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            Not the hero tonight. That’s what I said on the video, not that I remember actually saying that. If someone had told me I said that without the video evidence, I would…oh, what the hell. I’d probably agree. That was not a good moment for me. I should have been taking watch over the herd, and instead, I decided to video myself crying and making some kind of wimpy final statements to Marlowe, my mother, and O'Hara.

            Christ, was I really crying?! Now THAT I would argue if someone told me I did it without evidence to back it up. I might even “back up” my argument with a few extra statements of my own. I never cry on the job. Never. Ask my Academy instructors, I was the only one that never whined or cried no matter what they put us through. My father taught me never to cry. Burned it into my head, more like. He always said the fastest way for a man to lose credibility is to cry. He would say it over and over while he “disciplined” me for whatever new stupidity I happened to have pissed him off with. Not that I was ever much of a crier. I just had things I cared about, and it hurt that he didn’t care about them too. Maybe that was because he just didn’t have something he cared about. My mother, he definitely didn’t care about her. And I have my doubts that he cared much about me, either. Hell, that’s why I cried. Because I cared. A dying man is entitled to quit caring about what other people are going to think about him, after all, right? Far as I knew at that moment, I was about to go off duty permanently.

            No cop wants to die in the line of duty. No one in their right mind really wants to die at all, I guess. But it has to happen for all of us somehow. I don’t remember when I realized what was happening, or when I made the decision that this is how it would end for me, but man, I was scared. And it’s kind of strange, too, because I’ve been in mortal danger and scared on the job before, and every time I’ve felt this fear, it’s pushed me to fight even harder. I live by the code we all live by for duty – NEVER give up. Don’t EVER give up. This time…I guess I did give up. I was ready to say my goodbyes. I WAS saying my goodbyes. I should feel ashamed of myself for giving up like I did. I should have been fighting for my life, like I’ve always taught any cop that has ever worked under me – O'Hara included. Especially O'Hara. I don’t ever want to think or wonder whether O'Hara would know to keep fighting. It’s bad enough to wonder about Lucinda. I can’t help but feel like I let her down…badly.

            Yeah, I should be ashamed. But I’m not. The fear was real, the tears were real, and holy hell the pain was as real as the crazy amount of blood I was losing. But the idea of giving up wasn’t real at all. I know you won’t believe me. I don’t even believe me, but I never gave up on a successful mission. It’s just a matter of how you define success in this situation. I’m a public safety officer. Public safety is my priority, and I’ll be damned if I don’t keep it my top priority. I was going to find a way of getting everyone out of those woods safely if it was the last thing I did, and I meant that literally. I know Spencer and Guster act like idiots most of the time…all of the time…but that doesn’t mean they really are idiots. Even when they’re wrong, there’s always something there. I take my job too seriously to not take them seriously. So, I knew there was some kind of danger in the woods that night, and it was likely something serious. I couldn’t accept the idea of the whole group trudging through the woods at night, being slowed down by me, putting themselves all in danger with each passing minute. No, I couldn’t accept that. And there was no way they would accept my sorry ass excuses if I had let on how badly injured I really was. So I lied, and no, I’m not ashamed.

            I’ve always thought of myself as a control freak. Actually, I didn’t think of myself that way – people kind of pushed that title on me. But what can I say, it was for good reasons. I didn’t make Head Detective at such a young age for nothing. My old mentors – the few ones who believed in me – they saw that I could do it even when I didn’t see it in myself. They pushed me to doing it anyway, and thanks to Hank, I quickly learned to believe them. Hell, I didn’t have any friends anyway. No one really understood me that way, so I had plenty of time to work on my skills. At least it would mean I would be accepted by others for something. It would also mean I’d be respected besides being accepted. So, I worked my ass off, and I got really damn good at my job, if I do say so myself. It made working with partners hard, though. I went through a lot of them. I never understood how or why it was so hard for me to work with them. I was hard on them, sure, but my mentors were hard on me, and I appreciated them for it. I got so much better because of it, and I appreciated them for not going easy on me. I thought I was doing my partners good by treating them the same way…but for some reason I couldn’t get the same results no matter how hard I tried. Instead of a relationship of mutual respect, I ended up in the Chief’s office to get reprimanded more often than not, and with a whole new partner to boot. I didn’t mean any harm, I just wanted my partners to be as good as I thought they could be. I didn’t start to see good results until Lucinda came along. She stuck around longer than my previous partners. She learned and grew under my training, which was kind of a shock to me because…well…she was a woman.

