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Synchronized Swimming

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David gave Maddie a thumbs-up through the jammed passenger-side window and then opened her door. "Score."

"I can't believe you think ending up clinging to a balcony trellis is a favorable end to a stakeout." Her slingbacks squelched as she stood up and slammed the door to the rented sedan. "...and this is the second time in a month you've gotten me all wet."

David paused and when she looked at him, he pointed to his mouth.

Maddie offered a steely glare. "'Bite your tongue' is just an expression."

"Look, I didn't know about the vicious dogs either. Or what was under the balcony. But given the fact that we could've cracked our skulls open on the concrete, it's a good thing everybody we investigate has a pool." David watched as she plucked a handful of sodden, silky fabric at her thigh, twisted it, and wrung chlorine-scented water onto the parking-lot pavement. "Come on, before it rains."

"Like it matters now."

"Why do they call 'em Doberman Pinschers, anyway? Should be Doberman assbiters."

"Only, you weren't bitten," Maddie pointed out.

"Only because I threw my shoes at 'em."

The neon of the lighted sign buzzed loudly as they trudged towards the motel, and as Maddie glanced up, the "vacancies" sign blinked out and stayed that way. Thunder boomed in the distance and she tasted electricity in the air.

"Did the front desk clerk say anything about 'no shirt, no shoes, no service..."

"Told her I had bunions. And it helps that I don't care what people think." He shoved a piece of paper at her. "Here, save the receipt for expenses."

It read: Mr Smith and Ms Hayes. "Gee, thanks a lot."

"I suppose this would be a bad time to tell you they only had one room at the inn." At Maddie's noisy sigh, he lowered his tone to plaintive — "I could sleep huddled in the car..." before diving straight into woeful — "...shoeless, a thin, soaked jacket wadded under my weary head for a pillow, but you wouldn't want me to freeze to death, would ya?"

She gave him a look aimed at accomplishing just that.

"Brrrrr!" David affected an exaggerated, full-body shiver. "Look, toots. I'm exhausted and wet, you're wet and angry, it's about to pour and who knows how far it is to the next town?" He fished a key from his pocket and they paused at the threshold as the door to the room squeaked open. "I blame the writers."

Maddie switched on the light. "Wow. Premier accommodations. What is this, a..." she made air quotes "'Super' 8?"

"Nope."

"A... Motel 6?"

"Keep counting down. I believe this lovely and conveniently highway-adjacent sleeping establishment is known as a '4 Travel'", David said drily, locking the door behind them.

"I give it a two-point-four." Maddie looked balefully at the lone bed with a visible dip in its center. "So you must feel right at home."

"Five's usually my lower limit. Hey, no magic fingers. I demand a refund," David pouted. He took off his suit jacket in one motion and shut the loud, patterned curtains. The hooks on the rod made a deafening, nails-to-the-chalkboard skriiitch. Maddie winced as he fiddled with the heat controls on the unit below the window and when he turned it on, she would have sworn she saw a puff of dust emanate from the vents.

Maddie sniffed. "It smells like cats. Ablaze."

"You know it would be illegal to yell fire in a crowded Broadway theatre."

Maddie rubbed one toe against another, wincing at the squelch in her shoes — designer, ruined — and made for the rickety chair at the veneered desk, but David pulled the chair away before she could, and tucked the back under the doorknob. He gave the chair's apron a solid kick. "Security. An old trick taught to me at my mama's knee."

"How's that, if you wouldn't let her sit down, either?"

David took her arm and led her to the bed, then whipped the shiny quilted blue floral bedspread onto the floor with the flourish of a magician tearing a cloth away from a fully-set table. "Bedspread. They never wash 'em. Dirtiest thing in the room."

Maddie kicked off her slingbacks and sat.

"...next to the carpet."

She carefully slipped her feet back into the water-logged leather and stood, then headed for the bathroom. "I'm taking a hot shower."

"Don't touch anything!" David called behind her.

