Set after chapter 5


Waking with a crick in his neck was not ideal. The realization that he only had one was because Randall's arm was hooked around it, made it a bit more bearable. He hadn't realized he was a snuggler, and that knowledge was enough to push back any irritation over being sore. However, he did sit up enough to extract Randall's limb from beneath so he could rub out the knot before it caused a headache. Randall stirred briefly before settling once more and Dalton felt himself smile. He couldn't remember ever waking up before Randall, and knowing now that he'd been missing out on clingy arms and fantastic bed head was enough to make him chuckle quietly.

He didn't know how long he watched him sleep, but it was long enough to realize he'd never seen Randall looking so sweet and at peace. He'd never noticed the constant tension in his face until he could see that his brows naturally curved higher, while his mouth settled into a pout. Dalton wondered how much effort it took him, keeping his face so serene and neutral in public all the time, or if it just came naturally at that point. Randall wouldn't tell him either way if he were to ask, so Dalton just worked on committing the natural curves of his sleeping face to memory instead.

When he finally looked away to pull his phone out he groaned quietly at the time displayed there. He'd been hoping to spend a bit more time with Randall after waking up, perhaps to discuss what had happened last night, but there would be no way he could do that now and make it to work on time. He still needed to shower and run to his place to get a change of clothes.

Carefully, he removed himself from bed, offering a discarded pillow to Randall's searching hands when he stirred again. The sight of him latching onto the thing and pulling it tight to his chest had Dalton biting his lip to keep from laughing. Why couldn't Randall be so endearing when he was awake?

He didn't know, but he stole a picture before putting his phone away and heading out of the room. The office would be expecting him within two hours, and he figured if he left right then, he would have plenty of time to shower, eat, read up on a couple of budget outlines and faculty reports, and get to work with fifteen minutes to spare, but he still paused when he reached the living room.

He could do all of that, it was true, but he couldn't ignore the small part of him that was still half-asleep next to Randall. The part that told him he couldn't just leave without at least waking him to ask if he was feeling alright. But doing something like that wasn't something he'd ever done before, and it certainly didn't match their routine… and he'd already disturbed the routine enough as it was with last night's stunt. Not that Randall had seemed to mind, but the point stood nonetheless.

But still, leaving him without doing something felt wrong.

Which was how he found himself in the kitchen, scrambling eggs and spreading jam over toast, making mental notes on what to bring over for food the next time he planned to stay the night- seriously, did those two ever eat? He knew they both had hangups with food, but sometimes he wondered...

The rattling of the front door being opened and closed had him nearly dropping the spatula which was currently being used to put eggs onto a plate for Randall and Dalton cursed. He went to call out and ask who was there but didn't get far before Hyacinth's voice echoed throughout the house.

"Yo Raze, I'm home! Wake up, I got you some… eats…"

Dalton waved his free hand at her when as she trailed off and met his gaze across the room. He could see the full range of fear, confusion, and then annoyance flit across her face and he offered her a short, "hey," before her hand tightened around the bag hanging from it. She dropped said bag unceremoniously on the counter, where it emitted a dull thud. From what he could read off the wrinkled plastic, the food she'd brought was from the cafe a block from their building that served mostly pastries at that time of the day. He knew Randall liked sweet things, but he also knew after listening to his complaining, that Hyacinth didn't often get him any.

"What are you doing here?"

She sounded about as accusatory as he expected and Dalton shrugged. He wasn't in the mood to get into a pissing match with the woman so early in the morning, nor did he want to risk waking Randall with bickering.

"Making breakfast."

"... Why do you look like you just rolled out of bed."

"Because I did?"

He was certain his bewilderment over that line of questioning was evident in his tone, but Hyacinth was not quick to provide explanation. Instead her expression shifted. He wasn't sure what the raised brows and thinned lips were supposed to mean, but given her overall demeanor, it wasn't good.

"I see. Well. If you'll excuse me."

She walked down the hall before he could think to ask where she was going, and when it dawned on him that she was going to wake Randall, it was too late to stop her. That didn't mean he didn't try, though. Ten steps out of the kitchen later, Randall was rubbing sleep out of his eyes and nearly walking right into him, a twitchy-eyed Hyacinth on his tail.

"Oh," he blinked and looked up, trademark crooked smile on his face, "hey, Dalton. You're still here?"

