none of these characters are my intellectual property. no profit intended or made.


John eyed Tim up and down. "Who are you, exactly?"

"Detective Tim Speedle, Miami-Dade CSI unit," Tim answered, raising an eyebrow. "Hi."

George stepped in between the two of them. "John," he warned, and then said, "Tim, John, John, Tim. John was my in with the FBI," he said, with a watery smile. "I owe my salary to him, so we keep him around."

"Nice to meet you," Tim said, though that was a bit of an exaggeration. He turned to George, "I'm off in twenty, so."

"Right." George nodded, glanced at John, glanced at Tim. "John, we're going down to the bar, if you want to come for a beer."

Tim suppressed his sigh. John was obviously hostile, either because he was a typical straight man, a typical hard line cop, or just an asshole. Still, he was one of George's best friends - Tim picked that up even with the introduction he gave - so he had to make an effort. "It's pitcher night tonight," Tim offered up.

John smiled brightly. "Sounds fun."

It was, of course, anything but.

"So then Bailey and George are sitting there, with the lip reader, right?" John said. "And I'm in the house, just waiting for the bastard to shoot me or something - and these lights keep going off in the trees!" his voice raised a little bit. "So I go outside, and - I can't see it at the time - but it's these cars on pulleys, rigged with Maglights. So he gets right up to me without me seeing." John took a swallow of beer.

George, much more quietly, added, "it was probably one of the scariest moments on this job, you know."

Tim nodded, not having anything to say. He'd never been stalked, never been in true danger on the job - the shooting was the most frightening thing that had ever happened, and here John was joking about being tortured.

John started, "So there I am, sitting in this freak show's secret hide out or whatever, and then the whole of the Atlanta PD bursts in, Bailey at the front, shooting. The guy must have taken twelve hits in the first second."

Tim winced, as George kept staring into his glass, obviously unwilling to add anything. John had only had a few beers, not nearly enough to cause this kind of behavior, so Tim could only assume John was either an asshole, or testing him. George still hadn't said anything, so Tim finally summoned up an appropriately impressed look. "Sounds like you feds get all the excitement."

"We do see more heart-stopping fear than I ever did with Atlanta PD," John replied, "even walking a beat."

"Yeah?" Tim asked.

When John went to the bathroom, Tim leaned over the table and stared at George for a long minute - who glanced up, nervously, and chuckled. "yes?"

"You seem a bit distracted," Tim started.

"Yeah," George said, and looked down again. He finished off his glass, poured himself another one, and then said suddenly, "it's not what you think. Me and John, I don't." He shrugged, eying the bathroom door. "It's a twenty four hour party, with the VCTF," he finished, lamely.

Tim nearly reached out to touch George's shoulder. "It sounds stressful," he said, finally.

John settled back into their booth. "Looks like we need another pitcher."

George, without looking up, said, "I'll get it."

Tim watched him make his way to the crowded bar, and stand patiently waiting to be served. John leaned over the table. "So. Are you two goin' out, or something?"

Tim made up his mind - just an asshole. "uh, yeah."

"Huh." John leaned back, casual, and nodded to himself. He was acting much less loud and obnoxious than previously, which was a little confusing, but still pretty arrogant. "You know what the VCTF does?"

"Yes, I do," Tim answered, and rubbed his chin.

John looked at him, a piercing gaze. "You know what looking over your shoulder every day feels like? Cause."

He let the sentence trail off, and just kept looking at Tim. There was no sign of joking in his face, no smile, no bullshit. Tim swallowed. George had told him the bare facts of the Jack case, he had looked up the details, but here he was looking at someone Jack nearly tortured to death.

"I mention it," John said quietly, "not to be an asshole, like you think." He looked over at George, who was still waiting, shoulders hunched in on himself a little. Tim followed his gaze. "He's a good guy," John added, at random.

"yeah," Tim replied.

"It's kind of something you have to mention when you're seeing someone, right off the bat," John continued, tone casual. He was staring off into space, though, not looking at Tim. "You know, likes, dislikes, heart-wrenching danger." He shrugged. "It gets tedious."

Tim nodded, realizing that a lot of John's behaviour was a coping mechanism, the same way that Tim himself was so self-contained. He wasn't a bad guy, even if he was an asshole. "I get it," he told John.

John looked at him, and smiled, tight. "I hope you don't, man. For your sake."