MEDLEY by Laurel


Chapter 9:

Bring Me to Life:
How can you see into my eyes like open doors
Leading you down into my core
Where I've become so numb without a soul
My spirit sleeping somewhere cold
Until you find it there and lead it back home
Wake me up inside
Wake me up inside
Call my name and save me from the dark
Bid my blood to run before I come undone
Save me from the nothing I've become
Evanescence, Fallen, 2003

Sam allowed the hot, soapy water to sooth her body, easing away the aches and tension from her body and her mind. Resting her head back she closed her eyes and reflected over the last couple of days. The words of Elena and Vivian kept echoing in her mind and the more she wrestled with them trying to convince herself that they were wrong the more she found herself growing aware that their words were, in fact, accurate.

Martin was a good man. It was hard to admit to herself that she had been the one who judged him from the start. She had teased with Danny about his father's supposed influence over his career, assuming him to be nothing more than a privileged kid who was following in daddy's footsteps because he had to. Funny, it hadn't occurred to her at the time that he might actually be a good agent, and it certainly never occurred to her that he was battling the same stereotype she battled.

She quickly found him to be hardworking and genuinely interested in learning and bettering himself. True he was opinionated and a bit naïve on some things--well, many things but he was a quick learner and while he was willing to share credit, he was equally willing to show another person up as a fool if it meant either evening the score or, in the case of their first assignment, staking his right to be on the team as profoundly as Danny was staking his claim as a ranking member of the team.

Somehow he easily slipped under her radar and she found herself admitting little things to him that she never intended to admit, her love of messy, complicated relationships, her intention to never have children or a marriage, her dislike of therapy, her pain at killing those two men right after her return to work from being shot and her need for someone, anyone to lean on even if it was just a drink and nothing more.

The more time went on the more she noticed how the job affected him as well;, his pain over Anwar Samir's death, his sorrow as more and more of the people they were trying to bring home safely ended up dead, his devotion to his aunt to the point of blaming himself for being blind to her pain as he buried himself in the hope of her recovery.

She found that she enjoyed his quirky little hobbies, his knowledge of science fiction was geeky to be true but it was also endearing, and while she teased him a little she noted he didn't tease her past raising an eyebrow at her ready knowledge of the latest tabloid gossip, perhaps he had recognized how thin skinned she really was.

As the water in the tub began to cool she got up, dried herself off and pulled on a pair of comfy leggings and an oversized shirt, then wrapped her hair in a large soft towel and herself in a fluffy robe before settling on the couch with some tea and soup for supper, turning the TV on, with the volume down low, for company.

Her thoughts idly wandered over the past few years, why had she invited Martin over that night, was it as he had told her once right before they broke up, was it just her way of making sure she wasn't alone at night, was he truly just her consolation prize? She remembered that night, that was after the abduction of Mike Gerard, after she and Martin had fought about Knicks tickets, after she had told him she was a woman who had slept with two members of her team.

She remembered the hurt on his face but at that time she was so wrapped up with protecting her dignity or reputation or--she sighed and realized that it didn't matter anymore what it was she had been trying to protect. Any dignity or reputation she had been trying to protect was gone now anyway.

Unconsciously she rubbed her hand over her growing belly; everyone now knew the truth about Samantha Spade. She slept around and it had caught up with her at last. Now she was going to be exactly what she had tried so hard to escape, single and a mother, alone but for a tiny little baby dependent on her for everything. How the hell was she supposed to deal with that, she had no one in her life outside work, work was her life.

How was she supposed to deal with raising this baby and continuing to work? It wasn't like she could bring the crib into the bullpen, that would be something Ah, excuse me everyone but I need to go nurse my baby, can you hold the case conference for about ten minutes, I'll just be in the--oh, I guess I'll just use Interrogation Room 2.

Yeah, that would have her looking really good. And what did she expect if Jack did somehow get involved with her again--more to the point, why had she even asked him? She knew his work consumed him, in fact, that's part of what made him so damn attractive to her in the first place. They thought alike, they similarly were dedicated to the work.

In fact, now that she thought about it she remembered entering his office once, before they had their affair, and he was finishing a call to his wife. She knew he was getting the raw end of it from Maria based on his comments. At that time she had been there less than a year but she was already extremely protective of him; Jack was a damn fine agent and a great boss. He taught his agents what he knew and he always made it clear that he would back their play just so long as they told him what it was first.

She remembered that when he hung up after getting chewed out by Maria she had made a point of taking on a little extra work just to ease his burden. She hadn't even thought about it at the time but truth was she liked doing things for him, liked having him rely on her, liked being the person in his life that didn't give him grief for being so dedicated to his work and she thought that Maria should cut him some slack, if she had any idea what the work was all about and how good her husband really was at it and how valuable his knowledge and dedication was, she should just sit at home and dutifully wait until he got there and, when he did, she should just take care of him.

Suddenly Sam stopped her rambling thoughts and concentrated for a moment on those last ones. Oh, God, she really had thought that Jack should have a wife at home who made his meals, did his laundry, cleaned his home and met him at the door with slippers in one hand, the other hand empty ready to take his coat and briefcase from him.

She had been a fool. If that's what she felt that Jack should have as a wife, why the hell did she want to have him intimately in her life now? That wasn't what she wanted at all, she didn't want to be the little woman staying home tending her man's needs, always in the background. She wanted to have both, the loving husband and the fulfilling career and while she hadn't ever seen herself as a mother that was no longer a choice and she was going to have to take responsibility for the little life that was growing inside her.

She also knew that it was possible to have both. Yes, it meant sacrifices; it meant long hours; it meant having to choose carefully what to be involved with and what not to, and it meant missing certain things but she had two strong female colleagues and friends who proved to her that it was possible; but it wasn't possible alone.

Vivian had a strong marriage and a teenage son, and she was nobody's little woman hiding in the background. Elena had a failed marriage, a new romance that probably had a future and a young daughter and she had support to help her with Sophie, and Elena was someone who was strong, fearless and capable. In fact, both women were capable agents, intelligent, strong, respected, both were strong at work and in their personal lives. Truth be told, both were the kind of woman she had always wanted to be; weren't they?