"I uh, made breakfast?" Dalton pointed towards the kitchen and Randall's eyes lit up. His presence seemed entirely forgotten when he pushed past him to get to the food.

"Yeah," Hyacinth piped up, "I brought you breakfast, too. Y'know, cuz I thought you'd be hungry. If I'd know he was gonna be around, I wouldn't've bothered, but."

There was a bite behind her words that hadn't been their a moment ago and Dalton got the distinct feeling that he was missing something. However, if he was, Randall didn't seem keen on sharing, because he only shot Hyacinth another grin and shoved some egg into his mouth.

"Yeah, not something I planned for."

There was something off about his tone, too- an added lilt to his voice that Dalton had come to note meant he was holding off on snarky, psychologically scarring comments. He'd never heard that kind of tone being directed at Hyacinth, though, and suddenly he got the impression that he had perhaps overstayed his welcome. Perhaps he should have opted to go home and eat there instead of getting stuck in the middle of… whatever all of this was.

"I was heading out, if that's what you were referring to."

Hyacinth shot him a look that left him thinking he shouldn't have spoken at all, and he shrugged it off while absentmindedly accepting the piece of toast that Randall had decided to shove into his peripheral vision. It was a silent hint to make good on that plan and leave and Dalton took it.

On his way downstairs, he cursed Hyacinth's ill-timed arrival. Even if he hadn't planned on getting into a long conversation with Randall about the change status quo, and if they planned on letting it remain or pretend it never happened and continue as they had been, he still had wanted to touch on the subject. There wouldn't be a chance to do that for some time now, either, given the fact that they both had a lot on their plates, with him balancing the firm's finances and staff and Randall trying to find the missing Vern.

Still, he hazarded shooting him a quick text.

To: Associate ?

We should get dinner when things calm down. Lobster? On me. Obviously.

Sent 7:42am


The week had been busy for so many reasons, all of them manageable, but what made it near impossible to relax had to be Hymn. Ever since she'd seen Dalton at home, she'd been giving him the cold shoulder. Refusing to eat with him, only giving him curt responses in text and person, not doing his laundry or offering to drive him places- and he didn't even know why.

He knew she and Dalton didn't quite get along, but his mere presence shouldn't have been that big a deal. He could understand her initial upset over his being there for the whole anniversary thing, but it had been four days. He figured she'd have gotten over it by then.

But when noon rolled around and she still didn't speak more than necessary, he decided it might just be best to stop talking to her, too. Everything he said in regards to what he'd been up to with the case seemed to agitate her, so giving her time to herself to unwind or… whatever it was she needed to do, would be for the best.

So when Dalton texted him that he was finally free to do the dinner he'd mentioned some days earlier, Randall texted a confirmation with glee. At least one person wanted to be around and talk with him.

He didn't need Hymn for everything… He didn't. Besides, it would be nice to see Dalton after so many short interactions in the professional work setting. Even after tracking Vern down, there hadn't been any time to just sit and chat, so the dinner would be a nice way for them to catch up without any social constraints- which he only found a problem because he did his best to behave for Dalton, who for some reason, still cared about what people thought of the people he slept with.

Nobody was perfect.

The rest of the day, he decided to finish writing up the reports he supposedly 'should have sent in yesterday' and then get ready for dinner.

Dalton hadn't said it was a date, which was a relief given the last proper interaction they'd had- he'd almost worried Dalton had gotten the wrong impression and thought they were suddenly going to do feelings or something in their game. But Dalton seemed as calm and casual as he always had been, so Randall took that to mean everything was status quo and this was just going to be their usual dine & bang thing.

Which meant wearing something that could be easily ripped off would be essential.

He bit his lip at the prospect of Dalton throwing him around a little. It had been awhile- two weeks or so- which meant he also needed to put on something that was going to tease Dalton throughout dinner. His own face smirking flashed at him briefly when he walked past one of the mirrors in his closet as he went to selecting his things and he had to laugh to himself. Dalton was right, he did look like a sneaky bastard when he was planning things.

He would really be cursing him for that tonight, he thought slyly as he grabbed one of his bags from the shelf and checked to make sure the correct strap-on was inside. Satisfied that it was, he nodded to himself and shoved his wallet into one of the outer pockets.

