"We have a problem." Teigra blurted out as soon as Forbes had gone.

Travis got up worriedly to meet her. "What kind of problem?"

She went to put her hand on his cheek, then changed her mind. Instead, she turned away from him. "I - " she put her arms around herself comfortingly.

"You what? Come on, Tig, don't leave me hangin' here."

"Steve lost the tape, Gopher."

"Lost it, or stole it?" he snapped, though it was rhetorical.

"Oh, it'd better be lost, or I'll kill him myself." she grumbled.

"Right," Travis sighed, then sat on the cot. "So what do we do now?"

She turned to face him. "I don't know," she shook her head slowly. "I really don't know."

Travis closed his eyes, leaning back against the wall. "Great, just great."

Teigra knelt in front of him, and put her hand on his knee. He opened his eyes and met her gaze. "But I am still going to get you outta here."

"How, Tig? You said their confession was on that damn tape."

"Well, for one thing Steve's looking for it as we speak, and then I'm going to ransack his place myself, and if we still can't find it, we'll just have to get them to confess again."

"Oh, yeah, that'll happen." Travis rolled his eyes.

She slapped his knee angrily. "Don't you dare give up on me. Not now, Gopher. Not now."

Travis got up in frustration, and went to the bars of his cell. "Tomorrow, Tigger," he turned back to her. "They're shipping me out tomorrow."

She averted her eyes, her voice barely audible, "I know," She saw the distress in his tired expression, just before he looked away. He crossed his arms across his chest, staring without seeing into the floor. Teigra got up and put her arms around him, knowing that he was afraid of going back to prison. "It's not going to happen, Roland. If you go anywhere tomorrow, it'll be home. Even if I have to plan a break-out."

He reciprocated the embrace, holding her tightly. "Promise?"

"I promise,"

"Time's up," Forbes stated. "You have to go now, Teigra."

She withdrew reluctantly, and offered Travis her pinky finger in the age-old custom of a promise. He half-smiled, linking his pinky with hers, remembering their first date. She had made him pinky-swear to call her the next evening.

"I'll come back later, okay?" He nodded, still gazing at their entwined digits. "Okay," she kissed him on the cheek, then departed.

Travis watched her go sadly.


Once outside, Teigra headed around the back of the precinct, where she had parked her car. A note was tucked under the windshield wiper, which she carefully removed and read: "Too bad, so sad."

Teigra furrowed her eyebrows, looking around her to see if the person who had left the message was still around, but there was no one. Troubled, she walked around her car, looking for signs of tampering. Satisfied that she would not be blown up upon ignition, she got in the car, and drove to Steve's house.

Letting herself in, and expecting to find him searching for the lost tape, Teigra was surprised to find the apartment empty. She sought a message saying where Steve had gone, but found no indication that he had even been home recently.

"That's odd," she said to herself, going into Steve's bedroom, where he kept his computer. And where she would hopefully find the tape.

After two hours of sifting through drawers and stacks of junk, Teigra decided to give up, and find Steve instead. She decided the best place to look was Uprising HQ, so that is where she went next.

He was not there either.

Teigra asked around, but no one had seen him since earlier that morning. On her way out, she spotted Max and Loon talking alone. She ducked behind a stack of computer monitors, and listened to what they had to say. Hopefully it had nothing to do with something they had done to Steve.

"You heard what he said," Max sounded frustrated with the other.

"But I don't - "

"Come on, killing Roller'll be easy. Look where he is! And no one cares if anything happens to him, not really."

"Teigra - "

"Won't be able to help him. Too bad, so sad." Max snickered. "I've already had it arranged. We don't even have to see him. There'll be poison in his next meal."

"Don't you think that's a little suspicious?"

"Nah, how? CrayZhorse is trying to send a message to Teigra and anyone working with her."

"I'm sure she'll get it." Loon chuckled.

"That she will. It really is too bad, though. I always had a thing for her."

Teigra backed away from the two schemers before they noticed her there. Worried, she returned to the police station as fast as she could to see Travis. And to warn him.

His eyes lit up when he saw her. "Did you find it?" She shook her head, unable to look him straight in the eye. "Oh,"

"But on the way over, I had this idea." she paused uncertainly. "But you have to get your buddies to let you out for a night. And make your release believable, like they dropped charges because they found a discrepancy in your med files or something."

"How does that help me?"

"You can meet Max and Loon at the Club, and drag another confession out of them."

"You think that'll work?"

"Well, get Loon drunk - "

"And he'll admit to anything." he nodded.

"Exactly,"

Travis noticed that she was fidgeting with her watch. "What is it?"

"Huh?"

