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Zero to 165

by

A.R. Moler



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.



Copyright 2012, 2017 by AR Moler



Cover illustration by P.E. Ash

Chronology of stories in the Division P universe

Braided Lives

Hell Dogs Squadron

Seeking The Balance

Falling From a Height

Zero to 165

Don't Fret the Timing

Braided Lives 2

Begin and End With You

The LD50 of Memories

Fragmentation (Coming in 2017)

When an F/A-18 is catapulted from the deck of an aircraft carrier, plane and pilot go from zero to 165 mph in two seconds.





Chapter One

When the land to air rocket (LAR) hit the jeep, it exploded in a ball of fire and shrapnel. Navy SEAL Captain Jonas Nightengale was running full tilt away from the vehicle as it happened. The force of the explosion picked him up and hurled him a dozen feet through the hot afternoon air of Caracas. He hit the ground with the shoulder of his jacket in flames. One of his teammates, Tim Parrish, scrambled from cover and grabbed Nightengale's limp body, rolling him over in the dirt and beating the flames out. Dodging spurts of gunfire, the second Navy SEAL pulled his injured comrade behind the relative shelter of the closest building and quickly checked to see if Jonas was still alive. Parrish found a pulse that was weak and fast and. Nightengale was breathing in shallow gasps. A palm sized slice of metal was embedded in the side of the injured man's thigh and he was also bleeding freely from an evil looking gash in his forehead above his left eye. Nightengale lay like a rag doll, half draped over Parrish's leg.

"Nightengale's hit bad. What's the ETA on the chopper?" Parrish said, tapping his earpiece.

"Extraction in five," was the reply.

***

In the chopper, a corpsman named Dawson applied a pressure bandage to the deep gash in Nightengale's thigh and grabbed the gear to start an IV. Jonas was rousing somewhat and thrashing erratically .

"Easy Captain! You're safe," said the corpsman. Jonas let out a roar of pain and struck out at the person nearest to him. His fist caught the corpsman in the side of the face and flung him back against the bulkhead of the chopper.

"Grab him!" yelled Parrish. It took both him and another SEAL to restrain Nightengale enough to strap him down to the cot bolted to the side of the helicopter. The injured man continued to struggle.

"Can you give him something to calm him down?" demanded Parrish.

"I can't give him any of the usual stuff. Nightengale's allergic to most of it. It'd send him into anaphylactic shock. I am going to dose him up with some morphine though. I think between the head injury, the leg and the burn, he's in a hell of a lot of pain." Dawson finally managed to get a line in then pulled out a syringe and stabbed it into Nightengale's IV.

The injured man's struggles slowed. Oxygen wasn't available, and neither were any other drugs that might have helped. Controlling the bleeding, delaying shock as best he could and giving some pain relief was about all Dawson could do for the next twenty minutes. He got Parrish to help him tuck a Mylar blanket around Nightengale and hoped for the best.

***

Laptop balanced on his legs, Dr. Mason Flynn sat in the Norfolk airport, nervously awaiting take-off to fly to Pensacola. Peter Vithoulkas, Division P's senior healer, had "requested" that Mason go there to care for an injured Navy SEAL who was also a Division P operative. Although the man had not been injured on a Division P assignment, his condition had been declared critical. There had been a bigger and bigger push lately by the Division P staff to insure that their own people had psi specific medical care.

Mason skimmed down through the somewhat cryptic and sketchy information that had been sent to him via email. The SEAL's name was Jonas Nightengale and he'd been on an anti-terrorist assignment in Caracas when he had apparently been caught far too close to an exploding vehicle. The field corpsman's original report listed a shrapnel injury to the left thigh and a burn to the back and left shoulder with an estimate of ten percent body surface for the burn. The left shoulder was dislocated, and there was a head injury that had left the soldier extremely disoriented and combative. Nothing further could be assessed about the head injury until the man reached a hospital on the mainland. Judging from a list of erratic vitals, things were further complicated by what Mason translated as psi shock.

There was a different sort of information contained in the next section of the email. Jonas' specialty for Division P was psychometry, the ability to gain information from touching an object. He also had some lesser empathic/telepathic Talents, and he was listed as un-partnered. This tidbit made Mason pause. Did that mean somewhere in his own file, Mason was listed as partnered? And did it designate Cameron Bradshaw as that partner? Mason smiled a little at the thought. Division P was one of the few places where he and Cam could be open about their relationship.

