Title: Negligence

Author: Stepf

Rating: Strong PG 13/Low R

Spoilers: Everything up to now, nothing specifically except "Are you now or have you ever been" references.

Summary: You never really know what is underneath the surface until you scratch it. J/S

Disclaimer: I don't own them. Don't sue me.

AN: At the end this time...

Thanks: To everyone at Maple Street, you know who you are, for inspiring me to even write with your fabulous thoughts and analysis of the eps. And those who reviewed my last couple WaT fics, big special thanks, it was the motivation I needed to try a WiP as this is.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Jack looks out the window into the dead of night. Considering the hour- 3 am- it's bright out, the street illuminated by the full moon. It s a typical upscale suburban neighborhood, with large houses on large lots surrounded by high bushes and trees for privacy. Perfect lawns with perfect landscaping, just the right combination of color and green, most of them obviously tended to by a professional. Inside the perfect houses people lay, blissful in their ignorance of what lay under the surface of their perfect neighborhood, unaware that in one of these houses, a man is holding a woman hostage - a woman they have been searching for for 3 weeks. The reason why Jack Malone and Samantha Spade sit in a government-issued sedan at 3:10 am on a Wednesday morning.

Jack snorts at the thought of suburban life. He lived it most of his life. Until he and Marie had it out and he packed his bags and moved into the hotel full time; at least until he could find an apartment. You never really know what is underneath the surface until you scratch it. In every neighborhood in America he figures there is one deep dark secret lurking, whether it be a murderer, drug dealer, wife abuser, kidnapper, or plain old adulterer. He cringes internally at that thought. He sighs aloud and reaches for the cup of coffee on the dash. He takes a sip of it, stone cold by now from inattention.

He looks over at his companion seated in the passenger seat. She is silently looking out the window, focused on one house in particular, looking for any sign of movement. The moonlight coming through the windows filters through the blonde in her hair, lighting her face in a striking way. He can see the weariness on her face; the dark circles under her eyes, her hair mussed from its normal perfect placement. He hadn't wanted her to come, it was asking for trouble. But she did, and he is glad she did. Just being in the confined space of the car with her is enough for him for now. He probably would have fallen asleep by now without her here. Finally she turns and looks at him, her mouth twisted in that half grin she favors.

"Not much movement. Probably asleep like everyone else."

"Close your eyes, Sam. I'll wake you if something happens." He smiles at her, wishing he could tell her all the things he was thinking in that minute. How sleeping with her may have destroyed his marriage, but was the best thing that ever happened to him. That every time he looks at her, that feeling inside him gets stronger. Pulls harder at him to relieve the ache he feels from not being near her, from not touching her in so long.

"Uh huh. Then who wakes you when the bad guy gets away with the girl?" she asks, her tone light, teasing .

He gives her an annoyed expression, even though she is right, and turns back to the house. She shouldn't be there, and he decides to tell her as much. After the OPR incident last month, they were all treading on thin ice. Regardless what Martin's father had done to fix it.

"Sam, you shouldn't be here." His words are quickly cut off.

"Why not? This is my case too." She gives him a hard look. "Besides, if I shouldn't, then you shouldn't either. What where Van Doran's words?" She stops and thinks for a moment before continuing. "Oh yeah. 'Don't go NEAR that house, it's off limits to you and your team'. And yet here we are."

"It was my choice to come Sam. I don't want to get you in trouble."

"Too late for that, don't you think?" She says with a small smile. He easily reads between the lines and cringes. This is the first reference she has made to the investigation since it happened.

"Sam."

"Well it was my choice to come too. How much more damage can we do to our reputations with OPR now anyway?"

"A lot and you know it."

"Yeah." She says quietly and silence fills the car. Not an uncomfortable one. They are past uncomfortable silences at this point.

Resting her head back and closing her eyes, Sam lets out a loud sigh. "I hate stakeouts, they are so tedious."

He says nothing, just observes the slim line of her neck, exposed by the angle of her head against the car seat. Remembers what the skin feels like there; soft, smooth. Had he meant it was over? Did he want it to be over? And here he is again. Back to the same questions, the same issues, that plagued him four weeks ago when they where forced to confront the repercussions of their actions. When they came dangerously close to being exposed to everyone. He didn't want it exposed, for the same reasons she didn't. Because if everyone knew, then it really would be over. There would be no way they could continue what they had and not be suspected. Their every action would be analyzed, their words misconstrued by others whose thoughts where now slanted to the fact they had slept together. But.he wanted it to be over. Didn't he? He wanted to try with his wife. Right? If he really wanted to try with Marie then why was he even debating this while staring at her. He had done what he thought was right. But is what is right always the best thing for you? "Dammit Jack. Same circle, different day" he thinks and is pulled out of his thoughts by her soft voice.

"I think Martin knew."

He is stunned by her words. How did she know what he was thinking? "What? Really?"

