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CSI NY Fic: Blood, Bullets and Brothers (1/1)

November 29th, 2015 (08:42 pm)
enthralled

feeling: enthralled

Title: Blood, Bullets and Brothers

Disclaimer: I do not own CSI:NY.

A/N: Set immediately after the S5 finale and serves as a filler before S6. Unbeta’ed. Fits my bullet wounds prompt for hc_bingo.

Summary: Mac’s seen a lot of blood and he’s collected a lot of bullets. One more crime scene shouldn’t make much of a difference. This one does, though.



-o-

In his career, Mac has seen more than his share of blood and bullets.

Most of the time, however, he’s analyzing the aftermath.

This time, though, he’s living it in the moment.

With crime scene investigation, it’s easy to be orderly and analytical, to parse events and compile clues. But Mac knows what it’s like in the heat of the moment. He knows what it’s like to have gunfire over your head and adrenaline pounding through your veins. He’s been in combat, and he’s done his share of police work in the field.

There’s nothing quite like it.

No matter how well you’ve trained, no matter what kind of experience you have, nothing changes the sound of that first bullet.

Or the sight of fresh blood.

Blood and bullets, it’s all part of the job.

This, though.

This is personal.

-o-

This is what Mac knows, the instant the gunfire starts:

Multiple shots, dispersed seemingly at random. There’s no sense of a clear intended target, which makes sense since the gunfire seems to be coming from outside. The amount of shattered glass is suggestive of a wild pattern, which means someone is trying to make a statement or just really wants to get the job done.

It’s a powerful weapon for mass destruction, not precision. In a crowded bar during a popular hour, this could easily be a targeted selection or simply chosen as a way to up the profile of the crime. Considering there is a whole contingent of cops in the bar, random chance seems unlikely.

This is what Mac knows, by the time the gunfire stops:

It’s over within ten seconds, which means that whoever is shooting made their point or hit the target. The movement of the gunfire suggests that their perp was moving -- maybe running? Maybe in a car? If they hurry, they could give chase, maybe get some kind of lead.

Sitting up, he’s already thinking about finding all the bullets.

That’s when he sees the blood.

And this is what Mac doesn’t know:

This is a crime scene, to be sure. But a murder scene?

He can only hope not.

-o-

At a crime scene, Mac likes to take his time.

Time, however, is a luxury he doesn’t have.

His first instinct is to give chase, but it’s still disorienting to be the victim of a shootout. There’s broken glass everywhere, and alcohol reeks from the floorboards. He sees the blood about the same time he hears Lindsay call out.

“Mac!”

It’s just one word, but one word is all it takes for Mac to remember that this isn’t some random crime scene and the victims aren’t anonymous.

These are his coworkers, his teammates, his employees, his friends. The closest thing to family Mac has had in quite some time.

And Lindsay, she sounds scared.

On his feet, he goes to her, fearing the worst. “Lindsay?”

Lindsay is on her knees in a rapidly forming pool of blood.

“Lindsay,” he says again, stomach starting to sink as he reaches down.

He touches her shoulder, and she looks up at him with large eyes. She’s not crying, but she looks terrified.

Her breathing catches.

“Lindsay,” he says. “Where are you--”

The question dies in his throat, though. Because Lindsay’s kneeling in a pool of blood and she’s terrified, but the critical piece of the puzzle falls into place.

It’s Danny who’s on the ground with blood stained hands and paling features. It’s Danny who’s down and doesn’t get up. It’s Danny who’s breathing in short, stunted gasps, straining to look down the length of his body.

It’s Danny.

Mac’s seen a lot of blood and he’s collected a lot of bullets.

One more crime scene shouldn’t make much of a difference.

This one does, though.

This one does.

-o-

“Okay,” Mac says, all business now. He steps around Lindsay toward Danny’s head. “Flack, I need you to call it in and start securing the scene.”

Face pinched, Don is standing not far away. And he’s not moving.

“Flack, now,” Mac barks, though not without sympathy for the other man. They’d come to remember Angell, and here they were, with another of their own down. “Sid! Hawkes!”

On the ground, Danny is starting to tremble, trying in vain to roll onto his side. Mac gently presses his shoulders to the floor.

“Just hang in there, Danny,” he coaches. “Just hang in there.”

Danny’s eyes pass over him without really seeing him. “I can’t feel my legs--”

Mac nods, but he doesn’t have time for that detail right now. “Lindsay,” he says. “We need to let Sid and Hawkes--”

Without being asked, Stella shows up, taking Lindsay by the shoulders. “Come on,” she coaxes.

Lindsay is reluctant. “But, Danny--”

Hawkes arrives first. “We’ll take care of him.”

“He’s in good hands,” Mac assures her.

Hawkes takes Lindsay’s spot, and Sid isn’t far behind, taking up a position on Danny’s other side. Sheldon has his fingers pressed into the pulse point on Danny’s neck while Sid rips open the front of Danny’s shirt.

Danny shivers visibly. “My legs--”

“Vitals are dropping,” Hawkes reports. “What about the wound?”

“In the back, I think,” Sid reports. “But there’s no exit wound.”

“Should we roll him?” Hawkes asks.

Sid nods, adjusting his position to support Danny’s shoulder. “On three--”

“One, two,” Hawkes starts, taking Danny’s arm gently. “Three.”

Mac balances Danny’s head while they roll, keeping it stabilized as best he can. Hawkes holds his shoulder in position while Sid lifts up the bloody back of Danny’s shirt.

It’s hard to see much at first -- not only is it bloody, but it’s still bleeding profusely. Mac has seen a person’s blood volume entirely soaked into the floor, but it’s a far more disconcerting thing to watch it happen.

“Okay, single gunshot wound,” Sid reports, wiping away some of the blood. “Could have nicked the spinal cord.”

Hawkes cranes his neck to look. “Could just be lodged against it.”

“Or swelling alone would cause a loss of feeling,” Sid agrees. “But the blood loss--”

“It hit something,” Hawkes says.

“Something major,” Sid says. “We’ll need pressure--”

“Here,” Adam says, producing bar towels out of nowhere.

Sid takes them, packing them on the wound. “We’ll need to watch his back,” he says.

“Keep it in alignment,” Hawkes says. “Mac, you okay to hold his neck?”

“Yeah,” Mac says. “I got him.”

With that, they roll him back, setting him back gently. Mac keeps Danny’s face between his hands to keep his head from rolling. When he looks down, he’s surprised to find Danny looking at him.

“My legs, Mac,” he says again, voice hitching. “I can’t feel them.”

“It’s okay,” Mac says. “Hawkes and Sid have got you for now.”

Danny’s breathing starts to increase, his eyes growing wet. “It’s like they’re gone,” he says, starting to ramble now. “No pain, no numbness -- they’re just gone. How can they be gone, Mac? How can they be gone?”

People respond to trauma in different ways, and there’s no way of knowing the mind will do when the body starts to shut down. And Mac doesn’t kid himself -- that is what’s happening here. The puddle of blood on the floor is still growing, and Danny’s skin is almost translucent. The thin sheen of sweat on his face and the size of his pupils are evidence enough of shock.

