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trek: team
ninety6tears

dublin murder squad fic: trading cards

Title: Trading Cards
(one-shot, 3170 words)
Characters: Cassie & Rob
Summary: Every detective has a type of case that's particularly tough for them to deal with. They don't always talk about the reasons why.
Timeline/Spoilers: In The Woods (pre-Operation Vestal)
Rating: R
Warnings: Non-graphic descriptions of rape and murder of a teenager.
A/N: I've had a few different ideas for fics for this series and this really wasn't the one I expected to get out there first, but y'know, I guess something devoid of the cracky tropes and AU premises running around my head is a good place to start. I can't tell you how excited and nervous I am about writing for this canon, which has so little fandom activity for it that even using a word like "canon" in its vicinity feels kind of weird. *hides* I have other fandom projects in the way right now but I do really really hope to write more for DMS in the future.
Because the LJ readership is so small and this is a short one, this isn't beta'd, but anyone who might be willing to offer that service in the future can feel free to tell me so ;)
Also: I don't remember if it's mentioned in the book whether Rob was sent to any kind of therapist (and I think probably not) but I imagine one might have been involved at least immediately after the Knocknaree incident, so I took liberty with it.








She jolted awake once from a terrible dream, startled from the firm touch at her shoulder and flailing to whip open the drawer of her cabinet where she kept her pistol, until she heard the words "Cassie, hey, Cassie" and she drew back, breathing out, meeting Rob's widened eyes as her own were still un-blotting to let the room in.

"I forgot you were here," she gasped out, grimacing at herself. It had been the first night he was too drunk to drive home from her flat and she wasn't used to the late company.

"Understandable; you were asleep." His voice was sardonic mixed with the tang of apparent worry. It was light outside, but with the curtains drawn and the day young enough the place was gray and misshapen. Stripes of light illuminated his jacket, and she was trying to remember if he'd gone to sleep fully dressed like that.

"Are you alright?" Rob asked. "Christ, Cass. When you have a nightmare you don't fool around."

Even though her heart was still racing she could tell she hadn't gotten nearly enough sleep; she blinked and made a grumbling noise of protest. He was standing back up from where he'd sat next to her when any delayed response to his question was interrupted by her mobile ringing, and she groaned again; it was on the windowsill and felt miles away.

She made an irritable flinch when he got her legs out of the way to sit back down more snugly this time, picking up her phone for her. Then he cheerily said, "Maddox," and her head popped up in a spurt of annoyance until the phone rang again and she said, "Oh, you fucker." They both knew the likelihood of it being some kind of awkward for her if some man picked up the phone for her at this hour.

"Unidentified," he read off and then slipped the phone under her hand. "Not that I couldn't just be popping by for breakfast," he said, in belated reference to the little prank.

It rang once more; she wasn't sure she could use big words yet and decided to let it go. She mumbled, "It's that late?"

He pulled and presented her own arm from under the covers into her hazy vision, displaying the watch she always left on her right wrist. She grumbled a dirty word and rolled over.

"It's bloody cold in your flat," Rob thoughtfully complained as she felt him getting up off the futon, and then she heard his deep brooky sniggering. "Did your aunt ever rip the blanket off of you when you wouldn't get up?"

"No—Oh God Rob, don't. Rob—!"

Her legs clung strongly in the blankets as he tried to tear them off her, resulting in a twisting wrestle over her bottom quilt. He was unfairly already giddy with coffee and it all somehow ended up on the floor with static snapping through their hair and her flannels, Rob yelping in mock urgency, "Help!—I'm being assaulted by a gymnast!" which earned him a knee jeered into his ribs before she hoisted herself up, eyes smiling over a yawn. Rob lazily lay there regaining his breath from laughing after his arms were freed from the tangle, while she disappeared just around the wall into her tiny wardrobe.

She was shaking out a sweater and then tossing it onto her shoulder when he asked, "You get nightmares often?"

Her glance tilted at him just around the threshold for a second. She liked that he didn't ask what the dream actually was. With a sigh she said, "I don't know. Maybe it's that unsolved rape case Costello was telling us about yesterday."

There must have been some tone of defeated admission to how she said it, because he was passively reassuring: "Everyone has a kind of case that's really tough for them, I think."

"Predictably..." He couldn't see her but she shrugged. "That's mine."

"What do you mean predictably?"

Something stilled through the air; she heard a dull tap against the floor as she met her own face in the long mirror, and she could easily picture the odd sight of Rob with his torso still absurdly half-cocooned by cotton and hair slightly licked up around eyes squinted in curious concern, his head turning in her direction and then bumping to the carpet as he realized he shouldn't have asked.

