Blood, as it turned out, didn’t look anything like it did on TV. It was darker, and it steamed a bit in the cold air of the night. TV also never let on that it smelled metallic, leaving a tang in the air that one could taste of they tried. It sucked, too. Whoever said getting shot wasn’t all that bad was a liar. Where the initial shot was a shock to his system – like throwing yourself into a cold shower without checking to see if it was cold – it soon gave way to pain as his body got over the initial confusion. Of course running from the scene of the shooting probably hadn’t helped things, but Jack needed to get out of there before she managed to shoot him somewhere vital. He wouldn’t put it past her not to do it, and if Boris managed to get free...well, a bullet in his side would be the least of his worries, he was sure.
But he was paying for it. Three blocks away, holding his side, Jack could barely breathe through the pain. He knew from the placement of the bullet that he’d been lucky. If he hadn’t been in mid turn, she likely would have put a bullet through his middle instead of his side. He didn’t know where she got the gun, and he didn’t know why she thought that shooting him was a good idea, especially since he was the only one who knew where the book was...supposedly. She was right when she said they could recreate the work, but it would take a while, and he knew that the terrorists didn’t have that kind of time before they got caught. You’d think she’d be a bit more careful, seeing as how he had probably broken her leg, but he couldn’t know that for sure. All he knew was that he had to get this bullet wound taken care of before he bled to death. If he bled to death, everything would have been for nothing. Call him prideful, but if he was going to die, he wanted there to be some meaning to it, some great accomplishment behind him somewhere. Right then, he was a man with no name and no future beyond whatever clue he found next. That was no way to go out.
Stumbling up onto the subway platform, it occurred to Jack that he’d forgotten the bike he’d brought. He wasn’t sure he could even swing his leg over it, let alone pedal anywhere, though. The subway was a better option right then. He needed to be able to sit and not move. Not moving would maybe help with the amount of blood he was losing. At least then he could apply pressure to the wound without worrying about not having his hands free to catch himself if he stumbled into anything. And as luck would have it, he walked right onto a waiting train, collapsing into one of the blue seats provided. There weren’t many people on board, and they all seemed to be adhering to the general rule of the MTA – mind your own business and keep your eyes to yourself. No one looked at him, no one seemed to give a second thought to the tang of blood in the air, and no one seemed too perturbed that he’d picked up an abandoned news paper and pressed it against his bloody side.
Glancing around, he spotted a map of the route on the wall. Mentally, he knocked off stops, deciding that he’d have to wait through two of them before he was in walking distance of King’s County Hospital. It was nearest and with how woozy he was feeling, he wasn’t sure he could deal with the wound alone. He had Ken Swanson’s medical insurance information, along with his credit cards, so he might as well put them to good use. He wasn’t looking forward to another hospital, though. His lips still tasted raw when he thought about how he’d had to chew his ID band off. With any luck, he wouldn’t be thrown into their loony ward, but at the same time he knew it wouldn’t be an easy stay. All gunshot wounds got reported to the police, and they always asked a million annoying questions when that happened. He already had a cover story in his head that involved riding his bike by 621 and suddenly being knocked off it when something hit his side. So he ran, ended up on the train, realised he was bleeding, and the rest was self-explanatory. It was a good cover, seeing as how they went looking, they’d find his bike and probably a little bit of blood along the way. Chances were that Boris and Natasha would be seeking their own medical help, so he wouldn’t worry about them showing up. Even if they ended up in the same hospital, it was likely they would be on different floors and never see each other. Or so he hoped. He’d learned that there was nothing worse than assuming one thing because you were looking to rationalise things. If reality was coming, he’d have to meet it head on.
When his stop came, getting up was a whole new world of hurt. Sure, he’d felt every bump and skid of the train as it moved along the tracks, but it was mostly the same thing over and over again, lulling him into one pain level. Getting up and probably ripping open whatever clotting had managed to happen while he’d been sitting took his breath away for a long moment. Each step that followed was easier than the first, though, and he managed to make his way out of the station and back onto the streets.
New York was a very well set up city, and it didn’t take him long to get to the hospital. Of course, that was the easy part. The emergency room seemed to be full of people who thought the same way he did. From mothers with sniffing children, to men with bloody cuts, and party girls who looked like they’d had too much to drink, it felt like half the population of the burrow was in there that night. That wouldn’t do. Jack needed to be seen quickly and discreetly. He needed to find a new motel room and hole up until he was fit again.
