Letting Go

by Debra Noellert

 

Disclaimer: Without a Trace is owned by people other than myself. I'm making no profit off of this story, and derive only personal satisfaction from writing this bit of fiction.

 

Notes: This follows sometime after the episode "When Darkness Falls" when I got tired of waiting for the series' writers to address Martin's drug issues. While it's a little AU for the series I hope you'll enjoy it. Martin and Danny are the focus of the story, with a bit of Jack and Viv thrown in. Special thanks to Beth Green for answering medical questions and providing research links and Julie for her beta work. Any mistakes are mine.

 

 

Danny was several hours past ready to go home and sleep. The first half of his day had been largely wasted by the 'hurry up and wait' that so often accompanied testifying in court. There was nothing like sacrificing four and a half hours of your life to spend twelve minutes testifying. He should probably just be grateful it hadn't sucked up his whole day. Returning to the office he'd quickly been buried by paperwork and research as the other members of his team continued their field interviews. The only one he'd seen much of was Martin. A pale, distracted and still too-damn-thin Martin.

 

Danny shook his head. Martin was okay. He'd just had a rough couple of months. Multiple gunshot wounds weren't the easiest things to bounce back from. That recent tumble down the stairs certainly hadn't helped. But he was recovering, right? So what if Martin's suit looked a little rumpled, or he seemed to have trouble focusing on the case. If there were really a problem Martin would ask for help. Danny really needed to stop obsessing about his coworker, because there was nothing wrong with Martin, even if he was still sitting in his truck almost two hours after he supposedly left for home.

 

Danny's steps stuttered. He glanced at his watch and then back at Martin's truck. Martin had said goodbye to the rest of the team almost and hour and forty-five minutes ago. So why was he still sitting there apparently contemplating the mysteries of his lap? On impulse Danny walked around to the passenger side and tried the door handle. Finding it unlocked he climbed in and asked, "So where are we off to, partner?" Danny's attempt at levity was not well taken by Martin, whose expression looked something akin to a deer caught in headlights.

 

"We, uhm, that is I . . ." Martin stammered while his hand clutched a small bottle of pills.

 

Danny tried to shake off the sinking feeling in the bottom of his gut. "So, is that jacked-up hip still giving you problems?" Danny tried to keep his voice casual as he motioned to small the cylindrical container. It was impossible to miss the rattle of pills when Martin pulled the bottle to his chest, protecting it from Danny. And fuck, this was not what Danny thought it was. It couldn't be what Danny thought it was.

 

Martin swallowed and straightened before insisting, "The hip's still a bit sore, but I'm fine. Just taking care of business." His forced half-smile was more pleading than reassuring.

 

Just taking care of business. Danny had heard those same words from Martin before. Danny wasn't sure if he had been lying about it then, but he was obviously lying now. And it was just as obvious that Danny had to call him on it. "Martin," he waited until his partner was looking at him. "Please don't, man. Tell me to get out of your truck. Tell me to keep my nose out of your business. But please don't lie to me."

 

Martin's eyes seemed to swim with shame before he looked away. For several long minutes neither man spoke. Danny waited for Martin to order him out of the truck or even explain what was really going on. Though it was getting harder and harder for Danny to convince himself that he didn't know exactly what was going on. Unable to stay quiet any longer Danny broke the silence, "Maybe you should talk to your Doctor. See about getting a different dosage."

 

Martin let out a harsh and surprisingly bitter bark of laughter. "I went through a twenty-one day supply of pain meds in five days, Danny. I don't think the Doctor's going to be handing out any more prescriptions."

 

Danny barely held back a gasp as he mentally calculated how many drugs Martin had taken. How had things with Martin gotten so bad so fast? How had he not seen what was happening? Because you didn't look, whispered a little voice in his head, because you haven't wanted to look at Martin since the shooting. Danny ruthlessly buried that thought. Now was not the time for a pity party. He needed to focus on Martin. "But you still have some left," said Danny, "I heard the rattle." He still wanted to believe that things weren't as bad as Martin was implying.

 

Martin closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the headrest. "These aren't mine," he whispered. "I went out with Viv this morning to interview the Doctor that had treated our missing person. The Doc got called to another patient, the nurse was getting the file, Viv was on the phone with Jack and I just picked it up off a shelf in their drug cabinet. Didn't even think about what I'd done until we were driving back to the office. I tried to throw them in the trash. Must have spent at least half an hour in the bathroom trying to convince myself to flush them down the toilet." Martin was staring at the bottle, his fingers in a white-knuckled grip around it. "I just . . . I couldn't . . ."

 

"Let go," finished Danny. Martin just nodded. Looking at Martin across the cab of his vehicle Danny was reminded of another vehicle: a cold, frosty car and a bottle of liquor that had combined to help Danny wreck his own life. But maybe, just maybe he could prevent Martin from doing the same. "You're wrong, Martin. You can let go." Martin was shaking his head now. "You're one of the strongest people I know, a lot stronger than a bunch of pills. Just let it go." Martin was still shaking his head, but now his hand was shifting on the bottle: clutch, release, and clutch and then release. Danny dropped his voice to a whisper, "I'm right here, Martin. I'll catch you. Just let go."

 

The instant the bottle dropped to Martin's lap Danny snatched it up and tucked it in a pocket, removing the temptation. Martin's breathing was coming out in labored gasps. "I'm so screwed," he decided, turning to the window.

 

"Did you take any of these pills, Martin?" Danny asked.

 

"Maybe now I could get that job selling shoes," Martin suggested.

 

"Damn it, did you take any of these pills?" demanded Danny

 

Martin turned back in Danny's direction. "No. I couldn't get rid of them but I couldn't take them either," his voice quiet again.

 

"Good, that's good," murmured Danny, "we can fix this."

 

Martin's bitter laughter was back again. "I'm a drug addict that stole from a medical facility. My career in the FBI is over." Eyeing Danny he insisted, "I don't want you to loose your job because they find out you tried to cover for me."

 

"There won't be anything for them to find out," argued Danny. "I just need you to trust me."

 

"Of course I trust you," said Martin. In fact, right now he trusted Danny more than he trusted himself.

 

"Good, then give me your keys and switch seats with me," asserted Danny. He hopped out of the truck and moved around to the driver side. He started it up pretending he didn't notice the defeated look in Martin's eyes. It didn't matter. What ever happened, from here on out he was going to stick to Martin's side like glue and help him get through it all.

 

The windows were fogging up and the truck cab was getting cold, but Martin didn't adjust the heat or turn on the defroster because Danny had the keys. He'd taken them into the clinic with him seven; no make that eight minutes ago.

 

"We can fix this." That's what Danny had said before they'd begun the silent drive to the Urgent Care clinic. But Martin, for the life of him, couldn't figure out how Danny planned to explain away those pills. "I'm so sorry for the inconvenience, Doctor," he imagined Danny saying, "but my partner, the drug addict, swiped some of your pain meds this morning when no one was looking. At least I managed to get them away from him before he ingested half the bottle. So, no harm, no foul, right?" Who knows, with Danny's charm he might even pull it off.

 

When they'd left, he'd recognized a familiar look on his friend's face. The 'Danny had a plan and was going to make it work come hell or high water' face. Danny hadn't opened his mouth once during the ride over apparently too busy working out the details of his scheme to waste breath on Martin.

 

Martin hadn't talked either. He'd been afraid he'd start begging Danny to give him the pills back the minute he opened his mouth. His mind had come up with a dozen arguments for why he needed the drugs. He'd repeatedly found his eyes drifting to the coat pocket that hid the pill container, all the while wondering if there was some way to slip the pills out of that pocket without Danny noticing.

