elgrey: Artwork by Suzan Lovett (DannyMartin)
[personal profile] elgrey


The room was quiet. Outside, the sounds of the hospital washed up to the door like a cacophonous tide and then receded again, but in here it was quiet and still and…safe. Jack blotted out the extraneous noises with the skill borne of long practice and took a moment to try to soothe himself with the sound of his agents’ breathing in the hope of getting his nerves to unwind. Not easy, as he realized they were tighter than copper wire and still fizzing slightly, as if they had been struck by lighting.

It had taken surprisingly little begging on his part to get Danny and Martin a shared room; the administrator had been kind – or perhaps Victor Fitzgerald had insisted when he arranged their transfer to St. Vincent’s. He probably knew the governor of every board of every hospital in New York.

Jack had called Martin’s father as soon as they reached the hospital in Honesdale. As they wheeled Danny in to the ER to assess the gravity of his gunshot wound, and wheeled Martin off to take a look at him in an exam room, Jack let the man know that his son was alive and relatively well. It felt good to be the bearer of good news for a change; he had been dreading having to tell Victor Fitzgerald that this time Martin wasn’t just wounded and undergoing surgery but gone beyond anyone’s help.

“You’re sure this Ryan is the Indemnity serial killer?”

“Pretty sure. He’s one of them anyway. His father seems to have been the first one, and Ryan carried on the family business.”

There was an awkward silence before Victor said: “I’m familiar with that case – those young men were sexually assaulted before they were killed.”

“Yes, they were.”

“Was Martin…?”

“I’m pretty sure we got to him in time.”

“And his friend – Agent Taylor…?”

“As far as we know, he was shot, nothing else.”

“Is he going to be okay?”

Jack remembered that last time Victor hadn’t even asked about Danny, despite him being in the car next to his son at the time Martin was shot. Perhaps his own subjectivity had frightened him a little on that last occasion, and he was certainly making the effort to be more reasonable now.

“At the moment it’s looking good. They think the bullet missed his kidney and his large intestine, but they’re going to take a look to be sure. Martin did a good job taking care of him.” He wished he felt less like a teacher filling in a report card whenever he discussed Martin with Victor, but he suspected that feeling was never entirely going to go away.

“Could you please tell Martin that his mother and I will be along to see him soon?”

Jack noticed that ‘please’ but didn’t comment on it, although he appreciated the effort the man was making.

“I’ll tell him. They want to keep him in just for a day or so. He’s got a possible concussion and is suffering from exposure, multiple contusions, rib fractures, and they want to keep an eye on his kidneys, make sure they’re both working okay and he’s not bleeding internally from getting smacked around, but they don’t seem to think there’s anything to worry about. They just want to keep him under observation. He’d only be hanging around here waiting for Danny to come round from surgery anyway; at least this way he gets a bed instead of having to sit on those uncomfortable chairs the rest of us have to put up with. And they’ll keep him occupied sticking him with needles so he shouldn’t get bored.”

He had hoped that might get at least a small laugh out of Victor but the man still sounded choked up. “I’m very grateful, Jack – for all you did to find him so quickly. If you hadn’t gone in there alone…”

“Victor, I’m the one that sent them up there to interview the serial killer. I knew there was something off about Ryan the first day I met him. I should have followed my gut on this and never let those two within five miles of the guy. We were lucky today, and they were smart and stubborn and they took care of each other.”

“Would it be a better idea for them to be moved to New York – maybe to St. Vincent’s? They did a good job with Martin. We should make sure Agent Taylor gets the best treatment.”

“They’re just cleaning him out and sewing him up. The wound was a through and through, no organ damage. They’re not anticipating any complications.”

“All the same… I’ll see if I can arrange to get you all flown into St. Vincent’s. That way you can oversee their care and keep in touch with the office more easily….”

When Jack closed the phone he was a little taken aback by how low key and pleasant Victor had been. The concern for Danny had surprised him as well. “Perhaps he’s growing as a person,” he murmured.

He also realized just how much influence Victor had when a doctor came in to tell him that a helicopter was on its way to fly them into New York so that they could be taken care of there.

“Just so you know – I’ve no complaints with the way you were taking care of them here,” Jack told him. “But Martin’s father is a little…over-protective.”

The doctor shrugged. “He’s also best friends with someone on our board of directors so apparently when he says ‘jump’ we ask ‘how high?’.”

Jack shook his head. “Don’t hold it against Martin. We’re really very grateful for all your did for Danny.” He guessed that Martin really had scared the crap out of his father with this latest exploit and the only way Victor had to burn off some of his protective energy was to throw his weight around somewhere. As, for once, he wasn’t throwing it around at him, he didn’t mind.