Dalton always enjoyed when he dressed simply, and though Randall found it a bit more boring than what he knew he could do with his clothes, he also found he liked the lack of layers and complicated buttons and straps when things were getting heated. With that thought in mind, he opted for a simple blouse and slacks he knew hugged his ass in a way that would have Dalton drooling. The flowy button up shirt meant no heels (that would be far to much 'lady' for him to be able to enjoy himself), but that didn't stop him from adding some other delicate details, like the nice silver earrings that had just enough diamond to catch the eye, but not enough to be garrish, and a quick flick of blue eyeliner.

He went about the rest of his routine with practiced ease and when he stepped out of the bathroom, he felt like he'd picked a particularly nice ensemble. If the way Hymn was eyeing him like he'd been abducted by aliens with 'actual fashion sense' was any indication, she thought the same thing.

Oh, right. Hymn. He hadn't told her he was going out, but she didn't seem all that surprised by his dressing up.

"Do I look nice?"

"Yeah…" she frowned. "You don't usually get so dressed up for girls' night, though. What's the occasion?"

Girls' Night.

Shit.

No, it was fine. She'd been angry or something as of late and hadn't seemed like she would be in the mood for hanging out. It was fine that he'd made plans, because he would be giving her the clearly much-needed space she'd obviously been craving- why else would she have continued icing him out?

"Well, that would be because I'm not dressed up for girls' night."

"Come again?"

"I'm going out with Dalton."

"What."

An angry fissure formed between her brows and Randall groaned. He could already see the lecture coming and he did not want to hear it.

"I know, I know. Don't even start."

"Oh, you know, do you?" She crossed her arms, shifting on the couch to better face him. "Then you know you're being super shitty. Great."

"I'm being shitty?" Randall almost dropped his bag, irritation building up over her reaction. "You've been nasty all week and I'm the one being shitty?"

"You're the one ditching me! We haven't had a girls' night in weeks, and you're seriously trying to lecture me about being annoyed that you're skipping out on me again? Seriously?"

She'd gotten up at that point, but she hadn't moved. Randall knew that meant she planned on this either being resolved quickly, or becoming a screaming match. Either way, she intended to be standing there for some time.

Well, she could stand there all night.

"I was working. You know I was- it wasn't 'skipping out'. Besides, it wasn't like you haven't been hanging out with your girlfriend."

"Because you wouldn't hang out with me."

"Again, I've been work-"

"Yeah, and when you haven't been working, you've been fucking off with Dalton! Don't think I don't know where all your freetime has been going."

He wondered if his face was growing as red as hers. He crossed his arms to keep from running his hands through his recently combed hair. "I work with Dalton. It's not as if he's been with me every second of every day."

"Oh really? You could've fooled me."

He narrowed his eyes as her glare intensified. The pitch in her voice, like she'd been getting ready to scream and then thought better of it at the last moment made him pause. She definitely had more to say on that line of thought. He wanted to know what it was.

"What is your problem with Dalton? You act like he's-"

"He is! He's encroaching on our life, Razr! He's taking up fun Razr and I'm getting stuck with tired Razr who doesn't want to do anything but complain about clients and bug me about laundry- I'm not your fucking maid, by the way."

Perhaps she was correct that Dalton had been around more often than not, but he resented the implication that he'd been treating her with so little respect as a result of being around the man. If anything, she should have been grateful to Dalton for his constant reminders to text her and let her know he'd be late, or that he was bringing dinner home. Half the time, Dalton was the reason he remembered to do considerate things. Even if he just barely tolerated Hyacinth.

"You're being unfair, Hymn. You have been in a foul mood since Monday, and Dalton has nothing to do with it."

"The hell he doesn't! You let him stay with you on her anniversary! You never let me do that! What the actual fuck was that about, huh?!"

Oh. So she hadn't been as over it as he'd thought. Well, wasn't that just too bad for her, then?

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize my having someone around to help me relax on the day of my mother's death was difficult for you."

"Fuck you, that's not how I meant it and you know it."

"Maybe so, but the point still stands."

"It doesn't! It doesn't stand! A fuckbuddy should not be taking so much of your time. It's really screwing with my life schedule-"

Randall snorted. He couldn't help it. "I'm sorry, my having someone to fuck is interfering with your life? Are you for real, Hyacinth? What about you, and you're million-girlfriends-a-month routine? You think that doesn't make planning things difficult for me?"

It may have been a low blow to bring up her relationship problems, but he could think of no better example to throw back at her for her hypocrisy. If Dalton was messing her up, she should've been taking into account how her numerous lady friends upset him. She'd stopped having time for him long before he'd gotten busy.

