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A Blessing in Disguise

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It often seemed to Jowd that no situation could be left uncomplicated. But this, this was never supposed to happen to him (despite his apparent best efforts). This was meant to be a simple end to their case; a single criminal to track down and catch had instead turned into a disastrous trap. He should have seen it coming.

Now, Detective Rindge had their target in hand and Jowd knelt next to the form crumpled face first on the ground. He took hold of that white-clad shoulder and slowly turned him as gently as he was able while dread weighed heavily in his chest.

Cabanela’s breath came ragged and shallow from a chest stained with blood. He coughed and squinted up at him.

“Not hurt?”

“I’m fine.” Thanks to him. He always did have to leap headlong into things.

“Got him?"

“We got him.”

There was too much blood. Jowd knew already there was no coming back from this one. He carefully lifted Cabanela’s shoulders to support him and cradled his trembling frame.

Cabanela’s head dropped and his voice wavered into a mumble. “Quite a staiiin…”

Jowd bit back a sigh. Ever the one with questionable priorities, though he doubted he was thinking too clearly right now. Maybe a distraction like that wasn’t entirely a bad thing.

“Take that into consideration the next time you decide to take a bullet.”

“Can’t let you take a hit.” Cabanela’s hand gripped Jowd’s coat, knuckles going white. “H-hurts to breathe…”

It was a wonder he was talking at all. He found himself listening for ambulance sirens, but he knew it would be too late. He hoped so or far worse would happen…

“It’s going to be all right.”

Cabanela wheezed and it took Jowd a second to recognize it as an attempt at a laugh. “Only youuu would finally show optimism at a time like this, baby. Got a magic wand you’re not tellin’ me about?”

Jowd let out a small chuckle. “I never said anything about a wand.”

“Might say that… implies something else.”

“I…” Now was not the time to hesitate. “I need you to trust me.”

“Never stopped.” Cabanela said softly.

“Trust me now.” Jowd pulled him closer, keeping both arms around him, enclosing him in warmth and safety. “Let go.”

Cabanela dragged his head up and let it fall back against Jowd’s arm. His incredulity was clear in his eyes even through his pain. His words, however, started to slur and fade in and out. “Not leavin’ you… expectin’… expect me to bow out peaceful… shoul’ know better…”

Jowd hushed him and to his surprise Cabanela fell silent. Who knew it would only take balancing on the brink of death to get him to stop talking? Balancing, but starting to teeter over the brink, Jowd could tell. And not a moment too soon; time was running short.

“It will be okay,” Jowd said. “Stop fighting. Trust me.”

Cabanela shuddered. “Always…” He struggled to take a breath and his next words came so faintly and faded as quickly as they started that Jowd nearly missed them. “Jowd, I…”

An unfamiliar fear mingled with pain in Cabanela’s eyes and Jowd took his hand. “You once told me you would do anything for me. I can’t claim to understand why, but I’m asking you now to do just one thing for me. Let go. We’ll fix this.”

“Believe you. How…?”

Jowd’s mouth twisted in a mask of a smile. “Go and you’ll find out.”

Cabanela dropped his head against Jowd’s chest. Seconds stretched. Was there still time? Would there be enough time? His hand twitched against Cabanela’s shoulder at the pained gasp for breath that wouldn’t come. He had the means to end this now, but good gods, could he? He was spared in a sudden silence and Cabanela’s hand slackened in his. His head sunk deeper into his chest, still, limp. Alien.

Jowd’s grip tightened convulsively. How many times was he doomed to hold a loved one’s body? This had to be. This was the only way, but seeing Cabanela so still was terribly wrong.

“Sissel,” Jowd said tightly. His badge wiggled against his coat and Sissel’s voice came to him.

“I’m on it.”

“There’s not a lot of time.”

“I didn’t see it in time this time, but I know what to expect now.” There was the impression of a shrug. “Besides, I’ll probably have help.”

Jowd winced. This was going to bring on a whole host of other problems. On this side it was hard to see a problem against the alternative, but on the other side of this mess things would get more complicated, and he would be blind to its coming.

 

Jowd and Cabanela moved cautiously between the buildings while Rindge slipped around the back.

“You’re sure it was this way?” Jowd asked.

“Of couuurse baby.” Cabanela’s head snapped up. “Look out!”

Jowd took a step back as Cabanela leapt. There was a crash and a scream. They both stiffened, looking up at the building.

“What was…?” Jowd trailed off.

Cabanela had gone strangely still. Then he seemed to relax. “Well done, kitten,” he said quietly.

Jowd stared. He couldn’t have heard that, gods no. Cabanela turned to face him, a smile playing about his lips.

“That is quiiite the magical cat you’ve got there, baby.”

No. There was only one explanation and Sissel came to his rescue.

“The guy fired and he took the shot for you. I had to go back.”

“We’ve got a crook to collect,” Cabanela continued, “and then it’s about tiiime you told us that story, maaan.”

Cabanela sauntered ahead of him while Jowd remained frozen, letting the full implication of what happened settle. Cabanela had died. How many times would the man put his life at stake for him? How much did he know now? How much had he already suspected?

Cabanela paused, twisting back to look at him. “Are you comin’?”

Jowd shook himself and followed after. First order of business was to tie this up. Then he could speak with Sissel and see just what he had to contend with before speaking with Cabanela.

This was not how he would have chosen to go about the matter if he was to go about it at all. He’d held his secrets and… maybe not entirely successfully against both Cabanela and Alma, but they didn’t know and they shouldn’t have had to know. His plans seemed ever doomed to crumble.

Still, as he fell in step with Cabanela, he couldn’t stop himself from imagining him bleeding out. Dead. Gone. Not how he would have chosen for Cabanela to start getting the truth and for that Jowd knew he made one mistake in keeping his secrets. There was no escaping it now. A painful truth was better than a far more painful absence.

 

Later, as they sat together in Jowd’s living room, Alma tucked under one arm and Cabanela sitting close at his other side, Jowd sighed. The far-too-late hour was turning early instead. The story had been as painful as expected, but it was out now and a weight seemed to have lifted from his chest. It was over. The day was over and this night slowly drew to a close.

He pulled Cabanela closer, wrapping his arm around him as well. They were all present and alive. Cabanela was as vibrant as ever (despite the lateness of the hour). Everything was… as well as could be expected, perhaps better than expected. To think a death would lead to this. Looking back at Sissel sitting nearby, maybe it wasn’t such a surprising thing. Some things did come in cycles it seemed.

It was over. No more losses. He held them close, feeling their warmth and their life, and regardless of whatever else was to come their way he would make certain that much wouldn’t change.