“Hello, this is the Dectective Badd residence, who may I say is calling?” A small gasp, a break in the Byrne-enforced script. “Grampa!”
Badd turned another page of his gun magazine (the paper kind) as Kay eagerly recited the week’s news to her grandfather. Paternal, of course, the most contact they’d had with Kay’s mother’s side of the family after the custody hearing was when they’d reported Badd to Child Services. Twice. At the very least it was a good chance for Badd to carefully impart to Kay the life lesson that most authority figures were to be regarded with suspicion.
“Grampa wants to talk to you, Uncle Badd.” Kay poked the speakerphone button and put the phone on the couch cushion next to Badd’s head.
“Tyrell, hi, how are you doing?” came Jack Faraday’s tinny voice from the phone.
“Mm. All right,” he mumbled. Kay had probably infodumped all the worthwhile news already.
“Good, great, yeah. So, what are you doing for Christmas this year?”
Badd shrugged reflexively. “Staying at home, probably. Nothing exciting” His usual Christmas plans involved the station holiday party followed by Chinese takeout, and enough alcohol to make old Christmas specials actually seem interesting. This year he’d probably need to get Kay a tree and cut back on the booze.
“Not visiting family?”
“Nah.” His brother was on the east coast, his parents were dead. If he had more he’d never bothered looking for them.
There was a slight, staticky pause, and Badd could picture the older man’s fidgeting.
“Do you want to come up to our place?” Mr. Faraday asked hesitantly. “We usually have a big family get-together, Byrne used to bring Kay up.”
Kay clutched eagerly at his arm. “Please please please, Uncle Badd,” she begged, shaking him. “I want to go see Grandma and Grampa and everyone else and have the big dinner and the Christmas pudding. We do it every year.”
Did it, Badd thought, though he wouldn’t dream of saying it out loud.
Ugh. He hadn’t spoken with Byrne’s father since the funeral, beyond a simple hello and handing the phone off to Kay every week or so and the man’s cheer had always seemed false. Yeah, you could chalk it up to mourning, but Badd suspected it was just holding back an urge to comment on the wrongness of the situation and how disappointed they were with their now-dead son. Facing down the Faradays in person, and a swarm of distant relative to boot, sounded like a walk through a polite hell ringed with fake-smiling demons.
But it would make Kay happy. “Yeah. Sure. When do we come up?” he said, deadpanning his voice.
“We’ve got the big dinner on the 25th, usually around seven or so. You probably want to come up a bit early in case your flight’s delayed—”
“It’s only eight hours away. We can drive it.” Of course a rich prosecutor could probably fly the distance in first class, but a bottom of the bucket detective had a hard time losing his habits. Byrne’s house could have eaten his apartment three times and the bank account willed down to him had made the detective’s eyes pop, but he still carefully monitored the grocery bills for unnecessary expenses.
“Oh. Yeah. Sure. That works too.” Another little laugh, and Mr. Faraday gave him the address and some vague directions. “We’re a bit up in the hills but it shouldn’t be hard to find us. There’s a big red metal rooster next to the mailbox.”
Badd scribbled down the information on the back of the magazine. “Rooster. Right.” This sounded fun already.
“And you’re gonna get Uncle Badd Christmas presents too, right?” Kay insisted, leaning into the phone to make sure she was heard.
“Not allowed to talk about that, you know the rules,” Faraday admonished, still chuckling. Laughter and inside references that excluded the newcomer. Badd had a wary feeling that it was a preview of things to come. But between work and school and paperwork and bureaucrats Badd was quite used to being made uncomfortable on Kay’s behalf.
The police station holiday party was held several days before Christmas itself, in the understanding that most people would be with their families for the actual event. Badd grabbed a beer and a handful of chips while he huddled in the corner, rebuffing efforts to come over and get chatty out of drunkenness or the holiday spirit.
At least the shock of the incident had worn off around the station. Badd’s main coping mechanism had been to ignore questions about the Byrne-related situation completely and only talk about the Kay-related situation when absolutely necessary (such as ‘No, I can’t come look at the dead prostitute right now, I need to pick Kay up from gymnastics’). The concerned or overly sympathetic ones he ignored, the asshole ones he just…put up with. Taking it upstairs wasn’t worth what it would bring down on his head as a result of squealing on another member of the force. Eventually they’d give up and stop, and until then he’d just have to make sure he only got coffee directly from the communal pot and kept his lollipops locked inside his desk.
Badd finally picked out Lana Skye from the crowd, the one person he was interested in talking to. She was leaning on one of the desks, cheeks slightly red from constant laughing. Badd maneuvered to her, untouched beer in hand, and didn’t bother to act casual.
“Hey. Skye. Your sister’s about Kay’s age, right? What are you getting her for Christmas?”
