Speaking Out Loud
Fandom: Diagnosis: Murder
Summary: Lyn and I decided that one way to get the muse moving would be to write a challenge fic every week or two, in one of our fandoms, using my Writers' Block book. (Hey, we'd been drinking champagne and were pleasantly buzzed, I admit). Here's mine. The challenge was, "Describe a first encounter with danger."
"If you make one wrong move, even just think about it, Sweetcheeks here, will end up with a hole in his head." The voice was harsh, uncompromising and Steve's eyes darted sideways to see where Jesse was. He bit back the angry words that jumped to his lips at the sight of his friend held down forcibly on the floor by a foot in his back, a gun pointed unwaveringly at the back of his head.
"I'm not going to try anything," he said calmly, reasonably. "Just take the money and get out. I don't care about the money. You can have it."
"Aww, isn't that sweet," the man holding Jesse down said. He bent and ground the barrel of the gun into the side of Jesse's face, then raked it down his cheek, leaving a thin trail of blood in its wake. "Your boyfriend loves you more than money, Sweetcheeks. Doesn't that make you feel warm all over? It makes me feel warm all over."
"He's not my boyfriend," Jesse ground out, his words partly muffled by the floor he was pressed against.
Steve shook his head slightly, a warning to Jesse to keep quiet.
"Well, maybe he wants to be, Sweetcheeks-"
"Knock it off, man. Keep your mind on the job," the man behind Steve said forcefully. "Leave the kid alone."
"Spoilsport," the man holding Jesse said. "You're always spoiling my fun, Terry. I'm just playing matchmaker."
"Idiot," Terry shot back. "No names, remember? Why don't you just write down our address and phone number for the cops to find JEFF!?"
"They're not gonna tell nobody our names," Jeff said, his voice now silkily threatening. "Right, Sweetcheeks?"
Jesse's head rocked back and forth. "No," he replied. "We won't tell." He shot a quick, small smile up at Steve, rolling his eyes a little as if at the stupidity of the two robbers.
"That's right," Jeff replied. "Can't tell nobody nothing if you're dead."
Steve saw Jesse's face blanch, the color seeming to leach away almost instantaneously. He wanted nothing more than to reassure his friend that they'd make it out of this alive, that he would never let anything like that happen, that he loved Jesse to much to lose him before he'd even had a chance to tell him that
A whack to the back of his head shook him out of his thoughts.
"I said, open the goddamn safe!" Terry yelled.
"Give me a second. I've got to remember the combination," Steve prevaricated, straining his ears in the hope that rescue was coming. Only normal traffic noises greeted him, so he gave in, knowing that what he'd told Terry before was true - that he really didn't care about the money, not if giving it up kept Jesse safe. He bent forward and twirled the dial on the safe, then pushed down on the handle and stepped away from the now open door, giving the robber access to the interior of the safe.
The man moved in front of him and Steve gave momentary thought to rushing him but then the gun was pointed up into his face and he looked across to where Jesse was and saw Jeff grind the gun cruelly deep into Jesse's neck and, instead, he stepped back a pace, hands held out from his sides in a gesture of surrender. 'Just go,' he found himself murmuring sub-vocally. 'Take the goddamn money and go.'
Terry had pulled the cash from the safe. He flicked through the notes then looked up at Steve, disbelief in his eyes. "That's it?" he asked. "Five hundred bucks?"
"We don't keep much cash on the premises after we've closed," Steve said, reasonably enough. "Too much chance of being robbed." He'd said it sardonically and almost wanted to swallow the words as he saw the flash of anger in the robber's face but then the moment passed and Terry laughed.
"Yeah, I get that," he said.
"Look, we're a small restaurant. We've only been open a week or two. Still building up a customer base," Steve said, almost conversationally.
Terry pushed the cash into his jeans pocket and shrugged. "Look on the bright side," he replied, his own tone casual. "You can claim insurance on the robbery and probably you'll get a few rubberneckers in here who want to eat where the big robbery took place."
"Dead men don't serve no meals," Jeff barked from across the room.
Steve looked over and almost leapt at him as he saw the man crouch to press his knee into Jesse's back.
Jesse groaned and Steve tensed angrily, but Terry's free hand came up with the gun and he waved it in Steve's face menacingly. "Settle down, man," he warned. Turning his head, he called over his shoulder to his partner-in-crime, "Cool it, Jeff. We're not killing anybody tonight. We're taking the money and leaving. You got it?"
"Yeah, all right." Jeff sounded sullen but he levered himself up from Jesse's prone form. "Can't just leave them like this, though," he said. "We should lock them up somewhere so we can make a clean getaway."
"There's an office out the back-" Jesse began.
"No!" Steve heard himself shout as Jeff slammed the pistol down against the side of Jesse's head.
