Year Twenty-Five


Catherine looked around the apartment they had been able to find and sighed, looking at Don.  "No way in hell.  You, me, and the twins in here plus Gwen?  No.  This isn't big enough for one of us."

"Yeah, and the PD says that this is all the allowance we get on this crossover crap, Kate."

"And you're going to throw a fit."

"Don't you dare call your father."

"I'm not, I'm calling their father."  She nodded at the twins in the stroller, then walked off to call him.  She looked outside then smirked. "Our liaison is here.  Go talk to him while I find us a place to live and a babysitter."

"Fine," he complained, walking outside.   He grimaced at the obvious local cop.  "Hey."

"Hi," he said quietly, looking around.  "This is nice."

"No it's not.  It's an efficiency for us and the kids.  So she's pulling a few strings to get us somewhere better."  He smirked.  "The father of her twins has a house locally."

"Ah.  Horvats?"

Don smirked, he could like this guy.  "Yeah, basically.  And he wants to see 'em anyway." He shrugged. "Catherine's being cranky today but she'll be right out."

"I was surprised you brought the kids," the redhead said dryly.

"It's not like I'd impose on my folks for that long."

"Are you two....."

"Best friends," he filled in before the suggestion could be made.  "Her dad gave her to my dad when she was ten."

"Okay.  I can handle that."  Catherine came out smiling with the stroller.  "My, that's a large family."

"Yup, this is Gwen, Toni, and Greta."  She patted them on the head.  They had decided when Greta was born to call her a girl since she had internal organs.  If she didn't like it, they'd let her change it when she got older.  "The twins are sleepy or they'd be babbling and trying to charm you.  Don, Gil's got a guest house we are free to use, free of charge, and three people we can count on as sitters, plus he will not intrude on us, not come near us, and hide in the house with the kids when he wants to see 'em.  He said you're still scary after the last time he snuck in to see them and you nearly killed him."

"Always happy ta help," he shot back with a smirk.  "Can we go now?"  She nodded.  So they looked at their liaison. "Shall we?"

"Sure.  We can work out there?"

"Yeah, it's quiet and nice," she assured them.  "Your name is?"

"Caine.  Horatio Caine."

She smiled and shook his hand. "I'm Catherine Cavanaugh, CSI, and this is Don Flack, normal cop."

"I've helped ours now and then down here," Horatio noted, shaking her hand.  He gave her a little smile.  "Where are we headed?  I can drive you all.  Probably."

"We'll be using our housing allowance to get a car tonight," Don assured him.  "Since it'll only pay for this much, it should cover that."

"If I knew it would've been this much of a problem, I'd have driven us down," she countered, glaring at him. She got the kids into the back, smiling at Gwen since she cuddled in really close to her so the two guys got the front seat.  "We are headed for just this side of Star Island."  Horatio smiled at that and nodded. "You know where his house is?"

"More or less.  My Captain got a report on you two when you were sent down.  Not on the case, but on you two."

"We work well together," Don admitted.

"We always have," Catherine agreed.  "We seem to find things the others miss."

"Good.  Then I look forward to watching your insanity.  You did bring sunscreen, right?"

"Oh, yes," she agreed dryly.  "Lots and lots of sunscreen, Horatio.  Or do you go by a nickname?"

"No, Horatio's fine.  Do you?"

"Nope.  Only Don gets that privilege.  And I begrudge him that."  Horatio smiled a bit at that.   "I knew he had an apartment but he said it was too small for all of us."

"It is.  It's not that far from the headquarters," he offered as he drove them that way.  He pointed out a road.  "Take that one, then the second right, and you're at the station."

"Good ta know," Don agreed. "They didn't tell you why we got sent?"

"No, not yet.  They expected you to bring myself and my captain up to speed."

"I've got the files in my bag," Catherine promised.  "Including crime scene photos."  That got a nod from their driver. "Basically, it's a serial case."  He moaned a bit at that. "Who's killing suspected dirty cops due to their family's leanings."

"Ah.  So are they or not?"

"A few were minorly dirty, most weren't so far that we've found," Don admitted.  "He's gotten six sets of bodies.  It's usually a cop and an innocent bystander.  We can't find a connection between the two.  We know that one of them was yours up on special assignment for a trial.  That's what brought us back down here when he went silent for too long and your people caught a pair."

"So he's switched cities," Horatio noted blandly.  "Charming."

"It's possible he'll go back, but we can't be sure and we want to stop him before he has much of a chance to think," Catherine told him.  "We've had our profiler up there working on it and for some reason I think she's got some of it wrong.  I've brought enough so your department's profiler can work on it as well."

"That's fine.  I'll tell my Captain to find us one."

"Ours works in the CSI labs," she offered.  "She used to be one of the PD shrinks."

"Those we do have," he agreed.  "We'll see what we can find.  Have the Feds wanted it yet?"

"Nope.  They're staying far, far away from me," Catherine noted dryly.  "The last time I got a Federal related case, I went through the agent in my way.  And I arrested him for obstructing justice.  Along with the judge who released the kids back into their mother's care to be killed.  I'm not well liked at the Hoover building for some reason," she noted dryly.  "We told them Don and I were working on it and they said they couldn't get it done faster."

"They think you're a target anyway," Don reminded her.

