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On My Way To You

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The elevator doors closed and Kate watched them with confused satisfaction. Lucy had thanked her for her help. She had initiated the conversation rather than run away or avoid her, and she had been kind and thoughtful. And Kate knew Lucy had checked her out when Kate had been in the elevator waiting to get out. It’s part of what had given her pause—that and seeing Lucy at all. She never knew what mood Lucy would be in these days and she felt like she was always trying to assess the situation. Perhaps, trying to understand Lucy and her moods would make her better at assessing danger in her new job. Kate rolled her eyes at herself as she stood helplessly in front of a now closed elevator.

She went to find Jane so they could finish up their reports together and rather than accepting Jane’s invitation to come over for a drink, she declined and went home in the hopes of getting to bed early. It had been a long day. She knew Lucy was capable and strong and brave, but seeing her on her way to face off with dangerous pirates had worried Kate. When she had seen Lucy in an over-sized life jacket, she had initially thought she looked adorable; but then she remembered Lucy’s very real fear of water and couldn’t stop the concern for her from setting in. That was why seeing Lucy safe and in front of her earlier had stopped her in her tracks and momentarily paralyzed her. Lucy was safe. She had to keep reminding herself of that.

The buzzing of her phone woke Kate up in the middle of the night. She glanced at the screen groggily until she saw Lucy’s name on it. Kate answered it fully awake and in complete panic mode.

“Lucy? Are you okay?” 

She heard a sniff and erratic breathing, but no actual words of acknowledgement.

“Lucy? Where are you, I’m coming to you.”

Lucy seemed to clear her throat and exhaled loudly. “No, it’s okay. I…I had a nightmare. I thought I was drowning.”

Lucy spoke barely above a whisper, but Kate heard every word. It broke Kate’s heart that Lucy was hurting.

“I can come over. We don’t have to talk if you don’t want to. I’ll hold you until you fall back to sleep.” Kate told her quietly.

“I didn’t know who else to call.” Lucy admitted. “I don’t want to bother you, I hate to ask. I…”

“You’re not. I promise, you’re not.” Kate got out of bed and got dressed as she spoke. “I can be there in half an hour.”

“I think I’m okay now. I just needed…I wanted…” Lucy sighed as if she was trying to find the words.

Kate waited patiently for her to find them, but she never finished her thoughts. 

“I’m glad you did. Despite everything, I’m here. I hope you know that.” Kate eventually told her.

“Thank you.” Lucy said and hung up without saying goodbye.

Kate stared at her phone. Instead of changing back into her pajamas and going to bed, she stayed dressed and made some coffee. She sat outside on her balcony alone and thought about Lucy. She had sounded so scared at first. She must have just woken up and of all the people she could call, she chose Kate. That made Kate’s heart swell and something akin to hope fluttered in her chest. But that didn’t stop her from worrying about Lucy. Kate knew that as much as she wanted to check in on Lucy, she had to continue to try to be patient and let Lucy come to her.

So despite her desire to seek her out at work that morning, she didn’t. And she didn’t get another chance to see Lucy until three days later. Kai was working undercover at a restaurant and Kate assisted on the case. She had been anxious about seeing Lucy, and hoped her ex was feeling better; but when she finally had the chance to interact with her, Lucy was abrupt and bickered with her. Kate found herself bickering back and part of her enjoyed the banter, because it was something that she was used to. It felt almost normal, until she remembered that they were still at work and their arguing could affect the case.

She stayed behind when Jane walked away as she tried to come up with a way to approach the late night phone call. Kate sat on Lucy’s desk and waited quietly while she watched Lucy work. Lucy seemed okay. She seemed physically okay. And mentally, she was in work mode and doing as well as always. But Kate wondered where she was emotionally. With everything, not just with them. She was brought out of her thoughts when Lucy once again snapped at her. Kate decided to not push her luck further, and left to see what she could do to help further the case along. 

A couple hours later, when she brought some information on The Company to Jane and her team, she did her best to distance herself from Lucy. She relayed her information succinctly then waited to hear what Lucy had found and what Jane had heard from Kai. They didn’t have anything concrete yet, but at least they had some good leads that Kai was able to follow up on and that could ensure he stayed safe while undercover. Those were both things that Kate currently counted as wins.

She gathered her files and handed them over to Jane; then she left wordlessly and without looking at Lucy. As she waited for the elevator, she felt Lucy’s presence behind her.

“I owe you an apology for this morning,” Lucy said.

Kate didn’t dare turn around for fear of spooking her. 

Lucy walked closer to her and stood by her side. “I was needlessly rude and unprofessional and I made us both look bad in front of Tennant. I already apologized to her as well.”

Kate nodded. “I appreciate that. I’m sorry I took the bait. I should have just left it at that instead of making it worse. And I’m sorry that my constant presence here makes it uncomfortable for you.”

The elevator door opened and Kate cursed internally at the constant bad timing of it. She smiled at Lucy to let her know that she forgave her and they were all good. But Lucy surprised her when she walked with her on the elevator. 

“I also wanted to thank you.” Lucy said as the doors closed.

They were both standing at opposite sides of the elevator and Kate had never felt the distance more.

“You don’t have to thank me.” Kate said as she carefully stepped closer to her. “Are you okay?”

Lucy seemed to startle at the question and frowned. “I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Kate rolled her eyes. “I don’t know. Why wouldn’t you be?”

“It was a mistake to call you. We aren’t…we aren’t anything anymore and I shouldn’t have blurred the lines.” Lucy said as she quickly pushed a button that had the elevator stopping at the next floor rather than continuing down to the ground level.

“You didn’t…” Kate sighed. “I told you, it doesn’t matter what we are right now, I want to be there for you if I can.”

“It matters to me. I can’t…we can’t…” Lucy didn’t finish, instead she practically bolted out of the elevator as soon as the doors opened.

Kate exhaled in frustration and confusion. She busied herself with work the rest of the day and avoided the bullpen and Jane’s team at all costs. That night, after another long but successful day, she accepted Jane’s invitation to come over. She removed her shoes before she entered Jane’s house (she never made the same mistake twice). Jane led her outside and immediately poured them both a drink.

“So, today was an interesting day.” Jane commented when they sat down at the picnic table side by side as had become their thing.

“I just don’t understand her. She’s so hot and cold all the time. I don’t know if she’s going to run away from me mid-sentence, hide as soon as she sees me, thank me for helping with a case, jump down my throat for some random comment I make, or apologize to me.” Kate groaned with frustration before taking a large gulp of her drink.

Jane studied her with a raised eyebrow and then smirked at her. “I was talking about the case.”

Kate rolled her eyes and blushed a bit. “You weren’t though. We were both unprofessional right in front of you. And I apologize. I should know better. I do know better.”

“You work well together, despite whatever it is that’s going on between the two of you…or not going on between you. That’s what I saw today. There was…bickering…but it led to a break in the case.” Jane held Kate’s eyes and told her seriously, “But if it ever becomes something that actually affects one of my cases…”

“It won’t!” Kate assured her firmly. “I know you think I should just talk to her…to clear the air, but that’s sort of the problem. She won’t talk to me. Not if it isn’t about a case.” She winced. “I shouldn’t be talking to you about this.”

“Do you have anyone else to talk to about it?” Jane asked kindly.

Kate looked down at the glass in her hand. “No.”

“Then we might as well figure out how you can fix things.” Jane’s words made Kate look back up at her as she continued, “I think you just need time together. Even if it’s…forced.”

Kate raised an eyebrow. “Forced? As much as I wish I could control elevators these days, please don’t suggest locking us together in one.”

Jane laughed. “That might be our last resort.”

“I hope it doesn’t have to come to that.” Kate groaned. 

She wanted to work things out with Lucy, even if it was just so they could have a better working relationship. She hated this in-between stage. Lucy kept insisting that they were fine, but Kate knew better. And she also knew that despite Lucy’s insistence that she was fine, that maybe Lucy was going through things that Kate hadn’t realized. She felt guilty for not realizing it sooner. Lucy had to have a lot on her mind. Kate had been singularly focused on the break-up and how much she missed Lucy and regretted her part in it. Yet she had completely failed to acknowledge that besides the break-up, Lucy also had the added trauma of being the cause of someone’s death and coming close to dying herself. She cursed herself for overlooking such a huge detail for so long. Kate had preoccupied herself with her new job and her future, whereas Lucy was likely stuck in the past. 

“You look like you might have an idea.” Jane’s voice startled her out of her own thoughts.

Kate shook her head. “More like realizing how wrong I’ve been about so many things.”

“You have to stop beating yourself up over everything. I don’t know exactly what happened between the two of you, but I’m sure that most of your guilt is misplaced. You might have hurt her, but I know you, Kate, you didn’t do it intentionally. And Lucy will come around.”

Kate let the words wash over her, but they gave her little comfort. What was that saying? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Kate may not have intentionally hurt Lucy, but the effect was still the same. And Kate only just now realized that Lucy was still hurting. So maybe she could do something to help alleviate it somehow.

“Why don’t you make the coffee run tomorrow? It’s been Kai’s week but since he’s undercover, I’ve been picking up the slack,” Jane offered.

Kate nodded. “Okay.”

She wasn’t the best with words, she had always been better when it came to doing the actual work. Making the effort, performing a service. She was better at showing rather than telling. So maybe the best way she could be there for Lucy was by simply being there. She would stop pushing for more until Lucy was ready to talk. Apologizing for Cara and how much she hurt Lucy wasn’t going to get her anywhere if Lucy was still unwilling or unable to hear it. Slow and steady was going to have to be how she won this one. And she had every intention of winning.

