Not Like This

Brendan Dean paced. He couldn't help it; he wasn't good at sitting still. Oh, there were times on duty when he had to sit still. Meetings...stakeouts...but even then, his mind moved the proverbial mile a minute so in those situations, he might be sitting still on the outside but he was wearing a hole in the floor of his brain on the inside. Right now, he didn't think he could sit if he wanted to, and he wasn't even close to such a desire.

There were times having a photographic memory was an amazing gift in his line of work, but there were other times he'd gladly trade it for some other talent, like drawing. An incredible sketch artist rendering eyewitnesses accounts of suspects. Then he wouldn't have to see anymore.

Harper was on his way. Welles was on his way, too but neither had arrived and that left Brendan alone with his perfect memory. His perfect recollection of his partner going down, hitting the pavement, her blood oozing between his fingers as he'd put pressure on the wound.

"Not s'posed to be like this," he muttered to himself, one hand raking through hair that already seemed to have a life of its own. He couldn't help it; he had to try one more time. Strides long, anxious and purposeful propelled the lean NSA agent to the nurse's station and he leaned on the counter top. "'Scuse me?"

The duty nurse looked like something out of a memory from his teenage years; immediately the school nurse's face popped into his mind's eye, a matronly, sour, older woman who hadn't liked her job with the high school. This nurse looked only slightly younger, hair pulled back in the same frumpy bun with the same no-nonsense look on her face. Only the lack of wrinkles gave away anything about her true age.

"Yes?" she said, somewhat snippily and Brendan resisted the urge to snap back.

"Freya McAllister," he said, his right hand—the hand that still carried evidence of bloodstains despite having been scrubbed—coming to rest on the countertop. "She was brought in here almost an hour ago for a gunshot wound and taken into emergency surgery. I was wondering if there was any word..."

"Mr. Dean," the nurse said with a lift of her eyebrow. "It's already been established that you're not a family member."

Crap, that cute little redhead sold me out, Brendan thought even as he felt his shoulders tighten; that little redheaded nurse hadn't been any more cooperative than this middle-aged brunette was.

"No," he said, putting on his best kicked-puppy look, "No, I'm not a blood relative but I'm her partner. She...we have a...connection." He was fumbling for words, he knew but it wasn't like he could come right out and say that his partner could read his mind. Could read everybody's mind and really shouldn't be alone when she woke up.

He'd seen that, once. Freya waking up after having been unconscious for perhaps five minutes; it had been terrifying for her, the disorientation and the overwhelming crush of unwanted voices. She was hurt badly enough now; he didn't want her to have to face that on top of it.

The nurse looked at him skeptically. "I'm sure you do, Mr. Dean but the privacy rules are in place for a reason. I'm not going to get fired over some 'connection,' and until a family member arrives that's the way it has to be."

Brendan drew in a slow, shaky breath. The hazel eyes fairly pleaded with this woman to understand.

"Please, Miss..." he glanced quickly at her hospital ID, slung around her neck on a lanyard. "...Collins. You don't understand."

"Miss?" The nurse raised her eyebrows curiously. Brendan reflected briefly that if Freya were standing here, she'd know exactly how the woman across the counter from him was reacting internally to the slight compliment. "Just what don't I understand?"

Brendan's mother had always told him that he could have the world if his eyes and smile asked for it, and while he was often too self-conscious to take advantage of it, he made good use of it now, dropping his head just slightly and putting on a gentle, almost playful smile. The hazel eyes looked up from beneath his lashes and mixed with the all-too-evident worry was a heartbreaking hopefulness.

"She saved my life," Brendan said quietly, truthfully, and the smile faded away into something a little shakier, a little more honest with how he felt on the inside, a little more desperate to know that Freya would be all right. "Freya knew...knew the shooter was going to take that shot and..." He swallowed tightly. She hadn't just stepped in front of him. She'd practically shoved him down to the ground with all force her slight weight and considerable will could afford, and the bullet had slammed into her upper chest. "She's the closest thing to family I have, really."

Maybe that was laying it on a little thick, but when the cold lump he felt in his stomach manifested itself in a pathetic shiver that startled him as much as anything else, Brendan didn't regret it. It was when the world seemed to spin lazily away from him that he realized that might not be as much of an act as either of them might've supposed.


He didn't remember the nurse coming around the station like a shot, or her getting an arm around him, or being steered to the nearest chair. He felt a cup being pressed into his hand, and numbly he brought it to his lips. Water, he realized belatedly and he took a sip.

"Thanks," he muttered after another swallow, and found that the nurse had his other wrist in her hand, taking his pulse. "I'm okay," he protested, but when he tried to pull away, she tightened her hold just a little and he submitted to the pulse-taking with a shrug. "I just keep seeing her go down," he explained, and it was the truth; his perfect memory also often persistent. The crystal-clear image of Freya crumpling beside him, eyes wide and pained... "I tried to stop the bleeding, tried to keep her conscious and talking..."

Brendan was rambling now, and he didn't care. There was no one here to tell, no one to listen to the events as they happened, and while he certainly wasn't any stranger to this kind of thing, he still felt shaken to the core to think that he might lose the first partner he'd ever had that was also a real friend.

Unconsciously the smile returned except it was shy and pained now.

"You did the right thing," the nurse reassured, and her hand patted his shoulder reassuringly. "Just stay there a minute. If you feel dizzy, put your head down; but I'll be right back in a second."

Brendan closed his eyes, despite the fact that the image burned on his eyelids was of Freya, blood soaking the wadded up dress-shirt he'd pressed against the wound. When he opened his eyes again, it was to stare at the stained hand, and he swallowed convulsively.

A moment later, Miss Collins was back, and she sat beside him with a glance to be sure they weren't overheard. "Look, you can't say anything, all right? I don't need to lose my job; even if I am a 'miss,' I have two kids at home. Your partner's out of surgery, and she's in recovery right now. They got the bullet out without difficulty and Dr. Rice says the damage wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. It'll be awhile before they let anyone in to see her soon as they do, I'll come get you."

Brendan sagged a little in relief, and he looked up. The hazel eyes were tired, but the smile was genuine.

"Thank you," he said quietly, and it was heartfelt. "I won't say a word. But it's...good to know, y'know? It wasn't supposed to wasn't supposed to happen like this. Not like this."

Collins smiled briefly back, and nodded. "It never is, Agent Dean. It never is."