Five More Beds

Rating: M for mature audiences.

Summary: Five more conversations in the dark.

Notes: This is a continuation fromFive Beds.


Hunter is drunk. McCall is not, though, so he is able to lean against the deck railing of his beach house while she nimbly opens the door with his key. He is not sure how she missed his fate; one of the few clear memories he has from the evening is of her doing a shot of whiskey with the rest of them, tiny glasses raised in Finn's honor.

"It was just the one drink," she says, looking back at him as his door opens, and he realizes then that he has spoken out loud.

Shit, no filter left, he thinks. Better watch that.

Their first night out together in months, and it was an Irish wake. She must have noticed how many he was knocking back and adjusted her intake accordingly. He is pleased he can still command this amount of attention from her. At least some parts of their relationship were intact.

He squints when she turns on the light and blocks it with one hand. "Is that entirely necessary?"

She ignores him and heads to his kitchen, where he hears her rustling around in his cupboards. She returns with aspirin and a big glass of water. "Here, take these," she says. "You'll thank me in the morning."

She smells of smoke from the bar and her usual perfume. He knows now what it feels like to kiss her, and he pays for that memory a little bit more each day. He cannot remember the last time he touched her. "Won't Michael be wondering where you are?" he asks, holding the glass without drinking it.

The question is ludicrous, and he knows it, even as far gone as he is. They closed down the bar, and it's past two in the morning. No one is looking for them now, not even her EMT boyfriend.

"He's working tonight," she says. "Drink your water."

When he is done following orders, she starts propelling him toward his bed. He is surprised as always by the strength of her hands. She peels off his sport jacket, and he sinks onto the bed, yanking ineffectively at his tie. At least it is dark again. His head is swimming with alcohol and stories of Ambrose Finn. He wonders what it's like to love someone so much that they literally make you crazy. "Did I tell the one where Ambrose and I filled Davy Rawlings's locker full of shaving cream?" he asks as she pulls off his shoes.

"Twice," she says.

He lays one arm over his eyes. "You know last year when you and I needed extra help on the Marcaesi murder? He's the one who pulled the strings to make it happen. He was always doing that stuff, you know? Quiet, in the background, but effective."

"I know." The bed shifts from her weight as she sits near his feet.

In the morning, they were burying Ambrose Finn. It is supposed to be a small family affair, but no one has explicitly told him he cannot go. Maybe if he sees the casket going into the grave, it will finally seem real. "It's bullshit that they won't give him a proper ceremony," he tells her from under his arm. "For all the good Finn did during his fifteen years, the Chief himself ought to show up in his dress blues."

"Hunter, you know how I feel about Ambrose. He was a great cop, one of the best I've known." She pauses. "But by the end, he was also a murderer, and the city can't be seen paying for the usual pomp and circumstance this time."

He knows she is right so he says nothing in return. She pats his leg, and the bed moves as she rises.

"Get some rest," she says.

"Don't go yet." He stretches his arm blindly for her, but she is just out of reach, like always.

"Hunter…" She sounds tired, resigned.

"Just for a few minutes." The room is spinning, and this is the first real conversation they have had in a long time.

She sighs and goes around to the other side of the bed. He hears her heels slide off, and she climbs in next to him. She sits on top of the covers, up against the headboard, with her knees to her chest. "You know, I met Sheila at Steve's funeral," she says after a long time. "I remember being really touched that she came. Most cops' wives don't want to go anywhere near the funeral of an officer killed in the line of duty."

He is silent. Ambrose was killed during the commission of his own crime. Hunter damn near had to shoot him himself. But privately, he thinks that Sheila's cancer took them both. She died, and the real Ambrose Finn went with her. "I wish there was a way to go back," he says, "to maybe see this coming. I wish I could have stopped it. What a goddamned waste."

"Yeah," she agrees softly. "A waste." She pauses. "Hey, you know I once got him out of bed at two in the morning to track you down? He didn't think twice."

He has fewer friends every year. His closest one is sitting two feet from him but might as well be miles away. I miss you, he thinks, but it is hard to focus over the pounding in his head. He wonders if she misses him also or if she's been too wrapped up in her aggressive dating schedule that she's failed to notice his absence. It's been six months since their night together and she must have tried on a half-dozen men in the interim. This latest one seems to be sticking.

"Tell me about Mike," he says, because this is something he might have done before. He's had enough to drink that maybe he can handle the answer.

She is quiet for a moment. "He's nice," she says finally. "He's divorced, no kids, plays the guitar. He has a weekend band with some of his friends from high school, and they're really not bad." She hesitates. "I like him. He makes me laugh."

"That's nice." His voice is totally flat.

"I think so." She refuses to sound displeased at his petulance, and this makes him even more annoyed.

