Author's note: All the usual disclaimers apply – I don't own the show or the characters, only the words on this page. As always, I'd love to hear what you think.
I am actually working on something else at the moment, but when I read that plot prompt at the beginning of the week (Character A must do something awful to Character B to save them from something worse), this little story insisted on being written.
"She's not my friend."
That single sentence kept playing over and over in Juliet's memory. The contempt dripping from every syllable was like a poison, seeping slowly into her soul. The pain was beyond anything she'd ever thought words could inflict on her. She's always believed that old saying about sticks and stones, but now she knew just how wrong she'd been. Words could hurt far more than broken bones; she'd survived enough of those in her career to know that tonight's injury was so much worse than that. This wound was a bleeding doorway to her soul; a wound that would probably never heal.
The sun was just setting, dusky orange and deep indigo merging on the horizon in a display that made all the petty issues of the day slip away. The music at the King Kamehameha Club was still pleasantly muted, just a background for the quiet conversations at the various tables around the room.
Their own table was one of the most boisterous, and Higgins smiled at the mild sniping her three friends were indulging in.
"You know you never stood a chance." Magnum laughed, and Rick swatted him on the shoulder.
"Did too." Rick shook his head, laughing too. "I'd have had it in just five more seconds."
"Sure you would." TC's poker face was undercut by the laughter in his voice. "But somehow, I still ended up being the guy who had to sink that shot from ten feet away."
"Well, you are the tallest." Rick nodded sagely, as though announcing something unexpected.
TC just shook his head, and Magnum laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Never mind, big guy. You know he loves you anyway."
"True." Rick agreed. "Even if you did wreck my reputation for the next six months."
"Until you snowed the next lot of new recruits with your wild stories." Magnum added.
"They are not wild stories. I'll have you know that every single one of them is true." Rick looked around the table, noting the faint aura of disbelief surrounding his friends. "Okay, okay. Maybe not all true. But every single one is based on reality."
Higgins laughed out loud at that.
"May I say that I believe the grain of truth in each story to be miniscule?"
"You too, Higgy?" Rick sighed heavily, playing up his wounded pride. "I thought you were my friend."
"I am." Higgins nodded. "And what sort of friend would I be if I didn't try to keep you on the straight and narrow?"
Rick shook his head in despair, causing another wave of laughter.
"Never mind, bud. Dinner's on me." Magnum tossed out the comment.
"As in, on your tab?" Rick asked.
"Nope. As in, I got paid by a client today. In cash, a week's work. With a bonus." Magnum stated.
"You have that much cash on you?" Rick queried, concerned.
"Yeah." Magnum nodded. "By the time he'd paid me, the banks were closed. I'll swing by tomorrow and deposit it all. Except for what I spend here tonight."
Three hours later, TC had headed off for the night. Rick had begged off the rest of the evening, heading through his office to finish up some paperwork, before burying himself in the store room, checking stock for a private party booked for the weekend.
Magnum held Juliet's chair as she rose to her feet, then escorted her through the now-packed Club. The relief of being outside, in the cooler evening air, would be his excuse later for not noticing the two men lurking near the Ferrari. Nothing would ever be an excuse for parking too close to the dark edge of the parking lot.
The first indication of trouble was the gun in his back, and the shocked gasp from Higgins as the second man pulled her back against him, a wickedly-sharp knife pressed to her throat.
"Make a sound and she dies." The deep-voiced threat came from behind Magnum.
Magnum froze, seeing his own uncertainty reflected in Juliet's eyes. Did he dare make a move? He wanted to, he desperately wanted to, but not being sure of who he was dealing with made him hesitate. And that moment was all it took.
The second man stepped slowly backwards, into the dark, dragging Higgins with him. Higgins stumbled once, foot catching on the curbing, only to be dragged upright with a curse.
Then the gun pressed more deeply into his back, forcing Magnum to head in the same direction towards the dark. As they edged closer to the side of the lot, Magnum realised that there was a van idling quietly in the street, lights off and door open.