"Shut up!" Jeff yelled as the barrel impacted.
Terry brought his own gun to bear on Steve's chest. "Don't move," he warned. "I don't want hurt anybody-"
"Tell that to your buddy," Steve roared, leaning forward into the man's space, ignoring the weapon pointed at him.
"Jeff's a bit of a loose cannon," Terry replied quickly, looking across to where Jesse lay, his eyes half-open and dazed, a trickle of blood running down the side of his face.
"If he touches him again-"
"Yeah, all right." Terry glanced at Steve speculatively. "There's more to you than meets the eye, Mr. BBQ Bob." He turned slightly away from Steve. "Pick the kid up, Jeff. There's a walk-in freezer back there. We'll leave 'em in there. If the cavalry arrives in time, well and good. We'll be long gone by then anyways. If they don't "
"I like the way you think, my man," Jeff said, grinning. He bent and lifted Jesse into a fireman's carry across his shoulder.
Terry motioned to Steve with the gun. "Turn around and walk. Don't try any heroics. You've already seen what Jeff is like. I'm trying to give you and your friend half a chance to survive."
"Some chance," Steve muttered sarcastically. But he turned and walked to the freezer, opened the door and allowed himself to be ushered inside, moving back as Jesse was dumped unceremoniously at his feet.
Then the door was slammed in his face and he heard the bolt slide down, locking them in.
He crouched next to Jesse and gently rolled the younger man to his side, trying to keep his neck and spine in alignment as his father had taught him to do in cases of head injuries. Then he placed two fingers on Jesse's throat and huffed out a sigh of relief at feeling the bounding pulse beneath the skin. He made sure that Jesse's airway was unrestricted and pulled a handkerchief from his pants pocket to press over the slowly-seeping wound. After a few minutes, he pulled the cloth away, relieved to see the bleeding had stopped.
Jesse's eyelids were fluttering now and he moved under Steve's restraining hand.
"Stay still, Jess," Steve said firmly.
"Wha' happ'n'd?" Jesse mumbled as his eyes finally opened completely. He blinked lazily at his surroundings then turned his head till he was looking up at Steve
"Jeff whacked you with his gun," Steve said succinctly.
"Because you had to open your big mouth and tell him I wasn't your boyfriend."
Jesse frowned. "You're not."
"Jeez, I *know* that," Steve replied, even as his mind inappropriately said there was nothing else he'd rather be. He shook his head. "He wanted you to shut up. I can kind of understand that."
Jesse managed to make it to his back and looked blearily up at him. "Where are we?"
"No wonder I'm cold."
"Yeah. Might be a problem if we can't find a way to call for help soon. How many fingers am I holding up?" Steve held two fingers in front of Jesse's nose.
"Steve, I'm a doctor. I can tell you right now that I have a concussion. One of the side effects of a concussion is blurred vision therefore I have no idea how many fingers you're holding up. What difference does it make anyway?" Jesse replied somewhat snippily.
"I don't know! Isn't it better if we know for sure that you've got a concussion? It's what they do on TV," Steve responded, his own tone sliding damn close to snippy too.
Jesse shook his head and then brought both hands up to grab his temples as he groaned. "Ouch, my head's killing me. Look, big guy, the only treatment for concussion is keeping an eye on the patient and doing frequent neuro obs to make sure they don't have an intra-cranial bleed as well, and stop them slipping into a coma. So, knowing how many fingers you're holding up when I already know I've got a concussion doesn't help much. The fingers thing is just a diagnostic tool."
"Sorry," Steve snapped. "I'm a cop, remember. I'm just trying to help."
Jesse reached a hand out and grabbed hold of Steve's jacket. "No, I'm sorry, Steve. You're just trying to take care of me." He shuddered. "Man, it's cold in here."
Steve shrugged out of his jacket and against Jesse's vehement protests, manhandled Jesse into it. Then he stood and prowled the perimeter of the freezer, hoping that maybe there was a buzzer, an alarm, a phone something, that they could use to summon help Nothing! Damn it! He slammed his fist against the wall in frustration and bit back a yelp of pain. Turning back to Jesse, he saw with consternation that the young man had slumped sideways onto the floor.
"Jesse!" He crouched once more at his friend's side and tapped his cheeks anxiously with his fingers.
Jesse moaned and twisted his head away fretfully. "tired," he murmured.
"Stay awake!" Steve snapped out.
When Jesse still didn't open his eyes, Steve pulled him to his feet. Jesse's legs crumpled under as if they were limp strands of spaghetti and Steve hoisted him higher, holding him close to his chest. "Damn it, Jesse! Wake up!" He tilted Jesse's head back and finally saw his eyes slide reluctantly open.
"Wha' ?" Jesse asked blurrily.
