A/N: Thanks for the reviews and the new alerts. Much appreciated and hope everyone reading continues to enjoy the story. I'm sorry I'm slow about updating, but life is unfortunately pretty busy for me right now. I did break down to the whole Twitter thing, so if anyone wishes to know when I update that way, the link is in my profile.
Tapping one foot so hard that his whole right leg vibrated, Scotty waited for Lilly to finish gabbing with the guys so they could head out to the infamous Jones' Tavern for drinks. A few desks down from his own, Lilly was still busy chomping down fries. She shot Vera a look of triumph as she snagged the last container.
Scotty's appetite had fled moments after Lilly had said yes to going out that night with him. He'd barely been able to swallow down two fries before telling the group some last minute paperwork about the Pratt case had slipped his mind. Pretending to type for a few minutes had helped distract Scotty until his hands had refused to cooperate further.
Scotty felt his face break into a smile as Lilly finally quit chatting with Jeffries about how much Vera had tested his patience that day. His smile grew broader as Lilly began to make her way over to him. Then, as a tall figure came up behind Lilly and gave her a tap on the shoulder, Scotty's stomach tied into a knot.
"Hey!" Lilly squeaked, blushing as she remembered her mouth was still full of fries.
Kite smiled as Lilly tried to hide the Burger King fries behind her back. "You didn't call me."
I tried, but got your voicemail three times! Lilly swallowed and couldn't help licking grease off her fingers. "Yeah, well, you know how it goes. I did text you."
Scotty bit his tongue and his feet become heavy blocks glued to the floor. He felt his face harden.
"Guess I'm too late to buy you dinner," said Kite, eying the remnants of Lilly's fries.
Not in the front of the guys! "I'm working on getting Harrell locked up past the…"
"Drinks, then," said Kite, brushing down his cowlick.
"What, now?!" Lilly's voice scaled up, sneaking a glance back at Scotty and feeling confused when she saw his eyes look downcast.
"Yeah," said Kite, grabbing a cold fry and popping it into his mouth. "You mind?"
"Didn't take you for a fast food type, Kite," muttered Lilly, trying to figure some way out of the mess Kite had just flung her into.
"You got me all wrong, Rush," mumbled Kite, crumbs flying out of his mouth.
Moron doesn't even have the decency to chew with his mouth closed! Scotty wheeled his chair back towards his desk. He made the pretense of looking at his computer screen. But all he could see was Lilly and think about the chance he had blown mere days before. If only I had just gone out for coffee, maybe, just maybe… Then Scotty sighed. It would do little good to think what if. Finding someone real just wasn't meant for him. That left the strippers at the strip clubs to fulfil his physical needs.
"Um…we have to do drinks tomorrow, Kite," said Lilly suddenly, the disappointed look Scotty had shot her coming to the forefront of her mind.
Kite's mouth formed into a straight line. "What?"
"It's just Valens and I sorta made plans to talk about the Pratt case at Jones' tonight," Lilly explained in a rush. She crumbled up the cardboard fry container and threw it into a wastebasket to occupy her trembling hands. "But uh…you're uh…welcome to join us if you wanna discuss business."
Kite gave Lilly a grin that wasn't exactly friendly. He had known asking a Homicide detective out had its risks, but he hadn't anticipated just how married to her work Lilly was. "Alright, Rush. Drinks tomorrow. No excuses." With a curt wave, Kite spun on his heel and headed for the elevator.
Scotty had closed his ears to Lilly and Kite's continuing conversation and he almost hit the ceiling when Lilly gave him a light tap on the shoulder.
"Sorry, Valens," Lilly whispered, straightening her collar. "Just wondering if you're ready to head out to Jones' now?"
"I thought you and Kite made plans, so I was just gonna stay and do some work," Scotty muttered, giving Lilly a puzzled stare.
"But, like I told you before, I wanna go out for drinks with you tonight," said Lilly. Then she tapped her chin thoughtfully. "But I can't blame you for thinking otherwise. Kite sort of presumes things."
"You can say that again!"
"Anyways," said Lilly, grabbing her overcoat and slipping it on. "You wanna get ready?"
