Five Beds

Rating: R

Summary: Five different beds, five very different conversations.

Notes: There is a sequel, imaginatively titled Five More Beds.


They are lying in bed together at the scene of the crime. It is the middle of the night but neither one is sleeping. The drapes are neatly closed and the chair has been righted again; every knickknack is back in place. The only remnants of violence are on his partner.

Her body has been catalogued as evidence. Even in the half-light from the bedside lamp, he can see the dark smudges of fingerprints around her neck and the swollen cut beneath her eye. In his mind, he sees another woman with the same markings, dead on the brick patio outside the Consulate, and he shivers as he thinks of what might have been.

There are a bunch of pill bottles on the nightstand behind her: antibiotics, painkillers, sedatives - a cocktail of pharmaceuticals that cannot heal the terrible injuries inside her. Her eyes are closed but her breathing high and rapid, still fearful, and he does not dare touch her, here in this place where she was raped only hours before.

It seems a million years ago when his phone rang and life changed forever. His face feels cracked from fatigue. The rest of him is wired, vibrating beneath the skin, ready in case Mariano comes creeping around the house again. He almost wishes it would happen. His anger is huge and powerful; he wants to choke Mariano, to kick and beat and punch him until he is lifeless on the ground. The need to match violence with violence is so strong that he has to clench his fists to hold it back. He is glad her eyes are shut so that she cannot see the fury within him.

All he has to fight with now was a thin piece of paper signed by a judge who did not believe the legality herself. They could arrest Mariano but there was no way they could hold him. He does not allow himself to think of what he will do when that moment happens. Instead, he lies in her bed, unable to comfort or avenge her.

"I can't stay here," she says, and the sound startles him after all the quiet. Her lashes are spiky and wet from her tears.

"You want to go to my place?"

"No, I mean I can't live here anymore. I can't spend the rest of my life in this room."

He looks around at the carefully chosen décor, the matching curtains and bed spread, and remembers her talking about painting the room sometime late last year. "Give it some time. You can't be making decisions like that now."

The pillow rustles as she shakes her head. "No, I'm sure." She sniffs, and her voice is watery. "I bought this place after Steve died, with the money from his life insurance. It was the kind of home we had wanted together, you know? Quiet street, nice yard, a place where you can know your neighbors." She paused. "God, what they must be thinking now after the show I gave them this morning."

He dimly remembers an audience outside her house that morning, the crowd growing smaller behind them in the distance as the ambulance carried them away.

"But it's all ruined now," she continued. "He took this away from me too."

It's the "too" that tears at him. So much loss contained in such a tiny word. Carefully, he shifts so that he can gather her against him. She is brittle and light in his arms. He is not sure where he can touch her that won't bring her more pain. The bruises are hidden beneath her clothes.

She is slender and much smaller than he is, but this is not news. He has spent a lifetime folded like a paper crane into spaces meant for someone two-thirds his size: at the movies, on airplanes, couches, loveseats, and even her bed, where his naked toes dangle just off the end. Curled as she is, she fits between his shoulders and his knees. She smells like soap and salt.

"It will be all right," he says, but he doesn't see how.

Her breath catches as she holds back a sob. He smoothes his palm between her shoulders, mapping the slope and bone of her.

"It will be all right," he says again, willing them into a better future.

In his arms, she trembles but does not cry.


She is married again for one night only, stuck in the garish bridal suite of the Pruitville Hotel with Hunter on the other side of the bed. It has finally stopped vibrating and, thankfully, mercifully, he seems to be out of quarters.

"I bet you and Steve had a place just like this when you got married," he says from behind her. "You can tell me the truth. I won't judge."

She rolls over with a laugh. "Our honeymoon was in Hawaii. Six beautiful days of sun and sand – no red velvet walls or cheap polyester pillows in sight."

"So you're saying that you actually left the hotel at some point?" he asks, and she hits him square in he face with a heart-shaped pillow. "What?" he demands petulantly. "I need details to set the scene."

