"Wanna grab a beer?" G asked, looking over his shoulder at Sam.
Sam shook his head. "Sorry, can't."
G turned, then, raising an eyebrow. "Can't?"
"Unlike the rest of you losers, I actually have a life outside this job."
"Uh huh," G said slowly, eyebrow going nowhere. "What kind of life would that be?"
"The kind where I meet up with old friends."
"Old friends," G repeated, his voice going slightly up in pitch toward the end.
"Old friends," Sam said again, then brushed past G, and out of the office.
Sam met Mark at a sports bar, had a drink, watched the Lakers clean up. If DADT had taught him anything, it was that the closer a lie was to the truth, the closer the lie was to safety. When the game was over, Sam followed him home, and they took the edge off in other ways.
Mark was still in the Navy, even if as a desk jockey, now, so there hadn't been any talk of them doing anything differently when Sam had received his discharge papers. Sam didn't mind. They weren't the buying-curtains type anyway, weren't really more than friends-with-benefits, and Sam was used to doing things this way.
Afterward, Mark brought them glasses of water and turned the news on at a low volume. He asked, "You gonna stay?"
Sam shook his head. If G found out he hadn't come home--and he would, although fuck if Sam knew how, it was like he had bugged Sam's place, except, not, because Sam had damn well checked--there'd be a full-on Gitmo-has-nothing-on-this interrogation to pay. "Nah, but thanks."
Mark looked at him for a long moment. "How's the job?"
Sam looked back at him. They didn't talk about their jobs. They talked about sports, and the weather, and maybe some current events. He shrugged a little. "Keeps me on my toes."
Mark made a sound that Sam knew well enough to know it wasn't exactly a laugh. "I'll bet. Being around people trained to see things all day long."
"I'm not doing anything wrong," Sam said. At least, not in civilian life.
Mark made the sound again. Sam said, "You're an asshole."
"You like me that way."
G, to his credit, actually managed to wait until they were in the car, on the way to the crime scene. Sam suspected it had taken a nearly epic amount of willpower on his part. Once they were on the highway, though, G couldn't help himself, and asked, as casually as Sam had ever heard, "Good meeting with your friend?"
Sam allowed himself to look off to the left for a moment to roll his eyes. Then he snapped his gaze back to the road. "Yeah. What'd you do last evening?"
Sam could feel G looking at him. Slowly, G said, "Nothing. Watched the game."
"Not exactly a nail-biter."
"Thought you were out with a friend."
"You're being weird about this, you realize?"
Sam looked over at G. "I'm being weird about this?"
"G, I said I was going out with an old friend. How, exactly, is that weird?"
"What's this friend's name, where do you know him from, why have you never talked about him before?"
"You're paranoid, you know that, right?"
G didn't even blink. "Doesn't mean they're not out to get me."
Sam missed when Kensi started poking around, which made him feel a little off his game, but Kensi had a very different style than either G or Hetty (who probably knew, Sam figured, and had the sense not to say anything).
Sam was used to the way G would make leading statements, leave things open, wait for people to fall into his verbal traps, but Kensi was so much more casual about it all, and, what's more, hadn't lived on Sam's couch on and off. So, sure, somewhere in the conversation with Kensi, he'd probably mentioned watching the game with Mark. It wasn't until hours later that he realized it.
Sometimes Sam wondered why he'd thought being private about his sexual preference would be easier in civilian life than it had been in the SEALs. The next person who complained to him about DADT was going to get decked. Either that, or get G and Kensi sicced on them. DADT was a fucking cakewalk.
A case took them out to UC Santa Barbara, which was a drive even during light traffic hours, and after nearly forty five minutes of listening to G make small talk in his special G way (vague wonderings about possible Uzbekistani power coups and deep considerations of the relative merits of PBR versus MGD), Sam cracked and said, "Just say it. Ask it. Whatever the hell it is you're not doing, do it."
G looked over at him, Sam could feel it, despite not returning the look. After a few seconds, G asked, "Is it just habit, the hiding? Because, I mean, I get that. I still don't always know how to, uh. How not to, I guess."
Sam did glance over at that. G shrugged, clearly not wanting to talk more about it, clearly intent on pressing on all the same. "Y'know, in the homes. Sometimes they wanted a smart kid, sometimes they didn't want a kid who was smarter than them. Sometimes they wanted someone who talked about his day, sometimes they wanted a kid who was neither seen nor heard. You learned to be whatever they want, and so it was pretty easy to forget that there was something underneath all that."
It was moments like this when Sam was deeply reassured by the fact that there had been a place in undercover work for G, because Sam often wondered if G even knew how to function in any kind of civilian setting. All Sam said, was, "No, it's not like that."
"It's not, it's not you thinking that we give a shit one way or another, though." G said it like a statement, but Sam knew better.
"It's that it doesn't matter. It didn't matter to my performance as a SEAL, and it doesn't matter now."
After a beat G said, "Yeah, okay."
Sam knew G meant it. More, Sam knew if he didn't say another word, neither would G, and they wouldn't talk about it again. Sam asked, "When'd you figure out?"
"First time you met up with Mark."
Sam tightened a bit. "I've been meeting up with Mark since I started."
"Yeah," G said softly, not without a hint of apology.
"When were you gonna say something?"
"I was hoping you would."
Something in G's tone made Sam want to wince; certainly, it took the higher moral ground from him. He said, "Sorry."
G shook his head. "Sorry for prying."
Sam would give him shit for it later, but for now he let it go, let the sound of the road carry them the rest of the way to their destination.
After work, G followed Sam home, not unlike the cat Sam now called his own, the one who'd come and gone, disappeared for days and days until Sam had finally let the damn thing inside and taken it to a vet. Sam would have laughed, because normally it took a near superhuman amount of coaxing to get G in the door, get him to chill in any place that wasn't a bar with a wall that he could put his back to and a clear line of sight to all the exits. But G came in and grabbed a beer from Sam's fridge and sat down on the couch.
Sam seated himself in the armchair and asked, "Are we doing some kind of weird bonding thing, here?"
"I can't have a beer at a friend's place?"
G turned the beer in his hands a few times. Finally he said, "I've mostly worked alone. In the past."
"And when I was growing up, it was more about survival than anything else."
"I just thought-- You're kinda my first real friend, man. I thought maybe if I acted more like a friend, you'd think you could tell me things. Like one."
Sam had his fair share of friends. He had a few friends he'd grown up with, some from his time as a SEAL, a couple from college. G, though, if he got right down to it, was the person to whom he was closest. "Not that I mind you hanging out, man, but I don't think your behavior has much to do with it."
"Maybe not," G agreed. "But maybe you'll remember that you don't have to keep those kinds of secrets anymore. And maybe I'll learn how not to keep them in the first place."
Sam turned that over in his mind a few times before reaching out and clinking the neck of his beer to G's. "Maybe."
He settled back, then, and turned on ESPN.