It's a Long Story, Mac

by Medic Girl

"Hey! I need some help over here!" Jim Reed exclaimed, as he helped Pete Malloy hobble into the Emergency Room at Central Receiving. Pete could only move at a very slow speed, and it was taking every ounce of strength Reed had to keep him upright. Donna, one of the nurses, came rushing over with a wheelchair.

"Pete, what happened?" she exclaimed.

Malloy was in too much pain to answer, or at least give more than a weak groan, so Reed answered for him. "We stopped a car with a box tied to the top, coming loose. Pete went to help the guy and the box fell. Pete tried to catch it, and it fell on him. Now his back's hurting him something awful. Got a knot the size of a basketball on his lower back. He threw up and everything!"

Donna nodded briskly as they eased Malloy into the wheelchair. The motion hurt badly, but he tried not to let it show on his face. Reed was already being enough of a mother hen without knowing how bad he was really hurting. He couldn't believe he threw up from pain. That was just embarrassing.

They took him to Room 5, then Donna and Reed helped him onto the bed. Even with their help and his determination he wasn't able to hold back a moan as the pain shot from his back through every inch of his body. Once they got him settled, he turned to his side and curled into a ball. "Reed!" he managed weakly. "Get me a bucket!"

Reed looked around frantically for a moment, then slid the garbage can over to the side of the bed before Malloy emptied the remains of his lunch into it. "Why's he throwing up? He hurt his back." Reed was confused and a little scared. Pete was never sick, and very rarely hurt, so why was he now both at once?

Donna wet a cold washcloth in the sink, folded it, and placed it on Pete's forehead, then addressed the worried partner. "Some types of pain cause that kind of reaction. It's a nerve response. Have you ever been kicked in the testicles?"

Reed flushed at the nurse's question. "Uh…well, once or twice…"

"And did you throw up?" Malloy chuckled, despite the pain, at his partner's embarrassment.

Reed nodded, still blushing furiously, and shot Malloy a look that promised certain death. "I…uh…think I get it." Pete laughed, but had to freeze as another bolt of pain and its twin bolt of nausea shot through him. Reed was back at his side instantly, awkwardness forgotten. "He's hurting real bad," he told the nurse. "Can't you get him something for the pain?"

Malloy made a face. "I can talk for myself, you know!" Jim and the nurse both looked at him for a moment, then he sighed. "Okay…I'm hurting real bad. Can't you get me something for the pain?"

"I'll see what I can do," Donna said with a smile.


Thirty minutes, one absolutely torturous exam, and three shots later, Reed was sitting backward in a chair at the nurse's desk listening carefully to Dr. Jeffries explain Malloy's injuries. He liked the doctor. He put it plain, and had a sense of humor about him. "He's pulled at least six muscles. And sprained both sacroiliac joints, the joints where the sacral spine meets the pelvis. How he did that, I don't have a clue. Never seen both of them sprained at the same time. What in the world was in that box?" The young doctor ran his fingers through his short blond hair and grinned at Reed. Ten years in this job left him with remarkably few new things to see.

Reed smiled back. "You're gonna love this. It was a concrete lion."

"A what?"

"A concrete lion. You know, one of those concrete lawn ornaments?"

The doctor laughed, but cut off when Reed's smile faded. "He's going to be fine."

"So it's not that serious?"

"Nope. Painful, yes. Serious, no. He'll need a few days of rest and a heating pad, but he'll be fine. He's got a good partner." Dr. Jeffries stood up, clapped Reed on the shoulder, and said, "Let's go check on him."

Reed followed the doctor. "So he's going to be in a lot of pain?"

A burst of laughter came from the room ahead. Dr. Jeffries opened the door to see Pete sitting on the bed carefully folding a paper football, then flipped it at the nurse. The doctor grinned wryly at Reed. "I'd say he's not feeling anything about now."

Pete smiled a wide, toothy smile at the sight of his partner. "Hiya, Jimmy! This lady says I'm ready to go home. Think you can help me get there?"

Reed turned to the doctor. "What did you give him? He's higher than any narco bust I've ever had!"