You have no idea! "You bet, Lil," replied Scotty softly. Then he blushed; he still had enough thinking of his partner as Lilly, let alone the nickname the rest of the guys seemed to call her.
Lilly laughed. 'Bout time you started loosening up there, Scotty!
The sour air enveloped Scotty and Lilly as they stepped into the dimly lit tavern. A relic from another era that came complete with an old, beat-up jukebox playing Elvis songs, Scotty at first didn't grasp the tavern's appeal. But as Scotty caught a glimpse of the memorial wall commemorating fallen police officers behind the bar, Scotty realized that the tavern's atmosphere was one that couldn't be replicated anywhere else in Philly.
"This is it," said Lilly, guiding Scotty towards a table in a back corner after they had gotten their beers. Since it was Wednesday night, the tavern was thankfully not too crowded. "I know it doesn't look like much, but this is a great place. The owner, Russell Jones, is a retired detective. He really looks after us. Especially when he realizes we've had a hard day."
"You could say today's been one of those," Scotty mumbled, taking a deep swig of his beer. The sour Guinness began to wash out some of his misery. Crap. What the hell was wrong with him? How could he complain at all when he had the privilege to be the sole attention of his beautiful partner?
Lilly shot Scotty a puzzled glance. "I thought we made some pretty good headway today."
And you've picked up on it, too! Scotty swallowed as he tried hard to think of an excuse for his depressed mood.
Scotty let out a groan as his cell phone began ringing the old, reliable Nokia ring. Flipping it open, Scotty slammed it shut as the number from the payphone Roxy frequented flashed across the screen.
Lilly raised an eyebrow, but continued to sip her beer. She was realizing her new partner's social life to be more and more complicated with each day that passed.
Relieved Roxy had provided the diversion he had craved, Scotty gave Lilly a sheepish grin as he fanned stale cigarette smoke out of their faces. "Just Roxy."
"The girl from your first day, right?" asked Lilly, her eyes narrowing.
"No, that's Blair."
Lilly's brain began to hurt as she tried to keep the girls from Scotty's little black book straight. "Okay, so…which one are you seeing, then?"
Seeing? Scotty began staring into the dark brown depths of his pint glass. "I don't got a girl. Roxy and Blair are contacts from the Hammonds case. I'm still looking for a guy. Couldn't tie up all the loose ends at West before I hadda come over here," Scotty explained.
Sounds like when they sent me over here. Notice just ain't the force's top priority. Lilly began twisting her glass. Then she laughed.
Scotty looked up. "What so funny?"
Lilly began chasing wisps of hair out of her eyes. "Was just thinking the force did the same to me; I was still finishing up a big case when I got transferred to Homicide. And I guess I find it hard to believe you don't have a girl."
Lilly studied Scotty intently and the fiery glance in his eye made her feel like she was interrogating a suspect. "I dunno, Scotty. Guess with that Blair girl the other day I figured you were the type to always have a girl on one arm."
That buying her steak dinner thing. Fuck! Scotty felt his face go hot and was thankful the bar was dark. "Well, ya see, Blair's livin' a pretty rough life. So I've tried to help her out…sorta as a thank you, ya know?"
Lilly's joking smile softened. "That's sweet, Scotty."
Scotty felt his heart speed up a few beats. Lilly was shooting him the type of smile he hadn't seen in a very long time. The slow, blossoming smile that always captured his heart and reduced him to hopeless bondage.
Lilly's smile grew larger as she saw the hardness in Scotty's eyes soften. Though she had tried to convince herself she didn't care about some rookie she was tasked with shepherding through her cases, seeing Scotty moody and miserable throughout the day had pricked at her conscious. Lilly swallowed and wasn't sure who was more surprised over her next statement. "I'm sorry I gave you a hard time earlier about the interviews, Scotty."
Scotty's eyes widened, almost shooting Lilly a cocky smirk before realizing just how monumental Lilly apologizing to him was. "It's okay. It's just at West…we didn't write our interviews in first person."
"Well, we do in Homicide, Scotty."
Scotty swallowed the last of his beer down and let the glass hit the table with a loud thud. "Yeah, I know. I guess I just hate feeling like I ain't doing anything right."
