The door to her apartment is right there in front of her. The keys, her spare set picked up from her mom, are in her hand. All Dani needs to do is unlock the door and step through and she’ll be in her own home.
She puts the key in the lock and turns it. The lights in the kitchen are still on from when she left, clean mug upside down by the sink. It’s exactly as it was the last time she was here, and she can’t make herself take one step over the doorway.
"You need to sweep it for bugs," she says. She turns around, dropping the keys in Tidwell's hand and heads back to the car, leaving the door wide open.
He opens his mouth like he's going to say something, then to his credit, closes it and gets his phone out. She can't tell from this distance what he's saying, but she can guess. It's not the first time she thinks about how obvious she is, picking him, but it's maybe never been more appropriate than in this moment. Kevin Tidwell is a good man, at the core. He likes being the guy doing the right thing, and he listens when someone -when a woman- tells him something, even if it's not what he wants to hear. Says the wrong thing, but means the right one, acts like a slob, but is sentimental about his things. Looks sleazy, but acts like a good cop. A good person.
He's so far from her father, she almost laughs.
He gets in the driver's seat. "I've got a few people coming round tomorrow morning." He looks at the clock on the dashboard. "Today, even. You can sleep at mine or, you know, get a hotel or stay with your ma or something until--"
"You need to get my parents' house checked too," she says.
"Okay. Okay, we got this." He nods to himself, taking that on board and she's aware of how much there is here that he doesn't know—more than her, even. She doesn't know how to explain it. Maybe it's better for him not to know, or maybe that's just her not wanting to tell him. "So, a hotel or..."
She doesn't want to stay at a hotel, impersonal and exposed. She doesn't want to go to Tidwell's either, not now. He'd make dinner, or order in, and sleep on the couch if she said anything-- no, if she didn't say anything, he'd make-up the couch if she didn't actually tell him she wanted to sleep with him. Set up an appointment with a department approved-shrink, want her to talk to him about everything -everything she could talk about- and would wait, restless, but still waiting, until she chose to say something.
She doesn't want to say anything to him. It's not that she doesn't want him to know, but she doesn't want to have to tell him, to put everything into words that don't seem accurate, no matter how many she uses. She doesn't want the silence of someone waiting patiently to be told. She wants the silence of someone that doesn't have to be told.
"Crews," she says. "You can take me to Crews's."
He looks surprised, and then not, like it's something he should have expected. According to the clock, it's only been seven hours since Tidwell picked them up and quietly told them that Crews needed to go in now, of his own choice, before he was arrested.
It feels like longer. Intellectually, she knows that Crews is probably as safe as he's ever been, but his absence is a nagging feeling. She needs to know where he is, and she needs him to know where she is.
Tidwell drives her to Crews’s, the car speeding just close enough to the speed limit to pass. The streets are surprisingly quiet, all the sounds muted, like someone's put the traffic on low. When they arrive at Crews’s place, she has a moment where she wonders if she should have called, let him know she was coming. What if he's not there, if he's out-- oh, chasing his ex-wife or hooking up or meditating in a park somewhere, or doing any of the other normal, self-destructive things someone might do after a day like today.
Or, more likely, what if he’s still being interrogated by the LAPD or the FBI or Homeland Security or whoever else was looking after Nevikov. Maybe that’s why she’s not in one of those rooms herself , why she was released after making a simple statement because Tidwell kept reminding everyone that she was the victim here, that she need time to rest and recover (to figure out what she knew, what she could tell, what she would have to lock away deep inside her).
Maybe they’re too busy working over Crews.
The lights are on. She knocks on the door, then turns the handle. It's not a surprise when it swings open. Crews is just walking down the stairs, still in his suit.
He lights up when he sees her, like she's a point of joy for him, like there's nothing there to make him feel conflicted or guilty or vengeful. He sees her, knows that she exists, and whatever happens before or after, in this moment, there is joy.
You killed Roman for me, she thinks. He murdered your friend, his family, had you sent to prison for 12 years-- cost you your family, the one you would have had with Jennifer-- and you wanted him dead, wanted it more than you wanted anything, but that's not why you killed him.
You killed him for me, for what he did and what he wanted to do and what he would do.
"I need to stay here tonight," she says. "Roman had my place bugged. I don't know who's taken over for him."
"Both of you?" Crews says.
"I'm gonna head back..." Tidwell starts to say, but Dani shrugs, cutting him off.
"For tonight, sure." Dani has never been the type to turn clingy when things are bad. The opposite really, stress makes her want distance between her and everyone else, but for tonight, she thinks the simple animal comfort in touch might be nice. Tidwell doesn’t know her like Crews - like Charlie- like Crews knows her, but he knows her well enough to be surprised by it.
It probably says something about her, that of the four or so people that know her best in this world, half of them are in this room and only one of them ever uses her first name. That’s probably fair. She never uses theirs.
Crews nods. "I have guest-rooms. Lots of rooms, not many guests. And sheets and pillows."
"Sounds good,' Tidwell says.
She strips down to her tank-top and underwear and gets into bed. Tidwell curls in behind her, t-shirt and boxers. There's a pitcher of water with a glass over the top on the bedside table, a gesture of consideration that, out of the blue, makes her eyes go hurt and damp. She keeps her breath even, matches it to Tidwell's behind her, until she falls asleep.
