A SHELTER IN EACH OTHER

For the Seasons Challenge set by Kates89, I was given Lindsay, Season 3 and the feeling of 'apprehension'. The possibilities were boundless but, in the end, I went to the place in Season 3 that I love most of all and took a look at 'Snow Day' from Lindsay's perspective.

This version of events differs slightly from my earlier story, The Pawn, which focussed on Adam's point of view.

By necessity, some lines have been taken directly from the episode.

-xx-

"There is such a shelter in each other." (Nick Laird)

Twenty four hours. The length of a single day. How could such an insignificant span of time be filled with so much emotion? How could so much have changed - and then changed again?

A cold wind blew through the courtyard, swooping and diving like a seagull over a stormy sea, heedless of the turmoil below. Lindsay wrapped her arms around her chest. The police-issue vest that Don had provided as soon as she arrived on the scene was thick but not warm. It protected her core but it gave her no comfort. What comfort do I deserve? she thought bitterly. Danny was in there and she was out here.

It should have been me.

So like him - to tiptoe away while she was sleeping; not in shame but full of delight at the gift that he could offer. A 'snow day', he had called it in his message. How apt that had turned out to be. She dropped her gaze and stared at the broken, ugly ground beneath her feet. Small details pulled her away from her anxiety. A clump of weeds with a dirty yellow flower. A smear of grease. Strange, how the mind tried to cope in a crisis.

I don't want to be distracted, she thought, and lifted her chin.

"You okay?" Don Flack murmured.

They stood together behind his squad car, trusting in its poor protection. Lindsay was glad to have him beside her. His grim determination gave her courage. She could have stayed outside the crime lab with Sid and Peyton, waiting for news. So many of her friends were missing today. But Danny was here - and Adam; oh God, poor Adam - which meant that here was precisely where she ought to be.

"I'm fine," she breathed, barely conscious of the words themselves but desperate to reassure him that she wouldn't be a liability.

The walkie-talkie at his shoulder crackled into life and Don reached up to grasp it. His hand was shaking with adrenaline.

"Cop. Are you there?" The man was far too confident. There was no pity in his voice. He was in control and he knew it. Lindsay shuddered.

"Yeah, I'm right here," Don replied.

"You release my boys?"

In the midst of her own fear, she felt a twinge of sympathy for the detective. This morning, he had been the star of what was undeniably the biggest drug haul in New York City's history. Now here it was, falling apart around his ears like tattered remnants after an explosion. Yet Don remained focussed, clinging to procedure in the hope that it could save lives.

"I spoke to my supervisors. They're gonna see what they can do." A lie, of course. She caught Don's eye and saw the guilt there.

"That's. Not. Good enough, Serpico."

Please, she begged Don silently; please be careful.

The tiny screen in front of them was trained on a thermal image of the hostages. Four warm bodies, still alive - for now. But which one was Danny? And if... Her throat grew tight. If they shot him first, how would she know? Even the sharp wind couldn't destroy the lingering scent of him on her skin. What if their first night turned out to be their last?

Don't do that, Detective Monroe, she berated herself. Out of sight, she clenched her fists, squeezing her fingernails into her palms in a painful effort to focus her mind. There were four men in there, not one, and she knew all too well that the last thing Don Flack needed was to be distracted by a colleague who couldn't control her emotions.

Tuning back in, she listened apprehensively as he tried to negotiate. "Well, I tell you what might speed things up. Proof of life. You put one of my boys on the line; let me hear their voice. Knowing the others are alive - that'll definitely grease the wheels."

The reply was a death sentence. It burst from the radio and Lindsay felt the world fly apart around her like the broken pieces of a dream. "You wanna hear somethin'? How about the sound of a ginny cop takin' his last breath? Would that grease the wheels?"

A ginny cop. That meant Italian, right? Which meant...

"Danny," she gasped.

For a moment, both she and Don stood frozen, watching the scene play out in sunburst colours right in front of them. An angry figure leapt up into the trailer... there was a desperate struggle... gunfire...

"It's goin' down!" Flack yelled and, just like that, they were on the move; the whole team surging into the warehouse, leaving Lindsay in their wake, still standing behind the squad car. No one had told her what to do in the event of an incursion. But she knew, all the same. Her heart held the answer.

She pulled out her gun and ran after them.

Plastic slapped at her face as she ploughed through the red strips and entered the warehouse. The next thing that hit her was the noise. So much shouting, trapped and tossed around by the high ceiling; echoes fighting echoes. From her position at the back, she guessed there was some kind of standoff but could not see exactly what was happening.

And then suddenly, everything fell quiet as a single voice stilled the clamour and took charge in a turnaround that no one could ever have predicted.

Adam. Adam, of all people, was commanding the scene and had shocked them into silence. Lindsay felt a surge of thankfulness to know that her kind-hearted friend was alive. Through the jumble of helmets, she could just make out his grimy face, and his outstretched hand. "Don't shoot!" he was yelling. "Don't shoot; they're cops..."

