Lucy falls into her chair for roll call with a wince and a sharp intake of breath, gripping the cardboard cup of coffee like a lifeline. It’s Monday morning. Her apartment is uninhabitable. And on her way in, she’d heard one of the new rookies coming off of his night shift muttering something about it being ‘quiet’, so she’s fully prepared to face a day from hell.
“What’s up with you?” Tim asks from the desk behind hers. She’s so sleep deprived, she’d barely noticed he was there.
“My apartment flooded,” Lucy groans. “Water pipe burst on Friday night. Most of my stuff is ruined, and now the landlord’s saying there’s some kind of insurance dispute over the cause?”
He leans forward a little, like he’s about to share some big secret. “Are you sure you didn’t just leave the faucet running?”
Lucy shoots him her darkest look, eyes narrowed. “Way to victim blame, Bradford.”
“Most accidents occur in the home.”
“It wasn’t an accident it’s a flood. And I’m so tired. Jackson’s staying with his parents and I tried sleeping on their couch on Saturday but my God, it’s so uncomfortable. And then last night, Angela said I could crash on her couch, but-” Lucy pauses to look around, checking to make sure no one is around to overhear them. “She gets up like ten times a night. To pee, or eat, or one time she was cleaning? She’s calling it nesting?”
“She’s eight months pregnant, Chen, what do you expect?”
“Ugh,” Lucy grumbles into her hands. The worst of it is the dull ache in her lower back from sleeping on lumpy couches. She’s twenty-nine, she figured she had a few more years before her body started to give out on her. “I think I have to check into a hotel until this is fixed. And I have no idea how I’m supposed to afford that if the insurance payout doesn’t come through.”
“Nolan’s got a spare room. Asked him?”
“Henry and Abigail are visiting.” She’s thought of that already.
“Her second bedroom is occupied for half the week.”
She shoots him an even darker look than the first one. Lucy’s pretty sure she’s thought through every option, up to and including joining the convoy of trailers in the back parking lot. And sure, she could just find a new apartment, but she likes her current apartment, and moving is horrific, and how long can it really take for it to be fixed up, anyway?
“Ok,” Tim sighs, “how long do you think it’s gonna take? Before you’re back in?”
“I don’t know,” she shrugs. “Maybe a few weeks? Month?” He’s looking at her with a slightly pained expression on his face, like there’s some huge internal debate raging in his head.
Tim takes a deep breath. “I don’t advertise this fact, because I like my space, but... I have a spare room. You can stay in it if you need to.”
Lucy could cry. “Really?” She leans back a little, waiting for the punchline. “You’d actually let me stay in your spare room? What’s the catch?”
“No catch, but it’s a one time offer. And you can help me look after the dog you’re partly responsible for.”
She considers him for a beat, weighing up the likelihood that this is some elaborate prank or test, despite the fact that she hasn’t been his rookie in months. “For real? You’re just letting me stay in your spare room? This isn’t a test?”
“It’s just a spare room, Lucy, I didn’t offer you a kidney. Come by after shift with your stuff and I’ll have the room ready. Just don’t make it all messy. And don’t make too much noise.”
“I can’t promise that.”
He winces. “Looks like I’ll have to withdraw that offer, then.”
“No, no! How about if I promise to keep the mess confined to one room!” Lucy bites back a smile.
“So long as it’s clean by the time you leave, you’ve got yourself a deal.”
They shake on it. If Lucy’s a little slow to pull her palm back, it’s just because her reflexes are slow after the weekend she’s had.
Lucy’s never had much reason to spend long in Tim’s house, so she’s never noticed how homely it feels in there before. As soon as Tim opens the door for her, she’s met with an excited furball and the smell of fresh pizza. They eat slices from the box across the table from each other and talk about work, and it feels like a bubble of calm after a chaotic weekend.
It feels safe, which is a feeling Lucy never properly valued until after she had found out what it meant to really feel un safe. She knew, on a surface level, that her safety was not guaranteed as a police officer, but like most humans, she took it for granted anyway.
And then...and then she was inside a barrel under the ground waiting for rescue or death, and she knew that no matter what happened, she’d never have the luxury of taking safety as a given again.
Tim had been the one to find her. Tim had been the one to bring her back to life. Tim had stayed in the hospital with her all night. It makes sense that his home feels safe to her.
“This is for you,” he pulls something out of his pocket, shiny flat metal, sliding it across the table towards her. “My spare key. You can have it while you stay here, but you better give it back the second your apartment’s cleaned up.”
Lucy picks up the key, turning it over in her hand. “What, you mean you don’t trust me with your key? What if you have an emergency?”
“Then I’ll call nine-one-one.”
“What if it’s not that kind of emergency?” She challenges.
“Then I’ll call a friend.”
Lucy folds her arms across her chest. “Oh we’re so friends at this point, Tim. Stop trying to fight it.”
“Don’t push your luck,” he teases, and then she knows she’s won.
Lucy pockets the key. They’re definitely friends.
If anyone were to ask Tim - including Lucy herself - what it’s like to have Lucy stay with him, he’d respond aggravating. And, on paper, it should be. She talks too much and leaves the empty milk cartons right next to the trash can and sings in the shower and she’s already tried to cleanse his home with herbs twice. It’s been four days, and he’s already finding himself growling her name under his breath in exasperation more now than he ever did when she was his rookie.
It’s strange, more than anything, to have another person living in his space again, even if it is only for a short period of time. And by all accounts, rationally, Tim knows he should hate it.
Only...some part of the back of his mind, which he guesses must be broken, is telling him it’s good.
He’ll deny it if anyone asks.
Hell, he’s denying it to himself.
It’s just that she’s good with Kojo, and maybe sometimes it is nice to have someone to talk to in the mornings, or to decompress from a shift, and that sitting beside her on the couch to watch mindless tv kind of makes him feel warmer than when he does it alone.
It’s just that, when he came in from his run this evening, Kojo panting behind him, the house had been filled up with music, with Lucy singing some old top forty hit he vaguely recognises from behind the closed door of her room. (The spare room , he corrects himself. It’s not hers. She’s not here to stay.) Tim had paused, frozen in his hallway, feet rooted to the solid wood beneath his feet, a tiny involuntary shiver running down his spine when she hit the high note.
It had taken Kojo bumping his wet nose against Tim’s calf to snap him out of it, to remind him that her constant singing is annoying , and that her staying here is an altogether less than ideal situation.
“Is this dress too much?” Lucy asks, later, stepping into the kitchen in a deep blue dress that kind of makes Tim’s heart stutter.
He blames it on the after effects of the run he went on earlier, or the fact that Lucy kind of made him jump, or - or an early warning sign of a heart attack.
“For what?” Tim asks, guessing it’s not what she’s planning to wear to sit in his living room with him the way she has for the past four nights.
“Didn’t I tell you?” She frowns a little. “I’ve got a date.” She’s a little smug, a little teasing. Tim pretends like his breath didn’t just catch in his throat.
“You didn’t say,” he keeps it casual, turning back to the rice dish he’s heating through. “With who?”
She’s at perfect liberty to date anyone she likes. But given her history, given everything that she’s been through, wants to check. So sue him. He’s just being a good friend, or coworker, or former TO.
Truthfully, he’s not really sure what category they fall into these days.
She tugs on the hem of the dress, seemingly dissatisfied. “This guy called Ryan. And you can relax, he’s an old friend of Jackson’s. He just moved back into town.”
“And you feel...you’re ok with it?” Tim asks, pointedly adding salt to the rice like his life depends on it. He’s not quite sure what the boundaries are here, how much he’s supposed to ask, how much information it’s ok for him to want to know.
