Life is a flickering candle we all carry around. A gust of wind, a meaningless accident, a microsecond of carelessness, and it's out. Forever. - David Wong

He was still confused, unable to figure it all out. None of it made sense. None of it.

When they came back to LA, they were all ready to get back to normal - well, normal for them. It was amazing, really, knowing they could thumb their noses at the damn MPs. Having those pardons meant they could be legit, operate out in the open. Hell, that awe when they suddenly realized they could actually have permanent places to live instead of just temporary hideouts...

That's what they all expected. A return to what they knew, but without all the bull that had gone with it before. It wasn't all roses, of course. A few things they had to change, get used to. Off the military's radar, but not the local cops'. Had to tone down the jazz - or at least make sure they couldn't be tied to certain stuff. On the other hand, picking clients was a lot easier. Mostly, life was good. Real good.

And then it went to hell. Just like that.

That first - who would even imagine something that stupid? He dropped his car keys. No big deal, right? Stopped to pick them up and a drunk driver knocked him twenty feet before taking off. Ten days holding vigil in the hospital. And then they had to bury him.

Cops never found the guy. The way the rest of the team felt, it was probably a good thing.

They forced themselves to keep going, though. Had to. Spent more time together, even off the clock. Needed to. There were still times when it hit them, hard and unexpected, but they were getting less and less frequent.


They'd seen it happen before. Not often, and to other guys, never to one of the team. This time their number came up. Probably because of the fall he'd taken while chasing after the scumbag that had tried to escape. Didn't matter. An short exchange of fire, and then he had to reload. But for some reason he didn't fire again. The scumbag did. At least it was quick this time. And this time, the bastard didn't get away.

They'd checked the revolver afterwards and found the bent ejector rod. Just enough to keep the cylinder from closing after he'd reloaded.

Neither of them had the heart to keep going after that. They went full-time in their separate 'civilian' jobs, but made sure to keep in touch. Sometimes they'd decide to meet up in Black Rock, or make a trip to Chicago. A couple times they'd taken a vacation of sorts to Florida and visited Ellen Bancroft. They even had dinner with Dr Richter a few times. Just to reminisce. A way, he supposed, of keeping the team together.

And finally, he'd gotten the call he'd worried about. Natural causes, in his sleep. Peaceful.

"Scooter, supper's ready." His mother came into his room, put her hand on his shoulder. "Are you alright, son?"

"Yeah, Mama. I'll be okay."

One day.