Book 4: Rapids.

Series: Light, Water, Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.

Rating: R, for the aftermath of stylized violence.

Category: The continuing saga of Reflections/ Resurgences/Refractions.

Disclaimer: "ER", see Chapter 1.

Disclaimer: "The Division", see Chapter 1.

Disclaimer: "The X-Files", see Chapter 1.

Disclaimer: "Xena Warrior Princess", see Chapter 4.

Disclaimer: "China Beach", see Chapter 5.

Disclaimer: "Facts of Life", see Chapter 6.

Disclaimer: "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit", see Chapter 7.

Disclaimer: "CSI", see Chapter 11.

Disclaimer: "JAG": Not mine, can't get any solid info, sorry!

Summary: The gang cleans Dace up, and the second-to-last piece of the puzzle joins the fray. Important pieces of history are passed about.

Chapter 23

Let it Ride

++ Karen ++


There was a real sense of pride as the whole gang of us watched Leonacouer limp proudly from the event, her blonde sidekick in her wake. That had been a few minutes ago, and I was betting Dace would still be stressed right about now, whether or not she wanted to admit it or not. So I went in search of her. If I was unable to find her in this new building, I would hit up one of the Amazons, but right now, they were awfully busy. Something strange had happened while she had been with Sylvia and the sense of menace still lingered faintly.

The noise of the party faded as I stepped into the back areas, glancing around the food-prep area and returning several smiles flashed at me. It was fun to recognize familiar faces amid the Amazons.

"C'mon then," a familiar voice startled me, as Mel brushed by carrying a bright purple duffel-bag that was incongruous with her formal dress. "I'll need to look at that cutting." She sounded as annoyed as Mel ever sounded and I smiled humorlessly. It had been a harsh punishment, even for the Red Queen. Six slices, all an inch to two inches long in the space smaller than a child's palm. My skin crawled just thinking about it.

It only took a few minutes for Mel to zero in on our old friend's suffering, finding Dace hunched over, hands flat on a table, shivering in shock. Catherine looked completely freaked out. "Hey, punk," I greeted Dace, and she tilted her head to look at me. There was that strange menace in her eyes, mixed with all-too-human weariness and pain. "Been a hell of a night."

"Hella," she agreed softly, flinching a little as I gathered up her smaller body, tucking her back along my front. "God damn, but I'm outta practice, Bane."

The whiny tone bugged me, as I cradled her gently around her belly and Mel rifled through her bag.

"Yeah, getting' tossed halfway across the room was quite a shock," I teased gently. "Now, how am I gonna explain those bruises to the wife?"

Dace snorted in weak humor. "Guess I'm stronger than I look."

Glancing down her slender frame, I had to silently agree.

"Can you handle poppers?" Mel suddenly asked flatly and Dace nodded.

"Yes. I suppose you're gonna hafta mop out my new art," Dace tried to joke and Mel stared her down with that flat, almost otherworldly look she was so good at.

"Quite," Mel drawled out. "I know that we still have a long night ahead of us, so I'd rather not dose you up with anything strong. Generally, I don't approve of using amyl nitrate for this kind of thing, but we'll give it a shot. Besides, it'd be a shame to lose the high that the Suits went to all that trouble to give you, hmmm?"

Man, those alcohol swipes were going to sting like a bitch. Still dwelling on how effortlessly Dace had tossed me earlier, I prepared myself for the worst.

++ Catherine ++

From my various studies that had led to a BA in forensic science, I knew the effect that amyl nitrate had on the human body. It seemed a strange choice for a doctor to use on a patient. Firing me a strangely searching look, the tall woman began explaining to the other two tall women, even as I swear she was actually aiming it at me. "This will play into the sex and pain theme of the night, Dace. It's a moderately strong dose, but you're young and healthy. Once we get you cleaned up and glue those cuts closed, we'll get you back to the party."

"This is gonna hurt," Dace commented matter-of-factly and Mel nodded.

"Probably worse than the original cuts."

"Leave it to Sylvia to make me suffer twice."

It was hard to tell if the comment was a compliment or an insult.

