The tension at the table was palpable. Who's bright idea had it been to invite Webb to this little get-together? Sure, he was part of the team, the most important part actually. But his presence was killing what could be a nice evening. Mel sipped her beer again. As determined as she was to salvage the evening, she was clueless how to go about it.
Paul cleared his throat. "As lovely as this dinner was, I really need to get going. Karen is waiting up for me."
Mel gave him mental kudos for getting the first sentence out without the sarcasm he surely felt. Danny saw his chance to escape and mumbled something about needing to go as well. Webb rose and spoke: "Well then there is no more reason for us to keep you up any longer, Rebecca." He motioned for Mel to follow his lead. But she refused. This was her chance: if she stayed behind, maybe she could convince Rebecca to make a home in L.A.
"Well, I think someone should stay behind and help her clear up. After all, we did invite ourselves over..." She ignored Webb giving her the evil eye. After a few years working for him, she got pretty used to it anyway. Seeing that his tactic wouldn't work, Webb left, gracefully thanking Rebecca for her hospitality and reminding her to take care of the gifted cactus. The other two men followed his lead, leaving the two women alone in silence.
"You don't have to stay and help." Rebecca tried.
"I'm no Martha Stewart, but even I know it's considered rude to leave the host with dirty dishes." She started stacking them, to emphasise her point. "Besides," she added with a wink, "they're mine anyway. This way I can take them home tonight."
Rebecca had the decency to look slightly embarrased. "Ah yeah. Thank you for bringing those over. I really should buy more kitchenware."
Thinking back to what she had found in the cupboards, Mel asked herself the same question as before: seriously, who only owns one plate? Even in college she had had a set of plates. Of course she hated washing up, so she needed the spares, but still...
"I noticed when we were here earlier." She said absentmindly.
Rebecca grimaced. "I keep forgetting you already were here before."
Mel could kick herself. Here she was, after painstakingly trying to keep the dinner conversation light and non-work related, sticking her foot in her mouth. As usual. As if Rebecca really needed to be reminded of being kept prisoner by that lunatic.
"You probably think I'm an idiot for walking straight into his trap." Rebecca's voice sounded really small and childlike. Mel left the mess on the table for what it was and moved closer to the younger woman.
"No, I don't." She quietly but firmly said. "He spent years refining his technique. Luring women in was what he did, and he was very good at it." Mel kept her eye on Rebecca. She seemed to accept what the redhead was telling her. Good, Mel thought, because she really needed to hear the next part. She hadn't been planning on confronting her tonight, but now the topic had been breeched...
"But... it wasn't very smart going to a meeting without back-up."
Subdued Rebecca dissapeared in an instant and irritated Rebecca got her hackles up.
"I was just meeting a potential informant." Defiantly she crossed her arms and waited for Mel's response. Mel just rolled her eyes.
"Even then. You're part of a team now. We keep each other informed. If it had been me, Danny would have came and found me after ten minutes."
"I don't need saving."
The cold voice Rebecca used, missed its effect entirely. It only served to further exasperate Mel. She wanted to scream at her: Yes, you do! You keep on trowing yourself in danger. Serial killers are like fire, if you're going to keep playing around, you are going to get burned!
But she knew it would only work counterproductively. So she took a deep breath, calmed herself and went to stand even closer to the other woman. She wanted her undivided attention and when she thought she got it, she said: "And I don't need to bury another teammate." Holding Rebecca's lifeless, bleeding and almost drowned body had been terrifying and it hadn't been an experience she longed to repeat any time soon.
It looked both women were at a stalemate, neither wanting to give in. But slowly Rebecca faltered. Mel could almost see the moment her words sank in and Rebecca realised that her actions had consequences for the others as well. The blonde turned slightly, effectively breaking the eye contact.
"I've never been part of a team before." She quietly admitted.
It wasn't an apology, but Mel gladly accepted. "Wel, you are now. And you're not going to get rid of us that easily." Seeing that Rebecca was literally and figuratively turning around, Mel decided to diffuse the situation with a small joke.
"We're like this big happy dysfuncional family. We annoy each other, we fight and sometimes you'll feel like strangling Danny, but when push comes to shove ..."
"You stick together." Rebecca filled in.
"We." Mel corrected her. "We will stick together." Mel was thrilled to see Rebecca nodding and smiling at being included in the sentence.
"So, you'll wash and I'll dry?" Mel changed the subject, waving her hand over the dishes and the glasses that were still on the table and still dirty.
Rebecca led the way to the kitchen, obviously relieved for the change in subject. They quickly finished up. Mel placed the borrowed kitchenware back into the cardboard box she had used to bring them over. Not really knowing what to do next, she decided to call it a night, "So, I'll be going then."