The next day, bright and early, she came bearing coffees for everyone. Lucy seemed confused by her early morning arrival at first, but took the coffee eagerly. She acknowledged her with a grunted, “Hi.”

Kate nodded in response and promptly ignored her in favor of handing out the rest of the coffees. Ernie eyed her carefully, almost knowingly, but didn’t say a word beyond thanking her. Jane called them all together and they went over the case efficiently. After an hour or so of throwing ideas back and forth, Kate left to go to the bathroom before heading to her office to continue her own research.

The bathroom door barely shut behind her when Lucy came barreling in angrily.

“How can you promise to be there for me and then completely ignore me?” Lucy asked.

Kate exhaled steadily and turned toward her with resignation. “What do you want from me, Lucy?”

Lucy stilled at that.

“You wanted space. I gave you space. I kept trying to apologize but you wouldn’t let me. You avoided me and literally ran away from me. I would honestly do anything for you, but I don’t know what it is you want me to do. And I’m getting exhausted from all the guessing.”

Lucy took the remaining three steps toward her and pulled Kate’s head down into a kiss. Kate immediately reacted by deepening it and let Lucy lead her backwards and up against the wall. Kate rested her hands on Lucy’s hips as she tried to pull her closer. And then, Lucy was gone. Her lips were gone. Her touch was absent. 

Kate opened her eyes to see Lucy standing halfway across the bathroom. Her breath heaved as her eyes closed and her hands swept through her hair.

“We can’t do this again.” Lucy whispered over and over almost as if she was trying to convince herself of the truth of it.

Lucy's soft murmur was reminiscent of a time long passed. But in both cases, then and now, Kate felt rejected and dejected. 

Her stomach dropped and her heart caught in her throat. The hope that had fluttered in her chest a few days ago grew eerily calm now.

She exhaled loudly and shakily with resignation. “Okay.”

Lucy opened her eyes and looked at her as if pained by Kate’s utterance. Kate immediately wanted to take the acquiescence back. Once again, she failed to understand what it was that Lucy wanted from her. What Lucy wanted at all.

Lucy frowned. “You think I’m the confusing one.”

“I’m trying to follow your lead here, Lucy. I have been completely frank with you about what I wanted in all of this. I still want you.”

Lucy exhaled shakily and started to pace. “I…we…”

“I know you don’t trust me.” Kate started when Lucy seemed stuck on her own words. “Will you give me the chance to regain some of the trust I lost? I’m not saying we restart anything, I know you’re not ready for that. That you may never want that. But we do work together and I want us to be able to at least have a professional relationship. Maybe even be real friends someday.”

Lucy stopped pacing and looked at her. “I trust you. With my life. And with my team.” She looked at Kate regrettably. “I just can’t trust you with my heart.”

“Ever?” Kate’s voice cracked.

Lucy couldn’t even look at her and she didn’t answer her either.

Kate swallowed audibly while her heart shattered and her soul was crushed. She knew Lucy likely felt that way, but it didn’t make hearing the actual words hurt any less. She felt like she got whiplash from the severity of the about-face. They had just been kissing and now she was being denied in a way that hurt too badly to think about.

“Then why did you just kiss me?” Kate asked with frustration.

“Because I…” Lucy looked down with shame.

“Because you’re still attracted to me. Because you still want me. You just won’t take the chance on me again,” Kate concluded.

Lucy swallowed and looked at her sadly. She gave a barely noticeable nod. The admission, though it hurt, meant that they were actually getting somewhere.

“Can we talk about this? Later. Come over tonight. Please? I just want to talk. We need to clear the air between us. We need to find a way to work together without constantly hurting each other. Because this…this…this hurts me, Lucy. Not knowing where you stand or if you will snap at me or avoid me, I can’t go on like that. I know I hurt you, but I also don’t deserve the way you’ve been treating me.”

“I know. And I’m sorry.”

“So…tonight? I’ll order pizza and…” She grimaced when she saw the way that Lucy flinched at the word pizza. “How about Thai food instead? I’ll pick some up on the way home.”

She watched as Lucy seemed to consider it. Then Lucy shook her head. 

“I can’t. I can’t go there.” Lucy admitted. “It hurts too much.”

Kate frowned and then realization hit her. “I can go to your place. If that’s easier for you.”

Lucy seemed to relax a bit. “Not tonight. I promise to be better with you, and I’m sorry for how I’ve been treating you. I’m trying, I promise that I’m trying.”

“I know you are, Lucy.”

“And I know you’re trying, too. I see that. And I appreciate it. I just…I’m not ready to talk yet. I don’t know how to talk to you yet.”

Kate nodded in understanding and also in defeat. 

“But…” Lucy’s voice wavered and Kate felt the urge to reach out to her, but instead she folded her arms across her chest in an effort to protect herself from whatever was about to come. “You’re still going to be there, right? If I need you? I know I have no right to ask that of you right now, not after everything I just said.”

“I’ll be there, Lucy. Whenever you call.”

Kate hated how desperate it made her seem to admit that, especially since it was true. But when she saw the relief palpable on Lucy’s face, she forgot that she should be embarrassed about it.

She took a hesitant step forward and unfolded her arms to reach out toward Lucy. “Are you okay?”

She knew she was shut down last time she asked, but this wasn’t a question about them. Maybe Lucy could see that distinction now.

“No.” Lucy admitted with a whimper and watery eyes. But she stepped out of Kate’s reach when she reached for her. She wiped her eyes and stood up straight. “But I’m getting there. I’m trying.”

Kate didn’t think her heart could have broken any more, but seeing the usually confident and brave and strong Lucy looking so out of sorts hurt Kate in a way she couldn’t have imagined. It wasn’t guilt coursing through Kate’s veins this time, because she knew that she didn’t cause this reaction—it was rage for whoever or whatever was causing Lucy to appear so lost and so small.

Since Lucy was still in front of her and she seemed to still be engaging in the conversation, Kate tried again.

“Nightmares still?”

Lucy nodded minutely.

“Same ones or different?” 

Lucy swallowed. “The drowning one was only that night. The rest…they are always the same.”

Kate’s eyes widened at the information. “How long?”

Lucy shrugged. “Since…you know…that night.”

Kate swallowed. Lucy likely had untreated PTSD and was suffering through it alone all this time.

“It’s not every night. And most of the time it’s not that bad.”

Kate realized that Lucy’s bravado was what had kept everyone from noticing how badly she was struggling. Lucy didn’t want to appear weak and she didn’t want to make her team worry about her any more than they already did. She knew she worried every time Lucy went out on a mission, and that was before she had known what she was dealing with mentally.

“Call me next time you can’t sleep. My offer still stands. I’ll sit with you and hold you or I’ll just stay on the phone with you until you fall asleep, whatever you want.”

Lucy nodded. “Thanks. I don’t think it’ll be necessary.”

“Please? Lucy, for me. I need to know that you’re okay, so if I can help in any way...”

Lucy bristled a bit. “I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want…this.” She waved her hand between them. “I don’t need you pitying me.”

“It’s not pity.”

“Whatever it is, I don’t want it.”

“You don’t want me to care about you? You don’t want me to want you to feel safe?”

“You lost that right.”

“That’s not how this works, Lucy. Just because we broke up, that doesn’t mean I’m over you.”

Lucy stared at her so intensely Kate wasn’t sure if she was going to yell at her or kiss her again. She really hoped it was the latter. Despite what the confusion did to her heart, she longed to be with Lucy like that again. Lucy did neither, however. Instead she just turned and walked away.

They wrapped up the case a few days later and everyone went out to the bar to celebrate. Kate actually joined them upon Jane’s invitation. Lucy had kept her promise over the last few days about being cordial with her. She didn’t run away at all either. But she still didn’t know what to expect when they both had a few drinks in them.

The team played a few rounds of darts, tournament style. First they divided into teams and played that way. Then they played individually. The friendly yet competitive banter flowed freely, and no one was a better trash talker than Lucy, it seemed. At least, where Kate was concerned. And Kate would be lying if she said that the heated jabs and harsh banter hadn’t turned her on. She lost her most recent game to Jesse so she downed the rest of her drink and went to the bathroom. 

She was aware that Lucy followed her inside, so she wasn’t at all surprised when she was practically shoved into a stall as Lucy locked it behind them.

Lucy’s lips attached immediately to her neck and the warmth of Lucy’s breath on her skin made her shudder. She let her head fall back against the side of the stall to give Lucy full access to her exposed neck. When she felt Lucy’s teeth graze her skin and then her hot, wet tongue press against her to soothe it, Kate didn’t have the strength in her to bite back a moan.

Lucy seemed to be encouraged by the loud moan as her hands started to wander down Kate’s body, before they slipped under Kate’s shirt and caressed the delicate skin.

Kate pulled Lucy’s head away from her neck and claimed her lips in a kiss. They made out heatedly for a few more minutes before reason seemed to take back over and Lucy stepped away. Whether it was reason or regret, she was unsure. She closed her eyes and evened out her breaths.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to accost you in the bathroom. I know we talked and I know we agreed not to do this anymore.” Lucy told her, even though she was still very much in Kate’s personal space.

Kate wanted to correct her by saying that she had made no such agreement. 

