Sarah never put much stock in the soul words. Either they were generic greetings (hi, how are you, good to meet you) or they were the ones you had to wait and hope the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with would someday say. Sarah gave up on the overall idea early; by twelve she heard about fifty nice to meet yous that were bullshit two weeks later. So to her the so-called soul words are nothing more than an organized birthmark on her hip that reads I won't let you miss it in block letters stretching down onto her upper thigh, and promise across through the 'o' in 'won't', like stubbly arms of a cross.
"I won't let you miss it," her mom says when she's five, waiting for the school bus to take her to the first day of kindergarten.
"I won't let you miss it," Regi says six months later, when Sarah is trembling at the window of the YMCA, waiting for the foster family to arrive.
"I won't let you miss it," Greg says, laughing, his hands over her eyes as they navigate the restaurant, some sort of surprise waiting in her future.
Jim hums and says, "Won't let you miss it, promise," when Sarah wakes up with her heart pounding in the middle of the night convinced she's missed the opening of Seward's trial. He squeezes her tight and his hand runs over the words. Maybe, she thinks.
Later, Jim says, "I think you need help, Sarah. Take a deep breath, Sarah. Everything will be okay, I promise. Sarah."
After the hospital she gives up on promises.
"Uh, who are - can I help you?" she replies, moving her cell phone down away from her mouth so Regi won't think Sarah's talking to her.
"Yeah, this is my office." There's something nervous about him, jumpy like he's about to start looking over his shoulder any second.
Wait, his office? Sarah frowns again. This must be the new guy, but he sure doesn't look the part. "Who are you?"
"I'm Holder, from County." Recognition of a sort seems to dawn on his face. "Oh, you Linden?"
"Sar, you there?" Regi asks in her ear.
Sarah says she's got to go and closes the phone. To Holder, she says, "Yeah, I'm Linden."
He at least looks sort of apologetic now, gesturing with his grungy tote bin. "I thought you'd be out of here by now, but - I mean, if you need more time, I can wait outside."
Sarah waves him in. "I'm almost done."
Almost immediately, he knocks one of her boxes to the floor, then scrambles to pick it up. She gives him a look and draws the box closer to her, continuing to go through the papers. Holder starts unpacking his tote, saying, "So, I hear you're moving to LA."
We don't have to make small talk, she thinks. Is that a boom box he's putting on the shelf? "San Francisco area."
"Sonoma. That's nice."
"Yep," she agrees. It is nice.
Holder keeps talking. "Nice weather, ocean, beaches - hate that shit." He aims a small basketball at the trash can and throws.
Sarah rolls her eyes. One of those guys. "You must love this place, then." Rain and nothing but rain; she's tired of it. California will be a new start.
Now he's leaning over his tote to look at the files she's still got on the desk. The Seward pictures. "Ouch," he breathes, his gaze roving over the papers, then pausing on Adrian's drawing. "Crackhead thought she was Picasso?"
Fuck this guy. Sarah stands up to retrieve the file. "Crackhead's six year-old son drew it," she replies shortly.
"He get iced, too?"
"No." She sits back down, cold.
Holder makes an aborted sort of gesture like he's waiting for her to keep talking. "So, what happened to the kid?"
Do you really fucking care, she wants to say. Instead, she says nothing, leaves the silence hanging and awkward, and continues cleaning off the desk.
Oakes strolls in, looks at Holder with a confused expression. "Don't waste time moving in, do you?"
"No, uh. County cut me loose early, so, uh -"
"Well, you got a tough act to follow," Oakes cuts him off, and Sarah almost laughs at that. "You wrapped up here, Sarah?"
Maybe he'll tell her that she can skip out early. The thought makes her smile. "Yep, all done."
"Good. Got a call down at Discovery Park. Check it out."
She reaches for the sheet of paper out of habit, scanning the information even as she's thinking What?. "On my last day? My flight's tonight."
"You're still on the city's dime," Oakes says, like that makes having to go to this call any better. "You can hand it off end of shift, six o'clock. Go on, do your job."
He glances at Holder. "Take him. Show him how to work a scene," he says as he walks out.
Holder scoffs, but he's also sort of grinning. "I know how to work a scene."
Sarah gives him another unimpressed look and bends to pick up some of her stuff. At least he can help her get loaded into the car. "Grab a box. We'll take my car."