"True.  And this'll probably draw him to me faster," she agreed.  "Not like I can't handle myself."  They pulled into a gate and she rolled down the window.  "Gilliam told me to show up," she said when the buzzer sounded.

"Who?"  a male voice asked back.

"Dude, it's Catherine.  I've got his twins.  Let me the fuck in."  The gate opened and they were let in.  "Muscles," she sighed.  "No brains."  They drove up to the front door and she got out, looking at the man coming out.  "You look well."

"Thank you.  You look tired."

"I am tired.  We've got a serial killer.  Oh, this is Horatio Caine, he's our local liaison."

"I've seen him around.  He's a thorn in the side like Don is, only quieter," he agreed dryly.  "Around the driveway and to the back.  You'll have your own driveway, Catherine."  He smiled at her.  "Can I have them tonight?"

"As long as they're taken care of and you take all three."  He nodded eagerly.  "Then we're good."  She slid back in and shut the door, moving Gwen off her lap.  "Around the driveway.  We'll have our own private entrance."

"Cool," Don said happily.  "He wants all of them?"


"Good.  Less worry for me."  He grinned as Horatio drove on.  "So where are we going to get a car?"

"I can show you that as well," he offered dryly.  They found two guest houses and someone came out, pointing at the further one.  He nodded and headed there, finding the other entrance out.  "Let's hope this is better."

"It's got to be better than an efficiency," Don complained as he got out. "I thought our rents were high."

Horatio nodded. "They are.  It's just brighter down here and New Yorkers come down expecting to pay the same prices."  He smiled and helped them get their bags out of the car while they got the kids inside.

An older woman came out of the kitchen.  "Hello, I'm Mistress Kelsi.  I'm here to watch over the children when they're here, and to be your housekeeper and general cook.  Now, I have the gate codes for you for the back gate, and I also have the computer codes in case you need to log into our servers," she said, handing that to Catherine.  "My, you're adorable," she cooed.

"Yes, I am," Gwen assured her.  She smiled. "I'm Gwen and this is Toni and Greta.  Are you the one taking me to school?  I'm in Kindergarten."

"Yup, sure am," she agreed.  "I have cookies in the kitchen so your parents can work, sweetie, can you help me get the twins settled?"  She nodded and moved the twins that way, hauling them along when Toni only wanted the cookies.

"Cookies can go to your rooms," Don called.

"Yes, daddy," they called back.

He grinned at Horatio.  "I'm about the only one they know."

"That's fine.  It obviously works for you.  I have nothing to say and no right to."  That got a smile from Catherine, who hauled their bags back to the guest rooms and then came out with a large file.  Is that it?"  She nodded and handed it over.  He sat down on the couch to look.  "I was at that crime scene, and I can see why you think it's related, but are you sure?"

"Yeah, flip over a few pictures," Don said, sitting down too.  Horatio flipped then nodded, looking at the closeup shot of the writing on the cop's chest.  "So, yeah, we're sure it's related."

"That's fine."  He looked at him, then at her.  "What do you need?"

"Well, first, I want to go over with your lab what you guys found at the scene, see if there's anything vastly different or if it's planted stuff.  I wouldn't expect the same sort of dirt samples and things down here, so we'll know if he transferred any from New York.  Also, I want to get with the profiler as soon as we can.  I seriously think ours is wrong on a lot of counts."

"My gut tells me the same," Don agreed.  "We just can't prove it yet."

Horatio nodded. "Okay, how about we go back to the station, stopping to let you rent a car on the way."

Kelsi popped out. "They can use the spare car.  It's not registered under his correct name."  She handed over the keys with a smile.  "He expected it.  That's why he sent me out here.  Do you think you'll be back for dinner?"

"Probably not me," she admitted.  "Don?"

"Maybe.  Not sure how long the briefing and brainstorming will take.  I do know that we're going to have an early morning tomorrow.  It's due for him to leave another set of bodies."

"Okay," Kelsi agreed.  "Then my boss has said that he's taking all three of them to the house tonight and that they'll be spoiled rotten with roast lamb and couscous for dinner if that's all right?"

"They like lamb," she agreed.  "That's fine.  We'll check on them later and then get them back when we come home tomorrow night."  That got a smile and Kelsi disappeared.  "Only one car?"

"Yes, ma'am. Did you need two?"

"Probably not.  Thank you."  She looked at Horatio, who smiled.  So she shrugged.  "He's bending over backwards so no one looks at me funny.  I appreciate that."

"I'm sure my Captain will too.  Shall we?"  They gathered up everything and left together, her riding with Horatio to go over the recent scene in detail while Don drove the other car.


Later that night, Don looked over at their liaison.  He glanced around the office they were borrowing, then back at him.  "Listen, she's single, she likes smart, nice, cute guys.  You fit.  If you wanna ask her out, I'm only her little brother.  We are that close but she's not mine if you understand."  Horatio looked at him and nodded.  "And yeah, you're the first guy I've seen her lock eyes with that way in a damn long time, Horatio.  So if you want to, you step up and I'll be good with that."

"She still lives in New York."

"Yeah, and?  You're a native of there too," he reminded him dryly.  Horatio smiled, he had figured they had done a search on him.  "So it's good with both of us.  I know her and what she thinks about.  Trust me, had plenty of practice over the years."

