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Everything About You

Chapter Text

There was too much light in her room. Peeking an eye open she realized her curtains were open. Her curtains were never open. The view wasn’t very good and she didn’t want to give the pervert with the telescope across the street a free show all the time. Pulling the blankets over her head she blocked out the light. At least the banging wasn’t in her head. Although her mouth was as dry as the desert, she thankfully didn’t have a hangover.

“How can you sleep with all that noise around you?”

A cry of surprise involuntarily escaped Topaz. The blood rushing through her veins and her pounding heart caused a deafening woozy and thumb in her ears as she snapped the blankets down and was greeted by the sight of the stoic Elf standing in the corner watching her, like some creature from a nightmare. Unfortunately for her, this was not a nightmare she could wake up from and laugh about. This was her life now. “Kandomere! What the hell?!”

“I thought opening the curtains would wake you from your slumber. You are a deep sleeper.”

Hands covering her face she counted to ten but when she peeked through her fingers he was still there. Great. She was going to have nightmares now about him watching her sleeping, judging her, thinking of the best ways to insult her. Just standing there in the corner like he was now, immaculately dressed, not a blue hair out of place, one hand in the pocket of his pristine pressed pants. A feat in her apartment, which was probably why he wasn’t sitting. “Why are you here?”

“I tried calling you, but you weren’t answering your phone. It is very irresponsible to turn your phone off, agent Bennett.”

“It’s my day off…” Rolling onto her side she swung her legs over the edge of the bed and pushed herself up into a sitting position, her back to him. The banging intensified, but her head felt fine. Turning an ear up toward the sound she recognized it. Her upstairs neighbor seemed to think bad sex got better if you banged the headboard into the wall with each thrust. At least he was having a good start to his morning, which was more than she could say.

“Just because you take a day off, doesn’t mean crime does.”

“Thanks for the wisdom, oh wise one.” Rolling her head around on her shoulders, she tried to loosen up her muscles and get her protesting body to cooperate. As she rolled her head back from one side to the other she caught sight of her alarm clock. 7:03am. He woke her up this early on her day off, after calling her at god only knew what time.

“If you are looking for your bra, I believe it is dangling from the lamp by your living room couch. Need me to fetch it for you?”

“No!” Aware finally she was naked, she clutched the sheets around her and looked at him mortified. This was crossing so many boundaries, but since when had he cared about those? They had only been working together for a few weeks, but Kandomere had ignored all of her personal boundaries the entire time, despite her protests. “Do you mind? I need to get dressed.”

“Not in the slightest. The human female anatomy is nothing new to me and I am an elf, not a prude.”

Grabbing the nearest thing she could find she hurled it in his general direction. “Out! Get out of my room!” She flung something else at him, but he ducked, elegantly, as he made his way to the door, the hand never leaving his pocket as he did. Grumbling to herself, she angrily started to put on her clothes. Arrogant, pretentious bastard. It was too early for his shit, especially on her day off. Didn’t he understand that concept? Did he not have a personal life?

Running the brush through her hair with quick, angry strokes, she half expected a clump of hair to come out as she took her anger out on everything but the source of it. Putting her hair up in a bun, and straightening her blouse, she spritzed on some perfume once she was satisfied she looked presentable. Hopping around on one booted foot she zipped up her other boot as she went into the living room to get her credentials and gun from the safe.

“I could ask my maid to stop by, if you wish, seeing as you have absolutely no domestic skills whatsoever. How do you live like this?”

“Happily, before you came along.”

“What are you looking for?”

Pulling up the couch cushions, she didn’t bother putting them back where they belonged when she found her keys, with a triumphant “Ha!”. The disapproving look on Kandomere’s face made her grumble, roll her eyes and walk back to fix the cushions. “Okay, good to go.” Noticing the box on the counter from the donut shop down the block, she peeked inside, her face lighting up when she found one left inside.

The delicious fried sugary goodness was gone from her fingers before she could take a bite, watching in horror as Kandomere stepped on the paddle to flip open the lid on her trash can and released her breakfast from between two fingers. Grabbing a napkin he wiped his hands and tossed that in the trash too.

“What are you doing?!”

“Saving you from yourself. Stale donuts? That’s not breakfast, that’s diabetes and heart disease waiting to happen. Ready to leave?”

Blue eyes narrowed as she put her hands on her hips and glared at him. He was much taller than her, even with her boots on, and it didn’t escape her that from an outside perspective she probably looked like a child angry with her parent for not getting her way. Taking a deep breath she let it out in a quick huff and walked out the door with big angry steps.

“You’re living dangerously,” she commented as they waited for the elevator, resisting the urge to press the button more than once, because ‘the elevator doesn’t operate any quicker if you press the button continuously, agent Bennett’.

“I am?” An eyebrow rose, which was the extent of his physical reaction the majority of the time.

“It’s my day off, it’s 7am. You insulted my personal living space, destroyed what little self esteem I had left and dropped my breakfast in the trash, all before I had my coffee. I am contemplating murder right now.”

Stepping on the elevator, he clasped his hands together in front of him as he stood beside her, waiting for her to press the button for the ground floor. “You realize by telling me, you are making me an accomplice.”

Slowly, she turned her head to look at him. She could never tell when he was being serious and when he was making a joke. His face was just a blank, and because he was looking ahead she couldn’t see his eyes well enough to read them either.  The elevator dinged, doors opening. A smile creased her lips. Perfect moment for a mic drop.

“Accomplice? You’d be the victim.”

Chapter Text

“Do you have a moment, sir?”

Looking around like she was waiting for someone to pop up out of nowhere, Topaz quickly slipped in the door when she was ushered inside. Closing the door behind her made her feel a little better, but she knew it wouldn’t stop Kandomere from barging in. He was in a meeting though, which was exactly what she had waited for.

“Something I can help you with, agent Bennett?” the chief asked.

“No. I mean yes. Did I do something wrong, sir?” Oh great, she was fumbling her words now, looking like an absolute idiot.

“Excuse me?” The pen in his hand tapped impatiently against his desk.

“Did I offend you in some way? Were you not satisfied with my work?” she asked quickly, trying her best to get to the point before he lost his patience with her.

A deep sigh, the pen was laid down, so the chief could clasp his hands together on the desk and lean back. A frown creased his forehead. Patience was being lost, quickly. “What are you on about, Bennett?”

Looking around there was no sign of her personal blue haired, pointy eared devil, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t still lurking around somewhere, waiting for the perfect moment to barge in and scare her into another audible reaction. “Well, I just thought. I worked really hard to be here, and that was why you chose me.”

“Is that why you are here, Bennett? I have no time for hand holding today.”

“Oh no, sir. That’s not it at all.”

“Point, now.”

“It’s Kandomere, sir.” There, it was out. For a moment panic attempted to get a grip on her, and once again her eyes darted around to try and spy even the smallest hint of blue hair. The sound of laughter brought her attention back to the chief. Why was he laughing? What was so funny?

“I was wondering when you would come to me about that.”

“You were? So this was a test?”

The laughing stopped and the man turned deadly serious. “No. You have potential, agent Bennett, and I place my agents where I think they can live up to the maximum of that potential. You wanted to learn from the best, Kandomere is the best at what he does.”

“He’s a bit of an acquired taste though, sir.” He’s a jerk, a bastard, an asshole.  

“This is not kindergarten, Bennett. Learn to get along.”

“Sir…”

A short rap of knuckles against the door was immediately followed by the door opening. “There you are. You done, sir?”

“Yes. Go learn things, agent Bennett.”

Goddamnit.

Looking from the chief to Kandomere she wanted to wipe the triumphant look off his face. She didn’t have to duck, but still did as she walked under the arm that was holding the door open for her. Ducking his aura, if Elves even had such a thing. Everything about him was aggravating her today, from the amused look on his face and the penetrating smell of his expensive cologne, to the heel click of his hand crafted Italian leather shoes against the marble floors.

“Everything alright?”

“Peachy.” Holding up both her thumbs, she gave him the biggest fake smile she could muster. If only she could punch him in the face just once. It would be so satisfying.

“Good. Grab your jacket.”

“Where are we going?” Far as she could think there was nothing currently going on that required their attention in any way outside of the office and she still had a mountain of research to go through, as evidenced by the files spread out all over her desk. Kandomere glanced over the mess, but a glare from her stopped him from commenting this time. Searching under the stacks of papers, she found her phone and grabbed her jacket, slipping it on as she followed him to the elevators.

“We are going to learn things, agent Bennett.” A smirk tugged on the corners of his lips.

Oh, just one punch. It would be so satisfying.

“That really clarifies things, thanks.” She couldn’t hit him and she definitely couldn’t shoot him, so that left her with her only other weapon; sarcasm.  It kept her from losing the last shred of sanity she had left. Stopping a few steps from the door, she gestured over her shoulder at the front office desk. “Hold on, I need to get the keys.”

“We’re taking my car.” Holding the door open once again, he waited for her to follow him outside, gesturing in the direction of where he'd parked his vehicle.

What on earth was going on? He hadn’t driven, let alone used his own car for work related things before. She assumed since he mentioned she was going to learn things they were about to do work related things. The sight of his car made her eye roll so hard she thought she saw her brain. Of course his car had to be expensive, brand new and shiny, probably fast too. The doors unlocked and the smell of new leather wafted her way. Peering in she looked around.

“Problem, Bennett?”

“Nope.” Slipping into the passenger seat she wanted so badly for the seat to be uncomfortable so she had something to complain about. Unfortunately she was shit out of luck there as well. Luckily her quick wit saved the day as usual. “Was just looking for the chauffeur.”

Her comment actually got a head shake and sigh. Double score!

“I am capable of driving my own car.” Pulling out of the parking lot, he stepped on the gas. One hand rested on the steering wheel, the other on the stick, looking completely at ease and at the same time exuding an arrogance like she ought to be impressed by him and his car.

“So are you going to tell me where we are going or is ‘to learn things’ the extent of the explanation I am getting?”

“You’ll see.”

Crossing her arms over her chest, she physically prevented herself from reaching out to slap the smug look from his face. Turning away, she stared out the window. The silence that fell between them got on her nerves quickly. Normally she would turn on the radio, but this was not a car from the pool, and she had no idea how any of the buttons worked.

“Kandomere…”

“Topaz.”

Her head turned so fast she heard her neck pop. He had never bothered to use her first name before. It was ‘agent’, ‘Bennett’ or both, but never Topaz. Her eyes narrowed as she studied his face. What was he up to? “Where are we going?”

He sighed in answer, glancing over his shoulder and changing lanes. “I am taking you to lunch.”

She blinked. Her mouth opened to say something only to close again. Her brain had trouble processing his answer, so she sat back in the leather seat that was way too comfortable and stared out the window, though not really focusing on anything. Lunch? The man that criticized every food choice she made was taking her to lunch?

“How is that learning things?!” she blurted out when something finally clicked. His laugh rang out in response. Was there a more frightening sight than a laughing elf?

“We are going to learn to get along.”

Eyes narrowed. That was exactly what the chief had told her. Had he been listening in on their conversation? Unless he had been crouched down by the door or had the office bugged, she didn’t think it was possible and while she was sure he did very dubious things, she didn’t think he would go that far.

“Whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with me.”

“I was afraid of that… sorry.” The glare he sent her way made her bite the inside of her cheek to keep her from making more comments.

“I requested you to be assigned to my team. You’re a hot mess, but you work hard, and you have talent. If I am going to turn that talent into a great asset for my team, we need to find a way to get along… So I am taking you to lunch.”

Nothing. Try as she might, she had no smartass reply to that. Pressing her tongue against the roof of her mouth she made a noise as she thought it over. “To learn things?”

“About each other.”

“Over lunch… away from the office. If you weren’t an elf this would be borderline HR worthy.” Feeling better after pointing that out, she turned her attention to the road finally and realized they were about to hit a traffic jam. Just what she needed, being stuck in traffic in a car with her least favorite person in the world. Today was turning out great.

“I am not hitting on you.”

Head rolled to the left. “I’ve thought about hitting you. At least five times already… today. Three times in the last thirty minutes.”

An eyebrow rose as he finally tore his attention away from the road to look at her. They were stopped behind a black SUV that was blocking her view from seeing just how far this traffic jam stretched.

“Oh sorry, I thought we making confessions. Carry on.”

A deep breath released in a heavy sigh. “Topaz…”

Her nose crinkled. “Yeah, no… let’s not call me that. That’s not gonna work for me.”

“It’s your name. What’s wrong with your name?”

“Aside from the fact I could never find any mugs, pens and other fun stuff with my name on it? Just about everything. It’s a hippie name.”

“Your parents were hippies?”

“No, they were junkies with about half a brain between them.”

“You’re a very hostile woman.”

“What can I say, you bring out the best in me.”

“I’ve been trying, but I seem to be failing.”

Making a clicking noise with her tongue she shook her head a little. “I would really like to punch you in the mouth.”

“That would be worthy of HR.”

Her jaw dropped, and her head slowly turned to look at him. Did he just really use her own sarcasm against her? She needed a moment to process it, which got a half smirk from him, exposing pointy teeth briefly. Looking away, she could finally see the road signs and knew they were headed for elf town. As soon as she figured that out though, Kandomere’s arm hooked around the head rest of the passenger seat as he looked back for an opening. As soon as he found one in the slow moving traffic, he hit the gas, and with practiced ease, maneuvered the car out of traffic to the exit.

“Changed your mind already?”

His fingers tapped against the steering wheel. “Just getting out of a traffic jam. I know a place not too far away that actually serves decent food.”

She gasped in mock shock. He had criticized every restaurant she loved, giving her the impression that everything outside elf town was a germ infested dump. He actually knew a place? He had tried a place outside elf town? This just begged to be made fun of after all the criticism.

“Topaz.” His tone was one of warning and stopped the retort from leaving her lips. “Shut up.”

“Only if you stop calling me Topaz.”

Tilting his head, he seemed to contemplate it for a moment, then shook his head. “Don’t think I will.”

“May I punch you in the face?”

“You may not.”

“Damn…”

Chapter Text

Genevieve Larsen, or Genny as most people called her was a mousy woman with glasses, who probably weighed ninety pounds soaking wet. Her ashy blonde hair was hopelessly straight, making her face look more mousy than it really should. Topaz had tried to give her some tips, but Genny seemed intent on not standing out.

She was a brilliant analyst though. You could put her in front of a computer and ask her to find something and those delicate fingers moved with a speed that seemed entirely unreal. If there was even a digital bread crumb she would find it. Genny just had one big flaw as far as Topaz was concerned.

“What’s it like? Working with Kandomere, I mean. I am so jealous.”

She fell for all the wrong men.

Topaz felt sorry for the woman. She was sweet, witty and intelligent, and if people could actually see her they would adore her as much as she did. The problem was, Genny hid behind her computer screen all day. The only one she seemed to open up to was Topaz. “Like my own personal hell.”

“Topaz! Don’t say that. He’s so handsome and smart too. Those suits he wears… always so flawless and that cologne.”

“Pretentious and headache inducing when you breathe it in too long.” Topaz shifted in her seat and took a sip of her coffee, making a face when she realized it had gone cold. “Trust me Genny, there are much more amazing guys out there. You can even find them using that computer of yours.”

Genny carried on, ignoring her comments. “You’re so lucky. You get to bask in his magnificent presence all day and learn from him.”

“Bask in his magnificent presence? Girl have you been reading those trashy romance novels again?” Topaz loved teasing Genny because the blush that rose to the other woman’s cheeks gave her some much needed color and almost showed her pretty.

“He gets to fly everywhere, you know? Company jet. Stays in fancy hotels. You’re working with him now. You could be going with him. Wouldn’t that be great?” Genny looked entirely smitten. Poor girl.

“I would rather tapdance through a minefield on wooden clogs.”

“Oh my god, Topaz! You are terrible!”

Off in the distance she heard the tap of heels that drew her attention. “Speak of the Devil,” she mumbled as the footsteps came closer, grabbing a random folder from the desk and flipping it open. “Here comes Groucho. Quick, look busy.”

“G-good morning, Sir.”

“Good morning, miss Larsen. Bennett, I heard that. Can I see you in my office when you’re done here?” Giving a curt little nod of his head in greeting to Genny, Kandomere fixed Topaz with a look that dared her to say something else.

Topaz was starting to learn not to take that bait however. “Yes, Sir.” She elbowed Genny when he walked away and pointed to her chin. “You got a little drool right there.”

“Do not.! God, he’s so dreamy…”

“You are a hopeless basket case, woman.” The computer finally bleeped and brought up a sheet of information Topaz couldn’t make heads or tails of from where she was sitting because the font was too small. A few quick mouse clicks and Genny was rolling her chair over to the printer. Grabbing the three sheets of paper, she handed them over.

“Genny, you are my hero.” Reading over the information it was just what she needed. Hugging the other woman tightly she pressed a kiss to her temple. “Even if you are a hopeless basket case for reading that trash though.”

“You are my idol. I want to live vicariously through you. You get to be alone with him, like in his office.” She let out a sound Topaz thought no woman should ever make fully dressed at her desk, and she looked at Genny like she was growing a second head right before her eyes. She might as well with what she was saying next. “You know in those romance novels he would bend you over his desk and-“

“Okay, That is my cue.” Topaz jumped up like something bit her ass. She didn’t need to hear the rest of Genny’s imaginations out loud. What she suggested was disturbing enough. “Thank you so much for these papers, and the nightmares I am going to be having for weeks. I will see you later. Don’t forget lunch!”

With the papers still in hand she opted to take the stairs rather than the elevator since Kandomere’s office was only one floor up. His office door was open but when she went to knock on the window to announce her presence, she noticed his chair was empty. His jacket hung on a coat hanger on his coat rack and there were files open on his desk, but he wasn’t there. His cologne still hung thick in the air so he couldn’t have gone far.

Turning around to look for him, she jumped and grabbed her chest with her free hand, as if that was the only thing stopping her heart from jumping out of her chest. “Jesus!”

Standing less than three feet from her, Kandomere looked pleased with himself. “That was quick. I was getting coffee. Good news?”

How on earth did he sneak up on her like that when the tap of his shoes against the floor could be heard from far away? “Eh… yeah! I found him.”

“Him?” Sitting down at his desk, Kandomere gave her a confused look.

“The Bright that I told you about. Well Genny found him, but I gave her the search parameters, she put them in her program and this came out. That’s him.” Handing over the papers, she pointed to the image they had only gotten a glimpse of on security cameras.

Glancing over the papers, he nodded and gestured for her to take a seat. “Good work, Bennett. Sit please.”

Hesitating a moment she left the door open and sat down. If this was a closed door conversation he would have told her to shut the door. After Genny’s gushing she didn’t quite feel so comfortable with it being closed. She would have to thank her later for putting awful images in her mind. Involuntarily she shuddered. “So what did you want to see me about.”

“There are increasing rumors that another wand has been discovered. The credibility of these rumors is being assessed as we speak. If we get the go ahead we will be leaving at first light. Do you have a go-bag prepared?”

Nodding turned into a shake of her head. “But I will have it ready by the end of the night, just in case.” She could already hear Genny squealing and swooning and almost rolled her eyes. “Is that all?”

“How is your elvish?”

“A little rusty, but decent enough. Why?”

Opening a drawer, Kandomere produced a file at least an inch thick and held it out to her. “Read up. You’ll need to know this.” When she reached for the file to take it, he held on to it and raised both brows. “Groucho?”

Flashing him a cheesy grin when neither of them let go of the file, Topaz shifted in her seat a little uncomfortably. “Well you did look pretty grouchy. To be honest, you kinda always look like you’re in a really bad mood.”

“I am actually in a pretty good mood.”

“Really? Because you look like someone pissed in your Cheerios.”

“I don’t eat Cheerios.”

“I wouldn’t either if someone kept pissing in ‘em.” Sometimes her quick wit was way too quick for her. A little chuckle escaped her. “Maybe if you tried smiling every once in a while…”

“Like this?” Letting go of the file, Kandomere sat back in his chair and did his best to give her as big a smile as possible. He put in an effort, she would give him that much. Looking at him though, there was only one word coming to mind to describe that smile: Pennywise.

“Okay, bad idea. Don’t ever do that again. I’m beginning to understand why people are afraid of clowns.”

Kandomere gave her a confused look, obviously not following her line of thought, but she was not even remotely entertaining the idea of clueing him in, for fear it might be used against her later.

“So, I read the file, prepare a go-bag. Anything else?”

Shaking his head he made a shooing motion. She was up and out of her seat and through the doorway when he called her name, making a face he thankfully couldn’t see.

“Topaz?” Oh how she hated the way her name rolled off his tongue. “I would appreciate it if you could refrain from using nicknames from now on.”

“Are you going to stop calling me Topaz?”

“Not a chance.”

“Then get used to the nicknames, Groucho.” Saluting him with the file clutched in her hand, she grinned, pleased as punches as she walked away. 

Chapter Text

Some songs were just too good not to blast at full volume and sing along to with gusto. Blues rock was one of her vices, so when her playlist transitioned to the next song, she instantly squealed and picked up the remote to turn up the volume. The sound of guitars in a blues rhythm filled the room.

Dead of night baby, we’re finally alone. I’ll pull down the shades if you unplug the phone.

Adjusting the sloppy ponytail on top of her head, Topaz sang along to the lyrics while dancing around. It was laundry night, so she was wearing whatever wasn’t dirty, which in this case was a pair of hot pants and an oversized shirt she’d stolen from an old boyfriend, that said ‘careful, I bite’. Finished with the folding, she was sorting her clothes into different piles, taking sips of her beer in between.

Turn on some music, Marvin Gaye’s real nice. Once we get settled, I’ll turn out the lights. Don’t be afraid of the dark…

“Don’t be afraid of the dark. I’ll be there to hold you, don’t be afraid of the dark,” she sang, on key, and did a little hip turn before depositing another t-shirt on the pile. Picking up her phone, she sent a quick text message to Genny to tell her to hurry up and bring more beer. She had no idea how far the music was carrying, but she didn’t really care.

With the laundry sorted, she just started putting it back in the basket when she thought she heard a knock on the door. Pausing a moment she heard nothing else, so she shrugged and continued swaying her hips and singing along at the top of her lungs. “You might tremble, you might shake. Scream out loud, you may even break.”

-knock knock-

Genny had arrived and hopefully she got beer or they would have to go out to get more. Dancing her way over to the door, she missed a line in her song but picked up on the next. “You beg for more, you forget about the night,” she belted out and swung the door open with a swinging roll of her hips. “Did you bring beer?”

Kandomere raised an eyebrow as he stood there, one hand in his pocket, the other dropping to his side. “I did not.”

Well this was awkward.

Straightening up instantly, she pulled on her shirt as if that could cover her more. “Sorry, I thought you were someone else.”

“Boyfriend?”

“No… Genny. Miss Larsen? Anyway, can I help you with something? Sir?” She scooted a little sideways, trying to use the door as cover.

“I called twice and left a message. Do you ever check your phone, Topaz, or do you just ignore my calls?”

“When you still insist on calling me that, I just might start.” Walking into the living room, she turned down the volume on her music and picked up her phone. Unlocking the screen, she discovered she did have new voicemail messages. How had she missed that when she just texted Genny?

“Did you mute your phone again?”

“No.” It was a blatant lie as she flipped the little switch on the side back to volume and put her phone down. When she looked at him, he was looking around her apartment. She could tell it was still far beneath him, but it wasn’t the mess it had been when he had intruded on her day off. She had cleaned and it showed.

“Don’t look so surprised. Contrary to what you believe, I do have domestic skills.” Her tongue darted out. “So since you’re here, wanna give me the quick and dirty version of it?” The moment the words left her mouth she regretted it. Why couldn’t she ever stop to think before she spoke? Because she didn’t have a brain to mouth filter like everyone else, that was why.

“We have confirmation. We’re leaving for Nevada.”

“Oh.” He seemed to be waiting on something, both eyebrows rising. “Oh! You mean right now.” Looking down at herself she made a face. “I should change…” Good thing she had the presence of mind to pick up her dry cleaning before going home today.

Grabbing the clothes basket, she disappeared into the bedroom, dropping it on the bed. Stripping down quickly, she put on a bra, contorting herself to get the damn little cloth flap to lay flat instead of irritating her back all day as usual. Picking her dark blue pants suit, she carefully lay the jacket on the bed to put on after she had her hair fixed. That way she avoided having to pluck all the stray hairs off later. The whole switch took less than two minutes, including her shoes.

Just at that moment, her playlist switched to a song even more embarrassing and she hit the power button on the speakers before the song could really get started. She found Kandomere standing by the counter, fingertips running along a stack of envelopes. Each one of them had a dreaded red stamp or sticker on them.

“Do you mind? Those are personal.”

“You’ve got a lot of overdue bills.”

“Yeah well, we aren’t all born with a silver spoon in our mouths. Some of us have student loans to pay off.”

Retrieving the trolley suitcase from the hallway closet she was thankful she had enlisted Genny’s help in putting together a go-bag just in case. With her phone in hand, she followed Kandomere down to the car. The trolley’s wheels whirred as she pulled it behind her and texted Genny to let her know that she was going out of town for work. This was not something she wanted to call her up for, because she knew Genny would squeal in her ear and that just wasn’t something she wanted to explain to him.

Handing her trolley off to a man in a black suit, with a transparent wire going from his suit colar to his ear, she was a little startled. What was with the security? Montehugh held the door open to the back passenger seat, and she smiled politely at him as she slipped into the spot.

“You’re coming with us, Montehugh?”

The big man chuckled and shook his head. Was he laughing because he could hear the silent plea in her voice. “Not this time, Bennett. My wife would string me up by my balls if I missed our tenth anniversary.”

“You’re married? You mean you actually tricked a woman into putting up with your ass all the time?”

Another laugh from the man. “Yeah, yeah. Don’t worry though, you’re in good hands. He doesn’t bite… much.”

This got a snort from the elf beside her, making her head snap in his direction. Kandomere was amused. Shaking her head, she turned her attention out of the window. Her phone buzzed with a message from Genny that had way too many exclamation points in it. Typing a quick reply she kept the phone in her hand, but the screen turned away from prying eyes.

The plane looked impressive, making her jaw drop a little as she stared in awe. She had seen it plenty in the movies, but the few times she had flown herself had always been on commercial flights.

“What’s the matter, Bennett? You look like you’ve never seen a private jet before.”

So smug and arrogant. Once again the brain to mouth filter was sorely missed. “Why do you always have to be such a jackass about these things?”

Montehugh snorted. “He can’t help himself. He’s an elf. We’re all inferior creatures to him.” He waited until Kandomere headed for the plane, two men following behind to take their luggage on board. “He might look and act all high and mighty, but once you get to know him, he’s really not a bad guy. He’ll grow on you, I promise.”

“You do realize that what you’re really saying is, ‘he’s a jerk but you’ll get used to it’, right?”

Montehugh shook his head. “Boy, he’s in for a rough ride with you. Do me a favor Bennett, don’t let this job change you.”

“I’ll try not to. Congratulations to you and the wife.” Greeting him with a little salute, she crossed the distance from the car, to the plane, and keeping a good grip on the railings, she climbed the steps, bracing herself against a gust of wind before all went still and she was faced with a flight attendant who gave her a bright smile and welcomed her aboard.

The interior of the plane was mostly white with light brown leather and polished wooden tables. This was nothing like a commercial flight, since there were only eight seats in rows of two facing each other, and an actual couch behind it. She was sure it was secured to the floor though.

Kandomere was already seated by the window, one hand on the table, his well manicured nails tapping against the wood, a flash of an expensive watch peeking out from under the sleeve, which he revealed when he checked the time. Expensive suit, expensive watch, probably an expensive manicure as well. Did he get mani-pedi’s with his elf buddies? The thought made her snort and drew the elf’s impossibly bright blue eyes to her.

“Are you going to stand there all flight, Topaz?”

She still couldn’t figure out what offended her so about him calling her by her first name, she just knew that it did. Her nose pulled up a moment, her lips pressed together in contempt. Moving, she took the seat across from him. The soft leather gave way in just the right places, and it almost felt like the seats in his car.

The flight attendant walked up and greeted them again. “We’ll be preparing for take off in a few minutes. May I take your drink order?”

“Scotch, neat.”

“Just a water, please.” Topaz frowned when the woman walked off and turned her attention to Kandomere, who was still looking out the window. “Didn’t your parents teach you how to say please and thank you?”

“No. Humans are servants.”

“Right…”

An awkward silence filled the air. Buckling up for take off, she relaxed in the seat and following his example, stared out the window as the runway started to disappear further down below and that funny flutter made her stomach turn a little. Flying wasn’t her favorite activity, but she wasn't scared of it either. Once they were in the air, their drinks were brought over, but the silence still hung in the air between them.

His response had made her painfully aware of the different cultures they had grown up in. Even though they were working for the same agency, no matter how far up the ladder she climbed, she would never be seen as his equal. Not because she was a woman, but because she wasn’t an elf. Her gaze went to the gorget around his neck. Elves above all. Above all Elves.

The script was intricate, and beautifully etched into the metal, or was it silver? She had never bothered to ask. The words however, were a reminder that to Elves all other life was inferior. They ran the world, kept the economy going, but no matter how hard the rest of the world worked, they would never achieve the wealth the Elves possessed.

“Didn’t know you could dance.”

She blinked at the seemingly random comment. Not expecting Kandomere to be the one to break the silence, her eyes met his, then looked away. “Well now you do. You learn something new every day.”

More silence. Grabbing her glass off the table she took a few sips of her drink. He had tried to make small talk with her and she had cut him off, because the thought he could think of her as inferior angered her. Her race shouldn’t factor into her worth. Sighing, she rolled her shoulders to release the tension.

Say something, woman, anything!

“Do Elves dance?”

“What kind of question is that?”

Shrugging her shoulders, she unbuckled the seatbelt so she could shift around in her seat a little. The flight attendant noticed her trying to get comfortable and came walking over with a pillow and a wonderfully soft fleece blanket. Fussing around, she arranged the blanket around her and pushed her back into the pillow until she was comfortable.

Kandomere waited for his answer, a finger tapping his glass. It was empty already.

“It’s a legitimate question. I mean, with that stick so far up your ass it’s kinda difficult to bust a move, don’t you think?” She really needed a filter between her brain and her mouth. If only she could stop the words from coming out somehow, but whatever she thought shot straight out of her mouth. “I suppose you could do the Rigor Mortis two step.”

“We’ll land in Nevada in about two hours. From there we will be headed straight to the field office. I suggest making the most of the flight and take a nap.”

“Now see, you feign caring, but I know you don’t care if I get enough rest or not.” Someone really needed to stop her. Not even pinching herself stopped the words from coming out. “What you’re really saying though, is ‘I have no good retort so I would like for you to shut up now’.”

“And yet you’re still talking.”

Her eyes went wide and she scoffed at him. “See this is why nobody likes you.”

Opening the briefcase on the seat beside him, he pulled out a tablet, and started swiping a finger across the screen. “Go to sleep, Topaz,” he said in the tone of a parent telling a child to go the fuck to sleep.

“You don’t tell me what to do.”

“I am your boss, so yes I do. Go to sleep.”

“Yes, sir.” She saluted him.

“Topaz. Stop talking.”

“I wasn’t-”

“Still talking.”

The sing song tone in his voice made her shift angrily to get more comfortable. From the corner of her eye she could see him, his focus still on the tablet. Maybe a nap wouldn’t be such a bad idea. At least she wouldn’t have to try to make small talk with Grumpelstiltskin. The nickname made her smile, even as she closed her eyes and let the sounds of the plane lull her into sleep.

Chapter Text

“Well that was a colossal waste of time…”

Pulling her boots off, Topaz dropped them and groaned as her feet flattened against the plush carpet. They had spent all night in interrogation and they still weren’t any closer to finding out where the wand was and who, besides them, was after it. If she had to take a guess Inferni were involved, but it really could be any coven, as several were represented in the Elven district here. Whatever the case, the Shield of Light didn’t seem to be involved. At least the two in custody didn’t brandish the tattoo.

“Not entirely,” Kandomere spoke as he closed the door behind them.

“We just spent like 7 hours in that shit hole trying to get those schmucks to talk, and they didn’t flinch.”

“Exactly,” he said, and smirked in that creepy way that told her he knew something she didn’t. “They didn’t flinch.”

This caused Topaz to pause, the socks she had just pulled off her feet still in hand and her toes spreading a little as they sank into the carpet. It almost derailed her train of thought. Shifting on her feet a little, she gave a curious head tilt. “They didn’t flinch,” she repeated his words, trying to catch his train of thought, and closed her eyes a moment when she realized the connection she hadn’t made before. “No flinching, because someone trained them, and I know that look. You just had an idea.”

“I do have a few ideas, but they require some preparation.”

Pursing her lips, Topaz debated whether or not she wanted to ask him what those ideas were and what kind of preparation it required, but from past experiences she had learned that Kandomere always gave her just the information he was willing to share, and asking for more only got her frustrated. “Okay. Will this preparation take long?”

“Long enough for you to rest, yes.”

Topaz let out a little sound of excitement, turning to head to her bedroom.

“Topaz…”

Pressing her lips together, she resisted the urge to give him a smart retort and turned around with an annoyed ‘what?’ look.

He had taken off his jacket and draped it over the back of a chair. His gaze went from her down to the discarded boots on the ground and back.

For real?

Balling her hands into fists, she wanted to tell him very much that if the boots bothered him, he could move them, but this was just the first day, and she had a feeling she would have to share a living space with him for the majority of the week. It was probably best not to get into a fight over something as stupid as her boots right off the bat. Swallowing her pride, she snatched up the boots and made sure he saw her flinging them into her room.

Her butt bumped the door closed, her eyes on her phone to look through her messages. Her finger hovered over Genny’s number when her phone started buzzing and her name appeared on the screen. Swiping her finger over the screen she answered the call. “You must have some crazy ESP, girl. I was literally just about to call you.”

“Oh really? I just wanted to check up on you.”

“Uh huh, sure. You want to know things, elfie things.” Topaz chuckled when Genny tried her best to deny it. She knew better though. For some reason, the more Kandomere ignored her, the harder she crushed on the elf. “Before you hit me with the twenty questions though, I need a favor.”

“Anything, chica. Whatcha need?”

“If I wire you some money, would you mind going by my landlord later and pay my rent? She’s getting antsy and I don’t wanna come home to all my stuff out on the street.”

“Yeah, of course. Just text me when you’ve wired the money.”

“Thank you, you’re a lifesaver.” Cradling the phone between her ear and her shoulder, she wiggled her pants down her hips, Using one of her feet, she threw the garment up in the air so she could catch it without bending over. “I really need to find something cheaper, so if you hear anything, let me know, please.”

“You know, if you’re having trouble making rent, I have an extra bedroom. Splitting rent would make it easier on both of us.”

It was a tempting offer, one she was seriously considering, but she didn’t want to jump right in. She had bad experiences with roommates in the past. “Not sure you’d be able to put up with my messy ass.”

“You don’t have to say yes right away. Just think about it, come by when you get back, get a feel of the place and we’ll talk about it.”

It was a reasonable offer. “Alright. Hang on.” Shrugging her blouse off, she put the phone down long enough to toss her blouse on the chair in the corner and slip on the t-shirt she had brought to sleep in, not wanting to risk Kandomere walking in on her naked again. “Back. Okay, ask away. Just know I am silently judging you.”

“FYI, it’s not very silent when you tell me about it. So what’s it like?”

“It’s Vegas. Loud, in your face, and very superficial.”

“I don’t mean the city, I figured that much.”

“Lush carpet, too much white, amazing bed…” Topaz moaned, sinking back into the pillows and pulling the sheets up to her waist. “The view is pretty decent too. The only downside is I have to share it with Captain Grumpypants.”

“Ugh. You are so lucky. I am so jealous right now.”

“Genny, I love you, but you’re hopeless. Need I remind you he’s my boss?”

“That just makes it hotter. He’s your boss, you’re the subordinate…”

“Okay, I am gonna hang up on you. I need sleep, not nightmares. I’ll text you.” Ending the call, she tossed her phone on the bed beside her. Sinking down further into the pillows, she let out a content sigh. She could definitely get used to these assignments if she got so sleep in beds like these.

-

Kandomere proved once more that subtlety and tact were not his strong points, when he all but barged into her room and stated it was time to get up. It felt like she had passed out minutes before, but the clock disputed that feeling. Rubbing the sleep from her face, she dragged her unwilling body out of bed, and with toiletries under her arm, she all but sprinted across the living area to the bathroom for a quick shower.

She heard a knock on the door while she was drying off, followed by Kandomere speaking to someone. Slipping on the impossibly soft bathrobe, she tied it up and peeked out of the bathroom before she emerged. Kandomere was carrying a black clothing bag on a hanger, disappearing into his bedroom with it. What on earth was he up to?

Looking in on him, she watched him unzip the bag and reveal an expensive looking suit. Didn’t he bring enough of his own? Things just kept getting more and more curious.

“You should get dressed.”

His voice cut through her thoughts and her gaze shot up to meet his. “For what? Where are we going?”

“Elven district. The tattoos those guys were sporting weren’t random, or some gang affiliation. There is a club where Elves go to meet humans.”

“I thought humans were servants?”

Kandomere laughed.

It took a moment of frowning at Kandomere's laughter before it clicked. She had heard about Elves keeping humans as pets before. It was some sort of fetish she didn’t understand. “Oooh. I see.”

“We leave in thirty minutes.”

The tone of his voice urging her into action. “Right. Wait, I didn’t bring anything other than work clothes.”

Her comment got a smirk from him. “Check your room.”

Now she was convinced he was up to something. Curiosity got the better of her, so instead of asking him, she went into her bedroom to find a similar bag hanging from her closet door. Unzipping it she revealed a sea of red. Her fingertips gliding over the fabric told her it was silk, not satin. This was an expensive dress.

Slipping her robe off, she struggled with the slippery fabric, getting her head through the opening only to realize she had the dress twisted. Muttering some curses under her breath, she finally got her arms through the straps correctly, smoothing out the top which fit eerily perfect over her curves. Having the dress somewhat figured out, she stepped in front of the mirror to look at her reflection.

“This can’t be right…”

The red strappy dress had a plunging neckline, the bodice was form hugging, but what didn’t make it look right to her was the full length flowing skirt, with a split running way up the front on either side, so that when she stood there, not only did her legs peek out, but her panties as well. This definitely couldn’t be right.

“Are you sure this is the right dress?” she called out.

Kandomere appeared behind her, wearing black pressed pants, and a white button up shirt, which still had the top few buttons undone, a silk tie hanging loose around his neck. He wasn’t wearing shoes either, which took her a little aback. For a moment she just stared at him in the reflection of the mirror, committing the view to memory because she wouldn’t likely see him like this again.

Looking her up and down, he looked dead serious when he nodded. “Yes.”

Topaz snorted, looking over her reflection, tugging on the dress here or there. “This thing makes me look like you bought me for the night.” The gears in her mind started to work overtime, making the connections she really didn’t want to make, and her eyes went wide. “You want me to play a hooker?!”

“Escort,” he answered as casually as possible, buttoning the cuffs on his shirt like what he was telling her was the most normal thing. His eyes and the little smirk betrayed his amusement.

Her eyes were shooting daggers when she snapped her head to look at him directly, clenched fists ready to wipe the look off his face. He disappeared from view before she could act on the impulse. Growling in frustration, she snatched up one of her boots and threw it at the empty doorway.

How was this happening? Her first assignment, and she was going to be playing the working girl. This was beyond humiliating. She could barge into the other room and demand that they used some other strategy, but she knew he had a point. Her usual attire screamed law enforcement, and Elves in their own district weren’t going to even acknowledge her existence, let alone answer her questions.

So what’s bigger, Taz, your sense of duty or your pride?

Closing her eyes, she counted to ten until the urge to punch Kandomere in the face subsided. “Swallow your pride and do your job. You’ve gone undercover before. It’s just acting.” Talking to her reflection helped, and nodding, she finished up getting ready. She was almost finished when she spotted the one glaring flaw to her look. She definitely needed to wear different panties.

Hoping against hope, she dug through her suitcase to find anything besides her regulars, but she found nothing. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell she was going out there without underwear, undercover or not. Something told her to look behind the zipper that was lining the inside of her suitcase, and what she found made her both sigh in relief and want to strangle Genny at the same time.

When they had packed up her go bag together, Genny found a way to sneak some of her lingerie in as well. Picking up the black lacy thong, she quickly switched her panties for it, checking her reflection to make sure they didn’t peek out. Satisfied, she flipped the suitcase closed, and pushed it back in the closet.

“Ready?”

Kandomere was leaning in the doorway, now fully dressed, including a black vest and jacket, but one thing was missing. His gorget. It made sense though, it was a very recognizable item, and his reputation might precede him if he wore it. Like her work clothes, it would make the Elves suspicious and defensive.

A pair of strappy heels were dangling from two fingers and he held them out after taking in the view and nodding approvingly. She snatched them from his hand and sat down on the foot of the bed to put them on. Kandomere disappeared from sight once again. “Lord, give me the strength not to kill him.”

Put your game face on.

Standing up straight, she took a moment to get used to the heels, which were surprisingly comfortable despite being inches higher than her usual footwear. The heels did something to her, making her sashay a little, which was one of the reasons she didn’t normally wear them, but it helped put her in character now.

Her eyes narrowed, glaring at him when he offered his arm. Slipping her hand under to curl her fingers around, she let him lead them to the elevator. She could feel his gaze on her as she stared ahead at the elevator doors when they closed.

“I hate you.”

Chapter Text

“Dance with me.”

Kandomere shook his head. He was fine just where he was sitting. He had a good overview of the place and had already determined that the real business was not conducted out here, with the booths and the dance floor. The music was loud, the bass vibrating in his chest, and the volume assaulting his eardrums. It was making it more difficult for him to distinguish sounds, but he could still read lips. His ears were going to be ringing for hours after this.

“What? You don’t dance?”

Topaz looked amused, which he supposed might have to do with the four or five shots she had rapidly tossed back in the last half hour. The moment they had arrived, her demeanor had changed like the flip of a switch. She had gone from contemplating which slow and painful manner of his death would give her the most satisfaction, to playing her part. The switch from agent Bennett, to the woman before him, swaying her hips to the music in an almost hypnotic fashion was surprising.

“We’ve had this conversation before, Topaz.” Despite her change in demeanor her name spoken by him still made her eyes narrow a little in reaction. It gave him some satisfaction and he smirked as he brought the glass up to his lips, tossing back the last of his drink.

“We have, and I distinctly remember saying I didn’t believe you could dance with that stick so far up your ass, but you insisted you could. Come prove me wrong.”

She was holding out her hand, while still swaying her hips to the music. It had gotten her more attention than he cared for, an elf at the bar even licking his lips, staring at her with an intensity that made him want to get up and knock him off his bar stool. Still, he had a part to play in all this, and being disinterested in his ‘date’ would only invite unnecessary trouble.

Taking her hand, he let her pull him to his feet and guide him to a spot on the dance floor. They passed two couples who were clearly doing more than dancing, but he paid them no mind. “I swear, if you breathe a word of this to anyone…”

Devilish was the only way to describe the look in her eyes and the grin that curved her lips, her tongue running along her teeth and biting down on her bottom lip. “Your secret is safe with me…”

“I doubt it.” He knew her better by now, but that was alright. His hands found her hips and he pulled her in close so he could lean and speak close to her ear. “The real question is, can you dance? Follow my lead.” The music was quickly sweeping her up, and the lyrics were just a little too perfect.

I can taste it on your mouth,
and I can’t leave it.
You’re a freak like me,
can’t you see?

We can work this something out,
and I’m believin’,
you get off on me.
It’s like cheating.

As stubborn and intent on doing things her way as she was, Kandomere was surprised when he guided her through the first steps and she seemed to catch on quickly, following his lead. His hand moved to the small of her back, feeling her other hand easily slip into his.

“Salsa, really?” she asked.

“Any music, can be salsa music. You just have to listen and find the right rhythm. So shut up and listen.” There was a fire in her eyes, whenever he told her what to do, this infuriating need of hers to do things her own way, instead of doing what she was told. He half expected her to take over lead or pull away, but Topaz did neither, and soon they were focused solely on each other, the rest of the world disappearing from focus.

By the time the song and their dance ended, they had gathered quite an audience. Topaz was looking a little flustered, her breathing heavy and visible as her chest pressed against him with each breath. Something drew his attention to her mouth. Her lips were moving, but he didn’t hear her over the beat of the next song. Letting her take his hand, he followed her back to their seats. Her lips were close enough to his ear to feel them brush against the shell when she spoke again. “Let me get you another drink.”

An elf walked by and grinned at him, nodding his head a little in appreciation, but Kandomere was still trying to get control back over his senses. Topaz returned with his drink, putting it in his hand, but he was too dazed to do more than hold it. This was not a natural daze. Something was wrong. Opening his mouth, he tried to tell her, but no words were forming.

“I need to use the little girls room. Don’t go anywhere.”

She was gone, a flurry of red disappearing into the distance. Blinking, he put the drink on the table. He didn’t need to be drinking more. Two men slid into the seats on either side of him. “You’ve got yourself a lovely pet there…” The other nodded in agreement. “Far too lovely to keep all to yourself.”

“She’s not for sale,” he said, shaking his head.

“You’re looking a little pale. Maybe we should discuss this a little more private, get you a little fresh air.”

Despite his protests, Kandomere was pulled to his feet, the room starting to spin. Try as he might, he couldn’t focus on anything, or even form coherent words as strong arms held him up and guided him away.

Topaz peeked into the clutch purse. It had been handed to her in the car, but she hadn’t really bothered to check the contents. There was a phone inside, only one number programmed into the memory. A burner phone. In case of emergency. What kind of emergency would require a burner though? There was a compact and lipstick, regular girl things she still inspected. An eyebrow rose when she also found a switch blade. That certainly wasn’t a girl thing.

Quickly, she returned the blade to it’s hiding spot and gave a fake smile to the woman who walked in, checked her reflection in the mirror, and then peeked into a stall. “That was some seriously sexy dancing. You been with him long?”

“Thanks… a few months,” she answered. In case of an emergency, always use the truth, it was easier to keep the 'lies' straight when you had no opportunity to rehearse a back story.

“You’re not from around here, are you?”

She shook her head. “Visiting.” Her spidey senses were starting to tingle. The woman was awfully interested in making sure the stalls were empty. Why did she want to make sure they were alone? Her hand slipped into the purse for the switch blade at the same time as the woman lunged, trying to get Topaz in a headlock, but she pushed off from the sink, slamming her back into a wall and then a stall door. The woman lost her grip, dazed, staggering, allowing Topaz to get her barings. A well aimed, hard punch to the face, rendered the woman unconscious. “That was not nice!”

Dragging her into a stall, Topaz propped her up on the toilet and left her there. Making her way back out, she immediately noticed the booth was empty, the drink she had brought Kandomere sitting untouched on the table. Slipping back into the hall, she scanned the room. The elf at the bar that had been staring at her since they had entered the club, slipped from his bar stool, coming toward her.

The adrenaline coursing through her veins was sobering her up quickly. Think quick. Trying several doors in the hall, she found one that opened. She needed a weapon. The switch blade! “Fuck!” she cursed. She had left the purse in the bathroom in her hurry to get away. Great. So now she was trapped in a supply closet with nothing for a weapon. Searching the room, she found a broom handle in the corner. Taking a stance to hit whomever came through the door.

It was the elf from the bar, but he grabbed the end of the wooden handle the moment she swung it. “Why do you have to make this difficult?” Twisting it from her hands, using it to trap her against the wall, cutting off her airway as he pressed it against her throat. Don’t panic. Keep your focus.

After a few moments of struggling for air, she pushed her back against the wall, bracing herself, and grabbing hold of his shoulders, she brought her knee up full force, once, twice, until his grip on the broom handle loosened. Pulling up both legs, she kicked him back away from her, dropping her to the floor and hitting her head hard. “Ow…” That was less than graceful, but she had no time to think. He was only dazed for a moment, already struggling back to his feet.

Darting for the door, she slammed it closed behind her, running down the hall. There were stairs, leading up to the second floor and a guard standing in front of it. Grabbing an empty tray from a table, she slammed it down on the man’s arm when he drew his weapon, hitting him in the face and over the head.

“Stop her!” It was the elf from the supply closet. Pushing past the guard, she started up the steps, making it a few steps before a hand closed around her ankle and yanked. She hit the stairs hard enough to knock the wind out of her. Clawing at the stairs, she tried to grab hold of the railing to pull herself back up and get some leverage, but the elf was stronger.

“Is he coming around yet?”

Kandomere grimaced and sneered when cold water hit his face, glaring at the man who threw it. “I’m awake…”

“Good. Don’t worry, your girl should be here in a minute. Pretty thing. You pluck her off the street as a cover? I’m impressed. It almost worked. Unfortunately, one of my associates recognized you. Seems you were a thorn in Leilah’s side for quite some time.”

The elf’s eyes fixed on Kandomere. He was dressed in all black, the only break in his wardrobe the platinum chain around his neck and his white hair, slicked back behind his pointed ears and held together at the back of his neck with a black band. “You can’t stop the inevitable, Kandomere. Leilah was strong, but she wasn’t our only weapon.”

“I am sure as hell gonna try.” While he had been pretending to be knocked out by whatever drug they gave him, he had taken stock of the room he was in. Save for a few tools on the table there wasn’t much within reach that he could use for a tool. Two humans with guns were the only protection the elf had with him. He could use their guns, but he would need a distraction to get to them. He had already loosened his cuffs.  

“And what could one elf possibly accomplish? You’ve been around humans too long. It’s clouded your judgment, made you weak. Like them.”

A commotion on the stairs drew the man’s attention, and it was just the distraction Kandomere needed. The cuffs dropped on the floor with a clang. Bones snapped audibly when he grabbed the hired muscle by the arm, and slammed it down over his leg. Human bones were so frail.  Flipping the gun over, he squeezed the trigger twice, turned and squeezed twice more, taking care of all the help.

That just left the elf in black, but he didn’t look worried when Kandomere aimed the gun at him. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you…”

The door was open, and another figure appeared in the doorway. It was the elf who had been staring at Topaz at the bar, the one he wanted to punch just for the way he looked at her. His eyes narrowed when he yanked Topaz forward by her hair, pressing a gun to her temple.

“Like I said, Kandomere… what is one elf going to do against an army? You can’t fight magic with guns.”

Although roughed up, Topaz looked relatively unharmed. She struggled against the elf’s hold on her hair for good measure, causing him to focus on her, tightening his grip on her hair. “Bitch, quit struggling.” Licking her lips, she grinned, her gaze locked on Kandomere. Ever so slightly, she nodded her head.

“Put the gun down, or your pet dies.”

Pet?

The fire in her eyes, caused Kandomere to grin and she knew he had gotten her signal. Using her anger as fuel, she found the strength to fight off her attacker. “I am not his fucking pet!” Her heel stomped down on the elf’s foot, her elbow ramming into his ribs. He stumbled backward, the gun going off, the bullet splintering one of the floorboards.

She heard a gun jam, and Kandomere curse in Elvish. The elf in black used the commotion to slip down the stairs. Topaz finished off the other elf when her heel came down on his throat, puncturing the skin. Hot blood spurted out over her foot. “Ugh, gross.” Twisting the gun from his hand, she tossed it over. “What are you waiting for? Go! I am right behind you.”

Wiping her foot against the now dying elf's pant leg, she paid no mind to the gurgling sounds as she rifled through his pockets. She had felt something during her struggle. Pulling the phone out of his pocket, she grinned victorious. It was protected with a swipe pattern, which made her grin. Most people's patterns were too predictible. She got the right pattern on the second try. “Should’ve gone with the finger print option, dude.” Opening his camera, she snapped a picture of the now dead elf and the two dead humans. Taking the gun that was still in one of the dead men’s hands, she started down the stairs.

Pointing the gun at a frightened looking girl, she pressed herself up against the wall with her hands up, tears in her eyes. “Which way did he go?” A shaky finger pointed to the back. Pushing scantily clad, scared girls out of her way, she found the back door open. Keeping her finger on the trigger, she carefully stepped outside.

“I've got a question. Do you always take so long in the ladies room?”

Kandomere plucked the silk handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit, flipping it around his hand to cover busted knuckles. The black clad elf was nowhere in sight, but there was another handcuffed to the dumpster.

“I was attacked!” Putting her hands on her hips, she looked back over her shoulder. The alley was empty, except for the familiar car coming toward them. Kandomere had called in their back up already? “So he got away, huh?”

“Yeah, but maybe this guy will tell us something when he comes around.”

“This might help too. Swiped it from the guy upstairs,” she said, holding up the phone.

“Well done, pet.”

Shooting him a look, it was clear he was messing with her, trying to lighten the situation. She flipped him off with both middle fingers. “Bite me.”

Turning away, she walked toward the car, only to look back when she felt Kandomere’s hand close around her wrist. He was no longer looking amused. “I mean it though. You did really well tonight.”

“Thanks… I still hate you.” Walking toward the car, she leaned against it to undo the straps on the heels. They needed to come off, especially now they had been used as weapons. “I can’t believe you made me play a hooker!”

“You played it well though.”

A heel went flying by his head.

Chapter Text

Buzz, buzz. Buzz, buzz.

Groaning, Topaz blindly searched for the source of the buzzing. It continued, until her hand finally touched on the source, her phone. Opening one eye, she swiped her finger across the screen and dropped the phone on the pillow, laying her ear on it. “Morning…”

“Oh my god, you sound terrible! I just saw the report come in. Are you okay?”

Genny. Of course she would monitor all their communications with the office.

Topaz smiled a little, but when she tried to move she was reminded of the night before. Painfully. “I am alive… but everything hurts. My hair hurts. Why does my hair hurt?”

There was a giggle on the other end of the line. “I don’t know. Did someone pull it?”

“Oh yeah, that’s right. That elf did… didn’t even buy me dinner first or anything. Just went straight for the choking and the hair pulling.” Pushing the blankets off, Topaz struggled into a sitting position despite her body’s protests. The room spun a little, so she closed her eyes, and silently counted to ten. “You can stop worrying, I’m okay. Grumpy the Elf is too.”

“I’m glad to hear that. Listen, I went by your landlord this morning…”

“Fuck, I totally forgot, Gen, I’ll wire you the money today.”

“No need. Someone already paid your rent. She wouldn’t tell me who, though.”

Reaching for her sweats on the chair, Topaz grimaced at the pain it caused to her chest. Pushing through it, she snatched them up and sat back just when Genny’s words sank in. Who on earth could’ve done that? There were only two people who knew she needed to pay her rent and since one tried and she was the other, there was no one. Unless… She pushed the thought from her mind, shaking her head.

“You’re sure she said that?”

“Yeah, I'm sure… you must have a secret admirer or something.”

“I guess… Sorry for the sounds I am about to make, I am trying to get dressed.” Groaning and grunting, she wormed her way into the pants, sitting back and panting with the sweats pulled just over her knees, she needed a little breather before she pulled them the rest of the way up.

“So I am looking over the report, and there are pictures…”

“Nope, no, nah uh. I do not need to start my day off with you asking me if I was wearing anything underneath that dress, and shit like that. He’s my boss, Genny. Stop it.”

Her laugh rang out from the other end of the line. A change of subject was sorely needed, before Genny could really latch on to this one.

“So someone really paid my rent? All of it?”

“In full. That place is terrible though, horrible neighborhood and so noisy. You really need to come check out my place when you’re back.”

“I know. Good apartments are hard to find.” Topaz let out a triumphant sound when she managed to push herself to her feet. She grabbed the sweats before they could slide back down to her ankles, and with a little wiggling got them up over her hips. “I can do this… today is gonna suck, but I can do this.”

“You should take a bath with Epsom salt. It will help with the soreness in your muscles.”

Leave it to Genny to have tips for everything. Although they hadn’t known each other nearly as long as other people seemed to think, not one of Genny’s tips she had received so far had failed. “I might see if they have some. Thanks for the tip. Now go to work, and stop fantasizing about my boss. It’s gross. Bye.”

Putting her phone in her pocket, Topaz took a few small, hesitant steps, surprised when it didn’t hurt nearly as much as she thought it would. Pushing her hair back out of her face and behind her ear, she walked out into the living area.

Kaldomere was sitting at the table, reading something on his tablet, bringing the coffee cup up to his mouth to take a sip and set it back down. He was fully dressed, the only thing missing his jacket, but the gorget was back around his neck. This disappointed her, but she wasn’t sure why. Maybe because he looked a little more approachable without it? He looked up and put the tablet aside when she came closer.

Pulling a chair out, she slowly sank down into the seat, and sighed. She had made it this far, but today was really going to suck if she was going to be hurting this badly. It wasn’t going to stop her though.

“Morning…” she yawned, watching him pour her a cup of coffee, giving him a little smile as she wrapped her fingers around it. The warmth of the liquid, radiating out through the cup and against her skin somehow felt soothing to her and she let out a sigh.

His hand reached out and brushed her hair back to reveal her neck. She hadn’t even thought to look in the mirror to survey the damage herself, but if his reaction was any indication, it wasn’t a pretty sight. “That bad, huh?”

“How are you feeling?”

She took a sip of her coffee, feeling it warm her chest. Just what she needed. A little boost to start her day. It was really good coffee too, not the cheap kind from work, or the really cheap blend she used at home.  “Well, I was thrown down, choked, smacked and had my hair pulled, and not in the way I usually enjoy. So I am feeling a little used and unappreciated.”

“I meant physically.”

She got the look. That look that told her she had managed to turn a simple question into an answer he wasn’t looking for or wanted to know, which made Topaz smirk behind her cup. It would take a lot more than a little fight to get her to drop the smartass retorts. If he didn’t know that, he was about to find out. It was also sort of her way of proving she was okay. She took another sip of her coffee, before she answered.

“I feel like I played Frogger in traffic and lost.”

Reaching over to the empty chair where his jacket was hanging, Topaz watched him riffle through the pockets and heard the familiar sound of pills rolling around in a plastic container. Immediately she shook her head, even before she saw them. “Those heavy duty painkillers make me loopy and tired. I can’t work with those.”

“Good thing you’re not working then.”

“Oh come on! I am just a little sore.”  

A brow hiked, Kandomere paused a moment, then tossed the pill container at her, which she caught with a grimace. The pain that shot through her chest was red hot like a poker. It took the air from her lungs, making her set her coffee cup down on the table. He proved his point, and Topaz wanted to slap the smug look off his face, but that would only hurt her more.

“You cracked two ribs. The only thing you’re doing today is resting.”

Glaring at him wasn’t going to make him change his mind, so her gaze dropped to the container, spinning it between her thumb and index finger to read the label. This was most definitely going to make her drowsy, but the pain was making it difficult to breathe right. The knock on the door made her look up at Kandomere. He seemed to be expecting it. Turning around on her chair, she watched as he went to answer the door.

A nicely dressed young man wheeled in a table with two silver domes on it, and her stomach growled in response. Breakfast. Behind breakfast was a cheap looking suit and a vaguely familiar face. It had to be one of the detectives they had met on their first night. He had two folders and a small evidence envelope in his hands.

“Good morning. Sorry to interrupt breakfast, but I thought you might want this as soon as possible.”

A friendly smile, veneer teeth, clean shaven, expensive cologne, not a hair out of place. All that trouble to look sharp, and a cheap suit ruined it all. She remembered him now, having dubbed him ‘the pretender’. “Morning, detective Howard.”

He shook her hand carefully, weak grip. Yup, all pretend. His gaze was on her throat, which made her even more curious to see the damage now. Was it really that bad?

“That looks pretty painful. You okay?”

“Oh this, it’s nothing.” Her mind made a connection, and the look in her eyes betrayed that she was about to make a remark she probably shouldn’t be, but it was out before Kandomere could warn her. “I told him not to use the belt, but he got a little carried away. Elves, right?”

The detective looked from Topaz to Kandomere, who was pinching the bridge of his nose, his other hand on his hip. Bringing up her coffee cup, she used it to hide her smirk behind. Payback is a bitch, Grumpus.

“You’ll have to excuse her. She has a very dark sense of humor,” Kandomere answered with a sigh.

“Oh, okay.”

“So what did you want to bring us, detective?” Topaz asked curiously, going straight from smartass to agent. She would spare the detective more discomfort and awkwardness. Kandomere was a different story however. She was far from done with him.

“Right, sorry. Our techs pulled the data from the cellphones of the two guys we have in custody, and from the phone you retrieved last night. We haven’t had a chance to go through that ourselves, but agent Kandomere said that you would want to have it as soon as possible.”

