Angsty trash. Apparently I am incapable of writing a fic in which Henry is healthy. C'est la vie.
Many, many, many thanks to Sage (Broadwayfreak5357) for her gracious editing and general awesomeness.
Disclaimer: If I owned Madam Secretary they would have had this conversation at the end of last season. But I don't. Here we are.
Minor details: I am a veterinarian, and as such, I know just enough about human medicine to be truly dangerous. Feel free to pick at any of my vetty terminology that I have misused on poor Henry in this story. Lord knows I hate it when it happens with veterinary medicine *cough still salty about Ghost Detainee cough*. Also, I made up an entirely unrealistic protocol for injured operatives. And a diplomatic security agent. Agent Yates. He's cool.
Henry McCord's heart was racing as he sped away from the wooded area where he had nearly just been killed. He couldn't feel the pain in his legs—yet—but he knew it was coming. He had to find a place to pull over and get ahead of the situation. His brain was going a mile a minute as he tried his best to drive without going off the road.
He couldn't help but let his focus slip from one invading thought to the next even as he tried to concentrate on driving. Ian must be dead. Mo needs to be brought up to speed. How will I explain this to—he couldn't go there now; it would definitely be too much of a distraction to think of his wife right at this moment. Shit.
Logically, Henry knew the moisture saturating his socks was his own blood, but he was strangely removed from the actual feeling. He was in shock. He tried to press the gas pedal down further as he scanned his surroundings for a safe place to stop.
He was unsure of how much time had elapsed since the shooting occurred—it could have been one minute or ten—but after what seemed like forever, he finally came upon a building lit in the darkness. He slowed the Jeep and hung a right, allowing the irony to pass over him that he had just found refuge in the parking lot of an old, stone walled church.
His hand was shaking as he reached for his cell. He was smearing something all over the screen, making it more difficult to read with each swipe and tap. Blood. Shit.
After two rings a voice answered. "This is Agent Alwash."
"Mo, it was an ambush," Henry said, surprised to find that his voice was shaky, too.
"Henry? How bad?" Mo asked hurriedly.
"I was shot. My legs. I made it out but I need help, I need—fuck."
"Dammit, okay, have you called anyone else? An ambulance?" Mo sounded more stressed than Henry had ever heard him.
"No, I wasn't sure of protocol," Henry admitted.
"Okay, that's good Henry. I've got your car's GPS coordinates, I'm sending our guys to you."
Henry grimaced. "Um, I'm pretty sure I need a hospital, Mo."
"They're EMT's, Henry, we'll get you there. The company has a system in place," Mo explained.
Henry leaned his head back against the headrest and let out a breath. He could hear his pulse rushing in his ears, and any time he pulled the phone away from his ear it shook with the familiar tremor of adrenaline.
"Henry? You still with me, pal?" Mo pulled his mind back into focus.
"Yeah, Mo, still here."
Mo made an audible sigh of relief on the other end of the line. "Okay, they'll be there in fifteen, can you hold on for that long?"
Henry chuckled dryly. As if he had any other option. "Yeah, thanks."
There wasn't a response from the agent, but Mo didn't hang up, either. Henry appreciated the gesture. He placed the phone on speaker mode and set it down on the middle console, and then tried his best to keep calm.
Now that his brain didn't have to focus on driving or relaying information, it automatically went to her. He knew he needed to call her, to let her know what had just transpired and that he was going to be all right.
A small voice in the back of his head reminded him, though, that without any medical evaluation to confirm that he had indeed been spared a life-ending injury, he couldn't be sure whether or not he was actually okay. He knew guys in Desert Storm that had been certain they were fine even as the life drained out of them from a bullet wound. He couldn't be sure he hadn't been hit in the abdomen, and he couldn't see exactly where the blood was coming from—and he was not about to turn on his overhead light and potentially draw any unwanted attention.
He sent up a silent prayer for survival, but he knew that regardless of the outcome, Elizabeth needed to know.
"Hey, Mo," he said.
Henry heard a rustling as Mo came back to his phone. "Yeah Henry, how you doing?"
"I'm hanging in there. Do you know which hospital they're taking me to?" he asked.
There was a pause before Mo answered. "Walter Reed."
"Okay, I'm gonna hang up with you and call my wife's security team, let them know where to find me."
"Has she been—"
"She's been read-in, yeah," Henry interjected.
"Okay, our guys should be there by the time you get off the phone but if you need anything, you give me a call back. Okay buddy?"
