Part 1 | Part 2-3 | Part 4 | Part 5 - Epilogue
Ezra was barely in the door when Nathan leaped out of bed and across the room at him. He landed a solid right to Ezras left eye. Ezra staggered under the blow but managed to remain upright only to have Nathan follow-up with a sharp left to his mouth.
This time Ezra went down with the force of the blow. Stunned he lay there not moving for a split second before Nathan hauled him up by the lapels of his suit jacket and slammed him against the wall. Ezra winced at the impact with the hard surface behind his head. He tried to bring his hand to his eye only to have Nathan drag him away from the wall and slam him into it again with even more force.
"Who the hell do you think you are?" Nathan rasped in a hoarse whisper. "Where do you think you can get off treating people like that?" he raged.
Ezra opened his eyes to find Nathans face inches from his own. The man was livid.
Adrenaline fed Nathans wounded body. Left alone to sit and think, he had worked himself up into a frenzy over what Ezra had done, becoming progressively angrier until, when Ezra walked through the door, the man was well beyond reasoning with.
"You scared her half to death, you selfish prick!" Nathan croaked.
Oh Lord! It was now apparent to Ezra that Nathan had been made aware of his little misrepresentation of the truth.
Damn that man - he doesnt even look like he gives a shit! Well, he was going to make him care, God dammit! >Nathan laid his forearm across Ezras throat and pressed.
Up to this point Ezra hadnt even tried to fight back. Now he grabbed at Nathans arm as he felt his airway being cut off. He choked and clutched helplessly at the bigger mans forearm as the room began to swirl around him. Even in Nathans weakened state, Ezras attempts to save himself were useless. Nathans strength was fueled by his rage.
Ezras surroundings began to fade, as a rushing sound became louder in his ears. Some where far away he could hear JD yelling for Buck.
He felt himself drop to the floor. He gasped painfully as he sucked air back into his lungs.
He rolled over onto his side and managed to raise himself up onto one elbow, he held a hand to his chest as he continued to gasp for air.
He focused dimly on what appeared to be Buck, JD and Vin wrestling with Nathan on the bed.
From somewhere close by he heard Chris was yelling. All Ezra could make out from Chris angry words was " the fuck outta here."
He felt strong hands grab him under the arms and heave him, rather unceremoniously, to his feet. Josiah supported Ezra as he half walked, half dragged the man him from the room.
They passed Rain just outside the door. Her expression turned to one of horror when she got a look at Ezras battered face. He couldnt be sure, having only one eye that would focus properly at the moment, but did he see anger in her eyes?
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Josiah sat Ezra down gently on the lid of the toilet before closing and locking the door behind them.
Hed found an unoccupied washroom just outside the stairwell, two floors down. They would be safe for the moment.
Looking down at Ezra, Josiah sighed heavily at the sorry sight of the undercover agent as he swayed in his seat. Ezra grimaced as he gently opened and closed his mouth, testing his jaw. He wiped a thread of blood-red spittle away from the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand. His eye was cut and already nearly swollen shut. His nose ran with both blood and snot. His lower lip was beginning to swell.
Turning on the cold water tap, Josiah wadded up paper toweling drawn from the dispenser on the wall and then wet it down with the cold water. It was a crude compress but it would have to do.
He placed it carefully over Ezras eye and curtly instructed him to, "Hold this here."
"Mr. Sanchez, please, your assistance is not necessary." There was a vague lisp to Ezras words as he tried to enunciate with the fat lip.
"Be quiet!" Josiah said it was more force than he intended but he was angry with both Ezra and Nathan right now.
"Mr. Sanchez, really, Im fine."
"Ezra, you are not "Fine," just do as youre told - now hold this."
Ezra looked up at Josiah with his one good eye intending to argue further, but the hard expression on Josiahs face squashed that idea immediately. He obediently moved to hold the makeshift compress in place as he tested the teeth behind his split lip gingerly with his tongue.
