Gateways to Heaven

"Jean!" Skyler called angrily, increasing his storming pace to a purposeful fast-walk when he saw the bane of his existence. "Jean!" he snarled, ferociously enough that a young patient looked at him fearfully.

Jean rolled her eyes and continued walking down the hall with the same pace she always had when Dr. Night was stalking her. Her lab coat fluttered behind her as her green eyes and auburn hair blazed with her irritation. She had patients to tend to and had none to spare for Skyler Night. She heard him call her name again, only inches behind her.

When she whirled around to confront him, he slammed into her, unprepared for her sudden stop. The jolt made her stumble back a bit. She brushed off her coat, trying to hide her impatience.

"What the hell do you want, Skyler?" she demanded in a hushed voice, aware of the patients watching them with interest from their rooms. The nurses that worked at Gateways Hospital veered into a different direction when they saw the two doctors ready to fight again. "I don't have time to indulge in one of your fruitless arguments. I have work to do."

"Oh, I'm sure," he hissed scathingly. "Why is my patient in your ward? Danny Weber was admitted to me two weeks ago and I just saw him in your hall. Care to explain?"

"Actually, I don't. But since you're being so sweet in asking, go talk to Dr. Green. She switched him to me after a complaint. I don't know what it was or who filed it, so go ask her. Excuse me, I have work to do," she repeated.

His gray-slate eyes burned with rage to match his black-fire hair that was tossed about in disarray atop his head. He flexed his fist, trying to resist the urge to choke her pretty neck or knock some sense into her. His normally indisputable control always seemed to disintegrate when he saw her. She noticed the action and narrowed her eyes dangerously before spinning around to continue on her way.

That will be the day when you actually grow the balls to hit me, she thought angrily. "Perhaps, you should go down to radiology and get your head looked at," she called behind her. "You seem to be losing your perfect self-control."

She was too irritated to find herself funny and stormed into the Clinic and into Exam Room 1. She calmed herself in seconds when she saw her next patient. A young boy and his mother sat in the only chairs, besides her rolling chair, in the small closet space of the room. It had barely enough room for them along with the exam bed, which was covered in crackly paper, a small desk to write notes in records on, and an out-dated laptop that was down nine times out of ten. Thankfully, today was not one of those nine days, another thing to be happy for.

"Hi," Jean said, offering a hand as her face smoothed out into a smile. The mother took it and smiled as well. "I'm Dr. Riley. What seems to be the problem with Matt here?" She quickly scanned the chart as she listened to the mother explain what was wrong.

Wheezing after exercise.

"He's been up at nights for the past month coughing a lot. Even after he drinks water, it continues," the mother said worriedly.

Understandable, she thought of the mother's worry. Tightness in chest. Shortness of breath. Classical youth asthmatic. Do a pulmonary to confirm. Her thoughts were already racing ahead to a proper treatment plan for the nine-year-old as the mother repeated everything the nurse had already taken notes on in the pre-exam.

"Alright, Matt. We are going to do a test to see just how bad your breathing is. It won't hurt," she promised when he gave her a skeptical look.

"What happens if I fail the test?" he asked, still looking unconvinced that it would not hurt. She knew how he felt. A couple doctors she worked with lied to children so they would cooperate. She was not one of those doctors.

"I'll prescribe you some daily medication that will be simple to take." She wheeled over to the computer after listening to his lungs and brought up the pulmonary program. She then handed him a gun-like object made for someone to breathe in so the computer could register statistics. "Alright, all you have to do is take a deep breath, blow into that tube, and try to blow out the candles that show up on screen."

Matt nodded and waited for her to tell him to go. Once she did, he took a deep breath and blew as hard as he could. He only "blew out" a third of the computerized candles. He then started coughing, a dry, painful sound that made her wince in sympathy. She had been prepared for it and already had a plastic cup of water waiting for him while his mother rubbed soothing circles across his back.

Jean glanced at the computer's findings and sighed. She hated when she was right about a bad thing. "Matt, you have what we call asthma. I see it runs in the family. You have it don't you Mrs. Vanheimer?"

"Yes. I figured that was what it was. He needs an inhaler, right?" Mrs. Vanheimer asked.

"Yep. I am also going to give him a new drug that has shown promise over the past couple of years. It is called Advair Diskus. Are you familiar with it?"

The mother nodded again and looked at her son. "He can grow out of it, right?"

"Absolutely. Most children under the age of twelve grow out of it by the time they are sixteen. Some do not, but as I am sure you know, they can lead fairly normal lives. If you don't have any more questions, I'll need to see you back in two weeks for a reevaluation." She shuffled through her desk as she spoke and finally found her hidden tootsie roll pops and handed one to Matt. He smiled appreciatively.

"Thank you, Dr. Riley."

"Yeah," Matt said shyly. "Thanks."

"You both are very welcome. I'll see you in two weeks." Her thoughts were already flying ahead to when she got off in two hours. She could not wait to fall onto the couch and watch a movie. When she came out of the exam room, a headache flooded her head as a hysterical screaming echoed through the Clinic. Her newly dubbed patient, Danny Weber, was backed into a corner surrounded by five amateur nurses who were trying to calm him down. He had an IV stand in his hands and shook it at the nurses who were trying to sedate him.

Great, Jean thought. She noticed Skyler standing outside the Clinic's glass doors with a wickedly amused expression on his face. When he saw her, he gave her a look as if to say, "Touché." Damn him! He did this on purpose! I'll never convince Sam of that, though.

Jean sighed and calmly walked over to the frightened man. "Danny, what seems to be the problem this evening?" she asked, treating him like a normal person, rather than treating him like a man who was having hallucinatory delusions.

"Get them away from me!" Danny shouted, shaking his IV stand at them. "Keep them away!"

With a wave of her hand, the nurses departed nervously, leaving Jean to escort Danny back to his room. At least I don't have to reinsert his IV since he took it with him. She put her arm over his shoulders and ignored the stares of awed patients.

"They came at me. All of them." he cried.

"It's okay, Danny. They'll leave you alone now." Why the hell is Skyler so pissed at me for being forced to take a pain like Danny Weber off his caseload? He should be thankful. It's time to talk to Sam and get this straightened out. Speak of the devil!

Jean watched as Sam tried to slip into her office unnoticed. Coward. Before she could make it out, Jean caught her eye and gave her a look she understood well. We need to talk. After Jean got Mr. Weber back into his room and calmed down, she immediately ran into Skyler again. He looked down at her with those stormy eyes of his. A range of amusement and smugness played across his face.

"Excuse me," Jean muttered icily, sidestepping him so she could find Sam Green to murder her for throwing her to the sharks. Or rather, one really big shark with sharp teeth and gray eyes. Sam would pay for giving her Skyler's basket case. Come to think of it, that description fits Skyler Night very well. Basket Case Skyler Night.

"You're excused," Skyler snarled, giving her a dirty look.

"I'm so glad you've had third graders teach you manners," she muttered.

"I know you are but what am I?" he sneered, a smirk hiding beneath it, though she did not notice it.

Where is Sam? When I find her, I am going to wring out her neck for this. She had been trying to get on Dr. Night's good side for a while, but Dr. Green seemed to be determined to keep them hating each other, even though she was the one who had hounded her to try to make friends with him.

"Dr. Riley," Sam called, beckoning her to the office that she had already been heading towards.

"I was just coming to see you. It appears Dr. Night is under the impression that I have stolen a patient from him. You can inform him that he can have him back," she growled, in no mood to try to control her anger now.

"Mr. Weber requested another doctor," Sam said, averting her gaze from Jean's surprised stare as she closed her office door.

"Why? And don't bullshit me Sam. I know the difference." Jean threatened.

"Mr. Weber said he was uncomfortable with Dr. Night," she admitted unwillingly. "It appears that he thinks he is a monster and that his team consists of a bunch of minions hell-bent on drinking his blood."

"Why me?" She couldn't quite hide her smirk at Sam's admission.

Jean didn't miss Sam's obvious distress at the question. Her eyes tightened with unease and she sighed heavily.

"You know how Dr. Night is about his patients. He gets a little overprotective and snappy with other doctors. I figured that if I gave Mr. Weber to your caseload, I could avoid more confrontations with other people." Sam shrugged, obviously believing her own bullshit. "Please don't tell Skye."

"Don't tell him which? His patient thinks he's a demon, which I can agree with, or that his boss is afraid of his searing temper?" Jean demanded hotly. "Sam, you know I've been trying with him. You know I have, but you're making this extremely difficult and I'm nearing my breaking point!"

"I know. I'm sorry. That was a stupid mistake but, you're going to have to deal with it now because Weber has a crush on you and wants you as his doctor." The last part came out in a rush and Sam's words were close to tripping over each other.

"Fine," Jean grumbled. "Remind me to get hit by a bus on my way home to put the perfect end to my perfect day into effect." When she turned around, Skyler was starting to come in the office, ignoring the Do Not Disturb sign, which he always seemed to think did not concern him.

"Jean," he said, nodding in acknowledgement to her as he passed.

"Kiss-ass," she muttered under her breath as she left. He appeared to have heard her for he chuckled lightly.

You'll do anything to try to prove me wrong, won't you? Luckily, Sam isn't as stupid as some of the people around here. Good luck trying to convince her that I'm wrong about this.

Jean endured two more hours of clinic duty, diagnosing and treating patients with a much better attitude than before. She soon forgot about the trouble Skyler had been giving her lately and felt like a doctor again instead of prey.

Her day was ending on a much better note when she solved a case she had been working on for weeks. She found such joy in watching someone who had come in near death walk out of Gateways on their own. She hung up her lab coat and nametag in her locker after she chesked in with one last patient. When she closed it, she was unsurprised to find Skyler leaning against the locker beside hers, which happened to be his.

"What can you possibly demand from me now?" she asked, fatigue easily showing on her face.

"I just wanted to congratulate you for solving your case. Even though it was a cakewalk and that guy should have been out of here in a day. Had he been mine, he would have," Skyler said in a bored tone.

"You know, if you only stick with the first sentence that pops out of your mouth, I might actually get along with you. I was going to tell you that you could have solved it too as soon as you got the new information that the wife gave me today, but now you can just kiss my ass."

"Gladly. Then, in turn, you must bow down before my superiority."

"Why must you insist on trying to fight with me? Weren't you trained to help people?"

"Aww. But irritating is so much more fun than healing."

"Or are you just pissed because I'm the only one in this hospital that you can't intimidate?" she asked, her eyes blazing again.

"I can change that," he growled, trapping her against her locker. His gray eyes seemed hypnotizing as his unruly black hair brushed her forehead.

"Highly doubt that, but thanks for the offer," she muttered, shoving past him.

He suddenly grabbed her arm and whipped her back around to face him. The force of it stunned her, but it wasn't enough to make her heart skip a beat with fear.

"I will not be treated like some dog that you can just shoo away, Jean." His face was the pure image of rage and only got a mere eyebrow raised at him. He tightened his grip on her arm. A few more muscles straining and he was going to break it.

"No. You seem to be more like some stubborn jack-ass who won't get out of the way." She yanked her arm free and stormed off to the bike racks just outside the employee locker room, where hers waited patiently.

She could hear Skyler following closely behind and found much satisfaction in getting on her bike to leave him behind. The crowded streets of Los Angeles left her feeling sober and relaxed, though most found it stressful.