"Really?" Her voice quieted, but hardened at the edges and Randall waited for the blow she'd been preparing. She always got quiet when she was getting ready to be extra cruel.

"You are a fucking. Asshole. Not to mention selfish. You are the one he encourages me to keep trying after each and every breakup. You are the one who tells me it's fine to take time for myself if I need to sort some things out, because my relationships are important and I should try to make them work. So don't you try to throw that back in my face and say it's all my fault.

You are my best. Friend. Razr. We moved here together, we bought this place together… we did everything together. Yet it feels like I'm the only one who even lives here anymore! You've been off doing whatever the fuck it is you do all day, and I've been here, wondering if today's the day you're gonna pull your head outta your ass and realize I've been waiting to hang with you."

Oh, that was a load of horseshit if he'd ever heard it. She had not been just 'waiting around.' She had a life outside of him too, and she was not about to make him feel guilty for that. She wasn't.

"I've been busy," he stated again, "and I don't owe it to you to buy you dinner and take you to the movies. We're not married!"

"Yeah, neither are you and Dalton, but you seem to be fine with getting all close and cozy with him- putting him first but not me! Why? Why is dinner with him more important than me?"

If he took a moment to note the crack in her voice, he might have cared more about where she'd been emotionally the entirety of the argument, but her treatment over the last few days still had him highly embittered and he pointed a finger at her to emphasize when he spoke.

"Because you have been a bitch to me! Not Dalton. You. And I'm not gonna pass up free lobster to hang out with someone who's barely been speaking to me!"

"I'm sorry if I can't just bounce back from an unresolved conflict like you can- some of us require more than a 'yeah, he was here, but it's all good'! Look, you keep abandoning me for your stupid fuckbuddy and it's ridiculous!"

"You're just jealous I have somebody to fuck. Sorry if I'm the only one in this house that can have a relationship that lasts longer than a month."

Even lower blow. He'd feel bad about it later. For the time being the words had their desired effect. Hymn visibly deflated. Not from defeat, but it was close enough- he'd be able to leave the house without her texting him that they were not done talking.

"You know what? Just go. Just go on your fucking date. I don't care."

"It's not a date."

"I don't give a shit."

Her walking off and heading for her bedroom was all the signal he needed that it was time to leave, and Randall wasted no time doing so, ignoring the small bead of not-guilt sitting in his chest as he headed downstairs where Trisha was waiting to take him to the restaurant.


Dinner sucked.

Or rather, dinner was fantastic. Everything tasted perfect, his mouth was in heaven and he was dying to get to the main course, but he couldn't enjoy any of it. His and Hymn's argument still swam at the forefront of his mind and left him feeling more agitated as the seconds passed.

He hated her for it. Dalton had lit up when he'd seen him, face scrunched softly in a smile that made his glasses slide down his nose just the slightest bit. He'd complimented his outfit, he'd poured him some wine- he'd even gotten the fruity tasting kind that Randall never bothered to learn the name of but liked nonetheless.

And he hadn't been able to enjoy any of it because of Hyacinth and her damn… feeling 'abandoned.'

"Okay, that's it. What's wrong?"

"What?"

Dalton jolted him out of his internal stewing and Randall blinked at him, taking in the frown of inquiry. He sent one right back and waited for him to explain himself.

"I've been talking all night and you've barely said a word."

"Oh, it's nothing," he lied, "just thinking about the last time I was here."

"Must have been pretty bad. You looked like you wanna kill something."

He raised a brow and Randall knew he wouldn't be able to get him to just drop it. He inwardly groaned at the prospect of telling him what had happened. It would be his luck that he would take Hymn's side.

"... Ah."

"So?" Dalton leaned forward a bit, expectantly, and Randall wished more than anything that their food would just arrive so that he could have a reasonable excuse not to talk.

Yet even as he thought that, the words came spilling out of his mouth, only to leave a bitter taste on his tongue.

"Hymn's being stupid. Nothing new."

"Huh. You don't call her stupid. That's new. I thought you adored her?"

"Well, apparently she doesn't adore me anymore because I've been daring to have a life outside of her."

"I don't follow."

"I've been spending too much time with…" Dalton raised a brow, a nudge for him to finish and Randall picked up his fork to inspect it. He didn't want to let him know that his spending time with him specifically was what was getting to her- he didn't want Dalton to objectively think about how much time they'd been spending together. He decided to quickly round it off with: "...other people, and she's bitter about it."