When she wakes up, it's still dark. She can't tell how much time has passed, an hour or three or twice that. She doesn't feel like she's awake, but she doesn't feel tired either.
"Dani?" Tidwell says sleepily behind her. "You awake?"
"Yeah," she says. She turns around and finds him in the dark, the familiar shape of his body, soft belly, strong arms, fading smell of deodorant and aftershave. They get their hands inside each other's clothes, and it's the opposite of juvenile, not like kids fooling around, but like adults that know each other's bodies, know their own. It's easy, quick and comfortable pleasure, still messy, but there are tissues in the bedside cabinet on his side for the clean-up, and after they both roll over and fall back to sleep immediately.
When she wakes up the next time, it's light outside and Tidwell is snoring quietly. She swings her legs out of the bed, putting her feet on the ground quietly and eases out of bed, trying not to wake him up. There's an attached bathroom, but no towels in it so she heads down the hall, trying to remember where she found the bathroom before.
Crews’s in the kitchen, already dressed for work. For a moment, she's self-conscious about her appearance, aware of how undressed she is, an out of habit self-consciousness before she forces it back. It's Crews, Charlie, and her being in her underwear is the least of how intimate they are.
"Hey," she says.
"Good morning. Clementine?" He pushes the bowl at her and she takes one as a gift for him, because he wants her to have it. He smiles to let her know he appreciates the gesture.
"Looking for your bathroom," she says. "And towels?"
“I’ll get you some,” he says. “We have guest towels. Ted insisted.”
She raises an eyebrow at that and Crews shrugs. “You know, for guests. I like to be a good host.”
Right, guests. She snorts and feels a pang of sympathy for Ted, putting up with Charlie bringing home whoever, multiple whoevers, when he was still in his taste-the-world phase.
Dani gets herself a glass of water and stands in front of the sink, looking out of the window. He has a swimming pool, big enough even by L.A. standards and for a moment, she regrets not having a bathing suit. Swimming would feel good right now. Pushing through the water has always given her that same comfortably separated feeling she gets jogging with her headphones in, like she’s blocked off from the rest of the world. It lets her push herself hard enough that the only things she can focus on are what her body is doing, every breath difficult enough that she can ignore all the other wants and focus on that single biological need.
When Crews comes back, he changed into sweats and a T-shirt. She frowns at him and he shrugs. “I figure I’m owed a day off,” he says. “Stay home, read a book. Relax. Yesterday was pretty exhausting.” When he grins back at her, she realises that she’s smiling. “Towels,” he says, putting a stack of them on the table.
She pours him a glass of water and when he takes it, he comes to stand next to her, close enough that they’re a shrug away from touching. It’s a nice feeling, the way they’re standing in the same position, like they’re echoing each other. It’s quiet enough that she can hear them both breathe.
They’re waiting for something, she realises, even if she’s not sure what for. Another perfect moment, maybe. Dani has always hated waiting, the way it lets excitement go flat and anxiety build, but she’s always been good at it too.
Tidwell wanders into the kitchen. His eyes widen a little at the scene -Dani in her basic cotton tanktop and underwear, Crews in his sweats and T-shirt- and then she can see him shrug it off, put it in the pile of things that don’t matter.
He’s a good person, a good man, and the thought makes her feel a pang of affection that still feels surprising.
“Coffee?” he says, then makes a face. “Or tea, the doc says I need to watch my caffeine.”
Crews makes him a cup of something that smells vaguely floral and Tidwell gulps it down like it’s an unpleasant medicine. “I’m gonna go in,” he says. “See what the buzz is.” He touches her arm, rubbing the backs of his fingers on it in a solid, reassuring gesture. “You gonna be okay here?”
Crews looks at her like he’s waiting for her answer too, so she nods and says, “I’m good.”
Tidwell nods like he’s not sure if he believes her. She’s not sure if she does, but then she’s also not sure that she’s lying either.
Breakfast is silent. It’s not that she doesn’t have questions, not like she doesn’t want answers - at this point, it’s probably no more dangerous to know than not - but she doesn’t want to ask them now. It’s not that she’s afraid of what Charlie will say, just that it all seems too important to ask over breakfast, but also slightly irrelevant.
Maybe she’s been around Crews too long. The wrong things are starting to make sense.
She suddenly realises what's been missing in the house. "Where's Ted?" She asks. She hasn't seen him at all, and he may have a life outside of whatever weirdly functional one he has with Crews – Crews had talked about him teaching, happy at the idea of it—but it's not much of one.
"He's in Italy, on a quest. Looking for love with my father's ex-fiancée."
"You know, you can just say he's moved out," Dani says, interrupting.
"I don't know if he's moved out. He's not here, but that doesn't mean he's left." Crews smiles the way he does when something strikes him as zen-funny. "Besides, all of his things are here," he adds. "So he might come back. Maybe he'll bring Olivia."
"Right," Dani says. "Just what everyone wants in exchange for giving up Italy."
"It's a nice house," Crews says, sounding hurt. "Even for L.A."
"Especially for LA," she says. The silence comes back, just this side of awkward. “He didn’t hurt me,” Dani says. She’s not expecting the words when they come out of her mouth, but now she’s wondering why she didn’t say anything before. “I was drugged, twice. Don’t know what with, something prescription from the look, but that was it.” She’d been worried, terrified at first, that he’d shoot her up and get her hooked all over again, but maybe he’d been saving that. It had been bad enough waking up out the blackness, familiar to do the self-check for any new aches or signs of damage, but there hadn’t been any.
