"Hello, Emily, Matt," Betty greeted cheerfully, stepping into Matt's room, where Emily continued to take residence.
"Hi Betty, how are you?" Emily smiled at the nurse who'd been so nice to them.
"I'm just fine, and it seems that so are you. The doctor just filled out these discharge papers, said your exam this morning was very good."
"That's great news," Matt smiled, his voice nearly at it's full strength after days of talking as little as possible.
"Yeah, I can't believe it's already February. We left LA in early January." It was almost unimaginable to think that they'd been gone that long.
"Amazing thing time is, sometimes is goes so slow you feel like your standing still, and other times it goes so fast, it feels like you've missed it completely." Betty commented, busy scribbling something on Matt's chart, before grabbing a small bag and resetting the IV.
"Hey Betty, do you have paperwork to transfer me to another hospital?" Matt asked her.
"Yep, I'll grab it right now. Don't want to be away from her for a second, do you?" She winked at him, and scurried out.
"So, there was something I wanted to talk to you about," Matt began nervously. He'd decided on this before they were shot, but with the revolving door of people visiting, he hadn't gotten a chance until now.
"Oh? What's that?" She looked at him curiously, he sounded nervous and that made her nervous.
"Hey." Cheryl suddenly greeted from the doorway.
"Hey, we've got good news, the doctors decided to release Emily." Matt was more thrilled about that than anybody, it meant that she was really alright, a distinct relief for him.
"That's great. Are you coming back to LA?"
"Yeah, Betty's actually getting us the paperwork to transfer Matt."
"More good news," Cheryl smiled, wondering how to breach the topic she'd come to discuss.
"How's LA?" Matt sensed that she needed to talk about something.
"I had a conversation with my bosses yesterday, that involves you both. It's a miracle that the nature of your relationship didn't get out to the press, and had it, things probably wouldn't have gone as well as they did." She paused, allowing the information to sink in.
Matt and Emily simply watched, allowing her to speak.
"So they feel it would be best for the Bureau if either your relationship or partnership ended. Frankly, I agree. You came so close to losing everything, and I don't want to risk this happening again. If you aren't involved or aren't partners, you'll be protected from the accusations that flew the last few weeks."
Their expressions had become somewhat alarmed during her speech, but were now more pensive than anything else.
"So you're saying either we break-up or you reassign us?" Matt asked, giving Emily's hand a little squeeze as he spoke.
"Yes. As much as I'd like you together in a team, and as much as the higher-ups would like to pretend this relationship never happen, this isn't my decision and it isn't theirs. I need to know what you want to do as soon as you figure it out." She felt bad dropping this on them, but it was really best this way. This had been too close.
Matt and Emily didn't say anything, just looked at each other, having a conversation with their eyes alone. Emily broke contact first, turning to Cheryl.
"We'll let you know."
"Great, and I'm sorry to put a damper on things," she told them apologetically.
"Don't worry about it," Emily smiled, assuring her that their were no hard feelings.
"Alright then, I'm off back to LA. Let me know if you need anything."
"Thanks," the couple chorused, as she walked out the door.
"So, that wasn't entirely unexpected I suppose," Emily offered with a shrug.
"No, it wasn't…" Matt trailed off, lost in thought.
"So you mentioned you wanted to talk to me about something before Cheryl came in?" Emily was happy to dodge the topic, the two side of her terribly conflicted.
"Yeah, actually it's kind of related to what she just told us." His nervous tone was back, and she could feel his hands become slick with perspiration in her own.
"Oh yeah? Then maybe her timing wasn't so bad."
"Maybe not. I wanted, I want to-" he began, only to be cut off by three more visitors at his door.
"Hello, we aren't interrupting something are we?" Grace, Ben, and John Lehman were all gathered just outside the door, looking more nervous than Matt.
"Hi Mom, Dad, John. Of course you aren't, come in."
Matt looked at Emily alarmed, he was not ready to meet her parents, especially not in a hospital room.
She squeezed his hand. "Matt these are my parents, Ben and Grace, and my brother John. Everybody, this is Matt Flannery, my partner and boyfriend."
"Nice to meet you Matt." Grace Lehman smiled, approaching the bed and grasping his hand.
