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'cause you and i are built to last, if you want

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As far as make-up first dates go, Skylar is a perfectly good time. And at the end of the night, when Skylar leans in, Lucy closes the distance.

In another reality, Lucy would have pressed her palms into Skylar's hips when she kissed her, touched her with invitation, and suggested she take her home. In another reality, Lucy would have chosen to surf a different wave, metaphorically speaking.

But when Skylar pulls away and asks Lucy if everything's okay, Lucy says yes, the way you're supposed to on date one-point-five when the answer would involve talking about an ex and about heartbreak, and Skylar politely reciprocates by not prodding.

They make vague plans to "do this again sometime."

Lucy drives home, the radio filling the hollow parts of her. She hasn't seen Whistler in a few days, and she knows any chance of Whistler defying her doctor's orders again and popping by the office have been dashed by their last interaction. Lucy had certainly made sure of that.

Lucy drums her thumbs against the steering wheel, and suddenly the thought of going home to an empty apartment feels unbearable. Lucy glances at the time on the dashboard. It's a few minutes past ten.

"Hey Siri, call Whistler."

Siri responds with a monotonous calling Kate Whistler through the car speakers.

It rings five times, and Lucy is bracing for the voicemail prompt when the line clicks.

"Lucy?"

"Can I come over?" Lucy asks in lieu of a greeting. When no immediate reply comes, Lucy continues, "I know it's late and I'm sure your doctor gave you strict orders to rest, and—"

"Lucy," Whistler interrupts. "You can come over anytime. You don't have to ask."

Lucy bites down the urge to throw out a nasty comment about the last time she showed up at Whistler's place unannounced. Judging by Whistler's sharp inhale, she hears the unsaid anyway.

"But I'm not in the mood to be berated for my mistakes tonight," Whistler adds, sounding more defeated than combative. "So if you're just looking for a punching bag, maybe another time."

"No, that's not—" Lucy sighs. "I'm not looking for a fight, Whistler."

Whistler takes a beat. "Is this a booty call?"

"No! No." Annoyingly, Lucy's cheeks grow warm. "This is absolutely not that."

Whistler scoffs. "You don't have to sound offended. I don't recall you filing any complaints."

"This is not a booty call," Lucy reiterates, off-kilter.

Another beat. "Well, you know where I live."

"I'll be there in ten."

--

Lucy's body hums with anxiety in the elevator ride up to Whistler's floor. She tries not to relive the last time she was in this elevator, holding back tears while the pizza guy looked increasingly concerned and uncomfortable.

The elevator dings as it arrives on Whistler's floor. Lucy steps out, muscle memory carrying her to Whistler's door. She takes a deep breath and knocks.

Whistler answers the door in a Northwestern t-shirt and gray sweatpants, her left wrist in a brace. She's still moving slowly and the bruises along her jawline have shifted to dark purple against her pale skin. Whistler is still so painfully gorgeous, Lucy notes, and she almost slips up and tells her as much.

Whistler's hand comes to rest against the door frame, her body blocking the entrance, cautious.

"Hey, Lucy."

"I hope I didn't wake you," Lucy says, not knowing what to do with her empty hands.

"I was up," Whistler reassures, but offers nothing more.

Lucy shifts her weight, waiting for an invitation that doesn't come. "Can... I come in?"

Whistler startles, like she hadn't noticed her defensive stance. "Yes, of course," she says, moving aside.

Lucy steps inside and closes the door behind her. She suddenly feels out of place, even though this had been her second home for a while. She tries not to think about that.

"Sorry about the mess," Whistler says absently, motioning at the single used cup on her countertop. "It's tough to keep things tidy with a sprained wrist."

"If you saw the state of my home in comparison," Lucy says lightly, "you'd think I've never had an operational wrist."

Whistler smiles, hesitant. "That wasn't meant to be judgmental."

"I know," Lucy says, returning the smile. She misses when Whistler wasn't so tense around her all the time.

Whistler clears her throat. "If you'd like something to drink, please help yourself."

Lucy moves into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of water, just to give herself something to do. Whistler is still standing in the same place when she's done and watches her take a sip of water.

"Should we sit?" Lucy asks, motioning toward the couch.

"Right, sorry," Whistler says, pivoting toward the living room. She waits until Lucy circles the kitchen counter and takes a seat before slowly lowering herself onto the opposite end of the couch.

There is a comically large distance between them, which might be appropriate given the circumstances, but Lucy's never been fond of metaphors.

"This is ridiculous," Lucy mumbles, putting her glass down on the coffee table and sliding herself over to the middle seat.

Whistler stays still, but Lucy suspects that has more to do with the couch arm at her back than anything else. Whistler's body is stiff, even by her standards, and while Lucy hasn't forgotten where all of Whistler's tension release valves are, she's pretty sure they'd have the opposite effect now.

"How, um, how are you doing?" Lucy settles for asking. "You look good. Injury-wise," she clarifies.

The little slip up seems to put Whistler at ease. "Yeah, I'm getting there, injury-wise."

Lucy reaches up, her hand hovering over the bruises on Whistler's neck and jaw, close enough to feel the heat on her palm. Whistler watches, unmoving, until Lucy pulls her hand away without touching. Whistler shuts her eyes momentarily and sighs.

"Whistler, when you ran into that house the other day," Lucy broaches, eyes meeting again.

"I know I should have waited for backup," Whistler says, bristling. "We don't have to rehash this."

"No, not that. Well, yes, you should have, but that's not—" Lucy takes a deep breath. "I was really scared, Whistler."

"Hey, I'm okay," Whistler reassures. "I'm tougher than I look."

"I would argue the opposite," Lucy counters. "You look like you could beat me up but we both know I'd take you in a fistfight."

"That's because you fight dirty," Whistler points out.

"Hell yeah I do! How else am I going to take down a person two to three times my size?"

Whistler fails to hide her adoring grin. "Guess I have some tricks to learn from you then."

"I started taking a Lua class," Lucy tells her, hesitating a moment before adding, "You should come."

"Why do I get the feeling this is less an invitation to train together and more an excuse to beat me up with paddles?" Whistler asks lightheartedly.

Lucy really, really tries to stop herself, but, "Are you saying you don't enjoy a good paddling?"

Whistler immediately goes bright red. "That was one time," she says, stumbling. She lowers her voice, even though there's no one else around. "And I requested that in confidence."

"I was very much into it," Lucy reassures, and because she thinks Whistler needs to hear it, she adds, "Thank you for trusting me."

Whistler nods, still flushed to the tips of her ears and avoiding fully looking at Lucy. "Despite the teasing I'm enduring now, you made me feel really comfortable and good about myself that day, and I appreciate you for that."

Lucy still remembers the feeling of being comfortable, of feeling good, around Whistler. It's why she'd gone to find her after getting assigned her first undercover mission, full of nerves and excitement. Whistler knew how to talk her down from cliffs, and gave surprisingly good hugs for someone who walked around like her spine had been fused together for convenience.

"It was a good day," Lucy settles for saying. "We had a lot of those."

Whistler looks like she's been punched in the stomach again. "Lucy—"

"Whistler," Lucy cuts in, mostly to stop Whistler from apologizing again. "I'll send you the info for my Lua class."

"Thanks," Whistler says, voice strained like she's on the verge of tears.

Lucy's first instinct is to physically comfort Whistler, because she just looks so damn sad. Lucy knows Whistler's still beating herself up over what happened, and the setting and familiarity of it almost makes Lucy forget that she can't just lean over and reassure Whistler with gentle hands and soft lips.

The way Whistler is watching her now, Lucy's pretty sure she could get away with both.

"Your, uh, your boss told me DIA wanted you in management," Lucy says, mostly to fill the space. "Much less risk of injury being a desk jockey in DC."

"That's not the life that I wanted," Whistler replies without hesitation. She offers a small smile. "I stayed in Hawaii for you, but I also stayed for me."

Lucy watches Whistler take a shallow, steadying breath.

"I have a life here, now," Whistler continues. "And yes, you are—were a really big part of that life, but I didn't secretly make some huge sacrifice without consulting you. This is what I wanted."

"Would you have taken the promotion if we hadn't been together?" Lucy asks.

"I don't know," Whistler answers honestly.

Lucy can't help herself. "I'm sure Cara would've been excited to not be long distance anymore."

"Lucy..." Whistler sighs in frustration. "We weren't—"

"Together, yeah, you've said." Lucy takes a deep breath, apologetic. "I didn't come here to instigate."

Whistler takes a moment to just breathe. "You know, you permanently changed Hawaii for me, made it feel like it could be home." The smile she offers is hesitant, but her words are steady with certainty. "So if in some alternate universe we'd never been together, maybe I would've gone back, but I see Hawaii differently now, having been with you."

"Whistler..." Lucy bites her lip, carefully riding the waves in her heart. "Why didn't you ever say anything like that to me?"

"I've never been very good at telling the people I care about that I care about them," Whistler admits. "And I've had a lot of time to sit in the dark and self-reflect in the past month or two."

"Do you regret it? After—" Lucy motions at the space between them. "After everything."

"No," Whistler replies without hesitation. "It's not exactly what I imagined, but I won't miss the DC winters. And I get to surf every weekend, so..." Her shoulders lift in a shrug, and she winces at the movement.

Instinctively, Lucy reaches out and touches Whistler's arm in concern. "Maybe not next weekend though," Lucy says lightly, which earns her a small huff of indignation.

Lucy slides her hand down Whistler's arm, letting it come to rest against Whistler's wrist and open palm. Whistler's fingertips twitch, leaving Lucy's skin tingling where they touch. Lucy brushes her thumb over the pulse point on Whistler's wrist and watches her forearm flex involuntarily. If Whistler remembers Lucy having enforced a "hands to ourselves" rule, she doesn't mention it.

"What did you imagine," Lucy asks quietly, "when you decided to stay in Hawaii?"

Whistler takes a shuddering breath. "Lucy, you know."

Lucy scrunches up her face to soothe the pricking behind her eyelids. "I might need to hear it anyway."

Whistler dips her head in acknowledgement. "The first night we met, you told me that you always had dogs growing up and that you missed being able to come home to one. That always stuck with me. I imagined a life with you and a puppy that would grow into its giant paws. Everything else seemed unimportant in comparison."

"I can't believe you remembered that," Lucy says, the words catching in her throat.

"I worked in intelligence," Whistler dismisses, cheeks flushed. "And you were extremely adorable talking about all your childhood pets. It was hard to forget."

Lucy smiles in spite of herself, warmth creeping up her neck. It feels so easy, sometimes, to fall back into the comfort of Whistler's words, her expressive eyes. Months ago, Lucy would have never imagined that Whistler would be the one with her heart bleeding on her sleeve, quietly pleading for forgiveness, trying and retrying despite Lucy's refusal to give an inch.

"I know I screwed all that up for us," Whistler says after a moment. "I'm sorry."

"I haven't made it easy for you these past few weeks," Lucy acknowledges.

The corner of Whistler's mouth turns up in a sad smile. "I think I deserved it."

Lucy dips her head. "Not like this."

"It's okay," Whistler reassures, her braced hand reaching for Lucy's lap before dropping back down on her own. Lucy's leg twitches for the missing contact. Whistler's other hand is still pinned under Lucy's, and she curls her fingers tentatively around Lucy's wrist. "Lucy, it's okay."

And Lucy knows that it's not, that any twisted satisfaction she thought she'd get from hurting Whistler hasn't been worth the wounded look that Whistler has been nursing for weeks.

"I'm tough," Whistler continues, a hint of weariness behind her bravado. "I can take it."

Lucy looks down at their loosely held hands. "I'm sorry, Kate."

