Disclaimer: Not mine. Author’s Notes: Might be a bit of a tearjerker in later chapters, so you’ve been forewarned. Some angst, some drama, some romance. This will be a different portrayal of Det. Tony Vartann than most are used to. Granted, we know very little about him to begin with, which is what made this both fun and frustrating to write. I did some research on medical things, but not a lot. Excuse my ignorance. Hope you enjoy nonetheless. Warning: Mentions of self mutilation, but nothing in graphic detail. Summary: Detective Vartann returns to work for the LVPD after nearly a year long absence. [Catherine/Vartann; Sofia/Vartann friendship; Season 7] Crosshairs by e-dog Prologue Year: 1995 Las Vegas What should’ve been a routine arrest warrant turned into so much more. Arriving at the house of Simon Young, Detective Tony Vartann could feel in his bones that something was wrong. He wasn’t sure why. Nothing in their investigation indicated any kind of immediate danger. Simon didn’t display any patterns of aggressive behavior. His home was small and tidy; too quaint to house that of a predator. Oh, but a predator he was. Simon had killed two young girls, single gunshot wounds to the chest. The motive for the killings had been unclear. There didn’t seem to be any links between the victims and Simon. However, the evidence didn’t lie and it all led back to Simon Young. Vartann surveyed the house again. There were no vicious dogs in the backyard and all the shades in the house were open wide. It all appeared to be so normal, so safe. Tony knocked on the door once. The door exploded, shards of wood flying at both him and his squad. He hit the deck, wincing at the pinprick stabs of pain all over his body. He could already imagine the nuisance it would be to remove all the splinters. It was then he saw the shotgun sized hole in the door and nearly lost his lunch. A shotgun. That was close. Oh, that was so very close. He was lucky to be alive. When he shifted his gaze to his left, his heart slowed to an almost deadly pulse. Tony’s eyes considered the body lying only a few feet to his left. The officer’s name was Daryl Hanley. He had two young boys and a beautiful wife. The sandy blond hair whispered in the wind and all Tony could think about was how the color had always reminded him of sunflowers. He was dead. Officer Daryl Hanley was gone. “Detective!” That would be Officer Grier getting his attention. It was time to snap out of it. Daryl was gone. Tony breathed in deeply and gathered his wits. He still had a job to do and for the moment, he could still do it. He would do it for Daryl. Tony stood to his feet, drew his gun and yelled, “Simon Young! We have a warrant for your arrest! Drop your weapon and step out slowly!” Tony was answered with another blast from the gun. He ducked behind a tree in the front yard, the shot missing him by several feet. He watched as two other officers from his squad dragged Daryl’s body off the yard. Seeing Daryl’s body again was enough to set him off. Tony rose from his crouched position, leaned against the tree and returned fire. He littered the front door with bullets, yelling out his frustration as he did so. He reloaded and did it again. The other officers followed his lead and soon the front of the house was peppered with holes. They stopped firing. Tony reloaded his weapon with his last clip. All was silent. Minutes passed before there was any more activity. The front door opened slowly, an exhausted shotgun was thrown out. The first sign of his surrender. Then followed Simon, his gait showing off an obvious limp. One of their arrant bullets had hit the target, crimson liquid flowing from the wound. Simon rose one hand. The second sign of his surrender. Tony approached slowly, gun extended. Simon appeared to be wounded, embarrassed and hurt. Good. If Tony had any say in this matter, Simon was gonna feel a whole lot worse for killing Daryl. Once he was close enough, Tony lowered his weapon slightly, reaching behind his back to retrieve his cuffs. “I would like nothing more than to kill you, right here.” Simon remained quiet. Tony began to read him his rights. “Simon Young, you’re under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you can not afford . . .” “Detective!” Two gunshots fired simultaneously. One bullet hit Tony in the shoulder. He wasn’t sure where the other bullet went or where it came from. He didn’t really have time to think about it either. He dropped to the ground, crying out from the sudden intrusion and