The Problem Continues...
By Medic Girl
Pete Malloy had never been a heavy sleeper, and eight years as a cop had only added to that, so he was pulled instantly from sleep by the knock on his door. A quick glance at his alarm clock told him it was twenty minutes 'til one in the morning. This wasn't good. Someone on anyone's door at this hour wasn't good, particularly a police officer's. He hurried to the door in his boxers and a t-shirt, preparing himself for bad news.
Whatever it was that he expected, it wasn't Jim Reed standing outside his door, eyes red-rimmed and swollen, suitcase in hand. Unable to think of anything better to say, he looked into the pained eyes and said "Rough night, partner?"
Jim nodded. "Jean kicked me out," he said in such a weak, pitiful voice that it almost broke Pete's heart.
Pete winced and nodded. "Come on in." The younger man trailed inside, dragging his suitcase behind him. As he made his way toward the couch, holding his suitcase in his right hand, holding his left hand against his side to protect the two broken fingers he had acquired during their shift earlier that day. "Sit down and tell me what happened."
Dropping the suitcase behind the couch, Reed trudged over and flopped down on the couch as if the short walk took all his remaining energy. Pete took a seat in the chair across from him. Jim dropped his head back against the back of the couch and let out a deep sigh. "I don't even know where to start!"
"Well," Pete said, not unkindly. "You could try the beginning."
Shooting him a look, he replied, "Fine, make fun of your best friend when he's in pain…I see how it is!" They were both trying to lighten the mood. The attempts fell flat, and that told Pete all he needed to know. This wasn't some spur-of-the-moment, I've-had-a-bad-day fight; it was serious. There wasn't much he could say, so he was quiet while his partner gathered the fractured thoughts.
Finally, he raised his head and allowed his blue eyes to meet Pete's green ones. "Did you know that mess this morning was on the news?"
"The shootout, or our mess?" Pete asked, the day's events flooding back to his mind.
Mac, Wells, Brinkman, Sanchez, and Walters had been involved in a hostage standoff. It had gone badly, as the robbers had shot all three hostages and started taking shots into the crowd. They killed two civilians, wounded six, and put a bullet in Brinkman's shoulder before Wells took one out and Mac got the other. It had been touch and go for a while, but it looked like Brinkman would make a full recovery. Adam-12, however, had been covering the areas for the occupied crews, and Reed wound up trying to help the paramedics subdue a very large man who had taken some sort of drugs. It had looked to Malloy like an ant trying to wrestle an alligator, but Reed had a fireman and a paramedic to help him. So he had stayed back and laughed at the situation. But all the humor went out of the situation when the man got a grip on Reed's left hand. He took hold of the young cop's pinkie and ring finger and snapped them downward, making a sickening crack. Seeing the pain cross his partner's face a split second before he yelled, Pete was into the fray immediately. Reed, mostly incapacitated but still trying to fight, caught one giant fist and held on tightly as Malloy slapped a cuff on the other, then with the help of the firefighter, they finally got him to the ground. Reed had turned a very pale color and was cradling his left hand in his right. It was mangled, already swelling, and the last two fingers were at a very wrong angle.
He had looked like he was going to throw up. Malloy looked at it and paled himself. Just looking at it hurt. He also noted something Reed probably hadn't. "Partner," he said quietly, hating what he was about to suggest, "we're gonna have to get your wedding ring off, quick." Reed's eyes widened, and he started to protest, but Malloy cut him off. "I know you haven't taken it off in three years, and I know it's gonna hurt real bad, but it's gotta come off before the finger swells up so much you can't get it off."
"O-okay," Reed stammered. He held up the swollen and purple hand, and Malloy paused for a moment, dreading hurting him.
"Uh, Reed, you want me to get you out a bullet to bite on or something?"
"Just do it already!" Reed growled.
"Okay," Pete said, bracing himself mentally, then gripped the ring and pulled hard. Reed fought back a cry as pain shot through his hand, and after a little resistance the ring popped off into his hand. Ignoring the hole in his guts from causing Jim pain, he dropped the ring into his good hand. "Here ya go, buddy. Let's get you to Central Receiving."
