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Rumor Panic
By giantessmess


Josie Sutton wasn't all the horrors people bitched behind her back. Sleeping with her Sergeant, throwing her looks around to get her way. Using Tommy Sutton's dead hero name to leapfrog into Homicide.

You don't like to believe the things people say about her, just like you try not to jump to conclusions about the people you investigate.

You did a double-take when you first saw her. She stared, you stared - then you blinked away and tried to get a grip already. There are a lot of beautiful women in the world, and if you trained your eyes to pass over her, she'd blend into the background like the dull walls of the casefile storage facility.

"Hey, I'm Jo Sutton," she'd said, eyeing Vera and no doubt figuring a less frilly version of her name was warranted.

"Yeah," he muttered, making a show of his disinterest.

Always the savior, you jumped in and shook her hand.

"Lilly Rush."

"Hi," she said, hesitantly.

"Was getting tired of being the only girl on the line," you joked, eyeing the guys accusingly. Sutton smiled with a slight turn of her lip.

Right off, she insisted that you call her Josie. You smiled and said, Well, Lilly's fine, while keeping an eye trained on her, just in case she made any unwanted moves. Not that you believed the rumors, you just wanted to be prepared in case you were proved wrong. You've got a bad track record of people screwing you over.

"Feel like going for a drink after work?" Josie asked, the same day. "We can ditch the beards. Just you and me."

And you'd thought she'd be after the guys. So much for rumors.

"I wasn't invited to First Thursdays," she says. You go out with her on Tuesdays a couple of times, hoping nobody you know runs into you. The way you lean into each other leaves little to interpret.

"Scotty says he invited you," you offer.

She raises an eyebrow. "He did it out of pity, y 'know? I don't want pity."

"You've gotta be kidding?"

"You could invite me," she sips her drink. "That'd be nice."

"Yeah? And how would that look?"

"It'd be nice, Lil," she shakes her head in disgust. "Honestly."

"But how would it look?"

She shrugs. "Depends." Then she meets your eye. Her expression sours, and she grabs her bag.

"You know what, I don't need this." She pushes back her chair.

"Sit down, Josie."

"Yeah? What for?"

You grab hold of her hand, and look her straight in the eye. Then you lean forward and kiss her. It's over so quickly that the only proof you have of it is the pounding in your chest, and the way she smiles at you.

"So I'm invited, then?"

Her car's a piece of garbage. Scotty makes all the observations, while you sit back and pretend you hadn't noticed it all first.

"And she's real prickly."

You find it strange that he's even confiding in you. "Well, you'd be wary, too. All those rumors."

Scotty crosses his arms. "The sergeant thing?" He scratches his nose. "Well, it looks bad. People are just worried, you know?"

"By people, you mean Vera?" You watch him carefully. "Don't you think it's all just a bit malicious?"

Scotty doesn't answer. He clears his throat and looks away from you. "You better not tell her this, ok?"

"Tell who? Sutton? I hardly speak to her Scot-"

"Just don't." He looks around, as if unable to find a place to settle his eyes. "I think the rumors are true, you know? Messed her up."

You smile. "Why do I get the feeling that she rejected your come-on?"

He looks at you sourly. You've both become quiet all of a sudden, and you remember that thanks to your sister, you can't make jokes like that anymore.

You have a night out drinking with the boys. It's funny how you qualify as one. Josie's conveniently minus an invite. You probably should have brought her with you.

"So, Valens," Vera takes a gulp of his beer. "Are you?"

"Am I what?" Scotty narrows his eyes.

"Are you poking her?"

"Vera," you warn.

"I mean, you've been paired up with Sutton a lot. Guy's gotta wonder."

"Seriously Vera, cut the crap." You stare him down and he holds his hands up in defense.

"Hey, just a question," he picks up his drink again. "A fair one, you ask me."

"Yeah, well I didn't ask you," Scotty replies.

"Stop this," you warn. "The both of you." You give them both a glare, and stroll out of the bar, Scotty follows like a dog.


"Enough's enough," you say. "Stop it."

"Wait, do you want me to stop talking about Jo Sutton, or do you want me to stop talking, period?"

"Leave Josie be. Just… leave her."

He lets out a sharp laugh. "You're a piece of work, you know that?"

