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Discovering Passions

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Fetch lived a simple life; she ate what she liked, slept when she wanted, read a good book once in a while. And oh yeah, killed drug dealers and saved addicts...so that last part wasn't the average persons’ idea of simplicity, especially since she does the former a lot less often now that she's kind of like, a hero. The thing is, whether people like it or not she's content living out her life like that. Something Delsin just doesn't gather, with the way he's been pestering her for the last week to go to some party they're throwing at the longhouse. A house party sort of; food, drinks, a promise of a good time. A well cemented tradition that everyone of all ages looks forward to, always meeting her deflections with solutions at lightning speed.

That sounds like an exclusive thing. “Yeah, but I’m inviting you. “

I don’t have cash . “There’s no charge for anything!”

It’s gonna be cold. “Most of the party is inside.” She's not wiggling out of this one, Delsin trying to soothe her pout by telling her Eugene had already agreed, to which she bites back that Eugene is....Eugene, and was too soft when it came to the taller. They've gotten to know him better the last year; his quirks, his habits and pet peeves alike. For someone with a lot of bitterness over his experiences of high school, he was an inherently kind person who genuinely wanted to do things with them. No matter how much trouble they got him into, no matter the amount of stupid hats and glasses they put on him.

He’d go to karaoke if Delsin asked him to, falling victim to the same kicked puppy look that had been the final nail in the coffin for Fetch as well.

That’s how she ended up here, in her less destroyed tights and longer shorts, trying to convince herself it'll only be a few hours. A few hours of awkward socializing, maybe a beer or two, and she can go back to her perch and read some more Anne Rice. Easy, simple….maybe.
Fuckin’ Delsin and his pouting! She never lets herself get herded into these kinds of things anymore. The last party she went to was less than a pleasant memory, laced with drugs and booze and creeps that a comforting hand tugged her away from with soft warnings. Those parties were a different kind of good time, a bunch of different types of people coming together to do one thing. Get wasted, maybe screw around with a stranger they’ll never see again and wake up hungover the next morning. Fetch gets a moment where she thinks; she can't do a normal party, not with a bunch of strangers in a place she feels out of place.

Nothing against the tribe, they've been more welcoming than they really had to be, considering because of Hank, and..indirectly her and Eugene, the near entirety of their community were terrorized. And almost killed. Betty didn’t have to be so kind, to treat them with warmth once she was permitted to move around again. Sure as hell didn’t have to offer them tea and cookies and actually ask about them beyond the video and neon powers respectively between them. She appreciated their kindness, it's been a long time since she'd been given that without ulterior motives.

It's that train of thought that reminds her, also, hat Delsin is her friend above all else, he just wants her there to try and have a good time, include her in his life. Sure, his methods are a bit crass, but she’s gathered that sometimes that’s just how he is. His subtlety only goes so far, and he doesn't like spending it on them when he can be straightforward and honest. If he wants them to be somewhere with him, he tells them, insists, does all he can to let them know it’s not just courtesy.

She appreciates it, revels in the way that he took her wishes of being friends and nothing else, how easy he melded into the role of more an annoying sibling figure than a...boyfriend.  He puts so much effort into including them. It’s only fair she does her best with this, right?
She sighs, listens to the distant sounds of talking beyond the door before she shoulders it open with a false air of ease around her.
It's just a party. She can take a few hours.

This was a mistake.

Fetch crosses her arms over her chest, slumps farther in her chair and watches. She's been alone for nearly an hour and a half now, left to her thoughts and people watching as Delsin gets whisked in every direction. He tried his best in the beginning to be by her side, keep her company like he promised, but he was in his element. Around people that loved him, maybe even admired him now, and Del was always too sociable to say no. At first she’d tried following him, join in on conversations, but eventually her enthusiasm bar ran out, she got tired of smiling and she sought out some semblance of peace in a little corner. Parties without drugs, without the things she’d grown familiar to, were kinda tiring. It felt like no matter how long she went without them, she’d always notice the way they took away that wall of inhibition down. A double-edged sword, because it only takes one wrong step for ‘living your best life’ to ‘running from the cops again.’

So she resigned herself to people watching, hiding in plain sight and studying. She learned rather quickly she likes that better, watching the smiling faces of so many different ages enjoying themselves with family. She spotted Betty, Delsin trying and failing to get Eugene to join him in a dance move. She's content that way, eyes following movement and looking at laughing faces, admiring how alive the room is without blaring music and plumes of smoke before a flash of beige catches the corner of her eye.
She raises a well maintained eyebrow, hovers in the space between impulse and comfort and finally comes to a stand. Seeking out the pale brown of a leather jacket, dodging rushing children, ducking under flying arms as animated stories are recalled.

She finds him in a similar position she’d been in, leaning against the wall with arms crossed and eyes focused on the crowd. The conduit considers leaving him alone, but her boredom and desire for at least a familiar face wins out against it.

"Come to crash the party?" She falls easily by his side, keeps a decent distance between them as she turns to the full room. It’s crazy, thinking all these people know each other. That this isn’t a house party at some frat bozo’s place. This is a community, with mothers that carried together, people that know the shop owners by name, whose kids went to school together.

The man beside her hums, takes the jab easily with a careful side glance.  "Nah, not today at least."

"That doesn't sound like you at all."

“Is it possible to cry blackmail?"

“Mm, probably. I know a guy that can dig some dirt on you.” She gets a scoff for her effort, the man unable to stop a twitch of a smile. 

“Hi Fetch.”

"Hey, Reggie.”

They fall into silence after that, an awkward and tense air between them. Not the 'you almost locked away for something I can't control" type. More "I’ve hardly spoken to you this last year because you almost died sort of because of me." Type. It’s hard to breach past that, to think of things to talk about when you spend most of your time with the  younger brother.  But-she’s never been one to see her challenges before they fail.

"Not gonna hit the dance floor? Show off some moves?" Reggie gives a short ‘tch’ of a sound, almost as if he clicked his tongue.

"Please. Me dancing? I’d have to arrest myself for that.” She bites her lip to keep from grinning at the mental image, nodding and leaning back against the wall.

“So why’d you come if you’re not going to join in on the fun?”

“Why’d you?” He retorts, the bite she had experienced firsthand not there. Reggie had cooled it after the Arcadia mess, high on painkillers and shaky from a near death experience, he'd apologized to them for his behavior, genuinely so, but understood the wall of distance they’d maintained throughout his recovery. It took some time for civil to turn into comfortable, but Fetch and Eugene had learned that the older Rowe was at the very least, an easy going sort of company when he wasn’t agitated.

It was another sign of the brother’s differences. Delsin, energetic and charismatic, always wearing a smile and had something witty to say. Reggie, composed and..not soft spoken, but calm, more of an observer.  She opens her mouth to answer, slumping in resignation and looks at him for the first full time in the interaction. “Your brother.”
The crooked grin is surprising, all Reggie, because she’s never seen the graffiti artist smile like that.

“Dragged you here huh?”

“As much as I like him, you’re a trooper for still being sane.” It’s a joke, but the long sigh the other lets escape makes her wonder if he’s ever gotten grey hairs from Delsins’ antics. “You never answered me.”

“Hm?”

“Why’d you come? You look like you’d rather be doing something else.” Reggie pokes the inside of his cheek with his tongue, looking away from her to make a noise between a sigh and groan.

“Betty forced me.”

"Betty forced you?" The whole 5'2'' of her? What’d she do? Pull the chicken wing move on him until he cried mercy and agreed to go? She can’t imagine the sweet older woman doing anything half intimidating.

"Not force. More like heavily insisted. Without a lot of room to negotiate, because apparently I’m a 'spoilsport.' He flexes his fingers at the last word, his displeasure clear on his face.

“Well you are kind of one…joke, joke.” She waves and grins when his mild displeasure turns into a completely unamused frown. A stroke of loaded silence follows, this being the longest conversation they’ve ever had.

It leaves her at a loss on how to continue, realizing that though her dislike for him had lowered into a neutral sense of company, she didn't know him. She knew how to make the other two laugh, but Reggie was a wild card. An unknown on the social spectrum of Fetch’s charisma and charm.

She keeps watching the people instead, follow them twist and twirl to the music, Delsins’ beanie appearing now and again. She spots couples, young and old, and it makes her wonder. Think.

"No special ladies wanting to dance with you?” It’s supposed to be teasing, but it comes out soft and curious. Reggie stiffens next to her, shifts in his place.

“Nope.” Its clipped and short, as if she’d struck a nerve, and she considers backing off of it, not touch it again and salvage the conversation. She’s curious now though, can’t believe with the whole ‘clean cut’ image the older Rowe wouldn’t have someone makin’ eyes at him. Be boring and go on dinner dates where they talk about their future together, watch dateline television.

"I find that hard to believe."

"Believe it. Not a lot of time to date."

She gets the impression she soured his mood, the silence falling into a thick boundary that leaves no room for navigation. Reggie may have apologized, genuinely so, but Fetch has suspicions that he's still not comfortable with them.  Reggie’s always kept himself away from them, conveniently never home when they come by, staying in one room while they were in another. Trading pleasantries when he had to. Avoiding them. On some spectrum, it kinda hurt. To know that everything, after they fought together, worked together, Reggie still didn't want to be around them if he could help it.

She doesn’t know why.

“Well hey," she starts and pushes off the wall, Reggie breaking from whatever stupor he had pulled himself into to peer at her. “If I’m going to be here god knows how long, I might as well take advantage of one major thing I missed.”

“Which would be..."

“Alcohol. Join me?”

Why she was so keen to having the older Rowe near her was lost on her. Maybe she just wanted a drinking buddy. Delsin was too busy with the masses, having fun in classic Delsin fashion. Eugene didn't touch alcohol beyond a hard lemonade once in a while, and was probably hiding in a corner, uninterested or overwhelmed. That left Reggie, who’s pursing his lips in consideration, but suspicion.

“Just one drink, to loosen ya up.” She shrugs, hands falling to her tiny pockets in waiting. Damn women’s clothing designers and their stupid little pockets. “For Betty?”
His eyes stay unsure for just a moment longer, a resigned sort of breath escaping as he straightens, holding a finger up in warning.

“One drink.”

“Totally.”
________
"You're so full of it,"

“I am not! I'm telling you, he jumped off the roof and landed right on my truck. Dented the top and everything, I shit you not."

“Who says shit you not anymore?”

“I do, because I'm old. And drunk." He takes the last few pulls out of his bottle, Fetch shaking her head with a grin. Her invitation had started hesitant, but one beer turned into two, then three, and so on. Enough for Reggie's tongue to loosen in their little hovel, tell her wild stories of both police work and Delsin's teenage escapades (some of which overlap with the other stories), so ridiculous she almost snorts her drink out of her nose.
She was surprisingly having a good time, listening to Reggie tell slightly exaggerated stories, cheeks flushed and stomach light, the remainder of party goers paying them no mind to their laughter and the man’s wild motioning with each new tale.
They were invisible. And Fetch liked that.

But the combination of alcohol and central heating was making her hot, uncomfortably so, and she was pretty sure she was drunk enough to need a breather. It would only last so long, conduit abilities burning through food and alcohol unnervingly quick. She stands, the room spinning and her feet attempting to plant themselves firmly on the floor.

"Come on big guy. Time to take the lady out." Reggie chuckles, taking her offered hand and hoisting himself out of the chair, the two stumbling into one another as their unsteady feet try to find purchase. No one pays attention to them giggling and swaying like a pair of teenagers, taking their sweet time getting to the back door of the longhouse. Reggie holds it open for her, mock bowing as she passes. Corny, but sweet. her inebriated mind conjures as she heads out into the cool air, the sounds of the party nearly silenced as Reggie follows and lets the door shut behind them.

She groans in pleasure when the breeze touches her heated face, planting herself onto the faded wood, Reggie following with less grace. She clasps her hands together as they settle into silence, appreciating the peace and quiet Salmon Bay offers. Just the sound of the last insects of fall chirping, the dark silhouette of forests not even ten feet away from them, and the stars . A rare clear day in Washington, resulting in a litany of stars in the sky, more in number thanks to less light pollution. It was gorgeous. Almost soothing.

