Title: If It Kills Me
Rating: G, PG tops
Warnings: mentions of off-screen violence, criminal activity, maybe a bit of angst
Characters/Pairings: Luis, minor characters, mentions of Sheridan, original character, Hank
Summary: prompt: taxi. For the second time in as many hours, Luis found himself in the back seat of a New York taxi with his stern FBI counterpart, but this time he was wide awake, his heart hammering in his chest and his mouth dry.

Luis caught a glimpse of himself in the rear-view mirror and matched the wince his (opinionated) cab driver failed to hide.

“You, my friend, look like you were on the wrong end of a Yankees’ bat.”

“Mets,” Freeman opined beside Luis, effectively stealing the rest of the words from their loquacious chauffeur’s mouth and leaving them in relative silence (but if looks could kill…) as the cab lurched forward to creep along the crowded streets.

Luis slumped deeper into the cushions of his seat, reclining his weary head back. Overwhelmed by the high rises towering toward the heavens on either side of him and the cacophony of noises that made up the (never sleeping) city, he felt a headache thrumming at his temples. For a long while, neither he nor Freeman spoke, and Luis felt his thoughts drifting to more pleasant things (Emma’s sunny smile, Sheridan’s blue, blue eyes, the amazing but terrifying feeling of utter rightness he felt holding her in his arms). He must have dozed, because the next thing he knew, Freeman was arguing with the cabbie over his exorbitant fee (and, just for sport, the Yankees versus the Mets), and they had reached their destination.

Luis proudly refused when Freeman offered a helping hand, and by the time they reached the cramped 3rd floor apartment he’d called home for the last 4 months (barely 3, actually, taking into account his most recent, lengthy stay in a hospital bed), Luis was profoundly grateful for the opportunity to sit again. Even the lumpy sofa that had come with the furnished apartment felt good to his overtaxed system. Cracking one eye open, Luis peered at the older man as he surveyed the apartment with a critical eye.

“Hardly home sweet home is it?” Freeman finally remarked, picking up the messy pile of mail thrown haphazardly on the tiny kitchen tabletop and walking back toward Luis.

“You said it yourself, Freeman,” Luis straightened in his seat as the FBI agent approached, a single brow arched high in interest as he carded through the mail forwarded by the Bureau. “This is a job; not a vacation, 5-star hotel included.”

“Still,” Freeman replied, “a man is entitled to a few creature comforts, and this place has little, if any, to boast.” Perching himself on the edge of the mismatched, too small armchair that made the ratty sofa look good, he continued, “You were instrumental in bringing down one of the largest drug cartels on the Eastern coast, and all you have to show for it is some broken ribs and a face that looks like it was pummeled by a sledgehammer. The least you deserve is a good night’s rest in a nice, soft, non-hospital bed. Not in a five-star hotel, mind you, but something a little more…sanitary.”

Luis followed the other man’s eyes and had to agree with him on one point. The little apartment had certainly suffered in the wake of his month-long hospital confinement (recovery sounded too…nice…for what had transpired there). But the only bed Luis wanted to sleep in tonight was his own—in Harmony (his subconscious berated him for stooping to the new low of deluding himself with that half-truth). As to how to make that happen, he didn’t have the energy or the resources to make his desire a reality, at least not in the immediate future. He nodded at the pile of mail Freeman had tossed carelessly onto the coffee table and forced a note of casual disinterest in his tone when he asked (channeling the oft’ thought of Hank), “Nothing from Publisher’s Clearing House?”

Freeman would have winced at the failed attempt at humor, but he read in Luis’s eyes and demeanor the question he wasn’t asking (the letters from the little girl had been a distraction the Bureau couldn’t afford, not in such a high-profile case, and the unenviable task of seeing that they ceased had fallen on his shoulders), and he felt he owed this man something for putting his life on the line like he had (for her, for both of them, the agents that now considered him more than just an interloper) in the successful operation to take the remaining French thug and the American goons that had helped make his re-emergence so lucrative down for good. Roger would meet his ultimate fate swiftly by their country’s judiciary standards, but not swiftly enough, Freeman knew. New York was, thankfully, a short plane ride from Harmony, and Luis could be flown out, at any point in the future, to give his testimony. It was (past) time to pay his invaluable comrade back the best way he knew how: by taking him home and helping him bust up a wedding, that to Hal’s way of thinking (the child was a given, but any idiot could see the man loved that woman more than was wise) had no business happening. Pushing himself back to his feet, he bent and stretched out an arm to pluck the invitation from the top of the pile and handed it over to Luis. “Not the lottery, I’m afraid, but your last chance to make things right and wake up from that stubborn stupor of yours.”

Every muscle in Luis’s body tensed as he recognized the invitation for what it was, and he abruptly lifted his eyes back to Freeman’s expectant face, the image of the elegant script burned into his memory (You are cordially invited…).

“Make yourself presentable, my friend,” Freeman smoothed down his own rumpled jacket and glanced at the watch on his wrist. “We have a wedding to attend, and I’m afraid we’re running a bit late.”

For the second time in as many hours, Luis found himself in the back seat of a New York taxi with his stern FBI counterpart, but this time he was wide awake, his heart hammering in his chest and his mouth dry.

The invitation rested on the seat between the two men, its engraved words taunting one man, pressing the other into throwing the considerable weight of his badge around in the effort to make amends for something that was (only partially) his doing. It lay there, forgotten, as they reached the airport, and Freeman tossed a wad of cash at the cabbie (a kinder, gentler version) before sprinting after and easily catching up to the weakened man now operating purely on adrenalin and the fear of his regrets.

A businessman with a briefcase beneath one arm, suitcase wedged beneath the other barely spared a glance for Freeman as he sidestepped him and slid into the vacated back seat of the cab. The cabbie thrust the bills in his pocket with fingers that trembled with disbelief as the businessman rambled off an address and slammed the door behind him.

The invitation slid to the floor, to be pushed and kicked around by several other passengers before the cabbie finally called it a night and parked his vehicle, only to have his trio of ragamuffins descend on him all at once.

Seven-year-old Billy picked up the crumpled piece of paper that fluttered to the ground at his feet and smoothed out its wrinkles, proudly showing off his improving reading skills while his kid sisters climbed and clung to his father’s neck like the annoying little monkeys they were. “…to the wed-iiing of Henn-rry Ben—Benn—ett and Sh-sh-sher—i—dan Cr-cr-aaannnee. Do you know them, Dad?” Billy wondered as he hurried to match his father’s strides, and his mother opened the front door, creating a fascinating wedge of light and shadows across the small yard that held the boy utterly transfixed for a second, his question completely forgotten.

“Billy,” his mother lightly chastised as she hurried down the front steps to steer her fanciful son inside after his sisters and father. “Put that in the garbage and go wash your hands. Dinner’s getting cold.”

Billy dutifully followed his mother’s orders, his question forever unanswered.

Sorry for such a long wait in-between chapters. RL (a change in job/job schedule) has really limited my fic-writing time as of late, but I managed to squeeze in a little bit of fun on this lazy Sunday.

I hope you enjoyed the latest chapter.

It's not exactly my best, but I think it did shed a better light on our hero, don't you?

Feedback is loved and adored.

Thanks so much for reading!!!

P.S. Mistakes are all mine.