All right you fine people, this is it, we've pretty much finished our journey. . .don't own 21 Jump Street, , but I do own my love for all things 21 Jump Street, particularly the gorgeous Officer Hanson. . .

He recognized that he was in some sort of hospital room, but other than that nothing seemed familiar to him.

Except for Penhall sitting next to him, although in some ways, even this Penhall wasn't quite like the Doug Penhall Hanson was used to.

"How're you doing?" Penhall's voice was so – soft – Hanson was pretty sure he'd never heard him talk this way before – especially to him. "It's about time you woke up – I told them you wouldn't like being out of it for this long but – well, you've been pretty sick, they really didn't have much of a choice."

Hanson managed a brief smile, but even that felt strange, as if he couldn't quite get a full smile across his face. He'd only been awake a few minutes, but it was the longest he'd been conscious in nearly four days, one of the first times he was seeing and hearing things that he felt made some kind of sense. "Hospital?" It was all he could think to say, even though he wasn't completely sure what he was trying to ask.

"Yeah, you're in a hospital," Penhall said. "You were bleeding out when we got here – do you remember anything?"

"A little." Anything he remembered, though vivid, was in unrelated bits and pieces. The hoarseness in his voice was better, but he still didn't sound like himself, could tell he was slurring his words. "I feel drunk."

"The drugs," Penhall said. "But they've taken you off the morphine and put you on something – less intense."

"When can we go home?"

"You've still got some recovering to do," Penhall said smoothly. "I mean, it's not like you have a couple bumps and bruises." In truth, Penhall wasn't sure how much longer they'd be here, but he knew whatever answer he gave, unless it was "today", Hanson wasn't going to like it.

"Am I – " Again, Hanson felt like he didn't really know what he was asking, could already feel himself slipping back into sleep, even though he didn't want that. He knew there were things he wanted to ask, but getting all of it into words was futile at the moment.

"All right?" Penhall finished for him. But Hanson had already closed his eyes again. "You're doing good," Penhall added, not even sure if Hanson was still listening. He was surprised when Hanson opened his eyes again. "You weren't doing so good at first but now all you need to do is rest, get your strength back, that whole thing." He could see that Hanson was almost ready to fall back asleep but fighting it with everything he had. "You don't need to stay awake for me," he told him. He reached over and took his hand in his own. "You rest. You need it."

"Doug – Clavo?"

"He's fine," Penhall said. "I – talked to him yesterday. Someone got a hold of your mom and Fuller – don't worry about all that. Just worry about you right now."

"The baby?"

Fuck. He'd deliberately left Marilinda's name out of the conversation hoping to avoid all of that until Hanson was a little more with it. "He's great," Penhall said. Which was the truth. "Healthy – everything."

"Marilinda?" His voice was fading, barely above a whisper.

Penhall hesitated just a second, but Hanson heard it. "She's good," he said. Even to himself he sounded phony. "She's fine."

This seemed to wake Hanson up. "Doug –" He could hear that Penhall was keeping something from him, he always knew when he was holding back, even with the smallest thing.

"She's fine," Penhall said, more emphatically. "It's just that – she left, her and the baby, a couple days ago." He had no idea what the look on Hanson's face meant and he rushed on before he had a chance to say anything. "She didn't want to leave without saying goodbye, but she – had things to take care of – all sorts of red tape to get her husband down – from the mountain – and her little girl back home – " He knew Hanson would understand this, wouldn't have wanted her to stay behind, but he wasn't sure how he'd feel about not being able to say goodbye himself.

"Christ, Doug, you didn't let her go alone, did you?" He was barely able to get these last words out before, unable to pull any more air into his lungs, his voice failed.

"You're talking too much," Penhall warned. "And, no, I didn't let her go alone. Her father was coming, and so was her father-in-law, I think. She was o.k. – she has lots of people to help her with stuff – people back home and in El Salvador."

Hanson relaxed a little. "Did you tell her thank you for me?"

"Yeah, of course," Penhall said. He knew the rest of this conversation was going to have to wait, at least a little while longer. "Right now, though you need to rest, not overdo it. Otherwise they'll stick you back on that morphine drip or whatever it is."

But already Hanson's eyes were closing again, even that little bit of conversation enough to wear him out. "We'll talk more after you wake up," Penhall promised. He tried to pull his hand away from Hanson's but Hanson wouldn't let him.

