Disclaimer: Not my characters.
A/N: We're pretty much heading into AU territory here. And this is my twist on why Kilmer and Frankie split up.
All things from eternity are of like forms and come round in a circle. – Marcus Aurelius
chapter one: the hopes and fears
Frankie wondered how she was ever going to come out of this with her sanity intact. She hated the inactivity, hated feeling so weak and helpless. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if Nurse Hatcher wasn't so strict with visiting hours, she thought. Nurse Ratchet, as Kilmer had taken to calling her, had told him she didn't care whom he worked for. "Go ahead and get your executive order," she'd said to Kilmer. "This is my ward and you will abide by my rules."
Frankie smiled. At least she was out of ICU. That had to count for something. And Kilmer had pulled enough strings to get a private room.
She switched the television on, needing the noise. The silence made her think about how quiet it had been in that cellar – and how dark. If she'd disliked the dark before, she hated it now. At night, she left the lamp on while she slept. She knew the fear was irrational but that didn't make it any less real.
The door opened. Kilmer slipped inside, quickly closing it behind him. "I got in without Nurse Ratchet seeing me," he said.
Frankie laughed. "I guess your years of training are finally coming in handy."
"I always knew I-Spy 101 was going to be useful one day." Kilmer crossed to her side. His lips brushed her cheek. "Hi."
He handed her the teddy bear he was carrying. "This is from Holly."
"Aww, he's cute. Could you put him over there?" She pointed to a side table filled with flowers. "Those are from your mother, by the way. She wanted to know what I'd said about Christmas."
"Ah." Kilmer sat on the edge of the bed, taking Frankie's hands in his. "I was getting to that."
When Frankie was missing, Faye Kilmer had told her son to get his act together and make things right when he found her. She'd also invited both of them down to Miami for Christmas. Faye had told Frankie all this when Frankie called to thank her for the flowers, then complained about how useless her son was at following instructions.
"You know I adore your mother," Frankie said, "and I'd love to spend Christmas with her. But my doctor says there's no way he's letting me out of here for at least another month."
Kilmer twined his fingers through hers and said, decisively, "Then I'll tell her I can't make it either."
He put a finger to her lips to silence her. "She'll understand. Besides, if I show up without you, she'll have my head on a platter."
Frankie smiled. Since her rescue, Kilmer had been treating her with a tenderness that reminded her of when they'd first met. It was nice, but it scared her too. Trapped in that cellar, thoughts of him had kept her sane, and down there it was easy to imagine that there was a chance for them. Now that she was safe, the familiar fears and doubts were back.
She started coughing. Kilmer helped her sit up and slowly rubbed her back. She leaned her forehead on his shoulder and closed her eyes.
"Feel better?" Kilmer's touch was soothing, his voice low.
"How are your ribs?"
"Okay. A little sore." She'd cracked two of them at some point in her three days of captivity. She suggested it had happened when she'd fallen down the stairs but the doctor argued it was more likely that it was a result of coughing so much. Before now, Frankie'd had no idea you could break your ribs with a cough.
Kilmer held her as close as he dared, afraid to cause more pain. "I should have got to you sooner."
"You did your best."
He released her, then stood. Frankie knew something was wrong when he began to pace. "I didn't know you were gone until the Friday."
He turned to face her, his expression penitent. "Frankie—"
"You didn't know I was missing?" Her voice rose on the last word. All those hours she'd been praying for him to rescue her, he hadn't even known!
"I thought you—"
"I was down there for two days before you thought, 'Hey, Frankie hasn't been at work for a while, maybe I should check up on her'." She ignored the pain in her side. "Two days, John?"
Kilmer said nothing for a while. Then he took her hand but she pulled it away. He sighed. "I'm sorry. I wish I could undo what happened to you, but I can't."
Frankie felt strangely empty. "Fasil was right. He said no one would miss me."
"Frankie, that's not what happened. Look at me, please."
She couldn't. She thought she might just throw up.
"When you left work on Wednesday, I felt terrible about the fight. I left a message on your machine. I told you to take the rest of the week off. When you didn't come in on Thursday, I thought you were at home."
This time she didn't resist when Kilmer held her hand.
"Frankie, I'm so sorry I couldn't save you."
"You were all I saw down there, you know? You saved me again and again before you even found me."
"What are you saying?"
"I don't know. I – Nothing's clear anymore. I don't know." She blinked back tears. Refusing to let Kilmer see her cry, she hung her head forward. "I'm really tired."
He helped her lie back against the pillows. "I'll see you tomorrow."
When he was gone, she let the tears fall, feeling guilty for arguing with him, and relief that Fasil had been wrong. Though she had just sent Kilmer away, she wanted him back.
Nothing in her life made sense anymore.
Lieutenant Colonel Angeline O'Reilly was the only person at the Vault when Kilmer arrived. She'd been part of the team for just two weeks and had been the one to stop Kilmer from killing Fasil.
Kilmer wasn't sure how he felt about that. He wanted Fasil dead for what he'd done to Frankie, but he knew the terrorist had information they could use. Right now he was at Guantanamo Bay with his half-brother Hassan, who had also been part of Frankie's kidnapping.
Angel looked up from the computer when Kilmer walked in. "Hey, I thought you'd gone to see Frankie."
"I did." He sat down and picked up the nearest file.
"How is she?"
Angel swiveled the chair around she was facing him. "You know, you've got to give her time. Sadiq Fasil didn't just hurt her body."
"I know." Then, in a less gruff tone, he said, "I don't get you, O'Reilly. You're assigned to my team out of the blue, without my approval. I'm told your file is too confidential for even me to look at. And you spend most of your time analyzing my relationship with Frankie."
Angel just smiled. "I'm one of the good guys, I promise."
Kilmer studied her for a moment. "I thought you were going home."
"What are you working on?"
Her hesitation was so brief that Kilmer wondered if he'd imagined it. "I'm looking for anything that might tell us whether Fasil was working on his own or if it was under Black Sun's umbrella."
When Kilmer thought about the planned bombing of Bethesda it wasn't the president or the other faceless soldiers he pictured, it was Frankie blown to pieces over and over in his mind. Fortunately, he'd found her before Fasil could get that far.
"Hey, Kilmer, you still with me?"
"Uh, yeah. What have you found?"
"Nothing concrete so far. But I'm hopeful." She turned back to the screen. "Go home, Kilmer."
He smiled. "Since when do you get to order me around?"
"It just comes naturally."
Kilmer shook his head. "You should meet Nurse Ratchet. I'm sure you have a lot in common."
"You mean she's also immune to your charm?" Angel looked at him through lowered lashes. "Hard to imagine."
The coyness vanished in a heartbeat. "Good night, Kilmer."
Kilmer stood. Angel was right, he thought. Frankie just needed time. "Good night."