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Forget Me Not

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Faraday wakes with a throbbing in his skull that puts all his previous hangovers to shame. Resolving to find out just what he’d been drinking the night before and then never indulge in it again, it takes him perhaps longer than it should to register the steady beeping sound taking place on his left side. Finally cracking his eyes open, he learns that he’s not at home in his own bed like he’d suspected, and instead seems to be lying in a hospital room, thereby giving his pounding headache a far more sinister cast.

Carefully, he braces his hands beneath him and attempts to lift himself up, even just a fraction. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a poor decision. The pain in his head intensifies, ending with a sharp stab lancing right through his temples. “Damn,” he hisses. “What the fuck happened?”

“You fell at work,” a familiar voice says, and when Faraday slowly shifts to look over, he’s relieved to find Red sitting not far away with an expression that indicates he’s been worried but is trying not to show it gracing his features. “Billy said you were up on one of the beams and slipped. You fell about twelve feet, and should be happy it looks like all you got was a bump on the head.”

“Nothing’s broken then?” Faraday asks. He aches an awful lot, but he’s snapped the odd bone or two in his day, and he has to admit he doesn’t feel that particular sting among all the other problems he appears to have going on.

“No,” Red replies, and it’s a testament to how long their somewhat unorthodox friendship has been in place that Faraday can once again hear a note of worry in his monotone voice. “You’re going to be sore for a while, and the doctor said you’re not allowed to go back to work for at least a week, but your x-rays all came back normal. Well, normal for you that is.”

“Very funny,” Faraday grunts. He spends longer than should be necessary struggling into a sitting position, the whole time feeling like his head is precariously balanced where it is, before finally levelling Red with a glare. “How come you’re here? I want Goody or Jack – someone who’s going to show me proper sympathy.”

“I think we can do even better than that,” Red says dryly. “Don’t worry; I made a few calls after I arrived.”

“Good,” Faraday informs him. “Your bedside manner is terrible.”

“I’m a mechanic,” Red says, holding up his motor oil stained hands as proof. “Cars don’t need a bedside manner.”

Faraday waves an errant hand at him and groans. “I can’t believe I fell off a fucking beam on site. Do you know how much paperwork is involved in writing up accident reports? That shit takes forever to deal with, and I’m going to be hearing about it for fuck knows how long. Billy’s going to have a field day, and Sam’s going to give me a million lectures on workplace safety.”

Red gives him a funny look. “You’re saying Sam is the one you’re most worried about?” He asks, like he thinks there’s someone whose wrath Faraday’s going to dislike feeling the brunt of more than that of Sam Chisolm and his unique approach to showing he cares.

When Faraday says as much aloud, Red’s frown deepens. “Sam’s one thing, but what about - ?” He starts only to be cut off by a sudden commotion outside in the hall.

Faraday’s considering complaining about the noise – the sharpness of it is making his head throb all over again – but anything he might think to say gets pushed aside when the door across from him is wrenched open and the most beautiful man he’s ever laid eyes on skids into the room.

“What happened?” The guy demands, brown eyes worried as the words roll off his tongue in a heavily accented wave. “Billy called and said there was an accident at work. I would have been here sooner, but I had to find someone to cover for me for the afternoon.”

Faraday blinks. He looks first at the man now standing at the foot of his bed, clearly waiting for someone to say something, and then back to Red whose frown has picked up a worried edge.

“Josh,” Red says slowly, and the alarm bells going off in Faraday’s head pick up a more urgent tone. “What is it?”

Getting more confused by the moment, Faraday gestures at their companion. “What do you mean, what is it? Who’s he?”

The strange man lets out a choking noise, and Red’s jaw actually drops. If it weren’t for the somewhat frightening circumstances, Faraday would find the whole thing funny. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen Red look so surprised.

“I think,” Red says after a few moments of awkward silence have passed, “that we’d better get your doctor back in here.”

*****

A couple hours later, Faraday’s still lying in the hospital bed, but now he’s got a shiny new diagnosis of selective amnesia and an increasingly agitated Mexican knockout hovering at his side.

Alejandro ‘call me whatever works best for you’ Vasquez is roughly six and a half feet of lean muscle and raw sex appeal wrapped in pressed dress slacks and a sensible blue button down that’s opened just enough to reveal some kind of fancy medallion resting over the base of his throat. What little Faraday’s managed to glean about the man during the battery of tests the doctor had run him through is that he’s an elementary school teacher who’d cut his shift short today to come running to Faraday’s side because they’ve apparently been attached at the hip for the better part of two years now.

“Oh come on,” Faraday says once it’s just him, Red, and Vasquez left in the hospital room. He gestures pointedly at Vasquez and gives Red his best wild eyed stare. “Are you seriously telling me I’ve been paling around with this for two years? No way would I forget that. This is all a big joke, right?”

“There is nothing funny about this, guero,” Vasquez says tightly. His face is pinched, and his shoulders are hunched like he’s half-expecting to be hit. He follows his initial statement up with a string of what Faraday assumes is Spanish, and scowls when both his companions stare at him uncomprehendingly. “Never mind.”

“Right,” Faraday says in the awkward silence that follows, “but no, seriously, you two are pulling my leg, aren’t you?”

“It’s not a joke, Josh,” Red says while Vasquez makes a pained noise that would maybe make Faraday feel a little bad if he weren’t too busy being confused. “Vasquez is one of your best friends.”

“No,” Faraday disagrees, “you are one of my best friends, though sometimes I don’t remember why. He,” and here Faraday punctuates his words by stabbing a finger in Vasquez’s direction, “is a stranger I’ve never laid eyes on.”

“Check your phone,” Red says, shrugging when Faraday raises his eyebrows. “I guarantee you you’ll find pictures of him on there, and definitely texts from him too. That should convince you.”

Faraday flaps a hand at this suggestion. He doesn’t actually believe Red and Vasquez are lying to him, both of them look far to sombre for that, but it’s blowing his mind how he could possibly have forgotten everything about a man who, if rumour is to be believed, has become one of his closest friends in recent memory. It just doesn’t add up.

“I don’t need pictures when the real thing is standing right in front of me trying to glare a hole through my head,” Faraday says now. He does his best to glare right back at Vasquez who hunkers in on himself even further. “Would you fucking quit it? It’s bad enough I’m stuck here under observation for another night, but I don’t need you gawking at me too.”

“Josh,” Red says, and it comes out in that slightly scolding way of his, the one he’d learned from Emma that says Faraday’s put his foot in his mouth. When Faraday cocks his head at him, he nods slightly in Vasquez’s direction, his problem plain.

Following the motion, Faraday finds that Vasquez’s face has transformed into a picture of misery, and it makes his gut churn unpleasantly. “Sorry,” he mumbles, squirming as best as he’s able given the circumstances he’s found himself in. “Didn’t mean nothin’ by it.”

Vasquez sucks in a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “It’s okay, guero,” he says after repeating the action two or three times. “I know you did not do this on purpose.”

It’s on the tip of Faraday’s tongue to ask what in hell’s name ‘guero’ means, but one look at Vasquez’s expression makes him decide against it. He searches for a safer topic until he finds one. “How long before I can get out of here, do you think?”

“Your doctor, she said maybe as early as tomorrow provided you don’t show any symptoms aside from, well, me.” Vasquez tells him. “If you do though, you’ll have to stay longer.”

“Wonderful,” Faraday grunts. He lets his head flop back against his pillow, regretting the action when it makes his headache crank back up again. “God damnit. How am I supposed to tell if I’m missing anything else?”

“Well you already proved you know who you are and remember all your pertinent background details,” Red points out. The doctor had asked Faraday a variety of different questions about his personal history once the selective amnesia had been discovered, but every basis she’d touched on had been one he was able to answer. He may have lost Vasquez, but himself, his mother, his dog, his job, and all his other close friends remain exactly as they should be.

“Okay,” Faraday acknowledges as he considers all this, “but an hour or so of questioning isn’t exactly going to cover everything I’ve gotten up to in the last thirty plus years. I’ve lived a bit of a life, you know.”

“Yeah, but most of what you don’t remember is booze related,” Red says dryly, and for some reason this makes Faraday feel a sense of relief. Probably because if Red’s still willing to make cracks at his expense at least he – he here meaning Red – doesn’t think this is the end of the world.

“You ain’t funny,” Faraday grumbles, but he’s mollified all the same. He sighs. “I want to go home. Wait,” a thought occurs to him, and he sits up again, “is someone looking after Jack while I’m stuck here?”

“Don’t worry, Joshua,” Vasquez says. He raises his hand like he’s of a mind to offer Faradays knee a comforting pat from where he’s still standing at the end of the hospital bed, and only draws it back at the last possible moment. “It’s being dealt with. No one’s going to leave your dog to fend for himself.”

“And not just because if we did you’d have no home to go back to,” Red adds helpfully. He smirks when Faraday glares at him. “I’m just saying.”

“Cracks like that are why I like Jack better than you,” Faraday informs him, and Red’s mouth curls slightly. He makes like he’s about to say something else, but then clearly thinks better of it. Faraday narrows his eyes when he sees this. “What?”

“Nothing,” Red says quickly. He cocks his head to the side for a moment before glancing at Vasquez and nodding decisively. “It’s late. We should let you get some rest. It might help.”

“Yeah, sure,” Faraday snorts. “Maybe when you come back tomorrow I’ll have magically healed thanks to nothing more than a nap.” He snorts again. “Somehow I have my doubts.”

“Not with that attitude,” Red replies. He pats Faraday on the arm, relatively gently for him, as he stands. “Sleep anyway, and see if it does any good. We’ll see you later.”

“Sí,” Vasquez agrees. Faraday has a sneaking suspicion that he doesn’t usually sound this drained, but isn’t willing to call him out on it. “We’ll be back as soon as we can.”

“…right,” Faraday says. He gives them both his best affable nod as they file out of the room, but immediately sags back against his pillows once they’re gone. Scrubbing tiredly at his face, he spends a moment or two trying to make himself comfortable and then sighs. “What a frigging mess, damn.”

The bare walls of his room have nothing to add to this statement, so Faraday resolves to try and get some sleep and then tackle the problem again in the morning. Maybe with a little luck that’s all it’ll take.

*****

The next morning dawns with no improvements in Faraday’s memories, and considerable consternation on the part of his doctor. She’s a tiny woman, aged not that much older than he is, and she frowns down at his medical chart in a way he really doesn’t like.

“The worst of it is,” the doctor – Dr. Gale, she’s informed him – says, “we have very little understanding of both what causes selective amnesia and how to fix it. On the plus side, in your case it seems to be only the one detail you’ve forgotten.”

Faraday gives her a look. “No offence, doc, but have you seen the specific detail I’ve forgotten? He’s kind of hard to miss.”

“Perhaps, but relationships have been cited as one item that can be forgotten in cases like this, so it’s not actually that farfetched.” Dr. Gale flips through a couple more pages on the chart and clicks her tongue. “And you’ve known everything else we’ve asked you, a fact that I’m almost impressed by. Not too many people can rhyme off all sixteen digits of their bank cards without having to look.”

