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By Cass


"You know, Travis, people like you never think they're going to get what's coming to them. Well, watch out, because one day, you will!"
Jesse cringed. Not so much from the words - being an ER doctor as well as an amateur sleuth, working alongside Mark Sloan and his police Lieutenant son Steve meant that he wasn't exactly new to threats - as from the vulnerable position in which he found himself. The taller man loomed over him menacingly, having managed to corner him in the storeroom. His hands were flat against the wall on either side of Jesse's head - effectively trapping him - and his face was mere inches from the other young man's - albeit slightly above him.
Jesse had nowhere to go and he was sufficiently intimidated by the other man's height and close proximity to instinctively freeze himself to the wall. He hated violence - it was something he witnessed too frequently every day both in his job and his adopted profession. He could not understand why people should want to hurt others. Despite this, on some level, it fascinated him, which was why he was so enthusiastic about helping Mark and Steve solve the murders which seemed to occur with alarming regularity in LA. It wasn't as if he could do anything for the victim at that point anyway, much as he would like to; that need was satisfied by his job, which he took very seriously. He believed being a doctor was a privilege - one which should never be abused. Saving lives was something which came instinctively - and he enjoyed doing it because he hated seeing people in pain. It wasn't some vain quest for glory, more a deep-seated need to help people - which spilled out sometimes in his endeavours to assist Mark and Steve with the various murder cases in which they became embroiled.
Feeling the way he did about his chosen profession, it drove him nuts when he saw a doctor abusing their power, or thinking more about themselves than their patients. Danny Jerrold, one of the other residents under Mark's aegis, was a good and competent doctor, but he was arrogant and careless. He treated his patients with thinly disguised disdain and had a nasty habit of talking over them instead of to them. Danny had once confided in Jesse that he intended to become a surgeon as quickly as he could so he could begin 'raking in the cash' as he had put it. This had appalled the other young resident. And in his rush to reach his goal Danny had completely neglected the human side of his profession. A good doctor should not simply have skilled hands but a caring heart and the ability to listen. These were all things which were second nature to Jesse.
Which was what had led him to his current predicament. Danny had caught him just as he was about to leave a 40-hour shift for some well-earned sleep. The other resident had practically begged him to speak to Mark and put in a good word for him because he was convinced the older doctor, Head of Internal Medicine at the hospital, was not going to sponsor his application for surgery at Community General. Jesse, very uncomfortable at being put on the spot and having his close friendship with Mark taken advantage of, had, nevertheless, agreed, albeit reluctantly. That had seemed to placate the other man, although it had not calmed him down much. He seemed hyper - energy rolling off him in waves, and there was something slightly 'off' about his behaviour that seeded the flowering of suspicion in Jesse's mind.
Ten minutes later, however, the resident had approached him again, this time in a much more volatile state, his excess energy having now transformed into fury. He had encountered Mark, who had told him that he would not be recommending him and had then attempted to explain his reasons. Danny was furious and, as he emerged from the office where Mark had been left hanging mid explanation, had come across Jesse again. He had always envied the other young man. Jesse's inherent skill as a doctor, his easy friendship with Mark Sloan, plus his popularity amongst the staff at Community General were all factors which did not exactly endear him to the likes of Danny Jerrold. And now, having been turned down by Jesse's friend and mentor, Dr Mark Sloan, Jesse thus became a target for Danny's rage. The other resident had tried to deflect Danny's wrath, although inwardly, he seethed at the accusations of unprofessionalism and favouritism which Danny had hurled in Mark's direction. The young man not only considered Mark Sloan a second father, he also respected him a great deal in his capacity as a doctor. He hadn't reached his important position on staff by luck. He was brilliant and highly regarded by many people; a doctor who embodied the word 'compassion'.
Jesse didn't think this would cut any ice with Danny, however, and wisely refrained from any vehement defence of Mark, focusing instead on the other man's flushed features, rapid breathing and hyperactive manner. His diagnosis made, he had then practically dragged Danny into the empty storeroom - in order to keep the ensuing conversation private - and had made patently clear to him the real reason behind Mark Sloan's refusal of his application for tenure - Danny's obvious use of stimulants.
Unfortunately, this accusation of drug use - albeit true - had only served to enrage Danny further and before he even realised what was happening, Jesse had been backed into the corner in which he was now cowering, being subjected to blatant threats as Danny loomed over him menacingly .
"I can help you, Danny," Jesse had temporised, turning his head aside as the taller man's face came even closer to his own. "There are some excellent programs for this problem. You're not alone. You'd be surprised …"
"Shut up!" hissed the other man, his brown eyes blazing. Despite his vulnerable position, Jesse noticed that Danny's pupils were dilated, his breathing more rapid than ever and he could swear that he could actually see the quickened heartbeats thumping in the intern's chest. "You think you'e so superior, don't you, Travis?" Danny demanded. "Mark Sloan's little 'pet doctor', always trotting round after him like some over-eager puppy. Well, he can't protect you forever. One day soon …" He left the rest of the threat unspoken, jabbing his finger savagely into Jesse's right shoulder.
Stung by the words, his shoulder throbbing from the unprovoked attack, Jesse didn't move as the other man stormed out, slamming the door behind him. A moment later, the young ER resident remembered to breathe again.