Turning on the hot water tap, Josiah filled the sink with warm water. He then wadded up more paper towel before soaking it with the warm water. Bending over, he began to gently wipe the blood off Ezras face. Initially Ezra drew back from the mans gentle attempts to clean him up.
"Sit still," snapped Josiah, "thats an order."
Given the stern expression on the profilers face, Ezra wisely decided to comply with the order.
Josiah worked away for three or four minutes in silence before commenting ruefully, "It looks like youre going to have quite a shiner in the morning."
"How inconvenient "shiners" are so difficult to accessorize with."
Josiah scowled at the wry remark as he made up a fresh cold compress for the eye.
He held his hand out for the old compress, "Give me that. Put this one on now."
Ezra meekly handed the now warm and bloody compress back.
"It does help take the sting out of the injury. Thank you," he said, as he took the fresh compress.
"Youre welcome," replied Josiah tersely, but he was a little surprised at Ezras ready acceptance of help.
Josiah continued to work away at cleaning up the battered face. "Whats going on Ezra?"
"You ask, sir? I assumed you would use your best psychologists couch-side manner and attempt to outwit me into "telling all" as it were."
Josiah tugged gently at Ezras wrist and eased the hand holding the makeshift compress away from the blackening eye. Josiah smiled inwardly; this was more like the Ezra he knew.
"I suppose I could do that," replied Josiah as he peered critically at the cut over the eye, trying to decide if stitches were needed or not, "but I thought, number one, were friends and two, youre too intelligent for that. I didnt see the point."
"What is it you wish to know?"
Josiah let go of Ezras wrist after setting the hand back in place, "What did you hope to accomplish by upsetting Rain?"
"I expected to be able to intercept Miss Cooper at the airport and correct any misunderstandings before she had a chance to converse with Mr. Jackson."
"Okay that tells me where your plans went wrong, but not why you did it."
"One last diversion to torment Mr. Jackson with before he leaves."
"Dont bullshit me Ezra, Im not in the mood," Josiah settled a thunderous glare on the other man. "Why did you lie to Rain?"
"To be entirely accurate, sir, I did not lie. Nothing I told Miss Cooper was anything but the absolute truth "
Ezras words halted as Josiah suddenly grabbed a fist full of the front of his dress shirt and lifted him slowly into the air. Josiah easily held the smaller man with one arm, suspending him above his porcelain perch. With one wide-eye, a startled Ezra unconsciously tried to lean away from the piercing blue stare. Josiah pulled the man in even closer to his face. He wanted to be sure he had the mans attention before he spoke. "Ezra, Ive been up all night and youre testing the limits of my patience. Do you realize just how much trouble youre in here? After Chris gets through with you, youre going to wish Nathan had finished the job."
If Ezra had failed to notice the threat in Josiahs deliberately measured words, he most certainly could not mistake the anger he now saw in the profilers eyes.
Josiah gently set the man back down.
It might cost him another black eye but Ezra was fairly sure that he could keep up this fencing match of words until Josiah got tired of it and gave up. But then what would be the point? He sighed and dropped his eyes to the hand holding the compress in his lap. He stared at it for a moment before replying in a defeated tone, "It doesnt matter, at this point my motives are inconsequential."
Inwardly, Josiah sighed with relief. His ruse had worked. Ezra was going to talk. "It does matter. You did it, so you must have had a reason."
"I was simply trying to prevent an invaluable member of the team from leaving."
"An invaluable member?"
"Why yes, his knowledge of Incendiary Forensics as well as his training as a Tactical Medic make Mr. Jackson a vital member of this team."
Unlike yourself I suppose. Josiah kept his thoughts hidden as he stood with his arms cross and continued to stare at Ezra, waiting expectantly. Ezras answer, so far, was plausible enough, none of them wanted to see Nathan go, but that didnt explain the lies. Josiah had a hunch there was more to this, he wasnt going to let Ezra off so easily. Without uncrossing his arms Josiah shrugged, "Its no big deal to pick up another bomb expert and train a couple of us in Level 3 First Aid."