He nodded at her hands. "You're playing with your watch. What's wrong?"

"I - Max and Loon were - " she swallowed, uncertain how she should tell him.

"What? They were what?" he straightened to better read her expression.

She looked up into his expectant eyes. "They were talking about how the Horse wants you dead."

"Oh,"

"Yeah,"

Travis thought it over. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised." She was going to say something, but he kept talking, "They'll have a back-up plan. Especially if they want to kill me." he leaned back against the wall, thinking hard. He still could not think of a better way to go about doing this. "How would I get them to meet me?"

"If they hear you're out, which I can do myself, they'll get in touch with you."

"They don't know where I live. None of you do."

"They know where you hang out. I can tell them where you'll be. They'll show up."

Travis nodded, then arched his eyebrow at her. "And where will you be while this is all going down?"

"Nearby. As back-up."

He shook his head. "You've done enough. If I can convince Price to give me one crack at this, you're off the hook as soon as I step outside. We can't see each other after this, you know that. Level Nine's after you, now."

Teigra smiled at him, seeing that old concern in his eyes. "I miss you, Gopher."

Travis rested his head in her lap, a faint smile on his face. He closed his eyes, while she played with his hair.

Within minutes, he was asleep.

She smiled, hearing his familiar soft breathing, and closed her own eyes. I've missed you so much.


***


"Who the hell are you?" Price's harsh voice thundered, awakening both Teigra and Travis.

He sat bolt upright at the sound. "Oh no." he mumbled to himself.

Wiley grabbed Price's arm, to prevent her from physically harming either of them. "Chill."

She glared at him, the way a rebellious teenager glares at her parents after being given a curfew. "Is this her, Travis? The girl on the surveillance tape?"

Travis looked completely lost. He knew he could not deny it. Not now, with her sitting right beside him.

"Maybe you should leave." Wiley suggested to Teigra.

"No. No, she stays. I want an explanation." Price folded her arms across her chest expectantly.

Travis gazed at Teigra apologetically. She met Price's glare. "I can prove that what happened to him wasn't his fault."

Both Wiley and Price raised their eyebrows in surprise at this.


***


"I think we can work this." Wiley nodded, upon Teigra's completion of the retelling of her plan.

Price was rolling the idea around in her mind, trying to find a loop hole. There did not appear to be one. "What if this Max won't meet with Travis?"

Travis sighed heavily, "Oh, he will."

"Are you sure?"

He and Teigra exchanged looks. "Positive," she replied.

"Only fools are positive." Travis pointed out.

"Are you sure?"

"I used to be," he sighed.

She hugged him comfortingly. Her watch beeped, she had forgotten that she had to work tonight. "I have to go." she got up suddenly.

Travis' gaze locked temporarily with Price's, as he rose from the cot. He looked to Teigra, asking, "Take me with you?"

She scanned the cell, pretending that they were alone, but may be being watched. She bit her bottom lip, moving closer to him. "Okay," she held her pocket open. "Get in, quick!"

A smile slowly crept across his face, feelings he thought were long buried returning to the surface.

She recognized the look in his eyes. "'Nobody knows it, but you've got a secret smile, and you use it only for me.'" she sang the line from Semisonic.

Wiley cleared his throat, reminding the pair that they were not alone.

"I'll see you later, okay?" Teigra told Travis quietly, putting on her coat. "At the Club in one hour, where we will solve this mystery, and you can then go home."

"Amen," he agreed, and she left. He watched her for as long as he could see her down the hall.

"Well, she seems like a nice girl, Trav." Wiley said amicably.

Travis turned a lopsided grin on him. "Yeah, well, just remember, she's my nice girl." he flopped back down on the cot.

"Alright, here's the whole deal, Travis. You have one chance - one. You screw this up, I don't care, you go to prison tonight, get it?" Price glared daggers at him.

"And if I succeed, what'll you give me?"

"A pat on the back. Wiley, bring him out, while I assemble the team."

Wiley saluted Price, and she rolled her eyes as she exited. "Well, here goes nothing, Junior."

"No, it's here goes everything, Jack."


***


"Just ignore the hormones, Trav." Wiley told him sternly. "The hormones are bad."

"Yeah, Wiley, I got that." he snapped. "She doesn't want - anyway, don't worry about it, alright?"

"The last thing we need is for you to get all lovey-dovey in there." Hooten agreed, taping the microphone to Travis' bare chest.

"Anything else? God. This is my one track to freedom, I'm not going to screw it up."

"Sometimes, when the hormones kick in - " Travis shot Wiley a silencing glare. "Well, you know all that."

