The gun was pointed straight at them


The guys are back in LA………

An old "friend" returns!

All the usual rules apply. I don't own any of the characters, except for the ones of mine own making. No currency except pleasure, so please don't sue. I "apologise" in advance for ham, smarm and h/c which tend to feature fairly heavily in my scribblings EG.

The road was wet and slippery that night. A bad curve. Dangerous, lots of accidents there. Could have happened to anyone.

Dammit, it isn't anyone, it's Chrissy. She's a good driver. Never would have lost control like that; something else happened up there.

Charlie sat and held her hand. The young woman had been quite lucky. A bang on the head, mild concussion, some cracked ribs and a lot of bruising where she was thrown against the seat belt. Less than ten days ago, their positions had been reversed, he'd been the one flat on his back in a hospital bed.

Once he'd gone back to the office, things had changed. She seemed awkward somehow, as though she hadn't known what to expect. Several times Charlie had sensed her watching him. It had taken a while, but he finally figured out what it was. Must ha' read the disk. He'd found the disk carefully put away in the desk. He couldn't remember putting it there himself. Charlie was confused and nervous, so he watched Chrissy. They circled each other warily, each waiting for the other to make a move.

The not knowing was driving Charlie crazy, but approaching her was out of the question. Then, a routine check up on a lead. Chrissy had taken the car up the coast. On her way back, the car had left the road and wound up on its roof in a ditch.

They'd rushed to the hospital. Leaving O'Connor making outraged noises about their work. The three of them had hung around for what seemed like hours, finally they'd been allowed in to see her. The doctor had sedated her. Charlie was desperate, he'd needed to be with her, but alone. Ice and Alphonse gave the impression of being there for the duration. Just coming up with reasons for them to go and leave him with Chrissy had given Charlie a very real headache.

Eventually, his heavy hints had penetrated. Ice and Alphonse had exchanged significant, if puzzled looks and departed. So Charlie sat and held her hand, and tried to work out different ways to cover his tracks. He didn't know how Chrissy felt about him, he sure didn't want the other two to find out how he felt about Chrissy. Charlie shuddered, a really bad idea!.

He was so preoccupied rehearsing his moves that he didn't notice the young woman begin to stir. A shade crossed her face and she began to moan. Charlie pulled himself together.

"Chrissy, it's okay, you're safe." He spoke quietly to her.

She didn't respond and sat up suddenly, her eyes flew wide open and she screamed. Charlie held onto her hand, gently turning her face toward his with his free hand.

"Sssshhhh! It's okay." A moment's struggle and she turned towards him. Charlie was struck by the fear etched deep on her face. Forgetting the awkwardness between them; concentrated only on calming her, Charlie sat on the bed next to her and pulled her gently into his arms.

Chrissy burrowed against him. Charlie rested his cheek against her hair and stroked her back in long soothing motions. He'd only seen her lose control like this once before, when she'd been kidnapped by a bad cop. It hurt.

Carefully he pulled away so he could tilt her chin up and look into her face. Chrissy refused to meet his eyes for a second, then she looked up. The sheer terror in her eyes tore at him. This is a helluva lot more than a car crash.

"Chrissy, you're quite safe. I'm not gonna leave you."

The beautiful young agent recovered her composure, and eased gently back. The look of compassion in his eyes nearly did for her again.

Chrissy was struggling to figure out what she was scared of, none of it made any sense. She'd come to in the car whilst the fire crew and paramedics were working on freeing her. There was this vague feeling of menace at the edge of her consciousness. When she tried to get a handle on it, the thing skittered away into the shadows.

Charlie dragged back to the loft. He was exhausted. Once he'd seen the state Chrissy was in, he wouldn't leave her. So he'd sat by her bed all night, finally around 4.00 am he'd slumped down and fallen asleep. He'd woken up stiff, with a pain in his neck and back from the awkward position, but the pleasurable sensation of waking up next to Chrissy more than made up for that.

He dropped his keys wearily on the breakfast bar and looked around, the place was a shambles, most of Alphonse's clothes spread over the back of the couch. Charlie stooped to pick up a sweater that had fallen on the floor. He bundled the clothes together anyhow and stamped round to Alphonse's room.

"'Phonse, when're y'gonna stop dumping y'clothes in our space,' he snapped. He rounded the doorframe and stopped dead. Alphonse was in bed asleep, but he wasn't alone.

