Category: First time
Pairing: Sheldon Hawkes/Don Flack
Summary: After Danny spills the beans about a secret crush, Don and Sheldon are left to deal with the fallout. (Written for the Challenge: CSI fic contest. It won!)
“So basically she caved as soon as we presented her with the evidence,” Don said once they had ordered beers. “The moment I began laying out your theory, Del Valle fell like a house of cards on a three-legged table.” Sheldon smiled at his turn of phrase as Don continued to describe his interrogation of the murder suspect. “Every single thing you said turned out to be on the money, Doc. If I didn't know any better I would have said you'd scripted the whole thing. Luisa Del Valle is one cold, hard murderer. She screwed the vic, both literally and figuratively. She robbed him as he slept and then stabbed him in the heart when he caught her trying to escape with his cash. She changed her blouse and burned it, took the sheets off the bed, stuffed them into a pillow case and stuffed them down the sewer along with the knife she used to kill him. Oh, and she also took the vic's phone and called herself from a cafe up the street. We found three witnesses who ID'd her. She lied about the neighbor, though; used the victim's own keys to let herself in.”
“Did anyone retrieve the sheets?” Sheldon asked, fascinated by the tale.
“Yeah, I called Mac and he sent a team in. Get this--the pillowcase got hung up on something, so they found it right were she left it. Mac said the trace evidence was probably compromised due to exposure, but wouldn't you know it? Donovan had monogrammed cases. His mother gave them to him when he moved into the apartment. His initials were right there for all to see.”
“So why did she kill him?” Sheldon asked when Don paused to take a sip from his bottle.
“Don't know; she never said. Hey, you hungry? This place makes the best burgers in the city. Why don't we move to a table? I'm starving,” Don said, rising to claim a booth without giving Sheldon a chance to answer. He rose and followed Don, wondering at his odd demeanor.
“Are you all right, Flack?” he asked when they were settled into the booth.
“Me? I'm good,” Don replied too hastily. Not that Sheldon would have believed him, anyway--the usually stoic detective was a bundle of barely contained energy. Sheldon placed his palms on the table, almost expecting that he'd be able to feel the thrum of Don's racing pulse. He folded his hands and sat back, observing and assessing the man across the table. He was about to speak when a pretty young waitress appeared at their table.
“Hello, handsome,” the waitress said, smiling at Don. “The usual?” Sheldon smiled when he saw Don's cheeks color slightly as he replied in the affirmative. “You want another beer with that, pretty boy?”
“Yeah,” Don replied, nodding at Sheldon. “How about you, Doc?”
“I'll have whatever he's having,” Sheldon replied gamely, “unless, of course, it's something gross.”
“Ol' blue eyes here is having a burger deluxe, medium rare, hold the onions, fries extra crispy,” the waitress replied with a smile. “It's a heart attack on a plate but you'll die happy. You willing to risk it, honey?”
“I'm game,” Sheldon replied, lifting his bottle. “And another one of these.” Don waited until she was gone before he visibly relaxed, slouching into the seat a bit as he stretched out his long legs. Sheldon was tempted to tease him about the waitress but another thought distracted him and he took a moment to look around the small restaurant. “So this is where you and Danny come to when the two of you sneak off after work.”
“We've come here before,” Don replied warily. “After work, you know, when we're beat and we're hungry and Sullivan's is not an option.”
“When is Sullivan's not an option?” Sheldon asked, leaning forward. Don shifted uncomfortably, fishing for an answer.
“Sullivan's is a cop hangout,” he said, scratching his head absently. “Sometimes you don't want to take your work with you when you're off duty.”
“I can see that, yeah.”
“Messer and I are friends,” Don continued. “We hang out.”
“So he said,” Sheldon replied, reaching for his beer.
“So he said? He talked about me?”
“No, no, not particularly,” Sheldon said, confused by Don's defensive tone. He sat back again and regarded his companion.
“What did he do?”
“Danny? He just said the two of you went out sometimes.”
“We're friends,” Don said firmly. “We like to talk sometimes; watch a ballgame, shoot some pool. That's all.”
“Okay,” Sheldon drawled slowly. “You don't have to--.”
“I'm just saying,” Don said with a shrug. “We're good friends.”
“That's cool,” Sheldon said, smiling reassuringly. “I'm--.”
“Here you are, guys,” the waitress interrupted. She placed two bottles on the table and removed the empties.
“I like to get away sometimes and decompress after a long day,” Sheldon said after taking a sip of his new beer.
“Where do you go?” Don asked, glad to shift the focus of the discussion away from himself.
“Home, usually,” he admitted. “Sometimes, after a rough day, the best place to be is in my own space, you know? I put on some music and groove out while I find my balance.” Don frowned at him and Sheldon smiled impishly. “It mellows me out, takes the edge off the day.”
“I can dig that,” he replied. “So what kind of music are you into?”
“Depends on what kind of day I've had. Sometimes I'm in the mood for Beethoven, sometimes I'm in the mood for Basie,” Sheldon said with a shrug. “I usually go for something low, slow and smooth when I first get home. Then after a while I might change it up for something a little more lively.”
“Ever go out after work?”
“Like this?” Sheldon considered the question for a moment as Don fidgeted with the label on his bottle. “I guess so. I go to Sullivan's like everyone else, with Danny and Stella, mostly. I also go out for coffee with Peyton or Evan, sometimes Sid. And sometimes Stella and I get together for dinner, usually when she wants to teach me a lesson.”
“What sort of lesson?” Don asked curiously.
“I'm still the rookie,” Sheldon replied with a shrug. “I get private lessons.”
“Well, mostly gentle advice and corrections. She doesn't like to correct me in the lab too often. Thinks it's bad for my ego.”
