A/N: Next chapter may be a bit longer than a week as this is up earlier than planned – you're all so lovely, I couldn't hold out *g* – and assignments are about to destroy me. Thanks for reading!
Kerry Vincent was a woman who had risen through the ranks with her forthright attitude firmly in place, never learning to mince her words. But right now, sitting behind her desk, her eyes flicking between her two officers – Lawson leaning against the wall to her right, Shannon just in front of the doorway – she had no idea how to start. Turned out she didn't have to.
Shannon had glanced at Lawson when she entered, then at Kerry, before finally catching sight of the little peach bag sitting half-opened in the middle of the desk. Her eyes had locked on it and she'd been staring at it for the last minute. The others shifted uncomfortably and Lawson moved to speak, but Shannon got there first.
"Locker inspection was today, wasn't it." It was a statement, not a question, but Kerry found herself nodding at it anyway. Shannon sighed. "Who showed y- You know what? Doesn't matter."
"Shannon, I'm sorry. If we'd known-"
Shannon held up her hand. "You figured out when."
Kerry nodded again. Shannon was one of the steadiest members in the team – it hadn't been hard by any stretch. In fact, it had started being pretty bloody obvious once Charlie had put the little bag down on the desk and Kerry began wondering why it looked strangely familiar. And then after Lawson had silently handed over the USB and she'd quickly scrolled through the pictures, she'd realised why: she had last seen it sitting in Shannon's lap, her fingers fiddling with it, after she'd trashed the locker room – when Kerry had told her that TR was no place for a lady.
Kerry could have kicked herself when it all fell into place. She'd never been great at giving comforting words, but shit, that was just putting the boot in - even if, at the time, she'd had no idea what Shannon had gone through.
Shannon swallowed as she continued staring at the bag. "What are you going to do?" she asked, finally lifting her gaze to meet Kerry's.
Kerry sighed. "That's what I wanted to speak to you about."
"I think it's pretty obvious what I wanted to do."
Kerry pressed her lips together and lifted her eyebrows. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right. Except this bag has been sitting in your locker for how many months now?"
Shannon didn't answer, just kept staring at the bag. Lawson kept staring at her.
Kerry locked her hands together in front of her face and rested her chin on them, looking up at Shannon. "We can report it, Shannon. I know people, they'll do it discreetly, and you won't have to worry about it again."
Shannon stared at the bag for a few more moments, steadily ignoring Lawson's gaze, then shook her head. Her voice was husky when she spoke and Kerry frowned, her concern increasing. She'd never heard that tone from Shannon before. "Kerry, you know what happens in cases like this. He said, she said. It gets buried; she gets carted off to some Woop Woop position – literally or not."
Kerry started shaking her head. "No, Shannon, you have evidence; you're a cop. It makes a diff-"
"Means shit all when it's against another-" she cut herself off and closed her eyes.
Kerry stiffened, before straightening up. She didn't mean- "Are you saying a cop did this?" Face creased in horror, she stood up from the desk, brandishing her hand at the jars and the USB. Her tone was incredulous – not because she didn't believe Shannon, but from the momentary dismay that one of their own could do such a thing. But then, Kerry had started out her career in the 80s and she knew that, while many things were different now – she was a superintendant, the police minister was a woman – there was still a whole bloody lot that hadn't changed one damn iota.
"I'm not saying anything."
Kerry moved out from behind the desk and walked slowly towards her. Her hands were held out, plaintively. "Shannon, we can do this. We can get him arrested and charged-"
"And some judge will have him back on the street in hours." Shannon hugged herself – an unusually vulnerable move and Kerry wasn't entirely sure she knew she'd done it – and continued speaking, trying to blink back angry tears. "I took the evidence, Kerry. The chain was broken. They'll claim I waited too long, that I was drunk-"
Oh, Jesus. "Oh, Shannon, that's all bullshit. Those pictures show the bruising and we all know the real psych behind it these days-"
"-that it was my own fault. That I'm a bloody cop – who's trained in tactical response – and still I couldn't fight him off, so clearly, I must have wanted it. He'll get off and nothing will have changed except everyone will know and all they'll ever think is 'Poor Shannon, didja hear what happened to her?'" She stepped back, shaking her head. "No. That's not gonna happen."
Kerry glanced over at Lawson, at a loss of what to do. He was concentrating solely on Shannon and Kerry could tell it was taking every inch of willpower to stop himself from striding over to her and just… holding her, she guessed. But he could tell as well as Kerry that Shannon had withdrawn into herself and it was the last thing she could deal with at the moment.
"Besides," Shannon added, roughly straightening her uniform sleeves, "I got my own back. What happened happened and bloody hell, I was nearly over it."
There was a sharp knock at the door and Kerry sighed, glancing between it and Shannon. "Yeah, what?" she called.
Leon opened the door and poked his head in, glancing at the three of them. Shannon had spun around at the knock and now gazed red-eyed but steadily at the wall, keeping her back to him. He looked back at Kerry. "Uh, drug squad's here. They'll be ready in five."