“What can I say?” Faraday asks with a wink, not wanting to admit it was a trick he used when picking people up in bars. “I’m a man of many talents.” Then because flirting is something that comes as naturally as breathing to him, he leans over the railing of his bed and grins up at her. “I could show you if you like?”

She pauses mid-flip and peers at him over the rim of her glasses. “Now what do you expect me to say to that?”

Faraday lets his grin widen. “Come on, doc, I’ve got a head injury here. Don’t you think you should take pity on me a bit?”

“I am taking pity on you, Mr. Faraday,” she says calmly, turning back to the paperwork in her hands without a second thought. “If I wasn’t, you’d be bleeding again by now.”

“Ouch,” Faraday laughs. “Shot down when I’m already hurt on top of everything else. This is not shaping up to be a good day.”

Any reply the doctor might be about to make is cut off by someone knocking lightly on the side of the open hospital room door, and Faraday turns to find Vasquez standing there, the same frown he’d been wearing all last night once again firmly in place.

“Oh, hey,” Faraday says when he sees him. “What’re you doing here? I thought Red was coming?”

Vasquez shrugs awkwardly. “He got called in to cover a shift and couldn’t get out of it,” he says stiffly. “He told me he called me first because I’m the only one with guaranteed Saturdays off.” His frown deepens, cutting sharp creases into his face. “He also said he’d let you know I was coming in case you had a problem with it.”

Faraday flaps a hand lazily over at where his phone is resting on the tiny table that also contains the remnants of his breakfast. “He probably did, but I haven’t checked the thing in a bit. Me and the doc have been too busy getting to know each other, haven’t we, Carol?”

“I don’t remember telling you my first name,” Dr. Gale says, although Faraday’s pretty sure she’s more amused than she’s letting on.

“You didn’t,” he replies sunnily, “I peeked at all the paperwork before you came in for your checkup. What?” He asks when she stares at him. “It’s my chart, pretty sure that means I’m allowed to know what’s in it, including the names of certain attractive physicians who’re managing my case.”

Dr. Gale gives him a cool look, one that says she’s seen it all before and he’s not even close to being in the top ten. “Mr. Faraday, I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but you’re not nearly as charming as you think you are.”

Faraday mimes a shot in the gut. “Doc, you’re lucky I’m thick skinned and the kind of fella who bounces back from injury well, otherwise you might have just done serious damage to my chances of making a full recovery. I thought you medical types were supposed to be better with people than this.”

“The myth of the bedside manner is largely just that, a myth,” she assures him. “Now, jokes and terrible flirting aside, do you want to get out of here today or not?”

“You mean that?” Faraday asks. He’s the farthest thing from having a medical degree, but being allowed to walk out of the hospital under his own power this morning was something that hadn’t even been a blip on his radar. Despite the fact that he feels loads better than he did the day before, his headache is only the faintest echo in the back of his head and most of his residual bruises are things he can ignore, he’d figured the whole Vasquez shaped hole in his memory would be enough to see him stuck in this bed for the foreseeable future. “Doc, you’d better not be messing with me. I’m not above filing a complaint if you are.”

“While I’d hardly be concerned if you did, the good news for both our parts is that I’m not messing with you.” Snapping his chart closed, Dr. Gale crosses one leg over the other and shrugs slightly. “We’ll be scheduling you for follow up appointments, of course, but the fact of the matter if you haven’t shown any signs of a concussion, so other than a bump on the head you do appear to be fine.”

From where he’s still standing in the doorway, Vasquez makes a noise that suggests he doesn’t agree with this diagnosis. However, when both Faraday and Dr. Gale look over at him, all he does is shift uncomfortably from one foot to the other. “I can take him home,” he says as they continue to stare at him. “I know the way, and his car is still at his worksite as it is.”

“Damn,” Faraday murmurs. “I hadn’t even thought of that. How am I going to get it back?”

“I’m sure someone can get it for you,” Dr. Gale says easily. “Maybe your other friend who was here last night, and if not him then somebody else. While I’m fine letting you out, I’d rather you not drive for a while and you’re definitely not going back to work right away. We’ll schedule your first follow up meeting for a week from today, and depending on how that goes you may or may not get cleared for work at that time. Until then, take it easy and immerse yourself in familiar surroundings. Doing so might help the blocked memories come back.”

Since his only missing memories relate to Vasquez, and the man has twice now been in his presence since the fall, Faraday has his doubts on how much familiarity will help fix the problem. On the other hand, he doesn’t want to risk ticking the good doctor off and having her force him to stay in the hospital if he says anything. Hence why he keeps his mouth shut.

*****

To say Faraday is relieved to find his apartment building is exactly how he remembers it is something of an understatement. Despite repeated assurances from various parties that the complex and unit he was describing matched that of his current residence he hasn’t been able to shake the nagging sensation that he’s going to be dropped off somewhere he has no recollection of. That’s why when Vasquez pulls into a beat up parking garage, neatly stealing the lone visitor parking spot that is so rarely free; Faraday lets out a heavy sigh and a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding.

“Everything alright, guero?” Vasquez asks. He’s peering at Faraday over the top of a pair of dark sunglasses he’s slid on as they’d exited the hospital into the bright Saturday sun, and as Faraday watches he slides them up and leaves them to rest on top of his head. “You look concerned.”

“Yeah, no, I’m golden,” Faraday insists. Unbuckling his seatbelt, he climbs out of the car to better examine his surroundings. He’s unreasonably pleased by the way it all looks familiar, right down to the disconcerting reddish brown stain adorning one stone wall near the garbage collection spot. “Nothing’s out of place.”

“As pleased as I am that you can correctly identify your own parking lot, let’s wait and see if your actual apartment is still the same.” Vasquez gives him a small grin, and it does wonders for his face, which has basically been set in a permanent grimace since the previous night. The way his eyes crinkle makes Faraday think he’s someone who probably laughs a lot, a fact that makes their whole situation even more depressing in light of things.

“Joshua?” Vasquez asks worriedly, and Faraday realizes he’s likely been staring a bit longer than is necessary.

“I’m good,” Faraday says quickly. “Anxious to get inside and make sure no one’s made off with all my stuff while I’ve been gone.”

“You’re assuming you have the kind of stuff someone would want,” Vasquez says dryly, falling easily into step beside Faraday as he walks towards the greyish green metal door that will get them into the apartment building itself. “Me, I think a burglar would have to be really desperate to take your things, unless he had a penchant for cards, booze, and novelty t-shirts with terrible slogans on them.”

“Hey,” Faraday protests with a laugh, he’s starting to see why he might like this guy, and it’s not just because he’s easy on the eyes, “I’ll have you know I’ve spent years collecting those shirts and each and every one of ‘em has a special place in my heart. I’ll thank you kindly for not insulting them.”

Vasquez raises his hands in obvious surrender, and then waits patiently for Faraday to fish his keys out of his pocket and get the door. After that it’s a short walk through the back hall into the main lobby of the building where a pair of matching elevators have been sitting out of order since before Faraday had first moved in.

“Now that’s something I could’ve happily misremembered,” Faraday says as they pass by on their way to the stairwell. He lives on the fourth floor of his building, a fact that is occasionally unfortunate when he’s stumbling home drunk from the bar or carrying a week’s worth of groceries. “I guess I’m stuck taking the good with the bad, huh?”

“Sí,” Vasquez says behind him, but the subdued air is lurking in his voice again, making Faraday wish he hadn’t said anything. He’s getting the sense he’s going to have to be careful of how he talks about the whole ‘hole in his memories’ thing. While he doesn’t much like the idea of having amnesia himself, it appears Vasquez is especially bothered by his being the one thing Faraday’s managed to forget.

His key sticks in the lock just like it always does, so he glares at it and jiggles it around until it clicks into place just like he always does, noticing briefly that there’s at least one key he doesn’t recognize hooked on the ring. Thinking he’ll maybe ask about that later, he pushes the door open, and breathes another sigh of relief when he catches sight of his apartment looking precisely the way it’s supposed to, right down to the hole in the right arm of his old sofa.

“Thank fuck,” Faraday says fervently, and his smile grows when he hears a thumping sound from the direction of his bedroom, quickly followed by a familiar, repetitive series of clicks. He cranes his neck to look at Vasquez without thinking. “Don’t worry about Jack; he’s way more harmless than you’d figure.”

For some reason Vasquez makes a wounded noise at this, but before Faraday can ask why a scarred brown shape wanders into the room, bee lining right for him. Faraday drops to his knees without hesitation, letting the oversized pit bull come right up to him and head butt him in the chin. “Hey, Jack,” he says, digging his hands into short bristly fur. “How’s my guy? Were you a good boy while I was gone? Sorry I had to leave you alone last night, fella. It won’t happen again I promise.”

“Red stopped in to feed him and take him out on his way home last night,” Vasquez offers from where he’s wandered over to the hall closet and is in the process of rooting around for something. “I don’t think he had a chance to come in this morning, though, so he probably wants breakfast and needs to go for a walk.”

At the sound of the word ‘walk’ Jack’s entire body perks up, and he wags his stump of a tail as furiously as he’s able, making Faraday laugh. “Alright, buddy, we’ll get you sorted. You want to go out, huh?”

Jack, proving once again that he’s far more intelligent than people who aren’t Faraday tend to give him credit for, grunts an affirmative and paws pointedly at Faraday’s knee. “That’s what I thought. Okay, hang on just a second.”

“I can take him,” Vasquez says hurriedly. He holds up the thick leash he’s just fished out of the closet, which must have been what he was after while he was in there. “You shouldn’t over exert yourself right now.”

Faraday eyes him dubiously. It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate the offer, but he’ll be the first to admit, lovingly of course, that handling Jack is not always for the faint of heart. Emma maintains he’s part dog/part demon, and Goody and Billy still won’t let him in their house after the incident with the cat. Not even Red and his legendary patience are up to the task all that often.

“Look,” he starts, but Vasquez cuts him off with a shake of his head.

“He’s good for me,” he says, like he’s admitting some kind of deep, dark secret instead of news that Faraday’s bound to take well. “I had him for a week not long ago when you went to visit your mother. We get along fine.”

Faraday’s eyebrows go up in surprise, and he glances back and forth between Vasquez and his dog. The last time he’d gone to see his Ma, he’s driven specifically so he could take Jack with him and not run the risk of having him do damage to either a kennel or whatever friend he left him with. The idea that he’d let Vasquez take him is unexpected to say the least. “If you’re sure,” he says finally, trailing off in surprise when the other man snaps his fingers and Jack goes happily galumphing over to him, wagging his tail with the ease of familiarity.

Vasquez twists Jack’s collar until he can get the metal ring where he wants it, and then clasps the leash into place, not seeming to mind the way the action sends Jack immediately straining for the front door. “Looks like he really has to go. Don’t worry, we won’t be gone long.”

