Note: Thank you so much for the reviews! I love getting them, I won't lie. I love interacting with readers! Sorry for the delay-I blame getting sick, twitter, a wedding, a guy and the suddenly MIA Dana Delany. And yes, spot the familiar last names if you can. I like doing that sometimes, borrowing and such for kicks.

Note 2: My GOD the amount of typos in this chapter was shameful! Tried to edit it as much as possible though I'm sure I missed a few more. I might just consider testing out betas...this was pathetic.

Also, while nothing earth-shattering, some paragraphs were edited and some were added and removed. I was in a rewrite kinda mood.


CHAPTER FOUR

They're shown to a private waiting area and it's too cheerful in there.

At least, in terms of décor, the colors are cheerful and with the yellow tinge to the walls. It was a contrast to the almost solemn air the group carried with them when they were led there by another nurse, a young one this time, most likely new or at least just a few years on the job.

She left them with a polite smile, advising them to wait and informed them someone will come in shortly. They're waiting again to see Megan only this time, it's on another floor. They needed to settle her in her room, a private one in another wing of the hospital.

Todd led both Joan and Lacey to the sofa and the latter immediately curled herself against her grandmother's side, laying her head on her lap and kept silent. Kate took the seat across the coffee table while Todd leaned back against the wall, watching his daughter with a face full of concern and the hints of anxiety he was trying hard to hide.

Aiden arrived and forewent the pleasantries then as he asked straightway, "Anything new?"

"Not yet," Kate shook her head, motioning for the empty seat next to her. "Soon."

"Alright," he nodded though he didn't take the seat and instead, leaned against the wall and let his eyes roll upwards to the ceiling. He missed Todd's eyes following his every move until he settled.

"Did you find Peter and Detectives Baker and Morris?" Kate asked.

The landscape architect looked at her, "Yes…I informed them of the news."

She opened her mouth to inquire further, only to stop when she spotted a presence in the corner of her eyes. She turned, catching sight of a dark haired woman looking at her. Recognition didn't take long and Kate stood, excusing herself and this time, Todd's eyes were on her and she didn't miss it.

Kate quietly though swiftly stepped out, sparing a brief glance at her ex-boyfriend though she didn't give him any answers and instead turned away and stepped out of the waiting area, meeting the woman in a quick but meaningful hug.

The Dean of Medicine and Hospital Administrator of Franklin Memorial Hospital, Dr. Melissa Corwin, was dressed in a camel toned pea coat and black pants tucked into her boots. Her thick dark hair was pulled back in an elegant twist on her head, allowing full view of her face, her striking appearance enhanced quite beautifully by her Grecian heritage.

She and Kate met during the latter's first year in Medical School and formed bond easily under the same sorority. The then Melissa Kokoris was prepping for her internship at the Mayo Clinic, but even then she managed to make time for the younger woman. They'd kept in touch over the years, never missing such milestones as Kate's graduation, Melissa's wedding and each others promotions to their current prestigious positions.

"Liss," Kate smiled, albeit tiredly. "I didn't know you'd still be here."

"No rest for the wicked, from what I've been so gaily told by some," came the dry response, "I was heading out when I was informed we had an incoming from the Philly MEO. You should have called me. I could have met you at the gate with my team."

"I would have but I didn't arrive with the ambulance," the blonde explained, "But your staff has been great so far, I saw no reason to pull you in so late."

"You know I'd welcome you any time," Melissa smiled, "Lucky I was just getting out as of a late meeting when I was informed you were here. One of your employees?"

Kate glanced inside the room, moving them both a little farther away from the door, "Yes, uh, one of my ME's was…attacked by a convict."

Melissa nodded, "Yes, I got the particulars of the case. Dr. Megan Hunt?"

Kate tilted her head to the side, "You know each other?"

"We met once or twice," the slightly older woman smiled, blue-gray eyes almost dancing, "I tried to poach her…what, eight or seven years ago? First year on the job and I was forming a surgical team, a new one. She was at the top of my list."

"What happened?"

The pretty Dean gave an eye roll, "Slingerland got to her, I think. I made him pay for that though—you know Dr. Howland? She's my Chief Surgeon."

Kate smiled and nodded, "Your competition with Matthew is quite legendary."

"And wait 'til I tell him about my plans for the expansion this year," she smirked, "I've got a Japanese benefactor who has proven to be quite generous."

Kate nodded then looked at her friend, "What's going on, Liss? I'm not entirely against the idea of catching up, but…you're stalling."

Melissa stopped, shaking her head slightly before giving her a somewhat sheepish smile, "I forget how well you know me, Kate." She glanced at her phone before speaking, "I was also informed of another incoming from your location. The man who attacked Dr. Hunt? He's in the building, just thought I should tell you."

"What?"

"He was brought in," the doctor answered, "I've got him in the ER, they're patching him up but with that gunshot wound, it's going to take a while. He lost a lot of blood. Police are on standby and we have a good security in place right here, but I thought you should know."

Kate stared at her for a moment before nodding slowly, "Okay, that's…thank you for telling me. I'm…I'm going to have to inform Megan's family. I don't want them to be blindsided."

Melissa nodded, "Assure them that we've got him chained to the bed so he's not going anywhere, even if he had the strength to do so. I insisted on it but it's protocol already. They will have him out by the morning, providing nothing goes wrong."

"Thank you," Kate smiled, weakly. "You didn't have to come all this way—"

"What are sisters for?" the raven haired beauty replied, "And while I'm here, I should let you know we have Megan on a good floor. It's quieter than the others and it's new. There's already a bench in there, kind of soft and people seem to not mind sleeping on it, but I had a recliner brought in as well, just in case someone wants to spend the night."

"You're going through so much trouble, I—"

Melissa chuckled, "Oh, believe me, this is nothing. My acquaintance with Dr. Hunt was very brief, but…I liked her. We're not much different so it wasn't hard to see through the persona."

Kate smirked, "Yes, well, I suppose this is one upside to you not poaching her successfully. Megan's a little different as an employee…or so I would imagine."

Her friend chuckled, "Oh, please, you don't think I don't know pain in the ass employees? I have Howland, Jordan and Keating on staff and those three are enough to make me rip my hair out. But they are the best so it's worth the occasional bloodbath—well, at least the ones outside my ORs."

"That sounds like Megan," Kate chuckle, reaching out to touch her friend's arm, "But really, Liss, thank you."

"You just call, alright?"

"Excuse me?"

Both women looked up to see Joan Hunt standing by the door, an anxious expression on her face.

"Mrs. Hunt," Kate straightened up, glancing at Melissa, "Uh, this is Dr. Melissa Corwin. She's the Dean of Medicine and Hospital Administrator. Liss, this is Mrs. Joan Hunt. Megan's mother."

"Of course," Melissa smiled, the same smile she used on donors who were thinking of donating to her hospital, but she soon after schooled her features to a more sympathetic one, "I'm sorry about what happened to Megan. Please know that Franklin Memorial is there for you and your family, for anything at all."

Joan managed a tight smile as they shook hands, "You know Megan."

"Briefly," Melissa smiled, "But I liked her very much. I was alarmed when I heard about tonight. Kate and I go way back and I had to see for myself."

Joan nodded, "I appreciate your concern…but I was just wondering about when we'll we be allowed to see my daughter?"

"We're almost done, Mrs. Hunt," Melissa smiled, "I'm sorry it's taking a while. I'm afraid I'm to blame, but I changed the designated room at the last minute…I thought you would all do better in this wing. It's quiet and the rooms are larger for family and visitors."

"That's very thoughtful of you," Joan smiled politely, "Thank you."

"It's nothing," Melissa smiled, "Although I must say that while I am a good friend of Dr. Murphy's, I hope Megan will remember this doesn't give her a free pass on being a pain in the ass."