"Doug – "

"Yeah?" God, now what?


Penhall squeezed his hand. "Don't go getting all sappy on me." He said it lightly, but he meant it – he wasn't ready to allow himself any kind of emotional displays. He wondered how much Hanson understood, if he realized how close to dying he'd actually been.

"No –" But his voice faded after that, his breathing falling into a pattern of real sleep and for the first time since this whole thing had started, Penhall found himself finally able to sleep as well.


After yet one more week of various ups and downs in Hanson's recovery, the doctor at the hospital –clinic, really – agreed to sign the papers that would allow them to board an international flight. He was disinclined to do it at first – he wanted Hanson to stay another week, something about not being certain that he was ready to fly with the injured lung and wanting to keep him on the IV antibiotics for another week. "No way," Hanson had said when everything had been translated to him. "You said I could go when all the – tubes were out." He'd been off everything less than twenty-four hours, and Penhall had known he would be chomping at the bit to leave as soon as he could.

"That was just what Marilinda said," Penhall reminded him. "It was just a guess, she didn't say the second the chest tube came out you could walk out of here."

"But I'm going to."

"Not if they won't sign the papers. We can't get on the plane without them."

"Then tell them I'll – do whatever as long as I can go. Tell them I'll take the medicine with me, tell them I'll – I'll go to a hospital as soon as I get back home – c'mon, Doug, I know you want to get back as much as I do – I know I'm o.k. enough to fly –"

It was true, Hanson did seem like he was somewhat better – well, quite a bit better from a week ago – though he still was far from one hundred percent. He was barely eating yet, any little thing he did still caused tremendous amounts of pain, he was asleep more than he was awake, he coughed almost all the time.

But he could breathe. And he wasbetter – both of them could see that.

And he was right about something else: Penhall didwant to get home, more than anything.

So, he somehow worked his magic, was able to convince the hesitant doctor into releasing Hanson, and then, with the help of the English-speaking nurse, managed to somehow find someone willing to take them down the mountain the next day.

It was like a minor miracle.

Which reminded him of something as they were getting their few things together to go home.

"This is for you."

Hanson looked at it, not comprehending. "What is it?"

"A Bible."

"A Bible? What –"

"It's Marilinda's. She asked me to give it to you."

Hanson still didn't understand. "Why would she do that? Who –"

"She – I think she said she wanted to give you something that you'd remember her by. Her and the baby. You know, because she didn't get to say goodbye to you herself."

Hanson took it from him, though reluctantly. "She shouldn't have done that," he said, more to himself than Penhall. "I mean, I told her – back when we were still on the mountain, even before we knew you were still alive and everything – that I didn't really do the religion thing – "

"I tried to tell her that," Penhall said. "But it was hard to – tell her not to do it, I mean she really seemed like she wanted to, plus how could I tell her you wouldn't take it after – all she's gone through, you know?"

"No, of course not, you couldn't," Hanson agreed. "It's just weird—I mean, it's not that weird, I guess – " He stuck the book inside with all his other meager possessions.

"She said there was something in there for you," Penhall said. "That you'd know what she meant when you saw it."

"There's probably a lot in there that could be for me," Hanson said. "For both of us, actually."

"Well, you look at it first and then let me know," Penhall said. "Although, after all that we just went through -- I don't know what I'd think about -- all that religious stuff."

"Yeah, me either."


The journey down the mountain had taken longer than they'd anticipated, though they both should've known it would, given how slow everything took in this part of the world. The road was treacherous, there was no other way to describe it, it was narrow, a one lane muddy path that a vehicle could easily careen over the edge from into the abyss below. The person driving them spoke next-to-no-English, but it really didn't matter, neither Penhall nor Hanson had anything they wanted to talk about with him anyway.

Penhall and Hanson didn't talk much either – the roads were littered with ruts and bumps that Penhall knew must be jarring Hanson's sore ribs every time they hit one. Hanson never said anything about the pain, but between the nearly-impassable road and the frequent coughing fits he was forced to endure, Penhall knew he had to be miserable. "I'm – o.k.," he gasped, in answer to Penhall's unspoken anxiety, after one particularly long bout that had left him barely able to catch his breath, and Penhall knew he probably was, this had been going on for the past week, everyone had told them this was normal, this was what happened when someone was recovering from pneumonia, particularly when someone had nearly died from it. Both of them had grown used to it, but still. Now it was different. Now they were literally, once again, in the middle of nowhere, and it was a little different to be unable to breathe while being stuck on some dangerous mountain overpass with someone that didn't speak English as opposed to having it happen in a clinic with people you could get help from if you needed it. Not for the first time, Penhall began to doubt if they should've left this early. Maybe Hanson hadn'tbeen ready to leave yet, hell what did he know, he wasn't some medical expert. Penhall mentally cursed himself for not being more insistent that they wait.

