Lucy’s hand twitched as she fought against the compulsion to reach for her gun. Forcing herself to hold back, she watched as her injured T.O. tackled the biker slamming him hard against the ground as he landed rather ungracefully atop him with a barely concealed wince.
Every instinct screamed to intervene, to help him, but she knew better. She had seen the way the color had drained from his face when he received the phone call from the hospital informing him that his estranged wife Isabel had OD’d. She had also seen the subsequent hole he’d left in the dry wall of the hospital room following their unavailing confrontation. He wanted this, and Lucy knew that if she tried to stop him now, he would just find another self-destructive means of venting his frustrations.
Tim lifted himself onto his knees and drove his fist into the biker’s face. The back of the man’s skull slammed against the concrete and he lay dazed, all will to fight gone. Lucy threw an arm out warning the bikers crowded behind her to stay back as Tim climbed unsteadily to his feet. The men around them gazed from the two officers to their bikes, torn between making good on the opportunity to clear out and seeking retribution for their bested brother. Luckily the majority were possessed of enough common sense to leave, and those who weren’t soon followed reluctantly.
Lucy stared at her T.O. unsure of whether to offer to help him cuff the assailant, punch him in the face, or simply get back in the car without a word. In lieu of deciding on a course of action, she stayed where she was watching as Officer Bradford clicked the cuffs shut around the biker’s wrists and hauled him bodily to his feet before shoving him, none too gently, into the back of the squad car. Slamming the door he straightened slowly before turning and leaning against the car. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes as he took a few deep breaths releasing them in slow shuddering exhalations.
“You okay?” Lucy asked warily.
Tim’s eyes opened and he gazed blearily at his rookie for a moment before nodding his head. Lucy watched him, still unsure of what, if anything, to do.
“That was stupid.” The words were out before she could stop them and she flinched as she waited for one of the self-righteous tirades that were her T.O.’s preferred method of chastising his trainees. Much to Lucy’s surprise he smiled, looking for a moment as though he were going to argue, but instead nodded and conceded to her bold comment with a rough “Yeah.”
Lucy stared in astonishment, was he really going to let her get away with that? She looked closely at him, taking in the sheen of sweat that covered his face and the pallor that had stolen the flush of exertion from his cheeks. Worry began to gnaw at her and she took a hesitant step toward him. He’d been medically cleared for duty, but she seriously doubted that his doctors would have signed off on him returning to patrol so soon after being shot if they had known that this was how he planned to make his comeback.
“You sure you’re alright?” She asked again.
There was a long moment of irritated silence before he responded. “I’m fine, you drive.” He tossed the keys at her and leaned forward carefully shifting the bulk of his weight from the car to the balls of his feet. Lucy caught the keys in one hand her concern turning to a ball of icy fear in the pit of her stomach. He never let her drive.
Without thinking, she stepped forward putting one hand on his shoulder and grabbing his chin with the other so that he was staring straight at her. She stared hard into his face as though she could read all that was wrong with him both mentally and physically from what she saw there, but all she now knew for certain was that grabbing him had been a mistake, no matter her intention.
They stood frozen for a brief moment their eyes locked as she fought the urge to slap the stubborn right off his face while simultaneously subduing the horror brought on by the sudden flash of furry in his eyes. To add to the tension, her growing concern for his physical well being was further exacerbated by the feverish heat that burned against the hand cupping his jaw.
“You need to get checked out.” She said finally, releasing him and taking a step back.
He glared at her a muscle in his jaw twitching. “Don’t ever do that again.” Without another word he stalked past her limping visibly though she could tell that he tried to hide it, and lowered himself carefully into the passenger side of the car. Lucy took a moment to gather herself before climbing into the driver’s seat. What was that?! She felt the heat of mortification rising in her cheeks as she turned the key in the ignition.
The ride back to the station was silent, the thick tension that hung between officers Chen and Bradford expressing more than words ever could. Lucy knew that she hadn’t handled the situation well, but she also knew that she had been right to be worried. All that was left now was to decide what to do about it. She ran through a mental list of her options finding that none of them did anything to help settle the anxious churning in her stomach.
