At 6 pm on Friday evening, Vivienne Johnson began to pack up her things to go home. She glanced surreptitiously across at Martin, still seated at his desk. Usually he would be sitting up straight – there was nothing sloppy about Martin Fitzgerald – but tonight he was slumped over his keyboard, every line of his posture screaming exhaustion.

Martin had been back at work for a week and already Viv was worried about him.

She remembered the moment he had walked into the office on Monday morning. He seemed uncharacteristically hesitant, his expression a mixture of diffidence and apprehension. His suit jacket hung baggy on a too-lean frame and his face was noticeably thinner, accentuating the sharp angel of his jaw. The cane he carried with an obvious degree of embarrassment attested to the fact that he was far from fully recovered from the bullet wounds that had kept him from the office for six weeks.

Viv was careful not to allow her concern to show, greeting him warmly and with genuine pleasure. She had seen the relief and gratitude shining in his eyes and understood just how difficult this moment had been for him. It had been hard enough for her on her own return a week before and she was glad that she was able to be there for him.

Martin’s violent brush with death had profoundly affected every member of the team. Viv observed her co-workers carefully over the next few days, hoping that they would be able to get past their own emotions and make Martin’s return to work as easy as possible.

Initially Jack had been obvious in his relief to have his agent back, although Viv detected a certain discomfort in subsequent conversations with Fitzgerald. Coming so close to losing one of his agents must have affected him badly. It was characteristic of Jack that he would find it difficult to act as if nothing had happened.

Samantha seemed genuinely happy to have Martin back, and if there was a degree of awkwardness between the two, it was natural between two people who had quite recently ended a relationship. Viv had the feeling, though, that Sam was confused right now. It was obvious that she still cared about Martin; to come so close to losing him would almost certainly have led her to re-examine her feelings.

Then there was Danny. If Viv was concerned about Martin, she was in some ways even more worried about Danny. She had only been back in work herself for a week, but Taylor’s behaviour during that time had startled her. He was far more volatile and edgy than usual, giving the impression that he was living on his nerves and that was a recipe for disaster in a team like theirs. It was also evident that he and Jack were at odds. Jack was certainly coming down hard on the young agent. This was understandable, considering that Danny’s judgement was off kilter. However, Jack didn’t seem to be picking up on the root cause of the problem: Danny’s state of mind after the shooting.

Viv had expected Danny to be pleased that Martin was back at work. On the contrary, however, he seemed uncomfortable, deliberately going out of his way to avoid the other agent. Martin hadn’t commented – to her, at least - but once or twice she had seen him looking at Danny with a slightly hurt and confused expression when the other man’s back was turned. Of course, Martin was unaware of something Viv had observed. While Danny seemed unable to talk to Martin, he had been watching him like a hawk whenever his back was turned. Danny clearly had strong feelings about Fitzgerald’s return, but was intent on keeping them to himself.

Danny had not discussed the shooting with Viv and she had chosen not to ask. She knew it must have been a traumatic experience for him and felt that he needed time to deal with it in his own way. She wondered now if that was a good decision; she knew he had attended some obligatory counselling sessions, but in her opinion, they did not appear to have helped a great deal.

Viv continued to watch Martin as he rested his head in his hands for a moment in an unconscious gesture of weariness. She knew he was deemed fit enough to return to work – to desk work, at least; it would be several more weeks before they would even consider him for a return to the field. And there was no doubt that he had done his fair share of the work over the past five days, responding to every cautiously worded expression of concern with the assurance that he was fine. What concerned Viv was how much it had cost him to keep up what she was convinced was a charade.

She stood up and walked over to his desk.


He looked up and smiled, but she could see the fatigue in the angular planes of his face.

“Planning on going home tonight?”

“Soon as I’ve returned this file to Records.”

“Want me to take it for you?”

“I’m good, thanks.”

She pretended not to notice the slight intake of breath and the shadow of pain that crossed his face as he levered himself out of his chair. He picked up the report in one hand and, after a moment’s hesitation, the cane in the other.

She watched his slow progress across the room, torn between frustration at his stubborn determination not to ask for help and concern that he was obviously still in pain. A full week’s work had evidently taken its toll.