On the way, Holder slouches in the passenger seat and tells her half his life story, sounding like he wishes working Narcotics had been more exciting. "You think Homicide's gonna be any different?" Sarah asks, knowing it won't. Still junkies shooting each other on the street over the next score, rival gang drive-bys that always caught some innocent bystander, husbands murdering wives for some imagined offense, wives murdering the husbands that had beat them for years.
"At least you got a bad guy," he drawls.
"Yeah, who's that?" she asks dryly. Whether or not there's a bad guy is always fucking debatable. Holder's got to learn that for himself.
He doesn't say anything for a block or two, looking at something out in the rain, but then he turns himself slightly in the seat to address her, his voice sly and on the edge of mocking. "Is that why you're running away, Linden? Because you don't know no more?"
A shiver runs through Sarah and she's not sure if she wants to slap Holder across the face or wrench the car over to the side of the road and walk away from the whole thing. Oakes probably won't hold it against her, not on her last day. Instead, she curls her fingers a little more around the wheel and keeps driving.
It's only a few more hours. She can stand him that long.
By the time they get to the tall-grassed, waving field of Discovery Park, the rain has paused and everything looks green and lush again. It is, Sarah thinks, one of the things she might actually miss about Seattle - the gaps in the rain where the city is beautiful for a few moments, almost clean, before anyone finds needles in the grass or another runaway who's overdosed down between the trees.
"Where's the body?" she asks the uni who approaches them.
"Still looking." He hands over a wool sweater in a bag and a debit card in another.
Holder starts to wave it off as another addict - he's not wrong that this park gets a lot of junkies at night - but the bloody sweater definitely doesn't belong to an addict. Pink. Wool. Holder's probably never taken clothes to the dry cleaners in his life.
He's also not wrong that some john could lose his wallet out here, she has to concede, and it's possibly the sweater and the bank card aren't related. But something's definitely off here; something definitely happened. Sarah's been doing this long enough to trust that feeling. But right now, there's still no body, so there's no death for her to investigate. She tells the uni to give it to sex crimes and turns to head back to the car.
"Yo, we got here first!" Holder says, like cases ever belong to the first detectives on scene. Maybe in Narco.
Sarah pops her gum. "Yeah, but we don't got a body."
"You want to follow up, go for it," she tells him. It's my last day.
Holder scoffs. "You're my ride, Linden."
"So I'll drop you off at the station. I need to finish packing up."
"I thought you were done." He walks a little closer, expression curious beneath his choppy haircut. It's a terrible haircut. "Flight's not until nine, right?" Holder pauses, like he's waiting for her to reply, then adds, "I won't let you miss it. Promise."
The words are like a hot iron to the center of her chest. She stares at the sun, weak behind the trailing clouds, and lets Holder walk past her. It's just a phrase. Countless people have said it to her countless times before. Everyone means it at the time, but...
"Let's have a talk with this Stanley Larsen," she hears Holder say, snapping her back to herself. Fine. As she turns to follow him back to the car, she sees the crucifix tattooed on the back of his neck.
Her hip itches, hot and sudden. Sarah ignores it.
Sarah's long past the time when a body is a sickening sight, no longer a cause for bile to rise in her throat, but the sound of family members grieving is always awful. It can't be turned away from or swallowed back down.
Holder meets her gaze, holds it as she walks back to the scene. "We ran the plates," he says quietly.
"Here's what we're going to do," Sarah tells him in the car. "A squad is going to pick up Mrs. Larsen and bring her to the morgue for the ID, and we're going to get as much of a timeline as we can from them. Then you're going to have to talk to the Richmond campaign."
Holder's nodding along. "They gotta have records, right? Who signed the car out and shit?"
"You can hope."
At the morgue, she can feel how uncomfortable Holder is as the Larsens cling to each other and cry. She can't tell if it's years of reading body language for a living or if it's this thing she's not going to give more than a moment's thought to. She's leaving; those words don't mean any more this time than they had all the others. Especially not with this guy.
"You do it," Oakes tells her when Holder says he's about to call the campaign. "Political nature of this case, Deputy Com's gonna be watching. So you have to dot your i's on this one."
It's past eight; she should have been out of here two hours ago. She should really be at the airport by now and she's still got to pick up Jack. Sarah shakes her head. "I handed in my paperwork. I don't work here anymore."
"Paperwork's sitting on my desk till I sign off." Oakes doesn't even sound apologetic. "You found her, Sar."
