5 Things Wes Doesn’t Like Because of Travis (or 5 Times Wes Mitchell Had Trouble with His Tone)
There are a lot of things Wes doesn’t like and Travis knows that. Part of being a good partner is recognizing the little quirks and habits of your partner; their likes and dislikes. Travis knows this requirement too but when he first started working with Wes, he had no idea there were so damn many of them.
Wes doesn’t like brightly colored sneakers. Wes doesn’t like pens with any ink color outside of blue and black and he once referred to gel pens as the devil’s quills. Wes doesn’t like days above 36 degrees Celsius. Wes doesn’t like it when the handle on the coffee pot faces inward to the coffee machine. Wes doesn’t like it when other people use his hand sanitizer. Wes doesn’t like it when people use saran wrap on their lunches in the fridge instead of proper Tupperware containers. Travis has no idea why Wes hates any of those things and yet it’s still his job to know them.
With all the work they’ve done with Dr. Ryan, Travis has come to learn that actions speak louder than words with Wes and sometimes Wes is putting on an act about some of the things he “hates”. Namely, Travis. For example, Wes wouldn’t be cooperating in couple’s therapy nearly as well as he was if there wasn’t any part of him that wanted to keep Travis as his partner. And Travis tries really hard to keep that in mind whenever Wes is getting on his nerves about ordering Chinese food from Ming’s all the time or listening to the Eagles on Pandora. Especially when Travis got the urge to do these things because he’d seen Wes doing them recently.
Sometimes, it seems like Wes only dislikes things because Travis likes them.
1. “People” Persons
When Wes first met Travis Marks, it was obvious that his personality helped him earn his spot in the department. Wes was perfecting a case report in perfectly leveled handwriting when the noise level started to change. It was a bit early in Travis’ stay at this office and he hadn’t pissed off every female in a five mile radius yet. From the bing of the elevator doors opening to the stream of greetings and teasing remarks on the last guy Marks put away, Wes counted at least eleven “bro handshakes”, six smiles from men and women alike and the captain actually leaned out of his office to toss a hand up in salutation. Wes had never seen anyone in the two years he’d worked here receive that kind of welcome on a regular Tuesday morning.
Marks had been working here a grand total of seventeen days. Wes hated him.
The first real encounter Wes ever had with the guy had been a run in at the coffee machine. Literally. Wes was reviewing an article in the LA Times and marking spelling errors with a blue pen, favorite mug in hand when Travis had come bouncing in. Officer Haskell was still telling him some riveting tale about the Brazilian chick he’d stopped for speeding and still managed to score a number from and Travis was shuffling backwards, laughing it up. It was all cute, really, until he fell backwards into Wes, shifting his shoulder enough to tilt his mug completely horizontal into his shirt. “Hey! Hey! Come on! Watch where you’re going. What are you, five?”
Travis stopped for just a second, eyes wide before jumping into action. Wes was quite positive Travis had never met him before, even in passing because he was all smiles and smirking apology. “I’m sorry, man. I totally wasn’t looking where I was going. My bad, let me help you.” He yanked at a nearby dish towel and started rubbing at Wes’ growing stain when the smaller man snapped at him.
“What the hell are you doing? You’re making it worse. What, your Mommy always take care of this sort of thing for you?” He snatched the towel out of Travis’ hand and started blotting at the stain.
The first glint of argument flashed in Travis’ eyes and was gone just as quickly. “Look, I get that this was my fault. Let me help you.”
Shaking his head, Wes started to chuckle. “It’s ruined. Absolutely ruined.” He set the towel down by the sink and pulled the damp cloth away from his chest. He had a spare shirt in his locker, he wouldn’t be Wes Mitchell if he didn’t, but this really had been his favorite shirt. Alex had bought him this shirt for the first case they’d worked together. He’d hated it at first, despite her insistence that it “brought out his eyes”, because it was a size smaller than he usually bought. He’d fought her every time she tried to get him into it but eventually, a perfectly timed kiss and a promise convinced him that looking ridiculous in front of his coworkers on a rare Saturday was worth it for the night she had in mind. He’d stood in front of the mirror that morning, turning from left to right, convinced he was going to look like a total pretentious asshole and when the day was over, he stood in the exact same spot gritting his teeth to accept that, maybe, he’d been too quick to judge. He’d received compliments, double takes and his boss had even given him an approving glance on her way to the elevator that day. He’d been too quick to judge and he grit his teeth and accepted that.
