"Who is he? Any ID on him?"
"I don't know. He's just... bleeding. Everywhere."
"Wait... wasn't he on that... that missing bloke! What was his name? Quant?"
"Quinn. Oh my God, Harry. Oh my God. Call the police."
"They said a helpline number... you got the leaflet?"
"Somewhere. Um... there!"
"Call it. I'll watch him."
"Quinn? Can you hear me? Quinn?"
"Hello, I need an ambulance-"
"Quinn, open your eyes-"
"We're out on the-"
Five past one in the morning.
Who would be calling at five past one in the morning?
Baxter groaned, easing himself up onto his elbow and pawing at his phone, shrilling innocently on the bedside table. Ever since Majorca he'd got used to disturbed sleep, but when it wasn't his fault, he got majorly irritated. Whoever was daring to call him would face his wrath.
The phone finally slipped into his drowsy hand.
"What?" he spat.
"Mr Baxter? I'm calling from the British Embassy in Spain. You reported your friend Quinn missing a few days ago?"
Interruption to sleep forgotten. Quinn?
"Is he OK? Where is he? Have you got him there?"
"Can I speak to him?"
There was a pause so pregnant it was practically in labour.
"Quinn isn't here. He's being airlifted to London."
"What? You're bringing him back here already?"
"Yes. Because he's been shot in the head and requires specialist neurological surgery, immediately."
The phone dropped to the floor and smashed.
Whatever I was expecting, it wasn't this, Baxter thought miserably as he sat by his friend's bedside, watching a drip steadily emptying into Quinn's arm.
The past three days had been exactly like this one. Him sitting here, feeling guilt, anger, misery, fear flooding his system over and over, and Quinn near motionless every second of it, only the faint struggle of his lungs leaving Baxter in the knowledge that he was still there. Quinn was critical and the likelihood of permanent and extremely debilitating brain damage was increasing each moment that passed.
It was a wonder he'd made it through surgery.
Woody and Rick had been in yesterday, Nina in tow clutching a damp handkerchief. She'd stayed the longest out of the three, holding Quinn's hand, talking to him, nattering on about nonsense until it was a struggle to keep her eyes open. She'd kissed his forehead when she left. It had been so intimate that Baxter was left in little doubt that Nina still held a candle for Quinn.
Quinn had been stabilised in a Majorcan hospital and then brought over to England for surgery. The doctors in Majorca had given him a matter of days to live, unless the family turned off his life support. His family, so far, hadn't even arrived; his daughters couldn't face it, his ex-wife didn't care. Well. She clearly did, but she pretended so well that anyone who didn't know her would be fooled. Quinn's younger daughter was staying in a hotel next to the hospital. His older daughter had slept in her boyfriend's car, being unable to afford to stay in the hotel. The two were fighting over whether to turn their father's life support off, should the worst come to the worst.
And throughout it all Quinn had slept, blissfully oblivious to the turmoil around him.
Baxter stayed because he was closest to Quinn. Always had been. In sixth form they'd been known affectionately as "Laurel and Hardy", in part because of their comedy appeal as a duo but also simply because they were so close. Quinn had always been brighter, and Baxter had always been fitter. They'd fitted like jigsaw pieces back then; Baxter wondered if the corners had been too battered for them to fit any more.
He had a photo of them somewhere, Quinn putting Fairy Liquid in Mr Braithwaite's coffee while his back was turned. The glee on his face made everyone smile. Baxter was in the corner of the shot, laughing, half-facing the direction of their lecturer to make sure he didn't come back too soon. The browny-greeny fountain that had come out of that 'experiment' had been magnificent, he remembered fondly. Quinn had been hailed as a hero for weeks.
He started, turning round so quickly he almost hit his head on the ECG monitor. Nina was standing there, twisting her handkerchief in her hands, her gaze flitting between the two men in front of her. Rick was nowhere to be seen.
