No One Noticed - lovelielove
A noxious, bitter wind blew in from the Black Atlantic forcing citizens indoors to escape the toxic rain that followed. Storm surges at the eastern edge of the city sent them scrambling inland in an impromptu evacuation. The wind, the rain, and the floods burned lungs, blistered skin, poisoned minds. Petty street crime tapered off to a trickle while domestic and property violations spiked. Fights turned to murder. Murder turned to riots. Block disputes on the edge fell into block wars. The Judges of the Hall of Justice knew that when the weather turned violent, so did the cits. Something about the lack of sunlight seemed to draw out their worst.
Reports of serious crime quadrupled so more Judges were dispatched and assigned patrols lasted longer. The Hall itself was like the proverbial beehive that had been poked by the proverbial stick. Swarms of street Judges and riot squads flew in and out of the building. It was all hands on deck for the med and tek divisions, and even desk Judges were worked haggard. Every sleep machine available stayed on in constant rotation. The storm lasted fourteen days and nights. By the end of the first week, every Judge from every sector, tek to street to desk, was exhausted.
Near the end of the second week of rain, one massive shift of street judges came limping in from the rain while another geared up and rolled out. The Hall buzzed with manic activity.
Despite the commotion, no one noticed when Judge Anderson of Psi Division stumbled into the Hall, a much larger Judge's left arm slung over her shoulders, his leaning weight nearly staggering her. One hand held onto his arm while the other arm wrapped tightly around his back and torso. He was still mobile, but just barely.
A slight twist as they turned toward a bank of elevators at the center of the ground level had Dredd hissing sharply and seeing white spots dance across the back of his visor. Knowing how rarely he showed any sign of pain, Anderson took that to mean that he was probably about to die and nearly lifted him clean off the floor to get him to medical faster.
"No medical," he groaned through clenched teeth.
"Don't be stupid," she spat. "You're bleeding all over me and we're nearly there anyway." The sluggish, coppery feel of his pain and anger at himself seeped into her skin and she had to reinforce her walls to prevent herself from physically shaking.
"No. Medical." He dug his heels into the floor like a stubborn ass and Anderson about dropped him from sheer aggravation.
"Fine," she snapped and dragged him past two sets of stairs to another elevator, weaving in and out of other judges on their way to their various destinations. When the elevator reached her floor, it released a dozen Judges in street gear, none of them sparing a glance for the two wounded Judges, so common had the sight become in the past week. Anderson slammed a bloody hand onto the elevator button that read her floor. The lift was empty save for the two of them.
She felt Dredd struggle a bit. He was so damn weak she had to bite her lip to keep her distress to herself. "No," he grunted. "Go to my floor."
"No." She could be stubborn, too.
"Damn it, Anderson," he growled. "Go to my floor."
He snarled. She felt his good hand grip her arm with bruising force, but just as quickly release in surrender. He couldn't get anywhere on his own even if he tried.
The door to Anderson's cell of a room slammed against the wall as she dragged him through the threshold. The door slammed again when she kicked it shut with her boot. Gingerly, she set him down on the only armchair. The rustle of armor and weapons and the squeak of leather filled her ears. Darting into the bathroom, she returned with a large med kit. She snapped it open and tugged off her gloves. All the while, she felt his scrutiny like a brand across her consciousness.
Anderson crouched beside him and said softly, "I need to remove your helmet and gear, Dredd." It spoke to how much pain he was in that he didn't mutter a word in protest.
First, Anderson lifted the helmet from his head. She placed it on the ground. Dredd's eyes were screwed shut, his jaw tight, mouth down turned in that familiar scowl. She made a conscious effort not to stare and continued to help him out of his gear. Gloves next, then the straps to the shoulder plates, and the zipper to his armored vest. "Lift your arms out." She was able to slide the armor off with little jostling to his bad arm, but she could tell it pained him by the thin set of his lips.
"Sorry," she winced. "Jacket next, then your belt."