He had said what now? Her eyes went from the detective to Kandomere for a brief moment. Unless he had lost his mind completely or was still high on the drugs they slipped him the night before, this had to be his way of trying to appease her. It wasn’t gonna work. Signing for the little envelope, she opened it and held up the thumb drive. Not much she could learn from that without her laptop which was on the other side of the room.

As if he could read her mind, Kandomere placed it on the table and let the detective out. They were talking by the door, but Topaz paid them no mind as she booted up the laptop and plugged in the drive. She looked up only when Kandomere wheeled the cart over. She held up the end of the charge cord. “Can you stick it in?”

“Are you going to be doing this all day?” Kandomere asked, taking the plug from her and finding the nearest socket. The laptop beeped in response as soon as it was hooked up to power.

“Pretty much. It’s not like I have anything better to do, since I have to rest and all.”

There was the look again. This time she had no coffee cup to hide her grin behind. Putting her hands over her heart she pretended his gesture of finding her something to do was touching. It was a terrible attempt to try and mend things between them, and she would let him feel it.

“Topaz…” His tone was one of warning, but she didn’t look impressed. “I had to convince that detective I wasn’t responsible for those marks on your neck.”

“Well, you did put me in that dress and had me play a hooker. Turn about is fair play.”

“You don’t want to play that game with me, Topaz.”

“Who says it is a game, Grumpus?” She watched him as he put on his jacket and straightened himself out. “Where are you going?”

“I am going to see what that elf has to say for himself. See what you can learn from that thumb drive. Call me if you have anything, and eat something before you take those pills.”

With a hand gesture she saluted him. He’d likely gotten her more of that disgusting grain stuff with dried fruit and yogurt that made her gag. She would order up some real breakfast while he was gone.

Her attention went back to the laptop when he walked away, and she almost missed his comment as she started clicking through the files to see what all was there.

“Silk scarf or tie.”

“What?” she frowned.

“I would never use a belt.”

She blinked at the door as it closed behind him. It took a moment or two for the other shoe to drop, but when it did, she went through a myriad of emotions in rapid succession, from shock to abject horror, repulsion and everything inbetween. She even yelled at the closed door, though she was sure he was far out of earshot by then. 

“Oh you want war, Grumpus, you got it.”

Chapter Text

Her heels clicked rapidly against the marble floor tiles as Topaz hurried from the elevator to the door. Trembling hands were making it difficult to find the right key on the chain and she missed the lock twice. Traffic had been horrendous and she had cursed like a sailor the entire time. Normally she would wait, annoyed but calm, shaking her head at the asshole hanging on his horn, but today she had been that asshole.

The door slipped into the lock behind her, her keys making metallic sounds as they hit the bowl. “I’m sorry I’m late. There was a seven car pile up on the freeway. Traffic was stopped up for miles-”

“Stop.”

She’d only taken a few steps when his voice cut through the silence. His tone commanded obedience and she complied. Was he angry with her? Was she going to get punished? Anticipation had her licking and biting her lip.

“Shoes off.”

Her gaze scanned the room, but she couldn’t find the source of his voice. Slipping off her heels, she put them aside and took a step forward, but a quick ‘ah ah ah’ made her step back into her spot. He could see her, but why couldn’t she see him? Eyes darted to every reflective surface she could find.

“Take off your clothes. Do it slowly.”

One by one the garments slipped from her body, making a little show of it, though it would have been easier if she’d had some music, or even knew where he was watching her from. She stripped until she was left in lacy panties and a bra. The cool air caressing her skin sent a shiver through her body. The rise and fall of her chest had quickened. Biting her bottom lip, she waited for him to give her another command. Her heart started racing when he finally stepped into view.

Gone were the jacket and vest, even the gorget was missing, the top few buttons of his pristine white shirt undone. This view was for her eyes only, she knew, and it was making her shift, rubbing her thighs together as the space between became sensitive, throbbing. Her attention was drawn to his hands when they moved. His tie was wrapped around one hand and he was tugging it with the other, playing with it. A soft gasp escaped her. Was he going to use it on her?

Oh please.

He beckoned her closer, his hand turning with the palm toward her when she got close enough. Circling her slowly like a predator stalking its prey, he was taking in the view from all sides, licking his lips and nodding appreciatively.

“The bra.”

Reaching behind her, she undid the clasps, taking in a sharp breath when his fingertips brushed briefly against her skin, plucking the material away from her body. More cool air against her skin caused her nipples to perk and her bottom lip found its way back between her teeth. Anticipation was killing her, but she didn’t dare make a move without him telling her.

“Panties too. Slowly.”

Starting with her hands on her sides, she caressed her way down, a finger hooking behind the material on each side. Her hips moved side to side a little for show, bending over to slip them all the way down to her ankles. Her legs instinctively parted when fingertips caressed the inside of her thigh, traveling up close to her now aching and swollen sex, glistening wet from just the sight of him and the sound of his voice as he commanded her to undress.

His hand traveled higher, making her hold her breath, but suddenly it was gone. Her whine of protest was cut off abruptly when his hand connected to her skin hard enough to jolt her forward a step. The force of the slap to her ass made the skin sting, glowing hot. She whimpered when his hand connected to her skin again, this time on the other cheek. The hot dull throb was only rivaled by the throbbing between her thighs. The wait was agonizing.

“Stand up.”

The silk tie slipped around her wrist, pulling it behind her back where he joined it with the other, securing them together and testing the restraint. Fingertips brushed her hair over one shoulder, exposing her neck. His touch was sending ripples of pleasure through her body. Her eyes closed and little mewling sounds slipped out when his lips pressed to the side of her neck.

“You were late. You know I don’t like being kept waiting.”

Teeth applied pressure to the cord of muscle running up the side of her neck, drawing a cry of pleasure from her lips. His bite was just strong enough to leave a print without breaking the skin and the thought of him leaving more all over her body had her rubbing her thighs together again, aching for some relief.

The push to her back urged her forward, into the bedroom to the foot of the bed where he bent her over. Laying against the mattress, she struggled to look back over her shoulder, but didn’t dare move. Bent over and exposed, her hands behind her back, she was at his mercy, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

That first touch of his fingers, spreading her open, got her to make more little sounds of pleasure. It wasn’t until his tongue, hot and wet, slithered against her skin, lapping up the juices that were already flowing from her that she really cried out in pleasure.

Her eyes shot open, blinking a few times to bring her surroundings into focus. Dark colors, wood, her bra hung over the mirror of her vanity. This was her room, with her things, and she was laying in her bed, with her legs up in the air. Why were her legs up in the air?

A tongue ran up between her folds, teasing that little bundle of nerves, lips sucking on it, drawing a moan from her lips. A voice spoke from between her thighs that thankfully wasn’t his.

“Morning sleepyhead. I was beginning to think I’d lost my touch.”

“Brett…” she moaned his name as he delved between her thighs again after briefly looking up to grin at her. Her eyes closed and she moaned far louder than she should, but the man’s tongue was doing things to her, making her roll her hips against his mouth. He was way too good at this, working her up quickly. Her head rolled to the side, her eyes catching sight of the alarm clock.

“Fuck, I’m gonna be late. Brett…”

“You work too hard. That boss of yours has you working too hard. Now give it to me. I want to hear you scream and clamp your thighs around my head.”

The way he spoke to her sent shivers through her body. His fingers joined his tongue in teasing her, having her a writhing mess in no time. Her back arched off the bed completely a few times, and she shot up into a half sitting position when he hit a good spot. Leaning back on one arm as her fingers slipped into his hair, she watching him. The sight brought her end faster, throwing her head back right before it finally pushed her over, she let out a scream of pleasure.

For a few moments her brain and body couldn’t communicate, but the red numbers on her alarm clock finally drew her attention again, prompting her into action. Groaning, she rolled over, off the bed and onto her feet. “I am so gonna be late…”

Stumbling around, she looked for the clean clothes basket. She had put it on the floor somewhere when she’d gotten home. Brett’s hand closed around her wrist and pulled her to him. He was sitting on the edge of the bed now.

“I meant it you know. You work way too hard. When was the last time you had a day off, hm?”

She rolled her eyes at him, an arm slipping around his shoulders as he guided her to straddle his lap, his erection poking against her. “That’s what I thought. I have some vacation time left, you have more than plenty saved up, let’s go back to Hawaii. Surf, sleep, and fuck for a weekend. Sounds like heaven to me.”

“Brett…” she started to protest, but his lips pressing kisses to her neck broke her train of thought with flashes of what she now knew was a dream she wanted to forget as soon as possible. Strong hands gripped her hips, lifting her and then pulling her down as he sank deep into her warmth, filling her. She was already late, so what was ten minutes more?

Her nails were clawing at his back, and he had her biting, licking and moaning against his skin as their bodies moved in that sensual rhythm. Like a dance. She tensed, her thighs clenching around him. His hands gripped her hips tighter and brought her down harder onto him, pleasure so intense she was reduced to mewling.

His movements became faster, more erratic. He was close, and so was she, she realized when he hit a spot that almost sent her crashing right away. His mouth was on her neck again. The moment he pulled her down hard, his teeth sank into the cord of muscle, bringing back the image and feeling of her dream, causing her to lose all control. She was sure the whole building heard her cry out in pleasure as her orgasm took over.

Panting, heart pounding, their sweaty skin sticking together, they sat there entangled on the edge of the bed for what felt like an eternity. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you this morning, but… wow. That was just wow.”

Slipping from his lap after she caught her breath, Topaz pressed a quick kiss to his lips. “Uh huh. Now I really need to get ready for work. You are a bad influence Brett Hughes.”

Like the Tasmanian devil she really was, she moved around the room gathering her clothes. Turning the shower to cold after quickly cleaning herself up, she stood under the spray until she was shivering. What the hell was wrong with her?

She wasn’t surprised to find Brett still stretched out on the bed naked when she walked in to grab her phone off the charger. “You can let yourself out, yeah?”

Leaning up on his elbows he looked at her. “You’d look so much better wearing a skirt.”

“No. We had this discussion before. Please leave the curtains closed. Pervy Pete is back with his telescope. I gotta go.”

Walking to the door she paused when she noticed the sandwich bag on the counter. Inside was a bacon and egg filled bagel, just the way she liked it. Brett had gotten up and made breakfast before he woke her. It was his thing. “Thank you for the bagel.”

“Think about Hawaii.”

“Maybe.”

Chuckling and shaking her head she took the stairs down instead of the elevator, sprinting across the street to barely make it to her bus on time. Out of breath, she thanked the driver for waiting a few extra seconds for her. Slumping into an empty seat she stared off in the distance, her mind still unable to wrap around what had happened. Where the hell had all that come from?

Her phone buzzed.

Woman, you really blew my mind this morning. You could make a guy fall in love.

Don’t you dare, detective Hughes.

I just might, agent Bennett.

Distracted by the texting she almost missed her stop. Wherever her head was this morning, it definitely wasn’t where it needed to be.

Nodding a greeting to the woman at the front desk, she got the usual grumble in response. At least some things were still as they should be. Maybe her day wouldn’t be so bad now she was at work.  Stepping on the elevator she glanced at the clock across the hall. A full half hour late. Great.

“Hold the elevator!”

Montehugh was panting when he stepped on and for a moment she thought he was going to have a heart attack. “Bennett, you’re late.”

“So are you, sir.” Topaz smiled. A normal response, for a normal morning at work, where she was thirty minutes late and probably about to receive a lecture about responsibility.

“Dentist appointment. You?”

“Boytoy.”

“Could’ve guessed, by the hickey. I hope that bruise is from Vegas and not from him though. Because I might need to catch my breath first before I can whoop his ass.”

Topaz chuckled. Montehugh looked big and scary and acted like an ass when she first met him, but he was one of those exceptions that really was a big sweetheart once you got to know him. “It is from Vegas. How was the anniversary?”

“My wife loved it. Let’s leave it at that. How was Vegas?”

“Could have gone worse, could also have gone a hell of a lot better. Wand wasn’t there. Something spooked them long before we got there, but we didn’t come back entirely empty handed, so it wasn’t a total loss.”

The elevator doors opened and across the floor Kandomere stood in his open office door, arms crossed over his chest. His blue eyes staring directly at her. How the hell did he know she was on her way up?

“He looks crankier than usual.”

“Yes, he does. I need coffee first.” He definitely didn’t look like the poster boy for happiness that was for sure and with a groan she remembered they were supposed to prepare a briefing for the meeting with the chief. He had asked her to come in early and instead she had come in half an hour late. Today was going to be hell.

“I’ll run interference while you get caffeinated.”

“Thank you. You’re a lifesaver.”

Slipping into the break room she checked the pot to make sure the coffee was still fresh enough and poured herself a cup. Closing her eyes she took a few deep breaths to prepare herself, took a sip of her coffee and straightening her shoulders she walked out to greet her boss.

Kandomere was clenching his jaw so tight it made the muscles in his cheeks dance. He was more than just a little annoyed so she didn’t give him her usual big smile and smartass comment.

“Morning, Sir.”

“You are late. You know I don’t like being kept waiting.”

Chapter Text

Was there anything more satisfying and pathetic at the same time as watching your leftover burrito from lunch turning around in the microwave? If there was, Topaz couldn’t remember it. Kandomere had her working on a ridiculous task, which she figured was his way of punishing her for being late when she had promised to be early the day before. Stopping the microwave, she opened the door to flip over the burrito and hit the start button again. Her stomach growled at the smells already wafting in her direction.

“What are you doing?”

She made a sound similar to a dying Velociraptor and jolted to a standing position, both her hands grasping her chest. “Jesus fucking Christ!”

Arms crossed over his chest, both eyebrows raised, tongue in cheek, Kandomere waited for an answer to his question.

“What does it look like I’m doing, a science experiment?” The microwave dinged, causing her to jump again. Taking the plate out of the microwave, she smiled at her burrito. It wouldn’t taste nearly as good as it had at lunch when it was fresh, but at this point she was hungry enough even instant Ramen sounded like a great culinary delight.

“Might as well be.”

Kandomere was coming closer, looking down at the plate. Why did he have to be so close? She had managed to avoid him successfully for most of the day, and right now she really didn’t need him close enough where she could smell him, let alone touch him. Get a grip. Act normal. She stood perfectly still when he took the plate from her hand, and turned it over above the open trash can. Her eyes went wide.

“I couldn’t help but notice you’ve been avoiding me. Why?”

Unable to utter any words, she pointed angrily at the trash can. This was the second time he had blatantly thrown away her food without a single ounce of remorse, or any consideration for her.

“Yes, I threw away your science experiment. Why are you avoiding me?”

“This! This is why!” Angrily, she pointed at the trash can again, and stomped off with hands clenched into fists.

“Where are you going?”

“Back to work, to starve to death!” It was an exaggeration, but when she was hangry, the last thing anyone should do was exactly what he did. She had no desire to explain to HR that she punched her boss in the nose for throwing away her leftovers, or why she carried such animosity toward him in the first place. He wasn’t worth losing her job over.

Stomping all the way back to Genny’s office, she slumped into her seat and grunted as she looked at the boxes she still had to go through. This was going to be a long night.

“Kandomere was just here looking for you… again. He left you something.”

On the desk in front of her was a foil wrapped shape which she knew had to be a food container. It was warm to the touch. He had brought her dinner and she had blown up at him for throwing away her leftovers. Arms sliding forward across the desk, she laid her head down. “I am an idiot…”

“No you’re not, but you have been avoiding him all day, and all day yesterday now that I think about it. Wanna tell me what’s up with that?”

“Not really, no, because I know how you’re gonna react.” Her answer made Genny lean forward on her desk, scooting to the edge of her seat. “If I tell you, no squealing, no swooning, and it never leaves this room, got it?”

“I can keep a secret. Does this have to do with Vegas?”

“No. Not directly…” Sitting up, she grabbed her water bottle and took a few sips. “These meds I have been taking for my ribs, they seem to be having certain side effects. I take them before bed so I don’t wake up wheezing and in pain.”

“And those side effects are?”

“I have dirty dreams… like seriously dirty dreams.”

“About? Oh my! You’re having dirty dreams ab-”

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence at that volume!” Topaz glanced at the door, but the floor beyond the office was empty. Most people had gone home already, but that didn’t mean Kandomere couldn’t be within earshot.

“Oh my god. I knew it! I knew it would happen!”

“It’s the meds, Genny, just the meds. They’re messing with my head.”

“Uh huh, sure. And you’re avoiding him, because…”

“He’s my boss. It’s wrong and awkward on so many levels, and I almost punched him in the face not even fifteen minutes ago.”

“That is what pent up sexual frustration will do to you.”

“I had sex yesterday morning. I highly doubt sexual frustration has anything to do with it.”

Curiosity was getting the better of her finally. Peeling away the foil she popped open the container and felt even worse for blowing up at her boss. Inside was a freshly made burrito, covered in delicious gooey cheese, with her favorite beans and rice on the side.

Genny leaned on the desk to peek over and grinned. “He got you your favorite meal…”

“Don’t.”

Chuckling, she finished putting on her jacket and grabbed her bag. “You know what that means though, right?”

“That I’m the teacher’s pet?” Topaz answered, sarcasm dripping from every syllable.

Genny snorted in response which made her roll her eyes and flip the woman off with both middle fingers. “Go home and stop that. I know what you’re thinking. Nothing has changed. Not a damn thing, you hear?”

“Sure… if you say so.” Genny shook her head. “I left my computer logged on. So if you need to search any databases, you know what to do. Please log off before you leave. I got a date with leftover Italian food, a glass of wine and my favorite shows.”

“You mean the telenovellas you record.”

“They help with my Spanish.”

“All you’re missing is a cat, Genny. Go, have a good night, and I promise I will log off.”

Genny took two steps outside the room, then stepped back and popped her head in. “His office light is still on. You could take advantage and live out some of those fantasies.”

Crunching the foil up in a ball, she threw it at the door, missing Genny by a mile, but it hit the wall at just the right angle so that it bounced off into the trash. “Good night!”

Letting out a deep sigh, she looked at the papers she had already copied before her and the boxes she still had to go through. Her stomach growled, demanding attention. Checking around the box she found a fork and knife, and dug into the burrito. The taste made her groan. This was the good stuff.

While stuffing her face, she thumbed through the pages, noticing the elvish script on one, and pulled out the translation beside it. The fork paused halfway to her mouth and dropped back down when she noticed a few sentences seemed to be off in the translation. Reaching for a marker, she underlined the lines on both copies and kept reading, underlining everything that didn’t seem right. Grabbing the next report she did the same. After about eight reports she sat back and looked at the copies before her, riddled with yellow marker.

Finishing the last of her food, she dumped the container in the trash as she took the reports over to Genny’s desk, and pulled up the records on the translator, printing them out. It was the same woman in all cases. Running her name through every database she could find on Genny’s computer, she came up empty.

Her heels clicked against the floor as she hurried across the hall with the reports. Just like your dream… A shiver ran down her spine, forcing her to slow down a moment. There were certain things she didn’t need to be thinking about when she was working. She was a professional, and she could keep things professional when they needed to be. Repeating that mantra to herself, she had herself under control again by the time she reached his office door.

The light was still on, and he was nose deep in a report. The sound of her heels was enough to draw his attention. Those intense blue eyes meeting hers took her breath for a moment and made her thoughts hiccup.

“You’re done?”

Shaking her head she took a few steps forward into his office. “Not entirely, sir, but I think I found something.”

Beckoning her closer, he held out his hand for the papers in her hands. She handed them over and waited, her hands clasped together in front of her, rubbing her fingers and biting on her bottom lip. He looked them over, and then back up at her. “Well? Are you going to tell me what I am looking at, or do I have to guess?”

“Oh. Sorry.” Brushing a lock of stray hair behind her ear, she pointed at the documents. “All those statements and transcripts were translated by the same woman, and all of them contain incorrect translations. In at least six out of the eight cases I have found so far, it looks like someone walked as a direct result of the inaccurately translated evidence. I ran a background check on the translator, but at first glance she looks clean. Maybe a little too clean.”

A little smirk appeared on Kandomere’s face, as he put the copies aside. He looked amused, maybe even a little victorious, like she had just proved a point for him. A reaction she hadn’t expected. “You’re not surprised.”

“I had my suspicions, but I needed someone without prior knowledge to look into it. Someone with an eye for detail. So, now that you have found this evidence, agent Bennett, tell me how you would proceed.”

Topaz blinked a moment. He called her agent Bennett. After blowing up at him in the break room, she wasn’t sure what she had expected from him, but he appeared to have put his boss hat on finally, which allowed her to relax.

“I would check the rest of the translations for errors, to see how far back it goes, compare cases, see how many defendants walked, and what they might have in common. Also have the analysts do a more thorough background check on the translator.”

Kandomere nodded along, taking the copies he had placed aside he put them into a folder, opened a drawer in his desk and slid the folder into it.

“You don’t want to get those to another translator, sir?”

“No, I will do the translations myself. Anything else?”

Her brows furrowed. Something felt off about this, but instead of asking him about it, she shook her head. “I’ll get back to work.”

“It can wait till morning. Go home, get some rest.”

She didn’t need to be told twice. Walking back to the office, she turned off Genny’s computer, straightened out the room, and stared at the boxes she still had to go through. “Tempting, very tempting,” she mumbled. Now she knew that she was onto something, it felt like those boxes were just begging her to sit down, open them up and keep searching through the files.

“Tomorrow. Fresh eyes,” she spoke to the empty room. Grabbing her coat and her bag, she headed for the elevator and hit the button twice, just because she could, smiling a little at herself. That smile disappeared though when she heard the familiar tap of Kandomere’s shoes behind her. He found something, and was going to make her stay, she just knew it.

Much to her surprise, he had his briefcase in his hand, his car keys in the other as he stopped beside her. He was going home? He was usually one of the last people to leave the office and one of the first to arrive in the morning. It made her wonder if Elves even slept, or if they just power napped.

An awkward silence filled the air as they stood in the elevator, staring ahead of them, waiting for it to reach the ground floor.

“You going home?”

“Yeah.”

“I can give you a lift.”

“Thanks, but I’ll just take the bus.” Topaz gave him a fake polite smile when the doors opened and she stepped off the elevator.

“You mean the bus that is just leaving?”

Glancing over her shoulder out the door, she could see the tail lights of the bus as it drove away and groaned. The next bus wouldn’t leave for another hour. Looking back, she saw Kandomere was holding the elevator doors. Sighing, she got back on. “Thanks…”

“Not a problem.”

Not a problem? Her apartment was in the entirely opposite direction of Elf town. At least when she carpooled with Genny, it was because they needed to go in the same general direction, with just a two block detour to drop her off. “I suppose it isn’t when gas prices aren’t a problem.”

“Not everything is about money, Topaz.”

There it was again, her name rolling off his tongue. She almost visibly shivered. Glaring at him a moment over the roof of the car, she waited for him to unlock the doors, before slipping into the passenger seat. At least the ride would be more comfortable than the seats on the bus. Hugging her bag against her lap, she stared out the window as he pulled out of the garage and into traffic.

The awkward silence from the elevator made its return, and it was once again Kandomere who broke it.

“You never answered my question.”

“Maybe that was my answer.”

“You were avoiding me because I threw your food in the trash? You were still angry about a stale donut?”

“Ah, so you remember your previous transgression.”

“Intervention.”

“Whatever.” Her gaze stayed focused out the window. She didn’t want to look at him out of fear she might remember something else now that they were alone and confined to a car together. Like steamed up windows, and trying to find a comfortable position in the confined space of the back seat. Squeezing her eyes shut, she counted to ten.

“I’m sorry… for the break room. You threw my food away and I was…”

“Hangry?”

Her laugh rang out, and when she looked at him, he had an equally amused expression on his face. She noticed something she’d never seen before simply because he never genuinely smiled. He had dimples. “Yeah, I was.”

“You’re forgiven. How was your dinner?”

“As much as I regret to admit this, because I am a spiteful person and don’t want to give you the satisfaction… It was far better than reheated leftovers from lunch. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Can’t let my agents starve, can I?”

“I may have exaggerated that a little.” He was still smiling, and she caught herself staring at those dimples. He didn’t look nearly as scary when he genuinely smiled, as long as he didn’t show teeth. Teeth made it shift from nice into serial killer territory. Clearing her throat she turned to see where they were headed. “There’s construction up ahead. Easier to turn right here, and left two blocks down. Saves five minutes.”

Relaxing into the seat, she felt a warmth radiating against her back. Of course he had to have the built in heated seats. Not wanting another awkward silence to fall between them, she figured since they were alone and away from the office, she could ask him the question she hadn’t wanted to ask in the office. “Those files you have me looking at. You’ve got a case you’re working on, or are you trying to build one?”

He didn’t answer her right away, as he followed her instructions on how to avoid the road work. “Working on something.”

“Are you going to share this information with me? I’d like to know what it is that I am really working on.”

“Tomorrow.”

“Is that code for ‘shut up and do your job, Bennett’?”

“No, it means filling you in on the details will take a long time, and it is already late. Just, finish going through those files, put in those requests for background checks, and we’ll talk. I’ll fill you in. For now, you need to get some rest. How are the ribs?”

“Excellent, as long as I sit perfectly still and don’t breathe,” she joked and clicked off her seat belt when he neared her building. “Getting a little better, but I still need the pain meds to sleep. Thank you for the ride.”

“Like I said, not a problem.”

For you maybe. She kept the thought to herself, rolling her eyes at him for good measure. Closing the car door behind her, she heard the window being rolled down behind her and looked back. He was leaning over so he could look at her. His grin was a toothy one, which oddly didn’t creep her out. Biting the inside of her cheek, she resisted the urge to grin back.

“Good night Topaz.”

Her eyes narrowed and she flipped him off. He had to ruffle her feathers just one more time, didn’t he? “So close… I was so close to not hating you entirely, and you had to go and ruin it. Good night, Grumpus.”

Turning on her heel, she walked up the steps to the front door of her building, flinging her arm up like a spastic reflex when he tapped the horn briefly. Stepping on the elevator she closed her eyes and said a silent prayer. 

Please, no more dreams.

Chapter Text

“What’s gotten into you, today?”

Topaz looked up from what she was reading, marker in her mouth to give Genny a simple ‘hm’ and go back to what she was doing, underlining another sentence on one of the copies. She had been at it all day, taking only a brief break around lunchtime to shovel some food into her mouth. Knowing she was on to something, that there was a bigger picture, had her eager to dig up more information.

“Yesterday you were all grunts and complaints, and today you’re like a dog with a bone. Anything good?”

“Maybe, can’t really tell yet.”

Running the marker across the page, she underlined another sentence. Her eyes scanned the document for more mistakes, until movement drew her attention away. Genny put on her coat and grabbed her bag. It was still too early to go home, wasn’t it?

“Where are you going?”

“Home. It’s dinner time.” Her eyes glinted with amusement. “You’re really in a zone, aren’t you?”

Confused, Topaz searched the room for a clock. Had time really gone by this fast? “Oh…”

Genny smiled at her friend, tapping her fingers on the door frame as she paused in the doorway. “If you want, I can give you a ride home.”

“That’s alright,” Topaz answered with a shake of her head. “I am gonna stay and finish this up, but thank you.”

“Alright, see you tomorrow, agent Bennett. Say hi to your boss for me.”

Topaz flipped her off without looking up, rolling her eyes at the laugh she got in response. She knew Genny was ruffling her feathers to get a reaction from her, but her friend’s laughter made it worth responding anyway.

Without anyone to disturb her, Topaz flew through the rest of her work, but she flew through time as well. Two hours had passed and her stomach protested to the lack of sustenance. Walking to Genny’s desk she searched through her drawers until she found her prize. It wouldn’t still her hunger completely, but it would hold her over until she could get dinner.

Gathering up the papers, she made sure she had everything before she marked the last task on her checklist as done. A triumphant smile curved her lips. Today had been a productive day, and maybe she would get some more answers from her boss, though she wasn’t going to hold her breath.

Wriggling herself into her coat, she turned off the lights and closed the office door, crossing the long hallway. There were several office lights still on, but the one she needed to be on, wasn’t. A little disappointed, she looked down at the file in her hand, then frowned. It was odd for Kandomere to be gone this early, and she noticed his office door was open.

“Are you done?”

Nearly dropping the file, she stomped her foot in a weird response to being startled and glared at the elf as he passed her by. He flipped on the light in his office long enough to put on his coat and grab his suitcase.

“Thanks for the heart attack… yes, I am done. You want the file?”

“Hold on to it, come on,” he said with a nod of the head as he gestured toward the elevator. “I was stuck in a meeting. Thought you might’ve gone home for the evening.”

“Are you kidding? You said you were going to clue me in on what you were doing. You are still going to do that, right?”

“Yes, but not here.”

Stepping on the elevator beside him, she held the file to her chest, glancing over to him. “I am not taking the bus home, am I?”

“No.”

Nodding, she waited in silence for the elevator to reach garage level. She didn’t even wait for him to gesture in the general direction of his car, having spotted it already. Waiting by the car for him to unlock it, she nodded a greeting at two men in suits walking by. “You know, this is the second night in a row I’m getting in your car. People might start talking.”

“Good. Let them talk,” he said and winked at her with a smile.

His response drew her eyebrows together while her eyes went wide. What the hell did he mean by that? Slipping into the passenger seat, she still had that look on her face when he glanced at her. She got a half cocked smirk and chuckle in response.

“Care to explain yourself there, Quagmire? You’re starting to creep me out just a little.”

“Let me get out on the road first.”

Worrying her bottom lip between her teeth, Topaz kept glancing in his direction. It had to be a set up for something, because despite her personal feelings and opinions of the man, he was more professional than that.

“Okay, we’re on the road, explain. Also, I warn you, I have pepperspray in my purse.”

“In the purse that is on the floor and out of reach?” Kandomere shook his head like he was disappointed in her for issuing and idle threat like that. “You won’t need it. I said to let them talk, because while they are gossiping about a possible office romance that isn’t happening, they won’t be asking other questions about what is.”

“And what is happening?”

“I had you look into those cases where they employed that translator, because I needed an objective look, and verify that I wasn’t seeing things.”

“Seeing things?”

“Corruption, among other things.”

The puzzle pieces started to fall into place one by one, and she brought her palm up to her forehead. It started to make sense now. He couldn’t talk at the office because if he was suspecting corruption of a bigger scale than just the translator, the walls might have ears. Closing her eyes, she shook her head a little, feeling a bit foolish. When she opened them again, she noticed they were heading out onto the freeway.

“You’re going the wrong way.”

“Not taking you home.”

“Okay, straying back into the creepy path. Use your words, explain.”

“I am not done explaining, but some things are easier to understand if I just show you.”

“Getting creepier…” Crossing her arms over her chest, she turned in her seat enough to stare at him. He smirked in return, though kept his eyes on the road.

“Yup, and about to make it worse. I am taking you home. My home.”

Her brain hiccuped a moment. Before he spoke she was going to make a joke about him taking her to some secret lair, like he fancied himself a super hero or something, but the fact he was taking her home gave her pause. Going to Kandomere’s home was crossing a whole lot of lines she wasn’t sure she ever should, but after the dreams she’d been having about that living space, the last thing she needed was a more accurate visual.

As soon as they rolled into Elf town, Topaz squinted her eyes at the lights which were reflecting off the gold and other shiny surfaces. All of the cars were as expensive as his, and tall thin elves, dressed in the latest fashion with the strangest hair styles were strutting about like runway models. Her cheap suit, messy bun and pale complexion made her feel completely out of place.

When Kandomere pulled into a parking structure that was both cleaner and far more technologically advanced than the one at work, she was thankful for the darkness. Any longer in those lights and she might have gotten a migraine. How on earth did people live that way?

Doing her best to ignore the hand that briefly pressed against her lower back, she let Kandomere guide her to the elevators. Fingerprint and retina scanners provided far more security than she thought anyone would ever need, but who was she to judge? The interior of the elevator was ridiculous, with mirrors all around. Greed, paranoia and vanity. Elf town almost felt like the seven deadly sins embodied.

“Quagmire?”

Looking at Kandomere, she frowned for a moment then shook her head. “Cartoon character. Doesn’t really apply after you explained yourself though.”

“I see.”

Uncomfortable with all the mirrors around, she looked down at her feet. At least this wasn’t like her dream, where the elevator had stopped on the twelfth floor, opening up to white marbled floors and potted palms. Even the ping to alert they had reached their floor sounded pretentious. The doors slid open.

White marble floors and potted palms.

Swallowing hard, she clutched the file to her chest, and stepped off the floor. Shiny gold numbers all started with a twelve, and looking back at the elevator, the mirrors reflected the door and the number 12 burning brightly in the digital display. What on earth? She tried to remember the apartment number, but could only remember a door she had rushed to, the same door Kandomere stopped at and unlocked.

Each step she took made her heart pound louder in her chest. This had to be a coincidence. She was good at picturing where people lived, and Genny showed her the magazines all the time that she got from some lady in her building who worked at a hair salon in Elf town. That was probably where she had seen all this, and had put it together in her mind. Yeah, that had to be it.

What would be the odds of walking into a wide open living space, with large glass sliding doors opening onto a balcony. Whatever they were, they weren’t in her favor as she stepped inside to a view fairly similar to the one in her dreams. The furniture was different, as were the plants, but it was as sterile as her dreams.

“Shoes.”

Her eyes widened a moment, and she froze in her spot, looking at him. He pointed down at her feet and when she looked down, she noticed his shoes were gone. Her boss in socks was an oddly strange sight. Even the few days they had spent in Vegas, she hadn’t seen him without shoes on except for one brief moment with the dress. Stepping out of her heels, she brushed them aside with a swipe of her foot.

“Thank you, I don’t like tracking dirt inside.”

“There’s dirt in Elf town?” At least her humor hadn’t completely left her. Taking a few steps, she paused again. What did they call that feeling again, when you felt like you had experienced something before? She swore she had never been here before, and yet her surroundings felt oddly familiar.

Kandomere had walked into another room, but came back when Topaz didn’t follow. He called her name to get her attention, and she scrunched her nose in response. Holding up a hand, he made a beckoning motion. Come here, pet…

Déjà vu!

Her feet were moving on their own, her mouth going dry. She licked her lips several times as she followed him into another room. Her jaw dropped, but not because she was looking at another familiar sight. There were several large screens, computers, equipment that likely would make Genny have a nerdgasm. It looked almost like a war room. Her attention was drawn to the screen with a map of northern America. Little red dots were strewn across it.

“This is what I have been working on.”

A bell played a classical song somewhere, and a brow rose as she looked at him. Even the doorbell was pretentious.

“That’ll be dinner. I ordered Italian. Hope that’s okay.”

“Fine…” Staring at the map, she tried to make sense of the dots, trying to connect them to open cases. She saw one pattern emerging, or at least she thought she did. “Are these all brights?” she mumbled out loud, and took a step back when a good portion of the dots lit up white for a moment. Voice responsive? Oh, Genny would have loved this. “Wand sightings?” she asked, and again, several dots lit up on the map.

When Kandomere didn’t return, she got curious, and wandered back out into the living area. He was putting the finishing touches on two plates of pasta and chicken, a chilled, expensive looking bottle of chardonnay standing on the counter before her, two empty glasses beside it. His jacket was gone and when he turned, she realized so was his gorget.

“If you bring the wine, I got the rest.”

Watching him walk by with the two plates, utensils and napkins, she pursed her lips. She was not going to breathe a word about this to Genny, because she would never hear the end of it. Picking up the bottle and the glasses, she followed him, placing them on the thick glass table. “So you keep track of all the brights and wand sightings here?”

“For starters.”

Watching as he poured the wine, then dug into his meal, Topaz had to admit it was an odd sight. “You know, with the pointy teeth, I thought for sure you were carnivores.”

“Contrary to popular belief, we are not cannibals either. While it does taste like chicken, human flesh is far too gamy.” Again he winked at her.

Her gaze dropped to her plate, focusing on her own food. Shifting her weight on the seat, she folded one leg under her. It wasn’t a very proper way to sit, but it brought her some small bit of comfort and she could use it.

“So, why all this here?”

“The budget at work won’t allow for all this, they can’t afford it. I needed more than paper files and computer models, so I paid for it out of my own pocket. At first it started as a way to keep track of brights and wand sightings, I even used it to track Leilah for a long time.”

“Does Montehugh know about this?”

Kandomere shook his head. His hand went up to loosen his tie and undo the top button on his shirt. The action had her staring at him far longer than she should.

“Does anyone know?”

“Aside from you? No one.”

Picking at her food she let that one sink in for a moment. Something the chief had said came back to mind. Kandomere had picked her personally to work with. Out of all the candidates, he had picked her. She had to believe it was not because she was a woman, but on account of her merits like the chief had said. So did he do that with this in mind? Corruption within the organization and likely beyond.

Corruption was nothing new, certainly not within government agencies, but this corruption had attracted Kandomere’s attention. Why? Was it because Elves were involved. Her gaze sought and found the board again and she spoke one word loud enough she hoped the voice command would respond to. “Inferni.”

The board lit up in response. Her attention turned to Kandomere, who was sitting back with his glass of wine, and raised it to her before taking a sip. She had figured it out. The piece of the puzzle he hadn’t given her, and she just figured it out. She grinned with pride, and took a sip of her own wine.

“Congratulations, Topaz. I knew you were smart enough to figure it out.”

Taking in breath she let it out in a deep sigh, her smile dropping. He just had to ruin the moment by bristling her fur. It was becoming a thing, but she had other things on her mind right now. “Why show me all this?”

“Because I would like your help.”

His answer surprised her a little. Always working on something, hardly ever sharing, Kandomere seemed like the type to handle most work on his own, until it came down to getting into the grit of it and then he had a small army at his disposal. To be involved in the process before, it felt like an opportunity she shouldn’t pass up. At the same time, she knew there was a snake in the grass which could mess things up.

“You know if we work together on this, people are really going to talk.”

Kandomere shrugged. “So let them talk.”

“It doesn’t bother you?”

“Humans have this incessant need for gossip.”

“You’ll get no argument there.” She had been the victim of way too many rumors started by gossiping ninnies, to argue with that one. It didn’t look like it was bothering him though. “You don’t care what they’ll say?”

“As long as I know the truth, no, I don’t. Neither should you.”

She snorted. If only things were that simple. She wanted to not care, but she cared about having a career, so she had to care about perception. “Easy for you to say. I have a hard enough time as it is to be taken seriously. Once word starts spreading I might be doing my boss, it’s just gonna make things worse.”

“I take you seriously. So does Montehugh and anyone else on the team.”

“Yeah, because I wear these horribly unflattering pant suits. As soon as I put on a skirt, my legs in heels will be doing all the talking. They will start asking me to bend over or get them some coffee. I will become the pretty thing, and cease to be agent Bennett.”

“Then they will have to deal with me.”

“Coming from the man they’ll think I am sleeping with, that will only make it worse. I’ll stick to the pant suits.”

“What you wear shouldn’t dictate how people treat you.”

“Really?” Her gaze went up and down, taking in his expensive shirt, silk tie, pressed pants, and keeping in mind the Italian leather shoes. He was the poster boy for ‘dress to impress’. She let it slide this time, since she already gave him enough grief about how he dressed. “In a perfect world, it wouldn’t. Unfortunately we live in one where the Inferni are keeping criminals out of jail and I can’t think of a reason why.”

Taking her glass of wine, she got up from her chair and walked over to the board. “Is this static, or interactive?” The board responded to her question by opening a window on the screen to put in a query. “Can we put in those case files I found, or are they already in the system?” The screen asked her for numbers.

Kandomere handed her the folder when she walked over, and reading off the list, she added all the cases to the map. He sat back, watching her working and drinking his wine. Topaz was getting the hang of things quickly. It was so much easier speaking to a machine than actually typing in the commands. The visual representation helped a lot as well.

She lost track of time as she tried to rearrange puzzle pieces on the board, trying to make connections. A digital case board was so much easier than magnets on a whiteboard or pins on a cork board.

“Well, sir, I think that’s about all I can do tonight. Until the background checks come through.”

“Kandomere will do.”

“What?”

“We’re off duty right now. I’m not your boss, you don’t have to be so formal.” He took the empty wine glass from her hand in passing and smirked. “Although, I don’t mind being called Sir.”

Snapping his fingers, he made another beckoning motion. “Come on. I’ll drive you home.”

Yes, Sir.

Chapter Text

Gossip was spreading faster than the clap at a frat house. Walking the halls, Topaz could feel the eyes on her, hear the whispers behind her back, but did her best to ignore them. As soon as she walked into the break room all eyes were on her. She needed coffee before she heard what they had to say, or she just might strangle someone. Pouring coffee into her ‘have a nice day’ mug, she turned to face the music.

“Alright, let me have it.”

“So we heard you’ve been getting a lot of after work rides from the boss man. A little elf lovin’ going on there, Bennett?”

“This is the best you can come up with? Elves don’t date humans, remember.”

“Yeah, but they are also not supposed to work for a measly salary for the government and under humans, and yet, he is. He’s a special Elf.”

Topaz snorted and took a sip of her coffee. “Oh he’s special alright.” From the periphery of her vision, she saw a flash of blue, and made a hand gesture across her throat to kill the conversation, but the two men were too amused by whatever they had just thought of together, to notice her warning.

“So does he make you call him Daddy or Papi?”

Kandomere walked by and went straight for the coffee, pouring himself a cup. Biting the inside of her cheek, Topaz took a bigger sip of her coffee, revealing the middle finger drawing on the bottom. The two men snickered a little. It seemed like Kandomere wasn’t going to comment on the question, but then he turned to the two men, who immediately stood up straight.

“The answer is neither.”

Eyes wide, jaw dropping, Topaz looked at the Elf in a mix of shock and horror. Was he seriously adding fuel to the fire, all casual, testing his coffee on taste and temperature? She waited for him to tell the men he was kidding, or that gossip break was over and it was time to get back to work, but he did neither.

“He’s joking. It’s a terrible joke, but he’s joking. Tell them you’re joking,” she demanded from him.

Kandomere paused to look at her. “Elves don’t joke.”

Just like that, he walked out, leaving her mortified, with the two men looking at her waiting to hear what she had to say for herself now. Taking another big sip of her coffee, she let the bottom of her cup flip them both off as she walked out the room, following after her boss. She caught up to him by the time he reached his office.

“What the hell was that?”

Kandomere took his time, taking off his jacket and hanging it up. His fingertips ran along the top of his messages, quickly scanning through them, before putting them aside. Without looking up he made a gesture for her to come inside. “Close the door please.”

“Not a chance. Not after that stunt in the break room.”

“Topaz…” He pinched the bridge of his nose with two fingers.

“No. Don’t even start that. Do you have any idea how difficult it is going to be for me to convince them that I am a professional?”

“Topaz, close the door, sit down and shut up!”

Closing the door, she moved to the chair in front of his desk and sat down. Kandomere had never raised his voice at her before, so she complied. Her gaze couldn’t hold his, her eyes darting around his desk in search of any clue for his sudden outburst. Those blue eyes could be extremely intimidating.

“Thank you.” Picking up one of the folders from his desk, he turned it around and offered it out to her.

Taking the folder, she opened it. Inside were some reports and personal information, held together with a paperclip that also held what looked like a recent surveillance photo. “Who am I looking at?”

“Shield of light got their hands on that wand we were searching for in Las Vegas. Got the confirmation early this morning.”

“How?”

Kandomere pointed to the folder in her hands.

“He’s a bright? He’s just a kid…” Looking through the file, the boy had a long list of priors, in and out of juvenile detention for the usual, but nothing suggesting he had any religious or extremist ties. The next line she read made her close her eyes a moment. He was a runaway, having fled his last group home less than three weeks before. “Troubled foster kid, with a decent sized list of priors, but still just a kid.”

“That kid retrieved the wand.”

As she skimmed through the pages of reports, her eyes fell on a passage that made her heart sink. This kid was the only one of a group of teen runaways to not have his DNA found at the site of the wand discovery. “They used teenagers as canon fodder?”

“They had no brights, we arrested the last one two months ago.”

“Did they just pick random kids off the street and pray? Are they really that desperate?”

“From what we can gather, because runaways aren’t eager to talk to law enforcement, these teens were all specifically targeted. That is not the issue right now.”

“I would think that is exactly the issue.”

“The kid got away. He doesn’t have the wand, but he might know who does. We need to find him before the Inferni get their hands on him. If you can find his location, you can come along when we take him in. Use that analyst, Miss Larsen, if you need to, but find him fast. This boy doesn’t have a lot of time.”

As soon as Kandomere made a dismissive gesture, she was up out of her seat and out the door. She was halfway down the hall when she remembered why she had gone into his office in the first place. Turning around, she walked straight back and tapped on the open door. “About the break room thing.”

“The clock is ticking, Topaz.”

“Just, tell them you were joking. That is all I ask.”

“Find the boy.”

Staring at him, Kandomere didn’t budge. He wasn’t going to budge, because he didn’t care what other people thought or said. He had made that clear in the few talks they had at his apartment. Apparently he also didn’t care what happened to her reputation. As long as their secret project remained just that. “I hate you.”

Grumbling obscenities under her breath, she walked off, straight to Genny’s office. Putting the folder and her now lukewarm coffee down, she started pacing the room. “I hate him. I fucking hate him. He doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself.”

Looking up from her work, Genny sat back in her chair and sighed. “What has he done now?”

Topaz continued pacing as she relayed the entire story to Genny, or at least what she was at liberty to discuss. By the end of it, her anger had dropped within tolerable levels and she finally sat down. Making a face as she took a sip of coffee, she set the cup aside.

“I’ve got a question. Why do you care what others think or say about you?”

“How can you ask me that? You’re a woman. You know what it is like…”

“Thank you for noticing, but I think you are the only one who does,” Genny pointed out. “I am a nerd hiding behind a computer screen. I am ‘the analyst’, so I might as well be an inanimate object.”

“I worked hard to be here, to be taken seriously. No one is going to be taking me seriously, or think any promotion I get was gotten fairly when the rumor persists that I am sleeping with my boss.”

“Are you?”

“No! He’s my boss.” Running her hands through her hair, she grabbed a pencil and twisting her hair up, stuck a pencil through to keep it in place. Genny’s face made her roll her eyes up to the ceiling. “Stop looking so disappointed.”

“What? I had hopes. I have dreams.”

“Anyways… It wouldn’t take any effort at all for him to set those guys straight, but he refuses to do it.”

“Well, you could look at it this way. By addressing the issue, he would be acknowledging there is one to address, feeding the flames. So by that same logic, it could then be argued that by ignoring the issue, he’s starving the fire of oxygen, letting it die out on its own.”

Topaz opened her mouth to argue, but drew a blank. She had no other argument than ‘he’s an asshole’, and after Genny’s reasoning that just sounded petty and childish. “Damn you and your logic.”

“That’s what I am here for.” Genny gave her a little smile, then nodded her head to the folder. “You got something else I can help with?”

“Yes!” Shooting up from her slouching position in the chair, she grabbed the folder and dragged the chair with her, the wheels hitting her in the ankles a few times as she rolled it over and sat back down by Genny’s desk. “We have to find this kid, and fast. Shawn Smith.”

“Shawn Smith? Of course he has to have the most generic last name. You got anything more to go on?”

Topaz handed her over the file. After a brief look at the information, the two women set out to work.

After a few hours of digging and eliminating, they had exhausted most of their leads and things were beginning to look bleak for the kid. Topaz wasn’t ready to throw in the towel however, so she went over everything again, starting with the statements from the kids interviewed at his last group home. Something caught her eye.

“So according to one of the statements here, Shawn had someone he trusted and confided in called Perry. There are no known family members or friends named Perry in his file so the officers dismissed it.”

“Perry? That sounds familiar.” Genny’s fingers moved rapidly over the keyboard, squinting her eyes as she leaned forward to read her screen. “Charles Perry Daniels. His record was sealed when he joined the army a few years ago, but they were known associates for a while according to Shawn’s foster records.”

“Do we have a current address for this Perry?”

Genny’s fingers were already rapidly tapping keys, and smiled at her question. “He was honorably discharged a little over a year ago after he got injured on a mission during his deployment. Perry currently resides in Philadelphia, where he has a mother and two uncles. Their addresses are rolling out of the printer… now.”

Taking the sheet of paper, Topaz looked it over while her other hand was picking up the phone, pressing a number and asking the lady on the other end of the line to put her through to the office in Philadelphia.

Moving the chair side to side with her feet, Topaz studied the ceiling. Although it had been painted over, she could still tell that once upon a time this had been a smoker’s office. There were no windows, so whomever had smoked here must not have needed oxygen to breathe. Nowadays a ventilation system in the middle of the ceiling provided both fresh air or at the very least recycled air, and regulated the temperature.

“I wonder what that blinky orange light means.”

Genny chuckled. “You know, if you’re that bored, I could use a cup of tea.”

“I don’t wanna be in the break room when the fax comes in.”

“You don’t wanna be in the break room at all. I didn’t figure you for a chicken.”

Rolling her head to the side so she could see Genny from her slouched position, she narrowed her eyes. “I am not a chicken.”

“Whatever you say.”

Silence returned, and Topaz went back to studying the ceiling, spinning the chair from left to right until she felt lightheaded and sighed.

“You know, you didn’t answer the question,” Genny said after a few moments.

“What question is that?”

“What do you call him when you’re doing whatever it is you can’t tell me?”

Sitting up once the lightheaded feeling passed, she reached for her bottle of water and took a few sips, settling the queasy feeling in her stomach. Staring at the printer she wished for those images to roll out. “Same thing I call him at work, because he’s my boss. No pictures yet?”

“So… Groucho, Grumpus, Grumpelstiltskin, Crankypants, or asshole?”

“Boss or sir. Any pictures yet?”

“No pictures yet. You call him sir?” Genny started to grin, first a little, but within moment she was grinning like the cat that ate the canary. Her mind was coming up with some things Topaz was sure she didn’t want to know.

“Don’t…”

“Where do you go when you leave work together? Does he take you home?”

Topaz shrugged as she rolled her chair closer to the desk so she could rummage through her drawer for a granola bar. Finding one, she grinned and unwrapped it to take a bite. “Yeah.”

“With him? You have been to his home?” Genny stared at her while she tried to focus on the granola bar, making faces like it wasn’t tasting very good.

“Why do you keep buying this crap?”

“You’re avoiding my question. It’s true, isn’t it? You’ve been to his home.”

A message popped up on the screen, saving Topaz from having to answer her. Scooting forward, she squinted to read the screen and jumped up. “That’s it. Print those pictures for me.”

Shifting on her feet, she waited impatiently by the printer as it slowly spit out the printed photos in full color. When the second one came through, it was a full close up of the face, and she immediately recognized him as Shawn.

“We found him!”

With the pictures in hand she went straight to Kandomere’s office, but he wasn’t there. Where the hell was that elf when she needed him. Turning around she half expected him to pop up out of nowhere to scare her again, but he wasn’t anywhere in sight. Montehugh waved to get her attention, then pointed up. “Chief?”

Opting for the stairs instead of the elevator, she took them two at a time as she sprinted up four flights and out into the corridor. The chief wasn’t in his office, which meant they were in the conference room, in a meeting. Thankfully the blinds weren’t closed, and she waved until an officer from another department bumped Kandomere’s arm to get his attention.

Pressing the image of the boy’s face against the window, she mouthed ‘found him’ and watched as Kandomere excused himself, gathered his papers and came outside. “We found him, he’s in Philadelphia, agents have him under surveillance and will keep us updated on his whereabouts.”

Kandomere nodded in response. “I will have to make a few phone calls. Grab your coat and meet me in the lobby in fifteen minutes.”

“Okay.” There was some pep in her step as she walked to the elevator. Although he hadn’t said anything, she could tell he hadn’t expected results so soon. After taking the stairs and running like an idiot in heels, she was going to do her best not to look too eager to get going. Mentally giving herself a pat on the shoulder, she stepped on the elevator and hit the button for her floor.

“Oh, and Topaz…”

When she looked up he had his phone out and had his finger hovering over the screen. Despite her glare, he was smiling. She wasn’t gonna give in and call him names this time though, not when the chief could overhear. “Yes, sir?”

“That was excellent work.”

Smirking, she shrugged a little. “What can I say. I’m just that good.” Mentally she cringed. While her words were meant to sound smug, they came out more like a flirt.

“I bet you are.”

The doors closed and in the reflection of the steel she could see her own mortified look. Oh my god, what did I do?

Chapter Text

“Agent Bennett, can you hear me?”

Slowly, she looked at the source of the voice. Kandomere was frowning, there was worry in his eyes and he held on to her elbow. Taking a step her legs felt unsteady and if it wasn’t for his grip on her arm she might have tipped over. It felt like walking on the deck of a ship in the middle of a heavy storm.

Her ears, there was something wrong with her ears. Sound was coming in, but it sounded muffled, distorted, like she was in a fish bowl. And then there was the ringing, persistent and monotone like the dial tone on a phone except higher in pitch. Why wouldn’t it stop?  Kandomere was tugging on her arm, but she couldn’t will herself to move. His arm wrapped around her and urged her to put one foot in front of the other.

“Let’s get you checked out.”

 

The vest that was put on her was secured tightly enough it reminded her that her ribs weren’t fully healed yet. Looking over at Kandomere, he was standing by the car, listening to the radio in his hand, his blue hair getting blown to the side by the wind, which made her wonder if he was going to get annoyed by the wind messing up his hair.

As if on cue, Kandomere reached up and ran his fingers through his hair like a comb, straightening it out. Topaz snorted before she caught herself. Elves were so vain.

Glancing over at the building, she frowned. Men in full combat gear were making entry into the building while they were out here standing by the car, waiting for everything to be over. “How come I have to wear this uncomfortable thing, and you don’t? And why are we out here, while the boy is in there?”

Because this is my operation and I said so.”

 

The inside of the ambulance was bright, but it shielded her from all the commotion that was going on outside. Why were people looking at her? Looking down at herself there was blood on her blouse. Oh no, this was her favorite blouse and now the blood ruined it. Slowly turning her head, she looked at the EMT. He was talking to her, by the way his eyebrows lifted and drew together he was asking her questions, but all she heard was mumbles, and that very persistent beep.

Turning her head so her ear was pointing toward the guy seemed to help. Why was she moving so sluggishly? Her body was taking forever to respond and images going by either in slow motion or at super speed to make her dizzy.

“Her ears look okay, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a chance she may have suffered hearing loss.”

“And her dazed state?”

There was concern in Kandomere’s voice again. Why was he so concerned? Hearing loss? Was that why she was still in that fish bowl and that ringing wouldn’t stop? How did that happen though?

“ASR. Acute Stress Response. She’s basically in mental shock.”

 

Shit, I think the kid is gonna try and make a run for it.”

Following the officer’s gaze, she saw Shawn crawling out a window onto the fire escape. Instead of risking the jump down from the ladder, he started climbing up. Her feet were moving before the thought even came to mind to try and beat him to the roof.

Don’t shoot! We need him alive! Bennett!”

She was getting yelled at, but Topaz trusted her gut on this one more than she trusted her boss’ orders. Taking leaps up the stairs, she tapped two guys on the arm to get their attention, one had a small battering ram, and gestured for them to follow her as she took flight after flight of stairs. Adrenaline was pushing her further than she usually could. She really needed to start going to the gym again.

Step aside, ma’am,” one of them said when they reached the top and found the door to the roof locked or blocked. A swift tap of the ram and it flew open. A bullet hit the wall beside her head a moment later and she ducked. The two men formed a shield in front of her as they stepped out onto the roof.

Don’t shoot! Shawn, I just wanna talk to you!”

Kandomere’s voice was shouting orders over the radio, but the three of them were more concerned about the scared boy with a loaded weapon pointed in their direction.

 

Someone was peeling her clothes off. She could hear water running. It sounded like water, and not something strange and distorted. The ringing was still there, but it was pushed more to the background. Her blouse was peeled off, the blood stained garment being placed aside with the rest of her bloody clothes. “It’s ruined…”

“She speaks. Do you know where you are?”

Topaz nodded and looked up at Genny, letting her take her bra off. It had a blood stain on it as well. “Home. I’m home. How did I get here? How did you?”

“Kandomere. Can you stand?”

Standing up, she stepped out of her pants when Genny took them off and pushed down her panties herself. Guided by her friend, she stepped into the bath tub and sat down under the shower’s spray. She didn’t think she could stand long enough.

Water washed over her as Genny took the shower head and hosed her down. Pinkish water swirled around the drain before disappearing. When the water turned clear, the hosing stopped and Topaz looked up at her friend as she squirted some shampoo into her hand and started dividing it over her hair.

“I don’t remember how I got here.”

“It’s the shock. They gave you some medicine to calm you down, but they said you might suffer some temporary amnesia. Can you close your eyes for me, so I don’t get soap in your eyes?”

“What happened?”

“Tell me what you remember.”

 

Taking off her vest was a risk, she knew, but faced with a group of black clad men with far better guns, Shawn had to be scared, and maybe a friendly face might help to keep the situation from escalating any further. It was also restricting her breathing, but she wouldn’t admit that.

Shawn, I am gonna come out, okay? I have no gun. I just wanna talk to you.”

Hands up, she took a deep breath and stepped out from behind the shield the men had formed. More had filed out onto the roof now, but they held their ground, just like she had ordered them to. Scared and nervous, Shawn was waving the gun around wildly, but as he did, she could see his finger wasn’t on the trigger.

Don’t come any closer, I’ll shoot!”

They are not gonna come any closer, Shawn, I promise, but it’s easier to talk when I don’t have to shout across a roof, okay? Look, no weapons.” Hands up in the air, she turned around slowly, so Shawn could see for himself.

Okay…” Shawn let her get closer, and Topaz slowly stepped forward until the boy got more nervous and his finger found the trigger. “That’s enough.”

Bennett, what are you doing?!” The voice came from behind her, rather than over the radio.

My job, sir. Shawn, just look at me, don’t look at them. I am not gonna hurt you, I just want to talk okay? Can we do that?”

I’m not stupid. I know what you want.”

 

Clean and dried off, Topaz let Genny help her into her pj’s and sat down on the edge of the tub as she dried and brushed her hair. It was comforting and calming, the feel of the brush running through her hair. Once it was done, she frowned up at Genny. “Why am I in shock? Did I make a mistake?”

Genny shook her head and hugged her tight suddenly. “You did nothing wrong, you hear me?”

Topaz returned it, quietly sighing. “Okay…”

After a long hug, she got up and shuffled ahead of Genny, out of the bathroom, only briefly glancing at her bloody clothes. Why couldn’t she remember? Kandomere came toward them with a mug of tea in his hand. She recognized the spotted mug as her ‘unicorn tears’ one and for some reason it just made her giggle. Taking it, she walked into her bedroom and sat down on the edge of her bed.

Setting the cup aside, she stared at her reflection in the mirror on her closet door. Despite being clean, she felt dirty, and she looked like she hadn’t slept in weeks. The bags under her eyes were big shoppers now. Her gaze dropped down to her hands folded together in her lap, when Kandomere came to sit next to her. He had taken his jacket off and his shoes. Because he doesn’t like tracking dirt into the house. She almost smiled, but something caught her eye.

“Oh no, there’s blood on the cuff.”

Fingers with well manicured nails plucked at the sleeve so see what she meant. “So there is. Don’t worry about it.”

“What happened on that rooftop?”

“You don’t remember?” Those fingers reached up, brushing her hair behind her ear. They traveled on, running his hand down between her shoulders in a comforting gesture as she shook her head.

“It’s foggy.”

“What is the last thing you remember?”

“You yelling at me because I took my vest off.” Reaching for the mug, she took a sip of her tea, but it was still too hot to drink, so she set it back down.

He shifted on the bed a little to face her more and she looked briefly into those piercing blue eyes. Instantly, she felt a deep shame and cast her gaze down at her hands again, tears stinging in her eyes. If only she had listened to him. Then what?

“Close your eyes, take me back to that moment.”

A cognitive interview. When something traumatic happened and the brain protected itself by making you forget it, a cognitive interview when done well could help you remember details you’d forgotten. Closing her eyes, she took a few deep breaths.

“Tell me what you see.”

 

Shawn was crying. Tears were streaming down his face while he pressed the muzzle of the gun under his chin. Her heart was pounding and she felt for the boy, felt his fear, and knew what he was saying was right. They were going to use him, just like the Inferni would have, but he had a better chance of living with them.

You don’t have to do that, Shawn, you have options.”

Not after what I did, what I saw. My choices are running for the rest of my life, or going to jail. I won’t go back to jail.”

You’re not going to jail, Shawn.”

You got that right…”

 

An ugly sound of deep pain rose deep from inside her. The ringing returned to full volume as her crying turned into sobs. “I tried to stop him, I tried,” she repeated over and over, her body shaking with the force of her sobs. Kandomere wrapped his arms around her and drew her closer. Pulling her legs up she curled up into his lap and buried her face against his shoulder as everything rushed back into focus at full force.