"Look, we don't want any trouble." The gun shoved harder into his back. "Tell you what. I've got some money in my wallet. Couple thousand. What do you say, you take that, let us go, and we all call it a night?"
"I don't think so." The deep voice spoke again.
"Pete." The man behind Higgins hissed. "We need to move."
"Shut up, Howie." The man holding Magnum shoved him forward and Magnum went blindly, focused on what he'd just heard. This was worse than he'd thought. He'd heard about these guys. Nothing good. In fact, only the opposite. He had to find a way out of this situation, now – before things escalated.
But there was no-one around to call. Yelling and screaming would make no difference, as the music in the Club would drown out any noise they made. And yelling could cause Howie to use that knife on Higgins.
Moments later, Howie dragged Higgins into the open door of the van, tossing her so hard onto the seat that her head hit the far wall of the van. While she was trying to pull herself upright, Pete forced Magnum into the van as well, climbing in behind him and sliding the door closed behind them all.
The van was dark, the windows blacked out. Howie slid into the driver's seat, dropped the van into gear and slowly pulled away.
As soon as he'd landed on a seat, Magnum started talking.
"Come on, guys." He turned on the charm, voice taking on a friendly edge. "I'm sure we can work this out. You don't want us."
"Shut up." Pete slammed one massive fist into the side of Magnum's head, making his ears ring.
The van was picking up speed now, turning a corner before Howie flipped the lights on. Magnum pushed himself up from where he'd landed on the seat, shifting so that Higgins was behind him.
"Now, that's not very friendly." Magnum knew he was listing heavily to one side, and he pushed himself upright again. "I'm sure we can all get along, if we really want to."
"Magnum. Don't." Higgins hissed quietly.
"Listen to your friend." Pete growled the words out. "The little woman knows what she's talking about."
"Little woman?" Her eyebrows rose almost as high as her tone.
"Now you've done it." Magnum couldn't hide his grin. The comment earned him another punch to the head, and he could feel the trickle of blood running down the side of his face. That was going to leave a nasty bruise. Pete not only looked like a line-backer; he hit like one too.
"Did I speak to you?" Pete's voice was menacing.
"Well, no." Magnum shook his head, regretting it immediately. "But I do like to be helpful."
That earned him a handful of punches to the chest, leaving him wheezing and gasping for air like a geriatric emphysema patient. But at least Pete was focused on him. Although, from what he could see, Pete appeared to have no interest in Higgins at all.
"We don't need your help."
"Oh, but I really think you do." Magnum breathed carefully, feeling a deep ache on the left side of his chest which suggested a cracked or broken rib. He reached behind him, and managed to grab hold of Higgins's wrist. Gently he pulled on it, until she realised what he was doing and started to move closer to him.
"I don't know what you want, but there must be some way we can work something out. I'm sure I can get you more money than what I have on me." Magnum kept his voice low, tone calm. All the while, he was pulling Higgins closer and getting a stronger grip on her arm.
"We don't want your money." Howie's voice floated back from the driver's seat. Intermittent street lights showed that he was a smaller man than Pete, but his behaviour seemed no less violent.
"Why not? My money's as good as anyone else's."
"Like I said, we don't want your money. We don't want anything from you." Howie laughed then, a sound that chilled Magnum to the bone. It was high-pitched and cold, without an ounce of humanity in it. Unhinged, or close to it. "But from your friend, well now, that's a different matter."
Magnum risked a glance past Pete, out the front window of the van. They were beyond the business district now, through the surrounding suburbs. Soon, there would be nothing but empty beaches and jungle-edged roads. If he was going to make a move, he had to do it now. Before they were too far beyond the city to find help.
Comparing the view outside the windshield to his own mental map, Magnum knew that the van would have to slow to take the long curve coming up in just under a mile. That would be his only chance to act. He tightened his fingers around Higgins's wrist and pulled her slightly closer.
