Disclaimer: Apparently they aren't anybody's anymore; but definitely not mine.
When Christina Finn opened her eyes that morning, one thought rang clear in her head. Today is gonna suck.
It was Friday, the last day to indict Jeffers before Congressman Knowles personally tried to have them all fired. She rolled over and stared at her alarm clock—5:03 AM. When she collapsed into bed at 12:30 last night, she'd had the lofty goal of hitting the gym this morning. Now she hit snooze and rolled back over. Just five more minutes. She could still iron her skirt and make it to the office by 7:00.
Already 15 minutes late, Christina ran the last few steps to her office, a large non-fat, no foam, extra hot latte clutched in her hand. Snooze hadn't exactly worked out and when she woke up at 5:58 AM, there was barely time to shower, let alone iron. Smoothing the belt on her hastily selected green shirt, she hoped that pairing it with simple black pants would cut it as the power suit of the day.
Steele had everyone gathered around his desk when she entered the office. Wisely dropping her coffee at reception—when you were late, office sludge was supposed to do—she slipped into Jim's office beside Brian.
"You're late," Brian mumbled beneath his breath.
"Well, when sleeping at the office becomes the norm…" she teased.
"Finn!" Steele barked, holding out a file in her direction. "Have this witness ready for the grand jury by noon." As her hand closed over the file, he added, "That's if you have time."
"Of course," she sad brightly, ignoring his implication. Turning, she slipped passed Brian on her way out of the office, rolling her eyes exaggeratedly.
He coughed to cover a laugh, sending a smile to her face. She'd been giving Grant the cold shoulder ever since Brian took her out to dinner last week. Maybe the case would be over at a decent time tonight and they could grab a drink, a quick bite. She headed back to reception in search of her latte, thoughts of Brian's smile swirling in her head.
She only went to the courtroom to lend support. Legally she wasn't needed and if Steele weren't so wrapped up in his 5:00 deadline, he would have sent them all back to the office hours ago. The importance of the afternoon wasn't lost on her, but when Steele left abruptly with Cabot, handing the reigns to Brian, she found herself daydreaming about that possible drink after court. She'd treat him, a reward for breaking Jake Patterson and obtaining the crucial bed-sheet evidence.
When Wade grabbed the guard's gun, it took her a full 10 seconds to realize why Brian was suddenly holding up his hands. Then Jeffers grabbed his own pistol and within minutes he was standing over her and Jess—Who's next?
Brian hadn't left her side since their 'situation' began. That's what she'd decided to call it—a situation. Hostage-taking, held at gunpoint, threatened with your life—all those had instant bad vibes; like just thinking the words was enough to bring bad luck. A 'situation' was much more calming. You had a situation when your coffee order got screwed up; you had a situation when you spilled red wine on your new white cashmere sweater. Situations were innocent, unassuming. She'd definitely be telling her mother they'd had a situation at work today—if she could help it, guns wouldn't come into the conversation at all.
Linguistic thought sent her tired mind into a stupor—there sitting on the floor, leaning against Brian's shoulder. When Congressman Knowles whispered that she should ask to use the bathroom, she barely registered his request.
She didn't get an explanation; Brian, ever the white knight, volunteered in her place. Watching him standing there, playing the role of 'sick hostage' to perfection, she felt guilt flood her body. Why wasn't she brave enough to do that? Jeffers wasn't going to shoot her, if anything he seemed to have a perverted respect for the female hostages.
Berating herself, she hardly noticed when the Congressman vaulted from the floor. Then, as she watched in horror, Brian, stupidly, threw himself into the fray. Now she was paying attention. The three men tousled for only a moment before the clap of a gunshot sent them tumbling to the floor. Christina screamed as she scooted towards Jessica. Jeffers was lying on the floor, blood spattering his white shirt. Then the Congressman shot him twice, and in return Jeffers put a fist-sized hole in his back.
It was over in seconds—two men dead, Brian lying on the floor beside them. She panted for breath as she sought out his eyes; felt relief settle in her heart that he was okay. Then his eyes left hers, darted down to his stomach. She followed, she had to, and when she saw the thick pool of blood gathering by his side…well later she'd say she wasn't even surprised.
