Divide & conquer, p.17
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       Divide & Conquer, p.17

         Part #4 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
Page 17


  Zane resisted the urge to laugh as he gently petted Tys hair. “Ty is fine. Hes asleep. He wasnt the one hurt this time. ”

  “Oh,” Deuce muttered, not sounding at all embarrassed over his outburst. “But youre hurt? Are you okay? What happened?” “An explosion happened. A surprise one,” Zane answered. “Im okay. Mostly. No limbs missing or anything,” he tried to joke. “A surprise explosion,” Deuce repeated slowly. He sounded like he might be writing that down. “Interesting,” he drew out under his breath. “As opposed to a not-surprise explosion. And it did what, exactly?”

  “Apparently some of the parts in my head got a little scrambled,” Zane said awkwardly. “I cant see. ”

  “You cant see what?”

  “Anything. I cant see. Im blind. ” Zane was pretty proud that his voice didnt shake or break upon saying it out loud like that. “Youve lost your vision,” Deuce summarized in a clinical tone, not an ounce of pity or apology. “Is this a permanent thing?” he asked more carefully. He seemed to be wavering between psychiatrist and friend as they spoke.

  Several seconds passed before Zane realized he hadnt answered. “They dont know,” he murmured, recalling bits and pieces of what the doctors had said.

  “I see. ” Deuce was silent for a long moment. “Let me ask you this, Zane: are you calling because you need a friend or because you need a shrink?”

  “I want to talk to you, Deuce, not Dr. Grady,” Zane said, knowing he sounded a little plaintive. “I know weve sort of blurred the lines along the way. ”

  “Then let me just say: dude, that sucks,” Deuce drew out with feeling.

  Zane cracked a grin and laid his hand on Tys chest so he could feel it rise and fall evenly. “No shit, man. ”

  “Are you with Ty or are you staying alone?”

  “Were at my apartment. I know my way around here,” Zane said. “I just got out of the hospital. I dont even know what time it is. ” Deuce hummed thoughtfully. “Did Ty tell you our greatgrandmother Elsie was blind? She had this watch that you could flip up and feel to tell time. Ty might have it. But then, that was twenty years ago. Theres also a button on your phone that will do that, I think. ”

  “Weve not had much chance to talk. I was really out of it for a while. Its still… sinking in,” Zane said slowly. “The panic is starting to creep up on me, and Im trying to let him sleep a little. ”

  “I can imagine,” Deuce said sympathetically. “Doesnt do any good to tell you not to panic, either. ” Zanes laugh had a little edge to it. “Right. ” He blinked several times, resisting the urge to rub at his dry eyes. The doctors had said over and over that it wouldnt help and would probably hurt. But he wasnt sure where the bag from the hospital was, and even if he did know, he wasnt going to wake up Ty to get to it. “This… isnt good,” he said, and his voice definitely shook.

  “What can I do to help you, Zane?” Deuce asked in a gentle voice.

  “I just… not much scares me anymore, you know?” Zane tried to explain. “But this…. ”

  “You dont deal well with uncertainty,” Deuce observed almost clinically. “Not many people do. Why does it scare you?” “I cant work if Im blind. What am I going to do with myself? I couldnt stand the idea of someone having to—” Zane cut himself off before his voice rose any further. He wouldnt be a charity case. He just couldnt stomach it.

  “Take care of you?” Deuce finished for him. “Are those the only reasons? Your job and your pride?”

  “No,” Zane murmured as he spread his fingers over Tys chest. “Those arent the only reasons. ”

  “Spill, Zane,” Deuce ordered. “Get it out now. ” The words balled up in Zanes throat. He was talking to Tys brother, for heavens sake. “Im afraid,” he whispered. “Im afraid itll change things. ”

  “What things?” Deuce asked. “Relationship things?” “Oh yeah,” Zane answered in a rush.

  “You think my brother will dump you because youre blind,” Deuce surmised in a troubled voice.

  Zane hesitated. “I dont want to think that. Its…. ” He grasped for a word. “Disloyal. ” “Disloyal,” Deuce repeated curiously. “To whom? To Ty?” “Yes, to Ty. ” Zane frowned. “Who else is there?”

  Deuce hummed thoughtfully. “Theres you, Zane,” he continued after a pause.