"You don't have to be," Whistler says immediately. She smiles softly, gently pivots. "You know, no one calls me by my first name except my parents and, strangely enough, sometimes Tennant. Maybe some college friends, but I rarely see them these days."

Lucy meets Whistler's gaze again. "Is it weird when I do?"

"No," Whistler reassures. Her eyes drift over Lucy's features, studying her. When Whistler speaks again, she wavers over her words. "Noah did too."

Lucy reaches up to cup Whistler's cheek, just to be closer to her in her moment of grief, and Whistler lets out a deep, laboring breath and leans into the touch.

They sit quietly for a few moments, until Whistler delicately extracts herself and clears her throat. Lucy pulls her hand away and waits.

"Noah was Whistler before I was," Whistler says, bittersweet. "When I first started at DIA, whenever anyone called my name, for a moment, I'd think they were asking for him."

Lucy offers a small, encouraging smile.

Whistler takes a deep breath. "I know it hurts my parents to hear people call me Whistler, and that—I don't think I can ever reconcile with that."

"It's your name, too," Lucy says gently.

"It doesn't always feel like it when I'm home," Whistler replies. She shifts against the couch with unease. "I'm sure you don't want to hear about all the therapy my family still needs."

Lucy smiles sadly, the affection in her chest too heavy to carry. "On my sixteenth birthday, my father parked a brand new Lexus on our driveway and told me I could have it if I went to homecoming with Nate Hernandez instead of his sister Gabby."

Whistler's eyes soften with empathy and a glint of pain. "I'm really sorry that happened to you."

"Me too," Lucy says, pushing through. She's never told anyone the next part out loud, but she knows she can, now. "I went with Nate. Not for the car, which I never drove, but for my father's approval. I've always regretted that."

"That wasn't your fault," Whistler tells her, a hint of anger coloring her words.

"I know," Lucy says, thinking about when she'd blurted out that she wanted them to be intimate in the middle of an archive room. This feels like that. "We all have family stuff, Whistler, and I do want to hear about yours, if and when you want to talk about it."

"That isn't exactly the impression I've gotten recently," Whistler says, with more resignation than anything else. "I don't blame you for that, obviously."

"I don't want to be angry and hurt forever," Lucy says, pushing through a flash of both. "Which, for the record, I am still very much angry and hurt, but—"

"But you're here," Whistler acknowledges.

Lucy nods. "But I'm here."

"I was actually surprised to hear from you tonight," Whistler says. "Did something happen?"

Lucy hesitates. She knows there's no way to answer that without hurting Whistler, and she doesn't want to do that anymore, but she doesn't want to lie, either.

Concern knits into Whistler's eyebrows when Lucy doesn't answer. "Did something bad happen to you?" she presses.

Lucy startles. "What? No. I just, uh, I went on a date tonight."

"Oh." Whistler visibly stiffens, and she starts to pull her hand out from under Lucy's, but Lucy holds on. Whistler swallows thickly. "How—how'd it go?"

"It was fine," Lucy says with a small shrug. "I called you on my way home."

Whistler is searching Lucy's features. "Why?"

She wasn't you, Lucy wants to say, but she isn't sure she's ready to hear herself admit that out loud. Instead, she shifts her hand over Whistler's until she's gripping her palm. "I had to psych myself up to even be there, you know?"

"I haven't been seeing anyone," Whistler offers, evenly, "so no, I can't say that I know." She leans her head back and shuts her eyes momentarily. "Lucy, I know we're trying to be friends again, but I don't think I can handle talking about this yet."

Lucy squeezes Whistler's hand in acknowledgment.

Whistler's eyes flutter open, but she stares up at her ceiling. "You choose the waves you surf. Isn't that what you said?"

"Sometimes I just say things," Lucy admits.

"I noticed," Whistler teases, the beginnings of a smile playing on her lips. She turns to look at Lucy again.

Lucy fights the urge to press Whistler into the couch and kiss that smirk off her face. It would be an awful idea, for a variety of reasons that start with Whistler still being in visible pain and end with Lucy's battered and bruised heart not quite ready for the consequences, but Lucy allows herself the momentarily pleasure to imagine it vividly anyway.

"Hey," Whistler says, "where'd you go?"

Lucy flushes, laughs nervously. "Uh, I was just..." Bein' gay, she almost says out loud. Which, not a crime. The embarrassment she'd have felt if she'd verbalized it? Might well be a crime. "Just exercising my God-given right to imagination."

Whistler gives Lucy a look of confusion, but she doesn't hassle her about it.

"Do you want to go to bed?" Lucy asks. Then, realizing how that had sounded, amends, "Not with me, just, in general. Because it's late and I've kept you up. With, you know, conversation, and wit, and charm."

Whistler's smile brims with warmth and affection. She's cautious when she asks, "Am I allowed to tell you that I've missed you?"

Lucy's chest aches. "You're allowed to be honest."

"I've missed you so much," Whistler reiterates softly. "I wish I could ask you to stay tonight."

Lucy shifts against the couch, trying to ignore the sudden heat between her legs. "Whistler..."

"I know." Whistler looks embarrassed. "I—I'm sorry for even saying it."

"Don't be sorry if you mean it," Lucy tells her, sensing her resolve faltering. "I should go."

Whistler nods and watches as Lucy stands up, finally letting go of her hand. Lucy hovers over Whistler for a moment and thinks about how easy it would be to stay. Lucy reaches out and touches the side of Whistler's face, then leans down to press a quick kiss to her temple. Whistler's hand slides up Lucy's thigh like she's anchoring herself, and Lucy almost allows that to be the catalyst to fall forward and straddle Whistler's lap.

"I'll let myself out," Lucy says before she can change her mind, and annoyingly, she hears the arousal in her own voice. "Night, Whistler."

Whistler clears her throat, withdraws her hand. "Night, Lucy."

Lucy turns for the exit and makes her way out of Whistler's apartment. Once she closes the door behind her, she lets out a deep breath. She's going to go home, take a long shower, and hope for some clarity in the morning.

--

Lucy calls Skylar and tries to let her down easy, it's-not-you-it's-me style. When Skylar probes about not being over an ex, Lucy doesn't make an attempt to correct her.

Two navy officers turn up dead, and the team dives head-first into the case, working long hours to bring their victims' families some closure. It's the nature of their work; on busy weeks, Lucy barely has a chance to go home and sleep, but when no one is getting murdered, there's plenty of down time where Tennant is pretty good about letting them live their lives.

In a way, Lucy appreciates the distraction.

Every day after work, on her drive back home, Lucy calls Whistler to check up on her. They chat about easy topics - office gossip and all the books Whistler finally has a chance to read, and avoid the tough ones - feelings, relationships, and why Lucy starts taking the scenic route home.

--

The click of Whistler's heels on the bullpen floor triggers something Pavlovian in Lucy as she looks up to find Whistler approaching. A stack of folders is tucked under Whistler's arm, and she slows when she nears Lucy's desk.

"Hey," Whistler greets with a hint of nerves, resting her folders against the edge of Lucy's desk.

"Hey yourself," Lucy replies, flashing a smile as she leans forward in her seat. "I thought you weren't supposed to be back for another week."

"I was going a bit stir-crazy not being able to help you on this case," Whistler explains.

Lucy reaches across the desk to lift the sleeve of Whistler's blazer, revealing the bandages still wrapped around her wrist. Lucy raises an eyebrow at Whistler.

"I'm on desk duty, I promise," Whistler says, readjusting her sleeve back over her bandages.

Lucy nods, temporarily appeased. She motions at the folders. "Those for me?"

Whistler points her chin toward Tennant's office. "Tennant, actually. I just wanted to stop by and thank you for checking up on me this past week."

"I was just making sure you didn't starve to death," Lucy deflects. They share a smile that feels a touch too intimate. "I'm glad you're back, Whistler."

Whistler taps her knuckles gently against Lucy's desk and tucks her folders back under her arm. She glances around to see who's within earshot. Jesse is at his desk, distracted by whoever he's got on the phone.

"When this case is over," Whistler broaches, "do you want to maybe grab a drink?"

Lucy rests her chin on her tented hands. "Like a date?"

"Like whatever you're comfortable calling it," Whistler tells her. "It can just be a drink."

"I'd like that," Lucy decides. "Just a drink."

Whistler nods. If she's disappointed, she doesn't show it. "I'll come find you."

Whistler turns toward Tennant's office. Before she's made it ten steps, Jesse hangs up the phone and leans back in his chair.

"Nice to see you around again, Whistler!" Jesse calls out after her.

Whistler momentarily slows her pace. "Thank you, Jesse."

Once Whistler closes Tennant's office door behind her, Jesse turns to Lucy.

"Not that it's any of my business, but the two of you make up or something?" Jesse asks. "Whistler seems chipper this morning."

"That's chipper to you?" Lucy asks, glancing through the glass walls of Tennant's office. Whistler has one of her folders open, and she's pointing something out to Tennant.

"It's all relative, Luce. Compared to before she went on leave, she's practically floating. You say something nice to her?"

"We were just talking," Lucy says, trying not to sound defensive.

Jesse shrugs. "Well, whatever it is. Glad she's feeling better."

Lucy looks at Tennant's office and smiles. "Yeah, me too."

--

Whistler's intel comes through, arrests are made, and as promised, Whistler comes to find Lucy after work.

Whistler has changed into flats and has her blazer draped over her arm. Her hair is down, and she's smiling when she leans against Lucy's desk.

"Ready to go?"

Lucy gets up and starts packing her backpack. "You're in a good mood," she observes.

"Yeah, well, I've been cooped up at home for over a week," Whistler says. "We solved the case and I'm excited to go out."

Lucy slings her backpack over her shoulder and rounds her desk to stand next to Whistler. "Lead the way."

Whistler starts toward the elevator, and Lucy walks in step next to her. The muscle memory of walking out of the bullpen with Whistler, usually with date night plans and an accompanying sleepover, throws Lucy for a loop. This is not that, but she hasn't let herself really process how much she's missed it.

Whistler is watching her curiously when they stop in front of the elevator. Lucy tightens her grip around the strap of her backpack.

"So, where are we going?" Lucy asks.

Whistler hits the elevator button. Before she has a chance to answer, the elevator dings, the doors slide open, and Tennant steps out. She seems momentarily surprised to see them both standing there, but then she smiles.

"Lucy, Whistler," Tennant greets.

"We're just getting drinks," Lucy explains, pressing a hand against the elevator door to stop it from closing. "Platonically."

Tennant's smile widens, and she nods knowingly. "Good work today, both of you, and enjoy your drinks." She turns specifically to Whistler. "Good luck."

Whistler looks every bit like she was caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She clears her throat. "Thank you, Special Agent Tennant."

Satisfied, Tennant heads into the bullpen, and Lucy and Whistler step into the elevator. Lucy presses the ground floor button and turns to Whistler, who has committed to staring at the elevator doors as they close.

"I don't know why she wished me luck," Whistler says.

"The blush creeping up your neck suggests otherwise," Lucy points out.

Whistler presses her palm to her neck. "I'm white, and it's hot."

Lucy laughs brightly, which makes Whistler turn to look at her with a pleased smile.

"It's okay," Lucy reassures. "My team hasn't exactly been subtle about being Team Whistler."

Whistler tilts her head. "Why didn't you tell them what I did?"

Lucy shrugs. "Who says I haven't?"

Whistler offers a dry smile. "I doubt they would be rooting for me if they knew."

The elevator dings, and they step out into the atrium and head for the parking lot exit.

"I didn't tell them because it's none of their business," Lucy says, "and because you still have to work with them."

"That's more kindness than I think I deserve," Whistler acknowledges. "Thank you."

"I know they just want the best for me," Lucy continues, "and I also know that they'd drop it if I asked."

