"Hey, Will. Phone for you."
David Bradley's voice floated clearly through the bathroom door. Will opened the door, toweling his wet hair.
"At this hour?"
There was a suggestion of a delay before David said, "I think it's your...partner."
Will glanced at the bedroom clock. What the hell was Taylor doing phoning when he should be in a plane winging over the Atlantic Ocean? And why the hell had David picked that phone up?
He resisted the impulse to spell all that out. It wasn't David's fault that Taylor, supremely confident in most areas, had a disconcerting insecurity where Naval Lieutenant Commander David Bradley was concerned.
He went through to the front room and picked up the phone.
It was funny how even after all this time, his heart gave a little kick at the sound of Taylor's husky voice. Like a turbo boost. They'd been friends and partners for three years before unexpectedly--on Will's part, anyway--realizing that somehow along the way, affection had turned to love. "Where are you?"
He was expecting the next comment to be a question about David, though he hoped Taylor wouldn't recognize the voice as Bradley's given he'd only heard it a couple of times. Even so, Taylor was probably wondering why there was a guy in Will's apartment at one in the a.m.
But Taylor surprised him. "LAX."
"Why? Why aren't you on your way here?"
"I missed my flight."
Will swore. "Don't tell me that bastard Cooper canceled your leave again?"
"No. I screwed this up myself." Taylor proceeded to tell him about believing he'd spotted geriatric terrorist Yann Helloco from an article in American Cop.
When Will could wedge a word in, he asked, "Who the hell is Yann Helloco?" Anyone but Taylor and he'd figure the guy was putting in too much overtime, but if Taylor thought he'd ID'd this silver panther, that was good enough for Will.
Although he kind of wished Taylor hadn't had to go quite so Dudley Do-Right on their vacation time.
"Back in the sixties he was a member of the FLB. The Front de Liberation de la Bretagne. You'd know them as the Liberation Front of Brittany."
"No, I wouldn't. I've never heard of them. The sixties? Are you kidding? I've got plenty to keep me busy with current affairs."
"They were called the smiling terrorists."
"I'm sure. I'm sure they left their victims laughing in the aisles." Will hated terrorists. Period.
"Their attacks were symbolic. No one was to be killed or injured, but then in the seventies Helloco and a few others broke and formed Finistere. Finistere didn't have the same attitude about nonviolence."
Eleven months and he's missed his goddamned plane, and for some reason he's talking to me about terrorism in the 1960s.
Will did his best to swallow his exasperation as Taylor tersely briefed him on Finistere's background and their greatest "statement," which was apparently the bombing of a Parisian museum and its collection of irreplaceable paintings by Jacques-Louis David.
Pronounced Dah-veed, but it reminded Will that Bradley was sitting on the sofa sipping his drink and trying not to listen in on Will's conversation.
He opened his mouth to address the inevitable question before Taylor had to, but Taylor was telling him--clipped tone revealing that this was the tough part--about how the plane had been delayed but no bomb had turned up and there had been no sign of Helloco.
Ouch. Taylor didn't say so, but he'd have gotten short shrift from everyone involved when this mythical bad guy failed to materialize. Reading between the lines: Taylor had exceeded his authority in spectacular fashion and was going to have to pay the price for his failed gamble. The line between hero and villain could be disconcertingly fine.
Will said comfortingly, "If that guy was who you thought he was, he's got radar. He probably pegged you for law enforcement before you ever spotted him."
"He probably walked straight out of the airport and crawled back under whatever rock he's been hiding beneath."
Will knew that tone of old. Taylor was going to keep worrying at this like a dog with a bone.
"No? What do you think happened?"
"I think he had a contingency plan."
Because that was what Taylor would do, and nobody was better at thinking like a bad guy than Taylor. The fact that Will found that charming probably said something none too flattering about Will. "Such as?"
"He could have booked two flights."
"He couldn't use his real name. It would come up flagged."