Sam stared into her mug of now cold tea and thought for a long time, had she really always wanted a husband, a child and a career? Were all her comments in the past about complicated and messy relationships simply protection against her thoughts of inadequacy and that since she hadn't had any positive role models growing up that she wouldn't be good at it and thus didn't deserve to try?

Was that why she torpedoed her relationship with Martin who she knew wanted marriage, children and a career and she also knew that he cared for her and not only for her body; if she had ever doubted it his reaction to her arrival at his apartment after arresting Brian Stone and bringing Mike Gerard safely back to his parents certainly dispelled that notion.

It was 9:00 p.m. by the time Sam exited the cab in front of Martin's building. She hadn't noticed he'd left the office and by the time she did it was well past 8:00 p.m. She hadn't seen him when he came back. She hadn't thought to go looking for him since she didn't want to appear too concerned. She'd talked to Danny and he'd assured her that all was fine so there wasn't any need for her to go look for him, right?

Standing at the door to his apartment she fingered the key he'd given her months earlier. She'd never used it, it sent too much of a message. So she balled up her hand and knocked on the door. After a moment or two she heard his footsteps and heard the slight click as he peered out the little peephole. She smiled brightly at him and then heard him unlock the door and open it up for her.

"Hi, you should have told me you were leaving. I would have been by sooner." She said as she walked past him.

Silently he closed the door behind her and locked it then returned to the couch.

"Well, I figured if you wanted to see if I was all right, you would have checked with me at the office and since you didn't, I just decided to leave once I'd finished talking to Jack."

"Well, I knew you were all right, silly. I talked to Danny and he told me so." Sam replied wondering why Martin didn't hug her or even smile now that she'd arrived. She usually didn't come to his apartment she usually had him over to hers, so why then wasn't he happier she'd made the effort?

"Did he? Well, as long as Danny told you I guess you didn't need to check with me."

Sam heard the evident sarcasm in Martin's voice and wondered if the day was going to end as it had begun, with them arguing.

"Martin, I knew you were all right and I didn't want it to look--"

"What, like you cared?"

Sam remained standing in the room in front of the couch. Martin hadn't invited her to sit down or take her coat, what was wrong? She moved to sit next to him on the couch and, when she did, she was shocked as he stood up and moved away.

"You know what, Samantha, Danny asked if I was all right. Jack asked if I was all right. Vivian asked if I was all right. Nobody would have thought anything of it if you had asked me if I was all right, colleagues do that, friends do that. But then again, I'm only the guy you're sleeping with."

"Martin, I think you're being a little melodramatic." Samantha stood up to face him.

"You do, huh? Well let me tell you something, it would have been nice if this morning after you arrived at the scene if you had asked me if I was all right."

"I knew you were all right! I got the call that said you had witnessed the abduction and tried to chase down the vehicle. Geez, Martin, it's not like you got hit by a car or shot at, I knew you were all right!" Exasperated Samantha paced a bit away from him.

"Sure, physically I was top notch. Did it ever occur to you that perhaps I felt guilty? That perhaps I could have used some support from you, did it occur to you that that might be what I needed? Even Jack gave me that, and he defended me to that boy's father when he blamed me for letting his son get kidnapped. It felt good to hear Jack say he supported me but I really needed that from you."

"Well, what do you want from me, do you want me to say it now? I worked that case just as hard as anybody else did so that you would feel better and we'd find that boy."

"Yeah, you did your job, Sam, but what about a little emotional support. How would you have felt seeing that little boy taken right in front of you and wondering whether you should have seen that coming and stopped it? How about being in the car when Stone tried to kill himself? Did it occur to you to just come up to me and say something like, I'm glad you're all right. Do you need anything? I'm here if you need or want to talk."

"Well, it's not like you came to find me to ask me for any of that." Is what she ended up saying and as soon as she did she cringed.

"And, if I had asked you, you probably would have given it, but only because I asked and only after you checked to make sure there wasn't anyone around to see. You're so worried about what others might think that you don't have time to actually think about what I may be feeling or needing. I recall being there for you during the Colleen McGrath case and it didn't matter who was there to see you and I together."

"I didn't come begging for emotional support." Samantha retorted angrily.

"That's right you didn't, you know why?" Martin continued without letting her reply, "because I was already there. I came and found you on the balcony when you were upset. I stayed late and worked through files when almost everyone else had gone home for the night. I sat with you and lent you my ear and my support when you were undercover in that motel. You didn't have to come looking for emotional support because I gave it."

"Well, I'm here now." Sam defended herself.

"Yes, you are. You're right here where no one can see you and no one can see us because heaven forbid anyone know that you care about me. You know why I want people to know about us?"

Sam shook her head silently.

"Because I care about you; I care about all of you, your body, your mind, I care about what makes you laugh and cry, and I don't care that anyone else knows. I'm not worried about what other people think; I only worry about what you think and what you need and I want people to know that I want to be there for you and that you want me to be there for you. I needed you today. I needed you to show me that I matter somewhere else than between your sheets."

"Stop saying things like that. You do mean more to me than just sex." Sam was getting angry this wasn't what she came over here for.

"Really? I'm not so sure anymore, in fact, I'm more sure than ever that all I am to you is someone to warm your bed."

Thinking back on that conversation now, in light of her conversations with Elena and Vivian Sam realized something very important that she had never seen before. She had treated Martin exactly how Jack had treated her; the difference was that Martin had smartened up and ended it while she had continued on her fantasy that somehow she could be more to Jack.

Sex, the kind that got her into this current situation, expectant mother, single, daddy not wanting anything to do with her, in fact, ordering her to get a paternity test to ensure it was his baby, like she was some kind of a tramp, that was what she and Jack had had. Sure, they had cuddled a bit afterwards but never long since he had to get home to Maria and the kids.

He had made it clear from the outset that he wasn't going to leave Maria and even at the end he was willing to leave his job, leave her to go with Maria to Chicago even though it meant taking a demotion; he had never been willing to make such a sacrifice for her. Theirs was a relationship that was hidden and could never be anything but hidden.