Lana turned a hazy, sloppy smile on him. “I dunno. Junior chemistry set, something with the test tubes and the bubbling and the…y’know. Still figuring out Kay?”
“Well.” Skye perched herself on a desk and took on an over-exaggerated thinker’s pose with her legs crossed and elbow on her thigh. “What’s she want to be when she grows up? Ema wants to be a scientist and stick the world under the microscope.”
“Right now? Astronaut ballerina.”
Skye giggled. “Can’t make up her mind?”
Badd shook his head. “No, like Cirque du Soleil in space.” She’d half-drowned herself trying to ‘practice’ zero-G dancing in the gym swimming pool. Silly girl, but silly with ambition.
Skye laughed harder, nearly falling off the desk until Badd caught her. Someone’s fist thumped into the back of his arm.
“Heeeeey, are you muscling in on my little bambina? Cause I don’t take kindly to rustlers ‘round these parts…” Jake Marshall looked up, alcohol-dimmed eyes trying to focus on Badd’s face enough to pick out major features. “Oh. Howdy, Badd,” he finished merrily, and leaned on the larger detective as if he were a comfortable wall. Apparently gaydar scans had confirmed Badd wasn’t a threat to the territory of Marshallvania.
“Evening, Marshall.” Badd gently pried the cowboy cop off his coat and set him leaning against Skye instead. Skye didn’t seem entirely displeased with the concept and flopped an arm around his shoulders. “Have fun, you two,” he said, and left them to their frivolity.
Badd ducked out right before the crowd had partied enough to think that Gant’s strip poker suggestion was a good idea, palming his keys from the communal anti-DUI bowl when no one was looking. When he got home Kay was already packing.
“Good party, Uncle Badd?”
“It was okay.”
“What’s okay?” Kay shot back, carrying a pile of clothes over to a suitcase half their size.
“Just okay. We’re not leaving for a few days, you know, you don’t need to pack now.”
“I know, I want to get ready early. I need to bring a lot of stuff with us.”
“We’re only going to be up there three nights.”
“Yes, but it’s Christmas,” Kay said firmly, as if that meant anything. “And we need presents for everyone.”
Kay handed over a list, complete with helpful notes about how you had to get Richard something truck-related because his brain was sick and he only talked about trucks and how Rosalind and Franklin were twins so you had to get two presents that weren’t the same thing and that Marie was very old so you couldn’t give her candy or she would DIE.
The list came out to about fifteen people through blood and marriage. “I really don’t think we need this many presents,” Badd said skeptically, handing it back to her.
“We have to get everyone presents,” Kay repeated, stomping one foot. She was such a little brat sometimes but Badd had a hard time mustering up the hard-heartedness to do more than take away dessert for insubordination.
“I don’t know these people, I don’t need to get them stuff.”
Kay made a pout and a small sniffle. Crocodile tears welled up in her eyes as she peered at him over the top of the touch. “But…but daddy did...”
Sometimes Badd really regretting his habit of caving to anyone with ‘Faraday’ for a last name.
The drive up was uneventful, unfortunately. Badd had eight boring hours to envision the oncoming chaos while Kay played her video games and listened to her music and slept. He’d settled on a box set of Nancy Drew books, figuring that she liked mysteries and a little quiet reading would be good for her brain. And his sanity.
After a few wrong turns through nearly-identical backroads and Kay giving some very bad directions they made it to the metal rooster. Badd could see silhouettes moving in the kitchen and loud laughter as he drew nearer the doorway. Kay was practically bouncing with glee. Badd considered simply leaving her at the door, ringing the bell, and then running away like an unwed mother. He eyed the door knocker, a carved wooden woodpecker with a piece of rope for a tail, but found it flung open in his face before he could even touch it.
A cheery, pudgy woman with white hair stood to great them in a sequined sweater. "Hello, come on in!" she said, grinning widely and automatically leaning down to give Kay a big hug. "I'm Marie, Kay's great-aunt. You must be Tyrell," she says, looking up at him mid-hug.
Kay happily hugged back, tightly, and squeaked "Auntie Marie!" in joy. She pronounced it ‘merry’, which seemed more fitting.
Badd nodded. "That's me," he confirmed, cautiously, giving her the same wariness he’d treat a grinning mohawked punk who hadn’t gotten a patdown yet.
Once Kay's big big hug was done with, Marie stood and extended a hand. "Nice to finally meet you. We're about a half hour out from dinner but there's chips and pretzels and we’re already passing the Chardonnay around." She was all grins and what seemed like genuine cuddliness, which did more to remind Badd of Damon Gant than comfort him. He knew a lot of people who'd been very good at pretending to be nice, and very few who actually were. Still, she was Kay's family, so he took her hand, and shook it. Perhaps no one had told her exactly who he was.
"I'm sure... it'll be great.”
