Kennedy said quietly, fiercely, “Because I can’t do my job the way I need to do it if I’m distracted by you.”
“Distracted?” Jason repeated blankly. “Distracted how? It’s not like I was taking up a lot of your time and energy.”
Kennedy was still speaking with that startling, almost angry intensity. “Yeah, you were. Whether you know it or not. Take today for example. I’ve got an injured agent, two dead men, who knows how many other victims, and a media frenzy, but I drop everything to fly cross country because you need help.”
They’d been talking softly, but Jason’s voice rose at that. “I never asked for your help! I didn’t—and don’t—need your help.”
“But here I am.” Kennedy was acerbic. “Which is why it had to stop. Because I couldn’t stop thinking about you. All the time. Wondering how you were, what you were doing, worrying if you were being careful, if you were still struggling.”
“Jesus. I’m not struggling—” Jason tried to interrupt, but Kennedy kept right on talking.
“The best part of my day—any day—were the nights I got to talk to you for a couple of hours on the phone.” He looked almost bewildered at the revelation. “I started feeling like I wanted time off, started thinking maybe I shouldn’t take so many chances, like I should start planning for the future.”
“There’s nothing wrong with planning for the future.”
“I’m not talking picking retirement investments. I wanted time with you, plain and simple. I was looking forward to that too much.” Once again he seemed angry as he concluded, “I can’t feel like that and still do my job the way I need to do it.”
Jason burst out, “You keep saying that. What does it mean? Other people do their jobs and have lives outside of the Bureau.”
“Not me. I don’t get the results I get by having a life outside the Bureau.” At Jason’s open disbelief, he said, “When Ethan died, I swore it would not be for nothing. I swore I’d spend the rest of my life hunting the predators, stopping them from hurting other people, destroying other lives like our life had been destroyed. I made a vow. A commitment.”
Married to murder. Fan-fucking-tastic. Jason hadn’t missed that our life comment.
It didn’t get clearer than that. Not something you really could argue with, nor did he want to try. He felt angry and sad and a little sick. Granted, he should have guessed at the bottom of Kennedy’s phenomenal success lay obsession, but this wasn’t normal workaholic stuff. This wasn’t anything he could understand or deal with.
Nor was Kennedy asking for his understanding or anything else. As far as he was concerned, the possibility of a real relationship between them was effectively ended. It was friendship, take it or leave it.
And Jason was going to have to leave it because despite that masters in psychology, Kennedy was kidding himself about this. If he really did feel the way he described, there was no way they’d manage to keep it friendly and light and detached—if that was what he was picturing.
It was already a huge emotional mess—and the sexual frustration and tension between them was like a third presence at the table. Or maybe that was just Jason.
“Anything else I can get you gentlemen?” Brandi asked.
Kennedy looked inquiringly at Jason.
Jason shook his head.
“Just the bill,” Kennedy said.
They sat in silence until Brandi brought the bill. Kennedy reached for it. Whatever. Let the BAU expense it.
They rose and walked into the lobby.
“What time is your flight tomorrow?” Kennedy asked as they crossed the parquet floor on the way to their rooms.
“I’m out at six. You’re welcome to drive back to Watertown with me. I’ll leave about five.”
“Five. Ouch,” Jason said.
In truth, he didn’t give a damn about the time. He did not want to drive to the airport with Kennedy. He couldn’t be around Kennedy right now. Maybe it should have comforted him to know that Kennedy did still care for him, that he hadn’t done anything wrong, that this was Kennedy’s problem and not his. But it wasn’t comforting. It was…hopeless. How did it help knowing Kennedy still cared, if in the end, it all came to the same thing? If anything, the pointless, painful futility of Kennedy’s choice just made it worse. They were not going to be together. Kennedy was committed to avenging his dead boyfriend or whatever the fuck his mission was supposed to be. Jason was collateral damage. He was expendable.
If he’d thought he was in pain before…
Maybe once he’d had time to think, to absorb, to process—a decade or two ought to do it—he’d be able to be pals with Kennedy. But right now? No could do.
“How about this,” Jason said. “If I need a ride to the airport, I’ll see you at five. Otherwise, you can assume I opted for shut-eye.”
“Right.” Kennedy hesitated. “I’ll say good night now.”
That was a tactful way of letting Jason know that feelings or no feelings, they would not be sharing a bed. Just in case Jason hadn’t already got the message delivered by baseball bat?
“Good night,” Jason said. “And again, thank you for everything. Including dinner.”
He had stopped walking. Kennedy stopped too, looking at him in inquiry.
“I think I’ll take a walk,” Jason said. “Maybe get a drink somewhere.”
He could see Kennedy didn’t like that. He seemed undecided about what to do.
“Of course,” he said finally, and Jason didn’t think he imagined the reluctance. “I’ll be in touch.”
Jason nodded politely and headed for the front doors.
Kennedy was still standing in the lobby as Jason stepped out into the night.
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