"I'll consider it."

"Good.  She could use a nice guy in her life.  The last guy she dated was the father of the twins."

"She was married once?"

"Yeah, as part of her undercover assignment.  That would be Gwen's father and he put her into a short coma.  Twice."  Horatio stiffened at that. "He's in Attica and I've promised to kill him when he gets out.  For some reason they keep sending us out of town whenever he's got to be in the city for a hearing or anything.  I almost thought this case was one of those since he's in for an appeal but then we got the third set of bodies."

Horatio smiled at that.  "I'd probably have done the same thing," he admitted quietly.  "She seems like the sort to inspire loyalty and protective feelings."

"Yeah unless she's got PMS and then it's every man for himself," he noted dryly.  "That should be sometime next week.  Come in bearing chocolate, it'll save you her wrath."

"I heard that," she called from the hallway.

"Just warning the new guy like I do the rookies," he called back, smirking at Horatio. "Really, come in bringing chocolate," he said more quietly.  That got a nod and they got back to work looking at the similarities.  "Hey, Kate, there's motor oil at this scene and it doesn't appear to be native to that area."  She came in to look at the reports over his arm.  "Can we figure out what grade it is or anything?"

"Yeah, the Feebs have a database for that.  It's slow and cranky but they've got one.  As long as the lab here has Federal searching access I can do that.  If not, I can apply for it for them and it'll only take a few extra days.   I know two of the other scenes had motor oil on or near them.  It won't be definitive proof, Don."

"No, but it might be a start," he offered.

"True."  She sat down across from them.  "I went over everything with the profiler, including why I felt some of it was wrong. She's sticking up for her profession but she's agreed to look it over again, just in case the other person was mistrained or something.  I like Vega, but she likes childhood trauma way too much for me."  She popped open her soda.  "Any other similarities of the little stuff?"

"Could it be significant that he hasn't killed any women yet?" Horatio asked.

"Personally, yeah," Don agreed.  "To the profiler, no."

"That's one of those things that hit me too," she agreed.  "No one looks like they're under thirty and only one guy was, but he's the one with the premature silver hair.  He was twenty-eight if I remember right."  Horatio found that victim's information and nodded.  "I thought that was very significant but Vega didn't.  I was also starting to see a pattern in the non-leo victims until the fourth one."  She took the files and laid them out properly.  "Trace the addresses. He swings back and forth, then the fourth one shoots it, but the fifth one carries on and then the sixth one goes back to the first position.  Yours for the non- leo?"

Horatio laid it out, matching it.  "It's fitting the third victim."  He looked at them.  "We either missed one or switching up a number."  They both nodded.  "Have we searched the databases to find similar ones?"

"We've got a flag up," Don admitted, "but not all areas put into the system until they're at least a week old.  That gives them a chance to solve without lowering their stats."

"We do that and so does LA and most of the west coast cities," Catherine agreed.  "When your funding counts on your stats, you do what you have to to make them look nicer."  Horatio nodded, understanding that.  "Do you guys input directly?"

"After about a month.  Unless it's a serial."

"Or it involves something weird and a cop," Don agreed.  "That's our reasoning too for adding early."  Horatio nodded at that.   "Kate, did the crime lab have any leads?"

"Not really.  I kept Megan long after her shift was over with and amazingly enough they found the same thing we did, very little.  The paint was the same brand and color.  The fibers were the same shade and shape, from the same make of car.  She put an inquiry to the local dealerships to see what used it since the Feds don't have that database up and running yet.  I'm expecting Detroit to have theirs up first."  She leaned on the table, looking at them.  "Same body positioning, same essence to the words.  It's the same scene as all the others.  Nothing that points us at a killer, just links so far."  A handsome brunette woman walked in with a folder.  "Tell me you have something, Megan," she pleaded.

"Yes and no.  We have a car, guys."  She put it down.  "That color of auto paint and the fibers said it's a Dodge.  Unless, and this is a limited case and would narrow it down further.  The Thunderbird had that same color of paint once, just by a different name, and it could have been reupholstered.  That paint color wasn't popular so they quit it after three years.  Otherwise, we're looking for a Dodge Charger."

"Which aren't that uncommon," Don noted.

"True, but it's a start.  I've got a query in to the DMV to get a list.  It should be in tomorrow afternoon."  She stood up and noticed how the profiles were laying.  "A connection?"

"Yeah but our profiler didn't think so.  I told yours."

"Can we get a Federal profiler?"

"Nope," Catherine noted. "I already asked.  Their good ones are busy with some other serial killers."  She looked at her.  "They also said that our PD profilers should be just as good."

"But they're not trained the same."

"No, they're not," she sighed.  "And I can't think of another agency that uses them."

"The CIA does," Don told her.  "But I don't know anyone there."

"Let's see what ours comes up with," Horatio offered.  He checked his watch.  "It's two in the morning.  If he follows pattern, we'll have a body found by eight.  Megan, do you have their numbers?"

"Sure do, Horatio.  Am I calling you on this and them?"  He nodded. "Okay, see you in the morning, guys."  She walked out, leaving them to it for now.  She'd be just as tired in the morning.  These cases were what made careers so she would put up with some tiredness.

