Disclaimers apply - if I owned them I'd be delirious and no, not making any money from this!





It was the phone call that every parent dreads. The one which tells you that your child, your precious, beloved offspring, could very well be dead or dying. Mark Sloan had been the recipient of one such phone call a couple of years previously. Chief Marsters had phoned him from the ambulance which was rushing his son, Steve, to Community General. In the background had been the sounds of the paramedics desperately trying to prolong Steve's life. Mark didn't remember much of what had happened after that - his own frantic drive to the hospital, running red lights and risking his own life; the first sight of his blood-soaked, unconscious son and Amanda, holding him back when every instinct in him screamed to be allowed to help. All he really recalled with any clarity was the fear he had felt. The utter terror which had knotted his stomach, addled his thought processes and consumed him to such an extent that he had been incapable of performing even the simplest task. Amanda had guided him to the doctor's lounge, brought him coffee which she then persuaded him to drink and waited with him during those long, painful, seemingly never-ending hours until, finally, Jesse - who had been the trauma surgeon on duty, something for which Mark would forever be grateful - had come to give him the prognosis. A nightmare period had then ensued, culminating in Steve's eventual, slow recovery, and his own wrongful imprisonment for murder. Thankfully, everything had worked out in the end and he had been exonerated, reunited with his son and the real culprits taken into custody.

Now he was reliving it all over again. The phone call had come during dinner with Elaine and Dane Travis, Jesse's estranged parents. They had both shown up, independently of one another, at Community General several hours ago, each of them in turn intent on seeing their only son. Neither of them had been willing to step aside for the other and consequently, they had created quiet but intense havoc. Poor Jesse had been caught in the middle - a fact which had been lost on his warring parents, but of which Mark had been acutely aware. The young man so desperately wanted to please and bond with both his mom and his dad but it was patently evident that he didn't want to hurt either of them and it had almost torn his friends apart watching him flounder helplessly in the face of their mutual animosity. Eventually, Mark had been forced to step in, unable to bear Jesse's keen distress any longer and privately furious with Dane and Elaine for the pain they were unknowingly inflicting upon their only child - the finest young man, outside of his own son, whom Mark had had the privilege to know.

Leaving a much relieved Jesse at the hospital to finish his shift, Mark had taken the two of them to the beach house for some dinner and some straight talking. Their open hostility toward each other would destroy Jesse if it continued much longer and Mark wasn't about to allow that to happen. He looked upon the young doctor as something of a surrogate son and was very protective of him. Jesse had not had an easy life; abandoned by his father when he was very young and living with a mother who professed to love him but had spent most of her time building up her own very successful medical practice. He had spent a lot of time alone, albeit in comfortable surroundings. But he had been starved for love and had striven most of his adult life to please his parents and make them proud - despite his protestations to the contrary.
A few years previously, Jesse had been shocked to discover that his father was not the accountant he had claimed to be all his life. Nor did his dad have a second family - whom Jesse had always believed meant more to him than his first one. He was a government operative - a spy, involved in highly secretive, highly dangerous work. He had bitterly regretted the seeming abandonment of his wife and child so many years earlier, but it had been necessary at the time in order to keep them safe. His reappearance in Jesse's life, together with his startling revelation, had gone some way toward reuniting the two of them and they were now gradually rebuilding the father and son relationship which had been so cruelly denied for so many years.

Elaine Travis had paid a visit to her son some months previously, making a grand entrance and belittling his achievements before making the incredible announcement that she was offering him a partnership in her lucrative medical practice. Jesse, torn between love and duty to his mother and his very real desire to remain where he was happy, doing a job he loved, at which he excelled, with friends who loved him, had eventually turned her down. He had then gone through the agony of believing that he had lost her affection and respect as a result. It wasn't the case. Indeed, she had admired him for, as she put it, standing up to her for the 'the first time in his life'. She had contacted him via Mark who was sitting in on a radio station, to tell him that she was very proud of him and that she loved him. Their relationship, too, had been strengthening in recent months.
Now his parents together were threatening to unravel the slim threads of confidence he had found in those tentative relationships and Mark could not stand by and see his young friend hurt all over again.

