Once Sammy Bryant had given up all hope of salvaging his marriage, it seemed as though he had, in some small, quiet, and very resolute corner of his mind, given up all hope of sustaining any kind of relationship. Women no longer seemed to even register in Sammy's mind as anything other than potential victims, suspects, or colleagues.
Nate had kept his mouth shut at first, knowing what Tammi meant to his friend.
Their relationship had never been an easy, peaceful thing; rather it was a wild and tempestuous act of nature, almost violent, always sparky and jagged around the edges; it swept into their lives, ravaging them and delighting them, leaving the two people at its eye as helpless as all the on-lookers who were equally awed and horrified. It was never possible to predict what was going to happen, which direction the wind would blow - and they were both such highly-strung, passionate people that the slightest change in the wind could knock everything off-kilter, rip them up from their foundations and leave them glassy-eyed and panting, unable to know just what to do next.
It was never certain what kind of sky-high idea Tammi might get into her head, although it was always certain that she would act on it with an eager, innocent and wild impulsiveness that had captivated Sammy for years, that had been the very thing that had grabbed his attention in the first place - the bright and shining light that shone from Tammi's every pore, catching and refracting in Sammy's awe-struck eyes from the moment he had first seen her to the moment he had asked her to marry him.
But lights so bright begin to hurt the eyes of whoever looks too long, and eventually, the shimmering, silvery star that burned in Tammi Bryant began to make her husband's eyes ache and water, until they both had to look away.
Nate had at first never imagined that Sammy would be able to bear the light for as long as he did. He had thought for sure that he would willingly, helplessly follow in his wife's orbit for a few months, a year at most, until he eventually, inevitably burned away.
But what Nate eventually realised was that Sammy Bryant was not simply a dull and jagged rock to Tammi's brightly burning star, but that he had a light of his own, a fire that burned no less brightly, and one that glinted and clashed with sharp edges against the flames of his companion.
Perhaps two such bright lights, no matter how beautifully they danced and mingled, could never stand to be in such company as themselves, could never survive the competition. Perhaps it was burn or be burnt, and neither one would, or ever could, surrender their own beacon. Perhaps it was that Sammy's star burnt nearer to earth, was not flung so far out in the spaces between the planets, and that there could never be reconciliation of the great distance between them.
Sammy's star could burn soft and warm, a grounded and more stable light that mere mortals like Nate could understand, could grasp, could love. Sammy's light, perhaps, was one that invited a lingering, calm and serene adoration, whereas Tammi's demanded an instant bright and white-hot passion, one that burst into life in a second, giving everything all at once, and shortly having nothing left to give, fizzling out into a long, sad and much-dimmed thing, refusing to ever sputter out completely, but hurtful in its reminder of what it once was and could never be again.
Tammi's eyes hurt too, Nate realised. And there was nothing that would dim the light for her, nothing that would extinguish their painful, searing battle or the little sputtering spark that made her squint and reminded her of the distance between them, and what they could never regain. Nothing, save looking away.
Two people with nothing very much in common other than a deep and ill-advised and utterly unstable love for each other, and there was nothing that Nate could ever do other than be be there and listen, watch and offer what solace or solidarity he could.
So when things finally fell apart, and both parties looked away with tears in their eyes, Nate decided that there was really nothing he could say until the burns healed and the tears dried.
Gradually, after all the arrangements had been finalised and there could be months go by without fresh wounds being opened - and after they had stopped making excuses to show up at each other's doors only to find out just why they had separated in the first place - Nate had started to gently probe, to venture some small possibilities. To poke and prod and see what kind of reaction he got.
"We're having a barbecue on Saturday, catch the game for those who care. Mandy's going to be there."
"I'll come and eat your food, buddy, but Mandy can entertain herself."
Nate was nothing if not persistent. He could spend months on stake-outs to get a single conviction, he could do this.
"Hey, I hear that Anna from Traffic is single now. You should move in on that, she's a real nice girl."
Sammy looked up from the case files he was poring over.
"Yeah, she's a lovely woman." He cast a glance around the office until his eyes lit upon their recently divorced colleague.
"Hey, Kenny, you interested in dating Anna?"
"Sammy, my man!" Nate swung his chair over to Sammy's desk so that he could force his head over the little wall of paperwork that separated them.
"You remember Candy, my wife's yoga buddy? She's getting a divorce. She'll be back on the market, free for the taking. You should put your bid in, man. I heard she likes you."
Most of the time, Sammy didn't even look up.
"Sammy, you sly dog, you got anything to tell me?" Nate crowed, slinging his arm around his partner's shoulder as they clocked in for the day.
Sammy's gaze was puzzled and unknowing.
"Ivy! At the party last night, man! I saw you talking to her. Didn't I tell you she was a sweetheart?"
"Yeah, she was real nice. I was talking to her about Kenny. He really likes her. I was asking her whether she'd consider going to lunch with him."
Nate didn't know exactly how long they had been playing this game, but it felt like forever, and he was running out of appropriate single ladies.
One by one they were all either getting snapped up or going on some sort of relationship sabbatical.
For the first time in a long time he had absolutely no names in his mental file of potential candidates.
Sammy didn't seem too concerned when this was pointed out to him.
Frustrated, Nate decided he would have to throw in the towel for the day. This entire month had been a single lady drought, and there was little Nate could do apart from watch as his friend remained completely untroubled by his ever-narrowing chances.
He leered over at Sammy with a half laugh.
"Well, you know, there's always Perry in secretarial. He's just ditched that asshole boyfriend of his." Surly bastard wanted to play games, Nate would oblige.
Sammy went still over the report he'd been writing. His eyes flickered upward by a hair's breadth. They met Nate's for a split second before returning to the computer screen.
Oh, for god's sake.
How could he have not noticed this? How had this not come up before now?
He sat down quietly, pretending not to have noticed Sammy's slip-up. He would need stealth on his side to execute the plan that was gradually unfolding in his mind.
He glanced at Sammy over their wall of paperwork, finding the other man's gaze firmly fixed to his computer screen, clearly intending not to even look in Nate's direction for the rest of the day if he could help it.
Satisfied, Nate turned to his own workstation, fingers hovering over the keyboard for a moment, contemplating. He cleared his schedule for tomorrow morning.
He had to pay a little visit to Captain Anders. He'd heard that if you wanted to see the guy, you had to go through his secretary first.