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Should You Cross My Mind, Don't Fall Through the Cracks

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1996

Sometimes, he isn't quite sure how he feels about New York.

She's loud and busy and impersonal and downright mean at times - that's great , for a professional thief. 

For a twenty-something guy who's been sort of lonely for a while now, (if he's being unwillingly but brutally honest with himself) not so much. 

But there are moments when the city stands still, holds its breath and just is. Sometimes he'll be doing recon on a place to hit, crouching on the roof of the building opposite the location, tracking the security's shift changes, the clientele, exit and entry routes. He'll be up there for hours, on multiple occasions spending practically the whole day there. Often the whole night.

New York never slept. But she did slow down. The dopplered wailing of sirens, shouts on the street, drunken laughter from kids stumbling home after a night out on town, the gunshots from alleys - all took on a hazy, slightly dreamlike quality. 

Usually, this would be the point at which Job would whack him over the head with a glove. 

"There is a time and place to get all dewy-eyed over all the pretty sparkly lights," Job snaps, tetchy. 

And usually, this would be the point at which he'd grin and flop back onto the roof, eyes aching from looking through binoculars all day.

"C'mon, humour me for one sec. I love this city as much as the next guy, but wouldn't it be great if things would just...slow down for a bit. A little peace and quiet, huh ?"

Job side-eyed him even without ceasing to look forwards through the binoculars. 

"You sound like an old man. Fear not, I promise to put you out of your misery the day you soak your dentures and sign up for bingo at the club."

Sometimes, when Job's prayers to the gods of Surveillance and Technology were answered and there existed the rare decent CCTV coverage of the entrances, Job would kick back and hack into the footage, surveilling the place from the comfort of his three large desktop screens back at the apartment. 

He still preferred to get out onto the scene in person though, walk around the block and taste the mood of the people coming in and going out of the building. All the better blend in when he'd go in during the day, hide until nightfall, grab the stuff and get out eventually. Long, but unconventional. Sometimes efficiency had to be sacrificed for the unexpected and audacious.

On occasions like this when he'd be alone on a roof at the crack of dawn, he liked to pretend that maybe the spirit of the city, whatever the fuck that was, sometimes actually might be listening to him. When she'd hold still, if just for a handful of moments, a little quieter than usual as if NYC were shushing her 7.63 million children just for him. It's silly and hopelessly romantic and he doesn't have anyone special to share the sentiment with, but. But.

All that surveillance makes him intimately acquainted with the horizon.

To the layperson, the Big Apple's skyline might be pretty or ugly or just another adjective used to describe a part of the sprawling concrete jungle. 

To him, the concrete peaks with their snowcaps of glass were potential. Opportunity . It becomes a habit, a tic of sorts - to search for the twin towers of the World Trade Center no matter what part of the city he'd be in, no matter whether they were really visible or not. It was ambition, an aspiration. To pull off a heist in one of the offices there. Once they did, it would be their calling card for years to come. Job, never one to back down from a challenge had called him a Crazy Motherfucker in delight and had started working on potential companies to hit. 

And then one day Rabbit's ears prick and hear about him, and their plans for the WTC get brushed aside into one of the sub-sub-subfolders on Job's computer. And that's where they stay.

He's sharing a cigarette with Ana on the balcony of one of the hotels they need to sneak off too.

"You keep doing that," she says, passing him the cig as she leaned out over the railing. "Looking out at the horizon, like you're searching for something." 

He shrugs.

"Are you ? Looking for something then ?" She asked, ever curious about his past. He bumps her shoulder gently. "Think I've found it."



2016

Job takes him to watch the Tribute Lights on September 11th. The twin beams pierce the sky where the towers used to be and they watch them get brighter as the night got darker.

"It was strange," Job says to him. " You were gone, they were gone. Two of the most distinctive parts of New York for me had both vanished within a few years of each other. Nearly upped and left myself."

"What stopped you ?" He asks, taking a pull of his beer.

