Summary: This is a story about friendship and radio silence, panic and loss and finding something that was really always there. About how drastically lives were altered even before anyone knew it.

But, perhaps, this is really a story about lakes, rocks and ripples.

Because, at the heart, that's really what 9/11 is.


Disclaimer: Elementary belongs to CBS and all the wonderful people who make the show possible.

AN: Tags are as follows: September 11 Attacks, PTSD, Panic Attacks, Anxiety, Aftermath of Violence, Hurt/Comfort, Friendship, Family, Team as Family, Nightmares, Flashbacks, Suspension of Disbelief, Creative License, slight AU, slight Character Backstory, TRIGGERS, POV Alternating, possible Out of Character (?)

The Tags:

- 'Suspension of Disbelief' is up there because there are certain elements that I wholeheartedly believe are, in fact, possible, but I know that not everyone does. Some 'Creative License' elements are in here, especially in regards to Canon. There are also other things that are included here, which falls into both 'Suspension of Disbelief' and 'Creative License'. 'Slight AU' is in regards to Gregson being single at this point - Paige may not be in the picture just yet, for example - and Bell is still with Chantal.

- Joan might be a few years younger, but not more than five, and Marcus is at least two years older than he might be in the show. This is to fit within the timeline, while leaving room for error. At this point, I'm not sure what Marcus was doing before, but I'm under the impression that he might've been a cadet on 9/11 so he's at least old enough to have been one at that time.

-Mostly, this is not a romance story of any kind, but there might be some... certain things that are open to interpretation. But nothing really that important to the story.

The Story:

- I have no explanation for this. I was actually checking out all these books and watching these documentaries for a different story and naturally this ended up being 'Elementary'. Imagine my chagrin.

- There is no offense to anyone intended with this story. I apologize if you do find something that you disagree with, but just understand that no offense is meant.

- Because of the subject matter, please know that Reader Discretion is Advised.

- There are four chapters comprised of parts: 'Tommy' is all just one part, as is 'Marcus'. 'Sherlock' has two parts and 'Joan' has two parts plus the 'Epilogue'. It is not recommended to push the 'Entire Work' button. You can, but it is not recommended just in case something happens and you lose your place.

- I am actually kind of nervous about this one and I hope you... enjoy? So, here it is.

*To those who can't talk about it, who think they can handle a situation until they're in it, who want so badly to understand the ones around them, who wouldn't be the people they are today without 9/11. This is for you.*


* PART ONE *


His thoughts, for the first time in almost two decades, were silent as his eyes blankly stared at what remained of an eleven story building.

They'd been unable to stop the bombs going off, but they had managed to evacuate the area and buildings around it so there were no casualties.

At least, he'd hoped there were no casualties.

Not like –

Not like the last time he was almost taken out by a collapsing building.

This one, however, wasn't nearly as tall or with a twin, so there was that.

But, damn, just the wreckage of an eleven story building –

He stared at the smoking pile of… of… twisted metal and steel and – and rubble-ized concrete that probably wasn't actually a word, but hell. Just… just a few hours ago, that was two 110-story buildings and –

He walked away from that?

Alive?

"Captain?" a hand gently touched his elbow and a breath blew out of him as he remembered his surroundings and the years of supposed distance.

"Yeah?" he tore his eyes away and found the almond shaped dark eyes of Joan Watson watching him from under a very fine layer of dust that covered her from top to bottom.

A vague memory of curling around a smaller figure jolted him fully to the present and he managed to restrain himself enough to keep his strength gentle when he almost desperately clutched her shoulders as his frantic gaze scanned her for injuries.

"You're alright?" he couldn't see any injuries, but he had enough sense to remember why he couldn't actually wrestle her clothes off so he could be absolutely sure. Still, he'd tossed her into the wall pretty solidly before pressing tightly into her to keep her from being hit when the building came down. "We need you in the hospital for a complete physical," he carefully turned her so he could run a careful hand down her spine and tried not to think of how thin she felt to him.

He, somewhere on some level, knew that Holmes had worked his brand of training on her and she had muscle and could take care of herself, but he just had to be absolutely sure for his own piece of mind because she was physically so damn small compared to Bell who was more her height. Not that Tommy wouldn't be checking him for injuries, either, despite he and Holmes being at least a few miles from them.

Not that a few miles made a difference on 9/11, but still.

Better Holmes be as far from this as they could get him because there was no doubt in any of their minds that he would've gotten himself blown up or buried and he'd be just one more person they had no remains to bury in addition to the ones they'd never found – one more he couldn't save that would haunt him for years – one more heartbeat silenced due to someone's stupid nonsensical ideologies that –

"Captain, it's okay," Joan's voice was calm as her hand squeezed his wrist, his hands sandwiching her between them with one hand on her heart and the other in the same position on her back. "I'm fine. We're both okay."

"Yeah," he swallowed around his dry throat, having already spat dust out, desperately trying not to think of the thin body being crushed under ton after ton after ton of twisted metal and steel and he knew that big hefty guys had been compacted to dust when those Twins fell and they had never found anything despite all those hours and all those volunteers and the thought of the thin body – his friend – being so completely gone without a trace –

"Captain Gregson? Tommy? You need to listen to my voice," Joan's grip had become tighter to anchor him as his panic threated to drown him. "You need to breathe, Tommy. Breathe. You're in shock and on the edge of a panic attack. We are fine, it is 2017, we are not at Ground Zero and it is not 9/11. You are fine and I am fine and I need you to stay with me, do you understand? Marcus, Sherlock and a lot of others are making their way here to us right now. You need to stay with me, okay? Tommy?"

His legs weren't holding him up anymore and he was suddenly on the ground, the fragile body tucked tightly into his because he might not save her from the crushing weight, but he would make damned sure something was left.

No one should be disappeared so completely that the only trace of them was left to float into the air and into lungs and he wasn't going to let that happen to her if he could help it.

The beat pressed tightly into him, the warmth, the soothing voice was eventually all he could recognize, sense, understand.

Everything else was a black haze, the other voices, the new arrivals, the others trying to call his attention like a guiding light drowned out by an even brighter light that called him to protect it with everything he still had.

He woke up in a hospital room with Holmes against the door, Bell at the window and Joan right next to his bed so she could hold his hand.

"Hey," she must've seen his looking around with confusion and Holmes was suddenly standing at her shoulder.

"Captain," the British accent rolled over him as Bell ambled over to stand on his other side.

