A/N: Okay, okay, I know. I know I said it was finished but I'm an animal, I just couldn't freakin' leave it alone. This is really it though, I promise!
Dani was sat at her desk checking out the previous convictions of some thug, cross-checking the dates of his spells inside with some unsolved cases and trying hard to ignore Crews who had been rattling his pen between his teeth on and off for the past thirty minutes. She knew that he knew that drove her nuts.
He yawned and stretched demonstratively hoping to attract her attention and make eye contact, just for the sake of it. Eye contact was okay, it was permissible, but only to a degree. Secretly she found that she needed it to get through the day. Glimpses, glances, and secret nearly-smiles were okay. Gawping, staring, and winking were not cool. Eye-fucking was totally banned. It seemed he could make his eyes twinkle on demand and if there was a word for that, she would have banned that too because she found it incredibly distracting. But this look he gave her now was more of a furtive peek, one of many he performed throughout the day, as if for reassurance. Are you here? I'm here. We're here, this is working, isn't it? Hey, we're okay. She found it reassuring too. It was allowed.
However, there was a whole list of stuff he wasn't allowed to do and he was learning this as they went along. He never touched her at work. Apart from when she let him put his arm around her at Jeannie Harris' funeral. No footsie under the desk. No suggesting they take the backseat on stakeouts, not even for ten minutes in the dark at 3am. No referring to anything they had done or discussed outside work while they were at work. No notes. No suggestive texts on their work phones. No gifts left on her desk. No gifts, period; except for when he searched high and low through thrift stores and hipster vintage markets in order to source a replacement for that ugly lamp of her mother's that he smashed that time. The replacement lamp wasn't exactly as ugly as the original but she had been touched by the effort he had gone to. No using her first name, not even when they were alone in the car in case there was a slip up with the radio. No betrayal of the fact, or even a hint, that they were anything more than the kind of partners they had always been.
Charlie was miserable and uncomfortable and couldn't concentrate. It wasn't just that he was itching to get his hands on Dani, although they both knew that was a big part of it. His back prickled and throbbed like the worst sunburn he ever had. He had resisted but she had made him start tattoo removal sessions. She wore him down, telling him that it couldn't hurt more than being sat on by three cackling guys and cut with a piece of tin in the first place. Well, it did hurt. He guessed his pain threshold had been higher in those days. Quit whining, Detective, she said. First to go was the swastika right on the spot where his neck became his spine. He liked her kissing him there. She told him she couldn't live with that one, that there was no greater turn off than Hitler. If he ever wanted to feel her lips there, or anywhere else for that matter, ever again, he needed to go visit the laser clinic. So he booked a course of treatments. The laser guy told him that some of the marks were so crude and dug so deep that he didn't know if they would ever fade completely. Dani was satisfied that he was trying and Charlie was pleased that he would probably not have to let go completely, persisting in his warped belief that the tattoos gave him inner strength. She was letting him keep the tally on his ribs though, touched by the way he had covered it protectively with his fingers when she suggested getting that zapped too. Whatever it represented to her was not what it had come to mean for him and she had to respect that. The tally was staying. They were good for one another, she figured, she was learning the art of compromise and he was starting to let go of the past.
So things were good, she admitted to herself. See? I told you. What took you so long?, her better self sang. The darker part of herself, the cynic, the drinker, the pessimist, rolled her eyes and sulked; she was subdued for now but remained resigned that it would all turn to shit sooner or later. She couldn't help it. So the list of stuff that Crews wasn't allowed to do grew ever longer, it was her way of guarding against eventualities that could tip the balance and bring everything down around her ears. She worried that he would tire of these rules, these impositions on his freedom when his freedom must be so important to him. Had she asked him, he would have shrugged and told her that there had always been rules to follow with her, it was just lately that they were made explicit; now that they were explicit, his life felt a lot easier, if anything. But she never asked him, because that would expose her weakness, so she worried on.
She worried that they would get busted at work and that the pressure would be too much. She worried that she would freak and push him away. She worried that something would go wrong and she would relapse. She worried that the fact that she worried so much meant that she was in way too deep. Yet she never told him.
