Faith sat in her little salsa-red car staring at the main doors of the hospital. She'd checked her hair and makeup at least twice and had generally used up all of her reasons to stall. It wasn't just the hospital that made her nervous, though she certainly had enough reasons not to like the place, it was the very real potential of opening her mouth and saying exactly the wrong thing.
"Okay, I don't know Eddy and, as a family member, I'm just checking on Lee. I can do this." The breeze tousled her flaming hair as she finally climbed out of the car. Bumping the door closed with her hip, she walked to the passenger's side and retrieved the bright bouquet of lilies she'd brought for Leland. It seemed like such a weak gift. Thanks for being all noble and stupid... here are some flowers. Hope it makes those bullets hurt less.
With a silent groan, she forced herself to walk inside. From there it was only a matter of dropping her name to get an escort to Leland's private room. But she couldn't bring herself to knock. Not yet. Smoothing her skirt with her free hand to reassure herself that she looked nothing like the masked girl from Takahashi's office, Faith took a couple of deep breaths. Why was this so hard? She'd made plenty of hospital visits. She could do this.
Deanna Lane-Lexington sat in the same faux-leather chair she'd been sitting in for days. The wooden arms were no more comfortable than they'd been when she had first arrived, but she was getting used to them jabbing her in the side whenever she leaned over the hospital bed beside her. Until a week ago, she had assumed the next time she was in a hospital would be a "joyous" occasion.
Her hand went absently to her distended belly, resting gently against the image she had in her mind of the child within. If there was one thing she did not want, it was for her child to grow up without a father. It wasn't like they would ever want for anything material... but there were far more important things in the world than possessions. Despite all of his wealth, her husband -- laying like a silent reminder of the man he used to be just within her reach -- understood that.
Her brother had never understood that. He'd always seen Lee as a symbol... a shining example of what he was not and was never going to be: powerful. Eddy always had a problem with power. He seemed to see it as inherently evil, despite the incredible, inhuman powers that he possessed. Maybe that was why he hated himself so much. Deanna never believed it was entirely built on feelings of guilt over the death of their father.
Still... she might have been a little too hard on him when he visited the hospital last. Eddy almost appeared to be trying to make an effort... trying to be a better brother. But then, of course, if it wasn't for him and his 'job,' there'd be no reason for him to have to visit the hospital in the first place. She couldn't let go of that one fact: Leland had gotten tangled up in 'Kardiac's' life, and it might still be the death of him.
It was then that she heard a nurse speaking softly to someone on the other side of the door to Leland's private room. After a few seconds, the nurse's footsteps could be heard withdrawing, but no one entered. Deanna could hear scuffling from the outside, the sound of apprehension, and she expected that her brother had come back for round two. Without realizing that she was talking to Lee's cousin Faith, she called out an exhausted "Come on in," and prepared herself for Round Two.
The expensive flowers entered the room first, followed by Faith's tiny frame. "Hi..." One look at Deanna's face was enough to drive away of the self-absorbed issues that had been lingering since yesterday's talk with Eddy. The lilies were set aside, blending in with the near mountain of other flowers, and, without thinking twice, Faith crossed the room and wrapped her arms around her cousin's wife.
Deanna was taken by surprise by both the identity of the visitor and the gesture that followed her entrance. Where Eddy was surprisingly willing to accept Faith's emotional releases, his sister seemed the opposite. She was an open woman with a ready smile when her husband wasn't in a coma, yet she tensed slightly at the physical sign of affection. The siblings were an odd juxtaposition. Still, she didn't fight the action... just waited it out.
"Hello," she said, her eyes scanning from the flowers to Faith. "This is an unexpected pleasure," she continued, her normal demeanor beginning to return. Deanna didn't have a huge amount of one-on-one experience with Faith, but she liked the girl well enough on the few family occasions that had brought them into the same room. "I'm sure Leland will be glad to hear your voice."
She certainly hoped he would. Taking her eyes from the woman's face, Faith took a tiny step closer to Leland's bed. He looked better than the last time she'd seen him... but that wasn't saying much. "How are you holding up?" She couldn't help Leland, that was up to the doctors. But if she could ease the burden on Deanna's heart, even just a little....
With a forced smile, Deanna looked Faith in the eyes and lied with every fiber of her being. "I'm fine, she said, her tone not as convincing as she'd apparently hoped. "He'll be awake soon...," she added, her eyes looking a little too dry, rimmed with red and ringed with dark flesh that betrayed their lack of sleep.