Horatio looked at them.  "We should go to bed too."  He noticed her blush and smiled shyly at her.  "Not yet, Catherine. Never on the first date."  She giggled and hit him on the arm, grinning at him.  "I'll see you in the morning."  They nodded and heading out, Don giving him a wink and a grin too.  He pulled out the police officer profiles to see if he could find another connection, other than background, to them as well.  Or to their victims.


"For the last time, get off your ass and ask him out," Don demanded a few weeks later. She grimaced at him.  "I mean it or I'm doing it for you."

"What, you're going to sit there and pass notes between us like the other girls did back in junior high?" she countered, glaring at him.  "I need new clothes."

He got up and turned her around, staring down at her.  It was nice, she only came up to his chin unless she was wearing heels.  "I know you were more focused on your brains in school and since then, but you're still a woman.  A very beautiful woman, who only has to look at this one guy right and he'd fall at your feet begging.   He's the sort of guy I'd cheer up and down for you to date, Catherine.  I will stand there and give you away to him and then handcuff you two together for kinky sex on your honeymoon.  Now, get off your ass and ask Horatio out.  He likes you."

"You can't be...."

"I can be.  That look he gives you is a good one, an admiring one.  Not just because you've got a wonderful set of tits that motherhood only enhanced," he offered, making her blush, "but because you're you.  Now, get off your ass and ask him out to do something fun!  You need some fun, Kate."

"Fine.  Are you sure?"

"I'm sure," he agreed.  "Just go!"

"Yes, daddy."

"Thank you!  Getting you to be happy is like pulling teeth sometimes.  Hell, if you marry him, I'm still gonna be there.  He already realizes that and that you have three kids. They all call him uncle already."  She smiled at that.  "So, where do I need to make reservations for you to go?"

"That place on the beach?" she suggested.

"Is nice," he agreed, going to do that for her.  He came back with a slip with time and date.  "No talking about work either."  He kissed her on the forehead. "You're right, you need new clothes.  So do I."  He grinned.  "We can do that."

"We can," she agreed happily.  "Do you think he'd mind....."

"Nope.  Not in the least."  He went to call Horatio.  "Our princess wishes to find something cute to wear that won't make her sweat to death in your daylight torture hours.  You up ta help us?" he asked with a grin.  "Yeah, I know, days off are precious and this case is taking it out of us.  Hence us doing the shopping thing and watching her be girlish."

"Don!" she yelled.


"No, bug!  Big ass bug!"

He walked in there and stomped on it.  "That's how you kill those things, Kate."  He heard the laughing.  "Nah, huger than most New York roaches," he noted dryly.  "Yeah, one of those.  No, she's not a big fan of bugs.  Sure, we'll be here."  He hung up.   "Cute, really," he offered dryly, heading back to finish hanging up the phone and change into something more casual.  Maybe he'd find someone nice too.  He heard the car about the same time as he zipped up his pants, sliding into his sneakers and heading out once he had his usual compliment: wallet, keys, badge, gun.  Horatio smiled at them.  "Kelsi, we're heading out to shop!"

"We already got Gwen new clothes," she called back.

"For us, Kelsi, for us."

"Oh, okay."

Don walked out of the house shaking his head.  As he walked past Horatio he slipped him the copy of the date appointment slip and got into the back of the car.  "So, where are we heading?"

Horatio got in after letting Catherine in her side. "What were you looking for?"

"Something more comfortable than every suit I brought with me," he noted dryly.

"That's why most of us wear linen down here, Don," he noted with a smirk back at him.  The slip was already in his pocket and he had glanced at it.  "What about you, Catherine?"

"Just something cooler.  I'm tired of swimming inside my clothes by the afternoon."

"I can understand that."  He led them to his favorite mixed shop and led them inside, nodding politely at the personal shoppers.  "They're down from New York. It's not as warm up there."

"It is in the summer time but I can wear jeans at scenes," Catherine countered.  "Here I'm in the office or the labs most of the time. I need to look more professional."

"Wear jeans, plenty of the women do," Don reminded her.

"Yes, but I'm here to consult, Don, the same as you are.  We're supposed to look professional and Feeb-like."

"Take that back," he joked, giving her a shove.  "I do not look like some Fed."

Horatio smiled and shook his head.  "Children."  They smirked at him.  "Let's find you decent clothes that can do both."  They nodded and went to look.  He saw the dress Don was looking at, looking at it, then her, then shaking his head and finding something else and handing it to her.  "I think you'd look nice in that," he said quietly, moving to help Don a bit with the personal shopper's help.  She was blushing nicely and it was cute.


Horatio smiled as she was sat down across from him at the table a week later. "I started to worry."

"I had trouble picking clothes."  He smiled at that.  "Don's so fussy sometimes."

He nodded.  "That's what siblings are for.  I have a brother who called up to nag me to shave.  He thinks I'm twelve sometimes."

"Don wobbled between this dress and the other one but he decided this dress made me look hotter."

"It does," he agreed, smiling and touching her hand on the table.  "I didn't order yet.  They have some very good seafood here."

"Steak?  And I'm paying since my little brother made the reservations."

