Apologies for the delay, Christmas came and went and work was nuts and life was ugh. But we're here. Wishing everyone good health.

As always, enjoy x


Friday 15th December 2017, 1.40pm, NYC Housing Authority, Lower East Side, Manhattan

Lionel Fusco wasn't the type to pull off a big gesture; not because he was incapable, but those things didn't cross his mind. He was a simple guy, as Shaw delighted in reminding him as she nudged him out of the car, and a simple guy came bearing flowers; hypoallergenic ones. Martina's life was hardly eventful outside of her sons, so the arrival of her curly-haired is-he-or-is-he-not boyfriend was welcome.

"Lionel." She greeted, to the eager eyes and ears of the cramped open-plan area she shared with nine colleagues. "How've you been?"

He tried to lower his voice, but it was no use because the eavesdropping wasn't subtle and they weren't getting a moment to themselves anytime soon. "Good. These are for you." The silk peonies made her smile. He noticed the stack of folders on her desk. "I guess you're busy."

"Yeah, interviews all afternoon and site visits tomorrow. You know, mice and mould."

When he rubbed his neck, he felt the dewy sweat of urgency. "Uhh, well I won't get in your way. It's just…D'you wanna come over for Christmas? I mean, it's just me and Lee, and you and the boys so…what'd you say?"

And with that, Lionel Fusco bit off more than he could chew.

5.25pm, Paul's House, Elmhurst, Queens

For as long as he could remember, Taylor Nicholas Carter secretly loved surprises. Some were better than others; like John's surprises that shot things and set things on fire. Some made his stomach turn like his mother laying on a hospital bed and HR headlines. And some simply confused him, like the one with a white coat that jumped up at him at the door of his father's house. "Coco, down." Paul ordered, to which the dog responded by lying flat on the floor. "We're still working on that. Coco, Taylor. Tay, Coco. Come in, she'll follow."

"Coco?" Taylor repeated, remembering how much Gina couldn't stand dogs.

"You loved that song." Paul explained.

It took him a while to remember the song, and OT Genasis, which put Cut it in his head."Yeah, I did."

There were a few cardboard boxes in the kitchen and Taylor noticed the missing clock and sugary cereal he hadn't seen in months as they sat at the kitchen table for 4. "She's friendly, you can pet her. Up." And with that Coco gave her somewhat-new owner a similar greeting with her paws on his thigh. "See? Good girl."

"What about Gina?" Taylor asked the obvious because he was over beating around the bush.

Paul answered in as few words as possible. "She moved out."

Taylor couldn't hide his surprise, or keep his eyes in their sockets. "What? When?"

"After the showcase."

"Why?"

Paul sighed because he sounded like his mother, and Taylor understood how and why he got a dog in the first place. "It wasn't working. I mean, it's for the best…for both of us."

"So you got a dog?"

"And I got a dog. I always wanted one when I was a boy."

"Me too. And a backyard. And a PS4." When CoCo licked the back of his hand, Taylor didn't mind.

"See there? You'll love her." Paul changed the subject as soon as he could. "Did you know a third of white boxers are deaf and they're more likely to get sunburn?"

"No. But I'm happy for you, and Coco. Where'd you get her? The pound?"

Paul cleared his throat because he knew his son would jump to conclusions. "Pups for Vets."

"Oh."

"But I'm good, Tay. I'm just a man with a dog." Taylor wasn't convinced. "The Hitmen's Bodyguard is on Watchflix, Tony saw it twice."

Paul knew that look; the pensive, overanalytic look his ex-wife wore when she was processing. "So you won't be alone on Christmas?"

"No, I'll be here with CoCo and if I get bored, we'll head over to Tony's. You should be with your mom, Tay." That Boundaries worksheet was annoying, but it did the job.

"Okay."

"Do one thing for me this Christmas."

"Shoot."

"Don't stop by in Corona."

Taylor groaned from the core of his being because he'd already entertained the thought. "Daaaaad…."

"I mean it; I know that look. It's trouble."

"Bella's not trouble."

"Never said she was. But you're too young for all that back-and-forth. How's Marla?"

"Oh, Margot, she's still blogging."

"And Zahra?"

"I don't know, haven't seen her lately."

Paul nodded with relief. "Everything has an expiration date, Tay."

"What do you mean?"

"You'll learn."

Sunday 17th December 2017, 4.02am, Hudson Heights, Manhattan

When John woke him with overalls, a high-vis jacket and a hard hat, Taylor didn't protest. He wiped the sleep out his eyes and got dressed because John was being John and that made perfect sense to him. The last row of houses were due to be demolished first thing on Monday, to give way to mid-rise apartments, so John Thurrock, building safety inspector, was free to swing a sledgehammer as much as he liked.

"How'd you find this place?" Taylor asked, shining a torch around what used to be a kitchen.

I was undercover a few weeks ago, tailing a Mafia target. "Just strolling."

Taylor laughed to himself. "You don't stroll."

"Fine. I figured you had some things you needed to get out. And I'm no Gregory, but if I was..."

"You go first." Taylor called his bluff.

"I can't make Tullie's gravy without it coming out lumpy." He swung the sledgehammer and cracked the backsplash. The sink was long gone.

"You've been practicing?"

"I'm not a gravy kinda guy, Taylor. I'm more of a dine-and-dash kinda guy. Your turn."

"Margot's new blog is called Paradise Lost. The Paradise is America." Wham.

"That deserves two." Wham. "They're all out of marshmallow pie. Don't say you told me so." Wham.

Sucks to be you. "I wouldn't. Dad got a dog and Gina's gone…not in that order."

John stopped him from swinging. "Wait, what breed?"

"Boxer." John remembered cramming in his Grunt days; Boxers were service dogs since World War I for their temperament and instincts. "What's Pups for Vets?"

"It's a charity that trains rescue dogs and hooks them up with veterans. Companion dogs."

"He never called himself a vet before." John shrugged his shoulders because he didn't know what to say. "And why does he need a companion? I thought Susan was helping him."

John didn't want to say what he was thinking, because Taylor was already thinking it. "Getting one isn't such a bad thing, look at Finch and Bear. Everyone needs someone sometimes." John noticed his drifting off into space. "Hey."

Suddenly it wasn't so fun anymore. He handed over the sledgehammer. "I don't think he's okay."

John had no choice but to put on the Huskies Hat of Wisdom and try to fill the vacuum Gregory had left behind. "You can't stop bad things from happening to people you love."

"Pot. Kettle. Black."

"If I could…" John's voice trailed off because that sentence led to killing Simmons before he ever got a chance to aim the bullet at Joss that changed all their lives. "What I mean is; Paul's too heavy for you to carry, Taylor. Joss couldn't do it. Gina couldn't do it. Susan can't do it. And neither can you. I know it's hard but you can't help him."