"Are you sleeping with him?" No filter at all tonight, no-sir-ee. In the old days, he wouldn't have had to ask. He would just know. But now his McCall sex detector has been overcharged, fried by the memory of his body against hers. He holds his breath for her answer. She'll probably tell him to mind his own business.

She has gone completely still. "Why do you need to know?" She sounds guarded but curious.

"I don't." He tries for casual, but his eyes are screwed shut. He does need to know. He needs some sort of sign that it's time to move on.

Still she makes him wait. "Yes," she says at last.

There you go, he says to himself. Now you know. Happy now?

He sighs. "Look, I'm sorry for making you drag my ass home like this," he says. "You should go home and get some rest."

"Kicking me out now, are you?" Her tone is light, but he catches a note of hurt. She thinks he is punishing her for being with someone else. She doesn't realize the only one he is punishing is himself. Go, now, he thinks, before I say something really stupid.

He feels her leave the bed, and it gets colder almost immediately. But then she is standing next to him. He cracks his eyes open to look at her, and she crouches down near the bed. "I'm sorry," she says, "about Ambrose. Try to sleep, hmm? I will see you at the cemetery tomorrow."

"I'm sorry, too." For everything.

This time when he puts his hand out, she is there. He catches the back of her head, stroking her soft hair, and she leans against him gently. He can touch her again, now that she is definitely no longer his.


When he opens the door, she sees that both he and the baby are wearing his shirts, although neither one has it on quite right. The tiny girl is dwarfed in cotton, and Hunter's button-down is entirely buttoned down. He looks utterly defeated. "She doesn't sleep," he says as McCall enters the apartment. "I dozed off once and when I woke up she was scrubbing the wall with my toothbrush."

The child coos her amusement and pats his cheek agreeably. McCall grins. "I've been called in as back-up in some pretty unusual situations, but this is a new one."

"It's after midnight. She has to sleep sometime, right?"

"You could always take her to Juvie."

Exhausted though he looks, he shakes his head. "No, I won't throw her in with the unwashed masses. She's been in the presence of one murderer today, and that's enough."

The baby does not seem worse for her experiences. She leans her small head on Hunter's huge shoulder and chatters a string of nonsense at him. He nuzzles her curls almost instinctively. For someone who has claimed not to want children, he is a natural with them.

He turns tired eyes to hers. "Help," he says.

She smiles and shakes her head a bit, but accepts the little girl. The child frowns at being passed from one adult to another and reaches back for Hunter. "Hello, little one," McCall says. "I see you've been making yourself quite at home here."

There are playing cards and pillows scattered across the floor. Hunter yawns broadly and heads for the back. "The bedroom is this way," he calls back, and she realizes she has not yet seen it. He'd moved in only one month before.

The baby protests as Hunter disappears from view, and McCall trails after him. "What do you want me to do with her?" she asks as she reaches the bedroom. It smells like bubble bath. The lights are still on, but Hunter is stretched out on his king-sized mattress, his eyes closed.

"Talk to her about your knitting," he says without opening his eyes. "That will put her to sleep."

The child has turned her attention to McCall's beaded necklace. "Mine?" she asks hopefully.

"That's her favorite word," Hunter warns from the bed.

"Sorry, it's not coming off," McCall tells the baby, but she lets the girl play with it. After a moment, the baby drops the necklace and yawns. "I think she's fading," McCall tells Hunter.


"Mama," the girl says, twisting in her arms and looking around.

McCall's heart squeezes. "I'm afraid she's not here right now, sweetheart."

The baby's lower lip quivers but she does not cry. "Mama," she says mournfully, and lays her head on McCall's shoulder.

"I know," McCall murmurs, rubbing her back. She paces a bit, remembering the slight bouncing rhythm from her babysitting days. She starts to sing. "Hush, little baby, don't say a word…"

The child immediately jerks her head up to stare at McCall with wide brown eyes. "I think she knows this one," McCall says.

"Then keep going."

She resumes pacing and singing. "Mama's going to buy you a mocking bird…" When she is finished, the girl's head is heavy against her shoulder. She walks to the bed and turns so Hunter can see. "Is she out?"

"Seems to be."

McCall carefully lowers the baby to the center of the bed. The little girl snuggles up against Hunter, her rear end in the air. Hunter pats her affectionately. McCall takes the other side of the bed, resting a moment.

"I'd forgotten how good you are that," he says in a low voice.

She snorts. "I haven't held a baby in years."

"I meant the singing." He gives her a tired smile. "You want to sing me a lullaby now?"

"Do you need one?"

"Hardly," he says, and breaks into another yawn. She should go, but it's peaceful here in his room, a baby snoozing between them. She props herself up to face him.

"You're really good with her, you know."

"Old habits die hard."

"What do you mean, old habits?"

"When I was eleven, my aunt Donna moved in with us for a year. She had a two-year-old daughter, Lisa Marie, and I became the de facto babysitter. I spent a lot of time picking Cheerios out of the carpet and pushing her on the swings at the park."

