Nearly a month had passed since Dani Reese watched her partner climb into that white SUV and trade his life for her own. She would never admit it out loud but she'd froze that day. Her legs had stubbornly rooted to the ground, heart in her throat as she watched Roman drive away with him- a willing hostage. If he'd died it would've been her fault, it would have happened because of her, and that was something that she couldn't live with. Somewhere along the line, like a cheery, redheaded fungus, he'd grown on her and, when the dust finally settled in that orange grove and the sound of revving engines had faded, she hadn't cared that Bodner could see the panic in her eyes. All she could think about was getting him back.
In the end, by some miracle or act of God, an hour later they'd found him standing in the middle of hundreds of swaying trees dotted with colorful fruit, staring up at the sun like its warmth would absolve him of all his sins. She'd felt like crying when she first spotted him, felt the faint, burning prickle of it in the corner of her eyes. It had taken all of her will to resist barking at Bodner to step on it and get to him as quickly as possible. She hadn't fully understood it at the time- why her heart had fluttered, a wave of relief enveloping her so strongly that all she could do was stare at him in awe until the car finally came to a stop- but now as she laid on an expensive patio chair in Crews' back yard, lounging lazily in the Californian sun on a Saturday afternoon, she was finally beginning to figure it all out.
“You okay, Reese?”
Blinking heavily, she almost chuckled when she looked up saw what he was carrying, “I'm good. But, you know, when I said I was thirsty I didn't mean for something with a little umbrella. Water would've been fine.”
Crews shrugged, passing her one of the strawberry daiquiris that he'd made, and Dani rolled her eyes. Him and his fucking fruit. It was a sickness. But, the glass was cool her in hand, a welcome relief from the dry heat, so she couldn't complain. Still, with the the drink nearly halfway to her lips, she hesitated. Little drops of condensation slowly began forming underneath her fingers and the longer that she studied the seemingly innocuous concoction, the easier it was for the icy grip of apprehension to take hold. She'd actually managed to stick to the program this time. It had been months since she'd had the urge to lose herself in the addictive burn of alcohol. She knew that she'd be safe here, that he wouldn't judge her or let anything happen to her if she chose to indulge herself, but the drinking itself had never been the problem. Once she started, she wasn't sure that she'd be able to stop. It was too tempting.
“It's okay,” he spoke softly, suddenly sitting on the edge of her chair instead of his own, a wave of languid warmth radiating from the spot where his hip just barely brushed against her knee, “They're virgin, I promise.”
Something inside of her lightened. The panic that had been rapidly building unraveled with a few simple words. She should have known that he wouldn't put her in that position, not like most normal people would have without giving it a second thought. But, if being kidnapped and duct taped to a chair in the basement of a defunct factory had taught her anything, it was that their partnership was truly one of both give and take. She'd never had that before, that trust, not with anyone, and sometimes it was a little harder for her to remember that than she'd like to admit.
Meeting his gaze, she dared to shift her knee the slightest bit, settling it firmly against him, "Thanks, Crews."
He smiled, one of those toothy grins that she rarely saw, genuine and brilliant, and reached over to take her free hand in his as if he did it every day, “Always.”
Her breath hitched, lashes briefly fluttering shut as still damp fingertips danced across her palm and encompassed her in his grasp.
Though the intimacy of the gesture was strange for them, the contact itself wasn't exactly new. Something about Roman denying them the simple comfort of touch that day had made both of them subconsciously gravitate toward each other in ways that the Dani of years past would have balked at. Throughout the aftermath of IAD questioning and even breaking it off with an overbearing and unnervingly concerned Tidwell, she'd grown used to and even looked forward to feeling Crews' steady hand on the small of her back or the press of his bicep against her shoulder as they stood together in the precinct elevator. It was how she knew that she wasn't alone, that she wasn't still stuck in that basement with nothing but the muffled sounds of Russian techno and dogs barking to keep her company, and it was how she knew that he needed her just as much as she needed him.
The corners of Dani's mouth flickered, curling lazily into a peaceful smile as a warm breeze swirled around them and whispered across her skin. She wasn't going to freeze this time, she owed him that much. And, hell, you only live life once, right? With a false bravado that she wasn't sure she possessed, she tightened her fingers around his and rested their joined hands on her bare knee, waiting for his reaction with baited breath.
Within moments, the ever present tension in his shoulders loosened and he settled more fully against the side of her leg, reminding her of the attention starved cat that they'd brought home from the pound when she was nine. She'd loved that cat.
Letting out a silent breath of relief, Dani took a sip of her forgotten drink. Cold drops of water slipped off of the glass and onto her exposed skin, slowly sliding down her stomach until it seeped into the material of the swimsuit that he'd had waiting for her- just in case she wanted to go swimming one day- and savored the sweetness of fresh strawberries on her tongue.
For the first time in her life, she felt content, like she was exactly where she was supposed to be.
“Is this zen, Charlie?” she asked.
His gaze snapped up to hers, eyes wide like that was the last thing that he'd expected her to say, especially when he realized that she'd addressed him by his given name. But before she could take it back, just as she started feeling a little self conscious, his thumb began rubbing tender circles across the back of her hand.
“Yeah,” he whispered, his voice thick with an emotion that Dani wasn't quite sure that she was ready to voice, one day soon, but not yet, “this definitely is zen.”