His umbrella - a gift from his gran, a stylish pick but cheap as fuck - gives out about three blocks from the car, which is the height of irony because they could have parked right by the building instead. But no, Coop wanted a stroll, and Albert never did learn to say no to his oddball requests, not when they involve ‘please, Albert’ and a pair of eyes imploring him like he’s holding the keys to paradise. Granted, the walk to their crime scene was pleasant enough, despite the black clouds threatening on the horizon. And they came armed with coats and umbrellas, so theoretically, they should have been fine… except no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy, least of all when Cooper is involved.
One gust. That’s all it takes. One fucking gust of sleet-soaked wind, slamming into them just when Albert lifts his umbrella to squint at a traffic light, his socks and shoes already sopping wet, and there it is: the telltale crack of snapping metal when the whole monstrosity in his hands flips inside out, then tears itself to shreds more thoroughly than Albert could have managed through any effort of his own. He gets about one second to react, grabbing at the fabric as he barks a curse into the sky. Then a whole bucketful of ice water is dumped onto his head, and all he can do is cough and sputter as the deluge hits him, rain pelting his shoulders and slopping down his face.
“Albert!” From across the street, tucked under his own umbrella - about a third the size of Albert’s but infinitely more sturdy - Cooper beckons at him with his free hand. “Hurry! Over here!” The waving increases in intensity when, after a few seconds, Albert is still too focused on taming his battered piece of technology to pay attention to whatever Coop wants. There’s more clamoring of his name, then silence as Cooper crosses the street towards him. By the time he gets there, Albert has managed to fold his broken umbrella, turned up his collar - not that it helps, except maybe psychologically - and is struggling to brace himself for fifteen more minutes of strolling, along with the prospect of a ruined suit. At least the Bureau will pay for the damage, which is a small favor, but that doesn't mean…
“Um - Cooper?” Albert blinks down to find an arm being linked through his, Coop lifting his tiny black umbrella over both their heads. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” He has to fight to keep his teeth from chattering, the wind relentless as it whips around them, snapping at his coat tails and dragging icy fingers across his neck.
“Why, sharing, of course. What’s yours is mine, Albert, you know that. I wouldn't want you to be uncomfortable, or to catch a cold.” Cooper’s expression is one of abject innocence, in stark contrast to the way his hips are jostling Albert’s in attempt to reduce the joint surface they occupy. Presumably to get them both to fit under his tiny umbrella, although it isn’t hard to see that it’s hopeless. They can keep their heads dry plus one shoulder each, no more. Still, it’s better than nothing, and the warm press of Cooper’s body is adding a dimension that’s enough to raise Albert’s temperature all by itself. So is the casual ‘what’s yours is mine’, which he’d do well not to overanalyze.
“You realize me being uncomfortable wouldn’t be an issue if we’d just parked by the damn building, like I said?” Albert grumbles, refusing to pass up the opportunity to showcase his bitterness.
“I realize that,” Cooper says, forcing him into a shuffling quarter-turn until they’re both facing the crossing again. “But if we’d parked by the building, we wouldn’t have had that splendid afternoon walk. There are no certainties in life, Albert. Only contingencies, and I’m making one now. I apologize if it’s an imperfect plan.”
“Well, it’s an imperfect world, huh?” Albert says, thinking about the mutilated body he examined back in the apartment building, which is the other reason for his lousy temper - not that he’d admit that out loud. But the absence of rain pelting his face is mollifying, and when Cooper tugs at him to cross the road, Albert heaves a long-suffering sigh but still feels comforted by the presence at his side. Stuck to his side, is more like it, because Coop seems determined not to let a drop of rain touch their upper bodies. Which is an admirable goal, but also makes for some very awkward movement right now. “Coop, lose the penguin walk, will you? I don’t know about you, but my legs are cramping up and we got a long way to go.”
Cooper nods. “Here… this is better, isn’t it?” His voice is thick with satisfaction, the arm that was hooked through Albert’s elbow now curling around his waist instead. Albert has no choice but to put his own arm across Cooper’s shoulder, and for the few seconds that their gazes intersect, the rainstorm still propelling them forward barely even seems real at all. Albert can feel the blood rise to his cheeks at the closeness - innocent as it is, because surely, Cooper being Cooper, he doesn’t mean anything by it. Just two colleagues trying to share an umbrella in the most efficient way possible. Never mind that they must look like lovers to anyone watching, down to the matching rhythm of their footsteps and the flush Albert knows is marking his own face. His heart is pounding in his throat, all memory of the cold forgotten. He could lean in right now and put his head on Cooper’s shoulder. He’s not going to, of course, but it would take less than ten inches and maybe one second to make it happen. Knowing Coop and his twisty notion of boundaries, he might not even consider it an improper move. And the mere fact that Albert is contemplating the option means it’s time to draw the line right now.