Faraday gives him a small, two fingered wave as he exits the apartment, and then stands out of the crouch he’s been in as the door closes behind them. He glances around the empty living room once they’re gone, moving over to the couch and flopping down on it. “This is so fucking weird.”

He can’t get over the fact that there’s apparently an entire whom he lets into his space on a regular basis, so much so that Jack and his notorious dislike of anyone who isn’t Faraday has adapted to him, when he can’t even remember the man. Red had made it sound like they were all but attached at the hip, but Faraday can’t for the life of him picture this.

Thinking of Red reminds him of his friend’s suggestion from the night before, and he pulls his phone out. He stares at it blankly for a few seconds before thumbing the thing on and typing in his passcode. As the background screen comes to life, he’s startled to find himself looking at a picture of a number of people clustered around Emma and Matthew’s dining room table, Vasquez among them and sitting shoulder to shoulder with Faraday himself.

“Huh,” Faraday says thoughtfully. “Guess Red was right about there being pictures on here that might help fill in some of the blanks.”

Noting that there are a number of unopened text messages on the phone, he resolves to look at those later and instead focuses on pulling up the camera album app. Tapping his finger over it he discovers it’s been a while since he’s last cleared the thing out, nothing strange there, and that there are indeed a number of pictures with Vasquez in them dotting the roll. Some are of just the man himself – grinning at Faraday over the lip of a beer bottle, perched on a lawn chair outside Goody and Billy’s pool, even one where he’s cheerfully flipping Faraday off as he reclines back in a hammock – and numerous others where he’s surrounded by friends and Faraday alike.

Faraday’s stopped on a photo of old Jack Horne beaming with his arms around the two of them, all three men squished together as he’d extended his arm to take the shot, when he hears the sound of the door opening. Not bothering to look up, he concentrates on what he’s doing, twisting the phone back and forth while he tries to figure something out.

“Joshua?” Vasquez asks worriedly over the noise of Jack heading for the kitchen to paw at his food bowls, and it’s only then that Faraday turns to look at him.

“How fucking tall are you?” He asks, genuinely curious. “I think you might even have an inch or two on Horne.”

“6’4,” is the reply, and Faraday nods because he believes it.

“Sounds about right,” he decides as he returns to scrolling through pictures.

“What are you doing?” Vasquez asks.

“I’m taking Red’s advice and going through all the stuff on my phone to see if it triggers anything,” Faraday replies. He stops and squints at a picture he’s going to guess is from Halloween, but who knows? “You make a hot woman.”

“That was your idea,” Vasquez informs him, and when Faraday looks up his cheeks are tinged faintly pink. “Well, it was.”

“It became a collaboration the moment you went along with it,” Faraday says. He may not remember the event in question, but that much he’s certain of.

Vasquez gives him another of those almost smiles before wandering into the kitchen. “Jack still needs breakfast,” he says over his shoulder. “I’ll take care of him while you … keep doing whatever it is you’re doing.”

“I’m getting to know you,” Faraday shouts after him, but he gets no response. Settling back down, he returns his attention to his phone. “It’s all about familiarizing myself with what’s missing. That’s something the doctor said might help, so that’s what I’m doing.”

Closing out of the photo albums, he brings up his text messages and scrolls through until he finds the running chat with Vasquez. It takes him a bit because instead of under his actual name he’s listed as ‘Long and lean light of my life’, but Faraday doesn’t read anything into this. Sam’s been forever listed as ‘I shouldn’t but probably still would’, Emma is ‘Red heads have more fun, and Billy and Goody have respectively been known as ‘Terrifying Husband’ and ‘Dearly Beloved of Terrifying Husband’ for as long as Faraday’s known them. In the grand scheme of things, Vasquez’s title is downright normal.

The last couple of texts were sent after Faraday’s accident, and largely run along the lines of ‘are you okay’ and ‘I heard there was an accident, I’m coming now’. Before that there’s some stuff about making plans for the weekend, which Faraday guesses aren’t happening anymore, and further up a whole slew of back and forth messages that indicate the two of them talk a lot. Like a lot a lot. Almost alarmingly a lot.

Unfortunately, none of what Faraday’s finding does anything to jog his memory. There’s all kinds of proof that they know each other and know each other well, but nothing that gives Faraday a little lightbulb moment where he sits up and says, ‘Ah hah, now I remember you, where’s the fifty bucks you owe me?’ or something of a similar nature. Groaning, he turns off the phone and drops it onto his stomach, wishing that had done anything useful.

“Are you alright?”

Faraday looks up to find that Vasquez has remerged from the kitchen, and is now looking down at him with a kind of intensity he finds frankly unnerving. Although, all things being equal, this is probably no walk in the park for Vasquez either. Judging by the pictures he’d seen, Faraday had been right to think Vasquez was a man more likely to have a smile on his face than a snarl, but he’s been nothing but slumped shoulders and hangdog expressions for the past twenty four hours, indicating he’s not taking the whole mess well himself.

“I’m just – I don’t know,” Faraday starts after he’s left Vasquez waiting for an answer for longer than seems fair. “I know that I know you, I’ve got all the proof I need right here, but at the same time I don’t know that I know you. You know?”

“No.” Vasquez says simply, and Faraday can’t help but huff out a laugh.

“Very funny,” he says, scrubbing tiredly at his eyes with one hand. “This is so stupid. Who hits their head and forgets only one person, and why you? Why couldn’t I forget my old man or that jackass who likes to steal my parking space because it’s easier to get into than his own? What the hell made me forget you?”

“The previously mentioned hit to the head,” Vasquez supplies, shrugging when Faraday glares at him. “Well, you did ask.”

“Suppose that’s true,” Faraday admits. He taps a finger thoughtfully against his chin, once again thinking back on the doctor’s instructions from earlier. “Doc said one of the best things to help with selective amnesia is familiar surroundings. You heard that, right?” A glance up at Vasquez earns him a nod of agreement, so he soldiers on. “Okay then, so that means the best thing to do is keep hanging out. The two of us, I mean. If I’ve got to familiarize myself with what’s missing then that’s you.”

“I’m not overly sure that’s a medically sound opinion,” Vasquez says dubiously, but Faraday waves him off with an errant hand.

“Have you got a better idea?” He asks, and when Vasquez shakes his head no, he nods decisively. “I didn’t think so. Okay, good, that’s what we’re going to do. If we’re together as often as Red and my phone make it seem we’re just going to keep that up and hope something comes of it.”

“If you say so,” Vasquez says. He still doesn’t sound convinced, but Faraday has a lifetime of experience in conning people into his way of seeing things, and he’s not above cheating to get what he wants. Vasquez has made it clear he doesn’t like the way Faraday’s forgotten him, so it’s in his best interests to get things sorted as well.

“You’ll see,” Faraday tells him loftily. “It’s a foolproof plan because even if my memory doesn’t come back we’ll still get to know each other anyway, so what’s wrong with that?”

“I already know you, guero,” Vasquez points out, but Faraday gives him a look and he sighs. “Fine. We’ll do it your way.”

Faraday grins smugly. “I knew you’d come around.”

*****

Emma shows up on his doorstep the next morning, and Faraday can’t help but do a double take. He’d been expecting Vasquez, who’s due to arrive sometime within the hour so that he and Faraday can take Jack to the nearby dog park. That’s something Faraday does any time he’s got a morning to himself because it’s likely to be less crowded at that time of day, and it’d seemed like a low-key activity to ease himself and Vasquez into.

“I have plans,” he says when Emma simply keeps staring at him shrewdly.

“I know you have plans,” she says in that blunt way of hers. Not for the first time Faraday wonders how Matthew has any backbone left after ten years spent at her side. “Vasquez told me about them.”

“Okay?” Faraday doesn’t know why she’s looking at him like he’s done something wrong, but he’s more than man enough to admit it’s making him nervous. “Should I not have?”

She snorts and pushes past him into the apartment. “Where’s the hell beast?”

Jack,” Faraday says staunchly, “is dozing on my bed because we’re not leaving for a while and he deserves his beauty sleep.”

“There’s no amount of sleep in the world that could make that dog beautiful,” Emma says, and Faraday feels himself gearing up to defend Jack’s honour the same way he does anytime Emma’s mean to him, but then her expression takes on a gentle cast and he realizes she’s messing with him.

“I hate it when you do that,” he mutters.

“I know,” she says easily. “Now, your satanic dog aside, how are you feeling?”

Faraday shrugs. “Fine,” he says, and means it. Even his headache from the past couple days is gone. If it weren’t for the fact that no amount of rummaging around in his brain seems to make him able to remember Vasquez, he’d insist he was the pinnacle of health, which is impressive to say the least given the fall he’d taken. “Pain free and already bored of the fact that I’m not allowed to go back to work for a week.”

“What about … the other thing?” She asks. Although Red and Vasquez are the only friends he’s physically seen since he’d woken up in the hospital, the rest of their inner circle has been fully briefed on the situation and have all been in touch via some method of communication or other. Even Horne had braved the wonders of modern technology for once and sent him a quick get well text.

“If you mean has the Mexican shaped hole in my memory resolved itself then no,” Faraday tells her. “We’re hanging out soon to see if that’ll knock something loose.”

“Right,” Emma says. She perches lightly on one of the couch cushions the same way she always does on the rare occasions she stops by for a visit, like she’s half afraid if she leans all the way back the large piece of furniture will swallow her whole. It’s a quirk Faraday’s never understood. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“Am I sure – well, I mean, not one hundred percent, I guess, but it’s the best one I’ve got.” Faraday cocks his head at her, wondering where she’s going with this. “Why are you making the face you do whenever you think I’m about to do something stupid?”

“That’s just the face I make any time I look at you,” she assures him, rolling her eyes when Faraday makes a disappointed noise. “Don’t pout, Josh. It does nothing for you.”

“Emma, why are you here?” Faraday asks, deciding enough is enough. He’s no good at beating around the bush at the best of times, which these most definitely aren’t. “It’s the middle of the morning on a Sunday, don’t you have something domestically disgusting that you’d rather be doing with Matthew?”

“Of course I do,” she replies, “and I’m going to return to it very shortly, which is why he’s waiting for me outside in the car. However, you’ve got a head injury, and I’m concerned about how you’re handling it.”

“So you decided to check in on me?” Faraday hazards a guess.

She nods. “Pretty much.”

He groans. “Wonderful. Look, as much as I appreciate the thought, please go away. I don’t need a babysitter, and I don’t need whatever else you’ve got planned. The doctor said the best thing to do is just carry on with my normal routine and hope things come back on their own, so that’s what I’m doing.”

Emma gives him a long look, but whatever she might see in him she obviously determines isn’t worth commenting on. Instead, she huffs out a sigh and gets to her feet. “Alright, I guess in the long run that’s not the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. On the other hand, I’d like to know what you’re going to do if it doesn’t work.”

“Right now I’m thinking I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. If I come to it, which I very well may not.” Faraday tells her. “Now, you go and do whatever it is you have planned for today that doesn’t involve barging in here and yammering at me.”

