"Have you talked to her yet?"
Mike shook his head. "No."
Dustin sighed and sat on the desk while Mike finished logging off. The office had closed for the day and it was only the two of them remaining.
"Look bro, I got to be honest with you. Man to man." Dustin said fiddling with his tie. "She did warn you. To be fair, El did tell you that she wasn't the relationship type. You did know what she was doing before you decided to get seriously involved with her."
Mike shrugged. "Yeah I knew but back then she wasn't coming home with marks on her."
"I know the cuts and bruises seem bad but she's fine and I'm guessing that this isn't her first rodeo she knows what she's doing."
"It's not fine!" Mike snapped. "Haven't you ever cared about anyone else besides yourself Dustin?"
"Whoa!" Dustin was clearly taken back by Mike's outburst. "Easy there my friend." He shook his head in disbelief. "You know what? I'm going to pretend that I just didn't hear you say that. Because you are clearly upset right now."
Mike slumped on to his desk, his back hunched forward. "Dustin I'm sorry..When is it going to end? Can you tell me that Dustin?"
Dustin folded in his lips, his curly hair swaying left to right. "I'm sorry Mike. I can't."
"One week it's a knife. The next it's a fist. What's next? A gun?" Mike's voice quivered a bit. "Am I going to spend one night waiting for her to come home and she never does? I have no idea who even to go to ask a question to find out what happened. Do I have to wait for the six o' clock news? That is, if they're not too busy covering something else. What am I suppose to do Dustin?"
Mike sounded desperate and almost broken. Dustin had never seen him like this over anyone, not even his ex. He slid closer to Mike and placed his hand on his shoulder in a comforting gesture. Mike's head was in his hands. His face curtained by his hair. "I don't know what to tell you dude."
Mike's head remained in his hands and Dustin eased even closer wrapping his arms around Mike's shoulders. He just felt that Mike needed this right now. They sat in the silence for a while. Neither knowing how much time has passed until Dustin dared to speak. "You aren't going to break up with her are you?"
Mike finally lifted his head up and stared straight ahead at the screen in front of him. "No."
"Well then, it has been two days since you last spoke. I think you better tell her your decision sooner rather than later or else she might think that you're breaking it off for good."
"Yeah your right." Mike stood up and pushed his hair off his face. "I'll tell her tomorrow. I got this damn headache that I need to sleep off first."
"That's good." Dustin stood up as well and picked up his bag. "Well it's getting late. I should be going."
Dustin had turned to leave when Mike called out to him.
He turned his head. Blue eyes questioning.
"I really am sorry about earlier," Mike apologized. "I shouldn't have said what I did to you. It was wrong and it isn't true." He managed to muster up a small smile. "You're a good friend and I appreciate it."
Dustin gave him a mock salute with his right hand. "Anytime my liege."
Mike had never been so happy in his life to turn the key to his apartment. He wasn't lying when he said that he had a headache. It only seemed to have gotten worse since he left the office. He poured some kibble into Paladin's bowl and headed straight to the shower. It felt as if his head was pounding right behind his eyes and he wanted to do nothing more than take a couple pills and go right to bed.
Paladin rubbed against his legs as he swallowed the pills with a glass of water. "Not tonight Pal. I can't play with you tonight."
Paladin meowed questionly as he followed Mike into his bedroom. He seemed not to understand why Mike wasn't paying him any attention.
Mike pulled the blanket up to his neck as Paladin settled in front of him. He softly stroked the black and white hair. "I have a headache Pal. Just let me get some sleep okay?" Paladin yawned and stretched his paws out. He seemed to have figured that if his owner was making it an early night then so would he.
As Mike closed his eyes he wished that he could feel El curled up behind him. He would give anything to feel El's arms around his waist right now and her lips against his neck. He needed to talk to El and he would've done it tonight but this headache made him feel as if someone was jackhammering his brain. He would talk to El first thing in the morning though. He would invite her over for breakfast and they would work everything out. It sounded like a good plan as Mike uncomfortably drifted off to sleep.
When Mike opened his eyes the following morning the headache was a heavy thud weighing on his brain. His throat felt dry and uncomfortable and his tongue was sticking to the roof of his mouth. He was sick. He sat up in bed and immediately groaned. Apparently the movement had been too much and it made his head spin. He waited until the spinning subsided and slowly made his way out of the bed. He noticed that Paladin was already up and he was on the floor watching him warily.
