Between the Bars Pt. 07bycarsonshepherd©
"Yeah." I nodded. What else could I tell him? That I died inside when he fell to the ground? That I wasn't scared, that I was completely dead calm, that I was thinking of nothing but him and that's how I kept from falling apart until I was in the back of the squad car. That he soaked me with his blood but I didn't care, that I didn't think of that fact until Kat said she was going to incinerate my clothes, that I hadn't thought about it since because I was afraid of nothing that was in him because he was already part of me.
"Weren't you close enough to kill him?" Daniel asked. He seemed troubled. I thought of Ray and I knew that Daniel would've shot to kill. All his insistence that it wasn't revenge, it was justice, but even through the pain the slightly distant, fierce look in his eyes told me that if the moment had been his, he would not have missed. The investigation wouldn't have mattered to him. He was too emotionally involved. I understood that. God, how I understood it, after I watched him crumple to the ground, after I thought I'd lost him the way he lost Ray. But in the end, killing this one man, this one link in the chain, would not have brought him true closure.
"Yeah," I answered slowly.
From the window ledge, Jensen stared at me. He knew exactly what happened in the moment I raised the gun because I told him and Leslie during my own statement. Daniel didn't remember what I'd said while he was bleeding into the snow. It didn't matter that he didn't know. If I told him about it, it would sound like I was trying to make myself seem like a braver and more noble person than I am. Let him think that I panicked. Just knowing that he would get the justice he wanted was enough for me.
"I was close enough, but I, my hand was shaking and I missed."
"Well, fuck," Daniel muttered under his breath while I avoided Jensen's eyes by getting up to straighten his pillows and give him a sip of water. He was starting to shift restlessly under the covers, the pain making him tense and edgy, and as far as I was concerned, we were done here. He'd done enough for one day. When I went to push the call button, he didn't try to stop me this time, he just leaned his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes in exhaustion.
Jennifer, our favorite nurse, came in and I held Daniel's hand while she ordered the two FBI agents and their video camera out of the room. She raised the hem of Daniel's hospital gown and shot a syringe of Demerol in his hip to get him out of pain, so he didn't have to wait for the pills to work. I wanted to let him rest but when I started to get up, he gripped my hand and wouldn't let go as the drugs took effect, then his fingers loosened and his eyelids grew heavy. As he rolled his head back and drifted away, I lifted my hand and stroked his cheek so that the last thing he felt was my touch, and he knew I'd never leave.
I did have to eat and sleep from time to time though. Kat had offered to come and pick me up, but the other bed in Daniel's room was empty so I slept there last two nights. It was impossible to get decent sleep in a hospital unless you were on drugs and even then, Daniel woke up every few hours, writhing in pain. I'd jumped right up each time to help him and call the nurse; so I needless to say, I was exhausted. His throat sore from the ventilator during surgery, Daniel struggled to eat the tasteless breakfast on the tray with his left hand so I ended up feeding it to him, and by the time we got a little food inside him, the FBI was there. I realized in the elevator that I hadn't eaten since sometime yesterday when I had a stale granola bar from the vending machine. No wonder I felt like shit.
A ham sandwich in the cafeteria made me feel a little better. While I was eating, I picked up a copy of the Sun Times someone had left of the table. Right on the front page, there was an article about Scott Wyman under Kat's byline. She'd been busy. I called her from a courtesy phone in the cafeteria before I headed up to Daniel's room. The shot had knocked him on his ass and he needed his rest.
"I talked to your aunt. She and your uncle are on their way up here to see you. They should be here later this afternoon."
I groaned to myself, Charlotte would be running around like a mad woman and driving me nuts, but I was also relieved because I needed her right now. I needed someone to hold me up, to tell me it was okay. "Do they know they won't be able to see Daniel if they come to the hospital?"
"I told them all about that, yeah. Also told them their car is still being held in the investigation. They're bringing you your car and they might stay here a couple of days until things settle down. Figure you could use the support."
"Yeah." Out of nowhere tears pricked the corners of my eyes and I realized just how fucking exhausted and emotionally drained I was. Fuck, I'd shot someone yesterday. Or was it the day before? I didn't even know anymore. Actually shot him. Could've fucking killed him. And Daniel almost died. He could be dead right now, if I'd slept just ten minutes longer he'd be dead. My hands started to tremble and I forced the hysterical note out of my voice. "I'm tired, Kat."
