I don't own anything - I just borrow them to play occassionally.

He nearly chuckled when he realized his dying words were "I'm sorry." It, seemingly, adequately summed up his life. He was sorry about what happened to Amy, the man he killed, his ex-wife, and what Catherine was about to see.

He opened his mouth one more time with the intention to say "Thank you, Catherine," but the darkness came too swiftly. He could still hear himself breathing; despite the fact that they were shallow, jagged breaths. They were the breaths of a dying man. They slowly spaced out until his body gave into silence.

There wasn't a bright light. There wasn't an angel, his mother, or Amy waiting for him. There was only blackness. It was the same blackness he lived most of his life in. There were a few moments of color and wonder, but tragedy always followed closely.

He looked forward to the silence, the stillness, and the darkness.

"Mike, dammit. Stay with me," I yelled as I watched the paramedics race with the gurney to the ambulance, "Please, please, please . . . stay with me."

I watched frozen in place as they began to cardiovert him. Once, twice, and a third time before they hastily called it quits. By then, Gil had a hold on my arm and was pulling me away from the ambulance. He was saying something about processing the scene. He had to have been fucking kidding me.

I could barely see through my tears. My own breaths had become shaky and jagged; much like Mike's moments before the breaths stopped altogether. I collapsed to my knees in the middle of the parking lot. Gil stood nearby confused; probably thinking that I had been sleeping with Mike. That was far from the truth.

The truth was that I understood him. His sadness was as palpable as mine. I knew what it was like to lose it all. I just appeared to have more than him, but that was a fa├žade that I worked hard to create. Lindsey was in a girls school because I had caught her with pot, alcohol, and in a compromising position with an older boy. My mother drank herself into oblivion to forget that Sam was dead. I lived to go to work because there I could forget everything that was wrong with my personal life. Mike just wore his sadness on his sleeve.

We had gone out for drinks a few times. That was the beauty of Vegas; at 8 am, we had our choice of bars to go drown our sorrows in. I told him about Lindsey, Sam, and mom. He told my tid-bits about Amy, his mother, and his ex-wife. I watched his body tighten as he talked about the day he found Amy dead in her bedroom. It was the day he found out he was accepted into the fire-science program at the local tech school. It was supposed to be a happy day, but he said that was the loneliest day in his life. I almost began to cry, but if Amy had lived, I wouldn't have been in Mike's company.

I was attracted to him, but I never let him know. He was precise; he was polite. When he smile, though rarely, I knew he meant it. I loved the way my name seemed to hang on his lips for a few moments after he said it.

"I'm leaving. I've got to go," I said hastily as I stood up and ran to my SUV. I could hear Gil saying something, but it didn't really matter. I needed to go say good-bye to Mike. I needed some semblance of finality.

The drive to the hospital was excruciating. It was the kind of drive where all the lights seemed to turn red at same time. What normally seemed like a quick 15 minute drive, seemed to drag on for hours.

I ran into the ER. My breaths were ragged again. I told the receptionist that I needed to see Mike Keppler. I lied and said that I was his wife. She gave me one of those half smiles and said the doctor would be with me shortly.

"Ma'am, could you please come back with me. I'm Dr. Ryan. Your husband is in critical, but stable condition. We are just getting him ready to go up to surgery," a too-young appearing woman said to me. There was blood on her scrubs. I could only imagine that the blood belonged to Mike.

"I need to see him. Just once more before . . ."

"He has a breathing tube. He's connected to several IVs. We are giving him blood now. He's going to be sedated, but he'll know your there," she said sweetly as I followed her back to the trauma room.

Mike's body was whiter than anything I've ever seen before. The blood was a crimson that I don't think I'll ever be able to describe. I grasped his hand. I kissed his fingertips.

"Mike, don't you dare even think about leaving me. You have to let me thank you for saving my life. Please, please, please . . . don't leave me," I cried as I held his cool hand a little tighter. I've seen death hundreds of times; I knew that it was lingering next to Mike.

"Ma'am, we need to take him to surgery now," the doctor said.

I stepped back and in seconds the gurney was racing down the hallway. I stood in the trauma room among the debris. My simple request burned into my mind.

Dying isn't supposed to hurt, but damn, my body ached. With each breath my chest burned. At that moment, I realized that I wasn't dead. The pain was an unwelcome reminder of my body's ability to survive. Survive, so I can rot in a jail cell for the rest of my existence.

My right hand felt warm. It felt really warm. I could hear the Yankee's game on in the background. I couldn't begin to even imagine who might be holding my hand. I tried to lift my eyelids, but suddenly those felt like lead weights.

My right hand almost tingled; whoever was holding my hand was ever so gently stroking my palm. It felt like a small slice of heaven. It was the only part of my body that didn't ache.

"Ma'am, can I get you anything," a voice, probably a nurse, said.

"No, do you have any idea when he's going to wake up?"

God, it was Catherine gently stroking my hand. It felt so good. It felt so good to know that someone wanted to be by me.

"The sedation should be wearing off soon," the nurse said.

"Thank you. I just want Mike to wake up soon," Catherine said. He voice sounded so hopeful.

I could hear the nurse's footfalls down the hall. I became acutely aware of all the beeping. Probably a heart monitor, pulse ox, and God knows what else I might be hooked up to. I wondered how the hell Catherine could listen to the incessant beeping.

"Mike, come on. Please wake up," Catherine whispered.

I could feel her full lips on my hand. Damn my hand felt so good. I wished that she could take away all the pain I was feeling. My lungs and my stomach burned.

I kept trying to raise my eyelids. Slowly I began to open them enough to get a look at the world, though blurry and completely out of focus. It was the fifth inning when I first began to focus my efforts on opening my eyes. I could hear the post game show when I finally achieved success.

"Mike. Mike. Thank God. Keep your eyes open. Don't you dare think about trying to leave me again," Catherine said.

I tried to tell her that fate wasn't kind enough to let me leave, but my mouth was so dry. At least the damn tube was out of my mouth. It took a startling amount of effort to even part my lips.

"Thank you," I quietly whispered in a voice that didn't sound like my own.