"They're starting to do board," said Danny Valentine. He was traveling with Mason for a mixture of security and support reasons. The six foot four blond man was Division P's east coast chief of operations. He wore a dark suit, a bland gray tie and a white shirt. Aviator style mirrored sunglasses were pushed up on his head. Mason thought Danny looked very "MIB." Although Mason was intimately familiar with the standard procedures of a hospital, part of Danny's role this time was to make Mason's access to the patient as smooth and rapid as possible in the military setting.

Back in the summer, a Division P agent had died despite belated heroic efforts by Peter Vithoulkas. Part of the fiasco was attributed to delayed access to care by a psychic healer or anyone who knew the peculiar dangers psi talents were prone to. The entire goal of this trip was to prevent another such death.

Mason powered down his laptop and tucked it into its case. "How long is this flight supposed to take?" he asked Valentine.

"About two hours I think. Cam suggested I should get you drunk before take off," Valentine teased.

Mason gritted his teeth and made a face at Valentine. He'd spent more time flying in the last six months than in the last six years, and he loathed every fucking minute of it. Yeah, white knuckled flyer just about described him to a tee.

"Are you going to be okay? Or do I need to hold your hand?" Valentine asked.

Mason knew that Danny was involved with both Peter Vithoulkas and some woman who Mason had never met. He also knew Danny would actually hold his hand if he freaked out that badly, but Mason swore to himself that he could cope. He would much rather have been traveling with Cam. His lover, the adrenaline junkie F/A-18 pilot, would have happily held his hand, kissed him or done whatever he could to distract Mason.

"I'm fine," Mason said tersely.

Trudging down the hallway to the plane entrance, Mason ducked through the doorway; being tall occasionally had some real disadvantages .

***

It took a recitation of the alphabet, naming bones in the body, and about eight other self control techniques to get Mason through the take off. He spent the flight reading CVs and cover letters for orthopedic surgeons. With all the responsibilities Mason had shouldered in joining Division P, the orthopedic practice he was part of was getting the short end of the stick some weeks. After much discussion with the other two partners in the practice, the decision had been made to start hunting for a fourth doctor. Spreading out the patient load would help everybody. Finding the right person to mix with three hard headed doctors who already knew each other well enough to tolerate each other's personality quirks was going to be tough.

After reading through all the information supplied by the applicants for the orthopedic position, Mason's thoughts turned back to the "partner" entry in Jonas' file. Jonas Nightengale, the patient, was Navy just like Cam. What would happen if Cam got injured during something he was doing for the Navy? Mason certainly wasn't listed as next-of-kin on any military record. Would Division P step in and get hold of him? Obviously Division P had been notified in some way in Jonas' case. The idea of Cam lying in some military hospital, critically wounded, and dealing with the very real potential of psi shock was a sobering thought.

Mason breathed a heavy sigh of relief when the plane touched down. Neither he nor Danny had more than carry-on luggage and if they were lucky the SEAL would be stable enough for transport in the next twenty-four hours.

Walking through the airport, Mason called Cam. "Hey, I'm on the ground again."

"Are you doing okay?" Cam sounded slightly concerned.

"I'm fine. Danny even volunteered to hold my hand if I had a panic attack."

That brought a chuckle from Cam. "I'm gonna swipe your car tonight and bring a couple of boxes of stuff over."

"When I get back, we have to decide if we're trying to merge furniture or storing some of it," replied Mason. Only in the past few days had Cam agreed to move in with Mason, and Mason was blissfully pleased with the idea.

"I don't have a whole lot, you know, and most of it's cheap crap. Anyway, we'll sort it out."

"Yeah, eventually."

"Call me tonight sometime. Let me know how it's going. Oh and remember to eat something," Cam admonished.

"I will," promised Mason.

***

Danny had arranged for a car to take them directly to the NAMI hospital from the airport. They had been told Jonas Nightengale was being flown in from the other direction, back to the U.S. in a cargo plane. Once that plane landed, Nightengale would be transferred to a helicopter that would bring him directly to the hospital. Hopefully, this would get the injured man to Mason in the minimum amount of time.

Things never went according to plan.

By the time Danny and Mason reached the hospital, Jonas had already been there for half an hour and was in the middle of having a CT scan done to assess his head injury. The military doctors refused patient access to both Danny and Mason. Valentine was pissed, and judging from the look on Mason's face, the doctor was worried.

It took three phone calls and an additional half hour to begin to clear the problem. The staff neurologist condescended enough to allow Mason to view the CT scan results while the powers that be negotiated.

***

Mason skimmed down through the CAT scan results on Nightengale. There was evidence of a tiny amount of bleeding in the brain. Mason's neurology knowledge was limited, but it didn't seem sufficient to account for Jonas' continued unconscious state. The initial exam records from the hospital indicated he was currently scoring about a six on the coma scale. Jonas would occasionally open his eyes in response to pain and periodically make sounds indicating discomfort. He would flex or withdraw from pain when his injuries were being examined and bandaged, but there had been no coherent communication.