The jacket unzipped easily, but the mangled remains of a sleeve a stuck to his raw skin by drying blood tore loose causing fresh blood to flow. Anderson stopped and carefully peeled the last shreds of fabric away before tugging the jacket over his shoulders. She laid it atop the vest and gloves. He shifted stiffly in the chair, blood oozing, as opposed to the previous pouring, onto the standard black tank that every Judge wore.
When her hands reached for his belt, Anderson hesitated and chanced a glance at Dredd's increasingly pale face. Half was nearly as familiar as her own and the other half something new. His jaw was still set, mouth pressed into a thin, deep scowl, but his dark hair looked damp and messy. It occurred to her suddenly that she'd stripped him of his armor - was about to take away his weapons... And he was letting her.
Startled, Anderson mentally shook herself and got back on task. The belt came off easily. Setting his weapons to the side, she assessed the damage. Mangled right forearm, possible broken bone. Puncture wound, through and through above right clavicle, very, very close to neck. Anderson eyed him suspiciously.
That couldn't be all. The first time they met, Dredd ended up taking down the desperate remainder of a drug manufacturing gang and their leader almost singlehandedly even with what was basically a hastily stitched up hole through his abdomen and back.
This time around he was barely able to hold himself up once they got off her Lawmaster. She lifted his shirt and he tried to bat her hand away. Cursing at what she saw, she dove for her glove and pressed the comm.
"Anderson to Control. Do you copy?" Her heart pounded in her ears and she tried to control the shake in her voice as she kneeled on the floor.
"Copy, Judge Anderson."
"I need a med-"
"Hewell," Dredd grunted. "Get Hewell."
Anderson met his eyes, and repeated the name into her comm. "Med-Judge Hewell is needed at my location. Emergency protocol 327."
Dredd nodded, relief radiating from him. She wondered why he requested a specific officer, but didn't probe.
"Copy. I have you at... The Hall of Justice? Anderson, please confirm."
Anderson placed a hand on his good arm. "Confirmed."
"I'm sending your exact coordinates right now to Judge Hewell. ETA 10 minutes."
"Copy. Anderson out."
She dropped the comm and pulled herself to Dredd's side. He looked at her for the first time since removing his helmet and she saw that his pupils were blown so wide she couldn't discern their color. "You idiot," she choked out, wanting to shake him. "You have a giant purple bruise from your hips to your sternum. You probably have internal bleeding and you're in shock. I'm not trained for this. I should've taken you to medical."
He grunted, a laugh or a dismissal, she couldn't tell. "I'm fine. Hewell will do his job."
She nodded once, afraid to trust her voice. He was a mess, blood everywhere, skin and lips turning pale. God, she should have taken him to medical. She felt her walls crumbling and tried to shore them up, but Dredd's nearness, the uncertainty of the moment, left her mental shields a wreck. His concern reached her before his hand did. Rough fingers brushed a blood matted lock of hair away from her forehead. The gesture was almost tender until he prodded the broken skin eliciting a string of a curses as she reared back. "Better have him look at you, too. You've got a nice gash right here," he mumbled.
"You first." She glared at him through watery eyes.
"I'll be fine," he muttered darkly.
Anderson stood. "So will I." She sighed. "You should lie down." He didn't argue. Grasping his good elbow, she tugged his arm back around her shoulders. He seemed even weaker now than he had just minutes before. Slowly, very slowly, she maneuvered them across the narrow room with small, shuffling steps until her knees hit the edge of her bed.
Wordlessly Anderson lowered Dredd into a sitting position onto the mattress. Stepping out from under his arm her eyes focused on the beads of sweat upon his forehead. He swung one leg up, but froze, teeth gritting so tightly she could hear them creak. His pain tasted metallic on her tongue, bright and bitter. At once, she gave her support to his shoulders with one arm then gently lifted his other leg into the bed with the other.
Dredd breathed in slowly and exhaled shakily. Anderson watched him try to relax into the mattress with little success. A knock at her door had him tensing again. She placed a stilling hand on his good shoulder and felt the tension drain out of him, his trust in her implicit.
