Disclaimer: None of the characters are mine, and I'm not making any money off of them.
Spoilers: None really, but the story makes most sense set towards the end of Season 1, specifically in-around Episode 22.
Notes: It's been a while since I first posted this story, and I did not like the writing anymore, so I fixed it up.
The fluorescent lights were too bright. And instead of helping, they made it even harder for her to read the words on the report in front of her. Carter went back to the beginning of the paragraph. It was her third attempt already and still the content just would not sinking in. She tried harder to concentrate, but her brain was determined to focus all its resources on the tapping of her colleague's fingers assaulting the old keyboard two desks over. Her out-of-control neurons amplified the incessant click-clack to the volume of close-range machine gun fire.
Carter pushed her chair back and walked away from the desk, past the offending keyboard, and away from the bright lights into the washroom, which turned out to also be too brightly lit, to take two Tylenol and put a paper towel soaked in cool water against her temple.
Back at the desk, she read the paragraph of the witness report over from the beginning once more. The Tylenol gave her another hour with the paperwork, but by the time she had reached the overdue expense reports the pain stabbing into her temple like a knife was back. The phone ringing and vibrating on her desk may as well have been a sledgehammer demolishing concrete. 'Unknown caller'. Right. She knew very well who was calling her, and hit the 'off' button.
"You alright Carter?" Fusco asked across the desk, a frown on his face.
"Yeah I'm fine, just a headache." That was not the whole truth, but this was also not an interrogation and Fusco did not need to know her medical history.
"Well you should go home then, the paperwork'll wait 'til tomorrow."
She looked at the partially filled out expense report in front of her. Fusco was right. This migraine was only going to get worse - a lot worse - and it was better for her to be home before that happened.
By the time Carter was turning the key in her front door, her stomach had decided to take offence to the few sips of water she had taken before leaving the precinct. She made it to the bathroom just in time to throw up the water together with any undigested remains of her lunch.
The heaving caused waves of pain to cross her temple, which in turn made her stomach even more sick. The devil's circle was broken once her stomach was emptied of the last drop of bile and she cleaned herself up as best she could while keeping one hand on the sink for support.
Propped up by the wall, she carried a glass of water to her bedroom and took a prescription demerol from her nightstand. She eased herself onto the bed. Any sudden movement, any movement at all really, made the pain just that much more intolerable.
Her upset and now empty stomach did not take the assault with the painkiller kindly, and before she even got settled in her bed, she had to stumble to the bathroom to throw up a second time.
"Finch, you there?" Reese was watching their latest number from behind a cargo container at a sprawling industrial site.
"Of course I am, Mr. Reese," said the voice in his ear.
"Did Carter come through with the fingerprints yet?"
"I have not been able to contact Detective Carter. She did not answer her cell phone earlier, and has since turned it off. I will have access to the police database myself momentarily." Finch would have preferred not to split his attention between hacking the police server and keeping tabs on his employee, but Fusco was already working on a different task.
Reese frowned. He had very little time to wonder what might be up with Carter before he saw the co-worker of their latest number pull out a knife.
"Never mind, Finch, I think I know which one of the dock workers is dirty." Reese flicked his ear and stepped out from behind the cargo container. He overpowered the would-be assailant before their number even knew what was happening. After watching and waiting for hours, he had hoped for more of a fight.
He dialled his phone while walking back to his 'borrowed' car.
"Fusco, I have a present for you."
Reese recited the address. Fusco grumbled about it, but agreed to come and arrest the tied-up perp.
"One more thing, Fusco. Why isn't Carter answering her phone?"
"Don't know. She didn't look too good earlier; said she had a headache. You know, women."
Reese disconnected the line on Fusco and frowned again. He decided that this was not like Carter at all. He tapped his ear piece.
"Finch, where is Carter now?"
"I believe she is in her apartment. I conclude from your conversation with Detective Fusco that the threat is neutralized?"
"Yes, walk-in-the-park. I'll see you later."
Reese slipped into the driver's seat and drove straight to Detective Carter's apartment. Finch decided in the meanwhile that it would be a good time to hack Carter's medical records.
Taylor dropped his schoolbag in the hall and saw his mom lean against the bathroom door frame.
"Mom - " he looked at her. "Migraine?"
She nodded. Taylor helped her back into her bed, turned on the accent light in the corner and closed the blinds, leaving the room in semi darkness.
"Your grandma is still in Florida, but I could call and see if Gina is available."
"Mom! I don't need a babysitter anymore, I'm fine." The indignant statement was followed by a more amicable "I can take the bus to basketball practice and I can make myself a sandwich later."
"Alright," Carter said in a voice that barely carried.
Taylor left the room to pack his gym bag. He wished his grandma was coming, not for him but for his mom. He hesitated at the door, then decided that he could not leave his mom alone like this, so he sat on the sofa and turned on the TV. Minutes later, someone knocked on the front door.