Danny’s bleeding out, right there on the barroom floor.

“I got to feel my legs,” Danny continues, almost sounding desperate. “What am I going to do without my legs?”

“You’re going to be fine, Danny,” Mac says. “You just have to hold on.”

Danny inhales with a sob, and his trembling picks up until his teeth are almost chattering. Hawkes is double checking Danny’s vitals while Sid maintains the pressure as best he can. Flack is securing the scene, Stella is holding Lindsay at bay. Adam is standing nervously, trying to do whatever he can to help.

They’re the perfect team, well matched and brilliantly trained. They’ve got good instincts, and they’re resourceful. They always get the job done.

Except the job is usually interpreting a crime scene, not living it. They’re not trained for this. Mac may believe they can solve almost every crime, but he’s not so brazen as to think they can prevent them.

“My legs,” Danny says, almost convulsing now. “My legs--

Lindsay is crying now, and Stella is holding her breath. Flack has to turn away, and Adam stands dumbfounded with his hands by his sides. Hawkes curses, and Sid shakes his head.

“We need that ambulance,” Sid says.

“He’s going to crash,” Hawkes says.

“Mac,” Danny says, voice barely a whisper now. “I can’t feel my legs.”

“Danny,” Mac says, pressing his fingers a little deeper into Danny’s face. “You have to stay with me, okay? Stay with me.

The job has always been blood and bullets, and Mac’s always been damn good at his job.

Not this time, though.

Danny’s eyelids start to flutter.

“Where’s that ambulance?” Hawkes yells.

“We’re losing him,” Sid says.

“Danny,” Mac says as Danny’s eyes slid shut and don’t open again. “Danny!”

-o-

It’s a little strange, if Mac is honest, watching the medics come in and do their job. They’re followed by the first set of uniforms on the scene, and everyone is professional and to the point as they get to work.

Mac’s used to living on the other side of this.

But this time, the blood is on his hands, and he’s the one answering the questions, not asking them.

“Sir,” one of the medics says, shifting Mac out of the way while a backboard is brought in beside Danny. In a few short minutes, Danny’s been outfitted with a heart monitor and oxygen mask, and the police are starting to section of the bar, sorting the witnesses and taking preliminary statements. “Sir.

Mac blinks, turning back to the woman. “I’m sorry, what?”

“I’ve got him,” she says with a kind, emphatic smile. “You can let go now.”

Mac looks down, where Danny’s head is still cradled between his hands. Hawkes is rattling off information to the second medic, and Sid is setting up an IV.

“Please, sir,” she says again. “Let us do our job.”

She has a job to do.

That’s more than Mac has the moment.

-o-

Mac walks with Danny as far as the ambulance. Sid has taken point, grabbing a ambu bag to start mechanical ventilation as Danny is loaded up. The other medic climbs in the back while the siren starts up, and Mac watches them take off.

Stella is standing with Lindsay, rubbing her shoulders reassuringly. “We’re going to head to the hospital,” Stella says quietly.

“He’ll be in good hands,” Hawkes says.

Flack and Adam have joined them, and Adam clears his throat nervously. “You, um,” Adam starts. “You want us to come?”

Lindsay swallows hard, looking numb. “I -- Lucy’s at the sitter,” she starts.

“I can get her,” Adam offers. “Meet you at the hospital.”

Mac works his jaw, swallowing back the tightness at his throat. “We’ll all be there,” he says. “Don’t worry about anything.”

Lindsay nods, her expression hollow. “Danny--” she starts, but she doesn’t know how to finish. “I don’t know what I’d do.”

Stella hugs her closer. “You won’t have to, okay?”

Lindsay nods again as Stella walks her away. Mac watches as they duck into a squad car and waits until they’re both securely inside and pulling away from the curb.

He turns to Flack. “The scene secured?”

“Responding officers are already interviewing officers and started to canvas the area,” Flack reports. “Nothing much coming up yet.”

“I promised to check up on Lucy, but I can start processing,” Adam offers.

“No,” Mac says, sighing heavily. He looks back toward the crime scene, as if for the first time. “We’re all witnesses; we’re involved. I’m not sure any of us could be objective enough to process things right now.”

“So you want us to do nothing?” Flack asks skeptically.

“We can give our statements, remember everything we know,” Mac says. “And then we can do like we said and be at the hospital.”

“Danny will be in surgery for a while,” Hawkes says.

“So Lindsay is going to need our support,” Mac says.

“But what about our jobs?” Flack says. It’s not necessarily like Don, but Mac knows he’s still reeling from Angell’s death. It’s not likely he knows how to deal with Danny’s condition either. “The son of a bitch who did this--”

“Will be caught,” Mac says. “But our first job right now is to our team. Understood?”

Adam nods, and Hawkes looks resolute. Flack draws a breath and wants to argue, but he doesn’t.

They know he’s right.

Even when he doesn’t really want to be.

-o-

Mac talks to the lead detective and convenes with the crime scene team on call. He makes Adam, Flack and Hawkes give their statements first, and when it’s his turn, he takes the investigator through the incident step by step.

It’s second nature to delineate the details. He talks about where they were sitting and where the first shots hit. He talks about how everyone hit the ground, but by the time he had his gun, the incident was already over. He positions all the witnesses, and by the time he gets to the place where Danny fell, it feels a little like business as usual.

He provides all the context necessary, how they were there to commemorate Angell, how Danny had wrapped himself around Lindsay. He explains that they didn’t see anything or anyone, but that they should look for tire marks outside and to count the number of shell casing to get a better sense of the nature of the attack.

“Do you think it was personal?” the detective asks.

Mac straightens, looking at the broken glass scattered across the ground and the tacky pool of Danny’s blood. “I couldn’t tell you for sure,” he says. “But it sure as hell feels that way.”

-o-

Adam is the first to go. By the time he’s cleared, the younger tech looks anxious and worried, and Mac reminds himself that Adam’s smart and capable, but he’s a lab worker. He doesn’t carry a gun. He’s not a cop.

“You doing okay?” he asks.

“Uh, yeah,” Adam says. “I got ahold of Lindsay’s sitter, and I’m headed there now.”

“That’s not what I mean,” Mac says.

Adam hesitates, wetting his lips. “It’s different when it’s happening,” he says after a moment. “In the lab, I can recreate anything, but this…”

“This isn’t something anyone should live through,” Mac agrees.

Adam nods, chewing his lip. “Danny’s going to live, right?” he asks. “I mean, he has to be okay.”

It’s a reassurance he wants to give, and it’s one he’s promised Lindsay. But Mac’s been doing this job too long, and there’s a difference between being supportive and being honest. “Honestly, I don’t know.”

The answer almost makes Adam flinch, and he furrows his brow anxiously. “I remember when Danny and I were taken hostage at that crime scene a few years ago,” he says. “I was so scared -- I couldn’t do anything.”

