shakes his head. "Nah, Lil dated our ADA when I first got here, few years back."
Kat is surprised. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. Name was Kite. Chased her around for months." Scotty laughs at the memory. "Just somethin' about the cops in this unit, I guess."
Scotty is slurring his words, partly because he's drunk, and partly because he's got his face practically buried in his ice cream cone.
And that's when it happens.
No one should ever take walks in Rittenhouse at night, and Kat knows this. First of all, this is where the street kids hang out past nine, and you're liable to get mugged. And then there's the fact that there is always some homeless guy on one of the benches, and Kat has always given away too much of her money—five or ten dollars, when the going rate is fifty cents. She'll then come home and realize she's spent her lunch money for the next two days, and being as frantic about money as she is, she doesn't take out more, and she'll have to make PB&J for the rest of the week. But mostly, you don't walk in Rittenhouse Square at night because it's entirely pitch black, there's broken glass on the ground, and you'll probably trip over something.
That's what happens. She's talking to Scotty one second, and the next her heel gets caught against a curb, and she's on the ground. Her leg has twisted one way and her foot the other, leaving her ankle throbbing and weak. The hand she used to break her fall scraped hard against the cement, and blood gushes from her palm.
Scotty laughs until he realizes she's having trouble getting up, and his eyes flicker remarkably quickly from amusement to grave concern.
Kat is breathing hard, trying not to betray how sharp the pains shooting up her leg and ankle are.
"You okay?" Scotty is holding out his hand to her.
"I'm fine," she says, gripping the ground hard with her right hand to deal with the pain, and realizing too late that the gravel getting into the cut makes it sting.
"You shouldn't do that," he says, indicating her hand, talking like someone's mother. "You could get infected."
She chooses not to respond, using her good hand to push herself up. She limps a few steps. She hops on her good foot. It doesn't feel great, but getting around is doable.
"I'm gonna call a cab. I'm not great company like this. See you Monday?"
He reaches out to grab her good hand, and holds her back. He shakes his head. "I'll take you."
Kat peers up at him. "You're drunk off your mother-lovin' ass, Valens," she informs him. "No thanks."
"No, I didn't mean… drive you." He pauses, collecting his words. "I'll just take the cab with you to your house, and catch one home."
"That doesn't really qualify as 'taking' me, does it?" she asks wryly. "Don't do that. It's out of the way."
"You really think I'm gonna let you go off alone in Center City at night, drunk, with a twisted ankle, to hail a cab for a thirty minute drive home?"
"I don't think you let me do anything, Valens."
"Bad choice of word. But you're forgettin'… I'm a gentleman."
"I never forget you're a jackass."
But it's much easier to just give in than to fight him, especially when he's in Chivalry mode. She might as well go out into a storm and berate thunder clouds for precipitating, as try to change him on this point. It would have the same effect. Nothing.
Their driver doesn't speak much English, and he clearly hasn't been on the job for long. After several minutes, Scotty finally breaks down and gives him driving directions in Spanish. She's never heard him speak it before now—she recognizes the heavy Cuban accent, she dated a really hot Cuban guy maybe five years ago, for a month or two—and it fits in nicely, with all the other pieces of the bizarre Scotty puzzle.
It's ten after eleven. Buildings go by. The windows are open, and wind pushes her hair back. Scotty's voice slices through the silence.
"Let me see your ankle."
She shakes her head. "No, it's okay. I'm fine."
He insists. "We should check if it's swelling. Maybe you shouldn't put weight on it."
Something in her rises up, stubborn. She can't qualify exactly what it is—but she knows she doesn't want to show him her ankle, show that she's in pain.
"I said I'm fine, Valens."
Generally speaking, Scotty is reasonably tolerant of the big crazy ball of complicated that is Kat Miller. He submits to her odd idiosyncrasies, her frequent bouts of sudden silence. Just as she stays out of the way when he's being chivalrous. There are some things you just can't change. Unfortunately, these two impulses are currently being pitted against each other.
"Miller," Valens says, feigning patience, "I'm worried. I'm gonna keep being worried until I see that your ankle's not broken. So show me. Now."
"Miller." He says. Just the one word. A warning.
"Don't go off on your goddamn Superman act with me, Valens. I don't need it, and I don't like it. And I don't want to."
"And we both know you don't do a damn thing you don't want to, right?"
It's meant as an insult, meant to call her selfish, but she nods vehemently. "Damn straight."
"And what's so bad that you can't let me look at your ankle, Miller? That you don't want that?"
She shakes her head. It's a fair question, she knows it is. She looks down at the seats when the answer comes up and bites her, and she flinches.
She gingerly lifts her leg to rest on the space of seat between them, watching his eyebrows lift suddenly in surprise. He pushes up her pant leg just a bit, revealing close-toed black shoes with very high heels. They are generally hidden by her very long slacks, and almost no one knows that she wears them.