Doctor Mel pulled out several baggies, each containing small vials like miniature test tubes sealed with tiny cotton balls. The yellow one was squeezed until there was a crunching noise and it was held under Dace's nose, with Mel's cupped hand keeping the vapors partially contained. The faint smell of over-ripe apples made my nose tingle as I sidled in close to Dace's vulnerable body. It was so strange to be cuddled into her like this, while she was so damp and naked, sharing her space with Karen's leather-clad body. For long moments Dace held in a deep breath and Mel dropped her hands away, tossing the spent vial into an empty baggie and sealing it tight. Dace groaned sensually as she exhaled and relaxed noticeably.

"Feelin' better?" Mel drawled and Dace hummed happily. But she still hissed and whimpered as Mel used sterile wipes on the coagulated blood and ink. The thin, blackened cuts were angry-looking on her fair skin. Several of the blue vials were crunched, their cotton tips quickly saturated, and the wounds painted closed.

By the time Mel finished, Dace was tense and growling. "Okay, Lioness, you can come down now, you're done. The cuts are closed, and they look clean to me. I should probably make sure that Fenris didn't leave you with more than a groin ache. Not to mention those Heartsblood stripes. Bend over." With a resigned sigh, Dace kissed me softly and bent in a perfect 'L', with her ass held at an accessible angle. Mel knelt with enviable grace, considering she was in an evening gown and heels.

I stroked Dace's head and shoulders, feeling the echo of her pain as Mel examined the rest of her battle marks.

"Brutal," Mel commented flatly and Dace hissed in pain. "But lined up as perfectly as the Lady's work always is. No blood, and the swelling seems minimal. You're a damn good healer, Leonacouer." Standing, the dark-haired doctor smacked Dace affectionately on the hip as she stood. "Hit the shower, sport. I'll keep track of your sidekicks here."

++ Mel ++

"Sidekick?" Karen drawled and I chuckled. The compact blonde was lost in thought, staring the direction of where Dace was in the other room cleaning up.

"After the way she bounced you away like a soccer ball earlier?" I teased, carefully watching Karen's expression. "You've been demoted to sidekick."

She didn't take the bait, but merely followed the small blonde's gaze towards the showers. "Yeah."

"He was here," the blonde suddenly spoke flatly and Karen startled. Wide blue eyes stared up at the towering red-head. "He was in the ceiling, close enough to pounce. I can't remember the last time I was so scared, or so angry."

When she suddenly stumbled, half-collapsing, Karen jumped into action. "Catherine!"

It astonished me how quickly Dace appeared, leaping with extraordinary grace to crouch beside Karen and the mysterious Catherine. "I'm okay," KC's doppelganger reassured Dace, stroking the wet cheek. "Bane's got me. Finish your shower and we'll talk."

Reluctantly, Dace retreated with much encouragement from Bane. I watched Catherine stare at Dace's retreating back, felt the crackle of connection between them, and knew that Jane was right.

It was uncomfortable, to say the least, to find something more than just your familiar self within your body and mind. I remembered clearly the first time I met Xena, the presence of my ancestor coming into focus as I lay eyes on brash young Jane. It was more than love at first sight, screw the poor poets who tried to describe the sensations that filled me that day, that have filled me every day since. Meeting Jane that day, the autumn sunlight making her as radiant as an angel, completed me, clicked in all the ragged corners of my soul into their ragged counterparts in her. That bliss set us apart from the rest of humanity and we both knew it.

It was something similar here, between these two strong women. A magical connection feral and foreign to human sensibilities. The animal energy in Dace echoed in Catherine, who echoed it right back. A pack bond, wolves hunting in the snow, lionesses on the tawny plains. This was a magic long-forgotten by humanity, yet never fully out of reach.

Fascinating. I needed to give Ingle a call and let her toss her two cents in the ring on this phenomenon.

++ Olivia ++

What a strange night it had been. I was exhausted and exhilarated by what I had been through. My skin still tingled from where these people's leaders had plucked the fruit tarts off my belly earlier. Pony had been true to her word, and that was the only time I had been touched the entire time I was on display. Tiny had welcomed me to the family as we were led off to clean up and get back to my life. The fabric of my familiar clothes felt odd against my skin, as though outraged to suddenly be covered again.

