As a detective, Wes Mitchell knew the "work hours" assigned to him applied in theory only. Bad guys didn't punch a clock, and that meant neither did he. The accounting department, however, frowned over every hour of overtime. He didn't care. They could bill him.
He needed the quiet the late hours of the bullpen afforded him. Their latest case had stalled, and though the captain didn't blame them, he was still annoyed. Travis had left a couple of hours ago, telling Wes to go back to the hotel, come back tomorrow. And now, Wes was wishing he'd done just that. But then he remembered the look on the face of the woman whose killer they were trying to track down.
He'd seen hundreds of them in his career, and he'd soon learned to steel himself against the crudeness and horror. What bothered him was the stark nature of where they'd found her. Dead, in her apartment of a gunshot room. A murder was apparent, by a shotgun from across the room. But the perpetrator took everything with him or her when they left. No shell casings, no footprints, no fingerprints. No one saw anything or heard anything. He refused to let this slide into the cold case files.
He sighed heavily and stood. Maybe a walk around would clear his mind. Staring at case photos was getting him nowhere. His shoes echoed in the empty corridor. Was there really nothing else going on in the city of Los Angeles that there was no other open case than his? He wished there was, if only to get his mind off of the stalemate in which he found himself.
A few feet from the communal kitchen door, he heard a thump and a groan, and he almost jumped out of his skin at the noise. Was it the cleaners? No, they came early in the morning. He was sure he'd been the only one in the building, but –
Ahh, indeed he was not alone. And by the sound of the voice, frought with annoyance as it was, a female was in the kitchen. The thumps that accompanied her swearing, though, was unfamiliar.
He walked in to see none other than Kendall, the fresh-from-Quantico tech analyst, losing her mind. Well, that's how he saw it. She was on her knees in front of the soda machine, pounding on the metal and plastic with both fists.
The sight startled him, as his previous encounters with the woman gave him the impression she was pretty put together, confident, and as committed to doing a good job as he was. What the hell happened in these dark, after hours to cause such a complete breakdown like this?
"Kendall? Everything all right?"
Apparently, she also thought she was alone in the building, as well, 'cause at the sound of his voice, she shrieked and jumped. Her kneeling stance, however, made jumping up in fright kind of difficult, and she wound up sprawled on the ground. He immediately went to help her up, but before he got there, she'd scrambled back to her feet.
"Yeah, sure," she said, bobbing her head up and down so fast, her curls bounced on her forehead. Just that, coupled with the shadows under her eyes and the slightly reddened cheeks, made him think that she was lying. He hadn't known her very long, but it'd be long enough for him to know this wasn't okay.
"Then why were you attacking the soda machine?" he asked, taking a step forward. He'd shoved his hands in the pockets of his slacks and tilted his head to the side, trying not to agitate her any further.
"It – it ate my money."
"Self-defense, then?" he said with a smile.
"It was the last dollar I had on me."
"Oh, right. It has a habit of doing that. Why are you here so late, anyway? I thought I was the only night owl."
"I got stuck on a case. It's frustrating."
Wes knew immediately what she was talking about. About the only usable piece of evidence they thought might hold some key information was the dead woman's computer. The killer must've known her, as there were no signs of forced entry. But the woman had password-protected and encrypted the life out of it.
"I thought you liked challenges," he said.
That got a smile out of her. "I thought you weren't listening when I told you that."
"Of course I was listening," he said. Then he pulled his wallet out of his pocket and approached the soda machine. "What did you want to drink?"
"Oh, no, you don't have to –"
"I know I don't, but it looks as though it's going to be a long night."
"You're staying late, too?" she asked.
Wes shrugged. "Can't get this case off of my mind. It's either here or at the hotel."
The machine apparently liked his crisp dollar bill, as it accepted the money, and Wes held his finger over the Mountain Dew. "This one, right?"
"No, Diet Coke. Dew's got too many calories."
Wes scoffed, "You hardly look like the type of person that's on a diet, but whatever you say."
The clunk-clunk of the cold can of soda moving through the machine echoed in the near-empty room, and both Wes and Kendall reached for the silver can as it deposited in the basket. Their fingers brushed, and Wes pulled back, wondering at the little zap of energy that traveled up his forearm.
"Thanks," Kendall said, smiling back up at him. "I guess I owe you for this."
Her cheeks were slightly pink again, and Wes suddenly flashed back to that conversation a few weeks ago where Travis was trying his hardest to talk up Kendall while they were working that dating site case. He hadn't given much attention to his partner's stating that Kendall liked him, but seeing her smiling and blushing up at him now, was he right?
And more importantly, did he dare do something he'd harangued Travis for doing all these years? Even as that thought passed through his head, he shook it off. No one was here, and he was nothing like Travis. His partner had a habit of sleeping with every good-looking woman in the building. Though Kendall was quite attractive, it took more than a curvy body and sweet smile for Wes.
"Think nothing of it," he said, returning her grin. "Tell you what, why don't we do this together?"
"I'm sorry?" she said, a half-squeak in her voice.
Her already wide eyes opened even further, and Wes blinked, then laughed as he realized what he said. Well, he thought, maybe Travis wasn't wrong in his summation of Kendall's feelings.
"The case. We both seem to be at a standstill here. Why not pool our resources?"
"Oh, right. Sure, why not?"
"I'll meet you down in your lab?" he asked. And at her nod, he left her in the kitchen to go gather his case file and jacket. He still had doubts about fraternizing in the workplace, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
He groaned to himself as he pushed his chair under his desk. Therapy catchphrases now? What the hell was happening to him?
A/N Don't know if I'll continue this or leave it as a oneshot. Maybe feedback will help me decide.