"I know you are, baby. Listen, I'll come and pick you up in a few hours and get you out of that hospital for awhile, okay?"
"Okay... yeah.... but I can't just leave Daniel here alone," I protested. "Not while he's hurting like this. You should have heard him in the night, Kat, he was in so much pain."
"You don't have to leave him for the whole night," she soothed me. "I'll just come get you for a little while, so you can see your aunt and uncle, take a hot shower and relax for awhile. He'll probably be asleep anyway. Okay?"
Her voice seemed to come through layers of cotton. My head was fuzzy and I couldn't make clear decisions. I felt helpless, confused and unwound and I sagged against the wall, closing my eyes.
"Can I just call you later, Kat? They won't let calls in, but I can call out."
"All right," she answered doubtfully. "You don't have to do this all by yourself, you know. You won't be any good to Daniel if you fall apart on him now. He needs you to be strong and you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of him."
When I hung up, I leaned against the wall and took deep breaths until I was back in control of myself. Yeah, Kat was right. I was going to lie down in the other bed in Daniel's room and get some rest while he slept. They weren't going to keep him in the hospital much longer; when they let him out he was going to need me, and I had to be there for him. I knew he was confused that his family hadn't flown to Chicago to see him, or even called. Jensen told me he'd spoken to Daniel's mother, and the story was all over the media, there was no way his family didn't know he'd been shot and he was in the hospital. My family was making the trip, so where the fuck were his? The fucking Internal Affairs lawyer was on the way and his own mother and siblings were where?
When I got back up to the room, the armed guard was in his chair next to the door, but I noticed the door was open and I heard quiet voices inside the room. I frowned. "Who's that?" I asked the bored guard. He didn't even look up from the video game on his cell phone screen.
"Jensen called and put them on the list."
Them? I was expecting the legal representative from IAD, but I thought it would only be one person, and I knew there was no way Jensen would have put Paul and Charlotte on the list. Worried now, I rushed into the room.
The shades were drawn just as I'd left them and Daniel was still sleeping, but a man with dark hair was sitting on the edge of his bed gently holding his hand, with another man standing behind him. Cops. I was getting used to cops and they both had the look, the lean, muscular body and the air of self-assurance that they all seemed to have, the quick movements and hard eyes. They both looked at me, into me, as I came into the room and I forced myself not to feel like I was intruding. I had every right to be here.
"Rylan?" asked the man who was standing up. He gave me a smile, but the cop sitting on the bed next to Daniel just flicked his eyes over me before turning back and stroking Daniel's jaw. Neither one of them gave off a very friendly vibe, the smile notwithstanding, but they were cops and cops never trust anyone. Clearly, these were Daniel's friends and they only had good intentions, to protect Daniel, just like I did.
"Yeah." I nodded and stood my ground. I tried not to wonder if the guy gazing into Daniel's sleeping face and touching him and holding his hand was someone more than just a friend. Christ, maybe he had a boyfriend he never told me about and that would just fucking kill me but I couldn't let them intimidate me or make me run away.
"It's good to meet you, Rylan, I'm Gray Mitchell and this is my boyfriend, Michael Perez. We're good friends of Danny's."
Boyfriend, well that was good. Relieved, I shook hands with them both. Gray seemed a bit friendlier and even a little embarrassed by his partner's standoffish behavior. He was a few years older, early forties probably, with the stern police-issue buzz cut and stout neck, hazel eyes and a nice smile, while Michael was slender, dark and boyishly handsome.
"So how's his shoulder? One of the IAD people told us what happened but she didn't know the extent of the injuries."
Quietly, so I wouldn't wake Daniel, I explained what the doctor told us the day of his surgery, leaving out the part about not being able to handle a weapon. It was Daniel's decision to tell people that, not mine. "The doctor hasn't been in today yet, but if he's stable and doing well, they might release him tomorrow."
"We brought Danny some clothes and stuff," Michael said. "We'll spend the night."
