Although he'd never admit it out loud for fear of what Wes might do to him, Travis didn't hate the couples' therapy like his partner did. Oh, at first he had, but he had quickly come to enjoy it, if for no other reason that Wes hated it so much. And Wes hated it, like he hated injustice and bad police searches, with the kind of fervor he usually reserved for his lawn or gun care. So, if nothing else, Travis enjoyed going to group to bask the stoic, square-jawed misery it brought out in Wes. Petty, yes, but he hadn't been the one who had drawn the smoking gun that had landed them there in the first place.
Travis also had to admit that therapy definitely couldn't hurt Wes. Having known the man for seven years -- five of which they'd spent as partners -- he was well aware of number of unhealthy coping mechanism the former lawyer had devised to not-deal with his own emotions. Travis also knew another few jargonistic psych talk he could use to describe Wes, thanks to his own years in the system. Among his favorites were "obsessive compulsive" and "repressed." They were both really good words for the way Wes processed...well, anything.
Still, despite all the schadenfreude he got of it thanks to Wes's abhorrence to their biweekly group sessions, Travis had a few reservations of his own. He had spent years on the proverbial shrink couch to little effect, although he still thought of himself as a well-adjusted if eccentric adult. And, yes, maybe there were files somewhere and maybe they said things about him in words like "abandonment issues" and, even, "commitment anxiety" but it wasn't anything he really needed to worry about. He had his job and he had his partnership with Wes and, if that was all he was ever going to have on a permanent basis, he was good with that.
That probably said something about him but Travis didn't let that bother him, either. "Evasive" was written in those files somewhere too.
There were moments of discomfort, though, for Travis in their sessions with Dr. Ryan, if only because sometimes they hit a little too close to things he knew about himself that he had just decided not to look at too closely -- which was completely different from the self-deluding denial that Wes exhibited on a regular basis.
"I want you all to think about to what made you first fall in love," Dr. Ryan announced, once everyone was settled. As usual, Wes had his arms crossed, brow furrowed as he focused on the doctor. "Think about the moment that you felt that spark that made you know this was the person you wanted to spend your life with." When she didn't continue, Wes cleared his throat loudly. Dr. Ryan somehow managed not to roll her eyes as she added, "...or your working hours with, if that's a better fit for your relationship."
"And why are we doing this?" Wes asked.
He was such an asshole, Travis noted. Every therapy group had one; lucky for him, it was his partner.
"For your relationship to have stopped functioning properly, it most likely did at one time," she explained. "If you can visualize that time, we can hope to look at the differences and see where you've went off the path, yes?"
"No," Wes said. "I don't think so."
Travis rolled his eyes and elbowed him. "C'mon, man," he said. "I remember that time -- it was before you pulled your gun on me."
"That's not how I remember it," Wes said. "And that was your fault."
"So, Wes," Dr. Ryan continued, while the rest of group stared on, avidly. Travis figured if they weren't getting their money's worth in therapy, they were definitely getting it in entertainment. "Are you saying there was never a time when you and Travis got on better than you do now?"
Travis knew that there had been a time and it hadn't even been that long ago. Maybe before Alex and Wes had fallen apart entirely, before Wes had decided to give up on life because Alex didn't want him in hers. But in the beginning, they had been great, with all the heady rushes of euphoria that came with clicking with someone like that. It hurt a little to think Wes had completely forgotten that when their current situation was entirely his fault.
Wes opened his mouth to speak, probably something pointed and mean, but then his eyes flicked over toward Travis and he seemed to still, almost frozen in mid-action. Travis wasn't sure why, if it was something on his face or what, but Wes sighed and looked away without saying anything.
"Wes?" Dr. Ryan prompted.
"No," he said after a long moment. Travis shot him a dark look but Wes was looking down at his hands. "I'm not saying that, I mean."
Dr. Ryan's shoulders relaxed and she smiled. "Then that's what I want you to think about."
They never got to hear where Dr. Ryan was taking the exercise, though, because one of the other couples had their own issues to work through and the session ended before they could ever get back to the task at hand. And Travis was left to wonder if he felt better or worse that Wes had actually acknowledged that there had been a time when they didn't get on each other's nerves for breathing because, deep in that admission, was also the admission that something between them had broken somewhere along the way.
But since he wasn't sure what or where, Travis didn't have any idea on how to start fixing it.
So the therapy continued and sometimes it helped and sometimes it made everything worse; and, sometimes but more rarely, the two of them managed to act like the adults they were and not the brats they pretended to be. It was slow and agonizing, no matter how much encouragement Dr. Ryan and the Captain heaped upon them. They were still a great team, of course, and they still were the best detectives in Robbery/Homicide, but there was still always that tension, something in the air waiting for one of them -- Wes -- to snap. Travis did what he did best and ignored it as much as he could -- which totally wasn't denial, he told himself. It was a completely adult reaction to a completely adult set of feelings, and that was all.
As they racked up more and more shrink time, sometimes he'd catch Wes with the weirdest looks on his face, ones that were hard to understand even after seven years of watching dumb expressions cross his face. It was a bit like his thinking face, but more troubled, with a little less anguish in it than his early 'thinking about Alex' expression had had. The first few times he caught it, Travis had asked about it but Wes had waved off his questions, disgruntled and mocking in his dismissal. After that, Travis had washed his hands of the whole damn thing and moved on. Mostly.