He smiled.  "We can pay for our own, Catherine."  She blushed at that.  "I'm not used to being treated by the lady."  He gave her hand a squeeze. "They do have this very nice steak dish here that's easily shared."  She blushed and smiled at that.  "Wine?"

"I'm good with wine.  I haven't really drunk since I was in college and Don used to come over to hog my beer stash."  He laughed at that. "It got him out of the house when our sisters were fussy."

"You have a sister?"

She nodded.  "Mirin.  She's two years younger than Don, the same age his sister is.  It's an odd family but it works okay for us most of the time.  Even if his father was nagging for the longest time for us to get together."

"Did you try?"

"Yeah, but it's nothing but comfort between us.  It's like it can happen, but then we go back to our own beds."  He nodded at that.  "It's been a long time anyway."

"You don't have to explain it to me.  I've watched you two since you got down here, Catherine.  I understand how close you are and I know that you and Don come as very tight friends and near-siblings."  He smiled at her.  "The same as I think your kids are adorable and that Greta may change to a boy later."

She nodded.  "I think he might too.  When he's old enough to understand we'll discuss that with him and let him make his own choice."  She shifted her hand to stroke his.  "This is the first date I've been on since I broke up with the twin's father.  It's been a while."

"Some things are classic," he offered.  "Like a woman who knows her mind."

She blushed.  "Not that I did much dating before then," she offered.

"I saw you did a double major in two and a half years.  How?"

"Taking as many credit hours as I could spring, summer, and fall every year. I did twenty- one hours most semesters and a lot of the classes were necessary for both.  Technically I was on the pre-med track but I got me where I wanted to go.  Now I'm working on my Master's in Forensic Criminology."

"I'm impressed.  How many classes do you have left?"

"One.  I'm doing my thesis while I'm down here.  Don's been very good about making sure Gwen can't help me type this time."  He smiled at that.  "She's helped me type papers in the past and a few of the teachers thought it was cute and some I had to hand in corrected copies when I carried in the wrong ones.  I was using a typewriter until a year ago.  So a few of my papers had crossed out lines of alphabet and simple sentences. My DNA teacher hated that I have children and I could use Greta as an example so often. She even had me rerun the tests to make sure I wasn't making her up."  He smirked a bit at that.  "You?  College?"

"Criminology.  Pretty standard," he offered.  "I liked science and I got along well with it but it wasn't what I was focused on."

"Do you think you could work with a crime scene unit?  I noticed you were waiting for orders the first one you worked with us."

"I'm not often part of that," he admitted.  "I'm edging toward bomb squad at the moment; still small and minute connections, but more physical ones."  She shivered.  "Worked with some after the fact?"

"A few times and I don't like ours in New York.  They treat the female officers like we're expendable.  One of them told me last year to come take evidence off the bomb he was working on and no, I didn't need the special suit since it wouldn't fit my attributes."

"Got him demoted?"

"Got him fired.  There was a news crew."  He smiled at that.  "Hey, I'm the girl who took on the Cardinal in New York over my former headmaster tanking my grades on purpose."  He made an inquisitive noise and she teased his hand.  "He gave my sister and Steph's year a talk about how to 'capture' your man."  Horatio moaned.  "Needless to say I wasn't happy and I faced him down about it when he tried to say I was a mouthy brat.  Of course, I was fourteen and a junior, on the academic olympic team for the city and the school."  He smiled at that.  "So he had me failed across the board for final grades and tried to say I was back in ninth.  I went to the diocese with it and filed a formal complaint, kicked up a fit, and then made a few pointed remarks about some girls who had to suddenly leave the school.  They had to investigate because I vowed I was going to an attorney right after I left their office and the office staff helped me with it. So yeah, I graduated with honors and all that."  He smiled at that.  "No one ever said he was *wrong* about me being a mouthy brat.  Don's mother soaped my mouth more than one time."

"My mother tried to beat it out of me," he offered quietly.  He smiled at the waiter coming over.  "Steak?"  She nodded.  "We'll have the number ten.  Rice or potatoes?"

"Potatoes.  Rice give me a bit of a stomach problem."  He smiled at that.  "No one said I wasn't human."

"You seem to be beyond mere mortals when you're on a scene," he offered quietly.  She blushed at that.  He looked at the waiter. "Have someone pick a decent bottle of wine to go with it."  That got a nod and he left them alone.  "What is your thesis on?"

"Alternate ways to break down DNA from semen for sampling."

"How many are there?"

"Four.  One's highly used, one's got many flaws, and the other two are fairly new so I'm proving their base rate of failure.  My boss says it looks good on the lab so he's letting me do them on my off hours. Which is why I don't date."  He smiled at that and shook his head.  "It is."

"It's not.  It's more that there's no worthy men.  Or else you wouldn't be here now."  She smiled at that.  "Even if Don had still pushed."  She nodded, accepting that.  "You should have high standards.  You're a brilliant, sexy, intuitive woman who should have the best.  Which I'm probably not."

"You're a damn sight better than the ones I thought were decent enough. You're at least in the top two percent so statistically you're about as close to a human match as you can get."  He smiled at that, blushing a bit.  "Would you, um, like to proofread my thesis?"

He smiled and nodded. "I'd be honored.  Are you presenting it?"

"Once it's accepted. I'm presenting to the thesis board this spring so I'll be doing the big CSI convention this fall if it's accepted."