Kate's eyebrows shot up at her friend's candor and looked to Megan's mom, only to catch her chuckling quietly. She caught Melissa's eye who only gave her a minute wink. This was the reason why she wasn't surprised Melissa got her job—she was good at reading people and easing them into situations. She was made for public relations and with a job running a hospital and keeping the doors open through donors and patrons, the just fit her to a T.

If anything, one of the main things they had in common was their capabilities in handling different kinds of politics. In a job like hers and Melissa's, it was an important requirement.

"Doctors make the worst patients, but even I heard about Megan during her recovery from her accident a few years back," Melissa grinned.

"Of course," Joan nodded, "She was…determined."

"She still is," Kate put in.

"That is one way to put it," Melissa's phone began to vibrate, "Speaking of…" she smiled at the two women, "Dr. Hunt is already set up in her room and she's ready."

Joan met Kate's eyes and they shared as the older woman made a move to return to the visitor's lounge, "I'll have to go get Lacey. She's been anxious."

"It was a pleasure, Mrs. Hunt," Melissa said after her, "You have a remarkable daughter."

The two watched the older woman leave and Kate turned to her friend, "Are you staying or is Kevin waiting up?"

"Oh, he's in Baltimore right now," she waved her hand absently, "I think I can stay a bit longer. I'm sure my staff will find me something last minute to deal with."

Kate smiled, "Good. Megan's family need to see her and I'm planning to stay a bit longer as well. I'd love the company."

Melissa smiled, placing her arm over the blonde's shoulders, "I'm all yours."

It didn't take long for Joan to emerge once more with Lacey, followed closely by Aiden and Todd. The girl could not be older than 12 with her soft features and gentle aura and Melissa was sure the emotional state she was most likely in only added more to the natural innocence of the girl. She felt her heart break a little trying to imagine just what she could be going through at the moment.

"This is Lacey," Joan introduced them, "Lacey, this is Dr. Corwin."

"Melissa," the dark haired woman replied, smiling at the girl, "Hello, Lacey."

"Hi," the girl replied. "Is…is my mom okay? Can I see her?"

Melissa nodded, "Yes, she is. She was very lucky and I've been told the ER doctor who treated her upon arrival already explained the extent of her injuries?"

Lacey nodded, "He did."

"Well, I won't waste time rehashing the whole thing then," she had been informed of how the girl seemed to take charge of the conversation, practicing an impressive amount of maturity and bravery that Dr. Thompson felt the need to note during his update on the patient. "She's been settled in her room, you'll be able to see her very soon."

"Is she...can I talk to her?"

Melissa smiled at the young girl, not at all doubting for one second she was Megan Hunt's daughter. She was soft, young and innocent, but there was steel underneath the youthfulness, "It would depend, but I was informed she was in and out…it's been a long night. She's probably tired and the pain meds only add to that."

Lacey nodded, "Okay."

"Although I should point out that further examination and corroboration from information on site," Melissa began, "Found that Dr. Hunt suffered severe strain in the neck area. Her vocal chords suffered a bit of swelling but we don't know for sure yet the extent of the damage as of yet. It's possible she won't be able to speak as much or she might feel some discomfort if she tries communicating verbally, so don't be alarmed. She just needs some rest and TLC before she gets back to normal.

"So with that, I'm allowing…" she stopped, looking at the group. She didn't miss the way the girl was hanging on to her grandmother's hand and the way her father stood next to her, "Three in first? That should work, yes? But not too long. I think we all are due for some rest and I imagine Dr. Hunt will be able to receive visitors better tomorrow once she's rested."

She smiled at Lacey again, patting her on the shoulder gently before motioning for them to follow her. The waiting area wasn't far from the room she had delegated for Megan and from the group that were waiting, she could see had made a good choice giving her one of the larger rooms. Melissa wasn't one to do favors, but she liked to provide comfort to families who come to her hospital to the best of her capabilities.

Reaching the room, she stopped, waiting until everyone was there before opening the door wordlessly and stepping aside to them into the hospital room.

"She's been through an ordeal," she said to Lacey gently, "And it will be scary at first, but she is okay, Lacey so you don't have to be scared, okay?"

The girl looked at her for a moment before nodding, the corners of her lips curling upwards before looking hopefully into the room. Melissa gave her one last pat on the shoulder and let her pass.

Melissa's eyes met that of her friend's and returned the slight nod she received. She watched Lacey Fleming enter with her grandmother and her father following close behind before turning to Kate.

"I'd forgotten how good you are at that," the blonde said quietly, stepping in next to her after a quick glance at Aiden who stayed behind in the hallway. He'd been quiet but she noticed him hanging back and decided he needed peace. The man was deep in thought, that much she could tell so she decided small talk with his injured girlfriend's boss was the last thing he probably wanted.

"You're pretty good at this too," Melissa replied, "And I'm guessing this is small potatoes, compared to what you do in your work."

"We're all in the same boat," Kate answered with a slight shrug though there was something in her eyes that told her friend that maybe it was more than she could actually imagine. At least with Melissa's life in the hospital, she had brighter moments when lives were saved. Kate's, on the other hand, consisted of death and the aftermath.

Melissa Corwin could not imagine how the resilient blonde could stay in the profession for so long. She thought it might break her, dealing with so much death and sadness and devastation on a daily basis. This was one reason why she thrived in her current position. She missed the access to patient care and taking care of people, but she also didn't miss being the bearer of bad news.

Unsure of what else to say, the dark haired woman looked into the room once more, "Yes, I suppose we are."

Even though she knew they probably really weren't.

-o0o-

"Mom!"

Her voice had been barely above a whisper, but it was enough to tear through Joan as her granddaughter's hand slipped through her fingers when she rushed towards the bed. She almost stopped her, fear that the girl might be unable to control herself and forget her mother had been injured. Only she found that she didn't have to though when Lacey stopped dead in her tracks less than a foot from the bed and froze.

"Lace…" she began, only to stop once she had a glimpse of her daughter as well.

Megan's face, her beautiful daughter's face, was badly bruised on each side. Her hair had been pushed back behind her ears so they were afforded an unobstructed view. The dark purplish-blue that covered the skin under one eye down to her cheek made the older woman's stomach roll and she almost looked away as if she herself could feel the pain that must have come with a blow that came hard enough to leave that mark. She felt nauseated, seeing the damage inflicted on her daughter didn't end there.

There were a few marks along her jaw, visible on her lily white skin that Joan realized with horror looked like finger impressions—just trying to imagine how tightly that monster must have held on to Megan's face made Joan dizzy. The gown they had replaced her clothes with didn't do much to hide the bruises on her neck the doctors mentioned and seeing it in person, Joan realized that to have them be explained by a trained physician was completely nothing to actually seeing it all. There was no preparing herself for this. It wasn't possible.

And that had to only be the tip of the iceberg, Joan thought forlornly, standing behind her granddaughter, one hand holding on to the girl's shoulder while the other covered her mouth.

"God, Megan…" Todd said, unable to help himself once his eyes settled on his ex-wife.

"Mom," Lacey keened softly, coming towards the bed, "Mom…"

Joan rounded the bed, taking the other side opposite Lacey while Todd stood behind his daughter, slipping his arm across her chest from behind and whispered quietly into her hair that it was going to be okay. He looked away, unable to keep looking at Megan and concentrated instead on supporting their child.

"I…" Lacey reached towards her mother's hand, hesitating for a moment as her teeth sank onto her bottom lip, "Mom?"

"…Lace?" her voice was hoarse the way Lacey's voice had been the day after the last pep rally at her school when she had cheered so loud with her schoolmates, it took days until she sounded herself again. That voice didn't belong to her mother, she thought with the slightest alarm.