"Yeah, he made a few.off-handed comments a while back, before the OPR investigation."

"You didn't."

At that she lifts her head and looks at him. "No."

He nods carefully as she returns her head to the seat.

"Maybe we weren't as careful as we thought we were. I know it was hard for me to act like nothing had happened." She trails off slightly before starting again. "I'm sorry. Forget I said anything, we had this discussion already."

"I still care for you, Sam."

"I know, and that makes it so hard. You know? I can't just turn off these feelings Jack. It takes time, and being with you every day, working with you as close as we do.It's just taking longer than I would have liked."

He swallows the lump in his throat. He understood all too well. "Do you.Do you want a transfer?"

At that, her head snaps up. "What? No. I'd rather have what little time with you at work rather than none. Even if it does make it harder. Unless..unless you don't want me around."

"Oh god no. I." He pauses, considering his words. "I need you with me Sam."

She purses her lips together tightly and closes her eyes again, processing what he said. "Need."

"I didn't mean it.Dammit Sam. I don't know." And he didn't anymore. Last month he was resolved that their affair not continue. But the more time he spent with her, the more he wondered if that was the right choice. It was for the sake of their careers, but what about their happiness? At what point does the personal trump the work issues?

"You don't know what? How you need me? I thought we finished this, Jack. I distinctly remember a conversation that involved you telling me it was over."

"I know. I can't.I.God dammit!" He can't seem to get the words out. He knows whatever he says will hurt her, deeply. Jack knows he can't change his mind depending on the state of their professional careers. It's an either/or situation. Either he makes a commitment to end it for good or he decides to damn policy and rules and continue the best thing that has ever happened to him.

"Jack you cant do this to me. I can't be on this see saw. Its not a unilateral decision anymore, WE need to decide what to do if this isn't really over. But first you need to make a choice, and that's something I can't do for you."

"I know. I'm so sorry, Sam. Logic tells me we should end this now before more people get hurt. But my heart is telling me something else. I.I know I can't do this to you. It's wrong. I would do anything not to hurt you, that's not my intent. But that's exactly what I am doing..I shouldn't have said anything."

"No, probably you shouldn't have. But you did, and now we have to deal with it. There has to be some kind of.resolution to this."

During the conversation, they had both been facing each other, neither really paying attention to the reason why they were there. Until she moves her head and notices something.

"Shit, Jack." His gaze follows hers, shocked to see almost every light on in the house, the garage door wide open, with a new car parked in it.

"What the hell, how did we miss an entire car?"

"I can only begin to guess," she comments dryly.

They watch in silence as nothing happens for a while. Jack can sense her getting antsy, they are so close to finding this woman, and yet now they are stuck. Unaware who just came into the picture, and how many, they could be potentially undermanned and have no clue.

"I'm calling Martin," she says and gets out her cell.

"No, not yet. We drag him into this and that's one more person to get in trouble for this. We wait."

Just then Jack's option of waiting is eliminated. "Sam."

"Yeah I see it."

They both ease out of the car, moving silently across the lawn, hands on firearms. Getting to within 100 yards of the house.

Two men bring the woman out the door from the house to the garage. She is kicking and fighting, though making no other noise. Jack can see tape over her mouth. He doesn't, however, see a weapon of any kind on the men. While trying to force her into the newly arrived vehicle, she gets off a vicious punch to one of the men, giving Jack his chance.

"Now," he says and they come out from their hiding space, guns drawn, announcing themselves loudly. "Federal officers, hands up."

Initially the men comply, raising their hands in a gesture of compliance, and moving to the end of the vehicle, the woman secured behind them.

"Hold it. DO NOT MOVE." Jack watches the young man continue his movements, giving him one last chance. "STOP, I will shoot."

He gives the guy one second before firing off a shot into his shoulder, causing the young man to call out in agony and fall to the floor. Jack watches as Sam slowly approaches the other man and the woman, quickly snatching the woman away and sending her to stand by the bush line, a safe distance away.

"Sam, make sure she is ok and then call local police and Martin."

"Jack."

"Now, Sam," he orders, and she complies, leaving him with the two men. The injured one is still rolling on the ground, gripping his bleeding shoulder. The other one is just standing serenely, and something about him makes Jack uncomfortable. He's almost too calm. Quickly Jack disarms the injured man without letting the other out of his sight.

"Turn around," he orders. Jack wonders where the neighbors are; usually a gunshot is like screaming "fire" -- it gets everyone's attention. The man slowly turns, placing his hands on the trunk of the car.
She can't believe the woman is alive. They had long figured she was dead until a tip came in and they followed it. Carefully she pulls off the tape on the woman's mouth and hands, kneeling with her back to Jack. Turning briefly, she sees him with one suspect whose hands are down on the car, while the other is still bleeding on the garage floor.

