Second Chance

Second Chance

It's hard to say where this comes from. Seemingly innocent beginnings can have catastrophic endings, this is less a story than an exploration of those emotions.

"Guys, isn't that a little drastic?" Chrissy frowned as Alphonse tucked the handcuffs out of sight, deep into his jeans' pocket.

"Chrissy, you have no idea." The big Latin held up a hand as though pleading for her understanding.

"We don't take precautions, he's gonna slip out of it. You wanna go through more like the last three weeks?" Ice's dry contribution.

Chrissy's glare intensified. "What are the handcuffs for?" Both men made non-committal noises and refused to meet her eyes.

"We got him a present, which would look much better coming from you." Ice smoothly distracted her. She accepted the diversion with reluctance. Afterall, Charlie was their partner, close friend and roommate, and they cared what happened to him, which was what all this was about in the first place; so they weren't going to hurt him. She took the package that Ice handed her.

"What is it?"



"Yeah, we thought he would like 'em better than those hospital gown things."

Chrissy stared, dumbfounded, at the parcel in her hands, so missed Ice's quick aside to his co-conspirator.

"Y'got the size we agreed on."

"Whaddya take me for? 'Course I did."

Down the hall, the subject of all this planning was fiddling around at the computer, trying to avoid thinking about what was about to happen to him.

Charlie O'Bannon was a very unhappy man. He'd had a killer toothache for about three weeks, driven to distraction by his fidgeting his partners had finally dragged him to the dentist. The dentist had taken one look and announced that the bottom two wisdom teeth had to come out.

Before he'd known where he was at, Charlie was booked into the hospital for the extractions. The operation was down for 8.30 the next morning and he'd tried everything he could think of to get out of it.

The door swung open. Charlie looked up with a scowl on his face, he knew exactly what was coming and he didn't like it.

"Charlie!" Alphonse brimming with bonhomie, Charlie's scowl blackened, "C'mon we're gonna give you a ride." One big square hand came down on the computer expert's shoulder.

"Guys, I've been giving this a lot of thought, an' I don't really need this operation. My teeth will be fine." He tried, but somehow he was boxed in and on the way to the elevator before he could do anything about it.

They checked him in and stayed with him, to Charlie's dismay. Ushered into his room, instead of leaving, his so-called friends stayed to get him settled. Charlie took one look at the horrible hospital gown and baulked again.

Chrissy handed him the parcel "Charlie, we got these for you."

He took the parcel from her with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "What is it?" He opened it. The pyjamas were bright blue.

"Go on, put 'em on!" Charlie eyed Ice suspiciously, but Chrissy's presence prevented him from expressing his feelings too forcefully. He went into the washroom and changed.

When he reappeared, Chrissy choked and had to turn away to hide her laughter. The pyjamas were too big, and nearly swamped him. He glared at them, "Very funny."

Chrissy recovered her equilibrium, and patted his arm. "Charlie, by this time tomorrow it will all be over." She smiled at him encouragingly. Charlie sighed, and climbed into bed.

"That don't mean I have to like it."

"We'll be back to collect you tomorrow afternoon." Ice distracted him from the other side of the bed. While his attention was on Ice, Alphonse grabbed his wrist, snapped one cuff round it and secured the other cuff to the bed.

"Just to make sure." Ignoring Charlie's outraged splutter.

"What's the big idea," Charlie tugged at his wrist, in vain. "Guys, let me out of this NOW!" he yelled at their departing backs. They gave no sign of having heard, but kept going, pulling a reluctant Chrissy with them.

Alphonse smiled at the nurse. "Thanks for everything, Monica." He dropped the key to the cuffs into her hand. "You might need this."

"Anytime, Alphonse."

His smile widened. "Promises, promises."

Chrissy waited until they were back at the car.

"That was cruel!" she glared at them, hands on hips.

"Chrissy, it was the only way."

"The ONLY way? Pyjamas about three sizes too big? Handcuffing him to the bed? THE ONLY WAY?"

"Chrissy, he'd try and wriggle out of it. It's for his own good." Ice tried to placate her.

"I don't like it."

"Point is, he don't either; but by tomorrow night, it will all be over."

Left alone, Charlie was miserable. The operation scared him; someone else being in control of his life really worried him. He closed his eyes, and slid further down into the bed, the handcuffs clanked against the metal rail.

He didn't bother to open his eyes when the nurse came round perhaps she'll think I'm asleep. He felt the prick of a needle in the back of his hand.

"What's that for?"

