A/N: Kind of AU, kind of not, considering the pairing. I don't own H:LOTS. Set in between "The City that Bleeds" and "Dead End"


She looks like she's fast asleep.

The stupid thing is that she couldn't possibly be just sleeping, because if that were true, she wouldn't be hooked up to any machines. She wouldn't have tubes sticking out of her arms. And she'd be able to open her eyes and look at him. Tell him to shut up because she's trying to sleep and she doesn't want to talk.

But there is none of this, because she isn't asleep. She is unconscious. And there is a difference.

"Told you it wasn't a good idea to come back here."

The voice being Meldrick Lewis is a familiar one, but it barely registers. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see John Munch move to a place just outside the room, but he doesn't move.

"How the hell do you screw up an address?" he asks, finally. "Why the hell do you even come to work when you know you aren't thinking straight?"

He has been avoiding coming to the hospital for this reason. Because he doesn't want to see Kay like this, doesn't want to think that it's still touch-and-go for her. He doesn't want to face the fact that she might die and the ironic thing about it is that both of them face death every day.

"How'd you get back here, Munch?" Meldrick asks, after another long moment. "Visitin' hours are over."

"Not if you're a cop," John replies, wryly. "I could ask the same of you."

"I had to see her," Meldrick admits, without looking the other man in the eye. "She was my partner before she was Felton's."

"But you're not really here just because you used to be Kay's partner, are you?" John asks. Meldrick turns to look at him, startled.

"How'd you know?" he asks in reply. John shrugs.

"It's not that hard to tell. I always wondered why Gee split you two up as partners."

"You've known that long?"

"Yeah. I just know how to keep my mouth shut. No one else knows."

"You better keep it that way." Meldrick trails off and shakes his head. "You know what pisses me off?"

"Not today, no," John replies. Meldrick gives him a look and goes on.

"The fact that I can stand here and look at Kay all wired up like she is, and be thinkin' well, thank God it ain't me," he says. "That's what pisses me off."

"I thought the same thing. Pissed me off, too," says John, "Especially because I was the one who saw them go down. Felt like forever before anyone else got there."

"But it wasn't. We'd have lost them all." One of the machines beeps and both men jump, but the fact that no one comes running lets them know that everything is fine. Meldrick looks at John again and sighs. "I ran into her family earlier."

"Gee talked to them, too," says John. "How'd it go?"

"I don't know. They just kinda sat there watching her. They didn't see me till right before I was about to leave."

"They say anything?"

"Not really. Asked if I was the one she'd been tellin' them about."

Both of them have moved all the way into the room now, and are sitting on either side of the bed. Kay has still shown no sign of acknowledging that they're there. Neither of them expect her to...at least, not right now.

"Were you?" John asks, and Meldrick looks away.

"Yeah," he says, and takes one of Kay's hands in both of his own. "She's so damn cold."

"But she's alive."

"Barely. Makes me wish we were back in the days where if you shot a cop, a cop shot you."

"You're not the only one." Another machine beeps, but both men ignore it and John continues. "We're gonna find this guy."

"High priority, right?" Meldrick asks, sarcastically. "Ain't nobody give a damn except the department."

"Be that as it may, there are still enough of us to make the city take notice," says John, but Meldrick shakes his head.

"Notice, my ass. Only time they care is if it affects them."

"It does. We're going to be out there until we find this guy, turning the city upside down. You know that."

"Doesn't help any."

"She's not going to die, Meldrick. If she's made it through this far, she's going to make it through all the way."

"I know she ain't gonna die. You don't have to tell me that. It's just this damn city."

"We knew what we were getting into when we signed on for this," says John, and then, before Meldrick can say anything more, "I'm not trying to say that I don't care that this happened, because I do. But it's not like we never expected it."

"No one expects to get ambushed, Munch." Meldrick looks back at Kay, and doesn't look up again. "I wish she'd open her eyes."

"So do I."

Silence falls between the two of them, then, and lingers.

Kay remains silent between them, still looking as if she is merely sleeping. But both of them know better. After a while, another beep comes, but it is not from one of the machines.

"It's me," says John, looking down at the pager he is wearing before going on. "It's Gee; he's calling everyone back in."

But even as he gets to his feet, Meldrick makes no move to follow him out.

"I'll tell gee where you are," John says, picking up where he left off, and then, "Think about it like this, Meldrick. The only way to survive these streets is to know that you can get back up even if you fall. Kay is going to get back up. It's just going to take a while."

And then he is gone, before Meldrick can think to ask what he means.

Kay's hand is still in between both of his own, and whether or not he wants to think about it, John does have a point. That was the way to survive on the streets. If you didn't know that you could get back up again, you were likely to stay down. But everyone on the shift had been there long enough to know that if they had to, they could get up again.

Every now and then, it feels like this is all they have.

Now is one of those times. But knowing this, Meldrick thinks, is more of a comfort than he'd thought it would be.

And so he keeps Kay's hand in his own, and remains where he is, just waiting.