It wasn't like Mike had been injured that frequently. A broken bone and appendicitis were pretty much the highlights of his hospital career. Well, and the time Vicki shot him. But nobody discusses that. Nobody.
However, once you'd been in a hospital, you'd recognize it, even if you were barely conscious. Mike sensed the stiff sheets, sweaty back, blinding pain in his head and stomach, and antiseptic smell. Why was he in a hospital?
When he opened his eyes, he saw something so unusual, he almost hollered: Vicki being held by a man. Not held as in held back. Held as in...cuddled. Vicki, being cuddled unprotesting on the lap of a man. Wasn't that the fourth sign of the apocalypse? Right after erupting volcanoes or something?
The man looked up at him and smiled, his entire face lighting up, as if Mike opening his eyes was a pile of presents on Christmas morning. "Vicki," the man said quietly.
"Mmm," she murmured into his shoulder, sounding sleepy.
"Mike is awake."
"Don't tease me."
"What?" Vicki sat up and nearly fell off his lap. "Mike!"
"Vic." His voice sounded like he hadn't spoken in weeks.
"Jesus Christ in a fucking sidecar," she said, jumping up and leaning over him, "don't you ever scare us like that again, or so help me God I'm going to--"
"Vicki, if you must blaspheme, could you at least not mix your blasphemies?" The man looked pained, but amused.
Mike tried to speak again, but began to cough, which caused the pain in his stomach to spike. Vicki splashed some water into a paper cup and thrust it in his face. Mike held his breath to allow the pain to dull, as the man scolded Vicki for not giving him a straw.
Finally, he managed to get down a few sips of water. "What the hell is going on?"
"Oh, don't tell me you don't remember being a self-sacrificing idiot." Vicki glared at him over her glasses. Glasses? The man behind Vicki crossed his legs and leaned back with an air of enjoyment. "If you think you're getting out of this conversation about throwing yourself between me and Henry and every de--"
"Henry? Who the hell is Henry?" The other man froze so still he could have been a statue. "You're Henry?"
All air of amusement was gone. "Mike," the man said, then paused. "What is the last thing you remember?"
Vicki growled. "Just answer him."
"I don't remember why I'm in a hospital, if that's what you want to know."
"No. What do you remember?"
Mike closed his eyes. His head felt like it had been used as a strike plate and his memory was filled with fever dreams of weird women dripping blood reaching out to him, but he fought his way through to the last clear thing he could think of. "The Petrelli case!" he said with triumph. "The jury found him guilty and we went to celebrate. Did I manage to get stabbed or shot in the biggest cop bar in Toronto? Hell, I'll never live that down."
"What? Out with it."
"The Petrelli case was over five years ago. Maybe six." She shot a glance at the other guy. Henry. "Obviously, it was before I left the force."
"Left the...what are you talking about?"
"Hell. Mike, I'm losing my vision." She touched the glasses. "I got kicked out. And you don't remember it. Lucky you."
"Very funny, Vic. Is this really the time for practical jokes?" Mike put the elbow that hurt less down and pushed himself up on the nasty hospital pillows, noting with interest that both Vicki and this Henry guy jerked as if they wanted to come over and help him.
"This isn't a joke."
"You're telling me I've forgotten six years and it's not a joke? C'mon, didn't Al try that one on his partner last year when he got a concussion? Tried to tell him it was 2020 or something."
"She said it isn't a joke." The guy who'd been fondling Vicki stood. His smile was gone and he now looked cold.
"Who the hell are you?" Mike glared at him. "Bad enough she's claiming I lost six years, but I wake up and some stranger is hugging her."
Vicki leaned against the nearest wall and started to laugh, but it wasn't the laugh of playing a successful joke. It was the kind of laugh that made him want to find her a psychiatrist.
Shooting Vicki a concerned glance, the man turned back. "My name is Henry Fitzroy. I'm Vicki's partner. She's a private investigator now."
"Henry," Vicki said, getting her laughter under control, "do you think--"
"No, I do not."
They stared each other down as Mike looked between them, trying to figure out what was going on. No question, they knew each other well. So why didn't he know this Fitzroy person?
Or did he? Could Vicki really be telling the truth?
"What do you need to prove we're telling the truth?" Henry asked. "Today's newspaper? Pictures? Sworn affadavits?"
Mike looked at Vicki. Arms crossed, she now looked like she wanted to beat the crap out of someone, but couldn't figure out a target. At least that hadn't changed.
"Six years?" he finally croaked out.
She took off her glasses (glasses!) and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Six years."
"You're not a cop. And you and he...uh..."
"No! I mean, yes. I mean...Jesus, Mike, it's complicated." She looked at Henry for help, but he just raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
"Complicated? Try someone telling you you've lost six years of your life. That's complicated!"
"No, trust me, this is all way more complicated." She looked almost amused for an instant. "Oh hell. Henry, what are we going to do?"
