Title: Uncomfortably Enemies.
Summary: Charlie visits Liz, and gives her a present.
Spoilers: The Janus List
Warnings: the Janus List.
Notes: Takes place in early s5....in an AU where, at some point between the death of Mrs. Eppes and the pilot episode, Charlie went into a life of crime.
Prompts: Partner, House, Files.
Author's Confession: This was originally going to be for the Minor Characters challenge...but it changed too much to be applicable to that.
Liz Warner opened the door to her apartment one-handed, the paper bag full of groceries occupying her other arm. From where she stood in the doorway and as she came inside, she could see her favorite pillow sitting on the living room's one chair, the pillow inscribed with the words _Friends make a place a home_, personally knitted by her mother - just one more reminder that you didn't need to live in a big and fancy house...though she wouldn't have objected to the prospect of visiting her grandchildren in one.
Long hours of training and personal experience made Liz suspect she was being watched, and had more than a fair idea of from which direction. Liz spun around, drawing her sidearm while dropping her groceries - the motion of the fall and the sound of the contents hitting the carpet would potentially be a distraction to anyone behind her - taking aim at the shadowy man in the shadows of her door.
"It's me," Charlie Eppes said, holding his hands out where she could see they were empty, before the rest of him stepped out into the light.
"Tobakian teaching you how to lurk now?" Liz asked. Tobakian was the organized crime boss who, in taking Charlie under his wing, had organized even more of the city's illegal activities and removed more than a few rivals...and all Charlie usually asked was that his patron not do things that would put him on the FBI's radar.
"The Movie Channel, actually," Charlie said. "Do you need some help picking that up?" looking at Liz's feet.
At the grocery bag at my feet, Liz corrected that errant thought. "I've got it," she told him, not going down for it, not yet. To her eyes, Charlie didn't look that different from the last time she had seen him, over a year ago - his hair went past his ears this time, and there were a few more lines under his eyes.
And, on that occassion, Charlie had stolen a kiss from her. Quieter than he spoke, soft and tenative and, in Liz's considered opinion, nice. "There something you want, Charlie?" she asked. Round two, perhaps? It was hard to see if he'd put on any weight, given that he was wearing a duster that looked lifted from a Clint Eastwood Western.
He didn't say anything, just looked at her.
"Why are you here?" Liz asked.
"If I wasn't," Charlie said, "then I wouldn't be here. It's like makai and mauka."
So you found out my family's Hawaiian. Good on you. "There's always the option of staying still," of not moving at all.
Amused, "Now you sound like Larry."
Really? In the sense of the universe, I doubt it; quantum, maybe. "Well you didn't come for gefilte," Liz said. She'd tried dating Don, but it had never worked out...when she closed her eyes in his arms, she pictured Charlie standing there. "So why are you here?"
"This," Charlie said, pulling a clasped-shut manilla folder from within his duster. "Figured you'd like it."
"What's that?" Liz asked.
"A present," Charlie said. "A folder of files I managed to obtain by cracking a code."
"What's in the files?" she asked.
"A Janus List."
"His code then," Liz said, knowing who had died trying to alert them to it; and she didn't doubt that that information had come Charlie's way. We tried cracking it, but got nowhere.
Charlie nodded. "It wasn't difficult," he said, then silently admonished himself - little reminders like that, while they reinforced the value of his work under Tobakian's protection, wasn't something to rub the FBI's nose in.
"Not for you, sure," Liz said. "Any names in particular I should be looking at?"
"I assume you've already looked at it."
"He's seen part of it," and no more than that.
"I see. And what's the occassion for this present?"
"I don't follow."
Sure you don't. "Are you giving it to me because you just cracked the code this morning?" Liz asked. "Or because my birthday's coming up," in a few months.
"Happy Birthday, Agent Warner," he said in a way that made a voice inside Liz want to hear him say her Christian name. "And if you really don't want me to help you clean that up, I should be going now."
"I could arrest you," Liz pointed out. "Breaking and entering, for one."
"Especially into the home of a federal employee," Charlie said, nodding once. "But you won't," entirely confident.
"You know, Don never said you were this cocky."
A pall fell over his face. "I've had to learn," was all Charlie would say. Setting the folder on a low table beside a lamp, he straightened and turned for the door.
Oh no you don't, Liz thought decisively.