Josiah continued to level a steady look at Ezra. "So whats the real reason?"
"Alright! Alright!" Ezra scowled, "You can be as annoying as Mr. Larabee! I did not want Mr. Jackson to leave. This team exists, thrives as it does because of the delicate balance of its personalities - if Mr. Jackson were to leave, it would upset that balance. This is the best thing I have ever been a part of and I didnt want it to end!" Ezra directed a bitter glance at the big man "Are you happy now? You have my confession! I have spilled my guts, as it were."
"I dont know about spilling your guts Ezra," Josiahs tone was skeptical, "after all youre the best con artist Ive ever run across." In fact Josiah believed him but he wasnt about to tell Ezra that, "but lets say for the sake of argument that is the truth. I still dont understand. How would lying to Rain keep Nathan here?"
"Shes the reason."
"For pity sake!" Ezra exploded impatiently, "Its obvious to a blind man! She is the reason Mr. Jackson is leaving of course. She wants to get married. She is pressuring Mr. Jackson, manipulating him in some fashion, into moving back to Kansas City so they may wed."
"What makes you think that?"
"Women, though loving and physically beautiful creatures they can be they are, by their very nature, duplicitous. Guile, trickery and manipulation are at the very essence of their true being. They have not the physical strength of men so they have honed their higher skills with which to defend themselves. They cannot help it, they simply have evolved as such."
Oh shit Ezra, your problems run much deeper than I first suspected.
"Why you of all people, Mr. Sanchez, should comprehend my meaning. You yourself have been a victim of this very same duplicity by a member of the feminine sex."
"What?" Josiahs eyebrows shot up in surprise, he had no idea what Ezra was referring to.
"Rosemary?" Josiah was even more baffled. Rosemary Morales was the woman Josiah had had an affair with more that 25 years before. How could Ezra equate that warm, gracious woman to the distrustful creatures he now described? For that matter, how could he perceive Rain Cooper as one of them?
"Why yes, for twenty-five years she kept the knowledge of your son from you. What could possibly justify such a deception?"
Josiah was dumbfounded. He needed a minute to digest everything Ezra had said. He leaned over the sink and turned on the cold water tap, a pretense to making up another compress. After nearly three years working together Josiah was well aware of Ezras poor sense of self-worth. That wasnt surprising given his upbringing, as a mother Maude was deficient in certain areas. He was also aware of Ezras difficulties when it came to trusting others but Josiah was sure they had been making headway in that department. Ezras view of women however, had caught him completely by surprise.
Josiah had never told the rest of them why Rosemary had kept Sams existence from him. At the time he had asked for some space and time to get used to the idea of an adult son. They had honoured his request. They had all respected his privacy and none of them had ever again asked or even hinted for the truth. To this day he had never explained what had happened to any of them.
He noticed the fading white scars on his right hand as he soaked more paper toweling in the cold water, souvenirs that remained from the incident. He lifted the hand out of the water and stared thoughtfully at the scars, maybe this was the time to tell someone.
Josiah handed over the fresh compress and took the used one from Ezra. "Ezra, Rosemary didnt tell me about Sam because she thought I had entered the priesthood."
It was Ezras turn to be dumfounded. He blinked up at Josiah confused, "Why would she think "
"I think I explained to all of you that I had written to Rose for two years before I realized I wouldnt be going back. During those two years my faith in God was reborn. I wasnt aware, until Rose showed me some of my old letters, how the rebirth of my faith had been conveyed in those letters. Even to me, twenty-five years later, it was obvious why she misunderstood the direction my life was taking back then. Some unfortunate wording in my last letter led her to believe that I had decided to re-enter the priesthood."
"But marriage you had talked of wanting to marry her."
"I was twenty-five and in the throes of the most passionate love affair I had ever known. She was thirty-five, newly widowed, feeling overwhelmed and lonely."
"Ohh I see."