"For the moment, nothing." Henry gave Mike an unreadable look. "It's early yet to assume that this amnesia is permanent."
"You've seen this before?"
"On the battlefield, it's not unknown. It does usually resolve itself."
"Usually?" Mike was tired of being left out.
"The human mind is still a place of great mystery, even with the wonders of modern science."
"Which means what?" Vicki asked.
"Which means the doctors are going to tell you 'Hell if I know.'" And that grin Mike had seen upon awakening flashed by for just a moment.
"You're awake!" a voice shrieked from the doorway.
"Apparently I am," Mike said, startled by the appearance of a young woman who looked like she was a lot more likely to be frequenting certain bars of his acquaintance than hospital rooms.
"Coreen," Vicki said, "Mike's lost his memory of the last six years. So let's not, um, confuse him."
"Confuse me with what?" Mike asked, looking at the three of them.
"You know...names, dates, details." Vicki smiled brightly at him.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" the young lady asked.
"Vicki, you can't keep him in the dark forever." Henry shook his head.
"You just said it might not be permanent." Vicki's voice was getting louder.
Henry raised his in response. "Yes, but--"
"Where would you like to start?"
"Maybe we could start with everyone not yelling?" Mike put a hand to his head. "Everything hurts enough already." All three froze, looking guilty. "Then we can move on to the bit where someone tells me why I'm in a goddamn hospital!"
There was a long pause as they looked at each other. It would have been funny under most other circumstances. "Well?" Mike asked.
"Vicki and I were working a case, a homicide," Henry said finally. "In the course of that case, we were attacked. You intervened to protect us and ended up injured."
"You were working a homicide?" he asked Vicki. "I thought you were off the force."
"I am. Private investigator, remember? I chase bad guys too."
Mike rubbed the bridge of his nose. "You realize that makes absolutely no sense, right? What was I doing--"
"Let it go," Vicki said in a voice of steel.
"Let it go? Are you insane?"
"I can't do this right now." Vicki whirled and stomped out of the room. Henry shot him an...apologetic? look and went after her. Which left Mike alone with the goth girl, who turned worried eyes on him.
"I'm sorry you had to see that," he said, allowing the exhaustion to show in his voice. "And I'm sorry, but I've forgotten your name. I mean, since Vicki just said it."
"Oh! I'm Coreen. Vicki's assistant."
Eager to please, Mike judged. Too easy. But how to do it? "I'm sure Vicki needs a lot of help." He gave her his most engaging grin and she melted a bit, smiling back.
"Yeah, she does. But it's exciting."
"I'm sure it is." He let his face get more serious. "This is, well, it's really a lot to take in at once. Vicki losing her sight, leaving the force..."
"A lot's happened." She was leaning forward slightly, eager to help.
"And this last thing. Vicki, Henry, and I..." He paused. With nothing more to go on, he had to stop there.
Coreen nodded furiously. "I know! When I found out, it really, well, it didn't shock me, but..."
"Mm-hmm." C'mon, c'mon, honey, take the bait. "I'm a little shocked, I think."
"I think it's sweet, though, that you're all involved."
Involved in what? Drugs and gangs weren't exactly... "Sweet?"
"I mean, I don't know any details," she said quickly, "but I couldn't help notice when you all came into the office together and kept looking and touching and stuff."
He tried not to react but couldn't help it. Eyes nearly popping out of his head, he stared at her. Was she saying...did she mean that...?
"Oh my god." Coreen's hands popped up to cover her mouth. "You didn't know."
"No," he managed. "No, I didn't."
"Oh my god, Vicki's going to kill me. I'm dead." She jumped up.
"Wait, please!" He held out a hand. "I'm sorry I tricked you, but I need to know what's going on."
Eyes still darting toward the door, Coreen slowly sat back down. "It's not fair, but I understand why they don't want to throw everything at you at once. It really is very complicated."
"More complicated than the fact I'm apparently in a three way with Vicki and some guy I don't remember?"
"Well, uh..." Coreen stood again, edging backward. "I think I should go. I need to go...file things. In the files. I'm really glad you're okay. Gotta go bye!" And she was out the door so fast she seemed to leave a shadow behind her.
Mike blinked the shadow away, but before he had time to figure out his next move, Henry appeared in the doorway, shortly followed by Vicki. Vicki stared after Coreen in annoyance and Henry stepped in. "We should have realized she would, ah, let the cat out of the bag, as it were. It could have been worse."
Mike would have given anything to be able to stand up and face the bastard, loom over him, but he knew if he tried to stand, he'd end up looking like an idiot. "I'm waiting."
"Coreen told you the truth," Henry said as Vicki covered her eyes. "Difficult as it is to believe."
"Vic?" He swallowed when she didn't respond, just dropped her hands and looked at him. "But I don't...I'm not...I don't understand any of this!"
Henry pursed his lips. "Indeed. Perhaps I should go."
"Perhaps you should," Mike said.
"Henry, wait." Vicki touched his arm. "Please."