Inside the lodge-like house was a bustle of activity to rival the station party. There was laughter and attractive dinner-like smells coming from the kitchen and nearly a dozen people were congregated in the living room with wine glasses. As for the décor…eclectic was probably too strong a word but the elder Faradays seemed to really like buying random sculptures of abstract concepts and covering every available shelf and corner with their artistic nonsense. Byrne’s house had a few sculptures here and there, mostly of animals, but nothing to this degree.
"Hi, Kay!" Kay was almost immediately rushed by a gang of children between the ages of 5 and 12. They grabbed her by the arms and dragged her into the next room to show her Things, as Kay excitedly expressed the intention of showing them Other Things. Badd watched her little pink backpack disappear around the corner and took an extra hard suck on his lollipop, feeling even more uncomfortable without the reason he'd come here at his side. At the station party at least you knew where you stood.
Faraday's father came up beside him and offered him a glass of white wine. “Hey. How’s it going?” he offered as an opening volley of socialization.
Badd could only catch flecks and glimpses of his former partner in the older man’s frame. Mr. Faraday’s dark hair was cut conventionally short, in stark contrast to Faraday’s ragged brown ponytail, and the beginnings of a pot belly rounded out the older man’s torso. The smile on his wrinkle-edged features was far more forced than those of his friends and family. He seemed desperate and eager to please, a witness trying to make sure he didn’t become a suspect.
Badd couldn’t say he knew much about Mr. Faraday as a person. He and Badd only talked over the phone a few times since the invitation, mostly to make sure Badd and Kay were still coming and that they didn't get lost because the interstate exit was easy to miss if you didn't know where you were going. Since Badd had no interest in ingratiating himself to the rest of the family it wasn’t something that bothered him. Now, of course, he might be expected to know things…he really should have stayed home with the Chinese food.
"It's going okay," Badd answered guardedly. He took the wine and glanced around the room to locate Kay, chattering excitedly with the rest of the children, a mass of childish glee unaware of her change in status. "Kay's been well."
"That's good." There was a loud crash from the kitchen, and those who didn’t have their hands full with wineglasses or new babies applauded. Byrne's dad made an obligatory chuckle before letting the act drop. "How's she handling it?” he asked, swirling this wine.
"Pretty well. She talks to me when it's bothering her." Badd looked over Mr. Faraday's shoulder to watch Kay romp. She seemed happy and Badd focused on that as the important thing.
"She was always a pretty resilient kid. I don't think she'd be nearly as good without you backing her up, though." He followed Badd's gaze, to where Kay was being introduced to someone's newest toy. "She spoke pretty fondly of you, back when Byrne was alive."
Mr. Faraday wavered, nervous, and his fingers left smudges in the condensation on his glass. Finally he lost his nerve under the assault of Badd’s stonewalling and fled to the kitchen under pretense of helping his wife with the cooking. Badd had about half a minute to feel smug about it before he was pulled into a conversational group with a peppy young man he’d never met who attempted to include him in a discussion about other people he had never met.
He drank his wine (he would have preferred abstaining but it was the only way to be active without doing anything) and detectived about the subjects of conversation to piece together context, but didn’t speak until spoken to. Since everyone more lively was trying to get in a word edgewise around lively everyone else’s words, he found himself pleasingly ignored.
Inevitably, like a condemned prisoner’s execution date, dinner arrived. There were placecards set around the table with the subject’s name written in elegant crayon, and Badd found a curlicued brown ‘Tyrell’ between Kay and Mr. Faraday. He didn’t quite recall giving them permission to be so casual with him—he hadn’t even been ‘Tyrell’ to Faraday, when they were doing business. It was starting to make him loathe the sound of his own name.
More wine was dispensed as the family slowly filtered in. Badd sat and Kay eagerly licked her lips in anticipation of delicious food. Mr. Faraday got to his feet, raising his glass and making the others quiet down. "Before we begin, I'd...like to give a toast to someone who's not here with us today." He stopped, and Badd could picture him practicing some small meaningless speech before dinner only to disregard it as insufficient at the last moment as he realized his nerve and voice would not last to the end of the monologue. "To Byrne," he finally said. And the rest of the family old enough to understand held up wine, water, and milk in reply. "To Byrne."
Kay drew in a breath, pulling herself together—he knew she wouldn’t cry. Good girl.
Badd’s expression hardened further as he raised to Byrne. He felt a small surge of irrational anger at hearing his name, even though he knew they were the family who’d named him in the first place. They didn’t know him either, they never saw his powerful courtroom warfare or watched him scramble up a drainpipe in the middle of the night to perform acts of heroism the world would never acknowledge. Nobody knew Byrne like he did.
The chatter returned to its previous lively level when Kay’s grandmother and great-aunt started bringing in the salad, but Badd noticed Mr. Faraday quietly folding himself out of the discussion. Apparently Badd wasn’t the only one feeling unsociable today.
