The Guardian

by JIN

Disclaimers: No profit was made from this ficlet, or whatever I'm supposed to say.

Comments: Postscript (I think that's the right term) to "A Day in the Life" … because Martin was tired and someone should acknowledge that. Mild cursing.

What the hell? What the hell?

Danny couldn't believe his eyes. Martin was trucking through the office like he was coming to work, and what the hell was that about?

Yes, they'd gotten a new case, but Martin had to have been up all night and surely Jack didn't expect him to come in and work tonight? It wasn't like the man was healthy, after all. Sure, he looked good, but it had only been weeks since he'd been quite the opposite – as in damn near bleeding to death – and what the hell was he doing here?


"Yeah?" Martin responded with a quick glance over his shoulder at Danny.

"Why are you here?" Danny asked.

Martin frowned. "Didn't Jack tell you? We have a missing woman."

"Yes, Martin, of course he told me. But that doesn't answer the question of why you are here."

Martin didn't even attempt to hide a sigh, which told Danny a whole lot about both his physical and mental state at that moment. "Financials . . . I told Jack I'd get started on them."

Ah yes, of course. Martin Fitzgerald, Boy Wonder, could find a misplaced, misspent penny in a mountain of receipts, which of course, would lead to the one clue that would lead to the missing person. He was so damn good at that, and if Danny wasn't sure he was better than Martin at so many other things, he might have been jealous.

"You've been up all night," Danny informed his friend, in case he'd forgotten or conveniently hadn't noticed.

"Not really," Martin answered rather sheepishly as he reached over to boot up his computer.

What? Martin had been at the missing kid's house for days, working. So . . .

"You fell asleep? On the job?"

That was kind of cruel – something akin to twisting the knife - but Danny couldn't resist. Martin Fitzgerald fell asleep while on the clock? He'd have to mark this day on his calendar.

Martin rolled his eyes in Danny's direction. "Yes. So just say it all now and get it out of your system so I can get to work."

Danny could picture it: Martin on the couch, looking slightly rumpled but still professional, that ever present coffee cup hanging precariously by one finger, snoring lightly . . . no, scratch that. Martin wouldn't snore and he probably wouldn't drool either. In fact, he probably looked so adorable that even that cold fish of a mother was tempted to cover him up with a blanket and tuck him in.

"Well, don't dwell on it too much. All's well that ends well. I'm sure those parents won't mention it to their friends and co-workers and everyone else they know."

"You done?" Martin looked like his face might crack if he smiled, so obviously humor was not on the agenda tonight.

Maybe Danny should be a bit more supportive. "Really, it's no big deal. It just proves you're human. Besides, scruff works for you, Marty. Maybe I should call Sam . . ."

Uh-oh. The way Martin's face fell about three feet told him that wasn't as funny as he'd intended it to be. He knew about the break- up, of course, but he figured it was temporary and that Sam had come to her senses by now. After all, Martin almost died . . . what more of a kick in the butt did she need? Unless she was still harboring some stupid infatuation for Jack . . .

"So what have you got on the woman?" Martin asked, making a quick recovery and effectively changing the subject.

"Nothing. It's early. Or rather, it's late. Go home, Man. I'll take over."

Now Martin was really offended, judging by the scowl he turned towards Danny. "Why? Is there a reason you think I can't handle this?"

Oh crap; he was making one screw-up after another. "I just think you've been with that family for two days now and you're tired, and someone else could take over. Like me."

"Right." Martin bit off that one word like it was - well, like it was a dirty word.

"Martin, I just . . ."

"You just think I can't do it. You just think I'm not well enough . . . not normal enough. Well, you're wrong, Danny. I'm fine. I can do my job just like I have for the past three years. I'm not tired, okay?"

Danny held up his hands in surrender. "Okay! Whatever."

Walking back to his desk, Danny shook his head. He thought Jack was stubborn, but hell, Martin made him look easy. He sat down and opened up a file, but his eyes wandered over to Martin's desk. Fitzgerald was holding his head up with one hand, his elbow propped on his desk, and how incredibly ridiculous was that? Shit . . . he and Sam deserved each other.

Now Martin was rubbing his eyes and sighing again, and okay, this was just too stupid for words and it was starting to piss Danny off.

"You got out of the dog house three years ago, Fitz . . . you don't have to impress him anymore," Danny snapped as he got back up and walked over to Martin's desk. The comment was a little below the belt, but he was making a point here so he figured that was allowed.

Martin looked angry for about two seconds before getting this strangely puzzled expression in his eyes. "Why are you trying to pick a fight with me?"

Danny thought it might end right there, but Martin took the bait and continued on, "I'm not trying to impress anyone. I'm trying to find a missing woman. In case you've forgotten, that's our job."

Big emphasis on that last word, like it might be some grand revelation to Danny. But oh no, he wasn't getting away with that. "I know my job, Martin. I know that I have to stay up all night while people lie and cover up shit so that it makes it that much harder to find their loved ones. I know that I have to dig up dead bodies . . . babies and little girls and defenseless women when some asshole gets crazy. I know that I have to keep young boys and teenage girls from killing themselves on a regular basis. I know that I have to escort the scum of the earth to the lock-up and when their enemies get trigger-happy, I have to watch my partner bleed to death on the ground in front of me. It's my job, right?"