That's not true! Lilly sighed."Homicide's got the best guys, Scotty. You're not gonna be a superstar right away. But you wouldn't be here if they didn't think you have what it takes."
Scotty smiled. "Thanks!"
"No problem. I mean it, too."
Scotty felt his throat go dry. This wasn't going at all how he had planned. If he had had some sort of plan to even begin with. On dates with Elisa, everything had been spontaneous. Their random jaunts to the movies or to the Jersey Shore when their manic schedules had had openings had been some of the best adventures of Scotty's life.
But Lilly Rush wasn't Elisa Collins. Calm, reserved, and intelligent, Scotty knew he didn't have to fear about some demonic disease stalking and shattering her mind. Just what was it women like her wanted?
"You okay, Scotty? You're so quiet tonight."
Scotty rubbed his eyes. "Bit tired, I guess."
Lilly glanced at her watch and couldn't believe it was almost midnight. "Well, bar's gonna be closing pretty soon since it's a weeknight. Guess we should head out."
Scotty sighed. Going back home to an empty apartment where Elisa's phantom would tease him in dreams when she took the whim to do so didn't appeal to him. "Not sure I'm ready to head home yet. Were you serious about treating me to a coffee the other day?"
For the second time that night, Lilly felt herself blindsided by a man. "Coffee? Now?"
Scotty shrugged as he began to get to his feet. "Why not?"
A million reasons began to fly through Lilly's mind as she got up: they had to work tomorrow, her cats needed to be fed, she was sort of seeing Kite, and that she was seriously behind in the sleep department. But the doubts quickly fell silent. Late nights alone in her townhouse were getting a bit old. "I think there's a twenty-four hour Starbucks a few blocks up. My treat since you paid for the drinks here."
"Nah, I always pay," said Scotty, grabbing Lilly's coat and handing it to her.
Scotty felt his head clear as he and Lilly began sipping their decaf coffees. Roasting beans and fragrant pastries were a great alternative to the tobacco smoke that had threatened to suffocate him at Jones' Tavern.
"This place is pretty nice," said Scotty, admiring the comfy couches and the café's opulent colours.
Lilly laughed. "If you've been in one Starbucks, you've been in them all!"
"Nah. You should see the one down by West. Swear in came in with the Ark!"
Lilly's brow furrowed. The allusion was familiar, but she couldn't place it so late at night. "The Ark?"
Thought everyone knew about Noah? Scotty cleared his throat. "Um…you know…Noah's Ark with two of every animal?"
Lilly felt like slapping her forehead. Of course she knew about Noah's Ark, even if Sunday school had only happened once or twice during her childhood. "A bit tired myself, I guess. Didn't go to church a lot as a kid."
Scotty scoffed. "Exact opposite for me. I went like three times a week when I was an altar boy."
"You were an altar boy?"
"Back in the day, yeah."
Lilly stole a sip of her drink. "Didn't realize you're Catholic."
"Well…" Scotty began, shuffling his empty coffee cup to the edge of the table. "My mom says once a Catholic, always a Catholic. She and my dad are from Cuba, so church is a big thing for them. But I haven't gone regular since getting on the force. Worked too many Sundays and got outta the habit."
Lilly sighed. She knew all too well how all-consuming the force could be on one's social life and hobbies. "I know what ya mean. Only constants I see are the guys I work with and my cats."
"You don't got a guy?" Scotty blurted out. Scotty could feel colour creeping across his cheeks and down his neck, knowing all too well Lilly was seeing every part of it. Damn it…you've blown it now!
Lilly chuckled. Guys being surprised she was unattached was hardly new. "Bit hard to date when I'm at the office all the time. I bet that's the same reason you don't got a girl, right?"
Scotty's face darkened and his gaze shifted to the table. "Not exactly. I was engaged for a long time."
A tempest of unease began to stir in the pit of Lilly's stomach. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean…"
"It's okay," Scotty said roughly, feeling his heart go numb. "It's been so long that I'm kinda used to it."
"Used to what?"
Scotty picked a stray thread off his jacket and flicked it away. So much of his exterior had now been burned away it seemed useless to keep up the façade. "Used to knowing that she's dead."