Author's Note: This takes place in the More Than Friends universe about a year after Clay & Emma run into each other in the coffee shop. See the end for my notes about the songs.


He was just going to close his eyes for a minute. The light seemed too bright right now. That was better. The pain seemed to be fading and it wasn't so hard to breathe. He could see Emma. She was so beautiful. He would forget sometimes and then he would see her again, and it would hit him all over how absolutely beautiful he found her. Not because she was dressed up for some occasion, she was gorgeous just wearing jeans and a t-shirt, particularly one of his t-shirts, or when she woke up in the morning curled up next to him in bed.

Emma looked beautiful doing everyday things, like right now just cleaning up after dinner. He had cooked so she said she'd clean up. He was sitting on the couch pretending to read his book, but really, he was watching her in the kitchen as she washed the dishes and wiped down the counters. She was singing along to a song playing from his laptop. She had twisted her hair up into a bun on top of her head and pieces were slowly falling down around her face as she bounced around the kitchen singing and cleaning.

If anyone had asked him before Emma, he would have told them that it wouldn't be possible for him to be this happy, but he was. Not that there was anything special about the day. It was just an ordinary Tuesday in winter. Their dinner wasn't anything fancy. He had just cooked spaghetti. What was special was having Emma here with him doing everyday things and knowing she'd still be here tomorrow and the day after that, at least until her winter break ended and she went back to New York for school. He knew this was the life he wanted.

He tossed his book down on the couch, giving up even the pretense of reading. Emma was still singing along to that song coming from the laptop. What was it? It was by The Lumineers. He stood and headed to the kitchen. Emma turned from the cabinet where she had just put away the dishes and he wrapped his arms around her waist. She smiled up at him as she slipped her arms around his neck and continued to sing.

"I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart

I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart"

He spun her around the kitchen, sort of dancing, although the song was a little fast for a slow dance. He looked down into Emma's beautiful face. His vision was getting a little blurry on the edges. Did he have the heat turned down? He thought it seemed awfully chilly in the kitchen. Emma continued to sing to him.

"I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart

I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart"

"Emma," he said faintly. Speaking had become difficult. Why? "Emma," he tried again. "Love you…"

"Oh no you don't," Sonny shouted frantically. "Clay, stay with me! Trent, do something! He's saying goodbye to Emma here!"

"I'm doing everything possible," Trent replied, as he checked the level on the plasma bag feeding Clay's IV.

"Sonny, Trent," Blackburn shouted, "strap yourselves in, we're about to land. A medical team is waiting on the tarmac."

The rest of Bravo Team looked on anxiously as Trent strapped in and then leaned forward to continue to monitor Clay. Sonny, from his seat alongside Trent, repeatedly called Clay's name, looking for some kind of response from their unconscious teammate.

The plane touched down. Before it could come to a stop, the team was out of their seats and around Clay. Trent prepped Clay for travel and as soon as the door to the C-17 was opened, he was being moved out to the medical team outside.

Like clockwork Clay was transferred to the ambulance and Trent climbed in behind him, updating the medical team on what care Clay had already received. The ambulance doors closed, and the vehicle drove off with sirens blaring and lights flashing towards the medical center on base, while the rest of Bravo Team stood and watched it drive away.


Emma sat in her music performance class and watched the clock. She listened with half an ear as one of her fellow students critiqued another student's performance. She felt slightly bad about not participating in the discussion, but she just couldn't stay focused. She had already given her performance for this assignment and spring break was only three days away.

She was heading home to Virginia Beach as soon as her last class ended on Friday. Clay was spun up right now, but she was hopeful he'd be home by the time she arrived there. Then because the team would have just returned from an op, she hoped that they would get some down time before they were spun up again, giving her most of her break with Clay.

Finally, class ended, and the professor let them go. She grabbed her bag and headed for the door. She usually had enough time after this class to have lunch in the cafeteria in her dorm before she had to go to a building up the street for her Psychology class.

As she exited the classroom, she saw her roommate Anna anxiously looking at everyone leaving the performance space.

"Anna," she said as she approached, "what are you doing here?"

"Emma, thank God!" Anna said a little anxiously, pulling Emma aside. "Is your phone dead, or what?"

"No, I silenced it before class and left it in my bag," Emma explained, as she fished in her bag for her phone. "Professor Hicks is a real hard ass about no phones in class. Why? What's up?"

"Your Aunt Naima called me," Anna said hesitantly.

"Why would Aunt Naima call…" Emma's voice trailed off as she looked at her phone. There were two missed calls from Aunt Naima, a missed call from a number she didn't recognize and two missed calls from Lisa Davis. There was also a text from Aunt Naima asking Emma to please answer her phone.

Emma looked up at her roommate with wide, fear-filled eyes. "My Dad?"

Anna looked as if she was about to cry. "No, not your Dad," she replied.

The roaring in Emma's ears drowned out the sounds of everyone in the hallway around her. She swayed for a moment and she wasn't sure she could continue to stand. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

"Come on," Anna said, grabbing Emma's arm and pulling her down the hall. "We need to find some place quiet."

Anna continued to pull Emma along the hall until they came out to an open area with couches and tables for students to relax and study. Anna settled them onto a couch in a corner where they had some privacy.

"Call your Aunt Naima back," she told Emma.

Emma nodded and looked down at her phone. She hit Aunt Naima's number in her contacts and pressed the phone to her ear. She felt her heart race as she waited for Aunt Naima to answer.

"Hello," Naima answered the call.

"Aunt Naima?" Emma asked in a terrified voice.

"Oh, Emma," Naima replied softly. "Where are you? Are you alone?"

"I'm at school. I just got out of class," Emma explained. "Anna is here with me. What happened?"

Anna reached out and took Emma's free hand into both of her own.

"Sweetie, Clay's been hurt. He's here at the medical center on base, and you need to get down here," Naima stated.

"Is he asking for me?" Emma questioned.

"No," Naima said sadly. "He's unconscious. He's lost a lot of blood and they're very concerned about his condition."

"Is he," Emma started to ask, but she could barely get the words out. "Is he going to be okay?"

There was a pause as Naima didn't immediately reply.

"I don't know," she finally answered.

Emma pulled her hand free from Anna's and pressed it to her mouth. She was afraid that if she removed it, the sobs that were crowding in her throat would burst out and she'd never stop crying.

"Emma?" Naima called. "Emma! Are you still there?"

Anna took the phone from Emma and spoke into it.

"Naima, it's Anna," she said. "I'm here with Emma. She's pretty upset right now."

Anna listened to whatever Aunt Naima was saying. "Okay," Anna replied. "I can take care of that. I'll call you once I have the details."

She ended the call and reached over and pulled Emma into a hug. "We're going to get you to Clay as fast as possible," she said softly.

With one arm still holding Emma, Anna pulled out her own phone and made a call. Emma could hear her talking with someone named Corrinne about the corporate jet and car service to Teterboro. The details were lost on Emma as she thought about Clay, unconscious, maybe dying. What if she didn't get there in time? What if she did?

"Emma, Emma!" Anna shook her a little.

Emma blinked and looked blankly at Anna, who was no longer on the phone.

"We're going to our room. We're going to pack up some clothes and a car is going to meet us and take us to the airport where my father's corporate jet is, so we can fly down to Virginia," Anna explained.

"But your father?" Emma asked hesitantly.

"It's fine," Anna responded. "He's in London and he won't care anyway. It's all a tax write off to him."

Anna stood and tugged Emma to her feet. "Let's go. The plane will take off as soon as we get there."

Anna rushed Emma out of the building and back to their dorm. Once there she pulled out their suitcases and pushed Emma to start packing.

Emma tried to pack, but she couldn't focus on sensible things like clothes and toiletries. Her gaze fell on a picture of Clay that sat on her bedside table. It was her favorite picture of him. You couldn't tell from looking at the photo, but Clay was still in bed. Emma knew because she had taken the picture. Clay was smiling his special smile that Emma knew only she saw, and he looked all rumpled from sleep. Right after she took the picture, Clay had pulled her back into bed and they made love.

As Emma reached out to pick up the photo, her phone rang. She froze, afraid of what it might mean. The phone continued to ring and finally Anna picked it up.

"It's your Dad," she told Emma.

Emma's eyes widened and she slowly shook her head. She was too scared to hear what her Dad had to say. What if he was calling to say… She couldn't even think it. She didn't want to hear her father say it.

"Hi, Mr. Hayes," Anna answered the phone. "It's Anna."

She listened for a moment and then spoke again. "She's right here, but I think she's afraid that you might have worse news."

Ann listened some more and then looked to Emma. "There's been no change," she said gently, and held the phone out to Emma.

"Dad," Emma said in a quavering voice. "What happened?"

"Emma, baby," her father replied. "We don't know exactly. When we got on the plane, we didn't know Clay was injured. After we were in the air, we realized he was bleeding. He was shot just below his vest and by then he had lost a lot of blood."

"But didn't you see?" Emma cried.

There was a pause as before her father answered. "Not as soon as we should have, baby," he said softly.

"Is he going to…" Emma couldn't bring herself to actually ask the question. She was too afraid of the answer. "Aunt Naima said she didn't know if he'd be okay."

"No!" Jason said forcefully. "He is not going to die. You know what a fighter Clay is. He'll fight. You know he will."

"Okay," Emma whispered.

"Baby, I'm sure you need to get to the airport," Jason said. "I'll be here with Clay, waiting for you, okay?"

"Okay, Daddy," Emma said in a small voice. "I'll see you soon."

"See you soon," her father said and ended the call.

As Emma spoke with her father, Anna zipped up her own suitcase and then checked to see what Emma had packed. Shaking her head, Anna went to Emma's bureau and opened the drawers, taking out underwear and bras and then tossing them into Emma's suitcase. Then Anna went to Emma's closet and pulled out some tops and jeans and leggings and added those to the suitcase as well. Anna grabbed Emma's make-up bag from her bureau placed it on top of the clothes. She zipped up Emma's suitcase and placed it by the door.

Anna's phone chimed with a text. "The car to the airport is here," she said. "We should go down."

Emma nodded, put her coat back on and grabbed her bag and suitcase. She and Anna headed out the door to meet their ride to the airport.


Jason got up from the chair he was sitting in outside Clay's room and slipped his phone back into his pocket. He frowned as he considered Emma's question on the phone. "Didn't you see?" His daughter had asked. What he didn't want to say to her was that Clay hadn't wanted them to see. He figured she didn't need to know that right now.

He walked back into Clay's room and looked at him lying in bed surrounded by monitors. There was another bag of plasma on his IV, as they continued to work to bring his blood volume up. Clay's skin still looked pale. The doctors were concerned about his kidney and other organ function after his blood volume had become so low. They had him on oxygen as well, to make breathing easier for him.

The room was quiet, other than the beeping of the various monitors and the sound of the oxygen vent. The rest of the team had been ordered to go shower and eat before returning to the medical center. Even with an order it had still been difficult to get everyone, particularly Sonny and Trent, to go, but the medical staff had been adamant about not wanting them all in the way.

Jason reached down and brushed a hand across Clay's forehead, feeling how cool his skin still was to the touch.

"You fight. You got that?" He said quietly. "Don't make me a liar to my daughter, Spenser."


Emma and Anna made good time to Teterboro Airport. Emma had been silent in the car for most of the trip, holding on to Anna's hand the whole way. Anna was worried about Emma's state of mind. Emma was one of the most poised people Anna knew and seeing her like this scared Anna, a lot.

