title: the circumstance of fired shots
by: ellen m. [quasiradiant@yahoo.com]
fandom, pairing: l&o: criminal intent, barek/eames
words: ~2100
rating: r
notes: written for the guns & microscopes challenge.

summary: the way you remember it, she saved your life.

*

The sky was steely grey and not blue at all, that's what you remember. You remember that there was a moment, just before you hit the asphalt, your arms flung out wide, and you were going up towards the sky. You remember saying Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour--

But it wasn't Heaven after all, and you hit the ground so hard the sky went black. Somebody, somewhere screamed your name, and you thought you knew the voice but you couldn't be sure.

Later, they'll tell you that it was nighttime all along, that the shot came from behind and you landed with your faced pressed against the street, and how Eames stayed with you the whole time.

They were wrong about the color of the sky, but they were right, too. Eames was there. That's what you'll remember most of all.

*

You wake up and there are lights like needles pressing against your eyelids. "I'm trying to sleep here, turn off the fucking lights," you try to say, but even you can tell that it comes out all wrong. Your tongue is heavy and your throat's sore, but everything pales in comparison to the exquisite pain radiating out from your forehead.

You try to ask what happened, but all that you can manage is an angry kind of groan. You guess it's a hospital, or at least, you hope it's a hospital. Nothing should hurt this much unless you're getting better or just this side of dead.

You believe in a God that doesn't make people suffer, and you must be right, because you're thinking you might pass out from the pain when you feel the coldness of something against your mouth and her very soft voice whispering near your ear. "You were intubated," she says, "but it's okay. I got the shooter, Barek. It's okay. Carolyn," she says, but nobody's called you that in a long time, "it's okay."

It's not okay, of course. The ice melts in your mouth and she touches your hand with freezing fingers, and you fall asleep like that.

*

You try to sleep all the time, because whenever you wake up, your head shatters with something far more exceptional than pain.

You hear, "nine millimeter," and, "brachial artery," and, "still a little out of it." You, at one point, try to say, "Could you give me something for the fucking pain?" but it seems like too much work. When you're better and on your feet, you'll find someone to yell at, but for now, you just try to sleep as much as you can, because at least then, all there are are the dreams. And in the dreams, you're rising up towards the sky and there are hands holding you up and it's so peaceful.

When Logan comes, he says, "Jesus, Barek," and you try to smile.

*

You finally wake up, all the way, for the first time in God knows how long. There's a water stain on the ceiling tiles near the corner, and that's the first thing you notice. Then, you realize your hand really fucking itches under the medical tape, and then you realize the feeling in your left arm is something far worse than death.

"What the hell happened?" you ask, and it must be the first time you've said anything anybody can understand, because there's a girl dressed all in lavender by the edge of your bed who says, "Nice to hear your voice, Ms. Barek," and she's got a pen, and that must be your chart.

"What," you say again, "the hell happened?"

You want to keep your eyes open, but they keep drifting shut. "We're giving you something for the pain," she says. "It'll make it hard to stay awake. You're in the hospital."

"Did I get him?" you ask. You get a sudden flash, as you say it, of the guy running down some dark street, of his Nikes hitting the ground, you hear your own voice, hoarse and yelling, "Stop, or I'll shoot." You see him stop, feel the pressure building in your trigger finger, and every time you've shot a gun, time's slowed down the same way. You feel the pushpull, the backfire, the smell of gunpowder, and the yell. "Alex," you suddenly say, "Alex. Alex. Where's Alex?"

"Ms. Eames went home to get some sleep," the girl in lavender says. "I bet she'll be back in the morning."

"Did I get him?" you ask again.

"Get some rest," she says and pats your arm.

*

The suits from IA start visiting as soon as you're able to form coherent sentences that aren't just strings of four-letter words cursing both the pain and the fact that nobody'll let you go home. They ask the same questions, over and over again, probably to make sure you're not changing your story, and you're pretty sure you manage to tell it how it happened correctly every time, though through a morphine drip, that's not as easy as it sounds.

"Why weren't you with your partner?" they ask, and you tell them about Logan's kidney stones, and after the fourth repetition, you're a little less embarrassed about having to say it.

"Who assigned you to work with Detective Eames, and why?" Deakins, you tell them, because Goren was in court all day and because the crime scene guys needed some kind of go ahead to finish processing the warehouse.

"How did you end up in pursuit of the suspect down Fulcombe St.?" He was wandering too close to the tape, and you remember Eames saying, "Hey, buddy. Back off." He was about six foot, maybe six one, light skin, light hair, baggy jeans and a green teeshirt with some kind of logo in yellow on the back. He took one look at Eames, from her feet up to her hand resting on the butt of her weapon, and he was off. You remember saying, "I've got him," going off on foot, Eames on the radio, remembering him turning to look back and in the process giving you a glimpse of his own weapon.