They were as close as two people could get. Alphonse's head resting against her shoulder, his hand curved around one breast, Lucy's arms round him, one hand tangled in his hair the other holding him against her; legs all entwined. The sheet had slipped down clearly revealing their bodies. Charlie gawped at them, the pain and rage that flashed through him was out of all proportion to the situation.

He turned on his heel and left. Anger burning deep inside. He bumped into Ice.

Ice took one look at his partner's face, he'd never seen Charlie look like that.

"What's up man, Chrissy's okay, isn't she?" Ice had a sudden panicky feeling.

"Yeah, she's gonna be fine." Charlie was reticent, and wary.

Ice looked at him closely. "What's up with you then. We upset you again!"

Charlie automatically assumed his mask of bland neutrality, "I don't know what you mean, I'm fine." He couldn't meet Ice's eyes.

The next few days turned into a nightmare for Ice. Charlie was stonewalling Alphonse. He avoided speaking to the big man directly, dived out the door every time his partner entered the room and was generally evasive. At first, Alphonse was puzzled and hurt, but then he became increasingly irritated.

Then the tactics changed, they sniped at each other; dragging Ice into the middle of their fight.

Chrissy came back to work, and things began to spiral out of control. She seemed different, withdrawn and secretive. Charlie was wary around Chrissy, they watched each other all the time, particularly when they thought the other wasn't looking. Chrissy picked up on the tension between Charlie and Alphonse. Ice now had a full time problem coping with his partners' various gripes.

Ice set up the bust. This arms dealer was smart and devious and it worried him. Ice didn't know if he could trust either of his partners in their current state. He dragged Alphonse with him, better than leaving him in the van with Charlie.

Chrissy was having a really bad time. Her fears seemed amplified by the set up. She sat in the van, nervously fiddling with her gun. She spun the chamber, and the bullets fell to the floor. While she bent down to pick them up, Charlie watched her. This is not like you, Chrissy. His heart went out to her, if she had looked up at that moment, she would have had no doubt about his feelings.

Ice faced the guy down, this feels wrong, he moved slightly into better cover.

"You got the merchandise?"

"You got the money?"

Sound instincts told Ice that it was blown. The taunting triumph in the guy's voice was too obvious. Alphonse looked around, trying to spot the ambush. A bullet pinged into the concrete to his left.

"It's a trap!"

His words triggered an explosion, as FBI agents swarmed over the set up, guns drawn. Bullets were flying and in the mayhem, Alphonse spotted one of the shooters, he went after the man. Followed by Chrissy.

The rooms were dark, and footsteps echoed through the abandoned building. Chrissy quickly lost track of Alphonse and the shooter. She moved cautiously, all her fears crowded in on her.

Shadows seemed large and threatening, she started to breathe faster and the tension rose within her. Moving towards the doorway, there was an onimous creak to her left. The young woman panicked and spun to fire.

Only Alphonse's quick reflexes saved his life. He flung himself to one side as she turned. The bullet dug a furrow through his left upper arm, and pinged off the wall behind him. His right hand flew up to grasp his bleeding arm.

"JEEZUS, Chrissy. We're on the same side, remember."

She stared at him, eyes wide with terror and shock.

O'Connor paced back and forth.

"What the hell is going on. That was a mess. Unless you idiots can get it together better than that, you're finished." Non committal noises from the boys irritated O'Connor.

He spun round. "And you!" He glared at Chrissy. "A word, now."

Chrissy reluctantly followed him into the office. She was strung out, she'd nearly killed Alphonse.

Charlie paced up and down outside the office, he could see them through the office window, O'Connor was upsetting Chrissy, every protective instinct in Charlie rose to the surface. He held on to his temper with a real effort. Alphonse's smug expression from behind the desk was making him crazy.

Alphonse's arm was painful, and he was hurting. Chrissy had really scared him and whatever was going on with Charlie was the last straw. The big man sat, cradling his sling-supported arm against him, brooding on his anger.

The office door opened and Chrissy stood there. One instant her eyes met Charlie's, pain and fear in them, then she fled.

O'Connor came out of the office. "Agent Kowalski is on leave until she can get her head together. Some nonsense about someone trying to kill her." He sighed, "That's no excuse for the rest of you!"

Charlie spun round, everything came together in one explosion, his fear for Chrissy, the anger and hurt he felt over Alphonse and Lucy.