"How the hell do you walk in these things?" Looking at her with a gentle look in his dark eyes, so she knows the words are an apology. "I never could."
She accepts it. "It's not that hard," she returns. "Women are just superior, is all."
He grins. He pushes on her ankle softly with two fingers, and she flinches at the pain, sharply takes in her breath.
He's dabbing at a cut near her eye with peroxide. She takes in her breath sharply at the sting.
He shoots her a grin, partly affectionate, but always an underlying lust that she somewhat returns. "Chink in the armor, huh, baby girl?" He rubs on her shoulder reassuringly, before going back to her face.
She closes her eyes. The touch of his fingers on her cheeks, on her neck, feels good. She releases a breath she hasn't realized she's been holding.
"You're gonna be fine, Tasha." His voice is gentle, seductive. She really ought to know better.
Kat, she thinks. My name is Kat. But she doesn't say anything, she keeps her eyes closed, takes it in. Because this is the most she's felt attached to anything in almost three months.
"It's just twisted a little, Kat," Scotty says, breaking through her reverie. "You'll be fine in a few days. Chasin' suspects like nothin'." He breaks off and looks at her, eyes asking an unspoken question. She sighs.
"It's how is started." She takes in her breath. "With Jarrod."
"You hurt yourself?"
"Not exactly. I was Under, you know, eleven years ago."
"I got jumped one night, going home. Four to one. First and only time I ever got my ass good and whooped. Had trouble walkin' back to my apartment." She laughs wryly at Scotty's predictable horrorstruck expression. Like he wants to protect a Kat Miller from a decade before, when he hadn't even known her. "Hey, shit happens," she shrugs it off.
Scotty shakes his head, looking no less stricken, but doesn't interrupt her. She can sense him almost holding his breath, afraid she'll break off halfway through the story, and decide not to finish.
"I knew him from around. I happened to be right at his corner, and it was so dark, and I was high—I didn't want to be, but I couldn't avoid it, they woulda noticed—I really tried, Scotty." She breaks off here, surprised at how much she wants him to understand.
"I know you did." Of course he gets it. She's talking to the man who ran drug mules back and forth from the airport when he was undercover, who was so good that no one ever suspected him. No one would understand better than he would. The thought profoundly comforts her.
She swallows. "He played Superman, you know—swooped in. I let my guard down." She is purposely vague here, even though she remembers well enough how it was—a first kiss like they'd both die if they didn't, and then, and then, and then… she shakes her head at the memory. "I don't know why I did that."
Scotty cuts in. "You were lonely. Needed to feel something. Couldn't see the finish line. Kept feelin' like you were wakin' up in some kinda parallel universe, and only you remembered how it was supposed to be."
"Something like that," she says, even though he's hit it directly on the head. "I guess small things remind me… you know? It's stupid."
Scotty shakes his head. "No. No, it ain't." He looks down. "Every time I see fresh flowers on someone's desk, it makes me think of Ana. 'Cause that's what she wanted. Makes me crazy." Scotty has a way of revealing bits of himself just after she's let something go about her, as if to put her at ease. It's nice. "When I first got here, that guy Kite was chasin' Lil somethin' crazy persistent. Sent her roses, got 'em delivered to the prescinct. They stayed on her desk for nine days. It was awful."
He straightens up. "But we gotta get over it, you know? Gotta deal. Gotta grow."
"That's what they tell me."
He smiles at her, a sad smile, wistful. She turns back to look out the window.
Scotty doesn't consider keeping the cab, and going home. It doesn't even cross his mind.
He pays Miller's cab fair—he's not sure why, but it seems like the thing to do. She looks too tired to argue, balanced on her stronger foot, trying to stay upright.
He guides her up the stone steps to her house even as she moves away from him, determined to do it herself. She's the kind of woman who hates to accept help. Her house is immaculate, even more impressive considering she has a ten-year-old, and frequently works twelve-hour days when they're on cases. He has no idea when she has time to clean.
He helps her up the stairs again, to her second floor, and she goes into the first room on the left. There is a vanity on one wall and a large bed, maybe queen-sized, on the other. She collapses head-first into it, and it occurs to him somewhere that he should be uncomfortable, standing here in Kat's bedroom, but it's so characterless that he isn't. There's nothing intimate to see. Her clothes are all safely tucked away in her dresser, or in the closed closet. The bed is made. There's nothing on her night table except an alarm clock, nothing on her vanity except a small bottle of perfume. No towels. No shoes in sight. Nothing to suggest she actually lives here.
Kat's voice surprises him, muffled by the mattress. "You can get something to drink, if you want. I'm not moving."
"Tired. But not sleepy." He isn't sure if the words are meant to be an invitation to stay a little longer, but he decides not to think about it. She bends one of her legs back—she is still wearing her impractical high heels. "Don't touch the grape juice, though, that's mine."
Of course he comes back with a huge glass of grape juice, and she rolls her eyes at him. "If it wasn't your birthday, and I wasn't too paralyzed to move, I'd be liable to take out my gun right now and shoot you."
