Disclaimer: The show and it's wonderful characters belong to the Pate Brothers.
Summary: After the events of 'Nurse Evil', Henry and Ben watch over Chandler as he sleeps off the drugs effects.
Main Characters: Henry, Chandler and Ben.
Spoilers: Episodes: 'Nurse Evil' and 'Underworld'
The Ravenswood. Not your everyday run of the mill block of apartments. This place is different, this place is . . . Purgatory. That's what the old lady - the one who lived next door to Chandler - had called The Ravenswood. Purgatory. It was the home for lost souls like agents of the Core, she had said. It was the place where you waited: for judgment, for a second death, to move on to a better place. Here, in the same apartment building, your partner in the Core lived down the hall, on the floor above you, below you. It was reason enough to socialize, to share a beer or two, get to know the man who was going to watch your back on a daily basis.
This was home.
Henry opened the door to Chandler's apartment and stepped into the sparse room. He switched on a small lamp; the bulb's light sending the shadows into the far corners of the room. He moved into the center of the apartment, turned and waited, knowing that his partner would refuse any offered help. Henry watched, not fully understanding why Chandler was in such a condition, only that the Corps doctor had explained that Chandler had been injected with some sort of hallucinogenic drug, a near overdose. Damn psychiatric hospital had turned Chandler's unjustified stay into a living nightmare.
Henry felt the guilt overwhelm him. He should have gotten Chandler out sooner. The man was his partner, his best friend, they'd been through a hell of a lot together, but this time . . . this time Henry hadn't been there and it had been a decision made by choice. Ford had assured him that they would get Chandler out, but his partner needed to stay there long enough to learn a lesson: you don't tell people about the Core. Henry had believed him and because he had believed Ford, Chandler had paid a nasty price for his lesson.
A visit here and there didn't constitute helping a friend. He should have noticed, that with each visit, Chandler had seemed more withdrawn, more desperate to get out. He should have helped him sooner, but he couldn't dwell on that, not now. It was something he would do later, when he was on his own, a beer in his hand and a couple of empty bottles on the floor. Right now, Chandler still needed his help and this time, this time Henry was going to be here to give his partner all the help he needed plus more, even though Chandler was too stubborn to admit he needed the help, too stubborn to accept the help.
Henry smiled, grateful for what he still had, what he hadn't lost: a good friend, a good partner, a man who was willing to give his own life to protect his. Chandler was the best partner he'd ever had and Henry had been in the Core for damn near twenty years now.
And he loved the man like a brother.
"What are you smiling at?" said Chandler as he shuffled into the apartment, his shoulders hunched under a thick blanket, his feet bare on the recently polished wooden floor.
"Nothing," said Henry.
"Doesn't look like nothing." Chandler squinted at his partner through tired red rimmed eyes. "You look like a grinning black cat on Halloween."
"Don't worry about it, Chan."
"If you're laughing at me, I'm going to worry about it."
"I'm just glad you're okay."
"Do I look okay to you, H?"
"No, but you will in the morning."
Chandler wanted to say that it was morning but he just nodded, too tired to say anything else. He pulled the blanket closer around his shoulders, stumbling forward as he did it.
Even though he knew the answer, Henry asked, "You need some help?"
"No, I don't need-" But as much as he tried, Chandler couldn't remain upright any longer, the drug's effects trying to pull him back under. He fell forward, his feet catching on the edge of the blanket, his knees slamming against the floor before Henry could catch him.
"I got you, Chan."
Henry wrapped his arms around Chandler's waist, pulling him to his feet and then helping him to the bed. Chandler was useless in his attempts to help, his body weak, crying out for sleep, he just wanted to sleep.
"H? Where's Bonnie?" said Chandler.
His partner's voice surprised him but the question shocked him and he didn't know how to answer it. Henry knew how much Chandler loved his wife, how much he missed her every day and the last thing Henry wanted to do, was to remind Chandler that his wife was dead, that she had been dead for seven years. So he did the next best thing. He lied.
"She'll be back soon, just went to the drug store."
"This is some damn cold, huh, H?"
"Yeah." Henry could feel the heat emanating from Chandler's body. A fever. Henry tried to shift his own position so he could help Chandler onto the bed, rather than drop him. "That's one hell of a cold you've got, Chan."
"I got it," said Chandler as he tried to push his partner's arms away.
Henry reluctantly let go and stepped back, staying close to his partner in case Chandler missed the bed, falling toward the floor a second time. He watched as Chandler collapsed into the middle of the bed, his head bouncing on the mattress, the blanket twisted around him and his legs hanging over the edge.
"Let me sleep, H."
"Not in that position," said Henry.
Henry lifted Chandler's legs, feeling the tremor that ran through them and lifted him further onto the bed, turning him at the same time so that he was lying on his left side, facing the wall, his head on the pillow. Henry adjusted the position of the blanket so it covered his friend, pushing it down over Chandler's shoulders and making sure his feet were covered.
