Title: Listening Comprehension
By: nancy
Pairing: Don/Adam
Warning: minor daddy fic.
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Adam has some trouble understanding Adam.

Don watched a lot of people at work. He watched suspects lie, watched CSI techs do their job, watched other cops do their job, and watched civilians trying not to watch all of them back. He read people for a living. About ninety-five percent of the time, he could tell when someone was lying and when they were telling the truth. About half the time, he was able to do it within five minutes of meeting them. Don prided himself on being able to know someone damn well, damn fast.

Which was why Adam pissed him off. After knowing the guy for almost seven years, it was a crapshoot that Don could even understand what the tech was saying. He knew when Adam was on his game, knew when Adam was bluffing, and even knew when Adam was depressed and trying to hide it. Still didn’t mean he understood more than one word in three when the guy got talking about his job.

After Adam witnessed that girl getting killed, Don knew he was hurting. Everyone knew it, but no one did anything about it. Danny was wrapped up in Lucy and Lindsay, Mac had had to play the hardass boss to reprimand Adam for the hacking, and Stella was gone. Jo had talked to him, but it wasn’t like she’d been part of the team for more than a minute. That’s why Don figured it was up to him to get Adam out of his funk.

“Yo Ross,” he said, walking into the tech area. Adam jumped and looked up at him with big eyes. “You and me. Beers after work. You don’t show, I get out the handcuffs and hunt you down.”

Adam’s eyes widened and he stammered, “Ah, yeah, sure. I mean, beer’s good.”

Don smirked a little and left. There was another three hours until the shift was over and he had work to do. It was strange, how fast the time went now he had something to do after hours. It seemed like he barely had time to run down a suspect and then question him before the three hours just vanished on him.

He hadn’t really gotten involved with anyone or anything since Angell had been killed, despite the one night stands and occasional out-of-control acts of self-sabotage at work. Mac and Danny had had his back, though, pulling him back from the brink and now it was his turn to pay it forward with Adam.

At six-oh-five, he found Adam crawling around on the floor, tempting ass in the air as he looked for something. Grinning, Don asked, “Lose something, Ross?”

Adam jerked upright, whacking his head into the metal desk hard enough to clang. Don winced as the other guy groaned and held his head, complaining, “Do you have to sneak up on me every time? Jesus, Flack. You’re as bad as Mac sometimes. I swear you both went to a Ninja academy.”

“Sorry, man,” he said, walking into the room. “Can I help you find whatever it is?”

Adam shook his head and said, “Nah, it’s in this area and two of us would just probably crush it. Give me ten, okay?”

Don nodded. “Sure.”

He walked over to Mac’s office down the hall and found the man sitting at his desk, typing on his computer. Not a surprise. If Mac wasn’t in the thick of an investigation, the poor bastard was in the thick of paperwork. “Hey.”

Mac smiled at him, motioning Don in. “Hey. Thought you were already gone.”

Don sat on the chair in front of the desk and said, “Takin’ Adam out tonight to get his mind off things.”

If Don hadn’t been looking, he wouldn’t have seen the faintly apologetic expression flash across Mac’s face. As it was, Mac just said, “That’s good. He’s been…distracted. Maybe you can get him to settle down.”

Thinking about Adam searching the floor for some tiny piece of something, Don questioned with a frown, “Distracted as in losing evidence, or distracted as in forgetting his keys?”

Mac hesitated, which was an answer in itself, and then said, “I’m sure you can figure out what the boy needs to settle him down. I can’t help him this time.”

The wording caused Don to check himself. He said slowly, “So you sorted him out in the past. After Danny.”

Nodding, looking a tiny bit wistful, Mac said, “After Danny, yeah. He’s a good boy, Don. Just needs a firm hand and some TLC.”

It had been a long damn time since the two of them had referenced the club they’d found each other in years and years ago. Mac had been with Danny at the time while Don had been single and cruising. They’d all been shocked to see each other there, but then managed to laugh about it. At least until Danny had knocked up Lindsay and then ‘done the right thing’ by marrying her.

“Good to know,” he murmured at last. “You okay these days, Mac? We haven’t really talked for a while.”

Mac gave him a brief twist of the lips that barely resembled a smile. “I’m fine, Don, thanks for asking.”

