Disclaimer: All Medical Investigation-y goodness belongs to someone else, so no suing! Suing is a NONO! I'm poor anyway… -hangs head-

CHAPTER 1

"Can I get you some more iced tea?"

Natalie Durant looked up at the waiter and shook her head with a smile. "No, thank you. Just that to-go order-"

"And the check," Victoria Blake, a childhood friend of Natalie's, added quickly, flashing the young man grin.

The waiter nodded, taking out the check and placing it on the table before disappearing again to retrieve the to-go order Natalie had gotten for Stephen who had declined her and Victoria's invitation to have lunch with them with the excuse of needing to finish up some work. Both women knew the real reason he had said no to their offer was because he didn't want to intrude on "girl time."

Natalie immediately reached for the check, but Victoria beat her to it. "Nu uh!" Tori said, shaking her head, "You paid last time. It's my turn."

"But I was the one who asked you out to lunch, Tor," Natalie countered, a lopsided grin gracing her lips. They did this every time they went out to eat. They would always fight over who got to pay. "Lunch date etiquette would dictate that the inviter would pay for the invitee, not the other way around."

"Screw etiquette," Victoria replied with a giggle. She never had been very subtle. "I'm paying." She began digging through her large purse in an effort to locate something with which to pay with.

Shaking her head, Natalie leaned back in her chair and watched her friend. She and Victoria had known each other since they were both nine and unlike most childhood friends, they had stayed in touch over the years and had managed to maintain their relationship.

Noticing that her friend was still searching for money, Natalie raised an amused eyebrow and asked, "Having problems?"

Victoria looked up from her purse and gave the other woman a mock glare before smiling. "No," she answered, "I just can't find any of my credit cards."

"I thought Allen didn't like you using credit cards," Natalie commented upon remembering Tori talking about the fact that her husband had told her he didn't want her using credit cards if she could get away with it.

Victoria paused a moment, pondering. "Oh yeah," she said, pursing her lips. "That's what happened to them."

"Huh?"

"Allen took them and left me only with a debit card because he got tired of me going shopping with them." Victoria broke out into a grin and shrugged.

Natalie laughed and shook her head.

After glancing around for a moment, Victoria went back to digging her in purse until she finally pulled out the debit card she had been talking about and stood up.

"Where are you going?" Nat asked.

Victoria pointed toward the road. "There's an ATM right there. I'll be back in a sec," she replied, stepping around her chair.

"Why don't you just let me pay?"

Quickly snatching the check away from Natalie's outstretched hand, Tori shook her head. "Nope! I already said I was paying and I am." She tucked the check in her pocket and shot her friend a quick smile. "I'll be back in two minutes." And then she headed across the street to the ATM.

Just as Tori made it to the ATM, Natalie's cell phone rang. She picked it up and flipped it open without even looking at it. She placed it to her ear. "Durant."

'Hey Nat, it's me.'

Natalie smiled slightly. "Hey Stephen," she said as her eyes drifted across the street to watch her friend. "You didn't change your mind about coming to eat with us, did you? Because it's a little late now."

She heard Connor give a short laugh. 'No, I haven't changed my mind.'

"Good." She paused a moment, watching a black van slowly driving down the road. "I got something for you anyway," she stated absentmindedly, eyes not leaving the van as it swerved toward the curb in front of the ATM where Tori was. "Since I know you probably haven't actually stopped working to eat anything."

'How well you know me' Stephen said through the phone with a chuckle. 'Anyway, the reason I called was because I need you back at work ASAP. We have a new assignment that needs our immediate attention.'

"All right, I'll be right th-" Natalie trailed off when the black van she had been watching suddenly drove up onto the curb, skidding to a stop right past the ATM before a man jumped out and grabbed Victoria by her arms. "Oh my God…" Nat immediately dropped her phone and stood.

Tori screamed and struggled against the man who was pulling her toward his van. She had just been getting money out of the machine and then suddenly there was a vehicle up on the sidewalk behind her. And now some creep was trying to force her into his car! There was just no way this was happening to her!

Natalie didn't even notice Connor's concerned voice calling her through the phone. She immediately just took off toward her friend not caring how many accidents she caused by running across a busy street. She had to get to Victoria!

Tori let out another terrified scream as she frantically tried to pull out of her assailant's grip. In a panic, she slammed her foot down on the man's instep causing him to cry out in pain and let go of her. She felt him let go and didn't waste time getting away.

