“So I guess the john-sweep wasn't a total bust, huh?” She's talking before they've even driven out of the lot. Sam figured out early on that she wasn't a fan of silence, but he usually gets a breather until they're at least out on the street. Not this morning, of course, because that's how his day's going: neighbours having loud monkey-sex all night, no hot water in his apartment this morning, and an even-chattier-than-usual McNally for a 10-hour shift. Perfect.
“Mmm,” he tries for non-committal with an undertone of discouraging, in the hope that she'll get the message and shut up, but already knows it won't work.
“Yeah. I mean Gail was great. She's a natural. Like, not a natural hooker–a natural... Ugh, you know what I mean. And even Chris managed to get some guys. D'you think it was because his pants were so bright? Like moths to a flame, or something?”
Sam has to fight the urge to smile. God, those pants.
“And then he managed to ID that kid, so...” she trails off.
“You know, the kid who was murdered. The case you sent Traci to help out on. You didn't hear?”
“Nope. How did you?” He cuts his eyes over to her, sees a flash of something on her face and gets his answer, along with an uncomfortable feeling that he wishes he hadn't. Callaghan.
She shrugs and looks out the window. “I, um, I dunno.” God, she's a crappy liar. He doesn't know what annoys him more–that she lied to him or that she thinks he won't know that she lied to him. His memory chooses this moment to present him with a flash of her and Callaghan at the Penny after Fite Nite, and it occurs to him that maybe it's neither of those things.
“I'm just a crappy liar,” she says, and for a second he wonders if he said it out loud or if she's just reading his mind. Which is all he needs, to be honest, but no–she's apparently doing some sort of stream-of-consciousness thing because his monosyllables are no longer cutting it as conversation.
“I always have been, you know? Ever since I was a kid. There was no point in me doing anything I shouldn't, 'cause my Mom would take one look at my face and know straight away. Dad wasn't as good, which is weird, with him being a cop and all, you'd think he'd be more observant, but he wasn't. Unless he actually wanted me to get away with stuff, or maybe he didn't care, I don't know. But, like, all my teachers knew it too. That I was a crappy liar, I mean. If anyone did something behind the teacher's back, they'd ask me if I knew who it was, and even if I said I didn't, they'd know I was lying and then all they had to do was ask me if it was so-and-so until they hit on the right person, and bam!”
She hits the dashboard for effect, and Sam almost jumps out of his skin. He opens his mouth to tell her to knock it off, but she's already talking again.
“The other kids kind of hated me. I guess they blamed me for getting them into trouble, which I did, but it's not like I meant to. I tried not to, I really did. They all thought I was some kind of teacher's pet, though, 'cause I never got into trouble.”
“Never?” he looks across at her, eyebrows raised. “Not even for talking too much?”
He sees a flash of hurt cross her face, and feels like an ass, which annoys him even more.
Twenty minutes of McNally radiating hurt feelings later, and Sam's almost wishing she'd start talking again.
Enough to make a peace offering, at least. He pulls over outside a coffee-shop and hands her a twenty. “I'll have my usual. Get yourself whatever milk-laden crap you want.”
“You're buying me coffee?” Eyes wide and the beginnings of a smile.
“No. You're buying it with my money. I'm not standing in line–that's why we have Rookies.”
Sam's almost asleep by the time she makes it back to the cruiser. Staying parked until he's finished his coffee suddenly seems like a good plan.
“Sir?” She's barely back inside the car, and she's already talking again.
He thinks maybe he should have added conditions to the coffee. “Yeah?”
“I'm sorry about before. I'm a nervous talker, that's the thing. I can't help it–if I'm nervous about something I just keep talking and talking and...”
“So what were you nervous about?” he cuts her off before she can build up a head of steam– not sure if it's for his sake or hers. He thinks probably a bit of both.
He looks over, and she really does seem nervous. She's picking at the paper sleeve of her cup–this incessant 'plick, plick, plick'–and her leg's jogging up and down. It's hard to know which is more irritating.
Deciding, on balance, that putting his hand on his Rookie's knee in a parked cruiser might not be the best move, he reaches over and stills her hand instead. Her eyes fly up to meet his. “Apparently, you're a nervous fidgeter as well. Spit it out, McNally.”
She takes a deep breath like he's seen her do a few times on the job–usually before she does something stupid or brave–closes her eyes, and lets the words out so fast it takes Sam a few seconds to catch up.