"Okay," Kerry said as Leon kept looking at them. Lawson ignored him, still focused on Shannon, and Leon frowned at him. "We'll be there in a sec, Leon," she added, placing her hands on her hips and raising her eyebrows at him.
Leon looked back at her. "Oh. Right. Okay, see you soon." He grinned at her, in that slightly embarrassed way of his, then ducked out the door, closing it firmly behind him.
Kerry turned back to Shannon. "Shannon-"
"We have a briefing?" Shannon asked, eyes still watching the wall, the rest of her body still.
"You better get ready then." Her tone was matter-of-fact and would clearly brook no further argument.
Which to be fair was her decision. There was no mandated reporting with adults. In fact, with sexual assault against a cognisant adult, there was no reporting at all unless it was by the victim – and oh, Kerry was never going to use that word in front of Shannon; she'd probably pull a Josh and try to take her head off. Once a report was made, then Kerry could legally have some sway, but until then… She sighed again, glancing briefly at the floor. "Do you need some time-"
"I'll be ready when the briefing starts."
"Yeah, okay." Kerry laid a hand on Shannon's shoulder, who tensed even further under her touch – a reaction Kerry hadn't thought physically possible at this point. "We'll talk later, yeah?"
"If you say so," Shannon replied sharply.
Kerry shook her head and threw a sad glance at Lawson, before removing her hand from Shannon's shoulder and quietly leaving the room, shutting the door on her way. She paused outside for a moment, staring at the door and wondering just what the hell to do. Put her on leave, maybe just order more counselling? Then she shook her head and turned around – she'd have to deal with it later.
Leon hadn't gone very far down the hall and he stood and waited till she met him on her way to the ops room. "Everything all right?" he asked, the concern plain to see on his frowning face.
Kerry took a quick breath in, paused, then shrugged, letting the air out slowly. "Yeah. Yeah, it's fine, Leon."
Leon glanced rapidly between her and the door. "Really? 'Cause that didn't look f-"
Kerry shook her head, interrupting him. "Let's get this briefing going, hey?" she said, clapping him solidly on the back, and continuing past him. There was a short pause, and then his footsteps followed behind.
After Kerry left, Shannon and Lawson were silent for a few minutes, Shannon calmly wiping away the few tears that had escaped. She knew he was behind her, staring at her, but she couldn't turn around. She just couldn't physically do it. Her hands moved to grip her pants and her nails dug into her thighs and it wasn't until her skin cried out in pain that she realised she was pissed off. There might have been something else in there too, but she refused to delve any further – pissed off would work for the moment.
For Christ's sake, why had they brought this up now? There was a full bloody day of work ahead and just… god, why hadn't Lawson come to her first. If they'd found it in her locker, why hadn't he just come to speak to her first?
He sighed and it was the only noise in the room until his muffled footsteps headed towards her. She could hear him coming closer, feel the pity, feel the why?, and she just snapped.
"What, you got something to say too?" she spat, spinning around. She glared at him, crossing her arms, clutching her shirt with the hand hidden from his view to ground her. "You got something else to make me feel guilty for not reporting my own rape?"
She didn't think she'd have to deal with it from him too. But then he was Senior Sergeant Lawson Blake to the core, not just as a career, and that had been half the problem in the first place, hadn't it. He'd have wanted her to report it – or he'd have gone after him – and her head just hadn't been ready for that. And her heart wouldn't have been ready for anything else to be thrown at it, good or bad.
Lawson stilled briefly at her words, before continuing towards her, shaking his head, his hands held out in the manner that she recognised from their negotiation training: palms up, relaxed. It was the mantra: watch your body posture, be non-threatening. Keep the subject calm at all times. "No. No, I… don't know what I can say, Shan." He reached towards her left hand with his own.
She wasn't having any of it. She stepped back, out of his grasp. Jutting her jaw out, she nodded once. "Yeah, well, you've already said enough, haven't you?" Confusion briefly crossed his face, but she ignored it, pushing forward until they were less than a foot apart. Her back straight, she snarled up at him. "So did you tell her, Lawson? Was it your idea to spread my business in front of our boss?"
"Shan…" he started, but then nothing followed. He closed his eyes briefly.
The anger slipped off her face and morphed into a mass of horror sinking into her stomach. He had. Jesus, he had. He'd told Kerry. He'd gone straight past her and given everything that she'd never wanted anyone to know or see to Kerry. Her breakfast threatened to reappear and she swallowed heavily. "Great. Just great. Get out."
"Shan…" He brushed a hand over his head and gazed at her with downcast eyes.
She shook her head and turned back to the wall. "No. Piss off. We have to work and I can't deal with this at the moment. Get the fuck out."
He sighed again, the air brushing her neck as he moved past her, reaching for the door handle. But then, as she watched him in her peripherals, he paused and quickly turned back. She closed her eyes as he pressed a lingering kiss into her hair, before stepping back and walking out the door.
Just when she'd gotten it under control. Shannon could feel the tears forming again and she gulped back a sob. Anger, she had to hold onto the anger – they had shit to do and she could not let this affect her. Being angry would get her through the day. She took a deep breath, choosing to let it out slowly. She shut her eyes for a moment, wiped her face one more time, then turned and followed him out.