Kandomere had only a single response. “It wasn’t your fault.”

By the time she got herself together again, her throat was sore, her eyes felt puffy and her nose was stuffed up. She uncurled herself from his lap and wiped at her cheeks until they felt dry. Picking up her mug, she drank the tea that was thankfully still warm enough to be drinkable.  

“I’ll be right back.”

Topaz nodded, focusing on her tea. Once she had her fill, she set the mug aside and curled up into a ball on top of the covers. She doubted she was going to be able to sleep anytime soon. Now that she remembered, the same image burned into her mind every time she closed her eyes. Wrapping her arms around her knees she hugged them closer to her chest.

When Kandomere finally returned, he had a glass of water and a pill. “To help you sleep.” She shook her head, but he kept holding them out, so finally she took the pill and the glass of water, swallowing it down with a few sips. Then curling back up in her spot like a cat.

“Genny took your bloodied clothes. I think she’s getting them cleaned.”

“Okay… Are you going too?”

“Do you want me to go?”

Thinking about it a moment, she shook her head slowly. She felt the sting of new tears behind her eyes, but there were no tears left to cry, so she blinked a few times to wet her dry eyes. Being alone scared her even more than closing her eyes and seeing those horrible moments repeat itself in slow motion, on a loop, like the most horrible Vine she’d ever seen.

The bed sagged behind her, and instinctively she rolled over. Gone was his vest, gorget and tie, the top buttons on his shirt undone, which allowed her to unintentionally but directly nuzzle the soft patch of exposed skin as she rolled into him. Scooting closer, she got comfortable as he wrapped his arms around her. She didn’t care how it looked, she needed the comfort.

“I know it wasn’t my fault, but I feel like I could’ve done something, I should’ve done something more.”

“You did what you could, which was more than I would’ve done.”

“I took my vest off.”

“You did.”

“Am I in trouble?”

“We’ll talk about it tomorrow. You need to get some rest.”

“I mean, it wouldn’t really be fair, since you weren’t wearing one, and they were really uncomfortable.”

“Topaz…”

“I hate my name. Why do you say my name like that?”

“Why do you hate your name?”

“I dunno, ‘cause it’s stupid.”

“Because your parents gave it to you?”

“Yeah…” she snuggled a little closer. That cologne that always gave her headaches didn’t smell so bad anymore. Probably the drugs. Taking a deep breath, it felt soothing to her and her hand curled around the fabric of his shirt below his collar.

“So am I in trouble?”

“Go to sleep, Topaz.”

“I just wanna know, so I can be prepared.”

“You’re not in trouble, now go to sleep.”

“Okay, but-”

“Topaz. Do I need to make it an order?”

“Maybe…”

“Go to sleep. Now.”

“Yes, sir.”

The rhythm of his breathing, the warmth of his body, and his hand running circles over her back were soothing her into unconsciousness, and the last thing she heard before she sank into a deep and restless sleep was his voice. His lips brushed over the shell of her ear as he spoke.

Good girl.

Chapter Text

What are you doing here?”

Topaz gave her boss a goofy smile, hoping it would break him out of the stern look he was giving her, but no such luck. With a pout, she lowered herself into the chair in front of his desk. It wasn’t the welcome she had hoped for, but it was one she expected. Still, it had been worth the gamble getting up early so she could catch a ride to work with Genny.

“Well, I was hoping to go back to work, but the look on your face tells me I have a better chance of winning the lottery.”

“You got that right. You haven’t been cleared for duty.”

“Sir, it’s been a week. I have gone to all the mandatory meetings. I have cooperated fully. I even packed up all my shit, moved to a new apartment and unpacked. I have run out of things to do. I am ready to come back to work.”

Kandomere sat back in his chair, folding his hands together, pressing the index fingers of both hands against his lips as if he was contemplating. His eyes fixated on her, staring her down. She wasn’t going to be intimidated by him though, so she stared right back, with a smile.

“If you want to work, you can catch up on your paperwork. It’s been piling up on your desk.”

“Paperwork?”

“Take it or leave it. It’s paperwork or you can go home. Honestly, I am surprised you are so eager to come back to work. I thought you would make the most of your time off, considering I never give you any.”

One thing Kandomere was extremely good at was throwing her words back in her face, and it was moments like these, she wished she could flip him off, but that wouldn’t improve her chances of getting back on active duty. So she narrowed her eyes, pressed her lips in a thin line, and pushed away the first thought that came to mind.

“The thing about free time is, when you have too little of it, you want more. When you have too much of it, it starts making you lazy. Not that you would know anything about that. Have you ever even taken a personal day?”

“I have enough free time.”

“You are one of the first ones here and one of the last ones out and you take your work home with you, then come back here in the morning and keep on. Don’t you have family, friends, a lover, you know people to hang out with? Do you even sleep?”

“My social life is fine.”

“You are a shitty liar. You’re married to your work and you know it.”

Kandomere rolled his eyes up. “Topaz, don’t you have some paperwork to do?”

Again he had to use her first name, but she was finally catching on to the pattern. He only used it when they were alone, and he used it more often when she was on to something and he said it to aggravate her into dropping the subject.

“I’ll make you a deal. I will go do my paperwork, if you go home at a normal hour today, and instead of taking your work home, you socialize. Call your family, friends, maybe a lover for some quality time. Hm?”

She got fixed with another look, but crossed her arms, sitting up straight to stare him down. Finally he turned away and made himself look busy, waving her off with a hand. “Get to work.”

Victory!

“How did therapy go?”

Topaz grumbled as she sat down, pulling her laptop out to continue her paperwork. She had done her best to convince the psychiatrist that she was ready to go back to work, but to no avail. The woman was more difficult to convince than Kandomere.

“I am on modified duty until I no longer need the medication to sleep.”

“I told you. You might be able to fool Kandomere, but you can’t win with the department shrink.”

“Oh speaking of. I said I would finish up my paperwork if he went home at a normal hour tonight and did something social. How much you wanna bet he will still be here when we leave.”

Genny chuckled and shook her head. “Not taking that bet, he’s married to his work.”

“That’s what I said, but I just walked by his office on the way here and he was talking to some guy. They seemed really chummy and even embraced.” Topaz wiggled her brows, tapping some laptop keys to bring the report back up she had been working on. If she could manage to get caught up before it was time to go home, she could hold it over his head if he didn’t come through on his end of the deal.

“What are you implying, that he’s gay?”

“Oh come on, don’t tell me the thought never crossed your mind?” Topaz gave her friend an incredulous look. She looked seriously offended by the mere thought that her crush could actually be into men more than women.

“He’s not gay. What about the flirting and the things.”

It was a weak argument, making Topaz chuckle. Moments like these it was painfully obvious Genny was lacking some real world experiences. “You’ve never play-flirted with girlfriends, have you?”

“I have never flirted, let alone play-flirted. This is me you’re talking to, remember, Wallflower Larsen.”

“Yeah, we need to fix that,” Topaz said and saved her work so she could focus on explaining her theory to Genny without losing her progress. “One thing at a time though. Let’s look at all the facts, shall we. You go first.”

“Okay, well he’s not married, but like we said, he’s married to his work. As far as Elves go, he also took a very unpopular job, so he might not be of very good standing with his own race. He handpicked you though, over like 9 guys that were up for the job. you’ve been to his house. He flirts with you. He stayed the night, holding you. He took care of you and held you all night. Come on, that is a girl’s dream come true, at least it is for this girl.”

“Yes, he picked me out of a group of guys, because I was best qualified for the job. He’s not married, that says something other than him being a workaholic. He says whatever gets a reaction out of me, because I kinda started a war in Vegas.” She smiled sheepishly at that last one. She knew it was her own fault, but the joke had been too good to pass up. “I regret nothing.”

“Of course you don’t… you enjoy messing with people too much.”

“It’s one of life’s simple pleasures, you know? Anyways…” She shifted in her seat so she could lean forward and count on her fingers all the reasons she hadn’t mentioned yet. “He got me a dress without asking my size and it fit perfectly. He also got matching shoes. He wears those three piece suits, always pristine, never a hair out of place, well groomed, manicured fingernails. Hm?”

Genny didn’t look convinced yet, so she continued.

“He’s seen me naked, unfortunately, but didn’t react and hasn’t mentioned it once since. I’ve been working closely with him for the past few months, and I haven’t caught him looking at any woman, not even Elf women.”

“Maybe because he’s been looking at you?”

“No. Sorry darling, hate to burst your bubble, but I think we’re all batting for the same team.” When Genny had nothing to say for herself, Topaz shrugged and went back to work. She had just a few hours left to get caught up with the most important reports. There was not a chance she was losing this deal.

“Guess we’ll find out in little over two hours. If he doesn’t just take his work home.”

“I am betting on the latter.”

It almost came down to the minute, but Topaz clapped her hands together after saving the last of her reports. All she needed now was a few signatures, and she would be done for the day. Although paperwork was the most tedious part of the job, anything but glamorous, she got it done without falling asleep or getting distracted constantly. She was on a mission though.

Grabbing the papers, she closed down the laptop and tucked it under her arm. “I gotta go deposit this in my desk, and get some signatures on these. Meet you by the elevator in five?”

“Sure. Don’t gloat.”

“I’ll try not to,” Topaz answered, but was already smiling as she headed back to her own desk. Putting her laptop away, she grabbed her jacket. While she was slipping it on, she glanced in the direction of Kandomere’s office, fully expecting him to either be staring at his screen or at whatever file he had on his desk. What she saw instead made her jaw drop.

He was laughing, smiling, and talking with the elf woman sitting half on the edge of his desk. This was not friendly, or just amused Kandomere, no, she hadn’t seen this look on his face, except maybe on the dance floor in Vegas. Her eyes went wide when the woman grabbed his tie and tugged him forward, leaning over to kiss him. Her eyes went wide for a moment, looking away immediately when Kandomere glanced in her direction.

Shoving the papers into her desk drawer, she changed her mind about getting those signatures. There was no way she could keep herself composed long enough. With her luck she would end up putting her foot in her mouth or making a fool of herself in some other way. It was definitely time to go home and have a glass of wine or three until she forgot what she saw.

“Are you done for the day, Agent Bennett?”

Looking down at the floor, she counted from four down, and looked up, putting on the best smile she could muster. “Yep. Gonna go home to have a slice of pizza, drink some wine and make fun of my roommate for the tv shows she watches. Have a good night, sir.”

“You too, agent Bennett.”

Walk, don’t run. She repeated the words to herself as she headed for the elevator where Genny was already waiting for her. Thankfully the elevator arrived a moment before she did, so she could step right on. She didn’t dare look out.

“You look spooked. What happened?”

“I was wrong…”

Genny gasped, hand over her heart. “Say it isn’t so!”

“Don’t mock me. This isn’t funny. He had a woman in his office, an elf, and they were, uh, very friendly.” Closing her eyes, Topaz tried her best to calm her heart. This was an absolute nightmare. She had been acting the way she had around her boss under the assumption that there wasn’t even the slightest chance he could be attracted to her.

“I told you he isn’t gay. Though I suppose you could still be half right. He could be bi-sexual.”

“Thank you for trying, but that totally isn’t helpful. This is so embarrassing.”

“Because you’ve been play-flirting with your boss this whole time?”

“Oh my god. Kill me,” she groaned, covering her face with her hands. “You know what this means? I am THAT woman. The woman that flirts with her boss to get all the good cases, and gain all the favors. That woman I swore I would never be, and all the rumors… oh god, shoot me.”

Genny just laughed. The whole situation was amusing to her, and she looked a bit smug as well, because she had been right. The one who had zero real life experience with relationships had been right, and she, a detective at heart had totally misread the situation and put her foot in her mouth. It had to do with the fact he was an Elf, what else could it be? She never would’ve failed this hard to read him if he’d been human.

“It’s not the end of the world. Besides, he flirted right back.”

Topaz whimpered, only to jump and curse a moment later when the lights on a car beside her blinked as someone unlocked it. Genny laughed, she glared and flipped her off. Once in the car, she reached up to grab the seat belt when something blue caught her attention, and she looked straight at Kandomere. He was grinning and winked at her, before he got into his car. The car that had scared her.

That asshole.

Chapter Text

“You can’t avoid him forever, you know. He’s your boss.”

“But I can sure try.”

It had been two days since she realized she made a grave mistake, and other than briefly walking in for a signature here or a question there, Topaz had managed to avoid longer interactions with her boss. She needed some physical distance so she could process and adjust. Obviously she couldn’t continue their war, not like before. What if he thought that she was really flirting with him? The thought made her shiver in horror.

“It’s ridiculous,” Genny said, a look of disapproval thrown her way. “Nothing’s changed.”

“Are you kidding me, everything’s changed. I thought he was gay, Genny.”

“Oh stop it. You’re Topaz Bennett, you don’t cower and hide.”

“Well this week, I do.”

“No you don’t.”

Genny was smiling and looking confident in her statement, which was highly suspicious. Topaz narrowed her eyes, snapping her head to the door when she realized Genny wasn’t looking at her. She wished she could crawl under the desk and hide, but it was already too late. Kandomere opened the door and looked directly at her, pointing and then making a beckoning motion. “You, with me.”

“Well, actually Sir, I was right in the middle of something.”

“Agent Bennett. With me. Now.”

“May I ask what this is about, sir?”

“Bennett!”

She jumped up out of her chair in response, grabbing her jacket to slip it on as she followed after Kandomere. He was walking at a brisk pace and it was difficult for her to keep up.  Biting her lip, she waited impatiently as the elevator took them down. Glancing at him wasn’t giving her any help either as he stared ahead, though he did appear to be a little crankier than usual. The click of her heels echoed in the garage, as she tried to keep up.

“You know I haven’t been cleared for active duty yet, right?”

“Get in the car.”

He was being awfully bossy. Rather than risk him yelling at her and attracting attention to them, she got into the passenger seat. She barely had her seat belt on when he pulled out of the parking spot and out of the garage. The central door locks engaged, making her frown and look at him. “What’s going on?”

“You tell me.”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

An eyebrow rose and he gave her a sideways glance. “I am sure you do. So out with it.”

Turning her attention out the window, she chewed on the inside of her cheek. Should she tell him the truth or try to get away with a fib first. If she didn’t have to deal with the truth and could get away with a fib, that would be great, but the downside was that if he already knew why she’d been avoiding him, he was going to be even more pissed for being lied to. The lie was faster than the truth.

“I have been stretching out my paperwork, because I don’t wanna be sent home since there is nothing else for me to do, and I am still not cleared.”

He switched lanes so fast it made her glance at the speedometer. He was speeding, and when her eyes lifted to his face, she could tell by the grim line his lips were set in and the lines around his eyes that he was losing his patience quickly.

“Wanna try the truth now?”

“If you slow the fuck down. I don’t feel like dying today.”

He slowed down, and the tension that had drawn her shoulders up and together slowly ebbed away, allowing her to relax. She was still chewing on the inside of her cheek though, debating what to tell him and how. “It’s a little embarrassing to be honest…”

“Does it have to do with Elanil?”

“Elanil?”

“The woman that was in my office the other day. You took off like something spooked you after seeing her.”

“Oh. Yes. No. Well, not directly no, not like that, I mean…” She was tripping over her words as thoughts went through her mind in rapid succession. “Really, this is embarrassing, and I am not sure I should even say it.”

“Use your words. Out with it, Topaz.”

“That doesn’t help, just so you know.” More than ever she hated the way he said her name. It wasn’t his fault really, it was the name, but it rubbed her the wrong way all the same. “I sorta made an assumption, and I based my behavior toward you on that assumption. I guess I am not as good at reading people as I thought. So I think the entire time we have sorta been getting signals crossed and I feel horribly awkward because of it.”

Kandomere’s laugh was the most unexpected sound.

Please don’t let him think I had a crush on him. Please, please, pretty please.

“Why are you laughing?”

“You thought I was gay, didn’t you?”

A weight dropped from her shoulders the moment he said those words. Color rose to her cheeks as she looked out the window. He figured that one out quickly, but at least the truth was out there now. “Yeah. Yes, I did.”

“It’s okay. I get that assumption often.”

“And you do nothing to dissuade it?” she asked and after a brief pause gave the answer herself. “You don’t, because as long as you know the truth, it doesn’t matter what others think…” If he didn’t care about the rumors going around that they were sleeping together, then why would he care what people assumed about his sexual preferences?

“Exactly.”

Slowly shaking her head, she turned her attention out the window when they passed a semi and the scenery opened up. They were leaving the city. Where on earth was he taking her?

“If it makes you feel better, you weren’t entirely off the mark.”

She stared off in the distance a moment, head tilted and a vacant look in her eyes, letting the implications of his words sink in. “Thank you for sharing, really, and I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I didn’t need to know that. In fact, I could’ve gone my whole life without knowing and been perfectly happy.”

“Thought you might wanna know you aren’t as bad at reading people as you think you are.”

“Yeah, I would like it very much if we could like stop the conversation, like, right here, because this is not appropriate conversational material.”

“I didn’t take you for a prude.”

Despite being in the car, she put a hand on her hip and gave him a look like she wanted to slap the taste out of his mouth. “I am not a prude, there are just certain things I don’t need to know about my boss.”

“So we’re still on the boss thing.”

What was that supposed to mean? She bit back the question, literally, by biting her tongue. It was time for a subject change. “Where are we going?”

“We are going to have lunch.”

“It’s an awful long way to go for lunch.”

“I think we can get away with playing hooky for a few hours, don’t you think?”

Topaz looked at him like he suddenly started speaking in tongues, grew an extra head and turned purple. “Did you, Kandomere, just use the word ‘hooky’ in a sentence?” Reaching out, she poked him in the cheek, watching him recoil and look at her finger. “Just making sure you’re still you.”

“Someone told me that I needed to spend less time working, and live a little.”

“Sounds like a smart person. Should probably listen.” They both smirked when they looked at each other. They got off the highway some place Topaz hadn’t ever been before, so she was curious about the surroundings and where they could possibly be going.

“Hey… Topaz. I just want you to know, as far as I’m concerned nothing’s changed.”

Slowly she nodded. She really wanted that to be true for her, but everything was different now, and what she learned about him couldn’t be forgotten. She could try to find a new normal though. “It’s Taz.”

“What?”

“My friends call me Taz.”

“Taz?”

“It’s a nickname I got in college. I was kind of a whirlwind and a bit excitable, always leaving a mess trailing behind me, so they named me after this cartoon character. A Tasmanian Devil named Taz. It’s a boy, but the name fit, and it stuck. I like it better than Topaz. So I wear it like a badge of honor.”

In the middle of nowhere was a gas station and a diner. That was where Kandomere pulled in and parked. It looked like an old fifties style diner. Topaz looked around. There were only a few cars in the parking lot, and one semi parked toward the back. A truck stop? It seemed like an odd place for an Elf to take her, but she wasn’t going to complain. She preferred diner food over the fancy crap that flew off your plate if you sneezed.

“Kan, darling! It has been too long. Oh and you brought a pretty friend. My name is Carla, I will be your waitress today. Can I get you anything, darling?”

“A coffee would be really nice, thank you,” Topaz answered her and followed Kandomere to a booth in the back with a view of road and the car. Of course he had to keep an eye on his car. “Kan?”

“Yeah, she has trouble with my full name. I come here from time to time. I like to drive, it helps to clear my mind. I fuel up here before I head back.”

“It’s nice. I like diners.” Feeling her phone buzz, Topaz pulled it out of her pocket and chuckled at the message on her screen. “It’s Genny. Let me answer her real quick, so she will stop bugging.” Typing a quick response, she placed the phone screen down on the table, away from her.

“You moved in with her.”

“We’re just roommates. Splitting rent makes things easier for both of us. It’s a much nicer neighborhood too. After what happened with the kid, the noise finally got to me. Genny had offered, so I went and looked, we made an agreement, and I moved in. By the way, thank you… for paying my rent.”

“She told you.”

“No, but it wasn’t exactly difficult to figure out, since you were the only other person who knew I was having trouble making rent. You didn’t have to do that, though.”

“I have seen how distracting financial worries can be, and I needed you focused on work. It was a purely selfish Elf move.”

“Well thank you. It worked.”

Carla the waitress came over with their drinks. “There you go, darling. I just made a fresh pot so it’s still very hot.” After the drinks she brought over the menus and gave them some time to decide on what they wanted. Kandomere placed his aside without looking, like he already knew what he wanted.

“So this Elanil, is she a lover or friend with benefits, or what?”

Resting his elbows on the table, he waved a finger at her in warning. “If I answer that question, I get to ask you something equally personal.”

“Fair enough,” Topaz answered with a smile. It wasn’t like there was anything to tell there really, nothing sensational anyway.

“We’ve been seeing each other for some time. She won’t commit until I quit this job and take on a more fitting role for an elf.” The look on his face after those words spoke volumes.

“So never?” It was more of a statement than a question.

Kandomere grinned and took a sip of his coffee. He looked far more relaxed sitting back against the leather bench than she had seen him in days. “She hasn’t figured that one out yet, and I am not very inclined to tell her.”

“Cheeky.” Topaz couldn’t help a little giggle. It was not something she had expected from him, but really, she should’ve with the way he reacted whenever she messed with him. He was probably far more human than he would ever admit to. Probably because he had been around humans for too long.

“Why would I ruin a good thing?”

“I think I am going to refrain from making a retort on that one.” Pushing her hair behind her ear, she looked down at her menu again, flipping it over to read the back, she made up her mind and placed it aside.

“My turn?” Kandomere asked.

“Sure.” Picking up her cup she took a careful sip, not wanting to burn her lips or tongue on the hot liquid. It was still hot, but drinkable. Taking another sip, she set the cup down, sitting back and waited for his question.

“Are you currently seeing someone?”

The question was far tamer than she had expected after his warning. She gave a little shrug. “That depends on your definition of seeing, I guess.”

“Romantically involved?”

She shook her head. “Oh god no. I had some boyfriends in the past, but I have horrible taste in men, as I am sure you’ve read in my file. After the last relationship ended in disaster, I decided I needed to focus on my own life, my dreams, and to hell with guys. And here I am.”

“I’ve read the file, and seen the pictures.”

“In my defense, he threw the first punch, I threw the last.” Topaz wasn’t ashamed of it. Sometimes things happened. It was the first and last time a man ever raised his hand to her, but it had made her decision on what to do about her future a whole lot easier.

“So you’re not romantically involved, but you are seeing someone.”

“Women have needs too, you know. I mean, we tried the relationship thing briefly, but the only thing we were really any good at was sex, so we cut out everything else, and now we just see each other when we have needs. It works.”

“Good to know.”

“What is?”

“That we’re both workaholics who haven’t got a fucking clue about this whole romance business.”

His laugh was contagious, and Topaz raised her coffee cup to him. “Ain’t that the truth. I’ll drink to that.”

The waitress returned, and like she suspected, Kandomere already knew what he wanted. She ordered the lunch special and handed their menus back. The woman said some nice things, to which Topaz simply smiled. Carla used the nickname ‘Kan’ again, which sounded kinda weird to her, so she made a face at him.

“Kan? It just doesn't sound right...”

Smiling a little sheepish, Kandomere shrugged his shoulders. “My name isn’t the easiest to make nicknames for.”

“Really? I hadnt even tried. Let’s see. Kan’s not it. Kand… nah, doesn’t sound right. Kandy!” Topaz giggled like an idiot as soon as she said it, almost doubling over with laughter when his face dropped. “That would definitely be your stripper name. So that leaves Mere… nope. That just sounds like you’re drunk. Hey, hey you, yeah you… ‘mere.” Her acting out being drunk and calling him over got the smile back on his face.

Wiping the tears of alughter from her eyes, she took a moment to compose herself before she spoke again. “I think you’re right. Not easy to make a nickname of that name. So what do I call you then?”

“Anything you want,” he answered with a smirk and a wink that made it sound way too flirty.

Ignoring it, her mind was already trying to come up with new nicknames to try out. She smirked back at him while sipping her coffee.

Famous last words, Kandy.

Chapter Text

It was one of those days where the only good thing was that her chair spun. At this point, she almost wished she hadn’t gone through all her paperwork already. The boredom was real, waiting for Kandomere to be done with his meetings and give her an assignment. Topaz blew out her breath as she spun the chair around slowly, halting it when Montehugh walked by and tapped the bun on the back of her head.

“Bad hair day again?”

“Bad hair week. Since I stopped taking the medication to sleep, I’ve been so restless I wake up looking like I stuck a dead shrub to my head.”

As soon as she saw the flash of blue, she sat up straight and drummed her fingers on the desk, smiling up at her boss. She hoped he had some good news, but he walked by to drop something on Montehugh’s desk first.

“Braid it and use Argan oil.”

“What?” Topaz looked from Kandomere to Montehugh, but he shook his head and shrugged, turning his attention to the file that was dropped on his desk. Quizzically she looked up at her boss. “Did you just give me hair advice?”

“Yes,” he deadpanned as he stopped in front of her desk.

She tried to look hopeful, but not to eager, since he was still carrying a nice stack of files. Maybe one of those was for her? Being on modified duty sucked the life right out of her, but she was sure that if she complained about it, Kandomere would make her suffer longer, so she chose to amuse herself instead. Leaning back in her chair, she looked up at him.

“Since you said nothing has changed, and you’re giving me hair advice, does that mean we’re girlfriends now?”

He stared at her, his mouth twitching a little. “No.”

The single word response encouraged her. “Can I braid your hair?”

“No.” His eyes narrowed, running his tongue along his bottom lip, biting down on it, before he dropped the rest of the files he was carrying on her desk. “You can digitize these. I need them by the end of the day.”

Her gaze went briefly to the stack of files. You had to put your foot in it, didn’t you? “Do I look like your secretary?”

“Do you want an honest answer?”

Clenching her jaw to keep from saying the first thing that came to mind, a muscle twitched in her cheek from the effort. She couldn’t say what she wanted to say, not in front of Montehugh. The man wasn’t an idiot, but he would read way more into their little war than was really there. It was best kept private. Still, she glared at him a moment.

“No, sir.”

“I’ll leave you to it, then.”  

Kandomere walked away, leaving her with the stack of files on her desk. Thumbing through them, she let out a whine. This was going to take a long time. She went from being bored and wishing for it to end to wishing she was still bored.

“This is too much work…”

“Look on the bright side, at least you won’t get dizzy from spinning your chair all day,” Montehugh argued, winking at her.

“Yeah, but tonight is Thai food night… I love Thai food night.” Leaning forward, she rested her forehead on top of the stack of files and groaned. Why was he doing this to her? Because he can. “I hate him and I hate this.”

“He’s been picking on you a lot this week.”

“Uh huh. Stress testing or some other bullshit would be his excuse, I’m sure. See if I am ready to get back out in the field.” Topaz wasn’t sure if that was the reason, but she’d been seeing the shrink and was doing better, what more did he need from her?

“Pretty sure it’s just that he gets a hardon from bossing you around.” Montehugh winked.

“Ugh! Thanks for that image.”

“Oh come on, you’ve seen it plenty by now. No need to be shy about it.”

“No, I haven’t! I am not sleeping with my boss, you jerk.” Picking a pencil from the cup on her desk, she flung it across the floor, hitting Montehugh in the back with it. He just snickered in response.

“Agent Bennett, do you have plans tonight?”

Like a student caught messing around behind the teacher’s back, she straightened up, and turned to her work. “Yes, sir.”

“Then you better hop to it, or you’ll be here all night.”

Slack jawed, she watched him walk by with his coffee mug in hand, heading for a refill no doubt. Flipping him off behind his back, her eyes went to the stack again. It really was gonna take her all day. “Fuck me sideways…”

“Language, agent Bennett.”

“Bite me. Sir.”

Walking into Kandomere’s office, she dropped the files on his desk, with the same gesture as he had dropped them on hers earlier that day. Crossing her arms, she gave him a dirty look. Oh, she was pissed alright, and he was gonna know it.

“All done. Hope you’re happy, you’ve ruined my night. Tonight was Thai food night and while that may not seem like a big deal to you, I am a woman of simple pleasures, and you ruined one for me.”

Now they were alone, she could give him the attitude she had really wanted to give him earlier, but couldn’t because of Montehugh and others listening and watching. She really wished they would all get a new hobby, or start gossiping about something else.

“I ruin a lot of things,” Kandomere answered casually as he pulled a flash drive from the USB port on his computer and stuck it in his pocket. “It’s only eight. You’ve still got plenty of time.”

“In theory, you have a valid point, but you see, Thai food night is also Genny’s book club night, and she never misses those, so she cooked something instead. This means I am on my own, and Thai food night is no fun alone.”

While she ranted, Kandomere continued packing up, snapping the locks on his briefcase and shutting down his computer. Patting his jacket to make sure he had everything, no doubt, she raised a brow when he made a gesture for her to follow him.

“Let’s go.”

Tilting her head both ways like a confused dog, she followed him, catching up by the elevator. “Where to?”

“There’s a decent Thai restaurant on the way to Elf town.”

Both eyebrows rose, then dropped as her eyes narrowed, studying his face. What was he up to? Not wanting to miss out on Thai food, she decided the teasing approach was the best way to figure out his motives. “Oh I see, you’re bribing me now.”

Kandomere shook his head. “No, I am repaying you for being my secretary for the day, and missing out on Thai food night because of it.”

Slowly she turned her head to him, glaring at him. Motherfucker, you did not just say that. “I knew it! You used me.”

“You could’ve said no.” There was mirth in his voice.

Before she could stop her reaction, her hand balled into a fist and connected with his arm. “I ought to slap the taste out of your mouth for that one.”

“Careful. I might like that. Is that a risk you’re willing to take?” he asked. She almost made a face, but the sparkle in his eye, and the way he grinned at her told her he was just messing with her again.

Rolling her eyes, she looked unimpressed with his tease. Holding her bag in front of her, she stared up at the numbers of the elevator and the scrolling downward pointing arrow. “Do I need to remind you we’re still in the building. Behave yourself.”

“In that case, I believe the correct thing to say would be, behave yourself, sir.

Keeping her focus on the decreasing numbers, she was not going to encourage him by reacting in any other way than verbally. She knew if she took one look at him right now, she’d crack a smile. “Not a chance.”

“Not a chance, sir. We’re still in the building agent Bennett.”

The elevator dinged right at that moment, and Topaz was the first to step off, walking a few feet into the garage before finally looking at him. Yep, he was definitely messing with her, and being utterly amused with himself. “Actually, we’re below it right now, so bite me.”

“That-”

“I swear if you finish that sentence I’m going to hurt you.” Pointing a finger at him she glared, keeping her gaze locked with his until they were staring at each other over the roof of the car. He was still smiling, but by some miracle, she kept a straight face.

“You didn’t even know what I was going to say,” he argued, a little sing song tone to his voice.

“Just get in the car and drive.”

As soon as they entered the apartment, Topaz kicked off her shoes, walked to the wine rack, picking a simple red wine and grabbed two glasses before heading into the other room. The lights came on as she entered, the screens coming to life a moment later. Glancing at the board in the middle, after setting the bottle and glasses down on the table, she took a breath and let it out in a huff.

The feeling she’d been having for days now returned. The blips on the map reminding her of it. Something didn’t feel right, but she couldn’t figure it out. “There is something that’s still bugging me about Vegas,” she said when she heard Kandomere approaching.

Setting down the plates, utensils and the food, Kandomere looked at the board before his attention went to Topaz. “What about it?”

“I thought the Shield of Light were on our side of the equation, but what they did in Vegas, that’s…” A light bulb went on in her head and her heart sank a little. “That’s what an extremist group would do. All that matters is the end goal. What could have pushed them that far out there to get a wand?”

“That’s a good question, but maybe you should come and eat first.”

“Yeah, sorry, it’s just been bugging the piss out of me.” Curling her leg under her, she sat down and opened one of the containers to peek inside. “This one’s for you.” After dividing out the food and opening the bottle of wine to let it breathe, Kandomere sat down. The jacket and gorget were gone as always, but this time he had pulled off his tie as well. He looked oddly naked for a man who was still dressed.

“What?”

Snapping out of her thoughts, she became aware she’d been staring at him. Her shoulders pulled up a moment. Picking up her fork, she started poking at her food. “You look different. Without the whole getup.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

Slowly, she shook her head and took a few bites of her food. It tasted far better than the place she usually ordered from, and she made a mental note to take the menu home with her when she left. “Nah, just different,” she answered after clearing her mouth.

Once she started eating it was clear how hungry she really was. Remaining quiet for most of the meal, she sighed heavily once she was full. Scraping her leftovers into the empty plastic bag along with the rest of the trash, she looked up at Kandomere when he put his hand over hers, taking the bag from her.

“I got this.”

Shrugging, she walked over to the couch and curled up in the corner, staring directly at the board. “Inferni,” she called out and watched the blips on the map light up. Was it her imagination or had the blips migrated through Nevada and Arizona, more toward New Mexico and Texas? “Shield of Light.” More blips lit up in the same area. “Well I’ll be…”

Kandomere returned, pouring them both a glass of wine. Handing one over to her, he sat down on the other side of the couch, and looked at the board with her. “Anything interesting?”

“Like watching packs migrating. I think the Inferni are still after that wand, and if those blips are any indication, that wand is headed for Texas, if it isn’t already there,” she answered. Taking a sip of her wine, she didn’t just gulp it down right away, but appreciated the taste first.

“Pretty sure it’s not going to stay there with Inferni hunting them, and without an exact location, we’d be searching for a needle in a hay stack.”

“A grain of sand in a desert, more like it,” Topaz nodded in agreement. Glancing at him she noted his vest was gone now too. More of the buttons on his shirt were undone and she thought she saw a hint of chest hair. Instantly, her attention went back to the board.

“You did it again. The staring. What is it?”

“Nothing. So that stuff you had me type up today, what was that for?” Changing the subject back to work was a far safer choice than saying she was distracted by chest hair. Most of what she had typed up seemed to be either boring reports, or something in code. She hadn’t been able to make sense of it, and after a while it had all jumbled together anyway in her mind.

Her question seemed to remind him of something. A hand slid into his pocket and he pulled out the thumb drive, holding it up a moment, like it was some sort of prize. Watching him get up and walk over to one of the terminals, her elbow rested on the arm of the couch, her hand holding her head up as she leaned sideways. The way he was bent over drew her attention to the back of his pants. He has a nice ass.

Clearing her throat, she shifted a little as if she wasn’t comfortable enough and sipped her wine. With her attention on the board, she watched the bar in the middle of the screen as it loaded more information into the model. New markers came up, but these were different. Kandomere was typing in commands, and she watched as one of the markers appeared right where the wand had been found in the Nevada desert. Were those possible wand locations?

“Could you bring me the tablet with my notes?”

She reached for the tablet when Kandomere handed it over, but right before she could grab it, he held it away from her and gave her an expectant look.

“Now,” she added, which got a disappointed look from him, but he refused to hand it over still. “Please.”

Taking the tablet, she swiped her finger across the screen in a zig zag pattern and tapped a few icons until her notes appeared. Scrolling through them, she kept glancing up at the markers on the screen.

“Are you on to something?”

“Might be.”

“Are you gonna talk to me about the staring?”

“Nope. Nothing to tell.”

“You know I can tell when you’re lying, right?”

“Can we focus on this, please?”

“Sure, as long as you know this conversation isn’t over yet.”

Glancing at him, she bit her bottom lip after letting go of a breath she had been holding. Deciding to stick to her guns and not say anything, she focused on the work. The conversation was soon forgotten as they analyzed the data and brain stormed on possible scenarios and motives. Time flew by, and as it did, her head got heavier with sleep, the wine aiding in relaxing her.

Her eyes briefly fluttered open when she felt something being draped over her. It was a soft, warm blanket. The lights had been dimmed, and the glasses and tablet were gone from the table. When had he done that? Her eyes drooped closed again. “What time is it?”

“Time to sleep,” Kandomere answered her. She felt his breath before she felt his lips pressing a kiss to her temple. He said something to her in Spanish or was it Elvish. No, she understood Elvish, but she didn’t understand his mumble.

“I don’t speak Spanish,” she mumbled back and one eye opened, to glance at him, looking straight down the front of his shirt. Squeezing her eyes shut, she shifted and stretched out more, pulling the blanket up under her chin.

“Good night, Taz. Sweet dreams.”

“Good night, Kandy.”

Chapter Text

“I could’ve made you some breakfast.”

Topaz paused the cup to her lips, thinking about it for a moment, then shook her head. Breakfast was a horrible idea, especially since she was already cutting it close getting home in time to catch a ride with Genny. Knowing her friend, she was gonna get the third degree as well. “No, we’re not even gonna have that discussion.”

“It’s just breakfast.”

“That’s where you are wrong. It is just breakfast for you and me,” she corrected him, but looking at him she could tell he wasn’t following her train of thought. Why did he have to be so clueless about these things? How long had he been working with humans? And why on earth was he driving so slow? “You should’ve taken me home last night.”

“I had too much wine.”

“You could’ve called me a cab.”

“You had plenty of wine yourself, plus you were asleep on my couch.” Kandomere had an answer for everything and it was becoming frustrating. “No chance I would’ve put you in a cab in that condition. That is how you end up a case file on a detective or agent’s desk.”

Unfortunately for her, he had a point there. Sighing deeply, she sipped her coffee. It was almost gone now. The wonderful dark liquid was doing its job, making her feel human again. Thankfully she didn’t get hangovers easily or today would’ve been hell. She chuckled when a thought occurred to her.

“We just went from arguing why breakfast is not a good idea to me being murdered by a skeezy cab driver.” She raised a brow when Kandomere only barely made a green light and adjusted herself in the seat. “Could you drive a little faster, grandma? Some of us still have to change before work.”

“Maybe next time you should bring an overnight bag.”

Was he for real? Kandomere was keeping his eyes on the road, but nothing in his posture or on his face suggested that he was making a joke. “What the hell is wrong with you? Why would you even suggest that?”

Kandomere shrugged, as he changed lanes, cut someone off that shouldn’t even be driving, and turned onto the road that was a shortcut to her new home. Thankfully this road was never gridlocked during rush hour. Finally, he was listening to something at least.

“We’ve been working a lot of late hours,” he explained. “Just seems like it would be easier if you didn’t have to skip breakfast to rush home and change.”

“It would be easier for you, but I don’t feel like assassinating my career.” The more he talked, the more it became clear he didn’t have a clue just how damaging rumors alone could be to her career. She had worked too hard to let that tear her down. While they were annoying to deal with already, she could still manage right now.

“How would breakfast kill your career?”

“You know for a smart man, you ask really dumb questions.”

“So enlighten me, oh wise one.” He was mocking her now, and Topaz had to remind herself he was driving, so she couldn’t slap him.

“Right now, they’re just gossiping about us sleeping together, making jokes, but not really being serious about it… If I ride into work with you in the morning, someone’s gonna talk.” The truth didn’t matter to some people. There was plenty of envy going around about her getting that coveted spot on Kandomere’s team.

“When people talk, it ends up on the chief’s desk. We’ll get questioned. Just the implication we might be having a sexual relationship would be enough to ruin my reputation. One I worked really hard to build.”

They drove past her old building, and she looked up at it. It had been her first apartment on her own, and while she had some good memories there, she was increasingly glad she decided to make the move to become roomies with Genny. Turning her attention back to the road ahead, she continued on with her explanation.

“I already have to work twice as hard for everything. After an inquiry like that, it will be damn near impossible to get a promotion. Doesn’t matter that it’s not true, it should, but it doesn’t. I will be known as the woman who slept with her boss to get ahead.”

Kandomere chuckled and smirked. She elbowed him.

“Get your mind out of the gutter. This is not funny.”

“Oh come on… It’s a little bit funny.” Kandomere’s smile was contagious, so she looked away, biting the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling back.

“It’s not funny at all,” Topaz argued, throwing her hands up and growling in frustration. Why wasn’t he taking this seriously. “We’re talking about my career here. You don’t have anything to worry about, but I do.”

“Don’t you think you’re overreacting just a little bit?”

“No. Absolutely not.” He really wasn’t getting it. He proved to her that even smart people had things they were completely clueless about. “I am not risking my career for a little bit of convenience.”

She had the car door open before he had even come to a full stop at the curb. Grabbing her bag, she got out and looked back at him. He was still looking rather amused by the whole situation which aggravated her more. Damn Elf. “Thank you for the ride, and the coffee. I will see you at work.”

“I could wait.”

“Did you not hear a word I just said?!” His laugh was answered with a double middle finger salute. Slamming the car door shut, she heard the window rolling down as she stomped up the steps. “Go. I will see you at work. Jerk.”

“Don’t be late,” he quipped, rolled the window back up and drove off.

Growling loudly, she flung the front door open and her angry steps could be heard from far away as she made her way inside. Genny was already up, dressed and ready to go, which was no surprise. Avoiding eye contact, Topaz made a bee line for the bathroom. She was in desperate need of a shower.

“Please wait for me, I only need like fifteen minutes, I promise,” she called back to Genny and turned on the shower before she stripped down, tossing her clothes in her hamper.

“You want a bagel?”

The question made her smile, but she knew that didn’t mean Genny was letting her off the hook. She was still expecting an explanation for her being out all night, but she was going to wait for the right moment to corner her, probably when Topaz let her guard down. It’s what she would do in her friend’s shoes.

“Yes please,” she answered, before taking the quickest shower she had ever taken in her life, scrubbing herself nice and clean. As promised, she was showered and dressed in fifteen minutes, shoving her make up in her bag for later. She would fix it at work or on the way if they got stuck in traffic again.

Genny handed her a bagel on their way out the door and she took a big bite. Just what she needed to start her day: eggs, bacon and cheese. She groaned, her eyes rolling up into her head like it was the best damn sandwich she had tasted. “Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome.”

Taking a page out of Kandomere’s book, Genny waited to corner her friend with questions until they were in the car and well on the way to work. Trapped and with nowhere to go, not wanting to be late or walk to work, she broached the subject. “So, you wanna tell me about it?”

Topaz pursed her lips. “Do I have a choice?”

“Absolutely not.”

It was worth a shot. Done with her bagel, she shifted to the side, depositing her crumbs in the little garbage bag, and plucked out a napkin from the pocket in the door to wipe her hands and mouth. Stalling only worked so long though, so when Genny tapped the steering wheel with her fingers, Topaz finally answered.

“Nothing happened. He had me do all that paperwork yesterday, I said he ruined Thai food night, and he bought me dinner.”

“Thai?” Genny asked, interrupting her.

“Of course.” The interruption has been purposeful, hoping to trip her up, but Topaz knew that tactic a little too well. “We worked some more, we had some wine, I was exhausted, so I passed out on his couch. He let me sleep. End of story.”

“That’s all? You spent the night at his home, alone with him, and absolutely nothing happened?”

“Nothing at all. Sorry to disappoint you, pumpkin.”

“How?!” Genny looked stunned, unable to comprehend.

“Easy. He’s my boss, Genny, and he has a girlfriend.”

“Yeah, but she doesn’t get him like you do.”

“Me? I don’t get him at all.” Genny proved once again that she had an overly romanticized view of the world and the people close to her. In a way she thought she understood Kandomere, but then he did things that left her completely confused and not sure what to think. “For example. I just spent an entire car ride with him trying to explain how me staying overnight and riding into work with him in the morning is a really bad thing and he didn’t get it.”

“Hold up… rewind and run that by me again, but from the start.”

Topaz groaned. Why did she have to open her big mouth without thinking? Slumping in the seat, she turned her attention out the window and pointed to an empty parking spot. “Look at that, we’re still on time.”

“It’s a miracle. Now spill, woman. You can’t just blurt that out and then leave me hanging.”

“It would take too long to explain, so maybe later.” Slinging the strap of her bag over her shoulder, she waited for Genny to lock the car and join her as they headed inside. The other woman obviously wasn’t happy that Topaz wasn’t explaining herself, but she wasn’t pushing it. Chances were slim, but she still hoped Genny would forget her comment before the end of the day, and she could go on pretending she never said it.

The moment she stepped off the elevator, Montehugh waved her over. “The chief is looking for you. He wants to see you ASAP.”

“Did he say what it was about?”

Montehugh shrugged. “Just said he wanted to see you.”

“Thanks.” Dumping her bag in her desk drawer, she didn’t even bother getting coffee first. Her palms got a little sweaty as she approached the chief’s office. Had someone talked? Was all her arguing with Kandomere for nothing? Focusing on her breathing, she calmed herself down.

For all she knew he might have good news, that she was off modified duty, or maybe she was getting a raise, or maybe he just wanted to see how things were going. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Still, she felt like she was being called into the principal’s office.

Knocking on the door, she waited until she heard the deep baritone of the man’s voice telling her to enter. “You wanted to see me, sir?”

“Good morning, Agent Bennett. Please have a seat.”

“Good morning, sir. May I ask what this is about?”

“Relax. You’re not in trouble. I wanted to see how you were doing.”

“Still having some nightmares, but overall I have been doing a lot better, sir.”

“That’s good. Glad to hear it.” Giving her a once over, he put his hands up in a surrendering gesture. “Alright, I will get to the point. Agent Kandomere briefed me this morning on the work you two have been putting in off the clock.”

Kandomere had gone to the chief? Had he actually listened to her rant? “He did?” she asked surprised.

“Is this information not correct, Agent Bennett?”

“Oh no, it is correct, sir. I’m just a little surprised.” Scratching behind her ear, she still looked puzzled, trying to figure out why he made such a move. Did he listen?

“Now, what you do on your own time is entirely your business, agent Bennett, but I need you to understand the Bureau will not compensate you for the extra hours.”

“I understand, sir.”

“Good. Personally, I hope you are not picking up his work habits and also making time for a social life though.”

“I do, sir.” It was a little bit of a fib. Her social life consisted of nights on the couch with Genny, making fun of her soaps and romantic movie binges, and nights of screwing Brett.

The chief signed a form, put it in a folder and handed it over to her. “Your papers. You are cleared for active duty. Have a good day, agent Bennett.”

“Thank you, sir.” Topaz held the folder like it was the holy grail. No more dying of boredom or killing her brain with mindless paperwork. She was back on duty. There was a spring in her step when she walked to the door. “You too, sir.”

Her hand was on the door handle when the chief spoke again.

“Oh and agent Bennett, should the nature of your relationship with agent Kandomere change, you will need to inform me immediately.”

Biting the inside of her cheek she refrained from making a comment on what the chances were of that happening. Something about hell and subzero temperatures. It was best to just nod and smile, then let it go and forget it was ever mentioned. “Understood, sir.”

Montehugh appeared to have been waiting anxiously on her return, because as soon as she came into sight, he put down his phone and made a hand gesture. “What’s the verdict?”

Holding up the folder, she grinned. “I’m back,” she said and high-fived him on her way to Kandomere’s office. He was on the phone, so she waited outside the door until he hung up, and handed over the papers.

“You spoke to the chief?”

“Yeah… You told him about the after hours stuff?” She regarded him as he looked over her papers and placed them aside. Folding his hands together, he placed them on the desk as he leaned forward.

“Contrary to what you may think, I do listen. What you said this morning got me thinking.”

Opening her mouth, she wanted to make a comment, however, the look on Kandomere’s face made her change her mind instantly.  

“While I can’t stop office gossip, I could get ahead of any problems it could cause you, by laying certain cards out on the table with the chief and Montehugh.”

Certain cards meant he hadn’t revealed all about what they were doing. Did that mean he didn’t trust the chief or even Montehugh? She couldn’t ask him right then, so she parked the questions until later. “And here I thought you just didn’t get it.”

“I don’t get them, but I understood what you were trying to tell me.”

“So you were just pushing my buttons again.”  

Kandomere looked rather content with himself. “You started this. You can end it. All you have to do is surrender. Just two little words. I surrender.”

Once again her mouth was faster than her brain. “Fat chance, Kandy.”

Thankfully no one was around to overhear, but she made a ‘whoops’ face all the same. Stopping in the doorway, she turned to look back at him. If she wanted to continue this little war of theirs, she was going to have to up her game a little. She’d been too weak in her comments lately.

The twinkle in her eye, and the rotten grin on her face betrayed her intentions. “Is there no limit to the lengths you will go to, to get me to have breakfast with you?”

She thought she had him when he took too long to answer, looking around as if to figure out who could overhear them, but then he smirked, sat back and cocked his head a little, giving a little shake of his head. He was going to fire back.

“Not really, no.” His tongue ran along his lip and he purposely bit his bottom lip. “I think you’d enjoy it.”

There were no words. Nothing. Not a single retort she could make, in fact her brain stopped working altogether for a few seconds. Color started rushing to her cheeks, making her swiftly turn on her heel and walk away.

This round was his.

Chapter Text

“Shouldn’t you be getting to work?”

Topaz frowned at the question. It wasn’t an odd question for Genny to be asking, but it was odd that she had been there for almost an hour and Kandomere hadn’t come in to remind her that her desk was elsewhere. Thinking about it, she hadn’t seen him when she came in, but she assumed he was in a meeting. Now she was beginning to wonder if it was something else.

“I should. Which is strange. I need to investigate this weird anomaly of the missing annoyed elf. I will text you once I have solved this mystery.”

Wandering out to her desk, she nodded at Montehugh as he came back with a cup of coffee. Peering into Kandomere’s office, it looked empty and his jacket wasn’t there either to indicate he was elsewhere in the building but would return. This was very strange, especially since he hadn’t said anything to her. Sitting down at her computer she brought up her email. There were no messages or reminders that she hadn’t already read.

“You look puzzled. Something I can help you with, Bennett?”

“Yeah, have you seen our boss today?”

“He was here this morning for his usual meetings, but then he went home. He left you a note, it’s right there.”

Looking where Montehugh was pointing, she spotted the note that was half hiding under some mail dumped on her desk. Plucking it out, she looked at it. “His handwriting is kinda girly,” she commented and got a chuckle from the man. “Oh sorry, did I speak instead of think again?”

“Nah, not at all. Is it a love note? Did he sign it with kisses?”

Aside from a sideways glance, Topaz ignored his teases. “Chief made him take a personal day because he has too many vacation days.”

“How much you wanna bet he’s working from home.”

“Probably,” Topaz answered and put the note aside. If he really was working from home he would’ve called her at least a dozen times already. Pulling out her phone she had two missed calls and a text from him and shook her head. “Yeah, he’s working from home. I swear he breathes this job.”

Sending a quick text to Genny to let her know the mystery had been solved, she looked up when Montehugh started packing up. “Isn’t it a little early to be calling it a day?”

“Are you kidding me? It’s almost lunch time, I am gonna use one of my personal days and take the afternoon off so I can surprise my wife for lunch. If you’re smart, you’ll do the same.”

“I would, Montehugh, but my wife left me years ago,” Topaz joked, getting a good laugh. “Maybe you should give her a heads up before you leave, so she can kick the handyman out of bed and spare you an awkward homecoming.”

“Very funny. Don’t work too hard. Go home early. With the boss gone I have seniority, so that’s an order, Bennett.”

“Yes, sir.”

Smiling, she watched the man dance to the elevator. He couldn’t be further from the man she had met a few months ago, who seemed bitter and angry at the world in general and everything in particular. It was an act he liked to put on. His reason, he said, was to scare the pussies away’.

Looking over her desk, she decided to do the bare minimum, the things she probably shouldn’t leave till tomorrow, because she put them off yesterday. Taking a break for lunch, she finished up the rest of her work, and was about to leave when a man walked up to her desk.

“I’m looking for agent Kandomere.”

“Oh, he’s out for the day. Can I help you?”

“Shit… I really need signatures on these. I forgot and if I don’t get them my boss is gonna strangle me.”

“Can it wait till tomorrow?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Okay. Eh… Do you have a deadline?”

“Before five.”

Topaz thought it over a moment. She could either leave this guy hanging and not enjoy the rest of her afternoon because she would feel like a jerk, or she could get a car from the motor pool and drive to Elf Town and back in about an hour. He’d owe her a favor then, which she could cash in later.

“I was just about to head out, so I can go get you the signatures you need.”

“Thank you so much, you’re a lifesaver agent…”

“Bennett. Remember that name, because you’ll owe me.”

Getting a car from the motor pool, she blasted her favorite music as she drove to elf town. It took some looking around and finally asking a trash collector, because no one else would talk to her, to find visitor’s parking. The man at the front desk was polite, but his eyes spoke volumes as he gave her a quick up and down. He didn’t approve of her attire. She told him who she was there to see, and waited while he spoke over the phone in a hushed tone.

“You may go up.”

“Thank you.”

The mirrors on the elevator still made her feel uncomfortable so she stared at the floor until the doors opened to the now familiar white marble floor tiles. Ringing the bell she waited for an answer, but nothing could have prepared her for the sight that greeted her.

“Ah, Taz. Come in.”

Stepping inside, shocked and a little dazed, she took off her shoes as he walked away. He was wearing slacks and a button up shirt, which was pretty normal. The sleeves were rolled up, which wasn’t normal at all. That wasn’t the only thing that caused her to stare at him confused and just mildly frightened, however. He was wearing slippers and an apron.

As she walked toward the kitchen, her gaze still locked on him, she decided that the most frightening part about the way he looked was the fact that he had his hair pulled back in a man bun. A freaking man bun! Not a single person, not even Genny was going to believe that one, not even if she took a picture right now.

“You’re staring again.”

“Sorry, it’s just… Who are you, and what have you done with my boss?” Stopping by the cooking island, she looked around. There were several things he was making and had been making. What caught her attention was an opened bottle of wine that appeared to be mostly full. “Have you been drinking?”

“That’s for cooking. Here, have a bite, tell me what you think,” he answered, setting a plate down before her with what looked like fresh baked bread. It was a nice golden brown color and smelled good, but she still had the papers in her hands that she needed him to sign.

“Actually, sir, I came over because someone needs a few signatures from you and they are needed today.”

Kandomere made a gesture to hand them over after he wiped his hands. Glancing at the papers he nodded and smiled. Grabbing a pen, he signed the documents, checking twice to make sure everything that required a signature had one, and closed the folder.

“There. Now taste.”

“I really need to take those papers back.”

“Nonsense. I’ll scan and email them when I am done here. Sit,” Kandomere said and gestured to one of the stools, while he pulled a glass from the rack. “Would you like a glass of wine?”

“No, thank you, I’m driving.” Topaz tried hard not to stare, but it was difficult when he was acting very unlike himself. There was an air of relaxation about him, like he didn’t have a care in the world. His permanent frown wasn’t as permanent as she had thought.

“You’re here now, you might as well stay for dinner.”

“You’re not doing this for Elanil?”

“I was, but she canceled on me last minute. She never really appreciates when I do the cooking myself, but she indulges me.” Shrugging, Kandomere didn’t appear to be bothered by it. Nothing seemed to bother him, except her refusal of a glass of wine.

“Why are you with this woman, again?” she asked and got another shoulder shrug in answer. Shaking her head, she was thankful there were no expectations between her and Brett. No expectations meant no disappointment and that was just how she liked it.

Looking down at the bread again, she broke the little bun in half and took a bite. It was still warm, and very flavorful. “This is amazing.”

“Thank you.” Kandomere grinned proudly. Putting the last few dishes in the dishwasher, he wiped down the counters. With the papers in hand, he walked into the other room, leaving her to take a good look around.

She hadn’t been here before while there was sunlight streaming in the windows. It gave the place some warmth, but it was still rather sterile. It looked more like a spread in a magazine than a living room. One thing she noticed was that while there were pictures on the wall, none of them were personal. They were simply artful shots to give ambiance to the room.

“Are you sure I can’t get you anything to drink?” Kandomere asked when he returned without the papers.

With her errand done, she was finished for the day, which meant she had run out of excuses to leave again. “I guess if I am staying for dinner one glass of wine can’t hurt.”

“Excellent!”

This side of her boss was once she never could’ve dreamed off. If someone had told her before this moment, that Kandomere could be relaxed and comfortable in anything less than a three piece suit with a two foot pole up his ass, she would have laughed and asked them to tell her another joke.

“Staring.”

“Mildly disturbed. Are you sure everything’s okay?”

“Surprisingly yes. I wasn’t happy about being ordered to take a personal day, and I may have spent the morning trying to work. Someone had her phone set to silent again though, so I finally caved. Cooking is very relaxing, you should try it.”

“For you maybe,” Topaz said with a chuckle, accepting the glass of wine. “I could burn water. I am fine with cutting, cleaning and clearing the work space, but it’s better for everyone involved if I stay far away from the cooking. Unless I can poke holes in it and toss it in the nuker for a few minutes.”

“You just need a good teacher.”

“Is that an offer?”

Kandomere smiled. “It could be.”

Taking their wine and the little breads outside, they enjoyed the afternoon sun and talked. Of course the conversation moved back to work quickly, which was unavoidable between two workaholics. Topaz decided that she rather liked this side of the elf, and that perhaps not all elves were total obnoxious assholes. Their talk flowed seamlessly over into dinner, and despite his protests, she helped him clear the dishwasher and put their dinner dishes in.

While he made coffee, she wandered back onto the balcony, looking out at the city lights now it was dark. It was a beautiful sight, but it made her painfully aware that she came from an entirely different world. When she heard movement behind her, she rubbed her arms and smiled at Kandomere. With the sun gone it was getting chilly fast.

“You know if I told anyone about this, and you like this, no one would believe me.” He’d let his hair down when he was done cooking, which was a mild disappointment because she had wanted to take his picture as proof to show Genny.

Holding up a simple woolen vest, he helped Topaz into it. The sleeves were too long for her, but she rolled them up enough to stick her hands through and accepted the cup of coffee when he handed it to her, before he answered her. “Good. I’d rather they see me as the workaholic with a stick up his ass.”

“You don’t wanna be approachable?”

“I’d rather be feared and respected. It helps keep things simple.”

Topaz snorted. “I must really complicate things then, huh?”

“Yes, you do, but you’re worth it.”

His gaze held hers for longer than she felt comfortable with. Looking away with a little nervous laugh, she sipped her coffee and looked out over the city again. It was so easy to forget that the world was one giant mess. A silence fell as they sipped their coffee and stared at the view.

Looking at him sideways she was amazed by how different his features looked when he wasn’t stressed out by work and dealing with all those humans expecting things from him. There was an elf expecting things from him as well, and thinking of that prompted her to speak up about it again. That’s what good friends did, right?

“You know, you deserve better than that woman, right? She’s waiting on you to do the ‘right’ thing before she commits, which is what she wants. Relationships aren’t about what one person wants.”

“Yet, she still puts up with my long hours and frequent trips.”

“That is a weak excuse and you know it,” Topaz pointed out, looking at him over the top of her coffee cup. “You can’t tell me that you are the only elf who works with humans and doesn’t always have a stick up his ass. While you’re wasting your time with a woman who is never going to appreciate you for who you are, your perfect woman could be out there right now. You let that sink in for a moment.”

Silence seemed to return again, but it only lasted a minute, before Kandomere spoke. “Have you ever thought about taking your own advice?”

Letting out a deep sigh, Topaz nodded reluctantly. “Yeah, but it never works out for me. I give good advice to others, but I think I inherited my shitty taste in men from my mother.”

“One bad apple and you throw away the whole batch. That doesn’t sound like the Topaz Bennett I know.”

Topaz raised a brow at his obvious provocation. “I wish it had been just one bad apple. You see, Evan, the one that punched me, he was the one that made me finally throw away the whole batch, but he was far from being the first rotten one.”

Turning to face Kandomere, she leaned against the railing. It was high enough this far up, that her shoulder leaned against it. He looked interested in hearing the rest of her story, which was not something she was used to from anyone, especially a man.

“Just like a lot of people who’ve had bad experiences, I've been cheated on, and lied to, but how many can say that their boyfriend ODed? Or a boyfriend who turned out to have three baby mamas already… we were both nineteen. He also robbed two liquor stores and went to jail for a long time. I could go on, but the list is seriously long and depressing.”

“So you gave up.”

“I wised up,” Topaz argued. It had been more than two decades now, and she barely remembered her mother, but the sadness still remained and it showed in her eyes. “I was heading down the same road as my mother. She married some abusive, deadbeat junkie with no options. Struggling to make ends meet, to feed her child. Trying to survive only to wake up from a nap one day by a shotgun pushed in her face.”

“But you didn’t end up that way.”

“Thanks to a high school guidance counselor. His words changed my life.” Finishing her coffee, she set the cup aside and adjusted the vest to cover more of her chest. “He told me, you’re not responsible for the way your story starts. You can be born with a silver spoon in your mouth, or be abandoned on the church’s doorstep, but it’s out of your control. It’s up to you however, how you let your story play out after that.”

A frown passed over Kandomere’s features as he considered her words a moment. “I actually never thought of it like that before.”

“Neither had I. So when Evan punched me in the face, I decided it was time to change the plot. I punched him back, walked away and never looked back. I chose me and my dreams.”

“And here you are.”