“I wanted to apologize for getting you in trouble with Boyko. Because he said you said I was ready, and I told you I was ready, and I wasn't ready. Obviously. And he asked if he should have you in his office, and I said no, but he's Boyko and he's not going to not yell at you just because I say so. And then there was that whole thing with Sadie, and Dov and I, we really messed up, and, I mean, he hasn't said anything to me or Dov about it, so I guess that means he took it all out on you, and I just...” she opens her eyes and looks right at him. “I'm sorry, Sam.”
He blinks a couple of times. That is … not what he was expecting. The way she was acting he was pretty sure it was something serious–like she'd dinged his truck in the parking lot. Or bought him decaf.
“No need,” he shrugs. Takes a sip of coffee just to check.
“So you're not mad at me for getting you in trouble?”
“Well, you didn't. So, no.” And I'm not twelve, he manages not to add. Looks out the window and tries to remember the last time someone other than McNally apologized to him.
He looks back and she's staring at him, brow furrowed. He sighs, “Look, it's fine, okay? What Boyko doesn't know won't get either of us in trouble.”
Now she just looks more confused. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that I may have left some of the more … stupid details out when I reported back.”
“You lied?” He's not sure how many octaves her voice just rose, but it's more than his ears are happy about.
“I didn't lie. Everything's there in the paperwork, but Boyko doesn't read that. You know how many reports he has to sign off on every day? So yeah, I left out a couple of things when I spoke to him.”
She's scowling now, “You shouldn't have done that.”
“I shouldn't have done that?” He can hear his own voice rising now, hopes no passers-by are paying too much attention. “You're my partner, McNally–I had your back.”
“You weren't my partner then. Dov was. And I can look after myself.”
He snorts, “Sure you can. Like when you walk into a chop-shop full of weapons without your gun.” And it's a low blow, he knows it is, but she's wearing on his last nerve right now, and, if he's honest, he still feels a little sick when he thinks about what could've happened. “Besides, if Epstein was your partner, why don't you have his back?”
She's glaring at him now. “What are you talking about?”
“This whole 'you shouldn't have done that' thing,” and yeah, he sing-songs it a bit just to piss her off. “Epstein on board with your whole martyr thing, is he? Willing to get his ass handed to him by Boyko?”
“It's not...” She looks down at her coffee. “I'm not being a martyr. It's just, y'know, trading favours, looking the other way, covering up mistakes–that's not the kind of cop I want to be.”
Sam's pretty sure that'd be three kinds of offensive if he stopped to think about it, but he's still too mad. He pinches the bridge of his nose and takes a couple of deep breaths.
He must take a beat too long, because suddenly her hand's on his shoulder, “Sam, are you okay? Do you have a headache or something?”
“Yeah McNally, I have a headache.” The sarcasm dying on his lips as he realizes he does. This dull throbbing behind his right eye–he's pretty sure he can feel his heart beating as the blood pulses round his brain. Isn't sure how he didn't notice it before.
“Do you want me to drive?”
“No, McNally. I do not want you to drive,” he scoffs. He never thought of himself as the kind of person who scoffed, but that was some definite scoffing just then.
“Oh. Okay. If you change your mind...” She's picking at her cup again. “I'll shut up now. We can talk about, y'know, that stuff, another time.”
She's as good as her word. He didn't think she'd be able to keep it up, but she does. Almost an hour later and she's said nothing that wasn't directly related to whatever tedious crap they happened to be doing.
His head hurts worse than ever.
He's considering asking her to drive after all when she smacks him on the arm. “Oh, Sam, can you pull over here for a minute?”
“What? Why?” He already doing it, though—reflex or something.
“I just need to pick up a couple of things.”
“Police cruiser's for police business, McNally. It's not for getting you around town to run errands,” he grumbles. His heart's not in it, and she can tell. She smiles as she gets out.
“I'll just be a minute.”
She jumps back in the cruiser, and closes the door really softly, like she's trying to make as little noise as possible.
“I wasn't sure which you'd prefer, so I got both,” she says, holding out a bag. He looks inside and sees a bottle of Advil and one of Tylenol, along with a bottle of water and a tiny pack of crackers.
He feels something tighten in his chest, and it's like that moment in the parking lot of the Penny all over again; you were there and him knocked back on his heels.
He looks up at her, and she's still talking, like she's been storing it up for the last hour.
“You need to eat something if you're taking the Advil, or you'll end up with an ulcer or something. Especially with the amount of coffee you drink. You know, that might even be why you have a headache. It could be all the coffee. Like, I don't know, a caffeine overdose, or something. Or maybe it's not enough coffee, and it's a caffeine rebound headache.” She finally looks over at him, catches him still looking at her. “Crap. Sorry. Talking again. Shutting up now.”
He opens his mouth to say something–he's not even sure what.
Talk all you want.
Hey, want to drive after all?
The radio crackles into life–cuts him off.