"Stay with me, we're gonna get help." She was kneeling on the floor beside Brian, her pants soaked through with his blood. It was bad, she didn't need a medical degree to know what 'lost too much blood' looked like. His face was pale, almost grey. Nick had pressed his suit jacket against the wound. Jessica had found a briefcase and fashioned a crude pillow.
Chris gripped his hand tightly in hers. "Brian, look at me."
His eyes rolled as he tried to find her face. She made it easier for him, leaning over to catch his gaze.
"I'm going to get help. You stay with us, don't give up."
"You…don't…" He struggled to speak.
"Shh, don't talk. I'll be right back." She pushed off the floor, trying to stand.
Somehow he gripped her hand tighter, pulling her back down. "Don't…don't be stupid."
She smiled. In unimaginable pain and he was still thinking of her. "I'll be careful."
Again she tried to push off the floor, again he pulled her back down. "Chris…" He swallowed roughly, pained etched on his face. "Chris, I…I love you."
There was a split second where his eyes cleared, focused directly on her, and she knew, without a doubt, that he meant it. Then he was gone, head lolling to the side in unconsciousness. She glanced up at Jess and Nick, shock on both their faces.
He loved her? The knot in her stomach drew tighter. This man, this friend, this…amazing, strong, brave person that she loved too. She'd known it for months but admitting it never felt safe. Now, with him inches from death, she felt all her emotions rush to the surface.
"Brian," she whispered, caressing his face. He didn't respond and she felt a fire flare in her belly. Gritting her teeth, she pushed away again, this time without resistance.
Her last words were directed to Nick and Jessica. "Don't you let him die."
If she'd thought it through, it would have made more sense to negotiate the release of Brian alone. Instead, five minutes after the bullet pierced his body, five minutes after his life began spilling out of his body, she found herself teetering on the top step of the courthouse entrance, Wade's gun pressed tightly to her temple. The barrel was hot against her face; the smell of gun powder thick in her nose; Wade's breath tickled her neck as he melted his body to hers.
Wade talked all the way down the stairs. I wasn't supposed to be here. I never meant to shoot him. Jeffers would have killed all of you!
She believed him, she honestly did, and now she had until the very last step to convince him to surrender. This man who they'd railroaded into being here today, this man who, as a result, had left Brian dying on the floor inside, this man still deserved her mercy for what she'd been a part of.
There were days when she really hated having morals. This was one of them.
Last step and Christina stopped walking. She swallowed thickly. Bravery was within her, somewhere, way down deep. She could do this—she could follow the police instructions and maybe even save Brian's shooter in the process. Her instructions to Wade were simple, "I'm going to take one more step and then fall down to my right. You can come with me, or stay standing, but it's my bet that sniper is a sure shot."
She didn't give him a chance to respond, just took a deep breath, stepped, and dropped to the ground. Closing her eyes as she did, she never looked to see if Wade was behind her.
Her world slowed to a crawl. Images blurred before her, sounds were muffled in her ears. The police swarmed the courthouse steps, depositing her in a waiting ambulance. She tried to fight them off but there were so many people—lights, questions, paramedics. She had to get away from here. Find Brian. In slow motion, she struggled to her feet, pushing past a reporter, stumbling through the crowds. Suddenly a firm hand grasped her arm and she felt herself falling back to reality.
"Chris! Are you okay?" It was Steele, with Cabot; their concerned faces crowding her vision.
She gave a jerky nod, then shook her head. Her voice rasped as she spoke, "Brian?"
Jim supported her weakened body. "It's okay, you did good," he assured her.
"Brian," she repeated again. Her head tilted, eyes pleading with them for answers. She stared first at Cabot, then Steele, and back again.
Finally, Jim nodded. "Come with me."
Christina fingered her watch. 5:03 AM—a full 24 hours since she'd first awoken yesterday morning. She'd known the day was going to suck but this was so far beyond anything she'd imagined. Standing, she smoothed her hands over her shirt, wincing when she realized it was covered in blood spatters. Her pants hung in heavy wrinkles, soaked through and crusted over with the horrors of the day. Someone had suggested clean clothes but she wasn't ready to part with these yet; until she saw this ordeal through to completion, she was going to keep every reminder she had.