After salad came soup, leaving Badd wondering exactly how much food this meal was going to entail. The conversation wandered aimlessly and the detective ate quietly until an amiable bit of dialogue finally tagged him for scrutiny.
“So, Tyrell,” said some perky bleach-blonde from the other end of the table. “Tell us about yourself. What do you do?”
“I’m a detective. Homicide.” He should have said accountant. The revelation brought in even more questions, about whether he carried a gun and if he’d ever seen a real murder and if he’d ever gotten shot. Badd refrained from answering yes to all three, it would only make him more interesting.
“That’s how they met, actually. He worked as Byrne’s partner,” Mrs. Faraday put in. She took a prim sip of her wine. "I remember when he first told us about you.”
What? Why would Byrne tell…
“He wasn't particularly happy about being assigned with you. The first week you worked together he called us on the phone and said, and I’m quoting here, ‘You will not believe the asshole I just got stuck with.’" The curse was jarring, coming from a white-haired sweet old woman with a face still flushed from the heat of the stove.
Oh. That. It almost made him smile in nostalgia.
"Daddy said that about Uncle Badd?" Kay asked, all wide-eyes and interested.
Faraday's mother took a larger, more embarrassed gulp of wine. "Your father and Uncle Badd didn't really get along at first. It happens with a lot of couples." Someone down the table said something about ‘foe yay’, to which exactly one person laughed and the rest looked confused.
Badd was quiet for another moment, then told Kay, low-voiced, "That was before you were born. We had some disagreements."
"Oh." She tilted her head, thoughtfully, then asked, "Grandma, what else did Daddy say about Uncle?"
The rest of the table seemed to have turned its attention to the discussion, as they did to all gossip. Mrs. Faraday took a dainty sip of her soup. "Goodness, well. He did complain a lot, but he said you were at least reliable."
A twitch of a smile from Badd. "He was always great at compliments," Badd said, just that twitch of a smile at a private joke he'd shared with a dead man.
Kay was all grins. "So when did you become friends?" she asked Badd, who shrugged and indicated she should ask her grandma.
Mrs Faraday shrugged back. "I only heard it all second-hand, but eventually he only complained about Uncle Badd as much as he did the rest of his friends. So I suppose after a year or two."
Someone down the table, male and young and pretentious-looking, piped in, "I should hope you were friends at some point, if you're married.” Laughter ensued and Badd felt the rage rising up again. What did they know? Nobody knew.
"After a year and a half, about. When I saved his life for the first time." His voice was low, almost a private aside to Kay. "Not a big deal.”
Kay nodded, enthusiastically.
The dramatic story was demanded by the entire population under thirty. Bad move, he’d made himself exciting again. Everyone was pretty interested in what the adventurous homicide detective did, even if they knew the story from Byrne's end.
Badd hid his discomfort, straightening out of his lean towards Kay, toying his fork between his fingers.
"We were investigating a crime scene. The killer came back with a gun. Didn't know the cops had already shown. I pushed Faraday out of the way." Another spoonful of soup as he made the incident as banal as possible. He’d show Kay the place in his coat where the bullet had gone through when they got home. Badd remembered all of his bulletholes by name and gun and Kay considered the coat a storied item akin to a historical artifact.
"Byrne told it better," a young cousin noted, while another thought it was pretty cool and asked if Badd had a gun on him right now. Mrs. Faraday began collecting the soup bowls and asking who wanted servings of what, trying to interrupt the subject. Badd simply shrugged and replied, “If I had one, I wouldn’t tell you, would I?”
The bleach-blonde laughed, noticed no one else was laughing, and sunk down into her chair. After the next course was brought out people didn’t talk to Badd very much. In Badd’s opinion it was an acceptable result and indicated they might have actually caught a clue. He fussed quietly over Kay and otherwise ignored the rest of the table.
Mr. Faraday had a whispered conversation to his wife over the roast, and Badd caught them both shooting glances at him when they thought he wasn’t looking. He didn’t bother wondering what they thought of him, it was plain. He wasn’t supposed to be there and he wasn’t playing the happy friendly faker that they’d expected him to, they never should have invited him, what was Byrne thinking and how could he be such a disappointment to his family, and so on. Plain as day. Supposedly they’d known Byrne was bisexual ever since college but that was a long way from having to deal with the reality at their Christmas dinner. They’d only invited him to get Kay here, after all.
At dessert time Mrs. Faraday took orders on coffee and tea, then darted off to the kitchen. Kay clapped her hands eagerly and whispered to Badd, “This is when the pudding comes out!” Pudding seemed a weird thing to get excited over, but Kay could get an excited rant over bugs on the windowsill. Badd did his best approving-pacifying nod—yes, goopy chocolate glop was very exciting, total highlight of the meal.
