Author: Cat deLuna
Ratings: R or 17 for violence and language
Warnings: This piece does involve some graphic violence, so if blood freaks you out, you probably shouldn't read it.
Disclaimers: None. This is an original work, and any resemblance to real people is strictly by coincidence.
Authors Note: This is a piece that I worked on a while ago. I do have other parts to the story, but they're not done yet, so I'm just posting this for now. Also, I am in no way an expert on the NYPD, NYC, any hospitals or doctors in NYC, or how injuries are treated, so any discrepancies are all my fault, please don't hold it against me.
Feedback E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org I'd love to hear any/all critiques, even if you don't like it.
"Go, go, go!!" My partner, Sam, was screaming, and I stepped on the gas. The siren blared and the light on the dash turned round and round as the two suspects ran down the street. One had a gun, and as we got closer the other pulled out another one. "Shit, shit, shit!" I said as Sam pulled his pistol. I had the guys backed into a corner, so I stopped the car with a squeal of rubber. The first guy to aim and fired his gun; Sam and I dropped behind the dubious cover of our car doors.
I yanked out my own weapon. A single shot broke my window, and I ducked down quickly. Stupid of me to forget to open it. Sam got a shot off that grazed the first guy. We volleyed back and forth for a few minutes; neither of us getting the upper hand. I could tell where the bullets were coming from, but I didn't have a clear view of the two men. I wasn't too worried, though, there was no way they were getting away from us.
My breath was loud in my ears as I looked up over the edge of the door trying to figure out where the perps were, and down the end of a barrel. The second guy had managed to crawl over to the car, and was now crouched on the other side of my car door. I could see his finger on the trigger, and time slowed to nothing. I dove out of my cover, facing the guy. I fired one shot that hit him in his left arm. Not the gun hand. I cursed my aim, and fired again. His gun went of at the same time, or near enough for my reckoning, and I felt the searing line of fire on my leg as he fell. Sam took a chance and stood, firing at the first guy who had lifted his head to look for his friend. The shot hit him in the chest, and Sam followed up with two more. A perfect FBI triangle.
From the ground, I looked over at the idiot who'd shot me; he was still breathing, but wouldn't be for long. There was a huge hole in his left arm, and another in his chest. It was surprising that he could still breath at all. Blood trickled out of his mouth, then his eyes froze and he was dead. Bastard.
"Victoria!" Sam was running over, yelling into his radio. "Officer down! Officer down! Where the hell is my backup!?" He seemed to say over and over again.
"Jesus, it's not that bad, Sam," I tried to say, but the pain in my leg made me breathless.
"It's okay, Victoria, you're gonna be fine. Don’t die on me, kiddo. It's just a little leg wound, you're gonna be fine." The fear in his eyes made me afraid. I tried to pick up my head to look at the wound, but it was too heavy.
"I-" I started to say, but the sirens cut me off. Suddenly darkness swallowed me, and I was lost. I hijacked consciousness as they lifted me into the bus; Sam right behind me. He held my hand. He was more than twice my age, and was more of a father to me than my own had ever been. I tried to smile at him, and finished my earlier sentence.
"I'm gonna…kick your ass…for letting me…get shot." I gasped. Sam smiled, then grinned. He punched the EMT taking my vitals in the arm, saying, "She's the best partner ever! She'll make it, you'll see!" He grinned his goofy grin at me, and I smiled back. Next I knew I was being wheeled into the hospital and Sam was being held back. I reached back to him, twisting so that I was sure he saw my left hand, and nearly fell off the gurney. The nurse near my head said something to me, but I didn't listen. Instead, I held up with the first two fingers making a 'V'. Victory. I didn’t see Sam raise his own hand in response, but I was sure he did.
Later, after the surgery, I woke in a hospital room to Sam's snores. He was slumped in a chair next to my bed.
"Hey," I said, my voice horse. I cleared my throat and tried again. "Hey sleepy head, wake up." I smiled as Sam jerked awake.
"Hey kiddo, you made it." He rubbed at eyes that looked gritty from lack of sleep.
"You doubted me?" I asked, pretending to be offended.
"Not for a second, Victory." He's the best partner ever, I thought to myself as the curtain was drawn away and a nurse came in, holding a clipboard.
"So, you're Victoria Brown, huh? I suppose you'll be wanting this," she held up a small plastic bag with a bullet inside. "You cops are all the same, you all want trophies of your injuries. I heard this one dude got the date of his shots tattooed onto his chest. Weird, huh?" I remembered the guy, too. He was a bit a loon; good cop, though. Sam reached across and took the bullet.
"Your doctor will be in to see you soon," said the nameless nurse as she checked my pulse. She left without another word.
Seconds later, as I was trying to figure out what to say to Sam, a familiar form walked into my little cove.
"Hey Victoria, I didn't think I'd be seeing you this soon," said Lilanth Simmons, one of the best doctors in the hospital. Or, at least, that’s what I thought. We'd been friends since the first time I'd brought a rape victim into the hospital; she had found me crying in the bathroom after the bedside interview. She'd silently handed me some tissues, and held me while I found a place to keep the anger and the fear. Anyway, I'd had a crush on her since then. I'd never let on about it, though, I treasured our friendship to much for that. She understood my job; understood the pain of losing someone you don't know; and I didn't get queasy at the mention of blood. We'd spent many coffee breaks reminiscing and sharing our fears. Something told me that today was different. Maybe it was the drugs they'd pumped me full of that made me silly, but I decided to flirt with her.
"Nice stethoscope," I said as she took my pulse. Sam looked at me funny, caught the look on my face, and left the enclosed area around my bed, muttering something about a soda. Like I said, he's the best.
"What?" She laughed, and blushed slightly.
"I said, nice stethoscope."
"That is the lamest pick up line I've ever heard, Victoria, and I've heard some pretty lame ones in my time." Slam dunk. She knew I was flirting with her, and she didn't seem too disturbed. Time for phase two.
"So, am I still alive?" She glared at me over the tops of her glasses.
"No, I'm talking to a corpse," she said with a slight hint of a smile.
"I didn't know you swung that way, Doctor." I smiled charmingly into her face. She blushed, obviously getting the joke.
"So," she cleared her throat, "The, uh, bullet is a 9 millimeter round, according to the guy who took the pics. I personally wouldn't know the difference if it bit me on the nose and told me it's name." Not only did she know I was flirting, she was responding. Why hadn't I tried this earlier? Phase three was a go.