“Yeah,” Lucy says, not quite sounding one hundred percent. “I mean, I think there’s always gonna be a little part of me that…” she stops, and Tim turns back to face her, finds her frowning at the floor. “But I’ve had enough stolen from me already. And like you said about Emmett, I- I was treating the relationship like it didn’t matter. I think I’m ready to find one that does.”
He studies her for a second, the face he’s learned by heart from sitting beside every day for thirteen months. She’s a little nervous. But beyond that, she’s hopeful.
“Ok. Call me if you need me,” he tells her. “And try not to wake up the dog when you come in.”
She holds his gaze for a beat. “He’ll never even know I’m here,” she promises, gesturing to Kojo, leaning to scratch behind his ears and beaming down at him. “So is it? Too much?” She asks, and it takes a second for Tim to realise she’s talking to him and not the dog.
“The dress?” Lucy asks, standing back up to her full height and gesturing at it with both hands.
Tim thinks, objectively speaking, that she looks beautiful in it. He’s never really thought that about her before. It’s not that he hasn’t seen her in pretty dresses before, and it’s not that he’s unaware that she’s attractive (objectively, still), it’s just that right now she’s standing right in front of him in his kitchen and she smells like that stupid floral shower gel she’s infected his bathroom with, and her hair’s shiny in a way that kind of makes him want to reach out and touch it and tell her everything he’s thinking.
He shoves his hands into the pockets of his jeans. The words die before he can form them. He tells himself it’s not a big deal, that people look at other people and can objectively assess their attractiveness all the time. It would be no different if Angela, or Harper, were asking.
(The increasingly annoying, little part of his brain tells him it would be different. He tells it to shut up.)
“Where’s he taking you?” Tim asks, instead of saying any of the words actually in his head.
“Uh, that new sushi place? On Glendale?”
“Is it fancy?”
“I guess,” Lucy shrugs.
“Then the dress is nice. You look...nice.”
Lucy’s face drops, a tiny, incremental amount. Someone less observant than Tim would have missed it, and he’s kind of wishing he wasn’t trained to notice every little thing, because then maybe he wouldn’t be standing here feeling guilty without even really knowing what he feels guilty about.
“Nice?” She repeats his words back to him.
“That’s what I said.” He wonders if he should have chosen a different word. But nice encompasses everything he trusts himself to say out loud.
“Well that’s...ok. I’m uh, I’ll be back at, like, eleven probably. Don’t wait up.”
She leaves the room quickly, leaving Tim standing beside his burning rice. Kojo whines in a way that sounds sympathetic, and Tim vaguely wonders, not for the first time, whether the dog can understand English.
She told him not to wait up. She told him not to wait up, and yet it’s eleven-ten and Tim’s staring at a news report about baby otters at the Los Angeles Zoo and gripping the TV remote so tightly his knuckles are turning white.
He’s not worried. Lucy’s an adult, and she can take care of herself. He’s witnessed it first hand more times than he can count. And yet, he’s stood up to go to bed at least three times in the past thirty minutes, only to sit back down again seconds later, each time getting progressively closer to the edge of the couch.
Ironically, if her apartment hadn’t flooded and she wasn’t staying here, he wouldn’t even know about the date. He’d be sleeping peacefully, and she’d be...exactly wherever she is now. With this Ryan guy. Who Tim definitely did not spend fifteen minutes scrolling through social media to try and find. He’d failed, with no more information to go on than a first name and the fact that he had been a friend of Jackson’s, once, had given up and shoved his phone beneath a couch cushion. (With the ringer turned all the way up. Just in case.)
He knows it’s not his job to worry about her. And he’s not worried, he’s just...being a good friend.
He notices things, see. He notices the way Lucy still gets twitchy in the dark, how small spaces make her breathing pick up. And some nights he still wakes up with the sheer helplessness he’d felt when they’d lost her clawing its way up his throat, swears he can still feel the dirt embedded in his fingernails from when he’d dug her out of the earth, spent twenty minutes scrubbing out from under them in the hospital bathroom with a nail brush he’d all but accosted a nurse for.
He cannot lose her again.
Kojo whines, snapping him out of his totally-not-worrying, and a half second later there’s a key in the door and Lucy pushing her way in, dumping her shoes and her purse like she’s lived here for years, like she belongs here. Tim drops the remote onto the coffee table and leans back, casual, the stress lifting and leaving his body fifty pounds lighter.
“Aren’t you usually asleep by now?” Lucy comments by way of greeting, moving to drop onto the couch beside him. Tim checks his phone, feigns surprise at the time, like he’s been sitting here all night without a care in the world.
“It’s eleven-fifteen, Lucy, I’m not eighty years old.”
She scoffs, reaching forward for a half bag of chips he’d abandoned an hour ago.
“How was the date?” He asks, offhand, like it doesn’t matter to him. Because it doesn’t, not really. Only that she’s ok.
“Hmm,” she frowns, leaning back against the couch, chips still in hand. “Ryan was nice. Just...nice.” She turns to him, wrinkling her nose a little.
“Uh...I’m sorry he wasn’t an asshole?”
“No, that’s not what I meant,” she half laughs, pulls a chip out of the bag and inspects it before biting it in half. “I’m glad he was nice. There just wasn’t a spark , you know? We had fun, but it was like hanging out with - with Jackson or something. Just friends grabbing dinner, not like hanging out with someone I’d wanna make out with.”
Tim nods slowly, and tells himself the relief flooding his body is because she’s safe. No other reason there.
(And he’s definitely, absolutely not distantly wondering why she didn’t substitute his name in for Jackson’s. He’s not wondering if she sees hanging out with him as categorically different from hanging out with a Capital F Friend, and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.)
“It’s fine,” Lucy continues. “Statistically speaking, there’s so many guys out there that it’s impossible for me to feel a spark with every single one I go on a date with.”
“Anyway, are you watching this? There’s a new episode of The Bachelorette. I DVR’d it.”
“You used my DVR?”
“Do I really have a say in this?”
By eleven thirty, Tim feels at peace, listening to Lucy’s commentary on why she thinks one of the contestants is actually a psychopath.
By eleven forty-five, they’re laughing, and he’s almost forgotten she’s even been on a date this evening at all.
By midnight, she’s fallen asleep against his shoulder, and by twelve-ten he’s replaying their conversation and the way she’d described Ryan as nice and realising, for the first time, how terrible of an adjective it is. He vows, there and then, to tell her the truth, or at least half of it, the next time she asks him how she looks. Because Lucy Chen deserves better than to be categorised in with a date that just went ok. Lucy Chen always deserves a better adjective than nice.
Lucy wakes up, a week later, to the sound of banging, something heavy falling onto the ground. It’s only just getting light out, weak strands of sunlight pushing their way in under the blinds, and it takes a few seconds for Lucy to orient herself, to remember why she’s not home. When she remembers, she smiles, for reasons she can’t quite put her finger on. And then the banging starts up again, and Lucy wonders if it’s Tim or if the house is currently being broken into.
Her phone tells her it’s an hour before her alarm’s due to go off, and though her body is telling her to roll over and sleep up until the very last moment, Lucy can’t help but be a little worried. Or maybe it’s just curiosity. She’s a cop, it’s her job to be curious. And she really can’t afford to lose more of her stuff if they’re being burgled.
So, she climbs out of bed, pulls on a sweater, and finds Tim in the kitchen, seemingly hauling everything he owns out of the cabinet beneath the sink.
“Tim?” Her voice is thick with sleep, and it takes a minute for him to hear her. “Tim? Have you lost something?”
He backs out of the cabinet. “Sorry. Did I wake you up?” He asks, as she moves to sit next to him on the cold tiles. He’s radiating heat, and without thinking about it too much, Lucy presses a flat palm to his forehead. “What’re you doing?” He flinches away, half heartedly.