"Stay the hell awake or I'll make you do push-ups," Steve warned only half-joking.
"I'd do anything for you, Steve," Jesse burbled on, closing his eyes again.
Steve shook him hard and Jesse yelped in obvious pain. "Sorry," Steve said, remembering his head injury belatedly. "Jess, you've got to stay with me here, all right?"
"Love to stay with you," Jesse said softly. He blinked his eyes open and seemed to make a concerted effort to keep them that way.
"Good," Steve said. He shoved the words Jesse had said away far, far away in a little-used corner of his mind, a corner marked Jesse-fantasies. He stifled a snort of laughter then sobered suddenly. Shit, he was losing it too. Must be the cold.
Jesse was an almost dead-weight against him, even though he'd managed to keep his eyes open and was gazing up at Steve with a small smile tracing his lips.
"What's so funny?" Steve asked, hauling the younger man closer as he felt him shiver.
"Me you stuck in a freezer. What a cliché, man," Jesse said. He buried his head against Steve's chest.
Steve bent his knees and lowered them both to the floor. Once he was sitting with his back against the wall, he puled Jesse up between his upraised knees and wrapped both his arms around the shaking body. His own arms were trembling with cold now, too, but at least, he was uninjured and could get up and move around to keep his blood circulating for a while, at least.
"Cliché? What do you mean?" he asked, determined to keep Jesse awake and at least semi-lucid.
"You know. On cop shows on TV, the hero gets stuck in the freezer with the pretty girl and while they're in there, he or she admits to being in love and they kiss and then they get rescued." Jesse shot a slightly mournful look up at him. "Sorry I'm not a pretty girl," he said quietly.
Steve cupped the back of his head then bent and kissed Jesse's mouth softly. "You'll do for me," he murmured, wondering if Jesse would even remember this happening if when they got out.
Jesse's mouth formed a soft 'oh' of surprise as Steve pulled back. He smiled sweetly and pulled Steve's head back for another kiss. Then he rested his head against Steve's shoulder and closed his eyes and no amount of cajoling or shaking from Steve could get him to wake up again.
Rescue when it came was noisy and bright. Hammering on the freezer door woke Steve from the doze he'd fallen into, despite his best intentions to stay awake. He could hear the murmur of voices outside and he shouted back, worried the rescuers would leave. Then just as he was about to look for something heavy to throw at the door, it burst open and his father all but fell inside.
"Steve! God, son, are you all right?"
"I'm okay, Dad, a little chilly but okay." Steve nodded gratefully over his father's shoulder to the two uniformed cops who were with him. "Jesse Dad, he won't wake up. He got hit in the head and he was out cold, then he woke up but he passed out again-"
"Easy, Steve" Mark clasped a comforting hand on Steve's shoulder. "Let me take a look. I'm sure he'll be fine."
Steve mumbled his thanks for the warm blanket that was place around his shoulders, then knelt next to his father at Jesse's side.
One of the cops placed another blanket around Jesse's body as Mark examined him.
"Damn, he's pretty cold. Concussed too, no doubt. I can't do much for him here. Is that ambulance here yet?"
"Just pulled up, Doc."
"Okay, let's get you both loaded up and into Community."
"Dad, is Jess-?"
"He'll be fine, Steve." Mark narrowed his eyes speculatively and watched as Jesse was loaded onto the gurney. He noticed the way Steve's hand reached out to clasp his friend's shoulder and the way he walked as close beside the gurney as he could. He climbed back into his own car and started it , then pulled out onto the street behind the ambulance. He wondered, as he drove, just how long it would take for Steve to put that love he'd seen in his eyes into words and tell Jesse just how much his friend meant to him.
Mark grinned as Steve jumped off the ER bed the minute he entered the cubicle. "He's going to be just fine. A little sore and headachey for a day or two but we've got him warmed up with IV fluids and blankets and he's pinking up nicely now."
"Can I see him?" Steve asked, already on his way out through the curtains.
Mark shrugged. "Guess so," he said.
"Hey Jess," he heard Steve saying. He stopped then, staying outside the cubicle Jesse was in. Steve's voice sounded so tender, was the only way he could think to describe it, that he felt that he was intruding on something far more private than the reunion of two friends. Almost ashamed of himself for doing it, but unable to resist the impulse, Mark stayed where he was for a few minutes more.
"Hey, Steve. Man, I'm glad you're okay. Thanks for taking care of me. I mean, I know as a cop, that's your job and all, but I'm guessing you don't normally go around kissing the people you rescue and I was kinda hoping that- mmph!"
There was a moment of silence then Mark heard his son say, "Shut up, Jesse. I'm trying to kiss you here, all right?"
He laughed out loud then quickly covered his mouth with his hand walked away. Guess Steve had found the words after all.