Epilogue – All These Things

When there's nowhere else to run
Is there room for one more son
One more son
If you can hold on
If you can hold on, hold on
I want to stand up, I want to let go
You know, you know - no you don't, you don't
I want to shine on in the hearts of men
I want a meaning from the back of my broken hand

6:44 AM, January 15, 2010

Lenox Hill Hospital

"Mac?"

Mac's eyes flew open, and he sat up so quickly that he nearly fell out of his chair. He stood, and his grip on Danny's hand tightened. He could not keep the smile from lighting his face when he saw Danny's eyes, half-open but tellingly aware.

"Aow, Mac, you're cutting off the circulation there," Danny groaned.

Mac laughed, and released his hand. "How do you feel, Danny?"

"Like a truck hit me," Danny said. He tried to sit up, but fell back. "A truck full of drugs. What am I on? My head is in space right now."

"Well, the bullet needed to be extracted," Mac said. "Shh, sh, just relax. No need to rush things, Danny."

"Mac, I … Hey, why can't I feel my legs?"

"Danny, please-"

"Mac!"

Mac stroked a hand through his hair, shushing him again. He calmly explained the extent of the injury, and his chances for recovery. It was highly probable that he would be able to walk again, with rehabilitation. The news did not particularly excite Danny.

"And what if I don't recover?" he asked fretfully. "What if … What if I never walk again? Oh God-"

"Danny, don't panic," Mac said. "We'll figure it out. You hear me? We will figure this out. You're alive, that's all that matters."

Danny shut his eyes, laying back on the pillow. He reached up a hand and Mac took it, more gently this time. He kissed his forehead, sitting on the edge of the bed.

"That, and the fact that we got them, Danny."

Danny looked up again at this. "You did?"

"Yeah, we did," Mac said. "McCullen is in custody, and Avery is dead. The FBI is dealing with the remnants of D3-ATS, now officially on the Terror Watch list. It's over."

"Wow," Danny said, brightening some. "Who took the shot on Avery?"

Mac paused. "Actually, it was Victor. Flack's Victor."

"Really." Danny's eyes were round. "And how did that go down?"

Mac ran through the confrontation at the abandoned hospital for Danny. Danny actually managed to pull himself into a half-sitting position, all his attention on the account of the confrontation.

"So what did you do?" Danny asked. "Did you cover for this guy, or what?"

Mac grimaced, thinking back to the turmoil he had been in just several hours earlier.

Another head aches, another heart breaks
I am so much older than I can take
And my affection, well it comes and goes
I need direction to perfection, no no no no


[Four Hours Ago]

The police arrived on the scene after Mac had used the radios to confirm their location. Before long, Stella and Hawkes had also arrived. Flack, Victor, and Mac had not said another word to one another. Victor and Mac shared an obstinate, angry tension. Flack was visibly amxious, and stood between them both.

Statements were made. The three men explained how they had come to be in the maintenance sub-basement. Then, it came to the shooting.

"I had received a tip from a D3-ATS member that they had tunneled into the sewage system from the sub-basement," Victor explained. "I waited for Avery to make a run for the tunnel, and when I saw him, I approached. I saw the suspect reach behind himself, and I saw a gun tucked into the back of his pants' waistband. Detectives Taylor and Flack had just approached. They did not have time to make a clear shot. I had already taken aim, and I fired."

"He's got great aim," Flack said.

Mac gave him a look, and Flack scratched the back of his neck, looking at the floor. Victor's face told nothing, but he was inwardly struggling to stifle a laugh.

"You agree that this is accurate, Detective Flack?" the officer asked.

"Yeah," Flack said. He gave Mac a brief, apologetic look, and then repeated, certainly, "I do. That's what happened."

Mac was annoyed, but to his surprise, he did not feel betrayed.

"Detective Taylor, is this accurate?"

Mac did not look at either Victor or Don. He could feel the tension rippling from them.

"Yes."

It was then that Mac realized that the ordeal was truly over. He was still doubtful as to Victor's character, but it was a minor concern. He was tired, bone-achingly tired, and now he could finally have a moment's rest.

"Yes. That's what happened."

"Well, then, there's only one more thing left to do," the officer said. He turned to Victor and extended a hand. "I'd like to shake your hand, sir."