He couldn't transfer out so they could resume their relationship after his divorce because there wasn't anywhere for him to transfer to unless he left New York and then what, was she supposed to follow behind? He hadn't even mentioned that now that he was divorced they could resume their relationship but only if she left his command. He hadn't known about her and Martin until that case involving Brian Stone, so he'd had plenty of time to mention to her that they should get back together and make a go of it for real this time but he hadn't.

She really was a fool. Even since that time there had been nothing, no intimation that he wanted to get back together with her, his confession as it were about Anne and him expecting a baby, what was that, was that his idea of keeping his options open, God the nerve---and that's exactly how she had treated Martin. Keep the relationship quiet, not out of fear of what others would think but because of what Jack would think and now that Maria had left maybe--maybe. She had treated Martin the way Jack had been treating her. No wonder he'd told her it was over.

Well, what Martin said and what Sam did about it were two different things. He'd told her that it shouldn't have to be a fight. Well, maybe it shouldn't have to be her fighting her feelings for Jack over her feelings for Martin, maybe it shouldn't have to be her fighting her fears, lack of self-confidence, her fears over what others might think, maybe it should be a fight for her to show him just how much he did mean to her and just what a fool she had been.

Maybe, just maybe if she showed him just how important he was to her and she showed him that she didn't care any longer about what others thought or said or did, then maybe he'd realize that she was willing to fight to have him back in her life and that she was fighting for him and not against herself.

Comforted by that thought and knowing exactly what she had to do Sam got up from the couch prepared to clean up her dishes and head to bed for some rest, tomorrow was going to be a very interesting day. As she held her finger over the on/off button preparing to shut her TV down for the night she caught a flash of a news teaser that was showing the fire out in Utah so she turned up the volume.

//And tonight we'll bring you the latest on the wildfire in Utah. Sources say the fire broke through a weak containment line as it was driven by a strong and sudden shift in the wind. Crews were able to escape its path and finally that portion of the fire has burned itself out. Experts say the overnight weather should bring much needed relief as the cool front that is also laden with heavy moisture moves into the region.//

Good, Sam thought. The quicker the boys come home, the quicker I can tell Martin my intention to win his trust back no matter what it takes.

Bring Me to Life:
All this time I can't believe I couldn't see
Kept in the dark but you were there in front of me
I've been sleeping a thousand years it seems
Got to open my eyes to everything
Without a thought without a voice without a soul
Don't let me die here there must be something more
Wake me up inside
Wake me up inside
Call my name and save me from the dark
Bid my blood to run before I come undone
Save me from the nothing I've become
Evanescence: Fallen, 2003

Chapter 10:

How You Remind Me:
Never made it as a wise man
I couldn't cut it as a poor man stealing
Tired of living like a blind man
I'm sick of sight without a sense of feeling
And this is how you remind me
This is how you remind me
Of what I really am
This is how you remind me
Of what I really am

It's not like you to say sorry
I was waiting on a different story
This time I'm mistaken
For handing you a heart worth breaking
And I've been wrong, I've been down
Been to the bottom of every bottle
These five words in my head scream
"Are we having fun yet?"
Nickelback: Silver Side Up, 2001

Martin didn't know how much time had passed since he'd closed up the shelter and lay prone on the ground. He heard the roaring sound of the wind and the flames as they passed overhead, the heat had risen in the shelter until he felt his skin begin to burn, felt the burning down in his lungs each time he dragged air in through his mouth. The inside of his mouth, nose and throat all filled with a dusty dry grit that, when he tried to cough out, only managed to stir up more of the fine debris and drag even more of the superheated air into his lungs.

The shelter was battered by the forces raging outside and he wondered if it would all rip away exposing him to the furnace that was just outside. He wondered how Danny was doing, was he experiencing the same sense of fear as he was, was his mind filling with thoughts of being burned alive, of tumbling out from this flimsy 'shake-n-bake' as he'd heard some of the hand crew call these shelters.

In a moment of absurdity Martin thought that this was probably the last time Jack would ever send him and Danny anywhere since this would be the second time the two of them had managed to get caught in a life or death situation. He could imagine the stern talking to they would get for being careless enough to get ambushed a second time in their career. Ambushed? Where did that thought come from? Martin wondered. As the inferno raged around him his mind latched onto that which would help keep him calm during this terrifying event, how the hell had they gotten led straight into the fire when they were supposed to be getting taken further away. There was only one way and that is their 'guide' wasn't a guide at all, perhaps he had started out as a guide but something changed and he'd become their enemy. Why?

As the roaring wind tore at his shelter threatening again to send it sideways Martin clamped his hands and feet more solidly into the earth and pressed his body firmly into the ground, the increased pressure as he tried to burrow into the earth brought back a painful reminder as something dug into his hip bone, his cell phone. That was it. Martin figured their guide likely was Jeff Pierce himself. He must have overheard his and Danny's conversation with Jack on the speakerphone setting, although static had frequently interfered with the connection there had been times when Jack's voice burst through as if he was shouting.

It must have been Pierce, Martin thought again, and he must have been sent down to move us up, heard the discussion and realized that it wouldn't be long before we identified him. Having decided on that as the probable identity of their 'guide' Martin tried to figure out what was behind the fires.

So far their questioning of the survey crew had led to fairly uniform impressions, these were science guys. They did what they did because they loved it, believed in it and truly wanted to do right by nature. Not really a motive there, Martin surmised, unless someone was trying to not do right by nature. Well, the fires certainly have burned out of control and damaged more than they were supposed to but by all accounts nature would regenerate and ultimately be better off for the fire.

There had to be something else other than nature. Braxton employed Pierce separate from the USGS, was there something in the two men's past? If there was, Martin didn't know it and, since they hadn't either Pierce or Braxton available to them, that wasn't a line they were going to be able to follow up on. There were so many different locations for the fires, yet all of them were prescribed burns by Braxton and Pierce so damaging Braxton's credibility couldn't be the motive since by doing so Pierce would be damaging his own.