"I guess I owe you dinner, then." She jerked a little, then slowly turned to face me. I caught her eyes and held them steadily. "It's not just any one that I'd let pull a bullet out of me, you know," I said for explanation.
"You were out cold!" she exclaimed. "You didn't have a clue that I was working on you!" I thought of other ways she could work on me, and I blushed.
"My, my, a little defensive, are we?" I smiled sweetly at her, regaining my composure in record time. Cute she may be, but she had yet to sweep me off my feet. "And anyway, I was drugged; if I'd been awake I would have requested you anyway."
"Well, you got me." She smiled a little, but I eased off anyway.
"So, how's my leg, Doc?" I asked in a more professional tone.
"Well, other than a hole above your knee, just fine. You're lucky; it missed pretty much everything important."
"Except me," I muttered, pretending to be hurt. Her smile could peel paint, but her eyes twinkled.
"Yes, I suppose you're right. Anyway, you've got stitches in, and since it chipped the bone, once you're ready to walk, I'm going to put a cast on it. Don't worry, a month or so and you'll be up and running." She checked her notes, then looked back down at me when I didn't say anything.
"So, Doc, how 'bout it?"
"How bout what, Victoria?"
"Dinner; me and you, as a thank you. If you're nice, I'll even pay."
"How bout this. If you're good and stay in bed as long as I tell you too, I'll bring you your meals on the last day. Maybe I'll even sit with you for a bit and let you practice you're lame ass pick up lines on me for a bit. Cause girl, they need some work." I could've sworn she winked.
"How long do I have to stay in bed?" The question was out before I could consider what the answer might be.
"A week!?! I'll go insane! Stark raving mad! You'll have to tie me up!!! I'm not staying in this bed for a whole goddamn week!!" I was afraid, and it made my tone harsh and cold. All my nerves were telling me to run, and to run fast. I knew I was being unreasonable, knew I had to stay in bed, but still the fear was there. I started breathing harder.
"Hey, Victory, calm down!" She grabbed my shoulders as I tried to sit up, and pushed me back. Her smell was intoxicating, and my body let itself be pushed back. Meanwhile, my mind was screaming. She sat down on the side of my bed, looking concerned.
"Look, it's only a week, and I'm guessing that you'll be out of here in four days." The familiar panic set in. Four days, in bed. I couldn't do it. I couldn't. My heart started pumping faster, and my breath came in gasps as I remembered. Unfamiliar bed; sweet, cloying scent of chloroform; death lying next to me.
"Jesus Christ," I heard Lilanth mutter, "What is it with you and staying here? You don’t like my company or something?" It would have been funny, if I hadn't been so damn frightened. I hated the weakness, but even more, I hated being afraid in front of her.
Then Sam was back, putting the sodas on the table, and sitting down next to me, holding my hand. He knew. He knew everything, and still blamed himself. Lilanth's beeper beeped, right on cue, and she moved away. She murmured an apology and left, closing the curtains behind her.
"Hey, kiddo, you're gonna be fine." Sam's deep voice brought me back to reality. What had happened had happened. He was my anchor and I let him ground me. "I'm gonna stay right here with you. I won't leave your side." His large strong hands held my small ones.
"Promise?" I whispered, memories haunting my voice.
"Yes, I promise. Now be a good girl and go to sleep." I nodded, and with my partner watching over me, I slept.
Three days later, Sam walked beside me as Lilanth rolled my wheelchair out the front doors. She had just gotten off her last shift, and I had convinced her to come out to dinner with us.
"Where do you two ladies want to go?" Sam asked as they lifted me into the car. As much as I hated being helpless, Lilanth's hands on my legs made the ordeal bearable. Well, mostly. At least they felt good.
"How about the place over on 48th?" I asked, "You know, the one where the guys, and that one lady…" I trailed off when Sam grinned. "Yeah, I know the one," he said, playing along. He turned to Lilanth. "It's sorta Italian with a French American twist. Sound okay?" She looked at me, the smiled. "Sure, that sounds great."
"So, what's with the code about the guys and the lady…" Lilanth trailed off.
"Oh, that." I grinned, feigning innocence. "About a year ago the owner called the cops when 3 guys started doing the same lady in the main room. Turns out she was paying them to make a scene while her husband robbed the cash register." I shook my head at the memory.
"You guys eat at a place where 4 people were doing it? Isn't that, kinda, gross?" The look on her face made me laugh.
"The owner was so grateful, he gives us half off every time we go in, and makes sure we get the best service. Plus, the food is to die for."
"Okay then. Just, can we sit away from the table where they, you know…" I laughed even harder at her blush.
"Whatever you say, Doc." I punched her lightly on the arm, and smiled when she looked at me. Her cheeks darkened and she looked emphatically out the window. *Score for the chick in the cast!*
After dinner, as we were contemplating dessert or something to drink, Sam's phone rang. I looked at him pensively as he answered it. He listened for a moment, then hung up. "W – I've got to go, Victoria. Patrol found a car…" He turned to the doctor and let his sentence trail off. We weren't allowed to talk about that sort of thing with civilians.
"Go," I said to break the silence. "Take Harry, I'm sure he'll enjoy the excuse to get out of the house." At his hesitant look, I patted his arm and said, "Don’t worry about me, Lilanth'll make sure I get home in one piece." I smiled at her look, and pushed Sam away.
"Have fun!" I called at the last moment, just before he walked out the door. He didn't turn, just held up his left hand with the first two fingers making the 'V'.
"So, just you and me, Doc," I said, turning back to Lilanth.
"What's with the peace symbol? You guys hippies or something?" I snorted.
"Not exactly." Did she deserve the explanation? "During World War I, people used the 'V' to show victory. Sam told me that after the first time we collared a guy together. That's when he started calling me Victory." I guess she did.
"So, you guys are a bit more than partners, I take it?"
"Sam? Gods no. He's like a father to me. And a grandfather. And my best friend. He's the best partner ever, but no, we're nothing more than that. He's like, twice my age."
"Jeez, don't bite my head off for asking." We ordered coffee, and sat in silence until it came. Taking a sip, she asked, "So, do you have a boyfriend? Or should I be asking if it's a girlfriend?" I was a tad surprised at the question; I had never officially come out to Lilanth. The flirting must have been less subtle than I'd thought.
