Warning: angst, mild language, drug use, sexual situations.
Pairing/Characters: primarily Fancy, with Fancy/Luis, Sheridan/Luis, small mention of Sheridan/Antonio, brief appearance by Marty, Ivy, mentions of Sam, Julian, Fancy/Hank.
Word Count: 4,734.
Summary (for chapter): prompts: smell, benign, languid. It was funny the way life sometimes worked out, how, in the blink of an eye, hidden faultlines lay in wait, restructured everything you thought you knew.
It was funny, really.
Fancy'd never found Hank Bennett particularly attractive.
Sure, he had nice hair, and those puppy dog eyes admittedly had their own sort of appeal (not like Noah's, so very, very blue; nor Luis's, deep and dark and as encompassing as a midnight sky), but he just…he wasn't her type, at least not her type in her latest incarnation. Her past life? Maybe. Hank wasn't serious enough. He didn't ground her in responsibility, pull her back from some of her more frivolous desires (no, he encouraged them, exploited them). Carpe diem was his motto. He tiptoed the line of lawfulness, pissed off her ex-husband on a daily basis, fed her Frosted Flakes for dinner, giggled with her as the sweet, cloying smell of oblivion tickled their nostrils, clung to their clothes.
(It soothed the gnawing nausea that seemed to seize her from the inside out on her good days…on her bad days, well, on her bad days, she craved the nausea, craved the possibility of hope).
Life (or approaching death) had a funny way of working out. What you thought you needed, the people you once thought you couldn't live without…they kind of became incidental in the aggressive face of your own (dwindling?) mortality. At least that's what Fancy told herself, comforted herself with, because anything else would have hurt more, would have turned her into a weeping, exposed, complicated mess, and complicated? She didn't have time for complicated anymore.
Enter one Hank Bennett (exit Luis).
The big C sure had a way of changing a girl's preconceptions.
It wasn't that Fancy fell out of love with Luis, not exactly. She still loved him (he was good, he was honorable, he was sexy—everything a wife should want in a husband). Her legs still quaked beneath her when he gave her that little half-smile. She was happy, she was content, and yet…the selfish little girl inside of her still pining for her parents' attentions, for the rapture of acknowledgment, grew tired of sharing his affections.
Marty had Luis wrapped around his little finger. Luis's heart bore the shadow of Sheridan's footprints. Their life (hers and Luis's) together was like an echo of what had already passed, what had already come, before.
So Fancy rebelled, and Luis reacted with frustrated confusion, but he held on tight, tight, tighter, until Fancy thought she would suffocate with it, because he wasn't just supposed to hold on to her. He was supposed to fight for her, passionately, with conviction, with fire in those wondrous eyes of his. But he didn't. He didn't, and she began to wonder if they hadn't rushed into things, fooled themselves in believing they could start over with a fresh slate (it couldn't be erased, history; if she squinted just right, she could still see the indelible chalk marks on her fingertips).
Luis started to drift away from her, his silhouette fading in the receding waves as the tides began to change.
Then Fancy found the first lump.
The first lump was benign.
A little surgery under some local anesthetic (and just enough medicine to relax her, loosen her inhibitions and her tongue), a neat little row of stitches, and Fancy was good as new.
Luis convinced her to take some time off from the PD, started spending some more time there himself, started spending whatever free time he had with Marty (and incidentally, unavoidably, Sheridan).
Fancy found she didn't mind, not so much. Marty needed his father. Sheridan needed an emotional anchor with Antonio's leaving. Fancy was okay on her own, really.
(Except she wasn't, not entirely).
Hank Bennett blew back into town, insinuated himself in his friends' and family's lives as if he'd never left.
Fancy found him irritating and ingratiating, and over dinner one night at the Lobster Shack with Luis and Marty and Sheridan, she told him so.
Hank merely grinned at her, brown eyes twinkling knowingly as she fisted her napkin in her lap, silently fumed as Luis and Sheridan shared a smile full of meaning, full of familiarity. "Funny, Sheridan thought the same thing once upon a time."
"Then you saved my life," Sheridan allowed graciously, generously, though they all knew the identity of the real hero.