She smiles, imagining a young Hunter following a toddler around. "Lisa Marie - is that your cousin who got married last year? The one who lives in Texas?"

"The very same. I used to change her diapers and now she's pregnant herself." He rolls onto his back. "God, I feel old."

"Babies have a way of doing that to you." McCall touches a hand to the girl's warm, chubby foot. "I really hope that wasn't her mother who was dead in the hotel."

"We can hope," he replies, although he does not sound hopeful. "And there's always the father, presuming we can track him down."

"Presuming he's still in the picture."

"With a kid this cute? Who could walk away?"

She thinks of his father, a man who walked away a hundred times, and reaches across the bed to squeeze his hand. He squeezes back and holds on. "Better watch it, Hunter. Your reputation as a tough guy could take a real hit here."

"I know you'll keep my secrets." His eyes are closed again. He is quiet so long that she thinks maybe he has gone to sleep, so his voice startles her when he speaks. "Did you and Steve want a lot of kids?"

"A few," she answers, and he opens his eyes to look at her. "Two, maybe three."

"So you would have wanted to get going pretty soon then, huh?"

He is just making conversation, but she withdraws her hand. They've talked easily and often about Steve, and there is no way he could have known he's hit a sensitive point. Still, she feels unexpected tears pricking her eyes. It's been seven years, she thinks. You really should be past this now.

"Hey, I'm sorry," he says as he notices her watering eyes. "I didn't mean…"

"It's okay," she assures him quickly. She sniffs hard and wipes her eyes.

"You have plenty of time, you know."

"I know. It's not that." She hesitates a moment and then draws a shaky breath. After five years, there are still things she has not told him. "It's just that…I was pregnant when Steven died."

"What?" At this point in their relationship, it takes a lot to shock him, but she has done it. He is completely awake now and sitting up to look at her. She backs up against the headboard as well. The baby doesn't stir.

"About eight weeks," she says softly. "I miscarried soon after the funeral." Nine days later, actually, when she'd had no more tears left to cry.

"My God, Dee Dee."

"It's okay, really. It was so long ago at this point. And it was barely even real before it was…over." She has a totally different life now, and most days, she would not trade it for anything in the world.

"I'm sorry," he murmurs, reaching a hand to her. She puts hers in his.

"Thanks. I'm honestly okay. I've made my peace with the fact that that baby was never meant to be. But I still think of it sometimes, usually on what would have been his or her birthday." Off his look, she added, "May 19th."

"Did Steve know?"

"Yeah." She smiles, remembering his joy. "He knew."

The little girl moans between them and curls her tiny fists in the blanket. "Mama," she says, and whimpers. "Mine. Mama."

Hunter pats her back and shushes her. She curls into his body and puts her thumb in her mouth. "Sing something else," he says to McCall.

"I don't know any other lullabies."

"I don't think it matters," he says as the child frets a bit more.

She casts around in her memory for something vaguely appropriate and settles on Pete Townshend. "When people keep repeating," she sings finally, "that you'll never fall in love. When everybody keeps retreating, but you can't seem to get enough…."

Hunter smiles at her and closes his eyes. The baby quiets.

"Let my love open the door," she sings softly, and strokes one plump baby leg. "Let my love open the door. Let my love open the door… to your heart."

By the time she finishes the second verse, they are both asleep, the man who is not her husband and the baby who is not her child. She soaks in the quiet for a few moments but realizes she needs to get going or she will be asleep too. Carefully, she stretches across the bed and kisses each one in turn. "Good night," she whispers to them, and she turns out the lights as she leaves.


It is pitch black in the precinct sleeping quarters, so she has to feel her way around. Her knee hits the end of a metal dorm-style bed, and she bites back a curse. From the darkness, she hears him. "You would make a lousy cat burglar."

They are alone in the room. He is supposed to be napping, although the Captain has charged her with the assignment to make him go home. Whenever any of the brass wants Hunter to comply with some order, they always hand it to her, as if she can somehow magically get him to cooperate. But this time, she is worried enough to take the assignment. She imagines herself approaching an angry bull in a pasture. "You're supposed to be sleeping," she says as she finds him on a lower bunk.

"Then why are you here?"

She sits at his hip. "Because I didn't really think you'd be asleep," she admits.

"This is why we're partners."

"You should go home," she says gamely. "Get some real rest." He has been running ragged over Randall Fane's death for the last three days, torturing himself with twenty-year old memories in the process.

"I'm fine." He shifts under the scratchy wool blanket. "I figure I have to stay in here another hour before the Captain will let me out again, and then it's back to work."

"You can't help Randall if you're exhausted."

He scrubs his face with both hands. "Rose is addicted to opium."


"Yeah. I guess that's why she didn't come to the funeral. I can't believe Randall never said anything to me about it. There was a time he could have told me anything."