She eased out into the street, careful to obey traffic laws. The last thing she needed was a cop hassling her. Cars surrounded her on all sides. Taxis zoomed through the crowded streets much too fast, forcing their way in and out of tiny spaces. This is why I don't drive a car in Los Angeles.

When the light turned green, she saw Skyler walking along the sidewalk on his way home, watching her. She growled and shoved the bike forward. It was the same every day. She had to be hounded and yelled at by him from six in the morning to seven at night. This was the light where they got to go their separate ways and she was freed from his harassment and tormenting. This was where she got to go home to play with her dog, Tyson. This was where she was able to relax.

As she pedaled the bike forward, she heard the squealing of straining tires. The sound confused her. She wasn't running a red light. She was doing what she was supposed to so why was the sound heading towards her? She heard her name being shouted before she saw the glossy red convertible skidding towards her with protesting brakes. Her muscles tensed, preparing for the pain that was sure to follow. She knew it was already too late to get out of the way.

When the car hit, she could already tell what was broken from the impact. Leg, piercing through the skin. Will probably need surgery. Ankle. Wrist from hit with handle bars. Her thoughts were already pacing through ways to fix them once she hit the ground, several feet from where she was seconds before. With the impact from the ground, she felt a rib crack and puncture her left lung. The grit of the street dug its way into the side of her face, arm, side, and, leg, cutting inch deep gashes along the whole of her left side. Her head hitting the ground came last, but it was powerful enough to make her forget that she should be trying to diagnose her wounds. Her bike, now crumpled into something that looked more like a pile of trash metal, landed on top of her, making her wince. She saw the car veer off into a light post before it had a chance to hit her again. She felt blood from one of the gashes start to flow into her eyes. There were more protesting brakes as the car that had been behind her slammed on them. She prayed it wouldn't hit her as well. Thankfully, this driver was more experienced.

Despite what she knew about head trauma, she lifted her head to try to see the extent of the damage. She had been right about the bone in her leg piercing the skin. When she looked over at the car, she noticed that it looked like a pretzel wrapped around the pole. Is the driver okay? Doubtful. That car must have been going fifty miles-an-hour. Probably ran a red light too.

Someone was suddenly saying her name. She opened her eyes, just now realizing that they were closed. She could only see blurred shapes and colors; a mixed swirl of pale skin colors; grays; and blacks. Whoever hovered above her wiped at her face with cold hands. A doctor's hands, she mused.

Her thoughts suddenly went back to the diver. She had to help them. It was her job, her responsibility. When she tried to sit up, despite the horrible agony, someone lightly pushed her back down.

"Need to help him," she protested through gasps for air.

"Are you crazy? Stop being an idiot. You need help first! Just stay put for a sec. Where does it hurt?" It was then that Jean recognized Skyler's insulting voice. The shapes and colors began to make sense and she saw his stressed expression as he stared at her with wonder.

"Where does it hurt?" he repeated again, this time with more force.

"I don't-" She could feel herself starting to fade.

"No, Jean. You stay with me here, you hear me? Stay with me. Talk to me, Jean. Come on!" he demanded with such force that she took back what she had said about him not able to frighten her. She was frightened now. Her body trembled with effort it took to speak.

"Can't," she muttered with slurred speech before she blacked out.

People were starting to crowd around and Skyler knew that it would be impossible for an ambulance to get near for another twenty minutes. Sorry driver. She comes first. Can only carry one at a time. Gateways Hospital was only a block away. He hoped she didn't hit her head that hard on the concrete. With a steely determination to get Jean Riley there alive, he lifted her into his arms as gently as he could and ran, ignoring shouts of alarm.

"Out of the way. I have an emergency here. Move it!" he shouted as he raced to Gateways. Jean was already unconscious, thankfully. He kept telling himself he was glad because he didn't want to have to deal with her yelling, but he knew it was a lie. He did not want her to feel the pain she would surely feel later. His running was jostling her broken leg around too much for comfort. From the looks of it, he decided it would need surgery with a couple pins to repair it.

Sam stared at him with complete shock when she saw him carrying her seemingly lifeless body through the hospital doors.

"Skyler!" she exclaimed in surprise. "What did you do to her?"

"I hit her in the head with a shovel and I need to bury her body somewhere. Want to help?" he asked sarcastically. When she looked at him with open horror, he rolled his eyes. "Car ran a red light and hit her. I'll need two beds. Any open?"

"Only in your ward. Why two beds?"

"What? You think the driver came out of this perfectly unharmed? He looks like a pretzel wrapped around a stick."

Dr. Green ignored Skyler's smart remarks and shooed away curious nurses and doctors who kept hindering their progress to Skyler's ward of the hospital.

He kicked a door open when Sam wasn't fast enough to open it for him. After placing Jean gently on the bed, he went to work on realigning her broken leg, snapping it back in place with ease. While he was busy with that, Sam cleaned and flushed out the gritty wounds on the parts of her left side that had been exposed to the street.

"Got to get x-rays and a CT before she wakes up. That way she doesn't feel that much pain. I think she has a punctured lung. CT will confirm," he muttered as he worked. "Hit her head pretty hard too."

"How fast was that car going?" Sam asked, her brows knitted with worry.

"How fast is a kid going to be going when he first gets his license and is hyped up on alcohol and drugs?"

"How do you know it was a kid on drugs?"

"He caught my eye as I was rounding the corner. Pupils were dilated and he was jittery. I watched him as he passed. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have even seen the accident. I saw her at the last minute. Dumb ass kid. Could have killed her. Probably killed himself for that high."

Once they did all that they could without the help of machines, Sam pulled off her gloves and washed the latex from her hands. "You go on home, Skye. I can take care of her. You look exhausted."

"You don't look so great yourself. I can handle it, if it's okay with you."

Sam narrowed her eyes and gave him a skeptical look.

"Relax. I'm not going to kill your star doctor," he said humorously. When she continued to glare at him, he stood up and gave a salute. "I swear I won't hurt and/or kill my fellow colleague. Scout's honor."

Sam frowned. "You were never a scout. Fine. I don't want to be here when she wakes up and finds out that you're her doctor anyway. I'm going home. See you tomorrow."

"I'll be here," he promised, without looking up.

Once Sam was gone, he sighed and called in a couple of nurses to wheel her down to Dr. James Rourne in radiology to do the necessary tests. He'll be in for a tough job tonight, Skyler thought, feeling bad for the kind doctor who, if Jean woke up before she got back to his ward, was going to be in for hell in the form of a spitfire woman named Jean Riley.

"So, what's the scoop?" Angela, Sam's assistant, asked as they both got ready to head home for the night.

"Skye is treating Jean. She was hit by a car on her way home.

"Yikes." Angela was a very intuitive person and knew when Skyler had first shown up for the job here, that there would be issues between him and Jean.

"Yeah," Sam sighed. "I'm just asking for trouble."

"I bet they end up together," Angela said dreamily.

"What?! Yeah, right!" Sam scoffed. "Jean would kill him before she'd go out with him. You are such a romantic. Didn't they wheedle that out of you in med school?"

"Nope, I'm chock full of it."

"I hate to steal your money like this, but you are just asking for it. What's your time limit on this? I'm not going to be around forever."

"One year's time. I bet two hundred," Angela said with confidence.

"Hoo hoo! That money is as good as mine. You are going to learn that in real life, the realist always wins."

Angela laughed before waving goodbye and heading home for the night.

Skyler looked at Jean's x-rays and grimaced. He had his work cut out for him. A broken leg, which was fairly obvious, went along with a greenstick rib fracture, and a shattered wrist. She had been out for two hours, worrying him. She should have been awake by now. The driver had already been admitted into the hospital in critical condition and another doctor took him off his hands. He had been right about the drugs and alcohol. He usually was.

Jean's CT scan showed a lot of damage to her right side, where she had landed on it after the car hit her. He was now counting her ribs, probing lightly with his cold fingers to find an entry point for the narrow tube he had to insert into her lung to relieve the built up pressure there, due to the rib that had punctured it.

He took a scalpel and made a tiny incision where his fingers had stopped. A trickle of blood dripped down her pale skin, which he swabbed with a 4-by-4. Her bruised skin was relieved a bit by the drainage of some of the blood. He heard her sharp intake of breath and knew that she was now wide-awake. She jerked away in confusion, surprised to find a hand gripping her arm tightly.

"I seem to recall you wanting to be reminded to be hit by a bus earlier this evening. A car must have mistook itself for a bus.," Skyler murmured as he pulled her back towards him. "Stay still," he ordered.

Her chest was killing her, overshadowing the other pains she should have been feeling. It was getting increasingly harder for her to breathe as the pressure continued to build up in her lung. She started to panic and jerked away again when Skyler touched her.

"If you don't stop moving, I am going to shove this tube down your throat. Now stop it!" he threatened, shaking the tube in her face.

Except for the jittery rise and fall of her chest, she became completely frozen. "Your-hands-are-c-cold," she complained between gasps for air.

He smiled and apologized half-heartedly. He pressed the tube into the small opening he had made in her side, satisfied when he heard the pressurized air hiss out.

Her crumpled expression smoothed out as the pain left her chest. Her rib had made its way back to its original place and assailed her with a new assortment of pain.

"What happened?"

"You don't remember?"

"Not really," Jean admitted.

"You were hit by a car. Some kid on drugs."

"Oh."

Skyler hooked her up to an already prepared IV and gave her a heavy dosage of morphine before the full extent of the pain could hit her. Her eyes were already starting to droop, thanks to the amount of drugs pumping through her veins.

"What time is it?" she asked weakly.

"Quarter to ten. You are scheduled for surgery on your leg tomorrow. I will be doing it unless you prefer someone else."

"I don't care." She knew he was an excellent surgeon and could fix her leg with adequacy. "Damn it. My dog. I need to let him out and get him fed."

Skyler looked around the room, momentarily forgetting that she didn't carry a purse. "Where are your keys?"

"What? Yeah, right. I'm not giving you my keys!" she laughed. "You must be joking."

"Sorry to disappoint you. I'm not. If you want your dog taken care of, then give me the damn keys," he said irritably. He should be home nursing a beer, not Jean Riley.

"Fine," she grumbled, trying to dig her keys out of her pocket without moving her wrist too much.

Once she gave them to him, he headed towards the door. "Aren't you forgetting something?" Jean asked.

"No. I know your address. It was handy to have your record on file when I'm treating you. Wouldn't want to give you a drug you're allergic to or anything. I'll have a nurse check in on you every ten minutes. If you move so much as a centimeter out of that bed, I'll strangle you," he added before he left.

Jean's house was extremely well kept. Everything was in its place and nothing seemed out of order. Skyler grinned when he saw the grand piano sitting in a corner of her living room. Beside it was an enormous pile of sheet music, all in alphabetical order. She had a large, leather sofa that dominated one wall and a big screen TV that controlled the other side of the room. There was a small coffee table placed in front of the sofa with a book laying open on it. "Agility Training" was the title of the book. It was open to advanced tips for training.

When he looked out the window behind the piano, he saw an extensive, brightly colored agility set in a gigantic backyard. A small garden shed was located on the western side of the yard, placed beside an average vegetable garden.

A snarl behind him had him spinning around. He nearly laughed when he saw the size of the dog making the hideous noise. The sheltie came up to his knee and looked like a miniature "Lassie". His ears were laid back against his neck and his lips were curled up over his teeth.

