Selene woke up several hours later in a hospital bed in a dark corner of a room. A curtain had been drawn, giving her privacy and cutting her off visually from everyone else. In a chair, just a few feet away, was an exhausted looking Devon. When she moved, his eyes opened and he looked at her, immediately sitting up when he realized she was awake.
“How are you feeling?”
Selene looked around, for a moment confused, then it all came back.
“Where’s Nick? Please tell me he’s ok,” she whispered desperately, turning to get off the bed and to her feet.
Devon sprang into action. “Oh, no you don’t,” he said sternly. “You’ve had a strong sedative. Stay on the bed,” he ordered, pressing lightly on her shoulder, “and I’ll fill you in on everything, ok?”
Selene paused, the relented and lay back down.
“Good. Now, Nick is still in surgery. It was touch and go at first, they said, but the last update was that they stopped the bleeding and had begun repairs on his intestines. The bullet tore through parts of it, so they may have to remove some sections. It looks good, however, they told me, and they’re giving him good odds for coming out of surgery ok.”
Selene eyed him a moment, her suspicion that he wasn’t telling her everything high, but she was still tired and groggy. She nodded slowly.
“The man who broke in is dead. You hit his artery and he bled out. We’ve identified him as 50-year-old Michael Watts,” he informed her. “Did you recognize him?”
Selene shook her head slightly, then wished she hadn’t. The room was wobbly for a few moments. Once she could focus again, she turned her gaze back to Devon.
“Who is he?”
Devon shook his head. “We aren’t 100% sure yet. The best guess right now is that he’s connected with your father.”
Selene sighed and looked up at the ceiling. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“Two of your security team are also dead. Ahmed is in surgery now, as well.”
It seemed as if everything around her stopped. Ahmed… Selene looked back at Devon. “How bad is he hurt?”
Devon kept a stone face outside of a slight raise of his eyebrows.
“He took one to the leg, another punctured his left lung. He’s a tough one, though. He was the one that radioed us to give us the warning.”
Selene sighed and closed her eyes a moment. Four people were dead because they’d een protecting her. Guilt filled her.
“It’s all my fault. Everyone that died - “
“Don’t you even,” Devon said sternly. “This is what we do. We know every day that we could die. We do it anyway, because of people like you. You helped free over a hundred kids from slavery. That’s no small thing. That’s worth dying for,” he finished, giving her a gentle smile. “Trust me – any of us would have taken any of those bullets to keep you safe. So many lives are going to be better because of what you’re doing and many others will never be victims that might have been otherwise.”
Selene looked at him, both surprised and impressed. The man was usually not the one to offer support, but his words were truly what she needed to hear to put things into perspective. It wasn’t just about her safety – it was about the children they saved and that would be saved by them all going away to prison.
“Thank you,” she said to him, squeezing his forearm. “I needed that.”
Devon flashed a crooked grin. “No problem, kid. You’re really brave, you know. Your man, too. It’s really been a pleasure to know you both, in spite of the circumstances. You’re good people.”
“Thank you. We want to help the agent’s families… the mercenary guys… do they have families? We should make sure…,” Selene suddenly sat up. “Oh, no… Ahmed’s sister. Does she know? Has anyone been to see her?”
Devon shook his head. “The man said not to contact anyone. Said that if he dies, you would take care of it.”
Selene nodded slowly. “I speak to her sometimes on the phone. We wanted to ease her into it, since she has such a hard time with things.”
“She was trafficked, right?”
“How did you know?”
Devon smirked. “Because we’re the FBI.”
“Oh, right,” she said as she realized it was a dumb question. She nodded and looked back at him. “Yeah and they were… she was… it was bad,” she finally said, unable to reveal the horror the woman had faced.
Devon nodded and pat her knee. “It’s ok. I’ve read reports, so I um… I have an idea.”
Selene smiled weakly at him. “Do you think Nick will be ok?”
“I hope so. I will say, if anyone’s got a reason to fight for his life, it’s Nick. He clearly loves you more than himself. That’s powerful.”
“I don’t know what I would do if I lost him,” she admitted quietly as tears began to leak out of her eyes. “I just… I wouldn’t know how to live. He’s everything to me.”
