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As far as I can figure, the way that it works is this: everyone has something that happened to them. The thing that we each carry. The thing that hurts. And to stop it, to stop the hurt, you have to turn it into a story. And not just a story you play over and over for yourself, but a story that you tell. A story's not a story unless you tell it. And once you tell it, it's not yours anymore. You give it away. And once you give it away, it's not something that hurts you anymore, it's something that helps everyone who hears it.

Daniel MacIvor

 

 

1.

Travis wakes up to two different text messages, and on instinct he opens Wes' first, which is probably a good thing as it prevents him from having a heart attack over Amy's exclamation points and the hysterical, incoherent sentence about Wes and a drug dealer and - thanks, Amy. Thanks for that. A great way to start the morning.

All Wes' says is it's fine, I'm fine, @ St. John's, did I mention I'm fine, which Travis actually really appreciates. That's Wes - always thinking ahead.

Assured of Wes' physical well-being, Travis takes his sweet time finding a pair of clean jeans and planning the perfect opening one-liner (it's a toss-up between "I leave you alone for two minutes, Wes" and "is that a catheter or are you just really unhappy to see me") because it's the little things in life that Travis likes to savor, really. So of course, Wes calls in the middle of this because he's a plan-ruiner.

"I need a ride," he says, without preamble. "And not on your bike, Travis, Jesus Christ."

"Good morning to you too," Travis replies. "What the fuck happened?"

"I broke my ankle," Wes says, sounding really disgruntled and just a little bit high, which with Wes, just translates to more disgruntledness, usually. "It's - ugh, just - broken. And I've got a cast, and I can't drive, and I hate hospitals. Kate's useless. My ankle is broken."

Travis grins helplessly at his ceiling. "Uh huh. Lemme speak to her, baby."

"She's useless!" Wes protests. "She's - yes, you are. You're useless. My ankle is broken - Kate! Quit it - "

Travis takes advantage of the pause while Wes and Kate have a slap fight of some kind - presumably - to laugh into his arm. And he'd been expecting today to be boring.

"Travis," Kate says breathlessly, finally coming onto the line. "He's - dude, that's my ass! - Travis, I'm gonna kill him."

"He's a damaged man," Travis says, still laughing. "What happened?"

"That's my phone," Wes says loudly, in the background.

"Pipe down, Lt. Dan," Kate replies. "So, you know that heroin case Amy and I have been tied up on? Well, Wes was helping us with some paperwork - "

"He broke his ankle doing paperwork," Travis says flatly.

"No, he broke his ankle when the guy we arrested this morning tried to break out of custody and pushed him off a balcony," Kate snaps. "I was gonna ease you into it, but whatever."

"You were doing paperwork with Wes - on a Sunday - and this led to you arresting a drug dealer," Travis repeats, just to get the facts straight.

"When a lead breaks, a lead breaks," Kate says unapologetically. "Amy's not so great with blood, or - hospitals, or injuries in general really, so I sent her out to get his prescription. They've got him in a cast, but his insurance won't cover an overnight stay, so he needs to get out of here, and I've gotta get back to the station to deal with our wannabe Prison Break. You got an actual car, or just that mid-life crisis you ride around on?"

"I got keys to Wes' car. Gimme an hour, hour and a half tops, okay? I'll be there."

"Sure. The doc wants to have another go at him anyway." Kate pauses, and Travis hears Wes still bitching faintly in the background, although his volume has decreased a bit. "We'll deal with the perp, Travis."

"Yeah, I know," Travis says. "Let him know I'm coming, okay? And for fuck's sake, don't let them call his ex."

"Alex?" Kate asks.

"Do not call Alex, I will never fucking speak to any of you people again if you call Alex," Wes shouts.

"Hour and a half," Travis promises. "Please don't kill him."

"I'll do my best," Kate says dryly.

 

 

Travis runs into Amy in the lobby of the hospital - almost literally - and they ride up in the elevator together. She's still a little shaken, but she's not doing that thing where she keeps her back to the wall and is visibly tracking escape routes, so Travis figures that it's progress of a sort.

"It happened really quickly," she explains. "Wes was the one who tracked down the credit card, using, I don't even know, accounting-magic or something, like seriously, wow - "

"Yeah, paper trails," Travis says, "one of his strengths."

"So yeah, we let him in on the bust." Amy shrugs, her bun flopping around haphazardly on the top of her head. "He and his girlfriend were holed up in some fancy-ass place in Santa Monica. They both went down with no trouble at first, and Wes had the guy and I had the girlfriend, when all of a sudden she goes batshit and starts screaming and trying to pull away, and - "

"While you're all preoccupied subduing her, the guy makes a break for it," Travis finishes.

"Yeah," Amy says, sounding sheepish. "It wouldn't have worked if the timing hadn't been just perfect. Wes doesn't get distracted easily."