Now, as he sat in the room in St. Vincent’s – where Danny and Martin had been admitted and assessed and found to be exactly as the hospital in Honesdale had said they were – and listened to Danny’s monitors bleeping and the even rhythm of his two agents breathing in stereo, Jack realized that they had scared the crap out of him too. He let out a long breath and looked down at his hand, shocked to discover that it was shaking. Reaction; relief; whatever it was, it had left him one wrong word away from breaking down and crying. The ‘what if’s were still flashing at him in leering Technicolor. They had skated the edge of a tragedy, and two men had died; it could so easily have been the two men in these hospital beds instead and he would have been the ones who sent them to their deaths.

He had been a receiver for information today, news pouring into him through satellite phones and cells, while helicopter blades whirled above his head or sirens wailed as they were moved impressively from place to place until he had felt as if he had been run through too many x-rays, a skeleton burned down to a negative. Elena had done the coordinating through a fever, drinking honey and lemon juice to try to hold onto her voice as she received reports from forensics about the bullet casings, from the coroner about the murdered ranger, from the local PD about the couple who had fled from the scene and who had witnessed the ranger’s murder, from Bennett in Indemnity about all those abruptly re-opened cases, a fax of the statement from Stapleton, who had perhaps had doubts all along. Thinking about it now, Jack remembered that he had said the hood of the truck Gallagher had been driving had still been warm to the touch, as if the man had only recently arrived, not enough time to beat and sexually assault his son as Ryan had claimed. Bennett had sounded excited, Elena had said, so relieved that their serial killers finally had faces and names; a puzzle solved in his lifetime after all. His one disappointment had been that he wouldn’t get to interview Ryan and ask him where the other bodies were buried.

Everything in Wisconsin was a mess, Vivian had told him, wearily, from her own uncomfortable chair in another uncomfortable hospital. At Davidson’s place Social Services had found runaways and the police had found women whose husbands still had visitation rights to children who were not meant to be taken over state lines, and Davidson was not being cooperative, and all Viv’s sympathy was with him anyway, Jack could tell that. She was being reasonable yet subtly steely to a lot of officials to try to swing it that Davidson got his own way. She was probably right. Jack wasn’t feeling too sure of his opinions today. He hadn’t liked Ryan much or Davidson much either; neither of them had liked him and they had both rubbed him the wrong way; and Ryan had been a serial killer and Davidson a savior of the oppressed. Davidson had certainly impeded a federal investigation and then some, by helping to hide the child they were looking for; he had probably also been right. Mary had lost the spirit to stand up to Ryan a long time before; perhaps the only way to ever get that child away from that situation was to kidnap her and then keep her safe and hope her mother would find the courage to join her somehow.

Mother and child were doing well, Sam had sent him pictures through her cell phone; Mary with her hair unbound and the new baby gazing up at her unblinkingly, that intent slightly disapproving stare that all babies displayed in their first few hours out of the womb. She looked full of love and sorrow and more like a Madonna than ever. Vivian had managed it so that Margaret and Charlotte had been allowed in to gaze at the baby too and in one of the pictures had all been crowded around the bed – Margaret holding out a tentative finger for the baby to grasp, Charlotte wide-eyed with wonder and sucking her thumb. They all looked eerily related, even with Margaret’s hair dyed that unlikely blonde shade, the face and eyes were the same.

Nathan had not been arrested, Sam and Vivian had managed that also, ensuring that he and Clare had been allowed to stay while Mary had her baby. Vivian was trying to find someone who could help him to avoid doing any jail time for any of the things he had done, but in the absence of a lawyer seemed to be doing a pretty good job herself. She had told him she was hoping that escaping from a serial killer gave one a get out of jail free card for the minor matters of grave robbing and obtaining a social security number under false pretenses. Sam had told Jack that he owed her a very stiff drink on her return to New York, for making her go to Wisconsin and having to drive a pregnant woman through a blizzard to a hospital. Mary had indeed named the baby after her. Samuel Hope being the latest addition to their own little Addams Family.

“How many people get to have the son of a serial killer named after them?” Jack had murmured to her mockingly.

“Don’t even joke about it,” Sam told him in a whisper. “As the kid came out I was looking for the 666 on his forehead.”

“Well, at least she didn’t call him ‘Damien’. Does he look…normal?”

“Yeah. Wrinkled, cross, unnecessarily cute, little tiny fingernails and little tiny toes – all of those things.” Sam had tried and failed to sound as if she wasn’t exhausted to the bone and the marrow within. “Are the boys really okay?”

“They’re fine. They look like crap, but they’re going to be okay. They’re both asleep now, which is good, because while they were awake they wouldn’t shut up. Two helicopter rides with Danny and Martin is two more than anyone needs in a lifetime. Does Nathan really look like Martin?”