Looking around the room with a critical eye, the redhead could see the outpouring of floral concern for her cousin. Everyone, from businesses to individuals, seemed to have sent a bouquet. And, while it made the room look brighter than the typical sterile hospital room, it seemed to Faith that little had been done to make the room more comfortable for person who was actually conscious in it.
"Is there anything you need?" she asked. She would have asked anyway, but knowing that this was Eddy's sister made it all the more important.
"Everything I need is in this room," she said, her hand, still resting on her abdomen, slid down a bit as if reassuring the other, unseen listener in the room. "But I appreciate the concern."
Faith pursed her lips to the side. As much as she wanted to point out that Deanna was certainly not fine, she decided that arguing with a pregnant woman was just not something she could bring herself to do. She looked back over at Leland for a minute, watching him as he slept. "He'll wake up soon," she repeated the woman's words, still feeling that sick knot of fear in the pit of her stomach.
Since she wasn't going to invite herself to sit down, Faith remained where she was standing, tucking a strand of flaming hair behind her ear as she forced a quick smile. "Leland used to ride with us a lot when we were kids, you know. I remember one time, Logan, my middle brother, was showing off... as usual. Well the horse threw him and he hurt his ankle."
"I would have left him there, or a the very least lectured him about being such a dumb boy. But Lee just got off his horse and helped Logan all the way back to the stables. I remember thinking that he was so strong to be able to support Logan like that for such a long way..." She paused suddenly, unsure of why she'd chosen to share that bit of family history.
Deanna smiled a weak but genuine smile, motioning towards the chair opposite her with the hand that had been on her midsection... the hand that wasn't holding Lee's. "That's Leland... despite of all his wealth, he's one of the most selfless people I've ever met," she said, a note of sorrow still clinging to her voice. As Faith sat, she continued. "That's the side of him that most people don't get to see... the side I wish...," her words trailed off, hanging in the air.
If there were any words to follow, they were intercepted by another voice, accompanying the sound of the hospital room door. "The side you wish your short-sided brother had been able to see," it said as Eddy walked into the room. Deanna through a glance towards the voice that blazed with a mix of emotions.
"What are you doing here, Edward?"
"Ouch," Eddy said, frowning. He looked like he was about to say something else, allow his usual sarcasm to bite back, but through an amazing force of will, he let her use of his full name slide. "I came to visit my sister in her time of need... and to see my brother-in-law again."
Deanna just glared at him suspiciously. "Well," she said, holding out a hand towards Faith. "As you can see, we already have a guest." She didn't address Faith directly, preferring to aim her venom at the man who she thought deserved it. "So you'll have to forgive me if I don't offer you a seat."
Faith couldn't help but notice a difference in Eddy's countenance. There was an expression on his face that seemed more like he was suffering the disappointment of his mother rather than the unjustified chastisement of his sister. God forbid he run into Justice on his way out of this room. She also noticed that he'd completely ignored the fact that Faith was in the room at all... at least until Deanna had pointed her out.
"That's fine," he said, flatly. "I'll stand." Quickly, his eyes flicked over to Faith. That's when he gave her a look... an appreciating look that she'd never seen him give her before. It wasn't the usual 'good job kid' or 'little sister' glance... it was the once over a man would give to a "hot" young woman he was seeing for the first time. A roguish grin painted itself across his face as he asked Deanna, "Aren't you going to introduce us?"
Deanna's frown broke slightly as her eyes rolled. Introductory gestures followed her words as she spoke. "Faith, this is my unemployed-with-no-prospects 'artist' older brother Edward Lane," she said, putting on a smirk that immediately identified her as Eddy's kin. "Eddy, this is Leland's much younger cousin, Faith Kavanaugh."
Eddy smiled broadly and held out his hand. "The pleasure is five-hundred percent mine," he said with just a touch of charm that Faith had only ever seen him turn on around Agent Fairchild. "And please, call me 'Eddy'," he added with a roguish wink that probably would have worked on the average vacuous college girl.
"It's nice to meet you, Eddy," she responded loftily, shaking his hand but disengaging from his touch as soon as possible. It gave her a great deal of satisfaction to imagine the tongue-lashing --or actual beating-- she was going to give him later for giving her a look like that. It was almost... icky.
