The Coward's Way Out

Summary: It's six o clock on a warm summer evening when Wendy receives the first inkling that her happily-ever-after may not be all it's cracked out to be. Post ROD the TV, vaguely AUish, angst-heavy Drake/Wendy pregnancyfic.

Disclaimer: All characters within this story are the sole property of the guy(s) who came up with them, and are being used here without permission, but not for profit, for more reasons than that writing has to be good to earn money.

It's six o clock on a warm summer evening when Wendy receives the first inkling that her happily-ever-after may not be all it's cracked out to be.

The sound of keys in the front door draws her from her knitting needles and the slowly forming blanket of fluffy blue and green, and she's up and across the room as quickly the yarn tangling around her legs will let her.

Her messy little ponytail bounces in time with the rest of her, unable to stand still with the excitement of seeing Drake again, because maybe it's only been two weeks, but they're still practically newlyweds, and this is the first time in ten months that he's been away from her.

And then the door opens, and he's barely halfway through before she's on him, clinging in a way that would horrify certain fathers and bosses she's had. She's giggling into his shirt front, and he's laughing gently into her hair, and for several seconds, all is bliss.

"What the hell is she doing here?"

She leaps away as though burned, and peeks nervously around him.

Three girls of varying ages, very different despite their title of sisters, but all just now wearing identical expressions of suspicious anger.

He sighs wearily, rubbing his forehead and stepping instinctively in front of his wife even as she shrinks back behind him.

"Look, there's nothing to worry about. I probably should have said something before, but--"

"You probably should have said something?!" the littlest one interjects. "Of course you should have said something! Then we could have talked you out of it! God, what were you thinking?"

Wendy very nearly takes offense to this. Not for her own sake, because the noisy little pink-haired energy molecule is quite right to be furious. It might have been four years ago, but there are some grudges that last.

But Drake is a smart man, even though some people can't seem to look past the amazing body that hardly ever comes with something between the ears; he doesn't need some child to regulate his taste in women. She's about to say so, too, but Drake gives her a warning look, shakes his head, and she falls silent.

"How--" Michelle chokes slightly around a very forced smile. "How did this come about?"

He shrugs awkwardly, nevertheless with a tiny grin.

"Hey, I'm not the first guy to fall for my cute nurse."

"Your nurse?" Anita repeats flatly.

Another awkward shrug from Drake, and Wendy shrinks farther behind him as she accidentally catches Maggie's eye and reads within it dismemberment with a nearby pile of junk mail.

"Yeah. It was a hell of a thing. I ended up in a hospital in L.A. about a year back with two busted legs, and when the nurse came in with some painkillers, guess who it was."

"I went for my RN right after my sentence was up," Wendy explains, stepping resolutely out from behind Drake, because she already looks a mess right now, a cute little housewife in her fleecy cartoon sheep pyjama pants, tummy just beginning to swell with the intended recipient of the blanket she's been making, so there's no point in looking like a coward, too. It's difficult, after all, to disregard years of training that put appearances above all else in importance, so she throws her shoulders back, lifts her chin, and speaks as unconcernedly as if these girls were his cousins from some Midwestern state or another, politely interested instead of glowering. "I tried to switch rounds with another girl, because it's probably not good for a recovering patient to spend every waking moment fearing for his life, and he had no reason not to."

He chuckles, moving to take his wife's slim, tanned little paw. Then, as he catches Maggie's stunned, accusing eye, he tucks both hands into his pockets and clears his throat, ignoring the corresponding reproachful look from the girl he promised to stand by when this inevitable interview finally happened.

"Hey, I got over it."

Choking back the urge to ask pettishly just how true that is, and to point out that he could have warned her that it only applied when his friends weren't around to see, she gives a slightly forced smile.

"Not until I agreed to sneak in a weapon for you to keep under your pillow."

"Hey, I don't let just anyone touch my guns," he laughs weakly.

"If someone had found out, I'd have been fired." She winces; that wasn't supposed to come out as grudging as it did.

"Didn't matter anyway. By the time I was ready to leave, I knew I wanted to take her back home with me," he finishes, relenting and squeezing her shoulder. "Guess she must have felt the same, because she was waiting on my doorstep when I got home. Told me she was on her way home from an interview at a hospital in town, and she just dropped by to say hi."