“Look, I’m really sorry, man.” And to his credit, Travis really looked it. Wes took a break from mourning the shirt to study Travis’ body language. His arms were down at his sides, palms open, eyes wide. It was an honest, if bemused apology and Wes knows he may not be the kindest guy around but he likes to think he knows when to accept that an accident was just an accident. “I’ll pay for another one.”
Now, Wes cocked an eyebrow. Travis had nice things, a nice bike and he’d strolled in wearing a few nice jackets. He dressed well enough but Wes hadn’t made it as far as he did as a lawyer without being able to tell how much money a client could offer. He could tell just by looking at Travis, the man didn’t have a lot of money to spare, especially for a five hundred dollar shirt. He’d been planning on letting it go; putting on that cheek aching smile he tried for and telling Travis to forget it but he was half curious to see if the offer was real.
“Sure.” He said, keeping his face as blank as possible. “It cost my wife five hundred dollars.”
Travis’ left eye twitched just a bit but the openness of his gaze didn’t waver. “Okay. Can I write you a check?” He watched Wes’ back straighten and for a brief moment, he wondered if he was being played. He’d had enough time with his hands on the fabric to tell the claim wasn’t a bluff. It looked and felt expensive. One look at this guy and Travis could tell he liked nice, luxurious watches, shoes, suits. The works. He obviously didn’t get all this stuff on a cop’s salary.
It was an honest offer and Wes barely refrained from staring open-mouthed at the man in front of him. “You don’t have that kind of money.” He stated bluntly.
“I do. I haven’t paid my rent for the month yet, but I do physically have the money.” Travis said carefully. He’d heard a lot about Detective Wes Mitchell and so far everyone had described him as an anal-retentive hard ass. Meeting him hadn’t disproved that. Was this guy really going to bust his balls and call him poor for an accident he offered to pay for?
“You’re careless with your money.” There, the glint of fight in his blue eyes appeared again; Wes was sure he saw it.
“I ruined your shirt.”
“It’s an old one.” He said matter-of-factly as he started to clean up the coffee spilled on the counter. In all this argument, he’d ignored the mess.
“I’d like to pay for it.”
“Don’t worry about it.” And the tone he’d been going for was nonchalant but it veered dangerously into sarcastic and mocking somewhere because Travis threw his hands up and started towards the doorway, having forgotten that he’d come in for coffee.
“Man, I thought I’d give you the benefit of the doubt but you really are an asshole.” He stalked out of the kitchen, leaving Wes wondering if Alex had been on the receiving end of his skewed tones and inflections.
Later on, Travis would throw out this little gem over BBQ take out. “I have this list of the types of people you can’t stand. It’s called ‘Types of People Not to Leave Wes Alone With’. The first is perfectionists because I think you’d actually get more anal retentive. That rules out Gordon Ramsey. The second is ‘People’ persons. That rules me out.” He took a bite of mashed potatoes. “You know, I don’t get why you can’t stand them anyway.”
“I can stand just about anybody.” He refrained from taking a napkin and wiping the bit of BBQ sauce smudging Travis’ cheek even though he could practically visualize Travis rubbing the sleeve of his long-sleeved shirt against it. “I just don’t like them. People that stop for women with clipboards on the street, people that organize the office birthday calendars, people that strike up conversations in the line at the grocery store… ugh. Anyone that puts effort into getting along with people they will probably never see again is ridiculous and unrealistic. Why put excess work into a temporary relationship? It’s just not sensible from an economic standpoint.”
Travis frowned at him. “And you think I fall under that category?” He stabbed a bit of chicken with his fork and kindly failed to notice the smudge of sauce on his cheek. “I have no idea when anyone’s birthday is.”
Shaking his head, Wes pointed out. “Yeah, but you make the effort to step in, say something nice, send a card around when you find out. And not just for birthdays. You sent Lerner a card when her cat was sick. It’s unnatural.”
Travis chuckled at that. He hadn’t exactly sent the card out of the pure concern for Gnomeo but he had purchased a few cards to send around for an anniversary or a coworker’s child’s graduation. And it wasn’t unheard of for him to make a cake or two a year for a special coworker’s birthday or department transfer. “Yes, human connection is unnatural.”
“No, no, I didn’t say that. Frivolous, meaningless, forgettable human ‘connections’ are unnatural.”
Travis gave that some thought before offering, “I wasn’t always like this, you know?”
“What? Freakishly personable? I bet you were that kid in high school that every teacher loved but you were just so damn nice that the bullies left you alone. It’s adorable, cute, really.” And if he sounded less bitter with every chuckle that earned, he chopped it up to his tone issues.
“My teachers hated me. You’ve seen my file; I wasn’t a great kid.” He grinned.