"Girl, and no. Not many people want to date a sex crimes detective. Especially not women. They're afraid if they get involved some rapist will come after them to get at me." I took a long gulp of coffee, and nearly spewed it all over Lilanth. Sputtering, I managed to get out, "It's hot!" to answer the doctor's quizzical expression. Laughing, she handed me a napkin, and waited for me to catch my breath. I glared at her, but the effect was lost as I coughed up the last of the blasted liquid. I don't even like coffee all that much.
"Some doctor you are," I said, mock glaring at her. "I could have choked to death right then, and you just sat there laughing."
"I'm sure I would've eventually given you CPR," she said thoughtfully.
"Maybe I'll choke again," I said thoughtfully, and smiled as she laughed at my teasing.
"So, what about you? Do you have a boyfriend? Or a girl, for that matter?"
"No," was all she replied. *Does that mean she's bi? Or doesn’t feel the need to prove she straight? Or what? Arg*
"Maybe," she smiled, but her face was closed. Should I peruse it, or let sleeping dogs lie? And what was with the freaking clichés all of a sudden?
We sat in silence for a while, until, just as I was getting ready to try another lame line on her, the owner, a proud man named Franco Valentino, came over and rescued both of us.
"So, did you two enjoy your meal?" he asked, discretely placing our check on the table. "And your papi, did he enjoy his?" For some unexplained reason, Franco insisted on calling Sam my 'papi', and Sam, the annoying git that he was, wouldn't ask him to stop.
"Yes, Sam said to pass on his compliments. The food was excellent as always." I smiled at the man bending over me.
"And who is this charming young lady?" he asked, turning to Lilanth.
"This is Lilanth. Lil, meet Franco Valentino, the charming owner of this wonderful restaurant." Lilanth stuck her hand out, but to her obvious surprise, Franco didn't shake it. Rather, as was his fashion, he took her hand and kissed it passionately. Lilanth giggled as I glared.
Later, after dessert was eaten, and we had argued about who should pay the bill, Lilanth drove me home. It still galled me to think of how helpless I was, and I think she saw some of it in my face because she didn't tease me once about anything to do with my leg. We pulled up in front of my building, and she stopped the car.
"Sit tight while I get your chair," she said as she got out. I watched her in the mirror as she expertly unfolded the collapsible wheelchair and brought it around to me. I shook off her offered hand and stood up gingerly on my uninjured leg. I was shaky, and thankfully sat down in the strangely comfortable chair.
She wheeled me up the stairs as I hung on for dear life; and into the front door. I breathed a sigh of relief that the elevators were working; the threat of more stairs made me shiver. Being pulled up backwards, bump, bump, bump, was not my idea of a good time.
Lilanth rolled me into the small elevator car, and I didn't ask any questions when she didn't exit. We rode up in silence, but I was aware of every breath she took.
When we got to my floor, she wheeled me down the hall in the direction that I pointed to, and opened my door with the keys I handed her. I saw her hesitate on the threshold, and I hoped beyond hope that she would come in.
"I guess I should, uh, let you get settled in," she said, and I twisted around to look at her face.
"Unless, you want me to, uh, you know, give you a hand." I grinned at the blush that spread across her cheeks.
"I'd love some help, Doc," I told her, happy for the opening she had given me. I wanted her there, but I'd be damned if I was going to ask for help.
So we went in, and she helped me get used to moving around my cramped space in the unwieldy wheelchair. Soon, we were sitting in the living room, sipping Mexican hot chocolate.
"You're sure you've never had it with cinnamon?" I asked her. I was appalled to think that someone could grow up without tasting the sweet liquid complemented with the light brown powder.
"I'm sure, Victoria. I'd have remembered." She still hadn't taken a sip, and I was suddenly afraid that she wouldn't like it.
"Come on, Lil, try it. I promise it won't kill you," I said, smiling.
"That depends on how it's inserted," she replied, and scrunched up her face.
"That's nutmeg, not cinnamon." I held my breath as she took a sip, then smiled when her face lit up.
"This is good!" she exclaimed, and I laughed.
"Isn't it? I really can't believe you've never had it before." She sighed, exasperated.
"I'm not from the west coast, Vikki – " I didn't hear anything else she said. She had uttered the forbidden name. I tried to calm my breathing; tried to let it slide, but memory of the last person who had called me by that name crowded in. Suddenly, I wanted our evening to end; for her to be gone. Out of my apartment, and maybe out of my life. My heart beat faster, and I tried desperately not to breath faster. Deep breaths, the shrink had told me; deep breaths. But I was sure she had noticed, and when I looked at her from the corner of my eye, her face was concerned.
"I, uh," I had no idea what to say to her. My mind was clogged; I needed to be alone, to drown myself in my fears, to listen to music to try in vain to forget.
"Victory, are you all right?" Some how she knew; knew how to calm me down. Sam was the only one who knew how much that name meant to me. Knew how it helped me ground. But one name wasn't enough to drown out another. I felt my control slipping, and when she reached out for my hand I involuntarily jerked back, wanting the comfort she offered, but not able to take it.
"Please, Lilanth, please just go. I," I stopped, knowing I was hurting her; not able to stop. "I just need to be alone." I knew she didn't understand, didn't know what she'd done to me. Part of me; the part that still had a tenuous control on reality, wanted her to stay; to wash away the fear from my mind, but I knew the bigger; more frightened side of my mind, would win. It always had.
"I'm sorry, Victoria, for whatever I did," she said, and got up. I kept my head down, not trusting myself to look at her; knowing that I couldn't bear the pain in here eyes. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes, and I wished they would go away. Tears would do me no good now.
I heard her hesitate, and I willed her out with my mind. Finally I heard the door close behind her, and I let the tears out. I turned on the couch and muffled the sounds with the pillow. I sobbed my fear, my shame, until finally there was nothing left. I turned over, and stared at the ceiling for a while, then reached out for the remote.
Unlike most people; who love to drown out their lives with television, I prefer to listen to music. The only extravagance in my apartment was the elaborate stereo and speaker system that Sam had helped me install. I had my entire music library stored in a state-of-the-art computer/player. It was hooked up to speakers around the apartment, and was controlled by both the remote and voice activation. I don’t understand why I paid extra for the voice recognizing software; I rarely use it. I pushed a sequence of buttons on the long memorized remote, and started to relax when Evanescence blared out of the speakers.