As soon as they arrived at the station, Tim disappeared leaving Lucy to process their perp. She returned to the “shop” as soon as she was done signing him over surprised to find her T.O. waiting impatiently in the driver’s seat. Unable to suppress a frustrated sigh, she dug the keys from her pocket handing them over as she climbed in the passenger side. Without a word, Tim turned the key in the ignition, shifted the car into drive, and headed back out onto the street.
Their patrol was short lived. Twenty minutes after leaving the station Tim pulled over in front of a garish pink apartment complex. He stared pointedly at his rookie as he unbuckled his seat belt. “Stay here,” he commanded curtly. Lucy held up her hands in a show of dutiful compliance and watched him climb laboriously from the car, grab something from the trunk, then make his way up a flight of stairs. He walked up to the door of the apartment at the far end and knocked loudly. It remained firmly shut, and he raised his fist to knock again. A few painfully long seconds passed before the door opened hesistantly.
Tim stared into the pale drawn face that peered out at him through the narrow gap allowed by the security chain. “Hey, Isabel,” he said softly hating how tired he sounded.
Her eyes, still the same striking blue that had first caught his attention all those years ago, narrowed in suspicion. “What do you want?”
Tim lowered his head and laughed in exasperation at the loaded question. What did he want? He wanted the last year of his life back. He wanted her to come home so that he didn’t have to lay awake at night wondering if she was dead in an alley somewhere, a needle stuck in her arm. He wanted her to see that this wasn’t just affecting her, wanted her to know that no matter how many times she told him to forget about her and move on with his life he’d never be able to. He wanted her to know that she could push all she wanted but he wasn’t going anywhere. He wanted her to know that he still loved her and always would.
“I know you don’t want to talk, and that’s fine, but I wanted to bring you these.” He held up the boxes of Narcan that he’d brought from the station. “You know, just in case...”
She stared silently at him for a long moment, looking for all the world like a rabbit caught in a snare. Then the door closed and his heart sank until the tell-tale rattle of the chain revealed that she hadn’t shut him out after all. The door opened again, wider this time though not by much.
He held the medication out to her, and she took it with a muffled “Thanks.”
Tim nodded, his eyes fixed on the sliver of her appartment visible over her shoulder. She moved forward trying to block as much of his view as possible but he pushed past her, unable to help himself.
“Tim!” She snapped, a sharp edge of warning in her voice.
Ignoring her, he walked into the middle of the living room and turned in a slow circle surprised at the relative decency of the place. He sighed and rubbed the back of his head. “Sorry, I just needed to see for myself.”
She rolled her eyes as he glanced around once more. He was just turning to leave when his gaze fell on a pair of black boots lying on the floor. He froze, the lines of his face hardening.
Isabel scurried forward, furiously swiping up the boots and tossing them into a darkened room. She turned back to him her eyes alight with fury. “Get out,” she hissed.
Tim backed toward the door with a sad shake of his head. The lack of the anticipated rage, the defeated slump of his shoulders, and the resigned expression of apathy on his face only served to enrage her further.
“Out!” She screamed lunging forward. “Get out!” Her arms shot out to shove him toward the door, but he moved to block her causing the force of the blow to connect with the still healing bullet wound in his abdomen instead of high on his chest as she had intended. He doubled over, a strangled moan escaping his throat as he fought to keep his knees from buckling.
Isabel froze, his pained reaction startling her out of her sudden fury. She stood staring uncertainly at him as her pounding heart slowed and her clentched fists loosened. She frowned as she noticed that one of her hands was sticky. Opening it, she stared in confused horror at the thin sheen of red that coated her outstretched fingers. “What the-“ she cut herself off, eyes darting back to Tim. He stood with his back against the closed front door and his hands pressed firmly to his stomach. His eyes were hollow and unfocused, his face pale as he faught for every ragged breath.
Cold fear extinguished the heat of rage as she stepped toward her husband hands outstretched. “Tim...” she said softly moving in close and gently pulling his hands away from his stomach noting that they too were tinged red. She put a hand over the spot he seemed to be guarding and felt his muscles tighten reflexively as he flinched away from her touch. The material under her hand was wet, but she couldn’t find any holes or tears that explained the blood. The black fabric of his shirt only made it harder to see what she was dealing with, so she began unfastening the buttons her fingers flying with the deft ease of familiarity.