“I’d blame it on the alcohol, but we both know that’s not entirely the truth,” Lucy admitted.

They stood in silence that was no more awkward than the last handful of their conversations. They were getting better at being around each other now, even if the proximity was confusing and painful of equal measure. Kate didn’t want to say anything that would break the spell.

“We better go out there before the team jumps to the wrong conclusions.” Lucy said, although she stayed in place.

Kate raised an eyebrow. “What conclusion would be wrong? We did make out in the bathroom.”

Lucy had the decency to blush at that. “Even so, I’m sure that’s not what you want them thinking about us.”

Kate licked her lips. “I know…that you might not believe this. But I don’t mind them knowing about us. I sort of like that they know.”

Lucy looked at her incredulously.

“I’m serious. Even though it’s over…it’s nice…that they know. It means that it was real.” Kate admitted shyly.

Lucy stared at her.

“After…everything. I expected them all to hate me for what I did to you. But you never told them. And then you ignored me and…I don’t know, it started to feel like it was all in my head. Like I was the only one struggling with this. With what I lost. But seeing them…knowing that they could see the pain I was in, it felt like…affirmation. That they understood that I lost something that meant everything to me.”

Lucy looked away and stepped back as far as she could in the small space they had. “You’re not the only one who lost something, Whistler.”

Kate winced at the harshness of her last name on Lucy’s lips. “I know.”

“And you’re not the only one who was hurting.”

“I know.”

She refused to take much stock in the past tense of the word, because she could see in Lucy’s eyes that she was still hurting just as much as Kate was herself. Maybe moreso.

“I’m still not ready to talk about us yet,” Lucy concluded.

Kate nodded. “But the rest of it? We’ve gotten good at talking, right? About stuff that’s real. About stuff that matters.”

Lucy frowned. “We’re finally talking about that kind of stuff. I wouldn’t say we’re good at it.”

“That’s a start though. Right?”

Lucy sighed. “Do you really just want to be my friend?”

“Not just. But I do really want to be your friend. We missed that the first time around.”

Lucy nodded. “Maybe we did.”

“I don’t have much practice with being a good friend. Or even a friend at all. But I’m learning. And I care enough about you to try.”

“I think I can try, too.” Lucy shook her head. “I will try, I mean.”

Kate let herself smile. That would have to be enough. She would learn to let it be enough.

“We can’t keep doing this though.” Lucy said as she gestured between them. “It’s not fair to either of us.”

Kate nodded. Then she stepped forward and pulled Lucy into her for a quick, yet passionate kiss.

“I understand if you need to stop. But just so we’re clear, don’t presume to tell me what I need or don’t need.”

She knew she was playing with fire. But she was never good at staying away from Lucy. That was how it had all started with them the first time around. Against her better judgment. Even as the fear of getting too close to her only to get hurt when she ultimately screwed it up loomed over her head yet again, she couldn’t quit Lucy. They felt inevitable. 

Lucy nodded swiftly. “Right. Sorry.” She sighed. “I know I hate it when people make decisions for me.”

Kate felt like maybe that was a jab at her. Like maybe Lucy resented her for deciding for the both of them to keep Cara a secret because she thought Lucy couldn’t handle the truth. But it could also be her guilt talking.

“I shouldn’t have made assumptions for you or decisions based on how I thought you’d react. I’m sorry about that.”

“We aren’t talking about us, remember.” Lucy told her evenly.

“I know. But I just wanted you to know that I understand how wrong that is and won’t do it again. If we’re going to be friends, I thought you should know that.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

Lucy exited the stall and greeted whoever had just entered the bathroom with an overly enthusiastic “Hello” before she washed her hands and exited the room.

Kate spent the rest of the night avoiding Jane’s knowing smirks and side-eyes. And maybe she used the excuse of liquor to be openly flirtatious with Lucy when she gave her any attention at all. And more than once, she also pulled her close to her when Lucy allowed it. She hadn’t realized how touch starved she had been since losing Lucy. She craved the closeness. The intimacy, even if it was mostly one-sided now. When Lucy rested a hand on her arm, or the one time she rested it on her thigh, Kate felt alive. She felt every nerve ending pulse with want—with need. But she also simply melted into the touch. She reveled in it. Most of the time, Lucy’s touch seemed accidental. Or perhaps, Lucy got lost in the moment or had more to drink than Kate realized and was less careful about her boundaries. Regardless of the reason, Kate committed the touch to memory. The delicious burn as Lucy’s hand imprinted itself deep within Kate’s soul.

“Need a ride home tonight, Luce?” Jesse asked as they closed out their tabs and prepared to separate for the evening.

“Nah, I’m good.” Lucy said as her eyes passed over Kate’s body, causing the blonde to shiver.

“I can drive you,” Kate offered.

“See, Jesse, I’m all good.” 

Jesse and Kai shared a look but didn’t say anything about it. Ernie looked ready to step in and argue, but Jane saved Kate from whatever he was about to say.

“Well then, everyone have a great weekend. See you on Monday.” 

Jane’s words seemed like a finality so no one argued and the boys left. Jane glanced back and forth between the two of them.

“Are you sure this is a good idea? I can drop you off on my way home, Lucy.” Jane stated, but she was looking at Kate.

“We’re just friends,” Lucy said. “And that’s all.”

Jane had to have noticed the way Kate’s face dropped at the constant reminder, because her face softened. She looked at Kate as if to ask if she was okay with this arrangement.

“We’re both adults and are fully capable of being friends who used to date,” Kate confirmed.

“Sleep together. Not sure we got into the actual dating part.” Lucy said as she walked past them and toward the exit.

Kate fully intended to address that comment later. Instead, she turned toward Jane.

“I’m fine.”

Jane’s gaze bore into her.

“Okay, not fine fine. But we’re talking again. And that has to be a good thing, right?”

“I don’t want you to get your hopes up. I think trying to be friends for now is a good thing.” Jane told her.

“I know.”

“You know.” She stared at her and then shook her head. “You know, but you have no intention of actually listening to my advice.”

“I didn’t say that!”

“I don’t want either of you to get hurt.”

“I’m hoping that since she seems to be…willing to overshare again, that she will actually talk to me tonight. That’s it. I promise.”

That had been her intention fully and completely. So she wasn’t sure how she ended up on Lucy’s couch trying to take Lucy’s shirt off.

“Ow.” Lucy groaned and pushed Kate’s hand away slightly.

Kate furrowed her eyebrows in concern and dropped her hands from Lucy’s shirt to rest them on Lucy’s hips. Lucy straddled her on the couch and heaved a few heavy breaths but made no move to get off of Kate.

“Are you okay?” Kate asked when her mind cleared from its lust-filled haze.

“It seems like you’re always asking me that lately.”

“You said ‘ow’ and winced in pain.”

“Oh. Right.” Lucy conceded but didn’t offer more.

Kate tentatively reached for Lucy’s shirt again and raised it up enough to notice a painful looking bruise covering half of Lucy’s right side. She hated that Lucy’s job was so dangerous. And she knew she was being a hypocrite now that she had a slightly more dangerous job as well. She was an analyst in the FBI, but that still meant she could be called into the field from time to time, and her life would be at risk just as much as Lucy’s.

“When did this happen?” She frowned. 

Lucy had gone out with the team to extract Kai from a dangerous situation and then were able to call in for backup and eventually closed their case. She didn’t hear anything about Lucy getting hurt, not that anyone on the team owed her any details like that anyway. But it hurt that even Jane had kept something like that from her.

“Whatever you’re thinking right now, it’s not that.” Lucy told her as she climbed off of her.

“You don’t know what I’m thinking.” Kate snapped instinctively and then sighed and raised her hands in surrender. “Sorry.”

Lucy sat beside Kate and refused to look at her as she spoke. “I got sick of always getting hurt. Of being the reason that an op might fail. I don’t want to be a victim anymore. So, I’ve been doing Muay Thai. I really like it. It’s also helped get some of my aggression out. It’s been a great fuel for my anger.”

Kate watched as Lucy played with her hands nervously. She slowly reached over and rested her hand on them. Lucy stilled under her, but she made no move to pull away.

“Has it helped with the nightmares?” Kate asked after a few minutes of silence.

“Not really. I don’t get them all the time. Only after a really hard case, or when I get hurt or am in danger again. Like that pirate thing. I got one after the sonar thing, my ears were ringing for days so I kept thinking someone could sneak up on me and attack and I wouldn’t even hear them.”

Kate listened intently. She didn’t like that Lucy had to deal with so much and that she did it all by herself.

“Have you…” She didn’t know how to broach the subject lightly, so she just went for it. “Are you talking to anyone about it? Jesse? Ernie?”

Lucy shrugged. “I talk to Ernie…about us.” 

Kate’s eyes widened.

“Not us us. But he knows a bit of what I’ve been going through and has been helpful with me sorting my feelings out. Not that I still have any clue what I’m actually feeling these days.” She glanced shyly at Kate. “I’m not trying to drag you along or be difficult about this. I don’t want to talk because I don’t know what I feel. I want to sort all of that out on my own first.”

Kate nodded in understanding. “So…you’re talking about us. But what about everything else?”

Lucy pulled her hands away from Kate’s and stood up. Kate worried that she pushed too hard and too fast again. But Lucy sat on the floor—her back toward Kate. 

“After the incident with the corrupt judge, I…I called my mom. I just, I don’t know. I thought I was going to die, and I just lost you…I needed to hear my mom’s voice.”