She took off running and ran right into Natalie as the other woman came around the van. "Nat!" she cried, grabbing her friend's arm with every intention of pulling her away from the man who had tried to kidnap her, but before she could, the guy was already upon them again.

"Come here, you bitch!" the furious man yelled, seizing hold of Tori's arm again before he pulled out a 9mm handgun and held it to her head.

Natalie watched in horror as the man held her friend hostage. She hadn't even noticed that a crowd had started to form at a distance and that several people were on their cell phones, undoubtedly calling the police. No, her focus was solely on the gun pressed to Tori's temple.

"Stay back!" the man yelled, waving the gun around threatening before placing it back to Victoria's head. "Stay the fuck away!"

Taking a deep breath, Nat turned her attention away from the tears pouring down her friend's face and to her attacker. She raised her hands in surrender to make herself less threatening before she took a step forward. "How about you just let her go?" she suggested as calmly as she could.

The man looked at her wildly before immediately pointing the 9mm at her. "I said STAY BACK!" he all but screamed. His hand was shaking almost violently. It was obvious that he was on the brink of snapping.

Natalie swallowed hard and then took another step. "Just-just calm down, ok? Calm down." She had dealt with violent patients before and had managed to get them to relax, but then again, none of her patients had had guns…

Victoria stared at Natalie, tears streaming down her face. She couldn't believe this was happening to her. To HER. She didn't want to die…

"Take another step and I'll put a bullet in her head!"

By this time, there was a big crowd of people all watching what was going on as if it were some sort of sport. Natalie didn't understand why they weren't doing anything. Why weren't they trying to help!

Nat watched as the man wrapped his arm around Tori's neck and tightened his hold before bringing the gun back and digging it into her friend's cheek. "I'll kill her! I swear I will!" he yelled, jerking his arm back around Tori's neck causing her to whimper.

"Ok! Ok," Natalie exclaimed, stopping in her tracks. She could feel tears burning in the back of her eyes as she stared at her friend's panicked face. "Please-please just don't hurt her."

"I'll kill her!"

"No! No, please!" Victoria cried hysterically.

Natalie's eyes were huge. This just wasn't happening. It couldn't be! "Please." She tried her best to keep her voice from shaking, "Please, just let her go, ok? Just let her go." She didn't understand what this guy wanted. Money? A woman to kidnap? What? She paused and then made up her mind. "Take me instead."

Victoria's eyes went as big as Natalie's had been. "What? Nat, no!" What did her friend thinking!

"Shut up!" the man hissed into Tori's ear as he tightened his grip around her throat even more.

"Come on," Nat tried again, taking another step toward the man, "Take me instead."

Eyes flashing with rage, the man pointed the gun back at her and then violently shook his head. "No! I don't need you! STAY BACK!"

Natalie's hands flew up again in hopes of convincing the man that she was harmless. "Ok!" she exclaimed, "Ok, I'm staying back." Where the hell were the police? She thought they would have arrived by now!

She sucked in a shaky breath. She had to stall the guy until the police finally did arrive. She couldn't let him take Victoria! "Um...h-how about money? Hmm?" she said, taking a sidestep toward the ATM. "That's what this is all about, right?" She really had no idea what it was about, but that was beside the point. She just wanted to distract him long enough for the cops to get there.

"Money?" She took another step. "How-how about I give you all the money I have in my account? Huh? How about that?" Natalie tried to ignore the look in her friend's eyes that was just screaming that what she was trying to do wasn't going to work.

The man hesitated for a moment, but just as Natalie reached the ATM, the sound of sirens was heard, and he panicked. He looked wildly at Natalie, realizing what she had done. She had distracted him long enough for the cops to get there…and he was furious.

He raised his gun again and aimed it directly at Natalie, but before he could fire, Victoria rammed her elbow as hard as she could into his stomach. Gasping loudly, the man let go of Tori and doubled over before he began choking down gulps of air.

Free from his grip, Tori dashed toward Natalie. She could see police cars pulling up behind her friend and for a moment thought they were both home free. Oh, how wrong she was…

The man quickly recovered and straightened back up. Without hesitation, he raised his gun and fired. He watched with satisfaction as the bullet hit Victoria square in the back. The woman screamed out in pain and crumpled right before reaching Natalie.

"TORI!" Natalie cried as she lunged forward and grabbed hold of her friend as she collapsed to the ground. "No, no, no..." she repeated as she pulled Victoria into her arms and held her close to her chest. "Tori, no…"

The man wasted no time crossing the space between him and the women. He looked down at the two of them, cocking his head to the side slightly as he examined them, and then smiled sadistically. He raised his gun again, pointing it at them.

