Not Here

by Liz

All Without A Trace characters belong to Hank Steinberg and the folks with Jerry Bruckheimer Television in association with Warner Bros. Television and CBS Productions. I'm borrowing them for a while; no infringement is intended, and no profit is being made.

Thanks to my betas, Carol, and TAE for keeping me on track with characters and the story.

Chapter One


Ann had finished with her shower, dried her hair enough so it wasn't going to ruin her suit, and went back into the bedroom to get dressed. She was supposed to have spent the night at his apartment and brought clean clothes in her suit bag. As she put on her clothes, she thought of the day before and wished she could have erased most of it. But it had started on Monday; Tuesday was the result.

Monday (two days earlier)

The team had been working on a case involving two missing girls, ages five and three, allegedly taken by their father during an ugly divorce case. Finally, after a grueling three days of small leads and emotional meetings with other family members, they located the father.

Jack knocked on the door, but heard no response. On a whim, Jack reached out to the door handle, and discovered it unlocked. He took a quick look at Martin as he drew his gun and stepped into the apartment, just as a gun went off twice. Jack ran towards the sound with Martin in pursuit. He stopped at the bedroom door confronted with the two children on the floor, covered in blood, and the father standing at the foot of the bed, holding a gun to his own head.

"No!" Jack roared, lunging forward towards the man.

The man pulled the trigger and collapsed backwards. Blood and grey matter seemed to fly in every direction. Martin turned, ran out of the room and immediately threw up into the kitchen sink. Jack stepped away from the body, pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, and wiped his face. He felt his legs give out and he fell back against the bureau. And, as he fell, he saw the youngest child seemingly looking at him, blaming him. He couldn't stop staring at her, even when the tears blurred his vision.

The police called that the apartment was clear, and that both the coroner and an FBI supervisor were needed. Vivian, Sam, and Elena had been downstairs, covering the front door, and after hearing the report, all three raced up the stairs. They were directed to their fellow agents by the NYPD and went to their aid. Sam and Elena helped Martin clean up and then helped him down to the car.

"Jack?" Vivian asked, as she crouched next to him in the bedroom, seeing the blood on his suit.

Danny ran up the stairs, having come down from the office by taxi, and entered the apartment. He saw Vivian in the doorway of the bedroom, and walked quickly up to her. She looked at Danny and shook her head.

"Jack, come on, we need to let the coroner in." Danny said, stepping in between Jack and the bodies.

Jack looked down at his hands, noting the bloody handkerchief. He nodded silently and accepted their help to get just to get to his feet. He put his gun back into its holster and walked unsteadily to the hallway. He stopped and leaned against the wall for a moment before leaning over, his hands on his knees. Danny thought he was going to be sick, but Vivian knew better what was going on.

"Danny, can you give us a minute?" she asked.

"Sure," he said, and walked down the hallway to the stairs.

Vivian stood next to Jack and gently put her hand on his neck, kneading it. He reached up and loosened his tie, still leaning over. She knew that every case took a little more out of him, but this one, with the girls so reminiscent of Hanna and Kate, hit too close to home.

Ann Cassidy, who Jack had been dating for a month, had been out of town since Saturday. She called Jack five times a day on his cell, but, after the first call, he didn't answer her. Finally, out of desperation, she called Vivian, who explained the case to her.

He hadn't gone home, Vivian was certain of that. She left every night and he was still there at his desk; poring over the files. Fresh shirt and a shave were the only changes every morning. The strains from the case; the memories, the guilt, and the frustration, were all taking a serious toll.

Vivian and Jack stood quietly, hip to hip, her hand, gently kneading his neck, as he tried to pull himself together. She reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a small chocolate bar, handing it to him. He drew himself up to his full height and took the candy bar.

"Thanks," he murmured, not trusting himself to look at her yet.

She was the only one who could read him. Well, Vivian and Tyler Simpson; his best friend from Quantico. He unwrapped the chocolate and slowly started to eat. A full five minutes later, his colour was better and he seemed ready to go. He turned to Vivian, about to pull her into a hug, when he realized that he was still covered in the victim's blood.

"Thanks, again."

"I'm always here for you, Jack," she answered simply.

"Special Agent Malone? We need to examine you." A CSI said, coming up to them in the hallway.

Jack started by giving a DNA sample and his blood spattered handkerchief to the technician. Although his prints were on file, the technician insisted on taking a fresh batch. Jack was photographed and his clothing was swabbed for evidence; all in all in took more than thirty minutes. He and Vivian walked to the stairs. Danny smiled and started down ahead of them. Three slow flights later, they were on the street, put on their sunglasses and headed for the car.

"You drive," Jack said, tossing the keys to Danny before easing himself into the back seat.

Vivian rode shotgun in the silent car for the half hour trip back from Brooklyn to the office. They pulled into the garage, parking in Jack's spot. Danny and Vivian got out of the car but Jack remained in the back seat, his head resting on the cushion.

"Jack, we're at the office." Vivian said, loudly, as she opened the door.

He opened his eyes behind his dark glasses, waking from his brief nap in the back seat. He put his hand up on the roof of the car, pivoted his hips and pulled himself up, favoring his right leg slightly. Jack walked to the elevator, hearing the car door shut behind him and the electronic locks being set. He hit the button and waited for the door to open as Danny and Vivian stood behind him. The doors opened and the three of them walked in. When Jack turned to face Danny, the latter gave him his car keys. The elevator stopped and they got out of the car. Jack headed to his office, shutting the blinds and turning out all but one light. Danny and Vivian went to the bullpen to see how Martin was faring.

"Well, you certainly look better," Vivian remarked, sitting on the edge of her desk.

"Thanks," Martin said, his pale face looking up at her.

"I'll need you to finish the report. I'll show it to Jack and we'll give it to Van Doren." Vivian instructed.

"Yeah, of course," Martin said, turning to his computer.

"How is he?" Sam asked, walking up to her.

"He's very fragile, Sam. He's tired and needs some time off." Vivian remarked.

Sam nodded biting her lip, and went back to her cubicle. Danny walked up to the wipe board and cleaned it as Elena walked up with her file.

"Does anyone else have their notes ready to go? I'll walk them down," she offered.

"Uhm, I do," Sam said, standing with a manila folder in her hand.

"Great," Elena replied, smiling.

Chapter Two

Ann walked off the elevator and headed to Jack's office. She had just landed about ninety minutes before at Liberty and called Vivian who told her that Jack was still at the office. Ann knocked on the door and, upon hearing no reply, walked in. She set her suitcase down and looked at him. The computer monitor was the only light in the room, throwing ghostly shadows as it played through a slide show. Jack sat, slightly forward, watching every image as it came onto the screen. Ann walked to stand beside him until she saw the images. She reached over slowly and turned off the monitor.

"Jack, would you please take me home?" she asked, her voice soft and inviting in the now dark office.

He looked at her blankly.

"What? Uhm sure," he said, standing slowly, reaching over to the desk lamp to turn it on.

She walked to the door and waited until he opened it for her. They walked to the elevator. Jack pushed the down button and they waited a few moments. The car doors opened and she walked in, Jack a few steps behind her, not really paying attention. He reached over out of habit and pressed G for garage, then leaned back against the elevator wall. Soon the door opened and they walked to his car.

"Would you mind if I drove?" Ann asked.

"No, not at all," he said, handing her the keys.

Ann drove to his apartment, knowing that he would feel a certain safety and comfort there. She parked the car on the street and they walked together to his brownstone apartment. He unlocked the outside door and let her in. Walking slowly, they climbed the stairs to the third floor. He unlocked the apartment door and she went in, with him following behind. She set his car keys in the dish by the door and he set the apartment keys on top. He removed his gun and holster, hanging them on a hook in the front hall closet, pulling his cell phone off his belt and placing it in the dish near his keys. She walked in and turned on some lights. It was obvious that he hadn't been there in a while. He walked directly to the bedroom and removed his suit, tie and shirt, setting them carefully on a chair, before putting on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt.

"Do you want a drink?" he asked, walking to the kitchen, now more comfortable.

"Yes, thank you. Wine if you have it. Any color," she said, looking at him through the pass through.

He reached up to a wine rack and pulled a red wine down. Looking at it briefly, he opened the bottle and poured her a glass, but didn't give it to her, allowing the wine to breathe. He took a bottle of scotch from the top cabinet and poured himself two fingers, neat. They stood in silence, waiting for the wine to be drinkable.

"I'm a little thirsty, Jack," Ann said, softly.

"I'm sorry," he said, handing her her wine.

Jack sipped his scotch, feeling his throat almost numb as the liquor coursed down it. Moving to the living room sofa, Ann sat down, just listening to how quiet it was in his apartment. He looked at her from the kitchen and walked into the living room. Sitting next to her on the sofa, he carefully put his feet on the coffee table. She touched her glass to his and smiled. Jack's hand started to shake slightly and he took a solid hit of scotch before looking at her. She reached her left hand to him. Switching his glass to his left hand, he reached for hers. She squeezed it and Jack just relaxed further back into the sofa. They were nine inches apart but all he wanted was for her to hold him. Jack just couldn't say it. Ann finished her wine and set the glass on the coffee table. Very slowly she removed her left hand from his and snaked it across his shoulders. Turning to her, Jack set his drink onto the table. He took his left hand and set it gently on her jaw, kissing her softly. Ann responded in kind but he pulled back.

"I can't tonight, honey. I...I need to sleep, tonight." He said, his voice more of a growl than usual.

She stood up and extended her hand to him.

"Jack, I've been up since four this morning. I need to go to sleep, too." Ann said casually.

Jack stood slowly, feeling the fatigue, the mental stress as well as the physical, as he followed her to the bedroom. She turned to him and kissed him chastely on the cheek. He pulled back the comforter on the queen sized bed, as she started to disrobe. He felt filthy, and walked into the bathroom, stripped, turned on the shower, and stepped in. Jack scrubbed his face and hands hard, trying to erase his memories, before finishing his shower. Turning off the water, he toweled dry and picked up his clothes. He hung his sweats up on a hook in the closet and put his t-shirt on the chair. Reaching for his silk pajama bottoms, he slipped them on and then got into bed. He rolled away from her, trying to settle. Ann pulled on a t-shirt from his bureau drawer and got into bed. Very slowly, she reached for him. He didn't move, but she felt him tighten. She pulled herself up behind him, slipping her left arm under his, her breath blowing softly across his ears. He reached up with his right hand and gripped it tightly. They remained that way for more than two hours, although she fell asleep several times until the last time when she awoke and found him finally asleep. Looking at the clock, Ann realized it was only ten at night. She reached over and set the alarm, giving her enough time to go home, shower, and change, since she had left her suitcase in Jack's office.

Tuesday 12:00 a.m.

Jack woke up, needing to use the toilet. Getting out of bed, he headed to the bathroom. He was pale, needed a shave, the whites of his eyes were bloodshot and the circles under his eyes were much darker. Slowly, he washed his hands and walked back into the bedroom. He listened to Ann breathe in her sleep. It was very soft and easy. Getting back into bed, Jack lay on his back, closed his eyes and tried to relax.

6:00 a.m.

The alarm went off and Ann woke up quickly. She was alone in the bed. Standing up, she reached for his bathrobe and walked into the living room. She found Jack sitting in one of the leather chairs, dressed in his silk pajama bottoms and a Brooklyn Cyclones t-shirt, looking out the window to the cold winter morning, his chin resting on his hand. She put her hand on his shoulder.

"Morning," she said pulling her hair back to kiss his cheek.

He reached his hand to hers and held it tightly.

"Hi," he said softly, his gruff voice sounding lower and deeper.

"Have you been up long?" she asked, kneeling next to him.

"A while," he hedged, looking at her.

"I'm going to get dressed. I left my suitcase in your office so I need to run home to shower and change."

Jack remained silent, just looking at her, his eyes filling. He shifted his gaze to his hand. She reached over to him and held his hand tightly again. Her right hand caressed his cheek, carefully wiping a stray tear that trickled down his cheek. She waited for him to make the move. He leaned over to her and held her against him, feeling her heartbeat and her breath on his ear. She shifted her arms so that she was holding him, pulling him tightly against her. His emotions, normally held so strongly in check, were raw and open. They remained that way for almost thirty minutes, until he pulled back. He lifted his shirt, wiping his eyes on it before standing up to walk away from her.

"Sorry," he said, standing in the kitchen and making coffee.

Ann walked up behind him. She reached for his shoulder, but he flinched, not hearing her approach in her bare feet. She touched him again, leaving her hand on his shoulder.

"You never have to apologize to me, Jack,"

She left him in the kitchen walking to the bedroom to go get dressed. He heard the bedroom door shut to the bedroom. Running the cold water in the sink, he let it pool in his hands, pouring the water over his head and his face. He took the kitchen towel from the fridge door handle and dried his face and hands.

Jack filled the carafe with cold water, poured it into the coffee maker and pressed <start>. Staring at the photos of his kids on the refrigerator, he smiled sadly. Jack closed his eyes tightly as he remembered the scene from the day before. The coffee maker made loud noises and he poured himself a cup. He walked back to the chair he had been sitting in since just after midnight. His cell phone rang. With a grunt, he got up and walked to the dish on the table in the foyer to answer the call.


"Hi, it's Vivian, did I wake you?"

"No, I'm up."

"Look, Reggie has the flu. I've got to stay with him because Marcus is still out at that convention. Are you all right?"

"Yeah, fine. I just needed some sleep, thanks." Jack said, walking back to get his coffee.

Ann walked out of the bedroom to see him standing in the living room.

"Call me if you need anything. He's just been up all night throwing up so I haven't slept much, myself." Vivian clarified.

"Viv, really, it's all right. I'll be in today. Hopefully it will be nice and calm."

"Thanks, again, Jack."

