The porch light was on for the first time in over a week. Not that Vic was stalking her, but she’d had Cady’s spare house key tucked in her jacket pocket for ages, meaning to return it next time she was in the neighbourhood. Each time she’d swung through town, the house had been dark and Cady’s Jeep was gone.
She’d heard about the shooting on the Rez, but given the timing of the trial and everything else, Vic hadn't had an opportunity to even pick up the phone and check in. She felt bad about that, given the hospitality Candy had offered when she’d been without a home.
It was late so she knocked lightly, figuring that Cady would only hear if she was still awake. The door opened and she was greeted with “Vic! Hey!” Cady sounded much too bright for the late hour.
“Hey yourself.” Vic dug a hand into her pocket for the key. “Listen, I don't want to keep you. I just stopped by to return your house key and…” She trailed off as she looked up. Cady’s hair was damp from a shower, but her eyes we red and she looked paler than her usual ginger complexion dictated as normal. “Are you alright?” It had been a long day, but what the hell, Vic could tell she definitely wasn't okay. “I heard about the shooting at your office. You want to talk?”
Cady laughed, a bitter, tired sound at odds with her earlier greeting. “You got a week?”
Vic shrugged. “My weekend started about three hours ago. Will that do?”
Cady opened the door wider and tilted her head toward the living room. “Come on in. You know your way around.” She disappeared into the kitchen. Vic kicked off her boots by the front door and threw her jacket over the arm of the sofa before sinking into soft cushions and folding a leg under herself. Her ribs still ached from the fight in the river yesterday and she felt herself getting sleepy as she listened to the clink of glassware and the thump of cupboard doors coming from the kitchen. As awkward as it had been to have been dumped on Cady’s doorstep at the time, she had to admit that it had been nice to share a space with somebody for a while instead of coming home to a dark, empty house at night.
Vic heard footsteps shuffle across the floor and then stop.
“Shit, it’s late and I shouldn’t be keeping you up.”
Vic opened her eyes, not even realizing that they’d slipped shut, and shook her head. “Just resting my eyes.”
Cady handed her a wine glass and settled herself into the corner at the other end of the sofa, her own glass cradled to her chest. She kicked off her moccasins and pulled a blanket over her legs and bare feet. She raised her glass to Vic in a short salut. “To not drinking alone?”
“Amen.” Vic put her glass aside and reached for her jacket. “Oh, before I forget the whole reason I’m here.” She dug into the pocket and produced the house key. As she withdrew her hand from the pocket, a piece of paper slipped out and skimmed across the floor, stopping when it bumped against the haphazard barrier of moccasins. Before Vic could react, Cady grabbed the paper. She leaned forward to hand it over, and Vic could tell the moment when its contents registered. Cady’s eyes went round, her lips parted in a silent ‘oh’ before looking back up from the sonogram printout.
“Is this why you moved out?” she asked softly.
Vic shook her head. “No.” She waited, but Cady was staring at the small black and white photo again. “After the divorce was finalized, I tried not to think too much. Made some stupid choices. Spent a lot of time just reacting to everything going on. I moved out because I needed to get my life sorted out and I didn’t want it to be weird, you know, with your dad around and all that. I didn’t know I was knocked up at the time.” Even that euphemism tasted strange to her still.
Cady’s eyes flew to hers. Vic held up a hand to forestall the question. “Not Walt’s. Nothing like that ever happened between us.”
The corner of Cady’s mouth tugged up, a small, sly smile. “That deputy from Cumberland County my dad hates? Eamon?”
Vic winced. “Maybe?”
The smile was gone, swallowed by a grin. “What do you mean, maybe?”
“Maybe it’s Eamon’s?” Her voice came out in a squeak she would never admit she was capable of.
“You don’t know?”
“There is another likely suspect.”
Cady leaned forward, as if they were in junior high dishing about who kissed who under the bleachers. “Tell.”
