She sighed and pulled the comm out of her ear. It’d been a stressful case. Hell, it’d been a stressful couple of months; to the point that she’d started therapy. To the point that she’d considered quitting—but the real Jason had reappeared during this case…and it had taken her breath away. Had reminded her of one of the reasons she’d come to TAC to work in the first place. Reminded her how the codependency they’d developed over the years had once been healthy. Reminded her of feelings she’d been shoving aside.
So, yes, to say that things had been stressful was an understatement. But now that the case was over and the real killer behind bars, she could relax. Maybe the whole team could relax, close their current cases without adding any more to their plate. Marissa smiled to herself at the thought, that would certainly be nice—and she was fairly confident that she could convince Jason to do it, take a lighter workload.
And maybe, maybe in some of that downtime the two of them could talk. Really talk. About everything that had happened recently…and almost happened, in terms of her quitting. Yes, a small break was what they all needed. Marissa turned and began to shut off all the equipment, it was close enough to the end of the day that they wouldn’t need it. She was halfway done when her phone rang. She smirked, sure that it was Jason calling to brag about his genius and the victory.
“Not even 5 minutes—“she started to tease, having answered the phone without checking to see who was calling.
“They’re taking him away.” Came a hoarse interruption.
Startled, Marissa checked to see who she was talking to, Benny. “What?”
“The ambulance,” he replied, and she could hear him jogging and then hailing a cab.
“Benny, what’re you—"
“Bull. An ambulance just picked him up.” Benny stated, and then to the cab driver, “Bellevue hospital.”
Marissa stumbled and caught herself on a table. “What happened?” The strangled question somehow made its way past her constricted throat.
“I don’t know. Might’ve been a heart attack, the medics wouldn’t tell me anything… Can’t you drive any faster?!” He demanded, attention back on the cab driver.
She swallowed hard, repeating quietly “a heart attack.” Her free hand came up to rest on her forehead.
“It’s my fault.” Benny informed her grimly. “I knew something was wrong, off. He was pale and sweaty. But I let him, I let him go ahead without me.” And she could picture him throwing his free hand up in defeat in the back of the cab.
Marissa realized she was still slumped against the table and quickly stood and rushed to her office to grab her things. “Benjamin Colón, you listen to me,” she cut in, voice thick with emotions. “This is NOT your fault.” She concluded vehemently, snatching her purse and locking her office. Benny huffed in return. “Don’t you do that.” She scolded, striding to the elevators. “How could you have possibly known?! Him being pale and sweaty could have indicated any number of things. This. Is. Not. Your. Fault. Say it back.”
“Say it.” She repeated firmly, stepping into the elevator and punching the button for the lobby.
“This is not my fault,” he mumbled.
Unsatisfied, Marissa pressed on, “again. Louder this time.” She instructed, stepping out of the elevator and thanking every deity that there were no extra stops to the lobby. Rushing outside, Marissa flung her arm into the air for a cab.
“I’m not—” Benny began to argue.
“Benny,” she interrupted him, her tone a warning. Just then a cab pulled up, she exhaled in relief and immediately instructed the drive to the hospital she’d heard Benny mention.
“This isn’t my fault,” he conceded, stating the sentiment clearly.
“Good. Now, I’m on my way, text me where to go when you get there?”
“Of course, talk to you soon.” And with that Benny hung up.
Marissa dropped her hands into her lap and clutched her phone tightly—trying to hide the fact that they were trembling. She’d been fine when she had been able to focus on Benny, making sure he knew this wasn’t on him. But now that there was no distraction her mind was whirling into overdrive and conjuring the most horrible scenarios. She could lose him. God, she couldn’t, she couldn’t lose him. A tear streaked down her cheek at the thought. She fiercely wiped it away—it wasn’t time for that. He would be fine. He had to be.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a ping to her phone, Benny’s instructions. Just in time, she could see the hospital at the end of the street. She dashed out of the cab the moment it halted in front of the hospital, throwing money through the divider. Following the directions, Marissa made it to the cardiac unit in good time.
