Author's Notes: This is my first piece in this fandom, and I'm rather scared to post it. But "Stan by Me" was just too good to ignore. Spoilers for that episode, as well as a reference to "Trojan Horst", are included in here. This is a short missing scene piece.

The characters and situations herein are not mine. This piece is meant solely for entertainment purposes. No infringement is intended.


Counterbalance

The mundane has never been so glorious. He has never taken note of the seemingly innocuous, has never allowed unfiltered emotion to threaten to buckle his knees.

Until now.

He relishes the cool glass of the observation room window beneath his palm; comforts himself with the hiss of recycled hospital air. He memorizes the sound of bandages as the nurses remove them from their packaging, somehow smells the antiseptic they're applying to her wounds through the closed door and slatted blinds.

Until tonight, he's always hated the sour, curling taste of gunpowder on his tongue. It has been a necessary evil--one of many things he's sold his soul for over the years in the endless struggle between right and wrong, good and evil, predetermination and chance--but he's still hated it all the same, because it has been a constant reminder that he is sometimes relegated to nothing more than a violent pawn in the dangerous chess match laughingly called life.

Now he wants to remember that smell, the smoke from Mary's discharged weapon, the way the particles sank to heaven and earth as she was revealed to him--miraculously, magnificently alive. He will never forget the vibrancy of the blue color of the shovel she'd used as a defense; will never forget the satisfying and reverberating clang of its metal against the wooden basement post.

Until tonight, he's tended to hide himself from her; she's emotional enough for the both of them, and he yields to her drama and dominance. Being the even counterbalance to her endlessly swinging pendulum, the good cop to her bad, the adult to her child--it has all come naturally to him, even from the first week they worked together. They are stability personified, complements of the highest order. He has never felt uncomfortable in that role, never let the lines blur, never needing to move beyond those carefully constructed definitions; he knows he will follow wherever she leads, because she always seems to know exactly where she needs to go.

Until now. Until tonight.

He has never felt as out of control as he does tonight, has never had a burning desire so fierce that it blinds him to the point of myopia. He has never wanted something so much in his life as to see her rise like a phoenix from the ashes, has never wished to see her saunter with those ridiculous Magnum P.I. glasses hiding the previous night's debauchery and tequila shots. He has never prayed this hard or bargained this much--not even when he was threatening to fade away in an abandoned, dusty convenience store--offering what was left of his faith for one clue, one sign, one anything as to her whereabouts.

He has never hated the heavy silence or an empty chair like he does tonight, and he feels overwhelming guilt at having ever delighted in them before. He has never understood the weight behind the word partner.

Until now. Until tonight.

He knows he will never feel at ease again when she is out of his sight. There will be a coiled knot in his chest, forcing his body uncomfortably rigid, until she is by his side, the extension of himself he hadn't realized was there until it was missing. He knows he cannot protect her--especially from herself, as he knows she will push herself to the brink to remind herself she is still a fighter, to seek that infallibility that has kept them both relatively safe to this point--but he will reassure himself with the recollection of feeling her in his arms, bruised and bleeding, but still breathing.

His senses are overwhelmed, and his mind is racing uncontrollably. He exhales a breath as his forehead falls to the glass of the hospital room window, and he tries to remain upright while profound respite threatens to drop him to the tile beneath his feet. He cannot keep from chuckling when he thinks of what she'd say if she found him on the floor, as though he was the one who'd just barely survived the day from hell.

He jumps to attention when the exam room door opens, and she is pulling at the edges of the bandages, engaging in a battle of wills with the floor nurse, who is chasing after her and proclaiming she needs to be kept overnight for observation.

He offers a smile and small shake of his head to one agitated woman, and follows the other one out the emergency room doors. Because she is in no shape to drive, because she is in no shape to answer the numerous and tedious questions Stan, the police and the feds are going to pose to her, because his pulse is already racing as the identifying flash of blonde turns a corner and disappears into darkness. Because he is in no shape to think that he might wake up from this walking nightmare and be cradling her limp body, her destroyed spirit instead of having her push stubbornly out of his embrace, proclaiming to him, Stan and God that she's just fine.

Because his place is by her side, just as hers is by his, whether or not they had realized it before tonight.

He pries the keys out of her hands as she tries unsuccessfully to shove them into the door lock, and cannot control the thankful tears that threaten to expose him when she huffs indignantly at him and proclaims that it's her car.

This time, however, she yields to him, and moves to the passenger seat, her once grating muttering a balm to his broken psyche.

He knows she will not forget tonight. As he turns the noisy ignition over and pushes the car into drive, he reaches over and squeezes her knee--so briefly that he's unsure whether or not she realizes he's done it--and silently promises he won't forget any of it, either. He promises he will be there for the fallout, will be there for the night terrors, will be there to rein her in when she's teetering on the precipice.

Because as much as his job in life is to protect complete strangers, its importance has just been surpassed by the need to protect her.

FIN