Michelle's sharp, intent glare softens considerably, because all things considered, it's an awfully romantic story, in just the kind of oddball way they'd expect to happen to their American pal.

"We didn't know you were out of prison."

Wendy gives a humourless little laugh.

"Apparently, showing up with a full confession for Mr. Carpenter's murder convinced them to be kind. And apparently, they were anxious enough to believe that I'd done their work for them, that they didn't delve too deeply into anything." Drake's hand tightens warningly at her shoulder. She gives him a charming smile, and ignores the warning completely. "Did you know that they'll more or less declare someone dead once they've found enough of their blood splattered messily about, even without a body? Although, I've probably managed to give him recurring nightmares about very large mosquitoes who like to refrigerate their meals upon acquiring them."

Drake gives a low groan of dismay at his wife's sudden inability to keep sensitive information, just perfect for starting a fight that none of them needs right now, to herself. She, meanwhile, is sighing impatiently at the disbelieving stares of the three girls.

"Don't look like that; it isn't much of a stretch. Even with the best care I could find, he hasn't had more than fifteen minutes of lucidity at a time in the last four years. It didn't seem fair to turn him over when he couldn't so much as locate his left elbow, even on the minuscule chance that he'd have gotten a trial at all, instead of being shot on sight."

Michelle regards their former enemy steadily.

"You know, Yomiko never believed any of it. She didn't believe that he was dead, and she certainly didn't believe that you'd done it, even in self defense."

Wendy tries to laughs scornfully, but it ends up coming out more like rueful fondness than anything.

"That's not surprising; she's smart, when she can look beyond the end of her own nose."

By this point, the littlest of the three girls looks about ready to hit someone. Drake nudges his bride effortlessly behind him, but from the look he's getting from Anita, he might be the one ending up with a black eye.

"She's been lying to everyone about Joker for years, and you still trust her? Are you insane?"

"It's not that simple, kiddo," he says wearily. "She never lied to me. She told me right off that he was alive and hidden somewhere."

"Why didn't you tell us?" Maggie asks quietly.

"It's a mystery to me," Wendy puts in innocently. "Particularly when you're reacting so well."

"Would you cut it out?" Drake growls over his shoulder, and she gives a grudgingly apologetic shrug. Addressing the girls, he continues. "Look, from the condition he's in, he couldn't cause any more trouble even if he wanted to, and I didn't really want to start off a marriage by sending the closest thing my wife's got to a father to the chopping block."

"Why the hell not, if he deserves it?" Anita demands on a snort. "And while you're at it, why not send her after him before she ruins your life?"

"Alright, enough!" All four girls jump at Drake's sharply barked order. He sighs, rubbing his eyes. "Look, if you guys aren't comfortable with this, I can put you up at a hotel. There are a few nearby."

"That might be best," Michelle agrees, giving her unexpected hostess a brief smile. "We can talk later, when everyone isn't so tired."

"There's nothing to talk about," Anita mutters darkly, retrieving her duffel bag from the floor and yanking the door open. "No matter how you look at it, she's going to make him miserable."

"So, I'll see you in a while?" Wendy murmurs nervously to her husband as he makes a decidedly annoyed grab for his jacket and keys.

He's facing away, but she can nearly hear his frown.

"You're not coming with?"

She hesitates.

"I-I thought I'd give you all more time to visit."

The noise he makes doesn't exactly sound appreciative.

"Sure; whatever." He gives her a long, searching look, then turns abruptly to follow his almost-guests from the house. "Go take your pills."

The door slams shut, and she stares for a long, teary-eyed moment at the newly empty front entry.

Go take your pills. Of course he means the unopened Effexor prescription she's tucked into the bottom of her sock drawer for the duration of the pregnancy. As soon as she found out that the little one was on the way, she threw out the remainder of her supply, and insisted stubbornly to her doctor that they were absolutely not an option any longer. A long discussion had followed, verging on an argument, over whether the risks of continuing on with the medication throughout the pregnancy were any higher than letting severe depression go untreated, and she had finally agreed to fill the prescription, but had carefully avoided promising to actually take the things.

Drake was all for it; he hasn't liked her taking those things ever since she ran out on holiday and spent the rest of the time weak, dizzy, and borderline psychotic until they could get to a clinic and a pharmacy. He jumped at the chance to help her through the withdrawal symptoms, to get his wife off of the stuff once and for all, because he isn't the sort to correct personality flaws with medication.