Instead of actual pudding Mrs. Faraday returned with a cake-like object in a bowl. and a grill lighter clenched between a pair of spare fingers There was a stick with a pair of spiky holly leaves stabbed through the top of the cake and water was sloshing around in the bottom of the bowl.
“Tyrell, since you're the newest member of the family...would you mind doing the honors and lighting the pudding?” She offered him the lighter with the sweetest of game show hostess smiles.
“... Lighting... the pudding?” Badd looks at her, the faintest thread of bemusement on his face, confusion enough to momentarily mask the red ‘I am not in your goddamn family’ thoughts in his head.
“There’s alcohol in the bottom. You set it on fire.” She set the cake on the table and Badd once again found everyone’s eyes on him. Waiting for him to set cake on fire. Was this even legal?
Badd took the lighter and clicked it a few times, trying to synch up the button pushing and trigger sliding just right to make the idiot thing go on. He brushed the firey tip against the alcohol pooling at the bottom and it erupted into calm blue flame, licking the edges of the cake and the bowl. Faraday's mother set it down on the table, grinning as the children applauded excitedly.
Once the fire sputtered out the cake-pudding-firewood-thing was cut up and served with trifle (which was some sort of squishy combination of cake, fruit, custard, and whipped cream that Badd wouldn’t even deign to touch) and about five different other sugary concoctions. And more wine, Faraday's father was on his third glass.
Kay dug into the dessert as if it was made of joy. Badd made sure she wasn’t eating too fast but let her consume her fill, he’d never been one for avoiding sweets because some health nut on TV said so. His only comment was, “Don’t make yourself sick.”
“Goodness, Tyrell,” Mrs. Faraday laughed. “You don't have to dote on her every moment. It's Christmas, she can eat what she likes.”
“Yeah, Uncle Badd!” Kay said through a full mouth. “Can eat what I like.”
Badd swallowed his words with a swig of weak coffee. She was Kay’s grandmother and grandmothers indulged their kids where their parents cautioned moderation. But she shouldn’t be contradicting him in front of Kay.
“It’s natural for a new parent to fuss...well, he's not really a 'new' parent, is he...does that really count…new only parent, anyway…I heard they weren’t really together before Byrne died…” The murmurings went up and down the table. No one seemed able to agree on Badd’s status.
Badd made no effort to clarify it to them, just worked his way through cake and watched his Kay.
After dessert the family began to disperse, heading to their various hotels. Kay and Badd had no such respite, Mr. Faraday had insisted they spend the night in the guest room and Kay had agreed before Badd could turn him down. At least they’d have a little time alone--
“Hey, Tyrell?” Mr. Faraday asked just as he’d turned his back. “Can I talk to you after you put Kay down?”
“Fine. Just let me put her down.”
The guest room was garish too, and seemed to have a bird theme going for it. Appropriate, even if Badd would never tell them why.
Kay went around checking the windows as Badd had taught her (“There’s no locks on the windows, Uncle Badd.” “It’s okay when you’re at your grandparents, they don’t need locks up here.”), then agreed to brush her teeth and finally go to sleep.
“Are you sick, Uncle Badd?”
“Just tired from the drive up. I’m fine.” Odd question to ask.
The little girl gave a sleepy nod and put her head on the pillow. “Okay. You seem grumpy. Don’t be grumpy, Uncle Badd. It’s Christmas.”
“I’m sure I’ll be better in the morning.” He knelt next to the bed for a moment, kissing Kay's forehead and asking if she wanted him to stay until she was asleep. She declined yawningly (she only really asked for it when the strain on her heart got too great, a rare occurrence now) and Badd smoothed her hair and wished her good night.
When he stood he noticed Mr. Faraday silhouetted in the doorway, watching Kay slip into dreamland. For all the rage he’d been bottling up since the invitation Badd couldn’t deny that the pair loved her almost as much as he did. They weren’t bad people. Just too dense to realize they weren’t his people.
“I wanted to talk to you after the horde left,” Mr. Faraday said, forcing a laugh as he took a seat on one of the plush easy chairs in the living room. He was just unsteady enough that Badd could tell he’d had more than his usual level of alcohol. There was a soft glassy clattering from the kitchen as Mrs. Faraday did the last of the dishes.
“You were pretty quiet tonight. I’m sorry if anyone made you feel uncomfortable. I know we’re a little overwhelming.”
“S’all right.” If he said as little as possible he might get out of here sooner.
“Just…feel like I ought to get to know you. You’re like this big gaping part of his life I never knew about. He talked about you all the time but he never said anything about being in love with you. I want to know what I was missing.”
You don’t know the half of Byrne’s secrets. Nobody did. Nobody ever will, nobody but me.
Badd shrugged the inquiry off. “It was a business arrangement. Legal stuff. He just wanted someone there for Kay, that’s all it meant.”