Natalie slowly looked up, tears trailing down her face. She stared at end of the gun for a long moment before raising her eyes to look into his. Her face was cold and not even her overly expressive eyes showed fear anymore. He was going to kill her and that was that. She knew that she couldn't change it.

Grinning maliciously, the man looked back at her, holding her stare for a moment before he shook his head. Then he glanced down at Tori who was writhing in agony where she was lying in Natalie's arms. Another moment passed and then suddenly his eyes snapped back up to Nat's. "For good measure," he said and then quickly fired another round into Victoria's chest.

Natalie jumped at the sound, half expecting to feel pain, but nothing came. She watched as the man jogged over to his van and after saying "See you soon" and blowing her a kiss, got inside and took off, the cops close behind. It took her a second to realize what had happened before she gazed down at her friend.

Victoria had blood pouring out of her back and chest. She stared up at Natalie, her eyes pleading her for help. "D-don't-don't let m-me die, p-ple-please," she begged before coughing up blood.

Tears cascaded down Natalie's cheeks. "Shhh…" she whispered, brushing a strand of blonde hair out of Tori's eyes. "Don't worry. You're going to be ok," she choked out.

"P-p-please…"

"I won't let you die, I promise," Natalie tried to sooth as she pressed her free hand down on Tori's chest wound. As a doctor, she couldn't help but notice the red-tinted foam that was seeping out of the wound. Victoria's lung had been punctured. "Just hang on, Tor," she whimpered, "You'll be ok…"

Blood continued to pour out of the wounds no matter how much pressure Natalie applied to them and judging by how much Victoria was coughing up, she was going to suffocate long before she bled out. And there was nothing Nat could do to help her.

"L-love y-y-you, Na-Nat," Tori choked out with the last ounce of energy she had and then she closed her eyes. There was a gurgling sound and a moment later, a river of blood flowed out of her mouth. And then it was over. She was gone.

"Tori, no…" Natalie sobbed as she clutched her friend tightly to her chest and began rocking. "Nononono…Tori…Tori…"

She wasn't exactly sure how much time had passed when the police and EMTs finally made their way over to her. However long, it didn't matter because Victoria was already dead. She was gone…just gone. They couldn't do anything for her.

There was a flurry of activity around her, but it barely registered in her mind. She could hear people talking to her, but it was muffled, and she hardly noticed when they took Tori's body out of her arms. She felt someone pull her to her feet and carefully lead her over to the ambulance where she was made to sit down.

She saw a light flash in one eye and then in the other, undoubtedly from a penlight, and then heard someone talking to her. It was a male voice that sounded like he was speaking to her in the distance. He was saying something along the lines of that she was going to be ok. She could barely hear him but she didn't really care.

A moment later, another male voice, a gruff and impatient one at that, started asking her things. She could make out some of the questions and tried to respond, but she was in such a fog that she wasn't sure if she really was answering anything or not.

Dazedly, she listened as the two voices began arguing with each other. She really didn't know what was going on, but she didn't care either. She just wanted to curl up into a ball and disappear.

There was some more shouting and then a few long moments of complete silence before she suddenly felt someone gently touch her face. And then she heard it -an all too familiar voice calling out her name.

"Natalie?" It was Stephen.

Hearing his voice helped her to suddenly snap out of her daze. She blinked and managed to focus on his very distinctive ice blue eyes that were staring at her in concern.

"Natalie?" he tried again.

"Stephen," she whispered, staring back at him.

Connor looked noticeably relieved for a moment before he moved closer and crouched in front of her. "I need to ask you some questions, ok Natalie?"

She blinked again and then absentmindedly nodded.

He gave her a small smile before glancing at the EMT and the cop who had been arguing about who got to speak to her when Stephen had arrived. They both nodded and he turned back to the woman in front of him. "Ok Natalie, do you know where you are?"

Nat paused a moment and looked around. "In an ambulance," she offered before focusing on Stephen's eyes again.

"Good," he said softly. He took a deep breath and then continued. "Now, do you know what happened?"

Natalie got a distant look in her eyes for a few long moments before she once again focused on Stephen. She frowned slightly as she stared at him and her bottom lip began to quiver. A single tear escaped and trailed down her cheek before she let out a shaky breath and finally whispered, "Yes."

