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Gardens Are Not Made by Singing

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The steps of the courthouse were cluttered with cigarette smokers and coffee drinkers, when John Munch stepped out past the marshals and security scanners into the weak sunshine.

"I'm heading back to the station," Fin said, beside John. "If I don't deal with the paperwork for the Dieder case, Cragen is gonna--"

John held up his hand, and said, "Our fearless leader's irrational requirement that we all follow the department's deranged administrative procedures detracts from my own quality of life as well, my friend. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Just because you're up to date with your paperwork…" Fin grumped, and John patted him on the shoulder.

"Take strength from the knowledge that your fellow officers share your pain," John said. "Go in unity, and triplicate."

"Ha ha," Fin said, but his smile was genuine, and he waved over his shoulder to John as he crossed the steps to where they'd left the car.

John checked the time and mentally reviewed the amount of leave owed to him. A few hours of daylight left, and more leave accrued than he could hope to use in his remaining years of employment, assuming the force didn't just up and forcibly retire him the next day.

The ride to his apartment on the subway was mercifully quick, and the general public was kind enough not to break the criminal code within his sight. Offences against decency, taste and public health he could turn a blind eye to, but assaults and thefts did force him to engage.

He was a bitter and angry man, he knew this, and not just because Cragen kept sending everyone to Huang for enforced counseling.

In his apartment, he shed his suit, hanging it up in the closet, and tossed his shirt in the hamper. He pulled on a T-shirt and a hoodie, and a pair of crumpled jeans, then found the work boots tucked in the back of the closet.

Bitter and angry days could be responded to in ways that didn't destroy him.

Walking down 58th Street from the bus stop, the late afternoon sunshine was bright enough to make him squint, even behind his glasses. The air rolling in from the river was dank and alive, breaking up the car exhaust and shit of the city, so that when school kids jostled past John, running for their bus, he wasn't even aggravated.

Glynn at the convenience store waved at John from behind the register, and called out, "Just go on through, you know where everything is."

"Thanks, Glynn," John said, heading for the back of the store, behind the bank of toilet paper and kitty litter.

The storeroom was packed with cartons of soda and corn chips, so John had to clamber to reach the shelf that Glynn let them use, to retrieve the supplies. Gloves, he'd need gloves…

He grabbed a rake from behind the storeroom door, as well, and a shovel, and waved at Glynn again, on the way out.

The block was behind a school building, between an office building and a storage depot. A title search had shown it was municipal land; John suspected the city had forgotten about it.

Kids were playing on the sidewalk beside the block, and one of them called out, "Hey, John!" to him.

"Hey," he called back, propping the shovel and rake against the wall of the storage depot and taking the gloves out of his pocket.

He hadn't been there for more than a week, but someone else had done work since then, adding leaves to the larger compost pile, clearing weeds from the paths, and re-tying the last of the beans to their stakes.

John popped the lid off the small compost bin to check how the last batch of the year was faring.

People were still adding food scraps to the bin, because the wilted greens and peelings at the top were fresh. Underneath, where John lifted the top layer with the shovel, the compost was thick and dark, just as it should be.

"It's time," John said, partly to himself, and partly to the rats that lived in the bin.

In the dwindling light, John gently tipped over the compost bin, scattering compost across the rough ground, and sending a couple of healthy-looking rats running.

"Five minutes, guys," he told the compost pile. "Move your stuff, or lose it."

He spent a few minutes elsewhere on the block, checking the straw under the squashes, then poking at the hilled potatoes, before coming back to the compost.

The sun slanted low, casting shadows, and the air was cooling fast, but John still had to pause to pull off his hoodie after five minutes of shoveling compost.

The compost was going onto the new beds they'd made, built from scrounged bricks and planks, and filled with what soil was left on the block. The compost would winter in the beds, ready to be planted up in spring.

John shoveled until the light was gone, then set the compost bin back up, ready for the neighbors to fill it again.

He was bone-tired, when he pulled his hoodie back on, over his sweat-wet T-shirt, and he had compost smeared on his jeans and blisters on his hands, under the gloves.

But he felt better inside than he had for days, when he carried the shovel, rake and gloves back to Glynn at the convenience store. He was tired and satisfied, like he'd sleep that night.

***

John's good mood persisted into the next morning, when he strolled into the squad room, coffee in his hand, and hung his hat behind his desk.