He wasn't sure if Mo's sudden informality was cause for relief or concern at the moment. "Yeah, thanks, man."
It took Henry longer than usual to dial the number he needed, and giving his identification number and answering his security questions were more than trying as he felt his left leg start to twinge. The buzzing in his head was getting harder to ignore when he heard the transfer go through to his wife's head of security.
"Matt? It's Henry," he said.
"Dr. McCord, is everything okay?" Matt asked, on high alert already. It wasn't every day that Henry reached out to him directly.
He explained the situation to Matt as best he could. According to Matt, Elizabeth was in her last meeting of the night, which was supposed to be winding down in the next thirty minutes. Rightly or wrongly, Henry made a decision, and instructed him to wait until she was out of the meeting before letting her know.
"They're taking me to Walter Reed, so by the time you guys get there I should be admitted. And Matt, I'm not completely sure what the extent of my injuries are. I think it's just my leg…or maybe legs. Try and keep her calm and just—" Henry could feel the gravity of the situation start to sink in as he struggled to get through what he knew he needed to say.
He tried again. "Tell her I love her for me, will you Matt?" he asked. He could feel a tear slide down his cheek.
"Yes, sir. We'll take good care of her. You just make sure you're able to tell her yourself."
The ambulance looked like an ambulance, for all intents and purposes. It had the usual markings, lights, and sirens. The EMT's had placed an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth first, and then set to work hooking him up to an ECG, pulse oximeter, and noninvasive blood pressure monitor. After that, however, the similarities ended. As the medics removed his shoes and cut into his socks and jeans, they asked him for a recounting of the events that had taken place.
Henry relayed what little he could remember: he thought he had seen two men, he'd heard what had to have been at least thirty shots from what had sounded like a semi-automatic weapon, though maybe there had been two guns? They had definitely ambushed him from the northwest. The agent waited patiently as Henry tried to pull what he remembered from all the chaos.
While one agent asked questions, the other set to work assessing Henry's injuries.
"We have two primary wounds, both appear to be bullet wounds. Remaining lacerations look like they were secondary from debris," the agent said aloud.
Henry could hear someone yell from the front seat. "Any evidence of bullet fragments?"
"Not here," the agent answered. "The right proximal tarsus has a through and through, and my best guess is the knee was a ricochet, it looks like most of the damage was contained to the patella, no risk to the femoral artery."
The man up front spoke again. "Have them search the car for the bullets, we're clean here," he said.
A two-way radio answered back. "Affirmative."
"Dr. McCord?" Henry's focus shifted back to the agent assessing him.
"Hmm?" he mumbled. He was tired of talking.
"Did you sustain any head injuries that you can recall?" The agent pulled a penlight from his front shirt pocket.
"I hit my head on the gear shift, but I don't think it was hard." Henry's hand rose to touch just above his left eyebrow.
"Okay, Dr. McCord, that's good." The light hit his eyes and he reflexively turned his head away.
When the spots cleared from his vision, he caught a glimpse of the emergency entrance to Walter Reed through the front windshield.
Elizabeth McCord was finally done with her last meeting of the day. The staff meeting had been one of the more inane ones in her time as Secretary of State, and had involved a pompous general, erectile dysfunction, and an ambassador who had the misfortune of having a last name that seemed to tie it all together. It had been a day full of dicks, to put it bluntly.
She marched tiredly from the conference room to her office and sat down in her chair with a sigh. Throwing her glasses down onto her desk, she pinched the bridge of her nose. She had just closed her eyes when she heard her door open unexpectedly.
"Secretary McCord," Agent Matt said as he walked in through the front entrance of her office, closing the door behind him.
"Hey Matt, are you here to talk to me about securing the stadium for Alison's graduation?" she asked as she began to take off her blazer, a small gesture she liked because it signaled the end of a meeting. "It's still a few months away, you know."
"No ma'am, it's about Dr. McCord, I need you to come with—" he tried to talk fast but he still wasn't able to complete his thought.
"What happened? Matt? What's wrong?" She was already pulling her blazer back on as she walked over to where he stood.
"He called to let me know that he sustained an injury at work and he wants us to meet him at Walter Reed Hospital," Matt said, trying to be as vague as possible, but to no avail. Sometimes he really hated that the Secretary was ex-CIA.
"Injured how?" She waited five seconds before repeating the question, which now sounded like more of a demand. "Injured how, Matt?"
