A/N:After I POSTED "3 Tries" (which I SWEAR I'll finish soon), I got some nice PM from some Flack/Angell shippers saying that they really liked the story, despite the fact that it was going to be a Fiesta pairing in the end. Someone was even kind enough to pace it on their C2 archive, and for that I'm pretty thankful.
Guess me and the muse felt we owed you this…
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She sat, quietly, waiting for him.
Not because she had to, mind you, but because she wanted to. Because she was worried about him. He had come in on his day off because "something had come up with Danny" which she knew was Flack speak for "I'm worried", which in turn worried her. He had also mentioned going for an Irish coffee, which she also knew meant he was this close of actually needing to get wasted in order to move on, which was even more worrisome.
But what kept her sitting there inside her car, getting all sorts of weird looks from her fellow officers and not giving a damn, was the fact that he'd called her "Jess" in public.
It had been a private joke going on for several years now, ever since she had joined the force. She had signed up to visit the kids at the Cancer Pediatric Ward at the hospital, something most cops did at least once a year, and since her visit was scheduled for the Halloween festivities, she had been asked to dress up as a Disney character. Not being one to have frilly dresses lying around waiting for the occasion to arise, she settled on dressing up as Jessie, the yodeling cowgirl in Toy Story 2. Her nieces loved the character and she assumed they couldn't be too far off from the rest of the kids.
She had been having a good time, and the kids seemed to, as well, as she read them a story, when they all began to tell her that "Woody" had arrived and if she thought he'd brought "Bullseye" with him. She'd turn around to find a mildly-surprised, mildly-embarrassed "Woody" standing at the doorway, the deepest blue eyes she'd ever seen winking at her.
He had never brought it up until their third case together. He had had to call her in on her day off, and was mildly amused to see her arrive in sweat pants, t-shirt and braids. It was the braids that started the teasing, and he began calling her "Jessie" just to annoy her. She retaliated by calling him "Woody", which he seemed to find amusing as hell, something to brag about around the bullpen, until she threatened with spilling the beans on the real origin of the name, dispelling all notions of sexual prowess on his part. The jesting had gone on and off ever since, thus "Jessie" and "Woody" becoming some sort of secret code between them.
He'd call her Jess while on the basketball court and he'd addressed her as Jess in emails and text messages and those little notes they passed back and forth while waiting during trial duty. He'd call her Jess at 3 am when either one of them got far too wasted to make it home safely and needed safe transport or a closer place to crash for the remainder of the night.
But he'd never, ever call her Jess in the precinct. Or in front of others. And that worried her more than everything else put together.
She had diligently booked Rikki Sandoval, filled in the necessary paper work, and been mute witness of the exchange between Flack and Messer and was now patiently waiting for Flack to exit the building so she could drive him home, make sure he didn't drank more than necessary, make sure he got in bed in one piece and keep vigil on his couch. Just like he'd done when she found out the guy she'd been seeing for six months, the guy who had hinted at proposal, was indeed a jerk who was married to a wife who'd deliver his firstborn in less than two weeks time. She'd gotten absolutely wasted and had actually toyed with the idea of hunting the bastard down. She'd have, had it not been for Flack, who'd kept her locked inside her place and the gun far from her reach until she was sober enough to think straight. Then he'd gone and looked for the guy and had given the SOB a "piece of his mind" which, she was sure, included a closed fist or two.
So she waited.
She slid out of the car as soon as she saw him standing at the top of the stairs and gently called out his name. He whirled around, saw it was her and tried to put up a brave smile, but knew she could see behind the façade. He didn't complain when she got behind the wheel, and he didn't bother to ask where they were going. He trusted her beyond those simple matters and he had long since gone past the point of caring. All he wanted that night was to get away from it all, how he managed to do so lacked importance.
They got to his place, and it was a given she'd go upstairs and spend the night, if necessary. He led the way in silence, and she followed, certain there will be enough time for words later on. He went straight into the bathroom and soon the shower was running; she went into the kitchen, and soon the kettle was boiling. He reached for the soap; she reached for the sugar. He slid on an old t-shirt; she poured in an aged whisky.
