DAYTON INGRAM was going stir-crazy. At first his shoulder had throbbed, and he’d had a few days of aching. Now the dang thing was a little stiff, though healing very well. He had his television for company and went for walks just to get out of the apartment, but with the cold and his arm still in a sling part of the time, being at home alone wasn’t a great time.
The bell rang, and Day jumped up, wondering at first what the sound was. He got up and answered the door. “What are you doing here?” he challenged, standing back so Knight could come in if he wanted. Yeah, that probably wasn’t the best way to greet him, but they’d been back a week, and Knight hadn’t been by to see how he was or even called to say hello.
“I came to see how you were doing,” Knight said as he strode inside. “Nice place,” he added automatically.
Day hadn’t done much with furniture. The place was utilitarian and basic, and that was about all, but it was home. “Did someone guilt you into paying a visit?” He closed the door.
Knight sighed. “Do we really need to do this?”
Day walked into the living room and sat on the blue slipcovered sofa. “No. I don’t suppose it would do any good. It isn’t like you owe me anything. We were on assignment together, and things….” Day swallowed. He’d spent most of the time he was alone at home recuperating thinking about Knight and what they’d done together. Their assignment to break up a terrorist plot had been a huge success with only one blemish—a bullet through Day’s shoulder.
“We were in close proximity, and things got a little out of hand. We both had too much to drink and….” Knight wandered over to the window. “What happened on the ship needs to stay there.”
“I think I knew that already,” Day sniped. “I got that pretty loud and clear when you didn’t even bother to call to see how I was. That’s your way, isn’t it? If something happens that doesn’t fit in your little worldview, you just ignore it or lock it away in a box somewhere in that tiny brain of yours and go on as though nothing happened.”
“What? You want to come out and tell everyone in the office what happened?” Knight said, and Day smiled a little. At least he’d gotten some sort of rise out of him.
“No. I don’t. And I figured that after the first few days, your assholeness had probably taken over, and you were digging yourself into a Marine foxhole so deep you were probably halfway to China.”
Knight whirled around on his heels, eyes dark and blazing.
Day felt heat start in his head and slide down his spine, radiating outward. He’d seen that expression before, and he remembered what had happened afterward—so did the rest of his body. But he pushed it away.
“Fuck you,” Knight ground out above a whisper. His body tightened enough that Day could have attached strings and played him like a cello. “You don’t know shit about anything.”
Day wasn’t sure that was true. He’d thought plenty over the past week about his time with Knight and what they’d done together. But there was no way that he wanted to announce to the office—or to anyone else—that he was gay. Hell, an announcement like that would likely be the end of a career that he had fought for. He’d just gotten his first assignment, and he’d taken a bullet to help make sure it was a success. “You think.”
“I know.” Knight put his hands behind his back and slowly came closer.
If Day hadn’t known better, he’d swear he was being stalked. “You can put the Marine intimidation tactics away. They aren’t going to work on me. I’ve seen you naked, remember? You don’t have a lot to hide.”
That stopped Knight in his tracks and seemed to throw him off guard. He scoffed. “I didn’t come here to fight with you.”
“Well, showing up after a week of your hiding and egotistical wound licking wasn’t going to get you much else.”
“So we fucked a few times when we were on the ship. We were surrounded by gay guys all day long, and they….”
“What? Locked us in the room together? Poured the booze down our throats so we’d let our guard down and screw each other into the mattress? Just admit we had a good time.”
“Fine,” Knight said. “But it can’t continue. And no one can know,” he added sharply enough that Day jumped slightly. “People in the organization cannot find out.”
“I agree with you. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be civil to each other. This ‘turn away and pretend nothing happened’ shit is for schoolgirls. We did spend a week sleeping in the same bed.” Day stood. “And I know things about you that no one else on earth knows.” He immediately wished he hadn’t said that because an image of Knight in bed, mouth open, eyes wide and filled with heat, reflecting Day’s own, flashed into his mind’s eye. Day swallowed and blinked, pushing it away because those memories wouldn’t do him any good.
“I know the same things about you too,” Knight said.
“Yes, we’re even.” He went into the kitchen and grabbed a couple beers from the refrigerator, then returned to the living room and handed one to Knight. “Just the one.”
Day knew they needed to do something normal instead of going deeper down this path. He sat back down on the sofa, and Knight took the chair.
Knight opened the beer and took a small sip. “So how is your shoulder?”
“Not bad now. The doctor said I should use the sling when I feel I need to, but it’s getting stronger. He said to use small weights to strengthen it. I was very lucky.”
“That’s what I understand, and I’m very glad you’re doing well.” Knight’s words said one thing, but his tone…. Day swallowed hard at the slight rasp under the simple words. There was no deceit in it, just some hint of something more that Day couldn’t put his finger on. “You were a great partner on the assignment, and you had my back in a way that….” Knight seemed nervous, which was something very new for the usually stoic Marine. “I’m sorry I….”
Day wanted to ask what was really bothering him, but Knight stood abruptly.
