Scotty's hurting.

Kelly can tell it from a dozen different things. He can tell from the way his partner leans more of his weight on him with every few minutes that go by. He can tell from the way the hand on his shoulder tightens, digging in involuntarily, when they hit a stone in the path, or stumble over a grassy hillock. He can tell from the labored breathing, the unsteady, tense rise and fall of the man's ribcage under his hand, the gasps that are growing increasingly desperate.

But most of all, he knows it from Scotty's admission that he can't walk.

His partner is a stoic, Kelly's long known this and accepted it. Scotty won't let Kelly in unless Kelly batters down the doors, and sometimes not even then. It seems to be Scotty's imperative: never to admit weakness, never to admit pain, never to admit need. Scotty doesn't lean on him, unless Kelly makes him, or unless there's no choice.

Kelly hasn't given him one, this time round.

Leave him and go on alone. Riiiiight. Oh, nice try, Jack, pulling the 'mission' card. Someone has to get back and warn Russ about the visiting VIP. Like Kelly gives a damn about a VIP, or Russell, or anything but the man he's holding up. The man who's just been shot high up in the right thigh, the same muscle where he took a bullet before because of Kelly's own stupidity. It healed up okay then, but they're three years older now. No wiser, just older.

We can't go on like this.

It comes to him suddenly, as he hitches up Scotty's sagging body at his side. They've done this too many times to count: shrugged off minor injuries, toughed it out, soldiered on. He's seen Scotty roughed up, drugged, beaten, and Scotty's returned the favor, not once but a dozen times. They've laughed it off, made light of it, somehow pushed through it all, but Kelly has a sudden feeling, like a premonition. This isn't going to last much longer.

They hit a bump and Scotty almost, almost grunts, the sudden catch in his breath telling Kelly what he already knows: they're running out of time. Soon it'll be time to stand and fight, because if Scotty thinks Kelly's abandoning him, then all that education was for nothing.

Kelly sets his jaw with iron determination. He's going to get Scotty out of this alive. No, he amends, he's going to get both of them out of this alive. That's why neither of us gets killed, you see the logic of it? But he has a feeling that there aren't going to be many more missions for him and Scotty.

It's not that he doesn't trust Scotty to hold up his end, but… enough is enough. He, Kelly, could probably go on for a few more years yet before his reflexes get too slow, but Scotty – his morals, his ethics, slowly being eroded by the job, and now his physical capacities… His partner doesn't belong here any more, if he ever did.

Kelly wraps his arm around Scotty tighter, for soon he will have to let him go.