She is not sure what to say. He is seven years older than she is, but the only time she really feels this difference is when he talks about Vietnam. She was wearing mini-skirts and doing homework in the safety of the Valley while he was getting shot at in a jungle halfway around the world. They are not so far apart in age, but he grew up a hell of a lot faster.

She rubs his arm through the blanket. "I'm worried about you. You're in and out of here at all hours. Someone clocks you on the back of the head at Randall's place…"

"I told you he did not commit suicide."

She remembers every word of that conversation. It has kept her up for three nights. "Hunter…"


She can just barely see him. "When you said you knew how Randall would have committed suicide…" She swallows as his words come back to her.

He would have taken his government issue, stuck it in his mouth, and blown his brains out. I know that for a fact.

"How do you know that?" she asks, her voice the barest whisper. She is afraid she already knows the answer.

He says nothing for a long time, and she thinks maybe he will never answer. Finally, she gets her confirmation. "Because it's what I would have done."

"Rick, I…"

"Shh." He finds her hands and squeezes them. "It's not important."

"How can you say that?"

He sighs and tugs at her. "Come here."

She lies face to face with him, sharing a pillow. The strong scent of institutional laundry detergent wafts between them. He smells faintly of sweat and tears. "You realize," she says, "if we get caught like this, it will confirm every rumor ever spread about us."

"Could be worth it."

They are holding hands, fingers interlaced, but the moment is not remotely sexual. She is still so afraid for him. "Tell me," she says.

"It's not like it was a real plan," he replies. "But after my second tour, I got back here and had nowhere to go. My friends were either dead, moved or still in the service. My father was six feet under and my mother had remarried. I ended up sharing this one-bedroom walk-up with two other guys. I slept on the enclosed porch and ate by myself in front of the TV every night."

"That sounds awful," she murmurs, feeling lonely for him even now.

"It would not make my lifetime highlight reel." He hesitates. "Half of me wanted to go back," he continued eventually. "At least there I had a purpose and I felt like I knew what I was doing. But six days before I left…"

"What?" she prompts when he stops talking.

"Six days before I left, we found one of those mass graves I told you about before. There must have been a hundred bodies inside, some of them children, buried alive and clinging to their mothers."

She shudders, and he nods.

"That's why I couldn't go back. I didn't think I could see any more without…without it changing me forever." He takes a deep breath. "So yeah, I guess sometimes it crossed my mind. I could swallow a bullet and never have to deal with any of it ever again."

She hugs him tight. "Thank God you didn't." She is practically shaking, considering what might have been.

"I told you, I was never serious about it." He strokes her back absently. "But the guys I know who did it, to a man, they went out the same way: quick and certain. So that's how I know. Randall didn't kill himself."

She believes him, mostly because of the blow he took the back of the head. "You'd better watch it," she says. "Whoever did kill him clearly doesn't like the idea of you nosing around the case."

"Yeah, I got that message." He touches his head lightly, and then yawns into her hair. They lie in silence for several long moments. "If you're worried about the rumor mill, you'd better get going," he murmurs.

"In a minute." It is warm and she is sleepy now herself.

"No, no, if you're staying, it has to be more than a minute," he says. "I have a reputation to uphold."

She smiles, her eyes closed. She could offer strong testimony in this area already, of course, but they never speak of that. Sometimes she wonders if she dreamed the whole thing.

"I'm going," she says but does not move.

He hums a reply, already mostly asleep. Ten minutes, she promises herself. Then she will get up for sure. But after all, the Captain told her to make sure Hunter got some sleep. How she completed the assignment was simply up to her.


It is just past seven at night but she answers the door in her pajamas and robe. Her hair is pinned up and her skin is pink from the shower. "I didn't expect to see you again today," she says as she lets him duck inside. "Did you come to take my statement?"

"No, that will have to wait until the station tomorrow." Like it or not, she has to go back at least one more time.

He looks around at the vaguely unfamiliar surroundings and feels a pang of guilt. She moved last year but he has not spent much time in the new place. At one point, they were having dinner together around once per week, but that tradition had faded away some years ago.

"Can I get you something?" she asks, and he notices she has retrieved what looks like a mug of tea for herself.

"No, I'm fine. I ate with Charlie."

They sit on her couch and he notes it is also new. Figures she would get a bigger one now that he's never here. He tries to remember the last night he spent sleeping on her sofa. The Bigfoot case, he supposes, which is almost three years ago now.

McCall sips her tea, her legs curled under her. "So then to what do I owe this little visit?"

"I, uh, I came to see you, actually. To see how you're doing."


"Yes, really. You think you can just throw down your badge, get abducted by neo-Nazis and be rid of me that easily?"

He is trying for humor, but her face crumples. He shifts to sit next to her and puts aside her tea.

"Hey, it's all right," he says. He has come to help but has made things worse.

She shakes her head. "I'm sorry," she says, but she is still crying.