immediately began putting pressure on the wound. There was one more shot fired and then the shuffling of feet. “Vartann? Detective Vartann, are you okay?” “Go! Get that little bastard! I’m fine!” Tony insisted to the shadow hovering over him. With labored efforts, Tony got himself leaning on an elbow to view the scene. Simon was face down on the ground now, one officer tying him up. The other officer had taken down a second gunmen standing in the doorway. It never occurred to Tony that there may be a second shooter. Why didn’t he consider that? It made sense now. A second shooter all along and it suddenly made sense. Tony groaned at the pain. The blood was seeping out quickly. He was losing a lot of it. Too much. It hurt so much to move. He watched Grier drag Simon away. He heard orders for a bus and back-up. So that was it. The scene finally felt secure and knowing this, Tony let himself fall back to the ground. He was suddenly very tired. He breathed in deeply, then shut his eyes. -------------------- Year: 2006 Las Vegas PD Detective Tony Vartann adjusted the sling holding up his left arm before pushing through the doors. He didn’t really need the sling anymore, but there were some days he simply couldn’t function without it. He slowly made his way through the squad room, toward his desk. Now that he was moderately mobile, it was time to face the hounds. “Tony. Welcome back.” He looked up and saw the usually bright face of Sofia Curtis. It was very rare that they saw one another, always working different rotations. He hadn’t spoken to her since last week before his hospitalization. Sofia had tried calling him, obviously curious. He ignored her calls. He ignored all calls period. He didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t want to talk about what happened or why he was wearing a sling. For all she knew, he had a procedure done on his arm. Well, he would let her assume that. He didn’t want to worry her over what really happened and that’s why he ignored her calls. He appreciated her concern, of course. He only wished he had been so courteous to her when she was suspected of killing Officer Bell. When he finally reached her, he lifted his good arm and awkwardly hugged her. “Curtis. Good to see you.” “Likewise,” she replied. She didn’t ask about her unanswered calls. She didn’t question why he was wearing a sling. Her expression turned to worry almost immediately, though. “Are you ready to be back? Brass told me you had to be hospitalized. He wouldn’t elaborate.” “I’m good. I have desk duty for a little while, but I’m good,” Tony said, half smiling at her concern. Sofia returned the smile before excusing herself. She had work to do. Tony watched her walk away, before turning and catching the cold eyes of the Undersheriff standing in an office doorway. That wasn’t a good sign. Tony made his way over to the office immediately. Ten minutes later, Tony left the Undersheriff’s office, went straight for his desk and picked up a few belongings. He left his gun on the desk. “Vartann?” Sofia called him. He looked at her, his eyes covered in shadow. With a low voice, he promised, “I’ll call you.” Then he was gone. Sofia Curtis took his promise to heart. He never called. Several months later and she was still waiting on word from him. She really, really tried to just let it go. Tony didn’t care enough to call, so why should she care enough to wait? There were weeks she simply didn’t think of him. Detective Tony Vartann had become a legend, a myth. There were weeks she simply thought of him all the time. She wondered why he walked out so abruptly, why he promised to call and just didn’t. She tried asking around, getting dirt on Tony’s sudden disappearance. All she could ever get out of Brass were two words: medical leave. “Sofia?” She was working a case with Catherine this night. They were parked in her office for the time being, waiting on some trace results. “What’s up, Cath?” Catherine sighed. “Oh, nothing. Dayshift handed this case off on me yesterday. It’s a cold case, but they thought it might help me with what we’re working on now. You know, possible serial or something.” “Oh?” Sofia said, approaching Catherine to get a closer look at the casefile. “Turns out, it won’t help,” Catherine said flatly. Sofia smirked, “Then why mention it at all?” Catherine turned the folder around so the detective could get a good look. “Well, see for yourself.” Sofia glanced down. First Catherine pointed at the date. One month ago. Then she slid a finger down the