"You're welcome," he said, closing his phone and setting it back in the dish by the front door.

"You have to go in today?" Ann asked, standing by the kitchen and fiddling with her earring.

"Yeah, Viv's son has the flu. Her husband is still out of town at a convention." Jack said, leaning up against the chair and sipping his coffee.

"I see. Well, I need to get home and get ready for work," she said, walking up to him.

"Thanks again...for yesterday," he said quietly as he set his coffee on the table.

"You're most welcome. You need to take better care of yourself, Jack." Ann said, pushing his one cowlick to the other side.

"I will. Are you free for breakfast tomorrow? I think I owe you one." He said, his hands around her waist.

"I am and you do. I'll see you at the office." Ann said, kissing him quickly.

"I hope so," he whispered as she walked away from his embrace.

Ann put on her coat, grabbed her electronics and her purse and headed out the door, pausing for a minute to give him a smile. He smiled back and sipped his coffee. Looking at his watch, he realized that he needed to get to work on time himself. He walked to the kitchen and pulled a paper bag from beneath the sink. Setting his mug on the countertop, he walked into the bedroom and put his suit, shirt, and tie in the paper bag. He wasn't sure if CSI was going to need them but he would at least get them to the office. Slowly he started to make the bed, smelling her shampoo. He took off his t-shirt and pajamas before stepping into the shower. Turning the water on hot, he soaped and washed quickly, before taking the razor and shaving. His father taught him to do that, shave without a mirror in the shower, and he had been doing it ever since. He stepped out, dried himself with his bath sheet, a new indulgence, and prepared for the day. Jack walked back into the bathroom, the steam having dissipated, and put gel in his hair. Looking around the bedroom, he grabbed the paper bag and walked to the door. He put on his holster, picked up his phone and all of his keys, as well as his topcoat, before heading out.

8:30 a.m.

Jack walked into his office and set the bag on one of the extra chairs. No one from his team appeared to be in yet. He picked up his favourite mug with photos of Hanna and Kate on it and went to the kitchenette to pour himself a cup of coffee.

"Morning, Jack,"

"Hi," Jack replied as Paula Van Doren walked in.

"Do you have a minute?"

"Sure, I just need to write up my report for the last case." Jack said, following her back to her office.

He followed her and shut the door behind him, sitting in the chair in front of her desk.

"First of all, good work on the Carson case. I'm sorry about the results, but from what I can tell, your team did exemplary work." She said, sitting opposite him.

Jack heard her but focused his concentration on his coffee cup; sipping from it occasionally.

"I need you to see Glenn Bradley today." Van Doren instructed softly, watching his face.

Jack knew this was coming. He had lost it at a scene in front of many people. He nodded his agreement.

"Good, he's waiting for you. I also would like you to take the rest of the week off, starting tomorrow."

Jack looked up at her quickly.

"I can't, at least, I don't know if I can. Viv called this morning, her son has the flu. I guess if she can get someone to cover at home, she can come in but otherwise we'll be short a supervisor." Jack explained, holding her gaze.

"She called me after she spoke to you. You look better today, Jack, but I pulled your timesheet. You've worked the last three weeks straight. I need you, Jack. But I need all of you, okay?"

Jack stood and looked at her.

"I understand, but I won't let the team go short-handed." Jack said, making his position clear.

He left her office and headed for the elevator, continuing to sip his coffee. The door opened and Sam walked out.

"Hi, how are you?" she asked.

"I'm fine. How's Martin?"

"He's taking the day off. It really hit him hard. He spoke to Glenn yesterday but it didn't seem to settle him."

"Hold down the fort, will you? I'm on my way to see Glenn, myself. Vivian's at home. Reggie has the flu."

"All right, we'll be here when you come downstairs." Sam said.

"Thanks," Jack said, pressing the <up> button again.

Sam walked back to the bull pen as Jack walked into the up elevator. A few minutes later, he was walking into Glenn Bradley's office. The receptionist was older, quiet and kind. She was the perfect receptionist for a psychiatrist.

"Mr. Malone, Dr. Bradley is free. There's coffee if you'd like to refill. It's Peet's coffee, very good." She added, pointing to the coffee machine in the corner.

"Thanks," Jack smirked and filled his coffee cup before walking into Glenn's office.

"Jack," Glenn said, walking from behind his desk.

"Glenn," Jack replied, holding out his hand.

They shook hands and Jack sat in the comfortable leather chair away from the desk. Glenn followed, sitting next to him. He watched Jack, seeing his discomfort and pain as he sat. He looked at his face and saw the fatigue. Reading Vivian's account as well as those of the police and CSIs who were at yesterday's scene in addition to all of Jack's cases for the last month, Glenn needed to know how fragile Jack really was. They sat in silence, Jack sipping his coffee, unconsciously staring at the images of his children on the mug as he did so. After a time, Jack looked up ay Glenn.

"Better today?" Glenn asked, sipping his herbal tea.

"Yeah, I got a little sleep last night." Jack admitted.

"You've lost weight,"

"I needed to,"

"That may be, but not because you aren't eating. Jack, I'm concerned about you."

"Glenn, I'm fine,"

"Jack, you lost it, yesterday," Glenn reminded him.

"I saw a man commit suicide, Glenn. There were two little girls in the room; dead too, by the way," Jack said, getting to his feet, his anger not letting him sit still.

"I know, I read the report. I also know that you haven't had a day off since Max Cassidy's death." Glenn said, watching his body language.

Jack turned to him quickly. He clenched and unclenched his left hand, while his almost empty coffee cup was held tightly in his right.

"You've been seeing his widow. Are there problems?"

Jack looked at him again. His tension growing.

"No," he said softly.

"No, what?"

"No, there aren't any problems." Jack said turning away from him again.

"Jack, did you dream last night?"

"Yes," he whispered in his gruff voice, looking out the window to the south.

"About your mother?"


"And Max?"


"And your father?"

"Please, stop," Jack replied, physically getting more agitated, pacing now.

"And the case?"

"Please, stop," he repeated, panting slightly.

"And Hanna and Kate?"

"Just, stop," Jack said, turning and throwing his coffee cup towards Glenn.

The cup missed Glenn, but hit the wall behind him and shattered. Jack turned away and tried to get his emotions as well as his temper under control. Reaching his hands up, he leaned against the bookcase, hearing Glenn clean up the debris. The tears tracked down his face. He pulled at his tie and loosened it. Glenn walked up behind him, his footsteps quiet on the carpet.

"I'm sorry to have done that. I needed to know how you were," Glenn said, stopping a couple of feet away.

Jack turned to him, nothing hidden, just bare emotions. Glenn reached up and embraced him. Jack held onto him tightly.

"I have no one," Jack said, in between sobs.

"Yeah, you do. You have Ann, Vivian, and your children."

"No. They're not... I need someone. I need someone," Jack said, slowly calming.

"I know. Look, one of your pals from Quantico is coming up here this weekend. " Glenn said.

"Who?" Jack asked, pulling out of the embrace.

"Tyler Simpson," Glenn said.

It was as if he had been handed a lifeline as he was drowning. Jack smiled slightly while he wiped his face. Jack walked to sit back in the comfortable chair, continuing to relax. Glenn handed him a glass of cold water.

"You're taking the rest of the week off starting tomorrow. If Special Agent Johnson's son still has the flu, don't worry about it. I mean it Jack. You're exhausted, mentally and physically; hell, your voice is as rough as I've ever heard it. You need a break." Glenn stated, sitting directly in front of him.

Jack stood, putting back on his FBI faade, and reached out his hand.

"Are we done here?"

"Yeah, but there's no wiggle room here, Jack." Glenn said pointedly as he stood to shake the other man's hand.

"I understand."

Glenn handed him a Ziploc bag full of the parts of his coffee mug.

"Thanks," Jack said, taking it before leaving Glenn's office.

"No problem. I'll email you about our appointment next week. I like you Jack. I like you even better when you're in one piece." Glenn replied.

"Have a nicer day, Agent Malone." The receptionist said.

Jack walked to the elevator and sighed. He knew Glenn was right, but still, it bothered him that he couldn't take care of himself. He'd been on his own since he was sixteen. The car came and he stepped in, still alone. He hit the button and went downstairs. Walking out of the elevator, he literally bumped into Danny.

"Dropped your mug? I'm really good at models. I'll put it back together for you. You won't be able to put hot coffee in it again, but you can see the girls." Danny offered, with a smile.

"Thanks, I'd appreciate it."

"Sure, no problem, it's quiet today," Danny said, taking the Ziploc bag from him.

Jack furrowed his eyebrows for a moment before turning to walk to his office to get another mug. He picked up a black mug with a Playboy bunny on it, a present from a well-meaning friend, and walked to the kitchenette. As he filled the mug with fresh coffee, he looked at his watch and sighed at the time; ten o'clock. A long day still to go. He walked back to his office and sat at his desk. He saw the steady green light on his computer as he simply turned the monitor on, the images of his cases started as a screensaver. Immediately, he hit <enter> stopping the process. He closed his eyes to the images for a moment and sipped his coffee. He needed something to get him out of this. Picking up the phone he dialed a familiar number.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation, how may I direct your call?"

"Agent Simpson, please. Agent Jack Malone calling,"

"One moment,"

Jack heard the various clicks as the call was being routed. Finally he heard a familiar voice.


"Yeah, it's me," he said, leaning back in his chair, closing his eyes.

"What's up, man? Long time,"

"I heard you might be up this weekend. I wanted to make sure you had my cell number. I'd love to see you," Jack said, quickly.

"Great, sounds great. Tell you what, I'm in the middle of something right now. Send me everything, address, phone, work and home by email. Okay?"

"Uhm, okay." Jack said, sitting up at his desk.

"Jack, what's wrong?" Tyler asked suddenly.


"Don't try to bullshit me, please. I've known you too long for that."

Jack sighed and just listened on the phone.

"Jack, you still there?"


"I'm coming up this weekend, but it's work. I don't know what my schedule is yet. Please email me everything. I will see you, Jack. Just hang in there, okay? Whatever it is, we'll work it out, just like we always do." Tyler said.

"Thanks, man. I just don't have anyone else," Jack said softly.

"I'm here for you just like you have been for me. Don't forget that, okay? You take care of yourself, and I'll see you this weekend."

"Thanks, Tyler,"

"No thanks needed, Jack," Tyler said, hanging up the phone.

Jack brought up his email account and typed in his contact information before sending it to Tyler. He sat back in his chair and sipped his coffee. There was a knock on his door and he looked up to see Ann smiling at him with her own coffee cup in her hand. Jack gestured for her to come in.

"Hi," he said, leaning back slightly in his chair.

"Hi, how are you?" she asked, standing on the other side of the desk.

"Getting through it, one hour at a time, how about you?" he answered, sighing.

"I was wondering how you were doing with your report from yesterday?" she replied, avoiding the question.

"Actually, I had a couple of appointments this morning, so I'm just starting it now. What's the big rush?" he asked as he brought the report onto his desk, sitting upright.

"Well, there may be a lawsuit," she said slowly.

"You're kidding,"

"No, I'm not, Jack,"

"All right, I'll finish it as soon as I can,"

"Thanks," Ann said, smiling at him before leaving his office.

It was a rare occurrence that Jack couldn't focus his attention and today was one of those times. He took his jump drive from his desk drawer and attached it to his computer. Soon his office was filled with early jazz of John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie. He lost himself in the music and in the case. He pulled Martin's report from his inbox and initialed and approved it as necessary. He continued to work until another knock at the door broke his concentration. He looked up and saw Danny, smiling. He gestured him to come in.

"Jack, it's four, we've got nothing going on, and there's a nor'easter on the way. It's just starting to snow and we were wondering if we could leave early?"

Jack looked out from his office into the hallway but since his office was in the interior, he had no view of outside and therefore had no idea what the weather conditions were.

"Uhm, yeah, sure."

"Thanks, don't stay too late," Danny said, with a smile.

"Nah, just a little more," Jack said, his attention returning to his report.

5:00 p.m.

Jack stood and stretched, walking to the printer to pick up his report before hand-carrying it to Van Doren. He left his office and looked around. Most of the agents had left ahead of the snow storm. He walked to the window and looked out, seeing the snow as it fell by the dark glass window.

"Ten inches, I think they said," a voice said, behind him.

Jack turned and saw Paul from engineering, standing behind him. Jack smiled and turned back to the view outside. He turned to walk to Van Doren's office but stopped when he saw his coffee cup drying on today's New York Times carefully placed on Danny's desk. He touched it gently before heading to Van Doren's office.

"I think you and I are the only ones on the floor, Jack,"

"Oh, well, I'll just put it on her desk. Thanks, Paul,"

"No problem," Paul said, heading for the elevator.

Jack's cell phone rang as he put his report in Van Doren's in-box.


"I'm just checking in. Where are you?"

"Hi, Viv," Jack said, sighing.

"Are you still at the office?"

"Just finishing, how's Reggie?"

"Poor guy, he's really miserable. How about you?"

Jack wanted to say 'the same' but instead replied, "I'm okay, thanks,"

"Get going or you'll have to spend the night at the office 'cause of the snow. I'll call you tomorrow and tell you how we're doing,"

"Uhm, okay. Van Doren gave me the rest of the week off." Jack said, softly.

"You deserve it. I'll still call you. Take care Jack,"

"Thanks, Viv. Take care of yourself," Jack said, as he entered his office.

"I will, and you too," she said.



Jack closed his phone and started to shut down his office, removing his jump drive, and slipping it back into his desk drawer. He looked around, picked up his topcoat, and left his office. He headed for the elevator and then to the garage. As he drove off the ramp, he realized how fierce the storm was, with driving snow and high winds. It took him almost forty-five minutes to get home; normally a twenty minute journey. Finally, he got to his street, but there weren't any open parking spots. He drove to the nearest garage and lucked out, finding them open with availability. Jack left his car and then walked home.

