Disclaimer: Although I'm faintly worried that this show copyright holders may be more inclined to sue me than most, given how abbreviated their period of financial earning was, I humbly seek neither credit nor monetary gain from the characters created and owned by Craig Silverstein, FOX, and related entities. I just wanted to play with the action figures.

A/N: This is romanticized and cliché, I know. But my muse refuses to give me any other story ideas until I purge anything and everything I started writing in 2006.


Ordinary Grinds to Dust
a tragedy in three parts

I

Ordinary days, of late, had begun with shared coffee and ended by going home with Matt, spiced up in the middle with some of the most effective negotiations of her life. Ordinary days did not involve a hailstorm of bullets raining down on them. They certainly did not involve finding oneself sprawled over asphalt, struggling to sit up.

"Matt?" She surprised herself with the confusion in her voice as she pushed herself onto her elbows and stared blankly at the red patch forming on her leg. Gunshot. Bleeding thigh. Gunshot. Wasn't it supposed to hurt?

He tossed a glance in her direction over her shoulder, then did a double take and nearly tripped himself in his hurry to get to her side. She was still puzzling over the lack of pain when it struck with biting vengeance. Emily let out a gasp and clutched her leg with both hands. The pain receded only slightly with pressure, throbbing continuing beneath. Matt's words seemed suddenly very far away, and though she thought she was answering, what she was saying was anyone's guess.

Agents nearby were already calling for backup and rescue. In the absence of any other action, Matt shrugged off his jacket, wadded it up and slipped it under her head. The gesture felt hopelessly mediocre.

Her hands were soon covered in her own dark blood, and she looked at them helplessly, the sight paralyzing her as the wound, without pressure, bled on. Abruptly he wiped them on his own sleeves and pushed her hands back into place. When they still slipped away, he realized how tired she was, and did it for her.

Matt watched her shut her eyes with a small grunt. He couldn't tell if she was losing consciousness or just trying to will the pain away, but he wasn't inclined to risk the former.

"Okay, I'll tell you," he said, so out of the blue that she opened her eyes in confusion. "It was supposed to be a surprise," he continued, sounding as though it was taking him great effort to admit, "but I had plans for us next weekend."

"Plans?"

"Yeah, plans. I make them. Sometimes. On occasion. Like next weekend," he prodded.

"Okay, fine. I'll play along," she mumbled, wincing against another twinge. "What's next weekend?"

"Summersend. You ever heard of it?"

"Should I have?"

"Well, technically its proper name is Summersend Inn. Little country bed and breakfast, quiet and atmospheric, probably got some cute wallpaper patterns and flowers and all those other girly things you pretend not to care about but secretly like."

She mumbled something that sounded distinctly disapproving, which he suspected had as much to do with his use of the word "probably" as "girly."

"Of course," he added, lowering his voice a notch, "you see, what I was really noticing were the beds involved, since they're a defining feature of the place. Although I have to say this guy's kinda messing up that part of my plan; remind me to kick his ass in the near future…"

That got a giggle out of her. Cheryl's eyebrows rose, but he wasn't paying attention to her. All that mattered right now was distracting Emily, so he continued his best travel-brochure explanation of potential sleeping quarters.

"That sounds really nice," she mumbled, her voice taking on a dreamy quality as her eyelids started to flutter. Alarm leapt into his features. "Emily? Emily! Hey!" At his light shake she startled back into awareness, but was clearly fighting a losing battle.

He glanced at his watch. Sixteen minutes so far. Sixteen long, interminable minutes. Was that good or bad? His knowledge of normal response time seemed to have couldn't see the numbers, but she saw his face.

"Matt?" Her voice was too small, tinged with fear.

"It's on the way," he replied to the unasked question, doing his best to believe it. He shared another exchange of glances with Cheryl, who had nothing to offer.

"It's coming," he repeated, locking eyes with Emily. He started to lay a hand on her hair, pulling back when he remembered it was still damp with blood. Breath hissed between her teeth, and he did it anyway.

The sound of rescue arriving was so welcome that he didn't trust himself not to have imagined it. A nod from Cheryl brought confirmation; he turned to tell his partner it was all right – but this time she was out and he couldn't wake her up, not when he squeezed her limp fingers in his, not when the paramedics were placing her on a stretcher, and not when they drove away with her and left him alone.


II

She woke up to lights so bright she couldn't figure out how she'd ever fallen asleep, but it only took a second to remember the shooting and the ambulance and realize she was in a hospital. A quick glance at her hand revealed confirmation in the form of an ID bracelet and an IV. She grimaced at the sight of the latter; needles were nobody's friends. And a minute later, she glanced up and realized Matt was there, too. Slumped in what looked to be a very uncomfortable plastic chair, chin in his hand, sound asleep.

"Matt?" He didn't respond. Typical. She repeated his name more loudly, stifling a giggle when he jumped awake, nearly tumbling out of his seat and sounding completely disoriented until his gaze focused on her smirk, and smiled sheepishly. "So much for my grand plans to be the first to greet Sleeping Beauty."

"Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on a spinning wheel, she didn't get shot in the leg," she retorted, aware of foolish the words sounded even as they left her mouth.

"Yeah, well, I never did get around to actually reading the fairy tales," he answered easily, unperturbed. They were quiet for a minute. "It still hurt?" he asked, more subdued, with a nod at her leg. She thought about it for a second, realized it didn't and shook her head.

"Loaded with painkillers," Emily said, indicating the drip. "But not the good kind of painkillers. No fun side effects at all. Not a single flying pink elephant to be seen."