“You got arrested your senior year. You still had three clean years.” He wasn’t sure why it felt important to point that out.
“Yeah, except I didn’t. I cut class, got detention and I when I got my diploma, the principal wouldn’t look me in the eye when he shook my hand.” He explained, stealing a roll from Wes’ plate. He smirked when Wes’ plastic fork attempted to battle his hand.
“Really? I find that hard to believe. You get along with the mailroom guy. And he doesn’t like anybody. He’s rude to the guy that doles out the checks.”
“Tim? He’s awesome! He hooked me up with his cousin that works at the cable company and now I get free sports channels. He’s alright.”
“See? That’s what I’m getting at. Why didn’t you work some of that charm on your high school teachers?”
“They weren’t the ones I was trying to impress.” He chewed his lip for a bit before deciding to keep talking. “I got moved to my fifteenth foster home and those kids were all teenagers. Simon was the only one interested in college but he wasn’t the one in charge; a kid named Xavier was. He left Simon alone but only because Simon had been there as long as he had. If you make the effort and try to get in good with the kid running things, keep the foster parents happy, life is pretty okay. If you don’t and they hate you, you get moved. Usually you suffer for it before your caseworker pushes the paperwork through. Some kids, being alone works for them because they’re either so big nobody would mess with them or they’re so small messing with them would seem cruel. I wasn’t either but I learned pretty early that I could make people laugh or at least crack a smile. So, I got good at that instead.”
Wes didn’t really have anything to say to that and when Travis made an attempt to steal the roll again, he timed his retaliation a bit slow on purpose.
2. Reggie Fernandez’s Food Truck
It’s a known fact that Travis has a lot of friends in the food business. He thinks it has something to do with one of his many foster brothers or maybe there was one girl left on the planet he’d slept with that still liked him afterwards. Wes doesn’t know but he’s pretty sure he didn’t truly resent this fact until Fish Taco Thursday.
Wes hates fish tacos.
Oh, he likes fish just fine and, ignoring the definite mess resulting from them, he likes tacos just fine. Putting the two together just doesn’t add up to him. He knows that Travis knows this and yet he demanded tacos on Fish Taco Thursday and Wes didn’t know the truck well enough to know the schedule. Travis knew that and he also knew that there wasn’t enough time left in their lunch break to go anywhere else.
So, Wes had to wait in line (for only a moment because of course Reggie happened to look out and recognize Travis and call him to the front) and then be That Guy. The one guy in a sequence of people to ask for something different, complicated and not on the menu.
Wes hates That Guy.
Travis barely attempted to hide his shit-eating grin behind a hand as Wes asked for anything, any food item at all that didn’t involve such an evil concoction. He grinned all the way back to Wes’ Range Rover where Wes sat and pouted his way through the chicken taco Reggie made. And to top it all off, Reggie hadn’t batted an eye about having to make something off the menu. Wes wanted to curse him for being a good guy.
Travis let out a laugh and took a bite of his taco. “I didn’t say anything.” He grinned his way through chowing down the first taco. He coughed and leaned against the passenger window watching Wes try not to look like he was enjoying his taco.
“Shut up.” He ate as paced as he could but it was seriously delicious. It was the best taco he’d ever had and he was starting to regret writing off Reggie’s food truck and the list of things he regretted judging was incredibly short. “I can feel your ‘I told you so’.”
Travis coughed again and bit down a grin as he started on the second taco. “I think what you’re feeling is the satisfaction that comes from the best taco you’ve ever tasted. It’s tasty isn’t it? Life changing… amazing… fantastic… magnificent…”
He stopped listing and Wes was caught up catching any chance of salsa touching his seat. “Run out? That soon? Travis, you’ve gotta work on that. You’ve barely even start…” He looked up to see Travis’ hands covering his face, head lowered. “Dude, are you crying? They’re not that good.”
He’d barely processed the wheezing sound when he realized he’d reached out and yanked Travis’ hands down, his taco spilling out and tumbling to the floor. He noticed the salsa strewn across the floor mats; how could he not? But, for once, he wasn’t jumping at the chance to take care of it. His partner’s eyes were red and panicked, skin starting to redden. “Travis? Look at me? What are you allergic to?” He was positive there had been nothing in his file about an allergy. Absolutely positive.
He took in as deep of a ragged breath as he could before rasping out “Peanuts.” He tried again. “It’s never been a problem before.”
“I don’t need an explanation. I’m not mad. Do you have an epi-pen?” He watched the kidlike shame take over for a moment before fear came back. He pulled out his phone, number dialed in seconds. “Okay, I’m calling an ambulance,” and at the start of an objection, “I am calling an ambulance.”