He would hug her but she has his arm gripped with both hands, as if she were bracing herself against something terrible. He leans his head down against hers. "It's okay now."

She lets him go long enough to wipe at her face. "I left because I needed to get away from the job, but I didn't stop to think I would be leaving you too. I don't…I'm not sure what we are to one another anymore."

He doesn't know the answer to this either, but he wraps both arms around her and holds her tight. They used to dance with death on a regular basis, but it's been a while since they'd had this close a call. There are angry red rings around her wrists from the handcuffs. He can still see the farmhouse, littered with bodies, and remembers his terror that the next one might be hers.

"I just don't want to lose you," she says, her voice muffled against him. As if he is the one who had been chained up with a homicidal maniac for the past three days.

"I'm right where I've always been," he replies, "and I'm not going anywhere." He presses a kiss to the top of her head for emphasis.

She shudders once but does not pull away. For a long minute, they sit in silence, holding each other. Her breathing evens out and he guesses she has fallen asleep. There is no way she has slept more than a handful of hours over the last four days. He's managed precious few himself. He rubs his tired eyes with his free hand and sits up slightly, shifting her awake in the process. "Mmm, I'm sorry," she says, backing away from him. "I'm just exhausted, I guess."

"Understandably so." He smiles at her tenderly. "You should get some sleep, okay?" She nods and gets off the couch, so he rises as well. "Come on," he says. "I'll tuck you in."

He catches the curve of a smile as she leads him back to the bedroom. Once there, he hesitates just a moment on the threshold. The room is different but the furnishings are all the same. The last time they'd been here together, they'd worn much less clothing. He tugs at his necktie and forces himself forward into the room.

McCall is sitting on the edge of her bed, grimacing in pain as she tries to remove the pins from her hair. He has a flash of her chained to the bed and realizes the problem immediately. "Here, let me help you with that."

She lowers her aching arms gingerly as he sits behind her to search out the pins. Her hair is like warm silk, and his touch makes her sigh with pleasure. He feels the temperature tick up another notch. His fingertips sift through the dark strands until he is sure he has found all the pins. "Okay?" he asks.

She nods without turning around. "Thank you."

He reaches around to hug her from behind. "Get some rest, okay?" When he moves to release her, she stops him, her hand on his arm.

"Thanks," she says again, "for coming after me."

He squeezes her gently. "Every time."

She crawls under the covers with a yawn, her eyes closed as soon as her head hits the pillow. "I'll see you tomorrow," she murmurs, and for a second he thinks she has changed her mind about working together again. Then he remembers she still has to give a detailed statement on her time with Frank Lassiter and company.

"Yeah," he says. "I'll be there." He covers her up, and she is asleep immediately. He sits there for a moment, realizing again how tired he is just from looking at her. He's been running on coffee and adrenaline ever since he got the call that said she was taken. Quietly, he turns out the light and prepares to go.

He gets almost to the door when McCall makes some noise from beneath the blankets, not quite distress but not happy either. He waits a beat but she is quiet again. He strokes the smooth wood of the doorjamb and considers his options. It is the memory of Bobby Lee Jenkins, dead on the bed with his pants open, which finally propels Hunter to turn around. Just for a little while, he thinks. Just to make sure she's all right.

He takes off his tie and shoes and carefully lowers himself on the other side of the bed. He lies on top of the covers – he does not plan to stay. Then he closes his eyes and sleeps.

He jolts awake to the sound of her shouting "No!" and sits up next to her. "It's all right," he murmurs, but she shoves him backward, hard.

"Get off of me!" She scrambles out of bed, the covers sliding with her.

"Dee Dee, it's me. It's Hunter." He fumbles around for a light but can't find the switch in the dark. He can just make out her form in dim glow of the streetlamp outside.


"Yeah." His heart is pounding and he is glad she left her gun downstairs. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

"What are you doing here?" Tentatively, she picks up the bedspread and approaches him again. "I thought you were going home."

"I was." He lies back as his heartbeat slows a bit. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay first, and I guess I nodded off. I apologize."

She gets back into bed and sits cross-legged next to him. "Sorry I shoved you."

"I'm fine." He taps her knee. "You okay?"

She draws a deep breath and nods. "Just a dream, I guess."

"You want to talk about it?" He caresses her knee lightly with the back of one finger. This is what we are to one another, he thinks. Secret sharers in the dark.

She shrugs one shoulder and looks at the bed. "You know generally what happened. The details, you can read tomorrow in my official statement, right?"

"I'm not here to take your statement," he says again. "I'm here as your friend." The fact that she does not want to tell him details makes the little hairs on his neck stand up. After Lloyd Fredericks, he learned she can keep truly terrible things to herself and he would have no idea. "I know you must have been scared," he says. "Because I was terrified."

She sits silent, her head bowed. He swallows with difficulty before pressing onward.

