A/N: This fic has been kicking around for about three years now and it's definitely been a labor of something alternating between love and hate. Okay, it's Brass and Annie so it really was love but it did test my patience a few times. I always wanted to write a sequel to "Open Ends" and ABRTI gave me the best reason to hook up Jim and Annie Kramer once again. So, yes, this follows "Open Ends". It will definitely help to read that fic but it's not completely necessary. And just so you know, it's rated M for a reason.
I could not have done this without the help of Tos_Lover. She pushed me and challenged me and made me a better writer. I owe everything to her except any errors you might find. Those are all mine. Unfortunately, Jim Brass and the rest of the CSI characters aren't mine. If they were, Brass would have gotten more than a brush off line after shooting Bell.
This one is for my friend currently stationed in Iraq. She needs a little Brass to help her countdown the seconds.
Saturday evening, November 19th, Fourteen Days after the shooting
Jim Brass sat alone in the dark room, staring hard at the half empty bottle of scotch through blurry eyes and having a raging argument with his inner demons about what to do next. Already he'd drained three glasses, the burn still fresh in his belly. Finish the glass he'd just poured and he'd pass out on the sofa, much like he had the last three nights.
He couldn't hold his liquor like he did in the old days, when he'd regularly use alcohol to escape a bad marriage and the stress that came with being a cop.
A knock at the door interrupted the fourth glass from reaching his lips. Brass didn't bother looking out the window. He didn't care who was at the door. There wasn't much he cared about. Not since Gil Grissom had given him the news.
You must have stood up.
Five insignificant words had banded together and knocked the breath out of Brass. He tried not to let it show, to suck it up and take the news like a man. That's what he'd done before. But this time it was different. He wasn't a rookie cop. He was a veteran. He was better than this. At least he had been.
The knock was persistent, drumming an erratic rhythm into his scotch-soaked brain, and as he stared at the door, he knew whoever it was wasn't going away. Putting a hand out to balance himself, he got up slowly and grimaced as he felt the effects of alcohol on an empty stomach.
Another knock and Brass was grumbling out loud as he ambled across the room. Opening the door with a growl, squinting at the intruder standing on his porch, it took a long moment before irritation gave way to recognition.
Standing on the front porch, staring at a closed door, Annie Kramer wondered what the hell she was doing here. He hadn't asked her to come. No, she had made the long drive across the desert because of a rather cryptic message and several unanswered phone calls. To say she was worried was an understatement.
She knew he was home. His car was in the driveway and she could hear the shuffling of feet on the other side of the door. She wasn't going to leave until she knew he was okay and if that meant calling 911 to bust the door down, that's what she'd do.
Hearing the click of a lock, Annie had no idea what to expect when the door opened and for a moment, she wondered if he'd even be alone. Despite the promise of rekindling something they'd long left behind, they hadn't talked much in the last seven months; maybe he was seeing someone and wouldn't welcome her unannounced arrival on his doorstep. Oh, well, she thought. Jimmy was an old friend. No one said she couldn't stop by to say hello to an old friend. If nothing else, she'd never been to Vegas before; she was sure she could find a way to spend the few days she had off.
The door slowly opened and a very scruffy Jim Brass squinted into the light.
She moved into his line of sight. "Jimmy?"
It was apparent by the look on his face that she was the last person he expected to see.
She stood in front of him for several beats, quickly taking in the bloodshot eyes, unshaven face, mussed hair and unkempt clothes before finally saying, "The polite thing to do would be to invite me in."
He stepped away from the entrance, holding the door open and allowing her to pass.
"You look like hell," she said casually, her sarcasm hiding her relief that he was at least in one piece.
"Nice to see you too," he replied, leaning on the door until it closed then staying there, as if he hadn't the energy to move.
This wasn't the Jimmy Brass who'd come to L.A., who spent the night in her bed. Something was wrong; something that went beyond Ellie and her crackwhore lifestyle.
He waved her off with his hand. "What are you doing here? You been checking up on me?"
