The Program Ch. 08byewebie©
No rants this time, I promise. Sorry for the delay in getting this posted. It's just about Christmas, and that means that in addition to the normal work obligations and holiday obligations and travel and baking and family and friends and shopping and letter writing, I had exams to kick off the last bit of time before I headed home.
This isn't the last chapter, though I think 9 will do it. And there isn't the same kind of cliff-hanger that I've been subjecting you to... consider it a Christmas present?
Hope you enjoy this. As always, feedback is welcome and Thank you for reading.
Bill led Danny up the metal stairs. He glanced over his shoulder, catching sight of Taylor as she shook Wilson awake. He didn't know how Taylor was still moving. As far as he could tell, her body should have shut down three times over by now. He heard Wilson's voice as he grumbled, and breathed a sigh of relief. Wilson would make sure Taylor made it up the stairs.
He reached the door at the top and paused, listening intently. Everything seemed quiet. Cautiously, he opened the door an inch and listened again. Nothing. Releasing a heavy breath, he pulled the door open and stuck his head through. It was an empty corridor. He glanced at Danny and shrugged, "Come on." She followed him obediently through the door.
Once they were out of wherever this was, he was going to spend some serious time making sure Danny was ok. But at the moment, he was much more intent on finding the right people and getting home. He scanned the hall trying to decide which way was out. "What do you think?"
Danny pointed to the right. "It's brighter that way."
"Good call." He took her hand and they moved quickly but carefully down toward the end of the hall. He still didn't hear anything. The hall came to a four-way split and he hesitated, "Oh come on! There's got to be a door somewhere!"
"There is," a voice growled over his shoulder.
Bill spun quickly, tugging Danny behind him. The first thing Bill noticed was the doorway at the end of the hall; the second thing he noticed was the muzzle of a gun aimed squarely at his head. "Larson?"
"I've got hostiles!" Larson shouted into his earpiece.
"What?!" Bill began inching away.
"CIA! Get down on the ground!"
"Larson, what the hell?"
Larson kicked out in front of him, catching a small table that was pushed against the wall and sent the contents tumbling to the floor. Bill jumped back as a large vase shattered at his feet. Bill held his hands out in front of him. "Hey, calm down."
The sound of the gun cocking had Bill freezing completely. The black spot of the barrel seemed to grow larger as he stared. What the hell is going on? Larson was acting like they were... Oh fuck. It clicked. Larson was the insider in NCS. He was the one that killed Matthews in holding. He was the one that gave away the safe house. He was the one that planted the tracer in his laptop. And he was the one that was trying to clean up the loose ends. The sound of booted feet pounded through the hall and Bill couldn't tell where they were coming from. He had to buy some time.
"CIA! Drop the gun!" Larson ordered, a strange smile twisting his features.
Bill inched further in front of Danny and gauged the distance to the shelter of the adjoining corridor. He wouldn't make it, but she could. "I don't have a gun!" he held his hands out in a conciliatory manner. "We're not armed!"
He could see it in Larson's eyes. He knew the man was going to pull the trigger. Oh God, he was about to get shot. Danny! Bill reached behind and grabbed Danny's arm, flinging her into the adjoining corridor. He didn't make it all the way back around before the gun went off.
His shoulder exploded in pain and he dropped in the wave of numbness that seemed to pass through his whole body. His shoulder was on fire! The fingers of pain spread out and seemed to clench in his chest, his lungs, his stomach. He couldn't breathe! Oh God!
"No. No, no, no!" he heard her shout over him just before an intense pressure came down on the pain. He gasped as it seemed to stab through his chest. "Bill!" He managed to catch a bleary glimpse of Taylor where she leaned over him. He wished she would stop pushing on his chest. It hurt! "Stay with me, Bill!" she yelled. He groaned, but couldn't move his arms to shake her off.
He could faintly hear the exchanging of voices. Neither she nor Larson sounded happy. He tried to cough and catch his breath but any movement hurt and he gasped in agony.
"Bill?" Taylor called. He could hear the change in her voice, but didn't understand. She snapped at someone, but he couldn't discern the words; there was a terrible static in his ears and it seemed like everything was spinning. He was actually cold. Then there was some warmth as he felt Taylor's body against his. Then she screamed. And then nothing.