I know it’s not exactly “proper” to say so, but I didn’t think women would be the ones that were going to take to my training methods positively. Maybe it caught me as too much of a pleasant surprise that Lucinda took to my training as well as she did. Obviously I didn’t take it so well after pursing our relationship like I did. Yeah, I could make excuses for it. My wife leaving me, mutual positive regard…but they’re all excuses. That relationship shouldn’t have happened. The only thing it accomplished was hurting her career. And it all ended up in the biggest let down of my career. I’ve never talked to anyone about it, but when I heard of her going down…it hit me…so hard. She was so much better than that. Maybe…maybe if I hadn’t ruined our partnership like I did…we’d still be partners. Maybe…maybe even if we had parted ways as partners at some point…it would have been for good reasons, not for the reasons that it had to happen. Maybe I would have had a chance to teach her more…to teach her better. Maybe one more week with her, or one more month, and I’d have been able to teach her something that would have saved her life.

So here I was – deep in the woods, no backup to call, badly injured, with a group of civilians to protect – and only O'Hara to lean on. She wouldn’t have allowed me to sit and bleed all over the place without doing something about it. Yeah, I know. I wouldn’t have allowed that for her either, but that’s not the point. The point was I had a group of people to protect, O'Hara included. My only option was to take myself out of the picture and hope with everything I had that O'Hara would be able to take over. The only way I could pull this off was to pretend I had everything in control, and that would mean not pulling her aside to give her instructions or warnings or prepare her in any other way. She’s too smart, and had I done any of that, she would have caught on to what I was doing. My plan would go down the drain and people would be putting themselves on the line for me. That was just not going to happen if I had anything to say about it.

It was not the cleanest or best laid plan I’ve ever had. To put those people in danger for the sake of protecting them? They weren’t well armed…or not armed enough. All O'Hara had was her duty weapon. I wasn’t blind to the fact that those woods were likely hiding one or more double murderers if there was any credence to the two bodies that Spencer and Guster talked of. I could only assume these were very dangerous and well armed people. I hated myself for doing that to O'Hara…leaving her alone to fend for herself and others like that. THAT’S why I wasn’t even close to being the hero that night. Were they to be discovered, in an all out fight, she had very little chance and I knew it. And I left her anyway, because if it meant giving her even one chance in a hundred, then I was going to give her that.

It was so…hard…leaving her that night. In one way or another, I was sure that was the last time I would see her. The last time, after all we’d been through together. I couldn’t help remembering how green she was when I first met her. I couldn’t even believe she had even made Detective. What…was Miami PD so desperate for Detectives that they would promote anyone who applied? That’s certainly how it seemed. And even worse, SBPD then went and hired one of them! And on top of all that, because some insult just had to go with the injury, it had to be a woman, and they just had to partner her with me – right after the whole Lucinda situation. Man, I was so mad about that whole situation. I was sure this was Chief’s way of making sure I would fail so she could fire me or at least get me out of the way somehow. She had to have had it out for me, because that was also right around the time she started making me work with those idiots Spencer and Guster.

But things didn’t work out like I thought they would – because they never do. O'Hara flourished. She blossomed and became a damn good cop, better than any of the male partners I had and even better…she became my friend. I tried so hard to keep her at a big distance at first, especially when I started to see her for the good cop she was becoming. That’s how things started going south with Lucinda. Letting myself show my pride in her made me weak and made me fall for her romantically. I wasn’t about to let that happen to O'Hara, so I kept my distance. It wasn’t easy, though. She was as determined to make a personal connection with me as she was determined to prove her worth as an officer. She chipped away at me relentlessly. I guess you could say she killed my barriers with kindness. Or maybe I was just lonely…because I really was…so lonely. But I was as stubborn as she was, though. I refused to really let her in until the night I almost lost her. God…I almost lost her…and I was powerless to do anything about it. Maybe I went a little crazy to think about it and ended up defying my own Chief for the sake of doing something…anything…to try and save her. It’s not just my job to look out for my junior partner. Officially that’s the case. But unofficially, I can’t imagine losing her. I’ve never worked with anyone that I consider a friend. It feels nice. She has my back in more ways than one, and I can’t imagine working without that anymore.  

