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Title: The Hint of a Spark
Author: [livejournal.com profile] waltzforanight
Fandom: The Invisible
Characters/Pairing: Brian Larson, Kate Tunney; Brian/OMC (with references to past Brian/OFC)
Word Count: 31,008
Rating: R
Spoilers: Yes, for the whole movie, including some of the deleted scenes.
Warnings: Canon character death, dark themes, mild language and sexytimes, as well as brief mentions of an abusive relationship and a miscarriage (not related incidents).
Summary: He blinks his eyes into focus, surprised by the darkness of the room. Groaning, he rolls onto his side and fumbles for the phone, sparing a second to look at the digital alarm clock next to the bed. It's not even six in the morning, and that gives him a sinking feeling deep in his gut. The only reason anyone gets a phone call this early is when it's bad news.

Notes: Okay, so this monster of a fic was written for [livejournal.com profile] lucifuge_5 as part of [livejournal.com profile] help_haiti. It is, essentially, a retelling of the movie from the POV of a character who is not a whiny teenager. (I like the movie a lot, but I call 'em like I see 'em.) More than that, it's a look at a character from the film that is woefully underdeveloped, and how their life might be affected by the events of the film. Luce, my apologies for the delay, but I do hope you enjoy. :D And of course, a million thank yous to [livejournal.com profile] akamine_chan and [livejournal.com profile] snoopypez for performing beta duties and helping me fix things that were giving me fits. You ladies are AWESOME. \o/

For your convenience, you can read the fic either in four parts on LJ, or all in one go over at AO3, whichever is preferable.

*

Brian likes the beach.

Which is good, he decides, as he's suddenly found himself on one. It's not a beach he's ever been to before, he's pretty certain of that. For one thing it's clean, almost picturesque in its perfection - no broken glass, no garbage, just perfectly smooth sand and lapping water. No beach he's ever been to actually looks like that outside of the travel brochure. For another, there's only a handful of other people around - men and women that Brian doesn't recognize, exactly, but they feel familiar to him. They keep to themselves, talk to each other in whispered tones, the occasional word floating back to his ears. He can't follow any of their conversations, but he doesn't mind.

He's content to watch.

A man dressed up as Tarzan struts across the sand near the shoreline, catching Brian's attention fully. He's always had a thing for the loincloth. Tarzan walks for what seems like a long time without ever getting any farther away, and somehow this is perfectly normal to Brian's mind. He loses track of time until a pair of familiar hands settle on his hips, over the thin cotton fabric of his beach pants, and a soft mouth presses against the back of his neck, right under the hairline.

He doesn't need to turn around to know who's touching him. Those hands, that mouth - he'd know them anywhere. Brian shivers pleasantly and relaxes into the touch, Tarzan completely forgotten in favour of
this. "Hey, baby," he murmurs softly, letting his eyes fall shut. There's a low laugh at the endearment, confirming what Brian already knew: Scott.

When Brian opens his eyes, the beach is gone, replaced by a forest, and he is alone. It's a feeling he doesn't like very much, so he walks around the woods, searching for what he's suddenly missing. There's nothing, but he keeps stepping over fallen logs and ducking under low branches until he comes to a stream. At the edge of the water, a turtle sits.

"Where are we going?" Brian asks him. He's certain the turtle has all the answers.

The turtle doesn't talk, just slides himself down the bank and into the water. Brian walks over to the edge, close enough that the water splashes over his bare feet, waiting for the turtle to come back. He's a little worried; he knows turtles don't need to come up for air very often, but they still need to
breathe. What if the turtle forgets? Brian leans forward, trying to see into the water where the turtle went.

When he looks up again, he's back on the beach with Scott, staring out over the horizon. A smile curves across his face as Scott's hands run down his suddenly-bare skin, and Brian tilts his head to the side so the sensitive curve of his jawline is exposed to Scott's wandering mouth.

Out of the corner of his eye Brian sees the turtle, scurrying as much as any turtle does along the hot sand.
Oh good, Brian thinks. You're alive.

That's the last thought he has about that, though, because he hears the soft thump of knees hitting sand like a siren's call, and he can't think of anything else. The hands on his hips are urging him to turn around and Brian goes willingly, will always go willingly.

His surroundings change in the blink of an eye as he turns.
Home, he realizes with a smile.

*

Brian wakes up slowly, with his brain still foggy and distant, opening his eyes wide then immediately shutting them against the brightness of the room. The sun is shining through the window to his right, peeking through the forest green curtains and glaring against the full-length mirror propped up against the wall opposite. Turning his head to the left, he slowly opens his eyes again.

The first thing he sees is Scott, naked except for the towel around his waist, rummaging through their dresser in search of something to wear. The knot in the towel is slipping, revealing teasing glimpses of smooth, dark skin that make Brian smile. His eyes roam up and down Scott's solid, muscular build, and up to his almost-unruly hair, which is sticking up at a weird angle in the back. A rush of heat pools in Brian's stomach as the towel slips more. He leans back into the pillow, wondering what time it is and, more importantly, whether they have time for a quickie before work.