Mark Sloan was passing the storeroom when Jesse emerged from it and smiled warmly at his young friend. "Hello, Jess," he said, by way of greeting. "I thought you were on your way home?" Consulting his watch, his smile turned into a slight frown as he noted the time. "You know, you really should have gone by now," he continued, sternly. "You've been here nearly 41 hours as it is. You've done an excellent day's work - heck, you've done practically two of them. You deserve a rest. D'you think you'll be all right to drive?"
Jesse, distracted by his recent encounter in the storeroom, had hardly noticed Mark's sudden presence beside him. As the older man reached out to place a concerned hand on his shoulder, he unwittingly flinched and then cursed silently as he realised, belatedly, who it was. Mark was bound to realise that something was wrong. He had the sharpest mind of anyone Jesse knew - it was what made him such a good amateur detective - and part of what sometimes drive Steve crazy.
"Jesse? Are you all right?" Mark's frown increased as he studied his friend carefully. The sudden recoil when he had reached out to touch him had him a little concerned and as the younger man turned to face him, he frowned. The expression on Jesse's face was carefully neutral now but Mark could have sworn he had seen a look of panic flash across those expressive features before the younger man could prevent it.
" I'm fine, Mark," said his protégé with a smile - which, the older doctor noticed with increasing concern, did not reach his eyes. "I'm just a little tired."
Mark didn't believe him. Jesse was incapable of lying. Every emotion he felt was evident on his face and in the large blue eyes which, he noted, were looking everywhere but at him, a sure sign that the younger man was trying to hide something. "Are you sure that's all it is?" he pressed. Maybe he could get his young friend to talk to him, open up about whatever it was that had got him so rattled. Because it was becoming patently clear to Mark that something had.
"I'm sure," came the terse reply. "Look, Mark, I… I gotta go. I .. um .. you're right, I should've gone home already. I'll see you tomorrow."
Mark shook his head. "No, you won't," he said. "You're taking the next two days off."
"Wha .." Jesse stared at him, open-mouthed. "B .. But I …"
"Jess, you just worked two double shifts. You're exhausted. I'm not having my best doctor worked to death. We can manage without you .. just," he teased. "Go home, and I'll see you in two days."
Jesse felt warmth flood through him at Mark's words. 'My best doctor'
It was so typical of the older man. As a teacher he was always gently encouraging and silently approving when someone did well, but verbal praise was hard earned and never offered lightly. That it slipped out so easily now spoke volumes about his mentor's opinion of him and the agitation he had been feeling after his encounter with Danny was dispelled as he accepted both the words and the caring behind them. "Okay," he acquiesced, smiling shyly up at the other man. "Thanks, Mark."
"Don't mention it," came the brusque reply. Then a fatherly hand was placed on his shoulder. "And Jess, if you ever want to talk - you know where I am."
This time the smile reached the blue eyes as Jesse acknowledged and accepted his concern. "I know. Thanks."

As the conversation ended and the two men took their leave of each other, a hidden observer scowled. Danny Jerrold hated Mark Sloan. The man had seriously dented his chances of becoming a surgeon like his father and grandfather, and without the prestige and money which that position could bring, his debts would continue to mount and would never be paid. The other doctor would pay for what he had done. Since their aborted conversation, Danny had been considering what he could do to hurt the old man and now, having witnessed the scene between Mark and Jesse, he had come up with an idea. What he had in mind would not only gain him revenge for his unfair treatment by Sloan, it would also be fun for him. Jesse Travis had had things his own way for far too long. Dr Sloan's blue-eyed boy was about to discover that no-one messed with Danny Jerrold and got away with it.