"Fifty thousand tears I've cri-ied," I sang along in a clogged voice, "Screaming and deceiving, and bleeding for you/And you still won't hear me!" I screamed with her. I was going under, just as they sang, "I'll save myself," I whispered over and over again as I started to cry. "Just when I thought I'd reached the bottom," I thought, "I hurt the person I think I love." Mentally I kicked myself in the shins, and my injured leg gave a pang of sympathetic pain. For the first time, I thought about the asshole who'd shot me, and I surprised myself by grinning. The chase had been exhilarating; Sam and I knew exactly what the other was doing. The two who'd run were quick enough to make us almost fear losing them, but I'd known we'd catch up to them. The gun had been a surprise, but it had been almost fun to have a clearly defined threat. To many times in our job the perp was covered in layers of lies, and it had been nice for a change. The guns were troublesome, though, and getting shot was not what I had expected. My first partner had accused me of being reckless, but I was just doing my job. With Sam right by my side. I didn't feel remorse for the two we'd shot; it was the job, and I'd talked to the women they'd tortured. Women who might never touch another person again. I sighed. When it came time, I would give a sad story to the shrink at the department; tell her that yes, I didn't like killing the bad guys, but no, that wouldn't cloud my judgment in the future. There were times when I honestly wondered why the department hired the shrinks; no one I knew ever told them the truth. Probably all for show, I decided. Slowly I let my self drift off into sleep as the music lulled my senses into oblivion.
When I woke, slowly extracting myself from a dream, I was surprised to see light coming though the windows. I rarely slept thought the night any more.
Still slightly disoriented, I rolled off the couch and tried to stand up. I bit back a scream as pain jolted up my wounded leg, and I fell forward; catching my lip on the coffee table. I tasted blood as it dripped down my face, and I almost cried again. Slowly I pulled myself into the cursed wheelchair, and made my way into the kitchen. Methodically I made coffee, and sat at the table to drink it. Half way through the cup, I looked down at the brown liquid in surprise. I hated the stuff, and only drank it on days when I needed to be awake. Which was pretty much every day, I mused as I dumped the rest of the cup, as well as what remained in the pot, down the drain. Every day but today. I felt tears start to form, and angrily pushed them back. I hate feeling crippled; helpless. Without the need to go into the precinct, I didn't know what to do with myself.
Slowly I made my way back into the living room, and turned the music back on. They were singing about a tourniquet and salvation, and the song fit my mood perfectly. I pulled a book off my stack, and thought about calling Sam. He was probably at his desk, staring at a file, or maybe at my empty chair. Finally, after an hour of staring at the book and not reading a word, I put it down and grabbed my phone. Quickly, before I could change my mind, I dialed his desk number.
"Wilson," came the curt voice; he was distracted.
"Hey," I said quietly, and I smiled when I heard his feet slide off his desk and hit the floor. The entire squad used to tease us about both sitting with our feet on our desks. We really were like two peas in a pod.
"Hey yourself, gimp."
"Sam!" I cried. Trust him to find something to tease me about. It was nice, though. He had to know how helpless I was feeling right now; and instead of making me talk about it he distracted me.
"Sorry," he said sheepishly. I paused, trying to think of an excuse for calling him.
"Gimp," he said again, and I almost through the phone out the window.
"Samuel Wilson, I swear, I don't know why your mother didn't drown you at birth!" I cried, and listened to him laugh.
"I don’t think I've heard that in a long time, Victory. What's on your mind?" I sighed. Trust Sam to get right to the point. Then, to my utter amazement, I told him what had happened.
"She called me Vikki last night," I said in a whisper and felt tears on my cheeks. My twisting emotions were getting out of control. I wiped at the wetness angrily.
"Oh god, Victoria. You know she can't know, right?" I shrugged my shoulders, then realized he couldn’t see me.
"Yeah, I know. But," I stopped.
"I know, Victoria." He paused. "You want me to break her kneecaps?" I let out a watery laugh, knowing that he would if I said yes.
"No, Sam, not this time. Gods," I said under my breath, but apparently my phone's sensitivity was set too high.
"You like her, don't you? Despite what happened." Like he needed to ask. Instead of answering his question, I replied, "I made her leave, Sam. I couldn't even tell her why. I feel so bad about it. I just, couldn't face her," I finished and sighed. Sam was quiet, almost too quiet, and I thought for a second that he had hung up.
"Do you want to make it up to her, Victory?" he asked suddenly.
"I," I stopped. Did I? Did I like her enough to try to make amends? I'd never tried that before; I'd never liked some one enough to forgive them.
"Yeah, I think I do, Sam." I breathed. In, out, in out. Had I really just said that? Did I like the feisty doctor enough to forgive something she didn't know she'd done? Couldn't know?
"Then sit still and don’t move a muscle. I'll be right there." What, I started to say, but he cut me off. "I mean it, Victory, don't move a muscle!" I heard him hang up the phone, and I wondered what was going through his head.
For once I listened to his advice, and sat stock still in my chair until I heard his knock at the door. I silently wheeled myself over. "Am I allowed to move yet?" I called, and heard him sigh.
"Yes, Victoria, you have my permission to move." So I reached up and unlocked the door to let him in. Instead he stood on the threshold and beckoned to me.
"Come on, we're going out." I started to protest, but he grabbed the handles on my chair and wheeled me out.
"Where are we going?" I half yelped as he sped down the hall to the elevator.
"To the flower shop down the way, then to the hospital." I sat in silence as we rode down, absorbing what he had just said.
"I never took you for a helpless romantic, Sam," I said teasingly as we rolled down the sidewalk.
"Anything for my partner," he replied, and I smiled.
After I bought a bouquet of colourful flowers, thinking that roses were a bit presumptuous, Sam pushed me back to his car. This time I managed to get in without help, and sat almost patiently as he cursed at the chair; trying to get it to fold. Suddenly my breath hitched in my throat as I thought about what I was about to do.
"Sam," I said tentatively when he folded into the driver's seat. "I don't know what to say." There, I'd said it. Now we could turn around, and Sam would take me back, and we would laugh about this. I tried to ignore the lump in my stomach.
"I know, Victory, but that's the fun of it. Perk up, Kiddo, I doubt she'll know what to say when she sees the flowers." So much for that plan. I didn't really think it would work, and, in my more truthful moments, I didn't really want it to.