Scott turns around then and nearly jumps out of his skin. "Jesus Christ," he yelps, dropping the pair of socks he has in his hand. His already large eyes are even wider than usual, and Brian can see the rapid rise and fall of his chest as he tries to calm down again. "What are you- I thought you were still asleep."

"Sorry," Brian replies, laughing softly and stretching his arms out above his head.

"No you're not," Scott grumbles, reaching down to pick up his socks. He throws them at Brian's head, but Brian catches them easily. "You're a little too good at being quiet, you know that? It's creepy."

Brian makes an indifferent noise and watches Scott put on a pair of boxers and his crisp, white pants then sits down on the side of the bed. He shoots Brian a look of mock annoyance and grabs the socks back. As he starts putting them on, Brian decides that this is counter-productive to his let's have morning sex plan and that he should probably put a stop to that now. He reaches out with one hand and grabs Scott by the arm, tugging so that Scott falls back across the bed, his head resting on Brian's stomach.

Brian slides his hand from Scott's arm, down his chest and over his toned stomach. Smirking sleepily, he pushes his hand lower and starts rubbing his hand over Scott's cock through the fabric of his pants. Scott smiles as he closes his eyes and makes a pleased noise, but when he opens his mouth he says, "I really have to go."

Which is not the answer Brian was looking for. "You sure?" he murmurs, pressing harder. His own breaths are becoming harsh, ragged, and he's barely done anything yet.

Scott whimpers and pushes his hips up to meet Brian's hand, but he doesn't give in. "Wish I wasn't," he replies, and there is definite sincerity in his voice - and in his automatic response to Brian's touch. His cock is hardening in Brian's hand and his tongue darts out to lick his lips. Brian's not flexible enough to bend himself in half and chase after it with his own, but he does bring his free hand up to brush his thumb over Scott's soft, full lips, then down again to rub Scott's chest.

He pinches Scott's shoulder and Scott lets out a short, desperate moan, slamming his hips up hard into Brian's hand. "I hate you," he whines, and Brian laughs softly. "I can't- I have to work."

Reluctantly, Brian lets him go, his arms falling to the side. Scott just lays there, breathing hard and glaring for a few moments before sitting up and putting on his second sock. "Don't look at me like that," Brian says with a smile. "You're the one who has to leave."

"You're the one who..." Scott waves his arm around, grasping for a comeback as he stands up and reaches for his t-shirt. "You couldn't have woken up 20 minutes ago?" he asks finally, the second half of his question muffled by the shirt being pulled over his head.

Brian grins and shrugs. "I could have, if you'd woken me up," he replies logically. "Still not my fault."

"How was I supposed to know you were going to wake up horny?"

"I wake up next to you. It's pretty much a given, baby," he replies, pitching his voice low and Elvis-like.

Scott groans, but he's smiling as he walks over to the closet and pulls out his chef's shirt. "That was really, really cheesy, you know that, right?"

Brian laughs. "Yeah, it was. Still true, though," he says, tilting his head to watch as Scott pulls on his shirt.

Scott rolls his eyes, exasperated but affectionate as he comes back over to the bed. "Yeah, well," he laughs, then leans down and kisses Brian. "You flatter me. See ya later, gator," he says, and then he's walking away. Brian sighs and closes his eyes again, even though he's not the least bit tired now. He doesn't open them again until he hears Scott unlocking the front door.

"Bye!" he yells, hopefully loud enough to be heard. He listens for a response, but the only sound is the front door slamming shut. Oh well. Brian stretches again, letting his arms fall across his chest, and tries to convince his cock to calm down because no one is here to pay attention to it anymore.

*

Brian doesn't live that far away from the precinct, it only takes about ten minutes to drive home after work. But getting to work is a whole other story. There's an elementary school and a middle school between the house and the station, which means that early morning traffic is hell and it takes at least twice as long to drive as it would any other time of day. It used to make him crazy, all the stop and start driving, but he's learned to embrace it. It gives him a few minutes to himself before he faces the world.

Especially today. Waking up lazy is nice on days when he doesn't have to work, but it's hard to snap out of that on days that he does. Having a shower helped a little - it made him coherent enough to get dressed without looking like a clown, anyway. The coffee that was waiting for him downstairs is what's really helping, though. He can feel the caffeine floating through his veins and clearing his brain. Which is good, he thinks now as he stops to let a group of kids cross the street. Being on your toes is important, especially when you don't know your partner very well.

The first partner Brian had was a detective was a guy named Carter. He was a good guy, older and very jovial. One of the life-of-the-party types. In other words, the exact opposite of Brian. But they worked well together. Balanced each other out. They had a pretty good solve rate, never had any serious complaints filed against them. They were good together, until a few years ago when Carter had retired and moved to Florida with his wife. Brian had given him a hard time about being a cliché, but he really was sad to see the man go. There's a small part of him that still expects to see Carter's face first thing every morning and is a little disappointed when he realizes that he's not going to be there.