The feeling hadn't faded over the hours that had passed since.

Jo had hovered near me, curiosity dancing in her eyes at my thoughtful silence. I watched with an intensity that was overboard even for me. I studied Dace's sacrifice, memorizing the details of her tortured body and wondered at the fine line between this and what I pursued in the name of justice.

Working sex crimes left me in a limbo here, where these people practiced pain for pleasure. Outside of this dark-time world, this kind of behavior would be some of the most vile, base abuse. Yet... these were sane, consenting adults. The shades of gray made my head ache.

Even through my lingering confusion, I went in search of Dace. I had too personal a bond with Jo to learn all this through her, and I knew it. But Dace had been friendly to me before I was an ass back at Zo's place. Honestly, she had still been friendly to me, never once making my punishment about anger or revenge. It had been a lesson, and I had taken it to heart.

I found Karen, Catherine and Doctor Mel huddling in a first aid area next to a locker room. Karen's green eyes found me, but she didn't smile. "Hey, Dobie."

At that moment, Dace stepped into the room, damp from the shower and toweling her hair. "Hey Dobie," she grinned at me and nuzzled Catherine hello. From the front, she mostly just looked naked and flushed from the hot water. Well, if I ignored the angry cuts on her chest. That, and if I looked carefully, I could still see the hints of the purple welts at her hips and the curve of pale thighs. Her stance was still awkward and pained from cane and fist.

"I didn't get a chance to tell you," Dace continued and strode closer to me. "You did a great job earlier." Her sky eyes were guileless, and I could see the approval there, as well as the stress and fear unrelated to me. "Sorry to ask you to do something so out there. It really wasn't something I should have asked of a stranger."

For a moment I studied her, perversely comparing her blue eyes to Alex's. The gorgeous ADA had been on my mind a lot since that memorable goodbye in New York. So, I took a cue from my brave co-worker and potential love-interest, and reached up to hook a hand around Dace's neck to pull her down for a kiss. For a moment, I closed my eyes and felt the press of her soft mouth on mine, before tilting my head and coaxing at her to get more involved. She was a good kisser and I lost myself in the heat for a long moment. Yep, this is what I wanted, even if she wasn't quite the right blonde. There was warm pleasure and questions in Dace's eyes as I let her up for air. "There," I smiled. "Now we're no longer strangers."

The throaty, charmed chuckle warmed me the way few things ever had, and I felt the strangest sense of homecoming in this woman's laugh.

++ Dace ++

Delighted with my new pal, I swept her into a big hug, further warmed when she giggled and embraced me back. Tilting my head, I grinned slyly. "Hey Dobie?"

"Yeah?" She grinned back.

"What the hell's your name?"

That made her laugh, a warm, rich, honest sound that came from deep inside. It sounded a little rusty, and I had to wonder when was the last time she had let go so freely. Gently, I set her down and let her laugh, grinning along. Stepping back a half-pace, Dobie offered her hand, which I eagerly took in my own. "Olivia Benson. Pleased to make you acquaintance."

"Olivia," I repeated, liking the name. "Candace DeLorenzo." More chuckles escaped Olivia as my face screwed up into a half-hearted scowl. "I have got to get rid of that stupid last name..."


"Not for much longer, I hope," was my winced answer and Olivia turned sympathetic.

"What's your real name then?"

What a strange question that was. My real name. The thought warmed me thoroughly and I felt strangely shy, searching for Catherine's eyes. "Bogart," I whispered, tasting the strangeness of the name I had borne most of my life. "My mother claimed distant relation to the famous one." When I extended a welcoming hand, Catherine came over to be tucked into my side.

"I kept mine," she whispered and I nuzzled the reddish-gold hair.

"Because of your daughter?"


Olivia squirmed to get away and I let her escape, leaving me to gather my Coyote close and ignore the others for the time being. "Men suck," I mumbled and Catherine chuckled.

"Yes. What was yours like?"

"Cheating sweet-talker."

Catherine huffed humorlessly into my collarbone. "That was mine and more."

