And in the afterwards...


"What's it gonna be, lieutenant?" Sonny said with more bravado than he felt. Castillo looked up at him with that way he had that told you he wasn't in the mood for bullshit.

After El Gato met his namesake, Sonny had watched Celeste pile her bags into a cab. He hadn't asked where she was going and she hadn't offered. And then he'd headed back to OCB. He'd known they'd all be pissed as hell; but he went anyway. Didn't have a choice, when it came down to it. Had to put himself into Castillo's hands, pushing back panic the whole time. Because everyone – his friends, Rico – they wouldn't stop staring.

"I want you over at County. I've spoken to a doctor I know. He'll examine you, do some tests."

"What kind of tests?" Castillo just turned back to his paperwork. Yeah. Stupid question. Got it.

Rico appeared in the doorway to the lieutenant's office, his face set with a blank wariness that made Sonny's guts twist and his head pound harder. He'd saved Rico's life not three hours ago. It wasn't enough. He knew it wasn't enough but he couldn't help... wishing.

"Castillo said you'd come back." Out in the caddy, in the passenger seat again, only it didn't feel familiar at all.

"You weren't sure." Sonny watched the road flash by. Had to close his eyes - the blur was making his stomach churn. What had happened to the Testarossa?

Rico didn't reply, just stared straight ahead. "Sonny..."

"Forget it. I..." By then it was like his brain was pushing against the too-small box of his skull, trying to force its way free, like it would leak out of his eye sockets if it could. "Just forget it. I understand."

"Man, it's not like that. Don't-"

"Dammit Rico, I can't -" And then they were stopped at the side of the road and Rico was leaning over him. Not touching, but for the first time there was a hint of concern there. He blinked. "What?"

Rico shook his head. He'd gone dusky, his lips pressed together. "We're almost to the hospital."

"Crockett. Sonny, we're here." He must have fallen asleep. Rico was standing by the passenger door, holding it open. Sonny shook his head, and boy was that a bad idea.

"Here? I'm... fuck-" And then there must have been something in his expression because Rico was scuttling outta the way. Sonny lurched free of the car. Hands and knees on the pavement of the parking garage and whatever the hell he'd had for lunch nearly ruined Rico's scuffed dress shoes.

"Jesus." Rico's voice was tinny, like a ringing in his ears. "Jesus, Sonny, just-"

Cheek against gritty chilled concrete. His throat burned.

"Detective, can you open your eyes for me?"

"Rico-" he croaked. When he cracked his eyelids it was like being on an out of control carousel.

A warm hand on his arm. "Sonny, they're gonna take you inside, take a look at you." Sonny opened his eyes and focused by sheer force of will. Rico was hovering a few feet away. A white clad blur was kneeling in front of him, trying to roll him onto his back. Alejandro bent over him, blew cigar smoke in his face.

"No. No."

"Sonny, dammit, just let them do their job," Rico's voice went thin. Then it wavered, and went out altogether.

"...delayed reaction." He tried to roll over, away from the voice, but the pain in his head stopped him. "Ah. Detective? Can you hear me?"

What was with all the stupid questions? Of course he could hear... shit. Where...

He must have spoken aloud. "Dade County Hospital. Can you try and open your eyes for me?"

He did, but it was a near thing. White light blazed through him, straight to his head. When it faded enough for shapes to solidify, the first thing he saw was a thin blue curtain. And for a moment he thought maybe he was in Billy's nursery – his mother had sewn curtains that exact shade of blue for Billy before he was born. Then he blinked again and recognized the familiar bustle of an emergency room. Shit. Hadn't he just been here? He'd... been shot, right? Not that he remembered that last trip to the ER. He'd been too busy bleeding to death. And that had been... months ago.

"Rico?" he managed.

"Your partner is just down the hall in the waiting room." The voice again. "I need to take a look at you, okay?"

"No. I need to..." What did he need to do? He didn't remember. Tests. Castillo had said something about tests. He opened his eyes again. He was lying on his side on a wide hospital bed. ER. Right. He pulled himself upright. His brain felt like it was sloshing in his head. A tiny brunette in blue scrubs stood next to the bed, a stethoscope around her neck. She looked familiar. Familiar. Did he know her?