"Something for tomorrow, to help your recovery. Now, go back to sleep." The voice was soothing and gentle. He drifted off to sleep.

The perfect opportunity, it couldn't have been better if I'd planned it. By the time they figure out what's wrong, it will be too late. The smile was evil and not quite sane.

Charlie came round slowly. He'd never felt worse in his life. His mouth was sore and his jaw felt as though it were being squeezed by nutcrackers. A cool hand eased his head up.

"Mr O'Bannon, just relax, rinse and spit into this bowl, and I guarantee you will feel better."

He pried his eyes open and squinted at the nurse. Charlie cleared his aching throat, and took a gulp of the liquid in the glass the nurse was holding to his lips, spitting into the bowl she provided. There was a lot of blood.

Charlie was determined to get out of there, so was very relieved when the doctor signed him off. Speech was too painful, so he contented himself with a fierce glare at Ice and Alphonse.

He sulked all the way home in the car, and once back at the loft, indicated he was going to bed. Alphonse made as if to follow him. Ice shook his head.

"Leave him, man. He's still mad at us, just give him some time."

Alphonse looked as if he was going to protest, but gave in. "Okay."

Come the evening, there was still no sign of Charlie. Alphonse cooked dinner, making soup and various soft foods which he figured would be easy for Charlie to swallow and didn't require much chewing, the big man desperately wanted to make amends for hurting his partner's feelings.

Chrissy arrived. "How's Charlie?"

Ice crossed to the fridge for a beer. "Sore at us."

Alphonse took the pan off the heat. "I'll go get him." He wiped his hands and disappeared towards Charlie's room.

Chrissy was just about to pin Ice down further about what had happened, when


They raced into Charlie's room.

Alphonse was sitting on the bed, cradling his partner in his arms. Charlie was barely conscious and coughing blood. There was a big stain spread across the pillow and more on Alphonse's shirt. He looked up at them.

"Get the car, he's bleeding to death here."

Ice was already out the door.

One big hand gently cradled his partner's head against the big man's shoulder, heedless of the blood staining his shirt. He tightened his grip and scooped Charlie up into his arms, staggering slightly under Charlie's weight. Chrissy grabbed Alphonse's jacket and the quilt, and they made their way down to the car.

Ice drove fast, while Chrissy phoned on ahead to the hospital. Alphonse wrapped the quilt round Charlie and tried to keep him awake. The computer expert was getting weaker by the minute. His head lolled back against his partner's shoulder, the short dark lashes drooped closed over the blue eyes and he went limp in Alphonse's arms.

"Charlie……………c'mon, please……………Charlie." Alphonse choked, tears ran down his cheeks, and his terrified gaze connected with Chrissy's.

Ice hurled the car through the hospital gates, porters were running out to meet them. They took Charlie from Alphonse and whisked him away into ER.

The three of them prowled the waiting area like caged tigers. Time seemed to have ground to a halt.

O'Connor appeared, and Chrissy turned to greet him.

"Do we know anything yet."

"Only that he was ……………haemorrhaging" Chrissy had to stop and fight for control "and that his blood pressure was real low." She looked at her boss pleadingly. "We don't know…….." she trailed off.

O'Connor swallowed, this kind of thing he dreaded above all others. He took a grip,

"I'll find out what's going on."

Just as he turned, the doctor appeared in the doorway.

"I'm sorry……" the rest of what he was going to say was drowned in Alphonse's agonised scream,

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" He surged towards the door, Ice, Chrissy and O'Connor caught him and held onto him as he struggled "CHARLIE!" he broke down and collapsed backwards onto the seat, bent double under the weight of his grief. Chrissy held onto her own pain, and sat beside him, trying to find some way of comforting him.

She looked up at Ice. He was frozen, as though turned to stone, suddenly he looked very old and very tired. Self-contained, no hint of his feelings showed.

The doctor waited until the first storm levelled off. "Someone will have to make the formal identification for the death certificate."

The sound of the man's voice penetrated the wall of agony surrounding Alphonse. The big man assimilated what was being said, "Noooooo!" he was on his feet, facing the doctor, white and shaking. He screwed his eyes shut and staggered backwards shaking his head as though to deny it all.

He lost control, turned and bolted for the exit, running as though the fiends of hell were on his trail.

The shell-shocked remnant of the team could only watch him go.

O'Connor took charge, ushering them out, making them leave. As he turned to go himself, he was distracted by the hurried arrival of a nurse. She spoke to the doctor who beckoned to O'Connor.