“That’s natural,” Mac says.

“I know, but Danny,” Adam says. “He didn’t hesitate to put himself out there. He willingly took a beating so we could get the upper hand.” He shakes his head. “He’s got to be okay.”

Mac draws a breath, nodding with a small smile. “He’s persistent when he wants to be,” he says. “And I can’t imagine he’d ever willingly leave his family.”

Adam manages a smile. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah.”

Mac inclines his head. “You sure you got Lucy?”


“Oh, yeah,” Adam says. “I’ve got it.”

“Good,” Mac says, smiling a little more now. “Good.”

-o-

Adam is easy.

Flack is not.

A year ago, this wouldn’t have been the case. Not that Don would ever respond well to an officer in peril, but this is Danny. Danny and Flack have always been good friends, and Flack’s a blue blood through and through. It’s in his nature to protect his own.

But loss can change a man, and all of them knew Angell, but none of them cared for her like Flack did. Tonight was supposed to be for him more than any of them, and somehow catharsis has been traded for a repeat of tragedy.

Mac knows that work is probably the only thing keeping Flack together.

And Mac’s about to take that from him.

“Hey,” he says, finding the other man leaned against one of the parked squad cars outside.

Flack barely looks at him.

“We’ll be headed to the hospital,” Mac continues.

Flack grunts.

Mac nods stiffly. “We should be there.”

“We should be there?” Flack asks cuttingly. “To sit in a waiting room while the bastard who did this walks?”

Mac is neither surprised nor hurt. “You’ve seen the search efforts,” he says. “You know we’re looking--”

“No, we’re going to sit on our hands and do nothing,” Flack says. “People go around killing cops, and where are we? Waiting. For someone else to die and for someone else to get away.”

Mac settles his lips into a grim line. “Waiting has always been an important part of what we do,” he says.

“Yeah?” Don asks. “Since it did me and Jess so much good.”

“You never would have forgiven yourself if you had left while she was in surgery,” Mac tells him. “There are lots of cops in the city, but there are only so many people who care about us. You were there for Angell. Now, as hard as it is, we have to be there for Danny and Lindsay.”

Flack looks away. “You say that like it’s easy,” he mutters.

“No,” Mac says. “That’s the hardest job of all.”

-o-

By the time he rounds up Hawkes, Mac is already tired. Sheldon is less tentative than Adam and less stressed out than Flack. In a sense, that makes it easier.

“You did good tonight,” Mac says. “Danny was lucky.”

Hawkes makes a small, incredulous sound in the back of his throat. “Danny went out for drinks and ended up with a bullet in his back,” he says. “It hardly seems lucky.”

Hawkes has a point, and Mac knows better than to not concede it. “Still,” he says. “Could have been worse.”

“I didn’t do much,” Hawkes says, shaking his head. “Not much I could have done, not without the proper tools.”

“He had the best immediate care possible,” Mac says. “I’d say that’s something.”

“It’s something,” Hawkes agrees, but he falters a little. “I’m not sure it’ll be enough, though. He lost a lot of blood, Mac.”

That’s not a technical delineation. They’re all faltering now, in their own ways. They’re all trying to do their job, but it’s not the same. Not with the life of one of their own hanging in the balance.

Worse still, there’s very little Mac can say or do to make it better.

“Come on,” he says instead. “Let’s see what we can do at the hospital.”

-o-

No matter what he says, it’s not easy to walk away from a crime scene. The fundamental shift is hard for him to grasp. Crossing that line from cop to victim is not something he’ll ever be used to.

He’ll follow the protocol, however.

For now.

Mac will have limited patience for being sidelined, but he knows his involvement at this point has to be personal.

It is personal.

At the hospital, flashing a badge only gets him so far, and it’s Stella who proves most helpful. He lets Hawkes and Flack go to Lindsay, who barely looks up when they come. Stella slips gracefully from her spot by Lindsay’s side, pulling him just out of earshot.

“Any sign of who pulled the trigger?” she asks, voice hushed.

“No one in custody yet,” Mac says.

Stella looks more than a little disappointed.

“Any word on Danny?” Mac presses.

Stella’s expression darkens even more as she shakes her head. “He was taken up to surgery,” she says. “That’s all they’re telling us so far.”

Mac casts a grim look toward Lindsay. “How’s she holding up?”

“Shock, I think,” Stella says. “It’s a lot to take in.”

“For all of us,” Mac agrees. “So there’s really no word on his condition?”

“They’ve been vague and encouraging, as far as Lindsay is concerned,” Stella reports.

“You think they’re sugarcoating it,” he assumes.

“I think they’re walking the fine line between offering no hope and false hope,” she replies. She shakes her head. “There was so much blood, Mac.”

“Yeah,” he says.

“I keep thinking, it can’t be Danny,” Stella continues. “I mean, Danny.

“It shouldn’t be anyone,” Mac says. “And Danny’s strong. Stubborn.”

“Sometimes he fights even when he shouldn’t,” Stella says with a small, rueful smile.

“So at least he has that going for him,” Mac says.

Stella sighs. “I just hope that’s enough.”

“Me, too,” Mac says, looking to Lindsay again. “Me, too.”

-o-

Mac’s been there for his team in the best ways he can. He knows that they’ll all respond to this differently, and he respects that. That’s a significant reason why he won’t be at the crime scene right now -- not because he doubts his own objectivity, but because it’s too soon to ask his team to wrestle with theirs.

In a situation like this, it’s easy to think that the injured party has the hardest job of all. And to be sure, Mac doesn’t envy Danny on any of this. The younger man has been through his share and come out on the other side; he’s worked hard to get to where he is, professionally and personally. A bullet to the back is the last thing he deserves right now.

And in the days and weeks that follow, Mac knows they’ll all have to be there for Danny. As he fights for his life, he’s going to need as many friends as he can get. But right now, Lindsay is his primary concern.

The shell shocked expression is one he knows too well, and it pains him to see it on someone he cares about.

Still, his experience has prepared him for this. Because he knows that sometimes the hardest part for a grieving family member are the questions. As a cop, he has to ask them.

As a friend, he knows not to.

Instead, he puts a hand on her shoulder, giving it a squeeze. With a small smile, he takes a seat adjacent to hers and settles down in reassuring silence.

For now, there are no questions. There are no clues. There is no evidence. They don’t need to know why or how right now.

They just need to get through it.

Together.

-o-

They’re quite the group.

Flack slumps sullenly in his seat while Hawkes is jittery, almost at full attention. Stella manages them like a mother hen, getting drinks and snacks while gently asking the nurses for the latest news. Lindsay sits at the center of their varied attentions, alternating between abject terror and rallied optimism.

Mac endures them all patiently. No one is wrong or right here. He’ll nudge Flack to attention, and he’ll engage Hawkes in idle chitchat to calm his nerves. He’ll take coffee from Stella so she feels like she’s being useful, and he’ll nod while Lindsay cries and rambles in equal turns.