"Hey. Back with us?" his Detective seemed just as concerned as their Consulting Detectives, their features tight with worry. Even Holmes, which Tommy thought kind of funny considering his 'arm's length' façade that they usually fell for.

At times like this, though, his mask dropped for them to see.

"What happened?" Tommy managed, Joan wordlessly spooning melted ice chips into his mouth.

"The building went down," Holmes shifted uncomfortably. "The Bomb Units were unable to prevent it, but Detective Bell and myself did manage to identify the party responsible and turned him over to the appropriate authorities."

The sullen tone, subtle thought it was, told him that Bell came up with the idea while Holmes was probably plotting the disappearance. Despite the continuous offers, no one actually wanted to take the chance that the man would somehow end up in jail for murder.

"We managed to get close enough to see the collapse," Bell picked up, "but not close enough to see where everyone was. Luckily, everyone had left the area and there were no serious injuries that came up."

"No casualties," Holmes confirmed with a head bob. "The Firefighters had all checked in, as did all but the two of you after the collapse."

"You weren't answering the radio," Bell almost admonished, rubbing a hand over his mouth. "A lot of people thought you'd been cleared from the hot zone, but you weren't answering our calls."

It took a long moment for the past couple days to trickle back, but Tommy remembered being inside the building and getting the word to evacuate. Joan had been standing right next to him and he thought he might have tossed her over his shoulder before hauling ass as far as he thought he could get.

It got kind of fuzzy after that.

There was something about The Worst Day of his Life and Joan getting buried, but that didn't make sense because he'd been with her the entire time… hadn't he?

"Everyone's fine," Joan broke into his thoughts. "We're okay. It's just the properties that were damaged. It did… bring up some… some memories, though," she reluctantly admitted.

Tommy immediately turned an assessing look on her, noting the exhaustion mixed with the relief and lingering concern. "You were there?" he asked softly.

"Um, not at the actual site. Well, not until the next day, but I ran into a hospital nearest my place at the time. To see if I could help," she gave a graceful shrug and looked away.

"Did you?" Holmes hadn't been there when it happened, the adopted New Yorker would never have first-hand knowledge of what everyone else had, but he took care to pick up on cues the rest of them gave off. This being Joan meant the Brit was extra tuned in, his usually confident body language absent as he studied his roommate and partner almost uncertainly.

For everything Holmes was an expert in, 9/11 wasn't one of them. Add those involved – like Joan – and he was clearly lost at sea.

She was silent for a long moment before wordlessly shaking her head.

"Too bad to help?" Bell asked sympathetically. "I was assigned to Jersey, but people were coming off the ferries in shock. Figured it was worse when people started talking about jumpers."

"Too 'not there' to help," she corrected, still avoiding their eyes. "We were ready to, um, to do just about everything to these patients, but they… they just never showed up. It. It wasn't until later that I realized why."

The patients had either been dead or there'd been nothing left.

"Damn," Bell winced in sympathy, filling in the blanks on his own. "Not sure which is worse; actually bein' there or waitin' to do something."

Tommy wouldn't know. He'd been there and hadn't done a whole lot of waiting. Maybe he'd be on the other end one day and wasn't that a horrible thought?

"Waiting, I think," Joan gave a tight humorless smile as they descended into silence.

Tommy nodded slightly and watched their clasped hands for long moments before catching sight of Holmes' fingers twitching against his side.

To no one's surprise after this long of knowing him, he broke the silence at last. A silence that the rest of them wouldn't break. Couldn't.

"Well," he cleared his throat. "It's – it's good to see you well after this morning."

Hell, it had been about lunchtime, hadn't it.

"How long have I been out?" Tommy frowned.

"I suspect it's almost supper, actually," Holmes didn't even hesitate, not even glancing at the time. "Night had fallen some time past."

So, he'd been out roughly six or more hours.

No little wonder with the lack of sleep he'd been getting already this close to 9/11.

Damn bombing case.

"Nothin' we can do tonight," Tommy rubbed his eyes.

"I had the same thought," Holmes nodded jerkily, "so I took the liberty of requesting a few extra hours for both yourself and Marcus for tomorrow. If you like to take tomorrow off for yourselves…"

Tommy normally hated the thought of anyone going over his head or thinking he couldn't do his job no matter what – and Bell was the same way -, but this was Holmes and neither one could get pissed at him.

Not now.

Especially with the man trying to be thoughtful in the aftermath of a jarring reminder that he couldn't understand.

"Thanks, man," Bell nodded at him with a slight smile tinged with relief. "Had lunch plans, so at least I'll make that."

"Of course," a bit of surprise flashed over his usually controlled features as something about him loosened from the tightly strung figure he normally presented. "I – you're welcome."

Poor kid expected to be shot or something, most likely.

If it were any other case, he probably would've been.

At any other time of the year.

This wasn't any other case at any other time of the year and Tommy was just grateful he didn't have to struggle with pushing back the bubbling memories immediately.

Not that he was going to actually say that.

"I'll let it slide this time," he allowed.

"Of course, of course," Holmes readily agreed as he nodded a bit more. "You have my word."

The Brit seemed to be at somewhat of a loss and Tommy felt a kind of sympathy as he struggled to find something else to be helpful with.

It was something Tommy noticed about him over the years, the need to fix something for those he let inside his high walls regardless of what they themselves wanted.

For this, however, it was something bigger than Holmes. Something he didn't understand and something he couldn't fix.

While Tommy was sympathetic to his helplessness, there was also a savage kind of relief he would probably feel bad about later that Holmes didn't know, wouldn't ever know, what it was like.

After the hell the Brit already went through in his life, 9/11 wasn't going to be one of them, and Tommy had never been so thankful for anything else in the course of their years of knowing each other.

It had done so much damage to people like Tommy and Bell and everyone else that it would have destroyed the man beyond any limit he thought he could take.

But despite the hopeless need to fix something that had changed so much even this far gone, that didn't mean he couldn't do anything at all.

"I will go find a medical authority, then," Holmes was gone before anyone could stop him.

"Yeah, I don't think they'll let you stay overnight," Joan found her voice and found the cup with more water than ice, Tommy absently using his free hand to take the offered cup.

He hadn't realized how thirsty he was before throwing back ice and water, Bell almost immediately replacing it with another cup.

Holmes came back with a doctor and Tommy was released an hour later, one of the other three having brought a change of clothes for him.

"No offense," he frowned at the offered bag, "but I'm gonna have a shower first."

"The Brownstone is welcome to you if you'd like," Holmes rocked back on his heels as hands clasped each other behind his back. "Marcus has already offered to drive us back."