Someone entering the room caught my eye and I gave Catherine a squeeze before refocusing my attention. "Hey Fenris," I greeted my old pal and she grinned quizzically. "Your big Junkyard Dog here earned her leathers back." Olivia actually looked mildly embarrassed at Michael's appraising look. Then Michael turned to Pai, standing behind her.

"Go retrieve Dobie's leathers from my room." While Pai scampered off to do that errand, Fenris smiled at all of us. "I was hoping we could hang around and chat now that our duties to formality and mentors are over." Despite my exhaustion and aching chest, ass and crotch, I couldn't think of a better way to end the day. Besides, the acid taste of fear wouldn't leave me.

The time was coming... and fast.

The cat knew it.

++ KC ++

Being the Queen Mother of this corner of the Scene, I was an object of awe and delighted fear. It amused me hugely. Prostitution in Asia birthed this fringe empire over the course of three decades, and I couldn't be happier or more proud. Even this three-year hiccup with Sylvia hadn't ruined things, just monkey-wrenched them for awhile. "Silver," I called the nickname only loudly enough for my cronies to hear me. After many years of hating the nomer, I was amused to notice that Sylvia didn't bother to scowl this time. "I'm really glad you're here." It was the first time I had flat-out said it and she smiled warmly.

"Me too," she confessed and we all grinned together.

Not wanting to get too mushy, I rubbed my hands conspiratorially and my grin turned evil. "Perhaps you three would help an old woman." They chuckled and leaned closer over the table. "That pretty girl over there with the black hair and the big blue eyes? Fenris has been squirreling her away for years and I admit that I'm dying of curiosity."

"She's been in Leonacouer's hands for what must be nearly a couple of weeks now," Jesse mused thoughtfully, before suddenly springing to his feet. "I'll get her."

Even after all these years, he was such a good boy! I watched as Jesse spoke with the woman, who visibly blanched and nervous blue eyes flickered wildly from him to me and back again. Then she straightened up stubbornly and I swallowed a grin. Leave it to Grace to find someone powerful and mercurial. They must have some incendiary chemistry together. I watched Jesse smile at Jo, before wrapping one of those big hands around her neck and walking her over to the table. Long beats passed while we mentors studied her closely, and Jesse sat back down. Her chin was level, her gaze in the center of the table, her stance a tightly formal parade rest. Her torso was wrapped in a skin-tight, paper-thin layer of electric blue rubber that brought out her eyes and the black leggings both hid and hinted at her curves.

"Your name?" Anastasia asked in a no-nonsense voice and Jo drew herself up to a level of formality that bordered painful. Very nice.

"My Mistress has given me the name Junkie, Lady Heartsblood."

"Turn around," Jesse instructed and Jo immediately did as she was told to reveal a teardrop shape cut from the latex. "See, Silver? Your lessons with Fenris have paid off."

"Very nice," Sylvia complimented and I was inclined to agree. The sword with its climbing pyre of white flames was impressive.

Junkie's hissing reaction when I touched the ink was even better. "Michael must like that reaction," I commented dryly and sat back again. "Around again, Junkie." Once more, the bright eyes were on the center of the table. Very nice training on this one.

++ Michael ++

Whatever the hell I had been expecting when I returned to the reception, this hadn't been it. Jo was standing at loose attention, her eyes focused on KC, whose laughter suddenly rang out. Some distressed noise must have escaped me, for Dace and Karen chuckled, not unkindly, and patted my shoulders.

Wordlessly, I made my way to the boss' side, completely unnerved by the situation. While KC might be on the waning side of the aging spectrum, she had lost none of her fire and intimidation. Still whip-smart and as observant as an eagle, she was an institution in several circles. There was something about her, some indefinable spark that...

That I suddenly realized Dace and Catherine reminded me of.

Filing that information away, I came to attention at Jo's side, wanting to show solidarity with my playmate and lover. Whether consciously or not, she mimicked the pose, almost swaying in my direction. "Ma'am," I intoned clearly to KC, my voice pitched carefully to be heard only in the near vicinity.

"She's delightful, Grace. You shouldn't hide her away."

"It has become... habit," I replied truthfully and felt Jo stir slightly beside me.

"Yes," KC murmured and the too-raw pain of their long separation passed over the faces of my elders. "But no longer." The renewed fire in her voice made the cloud pass. "Junkie here was telling us how she came into your possession."

