That's What Friends Are For
By Mickey

Status: Completed 04/25/2009

Disclaimer: Not mine. Don't sue.

Word Count: 1,469

Author's Notes: The Road Back is one of my top three favorite episodes, but I always thought they seemed to indicate some time gaps throughout the episode without really filling giving any indication of what had happened. This takes place after the scene where Rita apologizes, but before the therapy scene and attempts to fill in at least part of this gap. I'm guessing there was about three or four days between these scenes. The therapist indicates they'd already had a few sessions together, which is highly unlikely after only two days. Many thanks to Annie Booker for the beta and the title!

Spenser turned off the television and headed for the kitchen. His stomach was beginning to protest, loudly, and Frank's steak was calling to him. He'd picked up a sandwich before he'd returned home after storming out several nights before and hadn't been hungry when he'd returned. Upon opening the fridge that morning, he'd seen his food from that night sitting there. His plate, the steak now cut up, had been wrapped and put in there. In a bowl next to the plate was his salad. The larger bowl of salad had also been placed in there.

Having fully expected to have a mess to clean up, he'd been pleasantly surprised to find the table cleared and the dishes done. Really, he shouldn't have been surprised. His friends weren't the type to leave his place a mess. He had felt really bad about ruining dinner and had hoped his friends had at least finished their meal. Finding no other containers or plates with steak and/or potatoes on them, he been happy to find that they'd obviously finished eating before they'd cleaned up and left. The talk with Rita the morning after the interrupted dinner had helped, but he knew he still needed to apologize to Marty and Frank.

Which, of course, he was avoiding doing.

The envelope with the money was still were he'd left it, untouched.

The night after the "incident", Spenser had eaten the steak, potato, and his bowl of salad. Thinking about the steak made him wish there'd been more left. Removing the small Tupperware container with what remained of the salad from the fridge, he placed it on the counter while he retrieved a fork from the silverware draw. He loosened the Saran Wrap covering it -which was a bit difficult to do one handed- and set his fork in the container. That done, he went back to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of dressing. After a minute, he managed to remove the lid and had just started pouring the dressing onto his salad when there was a knock at the door.

Not taking any chances -his would be assassin was still out there- Spenser walked over to his desk and picked up his gun. Flipping the safety off, he called out, "It's not locked, come in." Aiming the gun, he waited to see who would enter.

"I surrender," Marty quipped, a small smile on his face, as he entered the living room and saw the gun trained on him.

Spenser was relieved to see the lieutenant's friendly face. "Hi, Marty." He put the safety back on and set the gun down on the desk then went back to the kitchen and finished preparing his salad.

Marty lowered his hands and walked over to the counter. "I was in the neighborhood and decided to drop by and see how you're doing."

"I'm fine," Spenser replied noncommittally. He knew Marty wasn't the least bit fooled.

"How's the therapy going? Any change?"

Spenser said nothing as he picked up his fork and took a bite of salad. He chewed it slowly, intentionally not looking at his friend. When he looked up again after a few more bites, Marty was still looking at him expectantly. Swallowing what was in his mouth, he finally replied, "Not so good. Still no nerve response. I have a session tomorrow morning. I have a feeling nothing has changed though."

Marty nodded but remained silent. There was a sorrowful look to the other man's eyes, but Spenser was extremely grateful to not see even a trace of pity there.

Breaking the silence, Spencer said, "I spoke to Rita the other day."

"I know," was Marty's short response. He seemed to consider something then asked, "Do you love her?"

Spenser resisted the urge to flinch. "I don't know. It's still too soon." Knowing Marty would understand what he meant, he felt no need to say more. Wanting desperately to change the subject and realizing that he couldn't avoid it any longer, Spenser took a deep breath and said, "Look, I... ahhh... I'm sorry about the other night."

"We should be the ones apologizing, Spenser. We were all coddling you to some degree. We should have realized that you're still capable of doing a lot of things on your own." Obviously frustrated, Marty paused for a minute before continuing, "We're your friends, and we just want to help. It's only been a little more than a week since you were shot! Twice!" Spenser could see Marty's gaze drift to his injured shoulder. The thick bandage that had been there and the one around his waist had been removed the day before. "You may not be an invalid, but you're not at one hundred percent right now either. Your friends just want to help you. Let us help you." Marty paused again. "And speaking of helping you," he said as he walked to over to the table and patted the envelope, "take this."

"Damn it, Marty, I appreciate everyone's concern. I really do, but I don't need charity." Spenser took a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down. The last thing he wanted to do was start snapping at his friend again. He knew Marty and Frank were just trying to help when they "passed the hat around", but he hated feeling like he couldn't provide for himself. He hated being made to feel helpless, no matter how unintentional it was.

Marty seemed to take a deep breath himself, apparently just as frustrated as Spenser himself was. "You really are pig-headed and stubborn, you know that? This isn't charity, Spenser. You still have a lot of friends on the force. For every new face there, there's one who remembers you. Believe it or not, most of them actually like you and consider you a friend." Smiling, he added, "Even some of the ones who thought you were a pain in the ass. A lot of the newer cops know you too, either by your reputation or because, at some point or another, you've helped them out somehow. You've helped a lot of people over the years my friend, now some of them want to help you. What's so wrong with that?"

Not giving up, Marty continued on as he walked over to the counter. "You need to face the facts. You're not Superman. And, even if," pausing momentarily at the look on Spenser's face, Marty didn't waiver, "if you get the feeling back in your arm and hand, it's going to be a while, months if you're honest with yourself, before you can go back to work. Since you aren't independently wealthy and I just happen to know your bank account is, well, let's just say it's less than healthy right now, you could use the help. It's great that Mahaffey is covering all of your medical bills, but I doubt he's going to pay your rent." Picking up an envelope with the words, "SECOND NOTICE" stamped in bright red letters, he added, "Or this." He set the envelope back on the counter.

Spenser was silent as he considered everything Marty had just said. Finally, he relented. Smiling, he patted Marty on the shoulder and said, "Thanks. For everything."

The microwave binged and the two men grinned.

"Well," Marty began, "I think that's my cue to get going. Besides, Katie will be back from visiting her mother early tomorrow morning and will not be happy at all if she finds the mess I left in the living room."

Chuckling, Spenser nodded as he walked with Marty to the door. "Goodnight," he said as he opened the door.

"Goodnight," Marty replied.

The two friends shook hands and Spenser watched for a moment as Marty walked down the hall. When his friend was out of sight, he shut the door.

After locking the door behind Marty, Spenser walked over to the table and picked up the envelope. For a moment, he just stared at it. After a few seconds he opened it. Marty had said there was a couple of hundred bucks in it. Spenser stared in shock at the wad of money. A couple of hundred? It looked like closer to eight or nine hundred dollars. Either they'd "passed the hat" to every person in the entire station, or the guys in homicide were very giving. He was touched by their generosity. He knew Marty was correct, it wouldn't be right to refuse the money. It wasn't charity. They were his friends and they just wanted to help him. That was, after all, what friends were for. To help each other when they needed a helping hand. As he'd told Hawk the previous day, some things he needed to do on his own. For some things though, he was willing to accept the help of friends.