“Damn. Some people would pay for a view like that.” She murmurs, too inebriated to care how gentle her voice is, caught by the quiet beauty of the sleepy forest.
A confirming hum, her companions’ eyes are closed, either dozing off or taking in the cool, calming air. Words come into her mind; curious musing as she scans across the grassy land just beyond the stairs.

“I’ve got a question for you.” She starts, the warmth of the alcohol making the temperature perfect at the moment. Reggie opens his eyes, swiveling his head to her in such a drunken manner she has to laugh a little.

"I'm sure I’ve got answers.” She hesitates, studying his hooded eyes with a bit too much scrutiny. They were so dark. Delsin’s were too but they had this sort of sparkle to them that made them seem lighter, more alive and jovial. Reggie’s were wise, darker, so dark that in the night she couldn’t see his pupils.

“Do you hate me? Us. I mean us. Eugene and…me.” She’s never stumbled over her words before, the two leaning into each other as if the entire conversation was a secret, Reggie’s knee pressed against her own as he processed her question.

He frowns and scrunches his nose, something she's never seen him do before. But it’s…cute.

“No. What makes you think that?”

“You just, it’s like you avoid us 'cause I mean we’re over pretty often and you’re either gone or you’re heading out just when we get there or you stay in one room.” The words come out faster than she can really reign them in, Reggie watching her oddly acutely for someone drunk. “’Cause, y’know I thought you were done with hating conduits.”
She remembers the conversation so clearly, his hesitant but honest apology, Delsins red rimmed eyes glistening with relieved and prideful tears.

“I am…” He says, but he’s not looking at her now, focus on his hands and--has his voice always been that deep? She doesn't think he even noticed, the way his voice dropped into a lower octave. It’s obviously the beer running through her system, but that sounded...kinda nice. Whoa, hold on, what? Backtrack. Priorities.
“Then why?"

“You’re Dels’ friends, you don't need me around all the time." Reggie starts, breaking his gaze away from his hands to look at her with something just pushing into a frown. “It’s nothing against you, or Eugene it's just--I've needed my own space, to figure things out." Her face must show her confusion because he sighs and leans back, the leg not touching hers stretching out in front of him as he thinks. "I almost died, Fetch. It gets a person thinking. Wondering if they've done everything they should have."

“And that has to do with us how…?”

“It doesn’t. That’s the thing. I’m in my thirties, okay? I’m a cop. I’m the goddamn sheriff. I've tried to make good decisions in my life, do things right, you know?" The air starts to feel colder, the shorter wrapping her arms around herself as she gives Reggie her undivided attention. “But when I nearly died, I realized I didn't have all the time in the world. Delsin has you guys now, he doesn't need me like he used to and I guess I’m kind of...lost, without that. So I've been giving him his space, you guys space.” He frowns as his eyes glaze over in thought, Fetch shivering under the breeze, “Trying to find something else too. Besides work.”

"C’mon, that’s stupid.” She says after a moment of thought, confused, but she has this sliver of understanding to his words. He’s spent the highlight years of his life caring for his brother, and dedicating what wasn’t to Delsin to his job and the tribe, sometimes thankless work that would wear on anyone. It’d make sense, that after such a big event in his life he’d be stuck between hitting rewind and hitting pause, trying to find purchase as the world keeps moving. Doesn’t mean it’s going on without him, she’s pretty sure. She nudges him with her shoulder to get his attention.

"D's always gonna need you. Maybe not the same way, but you're his brother. Can't ever get rid of that." He looks down, away back to his hands and their knees pressed together.

"...Yeah."

“So you don’t hate us?" He breaks into a smile, and Fetch thinks he looks a million times better with one on his face. Almost as nice as he did laughing, her swimming head holding onto the image of his eyes crinkling at the corners and trying to hide the sound in the sleeve of his coat.

“No, I don’t. You guys are alright. Even when you elbow me in the ribs." He smirks at her, and the shiver that goes down her body isn’t quite from the cold. Cold or not, Reggie notices and starts to shrug off his sheriffs coat. It’s on her shoulders before she can object, wrapping it around herself as tightly as she can, steal the heat from it’s owner.

"Thanks."

"Don’t mention it." Reggie smells like leather and coffee, a hint of cologne under it all that reminds her of something similar to old spice, sort of like cinnamon but not quite there. If the man in question wasn't sitting right next to her, she'd stick her nose into the inner fabric and inhale.  She slides over to him, pressing against his side and muttering about it still being cold. He stiffens under the close contact, Fetch convinced he’s going to push her away until a warm, large hand carefully rests on her knee. She eases against him, head almost on his shoulder, marvels at the heat rolling off of him as if the snippy touches of September can’t touch him.

"Mm, you’re like a portable heater. Must be all the layers.” The older's hand stays completely still on her knee, never moving. Never stroking. Just sitting there with solidarity that has her leaning into the touch. He chuckles, feeling it through his body, biting her lip in thought.

"Glad I’m useful for something." Yeah, she definitely likes easy Reggie a little more than even calm, indifferent Reggie.

"Ain’t  just a pretty face," she teases, regret immediately taking place of the playfulness. He’s silent now, still beside her. She’s worried she’s crossed a line until he slowly relaxes back into his molded place with her.

“Think I’m pretty huh?" He attempts a playful tone, the pink-haired conduit almost eagerly grappling onto that, peering upwards at the cop with a grin.

So pretty,” It falls out too easily, Fetch pressing her cheek a little closer to his shoulder. She realizes, past the haze of barley and malt that she’s not lying.  Handsome fit him a lot more though; rounder features than his brother’s oval and angular face, stubble shading his upper lip and sides of his jaw, as if he’d neglected shaving the last day or two. Not disheveled, not with his hair even still in a careful comb-back meant for work and life, from what she’d seen he dressed simply, but overall an aura of comfortable around him and to be frank...she’s kind of digging it. All of a sudden. “You got the whole uniform thing going for you too, I seriously doubt you don’t have anybody trying to get your attention.”

Reggie smiles again, but there’s something bashful about it that makes her chest tighten, the porch light giving the one side of his face a warm tone that she’s way too interested in, feels her face flush when he looks back up at her, the smile still in place. “Nope. And if they are, they’re doing a real bad job.” There’s something delicate there, under the surface of the teasing and smiling.

“That’s their loss then and my gain.” Wait. What? But the older takes it easily, or so she thinks with the way he laughs, lilting just a little higher into something almost nervous.

“Is it now?” There’s a blip in her brain that says to back up, a blaring siren that tells her wherever this is going is gonna end in a mess, that she’s barking up a tree she doesn’t want to be in. Reggie is her friend’s brother. More so, the brother of the guy she’d told a year ago that she just wanted to be friends with, the same guy she very distinctly remembers having some fun with. It probably makes her a shitty person on some level how easily she sets that aside to instead focus on the weight of his hand still on her knee, leaning up just a touch. Enough for Reggie to notice, start to slowly knot the frown between his eyebrows.

“What are you doing?” He says it so softly, so unsure of what’s to come. They’ve hardly spoken and here she was pressed into his side, his jacket on her shoulders. She had this feeling that maybe they both just needed someone who could give them something they neglected. The way he talked about it, being alone, coming alone to parties made things echo in her chest she’d thought she’d gotten rid of.

“Don’t worry about it, cop man.”

Whether it was the alcohol or not, she really didn’t know. At this point she didn’t care. Reggie was here, warm, and welcoming beyond belief.  There’d probably be regret in the morning when the buzz was gone and they went back to their respective roles in life, but for just a second, real life can stuff it. They can be something else, somebody else and not have to apologize for it.  She shifts, the Sheriff’s hand slipping off of her knee as she reaches out to take a handful of his shirt, the angle awkward and clumsy when the punk arches upwards and silences his small sound of surprise with a hard press of lips.

She kisses Reggie Rowe, and no amount of agony in the morning could dampen the feeling when he kisses back.

Chapter Text

She was really getting tired of being talked into things by Delsin; she thought she had willpower around the taller conduit. But apparently that all went out the window when he started to whine like some ten year old not used to being denied things they wanted. She could understand being talked into a hike; she admittedly needed some breathing room after the week she's had. She can understand being talked into agreeing to ride with them instead of just meeting up and joining them for breakfast.

But she can't understand how she got talked into waking up his fucking brother.

The brother that she explicitly remembers locking lips with a week and a half ago. Whose mother figure nearly caught them. Who's scent she still has distant after thoughts of and how pleasant it was. Who she hasn't spoken to since.

And these-kids-are the idiotic thoughts that dawn on her as she walks up the steps early Saturday morning, the sun just now making its appearance and giving the sky a warm glow of oranges and pinks. She wrings her hands thinking of how to approach this. Delsin told her she may not even have to wake the older Rowe up, saying: "He wakes up pretty damn early anyway. But sometimes he has days where that's the last thing he'll do." Particularly the rare days he has off as of lately. This was for him after all, Delsin planning this little hike to get his recently workaholic brother out into the wilderness. So far though it looked like a 70/30 shot of waking him up.

God she wishes she didn't have to do this, she doesn't know Reggie! Well-she does and she doesn't. She knows the tired, drunken Reggie that laughs freely and had eyes that were windows to every thought in his head. She knows 'Sheriff Rowe;" the authoritive borderline dick officer that does his job no questions asked. She doesn't know the Reggie the tribe knows, Delsin knows.

But then again, what part of her does he know?

She waves her hands to get herself out of her mantra of inner monologue, raising a closed fist and rapping on the door quickly.

No answer. Not a peep.

Great. Perfect. Wonderful. This was another thing she feared; being left to stand in front of his house like some weird stalker knocking on the door for ten minutes. She shifts her weight and sighs heavily, considering her options. Delsin was out getting breakfast with Eugene, if she called it'd be a hassle. If she keeps knocking a tribe member may see and confront her. If she leaves she'll look like a selective and lazy bitch. "Agh…screw it I got nothin' to lose." She swipes bright pink hair away from her nose and knocks on the door harshly, the sound coming through as;"BAM BAM BAM"

She pauses for a sort of noise before going again. "Come on copper god hope they don't give you guard duty." The side of her hand is starting to sting when the door swings open without a warning, making her stumble and look up at a very bleary eyed/angry eyed Reggie. She looks up and mortifyingly feels her cheeks warm, the taller wiping at his face to rid himself of sleep before he realizes who she is. "Uh, hey." Leaves her without a thought, Reggie blinking slowly regaining the sharpness of being alert.

"Fetch…?"

Sadly the time it takes him to process who's standing in front of him, Fetches' eyes have taken the liberty of exploring, whatever control she had over her face diminishing as she realized Reggie was lacking in his many layers. Instead of the button ups and sheriffs coat, he dawned a simple gray tank top that exposed his arms, the flatness of his stomach, and the fine black lines of ink peeking through upon his shoulder and part of his chest. It was…image changing to say the least.

She was young, and her mind was going places it shouldn't until-

"Oh...wow." She covers her mouth barely concealing a snort when her eyes land below the waist, what you'd expect to be plain colored trousers was actually black boxer shorts. But they weren't just black.

Of all things, pure red kissy lips covered them along with a few words such as 'oh lala' or 'kiss kiss.' No. Freaking. Way!

"I have to say, I didn't take you as the decorative type Reggie." She manages to keep from herself without falling into hysteric laughter and points a single finger to his unders. The man in question looks down, then back up to her eyes unreadable.

Just like that the door is slammed in her face and she turns her back to it, covering her mouth as whole full belly laughter comes from her. Tears are staining her face when Reggie remerges, fully dressed and his face twisted in a humiliated scowl. She stands and crosses her arms, jutting her hip out.

"Never speak of this." It's nearly a growl when he passes, twirling his keys around his finger.

"Whatever you want kissy shorts." She snorts, trailing after him. He may have slammed the door a bit too hard in her opinion.

Chapter Text

The ride was awkward, to say the least. Whatever magical spell that held them the night of the party had diminished into a sad puff of dust with their reunion, the two sitting at clear opposite ends of the truck after Fetch had given the older Rowe the name of the park they were heading to. Stark silence sat between them, leaving a heavy sense of…betrayal? In Abigails chest. She wasn’t expecting her life to suddenly be the world’s best romance novel after the kiss, but she expected some recognition of it. Of any kind. Even the officer telling her it was a mistake and they should just forget it.

