Title: Need to know.

Disclaimer: They don't belong to me.

Rating: PG13

Summary: A breakdown in communication has deadly consequences. WARNING: THIS IS A DEATH FIC!

Author's notes: I am so distraught at the lack of interest in this fandom of late, I'm posting this just to see if anyone out there is still even remotely interested. I'm sorry for the grim content – but it's the only completed story I have. If anyone out there is still interested, there's a multi-chapter fic I have about ½ done. Please, inspire me to finish it!

NEED TO KNOW

By

Helen Louise

Cheryl kicked the door open with force, her arms braced and her gun held firmly in her fists. She didn't allow herself to be distracted by the sight that greeted her, but quickly covered the room – ensuring that there was no ambush lying in wait. There was none.

"Clear!" she cried to the officers behind her and leaving them to check the remaining rooms.

Only then did she holster her gun and approach the two figures slumped on the floor.

"Steve." Her voice was soft.

Her partner knelt on the concrete floor cradling another body close to him. Cheryl couldn't help but notice the blood staining the floor on which he knelt.

"They didn't have to do it, dammit!" Steve's sudden exclamation was loud and heartfelt – and Cheryl's heart broke in two at the devastation in his voice. "They didn't have to do that. They didn't have to shoot him…" His voice was degenerating into sobs. "Oh God…" Tremors besieged his frame. "Jesse…"

"Let me see." Cheryl dropped to her knees at her partner's side. "Let me take a look at him. Let me help."

"You can't help!" The words were raw and agonised and torn from his very soul. "He's dead! He's dead, dammit!" He pulled the body closer to him, allowing the tears to fall now that his colleagues were there; now that he had the chance to grieve. "He's dead…"

Cheryl carefully prised Jesse from her partner's arms. She didn't need to feel for a pulse to know that he had spoken the dreadful truth, but she did it anyway – and felt her heart break all over again at the feel of the cold, still flesh beneath her fingers.

Then suddenly the room was full – more cops; scientific support; medics. And the coroner. Jesse's corpse was taken from her.

She could see that Steve himself needed medical attention but, each time she tried to point this out to him, she met with stubborn refusal. The one EMT who dared to approach him was left reeling by the mouthful of abuse aimed at him. They weren't disturbed after that.

Steve refused to move. They tried everything. Cheryl resorted to begging and, somewhere in the midst of the nightmare, Captain Newman arrived – demanding an update into what had happened – but still he only stared at the bloodstained floor on which he sat.

"I tried so hard," he whispered, speaking mostly to himself. "I tried so hard to keep him warm. God help me, I tried." He remembered how Jesse had shivered so violently in his arms – and then remembered the moment that the shivering had stopped. He had hoped against hope that it was a good sign; even though in his heart he knew that it was not.

The drenching had not been intended for Jesse but, bound back to back with Steve, he had received his own fair share. And so the interrogation had continued: the beatings, the soakings; the threats to everything he held dear.

For a long time, Jesse – captive merely by association – had been tied to him, mere insurance should he try to escape. Then someone had suggested that their friendship might be significant; that it might be somehow affording him strength. And then their bonds had been cut. Jesse was shoved into one corner of the room where he stood trembling with terror and cold, a gun trained on him at all times.

"Tell me they're dead," Steve ground out – and his tone suggested that even if they were not, then he was. "Tell me."

"We got them, Steve. We got them all." She hunkered down next to him, charging herself with the impossible task of offering him comfort. "Which one was it, Steve? Who actually pulled the trigger? Who killed him?"

He looked at her through bleak eyes: "I did."

"Tell me." It was the same question that had been repeated a thousand times and, for the thousandth time, Steve held his silence. "Time to stop playing games."

Sudden gunfire split the air and Steve could only look on in incomprehension as Jesse slowly slid down the wall; blood pouring from a hole in his stomach that had never been there before…

Angry voices yelled at Steve, threatened the same fate for his father should he refuse to cooperate. But Steve heard none of it. He watched his best friend sliding down the wall; his life's blood spilling from his gut – and he lurched forwards; only for cruel hands to force him back.

"Let him dwell on the consequences of his actions for a while."

And they were dragged back to the cell that had been their home for the past two days.

"What was so important that they would cold-bloodedly kill an innocent man for it?" Cheryl listened with horror as the story gradually unfolded.

"I don't know." The whispered words were filled with self-loathing.

"Steve…"

"I don't know, dammit!" His anger again took precedence over his raging emotions. "If I knew what they wanted, do you think I'd have just let them murder him? It took so long, Cheryl… So long…"

"Hurts…" The voice was barely a whisper and Steve tightened his hold on his best friend. "Cold…"

"I know, buddy." They were slumped together against the wall; Jesse's hands clenched around his gut as if to prevent any more of the life-giving fluid seeping out from between his fingers.

"St… Steve… I…" He hissed in pain.

"Don't talk. Save your strength," the detective swiftly silenced him, all the while trying to deny the evidence that his own eyes were showing him. "Just stay with me, Jess. Tell me what to do."

"Pressure," the younger man murmured. "Put pressure on the wound and… warm… It's so cold, Steve."

Terror like he'd never felt before clutched at the detective's chest. He wrapped his arms around the young man's body and – using one hand to try and stem the relentless flow of blood – he pulled Jesse close.

"What do you mean you don't know? Steve, what were they asking you?"

"Al Munier." Steve's gaze, still vacant and blank, had again returned to the blood stained ground. "Who the hell is Al Munier?"

"A terrorist." It was Newman who answered and his voice jerked Steve's eyes upwards. "And we have him. You didn't know; you didn't need to know, but he was being held in LA awaiting transport to Washington."

"But I did 'need to know'," he whispered, hoarsely. "If I'd known, they might have spared him. I could have bargained…"

"You're shivering," he observed, pulling Jesse even closer.

"Sh… shivering is g… good…" Steve could hear Jesse's teeth chattering and tried to draw him closer still – to share some of his precious body heat. "It… It's when I s… stop sh… shivering…I'm in t… trouble…Sh… shivering reminds me… that I'm… alive…"

"You wouldn't have traded his life for the release of a man who has killed thousands." It wasn't a question. Newman knew his man too well.

"No, but I could have bought him some time." And there was a wealth of bitterness and betrayal in his voice.

They had let him keep his watch. It was precisely four minutes past midnight when Jesse stopped shivering.

And it was twenty seven minutes past that same hour when help arrived.

THE END