But, even if she really had been meeting him for the first time, she'd been flirted with by the best. She was far too smart to fall for a touch of charm and easy flattery. Instead she turned back to Deanna, a wry smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "So you have a brother too. Aren't they fun?" Though she didn't quite roll her eyes, her tone spoke volumes.
Deanna smiled, "Some are more trouble than they're worth," she said, though her tone wasn't quite the chastisement that the words could carry. "But despite the charming layabout he'd like people to believe he is, my brother is actually a little deeper than he lets on."
"I think I'm offended," Eddy said, smirking. "But in the presence of two such lovely ladies, I believe I can let it slide." He turned to look at Deanna. "How's my niece?"
"Or nephew," she replied. "I'm still not telling..." she paused, a hint of sorrow coming back into her voice. Her eyes drifted to Leland's face. "Leland doesn't want to know."
Faith caught her lower lip between her teeth, looking back and forth between the siblings. In moments like these she actually had to fight the urge to simply disappear. "That's kinda sweet," she said with a smile, trying to keep at least a little bit of light in the conversation. "Old-fashioned almost. Though I have to admit, I can totally see Lee with a little girl. You know... someone who will have him wrapped around her tiny finger."
Deanna smiled weakly. "I suppose he is old-fashioned, in his way." She returned his hand to her abdomen. "Of course, I already know... I've never been one to wait for anything."
Eddy smirked. "Shocking," he said, flatly.
Deanna rose to her feet, casting a furtive glance towards Eddy, then looking back to Faith with a matronly smile. "If you'll excuse me for a minute... knowing Leland has friendly company, this would be a good time for me to freshen up... if you don't mind?"
"I don't mind at all. Please, do what you need to. I'll stay as long as you'd like." She moved a step closer to Leland's bed.
Nodding to Faith, half-ignoring Eddy, Deanna smiled. "I'll leave you to it, then." She forced a quick look at Eddy, "Be good!" Without another word, she quickly slipped out of the room and headed down the hall.
Truly meeting Eddy's eyes for the first time since he'd entered the room, Faith gave a half-hearted little smile. She didn't quite know what to say to him. Generally that didn't stop her from talking anyway. But this time... she just couldn't find the words.
Taking Deanna's seat, the redhead leaned in a little closer to her cousin. "You really were very brave," she told him softly.
Eddy's countenance changed as soon as Deanna left the room. His sister knew that his 'character' was a mask, but she didn't know that Faith knew that... so he'd had to play his part. Now, though, he was free to be himself. "We put ourselves out there and face down evil with fancy powers, kevlar suits, and the best training this world can provide," he said, to both Faith and Leland. "What he did took ten times the courage we employ... he strapped on a borrowed vest and jumped into the lion's den without a net."
He walked over and put a hand on Faith's shoulder, his eyes on Leland. "I'm sorry for almost every bad thing I've ever said to you," he said, his face a stern mask. "And while I can't apologize for telling you that your sister was a 'crazy bitch,' since... y'know... it proved to be true, I would like to remind you that my sister is going a little crazy herself right now... and you could fix that by waking up."
Walking to the other side of the room, he sat across from Faith, looking at her. "He'll be all right," he said, smiling as warmly as his grimace-lined face allowed. "He's strong, and he's getting the best help Lexington money can buy... which pretty much means 'the best in the world.'" He let out a sad chuckle. "I used to hate him for that money... now I wonder how I ever let myself be blinded by it."
"Especially since I've now met two people born into it who are bigger heroes than I'll ever be," he added, smirking and winking at Faith.
A little smile pulled at her lips as she shook her head. "Bite your tongue," she teased gently. She didn't have it in her to argue. Much. But for Faith, there was no one bigger than the man sitting across from her.
Since she didn't know how much time they'd have before they had to start acting again, Faith took Leland's hand in both of her own, giving it a light squeeze. "I'm so sorry that I doubted you, Lee. You were amazing in there. But I really think it's time to come back to your family now." Without thinking about it, her tone took on a slightly scolding note. "It's really not polite to stress out a pregnant woman. She's strong, just like her brother, but she needs you to wake up and come back."
Eddy frowned, his eyes narrowing as if he were in conflict. After a minute, he stood up like a shot, his actions so fast that Faith was taken aback by the sudden movement. "Screw this!" he said, a strange resolution in his face. "Faith, Watch the door," he said, his voice changing. The tone he used was more that of a General than a friend or even a mentor... it was a tone he'd never used with her before. And to use it on her! Something was definitely on his mind!