Climbing up the three flights, his shoes soaked, hair wet, hands fisted in his coat, shivering even with his topcoat, Jack needed a hot shower and a drink. He opened the door to his apartment, set down his electronics, keys, and gun before hanging up his topcoat in the closet. Loosening his tie he walked into the kitchen and saw that he had messages on the machine. He pressed the <play> button.

"Hi, it's 5:45pm. Call me," Ann's voice spoke.

<Tuesday 5:45pm> the machine said.

He sighed, stopped the machine, and checked his cell phone quickly. No missed calls or messages. He called her cell phone as he took off his wet shoes.


"Hi," he said, tugging at his tie and releasing the collar button.

"Hi," she hesitated.

"I thought you were coming over tonight," Jack said.

There was a silence on the phone. Jack pulled it back from his ear to make sure he was still connected.



"You okay?"

"I don't know," she said, sitting in her car, looking at a photograph of Max.

"What's wrong?"

"I'm...I'm just not sure if I'm ready,"

"Ready for what? I only asked if you'd like to spend the night. We've done that."

"Ready for the next step,"

"Honey, I just wanted you here, tonight. I can't even think about tomorrow." Jack said, honestly.

"I ...I can't. I'm not ready. I keep thinking about Max. I don't know. Maybe I'm not ready for a relationship. I don't know. I just can't tonight, Jack. I'm so sorry." Ann said, quickly.

"Oh, okay, well, I'll see you soon," Jack said, closing his eyes and leaning against the front door.

"I'm so sorry, Jack,"

He couldn't answer her but simply hung up the phone, turned it off and put it in the charger before turning to the front door to make sure he had locked it. Jack headed to the bedroom and took off his suit, carefully hanging it up. Putting his shirt in the dry cleaning bag he checked his tie. It was still clean, so he hung it on his tie hanger, a gift from his girls. He removed his socks and shorts, placing them in the laundry bag, removed his watch, and headed to the bathroom to take a shower.

The water was hot but he couldn't get warm fast enough. He stood facing the water and felt warmer, but he was still cold. After a ridiculous fifteen minutes of standing under the shower, he turned the hot water off. He toweled dry and padded back into his closet to slip on sweats, a sweatshirt, and a pair of socks, hoping that he would stay warm. Jack walked back into the living room and saw there were four remaining messages on his machine. He hit the button, while pulling a bottle of Macallan twenty five year old single malt from a cabinet.

<Jack, it's Vivian. I wanted to make sure you got home okay. It's really coming down out there. Call me.>

"Tuesday 6:30pm," the machine stated.

<Jack, it's Sam. I...I just wanted to make sure you're okay. Call me, please.>

"6:45pm," the machine stated.

<Jack, it's Danny. I'm around if you need to talk, hangout, or whatever. Shoot, if you want me to bring you pizza, even, I'm your guy. Seriously, if you need me I'm here for you.>

"6:50pm" the machine stated.

<Hey, Malone, it's Tyler. My schedule is totally changed. It's around seven Tuesday night. Looks like I'll be in New York tomorrow. I'll call you. Depending on the storm, I'm either on the train or the plane. Take care of yourself, man. Check your email, I sent you a little something. Bye.>

"6:52pm" the machine stated.

Jack walked to his desk and turned on his laptop. He waited until he received signal and then checked his email. He clicked the one from Tyler. Embedded was a photo of the two of them deep-sea fishing on the Atlantic, just after graduation. They were tan, buff, and happy. It was a wonderful photo. Jack printed the image before walking to the pass through. He wrote down the four names on a pad and cleared his machine. Jack poured two inches of scotch and followed with water. He turned off the lights in the kitchen and walked in the darkness to the leather chair in front of the bay window. Picking up the photo from the printer, he sat down heavily and sipped his scotch, watching the snow fall, lit by the streetlights below.

Chapter Three

Wednesday 2:00 a.m.

Jack woke up, still sitting in the chair. His head ached, he was cold, and there was a pain in his chest he couldn't identify. Every breath he took was laboured. In short, he felt awful. He thought about calling Danny but couldn't figure out how to use the phone. Instead, Jack wove his way to his bed. He kept his sweats on and pulled the covers up. The pressure on his chest was less when he was on his back and he lay back and tried to sleep.

He woke up every two hours, coughing, or shivering , or just in pain. The phone rang but he was so out of it, he didn't know how to answer it. It just served to make his headache worse.

"Malone? Jack?" a familiar voice called.

Jack heard it and tried to make his body respond. He thought he was in bed; he was, in fact, on the floor. He thought he was speaking; he was, in fact, coughing.

"Jesus, Jack," the voice said, closer now.

Tyler Simpson stood in the bedroom doorway looking at Jack, face down on the carpet. He knelt quickly and turned him over. Jack's face was pale and covered in sweat. He was shivering and the collar of his sweatshirt was soaked through.

"Okay, buddy, I'm here," Tyler soothed. "Let's get you into bed,"

He helped Jack sit up, causing a fit of coughing. When it subsided, Tyler muscled Jack into bed.

"Jack, I'm getting a doctor. Tell me how you feel," Tyler said, looking at him closely.

"Chest hurts, hurts to breathe, headache, very cold." Jack reported, it short spurts of breath.

"Thank God that even when you're sick, Malone, you can still profile." Tyler joked.

He reached for the bedside phone and dialed a number.


"I need you to come and see a friend." Tyler said into the phone.

"It may take a while because of the weather."

"He's in the Village, on Sullivan Street."

"Oh, okay, I'll call you when I'm at Washington Square Park."

"Use the cell number,"




Tyler hung up the phone and looked back at Jack. His eyes were open, his breath raspy. Tyler helped him into a sitting position and then put pillows behind his back.


Jack nodded, closing his eyes. Tyler went into the bathroom and put a washcloth under water. He wrung it and then came back into the bedroom. Sitting on the bed, he wiped Jack's face gently.

Yesterday, after Jack had spoken to him, Tyler had called back to the New York office and spoke to Van Doren. She had told him of the last six weeks. He had heard about Max Cassidy, but not about Jack's father. He knew about the divorce proceedings but not how bloody they had been. Tyler's schedule hadn't been changed. He changed it to come up and help his friend.

Tyler's phone rang.

"Simpson, "

"Okay, now what?"

"Brownstone, west side of the street, two blocks south. I'll be waiting."


Tyler walked back to the front door and took Jack's keys, not wanting to go through picking the locks again. He headed downstairs and stood outside wishing he had a cigarette, although he hadn't smoked in five years. The snow was blowing and he was cold, but it was still pretty. He saw his friend and waved. The man crossed the quiet snow-filled street and walked in, stomping his feet of loose snow.

"Hi, Dave," he said, closing the doors behind him before leading the doctor up the stairs.

"Hi, Tyler,"

They arrived at the apartment and walked in. Tyler locked the door, set the keys in the dish and took Dave's coat and hat from him.

"It's cold in here," Dave remarked.

"Yeah," Tyler replied, leading him back to the bedroom.

Jack was pretty much the way Tyler left him, sitting up against the headboard, his eyes closed.

"I'm figuring pneumonia. He's overworked, freaked out on a scene two days ago, and hasn't slept much in the last few days. He said he's cold, his chest hurts, it hurts to breathe, and he has a headache." Tyler said.

"Well, just looking at him, I'd say that was a pretty good guess. The trick is how bad a case does he have? Can you make some coffee, Tyler? I might just get a cold myself." Dave said, putting his case down and getting to business.

"Sure," Tyler said, turning to walk out of the room.

"What's his name, by the way?"

"Jack, he's Jack," Tyler said over his shoulder, with a small smile.

"All right, Jack, let's get a temperature." Dave said, setting a thermometer in his mouth.

Jack woke up immediately and was confused.

"Jack, I'm Dave. A friend of Tyler's. I'm a doctor. I'm checking your temperature, okay? Just relax. I'm here to help you." Dave said, trying to calm his patient.

Jack yanked out the disposable thermometer and started to cough, a deep, painful cough. Tyler walked in quickly, and crawled across the bed. He pulled Jack into his arms and held him until the spasms stopped. He released him, Jack's eyes were open, but seemed unfocussed.

"Jack, you're okay, I'll be right back. Be nice to Dave," Tyler warned as he backed off the bed.

Jack looked at the stranger in front of him and then let his head relax back against the headboard. Again, Dave inserted a thermometer under Jack's tongue and checked his watch. Tyler walked in a few minutes later with a two mugs of coffee, handing one to Dave. He nodded his thanks and took a sip of the coffee, setting the mug on the bedside table, he removed the thermometer and shook his head. Jack had fallen into a light sleep.

"103.5; not good, Tyler, give me some background on him." Dave said, pulling out a notebook.

"Jack Malone, age forty seven. Eighteen he joined the Army. He was in for six years. I don't know much about his record except that he was in the Mid East and Africa for most of it. He came home, went to college, then grad school, which is where I met him. We were both psych majors at Columbia. He was number one in the class and I was number two. Second year in, we were visited by some fellas in suits. Two years later we were at Quantico together. He's scary, Dave; as a profiler, he's amazing, but it got into his head too much, so fifteen years ago, he switched to missing persons."


"Recently divorced, she's a lawyer and was transferred to Chicago. Moved the kids and told him not to come."

"Ouch, okay so he's a workaholic,"

"Yeah, basically, when he's working, it consumes him. But when it's over, there's a big down turn." Tyler remarked sipping his coffee.

"Okay, he needs major antibiotics. Here's some to get him started and here's the prescription. Full ten days, remember. No dairy products, no booze, you know the drill; it decreases the effects of the drugs. I'm also giving him some medicine to keep the coughing to a dull roar. Keep him hydrated, that vitamin water that's clear is pretty good. Obviously, keep his chest warm. I doubt he'll eat a thing but if you can, just broth. He'll sleep most of the time." Dave said, putting his kit back together.

"No, he dreams his cases. He figures things out while he's sleeping. He doesn't shut down." Tyler said as Jack woke up again.

Jack squinted at him.

"Yeah, I'm real," Tyler smiled, setting his coffee down.

Tyler walked into the bathroom and filled a glass with water. He took the pills that Dave gave him and handed them to Jack.

"Antibiotics and a non-cough drug, you have pneumonia, my friend." Tyler said, handing him the water.

Jack swallowed the pills dry and drank all of the water.

"Feels like Orson Welles is on my chest," Jack rasped.

"It's pneumonia, nothing else, but you need to keep elevated, drink fluids, and stay warm." Dave warned.

Jack fell asleep again as Tyler picked up their coffee mugs and walked out to the living room. Dave set his case by the door and took his coffee, wanting to finish it before he headed out into the storm.

"He looks exhausted." Dave commented.

"I talked to his supervisor and she felt the same way. She gave him the rest of the week off." Tyler said, sipping the tepid coffee.

"What was the case he was working on?" Dave asked.

"Two little kids, kidnapped by their father. It was rough, the father killed the kids and then himself in front of Jack, according to the reports."

"Well, there you are. He's probably been fighting the pneumonia until the case was solved; setting him off, losing any reserves he had."

"Yeah, he called me yesterday, pretty upset. He doesn't have anyone he can talk to, so it all just stays inside."

"Until he gets dramatic, like this." Dave said, standing.

"I'll tell him he's being dramatic. He'll love that," Tyler said, laughing.

"I figure he has a temper, so sure, you tell him, when I'm not in the same room," Dave said, slipping his arms into his coat.

"Thanks again, Dave. Call me when you get home, so I know you're safe," Tyler said, unlocking the door.

"Sure thing," Dave replied.

Tyler relocked the door and put the prescriptions on the counter. He brought their coffee mugs to the kitchen. Setting Dave's in the sink, he refilled his and walked back in the bedroom to check on Jack. He seemed to be sleeping comfortably so Tyler walked back into the living room. He checked his watch, six o'clock, and then felt his stomach rumble. Walking to the fridge, he opened it and saw it was virtually empty. He took Jack's keys, picked up the prescriptions, and left the apartment to go the grocery store and the pharmacy.

Tyler returned almost an hour later, in part due to the snow, but mostly due to the ineptitude of the child behind the cash register. Dave had called, saying aside from falling in the snow twice, he got home safely. Tyler walked into the apartment, set the bags on the counter, kicked off his wet shoes, hung up his coat and then went to see Jack. He walked into the bedroom, expecting to see Jack comfortable in bed. Instead, Tyler found Jack on the floor of the bathroom, an ugly bruise on his cheek. It appeared he went into the bathroom and collapsed, hitting the sink on the way down. Tyler gently rolled him on his back, checking his vitals.

"Jack? Malone? Wake up!" he said loudly.

Jack opened his eyes and looked at him.

"Tyler, man, I feel like crap. What am I doing on the floor?"

"I'm not sure. You have pneumonia and are supposed to be in bed. Let's get you on your feet. Maybe you had to use the john?" Tyler suggested, helping him to stand.

"Maybe, God, my head hurts," Jack said, leaning over to fight the nausea and dizziness.

"You clocked yourself on the sink. Come on; let's get you back into bed." Tyler said, easing him in that direction.

"So tired," Jack remarked.

"I know," Tyler replied getting him into bed.

Jack closed his eyes and fell into a light sleep. Tyler went back to the kitchen and put the food away. He bought broth for Jack, pasta, chicken, bread, milk and eggs; figuring that would cover them until Saturday when he had to leave.

