Note: This is an AU Ending to Ally McBeal Season 3 episode 6: Changes

As always, I don't own anything (I would be a little confused as to why I owned a a tv show back when I was like four, though it would have been cool, I would have been the only one I knew who did!), except for this plot. It only came to me when I watched the episode 3x06, and Richard's choice of words confused me and I guess that this is what came from it.

Like all of my other stories, this is Un-Beta'd, so any and all mistakes are mine.

"There's no rule that says you have to wake up."

Ten words. Ten simple words that only had to do with the fact that you don't have to wake up one morning, when you became older, look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself how you got to where you were in life.

It only meant that you don't have to all of a sudden wonder what happened in your life to lead you to where you are now, you don't have to have that realisation that some things that you planned to do when you were 7 didn't actually happen, but it is supposed to tell you that all of those plans weren't even important, and that if it all had happened, then you wouldn't be the same person that you are today.

It only meant that you can take stock of what you have in life and know that even if you didn't accomplish every tiny dream you concocted when you were still a child, your life is good, and it means something. To you and your friends.

At least, that's what it was supposed to have meant.

Richard glanced at his watch, for what he reckoned was probably the hundredth time that day. 4:05:34, 35, 36. He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. John had been acting so strange the previous day, and after he spoke to him, John just left.

He had tried calling him so many times, always getting the answering machine, the same message saying that John wasn't there and to try again later or leave his name and number. I was frustrating and disconcerting. To say that he was worried was an understatement, but he was planning to leave soon so he could visit him and see what was going on. He couldn't leave yet because a couple of new cases were coming in, meaning lots of paperwork. But the concern was valid, as John very rarely didn't show up to work.

"Mr. Richard Fish?"

Richard looked up from the papers on his desk. Two policemen stood at his door, their faces almost expressionless. Only the slight tightening of their jaws and the way they stood rigidly had his stomach attempting acrobatic manoeuvres.

He quickly put on his regular carefree grin, standing up. "Gentlemen, what can I help you with?"

One officer stepped forward, the other obviously hanging back near the door, looking uncomfortable. Must be a new guy. Richard figured, his smile faltering momentarily.

"You are the emergency contact of John Cage, correct?" The older officer inquired.

The smile fell from Richard's face. "Yes. What happened to John? Is he okay?" He asked, trying to keep his voice sounding steady. A cold feeling of dread washed over him with the realisation that most of the time the cops don't visit you unless it's really serious.

"Sir, a neighbour of John found him this morning in his apartment. We found a bottle of sleeping pills near him, we believe that he purposely OD'd on them." The officer grabbed an envelope with the name Richard written eloquently across the front. He held it out to Richard, who grabbed it with shaking hands. "I'm sorry sir. He didn't make it."

"Oh." Richard couldn't think of what to say. He sat down, staring at the envelope. He didn't notice when the officers left.

With trembling hands, he opened it and removed the piece of paper.

"Richard,

I just want you to know that I am really sorry about this, and I hope that you don't hate me, but I understand if you do. I just feel that it's the right thing for me to do.

Please tell Nell that I love her and tell her, Ally and Elaine that I'm sorry.

And let Ling know that I'm sorry that I never got to know her better – she's been the best thing for you and I know that she'll take good care of you, so admit to her that you love her, even though it's a terrifying concept to you.

I'm glad that I was able to know all of you.

Goodbye Richard, you were the best friend a guy could ever ask for,

John.

P.S. Please, please don't ever think that any of this was because of you. You've always stuck by me and been there for me, but I've known that this was coming for a while now."

Tears threatened to spill from his eyes. He was engrossed in the letter, wishing, praying that it wasn't real, that John would come through the door, stuttering an apology for such a bad taste joke, then Richard would smack him over the head, call him a dimwit for playing such a stupid prank, yell at him for an hour, and they would be fine again afterwards.

He had no idea how long he was sitting there, silently staring at the piece of paper, crumpled along the edges.

"Dammit John..."