Since then Brian has been drifting from one partner to another. Sometimes he's assigned someone who has been around awhile and is between partners, but mostly he works with new detectives to give them some practical, real world experience with the job before sending them on their way to be partnered with someone else on a full-time basis. He's good at that, but it means he's been through a fair number of partners in the last four years. Never has he been particularly sad to move on to the next one. A lot of them had a problem with his personal life once they found out about it. Most of the others were plain and simple assholes, people Brian has never had any interest in being around. One or two were decent guys, good cops and good detectives, but there was never that click, that deeper connection that meant we should be partners.

And now there's Kate. They've been working together for a couple of months, and so far so good. She's the first woman they've partnered him with, because she's the first woman to become a detective at this precinct in over ten years - a fact that Kate seems very highly aware of. From the start she has been incredibly serious about her job and very hard on herself. She has a strong need to be the best, to prove herself worthy of being that rare woman. She's afraid of making mistakes.

Brian gets that, so he tries to encourage her as much as he can without sounding patronizing. Kate is good at her job, really good, and the only thing that's holding her back is the fact that she doesn't fully believe that yet. He's certain she'll get there, though, and in the mean time he is enjoying being her partner. She's funny, even though she tries not to be because she thinks it looks unprofessional, and she's the first partner he's had that didn't so much as look surprised when he introduced her to Scott the first time.

By the time Brian makes it to the station, he's feeling far more alert and ready to go. There's a new case file on his desk, which isn't surprising. Stuck to the top is a note from the Lieutenant: high priority scrawled in messy capital letters, underlined three times with a series of exclamation marks tacked on the end. Curious, Brian sits down and flips open the folder. It seems pretty basic; robbery of a high end jewellery store downtown. He doesn't get why it's so important until he gets to the name of the store's owner: the mayor's wife.

Someone with power and influence, that explains it all. Brian scans the rest of the information quickly. There isn't much to go on, just an unhelpful description of a possible suspect and a note about a car being stolen across the street last night as well. He shuts the folder and tosses it back down on his desk just in time to see Kate come in. She heads straight for his desk and hands him a large coffee. He thanks her, but doesn't open it.

"Got anything new?" she asks, perching on the corner of his desk. She doesn't bother to take off her jacket first, even though her desk is only three feet away.

Brian sits up straighter and shakes his head. "Not really," he replies, thumbing his eyebrow. "Robbery over on Canton, the jewellery store. Chevalier, is it? Someone took off with the window display last night."

"Smash 'n grab?" Kate says with a raise of her eyebrows. "While people are still around. Sounds risky."

"It is," Brian agrees, setting down his untouched coffee and picking up the case file again. He flips through pages until he finds the one he's looking for. "The, uh, salesgirl who was closing up said she was balancing the books and didn't see anything until the alarm went off. Said it was a young woman, probably under 20... kinda short..." He shrugs and puts the folder back down. "That's about it. No specific description, just that the girl was wearing a hat that covered all her hair. There was a car stolen across the street from the jewellery store last night as well, could be related as it wasn't there when the cops showed up to the jewellery store. Hill and Wyatt are on that one, though."

Kate nods and takes a sip of her own coffee as she considers this. "Are we sure it was a girl?" she asks after a second. "A kid that young, could easily have been a small male."

"Could be," Brian agrees. It makes him feel old when she refers to anyone as kid. He's almost twenty years older than Kate, and if she thinks someone is young, she might as well just call him Gramps and be done with it. It's even worse when she calls him sir.

"Okay. Anything else?" she asks.

"No. I figure we can go downtown, check it out, see if any of the other shops had people working that late. See if we can dig anything up."

Kate smiles and stands up. "Sounds good. I'll go talk to Wyatt, see if they've got anything on the car theft, and then we can go. Oh, I almost forgot," she adds hurriedly. "I have to take Madison to the doctor this afternoon, so I'm going to have to slip out for a bit after lunch. Larry usually takes her, but he won't get home from Olympia until late tonight."

"Okay," Brian replies easily, finally lifting the lid off his coffee. "Anything serious?"

"No, just a check-up."

He looks up at her and smiles. "Good, glad to hear it."

Kate nods, then leaves to go talk with Wyatt. She still hasn't taken off her coat. As soon as she's out of sight, Brian reaches into his top desk drawer and pulls out a packet of sugar. He adds it to his coffee, then crumples up the wrapper and throws it across the room into the garbage can by the door. He used to correct her when she brought him coffee - he likes two creams and three sugars, and she always brings him one with two and two - but she never remembers so he stopped. He appreciates the fact that she brings him coffee and it just doesn't seem worth it to make a big deal over something he can fix so easily.

*

They get absolutely nowhere talking to the other shop owners downtown. The jewellery place had stayed open an hour late to accommodate a very well-off client who had, according to the owner of the store, been "very, very interested" in some of their finer pieces. Every other business had closed down for the night at their regular times, and all of their employees had long gone home by the time the robbery took place.