For a moment, Vic was tempted to shut the whole conversation down. She’d been the subject of enough gossip this week between the newspapers and the civil suit. She hesitated. Cady had taken Vic in when she’d needed a place to stay and was probably the only person in town who Vic could count on to still be friendly with. Cady sipped her wine and waited, the shooting forgotten for the moment.
That was enough to make this small sacrifice worth it. “Like I said,” she bit down on her bottom lip. “I made some stupid choices.”
Vic flinched as she said the name. “Travis.”
“Murphy? Oh my god.” Once again Cady’s eyes went round. She drained her wine glass, then reached for Vic’s on the table. At Vic’s raised eyebrow, she defended herself. “What? You’re not drinking it now.”
She reached for the photo and tucked it back in her jacket pocket, making sure it was secure this time. “Uh, no. That’s what got me in trouble in the first place.”
“Wow. Travis.” Cady sat back, a little more subdued, and looked at Vic in a way that reminded her of Walt. Maybe it was those pale eyes and the way it felt like they were looking right into you. “You okay with this?”
Vic shrugged and looked up with a smile that felt half-assed. “You got a week?”
Cady moved closed, edging into the space Vic was occupying. She threw the edge of the blanket over Vic’s lap and propped her head on her arm against the back of the sofa. “We went to school together. I think he was held back a grade. These days they probably would have labelled him ADHD or something, but he’s really not a bad guy, you know.” The junior high school girl was gone and in her place, Vic could see the woman who became an attorney because she’d wanted to help people; it felt odd to have that person focused directly on her.
Vic leaned her own head against her palm, unconsciously mirroring Cady. “I know. He’s been really sweet about it all in his own way.” She tried to let herself relax, let her eyes unfocus as she spoke. “I just got out of a marriage that I went into for the wrong reasons. I’m not going there again, you know? Not even if it’s ‘the right and honorable thing to do’.” She sighed. “I just don't know what I want yet.”
Cady put the glass aside and reached for Vic’s hand. Her fingers were cool as she threaded them through Vic’s. She gave her hand a little shake, like she was trying to commandeer Vic’s attention. Vic looked up, met her eyes. They were grey and clear, and unexpectedly warm.
“You don't need to decide tonight. Besides,” Cady said after a moment. “You’re going to be a mom.” This close, Vic couldn’t help but notice that soft kick at the corner of her mouth again. “You are going to be the best, fiercest mom. To hell with what anybody else says.” She squeezed Vic’s hand as if to make the point stick.
She felt her cheeks burn and decided to steer the conversation back to the whole reason she’d stopped in tonight in the first place. “Never mind me. How are you doing? Really?”
This time it was Cady who looked away first. When she finally spoke, her words were flat, the warmth from a moment ago gone. “Have you ever killed a man? I mean, with your job, the chances of killing someone are higher than average, right?”
Vic hesitated, remembering the IA investigation in Philly and Gorski’s partner. She hadn’t pulled the trigger, but to some people inside the department, she might as well have. When she finally spoke, her voice felt like it was stuck in her throat. “I’m not going to tell you it gets easier, because it doesn’t, if that’s what you’re asking.” She thought for a moment, trying to find the words to soften the blow. “It just becomes less...immediate?”
“I think there’s a part of me that doesn’t want that.” Cady shook her head. “That sounds stupid, I know, but a man died. Because of me. And everybody keeps insisting I’m some kind of hero or something because I did it protecting Asha, but all I can see when I close my eyes is this young woman covered in her husband’s blood and I just feel sick. I don’t want to forget that. I don’t deserve to. Henry called me a warrior, and I know he meant it as an honour, that’s not me.” Her voice had taken on a frantic pitch. “And my dad… Dad won’t even talk to me about it because of the legal clinic’s association with Nighthorse.”