Jack had also said they didn't know who was behind the fires which meant Braxton didn't know or he'd have told them or maybe there was something in the clues. He and Danny had spent this day questioning the crew just like yesterday and while everyone was loyal to Braxton or at the very least loyal to Mother Earth and the correctness of burns there was something there, something nagging that Martin couldn't quite put his finger on ---

There was different quality to the sound outside his tent.

Martin allowed his mind to focus away from piecing together the case and to focus again on the sounds of nature outside the tent. The wind was not tearing as violently at the shelter, in fact, the roaring sound of freight train after freight train bearing down on him was fading away. Martin realized that although the inside of the shelter was excruciatingly hot, it wasn't growing any hotter and he actually could breathe without feeling like his throat was being seared away.

After an unknown number of minutes in which Martin allowed his mind to rest in order to process and reorganize, he decided to call out, hopefully---God willing, Danny would answer him.


Martin waited, counting: one, two, three---


Thank God.

"You okay?"

"I feel like a roasted marshmallow."

"Smooshed between two graham crackers?"

"Yeah, and someone forget the best part, chocolate."

"I hear you, man."

"How long do you think we should stay in here?"

Good question Martin thought, he hadn't thought to ask that particular question when learning about these shelters.

"Um, ten minutes?"

"Okay. Sounds good to me. So, what ya been doing?"

Martin all but laughed as he recognized the forced nonchalance of his partner, figures Danny would try to relieve the tension with a little less than humorous humor.

"Just working on my tan."

"Yeah, me too."

The two men were silent for a few moments as the reality that they actually might survive this most horrifying experience began to sink in.

"You know, Martin, I've been thinking about the case."

"Me too."

"Figured. Anyway, so it had to be Mr. Jeffrey Pierce who led us into this lovely little inferno."

"That's what I guessed. Remind me to thank him when we catch him."

"Righto. 'Course we're also going to have to explain to Jack how it is we let ourselves get led into this mess." Danny replied.

"I'm going to blame it on you." Martin countered.

"Which - "Danny responded in humorous exasperation. "--is why I'm thinking of how I'm going to get us out of here."

"Yeah, keep thinking, Butch, that's what you're good at." Martin couldn't help it, he was almost giddy with relief; they were actually going to survive this.

"Right, now back to what I was saying. We know this burning isn't anything to do with discrediting Braxton since it would also be discrediting Pierce and we also know that Pierce isn't the guy behind all of this."

"I'm with you so far." The nagging in the back of Martin's head was buzzing more now.

"So, what did we hear especially today when we asked more open-ended questions and even had several groups of people talking together?"

"That none of these fires wouldn't have gotten so out of hand if there were more crews available and they hadn't laid off---" That was it, the buzzing in the back of Martin's head fairly screamed at him.

"Hell, Danny, that's it. This is simply a matter of PR."

"I agree. All the people we interviewed said the same thing today; all those fires had gotten a lot of bad press because about a month prior the local authority had laid off some of the fire crews."

"So someone is out there lighting up fires where local crews have been laid off, to what, get them back on the payroll?"

"Could be that simple." Danny replied, his voice sounding weary and muffled.

"Yeah, could be, but in at least one of those fires two firefighters were killed as well as some civilians, what's that, tough love?"

"I'm not sure. Wouldn't it be great if we could just look up all the fires and talk to the folks there and see who was the most angry about the fires and who had the most to gain and lose and---"

"Yeah, Taylor, that would be great, wait a minute, did you say angry?"


"I remember talking to someone today about that first fire, the one in Arizona in 2002 he said a guy named Hastings, Todd Hastings was real upset at that fire, how he kept going on and on about if they hadn't cut the crews loose."

"Yeah, now that you mention it, I was talking to Moody again today and he mentioned the same thing, said he was glad that Hastings wasn't here this year or they'd have to hear the same old story about how if the bureaucrats---"

"And the pencil pushers--"Martin added.

"Yeah, and the little piss ant bean counters didn't cut the crews, then they'd have the proper people in place."

"So what would Hastings' reasons be, what, he got cut? Doesn't make sense he'd go to all these places and set fires or get someone else to do it for him."

"No, it doesn't. Makes me want to know why Hastings isn't here this time but Pierce is, sounds like he was planning to be here perhaps."

"Could be, at this point I think I'd be happy if he was here. I'd send him out to find out how the temperature is outside." Martin could tell that there was a lessening of the temperature outside the shelter but how much it was lessening was anybody's guess and from what height was it lessening, he wondered.

"How long you think we've been in here?" Danny asked.

"Long enough to make a big break in the case - I'm figuring close to an hour, hang on." Martin managed to wiggle enough to peel back his glove with his teeth, the taste of ash and dirt made him want to gag but since gagging meant coughing and coughing meant stirring up whatever debris was in the shelter. He managed to quell it and finally was able to focus on the tiny glow from his watch.

"Yeah, about an hour." Martin confirmed.

"So, got any marshmallows left to send out and see how quickly they melt?"

"Ah, no. What say we wait ten more minutes and then try."

"Yeah, sounds good in a boring yet probably safe sorta way. Smells like something died in my shelter, how about yours?" Danny asked.

"Lovely, Taylor. Thank you for that." Truly Martin was smiling and nearly giddy with relief, they had endured the worst the fire could throw at them and survived. Now if they could only get off this damn mountain and get the word out, they could track down the person responsible for all the damage.

By the time ten more minutes had passed the two men were both eager and nervous about getting out of their shelters. With no experience to go by and absolutely no one to guide them at what they might find they made a pact and on the count of three simultaneously opened their life-saving shelters.

Martin thought the last couple of days of walking on charred earth would have prepared him for what he saw but it didn't begin to compare. This was ground they had seen alive, green, gold, Aspens and pines towering and glittering around, now all they saw was gray. The carcasses of the majestic trees stood out in black relief to the curls of gray smoke that wafted through the air.

In the dying light of the day Martin witnessed the final dying moments of this portion of the landscape, some tiny flickers of red flame continued to curl and lick around a stray branch or pile of leaves that had escaped the onslaught but would not survive much longer.