Travis can picture it in his head so clearly, how it must've gone down. Wes would've stopped to turn and check on Amy, just for a second, which is just long enough, sometimes. Especially when someone knows it's coming.

"I look over and just - shit, man," Amy says, shaking her head. "The railing was like, waist-level, right? And it was only about a four-foot drop. But I saw Wes go over - "

"Hey, you did the best you could," Travis says, reaching out to touch her elbow. "They planned it out. Not your fault."

"Yeah," Amy says, swallowing. She doesn't sound too confident. "At least they didn't get away with it."

"Course they didn't," Travis says confidently. Amy gives him a tremulous smile - a 'thanks for trying' smile. Travis'll take it. "And hey, this counts towards Wes' and my total. Technically."

"Technically, no it fucking doesn't," Amy replies, and Travis clutches his chest dramatically. "Nice try, though."

"I do my best," Travis says.

Kate's already got Wes piled into a wheelchair, who apparently is still high enough to not be too pissed that he's in a wheelchair, because he's just sitting there quietly for once, staring at his phone and frowning. He doesn't greet Travis beyond a raise of his eyebrow and a short grunt.

"Hey, partner," Travis says, "you're not drunk texting, are ya?"

"I'm not drunk," Wes says with a scowl. "They gave me ibuprofen. I mean, I asked for codeine and scotch but apparently around these parts the customer isn't always right."

Kate, who is leaning against the handles of Wes' chair with the air of someone who really needs a cigarette, just rolls her eyes. "He wouldn't stop bitching until I gave it back to him," she says. "He's probably texting his ex-wife or something. Because he's pathetic."

"I am not texting Alex," Wes snaps. "She's texting me."

"That's so not any better," Kate replies.

Travis bites his lip and crouches down on his haunches, wincing at the impressive array of bruising on Wes' face and arms. "Hey, so," he says, "you broke your ankle, huh?"

"Great observational skills," Wes mutters.

"Can I have that?" Travis points at his phone. Wes glares at him, and Travis takes the opportunity to snatch the phone away, ignoring the squawk of protest. "I hurt you because I care about you, Wes," Travis says, tucking the phone into his jacket.

"My ankle is broken," Wes declares, "and my partner is a six-year-old. You can all leave me here to die, now."

"I wish," Kate mutters.

"Ookay," Travis says, "I think I can take it from here, guys, thanks."

"Are you sure?" Kate asks manically, "are you sure you don't want me to come with?" Her grip on the wheelchair handles is white-knuckled.

"Uh," Travis says.

"You know Katie, we've got several books to throw at those heroin dealers," Amy pipes up, "also if I stay in this hospital I might have a panic attack. I swear to God I am actually smelling people's misery right now."

"I think that's blood," Wes says helpfully. Amy balks.

"Right!" Travis interrupts, "thank you Amy, thank you Kate, you can let go of the chair now, that's it, I can take him home and y'all can go back to work, okay? Okay, great."

"Good luck," Kate says with a snort. "Get well or whatever."

"He'll thank you sincerely tomorrow, I'm sure," Travis says. Kate snorts again, shaking her head as Amy pulls her away anxiously, muttering under her breath all the way down the hallway. "Great job, Wes, fantastic work. I bet if we stop by the station on the way home you can insult the last of our coworkers you haven't gotten around to alienating yet."

"My ankle is broken," Wes says, sounding absolutely betrayed, like how dare my body become defective without my permission, "I'm sorry if I'm not being nice enough."

"Did you get to pick out that greyish-black color for your cast, or did they just match it to the color of your soul?"

"Very funny," Wes says. "You know, those are the same jeans you wore on Friday. Have you changed your clothes at all since you left work?"

Travis grins. "I can see your junk through those hospital pants, man."

Wes scowls. "Just take me home."

"Yes, dear," Travis says.

 

 

Wes isn't great with being injured. A few years back, he sprained his wrist on the job and he spent the entire time bitching and moaning about his stupid brace and how it made it hard to type and Travis, just let me drive because you'll kill us both I don't care if it doubles my recovery time, and the ankle is going to be just - so, so much worse, Travis can feel it.

"It is not, and let me repeat myself here," Travis says, "not my fault that you go around breaking yourself all the time. What, are your bones hollow or something? Are you a baby bird, Wes?"

Wes is spread out in the backseat somewhat obscenely, since Travis couldn't figure out how to adjust the passenger seat and his cast wouldn't fit. Every time Travis looks in the rearview mirror, he can see a faint reflection of Wes' crotch. It's making Travis somewhat uncomfortable, especially since he still has those scrub pants on.

"If you could refrain from being an asshole for, like, ten minutes," Wes replies, "just until the next dose of painkillers kick in, that'd be really, really great."

"Asshole," Travis mumbles, "I'm taking care of your ungrateful ass but I'm still the asshole - "

"Just reach down deep, Cabbage Patch," Wes continues, "find those deep, dark depths inside yourself and just - lock your personality in there for a while."

