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Everything happens so quickly. Suddenly they are firing at us two, three, five times, then I lose count. Bullets zoom past my head and crash into the wall behind me, splintering it and powdering me with a fine grey dust. For a moment I'm paralysed, then I dodge behind a large container and, yanking my gun out of its holster, crouch there for a few seconds before edging to the corner to peek around it when the shots fired in my direction cease.
There must be at least five or six of them, and only four of us. About twenty feet away from me, I see Jim cowering next to one of our cars and calling for backup over the radio. When he sees me, he motions for me to stay put for now. The other two are not in my line of sight but in all the shooting, I recognise the distinct sound of our Sigs, so they must be near. I'm not able to tell whether they have found cover but judging from the amount of shots being fired, it doesn't seem like it.
I look at Jim again, who seems to have come to the same conclusion, and we both realise we need to get out there and back up the rest of our small team. He holds out his left hand with three fingers up and I close my hand tightly around the grip of my gun, placing my index finger on the trigger. One by one, Jim curls his fingers into his fist and when the last one is gone, we simultaneously rise, pointing our guns to where the noise is coming from but not yet firing any shots at the group of assailants since they don't have their attention focused on us for now.
It quickly becomes obvious that they must have cornered Collins and Wyatt, making it necessary for us to leave our cover. My heart thumps hard in my chest as we slowly sneak towards them but my hand is steady. I see two men lying on the ground with shot wounds; they look unfamiliar. When we're close enough to the three remaining gunmen, Jim announces our presence in a loud, clear voice, demanding that they drop their pistols and raise their hands. Two of them comply; the third one wheels around wildly, pointing his gun directly at me. I see a mad glint in his cold eyes and know that he doesn't care if he lives or dies. His finger moves on the trigger and my heartbeat slows. The surroundings become surreal when in that moment, there's only me and him. We fire at the same time; hearing the buzz of the bullet next to my ear I know he missed, seeing him fall to the ground heavily I know I didn't.
When I drive home several hours later, I'm oddly calm. All I want is to get to Sara to let her make me forget about this day as quickly as possible. Turning the key in the lock, I realise my hand is shaking, the events of the day seemingly beginning to sink in, and the prospect of finding comfort in Sara's arms lets me push open the door almost violently. I find her in the den, hunched in an armchair with a book, but not reading, staring into space instead. I stop at the door, perceiving something is off. She focuses her gaze on me and I know she has heard. Not moving, she simply looks at me with what? Anger? Fear? Regret? I can't tell.
"Sara ," I begin, wanting to explain, to assure her that everything's fine.
"What the hell were you thinking?" she interrupts me and tosses the book aside, glaring at me.
I don't know what I had expected from her, perhaps relief that I made it out alive, perhaps a bit of belated worry about the incident, but I certainly didn't think she'd be mad at me and keep her distance when I needed her so much in that moment.
"I was doing what I had to do, there was no time to think about the consequences," I try to reason.
She snorts derisively and laughs coldly. "Yeah, it's obvious that you weren't thinking at all."
This spurs my anger, how dare she? "What the hell is your problem, Sara? Just say it so we can get it over with," I say sharply.
"You want to know what my problem is?" she raises her voice. "Let me tell you. My problem is that you ran into a fucking gunfight without backup, without a bulletproof vest, not once thinking about your safety, or me. Can you imagine what it felt like to hear on the phone that there'd been a shootout and for a few seconds to not know whether you were okay or not? But no, you obviously can't imagine that, because it has never happened to you, or else you wouldn't have been so exceptionally stupid and thoughtless!"
Now I finally get what she's talking about but that doesn't make it any better. With three long steps, I move towards Sara and stop to stare down at her furiously. "You're calling me stupid and thoughtless because I did my job? It's what I do, what I have done before, what I'm expected to do. It's not like I have a choice, and I don't start my day saying, 'Oh, hey, what a fine morning, I think I'll run into a shootout without a weapon today!' I saved my colleagues' lives!" I snarl.
"And risked your own!" Her voice is rough with tears.