Dalton frowned. "Okay, but… didn't you get the same way when she had a life outside of you?"

He hated him sometimes. Of all the times he could have been listening to him when he'd gone on a tirade in the past, of course it had been when he'd confided in Dalton that Hymn had been spending so much time with her new girl that she'd hardly paid him any attention. He'd been more than happy to distract from his frustrations at that point, but… he also hadn't forgotten. Damn.

Randall put his fork down and hastily took a sip of his wine, hoping the flush in his face wasn't too noticeable. Knowing his luck it was, and Dalton knew he'd made a fair point.

Still, as indignant as he'd been about Hymn's lady friends, he'd had a more valid reason to be upset, he thought.

"Well… that was different."

"How so?"

"She had actual relationships. Like… dating ones. There was a future potentially with the people she was with… I don't like the idea of her leaving me, okay?"

Dalton got quiet and it was Randall's turn to frown. He couldn't tell if he was thinking, or if he was bothered by his unintentional dig at the fact that they weren't dating or going anywhere with a real future. And then Hymn's words echoing at him to 'go on his date' and he shook his head for being stupid to think Dalton would think like that. They both knew they weren't serious or heading for anything big.

He just needed a minute to gather his thoughts, it seemed, so Randall gave it to him. Eventually he did speak again, though Randall started to wish he'd just stayed silent.

"So… I mean, she's upset that you're not hanging out with her. Maybe she feels the same way- like you not being around is the same as abandoning her."

Randall wanted to stab someone. "She used that exact word. Abandoning."

"Hm. Guess there's merit to it, then." Dalton nodded to himself, seeming satisfied with that.

Randall decided maybe he just wanted to stab him. Leave it to him to get to the root of the problem and make him feel like a colossal ass. Funnily enough, Dalton was one of the only people who could do that. He refused to think too hard on that one.

"Or maybe you both just talk in similar ways."

Dalton's expression remained unmoved. "Or maybe you're deflecting so you don't feel bad."

"I don't do that."

"Bullshit." It was more a laugh than anything, and Randall smiled a bit, but still, he couldn't find true amusement in the moment. And he wasn't ready to just give in- he still had some valid points of his own.

"Fine, so I do that. So what? It doesn't change the fact that she's being selfish."

"You're right. But that also doesn't change the fact that she's been feeling neglected and you tried to make her feel bad about having feelings."

Damn him.

"So what, I should apologize to her?"

Dalton blinked, like he hadn't expected him to come around to that conclusion so fast, and Randall took a brief moment to enjoy that fact before he realized that Dalton looked pleased. "... Yeah, actually."

Randall wanted to ask when exactly Dalton had become so keen on offering him life advice, especially when said advice would interrupt something they were in the middle of, but instead and crossed his arms and rolled his eyes.

"Oh joy."

"Cool," Dalton's chair creaked as he rose quickly from it, "let's go do that-"

"You don't wanna finish dinner?"

He paused in his task of pulling Randall's seat out and affixed him with a serious look, one that made him shiver involuntarily and wish that the circumstances leading up to it weren't so boner-killing.

"Randall, you and your best friend just had a bad fight and you think I'm gonna make you postpone a needed chat for food?"

He supposed he was right. As was becoming usual as of late, which was also something he didn't want to give too much thought.


The drive back to the apartment building was uneventful. Dalton put the radio on and neither of them spoke, though Randall was eighty percent sure that they should have. It wasn't every day that Dalton offered to help him repair his relationships, after all. Nor was it every day they went out to dinner and then… abandoned that and everything attached to it, in order to do so.

But they said nothing, and when they pulled up to the curb, Randall let himself out. Dalton didn't move, adjusting something in the car, and he ducked his head back into the vehicle to stare at him a moment.

"What?"

"Thank you. Don't leave."

"Wh-"

He shut the door before Dalton could ask for an explanation and quickly headed inside and upstairs.

What he was to say once the doors open and he was spit into the house, he wasn't sure. Perhaps apologies were in order, but he was still perturbed by her attitude towards him the past few days. If she had said something in the first place about being hurt, they could have avoided the whole fight altogether. Instead she'd just stewed in it. What had she expected, for him to pick up on all the little passive-aggressive hints she dropped? Just because he was a profiler didn't mean he constantly analyzed his friends. Of all people, he'd thought she understood that.