Job sniffed disdainfully. "All those rich daddy's lil brats' hair wasn't going to cut itself now, was it ? It's called an investment , babe. Buying a place of your own, putting down roots."

"Listen to you. You sound like I used to."

"Well maybe you were onto something then." Job muttered. "Makes sense since that was before you became the Concussion King." 

He spares a wry smile for Job. "Think I've had my share of investing in property. Tends to go up in smoke."

Job raises his beer in mocking salute. "Somewhere out there is a version of you that did not piss on Lady Luck's front door."

It's jarring, to see just the single rebuilt tower instead of the both of them. And it twists in his gut, bitter and hurt to think of how the world moved on without him. How it had loved and lost, scarred over and rebuilt while he was gone. 

He'd always been pragmatic, but no matter how much he'd expected things being different when he finally got out, the reminder was still always lemon in the cut. 

He can imagine what Siobhan might have said about it. When you went in, there were two. Twins, two parts of a whole. When you came out, there was only one. Like half of its whole got left in the ground just as half of your whole stayed back in Roscoe.

And she would have been correct when he'd first got out. But that wasn't true anymore. 

He'd been more free of that place than he'd ever before, and yet the new Freedom tower would never be the old Twin Towers, just like even today the man who'd walked out would never be the same man who'd gone in.

"You're thinking about her, aren't you ? The deputy." Job passes him another beer.

"How'd you know ?"

"You've got that look on your face."

Sometimes, he wondered if Job knew him better than he did himself.

"I asked her to come away with me, once. Leave Banshee together. I think she would have. I think she'd have liked it here."

Job doesn't say anything, but his jaw tightens. Eventually, he raises his drink. "To lost dreams."

Siobhan crosses his mind from time to time - not like a ghost ambushing him when he turns a corner and sees a dark haired beauty in flannel, or the unlikely sight of an RV stuck in rush hour traffic. 

No, he'll be out buying some unpronounceable  craft microbrew because his best friend was Job, who liked to drink his unpronounceable craft microbrew unironically and then spend the evening talking shit about it. 

At the checkout, he'd think this pretentious shit is exactly the kind she'd poke fun at me for buying . But she'd join in drinking it all the same. Might even pick the one with the craziest name, just for kicks. " Research ," she'd laugh. "Does the Yeastus Christ really rise three days later, or it just remains Dead Guy Ale ?"

Job gives him a funny look when he sees the labels on the beer, but he's too busy imagining her laugh, slightly tipsy from sampling both too quickly.

Or he'd see an ad for hair straighteners flash across the screens in Times Square and think of the angry red burn on Siobhan's shoulder. 

Or he'd see a teacher leading her gaggle of kids on a field trip and think, That could have been her.

He'd taken to keeping the keys of her trailer on the keyring to his apartment, right besides the keys to Ana's house in Banshee.

Sometimes, he'll run through Central park in the morning, stopping to catch his breath at the lake. He can almost even pretend it's the lake behind the Forge, when it's early enough and he's breathless enough. Almost.

Sometimes, when he's lost too far in his head, he'll call Ana. When he feels better, he calls Deva, who'll invariably invite him to drive over to campus and hangout for an afternoon. 

It's Deva who introduces him to Harry Potter, and through that, to Boggarts.

"How do you not know Harry Potter ?! How could anyone have not even heard about it atleast ?" She throws her arms up in disbelief. And then goes quiet, stiffening in realisation. "You were in prison throughout the series' entire run weren't you ?" She shakes her head, looking chagrined. "I just can't imagine a world before Harry Potter."

He shrugs. There's a lot of stuff that people, kids really, are fans of today that didn't even exist before he went in.

"Guess I'd never really wrapped my mind around all that time," Deva muttered, looking away.

She makes it her business to ensure his literary higher education. "You'll like them, I think. Mom adored the books, dad used to read parts of it to Max and me, and the four of us used to go out together for the movies, so you can't be too different." She tells him, staggering under the weight of the box set that she dumps on the seat of his bike. 