Travis just rolls his eyes. "Who the hell keeps calling you, dude? Your phone is vibrating like crazy."

"Try not to get too excited," Wes says dryly. "Don't - are you texting and driving? Seriously? Quit it!"

"I'm just reading the texts, I'm not - actually texting," Travis protests, "it doesn't count, so shut up. Alex is like, freaking out, man, did you tell her you got hurt?"

"I had to, I was supposed to fix her fridge today," Wes says sullenly. "Don't give me that look."

"Uh huh," Travis replies, "you know I think you actually spend more time with her now than you did before she left you, Wes. That's probably something you need to examine."

"Just - leave it, Travis," Wes says, and he sounds kind of exhausted all of a sudden that Travis actually feels a little bad. That last one was kind of a low blow. "I'll call her later, after I've gotten some sleep."

"Alright, man," Travis says. He glances at Wes' phone, which is buzzing again in his hand, another text from Alex that just reads call me right now!!!! "Doesn't sound too urgent."

Wes just groans and lets his head fall back to the seat with a muffled thump.

It takes Travis approximately a bazillion hours to get Wes into his hotel room, because God forbid he stay at Travis' ("I got chlamydia once just by looking at your bed," Wes says) and absolutely none of the staff offer to help whatsoever, which is pretty telling as to how worn out Wes' welcome is at this point.

It's also pretty telling how little Wes argues once Travis gets him upstairs, because he only makes like two disdainful comments about the Hawaii Five-0 rerun Travis turns on and takes his full dose of pain meds without any protest at all - obviously, he's more worn out than he's willing to admit. Travis stays next to him, sitting up against the headboard, until he falls asleep, pretending to play Candy Crush on his phone.

He knows he's gotta call Alex; she's texted Wes at least five more times since the car and obviously Wes' order of "I'll call her later" actually meant "Travis, you will call her after I fall asleep because I don't want to deal with this right now." She must be waiting around for him to do it too, because she picks up without even a standard greeting, even though Travis calls from his own cell phone.

"Is he alright?" she says tensely. "Also, hello Travis."

"Hi Alex," he replies. "He's okay, he broke his ankle but it's not bad. He's sleeping now."

"Goddamn it," Alex replies angrily.

"It's really not that bad," Travis insists quickly. "It's not life threatening, and there weren't even any guns involved - "

"No, it's not that," Alex says. "I mean, yes, it is that, I'm glad he's okay. Of course. But." She groans. "Ugh, he's gonna kill me."

"What?" Travis asks warily.

"His mother's sort of in town?" Alex says uncertainly. He can actually hear her cringing over the phone line. "And we were sort of eating lunch when I found out he'd been hurt? And so she sort of found out?"

"You - you were eating lunch with his mom?" Travis asks. "Wes' mom came to town and went out to lunch with you?"

Alex laughs nervously.

"Wes doesn't even know she's here, does he?" Travis asks. "That is so - so fucked up, Alex. I mean, really."

"They have a - a complex relationship," Alex says. "Look, she'll want to see him. Obviously. I didn't want her to - surprise him, I mean you know how he is with surprises."

"He doesn't even like plot twists in tv shows," Travis says.

"Right," Alex says, "look, I've gotta get back to work, but you'll warn him, right? When he wakes up?"

Travis sighs. "Yeah, okay. Yeah."

"And tell him I called and that...you know."

"Yeah," Travis says, resignedly, "that too."

Travis hangs up and looks around at Wes' hotel room in resignation with a sinking feeling of dread. On the bed, Wes snorts loudly and kicks a pillow off the bed with his good ankle.

"Well, fuck," Travis says.

 

 

2.

It's not like Travis never knew that Wes had weird issues about his family; you'd be hard pressed to find any fully-grown adult in Los Angeles that doesn't. Fully-grown adult anywhere. Young adults. People in general.

But the thing is, Wes hoards details about his life like they're buried treasure or insider trading secrets, so even after literally years of being his partner Travis only knows the barest details: his mom wasn't happy about the career change, his dad hasn't been in the picture since high school, he's an only child, and he grew up in Santa Barbara. That's literally it.

Travis doesn't need details to know how messed up Wes is about the family thing, though. It's in that weird blankness that's all over his face whenever he's around any of Travis' eclectic collection of foster relatives, the way he hems and haws and avoids the question when someone asks him where he's from. And when somebody outright asks about his family (a favorite topic of Dr. Ryan's), it's like his entire body flinches and his face goes into insta-danger mode, a reaction not unlike Travis' whenever Jonelle brings up That Time They Dated Sort Of in front of strangers.

There was one case though, that kind of hit it on the head, a young girl that went missing about two months back. Most cops have their thing, like the thing that pushes their buttons and keeps them up at night - like, Randi hates rape cases, Sutton can't stand abusive husbands, and with Travis, it's kids, of course. And for Wes, it's bad parents. Another 'of course.'

