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God, she likes him.

She hates to admit it. But really, she thinks maybe she's always liked him. Even with that cliched cop 'stache the first day, clutching the bag of zeppole, all bravado and enthusiasm in a cheap suit. And that stupid name, like a kid, like something you'd call a little boy before you tousled his hair and sent him out to play.

Still, though, there's the homonym for that the word? The one that means it sounds the same but isn't? She's tipped back more bourbon than she wants to think about and tomorrow she'll regret it, but right now she's still in the sloppy, warm stage...warm, like that word. Warm and happy and bright. He was drunk too, when he leaned in, but he was like that at the same time. Cheerful and glowing, like his dumb name that she knows she doesn't really think is dumb at all.

She likes him. He's her friend. And so yeah, maybe she did want to lean forward, meet him in the middle, maybe she did want to take what he was so clearly offering. But she can't because he's really, truly her friend and if she's being honest, when's the last time she had that?

There was some love with Nick but he wasn't her friend, fun with Declan but he wasn't her friend either, not really. She couldn't do with him what she'd done with them. Couldn't do what she'd done in that story she told him either, bring him behind the building and fuck his brains out like that bartender she knew from way back. Why had she told him about that, anyway?

You know why, her brain tells her. You know. And she does. She told him so that he'd back off, break this invisible web stretching between them, go back to just being her damn friend so she could stop feeling like this around him. Only it didn't work, because after a second of surprise he'd just laughed. Laughed, and then later he'd leaned in and there hadn't been any judgment in his eyes at all, had just been something she doesn't want to think about because it's nothing she can handle, nothing she has experience with.

She can't feel what she wants to. Even when she was a little girl she was never like he is...simple, in the best way. A way that makes him see the good in people, a way that makes him do what is right. Makes him do things like come over and cuddle her baby (and God that memory, her baby in his arms, chubby cheek against his shirt, him holding her like she was the most precious thing in the world), just stay there and watch TV and not expect a thing. Makes him do things like ask his ma to light candles for a friend that she doesn't even know, just another way to send out a little brightness in the world.

No, she'd never been like that. And he always will be. So it doesn't matter how much she wants to take what he'd give her. She can't. That's the way it is.

She's pissed when she feels the tears start pricking at her eyes, sniffs angrily at the tingle in her nose. Fuck this. It's the way it is, and one thing she's always been good at is letting go of what isn't going to work. She sees life for what it is, always has, so why is it so damn hard this time? She wipes the tears away angrily with her sleeve, laughs at herself for a second even though it's not really funny. She shoves her hand through her limp blonde hair and then goes to the cracked mirror in the motel bathroom, harsh light flickering overhead, trying to fix her makeup and look like she hasn't just been in a damn bar fight. She laughs again at that because how absurd is it, really, and what the hell would the lieutenant say if she were here?

She wipes the smudges out from under her eyes and applies a little mascara., Buck, she reminds herself, will be here soon. He's a sure thing though really, so why is she trying to look pretty? Why does she care?

When Buck knocks on the door and she lets him in, he surprises her by at least trying to have a bit of conversation. He's smarter than he looks, she can tell, and probably nicer than you'd think at first glance. She doesn't want any of that, though, doesn't really want to think about men who are smart and nice and who carebecause if that was what she wanted, she'd have...

She puts that out of her mind and just lays her mouth on Buck's. He's in the middle of a sentence so it's not hard to slip her bourbon tasting tongue into his mouth, not hard to shut him up. He lets out a startled half laugh and tries to pull back for a second, but she doesn't let him and then it's just easy. Easy to let her mind go blank as she yanks his red t-shirt over his head, easy to unbuckle his belt and slip her hands down his pants. He moans and she does too, feeling his calloused hands slide roughly under her shirt.

"You in a hurry, honey?" He whispers and his voice is all wrong, so she kisses him again and again to make him shut up. She can pretend that way, pretend that it's a different voice murmuring things to her, a voice full of long vowels and dropped R's and a tiny bit of Italy sometimes, still there after all these generations. (Because his family is big and loyal and they keep their roots and she has no right to go near anything like that so she'll just do this and pretend instead)

She kisses him to stop that slow drawling voice, lets her mind can replace it with another. She runs her hands over his broad body and concentrates hard on pretending it's another one, lean but deceptively strong and full of energy. She closes her eyes so she doesn't have to see the strange face in front of her, so she can replace it with that open, happy one, can ignore the dark hair brushing against her cheek and pretend it's lighter and starting to gray at the temples. Most of all she won't have to see dark eyes staring into hers and she can pretend they're blue, blue and so unburdened you wouldn't think there would be so much intelligence there, but there is...if you know where to look. If you know him. If he's your friend.

At first is doesn't work but then, suddenly, it does. Suddenly the man underneath her frantic hands seems to fall away and another one is there instead, and she can't keep from groaning into his neck. She's so wet and turned on she can't stand it, and she goes crazy getting rid of the rest of their clothes and pushing him onto the bed.

He tumbles her over onto her back (the cheap flowered bedspread cool under her and what is she doing) and she can see him rummaging in his wallet. He rolls the condom on and then he's asking her if she's sure before she impatiently pulls him onto her (if she'd wanted kindness she would have...) and then he's in between her open legs and then thrusting inside her and he hisses and moans "Oh God, oh shiiitttt" and she screws her eyes shut tight again, takes her mind away once more.

Nothing happens at first, she's just there while he moans and rocks on top of her. But then she thinks of his blue eyes a few hours ago, sweet and happy and a little shy as he tilts his head toward her...and then she's back in her body and it starts to feel good as she imagines that she'd said yes, imagines that she'd let him inside, imagines him on top of her as she whimpers and pants. It's so good, she knows it would be so goooood...

And then there's that word again, his stupid name that she loves so much, the name that's like a bright sky, and she screams it as it all goes white behind her tightly shut eyelids, yells it out into this stranger's neck.


In the morning she knows he sees her, though she doesn't look at him directly or give any other indication as she bids Buck a careless goodbye. But she knows. She can feel his warmth from here, and his disappointment. It knots her stomach in a way she'll never admit to anyone, even fully to herself. But she knows that after a bit of cold shoulder he'll forgive her, because that's who he is.

A lot of her early life seems gray somehow, with her drunk mama, and her daddy blowing every dime he ever made, and her damn sister never doing anything for anyone but herself...just gray. Like a bit of a shadow over everything, or a cloud just waiting to rain on any parade she even thought of going to.

It's a lot better now, with her work, and whole states standing between her and her screwed up family. It's better with Fin, who is solid and loves her like she's his daughter (and she loves him back even if they'll never say it...they don't have to) and Liv who never, ever lets her down, Liv who is everything she'd ever want to be...and of course her sweet baby girl, who might as well be the air she breathes, she's that important. Her funny girl with her long blonde hair and Dec's twinkling Irish eyes, and something else that is all her own and Amanda knows, knows, that come what may in life Jessie will be fine. And all of that? That's more than she ever thought to have.

You're forgetting something, she thinks, leaving someone out. But she can't, really cannot admit how important he is and could be, because she doesn't know what she'd do then. Something that would eventually shatter in her hands, probably, and hurt more than Nick leaving, hurt more than Declan's indifference to their beautiful kid.

So she'll leave it, because really you're not supposed to stare directly into the sun anyway, certainly not supposed to touch anything that gleams so bright. Best you can hope to do is just warm yourself from a distance.

So, yeah.

They'll be friends.