One day after another thrilling session in which Travis silently made bets with himself on whether it would be the session in which Wes finally cracked a molar with all his jaw-clenching, Travis was surprised when he found the room empty of everyone except for him and Dr. Ryan. And, from the look on her face, she had wanted it that way.
"What's up, Doc?" he asked with a grin.
She almost returned it in that lovely, understated way she had. "Do you remember," she asked. "A few weeks ago when I asked everyone to remember the beginning? Back when they fell in love?"
"Yeah," he said slowly. "What about it?"
"Did you remember?" she wanted to know. "For you and Wes?"
"I remember fine," he said. "Shouldn't you be giving Wes the after-class tutoring? He's the one who glowers all through group."
"Wes is...tricky," she admitted. "You and I both know he's a special case."
"And I'm not?" Travis teased, to hide his reaction to the doctor's words because it sounded like she was saying un-helpable and that really didn't work for him. "Doctor, I'm offended."
"No, you're not," she said, smile widening a little. "But you do? Remember the time when you weren't prime candidates for most dysfunctional partners in the history of Robbery/Homicide?"
Travis appreciated her attempt at levity but he didn't really feel like it had a place in his thoughts at the moment. He glanced toward the door to make sure Wes wasn't lurking and eavesdropping, although doing either would've taken more energy than Wes would be willing to suspend for therapy. He was probably sitting in his car, though, fuming over Travis's tardiness. "Yeah, I remember," he finally admitted. "For all the good it does me."
"And if I were to ask you what went wrong, what would you say?"
Travis thought about it for a moment and sighed. "Maybe Alex?" he offered, his usual answer. But looking deeper... "I honestly don't know," he said. "I'm not sure how we got here."
"And if I were to ask Wes?" Dr. Ryan asked. "What would he say?"
Travis shrugged. "I don't know that either."
Dr. Ryan gave him a look. "Maybe that's part of the problem. If you don't know what broke, you can't start to mend it."
Travis ran a hand over his hair. "Maybe whatshername was right and we've just run our course."
The doctor shook her head. "You don't really believe that," she said. "You're just saying it to elicit validation."
Travis smiled. "You're right, I don't."
"I'm not the one who you need validation from, Travis," she told him. "If you and Wes are going to work things out, you need to work it out amongst yourselves. And that'll never happen if you can't ever talk to each other."
"We talk," he protested. "All the time."
"About things like this?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Sure," he lied.
"Then prove it," Dr. Ryan said. "Next week, I want an answer -- what changed? Why?"
"I just said I didn't know!"
She patted him on the arm as she passed him by. "Then perhaps the two of you need to put your heads together and figure it out."
He was absolutely not whining when he said. "I don't see why I have to be the one who asks him."
Dr. Ryan's expression softened. "Yes, you do," she told him. "Because you know Wes and you know he'd never do it himself. That's part of being in a relationship, you know -- complementing each other, being the strength for the other's weakness, offering balance."
"Well it still sucks," he said. "It's not my fault Wes has the emotional IQ of drying paint."
"And it's not his that you have a fear of emotional vulnerability," she said back. "But he's got to live with your weaknesses just like you have to live with his."
"Yeah, yeah," he grumbled.
She turned back right to him right before she walked out the door. "Or you can just give up," she said.
Travis ignored the strange queasiness he felt at the thought, blaming it the hot dogs he had for lunch. He was mature like that.
Travis spent a lot of time thinking about how to approach Wes with his little homework assignment from Dr. Ryan and most of the time he came up empty. There was a reason they were in captain-mandated couples' therapy and it had to do with the fact that their "conversations" of recent memory either happened in the heat of a firefight or degenerated into something more appropriate for a 4th-grade classroom.
Sometimes, they were both at the same time.
Travis finally decided he was just going to have to suck it up and plow in head-on or else he was never going to broach the topic. Of course, he came to this decision the same hour they got hit hard by a case that had them running around and risking life and limb for the next 48 hours. After that, Travis would've rather done any number of distasteful tasks than to have to try to talk to Wes about feelings but he was also determined not to fail on the task he'd been given. With a resignation that made him feel about a hundred years old, Travis pulled into the deck for the hotel Wes was calling home and went looking for him. He didn't have to look far, though, because he knew his partner well enough to know where to find him after the day they'd had: the hotel bar.
He sidled up to where Wes was nursing a drink -- something hard, not a beer -- and ordered himself a beer, waiting to see if Wes would acknowledge him. He could tell by the subtle tensing in his partner's shoulders and, really, every line of his body, that Wes was aware that Travis was next to him but that he was also determinedly ignoring him. So, again, it was up to Travis to get the ball rolling. He sighed.
"So...hey," he said, which he thought was a particularly brilliant opening gambit. He winced.
Wes shot him a quick look over his slumped shoulder before his eyes cut back to his glass. "What are you doing here, Travis?"
"I just can't come visit you?" he asked.
