It took a couple days for Riley to open her eyes, but when she did, she turned her head and was surprised to find a dog staring back at her. It was a gray-ish pitbull with a big square head, floppy ears, and a big smile. He was wearing a service dog vest, and he tilted his head when he saw her looking at him.
"Well, look who's up," a warm voice pulled her attention, and she found Mark Kyser in his wheelchair, a now-closed book on his lap. "Welcome back. Jack just stepped out for coffee; asked me and Gizmo to keep an eye on you. How're you feeling?"
"Tired," Riley grumbled in reply, her throat sore and scratchy. Her brain was struggling to recall what happened, why she was in the hospital. It came back to her in a detached sort of way, like a running list of events, and she tried to keep it that way, to not dwell on any one thing or try to pluck out any details. "How long have I been out?"
"Not quite forty-eight hours," Kyser responded. "You lost a lot of blood, but the doctors say you should be alright."
She nodded absently. "Is Mac okay?"
"He'll make it," the medic assured her.
Though she tried to keep them at bay, the details forced their way back into her mind, and she felt her throat tighten. Murdoc. The mental hospital. The patients. Brandon.
The field analyst's eyes flicked back to Kyser, who was scratching Gizmo behind the ears as the dog's tail thumped happily. He and Ramirez were partners, were roommates; how could he not hate her for getting him killed?
"I'm sorry," she choked out, and Kyser lifted his head in surprise at the emotion in her voice.
Riley tried to swallow some moisture back into her throat, fighting to keep her eyes open. God, she was still so tired. "Ricardo...I'm so sorry..."
"Oh, Riley," sympathy flooded Kyser's expression. "Ricardo is not dead. I mean, he's not exactly doing cartwheels, either, but he's not dead."
She stared at him with wide eyes. "What?"
Kyser sighed, shifting slightly in his chair. "He's in a coma," he admitted at last. "When tac got to him, he was in the middle of a seizure. Whatever he was dosed with really did a number on him, wrecked his liver and kidneys, attacked his lungs...He's on a ventilator and needed dialysis for a hot minute, there, but he's alive. The doctors aren't making any promises, but he's been slowly—but steadily—improving and hasn't had a setback yet, which they say is a good sign. I know it sounds kinda bleak, but believe me, Ricardo is one of the most stubborn bastards I've ever met; if anyone can come back from this, it's him. He'll be alright."
This was part of the reason Mark Kyser was one of her favorite tac agents, and definitely her favorite tac medic, however out-of-commission he may be at the moment. He gave her the facts, uncensored, and didn't coddle her, but still managed to make it seem positive by the end every time.
"Anyway, I figured he wouldn't miss me while I sat with you," he continued.
"Anything fun happen while I was out?" Riley asked, prompting a somewhat-sarcastic chuckle.
"Mostly just the absolute chaos of trying to process that nightmare of a crime scene," Kyser shrugged. "Interviewing mentally-ill witnesses is always interesting, too. Getting that many people the varying degrees of medical attention they needed was also a challenge. Before you ask, no lead on Murdoc, yet."
Riley frowned at that, feeling uneasy but in a vague sort of way—the drugs, most likely. She was on painkillers, at the very least.
"I'll let your doctor know you're awake," Kyser volunteered after about thirty seconds of silence. "C'mon, Giz."
The pitbull heeled perfectly at the command, and Kyser started making his way towards the door, but it opened before he could get there, revealing Jack holding a cup of coffee. He jolted then he saw Riley awake, rushing to her side.
"Hey, Riles," he smiled at her, plopping down in a chair. Behind him, Kyser nodded at her and exited to get the doctor.
"Hey," Riley forced a small smile in return. Then, because she realized Kyser didn't give her a lot of details on it—probably because she was barely coherent when she asked—she looked up at him. "How's Mac?"
At the sound of his partner's name, Jack stiffened, trying not to let his smile falter too much.
"He's fine," the former Delta assured her. "Buncha bruises, couple busted ribs, concussion; no big deal."
Riley blinked at him. "I saw him in there. He's not fine. So how is he?"
"He'll make a full recovery," Jack promised, brushing a bit of hair back from her face.
"That's not what I asked," Riley glared in frustration. "How is he?"
Jack huffed just slightly before he forced himself calm. "Riley, he will be fine. You can ask him about it when he stops by. All that matters right now is how you are. How're you feeling?"
The analyst frowned. "What did you do?"
Jack gave her a long look. "You're not gonna drop this, are you."
She figured her expression spoke volumes.
"...I gave him a piece of my mind," Jack eventually admitted, choosing each word carefully. "He shoulda made a move against Murdoc before the exam ever started, and he didn't. He damn well shoulda handed you that phone when you asked for it, and he didn't. Murdoc didn't have to lift a damn finger; Mac did all the work for him."
For a second she wasn't sure she'd heard him correctly. "You...you yelled at Mac for-wait. How...?" How on earth did Jack know that? "Did Mac tell you that?"
Jack took another deep breath, but couldn't seem to stop playing with her hair. "We saw everything, kiddo." She blinked at him in shock, and he slowly nodded. "Murdoc sent us a video link so we could tag along, first person style. Saw it in real time."
So he hadn't seen what happened before. With Brandon. Then with Murdoc—
Riley pushed herself up in the bed, or at least she tried to. She didn't get much further than pulling her head back and straightening her arms before the aches cut through the pain meds. It was overwhelming, like the worst hangover she'd ever had coupled with being rolled down a rocky cliff. There wasn't a piece of her that didn't hurt.