Kate felt guilty for the thousandth time. She knew Lucy wasn’t close to her family. She knew the falling out had been bad and that Lucy still was hurt from it. The fact that Lucy felt like she had no one else to turn to in her moment of need gutted Kate to the core.

“I told her about what happened. Not us. But everything else. And it felt nice, to have her feel so concerned about me. To be reminded that they do love me, or that they are capable of it.”

For some reason, the tone in Lucy’s voice didn’t sound like the rest of this story was going to be a good one.

“It didn’t take long after that for her and my dad to start pressuring me to come home. To take my rightful place in the family business. They started undermining me. Making me doubt myself. My competency at work. Like, every time I got hurt I started to wonder why I’m here. I started to think back to all the times I could have died. All the times that my recklessness risked my own life and that of my team.”

Kate couldn’t just sit there and not acknowledge Lucy’s pain and vulnerability so she reached over and rested her hand on Lucy’s shoulder. Lucy jumped slightly but then relaxed under the pressure of the touch.

“Is that why you went out with Kai to save Jesse? To prove yourself despite being scared of the water?”

Lucy shook her head. “I went mostly to help Jesse. Because I realized that my team is my family. And I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure Jesse was okay. But yeah, maybe in the back of my mind it was to prove to myself that maybe my parents were wrong about me belonging here.”

“Why haven’t you told them? Let them help you through this.”

“I can’t tell them I’m questioning my ability to be here. I don’t want them to think I don’t have their backs, because I do.”

Kate nodded. She understood that.

“So you started Muay Thai.”

“To get stronger. To regain my confidence. To fight back.”

“Against your parents and their expectations of you?”

“Against everyone’s expectations of me. Everyone’s assumptions. To take back some of the control over my own life that everyone seems to keep taking from me.”

Kate knew that part of that loss of control was because of her. She squeezed Lucy’s shoulder. When Lucy rested her hand on Kate’s hand, Kate’s insides warmed. She felt like she had done something right this time.

“Do you still talk to your parents? Or did you stop again?”

“I’ve been trying to set boundaries with them but they don’t respect me. They never did. So I finally had to block their numbers. Again.”

“I’m sorry, Lucy.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“Some of it is.”

Lucy turned around and faced her. “The worst part of it all is that I didn’t actually kill him. I mean, I am the reason he’s dead. But I didn’t mean to. And honestly, had I been a bit taller, I would have gone over the edge with him. So what’s been bothering me is that I feel guilty because I feel bad about something that I feel like I shouldn’t feel bad about. It’d be different if I had shot him or pushed him over the ledge intentionally. But him dying was just one more thing outside of my control.” Lucy looked away and took a steadying breath. “Plus, the only reason we were up on that rooftop alone was because I took him up there with me. I trusted him. I thought I was protecting an innocent man. And that coupled with…Cara…and what happened between us. It made me question my own judgment. So when my parents told me I wasn’t cut out for this, I think part of me started to believe them.”

“They’re wrong, Lucy.” Kate said forcefully.

“Yeah…”

“No! You listen to me! They don’t know you. They can’t see that you are strong and brave. That you’re smart and adaptable. That you’re always willing to try new things and that you believe in people even if they don’t always deserve it. But that isn’t a character flaw, Lucy, that’s a strength. So is your grit, and your loyalty. Those are what make you amazing. Don’t question the things in you that make you wonderful.”

She was close to a declaration of love but knew that Lucy deserved this instead. She deserved to believe in herself because she was worth that kind of faith. 

Kate sat down on the floor next to her. “In the bar, you said that we weren’t dating, that it was just sex. It was never just sex, tell me you understand that. That you believe it.”

Lucy studied her face. “I believe that we were getting there. That I thought we had gotten there.”

“We were. We did. And that’s what I was scared to lose. I was scared to lose you. It was never about hiding Cara because you were a secret or the other woman or whatever you might think. It was always about trying to be good enough for you. To be worthy of you. So I hid anything about myself that I thought might make me seem less than what you deserve. Having an ex-‘friends with benefits’ thing…or whatever Cara and I actually were…I thought it would reflect on me badly. That you would assume that that’s what you and I were and I didn’t want you to think that. I didn’t want you to think less of me. Or less of what we were. I told you the truth before, I was never embarrassed of you. I was always embarrassed by my inadequacy to be, what did you say…human?”

Lucy grimaced at that.

Kate smiled and rested her hand on Lucy’s knee. “You were right. I sometimes seem to lack emotion. But it’s because I’ve gotten used to wearing a mask. I think my problem is that I sometimes feel too much, and in my line of work, being emotional about things leads to people getting hurt. And a woman in a position like the one I had, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if they thought I was unable to control my emotions. So I learned to shut them off at work…and never learned to properly turn them back on in relationships. Which is why I have so few of them and why they all ended badly.”

They sat in silence after that. But Kate felt like this time Lucy actually heard her; that she understood a bit where she had been coming from and maybe she even forgave her a little. Eventually, Kate decided it was time to leave before she overstayed her welcome. As she attempted to stand, Lucy reached for her wrist and stopped her from walking away.

“Please stay. I promise…” She dropped Kate’s hand and looked at her with large, pleading eyes. “I promise to keep my hands to myself. I just would rather not be alone tonight.”

“Do I have to make the same promise?” Kate raised a teasing eyebrow.

“I guess I can let you hold me.” Lucy conceded with a soft smile.

They got ready for bed in silence and Kate borrowed one of Lucy’s t-shirts to sleep in. She smirked as Lucy gazed at the expanse of skin on display. Then they crawled into bed together and Kate curled up around Lucy and held her against her tightly. Lucy always fit perfectly against her. 

As they lay there in the dark, Lucy gingerly played with Kate’s fingers. Kate felt content in the touch of their bodies and the warmth of Lucy’s skin radiating off of her own.

“I’m sorry I made it seem like I didn’t think you were human. I’m not always proud of the way I lash out when I’m hurting and I’ve done a lot of that lately.” Lucy told her in the darkness.

“Like I said, you were right.”

“I wasn’t though. I know it’s hard for you to let people in and I also knew that you were trying. I shouldn’t have made you feel bad about not being where I wanted you to be.”

Kate’s heart warmed at the apology and the emotion behind Lucy’s words. 

“Thank you for saying that.”

Lucy traced her fingers up Kate’s forearm and back down to her hand before she interlaced their fingers and held Kate’s hand securely in her own. Kate squeezed Lucy’s hand and scooted a little closer to her.

“I was thinking that since you’re a special agent for the FBI and have creds and everything…”

Kate laughed and burrowed into Lucy when she mocked her, but Lucy simply hummed contentedly and continued, “You probably could use some extra training. Specifically, hand to hand combat. I happen to know an excellent teacher.”

“You do, do you?” Kate teased happily.

“I do. Me.”

Kate had expected the answer and it still made her beyond happy to hear Lucy confirm it.

“What are your qualifications?”

“Well, I don’t have any teaching experience, per se.”

“Per se?”

“And I haven’t actually advanced to a colored belt yet. I just know the basics of Muay Thai…which is essentially…knees and elbows.”

Kate couldn’t stop laughing even though she tried to be serious about it.

“Knees and elbows?”

Lucy turned in her arms and faced her. “Are you just going to repeat everything I say but add a question mark at the end?”

Kate smirked at her and opened her mouth to give a smart-ass reply but Lucy placed a finger on her lips and stopped her from doing so.

“I’m short.”

Kate guffawed at that which caused Lucy to pull her hand away. “Sorry.”

“No you aren’t. Anyway, as I was saying, since I’m short, my advantage is to be up close and personal with my opponent. Keep them from using their reach and height as an advantage. So up close, lots of knees and elbows. I’ve been doing private lessons to learn a little Aikido after class as well so that I can use their weight and momentum against them. I need to grow based on my strengths rather than be disadvantaged by my weaknesses.”

Kate listened with rapt attention and loved to hear Lucy sound so passionate and confident about something. Especially when it was about her own abilities.

“So…we train together?” Kate asked as she tried to remember how the conversation had started.

“Only if you want to. I could show you what I learned. I guess it would be mostly more practice for me, but you can use the moves in the field when you are up against someone bigger than you.”

Kate could use some work in that area. She had completed all the required training from weapons qualification to de-escalation tactics and take-downs. But some extra combat training would only be beneficial to her. Not that that would be the only reason for immediately agreeing to the proposal. She would get to spend more time with Lucy. And they would be all up in each other’s personal space. She could only imagine the possibilities.

“I’m talking actual sparring, Whistler. Don’t even try turning this into some sort of foreplay.”

Kate licked her lips and nodded. “I promise I’ll be on my best behavior.”

The next morning, when they cleared space in Lucy’s living room, it wasn’t Kate who failed to remember to be on her best behavior. Not that Kate was about to complain.

Lucy took every opportunity to touch her. To put her hands all over Kate’s body. To press Kate’s hands against her own body. And it was all in the guise of teaching the technique properly. Okay, maybe it was actually legitimate, Kate realized as she went flying over Lucy’s shoulder and landed on her back on the not carpeted enough floor. Lucy immediately straddled her to pin her down, then she quickly maneuvered her body and had Kate in an arm bar and then a choke hold.

“Just tap out when it’s too much.”

Kate was competitive and didn’t want to give in. But also, she didn’t want to give in because it was Lucy and she found that maybe she enjoyed all of this way too much. Lucy let go and sat on her knees near Kate’s head as Kate struggled to catch her breath.