It occurs to her for the first time that she’s not sure what day it is. “How long?” She asks Crews.
“Eight days,” he says. “The last time we spoke, it was eight days ago.”
A week for Dani to be held by Roman. Longer, if she included the time before, when she was still being played by his FBI helpers.
“Your phone started going to voicemail on Thursday” Crews says. He takes a clementine out of the fruit bowl and starts unpeeling it. When she holds out her hand, he looks surprised for a second before giving her half. “I thought he was locked up.”
No need to say who. “We were meant to,” Dani says. Her mouth twists. “Meant to think he wasn’t an immediate threat.”
Which had worked— not well enough for Crews to let Rachel come back, but enough for them both to be distracted by Rayborn, by her father, by all the damage in the past instead of the real danger in the present.
Crews’s head bows slightly and he’s concentrating very hard on the fruit in front of him. She wants to tell him to let go of guilt, but if anyone knows how useless that is, it’s Dani.
“When he had me,” Dani says, then stops. Her throat is dry and she wants something, anything, to wet it. “When I was tied up to the chair, I knew…”
“You knew?” Crews says.
“That’s it. I knew.” She looks at him and she doesn’t know why she needs this to make sense to him, but she does. She didn’t before. That wasn’t how they worked, hadn’t needed it for their partnership— you could understand someone and not accept them, could know someone so well you could call their bluff ninety-nine times out of a hundred, and still not trust them enough to blink in their presence. She didn’t need inside Crews’s brain to know he had her back, always. Didn’t need him to know everything about her, to accept everything she was.
Now, though. She thinks if he doesn’t get it, she might— if she was another person, she might cry.
He goes still, in a way that, if they were other people, would be him reaching out to hug her. Instead his hand twitches and offers her another clementine, pushing it at her across the table. “You knew,” he says. “Everything that mattered.”
“Right. And what I didn’t know…”
“…didn’t matter,” he finishes for her.
She’d known that he was hers— was her, the other half of the partnership, the one that existed outside of her body, outside of the room she was trapped in. And it didn’t matter what Roman said, because he didn’t have all of her, all of them, and Crews would never give him what he wanted.
At that moment, she had felt her fear as something apart from her, had only been distantly aware of her hunger, the pain from being kept in the same position. She could feel it all, but it didn’t matter, was somehow less real than the moment she was in. Roman had stood in front of her posturing, threatening, and she’d felt the calm satisfaction of a snake watching a mouse. Roman had her, which meant Crews would find him.
She takes the clementine, starts to peel it and then he moves, the hand that pushed the fruit to her stretching out and his fingertips touching the back of her hand as she digs her nails into the skin. He doesn’t try to hold her hand, but his fingers press flat against the back of it, like they’re trying to scrape everything they can out of that point of contact. Like a prisoner through the bars, she thinks, and then kicks herself for the cliché.
Instead, she splits the fruit in half, offering him half with her free right hand, and turns her left so she’s holding his. It’s an awkward position, twisting her arm slightly, but her fingers clench around his.
She was. She had.
They had walked past each other in the orange grove, and their hands had just grazed each other, and then he had got into a car with Roman Nevikov, and that had been his plan, just that.
She is suddenly furiously angry with him, for risking his life— his life, and he’s her partner, he has no business risking himself like that, no right to do it when—
She can hear the sound of her own breath in Crews’s empty, barely furnished kitchen.
She’s not her father. She doesn’t think she it’s her right to control someone just because they matter to her.
“I’m sorry,” Crews says.
She could ask him what for, but there’s only one answer that matters, and for that… “No, you’re not.”
She’s still holding his hand. It should feel juvenile, even though she never did anything like that when she was an actual teenager. It doesn’t.
"I miss it already,” she says. "Knowing, like that." It felt a lot like having faith, or how she imagined it did.
“Everything you knew then, you still know.”
It’s familiar, comfortable, giving him that look. “You know what I mean.”
“I don’t think we’re meant to keep it,” he says. “Just borrow it a little, when we have to.”
“you shouldn’t have got in the car with him,” Dani says. It’s over now, and it’s worked out, or at least, it’s worked out enough for them to be sitting here facing each other, but. “It was a shitty plan, Crews. Just really fucking bad.”
“I knew,” he says. She wants to tell him to shut up, not to say what he’s going to say. “When I got into his car— before I got into his car— what I would do. I didn’t know if I’d survive it, but I knew what I’d do.”
It’s a confession, and she doesn’t know why he’s telling her. It’s not like she didn’t know, which is why he should have said nothing, let them keep plausible deniability that they didn’t know that the other knew that they knew.
“It doesn’t matter. You don’t do that again.”
He smiles, wide and happy as he had with his head tilted up, looking at the sun in that orange grove. “You too.”
* * *
The interviews are at the station. Not in one of the interrogation room, but in one of the conference rooms, which lets everyone pretend this is just some normal debriefing. There’s nothing normal about any of this, but Dani finds it comforting being here. It almost always is. It’s not so much that Dani feels more herself here, as that when she’s here, she can be closer to the kind of self she wants to be comfortable with. It’s far enough away from narcotics that she doesn’t have to worry too much about familiar faces, and no-one bothers her unless they have to.