Dr. Jeffries shrugged, still grinning. "You said you didn't want him in pain…"

Pete, meanwhile, had finished another football out of his notebook and flipped it toward Reed. It was about two feet wide. Pete frowned. "You shoulda caught that, Jim! You played football!"

The doctor's grin softened into something almost sympathetic. "Has he got someone who can look after him? I don't usually give grown men enough of anything to make them this loopy, but between the pain meds, the muscle relaxers, and the anti-emetics to keep him from tossing his cookies again…well, it seems he doesn't have much of a tolerance."

Reed shook his head. "He doesn't. Won't even take an aspirin unless he's dying." An annoying little voice in the back of Reed's mind reminded him how badly Pete had to have been hurting to allow himself to be given that much medicine. "I'll take him home with me. It's almost the end of watch anyway. Let me go call my wife." He glanced over his shoulder at his friend one more time before retreating to the nurse's desk.

Malloy was very carefully, with the precision he usually reserved for cleaning his weapon, putting layer after layer of clear tape on the newest football of the lot. "He's very intent on that tape job, isn't he, Donna?" Dr. Jeffries said with a smirk.

Pete looked up at him and said very seriously, "If you don't use enough tape, the IV will come out. That's what that paramedic said last time they brought me in here, that they had to use that much tape. But I think they overdid it. Pulled all the hair off my arm! Hurt almost as bad as…whatever I was here for. I think he did it on purpose!"

The doctor and the nurse looked at each other and burst out laughing. Reed looked apprehensive walking back up to them. "You're laughing. That scares me."

Dr. Jeffries shook his head. "Nothing. Your partner wasjust complaining about the paramedics."

"Paramedics? But I brought him in!" That didn't sound good.

But the nurse laughed. "I think he's thinking about the last time. When he was unconscious and Ray had to tape all the way around his arm to get it to stay. I'll go get his discharge papers."

She was gone, and Malloy was again deeply involved in his tape job, so Reed turned back to the doctor. "How long is he going to be like this?"

The young doctor shrugged. "A few hours, I'd say. Have fun." He pressed the prescriptions into Reed's hand. "When it wears off, he's going to be hurting pretty bad. He'll need this. Instructions are on the script." He smiled once more, and walked out, leaving Reed with a very stoned Pete Malloy.

As Pete seemed content to play with the tape, Donna returned with his discharge papers for Reed to sign. "Pete," She said, "I brought you a sticker, for being such a good patient." She looked at Reed and shrugged. "If he's on the level of a five-year-old for the moment, I might as well let him enjoy it, huh?" She presented him with the Superman sticker that said "Super-patient!"

Pete studies it closely for several seconds. "This isn't right," he told her, confused.

"What isn't right?" Jim asked, thinking his partner was about to say something rational, like that he was too old for stickers. But he had underestimated the amount of painkillers his friend had been given.

Malloy held up the sticker. "I'm not Superman. Superman doesn't break like I did."

Reed tried to cover the laugh that was threatening to emerge. "Who are you then?"

"I'm Batman!"


Leading his friend to the car Reed tried to keep down the distractions. It was very much like walking his three-year-old to a vehicle…except Jimmy didn't whistle at every pretty girl they passed on the way. Malloy was able to walk better than when they brought him in, but only marginally. However, Reed had to remind himself that he wasn't hurting anymore, and that was the important part. He could handle playing babysitter for a few hours to spare his friend some pain. Or at least, that was what he told himself when Pete made siren noises all the way to the drugstore.

Before getting out, he made sure his friend still had his seatbelt on to discourage any wandering, took his keys out, and said "Stay put!" firmly, very much like he was talking to his son.

Pete nodded solemnly. "Okay. Hard to walk anyway."

A wave of compassion fell over Reed, and he remembered that it wasn't Pete's fault they were in this situation. "Here," he said, handing him the Quartermaster catalog from the back seat. "Look through this. I need to get some new shoes. Why don't you see if you can help me out pick out a pair?"

