The characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

Spoilers: Way to Go

Yes, I know this one isn't exactly linear. It's not meant to be. (wink)


He'd been playing hockey, he remembered that, though the bikini on the opposition goalie wasn't quite regulation. Not that he was complaining, not given those curves, yowza But the game was over, and they were deep in the sports bar, laughing and passing around beers and watching the NFL on the big-screen TV. It was a good time; easy, fun, all the things that he didn't get enough of. The guys were loosening up--Vartan was telling one of his definitely non-PC stories, and even Gil had unbent enough to buy the next round--and as the fresh drafts hit the table he blessed fate and grabbed a handful of pretzels.

get the…here…

She was waiting for him when he got home. Not the lovely eye candy of the rink, but someone with depth to her, a little more heft and seriousness. It was so cliché, but she met him at the door with a Scotch on the rocks and a kiss that tasted of champagne and life. In her heels she came up to the bridge of his nose, so it was easy to just duck a little and drink her in, to slide an arm around her waist and give her a pat on the ass, hidden from the neighbors by their embrace. Then she was drawing him inside, trading him the drink for his coat, and asking him about his day in a tone that told him she could listen to the worst stories without pulling back, or just pass on if he didn't want to talk. The house smelled of fresh oatmeal cookies and bubbling lasagna, and he could shut the door on the world.

...don't know…happened…fast…

They had him. It was the sweetest moment, when they knew they had him, nailed to the wall with the biggest staples in existence, when his face started to crumble with the realization that even his lawyer couldn't talk him out of this one. The evidence had piled up, and up, each piece of the puzzle slotting perfectly into the next, until this scum of the earth was trapped in the middle, and all they had to do was bring him down. It was a skill, and he used it, playing the man, snaring him in a net of words until he tripped and tangled and fell. 'Rick stacked his papers and flipped the folder shut with a grim smile of approval as the officer read the rights, and they watched a broken man be led out of the room with the sense of a job well done.

down twenty percent…the…now!

They were still panting a little, sweat cooling them down after the wildness, and she didn't roll into his arms right away, thankfully; she liked to cuddle, but later, when sleep was taking them over. Now she was just an arm's length away, her fingers laced through his, the connection enough as they felt their pulses slow. She was perfect, lusty and responsive and able to laugh in bed, and she never seemed to mind that he was thinning on top and thickening in the middle. In fact, with her, he tended to forget.

...stat! We're...him!

The shadows were growing longer.

It was funny how quickly things could go bad, sometimes. Every good cop knows that even the most routine event can blow up in a fraction of a second, going from innocuous to Situation before you have time to blink. And the cop who can't stay on his toes and ready to handle it shouldn't be there.

Of course, he'd been en route when this one had blown up. Their suspect wasn't just a victim, or an accessory; suddenly he was their primary target. And before they could close in on him, random chance had done them a bad turn. Now they had a panicked, armed man closed up in a hotel room with a hostage.

A recipe for disaster if he'd ever seen one. No time to wait for a trained negotiator; this one was demonstrably unstable and had just severely wounded a security guard, whether on purpose or accidentally didn't matter. No, the man on the ground was going to have to go in, that was all there was to it.

He gave the team his own name as the kill word; his own private black joke, one that would have earned him an admonishing look from Gil, but Gil wasn't there just at the moment. And he had to admit, there was a certain shameful high to be found. Nobody liked hostage situations, they so often turned out very badly, but still, going into a situation like that, all adrenaline and the top of your game...well, you can take your thrills where you find them.

He had the vest, of course, but he was playing this one straight with no weapon--you never knew if the perp was going to be smart enough to pat you down. So he went in clean, just the phone and his wits.

It helped that they'd met before; he had some idea of Willie's personality, and Willie had the sense of familiarity. And while the whole thing started with lies--it usually did, there was no way in hell a hostage-taker was ever going to walk away clean--it turned out that what Willie seemed to need most was someone to just listen to him.

