Hard Lessons

By Lyn

Missing tags for Love and Guns. Part of the Life Is A Bridge Series

Many thanks as always to Annie for her stellar beta and support over the past difficult months.

The last thing I remember is Varga's machete swinging at my head. I can't recall the impact but I'm figuring if I'm waking up, he must have used the handle end and not the blade. At that thought, my stomach attempts to turn itself inside out and I feel bile rise up in my throat. I choke, panicking when I realize I'm gagged.

"Easy, easy," I hear a soothing voice say from above me.

The cloth is tugged down and then I'm rolled onto my side. As gentle as the movement is, my head feels like it's about to explode and I'm sure I'm going to throw up on my good samaritan's shoes. Black shoes, white socks. Jim! I angle my head up and squint at him. He looks like crap. Cuts pepper his face and he's already got a heck of a bruise coming up on one cheek. I'm guessing I look just as bad, if not worse.

I can hear voices in the background – Maya is okay, thank god, and demanding to see her father. My heart sinks a little at that. After all he's put her – and me – through, I wouldn't have been surprised if she never wanted to set eyes on him again.

I force back the nausea and struggle to sit up but Jim pushes me back to the ground, frowning, and looks over his shoulder. "Take her to her father," he says brusquely. Then he turns back to me, carefully sitting me up and working on the rope binding my hands. I suck in a breath as the circulation is restored and pins and needles scorch through my fingers. I reach up to wipe at my sore mouth but my movements are uncoordinated and clumsy so I give up and droop forward, resting my throbbing hands in my lap.

"How you feeling, Chief?" Jim asks, cupping his hand under my chin and lifting my head to scrutinize my face. "Asshole got some good hits in," he says almost conversationally though his frown is still there and I can see the concern in his eyes.

I shrug then wish I hadn't as my head threatens to fall off and I have a moment's panic wondering if Varga did actually use the blade on me after all. Weird how your mind works when you have a concussion. "I'm okay," I assure him, though we both know that's a lie. "I need to see Maya."

"She's been taken to her father," Jim replies. He pats my shoulder then stands up and moves back a step before I have the chance to apologize for screwing everything up. "Let the medics check you over, Sandburg."

"I'm fine—" I start to say but he cuts me off with a shake of his head.

"Let 'em check you out," he says firmly, and I know it's no good arguing when he uses that tone. He gestures over his shoulder. "Drennan got hit…"

"Oh god," I can barely whisper the words. "Is she—"

"I'm sure she's gonna be fine, Sandburg. Let these guys take a look at you, huh?"

And with that, he's gone, and despite his assurances about Drennan, I can't help feeling more than ever that I screwed up worse than I ever have before. Jim trusted me to work this case with him and I acted like a horny teenager, falling head over heels in love with the suspect's daughter, totally blind-sided by my emotions and blinded to anything else than her.


I feel like crap, and not just physically. My head is pounding and keeping time with the throbbing of my swollen lip and black eye. A sharp pain from my ribs feels like a knife jabbing into me whenever I try to move even just the slightest bit, but nothing, not even the pain can eclipse the grief, guilt, and shame I feel right now. I screwed up so badly and there is nothing I can say or do to make things better for Maya, not enough ways to apologize to Jim for getting too involved with her and putting not just myself in danger but her and everyone else as well.

I shift onto my side and bite my already abused lower lip to keep myself from making a sound. I can hear muted voices from the kitchen and I know, even though Jim is absorbed in his conversation with Drennan, he will still hear every sound I make.

I feel chilled to the bone and as weak as a kitten but I begin to drift off anyway, my exhaustion from the past days catching up with me at last. There's a sound at the doorway and I struggle to open my heavy eyelids, startled to see Maya standing there.


Well, that went well… not! I watch Maya leave without a backward glance at me, not even responding when Jim asks her if she's doing okay and if there's anything he can do for her. She's going back to Chile anyway and I'll probably never see her again. Jim will no doubt say good riddance and that it's a good thing and if I hadn't have fallen head over heels in love with her, I'd probably agree.

She did at least say that she loved me too… but that she hated me as well for what I did and I guess I can't blame her for that. Carasco is an evil son of a bitch but he's still her father and my subterfuge, regardless of my feelings for her getting in the way, helped to put him behind bars.

I doubt Jim is going to ask me any time soon, if ever, but if there's so much of a hint of me going undercover to help out on a case again, the answer is going to be a flat out and resounding no! I might have helped to put Carasco behind bars but I don't think my emotions, let alone my body, could stand another assault like this.

I gingerly lie back down on the bed, hoping to drift back to sleep, where I can forget all about this for a while longer. I can hear Jim talking quietly to Drennan as he walks her to the door. Sounds like she's decided against staying, and it doesn't take much for the guilt to eat away at me once more and assume that it's probably because she knows I'm here. I wouldn't want to face the naïve idiot who got me shot either.

I've got a real good pity party going on and tears burn my eyes then I hear footsteps approaching my room. Don't come in here, Jim, I beg silently. I really could do without a lecture on how badly I screwed up right now. I've already had the one about checking my emotions at the door during the case with David Lash and apparently none of it stuck.

My luck is still out and Jim pokes his head in through the curtain. He leans casually against the door jamb, holding a bowl in one hand, idly stirring the contents with a fork.

Instead of the chewing out I'm expecting, he's talking about Drennan and MSG and then he holds the bowl out toward me. "Want some noodles?" he asks.

It takes me a minute to be able to speak. I'm still trying to hold back my emotions and I am so not going to start blubbering like a baby in front of Jim but his gentle, unassuming way of checking up on me, making sure I'm okay after Maya's visit has me close to breaking down anyway. I manage to dredge up half a smile that makes my split lip sting, hoping he'll pick up on my appreciation for his concern despite my rebuttal of his gesture of comfort food.

"Not right now, Jim," I finally say and he watches me for a moment longer then gives me one of his all too rare gentle smiles, nods and leaves.

I lay back again and now I'm alone, I finally give in to my sadness, mourning what might have been… but my grief is assuaged by knowing my friend, my partner is here for me.