But the phone call had shattered his plans. It had shattered his world. Tanis, Steve's partner, had called to inform him, in a clipped and professional voice which belied her shock and fear, that there had been a shooting at Community General. A patient whom Jesse had been treating - a man whom Steve had accompanied as a suspect in a murder enquiry - had somehow grabbed Steve's gun and had started shooting. Chaos had ensued, with staff and patients alike running for cover. It had taken some time for things to calm down sufficiently for the cops to assess the situation. All she could tell him was that Steve, Jesse and Amanda were prisoners of the man and that it was entirely possible that one of more of them was injured - or dead.


Inside the trauma room, shocked silence reigned. Steve was lying on the floor, semi-conscious, Amanda lay sprawled amidst the ruins of the instrument tray, one of the nurses who had been helping Jesse was a pitiful, blood-drenched heap underneath the overturned gurney and Jesse himself was leaning against the wall where he had been thrown by the impact of the bullet. He was breathing hard, barely able to believe the events of the last few moments, and stunned by the ferocity of the attack. One minute he had been treating the quiescent form on the gurney, the next moment, the guy had reared up, snatched Steve's gun from his shoulder holster and had ordered them to back away. Jesse, exchanging a startled glance with Amanda, who had come in to have a word with Steve, had been about to comply when suddenly there had been an explosion of sound and something had hit him in the chest. He had literally flown backward, hitting the wall with such force that it knocked all the breath from his body. Everything went black for a moment as he lay on the cold, tiled floor, dazed from the impact. Through the ringing in his ears, he could hear Amanda screaming his name and then yelling at the gunman. There was sobbing in the background and a voice begging the guy not to kill them - he guessed that was one of the two nurses who had been assisting him. Steve's voice was an island of calm in a sea of chaos as he tried to convince his erstwhile suspect to return the gun to him, telling him that if he gave up now, they could make some kind of deal. But this just appeared to antagonise the man, who yelled at Steve to shut up, to let him think. "I don't trust none of you!" he screamed. "You'd kill me as soon as look at me! Well, you don't get me that easy. Not again. Never again!" Suddenly, horrifyingly, more gunfire reverberated through the small room. He could hear screaming and shouting and the clatter of the instrument tray as it hit the floor. Somebody hit the gurney and he felt the crash as it overturned and a particularly shrill scream rent the air. The cacophony of sound was deafening. Then, suddenly, all was still and silent. All he could hear was his own harsh breathing. It sounded too loud in the deathly hush which had fallen.

Prying open his eyes, Jesse stared around the room in shocked disbelief, trying to comprehend what had happened and completely unable to make any sense of the last few moments. He watched, mutely, as Steve moved slightly and groaned and the doctor in him assessed his friend silently, feeling relief flood through him as he realised that there was no blood on the cop. Then his eyes travelled toward Amanda, who was also moving, lifting her head from the floor and glancing around - also checking out her friends. Her eyes widened in renewed horror as they came to rest on Jesse's supine form and before he could stop her, she was on her knees, crawling toward him, seemingly oblivious to the gunman.

"Amanda!" he exclaimed in alarm, "what are you doing? Get down! He'll kill you!"

She paused for only a moment, glancing backward at the crazed shooter, who was now standing in the middle of the room, holding the other nurse against him as a shield, screaming for the now assembled hospital security and cops to back off or he'd kill the others. He seemed to be ignoring Amanda for the moment, however and she continued to crawl through the broken glass and scattered instruments, reaching the young doctor's side within seconds. "Jesse!" she exclaimed, pulling his white coat aside to reveal blue scrubs soaked with blood. Fresh blood. Jesse's blood. But the young man didn't hear her horrified cry. His gaze had finally landed on the nurse who had been assisting him only moments earlier.