"No, but he could book on two separate airlines as Yannick Hinault. Or he could have another alias too. Either way he could book two flights on two separate airlines, and if one flight seemed to be compromised, he could switch over to the second flight."
"Nobody searched other airlines. I tried, but they wouldn't do it. When Hinault or Helloco or whatever the hell his name is didn't turn up on Flight DL67, security did a haphazard sweep of the Delta terminal, found nothing and no one, and cleared the plane for takeoff."
Yep. It had gone down just as Will feared. "The problem is nobody saw him but you, and you're not sure the man you saw was Yann Helloco."
"Listen, you did what you could. You did the right thing. There's a chance this guy was not Yann Helloco, you know."
"I know. But the similarity of the names--"
"Sure. The names are similar."
"Not just similar. They're both Breton names."
Pretty weird coincidence, if it was a coincidence. Will didn't bother to deny it.
Taylor continued, "And why did this Hinault miss his flight? Where did he go?"
"People do miss flights, Taylor. Case in point."
"It's a big coincidence, Will. I just happen to spot a guy I think might be wanted by Interpol for the last thirty years, and that guy just happens to miss his flight?"
Will sighed, weary of the subject of Yann Helloco. "Yes, it's a big coincidence. So was your sister showing up at the airport today. Coincidences happen. They're not all sinister."
"He could be on his way to Paris right now."
"So could you." The minute it slipped out, Will regretted it. Taylor had done the right thing; Will would have done the same thing in his place. The difference being Will wouldn't recognize a terrorist from the seventies if the dude walked up and punched him in the nose. He wasn't even sure he'd recognize the legendary Carlos the Jackal, and his face had been plastered all over the news after he'd been arrested in the nineties.
"True," Taylor said without inflection.
Like Taylor hadn't taken enough shit over this? Will said quickly, "Listen, you made the right call. I just..." Too awkward to finish the thought with his former boyfriend not ten feet away, but Christ, he missed Taylor. Even a few hours' delay seemed intolerable after all these months. Will had known the separation wasn't going to be easy, but he hadn't anticipated quite how tough it was going to get. He said instead, "Look on the bright side. If Helloco did catch a plane out of the country, good riddance. He's someone else's problem now."
If Taylor heard that, he didn't acknowledge it. "I'll be landing around eleven o'clock at Charles de Gaulle Airport. I should be at your place by--"
"I'm picking you up. We already settled this."
"Will, I can grab a cab. It's not a big deal."
"No, it's not, so enough with the cab."
"I just don't want to complicate your situation."
"I don't know," Taylor said with a flash of irritability. "The situation that has David Bradley answering your phone at one in the morning."
Oh that situation. So much for Taylor not recognizing David's voice.
Will would have preferred to leave it at We'll talk about it when I see you, but the idea of Taylor spending the next ten hours thinking there was something going on between him and Bradley was not acceptable.
"David's in town for the D-day anniversary. We met for a late dinner and were coming back to my place for drinks when we got caught in the rain. I was in the shower when the phone rang." End of a lame-ass--but absolutely true--story.
Will said skeptically, "Okay?"
There it was. One of the big reasons why Will loved Taylor. Trust was a two-way street. Will wouldn't want to be with someone who didn't trust him any more than he wanted to be with someone he couldn't trust. There had been a time when he had believed Taylor would be incapable of sustaining a long-term relationship, but Taylor had proved to be the model of fidelity, and Will had been the one who had made choices guaranteed to make any lover insecure. Yet Taylor had met the challenge with cool dignity and something pretty close to grace.
So to hell with David Bradley sitting within earshot. Will said softly into the phone, "I love you. Don't miss this plane, okay?"
Taylor's voice softened too. "Yeah. I won't."
There was more Will wanted to say, maybe would have said if he'd been on his own.
He replaced the receiver.
"How's MacAllister doing?" David asked, clearly out of politeness.
"He's fine." Will liked David. A lot. If things had been different...but they were what they were. Will was in love with Taylor and hoping they might eventually be posted to the same city again. He wasn't going to discuss their relationship with anyone but Taylor.
