Pairing/Character: Duncan, Lamb
Word Count: 1800
Summary: There’s a figure on his front porch, and Duncan knows before he can fully parse the shape of the shadow that the past has finally caught up. He’s known for years that this day would come.
Spoilers/Warnings: Through "Donut Run". Goes all futurefic after that.
Author's Notes: I wanted to write something slashy, but alas, they just wouldn't slash. Oh well. Written for duncanfest and x-posted to veronicamarsfic and fic_from_mars.
Lilly is five now, and she is nothing like her namesake. She’s a good girl, nothing willful or disobedient about her.
Lilly is turning into an honest-to-god person now, and she doesn’t look like her mother at all. She’s got brown hair and blue eyes like her father, and when Duncan wants to, he can pretend that she came from him and him alone. That she sprang fully-formed from his head like some mythological idea that he had. He doesn’t do that often, though. He knows nothing he could have simply imagined would have ever turned out so well.
It seems disloyal, anyway; the act of forgetting. It was easy to want to do at first. Bury the raw ache he felt when he thought of Meg, who was so unflinchingly good, of the original Lilly who was so vibrant, of Veronica, who was unfathomably strong. But time has dulled the sharp edges, and the memories are like seaglass now. Polished smooth, and beauty out of broken things. Now the only part that hurts is that not one of them is here to see how beautiful his daughter is, hair flying out behind her like ribbons as she pounds down the shore ahead of him on sturdy little legs.
Lilly likes to build sandcastles, but she disdains the pails Duncan uses when he makes his alongside her. He likes his fortresses smooth and rounded, but she likes shaping things out of her hands. They don’t look like any castles he’s ever seen, but she pronounces them perfect - large, teetering piles of sand that threaten to crash down. She squirms and giggles when he puts sunscreen on her, He never lets her in the water alone.
They’ve been in Italy for almost a year now, and he thinks it’s probably time for moving on. She’ll need to start school soon. He doesn’t like to stay anywhere too long, but money’s not as plentiful as it once was, and he’s got a decent job here. The heir to the Kane fortune waits tables in a small seaside town. It’s a family restaurant, and they treat him as such. Lilly comes to work with him and plays with the owners’ grandchildren in the upstairs apartment. The nights he works, he gathers her up all sleepy from a pile of children when it’s time to go home. He walks her down the road for the whole mile, her arms wrapped heavy around his neck, bare feet lazily seeking purchase in the warmth of his pockets.
She’s almost getting too big to carry now, and he hitches her up a little higher, holds on a little tighter.
There’s a figure on his front porch, and Duncan knows before he can fully parse the shape of the shadow that the past has finally caught up. He contemplates running, but Lilly is dead weight in his arms, and he doesn’t know where to go. It’s not as terrifying as he would have thought. He’s known for years that this day would come.
“Let me put her to bed,” he mutters to the man on the porch, and pushes his way past. He tucks Lilly into her bed in the back of the house, trails his fingers through her hair. She turns over and smushes her face against the pillow. She’s been a heavy sleeper practically since birth, like her head is full of dreams. He goes through the adjoining door to his room, unlocks the drawer to his nightstand, but the gun he keeps there is gone.
“Here you go.”
Duncan turns around, and Don Lamb is standing in his doorway. No law enforcement uniform, just jeans and a t-shirt. Lamb looks pretty much the same, and Duncan wonders if he does too, or if years of worry have etched him. He can’t really remember what he looked like before. He catches the revolver that Lamb tosses to him and checks it. Empty.
“You’ll have to buy yourself some new bullets, I’m afraid,” Lamb says. “I’m not really into the whole getting shot thing.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I wouldn’t have killed you,” Duncan replies. “Just taken out your kneecaps.”
“I suppose that’s some consolation. So, have you got anything to drink?”
“We’re in Italy, Sheriff. I’m sure I can dig up a bottle of wine somewhere.”
They’re sitting on the front porch in silence sipping jug red wine out of jelly glasses when Lamb finally speaks.
“I’m not Sheriff anymore.”
“All good things must come to an end,” Duncan says between sips. “So this isn’t an official visit?”
“Not really. Though, I am an ambassador, of sorts.”
Lamb tosses him a leather bag that’s been resting on the ground by his chair. It hits Duncan in the stomach, and he makes a noise like the weight has startled the breath from him. He peers into the bag and lets out a low whistle.
“What’s this? You decided to donate your retirement fund to the cause?”