He started a slow, deliberate walk across the room, rubbing his hands together as if they were cold.
"Eddy..." Her voice was a strange mixture of worry and faith in him. But the thought of disobedience didn't even enter her mind. She was at the door in an instant, listening and watching for any sign of anyone, especially Deanna. She didn't bother to tell him to be careful or ask if he knew what he was doing. He did. After all, they both knew what his hands could do.
Eddy stopped just short of the edge of the bed and place one of his hands on Leland's forehead, his eyes closed. "I offered to do something like this for Blue and Capin," he said to his comatose brother-in-law, "But they decided to rely on magic instead... I always wondered if it would work, and I'm damned soon gonna find out."
Focusing his senses on the patient, he thought about the pictures he'd seen of the brain and its neuro-electrical system. He'd been doing a lot of studying over the last couple of days... healthy brain wave patterns, comatose patterns, charge levels, neuron firing rates... he'd poured over so much information that he figured he knew as much about the brains electrical system as he did about the one in his bike. But still, he'd been hesitant to try.
This wasn't a pair of friends with swapped brains... this was a normal human with a normal brain... and it was his sister's husband -- his niecelet's father -- and neither of them could be expected to forgive him if he got this wrong. After a few seconds, he opened his eyes and placed his hand on his own forehead, feeling the pops and vibrations going on deep inside his gray matter. "Well, he said aloud to himself, "You only get one chance at this...for family."
Taking a deep breath, eyes closed, he placed the fingertips of either hands on either side of Leland's head, index fingers on his temples. "Here goes everything."
Faith bit her lower lip then, as if it wasn't quite enough, her fingers came up to cover her mouth. It was so hard to watch the door when she was riveted to her mentor, her friend, standing over her cousin like that. Please work please work please work... The thought became a sort of prayer. She took a step back and bumped against the door, wishing she had someone's hand to hold right about now.
Eddy began to release his bio-electricity in short, controlled bursts, focusing the flow the power to specific parts of the brain in a deliberate order. Leland's eyes twitched with every jolt, lashing around like a man in REM sleep. Eddy didn't even want to imagine what he was dreaming just now. He worked as quickly as he could, though the delicate nature of what he was doing prevented any idea of rushing things.
All the while, a part of his consciousness focused on Leland's heart. Several times, the organ started racing, pushing towards cardiac arrest. One each occasion, usually with a muttered "Damn it!" Eddy would move one hand down to his brother-in-law's chest and spread the other hand so that his thumb and index finger could touch separate temples. Electrically regulating Leland's heart while simultaneously jump-starting the architecture of his brain was almost more than Eddy's brain, much less his control over his powers, could handle... even with his experience.
His biggest fear, short of killing his brother-in-law, was allowing Leland to crash... even for a second. The last thing he needed was a rush of doctors responding to a flatlined EKG machine. That alarm would not only ruin his chance to bring Leland out of this, but it would also risk exposing his powers if they arrived too quickly. His other fear was that Deanna would walk in and see what he was doing. It was bad enough she blamed him for her husband's condition... if she interrupted, she might be blaming him for making it worse... or even killing him.
Of course, he couldn't focus on those fears... he had to keep his mind locked on the prize. Every action he took needed to be thought-out, deliberate, and very, very careful. But Faith was here, and she had his back, and he'd grown to trust that. If anyone approached, she'd be able to handle it. She was, in his opinion, the best of her generation... he'd declared her so himself, and after personally training her, his natural arrogance wouldn't let him believe otherwise.
Unbeknownst to Eddy, however, his trust was about to be tested as Faith noticed Deanna emerging from the distant lounge, coffee and sandwich bag in hand, turning to walk in their direction.
The blood had drained from her face, leaving Faith pale and near panic as she continued to watch. It wasn't just Leland she was worried about now. What Eddy was doing was nearly beyond her comprehension. He was using his powers in a way that, even if she had practical powers like his, she doubted she'd ever be able to match. It was beyond mastery. And, having seen him collapse once, she was already a nervous wreck when she hit the hallway.
Thankfully, looking this upset could work to her advantage. Faith said a quick prayer then firmly shut the door behind her. Wiping the not entirely fake tears from her eyes, the redhead took a few deep breaths before looking up and noticing Leland's wife in the hallway with her. Then, hoping Deanna's motherly instincts had already started to kick in, she forced her lips into a faintly embarrassed smile as if she was ashamed to be caught being so emotional.