"Whaddya do that for? Chrissy needs us. What if this guy comes after her!" He looked around for help. Ice looked at him apologetically.

"Charlie, Chrissy just crashed her car, she needs time to get over it." He began.

"Someone drove her off the road. Why can't you see that." Charlie was losing it.

Alphonse added his view. "Paranoia's obviously catching!" his tone was calculated to infuriate Charlie.

"Like betrayal, you mean!" Charlie's voice was low, the tone sibilant and vicious. All his anger concentrated on the source of his frustration.

Alphonse started to get to his feet. "Betrayal, whaddya mean betrayal."

"Oh, so it's perfectly alright to sleep with my sister!" Charlie snarled, losing it completely, every nasty thing he could think of came pouring out. Alphonse just stood there, he blanched at the onslaught, then his anger rose to match Charlie's.

"You spied on us! I don't believe it." He started to move towards his erstwhile friend. "This place ain't big enough for both of us."

Charlie backed away, his eyes hard and cold. He looked straight at Ice. "No problem. I'm going." He turned and ran towards the elevator before Ice could stop him, leaving his two partners standing trying to gather their scattered wits.

Ice looked at Alphonse, the big Latin refused to meet his eyes for an instant.

"Did you have to?"

Alphonse turned strained miserable eyes towards his friend. "Lucy's the best thing that's ever happened to me, and I ain't giving her up. If Charlie can't deal with it……." He trailed off in distress, and slumped back in the chair.

Charlie packed a bag and went straight round to Chrissy's place. She answered the door. She had obviously been crying, she looked at him with a kind of dull amazement.

"Chrissy, I……….." he faltered, unsure of what to say.

She merely stepped back to let him in.

"Charlie, I need to get out of here. I need time to think. This whole thing,…" she made a helpless gesture with her hands. "This whole thing is driving me crazy. Nothing I can put my finger on even. Just this weird feeling that someone's after me." She stared at him, eyes wide and pleading. "You believe me, don't you? You don't just think I'm being paranoid."

"That's why I'm here. The paranoid thing, no, I don't think you're paranoid. Something happened up there, and you don't remember it now."

Ice and Alphonse made their way back to the loft. Ice was tired. He'd been keeping the whole thing together for four weeks now and it had still broken out. Alphonse was feeling the effects of being shot in the arm. True, it was only a flesh wound but it hurt, if only the pain in his heart could be diagnosed as easily.

Ice let them in, half expecting to find Charlie waiting for them. The place was quiet. Then he saw the note propped up against his stereo. Ice took it, he had a really bad feeling about this.

Charlie had gone. He was going to help Chrissy, then he was out of there for good. "Say goodbye to 'Phonse for me." The rest of the note said what to do with his stuff. Ice sat down heavily in a chair. Shit! This is gonna hit Alphonse really hard. Alphonse noticed his worried face.

"Whatsa matter!"

No hiding it. "It's from Charlie. He's gone………an' he ain't coming back!" Ice looked up, caught the flash of real agony in his reckless partner's eyes

"We've gotta find him!" The big Latin was halfway out of the door.

"'Phonse, wait up."

Alphonse turned back, knocking his injured arm against the door frame. He yelped in pain, at the same time hoping that Ice would put the tears in his eyes down to physical injury.

Ice wasn't fooled. Charlie and Alphonse were very close. This thing between them would run its course and they'd be closer than ever. Only this time…………….there was more to it than Charlie freaking out over his sister and Alphonse. Ice replayed the last four weeks in his head.

A faint glimmer of something flickered in the corner of Ice's mind. The night they'd spent waiting at the hospital. Charlie had been eager to get rid of them. Ice thought about it and realised he'd come up with the answer. It just gets better and better. He kept his discovery to himself, Alphonse would have a field day with that information.

He grabbed his jacket and they drove round to Chrissy's place.

It was dark and deserted.

Twenty five frustrating minutes later, they were no nearer the answer. Charlie and Chrissy had vanished into thin air.

O'Connor was steaming. "Find them."

"Charlie's good at this; he don't wanna be found, there's no way you're gonna find him."

Chrissy watched her companion, Charlie drove. He'd rented a car, under another name, in other circumstances Chrissy would have objected. But she felt too fragile. He believed in her without question. The young woman badly needed someone to believe in her at that moment. The fact that it was Charlie, that he'd backed her against all the odds, even going against Alphonse and Ice to help her; and she knew how he felt about her.

