This is number three in the Credo/Caveat story arc, and takes place directly where Arrow of Time leaves off. I should probably collectively call them "Pillow Talk", since they all take place in Don's bed and bath, or "Eye Candy" because somehow Don always ends up shirtless. J This one is the longest, and took me a while to write, but it was a complicated episode, with many layers of thought, and I hoped to do it justice.
This does not mean there will be no more Don/Robin from me, however. I already had one partly finished when Arrow of Time and this one intervened.
Spoilers for Arrow of Time, but I think that's all.
"So," She slid her hands over his shoulders, feeling the stiffness of the Kevlar straps under his jacket against her palms. "Think you're ready to go home?'
He lowered the book, one finger holding the page. "I can't go home..." His eyes looked vague and tired. "I have reports to write…a briefing…" he made a face. "Probably a press conference."
"I'm pretty sure David has the reports and the briefing covered. Let the PR Department take the press conference. I think you've earned a breather. When is the last time you slept anyway?"
He snorted softly. "Loss of sleep is an occupational hazard."
"There are limits – even for you – " her voice broke and she bent forward, linking her arms around his neck and pressing her cheek against his hair. She squeezed her eyes shut, fighting for composure.
"Hey," warm fingers curled around one of her wrists, a thumb rubbing her pulse point. "It all turned out okay, right?"
Voice still trapped in her throat, she nodded, felt her knees thud on the solid surface of the floor, dropped the arm he wasn't holding to encircle his chest and hold on tighter. Her ribs convulsed with silent sobs.
The motion on her wrist never stopped, but she felt his shoulders lift in a silent sigh. After a second, his head dropped back to rest on her shoulder. She pushed her wet cheek against his, trying to get even closer.
"Okay," he said softly after a pause. "Let's go home."
They made their way slowly out of the synagogue, hands still entwined. He paused on the steps, scanning the curb, and she stopped next to him, clinging to his arm. He held out a hand. "Better let me drive."
That shook something free and she straightened. "No. You're – I'll drive."
"I'm…?" He narrowed his eyes at her. "And what are you? Iron lady?"
"Yeah." She swiped roughly at her eyes with her palm and fumbled in her pocket for the keys. "I am. Get in."
He opened his mouth to say something, then pursed his lips and whistled soundlessly instead. Stiffly, he reached up and kneaded the base of his neck. "Okay," he shrugged at last.
He gestured toward the car and she led the way down the steps, still hanging onto him, but all business now, suddenly in a hurry to leave this place behind. She clicked the remote to free the door locks and slipped into the driver side, watched as he settled himself into the passenger seat beside her, movements increasingly weighted and weary.
"I always – " he began, then lifted the hand again as if to interrupt himself. "Sure."
She waited until she heard the buckle snick, then turned over the engine and put the car into gear.
She drove with full concentration on the road, meticulously using her directional, coming to a full stop at every stop sign. She forced herself to keep her eyes straight ahead, wouldn't let them stray to the passenger seat, knowing that that way led to distraction and that it would be too stupid to survive everything else, only to die in a careless traffic accident. They drove in silence, and by the time she eased the car into a parking space in front of his building, her neck ached with holding it so purposefully rigid. She shut off the engine and resisted the urge to lay her head down on the steering wheel. We made it.
She took a deep breath and released her seatbelt with an unconvincing smile. "Here we are."
She twisted in the seat. "Don?" The smile curled into something more genuine. "Hey – " She reached over to touch his cheek. "C'mon. Home." She watched his eyes open to slits. "You can do that inside, you know. In a bed. Where it's comfortable."
"Hm." He massaged his forehead, squeezing his eyes shut then opening them wide. "All of a sudden, I feel like I could sleep for a week."
She half-smiled and pushed the car door open, igniting the dome light. "If that's an invitation, I accept. Come on, Sleeping Beauty."
He followed her example more slowly, nudging the door open and stumbling to his feet. "I thought Sleeping Beauty got to wake up to a kiss."