“Yes. He’s a pretty boy. His scar tissue isn’t though – the amount of broken bones he’s had you’d think he’d been pulled out of a twenty car pile up. The things Ryan did to him, Jack… I keep thinking about Danny and Martin being alone with that guy.”

“You and me both.”

There was a moment’s silence as they both went through a few of those possibilities and then shuddered. Her voice was tentative, cracked with exhaustion and fear: “Are you sure Ryan didn’t do anything to them…? Something they’re not telling you…?”

“Pretty sure.”

“But not positive?”

“I wasn’t there. Martin looks like a photo-fit of every rape victim on file but he’s sure as hell not acting like one. All he did while Danny was in surgery was pester everyone for information and as soon as Danny was confirmed to be out of danger, he ate everything that was put in front of him and then fell asleep. They had to wake him up to shove him into the helicopter for his ride here – where he pestered everyone for information about Danny again, then ate even more food and then fell asleep again. If he’s traumatized by anything other than Danny getting shot, he’s hiding it damned well. Danny’s got a few less bruises, but he admitted he was alone in that kitchen with Ryan for a while. And Martin was alone in the barn with Ryan then alone in the mine. Both of them had their hands cuffed behind their backs and even if they hadn’t I think Ryan could probably have taken them. He did have plenty of practice.”

“Don’t do that guy thing and don’t ask because you don’t want to know….”

He sighed. “I know it’s hard for you girls to believe – but having ‘y’ chromosomes doesn’t automatically make one a complete idiot.”

There was a long pause before she said: “I’ve seen no evidence to support your theory.”

“You’re going to have to be nicer, now you have a godson.”

He could imagine the bright brittle flash of her smile. “Yes, but only to him.”

The call from Cooper had been full of the things unsaid. Cooper had told him that the suspect had got free from his cuffs as they were escorting him out of the mine, and he had tried to wrest a gun from his deputy. There had been no choice but to shoot him. Jack had said that he must have missed a set of keys when he searched him, and apologized. Cooper had said he would have done the same thing. Why bring both sets of keys, after all? Jack had asked no difficult questions and Cooper had offered no extraneous information. Jack reasoned that what had happened was between Cooper, his deputy, and his conscience. His own conscience had never been clearer. Perhaps it would have been much better closure for all involved for Ryan to stand trial for his various crimes, and no doubt Martin would have agonized about it, if he had been the one who wound Cooper up and sent him off, but Jack was just relieved the guy was dead.

Jack was starting to be able to make the trip to the vending machine on automatic pilot. This time when he got back to the hospital room with the cup of coffee blistering his fingers, he found Martin out of bed and peering anxiously at a still-sleeping Danny. As Jack stepped into the room, Martin was feeling Danny’s forehead.

“He’s fine, Martin,” Jack told him wearily. “The doctors in Honesdale told you he was fine. The nurses in Honesdale told you he was fine. Then the doctors and nurses here in New York told you the same thing. Not to mention that Danny himself has told you that he’s fine in two different hospitals and two different helicopter rides. He’s asleep, that’s all.”

“He doesn’t look fine.” Martin pulled the blanket up a little higher and then smoothed it down.

“Trust me, he looks a lot better than you did after you got shot.”

The hospital gown was more revealing than a backless cocktail dress and Jack could see the full palette of bruises – they ran from Martin’s shoulders all the way down to what he had earlier heard a nurse describing approvingly as a ‘really pert little ass’. Right at this minute, Jack was a lot more interested in the blue-black contusions disfiguring it than the allegedly perfect curve of his agent’s buttocks.

“Martin, we need to talk.”

Martin looked up at him in surprise. “Is there something wrong with Danny that you’re not telling me?”

“For the hundredth time – he’s fine.” Jack held his gaze. “I told your father I got to you in time.”

Martin gave him a look of bemusement. “Well, didn’t you…? I don’t feel dead…”

He was aware of Danny just starting to stir into consciousness but ignored him for now; needing to finish this conversation with Martin before they were interrupted. “There’s no nice way to put this – you have bruises all over your ass.”

Martin continued to gaze at him as if Jack was speaking a different language, clearly waiting for Jack to get to some point that he had not yet reached. “And…?”

“Why?” Jack prompted.

“Because I fell on it. About six times. And before you judge me – have you ever tried climbing down a rocky wooded slope in the snow when you’re concussed? Because if you haven’t I don’t think you have the right to diss my coordination.” Martin held up an arm for inspection. “I have bruises all over my elbows too. No one had sex with them either.”

Looking Martin over, Jack could see his point. His bruises did seem to be evenly distributed everywhere in every shade of the rainbow, so did his cuts and scrapes at various depths and stages of scabbing. And he had heard Martin fall and slide while talking to him on the phone.