Chrissy thought about it, the arguments against it were persuasive, he's an ex-con with a load of hang ups, he's neurotic, he sounds off before thinking about it, he's prickly and awkward at the best of times. But he was there for her. Even if he was only doing it to humour her, he was there, risking his friendship with the others and quite possibly even his life…………………….for her!

Chrissy knew Charlie was tough and gutsy, but she'd never really seen this softer, gentler side to his nature. It threw her for a loop.

Charlie could sense Chrissy was going over things in her mind, so he kept quiet and just drove. He'd rented a room under yet another false name. They'd have to share, but that wouldn't be a problem. Charlie wouldn't be able to protect her if he was far away, and he had no intention of leaving her vulnerable.

Alphonse was miserable and confused, his arm hurt. He couldn't think straight. He sought comfort from the one source that he could turn to; Lucy.

Lucy watched her lover with a mixture of compassion and dismay. She was having a hard time figuring out her own feelings and relationship with Charlie. They'd reached a kind of wary neutrality, which was better than it had been before, but……………

The lovers lay in bed wrapped round each other, neither of them able to sleep, just sharing the silence, drawing some comfort from being together. Alphonse ran his hand gently over her body, Lucy's skin was smooth and soft to the touch, the powerfully defined muscle structure beneath a stark contrast. Which was one of the things he loved about this girl. Tough and fiery, she matched him in every way. Alphonse didn't normally think beyond the immediate rush of desire, but somehow Lucy had got under his skin, vague thoughts of pledging himself eternally to this one woman were already entering his mind.

His hand edged downwards and Lucy opened herself to him, her hands slid round his neck and tugged him down to meet her.

Charlie carried their bags into the room he'd rented. It was a smallish motel, quiet and out of the way, he'd asked for a quiet end room. The room wasn't very big, and it had a double bed, but Charlie figured he would take the couch. He said as much to Chrissy, stammering slightly as he tried to put it nicely and got lost in a strange morass of half finished sentences and embarrassment.

At a less painful time, Chrissy would have been amused by his awkward attempts at making her feel better, but she was grateful for his understanding. She was exhausted.

"Charlie, I think I'm gonna get some rest." She sat down on the bed, kicked off her shoes and stretched out.

"Sure, you do that. I'll set up the lap top."

Twenty minutes later, he'd set up the lap top, cunningly established a remote link, which he hoped would be almost untraceable. He looked round.


The young woman was deeply asleep.

Charlie quietly moved closer, and stood looking down at her. Chrissy had never seemed so fragile, Charlie gently pulled the covers over her. There was a stray lock of her hair over her face, on impulse he tenderly smoothed it back.

Charlie turned away, confused by his feelings. It was all very well admitting on a computer screen that he loved Chrissy. He didn't have the slightest idea how to go about winning her. Sure he'd had relationships before, but they'd all faded away; or in the case of Beverley, been taken away. Charlie struggled to recall Beverley's image to mind, he couldn't even picture her. 'Phonse was welcome to her.

Alphonse. Charlie tried to sort out his feelings there. He couldn't even begin to understand what he was angry about. Lucy was an adult, very well able to take care of herself and Alphonse needed her. She'd saved his big partner's life. Charlie tried to figure which one of them he was mad at and why he was so upset. Self analysis was one of Charlie's least favourite things, so he soon gave up trying.

Ice stood and stared out of the window. Charlie and Chrissy had disappeared. Alphonse was doing a good impression of a man that couldn't care less, until you looked in his eyes. Dammit, why is it me that always has to hold it together.

He went over and over in his head everything that Charlie had said and the very little that they had to go on. Coming to a decision, he grabbed his jacket.

"Alphonse, c'mon, we're going to find Charlie." Without waiting to see if Alphonse was following, he left.

Charlie and Chrissy drove out to the crash site. Chrissy's wrecked car had long since been towed away. They got out of the car and looked around. The FBI had gone over the area and it had been almost five weeks since the crash. Charlie had his doubts about finding anything.

The bend was wide and deceptively sharp, there was a small dust road leading off it, down to a house, then the cliffs fell away down to the beach. Charlie idly glanced towards the house. What if…….

He turned to Chrissy. "Chrissy, what if someone came up from the house."

Chrissy looked down towards the house. Struggled to replay the last moments before the crash in her mind. "Charlie, it's no use, I can't remember." She sighed, shoulders slumped in defeat.