“If I had been overwhelmed by a sudden urge for generosity,” Lamb says dryly, “you would have gotten a coffee can full of pennies. The wages in my former occupation definitely reflected the “servant” part of public service. This is your trust fund, or at least a part of it. I’ll be bringing the rest when I can.”
“But, how ...?”
“Veronica,” Lamb says simply. “She’s been keeping tabs on you, even though the FBI has officially declared you a cold case. The fact that she arranged for all your documentation helps, I’m sure. She went to your dad years ago and explained why you took off. He liquidated your trust under the pretense of dismantling it. It’s just taken this long for the heat to really be off. There’s been a lot of scrutiny on everyone for a long time.”
“And where do you fit into this?” Duncan asks, still trying to wrap his brain around it. He has money again. He has his dad’s support. He isn’t under arrest. It’s a lot to take in, and he’s never been very good at multi-tasking. Lamb smirks at his evident confusion.
“There weren’t any worries that I’d be tracked,” he replies. “I just lost the election. If I decide to go bum around Europe and lick my wounds, no one expects that I’m going to meet up with you, you know?”
They sit in silence for a while. Lamb refills their wineglasses.
“How’s Neptune?” Duncan finally asks.
“You know. Same shit, different day.”
“You know what I’m asking.”
“Oh, fine. Your parents are living up in Napa pretty much full-time now. Your dad flies in to company HQ when they really need him, but he’s basically just a figurehead now. The Echolls kid split the day of graduation, and no one’s heard from him since. I tell you, your generation, with the disposable income and the disappearing acts. If only we could all be so well-off.”
“How’s Veronica?” Duncan asks, too-casually to even his own ears.
“She’s good,” Lamb says. “She’s doing really well for herself.”
“I always kind of thought that if anyone tracked me down, it’d be her. Half the time I come home, I expect to find her here waiting. I never thought it would be you.”
Lamb’s smirk slips a little for the first time all evening.
“She sends her best wishes,” he says carefully. “But she thought it might be too difficult. She’s moved on, and she doesn’t want to open up a can of worms by seeing you again.”
“Oh,” Duncan replies: then, “Oh ...” as it clicks into place.
Lamb, the last person on earth Duncan would have expected Veronica to dispatch to another continent with a satchel full of cash, actually shows up with the cash. Nobody’s that well-paid that they don’t take the money and run, unless they’re afraid of disappointing a certain blonde. Lamb has the good grace to look chagrined, though not too much. Duncan can’t blame him - the former Sheriff is definitely dating up.
“Wow, you and Veronica,” Duncan says, shaking his head. “Things really have changed. Are you like, going steady?”
“Hey, whatever man. I’m at a loss to explain it myself most of the time, “ Lamb says, and he’s smirking again, but it’s different somehow. He finishes his glass of wine and rises.
“Moving on again, soon?”
“Yeah,” Duncan says, getting up to walk him to the door.
“That’s a good idea. The Mannings haven’t given up on tracking you down, even if the FBI has hit an impasse.”
“Yeah, I didn’t suppose they ever would,” Duncan sighs, rubbing his hand through his hair.
“I’m curious,” Lamb says, pausing in the doorway. “Why did you run? You’re the biological dad. You probably could have won in a custody battle if you would have stuck around and fought.
Duncan thinks of his daughter sleeping soundly in her room in the back of the house with a closet that has no door, in a bed with no monsters underneath.
“‘Probably’ just wasn’t good enough,” he shrugs.
Lamb watches him for a moment, his gaze impassive. When he extends his hand, Duncan shakes it without hesitation.
“We’ll be back in contact with more money when we can. Take good care of her,” Lamb says.
“You too,” Duncan replies without thinking, and Lamb quirks an eyebrow.
“I think we’ve all learned by now that Veronica can take care of herself just fine,” he says wryly, and Duncan can only grin in agreement.
Duncan watches Lamb walk down the road until the reverse silhouette of his faded jeans and white t-shirt blend into the dark all around. He goes to Lilly’s room and sits on the ground by her bed, running a gentle hand through her hair. He can see her eyes moving around behind eyelids thin as grapeskin. He wonders what she dreams of, if she can see all the different kinds of lives she might have led if things would have turned out differently - if he hadn’t made every choice the one where he is running.
When he goes to his own room, he leaves the door open so that he can hear his daughter if she cries out in her sleep. He closes his eyes and thinks about Spain.