"I'll see if I can attend."

"I'm the world's most boring speaker."

"No you're not.  He was our firearms instructor at the academy."  She giggled at that, nodding a bit.  "Yours too?"

"Yup, we got yours right after you went through.  You're right, he's worse.  I've still got to design my presentation. All the slides and stuff."

"You'll be brilliant and the only way they won't accept is if they're biased because you're female."  She relaxed and smiled.  "I find you incredibly exciting to listen to.  They will to."  She blushed a bit at that.  "After dinner, would you like a walk on the beach?  I like to watch the waves at night. I find it relaxing."

"Sure," she said weakly.  He smiled and their dinner came so he let her hand go for now.


Don looked over when Horatio came in Monday morning, smirking a bit and checking the halls.  "I'm assuming that since she didn't come home you either buried her somewhere or she's happy and content.  It had better be the second and stay that way."  He bent back over the pictures.  "There's a tire tread at this last scene and we can't figure out from what.  Catherine?" he called.  She came jogging in.  "The last scene was a tire tread.  From what?"

She looked, leaning over to look at the measurement ruler next to it and consider it under a magnifying glass.  "Truck. Light one, small.  Maybe like those Brat truck odd things."  She looked at him.  "I don't remember seeing this."

"Megan found it in the nearby parking lot, which would've been as close as you could've come to drive up and dump."

She frowned, pulling out the autopsy reports to look over.  "No, these two were done on scene.  No fibers found on the body were noted.  None in the hair, and the blood pool is consistent with it being done on scene."  She looked at the addresses.  "I'm not so sure this is even our guy."  She handed it to him. "It doesn't fit the pattern we've created.  It doesn't precisely fit the profile we've worked up and had to tweak because both of them ignored things like the pattern in the addresses.  And I doubt a background into the local officer is going to show anything.  All I've heard so far is 'well respected family, been in the department for generations, were here when the city began and the last one'll be here when it closes'.  Like the Flack family."  He nodded, frowning a bit.  "I'm going to exclude this one unless we can find something pretty clear that it's the same person."

"It's not," Horatio offered.  "I don't think it is."  He took the picture to look over.  "The handwriting on the bodies looks different.  The letters are shaped differently.  Can someone look these over for that?"

"We can," Megan announced as she came in. "And we've got the missing case.  It's in Vegas."  Horatio handed her that one.  "What's wrong with it?"

"A copycat," she said dryly.  "Killed on scene instead of brought in.  Handwriting's different.   Do we have any information on the case from Vegas?"

"We do and they've sent their cop down to work on it," she admitted, sitting down to look it over. "This is different.  Does it fit any of the patterns we've found?"

"No and it's not in the right spot to be the odd one out," Don told her. "That's not ours."

"Okay, we'll go back over this one with a less jaded eye, see if we can find anything else."  She looked at them.  "I knew this officer and his family's never even had the hint of a dirty cop.  They'd probably take out their own if they were."

"You might wanna tell the family it's a copycat then," Catherine offered.  "Just in case they go after our suspect too."  She nodded, going to have a discreet word with a member of that family and then go back over that case.  "Megan, Vegas guy is getting here when?" she called.

"Tonight, late!  He'll be here for the next scene if we can't stop him!"

"I still think we should be able to narrow down the site of the drop," Horatio offered.  "Catch him at the very least dumping the bodies.  If not when he's checking it out for how."

"So far, he's dumped in four areas twice and one area once," Don admitted, pointing at them.  "Now, there's no pattern in how he chooses."

"But still, five areas we can have staked out," Catherine reminded him.  "So that'll either force him to break his pattern or...."

"We'll get him when he opens his trunk at the very least," Horatio agreed. "Why didn't we see this earlier?"

"We've been focusing on the victims," she sighed.  "And I think I know who tonight's is so I'm going to opt out of the stakeout to sit with him.  You guys arrange that?"  They nodded. "Good, I'm going to find my shadow."  She headed out and down to the meeting areas she had asked the officer to meet her at.  She found him pacing and laid a hand on his arm.  "I'm pretty sure it's you.  You or Zachary."

"Zachary's a good cop," he said quietly.

"It doesn't matter to this guy.  He's been picking people with a family issue instead of the truly dirty cops.  The few truly dirty ones have been because they followed the bad examples," she said quietly.  "Zachary is being guarded by his family.  I called in a favor to talk to one of them about this case and pointed out their son was a target.  He's got a bodyguard and you don't.  The other guys are staying together now.  I'm with you."

"You're just a little girl!"

"I'm a full officer, I made tops in my class at the Academy, over all."  He looked stunned.  "My final test was second highest since we opened the new Academy fifty years ago, topped only by Don's father.  I'm also a crack shot and the most stubborn bitch you'll ever find.  So you're mine tonight.  Got it?"  He nodded.  "Can you go on desk duty today?"

"No.  And no one knows."

"Yeah, they do.  IAD knows.  They're the ones who gave me the list to warn."  He moaned.  "So we tell your boss.  Even if you do transfer.  We could use you in New York."

"I like Miami."

"Sure.  Then let's talk to them.  Your cousin is more than enough to cause you to be on the list."  He nodded, following her back to his unit.  She placed herself in front of the desk, coughing when she didn't get looked at.