Whistler seems to think that one over, but she doesn't push further.

They reach the exit, and Lucy pushes the door open and holds it for Whistler. She steps through, and they fall back into step as they head out into the parking lot.

The sun is low in the sky, casting shades of pink and purple across the parking lot. Lucy takes a moment to stare at Whistler's hair, which always seems to shimmer and glow when the sun is in transition.

"You never told me where we're going," Lucy says distractedly.

"We could go to a bar," Whistler offers.

Lucy grins, momentarily shifting her gaze to Whistler's face. "That is usually where drinks are served, yes. Good observation, Whistler."

Whistler smiles, slowing as they approach Lucy's SUV. Whistler sounds sincere when she admits, "I just want to spend time with you, Lucy. It really doesn't matter to me where we go."

Lucy takes a step toward Whistler. She reaches up and touches Whistler's wind-swept hair, tucks it behind her ear. There's a response at the tip of Lucy's tongue, but she forgets all about it when Whistler's gaze drifts to her lips.

There's something about parking lots, or maybe just the company.

"I, uh—" Lucy's fingertips brush the shell of Whistler's ear before she drops her hand and tries to refocus. "I know a place."

Whistler blinks slowly. "My car's in the FBI lot."

Lucy reluctantly takes a step back and shifts her backpack to the front to dig out her keys. She hits unlock on her key fob and motions toward the passenger side of her vehicle. "I'll drive."

Lucy circles to the driver's side, taking a deep breath before pulling open the door and climbing in, tossing her backpack to the backseat. Whistler slides into the passenger's seat and folds her blazer neatly over her lap.

Lucy pulls off base and onto the main roads, sneaking glances at Whistler, who, Lucy suspects, is also sneaking glances at her.

"Now it's my turn to ask where we're going," Whistler says.

Lucy smiles, trying to retain an air of mystery. "You'll see."

"Right now, it just looks like you're taking me to your place," Whistler observes.

"It's going to look like that for most of the drive," Lucy says, glancing at Whistler, "and while I do have alcohol at home, I really don't think that's a good idea."

"I can behave," Whistler insists.

Lucy drums her thumbs against the steering wheel at the red light. "Not you I'm worried about."

Their eyes meet, and Whistler searches Lucy's face for a moment before she turns to look straight ahead, admitting, "I'm actually not sure how well I'd behave if you weren't behaving."

Lucy huffs out a short laugh. "Yeah, I know, being a lesbian is hard," she says lightheartedly. The traffic light turns green again, and she refocuses on the road. "Anyway, no, I'm not taking you to my place."

"We didn't hang out much at yours," Whistler notes, "so I can't say I'm familiar enough with your neighborhood to keep guessing."

"You had the nicer place," Lucy explains to no one in particular. "Big windows, ocean view."

"You don't even like the ocean," Whistler points out.

"I don't like physically interacting with the ocean," Lucy clarifies, giving Whistler a pointed look, "which is something only a lunatic would do."

Whistler smiles. "One day, I'll convince you to get on a surfboard."

"And who's going to rescue me when I inevitably start drowning?" Lucy asks dryly.

Whistler points a thumb at herself. "I was a lifeguard in college."

Lucy grins. "I bet that was a hit with the ladies."

Whistler is quiet for a moment. "I wasn't out yet then," she admits. "I mean, I knew, but—"

Lucy reaches over and touches Whistler's forearm. They didn't talk about that period of Whistler's life much, because Lucy knew it was inextricably tied up with what happened to Noah, and Whistler rarely seemed to want to reopen that wound. Lucy gives Whistler a chance to continue, and when she doesn't, Lucy squeezes her arm and returns to the steering wheel.

"I've been out since I was fourteen," Lucy comments at the next red light, turning to look at Whistler, "and I can't say I would recommend it."

Whistler's eyes are soft when she says, "I'm glad we're both here, now."

Lucy lets out a breath, understanding. "Yeah, so am I." She turns her attention back to the road, tightens her grip on the steering wheel, and it suddenly feels important to clarify, "I'm not still seeing that girl, by the way. I only really went out with her twice."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Whistler says evenly.

Lucy rolls her eyes. "No you're not."

Whistler takes a beat. "You deserve to be happy, Lucy, even if that's not with me."

"Well, it wasn't with her," Lucy says, leaving out the either at the tip of her tongue.

In the distance, Lucy sees their destination and changes lanes to get ready to turn. Whistler follows Lucy's gaze to an unassuming bar tucked behind a row of palm trees.

Lucy pulls into the parking lot and reverses into an empty spot. Shuts off the engine.

"This is—" Whistler leans forward, and in her realization, her hand comes to rest on Lucy's thigh, grip firm despite the bandages on her wrist.

Lucy tries not to jump at the unexpected touch. "Where we first met, yeah. I still come here sometimes."

"Meet anyone interesting?" Whistler prods, all too transparent.

"I haven't picked up any more women," Lucy replies, eyebrow quirking, "if that's what you're actually asking."

"I wasn't—" Whistler loosens her grip, but she doesn't move her hand. "It's obviously fine if you do."

"Is it?" Lucy presses.

Whistler hesitates. "I don't think my feelings really matter here, Lucy."

Lucy touches Whistler's hand. "In all the time I've been coming to this bar, you were the only one I went home with the same night."

"I was from out of town and leaving in a few days," Whistler remembers, shrugging like she knows that isn't the full truth. "We were on a bit of a time crunch."

"That wasn't why," Lucy says calmly, trying to anchor Whistler from wherever her deflection is rooted. "At least for me."

Whistler bites the corner of her lip. "Me neither. I didn't mean to imply—"

Lucy gives Whistler's hand a squeeze. "Let's talk inside."

Whistler silently follows Lucy out of the car and across the parking lot. She's walking close enough that her hand keeps brushing Lucy's, but when Lucy glances down at their swinging arms, Whistler quickly tucks her hands into her pockets. Their eyes meet, and Whistler looks embarrassed to have been caught, even though Lucy is smiling up at her.

The bar is quiet when they enter, just the low buzz of conversation and the sound of pool balls clacking off each other. The first thing Lucy notices is that the seats at the bar where they sat that first night aren't taken. She turns to Whistler, who seems to have come to the same realization. They exchange shy smiles and head toward the empty barstools. Whistler slides onto the one on the left, tucked in at the end of the bar, and Lucy climbs onto the other.

"I think I was sitting in your seat last time," Lucy comments.

"No, I was definitely sitting here," Whistler insists.

Lucy quirks an eyebrow. "How can you be so sure? It was two years ago."

"I, uh." Whistler laughs softly, a hint of pink tinting her cheeks. "I'll just say you left quite an impression against the backdrop of the bar."

Lucy grins. "Whistler," she gasps, feigning shock, "are you flirting with me?"

"I—I'm," Whistler sputters, tensing up. When she sees the smile on Lucy's face, she eases again. "You're teasing."

Lucy laughs, letting herself just enjoy the moment without everything hovering in the periphery. Whistler looks beautiful under the low light, and Lucy allows herself the simple pleasure of using her eyes.

The bartender slides over to take their orders and greets Lucy by name, casting a sideways look at Whistler. Lucy asks for a beer, Whistler a whiskey sour. The drinks arrive a minute later, and Lucy lifts her glass.

"To us catching the bad guys," Lucy offers.

Whistler clinks her tumbler against Lucy's glass and takes a sip. Lucy does the same.

"You know," Lucy says, "I always thought I was way more into you than you were into me that night."

Whistler scoffs. "That's not possible, I assure you."

Lucy opens her mouth to retort, then stops herself and takes a moment to process. Given they had ended the night in Lucy's bed, Lucy obviously knew Whistler had been into her, especially once hands started roaming, but Whistler insisting that she'd been more into Lucy than Lucy had been into her? When Lucy had spent most of that evening feeling like she would combust if they didn't start kissing soon? She's not sure about that.

"You do remember a suspiciously high number of details about that night," Lucy finally says.

Whistler's smiling now, eyes crinkled with amusement, cheeks still rosy. "Like I said, you left an impression."

Lucy takes another drink of beer. "I do recall you were quite popular, fighting off suitors left and right."

"Everyone except you," Whistler points out.

Lucy grins. "I was just looking for good conversation."

"You were flirting a little, too," Whistler counters.

"I was flirting a lot!" Lucy protests, earning a genuine laugh from Whistler. "It took you so long to flirt back, I thought you weren't interested."

Whistler shakes her head. "I don't exactly have a great track record of making my intentions clear."

Lucy leans in, lowers her voice. "Your intentions were made plenty clear when you finally kissed me outside the bar."

Whistler tilts the tumbler to her face to hide the deep blush blooming across her cheeks. Lucy thinks she could get drunk on her power to make Whistler squirm.

"I had been thinking about it all night," Whistler admits.

Lucy sees the button, and pushes. "Are you thinking about it now?"

To Whistler's credit, she doesn't flinch. "We're just having drinks."

"That wasn't the question," Lucy says calmly, mindlessly gliding her thumb over the condensation on her glass.

Whistler glances at Lucy's glass, then briefly at her lips. "Lucy, you know that I am." She exhales sharply. "But it doesn't matter, because you should dictate where this goes and at what pace."

"I don't know where I want this to go yet," Lucy says, turning her focus to her drink.

Whistler nods. "Whatever you need from me is yours," she says, sounding so sincere that Lucy doesn't know how to handle it.

Lucy brings her glass to her lips and downs a gulp of beer. "Change the subject?" she requests quietly.

Whistler takes a sip of her own drink and complies. "I signed up for your Lua class."

Lucy lights up then, spinning in her stool to face Whistler. "I'm super excited! Although if you show up this week with that wrist, I will break all your bones."

Whistler laughs. "I'm sure you could."

"I'm serious! No training until you get the all-clear from your doctor." Lucy's eyes widen in realization, and she reaches over to grab Whistler's drink. "You're not still on pain meds, are you?"

Whistler touches Lucy's hand and takes her drink back. "I'm not on any meds," she promises. "And I solemnly swear I won't overexert myself until I'm cleared for the field."

Lucy doesn't pull her hand away, and neither does Whistler.

"You don't have to worry about me," Whistler says, and Lucy knows she means more than just her fading bruises and healing bones.

"I worry more because it's you," Lucy admits.

Whistler curls her fingers around Lucy's, brushing the pad of her thumb over Lucy's knuckles. "I'll wait for backup next time."

Lucy downs the rest of her beer and motions to the bartender for a refill.

"How are you at pool?" Whistler asks, looking somewhere past Lucy.

Lucy follows Whistler's line of sight to the pool table in the back being cleared out with no one else in wait. She turns back to Whistler and narrows her eyes. "Do I sense a challenge?"

Whistler's smirk is full of confidence. "You may be very talented at many things, but there's no way you'll beat me at pool."

"You must know how much I love to crush arrogance," Lucy says, mirroring the grin.

"Loser gets next round?" Whistler suggests, tapping the side of her tumbler.

"No, I want higher stakes." Lucy pauses thoughtfully. "If I win, you bring me lunch for a week, and if you win—"

"You come surfing with me," Whistler cuts in.

Lucy tilts her head in confusion. "Are you forgetting I can barely swim?"

"A swimming lesson, then," Whistler amends. She quirks an eyebrow, teasing. "I thought you were going to beat me, so what does it matter what you ante up?"

"You know what? You're right." Lucy holds out her hand.

Whistler grasps it in a firm handshake. "You're going to look so cute in your bathing suit," she says, spinning around in her stool and sliding off.

Lucy hops off her own stool and gasps like she's scandalized. "I knew you had ulterior motives, Kate Whistler."

