A/N: sdaglkg OH GOD GUYS I'M SORRY. I'm not even going to justify myself. Thank you to Dragonfriend95 who reminded me about this whole horrible fic.

Disclaimer: This is where I put something witty to compensate for my lack of the rights to CSI.

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part 5
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The look on Elliott's face was not heartening. Catherine leaned forward in her chair, clasping her hands together, and pinned the suspect with a stare that had him squirming in his seat. He picked at his jeans as Catherine spoke in a low tone.

"Okay, let me get this straight. You are not Tony DeVini."

"No."

Elliott made an extremely irritable noise but otherwise did not acknowledge the response. She crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair, glaring at the suspect.

"Then what are you doing here?" Catherine asked quietly.

The man in the chair looked to the left, then the right before answering.

"I'm a decoy. Don't matter what I tell ya now, Tony's probably got done whatever he needs to do." His eyes flashed and his smile was grim. "Trust me, ya don't wanna go after him, misses. You'd be better off just letting it go. How many people's you got in the autopsy room now? Two? Prob'ly three soon."

"Do you know his next target?" Elliott's voice was remarkably calm compared to the fiery look on her face as she straightened up a little in her chair.

The man shrugged.

"Dunno. Prob'ly that third guy what saw us few nights ago when we were goin' about doin' our business."

"Do you know his name?" Catherine prompted. Business. Possibly drug-dealing, or worse.

The man shrugged again, but kept talking. No doubt he figured that whatever happened, he was going to end up in jail in the long run. "Some squinty-eyed Asian kid."

Elliott's posture was rigid as she looked over at Catherine, who had also frozen in her seat. Catherine opened her mouth to say something, to ask about the third victim, when both CSIs' phones rang once, signaling a text. They both pulled them out as Brass walked into the room, his face very grim.

"Elliott, Catherine, there was a… shooting in the parking lot. One of ours." He shook his head. "Fatal."

All three turned to look at the suspect, whose smile was small.

"Told ya."

Catherine got up out of her seat and tried not to slam the chair into the table.

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Too much. Too much to handle at once. Nick let out a yell of half-bewilderment, half-shock as he lurched himself forward, catching Archie before he hit the ground. He was practically in auto-pilot as he ripped his sidearm from its holster and aimed it in front of him, keeping one arm around his still friend.

One left.

Oh, goddamnit, was he really that stupid?

All around him people were screaming and diving for cover, but Nick could've cared less. The autopsy flashed through his head: Near instant death. Regulation stated that Nick needed to identify himself to the assailant, but damned if he was going to follow rules right now.

"Mother of God, ow."

He knew the voice, knew the inflection—hell, it was pretty hard to avoid that sort of I-feel-like-I'm-about-to-die manner of speaking he's heard from just about every tech in the lab, but before he could even formulate a response Archie hissed against the fabric of his sleeve.

"I'm dead, okay? Go—ow, shit, shit—go with it." Nick could feel the tech scrunching his face up, and his breathing was still there, if not ragged and thin, but, despite Archie's weird statement, he was alive, which is more than enough to 'go with it'.

"Someone go get the nearest officer!" Nick yelled out into the parking lot, and one brave young technician scurried from behind a Buick just as Archie let out another sharp intake of breath.

"Jesus, this hurts."

"For a corpse," Nick whispered, trying not to move his lips, "You're mighty talkative." He gently lowered Archie onto his stomach, flicking his eyes back and forth to look for any possible shooter in the distance.

"Call me a zombie, then." Archie closed his eyes as Nick pressed two fingers against his jugular and, for good measure, mock-punched the ground, pretending that the pulse, erratic but very much there, wasn't beating beneath the pads of his fingers.

The door burst open and one of the officers from inside came barreling out, flanked by Grissom and Brass. Nick eyed Grissom with an eyebrow cocked, but Grissom's only response was to tilt his head in a returning gesture.

"The shooter'll be gone by now," he said casually, just as Catherine and Elliott brought up the rear, both looking shocked at the scene laid out before them. "His MO is a hit and run, according to his accomplice inside." He smiled a little as he turned to Brass, who was massaging both temples with one hand. "Am I right to assume your men caught a suspect with a recently discharged firearm in his possession?"

Brass glanced at him wearily.

"Because you expect they didn't?"

Nick barely heard the exchange as he gripped Archie under the arms and slowly lifted him up. Most of the color had gone from his face, and he was definitely not chattering as much as he was two minutes ago. Nick eyed him carefully.

"Doing okay?"

Archie closed his eyes again. "Uh. Yeah. My chest. That's all."

"We need to get that bullet for processing," Grissom noted as Archie winced again and started tugging at the hem of his shirt.

"Can I take this off now? It's really tight. Ow." He grimaced and squeezed his eyes shut. Nick looked downwards and caught the flash of black underneath Archie's T-shirt.

"You little bastard." Nick reached over to help Archie out, revealing the thick bulletproof vest strapped firmly around his chest. "You scared me half to death, you know that?"

"Sorry about it," was the sarcastic reply. Nick pulled the shirt off all the way as Grissom leaned down to help with the Velcro straps. Nick's face could only be described as relieved until Grissom pulled the vest off and they all finally witnessed the full extent of Archie's injuries.

A large, mottled purple bruise curled around his chest, surrounded by other, smaller contusions, one distinctly boot-shaped. Suddenly the bruise still on his face didn't seem so bad. Even Grissom looked a little taken aback by the damage.

Archie held out his hand for his shirt, his expression unreadable, and after a long, tense moment Nick handed it back, eyes cold.

"We could've helped you at least a little, Arch."

"I'm okay." Archie pulled his shirt back on, movements stiff.

"Yeah, right." Nick couldn't help it—he rolled his eyes and held out his hand. "C'mon, we're getting you to the hospital, and I don't wanna hear any complaints either."

Instead of protesting, which was exactly what Nick had expected (and he planned to hoist the tech firemen's style if he kept it up) Archie twisted his head a little bit to look up at Grissom. After a brief moment of deliberation, the elder man nodded.

"I don't see why not. We have two accomplices of DeVini, and now that we know what's going on…" Grissom trailed off for just a moment before finishing. "Nick, don't leave his side, got it?" He tilted his head in the direction of Nick's Denali, peering at him over his lenses. "Catherine, Elliott and I have a bit of work to do."

Nick mock-saluted and helped Archie to his feet slowly. Archie thanked him quietly and held his ribs, grimacing again. Just as they were about to head off, Grissom said, "Oh, and Arch?" When the tech in question turned to look at him, Grissom smiled just a little.

"I think it's time you gave Nick a break and told him everything you told me."

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end part 5
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A/N: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I don't update in forever and then shit out this mediocre chapter. But I figure you guys wanted to know what happened, so. Next chapter will clear everything up, and the one after will be the finale.

-apologizes forever and ever-