There was a searing pain in Riley's abdomen as a bullet tore through her flesh. The velocity and pain from the bullet knocked her off of her feet and onto the ground. Gabriel was there in an instant, gun out, leaning in a protective manner over his wounded partner. Mei Chen was still on her feet and was looking confidently around the square for the shooter, making herself an easy target. "Mei Chen, give me a hand." Gabriel growled, trying to get Riley up. Mei Chen ducked under Riley's arm and helped Gabriel drag her into a parking garage to the wounded agent's car. Mei Chen used the chip to unlock the car and she slipped into the driver's seat while Gabriel lifted Riley into the back. "Come on, Riley, stay with us." He murmured, kneeling next to her and pressing on her stomach.
"Do you have the keys?" Mei Chen asked, turning in her seat. Gabriel searched Riley's pocket briefly and handed the keys over. Mei Chen started the car and made her way out of the parking garage. "Where do we go?"
Gabriel thought about this for a moment before instructing Mei Chen to hang a right. He continued to give curt instructions for about three minutes until had the assassin pull into a seemingly random citizen's driveway. Gabriel swung the car door open and stepped over Riley, sliding her out of the car. "Why did you bring us here?" Riley slurred. "What is this place?"
Gabriel didn't answer and knocked on the door instead. The door was opened by an old woman. She gasped. "What did you get yourself into, Gabriel?"
"Hey Mom, we need a favor." Gabriel replied. Mrs. Vaughn pulled the door wide open and hustled into the kitchen, knocking things haphazardly off of the island. Gabriel followed her and picked Riley up, laying her carefully down on the counter. She tried to resist, but Gabriel gently pinned her shoulders down.
"I'm fine, Gabriel. I don't need help."
"You're far from fine, Riley. In case you haven't noticed, you have a hole in you stomach. We need to get the bullet out and sew you up."
Riley shook her head. Mrs. Vaughn came back into the kitchen and set out medical supplies. She immediately began wiping away the blood. Next, she began to carefully pull Riley's shirt up and away from the wound. "Stop," she argued, attempting to pull her shirt back down. "I don't need help,"
"Yes you do, girl." Mrs. Vaughn countered. "You're going to bleed out if you don't let us sew you up."
Riley tugged on her shirt again for two reasons; one, Mrs. Vaughn would be asking all sorts of questions about all of her scars, and two, Gabriel was standing right there. If she was going to pass out, she most definitely didn't want to be topless, especially with Gabriel right there. As if she could read her mind, Mrs. Vaughn tried to usher her son out of the room. "She's my partner and you will need help!" Gabriel argued.
"If I need help, then you could send that other girl in then," The mother pointed out. Gabriel shook his head.
"Mei Chen is a wanted assassin, who, as it happens, is not a huge fan of Riley's."
"Fine, I'll call you if I need anything."
Gabriel sulked out of the room and Mrs. Vaughn gasped again when she saw Riley's stomach with three or four scars from both stabs and bullets. Gabriel came running in. He too froze when he saw his partner lying there, only half conscious. He knew that Riley had been stabbed five times while protecting the first children, but he had never thought of the scars that would come with the wounds. Mrs. Vaughn quickly got over the sight and worked on getting them bullet out.
The whole operation was done in ten minutes and after a few hours, Riley began to wake. She was still lying on the kitchen island, though she had almost no recollection of where she or what she was doing there. It was pitch black outside and Riley slipped painfully off of the table and wandered around. She could hear voices in another room. Leaning heavily against the wall, Riley ventured towards the familiar sound. She entered a warm living room with a TV and a roaring fire. Gabriel, Mrs. Vaughn and Mei Chen were sitting and discussing something. Gabriel looked up and saw his partner leaning the doorway. "How're you doing?" He asked, trying to get her to sit down.
"I'm fine," She said curtly.
"Nice shirt," Mei Chen joked in her bored way. Riley looked down. It was a fairly gigantic button down shirt. She guessed it was Gabriel's. She felt her cheeks grow slightly hot.
"And where did my shirt go?" She asked, slightly confused. Mrs. Vaughn spoke up next.
"Don't you remember, dear?" She asked.
"I'm afraid not, ma'am." Riley replied politely. "And I'm afraid I haven't been able to introduce myself; I'm Riley Neal, I'm your son's partner."
"Mary Vaughn, as you know, I'm Gabriel's mom."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Vaughn. So what have I missed?"