He put water on to boil and pulled out the pasta. Taking a chicken breast, he covered it with barbecue sauce and then set it in the broiler. He opened some frozen peas and put them in a bowl for the microwave. Forty minutes later, he had a nice chicken pasta dinner. He poured himself a glass of wine, and sat at the small dining room table, listening for Jack. As he was finishing his dinner he heard a noise in Jack's room. Quickly he got up and walked in. Jack had pulled off his wet sweatshirt and kicked off the covers. He was sitting in bed, sweat rolling off of him, his eyes open, his breathing laboured.

"Jack? Hey, Jack? What's going on?" Tyler said, sitting on the edge of the bed.

"Hot, can't catch my breath," Jack stated.

"It's time for your meds, just hang on." Tyler said, as he went into the bathroom.

Walking back in, he put the pills in Jack's hand and handed him the glass of water. Jack again swallowed the pills dry and then drank the glass of water. Tyler took the glass and put in on the bedside table before getting a clean t-shirt from Jack's bureau.

"Hands up!" Tyler instructed, as he got ready to slip the t-shirt on Jack's frame.

Jack complied and settled back to bed, falling asleep almost immediately. Tyler walked out into the living room, took his dishes to the sink, poured himself some more wine, and sat at the counter of the pass through. He looked at the pad, seeing the names of the people who had called. He smiled, pulling his Palm Pilot out of his jacket pocket. He found the number he was looking for and dialed.


"Hi, Viv, it's Tyler,"

"Tyler, how are you?"

"I'm fine, Viv. I'm here with Jack."

"Oh, he didn't mention you were coming up."

"He didn't know. He's sick, Viv. He has pneumonia, a temperature of 103; he's a mess."

Viv sighed, closing her eyes for a moment.

"Can you stay with him?" she asked.

"Yeah, but I have meetings on Saturday."

"Okay, let me see what I can do."

"Thanks, what about Annie?"


"Yeah, Ann Cassidy? You know, I heard they were dating."

"Tyler, they're both hurting. She lost her husband of nine years. He lost his mentor, his father, and finalized the divorce in a two month period. He needs her. I'm just not sure she's ready for a relationship." Val remarked.

"What about Danny? Can he help Jack?"

"He could, although I don't know if Jack would call him. He's so stubborn and private."

"I know, look keep in touch. I'll be here."

"I'll call you tomorrow," Viv said.

"Great, thanks,"


"Bye, Viv," Tyler said, hanging up the phone.

Walking to the front door, he picked up his briefcase and headed to Jack's desk. He moved Jack's mouse and realized his computer was still on. He shut it down and pulled out his laptop. Switching the Ethernet cable, he turned on his computer. When it was fully booted up, Tyler reset his network connection and got on line. He sat down at the desk and started to work.

10:00 p.m.

Rubbing his eyes, Tyler logged off his computer and walked back to check on Jack. He was asleep, mouth slightly open, breathing heavily. His face was pale and wet. Tyler left him alone and walked back into the living room. He poured himself another glass of wine and sat on the leather sofa, before turning on the television.

Chapter Four

Thursday 12:15 a.m.

Tyler was awakened by a noise he couldn't readily identify. He walked back to the bedroom turned the nightstand light on and saw Jack sitting on the floor in the corner. His legs were straight out in front of him and he was gently rocking his head back, hitting it against the wall, his eyes shut. He was muttering something, but Tyler couldn't make it out.

"Jack?" he inquired softly, kneeling next to him.

Jack opened his eyes. They were red-rimmed and searching.

"Fix it," he repeated in a tired voice.

"I can't fix it if I don't know what's broken, Jack. Help me. What do I need to fix?"

"Just, fix it. I can't do this any more. Please," Jack said, trying to focus on Tyler.

"No, what can't you do? What do I need to fix? Come on Jack, you woke me out of a sound sleep for this."

"I'm sorry, Tyler." He sighed.

"Jack, how can I help you?" Tyler asked, reaching for his hand.

"Fix it so I can sleep without dreaming about her." Jack said in a whisper, the fear evident in his eyes.

"Who, Annie?"

"No, my mother, God, Tyler, I keep seeing my mother. Please fix it; I just can't see it any more." Jack said, shutting his eyes and resuming his head motion.

"Jesus, okay Jack. Tell me what to do, please. You want me to talk to you so you can fall asleep?"

"I don't know, please, Tyler, please," Jack said, his voice full of frustration and fatigue.

Tyler went into the bathroom and checked his watch. It wasn't really time for Jack' s medicine, but it might calm him down. He filled the glass with water, took two pills out, and walked back into the bedroom.

"Take these, buddy," he said, handing him the meds.

Jack swallowed them dry and again drank the entire glass of water. He relaxed somewhat, resting his body for a moment.

"Jack, I need to get you back to bed." Tyler said, getting into a better position to help his friend stand up.

Jack opened his eyes and started to get to his feet with much help from Tyler. He got into bed and looked at his friend for the first time coherently. Tyler's blonde hair was long, curling behind his ears. His eyes were a vibrant green that drew your attention. The lines on his face from age and work simply helped him with the ladies. Jack wheezed as he lay back onto the pillows.

"What time is it?" he asked.

"A little after midnight,"

"Call Glenn Bradley, he's the psych guy at the office. See if he can come over, tomorrow. This is beyond pals," Jack said, drifting off to sleep.

"You're not kidding," Tyler remarked, pulling up the sheets and blanket to Jack's waist.

He left the nightstand light on and returned to the living room. Jack had a perfectly good guest room but Tyler was agitated now. He decided against the wine and went into Jack's whisky supply. Pouring himself a stiff drink, he sipped it for a moment, looking out the bay window onto the quiet snow-laden corner below him. He looked back at Jack's now quiet bedroom and then back to the quiet street below. Smiling, Tyler finished his drink, set the glass on the kitchen counter and stretched out again on the sofa.

8:00 a.m.

Tyler shifted his weight and then woke up. He looked around and saw Jack sitting in the leather chair next to him. He appeared asleep, but his breathing was labored. Tyler stood and took the wool blanket he had removed from the guest bedroom, and draped it over Jack. Cracking his neck, he walked into the kitchen and made a fresh pot of coffee. Waiting for it to brew, Tyler pulled fresh clothes from his suitcase and walked to the bathroom to take a shower and shave.

8:20 a.m.

Tyler walked out from the bathroom, smelling the coffee brewing. He looked at Jack who was still asleep, although wheezing. He put his dirty clothes in a pile on the floor in the corner and poured himself a cup of coffee. Sitting on the sofa, he watched his friend sleep.

Jack woke from a dream. His face was red, his breathing laboured, sweating through his shirt. He pushed off the blanket and stood, unsteadily. Tyler stood quickly and went to his side. Jack turned and looked at him.

"You look tired," he commented.

"You look like death warmed over. How do you feel?" Tyler asked.

"More like death, I guess,"

"Let me get your antibiotics," Tyler said, walking back to the master bathroom.

When he came back into the living room, Jack was in the kitchen, filling a glass with water from the tap. He turned and took the meds from Tyler, swallowing them dry but finishing with the water.

"I didn't call, Glenn," Tyler commented.

"What?" Jack asked, perplexed.

"You asked me to call Glenn Bradley and have him come by today. You were upset by your dreams." Tyler explained

"I don't remember,"

"Well, then, no problem.

"What was I dreaming about?" Jack asked walking into the living room to look out the window.

"Your mother," Tyler said softly.

Just then, Jack remembered the dream, except it wasn't a dream, it was a memory. He remembered finding his mother in the garage; she didn't want him to have a big mess to clean up. Jack remembered every image of that horrible day when he was sixteen. His father was stationed in the Philippines and he was at home, alone, with his suicidal mother.

Tyler walked up next to him, sensing a change coming in his friend. Jack turned to him, his eyes filled with tears, he drew a quick breath and started to cough. Reaching out for Tyler's shoulders to steady himself, he continued to cough until he gained control.

"Okay, let's get you back to bed. What time did you wake up, anyway?"

"The microwave clock read midnight."

"You've been up since midnight?"


"What were you doing?"

"Watching you sleep and the snow fall," Jack said softly, as he slowly got back into bed.

"Okay, well, here's the deal. You need to sleep. You're sick and exhausted. Just let it go, Jack," Tyler implored.

Jack closed his eyes and started to relax. Tyler sat in the chair in the corner for thirty minutes until he was sure that Jack was truly asleep before he walked back into the living room. He poured himself a cup of coffee and turned on his computer, starting to get to work.

It had not been the best Thursday in Tyler's life. Every hour almost to the minute, Jack had woken in a coughing fit. Vivian had called to say that she had a case and the whole team would be working it until it was solved. And the bosses in Washington were not amused that he was working from New York.

6:30 p.m.

The buzzer rang for the front door of the walkup. Tyler left his computer and pressed the <talk> button.

"Who is it?"


He sighed and buzzed her in. Shutting down his computer for the day, he awaited her arrival.

He hadn't seen her in a couple of years. When he and Jack were at Quantico, Max Cassidy was the first agent they worked with. The three of them remained friends. It was only after Jack married Maria that they started to drift apart. Jack introduced Ann to Max later.

Five minutes later, there was a soft knocking on the door. Tyler opened it up and stood aside, allowing her to walk in.

"Hi, Tyler," she said, turning to look at him.

"Hi, Annie," he replied, embracing her and kissing her cheek.

She pulled back and smiled.

"How is he? Vivian told me he was sick." she asked nervously, handing him her coat and hat.

"Not great, but better. He's been very restless today. He has to get better by tomorrow afternoon, though."


"I have to go to dinner with some Agency fellas, and then attend meetings all weekend." Tyler said, walking into the kitchen.

"Can I get you a drink?" he asked.

"Uhm, not yet, may I go see him?"

"Sure," Tyler said, pouring some scotch into a glass and topping it with some tap water.

Ann walked back to Jack's bedroom, hearing him before she saw him. He was sitting up in his bed, coughing. Ann was drawn to the bluish bruise on his cheek. She stood frozen until Tyler walked by her quickly.

"Okay, Jack, just listen to me. Relax and listen to me," Tyler said, starting to chant a poem that Ann didn't recognize.

Finally, Jack relaxed and fell asleep. Tyler stood and extended his hand to her, escorting her out of the room. They entered the living room and Tyler picked up his scotch, taking a quick hit.

"That's the drill, Annie; you're on call with him. The pneumonia has produced a fever and a nasty cough. My friend prescribed an antibiotic and something to keep his coughing down. He's having flashbacks to his mother's death. In addition, he's simply exhausted." Tyler explained.

Ann turned from looking out the window.

"Tyler, I just don't know if I'm strong enough," she revealed.

"Annie, he doesn't have anyone else to turn to. I'm sorry. The team is involved in a case. I'm in meetings and reviews. Please, please come here after work tomorrow. I'll leave you instructions for the meds. He has no appetite but if he does, I stocked the fridge." Tyler said, resting his hands on her shoulders.

"Okay," she relented.

Tyler sighed and took a step back.

"Now, would you like a glass of wine and/or dinner?" he asked, softly.

"No, I need to go home," Ann said, walking to the front door.

She put on her coat and hat and turned back to Tyler.

"You're okay, you can do this. Can I walk you to the train?"

"I drove,"

"Fine, I'll walk you to your car," Tyler said, reaching into the closet for his coat, and the dish for Jack's keys.

They walked downstairs and the two blocks to her car.

"I'll see you tomorrow. We need to hook up so I can give you his keys." Tyler reminded.

"Okay," she said, sniffling.

"Annie, you have to do this for him, honey," he said, his hand on her shoulder.

She looked up at him and nodded before getting into her car and starting the engine. He waited until she was safely driving down the street before heading back to the apartment. He climbed the three flights, walked in, and was surprised by Jack standing by the breakfast bar. He was shaking.

"Hey, Malone, what's wrong?" Tyler asked, not taking off his coat before walking up to his friend.

"I thought I was alone," Jack said.

Tyler sighed and pulled him into a tight embrace.

"I'm sorry. I walked Annie to her car. I'm here. I'm not leaving you. You're not alone, okay?" Tyler said into his friend's ear, feeling his emotions.

"Okay," Jack replied.

"Let's get you to bed." Tyler suggested.

"No, please, I...I can't be alone right now," Jack stated again.

"Okay, but I want you to stretch out on the sofa, Jack. All I know is what the doctor told me. You have pneumonia and are exhausted, so relax, buddy." He said, helping him to the sofa.

Jack lay back, his eyes were open, but his body was now shaking with cold. Tyler put the blanket over him and he seemed to relax. Tyler took off his coat and shoes and picked up his drink. He walked to the leather chair and watched Jack. Five minutes later, Jack woke up.

"What, are you checking on me? You really think I'm gonna leave you?" Tyler asked, annoyed.

Jack looked at him, upset.

"Jesus, Malone," Tyler said, moving to the head of the sofa, "Jack, you know me better than that. Come on, trust me. I will not leave you alone." He said, his emotions catching up with him.

Jack reached up to embrace him as they had done since they had become friends. Slowly, after several minutes, Jack relaxed into sleep as Tyler settled into uneasiness about the next 72 hours. He looked at his watch and got up to refill his drink. It was almost eight. He double checked that the front door was locked, looked at Jack and decided to go take a shower.

Jack awoke to the phone ringing. He stood, rocking slightly and walked into the kitchen.

"Hello?" he answered.

"Hi," a young voice said.

"Hi," he replied.

"Are you okay?" Kate asked, her voice wavering.

"Sure, I'm just here with my Mom, just hanging out." Jack said, walking to the window to look out on the fallen snow.


"My mother, Doris," Jack said, annoyed.

"You're scaring me. How can you be home with your mother?" Kate asked, sniffling.

"Why? I'm not trying to scare you. We're just here." Jack replied, confused.

"Jack?" a woman's voice came over the phone.

"Yes," he answered, sarcastically.

"Are you drunk? What do mean you're at home with your mother? She's dead, Jack." Maria said, her voice shrill over the phone.

