Disclaimer: The characters in this story are the property of CBS and are only used for fan related purposes.

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On the Subject of Being Guarded

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"You're not guarded."

Christopher Sullivan nearly tripped over his own two feet when he heard the voice come from behind him. Recovering smoothly—falling headfirst into some of the muck they were currently traipsing through wouldn't win him any points with Chloe when they found her—he glanced nervously over his shoulder. "How's that?"

"I said that I don't think you live a guarded life, Sully."

"Oh," he muttered, because he didn't have anything better to say just then; he just tightened his grip on the shotgun he was carrying, squeezing it to remind himself that he still had it. Leave it to Danny Brooks to start a conversation like this when they were lost underground, alternately looking for and running from a psychotic serial killer. "You're talking about what I said back there?"

"Yeah."

Sully shook his head before realizing that, with Danny's statement, the two of them had paused—and neither was being as quiet as they should have. If John Wakefield was lurking nearby, they were just like sitting ducks. Easy pickings. They had to get a move on.

"C'mon, we have to keep going," he told Danny, taking hesitant steps forward. And then, because he knew his frat brother well enough not to assume that he would let something go when it was on his mind, he added, "And we already went over my breakdown. It was the fear talking back there."

"That doesn't mean that you don't still think it's true, man."

"I really don't think this is the time—"

But Danny was insistent. "I know you're scared, Sully. I am, too. This is the stupidest thing we could be doing, wandering around down here when we know that Wakefield and that big, scary knife of his was back at the Candlewick. But I just wanted you to know that I'm behind you. I got your back."

"Yeah, well, it's my front I'm worried about." Squinting his eyes, Sully glared down the long tunnel. Unless it was his imagination, there seemed to be a large shadowy shape at the end. He wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad one. "Remind me again why I'm in the lead?"

"Because I won rocks, paper, scissors," Danny answered with a small, halfhearted chuckle as he glanced over his own shoulder for the countless time since they went underground.

For all Sully's worries that Wakefield would jump out in front of them, Danny was absolutely terrified that he would sneak up on them from behind. He'd seen what Wakefield's boarding knife could do when he went back to the Cannery with Abby and Henry—he had no intentions of ever letting that oversized knife get near him or any of his other friends. It was bad enough that it just barely missed his eyes after he and Sully shot at the boarded up door. The near miss had been way too close for his comfort.

And yet… there they were, both of them traveling the same tunnels as a killer all because they felt guilty for leaving Henry, Abby and Cal alone inside when they went to shut the entry to the tunnels underground inside the Candlewick Inn and Trish and Jimmy left to block the manhole entrance outside. The trio had gone searching for Chloe, and now Sully and Danny were searching for them.

He just hoped with everything he had that, when they all found each other, they were alive, hyped up on adrenaline and ready to kick Wakefield's ass.

The mental image of the survivors each getting a turn to knock John Wakefield around gave him about three seconds of hope before he remembered what it was like to see Sheriff Mills hanging there, to see Shane Pierce hanging there…

Danny gave his head a quick shake before picking his pace up until he was right behind Sully; there was only a few inches separating them from each other now. He could hear Sully's frightened breath and knew his was probably even louder but he couldn't help it. Those were horrific memories he knew he would take with him for the rest of his life, whether he made it off the island or not.

Still, he decided as he tried to quell his rising panic again, the less he thought about all that now, the better. His grip on the situation was barely hanging on by a thread; Henry already had to talk him down after they encountered the gruesome scene in the Cannery. It wouldn't do Sully any good to know that Danny had almost lost it, so he took a moment to take a few deep breaths and calm down some.

As it was, Sully had already lost it a bit himself back at the Candlewick. Cal's near brush with death and the impromptu surgery Sully had to perform to remove the bullet had rattled him almost more than anything else had had seen since the murders began. Out of nowhere, Sully—carefree, player, pretty boy Sully—started confessing how regretful he was to have always lived a guarded life, forever keeping people out. They both chalked it up to fear but, desperate to think about anything else other than what they were currently doing, Danny wondered if there was maybe more to it than that.

They were both at their breaking points, mentally, physically and emotionally—but they were together, friends 'til the end, and they were still moving forward.

Danny tried not to think about that, either.

Instead, he broke the silence once more, unable to let the topic go just yet. "So, hey, let's talk about it."

Sully, lost in his own thoughts—partly about Chloe and if she was all right, and mainly how bad their odds of surviving as the black guy and the blond party boy were—just gave a little jerk. His finger, almost subconsciously, itched to reach for the trigger. "Huh? About what?"

"About you being guarded. Living a guarded life, you know."

He frowned. "Why do you want to talk about that again?"