He slowly made his way to the kitchen to get a drink of water. His muscles ached, his head hurt, he had a sore throat and he was almost certain that he was running a fever.
Opening the fridge door and retrieving the water bottle was a task in itself. The water only irritated his throat as it went down and it tasted awful too. He noticed Paladin in the corner watching him and decided to fill his water and food bowl while he was up. He managed to fill the water bowl as the headache had eased a bit to allow him to open his eyes fully at this time and not feel assaulted by the morning light. However, he was half way filling up the bowl with kibble when he felt an awful lurch in his stomach. He dropped the bag on the floor and moved as fast as he could to his bathroom with his hand covering his mouth. He barely got to the toilet bowl in time as he retched his empty stomach into it. He hadn't even eaten anything in the past twelve hours and he was nauseated. He kept his face over the bowl until his stomach felt raw and he had nothing else to give. He flushed the bowl and staggered to his feet.
He turned on the tap at the sink and splashed some water on his face and rinsed out his mouth. He was definitely in no condition to go to work today. He slowly trudged back to his bedroom and picked up his cellphone as he sat on the bed. He had three clients today. He was quick and to the point with all three of them, hanging up before they could ask him any more questions. He just wanted to close his eyes and crawl underneath his blanket and sleep forever.
Why was his room so damn cold he wondered as he unfolded his comforter along with the blanket. As soon as he was settled in he heard a soft meow. He peered over the side of the bed and saw Paladin looking at him as concerned as a cat could look. He brought his arm out from underneath the covers and lightly traced Paladin's forehead.
"I'm sick Pal." He muttered. Well this morning was a bust. He definitely couldn't talk to El now either.
The cat nuzzled his fingers before licking his fingertips. Mike managed a smile. Paladin was always with him no matter what. The cat had sensed that he was sick and was staying by his side. There was no one more faithful to him than Paladin he thought as he drifted off into a deep slumber.
It would fit that when she finally got a whole week off that her and Mike would be on the outs El mused as she nursed her beer. She was sitting near the darts board in Bennys as she watched one guy lazily throw the darts at the target. She didn't think that she had been wrong in what she said when she told Mike that he needed to make a choice to accept what she did for a living but maybe phrasing it as an ultimatum wasn't the best way to go about it. It was day three and she still hadn't heard from Mike. Maybe this was his way of breaking up with her. She should've known that the relationship was too good to be true and that it wouldn't have lasted anyway. A guy like Mike probably had unlimited options and was probably hit on every day. El on the other hand, the last person in recent memory who had talked to her on the streets had been some crackhead asking for a dollar.
Her and Mike were from two different worlds. It would've never worked. She had been only fooling herself thinking that she had something special. She drank the last bit of her beer. She clicked her tongue and placed the bottle back down disappointed. She still hadn't been able to convince herself. She was missing Mike. Badly. She missed their fun arguments over food and the movies. Sleeping next to him in the bed. How Mike touched her when they were just fooling around or having sex. It wasn't suppose to be like this. She wasn't going to get attached to him. That's what she had told himself when this thing between them started. But now look at her. For the past three days Mike had been the only person on her mind and it made her feel funny on the inside. In a nervous, butterfly filled sort of way that she didn't particularly care for. She propped her head up on her hand and watched as the guy hit the dart board wide. Maybe she would have a turn next.
"Yo Benny! There's a kitty at the door."
Benny Hammond was the owner of Bennys. He had a bald head with a big bushy beard and friendly eyes . "A kitty you say Steve?"
Steve was young with perfectly coiffed hair and a smile that she guessed most girls found charming. "Yeah look. He's scratching at the door."
Benny went up to the front door. "Do you think he's hungry Steve? He looks well fed."
"He could be cold Ben. It's pretty beastly out there."
"Yeah it sure is." Benny opened the door but the cat didn't dart in instead he meowed loudly.
El hadn't really been paying attention to the conversation between Benny and Steve but the sound of the meow brought her immediately back to the present. She looked across the bar to see what was going on. There were only three other patrons inside the bar that afternoon. She saw Benny at the front trying to coax a cat inside.
