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Jun 07

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No Dog in the Fight

Summary: One of Ari’s ex-girlfriends, Officer Diana Rios, has a very busy year full of changes.

Author’s Note: This is a peculiar Underdogs story in that, as the name suggests, Ari and Dale don’t appear at all. There’s a reason for that: the character of Diana Rios was established very early in Underdogs canon. She appeared before Dale does, in fact. She made a brief appearance in the first Underdogs novel, and she’s popped up now and again in the short stories. She comes back in Underdogs 3, and there have been a lot of changes to the character since we last saw her way back in April 2012. So I thought I would show a little of her journey while Ari and Dale have been busy prepping for wolf manoth and hunting for missing girls to prepare people for Diana’s return.

This story takes place in 2012, so it’s set before Underdogs: Beware of Wolf.

 

Diana understood that she only met Lucy because someone died, and she understood how screwed up that was. But she didn’t care. People met under all kinds of strange circumstances and given Diana’s job, hers were likely to be stranger than most. They were on the ferry back to Seattle after spending the day on Bainbridge Island shopping and sightseeing. She loved living in a place where simply taking in the view could be considered a pastime. She had gone to the car to retrieve a jacket and had it draped over her arm when she returned to the observation deck.

She paused at the door and watched her girlfriend for a long moment. If Lucy had been six inches shorter, her delicate features would have opened the door to all sorts of mockery. But she was tall, and any elf jokes were of the Tolkien variety rather than any cute cartoon characters. Her red hair was long and currently being worn down so that it slapped gently against her back in the breeze. She had her elbows on the railing, her hip pushed out, focused on the sailboats between them and the shoreline.

They met a year earlier when Lucy’s neighbor was found dead. Diana and her partner were assigned to canvas the building to find out if anyone had seen anything. The door to Lucy’s apartment was no different than any of the others on the floor, and she had already spoken to four different neighbors who were shocked and horrified that someone they saw every day had been killed. Lucy was bored, tired, and ready to go back to the squad car for lunch when the door opened.

Lucy Macallan, with her hair up and wild, her thick nerd glasses resting precariously on the tip of her nose, dressed in a V-neck shirt and canvas pants. She was barefoot and her right hand was smeared with colored ink. Diana still remembered the colors: blue and orange. Her eyes were a strange shade of very pale blue, almost gray, and Diana found herself thinking the glasses were only there to serve as frames as if they were invaluable works of art.

For a moment Diana forgot she was in uniform, forgot she was in a position of authority, and she almost blurted out an apology for knocking on the wrong door.

“Yes, Officer?” Lucy prompted.

“Uh. Yes. I’m Officer Rios. I’m sorry to inform you that one of your neighbors passed away this morning. Were you acquainted with Mr. Timothy Lynch?”

“Tim?” Lucy used the middle knuckle of her unmarked hand to push her glasses up. “No. No, not really. We saw each other in the elevator or passed in the hall. He’s dead?” She furrowed her brow. “And you think someone killed him?”

“Right now we’re exploring every possibility. Were you home all night?”

Lucy nodded. “I was. I didn’t hear or see anything.”

“When was the last time you saw Mr. Lynch?”

“I don’t even remember.” She thought for a moment. “We sometimes crossed paths when we got mail. He usually got home pretty late and I get up early. I can’t believe he’s dead.” She looked down the hall where the forensics team was setting up. “Is it safe to stay in the building? Should… should I get a hotel?”

“No, I’m sure that won’t be necessary.” She wasn’t supposed to give away information about the scene, but something about Lucy made her want to reassure her. “There was no evidence of a break-in. No real evidence of foul play. We’re just covering our bases by asking around. We’re pretty sure it’ll be natural causes.”

Lucy visibly relaxed and then smiled awkwardly. “I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to tell me stuff like that. I could be a suspect.”

“You could be. But I don’t think so.”

“Oh?”

“You have pretty eyes,” Diana said, looking down at her pad as she spoke.

“And people with pretty eyes can’t commit murder?”

Diana shrugged. “Oh, they can. It’s just I’m more likely to let them go.”

Lucy laughed.