Puzzled, O'Connor joined them.

Cornfield picked them up and drove to the offices. Ice couldn't go back to the loft, not yet. Not for a long time.

He held on with every instinct. The pain was so great he felt like he was dying inside an inch at a time. Everything reminded him of Charlie. Passing the work stations with the computers, hurt. Seeing Charlie's collection of electronic gadgets dumped on the desk that they'd appropriated for themselves, hurt. He paced down the hall to one of the meeting rooms, he badly needed to be alone.

He wasn't to be left in peace. O'Connor stuck his head round the door.

"We need to find Alphonse, before he does himself some damage."

Ice exploded. "I CAN'T DEAL WITH THAT RIGHT NOW!" almost ashamed of losing his cool, he turned away.

"I……………..can't" he fought to hold on. Self containment was everything and he couldn't lose it in front of O'Connor.

O'Connor looked at the tense figure in front of him. "Of course," he said simply, "I'll get some of the others on it." Closed the door and left the man alone with his thoughts.

Left alone in her office, Chrissy closed the door. If only she could close out the pain as easily. She paced back and forth. Every object seemed to remind her, the computer mocked her with its presence. She walked towards it, all her agony concentrated in this one machine, magnetically drawn to it. She sat down in front of it and powered up. NON SYSTEM DISK, ERROR flashed up on the screen. Puzzled, she pressed the button on the CD ROM drawer, it slid open with a soft click and whirr and she stared down at the disk sitting in it as though she'd never seen one in her life before.

Almost unconsciously she pushed the drawer back in and clicked on the file explorer. A second's hesitation and the disk files appeared on the screen. Involuntarily, she clicked on the most recent file and began to read.

It was like watching a slow motion replay of a train wreck, knowing the precise moment that her world was going to explode into fragments, yet compelled to watch. Part of her desperately wanted to switch off, throw the disk in the trash, not look upon his nakedness and know; the relentless part of her drove her on this is what you could have had, if only you'd bothered to find out.

It was a letter to her. Chrissy knew there was no way Charlie would ever have sent it to her. He buried his emotions deep beneath a barrier of prickly awkwardness that he very rarely let down. The letter was mis-spelt and the expressions awkward, but it was the real Charlie, everything he felt, about her, about his partners; everything he was longing to be able to say, but was too scared to. Everything he could say to a machine, but not to the people he loved.

That he'd loved her, Chrissy now knew, it was heart and soul and it laid bare all the things she should have picked up on. My dream is yours, like the old corny lines of the song.

The screen blurred before her eyes, and the young woman cried her heart out for what she had lost.

Alphonse was drunk. He was more than drunk; after he'd run from the hospital, he'd gone to the bank, drawn out every cent from the account Chrissy had opened for him and was engaged upon a bender of colossal proportions. Just maybe that way he could drown the agony in his heart.

So he'd gone on a bar crawl. Staggering into and out of every one he could find. He no longer knew where he was or what he was ordering, he just downed the drinks and moved on.

It was very late, he weaved unsteadily up the alleyway, a bottle in his hand; he never saw the mugger, the baseball bat connected with his cheekbone and he dropped like a stone, his last conscious thought as he hit the pavement down in the gutter like the rat I am.

Hands stripped him of his leather jacket, his wallet and his shoes. He lay face down on the pavement unaware of the rain upon his unconscious body.

A cop found him, as he pushed the big body over onto his back, Alphonse came to, pain and rage coalesced in his skull and the big man let go with a titanic punch.

Cornfield was busy tracking Alphonse down. To his surprise, when O'Connor had brought the subject up, the black man had volunteered.

A trawl of the city's drunk tanks had turned up one very drunk, aggressive, nameless and desperate Latin. Cornfield was on his way to take a look.

One look was sufficient. Alphonse was sitting on the floor at the back, head bent over knees drawn up to his chest, hands cuffed in front of him. The sergeant dragged him out. His clothes were torn, soaked and filthy, his face cut and bruised, Cornfield stared with concern at the deep cut over his cheekbone, the flesh was bruised and scraped. He staggered as he walked and it was only then that the agent realised he was barefoot.

"Get the cuffs off him." Cornfield threw a sour glare at the sergeant.

The man huffed. "He took a swing at one of my men, you sure you want to let him go."

Alphonse's dulled eyes looked at Cornfield, he began to laugh, but it all went wrong in the middle and he started to cry, turning away, he leant against the wall, resting his head against his bound hands, he sobbed as though his heart would break.