Smiling, she nodded and looked down. His gaze on her felt different, filling the air between them with tension. She froze a little when his fingertips feathered against her skin as he brushed her hair out of her face and behind her ear. Those same fingertips trailed along her jawline to her chin, gently urging her to look up at him.

“You changed the plot,” Kandomere whispered.

“What?”

Searching his face she tried to figure out what he meant by that. There was something different about his eyes. Instead of the piercing, cold blue stare she was used to getting at work, this felt different, warmer, like he was seeing her as a person, a human. Her heart skipped a beat when his thumb brushed over her bottom lip. His lips parted and she got a flash of pointy teeth as he started leaning in.

“Kandomere, darling! I am so sorry I am late!”

Jerking back, Topaz took a few steps back to put some physical distance between them. Looking anywhere but him, her attention was drawn to the doorway when the tall slender elf with impossibly straight, white hair appeared in the doorway. Saved by the elf!

“Oh, it’s you. Don’t tell me you were working again.”

“No, actually, I was just leaving. Enjoy your evening.”

With a little bow of her head in greeting to Elanil, she avoided any more eye contact with Kandomere as she grabbed her bag and fled out the door. She didn’t stop for anything until she was safely locked inside the car. That was when she realized she still had the vest on he had given her. Resting her forehead against the steering wheel, she groaned.

“What the hell is wrong with you?!”

Chapter Text

Could this day get worse?

Topaz found out the hard way that was a question she should never ask, because the answer is: yes, it could. It had started out with such confidence and promise. She had decided that she was done trying to fit in and be one of the guys. She was a woman and they would have to accept her as she was.

Instead of her bad fitting and not even remotely flattering dress pants, she had pulled her favorite pair of dark blue jeans out of the closet, the ones that made her ass look fantastic and put her hair in a pony tail instead of a very unflattering bun.

Genny had accused her of overcompensating because she couldn’t deal with what had almost happened between her and Kandomere, but Topaz had brushed her off. Maybe it was, but she was feeling good about her decision, and she wasn’t about to ruin it with thoughts about the elf and how things could've gone but didn't.

Things had gone downhill from there. It started slow at first.

 

Knocking on the door, she waited for the acknowledgment before she stepped in. “You were looking for me?”

Yes.” Kandomere gave her the same once over she had gotten all morning. What was the big deal about a pair of jeans?

What can I do for you, sir?” she asked, to snap him out of his staring, crossing her arms over her chest.

Do you have plans tonight?”

Probably.”

Probably?”

Impatiently shifting her weight from one foot to the other, Topaz knew she was already giving him way too much slack on the rope. She needed to rein it in and keep it short before he could trick her into an argument. “Look, if this is not work related, I have to go. I have to be somewhere.”

Where are you going?”

Local PD requested a consult on a case. It’s a personal favor, since I have helped them before. It’s not task force related.” Standing up straight, she took a step back to make it clear she really needed to go, and he had to get to the point. “Depending on how it goes, I will be out all day.”

Fine.” Although he accepted her answer, his tone betrayed his feelings. Nothing she could do about it, since she was actually speaking the truth. “We do need to talk at some point.”

Not here, not now, and not at work.” She turned and cringed. It sounded far bitchier and more emotional than she wanted. “Sir.”

Keep me informed.”

Yes, sir.”  

..

She’d been bitchy enough for Kandomere to decide they needed to talk, and the only way they could do that during work hours without her shutting him down, was by cornering her in the car. He had invited himself along under stome bullshit reason, and the fight she didn’t want to have with him happened anyway.

The snowball that was her day started picking up a little more speed.

..

 

We should-”

Topaz immediately cut him off. “You wanna talk, fine, let’s talk, but I am going first.”

Taz-”

No. I’m first, which means you shut up and listen.” Whatever speech he had prepared, she wasn’t going to give him a chance to say it before she had a chance to speak her mind. “You’re my boss. Nothing happened last night. End of story. I worked too long and too hard to get where I am to mess it up now. I crossed a line in Vegas, which set certain things into motion that lead to this, but this is me putting an end to that. It’s over. I surrender. I give.”

You’re running.”

Her fingers wrapped tightly enough around the steering wheel to make her knuckles turn white. “I’m changing directions. Taking charge of my plot.”

You’re scared and you’re running.”

Whatever helps you sleep at night.”

A muscle twitched in his cheek as Kandomere clenched his jaw. His eyes narrowed and he sat up straight. “Okay, it’s my turn.” The tone in his voice told her she had finally struck a nerve. “Something did happen last night. You didn’t hide behind your sarcasm and quick wit. You opened up. Something happened.”

Your girlfriend showed up.”

And you ran scared.”

I excused myself, because I didn’t want to intrude.”

She was the one intruding, and you ran.”

I’m not scared.”

You haven’t looked me in the eye once today.”

I’m driving!”

You’re very hostile.”

Because you’re pissing me off!”

Why do I make you so angry?”

...

That was when she got the brilliant idea to ask the universe if her day could get any worse. The answer had come as soon as they stepped off the elevator and they ran into Brett. He wasn’t stationed at that precinct, so it had never even occurred to her she could run into him, but there he was. Because of the increasing number of murders in his area, Lieutenant Miller had requested all the resources he could get, including a few detectives from other precincts.

She should’ve given Kandomere the keys to the sedan and told him to go back. He wouldn’t have listened, but she should’ve tried to get him out of there before he figured out who Brett was. They amicably exchanged pleasantries until Brett slipped up and called her Taz. Kandomere’s demeanor changed immediately and he kept positioning himself between the two of them.

There was a bit of a reprieve when Lieutenant Miller and Kandomere actually seemed to get along, allowing her to work while they chatted about whatever it was bosses talked about when they got together. However, she was unaware that outside the office tension was mounting in Brett.

The snowball was picking up debris now.

...

 

So that’s your boss, huh?”

Nodding at Brett, she sighed. “Yup.”

He doesn’t like me.”

My boss doesn’t like humans. Don’t take it personal.”

My boss. That’s distancing language. You two fighting?”

Stop profiling me.”

Is he the reason you haven’t been calling me?”

Yes, he’s a workaholic and a slave driver.”

That’s not what I was referring to.”

I know, but we had a deal. No possession, no jealousy.”

So you’re sleeping with your boss.”

Un-fucking-believable. Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

..

She’d walked away without giving him an explanation beyond the one she already had. She’d been working, and they weren’t together, so what she did with her time was no one’s business but hers. If she had stopped to think however, she would have realized that by doing so, she was only adding fuel to the fire. Instead, she had focused on the work.

Solving puzzles like the ones the Lieutenant was faced with were her specialty. There was only one thing more satisfying than making the pieces fit to form a more complete picture, and that was actually catching the perpetrator, but she was better off leaving that to others for now.

While she worked, the snowball started to get closer to terminal velocity and she added a little more debris on their way out the door.

..

 

Kandomere put a hand on the small of her back, giving a little push to the door. Brett made a gesture to call him and she nodded in response, giving Kandomere an annoyed look when he kept his hand on her back. “Stop that.”

Shoving his arm away when he still had his hand on her back, she looked directly at him as she hit the button to the elevator several times, paused, then hit again. Much to her disappointment, Kandomere didn’t react.

Keys.”

Topaz looked at the hand he held out and looked up at him. “Sorry?”

She got a deep sigh in answer. He closed his eyes a moment, then looked at her, but the coldness that had been back upstairs was gone again. She’d rather have the coldness back.

Whatever he said to you upstairs it got you thinking about something case related. I thought it would be better if I drive, so you can focus on writing your notes. That’s all.”

Pressing her lips together, Topaz bit back her first reaction. She couldn’t say it in a lobby full of police officers and civilians. “You know what I hate most about what you just said?”

What?”

You knew exactly what we were talking about, because you were listening to our conversation. Don’t lie to me. I’m not stupid.” Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the car keys and shoved them into his hand, walking ahead of him to the car.

..

Now she was standing by the car, impatiently waiting, while the universe was going to emphasize its point. If you ask if a day could get worse, the universe will show you just how much worse it can get.

Kandomere was taking way too long. “Ugh! Men!” she shouted up to no one in particular, and started to head back inside to find out what was keeping him. She had only made it a few steps when the door swung open and he appeared. His jaw clenched, muscles visibly twitching, his lips pressed together, set in a grim line, the lines around his eyes drew attention to the furrowed brows. He was fuming, and she realized as he glanced over his shoulder, that whatever he was muttering, no doubt in Elvish or Spanish, was not directed at her.

“Oh for fuck’s sake…”

Behind Kandomere Brett appeared, grabbing the elf by the shoulder, turning him around and before she could say anything, his fist already connected to the elf’s face. Pinching the bridge of her nose, she looked down at the floor and counted to ten. The two men were still fighting and starting to gather a crowd. Uniformed officers spilled from the building, trying to break up the fight, but the two of them kept at it.

Kandomere hadn’t started the fight, but he was clearly intent on finishing it, defending his own honor. When it looked like the officers finally had control of Brett, she glared at him hard. Her attention turned to Kandomere when he tried to lunge forward again. “Enough! Kandomere, look at me. Look at me!” Bewildered eyes searched for hers, and finally focused. “Get a fucking grip on yourself!”

Snatching the keys up where they had dropped on the ground in the fight, she shoved at Kandomere until he finally got the hint and started moving to the car. Assuring the officers she had it from there, and they weren’t going to be pressing charges, despite the elf’s protests to the contrary, she didn’t spare Brett another glance as she put Kandomere in the car.

“He started it.”

“I have eyes. Don’t talk to me right now.”

“Okay.”

The silence that followed only lasted a few minutes, broken by the buzzing in her pocket. She tried to ignore it as long as she could, but while her anger at the whole situation was starting to die down, the irritation was getting worse. Pulling the phone out, she didn’t even need to look at the screen to know it was Brett calling her. With a disgusted grunt, she tossed the phone on the backseat.

“Unbelievable… both of you.”

Kandomere wisely kept his mouth shut the rest of the way back to the office.

Tossing her bag and phone in her desk drawer, she slammed it shut with enough force to draw Montehugh’s attention before he noticed his boss. “Did you beat up our boss?”

“No, he thought he could improve inter agency relations by picking a fight with a detective.”

“He picked a fight with me.”

“Go.” Pointing to his office, she gave him an angry look until Kandomere stopped trying to argue and walked into his office. “I’m getting the first aid kit. Make sure he stays put.”

Getting the kit from the break room, she took the walk there and back to get her annoyance under control as much as possible. “Let it ring,” she grumbled when Montehugh pointed out her phone was buzzing in the drawer. After closing the door, she twisted the rod until the shades closed.

Kandomere was sitting at his desk, looking at the damage in a handheld mirror, which he put away when she dropped the kit on his desk. Opening it, she grabbed his chin and looked over the damage. “You’re becoming way too human. What were you thinking, picking a fight with him?”

“I didn’t. I stopped to ask the officer at the front desk if he knew any decent coffee places in the area, and he shoved me. Started spouting bullshit at me. All I said was grow up, and walked away. He picked a fight with me.”

Holding her breath, Topaz slowly let it go as she listened. He appeared to be telling the truth, so she was going to give him the benefit of the doubt until she could hear Brett’s side of the story, after he had a chance to calm the hell down. Using a bit of gauze she wiped the blood away to assess the damage.

“You’re gonna have some pretty ugly bruises. Show me your hands.” A few of his knuckles were busted open. Taking a clean piece of gauze, she cleaned and disinfected them, while Kandomere sat perfectly still, watching her. She focused only on the task, and when she was done, his hands clasping hers, finally made her look up from what she was doing.

“You know, this isn’t high school, where the girl goes all weak in the knees and starry eyed when guys fight over her.”

“Not even a little bit?”

“No. That was stupid.”

Topaz watched as he brought her hands up to his face, pressing a kiss to each palm and nuzzling his face into one hand. Her fingertips brushed along his cheeks, following the lines of his face as she studied every feature. His hands were caressing the back of her thighs, making her tense a little. Putting her hands on his shoulders, she kept him from pulling her closer.

“Kandomere…”

“Topaz…”

“My feelings haven’t changed. You’re my boss. This, whatever this is, it can’t happen.” Taking his hands, she pulled them away so she could step away. Throwing the used items away, she flipped the lid on the kit closed, tapping it with her fist to make it click shut. With the red box in hand, she walked to the door, opening the blinds again.

“Is that your only argument? Your career comes first?”

Stopping with the door ajar, she pushed it shut again. “No, it isn’t. You’re an elf. One who acts a lot like a human at times, but still an elf. You acted- No, both of you acted like I was a possession. I’m human. Today you also reminded me that I’m not your equal, and I refuse to be treated as anything less.”

Righting her shoulders, she turned and walked out the door.

Chapter Text

Standing in the doorway with her arms crossed, Topaz watched Kandomere as he sat bent over, reading intently. His brows drawn together and down, causing a wrinkle in between and the frown unintentionally pulled his mouth into a little pout. It was often this stern and concentrated look, that made people afraid of him. Of course when he opened his mouth he usually didn’t make it any better.

He had grown on her.

Although she had been mad at him for the better part of last week, and he usually harrassed her until they cleared the air, he had listened to her this time and given her space. It allowed for things to settle back into a normal rhythm, for as far as that was possible in their line of work. Gradually her anger had died away and made room for the real emotions, the ones she didn’t want to acknowledge.

In spite of staring at him for a few minutes, Kandomere didn’t look up. So she Rapped her knuckles on the window in the open door to get his attention. “Five o’clock has come and gone, boss. Chief said no more overtime, so time to pack it up and go home.”

Kandomere looked up at her with eyes so unfocused and distant that it seemed like he was very far away. Blinking a few times, he slowly returned to the present. “It’s five already? Did you get any further today?”

Slowly, she shook her head. “Unfortunately I think I have hit a wall again.”

Tidying up his desk, Kandomere paused. “You got any plans tonight?”

“Yeah, be anywhere but home. Genny has book club night at the apartment and they are not my kind of people. I was gonna grab a slice of pizza and catch a movie or two. You?”

“No plans. How about instead we get a pie, open up a bottle of wine and see if we can break down that wall.”

Her first instinct was to say no, but that was her fear talking. Avoid all the things uncomfortable and scary! Then it hit her that Kandomere was suggesting to get a pizza for both of them. The entire time she had known him, he had been telling her how bad all her favorite foods were for her, and now he was suggesting pizza as dinner for two? Like a confused animal, she tilted her head this way and that. “You’d eat pizza?”

“Someone told me the other day that I can’t knock it till I’ve tried it.”

A grin broke out on her face. “Now this I gotta see. You’re on.”

Waiting for him to pack his things, she nodded a greeting to a few people passing by to go home. Someone was talking about the hot date they were going on that night and how she needed so much time to get ready. Last time Topaz had spent any length of time getting ready for a date, she’d been a teenager.

“You know, it’s Friday night, neither of us has plans, and the best we can come up with is pizza and more work. It think we might be socially handicapped.”

Kandomere chuckled. Turning off the light in his office he closed the door behind him and walked with her to the elevator rather than ahead of her like he normally did. First he suggested pizza, and now this? Was he on drugs?

She got a pizza at her favorite parlor, keeping it on her lap as they drove into Elf Town. She wasn’t sure if she was ever going to get used to this district of the city. It was such a stark contrast to the rest and such a harsh reminder that she didn’t belong.

Kicking her shoes aside, she went and put the pizza and her bag down in the other room first, wandering back out to take off her jacket and properly put away her shoes, only to find Kandomere had already done it. He wandered out of what she assumed was his bedroom without the gorget, his tie, jacket or vest on.

“I’m not staring,” she argued before he could say it. “I just don’t think I will ever get used to that transformation. Just without the gorget alone, you look far less unapproachable.”

Taking two glasses down, she left it up to him to pick the wine, grabbing two plates to take with her. When Kandomere came to join her, he had a bottle of wine and utensils in his hand.

“What are those for?” she asked a little jokingly.

“To eat the pizza with?”

“All you need to eat pizza, is a plate to put your slice on if it’s still hot, and some napkins to wipe your mouth and fingers on.”

Kandomere looked so confused she couldn’t help but laugh at him. Opening the box, she took one of the plates and put a slice of pizza on it, then grabbed the other plate and picked a slice for herself. Closing the box so the pizza stayed warm a little longer, she picked up her slice of pizza.

“If you grab it like this, the end just hangs down and eating becomes a challenge, but you can do this,” she said and folded the slice in such a way it remained mostly straight and took a big bite. Munching on it she wiped her mouth and fingers on a napkin and smiled. “See, much easier. Now you try it.”

Clumsily, Kandomere fumbled with the slice until he had folded it right and brought it to his mouth to take a hesitant bite. This caused a large string of cheese to stretch between his teeth and the slice until it finally broke and stuck to his chin. He looked horrified, causing Topaz to burst into laughter.

“I am glad my discomfort amuses you.”

“I am sorry, but you should see yourself.” Grabbing a napkin, she quickly wiped a droplet of cheese grease from his chin, while she munched on another bite of her pizza. Kandomere chewed, and took another bite, this one bigger and more decisive. “How is it?” she asked.

“I can see why people enjoy it. It’s very cheesy, very flavorful.”

“So you like it?”

“I wouldn’t eat this often, but yeah, I think I do.”

With a triumphant grin, Topaz munched on the rest of her slice. Grabbing the bottle of wine, she poured a bit into both glasses, knowing he would want to let his breathe longer to get the full taste. Taking a sip of hers, she watched him as he ate the rest of his slice.

“I wonder what Elanil would say if she could see you now,” she chuckled.

“I am sure she already has some choice words.” Wiping his hands and face with a napkin, Kandomere set his plate aside. “Good thing I ended things with her that night.”

“Why?” Topaz asked before she could stop herself. Mentally she kicked herself for even bringing up the subject, even if it didn’t seem like Kandomere was very broken up about the loss. Then again, he could be really good at hiding it.

“She kept referring to you, Montehugh and the rest as hired help and servants. Something broke finally, when she told me it was time to grow up and be an elf. I realized you were right. I was wasting my time. She accused me of being more human than elf.”

“Us humans have grown on you.”

“Like an inoperable tumor.”

“We’re mostly benign. You’ll live.” Curling up in the corner of the couch with her wine, she rested her head in her palm, elbow on the back of the couch and studied him. In the comfort of his home he was a different man, open, relaxed, approachable. He talked about things he never would at work.

“How about Brett?”

The question made the corners of her mouth pull down and her nose up like she smelled something foul. “Ugh.”

“It’s okay if you’d rather not talk about it.”

Once more he surprised her, by trying to be understanding. Unless, he was still mad himself and regretted bringing up the subject, but did so out of courtesy to her. Shaking her head, she looked at the glass of wine, swirling the contents around a little. “It’s not that. I am mad at him, and at myself.”

“Why yourself?”

“Because he caught feelings and I failed to see it in time,” she admitted, looking guilty and apologetic when she looked up at him. “Which lead to him acting like the immature ass he has always been, picking a fight with my boss over absolutely nothing. He tried to justify his actions, but it just sounded like more bullshit. So I won’t be seeing him again.”

“I’m sorry.”

“For what? I told you, I have shitty taste in men.”

“My actions may have provoked him.”

“A fart could’ve provoked him. Don’t apologize for him being a jackass.” She blamed herself enough for taunting the universe, and not seeing sooner how badly the situation would get. Hindsight was always twenty-twenty.

Kandomere didn’t look convinced by her argument, and went on to explain himself. “After the break room his demeanor toward you changed. I admit, it made me uncomfortable. I wasn’t trying to be possessive when I put my hand on your back. I wanted him to redirect whatever animosity he had to me.”

“Oh boy…” Topaz pinched the bridge of her nose. This was bad, really bad. She thought she had a clear picture of what had happened that day, but the more Kandomere spoke, the more she realized just how big of a clusterfuck it had really been.

“What?”

“He thought you were being possessive. That’s why his demeanor changed.” Rubbing her temple with two fingers, she could feel a tension headache forming. If she hadn’t been using misplaced anger to keep Kandomere at arm’s length, she could’ve caught a clue sooner. “I should’ve knocked some sense into him in that break room, when he accused me of sleeping with you.”

It was Kandomere’s turn to look like all the pieces of the puzzle suddenly fell into place, revealing the true picture. “That explains his comments in the lobby.”

“What did he say?”

“I’d rather not repeat them. They weren’t very respectful to you, or me.”

Sipping her wine in silence, Topaz let it all sink in. She had assumed too much with not enough facts, in the heat of the moment, because she had never learned to properly deal with her emotions. She hated it when situations like this pointed out how right her therapist was. “I’m sorry.”

“Water under the bridge,” Kandomere said with a shrug.

“For you maybe, but I feel like an ass… I really stuck my foot in it this time. I have diarrhea of the mouth. That filter between my brain and mouth doesn’t work. Something happens and I react. I’m really sorry I said those things.”

“As it turns out, none of us had all the facts, and acted without pausing to use common sense.”

Topaz slapped her hands against her cheeks and gasped in mock shock, her verbal diarrhea kicking in once again. “You’re even more human than I thought! Kandomere admitting he might have been wrong. Say it isn’t so!”

Taking one of the throw pillows from behind his back, Kandomere flung it at her. She easily stopped it from hitting her and laughed. Taking it back, he shoved it into the corner of the couch and sat up. It was one of his signs that he was about to get down to business.

“So what’s that wall you’ve been running into?”

Topaz pursed her lips, still a bit giggly after her tease, and considered her options. “Why don’t we leave work for some other night. I think we should at least get some enjoyment out of our Friday night. I was gonna go to the movies, but that couch in the living room looks by far more comfortable than any theater seats.”

“You bring the pizza, I’ll bring the wine.” Kandomere didn’t hesitate a moment as he got up off the couch, grabbing the bottle.

Watching him go, she wondered for a moment if she should make sure he wasn’t ill. He hadn’t taken a sip of his wine yet, so he wasn’t drunk. The fight might have knocked his brain around, but she would have seen evidence of injury sooner. Shrugging it off she put the napkins and plates on top of the pizza box, and brought it along.

She took one last sip to empty her glass and set it down for a refill, which he promptly did. With the remote in hand, Kandomere sat down and kicked against the side of the couch, which made her frown until a drawer popped out and he pulled out a blanket, handing it to her. Grabbing another for himself, he closed the drawer again.

Topaz was surprised when she saw the amount of movies he had put in his queue but hadn’t watched. Grabbing the remote from him, she browsed through the titles. “Honestly, do you just queue movies, and never watch them? That’s a waste of money. This one’s good.”

With a gesture of his hand, Kandomere told her to do whatever she wanted and grabbed another slice of pizza. Smiling at the sight, she got a little distracted by it. Stop staring! Tearing her gaze away, she hit play and adjusted the volume.

Satisfied, she grabbed her blanket, unfolded it and curled up in a corner to watch the movie. It only took about fifteen minutes into the movie for Kandomere to pass out, stretched out on the couch, his hands folded on his chest on top of the blanket. He looked peaceful laying there, proving to her that he did in fact sleep, and not even standing up, but laying down like a regular person.

Rather than wake him, she let him take a well deserved nap through the rest of the movie. Genny texted her to ask where she was, so she texted her back to let her know and not to wait up for her. Her finger hovered over the send button a moment. Kandomere hadn’t moved since he passed out, but his mouth had fallen open a little. Hitting send, she turned off the tv and put the remote on the table.

On hands and knees, she crawled across the couch and reached up touching a fingertip to his bottom lip. His tongue slipped out to lick the spot, and he shifted just a little, but as she expected, he closed his mouth. Waiting for the slow rhythm to return, she pinched his nose between two fingers, closing his nostrils, until eyes heavy with sleep opened and his hand grabbed her wrist.

A little squeal of surprise escaped her when he pulled her half on top of him, wrapping her up in his arms and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “Did you enjoy the movie?” she giggled and flailed her arms when he wouldn’t release her from the hug.

“What movie?” he answered with a lazy smile, releasing her so he could stretch and yawn. “What time is it?”

“Snore o’clock. I could’ve put on another movie, but I didn’t think you’d want to sleep through another,” she teased him, stood up and stretched as she headed for the bathroom. Doing her business and washing her hands, she jumped when she opened the door and walked face first into his chest. At his grin, she slapped his arm and moved by him.

While Kandomere was in the bathroom, she found the remote for the music system she had spotted. It had a display showing what music was installed on it. Selecting playlists, she browsed through a whole bunch that didn’t look familiar or appropriate for a Friday night, until she found one labeled ‘80s smash hits’ and giggled. “I found your guilty pleasure, I think,” she said when she heard the bathroom door open and hit play.

“I believe you did,” Kandomere answered, but didn’t look in the least bit bothered she had discovered his secret love of human music from the 80s. Whitney Houston’s I wanna dance with somebody started playing from the speakers. Coming up behind her, he took the remote from her hand, turning up the volume and started dancing.

At first Topaz looked at him like he had lost his mind, but a fit of giggles finally had her moving her feet. She started singing along, which surprised Kandomere, probably because he expected her to sing out of key and hurt his ears. They laughed and danced around the living room to several hit songs. During a slow song, he pulled her to him, swaying to the rhythm. “I can’t really remember the first time we danced.”

“Well in your defense, you were drugged at the time,” Topaz chuckled. She remembered all of it, in vivid detail, but she did her best to push those thoughts to the back of her mind.

Kandomere had other ideas about that, it seemed as he changed the music, and she knew by the first chords of the guitar she was about to be very vividly reminded again. “May I have this dance,” he asked, holding out his hand.

Don’t be a chicken, it’s just a dance. 

“You may,” she said, placing her hand in his. Pulling her in closer, he assumed the position while someone spoke in Spanish before the song fully started and she let Kandomere lead them.

Que solo por un beso, se puede enamorar.

As they danced, Kandomere smiled at her, and she couldn’t determine if it was because of the dance or the music. She couldn’t understand the lyrics, but she decided it didn’t matter. When the song ended, and she found herself in a familiar position, a hand against his chest, looking up at him.

His fingertips brushed along her jaw, to her chin and back, grabbing the back of her neck. Topaz was about to protest, her heart pounding in her chest as panic set in. This was too much, way too soon. As if he sensed her apprehension, he lifted his chin and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

Letting out a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding, Topaz relaxed and gave a little smile.

Kandomere returned her smile. “So are you going to pass out on my couch again, or can you put your stubborn aside and accept the invitation to use my guest room?”

One eye closed, her lips puckering and her head leaning to one side, Topaz pretended to consider it. She had already told Genny she wasn’t coming home, so she would scare her shitless if she did, and then she would have to listen for days how she wasn’t supposed to chicken out. She was Topaz Bennett and she didn’t cower, she used humor to hide her insecurities. “You must really want to make me breakfast.”

Kandomere’s grin was dark, and flashed his pointy teeth, making it even creepier. “You have no idea.”

Her shudder and shove at his chest, got a laugh from him. Switching up the music to lighter stuff, he danced her around the living room whether she wanted to or not, until they were both funned out and it was getting late. He showed her the guest room, which was bigger than her and Genny’s bedrooms combined. The bed was big, and the comforter impossibly fluffy.

Kandomere appeared in the doorway with a dark blue shirt in hand she knew all too well. It was likely the only t-shirt the man owned, with an FBI logo on the front. “Thought you might want this.”

Taking the shirt from him, she pushed herself up on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Thank you. Good night, Kandy.”

Shaking his head a little, he lingered in the doorway. “Good night, Taz, sweet dreams.”

Chapter Text

The meeting that should really have been an email had taken longer than he liked. It was already well after five when Kandomere walked down to his office. He had hoped to catch Topaz before she went home for the day to get a progress report, but when he walked out onto the floor her desk was empty, as was Montehugh’s. Disappointed and even more annoyed now about the useless meeting, he was about to step into his office when he saw a familiar face coming toward him.

“Agent Kandomere.”

“Miss Larsen. What can I do for you?”

“Have you seen agent Bennett? I was supposed to give her a ride home.”

Something didn’t feel right. The moment she asked that question his feet were moving toward the empty desk. Reaching over he pulled open the drawer and sure enough, there was her bag. “Have you tried the ladies room?”

“I waited for a few minutes in the conference room before I did that. There’s no note or anything either. It isn’t like her to just disappear somewhere.”

“Her bag is still here, which suggests she is still here,” Kandomere answered, trying to reassure the worried looking woman, but she looked about as reassured as he felt.

Big steps brought him to the conference room fast. Nothing looked disturbed. The table was a mess with papers scattered everywhere, but it looked like her chaos that Topaz always swore was organized. A clickable ballpoint pen was on the floor, also not unusual. Topaz used them to think, and he could usually tell how frustrated she was getting by how fast she was clicking the pen.

Pulling his phone out of his jacket pocket he dialed her number. As soon as the call connected and immediately got redirected to her voicemail, he knew.

“What’s wrong?”

“Her phone is turned off. When was the last time you spoke to her?”

“She texted about an hour ago. Said she was stuck and couldn’t get herself unstuck so I gave her a few cognitive tips to try. None of them involved turning off her phone or leaving the room.”

If the situation hadn’t been what it was, he might have smiled at the woman anticipating his questions and answering them before he could ask. As it stood, he was too preoccupied with figuring out how to find his missing agent. One hand on his hip, the other rubbing his forehead, he heard a swipe card machine beep somewhere close by and got an idea. “Follow me.”

The officer in the security office had just sat down with his reheated dinner, when he arrived. Whatever it was, had a penetrating smell, and Kandomere had to breathe through his mouth to avoid gagging. “Can you access security logs for ID card usage?”

“Yes, sir, I can.” The man was efficient, not waiting on Kandomere to ask him to do it as he rolled his chair over to a terminal and typed a few commands. “Name?”

“Bennett, Topaz.”

A list came up on the screen and he scrolled through it. “Bennett, T. Last used her ID about twenty minutes ago at the south exit.”

“That’s not her usual exit. I need to see the footage from that area.”

“Yes, sir. It will take a few moments.” The officer rolled his chair to a different terminal and Kandomere looked over the man’s shoulder as he worked. He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like what he saw. With her phone switched off, her bag still in her desk and her friend clueless, the chances Topaz left the building voluntarily were slim to none.

“That’s odd… what’s the time stamp on her ID swipe?”

“17:23,” Genny answered as she tapped a few keys. “According to the logs, three people used that same exit a minute before and two minutes after.”

Kandomere had the phone to his ear as he stared at the security footage of an empty hallway and a door that was used by four people in a span of three minutes yet none of them materialized on camera. “Chief, we have a situation. Agent Bennett has been taken.”

Genny clamped a hand over her mouth, pacing back and forth as her breaths became shallow and quick. Kandomere placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder, not wanting her to go into a panic attack when he might need her help. “We will find her.”

Slowly nodding, Genny appeared to calm down, but her eyes were darting in all directions and her teeth bit down on her thumbnail. Where was her mind going? Suddenly her head snapped up and her gaze locked onto Kandomere’s. “I need my computer.”

Gesturing for her to lead the way, Kandomere followed behind. “You have an idea?”

“She always loses her things. Anything that isn’t attached to her. She blames faeries, but you and I both know that’s a lie.”

“That’s a bold faced lie,” Kandomere scoffed. Topaz had to be one of the most chaotic people he had ever met. Constantly looking for things that were ‘just there a minute ago’. From pencils and pens to her phone, keys and even her sunglasses, which she had pushed up onto her forehead. She had grinned sheepishly when he plucked them from her hair and placed them on her nose. “She’d lose her head if it wasn’t attached.”

“Uh huh, so I had her install some software on her phone. Mainly to be able to locate it between the couch cushions, but if it’s switched off I can also turn it on so it can be located.”

“You think you can turn on her phone?” Kandomere asked, surprised by the cleverness of the idea. When Topaz started hanging out with the mousy analyst, he’d been puzzled, wondering what the two could possibly have in common. Topaz took a liking to the woman, despite their obvious differences, but he was beginning to understand why.

“I might, if it is near a cell tower and provided they didn’t remove the battery, or smashed it to bits…” Sitting down at her desk she turned on her computer.

Kandomere looked around the room as he leaned against the empty desk where he sometimes found Topaz working when she was ‘hiding’ from him for one reason or another that still made little sense to him. For someone as fierce and fearless as she was, Topaz did a lot of ducking and running.

“Damn it.”

No luck. It would never be that easy, not when Topaz Bennett was involved. Everything was chaotic and messy, all things had to be done the hard way. Her kidnapping wouldn’t be any different. “It was worth a try.”

“How are we gonna find her? We have nothing!”

“That’s not true. We know she was taken from inside the building. The security cameras were tampered with and her ID was used on an exit that wasn’t heavily used. What does that tell us?”

Chewing on her lips and staring off at nothing, Kandomere thought he had lost her for a moment, but then she looked up, eyes wide in shock. “You think it was an inside job?”

“It would be extremely difficult to pull off the kidnapping of a federal agent from the fourth floor of a federal building without anyone noticing. Especially kidnapping someone as unpredictable as Ta-” Pausing a moment, he corrected himself. “Bennett. She’s never at her desk.”

“It’s okay, sir, it’s just us. You can call her Taz.”

While he understood the sentiment and gave her a little smile in response, Kandomere knew if he did that he would get too personally involved and he couldn’t afford to let personal feelings cloud his judgment. Not when the life of his agent might be hanging in the balance.

“What’s going on?” Montehugh asked, panting to catch his breath. Droplets of sweat beaded on his forehead.

Had he taken the stairs? His brows furrowed as he stared at the man. “I thought you’d gone home for the day.”

“Chief called me, and frankly, I’d give anything to not have to deal with that cunt of a sister-in-law.” Wiping the sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief he produced with a shaky hand, Montehugh stood up straight with a big inhale of breath. The panting slowing after releasing it. His eyebrows quickly rose when he spotted Genny. “Pardon my French, Gen.”

“It’s okay,” she replied.

Matching Montehugh’s posture change, Kandomere straightened up and nodded his head in the direction he wanted to go. “Conference room. I’ll fill you in.”

Her mouth was dry, as were her lips, but when her tongue darted out, it tasted something coppery. The concrete floor was littered with sand and debris walked in or blown in by the wind. She’d been staring at it for some time, listening to the feet shuffling around and the hushed voices whispering things.

Trying to move to a more comfortable position, she felt the metal cutting into her wrists and the clang of metal on metal made the whispering stop. Footsteps approached, cold fingers curled around her chin, grasping and pulling up. A drum band on clogs started playing a painful song in her head.

“I thought you were a goner already. You’ve got spirit. Too bad it won’t save you.”

Opening her eyes turned out to be a little more successful than moving her hands. One eye cooperated, her vision blurred by the dryness of her eyes. Blinking a few times, the irritation caused her eye to water, but in the brief moment in between, she saw a face she was sure would haunt her dreams for some time. A hard stare, jaw set, lips contorted into a sneer and a flash of white hair. An elf?

“Look at me!” Cold fingers wrapper around her hand and squeezed, found her thigh and squeezed harder. Unable to stop herself, a hoarse primal scream tore loose from deep within and tears streamed down from her one good eye. “Who did you talk to?”

“No one. No one. Please stop.”

Her own voice sounded foreign to her. Why was she answering this man when she couldn’t remember what they were talking about or even talking to him at all. Shock. You’re blacking out, because you’re in shock. You’re gonna die.

“Stop playing brother. We got the information we needed. Inject her so we can go.”

“Why can’t I cut her?”

“Because that is your signature.”

“A bullet in her brain?”

“Are you gonna go look for the bullet after it blows out the back of her skull, because the FBI will. Stop being an idiot and give her the injection. Make sure you get her vein.”

“What does it do?”

“Stops her heart. She’ll be dead before they get here.”

“We want her found?”

“This is why I am the brains and you are the muscle. Stop asking questions, we’re out of time.”

Without the support of the cold fingers grasping her chin, her head had slumped back down against her chest. A short sharp pain made her roll her head to the side so her one good eye could see something being put in her arm. Her racing heartbeat started to slow, the drum band intensified it’s song and dance.

Footsteps were receding, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t will her head to lift or her limbs to move. Breathing was taking all of her energy. Something started buzzing against a metal surface, and the sudden sound of music caused her body to jerk. Pain shot through every limb and her chest. Recognizing the melody, her chest shook a little and the raspy sound to her voice made her laughter sound creepy. At least I am gonna die laughing. Thank you, Genny.

I know a guy who’s tough but sweet
He’s so fine, he can’t be beat
He’s got everything that I desire
Sets the summer sun on fire

I want candy, I want candy

Machines were beeping, one was hissing with each rise and fall, simulating breath, and pumping air into her lungs. After the torture she endured, and the twelve hour surgery, she needed all her strength to stay alive, and the machine helped to ease some of her burden. Kandomere sat in his chair, staring at her sleeping form, hands clasped together, legs crossed, a scowl on his face.

Stop that, you’re gonna give people nightmares, she would probably have said if she opened her eyes. If…

A soft tap on the window got his attention. Looking up, he saw Montehugh on the other side and nodded. Folding up the magazine that had been in his lap, open to an article he didn’t bother to read, he placed it aside and stood up. Now he could see the sleeping form of Genny on the other side of the bed, her head resting on the mattress and both her hands holding on to the limp one, skin marred with deep, harsh, purple bruises.

His steps were soft and careful, closing the door as silently as possible behind him. Genny’s sleeping form never stirred. “Speak.”

“We have found some leads. Using security cameras and our known timeline we found a vehicle matching the description we got from the two agents who left the building right before Bennet's keycard was swiped. It’s been located.”

“What are we standing around here for?” Kandomere looked up at the taller man when he gripped his shoulders and stopped him from moving.

“Sir, with all due respect, you are not in the right frame of mind to be helping with this investigation. You need to be here. Let me handle the footwork.”

Eyes narrowed as he gave Montehugh a cold stare, but the man remained steadfast in his conviction. Tension slacking, Kandomere stopped trying to push him. As much as he wanted to get his hands on whomever did this, he knew that in his current state of mind, he wouldn’t be able to remain professional. His heart was filled with one desire. Murder.

“I will keep you informed.”

With a quick nod of his head, he sent Montehugh on his way. Getting a cup of tea and a sandwich that looked half decent, he took them back into the room. Placing them on the little table, he walked over and carefully touched Genny’s shoulder, giving it a little squeeze and shake. “I brought you some tea and something to eat.”

Rubbing sleep from her eyes, Genny shook her head. “I don’t think I can eat right now.”

“You have to eat something, to keep your strength up. Even if it’s a few bites.”

“Okay.” Shoulders slumped, timid tone voice, and a look of hopelessness in her eyes, Genny was a mere shadow of her usual self. “You wanna hold her hand for a while?”

Giving her a slow nod, Kandomere stepped aside so Genny could make room. Although her skin felt warm to the touch, the limpness of her hand as he slid it into his was a painful reminder of her current state. Sitting down on the chair, he scooted it a little closer, wrapping her small and fragile hand up in both of his. Closing his eyes, he sent up a silent prayer.

“You know, I am not the kind of woman people notice. I am pretty much invisible, which I was fine with, because I’ve been invisible all my life… but Topaz, she noticed me. She made other people take notice too. That’s the kind of person she is. She notices things others don’t. You think that’s what got her in trouble?”

Kandomere looked at the woman picking at her sandwich, taking a little bite and washing it down with her tea. The light in her eyes had dimmed with sadness, looking away from Topaz to him, begging him to give her answers he didn’t have. “We can only speculate at this point. Until we catch who did this, until she wakes up, we can’t know for sure why this happened.”

“Who is doing that? Who's making sure they get caught?”

“Agent Montehugh and the rest of the team.”

“Oh okay. Makes sense I suppose.”

Genny ate the remainder of her sandwich in silence, allowing his attention to return to the motionless form in the bed. The steady rise and fall of her chest a synchronized response to the machine pumping oxygen into her lungs. His thumb rubbed her hand in a soothing motion, while he wondered if she could feel his touch.

A giggle brought his attention back to the woman standing on the other side. “Something amusing, miss Larsen?”

“It’s Genny. Please just call me Genny. I was just thinking how she really hated working for you at first. She hated elves, and you were the most infuriatingly arrogant one she had ever met. She thought you had picked her to pick on her, and try to break her spirit.”

“I didn’t.” Looking down at the hand still in his, he thought he felt a twitch. Was it an involuntary muscle spasm, or was Topaz responding to Genny’s voice. “Please, continue.”

“She was determined not to let you hold her down. And now here you are, holding her hand, probably waiting for her to wake up so you can yell at her for making you worry.”

Another twitch. “Taz?”

Now they were both looking at her hand with baited breath, waiting for another movement. Nothing was happening, and he felt his heart start to sink again, when he felt her grip his hand. It was weak, but it was a visible attempt.

“You can hear us! She can hear us!” Tears streamed down Genny’s face which she wiped away impatiently. “You’re gonna be okay, Taz. We got you.”

The tension in her hand finally slacked. Standing up, he looked at her face as a tear rolled down from the corner of her eye. He caught it with a brush of his finger, before it could drip into her ear. “You’re safe now. You rest,” he spoke to her, repeating the words as he softly caressed her cheek. Another tear threatened to roll down, but he caught it with his thumb.

Leaning over, he pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I am right here. I’m not going anywhere,” he spoke in a softer, gentler tone, pressing another kiss to her cheek. Leaning in closer to her ear, he spoke in a whisper so only Topaz could hear. “Mi amor.”

Chapter Text

Waking up turned out to be a lot harder than she thought. For what seemed like an eternity Topaz drifted in and out of consciousness, catching parts of conversations but beyond squeezing the odd finger here or there she hadn’t been able to let them know she was there and she could hear them. At one point panic had struck her thinking this was her life from now on, trapped in her own body, fully conscious but unable to communicate with the world around her.

When all hope seemed lost, a nurse had come along who got the brilliant idea to clean her eyes. They’d been glued shut this entire time with gunk. At last she was able to open her eyes, but the light gave her a blinding headache. Some yo-yo in a lab coat added insult to injury by shining his pen light directly into her eyes. If she’d been able to move her limbs she would’ve punched him in the gonads for that one.

Despite her best efforts, her vision remained blurry, and exhausted she sank back into unconsciousness. Next time Topaz came around Genny was sleeping with her head on the mattress. Her vision had cleared and with the room dimly lit, there were no splitting headaches. Moving her limbs still proved problematic and when she looked down she quickly remembered why. Both her right knee and right hand had been busted. The torture had ended before he could start on the left side.

Lifting her left hand, she was able to place it on Genny’s shoulder, startling her friend awake. When she tried to apologize the last thing that stood in her way to communicate presented itself: she had no voice to do so. Genny adapted quickly by asking questions she could nod yes or no to. She updated Topaz on the case for as far as Kandomere had filled her in. He was interrogating the woman they had caught.

Not gonna get much outta her.

While feeding her ice chips, Genny filled her in on everything else she had missed in the days she had been out. Topaz pretended to fall back asleep when her friend started gushing about how worried Kandomere had been, and how he had taken care of both of them, but Genny didn’t fall for the possum trick. Of course she had to point out how handsome he was up close, and how much trouble she had not staring at him the entire time.

Genny was abusing the situation, making use of the fact Topaz couldn’t shut her up to gush about everything related to the elf. Thankfully exhaustion did eventually claim her and she was spared the rest of the ode to Kandomere, at least for the moment.

Unfortunately, despite her best hope, Topaz still didn’t have a voice when she woke. Communicating anything was going to be the most frustrating game of hints she ever played. She had the use of her left hand now though, having more coordination meant she could write. Making the gesture of writing to Genny, she seemed to understand as she rummaged through her bag for a pad and a pen.

“That’s not gonna work, unless you suddenly became ambidextrous.”

Kandomere stood in the doorway with his arms crossed watching the pair, waiting for them to notice his presence to step forward. He held a folder in one hand as he approached the bed and looked her over.

Topaz knew he was right, the moment she tried to put the pen on the paper and write. She was right handed, and had never even attempted to learn anything left handed. Annoyed, she tossed the pen aside and laid back against the pillows, rolling her eyes at Kandomere like it was his fault for ruining her hopes.

“Wait, I have an idea.” Genny pulled out her tablet and started to tap away until she found what she needed and turned the tablet with a blank canvas toward Topaz. “Draw, with your finger.”

Bless you, you little genius.

Running her finger along the blank screen she wrote the word ‘wand’.

Ignoring her writing, Kandomere opened the folder he had with him and placed two photos in front of her. “Do you recognize these people?”

She nodded.

“Are these the people that took you?”

A shrug.

“Who tortured you?”

Reaching out, she fingered the picture of the man. Then pushed both aside. They weren’t important right now, she had more important things for him to focus on. Picking up the tablet, she showed it to him. That was what he needed to focus on.

“We’re no closer. Shield of light still has the wand.”

Playing Hints had never been one of her strong points. She couldn’t draw, let alone break down what she meant in such a way that someone else could guess it without her saying a word. Shaking her head, she made a dismissive gesture. Erasing the image on the pad, she wrote another word. Making sure Genny saw it, she tapped the side of her head, then erased it and wrote another word.

“Crew. Steal. Do you know what she means?”

Kandomere stepped close to the bed, his lips drawn together, his eyes narrowed and his brows pulled down into a frown. “They haven’t taken the Vegas wand. Shield of Light still has it.”

Grabbing the paper notepad, she smacked Kandomere in the head with it and tapped his breast pocket, where she knew he kept his credentials. Briefly his brows shot up, and Topaz started to relax, knowing he finally got the message.

“Does this have to do with what you were working on in the conference room.”

Topaz tapped the side of her nose. Using the tablet and Genny to translate again, she started to write with her finger, hoping she was genius enough to figure it out. She’d been great so far.

“Vegas one, FBI two, where’s three? Third… wand?”

Thank you, Genny. I could kiss you right now.

Turning on his heel with phone in hand, Kandomere was out the door, and all she could do was wave. Resting back against the pillows, she reached for the water cup and took a few sips through the straw. Communicating without the use of a voice was exhausting, especially when her limbs were only just starting to comply with her again. Closing her eyes she rested her head for a minute.

The room was darker than before when she opened her eyes. Something was pressing down the mattress on her left side, and when she rolled her head towards it, she found a frowning elf looking back at her. Reaching up with her hand, she touched the gorget around his neck. “You got your shield on.”

“And you found your voice.”

An eyebrow raised. Clearing her throat made a sound. Taking a sip of the water when he offered up the cup, she nodded when she had enough. A grin broke out on her face. This was so much easier than playing Hints. “So I did.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Like I got run over by an eighteen wheeler, which backed up… twice.” It was an understatement, but she didn’t want anyone fussing over her more than they already did. The pain made her feel alive, and being reminded of that was never a bad thing in her opinion.

“Do you remember what happened to you?”

“I wish I didn’t.”

“Do you know who grabbed you?”

Topaz shook her head. Memories from that moment were still fuzzy, and she’d been trying so hard to remember more details, but nothing new came to mind. “I got grabbed from behind, last thing I remember is a needle sticking me in the neck. All I can say for sure is he’s a lefty.”

“He?”

“Taller, stronger, masculine, hairy arm. I suppose it could be a muscular tall woman, but I felt no boobs against my back. They were just hired help. Kandomere…” Reaching for his hand, she covered it with hers and gave it a little squeeze. He was focusing on the work just a little too much. “Is that really why you’re here this late? To interrogate me?”

“The more we know. The sooner we know.”

“Kandomere. Do I need to start calling you Kandy, hm? Talk to me.”

Blinking at her, Kandomere stopped his questioning long enough to think about it. His gaze lowered to her hand covering his. His thumb rubbed against her skin and when he looked up again she saw pain in his eyes. His voice dropped lower, and even sounded a bit shaky. “You died, twice, on the way to the hospital.”

“You mean my heart stopped,” Topaz corrected him. She was still here, and while she felt like this time she might have gotten way too close for comfort to actually dying, she’d made it through. That was what they needed to focus on.

“We almost lost you. I almost lost you.”

Cupping his chin when he looked down again, she gave him one of her typical grins. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”

Taking her hand, he pressed a brief kiss to the palm of it, holding and squeezing it as he leaned over to press a kiss to her forehead as well, letting it linger a bit.

His gesture got an eye roll. “Thank you for that very patronizing kiss to my forehead.”

“We are being watched.”

Gasping, she looked around, eyes wide with mock shock. “Voyeurs!”

Finally something broke through the armor, and Kandomere cracked a little smile, shaking his head. “I see your sense of humor has survived just fine.”

“Pfff. It’s indestructible.”

“That might be so, but you are not.” The serious expression was back on his face, and he clasped her hand with both of his.

Taking a deep breath, she pressed her lips together and blew up her cheeks. “And here comes the lecture. This was not my fault, so don’t make it my fault.”

“No, it’s mine… I brought you into this.”

“Will you stop it. Playing the blame game is not going to help solve this mess. I’ll be back on my feet in no time, and in the meantime, you should go home and get some rest. The nurses told me you and Genny were in my room around the clock.”

“As soon as the doctors clear you for transfer, I’m having you moved to a safer facility. Your recovery is going to take time.”

“Go home and rest.” Although she knew Kandomere was right, she didn’t want to hear it, not when she was only just starting her recovery. She didn’t want to think of just how long that road was that was ahead of her.

Taking the hint, Kandomere saluted her. Getting off the bed, he straightened out his jacket and headed for the door.

“Hey… where’s my good night kiss?” Topaz asked a little jokingly.

With a dramatic sigh, Kandomere walked over, looking deeply into her eyes as he started to lean in. His lips hovered inches from hers when a smile appeared and he shifted to press a kiss to her temple. Giving her a quick wink, he turned and walked back to the door. “Sweet dreams.”

Letting go of the breath she’d been holding, Topaz relaxed, releasing the sheets from her fist. Recovering quickly, she glared at Kandomere. “Once I am back on my feet…”

A smile tugged on the corner of his mouth. That smug, arrogant grin she loved to hate. “Go to sleep, Taz.”

Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t hide her smile. “Go home, Kandy.”

Chapter Text

“You know, when you said you were moving me to a better facility you forgot to mention there would be more surgery.”

The slurring in her voice and the big smile on her face told Kandomere the nurse had been right when she warned him that the pain medication they had given Topaz altered her mental state. Straightening up, he stayed at the foot of the bed, ignoring the officer by the door.

“How are you feeling?”

“I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel my face.”

Watching Topaz touch her face like it was a foreign object would’ve been amusing if it wasn’t under the current circumstances. “That might be the morphine.”

“I like morphine. Not as much as I like you, but I like it. This is great.”

Biting the inside of his cheek, he did his best to ignore the comment. It seemed the morphine had another side effect. Her badly working brain to mouth filter was now completely defunct and it was probably best if he excused himself until the effects wore off.

“Okay, well I need to head to the office. I just wanted to see you get settled.”

“All work and no play makes Kandy a dull boy.”

“Get some rest, agent Bennett.” His tone was stern, his posture rigid, and he gave a curt nod to her in greeting before taking his leave. Unfortunately Topaz didn’t seem to get verbal hints very well either, but he smirked a little when she turned her attention to the guard in her room.

“Why so serious? Is there someone in the room? Oh there is… hi handsome in uniform. My view got a whole lot better, boss. Thank you. I could stare at you all day.”

After a day full of dead ends and more questions than answers, Kandomere decided to swing by the clinic and pay Topaz another visit. She was still on morphine, which would make questioning her a challenge and a bit unethical, but he had a feeling she was holding something back from him, and right now he was in need of some answers.

Talking to the officer by the door, he asked him to keep guard outside, waiting for him to shut the door before he approached the bed. Topaz woke up, her head rolling toward the sound of his footsteps.

“Aww where did my view go?”

“Outside.”

“You’re no fun.”

“And you’re still high.”

“Yeah. Nurse said they will switch me to something else by morning. Until then… High as a kite.”

Her big, bright smile made him hesitate. Could he really do this to her? If there were things she was holding back from him, she had to have good reasons. The question was, if they weighed up against his need to know. Undoing the button on his jacket, he relaxed a little as he sat down on the edge of her bed. “I need to ask you a few questions, okay?”

She reached up and touched the gorget, her head tilted like a curious child, fingertips following the curve of the letters. “It’s pretty, but I don’t like it. It feels like a reminder that we are different and not equal.”

Taking her hand in both of his, Kandomere brought her attention back to him. She was definitely having trouble focusing on one thing at a time, easily distracted, and her head constantly bobbing a little like it was on a swivel and it was difficult to keep it steady. What he was about to do would violate her trust in him. Even if she wasn’t likely to remember a thing, he would, and he would have to live with the knowledge.

“Taz, did you tell me everything about your kidnapping?”

“Everything I could.” Her head bobbed and swung on it’s swivel again. A grin broke out on her face. “Your hair is really blue, like everywhere?”

“You left nothing out? Nothing important to the investigation?”

Her grin made place for a frown, pulling her hand back from him. With her head laid back against the pillow she looked at him, and he could see the hurt in her eyes. Hopefully she wasn’t going to remember that either in the morning.

“I don’t like it when you question me like that. You question my honesty. I am always honest with you, Kandy. Especially about work. It’s important to you, which means it is important to me.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” Her hand touched his face and he let her. Her eyes roamed his features, but he couldn’t tell if she was studying him or simply couldn’t focus on anything. “Would you ever withhold anything from me?”

“Only if I thought it would do more harm than good if you knew. Why do you love me?”

She had a hold of his tie now. He tried to get it back, but she wasn’t letting go easily. Closing his hand over hers, he ducked his head down until they had eye contact. He needed to get her focus back on the questions. “I don’t think that is a conversation we should be having right now. Okay?”

“I’m totally damaged. I’m so messed up, I have no business loving anyone. I ruin everything.”

“Taz…” His arguments died on his lips. It didn’t matter, he wasn’t going to get through to her until she was done saying what she needed to say.

“I don’t wanna ruin you, but you had to be a jerk and make me fall for you. It’s your fault.”

“I’m sorry about that,” he answered with a nervous little chuckle. Forgetting that little bit of information was not going to be as easy. Managing to get his tie back, he straightened it out and straightened up. “Taz, is there anything…”

She wasn’t done.

“You know why I won’t kiss you?”

“Taz, I think we should focus on work.”

“Yeah, work.” She smiled for a moment, but fell into staring at his mouth right after. “You have perfect lips. Very kissable lips.”

“Work, agent Bennett.”

Using the ‘boss voice’ as she called it, seemed to do the trick. Her head shot up straight, even if she could only hold it a moment, and she let out a deep sigh. “I wish I could work. I am stuck in this bed, though.”

“The office is quiet without you.” Kandomere wanted to ask her another question, but his gut told him to hold off this time and let her train of thought continue. It paid off.

“If I had a computer I could find out who she really is. I think she’s been playing a game. She works for them. I heard them talking. I heard her name. They thought I was unconscious, but I heard,” Topaz rambled on as she plucked invisible pieces of lint from her blanket.

“Whose name Taz?”

“I think she’s Inferni. Can humans be Inferni or are they just pawns?”

Kandomere didn’t like where her thoughts were going, but this was what he had come here for, so he couldn’t back down now. His instincts had been right. Topaz had been holding some information back from him. “Give me a name, Taz. Who kidnapped you?”

“It was Elanil. That bitch used you and tried to kill me. She didn’t even do it herself, she hired someone. You know, they have someone on the inside. They have to. Inferni can’t be human, right?”

Elanil.

The name made his blood run cold. How could he not have seen it? Why did it take a human to make the connections he had missed? Her timing on her distractions, the setbacks and dead ends, Vegas. Swallowing hard, he bit back his anger, because it wasn’t directed toward Topaz. Cupping her chin, he made her look at him.

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“I couldn’t. It wasn’t safe there.” Reaching up, she touched her ear, tapping it. When he got the message and nodded, she ran her fingertips along his jaw. “Besides, I know you. You would’ve focused on her instead of the wands. You need to focus on the wands.”

Topaz was right. As much as he disliked admitting it, she knew him, and hearing her name would have blinded him to everything else. Montehugh was on the wands though, which meant he could focus on his new lead. “I have to go.”

“Back to work…” Topaz sighed and pouted. There was a sadness in her eyes when she looked up at him and Kandomere had a hard time resisting the urge to envelop her in a hug. “You work too much. We work too much. It’s more important than us. It’s more important than me.”

Biting his bottom lip, Kandomere leaned over and pressed his lips to her forehead. She smelled like hospital, but her hair smelled like her favorite shampoo. She wasn’t going to remember this in the morning, so why was he holding back? “It’s not more important than you.”

Topaz blinked at him, and for a moment he feared she had sobered up out of her morphine fog, but then she narrowed her eyes in her best glare that never quite worked on him. “Why don’t you just kiss me?”

She was still under the influence. Tucking her in, he stood up and buttoned his jacket, straightening out. “Because you won’t remember it in the morning.”

She snorted in response. “I would abuse the shit out of that if I was in your shoes. I think you should too.”

Feeling the mood lighten, Kandomere figured it wouldn’t hurt to humor her. It might help her forget the conversation more easily. “You do, huh?”

“Yeah, tell me something salacious or whatever.” She was grinning now, a full one that reached her eyes and made the little lights dance. He couldn’t resist cracking a smile at it.

Debating a moment whether he should humor her or not, his smile turned into a grin of his own. Getting in close like he was letting her in on a big secret, he almost laughed before he even said anything. “It’s blue everywhere. Darker, but it is blue.”

It took her a moment to process and make the connection, but despite the morphine, Topaz was still in there and she figured it out quickly. “Can I see?”

Tugging up the sleeve on his shirt and jacket a little, Kandomere burst into laughter at her face.

“You are such a tease.”

“And you need to rest.” Instead of aggravating her more with another kiss to her forehead or temple, he pressed a quick one to her cheek. “Sweet dreams, Taz.”

With a theatrical sigh she sank back against the pillows and rolled her head toward his retreating form. “Only if you’re in them.”

Chapter Text

“You don’t need help? Fine, prove it.”

Topaz sat on the edge of her bed staring at the walker that was just out of reach. It might as well have been across the room because there was no way she was going to reach it without the risk of falling on her ass or worse. Her bladder painfully reminded her of the urgency to get up, but after another unsuccessful attempt to move the walker closer, she let out a frustrated growl.

Turning her head she looked at Kandomere, who was sitting in a corner, legs crossed, casually flipping through the pages of a magazine, waiting for her to acknowledge the error in her judgment. Looking up, his eyebrows rose briefly but when she didn’t say anything he went back to the magazine.

Smug bastard.

Between his hovering and Genny’s fussing, Topaz was starting to feel the restlessness that came with being cooped up for too long, confined to her bed. She knew her recovery would take time, but at moments like these she wished she had the remote to fast forward to discharge day. She wanted to go home, and she needed to go back to work. She knew she couldn’t go home yet, but Kandomere could give her some work to do, yet he was refusing.

Heaving a sigh, she stared at the walker. The solution was simple, but her pride wasn’t going to let her give up without a fight. Maybe she could get up without the walker. She was stable enough to stand and all she needed was to take one step forward and she could grab the walker. Scooting a little further, she prepared herself for an attempt.

“You’re gonna fall.”

“And whose fault would that be?”

He didn’t answer, but Topaz decided against trying to stand. She was stubborn, but she had her limits and risking her recovery just so Kandomere wouldn’t win an argument wasn’t even remotely worth it.

“Kandomere.”

“Yes, Topaz?”

“This isn’t funny anymore.”

“Who’s laughing?”

“I need to use the bathroom.”

“No one is stopping you.”

Gritting her teeth, Topaz fixed him with a stare that failed to impress. His casual flipping, the carefree tone of his voice, the smug smile that was lurking just beneath the surface, waiting for her to buckle, it infuriated her. There was only one thing she could do though, one thing she needed to do as she felt the cramps in her tummy. “Please.”

“Please, what?”

“I need the walker.”

“Then grab it.”

“You moved it out of my reach.”

“I thought you didn’t need help.”

“Kandomere stop being an asshole and put the walker back. I need it, now.”

“So you do need help?”

“Please?!”

“Alright, I suppose I should help.” Putting the magazine aside he uncrossed his legs and stood up, straightening out his pants first, just to annoy her more. With one hand he grabbed the walker and rolled it back toward the bed, clicking the breaks on. “Anything else I can help you with?”

Pulling herself up to stand using the walker, she slipped her lower arms into the cradles. It was a genius invention, especially since she only had the use of one hand for support. This way she could still use a walker with both arms and gain back some of her mobility without injuring her hand further.

“Yes, get out of my way or I’ll pee on you.”

With a chuckle, Kandomere stepped aside to let her pass, but she could feel his eyes on her, watching her to make sure she didn’t need his help. If only she had time to stop and punch him, but he’d probably just sidestep her and laugh. “Remember, slow deliberate steps.”

“Bite me.”

“And bend your knee.”