Dani’s waiting for her union rep because after the first interview with Crews, Tidwell had come out and told her she wasn’t going in without one, when a detective Dani vaguely remembers seeing around sits next to her.
“Detective Reese? I’m Jane Seever.” Not her rep, then, and then the name rings a distant bell. She looks nervous at the edges, but Dani would lay odds that it’s a controlled fear. “Detective Seever,” she adds, holding out her hand. “I’m happy to get the chance to meet you.”
“You were his partner while I was gone?” Dani says. Her throat goes dry on the last word and she stands up to get some water from the cooler next to the bench.
Seever nods. “Yes. Not for the whole time,” she says, then frowns slightly, not at Dani but at herself, like she’s not happy with how she said that. “He worked a couple of cases with his old partner, Officer Stark. I was assigned to work with him a little under a month ago.”
“How was it?”
“Formative,” she says, smiling. “He’s, uh.”
“Crews,” Dani supplies. “yeah, a lot.”
“But good,” Seever adds, “I learned a lot from him. From being his partner. It was... helpful.” She says the last word like she can’t think of anything better.
“Are you gonna be in any trouble?” Dani asks. “From helping Crews?” For helping me, she thinks. At that point, she doesn’t think there was much of a difference.
“No. Rayborn, uh.” She smiles, like something isn’t making her happy, but she can see the humour in it. “He’s getting me a promotion out of it. I ‘rescued’ him, apparently.”
“Nice of you.”
“Well, protect and serve.”
“Just you?” Dani asks, keeping her voice casual. “Crews wasn’t with you then?”
“Detective Crews was there as well,” Seever says, matching her tone. “But I think Rayborn views him as more of a lost cause. With regards to promotion.”
He wants to own you, Dani thinks. Like he wanted to own Charlie, useful in reserve. And you know too. “You’re ambitious?”
“Very.” She says it calmly; like it’s not something she’s ever been ashamed of. “I deserve the promotion, I’d probably have got it myself in a year or two. I’m 18 months ahead of schedule.” The humour drops out of her voice. “So I guess I owe him for that.”
Dani knows all about that, about being in debt for things you never asked for, even if you did want them. About owing someone for something that would have been yours anyway. “You don’t. You know that, right?”
“If he makes me believe I owe him one, then I do,” Seever said. “I’m familiar with the tactic. Like a date ordering you the lobster before you even sit down. I’m allergic to shellfish,” she says, lightly, like she’s joking, like they're sharing a joke instead of the awareness of how deeply fucked up this all is.
Seever looks like the type of woman Dani wouldn’t avoid, but wouldn’t have much to say to. She’s dressed neatly, smartly, like she put herself together carefully in the morning, choosing from a selection of other, smartly put-together outfits. The sort of woman that’s always been comfortable with her own ambition. Dani’s met enough other women with that kind of carefully structured determination to take it neutrally. It doesn’t make someone good or bad in itself. In another like, Jane Seever would be someone Dani could say a few words with at the coffee machine, but that’s it.
But she’s a woman that put up with Crews for -had it been a month? A month of her letting herself be fooled, letting them use her own suspicious to allow them to keep interrogating her. It’s classic, looking back – keeping her isolated, off balance, making sure the days were just long enough, just busy enough, to keep her away from Crews. Training sessions with people she never ran into again, never talked to outside of eight hours on identifying criminal conspiracies, sandwiched between interviews about Crews, her father, Crews again.
"Danielle Reese? You're up," someone says. When Dani looks up, it's someone in a suit that screams FBI and puts her on edge.
"Detective Reese," she corrects him. She can see Tidwell coming down the corridor with one of the union reps.
“We should talk again sometime,” Seever says. She's standing far enough away to make it look like a polite social conversation. “We can compare notes.” She's still smiling, but this one is wider, built for outside observation. “After all, I think it’s just the two of us and Stark that’s ever had the experience of being Charlie Crew’s partner, even if it was just a short-term assignment for me.”
“It is an experience,” Dani says, matching her tone, polite, distant She’s not a natural at this kind of social performance, not as disciplined in it as Seever clearly is, but she’s been forced to act like she’s okay enough that she can put it on when she has to. Seever gives the FBI agent the sort of look that rookies do when they're still impressed by the idea of them and walks off looking brisk, untroubled. It's an impressive act and Dani gives her a mental salute.
When she gets into the interrogation room, it becomes pretty clear why Tidwell wanted her to have a union rep with her. A lawyer would send the wrong message, but the union rep makes sure everyone in the room knows that Dani Reese is part of the LAPD, and the LAPD is happy to make sure that this all stays as part of a huge FBI fuck-up. McElvie, the FBI agent that’s been assigned to investigate what the media have been cheerfully calling an in-house massacre is looking for someone to blame and he really, really wants it to be her or Charlie.
Dani feels like she could be sorry for him, if he wasn’t such a dick about it.
“No, I don’t know what kind of pills. They didn’t say,” Dani repeats.
“But you took them anyway,” he says, looking at her file. He wants her to know that he knows every detail about her time in Narcotics.
“They had a gun to my head, literally. I took the pills,” she says. She’d tried to keep from swallowing them, but they’d made her open her mouth, checking under her tongue and around her gums like she was in rehab.