Annie wasn't fazed by the irritation in his voice. "I'm Vice, Jimmy," she said with a penetrating stare, "I've got friends in low places."
He looked away, ashamed of himself for letting her see him like this.
She took a step closer and put her hand on his arm. "I got a phone call."
Jim didn't have to think hard to know who called her. Only one person in Las Vegas even knew about Annie. "He tell you what happened?"
She shook her head. "No, I guess he left that up to you. You gonna tell me to leave?" Glancing around the house, seeing the half empty bottle of Scotch on the table lined up with its depleted partner, she said, "You looking for answers again?"
He scowled at her but didn't answer. He didn't have to. Even without the evidence, the heavy tang of alcohol hit her the minute she walked in the door.
Annie Kramer was well acquainted with a drunken Jimmy Brass. Sure, he could be a charmer when he'd had a few, able to weasel his way into her good graces on more than a few occasions but every now and again, drinking dredged up the darker side of Brass, the side he kept rightfully buried away. She'd seen that side of him once too often.
"Come on, you need to sleep this off."
He pulled away, shaking his head as he leaned against the wall for support. "No," he protested, "I don't sleep any more."
"So you just drink until you pass out? That's not a solution, Jimmy."
His eyes narrowed. "It's worked so far."
"How long have you been on this little bender?"
He shrugged slowly, his movements encumbered by the alcohol. "What does it matter?"
"It matters because I care about you and because we've been down this path before."
"You gonna save me from myself again?" He took a step away from the wall and practically fell onto her.
Putting out a steadying hand, she said, "I'm going to try."
"I never asked for your help."
Annie pushed him back against the wall, holding him there with one hand firmly set in the center of his chest.
"You're right, you never did. Not now and not twenty years ago. But tell me, how many times did I get phone calls from you, drunk off your ass and needing a ride home? How many times, Jimmy? Too many to count! I drove out of my jurisdiction, risked my job, just to find you at some pisshole bar."
Brass was quiet. Running his tongue over his lower lip, he listened to everything she said without protest.
"I'd never kick you out of my bed and you knew it." After all these years, she still felt bitter sadness, not for Jim but for herself and her naive idea that someday he'd leave his wife and marry her. "I'd pick you up and take you to my house. If you weren't too drunk, you'd make it to the bedroom and pass out on the bed, then wake up a couple hours later, ready to go. And I always gave it to you."
"You make it sound so romantic."
"I loved you, Jimmy. I knew it was your wife and the job. I knew how you'd let the death of some poor kid get to you and you'd internalize it until the only way you could get it out of your system was to try to drink it away."
"Look, I'm not drinking again," he dragged his hand slowly over his mouth, "not like that."
"It starts this way and you know it." She lowered her hand.
Brass relaxed against the wall. "I just needed something to take the edge off the last couple of days."
Annie reached out, her hands cupping his face, feeling the scruff of his beard against her palms. "What were my last words to you? Remember? I said be careful."
"I thought I was careful."
Letting her hands fall to his shoulders, she asked, "So what happened?"
Seeing the tears well up in his bloodshot eyes, seeing his head bow until his chin touched his chest, she felt a lump form in her throat. This was something much worse than she ever thought. And now she regretted everything she had said to him.
"Why do good cops die while one lousy cop lives?"
"One lousy cop?"
Jim raised his head and looked up at her, his somber expression answering her question.
Her hand went to his cheek. "You're not a lousy cop."
"I killed him. I killed that kid. It was my bullet that took his life; my bullet that left his wife a widow with three kids to raise on her own and a baby who'll never know her father. I did that. How can I live with myself after that? You explain it to me because I sure as hell don't know!"
"What kid? A suspect?" Why do good cops die? It suddenly clicked. "Jimmy, did you shoot a cop?"
"I stood up. I didn't think I did but the evidence says otherwise. It was my bullet. I shot and killed a cop."