"You two ma'am. I wish it was under different circumstances."
"Matt, good to see you back with us." Ben took his hand in a firm shake.
"It's good to be back, sir." Matt nodded, swallowing his nerves.
"Matt." John didn't offer much more than a shake. He still wasn't happy with who his baby sister was dating, but seem to decide to just suck it up.
"Good to meet you."
The room became very quiet as the Lehman's sized up Emily's choice of boyfriend, and Matt tried to get a read on the people he'd be playing nice with.
"So good news," Emily broke the silence, "I'm being discharged, and we're having Matt transferred to LA. We're coming home."
"That's wonderful, when will you be back?" Her mother beamed.
"Hopefully sometime tomorrow. We need to arrange a hospital for Matt to be transferred to."
"Don't do LA General, I don't trust those government funded jobs. Doctors are overworked, supplies is short, and all the loonies and homeless go to them."
"We'll remember that dad." She resisted rolling her eyes at his assessment.
"So, has the Bureau cleared you yet?" John asked, still studying Matt.
"Yes, they formally cleared us yesterday. When we're cleared medically we get to go back in the field."
"That's good. Will you still be working together?" Grace tried to sound happy for her daughter, but it was a struggle for her to pretend she didn't want her to quit her job.
Matt and Emily looked at each other, both wanting to shake their heads, but neither sure what the other was thinking enough to actually provide that answer. They looked back at their visitors, and Matt answered, "we're not sure yet."
"Oh…" She could sense this was a topic they hadn't really discussed between each other yet, and decided to move on. "So, your sister finally set a date. May 17th, and she says she wants to have an outdoor wedding, in a garden or park."
"She told me, I told her we'd go dress shopping next week." It figures Abby would give herself only three months to plan her wedding. It would force them to keep it simple.
"Of course I told her that we'd need more time to plan, but you know Abby…" For the next hour they discussed the impending wedding, until the three men in the room started getting bored. Emily was losing her steam too, so they said goodbyes, and once again Matt and Emily were once again left by themselves.
"I'm afraid if I try to talk about this again we'll have more visitors." Matt ran a hand through his hair.
"Well, try to get it out fast then." Emily looked at him helplessly.
"Alright, like I was saying before we…uh, ended up here, I was, uh, thinking…" he struggled nervously, while Emily tried to keep an amused smile from her face.
"We should move in together," he suddenly blurted out.
She started, not expecting what he just said.
"We spend just about every night together, and paying two rents just seems ridiculous. So, I was thinking, I have some things I can get rid of, and we could move your stuff in, you know for monetary purposes…" His rambling justifications trailed off as he waited nervously for her to say something.
She grinned, "Yes, I'd like that." She paused, putting on a fake-serious tone, "for monetary purposes of course."
"Well, that's a given," Matt agreed, grinning back at her, mocking his own nervous ramblings.
She leaned in and kissed him, deeply and slowly, each relishing in the feel of the other. Emily suddenly broke the kiss, and pulled herself away from Matt.
"Wait, wait, wait," She said, shaking her head. "No way am I moving into your apartment."
Matt stared at her in complete confusion, too stunned by her sudden change to protest immediately.
"Watching you scrape one mouse off the floor was more than enough. I will not live with mice," she insisted, openly cringing at the thought.
"Okay…" Matt answered slowly, not sure where this would be going now.
"Don't look so worried. We can look for an apartment together. One without mice." Matt looked considerably relieved at this, and pulled her two him for another kiss. After being attached long enough to need a break to breathe, they settled into an embrace. Emily was careful not to lean on him, afraid the pressure on his wounds be painful.
The next afternoon the ambulance they were riding in finally pulled into the loading zone at Saint Christopher's Hospital in downtown LA. They had hit traffic in the late morning, and had a arrived later than expected, meaning Cheryl, Frank, Duff, and Lia would probably all be waiting. Matt was to be staying in room 514, in a unit one step below intensive care. His doctor at Woodbridge and the new doctor here, Andrew Sheridan had spoken the previous day, and set up Matt's transfer.