Instead, the elder Rowe simply said nothing, head resting against a hand on the window sill, other wound comfortably around the wheel as he bobbed and jerked with whatever bumps were in the road. But maybe she was jumping to conclusions, having felt a few well pointed glances against the back of her head from her position facing the window, letting the cool salty air grace across her face in a refreshing burst. It was different than the City air; so close to the ocean.

“You know you can turn the radio on.” Reggie’s voice very nearly startles her, lips coming apart when she focused on him to meet his gaze. It was only for a fraction of a second, but there was something there that nearly made her do a double take. Something warm, tired. Much like that night a week ago. But so much more keen, at full attention instead of fogged by alcohol. Eyes trail back on the road after he spoke to continue. “Not stopping you.” At first her vocal chords fail her to answer, adjusting in her seat so that she also faced forward. Hands struggle to find a comfortable resting place, falling to settle n her lap as she manages a shrug.

“’M fine. We’re almost there aren’t we?”

“Yeah. Just a few more minutes I think.”

Fetch gives a curt nod at the answer, eyes falling downcast to toy with fingers. Remainders of nail polish still covering the hard surface. That emotion in Reggie’s eyes had her thrown for a loop over his motives; did he not remember? Had he been so under the dirt that his mind had completely blacked out the entire thing? Or was it like he had said that night? “You’re Dels friends.” Was he so keen on getting his life back on track he didn’t want to muck anything up? Or was it the worst booty call she ever had? Still figuring out the kinks in this one it seemed.

“There they are.” Low and behold, there were the two idiots she was graced with calling friends. Delsin’s hand raised to catch his brothers attention with Eugene next to him. Sucked up in whatever mobile game he’d downloaded this week. He beat them ridiculously fast. The purr of the engine being cut off left the air strangely stagnant, like the silence had put a dent in it and shut all the birds up in the area.
“Hey, you got him up! Nice job laser girl.” Delsins grin is as bright and toothy as ever, giving her a playful nudge as he passed to greet his brother and help him get their things together properly. That left her with Eugene. Which she didn’t mind; they got along as well as their funky little trio possibly could. But like her, when it came to the Rowe brothers it felt almost invasive. Watching them act like siblings instead of a pair of partners fighting off an entire military-esk law enforcement. That sense of energy that had fueled their coming together was over, the trauma Delsin had faced thinking his brother was dead was gone. It was as if life had come back to normal in a messy not quite right pattern. It made her think of it again and Brent and the awful, awful thing she did—

She takes a deep breath to stop the thought process, turning to Eugene with a soft sisterly smile on her face, sitting down next to him with a short hey.
The more reserved of the three tore his eyes from the chaotic sounds on his screen, managing an awkward quirk of the lips in return.
Fetch didn’t want to know what card Delsin pulled to get the poor kid out of his little hole.
Probably something along the threats of cutting his power or taking away his copy of HH. Which quite honestly could never truly work, considering the kid had the means of just pirating his own copy.
“Alright—“ Reggie speaks up again, emphasized with a grunt as he shut the flap on the end of the truck and tosses each of them small bags.
“That’s got water and some trail mix in there. Del and I know this trail so just stick with us.”

“Ugh come on Reg, let’s do some exploring. You know, off the beaten path.”

“The last time we did that we got lost and you cried for half an hour. So no.”

“I was twelve!”

Jab and awful laughter aside Reggie got his way, Delsin dragging Eugene ahead after Fetch refused his offer of somewhat ‘adventure’ and stay behind, watching the two boys explore within the limits of the trail, more Delsin holding ‘gene by the sleeve to make sure he can’t slink away into his games. But with them falling into their duo, it left her with a certain cop. Who’s gate made her realize how entirely small she was compared to him. How her head just barely reached his shoulder, his legs taking one step meant two for her. She never realized how large he was until just that moment; forearms exposed to the sunlight, biceps just barely fighting against the fabric of his shirt. He certainly wasn’t pudgy or anything along those lines. He was more—not one to have a six back, but just healthy. Big by genes and whatever muscle being part of something like the police force brought onto him.

“Your eyes are burning the side of my head.” The comments not loud, but the sudden voice so close makes her skin jump just slightly, peering up to meet the said cops eyes with her usual defiance.

“I wasn’t looking at your head.”

Shit. That earns her a rise of his eyebrow, the expression something along the lines of annoyed. Ah, that looked familiar on his face. She purses her lips awaiting some sort of retort, but nothing comes and instead Reggie looks away with a low sigh. There was the tension again. Thick between them like a barrier that would thin to fool them into reaching that point of understanding they had the night of the party, only for it to snap back. Stronger, urging them apart and away from one another. She wants to say something, biting at the skin of her lip in thought. What do you say, though? ‘So are we going to ignore the other night or are you just forgetful.’ No, that wouldn’t work at all.

“I’ve been thinking about it. You know.” Surprisingly, Reggie speaks. Eyes ahead and watching Delsin and Eugenes figures shrink as they went farther ahead. She didn’t even notice she and his footsteps had fallen into hardly any movement at all.

“About what?” Even when she asks that, she wants-hopes she already knows. That they’ll finally get some closure on the matter.
And that he really isn’t as huge of an asshole as she’s been trying to convince herself he was.

“About…” A sigh and he’s running a hand through his hair, tugging at the strands. “About the other night. About things you said. Things I said.” He finally stops, booted feet practically pivoting against the still damp ground below to turn to her. His hands slip partially into his pockets, posture stiff and oh so squirmy. Cute.

Seriously she needed to stop that.

She does the same, arms coming across her chest and raising her chin to meet his eyes. Ah, there it was. That soft vulnerability. There was Reggie, the drunk man that offered coats to girls he hardly knew and smiled and—oh, he was waiting for her to speak. She reaches up and scratches her neck, giving a cough. “What about it?” A long sigh leaves him, chest rising and Jesus Christ he really is a big guy.

“Why did you…you know.”

“I did a lot of things, copper. You have to be more specific.”

“Why did you kiss me.”

“Why’d ya kiss me back?” It’s a cheap counter, but it does the trick as his lips part for a retort, but fall back together as his mind comes empty. She shifts, and she can feel something slithering in her chest as he looks away, a frown on his features because he doesn’t have an answer. Hell, he probably didn’t have a plan for this conversation. Maybe he never wanted this. That sliver is turning into something else, something harder that leaves her chest feeling tight.

“I don’t know.” It’s quite obvious it's not a way to get out of the conversation, brown hues glance down and away from her gaze with something so similar to sheepishness she doesn’t bother fighting the cute.

“Then tell me this. Do ya regret it?”

He’s looking up again. Down? Either way he’s focused on her and now there’s something too penetrating about his gaze, as if he’s stripping away that persona of a rebellious bad ass and reaching, digging for the frightened ex druggy that lies beneath. And she wants to look away because no, she wants control. Delsin didn’t reach past that persona, no one had since Cay. But oh, he was looking for it alright. And she didn’t like it in the least. She has to look away. Fingers dig into her arms and she’s waiting for him to say it. Yes. Yes I do and I think it’s best to forget it.
But that never comes. Instead, there’s the sound of the movement and his shoulders just barely come into her view as he takes away some of the glare of the sun stepping up to her. Her curiosity gets the best of her and she lifts her head to study him. Whatever look there is on her face makes him pause. But only for a second.

“Honestly?” His eyes flick downwards, so quick she’s not sure what he was looking at. But he’s moving closer, close enough she can feel almost unnatural heating coming off him and oh it’s that cologne again how the hell did he find the time to put that on? She raises her hand, a weak attempt at stopping him because Christ she doesn’t know if she can handle being this close to him without even just a drop of alcohol there and he makes her feel too…too….sappy.

Like a romance novel that exaggerates everything and she hates it. Her hand never touches his chest, but he stops just when the flaps of his over shirt tickle her arm and that cologne is swimming around and it’s not overpowering, but damn it’s certainly something to get your attention “Still figuring that out.” And she finally looks up, just in time to catch a quirk of his lips in what looked to her like a grin.

So quick and subtle she had to replay it slowmo to see if she caught it because just like that Reggie is gone, stepping back as Delsin voice cuts through the air and she can breathe at last.

“Come on guys we had to come back to find you! We’re wasting daylight.”

“Relax Del I just had to check my phone.” It’s a weak remark, but it settles the younger Rowe into moving back forward, snatching Eugene before he can try to go farther back. It takes a few silent breaths to get her moving, Reggie already moving along with a lazy gate.

Maybe, maybe she looks at a certain lower area with a certain interest.

Maybe she straightened up when the cop looks over his shoulder at her and nods. Not a jerk, but something soft and slow,
like he’s tipping his head in the direction of the trail to her.

Maybe she realizes that she’s already in too deep.

And you know what, maybe she doesn’t care.

Chapter Text

"Not gonna pull your back out are you?" A breathy chuckle, and the shovels hitting the layer of ice below the powdery snow in constant clanks before Reggie sighs, resting against it. She'd grown used to seeing him in things aside from the bulky sheriffs coat, nose red from the cold as he meets her gaze. "No promises. This ice just won't--" Another clank, ice cracking dully. "Go."  She presses her cold hands inside her pockets with a low shiver, taking another step forward closer to the older akomish as he almost violently hits the ice. "Ever heard of salt."

"Out of it. Too slick to get more." A thoughtful nod as she watches him work. Two months. Two months since Augustine, since Delsin thought he was going to be the last Rowe. It's incredible how much had changed in such little time. Reggie was taking less time at on work, which overjoyed the smoke conduit because 'c'mon man, live a little, find someone to come home to.' Eugene was a bit more out of his shell, brighter smiles and hood up less often. Everyone was growing...eyes glance up at the officers face, a knowing smirk coming onto her face. Including them. Sadly she'd never figured out what exactly he meant on the hike; something brushed off in the past that really would make things more complicated than they already are between them, but it made her realize somethings about herself. About how she felt for the office. 

She knew this much, he was attractive. He wasn't as much as a dick as she'd assumed.

And the feelings were mutual on some fucked up scale. Were either ready to move into that? That was a good question. They'd had moments of temptation to do something. What, she wasn't sure. Skirting glances, brief touches. Things they could get away with the more time the two conduits spent at the Rowe household. It was incredible Delsin hadn't caught on to them. They used to butt heads constantly. Now if they bickered, it was banter. Teasing, pushing their luck of humor. It was an oddly pleasant tension, but it made her wonder if things would ever expand. It was like they were circling around one another, waiting for the other to make a move. A negative or positive move. Just something to get them advancing, instead of the stagnant game of cat and mouse. It was a frustrating routine that made her want to just shake him screaming for answers. For a yes or no. Other times it was a silly thrill for her-to catch his gaze over Delsins shoulder when he welcomed her, to know he was there but not there. Not paying attention, and it makes her realize she's hyper aware of his presence. Of the sound of the truck when he comes home, or the thump of his boots around the house when they're hidden away in Delsins room playing something Eugene brought or lazing about.

 It was like a crush, how they're suddenly everywhere you are. Of course it's hard to avoid him hanging around his house. The sound of the shovel cracking against the ice brings her from her inner monologue, Reggies face screwed in concentrating so damned hard to get a break in the frozen water. Green eyes catch the flash of his hands, uncovered and gripped around the shovel like it was leeching warmth. She frowns, souring her own expression and stepping forward to snatch the shovel. She gets a frown back, probably equally cold lips parting to complain before she takes his hands. "Hush your mouth." Her own warm from hiding her coat trying so hard to cover so hard to cover all of his larger hands. He's looking down, quiet as she rubs and forces him to flex his fingers, getting blood flowing until they feel somewhat decent to her. "Moron, not wearing gloves." She mutters, scrunching her shoulders at a gust of wind  cutting against her face, whipping her fading pink hair. She needed to get it touched up, she just kept forgetting. He must huff, because she feels a small gust of warmer air on the top of her head as his hands separate from hers. 