Also, Anna had been doing her best not to think too much about Clay. She had met him in person a few times since he and Emma had started dating. Sometimes she also photobombed their Facetime conversations to make them laugh. Clay was always very nice about it. Anna didn't think Emma and Clay had the perfect relationship, there was the whole long-distance thing for one, but anyone with half a brain could see how much they loved each other. Considering the jerks Anna seemed to end up dating, seeing Emma and Clay together gave her hope that there was someone out there that was right for her. The thought that Clay was seriously injured, could even die, was too much for Anna to think about. Instead she concentrated on taking care of Emma and getting her to Clay as fast as possible.

Once they were settled on the jet, Anna went into the liquor cabinet and took out a bottle of her father's good whiskey. She poured a shot into a glass and brought it over to Emma.

"Drink this," she said firmly.

Emma looked at her questioningly. "I don't think—"

"Trust me," Anna said, "you need it. Drink it."

Emma drank down the shot and then coughed. She handed the glass back to Anna, who put it away along with the bottle of whiskey.

Anna sat down next to Emma as the pilot came on the intercom and told them they were next in line for takeoff. Anna fastened her seatbelt and checked that Emma had done the same. They would be landing in Virginia Beach in about an hour.


Lisa Davis waited at the general aviation terminal, watching for Emma and her roommate. She had volunteered to pick them up because anything seemed better than sitting around waiting for Clay's condition to improve. She found it much easier to believe he was improving if she was busy taking care of someone else, and right now taking care of Emma for Clay was the best thing she could do, for Clay, and for herself.

Just as she was thinking about texting the number Naima had given her for Emma's roommate, Lisa saw Emma and another young woman walking down the corridor. Lisa stepped forward to catch Emma's attention.

"Emma," she called out.

Emma didn't seem to hear Lisa, but her companion did. The young woman said something to Emma and gestured towards Lisa. Emma looked over and started heading Lisa's way. Lisa moved forward and caught Emma in a hug. Emma clung to Lisa for a moment and then stepped back.

"Lisa, this is my roommate, Anna Miller," Emma said. "Anna, this is Lisa Davis from my Dad and Clay's team."

"Hi, Anna," Lisa said, holding out her hand. "Thanks for getting Emma here so quickly."

Anna reached out and shook Lisa's hand. "No problem," she replied. "It's nice to meet you. Sorry it's under these circumstances."

"I know, but it's nice meeting you too," Lisa said. "The car's just outside, so let's head out there and we can get you both to the medical center."

Lisa started walking towards the exit with Emma and Anna in tow.


As she entered the medical center with Lisa and Anna, Emma took a deep breath. The closer they came to seeing Clay, the more frightened she became. She wasn't sure she was strong enough to handle this.

Finally, after walking what seemed to Emma miles of hallway, they came into an open area with chairs where members of Bravo Team sat.

"Emma," Aunt Naima said as she rose from her seat by Uncle Ray.

She came to Emma and pulled her into a hug. Emma hugged Aunt Naima back and pressed her face into Aunt Naima's neck.

"Oh, sweetie," Aunt Naima whispered as she rubbed Emma's back.

"How is he?" Emma asked quietly.

"About the same," Aunt Naima answered. "They're still working on getting his blood volume up and they're monitoring his organ function."

Emma nodded. "Can I see him?" She asked in a forlorn voice.

"Yes, of course," Aunt Naima replied. "Your Dad is sitting with him now. Leave your bag and coat here with Anna and we'll go to his room."

Emma did as she was told and then let Aunt Naima lead her towards one of the rooms on the other side of the waiting area. As Emma walked by, Uncle Ray stood and gave her a hug as well, then further on they passed Uncle Sonny who reached out and squeezed Emma's hand.

As they approached the door to what must have been Clay's room, Aunt Naima turned to Emma. "He's hooked up to a lot of machines so they can monitor his condition, and he has an oxygen mask on to help him breathe, so it will look a little scary, but it's still Clay, okay?"

Emma nodded. She didn't feel like she could actually speak.

Aunt Naima pushed open the door and let Emma step in. The first thing Emma saw was her Dad sitting in a chair by the bed. He looked tired, she thought. Then her gaze continued past her father to the figure in the bed. It was Clay, but it wasn't. He was so pale and still.

Emma stepped further into the room and Aunt Naima closed the door leaving Emma with her father and Clay. Her father looked up, realizing she was there.

"Emma," he said gently as he stood and gathered her to him in a hug.

Emma wrapped her arms tightly around him burying her face in his chest, and finally she let herself cry.

"Shhh, shhh," her father soothed her, as he held her close with one arm and gently stroked her hair with the other.

When her storm of weeping had passed, Emma lifted her head looked up at him.

"I'm so scared, Daddy," she whispered.

"I know, baby," he said, "but you need to talk to him. That's what he needs right now, to know you're here waiting for him."

Emma nodded and stepped out of her father's arms and closer to the bed. She gripped the bed rail as she looked down at Clay. He was covered in blankets from the neck down. She reached out and gently smoothed his hair off his forehead.

"Clay," she said quietly, "it's me, Emma. I'm here. Please wake up soon."

Emma lifted the blanket a little by Clay's side, sliding her hand under the covers to find his. She slipped her hand into his and squeezed it. It felt much too cold to Emma. Clay was always so warm. Emma liked to roll up against him in bed at night. He was like her own personal heater.

One time when her feet were really cold, she had pressed them up to Clay's legs. He had jumped about a foot off the bed, telling her that her feet felt like blocks of ice. She apologized to him, but then she gave him the big eyes and said she was just trying to warm up her poor feet. Clay had sighed and then pulled her close and let her tuck her cold feet up against him to warm them up. She snuggled up close to him and whispered in his ear that she promised to make it up to him. She thought he seemed pretty happy in the morning when she did.

What if they never had another lazy morning in bed like that? Or another late night whispering to each other on the phone? What if this was it?

Emma took a deep breath. She wasn't going to think like that. Clay would get better and he would wake up and she wasn't going to sit around crying like a baby while she waited. She could do this. She was the daughter of a SEAL and the girlfriend of one.

"You better wake up soon, Clay Spenser, because we have things to do," she said firmly. "You got that?"

While Emma was talking to Clay her father had found a stool and brought it to Clay's bedside for her to sit.

"Thanks, Dad," she said giving him a ghost of a smile.

"Are you okay?" Her father asked. "I'd like to go out and check on the guys."

"I'm good," she replied.

"You sure?" He asked, giving her a concerned look. "I can stay here with you if you need me."

"I'm fine, really, Dad," she assured him. "Go see how everyone else is. I just walked off from Anna and left her there with everyone. Could you check on her? She was so great getting me here."

"Okay, baby. You just stick your head out if you need me," he told her.

Emma nodded. "I will."

Her Dad leaned down and gave her a kiss on the top of her head and then left the room.

Once he was gone Emma turned back to Clay. She squeezed his hand again as she watched his chest rise and fall with the rhythm of the sound from the oxygen vent. There were a lot of wires and tubes disappearing under the blankets and attached to machines on the other side of Clay's bed, but Emma wasn't really sure what they all were for.

As she contemplated what all the equipment was doing a nurse entered the room. Emma quietly watched her switch the empty plasma bag on Clay's IV to a full one and then check some of the machines.

Finished with her duties, the nurse turned and smiled at Emma.

"Are you a member of his family?" The nurse asked.

"His girlfriend," Emma replied with a blush.

The nurse nodded. "You know, the best thing you can do right now is talk to him," she told Emma. "It doesn't have to be anything important, just what you've been doing and news about people, things like that. That way he'll know you're here with him. It really does help."

"Okay," Emma answered thoughtfully.

The nurse exited the room, and Emma turned back to Clay and began to talk. She told him about her performance this morning in class before everything had turned upside down. She talked about the terrible date Anna had over the weekend. Anna was known for her bad date stories. Then Emma spoke about her conversation with Mikey the other day about his school and hockey.

Emma talked until she felt like she was running out of things to say. Her voice was getting tired and she wasn't sure how much time had gone by. Just when she thought she might have run out of ideas a doctor and a different nurse came into the room.

"We're going to change his bandage and do some tests," the nurse said gently. "So, we need you to leave for a little bit."

"Okay," Emma said with a nod. She stood then leaned down and kissed Clay on the forehead.

"I'll be back soon," she whispered.


Jason saw the doctor and nurse enter Clay's room and he headed towards the door to see what was happening. Before he could enter Emma came out of the room.

"Everything okay?" He asked.

"They need to change his bandage and do some tests," Emma replied. "They asked me to leave."

"Come sit down and have something to eat," he said, leading her to a chair by her roommate.

"I'm not really hungry," Emma protested as she sat down. "I ate a big breakfast."

Anna snorted. "No, you didn't," she contradicted. "You were nervous about your performance in class, so you only had a cup of yogurt that you barely finished."

Emma turned to look at her roommate. "Traitor," she muttered.

Anna just shrugged her shoulders.

Jason rummaged around in the bag of sandwiches Davis and Anna had brought back from a place just outside the gate. He remembered seeing something he thought Emma might like earlier when he took his own sandwich. Finally, he found what he was looking for and pulled it out of the bag.

"Here," he said gently, handing Emma the wrapped-up sandwich, "this one is grilled chicken and avocado. Try to eat some."

"I'm really not hungry, Dad," she repeated plaintively.

"I know, baby," he said as he sat down next to her. "But you need to take care of yourself. You won't be any good to Clay if you make yourself sick."

Emma nodded and began to unwrap the sandwich. "Do you think they'll be done in there soon?" She asked looking up at him with sad eyes.

"I'm sure it won't be too long," he replied, although he truly had no idea how long they would take.

He watched his daughter take a small bite out of her sandwich and slowly begin to chew on it. He sighed as he thought about how hard it was to see your child in pain and know that you couldn't protect her from it. Parenting had been so much easier in the days when all his daughter's problems could be solved with a kiss and maybe a trip for an ice cream.

He remembered when Spenser had asked for permission to date Emma. Jason had threatened the younger man if he hurt Emma in any way. At the time, Jason had been thinking more about Clay leading Emma on and then breaking her heart or taking advantage of her relative inexperience. Jason hadn't really considered Clay possibly dying and leaving Emma brokenhearted, not because he wasn't aware of the inherent risks of the life of a SEAL, but because he had truly believed that Emma and Clay wouldn't date long enough for that danger to matter.

Jason sighed again. Alana would have seen how serious things would become between their daughter and Clay and realized that this was a possibility. She would have been prepared for this. He was in no way prepared, to help Emma handle losing Clay or to get through losing another member of his team himself.

Clay had gone from being the pain in the ass rookie to an integral part of the team. They needed him, not only for his skills as an operator, but also for the heart he brought to the team. He had somehow filled a void the team didn't even realize was there. And although Jason would never admit it out loud, he did feel fatherly towards Clay. Ash Spenser had certainly left the role wide open, and the kid definitely needed a father in his life at times. Then with Clay and Emma's relationship becoming so serious, Jason found himself thinking more and more of Clay like a son.

