Matt isn’t really sure how it happened.
He’d spent a year and a half with Charlie to call his own - although not really, because neither of them wanted to put a name to whatever it was they shared, because then it would become something and Matt didn’t want it to be anything, not really, he just wanted to enjoy himself and live another day. Anyway. Whatever he had with Charlie, it had been shattered when he came over to Charlie’s place and found him sitting on the couch kissing Dani Reese.
In retrospect he should have been shocked that Dani Reese and Charlie Crews were kissing, but he’d just been mad at Charlie for ruining their thing that wasn’t strictly a thing. He’d been comfortable with their little routine and couldn’t swallow the thought of change, and there Charlie had gone turning everything upside-down as usual.
“Jesus Christ,” he’d said, and turned around and left, slamming the door so the glass rattled.
He drank himself senseless that night and had a hell of a hangover the next morning. But hostage crises didn’t stop because Charlie kissed Dani, so Matt showed up and ignored Emily’s prodding as best as he could until they got the guy in handcuffs and the hostages were safely accounted for. At the end of the day he told her and she was suitably shocked, though not of course that Charlie had cheated (or something like that) on Matt, but that Charlie and Dani had kissed.
Charlie had left messages throughout the day, but Matt deleted them all without listening to any of them.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise when Charlie’s Maserati was parked there in his driveway.
Charlie steps out of the car as soon as Matt's parked. He stands there in front of his door, fingers tapping the side of his leg that way he does sometimes when he's impatient or uncomfortable. Matt sighs and climbs out his own car, walking over to Charlie.
"What do you want, Charlie? And no funny business, I'm this close to walking away." He gestures a short distance with his fingers.
"I'm sorry," Charlie says quietly. "I- I wasn't thinking."
"Was she thinking?" Matt pushes. At Charlie's frown he laughs. "Charlie, you realize that you were kissing Dani Reese , don't you? She's not just some- some dumb blonde girl pawing at you cause you're rich. If Dani kissed you it meant something."
"I know." Charlie sighs. "Look, Matt, this is gonna sound a little...weird."
Matt scoffs. "Doesn't everything with you sound a little weird?"
Charlie smiles and shrugs. "Matt," he ventures. "How do you feel about polyamory?"
Matt chokes, shocked. "What?"
"Polyamory," Charlie repeats flatly. "You know, like love triangles and-"
"I know what you said. Jesus Christ. You can't just- Charlie, you can't just spring that on a guy you've been going steady with for almost a year."
Charlie cocks his head, inquisitive. "Why not? It was just fine in Pelican Bay."
"Oh my God," Matt moans. "We are not having this conversation." He walks away from Charlie towards the front door, leaving the ginger to follow him or be left behind.
"Matt, I don't understand why you're upset. I'm just asking."
"Did you ask her, too?"
"What? No, Matt, of course not. Not- not like that. You're my- you're special to me." He smiles, somewhat sheepishly.
Matt huffs. "And she's special to you, too."
Charlie nods slowly, fidgeting. "Not the same way you are, though- i-it's different."
"Of course. She's your partner." Matt thinks of Emily, what they had together. It was worlds different from him and Charlie. But it was love, plain and simple. “Do you love her?” He’s not afraid to hear it, he tells himself.
Charlie meets his eyes. “Yes,” he says, sincere. “I do.”
Alright, Matt thinks. He can deal with love.
Matt has only actually met Dani twice before, and only in passing, but he’s heard plenty of stories. And as it turns out, Charlie’s a pretty good storyteller, because she’s exactly like Charlie had described, down to the freckles on her nose. She sizes up Matt with a critical eye before cracking a razor-sharp smile.
“Did he tell you I slapped him?”
Matt’s taken by surprise then, barks out a choked little laugh. “No,” he says truthfully, “he didn’t.”
“I thought that might make you feel better,” she explains. “He didn’t ask, you see.”
“Would you have said yes if he had?”
Dani smirks. “Maybe I would have.”
Matt doesn’t know what to say to that, so he smiles and adjusts his collar. Charlie comes down the stairs then, taking them two at a time the way those with long limbs can. He comes up to the two of them, grinning brightly.
“You’re a picture,” Dani says, not unkindly. Matt eyes her outfit, a black tank top with a green blazer and form-fitting slacks, and wonders what she looks like in a dress. The thought surprises him. He has the feeling that Dani wouldn’t appreciate the notion, and he squashes it quickly.
“It’s much better than a prison jumpsuit, isn’t it?” Charlie laughs. “Okay, everybody ready?”
“Sure,” Matt and Dani say in unison.
Charlie takes them out to Beverly Hills to eat at Spago. They sit out on the balcony and drink non-alcoholic cocktails and talk, and Dani loosens up enough that Matt can see past her defenses. And maybe he’s not in love with her, not the way Charlie is, but he can see how Charlie fell for her.
At the end of the night Charlie drives them all home. Dani leans over and kisses him on the cheek before she climbs out of the car and says goodbye, and he sits there with a dopey smile on his face while Matt moves up to take the spot she’d vacated.
“I like her,” Matt says.
Charlie sighs. “Me too.” He turns to look at Matt. “She likes you, too, I can tell.”
“Oh, I-I don’t know about that.”
“Trust me, Matt,” says Charlie. “She likes you.”
Some weeks later the three of them lie together on Charlie’s silk sheets, fingers and legs tangled together, trading sleepy kisses. Matt caresses Dani’s hip and thinks about the many kinds of change that Charlie had brought into his life.
Maybe, he thinks, maybe change isn’t so bad after all.