Wes took in Travis’ watery gaze and his trouble breathing and he was out of the car without even shutting the door.
He made it to the truck in record time and he was quite positive he stepped through mud to do it. “Hey, hey!” He shouted, pushing through the crowd rough enough that one large, burly man actually fell backwards onto the grass. “Reggie! Who made the fish tacos today?” His tone was assertive and threatening, exactly what the moment called for.
Reggie’s curl covered head popped out of a side window, worried. “I did. What’s wrong?”
Wes stormed around to the side of the truck, the crowd parting out of his way. “What’s wrong is that my partner is having an allergic reaction to something he’s probably eaten a hundred times before.” He snatched a menu and read the fish taco description. Searched the entire menu for any sign that they cooked with peanut oil. “There’s nothing on here about peanuts or peanut oil. You could kill somebody!” So his tone got a little thin, he’s working on it.
Sirens whirled in the background and he felt his shoulders droop just a bit in relief. Reggie was stuttering through an explanation, obviously guilty. “The mole. I’m trying a new chicken mole recipe and I used the same cookware. I… I didn’t think that would be enough to cause an…” but Wes was already running to meet the paramedics who seemed lost in finding their supposed victim.
He felt like an ass having to open Travis’ door and haul him out because he was too frazzled to open the door. Obviously having it out with Reggie, watching the poor guy wet himself, had been more important than making sure Travis wasn’t freaking out over his throat closing up. He kicked at one of the tires before taking a deep breath.
He liked to be prepared for every situation. He had flashlights, a car jack, jumper cables, matches, water bottles, emergency cones and flares in the back of his truck. He had emergency medical kits, multiple kits, one in the back and one in the glove compartment and not one of them had an epinephrine pen. Why hadn’t he thought of that? Why hadn’t he ever asked Travis if he had any allergies? It should’ve been in his file but had Wes really trusted the department’s insurance medics to be thorough? God, Travis had probably flirted his way in and out of there without answering a single question. He’d probably thought it would never come up.
“Sir, are you riding along in back?” A blond paramedic was waving a hand in front of his face and judging by how weary the wave was, he’d been doing it for a while. “Are you riding in back?”
Peeking around him, Wes could see that Travis was breathing, steadily into a mask and by the looks of it he didn’t need Wes to come with him. Still, if he elected to stay here, Travis would probably think he was off doing something stupid like interrogating Reggie or worrying so he’d better go anyway. “Yeah, let me get my jacket.”
He opened the passenger side door and looked down at the mess of cheese, lettuce and salsa in the foot well. He didn’t even reach for a napkin as he grabbed his jacket and shut the door.
“Hey, it’s Thursday—“
“Yeah? No.” Wes didn’t spare him a glance or look up from where he was signing reports. He could feel Travis’ eyes on him and somehow he knew Travis wasn’t happy. “We’re not going there.”
“I want tacos.” He whined, slumping down in his chair and rolling it to the front of Wes’ desk. “Please?”
“We’re not having tacos. I want curry.” A displeased sound but he ignored it, hands steady on his paperwork.
“Fine. You can have curry.” He stood up, earning a look from Wes, finally. He grabbed his leather jacket and his wallet defiantly. He crossed his arms and said “I’m getting tacos.”
“No, you’re not.”
“I’m a grown ass man; you can’t tell me what I’m going to eat for lunch.” His eyes were still neutral, the fight wasn’t there yet.
“Look at my face, I am serious.” There, his tone was solid and stern. If it rose a bit, that was entirely appropriate. Travis scanned his face, seeing the sincerity in his blue eyes and the firm set of his lips.
“What do you have against that place? We ate there once and it was the best taco you ever had.” He explained, trying for a smile because they were free on cases at the moment and he really didn’t want to fight. Not so soon after a win. He seemed to think that partners should be kind to each other after solving a case… like that somehow made all the screaming and hair pulling worth it.
“Eh, it was okay.”
“You were moaning.”
“It was okay.” Wes insisted, tone steady.
“Is this because of the allergy attack? Because that was ages ago. Reggie apologized, he added a warning to the menu and he even set aside special cookware for me just in case.” He sank back down in the chair and met Wes’ gaze carefully. “Look man, you can’t start holding grudges for accidents. I didn’t see you tackling Melinda when she gave me peanut butter cookies last Tuesday.”
Thought about it. “Those were peanut butter? Well, she does want you dead.”
“She didn’t know.”
“If you say so.” He set down his pen and took a quick breath. “And anyway, that’s not why I don’t want to go there. I’m not in a Mexican food mood right now.” Now I have food moods, really?
