"I want a curry," was the first thing he said when she picked up the phone.
Rubbing her eyes, Carol relaxed a bit. Tony was the only one she wouldn't give a blasting for calling her so late, and he knew it, too. "Again? Is that the only food you actually eat?"
"What else is there?"
"Chips?" She thought for a moment. "Beans on toast?"
He was silent, and she established that he wasn't going to say anything else before asking, "Working?"
"You. Are you working?"
"Oh, yes, yes."
"Mine or yours?"
"You can come here, if you want," he said absently.
"I mean whose work are you doing. Mine or yours."
"Both, really... Will you come over?"
"Will you know either way?"
"Tony, you're vacant at the best of times. This entire conversation has consisted of me clarifying things for you."
Carol attempted to mask her smile. "I'll be over soon."
"And the Pratchett and Reese files?"
The shrill pitch of her phone made Carol yearn for days past, when mobiles only had those old, monotonic, proper-telephone-sounding ringtones. Mobiles these days, you could put all sorts of obnoxious noises on there, and even the ones built in seemed a lot more loathsome than they used to. Groaning, she fumbled for her phone and eventually located it, sluggishly bringing it to her ear. "Carol Jordan."
"Gov," Kevin said as way of greeting. "Just wonderin'... are you alright?"
"What? Why?" She opened her eyes a crack, blinking in the unexpected sunlight, and asked, "What's... what's the time?"
"It is... 9.47am, on the dot."
"Shit!" She bolted upright, recognising Tony's couch as her place of rest and swearing again. She wedged her phone between her cheek and shoulder and began pulling on her socks.
"What's happening, Kevin? Don't tell me I've missed something."
"No, it's alright. We were just-"
"You're running late, Carol," Tony commented, padding into the room in his boxers and t-shirt. "Coffee?"
"Um," Kevin said, his voice a bit more high-pitched than usual, "was that Tony?"
"I'll be in shortly." She hung up and thrust her phone into her pocket, beginning to search for her other shoe. "Shit, shit, shit. Where are you, you bastard..."
"Carol?" She looked up to see him holding up the coffee pot questioningly.
"No time. Just... have you seen my other bloody shoe?"
"It was there earlier," he commented, leaning against the kitchen bench.
"Earlier? How long have you... Why didn't you wake me?"
"You looked so peaceful, I didn't want to disturb you."
"Disturb me, next time, Tony, or I'll make sure I disturb you."
"Sorry." She sat on the edge of the couch and ran her hand through her hair. "Sorry. It's just, Kevin heard you ask about the coffee."
"Okay." He nodded, obviously not catching on.
"He thinks we're together."
"We are together."
"In the morning. When I'm late for work. And you're asking about coffee."
"Oh, right." Tony crossed his arms. "He thinks we've finally indulged in a sexual relationship."
"It's so romantic when you put it that way." She sighed. The whole station would be heaving with the news by the time she got in-Kevin just happened to be one of the biggest gossips in the Force, and everyone would jump on 'news' like this. She only hoped Brandon wouldn't take it too seriously when it got to him, which it inevitably would.
"It's not one of my specialties, sorry." He moved over to her, and, leaning over the back of the couch, passed her her shoe.
"Thanks." She pulled it on and stood, straightening her shirt. "I should go. I need a shower and a change of clothes before I head in."
"No coffee, then?"
"No, I can't." Carol grabbed her bag, moving over to the door. "See you later, yeah?"
"Gov," Paula said as Carol walked in, looking her up and down with interest, her curiosity obviously contained only by her sense of self-preservation.
"Paula," Carol acknowledged her, walking briskly through to her office and sitting down.
"Gov." Kevin popped his head into her office and looked around before shooting her a sly grin. "Tony not with you?"
"What do you think?" she snapped. He raised his hands in defeat and left.
Carol shifted a pile of folders on her desk aside and lowered her face onto the smooth surface, relishing the cool feel of the wood on her forehead. Honestly, she wasn't quite sure why the whole situation was vexing her so much. Misunderstandings were common at work, particularly since it seemed you weren't allowed to be single and even speak to a member of the opposite sex without becoming 'entangled'. Not only that, but rumours had been circling around she and Tony since they'd first worked together. She usually didn't give a shit what people thought about her private life, as long as it didn't affect her professional one, but with Tony, it had always been different. They seemed to share a bond she'd never felt with anyone else, one that extended beyond colleagues and friends and went... somewhere else.