Breaking my formal stance, I relaxed, shifting my eyes to this extraordinary woman I was suddenly loathe to share with anyone. Stroking one silky cheek, I coaxed her to look up, smiling with my heart in my eyes. "She saved Gabriel," I said for their benefit before pitching my voice more intimate. "And me too, I think." I ignored the delighted laughter as Jo threw her arms around my neck and we hugged there in front of everybody. Something that sounded suspiciously like my name made it to my ears, and I heard the teary stress in Jo's voice. It was time to go and I raised my head, hoping the other Suits would forgive my informality. "If you'll excuse us."

Their gentle laughter followed us out.

++ Fox Mulder ++

In the nine days since coming to Chicago, the best I had managed to accomplish was getting to know the local pizzerias. With Scully and Reyes as my eyes and ears, all I could do was coordinate and catch up on old paperwork. Since I had decades worth of the stuff, the working vacation was doing me some good.

The phone had remained irritatingly silent... except for the brass back in the Hoover building nagging me for progress. So far I had managed to keep the dogs at bay with my reputation and history of getting results. Thankfully, the call from the CSIs in Las Vegas had made great strides in convincing them that I wasn't completely nuts.

A gooey chunk of classic Chicago-style pizza was halfway to my mouth when the cell buzzed. For a moment, I was honestly tempted to ignore it, tired of getting yelled at by my superiors. But duty won out and I lunged for it. "Agent Mulder."

"Agent Mulder," said a urgent female voice. "This is Lieutenant Commander Meg Austin, Navy."

Navy? Now what the hell was I getting dragged into? "What can I do for you, Commander?"

"I belong to the JAG Corps, Agent Mulder, and the sketch you released of this serial killer you're calling Snake-Eyes?"

"Yes?" My voice was tense with anticipation, and I forced myself to sit down.

"He's one of ours, or I swear your perp is an evil twin."

"Are you serious?"

"As a heart attack. I recognize the sketch, because he was stationed here at the Pentagon back when I was a Lieutenant JG. His name is Dwayne Garcia, and he's a Marine." So my nemesis had a name now. "He's received special training that makes him incredibly dangerous, but you already knew that, Agent Mulder."


This just got better and better...

"I'm coming to you, Agent Mulder, so that we can pool our resources."


"He has to be stopped, one way or the other."

++ Catherine ++

I was hardly shocked when my elder doppelganger approached me with a look of extreme curiosity. It was mutual, after all. She walked like a woman very much in control of her destiny, posture erect and stride self-assured. Her age was a total mystery, even as she drew close to return my frank, curious stare. There were delicate crinkles of age in the laughing corners of her eyes, and more lightly emphasized the features I knew so well. The resemblance was really eerie...

"Crazy," she murmured softly and I was stunned to hear that she... I... we even sounded alike! "Jesse tried to tell me how close the resemblance was, but I have to admit that I honestly thought he was exaggerating." One hand was extended along with a warm smile. "KC Koloski."

"Catherine Willows," I replied and willingly took her warm hand. "I see now why I shocked your friends so much."

"That you did," she chuckled warmly and took the seat beside me that Sara had been in. I felt a little exposed here, all alone, but when nature calls... "Lady Heartsblood tells me that you're from her city." A little wary now, I nodded stiffly and she leaned back with a smile. "I'm only asking out of a curiosity completely outside of what's going on around us." Once again, I was intrigued. "I may have a theory of why we look so much alike."

"I'm listening," I said in a neutral tone.

"You've got quite the game face, Catherine," my elder doppelganger chuckled.

"So Lady Heather told me," I drawled back and KC laughed out loud.

"You know Heather? Fascinating. And here, rumor had it that you were a neophyte."

"It was business related, actually."

"Isn't it always?"

Laughter bubbled up at her teasing comment. This was an easy woman to like. "So, I'm curious what your theory is. Some kind of six degrees of separation game?"

"Do you know a Sam Braun?"