“Yeah, but you were…I mean. You know?” Mr. Faraday said helplessly. Apparently he didn’t know.
“Mhm. Not that it’s anyone’s business.” He wished people would stop thinking about the ‘you know’. It was the major thing he regretted about revealing their relationship to the world, staining Byrne’s reputation like that, but he knew Byrne would have wanted it that way.
“It’s not like that. It’s…I mean, I’ve got this big roaring family but I only see them once or twice a year.” Mr. Faraday spoke slowly, almost stuttering, trying to perfect every word like a suspect unsure of his story. “The only thing I’ve got left of Byrne is Kay and you. And I don’t know you and I’d like to. You were something to him.”
"... God knows why," Badd says, quietly, and downs the rest of his drink in a giant gulp. "Fine. Shoot."
There was a quivering silence. Mr. Faraday leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling for inspiration, finally settling on the most generic opener possible.
"So where are you from?"
“When did you know you wanted to be a cop?”
"... after 'bout the fifth time my dad got arrested." Badd hesitated, then elaborated, "He hated cops, I hated him. It fit.”
"...oh." More awkward silences, just as Badd planned. He hadn’t had a pleasant childhood and alluding to it generally made people stop asking nosy questions.
Mr. Faraday finished his drink and fiddled with his glass. "I always tried to be good to Byrne. Accepting and loving, things like that. I was never sure if he turned out all right despite me or because of me."
"He was one of the best people I've ever known... and he sure as hell wasn't rebelling against you."
"That's good to hear, from you." More rolling about of the wineglass against the chair arm. A few spare droplets hit the cushion but Mr. Faraday didn’t bother to concern himself about the stain. "You know I...wondered, a bit. The way he talked about you, once he got to know you. Especially after his wife died."
"Nothing happened until after that," Badd said, somewhat defensively; Byrne hadn’t been a cheater. A flirt, but never a cheater, as far as Badd knew.
"If I thought that you wouldn't be sitting in my house right now." Mr. Faraday held up a submissive hand. "Don't think you're that kind of guy anyway." The drink seemed to be getting to his head further, he wasn't being quite as on edge as he'd been before--not as desperate to avoid offending Kay’s new daddy.
Badd hadn't even been thinking of himself; he had a new reputation now, he realized, and one that was supposed to be good. It was uncomfortable, like a new pair of shoes he wasn't sure he wanted to break in.
"... Huh." It was a bemused sort of noise.
"It was one of the things Byrne liked about you. He said you were honest...maybe too honest. Brutally honest. Bad bedside manner." Mr. Faraday shrugged. "He never said you two were a couple, but I think he wanted to. He talked around it. My wife asked him outright...he ducked the question." Byrne told Kay never to lie to her father...seems he was only following his own dad's example.
“We never told anyone. Not even Kay." Badd said it quietly, awkwardly; it wasn't something that was supposed to be talked about, but it was out there already.
"I think if you'd let him he'd have taken you up here years ago,"
“He asked. I turned him down. Wasn’t a big deal for me.”
Awkward was steadily not becoming a strong enough word for this conversation. "You know, I...we should do guy stuff sometime. Fishing, if you want to come up when Kay has summer break." Fishing for conversation, maybe. Mr. Faraday was apparently not sure what Badd did for male bonding, as he didn't seem the sort of person who bonded well to anyone and one couldn't quite see the detective sitting down for a nice game of Scrabble. “Or poker. We can set it up after lunch.”
"... Poker game," Badd agreed. "We can teach Kay."
“I meant something just you and me, maybe Louis. Guy stuff."
Well, there went any interest he had in the subject. "Maybe some other time," he said and set his empty glass aside, pulling a lollipop out of his pocket and carefully unwrapping it. He really needed his fix right now.
Faraday slammed his glass down on the table. "You were something to him," he insisted. "You were a part of his life, enough of it to get married to him and take care of his daughter. There's something of him in you and right now I'll take anything of him I can get. Please, just give me a little something to work with here." His voice had the desperation of a minor crook begging to be let off with a warning.
This family was so entirely unlike the one he used to have. He couldn't remember a single time his own parents had wanted him to open up, and once he'd become a cop, he hadn't spoken to them at all; his only family was his job, and slowly, uneasily, Byrne and Kay.
Did other people just open up on command? How did people live like that? Badd had no interest in it.
“I married him,” Badd said finally. “Not you.”
Mr. Faraday got very, very quiet. He reached for his glass and only remembered it was empty when it touched his lips. It was true. Probably. He was desperate for anything of Byrne's, anything he'd missed...but he was grieving too. Badd felt a momentary twinge of regret at his blatant dismissal but there was no taking it back now.