Of course, Hanson would've probably left by himself anyway, that's how eager Penhall knew he was to get back home.

Finally, out of sheer exhaustion, Hanson slumped against Penhall and fell into a fitful sleep, and Penhall was glad he could do that, at least for now. He himself was worried about everything that still lay ahead – two plane flights and all the intricasies involved with that whole business.

The rest of the trip had gone surprisingly well. They'd sat in the airport in Espere de Cruce, waiting for the next flight out to Mexico City for a few hours, but that had been all right, they weren't moving and the waiting seemed less stressful than the lengthy ride down the mountain. Or maybe it was just that, once they were that much closer to getting home, it was impossible to keep their spirits from lifting just a little.

The flight from there to Mexico City was a little more than three hours but it was easy, it was a domestic flight so they weren't questioned about anything. Hanson slept, as Penhall knew he would, but Penhall found himself unable to shut his mind down and relax.

Of course, there was Hanson. That was first and foremost in his mind. He seemed like he was making it all right, like he wasn't in any immediate danger or anything. He didn't seem great, though, and not for the first time, Penhall wondered about how things would go once they got back, how all this might interrupt his working at Jump Street, thought that this could be the impetus that very well could push him away from police work, at least for awhile.

Not that he would blame him.

And there was Clavo. He had talked to him for a little bit one night before they'd left, and hearing his excited little boy voice had knocked the wind right out of him, made it nearly impossible for him to say anything. The connection had been poor, the conversation short, but Penhall had hung up aching to see him, and had been unable to think of anything else but that since then. A part of him had been afraid that Clavo would forget him – or at least regress back to those earlier days when Penhall had first brought him home, but he could tell by his voice that he longed to see him as much as Penhall wanted to see him. I'm not doing this again, he promised himself. If I have ever need to come back here, I'm bringing him with me.

Which made him think of Marilinda. He thought of her often, usually fleetingly, something or other bringing her to mind, things that reminded him of El Salvador or not being able to understand some Spanish word or hearing Clavo's voice. Sometimes he thought of her randomly, wondered if the funeral had taken place, hoped that being with her children was giving her a small amount of solace. She had mentioned that she was thinking about having her husband buried in El Salvador, that last night she'd been with them, because he loved it there so much and Penhall had been able to give her a little insight about having Marta buried so far away from him – but he also understood what she was trying to decide – it was the land that had meant everything to him.

He wondered how long it would be before he stopped thinking about her.

He couldn't tell if Hanson thought about any of this. He'd not said much about anything – about either the days they'd spent getting down the mountain or the days spent in the hospital, or even what he thought about Marilinda and how she might be faring. Of course, he'd been busy with other matters, like trying to stay alive, and hadn't had the luxury of endlessly pondering things like Penhall had. Yet he knew how Hanson was – he was thinking about things way more than he was letting on. At least some things.


The last leg of the journey. They were actually in the air, heading toward U.S. airspace, everything having gone as it should've, albeit very slowly. Hanson could hardly believe it, almost didn't dare allow himself to think that he could actually be home within a few hours. God. Home. Not yet, he told himself. When you're actually back in your own bed, thenyou can say you're home. Not before.

Too much could still happen.

"You nervous?" Penhall beside him.

"Yeah, a little," Hanson said. "Planes aren't my favorite thing right now."

"You did fine on the flight to Mexico City."

"Yeah, but now we're so close, you know? And how do you know I was fine?"

"You slept nearly the entire time."

"Sorry. I couldn't help it." Walking, riding, coughing, breathing, even just sitting on a plane – everything exhausted him though he'd been trying not to show it. He was pretty sure he'd be asleep within a few minutes after this plane took off as well.

"No, it's fine, of course," Penhall answered quickly. "I was just wondering if you were ok with the whole flying thing and all."

"Are you?"