The two agents stumbled in a circle, at times looking at each other in amazement that they were actually alive, at other times they stood in awe trying to process that what had been green and alive was now gray, black, dead or dying. The silence was eerie, the smell of the smoke overpowering,

Danny couldn't believe how the change in the landscape shook him inside. He was always a city kid, born and bred for the concrete and steel and other than the parks and streams in the city he didn't pay nature much attention. But this, this was more than he could immediately process; he'd seen fire burn down a house, sure, but he'd never considered that structure living and breathing. The trees he'd only a short time ago run around, the branches he had ducked under, the leaves that had crunched under his feet were all gone, burned, destroyed, dead.

The reality of their situation rapidly came to both men as they regrouped mentally and decided to take stock of their situation. Danny wanted to laugh at Martin, knowing that he didn't look any different. Martin's blue eyes shone through on bloodshot whites, the only color in sight as the rest of his partner was covered in a gray, black layer of soot and grime occasionally streaked where sweat had dripped and muddied the grime.

Danny reached up a hand and rubbed his own face and instantly regretted it as small patches of sensitive skin met the roughened fabric of his fire retardant gloves. That momentary flicker of discomfort had him begin to focus on his body and gradually all the parts of his body began to sound off as to what hurt and what didn't. Danny felt sore muscles and bruises, and an occasional bubble of skin that felt overly hot, and the beginning of blisters on his feet courtesy of his newly issued supposedly proper footwear.

"Martin, are you all right? Do you feel any bad injuries?" Danny turned to his partner and noticed that the man seemed to be doing the same thing he was, taking stock.

"Other than some bruises, a scratch or two, maybe a patch of burned or at least overly heated skin I'm fine, oh, yeah, these new boots are giving me some wonderful blisters; you?"

"I think we're the same, so now what?" Danny looked around, there wasn't anyone in sight, the fire was below them and judging from the wind that was starting to pick up from atop the mountain, it was being driven away.

"Do you feel the change in the air?" Martin asked.

Danny concentrated and then he recognized it, the air was getting heavier and through the smoky taste in his mouth and smell in his nostrils he was fairly certain he smelled something else---rain.

"Weather system they've been waiting for is moving in, I think we're in for a cold and wet night, my friend." Martin stated in a matter of fact way.

The two men spent the remaining light of day making their meager camp for the night. They only had what they carried in their coats which didn't amount to much but did produce a half a bottle of water and a couple bags of trail mix and some energy bars, their little first aid kits as well as headlamps and their Leatherman tools.

Dragging their shelters up they slit them the long way and managed to stuff them into the curve of the rocks that had protected them and finding some thick branches that were charred but not crumbling managed to fashion a crude tent, it wouldn't be much but it might keep them mostly dry. Pushing some flatter rocks under their tent they made a little platform to sit on keeping off the ground and provided some much needed heat as the rocks maintained heat from the fire.

After both men had taken care of personal needs downed an energy bar and a couple of swigs of water they hunkered down for the night. Hopefully morning, a long way off, would bring them rescue that is if anyone was looking for them. They huddled side by side trying to share what warmth their bodies provided as well as what protection their meager shelter provided.

Throughout the night both men woke periodically, heard the other breathing, remembered where they were and what had happened and then tried to drift off again. At one time both men woke and realized the other was awake as well.

"Martin, you're not as cuddly as Elena, but you do make a decent pillow." Danny quipped trying to break the tension he felt not only in himself but in his partner.

"Yeah, well, don't be thinking I'm easy just because I'm letting you drool all over me. What the hell, are you dreaming of Elena?"

"Yep. You?"

"I am not dreaming of Elena."

"Good think, bro, I might have to set you straight. Seriously, Martin, when we get out of here which we will, my amazing sense of direction---"

"Gets you lost on the Henry Hudson every time - don't start."

"--- as I was saying, when we get out of here, and we will, what are you going to do about Sam?"

Martin was quiet for so long that if Danny didn't know what Martin breathing sounded like when he was asleep - and that was a little nugget of information he never intended to let anyone know he knew - he'd have been fooled, finally he heard Martin start to speak.

"Sam's in love with the idea that love and relationships need to be broken, dark, edgy, moody and I don't fit that model. I'll never be good enough for her simply because I'm available and I'm not someone who wants to stay broken or dark. I certainly have those qualities but I try to learn and grow and that's what I think a relationship should be and certainly I know Sam challenged me to grow.

But Sam likes the dark, broody, risky relationships for a couple of reasons I think, one is that she's always expecting it to end and when it does, she can just blame it on that guy. See, if she were to take a chance and invest in a supposed 'nice guy' -read boring to her -- someone who really cares about her and it goes sour, she'll know that everyone knows that she's the problem.

I wish Sam would give herself credit for all that she is and all that she has to offer. I thought I could get through to her and show her just how amazing she is and how and why someone would want the world to see her the way he does. In the end she pushed me away and she tried to break me and she came really close, really, really close to breaking me.

Danny stayed quiet but inside he hurt for Martin and he hurt for Sam. He knew that all of what Martin said about Sam and her insecurity was right on the mark. He had sized her up from the beginning and he had watched as she blossomed and seemed to grow in confidence as Martin joined the team and the two developed a strong friendship and respect.

"I really didn't want to end the relationship with her, but I couldn't stand where it was going and by the time I'd made the decision to end it she'd made the decision to go public with it. Problem was, by then my confidence was so bruised that I didn't trust my instincts with her anymore and I didn't trust her that's what happens with us guys who wear our hearts on our sleeves, you bruise it enough times you eventually break it."

"You should have seen her when you got shot, Martin. She didn't care who knew her level of concern."

"So I was told, but the thing about that, Danny, is nothing really changed. I returned to work and except for a few momentary flickers that showed we'd once had something deeper we basically just went back to being colleagues, not even friends. I was so caught up in trying to prove I was fine and trying to get back to full speed on the job as well as hiding my drug problem that there just wasn't energy for anything else and she didn't try either. We both just drifted and now we've drifted so far that we don't even know how to go back or where that is.

