Disclaimer: I own nothing. The show would be a whole lot cleaner if I did.

Timeline: This takes place during the first season, but after the ep with that little dead girl, Moira.

Rating: T. It's just to be safe, mostly, but also for a character death. And mild language. I mean, come on, it's Rescue Me; they wouldn't be in-character if they didn't swear.

A/N: This is in no way meant to trivialize the devastation Hurricane Katrina caused or the heroic efforts of rescue personnel (FDNY included) that saved so many lives. The plot bunny just wouldn't leave me alone. In other words: this fanfic references the recent natural disaster, so if that's going to bother you, then don't read it, but I didn't mean anything by it.

Lake of Fire

I've always found it strange that there can be fires to fight even in feet of water. But somehow, it happens. And it's happening now.

It seems wrong, to be adding to the water already flooding a city that, such a short time ago, was filled only with people living and laughing and having a good time. But that's what they brought us down from New York for, I guess. We have to do what we can.

All of a sudden, a cry for help attracts my attention. I turn, only to see Tommy rushing to help, followed immediately by Laura.

That's so like him. Always the one to play the hero, Tommy Gavin is.

Of course, if someone has to do it, I don't know of anyone I'd rather that person be than Tommy.

I keep my eyes on the burning shell of a house containing my two crewmates even as I help Shawn Garrity get a family stranded on an adjacent rooftop to safety.

With that accomplished, I leave my gaze trained on the spot where I'd last seen Tommy and Laura. I'll never admit it to Garrity, but I'm worried.

Then my blood goes cold as I hear the popping, cracking noises instantly recognizable to anyone who's spent any length of time at this job: the sound of fire-weakened wood about to give way. Garrity and I glance at each other, and I know his nervous expression mirrors my own. There's still no sign of Tommy or Laura.

Suddenly, yells issue from inside the house; they're drowned out a moment later as half the structure collapses, reduced to a pile of rubble in the blink of an eye.

For minutes that feel like years, the rest of the crew and I wait. Finally, we see Laura making her way toward us, a teenage girl clutched in her arms, both of them covered from head to foot in ash and soaking wet.

"There was nothing I could do — " she manages to sputter as she hands the girl off to Chief. "He just…."

She doesn't seem to be able to finish the sentence, but the rest of us can fill in the blanks.

Tommy's gone.

I turn away, stunned into silence and fighting the temptation to blame Laura despite the fact that I know it was probably no one's fault.

Standing there, trying to let it sink in, I hear someone call, "Franco!"

Automatically – I'm still on shock-induced autopilot – I look around for the source of the voice.

And spot Tommy some distance behind me, looking my way as casually as ever.

A trillion different thoughts and feelings flood through me. Astonishment, confusion, disbelief…. I close my eyes for a second or two, hoping against hope that when I open them, everything will once again make sense.

No such luck. Tommy's still there, now waving at me, that cocky, self-assured grin of his plastered on his face.

Glancing back at the pale and shaken Laura, I walk over to Tommy. The Tommy that shouldn't be there, that can't possibly be there, but is there nonetheless.

"Tommy?" I ask quietly, uncertainly. "Laura said you'd died…."

To my complete surprise, he nods, his smile fading a little. "Yeah." He pauses, looking over my shoulder at the rest of the crew. "Yeah," he repeats slowly. A hint of desperation creeps into his voice as he adds, "Laura got the girl out, right?"

"Yeah," I reply. "Tommy, what's going on here? What are you saying?"

He shrugs, obviously trying to inject some lightness into the situation, and jerks his thumb in the direction of the house that now lies in ruins, floating in the sea that is New Orleans. "I died in there, just like Laura told you. Pinned underwater. Not a bad way to go, really…."

"But you're right here, Tommy," I say.

"No, I'm not," he responds matter-of-factly. "Go on, try to touch me. I dare you." His eyes shine with a mischievous defiance.

I come closer, intending to smack him upside the head. He has, after all, practically given me permission. But there's nothing there.

Nothing but air, and yet I still see Tommy as clear as day.

"Jesus, Tommy," I whisper. "What the hell…?"

"Don't you listen?" he offers belligerently, his expression adding 'stupid' to his question. He seems to be having fun tormenting me. "I'm dead. You're the only one that can see me."

This can't be happening. No way can this be happening.

Even as disbelief runs rampant through my mind, a memory surfaces. Tommy, talking to a girl who had been dead before we'd even come in the room. Talking with her, I realize now.

Suddenly conscious of what I must look like, engaged in conversation with thin air, I turn back to the living members of my crew. They're paying no attention. Relieved, I return to my chat with my dead best friend.

"That little girl, the one from the fire – " I start.

Catching on to my train of thought, he grins. "Yeah, she and I had a nice talk."

"Then you could…?" I trail off, leaving the thought unspoken.

"What, see ghosts? You bet your ass I could. To the point where it became downright obnoxious. Have fun with that."

I laugh half-heartedly, hoping he's exaggerating. "Why me, Tommy? Why you?"

He shrugs. "God, I don't know. Doesn't really matter, does it? It's just how it is. By the way, you might want to head back to the others for a while. They're starting to look at you funny."

I sigh and walk back over to everyone else, wondering how I'm going to explain my apparent intense fascination with a particular section of the Louisiana sky.

By the time I manage it and can steal a glance in Tommy's direction, he's gone.

But this time, fortunately or not, I know he's not gone for good.

A/N: Franco might be OOC, as I'm a 17-year-old girl, not a macho firefighting man. If so, sorry; it had to be somebody. Also, I came up with this idea at 5:30 on a Monday morning, so if anything doesn't make logical sense, that's why. Anyway, don't forget to leave a review, please! (I'm not ruling out the idea of expanding on this if people want me to….)