"I'll wear gloves if you wear a hat." She flinches just a bit when something warm comes onto her head, flaps covering her cold reddened cheeks and blocking the window from her face. She wants to objects, lightly punching his chest and not at all surprised when he hardly flinches. It was moments like this that temptation grew, to just ask him. Ask him what she meant to him, and either leaves hardened or..with someone that cared about her. But that was easier said than done, to open up to someone and let them dig in there and decide if they wanted what was there or not. Reggie was a good man, with morals and people that saw him as a man. A hero. She was just...a junkie. An angry conduit that killed her own brother, broken. 

"Fetch." She lifts her head at his voice, wish she hadn't that very moment because he's doing it again. Stripping past her walls and reaching for that scared girl instead of the badass, asking for her. It's there also. That softness; a whole new type of warmth that makes her feel so cornered, defenseless against his silent assault.  

"That's my name." The snark is hard to get out, glancing down and away from his gaze for a moment before she meets it again. She's expecting a remark, a grunt and a knock it off. But he doesn't, he's bowing his head towards her and it's one of those moments again, where they forget their boundaries, that they're not a thing but oh, it sure as hell feels like it sometimes. He's just so damn--good at breaking down her resolve and making her lose track of herself. She's getting on her toes, planning to meet him in the middle and how the hell is he warmer than her in this weather and she feels it, just a small brush of chill lips meeting before--

"Hey, Reg! You won't believe what I found!" A short curse leaves her and they're both flinching away, a sigh from the older Rowe leaving its mark in the freezing air. 

"I hope it was an extra shovel, this is unbelievable." Delsin nearly barrels down the small few stairs in front of the house, slipping and flailing against the ice in spastic movements. A short careful leaves Reggie, instinct from years of caring for the smoke conduit. Once the beanie wearers feet slowed and steadied, he straightens himself up with that bright grin on his face, adjusting his green--how festive-- beanie aopt his head. 

"Even better, I found that old Santa suit dad used to wear." Reggie makes a face, and this time he gives a grunt.

"That things probably rags by now."

"Nah man it's in good shape! I was thinking you could--"

"Hell no." A pout now, Delsins lip jutting out dramatically. 

"Aw c'mon man! It'd be great for the kids." Fetch glances between them, amusement eating at the quirk of her mouth. She notices something little, and it almost amazes her as she sees the tips of Reggie's ears redden deeper. too red to be from the cold.

Oh my god, he's blushing.

The amazement makes her zone out of the rest of the conversation, trying not gawk in sheer aw at the fact he fucking blushes from his ears, coming back when Delsin whines, taking his brothers arms and shaking. "C'mon! Please?!" 

"No, Delsin!"

"You're just worried you'll be called fat." He groans, rubbing his face in exasperation at his brothers persistance. Of course, he wouldn't be Delsin without it.

"Fine. One day. Nothing more." 

"Christmas day?"

"Oh for--fine." Delsin laughs, something almost evil and rushes away calling his thanks, more skip in his step as he heads up the houses' stairs. Fetch bites her lip, crossing her arms over her stomach as she watches his shoulders ease when he releases another sigh. It's entertaining, how different the two are. Night and Day. Yet so alike in different ways. 

"So," She starts, kicking snow and Reggie's rolling his eyes, knowing what's coming. "Santa?" 

"No pictures." 

"Why so sore? I think you'll make a great Santa. All Jolly." She laughs and steps froward again, pausing before toying with a flap on his jacket. The moment of tension has gone away, easing her back into her place between wanting it all and not, between surrendering and fighting until the end. "Got the gut for it." He's pouting now, and she no longer fights the thought that it's cute, grinning brighter at his ears. 

"Charming." A shrug, tugging him closer and he's fighting his own smile. 

"Naturally." The kiss is surprisingly sweet, brief and he's pulling away again, picking up the shovel and turning to her. 

"Well, you coming in?" Her grin grows, nudging him as they head back inside, nearly slipping on their asses on the ice.

There's time to figure things out, right? Why bother with it now?

Chapter Text

A lesson Fetch has learned quickly in the time she’s spent with the Rowes, is that sometimes you’re going to walk in on things that look like they’re straight out of a sitcom. She’s walked in on the most intense wrestling matches she’s ever witnessed, she’s walked in on them deeply invested in cartoons, eating cereal, she’s walked in on dozens of pairs of joke underwear. It was bizarre, it was hilarious and oh so scarring her.

She wasn’t the only one, poor Eugene’s eyes had seen a few things also which lead to spells of avoiding eye contact between all three males.

 She wishes that she could say she’s surprised when she opens the door and there’s Reggie, sitting on the floor with reindeer antlers on of all things. Delsin had the ugliest Christmas sweater he probably owned and was standing proudly on the counter as he hangs the lights the elder is feeding him, the two arguing about something as always. It’s certainly a sight, one that forces a snort from her nose as she shuts out the cold.

“Well don’t you two look festive.” Her voice gets the two men’s attention, Delsin’s face splitting into a grin as he hops down from the counter with a loud ‘thump’ against the wood floors.

“Admire while you can, it took some serious bribing to get those antlers on him.” She can’t help but snort, Reggie standing with a low groan and holy shit the things have bells on them, jingling with his movement. 

“Least it’ll keep him from shaking his head no all the time.” She quips lightly, going to the counter to snatch a very appealing looking treat off the plate. Gingerbread men, all well iced and soft from the perfect technique of baking. Must be from Betty, she’s never seen either of the Rowe boys bake. 

“I do not shake my head that often--” But he quiets himself when indeed, he starts to move his head as he speaks, the soft jingle of the bells simply proving the conduits point. Delsin bursts into laughter, patting his brothers’ back in that sort of ‘pity but it’s hilarious’ pat that makes the elder send a light glare his way. 

The hilarity only grew when Reggie fell into that familiar pout, making Fetchs’ smirk grow in something close to a teasing expression as Delsin bounded upstairs in search of their other Christmas decorations. She waits a spell before speaking, turning towards the older, who peers up from untangling tinsel. 

“What are you looking at?” The tone is playful, a mock squint only making the image all the more amusing. She’d have to remember to take a picture. Totally not for blackmailing, not at all.

“I’m lookin’ at a pretty goofy stud, actually.” Reggie loses the squint, white teeth flashing into a smile that makes her stomach flip before he scoffs, giving up on the tinsel. This was a recent part of their odd relationship; flirting, teasing that ends with lingering looks and growing tension that reminds her there’s something there, and it drives her up the wall in the best and worst ways. 

She couldn’t tell if Reggie was playing games or just oblivious. Considering how he acted, all near mysterious with meaningful glances that made her hair prickle on her skin, the moments where he’d reach for her and hesitate only to pull away, maybe it was neither of those. 

And they were both just too cowardice to make a move. Or he was afraid of Delsin’s reaction, whatever that may be. The younger Rowe had long accepted her request of friendship instead of anything romantic, and she kind of doubted he wanted that anyway. They--all three of them--fit together well as a misfit trio, all with details the other weren’t as strong in. She appreciated that sort of relationship, that company. 

Like brothers. 

But she never felt that way about Reggie, her contempt and dislike morphing into at least something civil, and then an all too sudden some sort of desire that she was still working out. It wasn’t lust, no. It was as if she wanted something from him she couldn’t get from Eugene, or Delsin. Shewasn’t sure why, but that night that seems so long ago was the start of something near unstoppable.

She just doesn’t know how he’d react to her being involved with his brother like that. The boys may have felt like brothers, but Delsin and Reggie were brothers. Siblings, best friends almost as the older grew calmer about Delsin’s decisions. They were adults, and they listened to one another. Not that it matters...to a degree. They were each others most important people, before Fetch and Eugene came along it was just them for a long while, their opinions mattered to each other, and the last thing she’d want was to have a pissed off Delsin on her hands for messing around with his brother.

She supposed neither of them wanted to dive into something and make everything awkward.

“Flattery will only get you so far, Walker.” She almost misses his retort in her inner monologue, managing to grin and follow him through the kitchen to the small den, all warm colors and so homey it was almost overwhelming. She steps in front of him, stopping him in his heavy gate, her own footsteps light and as coordinated as she always seemed. Graceful wasn’t right, more like accurate. Like her shooting all precise and calculated.

“Do I have to compliment your antlers? Because I hear size is a big thing for reindeer.” He rolls his eyes at that, trying to ignore the soft jingles when he--not without Fetch laughing at their earlier conversation--shakes his head.

“Please don’t.” 

“What, I think it’s cute!” She’s close to him now without even realizing, looking up with her not so innocent grin. She can see, just barely the slight darkening of his ears at the tips. She was so glad she discovered that; that Reggie--all calm and collected blushed through his ears.

“If they’re so cute you wear them.” Then he’s taking off those damn things, making noise at the movement and slipping the band on her head. She tries to push away a little too late, her turn to huff at the tickled grin that appears on his face. “I think they fit you better.” As if to make his point, Reggie flicks the head garment, making the bells shake and jingle for a moment. She’s about to respond, return the huffs and pouts he acted out earlier before something catches her eye, going on her tip toes to peer over the Sheriffs’ shoulder curiously. 

“Is that what I think it is?” He turns in that direction, and she’s so close already she feels him stiffen, a surprised laugh leaving her as his ears start to darken. 

It was a mistletoe, hung up just a few steps away from the kitchen entrance. When Reggie turns back, he coughs as if trying to play off his sudden tenseness and embarrassment. This guy was in his thirties, it was too much. “Yeah, Del got it as a joke. I didn’t think he’d actually hang it up.” Then Fetch is gripping the front of his shirt, a shot of excitement running up her back as she gets an idea. 

“We should kiss then, it is tradition.” His ears are so red, lips parting to say something before he’s coughing again, looking away to avoid her eager smile. She remembered once Eugene comparing Delsin to a fox. All illusive and playful in every sense of the word. If that was the case, what did that make Reggie? Maybe a bear, all big and intimidating. But a little more romanticized. Huggable, soft. You know, the images that make people want to hug bears instead of a person. Which usually doesn’t end well.

“We’re not under it, Abi--” He really shouldn’t have said that. Her name--which he could only get away with so many times before she corrected him. ‘It’d Fetch damnit’-- or the logic behind his dodging, because she uses his off guard posture to push him back some, making him stumble until they’re right under the traditional decoration. Her arms are around his midsection, the smile turning into a mischievous smirk as he frowns down at her.

“Well look at that, we’re under it now. So pucker up, kissy shorts.” She may be a little smug.

“You’re going to be the death of me one day.” Fetch tries to ignore the flutter in her chest, because one day implied alot of things. One day was a hint that this would keep going, and she doesn’t think Reggie realizes his words entirely. Or the effect the idea has on her, because she’s not sure how much a future there is in this messy, fleeting relationship she has with him. 

Yet at the same time she can’t find it in herself to be all that concerned, favoring not replying to his comment and instead getting on her tiptoes, arms trying--emphasis on trying--to meet his height, which earns her a snort for her effort. He bows down to help and then there’s a warm set of lips on her own, hands much bigger than hers finding places to rest. One just barely digging into the small of her back, the other resting against the nape of her neck.

He tastes like gingerbreadmust be the cookies. Her mind supplies very intelligently when Reggie starts to really kiss her, the contact staying dry and slow and more overwhelming than it really should be. But it was just so Reggie; gentle but firm,  innocent for the lack of a better explanation. It was always like that, in the times she actually managed to get more than a brush of the arm or a playful shove from him. Sometimes their time was drawn tight, always in front of watchful eyes and she didn’t want to care, there was always that worry of being pointed out, ridiculed for whatever reason.

And god it’d been too long since she’d been able to get a decent kiss from him. She was half tempted to climb the officer, wrap her legs around his waist so she could kiss back with the vigor that kept her on her toes, fingers digging into the back of his shirt and holy shit he never lets them go this long. Not that she’s complaining, able to feel her heartbeat thundering in her ears as his hand moves from her neck to the side of her face, his thumb brushing over her cheek for one tender little second--

Then he was pulling away, though not far with her hands latched securely to the fabric of his button up. Just far enough to separate the contact and make them both take in an almost startled breath. His chest is heaving against her, and she’s fighting a fresh smile that wants to appear, because it was just a kiss. She shouldn’t feel so giddy over it. 

“Damn, copper.” Fetch breathes, oddly content that he’s not pulling away. 

“Too much?” His voice is deep, feeling the vibrations against her and that is not a shiver, she swears. 