“If you don’t tap out, I might overdo it and I don’t want to make you pass out.”

Kate nodded. “Right. I know that.”

“Are you okay?”

Kate raised an eyebrow. “I’m still breathing, aren’t I? Conscious too.”

Lucy rolled her eyes. “Only because I took pity on you.”

Kate’s nostrils flared in challenge. “You did not just suggest that you could beat me in a fair fight.”

Lucy nodded with pride. “I can take you.”

“Prove it.”

And she did. Several times over. First with an unfair leg sweep. Then she cheated by using a Jiu Jitsu move that she had not shown Kate yet. 

“You said you were learning Muay Thai.”

“Kai taught me that. And if I want to win, I can’t show you all of my moves.”

“I said fair fight. It doesn’t count if you cheat.”

“Do you think that the person you’re fighting in the field will only fight you in a style you are familiar with and excel in?”

“No.”

“And do you think they won’t cheat?” 

“Of course not. But you’re supposed to have honor.”

“I can show you a few more moves. There are a few boxing moves Jesse showed me.”

Kate nodded and Lucy excitedly showed her different stances and strikes. She corrected her when she got them wrong by gently placing her hand on Kate and guided her to where she needed to be. After a few more demonstrations, they sparred again. 

Kate used her long limbs as leverage and kept Lucy at a distance as long as she could. But Lucy was fast. She ducked one of Kate’s hooks and closed the distance between them. She wrapped her arms around Kate’s middle, moved around to her back as she tripped Kate in the process and guided her down to the ground not so gently. She had Kate flat on her back as she straddled her and pinned her arms down over her head before Kate could figure out what had happened.

Lucy used her position to spread her body down along Kate’s and then kissed her deeply. Kate wrapped her arms around Lucy to hold her in place as she forgot about the sparring lesson and her promise to behave. The kiss grew more frantic as their hands wandered and shirts were removed. Kate graced over Lucy’s stomach and Lucy winced again. 

“You did too much today, you should have taken it easy.” Kate told her as Lucy sat up and put her shirt back on.

It was a much needed wet blanket to their lust-filled diversion. 

“I know. I guess I didn’t notice it when…”

“When you were kicking my ass?” Kate smirked.

“It doesn’t hurt just moving around. It hurts to the touch,” Lucy explained.

“I feel very incompetent then. We’ve been sparring for over an hour and I didn’t lay one hit on you.”

“To be fair, most of that hour was about showing you the proper techniques.”

“You were showing me the moves all right.”

Lucy blushed as she stood up and turned away. “Sorry about that.”

“Don’t be. I’m not.”

They rearranged the living room back to how it had been before, and then Lucy made them breakfast. Eggs and toast. Their conversation during breakfast pointedly stayed in the safe and superficial range. Nothing too personal. And nothing about them. They talked about old cases and they talked about book recommendations. It wasn’t until the conversation veered toward the weather that Kate felt like she had perhaps overstayed her welcome. They parted for the rest of the weekend and Kate hoped that any advancement they had made toward friends or whatever they were becoming wouldn’t be halted come Monday morning.

She needn’t have worried. Lucy was cordial—friendly even. Jane caught her eye more than once and raised her eyebrow in question. But Kate didn’t know how to answer her. Not yet anyway. When Jane dismissed the team to go do their assigned tasks, Kate lingered behind.

“I’m guessing Friday night went…well,” Jane asked.

“We finally talked about some long overdue things and we’re working toward being friends.”

Jane raised her eyebrows in surprise, but then nodded. “Okay, good. I’m glad that you’re getting along because I may have to send you out later in the week to assist Lucy on something.”

“Is this a legitimate something or is this part of a plan you orchestrated?”

“It’s legitimate. I’m insulted that you are questioning my motives.”

“Legitimate case stuff that you need only Lucy and I for or it’s something you need done and you are sending me and Lucy?”

“Kate. I’m trying to give you field experience and thought that you’d prefer Lucy to go with you rather than one of the boys.”

“I don’t need special treatment.”

“Well, I need the FBI on this. It’s beyond our jurisdiction and the sooner you can get us the proper warrant and approval the better. I have the request right here.” Jane rifled around a few papers on her desk until she pulled one out and handed it to Kate.

“I’m sorry for questioning your integrity.”

“I thought you knew me better than that.”

“I do.” Kate smirked at her. “Which is why I thought you were trying to meddle.”

“I do not meddle.”

“No. You watch the fireworks from your office with amusement.”

“True. But you are all adults. I expect you to work it out for yourselves.”

“And we are.”

“I know. I can see that.”

“From your office. Tell me, do you have popcorn in there? Are we entertaining enough for you?”

Kate enjoyed this back and forth with Jane almost as much as she had with Lucy earlier. This time when they had bickered over the case it had been playful banter and it had been fun. They had bounced ideas off of each other like a well-oiled machine. It reminded Kate of how it used to be between them before life interfered.

“I’ll get this done as soon as I can.” Kate waved the request at her and then excused herself.

It took two days to get approval and then she and Lucy followed up on the warrant. For being her first official day in the field, it all went relatively smoothly. They found what they had been looking for, made an arrest, and the case was officially out of their hands. She and Lucy went out to celebrate that night; Kate had convinced her to join her for dinner. 

Kate had to remind herself that it wasn’t a date. But she couldn’t let that little detail ruin her good mood. They talked excitedly about the case over dinner and then they talked about when their next sparring session would be. Eventually, they ended up back at Lucy’s and Kate stayed overnight again. They didn’t even kiss this time, but it still felt like the best ending to a really great day.

“Were you scared?” Lucy asked in the quiet of the night as they were wrapped up in each other.

“Of what?”

“Of the possibility of anything? I remember the first time I had to chase down a suspect it ended with me tackling him. He had a sprained wrist and I got an accidental elbow to the eye.”

“Really?”

“The worst part was that he wasn’t even running away. He was just jogging. Like going for a jog.”

Kate laughed. “Sorry. That’s not funny.”

“It is. Now. Jesse still teases me about it though. I was just always so ready to prove myself. Over-eager to the point of recklessness, I guess. I get that now.”

“Lucy?” Kate asked quietly.

“Yeah?”

“Why are you scared of water?”

Lucy was quiet for a long time. Kate feared that she had upset her enough to shut down. 

“I almost drowned as a kid. It’s why I also hate hospitals. It was really bad, I almost didn’t make it and my best friend didn’t.”

Kate tightened her grip on Lucy and kissed the back of her head. “I’m sorry that happened. I can only imagine how awful it was.”

“I was unconscious for several minutes. Not breathing when they pulled me out. Can we talk about something else?” Lucy pleaded with her.

“It took three days for the news about Noah to reach us. Three days of me thinking he was alive and well and safe. It’s strange when I think about it. That the date on his headstone feels like just another day. It was three days after that, that my world stopped moving. That’s when I broke. That’s when I lost the most important person in my life. It’s hard to go to his grave for that reason. Because it just feels…wrong. It feels like they got it wrong.”

“Why did it take so long?”

“Intel was leaked, that’s how his unit was ambushed. They weren’t sure how far up the chain of command it went so they withheld the information until they found out who was responsible. Or I guess, until they felt like they had enough information to know who they could still trust. We were deliberately not told because of national security.”

“Oh Kate…” Lucy’s voice was soft. “That’s why protecting the information was so important to you.”

“Yeah, it was. Until it felt more like I was protecting the information instead of the people. I started to remember how it felt…to have the intel put in front of the families who just wanted answers. I couldn’t be responsible for that kind of pain. I didn’t have it in me anymore to stay so cold and disconnected.”

Because of you

It was on the tip of her tongue. Not out of blame. But because loving Lucy opened her heart again. It had been so closed off for so long. Once she allowed herself to feel something for Lucy, it was hard not to let herself feel other things as well. The camaraderie of a team. The friendship of Jane. It seemed like she felt everything now. It should have scared her far more than it did.

Lucy turned over and pushed at Kate until she turned around as well. Then Lucy curled up around Kate as best as she could as she tried being the big spoon.

“How’s that working for you?” Kate smiled fondly.

Lucy tightened her hold around Kate and kissed her on the shoulder. “Perfect. How about you?”

“Perfect.”

“Good.” 

They fell asleep like that. 

Things progressed steadily between them. They worked cases together. They had dinner together a few nights a week. They hung out with their friends at least one night a week. Kate still had a few weekly visits with Jane, even if she ended up at Lucy’s house after. They also sparred a couple more times but had to put that on hold because the last time ended up with Kate suggesting they share a shower for time efficiency and water reduction. But that led to shower sex and they both knew that they shouldn’t be the kind of friends who had casual sex. Being the kind of friends who casually made out already pushed the envelope a bit too much.

And they were friends. Lucy was the first person she wanted to vent with about a bad day, or celebrate with on a good day. She was the one that she wanted to relax and decompress with. They laughed together and sometimes, they cried together. Kate opened up more about Noah and it felt good to finally talk about it properly with someone; especially since that someone was Lucy. They talked about their complicated relationships with their parents. They talked more about Lucy’s PTSD from her botched undercover mission, and about her almost drowning as a child. 

As close as they had gotten, they still didn’t talk about where they were heading or what they were. Kate didn't feel the need to rush it and felt comfortable going at Lucy's pace this time, because she knew they were going somewhere; and as long as they kept going in the right direction, she didn't care how long it took them to get there. 