Deanna fell hard into her assigned role. Without thinking, she set her coffee aside and took the young woman in her arms. Eddy had never said a harsh word about his sister, even when he was explaining her blaming him for Lee's condition, and it became obvious to Faith as to why. Deanna was every bit as "good" a person as her brother, despite their differences, and she wasn't about to pass over a relative in distress over the condition of her cousin and childhood friend.
They stood there for several minutes, and Deanna allowed Faith to cry without once shedding a tear of her own. It seemed that was another similarity between the woman and her brother. They both had the ability to mask what they were feeling, only Deanna seemed to be using it as a comfort mechanism rather than a shield. Despite that, though, Faith didn't know how long she'd be able to hold her there. She was just about to release her and pray Eddy had noticed when a voice from behind her called out, "Anna! Come quick!"
With one arm around Faith, Deanna sped to the room. Letting go of her charge, she was the first of the two to step through the door to join Eddy and Leland in the room. Faith had hoped that Eddy's sudden appearance meant that Lee was awake, but it didn't. It meant something else... something better. It meant he was waking. Somehow, Eddy had not only succeeded, but he'd managed to arrange things so that Deanna's would be the first face her husband saw when he finally opened his eyes.
Relieved to be unnecessary and unnoticed, Faith took a few quiet steps into the room. Fresh tears were flowing down her face but this time she didn't have to fake the reason. Without even thinking about it she'd put herself near Eddy, standing behind him but close enough to reach if he needed support. Then, because she couldn't hug him or even put words to what she was feeling, she stopped fighting it and let her tiny hand creep into his for just a moment. He could yell at her for it later. For now she just needed that touch, the human connection as she watched Leland and Deanna receive the gift that they'd probably never know they'd been given.
"Leland...?" Deanna asked, tenuously, taking his hand in both of hers. She half-knelt, with one knee on the chair she'd been sitting in these past days, stooping over him without leaning on him, her eyes locked on his. "Baby?" Now, the tears were there... and all the control in the world wasn't going to stop them.
Leland's eyes fluttered, slowly opening, then closing against the shaded light. "...dream?" the word came out as the end of a broken question, his voice cracking through the first attempted words. Deanna laughed softly through her tears and kissed him, wiping her face as she pulled away. "...happened?" The second question came just as the first, but it was more than enough for his wife to hear his voice.
Recognizing the significance of the moment, Eddy grabbed Faith's arm and backed her out of the room, closing the door behind them. In the relative privacy of the hallway it didn't matter that they weren't supposed to know each other. She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly, her head resting against his chest.
"That was... just..." Words failed her.
Pulling back slightly, she reached for his chin, turning his face toward hers. "Are you okay? You didn't overdo it or anything, did you?" she demanded, still examining him for any signs of exhaustion.
"I almost lost him twice," Eddy replied, his eyes revealing that he was, in fact, thoroughly exhausted. "It may have been 'just,' but it was incredibly stupid!" He lowered his eyes. "It could have -- should have -- killed him... what was I thinking?"
Thumping her fist against his chest, Faith shook her head. "Stop that right now. That was the most amazingly compassionate thing I've ever seen anyone do. You didn't kill him. You gave him back to his wife." Refusing to let him argue, she moved him back toward the wall, nearly forcing him to lean against it. "I know you're not going to stop being hard on yourself. And that's okay... because I have enough faith in you for both of us. What I saw in there wasn't 'stupid'. It was love."
After a second, he did lean on the wall, placing his hand on Faith's shoulder and showing his exhaustion even more than his eyes had before. "Maybe... but it was a big risk, and I'm not sure I had the right to take it," he said, frowning. "But seeing Anna like that... if I'd just been a little faster that night...." He looked at Faith and put on a half-hearted smirk.
"Oh, don't look at me that way," he said, his hand running down her arm to her hand. It lingered there for a moment, then dropped to his side. "I know it's not my fault. But that's what I was thinking 'in the moment'... that maybe I could have done more." He sighed, softly. "So, I did more."
"One thing's for certain, though... I don't think it's something I'm gonna be trying again any time soon...."
"No you're not." Her tone slowly dropped out of scolding-mode. "I'd like to have at least one week where you don't totally drain yourself."
