I. Los Angeles, California
Weiss rolled over in bed, not wincing as the familiar hangover headache kicked in. Fucking Heineken. Owwww. He stuck his head under a pillow. He would either fall back asleep or smother himself. Either option sounded fine.
There was a loud crash. Weiss reacted with a full-body shudder that nearly knocked him out of bed. Another followed, and Weiss pulled himself vertical. He had to stop the noise before his head exploded.
"For the love of J. Edgar Hoover, could you be a little quieter?" He tripped over the doorjamb on his way into the kitchen. "Ow. Some of us aren't awake yet." He squinted at Vaughn, who was digging through his kitchen cabinets.
"Omelet?" Vaughn chirped, holding up a frying pan.
"Omelet?" Weiss repeated. "Omelet? Is that a greeting on your planet?"
"Do. You. Want. An. Omelet?"
"No. Maybe Sydney does," Weiss said, just to watch Vaughn's face turn funny colors.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Vaughn." Weiss leaned against the fridge. What little humor he'd been finding in this was draining away. "Come on. I know this dance. You'll just happen to notice Sydney out the window, and just happen to have enough breakfast for three. Of course, she'll turn you down." Sixty-seven days in a row. Weiss was taking an entirely perverse satisfaction in counting.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Vaughn said in a tone that clearly conveyed "fuck you." He brushed by Weiss on his way out of the kitchen, and Weiss was irritated by his own automatic arousal.
"Goddamn it," he muttered.
"What was that?"
He followed Vaughn back to the bedroom. Vaughn was digging through his suitcase. "I said, any word from the higher-ups on going back to work?"
"Same old song and dance. Not until Barnett clears me. Which we all know will never happen. I've asked for a second opinion."
Weiss blinked. "Does the CIA do that?"
"No." Vaughn smiled. Sort of. "Guess you're stuck with me for a while longer."
Even angry, Vaughn looked very appealing and vulnerable standing there in boxers and an undershirt, frowning down at his luggage, and Weiss had almost resigned himself, again, to the status quo. But then Vaughn's eyes slid past him to the wall that separated his house from Sydney's, and the temper Weiss had been sitting on for sixty-seven days suddenly erupted.
"I don't think so."
"You heard me." Weiss pushed Vaughn, none too gently, to one side. He started shoving clothing back into the suitcase. "I'm not stuck with you. Or rather, I'm tired of being stuck with you, so I'm unsticking you."
Next stop, the bathroom, where he dumped anything that might possibly belong to Vaughn into the suitcase. He might have forgotten to check the mouthwash cap, but at the moment, he didn't care if Vaughn's clothes ended up minty fresh.
"Weiss! Weiss!" Vaughn followed him down the hallway. "What are you doing?"
"Giving up. Giving the hell up. Last night--well, it had its benefits, it always does--but the nights aren't worth the mornings, Vaughn. You gotta get out of here before we're not friends anymore."
"Yes. Last night. When we 'watched hockey' again," Weiss said, sarcasm dripping from his words. "I heard you talking to Syd yesterday. Are you actually trying to lie to the woman you love, or are you having a psychotic break?"
Vaughn hunched his shoulders and looked anywhere but at Weiss.
"Just in case, allow me to refresh your memory. Yes, we watched hockey. Meanwhile, you got drunk. Then you got me drunk. Then you let me suck your dick. Any of it coming back to you, Vaughn? It's the same thing we've done every night since you got back from killing your wife." Vaughn had no color in his face at all, and Weiss wanted to feel sorry for him, he really did, but he just didn't feel like it. "I could probably put up with the one-sided sex, and with you pretending every day that it never happened," he lied, "but frankly, my liver can't take being your friend anymore." Weiss swung his front door open, chucked Vaughn's suitcase out, and felt nothing but malicious glee when it sprang open, scattering boxer-briefs all over the lawn. Classic.
"Eric--" Vaughn reached out to him. Weiss just shoved him out the door. Only a well-placed grab of the porch railing kept Vaughn from falling ass-first into his own suitcase.
"Michael?" he heard distantly as he shut the door, and Vaughn's stuttering, "Syd--Sydney..."
He couldn't help the laughter. "For once in your life, Weiss, you have perfect timing," he said with fake cheer. He headed for the kitchen. The first thing to do, obviously, was dump out all the Heineken in the house...
"Dawn in the desert with a dead dude," Greg intoned.