"I am not your personal 900 number."

"I hope he at least saved himself for marriage," he says, and she feels heat across her cheeks. There are few topics of her life that are off-limits to Hunter, but the consummation of her marriage is definitely one of them.

"Stop. You are completely terrible."

"You're the one who married me," he says, tickling her ribs under the covers.

She wriggles away with a giggle and then props herself up on one arm so she could look down at him. The red vacancy sign blinks in the window like a warning light, but she feels dangerous now. "How come you've never gotten married? I mean, for real."

He shrugs as he rolls to face her. "Never had the urge."

"We know that's not true," she mutters, and he pokes her again.

"Hey now, be nice."

It is hot under the covers with him. He seems to take up the whole bed, especially now with their talk of honeymoons and urges. God, it has been too long, she thinks as she flops back into the pillow. The red light continues its pulsing against the window, and she feels the rhythm in her veins.

"The whole thing strikes me as a bit silly, if you want to know the truth," he says at length. "All that money and fancy clothes, and a piece of paper that doesn't make one bit of difference to how you really feel about one another. The relationship is the same – good or bad – and the legal document can't change that."

"So you're an expert on relationships now?" She is amused. By her estimation, six weeks is the longest he has ever been with one woman.

"Well, in my case, I guess you could say the mechanics are the same. You know, insert tab B into slot A."

She chokes in disbelief. "Tabs and slots? My God, it's a wonder you manage to get any dates at all."

"I score more often than you do," he points out, and she shakes her head with a smile.

"That's where we're different, Hunter. I am not keeping score." They lie there in silence for a while, and she closes her eyes, drifting off to the sound of his breathing.

"Actually, I almost got married once," he says, jolting her aware again.

For a second, she thinks she has imagined the words, which seem to hang in the air between them. She holds her breath to see if he will continue.

"In Saigon," he says, more to the ceiling than to her. "Just before it fell in '75. I met this girl at the market buying fruit. We'd been out in the jungle for so long I almost forgot what real food tasted like, and here there was so much of it – orange, red, green and yellow – I couldn't figure out what to buy first. But then Lin appeared and told me, with perfect English I might add, that I had to try these unattractive things she called mang cut. They looked like leathery purple baseballs, but Lin assured me they would be delicious. Well, she was right, of course. We ate them together on a bench and talked for two straight hours. Her father was a businessman and he was teaching her to follow in his footsteps, which is how she had learned English. He was not too pleased when I started coming around."

"I can't imagine why," she says dryly.

He smiles and sticks his arms beneath his head. "Well, she was only seventeen."


"Hey, she seemed older!" He paused. "We all did back then. The Viet Cong were advancing southward and the Americans were starting to pull out. Her city was in trouble."

McCall hesitates. "Is that why…"

"Why I wanted to marry her?" He shifts to look her in the eyes. "Yes. It was actually her father's idea, if you can believe it. Lin didn't want to leave her family. But her Dad was desperate to get her out of the city before the North Vietnamese took Saigon. It was clear that the US was pulling out, and everyone feared there would be a massacre when the city fell. Earlier we had found mass graves in a different city, Hué, so we knew damn well what the Viet Cong were capable of – thousands of people executed at once, some even buried alive."

"My God," she murmurs. She remembers being seventeen herself and reading the horrible headlines from the safety of her home in Northridge. She can't imagine living it in person. "That's awful."

"The South Vietnamese packed every plane out of the country – it was almost impossible to get a flight. Lin's father thought if she married me, that maybe I could get her on a military plane. I didn't think it would work but I agreed to try it. Then the shelling started at Tan Son Nhat, the airport, and all flights shut down. There was complete chaos in the city as people got out any way they could - by car, by bike or on foot. Lin's father took her and disappeared into the night. I found their house empty with dinner still sitting on the table." He took a deep breath. "We got choppered out the next day."