“And I am. So… can I get food on my own today? Please, Dad?” He begged, sticking his bottom lip out.
It was a moment in which Wes calmly considered the consequences of handcuffing Travis to his desk before he responded. “Fine.” He stood up and grabbed his jacket.
He followed Travis to the front of the line and crossed his arms as he watched to make sure Reggie changed pans and cookware to make Travis’ food. He ordered chicken tacos just to save face and they sat down at a nearby bench instead of returning to the Range Rover. Maybe it would’ve been too much like last time had they eaten in the car.
His breath stuttered to a stop as he watched Travis take a bite and waited until he’d finished the whole taco without any change. He realized he was staring at Travis’ mouth when he cleared his throat, wiping his hands. “See, I’m fine.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Wes muttered, starting in on his own food which sat colder in his stomach than it did last time. His tone was too thin for his liking.
It’s the third “I didn’t have my foot on the dash” jerk of his leg that does it. Travis is rushing to pull his leg down before Wes gets back in the car and his knee slams into the bottom of the glove compartment. It falls open and envelopes, manuals and the medical kit fall out. He’s putting everything back when he sees a tied plastic bag of about six epi-pens lying in the foot well. His stomach clenches and he starts to think Wes did this for a perfectly placed dig at his stupidity when it comes to taking care of his own allergy because God knows he gave him shit for days afterward for not carrying a pen with him.
Then he sees the instructions on the back with creases down the middle like someone had read them, folded them back and then read them again. They weren’t for a badly timed insult; they were genuinely for an emergency.
Or maybe Wes just hated being caught off guard. Either way Travis felt his chest tighten with something he couldn’t name.
3. Officer Lincoln Haskell
Travis Marks met Lincoln Haskell the first day he walked into the precinct. Lincoln showed him around, introduced him to the best guys in the office and gave him the low down on the hotties in other departments. He trashed talked Wes with him after Travis spilled coffee on him, he helped him make good with the medical insurance women and they’d gone out for a beer many times. Before he became Wes’ partner, Travis spent all his time with Lincoln. Even after, they didn’t completely stop hanging out but more often than not he turned him down to work on a case with Wes.
It was a murder case that kept him in the office late in September that led to a stupid, childish game of Truth of Dare. Played with two grown men usually meant it should be called Dare or Really, Dangerous and Senseless Dare. Wes had stepped out to refill his favorite mug and returned to hear Haskell shout something.
“Desk to Desk, Travis! You’re not gonna make it!” He bellowed.
Travis responded, “Dude, check this out!” There was the sound of boots on wood, shuffling papers before a loud crash. Wes raced into the room, coffee falling out of his hand and mug shattering on the ground. He barely registered the hot liquid seeping into his stomach and the legs of his pants.
“Travis!” He hurried around the desk to see his partner out cold, leaning against the wood. Haskell started to explain when Wes promptly shoved him out of the way. “Travis! Wake up.” He slipped his hands under Travis’ arms and leaned him into his chest to run his fingers through his hair. When his hand came away wet, he finally spared Haskell a glare. “Explain.”
A little put off at being interrogated so roughly, he answered anyway. “He was trying to jump from Eddie’s desk to his and he missed.”
“I can see that, dumbass.” He bit out, trying to figure how long the gash was. There wasn’t a lot of blood but he knew enough to know how dangerous any head trauma could be. “How did he hit his head?”
Haskell stared dumbfounded. “He hit his head?”
Wes would’ve punched him in the face if he didn’t still have Travis’ weight on his arms and head on his shoulder. “Did you at least see how he landed?”
“I… I don’t know, he hit the edge with his shoulder, I think? I’m not sure.” He stuttered, voice shaking.
“Oh, I know. I am absolutely positive that you’re not sure about anything.” He shifted Travis back towards the desk again to study his lax features. He slapped his face lightly and wondered if it would be overboard to call a medic. In the moment it took to question it, he already has his phone out. “I’m also positive you never once paused to think ‘Maybe this isn’t such a hot idea. Maybe this is the stupid, juvenile kind of shit that could result in brain damage. Maybe there’s a reason I don’t see other people jumping from desk to desk. Maybe it’s a fucking stupid thing to do!’” He snapped, turning back to glare at Haskell about the same time a hand touched the one he had placed on the back of Travis’ head.
“Do you have to yell?” He groaned painfully and leaned further into Wes’ chest, rubbing at the back of his head where Wes still hadn’t move his hand. It was softer here against Wes than he thought it would be, his shoulder more comforting than he’d thought possible. When he sat back finally he noticed the flush on Wes’ face. “You’re overreacting. I’m fine.”