“But she's okay with taking you down a peg in private?” Don asked as the waitress appeared with their food.
“That was fast,” Sheldon said as a hot plate was set in front of him.
“Enjoy,” the waitress said with a wink at Don. Sheldon smiled and reached for the ketchup.
“That's Stella; what can I say?”
“Yeah,” Don said as he hefted his burger. “Prepare to be amazed.” He watched as Sheldon picked up his burger and bit into it. “Am I right or am I right?”
The following morning, Sheldon was at his desk working on a report when Danny entered the lab.
“Hey, Hawkes! I thought we were going to meet up at Sullivan's last night for a beer,” he said as he walked over and sat on the edge of the desk. “Not that I mind being stood up if you got a better offer. But--.”
“Sorry, Danny,” Sheldon said, looking up from his monitor. “I completely forgot.”
“Really? And what, if I may be so bold as to ask, was so intriguing that you were able to forget yours truly?”
“Nothing,” Sheldon replied easily. “Stella and I had a late call. It was a domestic case--lots of evidence to process.”
“And after we were done, I went out to eat with Don,” Sheldon said as he returned his eyes to the screen.
“Don? Don, as in Don Flack?”
“Yeah, Don Flack,” Sheldon replied. “Why?”
“Nothing,” Danny said pouting thoughtfully. He turned away and went over to the bench. “So he finally made his move. I didn't think he had it in him.”
“Had what in him?”
“I just didn't think he had the guts to ask you out. To tell you the truth, I didn't think you'd accept, either.”
“What are you talking about?” Sheldon asked quizzically. Danny blanched.
“Nothing. Nothing; look, forget I spoke, all right?” He gathered up a few papers and headed for the door. “Look, I've got to run down to the morgue and have a chat with Hammerback.”
“Danny,” Sheldon said, rising to his feet. He moved to block Danny's escape path. “Are you suggesting what I think?”
“Me and my big mouth,” Danny sputtered awkwardly. “Look, just forget I said anything, all right?”
“No, it's not all right.”
“Well,” Danny said as he tried to evade Sheldon, “pretend it is.” But Sheldon wasn't about to let him escape just yet.
“Look, just tell me.”
“Tell you what? There's nothing to tell,” Danny insisted. Sheldon glared at him a moment before letting him go. He sat down again and stared at his screen in shock. Danny had not only just outed Don Flack; he'd implied that Flack was interested in him. Sheldon's thoughts wandered back to the previous night.
Don and Sheldon had spent an hour discussing anything and everything under the sun. When Sheldon noticed that it was growing late, he found that he was reluctant to end the evening. He never imagined that he would enjoy being in Don's company. Once Don got past his initial case of nerves, he was witty and colorful and as engaging as Sheldon had ever seen him. He regretted that he had to go, but he called for the check. When it arrived, Don grabbed it before Sheldon could lift his hand. He started to reach for his wallet, but Don insisted on paying.
“I've got it,” he said, politely rebuffing Sheldon's protest. “You can pick up the tab next time.” He dropped a couple of bills on the table and rose.
“Thanks, Flack,” Sheldon replied, feeling unaccountably ill at ease.
“Don,” Sheldon repeated. “Thanks; this was more fun than what I had planned for this evening.”
“Maybe we could do it again some time.”
“I'd like that.”
“Come on, I'll drive you home.”
“That's okay,” Sheldon said. “I can catch a bus right up the block.”
“At this hour? Don't be crazy. It's late and there's no need. Let me give you a ride.”
Sheldon shrugged and allowed himself to be led to Don's car. He was in front of his place within five minutes. He thanked Don for the ride and got out.
“Any time,” Don said, smiling.
“Get home safe,” Sheldon said with a wave.
Don waited until he'd entered the lobby of his building before leaving, Sheldon noted with amusement. But in retrospect, Sheldon realized that there might have been more to his behavior. In fact, the more he thought about Danny's remarks, the more the pieces fell into place.
Sheldon thought about Don the whole day, recounting conversations they'd shared over the past few weeks and trying to find new meanings behind Don's responses. When Sheldon left the lab that night he was slightly disappointed to realize that he hadn't seen Don all day. Several days passed, in fact, before he saw him again, at the scene of a homicide.
Sheldon worked the scene with Danny and they spent hours combing over every inch of the area while Don interviewed the six witnesses to the crime. Sheldon occasionally stole a glance in his direction but tried to keep his eyes and his mind on the task at hand. His complacency was rattled, however, when he saw Don and Danny some distance from the scene, apparently engaged in some sort of argument. Sheldon frowned at the pair, wondering what had provoked the dispute. Then Danny glanced in his direction. Don's eyes followed his and met Sheldon's. He suddenly knew without a doubt that they were talking about him.
“You want to give me a hand here, Messer?” he said, feigning ignorance.
“Yeah, I'll be right there,” Danny replied. Sheldon turned away, wondering what had been said between the two. He busied himself with the camera for several minutes until Danny rejoined him and started bagging the shell casings.
“What was that about?” Sheldon asked as casually as he could muster.
“What?” Danny said, refusing to make eye contact.
“You and Flack seemed to be having an argument back there.”
“Nah; we just needed to talk.”
“You two having some sort of problem?” Sheldon asked. As he expected, Danny looked up sharply.
“No! We aren't--. I mean--. Look, it's nothing, all right?”
“All right,” Sheldon replied. He left Danny and began to walk the perimeter of the crime scene. It was a large schoolyard, where a pickup game of basketball had ended in gun play. Two men had been shot, one fatally, and an eleven year old girl had been grazed by a stray bullet. Sheldon took a few pictures, trying to envision the scene as it played out. He turned and looked across the yard, nearly jumping out of his skin when he discovered that Don was standing beside him.