"Get yourself upstairs and I'll make it up to you." She snatched at his sleeve. "Here's a helpful hint – the door is this way."
He was reaching under his collar, wincing as his fingers worked roughly at his chest. "Here's another one – don't sleep in Kevlar."
"I'll write that down." She gave his arm a tug. She knew – really knew – that Buck Winters was in custody and Rafe was dead, so there was no sniper lurking nearby, but somehow she couldn't get comfortable outside, out of cover. "Come on. You'll feel better after a shower. Or I'll draw you a bath." She pulled a little harder. "I'll even join you."
"Yeah?" His fingers dug at the back of his skull now, but in the soft-focus light of the streetlamp she recognized his bright, roguish grin.
Her face relaxed into a real smile in return. How many days since she'd seen that? "Yeah. Come on."
"You're in a big hurry all of a sudden." But he let himself be herded through the lobby and into the elevator.
She pressed the floor button. "Did you call your Dad?"
He groaned, running his hands over his face. "I meant to. I mean, I asked David to make sure he got any news, but…"
"Call him. Even if he knows, he'll want to hear your voice."
"You think?" The elevator dinged to a stop.
"I know. I'll get the door – you call."
He gave her an odd look, but groped at his belt for his cell phone while she wrestled the door inward.
She all but pushed him in ahead of her, then locked the door firmly and slid the chain home, rattling the knob, just to be sure the locks held.
He paused, watching her, cell phone in hand. "Robin – "
A faint voice chirped from the cell phone and he pressed it hastily against his ear. "Dad?" He gestured to her to catch her attention, but she ignored him and headed toward the bathroom.
"Finish your call – I'll start your bath."
"Ro – yeah, Dad. No – fine – everything went fine. No shots fired or anything - "
Fine. She twisted the faucets to start a good water flow, shutting the drain. Fine, he says. Fine, fine, fine. Someday he'll have to show me what ISN'T fine, because this is definitely NOT my idea of…she grabbed a stack of towels and slammed them on top of the sink vanity.
She had lost track of the sound of his voice and she moved to the doorway again, listening, then into the hallway. "Don?" Even she noticed the faint note of panic.
"Yeah." She followed his voice into the bedroom, found him standing there, shaking his arms free of his jacket. "Dad sends his best."
She moved directly to him, clawing at the Velcro straps still holding his Kevlar in place, tearing the vest open.
"Hey – hey – what…?"
"It's in my way." She tried to push it over his head, half expecting the inevitable joke, but she felt his hands on her upper arms instead.
"Hey." More firmly this time.
She hung from the Kevlar, fingers clutched tight in the seams, noticed for the first time his face, grave and troubled, eyes dark and grim. I'm scaring him, she realized. After everything else that's happened, THIS is what scares him? "It's – I need to – " She pushed it over his head, and his expression didn't change as it slid to the floor behind him with a thud.
She could feel his flesh now beneath his tee shirt, the muscle and bone and sinew, the pull of his lungs, the hammer of his heartbeat, and she pressed herself against them, hands under his shirt, over his shoulders, along his neck, in his hair, taking inventory. There was nothing between them now but a thin layer of cotton, stiff with dried sweat, the smell of him strong and warm and familiar. She breathed it in, leaning into him, hooking her chin over his shoulder and holding on with all her might. Alive. Alive, alive, alive. She clamped her eyes shut so she could focus on the feel and smell, and because she was not – NOT – going to cry…
"Okay, okay, okay…sssshhh…"
Hands combed through her hair, stroked her head, rubbed her back, gripped her waist. She turned her head to rest her cheek on his shoulder, kept her eyes closed.
Much, much better. Alive. Even…she choked on a half-hysterical laugh…yes, even fine.
She wasn't sure how long she stood that way, hands fisted in the fabric of his tee shirt, the murmur of his voice and the warmth of his touch steadying her, how long before she noticed what wasn't digging into her hip. She opened her eyes, pulled back a little to look.
