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Durocha PI

Durocha P.I. 005

“WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?! WERE YOU THINKING AT ALL?!” Shouted a very red-faced police chief to a pair of very uncomfortable detectives. The balding man before them had been chewing Diana and North out since they stepped into his office. “Do you have ANY idea how much wrong you two have done in so little time?!”

North had been here before, Chief Merra’s face in his, yelling, shouting, the whole nine yards. He was as angry as ever, and North knew he wasn’t going to get out of this one easily, not after what they had done. “Merra, I was-”

“I don’t want to hear it!” The Chief intterupted. “And it’s Police Chief Merra to you two, got it?”

In a very small voice, North replied, “Yes sir…”

The police chief wasn’t all that surprising to the agent, though when his voice hit certain unimaginably high pitches she couldn’t help but wince. It wasn’t too unsimilar to the meetings she had with her own superior, the only difference being this man enjoyed bellowing while Emanuel was silent with stone cold glares that seemed to stare right through you.

Diana simply smiled with hands clasped in front of her. Chief Merra wasn’t her boss, nor was she at fault for any of North’s bad ideas. She was perfectly innocent. “Chief Merra, I’d like to apologise for my partner’s behavior he was completly-”

“Save it! Geoffrey Emanuel told me all about you, Agent Jones.” Merra practically snarled as he turned his glare over to the woman.

“Oh.” There went her being innocent. She sunk lower in her chair. Stupid Emanuel! She should have known he was going to be keeping tabs!

“You’re damned lucky I don’t have you escorted out of here with armned guards! Run away agents, released convicts, then getting involved with this guy…” he motioned a pen at North as he scowled down at the many reports in front of him. “As of now you are both exiled from this case until you are called in to court. Ms. Jones I’ve been instructed to tell you that your are suspended from all future cases as well until you are otherwise notified.”

“Yes sir.” Was all North could mutter again. The chief was mad. Real mad. Not only were their jobs on the line, but Merra had to deal with the FBI as well, and if there’s anything worse than dealing with those under you, it’s dealing with those above you. And unfortunately for North and Diana, they were on the receiving end of Merra’s bad mood.

“But if it means anything.” North said, not quite looking the chief in the eyes. “This is mostly … my fault. I mean, I dragged her to the manor.” North’s act of selfishness would surly win the chief over, after all, that’s what he liked in his cops.

“I don’t give a flying crap!” Merra said, North’s chivalry failing. “Last time I checked, there was a working radio in that car, and unless he had a gun to your head, you should have damn well used it!” His attention again, going back and forth between the detectives, making sure he beat both of them to the ground. He was good at that.

“And another thing, McCoy.” His attention returning to North. “Sorry to do this, but hand over your badge and gun. You’ll get them back when I thing you’re ready to use them again.” And with a rather sad sigh, North reached into his jacket and plucked his badge. He didn’t want to hand it over – really didn’t want to hand it over! But with a heavy heart, he handed the chief his badge.

With his arm still stretched out, Merra cocked an eyebrow. “And your gun?”

“I, uh, left it at my apartment.” North said, feeling worse than ever.

“Jesus, North. You’re a goddamn mess. Not that it mattered, god knows you forget to load the damn thing.” Merra said, throwing the badge in a drawer. He took a small rag and mopped his forehead, the argument really getting him heated. “And you, Agent. I can’t take your badge, but if I hear about you flashing that thing around, you better believe I’ll do something about it. You got me? Good. You’re both excused.”

It wasn’t until the door slammed behind them she finally muttered. “Well, that’s great. I get to sit and do a bunch of nothing for an undetermined amount of time.” Undetermined was probably an understatement. The bureau was probably looking for a good excuse to send her on vacation for awhile! What exactly was she supposed to do without a case to work on? There were too many hours in a day!

This was all North’s fault. She might’ve eventually gotton in trouble for one reason or another, but at least she could have dragged it longer than a few measly days! Diana just didn’t do too well with too much idle time! At least working she didn’t have to wander around wondering if Stephan Burch was lurking around the corner.

Damn. She still needed to change those locks.

“I hope you’re happy! This whole mess could have been avoided you know.”

North was feeling just as bad as Diana was, but at least she didn’t have to listen to any heart-warming comments from him. He had been in trouble before, but nothing this bad, and to top it off, his so-called “Partner” was placing all the blame on him! Sure he made a few more mistakes than normal, but to say this was completely his fault really got to him.

“Yeah, by the way, thanks for sticking up for me, in there. Maybe you can impress the meter maids with the little “FBI” next to your name, but don’t try to bullshit someone whose torn apart bigger fish.” North was angry all right. Diana had really crossed the line with him this time.

“I mean…” He started again. “Where the hell do you get off trying to stick the whole thing on me? And with me right there! You know, maybe people don’t tell you this enough, but you can really be a-” North stopped himself.

“An unpleasant person.” Even with the sarcastic tone, he really didn’t sound as mean as he thought he should have. Never the less, he was rather unpleased with Diana. How could she?! The thought that kept running through his head. Maybe she was afraid of being reprimanded, or maybe she was hoping for the minute chance of a pat on the back and medal. But that doesn’t excuse the way she just tried to pass everything off on him. No, North had a right to be mad time, and she wasn’t about to receive anything from him anymore.

“I’ll see you at the trial next week.” His voice was short and sharp as he turned, walking away.

“North, I…” Wait. What was she about to apologise for? It was all his fault! Sure, she didn’t have to go along with him, but she wasn’t going to let him go and get killed either. “Fine.” she muttered at his back as he walked away. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what he really wanted to call her. People had called her worse things, so why did it have to sting so bad?

Making a scene at the police station wasn’t going to help, so Diana headed straight for home. There was no more cases, no more idiot partners, and by the time she reached her apartment she realized there was no more of anything. It was just her. Alone. Again. Having time to herself was exactly what she wanted, but under the circumstances it didn’t seem as pleasing as she thought it would be. Thoughts about Mandell lead to thinking about Burch turned in to wondering about death morphed itself to even more annoying thoughts of a certain irritating detective. She couldn’t win.

Immediatly she decided what she needed was a hot bath and plenty of sleep. Lots of sleep. After a long well deserved shower, she changed in to an oversized shirt and crawled in to bed. The plan was to sleep for the next week. No more thinking about convicts, cases, and most definetly not about North McCoy.

North gripped the steering wheel of his rented car tightly as it traveled down the empty streets of the city. Having time to vent and let off some steam, he was still angry, but wasn’t feeling as well about storming off. Then again, he wasn’t about to turn around and beg for forgiveness, either. He was still pretty angry about how she carried herself back there.

Stopping at a red light, North shook his head stiffly in attempt to clear his mind. “I have to stop thinking about it.” He muttered to himself. Why was he thinking about it? He’d meet plenty of unbearable people in his life and she was no different. Sure, maybe they had a couple not-so-bad moments. The bench after the fire, the bar, Lou’s and her apartment. But those were just short-lived moments. The rare timed where her ego didn’t get in the way. But, rare as they were, North actually enjoyed looking back on them.

Suddenly, the light turned to green, and North gave himself a small slap. “You’re still thinking about her!” He said to himself, louder this time. He stepped down on the gas and pulled away, only a few blocks from home. It was when he was thinking about the good times the thought struck him, Diana hadn’t fixed the door to her apartment yet, and she wouldn’t even had the time to do so anyway. And knowing her, she’d be too proud to stay at a motel or something.

“No, no.” North said. “She’s – she’s fine! She’s probably sitting at the door or … sleeping with the gun under her pillow or something.” Trying to convince himself. “And I said I wouldn’t!”

See you at the trial…” He kept reminding himself. Sure, maybe he worried a little bit, but she can take care of herself. She should take care of herself! “Yeah!” North said, nodding agreeably. “I shouldn’t have to baby-sit her or anything! She’ll be just – fine…” His words trailed off as he glanced to his left at the small hardware store – still open. “Oh … bloody, son of…” And with that, he turned on the blinker and pulled up to a parking spot.

As quietly as he could, North crept down the hallway of the apartment building, not wanting to make a sound. Holding a small, plastic bag, he passed room after room before arriving at his destination – Diana’s apartment. He gave the door a weak push and even that caused it to swing wide open, not even the handle was intact.

Glancing inside, North found a couple lamps on, but the agent no where to be found, most likely asleep. Or so he hoped. He snuck in and closed the door, opening the small bag. From it, he pulled out a screwdriver and a brand new lock for the door. Not wanting to waste any time, or give Diana a chance to catch him, North quickly got to work unscrewing the old, broken lock from the door.

“Ten down, two more to go.” Whispered the determined McCoy as he removed the last of the screws. Finally, he was seconds away from removing the old lock and installing the new. The last screw spun slowly from the door. “Almost there. Almost there.” He said. Then it happened, the screw just stopped. It wouldn’t move! He tried to turn it while keeping as quiet as possible, but the thing wouldn’t budge. Finally, he took the screwdriver by bother hands and gave it a good twist.

CHINK!

The screw snapped in two. Not only that, North hands slipped and before he could do anything about it, the old, bronze lock went flying through the air and slammed into Diana’s bedroom door with a loud bang. North, not knowing what to do, just froze. Should he run, and let her think it was that Burch guy again? Or stay and take the wrath? Or maybe he wouldn’t get the chance to decide.

WHAM!

Diana sat up startled with North’s name just barely under her breath. It was like that explosion all over again. She would have to run outside and get to North before… Only, she wasn’t asleep in North’s bed. She was home. Home. A entirely different sense of dread filled her. Reaching for her gun, she was shocked once again to find it not there. Where did she leave it?! As soon as she got home she head to the shower, all of her things were tossed around the apartment. She hadn’t even locked the door…

There wasn’t a lock on the door!