“No,” he said gruffly reaching out to stop her.
She pulled her hands out of his reach and glared up at him. “”Stop it,” she demanded her tone hard and commanding. “Let me look.”
Tim watched her warily as she continued unfastening the buttons of his shirt. He hated this, hated the hitch in his step, and the way his breath caught in his throat every time he moved the wrong way. He hated how tired he was, how vulnerable he felt, and the worried looks that passed between his coworkers whenever he walked into a room. But most of all he hated the part of himself that was reveling in this one small display of concern, no matter how begrudgingly it was given, from the woman who had shown nothing but burning anger or cold indifference toward him over the past year.
Isabel undid the last button of his shirt and pushed the sides back revealing the dark red stain that was spreading across his white undershirt. She pulled the hem loose from his belt and held it up with one hand before gently peeling back the edges of the ruined bandage that lay across his lower abdomen.
She let out a low hiss and looked up at him her eyes once again darkened by anger, but it wasn’t the same as before. This was the anger he’d been accustomed to seeing before this nightmare began. Anger born of concern, not resentment.
“Sit,” she commanded standing up and guiding him over to the couch. She helped lower him gently down onto the cushions before stalking away muttering to herself.
She returned moments later carrying a first aid kit. Setting it down on the coffee table she kneeled on the floor next to him leaning her weight across his thigh in order to gain better access to the wound. The cool touch of her fingers as they ghosted over his skin and the slight weight of her body pressed against his leg were all at once foreign and familiar, and he found himself having to fight to keep from grabbing her and crushing her against him. He wanted to hold her to him until the evils of addiction finally relinquished their hold, leaving them in peace to rebuild from the ruins of the relationship that had been the only thing he’d ever truly believed in.
“There, that should hold for now, but you should get checked out.”
Her words brought him crashing back to the present. He blinked and looked down. A crisp white bandage lay neatly covering his freshly cleaned wound, and a small pile of bloody cotton balls lay on the coffee table next to a bottle of antiseptic. Isabel’s gaze remained fixed on him as she stood wiping her hands on a dish towel, her expression unreadable.
Without a word, Tim stood began buttoning his shirt. A knock sounded at the door and Isabel dropped the towel before going to answer it. She opened the door and stepped back as Officer Chen entered the apartment her eyes roving around the room as she quickly familiarized herself with the new surroundings. Tim watched her approvingly, he didn’t want to admit it yet, but the rookie had good instincts.
Lucy stepped up to her T.O. her eyes catching sight of the red stain on his undershirt and the pile of bloody cotton balls on the table. “Everything alright sir?”
Tim nodded as he secured the last button of his shirt and began to gingerly tuck it in. “Everything’s under control, Boot. I thought I told you to stay in the car.” There was a hard edge to his words, but they didn’t carry the unapologetic bullishness that she had grown so accustomed to.
“Yes sir, you were just gone for a while, and I wanted to make sure that you were alright. Sir.” She glanced awkwardly at Isabel who was watching the interaction, a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
“If I need back up, I’ll call for it. Get back in the car, Boot.” Tim ordered, his exacting demeanor now fully restored.
Lucy gave a curt nod and beat a hasty retreat closing the door behind her. Tim turned back to Isabel. “Thank you,” he said.
She locked eyes with him, any hint of amusement melting from her face as her posture stiffened. “You need to leave, Tim,” she said opening the door and stepping aside.
He walked slowly forward stopping when he pulled up even with her. His jaw worked as though he had something he wanted to say, but she cut him off before he had the chance to get it out. “Don’t come back here, there’s no future here.”
He stared at her for a long moment. Whatever traces of the old Isabel that he had glimpsed, however briefly, were gone replaced by that icy indifference that was so much worse than any resentment she might harbor towards him.
Her gaze moved pointedly to the door and he stepped outside without another word, leaving the apartment with the same nauseating twist in his guts that had been there when he’d first walked in. But there was something else now too. For the first time in a long time, he had caught a glimpse of the woman he had been desperately searching for for so long, and he realized with no small sense of relief, that for now, it was enough.