Despite that, he did get the feeling that if he said something like that to her, things would spiral downhill again. According to past-Dalton, he couldn't make everything about himself when apologizing, even if he thought he was justified in doing so. It irked him to no end, that. But the advice had done wonders in making the things he said, sincere or no, palatable.

So when the elevator opened and spit him out onto the landing, he took a deep breath to prepare himself and opened the door.

Hymn was where he expected her to be: on the couch, surfing Netflix for some sort of horror movie. At least she was predictable in her misery and hadn't decided to go out without him in a show of rebellion.

"What do you want?"

She asked without bothering to turn and look at him and Randall sighed. She was still flipping through movies titles, but the aggression she'd turned towards the remote buttons was broadcasting her mood pretty clearly. There would be no way of doing anything delicately, so Randall went to picking at his nails while he spoke.

"Look, I'm sorry, okay?"

That got her attention. He could feel her eyes suddenly snap to him. But it was his turn to not look at her and he continued focusing on his hands.

"What I said was uncalled for. Your feelings are valid…" even if they're a little bit wrong, he decided not to add. "I should have consulted you before going out with Dalton so often- or, taken your feelings into account, I guess."

"You guess?"

"Oh drop it," he finally shot her a scowl, "neither of us are good at this thing."

She countered with a small smirk and tilted her head. "Why the sudden change of heart?"

"I… was just thinking about it at dinner. Perhaps I was a bit unfair to you."

"A bit?" He could just hear the long tirade coming, but it stopped short as what he'd said seemed to register with her. "Wait, you left dinner. Why?"

Because Dalton made me. "Because it was bugging me that you were going to be sitting here like a sad-sack, and it was ruining what could have been a perfectly good meal."

"Oh, I see," her frown returned, "so you're apologizing so you don't have to feel guilty anymore."

"Isn't that why anyone apologizes?"

That was the wrong thing to say. He knew that as the words exited his mouth and he kicked himself for letting his tongue run wild. Hymn crossed her arms defensively over her chest and hummed in a way that was neither thoughtful or impressed.

"Well, who's the selfish one now?"

"Oh, c'mon! I can know what I did was insensitive and still not want to feel bad about it forever! You've done it on multiple occasions."

"Razr, do you actually feel bad about what you did, or are you just saying these things because you know I want to hear them."

He supposed he could lie. It wouldn't be difficult and he could sell it well enough for her to buy. But then, it wouldn't be a real apology then, or something. So with a small grimace, he steeled himself for whatever reaction she gave, and offered her the truth.

"A bit of both, to be honest."

Another hum. Different this time, more acknowledgement.

"Fine. Then while you're being honest, answer me this."

He shrugged, "I'll try."

"Why did you let Dalton stay?"

Why indeed. He'd been asking himself that question nearly the whole time the man had been there. There was no denying that Dalton's presence had served to soothe him in a way Hyacinth or Idoya's never had- he'd been able to actually talk about it. He hadn't done that in a long while. And Dalton hadn't pitied him or tried to make him feel better, like others might have. He simply accepted that it was his past and had let him have his couple hours of uselessness while he dealt with the memory of it. He'd taken care of him.

Randall knew, given the option, Hymn would have as well, but it wouldn't have been the same. Her and Dalton's brands of comfort were like night and day. Where she gave him support by doing whatever she could to make him feel better and hoping something would stick, Dalton took his time and was a strong presence to just have near… and he didn't try to make it better. That was the biggest thing, if he truly got down to the base reasons why he'd let him stay.

Hyacinth tried to make things better. She hated when he was upset- given enough time around it, the mood rubbed off on her, and so she did everything she could to fix it. Dalton didn't. He let the problems be, he didn't try to make them go away.

He'd let him deal with his sadness in the way he wanted to, and all he'd done was make sure his basic needs were taken care of. He'd been attentive, but not overbearing.

How he could have begun to explain that to Hymn, however, he was unsure. He would have to tread carefully, or he risked accidentally offending her.

"Because he's… him, and you're you."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means…" he groaned, dragging hands through his hair while searching for something, anything that worked. "It means… that… ugh, that you know me in ways he doesn't and… it's easier. That way. To handle things."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

"Okay."