To this day, Diana didn’t know what had possessed her to flirt that way. It was out of character, unprofessional, and wrong on every level. But she also knew that if she missed the opportunity it would haunt her. A few days later when she was off-duty, she went back to the building and knocked on Lucy’s door again. This time Lucy was more put together, in a button-down shirt and jeans. There was a moment of confusion before something clicked.

“Oh! Officer, um…”

“Rios.”

“Yes! I didn’t recognize you out of uniform.”

Diana said, “I’m not here on official business. I just wanted to let you know that the coroner determined Mr. Lynch’s death to be natural causes. He had a heart attack, fell down, and hit his head on the coffee table. No foul play. You don’t have to worry about someone being murdered down the hall from you.”

“Thank you. I don’t want to seem like a coward, but it’s been on my mind. It means a lot that you came all the way down here just to reassure me.”

“Well. I wanted to let you know we’d officially cleared you as a suspect. Your eyes don’t have to get you out of this one.”

Lucy grinned. “Aha. Good to know.” They stood awkwardly over the threshold for a moment. “I was just about to take a break for lunch. Would you like to join me?”

“Oh. No. No, I couldn’t impose…”

“You came all the way over here to make sure I was told everything was fine. The least I could do is give you something to drink. I insist.”

Diana said, “Oh, if you insist…”

“I also need to know your first name.”

“Diana. Diana!”

She was shaken out of her memories by Lucy saying her name. She had pushed up from the railing and lifted her hand. “Are you going to bring me the jacket or what? I’m freezing.”

“Right. Sorry.” She went out onto the deck and wrapped the jacket around Lucy’s shoulders. She turned the draping into a hug, leaning heavily against Lucy’s back.

Lucy grinned. “If I’d known this was an option, I would have skipped the jacket. You’re warm enough for me.”

Diana kissed Lucy’s cheek and then rested her chin on Lucy’s shoulder. “It’s beautiful out here.”

“Yes, it is.” She breathed deeply and blew the air out through her lips. “I…”

When she trailed off, Diana said, “What, baby?”

“No, never mind.” She rubbed Diana’s arms. “I was just going to say how gorgeous it is. I would have just been repeating you.”

“Well, that’s not a problem.”

Lucy was an artist-slash-cartoonist who published her own online comic. The first time Diana was in her apartment, Lucy hurried to clear up her slant-topped desk of the work in progress. It wasn’t until their third meeting, their second official date, that Lucy felt comfortable showing her some of her work. It was incredibly good, and surprisingly sexy. Lucy explained that publishing online loosened some of the rating requirements so she was able to create realistic relationships with her characters. Diana was impressed with the range of her creativity. That night she stayed up well into the night reading past installments of the series in an attempt to get an insight into who exactly Lucy was.

What she found made her heart hurt. She knew she would ruin any relationship they tried to have and it made her annoyed, angry, frustrated, and every other stomach-twisting emotion it was possible to have. Lucy was amazing. She was intelligent, kind, bashful. Even the things Diana knew would irritate her in a long-term relationship – Lucy was messy, Lucy sometimes chewed her fingernails when she was thinking, Lucy occasionally absent-mindedly put pencils and pens into cups of coffee instead of the proper, empty cups she had on her desk, Lucy sometimes left smudges of color on Diana’s uniform or skin when she kissed her goodbye – were adorable and appealing in the first glow of love.

In their year together the fear of screwing things up began to fade. They had fights, but they always seemed to find detours back to cuddling on the couch. Lucy absolutely hated the dangerous aspect of Diana’s job but always stopped short of asking her to quit. Lucy once put a strong Hispanic female cop into her comic and gave her a stupid racist joke. Diana knew it had been unintentional, and Lucy owned up to its insensitivity immediately, but Diana ended up being the one in the doghouse when she casually dropped the atomic bomb: “Saying stuff like that matters, even if it is in your stupid little comic strip.”

Lucy hadn’t spoken to her for almost a week after that. Diana was certain things were over, absolutely positive she’d ruined the best thing to ever happen to her over a slip of a tongue. She was surprised when she came home from her shift to find Lucy sitting on the floor outside her apartment.

“That comic means the world to me. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Or it was. The only thing that matters in my life is that you’re in it. I could lose everything else, but not that. This week has been hell. And I know it’s my fault, but I hope… I hope you…”

Diana shushed her, kissed her, and took her into the apartment. “You put your heart and soul into that comic,” Diana said. “When I belittled it, I belittled the things that make you who you are. I wouldn’t have been able to look at me, either.”

