Title: "In Between"
Author: monimala
Fandom: Suzanne Brockmann, Team Sixteen.
Rating/Classification: SAC, angst, mild language.
Disclaimer: Nope, they're not mine. All Suzanne Brockmann's.
Summary: Just what the title makes it sound like...this take place "in between" the novels _Over the Edge_ and _Out of Control_. Just some character stuff.

They suggested he stop taking her calls. The ubiquitous "They." People that even the great, self-contained, Max Bhagat couldn't run ram-shod over. Psych. "We feel it's hampering the recovery process, Max. You need to let her go."

"What the fuck do you mean 'let her go'?" he'd wanted to demand, before remembering he didn't do things like cuss in public. Instead, he'd murmured, "You think I don't *know* that every time I talk to Gina I'm reminding her of her ordeal? That I'm holding back her healing?"

"No," They'd said, looking at him with clinical sympathy. "Not Gina's. *Yours.*"

His. His healing. What did he have to be healing from? He had laughed, then, but as the phone rang in his office and he listened to it wail, he was suddenly glad he didn't have to hear the hopeful note in her voice as she said, shyly, "Hey, Max!"...because it was always tinged with the echo of her screaming and pleading and saying, "no, no, no."

Starrett had thrown up right there, in front of everyone...spreading empathetic gossip throughout his team. Max hadn't thrown up until weeks later. He'd bypassed the Ladybug, knowing it was the place all the SEALS favored, and hit some dive a few blocks down...downed shots until he couldn't see straight. He had a vague memory of Jules finding him in the bathroom and running cold water over a paper towel as he puked. There had been no mention, the next morning, of his unintentional trip to a gay bar...or of his weakness.

So, he stopped taking her calls.

But he couldn't stop dreaming of her voice. Her face.

He couldn't stop knowing that he hadn't done enough to save her.

***

They had to stitch together some of the worst tears inside her. She pictured herself looking like a game day baseball...tracks of black thread framing her cervix. The doctor assured her that there had been no uterine damage, but she would probably be safest in choosing C-sections over natural childbirth. At least, he'd assured her that before he'd realized how stupid it was to talk about sex-related activity with a rape survivor and turned a ghastly shade of puke green.

She'd closed her eyes against him, murmured something like, "It's okay," so he wouldn't feel like he got his medical degree out of a Cracker Jack box. And, really, it *was* okay, because she didn't think she had much of a shot of convincing Max to give her babies if he wouldn't even pick up the phone when she called.

She wondered what his superiors had told him...what the shrinks had told him. Maybe that it was "hampering her recovery"? That he was growing "unnaturally attached" to her? All she remembered was that his low, smooth, voice...the shadow of him outside the cockpit windows...had been her lifeline. How "unnaturally attached" could that be? She'd held on because of him. She'd fought because of him. She wasn't punching her idiot doctors in the face because of him.

But sometimes, she turned her face into her mother's shoulder and cried herself to sleep wondering why he didn't come to see her anymore. "I don't get it, Ma...what did I do...? What did I do...?" Didn't he understand that she trusted him? That if...that if he broke that trust then he was just as bad as Bob...who had talked to her and let her connect and then hurt her anyway?

In the light of day, thoughts like that weren't foremost on her mind...because Max Bhagat was everything good and strong and beautiful in the world...nothing like the men who had ripped off her shorts and...and...and Max was not a rapist. He was not like them. He'd helped her through it. He had talked her through it.

And now he wasn't talking at all.

***

The most horrible words in the world were "Do you, Roger Starrett, take Mary Lou Morrison to be your lawful wedded wife?"

He'd wanted to say "no." Worse than that, he'd wanted to repeat the vows saying "Alyssa Locke." I, Roger Starrett, take you, Alyssa Locke, to be my lawful wedded wife. In sickness and in health, in drunkenness and sobriety, dressed and naked, amongst tangos and civs, until death do us part.

He was a good guy. The kind of guy who took responsibility for his mistakes. The kind of guy who married you if he knocked you up. He wasn't a good enough guy to keep from hating her for it.

And he wasn't even sure which "her" he meant.

***

Between Tyra and Jules, she was going stark raving mad. Okay, that wasn't exactly true. Between Tyra, Jules, and *Sam Starrett*, she was going stark raving mad.

She must have been born under a bad sign or maybe there was a cosmic "kick me" sign on her back, but having a man she didn't even *like* most of the time give her spectacular orgasms every six months, tell her he loved her, and then go off and marry someone else...it wasn't normal.

Nothing about this was normal.

Seeing Sam cry in Kazbekistan should have been her first clue.

Or maybe getting drunk the first time.

And the second.

And her sister and her partner couldn't seem to resist reminding her. She was stupid and self-centered and she'd used the tough-talking, marshmallow-center, white cowboy like a Kleenex and tossed him away and she'd, somehow, still expected everything to work out like it did in the movies.

But there were no happy endings. Because Sam was married. And about to be a father. And she had to move on.

***

He was on the market again. Adam had moved out, citing irreconcilable differences and a general "you're never HOME" as his reasoning. And Jules couldn't blame him. They had used to have a *life*, a social life. Going out, partying, throwing fabulous dinners for their friends...but somewhere along the line, he started spending more time at the office than at home...and then there had been Kazbekistan.

The weeks after that op had been brutal. Between convincing Alyssa not to drink herself into a stupor and doing six pounds of paperwork while trying to avoid Bhagat ripping him a new one...it was no wonder...Adam was right ...his job came first.

And then there was the one night he'd agreed to meet Adam at the Hat Trick. Which, despite its hockey-oriented name, was really just a place to pick up drunken young boys and taken them home for a one-nighter. And instead of crossing over to their booth in the back, he'd been struck still in one spot at the sight of his boss hunched over the bar...doing shots of Jameson's like they were water.

Max Bhagat in a dive that was too seedy to even be a proper gay bar. He never thought he'd live to see that day. But he had. And instead of going to Adam and accepting the last chance to kiss and make up, he'd followed Max into the bathroom and handed him paper towels as he clutched the dirty porcelain toilet bowl.

He didn't need any special insight to know that it was all about Gina Vitagliano.

Just like he knew that, for Alyssa, it was all about Sam Starrett.

He knew that if he had one tenth of the love those poor souls had, he never would've let Adam leave.

And he counted himself lucky.

He didn't want that kind of pain.

 

--end--

March 26, 2003.



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