Love Me Warm and Tender
If Lilly's feet touched the tile floor of the lobby when she entered Headquarters the next morning, she wasn't aware of it. Her face hurt from the smile that had more or less become a permanent fixture. She was sure her co-workers would know something was up. No doubt they'd look at her strangely and demand to know if she was sick or something. But she was just so damn in love with Scotty Valens she couldn't be bothered to care.
She'd always heard things like this could happen when one was in love, but she'd never experienced it until now. The crystal-blue sky outside looked bluer than she'd ever seen it. The echoes of voices bounced off the walls of the lobby with far more cheer than usual. The coffee from the wagon outside was richer and more aromatic, not bitter the way it usually was. Hell, even the bell on the elevator as it dinged to alert her to its arrival sounded a bit perkier than she remembered.
Stepping inside, Lilly pressed the button, then closed her eyes, took a sip of coffee, and sank back into the heat of memories from last night. She'd looked into Scotty's bottomless eyes millions of times over the years, but never had she seen them so rich with love or so dark with desire. She'd felt his hands on her before, but never with such passion and adoration. She'd heard him talk to her for years, but never had she heard his voice so thick with feeling and want. Never had she heard such beautiful words of love pour from his lips. And no one—no one—had ever touched the very depths of her heart the way Scotty had. Every kiss, every caress, every whispered word lodged themselves in a place she thought she'd long ago locked away.
The elevator door gave a sudden lurch, and Lilly's eyes snapped open to reveal a bronze hand sliding between the two halves just before they closed. A hand she knew well, attached to a body she now knew in its entirety. All of it connected to a boyish, self-satisfied smirk she'd seen for years, but never once been the cause of.
"Hey," she said around a delighted giggle. It took her a moment to realize Scotty wasn't supposed to be here, that he didn't work here anymore. But she wasn't about to complain. Especially not with him stealing around behind her and sliding warm, strong arms around her waist just as the doors thunked shut.
"Mornin'." She could hear the grin in his voice. Feel it against her skin as he planted kisses along the side of her neck. "Well. Mornin' again, I should say."
Chuckling, Lilly let her head fall back onto his shoulder so his gentle ministrations could continue, but a current of curiosity thrummed alongside her building desire.
"What are you doing here?" The question came out sounding like a purr, and Scotty laughed quietly against her skin.
"Dunno exactly." He turned her around and pressed a quick kiss to her lips, then pulled back and gazed at her with adoring brown eyes. "Sergeant Beckett called right after you left this mornin'. Said I needed to come down to Headquarters for a meeting."
"A meeting." Frowning, Lilly toyed with the close-cropped hair at the nape of his neck. "She say what it's about?"
"Mmmm." His eyes slid closed. "Prob'ly just...somethin' I forgot to sign."
With the transfer. He hadn't said the words, but they hung heavy in the air anyway. Lilly's heart gave a quiet pang. What had happened between them in the last twelve hours didn't change the fact that they weren't partners anymore. That he worked in a different building now. That his desk would still be empty.
"Hey." Scotty must've sensed the change in her mood, because his eyes were now open and seeking hers in earnest. "I may not be workin' with you anymore, but I'm here. We're together. Nothin's gonna change that." He grinned. "You're gonna see more than enough of me no matter what."
Lilly smiled. "Scotty, there's no such thing as enough of you."
With a quiet groan, he claimed her lips, and she plunged greedily back into the ocean of ecstasy that had been hers since that conversation last night on the rooftop. His hot mouth was familiar territory now; his firm lips, his questing tongue, those talented hands tugging at her elastic and freeing her hair to spill down over her shoulders.
On sudden impulse, she swooped over and pressed the emergency stop button. He stared at her for a couple seconds, breathless, then closed the scant distance between them and pressed her against the wall of the elevator. His fingers tangled in her hair, his body melted into hers, and all the newly-sensitive places he'd awakened last night begged for his expert touch.
"How long do we have before someone thinks this thing's broken?" she asked as he scorched a trail of kisses down the side of her neck.
"Dunno. Couple minutes, I think."He pulled back to look at her, the desire in his eyes making it clear they were both thinking the same thing. And then his lips quirked. He let out a quiet chuckle, one that echoed hers.
There wasn't enough time. Not now. Not today. Real life had bled into the edges of their lusty bubble. He had a meeting. She had a new case to crack open.
With a self-conscious grin and one last, relatively chaste kiss, he stepped away to straighten his tie, while she reluctantly pressed the button to resume the elevator's upward progress and hastily repaired the damage to her hair. She was just tightening the elastic when the elevator dinged and the door slid open.
Kat stood on the other side, her weight shifted to one hip, her arms folded across her chest. Her lips curved when she saw them; dark eyes bounced from Lilly to Scotty and back again.