Not that he was ready to call Clay his son-in-law, no matter how fatherly he felt towards his rookie. And Jason did suspect that Clay wanted to marry Emma, although Clay hadn't said or even hinted that he was thinking about marriage. Jason just had a feeling about it, but he definitely wasn't ready to think about his little girl getting married. Emma had more than two years of college left, and he wanted her to get her degree, even if he had his doubts about the usefulness of a degree in music. Emma needed to be able to build a life for herself with or without Clay, or any man, in her life. Whether or not his suspicion about Clay's feelings was correct, he knew his best option was to ignore it and see if Emma and Clay could make their relationship last through the rest of her time at NYU. If marriage came up before Emma graduated, he'd deal with it then, assuming Clay pulled through this current crisis, which Jason feared was not a sure thing.

Noise from a commotion at the door to Clay's room roused Jason from his thoughts. Medical center personnel were pushing a crash cart into Clay's room. Jason's looked in horror as he realized what that meant.

Next to him Emma dropped her sandwich and darted forward to get to Clay. Before she could reach the room, Sonny stood and caught her around the waist, stopping her from entering and getting in the way.

"No, no," Emma cried, pushing at Sonny's arms. "Clay!"

"You can't go in there, darlin'," Sonny said mournfully. "I know you want to be with him. I know. But you need to let them work."

As he spoke Sonny turned Emma in his arms and pulled her close. She continued to struggle weakly against his hold, and he pressed her head underneath his chin and began to gently rub her back.

"Clay, please," she whimpered forlornly into Sonny's neck as she stopped struggling and instead gripped his shirt in her hand.

Jason stood and walked to where Sonny held Emma and placed his hand on her shoulder. Sonny looked up from Emma and met Jason's gaze. Jason could see the pain in his teammate's eyes, part of it from having to keep Emma from Clay's side, but the majority of it from knowing Clay was losing his fight.

The waiting area was silent as they all listened through the open door of Clay's room to the sounds of the medical team working to save him. The only sounds were the doctor calling clear and then the thump of the defibrillator shocking Clay's chest in an effort to get his heart beating again. The medical team shocked Clay once and then again, the silence after each shock deafening.

The medical team charged the defibrillator again and shocked Clay a third time. After a moment of silence, they heard the beep of the heart monitor start up as Clay's heart began beating again. The relief in the waiting area was palpable as they realized Clay wasn't giving up.

The medical team with the crash cart exited the room followed by the doctor who had originally entered to change Clay's bandage and perform tests. Jason and Eric moved forward to meet up with the him to find out what had happened.

"Doctor," Eric asked, "what's his condition?"

"We've gotten his blood volume up, but we had some issues with his blood oxygen level," the Doctor replied. "His heart has been working harder than normal, but I think now we've gotten his volume up and his blood oxygen level stable that should stop. We'll keep a close eye on that, but I'd rather not intubate him if possible. I'm still very concerned about his organ function, particularly his kidneys. I think the next twelve hours will be critical for him. We'll need to see some improvement in his organ function by then."

"And if we don't?" Jason asked.

"Well, his odds of survival become much lower then," the Doctor answered. "But let's not go there yet. He's obviously a fighter and the bullet didn't do any serious damage, just the blood loss, and he needs time to recover from the shock to his system from that. I'm not ready to say he can't recover from this."

Eric thanked the doctor while Jason turned to catch Sonny's eye. Once he had the Texan's attention, Jason tilted his head towards Clay's room. Sonny nodded and spoke to Emma. Emma lifted her head from under Sonny's chin and let him escort her into Clay's room.


Emma walked back into Clay's room with Uncle Sonny. The nurse who had asked Emma to leave earlier was still there, smoothing Clay's blankets after getting him settled. Emma stepped up to Clay's bedside as the nurse moved away with a fleeting smile. Uncle Sonny moved in beside Emma to look down at Clay's still form on the bed.

"Our boy's a fighter," Sonny said as he put his arm around Emma and pulled her close into his side. "He's not gonna give up, so we can't give up on him, okay?"

She nodded and leaned forward to push Clay's matted curls off his forehead. That had just been the most terrifying experience of her life. As she had listened to the medical team work to get Clay's heart beating again her only thought was that she couldn't lose him, not like this. She knew that losing Clay on a mission or deployment was a possibility. Most of the time she pushed that thought into the back of her mind and ignored it as best she could. But losing him while he was on a mission meant that she wouldn't know when it took place. She wouldn't hear it happening. The silence when Clay's heart didn't respond after they shocked him had been so scary. The relief she felt when his heart did finally respond was overpowering. If Uncle Sonny hadn't been holding her, she probably wouldn't have been able to continue standing.

She reached out and placed her hand on Clay's chest to feel the comforting beat of his heart. It felt so strong and steady now. If she hadn't been here to listen to the medical team working to revive him, she wouldn't have believed that anything had happened.

"Uncle Sonny," Emma said in a small voice, "I just want him to wake up."

"He will, princess," Sonny promised. "You just have to give him time."

The door to Clay's room opened behind them and her father entered the room.

"Boss," Sonny asked, "what'd the doc say?"

Jason stepped forward and rested his hand on Emma's shoulder. She turned and leaned against him, and he slid his hand from her shoulder and pulled her into a hug.

"He said they've got his blood volume up and straightened out some issue with his blood oxygen level, so his heart should be good now," Jason reassured them. "They're more concerned about his organ function and they want to see some improvement in that in the next twelve hours."

"Do they think it will improve?" Emma questioned.

"The doc thinks Clay's a fighter," Jason replied.

Emma frowned, realizing her father didn't actually answer her question.

"Some of the others would like to come in to see Clay, alright?" Jason asked gently.

"Of course," Emma answered, "I should go check on Anna." Before she left, Emma turned back to the bed and stroked Clay's cheek. "I'll be back soon," she whispered to him, and then leaned down and gave him a kiss on the forehead.


After everyone else had a chance to visit with Clay, Emma came back into his room. She dragged the stool over to his beside again and settled down. She slipped her hand under the blanket once more and took Clay's hand into her own. His skin felt warmer now, and she took that as a good sign.

"It's me again," she said softly. "Sorry I was gone so long, but everyone wanted to see you too. You have all of us pretty worried, so now would be a good time to wake up."

Emma paused for any reaction from Clay, but there was none. She sighed. She didn't think it would be that easy, but it would have been nice if it had been.

"I miss you," she whispered.

Before she could say any more a new nurse entered the room. She smiled at Emma and began checking the different machines attached to Clay.

Emma watched and when the nurse seemed to be finishing up, she spoke. "How is he doing?"

The nurse looked over at Emma. "He's holding his own," she replied.

Emma nodded, trying to decide if this was good news or if the nurse was just placating her.

"His system has had a real shock from the blood loss," the nurse continued, "so it needs time to recover. His organ function has remained the same, but that means it isn't getting worse. That's good."

"Do you think he can hear me?" Emma questioned the nurse.

"I do," the nurse replied firmly. "My patients that know they're not alone and that there are people who love them nearby do better. It makes a difference."

The nurse wrote some notes on Clay's chart and took one last look at his IV. Then she turned to look at Emma perched on the stool.

"I think we can make you more comfortable though," she said. Stepping up to the side of the bed Emma was sitting on, the nurse lowered the side rail in front of Emma. Then she pulled over a chair that was lower than the stool.

"With the rail down you can sit in this chair and then rest against the bed if you get tired," she recommended.

"Thank you," Emma said, happy to sit in the more comfortable chair.

"You're welcome," the nurse replied. "My name is Theresa. I'm the night nurse, so you just hit the call button if he needs anything."

"I will," Emma said as Theresa headed out the door.

Now that the bed rail wasn't in the way Emma was able to slip more of her arm under the blanket and rest it on the mattress by Clay's side instead of propping her elbow on the rail. She did find that more comfortable, and she suspected that as it became later, she would want to lean against the bed.

Earlier she had felt as if she had run out of things to talk about to Clay. She still felt like that, but knew she needed to keep talking to let him know she was here. Then she thought, maybe instead of talking she could sing. Last Fall when the team was deployed, she had sent Clay videos of her singing. Some of the videos, which he could share with her Dad, were from school performances or class assignments, but others she created just for him alone. Anna, who was in the film program at Tisch, had helped her make them. Clay had really liked them and had told her that he played one in particular a lot.

Emma decided that she would go ahead and sing that song for him. She cleared her throat, took a deep breath, and began.

"Wise men say only fools rush in

But I can't help falling in love with you

Oh, shall I stay, would it be a sin

Oh, if I can't help falling in love with you?"


In the waiting area, Jason sat slumped in a chair trying to get some rest. Some of the others were trying to nap as well. Naima had headed home to be with the kids. Eric had tried earlier to convince some of them to go home and sleep as it looked like Clay might not be waking up any time soon, but none of them felt comfortable leaving. The team would have to report for duty in the morning for debrief, but Eric was going to do his best to release them after that.

As Jason tried to doze, he started hearing what he thought was Emma's voice coming from Clay's room. He opened his eyes and turned to look towards the door to the room. He definitely heard Emma. She was singing. He stood and slowly moved closer to the door to listen.

"Like a river flows, surely to the sea

Darling so it goes, some things are meant to be"

He peered through the small window in the door and watched his daughter as she sang. He inhaled a deep breath and then slowly released it.

"Hey boss," he heard Sonny say, as the Texan joined him at the door. "Everything okay?"

Jason nodded and tilted his head towards the window. Sonny looked in at Emma and silently listened as she sang.

"Take my hand, take my whole life too

Oh, for I can't help falling in love with you"

As Jason and Sonny stood listening to Emma, Davis came over to see what was holding their attention.

"Jay," Sonny said quietly, "there are some things that just break a man's heart."

Davis nodded and leaned into Sonny's side, while Jason kept his gaze locked on his daughter. If anyone asked, his eyes were watery because of the dry medical center air.

"Oh, like a river flows, surely to the sea

Darling so it goes, some things are meant to be"

Sonny wrapped his arm around Davis and pulled her closer, and the three of them stood quietly and just listened to Emma sing.


"Oh, take my hand, take my whole life too

For I can't help falling in love with you

Oh, for I can't help falling in love with you"

As Emma finished the song, she squeezed Clay's hand gently.

"I hope you liked that," Emma said. "I don't think I did as a good a job as I did in the recording."

Emma felt a very light return squeeze to her hand. Her head snapped up to look at Clay's face. His eyes were still closed and there didn't seem to be any change to his breathing.

"Clay, was that you?" Emma asked, hardly daring to hope.

She squeezed his hand again and waited for any kind of response, but there was nothing. She waited a little more and then squeezed again, but still there was nothing. Emma sighed. Maybe she didn't actually feel anything.

Not knowing what else she could do Emma began to talk again. She started by giving Clay the full story on how Anna helped her make the videos for him and then just moved on from there. She spoke about different people at school and what classes she wanted to register for next. She gave him the details on what she was thinking about doing for summer break this year and how much she was looking forward to being back in Virginia Beach with him for it. No topic was too small. She just talked.

Finally, Emma ran out of steam. It was late and she was tired. No one had stuck their head in the room to check on her in some time. She wondered if they all were asleep. She didn't care enough to get up and check though. She was too tired herself. She laid her head on the mattress by her and Clay's joined hands. She was just going to rest for a minute.


Jason looked around the waiting area checking on everyone waiting for Clay to wake. Emma's roommate Anna and Davis were asleep on the two couches, double chairs really, while Eric and Sonny dozed nearby in chairs with their legs stretched out. Trent was sleeping fitfully in a chair with his legs resting on another chair he had pulled up. Ray was doing the same. Brock had left a little earlier to check on Cerberus. Jason suspected Brock was going to try and sneak the dog into the medical center in the morning.