"No, she's sick. She's not dead," he replied, raising his voice.

"Jack, she's dead, got it?" Maria shouted.

"No, no, you're wrong," Jack said, looking around the apartment, confused.

He hung up the phone and walked back to his bedroom. Tyler walked out of the bathroom and they stopped and looked at each other.

"Jack, what's wrong?" Tyler asked, looking at his face.

Jack crawled into bed and curled up as tight as he could, his eyes closed shut. The phone rang. Tyler reached over to answer it.


"How dare you hang up on me, you drunken asshole! All your children wanted to do was to wish you happy birthday and you wouldn't listen to them." Maria screamed.

"Maria, always pleasant to hear from you," Tyler said, sitting on the bed, reaching a calming hand to Jack.

"Who is this?"

"This is Tyler Simpson. For the record, Jack has pneumonia and a temperature of over 103. Half the time he's delirious. The doctor isn't sure if he should be here or at the hospital."

"Yeah, sure," Maria replied.

"Maria, put Hanna on the phone," Tyler directed.


Jack rolled over and took the phone out of Tyler's hand.

"Put my daughter on the phone, now," Jack growled, his voice low.


"Hanna, it's Dad. Is Kate with you?"

"Yeah, but you scared her, Dad,"

"Look, Hanna, I have pneumonia. I'm sick and on medicine that sometimes makes me say strange things."

"Are you going to be okay?"

"Yeah, but I have to stay quiet and rest. Uncle Tyler is here to take care of me."

"I love you, Dad. Happy Birthday," Hanna said, pulling her little sister into a hug.

"I love you too, honey. You and Kate," Jack said, before starting a bout of coughing.

Tyler pulled the phone from his hand.

"Hanna, I have to give your Dad his medicine. Have Kate send him a birthday card on the Internet and I'll make sure he sees it tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay, Uncle Tyler," Hanna said, sniffling.

"I have to go. Love to you both,"


"Bye," Tyler replied before putting the phone in the cradle.

Jack was sitting on the edge of the bed, his hands over his mouth, as he continued to cough. Tyler went into the bathroom and got Jack's medicine as well as a glass of water. He set them down on the bedside table before crouching in front of his friend.

"Easy, easy, Jack. Just relax, I'm here." Tyler soothed.

Finally, Jack stopped coughing but his shirt was soaked through.

"Take your meds while I get you a dry shirt." Tyler directed.

Jack swallowed the pills and finished the water and then started to shiver. He pulled off his wet t-shirt and took the dry one that Tyler was offering. He pulled it over his head and then put his legs on the bed. He lay back slowly, trying to keep the pounding in his head and the pressure on his chest from getting worse.

Tyler pulled up the covers to Jack's waist and left the room. He found his drink and took a big mouthful before picking up the phone and dialing.


"Hi, Viv, you got a minute?"

"Sure, Tyler, how is he?"

"Still sick and just spoke to the kids while delirious. Maria thought he was drunk."

"He called Hanna and Kate?" Vivian asked.

"No, they called to wish him Happy Birthday,"

"Oh, wow, that's tomorrow, isn't it?"

"Apparently. I had forgotten, of course."

"Me too, real life just got in the way."

"Speaking of which, Annie stopped by tonight."


"She says she'll be here tomorrow afternoon and stay with Jack."

"Good," Vivian said, with a sigh of relief.

"Look, I've known Annie for a long time, and you're right, I don't know if she can handle this. I was wondering if maybe the team could come over for a half an hour tomorrow just to help her get started."

"Tyler, it's all about the case, right now."

"I understand," Tyler replied.

"I tell you what, I'll call everyone now and make sure that they are on board at least about the birthday. Then, if we get lucky and solve the case, I'll call you and we'll all come over."

"Thanks, Viv,"

"You're welcome, Tyler,"

"I have to go, I think he's up," Tyler said, quickly .

"All right, bye,"

"Bye," Tyler said, hanging up the phone.

He walked to the bedroom quickly. Jack was dreaming, tossing and turning in bed, talking in his sleep. Tyler couldn't understand what he was saying, but he was getting louder until finally he woke himself up.

"Enough!" he shouted, sitting up.

Jack stood, holding onto the bureau and then to wall as he made his way to the bathroom. He shut the door and pulled off his clothes and started the shower. As the water hit his back he bit back the pain. Tyler stood in the doorway of the bedroom and waited for Jack to emerge from his shower. The phone rang.


"This is Danny Taylor, is Jack around?"

"Hi, I'm Tyler Simpson. Jack is in the shower, right now. He's still pretty sick."

"Yeah, Viv was telling me. I guess I just wanted make sure you guys don't need anything."

"Actually Danny, a gallon of orange juice and some of those clear fruit waters would be terrific."

"Okay, where does Jack live?"

"On Sullivan just south of Bleecker,"

"I'm at the Y on 14th St. I'll be over in a half an hour or so," Danny said.

"Call when you're on the corner and I'll help carry stuff."

"Great, Tyler, see you then,"

"Bye, Danny,"

"Bye, Tyler,"

Tyler hung up the phone as the shower stopped. He walked to his drink and refreshed it. He wasn't hungry, so he just sat in one of the leather chairs, listening for Jack. Fifteen minutes later, Jack walked into the living room. His hair was brushed out of his eyes and he was in a fresh pair of sweats and a clean t-shirt, but he hadn't shaved. Pulling a glass from the cabinet, he poured some scotch and then filled the glass with water. He sat in the other leather chair and took a sip of his drink.

Just as he was about to berate Jack on his choice of drink the phone rang and Tyler went to answer it.


"I'm on the corner, now what?"

"Walk on the west side. Fourth brownstone. I'll be right down."


Tyler hung up the phone. He looked at Jack who had his eyes closed and didn't acknowledge the call to begin with. Tyler grabbed the apartment keys and walked downstairs. Opening the outside door, he saw a thin young man carrying two plastic shopping bags down the block. He whistled softly and the man nodded his head.

"Hi, Danny, let me get that bag," Tyler said, reaching for the one in his left hand.

"Thanks, I think my hand is numb." Danny said, grinning.

He walked into the foyer of the brownstone and turned to face the other man. Setting the bag on the floor, he stuck out his hand.

"Hi, I'm Danny Taylor,"

"Tyler Simpson, good to meet you," he said, shaking Danny's hand.

Tyler headed up the stairs and Danny followed, after picking up the bag of groceries.

"I recognize you, now. There's a photo of Viv, you, and Jack on her desk." Danny said.

"Oh, yeah. That's an old photograph. That was taken when Jack won his first commendation."

"You've known him a long time?"

"We were in graduate school and then Quantico together." Tyler said, unlocking the door to the apartment.

They walked in and Jack was still sitting in his chair, eyes closed, the glass of scotch still firmly held in his hand. Danny and Tyler walked into the kitchen and started to unpack. In addition to the orange juice and vitamin water, Danny also bought a bottle of Aberlour. Tyler grinned when he saw that.

"Thanks for this. Jack is on antibiotics but he just came out from the shower and poured himself a drink. If we're both drinking, we'd run out!" Tyler said, reaching for Danny's coat.

"Oh, thanks," Danny said, taking off his coat.

"You sound tired," Jack's voice rumbled from the living room.

Danny looked at Tyler for a moment and then walked toward the voice.

"So do you. I just came by to see how you were feeling and to bring you some o.j." Danny explained, sitting on the sofa.

"Thanks, that was kind of you," Jack said, looking at him.

"Danny, you want a drink?" Tyler called from the kitchen.

"Yeah, orange juice is fine." Danny replied returning his attention to Jack.

"You didn't answer me, Jack," Danny pointed out.

"I'm sorry; headache, chest hurts," he said pausing, "and sometimes I can't catch my breath,"

Tyler chuckled as he walked in with Danny's glass, handing it to him.

"You are a still the best profiler I know," Tyler remarked before sitting on the leather chair.

Jack grunted before sipping his scotch. He started to think about the last two months of his life and the amount of loss he had suffered. He stood up, reaching for the window sill for stability. Looking out the window, he continued to remember, and then he started to shake. Danny stood quickly, looking at Tyler for support and then walked up to Jack.

"Easy, just relax, Jack. You're safe, you're okay," Danny said, his voice soft and calming.

Tyler watched him and remembered Viv's assessment. Jack took a shaky sip of his scotch and looked at the younger man. He saw nothing but concern on his face, no judgments, and no agendas. Danny reached his hand around to Jack's neck and very gently pulled him into an embrace. Tyler smiled and walked back to the bedroom to take the opportunity to change the sheets. When he walked back into the living room, Jack was lying on the sofa, the blanket covering his chest, asleep.

"Nicely played," Tyler said, picking up his drink.

"He seems really lost." Danny remarked.

"That's fairly perceptive, Danny. What makes you think that?" Tyler said, keeping his voice low, walking to the kitchen.

"I was the first one to get to Jack after Max died. They were both leaning up against a column in the basement of a hotel. Max had been shot and died, slumped against Jack, before we could get an ambulance to him. The building had traces of the Ricin compound but Jack wouldn't leave Max. I had never seen him that vulnerable before." Danny said, following him.

"Jack called me that night. He was devastated and so was I. I couldn't make it up for the funeral. Today was the first time I've seen Annie in years."

"So you knew Max as well?"

"Max was the first agent we worked with after graduation. Smart guy, very intuitive. He and Jack bonded. You know Jack introduced him to Annie," Tyler said, opening up the fridge.

"No, I didn't know that. Thinking about dinner?" Danny asked as his stomach growled.

"Well, now I am!" Tyler joked.

"Let me take a look. I was the designated cook in my house."

"Oh yeah? Where did you grow up?"

"St. Ann's orphanage," Danny said softly before looking in the fridge and the cabinets.


"Don't be. It's part of what I am, it isn't who I am," Danny said, taking a sip from his drink.

"See anything?"

"Sure, curried chicken breasts on pasta with asparagus," Danny said, removing his tie and jacket.

"Can I help?" Tyler asked.

"I need either white wine or dry vermouth," Danny said, getting his supplies together.

"I'm on it,"

Danny and Tyler made dinner while Jack slept soundly for the first time. They sat down at the pass thru and started to eat their dinner.

"This is wonderful, Danny. Your housemates were lucky to have you."

Danny blushed and ate in silence.

"The divorce started it, then Max, then his father's death. He's been tired and more intense, more into the job, than he was before." Danny remarked.

"His father's death closed a door to his past that he wanted to keep open. His father was his only connection to his mother. It was as if he lost her all over again. Vivian called to tell me. I tried to get in touch with him but he wouldn't return my phone calls."

"No, he wasn't responsive to anyone for a couple of days before and afterwards. His father's death was a surprise because he wasn't really sick, you know. It was the Alzheimer's that threw him into a tailspin."

They finished their dinner and did the dishes. Danny yawned and looked at his watch.

"Oh, wow, I didn't know it was that late. I've got to get going."

Jack's dream started at that time. He started to talk in his sleep and rolled onto his back. Tyler and Danny walked into the living room and watched. It didn't take long for his dream to manifest itself.

"No, I can't, I can't, I can't," he said softly.

"I'm not ready," Jack said, opening his eyes, breathing fast, still caught in his dream.

He sat up and then started to cough. Tyler walked to him, kneeling in front of him and pulled him into an embrace. Finally he stopped. He pulled back from the embrace and wiped his face with his sleeve. He looked at Tyler and then at Danny. Silently, he stood and walked back to the master bedroom, closing the door behind him.

"Give me a minute," Tyler said, as he walked down the hall.

"Sure," Danny said, sitting in the leather chair.

Tyler walked into Jack's bedroom without knocking. Jack was sitting on the bed with his head in his hands.

"You wanna talk or do you wanna go to sleep?" Tyler asked.

"I can't sleep, I keep dreaming. I want to sleep without dreaming." Jack said, softly.

"Okay, so let's talk. The kid has you pegged."

"He's a good agent and a good profiler. He's not ambitious but he is conscientious."

"Well, I would say that he was the only one in your office except for Viv who saw this coming."

"What do I do, Tyler? I feel like crap. My head is pounding, my chest hurts, and every breath is agony. But the worst part is that my brain won't turn off."

"Which is why you had a drink?"


"It's pretty simple, really," Danny said, standing in the doorway.

Jack and Tyler looked at him.

"For you to sleep tonight, you just need to have someone to hold on to; to ground you; to remind you that you haven't lost everything. In the last two months, you've gotten a divorce, had your mentor die in your arms and had your father die. The Carson case just fueled the flame. His suicide reminded you of your mother, and the kids reminded you of Hanna and Kate. But your kids are alive in Chicago, and Tyler is in D.C. Ann Cassidy, Viv, Martin, Sam, Elena and I are all here for you on a daily basis."

Jack looked at the floor and Tyler looked at Danny, realizing he was right.

"Jack, I need to walk Danny to the door. I'm tired, and I know you are. Get settled and we'll sleep together as if I was your brother." Tyler said, softly.

Jack nodded but didn't move.

"Night, Jack. I'll call you tomorrow," Danny said, turning to walk out of the room.

"Thanks, Danny, really," Jack said.

"You're very welcome, Jack." Danny said, smiling before walking to the front door.

Tyler walked up and handed him his coat.

"Thanks for everything, Danny. I'll call you tomorrow and let you know how we did."

"You'll be fine. He just has to understand it's okay to let go."

"Safe trip home. You live far?"

"Nope, just in Brooklyn. A hop and a skip under the water, forty minutes tops at this hour and I'll be in bed." Danny said, smiling.

"Thanks again," Tyler said, extending his hand.

"You're welcome," Danny said, shaking Tyler's hand before walking into the hallway.