"Come on in kitty. It's cold out there. You don't want to freeze your little balls off."
"It could be a she Benny." Steve pointed out.
"That is true. Come on in little kitty. I'll get you a nice bowl of hot milk. You'll like that right?"
The cat stared at Benny for a moment and then started howling.
El bolted out of her seat. She'd know that howl anywhere. She grabbed her coat from off the back of her chair and made her way to the front door.
"What the hell did you do it? You upset it." Steve accused Benny.
"I didn't do anything to it. I barely offered it a bowl of milk and it went off on me." Benny turned back to cat. Stretching out his hand. "Come here little kitty. Let's get you inside." The cat hissed at him and Benny quickly pulled his hand back. "Wow. You're a fiesty little thing aren't you?"
El stepped around a table and then he could see everything clearly. "Paladin?"
The cat stopped hissing as soon as he heard El's voice. He bounded into the bar and went straight up to El meowing and butting his head against her legs.
Paladin butted her legs once more and ran to the door, looking back at El expectantly meowing.
"You know this cat El?" El had been at the bar so often that Benny knew her by name.
"Yeah it's my neighbour's cat."
Paladin ran back to her and meowed three times and then ran back to the door.
"He seems to want you to follow him." Steve deduced. "You think something happened to your neighbour?"
A chill ran through El that wasn't caused by the cold wind coming in through the door. Mike would have never let Paladin out of the apartment especially in this weather. She remembered that the first time that they came here together that Paladin had followed them and Mike had nearly freaked out over Paladin crossing the busy streets by himself.
Paladin's meows had an urgent tone to them. Something had to be wrong.
"I hope not." El said as she put on her coat. "I'm going to go see what he wants." she tried to sound as calm as possible. She didn't want to alarm Benny nor Steve.
El stepped outside where Paladin was. The cat was meowing at her as if he was trying to tell her something. But El shook her head. She couldn't understand cat speak. She glanced at the busy intersection in front of them and decided to pick up Paladin and carry him home. It would be faster and safer that way. As she bent down she hoped that Paladin wouldn't scratch the hell out of her.
She was quite surprised when Paladin allowed her to pick him up. His fur was wet and he felt cold. El immediately wrapped part of her coat over the cat to protect him from the elements.
"See that Ben? The cat likes El."
El had quite forgotten that she had an audience. She gave them a nod and set off. Her mind was going ninety miles a minute. What had happened to Mike? Why did Paladin come to get him? Was Mike okay? She tried to chase all the bad thoughts out her head as she walked up the path to the apartment building. But this sickening feeling of dread was filling her up. Mike had to be alright. Hopefully it was just a case of Paladin wandering too far from home. But even she couldn't make herself believe that.
She rushed up the stairs to the second floor, taking them two at a time with Paladin clutched tightly to her chest. The cat meowed softly as they stood in front of Mike's front door as El frantically searched her pocket for the spare key that she had taken. Finally she got it in her fingers and she nervously jammed it in the lock and turned it.
As soon as the door was opened Paladin scrambled down and ran into the apartment. He meowed impatiently at El to come inside. El came in and closed the door behind her. She wanted to take off her shoes because she knew that Mike would yell at her if she tracked the wetness all through his house but the way Paladin was meowing told her that they could wait.
She followed Paladin through the apartment. She saw the spilled bag of kibble on the ground and her stomach flipped. Mike would've never left a mess like that unattended.
She made it to Mike's bedroom and pushed opened the door. She breathed somewhat when she saw a lump underneath the covers.
"Mike? It's me El. Are you awake?"
El quickly made her way to the bed, heart pounding in her chest and fearfully pulled back the covers when she got no response. Mike was asleep but he was sweating profusely all over his forehead.
"Mike?" El shook his shoulder. Mike was so hot. He was burning up underneath the heavy comforter and blanket. She yanked them completely off him while calling Mike's name. "Mike! Come on. Wake up!" She sat on the bed next to Mike and shook him even harder. "Mike! Please! You gotta wake up." El had never been so scared in het life. Mike wasn't responding to her. She started tapping Mike's face with the back of her hand. "Michael! Come on! Wake up!" She looked around the room to see if she could spot a phone, completely forgetting that she had her own in her pocket. She might have to call the ambulance but she didn't want to. If she called them, there would be lots of questions that she would have to answer that she didn't want to.