Taylor flinched, every muscle in her body tensed, and she heard herself scream as the gun went off. Then the room was silent. She sucked in a shaky breath, surprised to find herself whole and uninjured, at least, without new injury. Her head shot up, her eyes wide as she swivelled to see what had happened.
Larson's body dropped heavily to the ground, the large red stain on his chest spreading across the floor where he landed as his gun clattered across the hall. Behind him, Wilson slumped against the wall with a sigh, VanTerran's gun still in his hand. Taylor opened her mouth, but she couldn't seem to find her voice. Bill groaned softly and she dropped her attention back to him. "Hang on, Boy Scout."
There were agents everywhere; some she knew, some she didn't, and she really couldn't bring herself to care. If only he'd been wearing a vest. Why would he be? They had been at the cottage. She kept her hands in place, applying pressure to the still bleeding wound, holding her breath every time there was a laboured pause in Bill's breathing. God, I can't go through this again.
One of the company's medical teams pushed past the officers, stepping over Larson's still form to reach Taylor and Bill. She numbly watched them prepare the gurney and place an air mask over his face. She didn't fight them, it had ended poorly enough the last time, and she thought she might just know better now. They asked questions and she nodded, not knowing what she was agreeing to, and she pulled her hands back when they were ready.
They moved him to the gurney, and were instantly in motion as Taylor rocked back onto her heels and managed to stand unsteadily. Her eyes followed the gurney's progress down the hallway towards the open door. When it was gone, she swayed slightly, the edges of her field of vision becoming fuzzy. She blinked rapidly, her brow furrowing as she tried to clear the blurriness. She tried to focus on something closer and glanced down at her hands. They were covered in blood. Her stomach turned and static filled her ears.
His ankle was killing him, and left eye was nearly swollen shut, but he'd made it just in time. There was something to be said about his training that he didn't flinch when he took the shot, but he couldn't look at Larson now. It took enough of his self-control to keep the gun in his hand. A small team of fully suited agents stormed past and he pressed back against the wall to keep from being trampled. But he didn't stay there.
Wilson pushed off the wall as the last agent walked past and tucked the gun into the back of his pants. Taylor? He found her quickly, hunched over Martin's prone form. Oh shit. But if Martin was there... "Danny? Danny!" He shoved past the officers milling around the hallway, panic twisting his insides. Then he found her, doing her best to stay out of the way, shrinking from the medical team that pressed into the crowd of officers.
When she saw him, she threw herself into his arms. He held her, wrapping her tightly in his arms, resting his chin on the crown of her head. "You ok?" he asked quietly.
"He shot Bill," she whispered.
"But you're not hurt?" he asked firmly.
She shook her head.
He sighed with relief. If anything had happened to her, he'd never have forgiven himself. "Danny, can I... I need to..."
She nodded slowly, easing her vice like grip on his shirt. "To work," she finished for him.
Wilson glanced around and caught the attention of one of the female medics. "Tina?" When the blond reached his side he spoke quietly over Danny's head. "Take her to the hospital. Make sure she's ok. I'll be there as quickly as I can." The woman nodded. "Danny," he eased carefully out of the embrace. "This is Tina. She's one of our medics. I need you to go with her for now. Is that ok?"
Tina smiled kindly at Danny and extended her hand. "Hi, Danny."
"It's ok," he encouraged, nudging Danny toward the woman. "I'll be five minutes behind you."
It hurt to see the distrust in her eyes. She hadn't looked at him like that since they were kids. "I promise," he said firmly and pressed a kiss to her forehead. She hesitated nonetheless, glancing over her shoulder before walking out the door.
"Nice shot, kid."
"Don't start," Wilson muttered, closing his eyes and swiping his hand across his face.
"I'm sorry," Patrick whispered. "I know you two were friendly."
Wilson glanced up sharply. He could count the times Morgan Patrick had apologised on one hand without his first finger and thumb. He didn't want to think about it. He didn't want an apology. He wanted to hit something. How did Larson get in so much trouble? And how the hell did Morgan Patrick miss it? The man missed nothing.
The medics cut through the tension and the space between the two men with a gurney, and Wilson followed its progress with his eyes as they passed out of the main door. A small cry caught his attention and he spun around. Taylor's face was rapidly draining of colour as she stared at her hands. Oh shit, Wilson thought, brushing past Patrick, hobbling as fast as he could. She swayed uneasily, and managed to lift her eyes, catching Wilson's gaze for a second before her head lolled to the side. He caught her just as she started to drop. "I need a medic!" he shouted.