“Oh my god…” How dumb could she be! She was so ticked off about everything she hadn’t even considered the door. Why didn’t she think about a motel or a different place? Had Burch snuck in while she was sleeping? Diana couldn’t seem to bring herself to move. The man could be lurking and possibly had her gun. He wasn’t like Mandell, he wouldn’t talk and taunt he’d go straight for the kill, she needed to escape! But there weren’t any windows, there was just the door! She was going to get shot or stabbed or strangled… in her own bed!

Diana waited with baited breath but there wasn’t another sound. Did she imagine it? Was he taunting her? He should have been kicking down the bedroom door by now! And why was she just sitting there waiting to get murdered?!

With a renewed bravery she slipped silently from the bed, retrieving a small hammer from the dresser. It wasn’t going to do much good against a gun, but she had good aim and could make a break for the door if need be. Taking in a deep breath she clutched the hammer tightly as she swung open the door preparing to swing!

“North?!” There was the detective kneeling next to her front door looking much like a deer caught in a truck’s headlights. “What the hell…” She was going to cry! No, she was going to scream! No… maybe ramming the hammer right between his eyes would be better. Instead she let the breath she was holding escape as she wilted against the doorframe. Had she not been so stunned she might’ve felt more self conscious standing there in just a shirt that concealed all but a long pair of legs. The idiot was fixing her lock. He had just scared the ever loving daylights out of her. Now why was she grinning like a chesire cat?

“You could have just knocked.”

Now he had done it, there stood Diana in the bedroom doorway wielding a hammer. Several scenarios began racing through North’s head. She was going to smash his skull in! She was going to crush his hands, one finger at a time! She was – smiling? He wasn’t quite expecting that at all, she wasn’t even yelling at him.

“Well – I didn’t want to bother you.” He said, responding to her sarcastic question. “And I was just going to drop this off for you, but I, uh, well…” His excuse beginning to lose momentum, or maybe he was just distracted by his former partner’s attire. North couldn’t help bit give her a quick look over; she certainly was a leggy woman. And the big shirt was pretty nice in it’s own way.

There was a few second of silence from him, maybe too long. North needed to say something before she could catch him staring at her. “Er, but I though I’d put it up myself. I mean, I’ll be done in a little bit, it’s just a chain lock. I’ll just screw it in and be out of here in no time.”

Picking up he screwdriver again, North went back to installing the lock, but not before taking another glance back of Diana.

Diana wasn’t sure if she was planning to yell at him or not. He certaintly deserved it after insulting her, and didn’t he say he wasn’t going to talk to her until the trial? Yet here he was doing something thoughtful. If he wasn’t careful she was actually going to start to like him, and that was just unacceptable.

As long as she had him there, she might as well be polite. He was doing her a favor after all. “Thanks. I wasn’t thinking about the door…” she confessed, though maybe she shouldn’t have. Now he was going to think she actually needed someone to drop by and keep an eye on her. She was perfectly capable of handling things. Glancing down at the hammer in her hand she gave a grimace. Well, maybe sometimes she slipped up.

“North… I’m sorry.” Diana wasn’t about to explain why she was sorry, and if he couldn’t figure it out he could just deal. She wasn’t going to say it twice either, but she felt like she had to say it. Just this once.

Sorry. North took a cool and calm glance at Diana and nodded knowingly before looking back at the door. When she could no longer see his face, North’s eyes widened in disbelief. Sorry! She was sorry! Maybe he didn’t completely know what about, but he wasn’t going to press his luck. At least she wasn’t pounding his head in with that hammer. Though, he did wish she would put it down already.

“I’m sorry too.” North said as he worked away. “Not about everything, But I am sorry about what I … didn’t call you back there, that was uncalled for.”

A few moments later and the final screws were in place. North stood up and brushed off his hands and smiled at a job well done. “There.” He said. “At least that’ll keep the door shut.” He closed the door and tested out the lock, putting the chain in place. It managed to hold up pretty well at least.

Now with no reason to be there, North took a look at the door and then Diana. “Well, that’s … that…”

What the devil was he staring at? She looked down at the hammer and set it aside then at her clothes. Okay so he was used to seeing her in a suit or fancy skirt. What was wrong with a night shirt? Her undies weren’t showing at least and her hair might have still been a little damp, but she didn’t think that required staring. Maybe he had a thing against sheep. There were a few sheep jumping a fence printed on the front. It was juvenille but she never saw the point of wearing silky lingerie when you lived alone. Besides, you’d go sliding off the bed when you took a running leap.

“Yeah.” The door was fixed and locked behind him. Their case was over and there was no other reason for him to stay. Only she wanted him to stay. Diana decided she must have been a glutton for torture. He was a bother, shouldn’t she just let him walk out?

“The sink in the ah… kitchen is kind of broken too. If you have time to fix anything else…” At least it was the truth. The sink did need fixing. Later she was going to have to have a good chat with herself on how to act like an adult. “If you fix it, I might share my candy.”

North was just unlocking the door again to leave when Diana brought up the sink. Was she serious? He had driven out in the middle of the night, bought a brand new lock and fixed her door, all from the kindness of his heart – and maybe a little separation anxiety. And now she was going to take advantage of that and have him fix up the entire apartment?! Well, the candy didn’t sound too bad, though the way she said it…

“Uh, ok?” North said, getting the thought out of his head. He really didn’t know what he was doing, the door was easy enough, just a few screws, but the sink was another story. He didn’t know a thing about plumbing. But he also wasn’t about to let Diana know that, last thing he could use is her laughing at him. After all, every guy knew how to fix a sink, right? Well, at least it gave him a reason to stick around a little longer.

“So what’s ‘kind of broken,’ anyway?” He said, kneeling in front of the sink and opened the cabinets. It looked like she never even looked in here, much less tried anything herself. Not only that, but there were a few things in there already, most likely items left from the previous owners.

“Hey.” North said, reaching in and grabbed one of the objects. “Are one of these yours?” And pulled out a large mousetrap from the dank cabinet.

“I think there’s something stuck in the drain.” she leaned against the counter and gave the mouse trap a dubious expression. The landlord didn’t say anything about mice. If he did, she would of found a place quicker than she could have said ‘Hell No!’ Mice and her just didn’t get along and the only thing worse than mice were big giant rats.

Maybe it was just a precaution. Yeah, that had to be right. Otherwise, wouldn’t it already have something clamped in there? Infact, it look too big for any normal size mouse or rat. They were probably trying to trap a stray gopher or something!

“Um, no… Not mine.” She shrugged and blinked. But something large and moving under the cabinet caught her eye. It shot out from under the sink scurrying it’s way past her feet, causing the agent to give a startled yelp! Diana hopped on to the counter, sitting precariously on the edge, ready to protect her foot if the little buggar decided to attack. Forget little, it was huge! Almost as big as a cat. Gophers didn’t grow that big! It was like a mutant ninja rat!

“Jesus Christ!”

“Woah!” North said as he stepped back a little, surprised by the rat himself. He certainly wasn’t expecting that, though, he probably should have after finding the mousetrap. He wasn’t really afraid of the thing, it was just a rat, after all, and it’s not like it’s going to attack either of them. Diana was probably laughing at him for being so surprised while she stood strong.

At least, that what was he was most expecting when he turned to her, only to find the agent practically climbing up the wall. North had to really work to not start laughing out loud, managing to keep it down to a wide grin. Sure, maybe a stifled chuckle escaped, but nothing Diana heard – he hoped.

“Hey, hey! It’s just a rat!” North said, trying to calm her down. The rodent was still scurrying around his feet, sniffing around for scraps of food. Not really paying attention to it, North gave it a push to the side with his boot. “See? It’s not going to do anything! It’s harmless!” But before she could respond, North could tell Diana wasn’t going to get over this so easily.

“Just a rat? Just a rat?! The thing is the size of a bleaming… pit bull!” Alright, so maybe it wasn’t quite that big. But it was fearless! It was scurrying around on the floor daring for her to step down!

Diana gave him a nasty scowl. She didn’t miss his snickering! He was amused with her plight! No one saw her laughing when they were tied to chairs being terrorized! This was exactly the same, only Mandell wouldn’t bite someone’s toes off. “Oh, wipe that smirk off your face! Look at it! He’s probably starving, and starving animals start going for flesh when they can’t find food!”

“Kill him!” The woman blinked, pursing her lips as she peered down at the furry crtter again. “No wait, put him out the window!” She might’ve hated rats, but she didn’t feel right just killing it. Even if it was a toe-biting rabies spreading creature of the devil. Until it was gone, she wasn’t moving from the counter.

North was already preparing to put the critter outside the window before Diana even mentioned that. It’s not like he was going to kill the poor thing, no matter how much she would have begged. And he wouldn’t have minded seeing Diana beg. But for now, he had a squeaking, squirming and irritating creature to deal with – and the rat, too!

“Don’t worry, I’ll – get rid of it.” He said, glancing around the room. “Somehow…” Not about the pick the thing up with his bare hands, North looked for anything to use while the rat sniffed around. It began getting brave as it inched towards Diana’s feet.

“Here we go!” North darted towards a roll of plastic bags, leaving the rodent with his colleague. He began to pull off one of the bags while getting ready to capture the large rat, but he still couldn’t help chortle as Diana fidgeted as it sniffed around, just under her feet.

Finally, North decided to remove the creature before Diana started to go crazy. “Just – keep it distracted for a second.” He said as he crept up behind it. And just as he was only a couple feet away, the detective lunged at the rat and wrapped the bag around it.

“Got it!” North announced proudly as he lifted the bag for Diana to see. The rat was thrashing about wildly inside, screeching and doing everything in its power to escape. “Glad you get the good bags.” North said with a smirk. With that, he carried the rodent over to her window and opened it.

“And out you go.” North said, dumped the bag. The rat took off, running away from the complex and disappeared under another building. “Well, it’s gone.” North closed the window and came back to Diana, who was still sitting on the counter. “You can… come down now.”