What I’m not proud of is the so-called plan I put together. What the hell would O'Hara have done if they’d been found? Again, her against who knows how many potential killers with only a duty weapon on her? I couldn’t even leave her my own weapon for fear of her finding out what I was planning. She’s too smart to not see what I was doing if I’d tried leaving her with my own duty weapon…not to mention the fact that I’m not known for doing very well when disarmed. Yes, I thought about just happening to leave the weapon with her, but again, if she didn’t find it, then what good would it do. And what good was the idea of leaving it where she couldn’t find it anyway. If she did find it, she would bring it to me immediately, then begin a whole lot of questioning that would definitely find me out. No. I had to leave her in what had to be the worst situation possible. The only thing I could offer her was relieving her of having to look out after me. Cowardly? Maybe. But I didn’t see anything else I could give her other than taking myself out of the equation.

I guess if I wasn’t planning to make it through the ordeal, I figured I might as well record some parting words for people. Never thought of myself as that type, you know? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there were some people who might not take it too well if I went down. Imagine that! It was kind of a nice feeling, in a not so nice feeling kind of way. Marlowe, especially. Man, I screwed up so badly with Victoria, and now…leaving Marlowe like this? After working so hard and waiting so long for someone like her? That just felt so wrong. Maybe in the middle of being so cold and so scared, I was kind of angry that it would have to go down like this in the end. I mean…don’t I deserve just a little bit of good news once in a while? Don’t I deserve to see my girlfriend get out of jail, and spend some time with her first? Don’t I deserve a chance at making things right?! Or is it just my messed up lot in life to go down in the most cowardly way that puts my own damned partner in an awful situation?! Ok, yeah. I was a little pissed off at that moment. I think I was just in too much pain to really feel it so much. Maybe that’s what’s making it hard to deal with it now. I survived, didn’t I? I got out of it with no permanent injuries, despite everything I went through, so that’s even better than just surviving. And even better than that was that everyone else got out alive, too. It’s not good that three innocent civilians ended up injured in the middle of it all, but they all came out alive…thanks to O'Hara.

Thanks to O'Hara. Man, I never thought I’d be saying such a thing…I mean…without referring to a fresh cup of coffee or something. Never did I think she would go so far in a situation like this. Even I…my first instinct would have been to find a way of barricading ourselves in the cabin and playing defense until backup could get to us. That would have been the most prudent decision to go with as a starting point. We did have five civilians to look out for, after all, if we count our so-called Bigfoot. Maybe at some point we’d have seen that a more offensive strategy would work better, but to see her pull it off even without me having to constantly watch her, that’s the best measure of what a great Officer she’s become. Given all that, hell, she might have been able to pull off a successful defense in the woods, after all! Who knows. I had no idea she had it in her…and damn…I’ve never been so happy to learn something new about her as I was that day.

Right. I should be writing about how angry and ashamed and scared I was. Because it seems that no matter how hard I try, I just can’t ever get the happy ending that I want. And you know what? Maybe I wasn’t really all that scared, after all. I mean, yeah, I was cold. I was lots more cold than anything else, actually. So I didn’t get what I wanted at the moment that I thought was my end. I didn’t ever make Chief or anything higher than Detective. I never got to really develop my relationship with Marlowe. Who am I kidding…I never had a relationship with her that didn’t involve prison guards or some kind of glass between us. There were so many things I wanted to “make right” that never happened. But as I was thinking about Marlowe and my mom and O'Hara…I started to realize that I made a lot of things right that I never even thought I needed to work on. I had…have…a real friend, for one thing. Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I had that? Actually, I can’t remember it ever happening. Not like this. And yeah she’s a woman, but she’s really my best friend. Yeah, it’s normal to stay up at night worrying about her when she almost died the first time. She was traumatized, right? I wanted to be there for her – partly for me – to make myself feel better that she was safe. But…also just to try and make her feel better too. Does that make any sense? I mean, then I ended up losing sleep over her dating Spencer! I threatened to shoot Spencer if he does anything to hurt her! Who does that! I just didn’t want her hurt…and I’ve never felt like that for someone before.  Nothing romantic, but can’t handle the thought of her getting hurt…what is that?! Friendship, I guess. It’s nice.

So some people would say I’m “traumatized” by going through what happened that day/night. I don’t think so. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a good shootout, and even longer since I’ve been in one with such a rock solid partner to back me up. I don’t care if her report said that I covered her. That was all her right there. That night showed me how good I have it, and maybe that’s why it wasn’t so hard to make the decision that I did…why I was ok with not coming out of there alive. I didn’t have to go down fighting, because I have a partner that will do the fighting for me, and with me…just like I always will for her. I didn’t have to be the hero, because the hero was right there with me the whole time…and I was perfectly ok with that.

Chapter End Notes:

Thanks to Dragonnan and Tex, as usual, for the guidance and assistance putting this together. 

As always, I love to hear your thoughts! :)

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