This last year has sucked. I feel great physically, my head is clear, my focus at work is back and better, hell even my dad and I can talk and it's not completely awkward. But what I've begun to notice is that Sam is so distant, so much so that I barely recognize her. She's almost cold.

I think it took this trip and all this destruction to realize that I don't want to be living in the past anymore. If Sam wants dark edgy guys, then she's welcome to them. I don't want to be that guy and even when I was that guy, she didn't pay me any attention so that just proves to me that she never wanted me for anything other than a safe bet when whatever guy she had pinned her eye on got away. Now she's pregnant, probably by some dark edgy guy and no surprise, he's not there for her; there's a reason they're called 'bad guys' and they all leave. Nice guy Martin is around so she'll try to use him when she can and just for what she needs. Well, I'm tired of being the nice guy that finishes last and I'm tired of pinning my hopes on something that never was and never will be."

Danny stayed quiet as Martin poured out his thoughts. The two men settled quietly on the dark, smoky, dead mountainside as the wind gently drove the weather front in and the rain that everyone hoped would come began to fall. Finally Danny began to drift, lulled by the gentle patter of rain on the ground and overhead on the shelter that rested on his head, just before he nodded off he heard Martin softly whisper:

"It took this and it took here to remind me of who I am."

How You Remind Me:
It's not like you didn't know that
I said I love you and I swear I still do
And it must have been so bad
'Cause living with me must have damn near killed you
And this is how you remind me
Of what I really am
This is how you remind me
Of what I really am
It's not like you to say sorry
I was waiting on a different story
This time I'm mistaken
For handing you a heart worth breaking
And I've been wrong, I've been down
Been to the bottom of every bottle
These five words in my head scream
"Are we having fun yet?"
Nickelback: Silver Side Up, 2001

Chapter 11:

My Last Breath:
I'll miss the winter
A world of fragile things
Look for me in the white forest
Hiding in a hollow tree (come find me)
I know you hear me
I can taste it in your tears
Holding my last breath
Safe inside myself
Are all my thoughts of you
Sweet raptured light
It ends here tonight
Evanescence, Fallen, 2003

The next day Sam woke up feeling more refreshed and calm than she had in a long time; she was actually looking forward to the day. Arriving at the office shortly after Vivian and a little before Elena she noted that Jack was already in his office and intently working. Deciding there was no time like the present to begin her 'new' life, she marched resolutely to his office and knocked on the glass. When he looked up and motioned for her to enter, she pushed open the door, walked in and took a seat across from his desk.

"Jack, I want to transfer out and into White Collar. The other day I heard about an opening and I've decided that I want it." There, she was done, it was out there and there was no going back. Surprisingly, Sam didn't feel anything but calm and collected.

"Sam, good morning, why?" Jack calmly asked as he removed his glasses.

"Good morning, and because the job will have more regular hours, it's safer overall and will allow me to more easily raise my child. Also, it's time - no, it's way past time I do something about my feelings and about who I want to be with and the only way to do that is to transfer out from your command."

Jack pinched the bridge of his nose while he collected his thoughts, Damn, this is going to be harder than I thought.

"Uh, Samantha, while I agree with the thoughts you have on the hours and the ability to raise your child, the part about being with who you want to be with has me concerned. Sam, we're over. We have been for a long time and it's time you recognize that. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but---"

Samantha's laughter stopped Jack in mid-sentence. First of all, he couldn't remember the last time he'd heard her laugh and second of all that wasn't the reaction he had expected.

"Jack, I'm sorry for laughing, truly I am. It's just--" Sam stopped and collected herself. "--It's just that I know we're over. I've decided and accepted that we are over and I'm no longer afraid to admit it to myself or you or anyone else who cares to ask. We're over as anything other than colleagues and when we can be, friends."

"I'm confused. Why the bit about the only way you can be with whom you want to be with is out from under my command? I figured you meant that it wouldn't be improper conduct is we didn't work together."

"No, well, yes, it wouldn't be improper conduct, but no, that's not what I mean. What I mean is I've realized that Martin is the man I am happy with and was the happiest with and who I want to be with and I want to prove to him that he has nothing to worry about, that I'm not spending all day at work pining for you and then with him outside of work. I did that to him before and I'm not doing it to him again.

Also, while I know he'd be willing to raise this child and love this child and he'll think of this child as his own, I want to show him that I've made a sacrifice in my career for a family, our family, for a real life outside of work. I believe taking a job that is less demanding and less dangerous will enable me to do that as well as show him I mean it when I say I want to get back together."

"Wow, that's quite a change from earlier in the week when you were---" Jack stopped before he inadvertently slipped and told her he knew about her fight with Martin.

"Yeah, well, I guess having some time away from him and having some pretty determined friends," Sam nodded her head in the direction of the bullpen and Jack looked up to see both Elena and Vivian at their desks working, "finally got me to get my head out of the ground or sky or wherever else it was and realize a few things."

"Well, thank heavens for good friends." Jack added neutrally, inwardly smiling as he thought that he was one of those friends and he'd make sure she never knew that he, with the help of Mr. Braxton and his disappearance, had managed to orchestrate a little away time for Sam and Martin.

"Yes, and speaking of that, I'd like to take those two good friends to an early lunch today. We're going to leave at 11 for an 11:30 lunch reservation that is unless we catch a new case."

Jack knew better than to argue the fact that Sam hadn't really asked but rather told him what she planned but at this moment he didn't care; she was happy finally and hopefully this really would be the start of a new direction for her life, she deserved it.

"No, problem, in the meantime I guess you will all finalize your reports. I'm expecting some news from Utah in the next few hours anyway; the local office will probably have met up with Danny and Martin sometime this a.m. so you three should be able to go to lunch with no worries."

11:45 a.m. NYC/9:45 a.m. Base Camp, Utah:

Jack was quietly working through the never ending paperwork of his job when the phone rang.


"Agent Malone, I'm Emmett Grenz, incident commander at the Abajo Fire."

"Good to talk to you, I hear the weather is starting to give you guys a break out there."