Whistler's smile is bright and warm. She takes a step toward Lucy, and for a split second, Lucy thinks Whistler might kiss her against the bar, despite what she'd said earlier about letting Lucy take the lead. But Whistler shows restraint as she reaches past Lucy for the new glass of beer that the bartender had just placed there. Whistler's hair brushes against Lucy's cheek, and embarrassingly, Lucy can feel her pulse racing.

"This is yours," Whistler says, holding out the glass.

"Right." Lucy takes the beer. "Um, thanks."

Whistler picks up her own drink and heads for the empty pool table. Lucy follows closely behind, and if she checks out Whistler's butt on the way, well, she's only a small, gay human.

--

Whistler banks the 8 ball off the side rail and sinks it into the corner pocket. She turns to Lucy with a dazzling grin.

"Better dig out your floaties," Whistler teases.

Lucy is still flushed from her last round, when Whistler had decided to lean over her to help line up her shot.

"You played dirty!" Lucy protests.

"I was just trying to show you your best play," Whistler says innocently.

Lucy crowds into Whistler's space, backing her up against the side of the pool table. "Is that what you were doing?" she challenges.

"Lucy..." Whistler swallows hard, her knuckles white around the cue stick she's gripping. Her other hand finds the edge of the table for balance. "Okay, okay! I played dirty, but that wasn't against the rules."

Lucy's ready to break a couple of rules right about now, she thinks as she pins Whistler between herself and the pool table and applies the lightest pressure. The soft oh that escapes Whistler's lips sends a spark to the pit of Lucy's stomach, but before Lucy has a chance to make a decision, another bar patron across the pool table clears his throat.

"Sorry, y'all done with this table?"

Lucy pulls away just enough to address him. He looks mostly harmless, and far too clueless and heterosexual to properly gauge what he's interrupting. Lucy's pretty sure he's about to invite them to join him and his buddies, so she extracts Whistler's cue stick from her vice grip and hands it to him.

"All yours, bud."

Lucy grabs Whistler's hand and leads her toward the exit.

The sun has set, and the air outside is cool. A light breeze brushes past them, and Lucy shivers. Whistler wraps her arm around Lucy's shoulders out of habit, her hand rubbing Lucy's arm in an effort to warm her up. Lucy leans into Whistler's body, seeking heat.

"We have work in the morning," Lucy offers as an explanation for a question that wasn't asked.

Whistler squeezes Lucy's arm in acknowledgment.

"I've had a couple beers and I only live a few blocks away," Lucy continues, "so I'll just pick up my car in the morning. I can call you a cab."

"Can I walk you home?" Whistler asks.

Lucy looks up at Whistler, at her soft, hopeful eyes. "I'm not going to invite you up."

Whistler nods. "I wasn't expecting to be."

"Not because I don't want to," Lucy feels the need to clarify. "But we haven't had the difficult conversation yet, and I think we owe ourselves that."

"We do," Whistler agrees. "Lucy, I'm following your lead."

Lucy takes Whistler's hand again. They stop by Lucy's car to grab Whistler's blazer, which Whistler promptly drapes over Lucy's shoulders.

The walk back to Lucy's is quiet. Whistler's hand stays tucked in Lucy's the whole time, and Lucy has to keep reminding herself that she can't just spin Whistler around and kiss her. Not that she thinks Whistler would mind, but Lucy doesn't trust herself to end it there for the night, and she knows that the hurt she's still carrying around hasn't dissipated. It's just mercifully taking a break for the evening.

They stop in front of Lucy's building and turn to face each other. Whistler pulls out her phone to call an Uber.

"Tonight didn't feel like just drinks, huh?" Lucy asks lightly.

Whistler smiles. If she's nervous, Lucy can't tell. "Structurally, I think playing pool is included in the realm of drinks."

"I mean emotionally," Lucy says, the steady beat of her heart grounding her.

"Emotionally, I'm kind of a wreck right now," Whistler deflects with a self-deprecating laugh.

Lucy studies her for a moment. "You're holding it together pretty well."

"It'll be a different story when I get home," Whistler admits.

Lucy doesn't tell Whistler her own plans of going upstairs, taking a quick shower, and touching herself to the way Whistler has been looking at her all evening.

"What are you doing this weekend?" Whistler asks, eyes drifting over Lucy's face.

Lucy grins. "Why? Are you inviting me to just drinks again?"

"The beach, actually." Whistler flashes a smile. "Unless Lucy Tara wants to be known as someone who backs out of a bet."

Lucy tries to ignore the way her body is reacting to the teasing. "I am not taking a swimming lesson in the ocean," she protests. "Are you out of your mind?"

"A pool, then," Whistler concedes easily.

Lucy shudders. "One that has a shallow end, please."

"Shallow enough for you would have to be a kiddie pool," Whistler teases.

Lucy's mouth drops open. Whistler's laughing now, eyes sparkling in a way that makes Lucy's insides perform acrobatics, and Lucy has never been so painfully aware of how attractive Whistler is when she's brimming with genuine joy, uninhibited.

Lucy's palms find Whistler's jaw, fingertips threading through hair, reaching for the back of Whistler's neck. Whistler's moving before Lucy even applies pressure, and Lucy's lips catch hers. Whistler lets out a whimper that sounds like relief.

The kiss is frantic and messy and uncoordinated, all desperation and no control. Whistler's hands slide to Lucy's hips, then up under the blazer to rest at the small of her back, sending a jolt up Lucy's spine when she pulls her closer. Lucy loosens her grip on Whistler's face, and their kisses turn slow and deliberate, heat radiating out from where their bodies are touching.

The honk of a car's horn jars them out of the moment, and they break apart just enough to catch their breath, foreheads still pressed together.

"I think that's my Uber," Whistler says breathlessly, making no effort to move.

"I'm free Saturday," Lucy replies instead of acknowledging Whistler's comment.

Whistler kisses her again, softer this time. Another honk. Lucy's lips chase Whistler's as she pulls away.

"Think I'm going to lose my 5 star rating?" Whistler asks.

Lucy laughs, letting her hands slide down to Whistler's shoulders. Against the wishes of every molecule of her being, Lucy gives Whistler a gentle push. "You need to go, right now."

Whistler's hands slide lower, shamelessly tucking themselves into the back pockets of Lucy's jeans, pulling just enough to draw a sound from Lucy that she emphatically refuses to acknowledge is a moan. Whistler looks too pleased with herself anyway, and Lucy rolls to her toes to reach Whistler's lips again.

One more kiss, and Whistler finally manages to extract herself, shoving her hands into her own pockets to keep them at bay.

Whistler's voice sounds shot when she says, "See you tomorrow?"

Lucy's brain seems to have diverted all its resources to her lips and fingertips, and she's slow to process Whistler's words. "Mm-hm, yep, tomorrow. Work. Cases. Murder."

Whistler laughs brightly, brimming with affection, and Lucy reflexively squeezes her thighs together.

With her hands still tucked firmly in her own pockets, Whistler pivots toward the increasingly impatient car parked on the street. Right before she pulls open the car door, she turns back.

"You look really cute in my blazer," she calls out.

Lucy had forgotten that she still had it on. She starts to take it off, but Whistler holds her hand up to stop her.

"Keep it. Please. If you come near me again tonight, I might actually go up in flames."

Whistler is smiling when she disappears into the car. Lucy watches it take off down the street, then starts the trek up to her apartment, curling deeper into Whistler's blazer.

--

Lucy makes her way to the FBI building before work the next morning. She's only been there a handful of times, and never to Whistler's office, but she remembers seeing an office labeled Special Agent K. Whistler when ASAC Curtis had brought her in and she'd found out that Whistler had taken the FBI transfer to stay in Hawaii.

Lucy finds the sign again and peeks through the narrow pane of glass next to the door to find Whistler already seated at her desk, hunched over a report. Lucy knocks, and when Whistler looks up, Lucy pushes open the door and steps inside.

Whistler seems surprised to see her. "Lucy. Hi. What are you doing here?" she asks, motioning for Lucy to close the door.

"Came to return this," Lucy says, holding out the blazer with one hand while pushing the door closed with the other.

Whistler gets up and rounds her desk. "You didn't have to make the trek. I'm sure something would've brought me down to NCIS today."

Lucy narrows her eyes. "And suffer the teasing of my perceptive and nosy team when I hand you an article of clothing that you were wearing yesterday?"

"Good point," Whistler concedes. She takes the blazer and hangs it up on her coat rack, then takes a step closer. She's wringing her hands. "Listen, about last night..."

"Was there another joint terrorism security brief?"

Whistler huffs out a laugh, but her shoulders remain tense. "I just—did I cross any lines? Because if I did—"

"Hey," Lucy cuts in, mildly confused, "I kissed you, remember?"

"I remember very well," Whistler says, "but like you said, we haven't talked about what happened, and I'm—I said I could behave, but clearly, I didn't."

Lucy tilts her head. "You mean putting your tongue in my mouth while you touched my butt wasn't behaving?"

Whistler visibly blanches.

"Whistler, relax. My tongue got in your mouth first." Lucy takes a pointed pause. "The butt touching was all you though."

"Lucy," Whistler says quietly.

Lucy sobers when she catches Whistler's tone. "This is really stressing you out."

"I just don't want you to think that I'm only interested in..." Whistler motions excessively and incomprehensibly with her hands, but still ends on, "touching butts."

Lucy almost laughs at the absurdity of it all, but for Whistler's sake, she says, "I don't think that, and you didn't cross any lines. Last night was really nice, Whistler. Don't overthink it."

Whistler takes a deep breath. "It was really nice for me too."

Lucy studies her for a moment. "I know I've been hot and cold recently," she tells her, "mostly cold, but I don't want you to feel like you have to walk on eggshells around me." She offers a reassuring smile. "I wanted to kiss you, so I did. I would've been slightly offended if you tried to stop me."

"Well," Whistler says, finally with a smile, "I wouldn't have tried to stop you."

"So we're on the same page," Lucy summarizes. "Kissing, good. Overanalysis, bad."

"I should get overanalysis, bad tattooed on me," Whistler says with a dry laugh.

"I'll keep reminding you," Lucy says without thinking much of it, but when she hears herself say the words, it sounds like a promise of time.

Judging by Whistler's hopeful expression, she hears it too. She looks like she wants to say something, but after a beat of silence, changes her mind.

Lucy points a thumb at the door. "I should probably head back. Your replacement at DIA dropped off a huge stack of folders yesterday for me to review."

"Glad I'm not responsible for doing that anymore," Whistler says. "How's Jenkins doing?"

"Gets in our way a lot, so I guess that means he's doing his job. Acts suspiciously like someone had warned him about pissing me off." Lucy flashes a knowing smile. "But... not nearly as good-looking as the officer he replaced."

Whistler, predictably, blushes, and Lucy really wants to kiss her again.

"I'm sure HR would love to hear about that," Whistler tells her. "You should file a complaint."

"That's okay, our newest FBI liaison is way easier on the eyes than our old one." Lucy shrugs her shoulders for effect. "Win some, lose some."

"FBI Special Agent Walker just took his retirement," Whistler says, amusement lighting up her features, "so I'm not sure that's the compliment you think it is."

"Old people can be hot!" Lucy argues.

Whistler laughs. "You know, I think Walker is on the market again after divorcing his third wife. I'll give him your number."

"Hard pass," Lucy says, scrunching up her nose. She offers a coy smile. "I may or may not have my eye on another FBI agent."

"Oh?" Whistler takes a step closer. "Do I know them?"

"Not sure. Tall, blonde, comfortable blazers. Sound familiar?"

Whistler bites back a smile. "Yeah, I think I've seen her around."