"You knew that, Sara, you knew it! When this, us, started, I was a cop already, you must have been aware that I'd sometimes get into dangerous situations and that both of us, you and me, we have to live with it."
"I knew that," she says, barely audible now. "I guess I just never considered that you could die I didn't think this would affect me so much."
When I reply, my voice is softer than before. "I understand that it shakes you up but you'll have to learn how to stay in control. It's all you can do. If you live in constant fear that something's gonna happen to me, it'll drive you mad. Being a cop is part of the package that is Sofia Curtis. I can't give that up." I drop to my knees and reach for her hand but she pulls it away.
"I don't expect you to. But I don't think I can do this," she whispers and shakes her head. Looking at me sadly, she stands, ready to walk out of my life, our life, and I'm in complete disbelief.
"You're bailing on me because there's a slight possibility that I might die on the job? What kind of logic is that, Sara? You might be killed by some maniac on the street tomorrow but do you see me running off? Is not being with me gonna make you stop loving me, is it gonna keep you from caring whether I'm okay or not?" I desperately try to hold her back.
"It's gonna become easier eventually please try to understand, I'm just trying to protect myself. I'm sorry, Sofia." A single tear slips down her cheek.
All I understand is that she's trying to convince herself more than me. I feel like crying but I'm too proud, so I yell. "Protect yourself! What about me? You say I didn't think of you, but did you think of me, did you once ponder how this would make me feel? But you know what forget it. Be a selfish bitch. When I need you most, you decide it's too tough for you to deal with and run away. Get the fuck out of here."
She looks hurt but goes without another word, quietly closing the door behind her and leaving me wondering whether that really could have been all. I put my head in my hands and let out a frustrated sigh, cursing those guys for turning up at our scene, making everything go down the drain from that moment on. Half an hour later, I crawl into bed, hoping that a blissful sleep will soothe my mind for a few hours. Not long after I have rested my head on the pillow, the tears finally come, and I don't know whether I cry for almost being shot or for losing Sara, or both.
The next few days pass in a haze. I have a hard time focusing on my job and catch myself thinking that if I was to be shot now, I wouldn't care very much. Jim gives me a fatherly but helpless pat on the shoulder, at a loss of what to say but wanting to let me know he's there for me if I need him. I rarely see Sara in those days, and if we're working the same cases, I try to avoid her. It's too painful to see her, and if getting over me is what she really wants, who am I to stand in the way of it?
Then, five days after the shootout and our fight, she turns up at my apartment. She doesn't use her key and knocks softly instead. I'm somewhat taken aback when I see her standing there and briefly consider slamming the door in her face but the next thing I know, she has stepped inside and clings to me like a drowning woman, sobbing into my hair like a child. It tugs at my heartstrings, so I encircle her with my arms and hold her close until she calms down. Eventually she pulls away and wipes her palm over her face.
"What was I thinking?" she rambles, turning the tables on herself. "How did I ever get the idea that walking out on you would spare my feelings? Losing you like this is worse than losing you in any other way. I'm so, so sorry." Her still tear-filled eyes plead for forgiveness. "I can do this, I know I can. I won't freak out every time you face a dangerous situation at work, and I'll provide the comfort you need after a shitty day. If you let me," she adds carefully. "Please let me."
She's been unfair to me, abandoned me, but I'm not gonna make this hard for her because I want her back just as much as she wants it, need her just as much as she needs me, so I nod. "But there's one thing you need to know. I do think about you, all the time, even at work. It makes me a little more attentive, a little quicker, a little more determined, because I want to come home to you every day. I can take care of myself and I don't want you to worry so much, you hear me?" It's her turn to nod, I see relief flooding her face, and it lifts my own spirits.
"Yes, ma'am," she teases playfully to lighten the mood, and then, in a hopeful tone, "So does that mean next time I can use my key again?"
"Oh yes, you better," I retort. "You know that once I'm settled on the couch comfortably I'm way too lazy to get up and go to answer the door, and if I let you stand outside in the rain because you have no key, you might want to kill me."
"Very funny, Sofia, really, very funny."
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