Recovering

(Coda to "The Carriers", first season MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE episode where, near the end, Rollin is infected by a strain of plague and the others on the team need to be treated because they were in contact with him)

()

She brought him flowers, as any friend or associate might; a bouquet of violets. Cinnamon strolled through the hospital lobby, nodding to the nurse on duty, and made her way to room B26. The door was open and Cinnamon heard the men talking, a laugh from Barney, as she slowly made her way inside.

"Is this a men's club or can anyone join?"

"I would hardly call you just anyone." Dan Briggs said, "But you're welcome just the same."

Rollin was sitting up in bed, leaning back against some pillows, and appeared healthy and happy. He told Dan he was ready to go back to work any time he was needed.

"Take a break, Rollin." The usually quiet Willy advised, "Come back too soon and you will lose your edge."

"Spoken just like a weight lifter." Rollin grumbled, humorously.

Cinnamon cleared a spot near his window and laid the bowl of violets down with a gentle 'thunk'. There were many vases with flowers strewn about the room, testifying to Rollin's popularity not just with his IMF team but also with his theatre friends. Cinnamon noted one large, colorful bouquet from a woman. It was signed: Affectionately, Gloria.

She wondered just how affectionate he and Gloria were and what she and his others friends, those outside the IMF, were told. Rollin could hardly notify them he had caught the plague while visiting an eastern European country.

"I need to get back to my company and home." Barney told them, "I've already been gone far too long. My son is beginning to think he's been adopted."

"Barney's my ride." Willy said.

"Thanks for coming." Rollin shook both of their hands, "And next time I handle a culture dish I'll be certain not to break it."

"We'd like that." Barney said, mock-rubbing his shoulder, and waved in Rollin's direction as he and Willy exited.

Dan Briggs, dressed in evening wear, told the actor that he had a date and really did not want t keep her waiting any longer. Rollin understood and, with Cinnamon, wish him a good night.

He closed the door behind him.

Cinnamon stared at the door for a moment then turned to look at Rollin. She pulled up a chair at his bedside and smiled, "You are very popular, Mr. Hand." she said, with her familiar cool but appealing tone present. "Not sure I've ever seen so many flowers outside a florist shop."

"Told some friends I was having liver trouble and word got around. No doubt they think I've been drinking too much." He nearly laughed. "It's not a bad cover story. When the IMF is gone weeks at a time they think I'm drying out somewhere."

"Charming." Cinnamon chuckled.

They looked at one another for a few moments. The silence was not exactly uncomfortable but it was loaded. Both had something to impart but neither were altogether too sure how to say it.

"How are you really feeling?" Cinnamon asked.

"Physically, I'm fine. Emotionally … I'm embarrassed."

"Why?"

"My stupidity. Dan let me off easy but I broke that tray and not only put the mission in jeopardy but all of you had to be treated, given painful injections, simply because I was clumsy."

"Roger said you couldn't get the dish open. It could have happened to anyone, Rollin."

"If it had been Barney he would have thought up a way of getting it open without cutting himself."

"I doubt it." Cinnamon counseled, "You were just a victim of bad luck."

"Well," he sighed and thoughtfully rested his head against the pillow, "To answer your question I suppose I'm just feeling very human."

"And that's dangerous." she said, but not without wit.

He nodded.

"Rollin …" Cinnamon felt a little awkward but something needed to be said and she hoped she didn't make him feel uncomfortable. "I wanted to thank you."

"For?"

Feeling a little human herself, Cinnamon looked a bit away from him.

Rollin was astonished. Was Cinnamon Carter actually blushing? He never thought he'd live to see the day.

"When Pasic was prepared to shoot me … you jumped him. That was very heroic."

"Barney was the one who pushed the gun out of the way."

"I know. But even before that ..." she pressed, "When he slapped me you were very disturbed and on your feet. I'm not certain what you thought you could do but … it wasn't a part of the mission. You were being practically chivalrous."

"I'd like to think I would do that for any woman."

"Oh." she said, appearing satisfied but feeling a little disappointed.

Unexpected, he gently covered her hand as it rest on the arm rail. "The truth is, I know how risky our work is, how we need to keep ourselves open and free from entanglements. But, while we may be agents … we are still men and women …" He hesitated. How could he tell her that, with her, he felt a kind of protectiveness that was far beyond what was required in his job description? "Sometimes the way we feel about someone else has to be the rule. Not the exception."

Cinnamon watched the conflict in his expression.

There was always a strange connection between she and Rollin. Whenever they worked together there was an instant chemistry. It was never hard for them to play lovers and, if they were to be honest with themselves, those assignments - although dangerous - were most enjoyable. Their mission together, before this last one, was the best in a long while.

The lakeside village in Warsalk. They had never been completely alone during an assignment before but Dan needed as few agents as possible for this one. He knew Cinnamon and Rollin's ability to work well together and he pegged them as the best team to find the reel of wire and get it to where it would do the most good. She was an American photographer, Betsy, and Rollin was a self-described Armenian "boat-bum", Nick. They had skirted all sorts of peril but, in the end, they found the wire, with all the information it contained, and the mission was a resounding success. Dan, The Secretary, and all involved were pleased.

And both agents admitted it was the "most beautiful mission" they had ever worked on.

"Is it wrong for me to feel flattered?" she wondered, aloud.

"Probably." he admitted, "But I won't tell if you won't."

Ah, she thought, there he was. Rollin Hand, the flirt. "Well, I just wanted you to know how I felt, even if it was a little ill advised. Still," she stood, "if you hadn't of acted as you did I might be dead right now."

"I would do it again." he told her, seriously.

"I know. For any agent. But let's hope you won't have to." she said with a mild chuckle, "Although, in our line of work you just never know."

His smile faded slightly when her hand slipped free of his. Rollin meant he would do it again for her but understood why she had misinterpreted the comment. Sometimes he was too glib for his own good.

"I know you're just itching to get back to work, Rollin. But Willy is right. Relax a little and make sure you are well before returning. We can't afford to lose you." Her warm fingers touched his shoulder.

"Or you." he said simply, quietly.

They gazed at one another for awhile.

A nurse entered the room, "I'm sorry but visiting hours are over." she informed, moving to the curtains in the room to close them. "Say goodnight, love birds."

Both were amused by the nurse's assumption.

"Okay." Cinnamon acknowledged.

"I get out tomorrow morning." Rollin said, "Want to take me home?"

Now … there was a loaded question, she thought. Cinnamon said, "If I must. But you'll owe me breakfast." she quipped.

"It's a date." he said, not just to be clever but for the benefit of the nurse.

Just before Cinnamon left she paused then impulsively leaned over the bed and kissed Rollin directly on the mouth. She lingered for a few extra moments then broke away - and smiled, "See you tomorrow, darling."

He savored the contact for a moment, speechless, and watched her leave.

When Cinnamon was gone the nurse said, "Your lady-friend is just lovely, Mr. Hand."

"Yes," he said, bemused. "She certainly is."

()

THE END

July 2012