As she neared the nurse’s station to ask for an update or room number Benny called her name. He hastened down the hall and Marissa gripped the counter, bracing herself.
“He’s okay.” A relieved smile broke across his face.
Marissa nodded, the lump in her throat too large to vocally acknowledge his statement. And suddenly she was crying. The tears she’d forced back in the cab spilling over now that she knew Jason was safe. Her hand came up to cover her mouth, a poor attempt at collecting herself.
Alarmed, Benny rushed forward and gently guided her to a couch in the waiting area. He carefully wrapped an arm around her shoulders and allowed her to, quite literally, cry on his shoulder. After several minutes, Marissa composed herself enough to lift her head and scan the area.
“The rest of the team?” She questioned, surprised that no one else had joined them.
Scratching the back of his neck, “I didn’t, I didn’t call them.” Benny admitted, “I saw them taking him away and thought only of calling you and telling you. Making sure that you knew and were here for him.” Benny scrunched his brow, as if to try and determine why he’d felt that way, but shrugged and stated, “I’ll contact them now. Tell them everything’s okay.” Nodding, Benny stood and wandered off to a cell phone approved area of the waiting room.
Inhaling deeply, Marissa stood as well and made her way to the bathroom to freshen up before making her way to Jason’s room.
The nurses had warned her that it could be hours before he woke up, but Marissa refused to budge, her hand firmly holding his where it rested on the bed. She wasn’t entirely sure how much time had passed, how many times Benny had restlessly stood up from his spot on the other side of the bed and paced out of the room only to return 15-20 minutes later. She just knew it felt like an eternity waiting for Jason to wake up.
It was during one of Benny’s ‘excursions’ that Bull shifted, his hand flexing around her own. Marissa shot up straight in her chair, “Jason,” she murmured, running her thumb over the back of his hand.
“Marissa?” He croaked, slightly disoriented.
A watery exhale escaped her, “Oh, Jason, I’m here.” And fresh tears welled over her eyelids.
“I—, I need help.” He admitted, voice cracking when he met her eyes and he clutched her hand tightly. “Will you?”
She nodded quickly and gave him a tremulous smile before pressing a quick kiss to his forehead. “Always.” She reassured him. “Let me go get the doctor first to check on you and then we’ll figure this out together.” Her free hand came up to caress his cheek briefly as she turned to leave the room.
Thankfully, Benny had told the rest of the team to wait, that he or Marissa would let them know once Bull was awake and ready for visitors. Benny had gone to the cafeteria to wait for the rest of the team, muttering about hospital smells and his abuela as he left. This gave them time to research facilities, Marissa examining various options and reading the results out loud to Bull for his opinion.
To her dismay, he was adamant about a facility located in Arizona. Even though there were perfectly good programs available in New York, she thought huffily. No matter, she would find a flight and see him on support system visitation day.
They were finalizing details, when Bull suddenly stated, “I don’t want to have contact with anyone while I’m there.”
Marissa nodded, only half listening, “I’ll tell the team that you need some time and space.” She flashed a smile at him and then resumed typing into her tablet. “I certainly want you to call me when you land in Arizona though. And then you can just text or call me whenever you get the chance that first week to let me know how you’re settling in—”
“Marissa,” he quietly cut in, placing a hand on her forearm. She halted her typing, tilted her head at him and hummed. “I mean,” and he paused, swallowing hard. Because he certainly didn’t want this, but he had to figure his own shit out. He had to stand on his own, no matter how much it hurt, and he had to get better.
And while the healing process would likely go faster with his team, with Marissa, he knew that if he talked to her, if she visited when he was at his most raw and vulnerable that he’d confess certain feelings to her. And that certainly wouldn’t be the time to be making such admissions. So no, being in constant communication with her during that time wasn’t an option. “I mean no contact with anyone…including, including you.”
She blinked at him and when his words registered the hurt that flickered across her features before she turned to hide her reaction had him almost taking the words back. A quiet, “oh,” her only verbal response.