“So just to confirm, you weren’t physically assaulted in any way.”
“Aside from the gun to her head, being tied up and thrown about?” Sandhu, her rep says. McKelvie glares at him and Sandhu meets his gaze politely.
“So why didn’t he?” McElvie says, turning his attention back to her. He waves his pen at her. “For someone that was held captive by a deranged Russian psychopath, you look like you’re in pretty good shape.” He gives her a look that’s meant to insult her, meant to make her angry, humiliated.
Sandhu straightens up, one hand moving slightly in front of Dani in a don’t-talk gesture. “You’re angry that your organisation was so tied up with Roman Nevikov, he could use them to kidnap a detective in the LAPD,” Sandhu says. “Don’t take it out on the victim because you don’t like to think you were buddies with the badguys.”
The smacked-fish expression on McElvie’s face is a good look on him. Dani’s not a fan of the way Sandhu keeps calling her the victim, but she appreciates what he’s doing.
When she gets out, finally, Crews’s waiting outside the room. She holds up a hand before he can say anything. “Don’t ask. It’s fine.”
“We’ll still need to talk to you again,” McElvie says. “Both of you.”
“You’re searching for truth,” Crews says. “That’s very admirable.” It could be a compliment, but it’s clear McElvie doesn’t see it that way. Dani makes eye contact with Crews and gives him a warning look. He smiles blithely. “We’re all searching for our own truths,” Crews says. “A lot of people think this world is an illusion, but it’s pretty hard to see through, even if you know it’s there.”
“That’s not zen,” Dani says as they get in the elevator. “That’s just you winding up the FBI.”
“It could be both,” Crews says as they walk out into the bright LA sunshine. “They’re not mutually exclusive.”
The thing about staying at Crews’s house is that it makes Dani aware of how much she shouldn’t want to. Dani had liked her place-- had liked having it, even liked the lonely nights. It was so far away from her family home, all the noisy chatter that ran along strict rules. No Farsi when Dad was home, or where he might hear you, and don't ask the wrong questions or say the wrong thing, and don't sulk Dani, why aren't you joining in with the conversation? Do you think you're above this? Her father would take Dani's silence as a challenge to his authority, viewed it not as obedience so much as passive resistance.
When she'd got her own place, it had been such a relief. She'd needed that, needed to be able to shut the door and close the world away, without having anyone banging on the door and saying they needed the bathroom, what was taking her so long, or invading her bedroom with an armload of laundry as an excuse. Her weaknesses were private too, for once, until they got too big, too obvious. It wasn't a big place and it looked smaller, space taken up by overstuffed furniture and tables suited for company, when she never had guests over.
Crews's place is so open in comparison. It should make her feel exposed.
And it's strange, staying somewhere so quiet. There's the sound of traffic - nowhere in LA is that far from it-- but it's low, distant. If the windows were closed, she might not even hear that. At night, she can hear dogs and coyotes, but in the day, there’s very little louder than the air-con. Crews is in the house somewhere, but it's big enough that she can't tell where by listening. She doesn't even know where his bedroom is. She wants to turn the TV or a radio on for background noise, but Crews either doesn't have one or it's hidden somewhere.
She should hate it after just a few days and she just— doesn’t. Doesn’t feel Crews’s presence like a constant pressure, the way she finds the presence of other people when she’s at her family’s house. She doesn’t feel out of place either. It doesn’t have the usual markers that tell you that this is someone else’s home and Crews only has a few things that look like they’re there for sentimental reasons. The empty lines of the rooms are oddly soothing. It doesn't feel quite real, and she needs that right now.
Crews is still on administrative leave and Dani isn’t, or on medical leave much as Tidwell would like her to be, so she spends most of her time on duty with Seever, both partnerless for the same reason. They work well together, not out of any special connection, but because they’re both good, competent detectives. It’s a nice feeling, a reminder that she can work well in normal situations, as well as her usual more fucked-up variety and she likes Seever’s casual, automatic assumption of Dani’s own ambition.
Seever doesn’t question Dani’s presence in Crews’s house, even though she has to know about it— she still talks to Crews, forcing him to use email out of sheer stubbornness.
They help out DiMatteo and Newton with a murder -two dead bodies, but only one on purpose- and it’s simple enough that Dani takes the excuse to have an early day. It’s easy working with Seever, but it’s still vaguely disconcerting, not having Crews there.
He’s not alone when she gets in. For a moment, she doesn’t recognise the woman and then she turns her head and Dani realises it’s Crews's ex-wife, sitting at the small dinner table with Crews and a mess of photographs in front of them. The woman, Jen Conover, jumps slightly, like she hadn't heard her come in, and then smiles at Dani, awkward, polite and faintly guilty. She shifts slightly so there's a little more space between her and Crews.
"Jen brought over some old photos," Charlie says.
"I had them in the attic," she says. "I hadn't—I didn't know what to do with them before, but there were a lot of pictures of Natalie and Tom and the kids. I thought Rachel would like them”
"I remember," Charlie says. "You always used to save them up til Christmas put them in albums over the holiday."
Dani feels awkward in Charlie's home for the first time since she started staying here. She moves over to the table and takes the seat opposite. There are a lot of photographs, and Crews is so young in them that it almost hurts to see. It's not just pictures of they and the Seybolts—there's a barbecue with Stark at the grill, a few taken in a garden and one with Charlie and Jen at the beach, Charlie covered up with sunblock thick enough to be visible.