"You know where your room is," Mr. Faraday said abruptly, standing and turning to walk out of the room. “Breakfast’s at nine. You can show up if you feel like it.” He stormed off into the kitchen—Badd caught a passing ‘What the hell did Byrne see in him’ to Mrs. Faraday. He slowly climbed out of his chair, rolling his head from side to side and rubbing the back of his neck. Well, he'd fucked that right up.
From the kitchen he could hear the sound of running water start up again, and Mr. Faraday ranting under his breath about how he was trying, damnit, wasn't that all someone could ask for, why did Byrne even want someone so...repressed and cold. Mrs. Faraday didn’t seem to have an answer.
Oh, well. They were leaving tomorrow anyway.
Sleeping in the same room as Kay made Badd more uncomfortable, paradoxically, than letting her sleep alone. The last time he’d done it was the week after Byrne died. She’d been staying in his apartment because she had nowhere else to go that didn’t seem alien and terrifying. Badd had given Kay his bed and taken the floor for himself under the pretense of being comforting and not wanting to leave her on the couch as he usually did. She didn’t know he was watching her and the door and the clock slowly ticking its way towards dawn, heart pounding every time a car passed by in the street below or some late-night wanderer whistled under his window. He’d wondered, lying there with his gun making a hard lump under his pillow, if the smuggling ring would want to come for him first to tie up loose ends or wreak vengeance on the rest of Byrne’s family—whether the safest place for Kay was by his side or a thousand miles away.
On late nights, when work left him stressed to the point of physical pain, Badd entertained fantasies of simply taking Kay and running off to some isolated place in the mountains where the world wouldn’t be able to touch them. The smuggling ring would never find them, the chief would never call him away from her side in the middle of the night, nobody would bully Kay at school for having two fathers. It would just be the two of them, alone and safe forever.
But…that wouldn’t make her happy.
The evening’s tension made Badd restless. He woke up several times in the night and on the last restless jerk realized he’d forgotten to put Kay’s present underneath the tree with all the other colorful boxes. He slipped his shoes on and crept out to the living room with the present under his arm, praying that nobody else would be awake to bother him.
…what was with Faradays and their habit of constantly managing to be around him whether he wanted them or not?
“Good morning, Tyrell.” Mrs. Faraday was sitting on the couch in a bathrub and slippers, cradling a cup of tea between her hands and giving him a very weak smile. She looked like she’d gotten even less sleep than he had.
Badd bent, laid the present in front of the tree like a ritual offering, and scowled at her. “Don’t call me that,” he snapped. He was sick, so sick of that name from their lips. They kept acting as if he deserved to be here.
Mrs. Faraday acted surprised, but not offended. “What, by your name?”
“It’s Badd, or Detective Badd. Nobody calls me by my first name.”
“You’re not him.” He didn’t in public and Badd accorded him the same courtesy. He had more respect than that and besides that he knew his place. A detective was always under his prosecutor, no matter what they got up to when they were off the clock.
“I heard the conversation you had with Jack.”
“Figured you did.” The washing up had been suspiciously quiet after the two of them started talking
Mrs. Faraday braced her head against her hand. “I can’t figure you out, Badd. You obviously can’t stand to be here but you came up anyway.”
“Kay wanted to be here.”
“But you could have dropped her off. Or sent her up on a plane alone.”
Now that thought was just horrific. Badd barely trusted her out of his sight enough to let her go to school, so many things could go wrong between two airports and there were so many ways a well-connected group could make her disappear.
“She wanted me to be here,” he offered.
“And you think acting like an antisocial lump is going to make her happy.”
“She doesn’t notice.”
“Little kids notice more than you think. And they understand more than you think. Do you want her first Christmas after Byrne died to be remembered by how much her Uncle Badd hates the rest of her family?”
“I don’t hate you.”
“But you’re used to spending Christmas alone with Chinese food and a copy of Die Hard. Having all these people around you trying to get into your private life has to be stressful.” Mrs. Mrs. Faraday shook her head. “But you don’t need to be a jerk about it.”
Badd must have looked surprised (it was obviously weariness making him more vulnerable than usual), because she continued with “Of course Byrne told us, when I asked if he wanted to invite you up. He…”
There was a slight hitch in her voice but she managed to keep her dignity. “He talked about you constantly, almost as much as his daughter and his wife.”
“I was his—we worked together.” ‘Partner’ had started meaning something completely different. Badd hated it, it made them sound so…white-picket-fency. Like they were really married instead of making a private arrangement for transferal of property and child care, like the fact they were having sex was more important than all they’d been through together with criminals and courtrooms. “I guess he’d mention me.”
Mrs. Faraday shook a finger at him. “You’re doing it again. Pretending that you’re alone, that you’re some stupid noir detective who can’t get attached because that would make the story less interesting. You idiot.” Badd didn’t take the insult personally. He’d seen this plenty of times, people always projected their grief onto the detective who should have caught their husband or son or lover’s murderer.
“I never asked you to like me. I’m just here to take care of Kay.”