"Isn't that sweet?" Pete laughed. "Trying to keep your little friend nice and close?"
"She's not my friend." Magnum filled the words with every ounce of disdain he could manage, thinking about every senior officer he'd ever despised in order to manage the feat. The look of betrayal on Juliet's face was almost heart-breaking enough to distract him.
Howie muttered something Magnum couldn't hear, but the annoyed tone of the words got Pete's attention. His attention shifted to Howie for a moment, and Magnum moved.
He pushed himself up off the seat and right into Pete's space, his free hand slamming Pete's head into the side of the van. With the kidnapper stunned for a few seconds, his gun on the floor, Magnum turned his attention to the door of the van. He flung it open, and with one strong pull, dragged Higgins in front of him. Then he pushed her as hard as he could, straight out of the open door.
He didn't wait to see her body hit the tarmac, but turned his attention back to Pete and Howie. Pete had recovered and was scrabbling on the floor for his gun. Magnum knew he only had moments to make sure that Howie couldn't turn back to find Higgins. Out of options, he reached around the seat and pulled his forearm tight across Howie's neck, cutting off his oxygen.
Howie thrashed wildly, sending the van careening across the road, swerving madly in and out of the lane. Magnum could only be thankful that the road was deserted. He sensed movement behind him, but hung on to Howie with everything he had.
A deafening blast filled the van, at the exact same moment that all the nerves in his right side lit up with blazing agony. Magnum could feel his grip on Howie weakening, the pain sapping his strength. Without another thought, he shifted his grip from Howie's neck to his head, and slammed the other man's head into the door frame repeatedly.
The van finally veered right off the road, and slammed into a tree at the side of the road. Magnum felt the impact in every bone, but forced himself to stay conscious. The ensuing silence was broken only by the slow drip of gas from the damaged fuel tank, and the muted tinkle of pieces of glass falling from the windows.
Miraculously, the van door was still open enough for Magnum to ease himself out of the vehicle and move into the darkness of the undergrowth at the side of the road. He was still feeling in his pocket for his phone, when he smelled the change in the air. The inner side of the back axle of the van was dimly-lit by an orange glow. A spark had spread to the dripping gas.
As Magnum stood at the side of the road, stunned and bleeding, the flames grew. In less than a minute, the van was engulfed and the heat drove him to his knees. Knowing that the two kidnappers were still in the vehicle, he let himself lean against the nearest tree, hand moving to press down on the bleeding bullet wound in his right side. Seconds later, he slid unconscious to the ground, not even aware of passing out.
'She's not my friend.' The words were stuck on repeat in her head, taking all her attention and blinding her to anything else going on around her.
But in spite of how sudden and unexpected her ejection from the moving vehicle had been, Higgins knew how to break her fall. She tucked her arms over her head, pulled her body into a tight ball and let herself fall. The point of her left shoulder took the brunt of the impact, something shifting uncomfortably before settling into a sharp, aching pain. Her elbows scraped painfully across the tarmac, and one knee knocked hard on the ground as she rolled to a stop.
She slowly sat up and let her body and mind settle. She was alone. She could see the van in the distance, swerving madly across the road. Magnum's doing, she was sure. Though why she should care, now, she didn't know.
How could she have been so wrong? She'd always prided herself on her ability to read people, to see what they were really thinking, rather than simply believing what she could see. But somehow, she'd allowed herself to misread Magnum. Just as she'd allowed herself to misread Ian Pryce. That time, Richard had paid for her failure with his life.
At least, this time, the only casualties were her delusions and hopes. Her belief that Magnum was a friend, someone to rely on, and someone she'd been starting to think of as family. She should have known better. But obviously, she'd started getting soft now that she was a civilian. She knew she was better off alone. She'd just have to get used to relying on herself again. Starting now.