“Seeing if you have a fever,” she follows him with her hand.
“That’s not the most effective-”
“I’m not sick, Chen.” Lucy pulls her hand back.
“Kind of seems like you are. You definitely have a fever.”
“It’s hot in here.”
“It’s really not,” she says, patting him gently on the shoulder.
“I don’t get sick. It’s just a migraine, and I swear I had some medicine somewhere in this house.” He seems to give up, shoving everything back into the cabinet and pushing himself to his feet, standing too quickly and swaying slightly on the spot.
“Woah,” she jumps to catch him by the elbow. “You kind of look like you’re about to pass out. Tim,” she braces herself, “you’re going to have to take a sick day,” she all but whispers.
“Tim. You really think you can catch criminals like this? You’ll be a liability.”
“I’ll be fine. I don’t need you to - to take care of me.”
Lucy kind of wants to slam her head against something. It’s like talking to a brick wall. “I’m not trying to take care of you, I’m trying to make sure you don’t get yourself killed or something. Could you even drive to work? You want your new rookie to see you like this?”
“You-” he points a finger at her, then stops abruptly, scrunching his eyes shut and shaking his head, like Kojo after a swim. “Fine,” he says, rubbing at his eyes with his thumb and forefinger once he’s recovered. “I’ll take one sick day. One. If it will get you to stop hovering.”
“But you need to walk the dog, and don’t-”
“Hey,” Lucy stops him, a hand on his arm. “I’ve got it. Just go to sleep. Feel better. Ok?”
His eyes soften a little, and maybe it’s because it’s not fully light, or because she’s still not all the way awake, but she swears he’s leaning into her a little, and not just because of the migraine.
“Ok,” he says, voice just as soft. He ambles back to his bedroom. Lucy figures she may as well get her day started.
“Oh! Can we stop up here for two seconds? I need to pick some things up but they’ll be closed by the time I get off shift,” Lucy gestures across Jackson to the green-fronted supermarket down the street.
It’s midday, the day is dragging its feet, and worst of all, she’s kind of worrying about Tim. He’s not replying to her texts, and she knows he’s probably sleeping, and that, like he’d said, it isn’t her job to take care of him, but she can’t just turn her feelings off.
(Plus, she wonders quietly, if she’s not worrying about him, who will? Everyone needs at least one person around to worry about them.)
“Uh, sure,” Jackson changes lanes carefully, pulling the shop into the parking lot of the supermarket. “What do you need that’s so urgent?”
Truthfully, Lucy isn’t sure whether she should tell him. Jackson’s her best friend, and one of her all round favourite people. She’d trust him with any of her secrets, and this isn’t even a secret. When she thinks it through, there’s nothing wrong with it or strange about it. But, still, she’s reluctant to tell him, can already guess what his reaction is going to be.
Screw it. She’d do the same thing for any of her friends. This doesn’t prove anything. Seriously. “Soup,” she says quickly, before she can change her mind. “Tim’s sick. I mean, he says he’s not sick, but he looks pretty sick, so I’m going to get him soup from the deli inside. It’s his favourite.”
Jackson blanches a little. “You’re getting him soup?” If she’d have bet money on his reaction, she’d have won it all back.
“I’d do the same for you!” She’s insistent.
“You’ve never done the same for me!”
He has a point. Lucy knots her hands together in her lap, looking down at the little callouses on her palm, avoiding Jackson’s scrutiny. “I would. If you asked.”
“Did Tim ask for soup?”
She takes a deep breath. “No. But it’s just soup! I’ve bought ice cream for you before!”
Jackson laughs, “ice cream is fine. Ice cream’s a casual food - it’s a friend food. Soup? Soup’s something you buy to nurse your lover back to health when they’re dying of consumption.”
“Oh my God,” Lucy rolls her eyes, “you’ve been watching way too much Downton Abbey. Sometimes soup is just soup.”
Jackson fixes her with a look that’s somehow more powerful than anything he could say. Lucy scrambles out of the passenger seat in response.
Lucy spends the whole five minutes she’s inside the store arguing with herself inside her head. She tells herself, again, she’d bring soup for any of her sick friends. She tells herself it’s a nice way to repay Tim for letting her stay with him. She allows herself to wonder, very hypothetically, if this soup is maybe more than just soup, but shakes off the thought as ridiculous.
It’s Tim. He was her TO. He dated one of her closest friends. They work together. They’re friends.
The fact that she had more fun in the hour she spent with Tim last week after her date, than on the actual date itself, has to just be because her and Ryan were incompatible. Obviously, she’s going to have more fun with her friend than a guy she just met, and felt kind of awkward around. There’s nothing more to it.
(She’d learnt a lot about self preservation at college, at the lengths the human brain will go to for the purposes of protection. Humans will lie to themselves or warp facts without even realising it, and if Lucy were to really face up to the truth, she might wonder about why she spent the entire date checking the time out of the corner of her eye. She might wonder why she spent the whole car ride home feeling happier than she did on the way there, why she felt so comfortable and contented sitting shoulder to shoulder with Tim on his couch.
She shoves the thoughts into a small corner of her mind instead, and tells herself there’s no point reading into any of it. Tells herself it’s only going to end badly if she so much as steps foot down that avenue.)
Tim texts her to confirm he’s alive at some point in the afternoon, but given that he was planning to come to work this morning - looking like that - she doesn’t fully trust that he’s being honest about how he’s doing. She doesn’t fully relax until she makes it through his front door, a record twenty minutes after the end of her shift, and finds him sitting with Kojo on the couch, watching the end of a game on TV.
Her heart kind of constricts in her chest at the sight of them, and honestly, this is something she could get used to - coming home to them.
“How are you doing?” She asks, pausing as Kojo bounces over to her for attention.
“Better, mostly. I think I just needed to sleep.”
“So,” she walks to him, slots herself in next to him, arms pressed together. “What you want to say is ‘thank you, Lucy, for making me take a sick day so my body could heal’. Right?” She smirks at him, and he holds her gaze for a minute before rolling his eyes at her exaggeratedly.
“I would have been fine.”
“If it makes you feel better to tell yourself that, go ahead. But I got you something.”
“What?” He asks, suspicion in his voice.
“You have to be nice to me, or you can’t have it.”
“Fine, keep your gift.”
“Ugh!” She pushes him gently before jumping up to pick up the white plastic bag she’d dumped by the front door. Kojo’s sticking his nose in it, and she pulls him away and kisses him right between the ears before pulling out the container of soup and brandishing it at Tim. It feels like a big moment. She reminds herself it’s only soup.
“What is it?”
“You got me soup?” He stands, crossing to her in three paces and inspecting it in her hands. “Lucy. How...how did you know this was my favourite kind?”
Her cheeks heat a little. She’d been hoping he wouldn’t ask. “You mentioned it. Once or twice.”
“Why would I mention this? Soup isn’t something that generally comes up in conversation.”
He’s looking at her, studying her the same way he studies witnesses at crime scenes. Like he can see straight through her.
“Isabel. Isabel told me. I texted her,” Lucy admits, unable to quite meet his eye.
“You didn’t have to do that,” he says, and there’s a tenderness in his voice.
“I know. I wanted to. It’s not a big deal.”
Tim reaches for the soup, and for a moment they’re half holding hands over the carton before Lucy relinquishes it.
Their eyes meet again, and Lucy can’t fight the smile which pushes its way at the corner of her lips. “See,” she says quietly. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
She’s broken the spell. He walks away, shaking his head at her. He heats the soup, she finds bowls and crackers and tells him about the fight she and Jackson had broken up that day at the Los Angeles Space Convention.