"She " Josiah stopped and looked away for moment, this was more personal than hed wanted to get.
"She couldnt, in good conscience, marry you and she did not want to separate you from your noble intentions," Ezra as always, was quick to piece together what had happened, "quite a dilemma."
Josiah gave a gentle snort. "I wouldnt have used that word but yes, quite a dilemma."
He put his hand out and Ezra automatically handed him the compress. This one was free of blood. Josiah threw it, like the rest, into the appropriate hazardous waste receptacle.
"My point being Ezra, there was no deception on her part. It was a miscommunication at best."
Josiah turned back to the sink and washed his hands, he was toweling them off when Ezra spoke. "Thank you for finally telling me Mr. Sanchez."
"Ah Ezra," said Josiah as he tossed the paper towel away, "youre the only one Ive told."
"You mean none of the others ?" Ezras words trailed off as he realized Josiah had confided only in him.
"No one else has asked, and there was no need until now. And Id appreciate it if ahm we kept it that way."
Ezra was stunned. He was the only one of the team who knew. Somehow that made him feel both humble and honoured at the same time. He was not used to these feelings. Strangely these feelings both warmed his heart and made him feel uncomfortable at the same time.
"Of course sir, a gentleman does not betray a confidence."
"Ezra, I do enjoy Maudes company. She has spirit and she is a most entertaining companion but your childhood must have been " Josiah shook his head as he imagined what a living hell Ezras upbringing must have been. He really didnt want to go there just now, he decided to change tactics. "We should talk about trust sometime, especially when it comes to the opposite sex, but in the meantime intellectually understand ... not all women lie, cheat and manipulate."
"Thank you Mr. Sanchez but that wont necessary." Ezra stood now, signifying that as far as he was concerned their conversation was over. The man had just shared something personal with him and though he was tempted, he wasnt about to be rude enough to rebuff his unwanted offer of psycho-baloney-analysis.
Josiah only nodded, he was a patient man, the door had been opened a crack. He knew the day would come when they would talk about Ezras trust issues. "Let me take you home," he offered.
"That wont be necessary Mr. Sanchez," Ezra was straightening his tie now. "After your most proficient ministrations I am well able to drive. I should, however, apologize to Miss Rain and explain to Mr. Jackson."
"That can wait."
"But I really think "
"Trust me," Josiah gave Ezra a knowing look, "Nathans got bigger problems just now, maybe you can talk to him tomorrow if hes still alive."
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
While the others had strode purposefully back toward Nathans room, JDs anxiety had gotten the better of him and he had sprinted on ahead. He arrived seconds ahead of the rest to discover Nathan choking the daylights out of a purple-faced Ezra. His alarmed shouts for help brought Buck, Vin and Chris through the door at a dead run. Josiah followed a short distance behind not wanting to abandon Rain.
The other three tried to restrain the healer on the bed while Chris leaned over what was left of his undercover operative. Ezra was barely conscious and given the fact that Nathan was still shouting curses at him Chris decided the best course of action would be to separate the two men and allow time for the situation to cool off. Chris then "instructed" Josiah to remove Ezra from the vicinity of the healer.
Even outnumbered three to one, restraining the enraged man proved to be a formidable task. Nathan managed to get an unlucky shot off and land a knee to JDs groin. The kid made a strangled noise as he sank to the floor curled up in a ball. Vin saw stars when Nathan caught him with a hard elbow to the temple. He dropped senseless, to the bed. It was then that Chris decided to wade in to help only have his lights dimmed when Nathans heel caught him a squarely under the chin. The blow sent him to his knees.
That was the last straw for Buck - securing one booted foot against the bed frame he shoved hard and he and Nathan were catapulted over the far side of the bed onto the floor. Nathan took the brunt of the landing onto the tiled floor. Buck took advantage of this and bodily rolled the healer over, forcing his arm up backward behind his back putting upward pressure on his elbow and pressing his knee into a kidney. Nathan continued to struggle against him.
