A/N: Hi all, I wanted to come back and write something shorter (we'll see about that) and fun and somewhat fluffy, and to revisit some OCs that I really loved writing. Also I remembered how great this fandom is, so here I am.
OCs: For Cammie and Tullie see Chapter 53 of Looking for your Love, Gregory appears throughout Body Count and Looking for your Love although this isn't related, and if you don't know Evelyn by now I can't say enough to describe her.
Inspiration: Words starting with M. If you have any, let me know (I have 7 for 7 chapters atm).
As always, enjoy!
Chapter 1: Mud
Thursday 25th August 2016, 11.13pm, Fall Creek, Ithaca, New York
After five years on the same Team and a few years of doing the will-they-won't-they dance, Joss knew the difference between John's calls the same way a mother could tell her child's cries apart. Though she'd never admit it, she just liked the fact he called. Sometimes he called from a public phone to politely ask her to break a few information security laws, more often than not from a burner with an urgent request to meet him in some alleyway, and other times he pickpocketed an unsuspecting commuter on the subway to deliver a cryptic message about a time, a place and a body. On this particularly humid summer evening, it was the body they were looking for.
"You really know how to make a girl feel special, John. Wading through the mud, looking for the poor soul who took his last breath here. And they say, chivalry is dead."
"I thought you enjoyed the time we spent together. And it's another cold case off your list."
"Yeah, you've been good at that lately. I would ask how you've been so knowledgeable but who wants to go down that rabbit hole?"
"Mmm, rabbit." She playfully elbowed him, having seen him put away four slices of rabbit pie before her stomach hurt on his behalf. "Aren't you looking forward to finding the missing Canuto brother?"
"Something like that." She replied, thinking about how she was going to explain this away in her report.
He handed her a shovel. "Well, ladies first. You know, equality."
She shook her head at his attempt at being progressive. "I should be so lucky."
"Don't worry. I'll do the heavy lifting; you call it in. Teamwork."
"If I could get reception under all these trees. You don't have to do my job for me, John."
"You're right, I don't."
"So why'd you do it?"
"Because I can." He commented on her technique. "You'd get further if you put your weight on it."
"I do know something about digging up bodies, John." She stated with a mysterious glare.
He was intrigued. "I've never heard this story."
"Well, there's one thing you don't know about me…"
Friday 26th August, 9.20am, Joss' apartment, New York
Joss always prided herself on knowing what her son was up to; even when he was evading her questions, acting like he was grown because he'd spent a year away at college, and putting the 'man' in 'mannish'. But this time was he was different, sneaky even. And whatever he was up to, he was being tight-lipped about it. His bags were already packed and loaded in the car; she took it to mean he was eager to see his cousin Reggie and get up to whatever they got up to when they when off to wherever they went off to.
"Want some?" He offered, referring to the stack of scrambled egg breakfast muffins.
"What's up with you?" She asked, loading her gaze with lie detection.
"Nothing, can't I buy you breakfast?"
"You can. I feel like you're keeping something from me."
He thought fast. "Dad's back with Gina."
"Gina the hair stylist?" She asked.
"When the saints come marching in-Gina. She's moving in and everything."
She took a long exhale. "Good for them. What'd you think about it?"
"She's okay when she's not singing...or baking cookies." He replied casually, scrolling through his phone. "When are we going?"
"Soon, but I left my sneakers in my locker. You know, maybe I should-"
"You-can't-go-back-to-work." He said too quickly.
He thought faster. "You said you'd relax."
"I am." She clearly wasn't as her mind turned to sleuthing. "Come to think of it, Fusco's been acting weird lately too."
"Weird how?" Taylor asked, though he shouldn't have.
"Just…not himself. Off. Like you."
He played it off. "I'm good."
"Fine, I'll pack my flip-flops."
"What's so great? Why are you so happy? And what's going on at my office?"
"Nothing. You're on vacation, remember? If we ever get there."
"We'll get there."
"Good." He smiled.
11.44am, Comet Coffee, LaGuardia Airport, New York City
"Lonely people are subway art…" Just as God was known to hate the sin and love the sinner, Gregory loved the woman but wasn't a fan of her way of getting things done; especially when her machinations were so calculated and heavy-handed. Nature said Evelyn Taylor-Clement was Joss' mother, but she and she alone took that to mean she was her matchmaker too. The gritty-voiced New Yorker was becoming one of their favourites to listen to but even Tish Hyman had to take a back seat to this conversation.
"Ev…" He started in that warm tone she loved and hated equally. "Don't you think you've gone too far this time?"
She decided to feign oblivion. "With what?" He sighed, because he knew she knew that he knew she knew what he was referring to. It wasn't her intention to exasperate him; it was just a by-product. "What? She doesn't know herself like we do, we're just helping."
He cleared his throat. "I can think of another word."
"And what word would that be, Greg?" She asked, with a sickly smile.
In return, he brought out the lilt in his otherwise moderate Trinidadian accent. "Starts with M. Rhymes with peddling."
She shook her head. "I'm not familiar with that word. Let me think…nope."
"Ev," He sighed, almost pleading.
"This. Will. Work. It has to." She resolved. "Besides, what's the worst that could happen?" Defeated, he drank his coffee and looked for inspiration on how to stop her.
11.27pm, Aunt Tullie's house, Summerville, South Carolina
Joss had always been a city girl at heart, but that didn't stop her taking in the clean air as soon as her feet touched down in Summerville. Aunt Tullie's house was a sanctuary, naturally because she was the mildest of her mother's three sisters, but also because the reception wasn't good enough for Joss to plug back in to the matrix. And then there was her cousin Cece, who always had a drink and a 90's R&B soundtrack on deck. The buzz from the tequila and watermelon and the call of response of Ginuwine's None of your friend's business made her forget about her caseload and all the extra assistance she'd been getting from her special friend in a suit. Cece knew her well enough not to be surprised when she succumbed to the influence and turned into a slurred-worded, body of mush lying across the bed barely holding a tune. "Lightweight." She teased as she threw a blanket over her softly-snoring cousin.
Saturday 27th August 2016, 10.41am, Aunt Tullie's house, Summerville, South Carolina
Having slept through both dinner and breakfast, Joss woke up in a haze. She wasn't strong or coordinated enough to kick through the bundle of bedding, and wished her cousin would be useful and get an aspirin and something to eat. "Cece," She grumbled, barely opening an eye. "Eggggggggggs." But it was empty on the other side of the bed and from the eerie quiet, it looked like no-one was coming to revive her or at least shove food into her mouth. She dragged her feet into the shower and finger-combed her hair backwards into a low bun barely held together with clips. No-one had to tell her she looked raggedy, and the shabby chic quality of the worn sorority t-shirt she tucked into her jeggings was highly-overrated. But she felt worse than she looked, suffering from the rookie mistake of not lining her stomach. Whether she was hungover or still drunk was up for debate. A debate she braced herself for as she finally appeared downstairs.
The sight to the living room shocked her sober. Sitting across from her Aunt Cammie, who had talons for nails, was John. John, her special friend as they called him, was sitting in her Aunt's living room in humid, slow-moving South Carolina; unannounced, uninvited and unassuming.
"John?" She mustered, thinking he didn't know what he was in for.
"Morning." He replied, with something of a smile and a twinkle in his eye.
Great, she thought. Trouble.