Author's Note: This is what happens when you listen to the soundtrack one too many times… Some of the dialogue is taken from the movie of course and 'Shadows on the Sun' is by Audioslave on the soundtrack. This is the first time I have dared enter the world of Collateral so I would appreciate any and all feedback I receive.

Disclaimer: I own nothing- although I wish I could hire Vincent… -chuckles wickedly-

Summary: A murder on the MTA…

Rating: PG- there's a little blood in there; not half so much as my other stories though.

Red Light

Bang! Bang!

Bang! Bang! BANG!

The unceasing sound of gunshots exploded in his ears, throbbing, aching, in one long hollow sound that made his head hurt as he squeezed his eyes shut tight. He felt only the painful recoil of the weapon in his hands as his finger flexed again and again and again until a hollow click revealed that he had no more bullets in the chamber.

Max slowly opened his eyes with his ears ringing as the lights flickered on overhead. The gun still felt hot under his fingers. He slowly lowered it, trying not to start- and failing- as he saw Vincent staring at him through the shattered glass of the metro's sliding door.

The Heckler Koch was still aimed at his head but Max only watched numbly as an empty magazine clattered to the rubberized floor and slowly Vincent withdrew another from within his coat pocket but it slipped from his fingers, sliding harmlessly to the floor, and bouncing thrice ere it settled.

The assassin did not bend to pick it up. Instead, he glanced around as though disoriented, a crease of irritation marring his smooth brow, and after a moment, disappeared from view.

Slowly, cautiously, Max, with gun still raised, stepped over the dividing area between the two cars, his worn shoes crunching on shards of glass. When his shoulder brushed past the sliding door, he stopped, gun still poised, still ready, knowing that even a lax snake could strike without warning.

Aside from the patch of blood steadily spreading over the pristine white of his shirt, Max would have thought him merely resting his tired feet after all that running. Vincent's face was still cut from when Max had crashed the cab which was a miracle that they had walked away from. Dried blood clung to the side of his face too where the cab driver's bullet had hit him. Max still remembered the rage that had coursed through his veins at that moment when he had seen that man poised over Annie, a gun to her head.

He had lost control then.

Now, he was not so sure. Now he was just afraid and had reacted out of pure instinct- survival and self-preservation. He had adapted to the change in the environment and come out on top. Finding that his legs would no longer hold him, Max sank onto the hard plastic chair opposite. His heart still pounded under his ribcage like a jackhammer and he could just see Annie's ashen face peering at him from the metro doorway.

Even now a small part of him wanted to finish the job, to put one more bullet in that wretched man's sternum and another in his head- as he had to so many people that night. But the rest of him recoiled, screamed, all of his mother's lessons of morality and the sacredness of human life resounding in his head. His stomach was in knots.

The gun twitched and lowered.

Finding that the spiraling of his heinous thoughts was quickly becoming overwhelming, and the silence suddenly oppressive, he cleared his parched throat as he felt cold sweat slide down his back.

"We're almost there if-"

If what? If you needed help? Is that whathe wanted to say? Did he want to help this man? The one that had managed to rip his life apart in a sum of ten hours…?

'I like to think of myself as a friend…'

That's what he had said at the hospital. Is that what he wanted to be? A friend to this madman who had spent the better part of the last few hours trying to kill them? Max didn't know whether to curse Vincent or thank him- so much of his life and way of thinking had changed this night. He hoped for the better.

Vincent just looked at him with those flat, black eyes. Those eyes reminded Max of the coyotes they had seen on the highway in Koreatown.



An empty gaze, though wary- those eyes that missed nothing.

A killer's eyes.

For a brief moment, Max wondered what he was thinking. What was he feeling at this very instant in time? Did he still feel as though life didn't matter now that it was being taken away from him by the trickle and drop? Did he regret his life and what he had made of it? The choices… or lack thereof… that he had or hadn't made?