 Not enough. “Gonna take more than a kiss to count as too much for me.” He releases a laugh, and it jostles her some as he starts to fully pull away. His hands come to rest on her hips, and she hopes that this contact wasn’t a one time thing. He’s smiling, and it looks so nice on him. Makes him even more open, as vulnerable as he can get. There’s a second where she feels courageous enough to ask, to simply just say hey, you kind of make out with me alot, are we anything particular? Because I’d really like to know.

“Hey Reg!” That’s not her voice, and Reggie’s smile slowly dissipates as he composes himself. That was Delsin. He’s stepping away from her as the younger Rowe bounds down the steps in a too fast motion that is far from safe, carrying something over his head. “I found wreaths and shit upstairs, help me hang it outside! Get those old bones in motion.”

“Alright, Del alright. One thing at a time.” He’s walking away, hesitating to send her some sort of look over his shoulder, as if contemplating something before he smiles again, all teeth and red ears as and fuck a thirty year old man should not be that cute. He goes to join Delsin out into the freezing rain, shoulders hunching. Fetch’s arms cross in front of her as the two brothers start to bicker, the door open while the screen door blocks out the cold  and letting her see the two argue over where to put the damn thing. She can’t help but shake her head, startling herself when she hears the jingle of the antlers still on her. 

Oh Abigail, you are in way too deep.

Chapter Text

“Geronimo!” Delsin cries as he dives head first down the hill, sled on his stomach and whizzing past Fetch as she treks back up. She doesn’t bother turning at the muffled sound of impact, the small border of snow they’d created to keep them from the trees and road more than likely being the culprit. Or the artist's holler of joy, though it does pull an affectionate shake from her head.

“Be careful, Del. That thing’s not big enough for high impact.” Reggie warns, waiting for Delsin to scramble out of the snow before he pushes Eugene down the very same hill.  

“Ah you worry too much.” The younger Rowe waves off his brother’s warning, brushing as much snow as he can off his coat and hat with wild sweeps. “Besides, can you imagine how crazy a jump off of that would be?! It’d be the highlight of the day.” A roll of the elders eyes at the other’s enthusiastic imagination, but the exasperation is ruined by the slightest smile.

“Yeah, cop man. Let the kids have their fun.” Fetch adds, sticking her borrowed sled in the snow with a soft crunch.

“You say fun now, I say ER later.” Reggie mutters in response, giving Fetch a look that just earns him a wider, brighter grin.

“Actually, that sounds even better…” She laughs this time when the officer pushes her, hard enough to jostle and stumble. He leaves his elbow out when she veers too far, her gloved hand gripping his arm as he pulls her back. She falls into his side, snickering just a little as she nudges him back. Not with the same effect, the older barely swaying at the bump of her hip. But it pulls a smile out of him, makes his eyes crinkle at the corners, and that’s even better. It fit his face, fit the theme of the day.

It’s Christmas Eve; and wouldn’t you know that Washington, with all its wet icy grossness, would get a proper snow day of all the days in the winter season. The snow’s powdery and light, crunching under boots and still falling from the overcast sky. Delsin had texted her early in the morning saying that Reggie had managed to get Christmas off, since he always works thanksgiving and if she’s interested, there’s sledding and hot chocolate included. How could she refuse such an offer?  They’d been at it all morning, following the Rowe brother’s to each spot and stopping once for an impromptu snowball fight. Which Eugene won, being a sneaky little shit and playing dirty.

Her face was red with the cold, even with her gloves her fingers were starting to feel it too, and she was covered head to toe in snow. Yet, she feels giddy and light. The Christmas season is starting to affect her, all the glittering lights and promises of treats, and maybe gifts. The sickeningly sweet sense of togetherness and cheer. This was just icing on the cake, a day out with her new favorite people, playing in the snow and their little world granting them peace. Fetch hasn’t had this much fun in the snow since middle school, making snow angels and tiny snowman. When there were no worries of when her next meal would be, or her next hit, or if she and Brent would be able to slink away from the bitter cold.  Those days seemed so distant now, hard to feel the harsh bite of hunger and cold when she had the opposite every day. She had a long way to go when it came to recovery, ghost pains still throbbed and bad days happened, but she felt...so good. She had a life of her own again, not lead by a needle-like leash and the tenderness of loss dulling. It didn’t mean she didn’t miss her brother, she always would miss and yearn for the solidarity he held. He’d been her best friend, her confidant, that one person in the crazy world she could go to without fear.

She’d been wondering lately what Brent would think of her new friends, of her new experiences and her new life. He’d be happy for her, sure, but would he fit in? Would he laugh with Delsin, whoop and holler down the hill while snow puffed into clouds on their impact? Would he sit with Eugene and play games all hours of the day, doing that disgusting thing where he does the ABC’s through burps? Would he walk through the trails with them, laugh at their stupid jokes and fight with them over the last slice of pizza?

...Would he like Reggie?

A heavy hand rests minutely on her lower back to get her attention, head rising to peer at the other in question.

“Your turn.” She takes the sled from its perch in the snow, looking down the hill she’s already done about four times. They’ll probably move soon, try to find something steeper and longer. She turns the taller, nodding towards the slope.

“Come with me this time.” Reggie blinks quizzically at her for a moment, glances down at the sled and that frown of his comes back. Not for the same reason as it would have been six months ago, but it was still there ever so slightly. A knit of his brow, a default expression, as endearing as it can be annoying.

“What?”

“Come with me down the hill! Ride with me, you haven’t gone once.” Maybe some sneaky part of her wanted to lean against him, to not so subtly snuggle up against his back and take that moment for more than it would be. Maybe it would be more for him too, maybe it would be another stolen moment.  All she knew was she liked when Reggie looked...cute. Like he had in the low lighting of the long house that distant October. It made her dare for more from him, not quite asking but not quite demanding. A push, a nudge that she doesn’t get any resistance in.

“I’m alright watching, really.” She’s about to object when Delsin does it for her, clamoring up the hill with Eugene behind him. They too were red in the face, breathless from the cold and looking happier than any of them had at the beginning of it all.

“Yeah, Reg! Go with her. This was your idea, you should at least get to go once.” Reggie hesitates, mouth open to once again refuse, but all three of them beat him to it with pleas and bargains until he’s waving his hands to settle them.

“Okay, okay! Just this once.” He sends a look when he catches her grin, watching as she sets the sled down with a soft whump. Reggie settles first, gloved hands bracing into the snow behind him. Then the pink haired conduit follows, carefully wiggling into the open spot he’d left until her back is braced against his front, pressing her knees together to make herself smaller. Maybe she shifts a little, leans farther into his chest in the name of keeping them ‘balanced’ a little longer while Reggie’s legs try to find a comfortable position for both of them. She has to snicker to herself, at how long they actually are and leaving him to maneuver them in a way that probably isn’t comfortable at all.

“You guys ready?”

Reggie says ‘not really’ the same moment Fetch gives an enthusiastic ‘hell yes!’ It doesn’t matter she’s already gone down enough times, having Reggie there made it a little more fun, a little more comfortable as his weight shifts to let Delsin push them. The extra weight means it takes a bit more effort, the younger Rowe giving a good solid boot to the sled, enough for the plastic to start tipping over the edge.

They’re going faster than Fetch had gone on her own, a startled laugh escaping as they speed down the hill. The wind isn’t particularly hard against her face, but it’s cold and sharp enough to leave a sting, trying and failing to press her face into the icy leather of Reggie’s jacket.

They’re picking up too much speed, slipping over the snow effortlessly even with the extra weight, the nose of the sled hitting the edge of their sad little border as if it were a ramp instead of a speed bump. It’s enough to upend the plastic from under them, going upwards and vaulting the two a couple feet in the air. Reggie gives an alarmed sound as they careen over hidden rocks and roots, Fetch unable to stop herself from squeaking at that moment of uncontrolled weightlessness.  He lands first with a gruff with a wild puff of snow Fetch following after and the two rolling down the remnants of the hill, coming to a stop. Stunned silence, the stillness of winter making it tense and terrifying, then Reggie surprises her by being the one to break it, a breathless laugh escaping him. She watches him roll onto his back, arms splayed out and a sigh in a big cloud of vapor. She laughs one more time, rolls that last foot to rest half way on top of him.

“See, was that so bad?”

“I can still argue with you on that.”

“Psh, you had fun. You should do it more often, it suits you.” He laughs again, his head falling back into the snow and his hat pooled around his neck from the rough treatment of their landing.

“Does it now?”

Fetch’s heart leaps at the snow scattered in his hair, the light in his eyes and off-white teeth exposed in a gleeful smile. It feels so good to see him that way; free of worries and work, acting how she, Delsin, and Eugene know he can act like. She’ll always think he’s handsome, but he looks so much better happy, flushed and like the problems of the world don’t touch him if only for a moment.  The conduit leans in, pressing a soft kiss to Reggie’s lips, not surprised that they’re cold and a little wet from where snow had melted. It still makes her insides warm up, makes her stomach flip when the officer kisses back, slow and unconcerned, as if she was all that was there.

Until there’s footsteps, crunching against the snow, one of them cursing when they slip and fall rushing down the hill. Fetch rolls off of Reggie wordlessly, biting her lip at the way he--really just a second--tugs at her jacket as if to keep her in place-- sitting up in the snow with a big grin as the two come closer.

“Are you guys okay?” Eugene asks, breath puffing in a cloud in front of his face, eyes wide behind his lenses. Delsin looked absolutely thrilled, as if he’s barely holding back laughter now that he sees they’re in one piece. Nothing broken, nothing bruised. Just looking like powdered doughnuts and the sled...somewhere.

“We saw you wipeout and catch air. Told you it’d be awesome, Reg!” The man in question pushes himself up some, braced against one of his elbows, the remnants of his grin making his expression almost vulnerable and bright. Nevermind his hat is now filled with snow, ears looking red from the cold and hair wild.

“The amount of snow in my pants is not awesome. I’ll tell you that.”  All three of them erupt in laughter, Delsin stepping forward and offering his brother his hand, grunting when he helps hoist the other up. Eugene helps Fetch, the two giggling as the nerd uses both arms to help the slightly taller to a stand, making snow shift and fall down her jacket, earning a grimace. After they’ve hunted down the sled and emptied out their pants best they can, Reggie proposes giving up on the sledding for now and having lunch, the day having already faded well past noon, daylight threatening a short end. Delsin had quit inviting them to longhouse things well past October. Now, they were basically expected to be there, to be part of the fun in their community events and to learn more dirt on the brothers.

“There they are!” Betty calls in her ever warm and gentle voice, arms open and hands outreaching to them as they get closer. She was decked out in the traditional colors of Christmas; green and red, all tied in well with her favorite outfit. Only Betty could make green, blue and red work so seamlessly.

“Hey, Betty.” Reggie greets first, bows down low enough to let his mother figure kiss his cheek before he returns it, Delsin following after quickly. The older woman doesn’t allow the conduits a moment to hesitate, Eugene jumping when she takes hold of his face and kisses his cheek, making the youngest of their group go scarlet. Betty was such a good woman; someone who welcomed everyone with love as long as they met her with the same. She’d been one of the few to not be so leery towards them being more involved on the reservation, more as conduits than outsiders. Though, there was no doubt that there were people like that, and for fair reason. But in a way, Betty had a final say in things, and she loved them.

“Merry Christmas! You all look like you’ve been taking advantage of the snow.” Hair was still a little wet from where snowflakes had fallen, clothes rumpled and cheeks reddened from the constant chill.

“Like you wouldn’t believe.” Reggie mutters as they all start to head inside, relaxing as the heat of the gathering area eases goosebumps. “Does Bill need help setting up the presents for the kids?” He shrugs off the jacket, rolling his shoulders to get rid of that last bit of tension the cold always gives.

“Oh! Yes, yes he does. He’s over by the tree, probably sneaking candy canes. Tell him the greens are for the little ones and the striped are for the game! And be careful! It’s icy around the stairs.” She calls after as he melts into the crowd. 

