Title: How to Say Goodbye
Author : Nilitara (livejournal)/loonie_lupin (ff. net)
Fandom : Criminal Minds : Suspect Bahavior
Characters/Pairing : Mick Rawson, Prophet, cameo from Beth
Rating : FRT
Summary : A look into Mick's psyche during an incredibly difficult time. End open to interpretation.

Disclaimer: The characters and settings are not mine but the property of their creators.

How to Say Goodbye

Mick emerged slowly from his sleep, in the bedroom of his apartment. He felt tired, though he had no real idea why. There hadn't been a case in a while now and he had been able to take some vacation time, the whole team had. There was therefore no reason for him to feel that exhausted but his body seemed to have missed the memo.

As he regained balance, he noticed that it was still dark outside and he couldn't understand what had woken him up. He frowned. That was quite unusual. He wasn't a very deep sleeper, it would have been difficult considering the life he had lived up to now, but he usually didn't woke for no reason at all. Normally, it would be because of an alarm clock, a phone ringing or some unexpected noise.

The question was answered quickly as he heard something coming from his own living room. It was in that moment that his brain registered that some light was filtering from under the door and it surprised him. He was quite certain he had turned all the light off before going to bed and what kind of burglar would turn them on? Seriously, they would have to be stupid. Of course, most criminal were actually stupid so…

He was still going to be cautious because stupid didn't mean harmless. Whoever was there was going to regret breaking in into a federal agent's home. He hadn't chosen his victim particularly well.

Mick took his gun from his nightstand and got up, making sure not to make any noise. Unheard be the person outside, he went to the door and opened it silently. He drew his gun, ready to shoot should the need arise, and went into the living room. For a fraction of second, the adrenaline pumped into his system as he saw a silhouette, before he realized there was no burglar and no danger either.

"Prophet?" he inquired, disbelieving when he saw that the person sitting on his sofa was none other than his friend.

"Hey, Mick" the older man said jovially.

Mick frowned. It wasn't that he wasn't happy to see his friend; he was. However, turning out unannounced, without even ringing the doorbell, was hardly Prophet's usual style.

"I hope you don't mind, I used the key you gave me."

Mick shook his head before putting the safety on on his gun and leaving it on the table. It wasn't as if he was going to need it anyway. He sat down beside Prophet and turned to him, curious about his presence.

"Of course not. I wouldn't have given it to you if I did. What's going on?"

He detailed Prophet, trying to see if something was wrong. Looking at him, it didn't seem so, though his clothes were slightly messy. It seemed that he had either worn them for a few days or he had done something during the fay that had put him in contact with dirt. It was kind of strange. While Prophet was not one to dress up, he did keep his clothes clean. Still, it wasn't anything to be worried about even if it did add to Mick's impression that there was something going on.

"I just wanted to talk to you," Prophet said, in a voice that let no doubt he was serious.

Mick knew that when his best friend became like that, you had better listen. The older man loved joking around at any given time, really. He liked making the situation lighter with a few witty words, making fun – usually at his expense. It was a habit that Mick appreciated even if he sometimes denied it, but in their line of work, it was a way not to let the cases get to you.

However, it didn't mean that Prophet couldn't be serious when the situation asked for it and, usually, when it happened, it meant there was a pretty good reason for it and that people should listen to what he had to say because it was pretty important.

He looked at the older man expectantly, waiting for him to say what he had come there to say. He was slightly anxious because of the late hour. It had to be something big, something grave, for him not to wait until morning and, for a second, he was afraid something had happened to one of the team.

"You need to go back to work," he told him simply, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, and Mick had to frown at his words.

He couldn't understand what Prophet meant by that. Why should he be going back to work at the moment? What did he meant by he needed to? If there had been an urgent case, he would have been warned. Yet, the simple idea of going back there seemed to fill him with dread.

"I don't understand. We have been given the time off, why would I need to go?"

Prophet gave him a sad smile and Mick swallowed, his heart suddenly constricted with a sadness he couldn't understand feeling. There was something going on there and he knew that Prophet knew what it was but why wasn't he telling him?

"You know it's not true," the older man told him, looking at him with compassion-filled eyes, as if he was afraid Mick was going to break and he did feel like breaking even if he had no idea why.

Everything was alright, though. They had finished their last case and they were all taking some more than deserved time off. Except that, according to Prophet, it wasn't happening and he was certain he was forgetting something. He knew there was something he should remember, something that would be the key to understanding the whole conversation he was having with his friend. However, it just would come back to him.