Lucy said, “So you forgive me?”

“I don’t think I…” She smoothed her hands over Lucy’s collar, then began undoing the buttons of her shirt. “Why don’t we just call it a draw?”

The next strip included a sincere apology to anyone who was offended by the racist comment, and a vow to be better in the future. Diana thanked her and their relationship settled back into its normal rhythms. Dinners together, alternating nights spent at one apartment or the other. Idle conversation about getting a pet and, if they did take the plunge, what kind of pet it should be.

In the past Diana had discovered sex was always great at the beginning before it tapered off into just another activity they shared. That wasn’t true with Lucy. Six months into the relationship, she felt the same excitement when Lucy started kissing her neck as she had the first time fingers slipped under a shirt to stroke bare skin. A year later, she was still thrilled beyond belief that Lucy wanted to see her naked. Their lovemaking was better than it had ever been, and judging from the way Lucy was touching her, leaning against her, swaying with her, Diana could tell that Lucy expected their weekend excursion to end in the bedroom.

She certainly wouldn’t do anything to dissuade her of that idea, but there was something she had to do.

“Baby. Turn around.”

Lucy twisted in Diana’s arms and leaned against the railing. She put her arms around Diana’s waist and smiled at her.

“Hi.”

“Hello.” She kissed the tip of Lucy’s nose. “Did you have a nice day?”

Lucy nodded. “The best. Everywhere I looked, there was this beautiful woman following me around.”

Diana smiled and kissed Lucy’s lips. “There’s something I wanted to tell you.” She fished into her pocket. There was a reason she insisted on going back to the car to get Lucy’s jacket. She folded her fingers around the object and looked at Lucy again. “I’ve been keeping something from you. There’s been stuff going on at work, and I didn’t want you to worry. I didn’t want to disappoint you. But, um… well.” She took out the object and held it up. Lucy looked down at the badge without seeing it for a moment, but then her eyes focused on the operative word.

“Detective…” She raised her widening eyes to Diana’s. “Detective?” She grinned and tightened her arms around Diana’s waist and lifted her feet off the ground. “Detective! Oh, sweetheart, I’m so proud of you. Detective Rios. It has a ring to it.”

“I don’t think so,” Diana said.

Lucy blinked. “What? You’re… you’re not going to take it? Diana, if this is about my misgivings or the fights we’ve had–”

“Sh, no. Not that. It’s the name. I don’t like Detective Rios. I think Detective Macallan has a much better ring to it.”

Lucy stared at her.

“If… if you would let me use your name.”

“Baby… are you…”

“I didn’t get you a ring because you said you don’t like wearing jewelry, but I’ll figure out something else if you say yes and you want something special. I thought showing you the badge and bringing up the name would be a good way to… propose without being too corny. And I know it’s not legal yet, but this November when it gets voted in, I mean… it has to be voted in. And even if it’s not… and even without the ring, I just… I wanted to put the announcement together with the proposal so you would know you’re a bigger part of my life than my job. Than anything. And I think–”

“Baby.”

Diana closed her mouth.

“You’re babbling.”

“Sorry.”

Lucy was grinning ear-to-ear. “It’s fine. So, um. Bottom line, you’re officially proposing?”

Diana nodded. “Yes.”

“Then yes.”

Diana finally looked up. “Yes… to…?”

“Yes, I’ll marry you.” Lucy laughed and cupped Diana’s face, kissing her. Someone walked past them and Lucy broke the kiss. “We’re getting married!”

“Good for you,” the person said without slowing or showing much emotion.

Lucy huffed. “Well, he’s not invited to the wedding.”

Diana smiled and kissed Lucy again. Lucy smoothed her hands over Diana’s back and moaned softly. When they parted Lucy gave a soft chuckle. “Do you want to know what I really stopped myself from saying earlier?”

“Mm?”

“I was thinking with the sun setting on the water and the day we’d just had, this would be the perfect spot for a proposal. I swear. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Since our year anniversary passed and I realized it… felt like just the beginning. But I didn’t think you were ready. I figured I’d have to wait another six or eight months and then I’d have to ask you.” She pinched Diana’s earlobe, an affectionate gesture they’d picked up after six months together. “Do you really want to marry me?”