When Danny slowed to park in front of the clinic, Martin was thrown into a panic at the realization that he was about to lose his only source of meds. That was easily fixed: deliver two hard blows to Danny's head, grab the pills while he was still stunned, shove him out the door, claim the driver's seat and take off with the drugs before Danny could stop him. The images were so intense that it took Martin several seconds to realize he hadn't attacked Danny. Danny was, in fact, getting out of the truck and telling Martin he'd be right back; just hold on a little longer.

 

After the door closed he started trembling uncontrollably, shocked at the path his mind had taken, at the person he'd become. It had taken five minutes for the shakes to ease and his mind to rally into some semblance of order. Even now, as Martin wondered when he'd lost all control of his thoughts and actions, a seductive voice whispered that a couple pills could make all the pain and confusion go away. Martin hopped out of the truck and began pacing. He turned north, but forced himself to stop when he realized where he was heading. He couldn't go down those dark alleys hunting for a fix like some street junkie, as much as he might want to.

 

Danny had asked Martin to trust him; asked him to hold on a little longer. He couldn't walk away now. He had to find a way to ride this out. Martin turned back to his truck. Setting both hands on the still warm hood, he tried to take some deep, cleansing breaths. As another minute passed Martin found it was getting harder to breathe. The earlier tremors returned to shake his already weak limbs. Struggling to hold himself together Martin pled, "Hurry up, Danny."

 

"I'm right here, Martin." Martin jumped a bit when Danny caught him unaware for the second time in less than an hour. Looking up, Martin read concern in every line and shadow of Danny's face. A swell of self-loathing turned Martin's stomach. He'd been fantasizing about beating Danny's face in, and had very nearly taken off in search of a fix. He didn't deserve Danny's worry; not even his pity.

 

"I almost attacked you," Martin confessed. Danny opened his mouth to respond but Martin rushed on, "when you were getting out of the truck; taking the pills back. I wanted to stop you so bad."

 

"But you didn't," countered Danny, "and even if you had, that's not half as bad as some of the stupid things I did to get a drink. Like letting a friend get fired over a six pack that I stole." Danny leaned over and nudged Martin, letting a sly smile slip across his face. "Or sleeping with 'Anita the Hun' for three weeks just so I could get the key to her very well stocked liquor cabinet."

 

Martin only half heard Danny's own confessions. He was still stuck on Danny's grin and the realization that, despite his admission that he'd been ready to throw away their friendship for a handful of pills, Danny didn't hate him. The relief was so profound he didn't notice the tremors in his arms and legs had migrated to shake his whole body.

 

"It's pretty cold out here. Let's get you back inside the truck." Danny's voice suddenly sounded so far away. Which was strange because Martin was sure he could feel Danny's warm, guiding hand on his back.

 

"Right," Martin mumbled. Was it the cold that was making him shake? It didn't matter. Trust Danny. He just had to trust Danny.

 

"Martin! Don't do this. Come on, talk to me, man." The pleading voice penetrated the fog of Martin's mind. He realized he was buckled into the passenger seat of the truck though he wasn't sure how he'd gotten there, nor could he remember why his knee hurt.

 

"Did I trip?" Martin could hear a bit of slur in his own voice.

 

"No, man. You just scared the crap out of me by passing out on the sidewalk." Danny finally came back into focus; a weak grin plastered on a worried face. "I was just about to call the paramedics."

 

Martin tried to force himself into awareness. "I'm good, you don't have to call anyone."

 

"Maybe," conceded Danny as his tone became more serious, "but I need you to level with me. When did you last take the drugs?"

 

Martin flinched beneath the question. It could only mean Danny didn't believe him anymore. "I told you I didn't take any!" Martin tried to push Danny away furious at his partner's perceived betrayal.

 

Danny grabbed the flailing wrists, pinning them down. "No, Martin. Listen to me. I know you didn't take the clinic meds. I meant your pills. When did you finish off the last of your prescription pain killers?"

 

As quick as it had come, the rage was gone, leaving Martin oddly numb as he searched for an answer to Danny's question. "I finished them off sometime after work yesterday." Martin vividly recalled downing the last four pills, knowing they wouldn't be near enough to ease his craving.

 

"Okay, if the drugs aren't causing you to pass out maybe it's something a little more basic. When was the last time you ate?" Danny knew he had often skipped meals during the height of his addiction. Sometimes because he craved the liquor more than food, other times because hangovers made eating a gesture in futility.

 

"I had a bottle of water around lunch," offered Martin.

 

"Martin, a bottle of water is not eating," countered Danny. "What about yesterday, you had to have eaten then, right?"

 

"I tried," came Martin's tired reply, "but I couldn't keep anything down yesterday." When he saw the answer disappointed Danny, he tried, "I ate some applesauce the day before."

 

"Great, Martin, one cup of applesauce over the course of three days, no wonder you're passing out in the street." Seeing Martin's slumped posture, Danny tried to lighten his tone. "Guess that makes feeding you our top priority." Danny started up the truck again and headed to the nearest gas station. He topped off the gas tank and then went inside to look for food. He bought water, clear soda and crackers in case the nausea became a problem again and also grabbed half-a-dozen nutrition bars and three bottles of Gatorade. The two apples and banana sitting in a bowl at the checkout counter rounded out his purchases. Handing the bag to Martin back in the truck, he wasn't surprised to see his friend open the crackers and soda first.

 

The vehicle's interior clock glowed 9:34 PM. Danny knew there was no way Martin would make it through a full day of work tomorrow. Pulling out his cell phone he hit #3 on his speed dial.

 

"Malone," barked a familiar voice.

 

"Jack, it's Danny." Martin froze beside him but Danny pressed on. "I'm calling about Martin, he's having a real bad reaction to some medication his Doctor prescribed. I don't think he's going to be in any condition to work tomorrow." As if on cue Martin wrenched the door open and leaned out, emptying his stomach of the soda and crackers he'd only just swallowed. When dry heaves followed, Danny put the cell aside with a, "Hang on, Jack." He retrieved the water bottle with one hand while rubbing Martin's back with the other.

 

"Just ride it out, Martin," he advised. "It will be over soon." As predicted the dry heaves only lasted a minute more. When Martin sat back against the seat, Danny opened the bottle saying, "Why don't we try water this time and see if that stays down any better."

"Danny," Martin pleaded, his eyes flicking to the cell. It was obvious he didn't want Jack to know anything yet. Which was fine, because Danny wasn't about to out someone else's addiction over the phone.

 

"Danny," came a muffled shout. "Danny, is Martin alright?"

 

"Sorry about that, Jack," said Danny once he'd retrieved the phone. "Martin felt the need to 'toss his cookies' out the truck door." Danny tried to make his tone joking but he wasn't sure if Jack bought it.

 

"If Martin's as bad off as he sounds, maybe you should take him to a doctor." Jack's overprotective streak was clearly showing.

 

"We just left the clinic," assured Danny, omitting the fact that Martin hadn't seen a doctor while there. "Right now, he just needs to rest and keep pushing liquids so his body can clear the garbage out." Please, believe me. Please don't ask any more questions. Danny silently prayed.

 

"Alright, tell Martin I don't want to see his face anywhere near the office until Monday," decreed Jack. "And make sure he gets home in one piece."

 

Danny smiled knowing that would give he and Martin the whole weekend to work things out. "Thanks, Jack. I've got it covered. See you in the morning." Ending the call he told Martin, "You're off until Monday."

 

"How'd you explain the pills to the clinic?" Martin demanded. Hearing Jack's voice had brutally brought home how precarious his situation was. He couldn't go any longer without knowing how his theft had been dealt with. Danny was telling too many lies, taking too many risks trying to protect him. Martin didn't see how Danny could think he was worth it.