"I'm just anxious to see Clavo," Penhall admitted. He was anxious about many things, but that was one of the top two things right now, the other being how well Hanson was holding up. It was crazy, but he worried more about him when he was asleep than when he was awake. He longed to talk to him – about everything, really, but any subject would do at this point.

But it was obvious that Hanson wasn't up to talking, was still having a hard time staying awake for very long, at least when they were flying.

His eyes hadn't been closed more than a minute when he felt Penhall nudge him in the leg. "Hanson!"

The desperation in Penhall's voice caused Hanson's eyes to fly open, a surge of alarm making his heart speed up. There was no way he could handle even one unusual or weird thing happening on this flight. If someone so much as dropped something, he thought he might have a heart attack.

"What?" He took a quick glance around – everything seemed o.k., the plane was still flying smoothly, the other passengers quiet and content.

"Are you o.k.?"

Hanson frowned at him. "What do you mean, am I o.k.? I was trying to go to sleep."

"I know," Penhall said. "But you sounded kind of – funny. Weird, like."

"Weird, like how?"

"Like this – " Penhall drew a loud breath in and let it out, as if in a deep sigh. He looked at Hanson expectantly.

Hanson stared at him. "That? Was it? I don't know, it sounds to me like I just managed to actually take a deep breath for the first time in weeks."

"Yeah, but it just seemed so – loud," Penhall said, beginning to look slightly uncomfortable.

"Maybe it's because you're not used to me being able to breathe without hurting myself." He tried to keep the impatience out of his voice. "Just – don't worry about it. I'll tell you if something's wrong."

"Yeah, ok.," Penhall said. "Sorry, you go back to sleep."

Hanson closed his eyes again, his exhausted body falling back into a warm, relaxed doze within minutes. When Penhall grabbed his arm and hissed his name again, he had a harder time opening his eyes. Mentally, he cursed Penhall. "What?"

"Uh – you all right?"

"Doug, why do you keep asking me that? Especially when I'm half-asleep?"

"Well, it's just that you coughed." Penhall stopped, his face reddening slightly.

"Penhall, I've been coughing for days now, I know this isn't the first time you've noticed!"

"I just – you know, after what they said when we left – want to make sure you're o.k."

"I don't remember you being this – worried – on the other flight."

"That's because you were asleep!"

"Which I'm trying to be right now!"

"Well, you weren't making so much noise on that flight – I don't know."

Hanson leaned his head back against the seat, looked up at the ceiling. "You want me not to cough? Is that it? Should I not breathe as well?"

"No, of course not," Penhall said. "But you know what they said – you're not supposed to be flying yet. I'm just nervous, you know?"

"We have three more hours to go," Hanson said. "I don't think I can handle you panicking at every little sound I make."

"Maybe I should go find an empty seat – let you get some sleep – "

Hanson glared at him. "What the hell's the matter with you? Have you already forgotten what happened the last time you went and sat somewhere else while I was sleeping?"

Realization hit Penhall and he blushed. "Yeah, right," he mumbled. "But why is it that every time we fly somewhere you always go to sleep?"

"Maybe because all the crazy stuff we're doing when we're not flying makes me tired! Like hiking down some mountain after a plane crash, for starters!"

"Well, I'm doing all the crazy stuff too, and you don't see me needing to go to sleep."

"I guess you got me there, Doug. Next time you can have the broken ribs or whatever and then you'll be the lucky one who gets to fall asleep." He didn't bother keeping the sarcasm out of his voice. They weren't fighting, not really, Hanson understood Penhall was anxious – just as he himself was – now that they were so close, that this was his way of trying to make the time go faster.

Still. Hanson was a little bit irked. Not to mention actually tired. And definitely not fully recovered. Stimulating conversation wasn't something he was necessarily great at under ideal circumstances, which he was pretty sure Penhall knew. And if Penhall was so worried about him, why didn't he just stop talking and let him go to sleep already?

Hanson, don't forget the load he's been carrying the past couple of weeks – Marilinda, the baby, Clavo back home, you –

Especially you.

You know you'd be dead if it wasn't for him.

Remember how, when you were sitting alone in the dark all those nights, you thought you were never going to see him again, how you would have given anythingto have him with you –

How you felt the moment you knew it was really him in front of you, alive –

And you're getting annoyed with him because he wants you to talk to him for awhile?

He didn't trust himself to speak for a minute. "Doug," he finally said.


"Did I ever thank you for, you know, saving my life?"