"So you never got to say good-bye?"

He shook his head. "I never saw her again. I wrote to her often, but my letters went unanswered. I tried to figure out what happened to her a few years later, but she and her father must have relocated. I don't know where they are." He paused. "I don't even know for sure they made it out of Saigon."

She feels around until she finds his hand under the blankets. "I'm sorry," she whispers. He is so steady all the time, cracking wise and winking at her even when they are knee-deep in dead bodies. She forgets sometimes that there is pain in him too.

"It was a long time ago," he says, but he does not pull away from her grasp.

She tugs his hand closer and holds it between her own, cradling him against her warm body. He smiles a little in acknowledgement and strokes the satin of her pajamas with two fingers, almost as if they were married, and eventually, they sleep.


He has been sitting in the faux-leather hospital chair for nearly two hours, and his ass has gone completely numb. Technically, he supposes, the chair is rehab-issue, since this was where they had moved her last week, but it is not a noticeable upgrade from the torturous seats they had outside of the ICU. Her bed is definitely hospital-grade, with rails and everything, as if she might fall out at night like a small child.

Fifteen days post-surgery, she is already a marvel, able to walk short distances without help and to consume meals that do not require the use of a knife. She is curled up and facing him, listening to him drone on about nothing but not really holding up her end of the conversation. Her eyes are tired and the tight set of her mouth suggests she might be in some pain. He should cut the small talk and get out of here.

"I'm going to head out," he says softly, and she stirs under her blanket.


"McCall, it's after ten." He abuses the hell out of the visiting hours. There was no way he could be here from ten-to-four, and there is no one at the rehab center willing to argue with his badge. As far as he was concerned, McCall was police business.

"I guess that's right," she says, sounding disappointed. "You need rest."

"You need rest," he reminds her as he draws up her covers. "Don't worry about me. Charlie has even found someone to watch over me, at least until you're back on your feet."

She looks wounded. "You have a new partner?"

"Ed Fluhvan," he tells her. "But it's just temporary."

"Temporary has a way of becoming permanent."

"Pshaw," he says as he sits by her hip. "Not this time. Ed is nice and all, but he can't fill your shoes. Hell, I doubt he could even walk in them."

He is trying to coax a smile out of her, but there are tears in her eyes. Now he feels like an ass.

"Hey, it's okay," he says. "Even Charlie said it's just until you get back. I promise I am not auditioning a replacement."

She moves one hand awkwardly to wipe her face. "It just feels like I will never get out of here," she whispers.

"You're too hard on yourself. It's only been a couple of weeks since the surgery. The doctor says you're doing great."

"I can't even write my own name. Four year olds are more coordinated than I am right now. I'm stuck here, away from home, away from work, and my old life seems like a distant memory. Now you're getting a new partner…"

"Come here." He pulls her up gently and wraps his arms around her. Slowly, she hugs him back. "I have only one partner," he says against her temple. "Okay?"

She nods and rests her head on his shoulder. "I'm sorry. It's been a long day. It just gets lonely here sometimes, you know?"

His heart squeezes at her words and he kisses her head. "Yeah, I know." He has spent enough time in hospitals to be familiar with the simultaneous feelings of being on display and totally alone at the same time. There are two hundred other people in the building, but none of them is a friend.

He hugs her a little tighter and she flinches on a sharp intake of breath. "Too much?" he asks.

"I hurt everywhere," she confesses, her eyes downcast. "Reconnecting your brain and body turns out to be a painful process."

"They must have something they can give you."

"It's in the bathroom," she says. "I didn't take it tonight because I knew you were coming."


She manages a tiny shrug. "It knocks me out, and I wanted to see you."

"Well, you've seen me plenty by now, I think." He fetches the paper cup with her pills in it along with a cup of water. "Here."

She puts the pills in her mouth and manages to drink the water without spilling it all over the place. He sets the cup aside and turns out the light. "Now move over," he says as he loosens his tie.


