Disclaimer: Not mine, really it's not.
Charlie knows better than to assume that the rest of her housemates will find their way home safely.
There have been incidents in the past. A bar brawl that left Johnny in a holding cell and Paige with a broken hand. Jakes and Briggs like to think they're more responsible than the others, but they have no one to blame for that time they lost the Jeep in a game of Texas Hold 'Em but themselves. This is not to say that Charlie doesn't have her own fair share of past indiscretions under her belt. She has just as much fun in Graceland as the next drunken federal agent. But she's an angel compared to the others…
Which is why she starts to get restless when they stay out past last call on the night after a rough case. Because if it's not alcohol keeping them at The Drop, it's trouble.
Granted, it could be nothing. They could be holed up in the bar, with their respective distractions for the evening or with each other at a corner table, dragging out their final sips and trying not to think about the debriefing they'll have to attend in the morning. Either way, Charlie is just too tired to go down there and find out. Almost twelve straight hours in a stuffy surveillance van on a scorching southern California day will do that to a person.
Luckily, she's not alone.
There's something in Charlie's tone when she says his name that has him inwardly cringing. He knows that voice. She wants him to do something, and nothing pleasant. He's sure of it. "Yeah, Char?"
"Go get them."
It's convincingly veiled as a request, but Paul can spot the order through the deceptively pleading, hesitant tone. She already knows he's going to do it. They both do. But he'd like to be able to say that he gave a convincing argument in his favor. So he sits up further and eyes her sternly, ignoring her amused smirk for the sake of his pride.
"They don't need me to drag them home," he says firmly. "They're big kids."
Charlie nods, but Briggs isn't quite sure what the point is because she's certainly not agreeing with him. "They're gonna be out all night," she sighs. "And Paul, I really need some sleep."
"We could just go to bed, you know," he says wistfully, tossing an arm over her shoulder. "Pretend like we don't care what time they stumble through the door."
She shrugs. "We could."
They actually can't. At least, not after a day like this. Even Dale "this-is-just-a-damn-house-we're-not-a-family-now- leave-me-alone" Jakes won't be able to settle in until everyone's back in their own beds.
"They had hard day. Worse than ours was," Charlie says lightly, again trying for conversational and ending up with something a little too innocent sounding. Briggs is, of course, suspicious.
"They did," he admits.
"Mikey saw one of our FBI guys get shot."
"Paige had every scumbag in that place all over her."
"Johnny got himself a pretty impressive shiner."
It's silent for a minute or two, while Briggs processes the fact that he just lost this passive little argument. He never entertained the delusion that it would turn out any other way, but it still stings. Damnit, he's tired. Why does he have to care so much? Sometimes it sucks being one of the good guys.
"They're grown adults," he tries finally, weakly. "They know when it's time to come home."
Charlie gets a satisfied little grin on her face that Briggs can't be too irritated with. She can hear the defeat in his voice, and he's sure that it's music to her evil little ears. His arm flops to his side when she slips out from under it to lean against the other arm of the couch, and he wakes up a little from the loss of her warmth. "Yeah," she whispers, chuckling slightly under her breath. "But we know better."
The Drop is fairly crowded for as late as it is, but Briggs spots his housemates easily. Johnny's in the corner with a swarm of attractive women fawning over his injury like it's a cracked skull instead of a black eye. It's hard to tell because her face is obscured by her hair and her new friend's face, but he's pretty sure the woman in the blonde surfer's lap is Paige. At least Mike's behaving. The kid's leaning against the bar, nursing his last drink, with his eyes glued to the corner of the bar and that amused little smirk that he tends to wear on his lips. Paul claps a hand on his shoulder from behind and gets a little too much satisfaction from the resulting jump. "They ditch you, Mikey?"
"They hung in there for a little while," he laughs, swigging the rest of his drink. "But I wasn't much fun after Abby left."
Ahh, east coast girl. Another headache waiting to happen. "I hear ya. Listen, go pry Johnny away from his adoring fans. I'll grab Paige."
Mike winces, staring at the other side of the bar, where blonde surfer dude's hand is slowly migrating towards Paige's ass. "I think that guy beat you to it."
There's a group gathered around the pool table that he has to wade through to get to his roommate, and by the time he makes it to the other side, he's had enough alcohol spilled on him to restock the bar. It makes him a little testy, so when he finally reaches the young love birds, all he can do is clear his throat pointedly. Paige rolls one eye in his direction, but then goes back to what she's doing without saying a word. He clears his throat again. Nothing. Finally, Briggs taps her shoulder, and Paige sighs as she leans back, one hand automatically trying to flatten her hair.
"Come on, Cinderella," he says, groaning dramatically as he helps her onto her feet. "Got to get you back to the house before your fairy godcharlie comes down here and turns your friend in to a pumpkin."
Because Paige knows that Charlie will remove her new boy-toy's hands from both her body and his, and Johnny wasn't actually planning on going home with any of those women tonight ("Sometimes you just gotta plant the seed and leave it to grow, you know? Next time she sees me, she'll think of tonight and won't be able to control herself."), they're all pretty agreeable when Briggs says it's time to go home.