When he gets a text from Adam, he excuses himself, going a little down the hallway to respond properly. Given Lindsay’s current mental state, he suggests that the other man take his time, maybe wait another hour or two before coming in. At this point, Mac figures Adam may be with Lucy all night, which would be best for the toddler and her mother.

He’s just about to head back when he sees a familiar face.

“Hey, Sid,” he says, noting that the ME is in a fresh pair of scrubs. “Where you been?”

“After riding with Danny all the way to the hospital, I figured my appearance wouldn’t be too reassuring to Lindsay,” he explains. “I managed to find myself a shower and some fresh clothes.”

“And that took you all this time?” Mac asks.

Sid sighs. “I wish,” he confesses. “I stayed with Danny as long as I could. I obviously don’t have privileges or anything like that, but they did let me stick around in the operating theater.”

“The operating theater?” Mac asks.

“It’s a teaching hospital, so the idea isn’t so out there,” Sid explains. “It gives students and other doctors the chance to watch the procedure. To learn from it.”

Mac raises his eyebrows. “And did you learn something?”

“Nothing good, I’m afraid,” Sid says. Then he hesitates. “What have they told Lindsay?”

“Just that surgery is ongoing,” Mac says. “He’s alive.”

“That much is true,” Sid agrees.

“But?” Mac prompts.

“But not by much,” Sid says. “They didn’t have time to run a full battery of tests before they took him up -- he was losing too much blood volume, so he was redlined to an OR. Before they could even open him up, he crashed once on them, and when I finally left, they were debating whether or not the spinal cord has suffered permanent damage or not.”

Mac does his best not to wince. “They don’t know yet?”

“The spinal cord is tricky,” Sid says, shaking his head. “The bullet didn’t sever it, which is the good news. But it was lodged against it, which throws the prognosis all over the place. Some people regain full functionality; others never move their legs again.”

It’s not news exactly, but it’s also not particularly reassuring.

“But honestly, that’s not even what I’d be worried about right now,” Sid continues.

Mac frowns at him.

Sid shrugs, almost apologetic. “The amount of blood loss Danny’s suffered puts him at risk for countless other complications,” he explains. “And he wasn’t down that long, but once you start bringing up the idea of reduced blood flow to the brain--”

Mac lifts his hand, rubbing between his eyes. “So it’s not good.”

“I’m afraid Danny has a long night ahead of him,” Sid says.

Mac looks wearily back toward the waiting room. “I’m afraid we all do.”

-o-

When the hour grows late, Hawkes says it’s perfectly normal. Anything with the spine is delicate surgery; they want to be thorough. There’s no reason to worry.

If Lindsay believes him, she doesn’t show it. She also doesn’t show much emotion when Flack reminds her that Danny resilient in a way that surprises you.

She doesn’t even flinch when Stella rubs a hand across her back and points out that Danny has a lot to live for. He’d do anything for that little girl of his.

They’re all better than the platitudes, but none of them can bring themselves to broach the alternatives. It’s a strange thing for them, not to look for answers. Somehow they’ve all been reduced to passive players in this story, and it’s not something any of them quite know what to do with.

It’d be easier to be on the scene, to be sorting the clues and avoiding the fact that this happened to them. That this happened to Danny and Lindsay. That this happened.

Mac’s not one to do things the easy way, even if sometimes he’d like to. He has to do things the right way, and he knows this is where he belongs, procedurally and personally.

Still, as the minutes tick by, Mac finds ways to keep himself occupied. Discretely, Mac checks his phone for updates from the team on the scene -- still no suspects and still no leads -- and he promises to review the scene with the CSI on duty tomorrow morning and make an extended statement for follow up questions with the lead detective.

While he’s at it, Mac makes all appropriate arranges regarding getting his team the necessary time off. It won’t be easy for the department to juggle, but there also isn’t a lot of choice. While Lindsay and Danny will be eligible for extended leave, he ensures that the rest of the team has tomorrow off.

As an added thought, he contacts the department psychologist. No one has fired a gun, but psychological assessment is probably wise considering what they’d been through.

Mostly, though, he sits with his team.

Bullets and blood can make or break a case.

They can also bring a team together.

The problem is that no one ever got to pick or choose. You have to live with whatever life throws at you.

Mac glances at Lindsay and rubbed the back of his neck. He can still hear Danny, mumbling on the barroom floor.

No pain, no numbness -- they’re just gone. How can they be gone, Mac? How can they be gone?

Danny’s the only one with a bullet in his back, but it’s a feeling they all know better than they want. They all know what it’s like, after all, to feel a loss they can’t explain. To wake up one day and have the world be irrevocably changed. There’s nothing to prepare you for that, and nothing makes it easier. It’s the feeling you get when two planes fly into buildings and your world comes crashing down. It’s the sensation you have when a former colleague ends up charred to bones in the back of a car. It’s the way you feel when a bomb explodes and you tie a friend’s insides together with shoestring.

It’s the way it is when you bury one of your own.

There’s no pain, no numbness.

They’re just gone.

Lindsay looks up, her eyes meeting his. He smiles, just a little -- just enough.

Not this time, though.

At least, not yet.

Mac doesn’t think of himself as an optimist, but tonight he’ll make an exception.

For all their sakes.

-o-

It’s late -- or early -- by the time the doctor finds them, and Mac’s schooled enough to know that it’s good news -- but only relatively speaking.

“The surgery went nearly as well as we could have hoped,” the doctor explains tiredly. “And we were able to remove the bullet and contain the bleeding.”

Lindsay is wringing her hands, face drawn with pale lines. Stella rubs a hand across her back, but Lindsay doesn’t notice. She’s desperate for comfort, but she’s not stupid.

None of them art. Sheldon is already dreading the next words out of the doctor’s mouth, and Flack can’t even bring himself to look.

“But he did lose a lot of blood in the process,” she says, and she’s good. She has the intonation right, a balance between confidence and sympathy. She’s the perfect embodiment of cautiously optimistic. “We’ve transfused him, but we have to be careful not to pump him up with too many fluids or he’ll suffer other complications.”

Complications like pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, death.

“We’ll be monitoring his vitals closely up in ICU,” the doctor continues. “He’s heavily sedated for now, and we’ve got him on the ventilator for the time being. We’re hoping to start dialing back the medications within the next two days to give us a better sense of his overall prognosis.”

“And his legs?” Lindsay asks before the doctor can continue. “What about his legs?”

That’s when cautiously optimistic becomes I’m so sorry.

-o-

ICU is a controlled ward, so Mac already knows they won’t all be able to stay. More than that, he knows his team is at its limits. He’s arranged for them to have tomorrow off, and he wants them to take it.

He sends Flack and Hawkes home, suggesting they both stop by later in the day to sit with Lindsay from time to time. Stella insists on staying, which Mac expected, so he waits for Adam to show up with Lucy. Once those arrangements are taken care of, he pulls Stella aside and tells him to call her if anything changes.

“Do you want to see him before you leave?” Stella asks, gesturing back toward the ICU. “Lindsay’s taking Lucy for some breakfast.”