“Forget it. As soon as I hop down from here, another one is going to come charging out.” Diana crossed her arms making no move to leave the counter. Where there was one rat, there was probably dozens more. They came in families and that first one looked like it could have spawned legions. The kitchen counter wasn’t the best place in the world to plant herself for protection from a rat army, but she didn’t want to risk running herself to the sofa. Couldn’t rats climb sofas?

She eyed North taking on the expression of complete nonchalance, like she didn’t just have a squeeling fit over a scampering furball. “If you’re too afraid to fix it, that’s alright. I don’t imagine anyone is going to want to stick their head under there after that.”

While Diana didn’t have room to talk about being afraid, North decided he wouldn’t point out the fact she was the one on the counter. Plus, he didn’t need to provoke her since he really had no intention of fixing the sink at all, but at least he could check to make sure there weren’t any rats left. Then again, one that big didn’t get that way by sharing.

“I don’t think you have to worry about another one, agent.” North said, leaning over to look inside. Sure, he wasn’t afraid of the things, but he wasn’t about to willfully stick his head in there again. “And I’ll … get to your sink some other time. Uh, maybe, I mean.” The collection of odd pipes confusing him already.

After a quick inspection, North was unable to see or hear anything rodent-wise under Diana’s sink. “There, see?” He said. “There aren’t any more down there. Now will you get off there, or do I have to carry you?”

“Hmm.” Though grateful there weren’t any more creatures of the damned having a party in her cabinets she had no more reason to keep the detective there. Especially if he wasn’t going to fix her sink. It either really didn’t need fixin’ or he wasn’t exactly the plumbing type. Normally she might not have minded trying to fix it herself, but after discovering her unwanted house guest, there was no way in hell she was poking anywhere like that.

“I’d like to see you try.” she muttered under her breath. It wasn’t a serious challenge, but it certaintly gave her a few interesting thoughts.

None of which were appropriate and she needed to stop that right now!

“I um, guess that’s it then. Until the next week at the trial…” She flicked her hair from her face hoping she didn’t sound too disapointed. Afterall, she didn’t even want to work with him in the first place, why would she have second thoughts about it now? He was a fairly decent partner, and it would kind of be a pain to get associated with someone new. Especially someone from the bureau that’d think they were some kind of hot shot.

“Actually, I was thinking…” she was so going to regret this later, “You really aren’t that bad and I just don’t have the time to get used to someone new. So maybe… I could hire you as my unofficial partner and then I won’t get stuck with a complete moron and you would have yourself a job.”

Closing the cabinets, North leaned against the counter since his former partner wasn’t going anywhere soon. Or was that to-be partner? “Wait, what?” North said in a confused tone. Did he hear her right? Was she actually asking him to be her partner? As in, working together willingly? He would have thought by now she was sick of him, at least that’s what he picked up from how she acted around him. Always trying to get him to stick around to do something for her or get something out of him.

Not that he minded too much, after all, he somewhat enjoyed being in her presence. Though, he wasn’t about to let her know that. There were still too many hard objects in arms reach she could crack over his head. He knew this was all strictly professional for her – even if she was half dressed and sitting on the counter.

And there was still the matter of the offer. North didn’t know how long he stood there with a dumbfounded look on his face. Too long for him, anyway. “Well, I, uh – I, uh…” What should he say? What could he say? On one hand, he really wanted to accept her offer. After all, he had been through more with her in that past few days than some people their whole lives. And even in the worst of times, she wasn’t all that bad. Not to mention, she was pretty easy on the eyes.

But on the other hand – and then it struck North, there wasn’t another hand! Sure, why shouldn’t he take her up on her offer? It was the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do! He had never been so sure about something in a long time! And with that, he would accept her offer! With a loud, clear and resounding yes!

“Uhh, well, um … yeah, sure. That sounds – all right.”

“Jeeze, don’t sound so excited, I might think you liked me or something.” The way he stuttered he didn’t seem so keen on the idea. Was she really that much of a pain to work with? Okay, so she was! He didn’t have to look like it though!

Diana painted her classic haughty look on her face as she reached over to seize her box of candy. She did promise to share after all, and disposing of a rat deserved a reward even if he didn’t fix the sink. Dropping the box next to the detective she finally slid off the counter. Getting dragged off still sounded fairly interesting, but she wasn’t about to mention that thought out loud.

“Now, I know we were told to sit pretty for the time being. But, I can’t stand being idle for too long.” That devious smile crossed her face again. “Technically your chief said I couldn’t flash my badge around. But he didn’t say you couldn’t flash my badge around. He only said you were called off of Mandell’s case. Never specifically said you couldn’t work on any others.” Maybe it was a good thing she was in the FBI and not a Lawyer. She sure as hell paid attention to the details.

“Well, no. That came out wrong. I just – wasn’t expecting it.” He didn’t want to seem like he didn’t appreciate the gesture. After all, it was the last thing he expected. Maybe she didn’t dislike him as much as he had though. After all, she did still offer him some of that candy, which he gladly took. It certainly was better than the generic bagged stuff he’s had to deal with.

When the agent slip off the counter, North was almost disappointed he didn’t get to carry through with carrying her, but he couldn’t let that show. Wouldn’t have been the first time, anyway, though, she would never know that. And it seemed like Diana was getting back to business now, anyway.

North listened to her little ideas and loopholes and was having difficulty believing a woman of her position would suggest something like that. “Wait, wait, so you’re saying that I -should impersonate an FBI agent?! Do you have any idea how much – the consequences!” North wasn’t one who thought outside the box. “Look, I’m not going to try to get into any more trouble until I get my badge back.” It would take some unbelievable persuading or something awfully tempting to change his mind.

Diana blinked with disbelief. Was he really such a clean-cut super hero guy? He was in the P.I. business! Surely he had to step around the cops a few times! “Don’t tell me you’ve never bent the rules, detective. He never said you couldn’t work on another case, and you’re not one of his boys. And how does he expect you to make a living if you’re not working?”

Shrugging, she poked him lightly in the side so he’d move out of the way for her to fetch a mug from the cabinet. If they were going to stay up all night and chit chat, she needed some tea to keep her awake. For some reason falling asleep with North McCoy around always ended up with her waking up startled.

“We won’t do anything fantastic. A small case! Like, a bugulary… Nothing mob related, that’s for sure.” Pulling a cup from the shelf she set it aside and moved to the sink to turn on the tap. She turned the hot water and ran fine but when the knob snapped off in to her hand she gave a scowl. A small groan in the pipes sounded, which couldn’t have heralded anything good, right before the entire faucet errupted in a giant fountain covering the entire kitchen with water!

“I told you the damn thing was broken!” Sopping wet and irritated she looked about half ready to kill. “Probably a damned rat ate through the pipes!”

“Well, yeah, I might have gone outside the law a couple times. You – you got to see that first hand…” North said as he stepped out of the way for Diana. “But I don’t go looking for trouble. I mean, normally. And besides, I am a P.I., that means people come to me when they want something, or I don’t get paid. That means if you want a case, you can come over to my place.” And almost on cue, the sink he had refused to fix before began to make an angry noise.

Before North could do anything, he found himself completely drenched from a sudden explosion from the sink. It took him a moment to recollect himself as he wiped the water from his face. “Which, all of a sudden, doesn’t sound like a bad idea.” He said, taking off his soaking jacket. “Are you sure there wasn’t another rat down there?! But, uh, are you o … k?”

North paused when he looked up at Diana. Her once baggy shirt was now sticking to her figure quite nicely, catching him completely off guard. “You – uh, are you ok … Jones? He was finally able to spit it out.

“Ugh… Not only do they stick me in the one with the weird guy next door, there’s dog-sized rats and the sink explodes at random!” The woman was ticked off, at the moment a clingy shirt was the least of her worries! “And the locks weren’t worth crap! I’m not going to forget to mention that when I go down here and ram the faucet down his-” the rest of her comments were muttered under her breath as she snatched up the knob.

“He’s going to get it, oh man is he going to get it.” She was a woman with a mission it seemed, as she stomped across the room towards the front door. It was simply the last straw! The week had been terrible with one mishap after another, and it sure didn’t help that her apartment was trying to kill her on it’s own without any outside help. “If I’m not back in ten minutes, the cops were probably called and you’ll have to bail me out of jail.”

“Hey! Woah, woah!” North dropped his jacket to give chase. Luckily the new lock on the door had kept Diana from storming out as quickly as she had hoped and he was able to keep her from leaving. “Going after someone like that hasn’t worked out for us so far.” He placed a hand on her shoulder, hoping to at least calm her down a bit.

“C’mon, why don’t we just – sit down for a moment.” Giving Diana a weak tug away from the door, North hoped to get her to just sit-down for a moment before she went off killing anyone. “It’s not so … bad…” He said, taking a look at the busted sink and the kitchen pool. “Ok, so it’s pretty bad. But if worse comes to worse, you could always – pack a couple of bags and – stay at my place for a while. But like I said, if things get worse around here. But – I have plenty of room.” Giving her a friendly smile, North tried to rid her of some of her dismay.

She groaned and rolled her eyes, choosing to lean against the door instead of moving to the sofa just yet, very plainly contemplating whether or not she wanted to go commit murder. “Oh it’s going to get worse. It always gets worse, and now that you just said if that pretty much cinches the deal.”

Diana crossed her arms, casting the kitchen a dirty look before turning her attention to North. He was half soaked, which was enough to make the corner of her mouth twitch up in an almost smile. “Your place has enough room for a gerbal maybe. Or did you plan to keep me in the closet?” She did like the idea of taking one of his cases, though. If she was supposed to stay out of trouble but still needed something to keep her busy a few small time cases would do the trick. Maybe she could show the P.I. how to find work instead of sitting around hoping someone would show up. How much trouble could that be?

There was that devious smile again. “Maybe I will go to your place. For now, take off those clothes. You’re not sitting on my couch all wet.”

“Excuse me?” Suddenly, all the professionalism just drained from his image of Diana. Sure, maybe she didn’t want her sofa wet, but she could ask him not to sit down, or sit on something. Then again, he could have taken that the wrong way; it wouldn’t be the first time. And besides, he was uncomfortably wet, and she wasn’t asking his to strip down to nothing. Maybe just the shirt.

