Elysium. Chapter One


She wasn't going to have much mobility in her leg. That's what the doctors had told her, but she had tuned them out, gazing out of the window to the city outside. The rain fell steadily, echoing her tears from the night before. How weak she had been, how unsteady, how foolish.

And yet . . . he had been there. By her side. All night long. They hadn't spoken, she functioning under the pretense of sleep, but she could smell his familiar after shave, sense his presence as soon as he walked into the room. First him, then Danny, then Vivian.

No Jack. She didn't think Jack would be showing up at all. Not any more.

Samantha Spade had always thought she was strong-- invincible, even. How things had changed, so quickly, so soon. All it took was a gun in her face, a bullet in her leg, the prospect of losing her own life. I could have lost so much, she thought. So much.

Martin had come right after Barry Mashburn had been arrested, and he looked tired and worn and haggard. She had peeked at him, peering out from underneath her eyelashes. He had fallen asleep in the chair by the bed, still in his work clothes. He looked so young in his sleep, so innocent. She wondered if he had been afraid for her when she was in the building.

When morning came, she shut her eyes to the dull morning light, not sunlight, just daylight. Martin wasn't in the room any more. She had surprised herself with thoughts about him. Things changed so quickly, just in that one night. Everything had come crashing down on her, giving her immense and total perspective. They had been so stupid, she and Jack. Their affair had almost cost them everything-- their careers, their dignities. And then there was Jack's marriage.

She couldn't pretend she didn't feel for him, didn't love him in her own way. But he had never been hers. He had always belonged to his wife, in heart if not in body. There wasn't much romance in whispers and glances. She had thought at first that there was, but Jack was a lonely man, and she was a lonely woman. She understood his pain and he helped her heal her own wounds.

She had turned down a lot of very good offers because she was sitting around waiting for a man who would never love her. And in one night, in the flash of gun powder, the pounding of shots in her ears, she realized that she didn't love him, either, not in the way she thought she did.

And Martin . . . She didn't know what to think any more. She blamed her fogginess on the meds, on the pain she still felt in her leg. He was her friend. He had made an offer once, asked her out, and she had asked him for a rain check. He hadn't asked again after that. She had been okay with that.

And then outside, right before they had put her into the ambulance, she had been unable to stop her tears, and Martin had looked at her with such tenderness, and he had put his hand on her forehead, so gentle, so caring. Was it unfair of her to want him to hold her? Had she really just been blind? Or ignoring what was so plainly right in front of her?

When she finally opened her eyes, prepared to face the world again, a world where people got shot, and people got divorced, and people died, and people lied under oath, and careers got ruined, she saw the two bouquets of flowers on the stand in front of her bed. One was from Danny, and the other was from Vivian. These were her friends, and they were her coworkers. Her life didn't allow for the two groups to be mutually exclusive.

Martin was gone. The chair where he had spent the night was empty, and she felt her heart sink-- inexplicably. I don't know how to deal with this, she thought. I don't know what this means. What had she expected? For him to spend the entire night? To wake to the sight of his boyishly handsome face? For him to smile at her and profess his undying love? The thought made her laugh.

Don't mistake gratitude for something else, she told herself, not knowing the meaning of her own thoughts.

After a while, the doctors came in and told her that she wouldn't be able to use her leg for a while, not fully, and they asked her if she wanted to stay in the hospital for a few more days. She shook her head vehemently and told them she was going home. They seemed to know better than to fight with her.

She called Danny, because she didn't know who else to call, and he came to help her, put her in the wheelchair, take her out to the cab, and make sure she got home all right. The surgery made her tired, so exhausted she could barely stand, and Danny helped her into bed, covered her up, and then he left her to her own sleep.


Devon Hilshire. Missing: Four hours.

After her six-day paid vacation, Samantha Spade returned to work, refreshed and feeling good. 'Limited mobility' was not going to be something to keep her from doing her job. She was Special Agent Samantha Spade-- and she was going to help people. The hospital gave her a cane and painkillers, and she got in the elevator to head up to the office, feeling a little shaky. There was a nervous, tight feeling in the pit of her stomach. She hadn't seen them-- except for Danny-- for a week; Jack had never called, and Martin never came back.

The latter worried her. Her relationship with Jack was over, dead, finito. She knew that now. She had buried all of it, put it in a safe place. He had risked his life for her, but she felt positive he would have done the same for any other member of the team.

Be cool, Sam, she told herself as the elevator binged to a halt. There was the obligatory pause before the doors whisked open, and she steadied herself. She was . . . nervous, she realized-- nervous about seeing Martin. The thought of him made her antsy, and not in a bad way. She felt like she was in high school again, and her hands started to shake.

You are so silly, her brain hissed at her. You're a grown woman. Hell, you've even had an affair with your boss. This is no problem. Remember-- you had a bullet in your leg only a week ago.

How things changed.