Cornfield felt an icy rage against the sergeant, against O'Connor, against fate in general, in the ten years he'd been with the Bureau he'd never expected to care about the fate of three ex-cons. He didn't like it.

Putting a firm arm round Alphonse, Cornfield steered him away from wall, taking the key from the sergeant, he unlocked the cuffs.

"C'mon." he persuaded the big man to walk towards the exit.

Somehow Cornfield managed to get him into the car. Throwing a silent prayer heavenwards that the alcohol did not catch up with him on the journey, Cornfield drove back to the office as quickly as he could manage. Alphonse's cut face needed stitches, but there was no way Cornfield was taking him to the hospital. Someone would fix him up back at the office.

Driving into the parking lot, he was relieved to see Penny Carducci waiting for him.

"You found him."

"Yeah, I found him." Cornfield couldn't quite keep the sour note out of his tone. "He ain't in any condition to do anything."

Penny looked the big man over, her heart went out to him. Alphonse didn't look like he knew where he was or what was happening.

"He needs to lie down."

Cornfield's smile was pure menace. "I know just the place he can do that." They steered him into the elevator. Penny threw a questioning glance at her companion.

Cornfield didn't answer, just walked Alphonse down to O'Connor's office and sat him on the couch before he could fall down.

"What we needed was a breathing space and some protection, what I've got is catalepsy!" O'Connor was on the phone. "I'm going to tell them the truth!" he snapped at the person on the other end of the line, just as Ice and Chrissy entered the room.

"Truth, what truth!" Ice's voice was low and dangerous.

O'Connor looked away. This was gonna be a hard one, harder even than he'd supposed.

He looked down at the desk blotter as though trying to gain support from it.

"Charlie survived. He's not dead."

The entire room froze. Alphonse gazed at him uncomprehendingly and then the alcohol caught up with him, he threw himself over the edge of the couch, and vomited into the waste bin Cornfield just managed to get beneath him in time. Chrissy and Cornfield held onto him as he was sicker than he'd ever been in his life, the last twenty four hours caught up with Alphonse with a vengeance.

Ice moved closer to O'Connor.

"You knew. You knew, Charlie was alive and YOU KNEW!!"

Ice threw the punch, it knocked O'Connor clear across the room. All the rage and pain flooded back, Ice's knees went weak and he collapsed into a chair, head in his hands as he struggled to come to terms with the last two minutes.

O'Connor struggled groggily to his feet. Panting and dishevelled, he regained control with an effort, straightening his clothes.

"O'Bannon died back there. The doctor was quite right when he came to tell us. Then some fluke of fate, his heart started again." He paused, the next was going to sound improbable.

"Someone tried to kill him. There was an anti-coagulant in his system. That's why he was haemorrhaging, his blood couldn't clot. You got him there just in time, five more minutes and he would have been dead for certain."

Cornfield asked the question they all wanted to know.

"Someone tried to kill him? Who?"

"We don't know."

Ice got to his feet, the impassive mask back in place. "We can go to see him." The statement was flat, no refusal would be tolerated.

O'Connor gave in. "You can. He'd be better with his friends around him, and you can watch him as well as anyone."

Ice held out his hand to Chrissy, she got up and somehow between them, Cornfield and Ice managed to get their drunken colleague onto his feet. A spasm crossed Ice's normally impassive face.

"We'll get you sobered up first."

They weaved out. Alphonse's tendency to stagger playing havoc with the office furniture.

While Ice and Cornfield introduced Alphonse to a very cold shower, fully clothed, Chrissy hunted for a change of clothes for him.

Finally, they'd got him reasonably sober, and cleaned up. Chrissy had patched up the cut on his cheek, holding the raw edges together and taping it with butterfly bandages. The cut really needed stitches, but Alphonse was too out of it and strung up to have that done.

They hovered outside room 108, hesitant to go in. The devastation of the last hours fresh in everyone's mind.

Chrissy summoned up the courage and pushed the door open. The room was darkened, its only occupant deeply asleep.

Chrissy approached the bed, Charlie lay on his back, slightly turned towards her. A drip line fed into his right arm which lay across his stomach, his left arm was by his side, his hand was palm uppermost and she put her hand in his. Strong fingers closed over hers, surely a reflexive action, she drew his hand closer and raised it to her cheek. This is my second chance, and I'm gonna take it.

