Danny Edwards and Chris Gains sat on the curbside outside the bank and managed to let out some laughter – despite Chris practically blowing up the bank with the C-4, despite Danny’s cover getting blown, despite the fact that they’d both been through hell – they’d made it out of the bank, with no innocents hurt or money stolen. Their captain ought to be pleased with that outcome. Chris voiced that thought.
"The Captain can’t bust on me too much," he said. "The bank’s still standing."
"Don’t matter, Gains," Danny replied. "You still took a big chunk out of the basement."
They were about to say more, when the captain in question made his presence known. "Gains! Edwards! Get over here!" he shouted from across the street.
Chris and Danny looked at each other once more and shrugged. Chris rose first and managed to take a step or two before noticing that his partner wasn’t following. He stopped and turned.
"Come on," he beckoned, holding his hand out to help Danny up. "Time to face the music."
Danny raised his hand up, not quite meeting Chris’s. Seeing the tired look on Danny’s face, Chris reached down, grabbed his hand, yanked and was taken totally by surprise when Danny cried out in pain and collapsed back down onto the pavement, nearly pulling Chris with him.
"Danny?!" Chris was completely confused and scared all at once. "Danny? What’s wrong?"
Danny had curled up into a fetal position, his arms wrapped around his chest, moaning in pain as he gasped for breath. Chris quickly knelt down next to his partner.
"Hurts! Can’t... breathe," he managed to get out.
"I need help over here!!" Chris shouted. "Somebody call an ambulance!"
Chris tried to move Danny’s arms, to get a better look at him. He tried to open his shirt, looking under and around him, wondering if he’d somehow gotten hit during the shootout in the bank, and was only feeling it now that the adrenaline rush was over.
"Are you hit? Did you get hit?" Sean Harrison asked as he arrived, answering the cry for help.
"My... chest... ribs..." Danny gasped, trying desperately to take a deep breath.
Chris remembered the vicious kick Danny had taken from the robber when the bank teller had ratted him out. And then remembered his own actions, when he slammed Danny up against the wall, during their ruse...
"Oh, God," Chris whispered, pulling Danny into his lap, to hold and comfort him somehow. "Somebody get those medics over here now!"
Sean saw the panic in Chris’s eyes. "Easy, boys, help’s coming," he soothed. "Just try to calm down and take slow breaths, Danny."
But a coughing fit took control of Danny, sending frothy, pink blood out of his mouth, which only served to scare Chris even more, and he tightened his hold on his partner.
"Ease up, Chris," Sean whispered, putting his hand to the side of Chris’s neck.
Chris nodded and did as he was told, but couldn’t fight the helplessness he felt inside, at being unable to do anything to help his partner.
"It’s gonna be okay, Danny. It’s gonna be okay," he murmured. "Help’s coming."
Finally, John Declan led the paramedic team through the police line to his injured teammate.
Sean gently pulled Chris away from Danny, to give the paramedics room to work. He put an arm around his shoulders. "He’ll be okay. He’s a tough kid," he said, giving Chris’s shoulder a squeeze.
But Chris only pulled away from Sean and cursed. "Fuck!"
Sean watched as Chris began pacing back and forth, hovering about the paramedic team working on his partner. He saw the guilt in Chris’s eyes, knew that feeling all too well.
Captain Harada blocked Chris’s path and pulled him a few feet away from the paramedics as they began loading Danny onto the stretcher. "What happened in there, Gains?"
Chris ignored the question, instead pulling away, thinking Harada was going to keep him at the scene. "I gotta go with him," he said.
"Of course you do," Harada replied calmly. Seeing the anguish on Chris’s face, he changed his mind about questioning Chris there on the scene about the events in the bank. "We’ll meet you there and then you can tell me what went down."
Chris nodded his head and moved toward the ambulance. Sean and John were there waiting and they each patted Chris on the shoulder, giving him their support.
"We’ll catch up with you there," John said.
Chris replied with, "Yeah," and climbed into the ambulance, obeying the paramedic’s silent order and sitting in the seat she pointed to. He flinched as Sean slammed the doors shut.
He’d sat there; barely holding on as the ambulance careened its way toward the hospital, not saying a word. Just watching. Watching as life bled from his partner’s body.
The paramedics had worked frantically – shoving all sorts of tubes down Danny’s throat, into his chest, into his veins, blood spewing everywhere. He’d almost lost it when one of them grabbed his hands and thrust the ambubag into them, ordering him to squeeze it every three or four seconds.
He’d tried to listen to the paramedic as she called the hospital on the radio, tried to understand the words: deviated trachea, tension pneumo, diaphoretic... but only grasped the tone of her voice: it was bad.
When they finally reached the hospital and entered the ER, Chris did what he was told once again, relinquishing hold of the ambubag to the paramedic, going to the nurses’ station to "give them information about Danny" and watching helplessly as they pulled the curtain around the cubicle.
More medical jargon and orders shouted from the cubicle floated in and above his head as he absently told the nurse Danny’s name, date of birth and that no, he didn’t think Danny’d had any allergies or medications or medical history to worry about.
He was then, reluctantly, led to the waiting room.
Sean, John and Captain Harada found Chris sitting in the waiting room about an hour later.
"Any word?" John asked.
When Chris didn’t answer, Harada said, "I’ll go check," and headed for the Admissions desk.
Sean and John took seats on either side of Chris.