"Mike!" The sound of Mike groaning was music to El's ears. "It's me Mike."
Mike was slowly turning over at the sound of El's voice. El eased her arm behind Mike's back to prop him up. His skin was sticky and clammy.
Mike managed to get his eyes partially open, taking a while to focus them. "El?"
"Yeah it's me baby." The term of endermeant just rolled off her tongue before she could stop it. But there were more pressing matters at hand.
"I don't feel good." Mike managed to croak out.
"I know baby, I know." El pushed Mike's loose hair that was sticking to his face off his head. "Im going to take care of you okay?"
She pulled Mike up a bit so that he could lean back on her as she placed one arm securely around Mike's waist as she glanced around his bedroom. She had to find Mike's medicine cabinet and see what type of medication he had. Mike was already drifting back to sleep already.
She eased Mike back in to bed so that she could slip off. She made her way to Mike's bathroom. The medicine cabinet was above the sink and El yanked the door nearly off its hinges as she opened it. Mike just had the typical run of the mill drug store stuff. Some Advil and Panadols. Nothing that was nearly strong enough to fight off whatever he had.
She walked back into the bedroom and Paladin was sitting on the rug looking at her expectantly. The cat wanted her to fix his owner. But how could she? She knew she had to. An idea came to mind. She knew that Mike probably wouldn't approve but saving him was top priority.
El eased next to him on the bed, softly stroking his cheek. "Mike?"
Mike rubbed his face against El's fingers. "El?" He sounded as if he was talking in his sleep.
"I've got to go get you some medication okay?" She rubbed her hand up and down Mike's arm wishing that she could make the clammyness go away.
Mike whimpered. "Don't leave me. I need you."
That nearly broke her. She didn't like seeing Mike weak like this. He was stubborn, strong and reliable. He used to pick El up like it was nothing and El had begun to think that nothing could ever bring Mike down. She was so wrong.
She gave Mike's arm a squeeze and pressed her lips against Mike's forehead. "You have a high fever baby. You're really sick and I need to go get meds so that you can get better."
Mike groaned and laid his head partially on El's chest. "I want you to stay." El couldn't help but notice how dry and chapped Mike's lips were. How many days had he been like this? How long had he been sick and El hadn't thought to check on him because she thought that Mike was mad at her? If Paladin hadn't come to Bennys to get her she probably would've gone back to her apartment sulking without even knowing how dreadfully ill Mike was next door. El shook her head. Her stupid pride would always get her in trouble. But now she had a chance to do the right thing.
"I have to go Mike. I'm going to go get you your meds and be right back okay?"
Mike whimpered again in protest and it just about killed El on the inside. She settled Mike back in the bed once more. Mike opened his eyes and looked at her. The dark orbs were now dull with none of their warm sparkle and it just etched another sharp tear into her heart. She kissed Mike's forehead once more. "I'll be back. I promise."
She was surprised when Mike grabbed her fingers as she moved away from the bed. She looked down at their fingers touching giving Mike a reassuring squeeze. Through hell or highwater, she was coming back to him. When Mike's fingers fell away, El's immediate thought was to get back in that bed and hold him but getting that medication was top priority.
As she walked out the bedroom, she pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. She was about to dial a number when she heard Paladin meowing behind her. She turned to look at the cat. "I'm coming back Paladin. I need to go get medication for Mike." The cat followed her to the front door. On the table were the keys to Mike's car. El hesitated for a moment and then picked them up. It would be a lot faster to get what she needed if she had transportation. Paladin meowed as she opened the door. "Go and stay by Mike's side. Can you do that Paladin? Watch him for me until I get back okay?" The cat just meowed as El went through the door.
She closed the door and dialed a number as she headed downstairs to Mike's car. Sometimes it was crucial to know some of the wrong people in the right places.
El made it back to Mike's apartment in about forty five minutes. It was longer than she wanted to take but her supplier had wanted to make certain that she understood the precise amounts of the different types of medication that she had to give Mike. Even though the guy was nice enough to label the bottles to make them look legit. Although it probably wasn't hard considering that the guy did work in a pharmacy at a small hospital.