Tyler shut the door and locked it. He cleaned up the glasses, checked that the stove was off and turned off the lights. He walked into the bedroom and found Jack asleep in bed. Tyler took off his trousers, shirt, shoes, and socks and pulled on his pajama bottoms and got into bed.

Chapter Five

Friday 1:34 a.m.

Tyler woke up, listening to Jack speaking unintelligibly. He reached over and touched his shoulder and Jack settled.

Tyler stretched and realized that Jack was not in bed. He got out of bed and put on Jack's bathrobe. Walking out into the living room, he smelled coffee and saw Jack at his desk. Tyler's computer was on the floor and Jack's Dell was up and running. Tyler poured himself a cup of coffee and walked up to Jack.


"For what?" Tyler asked, innocently.

"For this," Jack said, turning the computer so Tyler could see.

Hanna and Kate were standing on the coffee table in their living room with a sign that said, Happy Birthday, Dad! Hi, Uncle Tyler.

"Oh, yeah, Happy Birthday!"

"Thanks," Jack replied, shivering for a moment.


"No," Jack replied.

Tyler walked back to the master bathroom and retrieved a thermometer.

"Stop drinking coffee and put this under your tongue," he instructed.

Jack was going to argue but stopped when he saw the look on Tyler's face.

"The coffee is room temperature at this point," Jack said, shaking the thermometer before putting it in his mouth.

They waited for four minutes and then Tyler looked at the thermometer; 102.5. He took the thermometer back to the bathroom and looked for a fleece vest. Finding one, he walked back into the living room.

"Jack, your temperature is 102.5 which is not promising. Please put this vest on. It will keep your chest warm. Did you take your meds?"

"Yes, a couple of hours ago."

"When did you get up?"

"Around six,"

"How do you feel?" Tyler asked, sipping his hot coffee.

"Not as tired, and not as edgy. Headache is gone; still have pressure in my chest." He said, quietly.

"I'm going to get dressed. Are you hungry at all?"

"No, not in the least," Jack said, staring at the computer screen.

"I'm going to put some broth on to heat. I'll be back in a minute." Tyler said, taking another sip of his coffee before taking some clothes from his suitcase and walking back to the bedroom

He shaved, dressed, and then made the bed. Picking up his dirty clothes, he walked back into the living room and deposited them on the floor in the growing pile. He took his coffee cup, refilled it, and put it in the microwave. Three minutes later, he was able to take a sip. He looked at Jack and noticed again the uncontrollable shivers that seemed to take control.

"The broth is ready," Tyler remarked, pouring it into a cup.

He handed it to Jack who sipped the moderately hot liquid. He finished the cup and paled more.

"Jack, I think you need to get back into bed." Tyler said, setting his coffee cup down.

Jack printed the photo from the girls, turned off his computer and stood up. He walked to the printer and took the page as it came out before walking to the bedroom. Tyler picked up his coffee cup and followed. Jack crawled into bed and pulled the covers to his waist. Tyler set his coffee cup on the bureau and zipped the vest to Jack's chin, before pulling the covers up as well.

"No, Tyler, I'm hot," He complained.

"Jack, you have a fever, humor me. You are such a drama queen!" Tyler said, shaking his head as he settled with his coffee on the chair in the corner.

Jack sighed and fell asleep. Tyler sat in the room until he ran out of coffee. Knowing that this was his last day with Jack, Tyler walked back to the kitchen, refilled his coffee cup, micro waved its contents, picked up his computer and headed back to the bedroom. He found the connection for his computer and plugged it back in. Just as he turned his computer on, Jack woke up. He squinted and looked at him.

"Hi," Jack said softly.

"Hi," Tyler replied cautiously.

"What's this?" he asked, gesturing to the computer.

"Catching up on work. I have a meeting at six tonight." Tyler said, returning his gaze to the screen.


"Really," Tyler confirmed.

Jack continued to stare and then shook his head before laying it back on the pillow. Tyler looked at him and set the computer down. He walked up to the bed and sat on the edge. Jack's eyes were shut tight, his hands clenched with fists of sheets.

"Jack, what's wrong? You're okay, you're safe," Tyler said softly.

Tyler reached his hand to Jack's. Jack released his death grip on the sheet and held his friend's hand. Tyler winced but didn't let go. Jack was wheezing again, his face flushed as he tried to get over what was scaring him.

"Jack, I'm here. Viv's gonna come over with the gang tonight to celebrate your birthday. You're sick, but you'll be fine. You need to sleep, okay?" Tyler asked.

Jack opened his eyes and looked at the man sitting on the bed. He squinted again.

"Viv's coming over?" Jack asked in a tired voice.

"Yeah, so you need to get some sleep, okay? I'm just gonna sit here and do some work, though, while you sleep." Tyler said.

"Okay, sure, fine," Jack mumbled as he fell asleep.

Tyler reclaimed his hand and moved back to the chair. He picked up his computer, set it on his lap, and concentrated.

12:00 p.m.

Jack slept soundly in the morning but hit a snag, waking up from a quiet nightmare, wet from sweat and scared.

"Okay, Jack, time for your medicine and a hot shower." Tyler said, setting his computer on the floor.

Jack looked at him with that same confused look that he had earlier.

"Jack, it's me, Tyler. I'm going to get your medicine, now." Tyler said, standing slowly to walk to the bathroom.

Jack watched him closely, especially when he sat on the bed. Tyler handed him the medicine and Jack swallowed it, followed by a glass of water. Tyler pulled the covers up to Jack's chin and wiped the sweat from his forehead with a hand towel. Jack closed his eyes and Tyler moved back to his chair, picking up his computer.

"Tyler? Thank you," Jack said.

"You're welcome, now get some sleep. I have to be on my way to the Hilton on 54th Street by six." Tyler replied, his focus on the screen.

Not hearing a reply, he looked up to see Jack sleeping quietly.

4:00 p.m.

Tyler had finished his work and brought his computer back to the living room before he organized his papers for the meeting the next day. He started to repack his suitcase, walking back and forth in the living room. He heard a noise and looked up to see Jack standing in the hallway.

"What are you doing?" Jack asked, scratching at his long stubble.

"I'm packing. I need to move to the Hilton because of the meetings I need to attend tomorrow. I have a business dinner tonight." Tyler explained.

Jack nodded but Tyler felt that he wasn't following the conversation.

"Jack," Tyler said, walking up to him.

Jack looked at the floor quietly.

"Jack," Tyler repeated, "Annie is going to stay with you for the weekend. If the team finishes their case, then they will be here to celebrate your birthday. Do you understand? You will not be alone."


"You're welcome. Now, would you get the thermometer so we can see if you still have a temperature?" Tyler asked.

Jack nodded and walked back to the master bedroom. When he returned, he had replaced the vest for a sweater and he had washed his face. He sat, watching Tyler organize, while the thermometer recorded his temperature.

"That's gotta be five minutes," Tyler said, reaching over to remove it from Jack's mouth. "100.4, great, almost normal."

Jack smiled in return. Tyler looked at him, his black and grey scruff, hair a mess and grinned.

"What?" Jack asked.

"Drama queen," Tyler replied softly before he started to laugh.

Jack joined in, too, until his laughter turned into coughs. Quickly his pale face turned red as he tried to catch his breath. Tyler walked up to him and held his shoulder, as Jack started to relax. They walked to one of the leather chairs and Jack sat down slowly. He closed his eyes and crossed his feet at the ankles.

The phone ring and Tyler walked quickly to answer it.


"Hi, Tyler, it's Viv,"

"Hi, Viv."

"We solved it. We'll be there around six."

"I have to be on my way to the Hilton at six. Do you happen to have a set of keys?" Tyler asked.

"Actually, I do, so don't worry. How is he feeling?"

"Better, his temperature is almost normal. He just has to rest and stay warm. I haven't heard from Annie so you might want to warn Danny that he may have to stay."

"Or I can, Marcus is home watching Reggie." Viv advised.

"Great, as long as we have a plan," Tyler said, grinning.

"That's for sure. I forgot to ask how long you were staying."

"I need to be on the early train to DC on Monday. We'll figure something out. I have to come down and see Jack before I go as well."

"Well, maybe Sunday night supper, then?"

"I'll keep in touch,"

"Thanks, Tyler, take care."

"You too, Viv," he said, hanging up the phone.

Tyler walked into the kitchen and started to clean the few dishes.

"Is she coming?" Jack's voice came from a few feet behind him.

"Viv will be here with the team around six,"

"No, is Annie coming?"

"I don't know, Jack. She's having a hard time with Max's death,"

"We all are," Jack said, turning to go back to his bedroom.

Tyler sighed, hearing the door shut at the end of the hallway. He packed his computer into his briefcase and took another look around. He had found the photo of Hanna and Kate in the master bedroom and put it on the fridge, smiling at how happy they looked. Checking his watch, he saw that he had an hour. He kicked off his shoes, stretched out on the sofa, and took a nap.

5:45 p.m.

"Tyler, wake up, you have to get to your meeting." Jack said, looking at him from the leather chair, his hair wet from a shower, his face still unshaven.

"Wow," Tyler said, looking at his watch, "I'll say,"

Tyler slipped on his shoes and walked to the bathroom. He emerged a few minutes later and found that Jack had moved his stuff towards the door.

"I'll walk you downstairs," Jack offered.

"Thanks," Tyler said, picking up the heavier weekend bag.

Jack slipped his keys into the pocket of this sweats before he picked up the briefcase and followed his friend into the hallway. They walked downstairs in silence, finally reaching the glass door of the foyer. Tyler turned to him, setting his bag down.

"Take care, Malone. You and Viv and I have dinner plans together for Sunday, okay?"

"Sure, Tyler. Thanks for everything, man," Jack said, embracing him tightly.

"That's what brothers do, right?" Tyler said softly.

"Yeah, that's just what brothers do," Jack replied.

They held each other for a few more minutes before standing apart.

"Take care; I'll talk to you tomorrow." Tyler said, walking out into the night to get a taxi.

"You bet," Jack said, his voice low with emotion.

He watched his friend disappear out of his line of sight before walking back up the three flights to his apartment. He struggled with the key before allowing his coughing to begin. He locked the door behind him, set the keys in the dish and started to cough. He made it to the sofa and sat down heavily, his hands covering his mouth, trying to catch his breath. Minutes later, he felt two strong hands on his shoulders holding him tightly.

"Hey, Jack, you're okay, we're here. Just relax for a minute and then we'll get the party started, okay?" Danny asked.

Jack nodded as he started to calm down. He heard more voices as the others walked in. Standing u p, he looked at Danny and disappeared down the hallway.

"He'll be right back; just needed to splash some water on his face." Danny explained, taking off his top coat.

Sam set out the presents on the coffee table as Viv opened up a couple of bottles of wine. A few minutes later, Jack reappeared, looking tired but better.

"Happy Birthday, Jack," Viv said, walking up to him.

He embraced her tightly, burying his face in her hair. She spoke to him alone, and rubbed his back, waiting for him to step back.

"Thanks," he said hoarsely.

Martin started with a handshake but drew Jack into an unsure embrace.

"Happy Birthday, Jack,"

Sam put her hands on his unshaven face, gently touching his bruise, and kissed him on the cheek.

"Happy Birthday, Jack,"

Danny stepped in as he had done the night before and slid a hand around Jack's neck pulling him into a safe embrace.

"Just take it easy tonight, it's just us." He whispered.

Jack nodded and cleared his throat.

"Thanks you, all, very much."

"Jack, would you like a drink?" Sam asked.

"Scotch and water would be fine, thanks," Jack said, walking into the living room.

He sat on the sofa at one end with Vivian next to him and Martin next to her. Danny and Sam sat in the leather chairs.

Accepting his drink from Sam as the others sipped their wine, he asked, "Where's Elena?"

"She caught the flu but sent a present!" Sam replied.

Jack nodded again. Viv looked at Jack, realizing he was a little overwhelmed.

"Let's start with some presents," she suggested.

"Okay," Jack replied.

"Hey, Jack, love the birthday card from the girls," Martin said, smiling.

"Yeah," Jack said, trying to concentrate on the birthday card in his hands.

"Happy Birthday, Jack. Best wishes, Elena," Jack said.

He opened the box and took out a beautiful dark blue silk tie with a small set of embroidered handcuffs on it. Jack held it up and smiled.

"She is interested in the look of the team," Sam remarked remembering the day that Jack walked in wearing a striped tie; a huge change from his familiar black ones.

Jack set the tie carefully back into its box and set the card on top of it. He reached for the next box.

"Happy Birthday, Jack. Best Wishes, Martin." Jack said.

He opened the box and pulled out a pale blue Brooks Brothers shirt.

"I sense a theme, here." He teased. "Thank you, Martin."

"You're welcome, Jack," Martin blushed.

Carefully, he set the shirt back in the box and put the card on top. He took a sip of his cocktail and reached for the next box.

"Happy Birthday, Jack. Love, Sam." Jack said.

He opened the wrapping paper and found a handsome wooden box. Opening it, the red silk lining reflected onto his face and he smiled.

"Thank you, Sam, you know I needed this," Jack said, looking at her seriously.

Sam looked back at him and smiled, unsure if she could say anything without revealing her thoughts.

He picked up the next box and looked at the card.

"Happy birthday, Jack. Love Reggie, Marcus and Viv."

He unwrapped the paper and opened the box. He stared at it for a long time before he was able to comment. It was a two picture frames hinged together. On one side was a photo of Reggie, Marcus, Viv and Jack taken at the Yankees game earlier that year. On the other side was a copy of the photo that Viv had on her desk of herself, Max and Jack. Vivian reached over and put her hand on his knee. He reached his hand to hers and held it tightly. Waiting for him to gain control, Sam brought the open bottle of wine and filled glasses as necessary. Jack took a long pull from his scotch and set his glass down.

"Thanks," Jack said, softly.

