Dark Paradise – Chapter 1

It was a full week after the misadventure with Roman had ended.

Nevikov was dead, Rayborn was alive, Charlie Crews was back behind bars and Dani Reese was in hell.

Officially, Reese was on administrative leave, until such time as the shrink cleared her to return to work, which might be never because she steadfastly refused to go see a counselor, any counselor - ever. Charlie Crews remained detained in County for a host of alleged infractions.

He didn't even fight when they arrested him. He simply held his arms out for the cuffs, much like Roman had when they first arrested him. Was it because Crews knew, as Roman had, – that they couldn't hold him? It made Dani's head hurt to think they were anything alike – her tormentor/captor and her partner/savior. It didn't change the fact that Crews was imprisoned until such time as the circumstances of that fateful day were clear to IAD, which they never would be.

Both of them were stuck in limbo.

On day seven, it was official, Tidwell was driving Dani Reese stark raving mad. The problem was he hadn't done anything wrong. He'd worked hard to resolve things at the department during the day and come home to her each night sharing what he knew. He had been the picture of a doting boyfriend; patient, calm, supportive and tender. Only Dani didn't want that, more accurately she didn't want him. It both confounded and infuriated her that the one person she wanted was the man she was certain she'd never want – Crews.

She'd had days to examine what had changed between herself and her partner. And she had discussed it, them..the idea that Crews & Reese were now more than just partners – with the only person she trusted - her mother. Tidwell left her each morning when he left for work at her childhood home and eventually, relief had turned to questions.

Day One when she came home involved a detailed recitation of what had landed her in the clutches of a psychopath. That day ended darkly, when she shared Roman's claim of killing Jack with her mother. Much to Dani's surprise, her mother was not surprised to learn that the famous LAPD SWAT Captain travelled in those circles. As the week wore on and Dani accepted the only type of therapy she ever would, conversations lapsed into Farsi and dipped into deep introspection.

Dani explained how when they were initially partnered, she thought him a dolt, then a borderline psychopath and finally a warrior angel. Talking it out helped her realize that she'd been through many phases with him before arriving at where she was now. She remembered the chilly reception she'd given him, the grudging acceptance and then nearly fraternal bond they'd developed. Slowly as people kept assuming they were closer, it dawned on her that they were. Without even really trying to, they'd become almost inseparable. He finished her most of her sentences and a lot of her thoughts, before she spoke them. He was tuned into her and she was to him. It was never more obvious than in the weeks they were separated. She described how she could see and know what he was doing while talking to him on the phone, without even seeing him. When her mother commented, almost casually, that it takes most married couples years to achieve the state she and Crews were in; Dani absently remarked it had been three years, completely ignoring the characterization they were a couple.

Two days later, Dani's mother wrung the confession from her at the family kitchen table with a simple question.

"Why do you sleep with one man when you clearly love another?"

Dani's dark look made it clear the slender arrow had struck its intended target.

"Each night this man, Kevin…"

"Tidwell," Dani corrected.

"He comes here and collects you as though you are his, but you are not."

"No, I'm not," Dani admitted finally.

"Your heart belongs to this Charlie, you speak of. It is he you talk of. He, whom you cannot let go of. This man holds your heart, Dani and I think he must love you too – to have made such a sacrifice."

"He does," Dani admitted dully, as though she'd only just noticed and the revelation shocked her, "he loves me."

"Then you must end this charade and tell him," her mother demanded. "You deserve love, not simply comfort. This man stirs your heart in a way no other has."