That doesn't mean I'm obligated to find her killer, she wants to shout after Oakes as he leaves them to it. Now she'll be even more behind. Not for the first time, she thinks she really should have planned more of the wedding stuff before now. Fuck.
Holder watches her with a curious expression but doesn't say anything.
Her phone rings; it's Rick, of course. He manages to give her a hard time while not sounding too disappointed that she has to stay another day. He's always been one of those everything happens for a reason people, the kind of person Sarah wishes she was. The kind of person she's going to be in California. And it's only one day. They can get late-night pizza on the way to his place tomorrow night. Jack will probably still be just as grumpy.
Holder, like an idiot, tells the Larsens that they'll find Rosie's killer. Don't you know better than to tell the parents that? Sarah thinks, glaring at him as the Larsens walk away. You don't make those sorts of promises in this job.
Holder glances over, his eyes wide like he can hear what she's thinking. Sarah stalks towards the parking lot instead of commenting.
Outside the Richmond for Mayor offices, she leaves him in the rain after he breathes cigarette smoke in her face. "You still mad about what I said to the Larsens?" he calls after her, and her breath hitches. "I mean, I can handle them."
Sarah schools her face into a neutral expression. "You know that guy probably punched Rosie in the face before he grabbed her? That's what they do to kids. That's why the head wounds. You want to tell that to the parents? Go ahead."
For a second, she thinks about leaving him there, but waits for him to get in. "Where should I drop you?"
"We both need to get a couple hours' sleep," she says, backing her car out of the spot, then flipping on the windshield wipers.
He scoffs and turns on the heat. "Sleep when I'm dead, Linden."
"We need to go to the school to talk to Rosie's friends, and school doesn't start for another four hours. When did you make Detective, yesterday?"
"Fuck off," he says, but he's laughing. "Ain't there a cot at the station?"
"There's a street corner if you want me to pull over right now." She doesn't really mean it. She's too tired to mean it. "I'm sure you're used to those."
"Ouch." He feigns a pained expression for a second, then grins at her again. But he doesn't say anything else.
She drops Holder off at the station, then drives to the dock to tiptoe onto the boat. Jack and Regi are both asleep, but there's a chair she can curl up in and that's good enough, she's exhausted just getting her jacket and shoes off. They're still wet, but at least the boat is warm. She barely gets an alarm set to wake her up at five before she's asleep.
"Little man and your boyfriend, they get along?" Holder asks, like it's any of his business.
"My fiance, and yeah, they do." Well enough.
She tells Holder to find something useful to do while she goes to tell Richmond he needs to hold off on the press release. Richmond agrees, semi-willingly. He's a politician, so Sarah doesn't trust him any further than she could throw him, but he seems sensitive to the situation. At least for now. As she's heading out of the campaign office, Holder calls to say he's done something useful after all.
"Come on down to the dumpster at the high school," he says, sing-song in her ear. "Found something you need to see."
Talking to the students is yet another example of coming up empty. She tells Holder to wait for her in the hall and ducks into the bathroom, suddenly feeling sticky and disgusting. She splashes water on her face, and as she pats her skin dry, she sees in the mirror where someone's scratched Rosie's name into the glass, then scratched x's on top of that.
Not for the first time, she wonders if there's more to Rosie than what they've been able to find out so far. Who were you? she thinks.
Then she checks her watch. It's not her problem anymore.
"Ready?" she asks Holder. "I got to pick up Jack."
"Uh, I think - I think I'm gonna stay for a while, do some digging," he mutters.
She glances down the hall - just some kids waiting to go outside for some sports practice. "Into what? We got nothing from those kids."
"Yeah, well, you know - it ain't your case no more, so."
Good. She manages not to smile too widely.
Holder gives her half a smile in reply and it's not entirely mocking. "So don't you worry, Linden, I'll get a ride."
"Good luck," she says. I mean it.
"Yeah. And good luck in, uh, in San Diego. And t-tell little man I said -" he sketches a weird salute with one hand.
"Yeah, definitely." Sarah gives him sort of a wave, then turns and goes down the steps. Outside, she stops and leans against the wet brick wall, taking a deep breath. Even if - even if - it doesn't matter now. She's leaving. She's making the choice to leave. She's going to have a new life with Rick in Sonoma, a life she wants. No more killing.
Jack's still in her office - Holder's office - at the station, sprawled in a chair with his little video game thing. "Give me a couple minutes to wrap up some stuff and then we can go," she tells him, noticing the takeout cup. "I see someone brought you some food."
