Special Agent Callum Stone
“How was your first day?” Nolan asked the second the door opened, like he’d been poised and waiting for just that moment.
“Better than Quantico!” I laughed, still sore in memory from my six weeks there. “No one made me run.”
“I will miss rubbing your sore ass every night.” He laughed, and I found all the happiness I’d been missing hidden in these moments. I didn’t know this level of happiness was even possible.
“Don’t worry, you can keep that up,” I replied to keep the banter going, but my head was in a different place.
This space, this row house we’d rented, felt like home in a way nothing else had. It had taken weeks, and it crept up on me, but Nolan had done most of the unpacking while I’d been at the academy. He’d done drop-off and pickups, and most of the parenting. He’d slipped into it seamlessly and my mind was utterly blown. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.
“Where are my butt rubs!” He crossed the room and cupped my face, bringing his lips to mine.
“When you go back to work tomorrow I’ll give you one.” I put my hands over his. “Where’s Maddie?”
“Uncle Knox came and got her. They are training Snoop and Anubis for a couple of hours.”
“So we have some time?” I asked rubbing my nose over him, realizing I had the perfect opportunity.
“Are you saying we should have a little alone time?” Nolan’s brows shot up and he pulled my belt.
"Yes—” I said, trying to sound convincing as I walked him backward.
“What’s wrong?” His hands stilled.
“You’re not getting me undressed fast enough,” I said, dragging him towards the sofa. This was devolving fast. I needed to get to it.
“What are you hiding?” He asked, wearing an amused smile.
I let out a slow breath and fixed my belt then walked to the bookshelf to retrieve the little box I’d hidden on top.
Nolan tilted his head and watched me. “What is that?”
“Nolan, you’ve changed everything in such a short amount of time. I love you, and I’ve always loved you. You are my other half.” I dropped to one knee and opened the little box. “Will you marry me?”
“What?” Nolan’s eyes darted between my face and the ring and back up to my face. He clapped a hand over his mouth.
“What… That’s not exactly the answer I was hoping for.”
“I thought—wait, no—”
“No!?” I interrupted.
“No, not no.” I grabbed the ring he held out and shoved it onto my finger. “I don’t want to get into what I thought before I answer.”
“Go on?” I eyed the ring on his finger.
“Yes. There is no doubt in my mind I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Cal. I've wanted it since we were sixteen years old. I’ve wanted it every day since, even when I hated you.”
“Then why were you hesitating?”
“I thought you didn’t want to move this fast?”
“I moved halfway across the country for you. You think I’d be hesitant about moving too fast?” I wasn’t upset or mad. I found his reaction adorable.
“Yeah, a little.” His brows pulled and he looked at the ring again.
“I’m not hesitant on anything with you anymore. I want it all. I don’t want to wait. You’re my person, my partner, and the best co-parent I could have imagined. I want to call you my husband.”
He grabbed my face, slamming his mouth to mine. I grinned into his mouth, welcoming the overflow of emotion. His tongue flicked over mine, and he exhaled. It felt like we shifted and found a new level then and there.
“Yes?” I said.
“I’ve had a ring for months.”
I pulled away and stared at him. “What?”
“I was going to ask you when I moved there, but then I was shot and you wanted to move, so I was waiting for the right moment.” He got this smile and rubbed his thumb over the ring again. "Then I started to doubt myself, wondering if it was moving too fast..."
“Well, I beat you, so I won.” I shoved him playfully. “Go fucking get it.”
“This is probably the one time I’m okay with you winning.” He reached into his pocket. “I don’t have to go get it. I’ve been carrying it around.”
“All this time?” My mouth fell open because I couldn’t fucking believe it.
He pulled out a little box, thin enough I wouldn’t have noticed on my own, but I was still in shock. “Yes, all this time.”
He opened the box and got down on one knee. “Callum, will you do me the honor of spending the rest of our lives with me?” A smile captured his lips.
How was I so damn lucky?”
My eyes burned. “Yes.” I grabbed the ring, about to slide it on my finger when I noticed something on the inside. I held it up.
Nolan got to his feet, grinning even wider as I found our names in Maddie’s handwriting inside.
“Maddie knows. I asked her first.”
“Of course he did,” Maddie said bursting into the room like she was Beetle Juice and appeared because we’d said her name too many times.
“We’re home,” Knox said rather sheepishly from the doorway.
“You cannot tell Hayes!” Nolan said, turning on him. “I’ve already fucked up by not telling him first and after the job stuff.”
Knox held up his hands. “Don’t worry. I won’t, but you better tell him tomorrow. I am not keeping that secret!”
“Of course,” Nolan said before turning back to me. “Cat’s out of the bag.”
“How do you feel about it, Maddie?” I asked, realizing Nolan had better forethought to talk to her about it first.
“I get to keep Snoop now!”
“Ah, I do see the motivation there,” I said laughing.
Nolan dragged Maddie between us for a hug, and she brought Snoop with her.
Agent Nolan Hudson
“Fancy seeing you here,” Hayes said without looking up.
“How’d you know it was me?” I asked, taking a seat on the edge of his desk.
“Because you don’t lumber like my partner.” Hayes licked his finger and flipped a page on the file he read.
“I do not lumber, and stop slobbering all over the damn file.” Knox did a slow spin in his chair while Anubis slept on his desk. I was about to ask but I decided to just leave it.
“I could have been Ellis or Brix,” I scoffed.
“Ellis walks like he’s done six or seven lines of coke—” Hayes started.