Charlie is smiling up at her in the picture, pink on his shoulders in spite of the sunblock. Dani looks at the picture and tries to see what it was that her father saw, that Rayborn and the rest of them saw in Charlie that made them think he would turn into one of them. What they thought they could shape in him, to make him so useful that it was worth setting up Tom Seybolt to get it.
Jennifer Conover ducks her heads and she picks up a few of the photographs, moving them into order. "We were so young," she says, more to herself than Crews. When she moves the photograph she's looking at over to Crews, her body stays there, like a habit of intimacy reasserting herself the moment she forgets to watch for it. "I wanted to throw them away," Jennifer says quietly. “My therapist thought it would be healthier. Or burn them, but there were pictures of Natalie and Tom and the kids, so in the end, I just put them in the attic."
Like killing them all over again, Dani thinks. She wonders what she did with all the pictures already in albums, with their wedding photos and pictures from when they first started dating. If she did burn them, or if she shipped them back to Crews’s parents— if they were fading away in a box somewhere.
“Thank you,” Crews says. He touches his ex-wife’s arm briefly. Crews is good at that, Dani knows. He can make the space between him and whoever he’s talking to disappear, like everything else fades into the background slightly. He does it all the time, with suspects, with friends, with strangers— like he’s connected to everyone, like they’re all connected to him, and he believes that strong enough that they do too, for as long as he’s talking to them.
“I need coffee,” Dani says.
When she pads into the kitchen, it's only a little less empty than the rest of the house. There are three chairs by the table leaving one side bare, which is oddly disconcerting. She wonders what happened to the fourth or if Crews only got three to start with.
If she'd spent more time here, before, she'd know where everything is, instead of trying to figure out which cupboard held the coffee, if any. She wouldn't put it past Crews to not have any, or to have some fancy blend that had to be kept in some climate-controlled safe somewhere.
The coffee's not in a container on the worksurface, not in the first cupboard she looks in, or the second. Not in the fridge, where some people keep it. The fridge is full and she's surprised for a second, then looks at it again. Almost nothing opened, full jugs of milk, juice, all the vegetables wrapped in plastic. Crews picked up a refrigerator's worth of groceries , or got it delivered, so it would be there when she opened the door.
She steals an olive and shuts the door, leaning her head against it for a second before straightening up when she hears footsteps.
“You’re back early,” he says.
It’s not an accusation. Dani refuses to let herself react like it is. “Case closed easy. And Seever says she likes doing the paperwork. Seriously?”
“Seriously,” he says. “Some people are strange.”
“Finished with your ex-wife?”
“That’s a difficult question to answer. But she’s gone home. You know, to her husband and kids and actual life that doesn’t include me.” It sounds like he’s quoting someone, but he doesn’t sound bitter about it. “She left the photos.”
Didn’t want them in her home anymore, Dani thinks.
“Ted says he’s going to be in Spain a little longer,” Crews continues. “I really should get another roommate. Someone to split the bills with."
"Settlement running out already?" Dani says, opening the cupboard next to him. "Where's the coffee?" she says, giving up.
He reaches past her and pulls it out. Crews isn't subtle about wanting her to stay here. It would be so easy in so many ways, but if she stays here any longer—no, if she makes the decision to stay here, instead of just letting herself keep coasting along like this—then they'll have to talk about everything, and she's not sure if she wants to know how much Crews's kept from her. How much she let him, because asking could have lead to him being shot again, or lying to her or worse, giving her the actual answers.
The thing is, she knows that now she could make him tell her everything. If she asked, if she pushed, he'd tell her everything—not just about her father and Mickey Rayborn and Nevikov, but everything. About the two guys he killed in Pelican Bay (allegedly, allegedly killed her mind adds automatically), about how he met Jen, about the worst thing that happened to him when he was inside. About the worst thing he's done since coming back outside. It's a strange feeling, looking at someone and knowing absolutely that there is nothing they can refuse you.
"They're meeting up with Rachel in Rome in a few weeks," he adds.
"Is she coming back?" She asks, surprised. Crews hasn't mentioned her, but then she's so tied up with everything they're not talking about.
"She can now," he says. Dani gives him a look to let him know that she's spotted his non-answer. "I hope," he says. "If she wants."
"You want her to," Dani says.
"I'm trying not to want so much," he says. "I'm not very good at the non-attachment thing."
It's an understatement big enough that Dani leans against him for a second before grabbing the ground coffee off him and heading for the coffee-maker. "Crews?" Dani says, her back to him while she starts making the coffee.
Dani pours the coffee into the filter and pushes it back into the machine. "Roman said that my father was dead. He said that he killed him." She focusses on the act of making coffee, the sound of the water starting to boil. Her dad had drunk coffee the way most cops drink booze, the moka espresso maker on the stove a constant of her childhood. "He is dead, isn't he?"
"I don't think he was as good at hiding as Rayborn," Crews says.
"Right." Dani looks at the jug in front of her as the coffee starts to drip down into it. She's pretty sure she should feel something more right now—not grief necessarily, but satisfaction or anger or maybe just sheer relief at never having to sit across from him at a family dinner while the rest of their family talked away, trying to work out how many things he was guilty of and how much damage she'd take finding out.