"Richard?" He glanced up at the door. Elaine was there, a concerned look on her face. "What's wrong?"

Richard swallowed, willing himself to keep his emotions in check. "John..." He blinked a couple of times, looking down. "John's gone." He managed to keep his voice steady, at least.

He gratefully accepted it when he felt Elaine wrap her arms around him. "Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry. Why did he leave?"

Richard froze. She must have misunderstood. He pushed her away slightly, looking at her face. She didn't seem to know what he meant. "No, Elaine. He didn't leave the firm." He gripped the letter in his hand tightly. "He's... He's dead. He overdosed on sleeping pills." The moment he said that, everything became real. John wouldn't come bouncing through the door, stuttering like always. He was really gone, never coming back. He looked back up at her, tears rolling down his cheeks. "Elaine... he killed himself."

Elaine gasped, tears filling her eyes. "Oh, Richard. I'm so sorry." She hugged him again. He returned it, gaining a small amount of comfort from the contact. There was nothing sexual between the two of them, it was just two people comforting one another. Despite common belief from the people that they both knew, Elaine wasn't actually the type to always be sexual, and she knew when to only be a friend. She was the first to break the contact, eyes reddened, tear tracks down her face, smudging her usually flawless makeup. "I have to... I have to go." She said, running out of the room.

Richard didn't blame her, she had been good friends with John, and was the one who always boosted his confidence when he was feeling down.

Ally appeared a moment later, her eyebrows furrowed in a look of confusion. She paused at the door, glancing back out. "Um, Richard? Why did Elaine run from here... crying?" She noticed that he also had tears running down his face. "Richard? Richard honey, what happened?" She hurried over, half kneeling next to his chair.

He wiped his eyes, taking one of her hands in his. "Ally, um... God, I don't know how to say this..." He let go, stood up, and walked over to the door, closing it from possible prying eyes and ears.

Ally stood, watching his movements, trying to discern what was causing Richard to act so... Un-Richard-like. "What?" She asked timidly. The strange behaviour was starting to weird her out.

Richard sighed, leaning against the wall next to the door and ran a hand through his hair. "It's John..." He started, his voice uncharacteristically small. He met her eyes. "Ally, he's dead." A vile taste filled his mouth at the thought of what had happened to his best friend. I should have seen that he was having problems. I did! And what did I do? Nothing! I brushed him off, and I told him that his life was fine. I completely ignored him...

"H-How?" She asked, stammering slightly, body trembling.

"He killed himself... Overdosed on sleeping pills." He stated, trying not to focus on what he was speaking about. "He left me a note, told me to tell you that he was sorry."

Ally walked over to him, gently bringing him into a hug. "Are you okay?" She asked, tears coating her voice.

"I should have known that there was something wrong, he was never emotionally stable... And now" His voice hitched, "he's gone. It's my fault, I should have done something."

Ally grasped the sides of his face, staring determinedly into his broken eyes. "Richard, listen to me." She said, her voice sympathetic, filled with emotion, and yet clear and powerful at the same time. "This was not your fault. There was nothing that you could have done. Sometimes people just can't handle things, and it overwhelms them. There are some that can be saved, and some that can't. John was... John was one of the ones where nothing could be done."

"But I was talking with him before he left here, he was saying that his life wasn't working out properly, and I told him that people never have to have that realisation, that..." He pressed a hand over his mouth, getting out of Ally's grasp. "Oh God... I said that you never have to wake up. But I didn't mean it like that!" Richard started shaking. "I didn't mean it like that, oh dear God, that's what pushed him over the edge."

A hand came across his face, hard. The sound of skin hitting skin extremely loud in the silence that followed. He placed a palm over the now hot area of skin, looking at Ally, confused. "Wha-?"

"Don't you dare believe that you were what caused this!" She shouted at him. "Richard, you're a good person, and what happened is a tragedy, but you can't blame yourself." She wrapped her arms around her waist, looking out at the deeply multicoloured sky, the sun beginning it's descent over the line of the city- How much time had passed? He wondered absently. "I know that we'll all be wracking our brains trying to figure out if we could have done something differently, but it just isn't possible to save everyone." Tears slipped down her cheeks. Richard noticed that she had managed to keep herself together longer than he and Elaine did. "The world is cruel that way."