Crews was careful. He had heeded all her warnings from that hotel room at the edge of the ocean. He didn't rush her, he didn't push. There were no grand gestures and no profound declarations. He never spoke about their future, their mango grove. He concentrated in each moment and truly 'being'. It seemed to be working. Turned out there was something to all this Zen business after all.
Now she couldn't focus. He had diverted his attention to a file, photos from a death scene, almost certainly homicide but they had little to go on. The images were grisly but his face was serene apart from slight tension in his bottom lip that she was convinced that only she could see. She couldn't wait to get him home. They would talk about the day, saying all the stuff that had occurred to them but that they weren't allowed to say in the workplace; alternating excited chatter with kisses that were more like bites. The chatter eventually dried up as the kisses got longer and more indulgent. A while later she would puzzle at the person slumbering next to her, the thug's inky skin and the cop's neat haircut, a Tom Ford suit jacket thrown to the floor, his shoes kicked off in her hall, his mansion laying empty three miles away while he filled up her life and her apartment with his presence. She realized that she was coming to rely on him being there. So she would throw him out and hate herself for the rest of the night, then ask him to call for her the next morning before work, make love to him rapidly and more passionately than ever before in her kitchen and offer "You don't live here, Crews, okay? But stay tonight...' by way of explanation. She wondered at his patience.
Seever was wafting over to their bank of desks on her regular beat, smiling broadly. Dani saw her coming but it was too late to disappear to the restroom. She suppressed a snarl.
As Seever wove her way across the room, Dani watched her take the time to say hi to everyone, to ask after people's kids, dogs and mothers, all of whose names she had of course remembered. It was a real charm offensive. That woman was a force of nature; so efficient that she had already filed tomorrow's paperwork; so calculated that she was campaigning right now, several years before running for Mayor. Seever stored up goodwill as she went, banking favors, working the room. Everybody's friend. Dani couldn't help but be the one exception. Maybe she was being unfair, she told herself. Maybe she envied her sunny disposition, her ease with people, her certainty. She was smart, an unashamed careerist, an athlete. She had a great smile and an amazing ass. She volunteered in her spare time. She probably breastfeeds lame orphan kittens, Dani snarked in her head. Charlie had once told her something about Seever's amazing memory but Dani had forgotten what it was. Yeah, everyone loved Seever but Dani found it all a little false, a little trying. She didn't have the patience for all that effort. She told herself that it had nothing to do with the fact that Seever and Crews got along great, and that she still harbored jealousy over her having partnered him while Dani was posted at the FBI. That had nothing to do with it. That woman was just too much, that was all.
Dani looked up and raised her eyebrows in a lazy kind of greeting, designed not to encourage conversation. Nine times out of ten it worked.
"Hey Seever, how's it going?", Charlie, meanwhile, seemed happy to see her and Dani wanted to kick him under the desk. No footsie, she reminded herself.
"I'm doing great, thanks. Hey Reese, did you do something to your hair?.."
Charlie was grinning full beam across the desk, knowing how much this attempt at girlie chit-chat would grate on Dani's nerves.
"Um, no, I was short on time this morning, so it's, uh, up...", she grumbled.
She saw Charlie smirk. He liked up. He like why it was up. Her hair was up because somebody had wandered past her in just a towel, stirred up her hormones and severely disrupted her beauty regime this morning.
"Well, it looks great.", Seever nodded approval. "Say, did you hear that a bunch of us are heading out on Friday night? Maybe bowling and drinks? I know Crews told me that you don't really do work things but I wondered if you guys could make it?"
"Um, no. Crews told you right. I don't do work things."
Seever was obviously taken aback by Dani's bluntness. Despite her well honed people skills, it threw her for a second.
"Oh, okaay. Crews? Are you in?" Seever looked to Crews for a little friendly reassurance.
"Sorry Seever, I have plans on Friday. I got a date.", he grinned.
Dani put her head down quickly and started clacking her keyboard.
