One of my favorite bits is in Dosed where Van threatens to belt out Neil Diamond songs at the club after Hillary tells him the maids' gossip about his affection for the singer/songwriter. So given that the internet is a fun place, and you can find lyrics for almost anything, I decided to try my hand at writing story to fit - what else – a Neil Diamond song.

IF I LOST MY WAY

If I lost my way, would you stand with me?

Would you love me still and care for what I need if I lost my way?

If I lost the faith to face up to the test, would I let you down?

Would you love me less if I lost my way?

(Words and Music by Neil Diamond and Gary Burr)

Deaq had been sniping at Van - hurling insults, arguing over even the most mundane of things - for close to two weeks. Billie was ready to strangle him, and had tried to get him to deal with the problem. Van had tried to work through whatever was bothering his partner, but Deaq had adamantly refused to cooperate.

She was worried that their inability to settle this would lead to a serious problem in the field. They were so good together – really like an old married couple who could finish each other's sentences and know instinctively what move the other would make. Naturally she had never shared that analogy with them – she could imagine the yelling that would result from that comment – but it was true. And she knew that they cared deeply for each other both as partners and friends.

She was pretty sure Van had never had a 'best friend' before. She knew he and Dre had been close, but figured Dre held the mentor position, whereas Van and Deaq stood on level footing, and that made their friendship one of equals. As for her currently sullen detective, she knew that Van had filled part of the hole left by the loss of his brother. She shook her head, pony tail swinging, when she wondered again what she could do to get her two stubborn mules back on track.

Van was worried too, although he would never admit that to his boss. He knew Billie was only trying to help, but he and his partner had lost a step somewhere along the way and for the life of him, he couldn't pinpoint where. He had tried apologizing – not that he shared that with his boss - even though he didn't have a clue for what, and it had ended badly. If anything it seemed to make his partner even madder. He couldn't say good morning without getting jumped on, so unless it was specifically work related, he kept quiet. All he knew for sure was that he hated the way things were now. He truly wanted to help, but didn't know where to start. He went back to hitting the punching bag, putting all his frustration behind each swing.

Deaq sat on the couch, his eyes on the TV. He could hear the solid hits the bag was taking – and had been for the last 45 minutes - and wondered again, why he didn't just go upstairs and talk to Van. He remained seated however, as he didn't know where to begin that particular conversation. He had been up half the night arguing with himself about the need to end this stupid, endless round of insults and hurtful comments. But he was unsure enough of himself and his place in their friendship that he concluded he was simply too afraid to talk. Intellectually he knew that, at anytime now, Van was going to tell him to go to hell.

He knew he had over stepped the bounds of both the friendship and the partnership, but his partner had – so far - been forgiving. It wouldn't last for much longer, though. And when it was all on the line, would he be able to step up and come clean, or would he let Van walk out of his life. He wasn't really sure of the answer to that question.

His more logical side argued that Van, of all people, would understand. But trust was never a Deaqon Hayes strong point, and he wasn't willing to test that trust. Not if he didn't have to. He figured if he just held out a little longer, had the information he needed, then it wouldn't matter and they could go back to the way they had been. The thought made him huff at his own stupidity. How could he expect Van to forgive him for being such a complete ass? Billie interrupted his musings, telling him rather indelicately to get off his duff, round up his partner and get out to the warehouse they were watching.

They were on surveillance for 24 hours, and exchanged few more than six words. Usually they kept each other entertained – played Van's weird music games - and told stories about women and school and family. This time, though, each took a turn napping, and the only words were 'wake up' or 'my turn.' He hadn't realized that Van could be so quiet. It was wholly unnatural, and left him feeling even more unsettled.

Van offered to fill out the report at the end of the 24 hours and Deaq, after commenting rather unfairly, that it was about time he did his share of the paperwork, went to one of the bedrooms at the back of the Candy Store to sleep. Billie had heard the cutting statement but remained at her desk. What surprised her was the lack of a rebuttal. They had a running joke about Van's whining over paperwork, but he always did his own, and usually more than his share of their joint reports. She went back to their desks, and found Van with his head in his hands.

"Van, what can I do to help?" She asked quietly, sitting down beside him, and placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

"Something's wrong Billie, I just don't know what. I've tried talking, cajoling, threatening and…," the green eyes were filled with misery when they found hers, "he just doesn't want to talk to me…about anything. I'm thinking you might need to find him a new partner. The way he is – it isn't a good idea to be out in the field together." The last was said very quietly, and Billie read the defeat and sadness in those words.