“You would cry. You would grieve. Then, you would start to heal and move forward. You are strong. Selene. Nick would never want you to give up, and I know you would honor his memory and do what makes you happy and you would, eventually, find happiness again,” he stated as if it were simply a fact.
Selene looked at him with a curious expression. “How did you get so wise?”
Devon chuckled. “Grew up on the streets. I had some amazing women in my family. I also had an uncle who was a very sensible, practical man.”
She smiled, nodding as she tried to imagine it. “It sounds nice.”
“We were poor, but we had everything we needed. There was a lot of love and we did things together every night and all weekend.”
“Are they still around?”
“My auntie is,” he told her. “My brothers and one of my sisters, too. Uncle had a heart attack, mom got cancer.”
“Don’t be. It was hard, but they were great people and I have a lot of great memories. I miss them, but life isn’t easy.”
Selene nodded in agreement. Devon rose and gave her a few minutes to herself while he checked in with her nurse and see if there was an update. She noticed a uniformed officer standing just a few feet away, keeping an eye on things.
She curled up on her side. The memories of him being shot played over and over in her mind. She cried quietly at the thought of losing him. He’d looked dead when they’d taken him out of the house. There was so much blood…
“Please don’t die, Master,” she whispered. “I don’t know if I can live without you. I wouldn’t know where to begin. Please… please be ok. I’ll do anything for you to make it.”
Her vision became too blurry with the tears, so she closed her eyes. Her sobbing must have gotten louder, for at some point a nurse came rushing in. After feeling a sting, she slowly calmed down, then faded off to sleep.
It was late morning when she woke up again, this time seeing Rosa sitting next to her bed. She lifted her head, feeling more clear-headed and alert than before.
The agent sat up and looked at Selene with a tired smile.
“Hey there! Feeling any better?”
Selene nodded slowly. “I think so.”
“Nick came out of surgery a couple of hours ago. He’s stable, but they are concerned about infection and possible complications. He’s up in the ICU, but they are keeping him under for the time being. Ahmed came out ok, too. He’ll be down for a while, but he’s alive and in good spirits. He’s been asking about you.”
Selene felt a wave of relief flood her. The ache in her heart faded away with the news.
“Where is he? I should go see him.”
“We will go in a little bit. We have to talk to your nurse first. You weren’t doing so well last night and they’re going to want to assure themselves that you are good to go.”
While it to longer than she liked, she was finally cleared to be released and made her way up to the room where Ahmed had been assigned. The moment she walked in, Ahmed looked up and smiled, though you could see the tension around his eyes.
“Hey! How are you feeling,” she asked as she walked up to his bed. “I’m sorry about your co-workers. Is there anything I can do to help?”
Ahmed held up a hand, an amused grin taking over the smile. “Slow down. I’m sore, but it’s not too bad. As far as the men…,” he trailed off, then shook his head. “It’s what we risk.”
“Do they have dependents? Spouses?”
Ahmed sighed and looked up. “Ryan has kids and an ex-wife that he helps support.”
“Get in touch with them so I can find out what they need, please?”
Ahmed smiled again at her. “Of course.”
“Now, did they say how long you’ll be out of work?”
“At least three months. The shot chipped the bone – the lower leg – and it was cracked nearly all the way through.”
“Are you… will you have to leave?”
“Well, I’m not going to be of much use for a while.”
“Can’t you stay with us while you’re recovering? I mean, then you’d always have someone handy,” she said persuasively. “I was thinking… maybe we could relocate your sister over here? I mean, she’d be close and maybe we can get her a better therapist. Mine was a victim, too… she just seems so lonely.”
Ahmed clasped her hand and nodded. “Thank you. I would like that. She likes you rather well. She has asked me a million questions, then tells me every time you’ve talked. You’ve given her something to look forward to.”
Selene smiled and pat his hand. “I’m glad to hear it. So, you’re staying with us, then?”
“I’ll stay. You don’t think Nick will mind?”
“We both like you and we trust you. We had discussed before trying to hire you privately,” she revealed. “We were just waiting for this to be over.”
“Hey, guys,” Rosa said, looking at her phone. “I’ll be right outside. I’ve gotta take this.”
Selene looked back at Ahmed. “Are you going to call your sister?”
“I will later today or tomorrow. I don’t want to sound like I’m not feeling well.”