Stumbling over to the admitting window, he gazed at where the bored looking black woman was filling out paperwork. She looked ‘busy’ and Jack hoped she’d give him the time of day. As it was, he only got her attention when he cleared his throat and leaned on the glass. She looked at him over the rims of her glasses and pursed her lips a little bit.
“Fill out this form and we’ll get to you as soon as we can,” she instructed, sliding a patient intake form through the gap in the glass. “Make sure to print neatly.”
“I think you might need to put me to the top of the list,” Jack told her, not reaching for the form.
“And why would that be?” she asked, raising an eyebrow at him. “Are you bleeding?”
“Yeah,” Jack replied, thinking that probably didn’t help his case, seeing as how half the people in the waiting area were bleeding, and yet, they were still waiting.
“Are you dying?”
“Probably,” Jack replied, wincing as he adjusted the news paper against his wound.
She made a noise of disbelief before reaching for the intercom button and speaking into it. “Fine. I’ll have a nurse come and assess your injuries. Nurse Blake to intake window. Nurse Blake to the intake window.”
She let go of the button and turned her attention back onto the paperwork, acting like she had no interest in Jack now that she’d made her little announcement. He huffed a bit, waiting to see what was going to happen.
What did happen was so far from his expectations that he wasn’t quite sure what did happen. All he knew was that he turned towards where the sealed ER doors had opened and had barely caught a glimpse of the red head from his one and only recovered memory before she was smacking him soundly across the left side of his face. He would have fallen over if he hadn’t been holding onto the window as tightly as he was.
“Nurse Blake!” the intake nurse gawked.
“It’s alright, Edith. This is my deadbeat ex-husband,” Blake explained, like that summed it all up and Edith made a noise like it worked for her. Women. “What are you doing here, Jim?”
Jim. Jim, John, Quinn, Dean, Keith...honestly, he was better off going by Jack at this point. However, this was the first person who he actually recognised, so Jim could actually be his real name. She was just as beautiful as his memory had depicted her. Her hair was pulled back into a pony tail and she looked like she was a few years older than the moment he recalled, but she was recognizable in any state. Jack was so amazed that she was real that he almost forgot that he was dying from a gunshot wound in front of her.
Well, almost. Self-preservation was warring for prominence in his mind. After all, he couldn’t enjoy the fact that she was real if he was going to die in front of her.
“I asked what you were doing here, Jim,” she repeated.
“I...” he couldn’t even form words because he was so shocked by her apparent connection to him. Of all the people he could have run into, he was standing there, looking at his ex-wife. He didn’t remember it, but he was still amazed that he’d end up in her hospital. He wondered if his old self had planned for this contingency. It would be a good plan, should something go wrong, but at the same time, he didn’t want her to be drug into his trouble. Perhaps this was a coincidence. Either way, here he was, looking at a woman who wanted answers.
Instead of answering her with words, because that got him nowhere, he pulled the newsprint from his side and showed it to her. It pulled at his skin and he winced, feeling the blood dribbling down his side anew. That was the most disgusting feeling he’d ever experienced.
Blake’s eyes widened and she grabbed at his coat, pulling it aside so she could look at his wound.
“Fuck. Edith, get a gurney in here – this man’s been shot.”
“Gurney to ER intake window. That’s a gurney to ER intake window,” Edith announced in the same monotone as before. “Well, looks like you’re probably dying after all, Jim.”
And she was definitely not being helpful. Jack ignored her in favor of paying attention to the woman pressing her hands down against his wound. He hissed, but he couldn’t help but try and keep it to himself. He needed to be strong for this woman. She was special. She was...his ex-wife, if he’d heard that conversation right. Well, he wouldn’t be the first guy who was still in love with his ex, but this was different. In his head, there was no time frame. There was just the memory and the feelings of love that were attached to it. He’d really loved her and somehow he’d ruined it to the point where she smacked him for just showing up at the hospital she apparently worked at. If it weren’t for the fact that he was thrilled to know his only memory was real, he’d probably think that this was just another thing to add to the pile of crap he’d been dealing with up to that point.
