Since that day with Nevikov everything had changed but only Charlie and Dani truly appreciated how and why.
The dust had now settled but every particle had fallen back into a slightly different position. Things were shifted and altered and yet they took great pains to just carry on and pretend they hadn't noticed. It was a delicate balancing act. If one of them had stepped out of line and even alluded to it, the whole thing would have come crashing down around their ears. And that was a scary thought; scary for Charlie and terrifying for Dani, because if it all fell down now neither of them was sure if it could ever be reassembled. It was far less risky just to pretend everything was normal between them. Same as it ever was.
Dani, and then Charlie, had eventually returned to work. Investigations were written up, reports issued, conclusions drawn and the whole thing filed away. Would it be that easy to draw a line under the matter and forget all about it? There was nothing concrete they could pin on Crews, at least officially. Suspicion abounded but hard evidence was scant and an efficient wall of silence had sprang up around him. Tidwell, Seever, Stark and Reese all closed ranks to protect the man they had come to see as a friend.
Stark felt like he was righting a wrong that he had visited upon Charlie a long time ago; it didn't make up for the fact that he had failed to stand up for his partner the first time he was investigated but it was the least he could do this time around. Seever had been undecided, she had her political ambitions to think of, but she felt loyalty towards Charlie and she knew he wasn't a bad guy. She also figured that it wouldn't be the first cover up she would ever get embroiled in, and this one was for a good cause, after all. Seever took care not to lie exactly, she just understated her knowledge of Charlie's mission to rescue his partner. It wasn't something she couldn't talk her way out of at a later date if she needed to. Tidwell was relieved, grateful and cowed all at once by what Crews had done. Sometimes it was useful having a complete kook on his team, even if he was a pain in the ass. Tidwell's girl was back, even if she was acting even more volatile than normal, and that was all that mattered. Of course, there was a healthy dose of the Captain needing to save his own ass at play too; he was the boss man at the end of the day, and this had gone down on his watch.
Initially, the higher-ups had a real hard-on for sending Crews down again, in revenge for having screwed them for $50 million the first time, if nothing else. But as the evidence grew harder to gather and Crews' gold-plated legal team circled, it became apparent that they would have to go a long way to make anything stick, so their appetite waned. Going after a man they had already wrongly imprisoned for a third of his lifetime was not politically palatable. Someone on high ultimately resolved to settle for the positive that Nevikov had been eliminated, even if they didn't know exactly how; that was good enough. If Crews really was as dangerous as they suspected he would have rope enough to hang himself, given time. They made Crews aware that he would be watched very closely for the rest of his career. It was implied that a man of his means didn't need to tolerate that level of scrutiny - the choice was his. But Charlie didn't even consider resigning, his job and his partner were his whole world now. He couldn't entertain the thought of losing either.
So they all dusted themselves down and carried on. Tidwell, Seever and Stark pretended like their versions of events were gospel and Dani and Charlie pretended like they hadn't both discovered a pretty overwhelming truth in the orange grove that day.
Bodner had seen it a mile off. Once he and Charlie were through shooting each other, the two men found that they really quite liked each other. Bodner made Charlie recognize the obvious. For all his Zen and deep thinking, Charlie was astounded that he had managed to hide it from himself when his new FBI friend was able to call it so easily. Of course he loved her. He would do anything for her. And he could absolutely never tell her so because she would tear his face off and then run for the hills.
Dani had the very same epiphany at around the same time, with the chalky film of earth and panic in the back of her throat and the scent of oranges in her nostrils. She recalled thinking that she had discovered it too late. But then Charlie had miraculously survived, escaped jail, and she realized that time wasn't the issue; her own cowardice was. It terrified her. He terrified her - what he had automatically done for her without ever asking for anything in return, the fact that he was the craziest sonofabitch she knew and yet she understood him perfectly. This kind of made her responsible for him now and she hadn't gone looking for that; in fact she had actively kicked against it all the time she had known him. She hadn't wanted to know him, to become involved with him or to care but he'd seemingly adopted her anyhow and now she had fallen in love. Damn him. She felt more than a little outraged that he had waltzed into her life with his stupid grin and his cups of melon and vanquished her in a battle that she hadn't even known she was fighting. But more than that she just felt it and she didn't know what to do with it. It was huge. She had only been in love once before and that had been a total car crash also.
They both struggled with the weight of it in their own ways over the next few weeks. Mercifully, they were separated to a degree while Dani reluctantly recuperated and Charlie observed a forced leave of absence while the brass tried to figure out the mess with Nevikov. Things were a little strained for a while as both partners detected the shift in their dynamic and felt their way back to a practical means of dealing with each other. During those first few days it was uncomfortable and it was never articulated, but it was undeniably there in his blue and her brown eyes whenever they looked at each other. He knew it and she knew it but the unspoken agreement that they wouldn't go there meant that they could slowly begin to relax. She thanked him of course, for delivering her from Nevikov, but it seemed paltry and like she had taken him for granted. He shrugged it off like it was all in a day's work and made a fuss of the huge basket of fruit that she had delivered to him at the office, rather than to his home since that would have been too personal. It was the end of the first week back on duty together before she finally cracked, troubled by the pressure of the thought that she hadn't gone far enough to show her gratitude and the fact that it was a Friday night and this meant that she wouldn't see him again until Monday morning. They stood in the elevator alone together at the end of the day and she suddenly lunged forward, grabbing him tightly and squeezed the air out of his lungs, letting him go again before he had the chance to react and as the bell signalled that the doors were about to open onto the parking lot. She looked at him briefly to make sure he had gotten the message and darted out of the elevator towards her car. Charlie sank into the seat of his loan car, bewildered by the sudden hug but under no illusion as to what it had all been about, regretting that they'd never had the Nevikov conversation where he'd tell her that he would do it all over again exactly the same in a heartbeat.