She stepped out of the elevator and walked assuredly into the offices of the Missing Persons Unit of the FBI. She was a professional, and she was here to do her job. Nothing, not her own burgeoning feelings for her coworker was going to change that.

"Sam," she heard, and she recognized the flat-accented voice of Special Agent Jack Malone. She froze, but only for a second. She put on her smile and turned to look at him, pivoting on her cane. She tried to ignore the pain in her leg, supporting herself on the piece of wood the hospital had given her. "I didn't realize you'd be coming back so soon," he said to her, and he smiled a thin-lipped smile at her.

"Well, I have a job to do," she told him, smiling.

"And you're feeling okay? You're up to it?"

"Just as long as I'm not the go-to girl for another money pick-up situation, I'm good to go," she joked, hoping that as long as she stayed positive about the situation, everyone else would, too.

"Okay, good," he replied, watching her carefully, those scrutinizing brown eyes focused on her, alert, ready for her every sign, her every move. She wasn't going to give him any clues, not any more.

"Let's go. We got anything?" she asked him, and he led her into the main area of the office, with its familiar brown table, the individual desks and cubicle-like structures, the ever-present dry-erase boards.

"Devon Hilshire," Jack said, immediately slipping from concerned friend and ex-lover into professional team leader. "Missing: four hours."

"What happened?" Sam asked, grabbing a chair and sliding into it, trying not to grimace as the pain hit her leg.

"Sam--" Jack started, and she tried to cut him off with a look, but he was having none of it. "If you're not up to this, I'm sure we can arrange for some more paid leave."

"I'm fine," she assured him. "I'm fine," she repeated. That was her mantra; the more she told herself that, the more she hoped she could believe it. Sometimes she dreamt about it, saw the bullet flying in slow- motion towards her. How lucky she had been. But she could have done something, she felt sure.

"Okay," Jack replied, but he sounded unconvinced. She didn't blame him. "Here's what's going on."


Devon Hilshire Missing: Five hours.

She stared at the face of the young woman whose picture had been tacked onto the dry-erase board. Jack had stuck her on phone duty, information retrieval. Seated at her desk, she could stare at the woman's picture, trying to memorize everything about her, understand her, get inside her head. It was all she could do, sitting at a desk. Jack had gone with Danny to visit Devon's boyfriend, and Martin and Vivian were still at the subway stop where Devon had last been seen.

She had been glad for that. She didn't know if she could handle seeing Martin right away. She had to ease into it. She could almost smell him in the office, his after shave. It was comforting. It reminded her of her injury, of his telling her she had done well. College girl, he had called her. He had smiled at her.

That smile. She found herself thinking about him, unable to stop it. Shaking hands had opened the bottle of pills, and equally shaking hands had delivered her pain relievers into her mouth. She hadn't expected the pain to be so great.

"Hey, college girl," she heard, and at first, she thought she had imagined it. She brushed it aside, and then she realized that he was standing there at the end of the table, watching her. There was a flutter in her chest, a burning in her stomach. It had been a long time since she had felt that way-- about anyone.

"Hi," she replied, smiling at him. She couldn't help the smile that spread across her face like a disease. For a minute, he didn't say anything, just stood there and looked at her. She didn't even know what to say to him, and there was an awkwardness in the air, laden with the unsaid.

What, Sam? her brain demanded. Are you going to tell him you have feelings for him? What then? What if he just says, 'too little, too late'?

Oh, shut up, she told her brain.

She started to stand up, in some way to demonstrate that she was strong, that she could do it, that she had survived the gun shot, survived the whole event, and that she was stronger for it. She was wrong. Her leg screamed out in pain, and she stumbled, grabbing for the table. Martin was there immediately, supporting her, holding her. She felt his arms around her, strong, steady, stable. And then she could smell his aftershave.

He didn't let go of her, even when she half-tried to push him away. He looked at her, his eyes slightly cloudy, his face hazy with concern. "Samantha," he said to her, his voice slightly hoarse. "You shouldn't be here," he told her, and she shook her head, trying to smile.

"I just stumbled a little. It happens to everyone," she tried to explain.

"You're in pain."

"I just took my pills; it'll be okay."

He still held her, one arm on the small of her back, the other supporting her left arm. She marveled, allowing herself to think about the implications for the future, at how comfortable she was in his arms, how well they fit together.

Too little, too late, her brain whined.

"You look pale," he said to her, and he pressed the back of his hand to her forehead.

"I'm fine," she protested again. "Fine." She pulled out of his arms and grabbed for her cane, and once she caught a hold of it, she put all of her weight on it. It had become her lifeline, her security blanket. That's what Jack had been once-- her security blanket. He couldn't be that any more. Once, she had been safe from hurt, because she just kept telling herself that she was involved with Jack. Now that she didn't have that any more, she was on her own, naked to the world.

"Come on," she said. "We have a missing woman to find."

To be continued . . .