“You were out cold. For at least,” he checked his watch. “A minute. I called for a medic—“
“Aw, man, come on—“
“And they’re giving you a once over whether you want it or not.” He fell back onto his knees and avoided Travis’ gaze. “You okay?”
He frowned, trying to smile but the wince returned. “Yeah, mostly.” He watched as Wes started to stand and touched his wrist. “Hey, I know it was stupid. We’re guys though, we have to try it just to say we did, you know?”
“No, not really.” He stood up and his eyes fell to Haskell again. He was wringing his hands in apology but Wes wasn’t sure to whom he owed it. “And you: grow up.” He stalked back to the locker rooms to change his shirt. God, what is it about this guy that always leads to me scalding myself with hot coffee?
“Hey, Travis, you wanna go for a beer?” Haskell asked, knocking his fist against the side of his desk. Travis looked up from playing Fruit Ninja on his phone and considered it. They’d closed the Valdez case and Wes was planning on ironing table cloths or whatever weird chores he did for Alex on Wednesday nights. He had nothing better to do so why not? “Uh, sure…”
Wes’ head popped up with a disapproving expression; eyebrows furrowed, lips thin. Usually Travis couldn't care less but he’d gotten better at discerning why Wes was disappointed. To say he’d been holding a grudge against Haskell would be an understatement. Any time they passed each other in the break room, Wes made sure to shoulder him out of the way. And if Haskell spilled his coffee, Wes actually whistled.
“What are you up to tonight, Wes?” He asked, ignoring the death stare Haskell was giving him. “You wanna come with?”
“No can do. I’m going home to do big boy things.” He stapled a few papers in what could only be considered a hostile fashion. “You know, things that don’t result in concussions.”
“That was one time!” Haskell shouted, sounding nothing at all like an adult. “I said I was sorry!”
“A lot of good that would’ve done if he’d actually been hurt. ‘You’re brain damaged but Haskell’s real sorry, if that’s any consolation’.” He sniped, stapling more papers together and upon further study, Travis realized he was shuffling take out menus and stapling them to case reports. He slumped down into his chair and decided this wasn’t worth the argument or snide remarks he’d no doubt receive over the next week.
“I’m gonna have to sit this one out, man. We got a new case this morning, “Lie. “And we gotta start reading over the witness statements.” Another lie. “I’ll catch you some other time, alright?”
Haskell shook his head like he knew exactly why Travis had turned him down but he understood all the same. “Sure. Let me know.” He started out of the office. “Later. Nice seeing you, Wes.” He teased, grinning at the scoff he heard.
Travis tapped his fingers on the desk a few times, trying to decide the best way to go about this conversation. “He said he was sorry, you know? He’s a good guy.”
“He’s an idiot. Really? That’s the grade of officer they’re hiring these days? If I retire the whole place will go to shit.” He refused to look up from his desk where he’d made a mess of anything remotely like paper. He set to work with the staple remover and repressed the urge to wonder what Dr. Ryan would tell him. “That guy deserves a medal in idiocy.”
“I think you’re forgetting that I jumped. I’m the one that went along with it.”
“Yeah, yeah but I highly doubt you would’ve done that if I’d been… if he hadn’t been there. He came up with the dare and everybody knows your ego rules all your choices.” He sighed and leaned back, finally meeting Travis’ blue eyes. He tried to keep his tone level and unimpressed. “He’s an ass.”
Now Travis smiled, eyes bright and giddy. “Aw, you were scared. You were worried about me.” He did a small victory dance that should’ve annoyed Wes more than it did. “You care about me. Admit it. Wait ‘til I tell Dr. Ryan.”
“Shut up.” His tone was stern and authoritative even if his flush rendered it useless.
4. The Los Angeles SWAT Team
“I got shot.”
“At. You were shot at. You’re okay.” Wes insisted, following Travis to the back where the lockers were. He had stood there in the string fingering the bullet hole in the fabric of his shirt during the entire ride back to the precinct. Now he was changing, his back to Wes and muttering over and over that he’d almost died.
“I could’ve died. Fuck, man.” He slammed his locker shut and shook his head in disbelief. “Is that what I get for a being a ‘people’ person? That’s the reward for being nice?”
“If it makes you feel any better, he never really gave you a chance to get to know him.” Wes muttered, trying to slow his heart rate down. His heart had been beating faster than usual since they’d parked near the SWAT trucks and it hadn’t slowed to normal yet. Maybe that had something to do with Travis repeating that he’d been shot over and over.