Lucy's grinning so hard her cheeks hurt. The flirting feels easy, fun, exciting, the opposite of what it's felt like being around Whistler recently. She's missed this. "Well, if you run into her again, will you let her know that I have an hour for lunch and there's a new taco place that opened just off base that I'm ready to be disappointed by?"

Whistler nods. "I'll be sure to send her your way if I see her."

"Have a nice day, Whistler," Lucy says, reaching for the door.

Whistler reaches out to stop her. "Hey, um."

Whistler's hand finds Lucy's wrist, tugs gently until they're standing inches apart. Whistler seems to lose a bit of her nerve then, but Lucy smiles encouragingly up at her, and Whistler leans down to meet her in a sweet kiss.

Whistler blinks slowly when they pull apart. "See you at lunch, Lucy."

--

What Lucy doesn't like about Hawaii: mediocre to bad Mexican food, what the humidity does to her thick hair, and being surrounded by the whole fucking ocean.

What Lucy does like about Hawaii: just about everything else. Today, she's grateful for the availability of empty swimming pools in the many hours between when the sun rises in Hawaii and when people are actually meant to be awake. Because the last thing she needs is an audience while she's flailing around in the water with her aquatically gifted ex who she's actively kissing again. It's complicated.

Whistler, naturally, is already swimming laps when Lucy arrives, all long limbs and fluid strokes as she glides through the water. Lucy tries to be quiet as she approaches to give herself a few extra moments to watch. Whistler reaches the far end and flips underwater, kicking off the wall as she starts her swim back.

The length of a standard pool is, apparently, not a long distance to cover for someone who can actually swim, and Whistler notices Lucy a few feet before she reaches the wall. Her head pops out of the water as she slows on the approach.

"How long have you been standing there?"

"Not long." Lucy plants her hands on her hips and looks around. "I mean, time is relative."

Whistler smiles. "Come on in, the water's great. And—" She extends to full height. The pool water doesn't reach her chest. "—shallow end, as promised."

Lucy watches the water drip down from Whistler's hair and body and wonders how she's going to survive.

Whistler presses her forearms on the edge of the pool and rests her chin on them. "Don't make me come up and get you," she warns, kicking her legs out behind her.

If Lucy flushes, it's because of the heat.

Lucy drops her bag onto a nearby lounge chair and kicks off her sandals. She has her swimwear on under her clothes, so she pulls off her top, then unbuttons and unzips her denim cut-offs, sliding them down her hips. Had she gone shopping for a new bathing suit? Maybe. Had she picked out a pair of bottoms that made her butt look particularly good? Also maybe.

Lucy turns to Whistler, crossing her arms over the bandeau around her chest. Whistler stands up in the water again, trying and failing to not be obvious about appreciating the view.

Lucy takes off her watch, then reaches up to tie her hair back. She walks toward the stairs and railing at the corner of the pool, and Whistler follows in the water without taking her eyes off her.

At the top of the stairs, Lucy wavers. The water looks cold, and wet, and like the main catalyst for drowning. Whistler takes a few steps up the stairs and holds out her hands.

"I won't let you drown," Whistler promises.

Lucy grabs Whistler's hands and takes a step into the water. It is as cold and wet as Lucy had expected, and she makes a face. She takes another step down.

"Pull me in," Lucy says.

Whistler startles. "What?"

"Just." Lucy tugs at Whistler's hands. "Pull me into the pool."

Whistler hesitates. "Lucy, I'm not going to—"

Lucy takes a deep breath and all but runs down the last few steps, entering the water with a splash. It's so, so cold, and her heart is pounding out of her chest from the fear but also the exhilaration. She's still holding Whistler's hands and now it's her pulling a shocked Whistler into the water.

It had looked less scary when Whistler and her stupidly long legs had been standing in it, but the water comes up almost to Lucy's shoulders, and she senses the panic rising. She pulls Whistler closer, grabs her upper arms for support.

"Kiss me."

That, Whistler doesn't need to be told twice. She wraps an arm around Lucy to keep her steady, then leans over to press their lips together. Lucy's hands immediately fly to the back of Whistler's head as she tries to work out her emotions against Whistler's willing mouth.

Lucy's pulse starts hammering for a different reason, but the thrum of nervous energy coursing through her veins from being kissed is much more pleasurable than the abject fear she'd felt moments ago. She forgets all about the water and the drowning, and instead gets lost in the feeling of Whistler's skin pressed against hers, Whistler's hand at her back anchoring her.

Lucy pulls away for air, and maybe there's something to be said for swimmers' lungs.

"You okay?" Whistler asks.

"Peachy," Lucy replies between breaths. "Love the concept of twenty thousand gallons of water in one location for the purpose of sport and entertainment."

Whistler grins in amusement. "Interesting perspective."

Lucy still has her hands at the back of Whistler's head. She slides them down to her shoulders. Lucy knows, rationally, that her feet are planted at the bottom of the pool, but it certainly doesn't feel that way when Whistler starts to loosen her grip around Lucy's torso.

"We don't have to do this," Whistler offers when she feels Lucy stiffen.

Lucy shakes her head. "No, no, I am a federal agent for the US Navy. I can do this."

"Okay, this is going to sound like a stupid question, but can you float?" Whistler asks.

"Technically?" Lucy squints up at her. "I mean, my body floats, I just usually panic and forget to breathe."

Whistler grins. "Let's start by doing neither of those things. Have you heard of the starfish?"

Whistler takes Lucy through a few flotation exercises, hands firm but careful on Lucy's body for support. And when Lucy slips and starts to panic, Whistler is there with gentle words of reassurance and encouragement. Between exercises, Whistler kisses her to keep her calm, which is both extremely distracting and extremely motivating.

By the time the lifeguard arrives to officially open up the pool, Lucy can keep herself afloat for a few minutes without panicking and even paddle slowly across the pool.

Whistler seems to know the lifeguard, which would explain their early access. Lucy wonders what Whistler had told him when she'd requested the pool.

Underwater, Whistler presses her hand against Lucy's back. "You want to keep going or you're done?"

Lucy's brain immediately comes up with twenty different scenarios involving strangers pulling her to her drowning death. She grabs Whistler's arm tightly.

Whistler smiles. "Okay, let's get out of here."

Lucy follows Whistler out of the pool. As soon as she steps on land again, Lucy stretches her arms out above herself and turns dramatically to face the sun, shutting her eyes against the late morning beams.

"What are you doing?" Whistler asks from somewhere behind her.

"Appreciating life on dry land," Lucy replies. "Being one with the earth and sun."

Whistler laughs, closer now. "Okay, I'm going to wrap a towel around you so you're not also one with the common cold."

A moment later, Lucy feels herself being enveloped by a fluffy towel from behind. Whistler wraps her arms around Lucy's torso, hugging her close. Lucy drops her arms and leans back, her head coming to rest against Whistler's collarbone. Lucy's eyes are still closed, but she smiles when she feels the lightest press of Whistler's lips on her temple.

"That's a myth, you know," Lucy says. "That being cold causes the common cold."

"I know," Whistler murmurs, pressing another kiss to Lucy's exposed neck. "You did really well today."

Lucy turns to look at Whistler. "Had a good instructor."

Whistler's lips ghost over the shell of Lucy's ear. "And uh, I was trying to stay focused on keeping water out of your lungs, but I feel it would be rude of me not to comment on how good you look today."

Lucy beams, a slow heat spreading up her neck. She reaches up to touch the side of Whistler's face, tilting so their lips can meet. Lucy takes her time kissing Whistler, who matches her tempo, yielding, and Lucy swears she can feel the steady beat of Whistler's heart against her back.

Without any warning, Lucy's stomach growls so loudly it startles even her, and she pulls away with an embarrassed laugh.

Whistler slides one hand down to Lucy's abdomen. "Brunch?"

--

Ernie corners Lucy in the breakroom the next week while she's trying to make herself a coffee.

"When were you going to tell me you and Whistler got back together?"

"We didn't," Lucy says slowly.

Ernie raises an eyebrow. "So the extra bounce in your step when you get back from all the lunches you're having together...?"

Lucy eyes Ernie with warning. "I'm allowed to have lunch with my colleagues."

"You don't have lunch with me every day," Ernie says.

"Maybe that's because Whistler doesn't pry about my love life," Lucy suggests pointedly.

Ernie offers her a look of confusion. "That doesn't make any sense. She is your love life. Why would she pry?"

"Okay, you know what." Lucy pivots to face Ernie. She stares at him for a moment, then lets out a heavy sigh. She's quietly resigned when she says, "Honestly, Ernie, I'm still trying to figure it all out."

"Do you want to talk about it?" Ernie asks.

Lucy shakes her head.

Ernie touches her shoulder. "Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me."

Lucy pulls Ernie into a tight hug. "Thanks, Ernie."

--

Friday evening doesn't mean much in Lucy's line of work, because people love killing each other over the weekend, but there's still something about Friday nights that makes them feel like they could last forever.

Lucy invites herself over to Whistler's place with, "I'm ready to talk about what happened."

Whistler answers her door in a loose knit sweater, her features hiding a hum of anxiety. She lets Lucy in without saying anything.

The doors to Whistler's balcony are open, and judging by the near-empty glass of wine on the table outside, she'd been enjoying her evening before Lucy called.

"Can we sit outside?" Lucy asks.

"Yeah, of course," Whistler replies. "Would you like a drink?"

"I'll have whatever you're having."

Whistler heads to the kitchen to grab another wine glass. Lucy steps out onto the balcony and leans against the railing, listening to the sound of the ocean. It's calming from afar and momentarily cools her frayed nerves. Whistler steps up behind her and hands her a glass of red wine before moving to refill her own.

"Thank you."

The air is thick with tension, one that makes Lucy want to bolt. She's never been good at having the tough conversations, especially not when she has to admit uncomfortable things about herself like she might still be in love with someone who had so deeply betrayed her trust.

Whistler slides into the spot next to Lucy against the railing, just close enough to not touch, and takes a sip of wine.

"Ernie asked if we were back together," Lucy broaches, staring out into the ocean.

Whistler takes a beat. "What did you tell him?"

"That we weren't," Lucy replies, "which I think is the truth but felt like a lie."

Whistler turns to look at Lucy, but she doesn't say anything.

"We're doing a lot for two people who aren't together," Lucy continues quietly.

"Does—" Whistler's voice comes out shaky, and she takes a breath and tries again. "Does that mean you want to get back together or stop doing those things?"

"I don't know," Lucy admits, finally turning to look at Whistler.

Whistler's eyes are red-rimmed when she tilts her head in acknowledgment. "Is there anything I can say or do to help you figure it out?"

Lucy takes a sip of wine, tries to ignore the ache in her chest. "Can we talk about Cara?"

Whistler tenses, but she nods. "We can talk about anything you want."

"That day," Lucy starts. She turns to look at the ocean again, blinking against the tears already forming in her eyes. She refuses to cry before anything's even been said. "Why was she under the impression you were still together?"

Whistler shifts her weight against the railing. "Back in DC, we both led busy lives. It was normal for us to not talk for weeks at a time, even when we were dating."

Lucy takes another sip of wine as she listens. She's never been one to feel some type of way about people having dating history, but something about this one especially stings. It hadn't felt like history when she'd been forced to confront it that day.

"When I left for Hawaii," Whistler continues, "we never really talked about our relationship. I took it to mean that it was over, but she obviously didn't."

"You've been here for over a year and a half," Lucy points out. "How could she possibly think you were still dating?"

Whistler hesitates. "Lucy."

"Kate, please, just. Be honest with me."

Whistler takes a shaky breath. "Whenever I was back in DC, we'd catch up over coffee, and sometimes I..."

"You'd spend the night," Lucy finishes for her, feeling stupid for the twinge of jealousy that courses through her.