“If you said I had to throw this badge into the water and sell everything I owned to get you the perfect engagement ring, I would do it. I would do it gladly if it meant I could be your wife.”

Lucy shook her head. “No. Keep the badge. Officer Macallan doesn’t have the same ring to it. Although…” She chewed her lip and lowered her voice. “Do you get to keep the uniform? I really… really like when you wear the uniform…”

Diana laughed. “I’ll see what I can do.” Diana clutched Lucy’s hand. “So we’re really going to do this? Getting married?”

Lucy’s grip tightened. “Oh, hell yes. I’m not letting you back out of it now.”

Diana moved her hand to the back of Lucy’s neck and pulled her close for another kiss.

#

“Wake up.” Diana kissed Lucy’s ear. “I have bad news for you.”

It had been three months since the proposal. Most of Diana’s stuff had migrated to Lucy’s apartment with all the inherent fights about space issues that came with combining territory. For the most part, it had been an easy merging. Diana had also adjusted to her new position as a detective and bonded with her new partner. For the most part everything was going well, until the discovery she’d made this morning. She squeezed Lucy’s shoulder again. In response, Lucy slid her hand across the pillow and used it to cover her face. She curled under the blankets and tried to roll away from Diana’s weight. “Is the bad news that it’s still dark outside and you’re waking me up? Because that’s pretty tragic.”

“The bad news is that you’re getting married to an old woman. Look…”

Lucy reluctantly rolled over. She kept her hand on her face to shield her eyes from the bathroom light. Diana leaned down so she could get a better look at her hair. She’d cut it short a week earlier and she was still getting used to having so little of it to deal with. When she was brushing her teeth she had noticed something she initially dismissed as a trick of the light off the mirror. When she looked closer it was still there, and she was forced to admit the truth. She pinched the hair away from her temple.

“Were you listening? See? You’re marrying an old woman. I have gray hair.”

“I know.”

Diana was stunned. “What do you mean you know?”

“I occasionally look down at the top of your head while you’re… preoccupied. I’ve seen it coming. It was harder to see before you cut your hair, but…”

Diana playfully slapped Lucy’s arm. “How could you not tell me?”

“I didn’t care!”

“Oh.” She climbed on top of Lucy and reached up into the tangled red mess of her hair. In the mornings it was always a rat’s nest, and one of her favorite things was spending five minutes unraveling it in the shower. “I guess if you don’t care, I don’t care.”

Lucy smiled and rested her hands on Diana’s hips. “Heading out to work?”

“As soon as I get ready.”

“How long will that take you?”

Diana looked down. “Depends on how far you let those hands of yours wander.” Lucy moved her hands. “I can still get to work on time.” Lucy made a soft noise and raised her hands. “Still on time.” Lucy shifted. “Oh, okay, see, now I’m going to be late.”

Lucy chuckled and sat up as Diana bent down to kiss her. “Come here and show me those roots of yours…”

#

They were married on the ninth of December, the earliest date possible, since Lucy wanted to share the day with all the other couples who had been waiting years for the opportunity. They were going to honeymoon at Snoqualmie Falls since Diana could only get three days off and Lucy needed to get back to her comic strip. During their engagement they frequently argued – or rather, discussed enthusiastically – the possibility of moving to a larger apartment. Diana thought they couldn’t afford it, while Lucy thought it was a necessity.

They had reached a stalemate, neither of them caving but certain they would revisit the issue when their tempers cooled, but no solution was forthcoming. Diana had been home from work for half an hour and was napping on the couch while Lucy finished up that day’s drawing. When she was finished she would wake Diana and they’d walk down the street to the Thai restaurant where they were such frequent guests that the waitress knew them by name.

She woke Diana and they put on their jackets, shut off the lights, and left the apartment. When they were halfway down the stairs Lucy finally spoke.

“I want the picket fence. I mean, not a literal house. I know we’d have to go to the suburbs for that, and neither of us want that. But I don’t want to just move you into my apartment and continue from there. We’re getting married, D. I want to give us a place where we can start over as us, instead of ‘you and then me.’ Does that make sense?”

Diana was quiet until they reached the street. When they were there, she reached into her coat and removed a much-folded sheet of paper. She waited for Lucy to unfold it and read what was on it.