"The shootout," Reed replied. "She saw on the news that an officer got shot and was in critical condition, so she called the station. And whatever moron answered the call told her I was at the hospital. Then she rushed to the hospital, just missing us. She was trying to find you, and of course, you left with me, and when she finally found someone and found out it wasn't me she rushed home to wait for me to call and when I didn't because I didn't know she knew anything was happening she got madder and madder and when I got home…"
"She didn't take it so well, huh?" Pete finished as he trailed off. Reed nodded, and let his head fall back again. There was no need to answer, the fact that he was on his partner's couch with a suitcase at one in the morning was all the answer they needed. They lapsed into silence for a few minutes, both men wanting to fill it, neither knowing what to say. Finally, Pete spoke up. "Anything I can do?"
Jim shrugged. "Shoot me?" He forced a weak smile. "Just let me crash here for a bit. Until I figure out what to do." The smile faded quickly, as the implication of his words sunk in, and Pete suddenly became sure he was going to start crying again.
Debating with himself for less than a second, Malloy got up from the chair to sit beside his young partner and put a hand on his shoulder. That simple kind gesture was all it took to break through the last barrier of strength. He looked over at Malloy, the pain-filled blue eyes tearing into his heart, and said, "Pete, what am I going to do without my wife? Or my little boy? I won't even be half the man I am!"
Now, that wasn't fair! How the hell was he supposed to answer that?? "Well…uh…what did she say exactly?"
Reed straightened a little, almost as if on the job giving report. "She said she was done waiting at home for you to show up and tell her she's a widow. That she can't handle worrying while I'm out 'playing cowboy' and taking stupid risks. This was after she had been yelling about not being able to trust me to call, and at one point she sta-" he cut off abruptly, realizing what he had almost said, and tried to cover. "She wanted to know how it happened."
Malloy knew well enough to know that she wasn't going to stop in the middle of a fight and ask how he got hurt. "You mean she wanted to know where I was and why I let you get yourself hurt?"
Reed made a face. "That's almost word for word! Why do you people think I need a babysitter?" He smacked his hand against the couch in frustration. Unfortunately, it was his left hand, and he barely suppressed the cry of pain. "Okay, that was stupid."
Malloy winced in sympathy. "Emphasize your points with the other hand, partner," he said gently. "That answer your question about the babysitter?"
The younger man actually grinned at that. "Yeah, well, maybe I do." His face fell again. "What am I going to do?"
"You're asking me? The confirmed bachelor?"
"No," Reed said sincerely. "I'm asking my partner, my training officer, and my best friend."
Malloy gave him a dirty look. "That's low, partner, real low." Seeing Jim's wounded, innocent look that could melt the hardest of steel, he got serious. "Okay. You want to know what you do?" Reed nodded eagerly. "Okay, here it is. I go get a blanket, and you lay down here and get some sleep. I wake you up in the morning and we go to work. You function the best you can, and as your official babysitter I will watch your back even better since your mind will be elsewhere. We'll make it through the shift in one piece, and you leave. On the way home, you stop by the flower shop and pick up whatever Jean's favorite flower is. And some chocolates wouldn't hurt."
Jim nodded, taking in every detail like his life depended on it. And in a way, it did. "But…what do I say to her?"
Pete smiled, a genuine smile for the first time. "Hi. You look at her with that 'whipped puppy' look and say 'Hi'. Then she'll start crying, fall into your arms, and tell you how sorry she is." Reed looked hopeful, and Pete nodded. "That's what you do."
"Is it really that simple?" Reed asked.
"Yup. It's that simple. Now, you got something to sleep in, or you need a pair of sweatpants?"
Reed looked down, as if just realizing that he was still wearing his uniform pants with his t-shirt. "I…uh…"
Malloy understood. "Okay. I'll get you a couple blanket and a pair of sweats. Although, they may be kinda short on you though."
Ten minutes later, Reed was curled up on the couch, sound asleep as the double shift, the physical pain from his hand, and the emotional pain from the last two hours caught up with him. Malloy reached over to turn off the lamp beside him, and almost laughed. Jim Reed may look like a teenager most of the time, but when he was asleep, he barely looked ten. "Don't worry partner. I don't mind babysitting duty. And I won't let you or Jean down again. I'm sorry."
He flipped off the lamp. Daywatch started in six hours.