Fin, who did not look nearly as calm as John felt, pointed at John and said, "Opera? It was the opera, right?"

"Good morning to you, too," John said, sitting down.

"Nah," Fin said, swinging back on his chair and popping the top off his own coffee. "You, relaxed, mellow on a work day. That means you took what's-her-name to the opera."

John frowned, hoping he looked mysterious rather than just laid. "I'm surprised that my recreational activities have attracted your speculation, but you're wrong."

When John reached for his inbox, the muscles in his shoulder twanged from the shoveling, and he smiled to himself. Opera? People had the weirdest ideas sometimes.

***

John stretched his legs out and crossed his ankles while Fin texted beside him. The waiting room at the morgue was inherently depressing, John guessed, but some attempt to make it less boring would have been appreciated, at least by the cops who used it constantly. If he were still in Homicide and had to spend a lot of time there, he'd carry his own crosswords or something.

The plastic chair was uncomfortable, and the warm buzz in John's back and shoulders was mutating into an uncomfortable burn, making him shift in his seat again, trying to find a way of sitting that didn't involve a hard seat back shoving against his shoulder blades.

Fin chuckled, and said, "You're not still denying you got laid last night? I know that backache, and there's only one way to get it."

John sighed, and said, "In your law-abiding world, perhaps," then instantly regretted it.

Fin put down his phone, and stared at John.

"What?" Fin asked, breaking into a grin. "Now I really fucking need to know what you did to mess up your back."

"Forget it," John said. "Text someone, or something."

"I don't think so," Fin said, sounding delighted. "I'm not even going to bother refuting your assumption I'm law-abiding, because this is so much better than you banging some opera-loving intellectual babe. What did you do?"

"Your sexual politics are appalling," John said. "Has anyone told you that?"

"Olivia, most recently," Fin said. "Like, half an hour ago. You've got to tell me, I'm your partner, and if you get taken out by IAB, it fucks with my career, I need to know."

Fin had grabbed John's overcoat lapels, in his enthusiasm, so John removed his hands and smoothed down the material again.

"I was engaging in resistive behavior," John said.

"That sounds dirty," Fin said.

"Only if I don’t wear gloves," John said.

Fin made a gurgling noise of delight, and John hid his own grin. Teasing Fin was one of the other joys of life.

"Illegal and dirty?" Fin asked.

"It's a complex world, my friend," John said. "Let's just say that sometimes the overweening presence of federal, state and municipal government in my life drives me to small expressions of defiance."

"One of those branches of government is your employer," Fin said. "That's not complex--that's obvious."

"Overweening presence in my life," John repeated, as the door to Warner's office swung open and she stuck her head out and waved to them.

"You're not going to believe this," Warner said, as John and Fin stood up.

***

"What do you mean, you have leave booked?" Fin asked, taking the file that Elliot handed him but still looking at John.

"I have leave booked," John said. "I'm not working tomorrow, unless OnePP declares a state of disaster and compels me to come in."

"I don't care about your leave," Fin said. "We've got suspects to keep track of, and someone needs to interview the witnesses. You have to work."

"Ask Cragen," John said. "I booked this Saturday as leave weeks ago. Just pretend I'm Elliot, and I've got family commitments, and it will be fine."

From across the squadroom, Elliot called out, “Leave my family out of your petty squabbles.”

"Just because Olivia puts up with…" Fin started, then he trailed off as Olivia wandered over to his desk.

"I put up with what?" Olivia asked, not taking her gaze off the fax she was flicking through.

"Munch here is behaving like he has a life, away from his job," Fin complained.

Olivia looked up from her file, confusion on her face.

"Of course he has a life," Olivia said. "Why are you jealous, Fin?"

"Make him work!" Fin said, and Olivia laughed and shook her head, wandering off again.

John looked at Fin, over the top of his glasses, and Fin slumped back in his chair, muttering, "I'm not jealous."

***

The harvest gathering at the garden was chaotic, as most functions run by anarchists usually were.

John took a muffin from a woman he could known a lifetime ago, and thanked her.

"It's vegan," the woman said. "And Edge."

He circled around the back of the group gathered around the potato beds, where Louise was holding the fork, tines above the soil, calling out a prayer of blessing.