"Probably why it all took place when it did," Brian says to Kate as they leave the third store. "They figured no one would be around to notice the alarms."

"You still think the two are related?"

"Sure, why not? The likelihood of two crimes happening this close together on the same night isn't very high."

Kate nods. "True. Could have been one person, though, doing both."

Brian is about to answer her when his cell phone rings. "Maybe," he says, reaching into his pocket. He figures that it's Scott calling to give him shit about getting him all worked up this morning, so he's not in any rush to answer it, but he frowns when he sees it's not Scott at all. "It's the station," he tells Kate as he flips open the phone, then, "Larson."

"Hi, it's Betty from the switchboard," comes the friendly voice through the line.

"Hi," Brian replies, propping his free hand against his waist. "What can I do for you?"

"We've just received an anonymous tip about the jewellery heist you and Detective Tunney are working on."

"Really?" Brian asks, surprised. They don't usually get that lucky. "Uh, okay, let's hear it."

There's a sound of paper shuffling in the background. "Let's see... anonymous caller, male. Said the jewellery were taken by a girl named Annie Newton-"

"Shit." He scrubs a hand over his face, but not before he sees Kate's curious look. He'll have to explain that one later, he can tell, but he's not concerned with it at the moment. It's not often Brian has any familiarity with the people he comes into contact with on the job. It's something that he's extremely grateful for. Annie Newton. Damn, he thinks sadly.

There's a short pause on the other end of the line. "I'm sorry?" Betty asks, uncertain but still polite.

"Sorry," Brian apologizes. "It's nothing, go ahead. Was that it?"

"No, the caller said that she... took them to school with her," Betty replies. "And that she's probably keeping them in her backpack or in her locker. I ran her name through the school system. She goes to Burnaby Mountain, but they wouldn't tell me whether she was there or not when I called. If you want, I can call back, try again..."

"Hmm? Oh, no, thanks. That's great, Betty. Kate and I can take it from here," he assures her distractedly. "Thanks for all your help."

*

It takes the rest of the morning to get their hands on a warrant to search the school and the Newton's apartment. While they wait, Kate follows up on some of their other cases - a couple of stolen cars, a domestic assault, convenience store robbery. Brian talks to some of the older uniform cops, the guys who were around when Jack Newton was still a cop. Most guys from back then have retired but there's still a few left. None of them kept in touch after he was fired, and no one has heard much about him since his wife died.

Brian pulls Annie's record and finds it mostly clean, with a couple of withdrawn charges for disorderly conduct and nothing else. It doesn't hold any answers over what happened to suddenly make her decide to rob a jewellery store - assuming the tip they received was legitimate - but he wasn't really expecting it to. That would have been nice, though.

When the warrant comes through, he and Kate grab a couple of uniform officers and head over to the high school. It's a short drive, which Brian is thankful for, and within minutes they're parked in front of the school. Brian tells the uniforms to wait outside - cops roaming the hallways is a surefire way to gain a lot of attention fast, and he's not interested in doing that for any longer than they have to - then follows Kate across the lawn.

"I went to school here," she says as they walk through the front doors. "Did you go here, too?"

Brian shakes his head. "No, I grew up in Ann Arbor. Michigan," he clarifies as he looks around at the white brick walls with bold green stripes, the giant bulletin board announcing proms and bake sales, and the large trophy case against the opposite wall. It all gives him a weird sense of deja vu. "I think all high schools look like this, though. Even the colours were the same at mine."

Kate smiles as they turn the corner and come across the school's office. Even that's the same, he thinks as he holds open the door for her then follows her inside. The room is empty; Brian sticks his head over the front desk and looks around, but there's no one there. "Hello?" he calls.

After a few seconds a short woman, maybe mid-fifties, sticks her head out from one of the doors in the back room. "Oh, hi!" she says brightly, coming out with a large box of file folders in her hands. She sets the box on a table in the back then smiles at them. "I'm sorry, I didn't hear anyone come in. How can I help you?"

Brian smiles back. "No problem. I'm Detective Larson, this is Detective Tunney." He gestures towards Kate, who nods hello to the woman, then shows her his badge. "I'm sorry, I didn't get your name-"

The woman studies his badge, then looks up. "Hilda Patterson," she says, glancing back and forth between the two of them.

Brian nods an acknowledgement, then continues. "Ms Patterson, we need to speak with the principal - Mr Whitcliff, is that right?"

"I- yes, Mr Whitcliff is our principal," she replies. "He's in a meeting at the moment. Graduation is next week, you see, and prom this weekend. Things are rather hectic around here. Is there anything I can help you with?"

"No, I'm afraid this is a private matter," Brian says, offering her a polite smile to take the edge off his words. "We're going to need to speak with Mr Whitcliff, and - do you have a Resource Officer on duty?"