"He’ll be okay. He’s Danny," John said lightly, shrugging his shoulders, hoping to lighten the mood.
Still no response from Chris, who just stared at his hands as they rested on his lap.
Sean motioned to John, tilting his head toward the exit, indicating that he wanted to talk to Chris alone.
"Sure," John replied, giving Chris’s knee a pat as he rose. "I’ll go grab us some coffee or something."
After a moment or so, Sean said, "It’s not your fault, Chris."
That got Chris’s attention: he burst up from his seat and turned back to Sean, shouting, "Isn’t it?! I was the one on the inside! I was the one that should have taken control sooner! I’m the one that slammed him against that wall!"
"But you’re not the one that kicked him first!" Sean retorted, standing to face Chris. When he knew the younger man was listening to him, he continued, saying, "We talked to the hostages, Chris. They told us about Danny getting kicked."
"Goddamn bitch turned him in!" Chris swore, and turned to begin pacing the waiting room.
"And that’s when you took control, Chris. That’s when you did your job and protected your partner," Sean told him.
"Yeah, some job protecting my partner, I hurt him worse!"
"You got him and the rest of the hostages out of there, Detective," Captain Harada put in, returning to the waiting room, interrupting Chris’s tirade.
"How is he?" Sean asked.
"Docs have him up in surgery. Punctured lung. They said his chances are excellent, though."
"See? He’s gonna be just fine," Sean said to Chris.
But Chris ignored him and resumed his pacing. And his guilt.
"Gains," Harada called. "Your partner is going to be fine. I want you down at the station, now. We’ve got a job to finish."
After a moment’s hesitation, Chris stopped his pacing and nodded his head.
"We’ll give you a ride," Sean said, following him out of the waiting room.
"Sean," Harada called, stopping him in is tracks. "Get him cleaned up, too."
"Sure, boss," Sean replied.
He hadn’t missed the fact that Chris still had Danny’s blood on his clothes. And Chris still believed it was on his hands, too.
It was several hours later, nearing midnight, when the detective squad finally finished up their reports and the witness statements. But no one was heading home yet.
Chris had received a call from the hospital staff about two hours after they’d left, telling him that Danny had come through surgery just fine. Throughout the evening, Sean, John and Captain Harada had all tried to convince him that he was not to blame for Danny’s injury, even after he got the copy of the bank’s surveillance tape and showed them the part where he slammed Danny against the wall.
"Maybe he just needs to hear it from Danny himself," Sean told John. Harada agreed.
After they’d all gotten a glimpse of their injured teammate, seeing for themselves that he was alive and under the best of care, only Chris remained in the ICU. Using his badge for leverage, he’d managed to secure himself a seat next to Danny’s bed.
The young detective looked a mess; tubes going in and out of his body surrounded him, his chest was tightly bandaged and an oxygen mask covered most of his face.
"At least you’re breathing on your own, now, partner," Chris whispered.
"I wasn’t... before?"
Chris looked up sharply, seeing Danny’s eyes blink, fighting to stay open.
"Hey," Chris greeted him gently, standing and taking Danny’s hand. "How are you feeling?"
"I’m ... still alive," Danny replied. "That’s gotta... be... good."
"That’s very good," Chris said with a smile.
After a minute or so of staring at each other, Chris sat back in the chair and sighed, shaking his head. "Damn, I thought I lost you for sure, Danny. I’m so, so sorry."
"Sorry?" Danny asked, confused. "For what?"
"This is all my fault. I should’ve stopped him from hitting you. I shouldn’t have shoved you up against that wall. I should have-"
"No!" Danny interrupted, clearly upset. "Not... your... fault!"
The heart monitor kicked up a notch.
Danny tried to sit up, to reach his partner. He cried out in pain. The heart monitor began to shriek.
"Easy, easy!" Chris scolded, panicking. "Lay back!"
A nurse rushed in to check on Danny.
"I’m sorry, Detective, but you’re going to have to leave if you keep this up," she said. "He needs to rest."
"Wait!" Danny called, seeing the guilty look on Chris’s face. He pulled the oxygen mask down so Chris wouldn’t misunderstand his next words. "Not. Your. Fault... Didn’t know... I was... hurt... Saved us."
While the nurse put the mask back on Danny’s face and he greedily sucked in the oxygen, his body exhausted from the few sentences he’d uttered, his eyes never left his partner’s.
"I’ll see you in the morning, partner," Chris said, ready to leave; escape.
Danny thrust his hand out and Chris grasped it, giving it a strong squeeze.
"Not... your... fault," Danny managed to get out again, tightening his grip on Chris’s hand. He still held Chris’s gaze. "Say... it!"
Seeing the determination in Danny’s eyes, feeling it in his hand, hearing it in his voice... Chris had no choice but to agree. He nodded his head.
"Not my fault," he whispered.
Danny tightened his grip again.
"Not my fault," he repeated, louder, smiling now.
Danny nodded in satisfaction.
"I’ll see you in the morning, partner," he said and headed for the door.
Just as Danny readied himself to fall asleep, Chris poked his head back into the room.
"Your car window’s not my fault, either, right?" he asked.
Danny shook his head and tried not to laugh. If he could have thrown something at his partner, he would have.
"It better... be... fixed..."
"By the time you get out. Don’t worry, Danny," Chris finished. He waved to his partner and headed home.