Wes snorted. "When's the last time you did that?"
Travis nodded because, well, point. "I was hoping we could talk about...some stuff."
Wes groaned. "Really? I'd rather not. Ever."
"You don't even know what!" Travis protested as he took a seat on the stool next to Wes's.
"After today? It can't be good."
Travis took a drink from his beer bottle before he spoke again. "So, you know, after the thing the other day, I stayed to talk to Dr. Ryan. She gave me -- well, us -- some homework."
"Of course she did," Wes muttered. "And that's why you're here? I didn't think you cared that much about charming her anymore."
"This is not about charming Dr. Ryan," he said. "I am not trying to charm Dr. Ryan. She's in a relationship, remember?"
"Like that's ever stopped you before," Wes said. "I've seen you and it's all well maybe it's not serious-serious and on you go."
"That's not...." The look on Wes's face told Travis he wasn't getting out of the conversation without some acceptance of guilt on his end. "Fine, maybe. But not when there's a kid involved. That's not cool. You know I wouldn't do that, man."
It was Wes's turn to sigh. "Yeah, I know." He released his death-hold on his drink and turned a little toward Travis, so it was more like an actual conversation and less like Travis talking atWes's glum profile. Wes ran a hand through his hair until it looked even more disheveled than it had before. "So, what is it? The homework, I mean. I'm assuming the quicker we do whatever, the quicker you'll leave me alone."
"You say that like you don't like my company," Travis said. "I know better than that."
"You do?" Wes asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah, I do," Travis said, mostly confident in his answer.
"That makes one of us," Wes said but he was almost smiling when he said it, so Travis took it as a win. "So what is it?"
The question that Travis had to pose killed a little of the warmth they'd just rapport-ed up between them. It was his turn to focus his eyes on his drink. "Remember when she was asking about back when we -- well, not fell in love, but...our version of that." Travis didn't know what to call it but he did remember it and he missed it, way more than he had realized until people started asking him about it. Or, more correctly, until everyone started asking him until he could no longer ignore the fact that something had changed so completely between them that everyone noticed, even when they pretended they didn't.
"Well after the thing, she asked me...she asked me if I knew when we'd went from that to this." He gestured between them with his empty hand.
Wes was quiet for a moment but he waited until his eyes met Travis's to reply. "And what did you say?"
Travis shook his head. "I'm supposed to ask you."
"Come on, man, you're supposed to be the smart one here," he said. "You don't have any idea when it all started to go all...wrong? When everything got broken or whatever."
Wes shifted in his seat again and Travis was half-afraid he was going to slink off in that pissed-off, moody way he had, but it was just Wes redistributing his weight, moving so that he could rest his shoulders on the bar. "There's been a lot of that for me since I met you, Travis," he said. "It's hard to pinpoint which domino fell first."
If he wasn't listening so hard -- and, god, he was tired of having Dr. Ryan in his head -- Travis might've gotten pissed at the answer but he could hear the sadness in Wes's tone, but beneath-everything throb of some ache. He wasn't blaming Travis; Wes was blaming himself. "You've taken some knocks," Travis agreed softly. "But we were good for a long time. And then...we weren't."
"Yeah," Wes agreed, just as quiet.
"I can't remember either," Travis admitted. "You sure you don't?"
Travis didn't know what it was about what he'd said but Wes's eyes swept over his face, lingering here and there before he met Travis's confusion gaze. They had begun to speak so quietly that they had leaned in, elbows touching, heads bent, sharing the same alcohol-heavy air in their confessions and Wes's blue eyes were dark in the shadows of the bar. "I don't," Wes finally said but the tone was softer, less sharp, more like the way he murmured "You okay?" in the first, adrenaline-fueled minutes after bullets stopped flying. "But Travis..." He had expected the pause to mean that Wes wasn't going to finish or was going to look away, but he didn't. "Whatever it was, it wasn't the end, you know?"
Travis didn't realize he'd been holding his breath until he released it with a rush. "Yeah," he said, suddenly freer, like something weight was gone, like some of the dread he didn't admit he had had floated away. "I hear you." He leaned in just a little bit more so he could let his shoulder bump against Wes's.
"So what will we get for not having that answer? B-, C+?" Wes asked. "A for Effort, points for trying?"
Travis laughed. "I think it's more of a Pass/Fail situation."
Wes snorted again. "Oh, well."
Travis bumped their shoulders again. "Nah, I think it's cool," he said. "A+ for Effort."
It was actually so very little, barely outside of their comfort zones of denial and evasion but Travis still felt like it had been something. And whatever that something was, it wasn't an end and, really, that was what mattered, he decided. Wes didn't seem ready to go anywhere, not really, and neither was Travis, so it didn't matter how broken they were. There was still something to put back together and they could do it, if they just tried hard enough.
When Travis caught his eye again, Wes was smiling. "Great. So does that mean you're going to leave alone and let me enjoy what's left of my night now?"
"If that's what you want," Travis said.
"Oh, it is."
Travis stood up and took a step back. "Good night, Wes."
"'Night," Wes said. "See you tomorrow."
And he would. That, Travis reminded himself as he walked away, was what mattered.