He can see the curiosity burning in Ms Patterson's eyes when she answers. "Not today, no. We share Officer Klassen with Washington High, he's only here on Mondays and Wednesdays. I could call the school for you, if you like. I'm sure he'll be available to come speak with you."

"No, that won't be necessary," Brian replies. There's no reason the secretary couldn't do it, but he gets the feeling that it will be a long, drawn-out process if they go that route and he would rather get this done. "Detective Tunney and I can call. If you could go pull Mr Whitcliff out of his meeting for us, it would be appreciated."

Ms Patterson nods, already opening the latched swing door that separates the back office from the front of the room. "Yes, of course," she agrees, making sure the divider is latched shut again. "I'll be back in just a moment."

"Great, thank you," Brian says. Ms Patterson flushes slightly as she leaves, and when she's a few feet away, she turns and looks back over her shoulder.

Kate laughs. "I didn't realize you were such a charmer," she says, smiling at him. "I'm impressed."

"What?" Brian asks, confused.

"She likes you," Kate sing-songs in reply. "Your boyfriend better watch out."

Brian blinks, unsure of how in the hell he should respond to that. He's pretty sure Kate is kidding around, it's just - she's never done that before. Teased him like that, the way a friend would. It's not a problem, exactly. The thing is, he has no idea what she means by it. Part of him wants to reply in kind, make a joke about a threesome or being the love 'em and leave 'em kind, but he's not sure if that's an acceptable kind of joke to make to her, especially now that he's been quiet for so long and her smile is looking mighty forced.

The awkward moment stretches out between them while Brian tries to figure out what he should say. Kate stops smiling altogether and blushes furiously. "Sorry," she says hurriedly, ducking her head like she can't look Brian in the eye at all. "I was just- um. Never mind. I'm going to call the other high school, get the Resource Officer down here."

Dammit. Brian shoves his hands in his pockets and looks around, half-listening to Kate's end of the phone call she's making. Everything about this room is familiar - the motivational posters, the old telephones and the cubbyhole mailboxes against the back wall. It's like they just clone high schools all over the country instead of designing new ones.

When Kate hangs up, he turns towards her. She's still flustered and not quite meeting his eyes, which makes him feel bad, but he still has no idea what to say. Maybe he should apologize for reacting the way he did, explain that she caught him off guard, that's all. It's true, but even in his head it sounds tired, like he's pulling an excuse out of the Handbook For Awkward Situations.

He's still considering this when something occurs to him. "Hey, what time was Madison's appointment?" he asks, glancing at his watch.

Kate's eyes go wide. "Shit!" she hisses, glancing at her own watch. "Shi- sorry," she says abruptly. "I shouldn't- I can't leave, we're about to arrest someone for stealing-"

"Allegedly," Brian points out, relieved that, if nothing else, he's distracted her from the awkwardness of their previous conversation.

"Yeah, whatever," she replies, flustered, and he has to bite back a laugh because Kate works so hard at being the consummate professional, but it's the tiniest unexpected things that make her falter. He thinks it's endearing, though he knows better than to say so. "What am I supposed to do?" she asks desperately.

Brian just shrugs. "Go."

"I- what?"

"Go," he repeats. "The uniforms can handle this, we're just here to make Chevalier's insurance company happy. It's no big deal, go take your kid to the doctor's. Go," he says again when she still doesn't move.

She looks like she's going to argue with him, but in the end she nods. "Yeah - are you sure? Okay, yes, I'm going. Oh, the Resource Officer is on his way, he said give him twenty." Her words are rushed, almost unintelligible, as she heads for the door. She pauses with her hand on the knob. "Thank you, sir," she adds with a tense smile, and then she's gone.

Brian shakes his head. "I hate when you call me that," he says to the empty room, then looks at his watch again, wondering what the hell is taking the secretary so long.

*

In the end, he waits almost twenty minutes for Ms Patterson to come back with Mr Whitcliff. By that time the Resource Officer - Klassen, who Brian has a passing familiarity in the way that he does with most cops in town - has shown up. While they wait, Brian briefs him on the case.

"Have you had any trouble with Annie before?" he asks.

Klassen nods. "Oh, yeah," he says. "She's always getting into trouble for something. Fighting, usually."

"Seems like a big jump from fighting in the hallways to robbing a jewellery store," Brian comments.

"Yeah, well-"

Klassen is interrupted by Ms Patterson finally bringing the principal back. A brief round of introductions is made, and Brian explains to the secretary why Kate isn't there anymore. Then, at Brian's request, Whitcliff brings Brian and Klassen upstairs to his office for privacy. It's a nice, if boring, office, large and sparsely decorated. Brian can see why Whitcliff likes it, though, as the giant windows on two sides gives him a birds-eye view of the cafeteria below.

"Now, Detective, what can we do for you?" Whitcliff asks, sitting down behind his desk. Klassen sits in one of the chairs opposite; Brian stays standing.

"I have a warrant to search the school," Brian replies, folding his arms across his chest. "One of your students is the primary suspect in a robbery that took place last night, and we believe she's holding the stolen items in her locker."