Arlington National Cemetery was an immense and awe-inspiring tribute to those who had sacrificed their lives for their country. Taylor had been fascinated by it as a child. It was noble. It was beautiful. It was an honour. But now that she knew a few people buried there, she found it cold, barren, anonymous, and sterile. Stepping out of the black sedan, she felt a shiver run down her spine. I don't want to be buried here, she thought. To be nothing but a black star on the wall in Langley...
Behind her, Wilson set a hand on the small of her back, encouraging her to move forward. She shook him off and walked alone to the open grave. There was an impressive turnout. Priest, Patrick, Remy, Monty, Wilson. Where was Larson? A few of the guys from upstairs, a few people that Taylor recognised as college friends, and Danny. Danny was crying. She briefly met Taylor's gaze and then cast her eyes down.
It was like a knife in the gut. And Taylor found herself growing angry with Danny. What is wrong with me? Everyone here looked sad and all she had was anger. Burning, white-hot rage that was boiling in her stomach. It made her feel nauseous.
There was Wilson, his face like a rock. But he was pale. Dark circles under his eyes. He was in pain. She knew it; she could see it even if no one else could. It twisted the knife a little deeper, the sensation becoming tangible, slicing through her insides in search of something. She clenched her jaw and forcefully held back tears. Taylor James didn't cry.
Patrick. Patrick was almost in tears. Taylor took a shaky breath. Morgan Patrick wasn't as cold as people thought, and he actually cared about his employees. Hell, Patrick was like a second father to her. His tie didn't coordinate with his socks. She tried not to laugh. It was an overwhelming urge, but Patrick never looked dishevelled and now he was mismatched. She swallowed the chuckle that tried to escape and it settled in her stomach, churning with the rage, mixing with the stabbing pain until she thought she'd burst.
Then Wilson set his hand on her shoulder. Gently as if to keep from startling her, and everything exploded. The rage, the pain, the grief, the competing emotions. They erupted and she felt a hole open in her stomach. Oh God, she was bleeding. Not again, please, not again.
She collapsed to her knees, wrapping her hands protectively around her abdomen. Fresh blood stained her hands and she sobbed. She was alone on the grass. Where did Wilson go? This isn't how it happened! She stared down at the coffin at the bottom of the hole, fresh dirt lining the sides, crisp green grass beneath her and the ground yawned to swallow her.
Someone held her shoulders. "It's alright," he said.
"Mick?" She felt like her abdomen was on fire.
His arms wrapped around her, holding her; she could feel his warmth at her back. He kissed her neck. "What are you doing?" he whispered in her ear.
She was in so much pain. She was dizzy. The world spun around her and she gasped, grabbing his arms to keep her steady. "You're dead," she choked out through tears.
"Then why are you holding on?"
Taylor shivered, the warmth gone from more than his voice. She pushed against his arms, struggling to free herself. The ground tilted again and she fell to the side. She righted herself and struggled to stand, cradling her stomach protectively in her arms. She glanced around. Where the hell did he go? "Mick?"
His hands ran down her sides to her hips as he turned her to face the grave. "You can come with me," he whispered. She stepped back, colliding with his solid frame and she shivered at the cold contact.
"I can't!" she cried.
His hands moved, holding her shoulders. "Either come with me, or let go," he hissed. She gripped his hands, his fingers like ice under her palms. He shoved and she felt her body pitch forward into the blackness.
Taylor felt heavy. It was a strangely comforting feeling. Maybe because there wasn't any pain anymore. She cleared her throat from the strange scratching sensation, and a strong pressure registered from her right hand. She furrowed her brow and tried to open her eyes. Even her eyelids were heavy. That was annoying. She shifted and tried again, this time managing a glimpse of a lot of white.
Goddamned painkillers. She'd be willing to bet they'd given her something other than the vicodin she was used to. Drug induced dreams always left her feeling nauseous. The pressure from her hand disappeared as she felt her left shoulder pushed back against something soft. A warm cloth swept across her brow and she finally felt the sweat coating her body. "Easy there, James."
