Jesse Travis tore out of Alfredo's restaurant as if the very devil was at his heels. He took the steps two at a time, almost tripping as he landed at the bottom then ran toward his car and unlocked the door and climbed in. Flooring the accelerator, he peeled out of the parking lot with an angry squeal of tires. Looking into his rear view mirror just before he turned out into the street, he saw Steve Sloan standing at the bottom of the steps, watching him leave.
Good, Jesse thought as he headed towards his apartment. He hoped like hell Steve was upset. He'd certainly upset Jesse tonight. What was supposed to have been a romantic dinner had escalated into the worst argument the two of them had ever had. And, Jesse told himself firmly as a tiny twinge of guilt seeped into the forefront of his mind and tried to make its presence known, it was all Steve's fault. If he hadn't been so damned stubborn… He shoved the guilt back and planted his foot a little harder. All he wanted to do right now was get home and have a stiff drink or four then crawl into bed and forget he'd ever met Detective Steve Sloan.
He groaned as the heavens opened and rain sheeted down, almost obliterating his view of the road. Sighing, knowing that he had no choice if he wanted to make it home in one piece, Jesse slowed down and drove more carefully, forcing the argument with Steve to the back of his mind. Crawling along, he was relieved when the rain started to ease to a mere downpour instead of a threatened flood and was just about to pick up speed again when he saw someone walking along the edge of the road. As he pulled level with them, the person dropped to his knees, tried to struggle up again then fell forward onto the sidewalk. "Damn," Jesse muttered. Steve would tell him not to stop but that was the cop in him. Jesse, on the other hand, was a doctor, and he couldn't in good conscience just leave someone out there injured or sick in weather like this. His mind made up, Jesse pulled his car into the side of the road and climbed out, grabbing his medical bag off the back seat as he did, grateful to see the rain had now stopped almost completely.
As he reached him, Jesse was able to see the injured person was a young man. He knelt down on the sidewalk next to the crumpled figure and put two fingers against the pulse point in the man's neck. Heaving a sigh of relief as he felt the beat full and steady beneath his fingertips, he'd turned to grab his flashlight out of his medical bag when he was rocked back onto his heels by a hard punch to the side of his jaw. "What the hell-" he got out even as he shook off the blow, managed to land a punch of his own then stumbled to his feet to face his assailant.
His putative "patient" towered over Jesse and outweighed him by at least twenty or thirty pounds but Steve had taught Jesse a thing or two about staying alive on the streets and now Jesse took a quick step back then lifted his right leg and caught the other man behind the knees, grinning in surprised triumph as the maneuver worked and his opponent fell backwards onto the sidewalk. Jesse took advantage of the moment and bent to grab his bag then stood and began to run toward his car, only to be brought up short as something hard and very unforgiving caught him across the abdomen. Gasping for breath, Jesse dropped like a stone, one arm wrapped around his suddenly agonizingly painful belly. He fought against throwing up and rolled onto his back, one hand fumbling through his pocket for his car keys. "Here," he croaked out, tossing the keys to one of the shadowy figures standing over him, "take the damn car, okay?" He heard a burst of raucous laughter, the sound of car doors opening and closing then the familiar noise of his car's engine as it was started up and driven off. Jesse lay where he was for what seemed like an eternity till he was sure his stomach wasn't going to turn inside out and that he wouldn't just fall flat on his face again. A few cars had driven by as he lay there but none of them stopped. Jesse smiled wryly at the irony of that as he finally made it to his feet. Guess he was the only idiot in town tonight. He took a moment to get his bearings then set off at a shambling walk in the direction of his apartment.
Steve had been driving for about five minutes when he caught sight of his wayward lover stumbling down the sidewalk. There'd never been any doubt in his mind that he'd go after Jesse and try to patch things up. He'd been in love with Jesse since the first day he'd set eyes on him at County General and no argument was going to change that fact. Now though, as Steve pulled his car to the side of the road he wondered just what he could say to make things right. That thought went completely out of his head as he saw Jesse careen off a parked car, apologize to it then continue on his somewhat skewed trajectory along the sidewalk towards where Steve was standing. "What the- ? Jesse, how the hell did you manage to get drunk in all of fifteen minutes?" Steve asked, waiting till Jesse was alongside him then reaching out a hand and snagging Jesse's wrist as he walked past.
