At first Alan had thought he was dreaming. He'd fallen asleep on the couch, with a half-eaten microwave dinner balanced precariously on his belt buckle and the late news talking quietly to itself on the television. But the knock came again, the plastic tray teetered against his lap, and Alan startled himself the rest of the way awake.
How long had he been asleep? More importantly, who was knocking on his door at eleven-thirty at night?
Lora had called earlier; as soon as he'd stepped up as CEO she said she'd fly in as soon as she could. Her flight wouldn't arrive until first thing in the morning, though, and- well, it was her house, too. Lora had a key. His heart was in his throat as he rushed to the front door-
On his doorstep stood a Flynn, all right. Sam Flynn.
(Of course. Kevin Flynn had his own key, too, and he'd never bothered to knock. Alan's hopes fell again, a little lower each time. A week and a day, now, and with every minute the odds grew longer.)
But here was Sam: six-year-old Sam up past his bedtime, Sam with the handlebars of his bike decidedly askew and two bloody knees. It was a balmy summer evening, but the boy could hardly have looked more pitiful if he'd been standing there in February in a pouring rain.
Guilty over his own selfish loss, Alan swallowed back the first twenty or so things that he wanted to say. "You- I- I bet you're hungry, riding all the way over here. You want a hot dog? Or a drink? I think I have some Coke in the fridge."
The younger Flynn shook his head, and his game face wobbled a little. "Not hungry."
Alan couldn't blame him for that. His own abandoned supper sat forlorn on the coffee table, so he didn't have much room to press the point. "Well, you want to come on in? The least I can get you is a couple of band-aids."
Sam stayed put, his hands clenched at his sides. "Gram... doesn't let me drink much Coke."
The smile started somewhere between them, tremulous and uncertain, but sweeter for the sharing.
"It can be our secret."
Sam hisses through his teeth, tiny involuntary noise escaping him. Alan, hands busy with the antibiotic and gauze, doesn't miss the sound.
Nor does Sam miss Alan's raised eyebrow.
"Don't bother," Sam says. Alan has lowered his head again and isn't looking at his face, and Sam allows himself to wince when the alcohol touches his skin. "I know a lecture when I see one."
Alan chuckles. "Figured you know the words by heart, anyway. I won't repeat myself." His hands are gentle as they are firm, but there's a lot of grit in the wound, and if Sam weren't so stubborn he'd be squirming. "I won't ask how you managed this, either."
"It's just an elbow, Alan." Another breath hitches in his throat, for all that he tries. Damn, how many nerve endings in that one spot? "This isn't even my best work. I'd patch it up myself, but I'm not left-handed."
"Mm-hm, sure." Alan sounds distracted, carefully measuring tape to cover the gauze. "And deprive me of this?" He gives Sam a smile. "These days you're moving too fast for me. This is about the best chance I get to sit and chat with you."
Sam doesn't know that he's tensed, fingers on his good hand curling into his shirt. (What's left of his shirt, anyway; Alan had to cut away the right sleeve to get at the worst of the mess.) He's only lived on his own for a couple of months, now, and he's guarded his privacy jealously. Too easy to expect intrusions, even well-meaning ones. "What's there to chat about?"
"Well, there's your arm, for a start." Alan straightens, and Sam blinks down at his newly-bandaged right elbow. "I'd give it two days before you play any tennis, at least."
It makes Sam laugh, as it's meant to. Until he sees the blood on Alan's hands, somehow more painful on his unbroken skin than all the scrapes Sam can remember. "All right," he concedes to the unspoken point. "Next time I won't ride without my jacket. Leather holds up better than a T-shirt."
Alan's shaking his head, headed for the sink to wash himself off. "Didn't I say I wouldn't lecture?"
"Well, not out loud, anyway." Sam lays back on the couch, a little gingerly, busted arm draped over his chest. In the tiny square footage of his apartment, the noise of running water is close by, soothing. He closes his eyes and listens to Alan tidying up, imagining the torn fabric going in the trash, the blood on those familiar hands rinsing down the drain.
"Nice place," Alan's saying, and Sam feels a rush of pride, heady, unanticipated. "You mind if I help myself to a drink?"
"No problem," says Sam, feeling more like an adult than his face-forward ID picture and his rental paperwork put together. "Coke's in the fridge."
It takes him a minute to realize why Alan is laughing, but then he remembers it, too. A hundred bandages ago, a thousand sleepless nights ago. How much has really changed?
Alan leans over the back of the couch, bottles dangling from his fingers. "Thanks," he says.
"Yeah." Sam can't quite find his voice, so he clinks his bottle with Alan's: a toast. "Our secret."