Her eyes feel very heavy and though she tries her hardest to open them, they steadfastly refuse to budge very far. She hears the same voice again, saying her name and she recognises it, tries to answer but she knows it only comes out as a groan. There is a pressure on her hand, fingers squeezing hers and then there is blackness once more.
When she does finally manage to open her eyes, the room is dark, illuminated by a single light in the corner of the room. Her gaze is drawn to it, the proverbial light in the darkness, and it takes that same pressure on her hand to draw her attention back to the person who's sitting beside her bed, the same person whose voice she had heard earlier.
"Vega." Cho says her name again, with more emotion than she's ever heard in his voice. "Hey."
"Hey." Her voice cracks on the word and she runs her tongue over her lips to moisten them. There's no moisture to be had though and he sees that, drops her hand to grab a cup of ice cubes from the bedside table. He runs one over her lips and she's grateful for it, less so when he puts it back and stands up.
"I'll get a doctor-"
He stops when her hand closes over his wrist. "What happened?" She remembers the diner but not much else.
He sighs as he sits back down, his hand taking hers again. "You got shot," he tells her and before she can ask her next question, he continues, "and you did nothing wrong. Just bad luck." He swallows, sets his jaw. "You're gonna be fine."
Michelle tries to smile but she knows from the look in his eyes, from the lines on his face that weren't there the last time she saw him, that it's more serious than he's telling her. "Promise?"
Cho's hand squeezes hers so tightly that it's actually painful. "Absolutely."
She eventually lets Cho call for a doctor and a team of medics suddenly appear in her room, lending more credence to her theory that whatever injuries she has, they are serious. Cho leaves the room while they examine her and she wants to protest but when she discovers what the examination entails, she's glad he's not there. When the medics leave and he comes back he sits back down at her bed and takes her hand again.
"I called the team," he says. "They all wanted to come down; I convinced them to leave it until tomorrow."
Michelle nods, her eyes starting to feel heavy again. Still, she refuses to give into sleep until she knows one thing. "How bad was it?"
Cho pauses and that tells Michelle plenty - Cho's a straight shooter, blunt and to the point, so if he's pausing it's not because he's not going to tell her. It's because whatever he has to tell her, he's not sure how she's going to take it. "It was bad," he finally says simply. "Too close."
Michelle presses her lips together to stop them from wobbling. "You don't have to stay," she whispers because after all if she's going to cry, she'd rather not do it in front of her soon to be boss.
He surprises her when one of his hands leaves hers, goes up and strokes her hair, pushing it back from her face. Which is unexpected, possibly inappropriate though she doesn't actually care, and it really doesn't help her fight back her tears, which she does care about. "I'm not going anywhere," he says and when a tear slides down her face, then another, he simply strokes her hair and holds her hand and lets her cry.
When she wakes up the next morning, there is a new voice in the room. Lisbon is there, standing beside the bed, staring down at Cho who is still sitting in the chair he'd been sitting in the previous night. "You need to go home," Lisbon is saying. "Eat. Shower. Sleep."
"I will." There's nothing argumentative in his tones, no outward emotion apart from stubbornness. "Later."
"Kimball..." Lisbon's voice is as gentle as Michelle's ever heard it and there's a tender smile on the woman's face as she looks down at him. Then she glances at Michelle and she blinks, visibly startled when she sees she's awake. Noticing her reaction, Cho turns his gaze to Michelle too, a small smile crossing his lips when he sees her eyes open. Lisbon grins, relief evident in her voice as she says, "Hey, Vega... it's good to see you."
Michelle licks her lips to moisten them. "Thanks." It's little more than a whisper and once again, Cho is on hand, this time with a glass of water.
"Small sips," he cautions, holding the glass to her lips and when he places it back on the table, he closes both his hands back over one of hers. His hands are cold from holding the glass and a shiver runs up and down Michelle's spine.
Lisbon's eyes dart between them before landing on their joined hands and Michelle sees her lips twitch before she schools them into a straight line. "You should go home," she says to Cho. "I'll stay here."
Cho's jaw is set firm and Michelle knows that look. "I'm good."
Michelle looks at him then, sees the dark shadows under his eyes, the deep furrows of his forehead, the five o'clock shadow that's gone way past that. "No, you're not," she hears herself say and he looks at her sharply, narrows his eyes. She's seen that look before though, and it doesn't faze her anymore. "Sir," she adds, more for effect than anything else and his and Lisbon's lips twitch.
"You don't want to upset her, do you?" Lisbon might be joking but it's hard to tell. "Seriously, go... Or I'll have to take you home and leave Jane here."
Anyone else would have registered alarm with that; Cho only blinks. "Bringing out the big guns," he says. "No fair."
Lisbon shrugs theatrically. "I do what I have to," she says. "You'll be the boss soon, you'll learn."
Cho shakes his head, fingers tightening on Michelle's. "You'll be ok?"
She nods. "I'll be fine." He nods once and stands, grabbing his jacket from the back of the chair and heading out. He only looks back once and Lisbon makes a shooing motion with her hands. When the door closes behind him, Michelle looks at her. "You don't have to stay."