Mac shakes his head. “I’ll take my turn later,” he says. “You and Adam can have this shift.”

Stella nods. “I think Adam’s a little in over his head,” she says. “Lucy was wearing her diaper backward when he brought her in.”

“I think we’re all in a bit over our heads,” Mac commiserates. “Anyway, like I said.”

With a sigh, Stella collects herself. “I’ll call you.”

-o-

Mac could go home in theory, but anyone who knows him also knows he never actually would. He’s taken a back seat in the investigation, but this is still his crime lab. And Danny is still his detective. There’s no way he’s going to keep himself entirely outside of things.

When he gets in, the office is busy -- it’s all hands on deck with an officer down. He finds this somewhat reassuring, but he takes the time to walk through the lab carefully, making sure that everyone is crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s.

He checks in with the lead detective, going over the evidence in more detail and providing another account of the events as best he can remember. The scene is still being processed, but the bulk of the evidence has been transferred back to the lab for testing.

“No leads yet?” Mac asks.

“It was a drive by shooting,” is the detective’s reply. “We’re trying to identify the tire marks, but that’s about all we’ve got.”

“No match on the bullet?” Mac presses.

“Nothing in IBIS.”

Mac sighs. “We’ve got all the blood and bullets in the world, but not a single lead.”

“Right now we’re doing an autopsy on the other victim.”

“Well,” Mac says grimly. “I guess that someplace to start.”

-o-

Going down to autopsy, Mac is reminded that for as bad as this is for his team, there is at least one other family suffering worse today. There had been four people seriously injured, three of whom were still receiving treatment at the hospital. The fourth victim had been pronounced dead at the scene.

In all the activity, Mac had had little time to follow any leads related to the other victims. In a room full of cops, it seems unlikely that someone else was the intended target, but considering how slim their leads are at the moment, Mac’s willing to entertain all the possibilities.

Besides, the other victims deserve closure, just as much as any of them.

He’s surprised, however, when he finds Sid examining the body.

“I thought I told you to take the day off,” Mac comments, glancing over his progress.

Sid looks up over his glasses. “Yes, well, I have to say I didn’t mind coming in today,” he muses, standing up and undoing his glasses. “I can’t help but be grateful somehow that it’s not Danny on this slab.”

Mac doesn’t disagree, but he nods down at the body. “That doesn’t make this any less tragic.”

“Of course not,” Sid says.

“I do know how you feel, though,” Mac says. “What do we have on him?”

“Joshua Morales, 29 years old,” Sid reports. “He was the bartender last night.”

“Cause of death?” Mac asks.

“Massive internal bleeding,” Sid says, pointing at the entry wound on Morales’ chest. “He was only hit once, but the bullet nicked his aorta. He was dead before we were even able to assess him on the scene.”

Mac nods, looking over the length of the body. “Anything else we can tell from him?”

Sid shrugs. “He was in good health before this happened,” he says. “No other signs of trauma, and he’s not in the system. He did suffer from various other superficial cuts, much like the rest of us, but there’s nothing to suggest that Joshua Morales knew what was coming. Worse, there’s nothing here to tell us anything else about our shooter.”

It’s not surprising news, but it’s definitely not good news. “Doesn’t seem fair,” he comments tiredly. “He’s just going about his life, doing his job -- and wham, out of nowhere.”

Sid inclines his head in commiseration. “Even more disconcerting is that it could have been any of us,” he says. “If any of us had fallen slower or ducked the wrong direction--”

Mac’s not ready to think about that. Maybe not ever. He’s not one for what-if’s. He’s spent too much of his life tied up in that sort of thing, and in his line of work, certainty is paramount. “Don’t work too hard, Sid,” he says. “Considering taking off after lunch.”

“I was thinking about visiting Danny,” Sid says.

“You have the time, so take it,” Mac lectures.

“And what about you?” Sid asks.

“Just a few things I need to do,” he says, moving toward the door. “But the job is more than bullets and blood today.”

-o-

Mac does his best to be helpful but not to hover. He knows that the investigation is in good hands, but he also doesn’t want to leave anything about this one to chance. It’s almost more than he cares to think about, that the person or people who did this are still out there, completely at large while Danny is unconcious in a hospital bed.

Usually, Mac knows how to be patient with justice.

This time, it’s damn hard.

By midday, he’s drained the coffee pot several times, and people are starting to give him looks. He knows to leave before he’s politely asked to go.

He goes to his apartment first, showering and changing his clothes. There are some leftovers in the fridge, which he doesn’t bother to warm up, and when he sits down on the couch for two seconds of a reprieve, he wakes up nearly an hour later.

His brain is a little foggy, but he’s coherent enough to know that he either needs to get up or expect to lay there for another four to five hours. Since it’s already well past noon and he still has a job to do, he forces himself to get up.

Mac pours a cup of coffee to go and heads out.

He’s as ready as he’ll ever be.

-o-

The hospital is busier in the afternoon, and Mac does his best not to regard the crowds too skeptically. Still, he makes a mental note to put an official police presence on Danny’s room, just to be safe. They still can’t quite figure out who was being targeted or why, but it’s not like Danny can defend himself right now.

And it’s not like any of them can afford to lose more than they already have.

He finds Adam first and sends him home for the day, no questions asked. Stella is harder to convince, but he suggests that she take Lucy back with her so they both can rest. There’s been no sign of Flack or Hawkes yet, which Mac thinks is good. They need the rest.

It’s still a long fight ahead of them.

With all this squared away, Mac knows the hardest part is still to come. He stands outside Danny’s ICU cubicle for a long moment, watching Lindsay perched in the chair at his side. She’s holding his hand, propping her chin up with the other. Her shoulders are hunched over in exhaustion, and she’s still wearing the same blood stained pants from last night.

In all the ways that Mac’s tired, Lindsay is more so.

A long fight, indeed.

Collecting a breath, Mac rallies his courage and goes inside.

-o-

No one is particularly fond of hospital rooms, but Mac has always been fairly unsentimental about them. He understands why they cause people anxiety, but he also understands why they’re important. Besides, he’s so used to seeing people laid out in autopsy, that all the medical equipment is usually somewhat reassuring to him.

He knows, after all, that there are worse places to be than a hospital bed.

That’s relativity at its finest, and it means almost nothing to him the second he walks into Danny’s ICU cubicle.

Because he knows Danny. He’s the one who recruited him to the crime lab, despite advice to the contrary. He’s the one who trained Danny, who disciplined him when he needed it, and supported him when the time came. It’s not just that Danny’s a good CSI -- it’s that Danny’s grown up right in front of him. It’s that Danny’s put his entire life into this job.

Mac doesn’t want that to be literal.

But there he is, laid out in the bed. The wires and machines almost look cluttered, crossed over each other and snaking under the blankets. The ventilator is the most noticeable one, taped down around Danny’s mouth and hung hastily above the bed to the bank of machines to the side. There are a myriad of small cuts from broken glass on his face and arms, but the bulky bandage around his midsection is the hardest to miss.