"Better?" His gaze tried to catch hers, but her eyes slid away, busy at his waist.
Cell phone…handcuffs… "Where's your gun?"
"Your locker." This time she took a full step back to look straight at him. "Your – you were unarmed?"
He raised his brows. "I had a five-man tactical team and three federal marshals, all carrying assault rifles. I don't think you can call that 'unarmed'."
"I am talking about you, specifically, personally. You didn't have a backup weapon? Something concealed…?"
"A gun would have just been an invitation for him to shoot me, no questions asked."
"A gun he could see. But – under your jacket – "
"Eight shooters – all poised to fire with a direct bead on him! There was nothing I could do struggling to get a gun out from under my jacket that they couldn't do better and faster. Besides, he wasn't really looking to kill me."
She felt the breath seize in her chest and swallowed hard to free her voice. "You make it sound like he was so predictable and rational."
"Maybe not rational – but yeah, pretty predictable." He yanked his tee shirt over his head and tossed it aside. "I mean, was I wrong?"
"What if he panicked? What if he decided he didn't want to go down alone?"
"He didn't. And if he had, he would have been shot to pieces in about half a second. I wasn't being careless – or – or - cavalier - I had a plan."
"Oh, a plan!" she hated the tone of her voice, but somehow, she couldn't stop. "The great Don Eppes had a plan! So no worries – everything is under control!"
"It wasn't like that!" His voice rose sharply. "It was - the opposite of that! Oh, what's the point – " He dropped onto the edge of the bed, turning his back to her, unlacing one shoe and tossing it aside with more force than necessary.
She bit her lip at the sound of a second shoe ricocheting off of the nightstand with a dull thud. This was in no way how she had planned for this to go. "I'm sorry. That was low." She snuk a peek at his bowed head. He didn't look at her, but she thought the rigid muscles in his back softened some. "I just – I've been so scared. It doesn't bring out the best in me."
She followed the steady, economical movements as he folded his belt, plucking the handcuffs and cell phone free, his full attention on the task, so when he spoke, she almost missed it.
"My Dad said that. That he was scared."
She moved cautiously closer, brushed one shoulder with her finger. "Yeah?"
He nodded. "I told him I was scared, too. Scared I'd have to kill Buck."
"Don," she sat down next to him and put one hand over his. "He was a murderer, many times over."
"I know that. I was there, remember?"
"I'm saying there's nothing wrong with protecting yourself. Especially against someone who's threatened your life."
He lifted his chin and sucked in a breath. "And I did."
"You went to meet him unarmed."
"With backup. I made a reasonable tactical decision in order to return him to custody with minimal loss of life. A successful decision, in case you didn't notice." He rose and moved to the dresser, tucking the belt in a drawer and closing it with a subdued slam.
She watched him from her seat on the bed. "I just want you to take care of your life. It has value to me – in case you didn't notice."
He stopped at that, rubbing his hands roughly over his face, then finally turned to look at her. "I know that. It has value to me, too. I'm not looking to die, Robin."
"Well, I'm glad to hear it. Because it sure seemed to me – "
"Yeah. I got that. To you, my Dad, David, Liz, Charlie - everybody, I guess. Okay, not Nikki. Nikki told me I was on the side of the angels." He gave a short, humorless laugh. "But everybody else."
"Well, it's that whole 'don't worry about me, I've got it covered' thing you do. Makes it seem like you're just blowing it off. That you don't grasp the severity of the situation."
He lifted his head in surprise, tilted it at her questioningly. "Seriously? I mean, it's not like I don't have any experience in this."
"Yes, all right, but - I just need to be sure you're not cruising on macho bravado."
"My dad described it as 'detachment'." He shook his head. "I can't tell how it looks. That's what you think - you think I'm just blowing it off? If nothing else, you should know I take my job seriously."