Jesse yawned copiously as he entered his apartment later that night. Despite his exhaustion, he had stopped off at the local all-night grocery store. His cupboards had been bare before his two-day stint at the hospital, helping to deal with the influx of patients from two fires, a bus crash and several random shootings. It had been a busy 40 hours and all he wanted was his bed. He had completely erased from his mind the unsettling conversation with Danny Jerrold.

Opening the door of his apartment, however, he froze in shock.

"It looks like they got in through the French windows," stated the cop who had introduced himself as 'officer Benbow' as Jesse stared miserably around his wrecked apartment.
"There've been a few break ins in this area," said his partner. "We've been advising people to take extra precautions. Burglar alarms, extra locks, that kind of thing."
Jesse smiled wanly. It was a little late to be thinking about extra security now, he reflected. His apartment was in ruins. Furniture was overturned and broken, crockery and ornaments smashed, paint daubed on the walls and the carriage clock, a present from his now deceased grandparents and a few other items - mostly of sentimental value only - gone.
"Do you have anywhere you can stay tonight, sir?" asked the second officer, her tone gentle. The young man looked as though he was in shock. His face was pale, his eyes slightly glazed. It was such a shame. He had informed them that he was a doctor who had just arrived home after a gruelling shift, only to discover that his home had been vandalised and precious items had been stolen. Still, it could have been much worse, she ruminated. He could have been home when the thieves had struck - like the man down the block who was now lying in a coma in the local hospital. He was not expected to recover. "Sir?"
Jesse, jolted out of his own melancholic thoughts, looked at her uncomprehendingly for a moment. "What?"
"I asked if you have anywhere you can stay," she repeated, more firmly. "We need to process the crime scene and it could take some time. You look beat," she added as an afterthought.
Another sad little half-smile. "I am," he admitted. His eyes strayed to his watch. 2:00am. It was far too late to disturb Mark and Steve. Besides, this was his problem and he didn't need to bother his friends with it. "I guess I could go back to the hospital," he said, tiredly. "There's the on call room. I could sleep there. At least I'll be in plenty of time for my next shift."
The lighthearted comment was anything but, although the female office smiled at the attempt. Then she patted his arm. "That's a good idea. Why don't you gather up some clean clothes and we'll drive you over there. The forensic guys will be all over this place and they won't want us in the way."
Jesse frowned. "Forensics?" he echoed, curiously. "I thought this was just a break in?"
"Oh it is, it is," she rushed to reassure him. "But it may also be part of an ongoing investigation. We need to establish if that's the case or if it's just a one-off."
"Oh," he said. "I … I guess I'll go get my stuff, then …"
"You do that. Oh, and sir? Try not to disturb anything, okay?"
He nodded. "Yeah, I know," he said, ruefully. "I have a friend who's a cop. I know the drill."

