My body feels like it’s been through the ringer by the time I wake up two days later. Everything aches in a way that must be similar to the feeling one has after getting hit by a bus.
Derek is there when I wake up. He gives me the entire run down of just how fucked up I am.
I’m in the ICU. I underwent two major surgeries, multiple blood transfusions, many imaging scans, and countless injection pokes as well as intravenous medications while I was unconscious. I’m still covered in tubes when I wake up and it seems like I’m just going to have to deal with them for the time being. The nurse that checks me out once everyone is aware I’m awake doesn’t even consider unhooking me from any of them.
“They’re moving you out of here soon,” Derek informs me with a mild smile. “Woulda been out yesterday if they hadn’t fucked up and left one of the bullets in there. They’re probably just hoping you don’t sue them.”
“Two?” I croak, my voice disgustingly hoarse from disuse. “There should’ve only been one.”
“Apparently you were shot twice, kiddo,” he muses before ruffling the messy hair atop my head.
“Damn,” I huff as I smirk slightly. “Should really be dead. My luck’s gonna run out one day.”
“Yeah, well, as you continue to insist,” he says, rolling his eyes back into his head before meeting mine once again, “it’s part of the job.”
I laugh and we catch up a bit while we wait for the nurses to move me out of the ICU. He tells me all about how Alexandra has finally agreed to move in with him which he’s clearly very excited about. I tell him about how things have been going with the League which is kind of a moot point considering exactly where we’re having this conversation.
“You already know that I’m not particularly thrilled with this whole League thing,” Derek says a little while later. He sighs heavily before continuing. “They’re your powers, though, and they’re pretty cool, and it’s your life, so I’m just gonna have to get used to it.”
“It means a lot to me, Der,” I say seriously, frowning as I shift in discomfort. The minimal movement is enough to cause a flare of pain to spread across my chest and down my legs. Yikes.
“I know,” he says just as a pair of kind blonde nurses appear by my bed, “it’s already growing on me, kid.”
The nurses move me out of the ICU and into a general room a floor down in the hospital. I give Derek the “all clear” to go home once I’m all settled in. He tries to insist on staying a bit longer, but I know he has a pretty girl waiting for help to move into the old apartment. He’s also been sitting around for the last two days to wait for me to wake up. He seriously deserves a break.
I’m only alone for a little while before Max comes around. He’s wearing regular street clothes and holding multiple manila folders. Uh oh.
“How ya feeling, kiddo?” he asks as he sits down in the seat to the side of my hospital bed.
“Like I got shot,” I deadpan. “Twice, apparently.”
“Yeah, you probably didn’t even feel it. The shock from the first one probably overshadowed it completely.”
“What are those?” I say, tapping the top of one of the manila folders in his lap with the hand without an IV stuck in it. It’s bruised purple and blue from the top of my hand to the beginning of my arm, however, so there must have been one there at some point.
“Files on some people of interest,” he replies with a knowing smile. “Rowan Rivera. Alexander Rivera. Isabella Rivera.”
“Bella has a file?” I ask incredulously.
He laughs lightly and shakes his head.
“No, not much. Just a birth certificate, actually. We, well, we processed Rowan, and boy, does that kid have a file. Bella’s a mystery. She’s MIA as well as Alexander. Rowan isn’t talking. He’s been in our custody since the day you were shot.”
“He hasn’t been charged?”
“Well, no, not with the information you gave me. We couldn’t just release him, either, though, because you were unconscious and I need you awake to take a formal statement from you on his behalf.”
“Okay, well, you need to ask him about Bella. He might know where to find her, and she’s all he really cares about. She’s really the only thing that has kept him in the game. Alexander’s a sociopath, so.” I shrug like what I’m saying isn’t the deciding factor on whether my counterpart gets arrested or not.
Max opens one of the manila folders and starts writing down my “testimony” to Rowan’s character and true motivation. Once all is said and done, He has an official write-up document that will hopefully help keep Rowan out of prison and also eventually contribute to finding Bella.
“Alrighty, kiddo, this should help a lot,” he says as he holds up the closed folder for me to see, “you should be focused on resting and healing for now. Nothing else. You should be out of here in a few days at the most, but that doesn’t mean you’re jumping straight back into the action, understand?”
“Max—” I begin, ready to protest.
“I don’t wanna hear it, Ford,” he says, cutting me off. “Healing factor or not, you’re gonna be on your ass for the next couple days at the minimum. You’ve been officially taken off of active duty since you were admitted. I know you prefer that ‘I don’t need anybody or anything’ behavior, but too bad.”
His words hit my ears harder than they have any right to. This is just another instance where I can’t help but have to stop myself from viewing Max as a father figure. The only other person who has ever been concerned with my health when I was growing up was Derek.
I sigh and gingerly cross my arms.
“Fine,” I agree, but I smile as I say it.