They were home. It seemed amazing that they had left Los Angeles over three weeks ago to handle a hostage negotiation. Time had seemed to pass at the speed of sound while Matt was unconscious and Emily was in her personal hell. At the same time it felt impossible that everything they went through happened in a short three-week span. Perhaps this was why both were nervous as the medics jumped from the ambulance cab, and opened the back doors, swinging them out widely.
Emily was biting her lip as the sunlight hit them, and she hopped out allowing the medics to retrieve Matt. She stared around the small courtyard that created the hospital's loading zone, taking in the familiar sounds of horns honking in the dense LA traffic, the heavy, humid air of the city, and the distinctive smell of Los Angeles. Her hands twitched nervously at her sides; she needed to do something with them, but had nothing. She stood back as they lowered Matt, and began wheeling him toward the doors.
For his part, Matt couldn't really see much, but could hear, smell, and feel everything Emily did, and was just as anxious about returning. He had missed so much being unconscious, had they both missed a lot of LA the past few weeks? How much had happened in the CNU while they were gone? How long would it be before he saw his apartment, or drove the FBI issue SUV he gotten after his Mustang was blown up? Why did it feel so strange being back?
"Hello, you must be Matt and Emily," a friendly face greeted them. "I'm Dr. Sheridan. Welcome to St. Christopher's."
"Hi, thanks," Matt shook his hand, as they wheeled him in. Emily nodded, and did the same.
"We'll get you up to your new room, and I'll give you a quick exam. Then there's some people who've been waiting for you to arrive."
"We figured they beat us here." Matt answered as he was wheeled into an elevator, Emily never budging from his side.
"They haven't been waiting too long, but I think they were starting to get a little worried." He smiled, there was something amusing in watching three tough FBI agents get antsy over a little traffic.
"I'll go meet them." Emily finally released his hand, as she stepped off the elevator, following the signs for the family room. She continued down the long hallway, turning twice with the signs, until she finally found a room with four people, looking slightly strained.
"Hi," she greeted, startling them. Cheryl had been staring out a window, Frank was staring into space blankly, and Lia and Duff were talking quietly.
"Hey!" Lia ran over and embraced her, happy to have her friend home.
"How was the trip?" Frank asked.
"Slow. We hit a lot of traffic, and Matt was passed out for half of it."
"The doctors getting him settled?" Cheryl had moved away from her window, and took her turn hugging Emily.
"Yeah, Dr. Sheridan is going to exam him afterward."
"Nothing happened on the trip, right?" Lia demanded nervously.
"No, not at all. I think it's just precautionary with a new patient." Everyone nodded, the tension evaporating from their bodies.
"Oh right," Lia suddenly remembered something. "we have all of your mail, except the junk, that we just threw out. And your fridge has been restocked."
"Wow, thank you." Emily was a little taken aback by the gesture.
"Don't thank us yet. We didn't find the dead mice until one of his neighbors called the cops about the smell." Duff cringed.
"Oh no, how many was there?"
"Four of the little guys were rotting all over Matt's kitchen linoleum." Recognizing the owner's name, the cops called the FBI, who patched them through to Cheryl, who sent Duff and Frank to investigate, and they got to scrape the creatures off the floor.
"Oh, that's disgusting." Emily looked ill at the memories of watching Matt clean up their first decomposing mouse.
"Don't worry, the apartment doesn't really smell anymore." Frank promised.
"Thanks," Emily was still cringing at the thought, before she suddenly had a thought. "Oh, did you find Jaws?"
All four people looked confused. Lia decided to be the brave one and ask, "who's Jaws?"
"Matt's fish, he's a beta." Matt had won the creature at a bar they went to, by having the best aim after five shots of tequila. Perhaps not the smartest game.
"Matt has a fish?" Cheryl asked, bewildered.
"Not anymore," Frank pointed out. Duff started struggling not to laugh at the joke, and got Frank going with his own struggle. Lia and Cheryl were struggling not to at least crack a smile at the situation.
"Oh god," Emily gave a disgusted cry, "that's just another thing decomposing in his apartment!"
That did it; all four burst out laughing, the circumstances to ludicrous for anything but laugher. Emily soon joined them, shaking her head.
"Uh, excuse me?" A nurse interrupted, looking at them curiously. She didn't tend to see who lot of people laugh in her line of work, now she had a room full.
