“I've been thinking about gyroscopes a lot lately.”
“Did you know that the gyroscope was invented in the 1800s, but they still use them in spacecraft today? The International Space Station has four.”
“I did not know that.”
“There's one in the Hubble Telescope, too.”
“And in yo-yos.”
“Crews, I know being on suspension is making you crazy, but I am trying to conduct a murder investigation here.”
“Seever always takes a coffee break right now. I thought you might like some company.”
“I have to work, Crews.”
“Oh. Okay. Bye, Reese.”
“...Crews? Crews? Seriously? Two years and now you start listening when I tell you I'm busy? And now I'm talking to myself.”
Dani really hadn't expected to be back at work before Crews. Two weeks mandatory leave was more than enough to heal the marks on her face and wrists, and just long enough to bullshit the department psychologist into giving her desk duty (though not her gun), but apparently not long enough to clear out the political shitstorm around Crews.
She also hadn't expected Jane Seever to be so...well. It had been an interesting introduction.
"Detective Seever, you'll be working with Detective Reese," Tidwell had said, speaking directly to Seever. "You both managed to work with Crews, so I'm sure you'll get along great," he added, then walked away without looking at Dani once. Still pissed off at her, apparently.
Seever stuck out her hand. She was a slender black woman, taller than Reese but not as tall as Crews, even in heels. That was nice. Her smile was enormous, her spine ramrod straight. "Detective Reese,” she said. “It's an honor to meet you."
Dani shook the hand cautiously. She didn't really want to find out what would happen if she didn't. Possibly a hug. "Detective Seever. Bobby Stark tells me I owe you a thank you." He'd volunteered as one of the guards while she was at the hospital, drove her home after, and told her all about Mickey Rayborn and how Seever covered for Crews. He was a good storyteller, when he wasn't trying to show off.
"Oh, no," Seever said, her smile dimming. Dani extracted her hand while Seever was distracted. "Really, it was for Detective Crews. You don't owe me anything." Realizing how that sounded, she backpedaled frantically: "Not that I'm not glad you're okay! Really, I'm looking forward to working with you. I'm sure I'll learn a lot – you two had a phenomenal solve rate. It's the reason I asked to be partnered to you, until, you know." She gestured vaguely. "Crews comes back."
"Until you go to the task force, you mean."
Seever smiled awkwardly. "Right. That too."
“Three psych evals down, three to go.”
“It gets easier after the halfway point. Or so I hear.”
“Yeah, well, Tidwell's got us looking at cold cases for now. Seever's speed-reading thing helps.”
"So, Tidwell's still mad at you."
"How did you...? Never mind. Yes, Tidwell is still pissed off. No, I am not telling you why. Next question."
"Someone put a goose egg inside a bottle. The egg hatched and they fed the goose until it grew larger than the bottle’s neck. Without killing the goose or breaking the bottle, how can you release the goose?"
"Why do I even ask?"
“Is answering you going to get me another riddle? Because I will shoot you when I get my gun back.”
“I miss my gun.”
“Yeah, Crews. Me, too.”
There was a piece of fruit on Crews' desk - something weird, but not recognizably weird like that personal pineapple or the pluot things. This fruit was green and patterned like an artichoke where someone had glued down all the scales. Maybe it was a vegetable. The skin was slowly turning brown, but it hadn't started to smell yet. Dani and Seever both pretended that it wasn't there, but still stacked casefiles around it like a fort.
The rest of the cold cases were piled between them, over the crack between their desks: not quite a wall, but the near-silence it provoked was bizarre, and bothered her more than it should. Crews could be quiet at times – always a coiled sort of stillness, ready to leap forth at a breath, at a glance, at a thought. The violence under his skin was almost tangible in those moments, once she'd learned to see it. Dani could disarm it, sometimes, but he mostly smoothed it under on his own with a piece of fruit or one of his crazy digressions. It was better when he talked, even if he drove her nuts.
Seever's silence was almost...respectful. It was creeping her out.
She stood up, grabbing her jacket off the back of her chair and tucking three casefiles under her arm. “Coffee run,” she said curtly, when Seever looked up at her, eyes bright with inquiry. She did things like that, shiny as a new penny. She made Dani feel old.
Dani bought coffee across the street and snuck into the break room – as disconcerting as the (temporary) desk switch was, there were advantages to Seever facing away from the elevators. She lined up her files on one of the little tables near the window, and starting reading about the murder of Sally Murdock. It was a fast read – Crews had told her most of it over the phone. She flipped the file closed, and pulled over the coroner's murder. Crews had talked less about this one – possibly distracted by Tidwell, who had bitched to Dani about the same case. And then Dani had been kidnapped.
