Author: aja aron PM
Five scenes in the aftermath of Casey Randall's death. An epilog of sorts to the episode The Fortune. 1988 series.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Words: 3,359 - Reviews: 6 - Follows: 1 - Published: 12-19-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7653424
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Because the release of the 1988 series on DVD inspired me, this is an epilog of sorts to the episode "The Fortune" - showing five scenes in the aftermath of Casey's death.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Just for fun.
Max woke from his dream with his skin crawling. The palms of his hands itching. His body felt tainted. Like a stain steeped just below the surface. He clenched his fists and blinked, taking a moment to place his surroundings. The room was still. Dampened blue in color. They were back in California. The funeral was in two days.
He swallowed thickly in the silence then abruptly stumbled upright, pushing out through the hallway from his bedroom and into the bathroom. He made it to his knees just in time to throw up everything he'd tried to eat that day. Then heaved until the burn in the back of his throat made his eyes water.
A cool hand settled on the back of his neck. "Max."
Taking a breath, Max closed his eyes, swallowing again as Nicholas moved the hand down to his shoulder and eased him back against the wall. He heard the sound of water running, then Nicholas was beside him again, pressing a glass of water into his lax fingers. "Max? Are you alright?"
Max gripped the cup, but kept his eyes closed. "I was dreaming about her."
Nicholas stopped breathing for a second. "Casey?"
Max shook his head and opened his eyes. "Emilia." He brought the cup to his lips and swallowed. His throat still burned.
"Listen to me, Max. You have every right to feel what you're feeling right now. None of us had to do what you had to. You finished what Casey started. You found the evidence and caught her killer. She'd be grateful for that."
"I could and I did, right?" He glanced at Nicholas's worried face. "Sorry," he said, rubbing a shaky hand up to his eyes. "I don't know why I'm talking like this. I can't seem to get my thoughts straight. I'll be fine. I'm just…"
Nicholas closed a hand around his forearm. "Stop it. Jim knew you could do it. He knew you would. He never said you didn't have a right to feel what you're feeling—then and now."
"I wanted to kill her. I wanted to wrap my hands around her throat."
Nicholas tightened his grip. "I don't think any of us can fault you for that desire. And I'm not sure I could have displayed the self-control you did, if I'd found myself in the same position."
Max balanced the cup and took another sip. He looked at Nicholas, matching his wearied gaze. "Casey should have been with us, you know. Or we should have been with her. She shouldn't have been alone."
Dipping his head, Nicholas nodded. "I know."
Nicholas emerged from the bathroom and saw Grant standing in the hallway, in t-shirt and sleep pants, leaning quietly against the wall. "Is he alright?" he asked, as they stepped away from the door.
They stopped at the edge of the corridor, where dull light from the main room met their feet and made Nicholas think Jim was still awake somewhere. He over-focused on Grant's pinched expression then glanced behind them, as if he could see Max through the door. "I think he will be. To tell the truth, I'm surprised he's kept himself together until now. I was starting to get worried."
Grant met Nicholas's eyes with hardened concern. He opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, but stopped himself and looked away instead. Nicholas felt vaguely relieved. He palmed Grant's shoulder briefly and nodded his head towards the kitchen. "I'm going to make some tea—see if it might help."
"Couldn't hurt," said Grant and followed, taking a stool at the counter. Nicholas felt his eyes on him as he set a kettle over the gas flame. He added enough water to include Jim, and Shannon, if she was still awake, then stood facing Grant, hands loose on the smooth surface between them.
"What about the funeral?" Grant asked quietly. "Do we know yet if we're able to attend, or is it a breach of security?"
"Jim just got the word an hour ago. I would have told you but I thought you were asleep. We've got the go ahead. The FBI indicted the Berezans this morning on the grounds they'd kidnapped and murdered an innocent woman their paranoia made them mistake for a spy. The secretary doesn't feel Casey's identity as an agent was compromised. Or ours. We're allowed to go, discretely."
Grant nodded, pressing fingers to the bridge of his nose. They sat in silence until the kettle whistled.
Pulling mugs from the cabinet, Nicholas set them in a row on the counter, turning the handles in the same direction. He looked up when he heard a creak in the doorway and gave a nod of invitation. Shannon joined them tentatively, quietly accepting the mug he held out to her. Jim had asked her to come back to California with them. Just for a few days. Before they all dispersed again into their other lives. She'd agreed, and her presence had become an odd sort of comfort he didn't want to think about too deeply. Working in her favor—she was content with silence, and easy in their company.
"Is Max alright?" she asked, taking the stool next to Grant.
Her voice was smooth and soft but it didn't remind him of Casey at all. Nicholas thought he could love her for that alone.
"Not at the moment," he answered honestly. He took a careful breath. His chest ached. "Right now, I'm not sure he should be." He stirred a packet of brown sugar slowly into one of the mugs. "I should get this to him."
"I'll take it," said Grant. "If you don't mind. I want to see for myself he's not getting sick." Nicholas conceded and let go of the mug, staring at the wrinkles on the back of Grant's shirt until he disappeared into the half-light of the hallway.