"Can I sleep now?"
"Sleep as much as you want, Chan."
"Wake me when Bonnie gets back," said Chandler.
"Yeah, when she gets back."
Seconds later, Chandler was asleep.
Henry put the palm of his left hand against the side of Chandler's face, moved it slowly up onto Chandler's forehead and grimaced with worry. Chandler's skin was clammy, his face paler than the white sheets beneath him and Henry had to remind himself of what the doctor had told him, 'he'll be fine, don't worry, he just needs to sleep it off.' He couldn't help but worry because his partner sure as hell didn't look like he was going to be fine, but Henry had to trust the doctor and if it turned out the doctor was wrong . . . there would be hell to pay.
Pulling a chair close to the side of the bed so he could keep an eye on Chandler, Henry sat down, crossing his ankles on the edge of the bed. He watched his partner, his worry growing and lit his first cigarette for the night.
Henry had only been sitting in the chair for an hour when there was a knock at the door. He wasn't expecting anyone, not unless Decker had decided to come by and check up on Chandler, make sure that he was okay but he doubted it. Decker would be with Ford, helping his friend deal with the death of his sister. He thought about ignoring the knock, but a voice, one he recognized called out.
"Hey, Pop! You in there?"
Fourteen year old Ben Chandler. The last person Henry wanted to see right now.
Henry stood up, the chair scraping on the floor. He paused and held his breath, waiting to see if the noise had woken his partner.
More knocking. "Hey, Pop!"
If that didn't wake Chandler, the chair sure as hell wouldn't. Henry pushed the chair back and walked to the door. He looked back over his shoulder; one last check to make sure Chandler hadn't been woken and opened the door. The gap was small, it would be best if Ben didn't see his father, if he left and just went back home.
"Henry?" There was surprise in Ben's voice.
"What do you want, Ben?"
"I was looking for my dad," said Ben. "Is he here?"
"He's sleeping. Best if you just come back tomorrow. No, actually, you shouldn't come back at all. You shouldn't even be here."
Ben wasn't stupid. "Sleeping? What's wrong with him?"
"He's just sleeping, Ben," said Henry. "Everybody does it. It's a natural thing."
"But you're not."
"No, I'm not."
"So he's not just sleeping," said Ben. "If he were, you wouldn't be here."
"Just go home, Ben. It would be better for everyone."
"Better for you."
"Better for your father, so let's just leave it at that," said Henry. "Go home."
"No," said Ben as he tried to push his way into the room. "If there's something wrong with my dad, I want to know. I want to help him."
Henry stood tall, blocking Ben's way. "Ben-"
"Pop!" If he couldn't push his way in, Ben was going to try another avenue. "Hey, Pop!"
"Will you be quiet." Henry pushed Ben back into the hallway, following him and closing the door to the apartment, separating Ben from his father.
"I want to see him, Henry," said Ben. "He's my Dad."
Henry didn't know why he changed his mind. The kid shouldn't be here. He wasn't allowed to be here, not in Purgatory. They weren't allowed to contact people from their past lives, it was rule number two and if someone found out that Ben was here, had been here, there would be hell to pay, a hell that would be a lot worse than the actual place. Maybe they could compromise.
"Five minutes," said Henry, "and then you go home."
Ben nodded, eager to agree to anything just to get into the apartment and see his Dad.
Henry opened the door and walked back into the room, leaving the door open for Ben.
Ben moved in quickly, pushing past Henry and moving to the other side of the bed, stopping next to his father's side. His father looked pale, sickly. He wasn't just sleeping. Maybe he iwas/I just sleeping it off. Maybe he had just drunk too much alcohol. No. His father drank, mostly beer, the occasional watered down whiskey but he wasn't a heavy drinker. He smoked more than he drank. Ben crouched down next to the bed, so close to his father's face that if Chandler were awake, he would feel his son's warm breath on his face.
"Is he sick?" said Ben, pulling the blanket off his father, checking for some sort of injury that would explain his father's pale features, the slight tremor running through his body. His father was wearing what looked like white hospital scrubs but there were no stains, no blood soaked bullet holes in the material.
"No, he's not sick," said Henry. "Not figuratively anyway."
"Then what's wrong with him?"
"Something happened," said Henry, not really wanting to say more but he knew Ben would be persistent. He was stubborn, just like his father. "Doc said he'll be fine. He just needs to sleep it off."
"Sleep what off? What happened to my dad, Henry?"
"I'm not going to give you the minor details, Ben. Details that you could use in the future to convince someone you're telling the truth the next time you decide to talk about what your dad and I do."
Ben nodded, understanding. "That's not going to happen. I learnt my lesson."
"Good," said Henry. "I'm glad to hear it."