"What about Caitie?"

Silence. "I'm sorry, I don't-"

"My wife. Caitie. Jesus..." What had Castillo told Caitlin? Did she think he was dead? "I need to call her. Tell her I'm okay."

"Why don't we get Detective Tubbs for you, okay?" The doctor nodded to a nurse he hadn't noticed, who vanished through a gap in the curtain. "Do you remember how you got here?"

Stupid questions again. Only... yes. Of course he remembered. Rico had driven him, in the caddy. He nodded. "I'm alright. I don't know what y'all are so worked up about."

The doctor (God, who was she reminding him of?) gave him something between a smirk and a frown. "Your lieutenant made you an appointment with our neurologist but you collapsed in the parking garage, so for now you're my patient."

Collapsed. Well, shit. He didn't remember that.

"Can you tell me how you're feeling?"

Like fucking crap didn't seem like the polite response, even if it was true. Before he had a chance to come up with a better answer, the nurse returned, Rico in tow.

"Man, you look terrible," he said.

"You're just noticing?" Rico glanced at the lady doc. "What's wrong?"

"I-" Sonny's stomach churned at the edge to his partner's voice. The words lodged in his throat. He swallowed. "I was... worried. About Caitie."

Rico blinked. "Caitie?"

"Jesus, Rico. Yeah. Caitie. My wife." Now Rico was staring at him. His skin was starting to crawl. "I was hoping you could call her for me. Tell her I'm... you know. Alive."

And he knew that look – he'd known Rico too long. His partner was going to put a fist through his face. Sonny braced himself, but Rico turned on his heel and walked away.

After that he answered the doc's questions. Let her prod at him, shine lights in his eyes. Because even back in the interrogation room in OCB he hadn't been afraid of Rico. He'd never been afraid of Rico.

So why was he so afraid now?

"How did it go?"

He looked up from the old issue of Time he'd been flipping through without seeing to find his partner hovering in the doorway to the private room where they'd stashed him after what had felt like a lifetime's worth of tests. The magazine was three months old and yet there was nothing familiar on the pages. Nothing at all, as if he'd ceased to exist during the time it covered.

"Thought you left." He was too tired to feel anything one way or the other, about Rico, about what had happened. They still hadn't let him use a phone.

Rico shrugged. "I did."

There wasn't anything he could say to that. He just wanted Rico to go away so he could sleep. The last nurse had given him something that had dialed the pain back a few notches finally, and they'd drawn the shades. He hadn't had the heart to get up and check to see if the door was locked. The windows certainly didn't open. And they'd been careful not to leave anything useful behind in the room.

"You didn't hear me come in," Rico said. Like it was an accusation.

Sonny shook his head. "What's the verdict?"

"They haven't told you?"

"Said they want me to stay the night. For observation." And in the morning? Would they really let him leave?

Where would he go?

"Look, Sonny. About this afternoon." Rico's hands were in his pockets, ruining the line of his suit.

"Caitlin's dead."

Rico let out a breath. "Yeah. You didn't remember?"

"You thought I did. That I was-"

"Sonny, I-"

"I don't. Remember. I just... know. Now. I mean, I didn't then. I-" The magazine crumpled in his hand. He smoothed it back flat, but the wrinkles remained. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do."

Rico ran a hand over his face. The skin around his eyes looked sunken. Like he hadn't bothered with sleep in the months since everything went to hell.

"The neurologist says you have a concussion from the car bomb. And there's... an older injury. They want to do more tests in the morning."

Acid burned his throat. "So now you believe me."

"It wasn't about that."

He looked up and caught Rico's gaze before he could look away. "Wasn't it?"

"Dammit, Sonny, you killed a cop."

You're good, Crockett, but you're not that good.

Fuck off, he wanted to say. I don't remember. And he didn't. But like he knew about Caitlin... he knew about this.

When he didn't respond, Rico broke eye contact and stared at the floor. "I'll come by in the morning."

"Sure." The magazine slipped and he watched it flutter to the tile. "Don't forget to report to Castillo." Probably not the smartest thing he'd ever let fly; but somehow he just didn't care.

"Why do you think I'm here?"

The bitterness in Rico's voice followed him down into sleep.