It clicked in the interrogation room, with the mother of their victim who'd been doing more to impede their investigation than most of their actual suspects, when Wes leaned over the table and said, "if you were any kind of mother, you'd have supported your daughter instead of trying to lock her up," and, wow. Okay. There it is.

"Do we need to talk about this?" Travis asked as soon as they took a break, steering Wes into an empty interview room and kicking the door shut with his heel.

"Nope," Wes replied, with a look on his face that said that yes, they really needed to talk about this.

"I feel like you're lying to me," Travis said thoughtfully. "I dunno, it's something about your general, uh, demeanor that makes me feel like you're full of shit."

"Is my demeanor telling you anything else?" Wes asked. "Like, say, to fuck off?"

"Nope."

"Cuz that's what I'm thinking."

"No, nope, that's not coming through." Travis shook his head. "Some communication issues between you and your demeanor maybe - "

"Travis," Wes said, jaw set in a hard line. "I'm fine. I don't want to talk about my feelings. I want to get back to work."

"Okay, I hear that, Wes - " Travis reached out and took Wes' shoulder - a mistake, he realized right away, when Wes instantly stiffened, his shoulders snapping back like he'd been hit. Travis' heart sank. "I hear that, and we don't have to do that, but I'm your partner, Wes. I've gotta know where you're at if I'm gonna have your back. You hear me?"

"I hear you." Wes' stance softened ever so slightly and he cleared his throat conspicuously, something almost like chagrin passing over his expression. "I'm fine. I've got it handled, I'll be fine."

"Okay."

"It's just a nerve, for me," Wes said stiffly. Travis looked at his face and deeply regretted the entire conversation, because, fuck. "Uh - this sort of thing, I mean. With the mother."

"You don't have to explain," Travis said, and definitely did not hug the silly bastard, because that would have definitely made things worse. "It's all good."

"We're good," Wes said, almost a question, but not.

"'Course," Travis said back, and that was that. And anyway.

Travis kept an eye on him for the rest of that case, but Wes didn't lose that composure again, not even at the end when he was leading the vic's mother away in cuffs. His expression didn't so much as even twitch.

Travis still thinks about it sometimes though, when Wes is particularly obsessive or neurotic, when he does weird shit like wipe down his chair at a restaurant before he sits down or organizes Travis' cupboards while waiting for Travis to get dressed in the morning. He thinks about that case, and about Wes in general, and about what sort of person Bev Mitchell must be, because Wes is his partner, and also, he's Wes.

Except for when he lectures Travis about his bike, anyway. That shit is just not on.

 

 

3.

Wes reacts to the news of his mom being in town the way anyone would reasonably expect him to react: badly. The first thing he does is roll his eyes, and then he declares he doesn't want to talk about it.

"Seriously," he says. "Don't - just, no."

"Did you see me wanting to talk about it?" Travis asks incredulously. "Did I say, 'hey Wes, your mom's in town, do you wanna talk about how that makes you feel?' No."

"I'm just saying, this is exactly the sort of thing that you would bring up in therapy," Wes says. "And I'm telling you right now, I don't want to talk about it, do not bring this up in therapy."

So Travis brings it up in therapy.

"Wes' mom is in town," he announces. Wes makes an aborted move to hit him, but with his mobility limited by the cast, all he does his flap his hand angrily. Travis could get used to the broken ankle thing. "He's got some issues about it. I think we should discuss them."

"Wes has a mother?" Dakota wonders out loud.

"I was thinking we would discuss how you're both dealing with Wes' injury," Dr. Ryan says, "but Travis, if you think his mother's visit is - "

"Not doing anything!" Wes interrupts. "I - it's not - Travis, I'm gonna kill you."

"He doesn't like to talk about it," Travis stage whispers.

"Murder you," Wes continues, "with fire."

"Didn't you say a while back that you had a tough relationship with your mom?" Rozelle asks. "When we were talking about your mother," she says to Clyde.

"The Christmas Incident," Clyde says tiredly.

"I didn't say - it's not tough," Wes says. "I just said - "

"She didn't approve of his career change," Travis interrupts. "And I feel like he has some unresolved feelings about that."

"What do you know," Wes fires at him. "I asked you not to - God, Travis, you're such a - "

"No name calling," Dr. Ryan interrupts quickly. "Travis, let Wes talk. Wes, is your mother's visit actively stressing you out?"

"No," Wes says sourly. "Travis is actively stressing me out."

"That's like, his default state," Peter says.

"Yeah, it's sort of you guys' thing," Clyde agrees. Travis grins, oddly proud.

"Look, my mother comes to town twice a year or so, we have dinner, catch up, it's just - normal. We get along, it's fine." Wes crosses his arms, still scowling, shoulders tense. "Travis has this theory that, I don't know, she abused me or something - "

"No I don't!" Travis yelps. "I don't think you were abused man, I never said that. Harsh."

