It took several rings before the sound of the phone permeated Viv's peaceful slumber. Groaning as she rolled over and noticed the blinking 11:22PM on her bedside alarm clock, she felt around in the darkness until her hand connected with the receiver.
"Hello?" she asked sleepily, still fumbling to get the receiver close to her ear. A year ago, before her marriage to Brock, she might've thought the late-night call was from Bobby, but her ex-husband had stayed true to his promise to leave her alone in her new life. Nor did she expect it to be Brock; he had informed her that he'd be pulling an all-nighter for one of his current cases.
"Ms. Alburn?" The voice on the other end was female, soft, soothing.
"This is she," Viv yawned, watching as the clock blinked to 11:23PM.
"My name is Caroline," the voice said. "I'm a nurse at Mercy General."
Viv came fully awake in a rush of icy dread. Her hand tightened on the phone. "Yes?"
"It's your husband," the nurse said, her voice polite and concerned. "He was brought in to the ER about half an hour ago, and..."
"I'll be right there," Viv croaked, hanging up before the nurse could say another word. She scrambled out of bed, reaching for whatever clothing was close at hand. She barely remembered to grab her purse and keys before she raced out the door.
She drove carefully toward the hospital, white knuckles gripping the steering wheel. This was something she hadn't missed in the years between leaving Bobby and marrying Brock -- the worry, the injuries, the fear that every late-night call would be the one that meant her husband was dead. After Bobby, Viv had tried to steer clear of law enforcement officers, but she'd grudgingly accepted she had a type by the time she'd met Brock.
Viv's instincts remembered exactly where Mercy Hospital was, and she pulled her car into the ER parking lot, losing a little of the nerve that kept her steady on the drive over. Her hands were shaking as she took the stairs two at a time, remembering when she had taken the exact same path during the second year of her marriage to Bobby. She had not, in fact, been back to Mercy since, and the familiar rush of fear and worry and memory threatened the last threads of her calm.
She rushed the nurses' station, still in motion as she started to ask her questions. "My name is Vivian Alburn," she told the nurse behind the counter. "Someone called and said my husband --"
The nurse looked a little confused and Viv felt her worry combusting into anger when she heard a familiar voice calling her name. Viv turned to see a small, dark-haired nurse heading her way. "I'm Caroline," she said, laying a friendly hand on Viv's arm.
"How is he?" Viv asked, suddenly aware of her grubby shirt and shorts, chilly in the hospital's A/C-cooled air.
"He's fine," Caroline assured her, and Viv felt the tension leech from her body with her statement. "He came in with his partner at about 10:45 this evening with a gunshot wound to his left arm. It was nothing more than a graze," she continued when she saw Viv open her mouth to ask more questions. "He also took a hit to the head, so we're keeping him overnight for observation, but he's fine." Caroline smiled a little. "I would've told you that if you hadn't hung up on me."
Viv could smile now that the weight had lifted. She didn't know how Brock's all-nighter at the office had ended in a concussion and a bullet wound, but she wasn't interested in the details as long as he was safe. "I'm sorry about that."
"I understand." Viv had finally noticed that Caroline had been steering her through the halls during their conversation. "Are you all right?" she asked one more time. When Viv nodded, Caroline stepped away, pointing toward a door at the end of the latest corridor. "Bobby's in Room 513."
Thanks to the shocks of the night, it took Viv almost a full minute of watching Caroline walk away before she realized what was wrong about what the nurse had said. Bobby's in Room 513. Bobby, not Brock. Viv started fumbling with her purse, rummaging around until her hand closed around her cellphone. She flipped it open and punched the speed-dial for Brock's cell. The fourth ring cut off as the call connected.
"Viv?" He sounded groggy, confused but completely fine. Viv felt her knees go weak with relief once again.
"Brock, are you all right?"
"Of course," he told her. "I told you I was working late."
"Yeah, I know," she said. "I just wanted...I love you."
"I love you, too, Viv," Brock said, voice soft. "Goodnight."
Viv ended the call with a sigh and stood in the middle of the hall, trying to decide what to do. Her husband was safe and sound; in a perfect world, she would still be in the bed, oblivious to the fact that her ex-husband had recently been shot. But it wasn't a perfect world, and she was here at the hospital and it would seem callous to leave without saying something -- even if that something was to remind him to remove her as his emergency contact.
Viv brushed a hand down the front of her T-shirt as she headed toward 513. As she drew closer, she could hear voices coming from Bobby's room. She slowed, loitering just outside of the half-open door as she recognized Bobby's voice -- and his partner's.
"Bobby, would you calm down?" Fawkes was saying. "You heard the nurse -- you're staying."
"Fawkes, I'm fine," Bobby said, the irritation in his voice familiar to Viv. "I'm not staying overnight for no bump on the head."