Selene chuckled and shook her head. “You know, she’s stronger than you think.”
“I know. I just always feel the need to protect her.”
She placed a hand on his arm. “Do what you feel you must, but I know from experience that having someone else to worry about sometimes gets our mind off your own bullshit.”
Rosa rushed into the room, a wide smile on her face. She looked between them.
“We got him. We found your father,” she told them. “He’s in Virginia. We’re not sure where he was headed to, but it wasn’t to you.”
“Oh, that is awesome,” Selene all but squealed. “I am so happy to hear it!”
After a few more minutes, they left Ahmed yo rest and made their way to the ICU. As they entered the ward, Selene paused. She took a deep breath, then continued. The moment her eyes lay on Nick, she rushed to his side, immediately taking his hand.
He was so pale, but his stomach showed he was breathing. There were tubes and wires hooked up to him, though most of them she knew were standard. It was still disturbing to see her Master so weak and vulnerable and the tears began again. She bowed her head and held his hand to her face. It was a bit cooler than normal, but it was still warm. He was alive, and she couldn’t be more grateful.
“You must be Mrs. Saber,” a woman said from the entrance to the room.
Selene looked up at the woman, though she could not make her out well through her tears. Not even thinking about being referred to as his wife she simply nodded.
“Well, then let me get you caught up,” the doctor said as she stepped in further.
It took about half an hour from them to cover everything and answer all of Selene’s questions. By the time they finished talking, Selene was reassured that Nick would most likely survive. The doctor had also been his surgeon, so she explained everything from having seen it first-hand. The injuries had been more severe than Devon had let on, but the woman explained they’d repaired everything, outside of removing a bit over a foot and a half from his small intestines. The biggest concern was infection, though they weren’t taking chances with other common issues, such as blood clots. He was getting the best possible care, the doctor assure her.
With a proper understanding of what was going on, Selene now felt a bit more in control of herself. Now, all of her focus was on making sure he was never alone very long, just in case he was somehow aware in spite of the drugs.
Gail and Tom arrived that night, and Angie came the day after. They often took turns pulling Selene away long enough to eat and shower, though they couldn’t keep her away long. Paul arrived on day four with Rachel. Everyone was worried, but kept their concerns in the back of their minds until the doctors felt it was safe to allow him to wake up. Since only one person was allowed in the ICU at a time, the majority of the group were parked in the waiting room, playing cards and drinking coffee as the days past. Everyone left for a bit throughout the day and night to sleep, eat, shower, and fetch drinks.
On day seven, the surgeon decided that he was past the critical time and they disconnected the sedatives. Then, the waiting began. After being under for so long, it wasn’t expected that he would wake up quickly. They simply said that once it worked itself out of his system enough to let him begin to come to. She was also warned that he would still be sleeping a fair bit for several days, and that it was totally normal. So now, the real waiting began.
Selene curled up against him, her size requiring little space. She was careful not to touch his stomach, but did rest her hand on his chest and her head on his shoulder. After an hour or so had passed, she fell into a deep sleep for the first time since Nick had been shot. No one, not even the doctor or nurses bothered her. In fact, the lights were dimmed and the curtain was pulled closed to give them some quiet time.
“How are you feeling,” a woman’s voice asked quietly.
“It hurts, but it’s not too bad. Has she been eating?”
Soft laughter filtered through the air. “Your wife hasn’t left unless your friends drug her off to eat and shower. She’s mostly slept in here, in the chair.”
“Well, I’ll have to thank everyone for keeping an eye on her for me.”
“I think you’re safe to go into a room now. I’ll order it, but it could take several hours.”
“That’s ok,” he said, placing his hand against her back. “I have everything that matters right here.”
Selene heard the woman say something again that she couldn’t make out as she fell back asleep. The exhaustion had taken it’s toll on her and now, her body demanded rest. With Nick’s warmth next to her, it seemed she was finally able to relax.
At some point later, Selene opened her eyes, finding the room bathed in gray darkness with a harsh light leaking from around the door. Vaguely, she realized they were no longer in the ICU, though she wasn’t sure how that was possible. She looked up at Nick’s face and sighed, content to see he was still there. She shifted slightly and reached her hand up to touch his face. With feather light touch, she traced his features. His cheekbones, his lips, his strong jaw, his nose… all the little things that she had memorized so well she could will his image into her mind. She pressed a kiss to his lower jaw, then settled her head back on his shoulder.
