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Partnership

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She doesn't always see into people's heads. At least not without trying to.

She used to. That was how it started, back when she was small; she saw things and she blurted them out like kids always seem to, except the things she blurted were questions about that man or that money or any of a hundred things that people just couldn't help but think about once they knew a psychic was around. It all bubbled up to the surface and she spoke it all out loud, until they told their kids to steer clear and hurried away when they saw her. People like their secrets. They don't like their secrets not remaining secret.

She remembers how it stung at the time, but she also remembers slowly but surely working out why it was that no one wanted her around. The moment she finally understood that not everyone sees the things she sees...suddenly everything made a whole lot more sense. She had a talent, not that they ever really called it that back then. Maybe not a rare one in itself but they said most psychics couldn't control it - it came and went and they tried to learn to turn it on. Hers didn't come and go. She had to learn to turn it off instead of on, and that took a lot of time. It took years. She learned to stop saying things long before she stopped seeing them.

She doesn't always see into people's heads. Not without making some kind of conscious effort, because that's what people like: the illusion that there's no one watching, even if they could, even if they are. But, nineteen days ago now, she saw.

It was like a puzzle. She hates puzzles - when the Hall of Justice took her in, her whole life turned into puzzles for weeks and months and years. They had her tell them numbers they were thinking of, what the pictures were on the cards in their hands, what was going on in the room next door... They sent her into the isocubes and had her leaf through convicts' minds like poorly-written books, like there was much left in the world that could shock her by then. They tried to trick her, confuse her, catch her out, but this didn't feel like one of their tricks.

She saw flashes. A Lawmaster sprawled down on the street precisely the way it hadn't been built for. A helmet in a Judge's bloody gloved hands, the sun two shades too bright to see their reflection in the visor. The perps' faces, license plates, popping right into her head, bang bang bang, one after the other, until she couldn't concentrate on the road where she was driving to her next call. She pulled over, dropped her head into her hands, and saw the street sign in six separate parts, like six separate memories, like a jigsaw slotting together between blinks of an eye. There was nothing on the radio about a Judge calling for backup, and maybe it could've been some kind of elaborate hoax designed to draw her in and catch someone a psychic, but she knew. She just knew. It wasn't.

"Hold on," she said, in her head, inside his head. Then she kicked her bike back into gear and took off after the perps she'd seen. She sent backup to his location. That was what he'd've wanted her to do, not the other way around: get the bad guys first and save him later.

She found the perps twenty minutes after that, while the meatwagon was taking Dredd away from the scene of his crash; from what she could tell from the radio, when they'd arrived they hadn't been totally sure if they needed a stretcher or a body bag. It turned out it was the former rather than the latter, but it had been a close-run thing.

Outside the warehouse, perps inside and waiting with their weapons drawn, she opened up her mind and said, "Dredd, are you out there?"

"Anderson," he replied, terse as ever. That was positive, she thought; she'd never managed to talk to the dead. They said some psychics did, but she never had.

"Stay with me, Dredd. I'm going in."

He stayed with her. Inside the door, she shot five men dead in four seconds. Back outside again, she realised she wasn't sure if all of them had been down to her or if he'd had a hand in it; she was an adequate shot, enough to pass the appropriate tests, but she absolutely knew that Dredd was better. Dredd's aim was damn near perfect.

Later, after the debriefing at the Hall of Justice, she made her way to the hospital. Security was tight around him: it always was for Judges, just in case, but a whole lot of people had it out for Dredd and they all knew it, more than most of them. They were keeping him in a medically-induced coma for the time being, they said, until the swelling on his brain went down or else he just died instead. The doctors weren't sure which would happen. They weren't sure someone who hated him wouldn't get there first.

"I got the perps," she told him, in her head, at the foot of his bed. He looked different like that, hooked up to the machines, his helmet off and sitting on the table at his side. Someone had cleaned it up; when she'd seen it, his blood had been all over it. "You can wake up any time now, Dredd."

"I think it goes deeper," he replied. "They weren't acting alone."

"You think it was a targeted attack? On you personally?" She frowned. "Why?"

"If I knew that, you'd be the first to know."

She guessed that was true because if he'd known, she'd've known it already. And until last night, she had him in her head for nineteen days, every step of the way through the case he'd stumbled onto and somehow gotten her involved in.

Last night, he finally woke up; it turns out he's going to live, and he'll be fine, which is a hell of a lot more than she can say for the guys who wanted to kill him. And maybe it wasn't some complicated conspiracy theory, and maybe it didn't go right up to the Chief Judge, but that didn't mean Dredd hadn't been right, too: they were working for some rich guy whose son Dredd had judged once, years ago, so long ago that he barely remembered. Now he'd been judged, too, and when Anderson had passed the sentence it was just like those five guys in the warehouse: she wasn't sure if the finger on the trigger was hers or his. Somehow, she found she didn't mind that.

She's back in her apartment, now it's over. It feels strange, being alone again, though she guesses technically she was never not alone, and he was always miles away in a hospital bed with his helmet sitting on the nightstand so everyone who came into the room could see his face, even though she knew he'd hate that. In her head, she can see the way he sees himself, and it's never with the helmet off. When he sees himself, he sees himself in full uniform, because that's who he thinks he is. She wonders if he'll ever let her see him any other way.

She's in her apartment and it feels strange to be alone inside her head. So, as she's lying in bed not quite trying to sleep, she reaches out.

"Dredd?" she says.

"Anderson."

"Can I ask you a question?"

He doesn't respond, but she figures if he wanted to say no then he'd just go ahead and say it. They both know he's the straightforward type.

"How did you know I'd hear you?" she asks. "How did you know I'd understand?"

"I didn't," he replies. "I figured I'd reach you or I'd die." And she goes ahead and laughs because somehow, she'd never quite realised she'd been his only call and not just his last one.

"How much longer till they'll let you back in uniform?" she asks him.

When he tells her, "A week," she understands that to him that might as well be a year.

"You want to ride along with me?"

She knows what she's offering, and so does he: he was inside her head for nineteen days, and she'll let him stay a little longer. When he says, "Sure," they both know what that means: for the past nineteen days, they've made a great team, and they'll spin it out a little longer.

"Code says I need a partner for the first ten days once I'm back," he tells her, after that. And it's not a question, so she doesn't answer. She knows she doesn't have to. As she breaks the link until the following day, she wonders if this is what partnership is like.

She doesn't always see inside people's heads, but she's always been able to. He's just the only one who hasn't minded when she has.