Her gaze still firmly locked upon him, Emma lets her eyes roam up and down his body, clearly considering whether or not leaving is the best thing for her to do. It’s only after Faraday gives her his best stink eye, one that admittedly fails in comparison to her own, that she finally relents. “Okay, but I want you to promise to call me if something happens, even if it’s a good something. We’re all worried about you.”

Since he’d already known that – he and Emma do not have the kind of friendship where they drop in on each other unannounced in the morning of their days off, after all – Faraday holds back any scathing comments he might make. He appreciates what she’s doing; he just doesn’t think he needs it when he feels fine, memory black hole aside. Nevertheless, he promises to do as she’s asked, and then hustles her out the door so he can wait for Vasquez in peace. This is going to be weird enough without Emma Cullen hovering around them like some kind of misguided chaperone.

*****

Vasquez shows up maybe fifteen minutes after Emma’s left, dressed down in a washed out grey t-shirt and jeans that are fraying at the knee. Faraday distantly notes that he’s still wearing the same medallion he’d had on in the hospital, and then tears his gaze away because if not he’s going to do something embarrassing, like start drooling. He can’t believe he hangs out with this guy on a regular basis and can’t remember it.

Distracting himself by poking around for Jack’s leash, he waves Vasquez inside and tells him to sit wherever he likes.

“I’m good,” Vasquez assures him, and when Faraday shoots a quick glance over at him, he shrugs. “We’re leaving soon. I can stand until then.”

“Right. Fine, whatever.” Now legitimately caught up in his search for the leash, he could have sworn he’d put it back on its hook in the closet earlier, Faraday leans down to look at the floor on the off chance it’s fallen down like it sometimes does. He spots it looped over a pile of mismatched shoes and picks it up with a triumphant noise.

“Got it,” he says, turning around to find that Jack’s discovered Vasquez’s presence and is now happily dancing around him like an idiot. “For fuck’s sake, dog, have some dignity.”

Vasquez laughs and crouches down to scratch vigorously at Jack’s ears, not seeming to mind when the dog chooses to take this as permission to lick his face. “It’s no problem, Joshua. Jack and I are good friends.”

“I can see that,” Faraday replies, “but you’re teaching him bad habits, letting him slobber all over you like that. Jack, knock it off. He doesn’t need a bath, and if he did, he certainly wouldn’t want it from you. Act like you’ve seen him before.”

Jack listens to Faraday about as well as he ever does, which is to say not very. Unless it’s an emergency, Jack has a noted tendency to just do his own thing until he’s physically forced to do otherwise. Fully aware of this, Faraday gets the leash hooked to his collar and tugs him back. “Come on, buddy. If it helps, we’re taking him with us.”

Laughing, Vasquez straightens up out of his crouch. He rubs at his face with the back of his arm, doing his best to do away with some of the damage Jack had done, before giving Faraday a grin. “Did you want to drive to the park? It’d be faster, and less strenuous on you.”

“My car’s still at work,” Faraday admits. “Dr. Gale said no driving for a bit, and I haven’t been able to send someone to get it for me. Sam knows it’s there, even told me he’d take care of the problem. He just hasn’t had time yet.”

“So we take my car,” Vasquez suggests. “I didn’t walk over here, guero. I live too far away for that.”

Faraday eyes him dubiously. “Jack’s not always at his best in the car …” he says slowly, and Vasquez surprises him by rolling his eyes.

“Trust me, I know. I already threw his blanket over the backseat, and if he tries to climb up front again, you get to be the one to hold him back. What do you say?” He asks, trailing off with an expectant look on his face.

Faraday, who’s still a little thrown by Vasquez’s use of the phrase ‘his blanket’, takes a second to think it over. Finally he determines that if Vasquez is willing to run the risk of Jack tearing into his upholstery then that’s fine with him, he doesn’t much feel like walking as far as the park if he doesn’t have to. “Okay,” he says. “Let’s do it.”

“Bueno,” Vasquez replies, smiling slightly. “Come on then, let’s go.”

Aside from momentarily balking about getting in the car at all, Jack is surprisingly well behaved on the drive over. He only tries once, maybe twice to get into the front with them, and otherwise lounges about contentedly on the red wool blanket Vasquez had previously laid out for him.

Watching him sitting back with his tongue lolling happily out of his mouth, a thought occurs to Faraday. “Do we do this often? Take him places, I mean.”

“Eh, sometimes.” Vasquez replies, flicking on his turn signal as they approach the street they want. “We take him to the park on occasion, a couple of times to the beach, and I drove with him when he was staying with me. He’s a good dog. Good company.”

“I know that,” Faraday says primly. “It’s everyone else who doesn’t.”

“That’s because it’s everyone else whose personal belongings he has a tendency to eat,” Vasquez says with a laugh. “I don’t think Goodnight has ever forgiven him for the loss of those shoes.”

“I told him to put anything he cared about out of reach,” Faraday insists, remembering the incident in question. “You weren’t there for that. It was years ago.”

“No,” Vasquez agrees, “but I’ve heard about it from plenty of sources. You and Goodnight tell two very different versions of the story.”

“Well, yeah, but mine’s the right one.” Faraday stresses.

“Mhm.” Vasquez hums noncommittally but otherwise doesn’t comment. “We’re here,” he says instead, pulling up into the first available spot. Unbuckling his seatbelt, he twists back around before he gets out of the car. “There’s a Frisbee in the glove compartment if you want to bring it with us.”

“Uh, sure.” Doing as instructed, Faraday pops the comportment open and removes the blue piece of plastic as soon as he spots it. He wonders if he should have known it was in there, but decides not to ask. Vasquez is pretty at ease right now, there’s no need to be bringing back his hangdog expression by reminding him of the situation.

Jack lets out a delighted bark once he’s set free from the confines of the car. Because there’s only two other vehicles in the parking lot – a jeep with the top down and a minivan that’s definitely been in at least one fender bender – Faraday lets him off the leash right away. The park’s one where the dogs are allowed to run free and it’s huge to boot. They should be able to avoid anyone who finds Jack’s size intimidating.

Vasquez laughs as he draws up alongside Faraday, watching Jack roll happily in the grass. “He is a ridiculous animal.”

“Screw you, he’s the best.” Faraday replies, but he says it without any heat. There’d been nothing rude in Vasquez’s tone, and when Faraday glances over at him, he’s watching Jack with a fond smile.

They let Jack roam around for a bit, following him wherever he chooses to aimlessly wander, until Vasquez asks for the Frisbee Faraday’s still carrying. “He likes it,” he says when Faraday lets it go after a moment. “He and I do this often.”

Given that Jack, who in Faraday’s experience has never been much of one for toys, had come bolting over as soon as he’d noted that the disc was now in Vasquez’s hands instead of Faraday’s own, Faraday’s going to believe him on this one.

“Alright,” he says, but it’s a moot point. Vasquez has already sent the Frisbee skimming over the ground, Jack chasing after it and barking shrilly the whole time. “Huh.”

Vasquez turns out to be more than willing to let Jack tire himself out this way, so much so that he wanders off a bit for more room to throw, leaving Faraday standing a little behind him out of the way.

It’s while he’s still standing off to the side that Faraday feels a sudden pressure around his knee, and he looks down to discover he’s made a new friend. The dog currently nosing at him is young, probably not yet full grown, with the kind of markings that make him think she’s got some portion of collie in her somewhere. She wags her tail when he whistles at her, yipping happily when reaches out to pat the top of her head.

“And who do you belong to?” He asks. Looking around he notes that Jack and Vasquez have disappeared out of his line of sight, but there’s a well-built blond man he doesn’t know determinedly making his way towards him.

“Anna,” he groans as he approaches. “How many times do we have to talk about not bothering strangers? Sorry,” he says to Faraday as he come up, and the dog, Anna apparently, darts over to meet him. “She has absolutely no manners, I swear.”

Faraday shrugs, grinning lazily as he lets his gaze sweep up and down the man’s body. “S’okay,” he says easily, “I’m a big fan of dogs. She wasn’t bothering me.”

“Good,” the guy says. “I’m Eric, and this nuisance is Anna. She has no concept of personal space and thinks the whole world wants to be her best friend.”

“Well, she is awful cute,” Faraday replies. Not unlike her owner, he thinks. He briefly considers licking his lips, but figures that’d probably be a bit too much. “How old is she?” He asks because Eric has the look of a man who enjoys talking about his pets, and that’s always an easy in.

“Six months,” is the reply, and Faraday gives himself a mental pat on the back for figuring out Anna was still a pup. “With luck I’ll be able to train some better manners into her before she hits double digits.”

“Good luck,” Faraday tells him. “Mine’s been with me for a while now, and I’ve pretty much given him up for a lost cause.”

“Yeah?” Eric asks. Faraday doesn’t think he’s imagining the way the man is sizing him up as well. It’s maybe not as blatant as Faraday’s own once over had been, but it’s there all the same. “And where’s he?”

“That is a good question,” Faraday admits. He looks around and is pleased to find Vasquez has reappeared and is making his way over to them with Jack dogging his heels. Faraday points in the correct direction. “That one’s mine. The dog, obviously, not the guy.”

“Yeah?” Eric says again, and oh yeah, definitely not imagining his interest.

Faraday smiles. “Yeah,” he echoes. “He’s just my, uh, friend.”

Eric’s grin broadens, and Faraday’s about to ask him if he’s going any plans this evening – it’d be the first time he’d picked someone up in the dog park, but hardly the worst place he’s ever found a hook up – when Vasquez closes in and clears his throat. “I think Jack’s ready to call it a day, guero,” he says, his tone slightly scolding. “You probably should too.”

“I’m fine,” Faraday says airily. “Had a bit of an accident at work recently,” he adds for Eric’s benefit, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”

“That’s good to hear,” Eric starts only to be cut off when Vasquez hooks a hand around Faraday’s arm and begins physically steering him towards the spot where they’d left the car.

“It’s more serious than he’s making it sound,” he says snidely, not giving Faraday a chance to protest. “Head injury. He’s not supposed to do anything strenuous, probably shouldn’t even be out here right now. Hence why we are leaving. Come on, Joshua.”

“Seriously?” Faraday asks as Vasquez tugs him away. He can’t believe what’s happening, and glances down at where Jack’s trotting along beside them, Frisbee proudly held in his mouth, on the off chance he might find some commiseration from his dog. When he doesn’t, he focuses back on Vasquez. “I can’t believe you just did that. I’m fine!”

“You have a head injury,” Vasquez repeats, following this up with something too low for Faraday to catch.

“What was that?” He demands, but Vasquez just shakes his head, refusing to tell Faraday what he’d said. Faraday considers pressing the matter, but Eric and his adorable dog have already faded from sight, and there’s a certain tilt to Vasquez’s chin that makes Faraday think he’s going to regret it if he pushes.