A gasp escaped the girl and she jumped slightly in her father's arms then slipped out of them easily as she sank onto the recliner next to the bed.

"Mom," she said softly and slowly bent her head down on the bed, facing her mother. The poor child looked exhausted and incredibly sad, sniffing with tears falling from her reddening eyes, "I'm here, I'm here…"

Megan's eyes opened, bleary and disoriented. She looked at her daughter, then at Todd who managed to give her a shaky smile before finding her mother. She looked almost confused as she croaked weakly, "Mom?"

"I'm here," Joan echoed her granddaughter's words, one hand over the other on her chest as if physically holding herself back from touching her. She was afraid she would only cause Megan more hurt if she dared touched her.

"Wh…what happened?"

Joan winced and suddenly, she could not help herself anymore, reaching forward and placed a gentle hand on her daughter's hair—the only place she felt confident enough to touch though even then her own fears let itself be known through her ever galloping heartbeat. She hesitated touching Megan for only the briefest moment, lingering just inches or so above her head before letting her hand settle. A shuddering sigh escaped her lips, her body nearly curled into itself when she finally was able to touch her daughter.

She could feel her daughter's warmth, she was touching Megan—she was still there, alive, very much alive. Thank you, God. Thank God. Thank God.

"The doctor said it might not be so easy to speak for a while," Joan said softly, making sure not to even come close to the IV stand and the things attached to the needle taped to the back of Megan's right hand. "Don't try to talk too much, okay? Not yet. You're here, baby, and you're going to be fine. You're going to be just fine."

Megan stared at her for a moment, not missing the tears in her mother's eyes and the sadness that showed even from underneath the smile she tried so hard to hold on to. Her eyes drifted back to her daughter and slowly, very slowly, her left hand reached out, curving over her daughter's cheek in the gentlest of touch.

Lacey's eyes drifted close, her hand covering her mother's as she sat up, holding on to the hand and smiled at her shakily.

"C'mere," Megan whispered, giving her daughter a small smile as she turned her hand from her daughter's face and grabbed onto the hand that had been on hers.

She tugged weakly and that was all the encouragement Lacey needed, moving on to the bed and sat down next to her mother and carefully, very, very carefully turned to lie next to her. She curled up her smaller body, laying her head under her mother's arm and allowed her to cradle her beside her. She was careful not to put her weight on her Megan, too scared to injure her further when she'd already been through so much.

Lacey cried, quietly, as she placed an arm across Megan's stomach, too afraid to hold on tight and yet too afraid not to hold her at all.

If her mother felt any discomfort, it didn't show as she leaned her head forward, placing a ghost of a kiss on Lacey's head before sinking back into her pillow. She blinked slowly once, then twice, her eyes moving towards the ceiling as she held her daughter close to her body.

"You're tired," the three adults heard Lacey whisper quietly, as if she and her mother were the only ones in the room.

"I'm okay," Megan spoke slowly, wincing slightly as if the merest effort to speak caused her discomfort.

Lacey looked up, her eyes meeting her mother's, "Sleep. It's okay. You can sleep."

Megan managed the smallest of smiles as she felt her daughter's body against hers but even then, her eyes began to droop. She tried to stay awake, tried to fight the lethargic feeling that threatened to pull her deeper and deeper into unconsciousness. She was tired, hazy and barely able to stay awake but holding Lacey felt more important somehow, as if she was afraid if she drifted away, she would lose what was most precious to her in that very moment. She didn't want to let go, she couldn't.

But the girl must have known what her mother needed more than she did then.

"Sleep," Lacey whispered, her arm tightening by a fraction around her, "I'll protect you."

And somehow, as her eyes drifted closed, Megan believed her.

-o0o-

"You gotta be kidding me."

Detective Sam Baker stopped walking, catching her partner on his phone, "Jeannie alright?"

"She's fine…exhausted herself enough to sleep," Bud muttered, "I just got a text from Kate. Polley's in the building."

"What?" Peter asked, stopping dead in his tracks just as they neared the elevator, "Here?"

"It makes sense," Sam muttered, pressing the button to the elevator to summon it to their floor, "It's the closest and he caught a bullet. I'd let the bastard bleed out, but those medics don't like carryin' dead bodies in their trucks."

"I clipped him, that's it," Peter practically snarled, "They should have patched him up and thrown his ass in a cell."

Bud shrugged, "You got a good shot in, winged him maybe and he probably lost a lot of blood. They're throwing him back in his cage first thing tomorrow."

"Should have killed him," Peter ground out, glancing at the opposite side of the hallway. He wasn't entirely sure where they were at the moment, not realizing just how far he had wandered off earlier before Bud and Sam found him.

Bud glanced at Sam before shaking his head, "Don't even think it Peter. We're didn't lose Megan and we're not losing you over this."

"What?" Peter turned to the older man, scowling. "I didn't say anything."

"Yeah, but I know what you're thinking," Bud shook his head, "It's not worth it. You're a cop, you know how this goes. We do this by the book or everything gets screwed up."

"We did everything by the book today, yesterday and every damned day," Peter said, his tone hard, "They did everything by the book three years ago. Hell, everything was done by the book—isn't that why Polley managed this whole mess in the first place? He followed the book, Bud, he followed it and manipulated it so it looks like someone screwed up."

"Yeah and he almost succeeded, almost," Bud answered, "And as pissed as I am, I'm telling you, let it go. He screwed up and this time, there won't be any other way for him to pull something like this again—he's over, Peter. He's done."

"He's alive," Peter pointed out, "He's alive and that's not over, not to me."

"Peter," Sam said as the doors of the elevator opened, "Listen to Bud. Just walk away, alright? You go after him, you do something stupid, it's over for you. And that's not going to help Megan at all."

The medical investigator stared at the two detectives, his features growing harder with each moment. He stood there, rooted on the spot, his mind running at full speed, his emotions blurring the lines so much, he wasn't even sure if they were still there to begin with. That, and he wasn't sure he cared anymore. Too much had happened that night, too much too fast and it was leaving his senses and his rational side dangerously frayed.

It would be so easy, he thought darkly, all it would take was another bullet.

"Peter," Sam said, her eyes growing dark with warning, "No."

"Think it through," Bud said quietly, "Because this is not going to end well. We're not letting you do anything stupid."

And right there, it was like a standoff, the three of them in front of the open elevator, each second ticking by as they waited each other out. Whoever made the first move would determine what would follow next and the two detectives were willing to do whatever it took to make sure they weren't failing for the second time that night.

They understood what Peter was feeling, what he was going through, especially after the things Aiden Wells had said and while they could relate, while they shared some, if not all, those feelings, they could not let him do what the three of them were each wishing they could do. It would be easy, yes, easy to eliminate the source of all the pain, all the suffering and all the guilt, but what would follow after it would be chaos and nothing close to ever being possibly easy. In fact, it wouldn't even come close to solving anything and rather, just spurn a new set of troubles to deal with. In the long run, taking this particular road was not going to be as easy to clear up as the current ones they were facing at the moment.

"Think of Megan," Bud said, "This isn't what she needs. This isn't what she would want."

Behind them, the elevator began to ring, indicating that the doors had been left open too long. Sam pressed the button again, stopping it but only for a moment. The ringing would return shortly, as it was programmed to do so.

Peter stared at Bud for a moment before shaking his head, waving his hand before nodding, "Fine."

Bud glanced at Sam who nodded, stepping into the elevator, followed closely by the two men. Peter stood in between them, not reacting as the male detective clapped him on the shoulder when the doors began to slide close.

He barely gave the man two seconds before slipping from under his supportive hand, rushing from between the sliding doors at the last second.

"Peter!"