“Nevermind.” He said and began unbuttoning. “And hey, it’s bigger than it looks. My – my apartment.” Slipping from his shirt, North folded it sloppily and set it aside. He was still wearing his cheap, white undershirt that was relatively dry. Maybe a bit moist in the front but nothing she should get upset about, but that’s never stopped her before.

“There. Is that better?” He said, arms outstretched, waiting for her judgement.

She pursed her lips and held out a hand. “Unless you’re going to be sitting on your back, the pants come off too.” The agent was taking way more enjoyment out of the situation than she should have. But, it was about time the detective was caught off guard! Unless he wasn’t wearing anything under those pants. That would be interesting.

“Still, I need somewhere to sleep and I’m not exactly a cat that can sleep at the foot of your bed.” Diana figured with as tall as he was there likely wasn’t room anyway. She suspected his feet must’ve hung off from the edge. “Off with them. I’ll have them up so they can dry.”

He was afraid of that, but he also was half expecting it, too. The small grin on Diana’s face gave North the impression she was enjoying this, or just doing it to torture him. Either way, she meant what she said; she – wanted his pants off.

This was going to be a long night.

“You’re serious, then?” Like he needed to ask, of course she was serious, when wasn’t she serious? “Just – ok, fine.” He said. Slowly and awkwardly, North began to undo his belt. How did this happen? All he wanted to do was come over, fix a lock, leave and maybe get on Diana’s good side. Not that that mattered to him, of course, he was just trying to be nice. But now Diana had him stripping down while she stood around in a wet tee shirt. It felt like something out of a bad movie.

Finished with the belt and all, North paused for a moment. “Just, uh, don’t laugh or anything, all right?” He said, taking a deep breath and stepped out of his lower attire. There he stood, in nothing but his undershirt and boxer shorts, which were fashionably designed with a variety of birds on a green background. North uncomfortably stood there with his hands slightly covering himself and nodded towards the couch.

“Can I please sit down now?”

It was terribly hard not to laugh! So much so she had to clamp her mouth shut. If he didn’t make such a big fuss about it, it wouldn’t have been nearly as amusing. She wasn’t asking him to do a strip tease. The birds, though were kind of cute. For some reason she wouldn’t have expected anyting different.

“Be my guest. I’ll be back in a minute.” Diana managed to refrain from laughing but she had a horribly wide smile that betrayed her amusements. She snatched up his pants and shirt then made sure to retrieve his dropped jacket from the kitchen before disapearing in to her room.

By the time she returned she was minus the wet tshirt and wearing a rather skimpy black tank top with thin straps. It showed alot more skin, but this time she was wearing a pair of old jeans with a rip at one of the knees. Unlike her partner she wasn’t as uncomfortable walking around hafl dressed, but she was liking the leverage she had over him for the moment. Enough to even be pleasant about it!

“There. When those are dry I guess maybe I’ll consider staying with you. Maybe.” Snatching up a blanket she unfolded it and tossed it over him, nearly covering his head in the process.

While it wasn’t out loud, Diana’s stifled laughs weren’t helping the situation at all. He asked her not to laugh! But he decided not to press the matter and just take his seat, at least that way he didn’t feel so revealed. Sitting down, North sort of positioned himself strangely, fidgeting to find a comfortable one. He felt incredibly ill at ease.

At least until Diana brought out the blanket. It was a relief to have and North wasted no time getting covered. Though, on the other hand, he was slightly disappointed to find his former and again partner dressed more so than before, just as he was getting used to the sheep. But the new attire wasn’t so bad.

“Thanks…” He said in a somewhat sarcastic tone. To both the blanket and Diana’s unenthusiastic ‘maybe’. “So, now that I can’t leave your apartment for – a while. What, uh, is there to do?” He looked about, not really looking for anything, just looking.

Diana laughed out right this time as she plopped on the sofa next to him. Sure there was plenty of room and she didn’t have to sit so close, but she had deviousness on the mind. He was acting so coy for a grown man, hiding under that blanket like that! It’s not like she hadn’t seen a naked man before, and he wasn’t even nude!

“Goodness, I don’t know! We could sit and stare. Or tug-a-war…” She snagged the edge of the blanket and gave it a light tug. “You’re not that shy are you, detective? They really aren’t that bad… I rather like the birds.” Her grin was priceless. Like a stalking cat! Sure it was juvenille. Of course she was too old to do such things. But it was high time she had a little fun. They had done nothing but working on that case and getting in to serious trouble since she showed up in his office. Well, minus hearing amusing stories at Lou’s and getting smashed at a bar. Those didn’t count, though, they still had more important things to worry about.

“Ok…” North rolled his eyes slightly at Diana’s teasing, knowing full well she knew how he felt. “Ok, OK!” He said, more frantic this time as he pulled the covers back from her, covering himself again. She could act so childish when she wanted to, even if it did have a tiny amount of charm to it. Even though she was being immature and bothering him, North still couldn’t help but crack a smile – no matter how much he tried not to.

“And I’m not shy!” He said, finally taking the blanket from her grasp. “It’s just not everyday I … end up like this in someone elses place.” Oh great, now she’s going to think he’s never been with a girl before. He was really digging himself a hole here. “Well, I don’t mean it that way! I mean, I…” A blank, North couldn’t think of anything. He was shy, he just didn’t like to admit it. He wasn’t going to get out of this one – unless he went on the offensive.

“Well, what about you?” He said, weakly at first. “You’re awfully forward for someone of your profession.” By now, he was getting the urge to see Diana squirm at her own game.

“I mean, a guy could really get the wrong impression from something like that.” North said, putting on the most urbane smile he could, as fake as it was. Leaning towards Diana, North took his arm and wrapped it over her shoulders. “A guy – like me.” Half of him was ready to break out with a laugh and let her off, the other half hoped he remembered how to fix a broken nose.

Diana blinked mildly surprised. She was about to swat his arm away but instead she narrowed her eyes and watched him with cool reguard. So he was challenging her, was he? Two could play that game! If he wanted to play a battle of wills he just met his match.

“Just because you’re bashfull is no reason to go accusing me of things.” She examined her nails with an air of unconcerned nonchalance. What’d make North McCoy crack.. or better yet, go scampering off in just his shorts?

“Besides,” she pulled off his arm and stood up again, straightening the edge of her shirt, “if I were trying to be forward I’d do something more along the lines of this.” Diana jumped unceremoniously in his lap with a wickedly cavalier smirk. Pointing a straight finger she gave an indignant poke to his forhead. “But a guy like you generally can’t tell the difference.”

North let out a soft oomph as Diana landed on him unexpectedly. Ok, so this wasn’t quite how he expected that to end up, but he wasn’t about to let Diana see him panic. Not in that position! He was going to have to out do her now, she wasn’t going to one-up him this time!

“W-well!” North said, still recovering from Diana’s retaliation. “Maybe a guy like me could get used to something like this real quick.” His voice low and ridiculously suave. North was having a hard time not ruining it with a huge smile, but he pressed on!

“In fact.” He said. “A guy like me could go a little further.” His arms rose to Diana’s sides as North took hold of her, pulling the woman a little closer. She couldn’t have been expecting him to continue, let’s see her beat that! And just to make sure, the detective wrapped his arms around her waist and made sure to hold her tightly. She wasn’t going anywhere.

Trapped. In more than one sense! But she wasn’t about to go cowering off and calling it quits. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. Besides, it was rather nice like this, comfortable even. North McCoy wasn’t exactly intimidating, not that she thought he was that much of a wimp either. There was nothing to really worry about, he would bow out in moment and she would be victorious!

“You can’t be serious…” she muttered. Hell, maybe he was and that was more than a little curious. Diana slowly slid her arms over his shoulders making sure to brush the back of his neck with her fingers. “You are painfully predictable. I bet you don’t have a daring thought in that brain of yours.” There, that was bound to have him scrammbling for the door.

Still going? Maybe this wasn’t going to be as easy as North thought. It was going fine until Diana brushed his neck and caused North to shiver slightly, giving him an odd sensation. He thought about giving up right there, and letting her have her victory. Or he did until she called him predictable, he wasn’t predictable and he’d show her that!

“Oh no?” North said, cocking an eyebrow. “I might just have a few ideas.” And slowly, North pushed his hands up to the small of Diana’s back, bringing her head only inches from his. Now this was going pretty far and she couldn’t hold out much longer, she was going to jump off him at any moment and he would have his victory. But then, a part of him, deep down almost hoped she wouldn’t give up. That maybe, she would keep going.

“Just – a couple ideas.”

Now was the time to make some smartass comment, call him an idiot and promptly kick him the hell out of her apartment. Only, she very much wanted to stay right there, to lean that much closer and it was scaring the ever loving daylights out of her. Since when did it turn from a game to an actual want?!

“Damn.” She really should have moved. Instead she brushed a kiss across his cheek with half veiled eyes and an almost sad smile. “You almost had me fooled, North McCoy. Very good bluff, but I can see you twitching right about here…” She traced her thumb along his jaw over the spot. “You’ve got nothing on me.”

Now things were getting out of hand, what began as a small joke was erupting into the real thing! North’s heart began racing like crazy when Diana softly planted her lips on his cheek. She should be making some smartass comment, calling him an idiot and giving him a swift kick out of her apartment, but instead, there they were, holding each other! North didn’t know what to think, he was confused, scared and even a little enticed by the situation. What was it about this woman?!

“I, uh, guess you got me.” He replied, his mind too scattered to carry the suave act any longer. The gig was up, Diana has beat him and the game was over – so why couldn’t he let go of her? North sat there, looking up at Diana for a moment; he just didn’t want to let her go, the moment just felt – right! Not awkward, not embarrassing – just right.