"Hanson, don't start." Penhall waited until Hanson stopped gazing at the ceiling and was looking at him. "There's nothing I did that you wouldn't have done for me. But yes, you did thank me, you probably don't remember it. And you're welcome."

Hanson waited again. "O.k.," he said. "Tell me what I missed when I was drugged up all those days."

And Penhall did. He spoke a little about what had gone on in the hospital, his excitement at being with Clavo again, but he mainly talked about his time up on the mountain before they'd reunited, those horrific hours where he'd had to stand by, helpless, while someone – someone decent and good – was dying right in front of him, unable to do anything but watch. Hanson listened, because he knew that was what Penhall wanted, that this was probably one of the hardest things he'd ever carried around with him. He asked a couple questions, said a few things but mainly he let Penhall talk, mostly about that, but there were other things as well, and he didn't talk the entire time. In fact, when they changed planes in – Utah? – somewhere – and were on the last two hours of their flight, it was Penhall who finally fell asleep and Hanson left to sit up and begin to sort through what all had taken place the past three weeks.

Except, he couldn't. Not yet. Maybe not ever, at least not like Penhall would do. He wasn't completely sure he wanted to think about any of this, not really.

Thinking about unhappy events had never really been his thing.

It was dusk when they landed, but full-blown nightfall before they cleared customs and were actually in the airport, free and clear to go – home.

Home. It was surreal – both Hanson and Penhall stood there, almost unsure about what to do next. They'd been traveling over twenty-four hours and were barely able to stand, much less think. It felt great to finally be there, but it also felt unreal at the same time.

"Hanson! Penhall!"

They turned; Hoffs, Ioki, Fuller.


The moment he saw him, Penhall was off and running. Their joy at seeing one another was one of the most beautiful things Hanson had seen in – well, weeks. Maybe ever. He slowly walked toward the other three, stunned but not surprised to see them there. He knew Penhall had called Hoffs from Utah when they'd changed planes, but he'd not really thought everyone would be here.

Hoffs was the first to reach him, and she held back nothing, was hugging him in an instant. "Oh, Hanson," was all she said, all she seemed to be able to manage, and he could tell by how she said it, the way she was holding onto him that she was moments away from tears, and he really didn't want that, not for him, not now, so he hugged her back, tried to reassure her. "I'm all right, Jude," he said. "Really."

"Are you sure?" She pulled away from him reluctantly, and he could see she was still visibly shaken.

"Yeah, why? Do I really look that bad?" He knew he probably did, but he actually hadn't seen himself since – before all this.

"Yeah, you kind of do." Ioki, stepping forward to give him a quick hug. His tone was light but his eyes were all seriousness, and Hanson could see that he was as concerned about him as Hoffs was. "But it's good to have you back, man. We'll take you any way we can get you."

You are important, too. You have people waiting for you as well.

"Your mom was going to come," Hoffs said as they walked over to where Penhall, Fuller and Clavo where. "But then she – well, she said she'd see you tomorrow – you know, when you could be alone –"

His mother. He couldn't even imagine what she'd been thinking, though it probably wasn't that far from what he'd gone through when he didn't know if Penhall was alive or not. "Yeah," Hanson said. "How is she?"

"She's – going to be thrilled to see you," Hoffs said simply. "Just like we are."

"Hanson." Fuller. Hanson had a hard time believing he was even here, or that he'd actually be as happy to see him as he was. "You've looked better," he told him, as he shook his hand. Shit, he must really look like hell.

"He looked worse," Penhall said. "If you'd have seen him last week – or the week before – you'd think he looks pretty good right now."

The looks on their faces told him they weren't convinced. "Hey, Penhall mentioned something about you delivering someone's baby," Ioki said, trying to change the subject. "How did you manage to do that?"

God, not that whole thing. He knew they'd want to hear about it, but he was still embarrassed by that whole nightmarish performance. "I'll let you know if I ever figure that out," he said. "It wasn't one of my finer moments."

"Yeah, it was," Penhall said. He was still holding Clavo, who was refusing to Penhall set him back down.

If I don't make it out of this, then at least let Doug be all right so Clavo won't be alone –

"We should go," Fuller said. "I'm sure the two of you are ready to get home."

"Actually," Hoffs said. "We were thinking of taking you guys out to dinner – sort of a "welcome home" type thing – that is, if you're up to it."