"You think I have issues about it," Wes accuses. "You get this look in your eye every time we have a case that involves abusive parents, and you get all weird about it, like you think I'm going to have a nervous breakdown at any minute."

"That's not true," Travis says, then, to the group, "that isn't true."

"Sounds true," Mr. Dumont says skeptically. Grace nods in agreement.

"So what it sounds like," Dr. Ryan interjects, "is that the real issue isn't Wes' relationship with his mother, but that you two haven't communicated properly about this topic. Travis, you obviously have some concerns about this, but have you asked Wes honestly about his mother? Or did you simply use this excuse to ambush him about it in a situation where he would be forced to respond?"

Travis shifts uncomfortably in his chair. "Uh," he says. Wes smirks at him. "Maybe the second one. A tiny bit, little, yeah."

Dr. Ryan narrows her eyes, getting that look on her face she gets when she's just made a really good point and she knows it. "Ah."

"Issues," Wes mutters, looking triumphant. Travis rolls his eyes.

"It can be very difficult to broach sensitive subjects with your partner," Dr. Ryan continues, addressing the entire group now. "It's natural to be curious about their past, or about subjects that are obviously emotional sore spots, just as it's natural for them to be reluctant to talk about those sore spots. But sometimes those sore spots can blister into real wounds, if they're left untreated. Talking about them with your spouse can very cathartic, and ultimately will strengthen your relationship with each other."

"Right, but there's no - healing needed," Wes says. "Also? Not spouses."

"Also? I was speaking generally," Dr. Ryan says. "My point stands: your assignment this week is to have an honest conversation with each other about something that's hurt you in the past."

Travis sighs heavily. "Great going, Wes."

"That goes for both of you," Dr. Ryan continues. "All of you, actually. We can speak about the results of these conversations next week."

The entire group kind of tenses up all at once, and almost in unison turn to Wes and Travis with dirty looks. (This happens a lot.)

"Don't look at me," Wes protests, "this one is so not my fault."

 

 

"It's a little bit your fault," Travis says, later. Wes ignores him and keeps clicking. "What are you doing? Playing Facebook games?"

"No, I don't play Facebook games," Wes says scornfully. "By the way, stop sending me that shit, I do not want to play Bubble Witch Saga."

"It's very soothing," Travis says. "I thought - "

"Don't say it," Wes says.

"Fine." Travis leans back in his chair and plops his boots on top of the pile of case files in his outbox, specifically so he can see the look on Wes' face. It doesn't disappoint. "Well, are we gonna talk about it?"

"Talk about what," Wes says with a grimace, still preoccupied by Travis' shoes.

"Your mom, dumbass," Travis says. Wes makes a grossed out face. "Come on, we gotta. Dr. Ryan's orders."

"I'm objecting to this on principle," Wes says. "This whole 'manipulating me into talking about things I don't wanna talk about' thing - "

"Hey, if you're not taking therapy seriously anymore," Travis starts, only partly facetious.

"I am absolutely taking therapy seriously," Wes interrupts, sounding offended. "I am...irritated that you insist on badgering me all the time. Boundaries, Travis. They're a thing."

"Boundaries?" Travis asks incredulously. "You think I don't respect your boundaries?"

"No, I don't think, I am absolutely certain you don't respect my boundaries, why is that even a question - "

"Okay, that offends me," Travis says, sitting up straight. "That is offensive, Wes. I respect your stupid boundaries like, all the time."

"Yeah," Wes says, "sure - "

"I don't touch your shit," Travis says, talking over him, "I don't drive your car unless I have to. I don't make fun of you for the cleaning thing - "

Wes snorts. "Yes, you do!"

" - much," Travis continues, glaring. "I don't call you after nine PM unless it's an emergency! I don't ask you about your dates, I don't touch you or invade your personal space unless I need to distract you or get you out of your head - "

Wes rears back slightly, blinking. "You - those are all isolated examples - "

"Oh, shut up," Travis says, rolling his eyes. "I'm very good at navigating your boundaries, Wes, and you know it. You're just pissed because you know I'm right about this mom thing, and you don't want to give in."

Wes is silent a moment, fussing with his collar and avoiding Travis' gaze. "Okay - "

"Ha!" Travis exclaims. "Right? I'm right, right?"

Wes scowls at him. "Ugh, you're so annoying."

"I'm still right." Travis does a victory dance in his chair. Wes closes his eyes, pained. "C'mon babe, let's go get some lunch and talk about your feelings."

"I was just going to say that you have a point," Wes says, "I'm still - objecting to all of this. On principle."

"I'll buy," Travis offers generously. Wes sighs.

"You know that we can hear everything y'all are saying, right?" Randi yells, from across the bullpen.