"Nancy's hurt!" he gasped, staring over in utter shock at the crumpled figure on the floor under the gurney. "I .. have to …"

"You're not going anywhere!" Amanda said, firmly, alarmed as he tried to scramble to his feet. "Jesse, you're hurt. You should stay still and let me treat that wound."

He gazed at her intently for a moment or two, bewilderment clearly evident in his deep blue eyes, then, ignoring her warning, struggled against her restraining hands yet again, trying desperately to break free. "'Manda, let me go!" he protested. "I have to … I have to … ow …oh …" Suddenly, all the colour fled from his face. "'Manda …? It .. it hurts … I … oh …"

Amanda bit her lip as his eyes travelled downwards, towards his chest, where blood was still seeping through his scrubs and the white coat he had donned for the ER. He watched it in rapt fascination for a moment then, slowly lifted his head once again and locked eyes with her. "Jesse …"

"I … I've been shot …?" He sounded so outraged, but his voice was weak and hoarse, his eyes were getting glassy and his breathing, already laboured, was worsening by the second. "'Manda … what happened? I … why did he …? Was anyone else hit …? …I can't see… Are .. are you okay?" He surged upwards in her arms before she could stop him, intent on checking her out, afraid that she had been shot, too.

"Jesse, I'm okay!" she reassured him, increasing her firm grip on his arms, aware that she shouldn't be able to hold him down this easily, realising that he was getting weaker with each passing moment. "I'm okay, honestly."

"Really?" His honest blue gaze searched her face, seeking any sign of a lie. Finding none, he heaved a huge sigh, then sagged backward again, swallowing hard. "Wh … what are we … still doing here?" he asked. He was becoming confused and his voice was barely audible. It was a bad sign. He was slipping swiftly into shock.

"I'm … not sure. We … seem to be hostages," she told him, softly, meeting his wide-eyed, disbelieving gaze and wincing as she peeled back his shirt to reveal fresh blood oozing out from the hideous wound which the bullet had inflicted. Pressure … she had to maintain pressure. Releasing him for a moment, she glanced around, desperately searching for something to use as a pressure bandage. Medical supplies had spilled from the shelves in the chaos and had scattered everywhere. A rush of relief pulsed through her as her search yielded a couple of bandages which had fallen nearby and she quickly scooped them up, folding one of them into a pad and placing it over the gaping hole in her friend's chest. "Stay still," she counselled as she wound the other bandage tightly around his torso, feeling the infinitesimal shudders which were coursing through him. "Jesse?" she questioned, anxiously, as he slumped back against the wall.

From somewhere, he dredged up a smile for her. " … 'm okay," he whispered, but he was biting his lip as the pain started to swell and she felt tears come to her eyes as she scrutinised him. He needed help. He'd been shot almost point blank in the chest for god's sake! Why wasn't the gunman letting them go? He had forced the young nurse to close all the blinds so that no-one could see inside - so that no-one could shoot him. And he had shut the door, placing a trolley against it to guard against entry. Nancy lay dead underneath the overturned gurney and one of her dearest friends was now dying in front of her, right here on the cold hard ER floor.

"Just you hold on, Jesse," she ordered him, hoping he didn't notice that her voice was shaking. "We're going to get you out of here and you're going to be just fine."

"C.. can we … leave now?" The plaintive tone cut right through her heart and the big blue eyes which met hers so earnestly completed the job.

"I … I …" She glanced back momentarily toward the figure who was presently dominating the small room. His stance was implacable, his expression even more so. He met her gaze and she shivered at the rage which dwelled therein. For a moment she was convinced that he was going to lift the gun and shoot her next but then he glanced away, almost dismissively. "Not … not just yet," she said, softly, turning back to her young friend. "I .. don't think he's ready to let us go right now."