Skyler kneeled down and offered his hand for the dog to sniff. Once the dog seemed to trust him, more or less, he looked at the name attached to his collar. Tyson. Cute.

"You are a very pretty boy, I must admit," Skyler told the dog.

At the sound of Skyler's friendly tone, Tyson wagged his tail ecstatically and vaulted off his chest to do a somersault. He then let out a series of excited yips and barks. Despite himself, Skyler couldn't help but congratulate the dog and ruffle up his furry, white chest.

Once Tyson calmed down a bit, Skyler scoured the house in search of dog food. He looked in the fridge first, not knowing why until he noticed there was no beer, brandy, or even a prissy wine cooler. She must not have much of a life if she doesn't drink, Skyler thought in disgust. He knew that he couldn't handle knowing there wasn't a fresh supply of alcohol in the fridge.

He finally found a tub of dog food in the pantry and groaned. He didn't have a clue how much to feed the damn dog. I guess I'll just have to bring him to the hospital with me so she can take care of him. He went into her bedroom and grabbed the unused dog bed lying beside it. He probably gets so spoiled that she lets him sleep in her bed.

Luckily, the bed was in the form of a padded basket so he could put the food canister in it and not have to juggle it all in his arms. As he walked back through the kitchen, he grabbed the two bowls he saw laying by the sliding glass door, throwing them in the basket, too. He searched around for a leash, but Jean didn't appear to own one. I guess I'll have to drag him there. This is becoming more trouble than it's worth.

When he opened the front door, Tyson zoomed out into the yard and began sniffing around. When he found an adequate spot, the dog did his business and obediently returned to Skyler's side, sitting at his feet. Well, you are a damn good dog. If I had one like you as a kid, I might actually have one now. Instead, I got stuck with a stupid, good-for-nothing lab that didn't know the difference between a fire hydrant and my foot.

Tyson didn't deviate a step from Skyler's side as they walked to Gateways. The four blocks passed by fairly quickly, despite the load in Skye's arms. He appreciated the dog's obedience and was happy that he didn't have to chase all around town after him.

When they got to the hospital, it was a completely different story. As soon as they reached Gateways' grounds, Tyson went wild. He flew into the hospital, leaving Skyler far behind. He grimaced when he saw angry nurses running around after the dog who was giving therapeutic licks to every person he could before he had to evade another pair of hands coming after him, attempting to detain the hyper sheltie. Young children screamed happily, as he visited their rooms, jumping on their beds to let them play with him before he was once again a blur running around.

Annie, an extremely bad tempered nurse, saw the supplies jumbled in Skyler's arms and gave him a basilisk stare before coming at him with a shaking finger.

"YOU! I am going to kill you for bringing a dog in here."

"Calm down, Annie," he said, flashing a charming smile. "I asked Sam's permission and she said it was fine," he lied. "Besides, the patients seem to be enjoying themselves." He quick-stepped away from her angry fist that merely meant to warn him and hurried to Jean's room.

Tyson was already on her bed; curled up beside her while she slept. He sighed, put a handful of the food from the canister into the dog bowl, and filled the other with water, placing both in the corner farthest from the door so Sam wouldn't notice when she came in the next morning. After pumping more morphine into the IV, he grabbed a magazine and took a seat in the leather, visiting chair located near the foot of the hospital bed. After twenty minutes of reading about the newest arrest and court case going on in Los Angeles, he fell asleep with the magazine open in his lap.

Skyler's eyes opened slowly, carefully registering Jean, still asleep in the hospital bed. Her IV was bone dry and she would soon wake up from the intense pain. A rhythmic tapping alerted him to someone standing in the doorway.

He looked over to see Sam leaning against the doorjamb with her arms crossed over her chest. Her face was frozen with an expression of disapproval and disappointment. Tyson sat at her feet, his pluming tail thumping the ground as he stared up at her happily.

"Please tell me this wasn't your doing, Dr. Night," she begged.

"Okay. I won't tell you," he promised.

She huffed a heavy sigh. "You are so lucky you are a good doctor. When is her surgery?"

"Nine," he replied, ruffling up Tyson's fur when he came to give him a sloppy morning kiss.

"Go get some coffee and breakfast. We wouldn't want you falling asleep and accidentally cut off her leg during surgery."

Define "we". "Will do."

"And take that damn dog with you," she called as she left.

Tyson followed closely behind Skyler as he headed to the cafeteria. Dr. James Rourne from radiology joined him in the line, obviously interested in how Jean had come to be his patient for half an hour while he did x-rays. Rourne was tall by most standards with blonde hair that hung limply on his head. He was fairly muscled; due to the rigorous workouts he and a few other doctors trained themselves with on the weekends. Skyler had never really liked him and got the feeling that those feelings were returned, though they weren't obvious to someone who didn't pay attention to details.

"I got wind of the condition of the kid who hit her," Rourne began as he picked up a breakfast burrito off the buffet table while Skyler grabbed a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit.

"How'd you come by that?" Skyler asked, though he wasn't very interested.

"Nurses gossip like teenage cheerleaders. Name's Kyle Manson. He was hyped up on L.A. Glass when the accident happened. Couldn't register anything going on around him. It's a damn shame. I heard he was a smart kid."

Skyler didn't miss the was. Stupid "smart" kid overdoses on crystal methamphetamine for a buzz, kills himself and nearly someone else. "Damn shame" my ass. He brought on himself. "Had a stroke, right?" When Rourne confirmed, Skyler shook his head. Agitation from the drugs would have explained the jitteriness I saw before the accident. Would have had a rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, sweating palms, dilated pupils, dry mouth, he mused. A load of shit just to end in an aneurism for nothing. Doesn't make any sense.

"Yep, kids these days ain't got no common sense. It's pitiful."

They took their seats at a small booth in the corner. Tyson jumped up beside Rourne, ignoring him completely, staring at the biscuit Skyler had in his hand.

"Don't even think about it, Mutt. I'm going to eat it all and you don't get any," Skyler said when Tyson licked his chops.

"What about Jean? How's she doing?"

"Fine, I guess. She's been doped up on morphine the whole time she's been here."

"Morphine? Is it that bad? Why can't you just use acetaminophen? It doesn't have all the side effects that morphine has," Rourne said, frowning at his breakfast burrito.

"She's allergic to it. If I gave it to her, I'd be fired for sure. I might think about it if I get sick of this job," he teased. "Actually, I'm trying…well, I have been trying to be nicer to her but it seems every time I see her, I just blow up in her face. I guess I should apologize, huh?"

"No."

"No? Why not? I thought that woman wanted men to apologize," Skyler said, feeling uncomfortable.

"No way. She'll think that you're lying to her and she'll hate you more. Just go on like everything else is in the past and she'll forget about it too. Trust me," Rourne said, popping in the rest of his burrito in his mouth.

"You sure?"

"Positive."

"And how many women have you dated?" Skyler asked skeptically.

"Hundreds."

"Yeah. Not your most convincing argument but I guess I'll give it a try." Skyler sighed and tossed the remainder of his breakfast to Tyson, whom swallowed it in one gulp. He swallowed the rest of his coffee, letting the liquid burn down his throat before he got up from the booth.

"Good luck with the surgery, Dr. Night."

"Thanks, Rourne."

Skyler sighed as a nurse told Jean to count down from ten. By eight, she was out, breathing in the anesthesia at a steady pace.

"We're good, Dr. Night," a nurse nodded, nodded to Skyler.

He made the first incision and used forceps to hold the skin open to expose the parts of the bone that hadn't pierced the skin. After the complicated procedure of pinning the broken pieces of bone back together, he sewed up the hole the bone had made along with the six-inch long incision he had made on her right leg. Everything was in order, blood pressure looked normal, and her oxygen was good. The whole procedure took about two hours and Skyler was exhausted.

"Alright," he murmured, "time to wake her up."

'Wake her up' had been a term referring to taking her off the anesthesia because even hours after the long surgery, she was still asleep. Skyler made sure to keep the morphine at a minimum so she wouldn't overdose. Tyson lay beside her on the bed after he let himself out to use the bathroom. He snuggled close to her side and licked her face.

Skyler pet him before returning to his work, and Jean's, since she was in no condition to take care of her patients herself. He reviewed the plan that Jean had come up with for Danny Weber an hour before the accident. He hated to admit that she had gotten farther in half a day than he had in several weeks. It was frustrating, but he was learning to trust her opinion and think more highly of her.

The man snuck into the pharmacy, being careful not to let anyone see him. He had staged it perfectly. He had the drug, enough to kill a cow, though he wouldn't use it all. Only just enough for Skyler to have to work extremely hard to undo the damage. He would take the fall and finally be out of the way, as he had been since he started working at Gateways Hospital. He would finally be fired, disaccredited, and humiliated for something he didn't do and he'd have no way of proving who did it. It was perfect. His plan would work and Skyler would be gone, out of his life, and out of the picture. Three words alone burned in his mind. I cannot fail!

The man looked back and forth, eyeing the cameras discretely as he walked down the hallway of Night Ward. He smiled to people who passed, acting like he knew where he was going and where he was supposed to be. He counted twelve cameras in total that he would have to avoid or wire before he could execute his plan. If all went well, Skyler Night would be gone and he could get to Jean Riley. He would finally have his chance to pay her back for what she had done. It was her fault, and she would pay. If things didn't go as planned, the drugs he was hiding in his jacket would kill her and his revenge would be complete anyway, though he would prefer to make sure she knew it was him killing her, that it was her own fault that she was going to die.

Skyler had always been in the way, like a neutral person blocking a sniper's target. Either he would move, or he would be a casualty of war. Things like that happened all the time, he knew. He had once been that sniper on the roof. He had also once been both the target and the casualty. He knew how it worked. Skyler had two fates waiting for him. Death or loss. Both were great in consequence and neither were rewarding. So like someone in the way, he would either move and be saved or stand his ground and be condemned. War always had its losses. And this was definitely no different. The night his brother died was the night he had declared war. The time had come for Jean Riley. Tonight her blood would stain his hands and his revenge would be finished.

Skyler sauntered into Sam's office with Tyson at his heels. He grinned when she saw him look of annoyance. She swiped a frustrated hand across her forehead and her annoyance changed into a baleful glance.

"Must you flaunt that dog around everywhere?" she demanded hatefully.

"It is not like I am telling him to follow me. He just does," Skyler said, trying to defend himself.

"Lock him in Jean's room, then!"

"Yeah, right!" he scoffed. "I'm not going to clean up after him." He studied her face carefully and took a seat in front of her desk. "Something tells me that this isn't about the dog. Do you need to talk?"

"Someone has stolen an excessive amount of drugs from the pharmacy and I don't know who," she said, the words spilling out so fast that his mind had to race to catch up.

"A doctor could have forgotten to sign it out," he shrugged.

"The amount was enough to kill three people, Skye. I'm extremely worried. What if someone is going to try something?"

"Like what? Murder? Relax, Sam. I'm sure you are over thinking it. No one is going to try to kill someone in a hospital." He shrugged, not bothered by the missing drugs.

"Skyler, this is serious! I can't just pretend nothing is going to happen."

He studied her face carefully, and broke out into a grin. "Have you been reading murder mysteries lately? Who is it now? David Baldacci?"