Tommy glanced at his Detective, who shrugged.

"Always room for one more, sir," a small smile played around the younger man's mouth.

"And I already took a shower," Joan assured, "so the bathroom's all yours."

"Sounds good," Tommy just wanted a shower. "Thanks, you two. And for the ride, Bell."

"Don't worry about it," Bell assured as they climbed into his car.

They got to the Brownstone and he was in the shower almost before he knew it.

He would probably ask later why there was a set of his preferred toiletries sitting under the sink right alongside a set of Bell's preferred toiletries, but the familiar scent of his own soap and shampoo chased away the feeling of grit helped along by water as hot as he could stand. It chased away the smell he always caught inexplicable whiffs of all year round, of lingering jet fuel, of hopeless effort to search and rescue, of nightmares and alcohol and bitter tears of regret that all of them shed at one point or another.

He'd tossed his formerly favorite scents in the garbage in the days following 9/11 because he started to realize that those scents had been dragging him back to the Pile again and again and he couldn't keep doing it.

The scents this time, however, soothed him and reminded him that he wasn't there anymore.

This was a time further on, a time he'd survived beyond all his expectation, and the sight of the Brownstone's subtle female presence definitely helped him remember that he hadn't been at the Pile this time. This time was just too damn close.

He was just placing his shampoo back on the self when he caught sight of what was undoubtedly Holmes' shampoo.

Almost before he realized it, the other man's shampoo was being lathered into his own already washed hair. He couldn't be sorry about it, either, because the scent called to mind recent incidents where he'd inadvertently caught scent of the shampoo in passing and thinking of that led to thoughts of Holmes and his antics and the reminder that he'd met him long after 9/11. He was settled in an odd way as he turned off the shower, found clean towels and clothes waiting for him, found his old clothes gone and tried to remember if he'd locked the door. Not that it would make a lick of difference, anyway, considering the fact that Holmes and Joan knew how to pick locks.

He replaced his used bottles back under the sink and wondered again at their presence in the Brownstone's bathroom. While it finally answered the question of who kept leaving his and Bell's preferred toiletry brands under the Department Christmas Tree every year, it didn't exactly explain why.

Then again, perhaps it was the same reason he ran across Bell at a grocery store last month, trying to work out what a 'Jammie Dodger' was as his basket already held a few imported European things with what looked like the Asian snacks they'd become fond of after 'team stakeouts' with Joan and Holmes. It explained how the Detective always seemed to be ready to accompany either one on a stakeout.

Hell, he himself realized just last week that Bell's half empty coffee creamer was in his fridge, his half used coffee blend was sitting on the shelf next to Tommy's own, he had three and a half containers of tea he didn't even like and a tea strainer.

Naturally, while using said tea strainer, he also realized he actually knew how to make tea.

So, really, it wasn't a mystery that his and Bell's toiletries were in the Brownstone's bathroom.

He shook his head and made his way out of the bathroom, passing the free-ranging Clyde as the Tortoise shuffled his way in the other direction, and joined Joan and Bell in the kitchen to find a cup of coffee waiting for him. "Where's Holmes?" he took a seat at the table and blinked slightly at the Great Wall of China as it ringed the cup he'd unconsciously chosen a long time ago.

"Said he'd be back," Bell lifted his shoulder in a shrug as he sipped from a cup that had red lanterns all around it. Tommy remembered when Bell looked up the writing on the Internet, once, to find it meant 'Good Luck'. "Not sure where he went."

"I think I have an idea about that," Joan came to the table with decaf tea in her brown-rimmed blue cup, a green cup with the 'Yin/Yang' symbol sliding into the empty space between her and Bell.

Funny how many cups Holmes managed to destroy on a daily basis and, yet, these same four cups were never touched.

"What's your idea?" Tommy couldn't help the smile that crossed his face at the first sip. The warmth chased away the soul deep cold that even the shower hadn't been able to reach.

"Not that it's a bad idea," she frowned. "It is dinnertime, after all, and I'm feeling hungry."

"I think we just been dragged to dinner," Bell didn't look at all like he minded and Tommy damn sure didn't, either.

Going back to an empty house and being by himself was daunting tonight.

"I think it's Chinese this time," Joan mused.

"And I'm tellin' you right now," Bell deadpanned, "someone gonna get their ass kicked if they pick tonight to mug somebody with my dinner."

"Sherlock would get there first," she commented dryly.

Tommy believed it. The last time somebody tried to mug Holmes, the guy practically dove into the patrol car begging them to lock him up and keep the 'crazy ass British Ninja' away from him.

Luckily, however, Holmes appeared shortly thereafter with delicious smelling Chinese containers in tow.

The rest of the night alternated between banter and comfortable silence, Tommy drinking it all in and letting the three of them chase what shadows and cold still remained.

He woke up sprawled on the couch as Clyde the Tortoise shuffled past early morning patches of light, Bell dead to the world on a plump sleeping bag as Joan was curled up on a two seater sofa with a blanket tossed over her.

The empty armchair pulled up in a spot to watch them all sleep showed where Holmes had settled and Tommy eventually hauled himself up and trekked to the kitchen, the Brit already starting breakfast.

They spent the morning at the Brownstone until Tommy reluctantly felt ready to get to the office and Bell had to get ready for lunch. Neither could stay at the Brownstone forever, but Tommy was very close to turning right back around and walking back there upon setting foot into the Precinct. He decided that paperwork wasn't quite hell today, but still didn't get much done by the time he looked up at the knock to see Joan holding two cups of coffee and a plastic bag of two sandwich keepers.

"Hey," he waved her in.

"I thought I'd bring lunch if that's okay," she hesitantly entered, closed the door and perched on one of the chairs in front of him.

"Didn't have to, but thanks," he pushed the papers away and took part of the offerings, both munching on part of their sandwiches before he spoke again. "You didn't have to show up with lunch. I'm okay."

She swallowed her mouthful and looked down at the desk surface. "Sherlock wasn't available for lunch. No one was. And… I didn't want to be by myself."

He stared at her blankly for a moment before wincing as he remembered. "You had something to remember, too. Maybe not the same thing I remembered, but something."

It took a moment for her to answer.