“Thank you for reminding me. I’d be so very lost without you.”

Pushing her panties down with one hand was a bit of a trick, but she was getting handy with it. She did her business with her knee stretched. Having shuffled to the bathroom at a much faster pace than was smart, attempting to bend her knee would just make her suffer more.

While washing her hands, she stared at her reflection. She was starting to look more like herself, though there were still plenty of bruises trying to heal. Her eye was no longer swollen shut and the white was actually white and not bloody red.

Kandomere wisely kept his mouth shut as he helped her back into bed, tucking her in and putting the walker aside so he could sit on the edge of the bed.

“You’re an asshole, you know that?” Using the remote, she lifted the top end of the bed more so she could sit up comfortably. Rearranging her pillows as best as she could. When Kandomere tried to help her, she gave him a foul look, but he ignored her.

“Look, I can understand you’re getting restless, but you have to remember, we’re just here to help you get back on your feet,” he argued.

“That’s what the doctors and nurses are for,” Topaz bit back. The whole situation was a big frustrating mess, and she knew she was taking it out on the wrong people, but she was being a monster today. “You wanna help me? Fill me in on where we stand with our current cases, give me a laptop or a tablet to work on. Give me something to do.”

“You have something to do, something important. Recovering.”

“And it would go a lot faster if you would give me something to do. They broke my bones not my brain.” Topaz turned her head away when Kandomere took her hand. He was going to give another motivational speech and she didn’t want to hear it.

“Could you look at me, please?”

“Unless you are going to update me on our current cases, no. I don’t wanna hear it.”

“Taz…”

“No.”

Hearing him blowing his breath out through his nostrils like an angry bull, Topaz knew he was beginning to lose his patience with her. Part of her hoped he would storm out and leave her be. She needed to be alone, and he was stubbornly sticking around.

“I know it is frustrating and you want to be back on your feet, but you almost died, Taz. You carry on as if nothing happened. I know you’re tough, but that is a big deal.”

“I know it is. I was there!” Her palm was getting sweaty, forcing her to take her hand back. She still couldn’t look at Kandomere. Blinking, she felt the tears welling up and did her best to push them back. Why couldn’t he just take a hint and leave her alone? “I have to carry on.”

“Says who?”

“Me! I have to. I can’t stop to think about it.”

“Why not?”

“Because!”

“That really clears things up. Because, what?”

“It haunts my dreams. I was there, all alone, and I was certain I was going to die. Alone, all alone. And if I think about that…”

Her chest felt tight and her breathing got shallow. Her hand felt cold and she rubbed it against the blanket to try and get the blood flowing there again. She could hear her blood rushing through her veins drumming and whooshing in her ears. Closing her eyes she was there again, feeling her life slipping away. A tear rolled down her cheek, the first of many.

Strong arms wrapped around her, hugging her close, soothingly caressing the back of her head and hair, while Kandomere’s voice repeated the same words over and over. “I’ve got you.”

The release of emotion left her with tired, aching muscles, puffy eyes and a snotty nose. Taking a few deep breaths and some sips of water, she slowly started to feel more like herself again. Accepting some tissues, she blew her nose in a very undignified manner. “Your score card is not looking very good today. So far you’ve pissed me off and made me cry.”

“Maybe if you just talked about it, I wouldn’t have to piss you off to make you break down and cry first.” Kandomere was doing the eyebrow thing again.

“I’m sorry, have we met?” Topaz chuckled a little. Strong feelings like those she didn’t usually discuss and certainly not outside of a therapist’s office. “Besides, you’re an elf. Aren’t you taught at birth to slap a frown on it and practice your disdain face, but never show real emotion?”

“We show emotion, plenty of it, when it’s appropriate.”

“Yeah, it’s just never appropriate, right?” Topaz asked, but didn’t really expect an answer. Her borderline cynical sarcasm was rearing it’s ugly head again, to lash out at what she deemed the source of her problem. “I don’t get you.”

“Guess that makes us even.”

Topaz acknowledged his retort with a fake smile. “At work you’re this infuriatingly arrogant, uptight, hyper focused and near emotionless husk capable only of sarcasm, anger and disdain. Wearing that thing around your neck like a shield, with pride, even though you’re pretty much a pariah to your own kind.”

Kandomere didn’t answer her, but his hand touched the gorget, adjusting it and sliding a hand down his tie.

“Then at home you’re an open, approachable, fun to be around guy, albeit sometimes mildly disturbing. Damn near human, although you would probably see that as an insult.” Plucking invisible lint from her blanket, Topaz pursed her lips in thought. “Here however, you just confuse the hell out of me. You’re open and nice one moment, and a total asshole the next.”

“Are you done?” Kandomere asked. His expression was blank, unreadable, but his eyes felt harsh and cold as she lifted her gaze to meet his.

“I suppose I am.”

“Good.” Kandomere stood up, brushing his hair behind one of his pointy ears as he paced back and forth. His tongue ran across his lips, a gesture he often made when he was trying to figure out how to say something without using every curse word he knew. Had she finally reached his breaking point?

“I find myself torn between arguing with you to defend myself, which will undoubtedly escalate into a fight, or keep pushing, which will undoubtedly escalate into a fight.”

“Seems like quite the dilemma.”

Raising his hand, he silenced her, his index finger remaining raised in warning a moment, as he turned and paced the other direction again. One hand in his side, the other rubbing his chin, he paced while Topaz drummed her fingers against her leg.

“This is what you do though, when someone gets too close for comfort. It’s your shield. Your sarcasm and quick wit, and that mouth of yours, spitting out venom like a Cobra. When someone gets close, you turn around and attack, to draw attention away from yourself.”

His words hit the nail right on the head. Topaz bit back her first response because it would only serve to prove her point. What was the use in denying it anyway? It was how she had protected herself over the years and he wasn’t the first one to call her out on it, but he was the first one to do so without yelling at her.

Rather than denying it, she shrugged. “Usually it works.”

“What is it that you don’t want me to see? That you’re afraid of dying alone? I got news for you, Taz. You’re not the only one.”

Topaz snorted in disbelief. “You’re an elf, you’re basically immortal.”

“No, I'm not.” Walking over, he sat back down on the edge of the bed, looking directly at her. Topaz had to fight the urge to look away. “We have a long lifespan, longer than humans, and injury affects us differently, but we can die. I can die.”

“Noted.”

“You don’t always have to be tough.”

“It’s all I know how to be,” Topaz argued, looking down at her hand. She couldn’t look at him while she explained this, because she knew if she did there would be emotions, and she’d just lash out again. “Where I grew up, how I grew up, if you showed weakness, you became a target. I learned quick how to be tough, act tough, even when I wasn’t. Especially when I wasn’t.”

Silence filled the room as she kept staring at the sheets, her nail tracing the patterns. It was an uncomfortable silence, but Topaz didn’t dare look up, not wanting to see that look of pity people got when they figured out how she grew up. She didn’t want or need pity, especially not from him.

When Kandomere adjusted the way he was sitting on the bed, claiming more space which forced her to move her leg, she looked up. There was a bemused look on his face. What was he so amused about?

“So if I get this right, what you’re saying is, if I want the truth, I am just gonna have to keep pissing you off till you cry?”

“No, that is not what I'm saying at all.”

“I can live with this for now. I am starting to get the hang of this aggravating business.”

“Don’t.”

“You started it.”

“I did not!”

“Oh, forgotten about Vegas already, have you?” Kandomere raised both brows in mock surprise. The grin was now firmly glued onto his face. He was enjoying ruffling her feathers way too much, but as much as she was denying it, he was right, she had started it, in the most glorious way.

“Really, you’re gonna use that as your excuse?” she asked, managing to keep the proud smile from her face at what she did.

“It took me twenty minutes to convince that detective that I wasn’t strangling you with my belt on a regular basis.”

Topaz couldn’t help it. Knowing how well her suggestion had worked filled her with pride. That she potentially could’ve gotten her boss into a shitload of trouble crossed her mind a few times, but Kandomere knew how to handle himself before he got into the hot seat.

“I’ve thought about it though.”

“What?” Her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open a little bit. Searching his face, she couldn’t determine what he meant by those words, and her reaction pleased him.

“You can be quite aggravating to deal with and sometimes you manage to piss me off.”

Her posture went from rigid to lax again, the grin returning. Putting her hand over her heart, she leaned her head to the side and gave him an enamored look. “It fills my heart with such glee to know that.”

“Smartass.”

“It’s Topaz, but I understand your confusion.”

Shaking his head, he reached out and flicked the tip of her nose with a finger, dodging her hand swatting at his. When his hand slipped over her skin to palm the back of her neck, gripping it with his fingers, she felt the tension rise again.

Pressing their foreheads together, he stared into her eyes, while her heart pounded in her chest. Unable to hold his gaze, she looked down, feeling him move. His breath was warm on her face, and a few moments later, she felt his lips press to her forehead. She didn’t protest when he hugged her close, burying her face into the soft fabric of his jacket.

Topaz had no idea how long they sat like that, but when he finally let her go, she almost protested. Relaxed and a little sluggish, she sank back into the pillows he adjusted for her. Adjusting the bed so she could lay back a little more, he smiled down at her as he stood beside the bed. “I’ll leave you to rest.”

“Finally. I thought I’d never get rid of you,” she retorted, sounding annoyed, but her smile gave her away.

“You can’t. Get used to it, and get some sleep. I’ll check on you tomorrow.”

“Oh goodie. Good night, jackass.”

“Good night, smartass. Sweet dreams.”

Chapter Text

“Why are you touching my forehead?”

Topaz pulled her hand back after making sure Kandomere wasn’t running a fever. Just when she thought nothing he did could surprise her anymore, he found a new way to surprise her. This one was a big one, about six foot four big one. Her gaze slowly went from the elf to Montehugh and back. “Just making sure you’re not sick.”

“I'm an elf, remember?” Kandomere answered.

He had taken off his shoes and jacket, but that was about the extent of it, which told Topaz that whatever he brought Montehugh home for had to be important enough to give up some of his comfort for. Which begged the question, why? “I know, but you brought Montehugh here, to your home.”

“I thought it would be safer to discuss the case here than at the office, with the people that I trust.”

The quizzical look she gave Kandomere was making Montehugh chuckle, but she ignored it. Studying Kandomere she tried to determine if he was high on something, or maybe he hit his head somewhere. He was acting really strange. “Okay… why isn’t Genny here then?”

“She’s an analyst, not an agent,” Kandomere pointed out. He didn’t sound snobby or arrogant, which was surprising, and when he further explained his reasoning, she started to contemplate brainwashing as the reason he was acting so strange. “I would prefer to keep her out of harm’s way.”

“I know there is some sarcastic remark I should be making right now, but I am too stunned to give a flying fart in space. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes. Stop asking. I need you to snap out of it and focus, we have a guest who has a wife waiting at home. He doesn’t have all night.”

Montehugh smirked as he stood beside her, looking down at Topaz, before his attention went to the board she was still standing in front of. She’d been staring at it impatiently, watching as the search engine filtered through thousands upon thousands of messages. “So this is where he’s been hiding you, huh? You two did all this?”

“I did the primary setup and information gathering, Topaz filled in the rest and made the connections.”

Topaz stood with her mouth half open while Kandomere beat her to answering first. Exaggerating an eye roll, she shook her head at Montehugh. “Just today. I got discharged Monday, been acclimating at home since.”

“Kid, you’re going places. How do you even make those connections?”

“In this case something unrelated helped to trigger the thought process.” Topaz explained to him how she connected four seemingly unrelated murders as being the handiwork of one killer, by finding the commonalities in what at first appeared to be differences. She treated evidence as puzzle pieces and it was up to her to find the ones that fit together to form the bigger picture.

“You exposed a serial killer?”

“I connected the dots, and made local PD aware they had a serial killer on their hands yes, profilers did the rest,” Topaz explained, making a dismissive gesture. The serial killer wasn’t the point of her story. “It got me thinking though, that there had to be a connection between the criminals that were given get out of jail free cards. I was just looking at it wrong.”

“And that’s what got you nabbed, when you made the connection?”

“Yes. I took key characteristics from each file and placed them on the board, eliminating the first few pretty quickly as test subjects. Cleared out some other clutter, which left me with these six. I compared age, location, occupation, education, crimes, and the likes.”

Using the little remote doohickey she was getting pretty handy with, Topaz brought up six pictures with some stats. Kandomere and his strange behavior was quickly forgotten as she emerged herself in explaining the finer details of her thought process to Montehugh. He gave her his full attention.

“Well I’ll be damned…” he mumbled by the time she was finished.

“See the connection? While none of them have the same crimes, backgrounds, education or skill set, combine the six and what do you get?”

“A fucking heist team. Jesus. What about the rest? There were a lot of cases.”

“Getaway drivers, assault specialists, an explosives expert. The Inferni are recruiting a small, disposable army, but the big question is, what for? They need three wands to summon the Dark Lord. One is in hands of the Shield of Light, one is in FBI containment, which leaves one unknown.”

“You think the Inferni found a new wand?”

“Either that, or they are close to finding it.”

“That’s a pretty big leap though, to think they are going to steal the wand from us.”

Topaz smiled. Montehugh did always make the right comments and asked the right questions. “Not when you consider the Shield of Light’s actions in Nevada. They are supposed to be on our side of the fight, right? They help brights hide from the Elf covens that seek to control them and use them.”

“And the FBI.”

“Right, so what would drive them to throw a group of potential brights at a wand, to find the right one? Basically murdering a group of teenage boys? What could possibly be worth that kind of cost?  Why the urgency?”

“Because the Inferni already have a wand and with that one they’d be two thirds of the way to their goal…”

“They either have a wand, or Shield of Light has enough reason to assume they do. Someone got desperate, panicked, and without a bright near, the FBI and Inferni closing in, they did something terrible.”

“And got punished for it themselves. The three dead Shield of Light guys behind that building.”

“Yes,” Topaz nodded.

“And you think that when you figured this out, they tried to shut you up.”

“Which failed, thankfully. Someone is watching us. Someone on our floor. It wouldn’t be wise for me to stick my nose into that though, so I have been focusing on the wands.”

Montehugh chuckled and shook his head, putting a hand on her shoulder. “When he first told me that he had picked you out of all the candidates, I thought it was pressure from above to put a chick on the team.”

“You weren’t alone.” Topaz practically had her nose rubbed in it by the sore losers that her vagina and boobs were what got her on the team and not her merits as an agent. She had done her best to shrug it off, but the thoughts had lingered in the back of her mind for the first few weeks.

“Woman, you better be going places, but for right now, I am thankful you’re here, because I sure as shit wouldn’t have put any of this together.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Monty.” Her comment got her hair tousled, but Topaz took it and grinned up at him.

“Thank you for the show and tell. It was very enlightening,” Montehugh said, taking his hand out of his pocket and straightening up his jacket. Turning his body so his full attention was directed toward her.

“But?”

“But, Boss tasked me to look into the inside man situation. I don’t really have much to go on though with the limited information you gave.”

Topaz puckered her lips. She had a feeling there was a catch to why Kandomere hadn’t just taken her home to be a couch potato until Genny returned from work and slowly die from boredom. He had kept her distracted with the case and the gadgets, and now the other shoe dropped. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can offer much more.”

“I wanna try a cognitive interview with you, if you’re up for it.” Seeing her hesitation, he placed both hands on her shoulders, squatting enough so they were eye to eye. “It will only be about the moment you were grabbed.”

Taking a moment to relax her shoulders, unclench her fists and loosen her limbs, Topaz could feel the tension starting to ebb away. “If you think it’ll help, sure.”

Finding a comfortable spot on the couch, with a pillow clutched to her chest like a shield, Topaz waited for Montehugh to be seated, taking out his notepad and pen. Closing her eyes, she took a few deep, relaxing breaths. Taking a moment to grab the image of the conference room from her mind, reconstructing what she could remember it looked like. She’d been so frustrated with the case. The answer was staring her right in the face, but it just wouldn’t click.

What had made it click though? Something had distracted her pacing and thinking. A group of people walking to the elevators. One of the women laughed, her laugh was loud, shrill and annoyed her, but it gave her an idea. Those people formed a group, a team. Team! It was the missing puzzle piece she’d been looking for. Grabbing a marker, she underlined skills and degrees under each of the photos and stood back.

The puzzle pieces quickly fell into place. Dropping the marker on the table, it bounced her pen off onto the floor, but she didn’t bother picking it up. She had to inform Kandomere. The sooner the better, even if he was in a meeting. Hitting the button for the elevator, she looked up confused when one of them indicated it was on her floor, but the doors didn’t open. Hitting the button a few more times made no difference.

Stairs! They’ll be fast. Swiping her card, she pushed the door open to the stairwell, but as the door swung shut, she noticed something from the corner of her eyes. It was too late to react though. The leather gloved hand grabbed her under the chin, twisting her head to the side as a needle jabbed into her neck.

Shooting upright, her eyes focused on Montehugh, reminding herself that she was safe. “White button up shirt, no jacket, black leather gloves and I scratched him, right here. Deep.” Touching her wrist in the spot she had scratched, she waited for Montehugh to make his notes. “Does that help?”

“Yes it does. I have some new leads to follow.”

Getting up with Montehugh, she followed him into the other room, where Kandomere handed her a mug filled with herbal tea. She could smell the chamomile and inhaled it deeply. Taking the hint, she took the mug, and walked out onto the balcony, leaving the two men to talk while she stared out at the setting sun. It took a lot of effort to push the memories to the back of her mind.

She jumped a little when Kandomere put a hand on her back between her shoulders, sliding it up to the back of her neck as he stopped beside her and frowned. “Where did you go?”

His thumb rubbing the back of her neck helped her to relax a little. Tilting her head toward the door, she heard music coming from inside. He had put on the 80s playlist again. When she glanced at him, the gorget, tie and vest were gone again. With Montehugh gone, he could finally relax and stop being agent Kandomere.

“That far, huh?”

“Sorry. I was trying to shake the memories. Easier said than done.”

“I can feel that,” he nodded and stepped behind her. Her first instinct was to turn and face him, but she had to remind herself that Kandomere could be trusted not to hurt her. His thumbs ran up her spine, causing her to groan in discomfort. His hands were very skilled in finding her knots and working them out, occasionally making her groan until finally she started to feel the tension subside.

For the first time in weeks she didn’t feel like she was stuck mid shrug constantly. Taking a deep breath, she felt herself relax more as she exhaled. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” His hands dropped to her hips, pulling her back so he could wrap his arms around her. Instantly she froze and held her breath. “Why do you keep doing that? Do you really think I would hurt you?”

Topaz shook her head, closing her eyes and praying he would let her go, but when it didn’t happen she tried to take a step back, in the hopes of forcing him to let go. Kandomere stood his ground, hugging her a little tighter and she felt his breath close to her ear when he spoke. “Then why do you keep freezing up?”

“Because you’re still my boss, and we have something important to focus on. Neither of us needs the distraction right now,” Topaz argued. His lips brushed the shell of her ear, feathering over her skin and when they pressed a kiss to the crook of her neck she gasped audibly before she could stop herself. A pleasant shiver ran down her spine. “Kandomere…”

The way his name rolled off her tongue seemed to encourage him as he pressed another kiss to her skin, his lips traveling up behind her ear. While the physical effects were undeniable, the tension was also building, feeling her hands starting to get cold and clammy. She needed to make him stop before her tension turned into full fledged panic and she did something she would regret later.

Focusing her will, she turned around in his arms. His lips almost brushed hers, but she managed to turn her face away in time. “We can’t. I can’t.” Cupping his face in her hands, she caught a glimpse of pain at her rejection. This was exactly what she didn’t want to happen. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings. 

If only she could tell him she felt the same way, but acting on it was wrong, especially right now. She’d let him have a kiss if she knew she could stop there, but she wasn’t going to fool herself there. The longer they stood there, the more hurt he looked, and the worse she felt. This was heartbreaking. Biting down hard on her bottom lip, she blinked furiously, but a tear rolled down her cheek despite her best efforts.

His arms wrapped tighter around her, and instinctively she buried her face against his chest, letting the warmth of his embrace comfort her. Thankfully no more tears followed. His fingers caressed her hair, entangling in the strands at the back of her neck. “I’m sorry, I…”

“I know,” she mumbled against his chest. She knew what he meant to say, because she had felt it and saw the change in his eyes. His grip on his emotions had slipped and they had gotten away from him. After a long hug, she finally dared to pull back to look up at him again.

“Do you want me to take you home?” he asked, fingertips gently brushing her hair behind her ear.

Her head was shaking before she even found the words. “No… unless you want me to.”

“Never… but I will respect your wishes.”

Finally easing her out of his embrace, he started to back away until her hand grabbed his, stopping him from moving away too far. Standing on the tips of her toes, she pressed a kiss to his cheek.

They shared a cup of tea in silence, before retiring to different rooms for the night. Topaz tossed and turned, but no matter how she tried, she couldn’t find a comfortable enough position to sleep. Shoving the covers off, she got up, and hobbled for a few steps until her knee cooperated.

Fingers fussed with the hem of the t-shirt she was wearing as she stood in the doorway and watched his motionless form, certain he was asleep, until he moved and pulled the blankets back beside him. Hesitating a moment, she slipped under the covers, shifting around so her back was to him.

It probably wasn’t the best idea as she felt him roll over behind her and one of his arms wrapped around her, pulling her back until she was flush against his chest. She opened her mouth to say something, but he settled in and pressed kiss to the back of her head. Closing her eyes, she relaxed, as sleep finally took her.

Chapter Text

The smell of fresh brewed coffee worked better than an alarm clock. Stretching and yawning, Topaz looked around a little disoriented. She was used to the sunlight streaming in from the other direction. After a few long moments, she remembered not being able to sleep and Kandomere letting her crawl in bed with him.

Checking herself to make sure she still had her panties and the t-shirt on, she sighed in relief. She was so used to sleeping practically naked that she wasn’t beyond stripping in her sleep, and making others uncomfortable. She doubted Kandomere would have been uncomfortable, because the human female anatomy is nothing new to me and I am an elf, not a prude.’

The memory made her chuckle now, but she had been so furious then. He aggravated her without even trying, right from the start, before it became this ongoing war. He started it.

Pushing the covers off, she sat up on the edge of the bed and rubbed her face with both hands. The smell of coffee was now joined by smells of food, making her stomach do a whale call in response. Her knee felt a bit stiff and unresponsive as she put weight on her legs, looking down at the still healing scars. It didn’t look like the aftermath of a bizarre blender accident anymore.

Turning down the bed so it could air out, she shuffled her way toward the coffee, finding Kandomere mostly dressed in the kitchen, cooking. He glanced up for a moment, then turned and grabbed the pot and a mug. She gave him a thankful smile when he handed her the mug without saying a word and went back to cooking.

The brace on her right hand prevented her from cradling the mug in both hands and letting the warmth absorb through her skin, but she made do as she slid onto a stool to watch him. After a few sips of coffee, her brain felt like it was ready for her mouth to use the words and speak. “Morning… You do this every morning?”

“Good morning. I trust you slept alright.” Putting the last things on her plate, he slid it over to her, and handed her some utensils. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eat up.”

Topaz looked down at the small feast. The omelet was full of vegetables, she was sure, but it looked and smelled amazing. The whole grain toast was cut into triangles on the side and fresh tomatoes cut into pretty shapes drew attention to the mushrooms. The only thing that was missing was the drink, but she no sooner thought it or he put the fresh squeezed orange juice by her plate.

“It looks delicious, thank you.”

Setting her coffee aside, she cut a piece of the omelet with her fork and took a careful bite. There were vegetables in it, but she didn’t care as soon as she tasted the different flavors. Digging in, she ate like she hadn’t seen solid food in weeks. She ate in silence, until Kandomere cleared his throat. Picking up her coffee, she looked up at him.

“I think we should talk. About what happened last night.”

There went the mood. For once, her instinct to shut him down before he could even start didn’t kick in. He deserved better than that. He actually deserved to talk about his feelings, especially after the way she turned him down. Talking about feelings just wasn’t in her comfort zone. “We don’t have to,” she answered, fingers fiddling with the mug.

“I disagree.”

“I mean, we don’t have to, because I understand. What happened last night, I understand it.”

“You understand what exactly?”

The tone of his voice was becoming a little patronizing, but she wasn’t going to hold it against him. She had come up with excuses and explanations, especially where things between the both of them were concerned, that didn’t ring true with him. She’d been downright insulting about who he was at times, especially when she was stuck in the hospital, but it didn’t excuse it. So she would let him react how he felt he needed to.

“Last night was the first time we were alone together since the attack. We were alone, truly alone, for the first time since you almost lost me. So, I understand there were emotions, feelings,” she said, looking up at him and giving him a wry smile. Gently nodding, she picked up her coffee and took a few more sips. “I almost died and that’s not just a big thing for me.”

The first night she’d been home, she had Genny crawl into bed with her because she couldn’t stop crying. It had been the first time Topaz realized she wasn’t on her own anymore. That her brush with death didn’t just affect her, and toughing through it might help her survive and carry on, but she wasn’t alone now. She had people who cared about her, people she cared about and for.

“No, it’s not.”

There was pain in his eyes, only for a moment, but Topaz diverted her gaze to her coffee all the same. She felt responsible for his pain. If she had just stayed in her lane, she wouldn’t have made him care. She wasn’t the kind of person who could ever stay in her lane though, not with all her drive, her dreams.

“I’m sorry.” Looking up at him, she gave him a pained look. “I’m so sorry.”

“For what?”

“For everything. For not being able to give you what you need, what you deserve. I know you don’t understand my reasons, but they are important to me. Stopping what’s happening is important, not just for us, but for everyone. It would feel so selfish to put us before that, to let it distract us.”

“What if it doesn’t distract us?”

“What if it does? I couldn’t live with that.” Nibbling on her bottom lip, they stood gazing at each other for the longest time. She could see the turmoil going on in his mind, but she had no idea what he was actually thinking. Finally he gave a slow nod, blinked, and looked away as if he suddenly remembered something.

Opening a drawer, he produced a key and a piece of paper. The paper had something scribbled on it, and she picked it up when he placed it on the counter by her plate. “What’s this?”

“The key to the door and the security code to the alarm.” His hand went up in warning, silencing her.  “Now before you protest. You’re still healing, not cleared for duty, but I understand the frustration of sitting at home and doing nothing is not contributing to your recovery.”

Topaz played with the key in her fingers, looking from it to Kandomere. He was really going to give her that excuse after what happened the night before?

Running his tongue along pointy teeth, he gave a brief melancholy smile. “Obviously my initial motivations for giving you those was different, but I still stand behind it. Use the computer room whenever you want to, just don’t make a mess.”

She had her retort ready, but a beeping noise coming from the computer room drew both their attentions. Sliding from the stool, she walked into the other room and looked at the screen, which lit up with a whole bunch of new blips from the search parameters she had put in the night before and forgotten all about since. When realization sank in what they meant, she let out a little gasp. “Boss, where is the wand?”

Kandomere stood beside her as he pointed the remote at the screen, zooming in on an area that had a cluster of blips around it. Although he didn’t gasp, his reaction was otherwise the same. “Right at the center of that cluster,” he answered her. Handing her the remote, he turned and stormed out the room.

Grabbing a flash drive she downloaded the relevant data onto it, and had it ready for him by the time he returned. He had his phone in his hand, his usual attire on, as well as his boss face, and tossed her a pair of pajama pants. “Put those on.”

“What? You don’t like my new sexy knee scars?”

“I do, that’s why.”

Any quick witted retort she might have had went quickly out the window, as she stood there with her mouth half open, blinking. Snapping out of it, she handed him the flash drive so she had her hands free to slip the pants on. They were too big for her, but after tying the string and rolling up the pant legs, they stopped sliding down her hips and couldn’t trip her up anymore.

“I gotta go into work.”

“Yeah, I know.”

She really wished she could go with him, but in her current condition, she wouldn’t be able to do anything except inure herself worse if it came to a fight. That didn’t stop her from wanting to be there though, seeing the case through. Kandomere nodded at her unspoken words.

“I need you here, working that,” he said, pointing at the board.

For an awkward moment they stood there, looking at each other. Was it okay to embrace him, or kiss his cheek? Did they treat each other like they would if they were at work? It wasn’t quite so easy when she was standing where she was, in clothes that belonged to him. The line was far from clear when she was up close to it.

Kandomere made the first move, pressing a firm but quick kiss to her forehead. “The maid will be here at ten. I don’t know if she speaks English, but I’ll let her know I have a guest. Don’t forget breakfast.” By the time he spoke the last words, he was by the front door, hearing it open and close a few moments after, leaving her alone.

Turning, she stared at the blips on the board, but she couldn’t focus on anything other than the fact that Kandomere had just left her alone in his apartment. He trusted her enough to give her a key and his alarm code. She was wearing his clothes. Taking a deep breath, she let it out in a slow, controlled way.  

The whale in her stomach wasn’t satisfied, and protested loud enough to prompt her feet to move. Although the food was almost cold now, it still tasted as well, making her clear everything on her plate. Out of habit she cleared her dishes from the counter and put them in the dishwasher.

Grabbing her phone she was just about to send a text to Genny when she received one. Leave it to her friend to notice when Kandomere showed up for work. Sending her a message back, she let her know where she was, and that she needed some clothes and her phone charger. Using maps, she sent her the location, and after pouring herself some more coffee, she went back into the computer room to do some work.

Chapter Text

“This sucks!”

Topaz grunted as she paced back and forth in front of the big board, waiting for new reports to pop up. She was spying on her colleagues in a sense, but it was the closest she could get to being part of the operation. When Montehugh had called to let her know they were going after the heist team before they could attempt to steal the wand, she got a sickening feeling in her stomach that something was about to go wrong.

They had two suspects in custody so far, but Topaz knew that it wasn’t over until they had them all. She had flagged eight more profiles after carefully going over them and strategizing with Montehugh. He had surprised her with his insights and she had made a mental note never to play Risk with him. He was an excellent strategist.

That was the only thing that gave her hope that they would be okay. They could win this fight. More reports came up. Arrests were made, one suspect killed, a few agents wounded. Clutching her phone in her hand she stared at it, afraid it would ring and someone would tell her Montehugh or Kandomere got hurt.

Staring at the board was giving her terrible anxiety. Cold, sweaty palms, racing heartbeat, feeling jittery, and her shoulders pulled up and together, she probably looked as tightly coiled as she felt. Forcing herself to walk away, she put water on to boil so she could fix herself a cup of chamomile tea. It wouldn’t do much for her anxiety, but she hoped the thought it could might help.

She just finished pouring the hot water into her cup when the computers beeped in the other room, catching up with more reports. Many reports. Her heart was beating so srong and fast in her chest she was afraid she might hurt herself if she didn’t calm down. Rushing into the other room there were at least twenty new reports on the board.

Shaky hands grabbed the remote, fumbling with the buttons until she could filter through them. One dead suspect, two dead suspects, an officer down. The more she read, the grimmer the image became. She had only read through half of the reports when the front door opened.

Kandomere?

“Hello? Topaz?”

It was Montehugh. Why was he here? Her feet were moving as if they had a will of their own. The sight that greeted her made her gasp and slap a hand over her mouth. Montehugh looked worn out, a bit messy, but otherwise unharmed. Kandomere however was covered in blood. It was on his suit, tie, his shirt and smeared on the gorget. Spatter and smears marked his face and his hands were covered with dried, caked blood.

“What happened?”

“It’s not his blood,” Montehugh assured her.

Topaz didn’t take his word for it. Checking for herself, she could actually smell the blood that caked his clothes. Aside from what looked like a few busted knuckles, he was unharmed. There was something very wrong with him though, which she noticed as she looked up at him. He was staring ahead, not responding to what was going on around him at all. Was he in shock?

“You need to get cleaned up. You reek.”

No response.

“C’mon, move your carcass.” Clapping her hands got a blink, but no movement, so she grabbed his wrist and gave it a tug. He followed her as she pulled him along to the bathroom.

Once the door closed and she helped him out of his jacket, life seemed to slowly return to Kandomere. He watched her as she removed the bloodied clothes one article at a time until he was down to the sleeveless shirt underneath. Although he was watching her and cooperating, he wasn’t lifting a finger to help himself.

“Lift your arms.”

He complied.

Pulling the shirt out of his pants, she worked it up over his chest and head. Once it was free, his lowering arms wrapped around her, pulling her into a hug. It was the most awkward hug they had shared to date and if the situation was different she might have laughed at her reflection in the mirror. Stiff as a board, shirt still clutched in her good hand, she waited for it to pass.

After a long awkward moment, he let her go. Tossing the shirt with the rest of his clothes, she went to turn on the shower. It was one of those fancy ones with a temperature regulator so she didn’t have to make sure it wasn’t scalding hot. Hearing the sound of a zipper being pulled down behind her, her gaze went to him, only to turn away immediately when he dropped his pants and everything else.

“Thank you for waiting until I left the room.”

Giving him a wide berth, she waited at the door to make sure he got in the shower, before she slipped out. Montehugh was finishing up a phone call, so she finished making her tea while she waited for him to be done.

“Everything okay?” he asked after ending his call. “I thought you’d be in there longer.”

“He’s a grown man. He doesn’t need my help showering. You want something to drink?” she asked after taking a careful sip of her tea. The water had cooled enough for her to drink it, but having both men walk in the door unharmed had taken care of most of the tension already.

“You know don’t have to pretend with me, Topaz,” Montehugh said as he put a hand on her shoulder and gave it a firm squeeze. “It’s okay.”

“Nothing is going on, Monty.” Shrugging his hand off her shoulder, she got him a bottle of water from the fridge and sat down on one of the stools. “Whose blood is on his clothes?”

“I wasn’t born yesterday. I have known that elf for years, worked real close with him, and he’s changed since you joined the team. He’s a better agent for it. He’s focused on the bigger picture more, rather than the little details, and he actually allowed people to help him.”

“You know, he’s my boss, so he’s actually supposed to train me, but glad I could help.”

Montehugh shook his head. “There’s that bite again.”

Refraining from making a comment was difficult, but she knew it would be futile and it would bring her no closer to finding out whose blood Kandomere had been wearing. Sipping her tea, she took a moment to come up with a reply that was not dripping in sarcasm. “Monty, I appreciate the sentiment, but could you please answer my questions? What happened? Whose blood is it?”

Running a hand through his hair, Montehugh succeeded in messing it up even more. Putting his hands up after what looked like an internal debate, he sighed. “It’s Elanil’s.”

“I’m sorry. Repeat that for me, please.”

“The blood on Kandomere belonged to Elanil.”

Topaz felt the blood drain from her face and it was a good thing she was sitting down already. Gripping the counter for a moment, she felt a little light headed. “Is she…?”

“Yes, she’s dead. Kandomere killed her.”

It took a moment for the words to sink in. She was disconnecting from the world around her, she could feel it, and hear it. Montehugh spoke, but the words didn’t register. The woman who had hired people to torture and kill Topaz was no more.

Elanil, the woman who had fooled Kandomere for years into thinking she wanted a real relationship with him while she was sabotaging his work behind his back. The woman that haunted her nightmares and made her paranoid about being anywhere alone for too long. That woman was dead.

Her chest started shaking a little, followed by her shoulders, and slowly she became aware she was laughing, but there were tears rolling down her cheeks, so she was crying too? Caught between laughing and crying, she hiccuped. Big hands gripped her shoulders and Montehugh’s face came into view.

“You okay?”

Her nod turned into a head shake, and she clung to the big man when he hugged her. He held her until his phone rang. While he answered it, she wiped the tears from her cheeks and calmed herself down. Her personal nightmare was over, and Kandomere had taken care of it.

“Is he in trouble?”

“No one saw a thing. As far as the report goes, she tried to escape, he was forced to take action, she died.”

“What really happened?”

Montehugh nodded his head in the direction of the bathroom. “Go ask him. My ride is here. I gotta go. I will call you in the morning.” Giving her a sideways hug, he rubbed her arm, messed up her hair and chuckled when she swatted at his arm. “Try not to break him.”

Grabbing her tea, she sipped it quietly as she waited for Kandomere to be done in the bathroom. Ten minutes passed, but the water was still running. It was time to investigate. Opening the door, a cloud of steam escaped, so she left it open as she entered. Kandomere was still standing under the spray, his form vaguely visible behind the steamed up glass of the shower.

“You okay in there?” she asked hesitantly, as her fingertips ran over the gorget she had placed on the counter. Grabbing a cloth, she dampened it without thinking of the shower. There was no reaction from Kandomere. Gently she cleaned off the silver plate and it’s chains, making sure all the blood was gone.

“I’m okay. Could you hand me the green bottle from the counter?”

He had a voice left after all. Her eyes scanned the counter until she spotted a green bottle and picked it up. It was some sort of hair product, from what she could decipher of the elven script in a quick glance. “This one?” she asked as she held out the bottle for him to take, but didn’t look when he opened the shower door.

“Yeah.”

Instead of his hand grabbing the bottle, it closed around her wrist, and with a quick tug, she was stumbling toward the shower. A wet arm wrapped around her, and she let out a squeal when water hit her as he pulled her under the spray.

“Oh my god! Asshole! I still have my clothes on!”

Kandomere didn’t listen as he hugged her close, burying his face into the crook of her neck. Her protests died when she felt him start to shake a little. Tears welled up in her eyes when it hit her he was crying. Was there anything worse than a grown man crying? It was so genuine and heartbreaking. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she caressed his head and his wet hair.

As things calmed, she wiggled her toes and groaned. “I really hate wet socks.”

His nose nuzzled her neck, pressing a soft kiss to the skin before he pulled his head back and loosened his embrace so he could look at her. He managed a little smile, but the spark didn’t reach his eyes like it normally would. “Not sorry.”

“Of course not… jerk,” she joked back, but her smile didn’t linger long either. Looking into his eyes, she tried to figure out what was going on up there in his mind, but he was not an easy man to figure out. “What happened?”

“I killed her.”

Topaz caressed his face, brushing wet strands of hair back so she could get a better look. Little micro expressions were passing over his features. Pain, relief, resentment, and even a hint of shame.  There were more, but they were passing too fast for her to distinguish. She got the gist of it.

“Walk me through it.”

He hesitated before nodding. “They arrested her along with one of the other suspects. She killed two agents. I asked for five minutes alone with her. We needed answers, locations. Montehugh insisted on joining me.”

As he started talking, his voice became steadier, stronger, his posture changed from vulnerable and almost fragile, to confident and he straightened up more. His hold on her didn’t slack though. Topaz listened to him as her hands came to rest against his chest, her wet clothes completely forgotten.

“She spewed her nonsense, typical Inferni bullshit. Then she made a fatal mistake. She threatened to finish the job herself. She threatened to kill you.”

Topaz closed her eyes and held her breath. This was exactly the reason why she had been so against crossing the line, but they had already crossed it, hadn’t they? At this point they were really using it as a skip rope, if she was honest with herself.

“She found your weakness and used it against you so you’d kill her,” she pointed out.

“I know, but I don’t care. I needed to send a message.” Turning his head he leaned into her caress of his cheek. Taking her right hand in his, he frowned as he looked at it. “You’re not wearing your brace.”

“I’m not. I needed a little breather, because it was irritating me, right there.” She pointed to the spot, and smiled when Kandomere kissed the spot like it would make it better, pressing another to her palm and rubbing his cheek against her again, she cupped his face and urged him to look up. “What message?”

“That I’m not a fool and I don’t make threats, I make promises,” he answered her, and there was a fire in his eyes, an anger and conviction. All of his elf pride was channeled into his conviction. This was the Kandomere she loved to see.

“Kandomere,” she warned him when he started leaning in again. His hands moved to grip her hips, making her aware of the wet clothes she was still wearing. Pausing a moment to look into her eyes, he kept leaning in. Right before his lips were about to touch hers, he stopped.

“I know, you really hate wet socks.”

The odd comment threw her off, making her frown and open her mouth to retort. It was the moment he’d been waiting for. Closing the distance, he captured her lips in a kiss, nipping at them and deepening it until she relaxed into his chest. By the time the kiss broke, he had stolen her breath as well as any coherent thought.

Rubbing his nose against hers, a smile formed when she just looked at him. “Finally, she shuts up.”

He was poking fun at her, but she had no witty retort. All she could do was stare at those perfectly kissable lips and wish they would press against hers again. He was really good at the whole kissing thing, and she really needed him to do it again.

He didn’t do it again though, much to her dismay, but he did turn off the water and stepped out of the shower. Like an idiot, she stood there, in her wet clothes, staring at the empty space he had just occupied, while her mind was still not cooperating. She finally snapped out of it, when he tossed a big fluffy towel over her head.

“You need help getting out of those wet clothes?”

“No, I got it,” she answered, finally finding her voice, and started peeling off her shirt, which wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be. The fabric stretched and clung to her skin until she finally wrestled herself free and dropped it. Her other clothes followed after he left the bathroom, and she quickly dried off.

Grabbing the robe that was hanging on a hook by the shower door, she slipped it on and tied it off. It was too big for her, which made it absolutely perfect to wrap herself up in. As soon as she left the bathroom, she was greeting by another sight she hadn’t seen before. Kandomere wearing pajama pants and a robe.

“Are you okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You came in here about an hour ago, appearing to be catatonic after killing your ex, and now you’re putting on music, pouring wine and acting like it’s just another Thursday night. It worries me.”

She declined a glass when he offered, walking to the couch and curling up in what was becoming her corner when he beckoned her to come sit with him. He scooted over to be closer to her.

“Give me a foot.”

After a few moments of staring at him, trying to figure out what he was up to, she stretched out her right leg, putting her foot in his lap. His hands slid over her skin and started to massage her foot. Slowly, she relaxed a little. His hands were warm, soft and his touch gentle.

“This doesn’t dissuade my worries, you know?”

“I know. You don’t have to worry about me though.”

“Well, I do. I can’t help it. This isn’t like you. Will you please talk to me?”

Kandomere sighed, taking sip of his wine and sitting back while his hand idly rubbed her leg. “You remember when you said how we elves are trained from a young age to slap a frown on it and practice our disdain?”

“Yeah, not one of my finer moments. I was trying to be mean.”

“You weren’t far off from the truth. We have emotions, the same emotions humans do, but we’re not taught how to deal with them. We are taught how to hide them behind our mask of disdain.” Kandomere looked serious, but unashamed for a man who just admitted his shortcomings.

“I don’t know, you seem to be handling them fairly well.”

“I learned how to get a handle on them through years and years of working with humans, but I don’t do well with extremes. Like tonight.”

“Well, neither do I, so I hope you don’t learn from me, because I am a shitty teacher.”

“We could teach each other.”

“Isn’t that kinda like the blind leading the blind?” Topaz chuckled and shook her head. There were a whole range of emotions she had never learned to deal with herself. “You don’t want me as your teacher. I am a loser when it comes to ‘interpersonal relationships’. I have ‘daddy issues’ and a shit ton of unhealthy coping mechanisms.”

“Who doesn’t?”

“You have daddy issues?”

“Cute, but not what I meant and you know it. You’re not a loser.” Kandomere pinched one of her toes, causing her to pull her foot back, but he pulled it back into his lap and continued massaging it.

“Really? I dumped a guy just because he caught feelings and picked a fight with you.”

“Did you reciprocate those feelings?”

“No.”

“Then you’re not a loser. You did the right thing,” Kandomere pointed out. He took a few more sips of his wine, sat back and stared ahead of him. “I killed my ex, because she betrayed me all those years, tried to have the woman I love killed, and then threatened to finish the job herself.”

Topaz stared at him. The woman I love. Those words were usually enough to make her run for the hills. A few weeks ago, they probably still would have. Now she was thinking of the kiss they had shared, and how right it had felt. Why did the wrong things always have to feel so right?

Clearing her throat, she shifted a little, adjusting the robe to cover her more. “I’m sorry she did that to you. I can’t say I know how you feel, because I’ve never been betrayed like that, but I’ve been cheated on plenty, which I suppose is a form of betrayal…”

“You’re rambling again.” Letting go of her foot, Kandomere’s hand traveled up her leg until it reached her knee. Tentatively he touched the fresh scars. Turning so he could face her, he leaned over, his face coming in close to hers. “You ramble when something makes you uncomfortable.”

“And you’re diverting attention away from a touchy subject. I guess we each have our own coping mechanisms.”

“Hm, that we do. Shh.” He pressed a finger to her lips, silencing her, letting it slowly slip, he leaned in the rest of the way and kissed her. It was softer, gentler than before, but it still left her wanting more when he pulled back to look at her. “I love you, Topaz Bennett, and I am going to keep reminding you until you stop feeling uncomfortable.”

She felt a flutter in her chest at his words, adjusting when he lay down on his side beside her, laying his head against her shoulder. Letting her hand play with his hair, it was her turn to stare ahead of her at nothing. All the arguments she could think of, she didn’t want to think and pushed from her mind immediately.

They were old and mean thoughts, self sabotaging and hurtful to him, and really, there was only one thing she felt she needed to say that wasn’t. “And when you’re ready to talk about that touchy subject… I’ll be there to listen.”

Chapter Text

“Do you want something to drink?”

“No, I’m going to bed.”

Topaz pulled her bag free from Kandomere’s hand, heading straight for the guest room. Her day had started off so promising, with the therapist telling her she was making enough progress to be cleared for modified duty, and Kandomere actually listening and giving her something to do, besides mindlessly pushing paperwork. They had settled back into more appropriate boss and subordinate interaction.

And then Genny happened.

She loved her roommate to pieces, but sometimes she wished Genny would actually listen to her, and not immediately jump on some bandwagon Topaz wasn’t sure she wanted to be on.

It had started with Kandomere asking her if she had dinner plans when she came to hand him the finished work. He hadn’t believed her when she said she did have plans, instead accusing her of dodging him again. This rubbed Topaz the wrong way, and she decided not to elaborate that she was going out with Genny so she could introduce Topaz to her new boyfriend. It wasn’t her fault Kandomere refused to take her word for it.

So Genny happened.

Would you like to come along? We can make it a double date.”

Topaz had looked at her friend like she suddenly started speaking in tongues and growing a pair of horns. Kandomere agreed of course and the whole thing was decided without either one of them stopping to consider if maybe they should ask Topaz what she wanted.

It didn’t stop there either, because the two of them decided without including her and ignoring her protests, that she was going to spend the night with Kandomere so Genny and her new boo could have some alone time.

She should’ve called the whole thing off right then, but instead she had given them both a dirty look and walked off. That didn’t seem to get the message across though, because Genny kept rattling on about how she was going to love Mark from accounting, and how exciting it was they were going on a double date.

Topaz did what she always did though, she put a smile on and endured. All through dinner, she imagined how good it would feel to poke either of them right in the eye. Just stick a finger in there up to the first joint and wiggle it around. Preferably her middle finger. It kept her from losing her cool. Mark didn’t deserve that explosion.

Holding back her anger all that time cost a lot of energy though, and all she wanted was to crawl in bed and pass out, forget it ever happened. Her feet were a little sore from the new heels she’d worn, so she wobbled on her way to the guest room, and to that lovely, comfortable bed. She could read Kandomere the riot act in the morning.

“What is your problem?” Kandomere had different ideas.

“Oh now you want to know,” she retorted, dropping her bag and kicking it to the side inside the door.

“You were quiet all through dinner and you gave me the silent treatment in the car. Yeah, I want to know.”

Fighting words, use your fighting words, light that fire higher. “Better late than never, I guess.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Locked and loaded, ready to explode, she went off. “I’ll tell you what it means. When you and Genny were planning this whole evening, did you ever stop to think that maybe one of you should ask ME how I felt about it? If it was something I wanted to do? That’s what it means!”

Kandomere ran a hand through his hair and let out a deep sigh. “You could’ve said something.”

“You could’ve asked. I said it wasn’t a good idea, but neither of you listened, nor did you stop to consider asking me if I agreed. You just made the decision without me.”

“So you decided that the best course of action was to remain quiet.”

“I was pissed off, at both of you.”

“Why?”

“Because it feels like you two are making decisions about my life and I’m not included. You just assume it’s what I want, but you never stop to ask.” Swallowing hard and blinking, she managed to hold back the tears that welled up in her eyes. Now was not the time for waterworks.

Kandomere’s brows knitted and she knew he wasn’t following her line of thought. Of course he wasn’t, because he was a guy, and he probably thought that her letting him kiss her meant more than it did. She had to spell it out for him. “I am so not ready for double dates. I am not sure if I’m even ready for dates.”

“I see.”

They stood there in an awkward standoff, neither of them speaking. His silence and the way his face fell was confirmation to Topaz that he had read things into their kiss she wasn’t sure were there or even possible. He was still her boss, that argument remained.

The gears in his head were turning, his frown intensified and one of his hands rested on his hip like it always did when he was thinking. Was he putting things together and letting it sink in or was he making all the wrong connections again?

“Does this have to do with me saying I love you? Is that why you’re doing this?”

Topaz dreaded the way that sounded. He got a clue, just the wrong clue. “Doing what?” she asked, praying she was wrong.

“Pushing me away.”

Her heart sank. “I’m not-”

Kandomere continued to argue his point. “We stopped the attack. The threat is gone.”

“The threat to my life is gone, for which I am eternally grateful, but there is still at least one wand out there, possibly two. You’re also still my boss. Nothing’s changed.”

Kandomere was shifting his weight, his face scrunched up at her words then relaxed, and his fingers combed through his hair again. “And you’re telling me that saying I love you has nothing to do with that?”

“Not directly no.”

The weight shifting stopped, his shoulders pulled back, puffing his chest out and now both of his hands were on his hips. “You don’t believe me?”

Pinching the bridge of her nose, Topaz closed her eyes and counted to ten. She had tried to dismiss it as something foolish he blurted out when he was already off kilter, but even she couldn’t deny that he had shown her the truth behind his words already. Actions spoke louder than words. “I believe you…”

“But?”

“But… when you said it, you were experiencing extreme emotions. You were off balance, and when people are feeling that way they tend to say and do things on impulse. Things they wish they could undo later or realize shouldn’t have been said, or should never have happened.”

“You think I regret kissing you, or saying I love you? I don’t.”

“You made assumptions about what it meant that night. Assumptions about us. Things that can’t happen.”

“Taz…”

“I know what you’re gonna say. Don’t. This is not me and my issues. I am not pushing you away, I am trying to make you see reality. You’re still my boss and the threat hasn’t passed. We got them scrambling to recover, but we didn’t stop the threat. We need to remain vigilant.”

“And once this threat has passed there will be another and another. There will always be something. What are you really afraid of?”

Topaz pressed her lips together, her cheeks puffing up like her mouth was filling with the words she didn’t want spilling from her lips. He asked the question that got an emotional reaction from her. “You know the answer. I'm not good for you. I can’t give you what you need, what you deserve.”

“And what is it you think I deserve, Topaz?” Hands were still on his hips, eyebrows raised and he licked his lips with his head slightly cocked to one side. As far as he was concerned he probably thought his victory was ensured with that one.

Topaz wasn’t ready to give up the fight though, not when she felt like it was the right thing to do. It didn’t matter if she felt the same way, what mattered was that they had a job to do. It wasn’t over yet. Standing up straight, she looked him in the eyes.

“Someone who is not damaged beyond repair. Someone who can give you the love and support you need and deserve, and who challenges you to be the best version of yourself.”

“You challenge me every day.”

“No, I fight you and I distract you. You deserve better. You deserve all those things and more.”

“And you don’t?”

“Ugh!” Topaz exclaimed, both hands in her hair as she paced back and forth. No matter what she threw at him, Kandomere had an answer, which was starting to make it difficult to keep going. “Why do you have to make things so difficult?”

“Why do you?”

The way he was standing there, in full suit with the gorget still in place and that smug, victorious look on his face, sensing his victory was nearing, Topaz wanted to reach out and slap the look off his face. She didn’t get as far as she had come by giving up though. She was a fighter, and she would keep fighting for what she thought was right. “I asked first.”

“Because I know what I want.”

The smug tone in his voice and the air of confidence he was giving off, were making her hands itch and Topaz flexed her fingers to force them not to ball into fists. “Knowing what you want doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it. Sometimes things are just too complicated. Too much of a hassle.”

Kandomere shrugged, and Topaz noticed he was moving toward her, slowly coming closer with each deliberate step. He was almost within striking range already. The tongue that snaked out to run along his lips, drew her attention to them, and the smirk that formed. “Nothing good ever comes easy.”

She couldn’t help it. Topaz snorted in response. “You’re an elf, everything comes easy to you.”

Kandomere was standing before her now and she had to crane her neck a little to look up at him. Although he still had that smug look on his face, the look in his eyes was different. “If that’s true, then why are you being so difficult?”

It dawned on her that he was trying to push very specific buttons to get her out of fight mode and into something else. Unfortunately for him, her wit caught up and she matched his smug look with one of her own. It was not going to be the ‘something else’ he wanted. “Because if I was easy, I would’ve become a hooker.”

Kandomere was the first to break out into a soft chuckle. “Well, you sorta did that one time.”

As it turned out, Kandomere matched her quick wit. So much for that victory. Flipping him off, she turned on her heel, and started heading into the guest room again. Rather than keep the pointless argument going, she would much prefer going to bed and reliving the argument only to come up with better counters.

“Where are you going?”

“To bed.”

“No nightcap first?”

“No.”

“You know, you should never go to bed angry.”

Letting her breath out in a huff, Topaz gritted her teeth a little. “I’m not angry.”

Kandomere’s laughter rang out. Why the hell was he laughing? What could be so funny? His little trick had helped to get her out of fight mode, but his laughter was putting her right back in it. Her hands balled into fists as she turned and narrowed her eyes at him, but that only seemed to amuse him more. “What’s so funny?”

Putting his hands on his hips, he narrowed his eyes, stomped his foot and said “I’m not angry.”

“I didn’t say it like that,” Topaz argued, but his exaggerated pose was amusing despite her annoyance. Shaking her head a little, she let it hang. When she looked up again, he was holding his arms wide, inviting her into a hug.

Wrapping her arms around his waist, she let him hug her. It felt a little weird to hug it out when nothing really got resolved, but his arms around her felt nice. His head turned to press a kiss to the top of her head. “If I make you a cup of tea, will you come sit with me a while?”

Relenting, she nodded a little. “Okay, but I’m gonna change first.”

Slipping out of his embrace, she went into the guest room. Stripping out of her clothes, she left them where they dropped. It was a childish little rebellion, but it made her feel better and that was what mattered. Brushing out her hair, she put it up in a pony tail, quickly slipping into the shorts and shirt she’d brought to sleep in.

With a pair of socks in hand, she wandered out into the living room. Instead of getting in her usual corner, she climbed into the corner of the lounge part and started putting her socks on.

Coming over with her tea and a glass of whiskey, Kandomere placed her tea on the table beside her, and sat down right next to her, putting his feet up and leaned back, taking a sip of his drink. Holding up the glass, he closed one eye as he inspected the liquid, followed by another sip. With a content smile, he looked at her. “You like whiskey?”

“Not really my thing.”

“Shame, it’s a good one. Older than you are,” he smirked and winked at her.

“I’ll take your word for it.”

Shifting more into the corner, pulling her legs up to form a sort of barrier between them, Topaz regarded him as he nursed his drink. His hand came to rest on her knee, fingertips touching the scars that were still pink and sensitive. Putting her hand over his, she smiled faintly as she felt him entwine their fingers. For once the moment of silence didn’t feel awkward or tense, but she knew their conversation wasn’t over when Kandomere leaned forward to put his drink down.

“You know, you don’t have to make things so difficult on yourself.”

“Kan-”

“Let me finish please,” Kandomere asked, taking her hand in his, he brought it up to his mouth to press a kiss to her skin and held it, his thumb rubbing the back of her hand. She wasn’t wearing her brace again and he was noticing, but he was refraining from commenting on it. “You could talk to me, when something I do angers you. You don’t have to let it sit and fester until you blow your lid.”

It wasn’t the lecture she had expected, in fact, it felt more like a request. She could still feel something hanging in the air between them though, but the request wasn’t unreasonable. “I am not really great at that, but I can try.”

Kandomere nodded, letting go of here to put his hand back on her knee as he sat forward to grab the tv remote. He was keeping physical contact with her like he wanted to make sure she was still there, or to keep her from fleeing.

“Time for a nap?” she teased him when he seemed to pick a movie from his cue at random or maybe for the length.

Kandomere shot her a sideways glance as he grabbed one of the throw pillows and propped himself up better, getting comfortable. His hand settled on her knee, fingers curling around to keep her leg close. “That happened only once. It's not a habit.”

“If you say so,” Topaz answered with mirth in her voice. She was just gonna wait and see. It wouldn’t take long for him to pass out if he was tired enough to fall asleep. Grabbing her tea, she sipped it as she tried to focus on the movie, but kept stealing glances at him to see if he was going to pass out yet.

A half hour into the movie he was still paying attention, but her head was getting heavier. Shifting positions a little brought back some energy, but not for long. After some shifting Kandomere lifted his arm and she only hesitated a moment before curling up against his side, her head resting against his chest. His arm wrapped around her and his hand idly rubbed her back.

The soft, soothing motion of his hand completely relaxed her. Resting her eyes a moment, she opened them again when fingertips caressed her cheek and she heard the rhythmic tone of Kandomere’s voice, but couldn’t understand the words.

He still had his arm around her but his position had changed, leaning over her. His face was getting closer, but her hand came up to stop him from completing the move. “I guess I needed the nap this time.”

Her hand stopping him disappointed him. Kandomere sighed and the look he gave her told her the other shoe was about to drop. He was either going to give her a lecture or make another plea and she was stuck in the corner of the couch without a way out. “Taz…”

“Kandy?”

Her attempt at being cute and funny did nothing to dissuade him, though he went for the plea rather than the lecture. “I want a chance to prove myself. To prove you wrong.”

“Kandomere, you killed Elanil because she threatened the life of the woman you love. Your words.”

Her argument seemed to only strengthen his resolve as he shifted a little more and she felt his hand resting on her hip. “I killed her because as long as she was alive she would be a threat to this task force, to our work.”

“And the woman you love,” Topaz added. “Kandomere that just proves my point. You’re asking to risk everything.”

“Do you think I would callously risk my career and the lives of millions of people for one woman? C’mon, Taz, you’ve known me long enough to know I’m not that kind of elf. I think it’s not my professionalism you’re really worried about.”

“It’s not?”

“I think you’re worried you will be distracted by me, by this.” His lips feathered over hers to demonstrate. Topaz couldn’t help her reaction, as her lips parted, chasing his for a brief moment, disappointed when he didn’t finish the move and kiss her.

“And you won’t?” It was a weak protest. Her body responded to his closeness and the anticipation of the almost kisses, which were incredibly distracting.

“I’ll prove it to you, if you give me a chance.”

His lips hovering over hers, his hot breath against her skin and his hand caressing her side and under her shirt, was all incredibly distracting and enticing. How could she say no when she felt the need to kiss him so keenly? Groaning a little, she finally gave up. “One week.”

“Two,” he bargained. Cheeky elf.

“One week, one real date and no sex,” she argued. Her gaze finally met his again to make sure he understood her terms were not negotiable. The way he looked at her, she knew that if he tried to bargain more, she would cave. Those eyes that sometimes creeped her out, were looking down at her with such softness, it was almost unfair.

Kandomere simply gave a nod. “Deal.”

“Okay.” Relieved, Topaz relaxed a little and she tugged on the collar of his shirt, pulling him in closer again. Those lips were still enticing her, and she didn’t want to talk anymore. “Now kiss me before I change my mind.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Chapter Text

“Rough night with the boss man?”

Topaz grunted in response while pouring herself a cup of coffee. Her head was pounding, her body dragging and when she looked in the reflective metal surface of the coffee pot, she looked much paler than she had at home. Stirring some cream in her coffee, she glanced over her shoulder at Montehugh. “Rough night with my roomie’s book club. I decided to give them a chance. I underestimated the drinking power of the book nerds.”

“Never underestimate the power of nerds. Rookie mistake.”

“I learned that lesson the hard way.”

When she had decided to stick around and meet Genny’s book club she wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Getting along that well had surprised her. Long after the meeting ended some of them were still hanging around and several bottles of wine had been shared. Unfortunately for Topaz, she had to work today and her alarm blaring in her ear signaled the start of what was going to be the day from hell.

“I have some aspirin in my desk, if you need some.”

At least there was one upside to it all. Kandomere was taking Montehugh with him to New Orleans for a meeting which meant he wouldn’t be torturing her all day for her error in judgment and she didn’t have to come up with an excuse to postpone their date. Taking a sip of her coffee, she grumbled a little. “I heard you’re going to the Big Easy today… lucky you.”

“Not sure meeting with some Shield of Light people should be considered lucky. Won’t have time for sightseeing.”

“No time for the voodoo. What time are you guys leaving?”