“Here,” he hissed, reaching into his pocket and holding the gun between them so no one else would see it.
“Jim!” she accused, eyes wide.
“I know. I need you to hide it or I’m going to be answering some pretty tough questions.”
That was an understatement. He doubted he had a permit to carry that. If he did, who knew where it was? But he was more concerned with the implications it could have. It could be dirty, connected to a lot of crime. She eyed it for a long moment before snatching it and tucking it into the pocket of her sweater. Oh, he owed this woman.
It was all a mess after that. The gurney arrived, sweeping him into the ER proper where there were doctors and nurses rushing around like people with their heads cut off. He was poked, he was prodded, he had an oxygen mask shoved over his face, and all the while, Nurse Blake stood there like some blood covered guardian angel in light blue scrubs. She even gripped his hand when he clawed for hers. And then...well, a guy with a gunshot wound and major blood loss was allowed to pass out.
When he woke up again, he was in a private room. Automatically he lifted his wrists to make sure he wasn’t handcuffed to the bed. He knew, just like he knew everything else, that if he were being held for a crime of some form, he would have been handcuffed for both his own safety and to keep him from going anywhere before he was asked all the questions whatever the policeman or woman wanted to know. The fact he wasn’t cuffed was surprising. Maybe he’d actually been identified as a victim for once. Or maybe the pretty redhead had something to do with it.
The pretty redhead. She was here. She was here and she was his ex-wife and she’d slapped him. Hard. He was going to have to talk to her about that whenever she showed up. It was really unfair to surprise someone with amnesia like that, especially when they were already dying from blood loss. Well, he wasn’t dying now, even if he was still amnesic, so there wasn’t much advantage to where he was now, but if she came back, at least he could possibly participate in a conversation or hit her back or something.
No, he wouldn’t hit her back. He had a feeling he had a momma out there who had raised him better than that, but he was sure going to give her a tongue lashing to rival no other. But until she got there, if she planned on coming back, Jack knew he needed to take stock of his injuries and whether he was going to be able to make a quick escape, if need be. After all, if he’d learned one thing about his life since he’d woken up, it was that he couldn’t count on things staying quiet for long. Something always came up, and if it didn’t, the itching at the back of his skull got so bad that he couldn’t sit still any longer to wait for something to happen. Knowing now would help him out later, or so he reasoned, and it would give him something to do, seeing as how the TV was off and the only buttons in his reach undoubtedly summoned nurses. Right then, there was only one nurse he had the want to see and it wasn’t a guarantee that she would be the one to show up if he went pressing buttons. With his luck, it would be Nurse Edith and she was definitely not in the Jack fan club.
The IV bag was hooked up to his left hand, the pulse ox on his left ring finger. He could hear the sound of the beeping machine that kept reminding him that he was alive and well. He was in one of those hospital gowns with no back, but seeing as how he was on his back, it wasn’t like it bothered him much. His right arm found the wound on his side easily enough. It was bandaged and tender. He couldn’t hold back a wince at how his clumsy fingers had pressed too hard. Yeah, he definitely had been shot. It would be yet another scar for the collection that he seemed to be accumulating. Still, it probably wasn’t too bad. Jack tried to lever himself up and found that he only made it a couple inches off the inclined back of the bed before he was forced to fall back. It wasn’t so much that it hurt, because it did, but he had no energy to keep his head up. It was like waking up in that bathtub all over again, except warmer and dryer and he was pretty sure he had the memories that he’d gone to sleep with. He knew what it felt like to be drugged and he knew not to fight it. It didn’t really get you anywhere, after all. The long and short of it was that he wasn’t going anywhere fast until the medication cleared his system. If someone did come in with the intent to kill him, there wasn’t much he could do to stop them. If he’d survived a shooting, then hopefully he could survive anything else that came at him.
He was still panting when the door to his room opened and the redhead came waltzing in. Perfect. If he was going to die, at least she had the drugs to make it quick. Her hair was loose now, red curls around her shoulders. She was still in her scrubs, but they were clean of all the blood he’d gotten on her earlier. She’d even gotten a bit of makeup on, like she was trying to look good for someone. It wasn’t too far of a stretch to imagine that he was that person. He was probably wrong, but seeing as how he was laid up in bed like this, a guy could hope.