"We found Jenkins shot in the back and lying on the bed." He pauses again. "His pants were undone…"

"I wasn't raped," she says quickly. She swipes at her cheeks with her hands and only then does he realize she's been crying. He's not quite sure he can believe her, and she clearly knows this. "Honest," she says. "Jenkins, he wanted to, but Frank wouldn't let him."

This little narrative is bad enough. He props himself up against the headboard and gathers her against his side. He can feel her tears through his shirt, and his own eyes water in response. The clock says two-oh-two and he is still utterly exhausted. She stretches a careful arm across his middle, wincing when her wrist catches his belt buckle. "Sorry," he whispers into her hair.

She hugs him and sniffles into his shirt. "Hunter…"

"Hmm?" He is absently rubbing her back, half asleep again.

"Charlie said you were going to make the trade – Rudy for me."

Of course. He would have traded the sun and the moon too, if that had been in his power. "That's right," he tells her.

"They would have fired you for that."

"I did not care." He knows she is afraid that the job subsumes their whole existence, afraid of ending up alone like Andy. She is not entirely wrong. The job is in fact the second most important thing in his life.

"I'm not even your partner anymore," she says. "I can't believe you would take that risk."

"You can quit," he says. "You can hate the job if you want to. But you can't change what you mean to me."

She squeezes him awkwardly with her injured arms. "I don't hate the job," she says, her voice rough from lack of sleep. "I couldn't. It gave me you."


They are drinking coffee on her couch while the antique clock in the corner ticks out the passing seconds. This time, the silence is comfortable. He has stretched out his long legs in front of him while she sits cross-legged at the other end. The hour is late but he makes no move to leave. "Really," he says at last, "it's me who owes Megan Malone an apology. I was definitely using her company to put a roadblock between us, and that wasn't fair to her. Or to you, obviously."

"Do you mind if I ask why you did it?" She traces the edge of her cup with one finger. "I mean, were you afraid I would get back from Quantico and expect you to propose or something?"

She regards him and he looks uncomfortable. "Oh my God, you were!"

"No," he says quickly. "Not exactly."

"Then what?"

"I wasn't afraid of you," he explains. "Well, at least not much," he says, and she smiles. "I was afraid of what I might say…of what I might do when I saw you again."

His eyes are dark in the low light. "What would you do?"

This is getting into dangerous territory, and she knows it. He looks at her speculatively. "I think you know."

She thinks she does too, but after all these years, she wants to hear him say it. "No. What?"

He purses his lips, considering, and then blows out a long breath. He sets down his coffee cup. "Okay, I guess I owe you that much. I warn you now that I am not very good at verbalizing this stuff."

She holds up her hands. "I've been warned."

"That night…well, you know. It was all pretty amazing." He risks a glance at her, and she feels herself blush. "But it's the kissing that gets me in trouble," he continues. "You may recall that's how it started."

Yes, she remembers. It began as mutual curiosity and quickly flared into a contest of who could get naked first.

"I really like kissing you," he says, and his use of the present tense makes her catch her breath. They have been talking about making love on and off all day, and the chit chat is slowly driving her crazy. There are two feet of space between them, but she feels every inch of his physical presence at the other end of the couch. "I was afraid if I was alone with you, so soon afterward, that I wouldn't be able to help myself."

"Oh," she says softly. He stretches out a hand toward her, nowhere close enough to touch, but still she shivers. She can recall the feel of that hand as it reached under her skirt three years ago. Her mouth goes totally dry.

"So I used Megan as an excuse not to be near you," he says, pulling back. "And I am sorry for that. The last thing I would want to do is hurt you."

"I know." She squeezes her eyes shut and keeps them that way for so long that he clears his throat.

"You okay?"

"Yeah." She lets out a slow breath. "It's just…"

"What?" He asks, and she shakes her head. It is hard to talk about. "Hey, I spilled my guts over here…"

He has her there. She licks her lips and leans back against the sofa cushions. "Like you said, that night…it was…well, it was wonderful." Heat floods her cheeks and he gives her a slow smile. "But then when I got back, it wasn't wonderful," she continues. "Actually, it was pretty terrifying. I thought I was going to lose you as a partner and a friend, and suddenly I was full of regrets."

"I'm so sorry for that," he murmurs again, and she waves him off.

"No, that's not the point. Or at least not what I'm trying to say now." She takes another breath. "The point is, I haven't really been able to think about that night without everything that came after it," she says at last. "That has kind of put a damper on the whole memory, you know? At least until…until now."

His eyebrows lift slightly. "And now?"

"Well, we've talked. I understand what happened. So now I can, um, enjoy the memories again."

"Oh yeah?" He shifts so he his facing her a bit. "Enjoying any one in particular?"

Arousal rises in her, a persistent hum. She can feel him looking at her, but she can't meet his gaze. He has been painfully honest with her, so she wants to give him that in return. "I can't pick a favorite part," she says, "but the whole thing was astonishing to me in one regard."