Flicking off the bulb and emerging from the wardrobe, she crossed her arms and leaned a shoulder into the wall, calmly replying, "I just meant because I'm a woman. Now are you going to get off the floor and make us some toast or what?"





She'd known Rob for more than a couple months when there was a group food run from the office to the walking-distance Chinese. They were waiting in line behind this kid named Sweeney who along some idle circuit had gotten on the topic of two children who'd disappeared over fifteen years before. Rob was looking with rather heavy deliberation at the menu when Cassie hijacked the subject.

"It's weird to think about that kid."

Rob muttered something that sounded like "crap egg rolls," then after a second he flatly said, "Which kid."

"The one who survived...Adam something."

"Ryan."

"Oh, that's easy to remember," she said with a brief smirk. "But to think he's just out there somewhere. You ever wonder what that whole thing would do to a kid's head?"

"No." The reply was unexpectedly blunt, but there was something in the slightest crook of Rob's mouth, and thinking it was cheekiness, she elbowed him.

"Well, I don't," he laughed, elbowing back.

This surprised her. He got as detached as anybody in their profession, but he had a rough time with kids being involved and she would have expected at least a show of grim curiosity regardless of how buried this case was. But then Adam Ryan wasn't their type of victim. He had survived, and he would hardly be a child now anyway.

Later that night when he pulled up at her flat, he got quiet. Already used to the different colors of silences their relationship handled, she sat cozily bobbing her knee to the Wilco song on his radio. Then when the song was over she turned the volume all the way down. "If you want to come in I've still got that Bushmills."

"...Listen," Rob said.

It wasn't quite like that moment so much later when she would finally still in front of her fridge and tell him calmly to shut up a moment, I'm trying to tell you something here. But she stirred to a calm attention, resting her cheek below the headrest as she leaned a bit toward him and waited. Their glances fidgeted between each other for a few seconds.

But then with a motion like a shiver, Rob scoffed and said, "Nevermind. Yeah," in a rushed blur.

She gave a little laugh of frustration. "What?"

"Sure, I'm for another drink, but you may have to put me up."

One hand was at the door handle as her other nudged at him. "Stop asking permission."

"I wasn't asking," he said with a smile.

The night before he'd been putting on his jacket and answering her question about why with something about calling a taxi before she said, "Yeah, well, don't." After lying down they'd repeatedly broken the sleepy silence with sniggery comments, like children at a sleepover, and after falling asleep Cassie had dreamed only deep safe things.

That night sailed by in about the same way, but then the next day O'Kelly shuffled a couple cases and they got handed a 16-year-old girl who was found strangled in the back of her own car, short notice to get their asses over to the morgue and then Cooper saying "sexual assault." Rob asked her if she was alright on the way down the marbley outdoor steps. Instead of really answering she grumbled, "Fuck it. Let's get a pint."

The morning after she still had a dark sticky feeling between hopped-up and seriously depressed, softened at least by Rob doing a decently funny imitation of the narky receptionist when they found themselves in a waiting room a little bit before lunch.

Their girl had made it to an appointment the day she'd been murdered so they needed to pay a visit to her therapist, a pricy private shrink whose office shared a waiting room with an equally private pediatric clinic. These things tended to run overdue even when you called ahead to tell them somebody important was paying a visit, and this guy's secretary had given them some aloof ambiguity about maybe or maybe not canceling client meetings. They planted themselves on the stiff couches and, once a strawberry-haired girl was escorted into the physician's office with her mother, it was just the two of them.

"Check it out." Rob was sliding one of the forlorn artifacts of waiting room games closer to his side of the table. It was a decidedly superfluous set of Hungry Hungry Hippos; he said, "I haven't seen one of these since the 80's."

She had her clipboard open on the same slim table, sitting on the floor for better access, and knocked it against the toy in mild annoyance as it was butting into her space. "Infant. I'm working here."

Unfazed, he started to arrange all the white marbles out of the collection pots; the armies of toddlers had absconded with too many of them and there were only about half a dozen. He tested one chomping hippo and said, "Ready to psychoanalyze someone else's psychoanalyzing?"

She rolled her eyes slightly and spoke candidly. "I don't look forward to the therapists. Always wary of giving away too much. Confidentiality is sacred even when the client is dead."

"I can't really blame it. I wouldn't have wanted my shrink telling the cops my deepest secrets even if I was a goner. Not that I had anything terribly interesting going on with my psyche or anything."

"Does it matter as much when you're so young?" Cassie pulled the game a bit farther towards her, choosing the hippopotamus with one of its stuck-on eyes missing. He smiled crookedly when she released a marble and they went at it with their levers. "Wait, you went to therapy? As a kid?"