"You heard me." He lowers the rail on one side so that he can wedge himself into the narrow bed. The only way they fit is with her tucked right against him, under one arm. Her palm is on his chest and she seems to be resisting.

"You don't have to do this," she says in the darkness.

"It has been a long day for me too, okay? Let's just try and get some sleep."

She settles her slight weight against him, thinner now than ever before, and he makes a mental note to bring her some real food. But she is warm and soft and alive, and he hadn't realized until now how much he needs this extended physical contact. They'd had such a close call.

Tentatively, she reaches an arm around him. "I miss you so much." Her voice is muffled against his shirt.

He has been to see her every other day, but he knows instantly what she means. Emotion clogs his throat and he rubs his hand down her back. "I miss you, too." She is sniffling again, and he shushes her with murmured assurances and the sweep of his palm over her spine. He is closer to her than he is to any of his lovers, but this is the most they have ever touched. He revels in the feel of her.

She grows quiet, her breathing steady, and he wonders if she is asleep. He lets his hand wander up under the soft tickle of her hair to the warm edge of her pajama top. Gingerly, he nudges it down so his fingers can creep inside.

He feels her tense and hold her breath - no, not asleep - but she does not stop his exploration. His fingertips graze the bandage that covers her incision. He touches it lightly, almost reverently, and she shudders against him. "I couldn't find your pulse at first," he says softly. That terrible moment lived in him still. "I thought you were dead."

"I'm not dead," she says, hugging him. "I'm right here."

He shifts as he blinks back tears. She makes a small sound of protest when he withdraws his hand, but then sighs again when he slips it under the other hem of her top. Her skin is smooth and hot to his touch. He caresses her gently at first, but then with more pressure, loosening her sore muscles. The baser part of him notes that she is not wearing a bra.

"Tell me if this hurts," he says in a low voice.

"Hhm-mm," she replies. "Nice."

All traces of his exhaustion are gone as he devotes himself to pleasing her. She is rubbing him through his shirt in the same rhythm, her hand over his ribs, and he wonders if she even realizes she is doing it. She arches as he finds a particularly sensitive spot. "That feels so good," she sighs, and he is instantly, painfully hard.

Whoa there, he tells himself. None of that now.

But his brain has already run away with the images like a naughty toddler with a stolen cookie. This is how it would be, his brain says, if you made love. He hopes she cannot hear his heart pounding crazily inside his chest.

He stops his ministrations, his hand still inside her shirt. He squeezes his eyes shut and thinks of the morgue, of the Captain, of the 1985 Rams - anything but the feel of her skin. Eventually, he can breathe again. McCall is asleep against him for sure now, her arm still across his chest. Gently, slowly, he extricates his hand and then smoothes the top of her pajamas back into place.

She stirs when he tries to get up, hugging him back to her, and he lies down with a sigh. It's lonely here sometimes, she'd said, and this he understands. It is lonely at his place too on occasion. He closes his eyes and imagines the not-too-distant future when she will be sitting across the desk from him again. He would offer to take over the typing if it could speed up her return. If that didn't show her how much he missed her, nothing would.

It is a long time before he sleeps.


It is completely black in the room and she feels around until she finds him again under the covers. He jumps back as if zapped. "Jesus, you are cold!" he says when her hand makes contact with his bare arm.

"I told you." He had better get used to it too, because there is no way she is going back to her own room now that the power is out.

Reluctantly, he shifts closer to her so that she can sort of burrow near him, and she finds he is at least wearing flannel pajama pants underneath the heavy bedspread. He is giving off warmth like a heater. Outside, the wind bangs its fury at the doors and windows, an angry guest demanding to be let in.

"I was thinking," she says as she blows on her frozen fingers, "what if our killer really is Edelman, Senior?"

He chuffs. "Back from the dead? C'mon."

"You don't believe in ghosts?"