Once inside Mike's apartment, El filled a glass with water and carried it to Mike's bedroom and sure enough there was Paladin curled up on the foot of the bed while Mike slept.
El placed the glass of water on the bedside table while holding the brown paper bag that had the medication in one hand.
"Mike?" She sat next to him and shook his shoulder. Already it didn't feel as clammy since she took the covers off him. "Mike? It's me. I'm back."
Mike slowly stirred awake and El used her arm to help him sit up a bit. "I got your medication baby."
She dug into the bag and pulled out a small container and shook two tiny pills out of that one. She placed it back in the bag and retrieved a second container and took one large pill out of that one.
"Open." Mike slightly parted his lips and El carefully placed one of the small pills on the tip of Mike's tongue. She then picked up the glass of water and brought it to Mike's lips. "Drink some of this and swallow the pill." Mike did as he was commanded without making too much of a mess. El then repeated the process two more times.
When Mike had finished, El allowed him to lay back down and carried the glass of water and medication back to the kitchen. She placed the glass in the sink and the brown bag on the counter. She removed her shoes and her coat before making her way back to the bedroom.
In the bedroom El undressed until she was in her vest and panties. She climbed into bed and manovered Mike until he was lying partially on top of her.
"You gonna stay El?" Mike's eyes were closed and his head lolled over into the crook of El's neck.
"Yes. I will stay with you." El clasped her arms around Mike's torso feeling the gentle rise and fall of his breath.
"I feel better when you're next to me." Mike admitted.
"I feel better too." Well it was the truth.
"How come?" From the breathy way that Mike spoke El could tell that he was almost out of it. He probably wouldn't remember a thing about this conversation in the morning.
The answer to Mike's question was on the tip of her tongue even though she wanted to deny it or even admit it to herself but her heart and mind both knew and were screaming it at her. She tightened her grip around Mike's waist and kissed his cheek, letting her lips linger longer than necessary. "I'll tell you when you get better."
The first thing that slipped into Mike's consciousness the following morning was that his head was no longer hurting him. Also, his tongue was no longer stuck to the roof of his mouth.
He tried to roll over in the bed and that was when he became aware of the pair of arms holding him. El. Suddenly patches of memories came flooding back to him. He'd barely remembered the previous day. He remembered puking his guts out and cancelling his appointments but everything else after that was so hazy. He recalled El saying something about a fever, and waking him up sometime in the middle of the night, he guessed to take some pills and now it was morning.
He had so many questions. How did El know that he was sick? Did she happen to stop by? Were they still fighting? He didn't know what had caused this turn of events but he was grateful for what ever it was.
He managed to roll over to face El only to find that she was already awake and watching him like he was a newborn baby. Her eyes looked heavy and dark as if she hadn't slept and he couldn't help but notice the relief that had came over her face.
"Hi." Mike's voice sounded so rough and scratchy and unlike his own.
"How are you feeling?"
"A lot better I guess."
One of El's fingers traced the side of his jaw, dipping underneath the curve of his bottom lip. Such an innocent touch that somehow felt sensual to Mike at the same time.
"How did you know that I was sick?"
"I didn't." El responded simply.
"Then how did you know to come here?" Mike was confused.
"Well, Paladin came and got me."
"Pal?" Mike looked skeptical.
"Uh huh." El nodded her head against the pillow and then explained to Mike about how Paladin found her at Bennys and brought her back here.
Mike was stunned. "He did all of that for me?" He sat up in the bed and looked around, spotting the cat curled up on the rug. "Pal! Come here boy." The cat immediately sprang up and jumped on the bed and bounded gleefully towards Mike. The man rubbed him down and made a huge fuss over him. "You're the best cat in the world, aren't you? You knew that I was sick and you tried to save me. Just like how I saved you." Mike's voice dropped a bit as that memory came back. He squeeze the cat against him and Paladin purred appreciatively. "I love you Pal."
"Ahem." El cleared her throat loudly. "Don't mind me. I'm just the girl who looked after you and went and got your meds." El rubbed her fingers against the blanket and then pretended to inspect them. "No big deal."
Mike grinned and threw an arm around El's shoulders. "Jealous much?"