Just yesterday, Danny was working a case.

Today, he is the case.

From her spot by Danny’s side, Lindsay doesn’t look up.

Mac clears his throat as a courtesy, but she doesn’t even flinch. He makes his way to her, standing just behind her. He doesn’t ask how Danny is; he doesn’t ask how she is. This much isn’t part of a crime scene so Mac won’t document the obvious.

Instead, he pulls up the second chair and settles down on the opposite side of Danny’s bed.

Because sometimes doing nothing is the most important task of all.

-o-

“You know, I never came here for this,” Lindsay says after about ten minutes has passed.

Mac glances at her.

Lindsay is looking at Danny, though. “Most of the girls back where I grew, they never even left town,” she explains. “All they wanted was to settle down and get married, have a couple of kids.”

“It’s not an uncommon dream,” Mac says. “For people of any gender.”

Lindsay draws her lips together, almost smiling. “Most of them are divorced now. Single moms, trying to make ends meet, or trying to keep it together in an overtaxed marriage,” she says. “That’s why I never wanted it, any of it. I became a cop to be something different, and when the opportunity came to come to New York, I didn’t even think twice. Because I never needed a man or a family to make myself feel complete.”

She stops, her eyes turning back to Danny again.

“And here I am,” she says, rubbing her fingers across Danny’s knuckles. “The doting wife, holding a bedside vigil, worried about my baby at home.”

“There’s nothing inherent strong or weak about being in a relationship,” Mac tells her. “The ability to love is what makes us human. The ability to commit, to put someone else first -- that’s the most strength of character anyone will ever be asked to give in this life.”

“But don’t you get it, Mac?” she asks, eyes starting to brim with tears. “I was so sure before. And I was so safe. Being a cop -- that was never scary. I never worried about putting my own life on the line. But Danny? Seeing Danny’s life on the line? I’m terrified.

Sighing, Mac offers a small, sympathetic smile. He knows what it’s like, after all, to be afraid to hope. That pit in the stomach, that just gets deeper with each passing second. For him, it had never filled.

For Lindsay and Danny, there’s still reason for hope.

“Love is the most powerful and vulnerable of all human emotions,” he says. “We’d all be a lot safer without it.”

“Yeah,” Lindsay says, squeezing Danny’s limp fingers. “But we wouldn’t really be better.”

-o-

Hawkes returns in the late afternoon. Mac hasn’t been watching the time, but he’s stiff when he gets up out of his seat to meet Sheldon in the hallway.

“Hey, any change?” Hawkes asks, glancing anxiously over Mac’s shoulder.

“Nothing that they’re telling us about,” Mac says, keeping his voice down.

Hawkes seems to follow his lead. “How’s Lindsay holding up?”

“As well as can be expected,” he says. “She talked to Danny’s mom earlier, so at least there should be some more family coming around.”

Hawkes makes a small face. “Still.”

Mac nods. “Still,” he agrees. “I think one of us should be here until Danny wakes up. I’m toying with the idea of a protective detail--”

“You think that’s necessary?” Hawkes asks.

“I think we can’t rule it out,” Mac says. “But I think the idea might be upsetting to Lindsay. But if one of us stays with her--”

“Two birds with one stone,” Hawkes says.

“Something like that,” Mac says, turning to look back at the cubicle. “It’s hard being on this side of things. Any chance you could take a peek at his chart? Give us a better indication of how he’s doing?”

“If Lindsay doesn’t mind,” Hawkes says.

Mac gestures. “One way to find out.”

-o-

They’re only supposed to have two people in the room at a time, but the nurses seem sympathetic to their cause. All the same, Mac is mindful of how much time they spend together, and holds a precautionary stance in the door.

“Hey,” Hawkes says warmly.

Lindsay smiles up at him.

He pats her shoulder. “You two hanging in there?”

“I guess so,” Lindsay says. “The nurses try to be positive.”

“It’s been proven that mindset can greatly affect physical outcomes,” Hawkes says. He glances at the chart tucked on Danny’s bed. “You want me to take a look?”

“Sure,” Lindsay says. “I’ve looked at it myself, but my biology studies aren’t paying off very well.”

Hawkes picks it up with a smile. “Doctors like to use their own language,” he says. “It makes us sound smart.”

“Hey, as long as it saves Danny, I’m fine,” Lindsay says.

Hawkes reads quickly, brow furrowing just for a moment as he flips to the second page. Then, his face goes noticeably blank and he puts the chart back down.

“So?” Lindsay asks.

“What exactly are the doctor telling you?” he asks, trying to sound unassuming, but Mac recognizes the technique from the interrogation room.

“Mostly that he’s holding his own,” she says. “Blood loss takes time to recover from, but he actually avoided most significant organ injury. He’s doing better; they think he’ll live, but they’re still not being definitive about his legs.”

Hawkes nods. “The bullet missed most of the vital organs, which is really good,” he says. “He has some intestinal damage, but it’s surprisingly little given the placement of the bullet. And there’s no sign of infection or fluid build up in the lungs.”

“So that’s all good,” Lindsay says.

“Very good,” Hawkes tells her.

“And his legs?” Lindsay asks.

Hawkes is a professional, both in police work and as a doctor, but he falters here. Not much, but just enough.

Mac notices.

Worse, Lindsay notices. “Sheldon,” she says. “What about his legs?”

He exhales heavily. “Spinal cord injuries are never straightforward,” he says. “Sometimes you get a miracle; sometimes you get nothing. Even though Danny’s cord wasn’t hit, the swelling is pressing on the surrounding nerves.”

“But when the swelling recedes,” Lindsay say.

“Then, in theory, he could be fine,” Hawkes says.

“But?” Lindsay prompts.

“But he might not be,” Hawkes says. “The swelling could leave lasting nerve damage, which could range from mild tingling to full on paralysis.”

Lindsay takes the news stoically, but it still affects her. Her jaw works tightly as she looks at Danny.

Hawkes steps forward again. “The doctors are going to throw out odds, percentages,” he says. “And maybe you’ll take comfort in that, and maybe you won’t. But the important thing to remember is that those are just best guesses. The thing that matters -- the only thing that matters -- is Danny. If we believe that he’s going to walk again, then he’s going to believe it, and that can change everything.”

“Or not,” Lindsay says. “He might never walk again.”

Mac moves closer, interjecting himself gently. “He’s come this far, Lindsay,” he says. “We’ll see him through the rest.”

She sighs, looking back at her husband.

“I promise, Lindsay,” Mac says. “We’ll all see him through the rest.”

-o-

Mac takes his leave, using some time in the waiting room to check his messages and make a few calls. When Hawkes comes by a little while later, he invites Mac out for dinner.

“No, I’m good,” Mac says. “Cafeteria’s not so bad here.”

Hawkes gives him a knowing look. “You’re making sure we’re all taken care of,” he says. “Don’t forget to take some time for yourself, too.”