"Okay." He began flipping through the pages, and Jim felt safe enough to leave him in the car. Five minutes later, he was back in the car, with Pete dozing in the passenger seat. Gently removing the book from his hand, he tossed it into the backseat and started the black and white. He wished he could just take Pete on to his house and drop him off, but they had to finish up at the station before he could take him home. Somehow, he had to get him at least out of his uniform shirt and brass, change himself, and turn in the paperwork. Preferably while having as little contact with the other guys as possible. Especially Ed Wells.

He woke his partner up at the station. "Pete…come on. We gotta go change. Think you can make it?"

Pete nodded agreeably. "Sure thing, buddy." He opened the door and staggered to his feet. Jim was at his side in an instant.

"Easy, Pete! Come on, we'll get out of here quick and get you to the house and let you get some sleep, okay?"

Pete looked up at him. "Thanks, partner. You're a good friend, you know that?"

Reed smiled. "Thank you. Come on…" He led Malloy through the halls to the locker room, thankful that they didn't meet anyone on the way. The last thing Pete needed was to have to interact with others in the condition he was in. Some of the other guys wouldn't be quite so…understanding. Point of fact, they would tease him mercilessly. For a very long time. Like until his retirement dinner.

Thankfully, the locker room was also empty. He sat Pete down on the bench and opened his locker, trying to figure out the best way to get Pete out of uniform enough to get him home. Figuring the pants would be a useless effort, he focused on what he could do. "Can you get your uniform shirt off?"

Malloy cocked his head to one side and looked at Reed. "'Course I can! Wha'da ya think I am, some kind of invalid or something?" He raised his hands to undo the buttons, but his fingers just wouldn't cooperate. He looked up at Jim pitifully. "My fingers won't work. Can't I just put on m' jacket?"

The way he was slurring his words worried Jim more than the fact that he couldn't unbutton his own shirt. Kneeling down in front of his addled partner, he said, "I got it, Pete. Just hold still." He carefully unbuttoned the dark blue uniform shirt and pulled it back onto his partner's shoulders. Malloy put his arms back to slip it off and winced. "That hurt?" Reed asked. Pete held up his fingers about a millimeter apart. "A little?" Pete nodded, and Jim considered giving him one of the pain pills. But any more medication and he'd be carrying Pete home.

He carefully hung Pete's uniform shirt in his own locker, certain that his friend wouldn't be able to open his own locker, and pulled on his jacket. He considered giving it to Pete to wear over his white t-shirt, but it was tight on his own slender frame. It would never fit Malloy's bulkier physique. He would be okay to make it to the car.

Reed grabbed his keys and put out his hands to help Malloy to his feet. The elder cop made a face, again remarkably like his godson. "I can do it!" He exclaimed, slowly pulled himself to his feet, and promptly fell forward to his knees. Reed caught him before he fell the rest of the way down.

"Easy, Pete!" Reed cried, alarmed. He helped him back to his feet. "Let's go home."

"My home or your home?"

"My home. I can't leave you alone like this; you can't even stand up!"

Pete nodded. "Nope. Can't leave me alone…my hands won't work. How would I change the channels on the TV?"

Jim snorted with laughter. "Or put your key in your door? Come on, think you can walk?"

"I think so…can you ask the room to stop spinning?"

"Sure, but I don't think it will listen to me. My car, on the other hand, will. Let's go."

They were almost to the door when their luck ran out. Brinkman opened the door to the locker room and froze as he saw Reed standing there with Malloy clinging to his arm like a crutch. "Hiya, Boom-Boom!" Malloy exclaimed cheerfully. "We were just leaving."

Brinkman's eyes widened. "What's wrong with him? Is he drunk?"

"No, he's not drunk!" Reed growled. "He's medicated! He got hurt and I had to take him to the hospital!"

"Medicated?" Brinkman asked, concern furrowing his brow. For all the crap he gave Malloy and Reed, they were still friends. "What happened to him? Is he okay?"

Jim glanced at his partner and opened his mouth to answer when Pete answered for him. "I was attacked by a lion. See ya', Brinkman, we gotta go."


Leaving Pete leaning against a wall, he went into Mac's office to drop off the paperwork and the incident report of Pete's accident he wrote up at the hospital. Hoping to explain the situation to their sergeant, he was disappointed to find the office empty. He left the reports on the desk and made a mental note to call later and explain that Malloy would be out for a couple of days.