Stephen gently took one of her hands into his, regardless of how much of Victoria's blood was on it, and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "Ok," he nodded. "Are you hurt anywhere?" Natalie was so covered in blood that the EMT hadn't been sure if she had been injured or not.

Natalie swallowed hard and then shook her head. "No." She looked down, a few more tears falling. "It's all T-Tori's…" she choked out.

Nodding, Stephen gave her hand another squeeze and then glanced back at the cop who was shooting him a pointed look. He held in a sigh and bit his bottom lip for a second before he continued, "Nat, did you see who did this?"

Natalie's jaw clenched and she swallowed hard before looking back up.

Connor immediately noticed a change in her countenance. Instead of the helpless and devastated look she had been sporting moments before, her face now expressed nothing short of pure loathing. Her eyes flashed with rage and her hands began to tremble ever so slightly as if were taking every fiber in her being to keep herself from seriously injuring someone or something. "Nat?" he prodded lightly.

"Yes, I saw the bastard-" she spat before pausing a moment to contain herself, "I saw the guy who…killed Tori." Her eyes met Stephen's and he was immediately taken aback by the look of pure hatred shining there. "He looked me right in the eye and–" she took a deep breath, her hands shaking even more now, "smiled before he shot her again. He SMILED, Stephen!"

"Is that all he did?" the detective asked, cutting Connor off before he could say anything else.

Natalie looked over at the man and frowned. "Other than shooting her in the chest!" she exploded. It was only the gentle, reassuring pressure from Stephen's hand that kept her from completely freaking out.

The cop didn't seem phased in the least by her outburst. He obviously had dealt with a lot of emotional people before and saw Natalie as no different from any of them. He flipped open his little notebook and looked at it for a second before he continued on like nothing had happened. "Yes, other than that, Miss Durant. Did he say anything to you?"

Natalie shook her head and looked down for a moment. "N-no," she replied with a note of hesitation. He hadn't said anything to her that would mean much, she reasoned. "Nothing important."

Head snapping up, the detective gave her a displeased glare. "Did he or did he not say anything to you?" he growled slowly, getting irritated.

"Yes, but-"

"Look, Miss Durant, I asked you a simple question," the cop interrupted, temper flaring. "Either the guy talked to you or he didn't. You can't have it both ways." He had always hated dealing with witnesses. "Now I, unlike you obviously, want to catch the bastard who shot your friend-" He took another step toward her, eyes flashing with anger. "So now, either you tell me the truth or I'm gonna haul your ass down to the precinct for obstruction of justice!"

Stephen was immediately on his feet and in the detective's face. No one spoke to Natalie like that; not in his presence. "Detective Craft, I suggest you back off right now," he said tersely as he gave the other man a deadly and unwavering look.

"And I suggest you remove yourself from my path before we have a problem, Doctor," was the cop's brusque reply.

"Oh, we already have a problem." Stephen had never been one to sit idly to the side and let people hurt his friends…especially Natalie.

"You're impeding my investigation, Doctor Connor," the detective warned, "and that means I can have you arrested along with Miss Durant unless you both cooperate."

"First of all, her name is Doctor Durant," Stephen began, glaring. He knew how much Natalie disliked being addressed as anything other than doctor. "And secondly, as of right now Natalie Durant is my patient and therefore, I decide when and to whom she speaks with." He gave Detective Craft a rather nasty smile. "So, take a walk, Detective. My patient is in no condition to talk to you right now."

"You can't do that!"

"Oh, yes I can, and I am," Stephen stated calmly. "Goodbye, Detective."

Craft was furious. "This is bull! She said herself that she wasn't hurt."

Stephen gave the man a pointed look. "She's in shock and in no condition to make that decision. That's why it's up to me." He smiled again. "Goodbye, Detective." With that, he turned to the EMT who was standing to the side and nodded. "Could you please transport Doctor Durant and myself to the hospital?"

The young man nodded in return and headed up to the front to tell his partner what was going on while Stephen helped Natalie all the way up into the ambulance and then after climbing in as well, closed the doors. "Ok, let's go!" he called to the front. A moment later, the ambulance was moving and Detective Craft was left standing in the street.

TO BE CONTINUED…

(A/N: Well, this is my first MI fic so I know it sucks so far! Nonetheless, it SHALL get better, I promise you that! This chappy was rather long and as much as I'd like the make the rest the same way, I doubt they'll all be as long as this. Oh well! Anyway, please REVIEW! I must know what you think! MUST!)