But three weeks in, three weeks of nausea too soon to be morning sickness, three weeks of crying jags and fits of violence towards random household objects, his view on the whole situation shifted slightly, and we'll get you off of those things became we'll get you off of those things if it doesn't drive me to drink.

Once it got through to her, just how much her constant hysteria and and destructive impulses were scaring him, she redoubled her efforts to behave like a normal human being, and until now, she thought she'd been doing fairly well.

But if he's set aside the wellbeing of their baby, and his desire for a drug-free wife, she must still have a long stretch to go.

Gulping heroically around the miserable sensation that she's just utterly failed the most important person in her life when she promised she'd be good from now on, she trudges upstairs to concede defeat to the packet in her sock drawer.

Not quite yet.

In the process of fetching a glass of water because Drake's been trying to break her of the habit of swallowing pills dry, she notices a little bottle next to the sink.

It's obvious, really; she doesn't need antidepressants, she just needs sleep. She's been having trouble sleeping recently, without her great big blond Grumpy Bear to snuggle up to every night, and everyone's cranky without enough sleep. He'll see; she'll borrow one of his Nytol, and tomorrow morning she'll be such a ray of sunshine that he'll have to wear sunglasses.

Giggling a little at this utterly absurd thought, she shakes two of the tablets from the tiny bottle and downs them quickly, before her conscience can talk her out of it. After all, the doctor himself encouraged her to keep on with the Effexor, in spite of the risks; what can two tiny little sleeping pills possibly do?

Apparently, absolutely nothing, including their intended function.

She's been lying here for twenty minutes, staring blankly at the ceiling in the darkened bedroom, waiting for the heavy sensation of sneak up on her. But every time she gets close, she hears Drake, annoyance and disappointment thick in his words: Sure, whatever; go take your pills.

Bloody hell. The little girl was right - she is going to make him miserable. She'll be even worse tomorrow than she was this evening if she doesn't get some sleep soon.

Maybe one more tablet will do it. If two won't hurt, surely three can't make that much of a difference.

And if three won't work the necessary magic, maybe four will.

She really needs to get some sleep tonight; she feels about a hair's breadth away from throwing things again, and she has a feeling that Drake won't be in the mood for a backyard midnight treasure hunt when he comes back from dropping those girls at a hotel.

Pacing restlessly between the bathroom and the bedroom, waiting for the drowsiness to hit, she chokes around a knot gathering in her throat, annoyingly familiar in the last couple weeks.

This is absolutely absurd. She used to be good at keeping this sort of thing in check. To be sure, it usually exploded into gleeful violence that worried more than one shooting range attendant, but she hasn't snuffled over nothing like this in years.

Maybe this is who she's really been all along, underneath the medication and Mr. Joker's influence. And clearly, if he's asking her to go back on the medication, Drake isn't impressed.

She's just being silly, getting so upset over this evening. It isn't their first fight, by any means. Their relationship began with a fight, and hinged on the involvement of weaponry. And she's fairly certain that their second fight - or was it the third, or fourth? - would have involved fists, if he hadn't been in two plaster leg casts, and if she hadn't been earning her wage by keeping him comfortable.

Initially, he wasn't quite as accepting of her hobby of faking wanted criminals' deaths as he let on to those girls; when she'd hesitated a second too long before confirming what he'd heard about the cause of Mr. Carpenter's death, he'd known there was more to the story, and attempted to lunge from the bed and acquire it by force.

If he hadn't been so bloody loud about it, she would have withheld his next dose of painkillers, just to be mean. As it was, she was thankful for anything that would shut him up a little.

It had shut him up more than a little; he hadn't said another word about Mr. Carpenter until his return home and her silly, impulsive relocation after him. In her brand-new flat, working their way through a bottle of wine well earned by a day of unpacking, he'd asked again what she was thinking, taking that kind of risk to protect someone who sure as hell wouldn't return the favour.

It wasn't exactly an argument that had followed; he'd just sort of sat, stunned, while she shouted at him, overtaken by three years of fury at hearing over and over again that her closest friend, very nearly her only friend of ten years was a monster, keeping quiet while lawyers painted her actions as self defense, unable to protest without exposing the truth and risking his life. She can pull off deception when she has to; doesn't mean she has to like it.