“Sorry, Doc. Didn't mean to spook you,” Don said with mild amusement.
“You shouldn't sneak up on people at crime scenes, Flack,” Sheldon replied dryly. He started to move but Don's hesitant cough made him pause.
“You about done here?” he asked tentatively.
“Yeah, I think we've got everything we need for now.”
“You heading back to the lab?” Don persisted. Sheldon frowned at him. “I was just wondering--.”
“Is there something wrong?”
“No...well, I thought--. Look, can we grab a beer or something when you're done here? We need to talk.”
Sheldon hesitated briefly. Half of him wanted to demand to know why and the other half wasn't ready for Don's answer. He averted his eyes, fiddling with the camera.
“Look; Danny told me that he spoke to you,” Don said. “I just want to clear the air.”
“Why?” Sheldon said, looking up. “I mean, we don't have a problem, do we?”
“If you don't mind, I'd rather not have this conversation in the middle of a crime scene.”
“I'm only saying that you don't have to--.” Sheldon sighed and turned to look Don in the eye. “All right, but not tonight. I've got to start processing all this stuff and I'll be lucky to get out of the lab before midnight.”
“Fair enough. Let me know when,” Don said. Sheldon nodded, but he was already walking away. Sheldon watched him go, frowning curiously, until he saw that Danny was watching him. He walked over to him and started packing the camera.
“Everything okay?” Danny asked conversationally.
“Why shouldn't it be?” Sheldon replied. Danny shrugged, and Sheldon felt a pang of annoyance. He closed up his kit and headed for the car. Danny followed him and they loaded their gear.
“So did he come clean?” he asked once they were on the road.
“Well, I told him about what happened a few days ago when I kind of spilled the beans,” Danny confessed. “I thought I ought to warn him in case you--.”
“In case I what?” Sheldon demanded.
“I don't know! Whatever happens, it's between you and Flack. I'm out of it.”
“A day late and a dime short,” Sheldon muttered.
“So are you guys...”
“No, no, I didn't mean it that way! I just--.”
“Danny, shut up.”
Sheldon shut his eyes for a fews second to ward off an oncoming headache. He stared out at the East River as Danny drove up the FDR Drive back to the lab, his mind on Don Flack and the inevitable confrontation to come.
Once again, Sheldon was obsessed with thoughts of Don Flack. He found it ironic and wondered if it Don was aware of his power over him. Sheldon realized that his obsession wasn't Don's fault, per se, but he still couldn't escape the notion that Don knew exactly the sort of effect he was having on Sheldon's psyche. He decided to grab the bull by the horns and give Don a call. He wasn't sure what would happen or what, if anything, he wanted to happen, but he knew that putting it off would only make it worse.
Sheldon got Don's voicemail and left a message asking him to call. He left his personal phone number, knowing that Don already had his business number. It wasn't long before he began to obsess about which number Don would use to return the call and the possible significance of his choice. Sheldon realized, then, that his obsession had taken a turn; he was no longer merely wondering how Don felt about him, but was consumed with thoughts of Don. Everywhere he went, he was reminded of Don--something he'd said or done, the expression on his face, or just those penetrating eyes...
Sheldon shook his head and decided to grab some lunch. He ran into Stella and Mac at a local sandwich shop and joined them at a cozy table in the back. Mac and Sheldon were soon engaged in a discussion about their current cases as they ate their sandwiches. Stella looked up and saw Don at the counter.
“Hey, Flack!” she called. “Why don't you join us?”
Sheldon looked up and their eyes met briefly before Don smiled and waved back at them. Sheldon averted his eyes for a moment and when he looked at Stella again, she was smiling. He frowned at her and Mac nudged him with his elbow.
“I think someone's got a crush,” he said softly, just loud enough for Stella to catch it. She turned her smile to her two companions.
“Not me,” she said as Don arrived at their table. She slid her chair over to give him room. “Hi, Flack.”
“Stella, gentlemen,” he said affably as he unwrapped his sandwich.
“What brings you downtown today, Flack?” Mac asked. Don hefted his pastrami on rye and took a bite. He washed it down a sip from his drink as he plucked an envelope from his pocket.
“Got the warrant for the search of Lubin's place,” he said as he handed it over. “This time you go in first, okay? I'm allergic to cats.” Sheldon recalled the image of Don doused with the ashes of a dead cat and smiled. Stella looked up and abruptly began to clean up the remains of her lunch.
“Let's move,” she said as she began to rise.
“I just sat down!” Don protested.
“Not you, Flack,” she said. “Stay and eat. Mac and I will grab a couple of uniforms.” She looked at Mac meaningfully and he frowned at her, but since he was done with his sandwich, he rose and left with her. Sheldon watched them leave, noting Stella's look back with an enigmatic smile.
“What was that about?” he said.
“I'm sure I don't know,” Don replied, “but if it keeps my head from being the target of a panicked animal lover, I'm all for it.” He reached for his sandwich. “Want my pickle?” Sheldon raised his eyebrows in amusement and Don rolled his eyes. “Let me rephrase that.”
“Don't bother,” Sheldon replied, reaching for the spear of half-sour pickle. “So, I've always wondered something; how many open cases do you detectives carry at any given time?”
“The correct answer, I believe, would be as few as possible,” Don replied archly. “But on average, I'd say probably two to five active cases at a time. Why?”
“I knew you guys didn't work one case at a time,” Sheldon replied with a shrug. “I just wondered about the size of your actual workload.”
“How many cases do you CSIs work at once?”