Randall wondered how many more single words they could pass between one another before it got painfully awkward. He tried not to think how awkward it was having Hymn's expression leave angry and disappointed and shift to surprised… maybe a little pitying. He could've done without that one.

At least she wasn't angry. He supposed that was a win. And now that she was calmer, he could stroke her friendship ego a bit to soften her up. True as his words were when he did things like that, he always had to lay it on a little thicker than he would've preferred.

"I don't like fighting with you, Hymn. You know I don't."

She shrugged, but he could tell she was getting there, if the way the corner of her mouth twitched could be believed.

"You're my favorite," he continued, hazarding a couple of steps closer, "Always have been and always will be."

Her features softened just a bit at that. "Yeah?"

"Always," he repeated, closing the gap and leaning against the back of the couch and putting a hand over the one she had thrown over the couch. "You know I love you more than the rest of humanity."

"Even Dalton?"

There was something in her voice, partly fond and partly defensive and Randall took a moment to think on the best way to answer. He didn't quite know where Dalton stood in his personal list of best to worst, but he certainly was high up. Still, there were a few factors that should've been keeping him below Hymn. He didn't know if they were staying properly put, given how much everything between he and Dalton had been fluctuating as of late, but he did know it was safe to say he didn't feel for him the same way he felt for her. He never would.

"I don't love Dalton. I fuck Dalton."

That earned the smallest snort from her and Randall felt like the wall that had been built up during their fight got knocked over with it. The mask over Hymn's face lifted and he realized that she had some tears swimming behind her eyes. That wouldn't do at all, and it was that thought that had him closing the gap between them.

She let him and the intense wave of relief that hit him when she returned his hug had him dropping his face into her hair.

"I'll always love you, Hymn&m."

She laughed a bit more solidly at the childhood nickname and tightened her grip on his waist.

"M'sorry I'm such a bitch," she mumbled against his chest and he pat her hair in his silent 'it's alright' even as he corrected her.

"You aren't a bitch. You were being a bitch. Different, remember?"

She nodded and Randall let himself get as comfortable as he could, hugging from behind a couch, until several minutes had passed and he couldn't help but break the silence before she did something silly like start crying. He didn't know if she would, but he didn't want to risk it by letting her stew.

"Please don't put on Chucky. I do not want that creepy rapist doll on my watch history."

"What, you don't like the perpetual murder smile?"

"Or the horribly colored hair, no," he agreed, releasing her so she could get back to searching movies.

When she finally settled on one (Silence of the Lambs. Because of course she would), she pulled the throw from beneath where he'd settled his hands on the back cushion and tucked it around her legs. As the opening sequences played out, she piped up again.

"So did you really leave Dalton to talk?"

Oh. Yes. Dalton.

The reminder that he was still outside, and had been for nearly fifteen minutes by that point smacked him upside the head and he was left feeling torn. On one end, he didn't want to leave Hymn right after reconciling with her, because he didn't want that apology to fall flat by abandoning her once more, but at the same time, he didn't want to run out on Dalton, who was the reason any of this had turned out the way it had.

Hymn reminded him just how good she was at reading his inner turmoil then when she turned back to give his face a quick sweep.

"Oh. He brought you here, didn't he?"

"He's still downstairs," Randall hedged, not wanting to upset her again but also wanting to make his problem known.

If she ended up wanting him to stay, he would, but… he and Dalton still had some things to discuss- at the very least, he owed him some gratitude for his help.

Thankfully, Hymn made his decision easy when she lightly shoved him away. "It's fine, go finish your not-a-date. Just don't flake out on me again."

"Sounds like a plan, baby!" He shouted, already halfway out the door. After getting her permission, he didn't need to hide how anxious he'd been to get back outside. She shook her head at him but he shrugged it off. They were good now, so it was alright.

The elevator ride back downstairs was agonizingly slow, and he wondered if he shouldn't have just taken the stairs when he was released into the lobby. His phone buzzed then and he pulled it out long enough to catch the notification of Dalton's text asking if he should head home. He didn't bother sending a reply, wasting none of his time getting outside and back over to the car.

Dalton was still inside, looking at his phone, waiting for a reply, and Randall took a moment to watch him. Despite the way the night had progressed, Dalton didn't look upset or put out, just concerned. Randall knew that concern was directed at him, too, when he got another text asking if things were okay.