"Your job, yes. Your life? You tell me."
He stared at her. "I can't believe you can even ask me that. I mean, all the therapy, this - other thing - you and me - " He wandered over to the arched window and gazed out at the lights of Los Angeles. "What do you think all that was about?"
"You stand in the line of fire and act like nothing could possibly happen!"
He stood silent.
"I don't want you to worry - any of you," he said quietly at last. "If there's some psycho after me, that's my problem - another occupational hazard - I don't want any of you in the crossfire. And…" He flattened a hand high along the curve of brick framing the window, thrust the other one into his back pocket. "I…need to focus. Concentrate. If I get infected by everybody else's worry, how am I gonna do that? Keep a clear head?"
She studied his back. "Well, if someone's gunning for you, I claim worry rights. You can't protect me from that. Your problem is my problem. As for the other - fair enough. Do what you need to do. But would it kill you to explain?"
He turned to look at her questioningly, then smiled slightly. "I'm not used to explaining myself. Sometimes I don't even know how." He hitched himself onto the window edge and studied the loosely clasped hands between his knees. "And if I had - come on. You would have had me locked up, if only for my own safety. All of you. Right?"
She gave a soft snort of assent, leaning forward to rest her forearms on her thighs. They sat that way in silence, not looking at each other.
"I kept thinking about Crystal Hoyle." She looked up at that, but his eyes were still self-consciously focused on his hands. "First the stuff with Buck…then Crystal…everybody asking why I took the shot when Ian was right there - I mean, I don't know, why did I? There was a spree killer headed right for us, I had a clear shot - I fired. I don't think I thought about it - it was instinctive, really. But then even my dad said I seemed to need to save all the dirty work for myself, and Bradford said I had control issues and I thought - maybe they're right. I've got a good team - the best. Maybe I need to step back and let them do some of the dirty work. So when we went to rescue Bernardo Infante I figured, David's here, Colby's here, let them take the shot." He fell silent.
She winced. "And Bernardo Infante was killed."
He nodded slowly. "They weren't fast enough. Would I have been faster? I don't know. But after that…I started with Bradford for real. I thought I'd - get some answers, you know? But seemed like there were just more questions. Everything started to unravel. I'd make a decision - a decision that felt like the right one - and…" He leaned his head back against the window and closed his eyes. "Then I just didn't know any more. It felt like I kept getting further and further out on this dark ledge - and the ledge kept getting thinner and thinner. Colby. Leah Wexford. Megan. Then this whole thing with Charlie…the ledge just seemed to dissolve under me with that one and leave me…free falling."
She got up from the bed and perched on the ledge next to him, reached for one of his hands. "Listen. You stuck your neck way out, but you saved Colby's life. Megan has to make her own decisions. And Leah Wexford…someone used you to get to her. How could you have known?"
He opened his eyes to look at her. "I guess that's my point. I felt like I just didn't know any more. What if Colby really had been a traitor? Keeping what I knew to myself would have made me one too. Worse, I would have dragged David and Megan down with me. It just felt…bad. Like the answers were - a crap shoot, no rhyme or reason. Throw the dice and see what happens. See how many lives get screwed up with you along the way. Like I had no say or control at all - I was just some random lethal weapon, pushed along by circumstances."
She smiled a little. "Like Mel Gibson?"
He almost smiled back. "Naw. He wins all the time."
She grasped his shoulders to turn him toward her, let her hands skim down his arms. "It's a dirty job, with a lot of grey areas. Nobody gets it right all the time."
"No kidding." But a wry smile took the sting out of the words. He looked down at the hands that had landed in his, ran his thumbs over the slender fingers. "I had to kill Crystal Hoyle - I had no choice. I get that now. Maybe waiting for Ian would have been the right thing, but shooting wasn't the wrong thing. Who did it didn't really matter, it just - had to be done. Then Megan made her decision, Charlie too - I guess that was out of my hands. All I could do was - deal with the backlash. But this time…" He shook his head, capturing her hands between his palms and closing his grasp over them. "This time, I had a choice. And I needed to make one. I needed - I really needed to feel there was a way for things to turn out differently - that I had a say. I had to try."