“Depends--sometimes we all work one major case, like after 9/11. But usually we've got a handful of cases pending at any given time. Some require more attention than others, some are active cases, some less so,” Sheldon said thoughtfully. Suddenly conscious of the fact that he was being observed, he shrugged and shifted in his seat. They discussed their current cases as they ate their sandwiches. When they were nearly done, Sheldon gathered his courage and broached the point that had been on his mind since Don first sat down. “I called and left you a message earlier. You wanted to talk,” he said, averting his eyes from the cool blue stare that, not for the first time, reminded him of the waters of Jamaica Bay.
“Yeah,” Don replied, turning away from Sheldon to glance around. “Can we meet someplace after work?”
“Tonight?” Sheldon said uncertainly. “Yes; I'll be on call but, barring an emergency, I should be available.”
“Cool. You know how to get back to that bar? Or if you'd rather go somewhere else...”
“I know where it is,” Sheldon replied, his eyes on the edge of the napkin he was fiddling with. He forced himself to look up. “What time is good for you?”
“Let's say eight,” Don replied. “If either of us gets held up, we'll call.” Sheldon nodded and Don rolled up the sandwich wrapper, effectively signaling that lunch was at an end. “I'll see you later,” he said, rising.
“Yeah,” Sheldon said as he, too, rose to his feet. They deposited their garbage and walked out together. “Later.”
“Later,” Don said. He walked to his car as Sheldon watched him for a moment before heading back to the lab. He spent the rest of the afternoon trying not to think about his meeting with Don and subconsciously avoiding both Danny and Stella. By the time his shift ended he was a bit nervous. He decided to walk home, since he had a couple of hours before he was to meet Don.
Though he tried to distract himself by listening to music on his iPod and doing a little grocery shopping along the way, time and again, Don kept wandering back into his thoughts. Sheldon tried to laugh it off, but by the time he got home and had put everything away, he was forced to admit that he was no longer nervous about seeing Don. He was beginning to anticipate seeing him again.
Moreover, Sheldon was forced to concede that he was more than a little curious about what it would be like to be with Don, though he was not ready to think too much about what “being with” Don might entail. Kissing him seemed to be a safe place to start and Sheldon was surprised to discover how turned on he was by the idea. He tried not to think about it as he took a quick shower and changed. He took his time getting to the bar, not wanting to appear too eager.
Of course, Sheldon reasoned, he wasn't really sure how he should appear. He wasn't even sure he was eager. He was open, he eventually decided, to the possibility of what Don might offer. He no sooner reached that conclusion than he began to worry that Don might not offer for him at all. That troubled him more than he cared to admit. He reached the restaurant and was slightly disappointed to discover that Don hadn't arrived. He ordered a beer and looked around for a booth.
“Say, where's Pretty Boy?” the waitress said as she reached past him to load her tray.
“I was sort of wondering that myself,” Sheldon admitted with a slight smile. She set down her tray and turned to him.
“I have to ask,” she said tentatively. “Are you two an item?”
“Um, no,” he said, surprised by her bluntness. He wanted to ask why she thought they were, but held his tongue.
“Oh. I kind of thought--. Well, he seemed to be so into you. I thought for sure you two were a couple. It would certainly explain why he's never given me a tumble,” she said before she excused herself. She returned a few minutes later and gave him another beer. “On the house,” she said sheepishly before disappearing into the happy hour crowd.
Sheldon decided to wait for Don at the bar, where he had a good view of the door. He checked his watch, idly wondering how others might have perceived their dinner the other night. Danny would certainly have seen something to remark on, and based on the way Stella had behaved at the sandwich shop earlier, Sheldon assumed that she would have made something of it as well. His thoughts were abruptly interrupted when a dark shadow crossed his line of vision. He glanced up and saw Don.
“Trying to get a head start on me, Doc?” he said affably, taking in the two bottles in front of his companion. Sheldon shrugged and pushed one toward him. Don accepted it gratefully and raised it in a silent toast. “Been here long? Sorry; I had to come all the way down from a double homicide in Fort Washington.”
“I just got here a few minutes ago,” Sheldon said distractedly. It took him a moment to get his wits about him and focus on the man before him. “Who drew the case?”
“Mac showed up with Monroe and a couple of the new CSIs I don't know,” Don replied. “I was kind of surprised you and Stell weren't drawn into it, too.” Sheldon shrugged.
“We're on another case that's going to court next week,” he said. “I guess Mac wants us to focus on that.”
“Have you been called into court to testify yet?”
“Only twice as a CSI, but I've testified in court dozens of times as a coroner,” Sheldon replied.
“That's right,” Don recalled. “I keep forgetting that you're the new guy in name only. So; you hungry?” he asked, looking around for a free booth.
“A little,” Sheldon replied as an idea struck him, “but I was kind of hoping that we'd eat somewhere else. I know a little place downtown--unless your heart is set on having another burger.”
“No, I'm up for a change of pace,” Don replied. “So where's this place?”
“It's in the Village; nice and quiet, good food, good music.”
“Yeah,” Sheldon replied. “Jazz and blues. You like ribs?”
“I like ribs,” Don replied, loosening his tie and settling against the bar. Sheldon smiled and they enjoyed their beers while they got caught up on their respective work days.
“Nice place,” Don said, looking around the restaurant. Sheldon smiled and nodded, but his mind was on the music. The combination of mellow jazz and two beers had calmed his nerves a bit. His mood was also bolstered by the fact that he was on his own turf, so to speak. He opened the menu and started to peruse the evening's choices.