 

"We got lucky," conceded Danny, not the least bit thrown by the sudden topic change. "They hadn't gotten around to taking inventory yet. I told the nurse that the bottle somehow got mixed up in our missing person's file and I was returning them. As far as the clinic's paperwork is concerned the pills never left the premises." Danny didn't add that he'd had a minor panic attack when the nurse had opened the bottle to verify that the pill type and count were right. He'd wanted to believe Martin had been honest about not consuming the pills, but it wasn't wise to take the word of an addict in withdrawal. In the silence, Danny decided that now was as good a time as any to broach a new topic. "I've got a friend over at the Phoenix Center that owes me a favor. She should be able to get you in for an evaluation, maybe even as early as tomorrow."

 

"Call her," consented Martin aware that he needed more than just Danny's help. The Phoenix Center had a solid reputation among drug rehab facilities. Martin saw his answer brought Danny's first honest grin of the evening but Martin was hard pressed to respond in kind. Despite how hopeful Danny had become, Martin didn't think anything would get him his life back. "I should probably turn in my resignation on Monday."

 

"What?" demanded Danny clearly shocked.

 

"We both know I've been nothing but a liability these last couple months," said Martin.

 

"Admittedly, the past few months haven't been your best but that doesn't mean you should quit. Now is not the time to be making career decisions. Let me set up the evaluation, so you can find out what level of treatment they're going to want to put you through. If you need to, you can always request some extended personal time."

 

Martin was shaking his head. Can't Danny see how impossible my situation is?

 

"Just wait for the evaluation," cajoled Danny, "You'll have plenty of time to make choices once we have a better idea of how things stand."

 

Something in Danny's plea had Martin nodding his head. He didn't really think the evaluation would make any difference, but if Danny needed him to wait he would. After all, he'd trusted Danny this far.

 

"Great," said Danny, "Now let's get moving. I promised Jack I'd get you home in one piece."

 

Jack didn't usually visit the apartments of his team members when they called in sick. He tried to tell himself that he was only here because the Walzak files were due, but that was just an excuse. He just couldn't seem to stop worrying about his people. He was probably overcompensating for the loss of his family. When it had been decided that Maria would have full custody, Jack had turned all of his focus on his job and the team. Then Viv had gotten sick and Martin and Danny had been ambushed. Danny might not have been hurt bad, but his behavior for weeks after the shooting had been so reckless as to border on suicidal. Jack had had to very publicly call him on it, threatening his job, before Danny had settled back to his normal, trustworthy, if still somewhat cocky self. Then just when he'd started to feel good about having both Viv and Martin back in the field, his Dad had died. He knew the two had nothing to do with each other, but that didn't stop his instincts from screaming that he needed to keep close the few people he still had left in his life. Though, he really could have done without the big hug from Danny, even if the fruit basket was a nice thought.

 

Jack took a quick glance at his watch as he neared Martin's door. It was early but Martin was an early riser, and if he'd slept late, well, at least Jack had brought bagels and juice for breakfast. He knocked on the door and was pleased to hear an almost immediate response.

 

"You should have taken the keys with you when you . . ." Martin opened the door and paused. "Jack?"

Jack smiled at the befuddled look on Martin's face. "I take it, you were expecting someone else," assumed Jack.

 

"Danny said he'd bring breakfast back," said Martin.

 

"Then I guess we'll have extra's," said Jack as he lifted the bag of 'Bobby's Bagels'. When Martin just stood in the doorway, confused, Jack prompted, "You going to invite me in?"

 

"Of course." Martin stepped back to grant Jack entrance. "Come on in." As Jack took his bag to the small table in the kitchen, Martin tried to figure out why his boss was there. Sure, Jack had been to his apartment before. He'd visited twice during Martin's recent convalescence, but Martin wasn't recovering from work related gunshot wounds this time. Deciding Jack's appearance must have something to do with work, Martin moved over to his computer. "I finished up the Santini report. I was going to fax it to you, but I can print it up instead," offered Martin.

 

"I was actually hoping to find out where your Walzek paperwork was, but I'll take Santini too," informed Jack. Once he had the bagels and juice set out, Jack paused to take a good look at his agent, and he didn't like what he saw. Martin looked even paler than when he'd first returned to work after the shooting. He had prominent, dark circles under his eyes indicating a substantial lack of sleep. The usual confidence with which he moved was missing, leaving Martin's motions tentative at best. Even the too loose sweat pants and the plain gray t-shirt, through which Jack could count several of Martin's ribs, broadcast the fragile state of Martin's health. "You haven't put much weight back on," Jack observed bluntly.

 

Martin looked down self-consciously. "My doctor said I should expect some digestive problems after an injury like mine." Though Martin wasn't sure how much of his recent nausea could be blamed on the shooting injury and how much came from the abuse of too many painkillers or even the added stress of withdrawal that detox brought. It was hard not to fidget beneath Jack's searching gaze. Martin fervently willed his printer to work faster.

 

"I think your computer can handle printing up the files without you hovering over it," teased Jack. "Sit. Eat." Martin hesitantly joined Jack at the table selecting a wheat bagel from those offered. Satisfied that he'd done what he could to help Martin address his weight issue, Jack moved on. "So when did you have time to finish the Santini report?"

 

Martin was relieved to hear the topic move away from his personal problems. "I did it early this morning when I couldn't fall back to sleep." Martin had stumbled to the living room around 4:30 am to find Danny at the computer putting the finishing touches on his own paperwork. With a bit of coaxing, Danny convinced him to consume an apple, nutrition bar and a bottle of Gatorade. Counting the banana and water he'd stomached the night before, it was his second meal in three days. As he ate Danny talked about the basic 12-step program that Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous followed. Several of the steps had sounded pretty easy to Martin, but others had sounded dauntingly unpleasant. Danny had spoken candidly about his own experiences with the program and how it had helped him get sober and stay sober. The self-deprecating humor that showed as he spoke of his own stalls and stutters on the road to sobriety only increased the respect Martin held for his friend. Martin wasn't sure he could face his addiction with the same courage Danny had shown.

 

"Did you get any sleep last night?" asked Jack doubtfully.

 

Martin started. He'd been so lost in his memories that he'd momentarily forgotten he wasn't alone. Pay attention! He scolded himself. Jack was sure to notice if his mind kept taking side trips to La La Land. "I got almost four straight hours," Martin assured.

 

"That's not much," countered Jack.

 

"It was the best night of sleep I've had in weeks." Crap! I did not just say that out loud, denied Martin.

 

Jack's now worried look assured he had. "Have you talked to Lisa Harris about your problems sleeping?"

 

"No." Martin stood as he scrambled for some plausible excuse not to. Because if Jack ordered him to see Dr. Harris and he had to disclose his addiction it would become part of his Bureau record and then . . .

 

"For crying out loud, you're shaking like a leaf." Jack also stood, trying to direct Martin back to his chair. "What the hell is going on with you, Martin?" Jack demanded in exasperation.

 

Martin was granted a reprieve when Jack's attention was drawn to the opening front door.

 

"Good news, Martin," announced Danny as he bumped the door open while juggling several sacks of groceries and a medium duffle bag, "I got you a 10:30 am appointment," he turned sideways to jiggle Martin's key loose, "at Phoenix Center with a Dr. Elizabeth Zimmer."

 

Martin probably could have warned Danny before he said too much, but part of Martin knew he deserved this. He watched as Jack absorbed Danny's words. It took only a second for the concerned friend to be replaced by the trained investigator. Jack's eyes scanned the apartment the same way they'd examined hundreds of crime scenes before. The most obvious signs in the room didn't indicate all that much. The pile of blankets and discarded tie on the couch only told where Danny had slept. The crumpled wrappers and empty Gatorade bottles simply spoke of an unusual midnight snack.