"Don't give up, Chrissy. Look………… was dark, perhaps we come back when it's dark and……………………we go through it all again!" Charlie was clutching at straws, but determined to help her.

Lucy sat idly at the desk in the room that she and her partner, Ali McBride, called their office. It was a small office in a former car shop.

The big Scot eyed his partner. "Luce girl, are ye quite sure what ye're getting into."

"Ali, I can't give him up."

"Not even if it means that ye'll be coming between two friends."

"Ali, why can't we have it all? It's not as though Charlie and I are close."

Ali wished that she didn't sound quite so desperate about it.

Ice went over and over the file on Chrissy's computer. It was a hard slog, he didn't have Charlie's genius with systems. He didn't even know what he was looking for. Something, anything, that would give him a clue where they'd gone.

"Pretty safe bet that they've gone back to somewhere around the crash site."

Alphonse looked up from the paperwork spread across Chrissy's desk. "Yeah. But where do we start looking."

"In the files."

"Very funny!"

They lapsed into silence, sifting through everything again for the fifth time. They were thrashing around in circles and both men knew it.

Alphonse glanced idly at the fingerprint report from the car. Chrissy had been so strung out over the crash, she'd made them dust the car for prints. He ran down the list of names, half-heartedly, maybe something would turn up.


Ice scowled. Then he stopped. Alphonse slapped a piece of paper down in front of him.


"But that's impossible."

"Impossible, huh! Just maybe Chrissy was right all along."

Cornfield checked the computer again, someone was definitely accessing the network. Praying that they stayed on line long enough for a trace, he dialled frantically.

O'Connor looked up exasperated. "This is just a general area. We need to narrow it down."

Ice and Alphonse were past caring, it was a lead. They were on their feet and halfway out the door before O'Connor had finished speaking. He glared irritably at Cornfield and got up to follow them. Playing nursemaid to a couple of overzealous ex cons was not his idea of a senior agent's work. For the first time, O'Connor really appreciated Christine Kowalski's involvement with the boys, and wished he'd handled the entire episode differently.

Twenty minutes later he was wishing the same thing again; Alphonse had called on Lucy and her partner to help. The two bounty hunters' methods horrified O'Connor. He couldn't deny they got things done, he just couldn't stomach the way they did them. He sat nervously next to Charlie's explosive sister and warily watched her loading her weapons.

Ice drove, and Ali directed. They had very little to go on, but some vague directions and the general area of the crash site.

It was dark. Charlie drove back along the road, pulling off down the track. He parked the car under the trees, no sense in having someone see it. They got out. There were two tracks leading away from the main road, one leading to a house, the other leading down to the beach.

"Do you remember anything at all?" he watched Chrissy's reactions. She looked around, and shook her head.

"No. Not really."

Charlie started to walk down the track leading to the beach. "C'mon, won't hurt to look around now we're here." Chrissy followed him.

They reached the beach and look back up at the house. Something about the place piqued Charlie's interest, there's more to this than Chrissy crashing the car. He took Chrissy's hand, "Let's take a closer look."

She looked at him. "I don't think this is a good idea."

"Chrissy, it'll be safe." He urged her on.

The house was split level, with a wide decking covering the width of the back. There were stairs leading up to the decking. Charlie went up them swiftly. At the top he cautiously peered around. The decking was quiet. The patio windows were open.

Charlie looked back and beckoned to Chrissy. "Look, an open invitation. They're expecting us." She shook her head, this was scaring her. Confused images tumbled through her mind.

"Charlie, no. This is a really bad idea."

He shook his head. "Chrissy we came here to resolve this. C'mon." he held out his hand, reluctantly she put her hand in his. His strong fingers squeezed hers reassuringly. "We'll be fine." They carefully picked their way across the decking and entered the house.

The old man at the reception desk was vague and slow. Ice and Alphonse stood to one side and tried to keep a grip on their frayed tempers as O'Connor questioned him.

"Oh yes, a nice young couple. He said his wife wasn't too well and could they have a quiet room."

Alphonse snapped. "Where did they go!?" He leaned over the desk. The old man moved backwards, intimidated. Ice grabbed his arm.

"Alphonse, chill." He struggled to get a grip on his own panic. Turned to the old man.

"We need to find them quickly. Please, do you know where they've gone."

The old man eyed Alphonse nervously, but thought about it. "I think they went to the old cliff house, there's a path down to the beach there.