"Your partner didn't bleed to death, Danny," Martin replied softly.

"He's doing it right now, right here in front of me," Danny responded, his eyes never wavering from Martin's. And just in case Martin still didn't get it, he added, "Don't kill yourself for this job . . . or for Jack, or even for Sam. Go home and get some sleep."

"You think I'm doing this for Jack?" Martin asked, (apparently he wasn't even going to dignify the Sam comment with a response).

"I think that's part of it." It was part of it, if Martin was honest, which of course he wouldn't be.

Martin swiveled around in his chair and stood up to look Danny in the eye. "Have you forgotten already? For God's sake, Danny, it happened to us! We were the victims! How can you not spend every waking moment trying to keep that kind of senseless violence from happening to someone else?"

God, Martin really was a Boy Scout through and through; shoot the man full of holes and he still believes. Time for a reality check . . .

"Where the hell have you been for the past three years, Fitz? You really think we can keep violence from anyone? Yeah, if we're lucky, we get to them in time . . . before they're dead anyway. But not before they've been through hell for one reason or another. There will always be senseless violence happening to someone and you killing yourself isn't going to stop it."

"I am not killing myself! I'm just doing my goddamn job!"

Whoa. Danny had never heard Martin raise his voice quite like that. But he pretty much didn't care because Martin was wrong.

"You fell asleep. You fell asleep while monitoring a case in someone's home, Martin," Danny reminded him gently.

Martin's face turned crimson, and he fell back into his chair like a deflated balloon. "It was nothing," he mumbled. "A few minutes . . . I dozed off for a few minutes. And I apologized," he added, like it was important for Danny to know that.

Danny nodded as he pulled up a chair. "Okay. I get that. But you have to understand something, Martin; you almost died a few months ago."

"Gee thanks, Danny, I wasn't aware of that."

Sarcastic Martin was generally one of his favorite Fitzgerald personalities, but it didn't really suit either of them tonight. Danny might have wrongly tried to set the tone for the evening by taking the light route, but it was time to get serious.

"Yeah? Well let me tell you something else you're not aware of, Martin – I know exactly what's going on with you. You're not fooling me. You're not nearly so fantastic as you pretend to be, and one of these days, it's all going to come crashing down on you. And you know what? That's fine. It's your damn life and if you don't have sense enough to take care of yourself, so be it. But you're not screwing up some poor woman's life that's depending on solid, capable, clear-headed professionals to find her. Go home. Go to bed. And when you're really ready to `do your job', come back and help me."

That was harsh, and Danny knew it, but he had little choice in the matter. Gentle persuasion had gotten him nowhere. And Martin was exhausted. Martin needed to go to bed or he really would come crashing down, physically or emotionally or hell, all of the above, and Danny didn't think he could stand to see that, let alone figure out what to do about it.

But he might have gone too far, because Martin was looking at him like a Boy Scout who not only failed to help the little old lady cross the street, he'd run her over with his bicycle.

Shit. Could have he played this entire evening any more wrong?

Okay, time to back-pedal and come up with a new plan. Danny softened and squeezed Martin's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Man. Forget I said anything. How about if we work on this together?"

Now Martin was looking at him like maybe he had multiple personalities or at least some sort of schizoid disorder, but he didn't say anything as he turned back to his computer. It wasn't more than half an hour later that he was nodding off though, and before Danny knew it, Martin's head was on his desk and he was asleep. The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak . . . how many times had he heard that when he was trying to kick alcohol?

They kept blankets there for their victims, so he grabbed one and wrapped it around Martin's shoulders, careful not to wake him. He figured he could let him sleep for another two hours before the early morning janitor came in. Then he'd nudge Martin awake and tell him he'd only nodded off for a few minutes. By then, Danny might have something substantial to work with on the case.

He'd been exhausted himself when Martin first walked in, but now he found himself wide awake. As silly as it sounded, he sort of felt like he was standing guard over his friend, and another cliché rolled through his head . . . `a day late and a dollar short.' Every once in awhile the guilt still crept up on him and took him by surprise. He'd let his guard down one night and look what happened.

Of course, Martin wasn't in danger any longer. He might keel over from exhaustion, but he probably wouldn't die from it, (that wasn't possible, right?). It was more a matter of protecting his pride than anything else. And Martin was proud – too proud and too stubborn for his own good. Toss in his overwhelming drive to save the world and an insane need to hold onto Jack's respect, and it was no wonder he was pushing himself to the limit, acting like he'd never been injured, falling asleep in other people's homes . . .

It was Danny's turn to sigh as he sat down and tried to make sense of the numbers on the computer screen in front of him. He hated the detail work . . . give him a hostile witness any day. Of course there were a few times when he'd gotten a bit carried away and Martin had to pull him back. The guardian thing worked both ways, when he thought about it. Maybe if he mentioned that to Jack, he'd start pairing him and Martin up again . . . lately Danny had been stuck with Jack or one of the women.

Glancing over at Martin, he noted with a satisfied smile that the man was still sleeping . . . and what do you know? He did drool. Martin was human, after all. But until that message sunk in to his friend's thick skull, Danny would keep an eye on him.

He wouldn't let his guard down again.

The End