Wrapping her arms around him, she felt him lean into her, felt the deep sobs wrack his body. Annie stayed with him for several more minutes before finally taking a firm hold of his arm and half leading, half dragging him down the hallway and into the master bedroom. By the time she got him onto the unmade bed, he was nearly dead-weight. Lifting his legs onto the mattress, Annie finally got him situated so that he wouldn't fall off the bed if he rolled over. Pulling the comforter over him, her hand brushed his hair.
He was asleep now, at peace with the demons that had driven him to this point. Unfortunately, she knew that what he was trying to escape would still be waiting for him when he woke up.
Tucking her long hair behind her ear, Annie gave Jim one last, long look before wandering down the hall to the spare bedroom. The room was light and feminine and had obviously been set aside for Ellie but judging by the newness of the bedspread and the stiff pillows, Annie doubted that the girl had ever actually stayed there. And for a moment, Annie felt a sharp pang of sadness for Jim. He loved his daughter, hell, he'd nearly lost his job trying to help her and yet, she'd done everything she could to break his heart.
Sitting on the edge of the bed then leaning back and feeling the bounce of the mattress, she stared at the ceiling and wondered just what she was doing here.
It was the phone call, a relay from that Vegas CSI to Matt Glazer. Two short and worrying sentences: Jim Brass is in trouble. He needs you. She didn't have time to ask what kind of trouble but knowing that he needed her was enough to bring her to Vegas.
Now she couldn't help but think about what might have happened. What horrible event caused Jimmy Brass to shoot another officer and drive him down a path she thought he'd left years ago?
Annie had spent most of the drive over thinking about the past and Jimmy Brass. Truth be told, she hadn't been able to get him out of her head since he left her house back in April and had spent a lot of time trying to remember the details.
Annie couldn't remember the exact date she'd first met Jimmy Brass but she knew it was shortly after her transfer from North Bergen to Newark so it was definitely January, 1987. She and some of the guys had headed over to Tank's after shift ended to shoot pool and drink beer and Jimmy was already there, running the table like Minnesota Fats. Her first impression was that he was a cocky bastard but she'd always been attracted to cocky bastards, especially the ones who filled out a pair of faded blue jeans so nicely. She knew he was more focused on her ass than the game and for a moment she'd nearly taken a c-note from him but he'd stroked the 8-ball into the side pocket with such finesse that she could still remember the tingle that went up her spine.
Annie made it a point to stop at Tank's after that night, always finding Jimmy inside, shooting pool most of the time but occasionally sitting alone at a corner table, quietly pounding back boilermakers. That's when she knew being a cocky bastard was just a front, a way to hide behind the hard-ass cop reputation and not let anyone else see what was really going on. But Annie saw. She'd also heard the stories from the guys at the precinct: wife whored around, screwed every man not named Jimmy Brass. Annie felt for the guy.
She knew that was the catalyst, the reason why she felt the need to be a friend. Of course he didn't see it the same way, not at first anyway, not until she found a common denominator. She'd seen the New Jersey Devils sticker on the inside of his locker and got his attention when she'd mentioned she'd grown up a Devils fan. A little while later he'd gotten hockey tickets and after the game, when he'd given her a ride home and walked her to the front door, she'd invited him up to her second floor apartment and he didn't say no.
Annie knew he was married; she knew what she wanted to happen was wrong in the eyes of God but she also knew Jimmy was already in an unfaithful marriage. That didn't make it right but in Annie's mind it made it easier when he kissed her on the sofa. Nothing else had ever compared to the raw heat of that first time. They'd fucked, pure and simple. No time for foreplay or tender kisses, just an urgent, primal desire that left clothes strewn all over her tiny living room and a wet spot in the middle of one sofa cushion.
Sex was a release for both of them, sometimes more emotional than physical but always satisfying. Unfortunately, she couldn't say the same about their three year affair. Jimmy started drinking more, started playing fast and loose with the job until one hot August night he and his partner had a call-out to an old warehouse and Jimmy got knifed while busting up a drug deal.