"Skyler, that's besides the point. Wait a sec. How did you know?"

He laughed. "Lucky guess. Which one?"

"The Winner."

"Ah, good read. Tell me how you like it when you finish."

"Look, stop trying to change the subject! I'm not paranoid because of a book I'm reading. I'm paranoid because there is something to be paranoid about!" She growled when he eyed her curiously. "I'm not crazy. Stop looking at me like I am a psych patient."

He laughed again and went behind her desk chair to massage her back. Her head fell to her desk and she sighed. "I guess I am getting worked up about nothing, huh?" she muttered against her desk, letting his sure hands ease out the kinks in her stiff back. "How do you always know when someone needs a massage?"

"Well, if they start acting paranoid, I figure that's a good time," he chuckled. "It helps me, too, when I think I'm helping someone feel better," he admitted.

"Oh, well, thanks for doing this for your sake. Bastard."

He chuckled darkly and backed away.

"Aw, don't stop, please!" she begged. "You're so sweet."

"Nice try, but not even you can call someone a bastard and expect them to forgive you in less than three seconds."

"But it's been five seconds," she complained. "Please, don't stop."

"Sorry, doc. I got work to do."

"Fine," she grumbled. "Go away. I better not see you in here asking for favors for at least another week."

"Goodnight, Sam," he said cheerfully, pleased that he was leaving her in such a good mood. He then lead Tyson back to Jean's room and ordered him to stay. The sheltie did so and thumped his tail when Skyler shook his head. Sam's going to kill me if she ever finds out that you are very well trained. But I enjoy causing her frustration too much to keep you locked in here.

He glanced at Jean, her auburn hair spread around her like a red wave. He looked back at the dog and gave him a stern look. Don't you let anything happen to her. He was more worried about the missing drugs then he had let on. He just didn't want Sam to stress out over it. He poked his head out of the room and saw no one in sight.

Maybe I can find out a little more about our little thief's break in. He knew the computer in his room could easily hack into the cameras and everyone's file who had been in and out of the pharmacy all day. He thought about Jean behind him and his chest tightened at the thought of someone injecting her IV with some drug. It would be effortless for anyone to do so. Damn. I should have asked what it was, he thought, cursing himself. With another glance at Jean, with Tyson already by her side, he sighed and his steely determination set in. I'll do it. I'll find the thief.

The cameras were easy enough to hack in to. He wondered how long it would take before security noticed what he had done. He had three camera views on screen; one of the pharmacy from earlier that day, the current feed coming in at the pharmacy, and the hallway where Jean rested quietly. He put that feed near the bottom of the screen so he could focus more on what happened earlier that day. He spent the good part of an hour fast-forwarding through the feed and rewinding when a suspect caught his eye. Williams, Terry, Dawn, Yates, Rourne, Green, and Filone. They were all the doctors that had been in and out of the pharmacy all day. He knew them all to be excellent doctors who had never forgotten anything. Maybe it's time to find out a little bit more about my colleagues.

Skyler's fingers flashed across the keyboard at a lightning fast speed s he brought up a file on all of the doctors that he had listed in a notebook by the computer. They come up easily enough, but he felt bad about looking in to their files but it was a necessary evil.

Rio Williams, Mexican-American, went to a private school, parents paid his way through med school. No criminal record. Lost two patients to natural causes. Guy seems normal enough. Rich family, good life. Grew up in Mexico. Daddy is probably a top drug dealer though.

Alicia Terry. Pot-addiction as a teenager. Alcoholic. Joined AA after med school. Got her life together, huh? Good for her but it doesn't mean she innocent.

Jonathan Dawn. On probation for drug abuse. Abusive to wife. Aced med school. Struggled through high school. Strange combination. Guess we can't all be perfect.

Sarah Yates. Graduated in top ten percent of class in both high school and med school. No criminal record, lost one patient due to miscalculation. Probably not her.

James Rourne. Part of special ops military team. Doctor for navy seals. Sniper. Brother died at Gateways Hospital in '89. Very curious. I wonder who treated his brother. Won't take long to find out. He wrote down what little he could use and continued on to the next person.

Sam Green. No way would she do it. I can't betray her trust and look in her file when I know she didn't do it. He skipped past her file and went to Dr. Filone's, a good friend of his.

Andrew Filone. Bottom of his class in med school. Suspended for hitting a patient. On probation for drug abuse in '83. Grand Theft Auto as a teenager. Broke into a patient's house to treat him. Obviously doesn't have a problem with breaking the law. Good possibility that he took the drugs for his own personal use.

He saw a movement out of the corner of his eye that had him stiffening. On the camera that he had at the bottom of his screen, he saw a hooded figure round the corner of Night's ward and disappear out of sight.

He shoved up from his computer and rushed out of his office, bee lining for Jean's room. His heart wrenched at the sight of the full IV, pumping an unknown fluid into her bloodstream. The effects were already taking effect. Tyson was nowhere in sight. He hurried to the IV, preparing to rip the IV from her arm when he slipped in something wet, nearly slamming his head on the floor. He brought up his hands and smelled the dark fluid coating his hands. Blood. He tried to resist the urge to throw up and looked beside him. Underneath Jean's bed, Tyson lay in a dark pool, his shoulder bleeding profusely. A knife was planted deeply in the muscle there. He whimpered bitterly and belly-crawled towards him, yelping every time he moved too much.

Dear God! He ordered the dog to stay where he was a screamed for help. He jumped up and yanked out the IV in Jean's arm quickly. God Damn! Who is trying to kill her. Why? He read the monitor and saw that her temperature was one hundred and four. Damn it!

"I need ice in here now!" As he finished yelling, Sam skidded into the room, followed by several nurses.

"Oh, my God, Skyler! You are covered in blood! What the hell happened?" she demanded, frozen in the doorway.

"Sam, don't look at me like I killed her and get the fuck over here and help me!" he shouted angrily. "You were right. Someone is trying to kill someone. Jean," he said, calmer once she came to his side and started packing ice packs around Jean to get her temperature down.

"She is jaundiced," Sam murmured as she hooked up another IV to flush out whatever drugs had been inserted into her IV.

"Jean," Skyler muttered urgently. "Can you hear me, Jean? I need you to say something."

She tried to tell him that she heard him, but all came out was a pained moan. I'm going to be sick, she thought. The nausea was rolling over her in tsunami-like waves, breaking over her with increased intensity.

Skyler held up a pan for her, already sensing what was coming. When she vomited, he looked away and shut his eyes tightly. If he had been watching the damn monitor, she wouldn't be overdosing from a drug she was allergic to. He was fairly sure that he was right about what drug was used, but he asked Dr. Green for confirmation.

"The thief stole high dosages of acetaminophen," she growled. "Whoever he was, he knew what he was doing. He got by our security perfectly."

"He also appears to know Dr. Riley very well, too," he murmured, soothing Jean's back as she continued to vomit. Same as me. This was a setup. Only I knew she was allergic.

"What do you mean?"

"Jean is allergic to acetaminophen,'" he said gravely.

Jean's vomiting subsided and she collapsed on the pillow. Her eyes found Skyler's steely gaze. He was afraid he would see accusation and hatred in them. Instead, he saw gratitude in the green depths of her pain-ridden eyes. She was too weak to lift her hand to touch his face, which she figured was just as well. He probably wouldn't want her touching him anyway.

Tyson whimpered again, reminding Skyler of his presence and his own appearance. Sam finally noticed him too.

"Oh my God!" she cried out.

Skyler had already determined that Tyson had tried to protect Jean as he had commanded and ended up being stabbed. Sam called for supplies from a nurse, but the sounds all blended together to Skyler. He could hear his blood roaring in his ears and feel his pulse going sky high. He would have been alarmed if he hadn't known what it was. He only knew because he had never felt it before in his life, only heard about it from other people. That feeling was fear.

The hooded man snarled in rage. How could they believe him? I had set it up perfectly. The damn bastard was covered in blood for God's sake, as was Jean Riley's arm. He wasn't counting on the dog attacking him. He thought it was nice. He had brought the switchblade along only as a precaution. It was luck that no one had been near her room when he came in, otherwise the dog's growls would have alerted them to his presence immediately. Fine. As soon as an opportunity presents itself, I will take her out. I'll make Skyler watch her die for interfering. He will pay, and then he will die too. He would finally feel free from his guilt. He would finally be free from himself. It all ended where it began. With Jean Riley.

Tyson was bandaged up and Skyler lifted him onto Jean's bed since he refused to stay in his dog bed, and kept insisting with a determination that Skyler recognized to stay by her side despite his own injuries. Jean's condition was leveling out, her temperature gone. He removed the ice packs that surrounded her and felt his heart flutter when his hand accidentally brushed her cheek and she leaned towards it, wanting the warming comfort of it as she slept. He couldn't help but smile. He let his feelings lead him when he gently kissed her forehead. When he leaned back, he swore he saw her smile in her sleep, but he couldn't be sure because it was gone just as fast as it had appeared.

His heart swelled with joy, but he tried to beat it down. What was wrong with him? What should he care if she likes his touch when she sleeps? Why did it matter? He didn't know, but it did. He did care. He liked her a lot. Was that why he had always been an ass to her? Because he couldn't handle being close to someone else? Because he had been hurt the last time he had tried? Pull yourself together, Night. You've healed. Time didn't heal you, he told himself. You healed yourself. Without help. Without guidance. Without anyone. That's why you are afraid. You know you can love again. You know you can be hurt again. And it is scaring the shit out of you.

He shook his head, trying to dispel the turn his thoughts had taken. He was in deep this time. Deeper then anyone could ever get. Because the one he knew he cared about was in trouble. And without his help, her time was running out.

The hooded man scanned over an old newspaper article he had searched for. On the table beside his arm was a pile of old articles that he had collected. They were bound to tell him more about Skyler Night. He knew that the more research you had on your target, the easier he was to kill. Well, it was time to dig into Dr. Night's slippery past.

Detective Devastated by Death of Fiancé

Skyler Night, the best private investigator on the West Coast, is looking in to the sudden death of his fiancé, Brook Lancer. Her car was found off of Highway 91, abandoned . Ms. Lancer's body was found at the bottom of Jericho Creek, her foot secured by an anchor of an oil tanker. Detective Night is determined to find Ms. Lancer's killer. More info on this story will be provided later when more has been made available.

The hooded man looked at the next article he had pulled up on his computer. It had little more than the first had offered. Whoever had been covering these stories should have been fired, the man thought.

Detective Finds Murderer and Decides to Retire At 23

Det. Night found evidence that Jerry Samuels, Brook Lancer's ex-boyfriend, had tracked down Ms. Lancer, violated a restraining order and killed her due to jealousy of Det. Night. Mr. Samuels had stolen a police car and pulled her over. He then forced her into the cruiser, according to eyewitnesses that Det. Night had tracked down. Mr. Samuels has been sentenced to thirty years in jail for the murder of Ms. Brook L. Lancer.

Det. Night has informed The Los Angeles Times that he is planning to retire as soon as he can get the proper paperwork completed. When asked what his plans were for the future, he said, "I'm thinking about going to medical school, become a doctor, so I can help people more directly." He offered no more comments and followed his former boss into the private investigative office.

Former Detective Graduates from Med School

Skyler Night, a former private investigator for L.A.'s top investigative unit, has graduated medical school at the top of his class. He has received many job offers and accepted an offer to Gateways Hospital. He plans to start there next week.

