you are the silence in between what I thought
and what I said
She is judging when the images wash over her -- slick skin and hot flesh, a mouth open on her neck and her fingers tightening in short brown hair; her back arching as a man fucks her slow and steady with an unrelenting intensity that is achingly familiar -- and it's a good attempt, really it is, one of the best she's had yet, but.
She blinks and refocuses on her perp. "That won't save you," she says calmly.
He glares at her, all terror and fury, and spits out, "fuck you, Jud--"
She executes him.
She judges his accomplice next, applying the same sentence, and then waits for Dredd to finish filing their report with Central. At their feet, a servo droid begins to clean up the mess and she watches the smear patterns the perp's blood-soaked dreadlocks leave with interest. In a revolting way, it's almost kind of pretty.
She looks up and nods. "Fine."
"You paused before you carried out the first sentence."
Three months on and he's still watching her like she's a rookie. She straightens automatically. "It was nothing."
"If you sensed something from him --"
Sliding onto her bike, she guns the engine, cutting him off. "It wasn't relevant." A call comes over the radio and she takes it. "See you, Dredd."
She drives away before he can respond.
Three calls later, she realises her mistake -- it wasn't the perp thinking those images, it wasn't, it was -- but the knowledge doesn't change anything and her initial assessment remains unaltered. Assuming he even knows what he was thinking, he'll never acknowledge the temporary slip of his control that let her know it, and she'll never reveal it, and even if none of those things were true:
This, she knows, is not a love story.
The power vacuum in Peach Trees is filled approximately five hours after Ma-Ma's execution. Even before the last Resyk crew has finished clearing the levels, the tower's inhabitants are forming new allegiances, claiming new territories, cornering new markets.
She watches it happen through the daily feeds of calls unanswered and isn't surprised. This gang takes Cathy's level, that gang takes the level where she and Dredd interrogated Kay in an empty schoolroom, and another five more take the levels in between. It will be a couple of weeks before the bloodletting eases and a core two or three take control of the tower, a tenuous balance that will hold only so long as it takes for a new Ma-Ma to arrive.
She starts driving past Peach Trees at the end of every other shift; taking on just one more call, one more crime. She knows it'll never be enough, that she'll never save them all, but the burn grows more acceptable with every person she does help, even if it is just the one, just the once.
She calls for backup on a Tuesday, a 10-24 pinning her down, and it's Dredd who responds. She watches him execute two as he approaches her position on the north side of the roof and knows there's still another three -- a bullet slips across her left shoulder, friction-burning her armour -- four shooters out there.
"So much for being able to see what's coming," he says when he's at her side, handing her his additional ammunition.
"Psychic," she says, "not fortune teller." Rolling to the side, she rapid-fires across the roof and executes one, then two. Dredd puts down the third, and then there's just the fourth left. Getting to her feet, she matches her stride to Dredd's and advances across the roof until --
"Hot shot," she says.
In the elevator down, she stands on one side and he stands on the other and it is nothing like the last time they shared this space, his hands peeling open her armour and the sear of the med-foam on her torn flesh.
She watches him watch her.
It's everything like the last time.
There's a sector war in Thirteen, gang against gang against civilian and to keep the peace, a dozen Judges clearing the blocks one at a time. She quickly loses count of the number of summary judgements she's dispensed, the number of civilians she's had to send to the cubes for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
She comes across Dredd seventeen hours in, fighting Blu Tonguez and Peyote Kings both, and joins him under an overpass.
"Making friends?" she asks, sending an incendiary round straight into circlet of abandoned cars shielding the Kings from his direct line of fire.
Ignoring her, he concentrates on picking off the members who survived the initial blast and are now trying to find an alternative to burning alive.
Concrete shatters above their heads, a spray of bullets that narrowly misses. Spinning on her heel, she sights the Blu trying to catch them from the rear, and decapitates him with a high-ex.
Behind her, Dredd grunts a thank you she feels more than hears; his back is shifting against hers with every new shot he takes until she has to fight the urge to dig her nails into the skin on the back of her neck and scratch.
Control clears the sector as being stable on the fifth day, the dawn rising on a smattering of petty crime that doesn't know it's all over. A curfew will remain in effect for the rest of the month; already the local Resyk centres are running at double capacity.
Even though she's never sensed those images, those thoughts from him again -- not even when he had her pinned against a wall during the air strike two days ago, his helmet cold against her cheek and his breath hot on the side of her neck -- there is this moment when they get back to the Hall of Justice for the first time in a week where she's tempted. When the smell of leather, gun oil, smoke and sweat is heavy in the air between them, when the sharp cut of his jaw seems more distinct than usual in the shadows of the residency block, when she just wants to wrap her fingers around the curves of his armour and pull.
She stops outside her quarters, and he doesn't, and he's a good ten meters away from her when she calls out, "Dredd."
He stops and turns to look back at her.
So many questions she wants to ask him -- Do you remember your parents like I remember mine? and Do you still think of me that way? and Why did you pass me? and Will I ever see the colour of your eyes? and -- a hundred thousand or more.
She picks one; she picks them all. "Why?"
A heartbeat of silence. Then, "Goodnight, Anderson."
She watches him walk away.
In the small, dark quiet of her quarters, she closes her eyes and lets the images wash over her again, the thoughts he was thinking when he didn't know she was listening.
It's not enough.
But it'll do.