She looked at their interwoven hands. "And you couldn't tell me this?"
He raised his brows. "And if I told you I was really focusing on not having to kill Buck - that would have made you worry less?"
She ducked away from his eyes, smiling ruefully. "Okay, no. I would have had you locked away for your own safety."
"Yeah, and brought help. Hence the not sharing."
She searched his face at that, reached out to smooth a recalcitrant curl over one ear. "I don't like to think of you going through all this alone."
He blinked in surprise. "I wasn't alone. I had all you guys." She frowned skeptically and he insisted, "I did. My team working the angles, Charlie working the numbers, you working the legal end - it meant I could track events and monitor things. Focus. Look for…guidance."
"Hm." The curl sprang stubbornly back, and she tried to smooth it down again. "Guidance from…?" She felt his ear grow hot under her fingers.
"I don't know. From within? From somewhere else? I don't have an answer to that - I'm just - feeling my way."
She sighed heavily, let her hand curve around the back of his neck. "All right, it does scare me to think of you putting your life in the hands of some - mysterious - you don't even know what."
He grimaced. "Right back where we started."
"I don't want you to put your life on the line trying to escape guilt about something you shouldn't even feel guilty about."
"It's more - complicated than that. I don't know what to tell you. I know for you, the law holds all the answers. For Charlie, the numbers do. For David, procedure. For Dad, civil justice. And I believe in all those things, I do - I - I count on them. But - they're not enough for me. For me they only answer half the questions. I'm sorry. I needed to use all those things, but I needed something more, too."
She fingered the hair at his nape, studying his face, then leaned against him with a sigh. "I guess I must trust your judgment, deep inside. Otherwise, instead of waiting in the car listening, I would have marched in there and shot Buck myself."
"Yeah?" he laughed a little, rubbing his cheek against her hair. "You'd take some dude down for me, huh?"
"In a minute."
He toyed with the tips of her hair. "Well, good as it is to know that you've got my back, don't, okay? Killing somebody isn't all it's cracked up to be."
"You'll take care of the dirty work?"
"All right, I get it."
She sat up and hooked her hands around his neck. "You know what I think? I think that, now that you've talked to your dad, it's time we take your original suggestion and try sleeping for a week."
"Sounds good to me." He lumbered to his feet, stretching, then stood poised, wrinkling his forehead. "What's that noise?"
"…what…?" Robin's hand flew to her mouth. "The tub! I think I'm flooding your downstairs neighbors…" She sprinted toward the bathroom.
Don followed on her heels, stopped behind her in the bathroom doorway and laughed at the sight. "I never liked them much anyway. Lucky thing it's a big tub." He moved past her and waded through the puddles washing the floor, twisted both faucets until the water stopped, then hit the stopper to start it draining. He grabbed the stack of towels she'd left on the sink vanity and started spreading them strategically over the floor.
Robin stepped out of her shoes and picked her way carefully across the wet tile in stocking feet. "Let me. It's my mess. I can't believe I did that…"
Don was grinning. "You had a lot on your mind." He held out a towel to her. "You really attached to that suit?"
"This? Not especially, but – hey!" The towel jerked in her hand and she didn't even hear the splash as she went under, just the disappearance of all sound but the echoing rush of water in her ears. The whole world vanished, replaced by a sense of buoyant weightlessness, suspension in space and time, the feel of his mouth on hers. She couldn't recall ever being kissed under water before. She decided she'd been missing out.
By the time they bobbed gently to the surface guided by his hands, her hair dragging behind her, weighted with water, she was laughing and breathless. "You are crazy."
He chuckled, blinking water out of his eyes. "A little." Then he captured her mouth again and they were back under.
