Renee finds herself waiting for Quentin to get himself home for so long she starts straightening the place up; the house is right on that dividing line where clutter starts shifting into squalor, a mess of files and books and empty bottles. She wonders if her own place was ever this bad and knows it was probably worse, especially right before Charlie started up his stalking in earnest. "Bad memories," she says to herself, picking up a beer bottle resting on a photo album, the page open to a posed picture of two pretty brunettes flanking a cocky-looking blond kid, one who'd been all over the papers for all kinds of reasons lately. The whole house smells of stale booze and bad memories and Renee wishes she'd kept in better touch.
Quentin finally stumbles in two hours later; he smells like a distillery and looks ten years older since Renee saw him last, his thinning hair standing up all a mess and his hands shaking as he closes the door. He pulls up short when he sees her lounging on his sofa, his blood-shot eyes coming into sharp focus and that looks more like the old friend she'd hoped to see. "Montoya," he grunts out with a little nod, dropping down into a battered arm chair.
"Lance," she says in return, feeling her lips quirk up. "Am I back at the Academy? I thought we'd gotten past the last names only stage. You look like hell, by the way. And you left the door open."
He just shrugs his shoulders, a Hey, what are you gonna do? gesture she knows she's used once or twice herself. "What're you doing here?"
"Oh, you know how it is, you see an old friend splashed all over the news and you get that itch to reconnect."
Quentin rubs his forehead, his elbows on his knees. "So I made the news all the way in Gotham, huh?"
"You kidding? You arrested the only son of one of the richest families in the country weeks after his miraculous return from the grave. You made TMZ."
"I don't even know what that is."
"Lucky you." She leans back against the arm of the sofa, watches his hands tremble and wonders when is the last time he's slept. "What the hell was that bust, Quent? You never pull something that high-profile without having all your ducks in a row, you're not that sloppy."
"I had him." He jumps up from the chair and starts pacing the room; Quentin Lance is the only man Renee's ever met who can be falling down drunk and still be full of nervous energy. "I had him on tape, I had him."
"The DA doesn't agree with you."
Renee shrugs. "Eh. You probably are." She sees him deflate, like he had a lot more of that stored up. She wonders if she should have just let him rant. "But you'll have a hell of a time proving it now."
He shakes his head and goes into the kitchen. "You want a beer? I need a beer."
"None for me, thanks."
He pauses, looking at her over the refigerator door. "Good for you," he says, and she hears that grudging admiration she usually hears from her fellow old drunks. He cracks a grin, a real one, as he opens his own beer and sits back down. "You never could hold your booze anyway."
"I could always drink you under the table and you know it."
He raises the bottle to her in mock salute. "Heard you're doing the PI thing now."
"Something like that. Keeps the lights on."
He shakes his head. "That was pure bull, what happened with the GCPD . Don't know why you didn't take my offer to pull up stakes and come to Starling. I'd've put in for you, it would've worked out good."
"Got another offer first."
"It's still on the table, you know." He looks a little desperate as he stares at her over his beer bottle and she wonders about the state of the Starling PD. She'll have to look into that.
"You could come to Gotham. We could use a few more honest cops."
He laughs at that, taking a long swallow. "No thanks. This is bad enough, I couldn't take being up to my neck in that freakshow. No offense."
"Oh please, none taken. But a change of scene could do you good. You're marinating in everything here, Quentin, and you're smart enough to know better."
He's quiet for a long time. "Why him? Why does he get a second chance, huh? What makes Queen so special?"
Some questions don't have answers. "I don't know."
"That's what's really killing me here. He gets this, this honest-to-goddamned miracle and all he does with it is leave bodies everywhere he goes. And somehow I'm the bad guy for wanting to stop him. You should have seen the smirking son of a bitch when I was interrogating him, Renee, carrying on like he was king of the world."
"You still have to prove it." It's obvious enough to her what stunt Queen pulled; hiring your own imposter was the first trick all vigilantes with cop problems learned, simple but effective. "Queen have any friends stupid enough to dress up like him?"
Quentin gives her that helpless little shrug again. "Who knows. With that family he could afford to hire someone that stupid." He finishes the beer and slams the bottle down so hard she's surprised it doesn't shatter. They sit there for a long time, Quentin staring at his hands and Renee staring at him. "I'm the reason Sarah was on that yacht."
"Don't even start. I will resort to violence."
"It's true. I know it's true, I've always known."
"You didn't march her onto that boat."
He shakes his head, like a killer determined to confess every gory detail. "Even when they were little kids Sarah competed with Laurel for everything. They loved each other, I know they did but Sarah felt like she was standing in a shadow. She yelled at me me once that I favored Laurel and I don't know, maybe I did. I didn't meant to if I did."
"If Laurel had something, Sarah had to have it too, no matter what. I always thought she'd just grow out of it."
"You didn't put her on that boat."