And he couldn’t help but notice that she quickly clicked out of several tabs on her tablet before shutting it off. “Marissa,” he murmured, hating that he’d hurt her, but unable to explain further without exposing the feelings he’d been burying for some time.
“It’s just, it’ll be weeks, Jason.” She finally added, voice small, before returning her gaze to him and the pain was still present in her eyes.
“And after a few days you’ll be wondering how you ever put up with me to begin with and be glad I’m gone.” He attempted to lighten the mood. Marissa scoffed and looked around the room, pointedly avoiding him.
The tense silence was broken suddenly as the rest of the team came rushing through the door—oblivious to the atmosphere between their two bosses. Concern and admonishment’s pouring out of them in equal measure as they approached the bed.
Marissa couldn’t help but smile at the team as she stood and backed up into the corner to allow the others to be closer to Jason. Might as well start this distance thing sooner rather than later, she thought bitterly, twisting her pinky ring.
It’d taken him longer to be released from the hospital than he would’ve liked, that coupled with two weeks of recovery at home before he could go to Arizona had Bull anxious to leave. He took a cab to the airport. Each team member had offered to take him, or at least accompany him if they lacked a vehicle, each had accepted his refusal easily enough.
Except Marissa. She’d offered more than once to go with him—often trying to slip the offer in when she’d come to his apartment to make sure he was taking care of himself. But he’d refused, needing to get away before this new vulnerable state he found himself in blurted out something that couldn’t be taken back. And he knew airports were locations where such grand declarations occurred, so he really couldn’t allow Marissa to accompany him.
He’d only just entered the airport and was searching for the correct airline when a sharp voice sounded behind him.
His head whipped around to see Marissa, unable to help the smile that came to his lips despite the faint strain that’d been present in their relationship since that day in the hospital, despite her fierce expression. And despite these things he couldn’t help but admire how beautiful she was in her light sweater, jeans and flats. God, he lov—
“Did you really think you could leave without saying goodbye first?!” The question interrupted his thoughts, her voice cracking slightly. And he knew he’d hurt her even further by trying to sneak off.
“Mariss, I was—”
“Being selfish.” She cut in, eyes flashing in anger as she closed the distance between them. He was surprised when she wrapped her arms around his waist, pulling him into a tight hug; he’d been anticipating a slap.
Quickly returning the hug, he chuckled. “Yeah, I was. Thought it would be easier this way,” he admitted.
“Yeah, for me.” He repeated quietly, resting his chin on her head. Unable to ignore how perfectly they fit together.
“Well, I’m being selfish too then. Because I couldn’t let you leave the way you wanted.” She murmured, still tucked in his embrace. “I know things have been a little difficult between us, and I’m sorry.” Catching how his eyebrows flew up, Marissa elaborated. “I am so happy that you are getting the help you need, I was—am—just dreading not being able to talk to you. And I was being unfair about it. So, I’m sorry.” She pulled back slowly then, “but you’ll call me when you’re coming back, right?”
And the doubt in her voice, that he wouldn’t want to contact her as soon as he was done with the program, had him rushing to reassure her. “Of course. I will absolutely call you.” Bull smiled and smoothed her hair back and cupped her cheek briefly. “I do have to go now though,” he indicated towards the gate.
Marissa nodded, lips pressed together tightly least anything slip out that could ruin their friendship. “I’ll miss you,” she managed, cocking her head at him and giving him a one-sided smile.
He pulled her back into another hug, trying to convey how much he’d miss her as well. “Bye Mariss,” he kissed the top of her head and broke the hug. “Time will fly by, I’ll be back before you know it.”
She smiled and took a step back, clasping her hands to keep from hugging him again. “Bye Jay.” He nodded and hurried away before his resolve to not confess anything broke. He quickly checked his luggage and made his way to the first class expedited security check. He couldn’t help but turn back one more time, unable to resist getting a final glimpse of her. She waved and then turned and slipped away. An odd feeling that she was slipping away in more ways than one overcame him—Bull shook off the feeling and proceeded through security.