"I'd have given you my set, but they're all with my stuff back at mom's house. Dad had bought them for me." Deva blinked furiously, and he gets it. Gordon would always be her father, a part of her. The sharp pinch of jealousy, of envy doesn't come though. Just a dull ache for her loss. 

He eyeballed the stack some more. "This'll take me a while," he cautions.

Deva waves him off, wiping at her eyes surreptitiously. "That's what they all say. Call me when you get done and need to cry fanboy tears over them."

He's done with all seven books within the week.

He'd always liked reading. In prison, it became something of an obsessive distraction even, a way to forget just where he was, an escape that bleak world even if just for a few hours.

He's particularly fond of Remus Lupin. 

And he finds himself lying awake at dawn, after he'd read through the night, thinking about Boggarts. He can't help wonder what Ana would have seen, what Deva's would be, what Gordon's, Max's, Sugar's and Job's boggarts would look like. What would Rebecca, Burton and Kai Proctor see. He's pretty sure he knew what shape Emmett's would have taken, what Kurt Bunker's boggart would be. He can't repress the chuckle when he imagines Brock's boggart. He can't imagine what Lucas Hood's boggart would have looked like, however.

He wonders what Siobhan's might have been. Surely, she'd have read the books when she was younger, curled up on her couch in the little blue house, or out in the sun laying on the cool grass of her lawn.

He thinks he knows what he would see. Unbidden, the image of a simple, wooden bench swims to the forefront of his mind. The kind you'd find in a park, sturdy and weathered. Maybe even the kind you'd find in a church yard.

He thinks of an old man sitting upon that bench smiling at him, patting the open seat besides him. "A bench just like this for you."

And no matter how many times he shouts Riddikulus in his dreams, no matter how far he walks, runs, drives- the road always ends with that old, empty bench waiting for him.

 


 2013

Lucas Hood was a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, liberally dusted with stubble. Couldn't forget that last bit. 

Siobhan had lived most of her thirty three years in Banshee, minus the four she'd spent in college up at Penn State. She had to admit, no place she'd been had characters as colourful as those which checked Banshee as their natural habitat. 

And yet, that description would never apply to anyone here, not even Kai Proctor who had a genteel translucency to his villainous ways.

People here were what they were; it was easy to see why they became that way, what combination of factors turned them into the person they became. Sure, some were mysterious. Some were enigmatic. But the mysterious ones weren't the kind you wanted to know more about, and the enigmatic ones weren't the sort you'd stick around with after knowing more about them. So nobody quite fit that exact combination.

Until Lucas Hood came along. The funny thing is, he very nearly fails the riddle part. Siobhan was direct. She called a spade a spade and didn't mince her words. Most of her friends and associates like Emmett, Brock, even Danny despite being the mayor, a bonafide goddamn politician , were straightforward. 

Again, Siobhan believed that a riddle should be worth solving - a riddle for the sake of a riddle was a waste of time. And yet, Lucas Hood is possibly the bluntest person she's ever met. Sort of like a cudgel to the head- very direct, very blunt and very painful when on the wrong side of the law (or maybe just his law, she's still figuring out that part). The man did exactly what he'd say he'd do, completely and bafflingly fearlessly.

It was terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure to watch him go to work. What he lacked in finesse he made up for with sheer stubborn determination.

She liked him. Maybe a little too much.

So yeah, he was direct, about as direct as they came. But honest or even straightforward ? No so much. 

The way he moved, fought , reacted first and worried (not that he ever seemed to) much later if at all, about the rules and stepping on important toes told her he'd come from a much bigger sea than the little goldfish bowl that was Banshee. Maybe he'd been special forces. Definitely ex-military. 

Siobhan was sure he'd seen his share of shit, and for what it was worth, the man  was perfectly within his rights to never talk about his past, whatever that looked like. 