“I love you, Master.”
“Selene, sweetheart, it’s time to wake up,” Nick said gently, rubbing her back. “Come on, my sweet girl. It’s time to wake up.”
Selene groaned softly, snuggling more into him. Nick continued rubbing her back, grinning at her reaction.
“Come on, baby. It’s time to wake up. Breakfast is here and I’m anxious to see those stunning eyes of yours.”
“Master?” Selene blinked her eyes open and tilted her head up to look at him.
Emerald eyes met sparkling blue and she closed her eyes in silent thanks.
“I was so scared.”
Nick smiled, reaching over carefully to cup the side of her face. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. I missed you.”
“I was happy to see you curled up next to me when I woke up. Let me tell you, it was the best thing I’d ever seen. You, right there, safe.”
Selene smiled softly, wrapping her fingers around his hand. “You saved me.”
“I’m glad. I would have been ok with dying, if that’s what it took,” he admitted. “Seeing him touch you… I had complete focus and was trying to figure out what to do… but then he touched you. I lost it. I could have gotten us both killed.”
“But, you didn’t. Now, we will take time to recover and we’ll deal with the rest as it comes,” she stated firmly.
Nick chuckled, then groaned. “Oh, don’t make me do that. It hurts.”
“I’m sorry,” she squeaked, sitting up.
“Ok, so are you guys done being all sickeningly lovey-dovey,” she heard Rachael say from behind her. “I’m starving!”
Selene turned carefully to see everyone gathered, most of whom were currently grinning or smirking, amusement clear in their expressions. Ahmed sat in a wheelchair at a table, giving Selene a wink. She buried her face in his shoulder.
“That’s so embarrassing,” she griped, feeling as if the temperature of the room had suddenly shot up to summer in the jungle.
“Nah, it’s ok. After the last week, it’s totally understandable,” Paul said. She could hear the smile in his voice.
“Besides, now we know you are both ok,” Angie said. “We were worried when you slept so long. Nick said you were probably just drained.”
“I did let them take a blood sample, though,” Nick told her. “You are anemic again, so they also gave you a shot.”
Selene nodded, looking down to see the wad of cotton taped to her arm that showed where the blood had been taken from. She turned her attention back to his face.
“Thank you for always taking care of me.”
Nick smiled at her. “It’s my greatest pleasure.”
“Ok, so now, let’s eat,” Rachael insisted. “I really am starving!”
Paul had to return home a couple of days later, and Angie went with him. Tom hung out for another day, but he had to return to work. By the end of the week, Rachael was the only one remaining. She now, of course, wanted to know everything. So, between the two of them, they explained to Rachael the story, though they left out a number of details that they silently agreed didn’t need to be mentioned.
At the end, Rachael sat back and stared at them, almost in disbelief. After a pause she looked at Selene.
“Jesus, woman. I don’t know how the hell you survived that. It’s insane! What a bunch of horrible, disgusting fucks,” she spat. “They don’t deserve to live, in my opinion. They should just electrocute them all.”
“I just want them all where they can’t hurt anyone else,” Selene responded. “Ever.”
“Are these agents good at their job?”
Nick nodded immediately. “Very good. Very detail-oriented, highly successful, and dedicated. This is their passion.”
Rachael’s lips curled in a wicked grin. “Good. I hope they all rot. Maybe they’ll have a friend named Tyrone in prison who’ll show them what it’s like.”
“I didn’t know you were so vengeful,” Nick commented. “It’s kind of scary.”
Rachael nodded her head. “There are a few things that get me worked up. Rapist and pedos are the two biggest ones. It’s just outrageous to me that anyone does that to another person.”
Selene chuckled softly. “I appreciate the sentiment.”
“So, we need to get your things from the cabin… if there are things you want to take back,” Rachael said. “Ahmed is going to get a few guys together to take us.”
Selene looked nervously at Nick, her body having tensed immediately. Nick shook his head and looked back to Rachael. I’ll have the entire house packed up. I don’t think we’ll be going back there. I believe it may also still be a crime scene.”
“Our wallets,” Selene reminded him.
“Ok, we’ll need those.”