She shut the door and checked out the state of the bathtub. The enamel was chipped, but it didn't look too bad otherwise. She turned on the bath tap, which sputtered twice before the water rushed at full flow, and flicked the shower on. At least the water was deliciously hot. Maddie unzipped her damp skirt and stepped out of it, then inspected the material sadly before tucking it over the towel rod. She poked at a wilted shoulder pad in her jacket. "Calvin Klein," she moaned, then jumped at a knock on the door.

"Hey, Maddie?"

"Hey, what?"

"Gimme your underwear."

"What?"

"I'll put it on the heater to dry off."

"I'm not giving you my underwear, Addison."

"Okay. I guess you can sleep in wet underwear. Or no underwear. No skin off my shirt."

"Told you twice. It's nose. Skin off your nose." She quickly peeled off her underthings, wrapped a towel around her torso, opened the door a crack and handed them out.

"What is this, a slip?" David held it up in front of him and cocked his head.

"It's called a teddy. You've seen me in one before, to my eternal horror."

"Oh, right. Named for Teddy Roosevelt, huh? I think I read about these in his autobiography."

She shut the door. David knocked again. "Uh, could I have a towel, so I can dry my underwear off too? Or I could sleep au naturel."

"Au no-you-don't." Maddie's hand stole out, holding a thin, white towel. "Here." She turned the lock on the door, adjusted the spray in the shower and stepped in, tearing the paper from a tiny bar of soap with her teeth. "Pffft. Au naturel. Like he speaks French."

 

After a complicated doorway textile swap — with Maddie averting her eyes while David passed the towel in with her nearly-dry teddy and threatened vague revenge if she'd used up all of the hot water (she hadn't) — she surveyed the room. The sole chair was standing sentry as a door block, the carpet was, well... repulsive, and it was clear that they'd be sharing the sadly concave full-sized bed.

And it was freezing. She ignored David's admonitions about the scuzzy carpet; she was too tired to care, and checked out the radiator unit. Now, that was piping hot, but it didn't seem to be blowing any of the heat into the room, which explained the goosebumps.

The blanket and sheet passed her inspection and she slid beneath the covers and rested her still-damp hair on one of the pillows.

She'd zoned out, staring at the far wall when she realized David was in front of it, wearing white boxer shorts covered in bright yellow smiley faces. "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands."

Maddie pulled the sheet over her face with a groan.

"No? Too much? You know, you really should think about getting some clothes more appropriate for surveillance, Ms Hayes. Something in black, like a cat burglar would wear. Or something in black latex, like Catwoman would wear."

She gave him a sidelong look. "The last time we wore black we were spotted anyway. They shot at us!"

"Good point. We need urban camouflage. Or suburban camouflage. What's that like, pastels? A cable-knit sweater and golf pants?" David looked thoughtful. "Hey, at least the camera's waterproof; we just got water with our proof. Success is sweet." David pulled back the covers and slipped into bed. Maddie flinched as his bare leg slid against hers. "Hey, it's alright. You can touch me. I'm not poison oak."

"Ya got that right," Maddie's voice was muffled. "Poison oak is quiet."

And so was David. For a while.

 

"Hey. No singing."

"But-"

"No."

"But-"

"Okay. Know what? Go on. Sing."

"But... what?"

"Okay," Maddie said again, with a sigh. "You have to, you want to, you won't shut up and sleep until you do, so sing something already."

"I'm not actually an organ grinder's monkey, Maddie."

She groaned and untucked the bottom of the blanket with a kick as a flash of lightning illuminated the room.

"I mean, I can't just perform on command."

Maddie gritted her teeth. "I am not commanding you to do anything. You started to sing, and I. Just, never mind."

"You secretly want me to sing you to sleep. You just don't want to admit it."

She stifled another grumble and slid into the center of the sagging mattress, backing into David's chest. He oomphed.

She froze. "Is that a pitch pipe in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"

"Aw, I left it in my other pants."