(It was a role Luis played with ease, found a certain comfort in…Fancy found herself wondering if that was the key to recapturing the spark that first set them on fire, offering herself up for his rescue.)
"Luis saved your life," Hank lifted his beer to his mouth. "I almost bungled everything up."
"Yeah, you did," Luis groused.
"I'm here, aren't I?" Sheridan murmured into the lip of her wine glass, carded an affectionate hand through Marty's mop of dark hair, smiled at them all with light and thankfulness and sincerity of old.
(When she was like this, Fancy almost felt guilty, because the woman in front of her looked whole…but she was fractured, fragile, and she'd never really be free of the binds of her past.)
"Thanks to Luis," Hank voiced the unnecessary reminder, and the air grew thick, stifling with the weight of intrusive memory. "He's always had your back."
"Yes," Fancy couldn't help but agree, and a sense of inevitability swooped down upon her with the words, opened her eyes to a truth she'd only begun to accept. Things had changed between her and Luis, things were still changing between them, even now, and trying to stop it was an exercise in futility she (he, too, apparently) no longer felt the need to fight. "He has. He always will."
"Fancy," Luis protested as she stood up, walked away without another word.
"Was it something I said?" Hank wondered, while Sheridan distracted Marty with some silly game on her phone, and Luis hurried to follow his wife.
That night was the beginning of the end, the beginning of their goodbye.
Fancy didn't cry when Luis moved his things out of their bedroom, but her heart seized when she found it, when her fingers brushed against it, tiny and hard and infinitely more frightening than the thought of gracefully letting her love for Luis go.
The second lump was barely there, but it was insidious in its false innocuousness.
Fancy's nails bit into her palms as she willed her heart to beat normally, forced her breaths into evenness, counted slowly to ten before reaching for her phone.
Turned out, the second lump wasn't benign. Neither was the third (bigger, deeper, relentless in its attempts to conquer her body's natural defenses).
Fancy quit the police force, had Ethan draw up divorce papers for Luis to sign.
Luis protested. Of course, he protested. He was Luis, after all. Good, honorable Luis who hadn't dared leave his wife when there was no longer a baby, who wouldn't think of leaving his wife when she was being poked and prodded and treated like an ailing animal in a lab.
(She'd always hated needles. For that reason alone, Fancy wanted to kick Cancer's ass.)
So Fancy took matters into her own hands; she left Luis, rented a room at the Bed and Breakfast across from Hank. A house seemed too permanent, and she wasn't sure where the future would take her, not yet.
"He would have let you keep the house, you know," Hank remarked one morning as their paths crossed in the hallway.
"You trying to be nice to me now?" Fancy grumbled by way of answer, impatiently pushing past him as she clattered down the stairs, her purse flung over her shoulder, her mouth dry and cottony in anticipation of her first treatment (she hadn't told Luis what time her appointment was, though he'd insisted, begged really).
"Forgive me," Hank muttered dryly, shaking his head at her as she hurried along. "Won't happen again, Your Majesty."
Fancy rolled her eyes, flipped him off, hastened her footsteps (she was late, always just that one step behind). "Good," she called over her shoulder. "It better not."
Another thing Fancy found funny…apparently the only way to feasibly cure the big C was to poison one's self.
Oh, the irony.
The lumps didn't hurt, didn't shrink quite the way they'd hoped, didn't do any of the things Fancy or her team of doctors expected them to do, but the treatments? They kicked her ass and took note of her name (and they so weren't impressed that it started with a big, intimidating C and rhymed with the apropos pain), regularly robbed her of the contents of her stomach.
Hank had some sage and terribly Hank-like advice for her. "Pretend it's a hangover."
(Right…the great hangover of a hijacked life. Maybe this was karma, in its cruelest form.)
"I don't remember asking for your advice," Fancy grumbled, roughly swiped the back of her hand over her trembling mouth, swallowed hard against her convulsive throat.
Hank shrugged, crouched beside her, swept her blond hair over her shoulder as her sensitive system betrayed her again. His hand was solid, heavy between her narrow shoulder blades as he reached around her, flushed the toilet with a practiced jerk of his thumb. "C'mon," he encouraged. "If you're going to perpetually toss your cookies, least you can do is live a little."