 

Far more telling was the tiny sobriety pin on the end table. Danny had pulled it out of his wallet a couple hours ago to show Martin. "9 years, 2 months and 21 days," he'd said quietly, "it might sound impressive but the only reason I got this far was by taking it one day at a time. Every morning I wake up and make the decision not to drink that day. Don't think about never having another painkiller; just decide you're not going to have any painkillers today. You did it yesterday and you can do it today." It had been almost painful to listen to the certainty in Danny's voice. Martin didn't feel he'd done anything to warrant the faith Danny was giving him. Still, if Danny believed he could do it maybe . . . Martin sought Danny's eyes past Jack's shoulder. His friend was looking guilty and apologetic, clearly aware he'd let the cat out of the bag.

 

Martin tried to send him a reassuring look, but Jack's gaze was now fixed on the open bathroom and its suspiciously empty medicine cabinet where Danny had confiscated everything stronger than toothpaste. As if Danny's reference to Phoenix Center combined with Martin's obvious sweating, shakes and distraction weren't enough for Jack to build a profile of an addict.

 

"You're detoxing," stated Jack in quiet inevitability. Martin didn't say anything, just closed his eyes and accepted that life, as he knew it, was over. Several thumps and a thud brought Martin's eyes back to Danny, who had just dumped his bags and was moving forward apparently to try to talk Jack out of his obvious conclusions. Jack went on the offensive before he ever got a chance. "You lied to me!" he accused.

 

Danny was taken aback by the intensity of Jack's rage. "I didn't lie," he explained, "I just omitted a few details."

"Don't try to play me, Danny," warned Jack. "'A real bad reaction to some medication his Doctor prescribed.'" He quoted. "You made a deliberate statement with intent to deceive. That's lying!"

 

"Maybe," conceded Danny unwilling to challenge Jack on that particular point, "but I had other priorities at the time."

"My priority," declared Jack, "is keeping my team safe. How the hell am I supposed to do that if I don't know what condition my people are in?" A small voice is Jack's head whispered, This is Vivian's collapse all over again.

 

Something about Jack's tone got Danny's back up. "This wasn't about you or your priorities, Jack. It was about helping Martin get sober." The two men were now toe-to-toe, leaving Martin in the background to watch in growing sickness.

 

"How long have you known?" demanded Jack. "How long have you been hiding this?" Jack knew the questions were cruel even before Danny reared back like he'd been sucker-punched. At the same time he had to ask. As much as he wanted to believe that Danny would never cover something of this magnitude for long, just yesterday he'd believed the idea of Martin becoming addicted to anything more dangerous than Twinkies absurd. He needed Danny to deny his accusations, needed to know that he hadn't somehow missed seeing Martin disintegrate before his eyes.

 

"Stop it! Please stop," Martin begged in a broken voice. "Danny didn't know anything until last night. I screwed up. I'm the one you should be yelling at." The small tirade seemed to eat up the last of Martin's reserves. He fell back to his seat burying his face in his trembling hands. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he apologized not even sure who he was apologizing to.

 

Danny took in Martin's hopeless posture and knew exactly where it would lead. "Don't do it, Martin. You promised, no big decisions until after the evaluation." He knelt down beside his friend trying to get Martin to look at him.

 

"Right," whispered Martin, "like Jack's going to want a drug addict on his team.

 

Jack was stunned by the bitterness of Martin's tone. Then he realized what Martin was implying. He'd been so focused on the threat of losing Martin to drug addiction that it had never occurred to him that he could lose Martin another way. "Wait a minute. Don't start putting words in my mouth," said Jack gruffly. He knew he needed to start working the problem or he'd never get Martin back. "My only issues with our current situation are: 1. I wasn't aware of it. And 2. You're not yet in treatment. The first issue has already been dealt with and the second can be handled this morning if I heard Danny right. As to whether I want an addict on my team, I seem to have managed just fine with Danny on my team for the past several years, what's one more?" Jack knew he'd said the right thing when Danny smiled up at him. "I can even get the ball rolling with HR to cover you treatment costs."

 

"No," Martin shook his head. "I'm going to be paying for treatment out of pocket. I can't let this get on my bureau record."

 

"Martin, you're talking about a butt-load of money," said Danny. "You can handle the hit to your career this might cause without going broke."

 

"If this were about only my career . . ."

 

"You're worried about someone using your addiction in a political gambit against your father," guessed Jack. Martin nodded. He could accept the consequences of his actions. But he wasn't willing to let others suffer for them, especially his father. "All right," said Jack. "We'll figure something out, but no more hiding your problems from Danny and me." When Martin nodded again in acceptance, Jack sighed with relief. Maybe he wouldn't lose Martin after all.

 

Martin was certain he looked like a slob. Next to him Danny was dressed for work, looking as stylish as always even with his messy hair. Martin on the other hand was wearing jeans and a T-shirt because he had decided it would be silly to dress up just to sign in to drug rehab. He'd never expected to feel so vulnerable without his typical suit and tie. Then again maybe those usual trappings, his suit and tie even his guns and badge, were part of what made it so easy to pretend that nothing was wrong. After all, he couldn't be an effective agent and a drug addict at the same time, right?

 

Martin tried to focus on the paperwork in his hands. Checking off little boxes was easy enough to do even if the questions were a bit embarrassing. He'd been pleased to note only a small number of yeses were checked. The next page of address and contact information should have been just as easy but small tremors in his hand were making a mess of his normally neat script. Martin flexed his hand, shook it a bit and then tried to write again. He only wrote three letters before the tremors started again, rendering his handwriting illegible.

 

"Relax," soothed Danny, "I've got it." He took the paper and pencil to safeguard them from Martin's mounting frustrations. Danny quickly filled in what he knew leaving the insurance section blank since Martin intended to pay upfront. "Who do you want me to put down as your emergency contact?"

 

Martin's standard reply to such a question, putting his parents down, was unthinkable. He was used to his father's disapproval, but he really hated the thought of seeing disappointment in his mother's eyes. Realistically, Jack and Danny were the only options and Martin felt he'd already put Jack in a bad position by asking him to withhold Martin's addiction from their superiors. "Would you mind being my contact?" Martin asked hesitantly.

 

Danny smiled. "It would be my pleasure, Brother." He lifted his fist, palm down and knuckles out. Martin copied the gesture moving his fist to knock Danny's, sealing the deal.

 

"Fitzgerald," a stout, 50 something Hispanic nurse approached. "When you're done with those forms we need a urine sample." She dropped a small plastic container in Danny's lap.

 

Martin took the plastic from Danny's hand and wondered how anyone looking at the two of them could assume Danny was the one here for treatment. "Actually, I'm Fitzgerald," he clarified.

 

"Really?" she asked in a clipped, slightly accented tone. "If you're Fitzgerald then why aren't you filling out Fitzgerald's paperwork?" From the expression on her face it looked like Martin had already managed to violate some cardinal rule.

 

"His hands were shaking," defended Danny.

 

"So are most of the other addicts' but those that want to get clean somehow manage to fill out their paperwork." The nurse turned her dark eyes toward Martin. "Make sure you fill the container at least half way," she instructed before walking away.

 

"Don't mind Rosa," said a tall, pony-tailed brunette. "She's always a bit standoffish with the new patients."

 

"Rachel," greeted Danny with a hug, "thank you so much for getting us in. I owe you big time. Martin, this is my friend, Rachel."

Martin stood to meet yet another person he'd become indebted to. "It's a pleasure," he stated with an offered hand. "Are you sure I didn't do something to tick her off?"

 

Rachel appraised Martin for several seconds and then decided to try to give an honest explanation. "Obviously no one wants to enter rehab. The people who enroll in our program are here because their lives are out of control; because they've let their addictions dictate who and what they are."

 

Martin forced himself to hold eye contact. Not an easy task when listening to a complete stranger itemize his weaknesses. He knew, of course, that she was speaking of addicts in general but he doubted there was any more fitting description of his current state than 'out of control'.

