Author's Note: I am triumphantly announcing my return from a self imposed exile during this most hectic time of the school year. I am sure some of you were wondering where I was (and likewise, I am sure some of you could have cared less). But at any rate I am back! I have some new ideas, plus I think I will finish my works in progress so hopefully you will all have lots to read (and to review!) in coming weeks. In case you too were locked away studying in some darkened library, the characters of CSI are not mine to keep

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It was a dark and stormy night.

            Looking back on it now, he realized how clichéd and trite that expression sounded. It was cloying and pathetic, even to his own ears. Yet at the time, there could not have been a more perfect description of the forces of nature that had played but a small role in that night's events.

            It was a Friday and the air was heavy with rain and excitement. The promise of a weekend off sparked a sense of almost giddy exhilaration. His paperwork was finished and there was nothing but a long stretch of road separating him from freedom. He felt the faintest twinge of guilt for the rest of them who would not get to enjoy three glorious days of relaxation. Still, tonight was all about cutting loose and thoughts of them soon vanished from his mind. He bid everyone a cheerful farewell as he escaped from the catacombs of death and science that was the crime lab. He was climbing into his car when he saw her. She too had managed to procure a weekend off, and he was suddenly overtaken by the need for company. On a whim, he bounded over to her and asked her to join him on his excursion to nowhere. He expected her to decline, as she was really not the prowling type. She hesitated only briefly, and then accepted his invitation. He didn't stop to wonder why.

            Soon they were swimming amidst a sea of bargain basement cologne and bad pick-up lines. The utter displacement from their usual comfort zone quickly became amusing to them. They became two individuals conforming to the sub-standards dictated by their environment. The irony was not lost on her, and she delighted in pointing it out to him, moments after asking a complete stranger if she could sit on his lap and "see what pops up". The crudeness of her words was so antithetical, yet at once completely natural. They blended in and relished in the escapism that they so desperately needed. The rest of the evening became a blur of words and images that he still struggled to piece together the big picture. All he was ever able to manage were sporadic fragments of that night.

"Why didn't we do this sooner?!"

Music. Laughter. Dancing.

"Whoa! Easy tiger, we have all night!"

Alcohol. Smoke. Beer nuts.

"Take it easy kid, you're going to get us killed"

Rain. Glass. Twisted Metal.

"God what a mess. How could anyone survive this?"

            The phone call had come at 3:16AM. The words had been solemn, severe and tinged with a hopelessness that the caller could not hide. The voice told him to hurry, that they weren't sure how much longer they could hold on. He had wasted no time in calling the rest of them. He heard the sleep in their voices, then the shock and lastly the fear. They were wide awake as the rest of the world slumbered.

            They congregated in the Emergency Room, a mass of mussed up hair and shadowy eyes. They waited, painfully aware that with each passing second the life of their loved ones may be ebbing away. They prayed for the best and feared the worst. There were haunting interludes of sobbing. There were questions without any answers. There were empty conversations about nothing at all.

            She watched as the early morning sun broke through the dense clouds of the previous night and cast dense shadows across the worn linoleum floor. She thought about coffee, but couldn't bring herself to move. She rooted herself to her molded plastic chair resolved that her caffeine inclinations had to wait until she knew something about their condition.

            She was unaware that her right hand was twitching.

*                      *                      *

            He watched her hand and wished he could hold it. As if physical contact could bring any measure of comfort. He thought about work. There was a lot to get done today. Funny, yesterday his paperwork had been of paramount importance. Today it was merely ink on paper.

            He was unaware that the doctor was approaching.

*                      *                      *

            He watched the doctor with an odd mix of trepidation and relief. They would at last get the answers that they had sought since the wee hours of the morning. He thought about the sunrise. It was so paradoxical that the birth of a new day could bring so much death. Someone, somewhere would never again wake up, go outside, and play with their kids. Life was suddenly cruel and unfair; a hideous contradiction unto itself.

            He was unaware that he was crying.

*                      *                      *

            The doctor stood before them, looking appropriately remorseful for his abrupt intrusion of their self-contained personal grief. His voice sounded distorted to their worried ears as he began to speak. It sounded like he was talking from underwater. His words were thick and blurry. He watched their faces as he broke the news. First there was lack of comprehension, as if the words were foreign to them.

Car crash. Could have been worse. Lucky to be alive.

            Next their faces showed fear and sorrow, as if his words had physically cut into them.

Sara. Critical. Comatose. Clinging to life.

            Finally their faces were masks of shock and disbelief, as if his words were about some fictitious third party whom they were far removed from.

Greg. Unscathed. Driving. Intoxicated.

            The world spun and dipped as the information overload took a stranglehold on them. There were tears, of course. There were more impossible questions. There was pained resignation that the damage had been done and they now had to try and figure out where to go from here. Problem was, none of them were sure where "here" was anymore. Somehow, in the chaos and confusion of their thoughts, he found his voice. It was far colder then normal and there was an edge to it that couldn't be ignored. But it was still his voice.

"Call Nick in Texas. Tell him that Sara's in critical condition and his best friend can now proudly call himself a drunk driver".