Rating/Classification: gen, Skye/Cole-ish, language, ficlet
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters.
Summary: A filler/tag for AJ's 2/16/05 service. If familiarity breeds contempt, what does the lack of it give rise to?
He comes to her outside the church, hanging back, waiting till Felicia and Mac have finished murmuring the things you say when someone dies. Those stale, empty, comments like "I'm sorry for your loss." Only they're not really sorry and she's not entirely sure what she's lost. His boots crunch on the dead leaves and the twigs snap like fourth of July sparklers. She should tell him to fuck off. She should dial the police or Luke. She should speed up, accompany Alan to the car...but she waits.
*Partners in crime*. That's what she told all those people assembled in the pews. She spoke of their capers. Her and AJ. But it wasn't just them, was it?
"Read about it in the Gazette," he says, quietly, patting his pockets for the cigarettes she knows he doesn't smoke.
"They did run a nice obituary," she agrees, faintly, as the last of the limos pull away from the curb.
"The one about your granny was nicer." Coleman stops looking for what isn't there. He runs his nervous fingers through his hair, which only makes it look more atrocious. A feat in itself.
"Yeah, well, *Lila* was nicer." On any other day, this would be surreal. Standing in a churchyard discussing who got a better obit in the paper with someone whose voice she doesn't even recognize on the phone anymore. But her brother, her best friend, is dead and nothing will ever be as surreal as that simple fact. "Aren't you going to say you're sorry for my loss?" she wonders, running her hands up and down her arms as if that can wipe away the numbness, the disbelief, and the death. "Aren't you going to say he died much too soon?"
"I ain't sorry. And, Hell, he probably should've died sooner. But you want to believe different." Coleman's eyes were always dark like her sins. They still are. Even more. And she remembers that she knew AJ's voice right away when he called from the islands. First syllable. First breath. The most of what she'd heard in that voice was condemnation, scorn, and vodka...all things familiar. And Coleman... his odd kindnesses, his honesty, and the fact that he always had coffee on...is strange. Easily forgotten. "You always want to believe different, Red."
"Not always." He steps aside so she can walk down the path. But he follows. She knows he will. "Why are you working for Helena, Coleman?"
"Past tense, Sweetheart. And I did it for the benefits."
"What? Dental?" She laughs. Her first laugh in what feels like years. Sterile, clinical, like Lucky's hospital room.
"Naw. The benefit of her not killing me."
He touches her, curls his hand over her shoulder...but he doesn't pull her close. He always held her from behind so she could imagine he was anybody but who he is. And his chest was solid and his hair tickled her throat and she never complained. She would now. He knows better than to try it.
"You work with anybody who'll pay, don't you? You have no standards," she accuses, instead of leaning back into him. Instead of taking what he won't--can't--offer. "You'll do anything as long as there's something in it for you. You're...you're a disgusting, worthless excuse for a human being."
"'S why AJ looked me up, isn't it?" he counters, with a gentle squeeze. "And...and you."
"Fuck off, Coleman," she whispers, closing her eyes.
"Any time you want. Any old time you want." His beard scrapes her cheek. It's nowhere near as harsh as his whisper. "I'm sorry for your loss."
She watches him walk away, across the street, his hands in his pockets. She doesn't move until he's a distant speck, less than nothing, and only the whisker burn tells her that he was here.
He's right about her. She does want to believe differently.
She wants to believe she hasn't lost anything at all.
February 17, 2005.