"He was shot, ma'am. He said he thinks he's okay, maybe—"
"He thinks he's okay?" She was standing toe-to-toe with him now, and Matt broke protocol briefly to place both of his hands on her shoulders.
"He was shot in the leg. I have the motorcade ready for you." He knew that saying anything else to try and calm her down was useless at this point.
He watched as Secretary McCord's hand covered her mouth and she tried to process the information. Walking briskly over to her desk, he grabbed her bags and her glasses from on top of her desk. He walked back over to where she stood and gently placed his hand on her back, applying a little pressure to get her moving forward.
She seemed to come back to herself at that point, and took off toward the door with Matt following close behind.
It was two in the morning by the time Henry was discharged, and in the hours following Elizabeth's arrival there had been a tense silence between them.
They had thought, hoped, that the ultimatums were behind them. Something that Past Henry and Past Elizabeth had struggled with that had no place in the present. Neither of them expected to be back in this place so quickly after the events that had unfolded last year. Events like dirty bombs and compromised assets that had turned warm touches into cold silence, and had threatened to drive a permanent wedge into their relationship. They had returned to their circle of two since then, but it was clear now that they had simply been confusing a lull in their lives with the naïve thought that they had actually fixed the problem.
Henry was tired, and he was sick of the silence that sat thick in the air like a fog. Before he could stop it, an attempt at levity left his mouth. "Hey babe, it's a good thing I have something to sit and tinker with at home. I have a feeling I'm going to be doing a lot of sitting over the coming weeks."
Like a clap of thunder, Elizabeth's head snapped around from where she had been staring out the car window. "That's not funny. I can't believe you keep trying to turn this into a joke."
"I—" Henry sighed. "I know it's not a joke, I just—"
"You think you can just keep laughing it off, this martyr complex you have about putting yourself in danger—"
"Hey!" His voice held a warning in it. He rubbed his hands over his face in frustration. "Can we not do this here?"
Elizabeth scoffed. "Well, where can we do this then? Certainly not at home with the kids thinking you were in a car wreck. I can't keep this bottled up anymore, Henry."
"I didn't know you were bottling anything up! I thought we were on the same page about this," he said sharply, gesturing his hand in the space between the two of them.
Elizabeth threw her hands up in return, clearly exasperated. "Every time I think we might be, you run back into a bombed out building. Or you leave an embassy in the middle of a nuclear disaster after you swore to me that you wouldn't. Or you try to bring in a compromised agent by yourself."
"That's not fair," he said. He could feel his anger growing.
Elizabeth's voice rose as she challenged her husband on his statement. "Don't talk to me about fair. How come it's not fair for me to point out all the stupid crap you've done in the past year but it's completely fair for you to put me through the very real possibility of losing you every few months!"
Henry knew they were at a delicate point in the argument where they should both calm down before proceeding. But he was exhausted. And sore. And he lacked the strength to stop the words from leaving his mouth. "That's rich coming from a woman who almost got herself killed during a military coup in Iran."
The silence that followed was practically suffocating. There were tears in both their eyes, and both Elizabeth and Henry were breathing heavily as they glared at one another.
Neither one of them noticed that Matt was circling the block now, an unspoken attempt to give them enough time and privacy to get the yelling out of their system before they had to face their children.
"Look, Elizabeth, if I hadn't taken this assignment, you would never have been read-in, and then we would never have been able to put together that we're looking for the same supplier." Henry turned to stare out the window, avoiding the tearful gaze of his wife that would surely haunt him in his sleep tonight. "What we pieced together in the hospital, that could have taken months to figure out otherwise. The number of lives we could save, doesn't that mean something?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "I don't care." Her tears were flowing freely now. "Don't you get it? Henry, I may be a terrible Secretary of State for saying this, but I don't care about any of it if this is the price. I can't be here if you're not. I can't live if…." She couldn't even finish the thought.
Henry turned back to see her bend over her knees and put her head in her hands. He was so tired of breaking her heart. How did they keep ending up here? He wasn't sure it was a question he could answer right now. He felt like his chest was in a vice, and it had nothing to do with the shooting.
They were hurting each other. Maybe not willingly…definitely not willingly, but it was happening. And there was no way—with emotions running so high immediately after the most recent crisis—that they were going to fix it tonight. They were both still reeling from the event, and from the disappointment that they were having this argument again. No, this was going to take all of their resources to figure out, and more importantly, it was going to take them working as a team.