Ben covered his father with the blanket and moved to the other side of the small bed, passing Henry who still stood in the middle of the room. He sat down on the edge and then adjusted his position so he was lying next to his father, his back against the headboard. He reached over, placing the palm of his right hand on Chandler's forehead, leaving it there for a few seconds. His father shifted under the touch then lay still. "He's warm."
"Doc said he had a slight fever and that I should keep an eye on him," said Henry. "Didn't want to leave him alone."
"He would do it for me," said Henry, as he watched Ben. "You look like you're planning on staying. We agreed to five minutes."
"I'm staying," said Ben, looking up at Henry. He saw the look on Henry's face: disappointment. "You don't want me here?"
"Do you know what the Core would do to your father if they knew you were here? What if someone saw you?"
"No one saw me, H."
Henry narrowed his eyes at the nickname, only Chandler called him H. Ben was getting too familiar, becoming friends and Henry had to put a stop to it. The father and son contact not only jeopardized Chandler's life but also his partner's.
"You don't have any idea? Do you?"
"No, I don't," said Ben. "So why don't you tell me."
"Your Dad can get into some serious trouble if the Core found out he was in contact with you."
"He told me that, already."
"Serious trouble, Ben," said Henry. "I'm not talking about a slap on the wrist here, I'm talking about . . ."
Henry knew he'd already said too much. He didn't want to scare the kid, just convince him that it would be better if he and his Dad didn't see so much of each other.
Henry looked at the floor, at his shoes. An image flashed in his head. Chandler sitting in the middle of a white rubber room, strapped into a straight jacket, eyes wide, his face passive as though he had accepted what was happening to him. Chandler had thought Henry was a dream, a hallucination and it had scared the crap out of Henry who had to practically drag his partner out of that room. If the Core found out about Ben would they throw him into that room, into that straight jacket, just as they had done to Ford's sister?
"Can I bum one of those?" said Ben.
Henry looked at Ben, held up his cigarette and said, "One of these?"
Chandler curled in on himself, drawing his knees up to his chest. He raised his arm, his fingers pressing into his forehead and groaned, the sound coming out through clenched teeth, the pain obvious in his voice.
Chandler didn't hear him, in was in his own little world. After a few moments he settled back down, his hand falling to the pillow.
"What happened to him, Henry?"
Henry took a deep breath, calming his own emotions. He walked back to the chair next to the bed and sat down. "If Chan wants you to know, he'll tell you."
"He's not going to tell me."
"He doesn't want to worry you."
"Should I be worried, Henry," said Ben. "What you do is dangerous. How do I know my Dad won't die tomorrow?"
Ben nodded and looked back down at his father. He looked so vulnerable, so childlike.
"Be grateful you got a second chance, Ben. It's something that isn't allowed. Your father ignored the rule. That's how much he loves you. He's willing to risk . . . Tell him how you feel. Tell him you love him. You've got a chance to do that now."
"I had the chance earlier and didn't take it."
"When you spoke to Chan on the phone?"
"Yeah, I hung up on him when he told me he loved me," said Ben. "I couldn't . . . I . . ."
"He understands. Your Dad's a good guy."
"He's the best."
Chandler's voice, cracked, high, muffled under the blanket. "H?"
Henry hesitated, long enough for Ben to turn his father onto his back, to place his hand against his father's face. "Pop?"
Chandler opened his eyes. "Ben."
"Yeah, pop," said Ben. "You okay? You need anything?"
"Is your mom home yet?"
Ben could see that his father's eyes were unfocused, that his full attention wasn't here, he was somewhere else. Not sure what to say, Ben looked at Henry.
"Lie to him, Ben."
And Ben did just that. He lied to his father. "She'll be back soon, pop. Told me to stay home and baby-sit you."
Chandler chuckled. "I hope she's paying you well."
"A pack of cigarettes," said Ben.
"What!" Chandler tried to sit up, put his weight on his elbows, the blanket falling from his shoulders, but they couldn't hold his weight. He collapsed back onto the bed. "Damn cold."
"Go back to sleep, Pop."
"You're a good kid, Ben," said Chandler.
"Go to sleep, pop." Ben couldn't pull his gaze from his father's face. He'd never seen him this bad before, this sick. He wanted to touch him, comfort him the way his father had comforted him when he had been sick. Hold him the way his father held him after a nightmare. Ben felt hopeless, useless. He saw his father's hand. There was something he could do. His wrapped his own warm fingers through his father's, holding his hand, gripping it gently. It was something he could do to help.
After that display, the last thing Henry was going to do was force Ben to leave. "He just needs to sleep it off. He'll be fine."
Chandler's breathing was heavy and deep, healing.
Ben nodded, refusing to look at Henry, hiding his tears. "I can't lose him again, Henry."
"You won't," said Henry. "Not tonight, anyway."