She knew that voice. She sighed, and tried to keep her eyes open for more than a few seconds as Patrick's face came slowly into focus. "Hey, Boss." Her voice sounded odd in her head, but the gentle smile on Patrick's face didn't reflect anything unusual. It was eerie. A wave of pure panic clenched her stomach. Just breathe. it's not happening again, she told herself. Breathe.
"Welcome back." He gave her hand another reassuring squeeze. "You had me worried there."
She tried to smile, but recognised the strange dragging sensation across her cheeks and lips as a sure sign of bruises. "You worry too much," she croaked out, her eyes finally focusing normally as she took in the hospital room. The sense of dŽjˆ vu was overpowering.
"Someone has to worry about you."
She groaned. "Go worry about your own kids."
"You are one of my kids," he said softly. "How're you feeling?"
Taylor managed to resist the impulse to sit up. "Right now, everything is warm and fuzzy." Except for my mind, she thought bitterly. Morphine: both friend and nightmare-inducing foe.
Patrick swept a lock of hair from her brow. "Good. There are no blue ribbons for being in pain."
She blushed. There were times when he made her feel like a little kid. It was both warm and perturbing at the same time and she felt the need to change the subject. "Wilson?"
"Is just fine," he assured her. "I left him down the hall, yelling at some nurses."
Taylor chuckled and winced. Obviously laughing was a bad idea. The pleasant heaviness in her side was developing into a dull throb and she was all too aware of the small twinges drifting in from across her body. "And Danny?"
"She's good. No injuries other than a bump here and bruise there. I had Monty debrief her yesterday, so as far as I'm concerned, she's free to go. I have her linked in with one of the company therapists just to be sure. But she's a tough cookie."
"Comes from good stock," Taylor muttered.
Patrick smiled. "Must be."
"Was... Did Larson really..."
Patrick shook his head sadly. "Can we save that conversation for later?"
Taylor frowned. That only left one urgent question. Her body tensed as she screwed up the courage to ask. Her mind was already brimming with the worst possibilities, but she had to know. "And Martin?" her voice broke unevenly over his name.
This time, Patrick's smile wavered slightly. "He's ok."
She blinked. Ok? It wasn't what she was expecting to hear. Dead, coma, ICU... dead; those words she had prepared for. "Ok?"
"He had a tough surgery, but he's awake now. Should make a full recovery. The surgeons are even suggesting he won't have any permanent damage." Patrick squeezed her hand gently. "He should be just fine."
The panic that had been building in her chest melted away leaving a hollow sense of numbness. "And that's just ok by your standards?" she asked shakily.
Patrick snorted. "It would have been better if he'd never been shot. And there is the issue of his life and career, which we've rather successfully made a mess of."
"But he'll be fine?"
Tears welled in her eyes. It was a completely irrational response and it irked her, but she couldn't seem to keep them from building. She swallowed over the burning in her throat and moved to swipe at her eyes with the back of her hand. Patrick caught her wrist and set it back on the bed. "Don't do that," he said softly.
Taylor took a wavering breath, the uneven movement aggravating the irritation in her side. "You're sure he's ok?" she whispered.
Patrick gave her a gentle smile. "I was just down there. The bullet passed clean through his shoulder. I'm sure it doesn't feel good, but he'll be fine."
She nodded slowly.
"You don't look like you believe me."
Taylor gave a weak smirk. "I will when I see him."
"When you see who?" asked a voice from the door. She started, actually contemplating moving for the first time.
Patrick rose and headed for the door, speaking in a hushed voice with Wilson. "How's the leg?"
"Broken, but fixable. How's she?"
"Broken, but fixable," Patrick repeated with a small smile. "All the physical stuff will heal. She just came out of a nightmare though. And Danny?" Patrick raised a brow.
"Won't leave Martin's side," Wilson grumbled.
Patrick suppressed a smile and gave Wilson's shoulder a squeeze on his way out. "You know," he whispered. "She asked about you first."
Wilson shot Patrick a look over his shoulder, shook his head, and limped to the now empty seat by the bed. Taylor forced a smile, "Hi."
"You look like hell," he said with a frown, the harshness of his words belied by the concern in his eyes.
Taylor scoffed. "And you look like a little kid that just took on the playground bully." Her fingertips brushed across the deep purple surrounding his eye and he caught her hand, pressing a kiss to the back of her knuckles before tucking her hand under his and against his chest. "Have you come to spring me from this hell hole?"