Hewell, an older man, stood impatiently in the hall. She had never been so relieved to see the red cross on a judge's shoulder plate. He looked her over, eyes lingering on the gash she had yet to attend to. She waved him off when he tried to examine it and, instead, led him toward Dredd. If Hewell was surprised to see him there he didn't say. He only tsked, donned gloves, and shook his head as he cut away the black shirt.
Anderson, her mind still open like a door left ajar, felt the weight of his disapproval, the thread of a thought that began with, 'This guy ought to be at the clinic,' then twisted and coiled as he worked into, 'Dredd probably won't like hearing his little protege's got some kind of boyfriend in her bed.'
Anderson blinked. Then nearly laughed out loud. Dredd's badge was buried in the discarded pile of belongings near the chair. Hewell had no clue the man in her bed was Judge Dredd himself.
Dredd said nothing, merely watching Hewell from beneath heavy lidded eyes, occasionally looking toward Anderson. Hewell worked efficiently. He cleaned the open skin, set broken bone, then cut, drained, stitched, and cauterized a site on Dredd's abdomen. Hewell finally injected several large, multicolored syringes into the street judge before Dredd could protest. He quickly fell into a deep, medicated sleep.
"Your turn," Hewell commanded gruffly, startling Anderson, who had been standing to the side, a silent sentinel.
She sat up and moved swiftly over to Dredd's side. "How is he?" The man in question lay unconscious, with more color in his skin and breathing deep and easy.
"Hm. He'll be back at 100% within 24 hours. No patrol until he's cleared by medical. He'll need to input his med leave code when he wakes up. Now let me see you."
Anderson obediently turned her wounded head toward him, but kept her eyes on the rise and fall of Dredd's chest.
"What happened?" Hewell asked.
"Normal patrol, but... We were heading back to HQ when his bike hydroplaned."
"Damn storm,"he muttered crossly, concentrating on picking out the debris from her wound with a pair of nasty looking tweezers. "Stirs up the cits and gets Judges wounded. I've been on call for almost 50 hours already." He held up a piece of glass with a questioning look on his face.
"Perp tried to escape through a broken window,"she explained. "I followed."
He hummed thoughtfully while he patched her head back together. "Normal, huh? Probably wouldn't have this cut if you'd worn your helmet."
"I know." Anderson thought of the million times Dredd got on to her about wearing her helmet and was glad he wasn't awake to rub the medic's words in her face.
Hewell slipped off his gloves. "Finished," he announced. In no time at all, his supplies were packed away and she saw him out to the hallway. Exhaustion was beginning to blur the edges of her senses making it hard to focus on his words. "Your field med work was fine, but I'd suggest secondary medical training if these injuries were from a 'normal patrol,'" he stated dryly as she followed him to the door. "Your partner should be asleep for 3 more hours. He'll need to take it easy for at least 20 hours after that for him to heal up completely. I recommend the same amount of real sleep for you before hitting the sleep machines."
Anderson blinked. "Yes, sir," she replied obediently, not quite recalling what she'd just agreed to.
He eyed her suspiciously, but let the issue drop.
Anderson nodded her thank you and Hewell was gone. Back inside, muscle memory guiding her hands she methodically removed her own gear storing them away for cleaning before her next shift. Her Lawgiver went to it's place on the shelf beside the door. After a moment's thought, she added Dredd's weapon beside hers.
She pulled the chair close to the bedside and nearly melted into it's stiff, uncomfortable padding. Now that she was sitting she was too exhausted to get up and change, let alone shower, and too relieved to care that she was probably invading Dredd's personal space. In fact, she leaned in closer, until her head was resting on the mattress beside his good arm.
Her thoughts turned to the close call he'd had. She had watched helplessly through the rain as the Lawmaster suddenly fishtailed, then slipped out from beneath him, sending him crashing into the handle bar, then tumbling over the asphalt and into a construction site. She nearly crashed trying to reach him. He'd already pulled out the pipe that had impaled his shoulder and was attempting to lift his bike, cursing and kicking the thing like hydroplaning had been its fault. In his fury, Dredd slapped her hands away as she tried to get a better look at his wound. She grabbed his collar, yanking him back to face her so she could yell at him properly.
