Author: Debbie
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Trust me, if I did, I'd be writing this fic while on the beach in Hawaii instead.
Author's Note: The things you come up with in your sleep -- I had a really vivid dream, and when I woke up (at 3am) I realized how well it lent itself to being a fic idea. I never did get back to sleep - I was too busy working the plot details out in my head! Also, don't let this fic dissuade anyone from visiting SF (or using BART). It's a great city, really!
Dedication: To Kristin, who coined the "slinky little love cushion" phrase, lol. And many thanks to Mere, for beta-reading.
Feedback: I will love you forever if you take the time to let me know what you think.

Max crawled into bed and flopped against his pillows in exhaustion.

Kyle stared at him pointedly. "You need a vacation."

Max opened one eye blearily to look at his lover, then closed it again. "We can't afford it, Kyle."

"We can't afford not to." Kyle retorted. "Look at yourself. You're working too much. Hell, I'm probably working too much. We never see each other except like now, when we're both dog-tired and can barely string two words together."


"Come on, Evans. I'm not talking about a first class voyage to Tahiti."

"Wellll..." Max opened both eyes this time and his hand strayed to the two little intertwined loops he wore on a chain around his neck. He jingled them through his fingers as he gave the idea some serious consideration. "I've got an aunt in Berkeley that I haven't visited in ages. My parents took me and Isabel a few times when we were kids, and we'd go across the Bay to San Francisco. I remember doing some fun things in the city."

"There now, was that so hard?" Kyle poked Max in the ribs.

Max propped himself up on one elbow and raised an eyebrow in Kyle's direction. "As a matter of fact, my slinky little love cushion, it was. ANY thinking is hard after the day I've had!" He lay back again and waited for the outburst. Kyle always acted like he despised the sugary moniker, but Max strongly suspected he secretly enjoyed the endearment.

He didn't have long to wait. "Slinky, my ass!" Kyle threw a pillow at him. "I'll show you who's slinky!" He pounced on top of Max and pinned his hands overhead before kissing him deeply.

"My mistake." Max murmured when he could breathe again. "You sure showed me." He grinned, and then ran his fingers down Kyle's chest, brushing gently over the matching chain and pendant Kyle wore. The light touch only served to arouse Kyle more.

"Wanna see what else I can show you?" Kyle smirked suggestively.

"I think that could be arranged."

It was a long time before either of them actually slept.


Max's aunt Rebecca was more than happy to welcome her nephew and his partner into her home for a few days. At first, they just slept and lazed around outside in the sunshine. But soon Max and Kyle were up for a little adventuring, so Aunt Rebecca gave them a tour of Berkeley in all its beauty, academia, and wackiness; the two men could hardly contain their laughter as they walked past all the weird vendors and shops on Telegraph Avenue. Then, a few days later, she showed them how to maneuver through BART, and off they went to the city.

It was one of those rare, perfectly sunny days in San Francisco. Max and Kyle did touristy things like walking along Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, buying T-shirts and other souvenirs for the gang back in Roswell. They had a late lunch at a café and then went to Ghirardelli Square for dessert.

"You were right," Max said, as he worked his way through a piece of Ghirardelli chocolate cake. "I did need this vacation."

Kyle just nodded his head and smiled.

"I think you know me better than I know myself sometimes," Max went on, thoughtfully.

"Well, that's the beauty of it all, isn't it?" Kyle stopped to take another bite of his brownie sundae. "Actually, you're not that hard to read. You start getting really testy when we don't spend enough time together."

"Testy? Me?" Max tried to look innocent. "I'm always calm."

Kyle snorted. "Riiiigghhhtt. Tell me another one, Evans."

"Ok, maybe not. Working overtime *and* being any kind of a leader at the same time isn't easy. I don't know how I'd manage without you. You give me strength, you really do."

"Don't go getting all mushy on me again." Kyle mock-glared at Max over his dessert.