“Okay, just – give me your word that nothing like that happened and I won’t ask them to get out the rape kit.”

Martin rolled his eyes and then drew a cross over his heart. “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. Are you going to give Danny the third degree as well?”

“Danny wasn’t left alone with Ryan for as long as you were.”

“No, but he offered him a…you know…sexual act usually performed on the knees.”

“He what…?” Jack demanded in disbelief.

“That’s what Ryan told me in the mine.”

“Danny offered…that…in exchange for what?”

“My virtue – and my virtue is still unscathed so I think you should be annoying Danny with these questions when he wakes up. I mean you do the math.”

Jack actually understood some of the Spanish that came out of Danny’s mouth at that point. It was very rude and definitely involved a donkey and possibly a wrench of some kind. Martin turned around slowly to find Danny sitting up – very cautiously – looking pale and exhausted and cat-having-sighted-an-ugly-dog-with-fleas spitting mad.

Martin did look slightly embarrassed at having ratted him out. “Sorry, man, but I couldn’t resist the payback.”

“You told him you’d do anything he wanted if he wouldn’t kill me,” Danny said, in English this time. “I had a reason to be concerned. I still do.”

“You told him what?” Jack demanded. “What happens to you two when I’m not around? Do you drop fifty IQ points as you walk out the door? Danny, did you…?”

“No, I didn’t,” Danny interrupted shortly. “If anyone did it was Martin.”

“Martin, once and for all – did Ryan molest you or not?”

“Not. And will you two get real?” Martin countered in exasperation. “I was in that mine with Ryan for less than five minutes. I was still fully clothed when Jack turned up, so Ryan must have worked pretty fast to do all the nasty sticky things to me you think he did and then get me back in all my clothes – including my underwear – in less time than it takes most people to solve a crossword clue. That would be quite a neat trick even with my full cooperation. The guy was forty-seven and I’m a trained federal agent. I think you’re over-estimating his powers just a little, not to mention seriously under-estimating my ability to bite and kick.”

Martin looked mildly amused and more than somewhat exasperated, but in no way even remotely traumatized. Jack had to concede that either Martin had been a world class actor all this time, despite hitherto only demonstrating the deceptive abilities of a two-year old, or Ryan had not in any way sexually assaulted him.

Jack shrugged. “Fine, but that hospital gown lends a whole new meaning to you suffering from exposure. And the nurses are grading your ass.”

“On a curve?” Danny smirked.

“Don’t get smug, Dannyboy, they’re grading yours too.”

Danny looked unfazed. “If I don’t get a ten then they’re just not looking properly.”

Jack ran a hand through his hair, grateful once again to have never had sons. These two were walking advertisements for vasectomies. “If I get an ulcer I’m charging all medical expenses to the two of you.”

“What do we have to give you to get a couple of cheeseburgers?”

Martin gave him his best begging look but Jack just shook his head. “See, that whole big blue eyes thing would work on Sam just fine. Put on your little Santa hat and it would probably work on Viv too, but she and Sam are still in Wisconsin sorting out fifteen different legal technicalities, and me and Elena, we’re made of sterner stuff.”

Martin and Danny exchanged a glance and then said in unison: “Call Mac.”

Before the nurse arrived to check Danny’s dressings and ask for another urine sample from Martin, they had already remembered Mac’s extension number between them, bummed change from Jack, Martin had escaped to the payphone to place the call and managed to get back into his bed – where he was looking the picture of innocence as the nurse arrived. She turned out to be one of the nurses who had taken care of Martin after he was shot, giving them a huge advantage. Danny charmed her flirtatiously while Martin asked after her husband and remembered the names of her children – to her conspicuous pleasure – and they both feigned surprise when Mac arrived breathlessly with their greasy bundles of food.

Jack watched in growing amusement as they did indeed work their big blue and big brown eyes to their full extent on the nurse, who revealed herself to be a walkover who thought it would ‘probably be okay’ for Martin to have his cheeseburger and said she would go and check if Danny was allowed his. The second she was out of the room, they were both on the food like starving leopards on an injured antelope. Jack shook his head at Mac: “You’re such a pushover.”

Mac did have the grace to look a little embarrassed. “Martin said he was hungry.”

“He’s barely stopped eating since we reached the hospital in Honesdale.”

“Soup and Jell-O, Jack.” Martin wolfed down another few bites. “Not real food.”

“You lived on apple sauce and Pepto Bismol for six months but you can’t go twenty-four hours without a cheeseburger?”

Martin closed his eyes in an orgasmic fashion as he swallowed. “This tastes so good…”

Jack felt a headache begin to dig in between his eyes. “Tell me you didn’t do that in front of Ryan…?”