"I don't care what you think."

"Jo asks about you a lot, Lil."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Just what I said. She asks," he says. "You tell me."

You smile indulgently, not giving him the satisfaction of a frown. "Good night, Scotty."

A woman comes into the office, asking you to reopen her son's murder investigation. She says it will give you good karma. As if you need to be reminded.

"She just meant you should help others when they reach out to you," Jo translates, pointlessly.

"I know what she meant, ok?"

Jo watches you for a minute, as if she can't quite figure you out.

"Poker game's tonight, Lil," she's trying not to sound like she's just gotten her Homicide membership card. "You're coming, right?"

"You've obviously never played poker with Vera before," you shake your head.

"Well, that's the point. He invited me."

God knows why.

"He's a moody bastard, and I'm not up for it right now."


"I've got things to do this afternoon. Mother of the victim wants help packing up her house."

Jo knows she can never argue with you when you use work as your way out. She crosses her arms and sighs.

"Well, you're gonna have karma dribbling out your ears."

You start wearing your hair out, because Josie loves touching it. Her eyes wander over you at work, blonde hair in your face. Josie smiles, and knowingly, you smirk back. No one seems to notice. They're too busy watching the interactions between her and Scotty, like there's some sordid pattern they're meant to be enacting. If Scotty's aware of it, it doesn't bother him. He stops asking you questions about Josie, though. And one day, he mumbles something when you cross paths.

"Yeah….they're just rumors." He pauses. "With Jo, I mean."

You raise an eyebrow. "That's a tune change."

He shrugs. "Guy harassed her."

"The sergeant?"

"What I heard."

You smile. "So what you have are more rumors, then?"

At least these were ones you liked.

Josie doesn't like talking about them either way. Not even with you.

"Can't we just leave it? It's over now, anyway? What does it matter?'

"Fine." You cross your arms. "Anyway, you wanted me to invite you to First Thursdays. What do you say – you, me and a bunch of macho cops?" You try to sound teasing, but somehow your tone falls flat.

Josie rolls her eyes at you. "Makes no difference now, does it?"

You sigh. "Is there any way I can actually do right by you, Jo?"

"Look," she shrugs. "You don't want a big display. I don't want to give them any more of me than they already have. Explanations, as if they deserve it."

"They're my co-workers. My friends."

"Yeah, fantastic. Your friends can't wait to see the back of me, Lil."

You exhale and lean onto the bed. "You know, they're saying things about you and Scotty, now."

She squints. "Yeah, I know," then she looks at you. "Those guys? Any excuse to bitch about me."

"Josie, look-"

"No. No, stop defending them."

"Jo," you take hold of her hands, and press your forehead to hers. "You don't honestly think I'd believe any of that crap?"

She shrugs and bites her lip. She closes her eyes, rather than looking into yours.


She lets out a breath, almost a laugh. "You know, I'm running out of places to transfer to."

"Josie." You hold her face. "You didn't?" your voice breaks. "Please, don't…say it."

She narrows her eyes at you. Looks at you the way she looks at Vera. "You're just like them, aren't you?" She shakes her head and sighs. "Little Miss boys club."

"Jo, look. I know what it's like…"

"No," she bites her lip. "I don't think you do."

Now would be a good time to throw her some of your own horror stories, as bargaining tool. How your mother ripped a hole inside you that you doubt will ever mend. How your sister wrecked things with Scotty. How every unsatisfying relationship, every broken promise/date/heart, is like a foot kicking you lower until you decide maybe you're better off living with cats for the rest of your life.

But you don't say anything. You don't say any of it to Josie Sutton.

"Look, Jo," you start.

"Lilly," she smiles unconvincingly. "It's...It's fine."

"But I don't want..." You let her take hold of your face. She kisses you like she's trying to draw blood.

"It's not about what you want, Lil."

You have sex for the last time, right there in your apartment, with a cat scratching furniture in the next room. It's the last time you're alone with her.

Scotty doesn't talk to you about why Sutton left. You only know the rumors got to her, and if you'd preempted her pig-headedness, maybe you'd have been able to save her. But you can't see the music here, can't touch the past victims of your own present. You can save a stranger's mother from oblivion, but you can't seem to stop people from leaving you.

The End

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