Still, that doesn't mean he has to take this behaviour lying down. Pulling free of Vasquez's grip he pointedly puts a couple of feet worth of space between them while they keep walking towards the car. "Are you always this overbearing, or is it just because you think I need to be babied?"

Vasquez makes a face that Faraday doesn't currently know him well enough to read, and his shoulders sag, all of the fight going out of him as quickly as it had arrived. "Lo siento, querido," he says, sounding defeated, "I didn't mean anything by it."

Faraday, whose annoyance is starting to fade in the face of Vasquez's downtrodden expression, figures he may as well let it go. He should probably be flattered the man cares about him enough to worry about his health this much. Once again shortening the distance between them, he risks bumping Vasquez's shoulder with his own. "S'okay, buddy. Just try not to worry so much, I'm fine."

Vasquez's eyebrows are now located somewhere around his hairline, but if that's because of the shoulder bump, Faraday's insistence that he's fine, or something else entirely is anybody's guess. Eventually though, he sighs and nudges Faraday back. "Okay, guero. I'll try."

*****

The next day is Monday, and for once in his life Faraday is annoyed by the notion of not being able to go into work. Despite a rather wayward youth, he's calmed down a lot in recent years, and now holds a job where he only worries about working weekends if they're up against a deadline, which they aren't since Sam's latest building contract had just come into effect a couple of weeks prior.

Knowing full well he's in for a boring day, Faraday sleeps in as late as he's able, but he's still wide awake and out of bed by no later than ten in the morning. "This sucks," he tells Jack companionably over his coffee, but Jacks only response is to lift his head a fraction of a centimetre off his paws and yawn. "Thanks."

Red's already told him he's working a shift today, although he had offered to stop by once he was off, and he's far from the only one. Unlike Faraday, Billy and Sam are able to be on site today, Emma's off being a high profile lawyer as per usual, and Goody actually is on a deadline, with the first draft of his latest novel being due at the end of the month. Horne's away on vacation with his wife and grandkids, making his previous get well text all the more amazing, so unless Faraday feels like hanging out with Matthew, who he usually only associates with due to who he's married to, or possibly taking another stab at corrupting Teddy, Emma's alarmingly perky assistant, he's out of luck.

It belatedly occurs to him around lunch time that he could maybe try Vasquez, but then he remembers, oh right - teacher. His nine to five schedule is probably the most rigid of the lot. 

"Plus, he likely wants a break from me after the past few days," Faraday mutters while he's still considering whether or not to reach out to the man. He decides instead to send Red a text saying he should come over as soon as he gets off work and proceeds to settle in with an online poker game that will hopefully distract him for the time being.

Although he's not expecting it to work, this does the trick, and the next thing he knows, Faraday's forcibly dragged out of a stupor by the sound of someone knocking on his door. A quick glance at the screen clock tells him it's a little after three, and he figures it's probably Red having gotten off shift a little early.

This proves to be the case when he peers through the spyhole and sees his friend standing there, glaring pointedly at his watch. Grinning, Faraday opens the door and ushers him inside. "You," he says relieved, "are a life saver. I'm going out of my mind and it's only Monday."

Red sighs as he shuffles into the apartment, flipping the braid he'd started growing a couple of years ago over one shoulder as he bends down to unlace his boots. "Normally I'd tell you to call Vasquez if you were bored and let him deal with it, but that's not going to work in this instance."

"You don't say," Faraday says dryly. "Though, damn, I can't get over how much I apparently hang out with this guy. It's like having a boyfriend and none of the benefits. When do I even have time to get laid?"

Red straightens with a frown, wrinkling his nose disconcertingly. "Honestly, I try not to think about your sex life. I don't want to catch anything by proxy."

"Very funny," Faraday grumbles. "You want a beer?"

"Should you be drinking in your condition?" Red asks, and Faraday, who’s just removed two bottles from the fridge, considers beaning one of them at his head. He only resists because he's a nice person like that, and also he doesn’t want to clean up the resulting mess. 

"I'll do whatever I please," he says, carefully navigating around Jack's flopped over form as he comes into the living room. He offers Red a bottle and then sinks into his favourite armchair after he takes it. Cracking open his own beer; he raises it in a mocking salute.

"I figure that's got to be at least one upside to having all this free time on my hands - the ability to do whatever the hell I want." He waits until Red toasts him with his own bottle before taking a hearty swig. "At least tomorrow's Tuesday, and I can relax over at Dallas'."

Red gives him what feels like his millionth frown since Faraday's gotten hurt. "We do Dallas' on Wednesdays now," he says, referring to the pub they've been gathering at once a week every week for ages. "Tuesdays don't work for Vasquez because he volunteers at the children's library in the evenings."

Faraday blinks, trying to picture this. It's surprisingly easy. "Of course he fucking does. Why didn't I see that coming?"

"Because you have selective amnesia," Red says helpfully. "It's really weird how that works by the way. One minute you sound totally normal, and then the next you're missing something completely commonplace like that."

"It's not weird," Faraday growls, thankful that it's a bottle he's holding and not a can when his hand clenches without permission. "It fucking sucks. It's this constant nagging feeling that something's missing whenever I think about him, and I can't make it go away no matter how hard I try."

Red lowers his beer and gives him a look that Faraday's known him long enough to translate as concerned. "It'll come, Josh. Give it time."

"Easy for you to say," Faraday grunts. The good mood he'd developed in light of Red's arrival is quickly evaporating. "Put yourself in my friggin' shoes. I know you're the more mature one here, but I don't think you'd be handling this so great if it was you with the holes in your memory."

"Probably not," Red agrees, so calmly that Faraday deflates in the face of it. 

"Well, at least you're honest," he mutters, taking another sip of his beer. "I just - what if it never comes back?"

Red shrugs. "That's something I really wouldn't be concerned about. If he has to Vasquez will just let you get to know him all over again. He has some kind of inexplicable fondness for you. I've never understood it myself."

"Hey," Faraday protests. "You're my friend too!"

Red shrugs again, totally nonchalant. "Yeah, but that's because I figure it's only a matter of time before I murder one of the dumber customers at work, and I want you to be my alibi when it goes down. You're appropriately seedy like that."

"Well then," Faraday says, mollified in spite of himself. "At least you've got a decent reason."

In answer, Red grins at him over his beer.

*****

Tuesday passes much the same way Monday had. The only difference being that instead of Red showing up at his door, he winds up with Sam, Billy and Goody arriving all at once. Sam and Billy aren't exactly a surprise, there'd been some pointed texts sent his way during the afternoon, and they even bring him his car back which is a plus, but Goody, whose longstanding feud with Jack is well documented, doesn't usually set foot in Faraday's apartment if he can avoid it. Although he barricades his fancy looking boots in the hall closet, so maybe he's learning.

Faraday tells them all he appreciates their stopping by but that it’s not necessary, and gets three sets of matching unimpressed stares for his trouble. Even Goody, who can generally only manage to look stern for so long gives a decent go of it. Faraday winds up sitting with them for a couple of hours and is told he’s expected at Dallas’ the following evening, no excuses. They’re all going to be there.

“You’re still not driving yourself, though,” Sam says firmly. “We’ve all been given the rundown of what the doctor said at this point. Someone will come get you.”

“Is that someone going to be Mexican and taller than me?” Faraday asks. The three of them have spent the evening carefully skirting around the Vasquez sized issue in his life, but Faraday has a sneaking suspicion they all want to do what they can to kick his memory into gear as well.

Sam and Billy remain impossible to read, but Goody gives up the ghost as is normal. And the man wonders why people are concerned by his ability to keep things a secret.

“Someone needs to drive you, and Vasquez offered,” he says. “I hardly see what the problem is. Are you saying you don’t like the man?”

“I don’t like him or dislike him,” Faraday declares. “I don’t know him enough to feel one way or the other.”

“Yeah,” Billy says at this. “We need to fix that. Vasquez is definitely the one driving you tomorrow.”

It’s not that Faraday has a problem with that, on the whole Vasquez has so far proven to be an okay guy to hang out with, but the entire concept is weird and Faraday gets the sense that no matter what he does he’s going to wind up upsetting the other man somehow. It’s happened every time they’ve been in each other’s company so far, regardless of whether or not they were the only people present.

Still, Wednesday evening rolls around in what feels like the blink of an eye, and the next thing Faraday knows, Vasquez is standing at his front door with an expectant look on his face. Or possibly hopeful is a better way to classify it. Faraday doesn’t know, and he’s afraid to look too closely.

“You all set?” He asks as Vasquez steps inside. Faraday himself needs only to shrug into his coat. He’d finished getting ready far earlier than usual, having started ages ago because he was wound up and needed the distraction. “I’m good to go if you are.”

“Sí, I’m ready,” Vasquez replies. For a moment he looks like he’s waiting for something, but when whatever it is fails to appear, his shoulders sag minutely and he backs out of the doorway.

Not wanting to pry into that particular brand of weirdness, Faraday shoves Jack out of the way with one foot, and follows him out. Stopping only long enough to lock the door behind him, he ambles over to where Vasquez is waiting at the top of the stairwell, gesturing the other man on ahead of him. “Lead on, muchacho. Let’s get this show on the road.”

Vasquez’s back stiffens noticeably, enough that this time Faraday figures he probably shouldn’t let it pass by without comment. “I say something wrong there?”

His shoulders still hunched, putting Faraday in mind of Jack when he wants something he knows he can’t have, Vasquez shakes his head as he continues down the stairs without breaking stride. “Ah, no. You just – sometimes you call me that as a joke. It’s strange hearing you say it when you don’t have the context.”

“Huh.” Faraday takes the next few steps a little faster than necessary so he can draw even with Vasquez. “Maybe it’s a good sign? Potentially dormant memories coming to life and all that.”

“Your guess is as good as mine, guero,” Vasquez replies, but he doesn’t move on ahead again, so Faraday takes it as a win.

The two of them are the last of their usual crew to arrive at Dallas’, aside from Jack, who’s still away and therefore won’t be showing up at all tonight. They crowd into the booth the other six have commandeered, with Vasquez going first, taking the spot next to Matthew, and Faraday remaining on the outside, which is always a coveted space on nights like this. He winks at Red who’s sitting directly across from him, earning himself an eyeroll for his troubles.

Faraday doesn’t bother looking for the drinks menu. Unlike some of his more pressing issues, Dallas’ and its accompanying list of drinks are not things he’s forgotten in the wake of his accident. Hence why when their regular waitress walks up and pulls a pad of paper out of her apron pocket, he’s ready.

“Riiitaaa,” he drawls as her gaze falls on him. “Beautiful purveyor of booze and all around light of my life, how’s tricks? You finally going to cave and say yes to having dinner with me sometime?”

Several unexpected things happen at once. First and foremost, Rita’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise despite the fact that he hasn’t said anything outside the realm of their usual banter, and she draws back about a foot, looking confused. At the same time, Red’s face clouds over in a thunderous expression, someone, he thinks maybe Billy based on location kicks him sharply in the shin, and Vasquez makes a choking sound right next to him.