"Lucy, I swear, that never happened when we were together," Whistler rushes to explain. "I would never do that, to you or to anyone."

Lucy reaches up and swipes at the tears stubbornly streaking her cheeks. Whistler starts to shift toward her, but Lucy holds up her hand to stop her. Whistler immediately pulls back.

"Cara and I had barely been in contact for months," Whistler says, her voice strained like Lucy isn't the only one who's been silently crying, "which is why I was so shocked when she just showed up."

"And when she got here and came to your apartment, you just, what, shook hands?" Lucy asks sarcastically, unable to tamp down the bite in her words.

Whistler sucks in a deep, steadying breath. "I know I've given you no reason to trust me, but nothing happened that day. I think she could tell that something was off."

Lucy clenches her jaw, swapping her heartbreak for anger. "And yet she was all smiles when she answered the door thinking I was the pizza guy."

"I was trying to figure out how to tell her," Whistler says evenly, "but she had just flown halfway across the world, and I wanted to let her down easy."

Lucy turns to look at Whistler again, trying to stay unaffected and hardened when she says, "You didn't want to hurt her, so you decided to hurt me instead."

Lucy wants to incite Whistler to fight her, to raise her voice in frustration and give Lucy an excuse to leave and never come back. But Whistler is calm in her approach, patient like she's already tortured herself with this conversation a hundred different ways in her head.

"I didn't want to hurt either of you," Whistler tells her quietly. "But if I could go back—"

"Do you know how it felt," Lucy interrupts, feeling like she's being ripped open at the seams again, "standing there, being introduced to your girlfriend like I hadn't just kissed you that morning, or touched you the night before?"

Whistler's face twists in pain, in regret. Her cheeks are wet with tears. "I'm so sorry, Lucy."

Lucy struggles to maintain her facade of anger. She hates how small she sounds when she says, "You tainted every nice interaction we've ever had together. I was left to wonder if any of it was real or if I was just there to keep your bed warm until you could get back to DC."

"It was very, very real for me," Whistler tries to say, her lip quivering. "Lucy, you have never been just a warm body, and it kills me that I've made you even consider it for a second."

Lucy swallows against the lump in her throat. "I know that you made the decision to stay in Hawaii before any of this came to light, and I want to believe you when you say you were just scared and clueless, but—" Lucy scrunches up her face, willing the burn of fresh tears to ease. "But that doesn't take away the nights I spent torturing myself about not being good enough."

"Lucy," Whistler chokes out, and the devastation spilt across her features is almost too much for Lucy to bear. "You were more than good enough. I was the one acting like a colossal idiot."

"Yeah, you do that sometimes," Lucy says through sniffles, which earns her a tiny, teary smile.

Whistler takes another shaky breath. "And you're right. My intentions don't take away the hurt I've caused you. I can't change what I've done, but if you'll let me, I will spend every waking moment trying to make it up to you."

Lucy turns to the ocean again, reaching up to make another attempt to dry her cheeks. She takes a few even breaths to calm herself down, and then, remembering she's still holding a wine glass, brings it to her lips. A minute passes, then two, then five. To Whistler's credit, she doesn't try to fill the silence.

"I've always thought of myself as a confident, independent person," Lucy starts once she's gathered her thoughts. "I didn't expect what you did to hurt me as much as it did, for as long as it did, or to cause me to question my own self-worth, which I hold sacred. I can't—I won't go through that again."

Beside her, Whistler shifts, but she doesn't say anything.

"Were you and Cara together the first time I met you?" Lucy asks then, stomach suddenly in knots.

"No," Whistler answers immediately. She's quietly sincere when she adds, "Meeting you was actually what made me open up the dating apps again. You reminded me that I could still feel something for someone, and that I wanted to. I met Cara a few weeks later."

A particularly strong breeze whips past them, and Whistler's hand instinctively reaches around Lucy's back to anchor her. Once the wind dies down again, Whistler pulls her hand back and tucks it into her own pocket.

"Lucy," Whistler continues, "my mistake was making stupid assumptions and letting that snowball into keeping secrets, not infidelity."

Lucy turns to look at her. "Does it make a difference if it felt the same?"

Whistler dips her head. "No, I guess not."

"You should have just told me," Lucy says, the cold air sweeping through her and making her wish Whistler's hand was still on her back. "That morning when she texted."

"I should have," Whistler agrees. "I knew how it would look, and I thought I could take care of it. Clearly, I was wrong. I never meant for you to get hurt."

"If I hadn't shown up that day, if you'd gotten her to leave before I could meet her, would you have ever told me?" Lucy asks, already knowing the answer.

"No, probably not," Whistler admits.

"That's not okay, Whistler." Lucy exhales sharply. "You can't claim to care about me and in the same breath keep big secrets from me."

"I know that now," Whistler says quietly. "I'm sorry."

Lucy finishes off her wine and steps away from the railing. Whistler turns to watch her, eyes puffy but soft. Lucy's sure her own face isn't faring much better.

Whistler swallows hard. "I will take the punishments for my mistakes, but you've had to suffer the most for them, and you don't deserve that, Lucy."

Lucy reaches up to cradle Whistler's cheek, because she doesn't know how to tell Whistler that through the pain, the anger, the betrayal, the parts of her that were soft for Whistler are still very much that, now. Lucy runs her thumb in an arc under Whistler's eye, brushing away her tears, and Whistler shivers.

"I don't think you deserve to hurt forever either, Whistler," Lucy tells her.

Whistler looks down like she doesn't really believe that. "My focus in all this is you," she deflects.

Lucy lowers her hand, fingertips tracing Whistler's jaw on the way down. There are reassurances at the tip of her tongue, admissions, declarations. But her heart is too tender still to verbalize them.

"It's getting late," Lucy settles for saying.

Whistler pushes herself off the railing, hand still firmly tucked in her pocket.

Lucy hesitates. "Could we, um, could we maybe curl up on the couch for a little bit before I go?" she asks then, because the thought of just leaving after all that sounds worse than admitting she needs some physical comfort.

Whistler seems surprised by the ask, but she nods. She takes Lucy's empty glass from her and stops by the kitchen to drop everything off, then circles back to the couch. Lucy approaches slowly, and Whistler is watching her as though awaiting further instruction.

Lucy doesn't really know what she wants. She just wants to be held for a while, but she doesn't want to say that part out loud.

When Whistler realizes no guidance is forthcoming, she asks gently, "Should I lie down?"

Lucy nods without looking at her.

Whistler lies down with her spine pressed into the back of the couch, leaving plenty of room in front of her. Lucy slides easily into that space, facing Whistler, who stiffens reflexively, even as she curls an arm around Lucy to keep her in place. Lucy tucks her head under Whistler's chin and shuts her eyes, shifting to get comfortable, but Whistler is so incredibly tense that she's practically all hard edges and corners.

"Didn't realize I was signing up to snuggle a block of concrete," Lucy murmurs.

Whistler's chest rumbles in what might be a laugh, and her body starts to soften again. She pulls Lucy closer. "Better?"

The combination of the amount of emotional energy Lucy's expelled, the wine she's consumed, and Whistler's warm body pressed against hers has Lucy drifting before she can respond, and embarrassingly, she falls into a deep sleep.

--

Slivers of light are peeking in from behind the closed curtains when Lucy wakes, momentarily disoriented by where she is. She's still on Whistler's couch, and there's a thin blanket covering her body, but Whistler is nowhere to be found.

Lucy sits up and locates a small greeting card on the coffee table, propped up like a tent. The front of the card has an illustration of a bouquet of flowers without any text, and of course Whistler would have generic greeting cards at the ready. Lucy reaches over to grab it and flip it open.

Lucy,

Got called into work. Please help yourself to anything you need. Spare key on the counter to lock up if you leave.

Thank you for having such a tough conversation with me. I'm sorry I couldn't provide satisfactory answers to everything. I hope time will ease all the pain I've caused.

I love you. I should have told you in person when it mattered and done enough to prove it to you.

- K

"It's too early for feelings, Whistler," Lucy says out loud to an empty room. Her heart still hurts a little, but differently than before.

Lucy puts the card down and gets up to stretch. She could go home, but she's not sure what good that would do. She walks over to the curtains and pulls them open, squinting out into the bright morning sun. The day feels fresh, full of potential, and Lucy doesn't want to squander it.

But she should've washed her face before she went ahead and passed out last night. A quick trip to the bathroom confirms her fears. She splashes some water on her swollen face and hopes for the best.

Lucy's stomach grumbles. First, food. Existential crises will have to wait.

--

Whistler gets home in the early afternoon, eyes scanning the room the moment she steps inside. She seems surprised to see Lucy on her couch, freshly showered, wearing her hoodie.

"You're still here."

"You have Disney Plus," Lucy explains, gesturing to Hawkeye playing on the TV. "Everything okay at work?"

"Oh, they just needed someone to cross some T's and dot some I's." Whistler kicks off her heels and heads to the kitchen. "Did you have lunch yet?"

Lucy turns her attention back to the TV. "I picked up some poke from the place downstairs. Yours is in the fridge."

"You didn't have to do that. Thank you." The door to the fridge opens and closes, then a drawer and the clacking of chopsticks. "Lucy, did you... clean my sink?"

"And your bathroom," Lucy adds without looking away from the TV. "It wasn't dirty. I just clean when I'm processing."

Whistler appears with a bowl of poke in one hand, a pair of chopsticks pinned between her fingers, and she takes a seat next to Lucy.

"How was your morning?" Whistler asks, eyes discreetly scanning the coffee table.

"The realization that your couch is more comfortable than my bed has officially put me in the market for a new mattress," Lucy replies. She finally tears her eyes away from the TV for a moment to look at Whistler. "My morning was nice. Your fair trade coffee really hit the spot."

Whistler's smile is hesitant, like she can't quite reconcile what happened last night with the conversation they're having right now.

"Eat your poke and watch TV with me," Lucy tells her, and Whistler easily complies.

They watch the rest of the episode in relative silence, Lucy making the occasional comment to provide context to Whistler. It's comfortable in a way that Lucy had taken for granted before.

When the episode comes to an end, Whistler gets up to toss out her trash. Lucy turns off the TV and follows her to the kitchen.

"I only ever got Disney Plus because you kept talking about wanting to watch stuff on it," Whistler says distractedly. "I never got around to cancelling it."

Lucy watches Whistler wash her hands and dry them on the towel hanging off her oven door handle. Lucy takes two steps into Whistler's space, and Whistler stops moving.

"I got your card," Lucy says.

Color tinges Whistler's cheeks. "Oh, that—"

Lucy takes another step closer and looks up at Whistler with purpose. "Tell me in person."

Panic flashes across Whistler's eyes, but it disappears just as quickly. "I love you," she says, easily, like she's never meant anything more.

Lucy can feel her heart in her throat. "Still?"

Whistler's eyes soften. "Even more, now."

"You should have told me that, too," Lucy says, even though she hadn't either, until after. "Why do you think it doesn't matter anymore?"

Whistler lifts one shoulder in a nervous shrug. "No one likes unwanted declarations."

Lucy offers a small smile. "Who says they're unwanted?"

Whistler's gaze drifts over Lucy's face, studying her. "Lucy, I refuse to be the reason you question your self-worth again. I don't think I'll ever forgive myself for that."

"Well, do you have another out-of-town girlfriend I don't know about?" Lucy asks calmly, non-combative.

Whistler seems to struggle internally for a moment over whether she should argue the point of having even one of those, but finally, she lets it go and shakes her head. "No, I don't."

Lucy nods, feeling the steady beat of her heart in her chest, and the nervousness of waiting for Whistler to understand. "And are you planning to give me a reason to doubt myself again?"