Tim has no idea when, exactly, Lucy starts stealing his clothes, just that one day he comes home from a night shift whilst she’s coming in from a walk with Kojo wearing the pale grey sweater he left folded over the back of the couch on his way out the night before. She’s kind of drowning in it, cuffs rolled up to her wrists, hem falling halfway to her knees. It stirs something in his chest, the way a lot of things she’s been doing have recently, and he has to pause in the doorway to watch her unclip Kojo’s leash.
“Is that my sweater?” He asks, already knowing the answer.
“Uh,” Lucy looks down at it, as though she’s only just noticed it. “Yeah? It was cold out, so I just grabbed it as I was leaving. It was convenient. Sorry, I can take it off if you-”
“No.” He stops her, before he’s found a valid excuse he can package up and sell to her beyond I like the way it looks on you. “If you’re cold, you can wear it,” he shrugs, stepping in properly and closing the door behind him, dumping his keys, going about his morning like everything is fine and normal.
Like Lucy isn’t standing in front of him, lit up all golden in the lone ray of sunlight streaming into the room with wild hair and his sweater. The only thing illuminated in the room. When she moves, she sends the dust motes swirling around her like a storm.
She’s smiling at him with big, soft eyes, and he has no idea what to do with a look like that. “Ok then.”
Tim thinks it’s a one off, but two days later she’s weeding the garden he and Isabel planted a lifetime ago in a scruffy old LAPD t-shirt he knows was stuffed into the back of a drawer in his room. He leans against the back door jamb sipping his coffee and watching her until she drags him to help, and when he gets dirt beneath his fingernails this time he can look at it without losing his breath.
(He can’t say the same for looking at her, later, smudge of mud on her cheek, eating cereal for lunch over the kitchen sink, the look in her eyes when he reaches a thumb out to brush her skin clean.)
Two days after that she’s wearing one of his hoodies when they take Kojo to the dog park after work. It’s mint green and the tiniest bit too small for him, which means it fits her better, sleeves pushed up to her elbows. It looks effortlessly good on her, and he can’t explain why, but he wants to wrap an arm around her shoulders as they walk. It’s a strange, foreign feeling, wanting to touch her in any way other than strictly professional, and he fights it, putting a little more physical distance between them instead.
Only, it’s hard to fight. Their routines are slotting together more and more these days - a hazard of living with someone you work with, he knows. Their shift patterns are similar, and unless one of them has overtime planned, they ride to and from the station together, taking it in turns to drive. They eat dinner together most days, and they’re exploring new walks with Kojo. At the dog park, the owner of an overzealous golden retriever calls them Kojo’s parents , and Tim just nods and smiles and focuses intently on Kojo for the next ten minutes so he doesn’t have to meet Lucy’s eye.
She steals his jacket after work when they decide they need to unwind after a particularly difficult day, and he watches her from his seat while she orders drinks at the bar with Nolan and Jackson, tries to kid himself that he doesn’t like seeing her in his clothes as much as he does, that instead he’s just happy to see her happy.
“Isn’t that your jacket?” Nyla asks from beside him. Tim tries not to jump visibly, hadn’t known she was watching him. His job literally requires him to be more vigilant than that, but he’s blaming it on Harper’s years of UC experience and not on the fact that Lucy was distracting him.
Tim does not get distracted. Especially not by her.
“Yeah. Yeah, she was cold. She gets cold,” he takes a sip of his drink, fiddles absently with his phone on the table.
“Cold?” Nyla raises her eyebrows, and Tim has the sense he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t be doing.
“That’s what she said.”
“Mmhmm.” Nyla picks at the label on her bottle. “Be careful, Bradford.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” He knows what it means. Or rather, he knows what she’s implying.
She’s wrong. Lucy calls them friends and he begrudgingly has to admit that she might be right. But that’s all they are. All they can be. He doesn’t see her any other way, and he doesn’t want Nyla or anyone else getting the wrong idea.
“Just be careful. Chen can handle herself at work any day of the week, but when it comes to personal stuff? She’s still a little fragile. Unsurprisingly.”
“Her personal stuff is none of my business,” Tim counters.
“Kind of looks like it is, now.”
He shakes his head. “Why would it be?”
Tim doesn’t get to find out, because a half second later, Lucy is placing a fresh drink in front of him with a thud on the thick wood of the table, sliding back into her seat in the booth next to him.
“Don’t say I never get you anything,” she smirks.
“Oh,” he raises his eyebrows a little. “So I take you in from the street for weeks and this is how you’re trying to repay me?”
“Take it or leave it.”
He takes it, pushing away his old drink and trading in the new one. “I think you maybe owe me more than this one.”
She looks at him, long and hard, her eyes dark and impossible to decode. “It’s a start though, right?”
He laughs softly, stretching one arm out along the back of the booth, so that when she leans back the ends of her hair tickle his skin. “You could say that.”
She’s distracted by Nolan asking her some psychology related question, and Tim can feel Nyla’s eyes boring into him from his other side. He doesn’t need to be a mind-reader to know what she’s thinking. But she’s wrong. Lucy’s wearing his jacket because she’s cold. And friends is all they’ll ever be.
The Evers-Lopez baby is born at five a.m in the hospital emergency room after one of the most stressful nights of Lucy’s life, helping Angela manage a hostage situation at a warehouse involving one of her old CIs. Lucy’s not sure she’s ever been so in awe of a person before, after watching Angela grit her teeth through six hours of contractions before SWAT had finally been able to enter the building and get the situation under control.
A lot of Lucy’s role had been as Angela’s sounding board for potential ideas on how to de-escalate the situation, at one point having all of the little bones along the edge of her hand crushed when the pain of the contractions got to be too much.
By the end, there are paramedics on standby just in case, and Angela is taken straight from the scene to the hospital. Lucy makes a two-hour pit stop back at the station to fill out enough paperwork to last a lifetime, stumbling out of the locker room just after six a.m to find Tim leaning against the wall and waiting for her.
She’s been awake for an entire twenty-four hour period, and the adrenaline high which kept her going has long ebbed away, so she has to physically fight herself not to hug him on sight.
“You waited for me,” she comments, voice crackly and exhausted.
“We drove here together. I wasn’t going to leave you,” he says, like it’s a no-brainer, pushing her gently towards the exit with a hand on the middle of her back.
“I could have taken an Uber home.”
“Thought you might want to swing by the hospital.”
Lucy stops moving forwards, turning around to face him. “The baby was born?”
“Just about an hour ago. Angela said we could go meet him.”
“Him? It’s a boy?” She’s not tearing up. Her eyes are just failing her.
“Is your hearing ok, Chen?”
She hits him gently in the arm, and together they make their way to Tim’s truck.
The sun’s coming up as they drive to the hospital, bruising the sky with thin lines of pinks and oranges and yellows, and the roads are never quiet in LA, but the traffic is steady and easy to navigate. Lucy leans back against her seat, watching Tim out of the corner of her eye, his steady hands on the wheel, and wonders if, despite everything, there’s anywhere else in the world she’d rather be right now.
Maybe she’s delirious from lack of sleep, but she doesn’t think so.
They ride in silence for a while, and Lucy thinks about how Angela’s whole world has changed in just one morning, how everything is going to be different now.
She asks the question before she can properly think through the implications. “Would you want kids? Some day?”
He’s silent, eyes fixed on the road, the brake lights of the green sedan in front of them. Lucy’s words catch up with her, and she’s panicking that she’s crossed a line. But still, still, this is a conversation she’d have with a friend, has had with friends more times than she can count. So, it’s fine.
Rachel had wanted to adopt. She wonders if she and Tim ever talked about it, or whether they never quite made it to that stage.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Tim answers, finally, shrugging a little. “We see the worst the world has to offer. Maybe I wouldn’t want to bring a kid into that.” He pauses again, and the air seems to thicken between them. “Depends if I met the right person. And at the right time.”