"What?" he asked, not stopping his paperwork.

She snatched the pen and put it down, staring him down.  "His cousin was arrested three years ago for drugs."


"So, that makes him on the list for the serial killer."

"Oh."  He blinked at his guy.  "Seriously?"  He nodded. "You never said anything."

"It's not like I associate.  I heard about it from the papers, the same as everyone else did.  But IAD is searching those of us with families that might put us in danger."

"Which leaves him unprotected," Catherine finished.  "I think it's him or Zachary and he's got a tail.  So I need him on desk duty today until I can pick him up and go home with him tonight."

"Aren't you a CSI?"

She put her badge down on the table. "Does it say that on there?" she demanded. "I was tops in my Academy class.  Second highest final score since we built the new one fifty years ago.  I'm also the better shot between me and Don Flack.  So yeah, I may be a CSI but I'm still a cop.  Now, I need him on desk duty today until I can follow him home later on."

"Fine," he agreed.  "What if it's one of the other guys?  Or if they missed someone?"

"We haven't.  We went back through and had someone at the Academy who does all the geneology stuff pull the records.  The only two who will be alone tonight are him and Zachary and Zachary is guarded."

"His family?"

"Someone who owed them a favor but not directly connected.  They don't want their son dead either."

"Okay.  Does he know this?"  She nodded.  "Did he protest?"

"He threw a fit worthy of my six-year-old daughter."  That got a small smirk.  "We good on these orders and to remind the others that they're going to be together all night?"  He nodded.  "Thank you."  She looked at him.  "You have any complaints?"

"I'm not sure I can sleep with a woman in my apartment unless she's in my bed."

"I'm not going to be sleeping with you or near you so you can crash and make it to work tomorrow.  Got it?"  He nodded, smirking a bit.  "Hey, not like I need it.  Get your mind out of the gutter."  He smirked and walked out, going back to his desk.  "With any luck, we'll get him when he goes for his victims tonight, and if we're really unluckly it'll be when he dumps.  Did Flack call?"

"He did," he agreed.  "I've already arranged for unmarked cars on those sites and two others that fit the description.  I figured he might not have seen them before."  She nodded at that.  "You think we can really end it?"

"I so hope so."  She looked at him.  "I'm tired of going to funerals and the next one I go to had better be his after he's executed."  He nodded at that, smirking a bit.  "Any other questions?"

"This personal for you?"

She nodded. "Yes."   Then she walked out, heading back to their borrowed office. "Okay, I'm going with my target.  Zachary is guarded whether or not he likes it.  We've got the stakeout set up.  I'm going to nap for a bit so I can stay up all night.  Any other issues we can see?"

Horatio nodded. "Yes, but it's deployment and I'm better at that anyway."

She nodded. "Good.  I'm going to dream about throttling assholes who tell me I'm just a CSI and a little girl."  Don snorted.  "Your father included."  She smiled at Horatio.  "Thank you for not even thinking that."

"Well, you are a bit smaller than I am but I know what sort of danger lurks in smaller packages."  She blushed and went to the break room to catch a long nap.

"So, call me when you come to New York when we gt back.  That way I can take the kids for the night."  Horatio smiled at that.  "Long distance stuff is hard, but you make her happy.  As long as you keep making her happy, we're good.  The minute you don't, you'll die.  That goes without saying."

Horatio smirked a bit.  "I figured it should.  We'll see what happens, Don.  Now, how are we working SWAT into this?  They've ordered us to."

"Well, unless he turns this into a standoff, I can't see a way," he noted.  "They can be on the listen for someone to call him in too."

"That's what I was thinking. What about the Vegas case?"

"If she's right, we'll correlate and let them play state roulette with you and us.  If she's wrong, it can only help the next one."

Horatio looked at him.  "Could they be going for her?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah," he admitted.  "She's tops on the list in my head.  With her dad?  Yeah.  And that's one of the reasons she's working so hard.  That and she's been mentoring some of the kids who're in her spot, giving them an outlet when everyone watches you.  Like her trainee does her."

"She's got a trainee?"

"She's a CSI level two, Horatio.  The Chief gave her this Marine who joined with a bit of military experience and told him to keep her on the straight and narrow.  Some day soon she's going to brain Taylor for watching her like that."

"Wonderful," he said dryly, smirking a bit.  "Can't wait until I meet him."

"Hey, you get leave time, she gets leave time, you guys can work out the travel stuff between you.  Come up and visit your family."  That got a smile.  "Okay, which one are you taking?"  Horatio pointed at the one his gut told him was for tonight.  "That's the one I want too.  Okay, so we'll deploy double teams?"  That got a nod and Don made sure it was two officers in each unmarked car.  They had no basis for their hunch but after four months of working in Miami on this and another six in New York, they were up to hunches and feeling it.