He sometimes thought that this was true of a lot of felons who blew their tops, or their brains. Just someone to listen, without saying anything judgmental; someone who appeared sympathetic. The guy was a loser, sure, but if letting him vent was going to get the hostage out of that room, then by all means they were going to sit down and talk.

And then the call. The beep almost undid everything they'd accomplished, putting Willie back on edge, but what Gil had to say made the whole thing irrelevant anyway, telling him they weren't dealing with some poor slob whose life had gotten out of control--they were dealing with a grade-A psychopath who'd spent the better part of a day slaughtering the people he knew best, and whose ramblings were either serious delusions or the skill of a master player.

And in that moment he knew there was no getting out of this. That there would be no talking Willie down and out, that the situation was narrowing down to a point that would only let one life through, maybe two. And the indrawn breath of the hostage (keep her a nameless goal, keep his attention away from her, it's the only way) reminded him that she was the only one who had to come out of this alive.

They looked at each other, all the lies gone, his and Willie's. Whatever reason the man had for delaying was gone, and they both knew it, so he called it. Spoke his own name, and hoped against hope that the man went for the chest shot rather than the head.

It was a good bet. The trouble was, Willie was too close.

All he could see was ceiling. He knew he'd gotten at least part of it right, because he could hear the hostage sobbing even after the shots had been fired. But he couldn't seem to catch his breath, and his mouth tasted funny, and his arms were flailing around--like a fish out of water, commented that acerbic voice in the back of his head.

But he wasn't listening. Not anymore.

"Do you think he knows we're here?"

"Maybe. I don't know."

"If you die on us, Jim Brass, I will be forever pissed at you."

He almost expected the flashing lights, except they didn't seem to be getting him anywhere, and besides, it was pretty clear that whatever else was going on, he wasn't dead yet. At least, he hoped not. Choking on what felt like a ribcage full of lava wasn't quite how he'd planned to spend eternity.

Besides, he seriously doubted that the route to the afterlife included a primo view of the underside of Warrick's chin. Man, 'Rick looked upset. But he couldn't quite make out what the CSI was yelling about, and anyway he wasn't quite up to saying anything at the moment.

"It's touch and go. Things could change, either way."

"Is he stable?"

"For the moment."

A heavy thump jarred the agony to fresh fury, and he would have gasped if he'd been able, but there was something painfully hard in his throat. Every breath was tearing, but he couldn't control them, and when he tried to speak his lips were blocked. It wasn't right.

He couldn't help remembering what had happened, it felt like the shots were still ringing in his ears, and he'd seen enough guys take one in the chest to know his chances weren't good. They were snapping orders over him, instruments flashing, and then someone with one of those silly blue hair covers was bending over him. "Captain? Can you hear me? We're going to take care of you, just relax--"

Lie. The woman was hiding some lie behind her eyes, he hadn't been a detective for so long without being able to recognize such a blatant falsehood with ease, but he couldn't call her on it with his mouth blocked. He tried to say something, tried to tell her he knew, without success; then black ballooned across his vision, and the last thing he heard was the voices rising in alarm.

"I don't know what to do. You shouldn't have chosen me for this…

old friend."

He'd never been a believer in that old saw about dying people getting to see their bodies from the outside, and this wasn't exactly that, but he sure as hell wasn't in the habit of wandering invisibly down hallways without hearing his own heartbeat. It came and went, this awareness; one minute he was peering into the chapel at the surprising sight of Sanders in one of the chairs, his elbows on his knees and his forehead pressed against his folded hands, and the next it was Vartan and Vega and a bunch of the other guys from the precinct in an uneasy huddle in a wide hallway. Hell, even O'Riley was there.

It was Nick, putting an arm around 'Rick, trying to calm his buddy down, though he couldn't make out the soft words. It was Sara, resting a hand on Grissom's slumped shoulder, and he'd never seen Gil so drawn. It was Catherine, her eyes squeezing shut in grief, and the Doc looking grim.

Annie, behind an overburdened desk, hiding her face with one hand. Ellie, standing in a waiting room, her eyes narrow with defiance.