He was back by Pete's side as quickly as possible, knowing he couldn't even comprehend the amount of mischief his friend could find if left alone too long in his current state. He found him standing exactly where he had been told to stay, but was leaning heavily against the wall. "Can't you ask the room to stop spinning?" he asked Reed.

Jim grinned. "You already asked me that. It wouldn't listen to me. You've got seniority; why don't you try?"

It seemed funny at the second he said it, but then he realized how stupid it had been. Unfortunately, he only realized it when Malloy opened his mouth and yelled, "Hey, room! Stop spinning, will ya?"

Reed dropped his head for a split second, then realized he had to get him out of there, and quick. "C'mon," he said, taking Pete's arm again and trying to hurry him down the hallway.

"Ease up, buddy!" Pete said, looking at Jim pitifully. "I can't go so fast, my back hurts…"

Jim stopped in his tracks, a knife slicing through his heart. "I'm sorry, Pete. I forgot." He began easing along at a slower pace. How could he have gotten so irritated with Pete's mental state that he forgot his physical condition? He wanted to smack himself in the head for being so self-centered. "It's okay, we're almost there. Let's just get you home, Jean will feed you, and you can go to bed, how's that?"

Pete nodded. "Sounds good…hey I'm sorry I'm being so much trouble, you sure Jean won't mind? I can just go home…" He punctuated that statement by tripping over his own feet, and if Jim hadn't been holding tightly to him, he would have fallen flat on his face.

Jim smiled. "Sure, partner…tell me convincingly that you'd let me go home alone like this, and make me believe it, and I'll drop you off."

Pete looked up at Jim -- had his young partner always been that much taller than him?-- and his head fell slightly to the side, as if the effort of holding it upright was too much for him. "You know I couldn't do that."

Reed nodded at him. "I know. Don't ask me to do what you couldn't."

Pete considered that. "Okay. To Ca…casa de la…to your house, partner!"

It was then that Reed realized that he had left his off-duty weapon in his locker. Cursing inwardly, he considered what to do. The rules stated he had to carry a weapon at all times, and both his guns were in his locker, and Pete's duty weapon was in there too. Pete could get away with it, being temporarily mentally impaired, but he would definitely be reprimanded if he was caught without it. He eased his friend into one of the chairs in the hallway. "Pete, can you sit down here in this chair and wait on me a minute? I forgot something in my locker."

A look of panic crossed Malloy's face. "Are you going to leave without me? If you leave without me, I'm stuck! My mind is all fuzzy, and I-" He grasped at Reed's jacket sleeve desperately, and the younger man's heart broke again. This was harder than he had imagined.

Putting his hand over the frightened one digging into his sleeve, he knelt down to Pete's level in the chair. "I wouldn't do that to you, and when you're yourself, you know that. Don't be scared, I'll never leave without you." Malloy still didn't look convinced and was still bordering on panic. Reed had his share of head injuries, his share of nightmares, and had once had a bad reaction to the anesthesia when he was fifteen and had his appendix removed. He knew what it was like for your own brain to work against you. And it killed him to see Pete suffering like that. "Listen, Pete, I know you trust me. You know I'll take care of you. Now, I have to go back there for a minute, and I'll be right back. Here's what I'll do though…" He stuck his hand into his pocket and pulled out his car keys and his wallet and handed them to his incapacitated friend. "You hold onto those. I can't go anywhere without them and if you have them, you know I can't go anywhere without you, right?"

Pete looked at the items he had been handed and his grip on Reed's jacket relaxed. "Thanks. I'll wait right here. I knew you wouldn't leave me."

Jim let out a breath he had been holding. "I'll be right back."

He raced back to the locker room and was on his way back down the hallway in record time. But it wasn't quickly enough, and just before he turned the corner, he heard a familiar laugh. His throat tightened. Wells. Damn, he had hoped to get Pete out of there before they ran into him. He raced around the corner just in time to see Ed Wells and Jerry Woods standing over Pete. Well, Woods was standing, anyway. Wells was doubled over laughing. As Reed got closer, he noticed Woods was sticking the Superman sticker on Malloy's t-shirt. Pete seemed to be getting agitated, so Reed called out to them, "Hey! What's going on here?"