She forced herself to stand and took stock of her injuries. Bleeding scrapes on both arms, an aching knee, and she was pretty sure she'd dislocated her left shoulder. Not to mention the headache from where she'd hit her head when the guy with the knife had shoved her into the van.
She braced her left arm with her right hand and wobbled her way into the darkness at the side of the road. She leaned against a tree and felt in the pocket of her now-ripped pale blue trousers for her phone. She swore when she saw it, the screen cracked in a starburst pattern from the one corner. But the heavy-duty case had done its job, and the phone still worked. One-handed, she dialled 9-1-1.
Half an hour later, she was sitting at the back of an ambulance, when Katsumoto's plain black car pulled up. The detective hustled past the other officers and emergency personnel and headed straight for her.
"Higgins." Katsumoto looked her over and Higgins stared right back at him.
"Detective." Higgins nodded her head, keeping her right hand clasped firmly to her left arm.
"I'd ask how your evening's been, but …" Katsumoto let the words trail off, looking around. "Where's Magnum?"
"I have no idea." Higgins knew she sounded distant, but after what the man had said and done, what concern was it of hers?
"Okay." Katsumoto took a deep breath and pulled out his notebook. "So, can you tell me what happened?"
"Magnum and I were leaving the King Kamehameha Club after dinner with Rick and TC. We were held up in the parking lot by two men. One had a knife, the other a gun. They forced us into a van and drove us out here. Magnum pushed me out the door here and the van kept going down the road." Higgins laid the facts out, cold and unemotional.
"I called it in as soon as I managed to get off the road."
"Do you have any idea who the two men were?" Katsumoto noted everything she'd said and waited, pen poised, for more details.
"The one with the gun was Pete. The other one was Howie. He was driving."
Katsumoto hesitated for a moment, then continued writing. Any other time, the hesitation and the sudden tightening of his fingers on the pen would have been triggers telling Higgins to dig deeper. But right now, tonight, she found she couldn't bring herself to care.
"How did Magnum manage to push you out the van?"
"He kept talking to them. Offering them money, telling them they should let us go. I tried to get him to keep quiet and the one man, Pete, told him to listen to his friend. Magnum said that I wasn't his friend." Higgins hated the tremor she could hear in her voice. She was stronger than this. The last thing she wanted was pity. But aside from simply shaking his head, resignation in his eyes, Katsumoto said nothing.
"Then Magnum attacked Pete, and threw me out of the van. They kept driving, that way." Higgins tilted her head in the direction the van had gone. "The van was swerving all over the road, then it disappeared around the curve."
"You didn't go to look?" Katsumoto tipped his head to the side, dark eyes filled with something that looked remarkably like compassion.
"No." Higgins shook her head. "I wouldn't be much use with a dislocated shoulder, anyway."
Katsumoto nodded and turned to the EMT next to the ambulance.
"You're taking her in?"
"Yeah. We'll let the doctors at the hospital sort out the shoulder. Given how late it is, they may keep her in for the rest of the night."
"Okay, good." Katsumoto turned back to Higgins, graced her with a tiny smile. "I'll check in on you there later."
Katsumoto had a fairly good idea of what he expected to find further down the road. A burned-out wreck was not on the list.
He pulled up just beyond the crime scene tape and simply looked the whole scene over, taking in the details. Clearly, the van had crashed into the tree before catching fire, based on the tire marks on the road. The vehicle was no longer actively burning, but the heat emanating from the wreck showed that the fire had only recently been doused. Even from where he stood, Katsumoto could see at least two dead bodies in the van. He could only hope that Magnum wasn't one of them.
He scanned the hive of activity around the van and spotted the fire chief. He caught the man's eye and pointed to the wreck.
"Two dead." The man shook his head. "One's the driver. The other was in the back."
"Was the door open?" Katsumoto asked.
"Yeah. Struck me as odd that the guy in the back hadn't even tried to get out."
"How can you be sure?"