"Ok, Ok, I'll stop!" Max chuckled. Then he grinned. "Actually, you need me, too, otherwise there'd be no one to tell you that you have whipped cream on your lips. And as liberal as this city is, I still don't feel comfortable kissing it off of you in front of everyone, so you might as well be boring and use a napkin."

Kyle rolled his eyes as he wiped off the offending cream. "You gotta be kidding. Life with you is never boring."


They rode the cable cars back to the Powell Street BART station. Back through the turnstiles, down an escalator, and they were on the platform waiting for the next train.

As they stood amid the growing crowd of early-evening commuters, Max noticed a disturbance overhead. Someone was coming down the escalator, shouting almost incoherently. More shouts of "Hey!" and "Stop!" were heard distantly behind the intruder, but were apparently ignored.

And then Max saw it. The maniac was waving a gun, pointing it seemingly randomly throughout the crowd as he continued his raving.

Time slowed down. Max suddenly noticed lots of little details ... how expensive briefcases took on scuffs as they went flying, the swish of a blue blazer as the wearer spun to throw himself to the floor, the glint of polished metal on the police officers' uniforms as they rushed down the escalator in pursuit, taking their own aim with service revolvers. He saw Kyle get caught by the panicked crowd, pushed away from him down the platform.


and then

*Bang!* again.

Max heard the assailant's gun go off. In the next instant, the madman crumpled as one of the officer's bullets struck home.

Time resumed its normal speed again as chaos erupted in the station. Kyle. Where was Kyle? Max saw a crowd gathering in the direction Kyle had gotten shoved. In a near-panic, Max pushed his way through the masses, struggling against what felt like millions of people. When he finally got closer, he saw in horror that his fears were confirmed. Kyle was sprawled out on the cold dusty floor, blood welling up from his gut. <<Oh, God, no, not again...>> Didn't look like a heart-shot this time, but that didn't mean it wasn't serious. In spite of all the witnesses around, Max would still have used his powers to heal Kyle, no hesitation. Anything to keep the love of his life with him a little longer. But he never got the chance. Emergency personnel descended in a uniformed swarm. Max felt himself being pulled away from Kyle's side by a businesslike, although not unfeeling officer, who gently told Max he needed to stand aside to give the medical team room to work. Max could only stand there numbly and nod. If he'd only gotten to Kyle a little earlier, moved a little faster, he could have healed Kyle and they both could have disappeared into the crowd before any witnesses could point them out. Now, however, he'd only be screaming "arrest me" if he darted in and left silver handprints in his wake. What good would that do either of them? But he couldn't help feel the crushing weight of his guilt as he watched the EMTs do things the hard, painful way. They were looking too serious for Max's comfort -- what if they lost Kyle? He could barely pay attention to the officer who was questioning him and other witnesses.

Although it seemed an eternity to Max, it wasn't long before the crew got Kyle stabilized enough to move him, and up they went, back to the street level where an ambulance lay in wait. Max was permitted to climb in the back of the emergency vehicle and sit by Kyle's side, with the admonishment that he dive aside should Kyle need further care before reaching the St. Francis hospital.

Max gingerly took a seat in the cramped space and tried to ignore the 2 technicians in attendance. "Kyle?" he whispered, gently stroking the pale arm that lay limp and still on the stretcher.

No response.

"Kyle?" Max's voice cracked. "Please. You have to come back to me. I need you, remember?" The joke sounded flat, even to him.

No response.

Max was about to try again when there was a response and it wasn't good. Machines started to beep and whir, and the EMTs jumped back into action. <<Oh, God, they're going to lose him. And all I can do is sit here helplessly and watch!>> He pressed himself back against the walls of the vehicle, trying to stay out of the technicians' way as much as possible. His hand went to his neckchain and grasped the intertwined loops in an unconscious gesture, trying to gain comfort from something, anything.