While the oldest of their group is gone, Betty totes the other three around. Giving them drinks, and treats, doing what she does best and caring about everyone who steps into the doors of the longhouse. The whole place is bustling, voices almost, but not quite, breaching over the holiday music in a hum of sound that surprisingly brings more peace to Fetch’s mind than she thought. She can’t help but observe the last time she was here, it was the last place she’d wanted to be.  Fetch can appreciate it, laughs and smiles as time goes on, holds her own in conversation and learns alot of blackmailing fuel about baby Delsin. But she can also feel herself getting drained. They’d had a long day, a big lunch specifically because of this going on tonight, and she was feeling it. She was an extrovert, fed off energy and wildness, but she also valued her quiet as much as the next person, starting to stare off into space as conversation continues around her.

“Sweetheart, are you alright?” Betty asks, her hand resting gently on Fetch’s forearm and breaking her from her small trance.

“Hm? Oh, yeah, I’m alright.” An attempt at a smile, faltering when it fails to convince the mother figure. She spoke softly enough no one in the circle seems to notice, even Eugene listening intently to a story one of the elders is telling. There’s almost what seems like a moment of hesitation, Betty’s eyes breaking from their contact before coming back, something different in them.

“You know, the tree looks nicer up close.” It’s such an odd thing to say, the younger unable to stop her confused frown, following Betty’s pointed stare towards the massive christmas tree in the farther corner of the building. It already looks pretty, tall and green and covered in twinkling lights, dozens of home made ornaments, probably a testament of generations that have celebrated christmas there, built memories for decades. Children are gathered around it, their big eyes shining thanks to the lights of the tree, or their own childhood wonder, whispering to one another of the gifts underneath with lilting excitement.

And then Reggie appears, lifting a little girl up by her underarms, little hands burying into the birs of the tree to put on a decoration, a small chorus of ‘hoorays’ following. She feels that pull in her chest again, watching his face light up in a smile as he sets the child down, looking so comfortable there. Around the people he cares about, laughing and joking, healthy. It brings a smile to her face, not even aware of it until she looks back to the councilwoman.

Understanding, and dread follows. Eyes scope over the woman, who’s face is patient yet neutral, gauging her reaction, her response to the slip in emotion. The punk opens her mouth, then closes it. Afraid to say something and be wrong, exposing herself. Or say nothing, and let Betty’s mind run with what she has, fighting the urge to question how, when, what gave it away? Minus the poor attempts at trying to conceal it to begin with. A smile. Soft, comforting, disarming to the young woman when she was prepared for words of question and scrutiny.

“Go on.” Though she was grateful for the lack of an interrogation, the silence of it also left discontent, heating her face as she comes to a stand, heading in the direction of the tree wordlessly.

She supposes you can’t keep anything from a mother, in the long run.

Reggie’s back is to her when she finally moves through all of the bodies, hand in his pockets and head slightly upwards. The kids seemed to have given up for now, off to sneak goodies or snooze in their parents laps before the big event.

“Hey.” She breaks the silence, hyper aware of the way his face laxes when he looks at her, turning into a smile.

“Hey yourself. You alright?”

“Yeah, yeah. Just...comin’ over. To check out the tree.” She wants to close her eyes in shame, biting her lip as the taller’s brow twitches upwards, his smile turning more into a smirk.

“Really. Check out the tree.”

That gets a huff, unable to stop herself from punching him in the arm. Not too hard, of course, hating the way she has to fight a smile when he starts to chuckle. “Don’t gimme shit. Smart ass.”

“Psh. You can take it if you can dish it out.”

“Why is it every time we’re at a party you give me attitude?”

“You give me attitude all the time!”

“Irrelevant!” She nudges him this time, using her shoulder. He laughs again, more a snort than an actual laugh, but she likes the sound nonetheless, lets him drift closer when he adjusts himself again, falling into silence as they study the tree. She debates, momentarily telling Reggie that Betty has them found out, probably did that night on the porch, a silent witness to a step in their dynamic as two people. But, that would bring up the question of what exactly are they? She had tried, in the beginning, to just take it at face value. To roll with the punches in whatever they were doing. The delicate back and forth, the soft kisses and gentle incline to an understanding.

But god, she wanted. She wanted to know what she was to him, once and for all, before that dangerous tear in her mask grows any farther, before her vulnerability becomes too much and suddenly--Reggie doesn’t want her. He doesn’t seem like that kind of guy; to play games, to lead someone on with hopeful stares and heavy implications.

He also wasn’t making any moves to progress it. Her fears were that whatever she was feeling, no matter the affection in his eyes, no matter the way he kisses her, that the scary rising feelings aren’t mutual. She’s scared. And she hated being scared. 

“Reg.” She tries, suddenly notices she’s never used his nickname before. It does the trick though, breaking his attention from the illumination of the lights, Fetch taking the moment to admire his broken and random beauty marks, all the little scars and freckles from the sun.

“Yeah?” His voice is gentle, but maybe she’d just said it quieter than she intended, her courage fleeting with his eyes now on her, insecurity reminding her they're surrounded by people that have known this man since he was in diapers.

But she wants. She wants so bad. Bad enough to swallow the dryness in her throat, ignore the pounding against her ribs and urge words out. Coherent, would be nice. “I think..uhm..we should talk.” That gets a puzzled frown, not as deep as his scowls could be, but clear enough of a message.

“Talk?”

“Yeah. Talk. About things. And stuff.” Okay, now a twitch of amusement in his lip, still confused but less so.

“What kind of things and stuff?”

Us. She wants to say. Are we even an us? Do you get antsy too when I'm close? How much longer are we going to do this. Instead, she looks away from his dark brown eyes, over his shoulder and takes a bracing breath.

“About--”

His phone rings. His eyes close slowly in an emotion she can’t decipher, but feels the disappointment lay heavy in her gut as he steps back, body twisting slightly away, but not enough to be a close of the discussion.

“This is Sheriff Rowe.” Silence on the other end, watching his face harden and morph into something more familiar. “Not far. What’s going on?” His face screws into a frown, glancing at her as his voice goes low. Not soft, but low, as if talking about something he shouldn’t be. “Is it really necessary? I’m a little busy at the--” The frown gets worse, Fetch able to see where he’s working his jaw as he listens. She bites her lip, an ugly mix of her own frustration and understanding of what’s happening twisting into an anger she doesn’t want to feel right now.

“I understand. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Sure, yeah.” He hangs up, bowing his head as he lets out a long, low sigh.

“What’s goin’ on?” She asks, the spell and her courage broken as he lifts his head to look at her apologetically.

“There’s a mishap down at the station, they want me to come down.”

“On Christmas?” She snaps, just slightly, refusing to admit though it’s not his fault,the abandonment stings in a moment that she wanted desperately to open everything up about them.

“I know, I know,” As always, he’s already set to be a peacemaker, hand out and open and she wants to tangle their fingers together, feel the weight and heat. “It’s a bunch of single, young deputies that volunteered to work tonight. Whatever it is must be bad for them to call.”

“You’re gonna miss everything.” Fetch mumbles, failing to look him in the eye at the moment, feeling foolish and rejected. She wonders how many holiday’s he’s had to stop everything and leave. How many drunkards took him away from school functions, from birthdays and New Years.

“I’ll try to be quick, yeah? It’ll just be an hour, at the worst.” Awkward silence, before Reggie is moving forward, surprising Fetch by catching her cheek, just a moment with his thumb in a short caress. “I promise...I gotta go tell Del.” When he’s gone, she brushes her hand against her cheek, still hating the way that she’s upset, but feeling a little better.

It turns out to be four hours.

Everyone understands, of course. The party continues, Fetch and Eugene experience their first presents tradition with the Akomish and still have a good time. Betty handles the older Rowe’s sudden absence with ease by making a goody bag the end, giving it to Delsin with another kiss to his cheek, and firm warnings for all of them to be careful in the cold.

Delsin is bummed out most of the way back, even while they play wii games Eugene had provided and attempt to wait up for the Sheriff. No text message either, leaving them in the dark as the time ticks by and Christmas day starts to become a reality.  It’s midnight when the youngest Rowe throws in the towel first, the nerd of their group hesitantly asking,

“You sure?” The graffiti artist smiles, bitter and sad at the edges as he takes the first step.

“This has happened before. Just better to go to bed, he’ll be here in the morning.” Possibly. Maybe. No actual promises.

So they all follow, bundle into Delsin’s bed in their funky little set up. Delsin in the middle, since he can take the most weight. With Eugene on the outside, because he hates the feeling of being trapped, and Fetch more or less on top of the akomish and leg crushed against the wall. It’s not the best, but the sound of breathing helps her sleep, and she drifts easily.

She snaps awake at the sound of a car door, her sleep muddled mind tensing in preparation for things she doesn’t quite know. She remembers where she is, urges her muscles to relax and for the surge of adrenaline to fade.

Reggie.

She’s up in a second, carefully working around the two now snoring boys she considers friends, hoping her movement and weight don’t wake them as she tiptoes out into the hall. She hears better there, hears the door close with the quietest sound the older can manage, the jingle of his keys and full bodied sigh. She waits a moment, considers before she heads down the rest of the stairs, not bothering being as stealthy now, more hoping that the Sheriff will hear her steps.

He does, seizing from toeing off his boots to look at her. At first in surprise, smoothing over into something more, dare she say, at ease.

“Hey.” He says, voice low as to not disturb the peace in the house. “Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Ya didn’t.” He did, but it wasn’t his fault. She’d been a light sleeper for years now. Delsin could move his leg, shift slightly, and she’d be half alert purely from haibt, reflex, never certain if you’re going to wake up to getting mugged. He hums, continues to take off his shoes at the entrance. “Everything good? Back at the pen?” He gives her the slightest look, catching the euphemism but being too tired to deal with it.

“As good as it’ll be, I think. I got it smoothed over.”

“What was up?” She remembers all of a sudden, that she doesn’t have a bra on, crossing her arms over her chest protectively and watching him shrug his jacket off.

“Bar fight. They brought in too many people to handle at once, they really just needed a pair of extra hands. They were rowdy as hell though. And drunk, so it took a while.” He finishes getting dressed down, planting himself on the couch and leaning forward to let the tension leak out of his muscles. The conduit hesitates before slipping next to him, the leather cool against her bare feet as she crosses her legs, half facing the officer.

“Well, you’re home now. Don’t have to go in tomorrow right?” He scoffs, just lightly as he brings his head up, hand tugging through the wild strands. He’s been letting it do that lately, just go whatever direction instead of styling it into place. It's another thing that fits him well, the conduit having long decided she liked casual Reggie much better.

“Knock on damn wood.” She hums, letting the silence fall over them as they both sit in the serenity the moment offers. The tree at the longhouse had been pretty, no doubt, but there was just something about the Rowe’s humble little set up with all of its lights on and home made decorations that made the house glow. Soft, comforting, in a way that fills her with nostalgia, of nights waiting for Santa. Then Reggie takes a breath, focus turning to her the same moment she looks towards him.

“Before I left, you said you wanted to talk?” Fuck. Shit.

“Uh...yeah--” But the moment of bravado is gone, the millisecond she’d opened her mouth was no longer in her grasp. Straightening in he seat she shrugs, trying to play it off. “Actually, do you ever think about quitting?” Coward. Chickenshit. She feels the frustration wriggle into her gut again, clenching her jaw when the Sheriff leans back against the couch with his arm spread across the back, pondering the question.

“Sometimes. More often lately.” She wonders if Reggie actually believes her, or if he’s humoring her dodging, letting it yet again be another circle in their relationship. There’s a tiredness in his posture at the moment, but he doesn’t move to go to bed, just sits with her to look at the lights and linger in the dark.

“You don’t like it?”

“I don’t...not like it. It just wasn’t what I wanted to do. Not what I imagined myself doing at thirty years old.” She remembers his words, back at the longhouse what seemed like a lifetime ago. I’m the goddamn Sheriff, I’ve tried to make good decisions in my life. It was impressive, that was Sheriff at thirty, that’s usually a job for old farts. He works so hard, works so diligently. And yet,

“Then why do it?” She struggles to see it a little, but it’s there. A bittersweet smile that takes away the ease and youth from his face that had been there earlier in the day.

“Things happened. I had to make decisions, and police work turned out to be better than retail the rest of my life.”

She only knows a little bit; Delsin was still tender on the subject of their parents, really sharing the minum like how they had been taken from them, the toll it had on him and how it lead him to making some poor decisions that left a mark on Reggie as well.