Shannon started to reach towards his arm, put pulled it back when his gaze shifted, hesitation on her face. "You're not dressed for bed," she said. "Aren't you even going to try to sleep?"
He smiled wanly. "Eventually."
He left her sitting in the kitchen and made a circle around the house. Checking the doors, the windows. The security system. For five minutes, he stood sentry outside Max's bedroom, arms folded in a gesture of restraint as he listened to Max and Grant's soft silence before moving on.
At the end of his circuit he paused at the computer console, standing motionless between it and the flickering flame Jim had set in the fireplace.
Emilia Berezan, he thought. And decided to go through the research database, one more time.
Grant stood in front of his mirror, trying to pick out the tie he'd wear to the funeral tomorrow. Everything felt wrong around his neck. Like he was getting into costume for a job instead of back into his own skin.
There was a tap on the door. "Grant?"
He turned, pulling the last tie loose from his collar. "Jim. Everything alright?"
Jim's serious face eased back a fraction. "Actually, I came to check on you. You've been up here for a while. Are you alright?"
"I'm wishing we could attend this funeral together as a team, but other than that… yeah." Grant reached for his tie rack, re-threading the tie from his hands. "I'm alright. And I guess if we all say it to each other enough, it'll turn out to be true." Finished with the tie, he shoved his hands into his pockets, turning back to face Jim and the waves of the bay, visible through the wide window over Jim's shoulder. He could see Max and Nicholas out on the deck, working in rhythm. Back and forth, back and forth, sanding paint from Jim's old deck table in slow, even movements.
"I know you're worried about Max," said Jim, facing the window as well.
Grant moved to stand at his shoulder, hands still in his pockets. "I am. I'm worried about Max. I'm worried about you. And I'm worried about Nicholas. Hell, I'm even worried about Shannon."
"And which part of that is bothering you most right now?"
Grant's jaw clenched involuntarily. He closed his eyes, then very deliberately blinked them open. Max and Nicholas were in his direct line of sight, still working, steady in the monotony of an inconsequential task. "Are we getting too close, Jim?"
"How do you mean?"
"As a team. Are we so… so invested in each other, we won't be able to do our job?"
Jim turned towards him, watching him silently for a moment. "Grant, how old were you when you figured out what your father really did for a living?"
Grant slid his glance left, then took a breath, conceding to see where this led. "Ten."
"And how old were you when you finally told him you knew?"
"Were you worried about him, when you figured it out?"
"You better believe it."
"And in all that time, did you ever try to convince him to stay home and not do his job?"
Grant shook his head. "No. I admired him for it. I wanted to be…" He stopped and cleared his throat. "I wanted to be just like him."
"And did you ever stop being invested in his return? Ever try to care about him a little less because of it? Or him you?"
"Would it have helped if, as the team that worked with him, we hadn't been just as invested in getting him back to you as you were?"
Taking another deep breath, Grant eased his shoulders down. "No," he said, releasing them slowly. "Thanks, Jim."
"None of you let the emotion you felt for Casey affect the way you carried out this mission and if I've learned anything in my experience, it's that we're stronger together. You've reminded me of that on more than one occasion. I think that's what's bothering you so much about the funeral."
Grant fingered his tieless collar. "I wish we could stand together."
Jim nodded. "Me too." They both looked out the window, listening to the distant sound of the sander.
After a moment, Grant spoke. "He's not sleeping, you know."
"Nicholas." He nodded through the window. "I checked to see what he's been accessing in the database. He's been going over the early Berezan research, over and over again, like our lives depend on it."
"Maybe to him they do," Jim murmured.
"What do you mean?"
"If I've become familiar enough with how Nicholas thinks, I imagine that to him, if he can disseminate all the details, he believes he'll figure out how to prevent something like this from happening again."
Grant shook his head. "None of us even knew she was down there until the secretary sent you the mission. What could we have done?"
"He'll figure that out," said Jim.
Grant stuffed his hands back in his pockets.
"Give them time, Grant. Yourself too. We all need it right now. Be grateful that at the moment, we have it."
"In the meantime, will you take an additional piece of advice?"
"Ask Shannon about the tie." Jim patted his shoulder. "She'll find you the right one."
It was late, and the silent fluttering of the computer screen brought Jim back towards the main room. Nicholas was standing behind the couch, staring at the display, looking at the layout of Berezan's estate from various angles. His eyes were liquid dark behind his glasses, knees locked against the couch frame as he leaned towards the screen. The signs of sleep deprivation were apparent in his stance. Standing instead of sitting just to keep himself awake.
The image brought visceral memories to the front of Jim's mind. Tom Copperfield used to get like this. Rollin too. And he himself, sometimes, if he were totally honest. It was too familiar. The edge they all stood on, represented by the wearied tension in Nicholas's face.
The image on the screen changed, giving a wider view of the layout with marks over the locations of each security camera and accompanying details on the technical specs.
Nicholas jerked minutely. Then paused the screen and looked up at him.
"Have you figured it out yet?" asked Jim seriously, walking down the steps.
Nicholas watched him come. "What's that?"
Stopping next to him, Jim glanced at the screen. "Have you figured out which angle wasn't covered or what could have been done differently? That's what you're looking for, isn't it?"