"I'm sorry." Richard said, leaning against the edge of his desk. He sighed, running his hands over his face. "I have to tell Nell." He said, walking over to the door. He paused, looking back at Ally. "Thank you... for what you said."

She nodded silently, eyes meeting his. "Just remember it though." She said gently. "I understand that he was your best friend, and I know that people don't get over losing those who are close to them that easily."

"Thank you. You have to remember what you said yourself though."

"I will."

"Do you want me to stay?" He asked, knowing that she was nearing her breaking point.

Ally shook her head, a ghost of a smile on her lips. "No, I'll be fine by myself. You need to let Nell know what's happened."

"She can wait for a few more minutes." He pressed, not wanting her to deal with the grief alone.

"No. She needs to know now. It will only be more difficult later on. I'll be fine Richard."

"But-"

"Now Richard." She said sternly, knowing that he was trying to put off the inevitable. Her eyes softened. "It's okay, I don't want to be with people when I'm like this."

"Okay."

He wiped his eyes, took a deep, calming breath, mentally preparing himself, and walked out of his office, closing the door behind him, to allow Ally privacy as she sank to the floor, choked sobs racking her small frame.

Richard felt his chest ache as he heard the anguished sobbing coming from behind the closed door. Ally was a strong woman, one who didn't like having too much emotion shown to people. As much as she was the type to share her problems with others, quite often getting angry or upset because of it, none of them had ever really seen her cry, and Richard wasn't prepared to make her go through anything that she didn't want to, even if that meant leaving here alone to deal with the death of the man who she was friends with and (even though she wouldn't say so) loved.

He steeled himself, walking over to where the main area of work, where Nell was talking happily with Ling.

"Uh, Nell?" Richard asked, getting the tall woman's attention. Ling looked at him strangely. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

The blonde sighed, turning around to glare at him. "What do you want, Richard?" She demanded.

"I need to talk to you in private. It's about John." He glanced away from her when he said his friend's name.

"Oh for the love of- what the hell did that moron do this time?" She asked exasperatedly.

Richard stiffened when she said that, eyes darkening. "Don't talk about him like that." He said quietly.

"Richard? What's wrong?" Ling asked, concern in her voice, a rare emotion in her book.

"Nell, I want to talk to you in private, please." Richard said again, trying to keep his emotions under control.

"No, you know what, Richard?" Nell asked obnoxiously. "If that weirdo has got himself in trouble again, or has done something and is too cowardly to tell me in person, then I really don't give a crap. You can tell your little friend that we're over, because I'm sick of dating a pathetic freak like him."

"You cold-hearted BITCH!" Richard yelled, not caring that everyone in the room had stopped what they were doing to look over. Ally had stepped out of Richard's office, leaning against the door frame, arms wrapped around her middle, tears still making tracks down her cheeks. Elaine appeared near the bathroom, her makeup not fixed, trembling slightly and still crying freely. Richard was visibly shaking, hands clenched by his sides, all of his effort being put in to not punching the woman in front of him.

"What did you just say to me?" Nell asked, deadly ice in her voice.

"Richard, what's wrong?" Ling asked again, her eyes darting between her obviously distraught boyfriend and her best friend.

"You heard me." Richard's voice was deathly quiet. "I called you a cold hearted bitch, because, you know what?" He asked, repeating her words mockingly. "That's exactly what you are. I only wanted to talk to you in private because your boyfriend is DEAD!" He shouted the last part.

All the other members of the firm gasped, quite a lot of them turning to each other for comfort.

Nell stood there in shock. "Wh-what?" She stammered.