 

"But our biggest problem is that many of the people who walk through these doors still don't believe they're addicts. They come here because of court orders, family ultimatums; maybe they were required to, to keep their jobs. And for us it's just about impossible to help them because as far as they are concerned we're just some test they have to pass before they can get back to their lives and their drugs. So when new patients check in we tend to size them up; look for the ones that really want to be here so we can give them as much support as possible. Little things like do they check themselves in, are they polite or talking trash, do they volunteer information, tell us a lot about a person's prospects."

 

"A while back, an intern of ours did a study for one of his graduate courses. He kept track of who filled out their own registration paperwork and who didn't and then checked on them periodically after their release. He found that those that filled out there own paperwork were eight times more likely to be clean after three months and thirteen times more likely to still be drug free after six months." Rachel shrugged her shoulders. "With numbers like that it made sense to start looking at who filled out their registration forms."

 

Without a word Martin accepted the forms back from Danny, determined to finish them and to hell with how sloppy they might be.

"This was my fault," explained Danny indicating the forms. "He didn't ask, I just took them when I saw his hands were shaking."

Rachel smiled again. "Relax, Danny. Martin's not going to get into trouble just because you filled in a couple of lines."

 

"Not even with Rosa?" he asked.

 

"I'll talk to Rosa," she assured.

 

"You should probably get to work soon," suggested Martin. "I can handle this and there's no need to leave Jack short two agents." Danny looked uncertain but Martin pressed on. "Come on, man, what are you going to do here, help me fill my sample container?" He waved the plastic cup teasingly. "I've got my cell phone. I'll call you if I need anything." Martin hoped he was being convincing. It wasn't fair to have Danny constantly shift his normal activities just to suit Martin's current neediness.

 

"You'd better," warned Danny. "I want to be kept up to date with everything that's going on. Then I'll come pick you up when you're all done here." Danny stood and slipped his coat back on. "You're sure?" he asked one more time.

 

"I'm good. Get out of here," assured Martin even as he wished he felt half as confident as he sounded.

 

Danny caught another quick hug from Rachel, slipping a quiet, "Take care of him," in her ear. It was a plea she'd heard many variations of since coming to work here four years ago. She just smiled in reply, having learned better than to offer promises or guarantees.

 

Danny was almost to the door when Martin called out to him, "Danny," his partner turned mid-stride. "I . . ." Martin stalled on the right words. "Thanks . . . for everything." Thanks for taking the drugs but not turning me in; talking me through the dry heaves and the night sweats and the cravings; especially for defending me from Jack's wrath and Rosa's distain. Thanks for the dozen acts of friendship given over the last fourteen hours that combined to, if not save my life, at least give me a fighting chance.

 

Danny smiled, understanding what was left unsaid. He pointed at his partner. "Call me, later," he ordered and headed out the door.

Jack left his office to join Vivian by the white board, which held the picture of their newest missing person. "What have we got so far?"

"Allison Brands," started Viv motioning to the photo of the 16-year-old African American with long wavy hair. "She's the foster daughter of Roy and Joyce Timtishum. She did run away from one of her previous foster homes, but they later had their certification pulled and were charged with child endangerment, though the charges were eventually dropped. Since she's been living with the Timtishum's her grades have improved, her social worker claims she's blossomed, making friends and joining clubs. The Timtishum's recently petitioned to adopt her. She was last seen walking home from a study group at a friend's house. Elena is interviewing the friend now. The NYPD detective that caught the case seems to have written it off as another runaway scenario, but I just don't see anything for her to be running from."

 

"Any red flags with the family?" Jack asked. The odds said NYPD was probably right; some kids were chronic runaways, but Jack trusted Viv's instincts.

 

"Not with the family, but the foster father mentioned Allison getting some vulgar, harassing phone calls. Said they stopped about a weak and a half ago when he intercepted one and threatened to turn the Caller ID information over to the police if the caller didn't stop the harassment. The messages got erased but our tech guys are trying to see if they can get anything off the tapes, and I've got Sam checking the phone records to see who they came from. Any idea when Danny and Martin will be in?"

Jack didn't look up from Allison's school records. Wishing the day would pass with out any of the girls noticing their co-worker's absences had obviously been too much to hope for. "Danny should be here in another thirty minutes or so. Martin called in sick."

 

"Martin called in sick?" asked Samantha she joined the two other agents. "Our Martin? He wasn't shot again, was he?" The hint of worry in her tone belied the joke.

 

Glancing at his former lover, Jack wondered if Sam was really over her relationship with Martin. Not the he had any right to wonder. He hadn't even known there was a relationship at first, only figuring things out later when he noticed tension between the two. After witnessing several such tense moments he'd roughly ordered Sam to keep it out of work. When he'd realized he was being an ass and tried to lend a supportive ear, Sam had shut him out. He'd eventually learned from Danny, that Martin had been trying to move the relationship out into the open for months but Sam kept balking. Martin had finally called it quits, tired of being Sam's dirty little secret. Jack felt a little guilty about that, knowing Sam had learned at least some of those behaviors from his treatment of her. "He's not shot," he assured calmly, "Just recovering from a bad drug reaction, trying to get his stomach back." Jack had decided to stick with Danny's cover story until Martin was ready to tell the others the truth. He didn't think Martin would want to hide his situation from the rest of the team forever.

 

"I should have known," admitted Vivian. "He seemed off all morning yesterday and rushed right to the bathroom when we got back from our interviews. I really wish he would have said something."

 

That caused Jack to send Viv a censuring look. "Because you, of course, would never try to hide the state of your ill health," he said pointedly.

 

Viv didn't look even slightly abashed, "What? Is it too much to hope my friends might learn from my mistakes?"

Jack grinned a little at her quick comeback. God, but he had stubborn, obstinate crew of agents. But they're my stubborn, obstinate crew. "It would seem so," he said out loud, "Now back to our missing person . . ."

 

Danny tried to focus on the interview Jack was doing. The sleazebag, and there was no other way to describe him, was explaining how he couldn't have been the one to make Allison's threatening phone calls because he'd been out of town attending a family reunion two weeks ago and why would he want to call some black girl anyway. Danny noticed the clock behind Mr. Sleazebag. Two hours and thirty-four minutes since he'd heard from Martin. He tried to tell himself that wasn't a bad thing; evaluations took time. Besides he trusted Rachel as both a friend and a professional. She wouldn't steer Martin wrong. He pulled his attention back to the present when he heard Jack's tone shift from curious to frustrated.

 

"Someone made those calls from this house Mr. Sleesman. And unless you tell me who it could have been besides you, you're going to find yourself downtown in one of our holding cells facing charges of harassment and endangering a minor," Jack warned.

Danny's cell phone rang. After a quick look at Jack, Danny stepped out of the room without bothering to excuse himself. "Taylor."

 

"It's me," said Martin.

 

Danny felt an immediate wave of relief roll through him. "Hey, how's it going?"

 

"Okay, so far," Martin started, "I wanted to let you know that I'd be unreachable for the next couple of hours. I'm going to undergo a rapid detox procedure."

 

"Procedure? What . . . is it safe?" The relief he felt just seconds ago was pushed aside by new concerns.

 

"Yeah, they just put me to sleep and flush out all of the remaining drugs in my system. It's supposed to get me out of withdrawal and on to recovery. I talked to my regular doctor and he agreed this was the best option available." Martin's words sounded good but Danny could hear a bit of nervousness in his friend's voice.

 

"So how long does it take? I can be there to take you home when it's done," Danny offered. Just then Jack walked past indicating that Danny should follow. He gathered the last few details from Martin and ended the call as he trailed Jack down the stairs.