She gave him a worried look as she closed the door behind her and made her way over to the bed. She checked on the machines before laying a hand on his forehead.
“Don’t you know that when you have a bullet through your side, you’re supposed to try and rest?” she scolded.
“Sorry,” he replied, not knowing what else to say.
“You always were a stubborn son of a bitch, Jim.”
Jack couldn’t disagree. He was exceptionally stubborn. Even he knew that about himself. But so far it was that attitude that had kept him alive and well, so he was willing to go with it. Besides, if it got more cool hands to his forehead, then he was alright with the result.
“So they tell me,” he finally rasped.
“Here,” she sighed, moving away so she could grab the pitcher of water on the side table and poured him a glass. “Small sips. If you choke, you won’t be a happy camper.”
H took small steps as she held the plastic cup to his lips. It was cool to his dry throat and he appreciated it. If they were going to talk, he wanted to at least hold up his end of the conversation, after all.
“What’s your name?” he asked, figuring that was a good place to start.
“So now you don’t remember my name,” she commented, giving him a disapproving look. “Real nice, Jim.”
“No, I’m serious. I’ve got amnesia,” he replied, closing his eyes a little. Man they were heavy. Amnesia wasn’t really the term, now was it? He was completely and utterly wiped. He was blank. But amnesia was a term she’d know. He would have less explaining to do. “I don’t even know my name.”
She considered him for a long moment, probably figuring that either she’d catch him in a lie or that he had no reason to. Either way, she sat by his hip and decided in indulge him. Thank Christ. If everyone he met chose to do this, he’d have a lot more answers.
“Melanie. Melanie Blake.”
“And I’m Jim Blake?” he asked, thinking the name didn’t sound any more familiar to him than any of the others.
“No. Your name is Jim Kirk, as in James Tiberius Kirk,” she replied, giving him a look he just didn’t like.
“What?” he asked, urging her on.
“You...Star Trek came out. I went with the girls, and imagine my surprise when Chris Pine’s character shares your name, even down to the stupid middle name.”
Jack shrugged. He had no idea who Chris Pine was or what that had to do with them sharing a name. Surely there were a lot of Jim Kirks out there. As for Tiberius, it was a bit of an awful name, but parents did that to their kids all the time, he was sure...unless it was one of his ridiculous cover names. He should have been smarter about that one.
“Sorry,” he offered, not knowing what else he could say about that.
“Listen, I knew you had a dangerous job when I met you. I knew that whatever you did for the military was hush hush. I remember your missions and how you’d be gone for weeks on end and I wouldn’t see you, but...” she paused, pushing her hair out of her face. “You lied to me, Jim. You lied a lot. And you were never there to tell me why you had to lie. I even had to mail you the letter telling you I wanted a divorce, and when the papers came back, it wasn’t even your writing.”
She looked down at her hands, studying them for a moment. Jack was busy studying her right back. He didn’t know how he let this one go. Clearly things weren’t good between them, but it seemed like an awful lot of that was his fault. Knowing what Rand had told him, he could imagine that kind of life wore on a woman. Clearly she didn’t know what he really did, and maybe he hadn’t even given her his real name. He hadn’t been honest with her, even though everything in him knew that he loved her.
“Why don’t we start fresh then? No lies, no secrets,” Jack offered, getting a bit of a laugh from Melanie.
“Oh? Do you even know how to be honest with a woman, Jim?” she asked, seeming like she really did want an answer.
“To be honest, I have no idea.”
She considered him for a long moment, as if she was actually taking in what he was saying. Well, it was nice that someone seemed to think that his words deserved a bit of attention. She finally seemed to have mulled it over and nodded.
“I suppose that’s as honest an answer as an amnesic can get,” she offered.
“Good. I go by Jack these days,” he offered, thinking that he really went by anything and everything, but Jack was the name that he had going on in his internal narrative. He’d like for someone to call him Jack.
“Jack? Like Jack Sparrow or Jack the Ripper or Jack Frost?” she asked, a tone of exasperation in her voice.
“None of the above. Jack, like in hijack,” he clarified. “I nearly had my organs hijacked the same day as I lost my memory.”
“Please tell me you weren’t hanging around with Danny Devine.”