Danny handed the last present to him. Jack took Vivian's present and put it gently into its box before setting it back on the coffee table. He wiped his face with the sleeve of his sweater and opened the card.

"Happy Birthday, Jack. Love, Danny,"

Jack looked at him briefly before opening the present.

"Oh, wow," Viv said, looking at the present in Jack's lap.

Martin and Sam walked behind him to look as well. Danny stood and walked around to be in front of Jack. Jack handed the photo of the team surrounding Jack's father, taken after the deposition, after the office Christmas party, in the chaotic surroundings of the local Chinese restaurant to Viv and stood up. He pulled Danny into a hug. Viv put the photo on the coffee table and stood up as well hugging Jack as the tears started down her face. Sam and Martin held each other. Finally Jack pulled back.

"Hey, this is supposed to be a celebration, right?" he asked the others.

They nodded at him, wiping the tears from their eyes.

"Let's order in. There are menus in the folder by the phone." Jack said, as he gently piled his treasures.

"Let me help you, Jack," Danny offered.

"Chinese right?" Sam called.

"Of course," Viv replied, laughing.

Danny and Jack set the presents down on the bed. Jack took the one of his father and put in on the bureau. He took the one of Max and put it next to that. He set Sam's box in the center, opened it, and set his watch and wedding ring inside, before closing the lid softly. Then he put the shirt and tie on the chair in the corner.

"Ready?" Danny asked.

"Yeah," Jack said, following Danny out of the room.

Martin had found the remote to the stereo and Aretha Franklin sang softly out of the speakers.

"They said they do not make birthday cakes, but would send over extra fortune cookies." Sam cracked.

Jack laughed, careful not to start to cough. He reached his hand to his chest for a moment. Picking up his glass, he walked back into the kitchen and filled his glass with scotch and water. He walked back into the living room listening to the team talking about their recent case. Before they could finish the story, Jack smiled.

"Don O'Brien, the trainer did it,"

"Jack, how could you have known that?" Martin asked, incredulous.

In a soft voice, Jack explained carefully how he came to his conclusion.

"Amazing," Martin said, shaking his head.

The door buzzer rang. Sam went to the intercom box on the wall.


"Chinese food,"

"Come up, third floor,"

Viv stood up and took her wallet from her purse.

"I have this,"

"No, Viv, we should go Dutch,"

"No, Sam, I mean I will expense it," she explained. "We did talk about work, hell, Jack solved the case."

Sam grinned and put her purse back on the floor by the door. The team organized for the onslaught of food, deciding that they would eat at the coffee table. Jack sat quietly, his eyes closed, on the sofa. Danny walked back to the master bathroom, took one pill of each of Jack's medicines and walked back into the living room.

"Jack, time for medicine," he said, handing him the pills.

Jack opened his eyes, took the medicine, swallowing it dry before taking a sip of his scotch. The other team members sat on the sofa and pulled the chairs around to the coffee table.

"Jack, do you have an appetite, yet?" Sam asked.

"You can have egg drop or hot and sour soup." Viv said before he could answer, helping to open the cartons.

"Well, I'll take some hot and sour soup, please," Jack said, sitting up a little more.

Fifteen minutes later, there was a silence in the room that comes from a good meal. Aretha continued to sing but there was just the occasional hum of contentment. The door buzzer rang.

Sam was closest.


"It's Ann,"

Sam pressed the buzzer and unlocked the door, leaving it slightly ajar before returning to her chair. Five minutes later, Ann walked into the apartment.

"Hi," they said, individually.

"Hi," she said hanging up her coat. "You're looking much better. Happy birthday, Jack," she said, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek.

"Thanks, help yourself to some food,"

"Great, I'm starved."

"Would you like a glass of wine, Ann?" Danny asked from the kitchen, refilling a seltzer for himself.

"Yes, Danny, that would be fine," Ann said, kneeling on the floor and filling her plate.

"You missed the presents." Jack said.

"Yeah, sorry, I got hung up finishing a brief."

The others were almost finished with dinner. Danny looked at Ann from the kitchen and caught her nod. He slipped out of the apartment and reentered a few minutes later.

"Happy Birthday, to you," he started in a soft tenor.

The others joined in as Jack groaned, looking at Ann, who grinned. Sam and Martin cleared a space on the coffee table so Danny could put the cake down. It was a simple cake with a square of four candles and a ring of eight. The song ended and the requests to blow the candles out before the smoke alarm went off were loud.

Jack thought for a moment, smiled, and slowly took a deep breath, hoping he wouldn't cough on the cake. He let out his breath evenly and blew out the candles.

The group applauded and he started to cut the cake. Finally he was at his piece and he started to cut into the cake. His hand began to shake. Danny looked at his watch and realized it was almost ten.

"Say goodnight, Jack," he directed softly.

Jack looked at his friends, who looked at him. His face was pale and he was sweating.

"I'm sorry, I'm not feeling very well," Jack said as Danny and Martin got him to his feet.

The rest of the team stood as well.

"Sleep tight, Jack, I'll call you tomorrow," Viv said, kissing him on the cheek.

"Take it easy, Jack," Martin said, hugging him awkwardly.

"Just relax, Jack, and Happy Birthday," Sam said, kissing him on the cheek.

Danny put his hand on Jack's shoulder and directed him to the bedroom before looking back at Ann. She followed quietly.

Ann shut the door once they were in the bedroom. Jack sat on the bed and started to cough. Danny went to the bathroom and brought out a wet face cloth, wiping Jack's face and nape of his neck. Ann held his hands and spoke to him softly. Slowly he nodded his head and began to gain control. Looking around the room, she saw a vest. Danny helped Jack out of the sweater and helped him into the vest to keep his chest warm. They eased him into bed and shut off the light. Leaving the room, they kept the door open. Ann turned to Danny in the hallway.

"I'll stay with him, tonight," she said.

"Okay, I'm around all weekend, so if you need help, just call. My number's on the call sheet by the phone."

"Thanks, Danny," she said, kissing him on the cheek.

"Don't mention it,"

They walked back into the living room and saw that the team had almost cleaned the entire party up.

"If you're set, Ann, I think I'm going to be heading out. I have to relieve Marcus." Viv said, slipping on her coat.

Sam, Martin and Danny, all began putting on their coats as well.

"Take care, and remember, our phone numbers are on the sheet." Danny said, smiling.

"Thanks, we'll be fine." Ann said, smiling.

"Good night," they said before walking out of the apartment.

She shut the door and locked it, sighing. She yawned, looked around the apartment, deciding to head for bed, herself. As she headed back to the bedroom, she turned off the lights. She walked in and heard Jack rasping as he tried to breathe. Ann took a t-shirt from his bureau drawer, took off her clothes to her underwear, put on the t-shirt, and slipped into bed. She reached over and turned off the light before settling under the covers. Very slowly, Jack held out his hand to her, palm up. She put her hand in his and he squeezed it softly.

Chapter Six

Saturday 8:00 a.m.

Ann stretched and realized she was alone in the bed. Jack had woken up two or three times during the night, coughing, but settled when she reached for him. She got out of bed, pulled on his sweater that was lying on the chair in the corner of the bedroom, and walked into the living room. Jack was sitting in a leather chair, looking out the window, sipping coffee.


"Hi," he answered his voice still low and rough.

"How are you feeling?"

"Better, thanks," he said, smiling.

Ann looked at him for a moment and then went into the kitchen to pour herself a cup of coffee. She went back into the living room and sat in the other chair.

"How long have you been up?"

"I dunno, I got up around three, I guess. I took my watch off."

Ann looked at his arms, seeing Jack had pushed his sleeves up. Aside from the pendant he always wore, he was wearing no jewelry. Her stomach rumbled.

"Are you hungry?"

"Not really, but I believe I owe you breakfast."

"Yes, you do, but you're still tired and sick, Jack. I'll call in this chit when you can cook something fantastic,"

"Okay," he replied, chuckling.

Ann headed for the kitchen and searched the fridge. Seeing nothing she wanted, she looked in the freezer. Smiling, she pulled out an Amy's Breakfast Burrito. Taking it out of the plastic, she put it on a plate and then into the microwave. Sipping her coffee, she listened to the microwave and looked at Jack. His head started to drop as he fell asleep. He settled again and rested his head onto the back of the chair. Two minutes later, she pulled her burrito from the microwave, grabbed a fork and then walked back to the living room. Ann sat down with her coffee and breakfast and watched Jack sleep.

12:00 p.m.

Jack coughed and woke himself up.

"All right, easy, easy," Ann said, crouching next to him.

He continued to cough for several minutes before quieting. Breathing heavily, he sat back in his chair. They sat together in silence, listening to the apartment until the phone rang.


"Annie, it's me, how is he?"

"I'll let you talk to him, Tyler," Ann said, handing the phone to Jack.


"Hey, man, how are you?"

"Managing, how are your meetings?"

"Really boring, but I have to give a report this afternoon so maybe I'll spice it up a bit!"

"Big surprise," Jack said, chuckling.

"How are you, really?"

"Tired, just damn tired," Jack replied softly.

"Just sleep, Malone, the world'll still be here tomorrow,"

"Yeah, maybe,"

"Jack, stretch out on the sofa. Annie isn't gonna leave you."

"Okay, Tyler," Jack said, sighing.

"Night Jack,"

"Bye, Tyler," Jack said, hanging up the phone.

Jack stood slowly and walked to the sofa. Very carefully, he stretched out and within minutes he was asleep.

6:00 p.m.

Ann was tired of watching the television with the volume all but muted. She turned it up a bit and Jack woke from his heavy sleep.

"Hey, you're okay," she said, running her fingers through his hair.

"Thanks, still feel pressure on my chest, still tired," Jack rumbled.

"Are you hungry?"

"Not really,"

Ann walked back to the fridge and poured the chicken broth into a microwavable dish. Four minutes later, it was hot and smelled wonderful. She took a pot holder and removed the dish from the microwave. Retrieving a spoon, she carried the concoction to him, letting him smell it.

"Okay, I'll have soup," he relented.

Carefully she passed him the bowl of soup and the spoon, watching him eat it slowly. He finished half and then stopped, handing her the bowl and spoon.

"I'm sorry, I have to go to bed," he said, standing.

"No problem, can I help or are you okay?"

"Uhm, I'm okay for now. Just too tired to think or function." He said, running his hand through his hair and beard.

Ann stood up and walked with him back to the bedroom. She helped him into bed and then filled a glass with water, putting it on the bedside table.

"I'll be in the living room watching television."

"Thanks, I'm just gonna sleep right now." Jack said, fading into unconsciousness.

She kissed his cheek, turned off the lights and left the door open. Walking back to the living room, she stopped in the kitchen and poured herself a glass of wine. Ann sat down in front of the television, and lost herself in news and documentaries.

10:00 p.m.

His coughing woke her. Ann got up quickly and walked to the bedroom. Jack was sitting up, coughing deep, painful coughs. She sat next to him and gently rubbed his back, talking to him softly. The coughing slowly subsided and he leaned back onto the pillows. She stood to go back to the living room.

"Please," he said softly, his eyes closed.

"What, Jack?" she asked.

"Please, stay," he managed.

Ann looked at him, the five days' growth of beard, and the perspiration on his reddened face. Carefully, she got into bed next to him, sitting shoulder to shoulder, elevated by the pillows. Turning to her, he put his head on her right shoulder and reached across her ribs with his right arm. She reached across his back, pulling him closer. He took a slow breath in and just tried to relax. She held him, her left hand clasped with her right, feeling his heart beat on her chest.

The apartment was almost quiet except for the occasional loud noise from the television in the living room. Ann held Jack, but he didn't sleep.

"Let it go, Jack, just let it go," Ann whispered.

"I can't,"

"It will consume you,"

"I miss him too much. It just hurts too much. I don't know what to do."

"Sleep for now, Jack. Just sleep,"

"I'm so tired,"

"Just sleep,"

And almost thirty minutes later, Jack finally did fall asleep. Ann kissed his head as it lay on her shoulder and then fell asleep herself.

Sunday 1:02 a.m.

Jack woke up to an unfamiliar sound. He blinked the sleep from his eyes and vectored to the noise in the dark room. Ann was curled up in the chair in the corner of his bedroom, crying. Getting out of bed slowly, he walked to the chair and carefully knelt in front of her.

"Honey, please don't cry,"

Raising her head, he saw her tear-streaked face and started to get choked up himself.

"I miss him, Jack,"

"Me too,"

He reached his hand to her face and gently wiped her fresh tears even as his own eyes overflowed. She pulled him in to her as he finally let go. He cried for his father, for Max, for the girls, and just because his reserves were gone. Finally, he stopped and turned away from her, sitting on the floor, his head rocked back against the chair. Moments later, he was asleep.

3:00 p.m.

Jack rolled over in bed and woke up. The television was on in the living room. He didn't remember getting into bed. The last thing he remembered was being on the floor. Standing slowly, he walked into the living room. Ann was engrossed in a black and white movie; the smell of popcorn permeated the room. He stood behind the sofa and reached a quiet hand to her shoulder.

"You're up! How do you feel?" she asked, tilting her head back to look at him for a moment.

"Almost human, how about you?"

"I'm fine. Look, Tyler and Viv wanted to have dinner tonight. Are you up for it?"

"Sure, but let's make it early, okay? I seem to fade around ten,"

"All right, I'll call Tyler and check with him. Would you like me to make you something to eat?"

"No, I'm fine. I think a piece of toast is about all I can manage right now."

"Okay," Ann said, walking to the phone on the breakfast bar.

She dialed Tyler's number and counted the rings. On the tenth he picked up.


"Hi, Tyler, it's Ann,"

"Hi, Annie, how's our boy?"

"He's much better. Are you still available for dinner?"