He wasn't sure what made him make the next gesture. He just felt instinctively that it was the right thing to do. Max whipped off his chain and held it in his hands, as close to Kyle's ear as he could get without interfering with the EMTs' efforts. He began to jingle the chain softly, the little loops clinking against each other with his movements and the swaying of the ambulance. *chingchingchingching* It became a song, a chant. It told the story of their love, their commitment, their lives together. Underneath it all, Max tried hard to mentally project his feelings to Kyle. It might not do any good, but it made Max feel as though he was doing something. <<Live. Live, damn you.>> *chingchingchingching* sang the metal, a thin refrain audible over the sound of the machinery and voices and road noise and sirens. IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou.

In a few minutes they were at the emergency entrance to the hospital. Kyle was rushed inside, leaving Max to fill out forms and sit in the waiting room. A harried doctor told him that Kyle would be in surgery while they repaired the internal damage, and then Max was left alone again. An hour passed, then two. Max just sat, fingering the chain and pendant in his fingers, reflecting on his and Kyle's few years together, wondering if this was as long as they were going to have. He didn't want to think about that possibility.

Finally, the same doctor came out again. Max's heart spasmed with relief when he saw the man's tired but reassuring smile.

"Your friend will be fine. We've got the bullet removed and the damage repaired. He's a lucky young man. A little further to the left and he'd have had permanent, possibly fatal damage to his pancreas and some other organs."

"He's ok?" Despite the doctor's words, Max could hardly believe it, after the ordeal he'd just been through.

"He will be. He's pretty wiped out now, of course, and we'll have to keep him a few days to see how he does. But he should be coming out of anesthesia pretty soon. Would you like to go to the recovery room and sit with him?"

Max was on his feet in seconds. The doctor chuckled at the look of unabashed hope in the dark eyes. "Come this way," he gestured. Max followed obediently.

Through the double doors, down the hallway, up one floor and....

"There you go," said the doctor, indicating the appropriate room. "You can have a seat right over there,"—he nodded at a chair by the bed—"and wait for him to wake up. Just don't expect anything too coherent as he comes out of the anesthesia. There are nurses right outside if you need anything." He left.

Max realized he still had the neck chain clutched tight in one fist. He put it back on so he wouldn't drop it anywhere and lose it; then he made his way to the chair and sat down. He took Kyle's hand and just sat quietly, stroking the cool fingers with his own.

After a few moments, the fingers curled around his and squeezed weakly in response.

"Kyle? Kyle, it's me, Max. I'm here. You're ok. It's all right now." Max knew he was babbling, but he couldn't help it. He was just so relieved to see a positive sign from his lover that rational behavior went out the window.

Kyle's blue eyes opened. Max could see he was having a little trouble focusing them. "It's ok, Kyle." He repeated, just to be saying something.

Kyle blinked a few more times, which seemed to help. He turned his head slightly in Max's direction. "That sound..." he croaked.

"What sound?" Max looked around. He couldn't hear anything unusual. Was this the incoherency the doctor had mentioned?

"Not ... now." Kyle closed his eyes again and rested a moment while Max watched him, perplexed. Kyle reopened his eyes. "Before. Heard sound.... Metal."

Max's dark eyes widened. "You mean this?" He flicked at his chain with a practiced finger and made it jingle briefly.

"Yes. Heard it. I was so... tired. Hurt so much.... Giving up easier... But then I heard that and..." Kyle's voice was getting a little stronger. "...I had to stay to listen."

Words failed Max. Because of some silly impulsive gesture he'd made in desperation, the love of his life was still alive. He didn't know why it had worked, he was just eternally grateful it had. All he could think of to say was "I love you, Kyle."

"Not Kyle."

"What?" Max got worried again. Did Kyle have amnesia or something?

Kyle smiled weakly. "I believe... the name is ... 'slinky little love cushion.'"

Max couldn't help it. Despite the grim surroundings and all that had happened, he laughed. Laughed for joy.

Everything would be fine.


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