She opened the file. On the first page, there was a writeup for an officer-involved shooting.
She read it once, then again. It was weird, how much it pissed her off – that Charlie had almost died in a dark room while she wasn't there to watch his back. Dani was glad, for a long, vicious moment, that Seever had killed the bitch for her.
She read the report a third time, tucked it away without bothering to read the rest, and headed back to her- to Crews' desk.
She stopped in front of Tidwell's office and studied Seever's back for a moment. The woman was still scanning through her stack of files like a machine, her posture as perfect now as it had been when Dani left. So new and shiny. It was hard to picture her in a pitch-black room, making the split-second evaluation to fire. Saving a life, and taking one.
Crews would probably have something zen to say about that, if she ever told him.
“Done reading?” Dani asked, walking around the end of the desk into Seever's field of vision.
Seever blinked up at her, clearly still caught in her reading trance, then focused on Dani and said, “Um, yes. This is the last one. You?”
“Enough for now.” Dani nodded at the files, which had slid into an avalanche across Seever's desk at some point in the afternoon. “You pick one.”
Seever beamed at her. She was still shiny as hell, but she'd earned it.
“Did you know she has a fifteen year plan to be mayor?"
"I'd vote for her."
"Yeah. Me too."
Seever had diplomatically chosen her top three, and let Dani pick out a home invasion case – well, maybe not a home invasion. Expensive ex-actress trophy wife, brained with an expensive bottle of booze in her very expensive living room; possible suspects included her husband, her former agent, her ex-boyfriend, her current boyfriend, and her poolboy. None of the suspects had solid alibis, all had motive.
Reading the transcript of the husband's interview almost gave her motive. “Jesus, this guy is a prick,” she muttered.
Seever snorted. “I was about to say the same thing about her agent. Who do you have?”
“I hate guys like that. They spend enough time or money on a girl and think they're bought and paid for. I've had friends who married their boyfriends just because the guy made it seem like they owed him something after dating so long. No other reason than that. Never made sense to me.”
“Just because someone gives you something and thinks you owe them doesn't mean you owe them shit,” Dani said, thinking about Lieutenant Davis, and what might've happened if she'd reported Crews during their first case. “They might take it away again, but you choose what you owe, not them. You take on that debt, you can't pay it back.” She thumbed the edge of the photo, tense and not sure why she was so angry. “Most people never get that.”
She'd gotten it wrong for years, kept giving in and giving it up and smoothing the loss over with alcohol, until it landed her in a pit she could barely climb out of on her own. After, when she found she was allergic to the whole idea, she had nothing left to give anyway - nothing left but the job.
Two weeks ago, she'd hit that line with Tidwell. He'd been talking about Seever and putting Dani as her temporary partner, and oh-so-casually in his well-meaning Tidwell way suggested that Dani transfer, too. She still had nothing left but the job – but that meant Crews, now, and she wasn't giving him up. She'd told Tidwell no, left before he could start an argument, and they hadn't spoken since.
Dani didn't get how Crews had turned into the exception. Crews, who ignored her lines in the sand and her pointed silences, but tossed her the keys every time, bought her coffee with his fruit and listened when it was important, listened when she didn't say anything at all. Maybe that was zen – to give without expecting anything, and get everything in return. She'd given her trust almost without realizing it – believed so hard that she could stare at a photo and trust him blind, taunt Nevikov to his face and never doubt that Crews would come for her. But there was no debt there, even after he climbed into a deathtrap to get her out.
Like many things about Crews, it didn't make sense. She wasn't sure it ever would.
She sighed and stared at the mess of a living room that had long since been cleaned up. Maybe it was just the two weeks of psych eval talking, but she was pretty sure that choosing a crime scene covered in gin and broken blue glass said something about her mental state. She flipped back to the shot of the wet bar and narrowed her eyes. Maybe it just said something about working with what you know. “Seever,” she said, eyeing the picture, “Is that gin bottle still in evidence?”
“Well, it is the murder weapon, so probably. They dusted it for fingerprints, but didn't find anything useful. Why?”
Dani frowned, and tossed a photo across the desk. “The report assumes that the bottle was grabbed from the bar – crime of passion, weapon of convenience, makes sense, right? But check out the other bottles – Courvoisier, Rey Sol, Vieux Carre, Johnny Walker Blue Label.” Seever's eyebrow arched up, impressed; Dani crushed down her own instinctive response to that much top-shelf liquor and slid a second photo across. “Now look at the broken bottle.” She tapped her finger on a fragment of blue glass with a stylized lion on it. “Blue glass, but that's the logo for Booth's, not Bombay Sapphire. Fredericks might be an asshole, but he is not the kind of guy who keeps cheap gin in his house.”