"Yeah, I should be out around five-thirty or so,"

"Great, Jack was hoping for an early dinner,"

"Six-thirty I could do. Where does he want to eat?"

"Where do you want to eat?"

"The Cub Room, it's just down the street on Sullivan,"

"The Cub Room, on Sullivan, just down from the apartment,"

"See you at six thirty,"

"Right, bye," Ann said, hanging up.

Jack stood in the kitchen, leaning against the counter top, munching on plain toast. Ann redialed the phone.

"Hi, Viv, it's Ann,"

"Hi, Ann, how's Jack?"

"I'll let you talk to him yourself," Ann said, handing him the phone, before sitting on the stool at the bar.



"Are you still available for dinner with us?"

"Sure, what time and where?"

"Uhm, hang on," Jack said, putting the phone to his chest.

"Six-thirty," Ann said, smiling.

"Six-thirty at The Cub Room,"

"Great I'll see you there,"


"Bye," Jack said, depressing the bar on the phone and dialing a familiar number.

"The Cub Room,"

"Hi, it's Jack Malone, I need a table for four tonight at six-thirty in the dining room."

"No problem, Mr. Malone. See you later,"

"Bye," Jack said, hanging up the phone.

Sighing softly, he walked around the breakfast bar to where she was sitting. Standing in front of her, he blatantly stared, taking in all the features of her face. She opened her legs to allow him to get closer. He reached for her and pulled her into a tight embrace.

"Thank you for helping me through this," he said softly.

"You're welcome,"

He pulled her to her feet and escorted her to the sofa. He lay down on his side and invited her to spoon with him. Holding her closely, he fell asleep. Lulled by his soft breaths on her neck, Ann followed suit.

5:30 p.m.

"Jack, we have an hour till dinner. Shower, perhaps?" Ann suggested to him.

Groaning softly he opened his eyes and looked at her. On an impulse, he reached for her and drew her into a soft kiss. She didn't resist but she didn't respond heartily, either. Getting to his feet, he noticed that Ann had showered. He walked back to the bedroom and shut the door behind him. Pulling off his clothes and placing them in the laundry bag, he walked into the shower and turned on the water. As the hot water finally made its way to his apartment, he rubbed his face, feeling the beard that he knew he had to shave. He looked at the blade of the razor in the shower and decided it would do, before starting to soap up.

Chapter Seven

6:10 p.m.

Sitting in the living room, Ann was suddenly aware of someone else. She looked up and saw Jack standing in the hallway. He had shaved, and his eyes were sparkling. Wearing black trousers, a pale yellow shirt and a black suit jacket, he looked extremely handsome. Looking at her, he smiled, as he loved her in that sweater; a terra-cotta colored knit with a v-neck.

"You look great," he said softly.

"Thanks, you certainly don't look like you just got out of your sick bed."

He smiled and escorted her to the door to get their coats. Slipping his keys in his pocket, he opened the door.

"No cell phone?" she asked.

"Not tonight, I just want to have dinner,"

She smiled at him and walked into the hallway. Jack locked the door behind him and followed her down the stairs. It was cold outside and he immediately moved to be on the street side of her, slipping his arm in hers, their hands in their pockets. Ten minutes later, they arrived at The Cub Room. Heading back to the dining room, they checked their coats and sat down, declining drinks until Viv and Tyler showed up. At six-thirty on the dot, Viv walked in and was directed to the dining room. Jack stood when he saw her at the maitre'd's desk. She smiled at him and walked to the table.


"Hi, yourself," she replied, kissing him chastely on the cheek.

Jack kissed her and then pulled out the chair to his right for her. Viv walked to Ann and kissed her on the cheek before sitting down.

"Well, we know Tyler will be late. Should we order an appetizer and a round of drinks?" Viv suggested.

"Sounds like a plan," Jack replied.

A young man with thick wavy dark hair in a beautifully tailored suit, walked up to the table.

"Jack, it's been a long time," he said, resting a hand on Jack's shoulder.

"I'm sorry Sarid. Sometimes real life gets in the way of fine dining! Viv, Ann, let me introduce Sarid Drory, general manager of The Cub Room."

"Ladies, are you three or four tonight?"

"We're four, but our fourth is notoriously late. We were just looking at the appetizers." Jack remarked.

"I would recommend the Cornmeal Crusted Calamari," Sarid said, looking at the menu over Jack's shoulder.

"Sounds perfect," Ann replied.

"Okay by me," Viv remarked, closing her menu.

"Anything to drink?" Sarid asked.

"A Sauvignon Blanc?" Viv asked.

"Of course, we have a wonderful Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc,"

"That would be great,"

"And you Madame?"

"I'll have the same,"

"Jack, the usual?"

"Yes and seltzer for the table,"

"Great," Sarid said, taking the order to the waiter.

"So, you're a regular?" Viv asked.

"When I moved to this new apartment, I didn't want to be there, let alone cook. So, yeah, I'd come here frequently."

Five minutes later, their drinks came.

"Here's a toast to you, Jack. Happy birthday!"


With that, there was a commotion at the door as Tyler practically ran into the restaurant. Jack stood, smiling and Sarid signaled to the staff that, apparently, this was de rigueur. Tyler gave him a bear hug and then went after the girls.

"You started without me," Tyler said, sitting across from Jack.

"Uhm, and so did you if I'm not mistaken," Jack said with a grin.

"Yeah, okay, that's why I'm late. I had to have a round with the boys."

At that point the waiter brought the calamari and placed it in the middle of the table.

"How's Reggie?" Jack asked, holding the plate for Viv to take some calamari onto her salad plate.

"Perfectly fine. I'm behind in laundry, and Marcus has to go grocery shopping, but otherwise we are back to normal."

"I'm happy to hear it." He replied, holding the plate for Ann.


"You're looking much better than when I saw you on Wednesday," Tyler remarked when Jack set the calamari plate back down on the table.

"What did you call me? Death warmed over?"

"No, that was your own assessment, I think," Tyler teased.

Viv and Ann laughed as Jack smiled. They looked at the menus and then their waiter came to the table to take their orders.

"Are there any specials tonight?" Jack asked.

"Yes, we have venison in a juniper sauce, the fish is a maple salmon, and the risotto is with shrimp and scallops in a hot sauce."

"Ann?" Jack asked.

"I'll have the venison, please."

"Baked potato or rice?"

"Baked potato, please,"

"Anything else to start?"

"No, thank you."


"I'll have the salmon. What is the vegetable today?" Viv asked.

"Wilted spinach,"

"Great I'd like that, please, and no rice or potato,"

"All right, and you, sir?"

"I'd like the New York Steak, please,"

"How would you like it cooked?"

"Medium well, and I'll have a baked potato and the wilted spinach, please,"

"Great, and you, sir?"

"I'd like Vito's Risotto," Jack said, smiling.


"Please, just tell the kitchen, they know,"

"Yes, sir, of course," the waiter said, while collecting the menus.

It was a pleasant dinner. Val and Tyler caught up on old times. Ann tried not to think about Max. Jack tried not to think at all but to focus on the people around him. He ate the risotto and alternated between his drink and the seltzer.

Tyler watched his friend, stealing glances at him. He seemed a little anxious, as if he didn't want to be there, as Ann and Viv chatted.

"Excuse me," Jack said, standing suddenly, placing his napkin on his chair, and walking away from the table.

Tyler looked at Viv and Ann before sighing.

"I'll go," he said, walking after him.

Tyler saw Sarid who pointed to the front door. Through the glass he saw Jack pacing by the street light. Digging his hands deeply into his trouser pockets, he walked outside and leaned against the building, watching Jack.

"That was rude,"

Jack looked up but didn't say anything.

"Come on, Malone, what's going on?"

"I'm sorry, I just needed some silence. I just couldn't listen to them, right now."

"Okay, no problem. But we need to go back inside because you'll just get sick again standing out here in the cold. Wash your face, come back to the table and then we'll go home, okay? I think we're all tired."

Jack nodded and then walked back into the restaurant, heading toward the unisex bathrooms that were by the coat check. Tyler slipped back into his seat at the table.

"He's fine. Just a little overwhelmed. I told him we'll get the check if that's okay with you two?"

"Sure, I'm tired anyway," Viv said, smiling.

A few minutes later, Jack came back into the dining room, his face damp from running cold water over it.


"No problem, we were just going to get the check, if that's okay? I still have to do a load of laundry before I go to sleep tonight," Viv pointed out.

"Sounds good," Jack said, motioning to the waiter for the bill.

"Mr. Malone, Sarid took care of your dinner tonight,"

"Thank you," they said individually.

Standing from the table, they walked to coat check and got prepared for walking out into the cold night. Viv led the group out of the restaurant, standing on the corner, tugging her coat around her tightly.

"Thanks for dinner, Jack. I'll see you at work tomorrow. Tyler, always a pleasure. Ann, I'll see you in the building."

Viv hugged Jack, Tyler, and Ann.

"Look, I'll be in touch, but I think I'm going to be up here in the next two weeks, so I'll see you soon,"

Tyler hugged Jack and Viv.

"Take care of him, Annie,"

"I will," she said, kissing Tyler on the cheek.

"Viv, can I drop you somewhere?"

"Tyler, I live in Brooklyn,"

"I have a driver,"

"Well, then, yes." Viv said, taking his offered hand, walking down the block to the Crown Victoria which blinked its headlights.

Ann snaked her hand into the crook of Jack's arm and started to walk towards the apartment. He walked with her, silently. They reached the building and he unlocked the outside door, and then the foyer door. Ann unbuttoned her coat and started to walk up the three flights of stairs, hearing his heavy steps behind her. She waited for him outside the apartment. He was tired, she knew, and he was upset about something. Reaching the top of the stairs, he pulled his keys out again and opened the apartment door, letting her walk in first. He followed and locked the door behind him, setting his keys in the dish. Jack hung up his coat and then took Ann's and did the same thing. Pausing at the answering machine, he saw the number 0 and headed to the bedroom. He took off his jacket, hanging it up carefully. His trousers were clean and went back onto a hanger, as did his shirt. Dropping his shorts and socks, he slipped on his silk pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. Ann stood in the doorway and watched his routine. She knew well the value of normalcy of a routine. Waiting for him to get into bed, she sighed.

Jack rolled over and pulled the covers up to his neck. Ann removed her sweater and folded it on the chair. Taking off her pants, she laid them carefully over the back of the same chair, and then unclasped her bra. Walking to the bureau, she took out a t-shirt and slid it over her head. The only light in the room was the bedside light. It was early yet; nine o'clock, but she set the alarm anyway. Getting into bed, Ann turned out the light, and slowly moved towards him. Jack was lying on his right side. She moved across the bed and touched his back gently. He moved to her and she embraced him. They both started to slow down, listening to each other as they fell asleep.

Monday 2:12 a.m.

She rolled over and woke up, looking at the clock. Sighing, she didn't feel tired anymore. These five hours were about the normal amount of sleep for her. Suddenly, she realized the overwhelming quiet. Ann got out of bed and walked to the living room. Jack turned from the window.

"I'm sorry, did I wake you?"

"I don't know, are you okay?"

He didn't answer, choosing instead to walk up to her, pulling her into a soft embrace. Jack's skin was cool to the touch but he was warm under the t-shirt and Ann pulled him to her tightly, trying to steal some of that heat.

"Can you go back to sleep?" she asked.

"I'll try,"

They walked down the hallway to the bedroom and climbed back into bed. He lay on his back and Ann rested her head on his shoulder, anchoring her left hand onto his ribs. He curled his left arm around her and sighed.

6:15 a.m.

Ann woke to the alarm and stretched under the soft warm sheets. Getting out of bed, she smelled the coffee and slipped on his bathrobe. Padding down the hallway, she found him sipping coffee in front of the computer.

"Morning," he said, his voice still low and rough.

"Morning, how'd you know I was up?" she asked, getting her own cup of coffee.

"Elementary, I saw you in the reflection of the monitor." He replied, turning to face her.

"Ah, Holmes, how clever of you!"

"Did you sleep all right?"

"I slept very well, and you?" she asked, looking at the circles under his eyes.

"Fine, I slept, just fine," he said standing.

He touched her face, guiding his mouth to hers, and kissed her softly. She looked at him but said nothing.

"Are you hungry?" he asked, thrown a bit by her lack of response.

"No, I'm just going to finish this and head home to change for work."

"Okay," he said, leaning against the back of the sofa.

"Did you eat something?"

"I'm not hungry,"

"Did you take your medicine? I wasn't very diligent yesterday about that,"

"Yes, I took the medicine when I woke up,"

Ann finished her coffee and walked back to the bedroom to get dressed. She emerged several minutes later, noting that Jack hadn't moved.

"I'll see you at the office," she said, before getting her coat out of the closet.

"I hope so. Thanks again, Ann,"

"You're welcome," she said with before walking out of the apartment.

Jack took a slow breath and let it out. Turning back to the computer, he closed his windows and signed off. Topping off his coffee, he walked back to the bedroom to get ready for the day.

7:45 a.m.

Jack stepped off the elevator and walked slowly to his office, wanting to have time to get back into office mode. Opening the door, he took off his topcoat and hung it on the coat stand. He paused before going to get his coffee when he saw the shattered mug now reassembled and set in a place of honour on the wood file cabinet behind his desk. He walked to the kitchenette and noticed a new mug with the text "JACK IS BACK!" on it and smiled. Filling that mug from the smart coffee machine, he headed back to his office. He loosened his tie, sat at his desk, booted up his computer and started to go through his IN box.

8:55 a.m.

Jack tightened his tie, grabbed his mug and went out into the bull pen to talk to his friends. The four associates were sitting at their desks, chatting when he walked up.

"How are you feeling?" Danny asked.

"Tired, but rallying, we have a case." Jack said, walking to the conference table with the team following.


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