"Um, I told the three of you that we were waiting, right? For patients to start flooding in? We waited and no one came. We – we ate lunch and kept the news on and we saw everything. But. But no one came. And – and no one really said what they were thinking, but on some level I think we all knew. Looking back, I don't think anyone wanted to really say it, because that would've made it… real, I guess. You know?" she looked up at him for a moment and then back down. "But, in a way, I'm not sure it really… I'm not sure the magnitude of– of what happened really occurred to any of us. Not all at once, at least. I mean, it took me a week to really…" she trailed off and swallowed hard. "You know that stuff is in the media and you read it, but it just doesn't– doesn't quite hit you until… until you're on the side and they bring up a stretcher and – and there's a small – small bit of- of white in the middle that's- that's no b-bigger than the palm of my hand and – and – and someone next to you just says, 'You know, I've been here almost twenty four hours and that's got to be the biggest part I've seen so far.'"

Reflected horror as fresh as if it were just yesterday tugged him to stand and bundle her to the sofa, no more words needed as she still struggled to comprehend something that he himself had no hope of working through.

Her hair was silky as it brushed the underside of his chin and throat, her slight figure shaking violently in his tightening hold. He didn't want to hurt her, but he also didn't want her to fall apart and think she was alone.

It was a hug that Tommy was surprised he himself needed, but that's what 9/11 did.

It took people that Tommy knew for fact were unshakable and tore them right down as easily as the Towers had been. Someone like Joan Watson would've pulled away by now, accepting more touch than her partner to a point, but she just pressed closer to him and he wasn't sure he could let her pull away even if their own building was on the verge of collapse.

9/11 still did that to people even all these years later. To the most innocent civilian, all the way up to the most seasoned First Responder and Military Veteran.

No one at the heart of it all walked away unscathed.

They couldn't.

From physical scars and health problems to the darkest shadows that battered an already exhausted mind.

Day in and day out, 9/11just didn't stop for them.

For the rest of the country, 9/11 was just a date that came and went with pomp and circumstance. The reason for their anger and pointing fingers, 'Never Forget' written in stone and in the steel framework of the New York.

Maybe in another universe, he too would drag 9/11 up again and again and again to keep in the forefront of everyone's minds a reminder of the evil done on American soil to both American and foreign souls alike.

But this wasn't another universe.

Not for him.

Not for Joan.

Not for every First Responder that witnessed the horror – that lost a member of their family in the name of doing their jobs -, for every person left behind to deal with the aftermath in the form of lost family or friend or even a survivor who got out at the right time.

It just didn't stop.

It couldn't stop.

And more than anything else in his life, he wished it could. That they had some way to fix it so they could set Holmes loose like he so desired yesterday.

Fix it so that he wasn't clutching Joan the way she was clutching him as memories were shaken loose at the landing of an eleven story building.

On the one hand, he was faintly glad that it wasn't bigger, but all you really needed to do was add a zero on the end of that number and –

And –

And.

But while the memories were always there, some days were able to more easily push them away for a couple hours.

The stillness in his arms, for example, fought back as he returned to the here and now.

"Hey," he gentled his hold. "We're okay," he rubbed her arm. "We're okay."

There was a choked laugh before she pulled slightly back. "Yeah," she wiped her red eyes. "We're okay. We – we're okay."

They stayed on the couch, not full breaking the hold, for long silent moments.

"I'm sorry," she finally offered.

"No, Joan," he shook his head with a slight smile. "Not right now, you're not. And I'm not, either," he absently found the tissue box and offered it to her. "I get it, right? Between me, Holmes and Bell, I get it. Say sorry for anything else, but not for this. Never for this, got it?" he tilted his head so he could connect their gazes and nodded. "Never for this. You need to get something out, my door is open. Whenever you need it. To talk or have company or just sit like this. I'm not trying to replace Holmes, but he doesn't understand. And Bell, you heard him just yesterday that he was relatively outside of it all. And I know other people you have might not understand, either, so I just want you to know that you're not alone."

Joan held his gaze for a long moment before nodding. "And you're not alone, either," she promised.

"With you around, I know I'm not," he gave her a final squeeze before hauling himself up and retrieving the rest of their neglected lunch. "Come on, eat up. Before Holmes starts tearing the City apart thinking you've been kidnapped again."

"Wouldn't want that," she agreed with a slight wry smile.

If he could change time, he'd keep Joan away from all of it, too, but it was actually pretty damn nice to sit with her and know that someone he trusted actually knew something of what he experienced.

He'd have to make do with that. He was thankful, though, that at least Bell and Holmes had been out of it.

A glance at the time showed it already past a reasonable lunch hour and he still had some things to wrap up – including the case they'd just finished.

He said as much to her and shrugged. "We've got until Friday night to send our reports in, so might want to get that squared away."

"I'll remind Sherlock," she acknowledged, a little more put together than she had been. "We should have it all ready by tomorrow."

He tossed their empty cups as she returned the sandwich keepers to their bag and they walked to his office door. "Thanks for the lunch."

"Thanks for letting me hang out and eat the lunch," she countered as they moved into the room beyond, Detectives and Uniforms busily at work.

Bell was at his desk – obviously having just got back – and glanced at them curiously as they passed.

"Thanks for actually appearing with lunch at all or I would've just skipped it," Tommy couldn't help responding back.

"I would've probably said something a couple years ago about that, but I think now I'll say 'someone had to think about it today.' Thank you for putting up with it," a slight sparkle in her dark eyes told him she was well aware of their little game.

"You're welcome," he reached out and pushed the elevator call button. "And you're welcome for pushing the elevator button, too."

She nodded and they waited for a moment, waiting for the elevator in a bit of silence removed from the activity not actually so far from them, before she looked up at him again with a seriousness that made him straighten in response.

"Thank you," she wasn't playing this time, genuine gratitude reflecting strongly from her eyes. "I didn't get a chance to tell you yesterday, so… Thank you."

… the hell for?

But she was gone before he could find the words, swallowed up by the elevator taking a group of others back downstairs.

He didn't realize how long he'd stood there, frowning at the closed doors and trying to figure out why she would be thanking him, until a hand hesitantly touched his elbow and Bell was suddenly in front of him with almost urgent concern.

"What happened?" he almost demanded.

"About what?" Tommy still felt off balance.

"Everything alright with Joan and Holmes?"

"Huh? Yeah," he waved a dismissive hand. "Yeah, we're okay. Just lunch." He didn't explain further, but something that seemed like understanding flashed over his face and the concern lessened.

"And you?" he tilted his head, brown eyes watching him almost as intently as Holmes' blue-green eyes were wont to do. "You doin' okay?"

"All things considered, yeah," he breathed out a sigh and turned back toward the bullpen. Bell walked beside him until they stopped at his desk and Tommy asked, "Did something else happen yesterday?"