"Admirable alliteration." Nick watched Greg dust for prints like--well, like the expert he was. Nick allowed himself a moment of stolen pride before turning back to his photographs.
"So," Greg said when they had finished.
"So?" Most of Nick's attention was on packing up his kit. Warrick would be back soon with the crime scene measurements, and he wanted to be ready to leave right away.
"You wanna do breakfast after shift again?"
Nick looked up. A vivid memory of what had happened after breakfast last time flashed before him. "Breakfast," he repeated slowly.
"Yeah." Greg waited until Nick met his eyes, then smiled slowly. Meaningfully. "Breakfast." He peeled off his gloves, and Nick had to drag his eyes away from Greg's hands.
"It's a date," Nick said, trying to fight a blush.
"The post-dawn in the desert with a dead dude date," Greg sing-songed.
Both Nick and Greg jumped. "Hey, Warrick," Nick said. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Greg's mouth twitching.
"Who's Greg dating?"
"His own right hand?" Nick suggested. Greg chucked his rolled-up gloves at him. "Or maybe he's been shopping at that bookstore he likes so much. You know, the one with the dolls--"
"It's official," Warrick said in disgust as the two of them collapsed into nervous giggles. "The sun has fried your brains. Both of you."
The sunlight was stabbing him. Stabbing him through his eyelids. Bright groaned and rolled over, but as soon as he had his head safely under the pillow, his dad yelled his name.
"Noooooooo," he moaned--but not too loudly.
"Bright! Come on, you have a long day of job-hunting ahead of you!"
"Like that's supposed to make me want to get up," Bright groused, but he dragged himself out of bed anyway. Better to give in and listen to the "discussion" on his future now than wait and endure the extended edition in ten minutes.
"I'll be down in a sec!" he yelled. He dug out jeans from the pile on the floor, then remembered that he had to pull the shade down or his room would be an oven by noon. He reached for the shade and froze.
Ephram was leaning against the fence in the back yard, staring at his feet.
Bright reached for the window latch, then changed his mind. If he yelled, it would get Amy's attention. Amy'd had all that time in New York with Ephram already, and look how well that hadn't turned out. Bright was going to be the Abbot to welcome Ephram home first.
He went pounding down the stairs, called, "Be right back" as he went through the kitchen, and was halfway into the yard before he remembered he wasn't wearing a shirt.
"Ephram!" he said, jogging to a stop. "Hey, man, I didn't know you were back yet. So tell me--Ephram? What's wrong?" Ephram's eyes were swollen and his face was even paler than usual.
"Everything. Everything's wrong." Ephram rubbed fretfully at his forehead. "I--I can't--" Bright had never seen this look on Ephram's face.
"It's okay. I mean, you don't have to tell me." He put a hand on Ephram's upper arm, partly to comfort him and partly to keep him upright.
"I just can't make the words come out of my mouth yet."
"It's okay," Bright said again, feeling like the worst friend ever.
Ephram looked over at him. Because of the way they were standing, that brought his face right in line with Bright's bare chest. He jerked his eyes up to Bright's. Bright pulled his hand back and, unsure what else to do with it, put it behind his back.
Then Ephram half-smiled, dismissing whatever weird--thing--had just passed between them. "Hey, Bright, you're kind of naked."
"I'm wearing pants!" Bright looked down. "I have, like, no feeling in my feet, though. Um, do you want to come in and have breakfast?"
Ephram shook his head.
"You want me to bring something out? We have Eggos."
"I'll go get them." Bright took a step back. When Ephram didn't show any signs of moving, he turned and ran back into the house. He hoped his dad had already left for work, or could be convinced to postpone the lecture. He wasn't leaving Ephram alone for any longer than he had to, he thought, absently rubbing his chest where Ephram had stared at him.
The sun was too bright. Lex kept his eyes open anyway. His nurse would be in shortly to narrow the blinds and chatter endlessly at him. She was lucky he still had a tube down his throat. All words and no thought--unlike Chloe, who was always talking because she was always thinking of something new and provocative that needed saying.
The afterimage of the sun shot fire across his eyelids when he finally closed them.
Martha would be in later. She always stopped by after watching Jonathan eat breakfast in his own hospital room. She would reopen Lex's blinds, and try to smile at him while telling him lies about Clark's good wishes for him.
Lex had to get out of this bed. His hands clenched and unclenched under the covers. He had to get people working on the explosion in the safe house; sure, they reported to him every day, acting as though they took seriously the orders Lex scribbled clumsily on a notepad, but he needed to be out there watching them, making sure that whoever his father had working as his proxy didn't have further plans.