"Mmmmhmm." One eyebrow arched knowingly, Kat stepped between them and into the elevator. She was still eyeing them, her smirk a mixture of smugness and genuine satisfaction, when the doors slid shut.
Lilly blew out a breath. "Well, I guess Miller knows now."
But Scotty didn't seem to be paying attention. He was still glancing over his shoulder at the elevator. "Y'know, I think I'm gonna put that elevator on the list."
"Y'know. The List. Of places." The wiggle of his eyebrows cleared up any lingering doubts as to the meaning of his words.
"Oh." Heat crept into her cheeks. "I didn't know you had a list."
He stepped as close to her as was professionally acceptable. "Oh, yeah. I got a list. A long one."
"Okay." Grinning wickedly, Lilly stretched up to whisper in his ear. "Make sure the interview room is on there."
Pleased at his shocked expression, she turned around and sauntered into the squad room.
Scotty gulped a few breaths as he watched Lilly sashay into the office, her hastily-repaired ponytail swaying to and fro. Good God, the things that woman could do to him. Just a glimpse of one creamy, slightly freckled shoulder over the bedcovers that morning had been enough to light the fire. He hadn't wanted to wake her. Not really. But desire had proven too insistent to ignore.
Thankfully, she hadn't seemed to mind. Her eyes had fluttered open, glanced around in surprise for a moment, then darkened with want as she realized where she was, and why.
The bliss that followed cut him off at the knees. Just like in his bed the night before. And again on the couch. And again on the kitchen table.
That was what had inspired the creation of The List, but he hadn't thought to include locations at Headquarters. Not until that wicked, wicked suggestion of hers, the one that had threatened the thin barrier of control he'd only barely managed to assemble after their interlude on the elevator.
Lilly Rush would be the death of him, he decided as he pulled in another deep, cooling breath and paced the small hallway for a moment. A lust-drenched, delicious death.
Maybe it was a good thing they weren't working together anymore.
He peeked into the squad room to see Lilly and Vera standing with Will, poring through one of the familiar white cardboard evidence boxes. Scotty couldn't see the name or the year on the end of the box, couldn't even hazard a guess as to how old the case was, or the circumstances of the person's death. As Lilly's slender ivory hands plunged into the box again and again, withdrawing file after file bursting with notes and interviews that would help their victim speak from the beyond, a lump formed in his throat. God, he missed this.
But he had Lilly. That was the important part. That lovely creature with the blonde hair and the sapphire eyes. She was his, and he was hers. Wholly and completely, they belonged to each other. Nothing could change that, no matter where he worked.
But damn, was he homesick.
Clearing the emotion from his throat, he turned and strode down the hallway toward the conference room, where he was already a couple minutes late to the meeting. As the door creaked open, he was surprised to see Lieutenant Stillman sitting at the table, along with Sergeant Beckett and Deputy Commissioner Hudson.
Scotty's stomach knotted. What the hell had he done this time?
"Good to see you, Scotty," Stillman said from across the table.
"You, too, Boss." Scotty lowered himself into the nearest available chair, which he realized, too late, was right next to Sergeant Beckett. His actual boss. She watched him, amusement flickering in deep greenish-gold eyes.
"Sorry, Sarge," he said with a nervous chuckle. "Old habits."
Beckett replied with a warm smile. "No harm, no foul, Detective." Shifting slightly in her seat, she tossed a lock of chestnut hair over her shoulder. "Turns out that might not have been so wrong after all."
Scotty frowned. "I'm sorry?"
Across the table to Stillman's left, Deputy Commissioner Hudson cleared his throat. "Detective, I called this meeting in part to congratulate you on your work on the Newman case."
"Oh. Thanks. Just doin' my job." Scotty's left leg bounced slightly under the table. If they really wanted to congratulate him, a letter of commendation would suffice. There had to be more to it than that. And what was Stillman doing here?
"Well, your job didn't go unnoticed." Hudson withdrew from a slender black notebook a piece of expensive-looking stationery. "I received this note from Gina Newman herself yesterday afternoon." Slipping a pair of reading glasses from the pocket of his decorated uniform, he unfolded the note and began to read aloud.
"'To whom it may concern: I wanted to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Detectives Valens and Mendoza, as well as the entire Philadelphia Police Department, for their tireless efforts in recovering and returning to me all the stolen jewelry. This jewelry was worth far more to me than its monetary value, and I cannot even begin to describe the joy I felt this morning upon its safe return. Knowing the level of professionalism, expertise, and dedication represented in the Department, I can rest easy tonight knowing I, and all Philadelphians, are safe and secure on its watch.'"
Lowering the note, Hudson eyed Scotty over its edge and slipped off his reading glasses. "The letter also came with a sizable donation. Very, very sizable."
Scotty flashed a nervous grin. "Well, that's good, right?"