One hour later he was back at the hospital. The on-call room was quiet and, fortunately, deserted. He felt guilty about stealing the bed from the doctor on duty but he needed his rest. And besides, he had every intention of going back on duty as soon as he woke up, instead of taking the next two days off as Mark had advised him. He might as well. He couldn't go home any time soon.
As soon as his head touched the pillow, he drifted off to sleep. It was an uneasy rest, however, punctuated by nightmare images which he couldn't hold on to long enough to figure out what they were. He awoke with a start when someone gripped his shoulder, practically falling off the bed in his efforts to get away.
"Wha … wha …?? Oh … Mark!"
The older doctor was studying him with mingled concern and puzzlement. "Jesse, what are you doing here?" he demanded. "Didn't I send you home last night?"
"La .. last night?" he echoed, stupidly. Then his senses returned and his mind cleared. "Oh, right. Last night."
"Well?" Mark was regarding him with considerable bewilderment. "What are you doing back here?"
The younger doctor shrugged. "My apartment was broken into," he explained, neutrally, trying to make the event sound less than it was. "The police had it taped off as a crime scene and I had nowhere else to go." Whoops. He hadn't intended to say it quite like that.
Sure enough, Mark's face darkened. "Nowhere to go?" he echoed. "Jess, why didn't you call me? You know you're welcome at the beach house at any time."
Jesse smiled weakly. "I … I … well, it was 2:00am in the morning," he said. "I didn't want to disturb you so late. Besides, I can handle it." He hadn't intended to say that, either.
"Handle what?" Mark demanded, his brows furrowing in confusion. "Jesse, is there something you're not telling me? Why have the police taped off your apartment? That's not standard procedure for a burglary."
"It … it's part of an ongoing investigation," stammered the young man. "I mean .. it might be part of an ongoing investigation. Then again, it's probably not," he temporised, as he saw the worry flare in his mentor's eyes. "It's probably just a break in," he finished, lamely.
"Well, whatever it is, I'm not having you sleeping here when there's a perfectly good guest room - or two - at the beach house," said Mark, firmly. "I won't have any arguments from you, young man. You're going to stay with us until this investigation or whatever it is is finished."
Jesse nodded, too tired to put up any resistance. In truth, he was grateful that Mark had made the offer. He really didn't feel up to completing another shift and then crashing out in the hospital. As comfortable as the on-call beds were, there was nothing to compare with the real thing in a nice room, where the sounds and smells of the hospital could not intrude. "Okay," he murmured, around a yawn. "That sounds great …"
Mark scrutinised his young friend carefully. He looked done in. Exhaustion hung around him like a shroud and the shock of arriving home to find his home burglarised had obviously traumatised him. He normally put up more of a fight than this. "Are you okay to drive?" he asked. "I'm a little worried about you getting behind the wheel of a car in your state."
"I'll be fine," Jesse said, dismissively. Then he remembered how he had got to the hospital. "Oh, I don't have my car," he went on. "The police drove me here."
"Then I'll take you." Mark's tone brooked no argument and he wasn't about to get one. "Come on."
"Where are we going?" wondered Jesse as Mark took him by the arm and practically pulled him out of the oncall room.
"We're going to the canteen where you are going to have something to eat and drink, because I doubt you had anything when you got home last night," said Mark, firmly, correctly assuming that Jesse had had no time to partake of any food since he had left Community General the previous day. "Then I'm going to get you to the beach house and you are going to go to bed."
Jesse smiled. Once Mark was in 'parent mode' it was nigh on impossible to stop him. He had had experience with this particular facet of his mentor's personality on several occasions. In fact, he reflected, as they made their way toward the elevator, if he hadn't known any better he would have suspected that it was something that the older man reserved just for him. But of course he did know better. Of course, he hadn't noticed Mark behaving this way toward Amanda lately and Steve would never stand for it. Still …

"Why didn't you call me?"
"Because you're a homicide detective, Steve, and this was a burglary." Jesse believed his logic was perfectly reasonable, and that he was remaining remarkably calm given the circumstances. Steve had started yelling at him as soon as he had made his appearance at the dinner table after his much-needed sleep in the guest room at the beach house. Mark had obviously related the reasons for his unexpected presence in their home that day and Steve was now full of righteous indignation at being kept out of the loop.
"You're my friend, Jesse," the detective pointed out, a little less harshly. The young doctor was looking a little frayed round the edges and he was beginning to feel slightly guilty for laying into him like he had. "Don't you think I deserved to know?"
Jesse stared at him open-mouthed. "At 2:00am in the morning?" he exclaimed. "C'mon, Steve, be honest. You can't tell me you would've wanted me to wake you at that time just because my apartment was broken into. Besides," he went on, "I called the cops and there was nothing they could do except ask me questions and, before you ask, no, I don't know who could've done it."
"You didn't see anyone suspicious around the complex?" Steve queried, unable to prevent himself from slipping into 'interrogative mode'. "Is there someone who holds a grudge against you, maybe? Or maybe …"
"Steve! Steve!" Jesse interjected hurriedly. "Will you stop? I answered all these questions last night! No, I didn't see anyone suspicious around the complex - I was exhausted last night. All I wanted to do was get home and sleep. And no, there is no-one who holds a grudge. It was just a simple break in. It was probably just kids. They daubed paint all over the walls."
Damn. He was going to have to learn to keep his mouth shut. As he uttered the last damning sentence, Steve's expression darkened and Mark frowned. "There was paint on the walls?" said the older doctor, in a shocked voice. "You didn't tell me about that this morning."
The young doctor smiled half-heartedly. "I ..I didn't?" he stammered, nervously. "Uh … no, I … I guess I forgot about that. Uh … well, you know, with being tired and all, I guess … um … look, guys, it's probably nothing. There's no need to get all worked up over it. Uh … hey, Mark, what's that great smell from the kitchen?"
Mark recognised a diversionary tactic when he saw it. Jesse was obviously feeling besieged and was trying to both diffuse the situation - which was fast spinning out of his control - and divert attention from a crime which had left him more than a little shaken. "Okay, Jess," he said, gently, winding a comforting arm around the slender shoulders and exchanging significant glances with his son over the top of the blond head, "You're probably right. It's probably some kids who broke in and decided to leave their mark. And as for the great smell … that's pasta a la Sloan. I made a big pot, so I hope you're hungry."
His words had the desired effect. Jesse visibly relaxed as the intense questioning to which he was being subjected ceased. "I'm always hungry," he said, with a brave smile.
"A truer word was never spoken," put in Steve wryly, as he followed the two of them into the kitchen. "I sometimes wonder where you put it all."
Jesse shot a grateful look up at his friend and Steve smiled back at him. But privately he made a promise to himself. First thing tomorrow he was going to take a look at the investigation into the burglary - just to satisfy himself that that was all it was.