"Getting in some more hours?" Tony's voice drifted over to her, and she looked up to see him hovering in her doorway. "Now, I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure my couch is more comfortable than your desk."
"True." He wandered in and plopped down in a chair. "So. I'm in love with you."
"What?" she asked. Her breath caught, like she was a bloody teenager again and and forced herself to pull her head in and act like the tough cop she strived so hard to appear. "What are you talking about?"
"At least, that's the word on the rumour mill." He inclined his head to where Carol's team were working in the next room. "We'll be married with children, next."
"As long as we get a long honeymoon somewhere warm."
"Alright." He locked eyes with her, inclining his head. "Australia."
"I was thinking more the Bahamas, but that could work." She smiled finally, adjusting her seat and moving the files back to their original spot. "Thanks for last night. Even if we are now red-hot lovers."
"Not that either of us seem to be benefiting from it."
"So, what happened last night, anyway?" she asked, choosing to ignore his comment. "Did we get through what you wanted to discuss?"
"What? Oh, the Scissor Killer." Tony frowned. "I'm not sure."
"What about?" She leant forward, resting her forearms on her desk. "Can I help?"
"It's this whole thing, Carol. Our killer. It doesn't make sense, it's... he falls under two different personalities, and I don't like it when that happens."
"Right." She suppressed a smile. "You like to be in control."
"Control," he repeated, fingers tightening on his trousers as he dug his fingernails into his thighs. "Control, exactly, that's what it's about. He's making them do what he wants, forcing them..." He lifted up a hand, scissoring two fingers together, bringing them together, then apart, then together, and apart again. "The scissors, though... why scissors? Why scissors, when a knife's sharper, easier, less obscure..." He raised his fingers to his neck, on either side of his Adam's apple, before dropping them back into his lap. "I don't know. I'm missing something, we all are, but once we see it..."
"We'll see it, Tony," she told him, with more assurance than she felt. They'd been on the case for over a week now, and two women were dead, with, according to Tony, another to submit to the same fate sometime during the next 48 hours. Not only that, but they only had two very loose suspects and a few flimsy pieces of very circumstantial evidence, and both her superiors and the press were riding her hard to find the murderer. It was difficult to remain positive, but early on, when she'd seen that this one wasn't going away quickly, she'd made it a priority. Part of the job description was not to give up, not when there were more lives on the line. "We will. We just need time."
"The thing is, Carol," he said, "I'm not too sure we have it."
"Right," Carol said, entering the briefing room, "I've just had word back from forensics. Apparently, the fatal throat injuries were not made with the same pairs of scissors as the cuts on the victims' abdomen."
"What?" Tony's head shot up. "Say it again, slowly."
"The victim's throats were both cut with exactly the same pair of scissors."
"Not the ones found near the bodies, the ones from the victims' own houses," he clarified.
"No, these scissors were more specialised, for cutting fabric and things. Still relatively common, to be purchased at your local crafts store, but not something everyone would have."
"Is that very important?" Paula asked.
"Oh, everything's very important."
"Yes, but why is this important?" Carol prompted him. She knew he was thinking, yes, but he picked some of the worst times to be mysterious.
"Because," he said slowly, moving over to the whiteboard, "he's taking the scissors with him. That puts him here," he made a large dot on the left side of the board, "in psychopathic territory. He's an organised killer."
Carol frowned. This new discovery went against everything they'd already decided, against every suspect and motive they'd thought of, putting them right back at the beginning. And even though it was always better to find out you were heading down the wrong track early-ish in a case, it wasn't always the best news.
"But you said he was most likely a disorganised offender. You said everything pointed to that," Kevin said.
"I also said that didn't feel I had a proper grasp on his personality type, yet," Tony answered. He began scribbling words underneath the dot.
"Right, so, what does this mean, exactly?" Carol asked, attempting to keep them on track. "I want facts, not accusations."