"Van, are you asking me to split you up?" She responded.

"No! God, no! But you know as well as I do Billie, that if he isn't going to talk to me, we're going to get in trouble out there," he paused for a long moment, his eyes clearly lost in a memory, "and I'd rather lose him to another partner then to the streets."

"You want to talk to him first?"

"No, I've tried. It's like hitting a brick wall. All I get is more yelling and screaming and…"

"I need you to finish the Cummings case. It's too late to bring in someone else. I'll talk to him, and let him know that it will be your last case together. And Van, I've talked to Parrish. I'm bringing in another officer to work with you. Deaq and I'll team up for a bit while I look for another candidate."

The shoulders relaxed slightly, "Thanks Billie, I wasn't looking forward to leaving."

"I have too much time and effort invested in you, Officer Ray, to let you go," she said playfully and got a slight smile for her efforts. Van finished up the paperwork and went back to his hotel to sleep.

When Deaq came out of the bedroom, Billie was waiting for him. "Well I hope you're happy," she said snidely.

"Bout what?" He growled as he wiped the rest of sleep from his eyes.

"After the Cummings case is done, so is your partnership with Van."

"What the hell are you talking about?" His hands had fisted, and he swung to face his boss, clearly angry.

She smiled to herself as his reaction validated her belief that whatever the problem, it wasn't Van. "You've made it quite clear these last few weeks that you are very unhappy with the current set up. So I'm bringing in a new partner for Officer Ray, and you and I will team up until I find another suitable candidate."

"Tell me you're not splitting us up Billie." He demanded.

"You clearly don't want to fix whatever is wrong – despite my requests – and Officer Ray..."

"Van said he didn't trust me? There is no way he said that. What game are you playing Billie? Cause whatever it is, cut it out." He was yelling, and Billie could tell that he was scared. Well good, she thought to herself, you should be after being such a son of a bitch to your partner.

"He didn't say he didn't trust you. He's under the impression that you'd be happier with another partner. In fact he was willing to leave the Candy Store because for some reason he cares what happens to you. I'll get you a new partner, as soon as the Cummings case is settled."

Deaq disappeared the next day when Van's soon to be new partner arrived for his initial briefing. And he stayed away until it was time for the Cummings bust. Billie was secretly pleased that he was absent, as it was a clear signal to her that he still trusted his partner, who was left with all the final planning. Van didn't see it that way, but she was now certain that whatever was wrong could be fixed.

Deaq arrived two hours before the bust, and Van went over the building plans, the back up, provided him with the obligatory wire and showed him where the tracking device was in the briefcase. He asked a few questions for clarification, but that was it. He did momentarily brush his shoulder against Van's which earned him a confused look but nothing else.

"Van I want…" Deaq started as they arrived at the agreed upon meeting place.

"Not now Hayes, there's Cummings' lookout, let's go." Van was all business.

They walked into the warehouse together, side by side, as they had done half a hundred times before. Van strove to ignore the sense of loss, and pushed his Strummer persona to the fore. After the money and the drugs had been exchanged, there was a loud noise off to the side, and all hell broke loose. No one would realize until well after the fact that the noise was the result of an overbalanced crate falling. Guns were drawn, shots were fired, and Van manhandled Deaq – who appeared momentarily stunned - behind the limited cover available to them.

He was yelling instructions to Billie for backup as he picked targets and shot. "What the hell is wrong with you?" He yelled at his partner. "I need some help if you want to get out of this in one piece." That shook Deaq out of his stupor, and he added his gun to the overall chaos. SWAT arrived three minutes later, and restored order to the cavernous room.

The two men where arrested, handcuffed, and taken to the station for booking. Van remained silent, even after they were placed in a cell with the two surviving members of Cummings' empire. He found a spot in the front corner of the cell, put his back to the aisle, and slid to the ground with his knees pulled to his chest. Deaq joined Cummings' boys in grousing about the whole scenario, discussing who would get bail first, and how the police had found out. When an officer announced they had bail, he waited for Van to get up before leaving the cell. He didn't try to talk to his partner, figuring he had lost that right somewhere along the way.