Once he knew everyone in the waiting area was okay, Jason stood and moved to look into the window of Clay's room to check on Emma. He saw she was asleep with her head resting by Clay's side on the mattress. He slipped into the room quietly, trying not to wake his daughter.

He stood by Emma and looked down at Clay still unconscious in the bed. He thought Clay's color had improved a lot from earlier in the day, but he supposed that had to do with Clay's blood volume being back up. Otherwise, Jason couldn't tell if there had been any improvement in the younger man's condition.

There were two chairs in the room that weren't in use. Both were much more comfortable looking than the chairs in the waiting area. As team leader, he was claiming one for himself. He stuck his head out of the room to see if anyone in the waiting area was awake. He caught Sonny's eye and gave him a come here nod.

"What's up?" Sonny asked.

"You want a more comfortable place to sleep?" Jason inquired.

"Sure," Sonny replied, "but I ain't leavin'."

"No," Jason replied, "there are two better chairs in here. I'm taking one. You can have the other if you can keep quiet and not wake Emma."

"My lips are sealed, boss," Sonny assured him.

Jason nodded and gestured for Sonny to enter Clay's room. The two settled down in the vacant chairs, Jason taking the one closer to Emma while Sonny took the second on the other side of the room.


Clay slowly regained consciousness and tried to figure out where he was. Hadn't he been dancing with Emma in his kitchen? No, that wasn't right. He had been on a mission. Or maybe not. He wasn't sure. He was lying down now. Why was he lying down? He could hear beeping. What was beeping? His limbs felt heavy, particularly his right arm. It felt weighted down. He couldn't move it. Had he been captured? Was he restrained? No, his legs and other arm weren't being held down.

He tried to open his eyes, but he couldn't seem to. His lids were too heavy to move. He would continue to rest them. He focused on his right arm again. Why couldn't he move it? Something was on it, well on his hand. What? Wait, something was holding his hand. Someone? Who? He tried to move his hand.


Emma gradually came awake. Something had woken her up, but she wasn't sure what. She slowly opened her eyes. Then she felt it. Something was moving against her cheek. Clay's fingers!

She immediately sat up, ignoring the pain in her neck from the awkward position she had slept in, and looked at Clay. His blue eyes were staring back at her.

"Clay!" She gasped then stood.

Clay tried to say something, but the oxygen mask made it too difficult. He tried to move it, but Emma reached over and stopped him

"Leave that alone," she scolded. "You need it."

Her father and Uncle Sonny joined her by the bed.

"Hey, Sleepin' Beauty," Sonny said, "'bout time you woke up."

Clay blinked at them. Emma thought he looked a little confused. She reached over and hit the call button for the nurse.

"You're at the base medical center," she explained. "You were shot."

Clay looked from Emma to Jason for confirmation.

"Yeah kid, you took a round just below your vest," Jason corroborated. "Lost a lot of blood."

Before they could tell Clay anything else the nurse entered the room.

"Well, I see someone has decided to join us. I'm going to page the doctor," she said and quickly left the room.

Emma couldn't stop smiling. Clay was awake. She was sure this meant he was going to be fine. She squeezed his hand, and his gaze returned to her face.

"I'm so glad you're awake," she told him. "I was really worried about you. We all were."

The doctor entered the room followed closely by the nurse.

"Our patient has woken up," the doctor said as he walked over to check the machines on the other side of Clay's bed. "This is a good sign." He nodded as he looked at the readout on one of the machines.

"Could you all step out while Nurse Sampson and I check our patient?" The doctor requested.

Her father and Uncle Sonny turned to leave the room, but Emma hesitated by the bed. She really didn't want to leave Clay now that he was finally awake.

The nurse smiled reassuringly at Emma. "It will just be a few minutes, then you can come back," she said.

Emma nodded and started to slide her hand from Clay's. As she did so, Clay tightened his grip on her hand. She smiled at him and leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"I'll be back in a few minutes," she promised, and then reluctantly left the room.

Out in the waiting area everyone was excited to hear that Clay was awake. Anna came over to Emma and hugged her.

"Emma, I'm so glad he woke up," Anna said as she let go of Emma.

"Me too," Emma said, reaching to squeeze Anna's hand. "And thank you for being so great getting me here and then staying even though I just left you out here with a bunch of people you hardly know."

"It's fine," Anna reassured her. "I was happy to do it. You've been there for me with everything with my parents. I'm just glad he's doing better."

As Emma stood with Anna watching everyone chat and look so relieved about Clay, her father came over and put his arm around her. She leaned into his side.

"Feeling better now?" He asked.

"Yes," she answered emphatically. "I couldn't believe it though when I looked up and his eyes were open."

Her father smiled down at her. "I told you he was a fighter."

Emma smiled back at him, and at that moment the doctor came out of Clay's room.

"Could you all keep it down just a little?" The doctor asked. "It is still early, and there are other patients nearby."

"Of course, Doctor," Eric answered. "In fact, once you give us an update, almost everyone will be leaving to get cleaned up and eat before they report for duty." As he spoke, he looked around the room at the team, letting them know his words were not a suggestion.

The doctor nodded, and then spoke. "Petty Officer Spenser is, as I'm sure you're all now aware, awake, and other than a little memory loss or confusion about the time of his injury his mental faculties seem fine. His organ function is improving, although we will still be monitoring that, particularly his kidney function, as he still needs improvement there. His wound looks good with no signs of infection as yet. I expect that he will spend the next day or so doing a lot of sleeping as he recovers from the blood loss."

"Thank you, Doctor," Eric said. "Will it be okay for us to each see him briefly before we get out of your way?"

"Briefly, and only two at a time," the doctor allowed.

"You heard the man," Eric said. "Make it quick. I do expect you all to clean up and eat before our briefing. I'm going to start by pulling rank. I'll go first and Davis will join me."

Emma was impatient to get back to Clay, but she realized all of the team needed to see him as well.

"Em," her father spoke, interrupting her thoughts, "are you going to stay here at the hospital?"

"Yes," she replied firmly. "I'm not leaving now."

"You need to eat something then," he told her.

"Naima will be here soon with food," Anna interjected.

"I promise I'll have some of that," Emma said.

"Good," her father said. "I'm going to go in with Sonny to see Clay." He gave her a squeeze before he removed his arm from around her and headed over to the door to Clay's room with Sonny to wait for Eric and Lisa to come out.

"Um, Em?" Anna said.

Emma turned to look at Anna.

"I'm going to leave with Naima. She asked me if I wanted to come back to her house after she drops the food, so I can get cleaned up and maybe some sleep in a more comfortable place, if that's okay with you," Anna explained. "I was also thinking that if I can arrange it and assuming everything is fine with Clay, I'm going to head back to New York tonight. I figured you'll be staying here until after Spring Break."

"Of course, that's okay with me," Emma said. "I'm sorry you've had to hang around here."

"I told you, I don't mind at all. I'm just glad I could be here for you," Anna assured her.

Just then Naima arrived with breakfast sandwiches for them all. She placed the bags of food on a chair and came to hug Emma.

"I'm so happy Clay's doing better, sweetie," she said as she held Emma close.

"Me too, Aunt Naima," Emma replied happily.

"Now, let's get you some breakfast," Naima said, turning to grab a wrapped breakfast sandwich from the bag for Emma.

As Emma began unwrapping her breakfast, Ray came over to speak with Naima. "Babe, come in with me to see Clay once Jason and Sonny come out."

"Have all the guys gone in to see him already?" Naima asked.

"Trent and Brock will go in after us," Ray answered. "They can grab some breakfast while they wait."

"Okay, if that's fine with them," Naima agreed.

"It is. I already asked them," Ray assured her. "Jason and Sonny are coming out now, so we should go in."

Emma watched as Uncle Ray took Aunt Naima's hand and they walked into Clay's room after her father and Uncle Sonny exited it. Her father headed her way once he said something to Uncle Sonny.

"Em, I'm going to head over to my cage to grab some clothes and then take a shower over there," her father informed her. "We'll be heading into debrief after that."

Emma nodded. "Okay, Dad. When do you think you'll be back here?"

"Blackburn is planning to release us after the debriefing," he replied. "I'm hoping that means I'll be back by lunchtime. Will you be okay here until then?"

"I'll be fine," she reassured him. "I'm just going to sit with Clay and maybe grab a nap in one of the chairs in his room."

"Okay, baby," he said and stooped down to give her a kiss. "I'll see you later then."

"Bye, see you later," she replied and watched him head down the hall.

As Emma finished up her breakfast, Aunt Naima and Uncle Ray came out of Clay's room and joined her in the waiting area.

"I need to head over to my cage and get ready for debriefing," Uncle Ray said. "I'll see you ladies later."

"Bye, Uncle Ray," Emma said.

"Take a breakfast sandwich with you," Aunt Naima told him. "I'll see you at home."

He grabbed a sandwich from the bag, gave Aunt Naima a kiss, and tousled Emma's hair before heading off down the hall.

"Anna, are you ready to go?" Aunt Naima asked.

"I am," she replied and turned to Emma. "Are you sure it's okay to leave you here?"

"It's fine, really," Emma stated. "I'm just going to sit with Clay and maybe have a nap in one of the chairs in his room."

"Okay, I'll talk to you later then," Anna said.

Emma stood and hugged Anna hard. She didn't know how she would have gotten through this without Anna. Anna smiled at her as they ended the hug.

"Bye, Aunt Naima. Thanks for breakfast," Emma said, turning to give her Aunt a hug.

"Bye, sweetie. You call me if you need anything," she ordered Emma.

"I will," Emma promised.

She watched Aunt Naima and Anna head off down the hall towards the exit, then turned to the door to Clay's room. She wondered how much longer Uncle Trent and Uncle Brock were going to take in there. While she waited, she busied herself with picking up the empty breakfast sandwich wrappers and used coffee cups and putting them into the garbage. Then she collected her coat and bag to take into Clay's room with her. She assumed her suitcase was still in the trunk of Lisa's car, but then she thought maybe not as Anna must have worked out getting her suitcase to take with her. Emma figured it didn't matter. She'd get it from someone eventually.

Finally, the door to Clay's room opened and Uncle Trent and Uncle Brock came out. Emma hopped up out of her chair, ready to go in.

Uncle Trent smiled at her when he saw her waiting for them. "All set to keep an eye on the kid for us?" He asked teasingly.

"I'll try to keep him out of trouble," she laughed.

"That can be more challenging that you might think," Trent said with a laugh of his own.

"That's for sure," Brock agreed.

Emma grinned at her two honorary uncles. "I'll call you if he gets out of line."

"You do that," Trent directed her. Then more seriously, he added, "Emma, call us if anything happens and we'll be right over here."

"I will," she agreed. "But I'm sure it will be fine. I think we'll both spend the morning sleeping."

"Good plan," Brock said, while Trent nodded.

Each of them gave her a hug and then headed down the hall, leaving Emma to finally go back into Clay's room.

Emma slowly pushed the door to Clay's room open as she juggled her coat and bag. She smiled as she saw Clay lying in bed watching the door for her entrance. He no longer wore the oxygen mask, which had been exchanged for a nasal cannula, and the head of the bed had been raised so that he could sit up more.

"Finally," Clay said in a voice made rough from all the time with the oxygen mask. "Thought you were never coming back."