"Look, I appreciate your concern, but Tig's got something going on - "

Wiley interrupted, "That's for sure. You can sure pick 'em."

Travis glowered at him, but continued, "That she doesn't want me to get tangled up in. So we will not be getting back together for quite some time."

"Much to your dismay," Hooten half-smiled.

"I never said that,"

"You don't have to. Come on, we're all guys here - "

"Not all," Sosh cut in. "You be careful in there."

"Thanks, I will."

"I'm sorry we couldn't do more."

"Don't worry about it. At least you tried, unlike some people." Travis cast a look in Price's direction, but she did not notice. "Well, here I go,"

"Good luck, Junior,"


Travis entered the Club, and Max waved him over to his and Loon's table. He joined them, shaking hands, pretending not to suspect them of anything.

And they seemed to believe it.

Max and Loon carried on with their converstaion, as Travis watched Teigra at the bar with the other tender. They seemed at ease with each other, and he felt a twinge of jealousy.

"His name's Steve." Max cut into Travis' thoughts.

Travis tore his eyes away from her. "What?"

Max nodded towards the bar. "The guy. His name's Steve."

Travis feigned indifference. "So?"

"So they don't have a relationship or nothin'. They just have the same shift," Loon replied. "And they're friends."

"I see," Travis' gaze returned to the bar.

"So, Roller, what's the deal with your gf?" Max inquired.

"Tig's not my gf anymore, Max. You know that." Travis sighed.

"You miss her, admit it." Loon said.

"Like a heart attack." he retorted, but he was lying.

"Oh, come on. I bet you wake up in the morning expecting her to be there beside you." Travis did not reply. "Why don't you go talk to her."

Travis looked back at Max. "She won't want to talk to me."

"Sure she will." Loon jumped in. "You know that pic of you two that she always had at her station beside the comp? It's still there, man. I think she misses you, too."

"Really?" he was watching her again.

"Get your ass up there and talk to her, Roller."

"Yeah, and get us some drinks." Loon added. "You know what we like."

Travis shook his head at his former colleagues, as he got up from the table. He tried to look confident as he strode up to the bar. Teigra saw him approaching and smiled. "I'm turning off the visuals for a few." he told the team listening on the other end of the wire.

"Go get 'er, Trav." Wiley replied encouragingly.

Price smacked him in the arm. "Tread lightly." she cautioned.

"What can I get you tonight?" Teigra asked Travis flatly, as he sat on the stool on the other side of the counter.

"How much spare time do you have?" he was being mischievous.

"Very funny." she shook her head at him. She leaned closer and whispered in his ear, "If they're playing dumb, so should we."

"Oh, they're playing very dumb. How long have they been here?" He noticed the lizard-charm necklace that he had bought her on their one year anniversary, and smiled.

She went back to cleaning glasses. "Maybe fifteen minutes,"

"So they're not very drunk yet,"

"Not, they're not very drunk yet." He smiled, then placed his order for drinks. "I thought no alcohol was an integral part of your parole?" Travis shrugged. "You're wired, aren't you?"

Travis feigned looking hurt. "What makes you say that?"

"Oh, come on, Gopher." she rolled her eyes at him. "I can tell these things."

"How?"

"I can't tell you that."

"Why not?"

"Because you're wired." she placed the first of two drinks down on the counter. "That wasn't in the plan. I hope they don't notice."

"It wasn't my idea, but someone doesn't trust you to look after all that."

"I can understand that. It's fine. As long as they don't notice."

"They won't,"

Steve returned with a case of beer from the basement. He set it on the counter and placed the bottles along the shelf behind them. "There's a bomb downstairs with ten minutes less the time it took me to get back here on it." he told Teigra, his voice low, trying to look inconspicuous to anyone who may be watching them closely.

"Oh no,"

"Did ya hear that, guys?" Travis spoke to the Level Nine team listening in. "Get someone in here, now."

"We have to get these people out of here." Steve hissed.

"We can't. If I know Max - "

"He's got a remote detonator in his pocket." Travis finished her sentence.

"So, what do we do?" Steve demanded.

"Tibbs and Hooten are on their way in." Price announced in Travis' ear.

"Help's on the way." he took the other drink from Teigra, and headed back over to Max and Loon.

"Are we really going to leave this up to him?" Steve growled, picking up the empty box to throw in the back room.

"No. There aren't that many people in here. Steve, take these," she handed him three bottles of Bud, "Over to that table in the corner, and tell them to get out."

"Alright,"

Teigra took a couple of bottles down for the other table. "And then you get out, too."

"What about you?"

"Don't worry about me."

"Tig - "

"We don't have time to argue, Steve."