"Yeah, one of the crime scene guys, he went and got us burgers."
"That was nice," she says absently, drawn to the computer screen where the Halloween video is still queued up. It wouldn't hurt to watch it once more, she figures, just one more time to see if anything else jumps out. She slides into the chair. "A few more minutes and we'll go."
Jack looks up from his game. His hair is falling into his face, but she can't convince him to cut it shorter. "If we stay through the weekend then I can go to Nash's party. What's the big deal?"
"The big deal is you're supposed to start school tomorrow. And Rick is waiting for us."
"For you, you mean," Jack mumbles.
Sarah pauses the video and turns her attention to him, but he's a teenager, and hardly forthcoming. "It's gonna be great," she says, as much to herself as to him. It's gonna be great.
"Maybe he just wants the case closed."
"Maybe I didn't just find the crime scene."
Sarah rolls her eyes. This guy, seriously. "Assumptions are your enemy, detective," she says, and tells him to lay off their witnesses. Holder just laughs. He hovers warm behind her as they go up the stairs and she does her best to repress the shiver that runs down her spine.
Then Lyndon Johnson Rosales slices her arm and jumps out the window. She barely feels it until Holder looks down and says "ouch" as the nurse stitches her up. The words on her hip burn at the same time; thankfully, it's easy to pretend her quick inhale is the nurse finishing off the stitches and starting to bandage her up. Holder tells her Rosales is alibied, that he spent the weekend in the drunk tank, so he's not Rosie's killer, and she's got a new scar for nothing.
That doesn't mean he didn't see something. "Call me as soon as he's awake," she says, carefully getting down from the exam table and picking up her jacket. She needs to call Rick and let him know it'll be a few more days, and she needs to get away from Holder for a while. Not to mention get out of this bloody shirt. Regi won't care if she showers on the boat.
She just needs a couple minutes to stop feeling so blurry around the edges.
Rick hangs up on her, and Sarah feels even worse, like misery's curling up and settling in her stomach. On the boat, she sits down on the pull-out bed next to Jack and ghosts a hand over his hair. He's deeply asleep and for a second she wishes she could be that young again.
Regi hands over the soup pot and says, "I thought work was over."
"So did I."
Regi's expression is knowing and Sarah wants to turn away. She doesn't, even as Regi says, "Is there more to it than just the Larsen girl?"
"No," Sarah says immediately, feeling fifteen again.
"Uh-huh." Regi gets up out of her chair. For a brief second, Sarah misses the days when she thought Regi might be her soulmate. "All right, I'll get you some towels."
Careful of her arm, Sarah eases down on the pull-out, which is shitty but still feels great after the day she's had. She's almost tired enough not to notice the cut throbbing - no prescription painkillers when she has to go back to work in a few minutes - but only almost. Beside her, Jack doesn't even stir. She figures she can close her eyes until Regi comes back.
Sarah gives him an exasperated look and says, "No, I want to stay in this fucking rain and find who rolled a teenager into a lake while she was still alive, instead of moving in with my fiance and planning a wedding in sunny California."
He huffs a laugh and rolls his head back against the seat. "Oakes, man."
Not just Oakes, she thinks. She flicks the wipers on again and turns the corner. "Holder."
The thing is, Sarah doesn't know how to ask. You're not supposed to ask; you're not supposed to ever mention what you read on someone else's skin unless they bring it up first. Too many people with too many common phrases just living there on their bodies. Some cover it up with tattoos and never worry about it again. She wonders if there are words under the cross on Holder's back.
Sarah shakes her head. She can see the city building, a few blocks in front of them now. "Nevermind. Let's just figure out who this El Diablo is."
Holder gives her a look like he doesn't believe her, but he doesn't push it.
It happens quicker than she expects; the boy on the video in the devil mask almost too easy. What she doesn't expect is Oakes telling her to go talk to the Larsens again, leaving Holder to start investigating Echolls. Holder lingers in the office for a second after Oakes goes out. "It's like he don't even trust me."
"He trusts you," Sarah surprises herself by saying. "If he didn't, you wouldn't be on this case."
Holder scoffs. "You don't even trust me, Linden."
Sarah gives him half a smile and touches his arm briefly - a purposefully ambiguous response - before pulling her jacket on again and heading out of the building. He doesn't need to know that who she doesn't trust is herself.