Leaning on the wall beside him, she looked up and down the wide hallway as she thought about the countless lives in this hospital. "Eddy," she began after a long moment. "You always do more. It's just... who you are." That smile slowly began to pull at her lips. "And it's why you have such a pushy student. You know, the one who talks too much, thinks you're amazing, and will always have your back no matter what you're facing."
"Student?" he asked with a smirk. "I thought we'd settled on 'protege'...." He tousled her hair in an undignified manner. "But, if it's all the same to you," he said, letting her straighten her hair up, "since you've more than transcended 'side-kick' status, I'd prefer 'friend'."
No force on the earth could have kept her from hugging him again. Resting her head against his chest, she listened to his heartbeat the only way she knew how. No powers, just the closeness of a friend that she loved. Though she'd hit him with that purely platonic word later, after he'd built up a good tolerance to her hugs and other emotional outbursts.
Eddy down at smiled at Faith. He realized that he'd just added her to a very small list of people. Kardiac had a lot of allies... Eddy had very few real, true friends. "But if we're going to keep your identity a secret," he said, checking first to make sure nobody was in earshot, "We're going to have to find a way to become 'friends' publicly... because as much as it may seem easy, I don't think I can drag out this whole 'pretending I don't know you' thing. It's become second nature to act like you matter to me, and that's a hard feeling to hide."
"But," he continued, smiling a mischievous, nay 'devilish'. smile, "I have an idea of how to accomplish that."
If she hadn't been so blissfully attached to Charlie, the sight of that smile on Eddy's lips might have sent her mind down dangerous paths. As it was, it merely ignited the fires of her curiosity and kept her from getting emotional over 'mattering' to him. "Of course you do," she teased, nudging him with her shoulder. "And you're going to tell me before I die of suspense, right?"
Eddy smirked, "No... this is something you've got to be pretty prepared for," he said with a wink. "You'll need an outfit that looks like you want to impress a man, and I'll need something dressy... because we're going out somewhere expensive-but-intimate... albeit, not intimate enough that the right people won't see us on our 'date'."
Faith gave him a dubious look. He made jokes about her 'looks,' sure, but he'd also made it very clear that his interests didn't lean in that direction. She'd been with him for a while now, though, and her mind was starting to see his plan forming even as he continued. "The wily, irresponsible artist charms the young deb into a date... age and other factors ensure that it doesn't work out, but they discover they have a lot of common interests and a bond of friendship begins to form... and the family gets the whole story so long as the date is properly witnessed."
She pouted a little while she pretended to think it over. "So this means I can't tell my parents about my real boyfriend yet?" It wasn't a huge obstacle, just something she'd have to be aware of. At least 'dating' someone as old as Eddy would help prepare her family for the surprise of Charlie's age.
"You do realize that dating you is practically illegal in most states," she teased. Her blue eyes suddenly sparkled with a mischief that equaled his. "And you so need something dressy. Because if you're taking me on a fake date it's going to be a good one. And you are going to dance... even if I have to fight dirty to get you out there."
Eddy smirked. "I'll go to unusual lengths to protect my identity... so I'm sure I can suffer through it." He was about to say something else when the door to Leland's room opened. Eddy quickly put reasonable distance between him and Faith, just in time to see Deanna's face turn towards them.
She gave Eddy a dubious look, then turned to Faith, a smile on her face through both gazes. "Faith... he wants to see you."
Faith caught herself just before turning to look back for reassurance. "Really?" Trying to look anything other than completely freaked out, she took a few steps toward the door. "Of course I'll go see him." She smiled at Deanna then, figuring it was at least semi-safe to smile at him too, leveled her gaze on Eddy. Her face appeared totally composed, but her eyes told a different story. She held his eyes for only a moment before turning to follow Deanna back into Leland's room.
Deanna walked in and offered Faith the chair she'd been occupying previously. Faith didn't take it at first, but then Leland said, "Please."
Hesitating still, Faith took the seat and, when Lee offered it, his hand. Deanna patted the back of his hand and looked into her husband's eyes. "I'm going to go get your doctor in here and have a little talk with my brother," she said, her voice too-gentle. "Take it easy," she added. "You're awake, but that doesn't mean you're better."
Leland smiled. "Of course." He watched his wife turn and leave the room. As soon as the door closed behind her, he turned to Faith. "How are you doing, little one?" He had called her that since it actually made sense... since her earliest memories. They hadn't been as close in recent years, but he'd always been good to her, and right now the look in his eyes made her feel about five years old again.