"He was up against the opposite side of the van, partly on the floor."
"Any sign that someone did make it out that door?" Katsumoto was a realist by nature, but even he couldn't squash his hope down this time.
"Haven't had much of a chance to look yet. We've only just managed to get the fire out."
"May I?" Katsumoto didn't want to cross a line, waiting for a nod before going closer.
He started searching the ground in line with the open door, looking for any sign that Magnum had escaped. A darker spot on the ground glistened in the light, pulling him into a crouch. He tested the substance with one finger. Blood.
Katsumoto waved the fire chief over and borrowed a flashlight, following a meandering trail of red spots to the edge of the road and then into the vegetation. There the light caught the edge of a moving sneaker and Katsumoto rushed forward, finding Magnum struggling to his feet.
Katsumoto stepped right up to Magnum and grabbed his arm to support him, holding on until the other man got his feet more firmly under him again. Then Katsumoto took the time to give Magnum a thorough look. The blood on the private detective's patterned shirt and torn jeans was an obvious indicator of serious damage, along with the already purple bruise on his face. But Katsumoto figured there was more damage than he could see, given how carefully Magnum held himself.
After the EMTs settled Magnum on a gurney, Katsumoto dug out his notebook.
"I know you need to transport him," Katsumoto nodded to the two men, "but if you could let me have five minutes first?"
Two reluctant nods had Katsumoto turning his attention back to Magnum, who was now focused intensely on what he could do for the police detective.
"So, run it down for me."
"How's Higgins?" The question made it clear that Katsumoto would get nothing until Magnum had an answer.
"She's okay. Some minor injuries, on her way to the hospital."
The tension drained out of Magnum and he sighed heavily. Katsumoto waited a moment and repeated his question.
"Run it down?"
"Higgins and I were leaving Rick's club. Two guys were waiting for us near the Ferrari. With a gun and a knife. They got us into their van and drove here. I managed to distract the one guy, shoved Higgins out the van, and then forced the driver to crash."
"A little more detail would be good." Katsumoto's tone was dry.
"The guys were Pete and Howie. Howie was driving. Pete's the one who had the gun. He shot me. Howie had the knife."
"Pete and Howie. You're sure?" Katsumoto had to be certain.
"They're the Bennett brothers, aren't they?" The question made it clear that Magnum knew exactly who the two men were.
"Yeah. How do you know about them?"
"I saw the notice on your desk the last time I was at the precinct. And Rick knows the cousin of the girl who was one of their first pair of victims. Stacey."
"Stacey Keeler and Patrick Evans."
Magnum nodded, and Katsumoto shook his head ruefully. Magnum had just solved another one of his cases, without even trying.
"Okay." Katsumoto led the questioning back to the events. "How did you manage to distract the one guy?"
"That would do it." Katsumoto couldn't help the grin, seeing a matching one on Magnum's face. Then his tone turned serious again.
"Higgins said much the same thing." Katsumoto saw the flinch that Magnum couldn't quite hide. "She also said that you said that she's not your friend. Did you?"
"They were the Bennett brothers, Katsumoto. Of course I said that." Magnum's tone was vicious, self-loathing clear.
"She looked, and sounded …" Katsumoto couldn't finish the sentence, then took another deep breath. "You may have damaged that relationship fatally, Magnum."
"Rather a dead friendship than a dead friend." Magnum closed his eyes and laid his head back on the gurney, effectively ending the conversation. "I can live with her hating me. I can't live with another dead friend."
Rick hated being in hospital waiting rooms at one in the morning. There was never a good reason for it, but always a bad one. Illness, injury, trauma in some shape or form. And to know that Magnum and Higgins were both here, and that it involved the Bennett brothers. TC had been holding him back and trying to talk him down since they'd got the call about their friends, but not knowing the details was driving him right to the edge of what he could handle.
"Orville." TC's hand on his shoulder was an anchor. "They're okay. You know that. If they weren't, Katsumoto would have said so."