He hadn't explicitly admitted it, but something had made her wonder. "Only a couple times," Rob said, "and it might have been more than that if they'd known just what to do with me."

He caught the marble and cocked an eyebrow; they released the rest of them and went willy-nilly, the room popping now with the noise of plastic hitting plastic.

"Should we assume that she was secretive? I know they say all teenage girls are..."

"All teenagers are. Why did they put you in therapy?" She teased, "Were you a bully or were you bullied?"

"Bullied, you might say."

Her attention flickered at the not-so-playful edge of his voice. "What happened?"

"My two best mates disappeared when I was twelve."

Cassie's hippo had gotten lockjaw; there was a squeaky little din as she tried to unjam it, and when her head caught up to her ears she gave Rob a frown, scolding, "That's not funny, Ryan."

"I'd say not."

She squinted at him with an odd look.

"I told you, remember, Robert's my middle name?...My first name is Adam," he said, and there was that odd hint of a laugh in it that he only did when he was telling the truth absolutely, not thinking he'd be believed. Suddenly she was speechless.

The door they were waiting on opened with a seemingly sudden gust of motion and the two of them snapped up to standing. Cassie cleared her throat and sensed Rob trying to nudge the game outside of the psychiatrist's line of sight as he came to stand by her and nearly laughed at that; he caught it and she felt him stamping lightly on her foot as she managed to start introducing herself.





When they were done with the shrink they stopped on a bench outside for a smoke. Cassie sat facing into the bench with one arm rested over the back, cross-legged, while Rob checked over some middle section of her notes as if he would actually be able to understand them.

He asked her some speculative questions about how they should go about this; neither of them had said but they would both be presuming it was probably some college-aged or otherwise inappropriate boyfriend and the fact that nobody could vouch for the girl having had a boy toy certainly didn't make this idea less likely. But Cassie grew impatient as this subject kept on. Finally, when Rob had shut up for a second, she blew out some smoke and said, "You weren't taking the piss, were you?"

Rob sat back a little and then looked straight at her.

"...Adam Ryan?" She waited for him to deny it or start laughing to finally confirm that it was a joke, and when he didn't she took a long, tense drag. She stiffened. "I mean, of course. Your last name's Ryan, you grew up in Knocknaree, you got shipped off to go to school with the preppies right around the time—"

He was starting to laugh.

"What?" she snapped, suddenly irritated and feeling like there somehow wasn't enough air around for her to take in.

"You're annoyed that you didn't figure it out on your own."

"Well, yeah," she admitted.

"I sort of thought you might, eventually. But then I thought that might have been awkward."

"Because it wasn't awkward at all just then."

"You did alright." She knew what he meant and she agreed, she'd managed to completely forget the conversation for the most part while they were in the office, but still. He saw that something still wasn't pacified in her expression and got a bit more serious, saying, "Sorry."

"No, no," she muttered with assuring motions. "Just...who else knows?"

"No one else on the squad. I told this broody girl I was dating a very long time ago—"

"Gemma the Juicer?" Cassie leapt in.

"That one," he confirmed regretfully. "And obviously my family knows, and now...you," he finished simply. His voice was a little deliberately relaxed and it made her instantly crushed under some protective, futile emotion. For a short moment she had to sit there trying to realize the gift and the weight she'd just been given. They'd only known each other a handful of months.

"Rob." She wiped a hand at her mouth, and it stayed suspended there for a minute. "I'm so sorry."

He did not rebuff the sympathy, but after a moment he managed to give her a smart look and ask, "So why'd you drop out of university?"

"I told you," she smirked and gave him the lightest kick with the tip of her foot. "They wouldn't let you smoke in class."

Much later that night ("This is becoming a bad habit," Rob said, "I'm paying Heather way too much rent to pass out here.") Rob propped his head up from where it had rested on the cheap pillow while she was fiddling with the alarm settings on her phone. "Hey. Thanks."

She gave him a groggy look. "For what?"

A silence went by. "For not asking me if I remembered anything."

"Now, why would I do a thing like that?"

She heard a breath that could have been a small laugh. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight, you."





Somebody was holding her down, somebody with hot sick breath and a vice grip. It was only when the panic shut into heart-hammering speed that she woke up. The shocked post-nightmare sit-ups in movies are a myth; mostly the worst dreams just make her immediately cringe into a ball, rocking herself under the blankets for a couple seconds and just seething in inner punches of Fuck fuck fuck.

A few minutes later she was wiping cold water off of her face with the hand towel and she looked steadily into her own eyes in the mirror while her hands angrily gripped the sink. One of her feet was bobbing in a never-ending anxious tremor.