Maddie propped herself up on one elbow and threw a glance over her shoulder as a bolt of lightning, even brighter this time, again illuminated the room. "Huh. How about that. You have other pants."

"Alright. Alright alright alright." He let out a lone, low breath, and Maddie felt the puff of warmth against her shoulder and settled back into her pillow. He hummed a few notes, slid an arm over her waist and pulling her closer, began to croon into her ear softly. "Flintstones, meet the Flintstones. They're a modern, stone-age family..."

"Seriously?" Maddie murmured. She could have, should have, shifted away, but there really wasn't a lot of room on the bed. Not really. And it was so cold.

"Well, I'm no Al Jarreau, but I can carry a tune in a bucket. Can you do the harmony from The Lion Sleeps Tonight? It's the same song."

Maddie yawned loudly.

"Near the village, the peaceful village... they're a page right out of history..."

 

The sift of light through the crack in the hideously-patterned aquamarine curtains was the next thing Maddie was aware of. The thing after that was David's arm still draped around her waist, and the third thing was that though the tip of her nose was freezing, he, at least, was warm. Very warm. Like her own personal sun. And she'd never admit it out loud, but Addison smelled good. Really, really good. She'd thought it was his cologne she sort of secretly didn't find completely horrible, but she guessed he smelled this way naturally. Interesting. She shut her eyes and tried to edge her nose beneath the top of the sheet without moving her head too much. If he woke up, he'd move, and she was just too comfortable. Plus, he'd probably talk.

"Mmm. Sleeping beauty stirs."

Too late, Maddie thought. She inhaled. "You know, that gets old after a while." She turned beneath David's arm and faced him, resting her cheek on a curled palm.

"Stirring? Yeah, even the mice give it a rest on Christmas Eve." He tightened his fingers around the back of her waist.

"No, getting compliments on my looks." She searched his eyes. "The flattery thing. I've been modeling for years, so I've heard 'em all. And the way I look doesn't have anything to do with who I am."

David squinted at her. "Okay. You were good enough at looking good to make a career out of it, though. Doesn't that count?"

"It's just that looks are a genetic accident. It's not like hearing I'm good at doing something. Like singing or... private investigating-"

"You can investigate my privates anytime."

"-or sketching pictures of fruit or making chicken cacciatore."

"You sketch fruit?" David asked.

Maddie poked him in the chest with a finger in reply. It was disturbingly firm. And his eyes were exceedingly green this close, and deceptively... sincere. Trick of the light, she thought.

"I haven't tasted your chicken cacciatore," he remarked lightly.

"You haven't tasted my face, either." Maddie murmured.

David leaned forward and her palms landed on his chest.

"Stop right there, Addison."

"Why? You're gonna draw me some fruit?"

"No, but this can't happen."

"Why not? You're here, I'm here, you're warm, I'm warm. You can make chicken cacciatore and I play a mean harp. It's fate, it's kismet, it's Lady Luck." He quirked a brow.

Maddie backed up a few inches, pulling the sheet closer around her. "We're two different people."

"And it's a good thing, otherwise you'd be pointlessly resisting making sweet, sweet love to yourself."

"Addison-"

"Honey, the only difference between you and me is you don't know a good thing when you see it. And I do."

Maddie felt herself flush. "That's... not tr-"

"And also, you're slightly blurrier than I am. But these obstacles can be overcome." He brushed a stray golden curl from over her eye. "Come on. Then we'll get dressed, get into a very damp car-"

"We'll take a taxi."

"200 miles? Nah, not in the budget. We'll sit on garbage bags. I'll buy you an Egg McMuffin. We'll expense it."

"And this keeps getting worse," Maddie said with a laugh she couldn't help.

"Learn to love budgets, Hayes. You're bankrupt."

"At least I'm not morally bankrupt."

David scowled and leaned on one elbow. "Hey, you made me lose my train of thought. The point is... the point is, I want to kiss you. Just once."