He felt someone yank him back hard and suddenly, for the second time that night, he was back against a wall. Only this time, it was Bud Morris inches away from him with a fierce expression on his steadily pinking face. The man was furious.

"Think about what you're planning to do," Bud said, pressing his shoulders against the wall firmly though curious enough, the grip didn't hurt as much as he imagined it would. "Go on, Peter, think it through. You wanna shoot the bastard dead? Should have done that when he was holding on to the doc. Right now? It's the stupidest choice you can make."

"I just—"

"Wanna see him?" Bud snorted, "Yeah, I get that. And you'll use your service weapon to say hi. You're not the first to feel like pulling something like this and believe me, no one's pulled it off successfully under my watch. Know what else? You're not going to be the first."

Around them, a few nurses passing took notice, but Sam waved them off though both men didn't even notice the attention they were getting. Bud didn't care, not while he was busy trying to make sure he wasn't losing a team member tonight. He'd come close with Megan Hunt, he wasn't about to follow it up with her partner.

He knew Peter's intentions well enough because he'd been there as well, felt that thirst for vengeance when his first partner had been killed in the line of duty. He'd almost gone through with it too, if not for an old woman walking into the whole mess in the alley that night. Bud had been so close to pulling that trigger, he had already kissed his career and his life goodbye.

"I'm not letting you do it, Peter," Bud shook his head, "Either I break your arm or whatever the hell works, I'm doing it. You're not throwing your life away. Not for this."

Peter was far too into the darkest corners of his mind, not realizing until that moment how close he had been to actually doing something he didn't quite imagine himself capable of. But he felt it, saw himself coming face to face with Wilson Polley and shooting him dead right between the eyes.

"Bud—"

"You wanna do right by Megan? Get up there and pray she wakes up so you can apologize," Bud said, easing his grip on him slowly, "Trust me, it's easier doing it face to face than behind a Plexiglas window at State. I don't think Megan will find it a fun road trip visiting you in prison just so you can say you're sorry."

Peter's eyes met that of the older detectives, his hard gaze waning as Bud's words slowly pierced the darkness in his mind. He swallowed, unable to help the overwhelming feeling as if a weight was being lifted when he let his mind emerge from the dark cloud that had overtaken him at the mention of Polley being close by. He'd never imagined himself being capable of such violence, but there it was.

"Fine," he sighed, breathing heavily, "Fine…just let me go, Bud."

"You try to run again, I swear I'll shoot you."

"I know," Peter nodded, believing him entirely. "I…I wanna go see Megan."

"Okay, good. Because I gotta do the same so I can come home to my wife," he rolled his eyes, "I got kicked out of my own house and it's not even my fault this time. I got a bone to pick with the doc."

"You two done?" Sam asked, quirking an eyebrow at the two, not just for taking too long but for possibly forgetting she was even there in the first place. Men, go figure.

Peter gave her a somewhat sheepish look, "Uh, yeah."

"Good, now come on, before I kill you both myself."

Bud gave Peter a dirty look, "You and Megan…Jesus, who needs kids with you two around?"

-o0o-

The toll of the night's events and the medication was enough to keep Megan asleep.

And while Lacey had stayed curled up on the bed next to her, both Joan and Todd knew that as much as they wanted to allow the girl to continue to stay in the comfort of her mother's arms, they knew it wasn't the best choice for tonight. Lacey was tired and well beyond exhaustion, physically and emotionally spent, add that and her medical condition, she needed rest herself too.

That, and while Megan might not have felt it at the time with the pain medication running through her system, it was not ideal to let them stay prone together on the hospital bed. It wouldn't be comfortable for long, not with her injuries and the limited space. Difficult decisions needed to be made and it was taking the spent child from the mother she said she would protect, much as the two adults loathed to do so.

As expected, Lacey didn't consent to be taken away easily.

It took some effort and a lot of steeling within themselves as the girl clung to her mother and begged to stay, but eventually, Lacey agreed to go home. Her father had promised to call her school and tell her she won't be coming in so he could drive her to visit Megan first thing in the morning although even then, the girl had been torn.

Joan had been the one to come up with the best—and shamelessly manipulative—way to get Lacey to adhere to their decision. She had told her gently that her mother would want her to take care of herself knowing she couldn't at that moment. Lacey had balked then, paling and practically welled up all over again, most likely remembering the last fight she had with Megan though Joan had yet to know about that herself.

Lacey had clung on just a little bit tighter to her mother, nearly crying once more as she told her she would be back even though Megan was deeply asleep. She hugged her guilty grandmother tight before reluctantly leaving, her father's arms around her as they walked. Lacey looked back at her mother, not once letting her gaze waver until she was out of the room.

Joan felt bad for using the diabetes card on Lacey, knowing just how it affected not just her, but Megan as well, but she didn't let herself feel remorse too long. She wasn't wrong to think and say that, knowing while Megan was in her current state, she would still worry about her daughter immensely. It's what mothers did, after all, and with Megan, protecting Lacey was her main priority above all else. And Joan was honoring that, making sure her granddaughter was safe and healthy, if only to make sure nothing else would interrupt the recovery Megan was going to be needing in the coming days.

Unable to do anything but stare at her daughter, Joan sat next to the bed, taking the recliner Lacey had sat on earlier and took her daughter's hands in hers.

Even with the bruises on her face, Joan noticed that she'd never seen her daughter look so peaceful in a long time. Megan's features were relaxed, her brow untroubled and free from worry and thought. Her mother hoped sincerely she was the same in that endlessly-busy head of hers and could admit that if the medication was doing this, leaving Megan free if only for the few hours, then she didn't mind it one bit.

Megan deserved at least a few hours of rest, of freedom from whatever hell she was facing, knowing the rest of it will come roaring back once the reality comes back for her.

There were worse things to face come tomorrow.

She was so deep in thought, her mind not granting her the same respite her daughter was having, Joan missed the presence in the room.

"Mrs. Hunt?"

Looking up, she found both Kate Murphy at the threshold of the hospital room. She allowed them entry and almost stood, only to have the younger woman politely tell her she didn't have to. She could see the tiredness she felt reflected on the two people she hardly knew.

"Todd took Lacey home," Kate said, her voice quiet though her eyes were on Megan.

Joan nodded, "She wanted to stay, but…she needs her rest."

Kate nodded, "Of course."

"And you, Dr. Murphy?" Joan asked gently, "Your family must be worried by now."

"Uh, my family isn't here," Kate said, waving her hand slightly, "I just wanted to make sure Megan's okay. She…" she stopped, her eyes unable to leave her injured employee. "She looks peaceful."

Joan glanced at her daughter as well, "She does. She was awake, but I think the medication did its job for tonight."

"That's good," Kate nodded, "I just came by to make sure she's okay, but I'm afraid I have to go."

Joan nodded, "Of course. It's quite late…you didn't have to stay, but you did."

Kate managed a weak smile, "Megan…Megan's not always the easiest person to get to know, Mrs. Hunt, but she has become a friend. A good friend of mine. She's done things for me I probably won't be able to repay, the least I could do is be here for her."

The older woman smiled, "She might not show it, but she does appreciate it, Dr. Murphy."

"Kate," the blonde said, smiling back.

"Then I'm Joan," she replied, "Megan has moments when she calls me that, just to get my goat so I suppose you doing the same shouldn't be much of a problem."

Kate couldn't help but grin, "Alright. And that sounds a lot like Megan."

"She likes to tease, getting me riled up one way or another when she can," Joan shrugged, "I decided long ago that was her way of showing affection."

"If that's the case, then she's incredibly affectionate with people at the office," Kate replied, earning a chuckle from the woman. She could practically see the worry slowly melting off of the former Judge and felt a little buoyed by that—she couldn't help Megan but at least she was able to provide some lightness to Joan. It was something they all needed after tonight, she thought.