"No." Whistler's expression shifts to one of cautious optimism. "Lucy, what are you saying?"

"Tell me again," Lucy requests quietly.

Whistler's forehead falls forward and comes to rest on Lucy's. "I love you," she breathes into the space between them.

Lucy's hands find Whistler's wrists. "No more secrets this time?"

"No more secrets," Whistler promises, her body practically humming with what feels like gratitude, like relief. "I'll be the most vicious over-sharer you've ever met."

Lucy laughs softly. "Maybe a little mystery is a good thing."

"Get ready," Whistler teases. "You're about to know everything about me."

Lucy tugs Whistler's wrists around herself, until Whistler's hands meet at the base of Lucy's spine. Whistler presses one hand into the curve of Lucy's waist, letting the other slide up to the dip between Lucy's shoulder blades. She pulls Lucy closer.

Lucy applies the lightest resistance against Whistler's hips, and Whistler loosens her grip and lifts her head to look at her.

"Will you talk to me," Lucy asks, "if you feel checked out of this?"

"I can't see that ever happening," Whistler tells her.

"Whistler, feelings can change," Lucy says softly, "and I don't want to rehash this, but Cara flew across the Pacific only to get broken up with. I don't want to do that. I want to always know where we stand. I deserve that, and I suspect, so did she."

Whistler flinches, but she seems to get the point. "I promise I will have the difficult conversations with you before they become irreconcilable."

Lucy's hands grip at Whistler's hips, and Whistler pulls Lucy close again.

Lucy kisses Whistler next to the pristine sink, slowly at first like they're rediscovering, then eagerly when Whistler slides her hand under the hoodie Lucy's wearing and finds nothing but skin. Whistler touches liberally, her other hand joining to remap the muscles of Lucy's torso, and Lucy grinds her hips in response, seeking friction she can't quite get. She pulls away for a moment and bites back a moan when the extra space allows Whistler's hands to find her chest under the hoodie.

"Whistler."

"Hm?" Whistler murmurs, leaning down to pepper kisses along Lucy's jaw as she thumbs over Lucy's nipples.

Lucy backs Whistler into the kitchen counter, heat pooling between her thighs. "Kate, I'm about to rip the buttons off your blouse and I know how much you hate that, so out of professional courtesy, I'm giving you this warning."

Whistler laughs affectionately, pressing a kiss to the corner of Lucy's mouth. Whistler keeps one hand under the hoodie but frees the other and starts to unbutton her own blouse. Lucy untucks the blouse from Whistler's skirt and starts from the bottom, but she struggles with the dexterity needed to navigate buttons while Whistler is still touching her and looking at her like she's ready to drop to her knees in the middle of the kitchen.

Lucy unzips Whistler's pencil skirt, pushing it down over her hips. Whistler's blouse blows open, and Lucy looks selfishly, touches greedily. With Whistler's skirt out of the way, Lucy presses a leg between Whistler's thighs, and Whistler instinctively grinds down against her.

"I want," Whistler manages. She steadies Lucy's hips with her hands and breathes hard. "You, with my mouth, please."

Lucy squeezes her thighs once against Whistler's leg before summoning enough willpower to extract herself. Whistler's hands find the backs of Lucy's thighs, and Lucy laughs in delight when she jumps up and clings onto Whistler's shoulders. Their lips find each other again, and Whistler carries Lucy to the bedroom, stopping just once outside the door to press Lucy up against the wall and leave marks on her neck.

When they finally make it to the bed, Lucy pulls off the hoodie and tosses it aside. Immediately, Whistler has her hands and lips on Lucy's chest, and Lucy arches, reaching. She pushes Whistler's blouse off her shoulders and finds her bra clasp, undoes it with one hand. Whistler lifts herself just enough to shrug both off.

Lucy pulls Whistler up to kiss her, and Whistler's hand reaches down, dipping under the waistband of Lucy's shorts. Lucy gasps against Whistler's mouth when her fingertips glide across slick heat.

Whistler presses her lips to Lucy's throat, smiling against her skin. "Not in the mood for any undergarments today?"

"Shut up and touch me," Lucy tells her impatiently.

"Bossy," Whistler murmurs, but she eagerly complies, rolling her fingertips in lazy circles as she slides lower to lavish attention to Lucy's breasts, mouthing teasingly at her nipples.

Lucy's hands snap to Whistler's head to guide her, and Whistler presses harder, faster, eliciting a soft moan as Lucy's hips lift off the bed greedily.

"Whistler," Lucy whimpers. "Please, I need—"

Whistler seems to know exactly what she needs, because her fingers change angle just enough to make Lucy's toes curl. Lucy slides a hand down to Whistler's chest, unfocused in her touch, but it pulls a moan from Whistler's throat anyway. Lucy's other hand stays at the back of Whistler's head, but she doesn't need to provide any more guidance, because Whistler's mouth and tongue are eager on her sensitive nipple, winding her all the way up.

Lucy's whole body tenses, nerve endings lighting on fire. One more coordinated push from Whistler, and Lucy is tumbling over the edge, pleasure spilling out into every hidden corner of her body. Months of built up tension radiate off her in waves.

Whistler slows her movements, touching gently, until Lucy's shaky hand finds her wrist and pulls it away. Whistler lifts her head from Lucy's chest and takes her soaked fingers into her own mouth. Her cheeks, already flushed, become bright red when Lucy turns to watch her. Lucy rubs her thighs together in response, feeling her body already priming for another round.

Whistler presses a column of kisses up over Lucy's collarbone, along the length of her neck and jaw. Lucy's hand, still at the back of Whistler's head, redirects her to Lucy's mouth, and their lips meet in a slow, heated kiss.

When Whistler pulls away, her eyes move reverently over Lucy's face. "I really thought I'd never get another chance to see you like this."

Lucy touches Whistler's cheek. "I actually just wanted to make sure I got to finish Hawkeye."

Whistler laughs brightly, pressing another kiss to Lucy's eager lips. "Guess I can't cancel my subscription now."

Lucy grins. "Oh, you're mega-subscribed now."

Whistler brings her lips to the pulse point on Lucy's neck. "I am," she says softly, and Lucy feels that one in her chest.

Once Lucy has mostly regained use of her limbs, she tries to flip Whistler onto her back, but Whistler climbs on top of her, straddling her and and pinning her wrists down at the sides of her head. Whistler's hands slide up over Lucy's palms, threading their fingers together.

"Your turn," Lucy protests half-heartedly.

"One more," Whistler murmurs, dipping down to pepper kisses across Lucy's collarbones.

Lucy gets distracted by Whistler's hips pressing down on her. "Don't you want—"

"I want to make you feel good," Whistler tells her.

And Lucy isn't going to argue with that. She watches as Whistler slowly makes her way back down the length of Lucy's body, pausing at key spots along the way to pay a little extra attention as Lucy tries not to squirm.

When Whistler finally reaches her destination, she lets go of Lucy's hands to peel off Lucy's shorts.

"Are these mine?" Whistler asks before tossing them aside.

Lucy flushes. "I'll get you a new pair."

Whistler presses a kiss to Lucy's inner thigh. "Some circles pay extra for that."

Lucy scrunches up her face and starts to respond, but then Whistler buries her face between Lucy's legs, hungry lips getting right to work, and Lucy groans, completely forgetting what she'd been planning to say.

Whistler's hands slide to anchor Lucy's hips when they start to buck, and Lucy covers Whistler's hands with her own, gripping tightly as though she could use them to steer Whistler's movements. Whistler doesn't let up, pulling sounds of desperation out of Lucy that even Lucy doesn't recognize.

It doesn't take long, because Whistler remembers her body and which buttons to press and when, and Lucy's legs start to clamp together when she's close, her hand flying to the top of Whistler's head to keep her in place. Whistler's responding moan is muffled, the vibrations buzzing over Lucy's oversensitive skin.

Lucy tumbles into a messy climax, grinding against Whistler's mouth, and Whistler graciously lets Lucy have her way with her until Lucy tugs gently at Whistler's hair to pull her away.

Lucy's still twitching from the aftershocks when Whistler leaves a trail of wet kisses up over the plane of Lucy's abdomen, between her breasts, culminating in a flutter of a kiss just below Lucy's earlobe. Whistler rolls to her side and props her head up with one arm, using her other hand to draw haphazard circles on Lucy's skin as she catches her breath.

Lucy gets her palm on Whistler's chest, firmly pushing her to her back. Whistler looks up at her for a moment with adoring eyes.

"Come to dinner with me tonight," Whistler requests.

Lucy slides her hand lazily across Whistler's abdomen, fingers skirting the waistband of Whistler's underwear. "You sure you don't want to make dinner plans in say, fifteen to twenty minutes?"

"You and I both know it won't take more than five," Whistler says with a short, embarrassed laugh. She brushes Lucy's jaw with her knuckles. "Go out with me tonight."

"Okay." Lucy leans down to plant a soft kiss to Whistler's lips. "Can I touch you now or do you want to discuss lunch tomorrow too?"

Whistler pulls Lucy on top of herself, wrapping her arms around Lucy and holding her close. "We could stay in tomorrow. I'll make us something to eat. Kai showed me a few tricks."

"When did you hang out with Kai?" Lucy asks, pushing herself up on her elbows. "You know what, I really don't care. I mean, I care, but maybe not right this instant?"

Whistler slides her hands down to anchor Lucy's hips, her own shifting underneath, seeking attention. Lucy leans down to kiss Whistler again, her hands coming to the sides of Whistler's face. Whistler kisses back hungrily, palms pressing into Lucy's skin. Lucy's leg slips between Whistler's thighs, and Whistler groans, tightening her grip on Lucy's hips as she thrusts desperately against her leg. Lucy can tell that it'll be as quick as Whistler had predicted, but she musters up the willpower to pull her leg away, and Whistler gasps at the sudden loss.

"Lucy," she pleads.

"Take it off," Lucy murmurs. "Let me touch you."

Whistler practically trips over herself to comply, pushing her underwear off her hips and managing to extract one leg before Lucy gets her hand between Whistler's thighs, pulling a moan of relief from her throat. Lucy's kissing her again, and Whistler's hand moves up to pinch her own nipple as Lucy dips two, then three, fingers into her.

Lucy's weight against Whistler prevents her from arching, but she makes every effort to do so when Lucy thumbs her clit, fingers moving with enough enthusiasm to make up for a general lack of precision. Whistler's kissing starts to turn sloppy and unfocused as her body flushes, muscles tensing. Lucy's hand at the side of Whistler's face slides down to her neck, applying the lightest pressure, and Whistler comes undone, moaning into Lucy's mouth as she clenches around her fingers.

Lucy drags her lips away from Whistler's to give her a chance to catch her breath, dipping down to leave a trail of kisses along Whistler's jawline, basking in her glow as she slowly comes down from her high. Lucy continues to strum her thumb back and forth gently, thriving on every twitch of Whistler's body.

"Lucy, if you keep doing that," Whistler warns, still breathing heavily.

Lucy hums, pressing a bit harder. "Should I stop?"

Whistler throws back her head. "Please don't."

"Don't what?" Lucy asks, slowing her movements. "Don't do it? Don't stop?" She punctuates each guess with a kiss to Whistler's chest. "Use your words, Whistler."

Whistler's hand grips Lucy's bicep. "Don't be an—" She trails off like she's trying to focus on the ministrations of Lucy's fingers, then gasps when Lucy replaces her thumb with her palm.

Lucy grins, enjoying her power way too much. "Annoying? An... asshole?" She presses a kiss to Whistler's neck, fingers picking up pace in an act of mercy. "You know, I thought the FBI only hired the best and the brightest."

