The Farthest Point

It wasn't a feast, but Yori had outdone herself again, and the sheer volume of food that made up their dinner was an impressive thing in its own right. Even though Tron didn't let his family say grace anymore, mostly for Ram's benefit – though he really didn't mind – ( but also because Rinzler always refuse to partake in the tradition), it was all very picturesque; everything a Thanksgiving should be, Ram thought. So when Yori had brought out the Turkey and batted away Tron's helpful hands to cut into it herself, they'd started eating as soon at it was served.

The table was a fair sized rectangle seating all six of them comfortably, with Tron surrounded by the people he loved most in this world. Yori sat at the head – a place he thought she deserved – just around the corner and directly to his right. Across from him, Yori's two darling daughters were squirming, full of giggles and smiles as they joked with Ram who sat at Tron's left; a spot reserved for only the dearest of friends. And at the end of the table, barricaded behind a wall of fresh bread, a bowl of gravy, and a plate of potatoes, was Rinzler, sitting hunched across from Tron's fiancé.

The family, having long since grown used to the detective's silence, found it easy to talk over and around him, and tonight's mood was jovial. Besides, so long as he wasn't directly addressed, Rinzler had very little desire to start his own conversations – which was a blessing in itself since he rarely had anything charming to say.

Between generous sips of cider – mixed with something else, Ram suspected – Rinzler cut his potatoes into tiny, perfect little cubes before bowing his head to eat them. And for no reason Ram could fathom, it was a bit unsettling. But at least the boss was still on his best behaviour; or rather, at least he hadn't tried to start a fight with Tron yet, so Ram could give thanks for that little miracle.

Turning back to their host, Ram laughed along as Tron told the children an entertaining but highly censored story about his work with Anon on the police force. Occasionally Ram was forced to add his own small corrections, but only when he felt Tron was being too modest.

The night wore on like this, with all the adults (sans Rinzler) taking turns exchanging tales punctuated by innocent questions from either or both of the little girls.

"Tell them the one where you and Kevin found that pond," Ram said, helping himself to another bun, "the one with the ducks."

Tron gave him a sideways look, putting on airs to sound serious, "The girls wouldn't want to hear that one. We fell in; boring story."

"You fell, Daddy?" the youngest asked, astonishment clear in her voice.

"Into a pond?" the second girl asked, slightly more suspicious, but only just slightly.

"Swallowed half the pond," Ram added helpfully, a twinkle in his eye. He found it charming the way Tron shot the girls his wide smile, and though he was surprised to hear them call Tron their father so soon, it wasn't all that surprising. If anyone would make a good father, Tron was the man for that job.

And then his friend was shooting him a wry but amused look, saying, "And if I remember correctly, Ram, you had quite a lot of pond water yourself."

Yori laughed, "But not half as much as Kevin, I'm sure."

Nearly everyone joined in with the laughter, because true or not, it was easy to imagine Flynn sitting himself down and drinking an entire pond, getting up, smiling, and then asking for more.

"Alright, alright," Tron said, reining in the mirth with a serious tone but an easy smile. "This is how it happened. Now, this was on my way to your Mother's, and Kevin and Ram were both with me. We'd just been to the Dillinger's, and Sark was there. You see, we'd heard him complaining that someone had put sheep on his property."

"There was an entire flock!" Ram said with a grand wave.

"There were three," Tron corrected.

"The most three men could carry, I assume?" Yori asked with a knowing quirk to her lips.

Tron gave her a look but didn't correct her as he continued on.

Ram knew the finer details to this story – he'd been there after all, start to finish – so he let Tron's words pass over him as he settled further down into his chair, enjoying the warm feeling of a good meal and good company. All things remaining the same, this had been the smoothest dinner they'd all shared to date.

The scent of smoke drifted past his face, and he thought to himself, Ah, and that would be Rinzler. Cracking open an eye he hadn't noticed had fallen closed, he glanced over to his colleague.