Mike leaned in and brushed his nose against El's neck. "Thank you." He let Paladin rest on his lap and place his other arm around El's waist. "I didn't expect to see you but you came through for me."
Mike pressed a soft kiss into El's neck and it warmed her more than it should. Mike's head was resting on her shoulder and Paladin didn't look as if he was about to attack her. This was good. So naturally she had to go say something that might ruin it.
"So why didn't you call me?" Her fingers pressing slightly harder into Mike's shoulder. "Why didn't you tell me that you were sick?"
"Because I was being stupid." Mike surprisingly admitted. "I was going to talk to you the other evening when I got home but the headache had gotten really bad so I decided to sleep it off and talk to you in the morning. And yesterday, well, you know how that went." Mike paused a bit, focusing his sight on the far corner of the room. "Plus I didn't think that you wanted to hear from me since the last time we were together we were fighting."
"Mike really? It was just a stupid fight. It doesn't matter anymore." El did not want to discuss that matter any further. Circumstances had not changed.
Mike seemed to be content and let the subject drop and remained peacefully in El's embrace for a while.
"El?" He asked timidly after some time had passed.
"Yes baby?" El responded automatically without giving it much thought.
Mike lifted his head off her shoulder. "Since when do you call me baby?"
"Since I felt like it." El responded cockily even though there was a rising blush on her cheeks.
Mike snaked his hand across El's chest. His fingers finding El's nipple underneath her shirt. He smiled when he heard the soft groan that escaped El's mouth when he tweaked the nipple. "I'm hungry."
"You're evil," El responded sitting up in the bed. She looked at Mike in the bed and she could tell that he hadn't fully recovered as yet but the twinkle in his beautiful dark eyes let her know that he was going to be okay. "I guess I could go make us some breakfast."
Mike smiled innocently at her. "It would be greatly appreciated. I haven't eaten since the day before. I need to fuel up."
El sighed as she wandered away from the bed. "Don't be giving me menu requests either. I'm going to cook it and you're going to eat it and that's final."
When El reached the door way Mike called out to her. "Thanks... baby." El could hear the playful smirk in his voice and she tried not to notice the fluttery feeling that it gave her on the inside.
Fifteen minutes later when Mike walked into the kitchen, there were fluffy omelets on two plates, some bacon frying in the pan and what looked like a stack of eggs and whipped cream. El was at the stove tending to the bacon.
"Impressive." Mike noted as he eased up behind El and locked his arms around El's waist.
El relaxed against the coolness of Mike's embrace. "You showered?"
"Yup. It made me feel even better." Mike kissed El's cheek as he turned the heat off under the pan, while pressing his hips into El's behind.
El's eyes widened a bit. "Mike, stop playing. You're still sick."
"That doesn't mean that I don't want you." To illustrate his point, he slid his hand underneath El's vest and placed a hot open mouthed kiss against El's neck.
El bit her bottom lip to hold back a moan and freed herself from her boyfriend's embrace. She pushed Mike towards a bar stool and plopped a plate containing an omelet in front of him. "Eat."
Mike just looked so ridiculously hot sitting there pouting at her, that despite her better judgement she leaned in and pecked Mike's lips. She quickly realized that it was a trap when Mike grasped the back of her head to keep her in place and deepened the kiss. El started to squirm at first but she stopped as soon as Mike parted her legs and pulled her in, holding her at the small of her back. She sighed in defeat and locked her arms around Mike's neck as Mike's tongue slid into her mouth. The dark haired man's lips were a little dry but his tongue was smooth and his technique was still impecable.
El didn't realize how much she had missed this until she caught herself hungrily kissing Mike back. It had been a few days since their last kiss but it felt like a few months to her. When she finally managed to pull away from the kiss, Mike's erection was quite noticeable in his sweat pants and her lips were swollen and bright pink. There was a weird energy vibing between them. She didn't want to look away from Mike and Mike seemed not to be able to look away from her either. She didn't know who made the first move but Mike was kissing her again but it was softer, sweeter this time and it made her feel funny once more on the inside. This was getting way too weird and uncomfortable. She ended the kiss abruptly and walked across the kitchen to plate the bacon. She could feel Mike's eyes on her and a shiver ran through her.
