Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8)(3)

by Abigail Roux

The uproar in the office gained the attention of the Special Agent in Charge. McCoy stepped out of his office and started to shout at them, but he caught himself when he saw Ty at the center of the group.

“Grady!” he shouted. The group broke apart and people turned to look at their boss. Everyone was silent as they waited for McCoy to continue. He pointed at Ty and then Zane. “You two, in my office.”

He disappeared back into his office.

Ty and Zane shared a glance, and Zane grinned.

“Like being home again,” Ty said as they obediently headed for the office.

McCoy was digging in his desk drawer when they came in. “I’ve got something for you,” he told Ty. He pulled Ty’s service weapon and badge out of his drawer and set them on the desk.

Ty stared at it for a moment, a smile playing at his lips. “Don’t I have to pass certification again first?”

“You’ve been living in certification,” McCoy countered. He glanced at Zane, but his smile was hesitant and a little sad. He lowered his head. “It’s good to see you back safe, Grady.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Have a seat. I’m afraid I don’t have good news from the home front.”

Zane groaned. “Please tell me you’re not putting him back on desk duty. You remember what happened last time.”

McCoy turned his chair so he could rest his elbow on the desk and prop his chin in his hand. He didn’t seem amused. In fact, he seemed downright solemn.

After a long moment of silence, he breathed in deeply. “Gentlemen,” he said as he examined a file on his desk. He tapped it as if trying to decide what else to say. “During the course of Grady’s leave of absence, a few things came to light that . . . I would have preferred to remain in the dark. Unfortunately . . .” He trailed off and shook his head.

Zane’s good humor drained away as he watched their boss through narrowed eyes. He caught himself turning to Ty and stopped.

Ty leaned back in his chair, slumping and scratching at his forehead. He pulled the Santa hat off. He’d gone pale, and his knee was bouncing. They both knew what was coming.

McCoy looked up at Ty from under lowered brows, and then his gaze shifted to Zane.

Ty held his trembling fingers over his brows, as if shielding himself from the sun.

“I need to know one thing from you both before I continue,” McCoy said grimly. “Are you now or have you ever been involved . . . romantically?”

Ty closed his eyes as the rest of the color drained from his face. Zane blinked hard over McCoy’s question and had no idea what to say. How could they reply when McCoy already knew the answer, but the truth would probably separate them?

McCoy watched them silently. Ty finally moved, sitting straighter in the seat. “Yes,” he answered, the sound barely even a recognizable word.

McCoy slammed his hand onto his desk. “Dammit, Grady! All the times you’ve lied to me over the years, and you pick now to be honest?”

There wasn’t anything Zane could add. Not really. He wasn’t ashamed of being in love with Ty. He watched his partner as Ty met McCoy’s eyes. He looked ill, but Zane knew why. They were well and truly out now. For better or worse. Ty was handling it better than expected, really.

McCoy propped both elbows on the desk and massaged his temples. Finally he leaned back and shook his head at them both. “Now, I want it made very clear that the Federal Bureau of Investigation does not give a good goddamn about who you f**k.” He kept rubbing his fingers over his chin and mouth in a nervous habit that rarely manifested. “Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, omnisexual, transsexual . . . we don’t give a damn. As long as you conduct yourself in a manner that is dignified and discreet, you do whatever you want. We will not tell you who or who not to be involved with. That having been said, my concern here, and that of my superiors, is how your relationship impacts your job performance and those around you.”

“Romantically involved or not, we were one of the best goddamned teams you had,” Zane said.

“And now you’re his superior.” McCoy shook his head and covered his mouth again. He met Zane’s eyes; then his gaze flickered to Ty. “Gentlemen, if I could snuff this out, I would do it in a heartbeat. But you made a very public display before Grady left. While it’s not against any specific Bureau policies, it’s frowned upon, and it’s been dealt with the same way across the board in the past.”

“By sending one of us to North Carolina?” Zane asked with a bitter laugh.

“By separating you, yes.”

“This is bullshit,” Ty said.

“This is precedent,” McCoy snapped. “You’re both good agents, but neither of you have ever been above reproach. We can’t afford to have your integrity come into question in the future because you’re f**king. Especially now that Garrett is essentially your boss.”

Zane grunted. “We’re no longer partners, there’s nothing to separate.”

McCoy looked at him with true regret and sighed heavily. “You’re management now, Garrett. There’s no going back. And you can’t have your . . . your boyfriend working under you.”

Ty opened his mouth, and McCoy held up his hand. “If you make a joke, I’ll shoot you.”

“Yes, sir,” Ty mumbled, slumping further into his chair.

“I have to reassign one of you.”

Zane stared, appalled by this sudden obstacle thrown in their path. A reassignment could mean any number of things—different shifts, different departments—most of them not so conducive to him and Ty seeing each other regularly. There was no way McCoy could have any idea how serious their relationship was. He seemed to simply think they were sleeping together. Zane glanced over at Ty, who was sitting stock still and watching McCoy intently.

“We have several options,” McCoy told them, obviously uncomfortable. “One of you will be transferred to another field office. DC or Philly would be relatively close. Even Newark. Unless you’re willing to end your relationship to stay where you are?”

“No,” Ty answered immediately, his voice low and firm. Zane shook his head. He wouldn’t give up Ty now that he’d just gotten him back.

McCoy nodded as if he’d anticipated that reaction. “Well,” he said slowly. “Which one of you will it be? Grady, we could send you to Philadelphia, closer to family. Garrett, you’re already familiar with DC. You could easily go back there, where there are more chances to advance.”