Not mine. Notes at the foot, this time.
Dan Cooper set down his soda can, looked around his new glass-walled office in the Miami-Dade crime lab, leaned back in his chair and stretched. Life was good. Life was better than he had any right to expect it to be, to be honest, which usually meant it was about to come crashing down around his ears. But hey, he was used to that, and right now he was going to enjoy the moment while it lasted.
His cellphone rang. Dan smiled as he looked at the caller ID; good as life was, there was still one thing that could make it better, and here she was now. "Hi, Maria."
"So how did it go?" Maria asked, typically direct and to the point.
"I got the job." Four words, but none of the others really understood how much they meant to him. He
had a job; a real job, not just flipping burgers, even if they all told him he flipped a mean burger.
The squeal that threatened to burst his eardrum told him that maybe he hadn't managed to sound quite as nonchalant as he'd tried. "I told you you would, you doofus," she said. "All those night classes with computers had to be good for something."
Dan grunted, trying to recapture some aloofness. There wasn't really any point bothering when Maria knew him better than anyone else, but it was the principle of the thing. "I just push the buttons, it's the computer that does all the hard work. I'm just lucky their last guy left when he did."
"That sounds awfully convenient."
"Good to hear that all that journalistic training hasn't stopped you being paranoid," Dan said, keeping his tone teasing though he understood the deadly serious question. "Apparently the guy just upped and left to go live in a cabin in the woods, seriously annoying the boss. And yes," he added before she could say the obvious, "I did check, and yes, he really is living in the woods. With his boyfriend."
"Wow," she said. "The boyfriend is that hot?"
"How should I know?" Dan shot back. "Maybe I should send your cousin some pictures and get his professional opinion."
"Don't you dare!" There was enough of the old Maria in that for Dan to know that he risked actual bodily harm if he carried out his threat. "I've only just got him to stop squealing over that photo of Max and Kyle you forwarded. Apparently they are hotter than a very hot thing, and Dana whined non-stop for weeks about when I was going to invite them over."
Dan grinned. "I take it the big gay road-trip is still going on?" he asked.
"I don't think they know how to stop," Maria laughed. "You know how they are. Max has to fix every problem he sees, and Kyle won't let him hang around if he thinks they've been seen doing anything. Plus I think they have this secret plan to have sex in every small town in America."
Dan pulled a face. "Don't make me think about Maxwell like that," he said. "There isn't enough therapy in the world to get that image out of my head. Though I might forgive you if you told me that our little Floridian newspapers were about to be graced by the great Celeste herself."
Maria sighed, and Dan could practically hear the roll of her eyes that went with his poke at her new identity. "I can't, Michael," she said, "not yet. I've only just got where I am here, leaving Manhattan now would look weird and that's the last thing we need. And Dana's been a big help getting me sorted out, I owe him too much to bail just yet." She paused. "At least you've settled down now. I will catch up with you eventually, I promise, I just need some time."
Dan bit back several comments that sprang instantly to mind. Dan Cooper was supposed to be a relaxed guy, after all, but Maria could always always provoke the old him. He was scared of losing her, even though all of them splitting up had been the smart thing to do; long distance relationships sucked, and if even Max and Liz couldn't stay together, what chance did he and Maria have?
"I guess so," he said eventually. "You know, I never expected we'd all be stopping and getting domestic like this."
There was a pause, then Maria said gently, "So who have you heard from, then?"
Damn, but that woman was too perceptive sometimes. "Izzy," he said. "She did her usual thing," coming waltzing into his head while he was asleep, which was too disturbing for words, "and told me that we weren't forgiven, but she wanted us to know that she was OK. She got that place at Seattle Grace she told Max about."
Maria snorted. "Funny, I never thought of her as the doctor type. That was always Max's thing."
"Max isn't stupid," Dan told her. "He knows he couldn't hang around a hospital without being tempted to help things along. One thing would lead to another, and before you know it the press would be full of miracle cures."
"I'll try not to take that personally," Maria said dryly.
Oops. "Have you heard from Liz?" Dan asked, trying to brazen it out.
"Nice try, but don't think I'll forget about that, mister. Yes, I've heard from her. You knew she'd got her PhD in Molecular Biology?"
"I've been waiting for her to turn up and start running experiments on me," Dan said, not entirely joking.
"You are so lucky you are too far away to hit, Michael. Anyway, believe it or not, she's applied for a job at NORAD."
Dan sat up straight. "What? Is she crazy? Our IDs are good, but they're not that good. If the military check up on her..."
"They must have, but it all worked. She's got the job."
"Shit," Dan said with feeling. "I don't like it, something's got to be wrong with that setup."
"Like why do they want a molecular biologist under Cheyenne Mountain in the first place?"
Dan sat back and groaned. "Oh God, she's investigating the military. She is, isn't she?"
"I'm her oldest friend. I know her well enough to be sure... she's totally checking it out," Maria admitted eventually.
"Shit," Dan moaned again. "We'd better take precautions."
"This is Liz we're talking about. I'm sure she'll be OK."
Dan stared at his phone for a second. "Right," he said sarcastically, "with her track record the worst that can happen is that she finds out that there really are little green men and falls for their leader. Oh no, wait, she's done that already."
"Michael," Maria said sharply, and Dan knew he was in for it. That was typical, though; Liz did something that was unbelievably dangerous for them all, and somehow he was the bad guy.
"Just take care," he said. "I miss you, and I don't want..." It was as much as he had words for.
"I know. I love you too, idiot."
A half-seen movement in the corridor outside reminded Dan that he wasn't entirely alone. "Hey," he said, clearing his throat, "someone's coming. It looks like they're going to make me do some actual work here after all."
"Try not to let the shock kill you," Maria advised. "Talk to you again soon."
As the door to his office opened, Dan closed his phone, swept up his soda and spun round in his chair, aiming for his very best laid-back pose.
Eric Delko wasn't impressed when the new hire started choking on his drink.
a scorecard for those playing "Six Degrees" and too lazy to check on IMDb:
Dan Cooper was played by Brendan Fehr, who also played Michael Guerin in "Roswell"
Maria DeLuca was played by Majendra Delfino, who also played Celeste Blodgett in "Celeste in the City"
Isabel Evans was played by Katherine Heigl, who also plays Dr Isobel Stevens in "Gray's Anatomy"
Liz Parker's story comes from a plot bunny thrown to the wolves by silk_knickers on LiveJournal, for whose permission to mention it I am very grateful.
Max Evans and Kyle Valenti's Big Gay Road Trip would have made a great 70s episodic show. Maybe I'll write some postcards from them some day.
Finally, Eric Delko is played by Adam Rodriguez, who played Jesse Ramirez (Mr Isabel Evans) on Roswell.