Two days later, Jesse was back on duty. Mark had convinced him to stay at the beach house for the foreseeable future - his cause aided by the young man's fondness for the older doctor's fancy cooking, which he had slyly added as an incentive.
The ER was hectic. An outbreak of gastro enteritis at a school, food poisoning at a wedding and several broken bones all served to create chaos. Jesse thrived on the pressure and his good humour and expert diagnoses helped diffuse a lot of potentially explosive situations. Mark, observing his protégé when he had a spare minute inbetween cases, smiled proudly. The young man was going to make a fine addition to the ER team. Of course, he couldn't tell him yet that his fate had already been decided. It would be unfair not only to Jesse - who still had to operate in his current capacity - but also to the other residents. The older doctor was already planning the celebratory party, however. It was something pleasant to concentrate on whilst he attended to yet one more victim of the wedding party.

Several hours later, Jesse wandered into the locker room, trying hard to stifle a yawn and not quite succeeding. His back ached, his head throbbed and there was a nasty stain on his white coat which was making him feel vaguely nauseous. His spare coat was in his locker, together with a can of coke he'd managed to procure from the vending machine that morning just prior to the rush of patients. Amanda had offered to put it away for him until he had the time to drink it and he certainly felt the need for it now - together with a couple of painkillers for his head.
The white coated tablets were on the top shelf and, reaching for them blindly, he swallowed them both at once with a large gulp of the cola - his favourite brand. His thirst wasn't entirely quenched by the time he finished it, but he certainly felt a little more human. The change of clothing helped a little too. His headache hadn't diminished any, however, and he leaned his forehead against the locker door for a few moments, hoping the coolness of the metal would help decrease some of the pain. It didn't. The throbbing behind his eyes was intense and he knew he should really eat something in order to give the pills the chance to work, but he hadn't been thinking about food when he came in here. Scrabbling about in his locker produced a candy bar. He didn't know how old it was but it was at least unopened and it would do for now. He sank onto the bench by the window whilst he ate it and tried to will his headache to go away. Eventually, something - either the pills, the food or sheer willpower started to work and the throbbing decreased to a more tolerable level. He yawned again, then glanced at his watch. Whoops. He'd been in here 35 minutes. Mark would wonder where he was. Time to get back into the fray. With a cat-like stretch, he rose to his feet, wobbling unsteadily for a moment or two before stepping over to his locker again. Looking longingly at his jacket for a moment or two - it would be hours more before he could don it to go home - he closed the locker and started for the door. He never reached it.
Without warning, the room started to widen and contract alarmingly. He could no longer feel the floor and yet the ceiling seemed completely out of his reach. He knew he should feel alarmed by this but strangely, he felt nothing but a sense of innocent wonder and a small giggle escaped him. He swayed from side to side, but even as he toppled to the floor, he felt no impact. It was as though he were impervious to pain. This was rather confusing but gave him a feeling of invulnerability - as if he could do anything without feeling the consequences. For a while he remained where he was, feeling strangely detached from everything around him. Voices echoed around his head, seemingly originating from outside the room, but he didn't care to call out and a little voice was telling him that if he did, he would frighten them with his behaviour. He didn't want that so he stayed where he was.
"You're strong now," the little voice said. "You can do anything." Indeed, he believed that he could. He rose to his feet and an indeterminate amount of time later found himself in the stairwell to the roof, completely unaware of how he had got there. "You could probably fly if you wanted," the little voice said now. "Why don't you try?" Jesse thought about this for about a second then realised that the voice was right. He could do anything if he put his mind to it. Flying was no big deal. All he had to do was launch himself into the wind and let it do all the work … With a vacant grin, he started up the stairs to the roof …