"Shut up, Miss fights-with-her-boyfriend-on-her-phone-in-the-break-room!" Travis yells back. Muffled laughter erupts amongst the crowd of officers.

"God help me," Wes mutters.

 

 

4.

Travis knows intellectually that his childhood wasn't the easiest; getting moved around from foster home to foster home half a dozen times by the time he graduated high school was not ideal, in any sense of the word. But he's always made a point to appreciate how good he did have it - he never went hungry. He never got smacked around (by adults, anyway). And regardless of how long or short of a time he spent with any of them, he still came out of it all with something like a family.

Besides, it's not like being raised by your birth parents automatically guarantees you a well-adjusted life. See example: his partner. (Travis acknowledges that with affection.)

"It's not a big deal," Wes says, "it's not this big thing like you think it is."

"Mmhmm," Travis replies, "that's why you're so open to this topic of conversation."

"I'm open," Wes argues.

"You could be a picture in a Body Language 101 textbook," Travis says. "The 'discomfort/closed to conversation' chapter."

Wes jerks his hands out of his pockets with a scowl.

"You gotta work with me a little bit," Travis complains. "Look, I took you to this nice coffee shop, there's nobody eavesdropping on us, I bought you a nice, manly coffee - "

"I don't drink coffee because it's manly," Wes says.

"You once told me the only reason I like mochas is because I'm fourteen years old on the inside," Travis says, unimpressed.

"Because mochas are disgusting," Wes replies.

"You want me to go first?" Travis asks, not without some sympathy. "Look, I'll go first."

Wes grumbles something incoherently under his breath.

"Okay, so," Travis starts, taking a deep breath, "you wanna know why I don't do relationships? Like real ones?"

"Oh, fuck," Wes blurts.

"When I was younger, right after I graduated from the Academy, I was dating this girl, right?" Travis says. Wes winces a little, probably because he knows what's coming just as much as Travis does. "We went the whole nine yards, you know, living together, talking about marriage and kids, all that crap."

"Travis," Wes says, shifting in his seat, "you don't have to - "

"And she cheated on me," Travis finishes, mostly just to get it out of the space right behind his throat where it's been sitting, for years, just festering. "Oh, man. That actually felt good, a little bit."

"You didn't have to tell me that," Wes says. "I sorta figured that out about you already."

"Yeah, but I never told you," Travis clarifies. "Telling you is what's important."

"Oh, thank you, Dr. Ryan," Wes says.

"It was really bad, man, like it really messed me up," Travis continues, "like when I say she cheated on me, I don't just mean she got drunk with her girlfriends and made out with some dude in the back of a taxi, I mean, full out, having an affair, lying about it for a year and a half - "

"Wow," Wes says, "okay - "

" - was gonna hire him to play guitar at our wedding, bad," Travis finishes with a shudder. "Wow, yeah, that actually was pretty cathartic. Huh, who knew?"

Wes is making this weird face, shaking his head back and forth over and over. "That sounds," he says, a little strangled, "bad."

"Anyway, that's why I don't date," Travis concludes, "it's not that I don't want to, it's just - a thing, that I do. Like a habit."

"You limit relationships with people you have sex with because it reminds you of the emotional intimacy you had with your ex, which is painful, and subconsciously you're afraid that you'll be hurt again."

"Now that," Travis says, "was a Dr. Ryan line."

"I already knew that about you," Wes says in frustration. "Like, you already know my deal with my mom about me. We're cops, good cops even, we're trained for this. Hell, you probably know all kinds of shit about me that I'd rather you not - "

"Fair point," Travis says.

"I don't see the point of hashing it out," Wes says.

"Fine, Wes, you want me to guess?" Travis asks sharply, throwing his hands up. "Hand over my casefile on all your emotional problems? It's pretty damn big."

Wes just sets his jaw stubbornly.

"You say I'm immature, but this is pretty fucking immature, just so you know," Travis continues. "Okay, great. You wanna know what I think? I think your dad took off when you were a teenager and that fucked you up. I think it fucked up your mom too, and she probably took it out on you in ways that fucked you up even more. I think she was controlling, and she made you feel like nothing you did was ever gonna be good enough, and she never made you feel safe, and that's why you're neurotic and treat everyone around you like they're inferior to you, because deep down, you think it's the other way around."

Wes snaps his chair back so fast the feet scrape harshly against the tile floor and starts groping for his crutches. "Okay," he says stiffly. "That's - really, enough."

"Where are you going?" Travis asks angrily. "You can't drive, idiot."

"I have two feet," Wes snaps. "I'll figure it out."

"You were the one who wanted this," Travis shoots at him, watching Wes limp away angrily. "What is so hard about this for you? I'm trying to help you, asshole!"

"I don't need that kind of help," Wes calls back, already pushing his way out of the door. Travis lets him go, just sitting and fuming at the table, ignoring the wary looks from the other patrons in the shop.