Fancy glared at him. But still, she let him pull her to her feet. He pushed a half-full glass of water into her hands, and she let him do that, too.
"Chase that with some Scope. Make yourself presentable. I think I might be able to help you out."
She looked skeptical, but she was a few months into this thing, the ink hadn't even dried on her divorce papers, and it could have been her imagination, but the hair in her brush? It seemed to have grown overnight. "You? Help me? The whole damsel in distress thing isn't really…you're too short for a knight."
"You're not exactly shooting off a flare-gun either, Fancy Pants," Hank instantly shot back, a touch of answering irritation in his brown eyes. "But you're looking a little green, and it's not exactly your color."
"Fine," Fancy snapped. "Fine. Now will you please leave? I don't remember inviting you into my bathroom."
"Been dabbling in witchcraft again, Your Majesty? Put a hex on your door?" Hank smirked in parting. "Downstairs. Five minutes."
"Fifteen," Fancy bargained.
"Ten," Hank relented. "Final answer." He gave her a long, considering look, sighed. "Might want to pull your hair back, bring a pair of sunglasses."
Fancy's eyes widened, but she was simply too overwrought to further comment. "Ten," she agreed. "Now, out."
Fancy's bare toes dug into the damp sand, the waves chased each other like unruly little children, and the sea breeze nipped and tugged at her bound hair as Hank collapsed beside her, the chilly water seeping through his own clothes. "Pot? Really? You know…I used to be a cop."
"Past tense," Hank shrugged, offering her the rolled joint, his shoulder warm and broad against hers, surprisingly comforting. "Right? I don't see a badge." His twinkling brown gaze floated fleetingly over her cleavage, and a sly smirk twisted his lips as she scowled at him. "Sam, Luis…they're cops, too. Still are," he boasted, as if she should be impressed or something.
It was the or something that got to Fancy, and she rolled her eyes, shoved lightly against his shoulder, forcing him into putting some polite distance between them. She turned the joint over in her hand, considered it for a long, strung-out moment, felt the ever-present nausea tug insistently at her stomach, threaten to tumble it over again. "Luis wouldn't hesitate to charge us with possession of an illegal substance if he saw this."
Hank's lips twitched, and his chin dug sharply into her shoulder as he leaned over, ignited the tiny lighter hidden behind the palm of his hand. "He charged his own mother with jaywalking once."
"I know," Fancy murmured, her voice unconsciously dropping lower as the small flame flickered, kissed and ignited the tiny stick between her fingers. "Imagine what he'd do to his ex-wife," she said, as a thin curl of smoke made her nostrils flare, started to fill her lungs with its distinctive scent.
"It's medicinal," Hank offered up, his smile close, his arm brushing against her back as he scooted near again, blatantly ignoring any intentions she held of keeping him at bay.
"Works for me," Fancy sighed as she went through the foreign motions, willed herself to relax into his effortless warmth, the casual disregard he had for others' expectations of him. Still, she had to ask, "What's your excuse?"
"Didn't know I needed one," Hank answered, lifting the joint from her fingers, taking a tug for himself. "You like roller coasters?"
Fancy frowned, rectified his theft, tried to shake loose of his easy, thoughtless embrace. "Not particularly, and if you think…"
Roller coasters became a sort of acquired taste for Fancy from that point on. Hank's logic had all sorts of holes in it, some little pinpricks, some monumental, but there was something strangely liberating in navigating the hills and valleys, the unexpected twists and turns. And if the nausea became too much (as it was often prone to do), she could always blame it on the weak constitution of her stomach, not the cure for her disease that was slowly robbing her of her identity. She liked to think it was courage of a sort.
(Not the dreadful weakness that made her spill her deepest, darkest fears to him one night, curled close together on the swing on the Bed and Breakfast's porch, when she was feeling particularly morose, and the news from her doctors hadn't been good, but it hadn't been bad either, and she was just struck with the utter silliness of it all…)
"Stop thinking such deep thoughts," Hank rumbled, his voice vibrating beneath her palm. "Your eyebrows are frowning."