Once her reasoning had become clear, he had admitted gravely that it was probably the best thing to do, and had grudgingly offered to make the arrangements next time good old Joe needed treatment or a sudden relocation - anything they could do to avoid contact between her and her former boss would probably be wise. If the wrong people ever find out that he's still alive, she'll probably face arrest again, or worse.

Somewhere on the way back to bed, it hits her with the force of a Mack truck: Anita King was right on both counts. She's not just going to make him miserable with her constant moodswings and inability to plead with his friends for the forgiveness she knows she doesn't deserve; eventually, it will be a matter of ruining his life.

From the time he agreed to help her keep Mr. Carpenter hidden, he's been assuring her that everything would be okay, that they've been careful, and that there's no reason that he should be found, particularly when no one's looking. She's believed it – nearly – wholeheartedly, if only because Drake isn't one to be needlessly optimistic.

But now, the beginnings of a drug-induced numbness creeping over her mind and rendering all her perfectly good reasons useless, it seems idiotic at best to think that he'll never be found, and that it won't lead back to her.

If they find Mr. Carpenter, they'll come directly to the little fool who thought she was clever enough to pull this off, and those sorts of people have never been above using innocent people to hurt not-so-innocent ones.

(She has that on good authority; after all, it takes one to know one.)

For all she knows, they're coming right now, tracked those girls right to the doorstep, and even if they haven't, they will soon, whoever they are, and it hardly seems fair, that the one decent thing she's done in years is the one that stands the greatest chance of hurting the people she loves.

If this is the mess she makes of trying to be good, it probably would have been best if Drake had sent her to an early grave, like the little girl said.

And what was it her mother always told her about dealing with men? If a woman wants something done, she'd best do it herself. Even if it's a man like Drake.

With only a few seconds of hesitation (because the bloody Nytol is finally starting to kick in), she turns and heads back to the bathroom.

Deep breath, fresh glass of water. She shakes the remainder of the bottle into her palm, and counts the little white tablets carefully. Only twelve left. Hopefully, that'll be enough.

Before self preservation can overwhelm her conscience and talk her out of it, she gulps down the handful, a few at a time, and then heads back to bed to wait.

If she wasn't on her way out, she could get used to this. It's not at all bad, the feeling that all the stress, and tension, and fear has just left her body in one big whoosh.

But then again, she's always been good at giving up control.

Inches from the bed, her knees buckle; and when her head bounces off the edge of their night table on the way to the floor, she doesn't feel a thing.

It's much later when his voice cuts through the haze around her mind, thick and soft like cotton batting.

(At least, she thinks it's later, because it's only natural that he'd stay a while to visit with those girls while they're still in the city, but she doesn't know for sure because she can't see the clock, and even if she could, she's pretty sure she couldn't read it through the sensation that everything is under water, and she doesn't know what time blur-o-clock is.)

She's been hearing his voice all night, mostly his cold, detached sure, whatever and go take your pills, but this time she thinks it's coming from outside of her head.

And it must be, because she might have a good imagination, but it's not that good, couldn't make her think that his hands are gripping her by the shoulders and dragging her from the floor. She's trying to raise her head and smile, welcome him home, but she's so sleepy right now, and she can't even stop her head from rolling back and bouncing around each time he shakes her.

If he would stop shouting at her, sharp and frantic, answer me, talk to me, look at me, she could tell him that it's okay, she knows what she's doing here, and it's probably the first decent thing she's done in years, so she'd really appreciate it if he wouldn't stop her from trying to even out her karmic debt a little.

He pulls away, climbs from the floor, and she can hear his heavy, rapid footsteps in the hall. Seconds - minutes? Hours? - later, he's back, and she can hear his voice, echoey and miles away.

"Hang in there, Kitten, you'll be fine."

She thinks he's missed the point somewhat; maybe she'll enlighten him, just as soon as he's off the phone.

She has no idea who he's talking to, imagines it's one of those girls, probably the littlest one, although why Anita King needs to know her height and weight and what she took is beyond her. But she doesn't mind if he's babbling nonsense, because he's warm, and he's here, and of all the way she imagined going out, being shot or burned to death or dismembered with a magazine, this is by far the nicest.