Billie was waiting a block away, and Van claimed the back seat. Deaq got in front, and began answering questions. She looked in the rearview mirror trying to catch the officer's eye, but he was staring resolutely at the floor. As they entered the ramp for the freeway, he lifted his head. "Billie, you need to drop me off at Memorial."

Deaq swung around to face his partner. "What the hell?"

"It's just a graze but it's still bleeding." He had his left hand clamped on his shoulder. The black shirt made it hard to see anything, but there was enough blood on his hand to set Deaq off. He went into serious mother hen mode, and began lecturing his partner about his inability to let anyone help when he was hurt. He was well into a carefully rehearsed, often repeated, lecture when Van picked his head up again. "If you weren't such a freaking hypocrite about letting people in, this might even be funny. Just shut the hell up." The voice was cold and stopped Deaq in mid-sentence.

At the hospital, Billie followed Van into the ER while Deaq remained in the car. Once they were inside, he got out and began pacing the length of the parking space. He couldn't believe he was such an idiot – why hadn't he noticed his partner had been hit. Even if he missed it in the warehouse, they sat in a cell for close to two hours – no wonder Van didn't want to be his partner anymore. This was all just so messed up.

He found Billie in the waiting room 20 minutes later. "How is he?"

"They're in with him now. The bullet was a through and through -not a graze – but the doc said it didn't look like too much damage aside from the blood loss. They're going to clean it and stitch him up, and then we can take him home."

"Billie?"

"You need to talk to your partner, not me. Whatever your problem is, I suggest you find the guts to deal with it. We could have lost him today, you know." She left him with that thought and headed for the cafeteria.

Deaq was still slumped in a chair, head in his hands, when Van entered the waiting room, right arm in a sling. "Where's Billie, I'm ready."

Deaq looked up slowly. "You okay?"

"Yeah."

"Look V, I…"

Billie appeared, car keys in hand, and Van followed her, leaving Deaq to bring up the rear. They dropped Van off, and went back to the Candy Store to complete the paperwork and processing of the drugs. When everything was done, Deaq went into Billie's office, and took his customary chair by her desk.

"If you're done, you can go." She said briskly, not looking up from her own paperwork.

"Billie, I…"

"Isn't this the conversation you're supposed to be having with your partner?" She asked lightly after seeing the look of loss and concern in his eyes. She offered him a smile, and he returned it. "Get going."

He stopped at the store on the way to the hotel, and picked up several of Van's favorite comfort foods. He shook his head as he walked the aisles. It's not like some nuts and chocolate were going to make everything alright, but he felt he needed some kind of peace offering to ensure the door wasn't slammed in his face.

He strode off the elevator and up to the suite door. He hesitated, took a deep breath and knocked. When no answer was forth coming, he knocked again. He was about to hit the door for a third time when it opened. His partner stood there in sweats, bare-chested, looking pale against the offset of the pristine white sling. It was unclear who was more surprised, but Van recovered first. "What?"

"I…I picked up some stuff." Deaq managed to get out, thrusting the bag forward, his head down.

Van reluctantly took the bag and peaked inside – his favorite cookies, cashews, potato chips – then he looked at his partner again. "Thanks."

"Van, I…"

"Do you want to come in?" The silence that followed the question was heavy. The brown eyes finally sought out the green, and Deaq nodded. Van moved back toward the couch, and sat. Deaq remained at the door a moment longer, getting over the surprise he felt at being allowed to enter. He took a seat across from the couch and perched at its edge, his head still down.

Tell me I'm afraid without good reason.

Say that I'm a fool to feel this way.

Could it be the me that you believed in

is all you really need to make you stay?

If I lost my way, if I lost my way.

If I lost my dreams, could I keep your trust?

Promise that our love would not turn to dust if I lost my way.

Van opened up the cookies and started munching. He watched Deaq fiddle with his hands for a few minutes, before figuring out he would have to get the ball rolling. "This is generally the part where you tell me why you came over." He said it gently, with a slight touch of a smile in his tone and that brought his partner's head up.

"I'm sorry."

Van shook his head slightly. "For what?"

Deaq lurched out of the chair and began to pace. "Don't be nice to me! I can't stand it. I've been a royal son of a bitch these last few weeks." He was interrupted by a snort from the couch. "Why did you let me in just now?"

"Cause you're my friend, and you've been hurting, and I thought maybe you were finally ready to tell me what was wrong." The green eyes were full of warmth and comfort and Deaq drank that in.