Mason suspected psi shock was a key player in Jonas' status in combination with all the injuries. Damn, he needed to get access to Jonas. There were potentially things that he could do for Jonas that conventional medicine wasn't capable of.

He saw Danny striding back down the hallway toward him.

"Any joy?" Mason asked.

"Yes, finally. Let's head for ICU, I managed to get Director Bottman to yank the appropriate strings."

***

Jonas Nightengale was propped up on his side to eliminate pressure on his badly burned shoulder. Approaching the bed, Mason immediately curled a couple of fingers around Jonas's wrist. It was a useless gesture from the traditional medicine point of view; the EKG display was less than three feet away. For a healer, though, the touch provided a wealth of information. God…Jonas was a serious mess, Mason instantly decided. Behind Mason, Danny pulled the curtain shut.

"Do whatever you need to. I'm here to run interference," said Danny.

Mason nodded and grabbed a stool that was pushed against the wall. He sat beside his patient and let the assessing part of his Talent scan Jonas in greater detail. Everything he was noting reinforced his idea that a profound case of psi shock was complicating all the physical injuries. The patient records indicated that Jonas had stopped breathing three separate times, gone into V-tach once and his blood pressure had been all over the place. Mason focused on settling Jonas's nervous system as a first task.

Every unguarded touch must have been pure pain for the injured man. Mason gently touched the steri-strips holding the gash above Jonas' eyebrow shut, letting warm energy soothe raw hypersensitive nerves. He continued down the length of Jonas' face and on to his throat, damping pain as he went.

***

Every psi did their own thing a little differently. Danny watched Mason working his magic on Jonas. The dark haired healer sat close to Jonas, both hands on his patient. Danny noted that Mason's eyes were open, even if they appeared to be focused on some spot of imaginary importance on the bed sheet. Danny compared that to his lover Peter, Division P's wunderkind healer. Peter had a tendency to close his eyes and just let his fingers do the walking when he was healing somebody.

Danny also noticed the dampness of sweat beginning to stain Mason's blue dress shirt, a sign of the energy Mason was expending. He'd have to keep a close watch on that. He was aware that Peter believed Mason had some control issues, but Danny wasn't sure just how much of that was overprotective paranoia and how much was real. Danny had been away on business during the summer when Peter had damn near killed himself trying to save the life of another Division P agent.

"Mason?" Danny said softly. There was no response and Danny wasn't certain if that was due to sheer concentration or something more dangerous. "Mason, should I go get you some food? Or a soda?" asked Danny, laying a careful hand on Mason's shoulder.

Mason finally looked up. "Um, a soda would be good. Coke if they've got it."

"I'll be back in a few minutes."

***

Now that Jonas' nervous system was settling into a calmer state, Mason paid more attention to Jonas' mental presence and not just the crucial things like heart rate and blood pressure.

Mason kept seeing the same little flutter of images. They certainly weren't his; they had to be Jonas's. A hand holding a deformed bullet on a chain and a woman's face being touched by a male hand. Mason held the injured SEAL's hand in his own and looked at the shape of the fingers. The hand in both images was Jonas's. What did the bullet mean? Mason had the impression it was something Jonas kept with him, something intensely personal and somehow connected to the woman. Maybe when Danny got back, Mason could ask him if Jonas had had any personal effects with him when he arrived at the hospital. In theory, barring clothing which usually got cut off, anything else would go into an envelope to be returned to the patient later; or the family if necessary.

And who was the woman? Mason pondered. There were hints of strong emotional attachment to the woman but nothing hinted at a name or a location. Sister? Girlfriend? Wife was not a possibility; otherwise she would have been listed on Jonas' files with Division P. Anyone who cared deeply for Jonas could potentially help draw him back to consciousness. Mason wished he knew who the woman was.

Mason pushed all those thoughts to the side for the moment, and began to focus what needed healing first. The burn in combination with the dislocation had done some serious damage to Jonas' shoulder. The ligaments were torn enough that surgery was going to be necessary to return the shoulder to even close to normal functionality. The deep gash in Jonas' leg had been stitched and was the least of the injuries. Mason focused on the burn. Surgical repair on the shoulder would have to wait until they got back to the Division P complex.

***

Mason was still sitting beside his patient when Danny returned. Danny stood watching for a moment. The heart monitor was now a nice steady even beep, hopefully evidence that Mason's healing skills were improving the whole situation.

"Here's your Coke," Danny said, offering it to Mason.

"Can I get you to open it for me? I don't want to take both hands off him at the moment."