He coughed, Chrissy was instantly alert, bending over him. "Charlie." Blue slits peered up at her. He tugged slightly at her hand, trying to move it closer to him but he was too weak; instinctively knowing what he wanted, she sat on the edge of the bed, so that her hand could rest close to his cheek, he leaned against her and closed his eyes.

Outside in the corridor, Ice was having trouble persuading Alphonse to see Charlie. The big Latin was all over the place, the alcohol he'd consumed on an empty stomach still playing total havoc with his system.

Ice lost patience. "What's the matter with you, man."

Alphonse closed his eyes, "I…….." his voice wavered. He caught Ice's glare and attempted to get his head together.


"Yes…..What!" Ice snapped.

Alphonse lost it. "I was thinking……….he don' wanna see me!"

"Y'finally stewed y'brains, of course he wants to see you." Ice was really irritated now.

"Ice………Charlie's supposed to be my friend……………….I..keep thinking…………what was the last thing I did to him……………………….humiliated him with a joke present and then handcuffed him to a bed…………………" Alphonse was drained of all colour, white and shaking. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall. "All the time…………………………….I thought he was" the big man paused, swallowed and tried to regain control, "I thought he was ……………………dead……………………..I kept thinking about……… the last thing I'd done to him……………………an' it all went wrong…………………it was like I'd killed him myself."

Ice thought about it. Alphonse had a point, but he was coming at it from the wrong direction. The self-assured leader knew that, he also knew talking to Alphonse in his present state wouldn't make a bit of difference. Charlie needed them both now, more than ever.

Ice concentrated on the one he could do something about, Charlie, leave Alphonse to get over it in his own way. With a final hard look at Alphonse he joined Chrissy.

Left alone, Alphonse wilted. He felt really sick, the physical effects swamped by the huge burden of guilt. He staggered to the couch in the waiting area and slumped down onto it, putting his head in his hands, trying to gather his scattered thoughts and quite coincidentally, keep the top of his skull from falling off. Gradually, he flopped down onto the couch, stretched out full length and fell asleep.

Hours passed, Ice and Chrissy waited with Charlie. He was weak but lucid in the brief moments he woke up. Ice hadn't failed to notice that his eyes had taken in the room's occupants, then turned towards the door as though expecting someone else to join them. Ice was coldly angry with Alphonse, damn him, in his weakened state Charlie couldn't hide the hurt he felt at the big man's rejection.

Charlie did feel hurt that Alphonse hadn't come to see him but he was too tired and weak to wonder why.

Ice went through the possibilities of who would want to kill Charlie and why? He dismissed most suspects from his mind, either they were in prison or already dead. One name kept coming back to him, but it didn't make sense. Roger Hallicky was dead.

Alphonse came round, to the unpleasant sensation of cold steel pressed against his forehead. His eyelids felt like they had hundred pound weights on them, and his mouth felt like the bottom of a parrot's cage. Grumpily he cranked his eyes open, and blearily focussed on the gun being pointed at his head. Gun! Alphonse's fuddled brain sorted itself out in a hurry.

Monica stared down at him, she looked totally different to the gentle smiling nurse he'd flirted with thirty-six hours ago. Her eyes were hard and cold, the gun unwavering in her grasp. Alphonse sat up very slowly, he didn't want to do anything to cause her to pull the trigger.


"Get up." She motioned with the gun, moving smoothly back out of his reach as he prised himself upright. "Get moving!" Alphonse by now had noticed the silencer, he complied. She pushed him out onto the dimly lit staircase.

Alphonse's brain was working overtime and coming up with nothing. He could sense the wheels spinning.

"Monica, why are you doing this?" keep her talking, maybe she won't pull the trigger.

"Turn round and put your hands behind your back." Briefly he considered his options, then did as he was told, wincing when the cuffs snapped brutally tight around his wrists. She adjusted them so they were as tight as possible, biting into his skin.

She pushed him round to face her, triumph in her eyes…………………………..and something else. Alphonse felt real fear……………………………she's crazy!

"You want to know why?" the little giggle that she gave nearly tipped Alphonse into total panic. "I'll tell you why, you killed my boyfriend, you and that precious friend of yours. Roger only wanted what was due to him. You took that away. It was like a dream come true when I saw your friend's name down on the list, then you came to see me and that made it even more perfect."

She motioned with the gun again, "keep moving!" Alphonse looked down the steep darkened stairway, the whole thing started to spin. Hands cuffed behind him, in his current state he knew he couldn't make the stairs.

"I can't!" He closed his eyes. He felt the gun rest under his chin.