The blunt question completely took me off guard. Memories crowded my mind's eye of the man who had taken such a powerful interest in my and my mother's welfare. As a child, the casino mogul had been a hero to me, a stable presence in my life. As a young woman, he watched over me as I worked the crowds with the skill of my dexterous young body and the pulse of raunchy music. As a forensics professional, he hindered me, subtly, in the quest of the shadowy goings-on around him.

And I had always wondered things about him...

"Yes," I answered quietly, trying to draw answers from this familiar stranger.

"I'm not surprised," KC sighed and seemed to deflate into her chair, suddenly looking old and weary. "A relative perhaps?"

"Not that I'm aware of."

"He is to me. He's my brother."

Shock wrote itself across my face, I could feel it spiral up from deep inside. This woman looked just like me, well, actually, I looked just like her. She was Sam's sister. Good God...

"I left Vegas before the Vietnam War, because I saw where he was headed. There was no way I was going to get caught up in that life. Prostitution was enough. Having your brother try and play a role in that was just weird and sick. So I headed where the soldiers did and made my own life. Changed my name and everything."

Once more, I stared at the face of this woman who showed me exactly what I would look like in my future. "I've always wondered why he took such an interest in me."

"Bet he's your father," KC said quietly and leaned forward to place a gentle hand on my arm. "But that would thrill me."

"Huh?" I said intelligently, bewildered by this strange course of events.

"Because that means that he did at least something right, and that's you."

++ Olivia ++

The night seemed to have been a resounding success. Conversation still flowed freely, everyone had enjoyed being in their roles in varying levels of formality and extremes. There had been much laughter and enjoyment, many happily satisfied Tops and Bottoms. Literally, I mused to myself as I eyeballed Dace's purple-striped ass nearby. She'd dressed in heavy leather chaps, her boots and an open leather vest, and nothing else. I'd guess it was to show off her war wounds and keep them from chaffing. She'd put on a hell of a show, even a novice like me could see the effect she was still having on the crowd.

I'd stuck close to the mysterious Candace DeLorenzo... Bogart, whatever; drawn to the extremes of her. The puzzle of her fascinated me, and the pure animal magnetism of her was formidable. Watching Dace affectionately place kisses and pats to Catherine and Sara, it seemed like I was the only one that wasn't completely smitten with the woman. Not completely anyway.

Then again, I'd initiated that hello kiss, so...

Dace's body language altered as she slipped from the reception, and I found myself following protectively. Karen watched silently, nodding at me soberly when I met the emerald eyes. It felt like a sign of trust and I took it to heart.

The damp, icy bite of Chicago's winter made me wince. Ah, just like home. It was easy to spot Dace's dark form in the false light of the city. Thankfully, she had scrounged up a heavy trenchcoat to cover her half-naked body. "Nice night," I quipped sarcastically and strode over to stand beside her. A faint smile tugged at her proud mouth, tense now with her stressful night. So I stood beside her, holding vigil over the bustling city around us. She was an attractive woman, with fine features that held a hint of baby-faced innocence that I knew was at least mostly an illusion. Beneath that human face was an animal power that I didn't understand, yet felt strangely familiar.

"He was here."

I hadn't really expected her to speak. Hell, I wasn't even sure why I was here. But there was something in her tone, flat and predatory, spiced with a primal fear that tugged at my blue cop's heart. There was no need to ask who she meant, I was only curious how she knew it was him. Groaning, Dace rested her weight against the short wall that kept us from the long drop to the street below.

"He's like me."

Many years ago, I had learned the art of well-planned silence. Often that's all it would take to make someone talk, that deep need that humanity has to fill an awkward silence. Bitter wind tugged at blonde locks, making Dace shiver. Then the mood shifted and the blue eyes danced with perverse warmth. She laughed, a beautiful laugh, a rich, warm sound that chased off the cold for a moment.

"You really didn't like me much," she suddenly said in a teasing tone and I rolled my eyes.

++ Dace ++

My sudden change of subject made Olivia roll her eyes in a very cop-like fashion, amusing and reassuring me at the same time.

"Dace," she smirked in exasperation. "I didn't understand you. No one really explained to me what the hell I was getting into. Now that I have a clue, I kinda like you." A friendly hip-bump made me grin like an idiot, happy to have this woman's sudden friendship. "Besides, this story is getting way too fascinating to walk away from. All the others are so freakin' infatuated with you, that you need someone to keep a level head around you."