Some days, despite how close they were, they needed space to decompress alone. Kate understood that they both were trying but that they both had a lot of their own issues to overcome. Part of that meant that neither of them was still the best at communication and often resorted to taking time to process their feelings about the darker things before they were able to share them. This usually involved a case that hit too close to home or one of them being injured on the job. Kate knew that when Lucy got injured she would close up until she fought her way back out of the darkness again, and that she needed the time to do so. But that didn’t mean it stopped her from worrying about her.

Kate tried to respect Lucy’s request to be alone and instead, she found herself at Jane’s. Jane seemed to be prepared for her arrival and already had an extra glass of scotch prepared. 

Kate eyed it. “The hard stuff, huh?”

“Lucy took a pretty bad hit in the field today, I figured you could use it.” Jane told her as they sat at their picnic table as usual.

“She didn’t want to talk about it, but I can see it really shook her up.” 

Jane nodded as she sipped her drink.

“I feel so helpless. I can see her shut down. I know she’s struggling. But she asked for space tonight and I’m trying to give it to her even though all I want to do is hold her and remind myself that she’s okay. That she’s safe.”

“How’d she handle it when you got injured?”

“She gave me the space I requested.” Kate sighed. “Which lasted all of two hours before I called her and begged her to lay with me.”

Jane smiled. They sipped their drinks in silence as Kate tried to distract herself with the knowledge that Lucy was safe.

“Can I ask you a question?” Kate asked eventually.

“Sure.”

“”When did you know?”

“When did I know what?”

“About me and Lucy? When did you figure it out?”

“Remember when you came in hot because Lucy read your file upside down?”

Kate nodded.

“The next day, Lucy was wearing the same clothes and you decided to play nice and give us the information we needed.”

Kate’s eyes widened and she ducked her head in a blush. “I didn’t help you because Lucy and I slept together.”

“I know that.”

“And she wasn’t wearing the same clothes, she borrowed one of my shirts.”

Jane raised an eyebrow. “I’m the SAC, did you think a simple t-shirt change would go unnoticed?”

“I guess not.”

“So is that when it started? I see the way the two of you bicker, so I can only imagine.”

Kate closed her eyes tightly. “Please don’t imagine.”

Jane laughed.

Kate sighed, opened her eyes and took a gulp of the liquor. “It’s not how it started actually. It was on and off for several weeks before that. Over a month really.”

Jane’s eyes widened. 

“Remember the DeLancey case?” Kate offered.

Jane nodded. “Yeah, that was a hard one.”

Kate nodded as well. “I went to the bar to drink alone afterwards. I needed to decompress and process. Lucy had the same idea. So we drank alone together. That first night, we just talked. Obviously, the attraction was always there. But that first night was when I knew, because even when I was sad, it was nice to just sit with her. I should have told her that. From the start. But I made her feel like we were a mistake or that I didn’t care as much as I did.”

“Kate, don’t think that way. You made it past that, you’re in a good place now.”

“I know. I just hate thinking about how much time we missed because neither of us were honest with each other. Not about what mattered.”

Jane set her empty glass down on the table. “My marriage fell apart because of secrets. And because we let them fester and destroy us. But Kate, you and Lucy are not me and my ex-husband. You’ve been through a lot together, but instead of letting it break you, you’ve come back stronger because of it. We weren’t able to do that, and I admire you for it.”

Kate didn’t know how to respond to that. She wasn’t sure if it made her feel better or worse. Because part of her did worry if there would be something that they couldn’t come back from. Yet, as scared as she was, the idea of not being with Lucy at all scared her more.

“Hello?” Lucy’s voice interrupted them.

Jane and Kate stared at each other in confusion.

“Tennant? You keep telling us that the door is always open, and I really hope you meant it.” Lucy said as she walked through the house and stopped when she reached them. She stood just outside the outer door. “Kate…”

She breathed out. Lucy didn’t often use her first name, even now that they’ve gotten closer she tended to still prefer using Whistler. Kate wondered if it was due to habit or if it was to keep an emotional distance from her when Lucy felt she needed to. Either way, hearing her name fall from Lucy’s lips now warmed her heart and brought a smile to her face.

Then she frowned because Lucy had requested being alone and then came to Jane for help instead. It shouldn’t have hurt Kate as much as it did, because it meant that Lucy was getting help and talking about how she was feeling with someone. She just wanted that someone to be her.

Lucy looked nervous, and Kate noticed she was still favoring her left side and cradling her wrist in her hand. Her face had been washed, but the scratches were more visible now and there was a bandage on her neck. Kate fought the urge to rush to her.

“I…it’s getting late and you didn’t come home,” Lucy whispered quietly. 

Home. Lucy had called her own place home to the both of them and Kate felt herself fall even harder for her.

“You wanted space.”

Lucy nodded. “I did. But…” She glanced at Jane. “I sleep better when you’re around.”

Kate rushed to her. “Did you have another nightmare?”

Lucy licked her lips as her eyes darted to Jane. “No…I just…” She looked at Kate’s face as if she hadn’t seen her in months; like she had to take her in all over again and recommit her to memory. “I tried your place first.”

Kate swallowed audibly. She knew it was hard for Lucy to ride that elevator up to her apartment. Lucy admitted as much once. And with her injuries, it wasn’t like she could take the stairs today. Kate didn’t like that Lucy had to knock on her door and wait as no one answered. She wondered what thoughts had filled her mind. What fears.

“Want to go home? We can talk there.”

Lucy nodded. Kate glanced back at Jane who nodded and waved as Kate led Lucy back to her car. 

“Are you okay to drive? Or I can drive us and we can pick up my car tomorrow.” Lucy offered kindly.

“I’ll drive.”

Kate followed behind Lucy as they drove to Lucy’s place. She made some tea for them both and helped Lucy into bed as it simmered on the stove. Eventually, they were cuddled up in bed and Kate held Lucy as she cradled her tea and hummed at the warmth of it as it seemed to calm her.

“I kept replaying it in my mind, all the things I could have done differently for a better outcome. But I came up with nothing. I did everything the way I was supposed to. And it still went badly.”

“Lucy, stuff like that happens.”

“But it keeps happening to me. Maybe my parents were right and I’m better off with numbers and facts and computers and should just go back to Texas.”

“Lucy, no. They were wrong then, and you’re just letting them get into your head now.”

“I’ve been training for months , Kate. And there are moments out there when I still freeze. And that split second, someday it could be deadly. To me, or the team. To you .”

“It’s a risk we all take.” Kate grabbed the tea cup from Lucy’s hands and set it on the bedside table. “What did you tell me a few weeks ago when I got injured?”

Lucy didn’t respond.

“You nursed me back to health. You held me. You told me that these things happen. That our job is hard and that some days it will get the best of us, but that together we can get through those bad days. I broke my collarbone, Lucy. On my second day in the field. And I questioned if making the move to the FBI was the wrong decision.”

“You’re still learning and growing and you are a hell of an agent.”

“And so are you, Lucy. Why don’t you see that? Why can’t you take your own advice?”

Lucy avoided eye contact.

“Lucy?”

Lucy looked at her with wide, sad eyes. “Why are you so patient with me? I…when we started dating, I pushed you too hard and too fast. You weren’t ready for us.”

“Lucy no, that’s not what happened. I needed you to push me, because I was used to being alone and I was used to how things were. If it wasn’t for you, we would never have happened.”

Lucy frowned and seemed to be re-writing the old narrative in her head.

“You were the one who sacrificed so much of yourself to accommodate me. You think you weren’t being patient? I essentially stuffed you back in the closet.”

“I just don’t want to be too much. I don’t want you to think I’m not worth the effort anymore.” Lucy admitted.

“I would never think that.”

Lucy stared at her.

“I wouldn’t. I promise.” Kate leaned in and kissed her. 

Then she gently grazed Lucy’s injuries with her fingertips and followed up with her lips. She was careful and slow. And instead of lust-filled passion overthrowing their reason, tonight Kate took the time and care to make love to Lucy. 

Lucy eventually fell asleep, content and cuddled in Kate’s loving embrace. When her breaths evened out and her face was relaxed without the weight of the world bearing down on her, Kate kissed her temple and whispered the words she had been too much of a coward to say while they were awake.

“I love you.”

Lucy slept through the night that night and for the next few nights, but then one night she woke up screaming and trying to catch her breath. Kate woke up just as terrified, but quickly calmed herself so that she could calm down Lucy. Lucy eventually caught her breath. She wiped the tears from her eyes and cuddled back into Kate. After her nightmares, she always preferred to hold Kate rather than be held by her. Kate figured it was a control thing. A show of strength and protection instead of weakness and vulnerability. 

“Drowning this time? Or trying to catch him from going over the ledge?” Kate asked quietly into the darkness.

“Neither. I was falling over with him. But I just kept falling, it wouldn’t stop.” Lucy admitted and Kate felt her hot breath against her neck.

“You’re safe now.”

Lucy didn’t respond. The next morning, she woke up and Lucy wasn’t there. Lucy had left a note saying she went to the dojo and would meet her at work. Kate went about her morning routine worried about her. When she made her way to the NCIS building instead of her own that morning, she met Lucy by the elevator just before she entered it.

“Lucy, wait up!”

Lucy stopped and turned to face her with a smile. She held the door open and they stood together in the empty elevator.

“Feeling better?” Kate asked as she handed Lucy the coffee she had bought for her.