"Concussion," Fawkes said. "You were out cold, I saw you. You need to listen to the doctor and rest."
Bobby grumbled a little under his breath but he seemed to give up the argument. Viv leaned in a little to look through the open door to see Fawkes had one large hand spread out on Bobby's chest, keeping him down. "Just remember this the next time Keep wants you to stay overnight and you whine," Bobby told him. "You are gonna be out of luck, my friend. Out of luck."
"Yeah, yeah," Fawkes said. "You're still staying."
"Freakin' mother hen," Bobby said.
"Sorry if I'm a little concerned," Fawkes said, an unexpected tremor in his voice. "The last time you came into the hospital with a head injury, you almost didn't come out."
Viv was stunned by the emotion in Fawkes's voice and apparently so was Bobby because he didn't speak for a minute. She heard movement and she craned to see inside the room again. Fawkes was still sitting on the edge of narrow hospital bed, hand still on Bobby's heart. His head was bowed, away from both Bobby and Viv.
Bobby sat up a little, dark eyes intent as he reached toward his partner. "Hey. Hey, Fawkes." The words were the same as the moment before, but Bobby's voice was completely different. It was soft, achingly familiar to Viv from the days when their marriage had been new, seemingly perfect. She was startled to hear it here, between Bobby and his partner. As Viv watched, Bobby brought his hands up to cup Fawkes's face and turned him back to face him. He smoothed his rough fingers over Fawkes's cheeks. "I'm fine, okay?"
"Yeah, I know." Fawkes's voice was hushed, roughened with emotion.
"You think I don't know about this? About this being scared crap?" Bobby asked. "You don't think I haven't felt it, like what, a million times when you get close to going all red-eye on me? Or when you start having them headaches and seizures or whatever the hell else that thing in your head causes?"
Viv was surprised to hear that Fawkes seemed to have some kind of medical condition; in his line of work, it seemed counterintuitive. But then again, Bobby had his own medical issues, so maybe it had something to do with why they were partners. She eased back to the other side of the door, but kept listening.
"Sucks, doesn't it?"
"Like you wouldn't believe," Bobby agreed. "And I go through it way more than you, so you need to man up here. Alright?"
"Well, when you talk so sweet to me, how can I say no?" Fawkes quipped, and it seemed the emotional moment had passed. Viv remembered that tone well from her own conversations with Fawkes so she could imagine the expression that went with it, half-smile and arched eyebrows to visually express the sarcasm dripping from his voice. "You're still staying, Bobby."
"You're still a mother freakin' hen, Darien."
"Takes one to know one, Mama Hobbes," Fawkes said, continuing before Bobby could speak. "I need a drink. You want something?"
"Wouldn't that be against the ruuules?"
"You want a soda or not?"
"Coffee," Bobby amended. "A half-caf, de--"
"I am not getting you one of those girly coffee drinks," Fawkes protested. Viv heard the faint sound of creaking springs. "Coffee, cream, sugar, those are your options."
"So much for all that worry and concern, huh?"
"I got plenty of worry. And concern. Just not for specialty coffees." Fawkes paused. "I'll be right back, okay?"
"Yeah, go, get back, whatever," Bobby said. "Just come back with my coffee or you're gonna find out about knocks to the head, you hear me."
"I hear ya," Fawkes said. "There you go with that sweetness again."
Bobby was still grumbling in the background as Viv eased away from the door and hurried down the hall. After having eavesdropped on what was obviously a private conversation and still not quite sure what to think of what she'd heard, the last thing Viv wanted was to face Bobby. Unfortunately, she wasn't quick enough around the corner, and she slowed, defeated, when she heard a familiar voice call her name.
"Viv? Is that you?"
She turned to see Fawkes heading toward her, confusion plain on his face. "Yeah, it's me."
He shoved his hands in his pockets, standing awkwardly a few feet from her. Viv noticed that his clothes were dirty, and there was a streak of dried blood running down one cheek, where Bobby's fingers had touched just a few minutes ago. She wondered if it was Bobby's blood or his partner's.
"What are you doing here?" Fawkes asked.
"A paperwork mix-up," she said, trying to keep her voice light. She folded her arms. "It seems that Mercy still has me on file as Bobby's next of kin. I should've known he'd never get around to updating anything."
"Oh, man." Fawkes winced.
She nodded. "They told me my husband had been shot."
Fawkes paled, and Viv thought maybe he understood what kind of call she'd received. "I'm so sorry."
She nodded her acceptance of his apology. "Just make sure he gets that changed before it happens again, okay? My heart can only take so many close calls."
"Yeah, of course," Fawkes nodded. He hesitated, then continued, "Do you want to stop in and see him since you're here? I'm sure he'd appreciate it."
She wanted to say no, but she couldn't think of a good reason to pass. After, all she was already there. "Sure, might as well."
