(A/N: Look, I know I stole scenes, themes, and even lines straight from Bloodhound. Please don't sue. I own nothing, have sold nothing, and I am making nothing.)
I couldn't sleep on my last night of staying at Serenity's. Unwanted images kept flashing before my mind's eye: the look on Pearl's face as she plunged back into the sewer rather than face the law; Dale Rowan sauntering away without a backwards glance; Sir Lionel's casual expression as he tortured me; the man on the torture table screaming silently as he was viciously beaten; Goodwin's expression when she found out how much trouble I had gotten into . . . In the end, I could bear it no longer. When pacing about my room offered naught relief, I threw on the dirty tunic I had worn yesterday and headed outside for a walk.
Somehow, I wasn't surprised to see Goodwin already standing on the little bridge.
"You couldn't sleep either, Cooper?" she asked without looking up from the glimmering water.
"No." I stood next to her on bridge, staring out over tiny stream. I don't know how long we stood like that, in silence. At length, she spoke again.
"Are you going to keep Pearl's tooth?" she asked. I should have known she would have spotted it among the shards of fire opal. I fetched it out of the little leather pouch in my pocket, laying it on the rail.
"I'm keeping it as a reminder, asorts," I explained. She held the pearl up to the moonlight, watching the light shimmer and bounce off it.
"You don't need that sort of reminder," she said eventually. I took it from her without speaking, and flicked it out over the water. It spun, once, twice, three times, before settling into the stream with barely a splash. She was right, of course. I see enough greed, corruption, and indifference. I don't need extra reminders.
"The undine can have it. You said they liked magicked things," I told her. She nodded her approval. I heard a soft purr, and looked down. Pounce was winding around my ankles. Somehow, I just couldn't find the energy to be surprised that he had returned.
"So you're back, you ungrateful furball. Now we can go back to our proper places, right? We'll all go back to Corus, and Tunstall will return to active duty, and I'll keep searching for partners, and Pounce will continue working as the first Provost Cat, and—and everything will just go back to normal, right?" I think mayhaps my voice broke a little. I was really begging for the world to stop spinning, as if I somehow knew what was coming.
"Not quite. Beka, I'm going to take a job as desk sergeant," Goodwin told me flatly. It was the first time she ever used my first name. "Ahuda is taking a job over in Flash District, and she wants me to take her place." I clutched the bridge railing for support. "I want you to partner with Tunstall. He'll keep you from trying to bag Rats that are too big for you, and you'll keep him from getting his fool brains bashed in. I just can't work the streets any longer, Beka. Remember the last time we stood on this bridge? It was early in the morning, and we were discussing what you would do while I was giving my report in Corus. I was half-dead with exhaustion, and all I wanted was for this hunt to be over so I could go back to my Tomlan. You, though? You were excited. You were wide awake. You were an excited Bloodhound, and you had the scent of a juicy rat in your sniffer. You begged to get a chance to do more, hunt harder, search more. You were feeling everything a Dog should while she's on the hunt. I don't feel that excitement anymore, Beka. I need to slow down and take a few breathes. Desk sergeant is perfect."
I didn't speak. Goodwin looked up from the moonlit stream for the first time. "Hunt well, Terrier. You'll live to do great things," she told me gently, and walked away Just walked away and left me with the biggest, most confusing news of my life. Goodwin was too tired for the streets, and I was getting a legendary Dog for my partner. How was I supposed to feel about that?
How was I supposed to feel about anything anymore?