“What’d I say?” He yelps. It’s too cramped around the table for him to properly rub his aching leg the way he wants to, but that doesn’t stop him from staring around at everyone, wondering what the hell’s going on. “What’s the matter with all of you?”

No one springs forward to say anything helpful, at least not until Goody worms his way forward where he’s crammed in between Billy and Sam. “Um,” he starts eloquently. He cranes his neck to look up at the waitress who’s been largely responsible for catering to their band of reprobates for longer than Faraday can remember. “You’ll have to forgive Joshua, Rita, he suffered something of a head injury recently, and he’s still feeling the effects.”

“S’not a problem, Robicheaux,” Rita says, tapping her pen idly against the pad in her hand. “I’ve just gotten used to him behaving himself as of late, is all. He took me by surprise. Although,” she turns her attention back to Faraday, “just how badly did you hit your head? I’m seeing someone, and you know it.”

Faraday shrugs to cover up the uncomfortable feeling now sitting hot and heavy right in the middle of his shoulder blades. He hadn’t meant much with his flirtation, it was just something he did, almost by rote, but the reaction to it wasn’t one he’d seen coming, and he doesn’t understand why everyone’s making such a big deal out of normal behaviour for him.

Except, he thinks as he looks around the table and finds a series of distressed looks gracing the faces of his friends, maybe it’s not normal anymore. A quick glance at Vasquez, who as the only other person present who Faraday’s memories tended to be difficult around, reveals that he’s the only one not looking at him, choosing instead to stare fixedly at the scarred table top, his jaw clenched and the lines around his mouth tight.

“Right,” he says finally, “why don’t we backtrack a couple of minutes and forget I said anything? Even I can only handle putting my foot so far in my mouth until it becomes awkward. Can I get a beer Rita? Whatever you’ve got on tap’ll be fine.”

Clicking her pen, Rita gives him an affable nod as she scrawls the order at the top of her paper. The others quickly follow suit, and then she’s off, squeezing her way through the growing crowd as she goes to retrieve their drinks. Once she’s gone, Faraday takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.

“Well,” he says finally, swivelling around to face the rest of the crew as he plasters his most charming smile across his face. “Now that that’s over with, how’s everybody doing?”

*****

By some miracle, Faraday manages to avoid stepping on anyone else’s toes for the rest of the night. He spends most of his time knocking back the couple beers he’s able to get his hands on, while trading barbed comments with Red and occasionally Emma. All and all it’s a fairly regular evening by their crew’s standards, although he can’t help but notice that Vasquez is a veritable pillar of silence next to him, something that nobody else seems willing to comment on.

Faraday resolves to ignore Vasquez as best as he’s able, but this plan comes to an abrupt halt when he remembers the man is his ride home. He shoots a look over at Red as those of them who are left start getting ready to leave, but he earns himself a glare in return, like the younger man can tell Faraday’s going to try and con him out of a favour.

“No.” He says pre-emptively when Faraday sidles up to him to do just that. “You’re not even remotely on my way, and Vasquez already offered. Go with him.”

Faraday snorts harshly, fighting the urge to turn around and see if Vasquez is watching them. “The man’s barely said two words all night, and he wouldn’t even look at me no matter that we were sitting right next to each other the whole time. I don’t think he wants me going anywhere with him.”

“You don’t think period,” Red says bluntly. “Let Vasquez take you home.”

Grumbling, Faraday nevertheless does as he’s told. He knows better than to argue with Red when he’s got that look in his eye. Wandering back over to where Vasquez is pulling his coat on, he tries to get the other man’s attention. “Everything okay?” He asks when he finally manages to do so.

“Sí, why wouldn’t it be?” Vasquez asks. “You ready to go? I’m still driving you home, aren’t I?”

“Uh, yeah, sure. If you’re okay with it that is.” Faraday replies.

“Wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t, guero,” Vasquez tells him. “Come on, let’s get you home.”

Normally Faraday would be the first person to make a snide crack at a comment like this, but his heart’s simply not in it tonight. Instead, he hauls on his own coat, tugging it up over his shoulders as he follows Vasquez out the door. The man’s car is exactly where they’d left it, and Faraday waits not so patiently while Vasquez keys the passenger side door open before climbing inside.

They drive in silence until they’re getting reasonably close to Faraday’s apartment, at which point he decides he can no longer stand the absence of noise. “Did I –“ he starts off slowly, or stutters really. “Did I do something to upset you?”

“No,” Vasquez says so quickly that there’s no way in hell he’s not lying. Faraday doesn’t need to know anything about him to know that. “What makes you think so?”

It’s on the tip of Faraday’s tongue to call him out on it. The only thing that stops him is a certain tilt to Vasquez’s shoulders that makes him think he might seriously regret it if he pushes things too at this point. For whatever reason, Vasquez is obviously precariously balanced at the moment. Picking at him now doesn’t seem like a very good idea.

“No reason,” he says now. “You were just kinda quiet in the bar, you know?”

“Eh, long day is all,” Vasquez assures him, keeping his hands steady on the wheel as he guides the car onto Faraday’s street. “Work has been busy lately.”

“Right, yeah. All those kids you’ve got to deal with day in and day out,” Faraday says hollowly. “I don’t know how you do it, man. I couldn’t.”

Unexpectedly, Vasquez laughs. “You always say that, guero. Me, I think you’d be better at it than you’d like to admit. In my experience, children have a tendency to recognize their own.”

Faraday blinks, only belatedly realizing he’s been insulted, and surprisingly not minding it when he clues in. “You’re an asshole,” he says, completely without heat.

Vasquez hums noncommittally. “Yes, but I am an asshole who’s agreed to take you to that checkup of yours the day after tomorrow, so you should maybe be nice to me. Unless you want to ride with Goodnight. I think he was the only other one who was free.”

“Goodnight drives like a chimpanzee on a bad acid trip, and I’ve already got enough problems,” Faraday huffs. “I’ll stick with you, thanks.”

“I rather thought you might,” Vasquez says. He seems a little more relaxed now that it’s only the two of them, free from the confines of the bar and the watching eyes of their friends, or maybe that’s all in Faraday’s imagination and there was really nothing wrong with him this evening to begin with. As he’s already proven on multiple occasions, Faraday can’t read Vasquez for shit, at least not without his memories intact, anyway.

“What time should I expect you on Friday?” Faraday asks now, hoping to keep the conversation going until they’ve reached their destination. Or rather his destination, he supposes. It’s not as if Vasquez is going to be spending the night. “The appointment’s in the early afternoon. Won’t you have to take time off work?”

“In-service day, remember?” Vasquez says. “That means no students. Technically, I’m still supposed to be there all day long, but I talked to my boss and she allowed everything. I’ll be by in plenty of time to pick you up.”

“Right, thanks,” Faraday says, They’re pulling up to his building now, with Vasquez sliding up as close to the front door as he can get without actually driving over the curb. “And thanks for the ride too. I guess I’ll see you Friday.”

“Yes,” and that’s all Vasquez has to say on the matter.

*****

Thursday passes in a blur with all of Faraday’s friends too busy to do anything more than send him the odd text during the day. In the end it’s something of a relief because it gives him some much needed time to himself. On the other hand, it means he’s got nothing to distract him from his upcoming doctor’s appointment. As much as he’s hoping he’s going to walk into the hospital and be told they know what’s wrong with him and how to fix it, he’s honestly not expecting much.

By the time Friday’s rolled around, Faraday’s worked himself up into a proper lather about everything, to the point that he’s wandering anxiously around his apartment, unable to sit still while he waits for Vasquez to make an appearance. He’d contemplated knocking back some of the booze he has stashed away in the fridge, only deciding against it when he realized the doctor might send him off until he sobered up again because she wouldn’t be able to get him to answer her questions while drunk.

After he’s been forced to step over Jack’s prone form for what must be the eleventh time or more because the damn mutt’s planted himself directly in front of the path he’s been wearing in the carpet, Faraday’s relieved to say the least when a knock sounds at his door. Stepping over Jack for time number twelve, Faraday yanks the door open to find Vasquez standing there with his hand still raised to continue the banging he’d just been doing.

“Anxious to go?” He asks when Faraday stumbles past him without so much as a hello.

“That’s one way of putting it,” Faraday grumbles as he trots towards the stairwell. “I feel like I’m going out of my damned mind sitting around here all day with my thumb up my ass. I just want to get this over with.”

“I noticed,” Vasquez drawls, and there’s a note in his voice that makes Faraday turn around to look at him. When he does, Vasquez jerks a thumb back in the direction of his apartment. “You forgot to lock the door.”

Groaning, Faraday stalks back to remedy this problem. “I don’t know why I’m even surprised at this point. Forgetting shit seems to be the only thing I’m good at these days.”

Vasquez makes a concerned noise, catching Faraday by the arm as he finishes with the door and makes to move past him yet again, his grip surprisingly gentle for all that it unerringly ensures that Faraday’s not going anywhere until the other man decides to let him. “What’s wrong?” He asks softly.

Faraday sags, feeling suddenly dejected. “I don’t know. I just think this is going to be a huge waste of time. I don’t frigging remember you any more now than I did a week ago, so what good is going to the doctor going to do?”

“Well, for starters it will maybe make sure that nothing else is wrong with you,” Vasquez points out gently. “I don’t know about you, but I’ll sleep a little better if she can confirm that I’m the only problem you’re having.”

Faraday has a sneaking suspicion this is not, in fact, true, but they're almost to Vasquez's car now, so he keeps his mouth shut in favour of climbing inside and not yet again accidentally putting his foot in his mouth. Christ knows he's done that enough lately.

They get escorted to a waiting room located in the same wing of the hospital that Faraday had woken up in a week ago. Faraday sits down on the examination table that dominates the room, dangling his legs over the side and kicking his feet haphazardly while Vasquez paces around the room, putting him in mind of a caged animal.

"Hey, muchacho," Faraday says lightly, not liking the agitated posture Vasquez has developed, "you keep moving around like that, and the doc's gonna think she needs to examine you too. Why don't you sit down?"

Gesturing at the two available chairs for emphasis, Faraday sweeps his arm over the room, nodding pointedly when all Vasquez does is stare at him. "Sit, Vas," he says firmly.

A long moment passes, and then Vasquez does as instructed, folding his lanky frame into a seat that is frankly too small for him and shifting around in a likely futile bid to get comfortable. Eventually he gives up on this, holds still for maybe ten seconds, and then begins jiggling his right leg up and down, the agitation clearly back in full force.

"Vas," Faraday says in exasperation, huffing a breath out through his nose. "Would you quit it? You're making me nervous, and I don't need that shit right now."

That stops Vasquez in his tracks. His entire body locking up, the man freezes guiltily, and gives Faraday one of the most contrite looks he's ever seen. "Lo siento, querido," he begins haltingly. "I'm just ... I am not very good at waiting."

"You don't say," Faraday drawls, trying to infuse as much levity into his voice as possible in an attempt to make Vasquez relax. "The way you're acting, you'd think you were the one expecting to hear bad news from the doc."