A woman in a white lab coat appeared at the door, motioning for her for follow. She'd been here once before, for a case. It had been horrible then, it was terrifying now. At the end of a short hallway they stopped before a large door. The woman pushed through and Christina let the door swing back between them, the sign on the front expelling her breath from her body. This was it, she was actually going to see him—The Morgue.
As clean as an operating room, or at least what she imagined one to be, the morgue was sparse. Only one person, one body, lay in the large room. Where the others were she didn't know, and didn't care. She was only here to see one person.
"Are you ready?" the Medical Examiner asked her.
Christina took a deep breath, biting her lip as she nodded her head quickly. Tears stung her eyes as the sheet was pulled back, her hand reached for the table and gripped it. His face—so innocent, so serene. She closed her eyes, shook her head. Composing herself was impossible but she tried, breathing out slowly, looking away. Her eyes were drawn back to him, to his body.
"Why?" she whispered, hand shaking as she reached out.
"Don't touch the body." The sharp voice of the ME pierced her reverie.
She glanced up quickly, disbelieving that this simple need was denied. The ME remained strong; Christina couldn't even say goodbye. Pushing back from the table, she felt her emotions threaten to spill over. Not here, not in front of this nameless woman in this sterile room. This was not the place were she would cry her first tears over his death.
She rushed from the room, pushing through the swinging doors. Down the hallway, past the chairs, she ignored the elevator and threw herself into the stairwell. One flight, two, she pushed upwards until she could no longer catch her breath and then escaped onto the fifth floor. Visitors were forbidden at this early hour and she checked warily for staff as she quietly walked down the hallway. Her heart pounded in her chest, her throat still thick with tears. There was a darkened room just ahead and she slipped inside, shutting the door behind her. She rested her head against the door, fighting to calm herself. Breaking down wasn't an option; she'd promised Brian that she would be strong and she was going to keep it.
Ahead, a single light illuminated a curtained-off bed. Slowly, she approached, peeling back the curtain to reveal a sleeping body—tousled hair, bare chest, a thick white bandage covering the surgical scar on his stomach. She resumed her place at his bedside, the seat she'd been in ever since Steele had brought her to Brian's room hours before. It had been touch and go for a while, a lacerated liver that would take weeks to heal, but for now he was stable.
Her heart calmed as she sat by his side, reaching out to cover his chest with a blanket. Her actions woke him, his eyes flickering open.
"Where'd you go?" Brian's voice was quiet; ribbons of pain on his face.
"Shh, don't. Just sleep," she replied, smoothing her hand along his arm.
He was quiet for a moment, settling into the bed, then he pushed onwards, speaking with closed eyes. "You went to see him."
She bit her lip sharply, fresh tears springing to her eyes. Bowing her head, she couldn't find the words to reply.
She sobbed, shaking her head, fighting not to cry in front of him. Her hand pressed against her lips. "Please…" she begged.
Softly, she felt his fingers grasp her arm. With gentle force, he led her to him, his hand smoothing her hair as she lay on his chest.
"You did everything right." His voice was quiet, tired. "You saved us, put yourself on the line."
"It's not enough," she sobbed. The image of Wade's body lying in the morgue assaulted her mind. Clean shot to the head, just like they promised. How was she supposed to make sense of this day? An innocent man—dead because of her. A child—fatherless because of her.
"It is not your fault."
Seemingly reading her mind, Brian said everything right. Whispering soft words of comfort, holding her as she cried for the life that was sacrificed so his could be saved. It didn't make sense, it couldn't, but it was real. Raising her head, she turned her tear-filled eyes towards him. Something else was real too, something she never thought this day would bring.
Staring, she tried to find words to express her emotions. She felt like she'd been dragged to hell and back, and probably looked it, but somehow he was still smiling at her. Drug-induced or not, he looked happy. Careful of his injury, she pushed back and then slid onto the bed beside him. He accepted her with open arms, nestling her against his chest.
She felt him kiss her head and closed her eyes in a blissful moment of peace. "Brian?" Her voice penetrated the darkest of nights. "I love you too."