The detective was smoking, but he wasn't looking at Ram, Tron, or the girls. Instead, Rinzler had caught Yori's eye from across the table, and he smiled at her, the shiny pale skin of his scars stretching taunt over his bones, and the fondness reaching his eyes.

Ram was careful not to sit up or move too suddenly because he could count on the fingers of one hand the times he'd seen Rinzler smile, and he'd begun to think the man incapable of anything past a mean-spirited smirk. This was the first time Ram had seen him with such an honest expression, and it struck him as perhaps another thing to be thankful for.

And from the other end of the dining room, beside Tron and her children, Yori smiled back prettily. But it was a polite thing, well-meant, yet unable to mask her pity.

Rinzler didn't let his expression fall, but the smile slid out of his eyes and he adjusted his hat, a motion which could have been seen as polite too – tipping it in thanks to the cook (ignoring the fact that he also refused to remove it while inside the house). Pulling the brim lower over his face, Rinzler refilled his glass, and returned to his meal.

Oh, thought Ram, that's a shame.

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That was why when the next November rolled around, Ram wasn't all that surprised Rinzler declined Tron's invitation to another dinner. The two of them spent that day at their desks instead.

Eventually Ram yawned, stood up, and gathered his things. "Well," he said, "I've had about enough of this. Think I'll close the books for tonight."

Rinzler made a noncommittal noise in his throat but didn't look up. Ram nodded at him all the same. "Goodnight to you too."

On his way out the door, hand hovering over the knob, Ram looked over his shoulder and offered casually, "Hey Rinz, you've been working like a dog. D'you wanna take a break? You could maybe come over to my place?" He added enticingly, "We're having latkas."

For a long, awkward minute Rinzler said nothing. But just as Ram was beginning to think he might've offended the detective, Rinzler shut the folder he'd been staring at, grabbed the coat hanging on the back of his chair, and went to join him at the door.

"I'm driving," Rinzler said, sweeping past him and out of the building.

Ram took an extra moment after that to check over the door's new locks, and when he was sure Rinzler was far enough down the street, he let himself grin at the man's back.

Yeah, he could be thankful for the little things.

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Notes:
This is the end of anything I've written for this particular AU. It was a good idea, but terribly complicated and I don't think I have the motivation to invest in fleshing out the world of a small town with its own political scandals and murders. This was a story set to have a large mystery, a big reveal, and one jerk of a detective learning how to get over himself.

For the curious, here are the roles your favourite characters would have played:

Yori: Tron's wife, an early divorcee with two young daughters. The object of some unwanted, jealous affection.

Tron: Upstanding citizen and captain of police, his judgment usually goes unquestioned - except when it comes to his faithfulness towards his brother.

Anon: A more open-minded fellow police officer working with Tron. He doesn't approve of his captain's fraternization with his unpopular sibling.

Ram: Tron's best friend, and Rinzler's protegee and employee. Ram was hired to balance the books when Rinzler got in over his head, and tries to keep his boss honest.

Rinzler: Tron's bitter, vindictive younger brother, who after a 12 year disappearance, shows up back in the town he professes to hate. His work ethic and morals are questionable.

Sark and the Dillingers: A wealthier family that never approved of Flynn's so-called irresponsibility, but find running the town in his stead more difficult than imagined.

Kevin: The town's old mayor and beloved benefactor who was prone to fits of adventure. His disappearance while expected, was still a tragedy.

Sam and Quorra: Two young newcomers who's relationship to Flynn causes a quiet scandal. They show up with surprising news, looking for the man everyone assumes to have died 20 years ago.

Clu: Left for the Orient when he was younger and came back a much wealthier man. One of Flynn's childhood friends who believes this town could be so much more than what it is.

Jarvis: The only man who perhaps understands how all the pieces fit together, and what the murders have to do with each other. It's a surprise when Clu loans out his services to Rinzler.

Gibson: One of the 'water-rats,' a derogatory term for a certain ethnicity that's been part of the town's latest population influx.

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