"Oh," I said uncertainly. "You don't have to do that. I've been staying here, I was planning on staying tonight too."
Michael looked over his shoulder at me and took a breath. He looked like he was about to argue with me, but Gray cut him off.
"That's fine. We can get a motel." Gray shot Michael a look he didn't think I saw. Something else was bothering me, though. After checking to make sure Daniel hadn't stirred, I motioned Gray over to the window. I didn't want him to hear if he happened to wake up.
"Listen... what about his family? His calls are screened, but they'd put his mother through if she called and she hasn't. His family know what happened, right?"
"They know." He nodded, both resigned and vaguely disgusted. "I talked to his mother myself, last night. Told her the Department would pay for her to fly up, but she opted not to. Daniel's sister is having a baby and she didn't want to leave... which is bullshit in my opinion but my opinion doesn't matter here. His family is... well. They're just like that." He shrugged. "So Michael and I came instead. Hey, how about you? You okay?"
"Yeah... a little tired, but fine. Thanks." I actually managed a smile at him and then we both turned around when we heard Michael's voice.
"Hey there, stud," he was saying to Daniel, who had opened his eyes blearily and was trying to focus on him, frowning in confusion. The drugs made it hard for him to concentrate on what was going on around him.
"Yeah, baby, I'm here and so is Gray." Michael leaned down and kissed Daniel on the forehead and Gray came up behind him and put his hand on his lover's shoulder, smiling down at Daniel.
It took a second for me to realize he'd asked for me and then another second that I was frozen to the spot. Michael had tensed up. I didn't know what Michael's problem was but I didn't care. Daniel asked for me when he came out of surgery and when he woke up confused. Not Michael.
"I'm right here," I said. I went to the foot of the bed where he could see me and he smiled groggily and rolled his head back. Daniel gave Michael's hand a little squeeze.
"Glad you guys came," he muttered.
"So you finally went and got yourself shot," Gray said. I appreciated him keeping things light because Daniel was still pretty out of it. "Looks like we're gonna be busting dealers without you for awhile."
"Yeah. Think my raids are pretty much over."
Good. That was my immediate reaction but I kept it to myself in this room full of vice cops. With the possibility of never regaining full use of his arm, Daniel was facing a desk job and I was secretly happy about it. One bullet was enough. When I thought of him falling to the ground and bleeding into the snow, ice-cold fingers dug into my spine. He shouldn't have to face that kind of danger again, ever.
Fading in and out a bit, Daniel forced his eyes open. "Somebody call my mom and tell her not to come," he mumbled. "M'kay..."
Gray and I traded looks. "Sure baby," Gray said, giving Daniel's leg a little squeeze under the blanket. "I'll call her in just a few minutes."
We all watched as his head went to the side and he dozed off again. Gazing at him, Michael began talking. Although he didn't bother to look at me, I assumed he was talking to me.
"There's gonna be a shit storm when he gets back to Tally. We're just vice, we don't hear much about Danny's IAD stuff, but there are going to be hearings and an investigation into the involvement of Captain Olmos."
"He blew Daniel's IAD cover to Adkins. He was the one who set him up."
Michael stared, surprised into looking directly at me. "You're kidding."
"No, I'm not."
"He'll have to testify to all that during the internal hearings," Gray said, shaking his head. "As well as in front of all the grand juries. Adkins will be going into federal court too and he'll have to be there. It's going to be a long process. We can't talk to the media but there are going to be reporters calling him and television cameras waiting when he comes home, just to get a glimpse of him."
"He can't do any of that now. He needs to rest... he can't even feed himself yet." I hadn't thought much about what was going to happen when they released Daniel but now I began to get distressed. I didn't want him to go back to that alone. "He can't move his arm for six weeks. He's going to need someone to take care of him around the clock at first."
"We're taking him home with us," Michael stated. "As soon as he can fly."
For a moment, I didn't know what to say. It seemed like this had all been decided and I didn't get any input at all. These people didn't know me and they weren't going to give me an input unless I made them. They were Daniel's friends and they'd known him a lot longer than I had, but I'd earned a little consideration. "You know, Daniel could come home with me. It's his decision of course, but I work at home and both of you have to leave everyday. I'd be around more in case he needed something, and I already know how to dress his wounds, when he needs his meds and all that."