 

"So?" demanded Jack in his most imperious, you're going to tell me now voice.

 

Danny didn't take offence. He was actually a bit relieved to have someone to share the news with. "He's undergoing something called Rapid Detox . . ."

 

"I've heard of it. It lets the patients skip most of the physical withdrawal symptoms. My understanding is that the long-term success rates depend greatly on the type of follow-up program being used," said Jack as they climbed into the car.

 

"Well you can ask his Doctor about their program when we go pick him up this evening," declared Danny.

 

"We?" asked Jack.

 

"Martin said Dr. Zimmer wanted to talk to you about how to best curtail Martin's work to facilitate his treatment. Might as well do it tonight," explained Danny.

 

Jack nodded pleased to hear he'd have some input into helping Martin get back on his feet. "Viv mentioned something this morning about Martin acting unwell and rushing to the bathroom yesterday. Has he been going through withdrawal that long?" Jack hated to believe he'd somehow missed all the clues to Martin's condition.

 

Danny on the other hand was feeling a little unwell at the thought of telling Jack the depths Martin's addiction had driven him to. But lying or omitting weren't options. They'd agreed there would be no more hiding of what was happening to Martin. "Actually, Martin was in the bathroom trying to convince himself to flush some stolen drugs down the toilet . . ."

 

"What?" Vesuvius probably had a smaller eruption.

 

" . . . He didn't, but he did give them to me," maybe give was a slight exaggeration, "and I convinced the clinic that they'd just accidentally gotten mixed up with the files we requested and they took the drugs back, no problem." He summed up the incident as quickly as he could, hoping to avoid Jack's impending explosion.

 

Jack was torn between anger and disappointment. He knew that thousands of addicts commonly lied and stole to feed their addictions. But damn it, that wasn't Martin.

 

Uncomfortable with the silence Danny ventured, "I know it sounds crazy, but in a way I think it was a good thing. Those stolen pills shook Martin up. They made him realize what he was doing to himself."

 

With a frustrated breath Jack forced himself to accept what Danny said and turn his attention back to their case. "Call Viv and let her know we're heading to the Grubb house."

 

"Grubb, isn't that the foster family that Allison ran away from nine months ago?" asked Danny.

 

"Yes, apparently Mr. Sleesman gave his house keys to their son, Josh, so he could feed Sleesman's pet snake while he was out of town." Jack started the car and got back in the hunt.

 

Martin knew he should be feeling better. The detox was over; there was no more pounding headache, nausea, tremors or sweats. He'd managed to sleep off in a couple hours what should have been days of abject misery. Yet for all the symptoms it erased it didn't quell the need, the craving that had been growing within him for weeks. He had to admit a part of him had been hoping for a quick fix, some miracle cure that would eliminate his addiction. Apparently that wasn't going to happen. The worst part was that even as he knew his addiction would destroy his life, nearly had already; it didn't ease the cravings it just made them worse. Painkillers had become the forbidden fruit he couldn't stop obsessing about, leaving him with only Danny's mantra 'one day at a time' to cling to.

 

Dr. Zimmer and Dr. Carlyle were getting along well on the other side of the circular conference table. When Martin had called Dr. Carlyle to get his opinion on rapid detox he certainly hadn't expected to see the man there when he woke from anesthesia. Dr. Carlyle seemed to think he should have caught on to Martin's drug problem earlier and was trying to make up for it. Next to the good doctors was Danny's friend Rachel. In her new role as Martin's caseworker, she was filling in a calendar with a schedule of therapy sessions, group sessions, recovery workshops, Narcotics Anonymous meetings and follow-up evaluations.

 

Rachel had already given Martin his first lesson in addict recovery. Under several layers of skin on the back of his upper arm Martin now had a 2cm long implant that would remain virtually unnoticed as long as he remained drug free. It was suppose to ease the craving (though he had yet to notice a difference) but Rachel also warned it could have some nasty side effects if he took a large dose of any opiate. He had a pamphlet with a long list of all the drugs he needed to avoid including liquor and several over the counter cough and cold medicines. A medical bracelet warned potential doctors of the medication he was taking. The implant was good for three months after which he'd be reevaluated to decide if he was ready to stay clean without it.

 

Martin had also attended his first Narcotics Anonymous meeting. The issue of sponsorship had been brought up but nothing was decided yet. Now he was waiting for Danny and Jack to show up so they could try to figure out how to salvage his career.

Jack entered the room first, moving to shake hands with the others as they introduced themselves. Danny slipped past Jack to claim the seat on Martin's right, simply nodding to the others. "So how are you doing?" Danny asked.

 

"Better," Martin answered honestly. He was still a long way from good, but at least it no longer seemed the impossible goal it was last night. Danny smiled a bit pleased with his answer.

 

A nudge turned Martin's attention to his left where Jack had taken a seat. "You look better," said Jack in a surprisingly tentative voice.

Martin grinned. "I feel better," he echoed his response to Danny. His day had been both physically exhausting and psychologically humbling. Even with his little detox nap it had seemed as though it would never end. Yet Jack and Danny's arrival somehow made the long trial worthwhile.

 

Dr Elizabeth Zimmer was explaining to Jack and Danny how the Rapid Detox had gone, as well as how the implant would work. Martin

only half listened as he'd heard much of what was being said before.

 

"Is this the same stuff I've heard of some alcoholics taking?" asked Danny.

 

"Yes," replied Dr. Zimmer, "we encourage our patients to avoid all types of drugs and alcohol, except when medically required. This prevents exchanging one addiction for another."

 

"Is that a big concern?" asked Jack.

 

"It is when the patient has a history of previous addiction like Martin," explained Zimmer.

 

Several seconds passed before Martin realized what his new psychiatrist just said. "I think you have me confused with another patient," corrected Martin. "I've never been addicted to anything before, unless you count caffeine."

 

Paging through Martin's file Rachel concurred, "I don't have any mention of past addictions."

 

Dr. Zimmer looked a bit puzzled but it was Martin's regular physician, Dr. Carlyle who spoke. "After you called me about undergoing the detox procedure, I checked through your medical records to make sure I hadn't missed anything. Martin, I talked to Dr. Heralds."

"Okay." Martin wasn't sure what else to say. He remembered the tall, humorous man that had been his doctor for most of his childhood. But he didn't see what he had to do with the supposed past addiction.

 

"Dr. Heralds told me," Carlyle started gently, "that when you were thirteen you developed what he termed 'a strong chemical dependency' to codeine while recovering from a traumatic fall."

 

Martin could only shake his head in confused denial. Dr. Heralds was hardly the sort to make up stories but how could he not remember being addicted to codeine?

 

Jack and Danny shared concerned looks from either side of their friend. What little self-confidence Martin had gathered during the day seemed to evaporate beneath Carlyle's words.

 

"Do you remember falling at a construction site?" asked Dr. Carlyle. He sincerely hoped his information was correct. "Dr. Heralds mentioned a compound fracture to your right leg and a broken . . ."

 

"Wrist," Martin finished. "I was lucky. I remember that."

 

"Lucky to have broken your leg and wrist?" questioned Danny.

 

"Lucky I survived, John didn't," Martin spoke quietly.

 

"Can you tell us about it?" Dr. Elizabeth Zimmer entered the conversation again. She was clearly hoping his answer would help explain the confusion regarding his past.

 

Martin tried to strengthen his resolve. It was bad enough that Danny and Jack had witnessed the humiliation of his drug withdrawal. Now they'd hear the details of the most horrific event of his childhood. Yet asking them to leave was impossible. "We were messing around where we shouldn't have been," Martin started. "It had been raining for several days and the housing construction site was abandoned. We were goofing around, pretending to be enemy spies. We started wrestling, and I guess we rolled too close to the stairwell 'cause suddenly we were falling. We landed in the basement with no way out because they hadn't built the stairs yet." Martin paused to sip from a cup of water before continuing. "I was obviously hurt but John seemed okay at first. I think we'd been screaming for help for about an hour when John started to complain that his stomach hurt. Soon he was curled up in a ball moaning and I was the only one screaming for help. John stopped moaning sometime after sunset." Martin brushed away the dampness in his eyes and cleared his throat. "I don't remember being found, just waking up in the hospital."