To her surprise, Rebecca stopped her. "You can stay for a while, if you want." She shrugged. "It's not as if I had any plans."
Mel nodded. It wasn't that late yet and there was nobody waiting for her at home. She had called her sister to pick up her dog the moment they knew that Rebecca had gone missing. Baskerville wouldn't even miss her, being spoiled rotten by Jessica and Brandon.
"Any suggestions?" She asked, having no idea what to do in the nearly empty appartment. "I don't do boardgames." She warned, "I hate Monopoly."
Rebecca was equally clueless. Going back into the living room, she looked around, trying to gather inspiration. She eventually pointed at the television set.
"We could watch tv. I have cable."
"Fine by me, but we do have one problem. You don't have a couch." Mel was actually quite amused by this. Dinner had been a funny affair, as Rebecca only owned a kitchen tables with two chairs, a recliner and a computer chair. Danny had sacrificed himself to use the footstool Rebecca used to reach the top shelves in the kitchen. The recliner didn't look like it would hold the weight of two (Mel even doubted it would hold anyone else but Rebecca's skinny frame). The kitchen chairs had been fine for dinner, but didn't look that inviting to spend the rest of the night on.
When she looked back at Rebecca, the other woman had dissapeared. She reappeared a moment later, dragging her mattrass out of her bedroom. Mel looked on in surprise as Rebecca got some pillows and blankets to make a make-shift couch.
"That could work." She agreed, a little bit impressed by the lengths Rebecca was going through to make Mel feel comfable in her house. She didn't want to seem unappreciative, so she sat down and motioned Rebecca to join her. Suddenly a memory of her teenage years popped up in her head, and she couldn't supress a giggle.
"Something wrong?" Rebecca asked worried.
"No, this just reminds me of the improvised slumber parties me and my sister used to have." Mel reassured her. She relaxed into the pillows. "All we need are our pyamas and popcorn."
Rebecca switched on the tv before joining Mel on the ground. She held the remote control and asked: "Do you want to have the honors?"
Mel shook her head and Rebecca flicked through the channels. Soon it became clear that there wasn't much on. Neither women felt like watching a police drama, sports were out and the several weight loss reality shows were vetoed as well. Finally they settled on a repeat of the Titanic. By the time they had found the movie, Kate Winslet had already stripped to pose for the painting. They watched the ship hit the iceberg, and when Leonardo Dicaprio sunk to the icy depts of the sea, Rebecca turned to Mel and whispered:
"This is such a melodramatical movie."
"My sister cried her eyes out when we first saw the movie." Mel said. But under Rebecca's unrelenting gaze, she had to admit: "Alright, I cried too. Happy now?"
Rebecca just smiled knowingly and turned to watch the credits role over the screen. "So, what else does one do at a slumber party?"
Mel glanced over to see if Rebecca was seriously asking that question. It looked like she was, so Mel took a moment to think about an answer.
"I could do your nails," she enthousiasticly suggested. A make over was an important part of any girls night in. But the look on Rebecca's face suggested she thought otherwise. Mel assumed that doing the other woman's hair was probably out of the question as well. She sighed. "Well, the only other thing we used to do was gossip about boys," she spoke absentmindly. But when she did think about it, she grinned.
"So, what happened to the cute waiter that asked you out? What was his name: Cody?"
"Corey." Rebecca corrected. "I wouldn't know. I haven't seen him in a while."
Sensing that it was a rather sensitive subject for Rebecca, Mel prodded carefully. "I thought he called to ask you out a couple of weeks ago." At Rebecca's surprised face, she could only shrug and say: "Team. Big happy gossiping family."
"I stood him up." Sensing there was more to the story, Mel kept quiet, hoping that Rebecca would feel the need to fill the silence. "It was after Angelica Sandoval. We had just saved her and he was waiting in the bar for this fun and normal date... I just couldn't..." Rebecca voice broke and she swallowed back a sob.
Mel understood. Some cases were hard to handle, and what had happened to Angelica was terrible. She wanted to reassure that her reaction had been completely normal, but the other woman just carried on as if nothing had just happened.
"Anyway. I called him the next day, lying that I couldn't leave work and that I would reschedule."
"So you like him." Rebecca performed the classic 'I guess'-shrug in answer.
"But you haven't called him back?" Mel guessed correctly. At Rebecca's nod, she asked: "Why not? If you do like him?"
"I just ... I have no idea what to do."
"Just let him buy you dinner. That way, even if the date part of the night sucks, you had a free meal."
That made Rebecca smile. "You are one cynical lady, Agent Melody Sims."