The DA didn't know about the explosion yet, and when Lex told him about the death of his only witness, he fully intended to have proof of his father's culpability in hand.
LuthorCorp needed him too. The stock had continued dropping, and he'd been forced to close two plants last week. Temporarily, damn it, temporarily.
And then Lex would find Clark, lock the two of them in a room together, and make Clark listen to him. On the days that no one else came and Martha wouldn't meet his eyes, he told himself that Clark was only avoiding him because he didn't understand. Lex had expected him to barge into his room the first day he regained consciousness and berate him. Had almost looked forward to it. But he'd given up expecting it by now. He'd spent hours, staring at the ceiling, feeling the poison burn its way out of his system and planning ways to explain it all.
Soon, he told himself. He clenched his hands again, cursing the tremor in his muscles. He'd get well, he'd get out, he'd fix everything.
Fraser was tired enough that the shifting mattress didn't stir him, but not so tired that he could ignore the sudden change in room temperature. He lifted his head off the pillow just as the bedroom window leading to the fire escape closed behind Ray.
There was a grumbling noise beside him. Fraser turned his head.
"He does want to be alone, Diefenbaker. Didn't you just see him leave?" A whine. "We need to respect his privacy." A louder whine. "We do, and--since when are you the expert on police psychology, anyway? Have you been studying up on it since your death?"
An ominous silence followed, and Fraser groaned. "Fine. Fine. I'll go out there. And when it makes matters worse, you'd better reappear long enough for me to say I told you so."
Ray was sitting a few steps up on the fire escape, turning an unlit cigarette over and over in his hand. He paused briefly when Fraser pulled himself through the window.
"Sorry I woke you up."
"That's all right." Fraser wasn't quite sure if he should sit next to Ray or give him a suitable distance, so he just crouched there, feeling vaguely foolish. "It was a...long night. I had hoped you--we could both get some sleep before we had to be back at the station."
Ray just shook his head. "Couldn't."
Fraser's head snapped up. "Ray!"
"I mean, are you going to tell me we did the best we could?"
"Or that we can't save everyone?"
"Or that at least we caught him so the next girl won't die, because what a fucking relief that is when you're standing over someone who died ten minutes before you got there."
"Ray," Fraser said firmly.
Ray made a choked noise and covered his mouth.
"I'm going to tell you that, from all accounts, she was a beautiful, vibrant young woman, and I can't reconcile her murder any more than you can. I'm going to tell you that it doesn't matter how hard we tried or how many other people we've saved. I wanted to save her, and we couldn't. I don't know why. I wish--I just don't know."
Ray slammed his shoulder hard enough against the railing that the whole landing shook. The cigarette fell from his hand. Without giving himself time to think about it, Fraser closed the distance between them and sat at Ray's feet. Ray bowed his head as if it was too heavy for him to hold and sat there, one hand clenching the shoulder of Fraser's shirt, and shook with anger and grief. Fraser leaned against him and tried not to reveal that he was shaking as well.
The sun was almost fully up by the time they had both regained some control. Fraser felt Ray sigh. "What do you think, Fraser? Should we just go in and get the damn report done?"
"That's a good idea, Ray." Fraser stood when Ray did. Ray squinted up into the sun. He looked older than he had yesterday morning. Then again, Fraser felt old and weary himself. He put a hand to Ray's cheek, and Ray mustered a small smile for him.
"You're good for me," Ray said.
"I would say you're good for me."
Ray's smile widened.
They couldn't stand there forever, of course, and finally Fraser stepped back and waited for Ray to crawl back in the window. But Ray stopped and looked around. He seemed confused.
"Did you--I--huh. Never mind. Thought I heard something."
Fraser looked around. "Heard what?"
"Must've been a dog down in the alley. I thought I heard, well, it sounded like that little yip Dief used to make when he wanted to wake us up in the morning." Ray laughed. "Lack of sleep's getting to me."
"Sleep deprivation can cause any number of auditory and other hallucinations. In fact, once when I was a child..." As Fraser had expected, Ray was too busy rolling his eyes at the story and never noticed the grateful nod Fraser gave the empty bedroom.
Tony slapped his snooze button about four times before he realized that the doorbell had woken him, not the alarm.
"Who the hell...oh-dark-thirty...somebody better be murdered--McGee!" he finished, startled, as he swung the door open.
"Good morning, sir."
