Minutes later, Shane has me firmly by the arm, and is tugging be out what must be a fire door with the alarm “conveniently” disabled, and is hustling me towards his black sports car, which roars away from the curb a moment after I slam my door shut.
Call it a hunch, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t “officially” discharged from the hospital, or from the care of Dr. Cute ‘Ems.
“Where are you taking me?” I ask sleepily, not really caring about the answer, as long as sleep is on the docket in the very near future.
I bite my lip. I’m not a scaredy cat by any stretch, but this plan makes me a little nervous. “And if my friendly neighborhood attacker returns to the scene of the crime?”
“I’m going to stay with you until mid-morning at least, and then I’ll send for an agent to relieve me. We’ll make sure you haven’t gone out of your head or anything, and in a day or two, we’ll put you back on active duty. And in the meantime, we’ll try and find out all we can about this guy who came after you,” Shane says, his icy calm a balm to my frazzled nerves and exhausted frame.
“Okay,” I agree wearily. “I don’t really care at this point, as long as I get some sleep,” I say with a jaw cracking yawn.
“Yeah, but only for a few hours. According to the nurse, you’re to be woken every couple of hours so we can test you. But otherwise, you can sleep all day if you want.”
“You going to give me a few days off, then?” I ask with a hint of smile, and Shane gives me the barest of grins back.
“At least one or two, but don’t press your luck,” he says. “The Stained Glass mission is being prepped now, and since you’ve done the most background, I’d like you on the ground when we go in.”
I nod. Stained Glass is a terrorist organization out of South America, and I’ve been gathering intel on their organization, structure and terrorist claims for the better part of three months. It will be pure pleasure to take them down, to take them off the streets. “Works for me.”
Moments later, Shane is ushering me out of the car and upstairs to my flat. I collapse on my well worn sofa and let out a deep sigh.
“You want anything?” Shane’s voice is surprisingly solicitous, almost tender, like a big brother who has just rescued his little sister from a fight on the playground.
I shake my head and curl up in a ball on the couch, tugging a quilt over myself. “Just sleep. Talk to you in a couple of hours. Make yourself at home – there’s not much in the fridge, but it’s yours.”
Shane lets out a groan as I hear the refrigerator door open. “Bloody hell. I better send an agent to the shops for food before dawn.”
I smile once, and then fall into a deep, dreamless sleep.
A couple of hours later, It feels like the sands of the Sahara are coating my eyeballs as I pry my eyes open to Shane’s insistent voice repeating my name over and over.
“Emme, for Christ’s sakes, open your eyes. I’ve got to make sure you aren’t brain damaged or a bloody amnesiac.”
“I’m fine,” I whine, slowly sitting up and yawning widely. “I’m just bloody tired.”
Shane sits down on the edge of my coffee table across from me, his sapphire eyes searching mine for questionable signs of a concussion or something even more serious. He checks my pupils, tenderly touches my bruised scalp, and asks me a series of questions from both the last twenty four hours as well as from years ago. Seeing no problems, he has me stand and doing some balancing exercises, then frees me to go back to sleep.
I glance at the clock and note that it’s four thirty in the morning. “You aren’t sleeping? You must be as tired as I am,” I ask curiously.
Shane shakes his head. “I’m fine. I don’t mind babysitting.”
“Any fallout from the mission?” I ask, curling back up again and preparing to sleep.
“Picture perfect, as far as we know. We stopped the buy, we got the virus off the streets, and I just got word that we have apprehended the lab where it was manufactured.”
“Apprehended,” I ask with a small smile, “or blown to bits?”
Shane gives me a Cheshire cat grin. “Go back to sleep, Em.”
No need to tell me twice.
For the next half a day, I am awoken every two hours to repeat the same routine – pupil test, balance, and a quiz on concentration and memory. Shane sits quietly while I doze, tapping away on his laptop and making phone calls in a low voice. I know he’s trying to find out the identity of my attacker. Knowing Shane is on the case is quite comforting actually.
By midday, I’m hungry enough to hunt up a lunch for both of us from my meager stores, and as I sip my tea, I eye Shane over the rim of my mug. “Have you slept at all?”
“I don’t need much sleep.”
I snort. “Yeah, but surely even an Ironman like yourself needs more than five minutes every few days or so?”
Shane rubs the stubble on his chin, and a yawn betrays his tired state. “I’m going to go off grid shortly. Your replacement is on the way round now. He’ll stay with you until this evening. It looks like the Stained Glass mission is a go for the day after tomorrow, so you can rest for the remainder of today, and tomorrow, and then we’ll be flying for Bogota after that. We’ll make sure to keep an eye on things, and I know you can take care of yourself as well, bump on the head or no.”
“I appreciate the vote of confidence,” I say with a small smile. “Sorry to run up the babysitting bill.”
“Cheaper than a casket, I suppose,” Shane says lightly, and I laugh.
We both turn our heads at the knock on the door, and Shane walks to answer it, admitting his babysitting relief. He and Tim Catcherside, a fellow agent I’ve worked with on occasion, talk in low tones in the front hallway, and then Shane walks back in to grab his coat.
“Right. I’m off. Call if you need anything, and I’ll let you know what I find out about our attacker. In the meantime, I’m going to send the mission profile to your Blackberry for the SG mission. I’ll plan on having you report to headquarters the day after tomorrow at fifteen hundred hours, yeah?”
I nod. “Got it. Listen, Shane… thanks, for…” I wave my hand and he snort dismissively.
“Don’t worry about it. And don’t worry about staying here – you’re perfectly safe. You’ve always been able to take care of yourself.”
I blush slightly at the praise – Shane is a hard taskmaster, and rare are his compliments. “See you later, then.”
And with that, he’s gone.