Lucy feels her cheeks heat up a little, and wonders very distantly if the right person for Tim could ever have been her, if they’d met in some different circumstance and time and universe. She chases the thought away before it can gain any traction.
“Did Isabel ever want kids?” Now she’s definitely overstepping.
“Sure. At one time,” Tim says, seemingly unphased.
They lapse into silence. Tim fiddles with the radio and finds a traffic report. Lucy scratches absently at a fleck of paint on the corner of her phone case.
“What about you? Any mini Chens in your future?” He asks. Lucy hadn’t expected him to ask her back, or even to answer her original question, necessarily. Tim’s the king of professionalism in relationships.
But maybe, maybe, she’s not imagining the way the lines which define them are starting to blur and twist.
“Same as you,” she answers. “I don’t really know. Maybe. I’ll figure it out.”
“If you ever do have any, Tim’s a great name option.”
Lucy bites back a smile, tilting her head to one side. “What if I had a girl?”
“Giving girls boy names is a thing these days.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you were such an expert on baby names.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” he says, and Lucy laughs.
“What are you, a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an enigma?”
“Exactly that,” he snaps his fingers.
Lucy snickers, shaking her head at him as they pass a sign for a Target coming up ahead. She hasn’t been grocery shopping in weeks, choosing to live mainly off of takeout or whatever she can scrounge out of Tim’s fridge. She has no idea how long she’ll be staying with him for, but seeing as how they’ve heard nothing about the insurance dispute, guesses it’ll be at least another couple weeks. She should be more annoyed at that fact.
What she is annoyed at, at this moment in time, is that when they get home from the hospital (and she doesn’t even have time to unpack the fact that she’s started thinking of Tim’s house as ‘home’) there’ll be no breakfast foods waiting for them. Last she looked, the fridge was empty.
“Hey, can we stop here?” She gestures to the Target. “You’re all out of food. And I’m hungry. I wanna make pancakes.”
He stops to consider for a second before begrudgingly agreeing, and five minutes later they’re standing at the front of a quiet Target with a slightly wonky cart.
They walk quickly, picking up eggs and milk and syrup and bread and the kind of cereal so sweet that it makes Lucy’s teeth ache, the kind she has to fight Tim to not put right back on the shelf where they found it.
Afterwards, when they reach the aisle with the kids' clothing and toys, Lucy drags Tim down it to add gifts to their cart, because it would be rude to show up at the hospital empty handed. So, on top of the food they add a card with a stork on the front, a fluffy stuffed giraffe and a pack of baby onesies smaller than Lucy’s forearm. There’s a picture book too with a dog on the front who looks exactly like Kojo, and Tim doesn’t argue when she adds it, half smiling at it in its place in the cart between the eggs and the little white onesies.
The whole thing feels so normal, so domestic, and grocery shopping and buying joint gifts isn’t really a life phase Lucy’s reached with a guy she’s actually in a relationship with before. Considering she’s not, in any way, in a relationship with Tim, this shouldn’t be a big deal, but when he’s putting the grocery bags into the back of his truck, Lucy realises this is likely the only time they’ll do this. The insurance dispute over the water damage in her apartment can only last so long.
And with an agonising tug in her stomach, she realises she kind of, maybe, wants this to be her life. Wants this day to be a snippet, a slice of a much larger picture, rather than a one-off occurrence. It’s dawning on her that to anyone else watching them today, or when they walk Kojo or arrive at work together or any number of events over the past few weeks, they’d look like a couple. Lucy doesn’t know quite what to do with that information, just that it makes her head spin so much she has to grip onto the side of the truck for a minute to digest it.
Tim finds a pen in the door of his car and Lucy writes a message in the stork card, not giving the signature at the bottom much thought. The gifts are from the both of them, and the dog in the book reminds her so strikingly of Kojo that she has to add his name too, even though she knows it absolutely makes her sound like one of those overly involved people who treat their pets like a human kid. So, she signs it in neat black ballpoint from the three of them, adds an ‘x’ at the bottom of the page, and seals it up to add to the stack of gifts inside the white Target bag.
They find Angela quickly, tired but smiling, Wesley in the chair next to her with the baby, somehow looking both terrified and like the happiest person on earth. Wesley’s mom is hovering with an expensive looking camera.
“Hey!” Lucy hugs Angela carefully, “how was it? I can’t believe he’s here! I can’t believe you’re a mom!”
“I know,” Angela beams as Lucy leans back. “He’s amazing. I can’t believe he’s mine,” she reaches down to place a hand on the baby’s dark hair. “He still doesn’t have a name yet. We can’t pick.” Her words are slurring a little at the edges, Lucy guesses a combination of pain meds and tiredness. “But I couldn’t have done it without you Lucy, really. Thank you.”
“I didn’t really-”
Angela stops her. “You kept me calm. You convinced me I was capable. I would have completely spiralled.”
Lucy steps back a little, knocking into Tim’s chest. He steadies her with a hand on her elbow and they stand and take in the scene of the brand new little family.
“I’m pretty sure you would have been amazing, Angela, with or without me,” Lucy says, and the two of them share a smile, Angela’s eyes flicking quickly to Tim standing directly behind her.
“You want to hold him?” Wesley asks, getting to his feet.
“Obviously!” Lucy says, and busies herself sanitising her hands whilst Tim balances the gifts precariously on the table beside Angela’s bed.
And then Wesley is carefully handing over his son, and Lucy’s looking down into dark eyes and squishy cheeks and a whole little human life her friends made, and Tim’s looking down over her shoulder and the whole thing sort of makes her heart hurt. Distantly, she’s aware of Wesley’s mom taking a picture, the electronic click of the camera registering in her mind, but she’s pretty sure it has to be a picture of Angela and Wesley, or a close up of the baby.
“Isn’t my grandbaby beautiful?” Wesley’s mom is asking, and Lucy turns to say yes, but then Angela’s tearing open the card and cooing at the stork on the front.
“Aww!” She opens it, and Lucy watches her scanning the words. “From the Bradford-Chen family. Thank you guys!”
Crap. Lucy freezes. “That isn’t what I-”
“We just bought the-” Tim starts a sentence at the same time as her, their words clashing in mid-air.
The baby takes it as his cue to scream, and Lucy lets Wesley remove him from her arms, mind spiralling down the same panicked hole it’s already fallen into way more this morning than it had whilst she was on shift at a literal hostage situation.
A nurse hurries them away moments later, and the air is thick and awkward between them as they settle back into Tim’s truck for the short drive home.
“I didn’t, uh…” Lucy starts a sentence she doesn’t know how to end. “I - the card. I didn’t actually write that I just - it just - I signed it from us. And Kojo because the book - it was a ridiculous thing to do, wasn’t it?” She winces, waiting for Tim to agree, waiting for him to calmly and firmly remind her that they work together and he’s letting her stay in his spare room as a courtesy, and that she shouldn’t read into it. Waiting for embarrassment to swallow her up whole.
“Only you Lucy,” he says, but he’s laughing softly, “only you would sign a card from the dog.”
“A lot of people sign cards from dogs, Tim! A dog is a part of the family!”
“Kojo doesn’t even have opposable thumbs,” he’s laughing, and the sound fills up the car and pushes out the awkward air. Lucy can’t help but join in, and then ten minutes later they’re home and wrapped up in a drowsy routine of feeding Kojo and mixing up seven a.m pancake batter to share.
Things feel normal. They feel normal. It isn’t until days later, when an email from Wesley’s mom arrives in Lucy’s inbox, that she starts spiralling once again. There’s an image attachment, and she opens it without thinking right before she goes to sleep, is met with an unexpected picture of her holding the baby in the hospital, looking a little worse for wear after being up for the entire previous twenty-four hours.
