WARNING: Minor Character Death, Heavy Topic

Disclaimer: Bob Dylan wrote the song, I do not own it, no infringement intended.

This on just popped into my head, it's pretty unhappy, but I hope you enjoy it anyway. Thanks for reading, and please review!

"Mama take this badge from me
I can't use it anymore
It's getting dark too dark to see
Feels like I'm knockin' on heaven's door"

The door to Sloan's opened, a cold breeze blowing inside and around all the patrons. Some turned on instinct to see who was coming in, others didn't even bother. It was more cops, it was always more cops. Sloan's was a cop bar, really more FBI than city cops, they had their own bars, but sometimes they joined too. Even as late as it was, almost eleven, people were still meandering in for a drink and a companion.

Six people followed each other in now--three men, three women. They were all pale and drawn, and looked very tired, as if they were all sick. But they weren't sick. If anything the sextet was in shock, not the life-threatening kind. Well, maybe a little bit like that, but more emotional and psychological than physical.

They came tonight, not for a drink, not even really for companionship. They came to avoid going home, to avoid being alone with their thoughts, to not have to stare into the dark of their bedrooms and think about the implications of today.

Only four of the six had actually been at the scene today when it happened, but it affected them all. The two men present at the scene couldn't stop playing it over in their heads, knowing if they'd just shot sooner, it wouldn't have happened. The two women at the scene just couldn't seem to stop seeing his blood on their hands, couldn't stop hearing their own strained voices in their heads.

They slid into a booth, all six of them squeezing in. Beyond looking physically ill, this was the first sign something was wrong. One or two of them always grabbed a chair, so it was roomier to sit. But tonight they squeezed together, as if the body contact could soothe the horror in their heads.

There were other signs: they weren't rowdy, laughing, teasing each other, Duff and Lia weren't flirting and resisting the urge to touch each other, kiss each other, and Emily was pressed as close to Matt as she could get. Normally she frowned on PDA around their colleagues, it was unproffessional, but tonight, tonight she needed to be near him.

Duff ordered a round of beers, no pitcher, just six bottles. Ordering pitchers just seemed like tempting fate; it would make it too easy to drown their grief, fear, and pain away. You use that method once, it becomes easier, more acceptable to you to use it again, and again, and again. They wouldn't do that.

They woke up this morning expecting to see a day like any other, which was actually an unusual day for anyone else. But then how many people work Crisis Negotiation for a living? Today was a little different, because they got the call almost as soon as they got to work. Matt had to be in court on another case, so Cheryl tapped Binder to partner with Emily, and with HRT, they rolled to downtown LA.

Their HT was an aging Vietnam Vet whose PTSD made it impossible for him to hold a job since the war. The government hadn't been granting him benefits for eight months, during which his already shaky mental condition deteriorated rapidly. He had fully loaded and functional, fully-automatic, assualt rifle pointed at the four employees and six patrons of a Dunkin' Donuts.

Normally a psych issue would have automatically given Emily primary, given her background, but the betrayed Vet showed a dislike, distrust, and overall disrespect for women. They agreed Binder would get better results.

He initiated conversation, and spoke to the HT for nearly five hours. It was suprisingly civil, considering the circumstances, and everyone thought progress was being made. He calmed down, or so they thought, over time, and were just begining to think they'd get done even before dinner. Then the door to the coffeeshop swung open, and before anyone could react, the HT sent off three shots, before retreating back through.

Cheryl and Emily through themselves to the ground, Binder falling with them. Duff, Frank and HRT got lower at their posts, searching for signs he was coming out again. Emily saw him first, bleeding on the ground, and belly-crawled to Binder, ripping open his shirt, and pressing her hands to the wound. He'd been wearing a vest, but the HT was using cop killers, and the aptly named bullets went through kevlar like it was butter.

Cheryl followed her over, calling for paramedics, and pushing Emily out of the way, thrusting her own hands in the wound. She'd shouted at her wide-eyed, frozen negotatior to pick up the damn headpeice and resume negotiations. Shaking, blood on her hands, Emily pulled the headpiece off Binder, and manuever it onto her own head. Against all the laws of psychology, she spoke into the microphone, her voice clear and calm as day.

It took another six hours to get him to surrender. They would have just shot him dead, but couldn't get a good enough shot that didn't risk civilians. Long before it ended, paramedics took Binder to a hospital where he died, unable to breathe without choking on the blood that poured in through two holes in his lungs. The sextet had arrived a only few hours before he died, but that was plenty of time to hear his wife wailing painfully.

Lia hadn't seen the shot, she'd been in the IA lab, working furiously on her computer alongside her fellow analysts. She'd been listening though, and heard everything: the shot ring out, panicked crys from the cilivians hanging around, desperate shouts across the radio, and Cheryl yelling for Emily to pick up the negotiation. It was the one thing that told her who was shot, that told her it wasn't Duff.

Matt hadn't had the luxury of knowing who it was imeadiately. He'd been sitting on the witness stand, testifying about another case when it happened. One of the ADAs grabbed him and pulled him aside as soon as he stepped off the stand. All she knew was that a negotiator had been shot at the scene and was being rushed to the hospital. Matt had flown out of the courtroom like a demon was chasing him, dialing Lia. She had picked up imediately, seeing his name, and assured him that Emily was fine, negotiating as they spoke.

It eased them both a bit. but their lovers were still out there, close enough to shoot, and the HT had already proven he'd shoot a cop, and had the bullets to make it hurt.

They sat with many other CNU and HRT agents, several analysts, and some FBI bigwigs, and waited for Joe Binder to live or die. Matt had driven himself and Lia there, and they'd embraced their lovers upon arrival, barely parting since. Then Binder had died, leaving nothing for them to do, but give their condolences and go home. They did the first, but weren't ready for the second. Instead, they all went to Sloan's.