Oddly, she had forgotten about him—and his threats—quite thoroughly while she'd been working undercover. Maybe it had been as simple as having somebody on the other end of a surveillance kit who would have had a cop at her door at the drop of a hat if she so much as let out a scream, but at the same time she wondered if it had simply been a cold insistence that she wasn't going to let any of that get in the way of more immediate threats she was dealing with, so it hadn't.

These days were different. You're getting soft, Maddox, she thought with a steely smirk. And she knew who was partly to blame for that.

She had it right then, and it wasn't the first time: a reaching voice that shouted in her mind that she should go out there and shake Rob awake and sit him up and tell him the whole gritty story about the animal who was the reason she had nightmares, get it over with while she had the guts and wanted somebody to talk it into feeling less raw. Especially after what she'd now learned about him, it seemed—it wasn't right to look at it this way, but—fair.

No. She looked like a pale mess in the mirror and there was no way she could get into telling somebody about it without her hands shaking; it would be ghastly. The same part of her wanted to ask him, simply enough, how long it is before you figure out how to feel safe, but she wasn't sure whether or not he would have the answer. Maybe it was enough just to know that either way he'd understand a little better than most people would.

Something in her was resigned, and in a fluid quick motion she flicked off the bathroom light and opened the door, spilling in a Rob who'd been sitting against it and now fell back, sniggering.

He was carefully pinching a cigarette while his other arm grappled at the threshold to pull himself back up. "What are you doing?" she demanded on a laugh as she gave a nudge to help scoop him off the floor. After a second she slid down next to him.

"I heard you get up," Rob said, handing her the smoke. "Thought you'd want to have one."

Huddling her legs up to sit cross-legged, she took the cigarette in her fingers, not thinking of getting up to turn any lights back on. She did not ask him why he got up after her, and he did not ask her what had gotten her up. But they sat there, talking about anything and everything else, until the sun came up.






---

  • 1
*squeeeee*

Everytime Cassie crosses her legs I'm happy. Such a small thing but perfect, like Rob using the Hungry, Hungry Hippos game as a prop while he's confessing his past. That was genius.

But mostly I love how they get closer and closer and Cassie still can't quite say it. It's enough that he's there. *happy sigh*

Cassie is the cross-legged cartwheeling woman of my heart. And I'm glad you liked the Hungry Hippos bit (originally it was going to be that boxing robots game but apparently those didn't really catch on in Ireland).
Thanks, I'm happy you enjoyed it!

I really like this insight into the beginnings of their relationship, the halting ways they start to trust and let each other in. <3

(And tell us more about those cracky premises and AUs! :)

Yay, thank you!

And tell us more about those cracky premises and AUs! LOL, *hides* My craziest idea falls into the realm of fantasy/supernaturalish stuff. I'm also toying with something that involves what might have happened if Lexie and Rob had bumped into each other at some point.

*happy sigh*

You know, I’ve been wanting to read Cassie and Rob fic for so long that now that is happening I can’t even handle it lol. It just makes me so happy. And I am particularly delighted that you wrote a pre-Operation Vestal fic because it’s impossible not to love their dynamics as BFF. I feel like you nailed them here and if Tana never tells me otherwise, this is gonna be my canon for the beginnings of their relationship :)

I just love so many things about this: their constant amusement and banter and how they enjoy each other's company, their tentativeness, how Rob confesses his secret but Cassie can’t quite open up to him. Little details like Cassie crossing her legs and them listening to Wilco and Gemma the Juicer. The Hungry, Hungry Hippos moment was really well done and the ending is lovely. And I am intrigued to learn more about your cracky ideas, hee. Most of all, I really hope you write more for them. <3


Edited at 2012-04-26 09:03 pm (UTC)

I love that you mention such little details because with how Tana writes them it really is the small stuff that makes me feel like I'm in the room with her characters and the attempt to revive that is part of what makes it kind of daunting writing for this canon. The fact that you've assimilated some of this as fanon is such a high compliment :) And haha, I thought the Hungry Hungry Hippos thing was almost too silly especially for a serious moment, but at the same time I guess that was kind of the point.

And I am intrigued to learn more about your cracky ideas, hee. Ah, god. Among other things I'm actually losing my mind over this crazy, uh, werewolf/shapeshifter AU idea. I laughed while typing that, but seriously.

I love this so much - Rob and Cassie are such complicated characters that they never really go for the obvious, and you captured that - as well as that vibe between them, the way they just get each other and accept each other's support without really needing words - so beautifully.

Thank you! <3 These characters make me nervous so the fact that you feel I hit the right notes with them makes me beyond happy :)

Aww, this was nice. Very them and I had missed them!

So glad I can read it now. :-)

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