page and stopped at a name. Sofia’s eyes widened as she read Detective Tony Vartann in bold, black print. His signature was right below that. “You’re not the only one who’s been wondering what happened to him,” Catherine said softly. Sofia looked up seeing the calm relief on Catherine’s face. Tony was okay. He didn’t fall off the face of the earth. He was okay. Sofia sighed, “I thought we were friends.” She took a seat in an empty chair, then asked, “Why were you so worried about him?” “We got paired up a lot, pure coincidence I guess,” Catherine said, shrugging. “It was just weird when he stopped showing up at my crime scenes. Now he’s back.” Yes, Tony was back. Sofia didn’t know why. She didn’t know where he ran off to, but Tony was back and he was still a Detective in Vegas (working the dayshift, no less). The question was, why did he stay away for so long and why didn’t he tell anyone that he had returned? Part One: I am a changed man Sofia called me and I actually answered the phone. She sounded angry, but her questions were mostly inquiring about my well-being, how long I had been back, and other related matters. She didn’t outright say she was disappointed I didn’t call her or say hello. I asked how she found out. Catherine saw my signature on a case from a month ago. CSIs and their damn observant eyes. I wanted to hide out for at least another month. Anyway, I now have at least one more person in this city I can call friend again and that’s Sofia. I’m surprised she puts up with me or even gives me the time of day. She’s blindly loyal. I wish she would’ve forgotten about me. It would be easier for both of us, but she hasn’t. She won’t. She actually sent me a message today. The text message is simple: Simon’s out. Simon Young. That case was my first and last rookie mistake. I had just earned my way to Detective. Things were going my way, then along came Simon. My first big case. My first real mistake. He was also my first real death threat. Never had I come so close to dying. Up until then, I had been very lucky on the job. Hard to believe that case was nearly 12 years ago. I still visit Daryl’s grave. Forensic technology at the time was inferior, yes, but it was reliable. It proved that Simon did not fire the shotgun thereby he was not responsible for the killing of Officer Daryl Hanley. The bullet I took in the shoulder was also not his doing. He had a partner with him that afternoon; a second shooter. That guy was put away for life. Simon scraped by on minimum jail time. Now he’s out. I’m not ashamed to admit that my first thoughts are of killing the little bastard. Had I been judge, jury and executioner, Simon Young’s body would’ve turned up in some old river bed long ago. I shut my cell phone and exit my car. I breathe in deep. This is a big night for me. It started out having nothing to do with Simon Young. The news of his release was just an added bonus. This is my first time working the night shift in nearly a year. I still won’t admit that I missed this lonely, old city. My ears pick up a familiar voice. “He died within the last few hours. No I.D. Sorry Catherine,” David announces. “Don’t worry, David. His attire would suggest he’s got a home somewhere and someone will miss him. We’ll check missing persons in the morning.” Catherine Willows is kneeling next to the body, a gaping gunshot wound to the abdomen. The cause of death is clear and I’m sure she’s glad she won’t have to wait on David’s analysis on that. I hear her instruct, “Turn the body over, David.” David does so. I’m not sure what she’s looking for, but her next statement clarifies that for me. “There’s an exit wound. That means there’s a bullet out there somewhere.” Ah. A bullet. She’ll probably wanna search for it. It’s the one thing about CSIs I’ll never understand. They enjoy looking for that needle in the haystack. They love searching for that one little clue, the one that normal eyes wouldn’t see. I say, let them. Less work for me. “Hey, Catherine. . .,” David says. She looks at where he’s pointing. The victim’s belt. “Looks like a gun holster.” “He carried a gun,” Catherine nods. “Might be the one that killed him. If we’re lucky, the killer panicked and dumped the weapon around here.” She surveys the desert terrain once more before standing again and looking for the detective assigned this case. Well, that would be me. “Willows. Over here.” She turns to my voice and can’t contain her surprise. “Detective Vartann?” Well, I’m a little surprised myself, if her reaction means what