Jess awoke to find herself in pain the likes of which she'd never experienced. She whimpered as memory kicked in and the previous day's events came rushing back to her. Before she could take it all in, a firm hand with gun callused fingers was wrapped around her own, offering reassurance.
"It's okay, Jess. It's okay. You're not alone," Becker soothed, his voice rough from exhaustion.
"Hurts," she wept.
"Hold on. Let me get a doctor."
His hand left hers and she heard his solid footfalls, the opening and closing of the door, followed shortly by the door reopening to Becker's footsteps accompanied by someone else. Becker's hand slipped into her own again, rubbing slow calming circles across her palm.
"Miss Parker? I'm Doctor Ntembe, the physician on duty. Captain Becker tells me you're in pain. Could you please tell me what's hurting?"
"My shoulder, my head, my chest," she replied as the muscles in her torso contracted painfully after another sob escaped.
"We need to run a few quick tests before I can give you something for the pain. Do you think you can wait?"
Jess nodded and was suddenly very regretful of the motion as everything around her tilted dizzily. She clutched tightly at Becker's hand with a whimper.
"Ssshhh," he whispered, "you've a concussion, Jess. Try not to move your head too quickly."
"Speaks the voice of experience?" Doctor Ntembe quipped.
"More often than is probably good for me," Becker confirmed. "Bit of an occupational hazard in my line of work."
"The captain is right, Miss Parker, just try to relax and keep still. Now, I need to send you for an MRI and a CT scan. Do you think you can tough it out for an hour? Pain medications can mask symptoms on a concussion like yours."
Jess closed her eyes against the constant throbbing inside her head and shoulder and the swollen pain of her cheek. As much as she desperately wanted to stop hurting, she knew that she could probably wait. Becker's thumb slid back and forth across her palm, a reminder that she wasn't alone. So long as she had company, she could manage.
"I'll wait, doctor," she replied with shallow measured breaths as she tried to keep the ache in her ribs at bay.
Becker squeezed her hand gently with both of his as the doctor left them alone again. Slowly she turned her head to look at him.
"How long was I out?" she asked him quietly.
"Just a couple of hours," Becker said, standing to put himself more comfortably within her field of vision.
"How bad?" Jess asked shortly.
"Concussion, dislocated shoulder, broken leg, 2 broken ribs. Other than that some serious bruising and minor cuts and scrapes."
"Abby and Connor-"
"Are both fine," he finished for her. "They stayed on site with the tactical team, rounded up the rest of the creatures, and closed the anomaly."
"And you," she whispered.
"Completely falling apart," he responded with quiet honesty looking down at her hand in his. "Seeing you go through this, not being there to protect you? I don't ever want to go through that again."
"But you were there," Jess replied. "Talking to you kept me calm. And if you hadn't taught me to shoot properly one of those things would have dragged me out of the car."
Becker shook his head sharply.
"That's not enough-"
"Well you can't exactly lock me in a closet, now can you? Besides," she hissed in frustration and pain, "last time I checked you walked out on me. I believe that means I'm not your problem anymore, excepting where work is concerned."
He winced at her all too accurate memory. Even concussed and in pain Jess could still argue circles around him.
"Look, Jess, I'm an idiot, yeah? It was completely mental of me to have flown off the handle about your age. This," he waved his hand around to encompass their present situation, "has put so much in perspective for me. I can't say that I won't make other idiotic mistakes along the way, but please, I'm asking for a second chance. I don't know what I would do without you."
She looked at him for a long moment before closing her eyes and relaxing back into the pillow once more. He was about to let her go when her hand tightened around his. Eyes still closed, she took a deep breath before replying.
"I've had a lot of patience up till now while you sort things out for yourself. But if you want a second chance, you're going to have to start talking to me. No more hiding; from now on either we go through this together or we go our separate ways."
He nodded mutely not realizing that his hands were shaking until Jess stroked her thumb across his knuckles making him go still once more.
"And once again, you've proven to be far more than I deserve," Becker whispered.
"I've been wondering about you two for weeks," Lester said idly from behind the chair at Jess' bedside where Becker had been dozing. "I suppose I've got my answer now, don't I?"
Becker blinked owlishly a couple times before his mind finally engaged and he scrambled up out of his seat to stand before his boss at parade rest. He glanced surreptitiously toward the bed to see that Jess was still sleeping soundly thanks to the painkillers she'd finally been given after yet another round of tests. She'd been white as a sheet by the time they'd brought her back to her room and she broken down in tears while waiting for the medications to do its job. He'd wanted nothing more than to gather her into his arms, to hold her, protect her, and take the pain away. It'd been a very long fifteen minutes as he'd held her hand and murmured soothing nonsense to until she finally drifted off to sleep.
"As you were, Captain," Lester waved him off wearily. "I've received a full report from the doctor. He says Miss Parker should be released in just a few days as soon as they're certain she's sustained no long term effects from that knock to the head."
Becker stood silently still at parade rest as he waited for Lester to continue. Lester watched him for a few moments before glancing back down at Jess once again. Even asleep, she looked awful between the bruises on her face, plaster cast on her right leg, and a compression sling wrapped around her body holding her dislocated left shoulder in place. But when he looked up at Becker once again, he caught a fleeting expression of worship on the younger man's face.
"We're not at work right now Mister Becker, so I'm going to consider this to be just an ordinary conversation, not an order. I don't care what goes on between you two, so long as it doesn't affect either of your performance. Have I made myself clear?"
"Understood, sir," Becker responded quickly.
"One last thing; should Miss Parker ever find herself out in the field again, I fully expect you to take personal responsibility for her well-being."
"I wouldn't have it any other way," Becker returned never once taking his eyes off Jess.
Lester shook his head in exasperation as he remembered all of the times when Connor and Abby had been each other's salvation. At least if this job was going to throw people together, it seemed to make them stronger, not weaker, for it.
"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." Mary Anne Radmacher