Vasquez's expression dims so quickly Faraday winces. Apparently that wasn't the right thing to say. "Joshua, if it's bad news for you then it is bad news for me. Even ignoring the part where you don't remember who I am, I hate the thought of you being hurt or sick or anything of the kind."

Definitely the wrong thing to say, Faraday decides. Swallowing thickly, he's in the process of wracking his brain to figure out something, anything that might help Vasquez feel better, when salvation appears in the form of a slowly opening door and an orderly stepping inside.

It's all Faraday can do not to utter the words 'oh thank god' aloud, and he fixes the newcomer with a grin that's been known to scare off lesser men. "Hey there," he practically purrs, desperate for anything to focus on that isn't Vasquez and his plethora of wounded expressions. "Come here often?"

The orderly stares at Faraday for several long moments before he throws his head back and laughs. "Oh, you're a right piece of work, aren't you?" He asks, grinning widely. "Normally folks at least let me get all the way through the door before they start with this kind of stuff."

Faraday winks and follows this up with his best 'aw shucks' smile. "What can I say? I believe in getting right to the point. That a problem?"

"I'm working, friend," the orderly replies with a grin of his own, "but you're pretty enough I'll allow this to continue. What's your next move?"

"Well, sweetheart," Faraday starts to say, but the rest of the sentence is cut off by the screeching sound Vasquez's chair makes as he bolts up right and gets jerkily to his feet.

"I have to go," he says hurriedly, refusing to meet the eyes of anyone else in the room. He flashes a totally unconvincing smile when Faraday gapes at him. "It's just ... just hospitals, you know? I'm not very good with them. I'll wait in the car."

"This could take a while," the orderly says dubiously before Faraday gets the chance. "We're talking a couple hours minimum. Don’t you think you'll be more comfortable in here?"

"Eh, it's fine," Vasquez gives a thumbs up that looks totally incongruous for him, his weak smile not coming close to reaching his eyes as he backs out of the room. "You know where to find me if you need me," he says, and then he's gone, leaving Faraday and the orderly staring at the empty space he'd previously occupied.

"...okay." The orderly says flatly. He turns around to Faraday. "He always like that?"

Still staring at the spot where Vasquez is supposed to be, an unpleasant feeling unfurling in his stomach, Faraday sighs. "I wish I knew."

*****

As predicted, Faraday spends the next couple of hours being poked, prodded, and frowned at by the same doctor he'd seen the week before. She makes noises about how his obvious injuries appear to be healing quite well, but still has no explanation for the Vasquez-shaped hole in his brain. None of which helps the sinking feeling in the pit of Faraday's stomach.

Disappointed and trying his damnedest not to show it, Faraday thanks her for her time, and then trudges towards the nearest elevator that'll take him to Vasquez. The orderly from earlier has long since vanished, taking with him what little distraction Faraday had to keep his mind off his current troubles.

The elevator feels like it takes longer than it should to get him where he needs to go, but eventually it dings cheerily at him, announcing his arrival at his intended destination. Sighing, he steps out into the underground parking garage, making his way over to Vasquez's car.

He finds it exactly where he remembers it being, and the man himself is sitting inside with his earbuds in and his forehead resting on the top of the steering wheel. Faraday thinks he might be tapping his fingers along to the beat of whatever he's listening to, but he's too hunched over for him to be sure.

Hoping his doing so won't startle Vasquez too badly, Faraday raps his knuckles on the car window, wincing when Vasquez jumps despite his best intentions. He sees Vasquez fumble with something in his lap, his phone mostly likely given that the earbuds have to be plugged in somewhere, and then he presses a button on the left hand side of the car, causing the window to roll down.

"All good?" He asks, and Faraday doesn't have to know anything to tell that he’s upset. The brittle note in his voice makes it all too obvious, as does the painfully fake smile plastered across his face.

Still, Faraday's not going to push if he can avoid it, so he decides to take the question at face value. "As good as can be expected," he says with a shrug. "You mind letting me in?"

"No, of course not." Vasquez says. He presses another button, which lets out a clicking sound, signifying that the doors are now unlocked. "Come on, get in and I'll make sure you're home in no time."

Faraday bites back an urge to sigh. "Don't really want to go home," he grumbles as he opens the door across from Vasquez and slides into his seat. "Nothing's changing. Nothing's getting better, so what's the fucking point?"

"Doc says I'm good to go back to work on Monday," he continues on without giving Vasquez a chance to speak as the car sputters to life around them. "She says there's no obvious signs of trauma anywhere, and she has no idea why I've forgotten you, or," he adds viciously because the weight of everything suddenly feels like it's too much, "if I'll ever get back the memories I used to have. She says - "

"Joshua."

Faraday freezes, his gaze pulled unconsciously to the side at the pleading tone in his Vasquez's voice. When he looks over he finds him staring straight ahead, his knuckles white where they're clenched around the steering while. He won't meet Faraday's eye even after he deliberately clears his throat several time to get his attention.

Fuck it, Faraday thinks, deciding enough is enough and he can't handle plaything games right now. He's been through enough for one day, thank you very much.

"You know," he says, doing his best to sound relaxed but pretty sure he's failing. "Usually when someone lets you cut them off mid-sentence that's a sign to keep talking. What is it you want to say, big guy?"

Vasquez won't look at him, and keeps right on not looking at him until they're forced to stop due to a red light, at which point Faraday makes use of their resting position and pokes him in the shoulder. Hard. "Come on, Vas. Out with it."

The way Vasquez flinches at this is unwelcome, if not entirely unexpected. Determined to get somewhere with him, however, although where he hasn't the faintest fucking idea, Faraday jabs him again. "Vasquez," he snaps. "Alejandro."

That gets Vasquez's attention, but it does little to make Faraday feel any better. Huge sad eyes, the kind normally found on SPCA commercials and accompanied by a Sarah McLachlan soundtrack bore into him, making Faraday feel guilty and somehow small at the same time. He hates it.

"I don't - " Vasquez starts, voice thick like he's trying to hold back a whole pile of hurt, "I don't think I can keep doing this. It's too much."

"I know that's not fair," he adds in a rush, tearing his gaze away from Faraday and focusing back on the road as traffic starts to move. "I know you're the one who's sick, not me, and I know you didn't do this on purpose, but - but what's the point? You don't know me, and,” he adds sadly, “sometimes you don't much seem like you want to."

"Hey," Faraday cuts in. He raises his hand, fully intending to bring it down on Vasquez's shoulder with the idea of offering him some kind of comfort, but the way Vasquez imperceptibly pulls back before he can make contact makes him stop. "Dude, it's going to be alright. I'll just relearn you or whatever."

Vasquez turns back to him. "You can't even remember what you usually call me," he says, and now he just sounds tired. "If you don't have that, what makes you think you'll pick up the rest?"

"Well, I'll just - just have people tell me like they've been doing all week," Faraday decides. Part of him wishes he'd never started this conversation what with how poorly Vasquez is taking it. "I've seen photos, I know we're friends. We can get that back."

Vasquez makes a scoffing sound. "Then tell me what you usually call me. Tell me how we met. Tell me what the last thing you said to me before your accident was. Tell me anything you know about me that you haven't had to be told by somebody else."

"I - Vasquez, you know I can't," Faraday says. He doesn't know how things have gotten so turned around, but suddenly he's the one trying to soothe the upset away. He just wishes he had any clue of how to do that.

"Yes," Vasquez says flatly. "I know you can't, which is why I think I need to step away for a little while." He's turned away again, and Faraday feels a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, one that signifies he's gloriously fucked everything up. "You'll be able to reach me if you need me, but I think it will help."

"It's not going to help jack shit," Faraday tells him. "The doc said -"

"I don't care," Vasquez says, snapping at Faraday for possibly the first time since he'd woken up with a head injury. "This is what I am saying. All I'm asking you to do is respect my choice. Can you at least do that much?"

It's the wrong decision. Faraday might not know what the right thing to do here is, but he knows for certain this isn't it. On the other hand, he's not the only person involved in this mess, and he's not the only one hurting. One look at Vasquez is enough to make that as obvious as can be. He owes it to the man to let him have a say in how they move forward.

"Alright," he says hollowly, only speaking after a long moment has passed. "If that's what you want."

"It is," Vasquez says, and while Faraday may not believe him, nor is he willing to call him out on it either. "Thank you."

*****

Faraday goes to bed much earlier than usual, and spends the entirety of the night tossing and turning and trying to figure out what he's done wrong. It's clear to him now that he's missing something vital to the context of his and Vasquez's relationship, but just what that is he can't put his finger on. Even worse, nobody else seems inclined to tell him, so he's going to have to do the dirty work himself.

Unfortunately, by the time the early dawn light is filtering in through the cracks in his bedroom curtains, he's come up with only one solution. If he can't pull the details out of his own head, then he's got no choice but to force them out of the one person who might - no matter how little said person wants to talk to him. He knows what he’d promised Vasquez only yesterday, but it’s not one he’s going to be able to keep.

The clock on his phone reads 5:47am when he yanks it off his bedside table, and it's Sunday, meaning no one is going to want to hear from him at this hour. If he were smart or nice or a whole host of other things that he most decidedly isn't, he'd leave well enough alone for a few more hours. However, he knows himself well enough to be aware that's not going to happen, which is why he's now scrolling through his list of contacts and considering who out of all the people that'll have the information he needs will be the one least likely to murder him for calling this early in the morning.

In the end he settles on Red, and hopes against hope he's not wrong. The phone rings maybe half a dozen times, and then ...

"You had better be in the hospital again because if not I'm going to put you there myself."

Well, it wasn't exactly an auspicious beginning, but at least he'd actually picked up the phone. Faraday wouldn't put it past most of their friends to ignore him until a more reasonable hour rolled around. "I'm not in the hospital," he rushes to say, not wanting to keep Red here any longer than necessary. "I need Vasquez's address."

"At 6 o'clock in the morning on a Saturday?" Red deadpans.

"Yes." Faraday says, and he interjects as much seriousness as he possibly can into the single word.

Red goes quiet for long enough Faraday's half afraid he's either hung up or fallen back to sleep. "Fine," he says after what feels like a year has passed, "but don't start whining when this ends badly."

Faraday shrugs even though Red can't see him. "There's a fifty fifty chance he's not even going to let me in the building. Who knows what'll happen?"

"Oh for fuck's sake," Red says. Continuing on before Faraday can ask what his problem is, he adds, "I'm going to regret telling you this, but you have a key to his apartment. It's the small silver one next to the one for your mailbox."

Faraday freezes. He thinks back to the day he'd noticed the key who’s origin he couldn’t place, and silently calls himself seven kinds of stupid for not putting two and two together when he hadn't recognized it. "Red," he says, his grip on his phone tightening. "Address. Now."

