Chapter 10

Jesse waited after Sam's second phone call, wondering when he would arrive. Even more importantly, hoping that whoever wanted Mike and Fi dead didn't show up first. The hospital security team was alerted and watched the entrances. Employees and visitors coming and going were checked for weapons. The two officers at the ICU entrance were on alert, and two more were added for extra protection inside, one at Michael's door and one at Fiona's. Michael was awake and agitated.

"Jesse, do you have an extra gun on you? I can use it."

"No, Mike. You need to just lay there and rest. We've got everything covered. Sam is on the way."

"You can still use me," Michael protested. "If I could just get out of this bed and into a wheelchair..." He pushed the covers aside and put a leg over the rail.

Jesse pushed his leg back onto the mattress. "No way! You're staying put." Jesse heard voices and poked his head out of the room to see Sam coming down the short hall toward the room. "It's about time you got here!"

"Elsa was giving me a hassle. She wanted to talk to Colleen, but the cops wouldn't let her. So then she was all ticked and I had to get an officer to take her home." He grumbled. "I almost had to tie her up myself, she was so mad."

"Does she have security there?"

"Yeah. There are a couple units watching the house." He looked around and peered through the glass. "Looks like Mike is about to get out of that bed and take 'em on himself if they show up."

"You thought Elsa was bad! He's about ready to chew through the tubes and wires keeping him in bed." Jesse entered the room and Sam followed. "See, Mike? Sam's here now, you can relax."

"Hey, Mikey, you're looking pretty chipper for a guy who was bleeding out of his gut a couple days ago."

"Hello to you too, Sam," Michael replied as he shifted in bed. "I'm ready to go. I told Jesse..."

"Look, I don't care what you told Jesse." He jabbed Michael in the chest with his finger. "Your butt is staying in that bed. We'll take care of this. You need to get better so you can take care of Fi. Understand?"

Michael looked clueless as he said, "The doctor promised he would assign us to the same room if I behaved myself. I have no idea what he means by that."

Sam chuckled. "I know, that's asking a bit much of you, isn't it? Just lay there and shut up, and let us do the work." He grinned. "Just think of this as an exercise in patience. You can always improve on that."

"Really, Sam?" Michael gave him a look, but Sam wouldn't let him sway their decision.

"Really, Mike." He pushed his friend's shoulder into the mattress. "Stay."

They heard a popping sound. "Gun." Michael tried to sit up, but both Sam and Jesse held him down.

"We mean it," Jesse said. "Stay, Mike!"

The two left the room with guns at the ready. The popping sounds stopped as quickly as they began. Smoke filtered into the ICU, and two men they didn't recognize came forward with machine guns aimed their way. Sam and Jesse fired at them, carefully aiming to hit their marks. In the narrow hall there was little margin for error. If either of them missed, the enemy could take them down one after another. There was nowhere to seek cover.

Sam's bullet ripped into the bullet proof vest one of the attackers wore. Jesse aimed a little higher on his guy and took him down with a shot to the head. The one man still standing shot back, glass shattered behind Sam, and a second round from Sam's gun hit him in the neck. He collapsed to the floor, his carotid bleeding out.

The smoke hung thick in the confined space. Jesse moved closer to Sam. "Hey, you okay?"

"Yeah," Sam replied, breathing heavily. "That was too close."

"Check this out. You almost got hit." Jesse pulled at the tear on Sam's shoulder created by a bullet. "It's your lucky day, man."

"Lucky for us, not so much for them." Sam looked down at the two bodies on the floor. Medical personnel swarmed around them, but it was too late for either of the shooters. "You recognize those guys?" A beeping sound got their attention, and they looked around, their eyes stopping on a shaky Michael standing behind them. The only thing holding him up besides his unsteady legs was the IV pole. "Mikey! Get back to bed!" He and Jesse took hold of him and dragged him back to his room.

Nurses squeezed past the people in the hall and hooked him up to the monitors, scolding him the entire time. Sam and Jesse wisely stayed out of their way. Instead, they went to Fiona's side to see how she fared through all of the excitement.

"Looks like she slept right through it," Jesse remarked.

Sam cracked, "Yeah, too bad Mike couldn't have been a good little patient and done the same."

When they saw the nurses leave Michael's room and the bodies were being hauled to the morgue, the two went back to his bedside.

"Is... is Fi okay?"

With a look of irritation, Sam said, "She came out of this just fine, Mike. You, on the other hand, probably messed something up."

"I'm fine, Sam. Really." He let out a deep sigh and covered his eyes with his forearm. "I know who those guys were."

Sam asked, "Really? Who were they?"

"A couple of MI6 agents," Michael replied. "Ex-MI6, that is."

Sam and Jesse's eyes bugged as they stared at Michael. "Mike, please tell me you were kidding."

"I wish I was." He let out a breath. "The rumor was that they went rogue. I guess now we have the proof."

"If they were working with Ferguson and his bunch, that's pretty rogue," Sam said.

"Why doesn't that surprise me," Jesse muttered. "So they decided that while they were going to rip off twenty million dollars, they might as well take out you guys to help Ferguson settle a score."