"Don't you hate when the elephant's not in the room?" he agreed. For a few minutes neither said anything, until Emily broke the silence.

"Thank you," she said quietly.

"For?"

"For-" she started to say something, thought better of it, and changed her mind to something almost the same. "…being there."

"What else was I gonna do, see my partner get shot and then run out for a cup of coffee?"

"You know what I mean."

"Is this about filling your head with pretty talk about a bed and breakfast in the country?"

She looked down, embarrassed. "I know it was just…I mean, you don't have to come up with something now. Just talking about it helped."

"You don't think I can be romantic? I'm hurt by that, I really am," he answered, sounding anything but. "And since I knew you'd say exactly that, I bring you photographic evidence."

She stared with some disbelief at the printed brochure he pulled, admittedly crumpled, from his pocket. Her eyes widened as she took them from his hand, reading the words for herself. "You – really planned all this?"

"I told you I plan things. Sometimes," he insisted stubbornly, with an underlying glimmer of pride.

Her eyes shone as she handed the brochure back. "Come here." With that, she grasped the material of his shirt, pulled him down until he was leaning over the side, and kissed him.

A second later, the door opened, and quiet chatter abruptly turned into, "WHOA, okay, turn around and back the way you came." Matt and Emily broke apart immediately, just in time to see Frank exiting with a smirk and one last toss over the shoulder, "Didn't know we were interrupting. Should have asked for a stethoscope to hang on the door."

"Hey – we weren't-" Emily sputtered, turning an accusatory glare at Matt, who seemed to be finding the whole thing inordinately amusing.

"Go tell them they can come in," she ordered, pointing after them.

His eyes twinkled. "Oh, well, you know, they've been kind enough to leave us alone in this room, and they probably won't feel a need to come back in for a while, so …"

She smacked him. "Getthem back in here."

"A waste of what could have been a beautiful thing, with the white lights and all, just mind your bum leg…"

He ducked out the door before she could find anything to throw at him.

The rest of the team provided welcome distraction, first to answer her questions about the outcome of the hostage situation and then simply to offer camaraderie, almost as good as sharing a round at the bar – except, Duff pointed out lamentably, for the notable lack of alcohol – until the end of visiting hours prompted their exit, all except Matt.

Despite having spent enough hours in the hospital that day to drive him insane, he lingered behind, unwilling to unlace his fingers from Emily's until she patiently did it for him with the warning that as long as she was awake, he didn't get to break rules just because he felt like it. She whispered parting words in his ear, and ordered him out with a famous arched eyebrow. "I promise I won't die in the middle of night. Now go home and get some actual rest before I kick your ass."

He clapped a hand over his heart, pretending to be wounded by the sting of her words, then stole another kiss until she pushed him away and crossed her arms. With a wink, he was out, leaving Emily asleep within minutes.

She woke once, briefly, unable to ignore the sound of footsteps besides her bed, however faint. Her sedative was refilled once without incident, and she closed her eyes with no memory of the interruption. The second time, alarms rang, and she didn't have a chance to wake up.


III

Emily Lehman crashes four times within the space of an hour, and when they finally get her back for good, her brainwaves aren't the same.

A new nurse's mistake, Matt learns along with the doctors, the dosage number copied incorrectly, and yes, they'll be looking into it. They flatly refuse to give him a name, but he finds out anyway; grabs him in the parking lot and slams him against the wall, arm against his throat until he's choked a new color. It takes Frank and two security guards to pull him off the young man and almost an hour of Cheryl's professional negotiating skills to keep him from spending the night in jail. They shouldn't have bothered, he thinks at midnight, when his empty house feels as much a prison as any metal cell.

He avoids negotiations until his boss reminds him that's his job description; fulfill it or fill out a resignation form. He opts for the former, because he intends to be there when Emily comes back to work, and as long as everyone knows it's only temporary, he can shake hands with Agent Darnell Kells.

Two months in, they pull off what Cheryl toasts as the crisis handling of the century. The other man makes the unfortunate choice to rhetorically ask if their old partners could have done as well, and Matt promptly breaks his nose. Goodbye, Kells. Hello, Dr. Addis and a season of desk duty.

"You'd have appreciated it," he tells her, tracing well-worn patterns across her knuckles. "It was one of my finer displays of athleticism." Emily's response is the same as ever. The shadows on her face are more pronounced than they were last week, or perhaps it's only a trick of the harsh light. Though he's long since memorized the curves and contours there, he hasn't tired of looking. These moments alone with her are calming in their routine, if unnerving to realize they represent one of the last remaining bits of stability in his life. Wistfully, adding one more thing before he leaves, "I made it longer than Lia."

Times slips past until it's a year to the day since they became more than partners. He lets his mind run off in reckless directions pursuing useless questions; what if they'd stayed together, how long would it have lasted, would they have had kids? For the convenience of his fantasy, he selectively fails to remember the caveat banning marriage, or the more significant detail that they'd never gotten as far as "I love you."

He gets the most macabre of anniversary gifts: her family has decided to take her off life support. His response is far less volatile than it would have been a year ago, having learned more than he ever wanted to know about patience and temperance at her side. He makes calls to people he's never heard of, meets with them in person and pleads with them not to take her away, because the words "irreparable brain damage" simply will not run themselves through his mind without getting scrambled.

The last night, he asks for just a few minutes alone with her. He stays for thirty with her hand beneath his on his knee and tears on his face, mourning something he now knows was gone long ago.

Her funeral is pointless.

end