She can tell he doesn't believe a word. "Sarah used to be afraid of the water, you know that? When we made her take swimming lessons she wouldn't even get in the pool unless I was in there with her." His voice catches. "My baby girl's somewhere in the Pacific Ocean and I'm never going to be able to bring her home. And the guy who did put her on that boat is walking around free as a bird with a double digit body count." He glances up at her, his bloodshot eyes wet."How am I supposed to I live with that?"
It's another one of those questions with no answers. "Same way we all do. You put one foot in front of the other and keep doing the job."
"Laurel hates me."
"Now that is bull. That kid is the biggest daddy's girl who ever lived."
"She resents me, then. You should've seen her jump to defend Queen. He was barely back a day and he already had her pulled into his orbit, like she can't even help herself. All I can think about is her getting caught in his crossfire, she's had damned gunmen in her home waiting once already. I don't know what to do. I can't lose both my girls to him, Renee, I don't have it in me."
"You won't. You raised her to be smart."
"She's a naïve kid who thinks she's saving the world. Believe me, I used to be one, I know how it is." He picks up the beer and puts it to his lips before remembering that he's already finished. Renee expects him to get up and grab another but he just puts it back down, going quiet again. "If something happens to me I want you to promise to look out for Laurel. Keep an eye on her, y'know? Won't take a lot, like you said, she's smart."
He couldn't have raised more alarm bells if he'd tried. "What do you think's going to happen to you?"
He just shakes his head. "Nothing. Forget I said anything. This whole case is just getting to me, I think."
"Of course I'll keep an eye on her. You didn't have to ask, you know that."
She hates how grateful he looks. Deep in her heart Renee knows they've both always suspected Quentin Lance was one of those cops who would never get to draw his pension. She desperately hopes they're both wrong. "I'll feel better once I put this case to bed."
"I...know people who might be able to help with that. People who are very good at asking questions." What the hell. She knows it's why she came here in the first place.
Just like she knew he'd have none of it. "No. No way, no more masks, no capes. We've all had enough of that. I do this right or I don't do it at all."
"Okay. But if you change your mind the offer stands."
"I won't. One Gotham's enough." He tries to stand and his legs buckle, the bad knee that she knows always gives him trouble collapsing under him. He sags against the chair and she wraps one arm around his waist to help him stay on his feet. "Dammit, I'm fine."
"Oh yeah, you look like a champion." He lets her support him as they shuffle their way over to the bedroom, Renee kicking discarded clothes out of the way as they go. She drops him face down on the bed and he's out cold in seconds, one arm draped over the side. She drags him to the center of the bed and gets his shoes off before throwing a blanket over him, wondering how often it is that he sleeps in his clothes nowadays. He mumbles a name in his sleep and Renee can't quite make out if it's his wife's or his daughter's. She supposes it hardly matters.
She watches him for a few minutes before slipping out the front door, locking it behind her.
It's not much to find the hideout; Oliver Queen really isn't very good at this whole thing yet but if he lives long enough to get out of his own way Renee thinks he could get there. He spots her lurking in less than a minute, sooner than she would have given him credit for. Someone poured some heavy training into his kid. Someone good. She'll have to look into that, too. "Who are you?"
"That's not what you should be asking." He's distorting his voice, whether with a modulator or with raw talent she's not sure yet. She steps out of the shadows, burying her hands in her trenchcoat pockets. She feels his eyes fix on her faceless mask; technically this isn't going against her agreement with Quentin because nothing will leave this room. Just a friendly chat between colleagues. "Came by to give you a little advice."
His shoulders stiffen; he's squaring for fight but he won't be the one to start it. Good sign. She takes her hands out of her pockets to reassure him they're empty. "What?" he says, relaxing slightly but still on his guard.
"This crusade you're on, whatever set you off, you make sure you keep Detective Lance and his family out of the crossfire."
He reacts like that's the last thing he expected her to say; she can't quite see his eyes under the hood but his hand clenches like she's offended him. "He's not on my list. I have no reason to target him." She keeps up the steady look, the one Charlie taught her so well, until he finally looks away. "I would never hurt him. Him or his daughter."
"Good intentions have never stopped good people from getting killed. He goes up in flames, you and I are going to have another of these talks and you won't like that one nearly as much." She steps closer; he doesn't scrub off his rich boy cologne before suiting up. Rookie mistake. "And if you're sloppy enough to let him catch you again you don't wiggle out of it. All's fair and all that."
"I can live with that."
"Glad we could talk."
When she starts to move away he reaches out to stop her, thinking better of actually putting hands on her at the last second. "Who are you?"
Renee smiles beneath her mask. "You make sure I never have to come back to answer that question." She slips back into the shadows, putting her own training to use as she crosses this errand off her mental list. She's given him his one warning, now all she can do is see if he heeds it.
And besides, she has a few other things she needs to look into in Starling before she's missed in Gotham. Things to do.
Questions to ask.