"You heard me, you fucking callous bitch." He said, venom ripping from each word, tears filling his eyes again. "John is dead, and I wanted to talk to you in private in case you weren't the she-devil that I had heard you were, and somewhere inside of you had an ounce of compassion and decency, and maybe, just maybe, would be saddened by that fact. I can see now that I was wrong. Oh, yes. One other thing. He wanted me to tell you that he was sorry and that he loved you, but I guess that you don't give a fuck about that either."

He turned around, storming back to his office, passing Ally, who entered the room with him. The room was quiet, only the soft sounds of crying could be heard as the people tried to console each other. Everyone in that room John had put effort into getting to know, becoming friends with them.

Billy and Georgia were hugging each other tightly, her head buried in his chest and his in her shoulder, all animosity between them forgotten.

Ling glared at her friend, tears gathering in her own eyes. "And people thought that I was the bitch out of the two of us. You could see from a mile away that Richard was upset!" She exclaimed.

"Yeah, well, I didn't know." Nell said flippantly, not even looking like she cared that the first guy who had truly accepted her and had at times broken through her icy exterior was dead.

"Richard's right Nell, you are a cold hearted bitch." Ling ran after her boyfriend, not bothering to knock before entering his office.

"Richard?" She asked tentatively, opening the door. The sight that greeted her knocked down the last of her defences. Richard was sitting on the floor, Ally's arms wrapped around him, crying into her shoulder.

Ally glanced up and murmured something into his ear. He nodded and she stood up, walking over to Ling, who took an unconscious step back. She didn't do anything, but Richard could be mad at her. Ally drew Ling into a hug. "Please take care of him for me." She said softly, smiling gently at the other woman and walking out of the office.

Ling sat down next to Richard, realising that for all of the friends that she has had over the years, she's never really had to comfort any of them like this. But no one she was friends with had ever made her drop the uncaring, bitchy façade and see herself for who she truly was, and that fact alone made seeing him like that so much harder.

She snuggled close to him and placed her hands over his. "Richard?" She asked, "Sweetie?"

Richard leant his head against her shoulder, allowing himself to draw comfort from the proximity. "It's just..." He trailed off, looking at their intertwined hands. "How could Nell be so cruel?"

For all of what Richard knew about the world and the people inhabiting it, he was still surprisingly naïve about how some people could act. Ling sighed, resting her head on top of his. "I don't know... At times I thought that maybe the Ice Queen exterior was all a front, but now... I would have thought that she would have at least cared about him."

Her own cold front was starting to melt, and what truly scared her was the fact that she would have to start being herself around the people that she worked with soon.

She absent-mindedly removed one of her hands from his and started stroking his hair.

"If you don't want to answer this, then I understand, but how did he...?" She couldn't bring herself to actually say the word, because when it was said, then it would become the truth.

Richard was silent for a moment, and Ling believed it to be her answer. "It's okay, you don't have to tell-"

"He killed himself," Richard's voice was detached. "Took a bottle of sleeping pills."

A silent tear slipped down Ling's face. "I'm so sorry." She whispered, placing a kiss on the top of his head.

"I love you." Richard said softly.

"I love you too." Ling said without a seconds hesitation, she had known for a while that her feelings had gone past the initial stage in their relationship.

Richard chuckled, his voice thick with tears. "You know, John told me to stop being so afraid of admitting it to myself and finally tell you."

Ling pulled her boyfriend close, the touch a mixture of love and comfort. "He was a smart man."

"And the best friend that I could have ever had."

They sat there in a comfortable silence for another two hours, remembering John, before their tears dried and they left the office, hand in hand.

The next morning Nell had handed in her resignation, leaving their lives forever.

And that is what my strange mind produced – the longest thing that I've ever completed! (though I did do a ten chapter piece once, then decided I didn't like it)

It didn't really end up how I had planned, but I guess that it's just how it goes with stories. Nell wasn't supposed to be a biznitch, but I think that I may harbour a grudge against her character (the elevator and the phone- if you've seen the episode with it, then you know why)

Please review if you managed to persist with reading this all the way through, and let me know what you think; whether you loved it, liked it, hated it, or merely wanted to throw me throw a window. All of these things let me know how to be a better writer.

Thank you for reading!