She doesn't feel any different from how she felt before he disappeared.
”Reese?” Crews says. He walks to stand behind her, one hand on her neck and she turns around into him. She's not crying and the gesture doesn't feel like he's trying to comfort her, exactly, but they stay like that long enough for the jug to fill, then she raises her head.
"We need to talk about this, don't we?" Not the big stuff, because she'd figured that out before Roman had taken her, when she'd looked at the photo of Crews and Mickey Rayborn and realised that she wasn't going to help the FBI with their investigation, but the details of it all. How much of a danger they're still in. The Bank of L.A. and if—no, not if her father had been involved in what happened to Crews, but how much.
"Tom wasn't laundering money," Crews said. He meets her eyes and his thumb strokes her neck where it meets his shoulder. They're closer than she normally stands with people she's actually fucking- or even lovers, people like Tidwell she actually likes even if she can't quite bring herself to call him by his first name, but the instinct for distance is still smaller than the feeling that this is where they should be. "He was my friend, and I knew him. Even if he needed money, even if they came to him, he would've told me before he got involved in anything like that. He wouldn't have risked his family like that. I think they made him an offer, and when he refused, they sent Kyle Hollis to his house to scare him. Because they thought I showed potential."
"My dad," Dani says. "Rayborn. Who else? Potential for what?" And then the answer hits her before he can answer and it's so obvious, really. And she's angry, so furious at her father for everything he did, and it's a relief to have that feeling back. Part of her is taken with the stupidity of it all, the waste of time and lives – Crews, the Seybolts, even Jennifer and everybody else that was lost to some plan to bribe or blackmail Crews over so they could use him like they used Roman, like they used everyone else. "Christ, the world really does revolve around you, doesn't it?"
"More than I'm comfortable with," he says, half-smiling.
"You have proof?"
"Not exactly," he says.
"Fine," Dani says. "Show me what you have.
Crews takes up upstairs. It's the first time she's been in Crews's room. The windows are wide open and it's mostly empty except for the bed, still unmade. Crews disappears into a walk-in and comes out with a few rolls of paper from a shelf, then unrolls them on his bed, arranging them so the lines meet up.
There's a photograph, torn in two. The half that's still on there shows Mickey Rayborn on his yacht. It looks recent. "What was on the other half?" Dani says, holding it up. "Do you know?" "You," Crews says. She traces the tear with her fingers and he adds, "I'm sorry. I didn't realised it didn't matter until it was too late."
"When Roman had me?" Dani says, looking at the picture. She could picture him holding it, trying to work out where she fit in. If she'd been like her father, or a victim like Tom Seybolt, or just another person like his family, his friends, that hadn't known him well enough to know what he was and wasn't capable of.
"Before," he said. "Not long, when you were still at the FBI. I think I have trust issues," he says.
It's the kind of joke that would make a therapist cry and makes Dani smile. "You think?" She says.
"I'm getting better at it," he says. He sits down on the bed with the map of conspiracy behind him. "You know, trusting people."
They pick Rachel up at the airport. She looks like any other backpacker, someone coasting on youth and parental forbearance. It's a pretty good disguise. She looks happy to see Crews and then she pushes it back down. "I like Ted more," Rachel says, looking at Dani. "No offence."
"He's very likeable," Crews agrees cheerfully. Rachel looks frustrated at the response and Dani wants to roll her eyes in sympathy. Crews's good humour in the face of opposition can really grate. Rachel's glaring at both of them now, and Dani smiles at her.
Rachel clearly wasn't expecting Dani to be living there, but she doesn't say anything. It's a pointed thing, proof that she doesn't care about it. She looks at Crews and Dani suspiciously at first and Dani's pretty sure Rachel thinks they're either having sex, or this close to starting. It's not actually something Dani has let herself think about much. Before, because she didn't want to risk putting any more of herself into their partnership than she had to, and later, because she'd started to worry that she'd already put all of herself into it already. Like it wouldn't make any difference in the long run, when they were already so tangled up together anyway. She doesn't bother saying anything to Rachel about it. She doesn't need to defend herself and besides, she thinks it's probably easier on Rachel, thinking that she's one-up on them about it all. It's noisier with Rachel in the house. She makes noise deliberately, aggressively leaving her music on, the TV on, putting her phone on speaker. She knows who Dani is, and the fact that she hasn't said anything about it since she came back makes Dani wary.
At least there is a TV now, ordered and installed by Rachel in act of what was maybe meant to be defiance and made Crews smile like it meant she was nesting.
Rachel sits down next to her in front of it, collapsing into her seat with the kind of drama Dani had lost when she was a few years younger than Rachel. By Rachel's age, she’d already had it cold-shouldered out of her. “I’m sorry about your dad,” she says. “He was.” She stops, then clearly goes over what she can say, revising it from what would have come out. "He was always nice to me,” she says instead. “I don’t know if that means anything, but he was.”
There’s a part of Dani that will always be fifteen, thirteen, eight years old and twenty-one, and thinking “So why isn’t he ever nice to me? Why do you get the good side of him?” but she’s not any of those ages now. She’s thirty in a few months, and she’s pretty sure her father is dead, and she knows he wasn’t a good guy, that he wasn’t a good cop and that he was mean as well.
She thinks she’s okay with it. It’s easier, somehow, knowing for sure.