"That sounds like my daughter," Joan hummed with a faint smile.

"I...I have to go," Kate said, obviously sorry, as she checked her watch, "Tomorrow…well, things will need to be taken care of but I will be coming by again. Tonight, I think it's best she rests."

Joan nodded, "I'll let her know you've been a tremendous help."

Kate let out a silent chuckle, "I can only imagine what she draws from that."

"If she likes you, then not a lot of good and expect some choice remarks," Joan drawled.

The two women exchanged smiles, each grateful that somehow, despite the fact that they were practically strangers, they were at least able to provide some measure of comfort to the other. It was a bad night, but it helped to have some levity in the situation, knowing wallowing would only prove to be a hindrance in the process of moving on.

Because really, what else was there to do but move forward at this point? The least they could do, for themselves as well as Megan, was to be there for each other.

Kate took one last look at Megan, the lightness that had come to her eyes fading as she took in her stillness as she slept. It was unnerving to see her that way, to see her not moving, not speaking and not even twitching in the least. She was so used to seeing Megan Hunt animated, running all over the place, wreaking havoc, causing one ripple or another with barely a sentence or two in the world she inhabited, to see her suddenly prone like that made Kate feel as if she wasn't looking at the same woman.

It was Megan on the bed, Megan asleep, and yet, without the immaculate armor that consisted of the designer clothes, the devastating shoes and the acerbic wit, it might as well be a poor copy of the woman who seemed to make it her daily routine to get Kate clawing and climbing the walls after one pain in the ass move to another.

Kate hoped that it was only in appearance, that somehow, the stillness and the peace that surrounded Megan as she slept was indeed just due to the medicine. She couldn't imagine facing any other Megan, of having an altered woman waking up the next morning. Kate didn't want to imagine that, even though the woman was as exasperating as she was under her command.

She could take Megan the way she was, the way she'd always been—it was the possibility of a defeated one, a damaged one that scared Kate because then she wasn't sure if she would know how to handle her. You don't handle Megan Hunt with kid gloves, she wasn't a piece of glass and Kate wasn't sure she would even know how. She was too used to the Megan she'd come to know and grudgingly accept. Kate had long ago found she liked her like that.

But then, going through what she did the night before, Kate knew lesser things had happened to others that left them altered completely. She hoped Megan was stronger than that. She always believed the woman was strong, but she knew sometimes it only takes one moment to change everything. And god knew Megan went through a kind of hell Kate would not dare wish on anyone.

Telling Joan goodbye and promising to come back, Kate let herself out of the room, closing her eyes as she walked once her back was turned to the Hunt women. Seeing Megan that way, seeing the bruises, the damage, Kate knew it was going to take a long time before she would be able to stop seeing that image in her mind. It was one thing to look at crime scene photos of strangers, to have an anonymous body on her table—this was Megan, this was a friend of hers.

Kate remembered once more how her flame haired employee seemed to look smaller, somehow fragile when for every day the last three or so years, she'd been anything but. It was disconcerting for Kate to see her changed so dramatically in such short period of time. Was it only hours ago they'd promised to see each other at the party? It felt like another lifetime practically. Seeing Megan like that had shaken Kate right to her core, unable to unsee the bruises that had marred her friend's pale skin, the marks of the bastard had left on her body.

Tonight Kate was going home but she also knew well enough to give up on sleeping peacefully.

At this rate, she wasn't even sure if she would be able to sleep at all.

-o0o-

Aiden Wells is not particularly a religious man.

He can count in both hands the times he can actually remember being in church and for three of those, he was sure it was because someone died. He didn't come from a religious family and most of what he knew, he got from his old roommate from college who came from a big Irish Catholic family that produced about three sons who went into priesthood. What he knows, it probably isn't enough to save his soul or whatever the beliefs dictate.

But then tonight, he was feeling particularly desperate even though he'd seen Megan's daughter and ex-husband leave, as well as Dr. Corwin, who all had assured him she was going to be okay. Intellectually, he knew that, he knew she was going to be fine, but somehow, a part of him still found it hard to accept because even though he was alone there in the quiet hallway outside her hospital room, he could still hear and remember the sirens gathered outside the place where she worked. He'd been scared then, wondering if perhaps something had happened.

Something, but he didn't think then that she would be the one those sirens were for, that she was the one who the reports were declaring to have been seriously injured or killed by an escaped convict. That kind of news was hard to shake off, hard to flush out of your system.

How did it go? Aiden was sure he'd heard Liam at one point or another. Or did he hear these things somewhere else? He wasn't really a praying man.

Our Father who art in heaven…she should have told me…Our Father…the last time we talked on the phone…hallowed be thy name…why didn't she say anything?...Our Father…I should have come home sooner…Thy kingdom come, thy…she didn't talk, couldn't even make her laugh…thy will…something was wrong…thy will…Oh, god, just let Megan be alright…thy will be done…Megan, god, Megan…Our Father…please, be okay.

"Aiden?"

He straightened up from his slumped position against the wall, catching Kate as she stepped out, "Yeah?"

"I'm…" she stopped, glancing at the door she'd just closed, "I'm heading out, actually and I just…I'm sorry, would you like to come in?"

He stared at the woman, unsure of what to say, "Megan's mum?"

She gave him an understanding nod, "Oh…she's inside. She'll be staying the night, but if you want to go inside? See Megan? She's sleeping now, but you can, you know."

He shifted uneasily from one foot to another, "I…"

She touched him gently on the arm, "It's okay. I'm sure you've been wanting to see Megan since this whole thing started. We know you care about her and she cares about you too. Go on in, Aiden, it's alright. You've been patient enough."

"How is she?" Aiden asked, lowering his eyes to the ground before looking back at Kate again, "Is she…she's alright?"

"She's going to be okay," the doctor nodded. "She was lucky."

"I think luck doesn't even begin to cover it," Aiden mumbled, "But thank you, Dr. Mu—"

"Kate," she reminded him, "Now, go on inside. Being out in the hallway isn't the most comfortable place to be in tonight."

He nodded, "Alright…you're going home?"

"Yeah," she nodded, "I'll come back tomorrow, hopefully but I'm going to be needed at work for the whole thing back there."

"Are you sure you're okay to drive? I mean, I could drive you home or—"

"Oh, god," Kate couldn't help the laugh that escaped her lips, "No, no. I'm fine. Don't worry about me. You're sweet to offer, but I think you should be with Megan right now."

Aiden nodded, letting out a sheepish grin, "Yeah…yeah, you're right. I just…yeah, you're right."

"You're sweet," Kate chuckled, giving him a smile and patting him on the shoulder as she passed him, "Go see Megan."

He watched the doctor go, waiting until she was inside the elevators and gave him a wave before heading for the door. He wasn't sure but somehow, despite the overwhelming urge he'd been feeling to see Megan since finding out what happened, he couldn't help but feel a little scared of finally entering her hospital room.

The truth was, he'd grown to care about the woman a lot more than he originally thought he had. He knew he liked her, he knew he enjoyed her company, but after seeing the police cars, the crowd outside her office, the reports that were filtering through, it was as if it had blown everything into focus for him. Coming so close to losing her, finding out she'd been hurt—it clarified things for him in ways he hadn't expected.

Somehow, Aiden realized only then that night how much Megan Hunt had come to mean to him. He knew he cared for her, but he hadn't known just how much until he thought he had lost her. She had crept up on him now, so slowly, yet so much and so easily, that the thought of her hurting hurt him too.

Taking a deep breath, the Briton pressed his forehead against the door for a moment, closing his eyes and bracing himself for what lay on the other side.

He reminded himself she was going to be fine, that she was there and she was going to still be there in the morning. She had been lucky, Kate had said. He allowed that to be his security blanket for the moment, letting out the breath slowly and knocked once before opening the door.