Jesse's eyes widened even further. "Why?" he breathed. "What … what did we do to him? What did Nancy do?" Then, "Is she … she's dead, isn't she?" he asked, sadly.

Amanda nodded, unable to speak past the constriction in her throat. As gravely wounded as he was, his first thought was for others. Why in god's name did all the bad things happen to the good people?

"I … I feel funny .." came the faint whisper, then. "'Manda ..?"

"Jesse!" She gasped as he fell sideways in her embrace. She caught him as his body started to topple and held him tightly, the blond head coming to rest against her shoulder as he slid into unconsciousness. "Jesse? Oh my god .."

"Amanda! He's not …" Steve's voice from beside her startled her so much she almost dropped her precious burden. She turned slightly to meet his terror-stricken gaze and shook her head.

"No, he's still alive, Steve. But he needs help. More help than I can give him in here. He needs surgery and for that he needs to be in an OR. That bullet needs to come out! Please, please make him let us go. Make him let Jesse go. We can't let him die!"

Swallowing hard and pausing for only a moment to stare desolately at his stricken friend, Steve rose to his feet and walked slowly across the room, leaving Amanda holding the slender form close, as if hoping to imbue him with some of her strength. "Don't leave us, Jesse," she begged him, whispering the words softly into the ear nearest her mouth. "Just hang on for me, okay? We'll get you out, but you have to hold on. Please, Jesse, just hold on."

Steve's suspect had his left arm wrapped securely around his hostage. His right hand was pointing the gun at her head. His eyes were darting around the room, feverishly searching out any movement which could pose a possible threat and as Steve approached him, he aimed the gun at him instead of the girl, who was by now sobbing hysterically. The sounds of her screams grated on Steve's nerves, although he couldn't really blame her. She was a nurse, for god's sake, not someone accustomed to being held as a hostage; someone who had been forced to watch, helplessly, as one of her colleagues, one of her friends, was cut down mercilessly by bullets from his own gun.

"What is it you want?" Steve asked, trying to appear calm and cool. If he kept his eyes averted from the bleeding body of his best friend, he could do this. "Just tell me what it is you want."

"What do you care?" roared the gunman. He shook his head and closed his eyes momentarily as though he was in pain. Steve took a step forward but before he could do anything, those crazed brown eyes opened again, spearing him and stopping him in his tracks. "Helicopter," he said, gruffly. "I want a helicopter and a way outta this hellhole! Hell! We should never have come here! Fuck Saddam and his troops! This is serious shit, man! Bombing our own guys - what is that, huh? Why'd they do that to us? Tell me! I wanna know!"

'Oh god, a Gulf War veteran.' Steve now realised what was wrong with his prisoner. He wasn't on drugs as they had at first suspected. He was having a flashback. God alone knew who Jesse, Amanda and he were in the guy's addled brain but it was obvious that he had gone through something traumatic during that time and the reference to 'friendly fire' might be the answer. Was one of his buddies killed during one of the raids? Hell, maybe more than one? Steve knew he had to keep a clear head if he expected to keep himself alive and get his friends out of this situation. If only he knew who they were all supposed to be in this scenario it would be a whole lot easier.

A quick glance back told him that Jesse was still unconscious in Amanda's arms. The pretty pathologist was regarding him fearfully, quite obviously terrified for their friend's life. The chest wound looked bad. Very bad, even to a layman, and Steve had seen his share of wounds both in his profession and as a surgeon's son and the friend of a pathologist. Jesse needed help and he needed it fast. And Steve was damned if he was going to let his best friend die in his own trauma room! He had to find a way out of here - at least for Jesse and Amanda. If he could just contact Tanis - ascertain the situation outside … "Just … let me make a call, and I'll get you out of here," he said, carefully making to extract his cell phone from his jeans pocket. "Just let me … " The gun came down on his hand with such force that he was sure that it broke at least one finger and he forced himself to stifle his scream of pain.