"Sure." Danny popped the top on the can, and handed it to Mason. "How's he doing?"

"Better. There's shouldn't be any more apneic episodes or V-tachs, but he's still in pretty bad shape. Psychically and mentally, he's almost catatonic. I know it was probably a defense mechanism brought on by the injuries and the morphine and way, way too many people touching him. I'm not as good on the telepathic end as Peter, but I keep getting these little snips of memory." Mason went on to explain about the bullet and the woman.

"You think the bullet thing is something he may have had on him out on the field?" Danny asked.

Mason gulped some of the soda. "I think it's likely, kind of like a good luck charm."

"I'll ask the nurses where his personal effects are."

It took Danny about ten minutes to find the correct person to ask. The personal items had been stored differently than usual because among them was a K-Bar knife, a Leatherman and 9mm. In among the rest of it was a spent slug wrapped in a tight coil of wire and suspended from an inexpensive chain. Danny took it back to show Mason.

"I think we need some very specific help with this, namely your partner Cam," said Danny.

Mason's mouth quirked into a slight smile, "That is his thing, but he's going to need to touch it to have any hope of finding the woman."

"I know, so step one's going to be getting him down here to put hands on this little thing, since I can't exactly just fax it to him."

"Do you think the woman's in California? That's where Jonas is stationed," Mason replied.

"I don't know. Jonas travels a lot, between SEAL team assignments and the stuff he does for us, she could be almost anywhere."

"Do we have a backup plan if finding her proves to be a time consuming problem?"

"Jonas has parents. If this takes more than twenty-four hours to even get going, I'll resort to flying them down here. They've already been notified anyway. I'd just rather deal with them on my terms back in Virginia."

***

Backpack flung over his shoulder, Cam managed to get a last minute spot on a MAC flight from Norfolk to Pensacola. As the plane took off, he closed his eyes and let his thoughts drift. Jobs for Division P were unpredictable. Some were fairly easy, some not. On the surface this sounded like one of the easier ones. Find a woman who Captain Nightengale had a strong emotional attachment to and bring her to the injured man. The details gnawed at Cam a little though. Only because Jonas was Division P was there even an awareness that psi shock was a contributing part of his current medical problems. Only people like Peter and Mason knew just how badly this could affect the injured agent, and how much a lover or understanding family member was needed.

That brought Cam's thoughts around to his own military existence, barring Division P intervention to notify Mason if anything happened to Cam, he was stuck with his own next of kin, his brother, Shea. That crazy bastard had taken seven weeks to get around to contacting Cam after his nearly fatal motorcycle accident. Cam wanted to be able to list Mason as his emergency contact, but hadn't yet dared approach that problem. There was political wrangling going on in DC to get rid of the insanely stupid DADT, but nothing more than some positive recommendations for its abolishment had happened yet. Cam wasn't holding his breath.

***

The touch was unfamiliar, but it didn't hurt. He wasn't sure why. Jonas could hear beeping and the sounds of people walking but opening his eyes felt like an impossible task. He could tell there was someone's hand on his wrist.

"Jonas? Come on, open your eyes for me," a male voice prompted.

It was hard. He was too tired, too disoriented. There had been a lot of hands and every single one of them had felt like they were dragging claws through his body.

"You're safe. You're in a hospital," the man said.

Somebody squeezed Jonas' fingers. It took another eternity to force his eyes open. He saw a man with short dark hair in front of him.

"I'm one of the Division P healers. My name is Mason," said the man. "I'm going to take care of you until we can get you back to Virginia."

Jonas blinked. He thought he should probably nod or something but the thought slipped away as the world faded. He wished Sarah was here.

***

Danny stepped back into the ICU cubicle, tucking his phone back in his pocket. "Cam's en route. Did I hear you talking to Jonas?" Danny asked, hoping for a more visible improvement in the injured man.

Mason turned his head. "He was just barely conscious for a moment. His body's still struggling pretty hard. He had enough comprehension to realize my touch doesn't hurt, but that's about it."

"It still sounds like a step in the right direction. You've been through the whole psi shock haven't you; back at the beginning of the summer, when that whole missile thing was going on?"

"Yeah. Physically, I was hurt a whole lot less than Jonas, but I reacted pretty badly. Having Cam around… definitely helped me pull through it all."

"If this woman is in Jonas' thoughts as messed up as he is, I think the emotions he has for her must be pretty strong."

"I agree. You… have a… um… there's somebody in your life in addition to Peter, yes?" Mason asked.

Danny smiled. "Yeah, her name's Jennifer. Peter and Jen and I… it's a good thing. Does the three-way thing bug you?"

"No. It's just unusual."