“Look…” Albert voice comes out hoarse, the susurrating rush of raindrops making everything feel muted. By now his pant legs are soaked through, and the side of him that’s not pressed against Cooper isn’t faring much better. Neither, he guesses, is Cooper himself. “Solidarity’s a pretty word, I’ll grant you. All for one and one for all and blah blah blah, but the only one remotely resembling a musketeer in these parts is the guy who serves at that restaurant Gordon fancies. The only thing your noble gesture is bound to accomplish is we’ll both be dripping wet by the time we get to the car. It’s fine. You can have this.” With a gentle push, he tries to maneuver the umbrella to where it covers Coop properly.
Cooper’s eyes are shining. Whether with mirth or combativeness or something else, Albert can’t tell, especially now that he’s taking the brunt of the deluge again. But there’s nothing ambiguous in the way Cooper moves with him when Albert tries to step aside, or about the smile that lights up his face when he pushes the umbrella right back to where it was. “Albert?” he asks, raising his voice just enough to be heard. Do you remember Singing in the Rain?”
“Office movie night?” Albert rolls his eyes. “How the hell could I forget? I remember Gordon didn’t shut up about the pretty dame for at least a week, and that kid Stanley kept breaking out in song every time he’d pass by a window and it looked even remotely cloudy. Couldn’t hold a tune if his life depended on it, so thank fuck we got a heat wave after three days. And let’s not mention Diane…”
“... who insisted you’d make a fine Gene Kelly,” Coop finishes for him, “and I won’t claim she’s wrong. I’ve heard you humming at the coffee maker, when you thought no one was listening. You’re no Sam Stanley, that much we can all agree on.”
“Right. If my FBI career ever falls on its face, I’ll be sure to audition on Broadway,” Albert says, but without any real irritation, even though the thought of Cooper sneaking through corridors to listen to him hum is more than a little alarming. “So what, if I may ask, was the point of that little trip down memory lane?”
“Only this,” Cooper says, and Albert registers the wild gleam in his eyes maybe a second before the umbrella is whipped away, Cooper’s expression flooding with joy as he lifts his face towards the sky. The torrent comes down on them like a hammer, ruining that perfect, slicked-down coif within seconds, droplets falling from the tips of Cooper’s hair and clinging to his lashes. Albert, too, has lost the flimsy barrier protecting him from the forces of nature, the renewed onslaught making him splutter and blink, but he’ll be damned if he takes his eyes off Cooper now. He’s gorgeous, one hand still clutching his umbrella, the other burrowing into Albert’s coat, eyes closed and lips parted, and Albert is all too aware he’s gaping - a slack-jawed stare he imagines is made even less dignified by the fact he must be looking like a drowned animal himself. Not that he gives a damn. Cooper is as much a force of nature as any rainstorm in existence, and if Albert sometimes derives too much satisfaction from griping about his eccentricities, moments like these are a humbling reminder of just how lucky he is to have him around. And he’s not just saying that because the man’s a stunner - although, to be fair, the thought did occur.
Slowly, trying not to ruin a perfect moment - and look at him now, saying ‘perfect moment’ when they’re both on the verge of catching pneumonia for sure - he lifts a hand towards Cooper’s face. “Contingencies, huh?” he says, and then, praying that the odd bubble of reality surrounding them will stretch just a little bit further, he dares to stroke a dripping strand of hair out of Cooper’s eyes. “Good thing this is an imperfect one, as you put it yourself, or I don’t think my heart could stand it.”
“Your heart will be fine, Albert,” Cooper says, opening his eyes with that blissful smile still on his lips. For a moment, the only thing filling the space between them is the rush of rain against the asphalt; then, with a flutter of lashes that makes Albert’s knees go weak, Cooper turns his cheek into Albert’s hand. “Your heart could withstand a hurricane, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.” It’s a statement of fact, not of judgment, delivered in perfectly Cooperesque fashion. And if, for a moment, it sounds like a hint at something deeper as well, Albert is careful enough not to react to it, lest he break the spell.
Instead he matches Cooper’s grin with one of his own, not half as sweet but no less genuine for it. With his lank frame, his simmering anger and his ever-guarded smiles, Albert's a far cry from a movie star, but if there’s any way he can give Coop a happy ending - short of actually singing in the rain, because there are limits to how far even he will go - he isn’t about to settle for less. Least he can do for the man who owns his heart.