"Yeah, I know." Rick nodded, trying to relax. They were both short on sleep, dressed in rumpled t-shirts and jeans. "But, TC, the Bennett brothers."
"Only Thomas." TC shook his head.
A sound behind them had them both spinning around, calming when they saw a familiar face.
"Annie." Rick and TC spoke together, and she smiled, tucking her black hair behind her ears.
"I'd say it's nice to see you here again, but I really wish I weren't seeing you." Annie laughed. "I just wanted to let you know that both your friends will be fine. We're keeping them both here for the rest of the night."
"Can we see them?" Rick got the question out half a second before TC could.
"Juliet – she said to call her that – is asleep already."
TC traded a look with Rick, knowing immediately that Higgins had fooled Annie into thinking she was asleep.
"You can see your other friend, though. But he'll be asleep soon as well. He said painkillers knock him out. He's in the room two doors down from here."
"Thanks, Annie." Rick patted her shoulder as he and TC left the waiting room.
"There's no way Thomas took the painkillers." Rick muttered quietly.
"No way." TC agreed. "Maybe we can convince him."
"After we find Higgins and see how she's doing."
TC nodded and the two men stepped into Magnum's room, leaving the door slightly ajar behind them. It never hurt to hear what was going on around you. They'd all learned that lesson the hard way.
Magnum was wide awake and watching the door. He moved to sit up, and flinched, one hand pressing hard on the bandage outlined under the thin hospital top. A stifled gasp slipped out.
"Sit still, brother. Slow breaths, remember." TC was firm and Magnum froze, then settled slowly back onto the mattress. TC eased a pillow in behind his back so that he could be more upright and Magnum nodded his thanks. "What's the damage?
"Headache, black eye, one cracked rib, and the gunshot wound under the bandage." Rick shook his head at the bored tone, and Magnum kept going. "Minor, I swear, just a really deep graze."
"Which bled like a stuck pig, I'm betting." Rick's answer was quick.
"Big deal." Magnum lifted one shoulder. "So … have you guys seen Higgins yet?"
"No." Rick shook his head. "I want all the details from you first. The Bennett brothers?"
"I'm remembering this right, aren't I?" TC asked. "That's the pair who kidnap couples, torture them both with a knife, then rape the woman and slit her throat. Make the boyfriend watch and then shoot him?"
"That's them." Rick confirmed.
"Who'd have thought?" Magnum shook his head. "I just thought it was your standard hold-up until I heard their names. By the time I was sure, we were already in the van. So I waited until I had a chance and shoved Higgins out the door of the van."
"Then you nearly got yourself killed by causing a crash." TC spoke. "You've got to start looking out for yourself a bit more."
"So, who's going to check on Higgins?"
Juliet Higgins was very good at her job. Just because she was no longer employed by Her Majesty's Government, didn't mean her skills should go to waste. Convincing that sweet, kind nurse that she was asleep had been as easy as breathing. But now she had to get out of this bed, this room, and preferably the hospital.
She doubted Katsumoto would be checking in tonight – or this early in the morning, if she were honest about the time. The hospital top and trousers were too obvious to hide. So she was going to find somewhere quiet to gather her thoughts, call a cab and then get back to the estate. Katsumoto could find her there if he wanted to speak to her again.
It wasn't like Magnum was going to worry about where she was, or what she was doing. He'd made that perfectly clear in the van.
'She's not my friend.' She heard Magnum's words again, and wished she knew how to erase them from her memory.
She just couldn't believe that she'd allowed herself to think that the man really gave a damn about her. She hated to admit that, despite what he said and done, she did actually want to know if he was alright. She guessed she'd find out in time. He would still be living at the estate, after all.
She eased the door open, and pulled back immediately, having spotted Rick and TC a few doors down. She watched until they entered a room that she assumed housed Magnum. Then she adjusted the sling holding her left arm tight against her, and slipped out the door. Common sense told her to get away while she could, but pure stubbornness had her heading towards Magnum's room.