"Yeah, sure," Penhall said. Now that he was home and back with Clavo, Hanson could see how much more happy and relaxed Penhall was, almost as if he'd caught a second wind.

"I can't." Hanson knew he'd never make it, knew that he wouldn't be able to eat very much, could tell that the pain in his ribs was going to come on with a vengeance soon, it already was starting to, that any time now the late hour and lack of any real sleep in the past couple of days was going to catch up with him and he'd be sitting here coughing his lungs out, and while Penhall might be used to it, Hoffs and Ioki and Fuller weren't and he didn't want to put them through that, definitely didn't want that kind of attention put on him. He could already feel how worn out he was, wasn't even sure how he'd been able to stay on his feet this long. And tomorrow he would be seeing his mother – which he wanted to do, but it wasn't going to be a quick hello and out-the-door type thing, things were going to be emotional for both of them and he wanted to be at least a little prepared for it. "I'd like to," he added. "But I know I can't do it – just yet."

Of course they understood, especially now that they could see exactly what kind of shape he was in. Penhall handed a protesting Clavo over to Hoffs. "Just for a minute," he promised him. "I'll only be a few feet away." He motioned Hanson to come over by him.

"You o.k.?"

"Well, what do you mean by "o.k.?" I'm about ready to lie down on this floor, but other than that, yeah, of course I'm o.k."

"Are you sure? Because I can skip dinner, do it some other time – they'd understand – and you could come over for awhile if you want."

"Doug, we've been together every minute for the past three weeks – not to mention the three weeks before in El Salvador – aren't you sick of me yet? Will you please get your ass out of here and go be with Clavo? And quit worrying about me?"

"I want you to call me if you change your mind – I don't care if you come over at three in the morning – or if you need us to come by you –"

"I'll be sleeping, how will I change my mind?"

And then Penhall, without warning, reached over and pulled him into one last hug, careful to not put any pressure on his hurt ribs, but hugging him tight nonetheless. "Don't you ever do that to me again," he whispered. "I mean it, Hanson."

Hanson couldn't answer, knew he wouldn't be able to say a word, not unless he wanted to start weeping in front of everyone, cause some sort of scene in the middle of the airport, so he didn't say anything, just buried his face into Penhall's shoulder and allowed himself to be held until he felt he had some sort of control again.

When he pulled away, he didn't dare look at Penhall, in fact, he stepped back before Penhall had a chance to say or do anything else that might tip his emotional scale over the edge. "You call me," Penhall said. "For anything."

"Sure," Hanson said, but even that was hard to get out. Luckily, everyone else was there, Clavo calling for Penhall a welcome distraction, and they separated and went their different ways, and not a moment too soon, Hanson hadn't realized how hard that whole goodbye thing with Penhall would be.

Fuller brought him home, which turned out to be good, as much as Hanson loved Hoffs and Ioki, and knew they were going to want to hear the whole story, he didn't think he was quite up to all the questions yet. Fuller said all the right things, asked questions that weren't too hard to answer, spoke just enough to keep the silence from seeming too awkward. He mentioned how the press would probably find out soon what had happened, offered his advice on how he and Penhall could handle it, something that Hanson hadn't even thought about. "You don't need me to go in with you?" was the way he put it to Hanson when they'd arrived at his apartment.

That was what Hanson liked about him. No fussing, but always an open door to ask him for help if you needed it. "No," Hanson said. "I'll be all right."

And he felt like he would be. He'd thought for sure that he'd want to be alone – he hadn't really been by himself for weeks, but now that the moment was actually here and he had no one around but himself, he found himself feeling –



It was weird to be in his own home again, but it always was after he was gone for awhile. Of course, this was the only time he'd come home after nearly dying, so maybe that was why things seemed so –



Maybe I should've gone out with everyone, he thought, after he'd thought of and rejected nearly everything he could do. There was plenty to choose from – eat, watch t.v., shower, go to sleep – but he cast aside all of those ideas as fast as he thought of them – why, he couldn't say except doing all of that seemed so –

He couldn't say what.

God, Hanson, stop acting like such a freak. You're home. Exactly where you were trying so hard to get the past three weeks. Can't you just shut up and enjoy it without feeling like something's wrong?

Apparently not.