Mel groaned. "Don't call me that." She absolutely detested her full name. Even as a six year old, she had demanded that everyone called her 'Mel'. Only her mother (and Webb if he felt particually spiteful) still used it.
"And it's not cynism, it's realism. Some dates suck, some are nice, and some could be the start of something new."
Rebecca hesitated, but then asked: "Like you and your girlfriend?"
Mel was baffled. If she had had a cigarette in her mouth, it would have fallen out and burned her legs, as she was frozen in surprise. It took her a few seconds to pull her back together before asking: "What makes you think I have a girlfriend?"
The blonde suddenly turned shy. "When Webb called us into the office a couple of Saturdays ago, it took you longer than usually to drive in. And you were wearing another shade of lipstick, so I assumed you had to borrow it from someone?" She asked, more than explained.
"From my girlfriend?" Mel asked. "That's all your evidence, Sherlock? A half an hour and some lipstick? I'm sorry to dissapoint, but the mystery lady in this story was my sister. I was at her place when the call came"
"Well, there are other little things..." Rebecca murmled to defend herself. But Mel just laughed.
"Don't worry. You're not completly wrong. If I actually had a social life, I could be dating a woman."
"You're bisexual." Rebecca stated this fact contently, as if she had just found the missing piece of a puzzle she had been working on for some time.
"An equal opportunist dater, as they say. Again, if I had the time to date." Mel wined.
"And the team doesn't know." It was a statement, not a question.
"Danny does. Sometimes I wish I hadn't told him, because when he has a little bit to drink..." Mel let Rebecca's imagination fill in the rest. "I haven't told Paul. He knows about some of my ex-boyfriends, but we aren't really that close. And Webb..."
"Webb probably kno..." Rebecca started.
Mel sushed her, giving her arm a light slap. "I prefer to think Webb doesn't have an interest in my sex life." She shuddered. The thought of Webb and the word sex in the same sentence was to much.
"So you and Danny are close friends." Rebecca changed the subject.
Mel nodded. "We met when Webb assembled his first team. Alvarez wasn't the social sort and Bill... Let's just say, the least said about him the better. We kind off stuck together."
"He's a good guy, you know." Mel continued. "Not just a socially unaware Rambo."
Mel has no idea why she was bringing it up. Rebecca's description of the team had hurt when Webb had them read it out loud, but she had forgetten it since and she was sure that Danny and Paul couldn't care less.
"You read my chat transcripts too?" Rebecca asked, blushing slightly.
It was Mel's turn to be ashamed. In order to look for Rebecca, they really had invaded her privacy. And here she was reminding her of it again.
"Sorry." She apologized.
Rebecca tried to shrug it of: "You did what was necessary. But you know most of it were lies."
Curious Mel repeated the words: "Most of it?"
The other woman blushed slightly. "The best lies are mixed with the truth."
That made Mel wonder what exactly had been truth and what had been lies. "So what you said about me?" She let the question trail of.
"Could you remind me exactly what I said?"
Mel gave a quick recap: "You said you like me, that I make inappropriate jokes and that I am fat."
"Oh, that's not true at all." Rebecca vehementely stated. "You're not fat! You have a great body." Realising what she had just said, Rebecca shut up and blushed even more.
Mel thought it was very cute look for the other woman and couldn't resist teasing her a bit more. "So if it were all lies, does that mean you don't like me?"
Rebecca looked shocked. She opened her mouth to deny the accusation, but then realised Mel was just yanking her chain. She glared at her, prompting Mel to take her innocent schoolgirl pose. She slapped the younger woman on the back. "Never mind. And I also know that I have a big mouth. People tell me all the time."
"I don't mind." Rebecca said, akwardly trying to repeat the gesture of a friendly pat on the back. Mel smiled at her, thinking to herself that the evening had turned out fine after all.
The moment was broken by a loud riff of music on the tv. Mel cringed and Rebecca quickly grabbed the remote control to turn the sound down.
Mel stood up. "It's getting late, I should be going." She streched her legs and arms. She was getting to old for spending the evening on the floor... Rebecca rose as well and gave her an akward hug. "Thank you for coming over."
"I'll see you in a couple of days." Webb had graciously given them the next day off. He'd probably ride their asses extra hard the day after tomorrow. A kind boss he was not. She picked up the box that stood on the table, and Rebecca opened the door for her.
"Bye" They told each other again.
When Mel walked over to her car, she couldn't resist looking up at the building again. From the street she couldn't tell which window was Rebecca's. Getting to her car, she silently hoped that she could visit Rebecca again, this time without inviting herself. For the first time in six months, she actually thought they could become friends.