So here they were, running from what tonight really forced them to think about. Sure, they lost a friend, a good friend and fellow agent, but that wasn't where it ended. It could have been any of them dead today.

Well, almost any of them. Lia was fortunately, never really in the line of fire.

It had been a decidedly rough year for all of them, especially Matt and Emily. They still wouldn't talk about Mexico with anyone except of the four people at the table, and the non-consenual sex tape was as popular as ever in office gossip. But even through everything they'd all been through, they'd come out with minimum physical injury and no loss of life. With that odd sort of success came a warm, fuzzy feeling that just grew and grew with each time they came out alive and unharmed.

It wasn't so much that they thought that they were invisible, like teenagers tend to feel. There was just this false sense of security that built up, allowing them to, on some slightly deeper than superficial level, believe that they'd always make it through. Hell, two of them had come within seconds of being beheaded by Mexican drug dealers. It warrants a little confidence in one's ability to survive.

Even the repeated close calls didn't quite cover it. They'd all spent the last several years dealing with crisis situations, they'd almost become numb to life and death. It was every day for them. Suddenly, tonight, it became very, very really again. Like watching a waterfall through a glass barrier, and suddenly, that barrier was gone. They were reminded out just how powerful it was, pouring down against them.

One day, one little thing could go wrong, and they may not make it home for dinner. They may not make it home ever again. Of course, they would be mourned, most painfully by the survivors of the six. The FBI would see that they had a nice, elaborate burial, with a several-gun salute, and a folded flag to their nearest and dearest loved one. But they'd still be dead. They still, probably wouldn't have gotten a chance to say goodbye. And surely, there would be things they'd left undone, things they'd never gotten a chance to do.

There were all personal reprecussions for all of them, which they were especially trying to avoid thinking about.

Frank was the leader of HRT. It was his job to position his men so they could watch the HT, and try for a good line of fire. It was his responsibility to shoot and tell his men to shoot before the HT had the chance. He and his men were the back up option if the negotation wasn't going well, and he reminded Cheryl of that. But today a negotator had died on his watch, and that was eating him up. It was also an unpleasant reminder that his job was dangerous, that the bad guys used real bullets too.

Duff was Frank's second in command. He was the older man's eyes and ears in places that he couldn't be. It was job to keep his boss aprised of any developments he and his saw of the HT. For Duff, the danger was more obvious, more prevalent. While Frank hung back to lead his men, it was Duff that sent in on recon missions. It was Duff that got shot down garbage shoots in hospitals to try and get a line on the HT. He was more in the line of fire than Frank.

For Lia, it was watching her four closest friends, and the man she took to her bed, run off to the next crisis scene and face life and death on the front lines. She'd never really know what if felt like for them to be under that much pressure, but she knew a feeling they never would. They have a direct line to decide which way the action goes, and they see what's happening in real time. For her, it was more like watching a car wreck, but having to wait with bated breath just to find out if the cars actually hit, and what the damage was. In some ways, that was harder than seeing it happen.

Then there was Cheryl, who fought tooth and nail to get where she was. A minority woman in a command position in one of the busiest CNU's in the country, that was no small potatoes. She'd made peace with the danger of the job long ago, not that it didn't still scare her. Cheryl pushed herself, harder than anyone had right to expect. Her teams successes were her successes, and her teams failures, they were hers too. If anything she took more responsibility for the failures, because she was their leader, their commander. It was her responsibility to make everything go as smoothly as a crisis can. But today was a failure, a hugely massive, painful failure, and Cheryl would be blaming herself for a long time to come.

Matt and Emily were a special case, a very difficult one. They went into dangerous situations with each other on a very frequent basis. They conferred on methods, watched each other's backs, and had to swallow down their fear when the other did something with little regard to their own personal safety. And, then they went home and became lovers. They made love, they held each other, and found an intimacy with each other that surpassed physicality. That was why thinking about the possibilities of dangerous field work made them both squirm and run for the safe cover of denial.

Lovers aren't supposed to be in the field together. One can't expect not to think of each other's safe, be maybe a bit too vigilant of their partners back. It is also unfair to expect them to be able to pick up the headpeice and keep the negotiation going. The contact they kept tonight, pressed close together, made it just a teeny bit easier to contemplate the idea of one of them succumbing to the danger of field work.

Cheryl was the first to open her mouth, long after their drinks had arrived. Always the leader, she led them now in mourning their friend and comrade. Frank's story about the time Binder became annoyed enough to flat out tell the whining HT to shut up received the first smiles of the grew. As they discussed their friend it became both easier and hard to smile. They remembered him fondly, and always would, but at the same time they were left wondering. Would they being doing this again for one of them? Would they be the one the grew was discussing so bittersweetly?

Still, they sat squeezed into that booth a while longer, sipping their beers and discussing their friend. No one bothered them, except the waitress to offer another round. They declined.

When they were finally ready to leave, they lingered over their goodbyes to each other, something they'd never done before. They exchanged hugs in the parking lot, though mostly that was the girls. The guys gave their best, awkward straight-guy grasp-back pats when it came to each other.

Lia and Duff went home together, as they'd been doing more frequently over the last few months, and they spent the night in each other's arms.

Cheryl didn't call Jayden, her boyfriend of four months, for once before going over, and he wasn't unhappy to see her. She was comforted by his presence.

Frank, the only single one of them at the moment, paid a light night visit to his baby sister, who relished the opportunity to show him off to two of her visiting girlfriends.

Matt and Emily hadn't actually spent a night apart in so long niether could remember when the last time was. They snuggled in bed together, watching an old movie until they were both so tired they fell asleep.

"Mama put my guns in the ground
I can't shoot them anymore
That cold black cloud is comin' down
Feels like I'm knockin' on heaven's door..."