But that isn’t what sends her down. It’s Tim, standing at her shoulder, a breath away. While she’s smiling down at the baby, marveling at how he is brand new and perfect, a whole wide future ahead of him, Tim’s looking right at her, the softest expression in his eyes she thinks she’s ever seen.
And she’s so, so screwed.
Tim’s finishing up a shift, a week later, when he gets the kind of call he’d hoped never to have to receive again. It’s Jackson, and Tim’s tired, about to hit ignore and call him back after he’s changed out of his uniform, but something tugs in his gut and tells him to answer it. He accepts the call, presses the phone to his ear, and begs, quietly, for it to be a normal, boring call.
“Tim?” Jackson sounds far away and kind of nervous, and without him having to say another word, Tim knows something is wrong.
“What is it?” His brain is yelling at him, the same word over and over again in quick succession. Lucy Lucy Lucy Lucy Lucy Lucy.
He doesn’t ask about her. He’s not about to tempt fate.
“Uh… Lucy got a little banged up.”
Tim struggles not to drop the phone, moving into action instantly, walking purposefully towards the locker room to grab his bag and keys and drive as fast as he possibly can towards whatever direction she’s hurt in.
“Where are you? What happened? Is she conscious? Did you get her to the hospital?” He runs through a checklist in his mind, trying to rely on rational thought so he doesn’t do something rash like break down or punch a hole in the wall.
“She’s ok! She’s going to be fine. We’re at Cedars Sinai, she’s getting patched up now. She only lost consciousness for, like, a minute. She just needs stitches.”
Tim focuses on breathing, forcing air in and out of his lungs. She’s ok. She’s going to be fine. This isn’t like last time.
“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” He hangs up.
Tim makes it to the hospital in twelve minutes, a record time for driving in his truck and not the shop, no security of flashing lights and sirens which guarantee a clear path. The whole way his brain is screaming the same word at him, repeating her name, because no matter what Jackson had said, Tim isn’t going to totally trust that Lucy’s ok until he sees her for himself, the desperation clawing at his chest until he can barely breathe, stumbling out of the elevator at the hospital and using his badge to flag down a doctor to show him to Lucy’s room.
Jackson’s leaving as Tim arrives, barely acknowledging him as he lays eyes on her and finally feels like he can draw a proper breath.
She's ok. She's ok. She’s sitting on the bed, still in her uniform, gauze packed around a bloodstained area in her hairline, pale, but perfectly intact. Her face softens when she sees him, and he cups her cheeks with both hands, runs a thumb gently under the gauze, checks her arms for cuts or bruises.
“Lucy,” he says finally, the word he’s been repeating over and over in his mind like a prayer.
“I’m ok,” she assures him, calming him, picking up his hand and squeezing it like a lifeline.
“You’re sure?” He checks, looking right into her eyes.
“Yeah,” she nods. “I just have a killer headache.”
“Did they give you pain meds? Did they - did they-”
“Tim,” she refocuses his attention, so quietly she may as well be whispering. “I’m fine. Promise.”
He studies her for another beat, checking she’s being completely honest, and then taking a tiny step backwards. She holds her grip on his hand. He locks their fingers together and tries to relax.
Lucy’s doctor tells them she needs someone to stay with her overnight, just in case, and Tim says yes instantly. He drives her home with one hand still clutching hers, like if he lets go she might fade away, lost again, someplace he can’t follow this time.
“What happened?” He asks, through the darkening car.
Lucy sighs. “We were chasing these suspects on foot, and I guess there were more of them than we thought down this alley. We got into an altercation, and one of them shoved me. I fell really hard. It was so stupid,” she shakes her head, reaching up with her free hand to adjust the dressing over the wound.
He could use this as a teaching moment, because old habits die hard. He could tell her she needs to be more alert, or that she needs to make sure she’s got enough backup when entering uncertain situations. And maybe he should, because then maybe she’d be safer in the future.
But it doesn’t feel right. He doesn’t feel like Tim Bradford, Lucy’s ex-TO right now. He doesn’t even feel like Tim Bradford, Lucy’s friend at this moment. He feels like...like something new.
“Could’ve happened to any one of us. It wasn’t stupid,” he says, squeezing her hand. It feels comfortable there, like it fits just right.
“Woah,” Lucy wrinkles her nose. “What’s going on with you? No lecture? No teachable moment?”
She knows him too well. “I’m, uh.... I’m just glad you’re ok.”
Lucy hums in reply. Tim puts a pin in it, in whatever it is he’s feeling. He can analyse it another day.
Lucy spends the evening leaning hard against him on the couch, picks at the Thai food they order, half falls asleep over the old cop movie playing on the TV which they’re mostly using as background noise. He makes sure she’s comfortable, that she knows what’s going on, that she’s not in too much pain. By nine p.m, she’s asleep half in his lap, eyelids flickering, and Tim kind of wants to kiss the hair away from her temple.
He is struck, again, by a feeling of peace, here with her, Kojo snoring at his feet, the kind of peace he’s been feeling more and more inside these walls lately. He’s starting to associate it with her, and if he’s honest with himself it’s more than just peace , it’s...it’s that when he looks at her, it feels like he’s come home.
They could be standing in the middle of a street or sitting across from each other in roll call or in her car on the way to work or his truck on the way home. It’s like being with her, like this, inside this house, has clicked something into place after a very, very long time of it being lost.
He isn’t sure when it, whatever it is, went missing. He thinks he lost it around the time Isabel stopped coming home, and maybe it fading away was what he felt when he stared at the ceiling and prayed to anyone who might be listening to send her back through their front door, drowning in loneliness.
Or maybe, maybe it was before that. Maybe he lost it watching his friends die around him in a warzone or the first time he realised his parents didn’t love him the way other kids’ parents did. Maybe he was never really whole in the first place.
It’s a little scary, to know he’s coming to rely on another person again. His track record with that isn’t great. The scariest part of it all isn’t how it feels when they’re together, it’s how it feels when they’re apart. When she’s working late or out with friends the house feels too empty, Kojo can’t settle properly. The space between them feels expansive, too big. When he’s working, he’s all business, but if he’s out for any other reason he feels like he’s only half there, the other half waiting in the house for the rest of him to catch up so he can see her again.
And he knows, in his heart, that he needs to not get too attached to having her here. She isn’t going to stay for much longer.
The feelings are too big and messy and complicated for him to comb through right now, Lucy waking up and slowly stretching, and he catches her wrist to stop her from poking at the dressing again. It’s becoming a habit already.
“Is it hurting?” He asks.
“It just feels like pressure. Here and behind my eyes,” she circles her free index finger vaguely over her forehead.
He brushes stray strands of her hair back behind her ear. “Is that normal?”
“Think so.” She leans forward a little, rubbing at her eye. “I think I’m gonna go to bed.”
He doesn’t want her to leave. He tells himself it’s because he’s supposed to be keeping an eye on her, nothing else. That’s the rational explanation here.
“You’re not supposed to be alone,” he points out.
She yawns. “So come with me.”
Tim stills. He’s certain she’s not thinking straight. “What?”
“You’ve got a giant double bed in there, Tim. I’ll be ok on my own, but if you’re that worried, just...come with me.”
He shouldn’t. He’s about to say no, but then he thinks about the panic of nearly losing her again, and his brain plays him a horror scenario of waking up in the morning to find that something terrible has happened to her whilst he was sleeping down the hall from her.
“Uh. Ok,” he swallows, hits the off button on the remote and then stands up, pulling Lucy to her feet.
Tim lets Kojo out, changes into sweats and a t-shirt, and by the time he’s made it to the room Lucy’s occupying, she’s sleeping, curled onto one side, wearing the damned LAPD shirt she stole from him weeks ago.
