Shadow Unit

Case Files

Teasers & Deleted Scenes

J. Edgar Hoover Building, Washington D.C., January 2009

Daphne Worth's head has been killing her for the better part of three hours, she thinks, but she glances at the clock to be sure. Winter means there will be no trace of light in the windows behind Lau's desk for hours yet, but it's long since stopped being last night and moved into this morning.

Chaz must notice her searching glance with the eyes on the back of his head or his Enhanced Beta Senses, because without looking up, he says, "It's four in the morning."

The end of December, Daphne Worth thinks helplessly. I'm writing you now just to see if you're better.

"Fuck," she mutters, pressing the backs of her knuckles to her eyes. "Thanks for the earworm."

"Sorry." He must be looking up now, because his chair creaks and the sound goes through her temples like a lobotomy with an obsidian knitting needle. "No caffeine today?"

She'd shake her head, but she thinks the pain would make her puke. "No, I had some. And naproxen. And nothing. Eyestrain, it's just eyestrain."

And stress, but she doesn't say that. Can't say that, not to Chaz. Not when--well. Not when he and Hafidha are the ones with reasons to be stressed, and her own life is so gods-damned perfect right now that it's like the Good Fairy kissed her on top of the head.

His chair creaks again and she burrows her fists into her sockets until the pressure aches. Chaz can move silently when he wants to. She doesn't realize he's come up behind her until he says "don't spook" at her shoulder and she feels his warmth an inch from her back. A second later she's enfolded in the comforting aroma of Chaz, which is to say human animal and coffee and garlic and green Speedstick and the fruit-smelling conditioner Hafs gave him for his hair when they were tarting him up, all those months previous. And not even a trace of nail polish remover, even though they've all been here since 8 am yesterday. Good boy.

"Not spooking," she replies.

"Put your hands down. Leave your eyes closed. Say 'no' if this goes weird on you."

She obeys. A sliding sound makes her turn her head, but she doesn't realize it's his rubbing hands until the heated fingers press her orbits, knead, work her temples in hard circles. Big hands, bony, strong. Long enough to cover her whole oily exhausted face. His fingers slide through her hair, firm pressure, enveloping her skull. They find her occiput and her cervical vertebrae and drum like raindrops. She wonders if he remembers her thumbs locked under his jaw, her fingers stretched to their aching utmost to hold his spine erect, and lets her head fall back into his hands.

He turns it left, first, and stretches slowly, her chin to her collarbone until her heart almost races, aware of how little it would take, in this position, for him to sever her spinal cord. A careful rotation and right, for symmetry. Back to neutral and then fingers scrub across her jaw, her cheeks, her forehead, into her hair, down again, over the ears. Fingers digging behind her jaw and finding pain, unearthing and releasing it, gently pulling her ears and then running through her hair again.

He steps back. "You can open your eyes now."

She does, and finds the pain--not gone, but lessened. Withstandable. "Wow. Bear my children?"

"T'ai chi," he says, scissoring back to his own chair in a stride and a half of long legs. "Knew all the damn PT would eventually be useful for something."