Whitcliff looks genuinely shocked by that information. He glances at Klassen, as if questioning whether this is really one big joke, then turns back to Brian when Klassen simply nods. "One of- who?"

"Annie Newton."

Whitcliff lets out a short laugh, and Brian wonders why that is in any way funny. Informing someone one of their students is wanted in a criminal investigation isn't something he would have expected to be found amusing in any case, but he finds himself even more defensive than usual. He can't help but feel protective of Annie, despite the fact that he hasn't seen her in years and he's here to, more than likely, arrest her.

"Forgive me," Whitcliff says, sobering as he realizes Brian isn't sharing his joke. "I realize that it's not a- well, I can't say that I'm surprised that's who you're here to see."

"Why not?" Brian asks sharply.

Whitcliff blinks, surprised by the tone, and Brian tells himself to take it easy. "She's a troublemaker," Whitcliff explains, as if this is the most obvious thing in the world. It doesn't fit right with Brian's memory of Annie, but he listens without comment as Whitcliff continues. "She's been suspended more than any other student in this school, past and present. She spends her lunch hour selling stolen goods to the student body. Fighting, the endless fighting - I hate to say it, Detective, but the girl is trouble. I'm not surprised," he repeats.

Brian finds himself more annoyed by Whitcliff's attitude than he probably should. He can't help but feel like the man should have more of an interest in helping his troubled students than he apparently does. Brian tries to shake it off by putting an end to the discussion. He takes the warrant out of his inside pocket and hands it to Whitcliff. "There are uniformed men outside waiting for the okay to come in and search the place. If you could take us to her locker first, that would be great," he says evenly.

Whitcliff nods, barely looking at the paper in his hand. "Certainly," he agrees. "If you'll follow me..."

He leads the way out of the office, back down the stairs and past the front entrance. Brian opens the front door and signals the uniform cops to come in - he's pretty sure they're going to find something, and they're more than capable of handling the search and arrest - then follows Whitcliff down one hall, then another. There are a good number of students in the hallway, all of them unquestionably curious as to why two cops and a detective are roaming their halls under the lead of the principal.

Halfway down the second hall, Whitcliff stops. "Here we are," he says tensely, his eyes flickering towards the growing crowd. "Number 895."

Brian steps back into the crowd to watch as Donner, one of the uniform cops he called in, picks up the bolt cutter to bust open the lock. They don't need him for this, and he's certain he's not going to like what he sees. One of the kids he ends up standing next to, a young Japanese guy wearing a t-shirt that's about four sizes too big for him, watches with amused fascination. As the locker swings open, he mutters to his friend, "Newton's finally busted. That bitch sold me the worst phone ever, man, it was total crap. Serves her right."

"What did you say?" Brian asks sharply, and the kid glares defiantly until Brian puts his hands on his hips, flicking his jacket back. The kid's eyes immediately fall to the badge clipped to his belt, the exact effect Brian had been hoping for. "Annie was selling stolen phones?"

"I ain't tellin' you nothing," the kid says, his bravado slipping on the word you. "You're not arresting me for buying anything off her, 'cause I didn't do it."

"Look, I'm not-" Brian stops, then changes tactics. "I'm not going to arrest you, kid, I just want to know what she's up to."

The kid still looks nervous, but his buddy nudges him in the side and he starts to talk. "I don't know details, alright? But yeah, she's got this, ah, operation going on, you know, out of her locker. Cell phones, iPods, shit like that."

"Shit like that," Brian repeats, then shakes his head. It doesn't make sense to him, it doesn't fit with the Annie in his head, but somehow he knows it's the truth. "Thanks, kid," he says distractedly, then steps forward to get a closer look as Donner and Fulke start going through the contents of Annie's locker. Even from back here Brian can see the boxes of cell phones - they'll probably get her on that, even if she doesn't have the...

Jewellery, he thinks, defeated, watching Fulke pull a handful of diamond jewellery out of a nylon bag. Brian sighs and hangs his head, pinching the bridge of his nose. Dammit.

"Detective?"

Brian looks up with a start, hands falling to his hips. Donner is standing in front of him, the bag of jewellery in one hand and the other resting over the gun tucked into his belt. "Principal says she's in Math, if she bothered to show up."

Brian nods and follows as Whitcliff leads them to the other end of the hall, then up the stairs to the second floor. Behind them a growing crowd of students tries to tag along without making it obvious enough that they'll get in trouble for it. Brian hears the whispers, how all of the students are either glad to see Annie in trouble or find it amusing in some way. Part of him wants to stop and ask them why, but he doesn't, just follows behind Fulke and Donner until they come to a stop in front of Room 121. Whitcliff knocks on the door, and when it opens Officer Klassen speaks briefly with the teacher in a low tone so that the gathering crowd can't hear too much.

The teacher - Brian didn't catch his name - looks around at the crowd of cops and onlookers, then sticks his head back into the classroom. "Annie. In the hall," he says loudly.