The smaller man frowned as he thought, then shook his head. "Can't think of anything. Why?"

"She said she didn't have a chance to say 'thank you' to me, but I can't think of a reason why she'd even think to do that."

"You two were, um, were in the collapse, so… maybe she was thankin' you for that," he shrugged.

"Why?"

Bell was about to respond until he realized at the last second that he didn't know how to answer. "I don't know," he thoughtfully responded. "Holmes said as much to me on the last case they called me in on, but never did explain why," he scratched the back of his head.

"Glad it's not just me, then," as if that explained anything.

But…

Maybe it did.

He frowned as a thought suddenly occurred to him. "Hey," he raised a finger.

"Hm?" he glanced back at him.

"They're part of this department, right?"

" 'Course they are," he straightened as his features tightened. "Why? Someone say somethin'?"

"No," he glanced around, unsettled at his train of thought. "No, just… you think they know that?"

"Should," Bell didn't seem convinced that it wasn't influenced from the outside as he looked suspiciously around at those nearby. "They're our Consultants, right?"

"Right," he suddenly realized he was being silly.

Joan and Holmes worked with them and Tommy, Bell and a growing number of others knew it.

Hell, every head of every Department within the Seven Boroughs knew it and woe betide any of them who didn't return either one in the state they were loaned in.

Everyone knew that Holmes and Watson belonged to his unit, were his people, and they would be among his own until they either moved and settled in other countries or until they died. And even then, once a member of Tommy Gregson's own, always a member of Tommy Gregson's own.

"Once part of this unit, always part of this unit," Bell unknowingly echoed his sentiment. "Consultant, Captain, Detective. Maybe Uniform, too," he added as an afterthought, but not all Uniforms stayed in one place their whole careers. Some didn't want to or couldn't stay for whatever reason.

"Yeah. Sorry," he rubbed his eyes. "Just…"

Joan and Holmes were his Consultants – his and Bell's – and they didn't have to thank them like… like civilians. They would leap in front of any of the others, no thanks required.

Bell had done just that some years back.

Like Tommy would've done for the three of them had he been there.

Because that's what they did for each other – for people considered part of their team. The team that either included family or became it.

Frankly, Tommy – for one – had no distinction between them.

Maybe that's why Joan thought she had to thank him for keeping her safe, Tommy concluded to himself as Bell nodded in wordless understanding and turned his attention to his phone.

Her and Holmes, both.

They didn't get it, yet.

That was it, he decided as he returned to his office. Not because they didn't think themselves part of the department, they did – but just a minor, outlying part.

Little more than Civilians, which – truth be told – they were, but they were his Civilians and were able to do what he, Bell and others couldn't.

So maybe they weren't quite Civilians, but they were also not quite – fully – under his protection like he would prefer.

They were still his people and maybe they didn't quite know that yet, but it was only a matter of time.

Standing behind of his desk, he thoughtfully considered the sofa he and Joan had just vacated.

As much as he hated to say it, something like 9/11 tore people down and – possibly at the same time – entwined people together for the better.

Bonds were shattered, but – like today had just demonstrated – they were also formed. Or they allowed for a deeper understanding of another, of a family member or a friend…

Even a complete stranger.

That thought made him turn a considering look at the smallest drawer on the side of his desk.

He used to keep a simple drawstring pouch in the front corner of that small drawer, then Holmes more or less crashed into his life and some of the things he rattled on about actually started to stick.

In place of the drawstring pouch, there was a small wooden box at the back.

The top of the wooden box had a sticker of the NYPD shield on it, which meant just about anything to other eyes and would deter a majority who would dare snoop. If curiosity really burned, a peek inside usually showed something official or formal and the box was quickly discarded.

And if that worked on Holmes, then he was confident it was safe.

On the upper left corner of the velvet inside, there was a button that pushed inside the box rim so that the inside could be lifted out and he'd never really liked all the… fuss that was attached to being Captain, but it definitely provided cover as the reason he kept taking the velvet part out. His cufflinks couldn't be taken out when the velvet top was in, yes, but no one really thought to look beyond that to the drawstring pouch he just as often visited as it hid underneath.

Sometimes, when something happened that threatened to bring back with a vengeance the memories of 9/11 – and sometimes not even as big as an 11 story building -, just looking at the pouch was enough to calm shaking hands. But when that didn't work, like it did today, the pouch was opened and Tommy eased out a necklace that seemed more suited to a kid than a grown man.

The black string was attached to a pendant that was small, red and of a cheap sort of metal that he held gently in his fingers.

He remembered exactly when and where he got it and who gave it to him.

That was quite possibly the only good thing that came out of 9/11.

* * 2001 * *

He'd been at the Pile for almost a full twenty four hours before catching sight of the kid that couldn't have been much older than 25 if that.

She was attached to one of the medical teams that moseyed their way down to help the volunteers who were overcome by – they all later learned toxic – dust and vapors coming from deep within that twisted pile that he'd somehow got away from barely 40 hours before.

Sometimes, he would just stand back and shake his head in pure admiration for the Firefighters that had lost friends and neighbors and brothers and were still pulling hours- long shifts late into the night. Them, though, were trained for this kind of rescue.

Well, not this kind of rescue, specifically, but their training came in damn handy.

But the young Medical kid.

He came in for some eye wash and she eagerly dragged him over to an out of the way corner so she could push him into a chair to better compensate for the height difference. "Thanks, Doc," he grunted before making his way out of the area for a short break.

He'd circled back around five hours later and she wasn't there.

About five hours after that, he spied her again as he stood near the Honor Guard. The small fleet of ambulances awaited their motorcycle escort. He'd talked to a few of the cops before their last run and shook their hands because he couldn't not do it.

Even as a Detective, he'd felt a sense of protectiveness toward them as they came back again and again and again, their growing distress only hinted at by the grip they desperately clung to on their professionalism.

But he couldn't do it, couldn't do this for them, and he knew it.

The least he could do, however, was acknowledge the task, the pressure on their shoulders, and to let them know that he recognized their duty and was thankful to them for taking it on.

He was leaning against a wall near the waiting fleet and their precious flag draped cargo when the medical kid suddenly appeared next to him.

"I'm not quite the doctor you think I am, yet," she told him.

It took him a moment to place her and he gave a careless shrug. "Kid," he sighed. "I'm not about to get into a fight with you about details today of all days."

"No, I know that," she shook her head with a frown. "Just, for future reference."