“Like…”

“Like, the thing with our parents. When they died, they left a lot behind. Bills, mortgage, bits of loans. I needed a job. One that gave me benefits, because I was twenty taking care of an emotionally unstable fourteen year old.” She hates that smile now, it twists and sours his expression into something resigned. As if he’d accepted that things would be that way a long time ago.

“But you were in college, doesn’t that--open doors and shit?”

“It does. I didn’t finish, though.” She can almost hear her parents now; the amount of harping they’d put towards Brent and herself. How it was everything, how they’d be the best years of her life. She hadn't wanted it, had begrudgingly accepted going anyway before neon started manifesting from her hands. She can't imagine giving it up when you're in it, trying to make good decisions and have a future. “And when it came down to it, the station gave me everything I asked for. I didn’t feel a need to look elsewhere. I never planned being an officer but..it’s what pays the bills.” They gravitate towards each other, she distantly notices, following the impulse to curl right into Reggie's side with her head against his chest. He’s so damn warm, it makes her eyes droop when just a moment ago she’d been perfectly fine.

“What’s changed?”

“Not much. I’m just..tired. Shit hurts that didn’t used to, I can’t stay up like I could when I started. I’m getting old.” He grunts when she jabs him in the ribs, stops in a moment of horror before she remembers the doctors gave him the okay a long time ago.

He’d been so tender and fragile after Arcadia.

“Shut up, you’re not old.”

“Eh, well…” He doesn’t finish, uses his free hand to scrub at his face, leaving it over his eyes for a breath, pulling it away when Fetch sits up and out of her position under his arm.

“There ya go again. Digging on yourself.” He makes a sound, sort of like a laugh but dryer than that.

“I’m not digging on myself, Abs.” They still at the nickname, the suddenness of it leaving them both stunned before the pink haired conduit elects to ignore it, the lilt it’d given her stomach and the doors it could open. Maybe she could at least crack one open. Later. Yeah, later.

“Yes you are. You did it back in October too.” He looks away, as if embarrassed she remembers much of their conversation, or if he felt caught. “‘N I’m gonna tell you what I told you then. You don’t have any reason to say shit like that. Not about your age, not about your job, not anything. Alright?”

He’s still not looking at her, the punk  running a hand through the Sherrif’s hair, pulling slightly at the base of his skull to get his attention. His eyes always threw her for a loop, how dark and deep they could be, and at that moment so sad. If you had told her, back in October that those eyes would make her chest ache she’d have probably laughed. Would have never believed she’d want anyone, let alone Reggie to be happy and healthy. Now, though, it’s hard to distinguish when whatever boundaries they’d had fell. If they had any at all.

Said eyes skirt across her face, the sadness getting replaced with fondness. Soft, quiet and warm in a way that has her leaning into him again, feeling muscles relax when his arm curls around her waist.

There’s something different about it, about them . A hint of what had been brewing since probably the beginning. under the christmas lights, with her hand against his chest, able to feel the steady thump of his heart, feel it rise with each breath. She leans in closer, closes her eyes when Reggie inhales sharply, presses their foreheads together as if to ground himself.

“Abigail,” He says it so softly, her fingers curl into the fabric of his shirt. She doesn’t hate her name as much as she used to, “what are we doing?”

What are you doing?

She'd been lonely, she can admit it. The boys filled a void she'd tried so hard to fill with vengeance and anger, and she'd always appriciate them for giving her things to look forward to outside of that. But she'd still just...been a little too alone. She knew he'd been lonely too, isolated for their own reasons and coming together with jagged edges that just kind of fit. 

Maybe that's what Betty saw, something neither of them had ever really prepared for to begin with. She knows, they'll have to talk eventually, because goddamnit, she wants this to work in a weird, desperate way. To have him in her life like this.

“Somethin’ good, hopefully.” She murmurs, shrinks the gap between them with a press of lips, embraces the way her heart surges when Reggie sits up, responds in kind  and leans into her touch.

Every kiss always seems to feel so different; so unique in the moment they share it. They’ve been playful, they’ve been sweet, and very rarely they’ve been heated. It’s easy to call this one heated, the way her hands release their grip on Reggie’s shirt to climb upwards and rest on his shoulders, how he pulls and tugs until she’s settled into his lap. She refuses to believe she’s trembling, because that’s just not how she is, shaking at something so simple. But it doesn’t feel simple; it’s beyond dangerous, beyond ignoring and well beyond pretending the Rowe doesn’t have an effect o her, shivering as he buries a hand in her hair, just barely holding her at the base--

“What the--”

The living room light flicks on. Fetch surges backwards before she can even think of why, almost releasing a yelp when she goes back too far, Reggie’s arm stopping her from clocking her head against the coffee table. They probably look a mess when they both whip their heads to the side, looking well and thoroughly caught.

There, standing by the stairs is Delsin. Eyes wide, mouth open wider and his gaze going back and forth between them like a traumatizing game of ping-pong. Silence. Five seconds, then ten, pushing into thirty when the smoke conduit slowly turns around and starts to climb back up the stairs without a word.

“Fuck,” The older Rowe hisses, carefully lifts Fetch up and sets her back on the couch. “I have to--I’ll be back. Del!” He’s hurrying after his sibling, trying to be quiet for the sake of their nerd friend as he ascends the stairs. “Delsin!”

Fetch pulls her legs up, hugs them to her chest and waits, not sure what else she can do.

You really fucking did it this time.

Chapter Text

“Delsin!” Reggie calls as quietly as he can, heart thundering in his chest, ears aflame with mortification and...maybe some guilt. “Del, slow down. Let’s just talk about this.” Ha! How many times has he put himself in this same situation with different context? Chasing Delsin up the stairs of their home begging for cooperation, to just listen, just to work with him for five minutes, to communicate.

“Talk about this?!” Delsin whirls around, fast, so fast his braid almost smacks himself in the face. He’s been letting it grow out lately, reaching his chin already. “What is there to talk about? I just saw you making out with Fetch!”

Words die in the olders’ throat, the justifications not even making it past his mind before they’re dashed, rapidly, sharply. The truth is there, isn’t anything for him to say to make reality look any less real. He had been doing just that, his brother’s friend in his lap like she belonged there, warm and comfortable. 

“How long has this been going on?” Delsin finally asks, voice low and yes, angry and that’s fair. Reggie knows it’s fair in a way that leaves heavy shame on his shoulders. “Was this just--a spur of the moment thing? Huh? Reg?”

God, if only. If only he could tell Delsin yes. It was a lapse of judgement, a moment between them that left them just as embarrassed and horrified and apologize Del had to see it. But it wasn't. It was a continuation of the last few months. A build up from each and every time they shared a minute to themselves, to be whatever was growing and cascading out of their control.

 The silence is loaded, hesitation pushing the elder’s lips apart before he sighs. Resigned, forcing himself to meet his brother’s eyes for as long as he can muster.

“Since September.”

The reaction is immediate, a sort of astonished yet offended laugh escaping the conduit, hands crawling upwards to tangle into the hair he can take hold of. “Since--! Are you fucking kidding me? Four months?!"

“I didn't really know where it was going."

That was true, at least. The first time Fetch kissed him had certainly been impulsive, brought on by loneliness and a little too much alcohol. A lapse of willpower on his end, of allowing himself to give into something he swore was merely temporary.

In his pain killer laced recovery, he had thought she was beautiful. Hell--who was he kidding, he'd thought that before, from the beginning. Green eyes, freckles spattering across her nose and cheeks, a smile that he had wanted to return but refrained. Long dulled feelings and sensations brought back the more he got to know the punk, both indirectly and from his own experiences, and he’d swiftly attempted distance instead of pressing closer, of daring to cross that line.

It wasn’t right in his mind, to get a crush on a woman that he’d been so hurtful to in his stress and anger. Especially wasn’t right to point affection at someone his brother had seemed to share similar sentiment first towards. Fetch wasn’t an object, no guy had a claim on her, but Reggie knew his brother and knew the younger's patterns for potential relationships. Had known his own behavior before should only allow him a civil and pleasant relationship with Fetch.

And he was alright with that. He’d been single, and alone for long enough that the fleeting affection was nothing more than a small ripple in an ocean. So he stepped into the shadows, both to find time to sort himself out and to stay out of whatever the two of them were becoming.

Then they more or less broke up on good terms, the party happened, and Reggie’s passing acknowledgements of attraction bloomed out of control the longer he let it continue. They got along, they joked around and shared personal emotions. He saw Abigail the first time that night, a vulnerable and tired young woman who has soon too much for her age. Who survived things Reggie has seen take lives of people much older. His willpower had faltered with her against his side, stealing warmth and saying things he didn’t deserve after everything.

"Oh and what, you were just gonna keep fooling around behind my back until I found out? Keep messing with Fetch, of all people?" Tension builds into Reggie's shoulders, stiff and uncomfortable as the elder squints.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means, just 'cause she's single doesn't mean she'd go for you!" The words make Reggie visibly flinch, the anger bubbling into an agonizing sort of betrayal, of hurt, that leaves his face stunned. Delsin says it as if his brother was a man so desperate for companionship he'd go for someone vulnerable, available. As if Reggie hadn't done his damnedest to squash the growing affection, hadn't fretted over what it'd do to their friendships, their relationships. 

The warning bells had been there, telling him this wasn't a good idea, that he shouldn't feel that way for someone that may have ended up with a fraction of his brother's heart. 

But--fuck. He was only human, and humans could be selfish when they were lonely. He'd given in easily didn't he? It wasn't an accident, no matter how heavy of an influence their drinking may have had. The older had known what the punk was doing the second the air changed around them, the moment those pretty green eyes flicked across his face. Searching, calculating.

Yet, neither of them really said anything, even as it escalated beyond teasing looks and harmless flirting. Even when seeing her made his chest tighten in anticipation and emotions that are still too complicated to decipher. Even as every kiss told him it was going to be harder to pretend she doesn’t have an affect on him. 

Neither of them had known it would get to that point, or at least, pretended they hadn't known that feelings would soon tangle and intermingle into something dangerously close to unavoidable. Isn't that what tonight was about? The crossing of that finale line? Of vocalizing their questions, their curiosities in a concise, singular interaction?

What are we doing?

Something good, hopefully.

Is it so bad, so awful that Reggie gave into something? That he dared to believe after being alone romantically for so long, Fetch's attraction was natural and genuine. After ten years of prioritizing everything...everything over himself.

"Why?" Reggie starts, the anger growing into a hurting swirl of things he's been trying to not let consume him, things lingering in his mind from the events of Seattle. "Is it because I'm boring, huh? Old? Ugly?" 

He takes a little bit of spiteful pleasure in the way the anger morphs into puzzlement, a quiet horror as his brother's words catch up with his mind. It battles with Fetch mere moments ago, hand curling into the fabric of his shirt as if she wanted to get closer to him, her words on the porch that eternal time ago.

So pretty, She had said. Maybe jovially, in that second, but her gaze had locked on him and he'd felt...different.

"What? No! Reg-" The damage is done, the hurt is in Reggie's chest, curling into something he hasn't felt since they were both young and in pain from their parents. 

"Am I so unattractive and unappealing that you think that's fucking okay to say?" The volume grows with each word, heart pounding because that was a nerve. A tender spot, something that Delsin has in the past, jabbed at easily. Thoughtlessly.

That Reggie isn't enough, the second choice, the less desirable sibling between them who needs pity and help finding someone who he can share time with. That's how it was, wasn't it? The older Rowe was too dull, too responsible, always had been with the way he wanted to make people proud and get far in life, whatever girlfriends he had swiftly left for some reason or another. 

"If you had just talked to me instead of going behind my back--"

"Because that would have gone so well! What would you say, Del? 'That's great Reg! Too bad she's out of your league!' Something along those lines?" Del always thought he was so damn cute, so above people when it came to romance. He used to do that all the time, confidence melting into arrogance quickly, too easily.

"Don't go and put words in my mouth!"

"Then don't label me as some sad creep who preys on your friends!" 

Delsin opes his mouth to rebut, but the creak of the door catches both of their attention, along with the hurried, bare steps up the stairs. Eugene opens the door to Delsin's bedroom and stands there, bleary eyed and glaring daggers at them. 