They'd selected a quiet table at the back of the room that afforded them a good view of the action but also assured privacy. Don took the seat facing away from the trio on the stage; as a cop, he never sat with his back to an entrance. But he was able to enjoy the music, nonetheless, and bobbed his head in time to the rhythm as he scanned the menu.
“Ribs?” he asked.
“You can't go wrong with anything on the menu, but the ribs are a specialty of the house,” Sheldon replied. They placed their orders and sat back to listen to the music. Don began to fidget with his napkin after a few minutes, however, and Sheldon knew that it was time to confront the issue that had brought them together.
“So Danny spoke to you,” Don began. He waited for an answer from Sheldon, who shrugged and shifted in his chair.
“Danny...is Danny. He opens his mouth and all sort of things come out. To be honest, I'm not really sure what he was talking about.”
“You have no idea,” Don said doubtfully, his eyes piercing Sheldon's very soul.
“I have ideas,” he admitted. “I could easily come to conclusions based on what he said, but I don't care to speculate. I'd rather hear the truth from you.”
“He outed me,” Don replied bluntly. “You think he was lying about that?”
“I'm not interested in talking about what Danny said or did,” Sheldon replied firmly. Don sat back and sighed.
“All right. I'm gay,” he said, closely observing Sheldon for a reaction. But Sheldon's only response was a nod. Don averted his gaze to his hands and toyed with the ring on his right hand. “I haven't come out to a lot of people.”
“But Danny knows.”
“Yeah, Danny knows.” Don looked up, pinning Sheldon with his gaze. “And no, he's not gay.”
“Neither am I,” Sheldon replied evenly.
“I know that,” Don replied softly, averting his eyes again.
“Is that going to be a problem?” Sheldon asked. Don looked up again and Sheldon felt a blue wave sweep over him. For the first time he let it take its course, unafraid of drowning in its depths.
“Shouldn't that be my question?” Don said with a wry smile. Sheldon shrugged.
“I don't see why it has to be,” he replied. “So how do you feel about it?”
“The fact that you're not gay?” Don asked, frowning.
“Or the fact that you are and I'm not,” Sheldon clarified. It was Don's turn to shrug.
“I have to admit I hadn't given that much thought.”
“Haven't you? Didn't you want to talk to me because that's precisely what you were worried about?” Sheldon persisted.
“All right, yeah,” Don confessed as he sat back and sighed. “If you want to look at it that way; I was worried about your reaction.”
“What did you expect me to do?” Sheldon asked, frowning.
They were interrupted by the waiter, who brought their dinner. Don tasted his ribs and commented on them, briefly redirecting the conversation to the food. A new ensemble took the stage and the two men relaxed and enjoyed the music while they ate. But after they were done, Sheldon returned to his earlier point.
“Did you really think our friendship would be affected by your revelation?”
“I wasn't sure that we had a friendship,” Don admitted. “I wasn't really sure how you viewed our relationship.”
“Hence your question,” Sheldon said, nodding.
“That day at lunch a week or two ago when you asked what I thought of you,” Sheldon explained. Don averted his eyes to his hands again and nodded. “Well, until you asked that question I'd always just thought of us as coworkers, but I sense that we've become friends over time.”
“Yeah,” Don said, reaching for his water. He took a gulp and set the glass down, his eyes on the cubes of ice swirling inside. “What if I said I wanted more than that?”
“I've been thinking about that,” Sheldon replied, smiling at Don's look of surprise. It disappeared immediately, however, as he tried to back peddle. “Just a bit,” he said hastily. “I'm not saying that anything will come of it.”
“But you've thought about it.” Don sat forward and propped his chin. “Why?”
“Why were you thinking about it?”
“You mean why haven't I rejected you outright?” Sheldon asked perceptively.
“Assuming that's your intent, yeah.”
“To be honest, I have no intent,” Sheldon admitted. He turned his eyes toward the stage and watched the singer for a moment. “To me, life is like jazz. Sometimes it's smooth and mellow, sometimes it's fast, other times it's slow. It's simple, it's complicated...it's--.”
“With all due respect, Doc, would you can the bullshit and just answer the question?”
Sheldon laughed and shook his head.
“That's what I like about you, Don,” he replied, reaching for his beer. “You're steady and predictable; plain and simple, no ambiguities.”
“Yeah, well, to me, life isn't at all like jazz,” he said puckishly.
“No,” Sheldon said with a smile. “But to me it is. It throws up all sorts of twists and turns and odd little quirks--.”
“Now you're going to insult me,” Don teased, sitting back. Sheldon rolled his eyes.
“You're not an odd little quirk. You're more like a--.” Sheldon paused when Don leaned across the table.
“Just remember that I'm carrying a gun, here,” he said softly. The twinkle in his eye made Sheldon realize that Don was flirting. He smiled and considered his words carefully, hoping that he wasn't blushing like a schoolgirl.
“All I'm saying is that you and I tend to view things differently. You see things in an all-or-nothing, black-or-white kind of way, while I prefer to look for all the nuances and subtleties.”
“So I'm pragmatic,” Don said with a flutter of lashes. “What has that got to do with you answering my question?”
“I'm pragmatic, too,” Sheldon replied. “But in my own way. When I hear a new melody or rhythm, it sticks in my head. Sometimes I like it right away, sometimes it takes a while for it to grow on me, sometimes I end up despising it. But I give it a fair hearing before I decide.”
“Fair enough,” Don said nodding as he signaled the waiter for another round of beers. “So you're saying that if you like the tune, you're not averse to marching to the beat of a different drummer.”
“See? I can do fancy music metaphors, too,” Don said with a wink. Sheldon smiled and shook his head. They both turned to listen to the music, but Sheldon's attention was soon drawn back to Don. He studied his profile for a minute, until his eyes settled on Don's mouth. He stared at it until Don turned and caught him at it. Sheldon quickly averted his eyes and checked his watch.