Reese had his strategy in place for how he was going to go about scolding Carter for not answering her phone. He hoped she was just being stubborn, all the while what Fusco had said about a headache at the back of his mind, growing into worry.
He heard the door latch open in response to his knocking, but it was Taylor on the other side greeting him in a half whisper and with a smile.
"John! Hi." Taylor opened the door all the way to let Reese in.
"Hi Taylor, how are you doing? Everything alright?"
"Yes I'm fine."
"Why are you whispering?" Reese surveyed the apartment looking for anything out of place.
"Oh it's because of mom; she has a migraine and any noise makes it worse. She's laying down."
That explained the muted TV with subtitles turned on.
"Does she get those often?" Reese asked in an equally quiet whisper, attention again focused on the boy.
"No, not really, maybe once or twice a year."
Reese nodded and decided to give Carter a hard time later.
"Do you need a ride to basketball practice?" He had noticed the gym bag by the door, and remembered that Taylor had basketball practice on Tuesday evenings. Having found no sign that he was needed here, he was about to leave and could as well drive the kid to practice on his way, so Carter could rest.
"No, that's okay, I'm not going today."
"Oh, why not?"
"Well usually grandma comes over to take care of mom when she has a migraine, but grandma is visiting friends in Florida, and I don't want to leave mom alone right now."
Maybe Reese worried too easily about the people he cared about, but if the kid was forgoing basketball practice to stay with his mom, Reese figured his worry was not unfounded.
"Do you think I can see your mom?" His eyes were soft and open; he was not trying to hide his concern from the kid.
"Yeah, I guess," Taylor said and pointed to the partially open door to Carter's bedroom.
Despite the whispering, Carter had been able to make out most of what was said in the hall. She was irritable from the pain and annoyed that Reese was going to see her like this. There was a soft knock on the open door, then she sensed Reese next to her bed but did not open her eyes yet. Reese looked her over. He knew what pain was all about. He had been both on the inflicting and receiving side often enough.
A cursory glance was enough to tell him how much pain Carter was in, and he caught himself from hardening up his soul, locking out all feeling, the way he had so many times before.
Carter mustered up all her willpower and forced herself to open her eyes and to speak, before Reese could say anything.
"Tell that kid to get his ass to basketball practice, and get the hell out of my bedroom!" She wanted to sound strong and annoyed, but the feeling of an icepick stabbing her right temple made it hard to keep control of her voice.
"I'll get out of your bedroom, and you are coming with me - to the emergency room." The tone of his voice matched exactly what he had aimed for, and not many people would contradict anything said in that tone.
"I don't need a doctor, nothing they can do. I'll be fine by tomorrow." The strain of talking over the pain made her breathing heavy now. Reese's lips hardened but he felt that it was not his place to argue with her.
"Ok." he said after looking at the still figure in front of him for a few moments. He left the room as quietly as he had entered it.
"Your mom says to get your ass to basketball practice," Reese informed Taylor once he was back out in the living room, where the boy was watching TV. Taylor looked unsure of what to do. Reese sensed his hesitation.
"I can stay here with your mom while you go to practice."
The kid's eyes lit up.
Reese nodded and smiled at him.
"Wow, thanks man! I'll have to run to catch the bus!"
Taylor jumped up and grabbed his bag, but gave Reese another hesitant look before going out the door.
"Have fun. Your mom will be fine," Reese told him. With that Taylor was out the door.
Reese made his way back to Carter's bedroom. She had her eyes closed again. He walked in quietly without knocking and gently touched her shoulder to announce his presence. Her body stiffened and he withdrew his hand.
"What are you still doing here?" she forced herself to say.
"I had to promise Taylor I'd stay here with you while he went to practice."
"Well I promised the kid, and you know I always keep my promises. I'll be in the chair over there."
She made a huffing sound that he took as, if not agreement, then at least not an objection. He waited for any other response, but none came so he made his way across the room and sat in the chair, thoughts drifting to his mission from this afternoon, then to Finch. He wondered what Finch thought he was doing in Carter's apartment. That brought his attention back to Carter. Her breathing was very shallow. She was not asleep, yet laying perfectly still. Reese lifted himself out of the chair and tip-toed out of the room. He was back at the side of the bed moments later holding a cold wet washcloth.
Reese gently touched Carter's shoulder again. She tensed and breathed in sharply. He moved his hand to her forehead, in part so she would not be startled by the cold that would touch that area next, and in part to check for a fever.
"I'm not sick," she mumbled. A statement confirmed, if not in a rigorous way, by his cursory examination. He noticed the bottle of demerol on the bedside table.
"Did you take any of these?" Reese asked, holding up the painkillers.
It took a moment for Carter to gather her strength to answer.
"Yes, can't keep them down."