"Future reference, then," he shrugged, because he didn't really care.

The motorcycles arrived and they watched them leave in silence.

"It's quiet," she softly commented when they were gone.

"It is," he nodded.

Complete silence.

Like a tomb.

She probably said something else, but he didn't register as he watched the now empty street in front of him. He simply turned and she was gone, just as silent as the breeze.

Like maybe a ghost or a figment of his mind that only he could interact with.

Luckily, though – perhaps unluckily, in a way -, the kid was a real flesh and blood person who he ran into again later that night.

There was a sandwich place down the street that was open for business and he ducked in before the crowds found it, spying the kid at a corner table with a guy who could be her boyfriend.

She caught sight of him before he could turn away and waved him over. "Sit with us," she beckoned at his hesitation.

He eventually shrugged and plopped down at the table with them, someone coming to take his order almost as soon as he settled.

It was almost quiet enough to think and he didn't particularly want to do so, but wasn't sure what else he could do.

"So, you're a cop, right?" the guy smiled tiredly. "Do you want gratitude or condolence?"

Honestly?

"I just want this entire nightmare over with."

"Truer words, my friend. Truer words."

The kid had to use the bathroom and her friend visibly slumped as shadows rolled across his face. He'd obviously been putting on an act for her sake and took the respite with a soul deep sigh.

"She's a great friend," he told him, eyes obscured by hair that fell into them. "I mean, I've really only known her for, like, eight hours, but I can tell she's a great friend. Like sunshine that you feel. And it's all… sunny in here," he tapped at his chest. "But the sunshine out there isn't like that," he waved out the dark windows. "I mean, I can feel it, you know, on my body, but it just doesn't… doesn't touch your soul. And you can stand out in it all day and only feel cold. But she's not like that. I don't know if I've ever felt that cold before," he frowned. "I, uh, know someone who works on Windows on the World. Used to, now, I guess. My roommate. Thought she'd forgotten something and came down to take it to her. I'm like that, you know. The damndest thing? he smiled ironically with bright eyes. "She was still at our place, dead to the world. And I spent just about twenty four hours thinking…" he swallowed. "You can imagine how horrified she was when I finally got back. We're both sleeping on the floor of the living room area. Well, I use 'sleep' loosely. I actually can't. Which is funny, because I can usually sleep anywhere at the drop of a hat. Why am I down here?" he suddenly asked. "I mean, I watched it all in real time as I stood… actually not that far from here. Why did I come back?" he asked seriously.

Tommy just smiled humorlessly back. "You know, I'm still asking myself that same question."

"Well, yeah, but you're a cop. You're supposed to be here."

He said that like Tommy hadn't actually almost died.

Because he had. Almost.

Somehow, he'd made it.

And he kept coming back.

Kept replaying all of it as he sifted and watched stretchers leave with wrapped remains of what used to be people.

Kept replaying all of it as he listened to people lie to themselves and each other, but they had to lie because the truth was shattering on top of everything else.

He just couldn't stop.

"Anyway," the guy waved a hand. "I don't know when I'll stop coming because my job is actually trying to accommodate a few busloads of displaced wait staff and the bosses pretty much told me to take a vacation. As you can see, I'm probably a glutton for punishment."

Tommy's sandwich came up and he tore into it without necessarily tasting it, but it was big and warm and the guy was right when he said that you could toil in the sun as long as you wanted and never feel warm. Because that's exactly what he was feeling now as the adrenalin waned for the time being.

Cold.

A deep cold wrapped around him that he couldn't shake.

"John! My heart!" the other's joyful declaration had him looking up to see the kid making her way back from the bathroom. "My sunshine banishing the icy cold of shadow. Allow me to bask - "

"Stop making everything sound like you're proposing," the kid – John? – rolled her eyes as she settled back in her chair.

"And if I wasn't as straight as a rainbow, I'd marry you in a heartbeat."

"We've only known each other since this morning."

"That's true love, John," he sagely advised, patting her hand as he cleared their side of the table like the waiter he was. "There in a flash."

The guy seemed completely serious, too, but – for some reason – something else caught his attention and he drained half his water before giving them a bemused look. " 'John'?"

"Oh," she waved a hand. "I think I looked up at the wrong time. A firefighter mistook my attention and I am now apparently answering to 'John'. It's not bad or anything, but I didn't actually come down here looking for a nickname."

"So, 'John' isn't your name?"

"No. It's actually –"

"John!"

Her head thunked on the table as a firefighter waved at her enthusiastically as he passed, her friend happily waving back.

Tommy looked at the dubbed 'John' as she let her head tap the table again and felt a small smile on his face. For some reason, that smile grew and he was chuckling as if that was the most hilarious thing he'd ever seen.

Then it suddenly was and he was laughing harder than he remembered ever laughing before, probably even before Tuesday.

He laughed long and hard and it felt good.

He finally managed to get a hold of himself, wiping his eyes and reveling in the warmth of that unexpected burst of light, and was almost set off again as he realized the other two had started laughing with him.

The laughter did eventually drift off and the three sat there, Tommy feeling almost drunk as he finished off his food.

"Seemed like that was needed," their waitress stood a few feet from them with a wide smile across her face, tears in her brown eyes.

"And just when I thought I forgot what laughter sounded like," an older gentleman looked about ready to cry at the table next to them.

"I thought I forgot what laughter felt like," a different firefighter, this one older than the first, grinned as he stretched.

Tommy realized that the laughter he'd heard had been too surrounding to have just come from the two in front of him.

"Forget laughter," someone else added. "I forgot what a smile was!"

The atmosphere was drastically lighter as the waitress took their table things and Tommy couldn't help watching John with an inexplicable fondness, a look at the third revealing a knowing smile he couldn't find the heart to argue with.

After that, something changed.

The Medical kid was no longer just a face or a pair of eyes, anymore. She was John.

Sometimes with her waiter friend, other times set up with the other Medical personnel.

He was constantly searching for her every time he managed to switch off for a few hours.

She was seemingly always waiting for him to track her down, the Waiter running across them a number of times.

"I know, right?" the Waiter smiled widely at him as they waited for her to come back from the bathroom. "She's like the worst drug. You're always waiting and craving that next hit. Not that I actually do drugs," he hastily assured. "It's – I just… know people."

But Tommy just couldn't argue with that.

It was probably some kind of dependence, but desperate times called for desperate measures in order to get through and he couldn't find it in himself to resist any longer than he had to.

There was just something about her that drew him, not in a romantic way – obviously, since he was still married and all -, but something nonetheless.