  “Me?” Zane shook his head as he inhaled deeply and sighed. “I dont follow. ” Deuce sighed, long and loud. “If theres one thing my big brother taught me, its that sometimes you have to look out for number one. Dont worry so much about what hell do or what hell think. ”

  Zane sighed. “Well, until just recently I was the only one looking out for me, so Im kind of used to that part of it. ” “Tell me something, Zane,” Deuce said in a sly voice. “Is that really the biggest thing youre worried about right now? That Ty might leave you?”

  Zane pressed his lips together hard. The tone of Deuces voice made him a little suspicious. But Deuce was never cruel, even if he did like to tease sometimes. Zane was worried about so many things he couldnt even start to rank them, but Ty—and whether Ty would still want him after such a radical change—really stood out. Zane figured it was a reflection of how much their relationship had developed. The next words were out before he thought them through. “He said he loves me. ”

  “I know he does,” Deuce assured him with a laugh. “Im surprised he told you, but Im glad he did. So, keeping that in mind, Ill ask you again: is that really the biggest thing youre concerned about?”

  Zane closed his eyes, even though it made no difference in the darkness, and really considered the question. What did he really have? His job, and Ty. If it came down to it and he lost his job, he was relatively sure he could flounder his way into something else to do, somehow. But if he lost Ty, Zane just wasnt sure hed care about anything else. The slight pangs of pain he felt whenever he caught Ty looking at him in a particular way came more often now, and it was starting to make him want things he wasnt sure he could handle. “Damn it,” he swore under his breath, hoping Ty really was asleep. “Yes. ”

  “Well, Id say thats pretty good, then,” Deuce said happily. “I mean, as far as problems go. Tys too stubborn to leave you if he loves you. ”

  Zane let out a groan that reflected both frustration and relief. It helped so much just to hear that. “So Im stressing over whats probably nothing. Paranoia. ”

  “I wouldnt call it paranoia. More… spinning your mental wheels. I mean, has he given any indication that he might leave now? Whats he been doing?”

  “Hes been great, not that there was anything he could do in the hospital. But he didnt leave me alone,” Zane said. “Was there when I woke up, sat with me there, got the doctors to let me leave, and got me home. All that aside, I really dont know what to do with myself. In theory? Its temporary. I could wake up tomorrow just fine. Or it could be permanent. Not one doctor of five could tell me anything more than „We just have to wait and see,” he muttered, “which was kind of cruel in itself. ”

  “Wait and see. Makes you wonder what they tell deaf people,” Deuce muttered. “Oh God, that was horrible. Forget I said that. ” “You know how many idioms there are that have something about „seeing or „sight in them?” Zane asked, letting a little waspishness into his voice. He groaned aloud to punctuate the annoyance. He could hear Deuce trying not to laugh. “Ill go nuts if I have to sit around here doing nothing,” Zane added. “Its not even day one, and Im already antsy. And thats with being worried about running into a wall. ”

  “So do something,” Deuce suggested. “Who blew you up? Cant you plot revenge or something? Any open cases you can mull over?” “We were investigating a report of a suspicious package,” Zane said as he started thinking over their caseload. “Although I wouldnt be averse to a little plotting. As for cases, its not like Im assigned to Financial Crimes, tracing forgers or art thieves through paperwork. Criminal involves more than a little legwork. ”

why was there a bomb there?” Deuce asked. Zane shook his head, belatedly remembering he had to speak. “No idea. And Ive got no information after being in the hospital. Im sure Ty will find out what he can while hes at the office. ”

  “No, Zane. I mean, why was there a bomb there? Who called it in? Was it a trap? Think about it. Come up with a theory. ” “Yeah, okay. I can do that. ” He shook his head. “Hey, Deuce?” “Yeah?” He sounded amused.

  “Why are you surprised?” Zane asked, giving into the curiosity niggling at him. “Is it that he told me, or that he feels that way to start with?”

  “I knew he was in love with you when we were in West Virginia, Zane. Im surprised he figured it out. And yeah, Im surprised as hell that he told you. ”

  Zane barely stopped himself from sitting up and dumping Ty on the floor. “In West Virginia? That was almost four months ago. ” “That surprises you?” “Deuce, if I hadnt been scared out of my fucking mind when he told me, I would have fallen over from the shock,” Zane said with some amount of surety.