"Sorry I was so long," Emma said as she put her bag and coat on one of the chairs. "Everyone else needed to see you too once they knew you were awake."

She stepped up to the side of the bed.

"Do you want some water?" She asked gently. "You sound like you could use it."

Clay nodded. She grabbed the cup and pitcher from his bedside table and poured him some. She handed him the cup.

"Just little sips, okay?" She told him.

After he drank, he handed the cup back to her. "Thanks," he whispered.

She put the cup back on the table and went to pull the reclining chair closer to the bed. If she was going to nap, this time she wasn't going to get a sore neck.

"What are you doing?" Clay asked looking confused.

"I'm going to sit in this chair because it's more comfortable," Emma replied, "but I want to be able to see you while I'm sitting in it."

Clay frowned. "No, not there," he told her. Then he pushed himself over to one side of his bed a little. As he did so, he groaned from the effort.

"What are you doing?!" Emma exclaimed.

"Sit here," he ordered, patting the open spot he had just made on the bed.

"Clay, babe, I can't sit there," Emma explained. "I don't want to hurt you."

"Won't," he disagreed. "Need you, Em."

"Oh, Clay," she sighed. She really wanted to be close to him too, but she didn't want to do anything to make his condition worse. And now he was giving her what Uncle Sonny referred to as the puppy dog eyes. Any resistance she had pretty much crumbled. "Okay, but if I get in trouble with a nurse or your doctor, I am totally blaming you."

Clay smiled as he watched her unzip her boots and take them off. She placed the boots off to the side of the chair with her bag and coat, and then sat down gingerly on the side of the bed, away from his stitches. When she didn't hear Clay make any noise or gasp in pain, she swung her legs up onto the bed so that she was sitting by him. Then she carefully put her arm around him, avoiding getting her hand tangled in the oxygen line for his cannula. Once she settled her arm, he turned a little so that he could rest his head on her shoulder, just under her chin.

Emma relaxed once she realized Clay was comfortable and not in any pain. Then she gently began to stroke his hair with her free hand. Clay sighed and settled in closer to her side, stretching his arm out and resting it across her waist. She smiled and pressed a kiss to the top of his head.

"Mmmm," Clay hummed contentedly. "Love you, Em."

"I love you too," she said softly.

She laid there holding Clay close, feeling the tension she had experienced since she saw Anna outside her class yesterday just drain away. Clay's breathing slowly evened out as he drifted off to sleep. Her eyes slid closed as she joined him.

A few minutes later the door opened quietly as one of Clay's nurses came in to check on him. She smiled as she saw the pair sleeping on the bed. She left the room and returned after a few moments carrying another blanket. She covered Emma with the blanket and then turned to check the machines monitoring Clay's condition. Once she finished doing that, she added another dose of antibiotics to his IV, and then left the room.


Around eleven thirty Jason, Trent, and Sonny returned to the medical center. Jason pushed open the door to Clay's room, expecting to see his rookie asleep in the bed and his daughter dozing in one of the chairs. Instead he found them both racked out on Clay's hospital bed, with his rookie wrapped around his daughter. He frowned. Rationally he knew they were both adults and in a serious relationship, but that didn't mean he needed to see it.

He turned away from the bed to see Trent texting away on his phone.

"Who are you texting?" Jason asked.

Trent grinned. "Just sending a photo of this to Ray, Brock and Davis," he replied.

"Really?" Jason asked with an exasperated sigh.

"Trent's right, boss," Sonny chimed in. "They'd be sorry they missed this."

"My hair better look decent in that picture," Emma muttered from the bed.

"Good, you're awake," Jason said.

"As if anyone could sleep through you three," Clay groaned.

"Are you okay?" Emma asked, sounding concerned. "You don't sound so good."

"I think my painkillers wore off," Clay replied, reaching down to rub his side where he was shot.

"Don't touch that," Trent ordered, slapping Clay's hand away from his stitches. "Emma, I think you should get off the bed now."

Emma nodded and began to slide her arm from around Clay, making sure she didn't catch the line for Clay's oxygen. As she started to detach herself from him, his arm around her waist tightened, holding her close.

"Clay, let Emma go," Trent directed. "Your wound will be less painful if you lie flatter on the bed."

Clay frowned, still holding on to Emma. Jason watched as his daughter brought her hand up and stroked Clay's cheek. Then she leaned closer to him and whispered something in his ear. Clay sighed and loosened his grip on her waist. Emma gave him a gentle kiss before sliding off the bed.

Once Emma was clear of the bed, Trent hit the button to lower the mattress. Clay groaned a little as his position changed, and Emma moved forward to help him rearrange his pillows more comfortably.

"We should call the nurse to give him more painkillers," Emma said.

"Don't want them," Clay grumbled.

"Not yet," Jason stated. "Trent and I need to have a conversation with Clay and the painkillers will make him fuzzy. Your Uncle Sonny is here to take you to Clay's apartment while we do that."

Jason locked eyes with Clay and gave the younger man a look meant to impart how serious he was right now.

"I don't need to go back to the apartment," Emma insisted. "I can wait here."

Clay looked away from Jason to Emma. "No, Em, you should go back to the apartment. Take a shower. Change your clothes."

"Are you saying I smell?" She teased Clay.

He smiled at her. "No, it's only that Jason, Trent and I need to have this conversation. They just came from debrief, so they need information from me. This could take a while, and I know you've been here since yesterday afternoon. Go to the apartment and relax a while and then come back later."

Emma frowned and looked from Clay to her father suspiciously. "That's all?" She asked.

Before Clay could speak again, Jason answered. "That's all. We have team business that can't wait, and you shouldn't have to hang around while we take care of it."

Emma sighed. "Okay, I guess it would be good to take a shower." She stood by Clay's bed looking at them and waiting. Nobody moved. Emma gave them an exasperated look. "Could you give us a minute before I leave?"

"I'll wait for you outside, princess," Sonny said and headed for the door.

Trent turned to follow him out, then reached back and grabbed Jason's arm, pulling him out the door as well.

Jason shook Trent off once they were in the waiting area. "Was that really necessary?"

"It seemed like it," Trent replied. "What with you acting all paternal. All you needed to do was start cleaning your service weapon."

Sonny laughed. "Trent's right, boss. They been datin' almost a year now, little late to start actin' all protective."

Jason rubbed his hands through his hair. "You're right. I'm just pissed at him as his team leader about him hiding an injury again and nearly dying because of it."

"You're pissed at him as Emma's father too," Trent pointed out.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Jason questioned.

"He hid his injury and nearly died because of it and that put Emma through a lot of pain," Trent elaborated patiently. "You're also pissed at him for hurting Emma."

Jason gave Trent a hard look. "Didn't realize your medical training made you a shrink too."

"Look, Jase," Trent said. "It's a perfectly normal reaction. The question is, are you going to let that reaction make you go harder on the kid than you would have if Emma weren't part of the situation?"

"Emma or no Emma," Jason justified, "him hiding an injury is a serious problem that we need to deal with."

"I agree," Trent stated. "It needs to be dealt with. I just want you to be sure you're dealing with it the same as you would if Clay's girlfriend wasn't your daughter."

Jason turned and sat in one of the waiting area chairs. He knew Trent was right. He would need to be sure he separated his feelings as a father from his actions as Bravo Team leader. Before he went back in that room, he would have to find a way to get those feelings put away.


Clay watched as Emma put her boots back on and zipped them up. Once she finished, she came back to the side of his bed. He really didn't want her to leave, but he also wanted to get this conversation with Jason over with. As the details of their mission had come back to him while he dozed on and off with Emma this morning, he realized he would be facing a serious discussion over his actions. The fact that Trent was going to be present for the conversation told Clay that they would be focusing on his injury and how and when it had happened.

"Is there anything you want me to bring you from home?" Emma asked, breaking into his thoughts.

"Yeah, please bring me some t-shirts and sleep pants so I can stop wearing this hospital gown," he requested. "Also, there are a couple books on my bedside table, if you could bring those too."

"I don't think they're going to let you out of the hospital gown until they take the catheter out, babe," Emma said teasingly.

The tips of Clay's ears turned red as he responded. "I want to be prepared, smart ass."

Emma smiled. "You're cute when you blush," she said, then leaned in and gave him a kiss.

"Yeah? How cute?" He asked huskily.

"Mmmm, so cute, I might have to kiss you again," she murmured and pressed her lips to his a second time.

Their kiss grew deeper and they both forgot about Sonny waiting to drive Emma to the apartment and Jason and Trent wanting to talk to Clay. Clay reached up and cupped Emma's head, pulling her in closer.

"Hey! Lovebirds!" Sonny called out from the door.

Emma and Clay pulled apart. This time Emma blushed.

"Let's get the show on the road, princess," Sonny said with a playful grin.

Emma nodded and turned to grab her bag and coat. Once she had them, she stepped up to the bed again and Clay reached out and squeezed her hand.

"Hey, no more kissin' you two," Sonny ordered, "or we ain't never gettin' out of here."

"I'm coming. I'm coming," Emma grumbled.

Sonny turned and headed back into the waiting room and Emma followed. At the door she turned and blew Clay a kiss.

"See you later," she called.

"See you later," he echoed as Jason and Trent entered the room.

In the silence they could hear Sonny talking to Emma as they left.

"As your Uncle," Sonny was lecturing, "I don't need to see you and Romeo lockin' lips, okay? It's traumatizin' for me."

Emma's reply was indistinct as the pair moved further away from Clay's room.

Clay turned his gaze from the door to look at Jason and then Trent. Jason pulled up the chair Emma had used, and Trent settled in the chair in the corner. Clay waited. He had decided the best thing to do was let them start this conversation.

Jason went right to the heart of the matter with his first question. "When during the op did you get shot?"

"I don't know," Clay replied calmly.

"You don't know?" Jason asked. "Is that because you don't remember things clearly now?"

"No," Clay answered, "because I'm not sure when it happened."

"Can you narrow it down at all?" Trent inquired.

"Sometime between when we entered the village and when we went into the target's house," Clay replied.

Jason made an annoyed sound.

"Were you bleeding then?" Trent continued. "When we went into the house?"

"I don't know," Clay responded. "At the time, I thought I had a stitch in my side from running, but we took fire when we were approaching the house, so I have to assume that 'stitch' was from being shot."

"When did you actually realize you were shot?" Jason demanded.

Clay thought Jason was pretty irritated now, but he knew once he answered this question, irritated would be an understatement. "After we cleared the house and found no one there. I went to rub my side under my body armor and found some blood."

"At that point we were discussing our next move, and you didn't think it was important to let the rest of us know you had an injury?" Jason asked in an icy cold tone.

Clay hesitated. "I thought it didn't seem that bad, and I was worried that my being injured would stop us from trying the other location to rescue the hostages."

"So you withheld information that I needed to make an informed decision on how to handle the mission," Jason stated.

"Never mind not getting treatment for your injury," Trent interjected.

"It wasn't that serious and getting the hostages back was more important," Clay said defensively. "I knew I would be able to continue on the mission and I didn't want you to abort just because of me."

"You don't know that I would have aborted the mission," Jason replied angrily. "And I don't know that either. Now we'll never know since I wasn't given the opportunity to make that choice."

"Getting shot is never not serious, Clay," Trent pointed out. "Which seems pretty obvious right now with you lying in this hospital bed after practically bleeding out."

"But some of them were kids, and they all had people, family who cared about them," Clay said, trying one last time to get Jason to understand.