Wells straightened up with a smirk. "I could ask you the same thing, Reed. What's up with your partner? The Strawberry Fox seems to have scattered his marbles somewhere along the way."

Reed took a step closer to Wells, anger threatening to boil over. "He got hurt. He was in a lot of pain. The doctor at Central Receiving had never even seen an injury like he had. Him being able to take in a breath without being in agony had a bit of a price tag on it. And if you want to give him any crap about it, you're gonna have to go through me to do it!"

Wells took a step back. He had never seen Reed so angry. He had seen Malloy stand up for the younger man several times; however this was new. But then again, he had never seen Malloy this addled before either. "Calm down, Jim. I ain't giving him any problems. How cold-hearted do you think I am? How bad is he hurt?"

Reed calmed down somewhat. "Like I said, the doctor had never seen anything like it before. He was hurting so bad he threw up several times."

"Don't tell them that!" Malloy put in. "That's embarrassing, like I peed my pants or something!"

At that, even Reed couldn't stop the snort of laughter that came out, and when Malloy tried to shoot them a menacing look, but only managed to look perplexed, none of them could keep it in. Finally, they calmed down. "He's a little…overmedicated. I'm taking him to my place so Jean and I can keep an eye on him. We're both off tomorrow, so…"

Woods looked at the usually sharp policeman sitting in the chair with a Superman sticker on his shirt. "Reed, what happened?"

Again, Reed opened his mouth to explain, and again, Malloy beat him to it. "I told you boys! I got attacked by a lion. But it's okay…I'm Batman!"

Wells and Woods, looked at Reed, who simply shrugged, then back at each other and burst out laughing. Finally catching his breath, Woods grinned at Reed. "Need any help getting him to the car?"

Reed shook his head. "Nah. He can walk. Well, pretty much, anyway."

"Okay…have fun!" He and Wells were still cracking up as they made their way down the hallway.

Jim looked down at Pete, and shook his head, smiling. They were both going to hear about this for a long time. And it would make an interesting story to tell at their retirement dinners. And to tell the new recruits. Heck…neither of them would ever live this one down. He put his hand out to Pete. "Come on, Batman. To the Batcave, I guess."

Pete grinned the wide grin known only to the thoroughly intoxicated. "You got it, Boy Wonder!"

Reed rolled his eyes, and wondered how long it would take Wells to get ahold of that one. Then he led his friend to the car, both of them humming the Batman theme song. When in Rome…


Jim drove them home without incident, except for the fact that Pete had picked up on his humming and continued it the rest of the way home. Reminding himself again that this meant that his friend wasn't hurting, he just smiled and kept humming along with him. It was funny, but the same thing that kept him from getting irritated with his friend kept him from getting the same level of entertainment out of it he otherwise would. Pete was injured, and otherwise would be in a lot of pain. He did not choose this; in fact he would probably choose the pain to letting people see him like this. When he snapped out of it, he was going be humiliated.

Jean was out in the yard working in the flowers when they pulled in, and she stood up to go over to the car. Jim got out first, and went over to the passenger side to help Pete. As he pulled his friend to unsteady feet, he grinned at his wife. "I found a drunk cop," he said. "So I brought him home."

Jean put her hand to her mouth. Jim had warned her Pete was hurt, but the goofy smile on his face and his unsteady gait was unexpected. "Can he walk?"

"Sure," Jim said. Pete chose that moment to trip over the sidewalk. Reed caught him, steadied him, then shrugged to Jean. "More or less."

They made it the rest of the way inside without further incident. Jim carefully eased Pete over to the couch and upon having him settled, flopped down beside him, exhausted. Jean came up behind him and put her arms around her husband. He laid his head back against her shoulder and she planted a kiss on his forehead. Pete, in a similar motion to his partner's, laid his head back against the back of the couch and closed his eyes. His breathing evened out, Jim sighed with relief.