"Van I…god this is so stupid." He collapsed into the same chair. "Remember Rosario?" Van nodded slowly. "She's pregnant." Now he just looked plain confused. "She thinks it might be mine." Van nodded again. "Did you hear what I just said?" Deaq was back on his feet and resumed his pacing.

"She thinks it might be yours." He repeated, though the puzzlement was evident in his voice.

"I told you I didn't sleep with her! I lied to you. Not to mention the fact that I've spent the better part of the entire time I've known you throwing your irresponsible behavior with women in your face. But you've never lied to me about it, and you've never gotten any of them pregnant." He stopped his tirade.

"And you still don't know that you got Rosario pregnant. How do you know it isn't Alton's?"

"The results of the DNA tests are due today."

"Okay."

"Okay? No it isn't okay, don't you understand?" He was yelling again.

"You're worried that you might – and I emphasize might – have gotten a woman pregnant."

"Stop playing with me Van. I know you ain't stupid. I lied to you, didn't trust you, and like every other time I've lied to you, it's coming back to bite me in the ass."

"What are you going to do if it's yours?"

"Aren't you mad?"

"About what?"

"Van. I lied to you."

"I get that part Deaq. I don't get why you felt you couldn't trust me. But to be frank, whether you slept with her or not really isn't any of my business."

"Stop being so freaking reasonable about it."

"Is this really why you have been a total asshole lately? Oh my god," and he began to laugh. He was laughing so hard he had to brace his feet so he didn't fall off the couch. "You've got to be kidding me?" He managed while trying to catch his breath.

"There is nothing funny about this, nothing at all." Deaq commanded, looking totally mystified and a little put out at his partner's reaction. "I put my life in your hands everyday – just like today – yet I don't trust you enough to tell you I slept with someone."

"Did you think I was going to throw it back in your face?" Van's face was serious now.

"Why shouldn't you? After all, I've practically made a career out of telling you how to live your life."

"Because you're my friend and you screwed up – seems to me you've forgiven any number of my screw ups. Why'd you think I wouldn't forgive yours?"

"I thought you probably would."

"Okay now I am thoroughly confused. You figured I would forgive you, but you didn't want to tell me anyway. Is this the part where I get the speech about the inability of Hayes men to admit when they're wrong? If so, spare me the lecture, I heard it from your brother enough times to have it memorized." The tone was approaching miffed.

"I was afraid if I told you, you'd want out of the partnership." Deaq said barely above a whisper.

"You think I'd leave you over whether or not you slept with a woman? Dude, I am officially pissed off now! What have I ever done to make you think I'm that shallow? You are my partner, and my best friend. You seriously think I'd chuck all that over Rosario? Man, you don't have a freaking clue about me do you?" Now it was Van's turn to yell. "How stupid are you? And you threw all that crap at me why – so I'd have a legitimate excuse to leave and you'd never have to tell me. I just don't get you Deaq, not at all."

"I didn't say it made sense," Deaq said after Van had plopped back down on the couch. "What you think is very important to me. And I know that you hate being lied to. And I did it anyway. I was worried that I'd blown our friendship with this stunt."

Van took a deep breath and looked his partner square in the eye. "You're too important to let anything get in the way. I don't care if it's women, or illegal activity or cheating at pool! You are my best friend. That gives you major leeway in all categories, man. I mean, come on, I even put up with you dissing the Beach Boys. We all lose our way now and then. And our friends help us find our way back."

"I'm sorry."

"You're forgiven, and to make it up to me we'll go surfing as soon as the doc says I can go back in the water. Now, did you bring anything to drink with these snacks?" Van was back in the bag pulling out cashews and chips.

"That's it?"

"Yeah – except if you forgot to bring beer - go see what looks good in the minibar."

"The surfing's optional, right?"

"I don't think so. Not this time." Van responded with a big smile.

Deaq was raiding the minibar when his cell rang. He opened it and stopped in his tracks when he heard a woman's voice. He listened intently, grunted thanks and finished his job. He returned to the living room with several beers and small bottles of liquor.

"Just got the results."

"And?"

"Looks like you'll have to wait awhile longer before becoming an uncle..."

"That's fine with me…although Uncle Van does have a nice ring to it." He ducked a throw pillow easily and smiled as the music that was his partner's laugh washed over him.