Sam had already gone home and that left Viv and Danny alone in the office. She glanced across at him, watching his eyes trail Martin until the other agent was out of sight, and then walked over to his desk.

“Not doing as well as he pretends he is,” she remarked, watching closely for Danny’s reaction.

Danny stood up, shuffling papers into an untidy pile on his desk. She saw his jaw tighten, but he avoided her eyes.

“Guess the first few days back at work are bound to be tough.”

“Might help him to know that his friends are here for him.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he demanded, eyes still fixed on the desk.

This wasn’t going to be easy. ”You know what I’m talking about. You’ve hardly spoken a word to him since he got back. How do you think that’s making him feel?”

He stabbed at his computer’s off button and turned away from her, making a show of grabbing his suit jacket from the back of the chair and shrugging into it.

“I’ve been busy…”

Viv moved closer, getting in his face, arms folded in front of her. She wasn’t letting him off that easily.

“Bullshit,” she said firmly. “You’re avoiding him. Want to tell me why?”

Danny’s head whipped around, eyes flashing fire. Then he slumped back into his chair and ran a hand through his hair. When he looked up at her, his mobile face reflected an anguish that had been just below the surface for days.

”It’s been a while since I’ve seen him. Things have been…” he shrugged. “I kind of thought when he got back, he’d look well, you know? I mean, six weeks… but he looks like hell, and that cane…”

“You worried he can’t do his job?”

Danny looked startled. “That’s not what I’m saying. It’s just… seeing him, it brought it all back. Every time I look at him, I see him lying on the ground, bleeding his life away… his blood all over my hands…”

“It wasn’t your fault, Danny.”

“I can’t stop thinking about it, going over and over it in my mind. It all happened so fast. I keep thinking I could have done something; maybe if I hadn’t told him to back the car up - that must have been when he was shot, you know, when he sat up to see where he was going…”

So, that was it. She had suspected that much of Danny’s attitude stemmed from self-imposed guilt.

“Danny, there’s nothing you could have done,” she said firmly. “Martin was driving; he was the one in control of the car.”

“I know, but I still keep thinking...”

“Don’t go there. You can’t blame yourself for anything that happened. Do you think for one moment Martin’s blaming you?”

He hesitated. “I guess not.”

“Of course he isn’t. Would you be blaming him if it was you who got shot?”

“Of course not. It’s just… Why, Viv? Why did it have to be him?”

The anguish in his voice tore at her heart and she wished she had an easy answer for him. She shook her head. “There’s no reason, Danny. It was pure chance that he was driving that day. It’s something you’ll both have to put behind you.”

“That’s just it. I’m not sure I can.”


She reached out to grasp his arm. “Yes, you can. Just talk to him. Try to put yourself in Martin’s shoes. He’s still in pain, he’s feeling insecure with this new agent coming on board, and I’ll bet he’s hurt that you’re avoiding him.” She paused, holding his eyes. “He doesn’t need your guilt right now, Danny. He needs a friend.”

Danny stared at her for long moments, eyes full of pain as he reflected on her words, then his expression smoothed out and she glanced around to see Martin walk back into the office.

Viv squeezed Danny’s arm then walked back to her own desk, slipped on her coat, and walked out, smiling a good night at Martin as she went.

She paused and looked back as she reached the door.

Martin had switched off his computer and was methodically clearing his desk, putting papers into the correct folders and returning pens to their holder. She had to smile at that; even bone weary, he couldn't leave his desk untidy. Finally, he picked up his jacket from the back of the chair and in doing so, knocked the cane from its position leaning against the side of the desk. It hit the floor with a clatter. Martin slowly shrugged into his jacket, and then paused, clearly trying to gather the strength to bend down and pick up the cane.

Before he could move, Danny was there, scooping up the cane and holding it out to him. He said something to Martin that she couldn’t make out and there was a long pause as the two men locked eyes. In Danny’s expressive face, Viv could read much of what was going on in his mind; the almost debilitating guilt, a degree of fear, a clear concern for Martin. Martin must have seen it too for after long moments his own diffident expression softened and he smiled, reaching out a hand to take the cane.

Viv smiled, satisfied. She had the feeling that both young men had a long way to go before they could put the past behind them, but this was a start. At least it was a start.

The End