“I promise you, it’s hard enough not being at the office, putting the pieces together,” Mac admits. “Being at home while Danny and Lindsay are still here--” He shakes his head. “I honestly don’t think I could do it.”

“Fair enough,” Hawkes says. “I was thinking about heading in to work myself.”

Mac turns his mouth down. “You need some sleep.”

“Yeah, tried that,” Hawkes says. “Didn’t work so well.”

Mac sighs. “Well, do what you can,” he advises. “I’ll text you the time and date of your department psychology appointment.”

“Until then, I’ll see what I can do for the case,” Hawkes says.

Mac nods his agreement. “Any chance you’ve heard from Flack?”

Hawkes shrugs. “Can’t say that I have,” he says. “You want me to check on him?”

“No,” Mac says. “I’ll take care of it.”

“Just remember,” Hawkes advises. “You can’t do everything, Mac.”

“Trust me,” Mac says, rubbing his hand to the back of his neck. “That point has been made abundantly clear.”

-o-

When he makes it back to Danny’s room, Lindsay is crying. She tries to cover it up, but she’s a mess.

“Come on,” Mac says, pulling the chair next to her. “It’s okay.”

She inhales raggedly, wiping her nose. “It’s just -- I don’t know,” she half sobs. “Catching up with me or something. Everything.”

“You haven’t really slept in more than 24 hours,” Mac reminds her gently. “You probably haven’t eaten much either.”

“But Danny,” she says, and then catches herself on a sob again. “Mac, it’s Danny.”

Mac runs a soothing hand down her back. “I know,” he says. “But what you need to remember is that he’s still fighting. Hard. And we’re all here fighting for him. For both of you.”

“I just keep hoping that the blood on my hands isn’t his, you know?” she says, shaking her head. “I want him to wake up and say boom, smiling like an idiot. That’s Danny. That’s Danny.”

Mac nods patiently. “Lindsay, you’re exhausted. You’re emotionally spent and physically drained. You need to take some time for yourself.”

She almost scoffs. “I can’t leave him.”

“Just for a few hours,” Mac says. “Go home. Take a shower. Eat something. Say hi to Lucy.”

Lindsay gathers a breath, pressing her fingers between her brows. “Lucy,” she remembers. “I haven’t even checked in with Stella--”

“Stella has it under control, I’m sure,” Mac says. “But I’m sure Lucy would love to see you.”

Lindsay looks longingly at Danny again.

“And I’ll stay here with Danny,” he says before she can try to argue her way out of it. “And I’ll call you if anything changes.”

As adamant as she’s been, Mac can see Lindsay is wavering.

“Besides,” Mac adds with a bit of levity now. “I’ve met Mrs. Messer. You’re going to need to be well rested when she shows up.”

“Forget me,” Lindsay says. “The entire unit is going to have to be well rested when she’s done with them.”

“I’ve always suspected that Danny was something of a mama’s boy,” Mac muses.

“He’s always been her favorite,” Lindsay says. “I’ll tell you, if you find who did this, Danny’s mom will almost be first in line to bring him down.”

Mac tilts his head. “Almost?”

“Yeah,” Lindsay says grimly. “Right behind me.”

-o-

Mac waits until Lindsay leaves to settle himself back into the chair next to Danny. He takes the time to text Flack, just to see how he’s doing. Flack’s going to need more time off to recuperate from this than anyone.

Anyone except Danny that is.

Putting away his phone, Mac fiddles with his coat jacket absently. As a CSI, Mac focuses on the moment and what leads up to it. The aftermath is always beyond his purview, even with his best intentions.

That’s part of the job. They have to dissect a moment. Those affected by the crime, however, have to live with it.

Mac’s job is hard, there’s no doubt about it.

He knows that victims and their families have the hardest job of all.

He still remembers what it’s like, after all. To be waiting for good news that never comes. To deal with a tragedy that there is simply no way to parse. It’s not so much that people are strong after tragedy; it’s more that they never have a choice.

Tragedy is indiscriminate. Mac knows that bad things happen to good people just as much as they happen to bad people. There’s no karma; there’s no fate. Sometimes there’s just pain and suffering, bullets and blood. Sometimes it happens when people are at their worst; sometimes it happens when people are at their best.

Danny’s come a long way in the time Mac’s known him. He’s always been a good cop, and Mac’s always trusted his intentions. But Danny’s always been impulsive, sometimes to a fault. After the shooting in the subway five years ago, Mac had doubted if Danny could pull himself together for a successful career.

But he did. Danny did pull himself together, and not without his share of setbacks. His brother; the neighbor boy: Danny’s had his share of things to contend with. It’s made him stronger, though. It’s made him better, as a cop and as a person.

Becoming a father and a husband suited Danny. Mac has never said it in so many words, but Danny is one of the most trusted members of his team, not because he’s always right but because he’s still learning.

There’s no lesson in this, though. Mac has worked this job long enough to understand that there is no honor in suffering. There is no silver lining in pain.

You can’t run from it; you can’t fight it. Watching Danny in a hospital bed is a stark reminder of Mac’s own powerlessness. He can do everything within his power, and sometimes it’s not going to be enough.

He wants to believe that Danny will beat this. He wants to believe that Danny’s got too much to live for, that the doctor’s statistics apply to anyone but him. He wants to believe that Danny’s too good of a person, that their team is too important to suffer another loss like this. He wants to believe that Danny will recover and walk back into work like none of this ever happened.

It may happen like this.

But it may not.

Mac sighs, rubbing a hand over his face. He really wants to believe, if not for his sake then for his team’s. For Lindsay’s and Lucy’s.

For Danny’s.

That’s a tall order, though.

Mac just hopes he’s up for the challenge.

-o-

Mac’s stomach is starting to rumble when Stella calls, and he steps just outside of Danny’s cubicle as a matter of being polite. Not that he thinks Danny will actually mind a little phone conversation in his current state, but it feels better to pretend like the talk might disturb him.

“No change?” Stella asks, sounding knowingly disappointed.

“Medicine’s a different field,” Mac says. “Sometimes no news here is good news.”

“Yeah,” Stella says, even if she sounds less than convinced. “It’s just hard to get it out of my head. It’s Danny.”

“I know,” Mac says, letting out a heavy breath. “Doesn’t seem right, one of our own gunned down with a bullet in the back after hours.”

“While we were remembering Angell, no less,” Stella says. “And there are still no leads?”

“You’re telling me you haven’t been checking in every hour?” Mac asks.

“Every half hour,” Stella admits. “But I was hoping you might have the inside track.”

“There isn’t any inside track to have,” Mac says, shaking his head.

“This is just a tough case all around,” she says, sounding resigned. “By the way, Lindsay’s on her way back over to you.”

Mac glances at his watch. With the commute, Lindsay clearly has spent little time at her apartment. “Already?”

“She didn’t want Danny’s mother to get there by herself,” Stella says. “Apparently she wants to play intermediary as best she can.”

“The woman had one son languish in a coma already,” Mac says. “I couldn’t blame her for being emotional.”