"You lie!"

"N … no," he managed, through the pain. "No. Just one call … look, I'm not armed. You have my gun. Just … please … one call …"

But before he could reach again for his phone, it started to ring.


"C'mon … c'mon …." Mark muttered as Steve's cell continued to ring out. They had arrived at the hospital in record time; once more, he could not recall whether he had run any red lights or not and, quite frankly, he didn't care. The three most important people in his life were trapped in the trauma room with a mad gunman and he didn't know who was alive, or who was dead. And he had to find out. As soon as he had entered the scene he was struck dumb at the destruction he found. Bullet holes riddled the walls, gurneys were overturned, vases smashed, their contents strewn across the floor, whilst the police now maintained a distinct presence, officers with their guns drawn crouched at every corner whilst Tanis gave instructions in a voice filled with quiet urgency.

"What's the situation?" he asked, as soon as he could speak.

She shook her head, her expression grim. "He's drawn the blinds in there," she answered him. "We know there's at least two down, maybe more and when he was last seen he was holding a nurse hostage." A wan smile lifted her drawn features. "I heard Steve's voice in there," she offered, as a ray of hope. "I think he's trying to talk to the gunman."

Mark's heart suddenly started beating again. Steve was all right! But new dread overcame him at the possible identity of those other casualties. Amanda! Jesse! Swallowing hard, he half-turned to face his young protégé's parents. They both looked horrified - and he knew exactly how they felt. Suddenly, welcome though the news was about his own son, it wasn't enough. He needed to know that the rest of his small family were all right. "Has anyone tried to call him?" he asked, reaching for the phone on the nurse's station.

"No!" Tanis put a restraining hand on top of his as he made to pick up the receiver. "I don't know what he'll do if we call! He might just decide to kill everyone in there!"

"Has he called you?" demanded Mark, obstinately. "Well, Tanis?"


"Well, then …"

"I can't let you do it, Doctor Sloan," she said. Her face was grim, her tone resolute. "You don't know what he might do to those people in there. That's my partner in there."

"And my son," he reminded her. "And my two closest friends. Tanis, please. I'm no threat to him. Let me try. Let me at least find out the situation."

She shook her head. She knew she wasn't going to win this one. Mark Sloan's tenacity was legendary. He would wear her down before she even realised it and she would let him make the call. Better get it over with sooner rather than later … "Okay," she acquiesced. "Make the call. But - be careful what you say. Don't antagonise him. Don't say anything that might upset him. Play it cool, play it calm. Just …"

"I know," he said, with a slight smile. "Don't worry."

The phone had been ringing for what seemed like an eternity. Suddenly, there was a click and Mark nearly fainted with relief as his son's rich baritone tones echoed in his ear.




"How are you, son?"

There was a heavy sigh. "I'm okay, dad."

"The others?"

"Nurse Culver is dead. Amanda's okay. Nurse Swanson is okay - for the moment …"

Mark suddenly felt sick as he realised the name which had been omitted. "Steve … ?"

"Jesse's been shot, dad," he said, heavily. "He's lost a lot of blood. It's a chest wound, close range. I …. " His voice tailed off and there was some muttering in the background.
Mark closed his eyes, whispering 'Oh no!' as he pictured the kind of wound that Steve had briefly described. His nausea increased at the images which played in his mind. Jesse … his friend, his protégé, his almost-son. "Dad? Dad?"

Mark suddenly became aware that his son was calling him and forced himself to pay attention. "I'm here, Steve," he said, in a low, pain-filled voice. "Steve, is he … ? Is he … ?" He couldn't say the words and it seemed that the detective wasn't able to answer him anyway.

"He wants a helicopter," he said. His voice sounded more strained than ever. "He … he's a gulf war veteran, dad. He thinks he's back in the war. We have to get out of here - Jesse's lost consciousness and …" Before he could say more, Steve's phone was wrenched from his hand by the gunman, who looked at it with a puzzled expression before shaking his head and flinging it across the room, where it hit the wall, shattering into several pieces. "Wh … what ..?"