Randall shook his head as he put his phone back into his pocket, bewildered smile being beat upon by the cool night winds. Dalton made no sense to him sometimes. The man hated Hymn, and the feeling was obviously mutual, and yet he'd halted their time together in order to help him repair his relationship with her. Randall couldn't recall the last time anyone, partner or no, had put him before themselves like that- not even Hymn- and he felt that same warmth from a few nights ago curl in his chest.

Dalton's surprised expression when he pulled the door open and subjected him to the abuse of the elements too was enough to pull Randall's small smile into a grin. He gestured for him to get out of the car and with a confused shake of his head, Dalton did so. He closed the door and Dalton leaned against it. The overall look of slightly windblown, concerned, and well-dressed left Randall with the impression that the heat on his face had nothing to do with the cold, and he stepped into Dalton's personal space, effectively trapping him between his body and the car.

No protest was made over the treatment. In fact, Dalton seemed to enjoy it, a smile curving his own features as he reached up to adjust his glasses. The motion was endearing and Randall found his hands wandering up to latch onto the scarf settled against Dalton's chest.

He looked down, a silent question on his face and Randall tilted his head up to look him in the eyes.

"Thank you." He said it so softly he wondered if it hadn't been ripped away by the wind before it reached his ears, but the way Dalton's shoulders relaxed, he'd heard.

"Your welcome," he murmured back.

Randall felt more than heard himself swallow hard.

Having Dalton like this, gentle and hesitant, left him at a loss even as the air around them heated up with unspoken tension. It wasn't bad. Quite the opposite in fact. But that was dangerous.

They'd already gotten closer than he'd ever intended them to when Dalton dropped in unexpectedly and he'd spilled his guts out all over the living room floor, talking about his dead mother and old name.

But he couldn't say he hadn't wanted that.

He'd wanted Dalton to kiss him since the first time they'd gotten into bed together. He hadn't. He hadn't because that was a line they'd silently agreed should not be crossed.

But then they had. And he'd really liked it. And he wanted to do it again. But doing that would mean changing the dynamic. They would no longer be people who worked together and occasionally woke up in the same bed. They would become people who went out to dinner and helped interpersonal relationships, and ended nights with shared breaths but not shared bodies. And that was not something either of them had signed up for.

Yet, he didn't fear it.

And as he used that scarf to pull Dalton's face closer to his, his companion didn't look scared either. Still, he wasn't about to break the code of the game before consulting his other player. When he felt Dalton's breaths against his upper lip, he halted further movement with a hand to his chest.

(Was it his imagination, or was it thrumming beneath his fingertips?)

"Is this a violation of any laws?"

The joking question ended up sounding quite serious in the dark, huddled so close to one another. Dalton took it that way, too. His brows pulled tight and Randall found himself swallowing hard again.

If he said it was, they could leave it as a one-time thing. They would have to. He could be fine with that, he supposed. There would always be a discontent part of him wanting more, sure, but he could understand if Dalton didn't want the same things. But… Randall found he really wanted their wants to align.

Dalton clearing his throat could have been a gun going off in the silence and Randall tightened the hold on his scarf instinctively.

"Um… not to my knowledge."

He wondered if his smile looked to Dalton as strange as it felt to him, tight and twitchy as he tried to keep a grin at bay.

"Well, as the lawyer, you would know."

"Former. And I would."

The tip of Dalton's nose brushed his and Randall let himself be pulled forward. When Dalton closed the space between them, settling his hands on either side of his face, Randall hoped he didn't hear the small squeak that escaped from the brief cold contact. It was a similar position from the last time they'd kissed, but different too. Dalton was more sure of himself, more confident in where he put his hands- holding him so delicately, like he would spook and run off at any moment.

There weren't many instances he liked being handled like that, being made to feel as small as he was, but as he slotted their mouths together better and Dalton laughed softly against his lips, Randall concluded that this was one of those instances where he didn't mind. Besides, Dalton's hands were warm as his thumbs brushed across his cheeks. And he was a steady presence under his hands when he let his eyes flit closed, bringing his other hand up to dig into the lapels of Dalton's jacket.

He may have told Hymn not five minutes ago that he only used Dalton for sex, and that tonight hadn't been a date, but... the current moment may have been making him a bit of a liar. He would never admit to anyone but maybe the smallest part of himself that it might have not been a not-date, but Randall found he couldn't bring himself to care too much. Not when Dalton was so soft and warm, and whispering, "You look beautiful, by the way," before capturing his lips again.

He could live with being a liar.