 

"That's not surprising," assured Dr. Carlyle. "According to Dr. Heralds you were in severe shock when you were found. Once you're parents knew you'd pull through they sent for specialists to make sure you would regain the full use of you wrist and leg. Dr. Heralds believed a lack of communication between your specialists contributed to you getting much higher dosages of codeine than a child should have received. When he realized you'd developed a dependency he wanted to wean you off them slowly, but your father said that wouldn't be necessary. He checked you out of the hospital and the two of you dropped out of sight for several weeks. Do you remember where you went when you left the hospital?"

 

"Yeah, a family cabin upstate," said Martin, a far away look coming to his eyes. "It was great, just the two of us. We worked on puzzles, watched movies, he taught me chess. He'd never taken leave to spend time with me before. I figured it was worth being sick to have him there."

 

"Sick?" prompted Dr. Zimmer.

 

Martin nodded, recognizing where her question would lead. "I was weak, feverish with muscle cramps and vomiting. When some neighbors stopped by my Dad told them I'd picked up a flu virus from the hospital." Martin met the psychiatrist's eyes. "But it wasn't the flu, it was withdrawal, wasn't it?"

 

She nodded, using silence to let Martin come to terms with his misremembered past at his own pace.

 

Martin shook his head at his own willful stupidity. "How could I not have known?"

 

"You were just a kid," replied Jack as if that explained everything.

 

Martin wasn't so ready to let himself off the hook. "I was old enough to understand what was happening to me. I should have realized . . ."

 

"What?" asked Jack, "that your father would lie? He did what he thought was best to protect his son." Jack was actually a bit impressed with Victor's actions. Not only had he managed to detox his teenage son with no one the wiser, but he'd also done it with such care and affection that Martin actually had fond memories of the incident. Whatever other problems the father and son had, Victor had clearly gone to great effort to be there for his son on that occasion. "You trusted your father. You didn't do anything wrong, Martin."

 

"Yes I did! I asked for the drugs. Every time a new nurse or doctor came in the room I asked for more," Martin confessed.

 

"Why would you do that, Martin?" asked Dr. Zimmer, the psychiatrist's voice becoming demanding for the first time.

 

"Because they were the only things that kept me from seeing them on his face!" Martin snapped.

 

Both of the doctors and Rachel looked confused, but Jack, having discovered more than one dead body, had an inkling of what Martin was implying. He didn't want to push Martin when he was so clearly on the edge, but instinct told him that Dr. Zimmer wasn't going to let this go until she knew the root of what had first driven Martin to seek out drugs. "What did you see on John's face? Was it maggots?" Jack ignored the gasp from Rachel.

 

Martin shook his head, refusing to surrender to Jack's oh-so-gentle interrogation. And he knew that's what this was; he'd seen Jack probe both suspects and witnesses too often not to recognize the technique. Hell, he'd already talked more about the incident than he had in the past twenty years. What more did they want from him? Except, though he could feel Danny's hand supportive on his shoulder, Danny hadn't warned Jack to back off. Which meant that Danny agreed with Jack. Shit, I don't want to do this; I really don't want to do this. "Some time during the night the clouds cleared away letting some moonlight shine down into the basement. There was noise over by John. When I looked over, he was dead; his left eye was just staring at me. His right eye . . . there were these two rats crawling on his head. They were feeding . . . eating . . ." tears were flowing down Martin's face unchecked and he could barely speak past his choked breaths.

 

Jack gently squeezed Martin's arm. "That's enough Martin, we get the picture," he whispered. The psychiatrist and the physician seemed to be taking Martin's newest revelation stoically enough, but Danny's friend, Rachel was looking decidedly green. Danny wrapped protective arms around their weeping friend just as Jack had known he would. Jack usually didn't mind playing the 'bad cop'. His ability to get into other people's heads and extract the necessary information was generally viewed as an asset. But as he watched Martin breakdown in Danny's arms he couldn't help but wonder had Martin ever actually faced the trauma of his friend's death or had he just buried it with his addiction? And was he really any better off for having it reveled? Jack felt Martin's arm shift beneath his hand and was a little surprised when Martin's hand clasped his.

 

Martin pulled back from Danny a bit, though he didn't look up to face him. "I just needed to stop seeing his face," Martin's voice pled for understanding.

 

Danny didn't let Martin maintain the distance he'd imposed. He shifted in his seat and pulled Martin back until their foreheads touched. "Post Traumatic Stress," Danny declared. "You couldn't cope on your own so you latched onto the only thing that seemed to help, because you didn't know any better. But you know better now. You know you have options and friends that will help you. You've beat this before; you can do it again." It was the one seed of hope Danny could pull from Martin's shattered past.

 

Martin didn't respond verbally. Instead, while maintaining his grip on Jack with his left hand, he slid his right hand up to the back of Danny's neck preventing any break in their physical contact. Watching his actions, Jack realized that at some point in the last twenty-four hours Danny had become Martin's lifeline. Dr. Zimmer seemed to be taking note of their connection too.

 

"Agent Taylor . . . can I call you Danny?" the psychiatrist started.

 

"What?" Danny snapped. Maybe the woman was just doing her job, and maybe shedding a light on the past would help Martin in the long run, but he didn't have to like what Martin had just gone through. And he knew Jack had only turned inquisitor to prevent her from doing the same.

 

"Have you given any consideration to becoming Martin's sponsor?"

 

The question was so unexpected that Danny was momentarily dumbfounded. "But I'm AA, wouldn't Martin need someone from Narcotics Anonymous?"

 

"Not necessarily," said Dr. Zimmer. "I've talked to some of the members of our Narcotics Anonymous group. AA and NA are similar enough that this wouldn't be the first time such an arrangement was made. You have over a year of sobriety. You're already acting as Martin's sponsor in all but name. And it's clear you'll be the one he turns to if he starts to have trouble. At this point, I can't see getting Martin another sponsor as anything but counter productive."

 

Danny was surprised to find that it was, in fact, possible to go from despising someone to blessing her presence in less than ten seconds. Still he couldn't accept without being certain how Martin felt. "What do you think?" Before Martin could answer he pressed on, "Because I've got to warn you: I won't be shy about giving you orders if I think for even a second that you've stepped out of line."

 

"There isn't anyone I'd rather take my orders from," Martin answered honestly.

 

"I'll do my best not to be too offended by that statement," Jack quipped dryly. Martin released a shaky laugh with Danny following suit a second later. As the friends eased back from their impromptu huddle, Martin wiped away his remaining tears and accepted several tissues from Rachel to blow his now runny nose. "I thought this meeting was supposed to be about fitting Martin's work schedule around his treatment program." Jack did his best to redirect attention to a hopefully less dramatic topic.

 

"You're right, of course," agreed Dr. Zimmer. "Martin will be treated as an outpatient, but that still requires a considerable time commitment on his part. He'll be surrendering the better part of his next three weekends to us. I understand that your jobs usually require extended hours, but I'd like to keep Martin limited to not more than forty hours a week during the initial phase of treatment and I'd also recommend you avoid putting Martin in the field for at least the next two weeks."

 

"I was thinking more along the lines of a month," countered Jack. He was certain putting Martin in the field too early had contributed to the current situation and he wasn't about to make the same mistake twice.

 

Martin cringed a little, but remained silent, knowing he'd thrown away any right he had to argue Jack's judgment.