As Martin looked at him in confusion Danny made gestures to Jack suggesting either that he wanted his throat slit or that Jack should probably give up that conversation now. Jack cocked a glance at him. “You going to explain it to him later?”

“I’ll cover it in Spanish class.”

“Really?” Jack felt his eyebrows move skywards. “Because I always suspected that was a metaphor for something else, and given how bad Martin’s Spanish still is….”

Danny shook his head in lofty disapproval before tearing into his own cheeseburger. “Some people need to get their minds out of the gutter,” he offered through a mouthful of food.

“I just want to collect on my bet.”

Mac seemed to be enjoying watching Martin eat almost too much but he did reluctantly rise to his feet. “I need to get back to analyzing fingerprints.”

Martin held up a fist to bump against Mac’s in what seemed to be their own speshul sekrit handshake. “I owe you, man.”

Jack waited until Mac was out of earshot before observing to Martin: “If all those guys you keep giving the ‘my hero’ eyes to ever decide to collect on what they may think you’re offering you’re going to get very, very tired.”

“What?” Martin looked at him blankly in between wolfing down another bite of cheeseburger.

“Never mind,” Danny told him. “Jack’s just yanking your chain.” The glare he sent in Jack’s direction suggested that Martin should just be allowed to continue in blissful ignorance so Jack shrugged and let it go. Thinking about it, Martin had presumably gone through high school, college, Quantico, two years in White Collar Crime, and now four years in the FBI looking at a lot of guys like that without suffering any ill effects, so he may as well just continue as he was.

For all their claims to be so perfectly recovered that they could go home now if the doctors would only discharge them, Jack noticed that Martin was asleep five seconds after swallowing the last piece of cheeseburger while Danny had flaked out even earlier, after a few bites. Telling himself that he was definitely not covering for them, he nevertheless collected up the cartons and leftovers and took them some distance from their room to deposit in a trash can. By the time he got back to their room, he found three nurses gazing through the glass at them with expressions on their faces more appropriate to looking at a basket full of kittens. He was almost certain that amongst their murmurings he caught the words ‘so sweet’. Deciding that his agents were not only in safe hands but were also probably going to be spoiled absolutely rotten, Jack was forced to reluctantly acknowledge that he had no excuse not to go back to the office and start on the mountain of paperwork those two had landed him with.

As he was walking out of the front door, he passed the Fitzgeralds on their way in. They looked elegant and perfectly coiffured and he did wonder in passing what it would take to make these two have a hair out of place.

“They’re both fine,” he forestalled them. “They look bad but they’re already well enough to scam cheeseburgers out of technicians and get the nurses running around after them like they’re six year olds.”

Martin’s mother smiled in relief, thanking him for everything that he had done, while Victor took him by the elbow and moved him slightly out of earshot: “Are you absolutely sure that Ryan didn’t…?”

“Absolutely,” Jack assured him. “And I wouldn’t suggest asking Martin about it, because he was apparently bored with that conversation the first time he and Danny had it, which was about…” He looked at his watch, “…nineteen hours ago. Just – bear in mind that those bruises may look nasty but they’re going to fade pretty fast, and it could have been a lot worse.”

As he walked back to his own car, he found he was telling himself the same thing, and this time he could even think it without that sickening jolt of panic at what could have happened making him feel quite so much like the guy on the high wire without a safety net who had just lost his footing. It had almost had been so much worse, but fate and luck and stubborn determination had intervened to save their necks. Danny was going to be in the hospital for at least a week and sore for a few weeks more, and Martin was going to feel it every time he coughed for a month at least, but, they were not only still breathing but miraculously untraumatized; everyone in his team was still in one piece, and so was, not only the missing woman whose photograph was on their whiteboard, but the little girl he had despaired of ever finding alive.

Sliding behind the wheel, Jack wondered what it said about the usual stress levels associated with his job that today would count as a good day for him. Abruptly, the fear of getting Alzheimer’s lessened considerably. There seemed like no point in worrying about mental deterioration in his old age when, on the showing of the last twenty-four hours, he was undoubtedly going to be dead of a heart attack before he was sixty….

***

Danny woke to the familiar quiet of the hospital room. The air tasted dry and antiseptic here, and it was never entirely silent, everything muted like a TV with the sound turned down low, but something always happening somewhere. Sometimes he dreamed he heard Martin screaming and woke to the sound of another patient lost in their own agony, digging his fingernails into his palms to still the panic as he willed a nurse to get there quickly and stop it hurting. Today, his own pain woke up right along with him. Coming off the morphine had been all kinds of a bitch, and starting physiotherapy had just added to the fun-time.

