By the time we’re finished going over our notes (we know which warehouse it is now, anyway, so night shift can go with that contingency), I’m exhausted enough to consider sleeping here, and the meeting only took fifteen minutes. And that was only because Hunch brought us snacks.
“Hey,” Darren says, and I nod back at him.
Then I trip myself face first into the wall, and turn to look at him. “What the fuck are you doing here right now?”
He holds up a duffle bag. “Thought you might need a change of clothes.”
I laugh and run my hand through my once again wind-matted hair. “Really?”
“Ironically enough, I needed to remember that on my own, today, for patrol,” I tell him.
He frowns at me. “What required plainclothes patrol?”
And then I pause, because, really, what’s the point of pretending we have any kind of security if we’re going to trust anyone we think is trustworthy? I mean, isn’t that how leaks happen in the first place? So even though Darren sure as hell isn’t a leak and wouldn’t say a word –
“For fuck’s sake, Travis, don’t tell me, then,” Darren says, “and stop giving me the whole ‘maybe I should break protocol’ look; I have no idea how you get read into anything.”
“You have the same clearance I do,” I mutter. Sullenly. And also maybe while pouting I don’t know for sure.
“Higher, actually,” Darren reminds me (smirking his ass off), “that doesn’t mean tell me what you’ve been explicitly told not to tell me.”
“It’s not actually very interesting,” I explain.
He shrugs. “I didn’t really expect it to be; night shift’s been quiet, but they’re not acting any smugger than usual.”
I make a face.
“Oh, don’t be that way,” Darren says, features schooled into seriousness, “the kids are still better than Sunspot, right? So be happy you can laugh at them instead of with them.”
“People are going to notice you’re here,” I tell him.
“Right, because I’ve never picked you up before,” he scoffs. “And anyway, I’m here still not again, so I’m pretty sure it’s not going to bother anyone.”
“Shit,” I say, “what are you working on?”
He grins at me so wide his teeth actually sparkle (or at least they get that sickly sheen under the fluorescent lights). “It’s not actually very interesting.”
“Fuck you, Darren,” I say.
Darren spreads his arms wide. “And that’s why I’m king of the tower. Because I didn’t even consider giving into your puppy-dog eyes.”
“I should be so lucky, your highness.” I don’t even laugh while I say it.
“Shut it, butthead,” he says, poking a finger into my nose, because he knows I’m laughing inside.
I raise an eyebrow, and then we’re both laughing, trying not to look each other in the eye because it just sets us off again. I take the duffle to my locker. At least now I’ll have a change of clothes the next time I forget.
“How are you so awake, anyway?” I ask.
“Nothing illegal,” he says, but kind of frowns while he does.
“Not illegal like not ever illegal,” I ask, “or not illegal like you have the paperwork for it?”
He frowns more grumpily at me.
“Not that interesting, right,” I say.
“Don’t think too hard about it; we’re just at a delicate stage of research,” Darren explains. “I’m not risking a crash out there on top of a skyscraper.”
“Hey, what do I know, I cut through a meth lab tonight,” I tell him.
He grins. “Not that interesting.”
“Well, nothing exploded,” I sigh, “alas.”
He continues to grin at me.
“Look, I don’t know what reasons you’re spinning in your head,” I grouch at him, “but you’re better off sticking to them, because once I explain you’ll be bored stupid.”
“I’ve actually decided you’re a secret agent,” Darren says, chuckling. “After some sort of spies with powers, so you’re pretending to be one of us while you’re in the city.”
“I feel like the case isn’t going that well, then,” I tell him. “Been here a while.”
Darren waves it off. “Maybe you’re on a different case, now, since there happened to be one in the area, I don’t know, the CIA must have more than one thing it’s supposed to be doing.”
I grin back at him. “And Edelstein isn’t on the team, why?”
“Well, I didn’t picture it being your whole team, just you,” Darren explains.
“Okay,” I agree, “but shouldn’t I at least be partnered with him?”
Darren looks at me like some sort of small animal that keeps walking into the same object over and over. “That would be too obvious.”
“Or would it?” I tap my finger to my chin. “No one would expect us to be that blatant.”
He crosses his arms and stares down his nose at me, eyes narrowed. “Something I should know about you and Edelstein, Agent Kuiper?”
“I can neither confirm nor deny,” I say, wide-eyed.
“You’d think you could at least call the man by his first name,” Darren says, shaking his head.
“Maybe he likes it when I call him ‘sir’,” I try to say with a straight face, but don’t quite manage.
“Awwww, no, Travis, no,” Darren says, covering his eyes, “too far, ugh, I’m never going to get that image out of my head now, thanks for that.”
“Sorry,” I say, but I’m not really sorry at all, and Darren flips me off.
“I was going to ask if you wanted to grab a bite to eat on the way home, but now I think I won’t,” Darren tells me, “especially if you’re going to give me more brain-bleach fodder.”
“Please, you’re the one who wants to eat,” I tell him.
He shoves his hands in his pockets. “How do you figure?”
“Uh-huh,” I tell him, “if you’ve got her on the team, you really shouldn’t have told me.”
His eyes widen.
I grin. “Maybe not so awake after all.”
“Oh, fuck you, Fox, no fair using your inside knowledge to weasel around security,” he whines.
I shrug. “Shouldn’t make me crash-sit every time, then.”
“Not until Sunday,” he says, with a sigh. “That’ll be fun times.”
I frown. “How long –”
“You know I can’t tell you,” Darren says, then relents. “Longer than a week, anyway, you know what that means.”
“Fuck,” I say.
“Tell me about it,” he says.
“I guess you’re not making it to the party,” I say.
“Oh, fuck me, don’t have a party,” Darren says, “you’re not having it at our place, are you?”
“No.” I give him a pointed look. “Not that kind of party, anyway. Birthday party.”
Darren frowns. “How much trouble am I going to be in for having forgot this one?”
“No one important,” I tell him. “Okay, shouldn’t say that, one of Hunch’s kids.”
Darren makes a gesture around chest height. “With the red hair? Baseball hat?”
“That’s the one,” I say, and don’t bother to specify his name, because Darren’s going to forget by Sunday, anyway, if he’s cogent enough to even be out then.
“None of my friends bother inviting me to their kids’ birthdays,” Darren says.
“All your friends’ kids are, like, two,” I say, “they barely even have parties.”
“I don’t know.” He tilts his head. “I thought that was what made you invite all your friends? Because the kid doesn’t care? Then you can all get drunk.”
“That sounds super responsible,” I deadpan.
He holds his finger up like he just had an idea. “Lightbulb! It’s because you’re a teetotaling asshole and they don’t want to risk my inviting you along. Or you inviting yourself along.”
“Yes, just because I’d like to not get hammered when I have a two-year-old to take care of, that makes me a total white ribbon killjoy.” I put my hands on my hips. Then I put them in my pockets, because what the fuck. “So what, now I’m fascist counterintelligence?”
A grin slowly spreads across his face again. “You know what you need? You need a drink.”