Run by Marisha

Still panting from his run, he bent over to rest his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. Sucking in air desperately to compose himself, he let it out slowly after realizing he had been holding it - again. As the air pushed its way out of his lungs, he felt a calm setting in. An eerie stillness washed over him, as the last light of the day faded away, penetrating him until it filled out his whole being, leaving no room for any feeling.

Time stopped. All in slow motion Don jumped forward with a voiceless scream. Somewhere in his mind he knew he would never be able to cross the distance in time, but his body lunged forward anyway. For a second surprise lit up her eyes, then she just screamed. Don's outstretched arms reached into thin air. All he could do was to grab the railing to stop the impulse to jump right after her. There she lay: Her little body crushed, arms and legs at an unnatural angle, her eyes staring unseeingly up at him.

Don shuddered, trying to relax his muscles, to shake the image away. He took in his surroundings: Twilight - that in-between light: not yet dark, but not light enough any more. All was quiet and he felt very still. Slowly, he started to walk again in a neighborhood vaguely familiar.

Don sat at his desk, wildly gesturing David to trace the call, getting Megan's and Colby's attention. All the while he assured her that all would be fine and he would bring her home. He just needed an address. He could sense her torment: loyalty to her father, fear and confusion and the love for her grandparents as he pushed on to get an address from her.

Don took another deep breath, surprised that he was able to feel anything: the silence, the numbness of his body, his legs slightly protesting from the long run.

Her dad needed medical help, but once he was okay, she could come back and visit him, Don promised. He knew he was close. That's when he remembered what his dad had told him over and over again. "It is okay to be scared and to love your daddy", Don assured her. "But he needs help." Her reaction was nearly instantaneous. She would help her dad, not betray him. Quickly she whispered the address into the receiver. From there on, it should have been easy.

The sound of the city turned into background noise, white noise, not even registering in his brain any more. He tilted his head, turning his focus inside. He could push the thoughts away. Yes, he could! Shaking his head, he started to stroll. He was actually strolling! Hands in his pockets! For the first time he registered the way the city transformed for the night, lighting up right in front of him. He strolled out of the park just in time, before it got too dark to see. As if crossing an invisible border, the peace was gone and the images from his last case assaulted him once again.

She was only seven and her life was already over. He had failed her! Her eyes - the look of sheer terror and betrayal as her father was holding her suspended in midair. Her auburn hair flowed in the wind. Her eyes locked onto Don's.

Don stopped dead in his tracks, rubbing his eyes to erase the pictures.

Her depressed father had drowned his sorrow in alcohol. She had sneaked to the phone and called 911. The operator had put the call right through to Don. He and his team had been on the case for days, since she was missing from her grandparents home.

Don continued walking at a faster pace, as if trying to escape the images.

Red and blue lights flashed. The bridge was blocked off. Heedless, the father freaked out. In one swift movement he swung his daughter over the railing. He would let her fall.

Let her go! His shrieking - the only sound. Don froze, holding up his hands in a calming gesture.

They were trying to take his daughter away and he wouldn't let it happen.

White faced, the little girl was clinging to her father's arm: Her big brown eyes locked with Don's, begging for an answer to her father's actions. Don put all his reassurance into his look, willing her to be strong.

He resumed walking at a faster pace, nearly running again, but it was useless. The images followed him.

They had just finished surrounding the house. A car crashed through the garage door. Don shouted to hold fire. Colby dove to the side. In the window her scared face showed. He rushed to his car, the rest of his team already jumping as he turned the ignition.

Don was running again, sucking in the air as if drowning.

The chase - images flying by in red and blue - a tire exploding, forcing the father to stop on a busy bridge. Angry horns blaring, drivers shouting insults, as Colby and David flashed badges to stop traffic. With Megan at his side he approached slowly, the father retreating, shouting panicked threats, not really knowing what he was saying, Don was going on instinct, trying to soothe the trapped man.

He had to stop and force another breath into his lungs. His chest had become too constricted, not allowing any air to get in. In and out. It took all his willpower to breathe as he leaned against a wall to support himself.

He sensed movement and his reflexes kicked in, as the body of the father brushed against him on its way down. He didn't even feel surprised. He would have jumped too.

Feeling Megan's hand on his shoulder, her worried look directed at him, he took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a split second. Then his training took over, and he began shouting the necessary orders, talking to the LAPD. He worked on auto-pilot and sent his team home, told them to write the reports in the morning. At his apartment, changing into his running gear, he started to run.

The chill of the evening brought Don back to the present. Slowly he slid down the wall. A shiver went through his body as he became aware of the sweat-soaked tee shirt sticking to him. He was feeling so cold inside - as if all the warmth had left his body. Too cold to feel anything - just like when his mother had died. He had been looking at her dead, wasted body and emptiness was all he had felt. An emptiness so big, it consumed all other emotions, blocked the tears and stiffened his muscles.

Like a shriek his cell phone started to cut through the numbness, invading his body. It was disrupting the alluring call of the coldness, not allowing it to invade him, to separate himself from reality.

It shrieked again, now having broken the spell. Don sighed and answered automatically: "Eppes!"

"Donnie?!" His dad's voice boomed at him. "Are you close by? I cooked ribeye and knowing your sixth sense for it..." Full with meaning Alan Eppes let the words ring home.

"Did you say ribeye?" Don mumbled absently.

"Ya Ah, Donnie!" Alan said pointedly. "Hang on ..."

Don could hear chatter in the background, then Alan returned: "Your brother said to hurry or he'll eat it all, as hungry as he is now!"

At that, the warmth returned to Don's body and he smirked: "Will he now? If he knows what's good for him ..." He let the threat hang in the air as he could hear Alan's laughter. Coming back to his full senses, Don looked around, surprised as he realized how close he was to his brother's house. "Tell Charlie he better stay clear of that ribeye. I am just a block away!" Don announced.

"See you in bit then," Alan answered. "I'll make Charlie set the table."

As he hung up, Don could hear his brother's protest in the background. He smiled. Finally the images had stopped assaulting him and the words were silenced. The emptiness had not left him completely, but he knew a place where he could feel the warmth again.

The end