He settles in next to her as carefully as he can, watching the way her eyelids are screwed up too tight, like she’s having a bad dream. She reaches for him, even in sleep, and though what he kind of wants to do is pull her close, he settles for holding her hand. He rationalises that she’ll maybe get a better sleep like this, if she feels safe.
He sleeps fitfully at the edge of the bed.
When he wakes up, she’s sitting propped up against the pillows, frowning at her phone. There’s a little ridge between her eyebrows, and her hair is framing her face perfectly in the half-light of the early morning.
“You ok?” He asks, sleepily pushing himself up, one hand on her shoulder.
“Uh...yeah,” she says, not sounding overly sure.
“What is it?” Something’s wrong. She’s hurt, or someone else is hurt, or there’s an emergency situation going on at work, or-
“Jackson just texted. The insurance dispute is all fixed. The apartment will be ready for us to go home to next week.”
Oh. Oh. Tim knows he should feel relieved on both accounts - that nothing’s wrong, nobody’s hurt, and that he gets his apartment back.
So why does it kind of feel like the world is crashing in around him, just a little bit?
Jackson’s counting down the days until they can move back into their apartment, and by all accounts, Lucy knows she should be too. She loves her apartment, she loves living with Jackson, and she misses all of her stuff.
She tries to get pumped. Their landlord lets them pick out some new furniture to replace the damaged things, and she composes a list in her head of all of the reasons why going home is a good thing. She’ll have her own space again, and she’s missed Jackson, and it’s a more straightforward commute to work. But her brain does something of its own accord, flipping all the positives backwards instead. Because, sure, she’ll be in the apartment she’s thought of as home for over a year, but that means that she has to leave this one behind.
Maybe it’s for the best. Tim’s been weird since she told him, like he’s wedging a distance between them now so it doesn’t have to happen later. Lucy hadn’t fully realised how much closer they’d become since she moved in. And she knows it’s not like she’s never going to see him again. It’s the same principle as what he’d said on her last day as a rookie - she’ll still see him every day in roll call, catch up with him in the hallway between calls.
It won’t be the same, though. She’s trying not to dwell on all of the things she’s going to miss, but the morning she’s due to work out, packing up the last of her things to put into her car, it hits her like a freight train. No more riding to and from work together, walks with Kojo, bickering with him over some stupid TV show, the little things like sitting in a comfortable silence over morning cups of coffee.
It boils down to the simple fact that she’s going to miss seeing him first thing in the morning, and last thing at night.
“Don’t forget this,” Tim hands her a half used bottle of shampoo from the bathroom, and Lucy takes it quickly, stuffs it into a side pocket on the blue carry-all she’s lived out of for weeks.
Her dresser. It’s going to be nice to have her dresser back. She adds it to the list.
“Thanks,” she smiles. “If you find anything after I’m gone, just bring it to the station.”
His eyes find hers, and Lucy wonders if any part of him is as sad about this as she is.
“I will.” He turns to leave, to carry on getting ready for work, and Lucy doesn’t want him to go. There’s something she needs to say to him. If she can’t say it all, she can at least say a part of it.
He spins back to face her. He’s reclaimed the mint green hoodie she’d stolen from him. “Yeah?”
“Thank you. For letting me stay here. For everything.”
He holds her gaze, soft look in his eyes. “You weren’t the worst roommate I’ve ever had.”
She smiles. “Thanks.”
“It’s been...it’s been fun, Lucy.”
He holds out a hand. She shakes it. That’s that.
They drive separately to work because Lucy’s going back to her apartment after work (home, she keeps reminding herself. She’s going home .), and though it’s not the first time they’ve driven separately since she’s been staying with Tim, there’s a sense of finality about this time. Before, she knew she’d see him again at the end of the day. Now, she turns the volume on the radio all the way up to drown out the quiet.
Work keeps her busy. There’s a high profile jewel robbery downtown, and most of her shift is spent tracking the suspects with Jackson, Nolan and Harper. They almost catch the guys three times, before finally rounding them up in a rental van in the parking lot of a closed McDonalds.
Lucy’s full of adrenaline for an hour afterwards, carrying her through booking the suspects and signing off on the paperwork, and then she’s changing out of her uniform and digging her car keys out of her locker and distantly wondering whether Tim would let her drag him out for some ice cream later before she remembers. That’s not where she’s going. That isn’t home anymore.
She shouldn’t be sad. She’s spent days working on her list of reasons not to be. But in the locker room, at the end of the day, it hits her like a ton of bricks. Because it isn’t just the end of them occupying the same physical space, it’s probably the end of all of it. Of the change their relationship has undergone in the time she’s been staying in his spare room, all the ways they are different now that she can’t quite quantify. The way their lives have somehow become so interwoven in the past weeks that it kind of feels like hers won’t quite be complete without him in it.
Even if she wanted to stay with him, maybe for just a tiny bit longer, Lucy doesn’t think he’d want her there. He was clear from the start that this was a temporary thing. And no matter that she may, or may not, have started to think about Tim as more than a friend, she knows he doesn’t think of her like that. To him, she’s a coworker, a friend, his former rookie. That’s all he’ll ever see her as. Living under the same roof as him can only end badly.
Lucy tries to push him from her mind, carry on with her night, leaves the locker room and gets to her car, starts the ignition, moves towards the exit. She’s going to have to turn left out of the parking lot instead of right. It’s going to take a while to get used to doing that.
It’s started to rain since Lucy’s been inside, a steady stream of fat water droplets hitting her windshield as she leaves the shelter of the parking garage. Her car is still kind of new, and laid out differently to her old one, and it rains so rarely in LA that it takes a second for her to remember where the switch for the wipers is. She finds it, her pinky knocking her keys in the ignition, one of them grating the skin at the edge.
It’s Tim’s key. The key he handed her on the very first day she moved in. The key he wanted back the second her apartment was fixed. They key she should absolutely, definitely return to him right this second.
Lucy smiles, despite everything, and flicks on her turn signal. The rain picks up. The traffic clears. Lucy turns right.
Tim is having a no good, terrible day. His rookie let one of their suspects go, their shop spontaneously broke down, his favourite lunch spot is closed for no good reason, and when he leaves work, it’s raining. The day has been bad from the outset. The fact that he watched Lucy load all of her things into the back of her car this morning has absolutely nothing to do with that.
He drives to visit Angela after work, after a text telling him to come over anytime, telling him she misses his face. Tonight’s as good a night as any.
(It’s not because he’s avoiding going home to an empty house. No way. He just misses Angela, too.)
He had barely seen Lucy at work all day. The thing is, that’s not unusual. Cops are busy, and in the space between her being his rookie, and her needing a place to stay, their contact had mostly been outside of work in group settings, only really having more than five minutes together during working hours on the rare occasions they worked the same case.
He missed her a little, during those months. He notices it acutely, today.
Tim is happy Lucy’s moving back to her apartment, of course he is. His life won’t have a near constant soundtrack in the form of her singing or asking him things or trying to get him to talk about his day or the strangest dream he’s ever had, or anything in between. There won’t be empty milk cartons left right next to the trash can anymore. His bathroom’s going to stop smelling like her hair. His clothes won’t be stolen anymore.
Plus, the distance is going to give him a chance to clear his head of whatever it is he’s feeling about her. Maybe now he can get rid of the ache he feels in his chest when she looks at him a certain way.
Angela greets him with open arms, handing the baby over as soon as he steps over the threshold. Tim can already notice a difference in him; his size, the shade of his eyes, the curl of his hair.
“How has he been? How have you been?” He asks, sitting on an area of couch Angela’s cleared of baby items.