“Around lunch time. Should be back before the evening tomorrow.”

Things were starting to look good. No boss after lunch and all day tomorrow was the best news hangover Taz needed to hear. “If all goes well.”

“Don’t jinx shit now, I will tell my wife it was your fault.”

With a big cheesy grin, Topaz slowly shuffled back to her desk. Walking slowly and with small steps didn’t jar her head as much, keeping her headache to a minimum. She had underestimated the fierceness of this one, thinking she could tough it out without aid, but she was so wrong.

“Bennett. A moment please?”

Things were about to get worse. At least he didn’t call her ‘agent Bennett’ because that was a clear sign she was about to get yelled at. His tone however, suggested that her morning was about to become busy.

Montehugh handed her two aspirin. “Take these before you go in there. One for the headache and one to keep you safe.”

“One to keep me safe?” Topaz gave him a sideways look.

“Something my mother used to say to my sisters. Aspirin can be birth control, if you put it between your knees.” Montehugh squeezed his thighs together to demonstrate.

Laughter made her grab her head with both hands after taking the aspirin. Hopefully they kicked in soon, preferably before she went completely cross eyed. Her headache didn’t stop her from making a quick witted retort. “That only works if you don’t bend over.”

Montehugh nearly spit his coffee everywhere. “You’re a real piece of work, Bennett.”

“I would take a bow, but my head might explode.”

“Speaking of, better go see what the boss man wants before he explodes.”

“Shit.” Looking over her shoulder, Kandomere was moving papers around his desk in an annoyed manner. She was taking too long to respond to his request. Foregoing her shuffle she hurried to Kandomere’s office. “You wanted to see me boss?”

“Yes. You look like shit.”

Looking at him, she blinked rapidly. Did he really just blatantly state that? When he didn’t crack a smile or even acknowledge her beyond that glance and comment, she let it slide. Her head couldn’t handle an argument right now. “Uhh, thanks… Trust me it feels worse than it looks, but I’ll manage. What did you want to see me about?”

“Montehugh and I will be down in New Orleans for a meeting till tomorrow, so I am gonna have to postpone our plans.”

“Yeah, I already figured that. Anything else?” she asked, not wanting to dwell on the personal stuff. He had been good most of the week, discussing personal things only during lunch breaks and after work hours. It was working out so far, mostly because Topaz hadn’t been back to his apartment after their deal and make out session that night.

Kandomere drew her attention to a stack of files by pushing it in her direction. “I need these checked and sorted in three piles. I want you to assess which cases are worth our time to investigate and which aren’t.”

“And the third pile?”

“The third pile is for cases that require more information to determine whether they are worth our time.”

Nodding at Kandomere’s explanation, she was actually looking forward to this kind of paperwork. It was by far less boring than filing reports. “Can do. Is there a deadline?”

“Noon.”

Her eyebrows went up, her eyes wide and she regarded the stack of files. Less than three hours to go through the entire stack? “Noon? For all that? Why? You’re not even gonna be here.”

“I will be here till noon. Better get started if you wanna make the deadline.”

Kandomere’s face was serious as he stared her down and tapped his watch when she didn’t move. Grabbing the stack, her eyes shooting daggers in her boss’ direction, Topaz felt the sarcasm as much as she heard it when she spoke. “Yes, sir.”

“Be critical. We have limited time and resources,” Kandomere called after her as she walked out with the heavy stack of papers.

“Yes. Sir.”

-

It took some effort at first, but once the aspirin kicked in and her headache became tolerable, Topaz quickly found a rhythm, skimming the files and looking for key criteria. Labeling the ones she was sure they needed to follow up on with sticky blue page markers, she picked up the arranged stack and dumped it on Kandomere’s desk, setting it out in three stacks.

“All done. The ‘Sorry we can’t help you’ pile is the largest, no surprise there. These are the maybe’s and the ones marked with the blue tag are the ones I would actually suggest pursuing.”

Kandomere looked them over briefly, then put them aside. “Did you have much trouble with it?”

“Actually, it was pretty easy once I got into the rhythm of it.”

“Good. Follow me.” Kandomere got up, putting on his jacket and taking his briefcase. He made his way out and beckoned for her to follow him a few offices down the hall, opening the door and flipping on the light. “You can do the same with these.”

Glancing into the room there was a desk covered with stacks of files. There were boxes lining the walls and even an impossibly high stack on the chair in front of the desk. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Language, Bennett,” Kandomere warned her.

“Are you fucking kidding me right now?” Topaz repeated in defiance of his warning. In her eyes the view she was facing and the job he was giving her warranted cursing. “What the hell? This is not an active case room, this is a badly kept storage, right?”

“These are files sent to us in the last four weeks.”

“Four weeks?! Just four weeks, that’s all?” Topaz scoffed. This was unbelievable. He was going to New Orleans but he still found a way to make her life hell while he was gone. “Why are they piled up?”

“Because the agent in charge of them has retired and a replacement has yet to be found. You said you wanted to keep busy, well, keep busy.” Kandomere gestured to the mess that had been an old man’s office.

Staring at the mess before her, Topaz scratched behind her ear. “This is a sick joke right? Kandomere?”

He smirked in response, giving her a little salute and a wink and walked away toward the elevator where Montehugh was waiting for him. “I will see you tomorrow, Bennett. I expect progress.”

Barely resisting the urge to flip him off in front of other people she rubbed the back of her neck instead as she looked at the clusterfuck before her. “Fuck me sideways… where do I even fucking start?!”

-

After spending an entire day clearing out the desk and chair as well as a clear line to the door, Topaz couldn’t look at another file without wanting to strangle the first person she saw. The only bonus was that Kandomere wasn’t there to check in and aggravate her more, because it was his doing. It was time to go home though, to have some wine and put her feet up.

She was on her way out the door with Genny when Kandomere texted they were in the air flying home. After a short text conversation she agreed to meet him at his place. Changing into a knee length skirt and nice top, Topaz took her overnight bag with her just in case, thanking Genny for dropping her off. She ignored Genny’s teases about this being a date, instead focusing on the earful she was going to give the elf for the task he’d given her.

Rehearsing the speech in her head, she had just bumped the door closed and taken her shoes off when Kandomere texted her he had left the airport. Finding the bottle of wine he asked her to open, she left it to breathe on the counter and opened the sliding door to the balcony to let some fresh air in and drive the smell of cleaning fluids out.

With a little background music on for mood, she went searching through the drawers for candles and a stand. Finding some block candles finally she placed them on a special tray and put it on the coffee table. Sitting back she watch the flames dancing in the light breeze coming in through the open door. It was a nice night.

Her eyes opened when she heard the front door close, stretching first before her attention went to Kandomere taking off his jacket. He was dragging a trolley behind him and the smell of what she thought was pizza reached her nostrils, initiating the death cry from her stomach whale. “Welcome home… jerk.”

“Thank you. Let me get comfortable first,” Kandomere answered with a smirk.

Her gaze followed him as she turned on the couch to keep watching him. After hanging up the jacket, he removed his cuff links. Next was the gorget and he placed both in a jewelry box. Dragging off his tie, he unbuttoned his shirt a bit, took off his vest and was rolling up the sleeves on his shirt by the time he walked back out of the room. “Enjoy the view?”

“First time I actually watched the transformation,” she answered, but didn’t bother to get up to greet him. When he came close to greet her, she gripped one of the throw pillows and held it like a weapon. “Don’t even try it. I am mad at you. Do you have any idea how bad of a mess that office is?”

Kandomere didn’t heed her warning but put up his arm to block her when she got up to smack him with a pillow, once, twice, and more when he continued to approach her. “Are you done?”

She smacked him a few more times for good measure, but on the last hit, Kandomere grabbed the pillow and used her grip on it to pull her toward him with a good hard tug. Pulled off balance she stumbled into his chest. An arm wrapped around her waist as a hand gripped the back of her neck and he pulled her into a kiss that left her stunned for a few moments. “You look beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she mumbled as she scrambled to recover from that breath taking kiss. Giving him a scolding look for good measure, she waved a finger at him. “Flattery gets you nowhere.”

Kandomere simply smiled in return. “How about dinner?”

“Maybe… How did the meeting go?”

“It went and that is all I am saying on the matter. We’re off the clock. No work talk.”

“Says the workaholic,” Topaz pointed out and jumped a little when she got smacked in the ass for it. He had her pillow, so when she swiped at his arm, she missed. He had successfully diffused the situation and avoided the fight she thought they were going to have and had been prepping for all day in that stuffy, chaotic mess of an office. The clever bastard.

“I’ll help set the table,” she stated, rather than asked.

Dinner was Italian, pasta, chicken and lots of fresh vegetables. No pizza, but Topaz enjoyed it nonetheless. Every time she tried to bring up work related stuff, Kandomere started to talk about the weather. When he ran out of conversation starters with that, he started to make up random things to make her laugh.

After dinner, he actually allowed her to help clear the dishes into the washer. She had just finished wiping down the table when the music, which had been a soft background murmur was turned up to a much more audible volume. Turning around, Kandomere was holding out his hand.

“Dinner and dancing, that is your play?” she teased with a smile.

“May I have this dance?” he asked, ignoring the tease and even making a little bow for her.

The formal request and gesture got a chuckle out of her. “You may,” she answered, placing her hand in his. Unsurprisingly she was pulled in close, his hand resting on the small of her back as he started swaying her to the music. “You know, I never would’ve pegged you for an eighties fan.”

“There’s many things you don’t know about me.”

“Obviously.” There was a lot they didn’t know about each other, and the few times they tried to have a conversation about it, things got too deep and one or both of them ended up falling silent. Her face lit up with a bright smile as she came up with an idea of how they could get to know a few things about each other. “Have you ever played a game called ‘would you rather’?”

Kandomere frowned. “Can’t say that I have.”

“It is really simple. You can use opposites or just two different options and the other has to pick one. For example, would you rather stay in or go out for a date?” she asked, looking up at Kandomere as he thought of the answer.

“It depends on the date,” he answered.

“Would you rather live in a place where it is always hot or always cold?”

“Always cold.”

“You don’t have to use would you rather’s though. Amazing dancer or amazing singer?”

“I’m already an amazing dancer.” Kandomere grinned and winked, spinning her out and pulling her back in, his hand slipped lower than the small of her back and Topaz reached back to pull his hand up.

“You get the general idea?” she asked, placing his hand back on the small of her back, smiling when he nodded. “Okay, you try it.”

“Winter or summer?”

Topaz felt relieved her idea was working. Taking a moment, she pondered the answer as the music changed and their dance became a little more active. “I grew up in a place that actually had seasons, so summer. Trudging through snow is a nightmare and the sunshine gives me energy.”

“Sweet or savory.”

“Tough one, but savory. Despite my donut freak out, I can do without sweets,” she answered and easily fell into the steps as he started to lead them. Doing this while dancing was also a good way to keep herself from getting too much into the music and their dance. He was a really good dancer, which she was sure no one else knew because of the stick up the ass and all.

They played the game for a few songs, some of the options becoming a little suggestive in nature. That was when Topaz got an idea. “I have one…”

“Go ahead,” Kandomere answered as he pulled her in and she felt his hand slip down to her ass again.

This time she didn’t pull his hand away, but their dance turned back into simply swaying and staring into each others eyes. She knew the look he was giving her, where his mind was going, which was exactly why she decided to ask the question she thought of. “Would you rather have four more weeks with the same stipulations to prove yourself, or have sex tonight and end it in the morning?”

The swaying stopped. His eyes searched her face, narrowing a little, then growing wider as his eyebrows rose. “You’d give me four more weeks?”

“Well, I was thinking, one week is a really too short to be conclusive one way or the other,” she explained, giving him a little nod. Anyone could keep their emotions in check for a week, but what if they had to do it for a month? If he could keep his private and work life separated like he said he could, and really loved her like he claimed he did, four more weeks and no sex should be a piece of cake.

“Only one date a week?” he questioned.

Topaz shrugged. “With our work schedule and considering how it went this week, I don’t think that’s unreasonable, do you?”

Kandomere shook his head. “What about kissing?”

“I like kissing.”

“And touching?”

“Your hand is on my ass and I haven’t pulled it away, does that answer your question?”

“I choose four more weeks.”

“Good answer.”

It was the only thing Topaz got to say, before his lips captured hers in a kiss so passionate it left her lips swollen when it broke. Lifting her up off the ground, her legs instinctively wrapped around his waist as he walked to the couch and sat down with her in his lap. Her fingers ran through his soft blue hair, brushing it back as she smiled at him before he was devouring her in another passionate kiss.

His hands moved over her thighs, under the skirt to grab her cheeks with both hands, pulling her closer toward him. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders as she hugged herself close and felt something poking up against her. The little devil on her shoulder whispered ideas into her ear and she bit his bottom lip, giving it a little tug, before she let his tongue slip back between her parted lips to seek out her own.

Slowly she rolled her hips, feeling the bulge grow more prominent. Another roll of her hips drew a groan from Kandomere’s lips, sending a shiver up her spine. Encouraged by his reactions, she started grinding her hips against him in a slow rhythm to the song that was playing on the radio, letting the tempo of the song control the build up. Kandomere’s lips seared kisses along the cord of muscle that ran from her neck to her shoulder, drawing little sounds from her.

Her movements were also starting to have an effect on her, causing her to increase her pace as both of them panted between kisses. His hands went between gripping her ass and trying to guide her movements, to caressing her thighs, while her hands gripped the back of his neck, nails digging in as he kissed her roughly.

“Taz…”

A long whimpered moan was followed by the stiffening of his body, and Topaz cried out when she felt the sharp pain of pointy teeth biting down on her neck. Her nails dug into his neck and clawed at his back, as the move surprised her by sending her over the precipice herself in a hard and quick burning orgasm.

Breathing heavily and trembling, they sat there holding on to each other as if their lives depended on it. When the calm returned, she moved back to look at his face, caressing it with her fingertips. Following that strong squared jaw line down to the dip in his chin, she smiled at him. “Feel better?”

“I thought you said no sex.”

“That’s right. I didn’t break any rules,” she pointed out and nipped at his lips, rubbing her nose against his and giving him a smirk. “I learned many clever tricks in foster care. I never broke the rules, but I found ways to do what I want anyway. We’re fully clothed, I didn’t use my hands, my mouth, there was no penetration, so… no sex.”

“Clever, but…”

“I use my wit for more than sarcasm, quick quips and solving crime," she pointed out, cutting off his protests.

“I wonder what else you use that wit for.”

“Stick around for those four weeks if you can and I’ll show you.”

Kandomere grinned as he picked her up and laid her down on the couch, settling between her thighs as he leaned in to kiss her again. “Count on it.”

Chapter Text

“That is the third time you have yawned in as many minutes. Are you sure you slept okay?”

Topaz blinked away the tears in her eyes from that last yawn that seemed to have come up from all the way down in her toes. Her own bed which had been so comforting to her before now made her feel like the princess on the pea. She had spent a good part of the night tossing and turning trying to find sleep until she finally put a pillow behind her back.

“It was alright. Just not my night, I guess.”

“Aw, you miss him. That’s so sweet! When is he coming back?”

Flipping Genny off, she got a chuckle in return. “I think tomorrow or something, but he’s been pretty vague about it.”

Topaz sipped her coffee, shrugging her shoulders like it didn’t bother her much. In truth she had the feeling that whatever Kandomere and Montehugh were up to, they were keeping it from her. It was just a suspicion, and she had tried to dismiss it as paranoia at first or maybe trying to sabotage whatever was growing between her and Kandomere. The longer the feeling lasted though, the more reason he and Montehugh gave her to believe there was something to it.

“And you are okay with letting him be vague about it?” Genny gave her a quick sideways glance. “I mean he is your boss first, but even as a subordinate you deserve more of an answer than ‘tomorrow or something’, don’t you agree?”

“I guess,” Topaz answered, which was her signature answer when she didn’t want to discuss something further. “I just hope I get off modified duty soon.”

“You can’t hold a pen to write your name, let alone a weapon. That’s gonna be a while and I for one am grateful for it.”

“I know you are, and I get why. Doesn’t mean it sucks any less.”

For all they knew the Inferni still saw her as a threat and if there was one thing she knew about herself it was that once she sank her teeth into a new case, she wouldn’t stop until she solved the puzzle. “I just want to do more than sit behind my desk and sort case files. I feel useless when I am not solving puzzles.”

“I think I have some jigsaw puzzles in storage.”

Now it was Topaz’ turn to throw her friend a sideways glance. “Ha, ha, very funny.”

Genny grinned. “You are an organizing fiend though. How long did it take you to turn that chaos into an actual office?”

“A little under two weeks,” she answered.

Kandomere would likely make some comment about how amazing it was she worked so efficiently with files yet her room was always chaos. It had been true in college, but it wasn’t anymore. Nowadays, she made messes just to aggravate him.

Discovering her coffee cup was empty, Topaz sighed theatrically, glad they were at least close to work. She was going to need more of the stuff to get through today. “There are still stacks of files to go through and it seems just when I make progress on them, more arrive. Like never ending fries.”

“You’ll catch up. I have faith in you.” Genny pulled in behind three other cars in line for the parking garage. “Not to change the subject or anything, but if you’re missing Kandomere that much, maybe you should go stay at his apartment tonight. He gave you that key for a reason.”

Slowly, Topaz turned her attention to her friend, studying her face. Seeing Genny start to nervously shift in her seat and gripping the steering wheel like it could somehow save her from this moment, Topaz started to grin. “Is Mark coming over again? Are you expecting sexy times? Is that why you are trying to get rid of me?”

“He is coming over, but that is beside the point. If you sleep better there, you should.”

“Uh huh.” Topaz didn’t believe her even for a second, but she had to give it to Genny, she tried valiantly to make it sound like she cared more about her friend getting a good rest than getting laid herself. “You’re hoping for sexy times. It’s okay, you can say it. I am happy for you.”

“I'm happy for me too. You were right.”

“Can I get that in writing so I can rub that smug elf’s nose in it?” Topaz asked as they walked to the elevators along with some other colleagues. “And just for the record, what was I right about this time?”

They passed on the left elevator, to take the other one for a few more moments alone.

“I was crushing on guys I could never have because it was safe and it could never happen so I could daydream all I wanted,” Genny explained, hitting the button to close the doors when someone yelled hold the elevator. Topaz grinned proudly. “Which is why I made a bold move and asked Mark if his offer for coffee still stood, even though I got so nervous I almost threw up. I am glad I listened to you. I took a page from your book and it paid off. He’s nice, he doesn’t mind my quirks and he makes me feel at ease.”

Topaz looked at her friend getting that same dreamy look she used to get for Grumpus while she talked about her boyfriend. “See this swooning I don’t mind. I am glad your bold move paid off and you found someone who appreciates your inner nerd, which shows way too often.”

“I am glad you found someone who isn’t deterred by all of your defenses.” Genny looked up at the numbers above the door and made her next words quick, before the door opened onto their floor. “You should go sleep in his bed tonight whether he’s home or not. Think about it.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Topaz grumbled, stepping off the elevator to make a bee line for the break room to get more coffee. “If I do, it will be because I love you and I want you to finally get laid as much as you deserve.”

“How very sweet of you. I feel so loved.”

Genny made her best attempt at being sarcastic, but Topaz simply smirked back at her. “You should. I don’t bestow that blessing on just anyone. See you at lunch.”

The place was quiet and felt huge and empty without Kandomere’s presence. Eyeing the computer room she decided against it. Making a cup of tea she drank it while she surfed through the channels, finding some true crime show to watch. Even the TV couldn’t fill the silence and emptiness of the place. After a long debate she sent Kandomere a text to ask him if there was an update on the case and when he would be back.

Sipping her tea she stared at her phone on the coffee table in a desperate effort to will it to buzz and the screen to light up. He was probably still working. Too busy to check his phone. Maybe he didn’t hear it or feel it buzz. There was always a chance he did read it, but couldn’t answer because he was busy or maybe he just didn’t have an answer for her.

He doesn’t want to answer.

Rubbing her face with both hands, Topaz tried to break away from her thoughts. She didn’t want to admit it, but the more time she spent with Kandomere without work involved, the more unsure she felt, like she was on shaky ground. Her first instinct to tuck tail and run had been dissuaded by Kandomere without him even knowing, but he wasn’t here to steady her feet on the shaky ground.

You don’t need him to do that, you’re a big girl.

“This is ridiculous. Get a grip,” she grumbled, startled by the sound of her own voice. Getting up she turned off the TV and took her cup into the kitchen, leaving it on the counter in case she wanted more tea later. Wandering over to his bedroom she stood in the doorway and stared at the big empty bed, perfectly made, not a crease or wrinkle in the sheets.

Moving to his side of the bed, she hoped the maid hadn’t changed the sheets as she curled up in his spot, burying her face into the pillow. Inhaling deeply, she smiled when the scent of shampoo mixed with his cologne and everything else filled her nostrils. Her body relaxed and she stretched out as she laid there, sniffing the pillow like she was some kinda junkie jonesing for a fix. With eyes closed she let herself relax for a little bit.

The mattress depressed behind her, but that was wishful thinking, wasn’t it? Her eyes wouldn’t open right away, telling her she was still in that half asleep state. Again the mattress dipped, this time closer, and there was a presence and warmth behind her. She was dreaming this, fueled by Genny’s insistence she was missing ‘her elf’. Nuzzling into the pillow she caught a fresh whiff of his scent.

Just go back to sleep.

An arm wrapped around her, which felt way too vivid to be a dream. When lips pressed soft kisses to the side of her neck and nuzzled into her shoulder, her eyes shot wide open. She was awake and still feeling him. This wasn’t a dream?

He’s home!

“You’re in my spot,” Kandomere’s voice spoke softly, close to her ear as lips pressed another kiss to her neck. “Did you miss me that much?”

Clearing her vision by rubbing her eyes, Topaz looked over her shoulder. Sure enough, there was ‘her elf’, looking like his usual smug self. Rolling over, she wrapped an arm around him and hugged herself against his chest, her nose nuzzling into the patch of skin visible above the few buttons that were undone on his shirt. His scent was much stronger this way.

Kandomere wrapped his arms around her and returned her hug. “I tried to call you as soon as my plane landed and I got your text, but I got no answer. Genny informed me you were here.”

Topaz smiled. He didn’t call her miss Larsen this time. He was learning. “I think I left it on the coffee table.”

“You did. I didn’t know if you had eaten yet, so I brought some food. Are you hungry?”

As if on cue, her stomach gurgled, drawing a giggle from her. She didn’t want to move, especially with the way his fingers were running through her hair, brushing it back from her face. All stress of the past few days and the tension from bad sleep just seemed to disappear and she snuggled closer for a moment.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

Giving her a moment to relax her grip, he was gone from her arms again, but when she opened her eyes to see if it was just a dream, her timing could not have been more perfect. As he got up off the bed the dress pants were perfectly taut around his backside for a moment, leaving her grinning as she watched him walk away.

Lying there staring at the empty doorway for a few minutes, she stretched and rolled out of bed and onto her feet in one almost smooth move. Stumbling a little she gripped the dresser to steady herself, bumping her hip painfully hard into it. Whenever she forgot about her knee it found perfectly humiliating ways to remind her why she was on modified duty in the first place.

Straightening herself out, she took slow and deliberate steps until she was sure her knee wouldn’t give her more trouble. Kandomere was just setting their plates on the table and going back to the kitchen to get their drinks. Her stomach made more gurgling noises, for which she made no apologies as the food smelled delicious.

As usual they made awkward small talk while eating, avoiding the giant elephant in the room called ‘work’ at all costs. It was starting to become painfully obvious now there was something going on there, but she decided to wait to confront him, at least till after dinner.

It was a nice night, so grabbing a blanket from under the couch, Topaz retired to the couch out on the balcony. Draping it over her legs, she curled up in the corner, taking the mug from Kandomere when he brought out their coffee.

“I know that look,” he said as he sat down, putting a hand on her knee and rubbing it a little. “You’ve got something on your mind.”

“I’ve got lots of things on my mind,” she answered as neutrally as possible, hiding her displeasure behind the mug as she took a tentative sip.

“For instance?”

“Why are you keeping things from me, work related things? Please remember I am not an idiot, or blind, so you can spare me any bullshit excuses.”

“What is it that you think I'm keeping from you?”

Biting hard on the inside of her cheek, Topaz took a breath and counted to four before slowly releasing it. Snapping at him was not going to get her answers. “When I asked about the meeting in New Orleans, all I got was an ‘it went’ and it wasn’t mentioned again. You’ve been vague about this trip, I haven’t been asked to help and we haven’t been working here for weeks.”

“Someone once told me I was working too much and living too little.”

“Oh cut the bullshit, Kandomere.” Clenching her jaw, she felt a muscle twitch as she kept more of her anger flowing from her lips in words she wouldn’t be able to take back which she knew she didn’t mean. “You have me tucked away in some retired old fart’s office, trying to clean up a mess that isn’t mine, for what? To keep me distracted?”

With the mug to his lips, Kandomere let out a sigh. “Yes,” he answered, taking a sip and set down his mug.

“Why? Are you afraid I can’t cut it? That seeing all that crap is going to somehow trigger me? Because if it is the latter, I got a newsflash for you, the files you have me going through contain a plethora of triggers. They don’t trigger me, but they have potential.”

Setting his mug on the table, Kandomere turned his attention fully to her. He looked directly at her as he spoke. “Whatever my personal feelings are on the matter, they aren’t the reason for keeping you distracted. I got orders from the chief to keep you-”

“The chief? Why on earth-”

“Please, let me finish,” Kandomere implored, interlacing his fingers together like he was begging. “We got our orders from the chief, because we haven’t found the mole in our department yet, and the meeting in New Orleans confirmed the Inferni still see you as a potential threat.”

“I am a threat, because I figured out their plans. If I did it once, I can do it again.”

“Exactly. The chief felt the best course of action would be to temporarily give you other duties, at least until we find the mole, or figure out a strategy to flush him out.”

No matter how hard she looked for it, she couldn’t detect any dishonesty in Kandomere. He was telling her the truth, and what he said was plausible. He wouldn’t ignore an order if it came from the chief. There was still one question left. “And whose bright idea was it not to fill me in on these orders?”

“Mine,” Kandomere answered without hesitation. “I thought you would raise a stink about it.”

“Kandomere, I know I'm stubborn, but I'm not so stubborn I would screw up our chances of catching the mole, or provoke another attack. I’m not stubborn enough to risk my life unnecessarily.  I'm stubborn enough however that when something's being kept from me, I will not let it go until I figure it out, because I hate being kept out of the loop. Now that I know the reason for it though, I will deal.”

“Understood.”

“Don’t do that to me again. Please?”

Picking up her hand, Kandomere pressed a kiss to it, looking up at her with those blue eyes that seemed to change warmth and intensity of color depending on his mood. Rolling her eyes up for a moment, she shook her head at the gesture. “It won’t happen again,” he promised.

“Good.” Sipping her coffee now it was cooled enough, she looked up at the first stars peeking out in the night sky. Like little diamonds reflecting the light, strewn across a beautiful dark blue sky. Once upon a time they had filled her with awe, and she had listened to the boy trying to impress her with his knowledge pointing out the constellations to her. All she had wanted was to make out and feel each other up a little. Now she wished she had actually paid attention.

“What else is on your mind?”

“Hm?” Startled from her thoughts, Topaz stared at him blankly for a moment, before her attention dropped to her almost empty mug.

“You said there were many things on your mind. Talk to me.”

“You’re just trying to distract me so I won’t start thinking of plans to flush out our mole,” she teased him, trying to buy herself a little time to collect her thoughts. She wasn’t sure if she was ready to talk about any of those things yet.

“It’s one of my motivations, but far from being the only one. Come here.” He beckoned her closer. Finishing the last of her coffee, she set the mug down, scooting close enough to put her legs over his, and drape the blanket over both of them. Curling into his side, she rested her head against his shoulder.

“I had an interesting conversation with Genny this morning.”

“You did?”

“Yeah, it got me thinking about things…”

“What things?”

Nibbling on her lip, Topaz hesitated. If she skipped ahead to the hard stuff now, she was afraid he would miss the context and it would come out all wrong. She needed to start with what lead her to the thinking first. “Genny told me that she took a page out of my book, made a bold move and thanks to me she now has Mark from accounting in her life.”

“And that got you thinking, about…?”

“I don’t know what book she took that page out of, but it wasn’t mine.”

“Don’t you think you’re selling yourself short there, just a little?”

“Oh come on, I’m a coward. Sure, I stared down my torturer and spit blood in his eye knowing very well he was going to kill me, but at the first sign of feelings I tried to tuck tail and run the other way. I had a fuck buddy for over a year. I specifically made the rule, no feelings, no attachments, because I am that much of a coward.”

Kandomere didn’t immediately answer her. Instead he slowly rubbed her back and played with her hair, while he stared out at the night sky.

“The student has far surpassed the master,” Topaz sighed.

Turning his head, Kandomere pressed his lips to her forehead. His other hand came up to cup her chin, tilting her head up so she would look at him. “I think you’re being way too hard on yourself. You said it yourself, your parents didn't give you the best example, you grew up in group homes, and you picked bad boyfriends which ultimately lead to physical abuse.”

“He hit me once.”

“That is one time too many, and if you hadn’t walked away when you did, you know it wouldn’t have been a one time occurrence. We see the truth all the time in our line of work.”

Topaz tried to look down, but Kandomere did not let go of her chin, and rubbed his thumb along her cheek to keep her attention. He was right, but it didn’t excuse her actions with him, and she had been thinking about it all day, when she should have been thinking about it for weeks. She’d stuck her head in the sand. “I’m…”

The words caught in her throat, unable to get them across her lips, even though Kandomere was being so patient with her, and far more understanding than she had expected him to be. “You’re…?”

If Genny can be brave, you can do this.

Taking in a breath, she tried to imagine drinking in courage, letting it fill her, to help her push the words from her lips. “I’m scared… scared shitless.”

“Why? What’s got you so scared?” There was no judgment in Kandomere’s eyes, just a need to know what was causing her to be so scared.

“I’m scared, because you were gone and I missed you.” Her heart was racing so fast, and Topaz could feel the lump in her throat she just couldn’t swallow down. She could hear her blood rushing in her ears, and the hotness of her cheeks as they flushed with color. Her palms were getting sweaty, and she could feel her shoulders tensed up. “I’ve never missed anyone before.”

Instead of answering her with words, she felt Kandomere’s hand slip to the back of her neck, pulling her in as his lips captured hers for a kiss. A soft sound vibrated against his mouth, as she felt him urge her to deepen the kiss, to which she eagerly responded by parting her lips.

By the time they pulled back to catch their breath, she was sitting sideways in his lap and he was holding her as close as he could. Caressing his fingers down her cheek, Kandomere looked completely lost in thought. “I missed you too," he finally spoke and nipped softly at her lips. "We can be scared of unfamiliar territory together.”

“You, Kandomere, scared?” Her head slowly tilted to the side, which seemed to prompt him to press another kiss to her lips, but her smile didn’t fade even for a moment.

“I’ve never been in love with a human before.”

His words still made her tense, but Topaz forced herself not to pull away. Instead she wrapped her arms around his neck and ran her fingers through his hair. When her fingertips brushed over the tip of his ear, his hands gripped her side and leg tighter for a moment. Repeating the gesture with slower, deliberate movements made him close his eyes and groan a little.

Interesting.

“Taz,” he warned her.

“Sorry.”

“That’s a lie.”

“Sorry, not sorry?”

“That’s better. We need to go to bed.”

“Remember our deal,” she reminded him in a sing-song voice, as Kandomere scooped her up in his arms, easily standing up from the couch and carrying her back inside.

“Shut up.”

“Make me.”

“Careful.”

“So bossy.”

“What part of ‘shut up’ do you not understand?”

“What part of ‘make me’ don’t you?”

“Keep it up and we’re both taking a cold shower.”

“Not where I was expecting that to go…”

“I remember our deal.”

“Do you?” Topaz grinned when she felt the mattress under her and his weight half on top of her. Instead of answering her, Kandomere kissed her with enough passion it took all her words and thoughts away. She could get lost in that kiss forever, but she would settle for just that night. Her elf was home, which was all that mattered.

Chapter Text

Some days Topaz really wished she could have a do-over, just rewind the clock and start the day fresh and take back the things she had said and done. Unfortunately there were no rewinds, and she wasn’t even sure the outcome would be any different. The day had started out alright, with the usual teases from Genny about spending the night with Kandomere, and what her plans for the elf were now that the four weeks of their deal were almost up.

She’d brushed it off, saying she hadn’t even given it that much thought yet, when in truth it was all she thought about whenever she sat staring off into nothing. Kandomere had done his damnedest to prove he could keep his personal and professional life separated. No preferential treatment, no smiles or stolen glances, or inside jokes that Montehugh wouldn’t understand. He had proven himself, and that morning she had been leaning toward acceptance of her elf.

That was before the day truly got started though, with a series of events that quickly snowballed downhill and ended with her sitting on a hospital bed, watching an intern putting a cast on her almost healed and now freshly re-fractured wrist. Kandomere was in the hallway, pacing back and forth and snapping orders to whomever was on the other end of the line. She prayed it wasn’t Montehugh. It was not his fault, none of it was.

It all started with a cup of coffee and a gut feeling she just couldn’t shake. She was being watched, and not by Kandomere or Montehugh. She’d gotten used to the two of them keeping an eye on her, like at any moment she could go off the deep end or have a breakdown. Honestly, she was doing fine, but she found their concern a little endearing.

Her training and experience had taught her never to ignore a gut feeling though, and it had kick started a brainstorming session with her morning coffee in hand, sitting staring into nothing, like she often did on her first break. Having grown up in a group home, she had learned lots of clever tricks to protect her food and drink from being touched, spit on or eaten while she stepped out of the room.

Taking a paperclip, she balanced it on the edge in such a way, that when she put the note over her cup it stayed in place, but if you removed the paper without grabbing the clip, it would drop into the cup. There was always a chance that whomever was watching her, was not going to touch her coffee, or had seen her do the trick, but it was a chance she had to take.

Dropping some files off on Kandomere’s desk, she pretended to go on a bathroom break. She didn’t expect much, but when she came back to lift the note and the paperclip, she found that while the note had been placed back, the paperclip was gone. Her heart pounded in her chest as she grabbed a latex glove from her desk drawer, and an evidence bag, carefully placing the cup upright inside of it.

She explained the paperclip trick to the lab technician who was filling out a form as she spoke. When he asked her who the results should be sent to, she hesitated a moment before she gave him Montehugh’s name. He was after all the lead agent on the mole investigation and as much as she wanted to keep it quiet in case it was nothing, her gut told her to cover her own ass, and make sure this went through the proper channels.

Going back to work, she had almost managed to forget about the cup, when Montehugh called her to his desk. He was waving a file at her and giving her a questioning look. Sitting down on the corner of his desk, she explained the situation to him, and how whomever did it managed to avoid being caught on any cameras around her office. That was when Montehugh pointed to the laptop on his desk.

“I doubt he knows about this one.”

“You’ve had surveillance on me this entire time? Did you use me as bait?”

“It was my idea, when you were given the assignment. I was getting nowhere and I had a hunch that when they realized you were alive and going right back to doing what you did best, they would get bolder.”

Although she understood why he’d done it, Topaz didn’t like the fact she was made shark bait without her knowledge. While the fingerprints the lab had pulled off the cup all belonged to her and were just another dead end, the video on the laptop was just sharp enough for Topaz to recognize the back of the man that had grabbed her in the stairwell. Before Montehugh could warn her not to do anything rash, she was already moving.

Her steps hastened when she caught him entering his office, catching up to him right before he could turn to close his door and shoving him hard enough to have him stumbling into his desk.

“What the he-”

“You son of a bitch!”

At seeing the person that had shoved him, his eyes went wide for a moment, feigning shock. The act was quickly dropped however when Topaz didn’t react to it and he smirked.

“You know, I thought you’d be smarter than this… assaulting a fellow agent in his own office. You’ve really gone off the deep end this time, agent Bennett. The trauma of your torture clouding your judgment. You have no proof… your word against mine. My record is spotless, while yours… poor little orphan Topaz has quite a temper.”

“That’s where your wrong, and this is why they say pride comes before the fall.”

“Your bluff is cute, but let me give you a little advice. Get off the elf dick before you get him killed.”

She should’ve waited for Montehugh. She should’ve curbed her temper. Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. In hindsight it was always so easy to pinpoint exactly where she went wrong, but that didn’t help nor did it stop her fist from connecting with his face. She kept hitting, despite the pain in her wrist and her entire hand. It kept connecting to his face until it wasn’t recognizable under all the blood, and strong arms finally pulled her off.

With bewildered eyes she had looked at Montehugh, seeing his lips moving but the words not registering. He put her on her chair and that was where she had remained until Kandomere finally showed up to see the mess she’d made. He didn’t yell at her like she had expected him to, but he was short with the agents he was ordering around, so there would be an explosion of anger at some point.

The rest had been a blur of paramedics, questions from investigators and curious colleagues and finally the chief. He’d been more concerned about getting her hand and wrist checked out than the now deceased agent that turned out to be a mole. Her gut was telling her it was too easy, like they were being spoon fed this scapegoat. The chief ordered her to get medical attention and then rest, to which she could only answer with a yes, sir.

Now here she was, getting a cast put on while Kandomere took his anger out on everyone but the person he was really angry with. The intern got up, drawing her attention back to her arm. He was done and mentioning something about paperwork. While he stepped out, Kandomere finally stepped into the room. His eyes didn’t seem to focus on anything, his jacket was unbuttoned and he had a hand on his hip, the other was pinching his bottom lip as he paced back and forth.

“How much trouble am I in?”

“None. As far as the chief is concerned, it was you or him. He poisoned your coffee, and Montehugh found other plans on his personal computer. Case closed.”

“How convenient.”

Kandomere nodded his head. “Not here,” he warned her.

The nice nurse that had gotten her set up came in with her paperwork and a pen, asking her to put a signature in two places. Clumsily holding the pen in her left hand, she managed to put a scribble in both spots. She had practiced on it for weeks, with Genny scoring her attempts and being her cheerleader when she wanted to give up.

“Here’s your prescription, with one refill if needed, you know the drill, right?”

“Yes ma’am,” Topaz answered with a nod, not surprised when Kandomere pocketed the bottle of pills.

“Good, now try to stay out of trouble.”

“I can’t make any promises.” Topaz gave her a cheesy smile, making the nurse chuckle and shake her head as she greeted them with a wave and walked off. Hopping off the bed, Topaz could feel the ache of tension in her muscles now the adrenaline had worn off. Slow, deliberate steps got her down the hall until the sharp pains faded into dull aches.

Kandomere was quiet, suspiciously so, as they walked to the car. His phone rang twice, but he took it out of his pocket, glanced at it and rejected each. He had the resting bitch face going on, corners of his mouth drawn slightly down, his stare cold and distant, his posture rigid like someone had shoved a broom stick up his ass again.

Beware of the storm. A lecture is brewing.

They walked out of the hospital, but no yelling followed. Down to the parking garage they went, still no lecture followed. Even as she put on her seat belt, no lecture followed. It was eerily quiet, making her shift in her seat a little. Tension hung thick in the air, and his anger wasn’t bottled up as well as he probably thought it was. His hands jerked on the steering wheel and his foot leaned heavy on the accelerator.

Mustering the courage to speak, her voice sounded soft and very small to her own ears. “I wanna go home.”

Kandomere’s fingers wrapped tightly around the steering wheel, his knuckles turning white from the effort. An explosion was imminent, making her clasp her hands together soothingly rubbing the back of one hand with her thumb.

“What the hell were you thinking?!”

“Obviously, I wasn’t…” Topaz admitted and watched the road signs. Thankfully traffic wasn’t too heavy yet, because at this point she wouldn’t be surprised if Kandomere got an explosive case of road rage. “You missed the exit.”

“What if he had killed you, huh? What if he had tried again, and he’d killed you?”

“I know I should’ve waited for Montehugh,” Topaz answered, keeping the timid tone in her voice. Kandomere had a right to be angry, needed to voice it, but she could also hear the concern for her life and safety. “This man grabbed me, drugged me, and put me in a car knowing full well I was going to be tortured and killed. I reacted without thinking. I’m sorry…”

“Sorry for what?”

A quick sideways glance told her it was not a dismissive question, like she had nothing to be sorry for. He was actually waiting for her to elaborate on what actions exactly she felt a measure of remorse for. Taking in a deep breath of courage, she prayed he would accept it, as he missed yet another exit.

“I am sorry for disobeying your order to leave it alone,” she started. There was only silence in return as Kandomere ignored yet another exit and it became clear their definition of home was different.

“I am sorry for not informing you of my gut feeling, even though I did make sure Montehugh was informed of the results, whether they were wrong or right.” She didn’t go behind anyone’s back until she was sure, although Kandomere would probably argue she should have informed them before taking the cup to the lab, but that was a hornet’s nest she didn’t want to stick her hand in right now.

“I am sorry I didn’t wait for Montehugh make the arrest, though I am not sorry for giving that piece of shit the beating he deserved.” He had deserved so much more suffering, but he was gone now. She’d never have to face him again. “Most of all, I am sorry for disappointing you and making you worry.”

Silence. No answer came, no snarky comment, no ‘what else?’demand. Still, he was driving to his home, as even the road signs were now saying.

“Apology accepted.” He took the exit to elf town.

“I wanna go home.”

Her request was denied in silence as he easily weaved his way through traffic to the parking garage. She didn’t get out of the car when he did, remaining seated with her arms crossed over her chest as best as she could. After a few moments the passenger door opened and Kandomere offered out his hand.

She wasn’t going to win this one. Not right now. Releasing the seat belt, she swung her legs out of the car, and took his offered hand with her left, allowing him to help her out of the car, which he locked with a click of the key fob. A hand slipped to the small of her back, but it didn’t bring her comfort like it had before.

As soon as the front door closed behind them, Kandomere tried to pull her into a hug, but Topaz slipped away, putting distance between them, matching each step he took toward her with a step backward.

“Kandomere, what happened today, it was too easy. For months, maybe a year or more, this man operated right under all of our noses. He knew how to avoid the security cameras and manipulate them where needed. He knew how to manipulate the elevators and he managed to somehow sneak an unconscious woman out of a busy building.”

“Your point?” Both hands were on his hips now, and the annoyed look he was giving her might have been a challenge for her under different circumstances, but she couldn’t think of that with their current situation.

“Does that sound like a man who would suddenly poison my coffee, risking being seen by someone, which he was, and leaving a laptop full of damning evidence just laying about to be conveniently found?”

Kandomere shook his head and sighed, running a hand through his hair and rubbing the back of his neck.

“It’s too easy. If this is indeed our mole, he was set up to be executed. He’d served whatever purpose they needed and he’d become a liability.” Biting her bottom lip, Topaz debated if she should tell him about her gut feeling. Considering the outcome today, the answer was easy. “I think we have more than one mole.”

“Montehugh said the same thing.”

Kandomere was moving toward her again, making her take steps back, but she was running out of room to maneuver unless she changed direction now.

“Stop moving!”

The sudden angry outburst startled her long enough for Kandomere to close the distance between them, his hands gripping her hips as he pulled her against him and his arms wrapped around her to hug her close. Instead of returning the hug, she stood there, hands out, her shoulders pulled up and tightly together.

“Kandomere…”

“What did he say to you?”

“You were there when I talked to the chief. You know what he said.”

“Bullshit, something’s changed. You can’t even look at me. You’re retreating. What did he say to you, Topaz?”

“Nothing.” Pushing against his chest only made his grip on her stronger.

“I know this is not about us. I’ve kept my promise, I stuck to our deal. I think I have proven myself to you by now.”

“You have,” Topaz admitted and swallowed down a lump in her throat.

“Then what did he tell you?”

“Nothing.” Again, she tried to free herself from his embrace, but his hands just moved to grip her arms. “I just need to go home.”

“What. Did. He. Tell. You. Out with it, Topaz.”

“Please?” she begged him, but when he continued to stare her down, she had to look away. His hand cupped her chin, bringing her focus back to him.

“If you were truthful, and this is not about us, I need you to tell me what he said, Topaz. Tell me, right now.”

Her arms pulled in, her shoulders were still tightly bunched, and she could feel her extremities getting cold. She wanted to bolt, but more importantly, she needed to put distance between her and Kandomere if she wanted to get anything off her chest. Wrestling herself free, she took a few steps back.

Putting her hand up when Kandomere tried to come toward her and speak, she shook her head and straightened up, slowly feeling that invisible grip releasing her throat so she could speak. “He said that if we keep seeing each other, you are going to die.”

“That’s all?” Kandomere asked, both brows raised in surprise. His hands ran through his hair and he paced back and forth once. “You know he probably only said that to get a rise out of you.”

“It worked.”

The pacing stopped and his head slowly turned to look at her, and she could see the puzzle pieces falling into place. Again she swallowed hard, pushing the lump back down.

“He threatened your life and I reacted. So, you proved yourself,” she said and took another step back, even though he had taken none toward her. She had let her emotions rule her, and reacted in a way that scared her. It was only right to acknowledge and own that, wasn’t it? “And I failed.”

“By that logic we both failed.”

Try as she might, Topaz didn’t follow his train of thought. “How?”

“I killed Elanil because she threatened your life.”

“That was before.” Incredulously, Topaz shook her head. That was the best argument he could come up with? It wasn’t even a current issue.

“But I would do it again, and again,” Kandomere said, taking steps toward her. She was too focused on his words. If they were meant to be reassuring, they were having the opposite effect of what he intended. Having that kind of power over a person, such a strong emotional effect, it filled her with awe and fright. “Without hesitation, and without an ounce of regret, I would do it again, if it means you are safe.”

His hand caressing her cheek had her leaning in to his touch, only tensing up a little when his lips pressed against hers, before she melted into it and his embrace. It was soft and tender, leaving tears in her eyes by the time it broke. His eyes gazed longingly into hers, but Topaz couldn’t ignore that nagging feeling in the back of her mind. “What if it wasn’t just talk?”

Fingertips brushed over her cheeks as he considered her words, and straightened up. “You think it might be a viable threat?”

“I don’t want it to be, I really don't, but yes, I do.”

Kandomere nodded at her words, leaning in to rub his nose against hers, shifting to press a kiss to her lips followed by her forehead. “Then I will treat it as a viable threat."

“Promise me you’ll really take this seriously.”

“If I learned one thing from working with humans, it’s that gut instincts shouldn’t be ignored. Especially not when they’ve been proven right, many times.” Kandomere’s eyes rolled up to the ceiling when she kept giving him that begging look, pleading silently with him. “I promise.”

“Thank you,” she answered and standing on her tiptoes, she pressed a soft kiss to the corner of his mouth. Though she was relieved he was taking her seriously, Topaz felt that invisible hand of fear reaching into her chest and tightening around her heart.

"You should go lay down and rest. I will make a few phone calls, but I will check up on you in a little while.”

Without protest, Topaz walked into the bedroom, crawling on top of the covers, resting her head on the cool pillow and closed her eyes. All the ‘what if’ and ‘shoulda coulda woulda’ scenarios passed through her mind, causing her to shift, trying to find a more comfortable position while she listened to the distant melody of Kandomere’s voice talking on the phone. He was safe for now, they were safe, and that thought finally gave her enough comfort to drift off into unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

“Text from your boyfriend?” Genny asked, handing her a cup of coffee.

Topaz shook her head, putting her phone aside and nursing her cup. “Montehugh. Letting me know they’re going back to New Orleans.”

“Why does he have to text you that?”

Taking a deep breath, Topaz looked down at her coffee for a moment. She knew what she was about to say was going to upset her friend, and it was going to start a really long argument, but she’d been putting it off for the better part of the week, so she could prepare her counter arguments. She was surprised Genny hadn’t figured it out on her own by now.

“Because it is better he does.”

“What do you mean, it’s better? Did you and Kandomere have a fight?”

“There is no me and Kandomere, Gen.”

With a trembling hand, Genny put her coffee down and scooted closer on the couch, sitting sideways so she could look directly at her best friend. She looked like someone was about to tell her that her dog had been hit by a car, and didn’t survive.

“What do you mean? Did you guys break up?”

“Gen, we were never together.”

“That’s a lie. That is an absolute lie.”

Taking Genny’s hands in hers, she could feel them trembling, and tears were brimming her eyes as they looked at her, begging her to tell her it wasn’t true. She was crushing her hopes and breaking her heart, but she knew Genny would be alright. This was no different than her sobs over the love stories she watched on TV. A good cry, some chocolate and wine, a big hug, and she’d be alright in the morning.

“Love isn’t simple. It’s not all sunshine and puppy dogs and happily ever afters. It’s complicated, messy. Which is exactly why I avoided-” Topaz shook her head and corrected herself. “Why I ran from it for all these years.”

“And you’re doing it again! For what?”

“I am not running, Gen. Kandomere and I made the decision together. It’s better this way.”

Genny’s bottom lip jutted out and started trembling. Shifting so she could move closer, Topaz opened her arms and hugged her friend tight when she crawled in close, rubbing her back and running her fingers through her hair.

“But… you were my against all odds pair. Is it because he’s an elf? Is it the work thing? Is he a bad kisser? Did he want to have sex, but you weren’t ready? What?”

Try as she might, Topaz couldn’t hold back the little chuckle as her friend desperately grasped at straws to try and understand. To make some sense of something that couldn’t really be understood. Genny was someone who believed in happy endings, and who saw the good in people, even when no one else seemed to.

“I’m sorry I ruined your happy ending.”

“But he passed the test. He stuck to your deal.”

Brushing the tears from Genny’s cheeks, Topaz slowly shook her head. She wanted to promise Genny that everything would be okay, that there was still hope for her happy ending, but she couldn’t. “Neither of us passed the test, pumpkin, I’m sorry.”

“What do you mean?”

“He killed Elanil, and I killed agent Wilson.” They were facts, indisputable and frightening facts.

“But you did it to protect each other.”

“That doesn’t make it right, Genny.” This was much harder to do face to face than all the times she had practiced it in her mind. Seeing the pain, confusion, the hope fading from her friend’s eyes, it was disheartening. She’d come this far though, she had to see it through. “This is not the movies, this is reality, and it’s not romantic. It’s quite scary.”

“How is it scary?”

“To have such power over someone, to invoke such strong emotions, that they are willing to kill another person to protect you. That’s scary territory.”

“But you were both cleared.”

“We were excused because the people we killed weren’t good people. That doesn’t make what we did okay, Gen.”

Sitting quietly, Genny was chewing on the inside of her cheek as she stared down at the floor, but Topaz could tell she wasn’t really looking at anything. Her friend had retreated into her mind and by now she had learned it was best to let her go on that journey and return from it on her own, instead of shaking her until she snapped out of it.

When it didn’t seem like Genny was going to return on her own, Topaz gently took one of her hands and rubbed her thumb over the back of it. A soft reminder of where she was and who was with her. It worked better than the shaking.

“You think agent Wilson’s threat was serious?”

The question stumped her for a moment, and Topaz stammered a little as she tried to catch up to where Genny’s mind had run off to. “I’m not sure,” she answered honestly. “It’s entirely possible no one’s going to kill Kandomere, because agent Wilson never said as much. He said that if I didn’t stop seeing Kandomere he was going to die.”

“But if no one is going to kill him, then how would he die?”

“His feelings for me have already driven him to take a risk and kill someone once,” Topaz said, circling back to the topic they’d been on before Genny zoned and her mind leaped around.  “What if he tries again? What if it’s not that easy this time and he ends up drawing the short straw instead?”

Quietly chewing on her cheek again, Genny didn’t pull her hand back, but instead gave it a squeeze like she was trying to make sure it was real. “I wanted a happy ending for you so bad.”

“I know you did. It just isn’t the right time. It might never be, but I learned from it.”

“What did you learn? That love sucks?”

“My taste in men doesn’t always suck.”

The comment got a half smile and a little chuckle out of Genny. It was a start and it gave Topaz hope she’d bounce back from this quickly. Anyone else might have thought it nuts that she was comforting her friend when she wasn’t the one in the relationship that ended, but they just didn’t understand Genny. She invested in people, and her heart was way too big for this world.

“I think we should watch a comedy instead of this sappy stuff you picked out. Something to lift our spirits.”

Taking the remote away from Genny before she could protest, she browsed through the options until she found something decent to watch, hoping it would take both their minds off the conversation. For a while it seemed to work, and they were able to laugh at the little things and lame predictable jokes. Topaz had good hope that the conversation was over and things would be back to normal soon.

They were shutting down and cleaning up before bed, when Genny suddenly turned to her, a frown on her face. “Did you give him back his key?”

The question made Topaz do a head tilt, wondering where that came from. “Not yet.”

“Don’t. I know you think I am just a hopeless romantic, but trust me on this one. Don’t give him back the key. Not yet. Please?”

“Why is it so important to you?”

“There is a big chance he doesn’t think it’s over, that he’s like me, holding on to hope that things will work out and you can pick up where you left off. If you give him back his key, it will crush his hopes. I’ve seen people do really stupid things when they think all hope is gone. So please, keep the key. At least for a little while.”

Topaz didn’t have any counter argument, because there was none. If it made Genny feel better, then why not? It was just a key. “Okay.”

“Thank you.”

Genny squeezed her in a hug so tight, Topaz grimaced a little and flailed her arms. “Tazzy can’t breathe,” she gasped and chuckled when she was released and got an eye roll. Leaning over she pressed a kiss to her friend’s cheek. “You’re a good friend, Genny. It’s a shame he’ll never known that because you still turn into a blubbering fool when you see him.”

“Shush you. I am with Mark, only Mark makes me blubber now.”

“Whatever you say, pumpkin.”

They said good night, and went into their separate rooms. Once the door was closed, Topaz leaned against it and closed her eyes, rubbing her face with her good hand. She felt horrible, but not for the reasons Genny would probably think. Grabbing her laptop, she made sure it was hooked up to the charge cord as she sat on the bed, propping herself up against the head board with pillows in her back.

Filling in her password, she started up the program that Montehugh had installed for her and filled in the information he had texted her. Hitting the connect button, she waited, impatiently chewing on her thumb nail. For the longest time nothing happened and she wondered if maybe she put the information in wrong, but then a small screen popped up.

Jackass connected.

Slapping a hand over her mouth she kept from laughing out loud at the choice of nickname Montehugh had given him.

Jackass: did you tell her?

Her face fell at the question. Typing in her response, she hit enter and shook her head at the handle that appeared before her answer. “Really, Montehugh?”

Smartass: I don’t like this. Not one bit.

Jackass: I know. I’m sorry. It’s better this way.

Smartass: I just lied to my best friend. 
Smartass: I am a despicable human being.

Jackass: You’re keeping her safe.

Smartass: Am I?

Jackass: I will make it right.

Smartass: You better.
Smartass: And quickly

Jackass: I am doing my best. Go get some sleep.

Smartass: That ain’t happening. I lied to her face.

Jackass: Try.

Smartass: Not making any promises

Jackass: I will get Montehugh to fix these handles.

Smartass: Why? They suit us.
Smartass: Yours does anyway.

Jackass: Good night.

Smartass: Good night.

Jackass: I love you

Her fingers hovered over the keys in hesitation.

Smartass: I miss you

After hitting enter, she closed the program, slammed her laptop shut, dropping it on the bed beside her as she curled up in the fetal position with her pillow clutched to her like a shield. Silent tears were rolling onto her pillow and her hands gripped her shield so tightly her knuckles turned white.

Love sucked.

Chapter Text

Topaz flopped down into a chair with her sandwich, after setting her coffee on the table. Lunch break was now the highlight of her day, and even that was boring, since Genny was visiting her parents. “You know why I joined the FBI?”

Montehugh briefly looked up from what he was doing to grab his cup and take a sip only to make a face and push the cup away. “I don’t, but I am pretty sure you’re about to tell me.”

“I wanted to catch bad guys. I wanted to make a difference,” Topaz answered and let out a theatrical sigh. “I definitely didn’t sign up to shuffle paperwork all day. If that had been my goal, I would have become a secretary or a librarian. At this point a librarian’s job is looking pretty adventurous.”

“As long as you have that cast on your arm, a papercut is the most exciting thing that’s gonna happen to you.”

“I know, and it sucks.”

Topaz looked down at the dark blue colored cast on her arm. She had managed to resist drawing on it only because she couldn’t really hold a marker well enough in her left hand. She was stuck with it for at least three more weeks and she didn’t even want to think about the physical therapy.

“You know what else sucks? I got my name put on the door of my office today, and I can’t even rub his nose in it.”

“You’ll be back to aggravating our boss in no time.”

“I doubt it.”

Munching on her sandwich she pulled the stack of files toward her and flipped one open, surprised to find personnel files. Glancing at the rest, all of them turned out to be personnel files, and none of the faces looked familiar, at least at first glance. “What are these? My possible replacements?”

“No.”

Looking through them again, this time taking the time to read each file she noticed they were all agents with backgrounds in computer science. “If you’re looking for a tech nerd, why isn’t Genny in this pile?”

“Because I am not looking for a tech nerd either.”

Their eyes met over the top of the file, and the pointed look Montehugh gave her had her thinking and looking down at the file again. These were not files of possible replacements or additions, Montehugh was trying to figure out if there was another mole. “Oh. Gotcha.”

“Any of them look familiar?”

Topaz shook her head as she closed one file and picked up another. At first glance nothing stood out about this one either, but the longer she stared at his photo, the more she felt like she had seen him before. Putting his file aside, she went through the rest of them, sipping her coffee and munching on her sandwich.

After she was done looking through the rest, she flipped open the one she had put aside again and something clicked. “This one,” she said, getting Montehugh’s attention. “You remember that day the chief made our day by sending Kandomere home? I was just getting ready to leave, and he showed up at my desk needing signatures from him for some travel things I think. Which seems odd now, because he doesn’t work in any related department.”

At Montehugh’s urging, she pushed the file across the table to him. He started to type away on his laptop, the tapping of the keys the only sound for a moment. The way his brows pulled together and his eyes narrowed at what he was reading, he looked like a man on a mission. She had found him a bread crumb.

“You want a little more excitement in your day?”

“If I say yes and you have me fetch you a snack or coffee, I will spit in it,” she warned Montehugh.

Montehugh ignored her warning, writing something down on a note, which he slid in her direction. “I was supposed to pick our boss up, but with this new lead you’ve given me, I am going to be very busy, so this is me delegating.”

Topaz looked at the note. Kandomere was at a local college? Was he guest lecturing? Under different circumstances she would jump at the chance to watch him try to enthuse or teach some college students. “As much as I would love to see him trying to handle an auditorium full of college students, I don’t think it’s a good idea. You know…”

“Bennett.” The tone in Montehugh’s voice changed and the look he gave her made her close her mouth and bite back her protests. Reaching in his pocket, he took out a set of keys and tossed them to her. “Go get our boss, that’s an order.”

Catching them, Topaz realized they were the keys to Kandomere’s car and swallowed. “Are you-”

“Now, Bennett. Don’t make him wait.”

“Yes, sir…”

Montehugh was entirely too adamant that she left, which meant only one thing, her bread crumb was producing a real lead and he didn’t want to risk having her around if her lead produced an actual suspect. She couldn’t blame him for his caution, so she was going to do as she was told.

Sticking to all the speed limits religiously, and avoiding most problem situations by taking a detour, Topaz arrived at the college with time to spare and not a scratch on the car. Asking one of the students for directions, she quietly slipped into the back of the auditorium and sat down to watch him.

Kandomere was wearing glasses, which she knew had to be for show, because she had never seen him need glasses to read close up or see far. One simple accessory changed up his look enough that he didn’t look as menacing, and he’d taken his jacket off, giving an air of comfort and confidence. It actually worked, as she watched students take notes.

Sitting forward, resting her elbows on her knees, she shamelessly stared at him, watching his hands move as he spoke, animated, and passionate. He embraced his job, even though it was supposed to be far beneath an elf, and his passion was rubbing off on some of the students. They were engaged and asking questions. He looked far from his usual distant and arrogant self.

With FBI recruitment pamphlets in hand, he ended his lecture by thanking everyone for their time and questions and started handing them out to those willing. A few girls stared, whispered and giggled, one girl even blushed as she accepted a pamphlet, unable to look Kandomere in the eye. Biting her bottom lip Topaz kept from chuckling. She waited for the auditorium to clear, before she got up and came down the steps to approach him.

“Where’s Montehugh?” Kandomere asked her before he had even looked in her direction. Putting on his jacket after putting the rest of the pamphlets in his suitcase, Kandomere fished out his phone to check his messages.

“Busy,” she answered, keeping a more than respectful distance, watching the last students leave. “I think he sent me away because I might have given him a lead on our mole and he didn’t want a repeat of what happened with agent Wilson.”