Up until today, Martin had been in to see him as many times a day as possible. He sneaked him in breakfast, he sneaked him in lunch – he sat with him and watched daytime soap operas and pretended not to be as hooked as Danny now was despite knowing way too much about who all the characters were – and he came in the evening for as long as he could until the nurses were forced to kick him out. Even though he had clearly been itching to get out of the hospital himself and had started packing his bag five minutes after the doctor admitted he didn’t have pneumonia, had recovered from his mild case of exposure, and could probably take care of his own broken ribs at home, he had still been Danny’s most regular visitor.

But today had been the beginning of Danny’s physiotherapy, which hurt like stink, and had, in the past, been the day when Danny’s visits to Martin had started to dwindle and then stop. He had come in on Martin’s second day of physio and watched him trying to struggle to take six paces while holding onto bars while it obviously felt as if someone was slicing up his guts with an acid-soaked blade, and had bolted. As he all but sprinted for the stairs he had been thinking about Martin smiling across at him a few seconds before the gunfire started, so happy because Vivian was okay; Martin the guy who could outrun any suspect and climbed cliffs for fun; whose idea of a good weekend was to stuff some water and sandwiches into a backpack and head off for the nearest forest for some hiking. And now he couldn’t even walk without holding on, and it hurt so much the sweat had been pouring down his face with every agonizing step. After that, Danny had barely visited at all, knowing that Martin was going to be in pain the whole time he was there while pretending not to be, and that the pain and the pretending were something he simply couldn’t bear to see.

He had come in from his own physio today, limping back to bed with every nerve screaming at him, and waited to see if Martin would turn up anyway. He had known that he wouldn’t – how could he not know? – but he had hoped that the afternoon visit would happen anyway. It hadn’t. He didn’t blame Martin at all. He knew that it was only possible to deal with the memories of that first agony a friend had suffered as the bullet ripped into him if he was on morphine and safe in a hospital bed with nothing hurting him; after that the guilt became unbearable. Not blaming wasn’t the same as not missing though, and he had missed him all through the daily installment of what he thought of as ‘their’ soap opera, which had seemed badly-acted and pointless without Martin there next to him to insist that they couldn’t be going down the evil twin route even though Danny knew perfectly well that they were.

One of the nurses had stuck her head around the door to see if Danny wanted anything and said in surprise: “Martin not in today?”

Danny had forced a smile. “Not today.”

“I expect he’ll be in this evening.”

“Maybe.”

When Vivian had arrived at the beginning of visiting hours, bringing chocolates and a John Grisham for him to read, there had been a moment when he just knew that his face had fallen as his door opened and it wasn’t Martin coming through it, but he had managed a smile a second later, genuinely pleased to see Viv, after all, and she had tactfully pretended she hadn’t noticed the moment when he had let his disappointment show. She had stayed with him for an hour even though she worked too long as it was and barely saw enough of a husband and son she adored, and he reminded himself that he had very good friends, and that it was enough that Martin had risked his neck for him and managed to save his life, there was no reason to pine because he couldn’t cope with a friend being in pain any better than Danny had done.

After Viv had gone, he had slept and dreamed of the mine he had never seen, and of Ryan twisting a screwdriver into Martin’s side while he tried not to scream and Jack didn’t arrive in time.

Now, as he tried to move, his side ached with a slow pulse like a migraine in his skin. He winced, trying to moisten a mouth that seemed to have been superglued shut while he was sleeping. A cup with a straw appeared as if by magic and as he went to reach for it, a hand gently held his arm still.

“Trust me, you don’t want to move yet. Just open your mouth.”

He turned his head cautiously – the reminder had been a timely one as any kind of movement still sent licks of flame from his side to the rest of his body – and found Martin masking his concern with a smile as he proffered the water.

Danny gazed at him, dumbfounded, then obediently opened his mouth and sucked in a welcome mouthful of cool water. Swallowing was still a little painful, but the water was delicious going down. He drank his fill and then cautiously leaned back against his pillows. The grin couldn’t be suppressed, even though he knew it was giving away how much he had missed him, how empty the prospect of those days of recovery had seemed unleavened by Martin’s visits. “Don’t you have a home to go to?”

“Hey…” Martin flipped open his overcoat to reveal his suit. “I went to work today.”

“There’s no way Jack let you work a case.”

“He let me answer the phone. A couple of days and he may even let me look at files.”

Danny looked him over carefully. Martin was still carrying a lot of bruises and looked exhausted, pain shadows under his eyes. “Are you taking your Tylenol?”

“Yes.” Evidently seeing Danny’s lack of conviction, Martin held out a notebook. “I’m taking them.”