Who were cops? Distracted, she pushed forwards, trying to understand. Was it some kind of trap? Were the bad guys dead, then? Was that what Adam wanted Don to know?

And where, oh where was Danny?

Two men stood facing the entry team. Their eyes were wide with fear and they held out their guns in a strange, submissive gesture...

It was not until she looked again that Lindsay realised what she was actually seeing. The trap was clumsy; an amateur illusion performed with duct tape, coveralls and black balaclavas. Such a ruse would never stand up under close scrutiny. Haste and adrenaline; that was what the gang had counted on to create their fatal misconception.

They're cops...

Adam's shout echoed in her head and she knew that he had just saved their lives. Even now, two of their fellow officers were springing forwards to release them, tearing the tape from their mouths and reassuring them that their ordeal was finally over. So close. So close to disaster. The relief in the air was palpable.

As the tension subsided and the unit spread out, Lindsay tried to get her bearings. Adam, meanwhile, had already melted back out of the limelight. Now he stood quietly in the shadows - too quietly, she thought - cradling his right hand in his left for some reason and watching the rescue play out with a closed expression on his face. From this distance, she could see that his captors had not been gentle with him. Blood, not dirt, was the cause of his dishevelled state and, even in the poor light, she could still make out an ugly bruise in the shape of a gun butt, or maybe a heavy boot, darkening the swollen ridges of his left eye socket. Looking up, he caught her staring at him and they both flushed. No need to speak. Instead, he gave a tiny nod of acknowledgement - and turned. His simple gesture may have been a diversion - typical Adam - but it also told her exactly what she yearned to know and she holstered her weapon, breaking into a run as she headed straight for the broken trailer like an arrow speeding to its target. If Adam looked that bad...

Lindsay's fear grew. Why hadn't Danny appeared by now?

"You played the hero, didn't you, Messer?" she muttered under her breath, needing to get her irrational, selfish response out of the way before she reached him. "Tried to protect the others by risking your own life instead - I know it! You stupid, reckless... Oh God, Danny, what have they done to you?"

Rounding the corner, she almost burst into tears when she saw him at last; a battered figure dressed in a ragged shirt, gingerly easing his legs down from the tailgate, searching for the ground.

"Danny! Oh my God. Oh my God, Danny..."

As she reached him, he fell against her gratefully and she bore his weight without complaint, helping him out of the trailer and trying not to think about the nightmare scene behind him - two bodies in uniform, covered in blood; their shocking state showing just how desperate those last few moments must have been. Having caught the attack on screen in hazy miniature, Lindsay knew exactly who these two men were - and she hardened her generous heart against them.

"Easy," she said, letting Danny find his feet. Beneath the sweat, and the acrid tang of blood, it was still there, she noticed. The scent of him, bringing back the perfect memory that she had clung to. She closed her eyes and breathed at last. When she opened them, Don was behind her.

"Hey," Danny said, "I'm good." His weary tone hinted that this was a lie.

"You don't look good," Don accused him. Turning, he called out to anyone who could hear him. "Let's get EMS over here." His firm voice barely hid his anger.

Lindsay held on tighter.

"I'll take him," she said. Impossible to let go, now that she had him in her arms again. This time - this time, hope had triumphed and her friends had lived. She steered Danny away before Don could object. "I'm sorry," she whispered in his ear.

The look that he gave her was pure Messer and her heart leapt. "What? What are you sorry about?"

So many things, she thought to herself; but right now, only one. "You weren't supposed to be here." His blue eyes pierced her soul, and she shivered. "You took my shift."

The next moment, his lips were at her ear. "Then I guess, this time, you owe me," he whispered.

The joke was terrible, of course, but Lindsay could have cried with relief. Guilt slipped away in search of a new victim. There was no place for it here. "Come on - let's go."

"Where are we goin'?" he grinned. The blood on his mouth was ghoulish, staining his teeth.

"Outside. You need help." Now she was the one revelling in bad humour. I feel giddy, she thought, and smiled at the irony.

"Finally worked that out, huh?" Danny pressed his free hand against his ribcage. She could hear the tight hitch in his breathing, and the subtle gasp of pain. The makeshift bandage on his fingers worried her too. He was the very centre of her world right now; the eye of the storm. Every detail of his condition spoke volumes about his ordeal, and she studied him carefully. Nothing else mattered - which meant that his next words startled her. "Where's Adam?"

"Oh - he's around here somewhere. He's fine," she added, reluctant to worry him.

"You sure about that?"

Lindsay halted and stared at him. "No," she admitted. "But Danny, he did good. He saved those two cops."

Exhausted, Danny dropped his head and she tilted it upwards again, with her fingers beneath his chin.

"He's fine," she insisted.

"He's not. Linds, you gotta find him."

"Oh - okay, then. I'll just drop you right here, shall I?" Sarcasm failed to hide her stubborn resolve. I'm not going anywhere. Maybe it was selfish - but, after all, the place was crawling with cops... Mac would probably turn up soon, and Stella... So strange that they hadn't appeared already.