When they surfaced this time, he hitched up until he was half sitting, let his head fall back against the tub edge. She tucked herself under his chin, clinging to him for ballast, the water wafting them up and down, slow and mesmerizing.
"Completely crazy," she repeated contentedly.
He rested one hand between her shoulder blades. "It's a big tub. Shame to waste all that water."
"I bet your neighbors don't think so – we splashed more water on the floor."
"I'll stop by tomorrow with something nice in a bottle and an apology." His eyes glinted. "You look good wet."
"I thought you were tired."
"Exhausted." He ran a finger over her jaw, traced a trail down her neck. " - not dead."
"Hm." She turned her head, kissed the hollow of his throat. "Not dead. Brings us back to our original conversation."
"Killjoy." His hands were at her waist then and he sat them both up, then stood in the tub and offered her a hand.
She took it, watching the water pour off of his shoulders and down his chest, his wet jeans sticking to him, his hair slick and curling against his scalp. She let him pull her to her feet, then leaned into him, hands cupping his head, and kissed him, hard. She pulled back just far enough to look directly in his eyes. "Definitely not dead," she agreed solemnly.
He bent his head for more, but she pulled away this time. "Out. The water is draining, and if we slip, it won't be enough to cushion our fall."
He shook his head sadly, but handed her carefully out of the tub. "You sure don't like to live dangerously."
"Of course I do - I date you, don't I?"
He flashed her a broad smile and stepped out after her. "That's not dangerous - that's a sure thing."
"Speaking of sure things…" She turned unexpectedly and pushed him back against the tile wall, crowding him, her hands pinning his shoulders. "…Nikki…?"
His eyes went blank for a moment, then she saw the memory land. "Oh, hey, no - she was just being - you know, supportive. A good team member, offering moral support."
"Yeah?" She ran a finger down the length of his nose, tapped his lower lip. "Well, that better be all she ever offers."
He kissed the fingertip lightly. "You know it."
"Good." She released him and bent to root through the sink vanity for more towels.
"She is pretty cute, though, huh?"
"Yeah?" The calculated innocence in his voice didn't fool her one bit and she straightened and stiff-armed him back against the wall, splayed her hands on either side of his head and kissed him again, thoroughly, taking her time. She bit his lower lip lightly and released it. "How cute is she?" she murmured, lips only centimeters from his.
He nuzzled her with his nose, eyes molten. "Can't even remember what she looks like," he breathed.
"That's more like it." She touched her lips to his one more time, then grabbed a towel and dropped it over his head, scrubbed his hair roughly to near dryness. "Keep it that way." She picked up a towel for her own hair, felt his fingers wind around her hand.
"Hey." His face was serious now. "You know I wouldn't, right?"
She smiled, let it fill her eyes. "I do." She puffed a breath on his ear and whispered, "And you know what would happen if you did, right?"
He laughed softly. "You're hot when you talk tough."
"Just so long as you know it's not just talk."
"Yeah? Well, bring it on, tough guy."
She tried to pretend she didn't hear the invitation in his voice and got busy peeling off her wet jacket, eyes carefully averted, because really, it had been a terrible week and they weren't teenagers anymore and there was no point in succumbing on the wet bathroom floor when there was a perfectly good, king-sized bed in the other room. "This suit is a total loss. Better get out of those wet jeans." She heard them hit the floor behind her and it took all her willpower not to look. "Do you want the robe?"
The robe had been a gift from her, but she was pretty sure she wore it more than he did.
"You take it. I've got a towel."
She slid into the voluminous folds, pulling it tight at the waist: dark blue, because she liked him in blue, and smelling just faintly of his soap and shampoo and shaving cream. "I need to remember to leave one of my own here." Of course, she had no intention of doing anything of the kind. She liked wearing his. She felt his hands on her shoulders and turned wordlessly into his embrace.