She chuckled softly and gave his hand a little squeeze. "I should be asking you that," she told him gently. "But I'm fine, Lee. Just worried about you. We all were."
"I'm sorry to have worried you," he said with a weak smile. He squeezed her hand briefly. "But you worried me first." He smiled a bit more broadly, though there was a little effort in it. As enigmatic as the statement was he instantly changed the subject. "I made my money the old fashioned way -- I inherited it," he said with a raspy chuckle. "But since my father actually raised me to be honest, charitable, and honorable, that kind of wealth can be difficult to hold on to. Do you know how I do it?"
Faith shook her head. She wasn't particularly interested in hearing about his business strategies, but he was awake and talking to her. That made any subject a riveting one. Absently brushing the hair back from his forehead, she tried to return his smile and urge him to continue.
Leland took a long breath. "I'm very, very good -- very good -- at reading people... I can talk to a person once and learn their body language, their posture, their tells...," he said, winking at her. "I never forget a twitch, tic, or voice, whether I'm dealing with a client or an adversary... or a family member." He smiled again, looking directly into Faith's eyes. He stopped after those words, and just stared at her silently.
"Um..." Biting her lip, she thought about playing dumb. But she didn't want to lie to him. She wasn't even sure if she could. She held his gaze for a long moment before finally looking away. "I'm so sorry, Lee," she whispered, drawing her hand back.
"You can talk to me about anything, little one," he said, still smiling. "Your friend out there in the hallway may hate my guts, but he'd also tell you that I'm real good with secrets."
He looked tired, but his eyes were clear. There was a determination in his face and voice. "I vaguely remember hearing the two of you talking... I don't remember what it was about, but the sound of your voices was still in my head when I woke up." He chuckled weakly. "And even though he and I haven't always seen eye to eye, he's a good man to know under certain circumstances." He still wasn't saying the words... he seemed to be dancing around the 'truth,' either not wanting to look the fool if he was wrong or. more likely, wanting her to feel comfortable telling him.
Looking down at her lap, Faith wrestled with her indecision. As much as she wanted to talk about it, she couldn't just come out and say it. "Deanna's really mad at him. And it's not his fault." Those blue eyes met his face pleadingly as she continued the dance he'd started.
"That will work itself out," he said, smiling. "I'm not worried about him... I'm worried about you." Leland looked back into her eyes, dragging her back into his dance. "Are you keeping safe? Do you have people you can call on... because he never did, and I think it devoured him...."
"I am. I do. And I keep him safe. And... I'm..." She held his gaze for a moment longer before her resolve began to crumble. "I'm sorry. When I saw you in there I really thought you were the bad guy. I thought you were going to do it and I was so mad at you. I believed it all. I doubted you... but you were such a hero..." The words came tumbling out in a flood.
Leland smiled. "I don't blame you for thinking ill of me at the time... I know what it looked like," he said, winking. "I wanted to look bad. I didn't realize that Takahashi would have some ability to see through it. We might have been able to avoid all this." he added.
Faith nodded, blowing a lock of hair away from her face as she watched her cousin closely. For having just regained consciousness, Leland seemed to be in an awfully good mood. Of course, maybe just being awake was reason enough to be happy. "But you're okay. That's all that matters. You're back with your family and the bad guy is gone..."
Reaching for his hand once again, she closed her delicate fingers around his. "You're a hero, Lee. And I'll never forget that."
"Now if there was only some way to get my brother-in-law to see that," Leland said, his smile going crooked and his eyes drifting past Faith. The door to his private room was closing as he spoke.
"He does," Eddy said, his entrance having been a bit more subdued than his usual. "But we can talk about that later." He added the last bit with a wan smile. "Right now, I'm on a mission to remove this lovely young lady from your presence so that my sister and her husband can both get some much-needed and well-deserved rest." He finished clearing the distance, putting his hand on Faith's shoulder.
Leland nodded to him. "I suppose that's not a bad idea," he answered, his voice still weak. "Have you explained... this," he continued, looking at Eddy's hand on Faith's arm, "to my wife?"
Eddy shook his head. "Not in so many words... and I trust you'll keep it in confidence?"
"As long as she doesn't ask me directly," Leland answered. "I won't lie to her."
"Good enough, I guess," Eddy said, squeezing her arm slightly. "Believe it or not, this secrecy is an attempt to keep our families out of danger."
Leland nodded. Eddy looked down at Faith and smirked. "You ready to get out of here...?"