Tony stared at him for a long moment. "Hang on a second," he said, waving one finger in McGee's direction.
"I have to go get my gun."
"So I can shoot you."
McGee almost--almost--looked appropriately cowed. "Yes, sir."
"Why are you ringing my doorbell?"
"I thought--may I?" McGee gestured. Tony stepped back automatically, and McGee wandered in, looking about curiously. "I thought I'd see if you wanted to have breakfast. There's a diner on K Street that does an amazing Denver omelet. You have a very nice home, sir."
"Thank you. Breakfast?"
"Why do you want us to have breakfast?"
"Actually, it's more along the lines of you wanting us to have breakfast."
Tony just stared at him.
"I don't want us to have breakfast." McGee hadn't moved, so why did Tony suddenly feel like his personal space was being invaded? "I want to go back to bed and sleep through my alarm."
"Are you certain, sir?"
"They do say it's the most important meal of the day."
"Thank you, Mr. Rogers. You know, I don't know what kind of bizarre joke you're trying to pull, McGee, but I'm not even--"
He'd stopped talking. Why had he stopped talking?
Because McGee was kissing him.
Tony came up for air a few minutes later to find that he was grabbing double handfuls of McGee's jacket, and that there was a hand--
"If you don't let go of my ass, we can't have breakfast."
McGee let go instantly. "Of course. Sorry, sir."
He took a deep breath. "Call me Tony."
McGee's slow grin made Tony's stomach turn over in a way that had nothing to do with omelets, Denver or otherwise. "Yes, sir."
"...and Gordon expects his pit stops to only go faster as the final races approach."
"I never fail to be amazed that changing a tire is an actual sporting event," Casey said. "And yet, there I am, on a national sports show. Discussing tire changes."
"It's only a part of an actual sporting event. And it's the morning rerun of the national sports show. Does that help?"
Casey looked down. He was sitting up in bed, drinking his coffee, but Dan was slouched as far down in the bed as he could get, using Casey's knee for a pillow. "Not really, no."
Dan shrugged and turned back to face the TV. "Oh, look, soccer news."
"Oh, look at you, pretending you care about soccer news."
"I'm never making a bet with Jeremy again." Dan huffed. "He conned me."
"Conned me. Scammed me. Played me like a mandolin."
Casey tugged on Dan's ear. "You don't even know what a mandolin is."
"I do too." Dan made a vague gesture in the air that could have represented a mandolin. Or a dancing elephant. "And he played me like one, I'm telling you."
"I'm hearing you."
Actual soccer footage was now playing, so Dan gave up on the television and turned back to face Casey. "But do you believe me?"
"Do I believe you were played like a mandolin?" Casey kept a straight face. "I have no doubt whatsoever."
"Thank you." Dan pushed himself up long enough to give Casey a very thorough kiss. "Mmm." Casey smiled, but Dan continued. "Coffee."
"Coffee? I'm kissing you, and you're thinking about coffee?"
"Well, it was a very nice kiss. But I could really use some coffee, too."
"You want coffee?" Casey switched hands and held the coffee over the far edge of the bed. "Too bad, Rydell. Get up and get your own."
Dan wriggled around--an action Casey didn't object to at all--but couldn't get quite far enough without having to actually stand up. "Dammit."
Dan smirked back. "I'm not done trying yet." And he leaned over and licked a stripe along the front of Casey's shoulder.
Casey felt the cup slip in his grasp, and hastily decided that holding it over the nightstand was the better part of valor. "Dan?"
"Mmhm?" Dan had added lips and teeth, too, and was feasting on Casey's shoulder.
"How exactly are you able to turn any body part I have into an erogenous zone?"
Dan levered himself up to look Casey in the eye. "That's nothing. Wait until you see what I can do with body parts you don't have." He wiggled his eyebrows.
Casey burst out laughing. "Imaginary body parts can wait."
"Oh, fine." Dan kissed him. Hard, deep, and intense. Casey's cup hit the nightstand. Maybe it spilled, maybe it didn't. Casey really didn't care. He grabbed Dan's head with both hands, tilting his head to give Dan better access to his mouth.
Dan grabbed Casey's hips and pulled, jerking him down flat on the bed. "You know what?"
"What?" Casey slid his hands down Dan's back.
"You taste even better than coffee."
"Of course, you and coffee would be perfect," Dan said thoughtfully.
"Shut up and play me like a mandolin."
Dan laughed so hard Casey thought he might strain something. Then he got to work following instructions.