Seever sat up straight – well, straighter. “You think the murderer brought it?”
Dani smirked. “Yeah, and I'm thinking - sloppy murder like this? He might just be the kind of guy who drinks straight from the bottle. If we can find saliva....”
Seever dove for her phone. “I've got a friend in Forensics who owes me one.”
“I bought a yo-yo. I've never had one before.”
“Oh, god, you're not still on the gyroscopes, are you?”
“As long as they keep moving, they can maintain the same orientation. Stability in motion. What's not to like?”
“You're talking to someone who failed physics twice. All I get from that is a headache.”
“Well, it's good to try new things. By the way, do you know how to use a yo-yo?"
DNA matched the victim's ex-boyfriend, in the end – a boy she'd grown up with, dated, and left after he landed her a job on her first TV show.
“I guess he thought she owed him something,” Tidwell said, shaking his head.
“If they were in love, she wouldn't owe him anything,” Dani said, without thinking, and stopped.
Tidwell gave her an odd look – it was the first time he'd looked her in the face since their argument, and she barely noticed. “Nice work, Detectives,” he said, eyeing her. “Go home, I'll see you tomorrow.”
She left as fast as she could, nodding to Seever and sliding through the elevator doors just before they closed.
Crews's door was locked, and he wasn't answering his phone. She knocked, but the sound just echoed in his ridiculous, empty house.
She hesitated for a moment – he did shoot his father that time, but he wasn't likely to mistake her for a burglar in broad daylight, right? There had been a set of French doors and a patio, she remembered vaguely, and slipped around the corner of the house.
There was a pool, it turned out, and Charlie was swimming in it – laps, even though he was so tall he barely got two kicks in before having to turn. She walked over to the pool and sat on a recliner, waiting for him to notice her.
The wait was short. He made a turn at the far end, surfaced, and spotted her. A long gliding stroke, and he was folding his arms on the edge of the pool by her feet. “Reese!” he said, grinning up at her. The sun was out, and his face and shoulders were tinged with pink - a sunburn she knew would clash with his hair for a week, and then fade into freckles. “Did you solve the case?”
“Yeah. Tidwell gave us the day, so.” She shrugged. “Thought you might like some company.”
His grin got bigger, somehow – his mouth tilting a little sideways, the fine lines around his eyes deepening. “Yeah, that sounds good,” he said, and heaved himself out of the pool.
There was a towel and a t-shirt on the recliner next to Dani's, and he turned away as he dried himself. The sunlight caught on his skin – the silvery tracings of old scars overrun by brighter trickles of water, over pale pink skin. She caught herself staring, and looked away before he could tug the shirt down over his head.
Dani trailed into the house behind him. He seemed to have more furniture by the pool than he did inside. She stopped herself from actually counting chairs, and followed him to the kitchen. She hadn't made it this far, last time.
There was less fruit than she'd expected: just a single basket on the counter, though it was filled to overflowing. Maybe there was more in the fridge. A familiar green fruit caught her eye, among the brighter colors. “You left one of these on your desk,” she said, picking it up. She eyed the brown-splotched skin dubiously. “Is it supposed to be that color?”
“It's a custard apple. Well, a cherimoya, but I like custard apple. They don't really taste like custard, but they turn brown when they're ripe. You want one?”
“Ah, no,” she said, placing it back on the counter. She immediately regretted it – now she had nothing to do with her hands. Charlie scrubbed at his hair with the towel.
She said abruptly, “My old partner and I used to keep score. You know, who bought coffee, whose turn for filing. That was just the way it worked. Partners keep score.” She darted a glance at him. He was watching her, sharp-eyed and familiar, so much like he was at a crime scene that she found it bizarrely comforting.
She said, “That first day after, I woke up and thought, god, I'm gonna owe Crews so big for this one.” Charlie looked like he was about to protest, so she cut him off. “But that wasn't right, and I knew it as soon I thought it. But I didn't figure out why until today.” She floundered for a moment, searching for the words to something she barely knew, and knew so well at the same time.
“We weren't partners when you came to get me. We're not partners right now. And that's not how this works anymore.” She stepped towards him, reached across the space remaining, and laid a hand over his heart. His heartbeat was steady and warm under her palm. Stability in motion, she thought, and said, “In fact, I don't think I owe you anything.”
“Dani,” he said quietly. She could feel the echo of the word in his chest, rumbling along her arm and up her spine.
She looked up to see him smiling at her, and kissed him.