"Yes, you can. This is even better. Overcome with grief………………and alcohol," she wrinkled her nose "a man's best friend drowns himself in the ocean. They'll tear themselves apart over your death."

Salvation had come, Alphonse could see the door opening behind her. He threw his weight forward against her, felt two hot streaks of pain in his left arm and shoulder, and was in time to see Ice and Cornfield grab her, before he hit the ground. His head connected painfully hard with the concrete floor and he passed out.

Alphonse groaned, he'd never felt worse in his life. Everything ached. His left shoulder had flashes of white hot pain burning in it. His stomach was doing flip-flops and the top of his head felt like it was about to unscrew and fall off. He eased further onto his right side and an unexpected draft wrapped itself around his back. He tried to move his left arm back to feel what was wrong behind, but something was preventing him moving it. Opening his eyes would be a mistake, he knew.

Cautiously, he pried one eyelid open a crack, the burst of light made him cram it shut again with a groan. He started again, even more cautiously this time and looked down. He was in a hospital bed, his left shoulder was swathed in bandages and his arm strapped firmly across his chest, he'd been given the shortest, skimpiest hospital gown he'd ever seen, Alphonse whimpered. Dammit, he'd died and gone to hell.

The crowning horror was the sensation of something rubbing across his leg when he eased onto his back. Slamming his eyes firmly shut, he slid his right hand under the covers. His searching fingers encountered a tube. He blushed bright crimson as he realised what that was for.

A cool hand smoothed his tangled hair back from his face. He peeked under his lashes again. Chrissy stood over him.

Chrissy had felt as angry as Ice did over Alphonse's behaviour; but her ire was not proof against the evidence of his misery. The hangover from hell added to a couple of bullets in his left shoulder and she found her anger melting as he groaned and shifted about trying to get comfortable.

His head rolled on the pillow, and through half closed eyes Alphonse saw his partner asleep in the other bed.

"How is he?"

Instead of the savage retort she'd wanted to make, Chrissy answered him gently.

"He'll be fine. They ran some tests and his blood pressure's back to normal. He'll need to be careful for a while." She looked down at her hands, this next was going to be a hard subject to bring up. "Alphonse, Charlie looked for you last night. He was really hurt when you weren't there."

"Chrissy……………….I………………." he trailed off, and shifted restlessly. A white hot pain flashed through his nerve endings and he tensed. "It was my fault………….. Monica could never have done what she did, without me." He rolled his head on the pillow again looking away towards the corner of the room, so he wouldn't have to meet her eyes, or see the friend he had betrayed.

Chrissy caught the sheen of tears before he looked away. Oh Alphonse. She sighed and set about the task of soothing him down. As she talked, Alphonse became more and more distressed. Chrissy ended up sitting on the bed next to him, holding him in her arms.

Night fell again. The two occupants of the room were left alone in peace.

The sound of snoring split the air. Charlie glared irritably at the ceiling, how was he supposed to get any rest with that racket going on. All day long he'd been aware of his partner, but somehow couldn't bring himself to broach the subject. He'd heard the conversation between Alphonse and Chrissy. The computer expert was dumbfounded at what his big reckless partner was putting himself through; he couldn't figure why Alphonse was so sure it was his fault.

A defiant snore sounded. Charlie cleared his throat, shit that hurts.

"'Phonse, wake up dammit." The pain in his jaw reawakened. Dammit. Charlie reached a hand up to the empty plastic glass by his bedside. He grasped it, then threw it at his snoring friend. It missed Alphonse by millimetres and bounced into the corner with a noisy clatter.

"Huh! Wassermarrerrrrr!" the voice was slurred. The big blue eyes cranked open a slit. "Whaddyyaa do that fuur!"

"Y'snoring." Charlie hissed at him.

The eyes that gazed into his were very wary. Charlie sighed, he couldn't deal with this. He cleared his throat again and concentrated hard.

"Alphonse, what happened was not your fault, okay."

The expression lightened some, then a shade crossed the big man's face again.

"Charlie, y'know all that stuff with the pyjamas and cuffing y'to the bed. I was only teasing you."

"I know! Who do ya think's responsible for that thing y'wearing."

Alphonse glanced down at the very short gown, that barely covered his modesty.

"Payback, huh!"

The computer expert was fading fast, just the five minute conversation had worn him out. "I did a deal with the nurse" his smile was enigmatic as he drifted off to sleep.

Alphonse's free hand tugged the hem of the gown down as far as it would go, which wasn't far. He was so sleepy, he slid further down in the bed and drifted off to sleep.