They take the beach route home because Paige can no longer balance on her heels and it's better to walk barefoot on sand than pavement. Everything goes somewhat smoothly until Johnny makes a dash for the ocean and the others follow, splashing and jumping on each other like little drunken puppies. Briggs sighs. Smiles. Nods awkwardly to the other late night beach goers who are watching his friends like they're the uncoordinated, unruly version of Cirque du Soleil. He lets it go on for a few more yards until Mike attempts a dive into the shallow waves and comes up spitting sand and salt. Then, he leads a sulking line of federal agents up the beach to walk near the rocks, Paige's heels swinging from his hand.
Water pools on the kitchen tiles as the three younger agents towel off. Mike is completely drenched, with sand sticking to his skin, but Paige is only damp, and her hair is completely dry. Johnny was somewhere in the middle until he jumps on Mike, intent on finishing a playful fight they started on the beach and soaking himself in the process.
"Hey," Briggs scolds. "Knock it off. We have a debriefing tomorrow. It's time to call it a night."
But he's not quick enough because the two younger agents are already hyping themselves up again, sliding on the wet floor and bumping into furniture. Paige watches gleefully.
They move into the living room, where Charlie is still waiting up, chatting with Jakes, who has finally made an appearance. The wrestling match takes center stage, but doesn't distract Charlie from the state of their clothing.
"Why are they wet?" She demands, gesturing towards the grown males rolling on the floor trying to pin each other. He's pretty sure this was not his fault, so Briggs throws his hands up helplessly and collapses onto the empty couch. His eyes flicker closed for a minute, concealing the "I gave you one job" look that he's sure she's sending towards him. When he opens them again, Charlie seems to have moved on and is now focused on their other roommates.
She rolls her eyes and listens to them talk over one another, going on about how Paige went shot for shot with an off-duty bartender and earned all three of them more drinks than they could afford on a government salary. The champion in question is crawling up on the couch between Charlie and Jakes. At this point, she's bordering on sloppy affectionate, Paige's default setting on the rare occasions when she allows herself to get legitimately intoxicated. But while Jakes grumbles and gently slaps her hands away, Charlie grins and tucks the younger woman under her arm. "Did everyone have fun tonight?" she asks, though it's pretty obvious that they did.
"Hell yeah," Johnny sings, gaining some leverage on Mike and using it to pin him to the floor. "I'm thinking of making this black eye permanent, it was really working for me tonight."
"I can help you with that," Jakes offers sincerely, while Mike works on pushing Johnny off of him and peeling himself up off the floor to receive simultaneous high-fives from Paige and Charlie.
"Nice," Briggs praises. "Battle wound a hit with the ladies, Johnny?"
Paige snorts. "He had willing amateur nurses all over him. They just wanted to make it all better," she coos through her chuckles. "It was touching, really."
There's a Johnny-shaped wet spot left on the carpet when he sits up to swat Paige's leg in retaliation, and Briggs eyes it in irritation. The kid's lucky he's injured.
"How'd you explain the black eye?" Jakes asks because the truth was clearly out of the question. The bright-eyed, smug look that falls across Johnny's face tells the rest of them that it was a particularly effective lie.
"Because you're a tough guy," Charlie adds slowly, waiting for the kicker.
Johnny grins. "I swerved to miss a dog."
"Because he's so sensitive," Paige sings. By now, he's leaning against her legs on the floor in front of her, so she has to bend in half so her lips can brush against his forehead. Johnny sputters and Paige cackles. "Get off me, woman! You still have surf jerk germs all over you."
This piques Charlie's interest and she sits up a little further. "Someone I should hear about?"
Paige groans. "You should have seen him, Charlie. Hottest guy I've seen in that place in weeks. And just when we were about to go back to his place, Johnny goes all big brother on him."
"He was wearing a puka shell necklace," Johnny whines. "I was only thinking of your reputation."
The others probably can't tell, but Briggs can detect the slight smile on Charlie's face while she's lecturing Johnny on minding his own business. She's got a secret soft spot for her roommates looking out for each other. Speaking of, Briggs has a not-so-secret soft spot for getting more than an hour of sleep before being dealing with some FBI bureaucrat who's questioning his case management, and he's not going to get it with these knuckleheads down here goofing off all night.
"Agent Mike Warren," he says mock seriously, identifying the least drunk of the bunch. "I have an assignment for you."
Mike looks at him, surprised, and straightens like he thinks Briggs is about to send him on an actual mission. "Sir?"
"A protection detail," Briggs says, nodding. He kicks at Johnny and nudges Paige to her feet. "Get these two up the stairs without incident. Any injuries are on your head."
There's some chattering over that, from Paige who wobbles and insists she can make it up to her room on her own, from Johnny who wants to see if Mike can carry him, and from Mike who doesn't want to be responsible for either of them. Jakes takes pity on him and prods Johnny up the stairs ahead of him, leaving Mike to wrangle Paige.
Once again, Charlie and Briggs are left alone in the living room.
"Thank you," Charlie says genuinely, as she teasingly tries to tug him off the couch.
Briggs grumbles and stands, letting her pull him behind her as she heads for the stairs. "Anything else you want me to do? Make sure they brush their teeth? Tuck them in?"
"I'll go up there and read them a bedtime story if that's what you want, Char."
He dodges her swat and goes to his own room, where he lays in bed and waits for the quiet to signal that the others have settled in.
In reality, if Charlie hadn't asked him to do it, he would have made an excuse to go get them anyway. Because after days like today, there's nothing he likes better than coming home to Graceland with the rest of his merry band of misfits in tow.
AN: I only have three or four of these planned out, but if you have something you'd like to see, let me know and I'll give it shot. :)