“Finish your beer,” Day said softly. “We don’t have to talk about… everything.” He’d seen Knight under fire and knew he could be both cool and ruthless. But he’d also seen him behind the closed doors of their cabin, and he could be just as strong and ruthless, but in a completely different way. Day had seen him in the throes of passion, at a loss for words. Hell, he’d been rendered speechless more than once by Knight.
“Don’t we?” Knight asked, breaking Day out of his thoughts.
“Not if you don’t want to.”
Knight was the first visitor he’d had in days, and Day had just about had enough of his own company. If he sat here at home, alone, for much longer, he was going to go out of his mind.
“Good. Tomorrow we’ll both go back to work, and things will get back to normal. I suspect they’ll put me back in Records and Research. I proved I could return to the field and do what was needed, but they put up with a lot from me over the years, so….”
“Is that what you’re afraid of?” Day asked.
Knight bristled. “I’m not afraid of anything.” He took a huge drink from the bottle. “Fear in general is pretty useless, like worry. It doesn’t change the outcome of anything and only manages to make something that’s unpleasant worse.”
Day laughed. “God, I forgot how fucking sanctimonious you can be.” He had to keep the smile off his face, especially at the way Knight clenched his jaw ever so slightly. He’d almost forgotten the pleasure he could get by getting under Knight’s skin.
“I’m right, and that’s what matters.”
“Is that what always matters?” Day countered. “Is being right more important than being happy?”
Knight sighed. “Being happy isn’t something that’s open to all of us. Some of us have already had all the happiness we’re allowed. My quota was used up some time ago.” Knight downed the last of his beer and set the bottle on the table. “You know, you can be a pain in the ass.”
“Yes.” Day grinned. “At least I can be a pain in your ass, but then you have a tendency to assume that you know everything and that people are what they appear to be.” He leaned forward. “That’s what got you into trouble and cost you a dinner, as I recall.”
“I prefer not to,” Knight sniped.
“Well, aren’t you a ray of sunshine,” Day countered. He had to come up with something to talk about that wasn’t about the mission and didn’t make him remember the things he and Knight had done on that damned ship… or make him want to do them again. It was obvious Knight regretted what had happened, and putting his head in the sand was his reaction to it. A fairly simplistic reaction to the situation, but one Day couldn’t fight. “What have you been doing with your time off?”
Knight stretched out his legs and seemed to be getting comfortable. “Not much more than you have.”
“You said you expect to be stuck back in Records and Research, but is that what you want?” Day asked. He wanted a field assignment as soon as possible. He’d loved the rush and excitement of the mission and was hoping for another. No one had said if that was a possibility or if he was going to be transferred back to intelligence and data gathering.
“Doesn’t matter what I want… or what you want. The powers that be will decide what they need, and then they’ll tell us. But if you want my opinion, I think we did a good job. Yeah, you got shot, and….” The darkness that always filled Knight’s eyes got deeper.
A moment of insight caught Day by surprise. “Is that why you’re acting like this? Because I got shot?”
“I’m not acting any way, and yes, you were shot on a mission I was leading. So things aren’t particularly rosy at the moment.”
Day stood and stepped around the scarred wooden coffee table. “You listen here, and listen damned good. You weren’t leading anything. Our assignment was a partnership, and we worked well together. I was shot in the course of a mission, and I still managed to save your ass. So forget about this whole ‘assignment you were leading’ crap. You couldn’t have gotten in there without me, and I couldn’t have done it without you. So let go of whatever egotistical haze has clouded your brain.” Day placed his hands on both arms of the chair, staring into Knight’s eyes, remembering the depths they concealed. “I made you a promise while we were on that ship, and I intend to carry it out.”
“No.” Knight placed his hands on Day’s, lifting them off the arms. “The man who killed my wife and son is dead. That will have to be enough.”
“So you’re saying you don’t want my help tracking down whoever hired that killer?” Day asked, knowing whatever answer he got was likely to be complete bullshit.
“I’m saying I need to let it go. Tomorrow we’ll go back into work, and they’ll decide where they want us. Maybe we’ll both get field assignments, or maybe we’ll get stuck back in the holes we came from.”
“So either way it isn’t likely we’ll be working together,” Day supplied, surprised at how sad that made him feel.
“Right. Teams get created and then rearranged all the time based on what’s needed. I’ve seen it plenty of times. Whatever the next assignment requires is who they’ll send.” Knight released his hands and stood. “I should be going. I’m glad you’re doing well.” Knight walked to the door, and Day watched him leave, shutting the door behind him more firmly than necessary.
He should have known things would turn out like this. Yeah, he and Knight had experimented some on the cruise. Well, maybe it had been experimentation for Knight. If Day were honest, being with Knight had felt right, like he was where he belonged. Maybe it had for Knight too. Day had a really good idea what was behind all this: Knight had told him about losing his wife and son at one point on their trip.
Maybe all of this was for the best. Knight was probably right, and tomorrow, once they were in the office, they’d be pulled their separate ways. He had no intention of telling anyone about their time aboard ship, and Knight obviously didn’t plan to either, so there was no reason both of them shouldn’t simply go their separate ways. So why did he feel like such shit about it?