North tried to sit up more, finding it difficult with the agent on his lap. “I guess I should … I-” He paused when he leaned forward to have his lips just barely touching Diana’s. “I…”

“I win…” she muttered just barely above a whisper. It was a sweet victory for the agent, and now she could claim her prize and he’d think twice trying to play smooth with her. One small kiss wouldn’t hurt anyone, she thought, as she held her breath.

BRIIIIING!

The sudden ringing of the phone shattered the moment as she jumped back in surpise. What was she doing?! A few days stuck with the guy and she’s pouncing him on her sofa! She didn’t even have alcohol as an excuse for such behavior. Still, regrettably Diana disentangled herself from the agent not trusting herself to say a word beyond a grummbled curse.

Moving to the phone and casting it sour glare, she snatched it up. What jackass called someone’s place in the middle of the night? “What.”

“I see you’ve made a friend.”

Diana almost dropped the phone. With wide eyes she turned her back to North, keeping her voice perfectly even. “Perhaps I have.” He was calling her house now, was he watching? The thought gave her a nasty chill.

“I hope he doesn’t get in the way. We have unfinished business, you and I.”

“You’re the only one that feels that way.” Being obscure was difficult. What she really wanted to say invovled a hell of alot of cursing followed by name calling and a few less than subtle threats. However, she didn’t want North to worry and she definetly didn’t want him to think she needed his help.

“I learned some new tricks from the buddy of that friend of yours. Your fancy little detective skills aren’t going to help this time. And if your new friend gets in the way I’ll make sure he ends up like Jenny. You do remember Jenny don’t you, kid?”

“We’ll see who gets who first.” Her teeth were clenched together so tightly as she hung up the phone, she could almost her her jaw crack. There were just certain things she couldn’t stand and be threatened by someone she couldn’t immediatly shoot was almost more than she could bare.

North closed his eyes with a sigh as the phone went off, breaking up the moment. It was probably for the better, anyway. Who knows where that could have gone, and they had a professional relationship, nothing more! It was just a joke after all. A little fun after a long week.

As Diana stood back up, North slid back from his lazy looking position, keeping sure to stay under the blanket. Who would call now is what he wanted to know. Someone from the building complaining about the water, maybe? At least, that’s what he thought until he heard the tone of Diana’s voice. It was cold and harsh, hateful even, but North didn’t say anything until she was through.

When Diana slammed the phone down, North was quick to her side. The way she stood there, he could tell she was more than upset, and whoever it was had really struck something. “Diana?” He asked softly. “Are you okay? Uh, who was that?”

“It was the ice cream man.” Sarcasm was always her best mechenism. She really hated being threatened, and worse yet he pointed out North. There really wasn’t any need to be protective of the detective, but he seemed to walk himself in to trouble. She was almost in danger of becoming attached to him.

“I think I will stay with you – just for a little while. We can start on something early then.” Diana was flat out avoiding the rest of the question. She certaintly wasn’t okay and he didn’t need to know it was it was one Stephen Burch giving a ring to make sure she’s nice and unsettled. Unsettled was definetly an understatement!

“I’ll get your clothes…”

Diana’s snappy remark didn’t really phase North, he knew something was upsetting her and she obviously didn’t want to talk about it. And trying to pry it out of her would have been a fruitless endeavor. And that really tore him up inside, as well. North would like nothing more than to help the agent, but he couldn’t do anything unless she told him what was bothering her. Until then, all he could to was stand by and watch.

“Yeah, ok.” North sighed as she retrieved his pants from one of the rooms. At least she wasn’t going to spend the night alone with whatever was bothering her, or in this place. Not that his apartment was much better, but it was a few floors up, so there weren’t any rats at least. And that way, maybe he could at least try to get what’s troubling out of her. Until then, he just wanted to get Diana out of that place.

“And don’t worry.” North said as he threw on his jeans. “My room is bigger than it seems.”

“Alright.” While getting his clothes, she had grabbed a few things for herself and stuffed them in a bag. The sooner they left, the sooner she could pick up something to work on. All that previous sleepyness or even that devious mood had vanished. How was someone supposed to sleep knowing some creep was playing the peeping tom waiting for the perfect moment to sneak up on your and slit your throat? Or something worse! There were quite a few bloody scenarios running through her head. She had seem plenty working for the bureau by the had a whole new wave of scary when you were the potential victim.

Handing him his shirt and jacket she moved to unlock the door and paused. It was thoughtful for him to fix it for her, and she couldn’t remember if she thanked him or not. Maybe she would write him a sticky note while he was sleeping. “Are you ready, detective?”

“Whenever you want to go, Agent.” He said and threw on his jacket, still holding his shirt. No point in throwing on two wet things. “Here, let me get that for you!” North stepped over to the door opening it for Diana. “And I can, uh, carry that for you.” Motioning towards the bag. Though, he wasn’t taking no for an answer anyway, North promptly stole the bag from Diana before she could reply.

Outside, the detective lead Diana to his newly acquired, rented car which he didn’t care for much, but it was better than walking. But it did unlock with a little button on the key chain which amused him, this being the second car he’s ever had. North opened the passenger’s door and placed Diana’s bag in the back before letting her sit down and getting in himself.

The ride was short to North’s, only a couple minutes from her place, and they didn’t really speak. Much in part to the happenings earlier that evening. “I’ve – got to admit. I’m kind of glad you did come.” North made with the small talk. “I mean, we’ve spent every night we’ve known each other – together, why break … the habit now…” He trailed off a little at the end, feeling what he said probably wasn’t all that amusing to Diana at the moment.

He was a dolt, but he was an endearing dolt and it was enough to at least get her to crack a small smile instead of reaching over and swatting him. His bemusement with the carlock and insistance on opening doors was also rather entertaining. When they reached his place, she let him steal her bag again, deciding she really wasn’t up for another game of tug-a-war.

Diana decided his apartment wasn’t so bad, it just needed straightening up. Lots of straightening up. If she were going to work with him, she was going to have to be able to find things without discovering random creatures and misplaced snacks. She moved to his desk and took a seat in his chair. The top was already all nice and neat, she could spend the rest of the night organizing his case files.

North was right behind Diana as they entered his place, the apartment just the way they he had left it. His partner was strangely quiet, the detective half expecting another comment about his living space. But he wasn’t going to press his luck either. Making his way over to his desk, North was about to have a seat when Diana swooped in and took it before he could get even close. Shrugging it off, North opened the closet door and pulled out a small, folding chair normally used for clients.

“Well, just make yourself at home, agent.” He said, unfolding the chair and sitting down. “Sorry I don’t have – anything.” The room was somewhat lacking compared to Diana’s apartment. No TV, computer or even furniture outside the desks and chair. But it was home for the detective; besides, he had to run a business out of the place.

“But can I get you anything?” North asked, nodding towards his “kitchen” in the corner, which mainly consisted of a tiny fridge, a sink and an old stove. A microwave sat on that, though, as it didn’t work very well at all.

“Let’s see.” Getting up, North stepped over to the fridge and looked inside. “I have … nothing…” It was empty, he hadn’t went out to get anything in weeks, mainly living off of Lou’s cooking. “Uhh, well, nevermind…”

Diana leaned on the desk dropping her chin in to the palm of her hand. Hopeless was a good word to describe North McCoy. He probably didn’t know how to cook either or do his own laundry. “I’ll take care of that tomorrow… How on earth do you survive on your own anyway?”

At this rate she was going to have to write a list of all the things she would have to take care of. In fact that sounded like a great idea as she snagged a notepad from the desk and a pen. There was files to organize, groceries to take care of, and of course finding a new case to work on. All perfect distractions to keep her mind off the fact she had not only been ran out of her own city but her new apartment as well.

She scribbled a few things on her list, along with a distracted doodle of North in his shorts while she thought of something else to add. “You need a better chair for your clients…”

“That – that’s really not necessary.” North said, giving the list a worried look. Thanks to his recession in work, he only had enough to pay the bills and get a good meal every now and then. This was going to break him unless she chipped in, and he wasn’t about to ask his partner for grocery money. After all, after her place gets fixed up, she wouldn’t want to stay in this dump. Her apartment was a palace compared to his dusty room.

“Just a couple things, maybe.” He said, hoping she would limit her list, but it already looked like she had written a lot down. At least, it appeared like she was writing; North wasn’t in a good position to tell. He took a few steps in her direction, trying to get a good look at her list from over he shoulder. “Food, chair, duster? and – what is that?” He was whispering to himself until he saw the little sketch.

With a quick hand, North managed to pluck the notepad from under Diana for a better view. He had a good idea what it was, and spotting the little bird only made it certain. Glancing up at her, North gave Diana a smile and a soft chuckle. “You’re pretty good at that.” He said and handed her back her list knowing she wasn’t going to be peaceful about him snatching it like that.

When he glanced down, North caught sight of his clock and the hour. When did it get so late? He thought, then again, he spent most of the night at Diana’s place, which was only suppose to be a few minutes. “Say, it’s getting pretty late.” He said, not sounding as chippy. “Did you want the chair or the bed?” Pointing to each as he said them.

“I mean – go ahead and take the bed. I’m fine in the chair.”

The woman looked almost chided as he snatched away her list and spotted her little doodle. She really couldn’t help that she tended to get distracted and sketch silly things while she was thinking, he didn’t have to look so amused! “I forgot to add the devil horns and a tail.” When the notebook was back in her grasp she made a big show off adding them to the drawing.

“I’m not tired. I am going to stay up awhile and fix your mess of a filing system.” On cue, she leaned over to pull a few of the files from the cabinet in the desk. She briefly wondered if he even had a system or if he just stuffed them where ever there was room! “You can go sleep.”

As tired as North was, he wasn’t about to let Diana stay up alone, much less to clean his messy files. “No, no. I’m fine.” and on cue, a small yawn crept its way out, North attempting to hide it. “I’ll, uh, give you a hand.” And walked around, kneeing between his desk and the filing cabinet in the corner. After all, if she wanted to mess up his system he might as well had been there to see where everything went.