And it was delicious, a respite from what was going on around them. From the inner turmoil that wanted to bubble over, but he could hold off on that as long as he focused on her.

As hours and days passed, the Pile tested them all to their limits and, in many cases, past that.

He'd watched the sparkle fade the longer a person worked, hope not far behind but holding tenaciously on with everything it had.

Hope for what, he couldn't say.

So, it was probably inevitable that he went looking for John – only to find her checked out as the horrifying realization began to sink in.

He took it upon himself to take care of her the way she'd taken care of him and they both found themselves across the Brooklyn Bridge, John following docilely at his side as their hands linked them together.

He found a quiet spot for them to sit and she wordlessly curled into him as he made soothing noises.

As he sat there, keeping watch and deliberately not thinking of what was behind them across the river, he listened to her and held a little tighter and let her presence comfort him in a similar way to how she usually did. This time, though, it wasn't about not thinking about the Pile or what they kept pulling out of it.

It wasn't about the light that filled his chest when he saw that she was okay and waiting for whatever he wanted to do next.

It wasn't about the Aftermath.

This time, it was about loss.

The loss of stability and innocence, something that even the most seasoned Detective/Firefighter/Paramedic had until something like Tuesday happened and suddenly there was a void where there wasn't before.

There had been the loss of more than lives, something that would only really hit him when the last piece of steel was carried out under a flag and the Twin Towers were no longer there – like it had hit poor John like a two-by-four to the face.

The Towers had always been there.

Until they weren't.

220 stories and thousands of lives.

Gone.

Just like that.

He curled around her as her shaking grew violent and hoped he was holding her together in some manner similar to how she seemed to effortlessly do the same with him. If he could return the favor, then they would be on a more even keel.

A united front against the aftermath of something bigger than the both of them could ever imagine.

Like partners.

Partners were supposed to watch each other's back, right? He'd had a number of good ones over the years, his current partner still probably on the other side of the country for that serial killer task force before 9/11. He wanted his partner to stay there so there would be at least one cop he didn't have to worry about.

John could be the placeholder for a little while. She wouldn't mind.

Especially with the grip she had on him, like she was trying to keep her head up and out of the water but just wasn't able to do it.

"We're okay," he told her, rocking them from side to side. "Let yourself go. I got you."

The noises were really almost as heartbreaking as experiencing the double collapse firsthand, her grief so sharp that he couldn't help the tears in his eyes. Had it really been less than a month ago that they had simply needed to take a look over the river to see the two Towers against the sky?

A look over now would reveal a dark City, stars seemingly gathered in one place as the pile of ruined buildings – dreams, families, futures, things that weren't even describable yet and probably never would be – sat in the center.

"We're okay," he dragged his thoughts back to the one who needed his attention, an undefinable panic tightening his grip as he reminded the both of them, "We're okay. We're okay. We're alive. We're together. We're okay."

He blanked his thoughts as he chanted and it was eventually dawn by the time he could breathe again.

They stopped in the middle of the bridge on their way back and stared at the space left behind.

John's Waiter friend was almost handfeeding them sandwiches by the time Tommy managed to get his thoughts back together, completely uncertain of how he even managed to find them in the first place.

"Never you mind," he scowled. "Now, open up. I will not hesitate to use the 'plane' noises, 9/11 or no 9/11."

It wasn't too long after that – the next day, in fact – when John had taken his arm and pulled him aside with a determined glint in her eyes.

"I know this is going to sound absolutely ridiculous," she started off with, her fist clenched around something attached to a black string, "but I had a thought yesterday and I dug this out of my stuff at my place." She opened her palm and showed him the small pendant that would become the most precious thing in his possession. "It means, um, 'team' and… My brother got me this necklace and a bracelet, so it's a set. And… and I thought. Well, that we were a sort of team the other night, you know? And you can keep it to remember me, well, remember that you have a friend somewhere that has the other part of the set. So that you're not alone. Or… something like that," she ducked her head.

Tommy smiled fondly at her and liked the idea the more he thought of it. "Can you put it on?" he requested.

She blinked up at him in surprise for a long moment before lighting up. "Alright," she agreed, taking hold of the pendant like one would a medal.

He bowed his head as solemnly as he would in accepting an actual medal and looked down at it once it was settled, straightening and running a light finger over it. She was watching it, too, and smiled slightly.

"So, now we're a team," she told him.

It was pretty similar to what had gone through his own thoughts that night, so maybe they were more alike than they both had thought.

Who really knew anymore.

"I'll take good care of it," he promised.

"That's alright. I trust you to keep it safe. Well, it's yours to do with what you want."

She was obviously thinking exactly what she expected him to do with it, but just thinking of tossing it didn't sit right with him. Maybe she would think it long gone in some landfill by year's end, but he wasn't going to let it leave his sight. It would be small enough to fit in a corner of a drawer in his desk and it would remind him that there were people like John and her waiter friend out there.

That there were good people still in the world and it was up to him to help keep them safe.

But let her think what she wanted.

He would never convince her, especially if they never saw each other again after this.

"Thank you," he told her sincerely.

She stared at him for a long moment and blinked. "That… means a lot coming from you," she seemed surprised.

"Because I'm a cop?"

"Part of it…?" she frowned, eyes narrowing slightly in thought. "I… it's hard to explain. But that, too, of course. And you're welcome."

When he got back on shift, he tucked the pendant in his shirt and the damndest thing happened.

While he doubted anything could make any of this bearable, he found that thinking of the pendant – what it represented – as it was pressed into his skin actually… helped.

Like he really wasn't going through this alone.

On some level, he knew he wasn't actually alone, but…

It helped.

And hell if he knew how.

He wouldn't say that he felt better as he left to find John hours later, but he did feel a little more… solid? Reinforced, perhaps.

When he did find her and the waiter, she was fluttering almost helplessly around a knot of First Responders as many sat with blank stares.

The waiter stood almost just as helpless nearby and saw him.

"What happened?" Tommy came up to him with a frown.

"Somebody found a badge," he answered almost numbly. "Somebody found a badge."

There was no response he could make.

Eventually, both had to pull John away as others arrived to take care of the group.

"I don't even know what I'm supposed to be doing," she finally spoke as they sat on benches overlooking the Hudson River. "I'm no use to people if their… not even in one piece. What am I doing here?"

"Because you're a Medical volunteer and you're supposed to be here?" the waiter shrugged.