"Oh, sorry," Cheryl sobered up first.
"Mr. Flannery is settled." The words had barely left her mouth, when they began to shuffle out the door.
"Hey man, we've got some news on your apartment," Frank greeted with his distinctively loud voice.
"What about it?" Matt looked at him skeptically, wondering what they'd done to his apartment.
Emily looked at him sympathetically, "Jaws is dead."
Matt looked puzzled for a minute, "the fish from the bar?"
"Yes, Matt. He starved to death." Emily spoke with exasperation at the man that barely remember his fish.
"Oh, I figured he would one day," he shrugged. Duff and Frank started cracking up again. Emily rolled her eyes, Cheryl shook her head back and forth, and Lia had an expression of pity on her face at the sad life and death of the little fish.
"Oh, and you owe us Flannery," Frank demanded.
"Yeah, we had to scrape four dead mice off the floor." Duff agreed, making a face.
Matt offered an equally grossed out face.
Emily nodded her head at him, "Yeah, and you want me to move in there?"
The room went silent at her comment, as four heads flew in their direction, eyebrows raised or mouths open.
"What?" Matt asked, as if that was no big deal. "We're moving in together."
Shocked expressions gradually turned to smiles, and Cheryl commented. "Well, I guess that gives me my answer. You'll get new partners when you ready to go into the field."
Matt and Emily nodded, secure in their decision, though they would miss working with each other terribly.
Psychiatrists always say not to make big decision after you've experienced a tragedy, or been through a struggled much like the two negotiators had. But, Matt had been ready to take that step when Emily had referred to his floor as hers. It had gotten him thinking in a direction that made him a little nervous, but he realized that he wanted that floor to be hers also. Emily wasn't quite on that page by then, but after Donovan's little speech on family, she'd begun to think. She determined, as she watched Matt sleep for days, that even if she wasn't ready to marry him or have his child, she was ready to think about both without blushing. When he'd asked her to move in, she didn't really need to think about it.
After some squealing from Lia, and discussion between the group, they retired the topic, and pulled out several others before the nurses came to kick everyone out. Emily wasn't about to go without a fight, and managed to negotiate thirty extra minutes out of the nurse. Settled back down beside Matt, who had watched her negotiation with amusement, and drifted off into space.
"Hey, you okay?" He jostled her hand to get her attention.
"Yeah, fine, it's just…it feels weird to be back, doesn't it?" She wore a troubled expression with her confession.
"A little, yeah. Like we left a lot back in Woodbridge."
"Yeah, it feels like it was a completely different world there."
"Otherwise known as Hell."
"It's more than that. It feels like…we left them there."
He looked puzzled, "who did we leave?"
"Those people, the troopers, the hostages, the HTs. We survived, we left, we get to move on, but they don't get to. Either they're dead, or they live in Woodbridge or Sunset Grove, and will see those reminders of what happened everyday. They'll still be there, but we won't."
"And they'll have a hard time, but they'll move on. Time passes there too, Em." Matt tried to comfort her, knowing that she still felt guilty, much more than he did. He hadn't been conscious for any of the accusations, and by the time he woke up, it seemed to have all blown over to an extent. She was slammed with everything.
"But it won't for us. The only thing that place will ever mean to us is death and tragedy. It's never going to be anything except that for us. It won't change for us." She was clearly struggling to explain what she was feeling.
"Probably, but that doesn't mean those people won't heal. It doesn't mean that they won't be able to look back in ten years, and hurt less." He ran his fingers along her arm, trying to comfort her.
"I know, I know. I just feels like we ran away."
He thought a minute, as she watched him, her eyes pleading for some kind of reassurance. He finally found one.
"We didn't run away, Em. We came home." Her eyes went from a plea to sad resignation. He wiped away a tear that started to work it's way down her cheek. It wasn't the last tear she'd shed over the tragedy they had just lived through, but the first as they began to accept what happened and move on from it.
Sorry this took so long to finish, I've been working like crazy. A very extra special thank you to everyone who stuck with it during the very random update schedule, and reviewed regularly. Thank you also to those who read and reviewed sporadically, and those who will in the future. Now that it's over, I'd really appreciate reviews on the story as a whole (long as it was).