A/N: Well, this is it. I actually finished it. I hope this ending lives up to what you guys hoped. I tried to end it on a light note, but the story was just too heavy for it to work. So I ended it in the manner of every bad call a cop, firefighter, or medic ever has: A bad joke and a forced "I'm fine". That's the way it is for us in the real world, it should be no different for Reed and Malloy. Enjoy, please review, and let me know what you think I should do for my next story. I take challenges!
Reed woke with a start, reflexively pulling his arms up to protect himself from the horrors of the past few days, but instead of the rough voice of his tormentor, he heard his partner's soothing voice. "Easy, Jim! It's okay, you're safe, you're okay. You're at the hospital, Preston's dead, it's okay!" Gentle hands took hold of his biceps, and eased him back down on the bed as he opened his eyes.
Seeing his best friend, he relaxed. "Pete? You're okay?"
Hearing Reed's voice, weak and tired but basically intact, brought a lump to his throat again. "Yeah, buddy. I'm okay. Calm down! You might have pulled some of those stitches loose!"
His head still fuzzy, he looked at Pete. "I thought I was still there. Dreamed he killed you. Just put a gun to your head and shot you." His voice thickened to a husky whisper. "I dreamed I watched you die!" His chin trembled as his badly weakened condition inhibited his ability to control his emotions.
Pete took in a deep breath. "I got you beat, partner. I had to watch you die twice."
"Twice?" Reed asked. "What do you mean?"
"You gonna stop thrashing?" Malloy asked.
Reed looked confused until he realized his friend still had him by the arms. "Yeah."
Malloy sat back down. "What's the last thing you remember?"
Jim frowned. "Not sure…lots of weird dreams…Did I shoot Preston?"
"Almost. You stabbed him. You played dead, and very convincingly. I believed it. Fortunately, so did he. Then Mac came in. I had left Jean a note and she called Mac. The ambulance brought you here."
"You said twice." Reed wasn't going to let it go that easily.
"Yeah, uh, well…" He paused. Reed wasn't really strong enough for this, didn't need to know what he had put them through just yet.
But Jim wasn't one to let things go. "What happened, Pete?"
His eyes dropped to the ground. Even with his friend alive, alert, and talking to him, it was so difficult to talk about. Reed wasn't the only one having nightmares. There hadn't been a night yet that he didn't wake up in a cold sweat, hearing the blood-chilling whine of the monitor when his best friend's heart had flatlined. "Jim, do you know what day it is?"
Reed thought real hard, but came up blank. "I kinda lost track. I couldn't tell day from night in there. He said it was three days, but I don't…" He trailed off.
"We were rescued on Friday. This is Wednesday."
Reed's eyes widened. "Wednesday?! Pete, what happened? Why was I out so long?!"
He finally sucked it up and told him. "You lost a lot of blood. The reason Preston believed you were dead was because you didn't have a radial pulse. When we got you in here, your blood pressure was 60 over 40. You coded in the ER. You were dead for almost three minutes."
Jim was quiet for a moment, letting it sink in. "I was actually dead. Oh, man…was Jean there? Were you in there?" Pete didn't answer and that was all he needed. "Oh, God. Pete, I…" There was no way to finish it. Sorry I died on you? Sorry I put you through that? "Is Jean okay? Where is she?"
He tried again to sit up, and Malloy rushed to his bedside and put a firm hand on his shoulder. "You said you were done flailing around!"
"I'm not flailing!" He insisted, still trying to get up, still too weak to shrug off Pete's hand. "I'm just trying to get up! I've got to find Jean! If she watched me die, I have to find her!" He was bordering on panic, and his struggles were getting even more frantic.
Pete planted one hand on his friend's arm and one on the least bruised area of his chest. "Easy! Stop and listen to me! Listen, Reed, calm down! Please, just listen! Jean is fine!"
Sweat was pouring down his pale face, and he was hyperventilating. Alarms started sounding. Reed's heart rate had gone from a safe, steady 86 to 134 in a matter of seconds. "I have to get to my wife, tell her I'm okay!"
"Right now you're not okay! You want to scare her to death again?! Calm down!"
Reed finally got ahold of himself, stopped struggling, and tried to control his breathing. "I'm sorry. You took care of Jean, didn't you? Told her I'd be okay?"
Malloy nodded. "Yup. I was there for her. She's in the waiting room, asleep. I finally made her take a nap. You want me to go wake her up?"
He thought for a moment, then shook his head. "No. She needs some sleep, I bet."
Pete nodded. "Yeah. She's been at your side pretty much the whole time." He finally sat down in the chair beside the bed.
Jim held up his left arm, studying the cast covering the lower part down to his hand. "I knew I must have been out for a while. Had some horrific dreams. When had the ones about watching you die…"
"More than one?"
Reed continued to study his cast. "Yeah. Several. Every bad scrape we've ever gotten into came back at me with…shall we say undesirable outcomes. Every time, I was frozen in my tracks and had to watch you die. The robbers at Duke's, Steve Deal, Preston, and every other close call we've ever had. It was horrible." He stopped, and looked up to meet his partner's eyes. "But deep down somewhere, I knew it was all a dream. I can't imagine what it would feel like to be for real. When he pulled that trigger…But for you…and Jean…it was real. I'm so sorry, Pete."
Malloy's brow furrowed. "Sorry? For what?! For getting beat almost to death…beg your pardon, actually getting beat to death? Jim, if anyone here gets to apologize, it's me!"
Reed took in a pained breath. "Not your fault. You certainly could have picked a better place to be for a few days off."
Pete smiled. If Reed wanted to joke about it, he could live with that. "Hey, I just followed you, partner. Next time, I pick the resort!"
The badly wounded man started to laugh, but it turned into a groan as it jostled his tightly-wrapped ribs. "Come on! It hurts to laugh!"
Malloy chuckled. "So I take it you don't want to hear about the two penguins that walked into the bar?"
Jim tried not to laugh, but he couldn't help it. "Pete! Haven't I been tortured enough?"
Pete turned around so Jim couldn't see the smile fall from his face. Joking was good, but it didn't let him say what he needed to say. "Jim?"
Malloy turned back to look him in the eye. "Yeah, you've been through a lot this last few days. But when your heart stopped, I think mine did too." He paused to clear the lump from his throat. "So, what I guess I'm trying to say is, can you please not put me through anything like that again?"
Jim put out the hand on his unbroken arm to take Pete's hand. He closed his eyes, trying to absorb some of the agony his friend had endured while he was out. "Okay, pal. I guess I can do you this one favor."