“Does it mean something to you?” Dani says instead of any of the other things she could say.
Rachel shrugs. “What do I know? I was happy, when Kyle Hollis started fostering me.” She draws her knees up to her, her arms going around them. “You know, when I was in Lisbon,” Rachel says, , “there was this one night where I was walking back to the hostel and this dick— I was drunk, he tried to get me back to his, but not— like, he was just a dick about it, really— you know, ‘c’mon, you’re too drunk to go home alone, let me take you back to mine, no, I insist…’ you know the type? Like if you’re saying no, it just means you’re too sober and he can wait until you’re not?” She looks away from Dani when she says that and Dani wonders what she knows about Dani’s past. “I mean, nothing happened. It probably wouldn't have happened anyway, I wasn’t that drunk, and then this Austrian girl came over and told him to back the fuck away before she called the police, but there was this moment where I thought, if something happens to me now, when Charlie sent me away to keep me safe, I will be so fucking angry.” She stops and looks at Dani. “It was kind of funny at the time.” She goes silent again and Dani really wishes that Charlie were home instead of out with Seever.
“You know he wouldn’t have let you come back if it wasn’t safe, right?” Dani says.
Rachel shrugs. “I didn’t come back because it was safe. I didn’t leave because I was in danger, that’s just why Charlie made me go. Didn’t want the guilt if something happened to me. Your dad was part of it, wasn't he?" Rachel spits the words out. "Was that why he was nice to me? Guilt?"
Dani hesitates, then says, "Maybe. Probably. We think—we're pretty sure your family wasn't meant to die, that your dad was just meant to get scared enough to go along with them."
"Just caught in the crossfire, right?" Rachel Seybolt has a scar from a gunshot somewhere under her top. So does Charlie, like it runs in the family.
"If I ask him," Rachel says, looking at where her fingers are pressing in to her knees before looking up to meet Dani’s eyes like a challenge. "Kyle Hollis, if I ask him, he'll tell the truth. Right?" She smiles like she's older than Dani. "Isn't that why he—why he took me in? Because he wanted to make amends? If he's my dad, he'll tell me the truth, and he wants to be my dad, right? "
It's possible, Dani thinks, that she's met one of the few people with a more fucked-up relationship with their father-figures than she hers.
"It won't help," she says. "He won't tell you what you want to know."
"You sound like Charlie."
"Not in some zen bullshit sense. You want to know if any of it was real, right? When he took care of you? When he looked after you?" She'd called him dad, Dani remembered. Crews had said she'd called him my dad, you coming to get my Daddy? The men that did this, they were looking for him, had wanted to keep him safe when Crews had found her bleeding. "And you want to know how he could have killed your family like that, and looked you in the face after like he was someone, like he wasn't a monster and you weren't the victim? There's no answer he can give you for that." The tension in Rachel's body ratchets up with each word Dani says. It's painfully familiar, makes her feel a sympathetic echo. “But you know that, right?” Dani says. “That’s why you’re asking me, and not Crews.”
Rachel uncurls from her position slightly, one leg going down to touch the floor. She’s not a teenager, but sitting next to her makes Dani aware of every extra year she has on her, and how grateful she is for each one, how much more settled in to herself she feels now— not all of the time, but more often than not. “Charlie wouldn’t tell me the truth if he thought it’d hurt me more to know,” she says.
“Maybe not,” she says. “The trick is to remind him that even if you don’t know, you know.”
Rachel half-turns to look at her, one eyebrow up. “And that works?”
Dani shrugs. “It’ll work on him.”
Rachel smiles at Dani and Dani can see the echoes of the girl from the photographs in it. She smiles back at her. “I guess you know him pretty well,” she says. “It’s weird that you never call him Charlie, you know.”
Dani shrugs. “Weirder that he never calls me Dani.” Reese is her father’s name. Was her father’s name. Is her name.
It’s her name now anyway. Doesn’t matter how she got it, and she likes the way it sounds when Charlie says it— like it’s only ever been her name, like everyone else came after.
”Charlie sent you away because he wanted you to be safe. Safer,” Dani corrects herself. “But he didn’t bring you back to keep you safe.”
”No?” Rachel says. “Are you gonna say one of his zen bullshit things? Like I’m here because here is where I am?”
”You’re here,” Dani says, “Because you wanted to be here more than you wanted to be safer.”
Because Crews was bad at losing attachment no matter how zen he got, because they’re all connected her to Crews to Rachel and back again, because being here is better than not being here.
”Is that why you’re here too?” Rachel says. It’s an accusation, a deflection.
Dani doesn’t have to be here. She could go back to her apartment, gathering more dust, or get someplace new. Move back in with her mom, maybe, while she recovers from her father’s disappearance. She doesn’t even need to be here for Crews, because she knows -knows right through other bones- that wherever she is, Charlie’s there as well. And even if that wasn’t true, he’s back on duty in two weeks and Seever’s already making noises about who her new partner will be, one Crews is back with Dani. She doesn’t have to be here, but that doesn’t mean there’s anywhere else she could be either.
She doesn’t say any of that to Rachel. It's not something she'd feel comfortable saying to anyone.
Rachel waits for her to answer and then when she doesn't, sighs and lets her feet slide down to the floor with a clunk.
"Forget it," Rachel says. "You're as bad as Charlie at saying anything real."
"He grows on you," Dani says.