Sam expertly moved through traffic, and the lump in my stomach slowly moved up to my throat. My mind ran quickly though a hundred different scenarios about how she could accept the flowers, from a passionate kiss right on down to a screaming fit, and I was almost relieved when we pulled up in the hospital parking lot. My hands trembled a little as I got into the wheelchair, and I was glad I was sitting down. Sam gently put the flowers on my lap and pushed me inside.
A smiling nurse sat at the desk, and when Sam flashed his badge, she politely pointed us the way of Lilanth's office. I blushed as he pushed me down the sterile corridor. Suddenly he stopped, just a little way down from her door.
"This is as far as I go, Victory. Good luck." He patted me on my shoulder and walked away. My fingers felt numb, and I considered turning around and following him, but instead I pushed myself down the few feet to the door. I reached up awkwardly and knocked.
"Come in." Her voice was muffled, but I could've sworn there were tears in it. I gently opened the door and fumbled a bit to get inside. Finally I was there, blushing bright as a beacon, and holding the flowers out.
"Here," I heard myself mumble, "These are for you." I kicked myself for not saying why I was there.
"Victoria, thanks. But, why?" I finally looked up into her face, and saw there were indeed tears on her face. Did I put those there, or did she lose someone today?
"I, uh, feel bad about last night. I shouldn't have kicked you out like that. I'm, uh, sorry." I felt my face heating up like it was on fire, and I looked studiously at the floor. That was it, my brilliant apology.
I gasped quietly when I felt fingers on mine, and I looked up, startled, as she pulled the vase of flowers out of my hands.
"I love them, Victoria. They're gorgeous." I smiled tentatively, and was rewarded with a grin. We both winced as the PA system crackled to life, and her smile slipped when we heard her name.
"Victoria, I," she started to say, her voice catching.
"It's all right, I understand. Go." I couldn't help the anger that boiled inside me. Not at her, but at whatever idiot had gotten his hand stuck in the blender and needed stitches. It was unfair, but then, so was life.
"Will you come to dinner with me?" My head snapped back up at the question, and I turned to look at her. She was wearing black slacks, with a blue shirt. Her white lab coat looked extraordinarily good on her, and I felt my heart speed up a little. Her blue eyes looked slightly afraid, so I smiled, trying to reassure her.
"Of course. I'd offer to pick you up, but you tell me I'm not allowed to drive." Her eyes twinkled. "I'll pick you up at 6?" she asked, almost hesitating.
"I'll be ready." She smiled into my eyes and was gone. Did she think it was going to be a date? I silently wondered as I left the hospital, looking for Sam's car. Or does she just think we're friends.
"Well, how did it go?" Sam's face was suddenly in front of me, and I gasped, startled. Where had he come from.
"It went, it went okay, Sam. We're having dinner later."
"That's great! Congratulations!" He stepped behind me to push me to the car.
"Shall I take you home?" he asked as I got in.
"Uh, yeah. Hey, how'd you get away from the captain?" I asked suddenly as he weaved his way out of the lot.
"Oh, I have my ways," he replied cryptically. I decided not to push it.
Once he got me home, and up the horrible stairs, I bid him goodbye and wheeled myself into my apartment. I was stopped on the way up by one of my neighbors, who wanted every detail of the shooting and the subsequent surgery. He fancied himself an expert on certain fields of medicine, but frankly, I thought he was a weasel. After giving him some gruesome details I managed to shake him off. I got into my apartment with no trouble and looked at the clock. To my surprise it was almost 4 in the afternoon. I guess I slept later that I'd thought. I decided it was too late to eat a full meal, so I pulled the peanut butter out of the fridge. I shook the large jar slightly as I pulled it out, and sighed when I heard metal clang against the plastic. I had left the spoon in the jar again. It was a horrible habit, but one I couldn't seem to shake. I reached in and gingerly pulled the oily utensil out, and put it in the sink. I grabbed a clean spoon from the drawer and started eating the peanut butter. I looked up at the counter wistfully, wishing I could sit up there as I usually did when I was on a peanut butter binge.
After another mouthful, I put the jar in my lap and wheeled myself into the living room. I put music on; Night wish this time; and heaved myself onto the couch. I picked up the book I had been reading last night, and started over. It turned out to be fascinating; a gripping novel about loss and deception and murder. I have a soft spot for murder mysteries, and this was one of the best. I had read more than 100 pages before I solved it, which was a bit of a record for me.
A knock on my door brought me back to my apartment, and I looked at the clock above the television. Sure enough, it was six o'clock. I sighed.
"I'll be right there," I called out to Lilanth, cursing the wheelchair. Finally I managed to get into it, and went over to the door.
"Sorry," I blushed as I opened the door.
"That's okay," she said, stepping in.
"I, uh, I'm not really ready. I got kinda wrapped up in a book." I blushed again, and looked up to her amused face.
"I'll wait," she said, and plopped down on my couch. I started to move toward my room, but paused.
"Where're we going?" I asked, my back turned. The hall was too narrow to turn the bulky chair around.
"It's a surprise," she said, and her voice sounded amused.
"Okay, so what should I wear?" I asked.
"Not too fancy," she replied, sounding distracted. I wondered what she was looking at. I pushed myself into my room, and looked around.
I'm not much of a clothes fiend, but I did have some nice things. I decided on loose slacks; they would fit over my cast, and a tight green shirt. I struggled into the pants, then gratefully sat down to put my shirt on. I quickly ran a brush through my short hair, and glanced in the mirror. I didn't do makeup, so that was one less concern. I looked in my small mirror and decided I was passable. I turned the chair so that I was facing the living room and wheeled down the hall.
Lilanth was standing by the bookshelf. It was covered in pictures from my past life when I lived in California. She put down the picture of my parents as I came in.
"Do I pass?" I asked as she turned to me. She swept her glance over me, and I felt fire rush through me everywhere her eyes lit. Her lips quirked into a slight smile and her cheeks blushed slightly.
"I'll take that as a yes," I said, my voice deeper than usual. She blushed deeper, and cleared her throat. I guess it would be a date, then.
"We ready?" I asked, and she busied herself with opening the door for me. Once out I locked up, and started down the hall. In the past couple of days I had gotten very good with the chair, so refused when she offered to wheel me. I did let her help me get down the stairs outside, of course, and let her push me down the street to her car. She watched me get in with an odd look in her eyes, and I felt my face heat up under her close scrutiny. After I was safely in, she folded the chair up and put it in the back.