Viv let Fawkes lead her back to the hospital room she'd just left, the door hinges squeaking a little as she pushed it open.
She heard Bobby's voice. "You back already? You barely..." he trailed off when he saw that it wasn't Fawkes opening the door. "Viv?"
"I found her out in the hall," Fawkes said, loitering in the hall as Viv crept inside. "I'm going to get those drinks now."
As Viv slowly approached the bed, Bobby's dark gaze settled on her, watching with the same intensity he always had. She could tell he was ashen, dark circles under his eyes, and he struggled to pull himself up into a sitting position. But he was alive, and obviously on the mend; it was then that Viv realized how much she would've mourned her ex-husband if the reverse had been true.
Deep down, Bobby Hobbes still lurked in the corners of her heart. "Hi, Bobby."
"What are you doing here?"
Viv perched on the edge of the mattress. "Mercy Hospital still thinks we're married."
Bobby winced, just like his partner had. "Shit, Viv, I'm sorry."
She waved away his apology. "Just make sure you take care of it, okay?"
"Swear to god, first thing in the morning," he promised solemnly, but then smiled at her. "It's good to see you, though. Nice surprise and all."
"Thanks," Viv smiled back.
Even if she hadn't accidentally seen and heard what she had earlier, Viv would still be aware of the difference in the way Bobby looked at her now compared to the way he had only a few months before. The longing and pain were gone from his eyes as they watched her, the desperation to hold on nothing but memory. There was warmth in his smile, and affection, but it was only a fraction of what had once been there, a fading echo from the past. It was obvious Bobby had moved on, just as she had; Viv had just never expected that he'd move on to another man. It made even less sense than many of the nonsensical things she'd learned about Bobby since she'd met him.
Bobby noticed her preoccupation, the wheels turning behind her eyes, and frowned in concern. "You okay, Viv?"
She wanted to say no, to ask the questions percolating in her brain, about whys and wherefores of how her ex-marine, government agent ex-husband had ended up with a guy, especially one like his sarcastic, quick-witted partner. She wanted to ask what this said about what they had had, if it said anything at all. Viv wanted to ask if she had somehow turned him off women entirely, and she wanted to be absolved of that guilt.
And, thinking back to the tenderness and affection she had seen in those few stolen moments, Viv wanted to ask if he was happy. She thought the answer would've been yes, and she wasn't sure if that was the answer she wanted or the one she feared.
But she didn't ask of the things that crossed her mind, because it wasn't any of her business. Viv had requested that Bobby move on and let her live her life; she couldn't deny him the same courtesy, couldn't demand that he do so only in ways she approved, or that he explain his choices to her satisfaction. The paths of their lives had diverged, as she had asked. Viv knew she had no right to do anything but accept however Bobby found happiness.
"Fine," she finally said. She leaned forward and brushed a kiss against his cheek. "Just glad you're alive."
"Oh, well...that makes two of us." He patted her hand that laid near his on the top of the hospital blanket.
"Three," she corrected him. "I think your partner's pretty glad to have you around still."
"Well, with Fawkes, there's no accounting for taste," Bobby laughed.
"Hey, I resemble that remark."
Viv turned to see Fawkes standing in the doorway, holding a can of coke in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other. Fawkes's half-grin was firmly in place, but Viv knew where to look for the real story, and it was there, in his eyes -- concern, affection, a little sadness, and maybe even a hint of jealousy. She hoped her expression allayed it, as she gave him the same shaky smile she'd given Bobby.
Bobby was smiling at his partner as well. "That was fast," he said approvingly.
"You know I aim to please, buddy," Fawkes said, handing him the coffee. He glanced at Viv and held out the unopened soda. "Viv?"
"No, thanks," she said, sliding off the edge of the bed. "I'd better be going anyway."
"Yeah, you got that husband to get home to," Bobby said. "Tell 'em we said hi."
"I will. Goodbye, Bobby." Viv brushed another kiss high on his cheek. "Get well soon."
"Sooner than soon," he laughed. "Nothing can keep Bobby Hobbes down for long."
"Oh, brother," Fawkes snorted.
Viv couldn't help but laugh. As she passed Fawkes, who stood slouched against the wall, she laid a hand on his arm. "You take good care of him, okay?"
She couldn't be sure, but Viv thought something passed between in that moment. "You got it. Take care of yourself, too, all right?"
As Viv stepped out of the hospital room, she could hear the muffled noise of the room, the sounds of Bobby's good-natured grumbling and Fawkes's pointedly sarcastic replies. Despite herself, she risked another peek inside, to see Fawkes once again perched on the edge of the bed, one hand idly ghosting over Bobby's arm as Bobby talked, waving his coffee around in his other hand for emphasis. There was no doubt in Viv's mind at what the look that passed between the two men meant.
Smiling, Viv quietly edged away from the door, and headed down the empty hall.