"Rick's setting off in a few minutes. I, y'know, wanted to see whether Quinn was OK."
"No change. A small improvement recently, but you know what they said, Nina. They don't know what the damage will be when he wakes up."
"Yeah, but... well. He might, y'know."
Baxter didn't know, but he kept it to himself. No point kidding yourself. Quinn's life was changed for ever. Nina just desperately didn't want to see the man she loved die.
There was no kidding there either. The way Nina held Quinn's hand up to her mouth and kissed it tenderly left no room for doubt. She and Rick were as good as over- along with Quinn and Rick's friendship, of course.
"Nina. You and Rick."
"It's over," she said, without looking up from Quinn's sleeping face. "We're just too distant. And- I found out about his affair in Majorca. He didn't seem to think it was a big deal, y'know, cheating on me... I was so offended. Quinn- Quinn would never do something like that. Would you, Quinn?"
She squeezed his hand. Baxter's eyebrows drew together.
"He can't hear you."
"We don't know that," Nina defended, squeezing Quinn's hand again. "I like to act like he can hear us. Just in case. He's still alive, even if he is, y'know, in a coma."
The ECG monitor bleeped a steady increase in Quinn's pulse.
"He can hear me!" Nina said excitedly, bending to talk straight into Quinn's ear. "Quinn, can you hear me? Can you squeeze my hand? Quinn?"
"Easy, Nina," Baxter murmured, making to ease her away; Nina pushed his arm off, still encouraging Quinn to squeeze her hand, talking constantly.
"Come on, Quinn, just your fingers, your right hand, just give my hand a little squeeze- how hard can it be? Come on, darling, come on-"
Quinn's fingers slowly drew up, clutching weakly at Nina's, and then dropped back onto the bed, limp.
"He managed it!"
"Doctor! Doctor, he's waking up!" Baxter yelled, leaping out of his chair, all thoughts of leaving Quinn to his own devices gone. "Doctor, come on, he's waking up!"
And suddenly the room was full of people, injecting Quinn, talking to him, easing his eyelids up to look at his pupils, shining lights onto him and taking readings as Nina clutched his hand and Baxter watched with his heart in his mouth, repeating his friend's name over and over, like a mantra.
"Quinn, come on. Come on, Quinn. Wake up. Wake up. Please, Quinn, wake up!"
One eye slowly opened, and then the other.
Baxter could only stand, mouth open in delighted shock, as the doctors eased the ventilator out and Quinn drew breath on his own for the first time in days, grasping Nina's hand with all the strength available to him, slivers of bright blue eyes just about open shining in the strip lighting.
As his gaze found Baxter, his lip curved into a faint smile.
Baxter beamed back so widely his cheeks ached.
They've taken me for physiotherapy, so I'll be out when you get this note. I get out of here properly in a few days- yes, they're letting me loose on the world again!- and the Majorcan authorities want to question me over the death of María. The last part I only just heard.
I can get off on technicalities. I'm not worried about it. I shot in self-defence and to save the lives of others. The doctor said exactly like soldiers in Afghanistan would shoot. I'm sort of a soldier now, right? That makes me laugh. I don't feel like a soldier. I feel like a numpty in hospital with a hole in his head. In other words, I feel like Quinn.
You and Rick. I don't know what's going to happen there, but I bet it won't end prettily. You told me you don't love him any more. He's nuts about you. He's got a funny way of showing it, granted, but he is. Be kind to him. Let him down gently. And don't mention me. I don't want all the doctors' hard work going to waste. He'll suspect anyway, but all the same, I'd like at least a few more days of life before he cuts my feet off and shoves me in a freezer.
Sorry. I promised the others I wouldn't tell you exactly what happened in Majorca. It was a group decision. I know you're not delicate or whatever crap Rick comes out with. You just don't need to know details.