There's a rough scraping of chair legs against linoleum and the muffled sounds of angry walking. The teacher steps aside and then there's Annie, a fierce glare in her eyes and bitter unhappiness shadowing her features. All her hair is tucked up under a knit hat - Brian would almost think she didn't have any, except there are a few loose strands hanging out the back, long and curly, just like it used to be. Just like her mother's was, and he thinks that Annie is probably a very beautiful girl underneath all that scowl and bluster.

She looks around, takes in the sight of the cops, the crowd; her eyes fall on Brian, but there's no flash of recognition. That saddens him a little bit, even though logically he knows it's been almost ten years since she last saw him and that she was just a kid back then. Still, he'd kind of hoped that -

"Annie Newton," Fulke cuts into Brian's thoughts. "You are being arrested under suspicion..."

Brian turns away. He's seen dozens of kids her age be arrested and it's never bothered him before, but with Annie there's a bit of an emotional attachment there. Even if she doesn't remember him, he knows her, and that's more than enough to make this hard to watch.

*

Back at the station, Donner leads Annie into Interrogation Room One. While they wait for her attorney to show up, Donner and Fulke head towards the staff room to grab a late lunch of candy bars and soda. They ask Brian to join them, but he politely declines and goes back to his desk. There's a granola bar in the top drawer, next to the sugar packets, so he takes that out and settles in to go through the mountain of paperwork in his inbox.

That's what he tries to do, anyway. In reality he ends up picking at his makeshift lunch and staring at an open file folder without really seeing it at all. His mind wanders to Annie and to her father. Brian worked at the same precinct as Jack for eleven years, went to the bar celebration the night Jack found out his wife was pregnant with their son, even worked a few cases with the man. Jack had been a good cop back then, but he had a nasty habit of falling off the wagon far more than he stayed on it, and that eventually became a very big problem.

Brian remembers the way Jack would come to work hung-over with increasing frequency, often reeking of alcohol and picking fights with other officers, the suspects - even the lawyers, sometimes. The higher-ups fired him for it eventually, though it was never made common knowledge what the final straw had been, and the last Brian heard he'd gotten a job working security.

Brian feels bad that he never gave them much thought after that. He was too wrapped up in his own life, but he remembers now. The little girl who used to bring her daddy lunch on Fridays, with her mommy trailing behind at a much slower pace. The Annie that Brian remembers is a sweet little girl in pigtails who smiled all the time and drew him pictures of unicorns and fairy princess castles. She would draw them at home then bring them to the station in her sparkly purple backpack, rolled up neatly and tied with a ribbon. She must have been no more than six at the time, but she took everything very seriously. Especially when it came to her drawings, which she would present to him with a bashful smile and a stern warning not to get them dirty because she worked real hard on them.

He didn't see any of that girl in the scowling teenager they just arrested, and he can't help but wonder where she went.

Maybe she didn't go anywhere. Maybe she's still there, somewhere, buried underneath years of anger and resentment and loss. God knows Brian isn't the same man he was when he worked with Jack. Back then he had longer hair, wore thick-lensed glasses, drove an electric blue Buick and lived with a woman. He's changed a lot, mostly for the better, because that's what people do. They grow, they change, they live their lives. But knowing that doesn't make it any easier to accept when things turn out horribly wrong.

Brian is startled out of his thoughts by Fulke rasping his knuckles on the desk. "Hey, Newton's lawyer is here," he says. "You want to be there? Your bust, too."

"I'll watch from behind the glass."

Fulke looks surprised, but he just shrugs. "Suit yourself," he replies indifferently as Brian stands up. His granola bar is only half gone, so he folds the wrapper over the open end and sets it back in his desk for later, then follows Fulke out of the room and down the hall to the interrogation rooms.

They meet up with Donner outside the door to Room One; Brian nods at them and slips into the next room to watch without being seen. Through the two-way mirror, he can see Annie sitting at the table, slouched down in her chair as far as she can get with her arms crossed defiantly against her chest. She's glaring at her lawyer, who looks equal parts bored and annoyed.

Brian leans against the wall, hands in his pockets, and watches as Donner and Fulke come into the room. He can see Annie talking to them, but he can't hear -

He flips the switch on the wall behind him just in time to hear Annie say, "You've got mustard on your tie," to Donner. It makes Brian smile, partly because there is so much contempt in her voice that she sounds more like a neat-nik housewife than a world-weary eighteen year old, but also because he remembers how much Annie liked his ties, back in the day. When she was a baby she would chew on them and as she got older, she would play with them.

It's still hard to reconcile the two in his head, but he finds it comforting that there's some of little Annie left in there after all.

Brian tunes back into the conversation in time to hear Donner ask, "Do you know why we arrested you, Annie?"

She shrugs. "Because I took the jewellery."

Fulke and Donner exchange glances, unsettled by the ease with which they had just gained their confession. "So you admit to robbing Chevalier Jewellers on the night of May 27th?" asks Donner after a moment.