The realization that they wouldn't come to a solution tonight was actually a helpful one for Henry. It allowed him to separate the pain of their argument, and his misplaced feeling of righteousness over what he was doing, from the most basic truth he knew: this was his best friend, the woman he had promised the world to. Her lashing out at him could only mean one thing. He had just scared her to her core.
Gritting his teeth in anticipation of the pain he was about to feel, he unbuckled his seatbelt and pushed his hands flat against the seat, lifting his torso up by his arms and using his upper body strength to scoot himself over to where she was. His hip bumped up against hers and he draped his arms around her torso. She was still bent over her knees, crying quietly into her hands, but he felt her body start to shake with sobs as she reacted to the kindness of his touch.
"I know, baby, I know," he soothed. Henry tightened his hold on Elizabeth in an effort to reassure her that he was finally getting it. "It's okay. We're gonna be okay," he added, as much for himself as for her. He needed them to be all right.
He felt her shift and let go of her as she sat up and wiped her eyes with her hands. It looked at first like she was done crying, but the months and months of tension that were coming to the surface refused to let go. Elizabeth looked up at him almost desperately.
"I can't lose you, Henry. When I lost my parents I thought it was the most painful thing I would ever experience, but now, with you…" she trailed off again as the thought overwhelmed her and her breathing quickened.
Henry could see her control slipping as a fresh wave of sobs overcame her, and he pulled her back into a hug. She clung to him as she hiccupped and tried to catch her breath in between sobs. It was at that moment that Henry truly began to comprehend how much she had been carrying on her shoulders.
"I'm so sorry, Elizabeth. I never want to leave you. I'm so sorry I scared you."
He rubbed her back slowly as she cried for everything she had almost lost. They sat like that together until her tears eventually slowed. They both felt completely drained of energy. Henry slowly pulled back and tipped Elizabeth's chin up with his finger. Her eyes were swollen but they met his with determination.
"Please tell me we'll figure this out. I need to hear it from you," she said softly.
His thumb began to stroke her cheek gently. "We will figure it out. I promise you."
"I'm sorry about your asset," she said. She was extending an olive branch and Henry knew it.
"Thank you. I'm sorry for scaring you."
"I love you," she whispered.
He wasn't going to give her any time to doubt his answer. "I love you too," he said assuredly, giving her lips a small peck that she eagerly returned.
They both looked up as they heard the engine die in the SUV. Sure enough, they were sitting in front of their house. Neither one of them could recall when the car had stopped moving.
Henry looked up as he remembered the two agents in the car with them. "Matt, I'm sorry for—"
"It's not your fault we hit traffic, Dr. McCord. I can't believe how bad the backup was on Wisconsin Avenue," Matt responded with complete seriousness.
Henry looked around, confused. The clock on the dashboard read 3:15am; there weren't enough cars on the road at this hour to cause a slowdown.
"We were really focused on getting you home safely after the day you've both had, so we didn't happen to catch what you were talking about back there," Agent Yates added.
"Thank you," Elizabeth said with a small smile.
Henry's brain finally caught on to what they were implying, and he smiled in gratitude at the agents' gesture and respect for their privacy.
With that, the agents left the car and the doors on either side of Henry and Elizabeth opened. Henry looked suddenly unsure as he remembered that he couldn't simply get out of the car unassisted.
"Wait here, Dr. McCord," Matt said as Agent Yates went around back to grab the wheelchair out of the trunk.
It took some maneuvering to get Henry inside and situated. The day's events had drained him to the point where the night had begun to blur. Before he knew it, Henry was sitting on the pull out couch watching Elizabeth fuss around him. She had obviously just come from the linen closet, with two pillows and an extra blanket in her arms. She stretched the blanket out over the bed and then placed one of the pillows behind his back. She then climbed into the bed next to him and pulled the covers over them both.
Elizabeth turned onto her side to face her husband. "You ready to put this day behind you?" she asked quietly.
Henry closed his eyes and answered with a gentle, "Mmm."
He stretched his arm out in an invitation, a silent language the two of them shared. Elizabeth positioned her head in the crook of his shoulder, but realized as she drew herself closer to him that she didn't want to jostle his legs. She pushed her backside away from his hips, keeping her head on his chest and laying diagonally across the remainder of the bed.
Henry chuckled as he drifted off to sleep. Morning would be here before long, and with it would come the pain, and the secrets, and the heartache of big decisions between the two of them. But for now, Henry felt nothing but grateful. It was good to be alive.