Danny looked at the neat listing of every single pill Martin had been given or had taken since breaking his ribs, the quantity, the time, the four hour intervals before another two could be taken. His heart caught because it looked so orderly and yet came from a place of such terror of losing control. Aloud he said only: “That’s a really good idea, to write it down so you don’t forget.” He tapped the last entry and checked his watch on the stand by the bed. “You’re due to take two more.” As Martin hesitated, Danny pushed the beaker and straw at him. “Here you go.”

He watched as Martin spilled the pills onto his palm, gazing at them for a long moment. When he swallowed them down with the water he still looked as if he were doing something wrong.

“Martin, they’re not addictive and being in pain all the time isn’t a good idea.” Danny reached out cautiously – movement still hurt but it could be done if he concentrated – and patted him gently on the shoulder. “You’re doing fine, and, let’s be honest about it, in this job we’re going to get hurt from time to time and you have to have a way of dealing with it.”

“Sam already gave me that lecture today – I have a note that says I’m excused nagging for the evening.” Martin glanced at him sideways. “Are you feeling okay? I know when you start physio it’s…”

“It’s a bitch, yeah.” Danny tried to get comfortable and immediately Martin was there, helping him to sit up higher, adjusting his pillows for him. “Martin – stop fussing before you hurt yourself.”

Martin sat down obediently but still looked poised to spring up again if Danny so much as winced. “I’m sorry I didn’t get in at lunchtime today, there were so many phone calls I didn’t like to leave the office….”

The relief was overwhelming that it was only it being Martin’s first day back at work that had stopped him visiting. Trying not to let those feelings show, Danny gazed at him in fond exasperation. “Martin, you came to see me before breakfast and you’re here now. If you spend any more time at this hospital people are going to talk – well, more than they already do. Now, tell me you brought me something to read and something to eat.”

Delving into a backpack, Martin checked that no one was watching and then slipped out a brown paper bag. “If anyone asks, promise me you’ll tell them Elena got you this and I brought you Playboy.”

The shiny glamour of a new issue of ‘Fama’ slid onto his coverlet and Danny smiled in relief. “Just say it’s for your Spanish classes. In fact – read the first article to me.”

“How is knowing what’s happening in the latest soap operas on Telemundo going to help me interview suspects?”

“Well, if you’re interviewing a suspect who’s a big Eduardo Capetillo fan, think of the head start you’re going to have. Now, read, I want to know if Evita is Abigail’s daughter. Did you bring me any food?”

Martin wordlessly handed over a bag of popcorn. “The sooner you get out of here the sooner you can watch SNY again.”

“The physio keeps telling me that if the hospital got cable the patients would have no incentive to get well.”

“Makes sense.” Martin opened the magazine, checked again that no one was eavesdropping, and then began to read in halting Spanish about what the viewers of Peregrina could look forward to in future episodes.


The next time Danny woke up it was so late the muted television was showing infomercials and he found himself half-hypnotized by the sales pitch for a gadget that could chop and peel any known vegetable, wondering how much they paid the people who had to demonstrate those things to look excited by zircon jewelry and learn the knack of every utensil that was not available in stores. He groped for the remote and turned the screen dark before he started wanting the TV on all the time for company, and then realized he could still hear someone else’s breathing.

Turning was still difficult and worked better if he could pivot from the hips, doing a full torso adjustment rather than just blithely swiveling from the waist. He lurched around a little awkwardly and found that Martin was still crammed uncomfortably into the visitor’s chair, head lolling back as he slept in a position that was going to cramp every muscle from his neck to his coccyx.

“Martin…” He whispered his name, trying not to alert any nurses who might be prowling. He was amazed they had missed him on an earlier patrol. But perhaps Martin had given them his ‘just a few more minutes’ plea and they had relented. Martin had clearly been a Good Patient, as they all seemed fond of him and he was never treated with the same briskness as other visitors. “Martin, wake up.”

Martin jolted uncomfortably into wakefulness, bleary-eyed and confused. “What?”

“You’re in the hospital.”

Martin looked up at him in shock. “What happened?”

“Nothing happened. You just fell asleep here, visiting me. Remember?”

Clasping a hand to his neck, Martin shifted painfully in his seat. “What time is it?”

“Way past visiting hours. If Nurse Rosa catches you she’s going to give you a sponge bath.”

Martin straightened up carefully, a hand going to his ribs. “Are you okay?”

Danny gazed at him for a long moment, seeing him plucking at his crimson-stained shirt in confusion, lying in that pool of blood, so painfully getting up from a chair with the use of his stick while pretending that nothing hurt. He picked his words with care: “I’m better than when I was lying in that cabin knowing you were running towards a serial killer for my sake. I’m not as good as I’m going to be in a month’s time when I can touch my toes again.”

Martin grimaced. “A month could be a little optimistic.”