"I should introduce you and Cam to Jen next time she's down from Baltimore. She's amazing."

***

"Mason?" said a familiar voice.

Mason looked up from his weary focus on his patient to see Cam standing a few feet away. The man was wearing blue and gray digi-cams. A backpack dangled from one hand. Mason stood up and almost let himself cross the room to kiss his partner, but the comprehension of the uniform sank into Mason's head and he stopped himself.

"You got down here pretty fast," said Mason. Cam stuck out his hand and gave him an oh-so-brief one armed hug. Mason sighed, internally wishing for more, but knew that wasn't going to happen, not in a Navy hospital.

"Danny got me a last minute seat on a MAC flight," Cam said.

"So did any box moving actually occur before you left?"

"Two. That's all I had time for and they're dumped in the middle of your den. How's he doing?" Cam gestured toward Jonas.

"Scraping by. I've got him fairly stable but it wouldn't take very much to send him spiraling downward," Mason admitted. "It would be easier to cope at the complex, but the fastest we can get a plane capable of transporting a stretcher and the necessary equipment is tomorrow evening." Mason glanced at his watch. It was past midnight. "Actually I guess that should be late today."

"You look beat. Have you eaten?"

"Yes, mom. Danny's been keeping tabs on me every couple hours."

Cam gave him a smirk. "So where's this magic bullet?"

Mason pointed at a cart. On the top, along with a tote of medical equipment lay the object, inside of two nested zip-locks. Danny had protected the item from any further touching once he and Mason had decided it was an object of importance.

"Is it okay if I touch Nightengale so I can sort out his presence from any others?" Cam asked.

Mason had to think about that one for a moment. Cam was obviously psi. It shouldn't pose the same hazards as letting a head blind hospital staff member touch Jonas. "A light touch should be okay I think."

Cam walked over to Jonas bedside and pressed a couple of fingers gently to Jonas' hand. He was silent and still for a minute before he lifted his hand away.

"No harm done?" Cam asked.

Mason put his own hand back on Jonas. There was only a slight waver in the stability of Jonas' nervous system. "He's okay."

Cam picked up the baggies and carefully opened them, dumping the bullet and chain out into his hands.

***

This had to be one of the oddest keepsakes that he'd ever used to try and locate someone, Cam thought as he looked at the slug. He closed his eyes and let his Talent explore the deformed bullet. There was an odd mix of connections attached to it, and it took several minutes for Cam to sift away the impression of Jonas' presence. Beneath, he sensed a female link. The bullet had significance to the woman, although Cam's ability to identify what that importance might be, was weak. She was neither close nor far away. It took another segment of time to try to decide what range he was feeling. It had to be east coast he decided, the pull would have been less if it had involved something farther.

He laid the bullet and its chain down.

"Any luck?" asked Mason.

"Yeah, some. I need to let the information cook in my brain for an hour or so. I can tell you she's north of here, somewhere on the order of a thousand miles. Has Jonas been to DC in the past year?"

"I don't know. That's a question for Danny. He has access to all of Jonas' military and Division P records."

"I don't suppose you can take a break?" Cam pointed at Jonas.

"Not really. If a nurse walked in here and started taking his vitals, I'm not sure it would turn out very well," Mason said.

"Damn, the sooner you can get him back to the complex the better it seems. Where'd Danny go? Bathroom break?"

"Coffee and a leg stretch I think. He should be back soon."

***

When Danny returned, he called up Jonas' records on his laptop for Cam. "Nightengale was in Frederick, Maryland at Fort Detrick, on assignment for us about a month ago. Do you think he met this woman there?"

"It sounds possible. Get me on a MAC flight to DC and I'll rent a car and drive the rest of the way," said Cam. It wasn't an ideal situation but it would probably be the speediest.

"Finding a flight for you could take at least a couple of hours," Danny replied.

"Okay, do what you have to. I'm gonna go grab some food from the cafeteria. Mason, would it work to leave Danny here with Nightengale while he's making phone calls? He could keep watch, you really look like you could use a break." He knew Mason's body language too well. The man was pushing himself toward exhaustion. Healing could be a brutal taskmaster.

Mason gave Cam a dubious look, so Cam walked over and laid a hand on Mason's shoulder. "If you burn yourself out, you're not doing Jonas any good."

"I could use some more food," Mason grudgingly acknowledged.

"I'll call you immediately if he's shows any change," Danny promised.

Cam all but shoved his partner out of the ICU cubicle in the direction of the hallway. They went to the cafeteria, got food, and sat at a table as far from any other people as possible. Luckily, at two a.m. there were only a few other patrons.