“The last thing anyone needs is a scene, though,” Stella says. “Especially Danny.”

“Might just wake him up,” Mac muses.

“All the crazy women in his life,” Stella says wryly. “Even Lucy’s been pulling out all the stops. When we ate dinner, there was more food on the floor than in her mouth.”

“Kids are resilient,” Mac says.

“Yeah,” Stella says. “Let’s hope the rest of us are, too.”

Mac turns, looking back toward Danny.

“You’ll call me?” she asks.

“When I take off tonight, I’ll be sure to check in,” he promises. “Just remember: no news--”

“Yeah, yeah,” Stella says. “But good news is still better.”

-o-

Mac is ready when Lindsay comes back, although he admittedly isn’t sure what he’s ready for. The idle hours have been anything but, as he uses his police notebook to make a list of possible suspects. He makes separate lists for himself and each of his team members, and then he stars the ones that have a propensity for dramatic statements and circles any that may want to target the entire CSI department as a whole.

He’s about to add dates to all the suspect when Lindsay arrives, and he smiles benignly as she takes the chair on the other side of Danny.

“No change, then,” she surmises, eyes still on Danny’s face.

“No,” Mac says. “But all vitals are holding steady. He’s fighting, Lindsay.”

She picks up Danny’s limp hand, giving it a squeeze. “Hard to imagine,” she confesses, almost sounding guilty. “I mean, look at him, Mac.”

Mac does, and he understands what she means. Yesterday, Danny was on the job, working the case. He could still see the younger man raising a solemn glass in Angell’s memory, sharing stories about how she’d been such a good match for Flack. No doubt, he’d kissed Lucy goodbye in the morning, maybe bickered with Lindsay about who forgot to pick up the dry cleaning.

Now he’s pale and lifeless, breathing with a tube down his throat in the ICU ward.

But Mac also knows there are two other people fighting for their life tonight, and one who never came out of that bar alive. Danny’s heartbeat counts for something, and every breath is something worth fighting for.

“I know it doesn’t seem like it, but he’s doing well,” Mac assures her. “These things just take time.”

Lindsay presses her lips together with a slow nod. “Time,” she says, almost smiling.

“He’s going to pull through this,” Mad adds. “You’ll see.”

She nods again with a hard swallow. “And what about his legs?” she asks, turning wet eyes toward Mac. “What if he doesn’t get his legs back?”

Something twinges in Mac’s chest, but he refuses to let it show. “You know it’s too early to tell.”

“They’re not optimistic, though,” she says. “I mean, no one will say it to me, not exactly. But I can tell, Mac. They talk to me like we talk to the families of victims, when we don’t want to tell them just how horrible the truth is.”

He can’t deny that, not on any level. They all know a thing or two about the nature of truth and how sometimes it doesn’t set you free. Truth comes at a price, and while they’re duty bound to honor that truth, it’s not always a comfort.

“Doctors don’t work with evidence that will stand up in a court of law,” Mac says. “Sometimes even their best can’t predict the outcomes they want. In their line of work, like ours, optimism doesn’t always pay off.”

She exhales heavily. “But this is Danny.

It’s a plaintive, emotional plea -- they very kind they avoid while on the job. After all, to get anything done, they need to be impartial. They need to keep their emotions in check. Every victim has to be the same to them, no matter who they are or where they come from. Mothers, fathers, children, grandparents. Good people, bad people. Innocent people, guilty people. They all have stories, and Mac strives to hold each story in equal light.

That’s just part of the job requirement.

He knows this.

Lindsay knows this.

But Danny’s fighting for his life, and that’s never going to be just another part of the job.

He gives Lindsay a sympathetic look. “If he never walks again -- if he’s stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his life -- will that change how you feel about him?”

Her brows furrow. “Of course not.”

“And it won’t change how we feel about him, either,” Mac says. “He’s always going to be Danny, and he’s always going to have a place on our team and in our hearts. That’s what counts.”

Lindsay turns her eyes to Danny again. “He was so scared,” she murmurs, reaching a hand up to fiddle with the neck of his hospital robe. “There was so much blood, and he kept asking about his legs.”

Mac remembers -- far too well. “I imagine he’ll still be scared when he wakes up.”

“So what do I do?” she asks, shrugging in futility. “What am I supposed to do, Mac?”

On the job, Mac knows the answer to that question. In fact, it’s a question he hardly even needs to ask because he’s so good at what he does.

But Lindsay’s question is honest, and it’s raw.

It’s one he’s been asking himself since gunshots rang out and he came up one man short. There are too many unknowns, too many what-if’s.

Mac still knows, however, what it comes down to.

What it will always come down to.

“There are only two things,” he says, sitting forward a little. “You stay with him, and you be here when he wakes up. And you tell him, every day, that you love him, no matter what. You say it, all the time, no matter how difficult it is or how scared either of you are.”

Her jaw tightens, a tear slipping down her cheek as she looks at Danny again. “And the other thing?”

“We find the person who did this,” Mac says solemnly. “And make them pay.”

Lindsay takes a breath and focuses on Danny for another moment. When she looks at Mac, she manages a smile. “Thanks,” she says. “I just needed the reassurance.”

“Trust me, I get it,” Mac says, getting to his feet. “And let me know if you need anything else. I’ll stop back by tomorrow morning unless I hear otherwise.”

“We’ll have plenty of company tonight, it looks like,” Lindsay says. “But I know Danny will want to see you -- when he wakes up.”

Mac smiles, turning toward the exit.

“And Mac?” Lindsay calls after him.

He turns.

“I’ll work on the first thing,” she says, and then her composure shakes. “But you’ve got to promise me that you’ve got the second.”

Mac doesn’t need to hesitate this time. There are a lot of things he’s uncertain about, but on this point he’s absolutely clear in his intent. He will find the person who did this.

No matter what.

He looks from Danny to Lindsay, holding his head high and shoulders squared. “I promise,” he says.

She offers him a grateful look before placing a hand on Danny’s arm again. Mac will make this promise, not just to Lindsay and not just to Danny. Not even to the rest of the team or the person who did this.

He’s making it to himself.

So Mac will go back to his blood and bullets. And there is no more line between the personal and professional.

There’s just getting the job done.

Like he always has before.

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Posted by: Flute (sgflutegirl)
Posted at: November 30th, 2015 04:20 am (UTC)
Colorful Flute

This was really great. I have always been upset that they didn't really show what happened in the aftermath of the shooting. They gave short glimpses, but I wanted to see what happened, not hear about it in passing. You know what I mean? This story did a wonderful job of filling in the blanks.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2015 11:30 am (UTC)
shawn gus ftw

LOL, I actually didn't think anyone would ever read this fic! Right now I seem to have a habit of falling for old shows and then writing fic in fandoms that are no longer active -- the curse of Netflix binging.

That said, they really could have done more with the aftermath of that incident. I mean, to be fair, I never think there's enough h/c, but the time jump ahead was somewhat disappointing.

Anyway, thank you! You made my day by reading this :)

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