There inside, he found Joan Hunt sitting beside her daughter's bed, watching her with an almost serene expression on her face. She hadn't heard him knock.

Carefully, Aiden entered, closing the door behind him and stood there. He was busy deciding what to do, it had taken Joan's eyes drifting towards him to alert her to his presence.

"Aiden," she spoke his name as if it was most familiar to her, as if they knew each other more than they actually did. Maybe they did, maybe not.

He wasn't sure what else to say, his eyes moving towards the bed. He couldn't see Megan's face, with Joan sitting there, but he couldn't mistake it was her on that bed. Right then, seeing what part of her he could, he suddenly wondered how he managed not to burst in earlier. He wondered how he could have stayed away because at that moment, all he wanted was to be next to her, to prove to himself she was indeed alright. He wanted to hold her.

But he controlled himself, reminding himself who was also in the room. His mother raised him well, after all, and the last thing he wanted was to unwittingly offend Megan's mother.

Aiden stood there and quietly cleared his throat before speaking, "I'd like to stay, if that's alright."

Joan gave him the merest tilt of her head, the corners of her lips curling upwards and nodding wordlessly before motioning him to come closer.

There wasn't much to say so instead, the two strangers shared the room, alert, awake and on guard. In time, they would get to know each other, depending on the future, but for now, they were going to share the common ground that had been laid before them. They were going to watch over Megan and make sure no further hurt would come her way.

Whoever dared would have to come through them both first that much was clear.

Sensing the strength in Joan and the fierce protectiveness he was feeling for her daughter, Aiden knew they made a formidable pair.

And hopefully that was enough, at least, for tonight.

-o0o-

It was morning when she found herself stepping out of the elevator.

On the Seventh Floor, she wasn't surprised to find that even at this time, people in lab coats and scrubs were already walking about with some carrying trays, some test tubes and some with iPads. Ahead on her right, she could see into the glass walls of her office. It was bathed with the morning sun and, as expected, it was empty. She wasn't surprised—nobody goes in or dares to linger there without her. People knew well enough to respect her privacy. Or they're just plain scared of her—either way, it works for her.

Satisfied, she walked away, heading further down the hall. She had one destination in mind but that goal was momentarily put on hold as she spotted two familiar figures on the other side of the floor.

It wasn't hard to miss Curtis and Ethan in a corner, talking although from the way things were looking, the deputy was doing most of it as the intern stood there with a glazed look in his eyes. Ethan looked about ready to bolt at the first chance, most likely just waiting for the opportunity and for a moment, she stood there deciding whether to rescue him or not.

She watched as that pair of bespectacled brown eyes wandered off and away from Curtis and roamed the floor. For a moment, he looked in her direction and their eyes met.

Megan smiled and waved a little.

And as if he was seeing right through her, Ethan's eyes moved away with no reaction whatsoever, those glazed eyes moving away without even a flicker or a blink.

She frowned, hand dropping to her side—what just happened? Ethan Gross was the essential lapdog: starved for attention and eager to be bent, twisted and flattened like a Play-Doh all in the name of science and learning. That and he was obviously desperate so it had surprised her he didn't come running as he always did. He obviously needed to get away from Curtis, so why not grab his chance now?

To be ignored by Ethan was out of character and for a moment, she wondered if somehow she'd done something to warrant the cold shoulder.

She decided not and concluded to herself that maybe he'd been too far gone into one of Curtis' lectures and missed her. She shrugged to herself, moving on down the hall. She would deal with the younger man if there was anything that needed to be dealt with later.

Entering the Autopsy Suite, she was somewhat surprised to have all the tables occupied with the bodies still covered in the all too familiar white sheets. By now, she expected other medical examiners of the floor to be working their own cases. She wondered if she missed something. Maybe she had.

Moving down to the Morgue, Megan stopped, glancing up at the sign written in Latin above the doors before passing through. She rarely looked at that, but today seemed to be a day of oddities for her so she found herself making sure some things were at least where they should be.

She entered the morgue, barely feeling the rise in temperature. It was colder there compared to the main office, the freezing temperature required to make sure the bodies stayed preserved. It used to bother her but now, it was just part of her life. Just another day at the office.

Megan then realized, standing there, she had no idea why she had gone straight there in the first place. She found it odd nobody was working in the Autopsy Suite, shouldn't she be in there? She was sure there had to be a body waiting for her.

She almost turned around, mentally smacking herself and wondering if perhaps maybe she was the odd one today.

"…case number 5613."

Megan stopped, recognizing the voice instantly.

"Date of birth…"

She would know that voice anywhere but she had to turn around to make sure.

In the far corner, standing in front of a table with a body covered by a sheet was her mother. And she wasn't alone.

"Mom?"

"Blunt force trauma to the back of the head," her mother said, completely ignoring her, speaking in an eerie monotone. Across from her was Kate, wearing a cream dress that worked perfectly as an outfit for the office as well as a date. That was not unusual.

Her mother, on the other hand, was wearing a black robe not unlike the ones she used to wear in court—hell, it was the exact same robe. But Joan Hunt had lost out on re-election, why would she ever wear that thing again?

"Contusion on the temple and a laceration on one leg," Joan spoke to Kate and Megan had to wonder what the hell was going on. Did her mother have some kind of stroke and think she was an ME too? And what was Kate doing listening to her? What was her mother doing in the morgue at all?

"What's going on here?" Megan asked, frowning as she walked towards the two, slowly.

"Defensive wounds, a lot of them," Joan sighed.

"She put up a hell of a fight," Kate nodded somberly. "Anything else?"

Joan nodded, "Frontal and ethmoid nasal bones were…completely shattered."

Kate gave a solemn nod, "Same as the others."

"What?" this time, Megan didn't walk and instead moved towards the body and the two women. She reached for the sheet, but Kate beat her to it, holding on the edges closest to the head.

"Dr. Kate Murphy attending with Judge Joan Hunt observing."

"What?" Megan practically screamed, looking from her mother to Kate, "What the hell is going on? What is wrong with you, Kate?"

"Ready?" Kate asked Joan.

"Yes," her mother replied in the same monotone.

"The hell you are!" Megan thundered, moving to shield her mother but it was too late.

Kate lifted the sheet, unfazed by Megan's rage and her mother didn't move, standing there stoically in her robe with an expression that might as well have been carved out of stone.

"Stop it! Kate, stop it!"

Megan had been so busy trying to make them listen, she barely thought to look at the body. Kate stepped back, looking down as she clasped her hands behind her and said, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Hunt…"

"What? What are you—" Megan looked at Kate then pivoted and looked at her mother who was looking down at the body. She turned, if only to see what had her mother so transfixed, "Mom, what—"

She stopped and found herself suddenly frozen, unable to do anything but stare.

Red hair seemingly becoming more vibrant in contrast to the pale white skin—paler than usual, as it was with death—fanned out over the table. Bruises were visible along the cheek and temple, one side darker than the other. The blood had clotted, but the few areas of the skin that were left unmarred were a stark white, so white even the freckles seemed to disappear altogether.

The dried blood was hard to miss though, ribboning grotesquely from the nose to the philtrum and over the closed pink lips, all the way down to the chin and neck. The hazel eyes, those familiar hazel eyes, were barely visible except for the hint of green that showed. It would be hard to determine post mortem without looking into official records, not with the pin pricks of blood dotting the sclera, obscuring further a reliable visual examination of the eyes.

Megan began shaking her head, "No…"

"What did you do?"

Her head shot up, this time her mother was looking at her, "Mom…"

"Megan, what have you done?"

She stared at the body once more—stared at herself lying there with nothing but a sheet, dried blood and bruises to hide her modesty.