He sighed, knowing that he had been defeated, and headed to the table of patrons.

"Visual's back." Jargon announced for Price and Wiley.

"Great." then she asked, "What about Tibbs?"

"We're in," Tibbs responded.

"And there's the bomb." Hooten pointed to it.

They approached the device carefully, expecting to find boobytraps.

Tibbs cocked his head to the side. "The timer's stopped on two-oh-eight, Annie."

"Disarm it, Boys."


"So, Roller, how'd it go?" Max inquired.

"It's not there anymore." Travis sighed.

"What's not there anymore?" Loon asked.

"That spark." Travis shrugged. "She just wants to distance herself from me. She won't say it, but that's what she's thinking."

Max raised his eyebrows in surprise. "As if, man. Do I not have eyes? She was trying not to jump you."

The three of them laughed at that remark, as the three teenagers from the table in the corner walked past, laughing themselves. "Hey, a free beer's a free beer, man. I wanted to leave, anyway." one of them shrugged to his companions.

Max and Loon exchanged looks.

"'S there something you guys wanna tell me?" Travis asked innocently.

"Yeah, yeah." Loon was completely serious. "I wanna ask Teigra out, man, and I just don't know how to do it. I was hoping you'd help a brother out. What does she like? Where should I take her?"

Travis shrugged. "She's not picky about that sort of thing." he thought about his answer for a minute, before conceding, "She's not really the fancy restaurant type. She's more a fast food kinda girl."

"No wonder you two got along so well." Max chuckled.

"So she's a cheap date. Good." Loon nodded.

"I wouldn't say that." Travis grinned.


"Annie, there's no way to disarm this baby without setting it off." Tibbs stated in frustration.

"Alright. has the time on it changed?"

"No," Hooten replied, after checking the glowing red numbers on the side of the bomb.

"Get out of there, then. I'll tell Travis to do the same."

"See ya in a jiffy." Hooten said.

Price spoke into the other headset, "Travis, listen to me very carefully. The timer on the bomb is sitting on two minutes, eight seconds. Tibbs and Hooten couldn't disarm it. Either figure out who has the remote, or get everyone out. The latter being the recommended solution."

"Do you want a refill there, Loon?" Travis asked him, noticing that his glass was empty.

"You just wanna talk to her again." Max grinned.

"I'll put in a good word for you, Loon." he picked up the glass, and walked over to the bar. "Well, they have succeeded in not saying anything important and hitting on you." he told Teigra.

She smiled, shaking her head. "What did you say to the last part?"

"That I didn't care. Look, Tig, you should get out of here." he dropped his voice to a whisper, setting the empty glass on the counter.

"Ten minutes must be up by now. Maybe it's a dud."

"The timer's staying at two-oh-eight. My people can't diffuse it without setting it off. All Max or Loon have to do is get a little suspicious and we're toast."

"I'm not leaving you alone with them. That's suspicious, Honey."

"It's set up to implode the building, much like in construction." Travis heard Tibbs explaining to Price. "None of the surrounding establishments will be affected if it goes off."

"Travis, Max and Loon getting out is not a mission objective." Price stated.

"So, grab the babe and run." Wiley added.

Teigra placed the beverage on the counter for Travis, but did not take her hand off the glass, watching him closely, reading him.

"I can't just run. This is supposed to be my way to stay out of jail, and so far I've got nothing out of them." He put his hand around hers, not realizing that she was still holding onto the glass. His eyes met hers. "Promise me you'll go out the back as soon as I get back to the table."

"Promise me you'll be right behind me."


"What do you think they're talkin' about?" Loon asked Max.

"Getting back together." he scoffed.

"Are you sure?"

Max shook his head. "No,"

Loon took in the room. "Dude, we're alone in here. They know something's up."

"Are you saying I should blow it?"

"The Horse wants Roller out of business for good."

"That he does." Max nodded, restarting the counter on the bomb with his remote.

Travis returned to the table, and set Loon's drink in front of him.

"Why so glum, Chum?" Loon grinned. "You look like she ripped your heart out with a spoon."

"Again," Max added.

He tried to shrug it off. "So, what's the deal, you two? There's something you're not telling me."

"You're right," Max checked his watch, "There is."

Travis' eyes went wide, as he realized what Max had done. He got up quickly, the chair falling backwards, and turned to see that Teigra had left, as he had told her to. But she was still behind the counter, scrubbing it with a rag. "Teigra, get out!" he yelled at her.

She looked up at him, and Max laughed. Loon stood up, and made a run for the door.