“Oh, this is funny to you? Me getting shot is funny?” He spun around, eyes bright and angry. His tee-shirt was half off and his arms rest at his side poised to throw a punch if he felt like it. Which he probably would because once again Wes’ tone had come out more antagonist than he’d planned. Maybe he should just carry around a tape recorder. Or a sign that read “Don’t mind me; I have no idea what normal people find irritating”.
He sucked it up. “No, it’s not. I was just as scared as you were.” He said, seeing Travis still wasn’t mollified. What does he want me to do? Cry? “Look,” He sat down on the bench and took a breath. “I was a little busy plotting a lawsuit against the SWAT team to realize that you’d probably be freaking out. If I had been you, I’d be freaking out too. Of course, that would’ve never happened to me because I generally avoid guns.” His heart started racing a bit because his tone was just all kinds of wrong at the moment. Was it impossible for him to stop joking at moments like this?
To his surprise, Travis actually laughed. “For what?”
“Why would you sue the SWAT team?” The fight had left his eyes in place of amused curiosity.
“It was their half-witted plan that led me—us to believe it was a safe plan. If they’d done their job, we wouldn’t have been there in the first place.” He shuffled his feet a bit adding, “It was a Thursday anyway so I was already in a bad mood”, under his breath.
Travis heard it anyway, his face softening a bit. “Wes, I… I don’t really know how to phrase this but it’s not their fault.” He tried to catch his partner’s eyes when he stood up but Wes wasn’t looking at him. Not his face anyway.
Careful hands pulled the rest of his tee-shirt off and set it down on the bench when Travis would’ve thrown it in the general direction of his locker. He sucked in a breath, unsure of but trusting Wes knew what he was doing. Fingers trailed down his ribs to his side, more sensitive than he remembered his skin to be. He swallowed, recognizing the start of arousal and he would take a step backwards but Wes had never really touched him before. He was probably reading too much into this.
If Wes had any idea the warring thoughts in his partner’s head, he didn’t show it. “Look, there’s not even a mark. You literally dodged a bullet.” His blue eyes finally met Travis’ stunned gaze. “What?”
Travis took the step back he’d been craving and put on another shirt. “If you can’t find anything weird about what you just did, I’m certainly not explaining it to you.”
An hour, okay forty six minutes later, Wes found what he did a bit weird. He doesn’t apologize for it, though.
5. Lists or, specifically, lists about Wes
Dr. Ryan was staring them down again. She had been for quite a while as the rest of the group joined in. As much as Wes liked to believe he was immune to it, a few more minutes of this and he was going to start spilling useless secrets about his childhood pet or whatever. He looked over to see that Travis wasn’t fairing much better, arms crossed and mouth twisted.
“Wes, Travis? Would you like to share something about your partner to the group? Nothing at all?” She asked patiently, making it so difficult to keep stonewalling her. She would’ve made a good cop, Wes thought. “Travis, you mentioned a list a few weeks ago.”
His spine straightened and he calmly avoided Wes’ eyes. “I… I did? You sure? What kind of list?”
Seeing an in, she smiled. “You mentioned several lists about Wes. How many of them are real, I wouldn’t know.”
Now Wes was smiling, “Yeah, you do. I know there’s one about ‘People Wes Hates’ and one about ‘Riding in Cars with Wes’ and other useless information. I think there’s one,” Before Travis could stop him, he reached over and yanked a piece of paper out of Travis’ jacket pocket. “Ah, ‘Things Wes Doesn’t Like’. This oughta be good.”
“Stop it.” Travis tried to grab for it, starting sweat as Wes swept his eyes over the small paper. “I’m serious.”
“Why is it that you don’t want Wes to read it, Travis? If it’s about him?” She asked calmly and damn it for making him calm down a bit.
“Well it’s a good thing you keep it in your front pocket where anyone, namely me, could just snatch it. What? Does it have my Social Security Number and a list of my fears?” Wes teased, finally slowing to start reading the list.
“What does it say?” One of the husbands asked.
“It’s not numbered, figures, but it is pretty accurate.” He cleared his throat. “First one, ‘Pens that don’t use blue or black ink.’ Reason: ‘They’re unprofessional and often used by teenage girls.’ Second one, ‘Patrick Dempsey.’ Reason: ‘Unknown but I suspect its jealousy.’ Oh, that’s not true. The jealousy part.”
The group chuckled and Travis tried to steal the list back again. “Seriously, stop.” His tone wavered a bit and Dr. Ryan seemed to realize how agitated he was.
“Wes, I think this is really unsettling to Travis. You should give the list back and maybe ask him to share it with you.” She offered, but Wes kept reading.