Lucy took it happily and kissed Kate chastely on the lips in greeting. “Much. Sorry I left this morning, I needed to get some excess energy out.”

Kate nodded in understanding. She knew that most of the time these days, Lucy kept her morning workouts at the dojo to a minimum and only went after she had nightmares.

“I’m glad it helps. I thought maybe tonight we could order in and just relax. Have a quiet day. Depending on how early we get out of here and what our cases look like. I’ll say a quick hi to Jane to see if she needs my help with anything and then head to my office.”

Lucy reached over and squeezed her hand before letting it go again. Kate wasn’t ready for holding hands in public, even if they were dating; and Lucy knew it. So this was their compromise and it suited Kate well. She kissed Lucy once more, a bit more passionately than their first kiss, and pulled away just before the elevator stopped and the doors opened.

“We seemed to have finally worked out our timing in regards to this thing.” Lucy smirked as she referenced their history with this particular elevator.

Kate smiled at the statement and in acknowledgement in how far they’d come.

Kate never made it to her office that morning, or afternoon. She was reeled into their case as soon as she walked in and a solution seemed to still be eluding them.

Just after their lunch break, while she was in the office talking to Jane, she saw a beautiful, dark-skinned woman approach Lucy’s desk. Lucy smiled at her and stood up to greet her. 

“Who is that?” Jane asked.

Kate shook her head as she continued to watch the interaction. The woman handed Lucy a bracelet. Kate knew instinctively exactly what bracelet she had handed her and got sick to her stomach. She watched as Lucy laughed, put the bracelet on her wrist, and touched the woman’s arm affectionately in thanks.

“Kate, don’t jump to conclusions. You know there has to be an explanation.”

She scoffed at that. She wasn’t sure any explanation could make her feel better right now. She wasn’t sure she could look at Lucy right now. So many thoughts entered her mind, and none of them were good. 

“Maybe you should go home. Get some rest. I’m sure by tomorrow when we have our cookout, you and Lucy will have sorted everything out and we can all laugh about this misunderstanding.” Jane tried to reason with her. 

“I should talk to her.” 

“Sleep on it. Or at least take a few hours to let it settle. If you talk to her now, you’ll say something you can’t take back.”

“We have the case.”

“Work on it from home. I’ll loop you in on any updates and you can call me if you have any leads. You were going to spend the afternoon making phone calls to your contacts anyway. You can do that from home.”

Kate tried to consider all alternatives but when she saw Lucy start to make her way toward them and realized the other woman was gone, her decision had been made for her.

“Tell her I’m not feeling well and that I’ll see her tomorrow.” Kate said and exited briskly as Lucy approached them and looked at her with confusion.

Kate absentmindedly heard Jane tell Lucy what she’d told her to, and then tell Lucy to “Stay. She’ll be fine. She just needs to rest.”

The drive home was a blur. She showered when she got home—a hot shower to melt away the coldness she felt. The pure dread. After her shower, she still felt numb. But she did her job and she did it with precision and efficiency like she always had. It was nearly 8 pm when Jane texted that they were able to close the case. After that, she allowed the exhaustion to overtake her and she fell asleep.

Kate debated blowing off the cookout, but she didn’t want to flake out on her friends just because of what was going on between her and Lucy. They were her friends, too. So with a heavy heart, she drove to Jane’s. When she saw Lucy get out of a car that did not belong to her, and that she did not drive, her intense anguish turned to rightful indignation. How could Lucy do this to her? To them. Was she trying to hurt Kate like this? Was this payback for what Kate had done?

“Kate! Hey. How are you feeling?” Lucy asked her as she closed the door and the woman from yesterday drove off.

“Worse.”

Lucy’s eyes softened and she rested the back of her hand on Kate’s forehead causing Kate to flinch. “No fever. But you should go home and get some rest. I’m sure they’ll understand if we skip today. I can make you some soup. It’s about time I play nurse to you again.”

Kate swallowed back the bile in her throat and grunted a noncommittal response.

“Let me just go tell Tennant we’re leaving. I’ll drive you home.” Lucy told her as she held her hand and kissed her on the knuckles. 

“No. I’m fine. I want to stay.” Kate growled out.

Lucy nodded, she didn’t drop Kate’s hand as they walked together to the front door. Kate hated that the touch that used to give her life felt like a hot coal on her skin. She pulled away with a jerk and refused to feel guilty about the sadness that crossed Lucy’s face at the action.

Kate held conversations with each of her friends as best as she could, but her mind kept wandering to Lucy. To the other woman. To how she had sacrificed all of her dignity to fix things with Lucy because she blamed herself for what had happened between them. She let Lucy dictate their current relationship. She let her do all kinds of things because she felt like she deserved them. But this. She didn’t deserve this.

Just before lunch was finished, Lucy excused herself to use the bathroom. Kate debated with herself if she really wanted to do this here. But she couldn’t be in the same room as Lucy without being in excruciating pain. And if she started to actively avoid Lucy, she would wonder why and they’d have to talk about it anyway. So maybe it wasn’t the best place for them to address it, but she also needed to have her friends around to help pick up the pieces when all hell broke loose.

She knocked on the door. “Lucy. We need to talk.”

She waited for an answer but didn’t get any. 

“You don’t get to ignore me. You don’t get to ignore this. It’s bullshit. What you did. How you did it.” 

She rubbed her hands over her eyes and sighed as she rested her head against the door. “I hate that I still can’t hate you. Even after everything. What have I become? What did you do to me?”

“Who are you talking to?” Lucy asked from behind Kate. She was carrying a bottle of water that she held toward Kate.

Kate glanced at her and then turned the unlocked door handle to reveal that the bathroom was empty. Well, shit.

“Are you okay? You look awful.” Lucy approached her and guided her inside. 

Lucy set the bottled water down by the sink, and turned on the cold water to the faucet. She let it run while she searched for a washcloth. She wet it and handed the cold rag to Kate, but Kate just held it. Lucy turned off the water and watched her.

“Who is she?” Kate demanded.

Lucy frowned and furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. “What? Who?”

“Your ride. The woman who dropped you off today.”

"Leilani? She's my Muay Thai instructor. She was at the dojo when I went there this morning and then my car wouldn't start so she gave me a ride here."

Kate tried to make sense of the words Lucy was telling her through the pain and betrayal she felt.

"But...yesterday at the office. She brought your bracelet. The bracelet."

Kate thought about all the lessons they had taken together. She thought about all the time Lucy spent with her and how passionate and excited Lucy got when she spoke about her training. Kate thought about her sparring sessions with Lucy and what they led to and it made her feel sick.

Lucy nodded. "My favorite bracelet. You know I train before work, because I'm exhausted after. I shower at the gym and change there. My bracelet must have fallen out of my bag when I went to change because I couldn't find it after my shower. She found it by the lockers later that morning and brought it to me." Lucy explained then her eyes widened in horror. "We're not sleeping together."

"Neither are we." Kate told her through gritted teeth.

Lucy flinched. "No, that's not...I...I wouldn't do that to you."

Kate felt the words like a punch in the gut. The implication that Lucy wouldn't do what she thought Kate did. She wanted to believe Lucy, but every instinct in her body told her not to. She didn’t know what to believe through all the pain that was currently coursing through her body. It was so primal. The need for escape. The need to lash out. 

"I didn't mean it like that." Lucy massaged her temples and paced the room anxiously, then she stilled eerily and looked at Kate. "I didn't think to tell you about her because there was nothing to tell." She nearly collapsed onto the wall behind her and let herself fall to the ground. She was silent for a long time and then she looked up at Kate with bloodshot eyes that betrayed the fact that she was crying. "That's what happened, isn't it? First, you didn't tell me about Cara because there was nothing to tell. She didn't mean anything to you so you didn't think to bring her up. And then when there was something to tell, it was too late and anything you said would have felt like a lie."

Kate had the presence of mind to nod her head in agreement.

Lucy groaned loudly and let her head fall against the wall with a thud. "I'm such an asshole."

Kate was reeling from the roller coaster of emotions, but she still needed to assure Lucy. "You were hurting. I always understood that."

Lucy nodded but appeared skeptical. “I was worried about you. When you left early yesterday. I tried to give you space because Tennant said you needed it. But last night…I had another nightmare. You know I sleep better when I’m with you. So this morning, I was feeling restless and helpless and I couldn’t call you so I went to the dojo. I hit the bags for a while. Then I was going to go check on you, and I couldn’t get my car started so I had a mini-breakdown. Leilani offered to drive me to your place, but I wasn’t sure you were ready to see me yet. So we talked. That’s all. I promise.” Lucy pleaded with her to believe her. “But I figured some stuff out and I'm ready to talk about us now. I’m sorry that it took this long and that…well." She stood up and dusted herself off. "I understand if you're not. And I'm sorry I hurt you today...and I’m sorry I didn't give you the proper chance to explain yourself before. I should have done what you did just now and forced us to talk it out. You’re braver than I ever could be, Kate.”

Kate didn’t feel brave, she felt numb. Lucy finally wanted to talk about it all. But she wasn't sure she could. She didn't know if she could find the right words. Maybe this time, it didn't matter if they were the perfect ones as long as they were said. Because more than anything, she knew they were long overdue.

“Do you want to talk? I have a lot I’d like to say.” Lucy offered gently, one more time.

Kate thought maybe she nodded because Lucy had reached for her hand and led her quietly out of the bathroom and toward the others who were now in the living room.