Mac and Don shared an astonished look. Victor allowed himself a quirk of a smile. He took the man's hand and shook it.

"Thank you, sir, on behalf of the NYPD."


Help me out
Yeah, you know you got to help me out
Yeah, oh don't you put me on the backburner
You know you got to help me out

[Now]

"Wow," Danny remarked. "You actually-"

"Yes, I did."

"And you had covered for Don," Danny said. "I didn't know that."

"It wasn't something I wanted being spread around," Mac said. "It still bothers me that this Victor Shain is aware of that particular secret."

"You don't trust him?"

"I don't know whether to trust him or not," Mac said. "Which is, in a way, worse than anything. At least knowing someone is untrustworthy gives you a definite way of dealing with them. This guy … I don't know what to make of him."

"Don likes him," Danny said. "I know they just met, but Don's usually got good instincts."

"I'll just have to trust him on that," Mac said. "For now. Frankly, I can't spend another second worrying. I just want to … to have a moment to breathe. With you."

"Yeah, about that," Danny said. "I was going to tell Lindsay, Mac, I really was. I just haven't had the chance yet. After we went to McCullen's, I was going to talk to her, I swear-"

"Danny, it's okay," Mac assured him. "It's okay. Lindsay knows. McCullen made those remarks. She saw the way you reacted to them. She knows, Danny. You two can settle up later. You need to relax now."

"Oh. Yeah, all right."

Mac held his tired face in his hands. Danny slumped back into the pillows, smiling. Mac leaned down over him, and brought his lips to his. It was a sleepy kiss, but a genuine one. It warmed Mac's heart, cutting through all the layers of chill that had been building up during the case.

Lindsay had just been coming in to see Danny, having been informed by a nurse that he was conscious. She arrived in time to see the kiss. Whatever hopeful doubts she had been harboring vanished. No matter how much they had done together, Danny had never kissed her with such a natural ease.

"Oh. No."

Flack and Victor were outside the room, talking over coffee. Their attention fell on her.

"You okay?" Don asked.

"I just- I thought there might have been a chance, you know?" Lindsay said, speaking more to herself than to Flack. "That maybe, deep down, Danny cared. I thought we might have another chance, someday. But … But he never looked at me like that. He never was going to, was he?"

"Lindsay, it isn't about you," Flack tried to comfort her. "What can I say? It's … true love."

"What are you?" Victor asked him. "A tweenage girl? 'True love'?"

Flack grinned. "Go to hell, Victor."

"True love?!" Lindsay echoed. "God. Oh … Oh God. How was I so stupid? I mean, I'm happy for him, I am, but … Oh God!"

Lindsay rushed away. Flack blinked.

"Now that was the reaction of a tweenage girl," Flack said. "What was that all about?"

Victor leaned back against the wall, arms crossed. He considered for a moment, then announced, "She's pregnant."

"WHAT!"

Passing orderlies and doctors glowered at Flack. He pulled Victor to a less busy waiting area.

"What do you mean? Pregnant?" he hissed at him. "How could you possibly know that?"

"People only panic that much when there's a child involved," Victor said. "I've spent my life reading people, Don. I know how certain things look."

"Nah!" Don protested. "I mean- No. It can't be."

"I'll bet you that it is," Victor said. "Twenty."

"Easy money," Don laughed. "You're on."


And when there's nowhere else to run
Is there room for one more son
These changes ain't changing me
The cold-hearted boy I used to be

Yeah, you know you got to help me out
Yeah, oh don't you put me on the backburner
You know you got to help me out
You're gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you're gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you're gonna bring yourself down

I got soul, but I'm not a soldier
I got soul, but I'm not a soldier
I got soul, but I'm not a soldier
I got soul, but I'm not a soldier
I got soul, but I'm not a soldier
I got soul, but I'm not a soldier
I got soul, but I'm not a soldier
I got soul, but I'm not a soldier
I got soul, but I'm not a soldier
I got soul, but I'm not a soldier

7:00 PM, January 20, 2010

Rosey Thorne's Bar And Grill, Manhattan, New York

"I don't know if I can trust another bartender again in my life."

Mac laughed, shaking his head. He reached down to put a hand on Danny's shoulder. The wheelchair Danny was confined to for the moment had dampened his spirits, but had not quieted his opinions.