The bed moves as he shifts his weight. "No, I don't believe in ghosts. And even if I did, I don't believe that they would come looking for revenge with a .45. No, our killer has a distinctly human face."

She shivers. "And is probably sleeping right down the hall."

"My money is on Sylvia. She's so tightly wound you can bounce a quarter off her."

She tries to see his face in the dark. "I thought you two had a rapport."

"What can I say? I attract the crazies."

Given that she is currently curled up against him, she isn't sure how to take that comment.

"You want to go to sleep?" he asks, his voice rich with humor. "Or should I tell you a ghost story?"

"I thought you didn't believe in ghosts."

"I don't, but it might be fun scaring the pants off of you." He reaches over and wiggles his fingers on her hip for emphasis.

"I like my pants where they are, thank you very much."

He is quiet a moment. "You really believe in that stuff?" he asks eventually. "Ghosts and goblins and monsters in the dark?"

Monsters in the dark, yes. She has seen enough of them now to know they are real. They might have been human at one time, babies in their mothers' wombs, but by the time they cross her desk they are killing machines whose only purpose in life is to spill fresh blood. The human face is merely a remnant, a trick of light.

As if reading her thoughts, Hunter continues, "I can barely wrap my head around this life, let alone a next one." His voice is a rumble somewhere above her head.

"That's my point," she says. "If you think there is a next life, if the soul goes on after death, then it would make sense that some of them get trapped here for one reason or another. Doesn't it?"

"None of it makes sense to me. Why? Do you have Steve McCall following you around like Harvey the White Rabbit or something?"

"Of course not." She considers whether to say more and risk looking foolish. Ah, what the hell. One could not be held responsible for ghost stories told in the dark of night. "Right after he was killed, I kind of hoped he would show up," she says. "But I felt the presence of his things more than anything else. His stuff was everywhere in our apartment, just waiting for him to come back – his shoes under the coffee table, his book on the nightstand, his half-empty shampoo bottle in the shower. It seemed impossible that he wasn't going to be there again to use them again."

He kisses the top of her head.

"He was reading 'The Godfather' when he died," she says. "He had turned down page 179 to mark his place, and I read the whole thing after the funeral. I thought he might want to know how it ended." She smiled wryly. "How's that for crazy?"

"Pretty weird," he admits, but he squeezes her.

She sighs. "Most of all, I wanted him to tell me who had killed him. I sat in our living room in silence, hoping he could find a way to get the message across, that somehow I would just…know. But all I heard was our fish tank."

"You didn't need Steve to solve his murder," he points out. "You did that on your own."

"Would have been easier with a short cut, though," she says, and he laughs gently.

They are quiet for a few minutes and she thinks maybe he has gone to sleep. But then she feels his hand on her hip again, warm and heavy through the terry cloth of her robe. "If I tell you something, you promise never to repeat it?"

Her heart skips a beat as she imagines what he might confess. "Sure," she says, holding very still.

"The night my father died, I snuck down around midnight to get a beer from the kitchen. I was sixteen - he would have had my ass but good if he'd caught me, but I knew he wasn't home. I left the lights off, and I was sitting there drinking it in the kitchen when my father came in. I froze, totally busted, waiting for him to turn on the light and see me. But he didn't. Instead, he goes to the refrigerator and takes out a roast beef sandwich on this little plate my mother had left for him. I could see his face then, because of the light from the fridge, and he looked… old. Tired."

She slips an arm around him without thinking about it.

"Anyway, I'm still sitting there at the table, beer in my hand, but it seems like he doesn't see me. I start thinking that maybe I'm going to get away with it after all. He shuts the refrigerator and it's dark again. But then he turns to me, like he knew I was there all along, and he says, 'It's late, Ricky. Go on to bed with you.' And he leaves the room. He hadn't called me Ricky in years at that point."

"You think…you think maybe he could sense what was coming?"