“No, why? It’s about me. Really, it’s kind of adorable that he has a list of… forty things that annoy me. I have a list of his conquests and women he pissed off. They’re literally the same list.” He sniffed and started reading again. “Okay, let’s skip to the middle ‘Fake nails. Reason: Tacky’, that’s true. ‘Reggie’s Food Truck, possibly Reggie. Reason: Wes will say it’s because he doesn’t like Mexican food but I’m positive it’s because he almost killed me.’” He stopped, eying Travis who’d refrained from trying to fight him for the list. Instead he was slumped over, elbows on his knees where he could study the floor and wait for session to be over. “’Melinda Forest. Reason: She gave me peanut butter cookies. Wes will say it’s because she’s unorganized.’, ‘Lincoln Haskell. Reason: He dared me to do something stupid and I got a concussion. Wes will say it’s because he’s an ass.’, ‘The LA SWAT Team. Reason: a collaborative plan got me shot at and I almost died. Wes will say the same thing.’, ‘People Persons. Reason: I am one and he doesn’t like me. Wes will say they’re unnatural.”
“I wrote that one first. Before I knew you.”
“What? The list or the last reason? Because all that stuff happened after you supposedly ‘got to know me’.” He snapped before he grabbed his jacket and stormed out of the room, shoes squeaking on the buffed floor.
“Wes! Come on, man.” He caught him leaning against the brick wall outside, steaming. “You and I both know you hated me when we first met.”
“I didn’t hate you.” He lied, and not well judging by the smirk Travis spared.
“You did. And I got over that and now we’re partners and it’s great.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets. “I’m not gonna lie and say that I wasn’t happy when I crossed myself off of that list of people you can’t stand. You know, when you’re not being an ass, you’re kind of a good guy.”
He waved the compliment off. “Whatever.” He leaned further to the side so their shoulders were touching. “You’re wrong, you know?”
“About what? You being a good guy? Yeah, I know. I just said that because I thought you were mad at me.” He grinned. “About what? You said the list was accurate. And you are jealous of Patrick Dempsey.”
“Not that. Wait, that too.” He insisted, earning a laugh. “I don’t hate ‘people’ people or whatever you called them because you are one. I don’t even hate them anymore.”
“Then why do you glare at me whenever I strike up a conversation with the mail guy or the clerk at the gas station?”
“I don’t like that you feel like you have to.”
“Now you hate courtesy?”
“No, that’s not it either.” He opened his fist, revealing the crumpled paper. Now that he looked at it again, he realized there were words on the back too. “This whole list has to do with you. It should be called ‘Things I Don’t Like Because of Travis’.”
“I don’t follow.”
“You’re overly nice to everybody, even me, because that’s how you learned to get people to like you. How you got people to keep you or whatever. At least that’s what your sad orphan story led me to believe.”
Frowning, Travis kicked off from the wall to stand in front of him. “What’s wrong with wanting people to like me?”
“You want everyone to like you! Even people that don’t matter like the mail guy and clerk at the gas station. You ever notice I stopped complaining about it?” At the dumbfounded look he was met with, he shrugged his shoulders. “I get why you do it so I stopped giving you a hard time about it.”
“What else was about me?” He asked, unfurling the list in Wes’ hand, ignoring the flush on his face. “Pens that aren’t black or blue? That’s not about me.”
“The D.A yelled at you for an hour when you turned in a report in green ink. It was one of the first things you screwed up here and you acted like it didn’t bother you but she embarrassed you.” He explained, reeling it off like it had happened minutes ago.
Seeing Wes was being cooperative, he kept going. “Ming’s Chinese Food?”
“We ate there once when we were first starting out and you got food poisoning. Also, they cook with peanut oil.” He studied his nails. “But I guess you’re good friends with the cook.”
“I am.” He tried to find something that Wes couldn’t explain. “When the coffee pot handle is turned in?”
“You practically scalded yourself trying to spin it around. Coincidentally,” he pointed to a name beneath the coffee item. “Can’t stand Greg Wilson. He’s the guy that keeps doing that.”
“Okay… what about ‘days above 34 degrees Celsius’?”
It’s an excuse for you to wear little to no clothing and strangely enough I don’t feel the proper annoyance you’d expect. I’m not touching that with a ten-foot-pole. “36 degrees actually and I think we should go back inside before Dr. Ryan sends out the Touchy Feely Parade or something.” He muttered, starting back inside when Travis touched his wrist.
“You’ll tell me one day, right? This whole list?” The hope in his eyes was too great to pass up.
“Maybe.” But his tone made it a promise.