"What did ya think you were doing?" demanded the man, tightening his chokehold around the nurse's neck. She struggled futilely within his grasp, trying desperately to break free as her air supply was abruptly cut off. "Who were ya contactin'?"

Steve tried to remain calm and rational. The lives of his friends depended upon it. Jesse's life depended upon him being able to talk this guy out of his intention to hold them hostage. The young doctor's face was bleached of all colour and the blood from his chest wound had soaked the front of his scrubs, and dripped onto Amanda's arm, which cradled him against her breast. Jesse needed medical attention sooner rather than later. Later would be far too late. "You wanted a helicopter," he told his erstwhile prisoner, quietly. "I was trying to get you one."

"You lie!" the man screamed. "I know all about you and your kind, Lieutenant! You ordered another air strike and this time you'll kill us all! You're stupid, you know that? I don't know why they give idiots like you command! Calling in air strikes on your own position … you got my buddies killed and now you're gonna finish the job!"

Oh god … Steve inhaled deeply. Now he had a clearer picture of what had happened to this guy. His own commanding officer had called in artillery but obviously miscalculated the co-ordinates, and the air strike intended for the hostiles had rained down on their own men instead. He wondered what had happened next. It could be important - it could be the key to the survival of his friends and himself. For the moment he could do nothing but play out the scenario until its conclusion and hope that, in the meantime, Tanis would find some way to overcome the guy, or that he could figure out how to overpower him without getting anyone else - including himself - killed. Whatever happened, it had to be fast because, even as he glanced toward the huddled figures on the ER floor, he could see that his best friend was slowly losing the battle to stay alive.



His conversation with Steve rudely terminated, Mark slowly replaced the receiver and turned to face the others, attempting to school his features in order not to unduly alarm them. It was too late. His whispered exclamation of 'oh no!' and the query regarding the health of the person which he had uttered in a voice filled with dread had already alerted Dane and Elaine to the fact that something was dreadfully wrong. And from his demeanour, they knew that it was not his son about whom he was so concerned - but theirs. "I …" Mark began.

"Please … just tell us," whispered Elaine, fearfully, swallowing hard. Their eyes met and she flinched as she saw her own terror reflected in those azure orbs.

"Jesse's been shot," he finally told them, in a flat voice. "It's a chest wound. He's … Steve says he just lapsed into unconsciousness a few moments ago."

"Oh my god!" breathed Elaine, her hands going to her mouth, barely feeling her ex-husband tightening his own hold on her shoulders as the dreadful news sank in. "Jesse …! We … we have to get him out of there!" she cried, clutching desperately at Mark's shirt.

"Steve's trying to negotiate with the gunman," Mark said. His voice was shaky. The news that Jesse had been so gravely wounded had shaken him to the core. The young man was a very important part of his life - their lives - and he didn't even want to consider what they would do if they lost him. Elaine's hands twisting his shirt sent guilt flooding through him. As much as he thought of Jesse as a second son, these two people WERE his parents, and they had more right to be scared of losing him than he, Steve or Amanda did. "Don't worry," he went on, mustering a lot more confidence than he actually felt, "Steve will look after him …"

"A great job of that he's done so far!" spat Elaine, rearing back and glaring at him in fury. The next moment she crumpled into her ex-husband's arms, sobbing for all she was worth. "I'm sorry," she moaned, turning slightly to face Mark. "I'm sorry. I know Steve will do the best he can and that it wasn't his fault and that you must be worried about him, too, but … that's my son in there, Mark. My baby. He means everything to me. Oh, I know I may have seemed to be the demanding, disapproving mother from hell but .. you have to realise … my Jesse has always been so intelligent, so clever. I wanted the best for him, so I pushed him and pushed him and without realising it … I finally pushed him away. He really thought I didn't care about him. I know it often doesn't seem like it, but … I am so proud of him. He's doing what he loves to do, by all accounts he's a brilliant doctor and everyone seems to love him. It's everything I could want for my son - HE'S everything anyone could want in a son. I love him, Mark. I love him so much. And if anything were to happen to him … it would kill me!" With that she turned her head back into her ex-husband's chest and lapsed into uncontrollable sobs.