Nina, whatever happens to me and you, wherever we go and whoever ends up with us, just know this much. I love you, I have done since sixth form, I always will and I have a feeling you're the same. All through my marriage I knew it was the wrong woman. You've always tried to be there for me- even when it caused problems with you and Rick- and for that I truly am grateful. The main reason I'm glad I kept my personality is because you love it. You're the woman I will always want, have always wanted, and want now.
For now I have to go back to Majorca and sort some things out. I can hear you already. "No, Quinn, it's too dangerous! You're only just healed, you've been in a coma, you need to stay here, you still can't move your arm properly." You're talking sense, Nina, even in my messed-up head. But there's something drawing me back there, I still can't figure out what it is- yes, Mr Logic is being completely illogical, but that's how it is. I'm sorry. If I end up dead, feel free to tell everyone about that incident in Year 13 with the glue and the showers at my funeral (I'm going red even just writing that). But if I end up alive, I want you to do two things. One, scribble that last bit out with permanent marker. And two, come and find me if I don't find you.
I love you. I'm sorry.
I love you.
His arm ached as he stepped onto the plane, surrounded by an armed guard. The morphine shots he got regularly were keeping the headache almost at bay, but his arm continued to pain him, even after two bouts of surgery. He sighed, watching the world going by as the captain spoke quietly with his doctor, discussing banking, emergency procedures, all the things that made him want to just retreat back to bed and remain under the covers until they were done with him. Closing his eyes, he summoned up the first memory he had since waking up: Nina's smile. He could tell without even needing to feel it that the same broad smile had just crossed his own face.
"Quinn? We've got a seat ready. Or we can lower it into a bed if you feel like you need some sleep?"
"A seat's fine. Er, thanks."
If he slept now, it would be riddled with nightmares. He needed someone, ideally Nina, to be there to soothe him if he was going to re-live those particular memories; a stern-faced doctor somehow didn't fit the bill. Rolling his eyes at himself and scolding himself for being so soft, he stepped on board, cradling his sore arm.
He knew without asking where exactly they would be landing, who would be there, what would happen to him. Although the solicitor accompanying him had assured him he would be fine, that he was in no way liable to be convicted of María's murder, he had been told he would be arrested as procedure and taken to a secure hospital in Majorca, where he would be questioned by police. The solicitor would be present at all times. He would never be left unsupervised. Nina would not be allowed to visit. That last thought left a pang of pain in his chest. He wouldn't see her until the charges were cleared and he was returned to England and probably back to bloody hospital. Maybe it was just him, but he'd had enough of hospitals.
He'd already made his mind up as to what to say.
"She was going to kill them all, and me. The only way to stop her was to shoot her."
Then his finger had got caught on the trigger. He hadn't actually meant to fire off the second shot. But once he had, he decided one more ought to do the job.
He'd terrified himself, with the animal urge to kill that had surged through his veins. That man, standing in front of Alvo's villa with a bloodied arm and a gun and tribal-style paint on his face, had not been Quinn, university lecturer, father of two, pacifist. That man had been... something from the deep reaches of evolution, something from the most primitive of humans.
He had been a killer.
He had saved their lives.
He wondered if that made him a good or bad person. He'd taken one life to save three, possibly four. Was that justified, or right? The moral dilemma churned round and round in his head every day, returning whenever he was alone, or silent, or daydreaming. Sometimes even when he was sleeping. He'd be that monster again, the too-perfect blue pool shimmering, stained with red. Pain an explosion through his shoulder every time he moved. God forgive me. That was what his father would have said. Quinn closed his eyes and huffed under his breath. He'd never been religious, and after the holiday from the deepest depths of Hell he doubted he ever would be.
An oxygen mask was eased over his mouth and nose as the plane made to take off; he gasped in surprise, jolted from his thoughts. The doctor gave him a sympathetic smile.
He bowed his head, leaning against the wall of the plane, watching disjointedly as the wheels left the ground. He could tell without looking that the doctor was watching him closely.
"Will they put handcuffs on me?"
"I won't let them."