"Enough!" ordered the ladies man, "I said thats enough!" He repeated leaning down to hiss into the healers ear.
Nathan went still beneath him. "Now just simmer down. Lord knows ya got reason enough to be pissed off at Ezra, but the rest of us havent done anything."
"You have any idea what that fucker did!" Nathans voice was thick with anger as he renewed his struggled to free himself. Buck reacted by shoving his knee harder into Nathans back.
"I know, so do the rest of us and so does Rain." Said Buck through gritted teeth, his mouth still beside Nathans ear.
"Yeah and shes had a front row seat to this little show."
" and you in your purty blue hospital dress too," taunted Buck.
Nathan groaned inwardly. Leave it to Buck to remind him of the embarrassingly immodest hospital gown. Buck could "work" a situation with the best of them, if it served his purpose.
Buck waited a moment to let the knowledge sink in that Rain was here and had seen everything, in more ways than one, before asking, "Ya gonna behave yourself?"
"Yeah," there was resignation in Nathans reply as his body sagged beneath Bucks, his rage finally spent.
"Alright then," Buck let go the arm and rolled off of the healer.
Buck stood, helping Nathan get unsteadily to his feet. He surveyed the bodies around them. Vin had managed to struggle to a sitting position and was now rubbing the side of his head as he tried to blink the remaining stars away. Chris was on all fours. He shook his head hoping to clear the ringing but found that action only made the ringing louder. JD was still curled on the floor letting out an occasional grunt of pain.
"Sonuvabitch" cursed Buck under his breath. "How ya doin Junior?" he asked as he walked around the bed to see to Chris and JD.
"Jus dandy!" grumbled the sharpshooter.
"Can ya stand?"
"Well enough," said Vin as he slid slowly off the bed.
"You got Chris then," as he heaved the youngest gently to his feet, "come on kid, easy now." JDs only reply was a squeaky whimper.
"I just love these little family chats before breakfast," muttered Buck sarcastically as he led the rest of them out the door.
Left alone together now, Rain watched Nathan in horrified silence. He still looked the same, tall, handsome, his eyes were gentle now as he looked back at her. He seemed a stranger to her now. He had lied to her, a lie of omission perhaps but none the less a lie.
Nathan regarded her warily. She looked better but circles of fatigue were beginning to darken under her eyes. He couldnt read her expression very well. It seemed to change from disbelief to anger and then to something else he didnt recognize.
"Why didnt you tell me about the job in Kansas City?" her words were quiet and very controlled. It made him nervous.
Oh shit, she knows! "I was going to," he rasped. "I was just waiting for the right moment."
"I guess that moment is now."
That something else he couldnt read before was hurt, she was trying to hide it but now he could tell; she was hurt.
"Why didnt you tell me?" she repeated.
"Because I was afraid youd say no."
"Of course Id say no!" she burst out. "What were you thinking of? That I would be thrilled and fall into your arms, thankful that you had solved all of our problems?"
"Of course not!" Nathans tone was indignant that she would suggest that he thought so little of her.
"Then what were you thinking of?" People often got the mistaken impression from her normally quiet, polite manner that Rain was shy and demure but nothing could be further from the truth. She had a will of iron and Nathan had just run up against it.
There was something about having the hospital bed between them; she seemed so far away from him. He walked around the bed as he spoke to end up standing in front of her. "Rain, Im tired of wishing you good night, then hanging up the phone and rolling over in bed alone. I want to kiss you good night and then pull you close to me. I want to fall asleep with you in my arms, every night, not just half a dozen times a month."
"I dont like it either, but we both have careers we love. Ill get a job here. Its just going to take more time than we thought."
"Im tired of this. I want to be with you now! I want to be married! We cant go forward like this! We cant start a family, we cant "
"What about this family?"
"This team, these men! Nathan they are more family to you than your sisters are. Do you have any idea how youve changed since you joined this team? This is the first place youve been really happy since your father died."