"Look, there's nothing we can do here until he wakes up. Come on, go home. Get some sleep at least."

"I'm not leaving."

"He doesn't know you're here."

"Do you think I care about that?"

The tubes sprouting from his body made it look like…like a potato gone to seed, now that he thought about it, except potatoes didn't usually come in blue. It looked very uncomfortable, that battered old carcass; shorter than he'd have liked, never handsome, and now there was a bandage across the chest that meant business. He wondered idly how badly the tape was going to pull when it came time to take it off; he'd always been kind of fuzzy.

He'd gotten a lot of mileage out of it, some of it pretty good, but he decided he wouldn't mind too much if it was time to leave it behind. After all, there were worse deaths…he'd seen plenty.

The faces peering in the window, though, made him wonder if it wasn't worth another try.

He was still undecided when everything started to run like a watercolor under the faucet, and he realized that it really wasn't his choice.

"We're all pulling for you, you know that. You should see this place, it's full of fl--"


"Sorry about that. Full of flowers and cards and some idiot even brought in a big teddy bear. Are they trying to ruin your rep or what?"

"I'm so sorry. I never meant to--"

"C'mon, Cap, you're not going to make us all go to a memorial service, are you? Those things are such a drag, and besides, the gun salute always freaks me out."

"Wake UP, dammit!"

It's never a good sign when surfacing means feeling the molten iron bar that some dumbass has implanted in your chest, and not being able to swallow because there's a tube shoved down your throat. But he came up anyway, pitiless consciousness opening his ears to the rustle and beep of a hospital room, and decades of wariness opening his eyes to muted light. It was confusing, and for a moment he couldn't even remember who he was, let alone what had happened, but finally memory kicked into gear.

Jim. Your name is Jim.

Well, it was good to get that straight. Brass blinked, wanting to rub his eyes but afraid to try to move his arms, and looked around. Tubes, check; ugly hospital gown, check; bed rail, check; empty chair, check.

Looks like the ICU, otherwise there'd be another cubicle and some other poor soul--

The lone chair gave Jim a desolate feeling. He had the vague memory of people, of worried faces and chiding voices, but they were probably just hallucinations; after all, it wasn't like he really had a family any more.

The burning in his eyes was really starting to get to him, but one arm seemed to be fastened down, and trying to move the other hurt like a sonofabitch. Everything hurt, from his eyebrows to his toes, and--

"We were starting to think you were never going to wake up."

The voice was mild, teasing a little, but the last syllable was cut short, as though the speaker didn't quite trust his voice. Jim blinked furiously, trying to clear his vision enough to see again, and Gil wavered into view, smiling that tiny smug smile of his, but his eyes so darkly shadowed that they almost matched his beard.

Jim couldn't remember being so relieved to see anyone in his life.

Gil sat down in the chair, rather heavily, and placed the paper coffee cup he held with careful precision on the cabinet next to the bed. "I should have known you'd wait until I was out."

Unable to move much else, Jim raised his brows, an "oh yeah?" look. Gil snorted softly, and reached over to press the call button hooked over the bed rail. Then his fingers wrapped gently around Jim's limp hand and squeezed once, a quick warm press that probably would have been disturbing at any other time, but at the moment Jim was just too glad to see him.

And with the touch came more vague memory, of similar clasps, skin cool and warm, rough and smooth against his own. Were those real?

Gil glanced up and away, presumably at the door, then looked back, his lips still quirked, and Jim wondered idly even through the pain if he'd ever seen the entomologist smile for so long before.

"The doctor will be here in a minute to check you out," Gil continued. "And as soon as he clears you, you can expect visitors."

Visitors? I guess…they were real, then.

The idea brought a strange relief, but Jim was suddenly far too tired to contemplate it. His eyelids weren't obeying orders any longer, and kept sliding shut.

Gil breathed out, an amused sound. "Rest," he said easily. "They'll be here when you wake up."

Not alone.

Reassured, he let go.