By the time he went back into the living room, his mug was set on the coffee table, and she was sitting on the couch, already sipping hers.
They sat in silence while they drank their coffee. She was patiently waiting for him and he knew it, but stalled. He wasn't sure where to start, so he chose neutral ground and started asking about her latest case. From there he went about the usual rumor mill around the precinct, the latest news, the Yankees, the weather… when he ran out of unimportant things to say he stood up and took both their mugs to the kitchen. He returned later with two tumblers filled halfway. Handing her one, he went and stood by the window.
He looked out of the window, as he pensively sipped his drink, seemingly lost in thought. To a casual onlooker, the attitude would be interpreted as a cue to leave. She knew him well enough to know this was merely the preamble. Soon enough, he'd simply sigh and start talking.
And when he finally did, it was as if the floodgates had burst open.
He spoke about Ruben and Danny and Rikki and how it hurt to see his friend hurting and how scared he had been thinking Danny was going to be shot by a grieving mother and how unfair he felt the whole thing was to begin with.
He told her about how more and more often he felt disillusionment on their profession, and how he was loosing faith in human kind and how he had considered quitting and leaving New York behind and getting away from it all. She had to bite back her own opinion and not burst out in denials when he mentioned there were days when he felt he had lost his love for the job.
He mentioned how sometimes age got to him and he began questioning how he had gotten into the third decade of his life and not have the life he had dreamed of mere fifteen years prior. He had somehow assumed he'd follow his father's footsteps from A to Z and somewhere along the line he had lost his way. By the time the 30th birthday of the Senior had rolled by, he had been already married and had a couple of kids and was well on his way of becoming Lieutenant before reaching 40. Junior, on the other hand, had yet to master the art of keeping a relationship going on long enough to go out for a 5th date.
He admitted to the terrible crush he had had, still had, on Stella Bonasera, and how she had gently and caringly thanked him and declined. She had told him she was still years away from trusting herself to love another man again, that she wasn't really sure she'd ever allow herself to trust enough to love again, and that he'd be better off falling for someone else, someone he'd be able to settle down with and have kids with. In short, someone other than herself. He'd taken the rejection like a man, which meant it hurt like hell but he had not let it shown and had tried to move on. Tried being the operative word here, as he was certain he'd always have some sort of schoolboy-turned-man's crush on her.
And after he had talked for what seemed like hours, he finally sat down. This time around, it was her who had taken the tumblers and refilled them, taking the time to try and digest everything he had just told him. She was shocked at his admission of not loving the job as much as he used to and relieved that he was getting over his crush on Stella. Not because Stella wasn't worth of him, quite the opposite, but because she didn't want to see her friend suffer. She, of all people, knew just how badly it hurt to love someone close to you and not be able to either tell them or do anything about it.
She went back to the living room and found him sitting there, remote control in hand, TV turned off, staring into nothingness, absolutely lost in his own thoughts. She quietly placed his drink in front of him and moved to the window to drink hers. Did it hurt to know he was still in love with another woman? Yes. Could she do anything about it? No, and therein laid the crux of the problem. She'd continue to play the "lil' sister" role, the "one of the guys" part she knew all too well how to play, her feelings be damned.
She had often wondered if she ought to tell him, or at least, hint at, how she felt, but time and time again she found a good reason to bite the words back. After the stakeout duty and the whole "I'm sure the boys noticed" game busting line, she had had a glimmer of hope, but he'd never made a move again, never mentioned it again, and she began to believe that she might have misinterpreted the whole thing.
She looked down and was mildly surprised to see her drink gone. Looking over her shoulder she could see that Flack was still sitting on the couch, lost within himself; the drink, untouched and forgotten, still on the table in front of him. She decided he was going to be okay, at least for the time being, having exorcised his demons for the night. She made her way back to the kitchen and placed the empty tumbler on the counter next to the sink. Without looking back, she walked to the door and opened the door. His voice froze her in place.
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A/N:Wow… this is so NOT going the way I had originally envisioned! Even I am wondering where this one is headed!