“Do you have to work in the morning?”
“Yeah,” he replied regretfully.
“Let me get the check and I'll take you home.”
“My turn,” Sheldon said, pulling out his wallet. Don started to protest, but thought better of it. Sheldon paid the tab and they left the club. “I'm thinking that neither of us should be driving,” he said.
“What did we have, three beers in as many hours?”
“Better not to risk it,” Sheldon said as he went to the curb to hail a cab. He flagged one immediately and although Don wanted to protest, he sighed and got into the cab. “Where do you live?” Sheldon asked.
“I'm on the west side,” Don replied. “You're closer.”
“It's okay,” he said. “Just give me your address.” Don did as he was bidden and they rode a block in silence, until Don turned to Sheldon with a quizzical expression. “What, can't I see you home?” Sheldon challenged.
“You're up to something,” Don said.
“No I'm not.”
“Don't bullshit, me, Doc. I know you're up to something. Out with it.”
“All right,” Sheldon admitted. “I thought I'd drop you off and go back to the lab.”
“At this hour?”
“Yeah; I have to finish going through those evidence reports so I'll be ready to take the stand Monday.”
“You said you were going to work tomorrow.”
“Check your watch,” Sheldon replied with a smile. “Besides, I'd rather get it over with tonight. Then I can sleep in tomorrow and have the rest of the weekend to myself.”
“Want some help?”
“Hey, cabbie,” Don said to the driver. "Take us back over to the east side.” He gave the driver the address of the Medical Examiner's office and sat back smiling smugly.
“You don't have to--.”
“I know, Doc. But two heads are better than one. Even if one of them is mine,” Don replied. Sheldon started to speak again, but shut his mouth and turned his eyes to the window, smiling.
“Do you think that guy who invented that labeling machine was inspired by Stella's handwriting?” Don asked as he frowned at an evidence tag.
“Give it to me,” Sheldon said, reaching for the envelope. “I can read it.”
“So can I, but my brain doesn't want to make the effort. Do you realize it's nearly three in the morning?”
“Yeah,” Sheldon replied absently as he made a note. “This is the last one.”
“Good, because frankly, I've had it,” Don said, collapsing into a chair. Sheldon peered over his glasses at him.
“I'm sorry,” he said, shutting his file. “You're right. Let's call it a night.”
“Are you kidding me? You've got one piece of evidence left to review.”
“I can finish it later.”
“Yeah, but if you do it now, you won't have to come back later--or were you lying about that, too?”
“I wasn't lying, Don,” Sheldon said wearily. He sighed and picked up the envelope. “This will just take a few minutes.”
“Go for it.”
“You know, you don't have to wait for me, Don. There's no reason for you to--.”
“Oh, no you don't, Doc. I'm not leaving here alone,” he replied. “Finish up.”
“Why? What do you think I'm going to do?”
“I think you're going to finish up your report and then you're going home to bed.”
“All right, all right,” Sheldon said, reaching for his mug. Don plucked it from his fingers.
“And that stuff is cold and nasty. If you want coffee, I'll make you some fresh.”
“That's all right,” Sheldon replied. “I probably shouldn't drink anymore tonight, anyway.”
“Good idea,” Don said as he sat on the edge of the desk. “Now work.”
Sheldon smiled and began to type. After a minute or two, Don rose and moved to a chair. Sheldon finished his work and printed out a report before emailing himself a copy. He stuffed the report in an envelope and turned to speak to Don. That's when he noticed that he'd fallen asleep. Sheldon sat on the edge of the desk and observed him for a few moments. He rose to go and wake him just as Don opened his eyes.
“Ready, Doc?” he said, surprisingly alert.
“Yeah,” Sheldon replied, slightly startled by the way Don jumped up and reached for his jacket.
“Power nap,” he explained cheekily. “And this time I'm seeing you home.”
“Don't worry,” Sheldon laughed. “There isn't a chance in hell that I'll be back today, barring a major catastrophe.”
“Your chariot awaits,” Don said, leading the way out of the elevator a few minutes later.
“All right, my car,” Don explained. “I went and got it while you were digging through the evidence locker. And don't look at me like that. I wasn't over the limit to begin with.”
“All right, all right,” Sheldon replied as he slid into the passenger seat. He leaned against the headrest and closed his eyes.
“Rough day, eh?”
“It didn't end too badly,” Sheldon said. Don returned his smile and put the car into gear. He had Sheldon home within a few minutes. Sheldon reluctantly opened his eyes. “That was fast,” he said. “I was enjoying the music.”
“You can sit here and listen to it, if you like,” Don said wryly. “And if we stay here a a couple hours more we can watch the sunrise, too.”
“We're too low,” Sheldon replied around a yawn. “It'd be easier from the twenty-third floor.”
“Sorry, my car only has one level, Doc.” Don said lightly.
“No, I mean I live on the twenty-third floor. And my terrace faces east.”
“Be careful, Doc--that's dangerously close to an invitation,” Don said seriously. Sheldon looked at him.
“It was,” he admitted, mostly to himself. “It's really late and I doubt you're any less sleepy than I am, in which case you should not be driving.”
“Are you kidding? I stay up for two or three days at a time more often than you can imagine,” Don said defensively.
“That doesn't mean it's a good idea,” Sheldon said, reaching for the door. “My offer still stands. I've got a sofa bed if you're interested.”
“Are you sure, Doc?”
“I wouldn't have offered if I wasn't,” he replied. “Your call.” He looked at Don for a moment and then turned to leave. He started to open the door but it locked a split second after he unlocked it as Don put the car into motion. “Hey!”