"You're gonna need sleep at some point," said Cam. He knew damn well that wasn't the only problem; he could feel Mason's intense desire to touch him.

"Eventually."

They ate swiftly and headed back toward the elevators. Cam noticed a housekeeping cart leaving a room and grabbed Mason's wrist, pulling him into the room. He made a quick glance for cameras or anything else telling and saw nothing. He flipped the lock on the door. Mason was standing patiently a few feet away.

"You have something you don't want to say with Danny around?" Mason asked.

"I don't want to say anything." Cam pulled Mason into his arms and held him tight. Mason practically melted against him, kissing him, hands bunching the fabric of Cam's shirt. "And Danny's not the problem," Cam whispered against Mason's mouth. "It's a Navy run hospital and fucking stupid regs."

"Things are changing," Mason murmured, as his hands mapped every part of Cam's body he could reach.

"Not fast enough and I haven't got quite enough balls to face pushing the limits."

"I think your balls are just fine," Mason snickered. Cam could tell his lover was so exhausted he was getting punchy. Mason sobered a little. "I've been apart from you for barely twenty-four hours, why the hell does it feel a lot longer?"

"Stress, hon', major stress."

"We need to get back," Mason said.

"I know, but give me ten minutes to just hold you. I think you need it."

It was soft kisses and roaming hands and they both knew it wasn't going anywhere. When they carefully left the room less than fifteen minutes later, Cam thought Mason still looked overly tired, but more relaxed.

***

Two MAC flights in less than twelve hours were leaving even Cam feeling run a little ragged. Learning to sleep on an aircraft carrier had its advantages; Cam could tolerate some pretty epic noise and vibration. He sacked out almost before the wheels were up. He'd need certain level of alertness when he got to DC.

It took a bit over an hour to drive from Andrews AF base near DC to Frederick. Once Cam got there, he parked the rental car a few blocks from one of the entrances to Fort Detrick. It was a Saturday and there was no guarantee that the woman he was seeking worked for the installation. She could be a civilian, but somehow he thought not.

Driving while actively "finding" was somewhat dangerous. It took too much of his concentration off the road and he'd hit a parked car once. Even walking wasn't without its problems; Cam was likely to run into telephone poles or other objects or people when he was focused on following the pull of whatever he was seeking.

He locked the car and starting walking, one hand in his pocket holding the bullet.

Cam ended up outside an apartment building. This felt like the right place. He looked at his watch. It said 0832. There was a chance either the woman didn't have to work today or that she simply hadn't left yet. Cam knocked on the door to the apartment that his Talent told him held what he was looking for. A trim muscular woman dressed in camouflage BDUs opened the door. She had brown hair pulled tightly back into a French braid.

"Yes?" she asked.

"Do you know a man named Jonas Nightengale?" asked Cam. There was little point in being anything other than blunt. She gave Cam an appraising look, taking in his own uniform.

"Yes…He came to Fort Detrick on an assignment," she replied. "What's this about?" She sounded wary.

"My name is Cameron Bradshaw. Jonas was seriously injured in a SEAL operation in South America." Cam watched the flicker of shock followed by fear cross the woman's face. "Can I come in?"

She beckoned him inside and shut the door. They were standing in her living room. "He's… dead?" she said uncertainly.

"No, he's in a Navy hospital in Pensacola. Um… I… have no idea what your name is."

"Quilleran, Sgt. Sarah Quilleran. How did you find me if you don't know my name?"

Cam pulled the squashed bullet on a chain out of his pocket and held it out to her. "With this." He felt a trickle of shock wash out from her. "Did Jonas ever talk to you about Division P?" It was something of a shot in the dark, but Cam didn't really have time to mess around. He extended his psychic senses, and got the definite impression Sgt. Quilleran was psi, too.

"Yes." Her answer was hesitant.

"I work for Division P, just like he does." Cam dug his federal ID from his pocket and showed it to her. She looked at the ID, but the bullet was what she reached for and took from his hand. That little brush of skin contact reinforced Cam's idea that this woman had some psi Talent. "Do you know what he does for Division P?"

She nodded. "Is he… dying?"

Cam felt the flow of anguish from her. He was subtly impressed that very little of that emotion actually showed on her face. "I really hope not. That's part of where you come into the picture. I'm assuming you have a relationship with him?"

"He's my boyfriend," she said bluntly.

"Good." His response appeared to disconcert her further. "He's needs you."

"I'm not a doctor. I'm a Sergeant in the Army and run security for TATRC. Not that I don't really want to be with him if he's badly hurt… Oh fuck, this has something to do with our psychic thing doesn't it?" she blurted out, obviously finally making the connection between Division P and Cam's presence.