We drove though the city, and I tried not to wince each time the car went over a bump. My injured leg was useless for bracing my body, and the car ride was hellatious. I tried to keep up my side of the conversation, but pain was shooting up my leg. I think Lilanth guessed what was bothering me, and kept up a steady stream of conversation about her day. I tried to pay attention, I really did, but the pain was just a little too much.
Finally she stopped the car, and gently pulled into a spot. I gratefully got out when she brought my chair around, and even let her push me into the restaurant. She had already made reservations, so we didn't have to wait for a table.
It was a nice place; the waiters were good enough to not look questioningly at my leg or my chair; simply pulling the chair away from my spot. I felt a pang of helplessness as Lilanth pushed me in, but shoved it away into a deep, dark cage. I would pay attention to it later, but for now I wanted to enjoy myself.
I picked up the menu, and scanned it. I wasn't a very picky eater, but there were some things that I just wouldn't touch. We sat in near silence for a while, commenting on the choice of food and such until our waiter came to take the drink orders. Lil ordered a martini, and I asked for a glass of water.
"You don't drink?" she asked as the young man walked away.
"No, that stuff is poison," I said emphatically. I had seen too many times what could happen when a person got drunk, and I didn't like the stuff, any way.
"So, how're you holding up?" Lil asked as the waiter brought our drinks.
"Not bad, considering. I don't want to know what kind of drugs you guys were giving me in the hospital, but I slept like a baby last night. It was wonderful." She looked surprised.
"You're not used to sleeping through the night?" she asked, sipping her drink. I shook my head.
"None of us do. It's one of the downsides of the job. Believe me, if you saw what we do, you wouldn't sleep either." I looked back at the menu, trying to hide my face. She made an affirmative sound to what I had said, but I kept my face behind the paper and plastic for a while longer. I didn't know what had possessed me to tell her that; it's not like she doesn't see the same things. By the time the waiter had arrived I had decided on a meal. We ordered, and my shield was taken away.
"So," she said, leaning on her elbows. I felt boxed in, almost afraid. She reached out and touched my arm. I managed to not flinch; and wondered silently what I was doing here, with the striking doctor.
"You're like a skittish horse, detective. Am I that frightening?" I blushed bright red, and looked down. How did I explain what had happened to an almost complete stranger? How was I supposed to show her that I wasn't afraid of her, per say, just the fact that she seemed to be interested in me.
"I, uh, no, you're not that scary." I tried to smile. She looked deep into my eyes, and I swear she saw right through me. I felt hot all over, and my head swam slightly.
"Victoria, I can walk out the front door right now," she said in a quiet voice, "and we can continue to be friends. If you want me to, I will. But I'd much prefer to stay, and let you tell me what's bothering you."
"I," I started, then stopped. I had no idea what I wanted to stay. I did know, however, that I didn't want her to leave. "I'm scared," I said, wishing that was enough.
"I know, Victoria, I know you're scared. Tell me why." How could one woman make me feel so safe and so exposed at the same time? Her eyes were kind, and I saw something in them that made me want to tell her what I was feeling. I just didn't know the words.
"I, I was hurt really badly a few years ago," I started, my eyes averted from hers. A part of me was still ashamed at my own weakness. "A man, a man kidnapped me, and, and held me for 20 days." My voice was a mask of emotion as I tried to tell her what had happened to me. "He, he hurt me really bad." Suddenly tears were on my face and then Lil was kneeling in front of me, holding me close. I buried my face in her shoulder and cried again for what I had lost. Memories of the three weeks crowded in and I tried desperately to push them away. Too often they took control of me, and I didn't want that to happen; not tonight. Strong arms around me held them at bay, and I realized that I was crying onto Lilanth's shoulder in a crowded restaurant. Acutely embarrassed, I pulled away gently, murmuring my thanks in her ear. She nodded, and went back to her seat. I brushed quickly at my eyes, trying to erase the tears. Lil reached out and gently tugged my hand away from my face.
"Wear your tears with pride, Victory. You've got nothing to be ashamed of." Hesitantly I looked her in the eyes, and what I saw made the bottom of my stomach drop out. It was something I'd never seen before; something that seemed to trump all other looks I'd ever been given. I wasn't sure if I believed her, but I did let the tears dry on my face. For her, if nothing else. I didn't know what was going on, and I didn't know if that scared me or not. It was kind of nice to let someone else take control for a while.
Dinner came, and we ate together in silence. I stole glances at her periodically, and knew she watched me. My face was hot, and the tension between us was so intense I was sure the other diners must have noticed it by now. I was drawn to her in a way that I couldn't explain; and it frightened me. Not so much that I wanted to run away, but enough to make me more alert than usual. Maybe it was that, maybe it was just fate, but when the shady man sat down at the table next to ours, I knew something was wrong about him. He looked normal enough, maybe a little shabby for the restaurant, but nothing was overtly wrong about him.
I kept him in the corner of my eye as we finished our meal and chatted about unimportant things. By the time our bill came, my senses were screaming at me that the man was wrong. I had clipped my gun in its holster to my belt out of habit when I had gotten dressed, and I let my hand slowly inch toward it. I slowly undid the clasp that held it in place; never letting on that I knew there was danger just a few feet away from us. When the waiter came back with Lilanth's credit card and the slip, I cursed him under my breath for standing in my line of sight to the man. Finally the waiter moved away, and the man made his move.
In one swift motion he jumped up and grabbed Lilanth by the neck. I could see the glint of a knife in his hand; it made a horrifying indentation to the skin on her neck. The moment he had started to move I had whipped out my gun and was now aiming it at his head.
I could hear screams, but they seemed to come from a very long ways away. I was still in my wheelchair, which gave me a bad angle on the bastard holding Lilanth. I sent up a silent prayer to any god listening and stood up, gingerly putting weight on my bad leg. It threatened to buckle, but after a few seconds I knew it would hold some weight. I would pay for it later, but right now that didn't seem to matter.
"Put the knife down, and we can talk," I said calmly. My brain was screaming, my heart slamming in my chest, and I knew if I looked to closely at the woman he was holding I would lose it. I had to keep my calm, I knew, for us all to walk out of here alive.
"Put your gun down, Victoria." My emotions completely disconnected. Later, after this was all over, I would let myself be afraid; let myself have a reaction, but for now I needed to analyze the situation, and that meant being impartial. He knew my name, which was probably not a good thing.