"Do you recall the circumstances that led to Detective Eames firing her weapon?"

This is where you raise your eyebrows, and say, "Seriously?" Alex told you how the guy turned, got off a shot before you could react, how it clipped you in the arm just right, spun you round, broke the hell out of your face as you hit the ground.

"Way I remember it," you say, "she saved my life and probably her own." You glance at the clock. "We done? I've got physio."

*

Alex comes and hangs out in your room, and it would be incredibly awkward if you didn't remember how she was there every time you came out of your drug added sleep those first couple days. Now, it just feels comfortable, and she brings you Diet Cokes and copies of the Times, and pencils for the crossword, and at one point, you con her into giving you a foot massage.

"Hey, Eames," you say. She's got her feet propped up on the edge of your bed, and you're watching the Price is Right.

"Yeah?" she asks. She doesn't even look over at you.

"Go home."

That's when she looks, eyes kind of stricken. "Um, okay," she says after a long, painful silence. She lowers her feet to the floor.

You push yourself up on your good elbow, bend your left knee to give yourself some balance. You hate being on your back, helpless like that, hate how weak you must look. "I'm just saying, I'm not dying. You don't need to keep watch."

She crosses her arms across her chest, says, "I know that."

"So you feel guilty. I can understand that. But it's not your fault I've got the reflexes of--"

"I don't feel guilty," she says, and you're kind of surprised that she's telling the truth. You know it from her voice.

"Then why the hell are you here?"

She looks down at her lap so all you can see is the top of her head. Her hair falls around her face, and when she looks back up, a piece is caught wrong across her forehead. "I had, it took me hours to get, to get your blood out from under my fingernails, okay?"

You take a deep enough breath to make your bruised ribs ache. "Okay," you say, and she looks back at the television and that's the end of that.

*

The day you're discharged, you get a good look at yourself in the mirror and realize just how awful you look. Your hair is greasy, and your skin is dry, and you've got deep, dusky circles under your eyes.

Alex leaves when you're getting into the wheelchair. She says, "I'll meet you out front," and when you get there, she's waiting next to her car, double-parked along the edge of First Avenue, hazard lights flashing. When you get in, she helps you with your seatbelt.

She doesn't have to ask you how to get to your place, which means that she's been doing some research. And, okay, of course she has, but the realization still makes you smile. Before all of this, you liked her well enough, but now you're used to waking up with her in the room, used to her seeing you with your physical therapist and how tears well up in your eyes when you move your arm too far in the wrong direction, used to the fact that it's been a week since she's seen you dressed in anything but a totally inadequate hospital gown.

She helps you with your little bag, unlocks the doors, holds the elevator open. Looks at you with dark and worried eyes whenever she thinks you're not paying attention. It's nice, you think, and it's not that you want to be taken care of, but it's nice just the same.

As soon as you're inside, you say, "I've gotta wash my hair."

She looks at you sharply from across the room, where she's putting your bag down and glancing at the flashing message light on your answering machine, like she owns the place. "You have to keep your arm dry."

"Thanks, doc," you say. "I'll keep that in mind."

You get to the bathroom, and you can undo the buttons easily enough but you struggle to get your shirt off your arms, and the pain's incredible, and you bite your lip to distract yourself.

"Can I help?" Alex asks. You can imagine her standing there in the doorway.

"I'm fine," you say through gritted teeth. "I'll be fine."

"Uh huh." She takes a step forward, you can feel the vibration, and she stands behind you and helps you thread your arms and hands out of their sleeves, and it still hurts, but it's easier than it was alone. "Sit down," she says, pointing around you at the edge of the tub, and you're suddenly really tired, so you just do it.

And so she washes your hair for you, and you're anything but a sap, but it feels good. She can tell you're tired, puts a hand under your head to help you, doesn't seem the slightest bit confused by the dozen colored bottles along the edge of your tub.

She leans over for a bottle of conditioner, her arm across your chest. You look up, and her face is really close to yours, and when she looks at you, you both freeze there. She swallows, and you can hear it.

"I'm a little broken, here," you whisper.

She backs off, hackles raising, and she kind of pulls your hair, and you smile because she's so transparent and she doesn't know it. "Yeah, all right," she says.

"But I'm gonna get better," you say. "Okay?"

She looks at you, and her eyes soften at the same time the corner of her mouth rises into something like a smile. It makes her look good, and you're suddenly absurdly glad that if you had to get shot, she was the one who was there to see it.

"How do you feel about Mexican," you say, "for dinner?"

Her hand is at the back of your neck and her fingertips are warm, and she says, "You read my mind."

So it wasn't Heaven, that's true. But still -- you close your eyes and it doesn't even hurt that bad it's better than you expected.