Disclaimer: I own my imagination, nothing more.

I'm not sure where this came from, but I had to write it. I think (hope) that it comes across like I meant it to. Read and review :)

Spike could still remember that moment clearer than anything. That was the moment his life the way he knew it had ended. The cruel sound of the landmine exploding and taking his best friend with him was a memory he would take with him to the grave, however far it may be.

When he heard that sound, he had collapsed on the ground, screaming in sheer pain and disbelief. Just yesterday they had been doing their thing, and now Lou was gone forever. Gone. Not even the comfort of the team and his parents could alleviate his suffering. The road to recovery was going to be long and difficult at best, but right now, he felt like he was driving down a cliff. You can't turn around once you cross the edge. It's all downhill from here. He couldn't muster the strength to pick himself back up again, and it scared the living daylights out of him.

He was alive, but his soul was dead.

For a while, he had managed alright. The mandatory week off Team One had been given had given him time to think. Mostly, he had just sat in his room in the basement, the one place he felt safe. That was his space, it had been ever since he was a tiny child. There, he had time to think, to slowly heal the wounds in his soul. He almost thought things were going to work out, if not soon but sometime.

He had hit a large bump in the road when he went back to work, however. The devil, otherwise known as Commander Holleran, had informed Team One that they were going to run recruitment trials for the next week. Spike felt like he had been thrown off a 30 story building, then run over by a cement truck for good measure. Lou had barely been gone for a week, and they were already recruiting. Yes, it was government regulations that each SRU team must have 7 members, but this was just cruel. He didn't know what he had expected. A grace period, maybe? Whatever his mind had dreamed up, he supposed it had been foolish.

Leah didn't belong, that was all there was to it. Jules was the girl of the team, even when she had been shot. Donna had been temporary, and she had never quite fit with the team. Not like Jules. Jules was family, Lou was family, the team was family. Leah was not family, simple as that. From day one he hadn't liked her, but even he would admit that she had the most talent of the bunch. Reluctantly, far more reluctantly than the rest of the team, he had voted her into the team.

He couldn't stand her. She was so arrogant, like she knew everything already, and what mistakes could she possible make? It pissed him off. Her "speech" at their first briefing had been out of place, and it only served to deepen the rift between her and the rest of the team. He couldn't see himself accepting her as part of the team, let alone thinking of her as family.

Slowly but surely, life was catching up with Spike. He had been running for too long now, the despair that was following him like metal follows a magnet was finally catching up to him. He was wearing down, he was reaching his breaking point.

He kept running for a few months, slowly building walls between him and the grief that was knocking on the door with more and more persistence. He hadn't fooled himself into thinking that life would never catch him. He had seen it happen before, it was unavoidable in this line of work.

He was resigned to his fate, the walls he had built were constantly being torn down. The rest of the team had moved on in their own ways, but he knew deep down there was no way he could get over something like that. He should have been able to stop it, he was the bomb expert of the SRU. When his brother had needed him the most, he had failed. There was no excuse.

It all came crashing down one day, three months later. Team One had handled a tough call, where a distraught young man had gone after the man he suspected of killing his best friend with a gun. The case had taken an enormous emotional toll on the whole team, but Spike was sure it had hit him the hardest. He couldn't help but ask himself, what would he have done?

The end of debrief found him sitting in the empty locker room, unmoved for the past 20 minutes. He didn't know where the team was, and honestly, he didn't particularly care. He was just sitting, trying to hold back his angry tears. What had Lou done to deserve this? The answer was clear, nothing. It was the way things worked, the good die young and the bad live long and fulfilled lives. Staying objective was getting harder and harder. Luckily he had been in the truck, he was pretty sure he would have killed that son of a bitch if he'd gotten the chance. He had known what the subject was feeling.

With thoughts running circles in his head, Spike became aware that he was spinning his gun around and around in his hands. He looked at the weapon numbly. Could this be the answer to his pain? Just a quick twitch, and he would never feel this horrible grief again. He would see Lou again, too.

Mesmerized, he stared at the sidearm, lost in thought. It would be so easy, to end things now before the weight of the world hit him like a train. Looking down the barrel of the gun, he wondered dimly what he was waiting for.

He was so preoccupied that he didn't hear the sound of the locker room door opening and closing, announcing the presence of another person. He was still staring absently at the gun in his hands, the tears he had been holding back streaming down his face in full force. He had just undone the safety, his mind made up, when a carefully measured voice he'd heard countless times before interrupted him.

"Hey, Spike, what're you doing, buddy?"

He ignored it, thinking that if he didn't reply the voice would head back out the doors where it belonged. An irrational thought for sure, he knew that voice too well.

The man inched his way closer to Spike cautiously until he was right in front of him. "Spike? What's going on?" Greg asked, worry written all over his face.

Spike looked up slowly, his face set with determined resolve. His fingers still toying with the firearm in his hand, he said emotionlessly, "Hi Boss, I just need some time alone right now. That call was a tough one."

"I hear you," he said, meeting Spike's blank eyes earnestly. "But I can't leave you here, not when you're looking at that gun like that. What's going on, Buddy?"

"Just go. Please," Spike said quietly, lowering his head and turning the gun over and over again, as if in a trance.

"You know I can't do that, Spike," Greg said, adopting his negotiating voice. "Just talk to me, I can help."

