Danny Messer walked into the locker room, startling the lab tech out of his silent, lost perusal of the inside of his locker.
With a slightly sheepish smile, Adam Ross straightened on the bench, reaching up awkwardly to rub his neck and hoping the other man wouldn’t wonder why he’d been sitting in the half-dark alone, staring at his open locker like it was the Holy Grail. As if reading his thoughts, the detective paused in the midst of rummaging in a bag and shot him a sharp look.
“Yeah,” Adam answered after a moment. Figuring honesty couldn't hurt him any more than he already had been, he continued, “Just wondering what I'm going to do with myself after I leave.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Danny held up a hand and left his locker to drop down on the bench beside his co-worker. “Who says you're goin' anywhere? I thought Mac was backin' you on this.”
Again, Adam hesitated; it wasn't his place to say, he felt (the fact that his job was at stake was for now to be ignored), but Danny's pointed question prompted him forward. “He was. Is. I think he called Chief Sinclair.”
He was rewarded with a laugh from the older man, who grinned and told him, “The whole lab heard him call Sinclair. Whoever didn't 's deaf.” A small smile played at the tech’s lips, but when his expression didn't relax, Danny sobered. “So if you know Mac's got your back, why you still worryin'?”
Hesitating still further, Adam finally managed Stella's name, and Danny's concern turned to confusion.
“You're worried 'bout Stella??” he exclaimed, surprise thickening his Bronx accent even further than usual, and his friend just nodded, reluctant to say more. He wasn't about to have much luck with that decision, however, as Danny pressed, “Why??”
With a shrug, Adam trained his gaze on the floor. “I... I accidentally heard her talking to Mac. She—she was telling him the lab needed one of those DNA robots more than it did keeping the techs.”
For a moment, Danny didn't say anything, and Adam thought he'd offended him. But just as he opened his mouth to apologise, the blonde burst out laughing. Rather hurt, having expected at least a little more sympathy, Adam just stared; Danny, trying to calm himself down, waved what was supposed to be a placating hand rather ineffectually.
When he could speak properly again, he looked up, squaring their gazes. “You ever watch how they work?”
“Um… the robots?”
Rolling his eyes so hard he thought for a moment they’d get stuck, Danny shook his head. “No, smart one, Mac an’ Stella.” The “Oh” was silent but didn’t seem to alleviate the confusion in the slightest, so he pushed on. “Someone’s gotta play devil’s advocate for ‘im,” he pointed out, then continued with a impish smile, “but she’s the only one who can worry less about ‘im firin’ her for it!”
At that, Adam chuckled, but it was accompanied by a half-hearted shrug. “She’s got a point. The robots would be faster…”
“Nah.” Danny didn’t even pause to think about the answer. “Mac’ll never put machines before people—‘specially his. Neither would Stella, but ‘f she doesn’t argue Sinclair’s side before Mac’s back on the phone with ‘im… boom—I think he might actually find a way to commit murder over phone lines.”
The image of First Grade Detective Mac Taylor managing to telepathically murder his boss over the phone was enough to prompt an actual laugh from Adam. “I don’t think that would make it any easier to find the two hundred thousand or whatever it is we need,” he pointed out with a grin.
“Maybe if they didn’t have to pay his salary,” Danny mumbled sotto voce, smart enough to not say that too loudly in the department locker room, and the other man almost choked. “ ‘Sides,” the detective continued, “I don’ think Stella’d have asked for everyone t’ give up paid leave for a bit ‘f she really didn’t think you were needed ‘round here.”
“What??” Adam turned wide eyes on his co-worker, who feigned innocence.
“Oh, you didn’t know that? Whoops…”
The tone was half-warning, half-pleading, and the man in question laughed, taking pity on the other as he explained, “Stel asked the team ‘f we’d push back vacations. ‘F we’re not all takin’ paid leave time, it gives you a little longer for Mac t’ figure this out.”
“Oh.” Adam looked floored, doing a fairly good goldfish impression, and Danny hid a smile. “I should go thank her,” were the first words out of his mouth, but the CSI shook his head.
“Nah. Think you’d just embarrass ‘er. Play clueless,” he suggested. “When Mac gives you ‘is final answer, ask ‘im. ‘F he tells you, you can talk to Stel.” Rising from the bench, he clapped a friendly hand on Adam’s shoulder. “For now, don’ worry until Mac tells you to.”
He wandered over to his locker, shut the door, and glanced over his shoulder. “Now I’m off to tell Mac Costa Rica fell through,” he said with a grin and sloppy, two-fingered salute. “You have a good one, Adam.”
Then he tossed something at Adam, who only caught it by reflex, and disappeared through the glass double doors, leaving the lab tech once again staring at his open locker, only now the gaze was a just a touch more hopeful. He heaved a sigh and started to pick up his bag before remembering the object Danny had thrown at him, and he opened his right hand to find a small medal of Saint Jude, patron saint of lost causes. A small smile touched his lips, and he threw his bag over his shoulder, pausing for a moment with his hand on the nameplate of his locker before he left. It was time to call it a night.
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