"Yes. In addition to the physical injuries, he's going through some pretty bad psi shock. One of Division P's healers is with him, keeping him relatively stable, but Jonas could really use somebody he's emotionally attached to. I think that person is you."

Sarah sank onto the arm of the sofa. Some of her suppressed emotions were definitely showing through now. Cam could sense fear and grief. If someone had told him that Mason was seriously injured and lying in a hospital hundreds of miles away, he'd be damn near a complete wreck.

"God… how bad is he hurt? How bad is the psychic damage thing?" she asked.

"He has a head injury, a burn to half of his back, a dislocated shoulder and some gashes here and there. The doctor's who's with him has him stabilized enough that he might be able to be transported to Division P headquarters late this evening, but he was still classified as in critical condition when I left Florida." Cam watched her get up and pace nervously.

"What can I do?" she asked.

"Pack a bag and come with me right now. We'll drive straight to the Division P headquarters."

"I have duty in two hours, and tomorrow."

"I'll take care of that," said Cam.

She gave him another long look, appearing to weigh her belief in him against the potential danger of being declared AWOL. "Jonas indicated that for all its hush-hush sort of status, Division P has kick ass clout."

"Pretty much. I can solve your duty problems with a couple of phone calls."

***

It took Sarah Quilleran a grand total of about twenty minutes to throw several changes of clothes in a bag along with toiletries and follow Cameron Bradshaw out the door.

As they drove south toward Suffolk, Virginia, Sarah sat with the bullet in her hand.

"Obviously that little piece of lead has some importance to you and Jonas. I got the impression that you were the one who got shot, but beyond that I didn't really understand the rest of it," said Cam.

"Do you… get the information when you touch things like Jonas does?" she asked, deflecting his question. Telling this man about putting herself in between Jonas and a bullet seemed too personal. How did you explain that you bet your life on the stopping power of a Kevlar vest so the man you were falling in love with didn't die?

"Yes and no. I'm a finder. He does the psychometry thing. There's some overlap between us."

"You're telling me an awful lot of information," Sarah said.

"This classifies as an emergency situation. The healer who's with Jonas, he's keeping Jonas stable, but that's really just a short term fix. Jonas needs someone he cares about to get him all the way up out of the mess inside his head and back into normal reality."

"And he pretty much sucks at doing it on his own," she murmured.

"Did something happen between the two of you? I mean something where he needed you to help ground him."

"Yes. He got hit by a large number of falling boxes in a warehouse while he was at Detrick working on an assignment. He probably had a concussion but he said taking him to the hospital would make it worse. He was really rattled by the whole thing; it triggered some kind of flashback to an injury in Kosovo."

"And you connected with him, helped him," Cam said.

"Yes. I don't really know what I did though."

"That's okay, gut instinct counts for a lot."

Sarah found Cam surprisingly easy to talk to, even if the topic was strange. She'd never discussed the psychic thing with anyone other than Jonas before. She finally sucked up her nerve to tell Cam about the bullet.

"When Jonas was here on assignment, I… got between him and a guy with a gun. I had a vest on and Jonas didn't. I took a bullet for him," Sarah confessed. "I kept the slug for a while, then I eventually gave it to Jonas as some twisted version of a good luck charm. I guess it didn't work."

"He's still alive, against some fairly intense odds. Maybe it did."

***

The conversation between Cam and Sarah eventually lapsed into silence, and Cam let her be. He rationalized that she needed some processing time. It was probably hard enough that the man she cared about was seriously injured, but he sensed some real discomfort in her discussing the psi information with him. That wasn't unusual. It was a weird and awkward topic for someone who showed signs of only grudgingly acknowledging she possessed it, too.

Cam's thoughts veered back to the idea of the injury. If someone had told him Mason was hurt like that, he thought he would have been hard-pressed to hold himself together. The longer they were involved, the tighter the bond between them grew, and Cam was slowly discovering how fierce his attachment was to his lover. If the government ever got their collective heads out their asses and killed off DADT for good, he would be so ungodly relieved. Otherwise he might have to make a choice he didn't want to face. The U.S. Navy would lose.

***

"We're going to meet in the middle," said Danny from the doorway of the ICU cubicle.

Mason looked up from the stretcher where he was arranging blankets and supplies as he readied it to transport Jonas. "Middle?" he asked. He was reaching the end of coherence in a way that ranked up there with the long ago marathon shifts of his residency.

"Cam's bringing Jonas' girlfriend down from Frederick. We're flying up to Norfolk and we'll meet at the complex in about six hours or so. You know once we get in the air, it'll just be the two pilots, plus you and me with Jonas."