Lisbon chuckles as she folds herself into the chair Cho has just vacated. "What, and have him find me gone when he gets back? I don't particularly want to have to face the wrath of Kimball Cho." Having been on the receiving end, Michelle doesn't blame her. "I don't see him like this often," she says quietly. "He's very loyal... hates the idea of one of his team getting hurt... And I think he blames himself."
"I know that. Deep down, so does he. But when you're the lead agent..." Lisbon shrugs again, gives a what-can-you-do expression. "That's what happens." She lifts an eyebrow. "It also helps if you have team members that don't let you wallow."
Her message is clear and Michelle feels a smile coming to her face. "Yes, ma'am."
By the time Cho comes back to the hospital, Lisbon has been relieved by Wylie who has been relieved by Abbott who has been relieved by Jane. So it's Michelle who's relieved when she sees Cho entering the room, while Cho just looks suspicious. "Where's Lisbon?"
"She got called away," Jane says easily, standing up and pushing the chair towards Cho. "I'll leave you two to it." There's a strange look on his face - stranger than usual, Michelle mentally amends - as he leaves but Cho makes no comment, just sits down on the chair and pulls it up beside her bed.
"How are you?" It's more of a demand than a question, like he's interrogating her and Michelle actually finds it refreshing because everyone else has treated her with kid gloves.
"Fine." He stares at her. "Aching a little," she admits and he frowns, makes to move.
"I can get-"
She shakes her head, lifts a hand to stop him. "I can handle it," she tells him and when he opens his mouth she doesn't let him speak. "Don't tell me I don't have to... I'd rather have a clear head for as long as I can."
He sits back down on the chair. "I can respect that."
She narrows her eyes to study him, notes his clean shaven jaw, his slightly less haggard expression. "You look better," she says and he shrugs.
"Says the woman who was bleeding in my arms yesterday." Even for him, it's blunt and she sees the knowledge of what he's said flare in his eyes, sees him swallow hard and look down. It's affected him, she realises, badly and she gets the feeling that he's surprised by just how badly.
Remembering Lisbon's words, she reaches out, closes her hand over his. "I'm ok," she tells him and he smiles a smile that almost reaches his eyes.
A few weeks later, there is a knock at Michelle's front door and she's ready to answer it, having known he'd be on time - Cho's not a man who is late for anything. She grabs her clutch bag and shawl from the couch and goes to the door, grinning as she opens it. Since she's come home from hospital, Cho has been a daily visitor; this is the first time he's picking her up to go somewhere. Her grin widens as she looks him up and down, not that he looks much different. After all, a suit and tie is a suit and tie, even if this is definitely a nice, more expensive looking one than the one he usually wears.
"Nice suit," she says. "You look very handsome." She winces inwardly as she remembers that, sick leave aside, he's still her boss and that's probably inappropriate to say. Then she remembers he's picking her up to take her to a co-worker's wedding, that he's been by her side every day since she was shot and he's held her hand at least once on most of them.
She's not sure what they are at the moment but she thinks they passed inappropriate a little ways down the road.
"You look short," he tells her and she blinks, taken aback. "And lovely," he adds, a definite afterthought.
"No heels today," she explains, glancing down at her sparkly ballet flats. "I figure if I'm going to be on my feet, these give me a better chance of staying there."
She closes the door behind her, turns and catches him staring at her. "If you fall, I'll catch you," he says and she has to look down, is reminded of another conversation, what seems like another life where he'd said almost the complete opposite. She has to swallow hard before she can look up and when she does, there's the slightest line between his eyebrows. He covers it quickly, offers her his elbow and she links her arm through his, listening as they walk and he tells her all about their case and their cunning plan to catch this week's bad guy.
The wedding, after some not uneventful precursors, goes off without a hitch. She catches up with the rest of the team, meets Wayne and Grace who she's heard so much about. She eats as much as she is able to, she even manages to dance for a song or two before it becomes too much.
She's about to head off the dance floor and sit down when she feels a familiar hand close over hers. "C'mon," Cho says as he pulls her closer to him, slides his free arm around her waist. The band have changed moods suddenly, from fast and rocking to slow and romantic and Michelle is so surprised by the whole scenario that her free hand lands, seemingly of its own accord, between his shoulder blades. He's looking down at her and they are barely moving to the music and she knows her cheeks are flushing red.
"You're ok?" Cho asks her. "Because we can sit..."
"I'm fine," she says, "just a little light-headed." He tilts his head and she can almost see him going through the guest list for a doctor and she hears herself saying, "It's not medical."
She wants to kick herself for saying it but his step falters and his foot lands on hers and it does the same job. "Oh."
"Which is ridiculous, I know." She's starting to babble but she can't stop herself. "But we're here and we're surrounded by people we work with and we're dancing to a slow song and I know it's not inappropriate but it might look that way..."
"Michelle." He says her name like an order and she stops talking. "This is not inappropriate." She nods but he's not finished. "This is."
Then he leans forward and brushes his lips across hers.
It's a gentle kiss, soft and sweet and over far too soon for Michelle's liking. When he pulls away, she's definitely feeling lightheaded and her heart is hammering in her chest.
But she's smiling and so is he.
He pulls her closer and she rests her head against his shoulder, sways with him until the music speeds up again. Even then, he doesn't let go of her hand.