Giving Leland's hand one final squeeze, Faith let her hand slip away from his. "I'll visit again after things calm down. And I'll try to keep my mom from visiting too much. But you know how she is..." Rising from her seat, she leaned against Eddy for a moment, not quite ready to leave the sight of her awake and on-the-mend cousin.
When she finally turned away to let herself be led from the room there was a familiar sparkle in her blue eyes. Her chin tilted upward as she grinned up at her friend. Oh, she was so ready for this. "So... I have to pretend you charmed me?"
Eddy smirked down at her, "You don't have to pretend... you can just give in to my natural charm for a while," he said with a chuckle. "Or, you could make this a lot easier on you and avoid an apparently-unnecessary lie...," he paused for a second and his face went all serious, "by just letting Anna learn the truth." He pursed his lips slightly before continuing.
"She's never wavered on my secret, even when we were at odds with each other... and it would prevent Leland from having to keep the secret from her as well. I know I'm a bit on the paranoid side when it comes to secret i.d.'s, but if they both knew, it would give you one more 'safe house' from your parents in a pinch... and I trust both of them."
He smirked again, mischief in his look. "But it's your decision.... If you're so desperate to get me dressed up and out on the town with you that you want to use this as an excuse to go ahead with my 'date' plan, I'll understand...," he said, eyes sparkling. "I can be pretty irresistible...."
Biting her lip, Faith slugged him in the arm as she thought it over. "Of course I want to make you dress up and spoil me with a fun night." Those full lips twisted in a devilish smile. "I even have the perfect dress in mind. But..." It actually wasn't a difficult choice at all. The fact that Eddy trusted them with this was all she needed.
"Telling Deanna the truth means I get to introduce Charlie to my parents. Of course, he might not thank you for that... but still... if I'm gonna get all dressed up for a date I want it to be with someone who's not faking it when they look at me like that." Chasing the almost wistful look on her young face away with another smile, she looked past Eddy back to Leland. "If you're okay with me telling, of course. I don't want to add more stress to her life."
Leland smiled again. "She's dealt with her brother's kevlar fetish for over a decade," he said with a soft chuckle. "I'm sure she can handle it."
Eddy nodded, thinking about Faith's last words to him. He smirked to himself, then looked over at Leland. "Let's give it a day, though...," he said, his face a little more serious all of the sudden. "She just got you back, and that should be the only thing on either of your minds at the moment."
He nodded, and after a final exchange of pleasantries, Eddy led Faith from the room. Another round of "see you's" later, Deanna had enetered and left Eddy and Faith alone in the hallway, the door closing behind her. When it finally clicked into place, Eddy grabbed Faith by the shoulders and pulled her into a strong, uncharacteristic embrace. He held her for a second, then took a deep breath and released her.
"I can face down a dozen psychos a day, he said, matter-of-factly. "But my family scares the Hell out of me." He shrugged. "Sometimes I think it was better for all of us when Anna and I kept each other at a distance."
With a sigh, he leaned back against the wall. "And I want you to know," he continued, his eyes locked on Faith's, "that I'm not 'faking' anything with you. I love you to death, and if I was a much, much younger man, I'd probably look at you with a different pair of eyes. As it is," he added, smirking, "Charlie's a lucky man... at least, he is until I catch him in the act and lock him up for being a no-account law-breaker who isn't good enough for my girl." His eyes flashed with mischief and his smile covered his face by the time he'd finished that last sentence.
If he hadn't been leaning against the wall, the force of her hug would have knocked him back against it. "I love you too, Eddy." Though her words were muffled by his chest, she knew he understood. There was strength in the slender arms wrapped around him --after all, he'd trained her-- and a grin on her face when she finally tilted her head to look up at him. "You should be thankful for Charlie. I kinda have this thing for older men and he's not that much younger than you are. So... when you think about it, he keeps you safe."
Eddy smirked. "Then maybe I will have to send him up the river after all," he said with a wink. "Oh, right... my lady-friend carries guns...," he added, still smirking. "I guess it wouldn't be such a good idea after all."
She gave him another little squeeze then let her arms drop. It was definitely time to be done with hospitals for the day. "But don't think you're totally off the hook about the whole dressing up thing. I'll find another reason... somehow..."
"When you think one up, let me know," he said in answer. "I've heard I clean up nice." He smirked again, then waved his thumb down the hallway. "Now, let's get out of here... hospitals depress me."