“Good, yeah. Better if he’d sleep for longer than thirty minutes at a time,” she rubs sleep from her eyes. Tim rocks the baby. “I think work’s gonna feel like a break, after this. We’re meeting with potential nannies tomorrow, but honestly I don’t even know what to look for. How do you pick someone to take care of your kid for the better part of your days?”
The baby sneezes in his sleep, and Tim doesn’t find many things cute, but it’s hard to find a better word for this kid. Angela reaches out for the baby’s hand, his tiny fingers curling around her thumb.
“I’m pretty sure you’ll just know when you find the right one. Plus, y’know, you have the power to carry out a super intensive background check,” Tim points out.
“That is reassuring,” Angela laughs softly. “How are things with you?” She asks, looking at him pointedly.
“Things are fine. Why?”
She presses her lips together. “Just asking. Oh, hey, before I forget! Guess who I saw today?”
“Uh...I have literally no idea.”
“Zoey! She works at the pediatricians office.”
The name doesn’t ring any bells. “Who?”
“Zoey. Used to be one of the civilian administrators? Red hair? Super pretty.”
Tim can vaguely remember, the outline of a face coming to mind. She’s hazy with time, or maybe because he never really got to know her in the first place.
“Oh, yeah. She ok?”
“She’s fine. We were talking. She was asking about you?”
Tim looks up. “Me?”
“Yeah. She was interested, I think. I told her you were unavailable.”
“I’m not unavailable.”
“Tim,” Angela fixes him with that same look from earlier. Like there’s more behind his words. Like he’s not telling her everything.
“What? I’m serious.”
The baby fusses, and Angela reaches for him, holding him close and rubbing small circles on his back.
“I heard Lucy’s apartment got fixed up.”
Tim does his best to look nonchalant. “Yeah. She left today.”
Angela’s lookin at him like she’s waiting. For what, he isn’t sure. “And you’re ok with that?” She asks, finally.
Tim shrugs, “why wouldn’t I be? I’m not married to her, Angela, she’s just - just a friend who was staying in my house.”
The baby fusses some more, and Angela gets up to rock him, pacing slowly up and down the length of the room. She keeps fixing him with an expression he’s seen before, but it takes him a full minute to remember where.
Harper. It’s the exact look Harper had given him that night at the bar. Two of his closest friends, giving him the same look, as though they can read the very wavelength of his emotions before he’s had enough time to decipher them himself.
“Friends,” Angela says, scrolling through something on her phone with her free hand, “don’t look at friends like this.”
She hands him her phone. It’s an email from Wesley’s mom, three attachments, subject ‘hospital photos I forgot to send earlier’, a simple line of text reading ‘I found these on my camera, too! Maybe you want to send them on to your friends - the sweet couple who came to visit you?’
“That damned card,” Tim huffs, but Angela’s shaking her head, leaning down to open one of the attachments.
Tim stills, takes a second to fully digest what he’s seeing. He flicks through all three attachments before his mind properly starts functioning again. The photos are of them, him and Lucy, two where she’s holding the baby, one without. And in each one of them, true to Wesley’s mom’s assumption, they look sickeningly like...like a couple . There’s no way he can just brush this off as a friend thing, because though he hadn’t realised it at the time, he’s looking at Lucy the same way he used to look at Isabel in photographs, once upon a time, a whole lifetime ago.
So maybe, maybe, the photo is showing him something he’s known in the back of his mind for a long time. Something he’s locked away because it felt too impossible, because he didn’t know what to do with it. And like Lucy’s stupid closure list all those months ago, he has to admit that there’s a tiny possibility he’s been in denial. The photo is a mirror, showing him something he’s been pushing away, only he can’t do that anymore with it spelled out in front of him here, plain as day.
It can’t mean a thing, though, because Lucy would never feel the same way. Lucy, who is sensitive and smart and makes him laugh and drives him crazy, is never going to love him back.
But then he swipes to the third photo again, the two of them standing side by side, pressed together. Tim’s talking to Angela. Lucy’s looking at Tim like he’s the only thing in the room.
Hope ignites like flames in his chest, where the dull ache sat before.
Tim stays for another hour, looking at photos of the baby and then watching him whilst Angela naps, handing him off to Wesley when he gets home. He’s got some thinking to do. Something to figure out.
There’s a light on when Tim gets home, an orange-yellow glow spilling out into the street, and he wonders whether he left one on accidentally this morning, or whether...but no. He’s not going to hope for that. He must have left it on, because even if someone was robbing the place, he’s pretty sure they’d do it without turning his main light on. He turns off the truck’s ignition, climbs out, locks it, pockets the keys, and makes his way towards the house.
He’s expecting it to be empty, to just be greeted by Kojo excitedly bounding over to him. The greeting he has to look forward to for the next however many years. Only, when he steps inside, it’s not just the dog standing in front of him.
Lucy’s standing in front of the kitchen counter, hair loose around her shoulders, wringing her hands in front of her. She’s looking over at him like he holds the fate of the universe in his hands. His heart stutters in his chest.
“Hi,” she says, taking a step closer to him.
“Hi,” he says back, closing the door behind him. “I, uh...I thought you left.”
“I came back. I still had your key. I figured I should give it back”
“You could have given it to me at work tomorrow.”
"I know,” she says.
Something clicks into place, a change in the air of the room, and then, as though they’ve planned it, they’re taking strides towards each other across the room. Tim’s never thought of his house as large , but in this moment, where what’s going to happen feels inevitable and terrifying and perfect all at the same time, the space between them feels deep enough to drown in.
He reaches her first, hands pulling her towards him gently, one on her hip, one tangled in her hair. Hers land on his chest. She smiles up at him and he wonders why he ever told her she looked nice. Nothing less than beautiful would do.
She leans in first, so close he can see all of the colours in her eyes. And then they’re closing, and his are too, and he’s pressing his lips to hers, soft and sweet and Lucy. Her hands fist in his t-shirt as he deepens the kisses, peppers them along her jaw, plants them in the hollow of her neck and feels her shiver as they bloom across her skin. He pulls away first, his mind needing a minute to catch up with his body, and when she looks up at this time her lips are kissed red, pupils blown wide.
“You’re beautiful. I should have told you before,” he whispers.
She kisses him again.
It feels like coming home.
Lucy wakes up in the dark, the stillness telling her it’s the middle of the night without her having to check. It takes a half second for her to remember why she’s not in her room, until she remembers she’s in Tim’s room, his arms wound tightly around her, Kojo snoring softly at her feet. She leans to scatter kisses on Tim’s throat, just because she can now, and he draws her closer in response. She could get used to this.
She wants it to be a part of a bigger everyday, a piece of a collage made up of everything she’s come to love and more. Of grocery shopping at stupid-a.m and driving to work together and watching Kojo make friends with other dogs and washing the dishes while Tim dries, and kisses, now that’s a thing they can do - lots of them.
“I can hear you thinking,” he whispers softly, kissing the top of her head. Her stomach flips, and she wonders whether it’s ever going to stop doing that when he’s around.
She huffs a laugh into his skin. “I’m just...I’m thinking that I should text Jackson.”
“You’re thinking about West at a time like this?”
“I’m thinking I should ask him if he thinks his relationship with Isaac is at a place where they might wanna move in together. ‘Cos I don’t want him to have to live alone.”
Tim stills a little, and Lucy wonders, for a fleeting second, whether she’s crossed a line. Whether she was wrong, and this is some kind of one night, friends-with-benefits type deal, and she’s going to have to leave tomorrow after all.
But then, “you think you’re moving in here, huh?” He teases, moving back slightly so she can look right into his eyes. He’s looking at her like the hospital photograph. She hopes that never changes.
“I think I already did,” she points out.
He laughs, reaches down to kiss her, soft and slow. “Good,” he says, “I was hoping you’d stay.”