He could do without the pagan blessings, really, but the rest of the gathering was filling him with deep, nostalgic longings for communes, consensus decision-making and good drugs.

The kid beside John said, "I can't see. What are they doing?"

"Invoking arcane goddesses," John said. "Just wait, once the actual digging starts, people will get bored and move out of the way, and you'll be able to see. Nothing exciting and esoteric about digging.”

John bit into the muffin, which was remarkably palatable for something composed entirely of grated carrot and squash, and chewed on it.

The blessing ended, the soil was turned, and the crowd thinned, dispersing to raid the platters of muffins. John took the spade that was handed to him, and started digging.

Every spade of dirt he turned revealed tubers tumbling out of the dirt, and he paused each time so the kids under his feet could scramble through the pile of dirt to retrieve the potatoes.

"Look!" one of the kids called triumphantly, holding up an enormous potato, then tossing it in the basket.

"Move out the way," John said, shifting his spade down the bed. "I'm not digging fingers and toes, only potatoes."

A voice behind him said, "Need a hand?"

John looked over his shoulder, and managed not to hit one of the kids with the spade, and yeah, Fin was standing on the gravel path behind him, wearing jeans and a jacket, and looking smug.

John nodded, and said, "Hey, get this man a spade," to the largest kid.

A moment later, the kid handed Fin a worn and rusty one, and Fin hefted it experimentally.

"Anything I should know about this?" Fin asked, driving the blade into the dirt.

"We're breaking the law," John said, digging as well.

Fin chuckled, turning the dirt, and said, "Potatoes! The giant anarchy banner was a big clue to that. I had no idea that gardening was so controversial."

John looked up at the Community Garden banner fluttering in the cold wind, the anarchy symbol emblazoned across the top, and grinned.

"Got to fight the forces of oppression," John said. "They don't want people growing vegetables."

They dug the bed over, without injuring any of the children, then handed the spades to Karen, who was in charge of the garden tools for the day.

"Aren’t you working?" John asked Fin, as they stood in line for a chipped china mug of lentil soup.

"Told Cragen I had to see a CI," Fin said. "You know how it is."

"And you followed me here?" John asked.

"Fuck, no," Fin said. "I googled all resistive activities in the city for today. It was this, or the picket at the mayor's office. I must admit I expected to find you doing something more radical than digging potatoes, like chaining yourself to a railing or throwing paint at a politician."

"Seizing control of both our food supply and abandoned city land are some of the most fundamentally radical actions we can take as consumers and citizens. The war to overthrow capitalism starts with small acts such as these."

Fin's eyes widened, and he said, "No, don't, let me just enjoy digging potatoes with a bunch of kids."

"Come the revolution," Louise said, from behind the vat of soup, as she ladled out their mugs.

"Come the revolution," John agreed, toasting her, and then Fin, with his mug.

John sat down on one of the temporary plank benches, and Fin sat down as well, shifting his mug from hand to hand so he could stretch and rotate his shoulders.

"So this is what you do to get sore?" Fin asked. "It's not from sleeping with one of the women here?"

John looked around, at the ratio of small children to women, and then frowned at Fin.

"You didn't think that one through, did you?" John asked.

A small child, naked from the waist down, ran past them shouting, and Fin grinned.

"Sorry," Fin said.

Louise, from behind the soup urn, called out, "We got company, people! Anyone with warrants out for them, scatter."

Somewhere nearby the sirens of a squad car gave a single blip, and John said, "I'm not, uh, out here. Think you could fix this?"

Fin stood up and handed his mug to John, then wiped his hands on his jacket.

"With pleasure," Fin said.

John stood up, too, and watched Fin push his way through the throng of kids to the two uniform officers getting out of the squad car. Fin greeted the officers and took out his wallet to show them, while talking.

Beside John, Louise said, "Is your boyfriend a police officer?"

He could hear the disbelief in her voice.

"Yes," John said. "I don't hold that against him. He's a good man."

The uniforms got back in their car then drove off as Fin came back to John and Louise.

"All sorted?" John asked.

"Yeah," Fin said, putting his wallet away. "They were all set to bust you for not having a block party permit. Assholes."

John put his arm around Fin's shoulders, and said, "Thanks," while Louise smiled approvingly and Fin blinked and then frowned in confusion.

"I'm glad that there are decent police officers who understand about the movement. It's good to know we have someone we can turn to," Louise said.

