Carter was sitting at her desk, knee deep in paperwork. She had been on a case for two weeks now. It wasn't that it was a difficult case, in fact; they caught the perpetrator days ago, but because the murderer was part of a major corporate business, it would take a lot of legwork to make it stick.
Carter glanced at her watch: 6:45.
Sighing, she resumed reading the page she was on in an enormous packet but her silent prayers were answered when her phone rang.
"Carter," she breathed into the mouthpiece.
"Hello, Detective," Finch began, "John and I would appreciate it if you could be at Rick's Diner by 7."
"What is this about?" She asked, sitting up in her seat.
"Just be there at 7."
Then the line went dead.
She gathered her things and stood up to leave, giving a nod to Fusco, who was pulling a ringing cell phone from his pocket. He watched her round the corner and stroll out the door and he sighed when he flipped open his cell.
Fusco was used to Reese calling him for odd jobs but was surprise by how little the man had to say to him this time.
"Rick's Diner by 7, think you can make it?"
"Askin' me on a date?" Fusco joked into the phone.
"No, Lionel, I am not…can you be there?"
"Sure…lemme grab my stuff," Fusco paused, "Why'd ya put emphasis on 'I'?"
But Reese had already hung up.
With a groan, the detective grabbed his coat and was hailing a cab before he knew it. He wondered what this was all about.
A new person to save?
Just as Fusco walks into the diner, he spots Reese smirking from a booth, his glasses-wearing friend and Carter seated around the table. Carter turns and sees him then starts talking with Reese quickly, obviously not aware that Fusco would be joining them. Fusco smirks and shakes his head as he casually walks over to the booth.
"So, what's up?" Fusco nods to Reese and smiles at Carter when she slides over to let him in beside her, across from Reese and Finch.
"Nothing," Reese smiles mischievously, "Can't a couple of friends have a meal without expectations?"
"Yeah, friends can," Fusco snorts.
Carter begins to chuckle, which makes Fusco smiles.
Reese must have caught Fusco looking at Carter though, because he grins.
Fusco shoots him a warning glance.
"Well," Finch cuts in, "I am starving…what will everyone be having?"
"I'm not really hungry," Carter begins.
"My treat," Reese adds quickly, "Stay a while?"
Carter sighs but doesn't protest.
There is an awkward silence for what felt to each of them like an eternity. Everyone looks at their menus but don't look up often. Once Fusco looked like he might say something but thought better of it.
"So…how is work…?" Reese casually asks.
Carter and Fusco laugh dryly.
"Wow…" Carter begins, "We are all here and we have absolutely nothing better to say to one another than work. Is that all we can talk about?"
"If you have more exciting topics, Detective, by all means, share," Finch replies without looking up from his menu.
Silence follows, and then Carter leans across the table to Reese.
"Is there something wrong…?" She whispers.
Both Fusco and Finch look up from the menus and wait for Reese's response.
"I mean…dinner is nice…but I feel like if you wanted to treat us, you'd just give us they day off. Unless something was wrong…"
Reese smiles and shakes his head.
Finch, however, cleared his throat and looked at Reese over his glasses.
"Actually," Finch turned his gaze to Carter, "Mr. Reese and I are going away for a while."
The detectives exchanged glances.
"Away where?" Fusco asked.
Carter, too, leaned in closer.
In a synchronized fashion, both Reese and Finch tilted their heads to the side.
"Fine," Fusco huffed, "Don't tell us. What if you need our help? We can't drop everything and run in if we don't know where you are…"
"I don't imagine this will be an overly strenuous trip…" Reese laughed.
Finch shifts uncomfortably and looks out the window.
Carter raises her eyebrows and Fusco's mouth opens a little in puzzlement.
"Anyway," Finch interjects, "We thought we'd buy you both a drink before we headed off. We will be unreachable. We won't be needing your assistance but we also won't be able to provide you with any."
"How long are you going away?" Carter asks, beginning to feel nervous.
"Just a few days. We have a case to work out of state and we thought we'd take advantage of the trip," Reese explains.
Carter is still suspicious as the waitress comes over.
"What can I get you guys?" She asks cheerily.
"Actually, John and I better be off," Finch replies, reaching into his pocket, "My apologies."
He hands the waitress a $50 bill before handing Carter a wad of cash.
"Dinner on me. You and Fusco can have whatever you'd like."
Finch and Reese slide out of the booth and turn to the detectives.
"We'll be in touch."
"Yeah…see ya…" Was all Carter could say as she thumbed through the money.
When she realized the large amount there, she looked back to call after Finch but they had already left.
"Well that was weird," Fusco laughed and turned to the waitress, "I'll have the spaghetti special, extra meatballs, a side of garlic toast and a large Pepsi."