Nathan rubbed his temples with both hands as he spoke. "I wont deny that Ive been happy here, that Ive found something Id lost when Pop died." He then dropped his hands to look at her "but Rain, I hate this, somethings got to give here. It just seemed to me that one of us had to compromise. You love your job so why should it have to be you. The job in KC is a great opportunity for me. If I took it we could be together."
"Nathan theres no rush to get married Im only 28 "
"But Im 34!" he cut her off. "If you got pregnant today Id be 35 when the baby was born, Id be 50 when that child was 15 and any other children would be younger. Id like to be able to shoot hoops with my kids before Im in my wheelchair!"
He stopped and swiped his hands slowly over his head, he felt absolutely miserable ... he swallowed painfully before continuing.
"Rain, I just want to get on with our lives, our life together. I thought it was the right thing to do. Maybe we cant have it all, you and me both in jobs we love and together in the same city. You were so disappointed after your last job interview." He took both of her hands in his. "The job in KC is a good job and it just seemed like a way we could both get what we want. I think it could work out for us."
She had watched him in silence and after a moment withdrew her hands from his and turned and walked away from him. His eyes followed her. Rain was very much her own person. He knew that she had to make up her own mind.
They had talked about what they were going to do after her last disappointing job interview. She had refused to consider him leaving the team as an option. He couldnt dissuade her. He and his father had been very close and he had felt "cast adrift" when he had passed away. That had been two years before his interview with Chris. He had been surprised to discover one day, not long after joining the team, that hed found a place with this "bunch of fools."
Something else was troubling Rain now. He knew she would be upset at discovering hed gone ahead and done this without talking to her first and rightfully so. They talked over all the big decisions, including his moving here to Denver. They expected it would take time for her to find a job in her field, but what they hadnt expected was how disappointing the opportunities in her field would be.
She turned to look at him again. "You went off and made this decision without me, with the best of intentions but " She shook her head sadly, "Nathan I dont know if I can trust you anymore."
His head shot up in shock. He stared at her with wide eyes.
"One of the things I really respected, that I always appreciated about you Nathan, was the fact you discussed everything with me. You know thats important to me. I watched my father run roughshod over my mothers feelings and wishes all their married life. I wont live that way."
He took a step toward her, "Rain babe "
She turned away, "No, dont say anything. I need time to think."
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Nathan opened his eyes to find the room in darkness.
He lay still waiting for his head to clear and his eyes to focus. Damn sleeping pills, he didnt want them but the doctors orders had become Chris orders.
After a few moments he realized he wasnt alone, a few feet away sat the familiar form of Josiah as he sat reading by the light of a clip-on book light.
Josiah shifted in his chair as he turned to the man in the bed.
"How are you feeling?" He whispered.
Nathan took a deep breath; the action caused his ribs to ache. Damn Buck and his persuasion tactics. "Fine," he lied.
Josiah had to smile, no matter who it was, the answer was always the same, unless of course it was Ezras clothing that was "injured."
"What time is it?"
"Just after three."
"What are you still doing here?"
"Im not seriously hurt; go home and get some rest."
Josiah let out a soft, deep throated chuckle. "You should know it doesnt work that way."
Nathan lay where he was for another minute. He knew that. He knew that until he was home and safe one of them would always be close by.
Doctor Sexsmith had shown up shortly after Rain had left. He taken Nathans pulse and blood pressure and had noted both were unusually high. Unexplainably so and a reason for concern in his opinion. Nathan was not about to inform him of the mornings events. Nor was he about to complain about the bruised ribs he had acquired when Buck had landed on top of him after pushing them both over the side of the bed. His life was falling apart around him and he just wanted to get out of here. Doctor Sexsmith, however, wasnt co-operating and decided to err on the side of caution and keep Nathan for observation for another 24 hours.
One look at Rain after she and Nathan had had some time together and Chris was on his cell phone to Mary. Rains morning had caught up with her and she needed a place to rest and, Chris figured, maybe someone to talk to as well. Always the shepherd, Chris wanted her close enough to keep an eye on as well.