"You wouldn't recognize a deep thought if it grabbed you by the…"
"Careful," Hank's warning was spoken behind a smirk, and his fingers curled around hers, keeping her hand close even as she tried to pull it away. "Such crass language is not befitting Your Majesty."
The words were delivered with unmistakable affection, and Fancy felt herself relax, at least enough to share in the joke, roll her eyes back at him. She removed the Red Sox cap from her head, smoothed the tangles of the dull strands of blond, stared at him until he grew serious, they both did. Then she whispered her biggest hope, her biggest fear. "Do you think they'll find their way back to each other?"
Hank didn't have to ask who she was talking about.
Fancy was disproportionately grateful.
"Maybe," Hank mused. "They're stubborn, Sheridan and Luis. There's a lot of guilt there."
"Still a lot of love," Fancy murmured, dropped her chin to his shoulder, stretched her legs over his lap. Truth be told, the quiet admission hurt a lot more than she'd expected.
Hank rubbed an idle hand up her calf, settled his thumb behind her kneecap, stroked gently. "Maybe. Probably. He did love you, you know. He just…"
"Never stopped loving her, too," Fancy finished for him in a low whisper. "I know," she said, settled into the quietness, the easy peace flowing between them. She was continually surprised by the comfort she found in his company, had even told him so on a couple of occasions. Maybe it was that comfort that lent itself to confessions such as the one she found spilling from her loose lips before she could stop it. "I miss the sex. I haven't…not since…"
Hank choked on a laugh, his hand tightening on her leg. His smile was white in the darkness, teasing, just a tiny bit hopeful. "You know, I can help you with that."
Fancy could feel the heat of a blush spreading up her neck, pinking her pale cheeks. "I didn't mean…"
"Just thought I'd put it out there," Hank shushed her with a finger to her lips. "Of course, I'm not Luis."
Hank wasn't Luis, was so different from Luis, Fancy had to wonder if maybe all the chemo, all the radiation had fundamentally altered her brain waves, her personality along with her body.
He never stopped smiling as he kissed her for the first time, never stopped teasing her as he run his hands over her too-thin body, traced the prominent ridges of her ribs, the delicate spokes of her spine.
Their teeth clicked together awkwardly as Fancy laughed into his mouth, shied away from the tickle of his light touch. "Maybe we shouldn't…" Her laughter died, dissolved into a groan as he pulled her hips flush with his own.
"Shouldn't we?" Hank nipped at her bottom lip, wedged his hands into the pockets of the shorts she wore low on her slim waist. His eyelashes fluttered against her cheek as he kissed the corner of her mouth, trailed across her delicate jaw. "You want serious? I can give you serious." He punctuated his statement with a roll of his hips, a squeeze of her bottom. "But I happen to think life's too serious a business already." He pulled back to stare into her blue eyes, damp and shining with unspoken emotion. "Have fun sometimes. Seize the day. You never know…"
"When it will be your last?" Fancy finished for him with a tearful smile.
"I didn't mean," Hank grew regretful, at a loss for further words, unable to continue.
"Do you want me to second guess myself here?" Fancy teased. "Because your window of opportunity? It's closing fast."
"Noted, Your Majesty," Hank's somber expression lightened, melted into his familiar grin as he slid his hands from her pockets, up her sides, across her shoulders, delved into the waves of her hair. "Gonna knock your socks off," he mumbled into her willing mouth.
"How about you start with my shorts and go from there," Fancy advised with a nip of her own to his lip. "Besides…I'm not wearing any socks." She smiled against his mouth as her hands fell to his waist, nervously worked the button of his jeans and the kiss grew, blossomed into a languid thing that stretched on and on until she was breathless (with want, with feeling, with surprising happiness).
(Her clothes disappeared soon after beneath his eager hands, but it was her heart that felt the most naked, the most vulnerable, as his mouth mapped her fading scars, sought out the betraying ball of cells waging an all-out war against her valiantly fighting body .)