The doctor's voice was firm, final. Somewhat reassuring. Quinn nodded.
"Unless you want to be handcuffed," the doctor joshed gently, patting Quinn's shoulder as he moved off to his own seat. Quinn chuckled briefly, leaning back in his seat as the doctor vanished from his shoulder. He found the man's firm, calm humour reassuring, after the tumult of boyish rough-and-tumble in Majorca.
He doubted he'd ever feel safe again after Majorca.
He turned, watching with dull eyes as the doctor moved back over to settle himself behind his patient, shifting the oxygen cylinder to the seat next to Quinn.
"You're worried. It's understandable. But you have a watertight case. You'll get off every charge the Majorcan authorities can throw at you. They wouldn't want to hound you too much, it would highlight how they let a corrupt cop slip through their supposedly very tight net for several years. Once they've talked to the solicitor and to you, they'll let you come back to Britain and everything will carry on as normal. You saved your life and your friends', and who knows how many more. You shut down María's criminal ring. Nothing more will come of this. You're a clever man, you know that as well as I do."
Quinn shrugged awkwardly, focusing on the seatbelt digging into his stomach, the jagged movement of the plane as it went through the clouds. The doctor leaned over to up his oxygen as they climbed. Suddenly he just wanted to sleep.
"You're exhausted," the doctor said quietly, his tone of voice allowing no argument. Quinn protested weakly anyway, trying to knock the man's hands away as they lowered the back of his chair, giving up far too quickly to be convincing.
He didn't even manage to listen to the doctor's sarcastic comment before blissful slumber took him over.
Whether it was the doctor's presence of simply the change of atmosphere, Quinn didn't know, but the next thing he knew they were landing and the doctor was telling him they were approaching Majorca's main airport. For a second panic seized him, ripping the breath from his lungs, paralysing him; he choked on a breath in, doubling up, shutting his eyes hard against the turquoise sea, the storybook beaches, the devil's island beauty. The heat made the tarmac of the airport shimmer and waver, as though it was uncertain whether to welcome him, the spirits of Majorcans been and gone trying to throw the plane away, refuse Quinn. For a second he thought he saw María's face reflected at him, scintillating on the dark sheen- but then the plane banked and she was gone, returned to his dreams. He breathed a shaky sigh of relief.
The police were waiting at the terminal to welcome him. A semi-circle of officers, surrounded by gawping tourists and shady locals, moved forwards as Quinn haltingly stepped once again onto Majorcan soil, looking round at the doctor as though for support, cradling his hurt arm nervously as one of the officers moved forwards and began to speak in rapid Spanish, a translator at his side smiling at Quinn as she spoke.
"You are being arrested on suspicion of the murder of María Botto. You do not have to say..."
Something behind them caught Quinn's eye.
Pointing at him.
The translator was gasping on the floor, blood soaking into the floor, dribbling from between her scarlet-streaked teeth. The gunman was restrained.
Quinn remained where he was, stomach pressed to the floor, eyes shut. Trying to shut it all out. The horror.
Held at gunpoint in a shimmering blue pool.
A clinical airport.
Hands in the air.
A Spanish arrest ringing in the air.
Her dying breaths grating in my ears.
The doctor made to ease Quinn up, his hands under the man's arms, checking him for injuries.
It was only when they heard the first shuddering sobs that they realised Quinn was crying.
"Quinn? Quinn? Come on... up you come. Come on, Quinn. It's OK. You're alright. Everything's under control."
The airport echoed with his cries. Quinn stayed on the floor, huddled into himself, crying so hard he thought he'd choke, people milling around him, pawing at him, trying to calm him down.
"Quinn? Quinn... oh, darling."
And suddenly there were familiar arms round him, a familiar voice, and Quinn glanced up through eyes already swollen with tears to see Nina, holding him tight, stroking his back as it heaved with the force of his howling. He buried his face in her front and gave himself up to the luxury of crying, everything hurting, everything numb, the only thing he could feel being Nina's body on his.