"Long-distance relationships are hard," David observed, as though reading Will's mind. He lifted his glass and took another sip of bourbon.
"We're working it out. But yeah, it's been tough on both of us."
"You've still got how long over here?"
"Another year at least." And that was the last thing Will wanted to think about.
Reading him accurately once again, David said, "You were saying at dinner your grandfather took part in the D-day assault during World War Two?"
Will swallowed the last of his own drink. The hot shower had relaxed him, and he was sleepy and hoping David wouldn't stay much longer. "One of them did. One grandfather was with the marines over in the Pacific and the other with the Fifth Ranger Battalion landing on Omaha Beach."
"Are you planning to attend the D-day celebration next week?"
"I hadn't thought about it."
"You should." David's warm brown eyes gazed into Will's, and Will felt that old, now uncomfortable, flare of response.
"Yeah, if Taylor's up for it."
David's gaze fell. He nodded and reached for his drink once more. "What made you give up the marines for the State Department?"
Not an easy topic for discussion. In fact, this was something Will had only discussed in depth with Taylor, and that had been early in their partnership. He was pretty sure David, being career navy, would not understand. "I did two tours of duty in Iraq. I saw a lot of people die on both sides. What I didn't see was us getting any closer to a resolution. Same in any arena of conflict in the world today. A lot of fighting, a lot of dying, but not a lot of problems getting solved."
David's expression was thoughtful.
Will said, "I guess that sounds funny coming from someone with my background. My dad was a marine too before he became a sheriff, and my brother just enlisted in the marines. I have the highest respect for the service, and I firmly believe a strong country requires a strong, well-trained, and well-supplied military. But it's my experience that diplomacy is actually the thing that ends conflict and gets problems solved in a permanent and lasting way."
David smiled. "Maybe it takes a combination of diplomacy and military might? I'll buy that. Was MacAllister in the marines as well?"
"No. Taylor joined the State Department right out of college."
"Ah. A career diplomat." David's tone was neutral. Too neutral.
Will smiled faintly. He didn't need to defend Taylor. Part of what had originally attracted him to his partner was Taylor's startlingly ruthless efficiency. Startling because Taylor actually looked sort of fragile. Fragile and sensitive. But Will had never known anyone more resilient. Physically resilient and mentally resilient. "He can be very tactful," he conceded. And that was a private joke that Taylor would have enjoyed, though Will was not about to admit he'd sat into the wee hours drinking bourbon and shooting the breeze with David Bradley if he didn't have to.
"He's a lucky guy." That was the closest they'd come all night to either of them touching on their aborted relationship. Will hoped David would leave it there because he liked David enough to try and remain friends with him.
To his relief, David swallowed the last mouthful of bourbon and said, "I guess I ought to shove off."
Will made polite noises, but he agreed. It was getting just a little too cozy in the apartment, what with hot showers and good bourbon and personal revelations.
David rose, a six-foot bear of a man with smiling eyes and a jaw of granite.
Will put his empty glass down and rose too. "It was great seeing you again, David. I mean that."
"Same here, Will. Thanks for a very enjoyable evening."
They walked to the door of the apartment. David hesitated. "Maybe I can return the hospitality and take you and MacAllister to dinner one night before I fly home?"
Will could imagine what his better half would have to say on that topic. "Sounds good to me. But technically it's Taylor's vacation. I'll see what he's got in mind."
"I know what I'd have in mind." David's smile was wry.
For an instant their gazes locked. Will broke the contact first. "'Night, David. It really was good to see you again after all this time."
David said with seeming reluctance, "Goodnight, Will."
David stepped into the hall, and Will closed the door firmly. It had been a very good evening, but he was glad it was over.
He glanced at the clock over the faux fireplace. Nine hours till Taylor arrived. Just nine hours to go, and then he'd be treating Taylor to a vacation he'd never forget.