By Seema

Disclaimer: CBS, Jerry Bruckheimer – people who aren't me, in other words. No profit or infringement intended.

Author's note: Thanks to Gail for the encouragement. Coda to the second season episode, "Shadows".


She buys him dinner and he's a little embarrassed. Martin Fitzgerald isn't the kind of guy who lets the woman pay. But Sam places her hand on top of his; her touch is soft, warm, and gentle.

"Let me take care of this," she says. Her smile is barely perceptible as she puts her credit card -- platinum, he notices -- on the little black tray. Martin settles back in his chair. He feels exhaustion in every inch of his body. He presses his hand to his face and massages the skin beneath his eyes.

"Martin." Sam stares at him from across the table.

"I'm fine," he says, but doesn't look at her.

"What do you want to do?" she asks. She withdraws her hand from his and looks at him. Professional again, he thinks, despite the fact she looks every inch the weekend Sam -- hair loose about her shoulders in gentle waves, white close-fitted t-shirt, tan leather jacket and blue jeans. He admires the sprinkle of light freckles on her upper cheekbones and across her nose. Martin hates to admit it, because he's not this kind of man either, but he could spend the day staring at Sam and still find something new and fascinating about her. She's that kind of woman, he thinks. It amazes him, now that he thinks about it, that she gave up her weekend to help him search for his missing aunt.

"I should probably go back to the hospital," Martin answers finally. He's disgusted at his reluctance. He'd much rather keep sitting in this broke-down barbeque joint heavy with the smell of mesquite and meat rather than face the sterile antiseptic-scented corridors of the hospital. He knows bringing Bonnie home to die was the greatest gift he could possibly offer his aunt; still, he hates how helpless he now feels, weakened by the realization he has nothing but his comfort to offer Bonnie. "The family needs me." Almost as much as I need them, Martin thinks.

"I agree." Sam's tone is even and she betrays nothing. He thinks again back to that moment in the hospital, when his composure slipped and instinctively, he leaned towards Sam. She had not held him, not in the conventional sense anyway, for she'd rested her hand gently on his knee, and pressed her face against the curve of his back as he'd hunched over and towards her. "I'll take you back there," Sam says now.

Martin laces his fingers together. "Thanks," he says. "For everything."

Sam smiles at the waiter who brings back her credit card and then turns her attention back to Martin. "You're welcome." She takes a deep breath. "I wish there was more--" she pauses. "From the moment you called me this morning telling me your aunt was missing, I wanted a happy ending for you and your family." She runs her fingers through her hair, pushing it away from her face. "I'm sorry, Martin. So sorry. I wish there was more I could do."

They sit in silence for a few minutes and Martin wants desperately to reach out across the table and grab her fingers in his. It surprises him how much he needs her, how he never realized it until this afternoon when she placed her hand on his knee in the hospital's waiting room. He thinks he can be strong for Bonnie, to help her through the painful months to come, if he knows Sam will stay. He recognizes the impulse as purely selfish. He reminds himself that this is not about him, but about Bonnie.

"I think the best thing I could for Bonnie is, when--" he swallows "-- when she's made the decision to let go, to let her know it's all right."

"Yes," Sam says softly. "Yes, that's the best thing." She stands up and he follows her example a second later. It surprises him when she wraps her arm loosely around his. "I don't have anywhere to be tonight," she said. "We can stay at the hospital as long as you'd like, I can bring you home--" her voice trails off, the first crack in her professional façade. Self-consciously, she dangles the car keys in front of him. "I can return the car tomorrow. I mean, if you want that," she said. "If I'm not in the way, that is."

He has to bite his lip to keep from smiling. He could never imagine Sam in the way of anything, and he thinks back to how she's been at his side this whole weekend during the frantic searching and the stunning secrets Bonnie has hidden from them all. He never faltered this weekend, he thinks, but only because Sam was there to keep him honest, to press him into avenues he would have refused because this was *Bonnie*, his aunt, not some anonymous missing person. He can't even imagine telling Sam to go home, to leave him in the hospital. She's still staring at him, uncertainty etched across her face.

"I'd like that," he says softly.

She doesn't answer, only tightens her grip on his arm.

~ the end

Feedback always appreciated at seemag1@yahoo.com

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