"So what's that got to do with me?"
"The, uh…the check came with a stipulation."
Scotty's fingers danced nervously on the tabletop. "What kind of stipulation?"
Hudson cleared his throat. "Mrs. Newman would like to see you return to Homicide, Detective Valens."
Blinking in surprise, Scotty glanced around the table at his old boss, his new boss, and his bosses' boss. Of course. It all made sense now.
"So what you're sayin' is…if I stay in Northwest and don't go back to Homicide, then you all don't get that fat check."
"I realize this is a lot to ask, given that you've just transferred," Hudson said uncomfortably, "but I'm sure you can appreciate the gravity of the situation. So we're asking you, Detective, to...take one for the team."
Scotty stared, disbelieving, as a grin spread slowly across his face. Never had irony tasted so sweet.
"Well, then." A bubble of laughter burst forth; he covered it quickly with a cough. "Looks like I don't got much of a choice."
Across the table, Stillman gave a nod and a small smile. "The cold case unit will, of course, welcome you back with open arms." The amused twinkle in his eyes suggested that his word choice was intentional. Did Boss know?
Wait. Of course he knew. He was Boss. He always knew.
Hudson nodded his approval, then turned dark, almost pleading eyes on Beckett. "Sergeant? Will this be all right with you?"
"Whatever's best for the Department." Beckett's lips curved slightly over the rim of her coffee mug. "I'm sure we can find Mendoza someone else to pick on."
Hudson's eyes swept around the little group. "So do we have an agreement?"
Beckett and Stillman nodded, and Scotty smiled as wide as he dared. "Yes, sir. We have an agreement."
With a huge sigh of relief, the deputy commissioner rose from his seat and began shaking hands all around the table. "Thank you, Detective. The Department appreciates your willingness to be flexible."
"Well, like you said. Just takin' one for the team." That refrain had taken on a whole new meaning in the last few minutes. He was going back to his team. His family. His desk.
He was going back home to Homicide. To Lilly.
And he couldn't wait to see the look on her face when he told her.
With an impatient hand, Lilly brushed her bangs out of her eyes, then turned a page in the age-yellowed notes she was trying to decipher. A thirty-year-old case was difficult enough, but the original detective's atrocious handwriting—and even worse syntax—made this job all the tougher. Seriously, what the hell? Was that a Q? A G? And this word here, the one that looked like 'plyebgushbw,' that had to have some meaning, but damned if she could—
A box thumped on the desk.
Not her desk.
Panic prickled in her gut. No. No. She wasn't ready for a new—no. It couldn't be.
Wait. It really couldn't be a new partner. Scotty had left due to budget cuts. For them to replace him now would defy all logic and reason, even by the Department's generous standards.
Heart pounding, Lilly slid cautious eyes over, and that was when she saw the pile of belongings being unloaded from the box.
A gym bag.
An extra shirt.
A set of keys on an Eagles keyring.
Her head snapped up, and there he was. Scotty. Absolutely beaming as he dug a baseball out of the box.
"Scotty, are you…?" She hardly dared to speak the word, lest this prove to just be some wondrous dream.
"I'm back, Lil." She could tell from the shine in his eyes that he was just barely containing his urge to shout in triumph.
"Back for good?"
"Yeah." His grin widened. She hadn't thought that was possible. "Couldn't stay away."
Joy burst in her heart. True to form, her mind buzzed with questions, trying to put the pieces together. This had to have been what Scotty's mysterious morning meeting was about, and she was sure he'd tell her the details at some point. But right now, those details didn't matter. What mattered was that he was back, he was here, but not yet in her arms.
She needed to fix that.
She'd just started to rise from her desk when the gruff clearing of a throat stopped her in her tracks.
"Well, well," Vera said with a smirk as he strolled through the squad room, donut in hand. "If it ain't the prodigal son."
"Good to be back, Nicky." A mischievous gleam in his dark eyes, Scotty tossed the baseball to himself, drawing a scowl from Vera as he plopped down into his seat.
Jaw clenched with frustration, Lilly settled back into her chair. Whether Nick had already figured out what was going on with them or not, his presence meant she had to remain far more professional with Scotty right now than she wanted to.
"Meet me in Observation. Two minutes." Scotty's whisper caressed the curve of her left ear. Startled, she glanced up to see him stash the shirt and the gym bag in the bottom drawer, stuff the rest of the contents of the box into the center drawer, and saunter away with the empty box, a decided bounce in his step.
Observation. Two minutes.
Heat creeping into her cheeks, an insistent smile tugging at her lips, she hastily lowered her gaze back to the desk. God help her if Vera saw her right now. She didn't dare glance in his direction.
When the two minutes were up, she rose coolly from the desk, file in hand, and headed for Observation. Mercifully, there was no smart-ass comment from Vera to chase her in.