"What are you guys screaming about?" He grumbles, Reggie retreating. Arms cross over his chest, head down and staring at his socked feet. Listening to his own heartbeat thrum violently in his ears. Willing it to calm, not to let all the little insecurities and uncertainty come to light any more than it has already. Definitely not look at Fetch, who's presence he can sense with a prickle against his neck. He'd been hyper aware of her since the beginning, and at first it had been a stupid juvenile thrill. Right now it was the last thing he wanted to feel on him.

"Nothing, 'Gene. Go back to bed." Eugene's too tired to argue, looks at the two of them with drooping eyes before he turns back into the darkness of his friend's room. The springs of the mattress squeak, then nothing. Leaving a heavy cloud of tension that pushes the brothers apart further in the way Reggie takes a step back, Delsin's eyes first studying his older sibling's down turned head, then to Fetch behind him. They make eye contact, confusion clashing with irritation that just results in broken eye contact and more questions. 

"Eugene has the right idea," Reggie startles the two remaining conduits, voice impassive as he raises his head, straightens his shoulders. "It's late. Bed is a good idea, since tomorrow..." He falters. "Today, is Christmas." Not that it matters now. The cheer is gone, replaced with the cold emptiness of winter, edges abused and raw through hurtful words that will have to be dealt with another time. Delsin lingers, eventually gives up and goes back to his room, leaving the remaining two members of the group in awkward silence. 

"You alright?" Fetch asks, oddly gentle as she crosses her arms over her chest. The older does't know if he can answer that just yet, because no. He's not. His brother, the person he's given so much time to, attention and trust to, struck a nerve so deeply that Reggie can still feel it in his stomach. And to--to imply the older Akomish was just latching onto Fetch because she was there, and single, like Reggie was just some creep. It hurt in a way he can't vocalize. He knows Delsin has a right to be mad, had worried about it time and time again, had told himself to just fucking cut it off for that exact reason. He wasn't invalidating his brother's anger, his own hurt, had wanted to apologize and talk about it best they could.

And. Delsin had thrown that in his face so easily. As if Reggie hadn't given him so much time. As if each bad date in his adult life hadn't made him feel as if he couldn't find someone. Shouldn't bother finding someone. And, he thinks, he dares to think he found something in Abigail, someone who likes him.  

"I will be." Reggie answers eventually, voice still dull. Impassive, an old trick he'd started in the worst waves of learning how to adult with just Betty and time at his side. "You should probably get some rest, too." He tries to soften the tone, stiffly turning to study the pink haired conduit and--there it is. That twist in his stomach, the tightening in his chest, a rush of affection and other complicated emotions. She looks so different without her familiar bun, hair down and messy from sleep, lack of makeup exposing the same little flaws every person has, the things that make her beautiful. He watches an emotion flicker across her face, mouth opening for just a fraction before a sigh escapes instead.

"Uh. I don't think I'm welcomed back in the pile. For a bit." Oh, right. The trio sleep all jammed into Delsin's bed, something he'd seen multiple times upon waking them all up for breakfast, or needing to tell his brother something before he left for work. Usually an amusing and somewhat endearing thing. Now--

"Well, I could clean up the guest room if you'd like." He knew it had some boxes in there, things he'd been planning to go through, mostly things of their parents that that he hadn't wanted to touch for a good while. 

"Couldn't I just," She starts, moving fading pink hair behind her ear, watching him carefully. "Sleep with you?" The request gets him right in the chest, the older's eyes widening just a fraction. 

"A-Fetch, I don't think that's a good idea. After this." That would just add salt to Delsin's wound, make their attempts at treading on ice in the morning more difficult. 

"Probably not," At least she agrees. "It's two in the mornin' though, almost three. I'm not gonna make you clean up a room. I know D's upset, and I'm..." Fetch falters, breaks their eye contact to look down. "I'm sorry. But I know you. I know if he says nay, you're gonna quit this. Aren't you?" 

Reggie feels caught, jumps just slightly at the accusation because she's right. For all his anger and justification of wanting to feel wanted, if Delsin said anything that implied it'd risk their relationship, Reg would--he'd stop things. Make due with the ache in his chest like every other melancholy twitch, like every sense of discontent. He can't help it, a self-sacrificing spirit, a people pleaser. It's what dragged him across Seattle, chasing after his little brother and breaking regulations to get information he shouldn't ever share. It's the reason he went after Eugene and Fetch, it's the reason he. The reason he let go.

His silence is answer enough for the shorter, a small nod coming from her as she steps closer to him. He ca't help but glance down, feel a twitch of a smile when he notices her toenails are painted. "Don't do it if it's gonna hurt you more," She says, reaches out and presses a hand to his chest, and Reggie has to repress a low sigh. "But I'm askin' you. Not D. We can deal with that in the morning." There's something about the we that gets to Reggie, a deep impactful sensation in his chest that implies so much, like so many other things they've said to each other. The hints of a future, the promises of potential, the possibility of too much.

"Okay," He more or less croaks, not able to look up at her just yet as the argument gets processed. Packed away to analyze in his dreams, to attempt in not letting them consume him. "Alright."


 

Reggie's room, for a lack of a better word is...clean. Orderly. Bed made and smoothed, no clothes scattered on the floor-merely a jacket meant for chilly morning's in the aged house. Fitting in the warm glow of his lamp. He knows some people may even use the word sparse, with the lack of much decoration. Unlike his brother's room, who's walls are covered head to toe in posters, paintings, and drawings. Reggie's only touch is a tapestry that almost takes up the whole west wall of his room, deep grays and blacks that melt into a forest on a cloudy day. The most personality is in his dresser, where papers are scattered about, forgotten or left for something, framed pictures ranging from when he and Delsin were children, to more recent ones. 

Fetch lets out a soft little laugh, enough to gain Reggie's attention and send a puzzled look her way, ignoring the thrum of odd adrenaline in his system.

"It's nothin. Just...your room's exactly like you, is all." She shrugs, arms crossed over her chest and sending him a small smile. Uncertain, dare he say nervous, and it soothes his own nerves just a tad. This is uncharted territory for the both of them; in all that time messing around, of getting to know one another, she had never stepped foot into his room. It had, for a long time, been a silent rule in the house to leave the older's space be, especially if he was in there, sleeping most likely. It was another wall being breached, another boundary being blurred and broken. Unsaid, and Reggie can't decide if he likes that about this.

"Thanks. I think," He finally answers, lets the awkward silence hang over them before he coughs and reaches into his dresser. "I'm gonna just-" He motions past her to the bathroom, sweatpants held tightly in his hand as his damned embarrassment comes forth. He thinks back to that time early on, when she'd gotten full sight of his boxers, and he'd rather not repeat that. That is, until she steps in front of him, hand on his chest yet again, the older wondering momentarily if she can feel the rushed pattering of it.

"You don't have'ta do that, Copper," She says, obviously trying and failing to mask her amusement. Either sharing the same memory, or at his bashfulness.

"Abs," He chastises, not bothering to censor the nickname, "I'm not gonna just drop my pants in front of you." Reggie knows, the second the words left his mouth he said the wrong thing, already sighing when her eyes start to glint with a now familiar sort of mischief.

"I dunno, it'd be kind of a fun surprise. Last time I caught you with your pants down you had some pretty interesting shorts on." He groans this time, loud and only marginally frustrated, pulling a laugh from the shorter that almost makes the teasing bearable. "Just take your pants off you big dork." Mercifully, the younger woman turns her back to him, in a thin illusion of privacy that allows him to do just that. He leaves his shirt on, both for the sake of the cooler hours in the house and modesty. Just because he and Fetch are...an item? Doesn't mean he should just assume he can be half naked around her mere minutes from their sorta-kinda declaration.

Intimacy comes with time, comfort and familiarity. Things they may not have time for, depending what tomorrow brings on and if Reggie will have to choose between this blossoming, growing thing between them, or his brother. His most rooted piece of life, the unfaltering, sometimes maddening, part of himself.

He doesn't immediately pass out when they get comfortable, the quiet pushing into heavy with the two lying back to back, away from each other. Far away from one another and yet, at the same time not close enough. The silence leaves the older room to think, to reevaluate his decisions. He doesn't want to say he regrets this thing with Fetch, not in the slightest. But what does one do when you're forced between a rock and a hard place? When your relationship with the one person you had left in the world is threatened? 

He's not the only one anymore, a voice says, almost startles him with its suddenness. Just like you're not his anymore. 

But they were still brothers. Delsin trusted him, has always trusted him. Their relationship had been tested so many other times in their life, in their times of grasping at the straws of normalcy. Him, twenty and raw with loss and stress and pain. Delsin, young and vulnerable and angry at the twisted means of fate. They had fought so much, came together so many times, worked so hard to go beyond the hardest parts of healing and growing as two people.

Reggie hates to think this could be the one rift they couldn't mend. Hates it more that he still felt so angry, and hurt by his sibling's words mere moments ago. Said so readily, so quickly. After all the times he'd defended Delsin, been the wall between him and angry lovers, of disarming every passive aggressive word coworkers had muttered in the halls. Delinquent, they'd whisper. A disappointment. 

It wasn't that the older had been expecting an entirely positive response but not...that

A hand on his shoulder breaks him out of his thoughts, the taller giving easily to the tug against him, pulling him onto his back so that Fetch can hover above him. Hard to believe, just that morning they'd been in a similar position, her face flush with joy and cold, and things had seemed so, he doesn't know. Perfect sounded too stupid, but it was pretty damn close. He can't see her properly in the dark of his room, but as his eyes adjust he sees enough, hums when her hand reaches forward to skirt over his jaw, his cheek. "You're thinkin' too loud," She murmurs, lowers herself down so that her nose brushes with his. 

"Sorry," He amends quietly, can't help himself when he splays his fingers over the swell of her hip. 

"Things are gonna be okay. D loves you too much to be angry for too long." He sighs, turns away just slightly to keep his focus on the shifting and swirling darkness of his bedroom.

"He loves you too," The argument slips before he can grasp it again, biting his tongue in his own scolding when Fetch goes quiet, the weight of her oddly soothing as it was unnerving. 

"It ain't the same kind of love," She says, hands sliding downwards until they settle on his abdomen, grateful she doesn't acknowledge the way he jumps just slightly. Reggie knows he's going to regret what comes out of his mouth next, a low, bracing breath pulling into his lungs before--

"Was it ever...could it have ever-"

"No." It's direct, short and somehow everything he needed in that moment. "No, it wasn't ever like that. I love D, I owe him a lot and I want what's best for him. But that's all."

"Ah." Silence again, the older aware of Fetch now basically on top of him, his hands resting on her thighs and fighting his shame at being relieved. Relieved to know that at least, he hadn't started something supremely ugly, triggered a horrible sort of love triangle that left someone unhappy regardless. Still, there was guilt that maybe the break up wasn't that mutual, that Delsin had always been hoping...possibly, waiting for things to still work out, and--what if he did take advantage of Abigail? What if everything they'd shared had somehow been him projecting, pushing on something that wasn't realistic? 

"Hey," She says it firmly, giving up from sitting on him to instead lay on top of him, sprawling out and sending a chill down his spine. A full-bodied sensation that leaves a tingle behind in its wake. He doesn't have a chance to ask what before the conduit's mouth is on his, warm and soft, familiar in a way that sends another shiver through him, a sharp breath escaping his nose. Fetch hums into it, buries her hand into the small hairs at the back of his head, practically melts into him when he wraps an arm around her waist. It's something out of a romance novel, how easily they mold to one another, how the younger seems to fit right there, just like she had in his lap.

It feels both like an eternity and a mere moment when Fetch pulls away, presses a gentler kiss to the corner of his mouth, then his chin, and finally his jaw. "Whatever D had said to you," She breathes against his neck, the older closing his eyes at the sensation, "It's a load of shit, okay? I know what I want in life. I want you, Reggie Rowe."

Emotions swell in his chest, indistinguishable and messy. He turns his head to press his nose to the side of her jaw, presses a haphazard kiss there and wishes desperately this would be easy. "And I want you," He admits, quiet and low in the peaceful bubble of the bedroom. He swears, as he starts to drift off, he feels Fetch smile against his neck.