She only realized she'd squeezed her eyes shut when she felt the pain of scrunching up her face, and she relaxed it to find that Jack was still there, sitting on her bed, cupping her right cheek and holding her hand. "Easy, baby girl, take it easy. He ain't here. It's just us."
"You didn't see everything," Riley insisted. Jack's eyes sharpened at that, but before he could ask, she rushed to add, "You didn't see Mac. I did. I'd be dead if not for him. He's not fine; he needs you right now, and you screamed at him for saving my life?"
"For getting you into this in the first place," Jack corrected firmly. "Look, Riles, I've been there for that kid every step of the way for months; it's not helping."
"So yelling at him is going to help?"
"He had every opportunity to stop this before it could start," the older man scowled, though his voice remained gentle. "He didn't do that. And you ended up here because of it."
"Look, let's not talk about it right now," he soothed. "Just rest, okay?"
Riley wanted to argue, but she was so damn tired, and anyway, the doctor arrived shortly after, followed by Bozer and Matty.
Mac, notably, was absent.
"He's on his way," Bozer supplied when she looked to him. "He's just not moving the fastest at the moment."
"I'll bet," Riley scoffed hoarsely, and then the doctor broke in.
"Miss Davis," he smiled warmly at her. "Mind if I ask you a few questions?"
Mac and Bozer were hanging out in Ramirez's room when Kyser returned from Riley's. The blond agent, in an effort to both stay nearby and stay away from Jack, had set up shop in their comatose colleague's room, and Bozer had been sticking to him like glue ever since he was discharged, so he'd taken up the chair beside his roommate.
"Hey guys," the wounded medic got their attention, and both heads came up from their phones. "Riley's awake."
Bozer jumped to his feet at this news, but Mac moved much more slowly, and he tried to tell himself it was just because of his injuries.
"You go on ahead," Mac said to Bozer. "I'll slow you down."
"You sure you don't need help?" Bozer asked in concern. Mac grabbed the cane he'd been provided and shook his head.
"It's literally four rooms down, Boze," he reminded his friend. "I will be just fine."
Bozer hesitated, studying him carefully before he nodded. "If you're sure."
Mac confirmed that he was, and Bozer rushed out of the room.
"You want me to send Simmons in there to mediate?" Kyser asked jokingly. Mac chuckled.
"I can't rely on tac to protect me from my own partner forever," he shrugged, slowly limping towards the door. He was in sweat pants and a t-shirt to accommodate all the braces on his knee, ankle, and hand—plus he was still very much sore all over. Nothing was broken, but he did have a few sprains.
"I could lend you Gizmo," the medic offered, a little more sincerely. Mac considered it, smiling at the dog's big grin, but shook his head.
"I'll be fine," he assured the man. "Thank you, though."
"Well, yell if I should call security," Kyser teased, and Mac laughed again, making his way out the door.
Mac stepped out into the hallway, gently closing the door and nodding at the two agents stationed a bit down the hall. He started for Riley's room, but stopped when his phone buzzed in his hand.
He had a new email.
The blond agent stared at the screen with a frown on his face. He knew what this was, without even opening it or even looking at the subject line.
Taking a deep breath and leaning against the wall between two rooms, he opened the email. There was an attachment, a video file, but there was no chance in hell he was opening that without Phoenix vetting it first. Instead, he read the email.
Wonderful work, MacGyver. I think you'll find the playthrough very entertaining—I know I did! It's good to see that you're learning, here. I was getting worried, to be honest, but I think we're almost on the same page, now. You still took a shortcut, and I have to dock you for that, but this was easily your best exam yet.
But I won't keep you; I know you're eager to know how you did. Again, you did cheat at one stage, which I have to take points for, but you otherwise followed all instructions, thought on your feet, paid attention, got all the keys, and, ultimately, Miss Davis survived. Even if your relationship with your partner didn't. So sorry to hear the bromance is on the rocks. I'd say it was a shock, but, well, we both know that would be a lie.
For this exam, Angus, I think you've earned yourself an A-. Very impressive indeed.
Say hello to Riley for me! We really bonded while we waited for you to rest up after your trip up north. Oh, and do give my best to Ramirez, if he ever wakes up. Shame he got caught in the crossfire; he was never part of my plans. Funny how people keep getting dragged into this for you.
Anyway, well done, Angus. I'll be seeing you very soon for your final exam. I expect you'll study hard.
Mac read it twice, then used his thumb to kill the screen, and let the phone hang heavy at his side. His head rolled along the wall to look at the door two down from him, closed, now, containing his team. His boss.
After a breath or two, he rolled his skull wearily back to center, and his left hand tightened slightly around the curved head of the cane, as if preparing to use it, preparing to walk. He was still leaning there staring at nothing, ten minutes later, when Bozer came out to find him. He knew what his friend would ask before he even opened his mouth.
"Are you okay?"
And the answer was no.
No, he really wasn't.
Whoo! Nice short one for you guys this time. That concludes Exam 3! The final is up next! TELL ME PEOPLE ARE AT LEAST HALF AS PUMPED AS I AM!
Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed! As always, a huge thank you to Haven126 for her undying support and contributions. Please don't forget to review, and I'd start studying if I were you.