Danny let out the breath he hadn't even noticed he'd been holding; the shotgun he was clutching like a shield shook in his hands. "'Cause I have to talk about something, Sully," he said, apologetically. The tremors in his hands were reaching his voice. "If I don't, then I…"

His words trailed to a close but Sully knew exactly what he meant. It was the same reason why he was keeping quiet. Reaching behind him, he placed a clammy hand on Danny's shoulder. "I know, man." He gave the shoulder a comforting squeeze before turning back around, following the tunnels and bearing right. The path seemed clear enough.

Lowering his voice just in case, Sully gave in and said, "All right. If you want to talk, let's talk."

Danny's tone began as shaky but became more sure—and less obviously terrified—as he went on. "Look at what you're doing. Here we are, doing everything that the idiots in the slasher films do, all because we want to help our friends. And Chloe, Sully! You just met the girl and you're risking your life to help save her. How could you let her get to you like that if you were so guarded?"

Sully had the vaguest idea that his friend might just be right. It was an unfortunate habit of Danny's, he thought as he spoke over his shoulder to him, "I guess." Then he shrugged and added in an entirely Sully-like fashion, "Maybe because she's hot?"

There was a funny sound, a scoffing in the back of Danny's throat that echoed in the corridor and made both of them jump. When he spoke next, his voice had lowered considerably, too. "Don't kid me, man. I know you better than that."

Sully paused, his heart beating frantically as he thought about what Danny said. He pretended to be preoccupied by a sudden fork in the tunnels. Both ways looked equally hopeless. This time, just to get ahead, he turned left. There had to be an end coming up soon, right?

This path was clear, too, and just as long. Again, he wasn't sure if that was still a good sign or not. Good: there was still no Wakefield in sight. Bad: there was still no Wakefield in sight. Where was that bastard?

Shaking off that thought, the whirling pace of his muddled mind returned to the last thing Danny said to him. The funny thing was that Danny was right, too—again. He did know him. The five of them—him, Danny, Henry, Malcolm and Booth—had been friends for ages; the same fraternity and everything. This was supposed to be their last hoorah, their last escapades as a group of bachelors before Henry went and spoiled all of their fun by marrying Trish Wellington.

Though, to be honest, he was beginning to wonder if they were going to ever get married after this…

And the five of them… there wasn't five of them anymore. Joel Booth was dead, accidentally shot if he could believe Malcolm, and buried somewhere they didn't know on this godforsaken island.

And then there was Malcolm Ross…

The heavy weight of a continued fear and trepidation, constant and unnerving, settled uncomfortably in his stomach. Sully gulped, trying his best not to let that horribly nagging worry rear its ugly head again. Of course, though, he failed miserably.

Maybe it was the look on his face, or maybe it was the way he was dragging his heels all of a sudden, but Danny had an idea that something was on his buddy's mind. "What's the matter, Sully?"

"I was thinking about Malcolm," Sully blurted out before he could stop himself. He'd never out and out lied to any of his friends before and he guessed he wasn't going to be able to start now.

"Oh."

"Yeah."

It was something they'd managed to skirt around ever since all this murder and mayhem began at the wedding rehearsal, but it was something that the two of them had wondered over the last day or so. They'd been so angry at Malcolm when he admitted what happened the night Booth died—all over a bag of stolen cash that only Malcolm really desired in the first place—and they barely noticed it when he just up and disappeared.

There were all sorts of excused for where he could be: afraid after Thomas Wellington got his head bashed in with a head spade, he could've left the island before all of the other murders began; greedy and desperate over the drug money, he could've fled to Mexico or somewhere equally sunny and far away; guilty over Booth's death, he could've been avoiding his friends; or—

—it was the or that Danny and Sully were both dwelling on in that moment.

"You don't think…"

Sully shook his head firmly. "I stopped think a couple of days ago, too."

The unsaid question hung in the air, ominous and foreboding. In an effort to escape it—like with Booth's disappearance before Malcolm's confession, it was just easier to think he'd taken the money and run over the very viable alternative—Sully took a sharp right.

He stopped short, a skittish Danny coming up within a millimeter or two of slamming right into him.

When he gathered himself, and bit back the girlish scream that almost broke lose, he asked a bit peevishly, "What did you go and stop like that for?"

"Look," Sully said, gesturing with a pointed finger. "There's a light up ahead."

"Really?" Danny looked past him. Sure enough, there was a pinprick of light in the distance. There was a way out and, thankfully, this path was clear, too.

That, they decided, was definitely a good thing.

"What are we waiting for?" Danny asked, giving the stationary Sully a gentle prod in his back. "Let's get on out of here."

And Sully, happy to leave their worries and those conversations behind them in the dark and dreary tunnels, couldn't have agreed with his friend more.

Let Wakefield find them aboveground. They were ready for him—or, of course, as ready as they were going to be.


Author's Note: Here's another one shot. The way I see it, I have to get out all of my in-season plotbunnies before the series finale airs on Saturday. Just in case, you know? Though I'm sure there's going to be twice as many when we find out how it all ends... and I know I can't wait ;)