Foregoing the breakfast Josiah would drop Rain off at Marys on his way home to grab a few hours of much needed sleep. Mary would wait and get Rain settled before going to work.
Later, over Inezs now cold breakfast, Nathan had appealed to Chris to veto the doctors order and get him out of the hospital. Nathan would be expected to go home and take it easy since he was still considered to be recuperating, but Chris wasnt sure Nathan could be trusted to do so without posting a bodyguard, manpower he didnt have right now.
Chris didnt trust himself to talk to Ezra after this latest stunt hed just pulled so hed instructed Josiah to order Ezra to take a personal day and go home and stay home. Catching Chris expression down the length of the hallway and Ezra had wisely decided to do just that.
At least all the players in this little episode would remain separated for a while. It would give everyone some time to cool off and hopefully regain a little perspective.
"How long have you been here?"
"Since about 10:30."
Nathan moaned as he rolled over and then tried to sit up, his head began to throb and his ribs screamed at him in protest.
"Need a hand?" offered Josiah.
"No! God no," groaned Nathan.
Josiah made no move to help as he watched as Nathan eased himself slowly to a sitting position.
"I can still go to the can by myself," he muttered. He eased himself cautiously off the edge of the bed and then shuffled barefoot the few feet across the floor to the patient bathroom. Turning the knob seemed to take Herculean effort. He disappeared into the little room and shut the door.
Josiah waited, listening for a groan or a thud, or any sound that might indicate Nathan needed help. He heard only the appropriate trickling noises, a flush and then running tap water. The door opened and Nathan made his way slowly back to the bed. He turned around and leaned back against the bed and waited a moment.
"I think I could use some help here now."
Josiah smiled and set his book down on his chair as he got up and made his way around the bed to stand beside his friend. "What do you need here?"
"I just want to lie down but my ribs "
"Heres my arm," then Josiah broke into a big grin, "lean on me brother."
Nathan scowled at him.
"Ive been waiting years to use that one," admitted Josiah, still grinning.
Nathan returned Josiahs grin with a weak smile before taking Josiahs arm. Using his friends arm to steady himself he was able to ease himself back into bed and then lean slowly backwards to end up lying down again.
"I little bruised and bloodied but a little wiser as well I think you managed to literally knock some sense into him."
He nodded. It made sense.
"I dropped by on my way here to see how she was. She was wrapped in a quilt on Marys couch with a glass of wine. She was pretty quiet."
"Did she tell you what happened?"
"I think I screwed up majorly with her," he grunted as he managed to painfully roll himself onto his side, "maybe even permanently."
"Josiah, why is it she has to be the one to give up what she loves? Then I get everything, her, this job the team, and she gets unemployment or a job well below her capabilities. Shes had three job interviews in the last six months, every time she was over qualified. Hell, the last interview, she had more experience than two of the three people on the interview panel." He shifted stiffly as he reached for his pillow and drew it further under his head. "Why does she have to be the one to compromise? I figured Pennells team would be a step up, still in my field and we could be together."
"I hear ya brother. Our society talks one way but the reality is someone has to compromise and for some reason thats wrong. If its the man, hes - whats that word JD uses - whipped? If its the woman shes letting every other woman down by not asserting herself."
"I love her and I just want to be with her, it seems so simple, why is it so complicated?"
"I dont know brother," replied Josiah sympathetically.
Fatigue and drugs won out as Nathan closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Josiah returned to his chair. Instead of opening his book he watched his friend as he slept. They had known each other more than eleven years now and despite the eighteen-year age difference and their very different upbringings they had found a common ground for a firm life long friendship.
Nathan was as private as he was when it came to personal matters. What little he did know, Nathan was raised almost an only child. He was a surprise to parents whod already had two teenage daughters when he was born. His mother, Esmee, having stayed home with their daughters until they were in full day school, had a successful career as the Director of Nursing for a large Chicago Hospital.