"I don't think Ms. Rose Thorne has any problems with the LGBT community, if that's what you mean," Mac informed Danny. "She owns this place with her girlfriend of seven years."

"Yeah, and she might be killing small animals in her spare time," Danny said. "Who knows?"

"Danny, you're a New York native," Mac said. "If you weren't at least a little paranoid, I would worry. But this is too much."

"I don't mean it," Danny admitted. "I just haven't been in a bar since McCullen's. Bad memories. A few drinks, and I'll be over it."

"That's the Danny Messer I know. Come on."

The CSI team, plus Don Flack and Victor Shain, had a large table in the back of the room. Danny's memories of McCullen's faded even before he had any alcohol in his system. Thorne's place was large and open, with warm contemporary furniture instead of McCullen's replica antique pub furnishings. The woodwork had intricate etchings of roses on their thorny branches, interlaced with vines. Even the waitresses had a less hardened appearance. The biggest improvement, Danny thought, was that there was no sour-faced bigot behind the counter.

Mac helped Danny off of his wheelchair and onto the bench seating around one half of the table. He sat beside him, very close. Lindsay's eyes lit on this for a second, but then turned away. Stella distracted her, pulling her into light conversation.

"Ah, finally, some real food!" Danny exclaimed when they were all served. "Almost a week of hospital food, can you believe I survived that?"

"Hey, I know how it is," Flack said. "I've been having nightmares about hospitals all my life. At least you didn't have to go into that abandoned place out in New Jersey. I still feel like I need a shower to get the filth of that place off of me."

"Ugh, please, we're eating," Lindsay complained.

"You're CSIs!" Don pointed out. "You guys can eat after anything."

"And you're such a delicate flower?" Victor chuckled.

"Oh, me? You kidding?" Flack said. "I've brought sandwiches to the ME's office."

"He has," Mac confirmed. "Though I've never seen you eat them in there, Don. Not that we have to discuss these things when we're eating."

"Amen," Lindsay muttered.

"At least we're not like Sid," Hawkes said. "He told me once that he's seen almost every kind of food there is under a microscope. And get this: it was seeing organic matter under a microscope that made him want to be an ME. He said he figured he had already seen enough animals dead under a microscope, so it was time to see what the human animal looked like."

The entire table groaned.

"Where is Sid tonight?" Stella asked.

"He's working," Hawkes replied. "He might join us in a half hour. Tough shifts down there. Believe me, I know. I just got lucky tonight."

"How did you all manage to get the night off?" Danny asked. He looked around at each of them. "Oh come on! You didn't all take off just for me?"

"Now why would we do a thing like that?" Stella asked innocently. "It's just one of our own finally getting released from the hospital after an injury that could have been fatal. Why on earth would we have to celebrate that?"

Danny raised his eyebrows. "You're makin' me blush, Stel."

"Oh, I'm not done with you," Stella laughed. She raised her glass. "A toast? Yeah?"

"Oh no!" Danny moaned.

They all raised their glasses.

"To your recovery," Stella said. "And you will recover."

"You'd better, after we do a thing like this," Flack joked.

"To you, Danny," Mac said.

Danny saw the tenderness in his eyes, and actually did blush a little. He grumbled and complained, but they all tipped their glasses at him. He joined the toast, as an excuse to down a copious amount of his drink.

"And to the end of D3-ATS!" Flack added.

They all shouted simultaneously, "YEAH!"

"To the end of hatred," Mac said.

"And to love," Stella finished.

"To love," Lindsay echoed, a bit hollowly.

"To love," Hawkes repeated, with wistful hope.

Victor squeezed Flack's thigh under the table. Flack shot him a furious look, but it did not last. He mumbled the toast, while Victor raised his glass high and affirmed the sentiment with a dash of smugness.

Mac held Danny's hand. Danny had to smile. Whatever he could not feel in his legs, he felt this touch, and this moment. Their eyes met, unreservedly bright with feeling.

"To love."

Yeah, you know you got to help me out
Yeah, oh don't you put me on the backburner
You know you got to help me out
You're gonna bring yourself down
You're gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, oh don't you put me on the backburner
Yeah, you're gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you're gonna bring yourself down

Over and again, last call for sin
While everyone's lost, the battle is won
With all these things that I've done
All these things that I've done
(Time, truth, hearts)
If you can hold on
If you can hold on

THE END