The bomb went off, the force of the explosion rippling upwards through the walls. The small night club caved in on itself. Travis scrambled to get to Teigra, but a large piece of debris fell on him from the ceiling, trapping him. He screamed his agony as the bone in his left leg snapped. He looked up, but could not see Teigra; the overhang had collapsed. If she had been standing there, she would have been crushed.

"Whaddaya think, Roller?" Max came into his line of sight. "Are you going to croak, or do I have to help you along?" he was pointing a gun at Travis' head.

"You son of a bitch!" he yelled.

"Mm, technically I'm just the messenger. CrayZhorse is the one who wants you dead. I mean, we were pals, Roller, we used to hang out."

"You could have let her get out." Travis managed through clenched teeth.

"What? After all she did for you, are you kidding? She knew she was toast, why else do you think she stuck around?" Max cocked the gun. "Well, goodbye, Roller."

Just before Max could pull the trigger, debris fell on top of him, squishing him, and splattering Travis with blood.

"Oh, God!" he barked in surprise, looking away. Some of the ceiling struck him in the head, rendering him unconscious.


Travis opened his eyes to find himself in a hospital. He tried to move, but his hand was cuffed to the bed he was lying in. "Oh, great," he muttered, letting his head drop back onto the pillow. This action made him realize that he had a headache. A very serious and blinding one. He had an irritating itch on his right leg, but remembered that it had been crushed. He now saw that it was in a cast from his ankle to his hip.

Just when Travis thought his situation could not get any bleaker, Price entered the room.

"Perfect."

"You don't look happy to see me." she observed, that air of superiority in her voice. She had Travis right where she wanted him, a fly caught between two windows.

"Should I be?" he scoffed, seeing Wiley closing the door behind him, as he sat up carefully, his head swimming, and right leg screaming at him to stop moving.

She held up a small voice recorder. "Yes, as a matter of fact, you should be." She pressed the play button.

Teigra's laughter reached Travis' ears, and he felt a twinge of sadness. He wanted to ask about her, but was afraid of the answer. So he listened to the tape intently, instead.

"Well, you see, Tig, we sorta just framed him." Max replied nonchalantly.

"For what?"

"Murder," and Loon burst into hysterics.

"I'm tellin' ya, Tig," Max was saying, "He didn't even see it comin'. I just whammed him in the back of the head, and he was out like a...candle."

"After you blow it out, that is." Loon clarified.

"Shut up, Loon."

"Ow!"

"So, anyway, then we drag 'im back to HQ, hooked him up to this thingy and left him with the Horse."

"Why?" Teigra asked. "What did he want with Travis?"

"A date." Loon cackled.

Max joined in the laughter. When he got control again, he replied, "Are you kidding? He's the one with all the Level Nine know-how. And the Horse wants to get that thorn out of his side, Tig. Permanently."

Loon laughed harder. "He was a pretty doped up thorn when we left him in the street."

Max laughed at this, too. "That he was."

Price pressed stop. "What do you think, Travis?"

"I think they were very drunk when she taped that." he conceded. "Actually, I know they were drunk when she taped that. She told me as much."

"That's not important. This is your way out."

"How did you get that?"

"It was found in the dumpster behind the Club. Any idea who might have ditched it there?" Travis half-shrugged, shaking his head.

"Well, we'll figure it out." Wiley offered Travis the key to the handcuffs. He took it from him uncertainly, then looked up at Price before using it. She nodded, and he unlocked the bindings.

As Price took them back from his outstretched hand, he asked, "What happened to Teigra? Is she here, too?"

Wiley watched Price, uncomfortable. She finally looked away from the young man. "We, um, didn't find her, Travis."

"What? What do you mean you didn't find her? She was behind the bar when the bomb went off."

Price looked to Wiley, and he shook his head. Travis stared down at nothing, the truth sinking in: She was gone.

"You want us to leave you alone for awhile?" Wiley offered.

"I...I..." he looked up at them. "Are you sure?" he closed his eyes. "I mean, you're sure she...uh..."

Wiley looked to Price again, but she was watching Travis. He reached into his pocket, and revealed a necklace with a lizard charm on it. "We found this near where the bar used to be."

Travis took it from him, hands shaking.

"We'll talk more later." Price replied, and she and Wiley left Travis alone.

He laid back down, not taking his eyes from the lizard, tears running down his cheeks.


Travis figured he must have fallen asleep while staring at the ceiling, replaying memories. When he opened his eyes again, there was a single red rose in a vase on the table beside his bed. His heart skipped a beat when he saw it, quickly reaching for the card.

Written on it were four letters: TTFN.

She was alive.

Somewhere. She was alive.



Fin


Started January 2001

Finished September 5, 2001