*A/N - MY FIRST STUMPTOWN FIC. I love this show, and the characters. Obviously the show is still part way through it's first season, so there are certain things that may have to be written via artistic license when facts arent known or timelines have yet to be determined! Hope you like this first chapter. More to follow.*
Crossing The Line:
"You seem like a really nice guy, and this is...this is nice, you know, and I like...but I...I can't cross the line because if I do, I mess it up...I kill everything."
"Well here's a crazy idea: what if we just don't cross the line again?"
And that line was was one that stood firm for quite some time.
Until, somewhere along the way...it just...didn't.
It hadn't been intentional. At least, not to start with. Things just began to happen that muddied the waters slightly. They blurred the line, rather than crossing it. Straddled it, sometimes, if you will. Conveniently forgetting the promise they'd made, and immediately reverting back to business as usual without so much as a second thought once the moment had passed.
They were exceptionally good at that part.
It all began so innocently. Twelve months into their friendship, Dex and Grey had established a familiar Friday night routine: video games and take-out at her place (Ansel always got to choose what they ordered), with the two of them venturing out to a bar at the end of her street afterwards. Dex refused to go any further afield, insisting she be close by should Ansel need her, but the bar had a pool table and served half decent beer, so Grey never bothered arguing. Besides, it meant he could sleep on their couch if he drank too much, so he supposed it was a win-win.
Dex had just beaten Grey at pool, again, and he graciously accepted defeat, slinking off to the bar to buy the next round of drinks. He'd paid the server and collected his order, vaguely aware of some commotion starting up behind him, turning with four beers in hand to see a small scuffle breaking out just to the left of where he and Dex had secured a table.
"What's that all about?" He nodded towards the noise.
"Too many cues and not enough tables." Dex shrugged with a chuckle, taking her beers from Grey's outstretched hand as he sat opposite her.
"One of these days, when I finally have my own bar set up, I'll make sure there's plenty of pool tables to go round. With a higher standard of clientele, of course."
"Well, remind me to beat you easily at each and every of those tables, too..." Dex grinned.
Grey was ready with a witty retort, as ever, but it never managed to leave his lips as they were interrupted by an almighty crash. He span on his seat immediately, hands shielding his head from god-knows-what as glass began shattering to the floor around them. A full scale fight had broken out, resulting in a pool cue being smashed over someone's back and repeatedly into the overhead lights - leaving them flickering intermittently as punches flew.
"Fucking assholes..." Grey grumbled with a shake of his head "...you okay, Dex?"
He turned back to check on her, but found himself facing an empty seat.
He frowned, then rose from his seat and walked around to her chair.
And that's when he saw her.
Terrified and cowering under a table 10 feet away, nearer the door, her eyes screwed shut in blind panic.
Grey knew that Dex suffered from PTSD. She didn't like to talk about it, in fact she often insisted she didn't have it at all. But every now and then, she'd disappear completely, even when she was sat right in front of him. Something as little as a certain smell could trigger a flashback, or a sudden power cut would instantly transport her back to nights of darkness on tour.
Occasionally, he'd hear her cry out in her sleep when he stayed over. Those times were hard.
There was never very much he could do, or that Dex would allow him to do, to help. But he had never seen her have a reaction like this before. His stomach dropped to the floor as he watched his best friend practically fold in on herself. Without stopping to think, Grey rushed towards her, pulling Dex from under the table and practically lifting her through the doors into the cool night air outside. He didn't really know if that was what he should have done, but he just knew he needed to get Dex away from the situation as fast as possible.
"Dex, can you hear me?"
The brickwork was cold against the bare skin of her arms, but all she was aware of was the deafening pounding of her own heartbeat in her ears. It began to sound like helicopter blades repeatedly whirring above her head.
She couldn't catch her breath, and even with her eyes firmly closed could still see the flashes of flares and gunfire overhead. She could smell the dirt of the ground, taste metal in the air, feel the blood on her hands...
"DEX!" Grey's voice finally cut through the nightmare of images in her mind, snapping her back to the present as his hands gripped her upper arms.
She gulped frantically at the night air, trying to fill her lungs as her eyes shot open, pupils widened in fear.
"Hey, hey, it's okay Dex - it was just a fight in a bar. A pool cue smashed some lights."
She looked like a terrified animal caught in the headlights of oncoming traffic, just giving up and waiting for impact. Grey racked his brains for how to help her reconnect with where she was, to unwind her spiral of panic. He remembered an article he'd read about how people experiencing panic attacks developed grounding methods to help them. It wasn't quite the same, but he needed to try something.
"Give me your hand." He instructed.
Dex didn't move, merely shaking her head, a single tear slipping down her cheek. Undeterred, Grey reached down very slowly, bringing her hand up to his chest and gently placing her palm flat across his heart, holding it there as her fingers splayed against him.
"Just concentrate on my heartbeat." He whispered softly. "Follow my breathing."
Slowly and purposefully, he breathed in and out as steadily as possible, encouraging her to do the same until, eventually, she was no longer hyperventilating.
As she became calmer, Dex let out a little sigh and Grey felt her fingertips flex over his heart, pressing hard through the material of his shirt as if she needed to anchor herself to something - like he was her only grip on reality.
Grey's head leaned towards hers, their foreheads barely touching as he spoke to her, separated by the narrowest slither of space.
"This is real, Dex. You're home...you're safe."
His words hung in the air for a long while, neither of them moving from the little protective cocoon they had going on. There was a brief moment where Grey thought about pulling her to him for a hug, but then he sensed something change in the atmosphere around them.
Dex looked up at him, and Grey knew she was back. The colour had returned to her cheeks, her eyes now extremely focused on his face.
As if suddenly realising there was little to no gap between their bodies, Dex let her head fall back against the wall with an awkward laugh.
"What is this, a hallmark movie?" She quipped, hands wrapping tightly around her own waist as she forced herself to look away from him and up the street at nothing in particular.
Grey sucked his lips over his teeth and rocked back on his heels, ensuring a reasonable amount of pavement had been reinstated between them.
"Uh, so...you good?" He asked, stuffing his hands into his pockets.
"Yah, I'm good. I'm...fine. Thanks for your concern, though."
"Okay." She insisted "So are we going to go finish our drinks?"
"We don't have to go back in there, we can call it a night instead." Grey offered "Do you want me to walk you home?"
Dex scrunched up her face in disgust.
"Do I want you to walk me home? What are we, like, twelve?!"
"I just thought_"
"Well you thought wrong." She cut him off, desperate to avoid talking about what had just happened to her, and about that weirdly intimate moment between them.
"Alright. I'm sorry." Grey shrugged "I'm just trying to be a good friend, Dex."
"If you want to be a good friend, then come back inside so we can finish our beers and I can continue rubbing it in your face about how much better than you I am at pool."
Rolling his eyes, Grey did as he was told, stepping forward and pulling the door open for Dex as she sauntered back into the bar as if nothing the slightest bit unusual had occurred.
That had been the first time things began to change. But it wouldn't be the last.