He’d been there for Mac more than once when the older man had needed to burn off steam after the breakup, but this seemed different. Don had the feeling that Mac and Adam must have gotten together as a rebound thing, which was why Mac couldn’t help Adam now. On the other hand, Mac and Adam had a past, however brief it might have been and it wasn’t like Mac couldn’t use a boy to look after now that Danny was out of reach. Don hesitated and then said, “You know, if you want to take my place, I’m cool with that. This is just a spur of the moment thing for me.”

Mostly. It wasn’t like he spent days thinking of bending Adam over the nearest available surface, though the thought had crossed his mind now and then.

Mac shook his head and replied, “Thanks, but no. I’m done with that without…well. That part of my life’s over.”

Don hurt for the man. He knew how deep Mac felt things, even if he couldn’t show it. They were two peas in a pod sometimes. Enough that he wanted to kick Danny’s ass on Mac’s behalf for screwing things up like he had. But Danny was his friend, too, which made the situation sticky all around.

“Ready when you are, Flack,” Adam said unexpectedly.

Don looked up to find an expectant expression on Adam’s face. He glanced back at Mac, but only found a bland smile in place.

Mac said firmly, “Have fun you two. Get out of here.”

There wasn’t anything else Don could say, so he just took the silent blessing and stood up. “All right, Ross, let’s get a move on.”

As soon as they were out of the office, Don put his hand on Adam’s shoulder and squeezed just at the base of the neck. To anyone walking by, it looked like a friendly gesture of support to a colleague. Don heard Adam’s sharp intake of breath, though, and half-smiled at the reaction. Neither of them said anything and Don didn’t let his hand linger, just gave another squeeze and withdrew.

The trip to the car was quiet and Adam got in without a word, which was a little weird since he never stopped talking. Then again, Don had probably given him a lot to think about with the way he’d squeezed him. Adam was damn smart. He’d put together Don and Mac talking with the unfamiliar contact and figure it out, if he hadn’t already. Probably had, given the silence.

Don drove to the same club where he’d accidentally met up with Mac and Danny so long ago. Jensen’s was a subtle place with a simple sign and didn’t look like much of anything when someone first walked in. It had a bar and booths and a smallish dance floor towards the back. The walls were brick, there was room for darts to the side of the dance floor and music piped in invisibly, different genres on different nights.

The thing about Jensen’s was that it was comfortable in a way that a lot of bars and clubs weren’t. There was little turnover in the staff and the regulars weren’t barflies of the normal sort. There were couples and singles, plenty of cruising went on, but it was all inclusive; straight or gay, BDSM or vanilla, none of it mattered. At a glance, Don saw a couple of boys on their daddies laps and a few women kneeling at their masters’ or mistress’ feet as well as ‘regular’ couples sitting, talking, or making out at various booths.

Adam made a strangled noise and Don grinned at seeing just how big the other man’s eyes were. He put an arm over Adam’s shoulder and said, “C’mon. I see a spot,” before guiding him towards the side. He automatically noted the exits and the patrons, not finding any visible threats as they sat at a booth.

When Adam moved to sit on the other side of the booth, Don exerted some pressure to get him to sit on the same side. He nudged Adam in first and sat before the other could shift out. Adam moved as close to the wall as he could and Don didn’t push. Yet. He stayed towards the end of the booth as the waitress walked up and asked, “Hey, Don! Been a while. How are ya?”

Don grinned at Serena, short, spiky hair purple this time, and answered, “Not too shabby. This is Adam.”

“Hey, Adam,” Serena greeted, smiling impishly. “What can I get you guys?”

Don looked at Adam, who was now a little narrow-eyed with suspicion. He half-grinned and said, “We’ll have a couple beers, thanks Serena.”

“So. Flack. Something you want to tell me?” Adam demanded once she was gone.

Don snickered and said, “We’re just here for a beer, Adam. I’m not makin’ a statement or anything.”

Adam’s eyebrows lifted. “You’re not? Sure as hell seems that way to me.”

Shrugging, Don said, “If I was making a statement, you’d be on my lap, kid.”

Adam blinked at him and then licked his lips as he looked away. When he looked back, he said, “You know we’re the same age, right? That it’d be a little…weird? I’m ah, guessing you know about Mac and me or we’d’ve gone to the usual place and not here.”