"Well, that's the weird part." He hesitates a moment. "I spent ten years living with that night, wondering why he didn't bust my ass, wondering why I didn't say anything back to him. Then I made Detective and I suddenly had access to his murder book. I checked it out one day, just to see. No one cared because the case was closed years ago. Anyway, the first thing I see is the time of death: 9PM on the fifteenth of May. According to official records, my dad died three hours before he walked through our kitchen with a sandwich."

She props herself up to look at him. His face is inscrutable in the darkness. "That's incredible."

"TOD was determined by witness statements. Maybe they were wrong." He pauses. "Or maybe I dreamed the whole thing. I guess I'll never really know."

"Which one do you think it is?"

"Search me. It doesn't make a lot of sense that I'd hear from him after death. He barely spoke to me while he was alive." She settled back down next to him, warmer now, and he drew the covers over them both. She could feel his breath on her cheek. "I've lived my life in opposition to his," Hunter says, "so ghost or not, I guess you could call that a kind of haunting."

She turns in his arms and holds him, this man who was once a sixteen year-old without a father, a father who was maybe a ghost long before he was ever dead. He's right, she thinks, as she strokes his warm head, his forehead against her shoulder. Forget the afterlife. It's this one where the real damage occurs.

The storm outside picks up again, slapping the shutters and swirling snow up against the windows, but this time, she is not cold.


They are physically joined for the second time that night, her leg over his hip, rocking together in a sensuous haze. The first time had been quick and sharp, like a light bulb shattering; they had to get naked together before either one lost their nerve. Now they were taking it slow, stroking and kissing to draw out the pleasure as long as possible. He has been an inch from orgasm for twenty minutes now, hovering right on the edge. McCall has been over it twice already, her mouth open and hot against his shoulder.

Finally, he can take it no longer. He rolls her onto her back and manages several desperate thrusts before he shudders in her arms. She holds him tightly as the aftershocks jerk through him, her lips against his neck.

His flushed face finds the cool pillow as his breathing steadies once more. To his vague horror, he finds himself thinking of Steve McCall. Five years ago, Steve had no doubt been where he is now, sticky and sweaty and wrapped in her arms. Hunter doesn't really want to think about what it meant that he had picked tonight of all nights to make love to McCall. She has been his longer now than she had ever belonged to Steve, but Hunter knows there are many parts of her he shares only because her husband is dead; this particular moment just happens to be the most intimate. There is a secret selfish place inside him that realizes she will always think of him on this day forward, and not just Steve alone.

Say something to her, he orders himself. Make it nice.

He is not usually tongue-tied like this, but to be fair, he never expected to find himself naked in her bed. His usual lines were for beautiful strangers. Emotion swells within him as he tries to find the right words.

McCall raises up on one elbow to look down at him. "Tab A and Slot B, huh?" she remarks, arching an eyebrow.

"Ouch. I did say that, didn't I."

"Mmm-hmm," she says, but she is teasing. The curve of her smile makes him feel light and happy inside.

I love you, he thinks, but he cannot say it. They have crossed so many lines tonight that one must stay intact. He loves her deeply but he does not want to marry her and raise babies, nor does he want to take these things away from her by keeping her to himself. But, oh, she is precious to him. He hopes she knows. He hopes she could feel it when he kissed her. It is actually painful to hold back the words because they are the only ones that fit.

He is afraid to start talking because he might end up making promises he cannot keep. Instead, he pulls her down and kisses her again. She is warm and responsive and he can hardly believe he gets to do this. After everything, it's the kissing that still gets to him. Only when he finally felt her lips on his did he realize how many times he had not kissed her before, how many times he had changed the subject or left the room rather than to kiss her. He has a thousand of them stored up: soft, hard, tender, sleepy, slow and long, full of humor and love. He wants to spend the rest of his life just kissing her.

She pulls away with a small hum. "I'm going to get some water. Would you like some?"

"That would be great."