North began pulling files from the steel cabinet beside him, the ones stacked on top first. There were quite an impressive number of them for a PI, but most dated back before he had lost his brother which brought a certain sadness to his eyes. But he quickly covered that up with a quick yawn and continues pulling out files and stacking them to one side.

“So.” He said, glancing around at the new mess they’ve made. “How would you suggest filling these?” He asked, just wanting to hear her advice.

“I suggest you sleep and just let me do this.” Diana hadn’t meant to sound so harsh, but she was tired and irritated, and she just wanted to be alone! Well, no, she’d take that back. She really didn’t want to be alone, but it might’ve been a little less nerve racking if he would go to bed and let her brood in silence. They had been together for days with one problem after another. There was just the constant pressure of seeming unaffected, of keeping everything from falling apart and holding up the world. It was all becoming overwhelmingly sufforcating.

She ran her hand angrily through her hair. The whole thing was going to send her in to a rediculous panic attack if she didn’t keep herself focused on something and occupied. “I’m sorry, it’s just easier when you’re not moving things. I’ll take detailed notes so you won’t loose anything.” Pulling a stack of folders closer she flicked open one of the files.

“No. No, you’re right.” North said, suddenly feeling rather stupid for sitting down like he did. “I mean, getting in the way is what I’m – I’m good at…” A half-hearted smile crossed his lips, but not a sincere one. He stood up and stepped around a few odd file here and there and made his way towards the bedroom. There was something bothering the agent, North knew that much, but there was nothing he could do. Leaving Diana to herself was the best he could do for her at the moment.

Then why did it feel so wrong?

That wasn’t what he should have done. He should be at her side and doing everything in his power to find out what was wrong and fix it. North could solve any case that came his way, so why was this so hard to do? Glancing back, Diana had her nose in a file and was reading it pretty intently. He knew he should at least say something to let her know how he felt.

“Diana, I…” Suddenly, all the words he wanted to say disappeared as soon as he opened his mouth. “…I just wanted to tell you. You can come kick me out when you’re … done.” That was a disaster. With a sigh, North stepped into his room and closed the door until only a sliver of light shone through. North sat down on his bed before removing his boots and pants and throwing them on the floor. When he laid back, the bed felt more uncomfortable than normal and he spent most of the time twisting and turning, trying to find a comfortable position.

With a heavy sigh now, North got up to open what he was forced to call a window. The repair job from the explosion forced the building owners to fix them in their own, special way. Sliding the hack-job of glass and duct tape open to get a cool breeze through, North returned under the thin covers of his bed in hopes of getting some shut eye. And once again, all he could do was thrash about from one side to another. This wasn’t going to work. Finally, North just sat up and stared at the crack of light from the door.

“Damnit, Diana, what’s wrong with you…”

Sighing, Diana scripted in capital letters ‘APOLIGISE TO NORTH’ on the top of her list and underlined it twice. Had it been any other person she wouldn’t have given a damn. Hell, she wouldn’t even be there, instead she’d be at her own place pacing the floors. But this was North, and North was a nice guy and she was finding more difficult by the hour to callously brush him off.

That was becoming a problem in it’s own right. She didn’t want to like him, to be his friend, or anything else that might’ve popped in to her mind. There wasn’t any room in her life for people like that. People get killed or die leaving her alone and feeling worse off than she did in the first place. And with Stephen Burch making ample threats, it was only a matter of time before North found himself in another showdown with an arch nemesis. Only this time it wouldn’t even be his problem. It was hers, and he was going to get stuck in the middle and it would be all her fault.

Diana dropped the file on the desk and rubbed her eyes, grummbling to herself for her lack of self control. Maybe she should leave. There was bound to be a decent hotel nearby, or she could find a new city altogether. The idea of running to a new city everytime she was found didn’t sit well with her, however. Finding the guy and killing him would be more appropiate, only she was starting to think she couldn’t face him at all. Maybe Charles Mandell was right. She was afraid.

She rested her head on her arms, tapping her fingers on the desk to a slow and steady pace. This was a bad idea. It was all a bad idea. She was going to have to tell North she was sorry, and leave in the morning. Once the trial was over maybe she’d go back to Seattle. She just needed to leave before things got worse.

This was unbearable. Just outside that door was a woman who was upset, angry and distraught; and he had no idea what to do about it! And for all he knew, she could be out there, crying, sobbing, BAWLING! “NO! No, no…” North shook his head to rid the thoughts. She wouldn’t be caught dead doing that. She was probably just out there, reading away, cool, calm and calculated as always. But then why was she so upset?

“Ok, I’m going out there.” North said and stood up. He was going to go out there and find out what was wrong! Making his way to the door, North began to have second thoughts. “But she said she just needed some alone time…” Ok, ok, so maybe she was fine, just a little agitated. After all, they’ve spent every day together since they’d met. Maybe he should just lie down, she’ll get over it. That was her way! North nodded and sat back down, his decision final.

“No! She needs tell someone!” He jumped back up. Dana can’t keep things bottled up inside, that wasn’t good for someone like her. She needed to just tell someone, hear a few kind words and maybe whack him later for making her talk, but at least she talked! This is what she needed and that is what he was going to do.

But…

She did get over all her other problems by herself, why change that now? It was only going to make her awkward and uncomfortable. And she asked him to leave. Not suggested, not hinted. Asked. And North didn’t want to upset her further by sticking around when she didn’t want him around. She has asked him to leave and that’s what he did, leave. North sat down once more and got ready to slide under the covers again.

“But that’s what they always say!” Again jumping to his feet. Diana was just pushing away like she did everyone else. And now he was going to have to be the one to say, “No! I want to help!” For her sake. He needed to do this, she needed HIM to do this, and they just needed this!

“Ok…” North muttered. He wasn’t backing down this time. Walking towards the door, each step felt heavier as he got closer and closer. But nothing was going to stop him, nothing! Finally, he reached down and grabbed the door handle – and just froze. He simply couldn’t open the door. He didn’t know if he was opening it to open arms, a nasty look or anything at all! She could be sleeping for all he knew. Why couldn’t he open the door then?

Why did Diana have to be so complicated?!

The detective was spacing and mummbling. She tilted her head so she could peek over her arm at the partially cracked door. It was too soft for her to tell what he was saying, but he was very obviously shuffling around. For a moment she thought maybe she had hurt his feelings more than she had intended. North was too nice of a guy for his own good. But, she had been plenty meaner before then and he came out alright. He could have had nightmare about Mandell. Hell, she’d be having nightmares if she let herself fall asleep. The guy was going to shoot her out of that stupid game. She would have be dead if Lisa D’rno didn’t shoot down the door.

Might’ve been better off that way. It was morbid thinking and not quite her usual style. Infact more she thought about it, she wouldn’t have wanted to leave North with a dead partner. He would have gone all nuts and gotton himself killed to without anyone there to bail him out of trouble. No, if the infamous Diana Jones was anything it was a survivor. Even if surviving kind of sucked.

Diana hooked the notepad with a finger and dragged it back over, only leaning up far enough to rest her chin on her arm as she wrote. ‘North, I’m sorry. You’re not an idiot. You’re actually icredibly nice. Too nice. Thanks for doing the impossible and caring enough to worry about me, but I have to leave.’ She tapped the pen on the paper a few moments before adding a post script.

‘P.S. You might actually get more clients if you had better chairs.’

So it was a little impersonal. For some reason she thought she might not be able to leave if she had to say goodbye to his face. As soon as he stopped creeping around, she get her stuff and sneak out! Goodbye detective, goodbye extra worries.

“Ok, ok. I can do this. Just walk out there and – talk to her…” This was going to be harder than he thought. And why was it so hard? He was a great private investigator! Well, he was an ok PI, but still, this should be nothing to him. Just walk out there and ask her what’s wrong.

Taking a deep breath, North prepared for the worst. He probably wouldn’t walk out of this alive, but that was a risk worth taking. With a pull, he swung the door open and stormed out into the office with determination on his face. His determination, though, quickly disappeared when he looked down at the woman at his desk. She was going to kill him.

“D – Diana? I know you wanted to be alone, but you need to tell me what’s wrong.” He said, doing his best to sound assertive. It wasn’t coming out like he had hoped. It was best just to say what he wanted to say. “Look, I’m just a little worried about you, that’s all. And I want to help! That’s what partners do … and we are partners, aren’t we?”

“No. No we’re not.” Diana sighed. Drats. He would have to come out right before she made her escape. Now came the tough part of leaving without being too terrible. Why did he have to go and be likable?

“I can’t do this. I think it’s best if I just leave.” There, pure and simple. He didn’t need to know the nitty gritty details. “Besides, it’s not your job to worry about me. It’s my problem and I should take care of it.” Wait, that wasn’t something she should have mentioned, now he’s really going to want to know!

“I mean, it’s not one of your cases and I’m not your client. It’s… it’s none of business, that’s what!” Well, there goes being nice about it. “I’ve just got to go. I appreciate what you are trying to do, but I need to leave.” Before you get involved in another bizzare situation.

“No, it’s not another one of my cases, and … it shouldn’t have to be.” North said, the old familiar, caring tone back in his voice. “Diana, I…” Pausing a moment to collect himself before he finished what he was going to say.

“Diana, I care about you.” Now he didn’t know what to expect next. North didn’t even know if anything he could say would keep her there, but he had to let her know how he felt before she did. At least that way she knew someone there cared for her, it was hard to come across that feeling in a place like Chicago.

“I’m not going to stop you if you want to go.” And stepped aside. North stood there, wondering if he could even bare to see her leave, even if he really could let her go. She shouldn’t be alone, after all, any other night he would just have done what she asked and not even thought about it. But tonight was different, She needed someone, whether she realized it or not, and he wasn’t going to stand idly by and watch her sulk and torment herself.

“But I just want to know what’s wrong.”