"Hey, I'm turning thirty-five, and this is how I'm spending it. I deserve a cup of whatever the hell I want."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"It means I'm so pathetic that I'm spendin' my birthday sittin' on a rug in a co-worker's bedroom. I mean, at least you oughta be naked to make this worth my while."
"Only in your dreams, Valens," she murmurs. "So what are you supposed to be doing?"
He sighs. He knows what. He's supposed to be with Elisa and two of their children, her making the chocolate cheesecake he's always liked so much, all wearing those cheesy paper party hats. That's what he wants.
"Not like this." He shifts on the carpet to lean his head against her night stand. "You ever feel like you ain't started your life yet?"
Kat props her chin on one of her pillows. "No." She pauses. "You feel like that?"
He nods. "All the time." He chuckles. "It's like I'm still twenty, twenty-one, still a kid, but I wake up realizin' I'm in my thirties. Which ain't old, but I shoulda done somethin' by now."
"But you have, of course you have." Kat's voice is unexpectedly tender. She must be more tired than he thought. "You've got a good job. You've loved someone."
"You really never felt like that?" He doesn't know why he's so surprised. He's just realized recently, in the past six months, maybe—how much he and Kat are alike. It took the better part of three years for either of them to notice it, but something in both of them is remarkably similar.
"Never. If anything, I've gotta remind myself I'm still young. I started fast out the gate." She stops. "Not that I'd change it, you know—I got Veronica, I wouldn't change that—"
"But I don't have time to do everything, focus on something else, be good at my job…"
She's rambling, but Scotty doesn't call her on it. Getting personal anything out of Miller is still a novelty, and he doesn't want to say anything that will shut her up.
"But you're great at your job, Kat. Almost as good as me." He grins. "Almost. And even Lil—you know how she doesn't give compliments—when you first got here, she said you were miles ahead of where she started. And Lil's so good, you know, she's…"
"A freak of nature," Kat finishes, affectionately.
"I was gonna say a prodigy. But that works."
Kat stops. "Oh, crap. Speaking of Lil… hand me my phone."
"You callin' her?"
"I'm supposed to text her, tell her I got home alright. Somethin' about me endin' up in an alley somewhere." She quickly types, I'm not dead into the phone, and closes it. "They caught the Fairmount Park rapist, right?"
Scotty shrugs his shoulders. "Hell if I know."
Kat's cell phone beeps, a message from Rush that reads simply, I'm glad.
"So, you're gettin'… text messages from Lil?"
Kat laughs openly at him. "Don't be jealous."
"I'm not," he replies defensively, even though he kind of is. He's never been able to crack Lilly, not entirely, and he's just barely coming to terms with the idea that he might never be able to.
"Yeah, okay. Sure." She doesn't believe him, and she shouldn't. "The texts aren't personal, Valens. She doesn't do that."
"Yeah, don't I know." He feels a little bite of bitterness that surprises him, that he thought he'd gotten rid of.
"Don't be like that, Scotty. Not when y'all finally got it right. Don't be goin' backwards."
Scotty does a double take. He's never heard Kat remark on his relationship with Lil. He always figured she just didn't have an opinion, because she isn't one to hold it in. "Say what now?"
She looks like she wishes she didn't say anything. "Nothing."
"No, come on. I hate when you do that."
"It's just that—you guys finally got over all that… tension. Would be a shame to go back, right?"
"Why do you think there was tension?"
She sighs, seeming to realize he's not going to let her off. "You were always trying to change her. You just gotta accept that she's never gonna tell you about her dates, her personal life, not really, even though she'd run into a burning building if she had to to save your stupid ass. You wanna be open and gabby and all that good shit, but it just ain't her. That, and the fact that you boned her sister and then lied to her about it."
Okay, now he's really surprised. She's been holding all that in for three years? Jesus Christ.
A few moments go by, and he notes her seeming to drift off into tired. "How's your ankle?"
"Somehow, I doubt that."
The clock ticks on her table. He drifts back onto her wall. The grape juice is gone, and he is slightly less drunk. It's a good thing.
Kat's voice breaks in, a sleepy murmur. "Scotty?"
"What're you still doing here?"
He chuckles. "I don't know."
Maybe that's his cue to leave, even though his limbs are so tired he doesn't know if he can stand. He gathers his suit jacket and briefcase. "I'm gonna run, Kit Kat."
"I'll take that as goodnight."
She sits up suddenly, looks him in the eye. "Look on my mantle. Somethin' there for you that you thought I didn't get." She grins at him, minx-like, as he leaves.
On her mantle is the coolest toy model motorcycle he's ever seen. It's sleek and black with shiny silver, and fits into his palm. Next to it is a simple red greeting card, with a message from Kat inside.
Because this is the closest thing your old ass needs to a Harley.
He pockets both and laughs, gently closing her front door behind him as he leaves.