A/N: This story is for Sarah, she knows why. I'm not sure what on the cross-channel ferry inspired me to write this, but here you go... please tell me what you think! I'm still experimenting with different writing styles, so I'm a bit worried. Any constructive criticism will be useful. Kate x


The Desolate Sound Of Laughter

Seven years bad luck from a broken mirror, she said. Or, to be more accurate, she shouted it at me, even though, as I pointed out, there's actually quite a lot of difference between a mirror and a picture frame. Although I s'pose they're both shiny and made of glass, and break if you drop them on a hard floor.

Well, maybe the shouting was my fault. Never the best of ideas to drop something your girlfriend only bought the day before, after traipsing round shops all day looking for the perfect one.

I swear, she was in that room before I even had time to blink. "That noise, Danny, better not have been what I think it was," she said in a sorta threateningly calm way. The sort of voice she used at the beginning of interrogations, the ones where we know the perp's dead guilty and only need to squeeze a confession from him.

"Uh…" I considered coming up with an excuse, but there wasn't time, and the broken glass on the floor said it all.

She took a deep breath. "You know how long it took me to find that one?"

I stuck my hands in my pocket. "Yeah."

"And how it was the only one in the shop?" Unfortunately for me, she was still only just getting into her stride.

"Yeah, Montana, I hear ya –"

She cut me off, folding her arms and giving me her most ferocious glare. "And how I told you, absolutely, unequivocally, not to touch it?"

"Uh –"

"So what do you do?"

"Montana –"

"You've gone and dropped it!"

"Look, I'm sorry, ok?"

"No, it isn't ok! Because now I need to find another one!"

"I'm sure –"

"And there probably won't be one!"

"Yes, but –"

"Why do you always do this?!"

"That's not fair –"

"And it's seven years bad luck!"

I frowned in confusion. "No, actually –"

"What? What is it, Danny?"

"Well, that's for a mirror. Haven't heard of bad luck for a picture frame."

She didn't actually shout, then, just gave this furious kind of snort. And luckily for me, before she could think of something to say, right then both our pagers went off simultaneously.

There was bad luck enough from that broken frame, though.

- - - - -

The crime scene was in a warehouse. Call me superstitious, but I'm not that fond of warehouses anymore. Linds wasn't in the mood to be sympathetic, however. Flack noticed it too. Well, the sparks she was shooting from her eyes at me would've been kinda hard to miss, I s'pose.

"Looks like a gang hit to me," he said.

"No kiddin'," I replied. There was a neat bullet hole, right between the guy's eyes. He was hardly more than a kid.

"Any ID?" Lindsay asked.

Flack laughed mirthlessly. "No such luck. That's down to you two to figure out."

I groaned inwardly. These sorts of cases were usually the ones which got away. Gang leaders aren't usually as stupid as cops try to make out. Wear gloves, shoot the guy, ditch the gun. Not a shred of useful evidence for us to use.

And my girl wasn't talking to me because of a picture frame.

What I should've done was apologise. Should've gone over and told her that I was sorry, and I'd find her another one if it killed me. Nah, not those words, thinking back, but along those lines. Should've prob'ly given her a kiss too, for good measure. I didn't, though. I left her taking photos of our John Doe, photos not meant for frames, while I walked round the stacks of empty crates and cargo holders with Flack, searching for any evidence our killer might have left behind. A gun, for instance. That'd be good.

When we got back to the body, we'd searched half the building, without finding anything. Linds looked up at us as we approached, from where she crouched next to the body, and smiled slightly. She could never manage to stay cross with me for as long as she meant to. One more thing I loved about her. I wish now I'd taken that camera out of her hands and taken a shot of her then. Just one more smile to salvage against the time ahead.

I don't know exactly what it was I heard. Footsteps, maybe, trying to disguise themselves, or the click of a safety being taken off. But it made me look round in time to see the muzzle flash.

She didn't even have time to scream, or shout, or move, or do anything at all, except to draw in a breath which, each time it replays endlessly in my mind, still sounds to me like surprise. Not fear. I hope it wasn't fear, for both our sakes. It makes it easier to remember her smiling.

But one second she was there, she was alive, she was mine, my beautiful Montana. And the next second – she wasn't. The same shape, but what she was had gone. Another DB. An acronym.

There wasn't any time to think, although that moment seemed to stretch, frozen for an eternity. Somehow, I knew what was coming next, and I shoved Flack, his body suddenly moving on a diverging trajectory to the bullet. But there was another bullet, one I was too slow to avoid, or too uncaring. I was told I bought Flack enough time to reach for his own weapon… But I don't remember that. There was a bullet in my abdomen, but I'd already been stabbed through my heart.

- - - - -

Getting shot is an occupational hazard of being a CSI. Or any kind of cop. When Flack visited me in the hospital, he said it was a good thing the department pays my medical insurance, or I'd be broke by now. I didn't laugh. Nor did he.

They buried someone named Lindsay Monroe, someone who sounded like a stranger to me. All those people, all her family, were there, talking about the part of her life I'd never known. I'd been asked to say something, had it all written ready, but when it came down to it, I couldn't. Had to hand my bit of paper to Mac instead, to read for me. Stella and Flack stood on either side of me. We were all crying.

It was a closed casket funeral. It made it unreal, somehow, as if it was only a mockery. I told them she would've wanted it open, and it was Stella who'd had to tell me what I knew already, that a bullet wound to the forehead can't really be disguised, and her family shouldn't have to see her like that. I'd still rather've seen her, though. Just to say goodbye. One more time.

So here's the joke, the punch-line you've been waiting for. I was rewarded. You watching me, Montana? You laughing? Given a certificate to commemorate being wounded in the line of duty while saving the life of a fellow officer. Laugh, go on. Never mind the one I didn't save.

I got rid of that certificate. Took it out of the frame it was presented to me in, and set a match to it over the kitchen sink. I'd swept up the broken glass off the floor. I watched the flames devour and destroy the heavy embossed letters, and turned on the tap to wash the ashes down the drain.

But the frame, I kept. See, Montana, the one I broke wasn't the last one. This one's identical. All that fuss over nothing. I'd never apologised properly. I wasn't going to break it this time.

It was a good frame. She'd laughed triumphantly as she'd shown it to me. I agreed with her now, but I couldn't quite bring myself to mirror our frozen smiles as we stood together, trapped beneath the unbroken layer of glass. Handmade, it looked like. Brown wood.

It was a good choice, Montana. It matches the picture perfectly.

Exactly the same colour as your eyes.