I think it means. If I didn’t know any better, I would say Catherine might have missed me while I was gone. “In the flesh,” I reply, my voice typically deadpan. I begin to walk slowly, almost gingerly toward her and I can tell she’s noticed my gimp. There seems to be a pregnant pause between my reaching her position and the finding of her voice. I wonder what was going through her head just now. “The victim has no I.D. I was just going to start a perimeter search for a murder weapon.” She’s all business as usual. Good, because that’s exactly what I need. I don’t need sympathy or questions or curiosities ruining my first official night back on the graveyard beat. I just need to work. “Stokes is here with you as well?” I ask. I already know that he is. I saw him. Have to admit, that guy irks me. “Uh, yeah. He’s documenting some footprints over by that ditch,” Catherine says, gesturing in the general direction of Nick’s location. “I can lend you some officers, help with the search,” I suggest. Seems stupid to suggest such a thing. We’re cops, not CSIs. When we conduct perimeter searches, we stomp around and wave guns. Obviously, Catherine will handle things much differently. ‘Delicately’ is the first word that comes to mind. “That’d be great,” Catherine nods. I turn and walk away to grab my guys. I can’t shake the feeling that she’s watching me walk the whole way to my car. I hear Nick’s voice in the distance. “I got a mold impression of the footprint, but unfortunately it’s only a partial,” Nick says. “It looks like a boot. Could be our shooter.” “Or a stargazer,” Catherine remarks. I watch her follow Nick back to their truck, gathering up fresh latex gloves and flashlights. Before I decide to stall any further, I order Metcalf, Mitchell and another young guy to follow me. For the life of me, I can’t remember the young guy’s name. Maybe because I keep confusing him with Daryl. They have the same sandy blond hair, the color of sunflowers. As soon as we reach the two CSIs, Catherine takes charge. “Nick, take these two gentlemen over this way and work your way back in toward the body. Officer Metcalf and I will start on the opposite side.” “Yes, ma’am,” Nick nods, leading the two officers away. I notice she hasn’t ordered me to do anything. I assume it’s because I’m the detective. As if there’s some secret rule stating detectives only get to survey the crime scene and interrogate suspects. As they walk away, I find that I’ll be alone, if you exclude David and the body. I don’t want to be alone, especially not with my thoughts. I want to work. “Catherine, I’ll join you and Metcalf,” I say, doing my best jog up to them and catch up. I must look so tired, wounded. The look of worry in her eyes sends chills throughout my whole body. “Okay, Detective. Put these on,” she says, handing me some gloves. “Follow me.” After several minutes, I find myself side by side with Catherine, our flashlights crossing paths occasionally. The silence between us is foreboding and I can tell she’s itching to ask the million dollar question. A few moments later, she does just that. “I haven’t seen you around in a while,” she says. Her voice is casual, nonchalant. Almost too nonchalant. “Where ya been?” I stiffen up. Not on purpose. I was trying for indifference as well, but failed miserably. I know she notices my jerky half step. She’s noticing everything about me tonight, but I can’t talk about this. I won’t talk about it. “Uh, yeah. I’ve been on medical leave,” I answer, my usually confident tone suddenly missing. I scold myself for not sounding stronger. Catherine repeats my words, her voice wavering ever so slightly. “Medical leave?” “Yeah. I’ve actually been back for about two months, working mostly dayshift cases,” I clarify, sure to make my voice louder. I can tell she wants more, but I switch back to work mode quickly. I have to. “I think I found something.” We both follow the stream of light resting upon an object in the sand. It gleams like metal. She carefully brushes the sand away and confirms, “It’s a bullet. It’s not a murder weapon, but for now, it’s close enough. I’ll collect this. Continue on the path we’re on until you meet up with Nick and the others.” I simply nod my compliance and move on without her. My gait is still awkward, slow. I am a changed man, this I’m sure Catherine knows. For whatever reason, I have a feeling she will do whatever it takes to figure out the change in me. A part of me hopes she does. I’m having trouble figuring out the change in me myself.