“I printed those off the internet. They’re apartments near the station that we can afford.”

“Why are these all two-bedrooms?”

“You need a studio. I don’t mind having you in the living room, but you deserve a place of your own where you can shut the door and shut me out.”

Lucy smiled down at the sheet, the dozen of potential apartments, and then she laughed and shook her head. “How long have you been looking at this stuff?”

“A couple of days.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you’d changed your mind?”

“I wasn’t ready to let you win the fight yet.”

Lucy laughed and put her arms around Diana. She kissed her forehead and swayed with her. “I love you, nutball.”

“You’d better, if we’re going to shell out the cash for some of these places.” She leaned back and pointed at one. “Did you see how much this one costs?”

“It says it has a view of the Space Needle.”

“Yeah, sure it does. If you hang a poster of it outside your balcony.” She linked arms with Lucy and guided her down the street. “We’ll find a place that’s just right for us.”

“We will.” She cleared her throat. “Also, it didn’t escape my notice that I won the fight.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Diana muttered. “Don’t gloat. It’s unbecoming.”

Lucy laughed and kissed Diana’s hair.

#

Diana wore a charcoal gray suit for the wedding. Lucy found a green dress and found a stylist-slash-artist who turned her hair into some kind of magnificent sculpture. They had the ceremony in the park where they could see Puget Sound in the distance. Diana fretted about her vows until the last minute, panicking that she would be stuck saying something ridiculous like “You’re really awesome, and you go down on me really well.” When the moment came, she took a breath and looked into Lucy’s eyes.

“I’ve never once considered marriage. Never in my entire life. No matter who I was with, no matter how long we were together, something always cropped up to remind me it was just a matter of time before we both moved on. Those things always arrived before marriage was even a flicker of an option. So I’ve never considered marriage with anyone before you arrived. And with you… I never considered marriage. There was never a moment when I debated whether or not I would ask you to marry me. It was a question of when, and if you would say yes. With you marriage was a given.”

Lucy chuckled and looked down at their joined hands. Under her breath she hissed, “Damn it, why did I agree to go second?”

Diana laughed and kissed her tear-streaked cheek. Lucy sniffled and took a deep breath before she spoke.

“I don’t do well with other people. I like my comics because I can control what people do. I can decide where they go and what they say and how they react. Real people will surprise you, and they make me feel awkward. I don’t understand you, Diana, and I hardly ever know what you’re going to do or say. But when it comes to you, I don’t mind it at all. I love being surprised by you. I love not knowing what’s coming next because, if I’m with you, then I know it’ll be okay.”

Despite Lucy’s aversion to wedding rings, she found she didn’t like any of the alternates any better. By the time they had to make a final decision she decided she really wanted to exchange rings. Diana slipped hers onto Lucy’s finger and gave her hand a squeeze before offering her hand for Lucy’s ring. They kissed and were declared “Diana and Lucy Macallan” for the first time.

Their reception was held at a nearby restaurant. Diana always hated the birthday tradition of waiters and waitresses singing in a restaurant. It paled in comparison to the idea of being the brides in a wedding party. Copious apologies to the wait staff for their noise, waved apologies to other diners, and several pieces of cake later, they finally managed to break free amid a hail of well-wishes. They gripped hands and walked across the parking lot to their car, alone for the first time as a married couple.

Lucy said, “Do you have everything? We can still swing by the apartment if there’s anything we need to pick up.”

“I think I’m set. Did you pack the feeldoe?”

“Yeah.” She leaned closer. “Did you pack the uniform?”

“Even the handcuffs.” Diana pecked Lucy on the lips as they separated to get into the car. Lucy got behind the wheel and waited for Diana to buckle up before she picked up her left hand to look at the ring. Diana smiled. “Like how it looks?”

“I do.” Lucy kissed the ring and then the knuckle. “To the Falls?”

“Yeah. And from there, who knows?”

Lucy smiled and started the engine. Diana settled back in her seat and looked out the window. Diana would take them out of the city, through the foothills. She’d never been to Snoqualmie, but she had always wanted to go. She was overjoyed that she would get to experience it for the first time with her wife. She reached over and rubbed the back of Lucy’s neck as she drove.

Permanent link to this article: http://underdogs.geonncannon.com/dog-fight/

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