"And you don't?" Jason snapped. "This waiting room wasn't full of people who care about you, who consider you family? My daugh—"

Clay saw Trent's gaze shift to Jason as their team leader stopped speaking mid-sentence. Clay waited to see if Jason would continue. Finally, Clay broke the silence. "It's my job," he stated. "Those hostages, that's not what they signed on for. I chose this life."

"Risking our lives may be part of our job, but carelessly throwing them away is not," Trent pointed out. "If you had spoken up then and received treatment, we would have avoided most of this. And if it really wasn't that bad, we would have continued the mission."

"Trent is right," Jason stated. "But let's move on. You made the decision to withhold information from the team because you thought we might not continue to try to retrieve the hostages. Once we did, why didn't you say something?"

"I didn't want to slow us down by stopping to get treated. Having to go to the second location cut into our time to make it to exfil," Clay rationalized.

"And then when we made it back to the C-17? Why didn't you say something then? The mission was complete." Jason challenged. "I know the locals in Nicaragua didn't want us hanging around, but we could have delayed if we had a medical emergency."

"At that point I think the blood loss had probably affected my thinking," Clay explained.

"Oh, at that point he thinks it affected his thinking," Jason said sarcastically to Trent.

Clay continued as if he hadn't heard Jason's comment to Trent. "I had been so focused on not letting you guys see that I was shot that I got stuck, I guess that's the best word, in that mindset and didn't realize it was okay then to say something."

Clay sighed, saying it all out loud made him realize how foolish he had been. He shifted on the bed, trying to find a more comfortable position. His side was starting to throb and there didn't seem to be any way for him to lie that would relieve the pressure on it. He groaned as he tried to roll onto his right side to see if that would help.

"We need to get some painkillers into him, Jase," Trent said.

Jason nodded, then looked pointedly at Clay. "This conversation is not finished, and there will be repercussions when you return to duty. Right now, I just want you to consider that you don't always know best and to learn that no matter how trivial an injury you have, you report it. Got it?"

"Got it, boss," Clay said trying to show that he did understand what Jason was saying.

"Get the nurse in here," Jason said turning to Trent. Jason walked out of the room once he saw Trent push the call button for the nurse.

Clay groaned as he repositioned himself on the bed again. "He's really pissed off at me, isn't he?"

Trent looked at Clay and gave him a disbelieving look. "Clay, we're all really pissed off at you. You nearly died and it could have been avoided. We were just nicer this morning because we were so relieved you woke up."

"I'm pretty much an idiot, aren't I?" Clay sighed.

"Yeah," Trent agreed, "pretty much."

The nurse briskly walked into room, interrupting Clay's thoughts on how foolish his actions had been. "Everything okay here?" She asked.

"He definitely needs some pain relief," Trent informed her.

"Is that true, Petty Officer?" She asked.

"Um," Clay hesitated. He hated the vague, cloudy feeling the drugs gave him, but he couldn't find a comfortable position on the bed and at this point all he wanted to do was sleep. "Yeah, I guess."

"I'll be right back," the nurse said and headed out the door.

Trent settled in the chair closest to the bed. "That was easier than I expected," he commented. "You must really be in pain."

"I just want to sleep," Clay confided. "Are you staying?"

"Once the nurse comes back, I'm going find myself a cup of coffee and then I'll come back and sit with you. Brock will be by later on."

Clay nodded. "I won't be much company."

"So, no different than usual," Trent joked.

"Ha, ha," Clay groaned.

At that moment the nurse returned with some pain relief for Clay. "I'm going to get this going in your IV and then I want to check your stitches, okay?"

"Okay," Clay murmured.

"Would mind giving us a moment?" She asked Trent.

"No problem," Trent replied as he stood up. "I'm just going to grab a cup of coffee. I'll be back in a little while."

"Thank you." The nurse nodded and gave Trent a smile as he headed out the door.

Once the pain killer was administered, the nurse pulled back Clay's blankets and tugged his gown out of the way so she could get to his bandages. She peeled back the covering on the stitches on the entrance wound and examined the wound. She covered it up again and then she had Clay roll onto his right side so she could do the same for the exit wound.

"There's a little redness here, but we have you on some serious antibiotics," she told him. "We'll keep a close eye on these. I need to check your catheter now too."

Clay groaned, this had to be the most embarrassing part of being here.

"Do I really still need it?" He griped.

"Yes, we're still concerned about your kidney function," she answered. "Sorry."

Clay laid staring at the ceiling while the nurse finished. At least, he thought, the pain meds seemed to be kicking in.

"All set," the nurse finally said and began getting him resettled with his blankets. "Where is that pretty girlfriend of yours that I saw here yesterday?"

"She went home to take a shower and change," he said.

"That's good," the nurse commented. "I know she was here all yesterday afternoon and evening talking to you, and your night nurse tells me she sat by your bed all night as well."

"She did?" Clay asked, trying to keep his eyes open. The drugs were certainly taking effect now.

"She did," the nurse answered. "I heard from an orderly that she sang as well."

Clay smiled drowsily. "Hmmm, she has a beautiful voice. She's studying music."

The nurse smiled down at him as she finished tucking the blankets around him. "I think she might be a keeper."

"Yeah," Clay said sleepily, his eyes drifting closed, "definitely keeping her. Love her."

The nurse patted his arm and headed for the door.


When Clay woke up again in the early evening, Emma was sitting in the chair by his bed working on her laptop. He laid there observing her as she worked. She had taken off her boots again and her legs were curled up under her in the chair. He thought she must be really concentrating on what she was reading because she was absentmindedly twisting a piece of her hair around her finger, which she only did when she was truly intent on something.

He shifted on the bed to get more comfortable, catching Emma's attention. She looked up and a smile broke out on her face.

"Hey," she said softly, "how are you feeling?"

"Okay," he replied in a raspy voice. "Tired of being tired though."

Emma shut her laptop and placed it on the bedside table. Then she got up and poured him some more water.

"Have a little water," she said, giving him the cup. "The doctor said you'd be sleeping a lot for a couple days because of the blood loss."

Clay took some small sips of water, then rested his head back against his pillow. His eyes closed again, and his thoughts drifted a bit. He felt Emma's hand smooth his hair back from his forehead.

"All done with the water, babe?" Emma asked.

"Yeah," he replied and felt her take the cup from his hand.

"Are you hungry?" She asked gently. "You missed dinner, but the nurse said they could bring you something when you woke up."

His eyes opened and he considered whether or not he was hungry. "Maybe," he said thoughtfully. "Not sure if anything sounds good though."

"I think they would probably only give you broth or Jell-O," Emma said.

"Jell-O wouldn't be bad," Clay stated. "Do you think they have the green kind?"

Emma's lips twitched as she made an effort not to laugh. "I don't know, babe, green's not that popular."

"Red would be okay, just not orange," he said.

Just then there was a knock on the door and Brock stuck his head in the room.

"Hey, you're awake," he said happily. "If you're up to it, I have a special visitor for you."

Before they could reply, the door was pushed open the rest of the way by a very excited Cerberus, making his way into the room. Brock leaned down and unclipped Cerb's leash, and the dog darted to the side of the bed.

"Hey Cerb," Clay said happily.

Cerberus hopped up, placing his front paws on the edge of the bed. He turned and sniffed Emma's arm and gave her a lick. She smiled and reached over and scratched Cerb's head. Then the dog jumped the rest of the way onto the bed to better reach Clay. Cerb came forward and started licking Clay's chin.

"Ugh, enough with the licking, Cerb," Clay laughed.

The dog stopped and laid down on the bed by Clay's side, resting his muzzle on Clay's chest.

"Who's a good boy?" Clay asked, scratching behind Cerb's ears.

During Cerberus and Clay's reunion, Brock came the rest of the way into the room and sat in the chair Emma had vacated. He reached out and touched Emma's arm to get her attention.

Emma turned from watching Clay and Cerberus and smiled at Brock.

"How are you doing, Em?" Brock asked.

"I'm good," she responded. "I went home and took a nap and a shower."

"At Clay's?" Brock inquired.

Emma nodded and blushed a little after referring to Clay's apartment as home. Brock just smiled at her and patted her arm.

"I'm going to see about that Jell-O now," Emma said, grabbing her boots and putting them back on.

Clay looked up from Cerberus and smiled at her. "Thanks, Em."

Emma nodded and headed out to see the nurse.


Emma visited the nurses' station and asked about getting some Jell-O for Clay. The nurses laughed a little when she told them about Clay's Jell-O flavor preferences. One of them told her that all men were like little boys when they were sick or injured. Clay's nurse said she'd check their Jell-O supply for green or red and bring some down to Clay's room soon.

Emma was hurrying back to Clay's room now as she wanted to warn them that the nurse would be by soon and they should do something about Cerberus. She assumed the nurse would not be happy to see a dog sitting on Clay's bed.

As she approached the waiting area outside Clay's room, she could hear Uncle Trent, Uncle Ray and Uncle Sonny talking.

"What you're saying is that Clay knew he was shot before we went to the second location?" She heard Uncle Ray say.

Emma stopped before turning the corner to the waiting area. She waited to hear more.

She heard Uncle Trent reply, "Yes, he didn't realize when it happened, but he knew once we cleared the first house."

"And he didn't say nuthin'," Uncle Sonny muttered.

"He says he didn't think it was that serious and he didn't want Jason to abort the mission," Uncle Trent said, sounding annoyed.

"He got shot," Uncle Ray said, sounding upset. "That's serious."

"I agree," Uncle Trent said. "Yes, as far as gunshots go, his wasn't that bad. It was a through and through. It didn't hit anything important. And the fact is that if he had spoken up then and we had given him some treatment, some pressure dressings, it's unlikely he would have come so close so dying."

Emma was stunned by what she had just heard Uncle Trent say, then she was angry. She marched around the corner and confronted her uncles.

"Uncle Trent," she demanded, "are you saying that all this wouldn't have happened if Clay had let you treat him at the time?"

Her uncles froze as they realized what they had just inadvertently shared with Emma. None of them spoke.

"Uncle Trent?" Emma repeated determinedly.

Trent sighed. "Emma, I can't say with one hundred percent certainty what would have happened, but it seems unlikely to me that Clay would have come so close to bleeding out if I had been able to treat him at the time."

Emma nodded once, spun around, and entered Clay's room.


Clay looked up with a smile when Emma returned. "No Jell-O?" He asked.

"The nurse said she'd bring it soon," Emma replied stiffly. Turning to Brock, she continued, "You might want to get Cerberus out of here before she comes back, Uncle Brock."

"Probably a good idea, Em," Brock said. He turned to Cerberus and ordered him down off the bed. The dog complied but didn't look happy about it. Brock snapped the leash back on and began leading him out of the room.

"I'll see you guys later," he said.

"Thanks for bringing Cerb to see me," Clay said.

Brock nodded and raised his hand in farewell as the door closed behind him.

Clay turned to look at Emma, who hadn't moved from her position by the door. He dug through his sheets and blankets to find the controller for the bed. Once he found it, he raised the bed, so he was sitting up more.

"Em," he began quietly, "is everything okay?"

"Okay?" She repeated. "No, it really isn't."

"What's wrong?" He asked cautiously. He was getting worried. He couldn't figure out what could have happened while Emma was gone to get her upset.

"Why would you hide that you were shot instead of letting Uncle Trent treat it at the time?" She demanded.