“Motherfucker.” Cady looked up sharply, derailed. Vic winced. She hadn’t meant to let that slip. The one place she’d always tried to stay clear of was Cady’s relationship with Walt. Her relationship with her own father was rocky enough, she didn't need to navigate somebody else's. “Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. I don't know what's up with him lately, but we haven't exactly been seeing eye to eye for a while.” She blew out a long breath and laughed. “At least I come by my tunnel-vision honestly.” Her eyes were red and damp again.
There was something achingly vulnerable and familiar about the outburst that Vic couldn’t help herself. She reached out and smoothed a stray wisp of hair off Cady’s forehead, tucking it behind her ear. She let her hand linger a moment longer than she probably should, but she didn’t pull away when Cady leaned into the touch.
Cady blinked. “You know, it’s times like this that I really miss my mom.” She swallowed thickly. “Now, and with Branch…She always knew the right thing to say.”
“It’s times like this that I wish I didn’t only have brothers. Guys suck at this kind of thing and I never learned from anyone.” Vic tilted her head back and slouched lower into the sofa. “It’s been a pretty shitty year, hasn’t it?” She brought a hand up to stifle a yawn, hoping Cady wouldn’t notice. It wasn’t a long drive back to the trailer park, but there was a lot of wildlife once you left the town limits and she was tired enough that it could be dangerous. She considered heading back to the station and spending the night on one of the bunks.
“Stay here tonight. Please?” As if Cady could read her mind. “Don’t even try to put up a fight because we both know you can barely keep your eyes open.” When Vic didn’t answer right away, Cady added, “And I really don’t want to be alone tonight.”
Vic sighed in mock defeat. “Just turn out the lights. I’m so done tonight anyhow.” She pulled Cady’s blanket up to her chin and closed her eyes. She felt the sofa cushions rebound and heard Cady’s moccasins shuffle across the hardwood floors. What felt like only a moment, but was more likely that several minutes had passed when she felt a gentle nudge on her shoulder. She dragged her eyes open and noticed the house was mostly dark. Cady was standing over her, silhouetted by the porch light coming through the windows around the front door.
“You’re not sleeping there like that.” She tugged Vic’s arm. “Come on. I’ve got some spare clothes so you can change.”
Vic made to get up, but the sofa was too soft and at some point in the evening, her body had decided that it had tolerated enough abuse this week and had seized up in protest. It took a second attempt with her arm wrapped around her bruised ribs to get herself upright. Cady, of course, had not missed the struggle, even in the dark, dragged her into the light of the bathroom for a better look. Vic didn’t bother to protest as Cady efficiently unbuttoned her uniform shirt, pausing only to ask permission with a raised eyebrow and a nod toward the buttons.
“You’re not happy unless you’re fussing over somebody, are you?” Vic answered as she leaned back against the counter and steadied herself with her fingers curled around the edge of the countertop.
Cady paused at the last button without looking up. Her words were clipped. “I guess that’s one way of looking at it. It’s nice to think that I can actually do something good for someone for a change.” She tugged at the hem of the shirt Vic had on under her uniform, and whatever else she might have said was cut off with a “Jesus Vic. What the hell?” that felt like deja-vu.
Vic twisted slightly to get a better view herself. The bruises had faded a bit, angry purple now mottled in with the blue, but the outline of a boot print was now unmistakable. She was going to answer with something glib, like “Job hazard.”, but the look of alarm on Cady’s face stopped her. “I’m okay. Really, I swear. I saw a doctor.”
Cady stepped back as far as the small bathroom allowed to get a better look. “Jesus,” she breathed again. “When did this happen?”
“Yesterday. You really want the whole story tonight?”
Cady shook her head. “I do want to hear it, but no, not tonight.” She handed Vic a stack of clothes and a clean towel. “Do you want help?”
Vic shrugged the uniform shirt the rest of the way off. “I think I can take it from here.”
When she emerged from the bathroom, she found Cady in the bedroom arranging the mountain of pillows on the bed and trying to look like she hadn't been waiting.