"A date, huh?", Seever was interested. "Why don't you bring her along?"
"Uh, no. That wouldn't be appropriate.", he shook his head rapidly.
"Oh really? Is it too soon?", she nodded understanding. "Is this like a first date, or a a second...", Seeing on his face that it wasn't, she started to chase him down. "...or someone special?"
Dani looked up for a split second and shot him daggers.
Charlie figured he get criticism no matter how he answered, so he went with the truth. "Uh, I'd have to say...someone special."
Now Seever had him in her sights. She adopted the tone she used to tease her fourteen year-old nephew about his love life.
"Woah Charlie, do you have a girlfriend?! You do, don't you? This is huge! You're like the most single guy I've ever known. Hey Reese, did you know about this?"
Dani did not care for her over-familiar tone.
Seever drew up a chair, wanting to grill her sometimes-partner.
"I wanna hear all about her. Dani, have you met her? What's she like?".
"Don't look at me...I know nothing.", Dani held her palms up in the air, not wanting to be any part of this conversation, or help Charlie with the mess she could see he was about to get into.
"Wait up, Crews. You know if you want to start something serious with someone you're gonna have to get your partner's blessing."
"He doesn't need my blessing for anything...", Dani protested.
"Hey, you should totally bring her on Friday, introduce her, and Dani, you should come too, make an exception, check her out. Make sure she's good enough for your partner here."
"Well, it's early days so I don't wanna rush anything...", Charlie backtracked, sorry he started this whole thing.
"Charlie Crews." Seever slapped Charlie lightly on the upper arm. "You dog! You know this is kind of annoying, I have a friend and I told her all about you. I was gonna fix you guys up. She's an attorney."
"He doesn't like attorneys.", Dani cut in quickly, despite herself.
It was Dani who didn't like attorneys. She hadn't forgotten about Constance, whom she had hated at first sight all that time ago when she had showed up in this very office. She had only recently come to understand why that was.
"So tell me a little about her. Is she cute? How did you meet her? Is it serious?" Seever was genuinely excited for him.
Well this was uncomfortable. Dani definitely felt uncomfortable with this.
Charlie, who was never lost for words, found himself floundering.
"One moment please. Charlie, you're blushing.", Seever looked suspiciously at him. "Charlie, are you...in love?"
Charlie squirmed, couldn't meet Dani's eyes, or Seever's for that matter. He withered under the expectant gaze of the two women. Dani's eyes snapped down, back to her work, but he knew she was waiting for his answer as much as Seever was.
He paused to consider his response. Dani waited for the earth to swallow her.
Charlie leaned back in his chair, pushed away from the desk and with an air of defiance that wasn't directed at her, looked Seever straight in the eye.
"Yeah. I guess I am."
He let his words hit home but he didn't look over at his partner, not even for a second.
Seever was whooping and making a fuss but Dani couldn't hear her. She could not contain her impulse to flee. Her legs straightened of their own accord and she found herself heading out, away, anywhere and settled for heading to the coffee pot, then to the restroom, then to the water cooler where she engaged with Robles about his son's softball team for four suffocating minutes.
She returned to her desk when she felt she had no choice. Crews was looking at his file again now that the commotion had died down and Seever had wandered off to rescue a drowning puppy or something. His face was as impassive as ever.
She said nothing. He said nothing. She would even go as far as to say that he ignored her.
Crews watched the clock. Thirty three minutes passed. Nothing; she was typing. Forty nine minutes; she was making some calls. He got up and stretched his legs, wandered the office much like Seever had done. One hour and twenty two minutes; he really should get back to work. He approached his desk but from the opposite direction, arriving behind Dani's back, out of her line of vision. He could see that she was smiling a beautiful faraway smile to herself, she didn't have enough time to school her features to normal as he sat down.
"What's up, Reese? Something funny about multiple homicide?", he teased her.
"Why are you grinning like that?"
"Did something...or someone...make you happy?"
"Want coffee?", she asked.
"No thanks.", he replied, holding up a green apple, as if that were an explanation.