Rachael nodded slowly, a frown on her face. “Right. Ok. So, I’ll see if we can get a couple guys to go with me and collect what I can. We need to get you both some clothes and all that. You can’t go out like that. I don’t know if you realize it, Selene, but you need some pants or a longer skirt.”
“Oh, shit,” Selene gasped, eyes widening. She twisted to look at Rachael.
Rachael laughed. “Hey, you want to dress like that for him at home – more power to you. I know Nick’s tastes are far from what many would consider normal. We all have our own little quirks. All right. I’m going to go to Ahmed’s room and get this all arranged. I think they’re releasing him today. I got a suite, so he can stay there for now.”
“Good,” Nick said. “I’d like to keep him close.”
“I asked him if he’d stay with us when this is all over,” Selene recalled.
“What did he say?”
“He said yes. I told him I’d like to bring his sister here, where she can get the best care, too,” she told him.
“That’s my girl,” Nick responded with a grin. He looked back to Rachael. “I guess we are all in agreement.”
“Ok,” Rachael answered, rising to her feet. “I’ll call you guys and let you know what’s going on,” she said, waving over her shoulder on the way out.
Selene carefully rotated her body so that she was pressed against his side.
“I am so glad you’re ok. I don’t know how I could go on without you. I just can’t imagine it – or even how I would survive.”
Nick gripped her hair and tilted her face so she had to look at him. “If something happens to me, you will move on. You will go on with your life and you will find someone to love again. Just because I’m not here doesn’t mean you can just give up. You will do what you need to until you find another whom you can truly trust.”
“But I - “
“No buts,” he said firmly. “You will. And you will be happy again. It may take a while, but I would never want you to be alone or feel lonely or not have someone who knows what you need. Someone who understands you, and loves you just as much as I do.”
Selene frowned, clearly unhappy with his instruction, but nodded slowly. “Yes, Master.”
“Promise me,” he insisted. “Promise me that you’ll go on.”
She nodded, tears welling up in her eyes. “I promise.”
“Good girl,” he said, squeezing her with one arm. “But, we’ve got a while until that is going to be a concern,” he pointed out. “This will heal, we’ll be getting married soon, and then we’ve got many years beyond.”
“We’d better. I don’t like the idea of you dying.”
“I would rather not die. At least, not for a good while yet.”
“You better not.”
Nick laughed softly. “I will keep in mind that dying will make my lovely pet furious with me,” he said with a crooked grin.
A knock at the door drew their attention. Selene went to slide off the bed, but Nick held firm, not allowing her to slip away.
The door opened and Rosa entered, followed by Mills and Holloway.
“Long time, no see,” Nick said. “How is everything?”
Holloway smiled, looked at Mills and nodded.
Mills took a deep breath and walked closer. “Several of the people we arrested flipped,” he began with a smile. “They gave us information that lead to more arrests and a mountain of evidence. We don’t think you’ll even be needed to testify. We’ve got enough on most of these people to put the majority away for life. The judge has also remanded all of them without bail, because they are high flight risk and are a danger to the community.”
Selene practically flipped off the bed and jumped up to hug Mills tightly. She was squealing in pure happiness, laughing. She hugged Holloway, Rosa, then she went back to Nick and gave him a tight hug before she sat on the edge of the bed next to him.
“I believe, for you two, this is over,” Mills said cheerfully. “Congratulations.”
“What about the man that broke into our house? Who was he?”
“We’re still not sure, but we found who hired him.”
“Pictures,” Selene said, suddenly remembering.
Nick looked at her blankly, then realized what she was talking about. Right before he was shot. He looked back at the two men.
“Selene thinks she might be able to identify some of the upper end clientele if she had pictures,” he explained.
“Like, the politicians and judges you mentioned? They all went by code names, though, right,” Mills asked.
“Yes, but I did see some faces. Especially the ones that came to wherever we were staying at,” Selene said, looking toward the wall behind Nick. “There were judges, police… “
Holloway sighed and thought about it a moment. “I don’t know if we can do that, but… we might be able to come up with something.”
“The children have, for the most part, been released from medical xare and placed in the facility. When you two are ready, we’ll get you to see them there.”
“That would be excellent,” Nick said, glancing down at Selene’s excited face. “As soon as I can get them to let me out of here...”