He'd hardly finished speaking before his over-eager visitors had gone.

The first room was full of packing cases. Charlie moved in to examine them, using his pocket knife to prise a lid up. Chrissy stood nervously to one side. The shadows in the room seemed ominous, a wave of terror hit her.

"Charlie, come on."

He held up a hand. "Just a minute!"

He pried the lid up a bit further, sliding his hand into the box. He pulled out a gun.

"Don't worry, it isn't loaded!" the voice from behind them made them both jump and spin round. John Fellows, erstwhile deputy director of the FBI and former boyfriend of Chrissy stood behind them. "But this one is." He waved the gun in his hand in a significant manner.

Chrissy was frozen to the spot.

Fellows looked at her, "What……nothing to say to me." He smiled, "It was unfortunate you came round that corner, just at the time of our latest delivery. I was worried that you saw me. It's even more unfortunate for you that you did."

Charlie moved in closer behind Chrissy looking for an opening. She was terrified, breathing fast. Charlie tried to distract Fellows.

"Y'pathetic. A real lowlife." He snarled.

Fellows laughed. "As I have the advantage, that doesn't worry me." He waved the gun as though to emphasise his point. Charlie could sense things were slipping away fast.

Ice drove down towards the house. It seemed deserted. A high wall ran the width of the plot. While Ali leant on the door bell, Lucy and Alphonse searched for another way in. The door in the wall was locked, O'Connor, Ice and Ali concentrated on trying to get it open.

"Dammit." Lucy jumped for a low branch of a convenient tree and swung herself up onto the wall. With a bit of a scramble, Alphonse joined her, from their precarious position, they could see the back decking and a little bit of the house. The drop was nerve-wracking. Lucy made the dizzying leap look effortless, Alphonse being bigger and heavier was not so lucky, he landed hard and pitched down onto his outstretched wrist. "Ouch!"

Lucy looked back at him and glared. "Y'wanna make that any louder, I don't think they heard it the first time!"

Alphonse glared back. "I tripped, okay!", there were times when Lucy forcibly reminded him that she was Charlie's sister.

The sharp blue eyes narrowed slightly, and then she grinned. "C'mon." She moved forward cautiously in the shadow of the house. No sense in advertising our presence. The whole set up made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.

She made her way towards the open doors, and paused, she could hear voices. One taunting and triumphant and then Charlie's snarled defiance, she motioned Alphonse to take the other side. He nodded.

Charlie could see things slipping away. Then Lucy and Alphonse stepped through the doors behind them.

Some kind of instinct warned Fellows and he took aim. The gun was pointed straight at them. No time to try anything else. Charlie did the only thing he could think of. He wrapped his arms round Chrissy and spun round, putting himself between Chrissy and the gun, trying desperately to move into some cover, as Fellows fired. Something punched him high in the left shoulder, hurling them both forward against the wall. Charlie's horrified eyes registered a spray of blood which he barely had time to realise was his own, before the great black pit opened up at his feet and he dived in.

Alphonse saw the gun fire, saw Charlie take the hit and collapse. Fellows was moving towards them, to finish them both, Chrissy was unarmed and defenceless. Alphonse had the element of surprise, as well as pent up rage and hatred; this was the man who had sold them out to the Mendozas, who had almost killed himself and was trying to kill Charlie and Chrissy. One big hand grabbed Fellows' shoulder and spun him round, the right fist smashed into the man's face, all the past nightmares, vengeance for all the things Fellows had done and the present situation went into a punch like a sledgehammer. It laid Fellows out instantly.

As Charlie's weight dragged them both down, Chrissy turned awkwardly and cradled him in her arms, pulling his jacket and shirt aside, desperately searching for the subclavian artery. She found it and compressed it, staunching the lifeblood emptying from him.

The repeated hammering at the door behind them finally caused it to give way, letting the others onto the sun deck.

Night. Silence. Except for the beeping of monitors in the dimly lit room. They waited for signs of life.

Chrissy sat close by the bed, holding Charlie's right hand between both her own. Agonised eyes searched his face for a sign, anything, that he was waking up. The young FBI agent had never felt so frightened. The bullet had done serious damage, broke his shoulder, ricocheted upwards tearing the artery, breaking his collarbone before exiting. They'd set his shoulder and collarbone, braced everything into position to help it heal, then immobilised his arm and shoulder. Despite her best attempts, the torn artery had lost a lot of blood. He looks so pale, as though all the blood has drained away.