'You don't know what anyone else is thinking.' Max remembered the ugly look Vincent had given him when he had said that and the taxi driver knew he had struck a nerve in the cold heart of the villain. Vincent had given him a sharp witticism to cover the turmoil up- even Max saw that through his review mirror. It had been a deplorable evasion to cover up the truth

You're low, my brother. Way low.

Vincent had looked askance at him, shocked, hurt maybe- it was difficult to tell with his frosty implacable countenance. The words he had shot right back at the cab driver, full of bitter anger and venom had cut him to the core- scared him too as he realized that the assassin was right.

All of his dreams had gone up in smoke that night: too little, too late. Unrealized. Unfulfilled. An irreparable breach had been torn in his heart to which he had been blinded until this man came along. All of the missed opportunities that he had never taken advantage of as he squandered twelve years of his life waiting for something that would never happen unless he took the initiative. Everything couldn't be perfect- as this night had undeniably proved.

He didn't feel his aching muscles, his pounding head, the stinging pain where shards of glass from his shattered cab's windows had torn into the flesh of his palms and arms.

All there was, was this moment.

The sleek silver fox glanced down at his blood-soaked shirt and briefly closed his eyes, at last seeming to feel the pain of his wound. The Heckler Koch lay across his lap, empty. His breathing light, strained. Max could only listen, letting his own gun drop from his nerveless fingers.

In and out. In and out.

You still breathing? Vincent's voice echoed in his head as those dark eyes looked up into his. Vincent's soft voice recalled his attention, neither weak with pain nor strained as he would have thought but soft, almost faint though with a touch of the dry humor that Max had come to know so wellin the last eight hours.

"Max. A guy gets on the MTA here in L.A, dies…" he paused, his gaze unfocusing slightly as he struggled for breath for a moment. At last, his eyes returned to Max's.

"Do you think anybody'll notice?" Vincent asked softly with a slight incline of his head. Max knew what he was really asking, almost pleading.

Will anyone remember me? Did I matter? Will someone one day remark that I, Vincent, was here?

Max only nodded, somehow wanting to reassure him though he knew not why. His heart tugged with sadness for this man- killer though he was; it was only a small facet in a myriad diamond. So much had happened tonight and somehow he felt that despite the danger, the threats, the pain, he had been given a chance and faced his problems head on where before he had simply avoided them. This man had helped him see that dark corner of himself that he had pushed aside.

Max watched as slowly, the elegant head sank onto his breast and Vincent's eyes closed. The gun slid from his lap to clatter upon the floor.

Max took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, wiping away the stinging tears that threatened to fall.

"Do-do we leave him here?" Annie asked quietly, the merest quaver in her voice as she looked at the cooling cadaver with some distaste.

"Unless you want to take him with you," Max replied, unconsciously echoing Vincent's earlier words. In his own perverse way, Max thought, Vincent might have liked to stay here-like this- bloody and cold. Then he certainly would be noticed, remembered. Nothing had changed really for him- he had been dead for a long time before this night.

Max felt the slight near-imperceptible jerk as the MTA slowed and glided smoothly to a stop. The doors whooshed open and Max jumped up, not wanting to linger in this suddenly horrific place of death. He knew he would read about this night in the papers a few days from now and it would seem so unreal, so distant. Like a bad dream.

He dumped his own gun into the nearest trash bin, wishing he could wash his hands. Wrapping his arms around Annie's small shoulders, he half-supported her and himself out of the subway. She hugged herself tightly, chilled by the cold wind that whipped up to greet them as they emerged from the stuffy train car. Max immediately removed his coat and draped it around her, not feeling the cold himself. Looking back once, he saw the silver form of the metro beginning to pull away from the station.

The soft hiss of the metro rails and the ceaseless stir of traffic below them seemed a quiet music for the repose of the dead. Over the fading light of the street lamps, the pale blue glow of dawn was staining the shredded clouds. A light morning breeze blew chill.

And he remembered.

Author's Notes I thrive on reviews!

Lady of Light-