"And that would be…?"

She draws her knees up and hugs them. "It was the first time I'd been with anyone since…since the Bigfoot case," she says, and his face goes from enraptured to disconcerted. "I hadn't really expected to enjoy it, let alone… well, you know."

"You didn't say anything."

"To be honest, I wasn't thinking about it at the time," she says, and blushes again. His smile returns. "Anyway, I didn't have to say anything because it was you. And I certainly didn't expect it to be so…easy." There is no way she's going to sit there with him and use the phrase "mind-blowing orgasms". His ego is big enough already.

But she doesn't have to say it because he is clearly thinking it, with that self-satisfied smile. He crooks a finger at her. "Come here."

"I don't think I'd better."

"I want to tell you something."

"You can tell me from over there." Her pulse has quickened considerably.

"Don't make me come get you." His voice is a rough whisper, and he reaches out a hand again, almost but not quite touching her. When he pulls back, she shifts slightly so that she is closer.

"What is it you want to tell me?"

He moves too, and now she can smell the heat of his skin. His arm slips around the back of her couch near her shoulders. "I'm having that problem again," he says. "The one where I want to kiss you."

"We shouldn't." But she makes no move to get out of the way.

"One kiss." He holds his index finger in front of her. "For old time's sake." He touches her lips gently and then runs his finger down the front of her blouse, catching each button on the way.

"You always push the limits of everything, don't you?" She closes her eyes, conflicted. "Remember what happened last time?"

"Mmm, yes." And then he is kissing her, his mouth warm and hungry. Where he goes, she follows, so she opens her mouth for the sweet slide of his tongue. His thumb caresses her cheek and her hands sift through his short, spiky hair. He pulls away, leaving them both breathless, and retreats to his end of the couch.

Her mouth is bruised, stung. Her entire body aches. "Maybe," she says, "maybe just one more."

His arm snakes out in a flash and pulls her into his lap. She sits astride him, pushing him back into the cushions and holding him there so she can kiss him again. He tastes like coffee and Hunter and she wants to keep him under her forever. His hands are everywhere on her body, touching her through her clothes. His erection is a thick ridge between her legs, and she spreads her thighs to get just a little closer. He groans into her mouth and holds her backside with both hands, urging her against him.

They rock together as they kiss, and tears of need sting her eyes. His tongue is entering her in a way his body cannot because their clothes are in the way. Her face is hot and her hands are restless as they stroke his arms, his chest. He is so very hard everywhere she touches. "Oh my God," she mutters as he shifts under her and presses at a new angle. She is fully dressed but close to orgasm after a day's worth of verbal foreplay. Does it count if you keep your clothes on?

His mouth is hot on her neck and she arches, putting a bit of distance between their lower bodies. His fingers are at work on the buttons of her blouse. They kiss some more as they undo each other's shirts, so it takes a little longer than it might otherwise have. At last she can run her hands over his bare skin. She touches the hard wall of muscle at his stomach and teases each nipple one by one. Cool air washes over her as her blouse and bra fall away.

She actually sobs in pleasure when his mouth finds her breasts. His huge hands hold her totally still so he can taste each one in turn. When he has sucked his fill, he lowers her down and she practically claws open his pants. They are not going to make it to the bedroom this time.

She has to get off his lap to take off the rest of her clothes, breaking their contact and allowing them each an out. If they are going to stop at all, it has to be now. She hesitates, naked before him. "Come here," he says again, his voice rough with desire, and he draws her back into his lap. They kiss while she wriggles into position. "Do we need anything?" he asks, his breath warm against her cheek.

He is already breeching her. She is desperate for more. "No, it's fine."

She widens her stance so that she can sink lower, going down, down, all the way. She never thought size was really a big deal for her, but Hunter has made her reconsider. She is stretched gently in all directions and if he moves at all, she will shatter into a million pieces.

His eyes glitter at her in the low light. His mouth is parted and his breathing is unsteady. She gives an involuntary cry as he sits up to put his arms around her. Their foreheads lean together. "I…I need…" she says.

"Take much as you want," he murmurs against her face, and she begins to move on him, just a bit. His hips catch her rhythm instantly. "Yeah," he breathes. "Just like that."

His hand goes between their bodies to touch her, but it is not necessary. Even though it never happens this way for her, she is coming just from the feel of him inside her. She holds him tight around the neck as the waves start happening, beautiful release.

There is no time to rest because he is still hot and huge and arching into her. She finds the rhythm again and rubs her hands over his shoulder, his back, while he presses tiny kisses along her collarbone. His hand is busy between her legs, and she feels the spiral starting once again. Their lovemaking quickens. She kisses his cheek, right near his ear, and whispers a dirty word. He sobs and jerks, clutching her as though he might never let her go.