That went well, he thinks.

 

 

5.

Wes and Travis manage to make it through the better part of a week not speaking to each other, which is made much easier by the fact that Wes' injury has tabled them as far as live cases go for the time being. All this means is that they usually spend work days angrily doing paperwork and glaring.

Kendall thinks the whole thing is pretty stupid.

"Sooo," she says, crossing her arms sternly, "you ripped him a new one and now you're waiting for him to apologize to you?"

"I'm not the bad guy in this one!" Travis exclaims. "He was being a jerk."

"And so you confronted him with the worst, most hurtful insecurities he has about himself because you were frustrated, right," Kendall says. "Makes sense."

Travis groans, thumping his forehead on the surface of her desk.

"You're both just - like, so dumb," she continues. "Just go apologize, okay? You know he'll say he's sorry too, once you start talking about it. But he's never going to make the first move."

"He never does," Travis says. "It's really unfair."

"You've known this about him all along," she points out. "Either you accept it or you don't, but being pissed isn't going to change it."

"That's very zen of you, Kendall," Travis says.

"I'm reading this self-help book," she says. "The Captain loaned it to me."

"Of course he did," Travis says.

So, being occasionally a mature and emotionally competent individual, Travis psychs himself up to eat some serious crow. He puts on his big boy pants, buys himself a milkshake for encouragement, and heads to Wes' hotel.

Alex is sitting in the lobby when he gets there. (Not the greeting he'd expected.)

"Uh, hey," Travis says, hoping that conveys the appropriate question, namely: what the fuck you two aren't getting back together, are you?

By the hell no look on Alex's face, it comes across just fine. "Hey," she says. "What are you doing here?"

"Wes and I sorta had a fight." Travis rubs the back of his neck. "A little Mr. and Mrs., no big deal."

Alex looks a little constipated about his choice of words, but thankfully doesn't pursue it. "Um, right. Well, now might not be the best time - "

"Oh, what, is his mom here?" Travis jokes. Alex frowns. "Oh shit, his mom's here?"

"Well," Alex says. "She doesn't have a car! I gave her a ride."

"How long has she been in town?" Travis asks incredulously.

"She's retired," Alex says. "It's not like she has much of a life to get back to."

"Wow," Travis says, raising his eyebrows.

"You'd understand if you knew her," Alex says dismissively. "Look - "

"Is that her?" Travis interrupts, pointing at a distressed-looking woman exiting the elevators. "Actually, stupid question, she's wearing Wes' I hate everything face."

Alex shoots him an exasperated look, turning her attention to the woman, currently making a beeline for them both. "Bev?"

"Who is this?" The woman replies, gesturing forcefully at Travis. Travis takes an instinctive step back. "Never mind, I don't care. Let's go."

Alex shoots a somewhat harried look at Travis out of the corner of her eye. "It didn't go well?"

"Obviously it went perfectly, we hugged and everything's fixed, that's why I'm perfectly calm right now," Bev says, a little shrilly. Opening her purse, she starts digging inside of it, growing increasingly agitated. "Where's my - Alex, I can't find my chapstick!"

"I'll buy you some," Alex soothes. "Travis - "

"Right," Travis says succinctly, backing away slowly. There are tears approaching. He has an instinct about these things. "I'll just - "

"Please can we leave," Bev says, somewhere in-between angry and desperate. Travis hightails it for the elevators before he can hear Alex's answer.

Wes is visibly upset when he opens the door, the look on his face hitting Travis somewhere soft and tender, like the worst kind of sucker punch. "Oh, of course it's you," he says hoarsely, and leans back on his single crutch. "What, do you have some kind of radar?"

"Freak coincidence," Travis replies. "Can I come in?"

"You're going to anyway, aren't you," Wes says. Travis doesn't budge, and Wes' expression wilts a little. "Fine. Yes, come in."

Travis steps inside carefully and shuts the door. "So, I ran into Alex," he says.

Wes snorts, struggling to walk to the couch with just one crutch. Travis steps in and grabs his waist, supporting half of his weight. It says a lot about Wes' emotional state that he lets him. "Yeah, I bet."

Travis grabs Wes' crutch as soon as he's made the couch and sets it aside so that he can't run away - and judging by Wes' look, not very subtly. "Hey, you invited me in. What did you expect?"

"From you?" Wes says resignedly, "nothing less."

"I'm not sure if that's an insult," Travis says slowly, "but I'm good with it either way."

Wes just leans back into the cushions, face impassive.

"So, uh," Travis starts, "I'm real sorry about what I said the other day."

"Yeah," Wes says, sounding tired. "Well, you were right, so."

Travis winces. "Not really the point."

Wes sighs. "I was going to apologize too," he says. "Tomorrow, actually. Because I overreacted. Of course you beat me to it."

"You were?" Travis asks, touched. "Wes, that's so great! You know what that is? Progress, man!"