Spike knew that Greg was trying to negotiate him, and it only added to his resolve. He was so focused on trying to get him to leave that he didn't notice the soft opening of the locker room door. Wordy was going to enter, but upon seeing the scene unravelling in front of him he backtracked, rushing back through the station to find the rest of the team.

Standing up, Spike began backing away from Greg. He didn't want to see the look on his face, and he didn't want to hear what he had to say. He was slowly but surely loosing rationality, not that he realized it. "You don't understand. None of you understand. I need a minute alone, you don't need to be here," he snapped, his voice rising in anger and speeding up with adrenaline.

"We do understand Spike, really we do. That case reminded everyone of Lou, and it was hard on all of us to lose him. Let's just go home, things will look better tomorrow, I promise. This isn't the answer," he told him gently, slowly stepping towards Spike. It was like he had read his mind, typical Sarge.

Spike shook his head, logic and reason flying out of his mind. "I can't do it anymore. She doesn't belong here, taking Lou's spot."

Behind Greg, the door creaked open once again, and Ed, Jules, Leah, Sam and Wordy filed silently through the door, watching the events solemnly from the hallway just past the door. Spike heard the door this time, and he shook his head violently as he saw the new arrivals, pacing around the room, gun waving wildly.

"Look Buddy, we all miss Lou, but we need to have a full team. I know it's been hardest on you, you were his best friend. We'll help you get through this, don't do this, Spike," Greg pushed him lightly, trying to calm him down.

"I have to, I have to!" yelled Spike, barely any self control left in his system. Stopping his pacing, he raised the gun, holding it against his head, tears falling down his face. "He was more than my best friend. I can't do it without him anymore!"

Team One watched terrified from the door, praying for Spike to put the gun down with tear-filled eyes. Tears were already sliding out Jules' eyes. This was worse than anything they'd been through. Even when Sargeant Rangford had barricaded himself in the briefing room, it hadn't held the same terror as now. Spike was family, and they needed him. They couldn't handle losing another teammate, not after losing Lou. They were barely holding on as it was.

"Don't do this to us, Spike, don't do it," cried Greg, a desperate note creeping into his voice. "Lou wouldn't want this."

"Don't tell me what Lou would want!" screamed Spike in despair, pressing his gun against his head. "He didn't want a lot of things, being blown up was one of them! I just want to see him again."

He was sobbing convulsively now, shaking with grief and frustration. Why couldn't they just let him be? He needed to do this. And why was Leah here? She didn't belong here, not in the family. That was Lou's place, no one else's.

"I know he didn't want that, I do," murmured Greg, tears forming in his eyes. "But he gave up his life to save yours. Don't waste that now, we need you, Spike. We need you, and your parents need you. I know it seems impossible now, but things will get better. You just need time, and we'll help you every step of the way."

Spike said nothing, still sobbing with the gun pressed into his temple. As hard as he tried, he couldn't bring himself to put the gun down, but he couldn't pull the trigger either. The Sarge was right, that he knew. Lou had given his life to save his, and he didn't want to waste that. But it was so hard. He was looking, but he couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"Don't take the easy way out, Spike," Sam whispered, barely audible. His eyes were red rimmed, and he was watching Spike with desperation.

"Spike," Jules whispered softly, her eyes pleading and her voice filled with enough emotion to break his heart. That alone almost made him put the gun away, but he couldn't. He still couldn't.

He closed his eyes, his hands shaking beyond belief. Greg was lost, for the first time since he'd become a negotiator he had no idea how to ease this man's pain.

Leah had watched the events silently, but seeing Spike close his eyes she knew it was time to reveal the secrets of her past that she'd tried so hard to put behind her.

"Spike, don't do it. I get it, more than you'd expect," she said honestly, her eyes welling up with tears as she took a step forward. "When I was with the Fire Department, we were fighting a really wild fire, and I was in there with my partner. That night, I lost my partner of four years, my best friend. He was closer to me then anyone else."

Spike opened his eyes painfully. Almost unwillingly, he looked her straight in the eyes, daring her to continue.

"I know why you hate me. When they replaced my partner, for weeks I couldn't stand to be in the same room as his replacement. It was like a kick in the gut, seeing him take the place of someone so precious to me. I didn't think I would ever be able to get past that, but with the team's help I did. I know you can, too. Your team loves you so much, and you can get past this. Trust me," she told him, her voice full of conviction. Tears were falling freely down her face, but she met his cold stare evenly.

Greg picked up again, knowing they were close. "We're here for you, Spike. Just put the gun down. Please?"

Finally, Spike broke. Putting his hands over his face, he collapsed in soul chilling sobs, putting the gun down. Greg walked over swiftly, sliding the gun away and wrapping Spike into a compassionate embrace. "It'll be all right," he reassured him, rocking him back and forth like a baby.

Ed, Jules, Sam, and Wordy walked over to Spike too, nodding or clapping Leah on the shoulder as they passed.

He sat on the floor, his sobs slowly subsiding into shaking breaths. They were right, he could get through this. Just having the team around him again, offering their support like a thick stone pillar was helping him calm down. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

The soft smiles on their faces told him what they didn't say. They understood, and he didn't need to apologize. They were going to get through this together.

He looked up, his eyes softening as he met Leah's tear-filled ones. He could finally accept her, and maybe one day he would be able to call her family. That day was still far away, though. He nodded to her, a small smile on his face.

Leah nodded in return, understanding reflected in her eyes. With that, she turned and left Spike alone with the rest of the team.

Things would work out, that he knew now. He would keep going, for Lou. For Lou, he would do anything.


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