"And I see you downgraded your expectations from 'sweet, sweet love'."

"I spent the last 58 seconds thinking about this. We should take it slow. Just because we're two grown adults in the same bed in our underwear with a mutual attraction happening..."

Maddie waved an exasperated arm. "That was down to the circumstances. We're in our underwear circumstantially, and I'm not attracted to you."

"Liar, liar, pants not here."

"You have stubble," she pointed out. "It looks a little scratchy."

"So," David murmured, moving his face infinitesimally closer, "the only thing stopping you from laying one me right now is facial hair? Because I have a razor. And if you're nice to me, I'll let you use it on your legs first."

Maddie was suddenly aware again of the heat of his palm on her hip, and he did smell awfully good. It would be so easy to... once. Just once. Just to shut him up, maybe knock that grin off his face, which wasn't there because he'd picked now of all times to give her that serious look. It was funny; when he smirked at her she wanted to slap him, but when he looked this look, the look he looked when he wasn't popping off doggerel or being amused at her expense, well. Well. Maddie fixed her gaze on the shell of his ear. "No. There's our professional relationship." At the lack of response, she met his eyes again.

"What professional relationship? We haven't been in business that long."

"Long enough for me to know how you operate," Maddie said.

David scratched his bare shoulder and rolled onto his back. "Well, I didn't want to kiss you anyway, Hayes. I just wanted to see if you would. And on that note, I'm getting dressed so we can blow this dump."

"Great plan," Maddie agreed, flipping the blanket off. "For once. You can use the facilities first." She sat up and faced the window as the bed rebounded behind her.

 

"Let's go," David motioned at the door, sunglasses already on. "I got some plastic bags from housekeeping."

Maddie slipped on her slingbacks. "I'm frankly kinda surprised they have staff dedicated to housekeeping."

He silently tapped a stockinged foot as she gathered her things. "I'll meet you in the car."

 

The first half of the ride back to LA was blessedly sunny and blissfully quiet, except for the low rumbles in Maddie's stomach she was sure echoed through the sedan.

"McMuffin" was the first thing David said, pulling off I-15 onto a ramp, following a sign promising food, gas and lodging. He headed into the McDonald's drive-through, but was foiled by a "closed for maintenance, please order inside" sign. He coasted into a spot by the door and cut the engine. "You want to go in? Or are you holding out for Spago later?"

Maddie swung down the sun visor, flipped open the mirror and inspected her reflection with dismay. Before she could answer, David opened his car door.

"Because looks aren't important," he said, leaning in the window. He replaced his sunglasses.

"Appearances aren't the same th-" she started.

"Never mind. I'll get you something. Gotta see a horse about a man, anyway."

Hoping the counter clerk wouldn't refuse a shoeless man service, she watched his retreating back and kept her eyes on the restaurant's entrance as she flipped open the glove compartment to pull out the car rental agreement and dug into her clutch for a pencil.

 

David pulled the car up to Maddie's path, glanced over at her and shrugged. "See you at the office later."

She nodded. "Yep." She stepped out of the sedan and walked around the front as David began to back up. "Wait," she said. "Wait just a second." He put the car into park again as Maddie stepped to the driver's side window and passed him a folded piece of paper. "Here." She waved it. "Take it."

"What's this?" he asked, as she turned and walked toward her front door. She'd printed block letters on the page:

I think we're quite the...

it said, above a rough but proficient sketch of a rounded, ripe piece of fruit.

"Hey. Maddie Hayes," David called, and Maddie slowed, turning her head slightly. She didn't have to look to envision one corner of his mouth heading north. "Pretty good pear ya got there."

She concealed her own smile. "Knew you could learn to appreciate art," she said.

"Your puns are terrible."

"Your singing is terrible."

"No it isn't. Bet you can't make chicken cacciatore."

"You don't know that, Addison!" she called back from her doorstep, as he revved the engine and drove away.