Dr. Night was responsible for solving over nine hundred homicide cases, fifty missing persons cases, and one top secret government project of which he was not allowed to tell us about due to public safety. He solved every single homicide case he had ever received and found more than twenty of the missing persons, though sadly, over half of them had been deceased.

One of the family members of Jenna Simmons had praised Dr. Night's abilities, despite the fact that her niece had been found dead. "Skyler Night is the best investigator I have ever met. I work with the D.A. so I know a few," she assured us. "Even though Jenna was dead, it gave me piece of mind to know." Amelia Simmons is still one of the top defense attorneys in the state of California. She lives with her sister, Jenna's mother, and her husband of twenty years. We look forward to reporting more on Dr. Night's successes.

The hooded man wondered if Skyler Night had thought of the discovery of his fiancé's death a success. Probably not. He sighed and closed down the articles on the computer. At least now he knew more about the man he was about to kill. He felt a connection with him. Almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

"Hey, honey," Sam whispered in Jean's ear, trying not to wake Skyler, who had fallen asleep by her bed. "You feeling better?"

Jean nodded weakly, making an effort to smile at her. Her color had returned to normal and her fever had gone down to a one-hundred-and-one. The nausea had passed and her face had eased from the lack of pain she felt.

"What happened?" she asked, her voice hardly above a whisper.

Sam debated on whether or not to tell her the truth. She finally gave in, knowing that it would probably be better if she knew now. "Someone broke in to the pharmacy and stole acetaminophen. It appears that the thief filled your IV with it when you were out."

"Who would do something like that? Why would they do something like that?" Jean wondered aloud. Her gaze went to Skyler's sleeping form beside her. "I guess I had him worried, huh?"

"He hasn't left your side since it happened," Sam admitted.

"I thought he didn't like me. Why does he suddenly care now?"

"Sometimes life or death situations scare people. It changes how they think. I'm sure once you get better, you'll both be at each others throats again."

"I don't like fighting with him," Jean said, frowning deeply. "I never did, but he always seems so ready to blame me for something. I hope he stays like this. At least for awhile."

Ah, great. I'm going to lose the bet, Sam thought bitterly. "Why do you care what he thinks? It shouldn't bother you."

"I don't know. It just does."

Skyler had been awake for a while, listening to their conversation. He knew it was wrong but he hadn't wanted to interrupt them. Now he was glad he hadn't. It was nice to know what Jean thought. It was nice to know that she cared about what he said.

Jean absentmindedly stroked Tyson, still unaware of his injuries until he yelped when she touched his shoulder. Skyler's eyes had flew open, anticipating another attempt on Jean's life by the thief. He sighed when he saw that Jean had touched him instead of another blade.

"Tyson!" she exclaimed, forgetting to keep her voice down. "What happened to you?"

"He tried to protect you," Skyler said softly. "Because I told him to. He'll be okay, but it was a close call."

Jean jumped when it was Skyler that had answered instead of Sam. When she realized that he had been awake the whole time, had heard her conversation with Sam, she blushed. It had been hard for her to tell Sam the truth and she definitely hadn't wanted Skyler knowing. When he raised his eyebrow at her blush, her face became a deeper shade of red.

"He is a good dog," Sam admitted. Skyler laughed at her tone. It had been hard for her to say, he knew.

"What? He is! I mean he saved my star doctor's life, after all. By the way, Skye, how did you know something was wrong? I thought you were on your way out."

"As I recall, you were as well," he prevaricated.

"What were you doing?" she asked, positive he had been up to something.

"Just brushing up on some old skills. Research for a case. You know, the normal."

"No, you weren't," Sam knew. He was beating around the bush. "Whatever you were doing, I'm glad you happened to pass by. Otherwise-"

"Yeah, yeah, we got it. Your star would be dead." He flashed Jean a stunning smile to show her he was kidding about the bitterness he faked in his tone. "I guess I should go home. I've been stuck in this hospital for too long."

"Oh, lucky you. At least you get to go home," Jean pouted. She glanced down at her leg for the first time since the surgery and winced at the stitches there. "At least it doesn't look crooked. Can't say much for the stitches though," she teased.

Skyler flashed her that smile again as he left. Sam watched him leave and nearly growled. Oh, he is good. Yeah, I'm going to lose that bet. I wonder if that accident really did change how he thinks about Jean. Maybe he has finally looked past his own arrogance to see she really is a good person. Angela is never going to let me forget it if they do get together. It doesn't help that he is so damn good-looking.

Two days later, Sam finally let Jean out of the hospital, but she was still restricted.

"I can't believe you guys are making me use a wheelchair! It's for people who need help. I'm fine! Just give me some crutches."

When both Skyler and Sam refused to budge, she cursed under her breath. They both smiled and exchanged knowing looks. She hated feeling helpless. The fact that she had to be doped up on drugs was making her irritable, adding to the fact that they were browbeating her into having an escort home.

"I'll take you home if you don't want one of the nurses doing it, Jean. I'm caught up with everything and have some free time."

"Thanks, but-"

At a stern look from Sam, she stopped. She gave a sigh of resignation. "Fine," she amended. "Thanks, Skyler."

"No problem. By the way," he said once they were out of Sam's earshot, "You have decided out of the kindness of your heart to take me to dinner tonight."

"I'm doped up on drugs, Skyler, not hypnotized."

"I know. I'll pick you up at eight."

She rolled her eyes, knowing that she couldn't talk him out of what "she" had promised. "And where I am I taking you?" she asked sarcastically.

"You are going to surprise me." He could already see the sarcasm in her eyes.

"Wonderful."

When Skyler unlocked her door, his eyes were already scanning the darkness of her house. Old habits die hard, he knew, but when he saw what awaited them inside, he was glad he still had them. Before she could get a look at what lay inside, he blocked her view and told her that plans had changed.

"What are you talking about?"

Tyson, who had been silent and obedient the whole way to the house, was suddenly growling, his hackles raised in alarm. In a flash, he tore through the house, sniffing everywhere for the person who had come in hours before, though they were already long gone.

"You are going to be staying at my house."

"The hell I am, move out of the way." When he refused to, her temper flared. "Look, Skyler Night, I have politely dealt with your demands for as long as I can take. Now get the hell out of my way!" As soon as she saw the interior of her house, she gasped.

Her belongings littered the floors, everything ransacked. Tears sprang to her eyes when she saw her piano. The keys lay scattered on the floor while the legs were broken off of it. All her sheet music was in shreds and a knife had slashed through her leather furniture. Tyson returned with a piece of light blue cloth secured in his jaws.

Skyler had to wrestle it from Tyson's grip to study it. It reminded him of the paper dresses the hospital had patients wear sometimes. While he had been preoccupied with the cloth, Jean had got out of her wheelchair and was using broken pieces of furniture to help her walk through the disaster.

"Who would do this?"

The same person who tried to kill you. "I don't know, Jean, but I intend to find out. I'll call the police while you pack up what you need in a suitcase. Or whatever isn't torn to shreds," he amended, taking another look around.

He helped her to her room before he searched for the phone. He swore when he saw that the lines were cut. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed the L.A.P.D. Once that chore was finished, he found Jean crumpled on her bed beside a pitiful pile of the only belonging she had left that weren't destroyed in some way, shape, or form. He sighed and sat on the bed beside her, putting an arm around her shoulders. She leaned her head in the curve of his shoulder and cried.

The police arrived shortly, getting to work with questions and notes followed by more questions.

"Do you have a place to go for while, ma'am?" one of them asked.

Skyler answered for her, knowing that she had had enough of questions. "She is going to stay with me. I work with her at Gateways Hospital."

"And what is your name, sir?"

"Skyler Night."

"That sounds very familiar," the cop said, looking up from his notepad and scrutinizing Skyler's face.

"That's not relevant to what you should be doing officer," Skyler reminded him with a stern tone.

The cop, thankfully, could take a hint and didn't press the issue. He asked Skyler his phone number and thanked him. When he offered them a ride to his house, he gratefully accepted.

Jean stared out the window in a daze as the cops, whom she had learned were named Officer Davis and Lieutenant Feral, drove her, Skyler, and Tyson to his house. She felt numb despite the throbbing pain of her leg. One of the cops, Officer Davis, spoke quietly with Skyler, but she tuned them out. The destruction of her piano had devastated her more than the actual break in. It had been her grandmother's. She had kept it in prime shape for years. It was nearing its fifties.

Had been, she corrected herself. Had been nearing its fifties.

Tyson, lay his head in her lap, sensing her distress. The loving gesture brought tears to her eyes. It's not the end of the world, she told herself. I still have Tyson. I still have a good job. I'll get through this. I will.

"So you are that investigator I read about in the papers a couple years ago," Officer Davis murmured quietly to Skyler.

"Yeah, that's me. I'd appreciate it if you didn't make a big deal out of it," Skyler whispered. He gave Jean a side-glance, but she wasn't paying them any attention. He noticed the tears that were staining her cheeks. His heart ached at seeing them. Why would someone do something like that to her? He was determined to find out. "If you get any information, would you mind giving it to me. I'd like to look into it."

"Deciding to come out of retirement, eh? Can't say I blame you. Once a lawman, always a lawman."

"No, I don't think I am coming back, but there has been some strange things happening when it comes to her. I think someone is out for revenge."

"What do you mean?" Officer Davis asked, leaning in closer, his interest peaked.

Skyler told him of the incident at the hospital and his researching, minus the hacking into confidential files part, of some of the employees that had been in the pharmacy when the drugs were stolen.

"You think someone you work with is responsible?"

"Only a doctor can get in to the pharmacy," Skyler said, worry coating his tone.

"I'll be sure to contact you," the officer promised. "Thanks for the new info. We'll be sure to look into it."

"I appreciate it," Skyler said as the cruiser pulled up in front of his house.

"Not a problem."

"Come on, Jean," Skyler said, grabbing her arm gently to help her out of the car. Tyson jumped out after them and Skyler thanked the officers for the ride.

When he unlocked his door, Tyson eased his way in cautiously, checking out the new territory. Skyler's home was about the same size as Jean's. It wasn't too big, but just enough that a man didn't feel claustrophobic. A big screen plasma television adorned the north wall of his living room, a giant sleeper-sofa the south. She was surprised by how similar it was to hers, but instead of a piano, an electric guitar and stand sat in the corner.

The guitar was a glossy pearl color with bright blue and yellow lightning bolts painted on it, giving it an expensive, powerful image. It had been Skyler's pride and joy since he was sixteen years old, and despite the constant use, it still looked as if it was brand new. The six strings were tightened and tuned to perfection, as it seemed fitting to his nature. Beside it sat a disorganized pile of music, most of it from old eighties rock bands. The style of what Jean saw didn't deviate much from what she had listened to when she had been in her twenties. It was hard to believe that less than ten years had passed since then.

Skyler saw where her attention was held and gave a cocky smile. He remembered how he had rocked out as a kid straight into adulthood. It had been awhile since he had played it. About a month ago, he mused.

Tyson jumped up on the sleeper-sofa and curled up in a tight ball, pulling his tail over his nose. Jean made it over there with Skyler's help and they both sat on opposite sides of the tired sheltie. Jean leaned her head back and immediately fell asleep, trying to chase away the pain of her leg as well as that of her ruined piano.