And yet, even though he broke her tried and tested pattern of know-their-past-know-the-person , he's so honestly himself . With Hood she knew exactly what she was getting, how he'd react to something if not  what would he do about it. Had to keep the element of surprise there. If something pissed him off, it would always make him get up with that looming threat of violence in his prowl. If something made him happy, he'd always grin, crinkle-eyed and easy.  If something saddened him or hurt him, he'd always shut down all traces of emotion on his face, empty eyed and blank. Like a dead person. 

It's so rare to happen that she almost misses that last observation, but then Siobhan didn't miss much about him at all, drawn as she is to his persona.

The way it looked to her, this was a man who lived so stubbornly in the present so that he could sidestep the past.

Siobhan wondered sometimes, what exactly did a person have to go through to automatically shut down all feelings at the first hint of emotional hurt.

And so he is a riddle. How Hood could be so unabashedly himself, and yet closed off at the same time.

Siobhan loved puzzles. Breece might have been the biggest reason, but he wasn't the only reason she became a cop. She wants to help people like her, people worse off than she ever was. She wants to crack cases, solve puzzles to put away bad guys. Of course, in Banshee not many cases are headscratchers. What is a huge puzzle though is how to keep the bastards behind bars, or get them inside there in the first place. Kai Proctors' arm is a lot longer than that of the law.

So when Lucas Hood casually flicks aside Proctors' outstretched hand metaphorically, she feels a stab of hope that she's never felt before, that with Hood at the helm they could actually end Proctor. 

And then, there's the attraction. She hadn't been kidding when she told Daniel the Mayor (seriously, she was still getting used to seeing him in a suit and tie, when this was the same kid she'd sneak off with to smoke pot in the woods) that a little warning would have been nice before she made a fool of herself in front of the gorgeous guy who also just happened to be her new boss. 

Siobhan knew it wasn't one sided. She'd caught him looking too. And Hood wasn't blatant or creepy with it either. When he looked at her, Siobhan could tell he was seeing a whole person, and not just a pretty face with the bonus of tits and an ass. His gaze was assessing, devoid of any trace of naked want. But she knows it's there all the same. 

And she's immensely relieved. Siobhan wasn't sure how she'd even begin to handle a boss who looked at her like a sex toy, or worse as a lesser cop because of her sex.

Instead all she got from Hood was quiet confidence in her abilities and acceptance of her word. It makes her just that bit crazier about him.

So that afternoon when he drops by to check on her in her house like a good, responsible boss after the incident with the biker in the CADI, her response is definitely not that of a good, responsible deputy. When the time comes for you to spend the night, it won't be to protect me. Christ. She'd have had herself written up for misconduct if their places had been reversed. 

Instead all he does is give her that unreadable look, which she only months later realises is the same look he gets when he desperately wants something he doesn't believe he can have. But at that moment, Siobhan is just endlessly grateful that he doesn't make a production out of it, and never once brings it up later on. For all his disregard of the rulebook, Lucas Hood was a man of principle (even if they were his own slightly offbeat ones) and never once seemed to put the letter of the law before the spirit of it and the person it was written to protect.

Because for all the street smarts and cynicism which he wore on his sleeve, Lucas Hood was a kind man.

He wasn't her usual type, that was for sure. That he happened to be everyone's type was a different issue altogether. 

Rough around the edges, a no-nonsense buzz and with his face almost never free of a cut or scrape or bruise, she'd have immediately pegged him for someone on the wrong side of the law. 

Siobhan remembered how he'd worn the sheriff's uniform that first day before the swearing in - a little uneasy, a little bemused and a lot disbelieving, almost like this was his first time ever wearing the blues and the badge.

He's a lot older than her. But even his age he wore oddly - in feature he could have passed for much younger than his actual years, handsome as he was. But his eyes were those of a man who'd already lived an entire lifetime, and not an easy one at that.

The thought comes unbidden to her mind one day. Beard burn in sensitive places had never been a kink of hers, but he's been on the force just over five weeks when she first wonders what that would feel like on her neck, across her belly. And yet unlike other stray, wayward and inappropriate thoughts, she doesn't immediately shut it down.

She's starting to think that he might just be redrawing a lot of the lines for her.