"That-that's not me! I'm right here! I'm RIGHT HERE!"

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Hunt."

She whirled around at the blonde, "Shut up, Kate!"

"Megan."

"What the hell is going on?" she asked, staring at the face that was so much like hers yet so different—the woman on the table was dead, unmistakably dead, and she was standing right there, leaving it impossible for her mind to accept.

"Mom, please, I—" she hadn't quite begged like this in front of her mother in a long, long time.

"Oh, god," Joan gasped, looking past Megan so she turned too, wondering what the hell else there could there be.

The sight in front of her left her heart plummeting, "No."

Everything else seemed to disappear.

A sinister smile, "I always keep my promises."

Wilson Polley stood there, the Egyptian hook in one hand and the other on Lacey's shoulder as she stood in front of him, terrified with tears streaming down her face.

She was shaking, petrified.

Her own heart—her live heart—seemed to stop cold, "Lacey."

"M-mom?"

"Lacey, no…no. No!"

"Mom, help me...please, Mom!"

"Lace, it's going to be okay."

"Tsk, tsk, tsk, lying is bad, Dr. Hunt. Very, very bad."

"Wilson…no," she shook her head, reaching out, "Please, not Lacey. Not my daughter. Not Lacey."

"Yes, finally, she begs," he laughed then began shaking his head, "But I'm afraid it's too late."

"Wilson, no…no! Stop!"

"Mom!"

"It's been a pleasure, Dr. Hunt."

"No! No! No!"

"Precious Lacey," Polley pressed his nose on the back of Lacey's head and moved faster than Megan's mind could catch up with.

And suddenly, blood was everywhere, the white tiles flooding in red then maroon then nearly black, creeping along in a steady stream, obscuring everything in its path.

Megan ran, but suddenly found herself all alone.

"Lacey?" she spun wildly, terrified, but she couldn't find her, "Lacey!"

Blood licked at her feet, every frantic step she took splashing the thick redness against her leg, seeping into her shoes, sticking to her skin. She slipped once, her hand falling into the crimson flood, covering her skin and drenching her clothes. She barely noticed.

"Mom! Help me! Help me! Please, Mommy!"

"Lacey!"

Soaked to the skin in blood and nearly out of her mind, Megan ran and she looked, trying to follow her daughter's voice only there was nothing but blinding darkness. She kept running and she ran until she was spent, until she fell on her knees, crying desperately.

"Lacey!"

The blood seemed to swallow her and the more she cried, curling up in herself, the more the dark seemed to creep in around her.

"Mom…" and then nothing.

And all she was left with was the blood and the echoes of her daughter's screams as she plunged into an eternal abyss.

Megan doesn't dream often, but when she does, sometimes they turn into nightmares.

And sometimes, they defy all reality in ways that might just be enough to break her.

-o0o-

In the end, the detectives decided it was best to wait until morning to see Megan.

They managed to get on the same elevator Kate was in, prompting her to make a note that somehow, she seemed to be pinging off everyone tonight on her way out. She stopped long enough to tell them the room Megan was in but the Chief was tired and it was late so if she had questions about the whereabouts of the trio, she didn't bother asking then and instead, bid them goodnight after giving them a rundown of what transpired during their absence.

It was then when they realized just how late it was. They'd spent more time trying to get each other to come up more than they thought and that only added to the restlessness Bud was feeling. And with Kate telling them Megan hadn't managed to fight off the effects of her medication, they all decided it was better to leave the visiting for the next day.

They certainly didn't want to be the ones to disturb their colleague's rest, knowing just how much she and her body needed it.

Bud left first, after more prompting from Sam who reminded him his pregnant wife was still at home. She needed him and even his partner could see he needed to be with her too, if only to assure himself that his wife and unborn child were alright. Sam knew in the middle of trying to get Peter's head together, Bud had been thinking of Jeannie.

"You heading home?" Sam asked after they saw Bud out. He was taking the Crown Victoria they had driven in but she was alright taking a cab back to the precinct for her personal vehicle.

"I think I'll stay," Peter said, looking at the elevators again.

"Peter…"

"I'll stay away from Polley," he promised, raising his hands in a sign of surrender.

"You better because I got Krakowski watching out for you," she gave him a look, "Listen, alright? Tonight's been pretty damned crazy and the doc's gonna need us. Take it easy."

"I'll stay on the same floor, I promise," Peter said sincerely, "After that thing with Bud, I really don't wanna push it."

Sam nodded, smirking, "Yeah, I'm not surprised."

It was always good to watch Detective Bud Morris in action, especially facing off against suspects and during interrogation, but it was a whole different ballgame when you were the one opposite the man in those moments. He was terrifying, to say the least, despite his love for opera and such things—they did nothing to diminish his masculinity and overall effect as an intimidating force. The man was a bear, matching size, stature and temper.

"What are you gonna do?" Sam asked, still quite hesitant to leave Peter after that night.

"I'm…going to wait," he shrugged, "Get some coffee—"

She gave him a look.

"For real this time," he emphasized, "And I'll…wait. I don't think I can leave the hospital tonight. Not yet."

Sam nodded, "Alright."

Peter bid her goodbye, heading back up to the floor where his partner's hospital room was in. He pulled a chair out from the waiting area, moving a few feet away until it was perfectly in line with the view of the door to her room. He sat down, only realizing then he forgot the coffee he was planning to get.

But he didn't want to get up and leave again so instead, Peter sat forward, his hands folded in front of him and elbows on his knees. On his hip, his service weapon nestled against his hip with its familiar weight. It was missing one bullet from the only shot fired that night and tomorrow, he would have to file the paperwork but tonight, he was going to take solace in having that weapon with him tonight. The coffee wasn't entirely important because after what happened, Peter knew the chances of sleeping for him were slim to none.

He wasn't going to go out looking for Polley in the building, but Peter also knew he wasn't about to leave his partner prone again like that. Too late, maybe, but he wasn't going to take chances, not anymore, not after tonight. And judging from his watch, Peter knew he still had some time before daybreak though he didn't care.

Peter sat there, watching the door. He barely felt tiredness creeping in, pulling from his training back from those years ago when he was a cop. He'd done a few stints involving stake outs and sitting on a somewhat comfortable chair in a well-lit hospital with a bathroom not too far away and coffee somewhere in the building, the conditions were considerably better than being stuck in a car for hours, sometimes even days, on end where going to a real restroom was not an option.

He felt someone nudge him on the shoulder.

Peter turned and saw a cup dangling in front of him.

He looked up and found Detective Sam Baker standing there with another cup of what was definitely coffee, "What are you doing here?"

"Meh, probably not having a life," she shrugged, giving him both cups and moving past him. It didn't take long for her to emerge with a chair, a hard plastic one and positioned it next to Peter's though backwards. She threw one leg over the side and straddled it, taking one cup from him and rested one arm over the other on the back of the chair.

"Sam?"

"Yeah?"

"Shouldn't you be going home?"

"Shouldn't you be going home?" she tossed right back at him casually.

Peter glanced at the door a few feet away, shrugging as he removed the lid of his cup. He inhaled the rich aroma of what could only be incredibly good coffee, "Someone tried to kill my partner tonight."

Sam nodded slowly as she took a sip of her drink, "Yeah, well, you got to shoot a guy. I didn't. I get dibs on the next one."

"I already said I'm not going to go looking for Polley."

"And I'm saying I get to take the next shot," she huffed before shaking her head, "She's my friend too, Peter. She's your partner, but the doc's a friend."

He stared at her as she kept her eyes forward before nodding slowly and returning to his self-appointed vigil. In a low voice, he spoke, "Thanks, Sam."

"Just drink your damned coffee."

He chuckled, "Right. Thanks for that too."