Skyler turned the TV on, keeping the volume on low. He got up and called Sam to let her know what had happened. She ordered him to lock all his doors and windows.

"Sam, nothing is going to happen here. No one knows she is here except for you," he said irritably.

"You don't know that Skye. Anyone could have trailed you and Jean to your house."

"We'll be fine. Uh, would you mind if I came in tonight without you asking questions?"

"Yes, I would mind. What have you been up to Skyler? I know it had to be something about Jean before, the same as it is now. Tell me," she ordered.

"I-fine. You remember what I did before I became a doctor, right?"

"Yes," she said, her tone cautious. "Why?"

"I didn't lie when I said I was brushing up on some old skills. Promise me you won't get mad," he said before he continued.

"I'm guessing I'll have to if I want to hear what you know. Fine. I promise I won't get mad at you. Now, tell me."

"I hacked into the camera files that day the acetaminophen was stolen so I could find out who took it." He waited for her anger, but when it didn't come, he continued. "As well as the confidential files of every person who had been in and out of the pharmacy that day. I swear I didn't look at yours. I knew you didn't do it so I respected your privacy. Nearly every doctor had a background of criminal behavior at one point in their lives. Do you want the names or should I keep them to myself?"

"Keep them to yourself. I don't want to know."

"Fine. That's what I had been doing and I knew something had happened to Jean because I had also pulled up the current tapes on my computer and I saw someone in a hooded outfit walking too fast down the hallway and had a hunch."

"Thanks for your honesty Skyler. Next time, for my own good, don't tell me what you were doing. But I'm glad you did. You know, investigate and all."

"I know Sam. So am I."

Skyler hung up the phone and gave Jean a sidelong glance. She was hunched over uncomfortably, cutting off circulation to her arm. He went over and picked her up to carry her to his bedroom. She must be exhausted. In an easy, sweeping move, he threw back the comforter on his bed and gently lay her down on the soft mattress. He jumped when something brushed against his leg, his defense instincts kicking in, until he realized it was Tyson, following his master loyally. He let out a shaky breath and went around the house, checking all the locks, once, twice. Once he was sure no one was able to get in the house without him knowing, he made his way to the couch and fell asleep.

Jean shot up quickly, the pain her leg flaring. It always overshadowed the pain of her broken wrist. She took in her surroundings quickly; the oak bedside tables; the long, well-aged dresser in the corner; the king-sized bed she was in; the pictures above the bed; and the carved names in the bedpost.

She studied the pictures first, giving the detail of the woman's hazel eyes the most concentration. They were every shade of green and blue that anyone could imagine. Her face was light and happy in both pictures. One was a portrait of her alone, but the other had Skyler with his arm wrapped around her waist, pulling them close together. He looked as happy as she, something Jean rarely saw. The woman had a light complexion with straight, dark brown hair cut short to make her look like a pixie. Her whole face gave Jean the impression of aristocracy and wealth, but with a second study, Jean noticed she wore no jewelry, fancy clothes, or other pleasures the wealthy seemed to wrap themselves up in. She wore faded, holey, blue jeans, a bright blue t-shirt, and old tennis shoes that looked ready to fall apart. Jean wondered where the woman was and why she had never seen her before. Surely, Skyler would have brought her along to the many parties the hospital had during the holidays.

Jean went on to the names carved in the bedpost, running a finger across the roughness of the grain. Kyle Perry. José Rico. Tansen Sumner. And farther away from the first three names, another name was etched into the wood. The way all the names were carved gave Jean the sense of loss, fear, and sadness, but the last one gave off the most intense vibe. She read it over and over in her head. Brook Lancer. She looked back up at the two pictures of the woman and felt realization dawn on her. The woman in the pictures was Brook Lancer. What happened to her?

A noise behind her made her jump. Skyler was leaned against the doorjamb with his arms crossed, watching her with a detached interest. He had no doubt seen what had taken her interest. A silence stretched between them and Jean squirmed under the look he was giving her. She shook it off and looked away from him, though not daring to look back at the pictures above the bed. Instead, she ran her finger across the first three names.

"Who are these people?" she asked, clearing her throat when she didn't get much volume. She didn't need to repeat herself. He had heard. Even if he hadn't, he would have known what her question was.

"Partners I have lost."

She remembered the woman pictured above when she had heard the word, partner. Partners? He's bisexual?! Gross!

He saw the way her thoughts were going and shook his head. "Partners of the law. Killed by murderers, thugs, the usual scum of the perfect United States," he said bitterly.

She could hear the hate bottled up, simmering just below the surface of his words. Where had it all come from? she wondered. And then it hit her. He had been a cop.

"We were going to get married." She looked back at him and saw him staring at Brook's picture. "We were going to do so much with our lives."

"What happened?" She hadn't meant to ask, to pry into his life, but the question was out before she could stop herself.

"She disappeared a week before the wedding. I didn't know what to do. I tracked down her car, eyewitnesses who had last seen her, everyone I could think of." He had to take a deep breath before plunging forward. "The last witness I talked to, Janet Reece, had seen her being pulled over by a police cruiser. She had thought it was weird since Brook hadn't done anything wrong. She saw the cop force her into his cruiser and drive away. She had been fighting him. He wasn't a cop. Her ex-boyfriend had tracked her down. He made her suffer, the way he says he suffered when she left him. He tied the anchor from his boat, Jerry's Brook, around her neck and tossed her in to the lake, laughing as he watched her try to free herself. Laughing," he said, appalled. When my superior brought him in, I lost control and bloodied his face before seven of my colleagues could pull me off of him. I spit in his face as they tried to drag me away. If I had just gone with her that day, she would still be alive. I think that's why my boss hadn't fired me for socking the guy. Zachariah is the one who made me come in that day. Brook was just going out for lunch. When she didn't call, I searched everywhere for her. If only I had gone…"

Jean could tell his confession was tearing him apart, let alone what the needless guilt was doing to him. She stood up, keeping her weight off her bad leg as she made her way over to him. She hugged him tightly, feeling a small success when he eventually returned the gesture. When he let go, she leaned her head back to meet his gaze.

"You can't blame yourself for what someone else did, Skyler. It's not fair to you."

He bit back the hateful retort that had formed on his lips, brushing her hair out of her face instead. He noticed how her green eyes always seemed to blaze when she was overpowered by a strong emotion and a smile involuntarily twitched on to his face.

"What are you smi-"

Her question was cut off as his lips found hers. She was caught off guard completely. He took advantage of it and deepened it, leaving her breathless. She smiled, now, standing on her toes to kiss him back. Her arms wrapped around his neck as his wrapped her closer to him, molding their bodies together. Jean broke the kiss, a blush coloring her cheeks. She felt giddy, like she had as a teenager when a boy she had liked in high school kissed her.

Tyson barked possessively at Skyler, uncomfortable with their close proximity. Skyler grinned at him and took a step back from Jean, unaware that she had been putting all of her one hundred and fifteen pounds on him instead of on her own legs, until her face nearly hit the floor. Had he been a weaker man he would have noticed the added weight. Skyler caught her with ease and righted her back as Tyson jumped off the bed, ignoring his own wounds and pain as he barked hysterically at Skyler as if he were yelling and blaming him for nearly letting her fall on her head.

"Tyson, that's enough! Quit that racket!" she complained.

"He's just protective of you. Can't say I blame him. You seem to attract a lot of danger."

When Jean looked up at him quizzically, he pulled away. It's time to come clean. He tossed his hand through his hair in frustration, taking a deep breath before turning to face her again.

"Jean, I think someone is out to kill you. That act with the acetaminophen nearly killed you and I'm thinking it wasn't just anyone out for a killing spree. It was expertly planned. And then…what happened to your house. If it had been the house being ransacked first, I would have thought someone was looking for something, but your life was threatened first, so it has to be revenge or something. Do you know anyone who would feel they have a score to settle with you, no matter how insignificant it seems?"

Before the accident, his name would have been the first and only name on her list, but now she could think of no one. She shook her head.

He grabbed her shoulders and shook her hard. "You need to be positive about this, Jean. Think it through. Treat this like a case, Jean. Look at every angle. When you think of something, let me know." His sudden ferocity had her shaken, but she shook it off as she always had.

"Don't you mean "if" I think of something?" she asked, eyeing him as a child would a stranger, an intruder.

"No, you'll think of something. You're a smart girl. This kind of thinking is what makes docs like us."

"And what kind of thinking is that?"

"We can think on our feet."

Weeks later, Jean was already out of her wheelchair. She now had only a slight brace for support on both her leg and wrist. She visited all her patients, including the infamous Danny Weber, several times a day. He seemed to be agitated by her presence sometimes, as if he was afraid she could see the secrets of his tortured soul. Otherwise, he was harmless and made no more big scenes. He was content to stay in his room, playing with a worn out yo-yo. He found infinite joy in the simplest of children's toys, though he was twenty-seven. Everyday, Jean seemed to find herself close to solving the riddle of Danny Weber's illness.

Skyler entered Danny's room as Jean had her back turned. He was caught off guard when Danny tackled him.

"Don't you go near her, you! Don't you hurt her!"

"Get off of me! I'm not going to hurt her! Don't be absurd," Skyler huffed as he pushed Danny off of him with an undeniable force.

Jean went to Danny to stop him from lunging at Skyler again and talked calmly to him. "Why would you think he would hurt me, Danny? Danny?"

The man had got on his bed, tucked his knees up to his chin, and started rocking himself. He muttered something under his breath. Jean had to lean close to hear what he said.

"He told me he'd hurt her. He told me I would have to act. I acted but still he is here. Why is he still here?" he whimpered. "I must ask him what to do next. I must ask him," he repeated, his words a blur as he stumbled over them quickly.

"Did someone tell you to attack Dr. Night, Danny?" she asked, her face molded in concentration. "Danny. I need you to listen. Did someone tell you to attack Dr. Night?"

"He is a monster. I have seen it myself. A demon." His words were becoming more frenzied and the volume of his voice louder, more clear. "A demon, I tell you! A demon. He is a demon who wishes to hurt me and the nice lady doctor! He wants to hurt us!" He screamed with fury and launched himself at Skyler, who didn't go down this time. In a flash, Skyler knocked Danny to the ground and then fought him back on to the bed, fighting to get restraints on him as the man tried to scratch out his eyes.

Jean yelled for nurses but she and Skyler already had Danny strapped to the bed by the time they got there. Danny fought wildly against the restraints. Jean moved closer to calm him, ignoring Skyler's warnings to stay back.

"It's okay, Danny. No one is going to hurt you. Just calm-"

"Jean!" Skyler yelled when Danny yanked her face down to his.

"Beware," he whispered fearfully. "He watches us. He is worse than the demon monster. He wishes the demon gone, yes, but he wants you! He wants you no matter the cost!"

Skyler, unaware of the warning Jean was being given, took a sedative from a nurse's hand and inserted it into Danny's arm as painlessly as he could so the man would not hurt Jean.

Danny's grip slackened and the fear from his eyes was replaced by a glazed drowsiness that soon took over. Jean straightened herself and tried to control the wide-eyed fear she felt. Skyler was right. Someone is trying to kill me. Probably him too. The nurses dispelled quickly once they were sure the doctors no longer needed their assistance.

"Are you okay?" Skyler asked as she brushed off her lab coat and smoothed it out.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," she lied.