Clay's eyes widened. That was the last thing he thought Emma would say. How did she know about that?

"Did Trent tell you that?" He asked cautiously.

"Why?" she replied. "Was he not supposed to tell me? Did you want to hide that from me?" Emma's voice was getting progressively louder as she spoke.

"No," Clay answered quickly. "I just didn't think he'd share any mission details with you."

"Oh, don't worry," Emma said caustically. "I don't know any of your precious mission details. I just know that you acted like an idiot and pretended not to be injured and nearly got yourself killed because of it."

"Em, it wasn't that bad," he said soothingly.

"Wasn't that bad!" Emma cried. "You do realize they had to shock your heart three times to get it beating again?!"

"Okay, it was bad, but it wasn't…." Clay's voice trailed off as he realized he had no idea what it wasn't.

"Do you think I planned on this?" Emma almost shouted at him.

"Well, no one plans on getting hurt," Clay replied placatingly.

"No," Emma snapped. "Planned on this!" She gestured a little bit wildly between them. "Being with a SEAL."

"Uh, no?" Clay answered.

"Damn right!" Emma agreed. "My whole childhood I lived with a father who was a SEAL. Once I was old enough to understand what that meant, I lived with knowing that he could leave, and I might never see him again. It was scary and it was painful. I certainly didn't plan on getting into a relationship with a SEAL."

She huffed out a sigh. "Hannah and I always said that whoever we dated would be someone with a safe job, who could be with us when we needed them."

Clay nodded, not quite sure where this was going.

"But here I am," Emma continued quietly. "I fell in love with you, Clay Spenser."

Clay nodded again, a little more worried now at where this seemed to be going because the way Emma just said that, it seemed as if falling in love with him wasn't the good thing it was supposed to be.

"I knew what I was getting into, but I did it anyway," Emma said with a shake of her head. "And I've been doing my best at handling it. But you are not keeping up your end of the deal!"

"My end of the deal?" Clay asked.

"Yes," Emma answered. "What did you tell me you would always do?"

Clay was perplexed for a moment, but then he remembered the conversation he had had with Emma just before she went back to school before their deployment in September.

"I said I would always do my best to come home to you," he stated.

"Right," Emma affirmed. "Is pretending you're not injured and not telling anyone you've been shot doing your best to come home to me?"

He tried to explain. "I just needed to—"

"Is it?" Emma asked raising her voice and cutting him off.

"I guess not," Clay sighed.

"You guess!" Emma barked.

Clay frowned. Emma looked even angrier now than before. She must have realized how loud she was getting though because she took a deep breath before she spoke again.

"How do you think I would feel if you had died and it could have been prevented?" She asked quietly. "It would be bad enough to lose you," she continued, "but to know that it was caused by something that would have been fine if it had been treated right away. I wouldn't be able to—"

Emma's face crumpled and she started to cry. Now Clay felt like an idiot and the biggest asshole that ever lived. His Emma was not a crier and yet here she was crying because of him. And, she was right. His injury hadn't been that bad and if he had let Trent treat it when it happened, he wouldn't have almost bled out.

He moved forward on the bed trying to get to Emma, forgetting his injury and all the things connected to him. His movements pulled his stitches though causing him to groan in pain.

"What are you doing?" Emma asked anxiously, moving from her position by the door to his side.

"I'm sorry, Em," he apologized, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close. "You're right. I should have told Trent. I don't know why I get so stubborn about not wanting to admit I'm injured."

"You have to stop, Clay," Emma implored through her tears. "I need you to keep your promise. I need you to do your best to come home to me."

"I will," he assured her. He slid over on the bed to make room for Emma beside him. "Lie here by me," he asked her gently.

Emma sat beside him and stretched her legs out on the bed. She leaned into his side, tucking her face into his neck. Clay held her close and stroked her hair.

"I was so afraid, Clay," she whispered tearfully. "When I spoke to Aunt Naima, she wasn't sure you were going to make it. Then when I got here your heart stopped and they had to shock it to revive you. That was the scariest thing I've ever experienced in my life."

Emma began to sob in his arms. Clay continued to hold her and stroke her hair, whispering that he was okay and that everything would be alright.

She was right, he thought. Being a SEAL was dangerous and there were things that could happen to him that he couldn't control, but that didn't mean he should be careless with his life. Trent's words from this morning came back to him, 'Risking our lives may be part of our job, but carelessly throwing them away is not.'

He had to remember that now he did have people that cared about him. He had been so long without anyone who truly cared, certainly his father never did, that he had a hard time changing his actions to fit his new life with friends that were family to him and a woman that loved him. If he wanted that life he pictured the night he and Emma danced in his kitchen, then he needed to do better at remembering he had people that cared about him, that loved him.

Emma's sobs had stopped, and she was lying quietly in his arms with an occasional hitching breath the only vocal evidence of her recent bout of tears. Clay leaned back a little and looked down at her. Her cheeks were damp from her tears and some strands of her hair had become stuck there. He reached down and gently pushed the wisps back from her face and behind her ear.

"I love you, Clay. I don't want to lose you," Emma whispered.

"I love you too, baby," he replied. "I spent too long with nobody caring if I came home or not and nobody I wanted to come home to, it made me careless."

Emma nodded and reached up and stroked his cheek. Clay leaned in and gently kissed her.

"I am sorry, and I will do better. I promise," he said tenderly.

"Good," she said, "because I care if you come home or not."

He smiled. "And I want to come home to you."

They kissed again. This time more intensely, but before things could get out of hand, Clay broke it off.

"Em, as much as I want to kiss you, I don't think I'm in any shape for this right now," he said with a sigh.

Emma nodded, and Clay pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Just lie here and let me hold you, okay?"

"Okay," she murmured, letting her eyes close and slowly relaxing.

Clay laid there holding her close as he listened to her breathing slowly even out as she fell asleep.


Jason returned to the medical center that evening to find Ray, Sonny, Trent, Brock and Cerberus sitting in the waiting area outside Clay's room.

"Did something happen?" He asked, concerned that they weren't visiting with Clay. "Did his condition take a turn for the worse?"

"No," Trent replied. "He's still improving."

Sonny snorted. "Maybe."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Jason questioned.

None of the guys spoke. They exchanged looks and avoided meeting Jason's eyes.

Ray finally broke the silence. "Emma overheard us talking about Clay keeping quiet about getting shot and not getting treatment in the field."

"What?" Jason said sharply.

"Leave me out of this," Brock muttered. "I wasn't here for that."

"She wasn't happy to know that Clay probably wouldn't have come so close to dying if he had spoken up when he realized he was injured," Trent clarified.

"Wasn't happy might be an understatement," Ray added.

"Yeah boss," Sonny jumped in, "she marched right into that room, Brock and Cerb came out, and then we heard a bit of shoutin'."

Jason gave him men a hard look and then looked towards Clay's room.

"It's quiet now," Sonny continued, "but we've been waitin' to see if Princess comes out lookin' for help with hidin' the body."

Jason approached the door to Clay's room and peered into the window. Emma was lying on the bed with Clay's arms around her. They seemed to be talking, although Emma looked as if she had been crying. He frowned and looked back the guys.

At that moment Clay's nurse came around the corner carrying a container of green Jell-O and a plastic packet with a fork and napkin. As she approached the door to Clay's room, Jason headed her off.

"Could you give them a minute?" He asked her.

The nurse glanced into the window and then back at Jason. "I can," she said, and handed him the container of Jell-O and the packet with the fork. "I will be back in about ten minutes though to give Petty Officer Spenser his antibiotics. That can't wait. He should start eating some of this Jell-O soon."

Jason nodded. "Thank you." He looked through the window again. They seemed to be lying quietly and Emma's eyes were closed. He frowned and then rubbed his beard with his free hand. Finally, he went ahead and pushed open the door and entered the room.

Clay looked up as Jason came in.

"Is she asleep?" Jason asked as quietly as he could.

"Yeah," Clay whispered back.

Jason placed the container of Jell-O and the fork on Clay's bed table and rolled it over for Clay to reach. Jason then opened the container and took the fork out of its plastic packet.

"The nurse said you should start eating this," Jason said. "She's going to be back here soon to give you your meds."

Clay nodded and took the fork with his free hand. "Emma knows," he said quietly. "About me not saying anything about being shot."

"I know," Jason replied. "She overheard Trent talking with Ray and Sonny about it."

Clay closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the pillows propping him up.

"While I didn't want her to find out like that," Jason continued, "I think she had a right to know."

Clay looked at Jason in surprise. "You think her knowing about what happened on a mission is good?"

"She doesn't know any mission details," Jason disputed. "And, I think she has a right to know how much value you put on your life."

"That's not fair, Jase," Clay argued.

"But my daughter racing down here from New York, hoping to make it before you died, is?" Jason said in an angry whisper.

"I thought you said this morning that this conversation would continue when I was back on duty," Clay deflected.

"Oh, that conversation will continue when you return," Jason agreed. "That conversation is between you and your team leader. This conversation is between you and the father of your girlfriend."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Clay asked warily.

"It was pointed out to me earlier today that I was angry at you not just as your team leader because you hid your injury and nearly died because of it, but also as Emma's father because you hid your injury, nearly died because of it and put Emma through a lot of pain. I realized that was true, so I'm trying to keep those things separate," Jason explained. "But yeah, I do think Emma has a right to know. And the boys tell me there was some shouting in here after she found out. I hope my daughter tore you a new one. I hope she was able to get through to you in a way the rest of us can't seem to."

Clay bowed his head and then turned it to look at Emma still curled into his side sleeping. "She was pissed, and she let me know it."

"Good," Jason stated with satisfaction. He and Alana hadn't raised Emma to be a pushover.

"Then she cried," Clay admitted, "and I felt like the biggest asshole that ever lived."

"Good," Jason repeated. "I hope you remember that feeling the next time you're considering throwing your life away."

"I never had anyone care about what happened to me before," Clay said quietly, avoiding Jason's gaze. "I don't always know how to handle it now that I do, but I'm trying to do better."

Jason nodded. "Look Clay," he said, "I think you know that I wasn't thrilled when you and Emma started dating."

"No, Jason," Clay said with a wry smile. "I didn't realize."

"Smart ass," Jason commented. "I was concerned that you would hurt Emma, but I figured you would go out for a bit, one of you would lose interest once it wasn't a big deal, and that would be that. I never expected you two to still be together almost a year later. I never figured we'd have to deal with these types of issues."

"I get it," Clay sighed. "You want something better than me for Emma."

"What?" Jason exclaimed, then froze and looked to see if he had woken Emma. When she continued to sleep, he continued, "That's not what I'm saying at all. Where do you get this shit from?"

Clay shrugged his shoulders.

"Yes, when you started dating, I was worried that you were too old for Emma and had way more life experience than her," Jason elaborated. "But I never felt you personally were not good enough for her. One of the reasons I said okay, besides not wanting to make the whole idea of you two dating seem more appealing by making it forbidden, was because I knew you were a good man."

Hearing Jason say that, Clay looked down and smiled a little to himself.

"But now that you're dating seriously, I have to worry about you being a SEAL and what that means for Emma." Jason huffed out a breath. "I understand my father-in-law so much better now," Jason said, shaking his head. "But while I worry about Emma and what your career means for her, I'm still your boss and I have to keep those things separate. So, when you get back on duty, I'll be pissed at you as your boss for not letting us know you were injured, but right now I'm pissed at you because your actions hurt my daughter."