"Never done this with royalty before," Hank painted the words against her throat, his hips rocking between the tight embrace of her legs, his hands sweeping across her shoulders, cradling her cheek with a tenderness neither were prepared for, neither would admit to feeling. "Still second guessing yourself?" he mocked as each surge forward tore another breathy little moan from her mouth, another sigh she'd long quit trying to hold in.
Fancy gasped, before all coherent thought fled her, and her arms tightened around his neck, her lips found his throbbing pulse. "Definitely too short for a knight."
Sometime later, Hank moved his things across the hall into Fancy's room. She didn't put up much of a protest. He wasn't Luis, but she'd grown strangely fond of him over the last several months. As an added bonus, he made her laugh, he made her smile, and that had to count for something. It did count for something in the days that seemed to grow a little shorter, a little more fraught with meaning as summer burned out, fizzled into fall. She kind of liked sleeping beside him, too, but no one was going to pull that admission from her stubborn lips.
Hank peered over her shoulder as she clicked through pages and pages of stick-thin models sporting wigs that made Dolly Parton's coiffure look natural. "That one," he pointed. "Always wanted to score a redhead," he told her with a wink and a smile.
Fancy brought her knees to her chest, draped a thin arm across them, picked self-consciously at the soft material of the sweats she was practically swimming in. She rolled her eyes at him, at the webpage (the healthy glow on each too-pretty face was all kinds of wrong, nothing like the gray pallor staring back at her in her own mirror that morning), closed the laptop down as he set a bowl of cereal next to it. She wasn't hungry, not even close, but if a few bites made him feel better, what harm could it do? "The sex isn't that good."
Hank smirked, backed off, kissed her on the forehead, just below her colorful scarf, before moving to take the seat opposite her. "Your surgery's coming up soon. I thought we could go shopping."
Fancy glared at him, struck out a foot to kick him beneath the table. Course, he captured it between his warm hands (they were always warm, even when hers were freezing), rest it in his lap. She gave it another half-hearted tug before settling down, relaxing as he massaged her foot between his strong fingers.
"Shoe shopping," Hank offered up with a twitch of his dark brows. "Your credit card hasn't seen much action lately."
"I guess chivalry isn't dead," Fancy deadpanned as the idea sprouted, gained roots in her thoughts. She knew he knew he had her, though, and really? It wasn't every day a girl had life-altering reconstructive surgery, was it? "Only if you'll buy me a purse to match."
"Done," Hank agreed, looking quite pleased with himself, until the smile on her face grew, into something that had him more than a little worried. He recognized that twinkle in her blue eyes, and frankly, it kind of, maybe, sort of, scared the hell out of him.
"I'll even go easy on you," Fancy beamed at him, opening her laptop back up and typing furiously away (she just happened to have the perfect bag in mind). "We don't even have to leave this room."
"You do know we're not even in the same tax bracket, right?"
When Fancy came to, really came to (those first, fuzzy couple of hours didn't count), when she first dragged her heavy lids open after the surgery, Hank was there, and her heart did a funny little somersault in recognition, started beating faster. She watched him silently for a few moments, willed her heart to quit skipping beats, but her heart was a stubborn heart; it'd never before listened to her brain. Fancy figured it was too late to try forcing it to now anyway (it was the only fight she was willing to concede these days). So she watched him, stared at him really, folded uncomfortably in the too small chair, his dark hair falling boyishly over his forehead, and eventually, her heart knew calm, the beeping of the monitors slowed to a steady rhythm. Her eyes didn't pick out her mother in the shadows until her clear voice rang out softly.
"He's been here all night, Darling, refused, in fact, to leave. Your father wasn't very happy about that."
Fancy's brows drew together in surprise (her parents hadn't spoken in what felt like years, not since Sam, and it was strange, exceedingly strange to hear her mother speak of her father with that kind of wry acceptance). "Father was here?"
Ivy nodded, poured some water to ease the scratchiness of her daughter's throat. "And Luis and Sheridan. All the rest of the family."
"Luis?" Fancy frowned, and her blue eyes skated guiltily over Hank's sleeping form.
Ivy settled on the edge of her daughter's bed, lifted the cup in her hands to Fancy's parched lips. "Yes, Luis. He still cares, Darling, whether you like to think it or not."