Danny wasn't so willing to let Jack and Dr. Zimmer conspire to smother Martin. "How about we split the difference at three weeks, pending successful reevaluations between now and then," he suggested.

 

Jack noticed that Dr. Zimmer seemed pleased with the way Danny had stepped up to negotiate on Martin's behalf. "I can live with that," Jack conceded. He couldn't miss Martin's sigh of relief.

 

"Rachel has been working out a schedule for during the work week." Dr. Zimmer turned the meeting over to the caseworker.

 

"During the next two weeks Martin will need to be here every morning at 8:00 am, for either group therapy or progress evaluations with me, on alternating mornings. In week three those sessions will be cut down to three mornings, and then just one in week four. During the day both Dr. Zimmer and I will call Martin periodically to make sure he's coping. Danny, as his sponsor, you'll also need to maintain contact with Martin everyday. In the evenings, Martin, you can expect to spend at least two hours a night, starting a 6:00pm, for either individual therapy or recovery workshops followed by nightly Narcotics Anonymous meetings. It would be helpful if Danny could attend as many of the NA meetings as possible."

 

Danny nodded while Jack assured, "I'll give Danny the time he needs to attend the meetings."

 

"Again," continued Rachel, "the evening sessions will ease in weeks three and four, though the Narcotics Anonymous meetings are a nightly event so you should attend whenever you feel the need." Rachel paused before broaching her next suggestion. "I'm aware of Martin's reluctance to make his addiction common knowledge at work, but to be frank the FBI employs some of the best psychiatrists and psychologists in our profession. I think it would be beneficial for Martin to have easy access to such a professional, assuming you could find one you trusted to be discreet." Rachel held her breath uncertain how Martin would respond.

 

Martin didn't say anything. It was Jack who suggested, "What about Lisa Harris?"

 

"Wouldn't she have to report my addiction?" Martin worried.

 

"I think she'd be willing to bend the rules as long as she was assured you were getting the treatment you needed. If you want I can test her out first." Jack was pleased when he saw Martin agree.

 

"We'll I think that just about wraps things up," concluded Dr. Zimmer. "Dr. Carlyle as already taken care of updating Martin's medical records so there shouldn't be any more problems in that regard. So how about we let you gentlemen go. Martin, I look forward to seeing you in the morning." She offered her hand in farewell.

 

Martin shook it and then quickly donned his coat. He'd never been so eager to go home to his apartment.

 

Sitting back on Martin's couch Jack scanned through the TV Guide. "Looks like nothing but reruns tonight," he announced in disgust.

 

"There's got to be something interesting on," Danny said as he handed out the soda and chips, though Martin also got a turkey on wheat sandwich. "I want you to eat all of that sandwich before you start in on the junk food," he insisted.

 

"Yes, Mom," was Martin's sarcastic reply.

 

Danny looked to Jack for help. "Is he always this difficult?"

 

Jack glanced from Martin to Danny and then back to the TV Guide. "This is nothing," he dismissed, "just wait 'til he starts throwing around those defiant glares of his."

 

"That will never happen," declared Danny; "Martin wants to take orders from me. He said himself, 'there wasn't any one he'd rather take orders from'."

 

Martin slumped down in his chair and groaned. "I'm never going to live that down am I?"

 

"Not in a million years," smiled Danny.

 

Martin tried to redirect the conversation. "So what happened at work today?"

 

Jack had been grinning at the light-hearted banter between friends, but felt the smile slip at the thought of work. Was it a good idea to drag Martin back into that stress? "I guess you could chalk up today in the success category. We found the girl relatively unharmed. She'd been snatched by her former foster brother, who couldn't seem to decide if he loved her or hated her. She was scared and bruised but I think she'll recover."

 

"Especially if she lets the people around her help her," added Danny. He hoped Martin would hear the not-so-subtle message in his words. When Martin sent him an 'I get it Danny' grin, Danny let the conversation drop. "Hey, wait a minute. The red light it on. Martin, what's your TiVo recording?"

 

"Battlestar Galactica, but I need to watch last week's episode before I see this week's." Martin informed.

 

Jack pulled his nose out of the TV Guide again. "Battlestar Galactica, wasn't that some 70s show about a bunch of space jockeys fighting a race of tin cans?"

 

"That was the original series. The new series has the same premise but some of the Cylons can pass for human, making them harder to fight," explained Martin. He went to his movie shelf and selected a DVD. "If you're interested in watching it we should start at the beginning." Martin handed the DVD case to Danny.

 

"Whoa!" exclaimed Danny, "Who's the gorgeous blonde?"

 

"That would be the Cylon known as Six. She's quite good at seducing her victims," critiqued Martin as he slipped the movie into the player.

 

"If she's a Cylon, I'd surrender to her in a second," Danny joked suggestively.

 

"Give me that," Jack motioned for the case. Once in hand he scanned the summary on the back. Science Fiction wasn't really his thing but after today he was willing to indulge Martin in a little escapist fantasy.

 

Just as Martin sat back down his doorbell rang. "Don't worry, I'll get it." Danny motioned for the others to stay seated. He was surprised when he found Vivian on the other side of the door. "Viv, what are you doing here?" he asked.

 

"I could ask you the same thing," Vivian teased. "I just stopped by to drop off some soup for Martin." She entered the apartment. "I hope your feeling better," she directed to her pale friend. Noticing the junk food she lifted an eyebrow. "Soda and chips?"

 

"I told him to eat his sandwich first," Danny defended his part in the junk food scandal.

 

Vivian just rolled her eyes in response. "How's it going Jack?" Vivian asked a bit surprised to see Jack there too.

 

"Just fine, as long as I don't worry about the fact that Martin seems determined to convert me into Sci-fi fan," Jack waved the DVD case.

 

"Battlestar Galactica," she recognized. "Reggie loves that show. He can't decide if he's more in lust with that Cylon Six or Starbuck."

 

"Starbuck?" asked Danny, "Which one's Starbuck?" Clearly he'd been denied critical, need-to-know information.

 

"She's the spunky blonde with the vicious right hook," said Viv. "I'll just put this soup down and let the three of you get back to your male bonding." At least they aren't smoking cigars like Marcus sometimes insists on doing.

 

Martin was up and moving to the kitchen. "Let me help," he offered.

 

"I'm fine," Vivian assured moving several papers aside to make room for the soup container. It took a few seconds for the Phoenix Center emblem to make a connection in her brain. When it did her eyes immediately shot to Martin, who was looking suddenly afraid of her, or perhaps afraid of her reaction. Behind Martin, Danny stood both worried and protective, while on the couch, Jack's look was beyond protective to warning. Vivian gently set the papers down on the counter. "You'll probably want to heat the soup up before you eat it," instructed Vivian. Something about Martin's lost and confused look warned Viv that now was not a good time for confession or confrontation. Still she couldn't resist offering, "You know you can call me if you need anything." She pulled him into a quick hug and was pleasantly surprised when he took a second to hug her back.

 

"Thanks Viv," came the relieved whisper just before he let her go. Then Martin walked her to the door, locking up behind her.

 

"You okay, Martin?" asked Danny.

 

Martin nodded. "I want to tell the rest of the team what's going on. It's not fair to leave Sam in the dark and if Elena is going to be picking up the slack from my curtailed work schedule she has a right to know why."

 

"When do you want to tell them?" asked Jack not the least bit surprised by Martin's decision.

 

"Monday morning," decided Martin. He felt it was best to just get it over with.

 

"So, are we ready to watch some sexy Cylons?" quipped Danny breaking the tension.

 

"It's a good thing the fate of humanity doesn't rest in you hands." Martin condemned darkly.

 

"Just start the movie already," ordered Jack, and the three settled in for the show.

 

The End