He blinked a bit, thinking that was strange. So far, all the people who seemed to know him didn’t know each other.
“And you know Danny?” he asked, thinking it was an interesting coincidence.
“Of course I do. You rescued the lowlife and set him up in Brooklyn,” she offered as if that made perfect sense. “Unfortunately, laying low and Danny never went well together. Everyone knows Danny.”
Jack snorted in amusement, having thought the same thing when he met the man.
“And every time you talk to the man, you seem to be in trouble, Jack,” she told him with a serious look. “Danny’s bad news all around.”
“I figured that one out for myself. He helped me erase my memory,” Jack told her.
“That’s not possible.”
“Oh, but it is. You’d be amazed at what they’re doing for PTSD treatments these days. Add Devine to the equation and you have one memory killing drug.”
She studied him for a long moment and he offered her a small smile.
“Why am I not surprised that you chose to get rid of your own memory?” she asked, sighing a bit. “If I know Danny as well as I think I do, you probably woke up in some sleezy motel room with all your cash gone.”
Well, his wallet had been bare of anything that wasn’t plastic, so it was probably safe to say that Danny had taken all the cash out of his wallet. With friends like that, who needed enemies?
“You’re in big trouble right now, aren’t you?” she asked, eyes full of concern.
“Maybe just a bit,” he admitted. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
“Jack...you got shot. I’d say it was more than just a bit,” she replied. “Someone means business when they decide to put a bullet through you.”
“To be fair, I was doing just fine until I got shot,” Jack replied, hoping to give her the right impression about things. “I don’t think I was in any trouble until that point.”
“What happens now?” she asked.
“Well, I plan to lay here until I can sit up without passing out,” Jack replied, leaning his head back against the pillows again. “Then I plan to get out of this hospital and figure out where I left the book of...something and figure out what it does.”
Something occurred to Jack there and he opened his eyes to find Melanie’s
“Where are my things?”
“Hanging up in the closet. Why?”
He glanced in the direction of the closet, seeing that the doors were closed and his things probably hadn’t been disturbed, but he needed to know that the package was still safe. It needed to be hidden somewhere so that they didn’t find it again. A building slated for construction renovations was definitely not his best idea. He wondered what had prompted him to use the location, aside from the fact that it was the most unlikely place for something to be hidden in the world.
“Did you go through my pockets?” he asked and Melanie nodded. “Did you find the case with the vials?”
“I found it.”
“It’s important that no one else does,” he told her, watching as she seriously nodded back at him. Thank god she was taking him seriously on this one. “I went to a lot of trouble to keep that out of the hands of people who want it for bad things.”
“You know, you may have lost your memory, but you’re still the same old Jim,” she told him.
He looked at her for a moment, seeing the way her eyes were sad at the idea. He didn’t think he wanted to be the same old Jim if this was what it did to her. She was lovely and she didn’t deserve to be sad, certainly not on his account. Maybe once all this was over, he could work on being a better husband, or well, ex-husband. He wasn’t sure how that would work, but he did owe her.
“So I may have lost my memories, but isn’t it standard procedure for the hospital to report all gunshot wounds?” Jack asked. After all, owe her or not, he was worried about it. He didn’t have time to deal with the cops. He had terrorists to...get shot by.
She sighed a bit and nodded. “Yes, it is. We did call them and the detective who came to speak with you was a bit irked to find you were heavily sedated. He’ll probably be back in the afternoon.”
“What time is it now?” Jack asked, looking around for a window or something.
“It’s six AM. My shift is over in about half an hour, but I thought I’d better check in on you first.”
“You work nights?”
“The pay’s a bit better, and I’m single. No family to worry over,” she replied, looking at her watch before sending him a short and thin smile. Yeah, she must really hate him.
“I’m sorry, Mel. I don’t even remember what I did, but I know I’m sorry,” Jack gave a sigh of his own, wishing that he had the one thing that would make everything better – some form of a clue as to why anything was the way it was.
Melanie waved him off, but he could see that even if she was trying to be flippant, the apology did mean something to her. He hoped that was the case, at least. A pretty lady shouldn’t have to worry about what he thought. He couldn’t even remember his own name, so his opinion wasn’t worth a whole lot.