Kandomere nodded and held out his hand. “Keys.”

“Manners,” Topaz answered him, but when he didn’t look like he was going to use them, she held up his car keys for him to take. “One of these days I will get you to use your manners. Human manners, not elf ones.”

Grabbing the hand with the keys, Kandomere pulled her to him, and she felt his arm slip around her waist, her hands coming up to brace against his chest as he pulled her into a kiss full of want and tenderness that left her blinking away tears when it broke.

Taking a moment to gather her composure, Topaz shook her head and turned to walk to the exit. “Please don’t do that again.”

Walking with him to the car, she kept some distance between them, more than she normally would, and her arms crossed over her chest, nails tapping her cast. It was hard to see him, to talk to him and be this close to him, especially after that kiss.

Since they had decided on that stupid plan to act like she’d been benched and dumped, she’d had to lie to her best friend and console her, she hardly slept, and the frustration of being benched was no longer an act she put on.

When they got to the car, Kandomere tried to approach her again, but she took a step back. “Not a good idea. We don’t know if anyone is watching.”

With a face like someone just pissed in her cereal, she slipped into the passenger seat, and had to bite the inside of her cheek to hide her amusement when Kandomere hit his knees on the dashboard, before pushing the seat back.

“I’m gonna drop you off at home. You shouldn’t be at the office right now.”

“I think it’s a load of bull, but I will do as I’m told,” Topaz answered with a deep sigh and stared out the window as he drove.

Part of her wanted so desperately for him to take her to elf town, but she knew that wasn’t going to happen. They had a plan, they needed to stick to it, especially since she’d lied to Genny to keep her safe and help sell the lie. The silence wasn’t helping though.

“You looked different, even more so than usual. I’m not just talking about the glasses either, though they’re a nice touch. Real hit with the ladies too.” She grinned at remembering the female students and how they had blushed and whispered to each other in hushed voices as they walked away.

“It’s difficult to sell people on the idea of joining the FBI if I’m scaring them.”

“I’m surprised you would even agree to do something like this. Public speaking, talking about the specifics and selling the FBI to a bunch of human students.” Topaz looked at him, studying his face. There was one question she had been curious to ask since she had met him, but for some reason had never brought up in conversation before. Now was the perfect time though.

“What made you join the FBI? I mean, it’s not exactly a popular choice for elves.” There were a few elves in the FBI, but she could count the ones she knew about on the fingers of one hand.

“I’ve never been known to do what’s popular,” Kandomere answered, glancing in her direction. “I prefer choosing my own path.”

“You mean to say, you’ve been stubborn as a mule your entire life?” Topaz asked, putting a hand over her heart, gasping in feigned shock. It felt good to finally be able to mock him, even if it was just for the duration of the car ride. “Say it ain’t so!”

Kandomere glanced in her direction, his face void of emotion, but his eyes gave him away. He hadn’t missed her mockery at all. Turning his attention back ahead, he relaxed and continued.

“Humans and orcs do not have a monopoly on criminal behavior, it happens across all races, and when it involves magic, it’s even worse. I felt I needed to do something other than ignore it and make money, and I knew the only way I could make a difference was to join the unpopular side.”

“So you did.” Law enforcement wasn’t very popular among the foster kids and school peers she grew up with either, but Topaz knew what she wanted early on, and wasn’t going to be swayed by peer pressure. “I wanted to be a cop when I was little. So I could stop assholes like my dad from harming people. A guest lecture from a Federal agent made me rethink my goals. It made me want to do more. Who knows, maybe you made one of those students today rethink his or her goals too.”

“It’s possible, but even if I didn’t, it’s a good reminder from time to time of why I do this job. It was a nice surprise to see you there,” Kandomere answered and reaching out, placed a hand on her thigh, giving it a little squeeze.

“It was interesting to see that side of you, but it wasn’t my choice that brought me there. I was sent away, just like you are about to send me away again.” Chewing on her bottom lip, she gazed out the window and realized with dread that she was almost home. It was strange how things could change so much in just a few months.  

“Montehugh said he got the lead from you over lunch. Is that true?” Kandomere asked.

“You mean, was it truly just a right place, right time kind of thing, or did I purposely try to insert myself into the investigation?” Taking his hand, she removed it from her thigh and scooted a little more toward the window. She’d known him long enough to know his insinuations. “Genny’s visiting her parents. I was alone and bored for lunch, so I sat with Montehugh for company.”

“And you just happened to give him a lead?”

“Right time, right place. I just answered a question, remembered an interaction, and left to pick you up like he told me to. That’s it. That’s the entire story,” she defended herself, surprised when the central door locks engaged as soon as Kandomere pulled up to the curb. A brow rose and her head turned slowly.

“I can’t let you leave angry.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t piss me off right before arriving at our destination then. Or, here’s a novel idea, fucking trust me for once, instead of questioning my motives at every turn.” She could understand Montehugh’s distrust, because he didn’t know her as well as Kandomere supposedly did.

Her hand remained on the door, but they remained locked. The only click she heard, was the sound of him unhooking his seat belt, followed by the feeling of his hand slipping to the back of her neck. She resisted his pull toward him, but her will was weak, and eventually she caved, melting into the kiss he pressed to her lips.

When he finally released her lips so she could catch her breath, his fingertips caressed her cheek, and the look in his eyes was softer. This was her Kandomere looking at her, the role of boss dropped completely. “You’re right. I should trust you.”

“You should,” Topaz answered between soft nips at her lips. Their noses rubbed together, their lips hovered and she wanted nothing more than to lose herself in another kiss. “Could you repeat the part about me being right. I think I need to hear it again.”

“Shut up,” Kandomere mumbled, and deepened the kiss again, forcefully and passionately, drawing out little sounds from her against his mouth, and stirring that want to have him closer, with far less clothes between them. He left her lips swollen by the time the kiss broke. “I could stay, for a little while.”

Every fiber of her being wanted to say yes, but despite his best efforts, he couldn’t stop her rational mind from overruling her heart and her lizard brain. Damn rational thought, always ruining good things. “You need to go back to the office and help Montehugh with that lead, because I am not sure how much longer I can do this. I want this to be over and for that to happen, I need to let you go and do your job.”

Kandomere sighed and eased his grip on her neck. He brushed the back of his fingers along her jaw and tapped her chin with a fingertip. His phone beeped, making him finally sit back and take it out to look at it. His demeanor changed immediately, as he slipped back into boss mode, hitting the button to release the door locks. “I need to go.”

“Did Montehugh find something?” she asked, but Kandomere was no longer her friend, he was her boss, and as her boss, they had an agreement to not discuss current ongoing investigations until further notice. “Right… thanks for dropping me off.” Pushing the door open with a little more attitude than she probably should’ve, she got out.

“Topaz,” Kandomere said, using her name to get her attention and an annoyed look. “Tonight. I will talk to you tonight. Usual time.”

“Go,” she answered, making a shooing motion with both hands. Heading up to the front door, she patted her pockets to determine which pocket her keys were in, slipping in the door when someone held it open for her. Her annoyance, although outwardly directed at Kandomere, wasn’t with him. She hated being sidelined, and the way Kandomere reacted to that text he got, meant something was happening, something she couldn’t be a part of until after the fact. That was what really annoyed her.

Bumping the door closed behind her with her hip, she let out a growl, kicking her shoes across the room toward her bedroom door. “This sucks!” she exclaimed to the empty apartment, tossing her coat on the empty chair and dropping down on the couch. Grabbing one of the throw pillows, she buried her face into it and screamed until her anger made room for tears.

Chapter Text

Genny knew she was a hopeless romantic, but in a world where bad things were so easy to find, she needed to believe in the good, love and happy endings. She watched romantic movies although they didn’t even remotely resemble true life, swooned over the perfect relationships, and if she saw even a spark of it in the world around her, she magnified it, and believed in it with all her heart.

Even living with Topaz, who picked apart and made fun of every movie she watched and adored, couldn’t dissuade her from believing in happy endings. Genny knew she was only reacting out of fear, a crippling and not unfounded fear, which made her pray even harder for a happy ending for her friend. A happy ending that seemed further away now than it ever had. All the great love stories had big hurdles to overcome though.

Topaz had been so adamant that their love was done, and the way the two avoided each other at work didn’t give Genny much hope, but she wasn’t giving up. Her friend had never said she didn’t love Kandomere, just that it sometimes love wasn’t enough. What if it was though? What if that love persisted and they found a way? She just had to find ways to remind Topaz of that love.

Pouring out two cups of coffee, she brought them over to the coffee table, just as Topaz returned from the bedroom. She had received a call and excused herself from the room, which made Genny wonder. Topaz didn’t usually hide phone calls from her, not even work related ones. Curling up in her favorite chair, Genny regarded her friend, who looked fidgety and worried.

Topaz sat down in her usual corner on the couch, but instead of folding her legs underneath her, she sat on the edge of the seat, as if she was preparing to bolt. “I need to tell you something and I need a ride.”

“Okay,” Genny answered, tilting her view as if that could somehow make her understand her friend better. “Why that worried look? What’s wrong?”

“I worry that after I tell you what I have to say, you won’t want to give me that ride, which I will totally understand. You’d have every right to.” Topaz was rambling, which was not something she was used to from her friend. Usually she exuded so much confidence and it was Genny who rambled, stuttered and blushed her way through conversations.

Giving her friend a little reassuring smile, she sat back like she wasn’t worried about what she was about to hear. Until she knew what it was she had to say, there was no use in speculating about her own response. “How about you tell me first and we will worry about that bridge if we come to it.”

“Alright.” Topaz took a deep breath and for the first time ever, she actually looked nervous, fidgeting with the hem on her blouse, biting on her bottom lip and wiggling in her spot on the couch. Genny had never seen her this wound up. “I lied to you, but it was to protect you, and I was following orders, but I feel like a horrible human being because you deserve so much better.”

Genny raised a brow, then both brows when Topaz looked down, unable to keep eye contact. Was her friend really feeling guilt and shame? The woman who called her boss a jackass in public, shamelessly talked about her sex life and danced around the living room in her underwear with a brush for a microphone. That woman was feeling shame over a lie? “Lied about what?”

Tucking a stubborn lock of hair behind her ear, Topaz remained looking down, fidgeting with the blouse. “About the break up.”

Genny could already feel her hope rising, her mood lifting and her excitement growing, but she didn’t want to celebrate before she had confirmation of what she already suspected. “You didn’t break up?”

“What agent Wilson said, it was reason enough to assume that there was someone else watching us, that the threat wasn’t over. I know you, you can’t tell a lie to save your life, and Kandomere didn’t want to put either of us in jeopardy, so I convinced you we were through and I got benched from the task force.”

“I knew it!” Jumping up from her chair, Genny tackled her friend in a hug on the couch, drawing chuckles and groans from her. Even though Topaz very convincingly told her that they were done, Genny knew that a love as strong as theirs wouldn’t just die because they had decided it was too complicated.

“Genny, I can’t breathe,” Topaz joked.

“Oh you’re fine. You’ll live,” she answered and sat back, unable to wipe the grin from her face no matter how hard she tried. This was just going to be her face now. With the amount of guilt her friend was feeling, Genny had expected more from the ‘lie’, but the break up being the lie was actually a relief. “Do you need me to drop you off in Elf Town?”

Topaz shook her head and straightened up. “That phone call was Montehugh. They’re about to take out the mole, and shut down an Inferni operation at the same time. He was wondering if I wanted to witness the end of my exile. I can’t participate, but I can watch… if you can give me a ride there, because I don’t think I can drive right now.”

Genny continued to smile at her friend. She didn’t appreciate being lied to, but she also couldn’t convincingly tell a lie if the world depended on it. Under different circumstances, she’d have been upset with her friend for misleading her, but the happiness of knowing the break up was a lie far outweighed any bad feelings.

“Genny?” Topaz waved a hand in front of her face to get her attention.

Snapping out of it, Genny visibly jumped a little. “Oh yes, of course!” After running around like a headless chicken, she got herself together enough to have her shoes on, and her keys and phone with her. At the door, Topaz stopped her by putting both hands on her shoulders, forcing her to slow down her roll and look at her.

“I’m sorry I lied to you,” Topaz said, and there was so much guilt in her friend’s eyes, that the urge to hug her stuffing out was near overwhelming. “Are we okay?”

Instead of answering her, Genny gave in to the urge, hugging her friend tightly, feeling herself relax when Topaz returned the hug with the same intensity. “We’re good,” she promised her, and feeling her excitement growing again, she chuckled when Topaz held the door open and shooed her out the door first.

Aside from giving occasional directions, Topaz was sitting quietly staring out the window, fingers picking at her clothes and her cast. The tension she exuded was so tangible that Genny had to roll her head on her shoulders and shake her shoulders loose a few times, easing her grip on the steering wheel to get rid of the tension in herself.

She had no idea what was going through her friend’s mind, but she knew work was in there somewhere. Being benched and bored shuffling paperwork had been all she had complained about. Of course now Genny knew about the rest, she had a feeling her friend had been overselling the work related part because she couldn’t complain about not being with Kandomere.

As she took the last turn, they were flagged down by an officer, and she parked along the curb. Topaz was immediately out of the car, before the officer shone his flashlight into the driver’s window and took a step back when Topaz approached him. She had her credentials out, and Genny got out of the car just in time to hear her asking for agent Montehugh.

“Yes, ma’am. He’s by the first big truck,” the officer answered.

Pressing the radio on his shoulder, Genny heard him mumble something into it. Whatever it was, the officers that stood by the road block stepped aside to let them through when they approached, and it wasn’t difficult to spot the big, burly man barking orders. Her eyes scanned the crowd in search of the blue-haired elf, and when she glanced at Topaz, she caught her doing the same.

While Montehugh talked shop with her friend, Genny looked around. There were a lot of people in riot gear, receiving orders and going over strategies in teams. This was a really big operation, and the enormity of it hit Genny all at once. Would the elf be in danger? Could this be one of those hurdles they were going to have to overcome? Clutching her necklace, she messed with the pendant, as she prayed for a good outcome.

“Evening, Genny. You ever been up to close to one of these operations?”

Montehugh’s voice startled her a little, and she shook her head, craning her neck to be able to look up at the man. “I’m the mousy girl who hides behind her computer screen remember? It makes me nervous, to be honest.”

“Hang out back here with us, nothing will happen to you, I promise. If all goes well, we go in, round them up, put them in cuffs and take them away to be processed.”

“And what if it doesn’t go well?” Genny asked, a worry frown creasing her forehead. “I know we’ll be safe, but what about you and Kandomere?”

Montehugh gave her a smile and a ruffled her hair. “Don’t worry about it. I got a feeling you’ll get your happy ending.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, sir,” Genny joked back, needing to lighten the mood so worry wouldn’t settle in. Things were going to go smoothly, the mole will be gone and things at work would return to normal so she could go back to annoying her friend by swooning over how wonderful their love story was.

A wave of radio chatter went by and suddenly everyone was moving. Searching around, Genny felt relief when Topaz came toward her, wrapping an arm around each other as they stood there watching everyone springing into action. “They wouldn’t let me stay near the monitors, because the urge to jump into the fray might become too strong to resist.”

“Good, last thing we need is you trying to be a hero.” Wrapping her arm a little tighter around her friend she gave her a little squeeze. She was wound tight, and although Genny had no idea what it was like to work in the field, she could imagine that watching her partners charging in while she was stuck on the sidelines, wasn’t easy. Knowing that once they completed this mission, nothing would be standing in her way to resume her work with the task force could only increase that tension, but Genny hoped some of that tension was reserved for her elf.

“He’s gonna be okay,” she reassured her friend.

“He better,” Topaz answered, her lips pressing together to form a thin line.

“How do you do this all the time?”

“It’s only a small part of the job, but it requires a lot of training. Not everyone is cut out to be out in the field like this, and that’s okay, because we need them to be able to do our job.”

Genny smiled a little. Leave it to Topaz to selflessly comfort and support her in a moment when she should be getting the comfort and support herself. It was one of the many reasons she adored her friend. Despite her baggage, all the things that happened to her, she never lost her compassion, even though she would never admit that herself.

“You know, if I hadn’t met you, I would still be hiding behind my computer screen and silently pining for that elf.”

A frown creased her forehead as Topaz turned to look at Genny, her eyebrows simultaneously going up and drawing down, creating a funny face. Genny was fully expecting the ‘where is that coming from?’ question. “Girl, there was nothing silent about your pining.”

She had trouble hiding her surprise and her instinctive reaction to defend herself at the comment. “That is not true.”

“You whimper during your movies the moment the woman sees her love interest for the first time, which is the same whimper you made every time Kandomere walked by, or I even mentioned his name.”

Genny could feel the heat rising to her cheeks and was thoroughly thankful for the cover of darkness. The sky lit up with flashing lights of police cars and ambulances if she had to take a guess, and popping sounds made her jolt a little. They weren’t on this street though. “Why are the lights all the way over there?”

“Because the compound is one street down. They blocked off the street on both sides, Kandomere is on the other side overseeing things and Montehugh is here. C’mere, I’ll show you.” Taking her hand, Topaz pulled Genny with her to the large truck she’d been in before joining her, walking up the steps.

Genny’s eyes went wide at all the monitors as Topaz stepped aside to let Genny take the empty seat. There were dozens of monitors, all with different images. Body cameras, as one of the agents watching them explained. Radio chatter was coming from their headsets, but it was unintelligible to her ears.

Topaz watched Genny’s amazement at all the monitors and the immensity of the operation. With her friend by her side, the agents forgot about their objections to her presence in the truck, which was part of the reason. She couldn’t watch and not see anything from a distance. She needed to know what was going on. This way, she got to keep an eye on the monitors, and show Genny part of her job.

“Seven suspects secured and removed from the premises,” one of the agents said and pointed to the monitor that was displaying information about the arrests. Jonas Strait, the one she had picked out of Montehugh’s pile of files, was among them. He had been right under her nose, hiding in plain sight the entire time and her spidey senses had remained silent.

Her gaze went to one of the monitors when she spotted a familiar figure. He was wearing a vest for once, but it was unmistakably Kandomere. Intensely she stared, trying to make out what he was doing. Why weren’t they arresting the guy or just shooting him? Searching for a different angle, she found another angle and her eyes went wide. “Is that a… Shit!”

“Agent Bennett!”

Topaz was already down the steps when the explosion happened, and she felt the shock of it even as far from the blast as she was. Her feet were moving fast, as she sprinted down the alley, ignoring the calls from behind, and pushing aside an agent who tried to stop her.

The closer she got, the worse it became. First there was only smoke, but now she could see flames shooting out of blown out windows, licking at the walls, and touching the roof, which was starting to catch fire as well. Adrenaline was rushing through her veins, easily making her dodge another agent trying to stop her, this one in riot gear.

It wasn’t until Montehugh stepped in, catching her around the waist and picking her up like she weighed nothing, that her run was halted. “No, let me go!” she was screaming and squirming in his grasp, tears rolling down her cheeks, but Montehugh wouldn’t budge. He held her as she cried and screamed.

Genny caught up to them, panting and looking at the smoking, burning building in horror. She muttered something under her breath that couldn’t be heard over the screaming Topaz was still doing. Montehugh wasn’t going to budge though, and finally she gave in to the tears. All this time and effort couldn’t end this way. The world was cruel, but did it really have to be that cruel?

She went still when some agents in riot gear came out of the building, dragging a man between them in cuffs. He was grinning and laughing, spitting at the two men holding him up. There was no sign of Kandomere and her heart began to sink, until behind them, more agents appeared.

She couldn’t tell who they were, as thick dark smoke billowed out of the building and a secondary explosion made Montehugh turn around, but radio chatter from somewhere nearby caught her attention. “All operatives accounted for. Building cleared.”

“Oh thank god!” Genny exclaimed, and hugged Topaz when Montehugh finally put her back on her feet, though hesitated releasing her until he was sure she could stand. Her eyes searched around, but it was difficult to see with all the smoke, and finally they were forced to move upwind, despite not wanting to move until she knew Kandomere was okay or where he even was.

A hand between her shoulders urged her to move and when Topaz looked up at Montehugh, he was pointing at something. Her gaze followed where his finger was pointing, and an audible gasp escaped her. Sitting on the back of an ambulance, with an oxygen mask over his face, covered in soot, and a cut on his forehead but looking otherwise unharmed was Kandomere. Impatiently pushing her way by a group of people, she moved faster as she got closer to the ambulance.

Kandomere spotted her, and opened his arms. In an instant she was there, hugging him tight and crying, while his hand stroked her hair in a comforting gesture. Slowly gathering her composure, she wiped away the tears, and straightened herself out. “You stink,” she said.

The EMT who had been fussing around in her rig came over and cleaned Kandomere’s forehead, sticking two butterfly stitches over the cut when she was done and gave Topaz a reassuring smile. “He didn’t inhale much smoke, and aside from the cut, he checked out. You’ll be able to take him home soon.”

“Thank you,” Topaz answered with a little wry smile because she knew Kandomere long enough to know he wasn’t going home until everyone was processed and interrogated where needed. He would probably end up pulling an all-nighter.

“Topaz.”

Her attention went to Kandomere, who had pulled the mask from his soot smudged face. She glared at him, angry that he had given her such a scare. It felt worse being on the other side of the situation, than when she’d been the one in the hospital bed. He had done this to her, caused those feelings, making her lose her mind.

“You’re an asshole, you know that?”

“I know.”

“You’re sure he’s okay?” she asked and when the EMT assured her she had given him a thorough check up, she balled her left hand into a fist and punched him in the shoulder a few times. It wasn’t as effective or painful as her right would have been, but it got the message across. When she went to punch him once more for good measure, Kandomere grabbed her wrist.

“Topaz. You can be mad at me later. I need you to do something for me.”

Pulling her wrist free, she glared at him. She knew what he was about to ask, because he was covered in soot, as was his suit, he smelled like he’d just slid down a chimney while there was a fire going in the fireplace and he wanted to oversee the rest of the operation, which meant he couldn’t leave. “You want me to get you clean clothes.”

“Yes, but also this.” Reaching out, his hands gripped her hips, pulling her in close as a soot covered hand slipped into her hair and he pulled her into a kiss. He’d never publicly kissed her and frankly she didn’t think he was the type, but she wasn’t going to complain right then. “I’ll let you be mad at me all you want later, okay?”

“How generous of you, and thank you so much for making me smell like chimney too. Jackass.”

“Go get me my clothes. Smartass.”

Topaz tilted her head, but didn’t move a muscle.

“Go get me my clothes, please.”

“Okay. One last question though. Is it over?” Topaz asked, giving him a pleading look. She really needed this to be the end of her nightmare, at least the current one, until a new headache of a case presented itself.

“Our plan succeeded.” Kandomere nodded.

It wasn’t exactly the answer she was looking for, but it was comfort enough for now to let it slide. “Will I be briefed, in full?”

“First thing tomorrow, I promise.”

“I’ll go get you those clothes.”

Chapter Text

Stepping off the elevator, Topaz fished her keys out of her pocket and paused at the door. Genny had begged her not to give the key back. It was still baffling that one piece of metal shaped in such a way it opened a lock could have such an emotional impact. It was just a key, right? Now she was looking at it, and she felt the weight of it in her heart more than in her hand.

This key didn’t just unlock any door, it unlocked the door to Kandomere’s sanctuary, the one place where he could be himself without any judgment or justification for who he was. He had given her the key to that sanctuary, and she was finally beginning to understand what that meant.

Shaking her shoulders loose, she straightened her back, slipping the key into the lock to open the door. Familiar music was playing in the living room, which made her smile as she dropped her bag, took off her shoes, and wandered out into the apartment while shrugging off her jacket.

“There you are.”

Topaz rose a brow as Kandomere came toward her, holding up an apron. He waited for her to finish taking off her jacket before he hung it around her neck and took the jacket from her, draping it over a chair. Wrapping his arms around her, his kiss was both a greeting and a distraction. When he stepped back, the apron was fastened around her waist. It matched his.

“What’s going on?”

“Cooking.”

“I can see that. I mean with you. I was stuck in briefings with the chief all afternoon, and I come out only to find you’d already left for the day. You never leave early unless someone makes you.”

“Did Montehugh drop you off like I asked him to?” Kandomere asked as he lifted a lid on a pot to check on something. When he jabbed into it with a fork she assumed he was boiling potatoes or vegetables.

“Yes…” her voice trailed off as he gestured for her to join him. He took a glass down from the rack and poured some wine into it. He was entirely too chipper, and it was starting to creep Topaz out a little. “What’s going?”

“I am going to teach you how to cook,” he stated with a triumphant smile on his face. He had total confidence that he was going to succeed in this task he had set for himself.

Topaz wasn’t as sure of the success of that mission. “I’m sorry,” she said and took the offered glass, taking a sip before she continued, leaning against the counter. “It’s a lovely idea, but aren’t you setting yourself up for disappointment there? I’m the girl who fucks up instant noodles.”

“Good thing we won’t be making instant noodles tonight,” Kandomere answered her, getting some vegetables from the fridge he placed on the counter. “You know how to clean and cut a bell pepper?”

“That I can do.” Rolling up her sleeves she walked to the sink to wash her hands first. While she was cleaning and cutting vegetables, Kandomere explained each step of the dish they were going to be making together, but Topaz was paying more attention to him than what he was saying. His hair was pulled back in a pony tail again, his sleeves rolled up, and with the apron on, he just looked completely relaxed and in his element.

Rather than trying to teach her by showing her, Kandomere was smart enough to have her doing the work while he instructed her what to do as they got the potatoes, vegetables and the chicken into an oval dish, sprinkling grated cheese on top to finish it off. Looking at it, she smiled. It looked nothing like fucked up instant noodles, that was for sure. “Now what?”

“Now it goes into the oven,” he said and took the dish from her when she tried to carefully lift it. Placing it in the oven, he grabbed a black sphere from the shelf, twisting it. “Forty minutes and dinner will be ready.”

“Which leaves us with forty minutes to kill,” Topaz pointed out with a smile, craning her neck to look up at Kandomere when he stepped in, the smile on his face reflecting her own thoughts before he was kissing her. Wrapping her arms around his waist, she easily melted into the kiss, not even freezing up when his hands slipped down to cup a feel of her ass. Instead, she mimicked his gesture, getting a good feel herself.

“I should take a quick shower and get changed,” she spoke almost breathlessly when the kiss finally broke.

“Want company?”

“It wouldn’t be a quick shower if you did,” Topaz pointed out and nipped at his lips. He had to agree with that one, and she didn’t want to be responsible for ruining yet another meal. Reluctantly untangling herself from him, she took off the apron, giggling when he almost let her go only to pull her back for another kiss, before she finally slipped away.

Grabbing the hanger with her dress, which was already hanging up on the closet door, she felt his gaze following her as she walked into the bathroom, deciding to leave the door open while she stripped down. Shaking her ass as she wiggled herself out of her jeans, she gave him just a peek of a curve as she unhooked her bra, leaving her panties on until she was done brushing her hair out and pinning it up so it wouldn’t get wet.

Testing the water first, she finally slipped off her panties, slowly caressing her hands down her hips until the fabric slipped down to her ankles. It was a good thing her back was turned so he couldn’t see the grin on her face as she stepped out of her panties and into the shower, closing the door behind her.

By the time she stepped out of the bathroom again, she felt clean and refreshed, dressed in a new set of lingerie and a little black dress she had bought for the occasion, although she had repeatedly told Genny that there might not be an occasion yet. Her friend of course had ignored her warning.

Kandomere came toward her and his walk had her hypnotized for a moment. It wasn’t his usual composed but relaxed walk. His tongue snaked out to run along his bottom lip, briefly exposing his pointy upper teeth, as he eyed her up. His apron was gone, but his hair was still pulled back, and the look he gave her when their eyes locked had her shifting her weight on her feet, rubbing her thighs together.

“Feel better?” he asked and she gave him a slow nod in answer.

“Much. Can you zip me up?” Turning away from him, she brushed her hair over one shoulder and held it. Sucking her bottom lip between her teeth, she felt his fingers brush against the skin of her back as he pulled the zipper up agonizingly slow. Hot breath feathered against her skin, lips pressing to the skin of her shoulder, trailing kisses up the side of her neck until she felt them brush the shell as he spoke close to her ear.

“You look beautiful.”

The tone of his voice, the feel of it vibrating against her skin, drew a soft sound from her lips, sending a pleasant shiver down her spine at the same time. Turning around in his arms, her hands slipped up over his chest, one of them traveling to the back of his neck to pull him down as her mouth sought his. Lips parted and their tongues tangled as her fingers found the tie that held his hair back. Gently she worked it out until his hair fell free, and her fingers tangled into the soft tresses.

Kandomere gave her just enough time to catch a breath, before he kissed her again, and she could feel the passion growing, the longer it lasted. Despite every fiber in her body screaming for more of the elf, she found the will to ease out of the kiss. Her lips felt bruised and swollen, her breath was quick and shallow, while her pulse throbbed between her thighs.

“Patience… I am supposed to still be mad with you for giving me a scare, remember,” she teased, hoping to get him out of the haze of desire. He dipped in trying to kiss her again, but she managed to dodge a lip lock. Taking his hands, his fingers slipped between hers, trying to tug her closer while she kept stepping away in this little dance between want and restraint.

“Dinner first…” she said, finally managing to get him to back off and compose himself.

The shrill sound of the timer made her jump a little, and snapped him completely out of his thoughts. Smoothing her dress down her hips like it had gotten messed up, she settled down at the table to sip her wine as she watched Kandomere bringing the oval dish out. Scooping food on both their plates, he sat down and waited. “Moment of truth.”

Topaz chuckled, setting her glass down to pick up her fork and jab some food onto it. Blowing on it to cool it off, she made sure to make eye contact with Kandomere as she opened her mouth, taking the bite and wrapping her lips around the fork as she slowly pulled it from her mouth. “It’s good.”

Kandomere cleared his throat and licked his lips, straightening up. “See, you can cook.”

“Yeah, with lots of supervision,” Topaz pointed out. Maybe if they practiced together though, she would get the hang of it. She enjoyed being in the kitchen with him, and although she hadn’t paid attention to much of what he was saying because she was too distracted by his looks, she knew he could be a good teacher if she let him.

“It takes time, but you’ll get the hang of it if you’re willing to learn.”

Small talk during dinner was surprisingly no longer awkward and mostly about food and cooking, though she did briefly admit she was letting Genny abuse the power she currently had over her. Topaz was still feeling guilty about lying, and even though Genny had made it clear she wasn’t mad, she still used the guilt to get Topaz to do things for her. For now, she was okay with it, seeing it as her penance.

Clearing the dishes from the table, she took them to the kitchen, placing them in the dish washer while Kandomere changed the music. Setting the program and adding a tablet, she closed the dishwasher, turned it on and washed her hands. “Coffee?” she asked after wiping her hands.

She jumped a little as Kandomere’s hands gripped her hips and he trapped her between his body and the counter. His lips found the curve of her neck again, nipping and kissing at the skin as his hands slipped down the front of her thighs, gripping and pulling on her skirt as they moved up, then slipped between her thighs, stirring an aching need inside of her.

“I haven’t had my dessert yet,” he spoke in a voice that was deep and full of desire.

One of his hands traveled up the front of her dress, cupping a breast through the fabric, massaging the soft flesh before it finished traveling up over her throat to grip her chin and turn her head enough for him to capture her mouth with his for another one of those kisses that tugged on the strings of desire. “Kandomere,” she pleaded with a whimper.

They’d waited far longer to be intimate than any relationship she’d ever had. Still she had hesitated when Kandomere had invited her over, though with the added request that they stopped holding back and let happen whatever felt right. Why on earth she had hesitated she could no longer fathom as Kandomere turned her around and eager hands pulled up her skirt, grabbed her ass and pulled her up off her feet as her arms and legs wrapped around him.

She gasped when her skin touched the cold marble of the counter top, followed by a whimpering moan as his mouth moved to her neck. A cry of pain mixed with pleasure escaped her as sharp teeth pressed into that cord of muscle with enough pressure to leave a mark without breaking the skin. As his mouth moved further down, she leaned back on her arms.

The attention he paid to her breasts left her whimpering even more, crying out again as he bit and sucked on the curve of her breast, leaving another visible mark. The thought he was going to leave marks all over her body excited her so much, she knew her panties, which had already dampened, would soon be soaked.

Looking down, she watched him as he pushed her legs further apart, exposing her to him. He grinned at the sight of her, and if she had to guess, also at the smell of her arousal. Licking her lips in a mimicking gesture, she watched as he trailed kisses from the inside of her knee up her thigh. His fingers feathered over the lacy fabric, rubbing along her folds as he took his time, drawing more sounds from her lips.

“Oh shit!” she exclaimed when his mouth finally closed over her aching sex, his tongue teasing her despite the barrier of her panties being in his way. Feeling his hands moving up, she instinctively reacted, lifting her ass up enough for him to drag them down, lifting her legs to pull them out of the garment which was callously tossed aside.

Kandomere grabbed the back of her thighs to keep her from lowering her legs again, pushing them wide, and letting out a pleased growl at the sight of her exposed sex, glistening wet, and aching for more attention. Kissing his way down the inside of her thigh again, Topaz watched as he finally reached where she wanted his attention the most. Their eyes found each other, gaze locked, as his tongue flicked against sensitive skin.

Teasing licks were followed by his tongue finally running the full length of her folds to teasingly circle that bundle of nerves that had her throwing her head back and moaning much louder than before. Her fingers slipped into his hair, resting her weight on one arm as she surrendered herself to the sensations, her hips rolling against his mouth as it locked over her sex, his tongue pushing inside to lap up her juices which flowed freely.

It didn’t take much for her to get worked up, getting so close to her orgasm she could almost taste it, only for him to back off, his teeth scraping the skin on the inside of her thigh, biting down to leave another mark. “Oh please, Kandomere…”

He mumbled something in Spanish she couldn’t understand, but sounded like music to her ears anyway, before his tongue was teasing her again, pushing two fingers deep inside her as if he was looking for something, and her arm buckled. Laying back against the tile, her back arched up each time his tongue brought her more pleasure and he increased the speed at which his fingers plunged inside of her warmth.

As the pleasure intensified, so did the moans and whimpers that left her lips, until finally her back arched off the counter much further than before, her breath catching in her throat, as her whole body tensed and froze. An orgasm so intense she hadn’t felt it in a long time burned through her, letting out a long drawn out moan when it finally released the vice grip on her body. Her chest heaved with each labored breath.

Kandomere didn’t pull away, but instead showered her skin with kisses and soft caresses, letting her slowly come down from her high. Pushing herself back up to a sitting position, she cupped his chin, urging him up from between her thighs. Tasting herself on her lips as they shared a deep, hungry kiss, she smiled at him when it broke. “That was…”

Kissing along her jaw to her ear, Kandomere’s lips once again brushed the shell of her ear as he spoke. “Just the beginning.”

It took very little urging to wrap her arms and legs around him again as he lifted her off the counter and started walking in the direction of the bedroom. Running her fingers through his hair, she brushed it back from his face, letting him slowly set her down on her feet as they kissed again.

Her fingertips found the buttons on his shirt, undoing them with ease, one after the other until she could push it down his shoulders, feeling the muscles in his arms as he shrugged it off. Pulling the sleeveless undershirt out of his pants, she worked it impatiently up until they were forced to break the kiss so she could pull it off.

The zipper on her dress slipped down, and the dress slipped down to the floor easily, her bra unhooking at the same time as she yanked on his belt, undoing the buckle and releasing the button on his pants so she could push the zipper down. The last of his clothes disappeared, but she didn’t get long to enjoy the view.

Feeling the soft, cool sheets against her back as he gently laid her down, she hooked her legs over his hips as he settled between her thighs. Their movements were slow and languid now they were naked. Running her nails down his back, she smiled up at him as he looked down at her. Pulling him down, she kissed him again.

Slipping a hand between them, she bit her bottom lip as her fingers wrapped around his length, stroking him, pushing her hips up to try and urge him to roll over, but Kandomere wouldn’t budge. Grabbing her wrist, he pulled her hand away from him and brought it up to press a kiss to the palm. “Plenty of time for that later,” he spoke softly, kissing her deeply as she felt him pressing against her.

He slipped off the mark twice, causing her to moan against his mouth each time, until he finally found where he wanted to be. Breaking the kiss to look down at her, she found herself unable to look away as she slowly felt him sink into her. Her nails dug into his back and she gasped, pulling her legs up further to feel him deeper.

“Ah, ah, ah, look at me,” he corrected her when her eyes rolled up into her head as he pulled back to thrust back into her, rolling her hips to meet him with each thrust. His movements were slow and deliberate, and looking into his eyes, keeping the contact, made the pleasure soar to new heights. This was new to her and far more intense, as she could see the pleasure she was giving him each time she rolled her hips to meet his.

Just when they got into a rhythm, he suddenly stopped, wrapping and arm around her as he rolled them over so she was on top. Brushing her hair aside, their eyes locked again, as she adjusted to the new position and started rolling and grinding her hips, watching as his face contorted with pleasure and he struggled to keep eye contact.

Encouraged by his reactions, she sat up a little, her hands on his chest, while his gripped her hips, fingertips digging into her flesh, helping her move. Sinking down on him as far as she could, she whimpered at the feeling of him that deep inside of her, and grinned when she drew a moan from his lips.

He started helping her move, pushing his hips up to meet hers until that wasn’t enough anymore. They were both panting, their skin covered in a sheen of sweat, sticking together as he sat up. Shifting a little, she sat over him, in his lap, her hips never stopping their slow grind against him, their gazes locking again when they settled.

“Mi amor, you’re so beautiful,” he whispered, his hands slipping to her ass to help her move, but even as he nipped a kiss at her lips, he tried to keep eye contact. A moan escaped him as he pulled her toward him, sinking deep inside of her. “You feel so good.”

Wrapping her arms around him, she clawed at his shoulders and back, feeling the pleasure build at the pace increased, and pleasure was clearly written on his face, urging her on. There was something so intensely intimate about the moment, she never even realized how close her orgasm was until her muscles clamped down around his cock, squeezing him. A high pitched cry of pleasure slipped from her lips, but she never took her eyes off his.

He was close, but not quite there yet. “Don’t stop, don’t slow down. Give in to me,” she pleaded in a near breathless tone. His hands grabbed tighter on her ass, pulling her harder into him each time he thrust up. “That’s it.”

“Close…” he groaned, repeatedly licking his lips. His breathing was labored, he was sweating profusely, and his body was growing more rigid each time their bodies collided until finally she felt him pull her down hard and go completely still, their eyes locked as she felt his cock twitch inside of her, releasing his seed.

Resting her forehead against his shoulder, she tried to get her breathing back under control. She couldn’t recall ever feeling this way after sex before. Turning her head, she kissed his neck, nuzzling the skin and inhaling his scent which was now mingled with her own. Looking into his eyes again, she caressed his face, drawing him into a kiss.

“Te amo, mi amor,” he whispered when it broke, brushing her hair back from her face, which was not as easy, as damp strands clung to her skin. In the after glow of their orgasm, they relished each others touches.

Looking deep into his impossibly blue eyes, Topaz knew one thing for sure, and while it still gripped her with fear, she no longer let it dictate her reactions. Softly smiling at him, she made sure he was looking into her eyes when she whispered back. “I love you too.”

Chapter Text

Blindly reaching for his alarm, Kandomere turned it off, rolling onto his back to rub the sleep from his eyes. The beeping had woken him from a pleasant dream, and he felt more relaxed than he had in a long time. It didn’t take a genius to figure out it had something to do with the woman stirring beside him.

For almost a week now they’d shared a bed, and each morning he woke to find her there, it filled him with pride, but also with this strange and strong possessive feeling. He wanted all of her entirely to himself.

Rolling over, he smiled at the sight of her bare back as she lay half on her stomach, her hair a mess on the pillow behind her and her features softened by sleep. Leaning over he nuzzled her skin along her spine, trailing kisses up her back and to the side of her neck. He had just nuzzled the skin there when her phone started to buzz. A grunt of protest was followed by her hugging the pillow tighter.

Smiling, Kandomere pressed a kiss to her shoulder, reaching over to put her alarm on snooze. “Nine more minutes,” he told her, getting another grunt in response. She was starting to wake up, but he had learned that trying to force her to get up on the first alarm made for a bad morning for everyone. So he let her do her thing, even if it meant she was having breakfast in the car.

She was chaotic and messy, though he suspected she was doing the latter on purpose to aggravate him. Sometimes it worked, but he was learning to curb his reactions. She was more stubborn than anyone he’d ever met, argued with him about everything, never taking his word for it, which infuriated him to no end. Yet he loved her for it.

Slipping out of bed, he left her to wake up at her own pace as he showered and got dressed. By the time he heard movement in the bedroom, he had breakfast ready and was pouring coffee in her go-cup. A smile tugged on his lips as he glanced at the clock.

“Fifteen minutes!” he called out.

“Fuck!” A moment after the curse, Topaz came sprinting out of the bedroom and into the bathroom.

Unable to resist a chuckle, Kandomere shook his head and sipped his coffee in peace, getting his briefcase ready to leave. As much as he wanted to make a comment, it was amusing to him to watch her scurrying back and forth, until she finally emerged from the bedroom, dressed in the new suit he had gotten her, tugging on the pencil skirt.

“I need coffee,” she grumbled.

Kandomere handed her the cup, but didn’t let her get too far, wrapping an arm around her to pull her near and capture her lips for a kiss, letting it linger. The taste of her lips drew him in for a second kiss. “Good morning. You look beautiful.”

“You think I look beautiful in a trash bag, you’re biased.”

“And you don’t know how to take a compliment,” Kandomere pointed out, handing over her breakfast. “Now let’s move, or we’re gonna be late.”

“And whose fault is that?” Topaz asked, looking back over her shoulder as she walked to the elevator. The smirk on her face matched his.

Letting his gaze roam over her figure, he licked his lips at the enticing curve of her ass and hips in the skirt. “You said you could handle it.”

“And you took my word for it?” Topaz asked incredulously, shaking her head and stepping on the elevator.

The mirrors allowed him to check her out from all angles without much effort. Choosing her wearing a skirt to work for one day as a reward for winning a bet might not have been the best idea he could’ve had, but it was certainly going to be one hell of an interesting day.

Stepping in close, he pressed her up against the wall, burying his face into the crook of her neck. Inhaling her scent deeply, he let out a soft growl, softly pressing his teeth into her flesh and running his tongue over the spot. By the time he stood back again, his grin turned devilish. “I didn’t take your word for it, but I took great pleasure in proving you wrong,” he answered her.

For a moment, his heel clicks were the only sound in the parking garage, until her hurried steps came closer behind him, catching up. A skirt and heels. Today was going to be a challenge, but one he could overcome, especially if he got to prove another point in the process.

He wasn’t surprised her heels came off as soon as she settled into the passenger seat, to sip her coffee and eat her breakfast while playing with her phone. Texting Genny no doubt. Turning on the radio he listened to the morning news in peace, enjoying the moment of silence. Placing his hand on her thigh, he smiled when she took it in hers.

--

Topaz let him listen to the morning news. It was depressing as usual, but the moment of peace and quiet seemed to help Kandomere start his day. He let her hit the snooze button way too many times, which was a pet peeve. He also let her have breakfast in his car, which was an even bigger pet peeve, so the least she could do was listen to the morning depression on the radio.

It also gave her time to plot her revenge for his tease in the elevator. She had a limited window, because as soon as they got out the car, she had to be agent Bennett and he was her boss. Her phone buzzed again, and fishing it out, she sighed at the screen. Not wanting to let go of his hand, she decided an answer could wait, but the message did give her an idea.

“I may have to cancel dinner. Genny is having a bit of a crisis.”

“Doesn’t she have the day off?”

“Yep. It’s just dinner,” she answered, unhooking her seat belt as they drove into the parking garage. The moment the car was in park, she was leaning over, thankful for tinted windows, so no one could see. Playing with his hair, her fingertips purposely brushed his ear, leaning in for her usual kiss, though turning her head to whisper into his ear first.

“I will make it up to you after,” she promised and ran the tip of her tongue along his ear, watching him visibly shiver. Satisfied, she pressed a quick kiss to his lips, slipped on her heels, and got out of the car. Her phone buzzed again, reminding her she still needed to text Genny back. The message on her screen wasn’t from Genny though, and she skimmed the email as they walked to the elevators.

“The chief wants to see me in his office right away. Do you know anything about this?” she asked as they waited.

Kandomere straightened his tie not once or twice, but three times before she shot him a look to stop it. He was having trouble regaining his composure, which meant she had won this round. She couldn’t gloat about it though, not when the chief wanted to see her, without any explanation as to why.

“Probably just wants to hear about your progress,” Kandomere suggested.

Stepping on the elevator, they were joined by two other agents, so Topaz kept her questions to herself. Maybe it was just a check up conversation, or maybe someone blabbed and she was being transferred. Chewing on the inside of her cheek, she stared down into her empty coffee cup, wondering if she should get coffee first.

When Kandomere’s phone buzzed, she expected him to tell her they were both called into the chief’s office, and her mind was already coming up with all the worst doom scenarios, the worst being one or both of them getting fired. Kandomere didn’t look worried though as he read the message, but then again he knew how to keep a lid on it most of the time.

“Come see me after your meeting with the chief. I think we just got a new case,” he said when the elevator stopped on the fourth floor. Both agents stepped off the elevator with him.

“Yes, sir,” she replied.

As soon as the elevator doors closed, Topaz dropped her brave face and shifted her weight from one foot to the other, tugging on the hem of her skirt like it was riding up. Why did she have to wear a skirt today of all days? Because she lost a bet, that was why. She lost a bet and now she was gonna lose her job.

She thought it would be fun at first, to wear some heels and thigh high stockings, teasing Kandomere and try to see if the elf could keep his composure. Now she was beginning to regret her decision. She should’ve gone with flats at least, or maybe put her hair up, but it was too late for any of that now as the elevator doors opened.

It was poor judgment for an agent and if she’d been thinking like one, she’d be wearing jeans now. Unfortunately, she had to be an idiot and think like a girlfriend instead. The time she had been spending together with Kandomere over the last week had been amazing, with good food, even better conversation and mind blowing sex. She blamed the latter for clouding her judgment and letting her get swept up in it all.

Taking a deep breath, she righted her shoulders and stepped off the elevator, acting like she had it all together and wasn’t even remotely uncomfortable in the skirt. Whatever the chief had to say to her, it couldn’t be that bad right? Kandomere hadn’t looked concerned.

Stopping in front of the chief’s office, she was just about to knock on the door when her name was called. The young woman gestured for her to follow, and Topaz frowned. Why was she meeting the chief in one of the conference rooms and not his office? When she stepped into the room, she was surprised to find the chief wasn’t alone.

“Lieutenant Miller, what a surprise. I heard you caught your serial killer, congratulations,” Topaz smiled and shook his hand. Looking from him to the chief, she glanced back at the door when more people entered. Montehugh winked at her and Kandomere’s face was unreadable except for a twinkle in his eye. That sneaky bastard. He had lied to her on the elevator.

“Thank you agent Bennett, but we couldn’t have done it without you.”

“I was just doing my job, Lieutenant. Glad to be of help. Chief, may I ask what this is about?” She’d never been one for surprises, and this looked like it was about to turn into some sort of surprise.

Her fingers were becoming cold and her breathing become shallow and more labored until Montehugh put a hand on her shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Just breathe, Bennett.”

“This is about you, agent Bennett,” the chief answered with a smile.

“Me? Did I do something wrong, sir?”

“On the contrary. You’ve been a hard worker since you joined the bureau but in the last two years your only promotion has been your appointment to the task force. I think it is time to rectify that.”

This was a surprise party of sorts. At least there was no cake, and hopefully she wouldn’t be asked to make a speech, because she could already feel her throat closing up, despite Montehugh’s reassuring hand, which had moved to grip her neck, rubbing her skin with a thumb.

“Despite all you have been through since joining the task force, you have demonstrated the kind of courage, loyalty and dedication this task force needs. You have also shown that you can bridge gaps between agencies, by being a team player.”

Topaz gave an uneasy smile and looked around the room. All eyes were on her and she could feel her stomach start to turn. This was so not her idea of a good moment at all. “Well, honestly, sir, like I told Lieutenant Miller, I was just doing my job.”

Her gaze went to Kandomere as the chief summed up all the ways she supposedly went above and beyond the call of duty. She wasn’t really listening, just watching Kandomere’s face staying void of emotion, beyond the curt smile at a witty remark made by the chief. For the first time she noticed his eyes gave him away. They betrayed his true feelings despite his best efforts to keep them hidden.

“That is why it’s my honor to promote you to the position of Liaison.”

A promotion was the last thing she expected after killing another agent. Although she had her reasons, that still didn’t justify the beating he’d received at her hand. To her it didn’t sound like the type of agent you’d give a promotion to. Apparently the chief thought otherwise. For a moment she just blinked, a lot. She couldn’t stand there blankly staring and not saying anything though.

“So… does this mean he’s no longer my boss?”

The question got a chuckle from everyone except Kandomere. He couldn’t let his armor crack now, but she could see it in his eyes. She had done this all on her own, and he was proud of her.

“Agent Kandomere remains head of the task force, but from now on all requests for assistance and interactions with other agencies must go through you. Your training is done, agent Bennett.”

“Oh thank god!” she exclaimed, making Montehugh snort. Allowing herself to finally relax, something dawned on her. Kandomere and Montehugh’s presence she could in a way sort of explain, since she just got a new assignment within the task force, but what was Lieutenant Miller doing here?

“You’re not here to congratulate me on my promotion, are you, sir?” she asked.

“I wish I was, but I think I have a case for the task force. A magic case,” Lieutenant Miller answered her with a short shake of his head.

Now it made more sense why Kandomere and Montehugh were present. The chief was efficient, and this way he could combine her promotion with the meeting. A weight lifted off her shoulders, and she fully relaxed, accepting the sideways hug from Montehugh.

“I told you, you’re going places,” he reminded her.

“Uh huh… Right now I am going to the place where the coffee is, because I have a feeling I’m going to need it. Excuse me for a moment.” Slipping out of the room, she followed the chief back to his office.

There was one thing she needed to do, now it wouldn’t get the two of them into as much trouble anymore. Something she had promised the chief. She wasn’t sure what protocol was, because she’d never been in this position before, but if he gave her forms to fill out, she’d take them to Kandomere first. Right now, she was just keeping her word to the chief.

“Sir, if I may have a moment.”

“Of course, come in. What’s on your mind?”

Nervously fidgeting with the brace on her arm, she took a breath and let the words tumble from her mouth in a nervous ramble. “Well, sir, you told me a while ago that if the nature of my relationship with agent Kandomere should ever change, I needed to tell you. So, I-” Topaz paused when the chief smiled and gestured for her to hold up.

“I’ve already been made aware, agent Bennett.”

“You have?”

“Agent Kandomere filed the paperwork. You understand you’ll be under close scrutiny? Both of you.”

Topaz stared at him for a moment. Kandomere had filed the paperwork without consulting her first? Of course he would be making unilateral decisions, because he was used to being in charge. He forgot there was another person involved in the relationship with an opinion of her own. Taking a moment, she buried the spark of anger that flared and straightened up.

“Yes, sir. I understand.”

“Good. Get to work, agent Bennett.”

Faking a smile, she greeted the chief, and went in search of coffee before she rejoined the men in the conference room. She needed it if she was going to get through the day without strangling Kandomere with his own tie. Taking her phone out to check, she had so many new messages from Genny it worried her. Sending a message back, she informed her they might have a new case, but that she would message her as soon as she could come over.

Genny had never freaked out like this before without at least telling her what it was about, but despite prodding her several times, she refused to talk about it or even give her a hint so she wouldn’t worry. What was going on with her friend?

Chapter Text

Breathing a sigh of relief as the door closed behind her, Topaz was thankful for the few hours she was getting away from work and Kandomere in particular. Maybe her anger would die down and she could have a normal conversation about it later. The way her anger flared every time she thought about what he had done though, made her hope for a normal conversation dwindle.

Kicking off her heels and tossing her keys in the bowl she looked around, but Genny was nowhere in sight, which could only mean one thing. Walking across the living room she opened Genny’s bedroom door, finding the curtains still drawn, a light by the bed on and her friend curled up in a ball on one side of the bed.

“There you are. I thought for sure the building was on fire with as much as you texted me. What’s wrong?” Crawling on the bed, she leaned over to brush her hair out of her face, pressing a kiss to Genny’s temple before she spooned her.

“You’re wearing a skirt.” Genny’s voice was soft and a little shaky.

“I lost a bet,” Topaz answered and hugged Genny a little tighter, resting her cheek against the back of Genny’s head. “Why are you still in bed?”

“Is that silk?” Genny asked, touching her arm and felt the fabric of the blouse. “It feels expensive.”

“Kandomere bought it so I’m sure it’s more than I can afford. Okay, you need to get up.” Getting up, Topaz drew all the curtains back to let the sunshine in, cracking a window for some fresh air. Walking back she pull the comforter down to let the bed air out and offered her good hand to Genny to help pull her to her feet.

“Hey, your cast is gone…”

“I told you I was getting my brace back at lunch yesterday, remember?” Topaz figured out what Genny was doing, but she wasn’t going to let her friend get away with it, not when she had made sure she could take a few hours off work to come see her. “That was also when you told me about your big dinner date with Mark. Two months together or something?”

“Three.”

The way Genny’s face fell gave Topaz a clue as to why her friend was suddenly panicking and hiding in her bed. She could come right out and ask her, but she had a feeling Genny would retreat again and start talking about other things. So she had to be smart about it.

“Okay, up and at ‘em.” Pulling Genny to her feet, she turned, opening the closet to pull out Genny’s favorite pair of sweats and a shirt. “Take these, and some clean undies, and take a shower. It’ll make you feel better, I promise. When you’re done, I’ll have tea and cookies ready.”

Shooing her off to the bathroom, Topaz listened for the sound of the shower before she flipped the water boiler on for tea. Grabbing the stack of menus they kept on the bar, she flipped through them, picking one, and quickly called in an order, so they wouldn’t have to worry about dinner.

By the time Genny emerged from the bathroom, she had straightened up what she could, fixed them both a cup of tea, and found the box with the good cookies. Curling up in her corner on the couch, she checked her messages, but there was nothing that needed her urgent attention, especially not the four messages from Kandomere.

“You look like a boss in that outfit,” Genny commented, as she curled up in her own spot with her tea and a pillow for a shield.

“I kinda am,” Topaz answered with a smile, looking down at her skirt and silk blouse. Everything about her outfit was feminine, and making her feel pretty, which made her feel uncomfortable when she thought about being pretty on the job. Her new job. “I got a promotion this morning. I’ll be the mediator between the task force and other agencies from now on.”

“Because Kandomere is an acquired taste, that most agencies haven’t acquired?” The smile she got from Genny was genuine, but didn’t last nearly as long as she’d hoped.

Nodding, she reached for the cookies and took one. Looking at it like she was inspecting it, she decided how to circle the conversation back to Genny. “Yeah, he is. Unlike Mark. He’s quite the charmer. Where did he take you to dinner?”

“Giovanni’s. The manager is a family friend so he got us reservations.”

“Wow, fancy. Really treating you like a queen, huh?”

Genny’s expression turned sour again. Whatever it was, it had to do with Mark. Topaz hoped the idiot hadn’t broken up with her friend, because she had promised to hurt him if he broke her heart, and Topaz intended to keep her promise. “What did you do after dinner?”

“We went for a walk in one of our favorite parks, it was really nice. We talked.”

“About?” Topaz asked, trying to coach Genny into talking more. Usually she would be rattling off at three words a second, but right now it felt more like she had to drag the words out of her friend.

“All sorts of stuff, like work, life, dreams of the future.”

“Marriage, kids, dog, house with a white picket fence?” Topaz asked, hoping she was getting warmer, or at the very least, got Genny out of her shell enough to start talking so she could figure out what was going on.

“Yeah, things like that. To see if we’re on the same page, you know, because I’m not sure it would work if one partner wants kids and the other doesn’t, you know?”

“So are you on the same page?”

“Oh totally. Spring wedding, close by, no destination wedding or a big fancy party. Two kids, a dog, not sure about white picket fence, but maybe move out of the main city, which would make the commute to work longer, but give more space for kids to play.”

They had it all planned out, which at least took break up off the table. What did happen then that could be upsetting her like this? “So you had dinner, went for a walk, planned out your future, then what?”

“We didn’t plan out our future.” Genny reached for a cookie, and stuffed half of it in her face, chewing on it as she stared off into space.

Giving her a moment, Topaz sipped her tea and glanced at her phone when the screen lit up. It was another message from Kandomere. From her quick glance she could tell it wasn’t work related, but Genny’s eyes fixed on the screen, so she flipped it over. “You didn’t answer my question. What did you do after the walk?”

“He took me home,” Genny answered curtly and shifted in her spot, gesturing to the phone. “Why are you ignoring Kandomere’s texts. Did you have another fight?”

She was getting closer to whatever was bugging Genny because she was deflecting again. Topaz shook her head. “No. He’s got work to do, and I’m trying to focus on my friend, who said she needed my help, but has been pussy footing around the issue all day. What happened when he brought you home, Genny?”

“We said good night. Want some more tea?”

“No, I want an honest answer. What happened when he brought you home?” Topaz repeated her question, knowing that if she backed off now, she would have to do the whole song and dance all over again because Genny was going to retreat back into her shell.

“I’m gonna get some more tea.”

Setting her empty cup on the table with enough force it startled Genny enough to get her attention, Topaz narrowed her eyes. “Genevieve Yvette Larsen, you are gonna sit down and answer my questions. Do not make me hurt you.”

“You sound just like my mother when you say that. Sorry,” Genny curled up into her corner again, pillow clutched to her chest and her eyes almost vacant, like her mind had left for outer space. “He eh… he said ‘I love you’.”

Topaz wasn’t sure what she had expected to come out, but she had let much wilder scenarios run through her mind when Genny texted her in a panic. She breathed a sign of relief and relaxed. “That’s all? He said that he loves you?”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” Topaz answered with a frown. If that was all there was to it, there would be no need to panic, unless... “So what did you say?”

Genny went pale, biting her bottom lip as she looked down at the pillow she was clutching even tighter to her chest. That was the million dollar question. She had finally gotten to the heart of the matter, and Topaz was eternally thankful it wasn’t something like a break up or a pregnancy. She had no idea how to deal with either well enough to give advice.

“Nothing huh? You said nothing?”

Genny shook her head and a tear rolled down her cheek.

“I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me, babe.”

Taking a deep breath, Genny lifted her head finally, and there was another tear rolling down her cheek. “He said ‘I love you’ and I always thought I would swoon, my heart would swell, I would say ‘I love you too’ and we would kiss. It would be so romantic.”

“But?” Topaz used the minimum of encouragement in the hopes Genny would keep going, even though she had a feeling she knew exactly where this was headed, and it was actually familiar territory.

“There was no romance. He said ‘I love you’, and I immediately felt my heart race and my throat close. I choked. I choked and then I ran. Who runs when someone says ‘I love you’?”

Topaz raised her hand. “Me. It’s sort of my signature move.”

“I feel so stupid. It’s so stupid.”

“It’s not stupid. I damn near had a panic attack first time I ever heard someone say those words,” Topaz admitted. She still felt that panic every time Kandomere said it, but the pressure to say the words back was gone. “It took me a long time to realize and accept this, but it’s okay to not hopelessly swoon when you hear someone profess their love for you, whether it is for the first time, or the hundredth time.”

Genny wiped the tears from her cheeks, but more tears followed. Topaz gestured for her to come closer, holding her arms open as Genny curled up against her and hugged her close, rubbing her back in a soothing gesture.

“You must think I am silly for overreacting this way.”

“Did you not just hear me?” Topaz asked and pressed a kiss to the top of Genny’s head. “If it was anyone else, I might have thought they were out of their minds, but I know you. You’ve probably envisioned every nightmare scenario by now. You think you broke his heart, that he’s gonna break up with you, and never want to see you again. You’re never gonna find someone else who will love you like he does and you might as well just join a convent.”

Genny burst into tears, making her whole body shake. Topaz just held on to her, letting her friend cry until the worst of it passed. Making her look up, she gently brushed Genny’s tears away and gave her a smile. “You gotta stop being so hard on yourself. Real life is not like the movies. You don’t have to be perfect, and I am sure that Mark loves you with all your imperfections.”

“But what if I did hurt him?”

“The type of guy that gets butt hurt over something like that, is not the type you want. He won’t give you the happily ever after you’re dreaming of.” When Genny finally sat back and looked a little more relaxed now she’d gotten it off her chest, Topaz patted her leg. “Go get another cup of tea, and we’ll talk about how we’re going to fix this so you can actually sleep tonight.”