"But before you do, you have to stop doing that to yourself," Prophet continued, his eyes never leaving Mick's even as the younger man looked down, staring intently at his own laps, unable to stand the attention anymore. "You know I would never blame you for what happened so you have to stop blaming yourself. It wasn't your fault, there was nothing you could have done differently and, deep down, you know it too."

Mick felt tears pricking his eyes. Emotionally, he knew what Prophet was talking about but his mind simply refused to supply the information. His breathing began to quicken and, even though he was almost afraid to look back up to Prophet, he just had to.

And when he did, the first things he registered was the blood running down Prophet's face, coming from a bullet wound on his right temple and he almost couldn't breathe anymore and, a second later, he was shooting up in his bed, sweating profusely, his heart beating way too fast.

He was in his room once again, in the dark, and it too him a few second to come back to himself, to shake off the last remnant of his nightmares. He passed a hand on his face and looked at his alarm clock. Red digits, indicating three forty-nine, were staring back at him but he knew that, no matter how early it was, there was no way he was getting anymore sleep that night. His mind playing back the last few seconds of his dream, he knew there was only one thing left to do.

It didn't even take him one hour. This time of the night, the roads were almost deserted. He parked his car in the visitor area and strode through the entrance door of the hospital, the hospital he had almost lived in those last few weeks. He knew it wasn't healthy but there was nothing that would stop him from coming back time and time again. He hated hospital, hated them with a passion, but he had to be there because all of this was his own fault.

He charmed his way in the hospital room with much practiced ease, even though the visiting hours were over hours ago. Of course, by now, most of the staff knew it was absolutely useless to try to get him to go back home once he had decided to come in. They knew he would never leave without seeing his friend and they didn't try too hard.

He took his usual place, sitting down in the chair at the bedside. He had never seen Prophet so still but there he was, lying on the hospital bed, his face so place he seemed almost dead. Instead of his faithful cap, he had a bandage tightly bound around his head and Mick knew he should be grateful that he had, at least, not killed his friend on the spot. A few millimeters on the left and Prophet would have been dead before he even hit the ground. However, Mick couldn't get over the fact that he was responsible; how could have he let that happen?

As he was staring at the white bed sheets through unfocused eyes, his mind played back the event of their last case.

The situation was bad, almost desperate. They had succeeded pretty quickly in getting into their unsub head but what they had discovered was not very optimistic. They knew he wouldn't let himself get caught alive and be sent to prison. They would probably have to kill him and, if possible, before he made too many more victims. To make sure of that, they had arranged a confrontation.

Prophet was the one who would be out there, in the open, with their killer. He would at least make one last effort to reason with him, for the sake of thoroughness, but they quite frankly didn't have any hope it would work. They knew their man would most likely turn his weapon against Prophet so Mick was waiting at a distance, hidden from the unsub view, watching the scene through the lens of his rifle, ready to shoot. The moment something happened, he would take the shot.

As they had suspected, Prophet's attempt to reason with the killer didn't give any result. He had decided he wouldn't go to jail, preferring to die in a blaze of glory, and there was nothing anyone could say to change his mind. The man reached for his gun, which was the only signal Mick had needed. He exhaled steadily and pressed on the trigger. It should have been the end of it, but it wasn't.

Something no one could have expected happened. The moment Prophet had seen the killer reach for the weapon he was carrying, he had seen a movement from the corner of his eyes and his attention fell on a child. The scene was supposed to have been secured and he had really no damn idea how the little girl riding her bike had arrived there.

Prophet's reaction was a pure reflex. There was no thinking about it. He saw a child in danger and reacted, initiating a movement in her direction, wanting to get her to safety. Unfortunately, his movement coincided with the moment Mick pulled the trigger and the bullet, who should have bypassed him by mere centimeter to dispatch their unsub, hit him; he fell to the ground and didn't move anymore.

Mick had never such fear before, his heart nearly stopping when he saw Prophet go down. Still, he had a killer to remove and he fired another shot, this time his bullet reaching his mark. Then he hurried up, running all the way down to the scene, falling on his knee at his best friend's side. He was the last one to reach him, the rest of the team already there. Cooper already had an ambulance on his way, the other talking but if any of them was addressing him, he had no idea. He just couldn't breathe.

"No, no, no, no…"

He wasn't even aware of talking out loud but the mantra was falling continuously from his lips as he saw the blood seeping from the bullet wound Prophet sported on his temple. That had been his shot and if Prophet died…

"He's alive, Mick. He's alive," Cooper reassured him, the words penetrating the haze of his consciousness, but that did little to help him.