"Put the knife down, and I'll drop the gun," I said evenly. I could hear Lil's ragged breathing as if she were right next to me. I took a deep breath. Hopefully someone was smart enough to call the cops.
"Not likely, bitch. Put the gun down and I'll talk to you." I couldn't take that risk. Not with Lilanth in the balance. NO! my brain screamed. Don't think about her. Don't think about –
"How bout you tell me your name." He seemed surprised by my question and by the even tone I used to ask it.
"Richard," he said hesitantly.
"Okay, Richard, here's what's going to happen. You're going to let the woman go, and I'll put my gun down, how's that? You can keep your knife, and we'll talk. Is that what you want?" I knew I couldn't defend myself very well, not with a bum leg. Thinking about the wound made it hurt, and I tried desperately to push the pain to the back of my head.
I watched Richard think about my proposal to take my mind off my own pain. It was dangerous, but I think he wanted me, not the woman or anyone else. I still didn't know why, but that was why I wanted to talk to him.
"Fine," he spat, and shoved Lilanth away from his body. She stumbled but stayed upright. I wanted more than anything to go to her and hold her close, but I couldn't. Out of the corner of my eye I watcher her stumble out the door to the waiting arms of the few who had stayed. I slowly lowered my gun, never taking my eyes off of Richard. He smiled as I straightened from putting in on the ground, and lunged forward; knife in his right hand.
I tried to sidestep him, but my leg gave out. I fell to the side, crying out as my wounded leg pinched. He was on top of me in seconds, knife in his hand. My legs were unusable, but my arms were still just as strong. I threw a punch that caught him just under the jaw, and knew that my hand would need a bandage. I could feel blood seeping out from two split knuckles. He only laughed. I kept my attention on the knife, and when he moved to slice me, I was ready.
His arm came in from my left side, and I twisted under him so he couldn't get to my throat. He persisted, so I grabbed his wrist and pushed back. People often remark that I'm not a strong as I look, and that coupled with my better leverege gave me a slight advantage. Inch by minute inch I pushed the blade away from my body. When his arm was far enough away I twisted my hand and forced him to drop the blade.
He was no fool though. Instead of dropping the weapon he dug his leg into my wound. I cried out in pain, and my vision faded in and out. I shook my head slightly and came back to reality just in time to see Lilanth standing over us with a chair in her hands. I could hear sirens in the distance. I looked back at the man on top of me, with a knife in his hand, then winced slightly when I heard the wood of the chair collide with his right side. Good for her for not aiming for his head. The last thing I wanted was to charge Lil with manslaughter.
The blow didn't do much damage, but it stunned Richard enough so that I could disarm him. Then, with Lilanth's help, I rolled him onto his stomach and pinned his arms against his back. After what seemed like an age the unis arrived on the scene and handcuffed Richard. The EMTs were there seconds later, and Lil helped them get me onto a gurney. My leg was bleeding from under the cast, and I had a couple split knuckles. I tried to wave off the help, but when my head started swimming I gave in to the bandaging.
After a while Sam arrived, and he sat with me while they looked at my leg. I looked over to see Lilanth on another gurney, and our eyes met. Sam was saying something, but I had stopped listening. My entire world became those beautiful blue eyes. I felt a sense of pride bubble up from my inner core and I realized I was grinning like a lovesick fool.
"What're you smiling about?" Sam asked, amused.
"How many folk do you know who can take on an armed perp with a wounded leg?" I asked in return. He understood what I was getting at. Me and mine had been threatened, and with the adrenaline still pumping though my system, all I could see was that I had protected everything that mattered. I looked up again in time to see Lilanth stand up and start to walk towards me.
"Hey," she said quietly. Her eyes were shy, and I saw in that moment how afraid I had been for her. I felt a single tear trickled down my cheek as I thought about how I had almost lost her; about how she had had to save me. I felt the adrenaline leave my body, and I suddenly slumped forward, no longer able to support my own body. Lil was there in a flash, holding me as my head spun. I was distantly aware of the paramedics running over to us, of the arms that gently lay me out on the gurney. My head swam, and for the second time in a week I was taken to the hospital by ambulance. This time Lil was riding with me; I could feel her hand holding mine. When we arrived she ran with the paramedics, never letting go.
I faded in and out of consciousness for what seemed like two lifetimes, vaguely aware of the doctors cutting away my cast, and muttering over my leg. Finally I slipped into blissful sleep. When I woke, Lil and Sam were sitting on either sides of my beds. My eyes were heavy, and my friends slid in and out of focus. I think Lil was dozing, but I wasn't sure. Sam saw my eyes open and reached out for my hand. I tried to grip is, or to do anything for that matter, and when my body didn't want to respond, I panicked.
"Victory, calm down. They've got you pretty stoned. Slow down a bit and you'll be able to move." I swear, my partner has ESP. So I slowed down, and managed to grip his hand a little. My head still felt like it was filled with sloshing water, but at least my vision had settled down a bit.
Lil was indeed asleep, and I smiled slightly when she sighed slightly in her sleep; her head moving to a more comfortable position. Sam saw my look, and smiled at me.
I tried to say something to him, but my mouth was too dry and I started to cough.
"Water," I finally managed to croak, and Sam held the straw close to my mouth. I swallowed, choked, and finally managed to wet my soar throat. I tried to take deep breaths to calm my racing pulse, but it only made me cough harder. I started to wonder if a person could die while coughing.
Lilanth woke up while I hacked, and helped me sit up. Her eyes were soft with sleep, and I could see concern in their blue depths. She gently held my shoulders as I continued to cough, and her scent almost made me lose my breath.
Finally I got my breath back, and took small sips of water at Lil's direction. Sam sat by and let her administer to me; a bemused look on his face.
I had come out to him our first day together; he had taken it in stride. I had been amazed; everyone else I had told had been either disgusted and repulsed or angry. It had been the beginning of a beautiful friendship; one filled with love and trust. I smiled up at him, trying to exude love and respect out of my eyes. Instead they welled up with tears, and I couldn't seem to stop them from falling. The two faces above me shivered a bit, then everything went black.
I swam back to consciousness a few minutes later; or maybe it was a few hours. Time had no meaning. My body felt backwards; with my legs where my arms should be, and my head felt funny, and I decided that it would be best if I simply went back to sleep. I let the blackness swallow me again.