“Want to bet on it?” Danny held out a hand. “Some of us didn’t get our intestines perforated, remember?”

Martin shook his head. “I’m not taking the bet. I know how stubborn you are.”

“Yeah, good you don’t have that fault, isn’t it?” Danny gazed at him until Martin looked away.

“Are you still angry with me?” The question was asked so quietly that he wasn’t sure he’d heard it right the first time.

“Am I…? No, of course not. About what anyway? The painkillers? Mouthing off to Ryan?”

“Yes.”

“Which?”

“Either.”

“No.” Danny realized that sometimes ‘no’ was too small a word. “I’m not angry with you about anything. You saved my life, Martin. Has Jack been yelling at you…?” He felt his own anger rise at the thought, remembering how unreasonable Jack had been with him, projecting all his paranoia onto him because yelling at Martin for getting shot was beyond even Jack and that left only Danny to blame. “Because you can tell him from me there isn’t a damned thing you did that he wouldn’t have done. Has he yelled at you?”

Martin grimaced. “Sam, Viv and Elena. It was more of a shriek.”

“What did you do?”

“Picked up a box of files for Sam.”

“Well, that was dumb.”

“And my ears are still ringing from them telling me that.” Martin gave him a concerned look. “How are you really doing?”

“I’m bored and I hurt and I’m fed up with being in pain. And, Martin, I’m sorry I bailed on you when you were in the hospital. I just couldn’t deal with seeing you…”

“I know.” Martin’s eyes bore not a trace of resentment. “You felt bad that I got shot and you didn’t, and you couldn’t deal with seeing me in pain. Of course, I get that. It’s okay. It always was.”

Danny sighed and leaned back against the pillows. “So, you didn’t spend days and days being in pain and bored and wishing I would come visit you then?”

“I was actually hoping for Angelina Jolie. She didn’t show up either.”

“Just as well. That is way more woman than you can handle, my friend. But it’s not okay that I didn’t come to see you and I’m sorry.”

Martin inclined his head in unwilling acknowledgement. “Okay. Apology accepted. I’m sorry for coming into work high on Vicodin or spacey with withdrawal and risking your life because I was too stupid to get myself some help.”

“Hey, that’s over and done with. You got the help. You were in a lot of pain and you were sick of everyone treating you like an invalid. I get how it happened. You’ve got yourself straight. That’s all that matters.” He might have said more about how he had been tough because he had to be, because that was the only way to help Martin climb back from being an addict whose life was inevitably going to end up in the toilet to being the guy he really was, but how he had never stopped caring, however angry he had seemed; but any chance of a chick flick moment was banished when Nurse Helen appeared in the doorway and said in disbelief:

“Agent Fitzgerald…?”

“I fell asleep.” Martin gave her a look both penitent and pleading. “I was just leaving.”

She looked at her watch pointedly. “I would hope so.”

He rose to his feet stiffly, wincing from the pain in his ribs and she crossed over the room to help him, automatically feeling his forehead for a fever. “You really need to take better care of yourself.”

“He’ll be good,” Danny promised.

“I’m sorry about falling asleep.” Martin looked genuinely remorseful. “I can still come back tomorrow, can’t I?”

Martin gave the nurse his best begging eyes and she folded like a paper plane. “Just stick to visiting hours.” She gave Danny her best attempt at a stern look. “And you should be asleep by now.” As she walked Martin to the door she was asking if he was remembering to take his meds and hoping that he wasn’t even thinking about driving yet because if he was she would have to take it up with Agent Malone when he called in next.

Martin paused in the doorway and gave Danny a smile that was unexpectedly sweet. “See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” Danny smiled back at him, absurdly relieved that Martin was going to be coming back on the next day and the day after; that this shooting wasn’t going to sit between them and fester guiltily. “See you then.”

As Nurse Helen escorted Martin to the nurse’s station, from which she was apparently going to personally supervise calling him a cab to take him straight home, Danny lay back down on his pillows, holding his side as he did so, but already finding that it burned a little less.

The physio was going to hurt and it was going to wear him down, and eventually it was also going to make him strong enough to get out of this hospital room and back to work. He realized that, against all commonsense, that thought pleased him immensely. Even though he had empirical evidence that their job stood a good chance of getting them shot, smacked around, cursed at, and occasionally spat on, he still loved the challenge of finding the people who, without them, were never going to make it. Having temporarily been one of those victims who was cold and scared and hurting and desperately hoping for a rescue, he found that he now loved it even more. That kind of job satisfaction, he felt, was worth a lot, even the pain he was in right now, even the scars on Martin’s chest and abdomen; it was worth all of it to know that every day he went into work he was helping some of the lost find their way home.

***
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March 2009

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