Jean sat on the other side of her husband and he again rested his head on her shoulder. "Was it rough, honey?"

"Yeah," Jim replied without hesitation. "I've never seen him in so much pain before."

She brushed a strand of his dark hair out of his eyes. "That must have been so hard for you." She knew nothing killed her husband like seeing someone he cared about in pain. He'd rather take it himself. She pulled him closer.

"It hurt just to watch him," Jim admitted, watching as Pete started to snore. "I mean, he could hardly walk or anything. And when he threw up, it scared me to death! I mean, I thought he was dying…and once I calmed down and realized how bad it had to hurt to make him do that…"

The look on his face twisted at Jean's heart, so she moved on to the rest of the day. "So the doctor made him feel better?"

Jim managed a grin. "Yeah…really laid it to him. Pete got stuck more times than a pincushion." His grin faded into a wince. "Glad it wasn't me!" Jean smacked him on the arm. "Hey! I don't mean the accident! You know I'd rather it happen to me than to see someone else hurt! Just…you know…needles…" He shuddered theatrically. "Anyway, then after I called you, I got back, and he was…addled."

Jean smirked wickedly. "This is addled? I'd hate to see him completely blitzed!"

Pete started to squirm a little in his sleep, and Jim looked at his wife. "I'm going to see if I can get him to bed before Jimmy wakes up from his nap. First thing he's going to want to do is climb on 'Unca' Pete."

Jean nodded and stood up, giving Jim room to turn to his sleeping partner. Gently, Jim shook his shoulder. "Pete? Wake up, buddy. Let's get you to bed."

Pete jerked his head up. "Who let the cat in?" he demanded.

Reed gave him the same confused look he had carried all evening, pretty much every time Malloy had opened his mouth since leaving the hospital. "Huh?"

Malloy looked around, and upon seeing the familiar surroundings, relaxed. "Jim…hi. Jean?"

"Right here, Pete. Can I get you anything? Have you eaten anything?"

Sitting up a little straighter, he said, "No…haven't eaten…I don't think. Have I eaten, Jim?"

"No, Pete. You haven't."

"You boys want me to fix you up some supper?" Jean asked, mentally running through a list of what they had in the pantry.

"My stomach isn't happy," Pete said. "I'm hungry, but I don't think I can keep much in me. Don't want to throw up anymore…got anything light?"

Jean nodded. "Turkey sandwich?"

"Sounds okay…" Said Pete. "I like turkey…" Jean looked at Jim, who nodded and held up two fingers, indicating that he wanted one too.

A couple of minutes later, Pete walked to the table with minimal assistance. He sat down in his usual seat without a word, and Jean sat a sandwich in front of both her and Jim. The younger man bit into his with gusto, as he hadn't eaten since the whole thing began and he didn't have the excuse of nausea. Only worry.

Pete stared at his a couple of minutes, then Jim looked over at him. The silly grin had vanished, leaving a look of serious confusion. "You okay, Pete? Your stomach again?"

When the older man looked at him, the clarity that had been missing from his eyes was back. "Why do I have a feeling that I'm not going to like the explanation that goes with this?"

"You back with us, partner?" Jim asked, concerned.

Malloy looked at him warily. "Where have I been?"

"Are you in pain? Doc sent you some of these pills to help."

Pete moved carefully, testing the damaged muscles, and bit back a hiss of pain. "Hurts. But I think I'll steer clear of the pills until I figure out where I've been for the past few hours. Did I do anything stupid?"

It took another thirty minutes to convince Pete he hadn't done anything too stupid, and convince him to take a pain pill and a muscle relaxer, on the stipulation that he was going to go to bed and sleep this one off. He finished off his sandwich, talked reasonably coherently for about twenty minutes, then headed to the Reed's guest room with Jim following to make sure he was settled. The pain was still there, and he still had most of his mental faculties, but he wasn't sure how long either would last. As he pulled his t-shirt over his head, he looked at Jim, who was getting him a spare blanket out of the closet.

"You never answered me, you know," he said to Jim. "Did I do anything stupid?"