“What? I've got to park, right?” he reasoned. Sheldon closed his eyes again and smiled.
A few minutes later, they were out of the car and inside Sheldon's apartment. Don looked around as Sheldon turned on the lights and went to draw the curtain.
“Nice place,” Don said as he pulled off his jacket and dropped it on a chair. “It looks just like you.”
“Thanks, I think,” Sheldon said as he picked it up and took it to the closet. He hung it up before he took off his own and did the same. “Can I get you anything?”
“No, I'm good.” Don walked over to a shelf and peered at a picture of a small child. “Is this you, Doc?”
“Yeah,” Sheldon said, unbuttoning a cuff. “Sometime before I went to medical school.”
“You were cute.” Don picked up the picture to look at it more closely.
“And I'm not now?”
“You said I was cute,” Sheldon said playfully.
“Oh, you're still cute,” Don said. “That's not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of you, but you're cute.”
“What is the first thing?” Sheldon asked boldly.
“You know, Doc,” Don replied, setting down the picture, “that's a very dangerous question.”
“You mean it's a dangerous answer,” Sheldon countered. Don laughed briefly.
“Don't try to twist my words around, Doc.”
“I'm not,” Sheldon insisted. “But I'm right, aren't I?”
“Maybe.” Don said. “And maybe we shouldn't be having this conversation right now.”
“Why not? I'm very curious to know what you see in me.”
Don made a show of rolling his eyes and turning away. He walked over to the sofa and sat down.
“Now you're really treading on dangerous ground.”
“Why, because the answer is going to scare me away?” Sheldon frowned. “Or is it that you can't articulate what you're thinking right now?
“Look, Doc--Sheldon,” Don said, correcting himself for the first time that evening.
“Or you don't want to tell me what you're thinking.”
“You know, you think too much.”
“And you're being evasive,” Sheldon countered.
“Look; you have every right to be curious,” Don replied wearily. “And you have every right to answers to your questions. But would you hold off with the interrogation until I've had a little sleep?”
“All right,” Sheldon said with a sigh. “I'll get some sheets.”
“Just get me a pillow. I can stretch out here without opening the bed.”
“Don't be ludicrous, Don. I'll make up a proper bed for you,” Sheldon said reaching for the cushion beside him. But Don grabbed his wrist. He looked up; Don's eyes had darkened to an intense, deeper blue, warning of an impending storm. Sheldon released the cushion and Don withdrew his hand. “Have it your way,” Sheldon conceded. “I'll get a pillow.”
When he returned to the living room a few moments later, he found Don pacing back and forth. His jacket was on the chair again, as though he'd started to leave and thought better of it.
“Maybe it'd be better if I left,” Don said. Sheldon tilted his head and stared at him for a minute.
“Why, don't you trust yourself?” he said. Don shot him a look. “Shouldn't I be the nervous one?”
“Yeah, you should,” Don said, still pacing. “But you're not and you keep asking questions.”
“Oh; so it's me you don't trust. And here I thought nothing rattled Don Flack,” Sheldon said, slightly amused. Don rolled his eyes.
“Give me a break,” Don said, reaching for his jacket. But Sheldon barred his way.
“Look, just talk to me, all right? What happened? Everything was fine when we got here. What's going on?”
“Tell me something, Doc. Is all this some sort of intellectual exercise for you? Some sort of social experiment?” Don demanded.
“You know me better than that, Don,” Sheldon replied. “Is that what you think? I'm playing a game? Yanking your chain to see what you'll say or do?”
“No,” Don said. “Yes--I don't know!”
“Well, which is it?” Sheldon demanded, folding his arms. “You're upset with me because I'm not freaking out over your attraction to me, aren't you? You were all prepared for an awkward conversation and the basic 'I hope we can still be friends' speech and when I didn't follow your script you freaked out.”
“Do I look like I'm freaking out?” Don spat back.
“Yes!” Sheldon said. Don stopped pacing and sighed.
“I'm sorry,” he said softly. He ran his hands over his face and Sheldon could see that he was exhausted.
“Me, too,” Sheldon said, moderating his tone. “I'm not trying to trip you up, Don.” Don looked up at him and Sheldon raised his eyebrows. “I've never had a man tell me he was attracted to me before. And I've never been attracted to one before, either.”
Don looked up again, completely caught off guard by his declaration.
“I am attracted to you,” Sheldon repeated softly. “I just need some time to figure out exactly what--.”
“Look could you turn off that scientific, analytical, puzzle-solving, genius brain of yours for a few hours?”
“Sure,” Sheldon said with a smile. He tossed the pillow to Don and reached for the lamp. “The bathroom is on the right side of the hall.”
Sheldon left Don and went into the bathroom to brush his teeth and when he was done he pulled off his shirt and splashed cool water on his face. He toweled off and opened the door to cross the hall to the bedroom. He heard a noise and turned toward the living room. A second later he collided with Don, who instinctively reached out to catch him. Sheldon's hands grabbed hold of Don's shirt and before either man knew what was happening, they were kissing. It ended almost as soon as it began, far too soon for either man, each of whom began to apologize as he hastily backed away.
“Don,” Sheldon said, finally finding his voice. “It's all right.”
“I didn't mean to do that.”
“How do you kiss someone by accident?” he teased.
“I didn't come down the hall to kiss you,” Don clarified, smirking at him in the dim light of the hallway. “I had to pee.”
“Oh. Well, you'd better go and do that, then.”
Sheldon stepped back and Don entered the bathroom. Sheldon leaned against the wall with his eyes shut, reliving the heady experience in his mind until the door opened again. Don stepped out and froze when he saw him standing there.