Mason blinked and nodded. Getting Jonas transferred to the stretcher required multiple people. In another few minutes, three other members of the hospital staff showed up. Mason knew it wasn't really their fault, but these people seemed to think touching Jonas in any uninjured area was just fine. There had been an atrial flutter and drop in oxygen sats when Jonas' breathing became erratic. Mason had managed to soothe Jonas' body to relative calmness afterward.

"Peter's going to meet us at the airport," Danny continued. The staff people had departed, and Mason and Danny had another few minutes to wait for the ambulance to arrive.

"Oh, that's a good idea."

Danny pushed Mason down onto the stool, and dropped to one knee in front of him. "If you put yourself in danger, I'm going to be pissed."

"This is a marathon, not a sprint. I'm okay. I've eaten every few hours. I'm not going to pass out or anything. I'm just really tired," Mason assured him.

***

In the air, Danny kept watch on Jonas while Mason sprawled in a seat a few feet away. Anybody else probably would have been asleep, but Mason was too nervous about the whole flying thing. Even though his eyes were closed, Mason fidgeted, hands clenching on the arms of the seat frequently.

What was it with healers? Danny had seen both his partner, Peter, and Mason push themselves dangerously past exhaustion in their care for the injured and dying. They did things very few could comprehend much less match, but damn, at what cost? At least Danny was familiar enough with a healer's need for calories to burn to keep an eye on Mason. Fingers crossed, he could let Mason relax, as much as he was likely to, for the entire rest of the flight.

All the portable monitors attached to Jonas showed a nice steady pulse and good oxygen sats, so Danny took the opportunity to call Peter on his satellite phone.

"Tell me things are going well," Peter said, when he picked up.

"It could be a lot worse. Jonas is still in and out of a light coma according to Mason, but his vitals are stable, especially now that we're all tucked away thirty-five thousand feet above well meaning but clueless Navy medical people," replied Danny.

"I'm really hoping we've made an end run around the problem that killed Isabelle."

"I think so. It would probably have been a whole hell of a lot worse without a healer."

"Speaking of healers, how's my mule headed apprentice doing?"

"Pot meet kettle," Danny teased.

"That bad?"

"He's wiped out, but I don't think it's anything that twenty hours of sleep and a couple good meals won't solve. He didn't get all hot and sweaty or pale and shaky or show any of the warning signs of a serious crash."

"Good. Any idea how long until you land?"

Danny glanced at his watch. "About ninety minutes I think."

"Trevor and I will be there when you land. We borrowed an ambulance from one of the local rescue squads. Would you believe I floated a request for buying one of our own across Bottman's desk and he didn't blow a gasket?"

"Cool. I'm willing to bet he rubber stamps it. The whole nightmare of Isabelle's death is actually having some beneficial repercussions."

***

The entrance procedure was more involved than what Sarah Quilleran was used to on a base. Cameron Bradshaw had driven her from Frederick, Maryland to the southern part of Virginia, specifically to a high security complex located on the fringes of a town called Suffolk.

Cam showed his ID, had his thumbprint scanned and even still radio communication was needed to confirm that he was allowed to bring Sarah in with him.

There were a number of buildings scattered along a T-shaped path. Cam parked beside the one on the far left.

"This is the medical wing. Peter Vithoulkas is the head of Division P's medical team. He and one of the other staff members went to the Norfolk airport to meet the jet that's bringing Jonas up from Florida," Cam explained, leading her inside.

He led her to the corner of a huge room that looked half ER and half medical office. "Do you want something to drink? A soda? Coffee?"

"A bottle of water would be good." She was loathe to admit anything else would probably contribute to the hard tangled knot it felt like her stomach was tied in.

***

Trailing behind the gurney that was being pushed by Danny and Peter, Mason trudged up the hallway to the infirmary. Inside, he saw Cam with a tall, brown haired woman dressed in BDUs. She had a tight, closed off expression on her face, but Mason saw the flicker of anguish as she watched Jonas being wheeled in.

Across the room, Peter crooked a finger at the woman, and she slowly crossed the room.

Mason headed toward Cam, who immediately enfolded him in strong arms. "You look pretty wiped out." His hand cupped against the side of Mason's neck as he drew Mason into a long, soft kiss.

"I'm okay. Danny's been watch-dogging me and making sure I eat," Mason replied, sensing the worry from his partner.

"Still… You've been at this for something like thirty-six straight hours; at least I caught a little sleep on the plane, each direction.

"There wasn't really a whole lot I could do about it. The risk was too high to leave him unattended, and it's not like I was going to crawl in bed with him," Mason teased a little. He was still feeling like he'd run a marathon.

"You damn well better not," Cam replied with a wry smile.


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