“You always did call me Mel,” she told him, straightening out his sheets. “And while I find this whole thing nice and domestic, I know you too well Ji-Jack. What’s going to happen now?”
“Have the police left someone here?” he asked, thinking that would be his biggest worry.
“Yes, actually. They left one officer down in the waiting room, seeing as how you were sleeping soundly,” she replied, looking a bit cross. “You didn’t do anything that would warrant being arrested, did you?”
Jack gave her his most innocent look, but he could tell by the raised eyebrow she gave in challenge that she wasn’t too fooled by that. Whoever said it was easy to get things past one’s wife was a liar. Ex-wives were probably twice as hard to fool.
“Not exactly. I did escape from a hospital, dislocate a man’s elbow, and most recently break and enter. I’m pretty sure that case, or the ingredients for what’s in it, was stolen at some point, and I may have broken the leg of the woman who shot me,” he offered, thinking that summed it up. “So at least I wouldn’t be arrested for anything too serious.”
“Oh, Jack,” she sighed.
“She shot me!” Jack defended. He knew he wasn’t about to get anywhere with that idea, though. “The point is, I don’t plan to be here when they do come to interrogate me,” he offered, thinking that it was in everyone’s best interests if he were long gone.
“Jack. In case it’s eluded you, you were shot last night.”
“Yeah, I know. That’s how we came to be having the conversation about being arrested,” he replied, trying for a bit of humor.
“Exactly. What makes you think you’re leaving this bed in the next few days? You have to heal, then you have to get your mobility back. You’re going to be sore and cranky and chances are I’ll be the only nurse on the floor who’ll deal with you.”
“I’ve watched a lot of cable TV. The hero shoves a bunch of cotton in the wound and keeps going until the bad guys are all either dead or wishing they were,” Jack waved her off, wincing at how the movement pulled at his side. It wasn’t even something strenuous, like walking. “I’ll be out of this bed in a day, tops.”
“Right. Try it,” she challenged.
Jack met Melanie’s eyes for a long moment, seeing that she wasn’t the kind of woman who backed down. She was probably right, but he just couldn’t afford to be laid up in a hospital bed. He’d have the police asking about the shooting, and then there were people like Rand, Boris, Natasha, and even Danny Devine. He didn’t need any of them standing around his bed. No, he needed to keep being mobile. It was how he’d survived this long, after all.
“Melanie, if you knew anything about what I did for the military and then after, you know that if I’m in the middle of something, I can’t just lay around. Right now, I am very much in the middle of something,” he offered, hoping that she would understand where he was coming from on this.
She seemed to be considering it and Jack thought that was a good sign. After all, it was always easier to sneak out of the hospital if your nurse was on board with the idea. And if that nurse just happened to be your family, things went just that much smoother, he hoped. At any rate, none of it could hurt.
“Why don’t you rest, Jack. I’ll tell the officer that you’re still under sedation, and then when you’re a bit more recovered, you can speak to him and tell him that the woman shot you first.”
The last part sounded pretty sarcastic to his ears, but he knew better than to bring it up. Women, in his short experience with them, rarely liked to hear about things that men claimed to hear in their tones. Right at the moment, they were getting along, and he wasn’t about to see that change while he was a forcible guest here at the hospital.
“Yeah, I could rest,” he replied, feeling his eyes droop a bit more.
Melanie brushed the hair off his forehead and leaned forward to press a gentle kiss to the skin before getting off the bed and making her way to the door. Jack watched her go, thinking that she rocked those scrubs. That was probably something else she wouldn’t like hearing, but it didn’t make it any less true.
Something in him curled tight as a wire the moment the door closed. His eyes shot open and he cast a glance at where she’d disappeared from, waiting to see if she was going to come back and check on him. After a few minutes, he decided that wasn’t happening any time soon. Figuring he was in the clear for a while, Jack again levered himself up. The pain was still there, but the drug’s effect seemed to have dissipated while he was talking to Melanie. This time when he sat up, the feeling of vertigo wasn’t present and he didn’t feel like he was going to fall back into the pillows. This was progress.
Now, all he had to do was get dressed and make his way out of the hospital, passing at least one armed policeman on the way. He was no Tom Cruise, but he was sure that he could hold his own. It was probably easier than it looked. He hoped so at any rate.