The moment she entered the room, Scotty's mouth was on hers. Ecstatic. Celebratory. Hungry. The file fell to the floor as she wrapped her arms around him. Laughing, he broke the kiss, spun her in a circle, then lowered her, dizzy, to the ground, where he claimed her lips once more.
At length, he pulled away, his eyes sparkling. "Better?"
"Better." Lilly's cheeks were cramping again, but the deep peace settling in her center made her barely even notice. Scotty was back. He was here. He'd come back for her. She knew now that her heart was safe in his keeping. He really wasn't going to leave her. Never again.
Three quick raps on the door popped her bubble of bliss. Mercifully, there was enough of a pause for Lilly to smooth her shirt and Scotty to straighten his tie before the door creaked open to reveal a grinning Will Jeffries. His eyes traveled from Lilly to Scotty to the files scattered on the floor, and his smile widened.
"Boss wants to talk to all of us," he said smoothly.
"Thanks, Will," she replied.
Her colleague's expression said everything his words hadn't as he turned to stroll back into the office, then paused and looked back over his shoulder. "Welcome back, Scotty."
Grinning, Scotty smoothed his hair. "Yeah. Thanks."
The door clicked shut, and Lilly blew out a shaky breath. "Guess this'll take some trial and error."
"Sounds like a fun challenge." Scotty leaned in to press a quick kiss to her cheek, then opened the door and motioned for her to go first, which she did, willing herself to keep the color out of her cheeks.
"You got the notes from Detective Herman?" Vera asked as she settled into her seat.
Notes? What notes?
Lilly's efforts to keep from blushing met with abject failure.
"These what you're lookin' for?" Scotty held out the notes to Vera, who looked between the two of them and smirked.
"That's exactly what I'm lookin' for. Thanks."
"Thanks," Lilly echoed, glancing appreciatively toward Scotty as he sat down at his desk.
"We all here?" Stillman stood just outside his office, a sheaf of papers in his hand.
"Comin', Boss." Miller hurried in from the kitchen and took her seat.
"Good." The boss straightened his glasses. "As many of you know, Detective Valens has rejoined us."
The squad erupted into cheers and applause, and Scotty took a mock half-bow.
Stillman looked extremely pleased. "As a reward for his hard work on the burglary at her house, Gina Newman has insisted—most emphatically—that he return to his rightful place in Homicide."
"I'll bet she has," Vera muttered, drawing a dark glare from Scotty.
Stillman smiled, seemingly oblivious to their repartee. "Welcome back, Scotty. You were missed."
Scotty grinned. "Thanks, Boss."
"Now, on a completely unrelated note…" Stillman eyed the squad over the rims of his glasses. "I've decided now is as good a time as any to remind you all of the Department's policy on interpersonal relationships."
Lilly's stomach plunged to the floor, and her cheeks flamed anew. She couldn't look at Scotty. Or her co-workers. Or…anything at all. She settled for the window, just to the left of the boss.
"Officially, relationships within a unit are frowned upon. But…" Stillman cleared his throat. "Unofficially, we're all adults here. Our personal lives should remain just that. Personal. I see no need to get involved, or to have the brass get involved, in anything that…may or may not be happening…or may or may not happen in the future…so long as you all don't let whatever happens, or doesn't happen, interfere with the job."
Lilly couldn't hide her smile as she looked toward her boss. The lieutenant appeared simultaneously proud and uncomfortable as he glanced at her, then at Scotty, and then, amusingly, at Miller and Vera, whose eyes were glued to their respective desks.
"You keep your personal business away from here, and I'll keep the brass out of your personal business. Do I make myself clear?" The boss was trying very hard to look stern, but he wasn't fooling a soul, and Lilly's heart warmed.
"Crystal," she heard Miller say behind her, then joined the chorus of agreement.
"Excellent." Stillman sounded relieved. "Now, where are we on the McIntyre case?"
Will was the first to speak, and Lilly glanced around the squad while he did so. Vera smirked at Kat, who grinned back, her eyes sparkling with both affection and good-natured annoyance. Kat glanced her way, looked briefly startled, and then pointed, ever so slightly, from Lilly to Scotty and back again.
Lilly nodded, and Kat's smile melted from amused to proud.
Feeling another pair of eyes on her, she turned toward Scotty, who was indeed caressing her with his gaze. Those cocoa-rich eyes spoke both of everything he was going to do to her later, ideas that heated her blood and brought goose bumps to her arms, and everything he was going to do with her. Not just tonight. But tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. And on and on, as far as either of them could plan. The love shining there told her that, whatever lay ahead, he was going to be there for all of it.
Lilly looked back at him, returning his silent promise. She'd be there for him. No matter what.
She wouldn't miss it for the world.