"But his family and all of his friends are in Florida." My suggestion didn't please Michael at all.
"So's the press," I reminded him. "They won't be waiting at my house."
"But how long do you think it would take for them to get there? His friends will take care of him. He'll be a lot better off with us."
"Why don't you let him decide for himself, he's right here." Daniel's sleepy voice startled us and we all came closer to him, instantly stopping our discussion to listen to what he had to say. I felt a little ashamed of myself for trying to decide what was best for him like he was a child.
"I'm so glad you guys came... I know you'll be there for me, but I don't think I can deal with everything right now. I just hurt too much and I can't do anything for myself. I just want to hide out at Rylan's place until things get a little easier for me. I don't want to be a burden on you guys."
"But... Danny, we can take care of you, we can do all those things for you." Michael looked positively crushed. I knew something was going on here, but whatever it was, Gray didn't seem concerned about it so that meant I shouldn't be either. But still. "Why is it okay for Rylan and not for us?"
Daniel huffed a laugh that made him wince, but his eyes still twinkled. "I haven't fucked either one of you in the ass."
Instead of a paralyzing blush, I managed just a minor one and for the first time Michael actually grinned. We were all glad that Daniel was showing a spark of his normal self. I knew how badly he wanted to get out of this fucking hospital and go home - to my home. It wasn't going to be the fun getaway we'd talked about having when all this was over, but it meant a lot to me, that he would let me take care of him that way, that he would trust me and choose me to help him through this.
The door opened and the nurses' aide came in. Sponge bath time, then whatever soft food Daniel could manage to swallow. I took this opportunity to call Kat, and let Michael and Gray spend a little time with Daniel. When I left the room to meet her downstairs, Michael got up.
"I'll walk you to the elevator."
"Um... okay." I didn't miss Gray's anxious look as Michael followed me out into the hallway. I had no doubt what he was planning to say, and when we reached the waiting area he stopped me with a hand on my arm.
"Listen, I don't want us to get off on the wrong foot, Rylan. I know what you've done for Danny. It's in all the papers. You've helped him out a lot when he needed a friend, and hell, you saved his life by showing up when you did and stopping Adkins from killing him. So, thank you for that."
I nodded suspiciously, waiting for him to get to the real point.
"You're not a cop, though, and you don't know what our life is like. The dangers and the pressures are something only other police officers can understand... that's why relationships with civilians don't last, they just don't get it. Especially not someone who writes romance novels." He touched my arm and gave me a smile edged with pity. I was so floored at his nerve that I was literally speechless. "Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just a different kind of life. I know you care for him, so I just wanted to explain to you that he's vulnerable right now. He needs people around him who understand him."
He paused to see if what he was saying was having an effect on me. All I could do was stare at him in utter amazement.
"He does need a safe place to heal right now... we could give him that, but he wants to go with you and that's fine. He's grateful for what you've done for him and he thinks he has feelings for you because he owes you something. But Daniel's one hell of a cop and eventually, that's what he is going to come back to. That's what he needs. I just want you to know that, and not be too hurt when it happens. It's nothing against you, Rylan, you seem like a nice guy but I'm just saying, Daniel isn't going to be content with your life and I'd hate to see you try to hang on to him when you can't possibly understand who he really is. Ray might be gone, but we know Daniel a lot better than you do." Michael gave me that overly understanding smile again and lightly squeezed my arm before he took a step back. "Okay... I think we get each other now, don't you? I'll see you later."
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open, and I moved toward it like a zombie, still numb with disbelief over Michael's assumptions. What a fucker. Thinking he knew what was best for Daniel. And Ray. What the fuck did he have to do with anything? I wasn't sure whether to be furious or to just laugh in Michael's smug face.
Down on the ground floor lobby, Charlotte flew into my arms and hugged me so hard I couldn't breathe, while Paul and Kat grinned over her shoulder. Paul hugged me next and I let my head rest on his shoulder. He was a rock and I was so grateful to Charlotte for marrying him so they could both be in my life. I found myself between them, each of them with an arm wrapped around me, as we all went out to Kat's SUV that was illegally parked in the entrance.