Red sighs but nevertheless proceeds to rattle off an address for an area of town that Faraday's vaguely familiar with. He hangs up as soon as he's done, and Faraday's already out of bed and tugging yesterday's clothes on before he stops to think. Sparing a minute to let Jack out for the world's quickest walk, he's out and in his recently returned car before all of fifteen minutes have passed. 

Vasquez's apartment complex when he pulls up looks no more familiar than the man himself, but Faraday doesn't let that stop him. He's parked, possibly illegally he doesn't care, and heading for the lobby between one blink and the next. This place is nicer than his own, with a real security person manning the front desk and everything, but the woman just nods at him as he goes by, recognition writ large on her face.

Faraday's worked himself into a hell of a lather by the time he reaches Vasquez's unit. The more he thinks about it, the more he's positive things have been hidden from him over the past week, and he can't even begin to describe how done with it all he is. Not caring about the effect it's going to have on Vasquez's neighbours, he hammers on the door in front of him, refusing to stop once he hears the telltale sounds of someone shuffling around inside.

"I know you're in there, Vasquez," he barks. "Either open the damn door, or I'm coming in after you."

The door remains resolutely shut, so Faraday suits action to words and jams his key in the lock, twisting it viciously until he hears the bolt click back and can shove it open. He takes a second to note that the apartment is a lot nicer than his own, before he slams the door shut and glares over at where Vasquez is standing in the entrance way with a hopeful look on his face.

"You used your key," he says, voice hushed, and it takes Faraday a moment to clue in to why he might think that's a big deal.

"I didn't remember it was mine," he grunts. "Red told me."

Vasquez's expression crumples. "Oh," he says softly, the hope fading from his eyes. "I see."

Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't, Faraday can't say for certain. All he knows is that there's more to them than he's been lead to believe, and he can't believe he's missed it all this time. He stabs a finger in Vasquez's direction. "Enough with the games. What are we to each other?"

Vasquez drops his gaze to the floor. His feet are bare, Faraday notices, and all he's wearing is a pair of soft looking pajama bottoms, as well as a hoody he'd probably only thrown on for decency's sake while his home was being invaded. Add it all together with his slumped shoulders and defeated look, and he's one hell of a depressed picture.

"Vasquez," Faraday tries again, softer this time. "Come on, man. I am not an idiot, you know, and you’re more obvious than I bet you like to think. Everyone keeps telling me how we’re such good friends, practically attached at the hip, but it's more than that, isn't it?"

Still not looking up, Vasquez shrugs. "Can't be more if you don't remember me," he mumbles.

Which is as good an admission as any, and Faraday tells him so. Although, admittedly it doesn't get him any further ahead. All he gets in response is a little hitching noise as Vasquez sucks in a pained breath and continues resolutely avoiding his gaze. 

"Alright, enough of this." Stalking forward, Faraday grabs the other man's arms and shakes him a little. "Come on and look at me, would you? This isn't fair."

"Fair?" Vasquez repeats incredulously. He finally meets Faraday's eyes and the misery on his face is such that Faraday almost wishes he hadn't. "Nothing about this is fair! You said - and then we were supposed to - and then you forgot me! You made me a promise and then you broke it."

"Vasquez, buddy, remember how I don't know what you're talking about?" Holding Vasquez in place when he tries to squirm away, Faraday feels a sudden headache coming on, not unlike the one he'd woken up with in the hospital that first night. It's honestly the last thing he needs at this time, and he tries to force it away through sheer force of will and focus on more important issues. 

"You're making me play without a full deck," he says, stomping down on the pain in his head and telling it that it can just fuck right off and come back later. "You've got all the cards, all the facts, and you won't fucking share! You're wandering around pouting at me every time I open my mouth, but you never say what's bothering you. How am I supposed to know how to act around you when you won't just goddamned tell me?"

"I shouldn't have to tell you!" The words are raw and ragged, probably more open with him than Vasquez has been since the start of this mess, but in the end they do little to help. "You're supposed to know. You're supposed to know me!"

Yanking his arms out of Faraday's grasp, Vasquez pulls back to wrap his hands around his torso, looking for all the world like he's locking himself down and refusing to come out again. "You should go," he says dully; once again back to not looking at Faraday. "I need you to go."

"Yeah," Faraday says slowly, less because he agrees and more because he's having trouble focusing. There's something niggling at the back of his brain, something just out of reach, and while he doesn't know what it is, he's positive it's important.

"Fuck," he says, rubbing at his temples as they pick up the throb that had started in the base of his skull. He sways a little at the sudden onset of pain. "This is - what the fuck? Ow."

"Joshua?" Vasquez's tone is worried, and in spite of the tension between them he takes a step towards Faraday, one hand slightly extended as if he can't keep from reaching out to touch. "What's wrong?"

"Headache." Faraday grunts, wincing as fresh waves of pain wash over him almost, but not quite overwhelming the niggling feeling from before. "Just came out of nowhere."

Vasquez makes an alarmed sound and closes the distance between them, his hands coming up to frame Faraday's face without conscious thought. "We need to get you to a doctor. This could be a result of the accident."

For once in his life, Faraday's in agreement with the idea that he might need help, but before he can say anything, Vasquez's hands are on him and everything changes. Suddenly he's not standing in the middle of Vasquez's apartment on a bright Saturday morning, but instead he’s in a dimly lit bar that reeks of old booze and cigarette smoke.

Big hands resting comfortably around his neck, shaking him gently, warm and soft in their actions. A laugh he doesn't think he'll ever get tired of hearing echoing in his ears. Fabric catching in his fingers where he's reached out to drag his companion in close by the front of his shirt. Ale’s smile beaming down on him from scant inches away.

"Guero. Joshua. No. Not tonight, not like this. You're drunk."

He's not; he's tipsy at best, having had only a couple of beers and a martini he'd knocked back on a dare. It'd tasted like strawberries but still not been enough to throw him off his game like Ale thinks it has. 

"I'm being serious," he insists, shaking Ale slightly and trying to drag him in closer at the same time. "This is stupid. We're being stupid. When are we going to stop dancing around each other?"

"How about when you're sober?" Ale suggests, and Faraday rolls his eyes. 

"M'not drunk," he says again, "but fine. If that's what you want. I'm gonna ask you again soon. Tomorrow night. You and me are coming back here and settling this all proper like. I'm not going to forget."

He punctuates this by smacking a kiss to Ale's cheek, earning himself a delighted laugh for his trouble. "Okay, guero,” Ale rumbles. “You can ask me tomorrow."

"I'm gonna," Faraday says decisively. "I won't forget. I promise."

"Oh shit," he says back in the present. "Oh fuck, Ale, why didn't you say something?"

"Joshua?" Ale - he hasn't been Vasquez to Faraday since all of two months after they'd met - pats frantically at his face. Although, unless he's run out and gotten a medical degree while Faraday wasn't looking, he's got no more of an idea of what's going on here than Faraday does. "Guero, what is it? What's wrong?"

"I made you a promise," Faraday recalls still caught up in the flood of memories rushing back. It’s enough to almost knock him off his feet. "Just like you said. I told you I wouldn't forget to ask, and then I pitched off a fucking beam all of twelve hours later and wound up forgetting everything."

Faraday scrubs a hand over his face, eventually staring at the man across from him - the man staring at him with the desperate hope in his eyes, even as he doesn't say anything. 

"Jesus fuck, I'm an idiot. And you," he adds, jabbing a finger in Ale's chest when it occurs to him that he's not the only one who let things go this far, "how come you didn't just fucking say something? You let me run around making a total ass out of myself all over the place when you could have saved us both a load of trouble by opening your damn mouth!"

Faraday pokes him again. "You ain't never been shy about telling me off before. What gives?"

He makes to continue prodding the broad chest in front of him, but Ale ruins this plan by catching Faraday’s hand between both of his own, effectively trapping it in place. "Joshua," he says insistently. "Cariño, do you know who I am?"

"Of course I know who you are, dumbass! You're the love of my goddamned life, probably." Except, oops, Ale isn't supposed to know that yet. Call him old fashioned, but Faraday figures he should maybe wait until after they've had their first date to drop that particular bomb. "Wait. Forget I said that last part."

"No lo haré," Ale says helpfully because he has a noted tendency to switch back to his mother tongue when he's excited. Or angry for that matter, but Faraday’s pretty sure this time it's due to excitement. "And you can't make me."

"Yeah, well," Faraday considers protesting, but what's the point. His feelings for Ale are an open secret among all their friends - which means every last one of those bastards is getting chewed out for not kicking his ass into gear either. Goddamned assholes, not having the common decency to remind him he’d stopped flirting with people he didn’t know going on six months ago because he’d finally decided to man up and go after what he wanted. 

"So," he says instead because dealing with the rest of their so called friends can wait and he’s got much more important things to do today. "I do believe there's something I'm supposed to ask you. Have dinner with me?"

Ale grins at him, wide and bright as the sun. "It's seven o'clock in the morning."

Faraday can't believe he's in love with this asshole. Even worse, he can't believe he ever forgot being in love with this asshole. How frigging badly had he hit his head? “Have a really early dinner with me?”

Ale’s grin turns into something more akin to a smile, delighted and fond all in one. Crowding into Faraday’s personal space, he moves him backwards until his shoulders hit the front door, and then brings his hands up to fully trap him in place. “I’ll have dinner with you, guero, breakfast and lunch too, but first there’s something I want.”

“Yeah?” Faraday asks deliberately playing dumb. “What’s that?”

Ale’s answer doesn’t involve words, and yet it tells him everything he needs to know.

*****

“I can’t believe you forgot Vasquez.”

Faraday, who as it happens is currently planted in the lap of the man in question with no intention of leaving anytime soon, looks over at Emma. She shakes her head sadly at him, like he’d deliberately gone out and gotten himself a case of selective amnesia for fun. “I didn’t do it on purpose,” he grumbles, leaning a little further into Ale’s warmth, and earning a quick pat on the arm for his troubles while Ale half pays attention to him and half listens to whatever Goody’s yammering on about on the other side of him. “Me, I can’t believe none of you fuckers thought to bring me up to speed as it was happening.”

Emma takes a pull from her beer, swatting at Matthew’s arm when he tries to steal a few chips out of the bowl she’s got balanced on her lap. The woman hoards junk food like a carnivore protecting her kills. “In our defence,” she says once she’s assured herself that her husband knows his place, “none of us knew you two had finally had some kind of moment prior to your little accident, and we were all told to try and let your memories come back naturally.”

Red pipes up from her other side. “We also didn’t realize you forgetting him would reset you to your factory settings of flirting with anything that moved.” 

Ale’s hand tightens noticeably where it’s now resting over Faraday’s hip, but he otherwise doesn’t react. Unperturbed, Faraday reaches over and knuckles him under the chin, chuckling when Ale turns around and bares his teeth at him. “That was my bad, sweetheart.”

Seemingly not caring that all their friends are right here to witness it, Ale leans forward and kisses him. “Just don’t do it again, guero, and we’ll call it even.”

“Got it,” Faraday agrees, chasing after Ale as he moves to pull back. “No more head injuries. It’s a deal.”