He watches as her alabaster skin disappears under a robe, and she goes downstairs for the glasses. Their coffee is probably still sitting there cold on the counter. He can hear her clearing dishes away.

He closes his eyes and presses his face to her soft pillow, inhaling the scent of her hair. He wants to remember everything.

She returns and wordlessly hands him a glass of water before returning to her side of the bed. It is testament to their intimacy that they already have an established side, despite the fact they are barely lovers. He sees her hesitate with one hand on the sash of her robe, but then she sheds it and climbs beneath the sheets with him again.

The nightstand clock glows the time at 2:45 in the morning, and she catches him looking. "My plane leaves in just over six hours," she says.

"All packed?"

"I was supposed to be doing that this evening. Instead I wound up doing something else."

"Oh?" His tone is pure innocence. "And what would that be?"

"Oh, you know: ordered a pizza, did my taxes…"

He tickles her and she giggles, and it is this more than anything that could make him stay. Sex he can get anywhere but there is only one place he can sleep with his best friend. Again, he finds himself struggling with words.

He traces her eyebrow lightly with one finger and cups his hand against her cheek. "You're so pretty," he murmurs to her. It's as close to the truth as he dares to get.

She wrinkles her nose, not believing him, and his heart squeezes with a pang. He has spent nearly four years making sure she understood he was not attracted to her, basically panting after every other female who happened by. Apparently he was not going to be able to undo that message in one night.

"What are you going to do without me for six weeks?" she asks, her chin on his chest.

"A lot more typing than I usually do, that's for sure."

She grins. "Just…stay out of trouble, okay? Try not to shoot anyone while I'm gone."

"You know I save that just for you." He runs his hand along the length of her back. "Just don't go joining up with the FBI while you're out there, you hear me? I don't want to lose my partner."

Her smile falters, and it is clear she grasps his real meaning. "I won't," she says softly, and rolls away.

He follows her, wrapping her in his arms again. He is not letting her get away just yet. She sighs as he rubs his cheek against her hair. "We should get some sleep," he says.

"I know." Instead they just stare at each other some more. She strokes his face and smiles at him, a little sadly. "I'll miss you."

I love you, he thinks again. Here in her bed with her might be the only time it's appropriate to say it, but still he cannot. The words would change everything.

He kisses her gently for a moment and then hugs her tight. She settles into the crook of his arm, sleepy and languid. "I was reading the other day that a romantic kiss is at least six seconds long," she says, suppressing a yawn.

"Is that so?"

"Anything less can be construed as friendly or chaste, I guess. Scientists have decided that six seconds is when the kiss becomes… something more. Who the heck spends time studying these things?"

"Your tax dollars at work." He has kissed her at least an hour's worth by now. It still wasn't enough.

They sleep snuggled together until morning, when there is no time for lingering in bed. She packs in a hurry while he concocts a semi-decent breakfast out of what she has lying around her kitchen. They smile at each other over eggs and toast but do not say much.

"I'll take you to the airport," he says as he clears the dishes.

"You don't have to do that." She is plainly surprised, and he realizes suddenly that she has not been planning a relationship for them in her head. Relief and disappointment mix within him. Friends and partners forever.

He holds her hand in the car, not quite ready for it to be over. Six weeks is as long as they have ever been apart. They wait together at the gate, chatting about cases he will work in her absence, until at last it is time for her to board.

"I've got to go," she says, regretful. She toys with a button on his shirt. "Don't miss me too much, okay?"

She kisses him lightly, one of their usual exchanges, and pulls away. He tugs her back toward him, and his lips find hers. One, two… he counts in his head as he kisses her. Her mouth parts just slightly. Three, four… His face is growing warm again, and her hands are bunched in his shirt. Five, sixAh, there we are, he thinks. We are something more.

~ An End ~

Continued in Five More Beds.

Thanks to the unsinkable Maybe_Amanda for beta services cheerfully rendered.

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