Swallowing hard, obviously finding it difficult to control his own emotions at this point, Dane's eyes met Mark's over the top of his ex-wife's head. "There has to be something we can do," he said, hoarsely. "What if … what if I volunteer to go in as an exchange hostage for him?"

"You can't do that!" Mark exclaimed. "Jesse would never forgive me if I allowed you to …"

"You wouldn't have much choice in the matter," Dane interjected, dryly. "I'm a grown man, Mark. What's more I'm accustomed to dangerous situations. My son is not. Why do you think I left him and my wife all those years ago? It wasn't on a whim. It wasn't because I didn't love them any more. It was to protect them. I knew that my business was becoming increasingly dangerous and I wasn't going to allow it to taint my family. I wasn't going to put them in a bad place. So I left. It was the hardest thing I ever did. I looked back once - and I wish to god I hadn't. I saw Jesse at the window. He was only a little boy then - and that little face was pressed tight against the glass, tears streaming down his cheeks, his hands banging on the window, begging me not to go. I nearly faltered then. But if I had, then the price might have been too high for Jesse and Elaine. So I left. And now … now … I left because I didn't want my sweet, innocent son exposed to danger and he's been exposed to it anyway. Tell me, Mark, what would you do if this were Steve who had been shot and you were me?"

Mark swallowed, trying in vain to push back memories of his son actually being gravely injured. He didn't have to guess what he would do. He had already been in similar situations. "I would do anything I could," he said. "I would give my life for his if necessary. He's my son, and I love him."

"Then how can you stand there and judge me?" demanded Dane. "I haven't been a part of my son's life like you have with yours. I know that. But that doesn't mean I love Jesse any less than you love Steve. The feelings may not be as well reciprocated but then, he has a lot to forgive. I left him. I kept my profession a secret from him. But don't presume to imagine that I don't love my son, Mark. I would die for him. In a heartbeat."

Mark nodded, his face grave. "I know you would, Dane. Believe it or not, so would I. Jesse is a fine young man," the doctor continued, off the other man's look of surprise. "He's a close friend and .." he hesitated, not wishing to upset the couple further but needing to get across to them how much their son meant to him. "I think of him as a member of my family. A very important member of my family. I would do anything for him."

Dane nodded, his silence acknowledging Mark's claim on his only son. "Jesse looks up to you a great deal, Mark," he said, neutrally. "Even though we have, to some extent, reconciled and are dealing with each other now, we can never regain the years that we lost and I deeply regret that. But you … you have had a profound effect on him. I can see your influence in him every day. He learns from you, he listens to you, he respects you and, I think, he may even love you - as a father figure he never had growing up. You have guided him through his years here and he has grown in ways I would never have expected. But he still has that childlike quality that I remember from when he was a little boy. And you have encouraged that in him, perhaps because you still retain something of that quality yourself. It makes you both very special and it also means you have a special bond. I would be a liar if I told you I didn't envy that, Mark. I do. A great deal. It hurts, sometimes, that although he's my son, he is closer to you and in many respects regards you as a father rather than myself. But I have only myself to blame and I can't say that he hasn't been trying to forge that bond with me. He has. He tries every time we're together. But there's always something … missing. Something I'm not sure if we ever had or if we'll ever achieve. So I understand and accept that you want to do as much for him as I do. But, Mark, I am his father. I would never presume to put someone else in that position. It is up to me to help him. Quite apart from the fact that this is a situation which, in some respects, I am trained for, I need to do this, not only to show my son how much I love him, how much it would break my heart to lose him now, but also because I'm very selfish. I'm selfish enough to want my son to live - even if I have to die in his place."