"Well you put up quite the fight when Mom was trying to get that bullet out." Gabriel teased.
"What did I do?" Riley asked, full of dread. Gabriel smirked.
"Your shirt was all bloody and stuck in the wound, so we had to basically take it off or else Mom wouldn't be able to fix you up without sewing you to your shirt. You kept trying to pull it down until you passed out." Gabriel loved this... being able to tease Riley, not having her shot. "Is it possible to be embarrassed when you're unconscious?"
Riley covered her face with her hands for a second. "I'm so sorry for causing you any inconvenience, Mrs. Vaughn." Riley blushed.
"It's no problem," Mrs. Vaughn dismissed. "And about that..."
Riley mentally groaned. "By that I'm assuming you mean the scars."
Mrs. Vaughn nodded. "What're those from?"
Riley thought for a moment. Some of the scars were from classified missions, others were with Gabriel. She cast a glance at her partner. "Gabriel, may I talk to you for a second?"
Gabriel stood up and helped Riley into the hall. "How much does she know?" Riley asked, leaning against the wall.
"She knows a fair amount, but most of what she knows is fairly vague."
"So what should I say?" Riley was at a bit of a loss. "Do I just say it's classified? Or talk about the ones I can?"
"If there's one thing Mary Vaughn hates, she hates not knowing." Gabriel thought. "Maybe just mention a few of the ones you can talk about, but no more than you feel comfortable with. She has a knack for getting people to say more than they want."
Riley nodded and thought a bit more. "'Kay, thanks Gabriel." Riley stood up again and wandered back into the living room where she was instantly ambushed by Mrs. Vaughn again.
"So, what's the story?"
Riley let out a little laugh, and Gabriel scolded, "Come on, Mom give the woman a break."
"It's okay Gabriel." Riley hushed, putting a hand on his arm to quiet him before turning back to the senior. "There are actually many stories behind them, and none of them are very glamorous. Most them are from the secret service. So... yeah..."
"Are you going to leave me hanging?"
"It really wasn't a big deal. I took the first kids to the bathroom and some men came in to abduct them... I stood in their way so they knifed me, then I started fighting, they stabbed me again, my buddies came in, I got stabbed four more times, we got the girls out and that was history."
"There were also bullet wounds," Mrs. Vaughn prompted.
"Yes, and most of those are classified." Riley said carefully after a moment.
"You sound just like Gabriel," Mrs. Vaughn smiled sadly, shaking her head. Riley stifled a massive yawn. "You should get some rest, young lady."
"I'm alright, Mrs. Vaughn." Riley replied.
"That wasn't a question, Ms. Neal."
Riley hated being called Ms. Neal. "Gabriel, could you show her to your room?"
Gabriel complied. "Come on, Riley."
"Are you sure? I can sleep somewhere else," Riley objected, standing up.
"Ms. Neal, you are going to go to sleep now, and I think it's a good idea for him to be able to keep an eye on you given your condition. Anyway, it's probably not the first time you've shared a room."
Riley froze. It took her a few moments to s what had just been said. "Oh, no, no, no, no, no, Gabriel and I aren't... we aren't... no, we're just partners... like work partners..." Riley tripped over both her tongue and feet in her frenzy to correct Mrs. Vaughn's interpretation of the word 'partner'. She stumbled and was about to hit the wall when Gabriel caught her by her waist.
"You should try to stay off of the ground. You just got shot, for crying out loud." Gabriel teased again.
"I'll be up in a minute to make sure you're all settled." Mrs. Vaughn said. Riley sighed; she could feel that she wasn't going to win this debate.
"Thank you, Mrs. Vaughn." Riley said warmly, still quite flushed. Gabriel put a supporting hand on Riley's back and carefully helped her up the stairs. Gabriel lead his partner up two flights of stairs, into an upstairs apartment, and through to a bedroom with two twin beds. "Thanks, Gabriel." Riley said shyly, looking down to the dark carpet.
"Why are you thanking me?"
"That's the fourth or fifth time you've saved me since December." Riley pointed out. They were both quiet for a moment. "Your mom's quite the character, isn't she?"
Gabriel laughed, agreeing, "Yes she is. You just wait, she'll be driving you crazy by the time we leave. She really likes you, you know?"
"What makes you say that?"
"She doesn't ask personal questions unless she does. And she's coming to make sure that 'you're all settled'. She never did that with Amelia." His voice trailed off, but his face remained passive so Riley couldn't read him.