Jesse waved his other hand at him as if waving off a bothersome fly but he didn't resist when Steve reeled him in for a closer look. "Ow," Jesse said, pulling his hand free as he landed up close and personal with Steve's chest. "Take it easy, Brutus. That hurts. I hit someone with it."
"You hit someone?" Steve asked incredulously. He examined Jesse's knuckles and shook his head at the scrapes he saw, clear sign of Jesse having indeed 'hit someone'. "Who did you hit, Jesse? Are you hurt anywhere else?"
"They took my car," Jesse replied, sounding righteously offended. "Well, I gave it to them," he added, in an apparent attempt at being scrupulously honest. "Only because there were two of them and they hit me pretty hard," he said. He rested his head against Steve's chest for a moment then said plaintively as he started to sink to the ground, "I don't feel so good."
"I bet," Steve said, grabbing him and lowering him gently the rest of the way down. He turned Jesse onto his side then ran for his car and put in a call for an ambulance.
"Stop looking guilty," Mark Sloan said as he opened the door so his son could go into Jesse's hospital room. "He's fine. Some nasty bruising across his abdomen but luckily no broken bones or internal bleeding. A bruise on his jaw and some scraped knuckles." He stopped Steve just inside the door. "Arguments happen, Steve. If you and Jesse are in this for the long term, I can tell you from experience there'll be more. The secret is not letting things fester. Get it out in the open."
Steve nodded. "I know," he said, "but this really was my fault."
"Why?" Mark asked. "You didn't steal his car and beat him up."
"No, but if we hadn't argued he'd've been safe with me," Steve said stubbornly.
Mark sighed. "Go see him," he said, "but I'm pretty sure he's not going to think this was your fault any more than I do." Mark stepped back out into the hall and closed the door behind him.
"I'm sorry," Steve said as soon as he sank into the chair at Jesse's bedside.
"What for?" Jesse asked, looking puzzled. He crooked a finger at Steve then pointed to the bed. "Why are you sitting all the way over there?"
Steve moved over and perched on the edge of the bed. "I didn't want to hurt you," he replied, placing a tiny kiss on the end of Jesse's nose.
"I'm fine," Jesse said. "Didn't Mark tell you that?"
"Well, yeah," Steve admitted grudgingly.
"Well then," Jesse said.
"Look," Steve said, "I don't want to argue with you again but Dad says it's best to get stuff out into the open so I have to ask. Why don't you want to tell everyone about us being together? My friends at work as well as yours. You know how much I want to. If we can't legally get married, we can at least tell the whole world we're together. Why are you so against it?"
Jesse pushed himself up in the bed. "I've read news reports about gay cops and what happens to them in the field," he said forcibly. "I don't want to be waiting for you to come home from a stakeout one night only to find out you've been killed because your backup never arrived." He choked on the words and Steve leaned forward and pulled him into his arms.
"That's why?" Steve asked. "Sweetheart, everyone at the station guessed about us a long time ago. Tanis even ran a pool on how long it would take for us to actually go out on a date. The Captain won. If anyone was going to not be there for me because we're together, they've had plenty of opportunity to do it by now."
"Oh," Jesse said quietly. "I feel kind of stupid now."
"So do I," Steve said. He leaned in and kissed Jesse till they were both breathless. "Let's make a pact," he said as they broke apart. "From now on, honesty is the name of the game. We tell each other what's on our minds all the time. Deal?"
"Deal," Jesse replied. "So how about you go find my clothes so you can take me home and make this deal absolutely binding? Oh, have they found my car?"
"Um yeah. About that," Steve said, edging towards the door. "How's your fire insurance?"