Jim shrugged, not looking at him. "You were hurt, Pete. No one is going to blame you for anything…"

"So I did do something…What did I do?"

Tossing the blanket onto the bed, Jim grinned. "We can talk about this later. When you're back at one hundred percent.."

"What did I do?"


Pete had finally drifted off, and Jim relaxed on the couch beside Jean. She rubbed his shoulders as Jimmy played on the floor in front of them. "He's finally out. It took a lot of convincing to tell him that he didn't make an idiot of himself."

Jean shook her head. "And how are you going to deal with him when he finds out?"

Before he could answer, the phone rang. He reached for it. "Reed residence…"

"Reed, this is MacDonald. I just got back to the station to pick up some papers, and I'm hoping you can answer something for me."

"Sure thing, Mac." He winced. As entertaining as this was going to be…

"What's this about Pete getting mauled by a lion?"

Jim chuckled and shook his head. "It's a long story, Mac…"


It was a week before the pain had gotten to the point that it could be controlled with ibuprofen and allow Pete to return to active duty. Desk duty had been out, as sitting for long periods of time were very painful due to the positioning of the sprained joints. But today, he thought he was ready to return to Adam-12. He had stayed with Jim and Jean the first night and then Jim took him home the next evening. It had been a battle between pain and boredom as to which would kill him first, but now he was ready to be back. More than ready. Light-years past ready…

Walking down the corridor, he was suddenly nervous. He was sure Jim hadn't told him everything that he had said. Jim couldn't lie very well, and he wouldn't look him in the eye when he told him he hadn't done anything embarrassing. Oh, well… Even whatever Wells and the others would put him through would be an improvement over being home alone, bored, and in pain. Steeling himself, he walked into the locker room.

Everyone stopped talking at once, and Woods was the first to speak. "Hey, Pete. How's the back? You okay?"

The concern in his voice wasn't quite what he was expecting. Reed wasn't there yet, and he had expected nothing but ribbing from the ones that were there. "I…uh…I'm okay. Still a little sore, but I'm okay."

Just then, Reed hurried into the locker room. He had meant to get there before Pete, to run interference if any of the guys should feel the need to give him any crap. So, of course, this was the day that little Jimmy had chosen to spit up all over him on as he was saying goodbye. He just hoped the guys hadn't messed with him too much. Never send an officer into a hostile situation without backup, right? Maybe Wells and the others would respect that…

As he burst in, ready to take on the first one to say the wrong thing, he was surprised to hear Wells say, "You sure you're up to this, Malloy? I mean, we don't want you to hurt yourself again. Especially, you know, if you're still healing up."

Jim met Pete's eyes, and the looks of mutual confusion were comical in themselves. The silent communication between them that made it so much easier to work tough situations between them working a little overtime. What's up with them?

I don't know…this isn't normal…

They're up to something…

I know, but what…?

We'll just wait and see, I guess.

Stay alert…

You, too…

"I'm fine, Wells. Really. Thanks for your concern though."

"Hey, why do you sounds so surprised? We were really concerned about you!"

Malloy was, of course, thoroughly surprised. It wasn't like he had gotten himself shot or something life-threatening. And perhaps a bit guilty for instantly thinking the worst of his co-workers and friends. "Thanks. Sorry if I offended you."

Wells grinned broadly. "No problem. You just get back to a hundred percent." He turned and headed out the door. "What would Gotham City be without Batman?"

Everyone laughed, and a very confused Pete Malloy turned to look at a very red-faced Jim Reed. As the younger man turned to go after Wells, Pete caught him by the shoulder. "I thought I didn't do anything embarrassing?"

Jim shrugged, anger turning to embarrassment and contrition in a split-second. "I believe my exact words were 'nothing much'. I'm going to go kill Wells now."

Pete still had a grip on his arm with his left hand, and has opened his locker with his right. "Let it go, Jim," he said. "If you get suspended, who's going to explain this to me?"

Reed looked over into his friend's open locker. There were dozens of paper bats that fluttered out into the floor as the door opened. Malloy looked at his friend expectantly, and Reed finally broke into a grin as he realized Pete thought it was funny as well. "Well, it's a funny story, really…"

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