Fingers moved against her hand. She tore her gaze away from his face to look down. Definite movement, and she was on her feet, leaning close. Alerted, the other watchers moved in.

"Charlie! Come on, wake up!" One hand curved beneath his jaw, stroking his cheek with her thumb, gently stirring him to wakefulness. Dark brown lashes parted a millimetre, pain glazed blue eyes peered up at her through the dark fringe. Tears sprang to her own eyes. The young woman's weakened emotions were not proof against his suffering.


Chrissy tried to look shocked and failed. "How're you feeling?" She smiled at him, encouraging him.

"Like someone just……….. took a sledgehammer to my shoulder. What happened?"

Alphonse leaned in, "Charlie, Fellows shot you!"

Exasperation mingled with pain crossed the computer expert's features. "I know that!" he shifted restlessly, "Gawd, do I ever know that!!" biting his lower lip at the agony from his shoulder, "Try…..telling me………..something…I….don't know! Did you get him."

Lucy leaned in closer to her half-brother. "Alphonse got him! Charlie, what made you do what you did, that was really dumb!" The words contained no malice.

"Hey,…………I tried that move………….you did………the one at …………the airfield." It was a real struggle for him to get the words out.

"Charlie,…….I was wearing a flak jacket at the time!" sarcasm and anxiety in equal measure.

The eyes closed again, as a spasm of pain crossed his face. His fingers grasped Chrissy's hand tightly as the pain really hit. Alphonse's finger was already on the buzzer, nurses came running.

"Mr O'Bannon, try to relax and give the painkillers a chance to kick in."

He gasped, his eyes opened wide, the torment he was going through obvious. "And…… do you expect………………me to do that!" Even in agony, the sarcasm was biting.

A nurse shoo'd them out. Except Chrissy, there was no way she was leaving him.

Charlie struggled with the pain, and the effort of keeping the lid on his emotions. He still had time to wonder at the strength of his feelings, Chrissy was there and she was staying with him. Charlie floundered again, trying to cope with the mixture of emotion and desire as well as the white hot flames that burned deep in his shoulder, spreading down his whole left side.

Chrissy watched him, she was finding it hard to cope with her own emotions, what he'd done for her; the feeling she had that was turning into something that looked suspiciously like love. The young woman took a deep breath, she very much needed to be right, please don't let me be making the biggest mistake of my life.

"Charlie, why did you do it?"

Charlie watched her eyes closely, he desperately tried for neutral, but the pain overwhelmed his control.

"It seemed………………like……….a………………..good idea………………… the time," he managed, but his eyes were telling her something different.

He moved, as if to deny what he said, and the wave of agony that ripped through his shoulder was so fierce that he cried out.

"Chrissy, I couldn't let him kill you!" he gasped, everything he'd held onto and tried to conceal clearly showed in his eyes. Chrissy saw and understood. Taking her chance, she told him how she felt, his response was exactly what she had hoped.

Charlie sat on the edge of the bed listening to the doctor drone on about rest, physiotherapy and a ton of other stuff, yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. Chrissy was picking him up in about five minutes and Charlie was concentrated on that.

The past three weeks, despite pain, and miserably embarrassing procedures which made him blush to think of, the computer expert had never been happier in his life. Only one problem, one which he'd been more than eager to put off dealing with; Lucy, and in particular Alphonse's relationship with her.

Charlie had just about accepted that they were an item. It hurt to think that Alphonse was wary around him, because of Lucy. The big Latin was the closest thing Charlie had to a brother and he wasn't about to lose that over his half-sister.

The doctor realised fairly early on that his patient wasn't listening, but continued anyway.

"Mr O'Bannon, I very much doubt whether you've heard anything I've said. But, remember you need rest. Physiotherapy will start in about three weeks time." He turned to go, just as Chrissy came into the room.

Charlie stood up and greeted her. Tentatively, he slipped his right arm round her waist and pulled her to him. She looked into his eyes, watching him closely. Realising that he would never push it, Chrissy took the initiative, she'd nearly lost him and certain of what she wanted, she leaned in and kissed him. Charlie hitched her a little closer and returned the kiss with interest.

Behind them, the door opened. Ice put his head round the door, caught sight of them and withdrew in a hurry.

This alters things. He didn't know whether to be happy for them or worried. Ice sighed. More problems. He shook his head.