Serena came back with their beers and a couple of waters, which Don gave her a grateful smile for. He didn’t want to get Adam drunk, after all, just loosen him up a little. When she’d winked and left, Don said, “Age’s got nothing to do with it. Now and again, Mac comes to me when he needs a hand dealing with shit.”

Adam gaped outright at that and just about squeaked, “He does?”

Don rolled his eyes and said, “Yeah, and you won’t be able to sit for a month if you let slip about that to anyone.”

Adam swallowed and then shook his head rapidly. “I wouldn’t, honest!”

Don held his gaze a moment longer and then nodded, taking a sip of the beer. He said, “Look, I just brought you here to help you relax a little. I don’t have any long-term plans or anything, just…you looked like you could use an ear.”

Adam looked down, then, into his beer and said quietly, “I’m doing okay.”

“No, Adam, you’re not,” Don countered. “If you were, you wouldn’t have bags under your eyes and you wouldn’t be losing things in the lab. You’re a mess and you need to get it together. I’m offering to help. No strings. Talk if you want or don’t.”

Adam stared resolutely into his glass, like it would be able to show him the right thing to do.

Don huffed in amusement and thought, Doesn’t matter if he’s a nerd, he’s still a guy. Doesn’t know shit about talking.

Without another word, Don put his arm around Adam’s waist and pulled him in tight. Adam yelped in surprise and almost knocked over his glass, catching it just in time. Once it was righted, Don cupped his chin and forced the smaller man to look at him. “On second thought, I think strings are gonna be involved. You’re gonna come home with me tonight and I’m going to tuck you into my bed and you’re gonna sleep if I have to force feed you warm milk laced with brandy.”

A short laugh escaped Adam and he said, “Sounds really relaxing, Flack.”

Don grinned, glad to see the sparkle back in those blue eyes. He twisted neatly and tugged Adam onto his lap, keeping hold of him even when he flailed for balance. “There. Now I’m makin’ a statement. You wanna make somethin’ of it?”

Adam bit his lip as if he couldn’t decide and then let out a long, deep sigh. He relaxed against Don all of a sudden, resting his head on Don’s shoulder and letting him take all of Adam’s weight. It was more than an armful and Don couldn’t resist pressing a kiss to his temple. They sat there for a long moment and Don ran his free hand through Adam’s soft, blondish curls.

Don said softly, “Talk to me, kid. Tell me what’s bothering you.”

Adam’s hand took hold of Don’s shirt and he whispered, barely audible over the noise of the bar, “I keep seeing her face. Every time I close my eyes, Don, she’s there. If I’d been faster, if I’d been better, I could’ve maybe saved her. If I hadn’t been screwing around and hiding shit when Mac walked by, I would’ve seen the bastard who killed her.”

Don rested his chin on Adam’s head for a while, letting the words sink in before saying, “She was how far from the lab, Adam? Even if you’d had her address instantly, you couldn’t have gotten anyone there in time to save her. No one could have. You helped find her killer. You got her justice. It was all you could do.”

“It should’ve been more,” Adam sighed.

He nodded slowly and said, “Maybe, but it’s too late now. All you’re doing is hurting yourself and that’s doin’ no one any good. She wouldn’t want that. I don’t want that. Mac doesn’t want that. You’ve gotta find a way to move on, kid.”

Adam’s fingers tightened on his shirt and his breath hitched as he pressed his face to Don’s throat. “I don’t think I can.”

Don hugged him tight for a few seconds and then promised, “I’ll help you.”

And he would. He’d get Adam through this and then see if maybe he could find love a second time in his life. Don half-smiled at the wistful thought and knew that Mac wasn’t the only hopeless romantic in the office. He squeezed Adam again and then sat back against the booth, bringing Adam with him.

First things first. He signaled Serena, who came over with a half-serious, half-curious expression. “What can I get you, Don?”

“Warm milk. And throw in some brandy,” Don ordered.

Don grinned when Adam started laughing and then smiled broadly when the other man pressed his lips to Don’s jaw.

Serena tipped an imaginary hat and went to fulfill the order.

Adam gazed up at him, smiling but still looking tired. “I suppose you’re going to tuck me in later, too, huh?”

Don nodded and said, “Every night until you’re okay to do it yourself.”

Adam reached up and cupped the back of his head, pulling Don down for a kiss. It was slow and warm, filled with something Don thought was affection. He might not understand what Adam said most of the time but this? This he understood.