Yes, Prophet was alive for now, but for how long and, even if by miracle he did survive, in what state would he be when he woke up? After all, the ammunition had hit him in the head. He knew that it would take a very risky intervention to get it out and, should he wake up, he didn't know if his friend would ever be the same again.

His whole body was trembling, maybe he was slipping into shock, and he was barely aware of Beth helping him up as the paramedic, who had finally arrived on the scene after what felt like hours, worked on Prophet, loading him in their ambulance. He went with the movement, as if on autopilot, and he let her put an arm around his shoulder, leading him to the SUV.

They followed the ambulance and Mick had no idea how long they took to reach the hospital. He was too out of it, replaying the whole scene again and again. He followed Beth without thinking, not in any state to make a decision for himself and perfectly happy to let her lead him; they had joked months ago that she had become the team mom and, at the moment, she was playing the part very seriously.

They all ended up in the waiting room, sitting in complete silence. They waited for the longest time, with no clue to what was happening to their friend until, eventually, a surgeon came to them. His face was grim. The operation had apparently been grueling and the news were not very good. Thankfully, Prophet was still alive and they all let out a sigh of relief at that. At least, there was still the smallest chance now. The rest was more problematic: they had been able to extract the bullet and repair the damage it had done, but it had been difficult and Prophet had flatlined once. They had been able to get him back but he had slipped into a coma and they wouldn't be able to say if there was any mental damage before he woke up, if he ever woke up.

The possible consequences that the bullet he had fired may have on his friend hit Mick like a hammer. He couldn't stay there anymore. He had to get out and he left, almost running out of the hospital, deaf to his friend's calling. He made it out of the building before he had to stop, throwing up in a trash can outside. He felt a hand rub his back and he realized that Beth had followed him out. A sob wrenched out of his throat, without him being able to contain it, and Beth turned him around. He hid his face in her neck as he lost his fight against the tears. He let her close her arms around him, holding him to her.

He was thankful when she didn't try to talk to him, didn't try to shush him or tell him everything was going to be okay when it clearly wasn't, but just held him tight as he let his sorrow out. Beth tugged him, making him move, until they were both sitting on a nearby bench and he had no idea how long they stayed like this but, if she was getting tired, she never let it show. And he was very grateful to her because, right now, she was his rock.

Mick was jolted out of his memories as a nurse opened the door, entering the room for a check-up of Prophet's vital. Already knowing the answer but not caring, he asked her the same question he always did, every time he saw someone looking at the monitors.

"Has there been any change?"

She turned to him and, if he hadn't already been aware of the answer before, her face would tell him everything he needed to know. Compassion written all over her face, she answered, not showing if she was annoyed with him asking the same question every time.

"No, there is still no change," she said quietly, almost whispering, and he knew it was bad news.

It had been weeks with absolutely no change and Mick knew that the time was close when they would have to disconnect the machines keeping him alive and breathing. He knew, Cooper had told him, that there were papers and that they would have to face it soon enough. The longer Prophet's coma continued, the less hope they had he would wake up.

Mick knew the time had come. It hurt, it hurt so very much. How could he ever live with himself after that? How could he go on knowing that it was his own shot that had killed his best friend? Yet, he knew it was a question he would have to answer soon enough.

"When are they going to…?"

He didn't finish his sentence, his courage failing him. He didn't need to, though. The nurse looked as if she wanted to be anywhere but there. She didn't want to be the one to give an apparently already hurting man the information because she knew what she was going to say could only bring more sorrow.

"If there is still no change at all, later this morning," she said, putting a comforting hand on his arm and then she was out, leaving him alone with Prophet.

In the morning. In only a few hours. He only had a few hours before saying his last goodbye to his best friend. And what was there left to say to him except sorry. Because, in the end, Mick was the one who would have ended his life, weeks ago. The only hope that was left was that Prophet would be able to breathe without the respirators. Then, there would still be a chance, as slim as it was.

Mick took one of Prophet's still hands in his and leant, his elbows on the bed, resting his forehead on their hands. His throat felt constricted and he knew he was fighting a losing battle. He hadn't lost control of his emotions since the night it had happened, had been almost apathetic since then, unable to even go back to work. Thankfully, Cooper had been covering for him but he knew he would soon have to go back. It was going to be difficult without Prophet, but there was no other solution.

The certitude of Prophet's imminent death was apparently enough to break the ice that had settled around his heart and tears began to leak out from his closed lids, falling onto their entwined hands.

He was tired, exhausted and, after a while, he just stopped trying to fight to stay conscious. He let his head rest of the bed, still clutching at Prophet's hand. And as he was slowly falling into a uneasy sleep, he felt something squeeze his hands and he wasn't sure if he was already dreaming or not.