She snorted, "Yeah, well, don't think this gon' be a thing with you and me. Get your own damned coffee next time, Dunlop."

He chuckled, nodding slightly, "Noted, Detective."

A nurse passed them by, noticing them watching the door before turning towards them again, "Visitors of Megan Hunt?"

"Dr. Megan Hunt," Peter pointed out.

"Mhm," Sam hummed at the same time he spoke.

The nurse read the chart she was holding, "She's been cleared and she's okay. You can come back tomorrow and visit, if you want."

It was clear she was giving them the go sign to head home.

Sam flashed her badge and tucked it right back in once the woman had a good look while Peter didn't move and instead, took a sip of his drink. They settled in their seats and stared at the nurse, not moving an inch and definitely making no sign that they were leaving to come back the following day as she suggested.

"Alright then, you have a good night, officers," she said after a beat, shaking her head before heading off, wisely deciding to let them be. Slowly, they both sipped their coffee and waited. They kept watch of the door, as they planned to do the rest of the night.

Both considered themselves lucky Detective Baker knew damned good coffee.

-o0o-

It was nearly four-thirty in the morning when he awoke to the sounds of rustling bedclothes.

Aiden had been sleeping on and off, never deeply because he found himself waking every now and then to watch Megan, if only to make sure she was resting. A nurse had come in earlier and provided two sets of pillows and blankets, promising the recliner wasn't an all too bad to sleep on. Aiden had politely declined when Joan offered it and told her to sleep instead.

Joan agreed, but reluctantly so and only after she made him promise he would wake her after an hour or two. He didn't and decided it wasn't entirely a bad thing to do, knowing the woman probably needed sleep after the night she'd had.

The cushioned bench wasn't entirely bad either, a bit cramped for space, but it was good enough. He actually liked it wasn't entirely comfortable, at least it was enough to prevent him from slipping into a heavy kind of sleep.

And it proved to be a good thing, considering what he woke up to then.

Megan had begun moving on the bed, kicking sheets and shifting in place. Aiden moved quietly but stealthily so he could be beside her and found she was whimpering and thrashing lightly, moving about as if trying to escape something.

"Megan?" he said, "Megan, what's wrong?"

Her eyes were wide open, but something told him she wasn't entirely awake, "Please…"

There were tears in her eyes, she was crying and it was enough to scare him enough to reach for the call button to summon a nurse, "Megan, are you in pain?"

"Please, please, not Lacey…not Lace…" a sob escaped her lips and she cried even more and the more she cried, the more he pressed the call button. Where the hell was that nurse? His alarm grew with each moment, caught entirely off guard by her state of being in distress.

"Megan, it's alright, Lacey's okay," he said and tried to touch her cheek but she moved quickly as if his touch had burned her. She tried to get up only to let out a loud painful cry and fell back on the bed, crying even more. The medication had to be fading then, he thought, realizing it must have hurt her to move.

Joan woke then, disoriented, "Me-Megan? What's going on?"

The nurse came in then but Aiden hadn't noticed as he tried to comfort her, running a hand over her hair and holding her hand gently even though he was at a complete loss on what to do. He didn't even know where he was allowed to touch her, worried he might just cause her more pain and further her distress, "It's alright, Megan, it's okay. Lacey is okay, she's with her father. She's alright."

"What's going on?" the nurse asked then, walking in and bypassing Joan who had gotten up as well though she stopped short of reaching for her daughter who was clearly upset.

"I-I don't know, she's upset, she woke up upset," Aiden answered, his hand still in Megan's hair as she lay there, crying, "She tried to get up, but I think she hurt herself."

"Megan," the nurse said, slipping in front of Joan who easily gave her space, "Megan, can you hear me? Are you in pain?"

She turned towards the nurse, "He's going to hurt Lacey. He's going to hurt my baby."

A look towards Aiden prompted him to immediately answered, "Her daughter. She's back home with her father. She's alright."

The woman nodded, turning back to Megan, "Lacey is just fine, Megan. She's with her father," she said, "She's fine."

"He hurt me," Megan sobbed, "He-he…"

"I know, I know," the woman's voice turned gentler, placing a hand on Megan's brow in a calming manner, "We're going to give you something for the pain, alright? When you wake up, you're going to feel better, okay Megan?"

She didn't wait for an answer and instead, reached for the morphine pump and then deftly pushed a few more buttons on the panel just above the bed. She turned to Megan, "You're going to be okay, Megan. Just go back to sleep."

"He…" Megan began, her voice softening before trailing off. "He's..."

Aiden reached out for her hand, kissing the back of her fingers before placing it against his cheek. He's never seen her cry and after that moment, he never wanted to again. It was painful, simply gut wrenching to see her that way. She seemed so vulnerable, so hurt, it tore right through him.

He had so much he wanted to say right then, but a darkened hospital room with her mother right across the bed was not the ideal place for that moment. He would need a better setting, something like the old bridge she took him to where she had her first real kiss. He needed a place where good memories could be made, not in a sterile, cold white hospital room, not when he wasn't even sure she knew who exactly was comforting her.

Not when in only a matter of hours, she was going to wake up and realize just what exactly happened, what nightmare she just came out of and face the reality that it had been real and she had survived though not without damage.

Instead, the most Aiden could muster was, "I'm here, Megan. You're safe."

She moved her head, turning towards the direction of his voice. She was calmer now and had managed to stop crying, leaving her tears to dry and her mind to try and make sense of her disorientated state, "A-Aiden?"

He smiled, pressing a kiss into her palm, "Hey."

She blinked slowly, her eyelids slipping down sluggishly and rose in the same pace, "…you're here."

"Yeah," he nodded, "I'm here, Megan, I'm here."

She blinked again, just as slowly, and then with a thick voice as if heavy from sleep, she slurred, "Aiden…"

"It's the medication," the nurse said when Megan didn't seem to be making any more attempts to speak, her eyes remaining closed. "Different patients react to them differently. Some have a hard time coming out of it, some feel disoriented, some get sick. Believe me, with her injuries it's good that she isn't vomiting, not in the condition of her ribs."

"She'll be alright, though?" Joan asked while Aiden his eyes never left Megan's face. She still looked troubled, but even that was fading as she slipped back into unconsciousness. He reached out and gently wiped her tears away with the slightest of touch, afraid to apply pressure on the bruises that marred her beautiful face.

The nurse nodded, "She will be. She most likely won't even remember this, which is just as well."

With that, she left, letting them know if anything else happened, to just call again. Aiden stayed beside Megan, watching her still and hoping the nurse was right that she wouldn't remember. He himself would try to forget even though he knew it was impossible. Seeing Megan crying like that had been enough to make him hurt, he didn't think he wanted to relive that experience again.

Aiden bent down, pressing a kiss on the top of Megan's head before setting her hand back down on the bed—albeit with great reluctance. He settled back on the bench and pressed his back against the wall, his eyes round and wide as the slight adrenaline jolt rushed through him. He was wide awake then with little chance that he would find enough peace to allow himself to slip back into even a light sleep. Across Megan's bed, Joan sank down onto the recliner, looking no better than he did.

"Oh, Megan," her mother said, reaching forward shakily and lacing her hand through her daughter's fingers.

Aiden turned away, leaning forward and planting his elbows on his knees as he buried his face in his hands. He couldn't get the image of Megan crying out of his head, her sobbing still very much fresh in his ears. It made him nearly sick with sadness for her.

There was pitifully little to say so they sat there, watching once more. Only this time, the chances of sleeping were incredibly scarcer than before.

By the time the sun rose and a new day had begun, both were still very much wide awake.


In Loving Memory
RPD 08-02-2012

Because he let me win once or twice at chess even when he said he didn't,
The Cranky Old Bastard.

Love you, Pappy.