After, they sag against one another, remnants of clothing scattered about. He is still inside her but his kisses have turned tender. They share what is perhaps their most intimate hug ever. "You see now," he says against her hair, "why I couldn't be alone with you."

She laughs and holds him closer. "The kissing," she agrees. "It's trouble every time."

Later, they are lying under the covers in her bed, just like three years ago. He nuzzles her temple. "You're uncharacteristically quiet," he observes. "Everything okay?"

"Yes." She reassures him with a squeeze, but truthfully, she is nervous. "Just thinking about tomorrow. I'm not leaving town this time, you know?"

"Yeah, I know. And I'm glad."

She twists so she can look down at him. "Do you really mean that?"

"I wouldn't say it if I didn't." He touches her face lightly. "In case it's not completely clear yet, this is a big deal to me."

Emotion wells up within her. "I love you," she whispers, unable to look at him. There is a terrible moment of silence while her words hang in the air. "I hope it's okay to say that."

"Of course it is." He draws her back down into his arms and rolls her until he can look into her eyes. He does not seem unhappy. He gives her a gentle smile. "After more than six years, it's probably time, don't you think?" She returns the smile, and he lowers his face to hers so that they are breathing the same air. "I love you too," he murmurs.

She knows this, of course, but it's also somewhat hard to believe. "Really?"

He draws back just a bit to look at her. "Can you really doubt it?"

"It's not doubt, exactly…" She touches his chin with one finger. "It's just difficult to imagine you having warm, squishy feelings for anyone."

He nips at her finger and smiles. "The Detective requires proof, does she?"

"Well, I think we covered that…"

"No, no," he says gallantly. "That was something else. You want warm and squishy." His brow furrows as he thinks. "Okay, how's this: sometimes, I think of something funny to say and then I realize you're not in the room. So I save it until you are around, just so I can hear you laugh."

She wrinkles her nose in delight. "You do that?"

"Sometimes," he says. "It's been known to happen."

"Tell me more."

"Ah, yes. A good detective always demands at least two pieces of evidence." He considers some more. When he finally speaks, all teasing has gone from his voice. "I wanted you on some level pretty much from the first time I saw you. But it was more of a reflexive desire, and easy to ignore. Later, I figured out this could really happen, and that it would be good. "

"You figured that, did you?"

"It was after you'd been shot," he says, completely surprising her. "You'd just been moved from the ICU to the regular wing of the hospital. You could sit up finally, and I was glad to get my arms around you." He squeezes her a little at the memory. "But, oh, were we in different places that day. I was so happy that you were doing better, and you were just tense and angry."

"I had just started physical therapy," she says, remembering. "It was clear it was going to be a much longer process than I'd hoped."

"Yeah, I know." He rubs her shoulder and kisses her head. "Anyway, you were all pissy, but I didn't care. I hugged you all the same, and the best part was, you could actually hug me back. So we sat there like that for a minute or two, and I remember feeling all the tension just drain out of you."

She doesn't really remember that part, but she feels it now. She takes a deep breath and snuggles against him.

"Like that," he agrees, amusement in his tone. "And that's when I knew: you liked me touching you. A lot."

"I was that obvious, huh?"

"A woman of mystery, you are not," he says. "It is just one of the many things I like about you." He nudges her. "So you see, my dear, I can't offer you any guarantees about the future, but 'warm and squishy'… well, that I can do all day long."

They sleep curled together until morning, and she braces herself for the cold light of day. But Hunter seems in no hurry to leave. Instead he sits barefoot in her kitchen, munching toast and drinking coffee. She is dressed for work already, but he is going to be very, very late.

He grabs her around the waist and pulls her into his lap, apparently intent on making her late, too. They kiss for a few moments and then lean heads together. "One thing we have not resolved," he says in a low voice.

"What's that?"

"Which one of us has to tell the Captain."

She pulls back. "We don't have to say anything, do we?"

"Not today, but eventually, yeah I think he has to know."

"Then you can tell him." She tries to get up but he stops her.

"I'll flip you for it."

"Oh, you can't possibly be hiding in quarter in that get-up." He is wearing boxers and a T-shirt.

He grins and waves a quarter at her. "Picked your pocket. You want heads or tails?"

"I don't want to flip for it."

"Okay, heads it is."


He tosses the coin in the air, but before he can catch it, she grabs his head and kisses him. The quarter lands somewhere behind them and rolls away.

At last, she thinks as his arms close around her. I win.

~~The End~~

Notes: Sadly, I realized in writing this series that they never actually shared a bed on screen again after Season Four (Unfinished Business notwithstanding). So the beds in the first part of this series were at least semi-real. These are entirely made up. But! I did notice one tiny bit of sweetness I had not paid attention to before in "The Legion." McCall teases him in part one about his inability to keep his plants alive, but there he is at the end of part two, dutifully watering the silly apple plant holder from her desk. Aww.

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