"You are a horrible liar. What did he say?"

"What does it matter what a crazy kook said?" she asked jitterly.

"Don't make me repeat myself, Jean. I'm not retarded. What he said has you scared to death."

She took a shaky breath and did her best to remain calm, to not fall apart. "He said someone wants you out of the way, that he wants me. No matter what the cost," she added reluctantly. "It is probably just one of his delusions. He keeps referring to this man as worse than the demon, or you, like this person is a bigger threat than the devil. He sees you as something to fear because you had to give him shots and take blood. I have done the same, yet he referred to me as the "nice lady doctor." I don't get it. Symbolically, what is a bigger threat to mankind than the devil?"

"Sin. The devil doesn't make us do it. It is a choice. Some think it predestined that we will sin. Either way, sin is worse because it is what causes, I guess in a delusional man's mind, the devil to come. But I don't think you should be looking at this symbolically, Jean. Think about it. So far, all of his delusions have been based on real people and an exaggerated act that they do. I took blood without warning him and hurt him because I thought he was knocked out already. He thinks you are nice because you talk to him, you try to understand him on a personal level like none of the nurses do. He thought the nurses were minions because they were helping me."

"Wait a sec. How did you find out what the complaint was?" Jean asked, distracted by it.

"You get to hear things. These walls are like paper," he grinned and then tried to look innocent.

"You eaves-dropped on my conversation? Bastard."

"Not eaves-dropped," he corrected. "Listened silently while no one else knew."

"Prick. Anyway, continue since you already seem to be going somewhere," she said irritably.

"What I'm trying to say is that someone is trying to influence what he does. It may not be to the extent he is describing, but if it is, how could he exaggerate it in any way?"

"He can't. It's already as far as someone can describe without saying this man killed me, because it is obvious to him that that didn't happen. So are you proposing that someone in this hospital is influencing a psych patient into attacking you to protect me somehow? That still doesn't make sense."

"People who are being influenced by an outside force can make decisions for themselves as well. He could feel that what this man, demon, evil sentient, whatever you want to call this guy, is partly true, but he has a liking for you and feels the need to protect you. Make sense now?"

"Yeah, okay. I could go with that, but who is capable, assuming it is a doctor here, of getting in my ward without anyone of the nurses or other doctors recognizing that doctor? Everyone knows everyone else here. I don't get it."

"Anyone can change their appearance, put on a little make-up, or a dark hooded jacket to hide his face. It can be done. I've seen it enough times in my life," Skyler said.

"We should tell someone about this."

"No! You can't tell anyone. Not even Sam because she might let something slip. It is easier to keep something hidden between two people rather than three."

"If that's what you think, fine. I need to get back to work," Jean sighed, starting to walk away.

"By the way, Jean. You still owe me that dinner." He laughed when she flicked him the bird and continued on her way. "I'll pick you up at eight then."

She did not know why she was getting ready for dinner with Skyler. She could have told him no but she had not given him a definite answer, which to him meant yes. It had been a few days since she had moved back into her own house. It was back to normal, minus her grandmother's irreplaceable piano. Skyler had taken it to the dump for her, knowing it had meant a lot to her but he convinced her to keep all of her music. Tyson was healed up for the most part, though he had a slight limp. He guarded the house with more ferocity than Jean had seen in most German shepherds.

Due to her worry about leaving him alone, Jean convinced Sam to let Tyson stay with the pediatric clinic where he got to play with children that were forced by their parents to get shots, exams, and various other nuisances. He returned home as exhausted as Jean was everyday, giving her a break from his hyper personality.

Her doorbell rang and Jean rushed to answer it. Skyler stood in the doorway in a James Bond style tuxedo, with a white shirt and black pants. She half expected him to pull out a gun and start pointing it in random directions. He eyed her slim dark blue dress with interest, enjoying how she looked like she was feeling uncomfortable and out of her element in it. He knew better than her. She was drop-dead gorgeous. Her reddish-brown hair cascaded in wavy curls over her shoulders and down her back. The dress went well with her Irish green eyes.

He put his arm through hers and walked her out of the door once she locked her door. She gasped when she saw the glossy white limousine that awaited them by the sidewalk. He smiled and opened her door for her. Inside, there waited a vase of white roses and a glass of champagne. She looked at him with wonder as she got in, too shocked to say anything.

"What do you think?" he asked as he poured her a drink.

"I think that I don't drink and that you are trying to make me broke in one night," she managed, refusing the drink. He shrugged and took a sip before setting it down.

"Do you make a habit of buying champagne and roses on a first date?"

"Only for the pretty ones," he said, flashing her that stunning smile of his.

She blushed and looked away, hiding behind her curtain of hair. He moved it aside, rubbing his thumb across her cheek.

"Where are we going?" she nearly choked out.

"It's a surprise. I can't tell you!"

"You are trying to make me broke. A fancy limo, dinner, and I have to pay for it," she grumbled.

"Will you stop thinking about who pays and all that! Just enjoy the night."

"Alright, fine." She folded her arms across her chest, making a pitiful attempt to look upset. She knew she couldn't due to the butterflies jittering around in her stomach. She cried out in shock when she saw where the limousine stopped. "A four-star restaurant! Skyler, you've got to be joking!"

"Of course," he grinned, helping her out of the limo. He pointed across the street. "We are going there."

Her jaw dropped further when she saw the five-star restaurant decorated beautiful in fancy lights and adorned with leather furniture. He tightened his grip on her arm when she stopped as he tried to push her towards the restaurant.

"On second thought, the other restaurant looks delightful. Let's go there instead."

"Quit being so silly," he chided. "Just relax. We are going to eat here and you are going to have a wonderful night."

He led her in to Serrano's restaurant. Waiters in black tuxedos rushed back and forth carrying loads of delicious delicacies from around the world. An Italian man greeted them with a smile.

"Table for two?" he asked politely, smiling a little too warmly at Jean for Skyler's taste. He wrapped his arm around her tighter in an instinctive gesture.

"Yes, that would be wonderful."

They followed the man through the maze of tables to a more private area where fewer people sat. Skyler thanked him and slipped him a tip smoothly. If Jean had not been so observant, she would have missed it.

They exchanged small talk after they placed their orders and got their drinks. Work did not cross their minds and they found they had a lot more in common besides a love for music. They both liked to watch House and Bones just to try figure out the case before the infamous Dr. Gregory House or Dr. Temperance Brennan could. They hated to watch the news and did not care for government. When their food came, they disposed of it quickly, full before dessert could even be mentioned. The waiter put the check on the table and Skyler snatched it up before Jean could even make a move for it.

"I thought you were going to make me pay for it."

"Do you want to?" he asked, giving her a disbelieving glance.

"Of course not. But if you intend to pay for it, I will pay my share."

"What kind of date would this be if I made you pay?" he asked in a faux horrified tone.

Jean smiled and rolled her eyes. "You are so strange. No. What you are is an ass for making me worry about the bill all night."

"You know you like it. I had planned on making you pay, but since I had such a good time, I decided that your debt was paid with that."

"Oh, you are so sweet," she said sarcastically.

"Thanks, but if you feel the need to put me in your debt, I'll let you know how."

"I'll be sure to ask."

He chuckled, handing the waiter cash and pulling her chair out for her. When they got out of the restaurant, the limo was still waiting. She huffed out a sigh of amazement that he would pay for the limo to wait for them while they ate.

"So…how can I put you in debt? I mean more than I already have tonight."

"It's fairly simple," he admitted.

"Oh?"

"All you have to do is kiss me."

She laughed at first until she saw that he was serious. She looked up at him and wondered what had changed between them since the accident. She wondered if she would ever figure him out. Probably not.

She hesitated, unsure if she really should. Questions flooded her mind. Where will this lead? Will it end well? What if it doesn't? She silently cursed herself for questioning this. A time like this was one of action, not hesitation. Not wondering if it was going to hurt her in the long run. She chased away the questions as she kissed him. Once their lips touched, her thought process vanished. She let herself be carried away by the moment, wishing it would last forever.

Yet nothing lasted forever.

The next day, Skyler had a skip in his step as he went to work. Jean was occupying his mind, as she had for the past couple of weeks. She kissed me back! Yes! He was ecstatic that she seemed to share his feelings. He could finally get past Brook's death. He could stop feeling so lost. He would put forth all his effort to keep Dr. Jean Riley safe, conceivably for the rest of her life.

Jean made her way down her hallway. None of the nurses or other doctors were there yet. All her nurses were still at the breakfast hall, stuffing down something before it was time for work. Skyler was all she could think about. That kiss had her tongue-tied every time she thought about it. Butterflies had continuously controlled her stomach for most of the morning.

She rounded the corner to Danny Weber's room when her head felt like it exploded. She fell to the floor in a daze, unable to think clearly. She was yanked up by her hair and a dark cloth like material was shoved over her head. When she started to protest, a knife was shoved to her throat. She froze, the fear taking control.

"Who are you?" she demanded, striving to chase away the fear with a stern tone.

Her captor did not answer and shoved her forward. She walked, being forced to trust her captor not to run her into a wall. She heard a door open in front of her and her captor shoved her in to the room.

Her captor suddenly screamed out before something solid hit her head again, knocking her out cold. She fell, but a pair of strong, powerful arms caught her, easily fighting off her crazed captor.

The hooded man hissed, making Danny Weber cower back in fear. "You promised!" he screamed. "You promised you would not hurt the nice doctor lady. You said to bring her and she would not be harmed!"

"Shut your mouth you psychotic idiot. I am your master. You will do as I say! Stay in here. You are always safe in your room. Stay. I will not return."

"Will doctor lady return?" Danny asked, tears swelling at his eyes.

"No. You will tell no one what has happened here. Do you understand?"

"No! You mean to hurt doctor lady, I know it. No, I will not let you!" Danny yelled, lunging at the hooded man.

"So be it." The man swung his weapon, connecting it with Danny's head in a vicious blow. He fell, blood pooling around his head as it hit the floor.

The man grunted in disgust at Danny, turning to throw Jean on to a morgue slab. He covered her body with a dark tarp and checked the hallway. It was clear. He pushed the slab towards the elevator, throwing off the hoodie once he was inside. His lab coat was free of the blood that now stained the hoodie. When the doors opened, he wheeled Jean towards her fate.

Skyler got on his computer, looking up information from one of his cases when he heard a racket outside his office. "What now?" he grumbled, shoving up from his computer desk. When he opened the door, Sam plowed in to him.

"Please tell me that you know where she is. I need to hear you say that you know where she is."

"What are you talking about?"

"Danny Weber was found unconscious in a pool of blood."

"Well, is he okay," he asked, worried about his former patient.

"Yes, he'll be fine," she said, fear clouding her features.

"Well, then what is the problem?" he demanded, sick of playing the run-around game of "guess what".

"…Jean is missing."

"Shit! Where was she last?" he demanded as he flew to his computer desk, his fingers dashing wildly across the keys while strange codes came out over the screen.

"My guess is as good as yours. What are you doing?" she asked, looking at the codes in bewilderment.

"Hacking into your security system. I'll try her ward first. That is most likely where she would have been last." He rewound the cameras, finding Jean easily since she had been the only person in the hallway, save for Danny Weber. They watched in horror as Danny hit her, placed a dark pillowcase over her head and put a knife to her throat.