To Lucy's point, Whistler struggles to string together a coherent sentence. "Lucy, please, I'm—"

Lucy starts to slide herself lower, her hand chasing her lips all the way down Whistler's body, all soft kisses and softer touches. Whistler lets go of Lucy's arm to brush across her cheek. Lucy parts Whistler's legs and nestles between them, looking up at Whistler's flushed skin. Lucy's fingers haven't stopped working, and the muscles of Whistler's abdomen are flexing like it won't take much more. Lucy doesn't remember Whistler ever being this sensitive and easy to wind up.

Lucy brushes her lips along the inside of Whistler's thigh, grinning at Whistler's responding shudder. Without dropping the pace of her fingers, Lucy opens her palm, making space to slot her mouth over Whistler's clit.

Whistler moans, her hand reaching down blindly. Lucy's free hand meets Whistler's halfway, interlacing their fingers together, anchoring. Lucy's face feels flushed, and she refocuses her efforts, coordinating lips and fingers to push Whistler to the brink. Whistler's grip on Lucy's hand tightens, hips lifting to seek the last bit of friction she needs.

Lucy's name slips from Whistler's mouth when she finds release, squeezing Lucy's hand. Lucy keeps moving, trying to help Whistler ride it out, but Whistler tugs Lucy's hand hard enough to break the seal of Lucy's mouth, pulling Lucy up until she has to slide her hand out from between Whistler's legs to brace herself against the bed for balance. Whistler groans at the loss, and her lips catch Lucy's in a needy kiss.

They make out for a while, hands slowly reexploring, soft sounds of pleasure passing between them. In that moment, the importance of time seems to slip away, and they're aware only of each other and how incredible it feels to be together again.

Sensing herself sliding back into dangerous territory as Whistler's hands roam over her skin, Lucy reluctantly pulls away and readjusts herself to lie on top of Whistler's body, resting her head on Whistler's chest to listen to her still-racing heartbeat.

Whistler plays absently with Lucy's hair. "You never got back to me about lunch tomorrow."

Lucy smiles. "A bit presumptuous to assume I'm spending the night," she says innocently.

"Oh?" Whistler asks, voice lilted with amusement. "I thought you wanted to finish Hawkeye?"

Lucy lifts her head to press a kiss between Whistler's breasts. "If I come home with you tonight," she murmurs, bringing her hand up to circle the pad of her thumb around Whistler's nipple, "no one is watching any TV."

Whistler hums. "I can't imagine what you mean to do instead."

Lucy, thumb still drawing lazy circles, looks up at Whistler. "Do you want me to bend you over my knee and spank you again?" she asks, only half teasing.

Whistler flushes hard, even as she rubs her thighs together. "Lucy."

Lucy bites back a smile. "It's a genuine offer."

"Let's talk about it later," Whistler tells her, a hint of embarrassment still lingering in her voice. She finds Lucy's wrist and pulls her hand away from her chest. "I want to actually make it to dinner."

Lucy glances at her watch. "We've still got some time."

Whistler takes a moment to consider. Then, lowly, "Enough time for you to sit on my face?"

Lucy laughs warmly and starts to make her ascent.

--

They are fashionably late to dinner, which is emphatically not Lucy's fault. She'd been very clear that they had some time, not get each other off twice more and again in the shower time. But they'd made it to the restaurant, bathed, dressed, and to the rest of the world, like they hadn't just had the most emotionally draining twenty-four hours of their lives.

Lucy could tell that Whistler had been nervous in the car ride over, like all the space in her brain no longer preoccupied with Lucy's naked body had started filling up with spiralling anxieties. But Lucy had taken her hand and pressed a reassuring kiss to her knuckles at a red light, and the tension had melted right off her.

Once seated at the restaurant, it's as if no time has passed at all. They start cracking teasing jokes, all smiles and laughter, and catching up on everything they'd missed in each other's lives.

"So you're telling me you and Kai have been surfing together regularly for months?" Lucy asks incredulously, cutting into her crab ravioli.

"I mean, regularly is arguable." Whistler takes a sip of wine. "We ended up at the same beach at the same time once in a while. It seemed rude not to interact."

"I can't believe he didn't tell me," Lucy says, taking a bite of her food and chewing thoughtfully. "Oh, this is really good. Do you want to try some?"

Whistler reaches over with her fork and spears the piece Lucy had pushed aside for her. "I mean, he doesn't exactly strike me as the chatty type," Whistler notes, rushing the fork across the table to her mouth.

"He isn't! So what did the two of you even talk about?"

"Normal people things, Lucy, I don't know," Whistler replies with a short laugh. "Surfing, local food, classic movies." She looks at Lucy and smiles, softening. "You, sometimes."

Lucy's cheeks feel warm as she searches for a response.

"He's very fond of you," Whistler continues, "which we have in common."

"The two of you are all right," Lucy deflects, smiling affectionately. She reaches for her wine glass. "Next, you'll tell me you and Jesse have been going camping together for years and have matching tattoos."

Whistler laughs. "Don't worry, sleeping in the wilderness is very, very low on my to-do list."

Lucy takes a sip of wine, watching Whistler over the rim of the glass. "What's at the top of that list?"

Whistler's response is immediate. "Getting this right."

Lucy reaches across the table to squeeze Whistler's hand. "Other than that."

"I've kind of always wanted to go skydiving," Whistler admits, brushing her thumb over Lucy's knuckles. "Is that crazy?"

"I spent my formative years being tossed twenty feet into the air with only a couple other kids between me and the ground," Lucy says with a good-natured smile, "so I don't think I'm a good benchmark for crazy."

Whistler lights up. "Does that mean you'll come with me?"

"Will I jump out of a plane with you?" Lucy rephrases. She laughs and shakes her head. "Not unless the plane was on fire. I think I'm more afraid of somehow landing in the ocean than the jump itself." She takes another bite of food and raises her eyebrows playfully. "This sounds like something your new BFF Kai would be into though."

"You know, I think I will ask him," Whistler decides, refusing to take the bait.

"Cute," Lucy coos, "I'll braid you a pair of friendship bracelets."

Whistler grins. "Make mine yellow for my sunny disposition."

Lucy laughs, heart glowing with affection. Whistler's smile widens in response, her eyes soft and bright. In that moment, Lucy loves her the way she loved her before, free of conflict, without guilt. And Lucy knows that one good night doesn't fix everything, but it's a start.

After, Whistler kisses Lucy outside the restaurant, holding her tightly like she'd slip away otherwise.

"Thank you for dinner," Lucy says when they pull apart.

"Thank you for giving me another chance," Whistler replies softly.

"I wanted it, too," Lucy tells her, pressing another kiss to Whistler's waiting lips.

Whistler touches Lucy's jaw. "Are you coming home with me?"

"I want to, but..." Lucy searches Whistler's eyes, trying to silently convey that her answer isn't about anything Whistler's done. "I think I need to take it slow."

Whistler nods, understanding. "Okay, let's take it slow."

Lucy's hand finds Whistler's. "To be clear, I really enjoyed getting to touch you again, and I'd like to do it again soon, but I just need to sleep in my own bed tonight and decompress."

"Lucy," Whistler reassures, "you don't owe me an explanation."

Lucy offers a small smile, reaching up to tame the strands of Whistler's hair that the wind has drifted across her face. "Am I still invited to lunch tomorrow?"

"Yes, of course," Whistler replies. "Come by anytime."

"Great, because I need to know if I should also be asking Kai for some hot, sizzling tips."

Whistler lets out an embarrassed laugh. "I'm going to regret telling you about this, aren't I?"

"You did bring it up while we were in bed together," Lucy points out lightheartedly, "so if anyone's allowed to take it the wrong way, I think it's me."

Whistler leans in, until their lips are barely an inch apart. "I was just trying to not, you know, too quickly," Whistler admits, quietly enough so only Lucy can hear.

"Didn't do you much good," Lucy responds teasingly, the tip of her nose brushing Whistler's.

Whistler huffs out a soft laugh. "Yeah, well, can you blame me?"

Lucy closes the distance and kisses Whistler, and for a moment, she forgets all the reasons why she'd wanted to take it slow. She could stand here for hours, making up for lost time against Whistler's lips, or go home with her and do the same in her bed.

Whistler pulls away first, one hand on Lucy's hip, the other in her own pocket. "I love you. See you tomorrow."

The words are at the tip of her tongue, but Lucy fills with a sudden panic and loses her nerve, letting the silence stretch between them. She looks at Whistler, apologetic even though she knows she doesn't have to be.

"Hey, you don't—it's okay," Whistler rushes to reassure. "Let's not overthink this."

Lucy winces. "I think that's my line."

"You should probably listen to yourself, then," Whistler suggests gently.

It should be easier, Lucy thinks, to verbalize what she knows she feels, but some part of her carries the hurt around like an anchor, one that she's strong enough to lift but that rears its rusty head at inconvenient times.

"I do, you know, still," Lucy tells her. "I just—"

Whistler presses a kiss to Lucy's temple, then her cheek. "I know."

Lucy traces Whistler's jawline with her fingertips. "Goodnight, Kate."

"Goodnight, Lucy."

--

News travels fast at NCIS, gossip even faster.

It doesn't help that this time, Whistler is incredibly transparent about how much she wants to be with Lucy in the open. It doesn't exactly take a team of detectives to notice Whistler picking Lucy up for lunch dates, or Whistler waiting at Lucy's desk for her after work again, or the spark of intimacy whenever they're discussing anything unrelated to work.

They do take it at Lucy's pace, slow but accelerating. Even so, Lucy spends a lot of time at Whistler's, first taking over one drawer, then half of another, until Whistler slips her a spare door key and key fob before work one day.

"You don't have to keep it," Whistler tells her with a hint of nerves, "if it's too much, too quickly. I just thought it would be easier if I have to work late and you need your superhero fix."

And Lucy knows it's not really about the subscription, which she now has the password to anyway, but rather the promise that she won't walk into what she'd walked into with Cara ever again.

Lucy takes them and slides them onto her keyring, admiring the shiny newness of the key next to her others. "Thank you."

Whistler nods. "Yeah, of course." She takes a beat like she's working through something in her head. "I, um, I had it made back when I decided to stay in Hawaii."

Lucy turns to look at her.

"It seemed a little early to give it to you then," Whistler continues with a small shrug, "but I just... wanted to have it ready."

Lucy takes a step toward Whistler and smiles up at her. "You're a total softie, Kate Whistler."

Whistler finds Lucy's waist and pulls her closer, pressing the lightest kiss on her lips. "Only for you, Lucy Tara."

This time, Lucy doesn't hesitate. "I love you."

Whistler's eyes crinkle into a smile. "I love you too."

"I've loved you since before you got this key made," Lucy admits, cheeks warm, an apology that she knows she doesn't owe lingering.

"I felt it," Whistler reassures.

Lucy looks at her with mild skepticism. "Even when I was super mad at you?"

The corner of Whistler's lip quirks. "Okay, maybe not then." Her hands find Lucy's hips. "You've always been very generous with your affection, Lucy. I've never questioned how you felt about me when we're together."

Lucy wraps her arms around Whistler's waist. "Doesn't hurt to hear though, does it?"

"No, it doesn't," Whistler agrees, smiling.

"I love you," Lucy says again, "and I would love to show you just how much tonight."

Whistler presses her forehead to Lucy's. "That's going to make all the paperwork I have to do today way more tolerable."

"But you like paperwork," Lucy points out, and Whistler somehow manages to make that weird quirk charming.

"Not as much as I like this," Whistler counters softly. "I like this the most."

Lucy brings her hand up to tilt Whistler's face so she can kiss her, and when a small noise of appreciation bubbles from Whistler's throat, Lucy thinks that she might like this the most, too.

fin.