The next time I woke Lil was sitting next to my bed, reading aloud from a largish book. I lay back with my eyes closed, listening to her reading quietly, trying to figure out what it was. It suddenly dawned on me that it was the murder mystery I had left on my couch yesterday. Or was it the day before? I couldn't remember what day it was. For some reason that didn't scare me; I felt like I was floating in pink clouds. It was wonderful, but a little part of my mind kept nagging me to wake up. I pushed it aside, and fell asleep again.
Pain. My world was pain. My vision was streaked with red; and my body felt like it was on fire. My leg throbbed, and I wished my heart would stop beating. My head felt swollen, and I tried to tell someone to turn off the lights. My voice didn’t seem to be working, though, so I tried to close my eyes. It didn't help much. The insides of my eyelids were bright, and I moaned. A hand brushed at my hair, and I flinched away. Everything hurt.
Suddenly something cool was on my forehead, covering my eyes, and the throbbing in my head lessened a bit. I sighed and drifted back to oblivion.
When I awoke again the world was tinged with green and I couldn't stop puking. I think it was Lil who held my head as I regurgitated what seemed like every meal I had ever eaten. And when there was no more food in my stomach I dry heaved until I thought I would die. My throat was raw or I would have said something. I wished desperately for the blackness, and eventually it came back to me.
At last I came to and my body felt like it was connected to my head. My leg hurt, but it was bearable. My head was a bit fuzzy, but I could see the room around me, and it seemed to be all the right colours. Lil was slumped in the chair next to me, a book on her lap, breathing slowly in sleep. I smiled at her mussed hair, and her rumpled clothes. I lay in bed, reveling at feeling of being mostly human, and watched her sleep. Something welled up in my chest, a feeling that I didn't understand. I let it fill me up and I reveled at the emotions I was feeling.
Lil moved slightly in the chair, sliding down further and letting her hand fall down to rest on her lap. My lips twitched into a smile, and I realized that my mouth was dryer than paper. I tried to ignore it, looking Lil over from head to toe, but I kept coming back to my swollen tongue and sticky teeth. I looked over, vaguely remembering a cup of water, and was relieved to find a beige plastic cup sitting just above me and to the side. I pulled my arm up to reach it, but the appendage was a bit sluggish to respond. Instead of grabbing the cup I only bumped into it, sloshing the contents everywhere. My precious water! I tried again, and this time managed to grab the cup, and had started to pull it toward my mouth when cool hands covered my own on the cup, and lifted it for me.
I drank thirstily in long gulps, and whimpered slightly when the cup was pulled away. I looked up into Lilanth's blue eyes and felt like I was drowning in their azure depths.
"Welcome back to the land of the living, Detective," she said, her voice husky. It took me a moment to remember how to use my voice; and I don't think it was the drugs that made me tongue-tied.
"I'm not sure if I'm completely back yet," I said, my voice a whisper. I vaguely remember something that had hurt a lot on my throat, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was. I was pulled back to the hospital room by Lil's throaty laugh.
"You had a bit of a rough patch there, but your partner assured me that you'd pull through." I smiled at the thought of Sam. I was curious that he wasn't here with Lil, but decided he probably had to work. Our captain was a good guy, but he didn't like it when his detectives took too much personal time.
"How long was I out?" I asked hesitantly, not sure if I wanted to know the answer.
"Five days. They had you on a pretty potent cocktail to dull the pain. Turns out you were allergic to morphine; you spent a couple of days pretty woozy." So that was why I had blacked out for all that time. I had been drugged. I flashed on the memory of Lil's hands holding my head as I vomited, but couldn't decide if it was a dream or not. It seemed real, but since everything seemed to be green I figured I had dreamed it.
"So, Detective, do you always rescue your girlfriends from mad men on the first date?" Bells were ringing in my head. She had almost, sort of, maybe called me her girlfriend!!! I tried to calm my breathing.
"No, I usually try to save that for the second or third date, but schedules were tight, and it just wasn't working out." I smiled impishly up into her face, and felt a searing heat at the look she gave me.
"I swear Doc, if you don't stop looking at me like that, I won't be responsible for my actions," I whispered, and laughed when she blushed.
"I'd like to see you try something in your condition!" she exclaimed, but I just beamed at her. We sat together for almost ten minutes, just staring unabashedly into each other's eyes. Her hand slowly moved across my bedsheets to hold my limp fingers. She gripped them tenderly, and I weakly returned the pressure; sure that if I had been standing I would have fallen. Thinking of standing sent a twinge of pain down my injured leg, and I winced.
"What is it?" Lil asked, her voice concerned.
"Nothing," I lied. I didn't want to let on to how much pain I was in. "So, how bad is my leg, Doc?" I wanted to know, and at the same time I was afraid of what she was going to tell me.
"It could be a lot worse. You'll make a full recovery, but it might take some time. And definitely some patience on your part." She kept talking, but all I had heard was that I would make a full recovery. I didn't regret anything that I had done, but I would have probably done something drastic like swallowing my gun if she had told me I wouldn't be able to walk again. I tuned back in when she leaned over, obviously wanting a response to something that I hadn't heard.
"I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention," I said impishly.
"Obviously," she said, but softened the harsh words with a smile. "I wanted to know why you did it." I was confused. Why was she asking me that?
"Do what, Lil?" I asked for clarification.
"Why did you stand up? You'd be walking in a month or so if you hadn't." I was very confused now. She was asking me why I had done my job? It seemed so obvious to me. Someone had held a knife to the doctor's throat, and I was there.
"Um, I guess I don't understand what you're asking," I said. "I just did what I had to. You were in danger, and I," I wasn't sure how to continue. "I guess I saved you. I guess I didn't see any other options." I tried to smile. The question had caught me off guard.
"Oh. I guess I'm just not used to people saving me." She smiled a bit at me, and I shivered a little at the look on her face.
"Well, I'm used to saving people," I said, then regretted my words. I sounded entirely too cocky and sure of myself.
"Hopefully I won't have to get used to it, eh?" she said. I smiled.
"If you ever need me too again, be sure to give me a holler."
"I'll do that," she said as I settled back into the pillows. My head was getting fuzzy.
"I think the drugs are making me woozy," I slurred as her face blurred.
"Shhh, lie still Victory. Just relax and fall asleep." The last thing I saw as I drifted off was her smile.