The spinning of the room intensifies as he drags her upright, and she's hazily aware that she's being sick, but for once this week it's not because she cried herself that way. This time, it's because he's got one hand balled into a fist, pressing sharply into her stomach.

She tries to tell him you shouldn't do that, it isn't good for the baby, but it's hard to talk with someone's finger in your mouth, poking at the back of your throat. No matter how close they are, this is still disgusting, and she really wishes he would stop it, or at least move away for a minute so he doesn't get covered in the globs of bitter white foam she's bringing up. He's already going to be furious, because those stupid things are expensive, and she's just wasted a whole bottle and couldn't even keep them down.

His warmth and scent ebb away, and she makes another little dying kitten noise, fingers curling around his wrist.

"I'll come back, I promise."

"If you're going to the store, buy more Nytol. I think we're out."

It made perfect sense in her head, but maybe she's still slurring, because he's looking at her like she's crazy, a big blurry incredulous Drake-shaped blob, and then he mutters something that sounds awfully like a swear word, and hurries away.

Finally, she can get some sleep.

But just as she's gotten good and comfy, he's back, his arm under her neck, prying her into a sitting position again. She whimpers in protest, and he responds by pouring half a bottle of water down her throat.

"M'not thirsty, I just want to sleep," she glubs, trying to swat him away.

"Just a little more," he urges.

And she's still that silly woman who will do anything for a lover, even if the best thing she could do for him is push him off and finish the job so he can move on, so she obediently gulps in spite of the shudders that hit her when the water floods her already churning stomach.

His arms are around her again, cradling her like she'll never cradle her baby, now that she's gone and died before she could get around to having it, and she's just gotten used to being his baby instead of his wife when he drops her unceremoniously in front of the toilet, one hand gripping her hair and the other poking around at the back of her throat again. This time, he barely has to do a thing before she's being sick again, and the horrid, bitter taste in her mouth makes her accept the refilled water bottle happily.

"Hang on; I'll be right back."

She hears his footsteps down the hall and into the bedroom, and sighs with relief. Finally, she can get some sleep.

It seems like she's just closed her eyes and snuggled up to the bathtub, and he's here again, shouting at her, stay with me, come on, Bonehead, look at me, but it's late, and she's tired. She'd love to sit up and scold him for waking her up with the ungodly hours he keeps, but she can't move, can only sigh happily as the cotton batting around her mind thickens and lets her rest.

The next time she opens her eyes, he's still floating blurrily over her, but something's different. She feels like a limp rag, and everything hurts, but the sick nausea is gone.

Well, some of it.

He looks like he's just been through Hell, and it doesn't seem fair, when she did this so that he'd be happy in the first place. He gives her a tiny smile, and edges onto the hospital bed next to her.

"Hey. They're not letting me stay long, but I wouldn't leave until they let me see you." She yelps, startled, as his arms shoot out, lightning quick, to pull her carefully closer. With a sound that's almost like a sob (except it isn't, of course it isn't, that's just silly, Drake never cries), he buries his face in her hair. "Kitten, what the hell did you do?"

"She was right," she murmurs, tongue still feeling swollen and clumsy. "I'll ruin your life if I stay. I'm putting you in danger just by being here. Maggie too. I don't want to see you get hurt."

He's trying really, really hard not to shout at her right now; she can see it in the tense, trembling grip he has on her blankets and in the twitch of his jaw. She tries to massage the tension out of his hands.

"And you didn't think it would hurt meβ€”" He breaks off, and even she can't deny that the sound that comes out of him, nearly torn from his throat, is well within the sob family. "We lost the baby."

For a brief instant, everything else stops. The massive, crushing headache like a gradually tightening band of iron trying to collapse her skull from the inside fades into the hum of the machines and the gentle glug of the IV and the buzz of shock, even though it shouldn't be a shock, because she knew this would happen, she just didn't think she'd still be around to enjoy it, and now that she thinks about it, what the bloody hell kind of person does that make her?

Almost without realizing it, she's on her side, curling in on herself around the hole that's just been torn out of her. His arms are around her again, as heedless of the tubes protruding from odd places as she is, and he's breathing soothing nonsense into her hair, reassurances that they can try again once they've gotten her the help she needs, he still loves her, it isn't her fault.