Nearly losing his life had quickly sobered him up but it also signaled the beginning of the end of their affair. Annie had gone to see him in the hospital and nearly ran into Nancy Brass on the way out. A month later, Jimmy had gone home one morning to find all of his personal belongings on the front lawn. Turnabout wasn't in Nancy's vocabulary and she wanted every bit of Jimmy's hide and a piece of Annie's as well.
It was Annie who took the initiative and ended their affair, not because she feared the gossip that would spread all over the Newark PD. Hell, she couldn't name a detective in her precinct that wasn't having or hadn't had an affair. But Annie needed to leave before all the sordid details surfaced; before Nancy got even more ammunition than she already had. So she made rumblings about being tired of the corruption and the discrimination and put in for a transfer. She needed to be as far away from Jimmy Brass and New Jersey as possible and what better place to start over than Los Angeles?
Waking with a start at what she thought was a loud bang, Annie wasn't sure when she'd fallen asleep. It took her a moment to familiarize herself with the surroundings and then she was off the bed and down the hall towards Jimmy's room. She wasn't sure if the noise was real or imagined and after she found him still passed out in the middle of the bed, she settled on imagined. Nevertheless, she did something she should have done earlier: confirmed he wasn't the sort of cop who slept with a weapon next to the bed. She'd seen one too many trauma induced accidental shootings involving a cop, a gun, a spouse, and nightmares. She'd felt sure that Jimmy wasn't the type to keep a loaded gun by the bed but she sure as hell wasn't going to be a statistic in case she'd misjudged him.
Feeling more awake at three in the morning than she should have, Annie went back down the hall to the kitchen and the bottle she'd tucked away under the sink. It was an excellent single malt whisky and would have been sacrilege to throw it out. Pouring out a small measure then swirling the liquid around in the glass before taking her first sip and feeling the pleasant burn down her throat, she remembered that it was Jimmy who taught her to appreciate good Scotch whisky. She'd been a hardcore rum and coke girl but it wasn't long before he was schooling her in the ways of single malt.
With glass in hand, Annie wandered into the study just off the living room. The large cherry desk and bookcases filled with the requisite law enforcement books as well as several books on world and military history took up most of the space. But what she found most interesting were the framed photos scattered along the shelves. Many were of Ellie as a blonde-haired, pig-tailed little girl; a few more were of Ellie and Jimmy. Another picture, one without a frame, propped up against a New Jersey Penal Code book, and with edges that had curled over time, surprised her. Reaching for the picture, Annie smiled at the young woman looking back at her. Judging by her skin tight jeans and big hair, she guessed the picture was from '87, when she'd been working undercover with vice. Standing next to her, with his arm around her waist and hamming it up for the camera, was Jimmy Brass. She'd forgotten how blond he was in his younger days and that age had darkened and thinned his hair, while Ellie and the pressures of the job had added the silver edges. Looking at Jimmy's smooth features, she had to admit that she'd liked the way he'd aged. He'd lost the baby-face and gained a weathered toughness that definitely suited him.
Putting the picture back in its place, she noticed the dress uniform jacket, hat and white gloves on the floor behind a chair, like they had been carelessly tossed into the room. Setting the glass down, Annie picked up the jacket and carefully laid it over the chair, running her hand along the lapels then smoothing out the front before searching for and finding the empty garment bag. Thankfully, dress uniforms were made of Polyester so with a little care, the wrinkles would fade.
Tucking the sleeves into the plastic bag, she ran the zipper halfway up, pausing long enough to run her fingers over the three lines of service ribbons, recognizing a few that were standard across most police departments, before hanging the jacket in the closet.
This was who he was, his career. He'd given the better part of his life to earn those ribbons and in one careless moment, it all meant nothing. Jimmy Brass was a good, dedicated cop; the thought of him going out like this nearly broke her heart.
Closing the closet door and turning off the light, she picked up the glass and headed to the kitchen for a quick clean up before finally going to bed.
End of Part 1