"Oh, my God!" Sam whispered, her hand flying to her mouth.

Skyler quieted her and watched, much as he hated to. He watched as Danny forced her in to his room. Skyler snarled in frustration because he could not see what was happening in the room. He fast-forwarded the tape to where he saw movement. A man in the same dark hoodie from before was wheeling a morgue slab from out of the room. Skyler paused the tape, positive he knew who was under that tarp, but making sure anyway. He zoomed in on a flash of color. Sam gasped when she saw Jean's auburn hair peeking out from under the tarp.

"It's Jean! Who is that man? Where is she?" Sam demanded, her voice rising in panic.

"I don't know, okay? Call the police. Tell Zachariah Stevenson that Night needs help. It's urgent."

"What if he doesn't believe me?" she asked.

"Tell him that Night will not let him be responsible for another death. It's not true, but he will believe it and help you. Hurry. Now!"

Skyler dashed out the door, not giving her a chance to argue. His thoughts flew through the list of suspects he had arranged before. He had seen Andrew Filone, Sarah Yates, and Rio Williams in the cafeteria. They were all just getting their food when he left. That canceled them out. Alicia Terry was on her honeymoon with her new husband. That left only two. Jonathan Dawn and James Rourne. Both were friends of his. One was a murderer. Skyler Night was intent on finding out which.

Jean groaned when she woke. Her head was throbbing unbearably and a bright light was blinding her. She tried to lift her hand to her head, only to find it bound by leather straps and buckles like the ones that she and Skyler had to restrain Danny with. A moment of uncontrollable panic had her kicking and fighting, but her ankles were bound as well. She could feel the dried blood on her face and hated that she couldn't wipe it off.

A voice suddenly echoed near her ear, making her jump. It sounded familiar and made her feel nauseous. It was deep and she nearly had a face to it when the man revealed himself.

"Dear me," Rourne said mockingly. "What has happened to the dearest Dr. Riley?"

"James? It was you this whole time? Let me go, you psycho prick!"

"I think not. Today is judgment day, dear Jean. Fitting, don't you think, as it is the anniversary of my brother's death. Since you killed him, you can share this with him."

"I didn't kill your brother, James. I couldn't just pick any anti-venom. I had to work it out, otherwise he would have died anyway!" she yelled, prepared, as she had always been, to prepare herself against this exact verbal attack. Not a day had gone by since Rourne's brother had died of a snakebite in 1989 that she had not felt a heavy guilt, even though she had done all she could. He had presented every characteristic of every type of venomous snake on the eastern seaboard. It was impossible to guess when the man's life was on the line.

"Don't give me any of your lies. You could have saved him," he snarled as he picked up a needle.

Jean didn't like how she saw this going. The syringe was full of an amber fluid, the color of the venom of an eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the snake that had bit and killed Kyle Rourne.

Rourne had seen the look she was giving the needle and smiled cruelly. "Oh, you are clever!" he said delightedly with the cruel smile still frozen on his face. "You know what this, don't you?" He did not wait for an answer. "Of course you do. You are going to die like Kyle did. You are going to have the anti-venom inches from your grasp, and you are not going to be able to do anything about it. Just like Kyle."

Rourne shoved the needle in to her arm, laughing when she grimaced in pain. The effects were quick. She could already feel the fever coming on.

"You will not die alone, though. I've granted you that much, since you informed me of Kyle's condition. I had to watch him die. If this is timed right, someone you love will have to watch you die, only to die himself."

Rourne leaned back in his chair, propping his feet up on the table she laid on. He watched happily as the minutes passed, and her time was running out. It was another minute or two until she could not feel her arm, paralysis starting to take control.

"Ah, yes. Won't be long now," Rourne promised.

Skyler suddenly flew in to the room, landing a solid punch in Rourne's face. He fell backwards out of his chair in surprise and stood up quickly. Rourne knew he had the advantage. He had been born of battle. But Skyler knew one thing that Rourne did not. He was not going to give up.

Rourne tackled him, sending them both flying, the action knocking over vaccines that were placed in awkward places throughout the room. They rolled around on the floor, each trading off powerful punches. Skyler's face was bloodied up, but Rourne had the worse end of the stick when Skyler really got going. He let loose a flurry of impossibly quick hooks and jabs, evading the ones Rourne threw in return. They were both exhausted, but neither showed any sign of giving in.

When Jean started to shake and tremble from the venom, Rourne grew cocky. He thought he was going to win. He was far from it. Skyler threw one last punch, landing it directly on Rourne's temple, knocking him out. Skyler brushed himself off and picked up the anti-venom. Without hesitation, he injected it into Jean, praying it was not too late.

Rourne stirred behind him. Skyler turned, unsure if he could pull off another win. He was already exhausted from the first round. The cavalry suddenly burst in. Sergeant Zachariah Stevenson held an assault rifle in his hands, pointing it at Rourne as his men circled him. He eyed Skyler and frowned. He did not bother with a greeting. Skyler could not remember a time when he ever had.

"Being a doctor make you weak or something? I don't recall no one ever bloodying your face before," Stevenson said, not moving his gun away from Rourne's head.

"He's twice my size and was trained in a special ops group for the corps. I think I held my own fairly well."

"Special ops?" Stevenson gave a low whistle and noticed Jean. "You might want to help your girl."

Skyler nodded and turned to Jean, brushing her cheek lightly with his knuckles in an attempt to make her focus. "Hey, honey. How are you feeling?"

"Like shit. You weren't thinking I was going to feel wonderful, were you?" she groaned. "I didn't think you were an idiot. Maybe I was wrong."

"I like her," Stevenson laughed, his black face crinkling with joy.

"Shut it, will ya?" Skyler said to Stevenson. Skyler unbuckled Jean from the table and helped her sit up, smiling despite his tightly clenched stomach. She was safe. It was all he needed at the moment.

Sam suddenly burst in, shoving past the several heavily armed men standing in her way. They looked at her in surprise but she didn't care. She rushed to Jean and hugged her friend tightly. "Oh, Jean! I thought you were dead!" she cried.

"Not yet, but if you continue to choke me, I might be."

"She seems to have such a lovely sense of humor when she is in pain, don't you think?" Skyler asked innocently. "Ah, ah, ah," Skyler chided her as she began to protest. "You feel like shit, remember. You should lie down."

"I don't want to hear anything about laying anywhere after I nearly died lying d-"

Skyler cut her off, as he seemed to have made a habit of, with a heart-pounding kiss. Jean's tense muscles relaxed and she felt her pain disappear. She grinned against his lips and melted in his arms. She became completely unaware of the people in the room with them. To both of them, it was just the two of them.

"Feeling better?" Skyler asked quietly, looking down at her with simple joy.

"Infinitesimally."

"Damn it! Damn you and you, too," Sam yelled, jabbing a finger at Jean and Skyler.

"What?" they asked in unison, utterly confused.

"You two suck! I will never ever ever EVER do a favor for either of you ever again! You guys made me lose two hundred bucks!"

"How?" Jean asked, amused by Sam's distress.

"I bet against Angela that you would never go out with him! And there you two go, proving me wrong right in front of me."

"Sorry," Skyler said without meaning it.

"Well, if you all are done flapping your yaps, I'd like to take this guy to jail. I'll leave the paperwork for you, Night," Stevenson said irritably. "How did I ever get talked into this?"

"I think it was when I threatened to blow up your building when you actually listened to me," Sam said, shrugging as if everyone threatened government offices daily.

"Well, if it is okay with you guys, I am going home," Jean muttered, not really caring if they wanted her to go home or not. Either way, she was going.

"You do that honey," Sam said as if she were a sick child.

"I'll drive you," Skyler said, wrapping an arm around her waist.

Skyler told Jean about what happened to her while she was unconscious and what he had guessed Danny had done for her. She told herself that she would be sure to pay him extra visits during the day. He deserved it.

"Oh, my God!" Jean exclaimed.

"What?" Skyler demanded, his muscles tensing for another round with Rourne.

"I know what is wrong with Danny!"

Skyler let out a heavy sigh, relieved that there was no danger. "That's great," he growled dryly. "You can play doctor tomorrow. Right now, you are going to go home and relax."

"Fine." A silence stretched between them. Jean studied Skyler as he drove her home. She finally shattered the emptiness. "How did you know where I was?"

"…I didn't. I looked through every room that Rourne alone would have access to. It was luck."

"But how did you know it was him?"

"No one else fit," he said simply. "I just knew." He pulled up in front of her house and led her up to the door.

"Thank you, Skyler. Honestly. You have helped me more than I deserve these past couple of weeks."

"Don't think anything of it. I was just returning the favor."

"What favor? I don't recall doing anything for you."

Skyler laughed and pulled her close. "You gave me something to live for. Before you, I was just going through life like a zombie. Brook's death had me lifeless. You gave me my life back, Jean."

Jean blushed deeply and looked down to avoid his piercing gaze. He lifted her chin up and cradled her face in his hands. He did not hesitate. He took the risk without regrets. She smiled against his lips, wrapping her arms around his neck.

"Jean?"

"Hmm?" she asked, still light headed from their kiss.

"I have another favor to ask. I have been trying to build on something for years, but every time I tried, my anger took over. You have helped me control it. Now I think I can ask."

"What are you getting at, Skyler?" she asked, her stomach feeling uneasy when he reached into his pocket.

"Jean Riley? Will you marry me?"

She coughed in surprise. She had been expecting something, though definitely not a wedding band. "Whoa, there Skyler! I don't think I'm ready for that big of a step."

"That's okay," he grinned, looking like a little boy who had just been told that he could have a big cookie from the cookie jar. "I can wait."

"And just how long are you willing to keep that up?"

"As long as it takes. I love you, Jean. It's about time I admitted it, too. I truly do."

"Then, just maybe, I feel the same about you," she smiled, feeling excited and happy.

"Then time is all it's going to take," he promised. "You know," he said conversationally, "I used to think I was going to go to Hell because of all the people I had to kill, but I think with you, I finally found my gateway to Heaven."

Jean laughed as he embraced her and kissed her again. It tasted of joy. Of sweetness. Of laughter. Of promises. Promises that were hell-bent to be kept.

Dr. James Rourne had been arrested without bail to await his trial where he would be tried for several counts of attempted murder and his doctoring license was taken away for life. He was now rotting in an L.A. jail cell where inmates beat him daily. He barely survives being everyone's lackey.

Danny Weber had surgery and was at home with his family soon after. Jean had removed a tumor that was carefully hidden in his brain and earned herself a lifelong admirer. Skyler had made it perfectly clear, however, that he intended not to share her with anyone.

Less than a year later, Jean Riley became Jean Night. They moved to a bigger house in Los Angeles where Skyler presented Jean with the best wedding present she could ever ask for. Instead of taking her grandmother's piano to the dump like he had been told, he got an old friend to refurbish it and make it good as new. Jean, in turn, presented Skyler with a vintage 1980's guitar with Sam's researching help. To Tyson, the couple gave a female sheltie named Leia. She is expecting pups.

Jean and Skyler had Sam move their wards together so that they could work more closely and solve cases together. Tyson became an honorary member of the pediatric clinic. His breaks were spent keeping Jean and Skyler company, where they occasionally forgot they were supposed to be working instead of kissing (amoung other things). There marriage lasted for the rest of their lives, which to them, was as good as eternity.

The End