"I suppose it's only right," she finally manages through the sudden shortness of breath, like there really is a stone fist tightening around her heart and trying to take out a lung or two while it's at it. "After everything I did to make Junior's entire childhood a living hell, it's hardly right that I get to have my own babies." She gulps desperately, and forces herself to meet his eyes. "That's why I had to leave, and let you start over with a girl who deserves you."

His grip on the blanket tightens.

"Do I get a say in this?"

"I had to do it this way. You're too honourable to leave me. Although," she adds, voice breaking on something between a laugh and a sob, "it's a little depressing that apparently I can't even do this right. A bloody nurse who can't pull off a proper suicide."

The sharp crack of his hand at her cheek fills the air, and she barely notices the brief flare of pain amid the shock that Drake, of all people, just hit an unarmed woman.

Somehow, it's not a surprise that she'd be the one to bring him to it. Just a few years ago, bitter and angry and hating the world and herself most of all, it would have been something to be proud of. Now, she just feels sick. Like, even more.

"Sorry," she mutters around a sniffle. He rests his forehed in his hand, and she can see his anger already fading into shame as he carefully avoids her eyes and readjusts until he's not touching her. Along with it, she can see traces of grief seeping through, for the tiny little person that a split second of madness ripped away from them. "Oh, God, Drake, I'm so sorry. The baby--"

"Hey," he interrupts, prying her white-knuckle grip off his arm and holding her hands gently. "I'm just glad you're okay."

"You shouldn't be."

His sigh as he pulls her closer and plays absently with her hair might be a laugh under different circumstances.

"Well, I am, so get used to it." He sighs again, resting his cheek carefully at the top of her head. "I shouldn't have left you alone."

She eyes him sternly.

"Drake, the world didn't grind to a halt just because you got married. You still have to do your job. If I can't handle being left alone for a few days, obviously I'm not a very good wife for you."

"You've been fine every time I called, so obviously that wasn't the problem," he reminds her sharply. "I meant last night. I knew you were upset, and I've been watching you get yourself worked up about nothing for a month now. I should have made you come with us to the hotel."

"Well, it's not like you knew your wife was crazy," she shrugs, hating herself for her weakness and faltering resolve even as she nuzzles his cheek with the top of her head.

He shakes his head with a tiny smile.

"Nah, I definitely knew that."

The composure she's managed to gather together crumples instantly.

"Sorry," she mutters thickly, trying to hug her knees and wincing at the sharp reminder of the IV needle.

"Hey," he murmurs into her hair. "I like you crazy. Just...not like this. But we'll get through it," he continues hurriedly as the girl in his arms gives another hitching little sob.

"I can't believe you still want me around," she sniffles into his shoulder.

This time, his sigh sounds a little more like a laugh.

"Yeah, well, you might want to get used to that, too. I said I wasn't going to give up on you, and I'm not. If you want to leave, then leave, but it had better be what you really want. And not like this, got it? Or I'll come up there and kick your ass in thirty or forty years."

She nods mutely, and gives him a watery smile as he settles her gently back on her pillow and cups her cheek lightly.

"You better get some rest. I'll be around."

"Go home and sleep," she orders his retreating back, and she can barely hear his warm chuckle in response as her eyes slide shut.

Bloody hell. Now what? It should be simple matter: if at first you don't succeed, and all that. But the look in his eyes when he came in...

If a failed attempt could make him look like that, she's not sure she wants to be the one responsible for making it even worse.

Which is silly. Drake is strong. He can get through a lot worse than this.

"Well, way to go; you almost did it."

She looks up, startled by this newcomer.

"I thought your plane left this morning."

Anita glares sharply.

"That's two mornings ago." She sighs, and throws herself into the chair by the bedside. "We returned the tickets. We're going back later."


"We couldn't leave him alone like this."


"Because unlike some people, we don't take off as soon as things aren't easy anymore."


Anita's glower deepens.

"Nothing to say to that?"

"Only that I'm surprised you're objecting at all; if anything I would have thought you'd be here to finish the job. It would be simple. I can tell you exactly how to make it look like an equipment malfunction."

"Yeah, right," Anita snorts. "Because I totally spent twelve hours on a plane, just to ruin my friend's life."

"Too bad you made the trip; I seem to have that well in hand."