Jesus Christ. He said the C word. Why was it he always had to go do the nice guy routine at the worst possible moments? She tried to hide that pained expression and simply look uninterested, but he wasn’t making it any easier. And it was doing it in his shorts. Diana wondered if he realized.

“Well,” she lamented. Telling he wasn’t the best idea, but if he wasn’t going to quit bothering her until she told him, she might as well. “It’s really not that important, but…” Telling seem harder than it seemed. When thinking about it, she wouldn’t have mentioned the tidbit to her boss either. Last thing she wanted was some goon followng her around and telling her stuff was ‘too dangerous’. “The phonecall was from Stephen Burch. I just have to find somewhere new to stay is all.”

“Somewhere that’s not here” she added. Diana knew exactly what he was going to offer and it was the last thing she wanted. Helpful or not, he would be in danger and she didn’t want to have to worry about keeping an eye on him too. At least, that’s what she told herself.

Diana tucked the notepad under one of the files and rose from the chair. She needed to leave now before he tried to talk her out of it. “I’ll be around for the trial so you don’t have to worry about me.”

“Wait, that was Burch?” Damnit, what hadn’t he realized that sooner, it was so obvious now. Only he could have shaken her up like that. No wonder Diana was so snippy with him all of a sudden. If he was getting brave enough to call Diana on her own phone, who knows what he could do next.

“Diana, if he’s staring to harass you like that, the last thing you should do is be alone. Especially in some place you’re not familiar with!” He said, sounding like some after school special now. How could she possibly think going out on her own would be safe? That’s just asking him to sneak up behind her and – well, North didn’t want to think about that. But still, that was the wrong idea no matter how much she didn’t want his help.

“I know I said I wouldn’t stop you but I – I can’t let you go get yourself killed, Diana.” North said, taking a couple steps into her path to the doorway. She wasn’t going to be too pleased, but this time she wouldn’t have a say in the matter. He just hoped he was going to get out of this alive and in one piece.

“What?!” she exclaimed loudly. Damnable man, she should have known he was going to flip out! “Don’t be an idiot! I’ve lived this long, I can take care of myself just fine.” Diana hoped she wasn’t going to have to shoot him to get him out of the way. Wait, she didn’t bring her gun along! Damn! That was exactly why she needed to leave! For some reason she just didn’t think with North McCoy around!

Eyeing him carefully, she guessed she could knock him down alright. He wouldn’t want to hurt her, so she had the advantage! Still, wrestling her way out the front door wasn’t at all amusing. “Get out of the way, North. I really don’t want to have to beat you senseless.”

Beat me senseless?! Was she serious? North didn’t think Diana was that fanatical about leaving. These had to be empty threats, no one’s ever beaten someone for caring – then again, she wasn’t exactly like everyone else. But North still wasn’t about to let the agent step out and get herself killed, he knew how proud she was and how she wouldn’t let one threat get to her. Or at least, let it show it’s gotten to her. If she really was going to take a swing at him, he was just going to have to take it. Afterall, He wasn’t about to harm her in any way.

“I’m just trying to help. I just don’t think being alone is the best thing for you right now!” If she was serious about giving him a good beating, North had probably doubled the punishment by now. He simply wasn’t going to let her leave … for her sake.

Boy, he was a dolt! Or he was calling her bluff. Either way, he wasn’t moving willingly and she was going to have to run for it. “It’s not your problem to worry about! I am a grown woman, and you are not my keeper!” It was a really rediculous situation, not to mention childish. It’s not like she couldn’t stay for the night and leave in the morning, but… it was the principal of the thing! She was trying to be nice and spare him from any problems, and he was just being difficult!

Diana crossed her arms and thought for a moment. She didn’t really want to beat him senseless; he didn’t deserve it. But she needed to get him out of the way. Her things could always be picked up later, so it was just her.

“Oh my god, it’s that rat!!” She pointed towards the far corner looking as shocked as possible and when he fell for the bait, she darted for the door!

“What? Where?!” North’s head spun around when he caught the look on Diana’s face. But as soon as he did so, he couldn’t believe what he had just done. And with the sudden sound of Diana’s feet flying past him, North was going to have to act fast if he wanted to stop her.

How could he fall for that?!

“Hey! Diana, WAIT!” North shouted, nearly falling over to give chase. It felt incredibly childish, chasing after the girl who just made him fall for the oldest trick in the book, but he just couldn’t let her go! She’d either be hunted down by Burch or worse, she’d go looking for him! North was right behind Diana when she reached the door.

Damn! Why hadn’t he locked that when he came inside? He always did! Either he was just tired, or Diana had his head in more of a bind than he thought. Luckily, the door slowed her down enough for him to get an arm around her. “Gotcha!” He shouted, mostly out of reaction. If they looked like children before, that would have definitely topped off the image.

With a strong pull, North pulled Diana off the ground and back into the room. “Diana I can’t – let you – leave!” He told the kicking and thrashing Agent. Did she really need to make such a big deal out of this? Did he? Either way, he was going to make her stay – or die trying. Putting Diana back in the office would just cause her to make another mad-dash for the door, so instead, North dragged her into his bedroom and kicked the door shut.

“Now just sit down for a second!” North said and dropped the still kicking woman onto his bed. “Now look, you’re staying whether you like it or not!” His voice unusually firm now. North wiped the hair out of his face and took a deep breath.

“Look, I’m sorry.” There was the apology again. “I just think being here, with someone, is much better for you.” He paced back and forth a little bit before stopping again. “And if it makes you feel any better, I’ll sit here and stay awake all night.” And the detective sat down at the foot of the bed. He was obviously tired, but a promise was a promise and he’d make sure to stay up all night until Diana awoke.

He hoped.

The scene was definetly comical, she might have even laughed if it weren’t her getting dragged in the back room! He was stronger she would have suspected and as he dropped her on the bed she was ready to spat out a whole stream of insults, but there he went apologising again. It just wasn’t right that all he had to do was say sorry and it’d take all the wind out of her sails.

Diana crossed her arms and glowered at him first. She wasn’t really stuck there, after all if it came to worst scenarios she could knock him out and walk out with ease. Or even better, the waiting game. He had to sleep eventually. Still, it wouldn’t hurt for just one night, would it? That would get his chivalry out of hs system, and maybe, just maybe it’d be a little easier for her to sleep knowing someone else was there.

“Fine.” Diana finally muttered as she uncrossed her arms and kicked off her shoes. “If that’s the way you want to do it. But don’t come crying to me if you get shot in the middle of the night because you just happened to be in a murderers way.”

“Or stabbed.” she added, pulling back the covers so she could make herself comfortable. “With an ice pick. Or a butter knife. A garden rake… Who even needs stabbing these days, there’s good old fashioned smothering too!” There! Let him wonder about all the ways they could get murdered!

A quick, “Uh-huh” was all the satisfaction North gave Diana for trying to scare him. It wasn’t that he dealt with that all the time, and sure, the threat was a little higher tonight. But it wasn’t anything new to him. North’s ticked off a few people in his lifetime, and his address was right in the phone book, but he had a pretty good lock on the door at least.

Which he forgot to close. Again.

“Er, I’ll be right back, though.” He said, standing up. “I just forgot … something.” And slipped out the door. He wasn’t sure about leaving Diana alone, for all he knew he could find her gone and his screen kicked out, but she said she would stay – which didn’t help any. But he wasn’t going to ask her to close the door, or was he going to drag her along; she did look awfully comfy.

North closed the door to his home and locked the deadbolt, and as a special precaution, he released an iron rod that went from the door into the floor. It had been a while since he used that, but he thought they could use the extra protection. And maybe what Diana said did get to him, just a little.

With that finished, he turned to return to his bedroom where the agent lay – he hoped. Out of habit, North knocked a couple times before entering. It was the polite thing to do, after all. “Diana?” He called, making sure he could enter.

That was a perfect moment to sneak out, but she said she’d stay and she didn’t want to make a liar out of herself. Small fibs she could do, if it were for his own good. But flat out lying wasn’t very polite. Rolling her eyes at the knocking, she muttered a quick ‘come in’ while sitting cross-legged on the bed. Sleep still didn’t seem like the best idea, North looked like he was going to pass out any minute and someone needed to stay awake incase another incident happened.

“Don’t forget acid.” she chimed in again, now for the simple sake of being difficult. “Acid poured over you while you sleep. Or scorpions in the bed.” Granted, she figured none of that would be Stephen Burch’s style… he was more of the cut you open and watch you bleed type. As she thought more about that she quickly silenced her taunts with a thoughtful scowl.

Poking his head in before entering, North smirked at Diana’s continuos onslaught of disturbing ideas. “Ok, that – that’s enough.” He said, to tired to battle with the images. They sunk further in than he thought and staying awake all night didn’t seem like such a bad idea anymore. But at least neither of them would be alone, that worried North more than being killed by things you hear about in movies.

“Don’t try to change my mind, it’s made – made up.” North said sitting down, as soon as he did so, his eyes became extremely heavy. There goes being wide-awake; maybe he could just rest his eyes for a while, until Diana fell asleep. Then he would brew some coffee and maybe fill out some of the paper work they needed to get done. North luckily had the proper forms sitting around, he just had to do them by hand now. Which he wasn’t looking forward to.

“Just get some sleep.” North said, “We’ll get this mess sorted out in the morning.

“Forget it.” she muttered. “I’m never sleeping again.” Now she was just being rediculous and she knew it. It was all just uncomfortable and strange for a multitude of reasons, none of which she wanted to really delve in to with serious thought. She did know sleep was not an option.

But she was incredibly tired. It was all North’s fault.

Thus she tossed his pillow at him resulting in a satisfying whomph when it hit him. She felt a little better, enough to even smile! “Besides, if I do fall asleep you’re going to go lurking off and leaving me without a decoy.” Her smile was decidedly cheeky, the same one she used while teasing him when they had first met. “I’d rather you stay in bed with me and get pinned first.” Hmm, that didn’t sound right at all. “Get stabbed first.” she amended quickly! Of course, she didn’t really mean it, but she wasn’t going to admit she didn’t want to stay alone!

