A Dark Path…

Prologue

In retrospect, he really should have known something bad would happen.

Over a bowl of cereal that morning, Ted read his horoscope to him and it foretold, "a dark path lies ahead." But after the life he'd had, Charlie didn't put much stock in those things and imagined it meant something ominous like forgetting to bring an umbrella on a day that it rain.

Never in a million years would he have guessed it meant would this….


Chapter One

He came bouncing in from the bright morning LA sunshine to find a dour pouty Dani Reese sitting behind her desk staring into the space where he usually sat. She couldn't be staring at him because he wasn't there – not yet. He tried not to think too hard about that because he'd get stuck in his own internal quandary over whether he could be there and not be there simultaneously and quickly reviewed the night before in his head.

He tried to imagine what he'd done to engender her ire – because if he knew Reese – and he did – she was pissed. He faltered only a moment, settling down internally before approaching quietly, pulling out his chair and sitting down opposite her.

"Hey Reese," he said neutrally, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she replied quickly disconnecting and busying herself with work.

He did not reply and did not leave. He simply sat absolutely and utterly still and waited for her eyes to return to him. Then raised a brow in silent query and was answered with her patented eye-roll and a heavy sigh. She refused to tell him forcing him into an alternate tactic – one he employed often – talking, in circles, which he knew annoyed her to no end.

His sigh preceded his commentary. It was infused with the aura of I thought we were past this, "I think we've established that when you say nothing, you mean something – something that you want to tell me, but you make me drag out of you," he paused. "Now… what do you say we skip all that and you just tell me what's wrong?"

He knew her inside out, upside down and backwards. They'd been partners for over three years and she could no longer hide from him. They were past that now. In point of truth they'd been past that for a while.

She chewed on the inside of her cheek and then after a long moment, answered him – truthfully. "Tidwell and I broke up," her tone was low and meant for his ears only although it was fairly common knowledge she'd been dating their Captain for nearly a year. Only Reese and Tidwell pretended anymore that their trysts were secret.

"And this upset you?" he asked cautiously.

"No," she stated more patiently than he knew her to be, "I'm fine, but he's not."

"Oh," was all Charlie could summon. He sat up in his seat and craned his neck to look over his computer monitor into the office of their Captain who was chewing out some poor detective with his door closed.

"Don't look," she hissed at her partner.

Tidwell's door swung open and Detective Jamie Escobedo bolted out of the office looking scared. Tidwell walked out behind him, cast a dark look at Reese and then barked "Crews – my office – now."

Dani pivoted in her chair and glared at the Captain. She rose and stalked toward the man and the tension in the room was palpable. "Don't involve him in this," she demanded through clenched teeth.

"Me - Captain," Tidwell pointed at himself, "you – Sergeant," he announced in a direct challenge. "Crews," he flicked his gaze from Reese to her partner, "now."

Charlie was trapped between an angry boss and an angrier partner, but he obeyed the Captain. Reese returned to her desk, grabbed her jacket and stalked off to find a coffee stand lest a riot erupt. She knew Crews could handle himself and wouldn't do anything stupid (or at least she hoped he wouldn't), but she cast a look back to assure herself and found Crews stopped in the Captain's door watching her.

He smiled – her smile – the one he showed to no one else. It conveyed trust, comfort and concern, but above all control. Her lips twisted in a wry grin, she made a "C" with her hands and gestured to her lips like she was drinking. He nodded indicating his understanding that she'd be getting coffee before stepping into the Captain's office and closing the door.