"You get arrested, I can’t make it go away," Fin said. "If that's what you're thinking."

John squeezed Fin's shoulders. "We know, and we'd never ask you to do anything you weren't comfortable with."

Fin glared at John, and Louise laughed, and patted John's shoulder, then left them to go back to serving soup.

John dropped his arm and grinned at Fin, handing back Fin's soup.

"So, got a car here?" John asked. "Want to drop me off, on your way back to the precinct?"

"That would be misusing Force resources," Fin said. "I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that."

John tipped his head so he could look at Fin over the top of his glasses, and Fin said, "Oh, all right."

As they were leaving, Fin paused and handed Louise his card. "Any uniforms hassle this place, you just get them to call me, okay?"

Louise nodded, and called out, "Thank you!" to their backs as they walked away.

In the car, Fin said, "I can't believe you used a day of leave to go gardening."

"Then we're even," John said. "Because I can't believe you joined in."

***

On Monday, when John lowered himself carefully into his chair, his back complaining, Elliot dropped a file in front of him, and said, "Happy Monday, have a present from Cragan. I can tell you've had a good weekend from the way you're moving."

John grunted noncommittally and flicked the top off his coffee to add the raw sugar he kept in his desk.

"No Fin?" John asked, looking at the file, then at the empty desk across from his.

“I'm here,” Fin said, behind John, then Fin put a coffee on his desk and lowered himself carefully into his chair.

“So, this was the weekend the squad got laid,” Elliot said cheerfully. “Great news for chiropractors across the city.”

John looked across the room to where Olivia was half-asleep at her desk, and said, “Oh?”

Cragen strolled through the squad room, whistling to himself, and Elliot nodded meaningfully.

When Elliot had left to answer one or more of the persistently ringing phones in the room, Fin said, “Looks like everyone got in some serious gardening time on the weekend.”

John nodded approvingly. “Trust the anarchists,” he said. “They know how to have fun.”

***

“Here's the thing,” Fin said, mouth full of burger and feet on the dash of the car.

“Hmm,” John said, not taking his gaze off the door of the store they had under surveillance.

“The thing,” Fin repeated, “is that I'd always thought of anarchists as being rowdy, you know? The sort of troublemakers we feel the need to move along because they smell bad and are blocking the subway entrances.”

“Dangerous ground,” John said, putting down the binoculars, and checking the time. “The right to protest is about all the keeps me in this country, instead of moving somewhere with a year-round growing season and a lower crime rate.”

“But the anarchists at the garden weren't very, well, anarchic,” Fin continued. “Where would you go? There's always Hawaii. You could have your protest, and some decent weather.”

“Hawaii...” John said contemplatively. “Trouble is, I think about leaving, and can't bear the idea of not seeing your smiling face across the desk every morning.”

Fin snorted, and John continued, “You have a basic misconception with regard to anarchy, and you're confusing it with violence and mayhem. Anarchists, at least the ones I'll work alongside, are invested in consensus decision-making, non-hierarchical power structures, and a deep commitment to true equity for all community members. Those are genuinely radical ideas, and you have sauce on your face.”

“Is there hugging?” Fin asked suspiciously, rubbing at his chin with a napkin. “Because it sounds like there's hugging involved.”

“All hugging is strictly voluntary,” John said. “And occurs between consenting adults, in the privacy of their own gardens.”

"Okay," Fin said, balling up his burger wrapper and putting it in the rubbish bag, along with his napkin.

"Okay, what?" John asked, lifting the binoculars again. "There's movement inside, get the camera out."

"Okay, I want to do gardening," Fin said, powering up the camera and resting it on the dash.

"Gardening with the anarchists?" John asked, starting the car as the shapes of people walking through the store shifted in the plate glass window.

"If you're an anarchist, which I admit I'm still grappling with," Fin said, as the door of the store opened and the suspect stepped out. "And the gardening is with you, then I guess that's gardening with at least one anarchist, isn't it?"

Fin took photos quickly, and John flicked the car's indicator on, ready to follow, as the suspect got into his car.

"You could have been talking about gardening with, ah, your aunt," John said.

"Why would I want to garden with my aunt?" Fin asked, sounding bewildered, as John pulled into the traffic behind the suspect's car.

"I have no idea," John said. "Want to call this in?"

END