"Yes, thankfully the front has arrived and it brings cooler temps, lots of moisture and the wind has died down; we'll make headway now."

"Good." Jack figured now that the pleasantries were out of the way they'd get down to the meaning of the call. He didn't figure the incident commander at the scene of a wild fire would be calling him just to let him know the local FBI team had arrived, something was up.

"Agent Malone, this is a call I have no desire to be making and I'm going to expect you would like the professional courtesy of me getting straight to the point so here goes---" With that Grenz took a deep breath and began: "Agents Taylor and Fitzgerald are currently unaccounted for."

Jack was silent for a moment what the hell!

"What happened?" The calmness in his voice at odds with the turmoil in his gut.

"Here's what I know so far....

8:00 a.m. Base Camp

Base camp was its usual flurry of organized yet highly energized activity. Trucks and jeeps bounced over the ruts in the now muddy road that was becoming muddier by the hour as the welcome rain continued to fall, men and women hurried from tent to tent, unloading supplies or trying to catch a nap or something to eat.

Inside the main communication tent Grenz was pouring over a map with some of his assistants while division chiefs updated him on the fire via a conference line. One of the people manning the communications called across to Grenz:

"Chad Putnam's on the line; he needs to talk to you privately and immediately."

Grenz nodded and, leaving one of his assistants in charge of gathering the information, grabbed the indicated phone.

"Grenz here, what is it, Chad."

"Sir, we got a problem up here, those two FBI agents and Jeff Pierce are unaccounted for."

Shit thought Grenz, this we don't need.

"How the hell did that happen?" Grenz didn't mind snarling at Putnam, he knew the man could take it even if he was just a survey guy and not a full fledged fire fighter; he'd worked with him long enough and respected him, it was mutual.

"We got the order to bump up double time late yesterday, I sent Pierce back down to get the two agents who were a couple hundred yards below us with Zac Christian checking some of the burned area. A while later I saw Zac working on the line but we were too busy dealing with falling snags and hot spots that were jumping up all around.

I'll admit the rest of the night was just spent staying ahead of the flames and keeping the line from jumping over the north coverage and keeping it turned to the south where we knew it would basically just run off the side of the mountain into that section that burned earlier this season.

It wasn't until just before dawn when we caught a break and I was able to have everyone check in. Christian came running up to me and told me that he and the two agents found clear evidence of arson at the spot they were at before they got bumped up and he wanted to get someone there as quick as possible to preserve the site. I told him to take the two agents and go back down.

He told me that while he'd passed Pierce late yesterday and Pierce had told him he'd get the two agents and bring them up, he hadn't seen any of them since then so did I know where Pierce was.

Well, I hadn't seen Pierce so we both went tromping through our crew and discovered they weren't there. I had the other crews on either side of us check but they've got everyone accounted for and nobody extra. Other crews down the line are being passed the message but I don't hold out for much hope, if they went any farther to the south they'd be right in the thick of it and ...

"I had all the Division commanders check with their crews and after they all got back to me, no one has seen them." Grenz explained to Jack remembering the pit that had opened up in his stomach at the thought of those two agents running headlong into a firestorm, Pierce was a good man, he'd known him a long time and knew the man could handle himself and the FBI agents might be confident and secure in their own element, but with the Beast breathing down on them, cracking and chasing them intent on devouring them, at best they'd find their charred remains, at worse, nothing.

"Once I confirmed that no one had seen or had the two agents or Jeff Pierce--"

Jack heard a commotion in the background on Grenz' line and waited as he heard some muffled talking as Grenz likely put his hand over the receiver.

"Okay, Malone, we got a little development here. Mike here says he saw Jeff Pierce climbing into one of the camp jeeps around 2 a.m. our time and heading down off the mountain. Said Pierce looked fine to him although there wasn't anyone with him."

Jack got an extremely bad taste in his mouth and sensation in his stomach as the puzzle pieces clicked into place. "Grenz, what time did the order go up to Putnam to 'bump up' as you called it?"

"Let me check - Mike!"

Jack waited a moment and then Grenz was back on the line.

"About 4 p.m. local."

Damn Jack thought. Shit. Damn. Hell. Fuck!

"Grenz, Pierce is the man who kidnapped Braxton."


"Yeah, we got David Braxton back safe and sound yesterday. Seems Pierce kidnapped him and left him tied up in a building that was scheduled for demolition, good for Braxton he was able to attract the attention of the final walk through crew and he is safe and recovering form minor injuries. Says he's got proof that Pierce is the arsonist that's been causing a lot of these so called control burns to get out of control. My men and I were exchanging just this information at or about 6 p.m. local or 4 p.m. your time yesterday.

If this Pierce guy heard me talking to my agents and I'm betting he did, they were using the speakerphone of their cell..."

"Then I've got two murdered FBI agents on my watch." Grenz finished the thought that Jack couldn't.

Shit, Hell, Damn, Fuck! Grenz thought.

"All right." Jack began having regained some measure of control over his thoughts, "I'll notify the local field office to contact you directly. They'll need the information on the jeep that Pierce was driving. I'll be out there later today."

"You're coming here?"

"Those are my men that are missing, damn straight I'm coming there."

"I'll have search teams in the field and a grid map ready by the time you get here. It's going to be tough going though, the rain is helping but the areas that recently burned are now a dangerous mix of falling snags, burning trunks that are hidden just beneath the surface or unstable sections of ground that will either slide out from under you spinning you down the slope of suck you down trapping you in the mud and in some cases, burning slurry.

I'll have a man I trust waiting for you at the Monticello airport. He'll bring you straight here and we'll bring you up to speed."

"My agents are smart, Grenz. They'd have followed the safety instructions you gave them." Jack wasn't sure who he was trying to reassure at this point.

"They struck me as capable, Malone, but if you've never been in a firestorm, you have no idea. I'll be looking for you later today."

As the call disconnected Jack looked out toward the now empty bullpen, it was almost noon; he'd have to page Vivian and get them all back here; this was not going to be pretty.