She remembered yelling at him as she patched up the injury and then yelling at him to just get on her damn bike so she could take him back to the Hall. She remembered the odd weight of him against her back as she drove them toward HQ, his weight growing heavier and heavier until it seemed as though he'd collapsed. A spike of fear pierced her and her heart seemed to lodge in her throat, even as she tried to push that helpless feeling down. Her hands gripped the throttle tightly and she wove between traffic.
Anderson startled half awake.
"You're going to hurt your neck sleeping like that."
"Dredd?" She blinked at him lying on his back in her bed. "You're alright?" she asked, her voice small and far away to her own ears.
"Yeah, yeah. Just get in the bed."
She nodded sleepily and did as he said. She laid on her stomach and turned to look at Dredd's face, so near her own.
The last thing she thought before drifting back to sleep was that he had very pretty, hazel eyes.
She woke to the sound of a Lawgiver powering on.
"About time." Dredd stood tall near the doorway, helmet and gear on like normal, as though nothing had happened on their last patrol at all. "How's the head?"
Anderson sat up abruptly and brought her hand to her forehead where she felt a slightly numb patch of rough skin. "I'm fine. You?"
She narrowed her eyes suspiciously at Dredd. "Really?" she asked dryly.
He holstered his weapon and crossed his arms over his chest in an almost defiant gesture. "Really." Despite his closed off appearance he projected his emotions so forcefully that she couldn't help but absorb them. The crumbling defensive wall she felt surrounding him was lined with uncertainty. From behind the wall a warm glow, a mixture of gratitude and respect and something far deeper reached out to her longingly.
She rose from the edge of her bed and walked a few short steps to stand directly before him. Without saying a word, she reached up and removed his helmet, setting it on the shelf where her Lawgiver lay.
He remained frozen in place as she gently placed her hands on either side of his face.
"What are you doing, Anderson?" His voice was the softest she'd ever heard it.
She shook her head, not answering as her fingers stroked his stubble roughened cheek. "Do you trust me, Dredd?" she whispered.
He was quiet for a long moment and she could sense his struggle with her simple question. "Yes," he finally replied, the word seemingly forced out through gritted teeth.
"Are you really alright?" Every fear, every worry escaped in her single question.
When he answered his voice was low, intimate. "Yes."
She nodded, finally believing him. "Okay." She ran some of her fingers against his cheekbones. For an endless moment they gazed at one another, words unsaid hanging in the air between them.
Finally he spoke, gruff and short. "You need to let me go."
She flinched, but didn't apologize. "Right." Pulling her hands away, she turned back to her bed and to the chair holding her jacket. "I don't think Hewell recognized you without your helmet or your badge," she changed the subject, her tone brisk and light. She grabbed her jacket and threw it on, a shield to cover her moment of weakness - "He wants you to rest for 20 hours and get cleared by Medical before you-"
"Anderson," his hand was on her shoulder, turning her around to face him again. She kept her eyes trained on his badge, steeling her face into a cool, unaffected expression too embarrassed to look him in the face. But then he placed one hand beneath her chin and tilted her head up until she met his eyes. His next words were spoken quietly. "Thank you." Her cool expression melted into a warm, soft gaze that mirrored his own.
Outside the Hall of Justice, the storm had finally broken and the sun shone through wispy clouds in patches of shadow and light against the still damp city. The relief felt was palpable, a lightness and warmth in the air of the normally cold building. In the rush of the morning shift change, no one noticed Judges Dredd and Anderson as they walked toward the medical wing, side by side, as close together as they could be without touching.
Later they'd remember the storm as the tipping point in their unspoken understanding. It had been the most open either of them had been with another person in years. Their private moments together afterward were forever changed, always a layer deeper than mere partners. On the streets they remained an imposing team- swift, just, and unflinching. Judge, jury, and executioner in turn, intimidating in their efficiency.
No one noticed their quiet moments together, when he let his guard down and trusted her to watch his back, or when she let go of her hard shell and let herself be soft in his presence. And if anyone did notice, like MedJudge Hewell when he eventually checked the medical records, they didn't say a word.