Debra Fran Baker

Danny was at it again. He standing over me, fidgeting and shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Again.

"Umm. Umm. Case..."

"Yeah, Dan?" I didn't even bother looking at him this time. "Is there something you want to say to me?" Nor did I even try, or want try, to keep the irritation out of my voice.

"Umm....oh, forget it."

I grabbed his arm. "No."

"No?" He pulled away from me. He'd been jumpy at my touch since the night before.


"What no?"

"No, I won't forget it. I don't even know what 'it' is, but you've been trying to say something all day, and I want you to just *say* it so we can both get back to work. Which neither of us are doing."

He dropped down on the couch. "It's...I have something I want to say. Something happened last night. With Abby."

"I thought you were looking a little less than chipper when you came back."

"Chipper? Who looks 'chipper'?" He stared at me in amazement.

"I do. I can look like the platonic ideal of 'chipper'. Danny, what happened? Rough session?"

"Rough?" He snorted. "You could call it that. You could call it being put through a wringer."

"Sounds like you had a breakthrough."

"Yeah. You could call it that, I guess, except it was something I already knew."

"You had a breakthrough about something you already knew?"

"You put it that way, it sounds really stupid." He closed his eyes for a moment.

"Breakthroughs are about something you've got hidden, right? From yourself?" I fought to understand. Something was really wrong here, and I was getting scared.

"And yet I had one. They can be about admitting things that you didn't want public, apparently." He ran his fingers through his hair. "Look, this isn't easy. I don't want to do this, because if I do this, it will change everything, and everything is good the way it is. I like things this way."

"This way?"

"With us. As friends. Best friends. Partners. I like us this way."

"Nothing will change that." So why was I shivering? "Nothing. I won't let it."

"It will change, Case. It has to. And I have to do it, because Abby says it's eating me up inside, and if I do this, I can deal with it. But I don't want to deal with it."

I moved to the couch myself, next to him. I put my hand on his shoulder. He flinched, but didn't move away. "I promise you. I won't let whatever it is change us. You're too important to me."

He looked at me, a mixture of hope and despair naked on his face. "Don't promise. You don't know, so don't promise." He took a deep breath. "This is going to be damned hard. Please, don't interrupt me until I get it all out. If I do."


"That is not not interrupting."

"Sorry." I locked my lips and gestured for him to continue.

He took yet another breath. "Okay. I said it before. I think of you as my best friend. My partner.'re more than that. You're...closer to me than my brother was. You're...this is impossible." He rubbed at his eyes. "I'm just going to say it." For the first time in what seemed forever, he looked straight into my eyes. His were red and puffy. He hadn't been sleeping again. His hair was unc