"Have you seen Jesse?"
Mark Sloan had been looking for his colleague and friend for some considerable time. The young man had taken a brief respite from the action in the ER - at Mark's behest - and had not been seen since. The older doctor's concern over the burglary had not dissipated one iota since it had taken place, although the investigation had turned up nothing out of the ordinary and the police had concluded that it was simply a one-off. Even Steve had been unable to find anything which might point toward suspicious circumstances. Still, Mark hadn't been able to shake his feeling of impending doom and Jesse's inexplicable disappearance whilst on shift was only serving to strengthen this reaction.
The nurse to whom he had addressed the query shook her head, then watched as Doctor Sloan wandered off in the direction of the locker room - where Jesse had last been seen - to try to locate the errant young doctor. The frown on his face was not one of anger, mused the nurse. More one of a deep anxiety. She wondered what he could have to be worried about. Doctor Travis had probably gone to see one of the patients he had tended - they were all ensconced on different wards now and he took his work and his patients very seriously, often doing follow up visits to ensure they were recovering. With a sigh, she returned to writing up the chart she had been working on when Doctor Sloan had interrupted her. Then a scream rent the air.
"Dr Sloan! Dr Sloan! Come quickly! It's Dr Travis!"

Jesse was contemplating the sidewalk with a kind of detached curiosity. There were lots of ants milling around down there … no, those were people. He giggled again. Wouldn't they get a surprise when he soared above them, showing off his newfound prowess?
He stepped up onto the parapet and allowed the wind to whistle around him, feeling his coat flapping wildly in the draft. It felt ten sizes too large for him and his arms seemed to have grown longer and wider on his journey to his current location. He glanced down again and smiled. This was going to be so great. Everyone was going to be so impressed and he could tell tales about this for years. Breathing into the wind, he prepared himself, then …
The sound of his name whispered through the roaring gale which was assaulting his ears and he frowned.
There it was again. Curious, he turned, and saw a familiar figure approaching him. It was odd and distorted, as if he was watching it through some kind of fairground magic mirror, but it looked and sounded like Mark Sloan.
"Hey Mark," he drawled. "Look at me - gonna fly!"
Mark's face was fuzzy and seemed to be wavering but there was an expression of fear on it. "Jess, why don't you come down from there?" he said, calmly.
Jesse shook his head. "No," he replied, thoughtfully. "No, I don't think I should. See, I'm gonna fly today, Mark. Gonna show everyone how good I am."
"We already know how good you are," Mark said. His teeth seemed to be gritted, Jesse noticed and he wondered how the man could manage to speak so normally with gritted teeth. "You don't have to prove anything to us."
"I know I don't have to, Mark," he replied, patronizingly. "I want to."
There were other people on the roof now - fuzzy figures behind Mark, all clamouring to get within reach of him. All trying to stop him from reaching his goal. They were all jealous. They knew that once he flew, he would prove he was just as good as any of them and they didn't want him to do that. Well, he would show them. He would show them all! He turned away from them all and breathed deeply, preparing himself.
"Jess." Mark's voice was closer now. It sounded like he was right beside him. Jesse glanced down and discovered that his friend was standing beside the parapet, within touching distance. He flinched and then caught himself as he nearly fell off the wall. There was a distant scream, a simultaneous indrawn breath from the onlookers on the roof and a whispered 'No!' from Mark.
"It's okay," he assured the older man with a benign smile. "Everything's okay. I'm just gonna do this then we can do what you want. Okay?"
Mark looked at him. He smiled back. "Jess, I know you want to fly, and you're going to be great at it, but … do you really think here is the best place for it?"
The young doctor scowled. What was he talking about? He couldn't understand. The words were getting all jumbled up and he was fading in and out. He wondered what that would feel like when he was flying. Would it ruin the experience for him? "Wh… whaddya mean?" he mumbled.
"I mean, this roof isn't very high," Mark went on. "You're not going to get the momentum you need for a really good flight. We should go to a higher building, get a really good wind and you can really show everyone how it's done."
That sounded pretty reasonable, actually. Hell, if Mark was gonna help him find somewhere taller … "You … you're gonna come with me?" he asked in a small voice. Suddenly, he didn't want to be alone any more. He'd been alone a lot.
The older man nodded. "Of course I'll come with you," he promised. "So, shall we go?"
Jesse flinched from the hand the other man was holding out - although he wanted company and suddenly had a need to be held, the prospect of other flesh touching his was totally abhorrent. Gingerly, he climbed down from the parapet and, with Mark shadowing him, made his way across the roof. He didn't see the silent signal between Mark and the other people who had come to witness his flight, was never aware of the way the older man stuck protectively close to him, but as they made their way down the stairs, he thanked his luck in finding such a good friend.


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