“He always said you seemed lonely,” she went on, ignoring his protests. “I think you like being lonely. You don’t get close to anyone else because it’s dangerous. If you care about someone they’ll just leave you behind and hurt you. So when you finally let someone like Kay in and care about her you can’t stand to share her with anyone else because you think she needs to like being lonely as much as you do. For her own safety.”
“Shut up, I’m talking. It’s not that you don’t care about her. Of course you do, anyone with eyes can see that. It’s just that you think that the only way you can protect her is if you put her in a safe and wrap chains around it. And part of that’s alienating everyone around her.” Mrs. Faraday’s teacup clinked against her flower-painted saucer.
“If it was just you I wouldn’t care. You want to be an asshole when everyone’s trying to be accepting of Byrne’s surprise postmortem husband, that’s your business. But you’ve got a daughter now, my granddaughter, and she’s got her eye on you every minute of the day.”
“I’m just looking after her for Byrne’s sake. She’s not my daughter—”
Mrs. Faraday slammed her teacup down on the table so hard that it nearly chipped the china. “You’re. Her. Father,” she said firmly. “She’s ten. You are the final voice of truth to her. I’m not telling you what to think, Detective Badd, and I’m not telling you that you have to actually like any of us maniacs—god knows I can’t stand a quarter of them myself—but set an example.” She waved a hand in frustration. “Man up! Being a parent’s more than just making sure she gets to bed on time, it’s making sure she knows what she’s supposed to be. And she doesn’t deserve to grow up lonely.”
Badd tilted his head slightly, fingers itching for his mirror as he heard the sound of footsteps in the kitchen. Mr. Faraday, probably avoiding him. “Sounds like they’re awake,” he said, hoping this meant he could escape the conversation. She was starting to make sense and that worried him.
“Fine,” Mrs. Faraday spat. She gestured to the tree and Badd could just barely see Byrne’s familiar hand in her pointing finger. “I see Kay’s present, what did you get for everyone else?”
“Gift cards. Toy store for the kids, bookstore for the adults.”
“Not good enough. Come on.” She went into the other room and Badd followed out of morbid curiosity. Inside the coat closet was a host of prewrapped presents in bright colors. Badd wondered when she’d bought all that. Clever, though, to have such little faith in his desire to befriend the rest of Byrne’s family.
“Byrne was always too busy to buy anyone anything. So I’d always get the presents myself and he’d pay me back for them.” She gathered up a few bags and Badd helped her carry the rest into the living room. They were all neatly labeled and probably specially chosen for the recipients' unique gift-related needs.
“You’ve done undercover work,” she muttered as they arranged the presents. “Pretend we’re a bunch of mafiosos and you’re trying to blend in. Yes, a few of them are freaking out about the whole secret gay lover bit, you have to admit it was a bit of a shock to find out he’d been hiding it all this time, but they’re faking it too. You were Byrne’s and they’re going to respect that.”
“Is that how your whole family functions? Faking it?” Badd sat back on his haunches and surveyed the Hallmark-quality Christmas scene with scorn.
“It keeps the peace. Maybe somewhere in there we love each other, but mostly we just tolerate. But for two days a year we fake it and it’s a small price to pay if the kids can have a good time. And maybe…” She shrugged and offered a smile that was almost authentic. “Maybe at some point we can start believing the lie.”
Kay wandered in, rubbing one eye. Badd flicked a glance at Mrs. Faraday, who gave him a tiny nod. Fake it. Do it for Kay.
“Morning, kiddo,” Badd said in a booming, Santa Claus style voice. “Merry Christmas!” He snatched Kay up and cuddled her to his chest. Even Kay looked surprised at the sudden public display of fatherly affection.
“Merry Christmas, Uncle Badd. ” She hugged him tightly around the neck and Badd simulated choking under her powerful grip until she released him.
“You’re feeling better, right?”
“Yeah. Much better.” He kissed her cheek (and he never kissed her in front of strangers) and set her down again, patting down her sleep-frizzed hair. Mrs. Faraday’s smile grew more authentic. When Badd looked to her for approval she flicked her eyes in the direction of the kitchen, an indirect order to also play nice with the one he wouldn’t lay down his life for.
With the kind of calming breath he took before entering a hostage situation, Badd slipped into the other room. Mr. Faraday was stirring up batter next to an open waffle iron, every motion hard and deliberate and spiteful. Badd leaned on the counter and accepted the sideways glare as his rightful punishment.
“Hey. Jack. About last night…”
“What?” the elder Faraday snapped, expecting another rude brushoff. He didn’t even bother looking up.
Fake it. For Kay. In the back of his head he could hear Byrne telling him to stop dragging his feet and do his damn job. He’d signed on for this and nobody ever said Detective Badd wasn’t ready to go the distance to do what was right.
“You still up for that poker game?”