Clay nodded.

"So yeah, I hope you can do better at handling it," Jason continued, "because I'm trusting you with one of the two most important people in my life. I know Emma's a young woman now who can run her own life, but for me she will always be that tiny baby Alana put in my arms, and I would lay down my life for her. And I need to know that you understand how your actions affect her."

"I love her, Jase," Clay said seriously. "She's it for me. I think you know I haven't always had the best example of how to be a SEAL and balance that with a personal life. I guess you could say I've seen an extreme example of what not to do."

Jason gave a dry laugh. "I guess you could."

"I'm still figuring it out, but I get it," Clay added. He looked down at Emma as he continued, "I'm not always good at knowing that I matter to people, that they care about me, but I do know that Emma loves me. I guess now I understand better what that means for her and how what I do affects her."

Jason nodded. "Fair enough. Doesn't mean I won't call you on this again."

Clay looked up at Jason. "I don't plan on you needing to."

Jason nodded again. "Okay. Now, here's what we're going to do," he said, changing the subject. "I'm going to go out and get the guys. They've been sitting out there a while and they'd like to see you too. They've been letting Emma have her time with you, but I think you all could use some time too."

"I'd like to see them," Clay agreed. "Assuming they're not too upset with me."

"You'll have to work that out with them," Jason stated. "While I'm out there with them, you are going to wake up Emma, so that I can take her back to your apartment to get a good night's sleep."

Clay sighed. Jason suspected that Clay didn't want to wake Emma or have her leave, but sometimes the team did come first, and right now Jason thought they all needed to deal with the fallout of what Clay had done. That couldn't happen with Emma here.

"Okay?" Jason questioned, giving Clay a look to tell him this wasn't actually a request.

"Okay," Clay answered.

Jason nodded and started for the door. As he pushed it open to leave, he turned back to look at Clay. "And eat your damn Jell-O," he ordered.


Clay let his head fall back to the pillows again as the door closed behind Jason. Surprisingly Jason's final command hadn't seemed to wake up Emma. Before he tried to wake her himself, he ate a cube of the Jell-O. It actually tasted pretty good. He ate a couple more, but realized he was just putting off the inevitable.

He put the fork down in the container and looked down at Emma. "Em, baby, time to wake up," he said softly as he gently shook her arm. He didn't get any response. "Em, wake up."

"Mmmm," Emma sighed. Her eyes opened.

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty," Clay said, smiling down at her.

Emma's brow wrinkled up. "Why did you wake me up?"

"The guys want to come in and visit, and your Dad is going to take you home so you can get a good night's sleep," Clay explained.

"Nooo," Emma whined, turning her face into Clay's neck. "Don't wanna go." Her hand gripped his hospital gown.

"I know, Em," he whispered. "I don't want you to go either."

"Then why are you making me?" She asked in a little voice.

Clay sighed. "The guys have been waiting to visit and I think I need to have a conversation with them kind of like the one we had a little earlier. They're mad at me too."

"Good," Emma mumbled. "They should be too."

He smiled at her response. "Also, you do need a good night's sleep. Look how fast you fell asleep lying here." Clay could see that Emma was about to protest. "You'll never get a good night's sleep here. This bed is too small for us both and the chairs aren't comfortable."

"Okay," Emma said with a sigh, "but, only because you do need to talk with the guys."

"Thanks for understanding, baby," Clay replied. "And just think, when they let me out of here, it will be just us while the guys are back on duty."

"That will be nice," she agreed.

"And," Clay added waggling his eyebrows, "you'll be my nurse."

Emma rolled her eyes at him.

"Maybe," he said huskily, "we can find a sexy nurse outfit for you."

"Clay Spenser!" she laughed. "You have a one-track mind."

"Yeah," he agreed, "definitely when it comes to you."

Emma shook her head, pushed the bed table out of the way and swung her legs off the bed. As she stood up from the bed, Clay's nurse came into the room.

Emma smiled at the nurse and then leaned in and whispered in his ear. "You wouldn't be up to it anyway." Then she grinned at him and headed out the door.

"Hey!" Clay called after her. "Challenge accepted, Emma Hayes!"

He heard her laughter from the waiting area.


Emma was awake and up early the next morning. As she showered, she made her plans for the day. When her father brought her home from the medical center last night, he gave her the keys to Clay's truck. He had had one of the team support staff bring it home from the base during the day yesterday. Having the truck would make things much easier. Now she wouldn't have to wait around to get rides from people or spend money on Lyft.

Once she was dressed and ready to go, she would head over to the grocery store and get some food for the apartment. There wasn't much here as Clay had been away a lot on missions this winter. After that was taken care of, she would head back to the medical center to spend the day with Clay. The guys were all back on duty today, so it would be quiet there for Clay.

As she stood in the spray of the shower rinsing the shampoo from her hair, she realized that in about two weeks it would be a year since she and Clay had bumped into each other at the coffee shop near school. If anyone had told her at the time what would come of that meeting, she would have told them they were crazy, and yet here she was. As hard as the whole long-distance thing was, with the SEAL thing making it even more difficult, Emma couldn't imagine her life without Clay.

She made it to the medical center later than she expected, as she hit morning commuter traffic on her way to and from the grocery store. Now she quickly made her way to Clay's room, looking forward to spending the day with him, even if it was in a hospital.

The door to Clay's room was open when she arrived, and she peeked in. Clay was lying in bed reading one of his books. He no longer wore the nasal cannula and he was wearing a t-shirt with, she assumed, a pair of his sleep pants on under the covers.

"Hey sailor," she said as she walked in.

"Hey," he responded with a big smile. "I was wondering when you'd get here."

"I went to the grocery store first thing since you had barely any food at the apartment," Emma explained.

"That's good," Clay said, "because if I do okay today without the oxygen and with food, they'll probably let me go home tomorrow."

"That's great, babe," Emma said happily. "Did you eat something more than Jell-O this morning?"

"Yeah," he replied. "I had some scrambled eggs."

"I'm guessing," Emma said, plucking at his t-shirt, "that you got rid of the catheter."

"Yes, thank God," Clay said fervently. "I hate that thing."

Clay slid over on the bed making room for Emma to sit by him again. He patted the spot next to him, and Emma smiled and sat down by his side. She removed her boots and stretched out beside him. Once she was settled, Clay leaned down and kissed her.

"Hey," he said, breaking off their kiss, "how did you get here and to the grocery store?"

"Oh, my Dad had one of the support staff drive your truck home yesterday," Emma answered. "He gave me the keys last night."

"You drove my truck?" Clay asked, looking a little horrified.

Emma laughed. "Yes, I drove your truck," she replied. "If you remember, I drove it that time last summer when you had too much to drink too."

"Yeah," he said, "but that was a one-time thing."

"I guess not anymore," Emma said with a grin.

"Not my truck," Clay moaned. "A man's truck is special."

Emma snorted. "Special!?" She laughed. "Really?"

"Really," Clay stated.

She laughed again. "Well, look at it this way, if I hadn't driven your truck, I wouldn't have been able to buy your disgusting frozen berries with kale for your morning smoothie."

"You bought my berries with kale?" He asked with a smile. "That's so sweet that you're going to have my berries with kale in your smoothie, Em."

"Ugh, no," she groaned, "I bought the cherry berry blend for my smoothies. No way I'm having any nasty kale."

"Kale's good for you," Clay teased. "You should have it in your smoothie."

"Blech, no!" Emma giggled. "No kale!"

"Kale helps you stay in shape," he said teasingly.

"Are you saying I'm not in shape, mister sexy nurse outfit?" She asked, giggling at him.

Clay smiled and then gave her a leering grin. "Oh, you're definitely in shape, and I haven't forgotten about the sexy nurse outfit," he said as he leaned down and started to kiss her neck.

"Okay, you two," Clay's nurse interrupted their teasing. "One of you was recently shot and almost bled out, you know."

Clay quickly sat up and Emma blushed bright red. She was so embarrassed to have the nurse catch them practically making out.

"Petty Officer, how are you feeling from the food this morning?" The nurse asked, trying to hide a smile. "Feeling queasy or like you might throw up?"

"No," Clay answered. "I feel fine."

"Good," the nurse stated. "We'll try you on something a little heavier at lunch. Now I need to check your blood pressure and your heart rate again."

The nurse placed the cuff around his left, upper arm and took his blood pressure. Once she was finished and had noted it on his chart, she took his wrist to check on his heart rate. She looked at Clay and raised an eyebrow. "I suspect this might be a little fast right now."

Clay blushed at the nurse's words and Emma let out a little giggle.

"Okay," the nurse said, marking the info in his chart. "I'm going to trust you two to behave now and keep it down. There are sick people here."

Emma and Clay both nodded. As soon as the nurse left the room, they started laughing quietly. Emma hopped up from the bed and closed the door to the room.

"That was all your fault," she told Clay as she started to dig through her bag for her laptop.

"My fault?" Clay sputtered. "What did I do?"

"You were all worried about your 'special' truck," Emma laughed.

"My truck is special," Clay insisted. "What are you doing?" He asked as she placed her laptop on the bed table and rolled it across the bed so it would be in front of them both once she sat down.

"I thought we could watch a movie on my laptop," she answered.

"Good idea," he said. "There's nothing to watch on TV."

Clay watched as Emma attached the power cord to her laptop and plugged it in. As she settled back on to the bed, she turned the laptop on, and they waited for it to start up. Clay put his arm around her, pulling her close to his side.

"Hey Em," Clay asked as they waited for the computer, "do you remember when you stayed with me during your winter break and we were dancing in the kitchen to that Lumineers song?"

"Yeah, I do," she replied with a smile. She remembered it well. That memory was something she sometimes laid in bed at night and thought about when she was really missing Clay. She didn't even like The Lumineers that much.

Neither one of them spoke, while Emma typed in her password to the laptop.

"Sometimes," she said softly, "when I miss you a lot at school, I play that song."

Clay turned and pressed a kiss to the top of Emma's head. "I do that too," he said.

Emma turned on her side so she could see Clay's face. "What made you think of that?"

"On the C-17 when I lost consciousness, I remembered it. Kind of like it was happening again," he explained.

"Oh," she said faintly.

"It just reminded me of something I realized that night," he continued.

"What's that?" she asked hesitantly.

"I realized," Clay said gently, "that I want that life with you and me together, just doing everyday things like having dinner and cleaning the kitchen and dancing by ourselves in our own place."

Emma's eyes widened as she realized what Clay was saying.

He rushed on as he saw her reaction. "I know you have more than two years of school left and then you need to figure out what you're going to do for a career, but I just…," he paused a moment as he seemed to gather his thoughts. "I just want to be a part of that with you. I want us to figure out those things together and to build a life together."

"But that's forever," Emma whispered.

"Yeah," Clay said as he tenderly stroked her cheek. "I hope so."

Her eyes filled with tears.

"Hey, hey," he said, "I didn't mean to make you cry."

"They're happy tears," Emma told him. "I want those things with you too."

Clay released the breath he had been holding and gave her a blinding smile. Then he leaned in and kissed her. When he broke off the kiss, Emma snuggled in closer to his side, resting her head on his shoulder. Clay held her close and they laid together imagining their future together.


Music Notes:

The song Emma sings along with in the kitchen when they dance is "Ho Hey" by The Lumineers.

The version of "Can't Help Falling in Love" I was referring to here is the Haley Reinhart version. Give it a listen if you get a chance.