  Deuce began to laugh softly. “And then he shoved you over the edge of a balcony or something, I know. Very romantic. ” He began to laugh harder.

  “It was a three-story drop!” Zane growled in outrage. “I didnt even get a chance to say anything because the ship security guys were waiting for us!”

  The laughter trailed off, and the line was silent for a moment. “What would you have said that you cant say now?” Deuce asked, voice neutral.

  Zane literally flinched, flashing back to the confusing coil of emotions that had rocked him in that not even two minutes of revelation, jumping, and falling after Ty had said “I love you. ” But now, he wasnt remembering the literal fall from three decks above a cruise ship swimming pool. He was feeling the echoes of his more recent emotional shock in the stands at a fan-filled softball tournament: The fall wasnt coming. It was already over. He just had to figure out how to find words of his own. The honest words. “I dont know,” he got out in a strangled whisper.

  Deuce hummed again. “Maybe you should use some of your free time thinking about that. Cause if I know my brother, hell stick with you through just about anything, including going blind. But I dont know how long hell stick around if hes the only one thinking hes in love. ”

  Zane frowned but had nothing to reply, and they sat there in silence, Zane with his mind buzzing in circles, for almost a full minute before he cleared his throat quietly. “Thanks for the talk, Deuce. I really appreciate it. ”

  “Any time, Zane. You know that,” Deuce told him with confidence. “Say hello to my brother, huh?” “Yeah, I will,” Zane agreed, smoothing his palm down over Tys belly. “Talk to you later. ” He hit the end-call button out of habit; he didnt need to see the phone to know where it was. “Well,” he muttered, “that was full of up and downs, wasnt it?”

  Ty grunted as if in answer and fitfully rolled onto his side. Zane smiled. He did feel better, though after that last bit of conversation, he wasnt sure he should. W HEN the phone rang, Zane startled and sat up in a rush, his left hand reaching out to fumble for his phone. He hit solid, warm skin, and he paused in place. He was on the wrong side of the bed, and he could tell by the bustle of sound from the street that it wasnt the middle of the night. He still couldnt see. The disappointment and fear welled into his throat.

  “Ow, Zane,” Ty grunted in a monotone, sleepy voice as Zane

  pawed at him. He pushed Zanes hand away, and the bed dipped as he rolled over. Zane heard him smack his hand onto the table where the cell phone rang. “Grady,” he grunted in answer to the call. He sighed in annoyance. “Now?” he asked whoever was on the other end of the call. “Well, why dont you come here and get it from me like all the other witnesses?” he asked petulantly. “Fine. Im at Garretts place. ”

  Then he clicked the phone closed and groaned plaintively, rolling around again. Zane knew him well enough to guess he was burying his head under his pillow in protest.

  Zane sighed and lay back down, facing toward Ty, dragging his own pillow under his chest. “Work?” he murmured, wide awake now, although the scare was fading.

  “Sort of,” Ty mumbled as he lifted up and then rolled out of bed, barely disturbing the mattress. “They want a witness statement from me,” he said as his voice trailed off toward the hallway. “Theyre sending a car. ”

  Zane missed the warmth of Tys body immediately. He stretched his hand out to rub his fingers across the still-warm fitted sheet. “About the bomb at the baseball field?”

  “That and the other. And Ive got to go in and find that damn kid and get your keys back. ”

  “Not like I need them,” Zane muttered.

  “You will soon enough,” Ty told him. The water began running soon after. Zane stood to walk to the bathroom, but his phones low chime stopped him. He felt his way back to the nightstand and answered with a hint of trepidation. “Zane Garrett. ”

  “Special Agent Garrett, this is Dolores from PR at the Bureau. ” “Okay?” Dolores worked for White Strips. He wondered if her boss made her stock floss. “Weve received a large number of requests for interviews, and I wanted to check to see when you thought you might feel up to giving some. ”

  “Giving some… interviews? About what?” Zane slowly sat down on the edge of the bed. “Some are speaking requests from community leaders who attended the classes youve spoken at recently. But weve also had several requests since the press somehow connected you to the aquarium bomb scare. Youre quite the celebrity now,” she said cheerfully.
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