“It’s called sugar and it’s legal,” Ellis interrupted as he shoveled Oreo cereal into his mouth.
“Let alone everyone can hear you eating from a fucking mile away,” Hayes went on. “And Brix walks like his wife is always asleep and always angry.”
“She is a light sleeper!” Brix said, only half-heartedly.
“And nuts,” Ellis said through a mouthful of food.
“I didn’t say it.” Hayes gave me a look.
“Good to see no one has changed at all.” All I could do was laugh. It felt like home, and I’d missed it all these months.
“What are you doing here anyway? I thought you asked for a transfer?” Hayes still hadn’t even looked at me.
“I’m back.” I braced myself for his reaction, knowing it wasn’t going to be pretty.
“I see.” He muttered, expression not changing.
“Too busy to talk to me?” I asked leaning over to catch a glimpse of what he was reading.
“I’m too pissed to talk to you,” Hayes grumbled.
“Still.” His word was clipped.
“But you’ve been to my house!”
“Just because we are friends doesn’t mean I’ve work forgiven you.” He jutted his chin out, and for the first time, I saw the hurt written on his face.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I should have done it differently.”
“Okay,” he replied.
“Hudson, get in here,” Johnson called out.
I pushed off Hayes’ desk and strolled into his office. “What’s up?”
“You’re back on the team. We don’t have a partner for you right now, so you’re back in training with Hanks. You won’t be assigned to cases until we have a partner for you unless it’s urgent.”
“Aren’t all our cases urgent?” I asked.
“Not the point, Hudson.”
“Noted,” I said with a grin.
“Knock that smirk off your face and go make nice with your old partner. I don’t want any fucking drama from you kids. Like managing a bunch of fucking high schoolers.”
“That’s uncalled for and rude to high schoolers, we are much more like grade-schoolers.”
Johnson pinched the bridge of his nose. “Get out.”
“Guess I’m working alone until they have someone trained!” I announced to the room.
“Are you fucking kidding me!” Hayes was on his feet marching towards Johnson’s office.
I stepped in front of him and so did Knox. We exchanged a glance and both stayed.
“And now both of my partners are teaming up on the side of tyranny.” The way the word came out of Hayes’ mouth hit me in the chest. He came off so betrayed.
“We aren’t on the side of anything,” Knox said, holding back a smile.
This wasn’t going to end well with Knox egging Hayes on with that smile. He could deal with Hayes later as his boyfriend but I sure as fuck wasn’t going to let their teasing ruin my day. I’d missed my best friend and former partner.
“I’m not on his side, but I’m sure as fuck not gonna let you piss him off on my first day back so I have to deal with him. Are you trying to make my life hell?”
“Pretty sure you’ve done that all on your own.” He turned on his heel and marched right back to his desk, grabbing the file again.
Knox and I exchanged another look.
“Good luck with that later,” I said out of the corner of my mouth, so Hayes wouldn’t hear.
“Thanks. I look forward to getting a cold shoulder for days despite having done nothing.” Knox grumbled and I felt a little bad knowing how my former partner could be.
“Not like I can produce another trained special agent out of my ass,” I said, still trying to contain my laughter.
“I can hear you both,” Hayes huffed.
“Was he like this the whole time I was gone?”
“Affirmative,” Ellis chimed in.
“Can confirm,” Brixton added.
“Don’t you dare answer that,” Hayes said as Knox opened his mouth.
“Damn, you are cranky when I don’t buy you coffee and donuts on my way to work.” I sat back on the edge of his desk.
Hayes kept ignoring me.
“What has so much of your attention?” I asked, snatching the file out of his hands.
“Hey, I was reading that.”
“What’s this?” I flipped back to the first page and scanned it.
“It’s this…” I frowned. “I’ve heard about this case.”
“I think everyone has by now. Been missing for a month.”
“Shit, why weren’t we called in earlier?” I asked, flipping to the next page.
Hayes grabbed it back.
“I was reading it first,” Hayes scoffed and searched for his page. “Local cops refused to believe she was missing, and it’s been botched since. I’m hoping with all the media attention it’s getting now we get called.”
“We?” I asked with a little bit of a grin.
“Yes, Ellis, Brix, Knox, and I.”
I rolled my eyes. “Just admit you missed me.”
“Let’s go to Alaska, boys,” Johnson said, interrupting us all.
“Shit, really?” I asked.
“Just got the call,” Johnson confirmed.
Brix cursed under his breath. Ellis leaned in, putting his lips next to his ear to whisper something. Brix nodded.
I leaned in, not quite as close as Ellis and Brix to whisper. “What’s up with those two?”
“Who the fuck knows, they’ve always been weirdly homoerotic, and that’s coming from a gay dude.”
“No shit.” I would have to ask Knox. He’d probably know better.
“Get your go bags. We leave within the hour,” Johnson went on.
“Let’s do this.” I rubbed my hands together.
“Who said you’re coming?” Johnson said, giving me a once over.
“What?” My heart sank.
“Who are you going to partner with?” he asked, grinding his teeth.
“I thought we’d throple!” I said, only half-seriously.
“Jesus, the three of you working together might be the best or worst thing to ever happen. I can’t decide.”
Knox and I high-fived.
“I’m quitting,” Hayes said.
“No you’re not,” Johnson said before slamming his door.
“The team is back together!” Knox said, eyes lighting up like a little kid.
“I’m not going to survive this fucking trip.” Hayes laid his head on his desk.
Maybe this wasn’t the best time to tell Hayes I was engaged…