"Yes, I did," Annie replies, dropping one hand to her thigh and picking at a loose thread on her pants. "Don't look so surprised, bud. You caught me with the goods, remember? What good is lying going to do me?"

Her lawyer only seems to be paying minimal attention to what's going on, clearly unconcerned about whether or not her client is hanging herself by admitting guilt right off the bat. Brian is unnaturally annoyed by this but is distracted from his ire by Fulke.

"Okay. Admitting to the theft of goods over $400, and to grand theft auto-"

"Excuse me?" Annie cuts in sharply, her head snapping up. Her eyes are like daggers, and even though Fulke's back is to him, Brian can see that the man is suddenly nervous. "I don't know anything about any grand theft auto and there's no fucking way I'm confessing to something I don't even know about."

Fulke recovers quickly. "Really? Mercedes-Benz W220? Silver, 2003? Not ringing any bells?"

"Nope." Annie doesn't look angry anymore, but she's radiating annoyance so strong that Brian can feel it through the walls.

"That's funny," Fulke comments without a trace of laughter in his voice. "We have a witness that says the car was there when you smashed the window and gone by the time she'd picked up the phone to call the police."

"Your witness must be mistaken. I don't even have a license."

"Maybe you had an accomplice," Donner suggests, leaning forward in his seat with his hands folded in front of him on the table. "Maybe you drove without a license."

Annie turns to stare at him with wide eyes. "But that would be illegal," she deadpans, and Brian lets out a surprised laugh, glad no one on the other side of the glass can hear him. Fulke and Donner exchange looks of irritation, and even her uninterested lawyer looks up in surprise, a tiny smile curving at her mouth.

The rest of the interrogation is uneventful. Annie refuses to admit knowing anything about the car theft, and eventually Fulke and Donner drop it and decide to charge her with the theft of the jewellery only, since that's what she's admitting to. They haul her off to set her up with a court date, and Brian sits down on one of the uncomfortable chairs in the room. Glancing at his watch he sees that it's almost four-thirty, so he takes out his phone and calls Kate. It goes straight to voicemail; he leaves a message giving her the brief rundown of what happened after she left and tells her not to bother coming back in tonight.

"Spend some time with your family. I'll see you in the morning," he says, then hangs up and leaves the room, flipping off the lights and the speaker switch on his way out.

*

Home, when Brian finally gets there, is quiet and empty. Under normal circumstances the silence wouldn't bother him in the least, but today it seems overwhelming and oppressing. The first thing he does after taking off his shoes is walk over to the stereo in the living room. It's times like this it would be nice to have a pet, someone to come home to even when Scott is working all day and night. They talked about getting a dog once or twice, but agreed that they weren't home often enough for it. A cat would be more independent, but Brian is allergic, so that wouldn't work out either.

After a minute of searching through their CD collection, Brian pulls out Aerosmith's Permanent Vacation and puts it into the stereo. He turns the volume up loud enough for it to be heard throughout the house, then goes upstairs to change into something more comfortable. The constant sound helps him shakes off the feeling of isolation, and by the time he heads back downstairs, now dressed in a t-shirt and running pants, he feels his mood improve drastically.

Routine kicks in after that as he walks into the kitchen and starts in on the mindless, necessary household chores that he put off last night. He wipes down the counters and washes the dishes, then walks over to the fridge to clean out anything that's expired. Stuck to the front with a golf ball shaped magnet is a note from Scott. Brian pulls it off and holds it closer to his face so that he can read it.

I hate you - been thinking about this morning all day. Distracting!! You owe me.
Love you.
- S


Brian smiles and sticks the note back on the fridge, then grabs a marker from the junk drawer and draws a happy face at the bottom. Satisfied with his handiwork, he goes back cleaning out the fridge like he'd intended in the first place. It doesn't take long to do and when he's done, he grabs a bottle of beer and puts it aside on the counter while he takes out the garbage.

He comes back in and washes his hands, then grabs his beer and heads back into the living room. Hangman Jury is blaring from the stereo; Brian lets it play through to the end because he likes that track, then flicks off the stereo and grabs the television remote. He calls his favourite pizza place and orders a large with the works, no anchovies, then settles comfortably in on the couch.

He finds a rerun of "Friends" on TV, which he watches for a few minutes. It's an episode he likes a lot, the one where Monica puts a turkey on her head. But Brian's mind wanders quickly and he finds himself spending a lot of time thinking about how to rearrange the living room. It's the one room in the house they've never really worked on, and as a result it looks like the hodgepodge mess that it is. He's not sure why they never finished it. Maybe they just got worn out after fixing up the rest of the house, but after three years of living here, Brian thinks it's probably time to deal with it.

Starting with a paint job. Green, maybe, they both like that colour.

By the time the doorbell startles him out of his thoughts, he's come up with a pretty good plan for the place, and he hasn't once caught himself dwelling on thoughts of Annie Newton.

Part 2
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