She's starting to fear for the girl; if Miss King's glower deepens any further, it just may cave in her face.

"Yeah, well, like I said, you almost pulled it off with this crap." She waves a slim, callussed little hand around the hospital room.

Picking absently at a loose thread on her blankets, Wendy shrugs.

"He'd get over it. He'd be better off in the long run."

"You didn't see what he was like before the doctor knew if you were going to wake up or not," Anita reminds her quietly. "I thought he'd be better off too, until we got to the hospital. You ever seen him cry before?"

Wendy flinches sharply at this, because as of now, she's known him to cry all of twice, and both of these have occurred since she's been in hospital. The younger girl's expression grows gentle. Well, gentler.

"He almost punched a doctor, too," she adds matter-of-factly. "Michelle and Maggie had to hold him. And that wasn't even the guy who said they should just let these damn suicide attempts have what they want, instead of wasting valuable resources on them. That was just some idiot in the waiting room." Anita gives a ghost of a grin. "Michelle and I let him punch that guy."

"He had a point, though; especially when the damn suicide attempt is acting in everyone's best interest."

Anita makes a noise of disgust

"God, I can see why Drake hit you."

"It sounds like he's been making a habit of it today."

"Can you really blame him? He's been sitting in a hospital waiting room for two days, drinking really bad coffee, and his wife is being a spineless idiot."

The blonde sighs heavily.

"You said it yourself: I'll only ruin his life if I stay with him."

"I know what I said," Anita retorts sharply. "That's when you prove me wrong, not take the coward's way out because it's easier to tell yourself it's hopeless."

"That isn't true," Wendy protests, annoyed, and relieved at the back of her mind for something other than gut-wrenching guilt. It's an old habit with her, using anger to push away guilt. Learned it flawlessly from a man to whom guilt was pretty much a foreign concept. "Leaving is the kindest thing I could do for him."

"Bullshit!" the younger girl explodes, stopping herself with some difficulty from sending the IV stand skittering into the wall and bringing a team of nurses. "This wasn't for him! If you'd got what you wanted, you wouldn't be the one suffering. And you wouldn't have to think about everything you did to us, or try to make it right."

"There are some things that can't be made right, you know. This is the closest I can get."

"You don't know that! Have you even tried?"

"Maybe I don't deserve the chance."

Anita makes a noise that sounds decidedly as though it wants to be a round of profanity instead, and glares a little more, just for good measure.

"Well, maybe it's not just about you anymore." She smirks slightly as the girl in the bed begins to protest, and then stops and frowns, as though this hasn't entirely occurred to her. "I may not like it, but you make my friend happy, and I've never seen him hurt like he is now. You've done enough to hurt the people I care about, so this is where you stop acting like an idiot before I punch you."

Biting back a smile, Wendy nods.

"I'll try."

"Don't try, do it," Anita orders sternly, then grins. "Look, if there's one thing I learned from your old pal Readman, it's that the line between guilt and self-pity is pretty thin, and neither of them means a goddamn thing until you stop whining about the horrible things you did long enough to get up off your ass and fix them yourself."

The urge to laugh catches Wendy off-guard.

"You know, you're kind of brilliant, for sixteen."

"That's because I'm seventeen."

This time she does laugh, and the sound draws the attention of a passing nurse, who promptly shoos Anita from the room. As the door clicks shut, she exhales shakily and smiles weakly at the nurse busily straightening and reattaching her IV needle.

Turns out the little girls is right again; having someone who cares about her, really cares about her, more than she's fully understood until now, means that she's lost the luxury of appeasing her guilty conscience without considering who else might be hurt in the process.

In other words, she'll have to go about it the hard way from now on, become a good enough person in her own right to make up for the past, and become strong enough to protect the people she loves from her mistakes.

God knows it won't be easy - she's never been particularly good at strength or virtue - but it'll be worth it, to become the sort of person that's worthy of him.

And so, despite throbbing head, insides churning with nausea, and a nearly physical ache in her chest for what's been lost, she falls into an easier sleep than she's seen in a long time, secure in the knowledge that after nearly thirty years of the path of least resistance, she's finally done taking the coward's way out.

End Notes: Ummm...yeah. I don't know, either. All I'm going to say is that this was supposed to be maybe 1500 words long. Concision, thy name is not Rhianwen.