She had the skills, and the opportunity, to find out what she wanted to know without being noticed. She ambled down the corridor and rested against the wall outside his room. Thankfully, the door hadn't latched shut, allowing her to hear the conversation. She made a show of looking at her phone, so that no-one would interrupt her while she strained her ears to hear every word.
A tension she would never admit to feeling eased the moment she heard Magnum's voice, strong and clear, even with the undertone of pain. Not surprising, when she heard him list his injuries. Then she focused only on the words and everything around her faded into a haze. Her entire understanding of the night's events unravelled as she factored in the information she hadn't known.
He'd done what he did to save her life. And given the type of man Magnum was, to save her from the worst sort of violation any woman could ever be forced to endure. If it weren't for him, she would be lying on a table in the morgue right now.
And he would have been on the table next to her. But even now, she knew he wasn't thinking about himself. He hadn't even considered that the two brothers would most likely kill him; only that he could do something to save her.
She'd been so wrong. About everything. The only silver lining was that her original instincts about him had been right after all. But she still needed an answer about the things he'd said. She could live with what he'd done, and the injuries would heal. But could she live with what he'd said?
She sagged against the wall, suddenly exhausted. She didn't even hear the door open until Rick and TC surrounded her and guided her gently into Magnum's room.
"Higgins." Magnum sounded shocked. "What the hell are you doing walking around?"
"Funny. Now you sound like you care." Higgins couldn't believe what she'd just said. She wasn't some schoolgirl with hurt feelings.
"I'll let that go because you're hurting." Magnum sounded resigned, saddened but accepting her tone as something he deserved.
"I couldn't help but overhear …" Higgins trailed off, looking at each of the men in turn. They all looked uncomfortable and she realised then that they were more upset about what the Bennett brothers had planned for her than she was.
"Thank you. For saving my life. And for the other, as well." Three slightly embarrassed gazes met hers and slid away.
"You're welcome." Magnum was subdued.
"But you left some details out when you were telling your friends what happened." She saw that her slight emphasis on the word 'friends' had caught everyone's attention.
"You said that I am not your friend."
"Thomas." Rick's sigh was pained, and TC simply shook his head.
"You hardly ever believe a word I say, but you pick last night to believe every last word?" Magnum's temper was starting to fray through his control, and he snapped his answer out. "I needed a distraction, okay? And if they didn't think we were friends, there was a really, really, small chance they might have just robbed us."
"Accepted." Higgins nodded once. Magnum stilled, staring at her in shock.
"I heard what you were all talking about just now, so yes, accepted."
"Although, in this case, I have to admit that what I said was the truth." Magnum sounded reluctant to say it, but forced the words out anyway. Higgins felt the world drop out from under her, held up only by Rick's hand on her arm.
"You're not my friend." Magnum's smile was small and gentle.
"I'm not?" The question was quiet and breathless. Painful to get out.
"No. Well, not really. You're more like Rick and TC; that kind of friend."
"Oh." The word was forgiveness and understanding, rolled into one. She could see that Magnum got every nuance of the sound, and answered his smile with a tiny one of her own.
"Sit down before you fall down, Higgy." Rick's words were gentle. She dropped heavily into the chair TC had pulled towards her.
"You know, I really am sorry, Juliet. For everything." Magnum indicated the sling with a gesture, taking in everything else as well. And she really couldn't help herself.
"Don't be an idiot, Thomas." Juliet's tone was light, her world back in balance. She smiled sweetly at him, then delivered a stinging coup de grace. "Oh, wait a moment. You can't help it, can you?"
"You wound me." Magnum laid a hand over his heart, laughter in his eyes. TC and Rick muffled their own laughter in aborted coughs.
"Not yet, I haven't." Juliet laughed with her friends now. "But keep doing what you do, and that could be arranged."