"You ok?" she asks the terrified woman who only manages a nod. "It's ok. It's ok." She whispers and takes off her light FBI jacket, and wraps it around the woman's shoulders. The air is warm here; she is comfortable in just her favorite shirt. A low cut soft gray with blue piping along the hems. Reaching one hand out to the woman, she pulls out her cell and is about to call Danny when one gunshot permeates the air, followed by a second.

For one moment, she is frozen to the spot. Terror washes through her. She turns as if in a dream, her throat suddenly dry, the edges of reality blurry. Unwilling to face whatever happened in those 15 seconds her back was turned. Her worst fears are confirmed when both Jack and the previously standing suspect are now on the ground. She can see the suspect's face covered in blood, eyes wide open in death.

"JACK," she screams, swiftly getting up and running to him. Samantha can hear her heart pounding in her ears, the world stops for her, nothing moves forward, nothing is real except him. And right now, he isn't moving, his eyes aren't open, his face has already lost some of its color. She knows why; there is blood flowing freely from a gunshot wound to his chest. She sinks to her knees, quickly dialing numbers so familiar to her. Help, she needs help.

Sam isn't aware of speaking, but she knows she states her badge number, the address and that there is an officer down. Once that task is completed, she throws the phone to one side, her hands shaking violently, not sure what to do, not wanting to make it worse, but knowing her inaction can't be helping either. Taking a deep breath, she places both hands over the source of the blood; she doesn't have anything on her to use as a bandage.

She can feel the warm blood, HIS warm blood, seeping through her hands, wetting everything in sight. She looks around frantically, her hands aren't doing the job, and blood is everywhere, running in rivers down his chest, staining the concrete. Finally she sees a pile of clean rags in the far corner of the garage. Looking at the woman, who hasn't moved since Sam had deposited her on the lawn, Sam realizes she will be no help. Getting up herself, she runs, grabs the pile and returns in record time, quickly placing a few rags over the entrance wound, pleased when the flow seems to slow a little. Settling on the driveway next to him, she finally breathes.

Given a moment of peace, the reality of the situation hits her. Jack. Bleeding profusely. Shot by a suspect. Any agent's worst fear. Keeping her hands firmly on his chest, Sam lets her head dip down between her arms, tears flowing freely. She looks at her hands, covered in his blood; they are shaking violently, even as she tries to steady them. This isn't supposed to be how this happens. You're supposed to find the victim and bring in the suspect, not watch your partner die on a stranger's cold driveway, a driveway you weren't supposed to be near anyway. Licking her lips and sniffling, Sam looks at his face, even whiter than before.

"Jack, come on. Don't die on me. Please. Please. Hang in there."

Looking around again, she strains to hear the sounds of an ambulance. They are on their way, but not nearly fast enough. "Hurry up, come on.hurry," she whispers.

Turning back to him, she is surprised to see his eyes open and for one minute she thinks the end had come, that he has died in front of her. Then he blinks once, and again, and moves his arm.

"Jack? Oh thank God. I know you can hear me. Hang on a few more minutes ok, help is on the way."

"Saaaaaammm.." he calls out, his breath short and quick.

"Shhhhh, no talking. You'll be ok." She tries to give him a big smile but only manages to bite her trembling lip to keep from crying.

"Sam, I..I'm...sorry." She can hear him struggle to breathe and it breaks her heart.

"No sorry's, no talking ok?" At that point, the sound of the ambulance becomes louder. Sam looks up to see the ambulance, pull into the wide driveway, followed by several police cars. Their headlight illuminating her and placing Jack in a ghostly light. His hand on her arm, however, turns her attention back. Looking into his eyes, she sees everything she needs to, and things that she doesn't. He is giving up, accepting his fate. Well she refuses to, he will not die, he can't die, that's not acceptable behavior for an FBI agent, especially Jack Malone. Before the cavalry arrives, she leans into him and whispers.

"If you die on me, I will kill you." She sees his eyes laugh at that and finally gives him a genuine small smile as the paramedics push her out of the way.

In the commotion she registers that Danny has taken care of the woman they had been there to save, though she doesn't recall him arriving, doesn't notice the expression on the EMT's face when he sees Jack. She hears what the paramedics are saying, but doesn't comprehend a word of it. Following them to the back of the ambulance, she gives them little choice. She is going with them.

Sitting in the back with one EMT, Sam grabs Jacks hand that isn't hooked to an IV and holds it tightly against her chest. Her two smaller hands wrapped around his larger one, her chin resting carefully on top of both their hands. The entire way to the hospital, Sam whispers anything to him to keep him with her.
tbc.........

AN: Ok, this might have a resemblance to Fall Out, but only initially. It takes a left turn, where FO probably takes a right. And sides, I had this written loooooong before I knew about FO, so there! I elected to write it anyway and post. Hope you enjoyed, and don't forget to review!