“Kate’s not feeling well, I’m going to take her home.” Lucy told them as she grabbed their stuff with her free hand as held on to Kate’s hand, never letting go.

Lucy’s hand in hers felt like a lifeline. She was still processing everything. So many thoughts competed for her attention within her mind. Lucy walked them to Kate’s car and opened the passenger side door.

“I’ll drive, if that’s okay.”

Kate almost cried at how patient and thoughtful Lucy was being. This was the Lucy she fell in love with. She still had to reconcile that with the Lucy of the last several weeks. The Lucy she thought she was these past two days. It was all too confusing. There was a cognitive dissonance within her that she couldn’t deny anymore. She spent so much time trying to understand Lucy’s motives, her pain, her actions, her reactions. And somehow all it took was another misunderstanding for everything to slot itself together like well-fitted puzzle pieces. She had been so wrong before and it made everything more confusing than it needed to be. The pain radiated in her chest with the knowledge and full understanding of just how much damage her actions had done to their relationship; how much devastation she had caused Lucy with the Cara incident. She had taken full blame before without understanding the magnitude of it.

She understood it now. And it nearly broke her. She was silent the entire drive and didn’t even process that they had not only arrived at her place, but that they had somehow made it to the front door. 

Lucy handed the keys to Kate so she could let them in. It seemed like Lucy had given Kate one last chance to push her away. To tell her to leave. Lucy had finally let Kate dictate things and Kate needed to clear the air once and for all. Tonight, she would lay everything on the table; come what may.

She opened the door and led Lucy inside. Then she closed and locked the door behind them.

“I need a drink.” She said as she grabbed two mason jars. “Want one?”

Lucy nodded. Kate filled them both with wine and drank from hers liberally while Lucy watched her with concern.

“Are you okay?” Lucy asked.

Kate forced a smile. “That’s usually my line.”

“And you deflect it as well as I do.”

Kate finished her wine and poured some more. When she finished, she stared at the red liquid and rested her shaky hands on the countertop for support.

“When I thought you were with her. With Leilani, I…” She took slow, labored breaths. “The betrayal I felt. The utter anguish of my heart being ripped out just when I thought we had finally started building something together again. I couldn’t even look at you yesterday without wanting to either throw up or cry. And today, I just…” She finally turned to face Lucy. “I thought I understood how much I hurt you, but I don’t think I had a clue until this moment, otherwise I wouldn’t have tried to keep forcing you to talk to me. I thought I had given you enough space. I thought if I could just explain and we could clear the air, then you would understand and we could be together again. I thought so many things and they were all wrong. Because I did break your heart. I broke your trust. I broke your confidence.” She started to cry and couldn’t stop crying as she finished her speech. “I’m so sorry, Lucy. I know that you understand now that I never meant to hurt you, but I also know how deeply I did. I have never been more grateful than I am at this moment that you somehow started to trust me again and let me back in. I know how much it took out of you to do that, and I promise not to take that leap of faith for granted.”

“I never meant to hurt you…with Leilani. I can see you are still crushed by it. She’s just my instructor. Well, she’s sort of my friend, but only recently. I don’t even train with her as much as I used to anymore because you and I have been sparring together and I don’t feel like I need the extra training to deal with my anger or improve my confidence as much anymore.”

Kate nodded. “I understand that, Lucy.” She took a sip of her wine mostly for something to do with her hands so she wouldn’t reach out to Lucy just yet. She wasn’t sure she could take it if Lucy backed away from her touch. “But do you understand what I’m telling you?”

“Why don’t we sit down?” Lucy didn’t wait for Kate to answer. She set her untouched wine on the counter and walked toward Kate’s living room.

Kate followed her helplessly. She realized much to her chagrin that she’d follow Lucy anywhere. Lucy waited for Kate to sit next to her.

“I understand that we’re finally on the same page. That we both know the depths of which we hurt each other. And I think despite how much we’re both hurting at that realization right now, that it’s good for us. We won’t make the same mistakes this time. And we have gotten better at communicating, even if sometimes we take longer to get there than we should.”

Kate shook her head which caused Lucy to frown and furrow her eyebrows in confusion, so Lucy continued. “I know we still have a long way to go to be good at it, and I take full responsibility for my part in that. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going in the right direction.”

“That’s all true and you’re right. We understand where each other is coming from with the whole break-up thing and Cara and whatever. But I still don’t think we’re on the same page.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m in love with you, Lucy. I have been. And I told you that from the start of whatever this is we’ve been doing. Well, maybe not those actual words…but I told you how I felt.”

Lucy nodded. “I know.”

“And you insist that we’re friends. But then what friends do you know that do half of what we do together?”

Lucy lowered her head and looked ashamed. Kate was terrified it meant that she regretted all of it—that she was about to end it all. And once again, she hated that she had no way to fix it. No way to protect her heart from being shattered again. Only this time, it was all her own doing. She was the one who knew she was playing with fire and did it anyway.

"I told you I felt like my whole life was out of control. My safety at my job. My situation with stupidly letting my parents back in. But you have always been the most out of control thing in my life. The pull I feel towards you. The way you make me feel. The power you have to hurt me again."

Kate wanted to argue. To tell Lucy that needing her mom when she was scared and felt alone was natural and not at all stupid. She wanted to tell her that she could trust her with her heart again--to promise Lucy that she would take better care of it this time. But she didn't know how to make Lucy believe her. Trust had to be earned through actions, not words. Words were cheap and could be hollow.

Lucy turned toward her more fully and took Kate's hand in hers. Then she brought it to her lips and kissed Kate's palm. Kate's eyes shut of their own accord as she relished the soft touch. The feel of Lucy's lips on her open palm, and then Kate's eyes snapped open as Lucy took one of Kate's fingers in her mouth and sucked on it. She fought back a moan at the sensation of it. But the look in Lucy's eyes made her shiver with delight. Lucy released her finger with a pop and smiled at her seductively.

"I thought losing control was terrifying. But these last few weeks with you...not just the shower sex or the steamy make-outs after an argument. But all of it. The way you are here when I need you, no matter the time or the reason. The way you hold me. The way I feel like I can open up to you and the way you have opened up to me. Holding hands. Sharing a meal together. Sharing the silence. I don't need to try to control my time with you or protect my heart with you. This kind of uncertainty...it's thrilling. It's not something I'm scared of anymore. I trust you." She kissed each of Kate's fingertips then interlaced their fingers delicately. Sensually. 

Kate stared at their hands transfixed. It amazed her how well they fit together. They always had. It just took her a while to see it; or rather, to admit it.

"Ernie once told me that love is pain." Kate looked up at Lucy and held her eye contact as Lucy continued, "I didn't believe him even then. Even as I was hurting. Because...losing you was painful. Not being with you was painful. But loving you was everything. Is everything but painful. It's beautiful and all-consuming and hopeful and you make me feel alive and safe and everything in between. Ernie was wrong, and I…"

Kate cut her off with a kiss. Tears fell as they kissed as relief and affection consumed her.

Lucy pulled away and looked at her with concern as she used the pads of her thumbs to gently wipe away the tear tracks on Kate's cheeks. Kate sighed at the softness of the touch. She craved this more than anything. This intimacy between them. This kind of trust. Lucy knew Kate had her back, and at this moment Kate knew that Lucy had hers. That she would take care of her when Kate needed someone to be strong for her. When Kate needed to let herself let go.

"Happy tears, I hope?" It came out as more of a question than a statement.

"Yes, of course."

Lucy pulled Kate to her and kissed her on each cheek before holding Kate to her chest. Kate's eyes fluttered shut as Lucy ran her hands through Kate's hair delicately and massaged her scalp every couple of moments.

"In case it got somehow lost in the kiss…" Kate could hear the smirk in Lucy's words and smiled contentedly as she let the teasing commence. "I was saying that I love you, too."

"I am so in love with you." Kate admitted happily as she snuggled further into Lucy.

“I should have…” Lucy stiffened a bit but held tight to Kate as she spoke. “I should have told you how I was feeling sooner, I owed you that. But…”

Kate turned a little so she could look at Lucy while she talked. 

“But what?” She asked with curiosity but not judgment.

Lucy sighed. “I was a complete mess. I let my parents get into my head. And with everything else I was struggling with…I wanted to be better. I thought that you weren’t honest with me because you didn’t see a future for us. Not just that what we had wasn’t important to you, but that I wasn’t important enough for you. Or enough for you in general. So I wanted to get back to the girl I used to be. The one who knew how amazing I was and who understood that you were the one who was missing out on knowing her. I wanted to be someone you could love.”

“Lucy…”

“I know that I was wrong. About you. About myself. I know that now. But I’m telling you where my mind was at. I wanted to feel like I was in a good place. That I was in control enough or healed enough or whatever. That’s why I waited this long. I had to get there first, and then I had to allow myself not to be scared about the fact that I had fallen even harder for you this time around. The control thing, that was the final piece. I realized this morning that not trying with you again was scarier than trying again and failing.”

Kate stared at her, and then she pulled her in for a kiss. 

“You were worth the wait.” Kate told her when she eventually pulled away. “I guess in a way, it always just felt like we had this separate journey we had to make. We had to grow apart to grow together, if that makes sense. But a part of me always knew that we would find our way back together. That’s why I fought so hard. That’s why I didn’t give up. That’s why I stayed.”

It felt like Kate was always on her way to Lucy, because Lucy was the destination. Lucy was home.