Nicholas pulled off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "I suppose."
"She'd wired into the security cameras that night and put them on a loop, but there was a faulty transformer in the newer section of the estate. An unexpected power surge tripped the system. She couldn't have predicted it."
"Or prevented it," said Jim.
Nicholas sighed, pressing a button on the remote to change the screen to white. He folded his arms and turned his hip into the couch. "I know she understood the risk. We all do. But when I tell myself that, it feels wrong."
"Like there should be something else you should be able to do for her."
Nicholas looked up at him and nodded. "How do you do it, Jim? I know how you felt about her."
"How I feel about all of you," Jim corrected.
"Yes," Nicholas conceded. "All of us."
"It may not be the answer you're looking for."
"I don't know what I'm looking for."
"Ultimately, we all have our own reasons for doing this. For myself, I started believing a long time ago that what we do needs to be done. As much as I'd prefer to keep all of you absolutely safe, when it comes down to it, there's no one else I'd rather have with me than this team." Jim paused, watching Nicholas's face—the doubt in his eyes, and the strained edge of his jaw. The reflection from the white screen smoothed his profile. "And, Nicholas," he added carefully. "When it comes time for you to lead…"
Nicholas looked up and started to shake his head.
Jim held a hand up. "When it's time. You'll respect their choice to go where you send them, even when all of you know some variables just can't be controlled."
Opening his mouth, Nicholas looked like he wanted to argue the point, but didn't. He licked his lips, gripping his hands on the frame of the couch. "What do we do now?"
Reaching for the remote, Jim clicked off the screen. "We get some rest, if we can. Tomorrow we say goodbye to a good friend."
Nicholas lifted a hand, looking down at it, then rubbing at the base of his skull as though feeling for a mask. "Okay, Jim," he said dully. Jim set a hand on his bicep and gave it a squeeze, reminding himself of what he'd told Grant. Time. They all needed time. He turned towards the stairs, moving up them silently. When he turned the corner he stopped. "Max," he said.
Leaning against the wall, arms closed over his chest, Max tipped his head towards the room Jim had just left. "Is he going to sleep now?"
Jim glanced in Nicholas's general direction. "Not well, but I think he'll try… like we all are."
Max nodded. "That's something I guess. Thanks for talking to him. I don't think he would have heard it if we said it."
Jim sighed, watching Max's face. As Grant had indicated, asking the question wouldn't necessarily make him believe the answer, but he asked it anyway. "Are you alright?"
A wan smile briefly crossed Max's face. It was painful to look at, but Max lifted his head, eyes direct. "I'm okay, Jim." He unfolded his arms, and stood straight. "I wanted to say thank you, for me too. I don't think I could have lived with myself if I'd walked away from that mission. It was the one thing I could do for her. Somehow, you knew that."
Taking a breath, Jim nodded his head. "So did you," he said.
Shannon leaned her elbows on the high railing of Jim's deck, watching the surf.
The boys sat in adirondacks, down on the edge of the deck by the sand, facing the beach, still in their suits but with their shoes off. She'd been with them most of the day, but didn't go down to them. She wanted to give them time with each other, with the memories she couldn't be a part of. She didn't want to breach the moment. It was warm, but a storm sat off in the distance. They'd be coming in soon enough.
After a while, Jim stepped to her shoulder. "Shannon," he said.
She straightened, leaving a hand on the rail. "Jim." He looked tired.
He stared down at his team, then contemplated her seriously. "I've been meaning to speak to you about something, something I need you to consider."
She frowned, facing him fully.
"I want you to join the team. Permanently."
Her chest expanded. "Oh, Jim." She glanced towards the boys, folding her arms. "I... I can't tell you how much I appreciate the offer. When I was given this assignment, I'd hoped I'd earn enough respect for the opportunity to work with you again. All of you. But if I join them now, they'll see me as a replacement."
"If I bring someone else in now, it will be a replacement. However briefly, you were there with them before they lost her. In your own way, you experienced it with them. It has to be you, Shannon. It's why I wanted you here."
"Always thinking ten steps ahead?"
"Maybe," conceded Jim. "Will you do it?"
"Yes. Yes, of course. When will you tell them?"
"I think Nicholas already knows. Probably the others too. But I'll make it official before our next mission."
She nodded, leaning back on the railing, watching as Nicholas turned his head and said something that made Max smile.
The sun had dipped into darkness over the ocean before the others came back towards the house, the storm still far enough away to leave them in peace. She could read the mood as they came up the steps. As though the time in company had evened the burden between them, balancing it out.
Jim set a bottle of wine and five glasses on the sanded deck table. Max pulled the cork and tilted his head in Shannon's direction. "Join us for a drink?" he asked, holding a glass out to her. She stepped closer and took it solemnly, gripping it steadily as Max filled it up.
"A toast to Casey," Nicholas said quietly.
"For Casey," added Grant. He looked at her, lifting his glass like he already knew what Jim had asked of her.
"May all of us do honor to her memory," said Jim.
"And to each other," added Max.
It was a pact. As Shannon tipped her glass against theirs she couldn't help feel she was making a promise. "For Casey," she said seriously, sealing it tight.