"It means that he plans, he controls, and he personalises. He's also most likely stranger to both victims, so it's not the teacher or the pastor. He's targeted them for some reason, though, and there's always a reason, so I'd go back and check every detail we know about the victims. Don't disregard anything." He turned to Carol. "That's why he left the scissors out, they weren't technically the murder weapon! Oh, this guy's good..." He trailed off, and she put her hand on his arm, recognising his need for encouragement.
"But you're better," she told him. "I know that from experience."
There was a snort from behind her at that, and she glanced over to see Kevin choking back laughter and the rest of her team smirking and exchanging knowing looks. She wondered briefly if she'd missed something, before it hit her-her comments to Tony had been unintentionally, and very vaguely, laden with innuendo. Honestly, the immaturity of men shouldn't still surprise her, but just when she thought they'd hit new lows, they always insisted on outdoing themselves.
"Right, you lot, get to it," she snapped. They jumped up, and she added, "Oh, and by the way, Tony and I getting married at the weekend, hope you can all make it. Kev, wear your good shoes, not the scuffed ones, and Paula, would you mind being the flower girl?" She surveyed them, giving herself a moment to enjoy their uncomfortable expressions, before continuing, "Grow up, everyone. We're supposed to be helping and protecting the public, remember, not arsing about like the bloody gossip mongers we loathe and despise. We still have a killer out there, and on the ultimate cosmic scale of importance, doesn't that far outweigh my potential love life? Get it together, right?" Everyone nodded, like she knew they would, and moved off to fulfil their tasks. "Kevin," she gave him a little glare for added effect, "this means you, yeah?"
He had the decency to look sheepish. "Got it."
"Good." She turned and moved towards her office, Tony following close behind.
"I'll draw you up a profile right away, but to start with, I'd focus on males with average to above-average intelligence, who are sexually competent with skilled jobs, and who may even have changed address since the first murder."
"That was an impressive show, by the way."
"No, don't get me wrong, it was also very effective. I don't think Kevin will be considering your love life for a long time coming."
"Good. That was exactly what I was going for." They entered her office and she closed the door, turning to him and folding her arms. She needed to say something. He was thinking, and they'd finally made a break, and now was completely the wrong time, and she had no idea whether it was the right thing to do, but he was driving her crazy, and she needed to say something. Besides that, it felt too much like a Now Or Never moment, which was exactly what she tried to keep in mind when she asked, "What about you?"
She cringed. He was going to make her spell it out, the bastard. Sometimes, she wondered whether he actually was that thick when it came to emotions, or whether he milked it whenever he didn't want to face things. She suspected it was a combination of the two. "Will you be considering my love life at any time in the future?"
She hoped that she looked more confident than she felt. To use another cliché, this could probably be classed as a Make Or Break moment, and she hated those even more than the Now Or Never ones. Make Or Break moments meant there was something important to lose, and Tony was one of the most important people she had in her life right now, personally and professionally. If he rejected her completely, she wasn't sure how she'd deal with it. Then again, maybe she should've thought of that beforehand.
Shifting slightly, she cleared her throat and cursed how hard he was to read. His face was impassive. There was nothing. What did nothing mean? Was it good or bad? What was he thinking? Was he formulating a way to let her down as gently as he was capable of, or... not? Did he even understand what she'd said?
"Okay," he said finally.
"What?" Her voice was all breathless and pathetic, but she found she really couldn't care less. "What's okay?"
"There's a lot we need to talk about, Carol, and I'm not sure right now is the best time. But."
"There's a but. That's sometimes a good sign."
"Yes. How about dinner?"
"Dinner?" she asked, heart thundering in her ears, like it hadn't done for anybody in far too long.
"Dinner." Tony looked very seriously at her. "You. Me. Something not-curry. We'll go sometime after this case is over. That sound alright?"
"Oh, right, yeah. Okay. Um..."
He opened the door, gently nudging her out of the way. "Right, then," he said, a bit too loudly, "it's a date."
She stared after him as he went back over to the board, his mind already back on the case. Shaking her head, still trying to process things, she turned just in time to see Kevin grinning and holding his hand out to Paula, who rolled her eyes and dumped a wad of cash in it.
"Oi, you two," she called, and they both faced her, looking horribly guilty. "Get back to work. And Kevin?"
"I hope you'll be cutting me in for sixty percent of your earnings. It is about me, after all?"
"Gov," he said, miserably.
Carol couldn't help her smile as she closed her office door behind her.