He was right about one thing – he was physically in no condition to do anything – his side was killing him and his lungs were starting to ache, reminding him that he had a whole bunch of pills he was supposed to be taking, and he'd pretty much neglected to do that the entire time they'd been trying to get home. Great job taking care of yourself there, he told himself, as he searched through the one meager bag that held the few things he'd brought back with him. What are you trying to do, end up back in the hospital? No wonder you need Penhall.

He found the meds, a bottle of antibiotics, the codeine – which he hadn't wanted but was now glad he had – some kind of steroid? Something for the broken ribs or the damaged lung, he wasn't exactly sure, particularly since everything was always being conducted in Spanish with Penhall as interpreter, and some kind of weird inhaler thing that he had no intention of using, but had taken because it was the only way they would discharge him, if he promised to take it. I'm like an old man with all my pills and crap, he thought.

His hand landed on the Bible.

Marilinda's Bible.


It was not lost on him that he was using the Lord's name in vain even as he was pulling His Word out of the bag.

Why would she have given me this?

But he wasn't angry or anything – how could he be, it was Marilinda, someone who, besides saving his life, was one of the few genuinely good people that he'd met, for sure a much better person than he was.

Of course, she wouldn't agree with that.

He really didn't know if he was supposed to read it or what she thought he might use it for – she knew he wasn't someone who had God – any god – as his foundation. What had Penhall said – she wanted him to have it so he'd remember her – as if he'd so easily forget any of this, her included – and there was something in it for him.

Whatever that meant.

It was worn and frayed at the edges – she'd obviously read it a lot. He idly flipped the cover open and was startled to see handwriting on the inside – he looked more closely and was shocked to see the first words:

Dear Thomas,

Holy shit.

He almost didn't want to read any further, could not imagine what she would write to him.

I wanted to thank you in person, for all you did, for both Raphael and myself. . .but since I can't I will write it here.

Thank you for being our angel. It was as if you were mine and Douglas was Michael's. . .


He almost couldn't read any more. How could she be writing this – thinking it, after all that she'd lost –

Luke 10: 41-42

Oh, great, some Bible verse she wanted him to look up –

Hanson, don't be such a prick.

I'll let you read it for yourself , but it is one that I think belongs to you because it says, "Even though you are worried and burdened by many things, be sure you don't forget to tend to the most important thing –

Your spirit.

And you have a beautiful spirit, Thomas.

Eternally grateful,

Marilinda and Raphael Michael Thomas Salazar

The words blurred in front of him as the tears rushed to his eyes. That she'd given her son his name was flattering, completely unexpected, but that wasn't what had caught him so off guard, wasn't the reason why he could feel the tears that had welled up in his eyes beginning to spill over.

Was that him? So heavy with – everything – that he was neglecting his spirit?

Was that how people saw him – someone with a broken spirit?

Was that how he saw himself?

His father.

His job.


So many things that he carried by himself. . .

But how had she known that?

And how could his spirit be broken when he'd fought so hard to live?

But weren't you holding on for her? Her and the baby? So you could get them to safety? And then Penhall?

What was so wrong with holding on for other people?

You are important too. You have people waiting for you as well.

But she wasright – or that verse was right, or whatever – he was neglecting his spirit, had been for a long time, had really just been going through the motions at – everything.

He put the book down, knew he couldn't look at it again, not now anyway, maybe not ever. It was if he was being forced to think about things he'd promised himself he wouldn't think about, things like his life, what he wanted to do with it, who he saw himself as.

And some stranger who he'd probably never see again had been the one to figure all of it out.

He didn't know what to think.

Maybe it was the words he'd just read.

Maybe it was the realization that he'd been on the cusp of death, and had nearly lost the person he cared about the most.

Whatever it was, he might not know exactly what he thought, but he did believe, for the first time in many years, that he had an inkling, a sudden, small revelation of what it was that he wanted to do.

Was meant to do.

All right, this is where we part ways -- this is not how I would normally end this, in my 'writings' I have it going in a totally different direction, but since this is 21JS and they're home, they're safe, they're not doing anything Jump Streetish, I had to bring it to an end here. I'm sorry if you hated that, but don't hate Hanson, hate me instead (but try not to hate me, either)! Again, I liked what I did, at least for the most part. I just hope some of you got something out of it as well. I don't think I could've written this any differently, it's the journey I was led on. Thank you to any and all who are reading/have read this -- lots of love to all my fantastic reviewers. Again, thank you all from the bottom of my heart & all my best until the next story goes up. . .Hanson's Angel