“Hey listen, what I said before about you not being happy unless you were fussing over someone,” Vic leaned against the door frame. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“No, I get it, you’ve got this impulsive streak that comes through when you feel you’re not in control of a situation. It makes you to say things and do things that you regret later.” Cady flipped back the comforter. “By the way, I haven’t replaced the linens in the spare bedroom.”
“Point taken.” Vic was not so tired that she didn’t miss the invitation. “And I noticed.” She padded across the room and climbed into bed with an arm around herself, protecting her bruised ribs. She breathed an audible sigh as she sunk into the soft mattress. “For this, I’ll gladly cede all control.”
Cady pulled the comforter up and flicked off the bedside lamp. Light still glowed down the hallway from the kitchen and the porch lights. “And regrets?” Her voice was easy in the dark, but Vic could still hear an edge of uncertainty in the way it lifted in question.
She rolled onto her side so she was facing Cady. “Only that we never did anything like this sooner.”
Cady let out a small ‘oh’ of surprise. “I never even thought...I mean, you were married and Durant’s such a small town that I figured I would have heard if you were, you know...”
It took Vic a moment to catch up. “I mean just talk. When I was staying here. We never just had drinks and chatted like normal people. There was always too much going on. Besides,” She adjusted her pillow and tried to make her voice light. “I know I can be impulsive, but I still want you to respect me in the morning.”
The silence dragged on long enough that Vic started to worry. She was about to say something when she felt Cady’s hard knuckles hit her shoulder, followed by “asshole” buried in a short huff of laughter.
In this part of town and this late, the night was quiet. Somewhere in the house, probably the kitchen, Vic could hear a clock tick softly. Beside her, she could hear Cady breathing, not the long slow draw of sleep, but the measured inhale and exhale of someone trying to fake it. A practice she was well familiar with from her own sleepless nights after the incident at the Gilbert compound. She always wondered if Sean had ever caught on, or if he’d just satisfied himself that she was still breathing at all.
As easy as it would be to shut her own eyes and fall asleep, she also knew why the porch light was still on this late. “You know, if there’s one thing I miss about being married, it’s having somebody else around when everything else sucks. Even when we were fighting, it was nice not to be alone. I didn’t appreciate it at the time.” Vic edged closer to the middle of the bed. “C’mere.” The bed dipped as Cady met her halfway. Vic slid an arm over Cady’s waist and tucked her cheek against Cady’s back. After a moment, she felt Cady’s fingers slip through hers and her arm drawn tighter around Cady. She listened long enough to hear Cady’s breathing even out before finally succumbing to exhaustion herself.
At some point, Vic felt the bed move. She cracked an eyelid open to find that it was morning, and early at that. The sliver of sky she could see between the pulled curtains was still a deep shade of purple painted with high atmosphere swatches of pink and gold. She could hear the shower running. Her stomach rolled a couple of times, but she pinched her eyes shut and willed it to settled down. She listened to Cady moving around the room, pulling clothes from drawers and opening the closet door. Footsteps toward the kitchen and back again, followed by the solid tap of a tumbler being set on the nightstand near her head.
Vic opened her eyes and saw Cady watching her. “You’re fussing again,” she mumbled from under the covers.
“I have an appointment at the courthouse for a client that I can’t miss.” Cady finished running a brush through her hair. “It’s your weekend. Go back to sleep.” She paused in the bedroom doorway. “Call me if you want to go for lunch or something. I owe you a meal or you’re going to think I’m just here to share a bed and leave you in the morning.”
Vic groaned at getting her own words thrown back at her. “Asshole.” From the hallway, Cady laughed. After last night, it was a good sound.
When she woke again some time later, the sky was a bright, mid-morning blue. On the nightstand she found the glass of orange juice and a piece of paper from the notepad Vic knew Cady kept by the fridge. Taped to the note was the house key.
Scrawled in pen: “In case you ever feel you still need an excuse.”