"Is that why you kissed me?" I couldn't resist and she pointedly ignored the comment. It was a good point though, and I relaxed into the safety of her presence. "You're right. It's gotta have something to do with the cat, there's no other explanation."

Liv's expression was sly as she watched me from the corner of her eye. "You sayin' you can't get lucky with the ladies without your feline mojo?"


By the time I'd reviewed the foundation of what had been going on, the events were much clearer to both of us. From Magda's phone call to meeting Catherine, to the terror and rage that Snake-Eyes inspired in me, I spilled it all. It had been years since I'd been so open and honest, holding nothing back. Through it all, Olivia stood quietly with me in the dark, absorbing every word. God, she was great.

"Your partner's damn lucky," I finally commented, pulling out of my own head to notice how fucking cold I was. "You're great. Now c'mon, before we both freeze."

"Californian," Olivia sneered mockingly, but I could tell that she was pleased by my trust.

++ Lieutenant Commander Meg Austin ++

And to think I had only come in to look over some paperwork...

In the five months and two days since New York and the Pentagon had been attacked by terrorists, I had rarely left my hotel or the now-familiar twenty-seventh precinct. In the fallout of the World Trade Center's horrific destruction, the twenty-seventh was the only place where we had found space to set up shop. The events of 9-11 had made it obvious that the diverse facets of American law enforcement desperately needed to communicate effectively. That had been my life since being plucked out of the northwest headquarters.

"What the hell are you still doing here, commander?"

In the quiet of the early morning in the dead of winter in the Big Apple, the familiar voice startled me into dropping the massive stack of files I had been trying to move to a safer spot in my claustrophobic little office. Ignoring the mess for the moment, I whirled around to face my superior officer and her familiar smirk. "Jeezus, captain, you scared the hell out of me."

"I see that," Allison Krennick drawled wryly and stepped in. Damn her for looking so put together at four in the morning. Of course, I hadn't slept in nearly thirty-six hours. "Something has you all riled up."

That was an understatement and I took a deep breath and dove right in. Snatching the police sketch from my cluttered desk, I thrust it at her. "That's an old Marine buddy of mine. Sort of. I knew him years ago from working briefly at the Pentagon. Actually, I had a serious crush on him." Grunting, I picked up the now mangled pile of paperwork, scowling at the work it was going to take me to get it all back in order, and tossed it onto the top of the file cabinet. "He was a really nice guy, and his file is pretty much spotless."

"Then why is there an all-points bulletin out for his arrest out as..." her eyebrows rose as she took a close look at the paper. "As a serial killer?"

"I looked up his file," I rambled as I continued to sack my office. "Something happened to him in Bosnia. He was lost behind enemy lines for nearly three weeks and it... changed him somehow." Abruptly, I stopped in my tracks and stared wildly at the woman, noting her startled expression at my uncharacteristic wild intensity. "I want to help find him. Something isn't right about this, but I can't put my finger on it. What made him go bad? With no warning? What the hell happened to him?"

"Whoa, whoa," Krennick soothed and stepped over to stand close and stare at me closely. "You're getting stir crazy here, aren't you?" As tempting as it was to deny, some of my spastic energy was exactly that and I nodded stiffly. A long moment passed while she studied me and I fought the urge to flinch away from the scrutiny. "All right. I'll sign the paperwork for you to go try and save your pal, but be careful. I've gotten used to you as a sidekick." High heels clicked busily across the cement, a familiar sound I suddenly realized that I would miss. As grating as Captain Krennick could be, I'd grown fond of her over the years. She paused in the door to lean in and grin warmly at me. "Be sure you leave a farewell note to Briscoe. He'll miss you so."

Rolling my eyes at her tease, and trying to ignore the chuckle. The local detectives had been good to us, tolerating the strange presence of a bunch of Navy lawyers in their space. So I indeed scrawled out a quick note to Briscoe and Green, who had taken such good care of me in this strange city. It was the least I could do for them.

To be continued…

Return to the Information page
Go back to the last chapter
Go on to the next chapter