Henry glanced at Mike. "Look at him."
She looked and Mike realized he was glaring at her hand on the other man's arm, and he looked away.
"I'll go for now. It's getting early anyway. I need something to eat before I sleep."
"Henry." Vicki's voice cracked.
"It's going to be okay." He leaned toward her, as if to kiss her, then stepped away. "I'll speak to you tomorrow."
She watched him go out the door, but didn't turn around.
She shook her head.
"What the hell is going on?"
"Sometimes honesty isn't the best policy. This is one of those times." She turned and Mike clenched his fists at the tears in her eyes. "Get some rest. I need to talk to the doctors about when you can come home."
He closed his eyes and sank into dreams of teeth and writhing and screams that grew closer without ever reaching him.
It's a well-known fact that time spent in hospitals takes five times as long to pass as any other time (except possibly the time between a child receiving birthday presents and getting permission to open them). And so, for Mike, the next four days were practically endless. He watched miserable television, slept terribly, occasionally recovered completely useless memories of eating Chinese food, picked at hospital food until Vicki and Coreen took pity on him, had more horrible dreams, and bickered with Vicki.
"Daytime television is the worst thing ever invented," he said, pushing the button on the remote in hopes of something less than horrible to have on for company when Vicki left.
"I can think of a few worse things."
"Well, you're not stuck in this bed," he said. "The Marilyn Denis show is still on? Really? How many hours can it possibly last?"
Vicki said something and Mike paused, attention momentarily caught by the segment on air. Two men in tuxedos, laughing as they exchanged rings, and Mike found himself mentally cheering them on. Which...he wasn't a bigot. No way. But when exactly did he become so comfortable with this?
"Are you even listening to me?" Vicki asked.
"Hmm? No, I wasn't." He grinned sideways at her as she smacked his arm.
His two most recent partners, Kate and Dave, both visited and were admitted into the secret of his lost memory.
"You can trust them with this," Vicki said over a not-doctor-approved lunch. "They won't rat you out to the higher-ups."
"Can they be trusted with other things?"
She shot him a look over her pastrami on rye. "What do you mean?"
"Well," Mike hesitated, then put down his roast beef. "Before I told her about my memory, Kate asked me where my cute thing on the side was."
Vicki coughed, then grabbed her coffee. When she'd cleared her throat, she managed, "She didn't mean me, I assume."
"Not so much."
Dabbing at coffee on her chin, she shook her head. "I didn't tell her anything, but I don't know what you might have said to her on a late-night stakeout. You might have told her, or she might have just been teasing."
"Great. Just great." He couldn't take it anymore. "Where is he?"
She pursed her lips. "He kind of thought you didn't want to see him."
"I...Jesus, I don't even know the guy. I mean, I suppose I do, but, you know what I mean."
"Look, apparently I'm in a relationship with him, so I'm going to have to see him someday."
"Are you in a relationship with him?"
She scrubbed her face. "I'm sorry, that's not fair. This whole situation isn't fair. You're getting dumped on because of past history you don't even remember."
Mike paused, looking at the bags under her eyes and the tension in her jaw. "What happened?"
"Why does everyone keep saying that?"
She snorted out a laugh. "Sorry, it's just that...never mind. People keep saying it's complicated because it is! Look, you and Henry didn't exactly start off on the right foot last time either." She paused, her smile fading. "You nearly got him killed."
Mike waited, barely breathing.
"Long story. But you handed him over to a serial killer."
"What?" Now Mike couldn't breathe, even if he wanted to.
"You didn't know. It's--"
"I know, I know, it's complicated."
"Exactly. And you helped to save him again, in more ways than one." Leaning forward, she looked him in the eyes. "It took time for you to trust each other, let alone anything else. Give him a chance, okay?"
He took a deep breath, then coughed, distracted by a glimpse of someone passing his room with a weirdly distorted head. Vicki struggled not to laugh at him as she handed him a glass of water. "Fine, laugh at the sick man," he said. "Dave told me everybody seems to think I'm some kind of civilian-saving hero, killing this guy who was about to go on a killing spree. But I'm guessing that what the official report says and what you saw don't match all that well."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because if that were true, you would have told me from the beginning. I hate being called a hero, but you wouldn't have any problem either teasing me about it or telling me that I'd actually, I don't know, tripped over a curb and accidentally taken down the bad guy."
"I like that explanation. Can we go with that one?" She tried a smile.
She sat and looked at him for a long moment. "Look, I can't answer all of your questions, even if I thought it was a good idea. I don't know what you were doing there that night. You weren't supposed to be. You were at work. And then you came running down that alley."
"And he nearly killed you." Her voice shook. "Nearly ripped your guts out right in front of us. But you never had the chance to tell us why you were there."
"Oh." That was rather anticlimactic now that he thought about it. Not the nearly dying part, of course. But it was a lot less traumatic not remembering getting your guts ripped out. He didn't think Vicki would like having that pointed out to her, though.