She plastered a fake smile on her face as she turned around holding the plate. "The food is getting cold. Let's eat."
Mike just eyed her a bit suspiciously as he sat on a bar stool and started to shove strips of bacon into his mouth. His mind was racing away as she remembered what she almost told Mike before he had drifted off. It couldn't have been that. She could or would never fall for anyone that quickly. What she was experiencing was just infatuation and not the other word because she didn't think that she could deal if it was the other word.
By the end of the week, Mike was back to himself. He was cleaning up his room when he accidentally knocked one of the pill containers on to the floor. He picked it up and carefully looked at the bottle for the first time. He noticed that there was no doctor's name on the perscription label and that the pharmacy was from some hospital that he had never been to.
El was sitting on the couch watching television as he approached her.
"What's this?" He asked as he sat on the couch and placed the container with a firm thud on the coffee table.
El raised an eyebrow. "It's your medication." She said slowly as if she was wondering where Mike was going with this.
"Where did you get it?" Mike inquired.
He immediately saw the change in El's body language as a guarded expression came over her. " It says where I got it from right there on the label."
"But I've never been to that hospital El." Mike picked up the bottle and pointed to the label. "There's also no doctor's name on it."
El's eyes became cold as she leaned back against the armrest. "Well what do you expect me to tell you? I think you can figure out by now how I got them."
"El, you know I don't like it when -"
"For fuck's sake Mike spare me the moral highground." El hissed. "I came in here and you were burning up with fever and practically unresponsive. What did you expect me to do? I couldn't take you to a doctor or to a hospital because they would start asking me questions that I can't answer. You were sick and it was up to me to make sure that you got better. So I did what I had to do, okay?"
El stood up and ran her hands through her hair. "So I'm sorry if that's not what you wanted but you didn't see how you looked." El paused as the memories replayed in her head. "It was bad and I didn't want anything to happen to you." She turned and looked down at Mike who was still seated. "I knew that you wouldn't have approved but you didn't have to make that choice but I did." she locked eyes with Mike. "And I'm not sorry." There was a finality in El's voice that let Mike know instinctively that nothing he said could change El's mind.
The tension between them this time was not a pleasant one. Mike's eyes shifted to the ground as he contemplated his next move and El watched him.
Finally he heard El releasing an exasperated sigh. "You know what? It's time that I get ready for work anyway."
Mike looked up and El was already walking to the door. "I thought you had the week off?"
"Week's over." El replied.
Mike opened his mouth about to say something else but El cut him off. " Don't even start."
"But El ..."
"No buts Mike. You know what it is. I told you before. Either you accept it or you don't." El placed her hand on the doorknob backing Mike. She hated this. She hated arguing with Mike over her job. This was who she always was and probably who she would always be. She knew from the time that she had met Mike that he was a clean cut sort of guy but she was thinking with his heart when he persued him. So now he had him and now his brain had finally decided to kick in and point out that he was never good enough to be with him in the first place.
"I have to go." El said quietly as she turned the knob and walked out the door.
Half an hour later, Mike heard El leaving her apartment. He just couldn't shake this feeling that he had told Dustin about. He was worried that something bad was going to happen to El and he wouldn't be able to find out about it.
Mike glanced at the window and saw the snow softly drifting down against the dark night. He couldn't sit idly by and do nothing. He rubbed Paladin's back and then stood up. "I'll be out for a while Pal." Mike quickly put on his thick winter coat and boots and headed outside.
El already had a good headstart on him and Mike barely caught her disappearing figure in the distance. He ran a little to close the gap a bit but not close enough that if El happened to look behind her that she would easily spot him.
He had to know where El was going. What was she doing every night? He trailed El for about two miles in the snow, finding that he was getting tired trudging through it. Maybe some bit of the bug still remained in his system.
They were on a lonely stretch of road now and Mike made sure to keep at least a hundred feet away from El but not once had she turned around. There was big black van parked at the end of the road. He watched as El didn't even hesitate to open the door and get in. That must be her ride, Mike deduced. The van started up and Mike watched as it drove away.
When it had disappeared out of sight, Mike turned around and started walking back home. At least now he knew where El's pick up point was. Tomorrow night he would drive his car and follow them to where ever they went. Mike wanted the answers to the questions that El was unwilling to answer.