"And neither of you are going to do something so utterly stupid," interjected a new voice - Tanis, who had discreetly kept her distance whilst Mark relayed the devastating news of Jesse's shooting to his parents, but, upon overhearing the subsequent self-sacrificing discussion, had felt compelled to speak. "No," she said, holding up her hand as both men turned toward her, identical expressions of entreaty on both faces, "I'm not going to let either of you in there. How do we know that once you get through that door - if you even get through, you won't be shot immediately by that madman? And even if you're not immediately shot and killed, we have no way of knowing that he's going to let you go in as an exchange for Dr Travis, and no way of knowing that even if he agrees - which is a long shot - that he will keep his word."

"Tanis, we have to try!" insisted Mark. "Steve said Jesse … " he paused momentarily as he glanced toward his friend's parents then, reluctantly, continued, "… Jesse has been shot in the chest, practically at point blank range. Do you know the severity of such a wound? If he's not already …. He … he doesn't have a lot of time. We need to do something now, before we lose him!"

The pert redhead shook her head. "I'm sorry, Dr Sloan," she said, her voice sympathetic but firm, "My hands are tied right now. I can't do anything until the Chief gets here. He's coming down personally and he's ordered me to keep the scene locked down till he gets here."

"Does he know that we could lose that boy?" demanded Mark, his voice harsh with suppressed emotion. "Does he realise what he's doing? Condemning him to death! You have to let us try something, Tanis. I am not going to lose him. His parents are not going to lose him. Please, Tanis, I thought you liked Jesse?"

The female cop was stunned into momentary silence by Dr Sloan's impassioned plea, and felt a pang of hurt at his implication that she would just allow Jesse Travis, whom she did like, to die. Didn't he understand that she had her orders? Didn't he realise that to let anyone else in there could be tantamount to suicide? She was responsible for the safety of not only those in the trauma room, but everyone outside it as well. She couldn't live with herself if anyone else was harmed by the gunman. The prospect of losing Jesse Travis was bad enough without adding to the death toll. On the other hand, what if she capitulated to Mark Sloan's demands and one of them went in there as an exchange and the gunman let Jesse out? If no-one else got shot and Jesse underwent the surgery he needed to save his life and survived, the situation would have improved by 100%. She glanced at Mark Sloan then at Dane Travis. Finally her gaze came to rest on Elaine Travis's ravaged features. The woman was close to collapse and without any attempt to save her son her condition was only going to worsen. Tanis tried to imagine how she would feel in the woman's place and discovered that she didn't even want to go there. To be so close to your only child whilst he was dying a violent death, watching others go about their business without even attempting to save his life was beyond comprehension. She shuddered violently as she tried to imagine the courage it must take for someone to hold up under such circumstances and not run screaming from the room. "I … I don't know if we can even contact the guy," she said, at last, turning back to Mark Sloan again, unable to bear the torment on the faces of Jesse's parents, only to discover the same expression in the distinguished doctor's piercing blue eyes. "I guess we could try Steve again, but - the last call didn't end too well and I don't even want to consider what this guy's state of mind is right now."

Relief shone from Mark's face as his son's partner spoke and he half-turned to Dane. "You'll go in?" he said. It was not so much a question as it was a statement. Both of them knew that it had to be Dane. Not only because he was Jesse's father and he would give his life for his son, but also because it was more expedient. Mark would be needed to perform the surgery necessary to save Jesse's life. He needed to remain out here, ready for when the gravely wounded young man was brought out. If he was brought out. There was no guarantee that this ploy would work. But they needed to do something. Jesse's life depended upon them.

"I'm going in," confirmed Dane. "When you're ready, officer," he continued, addressing Tanis. "Get that guy on the phone and ask him if we can do the exchange. And, please … hurry."


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