The call came in through a wave of static so sharp that Sam had to hold his ear. “…Get me…help….Sam.”
He stared at the phone. “Mike? Where the hell are you?”
Another wave of static wiped out the connection between them. Sam immediately pressed the redial button, trying to find his friend. “Damn,” he groaned. The bug they’d placed in his cell had gone dead. “We lost him,” he informed Fi, as she took a corner hard and bumped him into her.
“They have to be holding him somewhere in the boonies,” declared Fiona, spinning the wheel frantically. They were speeding as fast as they could for the border – Alabama, that’s where Michael’s last signal had come from. “Calm down, Sam.”
“How in the hell CAN you stay calm?” Sam worried.
“Because I know Michael – he’ll survive. He always does.” She stabbed the gas with the tip of her stiletto as they roared their way onto the highway.
They had to bust into the warehouse and take out two guards before they entered the right airtight chamber. They found Michael lying there on his side, silent and staring at the wall, his face covered in blood and his eyes sightless.
“Mikey?” Sam shook Michael hard. “MIKE!”
“Come on!” Fiona shouted, her hair flying, gun blasting rapidly. Sam grabbed Michael up and carried him out like a baby amid the hail of gunfire.
He had no idea how long the trip to the nearest hospital took. He only knew that Michael was bad, had possibly never looked worse, and Sam nearly vibrated with the anxiety gnawing at his guts. How the hell could Michael survive this – would he survive it? The worry seemed to scratch at his soul.
Fiona tried to keep him calm – Michael had even survived head injuries in the past, why wouldn’t he survive this? Her words kept it together for him, kept his head in line and prevented him from doing something stupid.
Michael was in the IC. Someone had apparently beaten his skull in with a slapjack. A cold sense of reason suddenly pervaded Sam’s conscious. He was going to get revenge in Michael’s name – it was only a matter of when and why and how.
He tracked the bastard through four different states, before finally catching up with him in DC. Turned out he had dealings with an arms salesman who was connected to their client – and conveniently wanted the man dead. It was all a matter of tracing routes – Sam knew he’d get there if he kept going. So he crawled on his belly until they found the right place, got to him at exactly the right time.
An evil grin tilted his lips. Oh yes, he was going to get the man who had hurt Michael. Definitely.
Michael awoke ten days after Sam had tracked down the man who had tried to kill him (he’d paid the bastard back in blood, blood that had dripped all over his face, stained his good shirt – Mikey owed him a beer for that).
It would be a long recovery process. He had kept his mental capacity, but nerve centers had been damaged – he’d have to relearn how to walk, how to talk. And it was Sam who tasked himself with helping Michael every step of the way.
It was Fiona’s idea to assist Sam by dealing with the day-to-day stuff, while Sam helped Michael relearn how to walk, relearn how to button his shirts and kick a ball and say his name.
He was devoted. Every day, every week, he was there at the hospital, dealing with Michael’s rage and his frustration. They understood one another, as always, completely.
Sam was there when Michael finally started regaining his mobility. Naturally, he tried to run instead of crawling, and naturally he ended up back in bed for another few weeks. Sam helped him get from the walker to the bed, the bed to the door, and the door to the car. He would be in occupational therapy for weeks.
“You should’ve let me die, Sam,” Michael insisted.
Sam wouldn’t hear of it. He had been through too much, and so had Michael. He was alive for a reason and he would keep him alive no matter what.
Gradually, the anger disappeared. Michael went from using a cane (not often enough) to walking on his own gradually. Soon he could drive and shoot in the same way he always used to.
That left Sam – reluctantly to his surprise – on the outside. He watched his friend’s progress with a certain sense of distance. Michael was grateful but apparently didn’t feel for Sam what Sam felt for him, feelings Sam barely had the strength to acknowledge himself.
It’s the middle of August, impossibly hot, when Michael taps his shoulder. “Here,” he says, handing Sam a beer, “you’ve earned this.”
“What makes you say that?” Sam wondered.
“It’s been a year since my head injury,” Michael noted. “I know how patient you were with me. Even Fi and my mom weren’t that calm with me.”
“It’s a gift,” Sam said sarcastically.
“I know you’re the one who killed Espenoza for me.”
The words lay heavily between them for a few minutes. Then Sam said, “I did what I had to do, Mike.”
“I never thanked you for that, did I?”
Another heavily-charged silence. Sam wasn’t fully braced for the kiss when it happened, but the sensation burned right through him, sending him aflame, making the world feel infinitely sweet and filled with a sudden brightness he couldn’t name.
They broke apart and stared each other down. “I love you, Sam. For everything.”
Sam’s perpetually clear head reeled. “Damn, Mikey, this is kind of sudden.”
“Just say it, Sam.” Michael crossed his arms and gave Sam an almost childish, demanding look.
He grinned. He couldn’t help but grin, after the shit they’d swam through to survive it. He said the words without effort.
“Yeah, Mikey. I love you too.”