"Scorched earth policy. A favorite of terrorists the world over," Sam cracked.

Casey poked his head into the room. "Looks like I missed the party, huh? I heard you two were like commandos, just took 'em right down with a couple of pistols."

"I don't think they were quite expecting any resistance out there, and it caught them off guard enough for us to nail them in here," Sam answered.

"Sam, who's this guy?"

"Mike, this is Detective Casey. He was heading the team to recover Elsa."

"You got her? She's safe?"

Jesse stared at him. "I told you that earlier, Mike, when I got here."

"Okay, that's it, you need more rest. Excuse me a second." Sam walked out of the room, past the orderly cleaning up the mess on the floor, and approached the nurses' station. Nurse Gargantua sat at the desk studying something on the computer screen while an officer stood nearby writing up a report. "Hi."

Gargantua looked up at him with a scowl. "Yes?"

With his most charming Sam Axe smile, he said, "Look, I know we kind of got off on the wrong foot earlier, but, now I'm asking if you can give my friend something to make him sleep for awhile. He's all wound up, and he's just gonna get out of bed again if you don't sedate him. I know this guy."

She tapped a few keys and clicked the mouse. "Alright, I can give him something. I'll be right in." She turned away and got up to unlock a cabinet behind her. She pulled out a vial and a syringe and followed Sam to the room.

This time, he didn't need to ask because she held up the medication for him to see. Over Michael's loud protests, she injected the drug into his line.

"This is for your own good, Mike. Just relax."

"No, come on! I don't need that." He tried to struggle, but Sam held his arm down.

The nurse gave him a reassuring smile and said, "It's just a little something to help you relax, Mr. Westen. You're too keyed up right now."

"Sam, I'll get you for... this..."

"Wow, that stuff works fast," Jesse exclaimed.

The nurse patted Michael's arm. "Sleep well, Mr. Westen." She turned toward Jesse and Sam. "You might want to wait in the waiting area. Or you can go back in to see Ms. Glenanne. If you're lucky, she might wake up for you." A slight smile crossed her features. "She was getting more lucid this morning."

Sam asked, "How is she doing?"

"She's healing quickly. In another few days, maybe she can be moved to a regular room. The doctor is making arrangements for the two to be put together. It's unusual, but not uncommon. Obviously it would be better for their healing if they can see each other." Her all-business face softened as she spoke. "Contrary to what you might think, I do care." Then she turned and headed back to her station.

"Hmm, how about that. Guess you can't always judge somebody on first impressions," Jesse observed.

"No doubt. Too bad that sometimes that's all we've got to work on, and if we guess wrong, we can die."

"Not today, my friend. Not today."

Michael and Fiona spent two weeks in the hospital, and when they were released, Maddie insisted that they stay with her until they were strong enough to take care of themselves. After a few days at Maddie's, Michael was restless. He sensed Fiona was feeling the same way. He sat in the back yard in the shade, but there were a hundred other places that he would have rather been. Fiona was inside playing cards with Maddie and her friends. That was definitely not one of those places he preferred to be.

He heard car doors slam and two figures approached. "Hey, Sam. Elsa. How are you two?" He noticed that Elsa wore shorts and a shirt not unlike something that Sam would wear. "You two look like you're off to someplace tropical."

"We sure are. We're going to the Keys for a few days, taking the yacht, just to get away for awhile." She glanced up at Sam, grinned at him, and she returned her attention to Michael as she said, "We'd really like you and Fiona to accompany us."

He squinted up at them and replied. "I'd have to talk to Fi."

"Yes." She paused, and a little smirk appeared on her lips. "I understand that you two have already applied for your marriage license."

Michael's eyes narrowed, realizing that Elsa had something up her short sleeve. "Yes, so?"

Sam reached into his back pocket and pulled out an official looking paper. Michael recognized what it was. "We just picked ours up at the courthouse. How about it, Mikey? We go down to the Keys, have an intimate little double ceremony, and make everything legal?"

"You're serious, aren't you." His eyes moved from Sam to Elsa and back.

Sam replied, "Your Ma's all for it. She said she and Jesse would come along. Evan said he'd make it, too."

Michael was speechless. When he and Fiona talked about wedding plans, he told her that he really didn't care what they did. He certainly never thought about it being a double ceremony with his best friend and his fiancee. He wasn't even aware that they were engaged! "Sam, when did you two get..."

"Right after Jesse and I took out those guys who tried to kill you and Fi in the ICU. I got home and Elsa was so freaked out, she proposed to me right there. I said 'Yes', but you know what? Just once, I'd like to be able to do the proposing myself."

"Well, if you and Elsa get married..."

"I know." Sam grinned and put his arm around Elsa. "That's why I came up with this idea to make up for it. So, what do you say, Mikey?"

"I'll have to talk to Fi, you know that."

"I'll be right back," Elsa said with a smile. She broke away from Sam and hurried into Maddie's house. A couple of minutes later, the two men heard excited shrieking.

"Uh oh," Michael muttered. He got up, and he and Sam went inside to see what the fuss was about.