Max even ruffles my hair like I’m a fussy three year old he can’t get enough of before he goes.
I’m discharged from the hospital on the fifth day of my stay. I change into the clothes Derek brought me yesterday before I meet Flint down at the front desk.
“You excited to get outta here?” Flint asks as we take the elevator down to the ground floor of the hospital.
“More than just excited,” I muse, smiling faintly through the ebbing pain in my side. The medication they had me on with the IV is obviously no longer hooked up and the pill they gave me an hour or so ago is quickly wearing off. Having an accelerated metabolism is a love hate relationship. I’m just going to have to deal with the pain until I can get my prescription filled later on today. “I hate hospitals.”
“Oh?” Flint says innocently.
“Yeah,” I reply with a sarcastic smirk. “Kinda spent a lot of time in them as a kid.” Flint nods following my words but stops when their true meaning hits him. His lips set into a serious, tight line. Leave it to me to make everything awkward.
JD pulls up in a Camaro outside the hospital. It’s far more expensive than a typical League agent’s salary so I’m kind of curious as to how he can possibly afford it, but I’m not going to ask.
“There he is!” JD exclaims as Flint helps me get settled in the back seat. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m kind of struggling to complete basic movements without wanting to curl into a ball of misery.
The pair help me get set up in a guest bedroom on the common floor of the tower. I protest initially but eventually give in after they argue that it’s easier for me to be close by just in case. I can’t exactly criticize them for wanting to make sure I’m okay.
I practically collapse into bed once I reach the room. So many pained noises leave me as I get comfortable that when I ask Flint to run over to my older cover apartment to get my favorite blanket, he doesn’t even whine or complain. I suppose pity has its occasional uses.
I fall asleep before he even leaves the tower. He’s armed with my blanket and my prescription from the drug store when he wakes me after he gets back. I swallow a dosage dry and toss the blanket over myself. I have everything I really need. All I can really count on to always be there when I’m seriously hurt is here: a soft blanket and some form of drugs. Everything else involved in my comfort is an ever changing variable within my life. Rowan? I got too comfortable, I knew I was getting far too comfortable, and yet I still allowed myself to start to find a sort of home in him. The odds of Rowan forgiving me for all of my bullshit are worse than that of winning the lottery.
Max comes by a little later on in the day. I’ve had the lights off and the curtains drawn since I got here because of the way the light was irritating my brain and Max thankfully doesn’t turn them on when he comes in.
“How you doin, kiddo?” he greets as he sits down on the end of my bed.
“I’ve seen better days,” I reply with a smile that is more of a wince. “Better, though.”
“Good to hear,” he says with a fond smile. “So. I broached the topic of Bella to our resident fire bender and he’s all about cooperation now. He’ll tell us anything we want to know if we can secure her. Doesn’t want her in the system, but doesn’t care what happens to him at all. It’s a hell of a deal. He’s lucky we have prior knowledge or that’d be the exact only thing he’d be getting.”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s clauses about blackmailed enhanced individuals, you know. I think Rowan more than qualifies for the protection of the Alice Clause.”
The Alice Clause. It was a quiet case that was seemingly unimportant. Alice v. the State of New York. An ex-League agent who had gone horribly wrong and was dishonorably discharged from the organization kidnapped Daniel Alice’s mother. Alice was a late bloomer but he eventually acquired the ability to teleport to a different place for a few minutes at a time. He was blackmailed into using his powers to obtain confidential documents and was solely blamed when he was finally arrested. Someone high up in the League somehow heard about it and a representative came and came to his aid during his trial. Alice won and the Alice Clause was established. Apparently situations similar to the one Alice or Rowan were in is more common than I ever thought.
“I’m gonna do him one better, actually,” Max says with a faint smile. “The kid’s got a spark. Literally, of course, but also inside. I want him on the team. He’ll have to pass the entrance exam, but he shouldn’t have any problem with that. Him and Bella can stay in the tower for the time being if it all works out, though.” I can’t lie and say I’m not surprised. I never thought this could go as well as it’s going right now.
“Oh, wow. That’s actually really great. Wow,” I stammer stupidly. I can’t really think of anything intelligent to say.
“Yup. We’re working on finding her right now. Once we got her he’ll spill everything. Everyone’s happy, the League, Rowan, and, well, you, clearly.”
“Well, you’re clearly very invested. Kinda what tends to happen when they put younger agents on undercover ops,” he pauses and squints as he essentially stares into my soul. “Unless, of course, there’s something even deeper going on.”
I feel myself flush red without being able to stop it. I don’t say anything for a few moments as I try to figure out what I can say.
“You’re right,” I say lowly. “But it’s complicated.”
Max sighs but he smiles good-naturedly.
“That’s what I figured,” he says, laughing lightly. “Whatever it is can’t be worse than being shot, though, so whenever you want to come to me is fine.”
An unexpected smile sweeps across my face. Max is more than I could ever ask for.