"What are you thinking about?" Riley asked quietly, her voice barely above a whisper as she brushed her fingertips against Gabriel's arm.
"It's just nice to know that my mom really likes you. She never really warmed up entirely to Amelia and then she already thinks we're together, sweetheart." He smirked. Riley laughed, but instantly covered her side with her arm. Gabriel's arm shot out and covered his "girl's" hand with his. "Are you alright?" He asked. Riley straightened herself and ran her fingers through her hair.
"I'm fine, honest."
"Young lady, you are far from fine." Mrs. Vaughn bickered from the doorway. The two agents jumped and spun around, both with their hands on their holsters. Riley froze.
"Gabriel, there's my gun?" She asked, feeling her empty holster and looking uneasily up to her friend. Gabriel thought for a minute the remembered,
"Don't worry, I'll go get it." He reassured, pacing out of the room.
"Good," Mrs. Vaughn nodded. "That gives me time to redo your bandages. Lay still, girl," The old lady pulled some medical supplies out of a dresser drawer. Riley stiffly sat down on the bed and undid a few buttons. Mrs. Vaughn turned back around with an arm full of bandages and scolded, "I told you to lie down,"
Riley dropped painfully acknowledge onto her elbows before lowering herself fully onto her back. She wasn't very comfortable lying helplessly while someone fixed her up. Just as Mrs. Vaughn began removing the old bandage, Riley heard something on the stairs. She jolted onto her feet out of reflex, simultaneously tearing some stiches in the process. She sat back down on the bed and allowed Mrs. Vaughn to scold her for tearing her stitches. Riley was able to mostly ignore the pain, but it was impossible to when she was moving to lie down. Gabriel walked into the room and handed Riley her gun. She sighed and took a firm grip on the handle before slipping it into the holster. "Gabriel, will you help your girl lie down?" Mrs. Vaughn asked, exasperated as Riley's wound began to bleed again. Gabriel went and stood next to his partner, placing one hand firmly on her stomach and the other in the middle of her back. Riley went completely ridged. Gabriel chuckled as he lowered Riley onto her back.
"Relax, Partner. I'm not gonna hurt you."
Riley tried to relax a bit, but she didn't like having to have so much help and being so dependent. She especially hated looking this weak in front of her partner, her protectee. How could she keep him safe like this? She shut her eyes for a moment, but pain from the wound snapped her eyes back open. Gabriel noticed. "How're you holding up, Riles?"
"I'm fine," Riley replied tersely, not noticing his nickname. No one spoke again for the rest of the time Mrs. Vaughn was sewing and bandaging Riley.
"Are you two going to tell me what's going on now?" Mrs. Vaughn asked. Gabriel helped Riley sit up then went to sit on his own bed.
"I'm being accused of a crime I didn't commit. They think I killed three men." He said after a minute of figuring how to phrase it.
"And did you?"
"No," Gabriel replied forcefully.
"And where does she come into this?" Mrs. Vaughn asked, nodding at Riley.
"She..." Gabriel wasn't sure what to say, so Riley jumped in.
"I was assigned as Gabriel's partner. My job is to protect him, and that's why I'm here."
"Does he make it easy?"
Riley bit her lip and looked teasingly over at Gabriel. "Lord, no." She laughed. "Within the first five minutes of meeting me, he was trying to get rid of me."
"Gabriel," the mother scolded.
"What? The other bodyguards they tried to assign me couldn't even last half an hour with me."
"Naw, you just didn't want someone protecting you." Riley teased. Mrs. Vaughn made her way to the door.
"Make sure your girl gets some sleep, Gabriel." Mrs Vaughn called from the stairs. Riley stood and pulled down the top sheet of her bed and crawled in, still sitting up. Gabriel came over picked her up like a baby and laid her down, pulling the covers up and over her. Riley snuggled into her pillow and shut her eyes, exhausted. Gabriel pulled the sheets down on his bed and turned off the light as he left for the bathroom to change into better sleeping clothes. When he got back, the beautiful agent was tucked into tight ball, her forehead slightly furrowed. Still, it was the most peaceful Gabriel had ever seen her. It was nice. Without thinking, Gabriel stood in front of her and brushed a strand of hair out of her face. Riley's eyes flickered open and found Gabriel's. "What's up?" Her voice was thick and slurred from sleep. Gabriel just smiled slightly and crawled into his own bed as Riley burrowed back into the mattress. They were both out like lights.