The two found the ladies excited and talking, their voices a mash up of chatter that sounded like a bunch of hens. At the sight of the two men, they halted and stared. Maddie grinned, sprung from her chair, and met them in the kitchen door, giving them both hugs. "Oh, I'm so excited for you two! This is going to be the best wedding ever!"

"It is," Michael asked. He looked past all the excited faces toward Fiona. She sat at the end of the table and looked up at him with a demure expression on her face. Then she stood, walked slowly to him, and carefully wrapped her arms around him, being mindful of her sore chest.

"Michael."

"Fi, is this what you want?"

"It'll be wonderful," she replied with a grin. "I can hardly wait to do it!"

"Well, I guess we're going to the Keys then," Michael said with a smile.

The sun set in the west and gentle waves crashed on the beach. Nearby, on the patio of a small seafood restaurant in Key West, two newly married couples gathered with their guests. Michael and Fiona sat in their chairs, his arm around the back of hers, while they fed each other shrimp and scallops. Madeline watched from the opposite side of the table, the grin on her face so wide, it threatened to split her in two. Sam and Elsa sat back in their chairs that were pressed so close together they touched. When they weren't eating, their eyes locked on each other and they kissed. Jesse and Evan sat between Elsa and Maddie, enjoying the food and the view beyond the married couples.

"Hey Jesse, check her out," Evan spoke so only Jesse could hear as his eye caught a beauty in a bikini walking toward the sunset. "She'd be great for you, man."

"I kind of like her friend," Jesse answered. He glanced at the lovebirds, then at Evan. "Think they'd miss us?"

"Nah."

"Alright. Maddie, we'll see you later. If you don't mind, we're gonna meet some, um..."

Maddie laughed and waved them off. "You go on and have fun, boys."

Jesse and Evan ran for the beach and caught up to the women. She watched them introduce themselves, and she smiled when their new friends let the two men walk with them. She sighed. Now, if only she was so lucky.

"Michael? Michael?"

"Huh? Yeah, Ma?" He broke away from Fiona and took a sip of his drink. "Sorry, we kind of got caught up there."

"No, that's alright. This is your day, honey. I'm going to go back to the yacht and go to bed. It's been a long day, and I'm tired."

"Are you sure, Madeline? Are you okay?" Fiona asked with concern.

"I'm fine, sweetie." She smiled, so pleased to have Fiona as her daughter-in-law at last. "You two have fun. And you too, Sam, Elsa. Congratulations!"

"Thanks, Maddie. And thanks for being there for us today. All of us." He snuck a quick look at the other couple and smiled.

"Have a good night, Mrs. Westen. If you need anything, just let Lawrence know."

"Thank you, Elsa. I will." Lawrence, Elsa's new butler, whom Sam himself checked over with a fine security sweep, was about her age, polished, and quite handsome. He seemed to enjoy taking care of her on the trip to the Keys. Perhaps he wouldn't mind a little company as payback for his attentiveness.

Eventually, Michael and Fiona left the table to dance to the sweet sounds of a small live band on the far side of the patio. Sam and Elsa took care of the bill, and they went for a walk along the streets to watch the sun go down and see the streetlights and festive strings of lights come to life on the houses and businesses. It was a beautiful night, comfortable for walking, and few bugs unlike during the summer.

The street ended at the beach, and they found themselves alone. It was nearly dark, but they ventured out onto the sand anyway. Elsa sat down and pulled Sam with her. Their lips met, molded to each other, and the kiss deepened as he held her in place. Her hands traveled up his shirt front and she sighed when they parted.

"This day couldn't have been any better," she spoke on a breath. "When I was held captive, I dreamed of this day. But I was scared. I was afraid that they would kill me and I would never see you again, or kiss you..." She kissed him. "Or love you. Ever... again." Her kisses and her touch worked together to weaken him, and he fell back onto the sand, his arms taking her down with him. Their bodies entwined, and they held each other tight. "I kept thinking about dying and leaving you behind, and it just broke my heart."

"You don't have to worry now. We're together now, forever." He kissed the tracks of tears running down her cheeks.

"I worry that some day something will happen and you'll leave me."

"Oh no, no, I'd never leave you, pumpkin."

"That's what Ethan said, but then he got sick, and he died and left me and Evan alone."

"Shh, don't think about that. Just focus on the fact that I love you." His lips pressed to the pulse point in her neck as he rolled her to her back.

"You can't control everything, Sam. Someone might hurt you, or kill you, and then..."

"Anything can happen to either one of us at any time." He spoke in a near whisper as he covered her protectively with his body. "We could both be killed in some tragic accident. Let's not think about those we leave behind. Let's live in the here and now, love in the here and now, and let tomorrow take care of itself."

Elsa's satisfied sigh carried on the wind as Sam made love to her on the beach. He was right. There was so much to live for, and an unmeasured time in which to do it. As she lost herself in him, she resolved to never forget what he taught her.

We live, we love,

Forgive and never give up.

'Cuz the days we are given are gifts from above

And today we remember to live and to love.

From the song, "We Live" by Superchic[k]