“P-pinned?” North’s eyes opened. “By the bad guys, right?” He said in a tone not unlike sarcasm. “But don’t worry, I’ll stay right here if you really want me to. But.” Sliding his waist out so he was slouching comfortably now. “Keep your feet to yourself then.” He smiled and put his arms behind his head. If he was stuck there all night, the least he could do is get comfortable.

Again, his eyes began their normal attempt to shut themselves, but since North was stuck there, he had to at least try to keep them open. A promise was a promise after all, and no mater how much she tried to hide it, Diana was obviously a bit uneasy, but he wasn’t going to bring that up. He might have had a slight upper hand for once, but North wasn’t one to flaunt it. Especially when the person was in the same room he was sleeping in.

Diana was sorely tempted to give him a good shove off the bed with her foot, but resisted. Barely. She watched him a few minutes with a thoughtful expression. He was going to fall asleep, no doubt about that, but he was there and that was a small monetary comfort. It wasn’t too bad knowing she wouldn’t be alone.

Snatching up the pillow again, she fluffed it before finally laying down and settling. His bed wasn’t too terrible, infact it was almost comfortable! Still sleeping wasn’t high on her list of thoughts. Flicking a few strands of hair from her face she reached over to poke North in the side. “I get a story for going to bed, don’t I?” A silly suggestion, but it would prove entertaining!

“Yeah, yeah a … story?” North raised his head a little bit to make sure he heard right. Just when he thought he had Diana figured out, she’s throws him another curve ball. This one was just as unexpected as the last. And once again, she was actually serious which only confused him more.

North was a guy who usually did what people asked, no matter how silly – except right now he was tired as hell and couldn’t bring himself to tell her a story. Even if he did have a few tall tales left from his grandpa which Diana would probably find rather amusing. And the more he thought about it, the more he felt like sharing them. But he was still tired, and North didn’t think he would get very far before dozing off. He also decided he was putting way more thought into it than necessary, which happened a lot when he was near sleeping.

“Actually, Diana…” He closed one eye, still watching her with the other. “Grow up.”

Diana laughed easily, which might’ve been unexpected considering she was just told to grow up. She scooted up to lean on her elbows, casting a chesire grin. “Let’s get this straight. You order me to bed, complete with the dragging, and now I have to grow up? Double standards, detective.” She was being a deliberate bother but they were going to eventually need the rest.

“I can’t sleep.” she admitted softly. It might’ve been easier to sleep if she would have been still and stop making excuses, but making excuses was something she was good at. “You aren’t going to play decoy forever. I can’t get used to this…”

North wasn’t going to get any sleep soon, that was for sure, not until Diana was satisfied. Sitting up again, the detective hunched over and rested his elbows on his knees, crossing his arms. “Maybe not forever.” He said. “But as long as it takes.”

Burch couldn’t hide forever, sooner or later one of them was going to make a move, and this time, North would be ready. But for the time being, all he could do was make sure he didn’t sneak up on her. North was going to have to the one thing Diana hated most – protect her. Possibly from herself as well. At least she finally saw it his way for once, even if he did drag her back, kicking and screaming. Not to mention she was keeping him from relaxing for the night.

“And would you like me to hold you all night, too? Just so you can finally get some sleep?”

Diana raised an eyebrow and scoffed! What a terrible idea! Did he think she was three years old? It was perposterous to think she needed the arms of some guy wrapped around her while she was comforted in to a deep and blissful sleep.

Well. No one could say she didn’t know how to take advantage of an interesting situation.

“That’s a terrific idea! Burch will have no choice but to go through you then.” There was hint of sarcasm, but she was serious! Afterall, what better protection was there than a human sheild? And maybe a small tiny part of her like the idea for much different reasons. “You made the suggestion, now you have to make good on it! Hold me then, but you better not have cold hands.” she added with amusement.

Why didn’t he see that coming? Of course Diana would have taken that offer up, no matter if he were serious or not. “You know I was… I mean, it was just…” North’s voice faded. He really couldn’t tell if she was serious or not, after all, she did seem less ‘up tight’ about things since the event in her apartment. And maybe he didn’t mind the thought of it either, but appearing to enjoy anything might turn Diana away.

“Ok, fine. If it will get you to go to sleep then – fine. I will … hold you.” It felt almost cheesy saying it like that, but luckily no one was listening in on them. But if he was going to do this, the least Diana could do was not go on about it later. Not that he felt ashamed or embarrassed, she was just a lady and an agent. Maybe a rather quirky agent and attractive woman, but that didn’t change anything.

“So, um, did you want to come over here or should I … lay down?”

Smooth.

Diana blinked and before she could simulate any sort of reply she errupted in to a fit of laughter much akin to the average schoolgirl. It was terrible she could imagine him saying the exact same thing as a younger man and the poor girl smacking her forhead with frustration. He was hopeless in more ways than one!

Barely containing her laughter she snagged his arm. “I have to do everything myself. Here!” Pulling him backwards, she had him lay down and with a bit of poking situated him just the way she wanted him. Tucking herself under his arm, she rest her head on his shoulder and flicked his chin with her fingers.

“You over complicate things. You don’t ask a girl if you can kiss her first, do you? That’d make a mess of the whole moment.”

She really didn’t have to laugh at him, North was feeling inept as it was. But it wasn’t really as bad as he made it out to be, and he was more comfortable than he thought he would be. And just maybe having the quirky agent in his arms was something he was looking forward to again after leaving her apartment. At least no one called his phone – ever.

“Well, what’s so bad about that?” North responded to Diana’s question. “You wouldn’t just – do that without warning. Well, maybe you would, but, uh … well, I don’t know.” Another slick answer. For someone who was suppose to have good people relations, North wasn’t helping his image. Then again, he wasn’t dealing with a normal person at the moment.

He didn’t know what he was dealing with at all.

“I mean … would you? I mean, you just don’t seem like the – type.”

“I wasn’t aware that I had a type.” she muttered coolly. What was her type? She didn’t consider herself normal by any means, but she wasn’t exactly bizzare either. Of course being in bed with her partner discussing the finer arts of when to kiss someone wasn’t something she expected to be doing either.

It was a strange realization that dawned on her then. She trusted him, apparently enough to where she didn’t even think about keeping up that pretense that she was inhuman. When she decided North McCoy was a safe enough specimen to be so casual with she couldn’t exactly remember but it was nice. One less thing she had to worry about… at least for the time being.

Diana flicked his chin again in an offhand way to show she was insulted. “I certaintly wouldn’t warn someone first. Imagine a sunset and a passionate moment shattered by the choice phrase ‘Can I kiss you?’ because there was too much thought put in to the whole scene… It’s like asking the green light if you can go yet.”

“Well, how many times does that happen?” North said, doing a good job at ruining any mood there might be. “But in the rare event that you’re with someone you might love, after some traumatic event that might have happened and standing outside during the perfect sunset – Ok, maybe.” He definitely wasn’t quite the romantic Diana seemed to be, at least, he didn’t show it. ‘Getting the girl’ wasn’t exactly part of the job – he was lucky if they even bothered to pay him.

“But I guess I’m not the ‘hopeless romantic’ like you.” North said with a smile, pulling Diana a little closer without realizing it. “And I guess that – kinds shows, doesn’t it?” A somewhat shameful, but humorous tone to his voice.

She wrinkled her nose up with indignation. “I am not a hopeless romantic.” If anyone was hopeless it was him, with all his chilvarly and polite manners! Her ideas were merely from a practical point of view. He pulled her closer, which she didn’t at all considering he was rather warm and there was a cool breeze from the window.

“Besides,” she continued, “Why does it have to be so dramatic? It could be a date at the park or sitting outside after dinner. The most traumatic thing would be a late taxi or a brood of angry ducks.” Diana pulled up the blanket over them both, tucking it just under his chin. “What you need is someone who can say, ‘Shutup and kiss me.’ ”

“Yeah…” North said with a hint of thoughtfulness. At least he knew what he liked when he heard it. “But, uh, th-thanks.” He wiggled under the blanket a little, settling in. A second later, it dawned on North he was now in bed, under a blanket with a woman in his arms. If he really didn’t know any better, he could have taken the situation for something more amorous. But he wasn’t quite that brave – or clever enough to take advantage of the situation. After all, he couldn’t bring himself to ask.

“Well, you’re right. It wouldn’t have to be. I guess I watched a few too many movies. Certainly had the time recently. I can’t say I’ve had much luck with that whole romance thing, anyway.” North said, “I guess I don’t have a grasp of it like you seem to.”

“Not everyone is as brilliant as me.” she muttered softly. Now contently warm with an easy conversation that didn’t require much thought she had relaxed enough to feel that slow pull of exhaustion. When was the last time she had a full night’s sleep? Possibly when they both fell asleep on her sofa. At least this time she wasn’t going to wake up startled.

She swatted a few strands of hair from her face. “You spend too much time thinking and not enough time acting. Luckily you have me around now to tell you what to do…” She was drifting far too quickly to sleep, the conversation was too interesting to doze off now! Perhaps if she closed her eyes for just a few minutes it wouldn’t be so bad.

“I guess I can’t help it.” North said. “It comes with the job. Where would I be without you.” He gave her a soft, appreciative squeeze, more intentional this time. It was next best thing to brushing the hair from her face and leaning in to long embrace.

“Wha?” North’s eyes shot open. He hadn’t even realized he closed them, and his mind liked to wander while he was in limbo. Diana was oddly quiet as well. “Diana?” He looked to her to find the agent’s eyes shut and sleeping soundly now. A soft smile crept over North’s mouth as he watched her for a moment. She was rather attractive, and this might be his only chance to stare without getting a nasty look from her. But, slowly and surely, North’s eyes began to close once more. Gently, he pushed her head towards his chest and nuzzled her head as he drifted away.

Vanilla was a rather nice scent to fall asleep to.

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