It was quieter this time, less urgent, and as they sagged against each other she wondered, with a glimmer of tired humor, if they were actually holding each other up. She felt his muscles jerk under her hands and slid a palm along his back, eased the other one into his hair to cradle his head. Reaction. Looked like it was finally setting in.
After a second he lifted his head. She touched the tight muscle in his jaw. "Okay?"
He nodded, the vague look back. "Sure." Probably he thought he sounded reassuring.
"Want a drink?"
"No. No, thanks." He moved her gently aside.
"No?" She let her hand linger in his. "No beer?"
He turned back to her then, eyes playing over her face, devouring it. He reached out with one finger and delicately tucked her wet hair first behind one ear, then the other, traced the outline of her neck and shoulders with his hands.
"Maybe I owed him something," he whispered, so softly that, even standing so close, she could barely catch the words. He lifted a hand toward her face, then let it fall instead and stood, loose fists hanging and empty at his sides, eyes unshuttered now and raw with naked pain.
She hardly dared breathe, watched the muscles jerk in the column of his throat. The locked gaze held her, yearning and transparent, nothing hidden.
"I know what I took from him." His voice was hushed and broken.
She could only stand as he turned and left the bathroom, her bare feet rooted to the tile, one hand pressed over her heart and eyes welling with surprised tears.
The lights had dimmed in the hallway before she managed to stir herself, to step over the damp towels and abandoned clothing and shut off the bathroom light.
Only her bedside lamp was on when she entered the bedroom, but he was awake and stretched out on his back, one arm folded under his head, one side of his face cast in shadow. She turned off the lamp, peeled back the covers and dropped the robe before crawling in next to him. His skin felt cold - unusual for him - and she edged closer, trying to decide whether or not to speak.
"You didn't take anything from him," she murmured at last. "Crystal did that, really. In a way, both you and Buck were her living victims."
He didn't answer right away, but she felt his fingers ghost through her hair, then his head move in a silent nod.
"And I do understand how it can be - when your heart is involved, it's hard to keep your head clear and sometimes - sometimes doing what you need to do means taking things a little far. I know a federal prosecutor, for example, who once threatened to fry a guy as an accessory after the fact if a federal agent was killed because he didn't talk. Can you imagine?"
She felt the hand still in her hair, then felt him shift as he tried to catch a glimpse of her face in the faint spill of moonlight. "You're kidding. You…? Who…?"
"McLaughlin. He talked too, by the way. Sang like a canary." The soft gust of his incredulous laughter touched her hair and she smiled in the dark.
"In the law we have a term - culpa. It means fault through some negligence or fault in thought or judgment. As opposed to dolus - that's fault through malice or intent - fault of the heart; heartlessness. What this federal prosecutor did - that's culpa. Fault in judgment, because her heart was involved. We all do that. Sometimes it's even the only choice. So the weight of blame for that crime is usually small, especially when it's for a good cause, because of caring, because the heart is involved." She ran the back of her hand under his chin, let her fingers prickle along his cheek in the blackness. "And with you, your heart is always involved - always. That's your strength. And that's your weakness." She stilled at the touch of his lips against his fingers, turned until they were nose to nose, breath intermingling, his hand on the back of her neck more eloquent than mere words.
"Thank you," he whispered against her mouth.
She kissed him in answer, then snuggled tight against him, felt their breathing fall into rhythm. She would sleep well, she decided. This was not a time, after all, for wondering what would happen if she had lost him, but a time for rejoicing that she had not.
"Do me one favor?" she muttered, drowsing.
"Sure." His lips brushed against the part in her hair.
"Next time you decide to play Daniel in the Lions' Den? Bring a gun?"
His hand dropped to her back, pulled her more firmly against him. "Kind of beats the purpose doesn't it?"
"Just in case. For me. You're good with a gun - it's nothing to be ashamed of."
"I know. I'm not." He was quiet for so long that she was sure he had fallen asleep, then,
"Just, sometimes? It's nice to remember that I'm good without it, too."