"I'll have the same," Carter replies to make the waitress leave.
"Fusco…" Carter whispers as she leans in close.
He looked but wasn't really paying attention. Only when she fanned out the $500 did he focus and read the note on top:
"I am aware this is more than needed to cover dinner. It's a lovely evening. A shopping spree might not be such a bad idea.
Fusco leaned back and laughed.
"We can't accept this…" Carter was saying, staring wide-eyed at the bills.
"I wasn't planning on using their money to buy dinner…I'll pay," Fusco replies.
"Yeah…we can pay for ourselv—"
"No," Fusco cut in, "I owe you one, I'll pay for dinner."
Carter looked disapprovingly at him.
"Don't look so excited," Fusco began, "I'll cover dinner. It's not gonna cost much. It's a diner," he added with a laugh.
Carter laughed but gave the money another long stare.
"We shouldn't spend any of this," she insisted.
Fusco looks put out but then he get an idea.
"Just cause we don't use the money doesn't mean we can't go window shopping. It's a pretty fall night."
Carter gives him a look.
"Come on, it'll be fun," he pushes.
Carter seems satisfied and tucks the money in her pocket.
For the next two hours, they ate their food and talked for a long time about work, life and their kids. They both had expected to be in awkward silence but were surprised by how quickly the time flew. After much protesting from Carter, Fusco eventually convinced her to let him pay for the meal.
While he paid up at the counter, Carter waited on the curb and called for a taxi.
Window-shopping with Fusco? Who knew? Carter thought.
When he came out, Fusco noticed how cold Carter looked.
"You alright?" he asked.
"Yeah…a little cold is all," she replied, shivering.
Without hesitation, Fusco pulled off his own coat and nudged her arm, holding it out for her.
"That's okay…" Carter started, shocked.
"Nah, you take it. I'm not that cold anyway and you look like you are gonna turn into an ice cube," he joked.
She laughed and slowly took the coat.
"Are you sure?" she asked slowly.
"What would I do without you?" she asked, before pausing. She had meant it as a joke but was surprised at how genuine it sounded.
Fusco was taken aback as well.
Wanting to defuse the awkward tension, Carter began walking.
"Um…we could start walking here. The shops aren't as great but I can't seem to get a cab," she explained.
"Fine by me," Fusco responded, wanting to keep the conversation flowing.
They walked down the street and watched the sun dip behind the horizon, outside of the city. The city was coming to life and the familiar smells of vendor food and the roar vehicle sounds engulfed them.
All was going well before Carter was struck with a sudden thought of Taylor. His birthday was coming up and she still had no idea what to get him.
Fusco must have noticed because he stopped walking and tapped her shoulder.
"Somethin up?" Fusco asked.
"Oh, just thinking about Taylor…I've been so caught up in work I keep forgetting to get him something for his birthday."
Fusco took this in for a moment.
"Well…" he said suddenly, looking at a store window, "We are on a shopping trip."
They both smiled and laughed.
"I don't know what to get him," she commented, feeling guilty.
"I'm sure whatever you get him, he'll like it," Fusco nonchalantly inserted.
Carter was shocked by how badly she had needed to hear that.
"Yeah…still doesn't help me pick something…" She laughed.
"I can help you look," Fusco replied, looking her in the eyes this time.
She smiled at him and they headed down the sidewalk, pausing occasionally to peek in through the weather-frosted windows. An hour or so later, Carter spotted a digital store and parted with Fusco to have a look around. Fusco himself had gone further down the way and said he would meet up with her outside her store.
When they completed their purchases, Carter showed off a brand new x-box console.
"He had been wanting one but never outright said so…I figured it was about time I got him one…" she explained, "What did you get?"
"Oh, just a movie my kid had been wanting to see."
With the night dying down, Carter wondered what time it must be.
"Oh man," she exclaimed, "It's 11!"
"Wow, that went fast," They both laughed and began to feel the effects of a long evening.
"Well..." Carter sighed, "I better get home…"
"Yeah, me too."
"I had a great time, thanks."
Just as she turned to leave, Fusco called her back.
"I almost forgot," He reached into his bag, pulling out a movie.
Fusco looked shy as he held it out to her.
When Carter took it in her hand she immediately recognized it as The Notebook, one she had commented about wanting to see some time. But she had mentioned this days ago.
"What's this?" She asked.
"Oh, I just saw it at the store and remembered you wanted to see it."
She almost teared up for she had no idea anyone was listening to that comment.
"Thank you…" She said as she turned to leave.
They both turned from each other but Carter could no longer fight the impulse to do something she might regret. Grabbing Fusco's shoulders, she turned him around and pulled him onto a kiss.
"I'm sorry…" she said when she pulled away; she was almost too embarrassed for words.
"I'm not." Fusco replied with a smile.