"But there's nothing for me to do! I came down here expecting to be of help to people, but I'm honestly beginning to realize that there is a need for help here. I'm just not the one to give it to them."

Tommy thought about that for a long time.

That's all they ever wanted to do, really. Help people.

It was their job.

John and countless other Medical personnel had expected to do their job when they arrived. Yeah, there were injuries – of course, there were injuries -, but nothing they really needed to worry about. No life or death injuries.

A lot of them would no doubt leave with a sense of very little accomplishment, believing that they didn't do a lick of difference to anyone.

Tommy, though, didn't believe that.

He saw nurses trying to coax at least a smile out of firefighters who grew more and more solemn with every name added to the ever growing list.

He saw doctors awkwardly trying to be comforting, something many of them weren't sure how to do simply for the fact that the nurses were more disposed to comfort.

Then there was John, who probably didn't even realize that there was at least one person she was helping.

It may not have been the large scale help she'd anticipated providing, but it still counted. She was trying to help, like the group of First Responders from earlier, and maybe Tommy was a little biased when he looked at her as she tried getting cops and firefighters to at least smile for a moment. A mostly fruitless endeavor, but she tried.

As far as Tommy was concerned, she'd been such a big help to him. The odds were incredible that he met her, someone who did more help than could be expressed, and there were times he couldn't help entertain the thought that maybe St. Michael had sent her so she could meet him.

But that was ridiculous.

… wasn't it?

There were Patron Saint medals and pendants being handed out by the box full and he'd already had quite the collection of St. Michael medallions already, more no doubt on the way before all was said and done.

It wasn't difficult to find one from the shoebox and he mad absolutely certain to head over to find John before anything could happen to it.

"Hey," he managed to catch her before they both went on shift. "Have a minute?"

"Hey," she readily joined him in a corner. "I was hoping to get a hold of you before I forget to tell you. I'm being rotated out in a couple days."

Something slightly relaxed at that as he nodded. "I'm not going to be far behind. Just got word early this morning."

"Oh," she relaxed slightly, too, possibly having been worried about him. "Good. Um, was that all?"

"No," he knew it was the right thing to do as he offered his fisted hand. "I wanted you to have this."

She didn't seem certain as she glanced between his hand and his face, but she hesitantly offered her palm so he could drop it. Once she got a good look at what she'd been given, she automatically tried to give it back. "I can't take this!" she protested, eyes wide. "I'm not a cop!"

It was kind of embarrassing and he was self-conscious about having to explain his real thoughts, so he shrugged. "Well, maybe one day you'll hang up your stethoscope and decide to become a cop."

"That'll never happen," she proclaimed, dark eyes narrowed in confidence and challenging him to make an argument.

They thought 9/11 would never happen, either.

"You never know," Tommy sagely advised. "Stranger things have happened."

"Well, it's not going to."

"A person can dream. You'd probably make a pretty good Detective."

"A person can get back to work. You're probably holding up progress."

He quirked a smile in response, shrugged again and sketched a slight salute before ambling off and getting back to work.

The waiter dropped his own news later that day and it was a bit of an emotional good-bye as they said their farewells.

"Don't cry, John," he squeezed her tight in response to her grip, tears rolling down his face. "We'll be together again. We're meant to be together."

"Stop making everything sound like a proposal," her voice shook slightly as tears rolled down her own cheeks.

"If he wasn't as straight as a rainbow," Tommy smiled slightly as he stood nearby.

"Exactly!" he choked a laugh. "Be good, you two. I'll be thinking of you lots and lots."

He and John stayed wrapped up in each other for long moments before watery eyes locked on Tommy, who held out a hand and accepted the tight hug.

"Take care, kid," he gave him a pat on the back.

"And you, Detective," he pulled back with a wink. "I'll be looking to meet you again in this life one day, so think of that before jumping in front of something you should probably be running away from."

"I'll take that under advisement."

Tommy's vision misted a bit as John and the waiter hugged one final time and he and John watched him walk away.

After that, it seemed like seconds flew by before he was face to face with John for the final time.

"Well," she wiped her eyes with a choked laugh. "I wish I could say I had fun, but."

"Under other circumstances," he nodded. "But it was an honor and a pleasure."

"I should be saying that," she initiated a tight, long hug that he tucked away in his memory for the future. "But it was definitely an honor and a pleasure."

"Take care, John," he spoke into her ear.

She hugged him tight before stepping back with a sigh. "I guess I never did thank you for this, did I?" she opened her palm, the St. Michael's medal glinting in the sunlight.

"You're more than welcome," he told her.

She watched him for a long moment and held it out. "Put it on?"

"Of course," he took it and watched her bow slightly, as if accepting an actual medal, before gently placing it around her neck. "There," she straightened and looked at it hanging against her chest, running a light finger over it. "Looks good."

She was silent for a long moment before looking up and connecting their gazes. "Thank you," she said simply, something swimming in her dark eyes that he couldn't name.

He remembered what she'd said about it being different coming from him when she gave him the red necklace and finally understood what she'd meant, because out of all the times he'd heard those same two words from so many people…

Those two words coming from her made him swallow around a lump that had suddenly taken up residence in his throat. He couldn't find words to make it around the lump, so he smiled tightly and pulled her in again with a stuttered sigh. "Be good, John," he rasped.

They stayed like that for a bit longer before they had to separate.

They watched each other in silence before both nodding at the other. Then she turned and walked away, glancing back once with a smile before disappearing from sight.

* * 2017 * *

He never saw her again.

Almost two years later, he would cross paths for the first time with Sherlock Holmes.

Three years after that, Marcus Bell would come to his attention.

They were the only other two who gave him even the slightest feeling of sunshine since he'd first felt it in a sandwich shop at the edge of Hell.

Sometimes, he wondered whatever became of John.

If she was still a doctor or if she'd moved on.

If she was happy.

Sometimes, he thought about asking Holmes and Watson to look into it, because they could find her with what little he could give them. They wouldn't stop looking until they found her or he made them stop.

Sometimes, he wondered if she wanted him to find her.

Maybe it was for the best if he left her to her life.

But he would sit in his office with the necklace pendant gripped in his palm, like he was now, and wonder.

That night, the pendant still wound around his wrist, he thought of her again as he fell asleep. This time, though, instead of creaking metal, his sleep was underscored by the light of sunshine and a strange three toned whisper that he could barely make out.

'We're okay,' it whistled and streamed over him as he listened. 'We're okay. We're okay. We're okay.'


End Part One


** Next Chapter Peek:

'Brownstone. NOW'