As soon as Genny got up, Topaz was looking around. She hadn’t seen Genny’s phone on the charger in the bedroom and it wasn’t plugged up in it’s usual spot in the living room either, which meant only one thing. Getting up, she walked to the end table beside the bedroom door and opened it, fishing Genny’s phone out.

She had a bunch of missed calls from Mark and unread texts. Leaving the texts unopened, she hit call back on Mark’s missed calls. “Hey Mark, this is Topaz. Did I call at a bad time?” She could hear Genny protesting behind her, but she paid it no mind when Mark said he had a moment. “Good, I was wondering if you had dinner plans tonight.” Not yet. Is... “Excellent. I ordered some food, and Genny is okay. She can’t wait to see you. Bye.”

“Oh my god! I can’t believe you did that!” Genny exclaimed, shifting her weight on her feet, and altering between brushing her hair behind her ear and biting on her fingernail. She was starting to panic.

Grabbing both her elbows, she made Genny look at her. “Calm down. No need to freak out, I promise. You didn’t break his heart, you just worried him like you worried me. He’s gonna come over, you’re gonna have some food and talk it out, and everything is gonna be okay.”

“Now I’m gonna have to order food, because I didn’t go to the store today.”

“Already ordered. I called while you were in the shower. I work fast and efficient. Like a boss,” Topaz joked, smirking when she finally got a genuine smile out of her friend and gave her a hug. “You’re gonna be okay.”

Genny returned the hug and nodded. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For putting up with my crazy ass freaking out over nothing.”

“Someone professing his love to you for the first time is not nothing. So what if you freaked out? It can happen to anyone.”

Listening to herself talk, Topaz could already hear the comments in her head. Why, if she was so good at explaining love and relationships to others, did she screw up her own all the time? Because it was easier being on the outside looking in, than standing knee deep in it and sinking slowly.

Her mentor’s words came back to mind, and she knew how they could fit perfectly to make Genny feel better. “Just look at it this way, freaking out instead of swooning is a plot twist. It makes your love story unique.”

“For someone who claims to hate romance, you are way too romantic.”

“Oh please. Light one candle on my dinner table and I lose my appetite. I am not romantic.”

“You’re just scared of romance, of falling in love, but you are a romantic. I can feel it.”

“I thought we were supposed to save your love life here, not try to figure out mine.” Grabbing her cup from the table, Topaz filled it with hot water, fixing herself another cup of tea. Now that she knew Genny was going to be okay, she just needed to figure out how she was going to handle her own mess.

When she looked up, Genny had her phone, and was typing something. “Hey. What are you doing?”

“You helped me, now I’m helping you. He’ll text you when he’s out front.”

“I didn’t need your help to do that,” Topaz grumbled and snatched her phone back when she sat down. Locking her screen, she tossed her phone on the couch beside her and let her breath out in a huff.

“What did he do this time?”

Topaz threw her hands up. “Same thing he always does. Making decisions that affect me and my career without first talking to me about it, because he’s an elf, and he’s a man.”

“And he did that, how?”

“He made our relationship official, work official. Filed the paperwork and everything.”

“And how did you discover this? Did he tell you after the fact?”

“Nope. The chief told me when I went to tell him.”

“So you’re mad he beat you to it?”

Topaz narrowed her eyes and shot her friend a dirty look. “No! I would never have filed any paperwork without first talking to him about it. I was simply keeping my promise to the chief.”

“Maybe he was keeping a promise too.”

She hated it when Genny played Devil’s advocate. “No, he was being his usual bossy self, not thinking, not talking,  just doing whatever the hell he wants.”

“Sounds to me like you’re looking for an excuse to start a fight.”

“I’m not!” Topaz was getting fired up now. How could Genny still be picking his side? Didn’t she see what was going on? “I am angry because he once again is making decisions and excluding me. Correct me if I am wrong, but in a relationship if something affects both partners, shouldn’t there be communication about it, and shouldn’t the decision be made together? He did this behind my back and didn’t even tell me about it after the fact.”

Genny nodded. “You’re not in a normal relationship though. You’re with an elf. So you’re probably going to have to hit him over the head with this plenty more times. Don’t pick a fight to hurt him back though, tell him how it makes you feel when he does things like this.”

Topaz stared at her friend, reaching out to poke her cheek. Was this the same woman who just a little bit ago was thinking her life and love were over because she bolted at ‘I love you’? “Sorry, just making sure you’re real.”

Genny pinched her leg, making her recoil and rub the sore spot. “Does that feel real?”

“Ow. Yes. Stop it.”

Genny chuckled and sipped her tea. “Guess we have that in common huh? We give great relationship advice to others, but when it comes to our own, we blank out and freak out, or in your case lash out.”

“I don’t lash out.”

“So you haven’t been thinking of your revenge all day?”

Topaz closed her mouth, because Genny would call her out on every lie and she’d be right to do it. Instead she thought of how she had already been getting her revenge, by distracting Kandomere all morning, making his brain hiccup and probably giving him the impression he was going to get to play with her later only to give him a fight instead.

“It’s okay to be angry and show your anger, but you would achieve your goal quicker if you explained to him what makes you so angry and disappointed. He learns nothing from you pushing his buttons. Why are you looking at me that way?”

Topaz simply smiled as she looked at Genny. Color was returning to her cheeks and the light was back in her eyes. It was like watching a flower blossom right before her eyes. “Nothing. I’m just glad to see some color back in your face. You looked like death warmed over.”

Genny chuckled, grabbing a pillow and hitting her with it. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Just keeping it real,” Topaz answered, but couldn’t keep a straight face as she burst into laughter. Getting up, she pinched Genny’s cheeks and jumped back before Genny could hit her again.

“Where are you going?”

“To pack some more clothes, because you and Mark could use some alone time to steam up the place, and I have been recycling the same three sets of clothes for the past week or so.” Blowing Genny a kiss, she disappeared into the bedroom and stood in front of her closet trying to decide which of her clothes did not scream ‘poor girl with student loan debt coming out the ears’.

The beep of her phone startled her into action, shoving some of her favorites into her bag, slinging it over her shoulder and typing a quick reply to Kandomere as she opened the door and paused at the sight. A big smile broke out as she watched Mark completely sweep Genny off her feet with one kiss. They were gonna be just fine.

“Oh sorry, I didn’t know you were home,” Mark stuttered when he noticed her.

“I’m not. Just saving the day, picking up some clothes and getting out of your hair. My ride is here,” she said, coming over to give Genny a hug, and turning to do the same to Mark. “You take good care of her, you hear me?” She fixed him with a stern look, but it quickly softened in a smile.

“I-I promise,” Mark stuttered, leaving no doubt that he and Genny were made for each other.

“You kids have fun.” Saluting them, she walked to the elevator.

“Don’t pick a fight!” Genny yelled after her, but before Topaz could decide on a smartass answer, the elevator doors closed.

Kandomere was leaning against the car, arms crossed over his chest, straightening up only when she got close. He wanted to pull her close for a kiss, but instead she shoved her bag into his hands, opened the passenger door herself and slipped into the seat. Maybe she wouldn’t pick a fight, but she wasn’t going to pretend she wasn’t mad either.

Chapter Text

Sometimes Topaz wished parts of her mind had a mute or pause button, but unfortunately she didn’t have that kind of control. Staring out the window at the elves crossing the street, she chewed on her bottom lip and tapped her fingertips against her chin. She had asked about the case in an effort to avoid getting into an argument that could distract Kandomere while he was driving, and now that part of her mind that loved solving puzzles wouldn’t let it go.

The killing had been magical in nature and Inferni were involved, leading to the conclusion they had gotten their hands on a wand and Topaz was trying to figure out which wand it could be. In her mind she was trying to fit together puzzle pieces from the files that had crossed her desk and the blips on the map at Kandomere’s. There was too much information, too many pieces of similar shape and colors for her to make any sort of headway.

Her fingertips shifted from tapping her chin to pinching the bridge of her nose. She could really do with some silence or at the very least a distraction. As if he had read her mind, she could feel Kandomere reach out and touch her. Her gaze dropped down at the hand on her thigh. Her skirt had crawled up a bit and his fingers caressed the exposed skin. Looking from his hand up at him, she saw his lips moving, but his voice didn’t register.

“What?” she asked.

“I said,” Kandomere spoke with a sigh and an undertone of annoyance, “are you going to tell me why you’re mad at me or am I gonna have to guess?”

Blinking a few times as she stared at him, her inability to answer him right away made Kandomere pull his hand back, but before he could fully pull it away, her hand closed around his wrist and stopped him.

“I’m not giving you the silent treatment, I promise.”

“You’re not answering me either,” Kandomere pointed out, running his tongue along his teeth as he angrily stared at the red traffic light as if that would somehow make it change colors faster. “It’s been a long day, and I am really not in the mood to drag it out of you.”

“I’m still processing the case in my mind. It’s been a while since I got to puzzle on something relevant and current, so it’s a little difficult to let go.” It was obvious Kandomere wasn’t very inclined to believe her explanation and she couldn’t fault him for it, but he was being unusually combative.

“Does it have to do with work? Your promotion?”

“Does what?” she asked, and instantly regretted it. It was a stupid question. The way his breath came out in a huff, and he abruptly pulled his hand away, made her feel guilty for not having her head in the right space. “I’m sorry. No. Yes. Not directly, no.”

“That really narrows it down.” The sarcasm dripping from his words lit a fire in her. She had no idea what had gotten into him, but she had enough.

“You know what, bite me,” she grumbled and shifting in her seat so her back was half turned, she stared out at the sidewalk as they drove on. They were headed straight for the fight she didn’t want to have in the car, and as the car went straight instead of turning the corner at the next intersection, she realized they were going the wrong way. “You missed the turn.”

Kandomere didn’t answer her, nor did he look at her when she glanced at him over her shoulder. Like a man focused on his mission, he kept his eyes on the road only. The tension hanging in the air between them was becoming so thick she almost cracked open a window to let some air in, when he pulled over and parked the car. Without a word to her he got out.

Following him with her gaze, she noticed his pace was brisk, his gestures impatient as he walked away and disappeared from sight behind a parked van. Well shit. She had managed to piss him off without even trying or meaning to. “So much for not starting a fight. I suck at this.”

After staring in the direction he had disappeared in for a good minute, she took out her phone to play one of those simple but addictive games she had installed to keep her distracted from the thoughts in her mind. She got so lost in it that when the driver’s door opened, she jerked back a little and let out a startled cry. The smell of food wafted in her direction and her stomach growled in response. “Why didn’t you tell me you were picking up food first?”

Kandomere neither acknowledged her nor did he answer her until he had pulled back out onto the road. “Are you still distracted or do you think you can finally answer my question?”

Staring at him she tried real hard to bite back her words. He was baiting her, goading her into an angered response. It was what she did sometimes, it was also a pretty effective interrogation technique with hot heads like herself. “I was, but you weren’t listening. This is why I didn’t want to get into it now. Just watch the road.”

It was clear Kandomere wanted to say more, but she wasn’t giving him any room to. Every time he opened his mouth she glared at him until they were in the parking garage. Getting out as soon as he parked, she hoped he would get the hint, but unfortunately for her, he had reached the limit of whatever patience he had for being silenced.

“So are we going to discuss this at any point tonight?”

Closing her eyes, she tried to count to ten, but at six she opened her eyes and glared at him. “I am trying really hard not to make a scene in public, but you’re making this really difficult.”

“I am just asking a question.”

“You’re picking a fight. Can we please get upstairs first? Please?”

The elevator took an eternity and trying to avoid making eye contact in a box filled with mirrors was not an easy feat. Using her own keys rather than waiting for Kandomere to open the door, she took off her heels and went to the bathroom. By the time she came out, Kandomere looked like he was preparing for a fist fight. His jacket was off, as was the vest, he was taking off his cuff links and gorget, placing them on the counter.

Turning to her, he rolled up his sleeves. “So...”

“No. Before you go off, I need to say something. I know I wasn’t the friendliest when you came to pick me just now, but you’ve been a jackass,” she started, putting her hands on her hips as she glared at him. “You’ve been pushing, and goading me into a fight. What the hell is your malfunction?”

Kandomere started stalking toward her with deliberate steps which quickened the closer he got and the puzzle pieces fell into place the moment his hand closed around her throat and his lips crushed hers. How could she not have seen this coming? “Kandomere,” she whimpered when the kiss broke and he grabbed hold of her chin, forcing her to keep looking at him.

“Shut up,” he growled in response, his grip tightening on her chin as he pushed her back toward the bedroom. His tongue ran along his exposed pointy teeth, his eyes boring into hers with a predatory glare. She had seen this glare before, but only in her dreams. “My turn now.”

She should have seen the signs, if she hadn’t been so preoccupied with her own hangups. Even before they left for work this morning, there had been signs. The skirt, the heels, her legs in the stockings, they had enticed him. She had used that against him all morning and afternoon, creating expectations, only to brush him off repeatedly. This monster was her creation, and that knowledge caused a tightness in her belly and a heat between her thighs.

Biting her bottom lip hard enough to make it bleed, caused Kandomere to growl, licking and sucking the blood from it. The act distracted her long enough for him to undo the buttons on her blouse, yanking the garment away from her body as he spun her around, pushing her up against the bed and trapping her between it and his body, pressing up against her.

With a quick snap her bra came undone and his hand traveled over her abdomen to snatch it away. Grabbing both breasts, he pinched and tugged on the nipples hard enough to draw cries of mixed pain and pleasure from her lips. “Kandomere,” she begged once more.

One of his hands slid up her chest, soft fingers wrapping around her throat, gripping tight enough to get her attention. He leaned in close enough she could feel his hot breath against her skin as he spoke. “I have two very simple rules. You do what I tell you to, when I tell you to, and you don’t speak unless you’re asked a question. Is that understood?”

“Yes,” she whimpered and cried out when fingertips pinched and twisted a nipple painfully hard. Not the answer he wanted to hear. “Yes, Sir.”

“Good girl.” The words were followed by hands dragging her skirt up around her waist and pushing her panties down her legs to pool around her ankles only to be pulled taut when Kandomere pushed her legs wide. Placing a hand against her back he pushed her down so she stood bent over and exposed for his pleasure.

His fingers feathered her skin with purpose, slipping between her folds to become slick with her juices, teasingly rubbing circles over her clit until she was mewling in response. Sucking in a breath, she let it out in a long moan when two slick fingers pushed inside. Instinctively she pushed back against his fingers, riding them.

This was not a reaction he wanted, as his fingers stilled for a moment and his other hand came down hard against her skin, leaving a sting in the cheek he spanked. Jolting forward she let out a cry in surprise. Another slap, another sting, this time in the other cheek. More followed, alternating cheeks until her skin was glowing hot and stinging.

Her juices were soaking his fingers and starting to drip down her thighs. Each thrust of his fingers brought her closer to a release until suddenly he stopped. Before she could stop herself, she was begging him to continue. “Oh please…”

His hand connected to her skin again, renewing the sting and increasing the burn when he rubbed the spot. “Did you forget the rules already?”

“N-no Sir.”

“You do what I say, when I say. Did I say you could cum?”

“No,” Topaz answered and mewled louder when his hand connected to the other cheek, setting her skin ablaze as he rubbed the sting into both cheeks. “No sir!”

She could feel him moving, but didn’t dare look back. The first zipper she heard was the one on her skirt, whimpering into the sheets as she felt the fabric slip down her still burning cheeks. The jingle of a belt buckle caught her attention followed by the sound of another zipper and the rustle of clothes.

The anticipation was killing her, her body tensed up to brace for whatever was coming next. Feeling his hands caressing slowly up her back she started to relax, until fingers tangled in her hair and got a good grip, pulling her back up to her feet. His warm naked skin pressed against hers and feeling his cock between her cheeks as it was trapped between their bodies increased the throbbing ache between her thighs.

His hands moved with purpose, rubbing between her thighs but avoiding her swollen sensitive folds, caressing over her hips and up her sides, down the flat of her belly and up to cup her breasts. His lips trailed kisses from her shoulder up the side of her neck to her ear, pointy teeth pressing into the shell and licking the spot. A deep breathy chuckle escaped as his actions drew more whimpers from her.

She could feel a hand travel up, knew its destination and her hands gripped his arm as his fingers closed around her throat at the same moment as his hips shifted. Adjusting himself, he slowly pushed in and buried himself to the hilt. A cry of ecstasy escaped her, causing her nails to dig deeper into his arm which in turn closed his hand tighter around her throat.

Arching her back he pulled her close to him so he could speak directly into her ear. “Who do you belong to?”

His hand on her hip pulled her back onto his cock with each thrust, causing her to feel every inch deep inside. “You,” she moaned without an ounce of shame. “You, Sir.”

Slow and deep thrusts increased the pleasure, causing her to tighten her muscles around him, gripping his cock each time it buried deep. The slow burn was maddening and she was fast getting to the point where she didn’t care about her pride anymore and she would shamelessly beg him for more.

“I didn’t quite catch that. Who do you belong to?”

The hand that had been gripping her hip slipped between her thighs to rub along her folds, finding her clit between them, teasingly rubbing it and then pinching it. The sound that escaped her didn’t even sound human to her own ears, as her muscles clamped down around him hard. “You, Sir. I belong to you.”

He groaned at her strong reaction, and she took intense pleasure feeling him twitch inside her, knowing she brought him close to losing control as well. “Good girl. Tell me what you want.”

There was the moment of shameless begging she knew would come. “Please, oh please, please fuck me. Make me cum.”

A deep growling sound came from behind her, his mouth pressing a kiss to her neck followed by her ear and a hot tongue slithered against the shell. “As you wish, my pet.”

His hand gripped her hip again while the other tightened just a little more around her throat. She held onto his arm for the first few thrusts. The way their bodies collided with an audible slap at each thrust, making her breasts bounce, it caused the heat to radiate out fast and burning hot through her veins. She was a mewling mess as her arms went slack, dropping to her sides as she fully surrendered to the pleasure.

“Let me hear you,” he demanded, “cum hard for me.”

Topaz could hear herself making sounds she’d never known she was even capable of. The hard, fast strokes of his cock and the hand closed tightly around her throat caused her to surrender completely to her pleasure. Her hips moved against him tilting slightly so he rubbed against that spot inside that caused wave after wave of intense pleasure to burn through her until it was just too much.

Her entire body tensed, muscles clenching around him as a scream tore free when his hand released her throat. With both hands on her hips he pulled her back onto him with a few more hard thrusts before he stilled and his cock twitched with his release, a guttural groan coming from his lips.

They collapsed onto the bed together, panting, trying to recover. Getting her breathing under control she shifted more to the middle, feeling Kandomere shift with her, letting him slip between her thighs as he settled over her and kissing him as he joined their bodies once more. He was gentle this time, loving and slow, taking his time to bring them both to another orgasm.

Resting comfortably in his embrace afterward, she let out a content sigh. This was not at all how she had envisioned her night ending. She was starting to feel bad for what she had done to him, but at the same time not sorry for how it escalated. It did leave her with an appetite though. “Our food is getting cold.”

“I know,” Kandomere answered with a smirk, wrapping his arms tighter around her and burying his face into the crook of her neck. He held her tight for a few moments, then eased off so he could look at her. He no longer looked like he was going to devour her whole. “Will you talk to me?”

“I don’t wanna ruin your mood,” she argued with a little pout.

“You won’t.” He was resolute in that statement. Nuzzling her skin he pressed another soft kiss to it. “Talk to me, mi amor. I can’t fix it if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.”

His calm and understanding tone broke the last bit of resistance she held. But where to start? She had only practiced what she would say in a moment of anger. She didn’t want to be angry with him, especially not when what she was really feeling was disappointment, so she cut right to it. “You filed the paperwork last week, to make our relationship work official.”

“I did,” he confirmed with a nod, thinking on it a moment and sighing, hugging her tighter. “I am sorry.”

Turning around, Topaz cupped his face, pressing a soft kiss to her lips. “You’re an elf, I get it,” she said, giving him a sympathetic smile, “and you’ve been my boss, in charge and making all the decisions, but when the chief told me what you’d done, I felt disappointed and hurt.”

Kandomere kissed her with a tenderness that made her chase his lips for another when he pulled back. When it broke, she smiled contently and rested her head on his arm, just looking at him.

“Out there,” she continued, even though it was getting difficult to get the words out. This was such unfamiliar territory to her she was worried she was going to say the wrong thing and screw it all up, “I need to feel like we are equals, partners. Decisions that affect us both should be discussed and decided by the both of us.”

Caressing her face, Kandomere looked almost as if he was feeling hurt for her. “I didn’t think. I just took care of what I thought was a formality. I didn’t stop to consider it might be a big deal for you and I’m sorry for that.”

Running her fingers through his blue hair, she brushed it back from his face and leaned over to rub her nose against his. “Just, include me from now on,” she implored him, giving him another kiss. “Make me feel like I’m your equal.”

“That will be very difficult to do,” Kandomere answered with a sigh, a worry frown creasing his forehead. When she mirrored his frown he kissed her deeply, stopping the question from crossing her lips. “Because you’re pretty amazing, and I don’t know if I can measure up.”

Unable to help herself she started to chuckle, causing him to grin like an idiot. “Cheeky bastard.”

Dropping the smirk, he caressed her cheek. “I promise. As long as you promise to remind me when I forget, because I am going to forget sometimes.”

Nodding her head, she hugged him tightly, even though she really wanted to smack him for making her think for a moment this was an elf-human issue. Slipping from the bed she found his shirt among the carnage of clothes, slipping it on and rolling up the sleeves. “You think maybe now we can focus on the case?”

“As long as you’re dressed like that, all I am going to be thinking about is making you beg for mercy,” Kandomere answered, his arm folded behind his head as he watched her buttoning the shirt.

“So it will be a lesson in restraint,” she pointed out, trying and failing miserably to hide a smirk. Clapping her hands together, she started for the door. “Come on, move your carcass, we have work to do.”

Chapter Text

How long was she gonna take to wake up? Kandomere glanced at the clock for what was probably the hundredth time or so. Topaz had never taken this long to wake, certainly not with the smell of breakfast in the air. Something was definitely wrong, but if he went in there to check on her, she’d wake up grumpy and he would be stuck taking the brunt of her anger for the rest of his day off.

Turning his head, he listened for sounds from the bedroom, and a brow rose when Topaz appeared, her steps hurried as she cupped a hand over her mouth and disappeared into the bathroom. A moment later he heard awful but familiar sounds and rather than reaching for the coffee pot, he put on some water to boil.

Her phone buzzed again on the counter where she had left it to charge the night before. It had been buzzing a few times since he got up to make breakfast. Seeing Genny’s picture on the screen he unhooked it from the charger and swiped a thumb across the screen. “Miss Larsen, good morning. Where’s the fire?”

“Kandomere… oh there’s no fire. I thought we agreed to call me Genny? Taz was supposed to call me this morning to let me know if we were still on for lunch, but it’s getting late, even for her. Is she there?”

“She’s indisposed at the moment.”

“Oh god, did I interrupt something?”

“I assure you, there would be nothing that could interrupt that. She just woke up, but I believe she is currently throwing up. Would you like me to ask her to call you back?”

There was a long pause at the other end of the line, speaking again at the same time as Topaz reappeared looking pale as a sheet and staggering a little. “Did you get my best friend pregnant?”

Topaz was wearing his shirt but only two buttons were done, suggesting she’d been in the process of getting up when her stomach revolted, sending her running for the bathroom. As she got closer he could smell the minty scent of her toothpaste, but it couldn’t mask the pungent smell seeping from her pores. Leaning in a little closer he inhaled her scent and shook his head. “I believe she has the flu. She’s here, would you like to speak with her?”

“Yes please.”

Kandomere handed Topaz the phone, pulling her in close for a hug and a kiss to the forehead, which felt warm and her skin a bit clammy. She was definitely coming down with something and while he was immune to human illness, he still sighed, because Topaz falling ill ruined his plans for his day off. He was now going to be spending it taking care of her.

Searching through the cabinets he found some of the herbs he needed and mixed them into the tea leaves. Ushering her to the couch and out of his kitchen away from the smell of food, Kandomere prepared her tea and brought it out to her. Getting a pillow from the bedroom and a blanket from underneath the couch, he got her settled in and waited for her to end her phone conversation before he spoke.

“I need to make a quick trip to the store. Drink the tea. It will help settle your stomach.”

“I’m sorry.” Topaz looked so small and helpless as she looked up at him with big brown eyes. He’d never seen her this vulnerable and small before because she never allowed herself to, and he almost smiled.

Softly caressing her cheek, Kandomere shook his head. “Sorry for what?”

“I know you had plans today, and I just ruined them by getting sick.”

“Did you get sick on purpose?”

“Of course not.”

“Then you have nothing to apologize for. Circumstances change, plans change,” he said as he made her get comfortable and tucked her in, brushing a stray strand of hair away from her face. Her skin was paling by the minute, the circles under her eyes darkening, but the open vulnerability made her look more beautiful than ever. “So I am gonna go to the store, get a few things, and I’ll be back. We can be couch potatoes instead.”

Her eyes closed under his caress, but a smile still curved her lips. “I thought you hated being a couch potato.”

Kandomere sighed deeply. “We all have to make sacrifices sometimes.”

She laughed which made her grimace and reach for her head. “How fucking noble of you.”

“Language, Topaz.”

“Bite me, Grumpus.”

Letting out a little chuckle, Kandomere leaned over to press a kiss to her forehead. Getting up, he grabbed his phone, wallet and keys and paused a moment to watch her breathing even out as she fell asleep. Shaking his head once more, he left, to get the supplies he was missing to help her get better.

Despite her protesting stomach, Topaz had woken up again shortly after Kandomere left to drink the tea he had left her. At first it seemed to make the urge to hurl worse, but the more she drank, the weaker the urge became, until it was just a little queasy feeling she could ignore more easily. Having some fluids in her made her feel a little better, but she still felt like an utter mess, probably looked like it as well.

Getting up, she wobbled into the bathroom, leaning on the counter as she stared at her reflection. “Definitely seen better days, girl,” she mumbled, and ran some cold water over her wrists, scooping some in her hands to splash on her face. Maybe a shower would be better? Her skin was so clammy from the fever, she could probably use one.

She was just about to turn on the shower when she heard the front door open. Was Kandomere back already? The click of heels against the marble floors caught her attention. This wasn’t Kandomere, and as she listened, she knew it wasn’t a man either. Her eyebrows rose in surprise when the footsteps came closer and a woman appeared in the doorway.

Although she appeared young at first glance, the fine lines around her mouth and eyes indicated she was older than she appeared. A smile tugged the corners of her lips up, making the lines around her mouth and eyes more visible. Her white hair was pulled back from her face and held together at the back of her neck by a jeweled clip that sparkled when she turned her head. “You must be Topaz. I’ve heard so much about you.”

Her eyebrows hiked up high, staring at the woman that obviously knew her name, but try as she might, she could not remember Kandomere mentioning anyone. Who was she, and why was she here? She had a key obviously, which meant she was someone Kandomere knew and trusted, but obviously didn’t trust Topaz enough to tell her about the woman’s existence.

Hearing the woman rattle off something in Spanish, she sounded just like Kandomere when he wasn’t pleased about something and started muttering to himself. Was she related to Kandomere? “I’m sorry, you have me at a disadvantage, because I have no idea who you are.”

“Ah, you speak. You look very pale. We need to get some color in those cheeks. Where’s my grandson?”

Topaz clenched her jaw to keep it from dropping at that nugget of information. This was Kandomere’s grandmother? She was alone, dressed in just Kandomere’s shirt, sickish and pale, standing barefoot in front of his grandmother? Worst first impression ever, Taz. Great going!

“He went to the store to get some things. Should be back soon?”

“Things to take care of this sickness of yours?” she asked, her gaze traveling over her form. Topaz nodded in response and watched as the woman took off her gloves revealing long delicate fingers with well manicured nails. “Good. You should take a shower, I will find you something more suitable to wear than my grandson’s shirt, though I am sure he would disagree.”

Before Topaz could respond, the woman was gone from the doorway, her heels clicking against the marble floor. Part of her wanted to follow, tell her she should take her shoes off, because Kandomere doesn’t like shoes worn in the house, but telling someone’s grandmother off would really not make the best impression.

Turning around, she turned on the shower as she had intended to earlier, and peeled off the shirt, dropping it in the hamper and stepping under the spray. The click of heels came closer as she was rinsing shampoo from her hair, but the woman didn’t speak and the clicking noise disappeared into the distance again.

Cleaning herself quickly but thoroughly, she dried off and found clothing neatly laid out for her. Underwear, socks, her favorite comfy pants and the shirt that said ‘careful I bite’ with fangs on the front. It was still too big and slid off one shoulder as she stood in front of the mirror to brush her hair. Holding the brush with her right hand still gave her trouble. She couldn’t really put any strength into her grip yet.

The heel clicks approached again. “I fixed you a new cup of tea. Oh, that looks much better already. Don’t you feel better? Come, chiquita, I’ll do that.”

The brush was gone from her hand, and those delicate fingers were deceptively strong as they wrapped around her wrist and pulled her along to the couch, making her sit down. Topaz wasn’t sure if this was really happening. Had the fever gotten so high she was now delirious and imagining people?

“You’re Kandomere’s grandmother?” she asked to break the silence.

“Correct. My name is Eris. You may call me by name or you may call me abuela.” The way she ran the brush through her hair told Topaz this woman had done this before, probably with her daughter or granddaughter.

“I’m Topaz-”

“I know who you are. I’ve known who you were from the moment you came to work for my grandson. It is my business to know these things.”

Oh great, she’s one of those. Topaz closed her eyes and said a silent prayer for Kandomere to come home soon. At least then she wouldn’t be going through this hell alone. “Unfortunately he told me nothing about you.”

“Good. He exaggerates. My grandson is a bit of a drama queen. So tell me, Topaz, do you think this is your rags to riches story?” fingernails scratched her scalp as the woman parted her hair to prepare for braiding.

When Topaz tried to move so she could look at her, a good tug on her hair made her sit still. “I’m sorry?”

“Are you after his money?”

“I thought Kandomere told you about me.”

“He has, but I prefer hearing it straight from the source.”

“No, ma’am. I’m not after his money.”

“A career woman. Figures. He’s so involved with his work, he would find someone who’s equally as involved. If you had to choose between career or my grandson, which would you choose?”

Was Eris trying to start a game of ‘would you rather’ with her? What was keeping Kandomere so long? Did he leave on purpose, knowing his grandmother was about to visit? Eris paused in her movements the tugging on her hair stopping for a moment. She was waiting for an answer. “I’m sure your grandson told you I already chose my career over him once.”

The tugging on her hair continued. “Indeed, and you got yourself a promotion. Impressive for a young agent.”

“I’m not that young.”

“Which begs the question why you haven’t found yourself a man and settled down already. Made some babies.”

“I’m not sure that’s an appropriate question to ask of any woman, no matter her line of work.”

“Do you intend to marry my grandson and give him children?”

“Honestly, Eris, we are still on the argument of me moving in with him, and even if those topics were on the table, respectfully, that would be between him and me.”

“Not if you intend to marry into my family. I control the family business and the money that pays for all the luxuries you two are currently enjoying under this roof.”

Finally her prayers were answered and not a moment too soon. Topaz looked up at the door when she heard the lock turn and the moment Kandomere appeared, she gave him a pleading look. “Look who’s here, it’s your-”

“Abuela?!” Kandomere exclaimed, closing the door behind him, and kicking off his shoes. Placing the bag he had in his hands on the counter as he came toward them. “You were supposed to call me when your flight landed.”

“Nonsense. I had some business to take care of in town this morning. I am perfectly capable of arranging my own transportation.” Finished with the braiding, Eris produced a clip seemingly from nowhere, and fixed the end of her braid in a bun to the back of her head. She slipped from English into Spanish as she stood to embrace her grandson.

Taking her tea, Topaz curled up into the corner of the couch, pulling the blanket around her and trying to make herself as small as possible. Letting them have their argument she watched their body language, while they fired words at each other like bullets from machine guns. Although she couldn’t understand them, she still got the gist.

She remained in her spot when they took their argument to the kitchen. She’d never seen Kandomere so animated and emotional. Sipping her tea, she felt a lot better than before her shower, despite the added stress from getting interrogated by Eris. How aptly she was named after the Greek goddess of strife and discord. Topaz was sure she didn’t want to understand what they were arguing about though.

The ringtone on her phone finally pulled her from her thoughts. Snatching it up from the coffee table, she quickly answered the call when she saw who it was. “Please tell me this is a work related call.”

Montehugh chuckled a little. “Hello to you too, Bennett. It is. I tried calling the boss man first, but he didn’t pick up.”

He’s a little busy at the moment, arguing with his grandmother. You should see it. It’s all arms, eyebrows and pointy fingers and a lot of Dios mío’, which I don’t need to guess as to what that means...”

Grandmother? I didn’t know he had family.”

Neither did I, so imagine my surprise when she suddenly showed up to give me the third degree. Let me go into the other room so I can hear you better.” Standing up she had to steady herself until the room stopped spinning before she could walk into the computer room, closing the sliding door behind her and breathing a sigh of relief at the relative silence. “Okay speak.”

I haven’t discovered which wand the Inferni got their hands on, but I have a solid lead on who has the wand in their possession now and where. Remember that lead from Florida we thought was a dead end? I decided to have another crack at it, and I just sent you what I discovered.”

P utting the phone on speaker, she put it aside as she grabbed the wireless keyboard and accessed her mail on the big screen. Loading the information from Montehugh onto the map, she stared slack jawed at the pattern that formed. “Why didn’t I see this before?” she mumbled.

Many reasons, but probably because you were too deep in it to see the bigger picture.”

Picking up the phone she took it off speaker and brought it back to her ear. “I think I know where the wand came from. Can you come pick me up?”

Absolutely not. You’re not going anywhere, you’re sick. Give me the phone.” Kandomere held out his hand, fixing her with a stare that told her not to try his patience right now because he had very little left.

Sighing, she handed over the phone, lingering, but Kandomere refused to put the phone to his ear until she moved out of the room, where she was met with another disapproving look.

You should be resting. Here, drink this,” Eris said as she handed her a small cup with a disgusting looking liquid that smelled even worse. Taking a sip she made a face. “That tastes like ear wax and shoe shine. What on earth is it?”

It’ll cure you of your flu much quicker than your conventional medicines can,” Eris explained and made a gesture to keep drinking. “All at once, down the hatch.”

Death technically is not a cure,” Topaz answered and mentally kicked herself for having her brain to mouth filter fail her once again. Eris did not look amused by her witty retort. Taking a deep breath, she downed the contents of the cup all at once as instructed and gagged once it was all gone. “That’s awful. Why does the stuff that actually works always taste like death?”

Because it is meant to cure, not to please the taste buds. To bed with you,” Eris answered her while shooing her in the direction of the bedroom.

The blanket and her pillow were gone from the couch and as she walked into the bedroom she saw her side of the bed turned down, ready for her to slip under the covers. The closer she got to the bed, the more sluggish she felt. The medicine. She put something in the medicine . “I feel funny.”

Eris helped her into bed and tucked her in. “That’s the medicine. It’s making you sleepy, but when you wake up, you’ll feel good as new.”

I will wake up, won’t I?” Topaz asked, her speech slurring like she’d have a bit too much to drink.

Of course you will. You’re family now. Trust your abuela.”

Topaz wanted to say more, wanted to ask her what she meant by that, but the delicate long fingers softly caressing her face made it difficult to keep her eyes open. After a few moments she lost the struggle completely and the last thing she heard was Eris’ foot steps leaving the room.

Chapter Text

As soon as Topaz stepped on the plane, Kandomere knew it was going to be a long flight. She had her headphones around her neck, her tablet under her arm, as well as a few files and she slipped into the seats across from them. Getting herself settled she asked for coffee after take off and put her headphones on. He could hear the music, which was loud enough to block the both of them out.

Letting out his breath in a long sigh, Kandomere slowly shook his head and turned his attention back to Montehugh, who’d been watching the both of them during this little scene. The silent treatment was to be expected since it was the only thing she really could do with their don’t bring personal business to work rule. They didn’t need to talk right now and it wasn’t interfering with work.

“Trouble in paradise?” Montehugh asked as he looked from one to the other and back.

Kandomere made a gesture and buckled up for takeoff. He wasn’t even sure how to answer that question. His grandmother visiting wasn’t ideal, especially since he’d not even talked about his family to Topaz yet. Her presence was stirring up some things, but maybe those were things that needed stirring up.

As soon as the seat belt sign went off, Montehugh clicked off his belt and shifted into his usual corner. “I’m just asking because you look a little more uptight than usual.”

“My grandmother made an unannounced visit and she’s invited herself to stay in my guestroom,” Kandomere said, giving the easiest explanation he could that he was sure Montehugh would understand since he had the distinct displeasure of meeting Eris more than once.

“Eris is in town?” the man asked, both eyebrows drawn way up on his forehead. “I didn’t realize things were getting that serious.”

Kandomere frowned and glanced across the isle at Topaz, who was caught up in reading one of the files she’d brought on board with her. Her eyebrows were drawn together and down, creating a little wrinkle in her forehead right above her nose and her fingers were pinching her bottom lip in thought. She was focused on work, and not on being mad with him, which allowed him to shake loose his shoulders and shift for comfort.

“I think something else is going on,” he answered Montehugh. Eris wasn’t acting out of character, but she wasn’t entirely herself either, which confused him about as much as it was aggravating Topaz with the way she was prodding her with questions and comments.

“She doesn’t approve of the common girl?”

“I don’t think it has to do with Topaz, at least not directly,” Kandomere argued and shook his head. Topaz was holding her own, proving she was equally as stubborn as the old woman, and Kandomere knew his grandmother appreciated women with a backbone and a stubborn streak as tough as her own. “but my grandmother doesn’t give away her secrets for free.”

“I don’t envy you,” Montehugh answered with a chuckle, though he wasn’t really amused. “I may not know the inner workings of elf families, but I do know a thing or two about relationships and arguments with the woman you love. Whatever it is, you better figure it out and fast, or you’ll be in the doghouse with that one for a long time.” He nodded his head in the direction of Topaz.

“I’m well aware, thank you.”

---

“We missed you at dinner.”

Topaz looked up from her laptop when Montehugh spoke. She had passed on going to dinner for multiple reasons, but the most obvious was the sour looking elf that walked in the door behind him. At least without her there, dinner would not be awkward for Montehugh. Although Kandomere was only partially to blame for how she was currently feeling, he was the only one she could take her frustrations out on.

“While you were gone, I actually got a lot of work done,” she answered as if their presence had kept her from being productive. She smiled when Montehugh chuckled in response.

Kandomere looked like a father who had reached the end of his rope with his child, but still found some way to hold on. “Did you eat?”

“I ordered room service,” she answered curtly. Shutting down the laptop, she closed the lid and got up from the table. Straightening up allowed her to put her game face back on.

“I got you that interview tomorrow at eleven.” Picking up two folders, she held one out to Kandomere, while handing the other to Montehugh. “The file you requested. I had them printed and sent over. Captain Andrews is expecting you at ten, because he wants to talk to you before your interview. Our analysts are going over the evidence, we should have a report first thing in the morning.”

“Well shit, Bennett, you’re making us look bad.” Montehugh flipped open the folder to glance at the contents.

“Just doing my job, so you two can do yours,” she answered, and gave a little bow of her head when Montehugh mouthed a thank you to her. She could still feel Kandomere’s eyes on her, and knew that if she stuck around, Montehugh might be put in the middle of something he would probably want no part of.

“If you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time for me to retire for the night. Please enjoy a night cap for me, they brought up whiskey, the good stuff.” Giving a little bow and a salute, she made sure to avoid making eye contact with the elf as she turned to head into the bedroom. She sidestepped when Kandomere tried to cut her off.

“Topaz...”

“Don’t,” she warned him, her eyes darted to his long enough to take note of his features. His brows were drawn together and down, and that one wrinkle in his forehead when he worried almost made her cup his face and kiss him. Instead she reached up and trailed her fingertips along his cheek and jaw. “I’m fine, I promise.”

Closing the bedroom door behind her, Topaz let go of the breath she’d been holding, hoping to let go of some of the building tension. Rolling her head around on her shoulders, she started stripping down, neatly putting her clothes over the chair in the corner. It made her smile for a moment. Not too long ago she would have just dropped them where she stood.

She had just slipped on her night shirt and picked up her brush to run it through her hair when the bedroom door opened and closed. His presence filled the room, and where it would normally bring with it a sense of safety, it now brought back the tension.

“You should go have a night cap with Montehugh,” she said, keeping her back to him as she removed the tie holding her hair and grabbed hold of her hair, running the brush through the ends.

“I want to see if you’re really okay, like you keep saying you are.”

“I am.”

“Something is bugging you.”

It was a statement, not a question. Topaz had learned that when Kandomere made statements there was no use in denying it if there was truth to it. Taking a deep breath, she let it out in a huff. “Yes.”

“Then talk to me,” Kandomere pleaded, his hands grabbed her hips to pull her back against him and her eyes closed for a moment at the feel of his lips pressing a kiss to the back of her neck after brushing her hair aside.

How could she resist this man or stay angry with him, when little gestures like that could make the tension disappear like snow in the sun? Already she could feel herself relax and lean into his warmth, wanting his embrace.

She wouldn’t talk about the personal stuff. They had made a promise to leave that at home, and although it was difficult to leave the feelings at home, she was doing her best to honor that promise. The trouble with his grandmother wasn’t the only thing that was on her mind however, and being out of the office had really made the feelings that went along with that hit her hard.

Shaking her head, she pulled away and continued brushing her hair. “What good does it do? You can’t change it. It’s not your fault. It is what it is and I will just have to get used to it.”

There was a moment of silence, and when Kandomere didn’t move or speak, she turned, expecting to see the annoyance written all over his face, but his features were relaxed, if a bit pained, and for once she could feel his sympathy. “You miss being out in the field.”

Slowly, she nodded.

“You’re in the field now.”

“Without a gun, and all I get to do is to play secretary.”

“You play it so well though.” A smirk tugged on a corner of his mouth for just a moment, betraying his thoughts.

“Not funny.”

“I wasn’t kidding,” Kandomere answered, his features back to serious. “Your work is important. You know what we want, you anticipate our needs, and you are still using that detective brain of yours.”

“A lot of good that is doing. I feel like we’re still ten steps behind.”

“Maybe we are, but without you, who knows where we would’ve been?” His hands were on her hips again, pulling her in closer, and those icy blue eyes bore into her. Even if she wanted to, Topaz couldn’t look away. “I know you want to be out there slapping the cuffs on them yourself, but you’re still catching the bad guys. You’re still winning.”

Why did he always know just what to say to make her feel like shit for complaining in the first place? No one knew better how to push buttons like he did. Nodding, she smiled up at him. “I wasn’t fishing for compliments, but thank you,” she said and patted her hands against his chest. “You should go have your nightcap.”

Kandomere shook his head, but allowed her to slip from his embrace. “If it’s really bothering you that much, we should talk about it. We’re not on the clock all day, you know?”

“Talk about what?”

“Abuela.”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“C’mon Taz. Avoiding it isn’t going to make her go away.”

“I was afraid you would say that.”

“So what’s bugging you?”

“She’s digging through my life with a fine tooth comb,” Topaz started and knew that now the first words had crossed her lips, she was not going to be able to stop the rest from tumbling out. Kandomere was asking for the truth though, so he couldn’t blame her if he didn’t like what she had to say.

“She keeps talking about marriage and kids, investing in our future and it’s making it really difficult for me to not run away screaming.” Topaz started pacing back and forth, her fingers rubbing and scratching at the skin on her forehead.

“Abuela has that effect on people. She comes on a little strong.”

“A little?” Topaz asked incredulously, stopping her pacing long enough to look at him. Her thumb nail found it’s way between her teeth as she bit down on it. “It’s like she has our whole future planned out when we haven’t even discussed these topics yet. It feels like there’s a noose tightening around my neck and it’s getting really difficult to breathe.”

“Just nod and smile,” Kandomere answered calmly, “answer her questions as best as you can and she will be happy and go home. She’s just being abuela.”

Why was he so calm about this when his grandmother was sticking her nose where it didn’t belong, stirring up things that didn’t need stirring and creating a shit storm where there was barely a breeze before? “How can I be honest about things we haven’t discussed yet? Especially when neither of you might like the answers.”

“I doubt that,” Kandomere answered with a little chuckle. “Unless you are against marriage and children, I doubt you could upset her either.”

“My parents got married and had a child. Look how well that turned out.”

And there goes my verbal diarrhea. This is gonna be bad.

“So what are you saying?” Kandomere’s voice was no longer calm. The shift in stance and the hand on his hip signaled the start of an argument. “You’re gonna write it off, because you saw one bad example?”

I don’t want to do this, please make me stop. Someone...

“No, that’s not it,” Topaz argued as she pinched herself hard enough that it was going to leave a mark, but it didn’t stop the words from coming out of her mouth. “What I am saying is, I know how spectacular relationships can fail, because I grew up around the results of failed relationships and marriages.”

“That doesn’t mean every relationship is going to fail.”

“You’re an elf and I am human. The odds are already against us.”

“Oh stop it. Now you’re just being ridiculous. I refuse to believe that doom and gloom is all there is. Everyone has hopes and dreams, Topaz, even you.”

“I don’t have scrapbooks of my dream wedding and my imaginary perfect family, if that’s what you’re hoping for,” Topaz answered with a shake of her head. She’d never been that kind of girl. All she had ever hoped for was to not end up like her mother. “I grew up having very little faith in the institution of marriage and I never had the dream to be a mother.”

And there you have it ladies and gentlemen, the mother of all bombs, the one that destroys relationships.

“I see.” Kandomere let his shoulders hang and headed for the door.

“Where are you going?”

Pausing with his hand on the handle, Kandomere looked back at her. “I believe this is not a conversation we should be continuing right now. I’m going to have a nightcap.”

“Kandomere…”

“You should get some rest. I’ll try to be quiet.”

The door closed and Topaz slumped down onto the edge of the bed, falling back and closing her eyes as she rubbed her face. Why didn’t she stop herself? She knew where it was headed. Why didn’t she warn Kandomere?

“Great going Taz. You didn’t just step in it, you riverdanced back and forth,” she mumbled out loud.

Laying there for a little while, she listened for sounds from the other room, but she couldn’t make anything out. Crawling under the covers, she did her best to find sleep, but she could never quite get there. Every little sound alerted her and she’d wait to feel Kandomere slipping into bed, only to sink back into her semi slumber to wait for the next sound.

The bedroom door opened and flooded the room with light for just a moment. The smell of his cologne wafted into the room as he moved around to get undressed for bed. Topaz waited, eyes closed, feeling him slipping under the covers, hoping he would roll over and curl up against her like he always did when he came to bed late. She could feel him moving around, setting his alarm, and heard the click of the bedside light being turned off. Still, he didn’t curl up to her.

Sucking her bottom lip between her teeth, Topaz bit down on it. She could feel the tears stinging behind her lids, but she wasn’t going to give in to the emotion. There was movement behind her, the feel of his chest pressing against her back and his arm wrapping snugly around her finally putting her at ease.

“It’s gonna be okay. Te amo, mi amor. Go to sleep.”

Relaxing into his embrace, Topaz allowed sleep to finally claim her, but her rest was short lived as bright light flooded the room and Kandomere was moving. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she kept closing her eyes as she struggled to get awake. Kandomere was putting his clothes back on. “What’s happening?”

“Andrews called. They caught a new case they want us to consult on.”

In a few smooth moves she was sitting on the edge of the bed rubbing the sleep from her eyes and yawning. “I am going to need a lot of coffee.”

Chapter Text

Topaz nodded her head in thanks as she curled her fingers around the mug, feeling the warmth of the black liquid that was keeping her sane seeping out, warming her palm as she slid it closer to her.

“More coffee? You sure that is a good idea.”

Looking up, she smiled at the detective asking, but it never quite reached her eyes. Those eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep and incessant staring at the same screen for hours. She was beginning to lose the fight of keeping them open and focused, but she had to. She couldn’t wait for the Inferni to increase the body count even further.

“It’s the fuel that keeps me going.”

“Until you keel over from a heart attack, if you don’t collapse from exhaustion first?”

“What can I say, I like to live dangerously.”

Detective Graham sat down next to her, leaning an elbow on the table as he turned his body so it was clear all of his attention was focused on her. “I couldn’t help noticing you seem to be stuck. Sometimes hyper focusing on a case can help, but more often than not, I see people get tunnel vision instead. When detectives start to tunnel, they lose sight of their case, the big picture, and miss vital clues.”

Topaz shook her head and carefully took a sip of her coffee, testing the temperature. “I’m not tunneling.”

“Whatever it is you’re doing, your method doesn’t seem to be working.”

“Unfortunately, I think you’re right.” Sitting back, she looked at all the photos, statements, and evidence copies spread out before her, lacking any sort of pattern. The pattern was exactly what she was looking for, but it was eluding her. It wasn’t the first time, and more than likely it wouldn’t be the last, but there were other factors this time, keeping her from focusing fully on the puzzle in front of her.

“Forgive me if this is out of line, but is it possible your mind is distracted by other things? Like another agent, for instance.”

Topaz sipped her coffee. She had gotten used to the terrible taste already. Taking a deep breath, she held it for a few seconds before slowly releasing it and imagining blowing out her tension as well. It only worked for a moment. A corner of her mouth tugged up in a half smile. “That obvious, huh?”

“For most of them, nah.” Detective Graham gestured to his colleagues in general. “They’re all divorced or single and not by choice, if you know what I mean. They’re clueless about female body language.”

“But not you...” An observant detective might just be what she needed to help her find the connection that refused to jump out at her from the evidence. If only she could steer him away from discussing their love lives.

Graham shook his head. “Happily married for fourteen years, two sons and a baby girl on the way.”

“Congrats, that’s a full house,” Topaz said and setting her coffee aside, she straightened up in her chair, her gaze traveling over the spread before her. “I’m not-”

“Married? Lack of jewelry or tan lines told me as much, but you are involved.”

There was going to be no escaping the conversation, but maybe talking to someone who was not neck deep in it, and by his own admission in a happy relationship could help. “How’d you figure it out?”

“It’s simple really. He can’t stop glancing in your direction every so often. He made sure food was brought in for you, your favorite and he has developed a permanent worry frown since about your fourth cup of coffee. He cares for you, a lot, and by the way you have been dodging him and he’s going out of his way to please you, I’m willing to make an educated guess that you two are at odds over something.”

“A detective who actually knows how to ‘detect’. Color me moderately impressed.”

“Just moderately?”

“Don’t have the energy to spare for more, but I could use those detective skills to help me with this.”

“I don’t wanna push or pry, but if it’s bugging, talking to someone might help, and I have been told I am a good listener. It might help to get an outsider’s view.”

Both her eyebrows rose for a moment. Was this man intuitive or did he have some mind reading abilities? Hadn’t she been thinking the same thing a few moments ago. Picking up her coffee again, she nursed it between both her hands and paused the cup just short of her lips to answer. “We had a disagreement we didn’t get to resolve. Usually I can park it, to focus on work.”

“So what’s different this time?”

“Do you have a few hours?” Topaz asked and let out a little chuckle, shaking her head. Maybe it was better he didn’t know the history, it would cloud his judgment. “I’ll spare you the story. Simplest answer? I put my foot in my mouth. Big time.”

“So what? I’ve put my foot in my mouth too many times to count. Shit happens.”

“Yeah, mostly to me, because I’m prone to verbal diarrhea,” Topaz answered. Glancing at Graham he was still sitting there, his focus on her, curious about her answer. There was no judgment. “Once I start talking, the diarrhea just keeps coming. It happens a lot, but this was different.”

“What made it different?” 

“This wasn’t bullshit diarrhea, I meant what I said, but I didn’t explain what I meant when I said it...” She had seen it in Kandomere’s eyes. The moment the words left her lips, he drew conclusions about what they meant and the conclusions disappointed him. Remembering the look he had given her, Topaz felt the tears sting her eyes again and she rapidly blinked them away, taking a quick sip of her coffee to swallow down the lump in her throat with. 

“I can assure you from personal experience that one argument is not going to irreparably damage your relationship, not even the argument.” Graham put a reassuring hand on her shoulder and gave it a little squeeze.The smile he gave her conveyed understanding. 

Rapid blinking caused a single tear to roll down her cheek and she quickly brushed it away, shifting in her chair so her back was to where she knew Kandomere was staring at her. She could feel his stare on her. “I should’ve kept my mouth shut...” 

“I doubt that would’ve helped. Maybe short term with this case, but speaking from personal experience again, it’s good to know where both your feelings land on these things, before things get too complicated.” 

“What if they don’t land in the same place though?” Topaz knew she and Kandomere had very different ideas of where their relationship was going, and for different reasons, but up until she shattered his illusions she still felt that at some point they would end up walking the same path. “Or one person thinks they don’t?” 

“If you really care for each other, it’s worth trying to find a compromise and go from there. Avoiding the subject and letting him continue to make the wrong assumptions will only lead to more heartache.” Graham gave her a sympathetic smile and glanced over her shoulder. “Heads up.” 

Clearing her throat and sitting up straight, Topaz took a few deep breaths, forcing her mask back on her face as the door opened and Kandomere stepped into the room. 

“Any progress?” 

Detective Graham shook his head. “I think Agent Bennett’s been burning the candle on both ends for a little too long. Maybe a break’s in order.” 

Kandomere nodded, his jacket was hanging open, and he brushed it back as he placed a hand on his hip, waiting for Topaz to acknowledge his presence. “I agree. There’s a car waiting to take us back to the hotel.” 

One glance in his direction told Topaz that arguing was going to be pointless. Swiping an arm across the table, she collected all of the papers and photos, picking them up and tapping them against the table until they formed a neat stack and slipped them back into the folder. “Thank you for the conversation, detective.” 

“You’re welcome,” detective Graham answered with a nod and a smile, shaking her hand firmly. 

With the folder clutched to her chest, Topaz walked out the door Kandomere held open for her and headed toward the stairs. The silence between them was growing louder, causing Topaz to walk a few paces faster, surprised to not find Montehugh waiting for them by the car. Puzzled, she looked around for him, but he hadn’t followed them either. 

“He’s staying behind in case something comes up,” Kandomere answered her unasked question and held the door open. Thankfully, he took the passenger seat, giving her some respite as she stared out the window. In the daylight things looked so different she had little to no reference from memory on where they were or which direction they were going. 

By the time they reached the hotel, her limbs were becoming heavy and increasingly uncooperative. An eye-watering yawn caused her to bring a hand up to cover her mouth and she groaned. “Caffeine crash,” she mumbled when Kandomere’s hand found it’s way to the back of her neck, rubbing a thumb over her skin. 

“Should probably have called it quits several cups ago.” 

“Yeah, like that would ever happen,” Topaz snorted, kicking off her shoes as soon as they walked in the door, not even bothering to pick them up, knowing Kandomere would get them before she could get her limbs to cooperate. Unzipping her skirt was easy, but getting her jacket or blouse off was proving a bit much.

Like her knight in shining armor, Kandomere appeared, silently removing her jacket, hanging it up and unbuttoning her blouse so he could slide it down her arms. When he reached behind her to unhook her bra, her bottom lip slipped between her teeth. “I think we need to talk.”

“You need to sleep.” The answer was short, and he barely looked at her naked chest as she stood there in her underwear with her skirt pooled at her feet. He knelt down to slide her stockings down her legs, his fingertips gentle and a little ticklish against her skin. Gathering her skirt and stockings he moved to stand.

“I think we need to talk first,” she spoke with more determination, squeezing her butt cheeks together and pulling her shoulders back to stand up straighter. 

“Taz, it can wait,” Kandomere answered with a sigh as he went about undressing himself.

“I don’t think it can, considering you can’t even look at me for more than five seconds.” Topaz cringed at the snappy tone of her own voice. She wanted to talk, not argue. Closing her eyes she counted to five and tried again. “Please… I think you might have drawn the wrong conclusions about what I said earlier.” 

“You made yourself perfectly clear. Topaz please get in bed. You need to rest. We can discuss this later.”

The patronizing tone in his voice was pushing buttons, but Topaz pressed her lips tightly together to keep her instinctive reaction under control. When it passed, she took a breath and shook her limbs loose. “That’s the problem though, I didn’t make myself clear at all.”

“You don’t want to get married, and you don’t want children. I got the message. Please, can we let this rest?” 

“You didn’t get my message at all,” Topaz argued, shaking her head as she turned to keep facing Kandomere’s direction. Not even a moment did he stop his routine to look at her, and it was starting to hurt. Moving around the bed, she grabbed his arm. “Will you stop and look at me. I’m trying to talk to you. I want, no, I need to explain myself, and you shutting me out isn’t helping.” 

Kandomere sighed deeply, his lips were set in a thin line, his stare was cold, his brows drawn down to form an angry V-shape above those ice cold blue eyes. “You never dreamed of the white picket fence, a husband and children. It’s pretty self explanatory.” 

“Obviously not,” Topaz answered with a sigh. “I said I never dreamt of those things, not to tell you I didn’t want those things, but to let you know I have no clue what I want, because I have never been in a position where I had to think about it.” 

“So what are you saying?” Kandomere asked. 

The features of his face softened, the frown turning from annoyance to one of confusion. It gave Topaz hope that he was finally listening and while her heart thumped in her chest, she had to push on now she had his attention. Just don’t make it worse. 

“I can’t answer your grandmother’s questions truthfully, because they are questions I never thought to ask myself before, and it doesn’t feel right to figure them out with her instead of you.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” 

“I would’ve if you hadn’t left the room.” 

Kandomere’s head tilted from one side to the other, and one of his arms slipped around her waist as he pulled her closer, the other coming up to brush a strand of hair out of her face. His fingertips traced along her jaw and paused at her chin. “Do you want to get married?” 

Topaz bit her lip and felt her shoulders pull up and together. “I don’t know,” she answered softly, and when Kandomere’s head tilted the other way again like he was waiting for the rest of her answer, she shifted her weight from one foot to the other, mirroring him. “Maybe...” 

He nodded slowly and his fingers moved to brush another strand of hair back that was bothering him, or keeping him from getting a good look at her face. “Do you want children?” 

“Honestly?” 

Kandomere nodded. “Tell me what you’re thinking, not what you think I want to hear.” 

Topaz searched his face for any sign he didn’t mean what he was asking of her, but she couldn’t find any. Her heart pounded so fast and strong, it caused a deafening drum in her ears. Her mouth went dry, and despite several attempts to wet her lips, it just got worse. Slowly she shook her head. “No, not right now.” 

Kandomere’s hand slipped to the back of her neck and he drew her in even closer to his chest, causing her to place her hands against his bare chest. “That is what you tell my grandmother. Nothing more, nothing less.” 

Before Topaz could react, his lips pressed to hers and her hands slid down his chest to slip to his back, wrapping her arms around him. When the kiss broke, she hugged herself tightly against his chest and rested her cheek against his shoulder. “Okay,” she nodded. 

“Now can we get some sleep?” Kandomere asked, curling a finger under her chin to make her look up at him. When she eased off her embrace, he stepped back. The hand that came down on her ass cheek surprised her enough to make her jump as she turned to walk around the bed. 

“Actually. You know where I stand, but I have no idea how you feel. I mean, I can guess, but look where guessing got us...” She gave him a little half smile. 

Kandomere held out his hands, palms up. Hesitating a moment, she placed her own in his, stepping forward when he drew her in, watching him bring both hands up to his lips to press kisses to her knuckles. Placing her hands on his shoulders, they easily slipped around his neck when he hugged her to him. “I want you to be my wife, when you’re ready, but I never cared much for that white picket fence. Very unimaginative. I think we could come up with something better, together.” 

Her heart fluttered in her chest, and unable to resist, she stood up on her toes, pulling him to her. The moment their lips met, she felt herself melting into him, losing herself in the sensual duel of their tongues until she felt the coolness of the bed against her back. Opening her legs, she let him settle between them, smiling up at him and brushing his blue hair back so she could better look at his face. 

“What about kids?” 

Another kiss took most of her breath away, leaving her lips swollen and her yearning for another. She mirrored the smirk that tugged on his lips, matching it with her own when he spoke. “I think we need more practice. Way, way more practice.” 

Topaz frowned as if that answer left her puzzled. “I thought we needed sleep.” 

“Shut up.”

“Yes, sir,” Topaz chuckled against his lips, returning the kiss he pressed to her lips, no doubt in an attempt to silence her. Letting it deepen, she relaxed into his embrace. Slow, languid movements, soft caresses, and breathtaking kisses soon left them both satisfied and relaxed enough, sleep naturally followed as they lay, limbs tangled in their embrace.