Vivian drove as fast as she could short of putting on the dashboard light of her car. Since Jack's phone call briefing her about Martin and Danny's disappearance and the fear that they had gotten caught in the firestorm, she had been using every deflecting technique in her considerable arsenal to keep from telling Sam and Elena the news, the problem was that this time the people she was using those techniques on knew all of them and kept trying to circumvent her.

"Viv, just tell us, what is this big break in the case and why does Jack need us back so fast that we couldn't even wait for them to finish making our lunches and get them as take out?" Elena asked.

"Yeah, and why does he need us. I though we were turning the case over to the local field office in Utah. If that's the case and he needs them briefed, he has all the material he could do it and get one of the receptionists to special courier the information there by first thing tomorrow." Sam added, grabbing for the dashboard and the overhead strap as Vivian took the upcoming curve rapidly.

"And, why are you driving like this, why is it so imperative that we get back immediately?" Sam added.

"Because when Jack thunders get here now, we get there now. You two know that just as well as I do. Now be quiet while I concentrate on not being angry about missing a wonderful lunch." Vivian hoped that perhaps, if Sam and Elena decided she was just as upset about missing lunch, they'd leave her alone.

Ten minutes later they parked back in the garage and were ascending to the 12th floor in the elevator.

The moment the bell dinged and the door open Sam and Elena marched rapidly to Jack's office while Vivian followed a step behind, this wasn't going to be pretty.

You two boys better not have gotten yourselves hurt again. I can't go through this twice, I won't. Viv silently sent across the miles.


Sam and Elena were on the balcony, retreating to the solitariness of that spot and yet comforted by the presence of the other. Jack's words still rang in their ears:

Martin and Danny are missing.

Neither agent was sure what Jack had said after that. Their eyes had automatically flickered to the large television screens that were on in the bullpen and for some unidentifiable reason those screens showed a video loop of the fire raging out of control and now of rain falling and portions of the fire beginning to subside. Without talking, both women had edged closer together drawn by their mutual pain and fear.

Now standing on the balcony Sam was bitterly replaying the happy scene that less than an hour ago she had shared with Vivian and Elena:

"Ladies, I propose a toast," Sam said cheerfully holding up her glass of milk - something that she had reluctantly asked for and now was determined to gag down-- somehow.

Vivian and Elena raised their glasses of iced tea to join in.

"Here's to good friends and new beginnings."

"Here, here."

The women clinked their glasses and proceeded to take a sip. Settling their glasses back on the table Vivian looked at Elena and then at Sam.

"So, what's the big occasion?"

"I told Jack that I'm putting in for a transfer." Sam announced happily. Then she frowned as she watched Elena trade glances with Vivian, concerned, troubled glances.

"No, no, this is a good thing. As I told Jack, now I can prove to Martin that I'm serious. I'm serious about fighting for him and for me and now he won't have to worry that I'm spending my days with Jack and somehow living out my unrequited fantasies with him in the office. No, a clean break, a complete break, this is what I need. It's what we need." And for emphasis Sam patted her belly that was showing a bit of a bump.

"So then, does this mean that you've decided that perhaps 'nice' guys are for you?" Elena asked hopefully, sneaking a peek at Vivian.

"Yes, I've decided that while there is a certain thrill with having a dangerous affair, I've done that and in the end all that got me was a reputation and loneliness. Also, it's time to get away from Jack and all that he represents, as well as high time I paid attention to the other really important person in my life."

At both Vivian's and Elena's confused, raised eyebrow looks Sam let out an exasperated sigh.

"Baby of course, I have to start thinking about what is best for him, or her. So, I heard about an opening in White Collar coming up and I told Jack this morning that I wanted a transfer there. He agreed to put in a good word for me. I sent in my application this morning while we were supposed to be finishing our reports, the hours and the type of work will certainly be more amenable to a working mom than MPU."

It was right about then that Vivian's phone had rung and while Sam knew that whatever had happened to Danny and Martin had likely happened hours earlier, it didn't stop it from seeming like all of her hopes and sense of peace were swept away the moment Vivian returned to the table looking disturbed and somber.

Now Jack was on his way to the airport, Vivian was on the phone to the Utah office and she and Elena were---Sam stopped her thoughts, looked at Elena and saw the other woman looking at her. The resolve she felt grow inside her was mirrored by her friend and fellow agent's look. They were agents and they would get through this, their friends, their colleagues and, Sam added hopefully to herself, the man whose trust she was determined to regain needed them and they'd been outside on the balcony long enough. It was time to get back to work.

The two women returned to the familiar hum of the bullpen and joined Vivian at the conference table.

"Viv, what do we know?" Sam opened.

"There's an APB out on Pierce with a description of him and the vehicle he was driving. The state police are at the local airport checking to see if he took a plane out of there. We've got flags on all his credit cards and banking cards as well as any known cell phone so the instant he pops up on any of those screens, we'll have a location."

"What we need is the name of the person behind all of this." Elena interjected. As Vivian and Sam stared at her, Elena decided to elaborate.

"Look, Jack is on his way to Utah, and he'll work with Grenz and the crews there to find Danny and Martin; there isn't anything we can do to help them. Pierce is being hunted by everyone in law enforcement in Utah and in the FBI; our help isn't needed there either. What we can do and what we three have the knowledge of that no one else has is everything that Braxton and Pierce and their colleagues think and know and do. I say we spend our time trying to find the person behind the fires."

Vivian and Sam considered her words for a moment and then nodded approvingly.

All right. Sam thought, We have a plan. Work will make this bearable. Martin, you think I don't know you but I do. You might be far away and I bet you didn't spend the last day very comfortably, but if I know you, and I do, mister, you'll have spent it working on this case. So, I'm going to do the same. And when you get back, things will be very, very different.

Comforted a bit with that thought Sam grabbed a portion of the formerly boxed up files and began searching through the data for that one missing link that all these fires contained, besides Jeff Pierce.

My Last Breath:
Hold on to me love
You know I can't stay long
All I wanted to say was I love you and I'm not afraid
Can you hear me?
Holding my last breath
Safe inside myself
Are all my thoughts of you
Sweet raptured light
It ends here tonight
Evanescence: Fallen, 2003