She shifted Danny's weight, determined to guide him all the way to the outside world by herself.

"You're one tough cookie," he murmured softly.

"Look who's talking." Lindsay shook her head. "Listen, Danny; I promise I'll go talk to Adam when we're out of here."

"Okay. Thanks." Too tired to argue any more, he gave in. They struggled the rest of the way in silence. Passing back through the plastic strips with her precious burden, Lindsay felt the cold wind lash her spirit like a scolding tongue. She glanced around furtively.

Where was Adam...?

With a sudden, shocking wail, a squad car peeled away from the courtyard. The next moment, footsteps shook the ground and Don Flack barrelled past them, clutching his radio and calling everyone to action. "We gotta get back to the crime lab!"

She reeled, as the final pieces of the puzzle came together in her head.

All this... the fear and pain that they had suffered... A diversion?

"What?" breathed Danny urgently. "What's going on?"

Lindsay looked into his weary eyes and in that split second, she made a decision. Her responsibility was here - and so she lied. "I don't know," she said. "But look, Flack's on it - which means there's nothing to worry about."

Even in his current state, Danny was no fool and she could see that he was unconvinced. More and more cars were leaving the scene. Their mis-matched sirens tore at Lindsay's shredded nerves.

"Can I help you?" said a voice beside her, making her jump. She looked around and there was a young paramedic, his ruddy face full of concern. An ambulance waited nearby.

"Oh - yes, thank you," she sighed. As she let go of her burden, Danny whispered in her ear once more.

"Adam..."

"Okay, okay," she scolded him quietly, laying her hand on his chest, reluctant to part ways for even a moment. "But don't you dare leave here without me."

"That's..." He clenched his teeth and hissed, as the paramedic shifted. "That's a promise, Montana."

Left all alone in the middle of the courtyard, Lindsay shivered. The wind had died down, but the air was still bitterly cold. Only two squad cars remained, and the waiting 'bus'.

"Adam Ross," she grumbled through chattering teeth, as she stalked her way back to the warehouse, "if you're in a nice warm ambulance, on your way to the hospital..." She chose not to finish the petty thought. At the forefront of her mind, she saw his battered face; so vivid that she could almost believe...

Wait.

There!

The strips of plastic snapped and fluttered in the doorway. As they shifted, she could see a wary figure, hiding from the daylight, watching her. He still clutched his right hand, she noticed, and he was shaking from head to toe, but did not seem to be aware of it.

"Lindsay," he said hoarsely, when she reached him. "You gotta take me to Mac."

She beckoned him out of the darkness and he stepped forwards, eerily obedient. "Please," he told her again. "I've gotta see Mac. Will you take me?"

An impossible demand. Having witnessed Flack's sudden withdrawal, Lindsay guessed that their boss had far more urgent things on his mind right now than whatever Adam Ross felt he should tell him.

"Show me your hand first," she said.

Adam faltered. He peered down at his injury as though he had forgotten all about it. Then he held out his hand, palm upwards, fingers curling crookedly.

Four black circles. She stared at them, horrified.

"This way," she told him briskly, fighting back the nausea as she spun on her heels, trusting that her firm command would be enough to make him follow. She could tell that the last thing he wanted was somebody fussing around him. Shock was a terrible enemy and he was lost in its clutches. Behind her, she heard the sound of his shuffling footsteps and gave a sigh of relief.

"I'm so sorry," he mumbled.

"What?" she said, dropping backwards to fall in beside him now that he was moving in the right direction.

Adam didn't answer.

"Look, you need to get that seen to, alright? We can find Mac later. There's plenty of time."

He forced his blue eyes to meet her open gaze. "But I need to warn him."

And suddenly she understood. Reaching out, she took his shoulders, feeling the tremors from his body run right through her fingertips. "Adam. He knows."

"No - you don't get it, Lindsay. It's all my fault, okay?"

She shook her head. "I highly doubt that. Adam, you've been nothing but brave here today. I saw what you did."

He froze, startled.

"You saved those two cops," she continued. "And look, you're still alive. So's Danny. I couldn't be more thankful - truly."

"Danny." Adam nodded. "He was strong."

"There are all kinds of strength," she said quietly, letting her hand slide down his arm and guiding him forwards.

Ahead of them, the ambulance waited, its back doors open. Danny sat inside on the gurney, his shirt off by now as the young medic took a closer look at the wicked extent of his bruising. Adam stumbled along beside Lindsay. She kept tight hold of his sleeve, sensing that the contact was important. A cold breeze stung their skin, rising once more to swoop and frolic over the scene, careless of the drama that had played out here today.

Guiding Adam into the ambulance, Lindsay paused and looked up at the grey sky. In her head, she offered up a silent prayer for Mac and her other friends, back at the crime lab, clinging to the hope that had already saved not one, but four people today.

The bruises would heal. And the guilt that Adam felt would fade away.

This time, life would go on.

With a smile for the man that she loved, Lindsay stepped inside the ambulance and closed the door.