“I want to try that again,” Sheldon said calmly, pushing himself off the wall and turning to face him.
“A few hours ago you said you'd think about it,” Don said. “Now you want to just dive in with both feet.”
“It's just a kiss. That's hardly jumping in with both feet.”
“A kiss is never 'just' a kiss, Doc. Why don't you think about it and get back to me in the morning?” he said, trying to move past Sheldon, who stood his ground.
“Aren't you the one who just said I think too much?”
“You're confusing me with someone else,” Don lied, tempted in spite of himself. He reached up to caress Sheldon's face, tacitly conceding what was at best, only a token argument.
“I'm sure I'll never do that again,” Sheldon promised before their lips met. This time the kiss was slow and exploratory, rather than a collision of lips and teeth. Don took hold of his face in both hands and slowly pulled away.
“Are you sure about this?” he asked in a voice barely above a whisper. “I know what I want, but if you aren't sure about this, this may not be the best way to find out.”
“What do you want?” Sheldon asked hoarsely. Don shook his head.
“This isn't about me, Doc.”
“This isn't about me, Sheldon,” Don said, smiling briefly. “It's about you and what you want.”
“I want you to kiss me again. I've been thinking about that a lot for the past twelve hours,” he said, nuzzling Don's chin. Don lifted his head to let him explore.
“Kissing is one thing. If you think I'm going to stand here and make out with you in the hall all night--,” he managed to say in spite of the distraction, but that was as far as he got before his control slipped and he turned Sheldon to the wall and pressed their bodies together. “This is your last chance, Sheldon. Do you want this?”
There was no doubt in Sheldon's mind what “this” meant. He could feel the urgency in Don's body and it was answered with his own. He looked Don in the eye and nodded.
“I want this. I want you,” he said sincerely. That was all Don needed to hear. But Sheldon kept on talking. “Every thought I had of you these last two weeks has been leading up to this and I didn't even realize it,” he said as Don quickly divested himself of his shirt. “It all began when you asked me--.”
“Doc, let's save the discussion for later,” Don said impatiently. “You can tell me all the whys and hows after I--.” He paused and looked down at Sheldon, who gazed back at him calmly, running his hands over the smooth skin of Don's shoulders. “Yeah,” Don said, leaning in to kiss him again. He pulled away again and licked his lips. “You're sure you really want this,” he said, offering Sheldon one last out.
He smiled when Sheldon rolled his eyes and walked into the bedroom, undoing his pants as he went. He sat on the bed and removed his shoes and socks, then rose to let the pants drop to the floor. He stepped out of them and tossed them onto the chair.
“You planning to stand there all night?” he asked. Don entered the room and removed his shoes and pants, kicking them into the corner. “Nice shorts,” Sheldon said teasingly. “I hope all your underwear doesn't complement your ties.”
“Very funny,” Don said as he pulled Sheldon into his arms. He slid his hands over Sheldon's hips. “If I take a peek at the back of your tighty-whities am I going to see Spiderman on your ass?” he replied as his hands found their way to Sheldon's waistband. He toyed with the elastic as he began to nibble at Sheldon's throat and shoulder. Sheldon's eyes closed and his pulse began to race, but a momentary panic made him freeze. Don immediately pulled away.
“Baby steps, okay?” Sheldon said. “I'm a quick study but this is new territory for me.”
“Trust me,” Don said in his ear. Sheldon nodded and allowed Don to lead him to bed.
Later, Don and Sheldon would have a long talk about what initially attracted Don to Sheldon and Sheldon to Don. They'd exchange stories about their first sexual experiences and laughingly rate each other's pick up lines. But when he finally fell asleep--well after the sun had risen--Sheldon would remember none of that. He would only recall the first time Don kissed him and how his kisses were inexplicably different and so much better when they were lying down. He'd feel over and over again the touch of Don's hands on his body, the sensation of Don's skin moving against his own, the sound of his lover's gasps and urgent, inarticulate whimpers. He could still taste his own semen fed to him from Don's lips. He could still feel Don wrapped around him, sliding down his body, inch by inch, blazing a hot trail of kisses as he went. He could still feel the intensity, the almost electric sparks that flowed between them as they rode out their respective orgasms. Sheldon would never forget the way Don cradled him in his arms and held him as he gently fell back to earth.
When he opened his eyes again, hours later, the late morning sun was shining on his face. Sheldon stretched languidly and started to turn over, but a strong arm held him firmly in place. Sheldon looked down and saw the now-familiar ring on Don's finger. He sighed and settled against his new lover, letting the sun warm his face as the heat of Don's body warmed his back. He closed his eyes and began to hum a tune that had been teasing his mind since the previous evening. A razor-stubbled kiss tickled his shoulder.
“You always wake up singing, Doc?” Don said in a voice still thick with sleep. Sheldon smiled.
“I'm humming,” he replied archly. Don nipped him on the shoulder.
“Ouch!” But he smiled again and continued to hum. Don kissed the spot and soon fell asleep again.
It took him a few minutes to identify the melody, but when he recognized it Sheldon smiled. He closed his eyes and continued to hum as the lyrics played in his head:
I don't want you
But I hate to lose you
You've got me in between
The devil and the deep blue sea
I forgive you
'Cause I can't forget you
You've got me in between
The devil and the deep blue sea
I ought to cross you off my list
But when you come a-knocking at my door
Fate seems to give my heart a twist
And I come running back for more
I should hate you
But I guess I love you
You've got me in between
The devil and the deep blue sea *
“Nice tune,” Don murmured into his shoulder.
“I like it,” Sheldon replied. “I like it a lot.”
*The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Ted Koehler, 1932.