The plant Nathans father had been a shift supervisor at for 32 years had upgraded technologically, and as a result it was down sizing in manpower, so Obediah Jackson at 52, had decided to take early retirement. He had planned to go back to college to study Industrial Health and Safety.
It was about that time they discovered Nathan was on the way. Obediah decided to stay home to be house-husband and primary caregiver to young Nathan. The day Nathan started Kindergarten, the younger of his two sisters was entering her first year at Illinois State.
He had a happy upbringing. Father and son were very close. When he was 12 years old his mother, as is so often the case, inexplicably committed suicide. His sisters had their own lives now away from home and turned to their own families for support, leaving Obediah and Nathan with only each other to turn to for consolation. The already close relationship became even closer.
Natalie the eldest worked New York City as a Nurse Practitioner. She married a police officer. It was from this man that Nathan became interested in law enforcement. They had two children, a daughter, now twenty-three who was married and expecting her first child and a son, twenty years old, attending NYC. Nathan visited Natalie once a year or so, and kept in regular contact with her, his brother-in-law and his niece and her husband and his nephew, via e-mail. As he sat thinking now, Josiah was reminded how quiet Nathan had become a few weeks ago upon learning his niece and her husband had started a family.
Nicole lived in Hawaii. She was a philosophy professor at University of Honolulu. She and her partner of 22 years lived happily and pretty much did their own thing. Nathan hadnt seen her in nearly four years and even then he had gone to Hawaii to visit them. He discovered, upon his arrival, Nicoles partner had to leave for a business conference in Tokyo three days later and that, to his chagrin, Nicole had opted to go with him rather than stay and spend time with her brother. Years before Natalie had explained to Nathan that Nicole had always felt slighted by Nathan when he had taken her place as the baby of the family. Contact with Nicole, even with the convenience of e-mail, was sporadic at best.
Josiah sighed and turned back to his book. Why indeed should something so simple be so difficult?
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
"Im going home on the plane at two-thirty." Rain stood inside Nathans front door. It was noon of the next day. Nathan had finally been given leave to go home on strict orders to take it easy and not show his face in the office until Monday. She had come to say good-bye before flying back to Kansas City.
"Promise me two things would you please?"
Rains manner was still very quiet and controlled, not a good sign as far as Nathan was concerned.
"Number one, you apologize to Ezra "
"What!" Nathan was incredulous, "Why should I apologize to that miserable sonofa !"
She stopped him with a look. "Because whatever his reasons were, he prevented you us " she corrected herself, "from maybe making a big mistake."
Nathan froze, what did she mean by us? Did she mean she was making a mistake with him? He didnt ask, he wasnt sure he wanted to know. Their relationship was hanging by a thread at the moment and he wasnt about to tug on that thread.
"Whats the second thing you want?"
"Promise me you wont make any more decisions without me." She was offering him a glimmer of hope here. "Were going to have to make some serious decisions about us but I think we both need a little time to think at least I do." She blinked quickly and looked sideways and then back at him before continuing. "Are we agreed? Youre going to turn down the job in Kansas City and no more moves or changes until we have a chance to "
" That goes both ways," he said eyeing her seriously.
"Yes yes it does. I wont do anything until we decided about us." He could see her resolve beginning to crumble.
"Let me drive you to the airport," he offered hurriedly.
"No! Youre supposed to be resting. Josiahs already waiting." She turned, "I better go "
"Rain " The protector male within him wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and tell her he loved her and that everything would be alright, but she wanted this distance, needed it, to give her time to make up her own mind. He knew that she would have resented that he thought he could "make it all better" with a hug.
At the sound of her name she stopped, she turned just enough for Nathan to see her face in profile and the lone tear that glistened on her cheek.
"Call me call me when you get home just so I know you made it safely."
She nodded her agreement to this and then hurried down the steps and the front walk to Josiahs waiting suburban.
God hed made such a mess of things!
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