"You're alright. You're alright. Quinn... Quinn."
It took him ten minutes to regain the strength to stand up and walk, and another twenty to regain control of his breathing.
The translator died. A young woman, Josefina Callas, died. She left a daughter.
Quinn was cleared of all charges before he could even draw a decent breath again.
Nina refused to leave his side.
Quinn still found it hard to believe that it had been a month since Josefina had been shot, since he'd been flown back from Majorca, the Heathrow terminal crowded with journalists and staring passers-by crushing him from the inside out. The calm and quiet of his little hospital room had been heaven after the tumult of Majorca.
Devon for him from now on, then. Maybe Cornwall.
He stirred in Nina's arms, blearily opening one eye as the alarm bleeped. Conditional discharge, the hospital had called it; Quinn had called it freedom. Nina had called it 'him coming home with me so I can, y'know, keep an eye on him'. He hadn't yet told her he'd deleted the hospital from her speed dial. Or that he knew the password for her phone. Besides, it was one-all. She'd had a sneaky look at his as well, while he was making breakfast. She thought he didn't know.
He drifted into a strange dream about the oven beeping as Rick called, his voice coming from the depths of the machine as he demanded his wife back, and a knife on the wall coming to life and trying to stab him. He writhed awake covered in sweat, tangled in the bedclothes and leaving poor Nina deprived of warmth, but at least the nightmare didn't have guns, María or Dominic in it. That he was thankful for.
Nina woke up to soothe him back to sleep, and left him in bed while she went to make them breakfast. She put on her new DVD while she grilled the bacon and buttered huge doorstep slabs of bread, thinly but well, just how Quinn liked it.
"People who have been through great emotional trauma often take a long time to come to terms with what has happened. They may suffer from disturbed sleep, depression, loneliness and may cut themselves off from those around them. People may mistake the signs they show for other..."
Nina turned it off. It was nothing she didn't know. She could tell Quinn was awake, she could hear him padding around in the bedroom, tiptoeing in a vain attempt to be quiet. He didn't know this flat as well as she did.
His footsteps faltered; Nina guessed she'd startled him. She opened her mouth to apologise.
"Starving. You got something for me? Mm, bacon. My favourite."
He pressed a kiss to her open mouth, plumping down at the table in his scruffy old jeans and a rugby shirt, a black fleece hanging round his hips. Nina laughed.
"Fine. We're seeing the solicitor later on, so I want you out of those awful jeans."
Quinn pouted, trying to push her arms away as she ruffled his hair, laughing at his yelps of "gerroff me! Help!" as they echoed through the flat. They ate their sandwiches in silence, sitting opposite each other at the small table, ankles intertwined beneath the table. Easy in each other's company.
A car backfired outside. Quinn cried out, dropping to the floor, curling into a ball as Nina knelt beside him, rubbing his spine, tracing the ridges in his back, sweet-talking him into sitting up, into looking at her, firmly telling him it was a car and nothing more as she lifted him back into his seat, put the remainder of the bacon sandwich in his mouth herself, shifted her chair round to sit next to him. She kept her hand round his waist as he chewed the sandwich shakily, trembling, trying desperately to hold the fear in and failing.
Nina timed how long it took for him to return to normal. Twenty-six minutes and fifty-one seconds. A new record. He was doing well.
He wasn't there yet. She knew that, she wasn't afraid of it. She knew he'd get there.
She was more worried about how he'd react when she told him she was pregnant. And that it wasn't Rick's.
He took it remarkably well, considering he was still in need of tranquillisers every so often.
He only made her promise that the baby wouldn't be called Dominic or María. Or Richard.
Or Quinn, for that matter. He didn't want the poor kid's social life over before he'd even started.
A/N: Totally AU to whatever the second series will bring, naturally! Hope you enjoyed it, and I for one am massively anticipating the 19th and MD2. Please review, it would make my day! Jazzola :D