Community General Hospital – Evening –
Darryl was being discharged as Hondo arrived. It was odd seeing his Pops doting over the young boy; Hondo had missed that, and he felt a twinge of jealousy as he approached the two. Nevertheless, Hondo was relieved that Darryl was well enough to go home; others had not been so lucky. He wondered how long it would take to erase the sight of the bodies lying strewn about and buried under rubble and debris. The sounds of whimpering and pleas for help were ringing in his ears even now. The sight of Darryl along with the other victims made Hondo’s heart stop. Then there was Luca.
When tragedies and acts of terror happened no one ever thought of the first responders; the men and women who had to rush to the scene to rescue and recover. It was their jobs to remain calm and remember the training that they’d received. Still, no one ever remembered that they were human too and long after the news broadcasts ended, no one was talking about the injuries they’d suffered; injuries to their minds, bodies and their spirits. No one ever asked how they were able to do what they did, day after day, tragedy after tragedy. It was amazing how any of them had managed to survive this long; Luca, Deacon along with himself had been a part of S.W.A.T. for a long time; they’d suffered and given so much of themselves that they’d all forgotten about the scars because the scars had become a part of the landscape of their lives. It was hard what they did but if you asked any of them, each one would assure you that they wouldn’t want to do anything else.
Home of Hondo Harrelson –
It took Hondo and Pops nearly an hour to get Darryl settled. Charice had dropped off dinner and left strict instructions to make sure the boy ate before he went to bed. Hondo was restless; he wasn’t ready to sleep and wouldn’t be able to if wanted. This would have been a time when he would have gone back to work and spent an hour in the gym, but he wasn’t in the mood for that either. He had something else in mind.
Hondo grabbed his jacket and headed out of the house. Once he got in the car, he dialed Luca’s number; it was late but after today he knew his friend would be up. It took several rings before Luca answered.
“Hey…boss?” He said out of breath.
“Hey, I just got home, and I thought I’d call and check on you…”
There was something off, so Hondo pressed on.
“You sure, man? You seem…”
“No, no, I’m okay.”
“Rough day, huh? You’re not still blaming yourself for shooting that kid, are you?”
“I’m still dealing with that. I’ll go see Wendy if I need to.”
“Good, Wendy’s the best. She’s helped me out a lot over the years.”
“Yeah I hear you. She’s helped Deacon too.” Luca added.
“Well, I’ll let you go.”
“Okay, thanks for checking; I appreciate it.”
“Of course, that’s what we do.” Hondo answered.
Hondo ended the call wondering if Luca really was okay. He didn’t sound like himself but why would he after what had happened earlier. Hondo wasn’t himself either and that’s why he was out at almost one in the morning seeking comfort from someone he wasn’t sure would even let him through the door.
His gut told him this visit was a bad idea; he hadn’t been a good friend to her in spite of what they had been to each other once. Still, he felt compelled…drawn to her high-rise apartment at this ungodly hour. He parked across the street and killed the engine. The fact that he was here, sitting outside of a woman’s apartment needing something; closeness, the warmth of human contact, made him feel vulnerable, a feeling that sounded and felt like weakness. Hondo would never allow weakness to be a part of who he was yet, here he sat ready to interrupt her evening. Then his mind was flooded with memories when this visit would have been welcomed and understood between them.
Home of Nia Wells – 1:10 a.m. –
The doorbell rang three times before she realized that whoever it was wasn’t going away. So, grabbing the oversized shirt she headed toward the door. Nia looked through the peephole and was surprised to see him standing on the other side of her door. She hadn’t seen him in months; not since she had been attacked and laying in a hospital bed. His timing couldn’t have been worse. Glancing back over her shoulder she unlocked and opened the door.
“Hey.” He said sheepishly.
She saw something in his eyes; he was in trouble and it softened her heart enough to let him in.
“Hondo? It’s a little late don’t you think?”
She stepped aside to let him in. With his hands in his pockets and head down he past her into the apartment. Hondo looked around the elegant interior; she’d done miracles with the place since he’d been here last.
“Wow, Nia the place looks great. You’ve done a good job.”
She watched him, following him as he walked toward the couch. He turned to face her. Her arms were crossed and that suspicious look in her eyes hadn’t changed. She never believed his bull crap and she would call him on it at every chance. She wasn’t a pushover and tonight would not be as easy as he’d thought.
That was the problem; he hadn’t thought before he came. He was relying on the past to become his present if just for a few hours.
“What’s going on, Hondo? You look…troubled.”
“Yeah, it’s been a rough day…”
“So, you have a rough day and you come here at one o’clock in the morning?”
“I’m…I’m sorry; maybe this was a bad idea. I’m not sure why I came…”
Nia pulled the large denim shirt around her body and approached him, breaching his personal space. Her cologne and her confidence were intoxicating. Hondo felt a twinge of hope that he hadn’t made a complete fool of himself by coming.
“…for old time’s sake?”
She smiled slyly as she passed him and took a seat next to the couch. It was his invitation to sit as well.
“Why me?” She asked. “Don’t tell me the lovely lady that I saw you with that night has already dumped you.”
Her words felt like a kick in the gut. She was right and he hated to admit that he’d failed at another attempt at proving that he wasn’t that guy. But he was that guy otherwise why else would he be here?
“I wouldn’t put it that way.”
“Then how would you put it, Hondo?”
“I just…look I needed a friend and I thought…”
“You thought you could come here and for a little while forget your troubles! Hondo, things have changed, remember? I can’t be that for you anymore.”
“Nia, I’m sorry; for everything. For getting you mixed up in my life, for taking you for granted, for using you…”
Hondo looked into her eyes as she gently took his hands in hers.
“We used each other. We knew that what we had was only physical. We were using each other to take the edge off and to help each other make it through until…”
“…Until the person we were meant to be with came along.” He finished.
“Exactly.” Then releasing his hands. “It looks like you found her but if not, we can’t go back to what we were and I’m not looking anymore.”
Hondo nodded and stood to leave. Nia followed him to the door and just before he stepped into the hallway, he turned to face her.
“You’re a good man, Hondo.”
“I keep hearing that.”
“It’s true but you still haven’t faced those demons that you’ve been running from for a very long time and until you do, you’re going to find yourself on another woman’s doorstep at one o’clock in the morning.”
Hondo smiled sadly, then gently ran his hand lightly down the side of her face.
“You’ve always played it straight with me, Nia; thank you for that.”
“Always, that’s what friends do.”
“I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“Oh, you didn’t.” She assured.
Hondo looked at her, eyebrow raised and then the large denim shirt made sense. He nodded and without another word, he turned and disappeared down the quiet hallway. Nia closed and locked the door. For a moment she allowed herself memories from her time with him. Then with a smile she headed back to bed. Removing the shirt, she climbed under the sheets.
“Is he going to be okay?” He asked.
“He’s going to be just fine.” She answered.
Nia felt his arms gobble up her small frame. She relaxed in his arms letting her body fall against his chest.
“Good night, Nia.”
“Good night, Dom.”