Wes smiles faintly. "So, you want the, uh - 'dish,' or what? On what happened tonight?"

"Don't say 'dish,'" Travis replies.

"I still have to tell you," Wes says, somewhat resentfully. "Right? Or you'll tattle on me on Friday?"

"Wes, if you don't wanna talk about it, we don't have to," Travis says somberly. "You wanna sit here and not talk about it, cool, let's do that. We'll put on a game and order drinks and not talk about it."

Wes blinks at him. "Oh."

"'Oh,' he says," Travis says, rolling his eyes. "You just had this huge fight with your mom and you think I'm gonna come in here and blackmail you about it? I'm so not a jerk, I don't know why you always think I'm such a - "

"I know you're not a jerk," Wes says. "'Oh' is an interjection of surprise, that's it, what do you want from me - okay, look, we're getting off topic here." Wes waves one hand dismissively. "You wanna hear me talk? Shut up for a little bit."

"Okay." Travis nods and settles into a more comfortable position on the couch, nodding. "Okay, shutting up."

Wes reaches up and cracks his knuckles once, twice, before leaning forward and glaring at the floor. "Right, so, she's been in town for awhile, and obviously she didn't tell me, since it came through you and Alex. And I thought - it didn't bug me, whatever, we're not that close. It's fine."

It seems incredibly not fine to Travis, but he's currently shutting up, so. "Okay."

"We had dinner last week, it was fine." Wes rubs at his jaw, still not looking at Travis. "We're not - you were right, what you said, okay? I'll give you that, you were right about - all that. But it's not - I wasn't lying when I said it wasn't a big deal, that it wasn't stressing me out. It doesn't. It just - we're not very close, and that's the way it is, and it's just - not something I can change, so I just deal with it. Right?"

"Right."

"So she apparently had some - I dunno - big 'talk' with Alex yesterday," Wes continues, rolling his eyes, "and she comes over here tonight all upset, and - we yelled at each other for awhile and then she left. And that's what happened. Okay?"

"Upset about what?" Travis asks.

"Who the hell even knows," Wes says, throwing his hands up in the air. "It's just the way she is - she spends all this time and energy making sure that things are a certain way, and then gets upset about it. And conveniently forgets that it was her own actions that made it so, it's like - " Wes shakes his head, his jaw clenching. "Infuriating."

Travis nods silently, clenching his hands together to keep from reaching out.

"You want to know what the issue is with my mom?" Wes asks rigidly. "We don't get along. It's boring, but that's it. There is something so fundamentally incompatible about our personalities that we literally cannot be in the same room for longer than an hour without fighting. And it's not like we haven't tried. Mostly because of Alex, but - we did, and it never works."

Travis just nods again, at a loss of what to actually say.

"And it's fine," Wes says, sounding like a broken record. "Most of the time, it's fine. We don't talk much, so we don't fight. It's - "

"Fine, right," Travis says. "Gotcha."

Wes rubs a hand over his brow, shoulders slumping. "Uh huh."

"That...really sucks," Travis says. "Sorry, man."

Wes pauses, then breaks into incredulous laughter. "Right, okay."

"Hey, I'm serious," Travis says. "What do you want me to say? It does suck."

"No, I'm just - " Wes holds up a hand, laughing some more. His face is turning red, a little, down towards his neck. "Wow, you were right before, that was pretty cathartic."

"Right?" Travis says, grinning. "High five. Emotional intimacy, man."

Wes shakes his head. He doesn't return the high five, but at least he's smiling. "You're an idiot."

"I know, I know, but hey - hey, Wes," Travis says, reaching out and jostling Wes' shoulder lightly, "I get it, man, I do. Thanks." And he does get it, because he's had that before, with people, what Wes has with his mom. And it does suck. He tries to convey that, without actually saying it, by the way he smiles at Wes, the shrug of his shoulder. A sort of I know, it's cool, I feel you sort of general demeanor.

Wes smiles like he understands. He probably does. "You're welcome."

Travis leans back into the couch, grinning. "We're gonna kill it at therapy this week."

"Well, there's at least one pro to this whole thing," Wes replies. "At least."

Travis laughs, daring to reach out once more and jostling Wes' knee. "Beer, now. Right?"

"You're buying," Wes says.

 

 

6.

"I'm happy to see that you two have made such great progress this week," Dr. Ryan says. Travis preens a little. She never says that to them. "You two seem more in-sync than you usually do."

"We're very in-sync," Wes argues. "Just sometimes our sync is fighting."

"Yeah, that's sort of the crux of our problem," Travis agrees.

"Of course. My mistake." Dr. Ryan smiles indulgently. "Would you like to share with us what you two talked about?"

Travis looks over at Wes, who raises his eyebrows expectantly. Crossing his arms, Travis turns back to Dr. Ryan with the biggest smile he can muster.

"None of your business," he says.