"Maybe this will help a bit." He folded the washcloth into a strip and laid it across Carter's forehead. He made out the "thanks" in between shallow breaths, and whispered "no problem."
Reese was glad for the appreciative response. He would not fault her for being uncomfortable or even afraid with him there. She had given him up to his "friends" with the CIA on being shown the file with some of his, no doubt, less flattering handiwork, and during this past year she had had a front row seat to what he was capable off. Yet what she had seen was only a small taste of his proficiency at inflicting pain. His aptitude at easing pain was unestablished in his own mind, and he guessed in hers as well. She did know that he protected people, and he sincerely hoped that she knew that she was safe with him.
Reese retreated back to his chair. Seeing another person in pain could be easy for him. He just had to lock up his feelings and go into stone-cold-killer mode, like he had been trained to do; like he had done over and over in the past until it became an automatic response. Now he was trying no to, and he was relieved to find how easy it still was for him to empathize.
A little while later, an outside observer might have thought Reese asleep in the chair. But the slightest movement from Carter had him alert again. She was reaching to flip the washcloth on her forehead. Reese went to the bathroom and brought back a fresh one. Carter's eyes were closed, her breathing was still shallow and what he could see of her body was tensed in pain. He touched her shoulder once more. She did not flinch this time, her subconscious probably having decided that his touch was not a sign of imminent threat. This made him relax in turn; less worried that she would tear his head off for the intrusion once she felt better. He took the old cloth and placed the fresh cold one on her forehead.
Reese's stomach started making noises he was afraid would startle Carter, so he walked over to the kitchen. Looking around, he soon spotted the stack of take-out menus. The menu from a pizzeria had items marked with a highlighter. Figuring those must be the Carter family's favourites, he dialled the number and ordered two of the highlighted pizzas. He was sure Taylor would be hungry as well when he came home.
The pizza arrived 30 minutes later. Reese placed it on the kitchen table and found some plates to set out as well. Taylor arrived home soon after.
"Hey, pizza! You should come over more often, you know."
Reese gave Taylor a reserved smile.
"I didn't know what you liked. There's pepperoni and hawaiian."
"That's great. How's mom?"
"She's … in pain. How long do these migraines usually last?"
"About a day, usually."
"As in 24 hours?"
Reese took a slice of pizza without sitting down.
"Hmm. I have to go get something, I'll be 40 minutes, tops."
Finch was still at his computer station when Reese walked into the library chamber.
"How was your dinner with Detective Carter?
"It would have been nicer if Carter had taken part in it," Reese answered while passing the other man on his way to the back room.
"She's suffering from a migraine, I take it." Finch got up to follow Reese. "I understand they are very painful." He watched Reese go through the cupboards with the medical supplies. "What are you looking for?"
"If she's in that much pain, you should take her to a hospital! And anyway, she has a prescription for pain medication."
"She won't go, and she can't keep the pills down." He had found the bottle of morphine and was now looking for the needles. Finch opened his mouth to argue with Reese, but the determined look on the other man's face made him think better of it, so instead he pulled a fresh needle from a drawer and handed it to Reese.
"I hope you know what you are doing, Mr. Reese."
Reese gave Finch a look that could have meant any number of things, and hurried back to Carter's house.
Reese touched Carter's shoulder, a now familiar gesture. She did not open her eyes.
"I brought some morphine, I'm going to give you an injection."
Her eyes snapped open and she looked at Reese's face, his warm eyes revealing concern. Then she looked at the needle and back at him. He was sitting perfectly still on the side of the bed, waiting for her response.
"Okay." She moved her arm out from under the covers.
Reese had learned how to give injections in the field. He did it quickly and confidently. He then remained sitting on the side of Carter's bed, checking her pulse, changing the cloth on her forehead, moving rogue strands of hair out of her face. He was alert to signs that she was uncomfortable with his presence or his touch, but could not detect any, so he continued. Soon her breathing become more even, deeper, and her previously tense muscles relaxed. The morphine was doing it's job.
Taylor came in, and Reese got up and moved to the side of the room.
"Mom? I'm going to bed now."
"Did you finish your homework?" She sounded much stronger.
"Yes," came the slightly irritated reply, followed by "all of it," in anticipation of the next question.
"Good man. Sleep well."
"You too, Mom."
Reese approached the bed again after Taylor had left the room. Carter seemed to be responding well to the medication.
"I'm going to go now. There's left-over pizza in the fridge, if you feel hungry later. Call me if you need another dose of morphine. I'll be back here at 8 tomorrow morning to take Taylor to school."
"What? No, that's fine. I can take him."
"After the shot of morphine I just gave you, I'd rather you did not drive a car tomorrow morning."
She knew he was right. The migraine also was not over either, just numbed.
"You're welcome. Sleep tight."
With that he left the room and let himself out of the apartment.