"I know he still cares," Fancy acknowledged. "I just…we're in different places now, Mother. The places we're supposed to be in."
"Is that so?" Ivy queried, none-too-discreetly glancing in Hank's general direction.
"Mother," Fancy groaned, weakly pushing the cup in her mother's elegant hands away.
Ivy wouldn't be deterred. "What are you two doing, Darling? Do you even have a label for it?"
Fancy bit her lip, turned her head from her mother's prying crystal eyes. Only when her mother sighed in apparent acquiescence to her silent pleas, did she meet her eyes again, listen to her words.
"The surgery was a success."
Dampness met Fancy's fingertips as Ivy clutched her hand to her mouth, kissed her palm.
"Your life is your own again."
"That's not completely true," Fancy murmured, surprised to feel her cheeks likewise wet with tears. "We both know remission isn't a cure. It will always be there, always be lurking." For a moment, a brief moment, the uncertainty stretching ahead of her, overwhelmed her, and talking became too much. She leaned into the supportive strength of her mother's offered embrace. They held each other, quietly, and it felt good, it felt fortifying, it felt like everything Fancy wished for, longed for as a child. "My life will never be the same again, and I'm okay with that. Really, I am. If there's anything this last year has taught me, it's that there's real courage in the acceptance of the things you cannot change, the battles you choose to fight. And making the most of the life you're gifted with…" her blue eyes met brown across the room, and a gentle, peaceful smile made her radiant, made her true beauty shine through. "It might be the best advice I've ever been given."
It was funny the way life sometimes worked out, how, in the blink of an eye, hidden faultlines lay in wait, restructured everything you thought you knew.
You set your sights on Prince Charming, only to find out you're more suited to the Court Jester (Really, Your Majesty? I still say I'm not too short to be a knight…take a look at Richard Gere, Tom Cruise).
"You know that makes me Mrs. Court Jester, right?" (I'm not sure Tom Cruise ever played a knight.)
"Not officially." (He was in that movie…the one with the unicorns…wait a minute, you're not old enough to…)
"Someone hasn't made a move to make it official."
"Maybe I'm waiting for you to sweep me off my feet."
"Whatever happened to Carpe Diem?"
They still ate Frosted Flakes for dinner many a night, and whenever she felt like she needed a restorative shot of courage, Fancy would drag Hank to the nearest amusement park. But they rest their heads in a more permanent place, a place they both called home.
"Seriously, Hank. Two doors down from Sheridan and Luis?"
"I don't control the housing market," Hank pressed a kiss to the side of her head, her hair soft and blond and curling as it grew out. His arms snaked around her waist, and he rest his chin on her shoulder, tasted the healthy glow of her skin. "She's not so bad. She didn't rat us out when she caught us smoking the rest of your stash."
"Your stash, not mine," Fancy insisted, but a smile curled her lips upward in memory (she hadn't expected Sheridan to join them). "She's not so bad," she finally agreed, draped her arms over his. "In fact, I've even considered asking her to join the agency with us. She's pretty handy with a camera."
"With two hot blondes and my investigative skills," Hank twisted her in his arms, trailed off with a teasing grin poised on his lips.
"My investigative skills," Fancy was quick to correct him.
"Our investigative skills," Hank finally allowed.
"Our investigative skills," Fancy rolled her eyes with affection.
"Our private investigation agency will be the most successful one in town. Bennett, Crane, and Crane," Hank's eyes twinkled as he held her at arms' length.
"Sheridan's changing her name back to Lopez-Fitzgerald, you know."
"Bennett, Crane, and Lopez-Fitzgerald then," Hank corrected himself, settled a protective hand low on the small of her back as he tugged her closer, dropped a kiss upon her smiling lips.
Fancy murmured into his giving mouth, her smile stretching ever wider. "I kind of like the sound of Bennett, Bennett, and Lopez-Fitzgerald myself. What do you say about marrying into royalty?"
(It had a label—some might even call it love).
I think it's a toss-up between Fancy/Hank and Gwen/Chad as to who's the oddest pairing I've ever written as of this week.
I hope you enjoyed the story.
Feedback is complete and utter love.
Thanks so much for reading!