Catherine heard the cat hissing at the door and smirked at it.  "Good kitty," she whispered.  Cats were some of the best burglar alarms in the world, especially if they were paranoid.  She pulled her weapon and slowly stood up.  The officer's floor creaked badly around the couch.  She had her gun up and pointed at the figure slowly opening the door. "Freeze, Police Department."  The figure froze, then lunged at her.  She got off a shot, a wild one into the wall since he had just hit her arm, and then went at him with her fists.  Those fighting lessons she had made Don give her were coming in handy today.  The other officer came out and tried to help but ended up getting stabbed.  She kneed the guy in the stomach but not hard enough to dislodge him.  One hand struggled with his knife hand and he was still stronger and on top.  "Fuck you," she grunted, headbutting him.  He moaned and she was dizzy.  That's why her hand on the knife wrist slipped some and the knife got her in the shoulder.  She screamed and got him off her finally, turning over to punch him twice in the face, then grabbed her handcuffs.  "You have the right to remain silent...."

"Freeze, Miami Dade PD."

"Aw, shut the fuck up and come cuff this asshole.  He's the serial killer."  They rushed in and called an ambulance for them, and got the guy cuffed with only a few more bruises.  She looked at the officer, who was whimpering.  "You good?"

"No.  Hurt."

She moved over to check on him, helping by shifting where he was putting direct pressure on.  "It'll cut the nerve too," she offered, looking at the paramedics coming in.  "Hi."

"Shit," one said, coming over to look at them.  "That serial killer case?"  Catherine nodded.  "You okay?"

"Mine's easier than his."  She looked at the officers.  "Leave all units where they are.  I've never been sure if he worked alone at gathering victims."  That got a nod and they passed on the order for her.  "Someone find my piece too please?  He knocked it out of my hand when he rushed me.  That's why my shot went wide."

"You moved my coffee table," the officer complained.

"I didn't want to trip over it."


"You can always move it back."

"Yes, ma'am."

She let the pain take her, looking at the paramedic working on her arm.  "How bad?"

"Not very.  You'll need some stitches but not surgery.  Are you an officer or a detective?"

"Officer Cavanaugh, CSI New York."  She winced and hissed as they helped her to her feet.  Her piece was found and put back for her.  "Thank you.  How much does he weigh?"

"About three hundred, all muscle," one of the patrol guys offered.  "Why?"

"He ended up on top of me, wondering if I should have them checked for bruised ribs."   The paramedics nodded as they walked her out and rolled the other guy.  "He good?"

"He'll be fine, Officer Cavanaugh.  You did good."

"I still don't know if there's a second or not."

"There may be," the officer following them offered.  "He had his ID on him."  He let her see it and she moaned.  "You know him?"

"Yeah, IAB New York.  Shit.  Call Flack and warn him of that.  Please?  Don't tell him I was injured or he'll throw a fit in the car and probably smack Horatio too by accident."  That got a smirk.  "He's got a nasty swing when you let him."  She got into the ambulance with a sigh of relief, letting herself black out now.  Orders were given, things were moving forward, it was all good.  She could relax now.


She woke up to yelling and her first instinct was to throw something but someone caught her hand.

"Shh, you're fine," Horatio said calmly.  "Don's venting and you're fine.  You got one, we got the other," he promised.  She nodded, letting herself drift some more, listening to Don vent, chuckling a bit at part of it.  "I know, he's being inventive today."

"It's his only form of creativity," she said quietly.  She found herself hugged by the loud one and moaned.  "Don, arm," she whimpered.

"I'm sorry.  You okay?"  He stroked over her forehead. "That was fucking stupid, you should've had backup outside!" he yelled.

"We were stretched too thin," she complained.  She blinked up at him.  "You woke me up."

He smirked.  "Good!  It's mid-morning, Kate."  She stuck her tongue out and looked at Horatio, who let her see his watch. "Fine, don't believe me."

"Don, blow me."

"You're not a guy and hearing you use that phrase is nearly as creepy as hearing you use sports metaphors to talk about my sex life," he complained, sitting down.

"Fine, bite me then," she said with a faint grin for him.  "Everyone involved?"

"Yeah, we found the links back ta Vegas for their guy and correlated it for him.  Theirs was the one missing in the pattern since that address didn't come out down here. We did good, Kate.  Really good."

"Wonderful. Can I have a few vacation days?"

"Uh-huh, and when we get back, dad said something about commendations."

"Oooh, yippee," she said flatly.  "Just what I need.  More attention."

"It'll help you make detective faster," he reminded her.

"Ooh, yippee."

Horatio smiled at that.  He had been handed his earlier. "It's nice, the gold shield automatically gets some extra respect."

"Not when you're female and we're promoted later."

He kissed her on the forehead.  "We'll see."  He looked at Don.  "Shouldn't we call the nurse?"

"Probably.   Yo, nurse!" he yelled.  She came to the door and he pointed.  "She's up."

"You couldn't use the call button!" she complained, coming in to check her over.  "I can kick him out if you want."

"He's like my little brother.  I'll kick his ass when I'm less tired."  She yawned and the nurse smiled, so she drifted off again.  When she woke up this time it was just Don so she pouted.  "Horatio?"

"Eating dinner.  We're taking shifts now."  He grinned at her. "I'll tell him you wanted him here more."  He stood up and kissed her on the forehead.  "The last few were dug out of their holes and the whole thing has been solved.  We're not due back until Friday to get the commendations and then back to work on Monday."  He stroked over her cheek.  "You had me so worried, Kate."

"I could tell by the level of yelling."  She yawned again. "What do they have me on?"

"Good pain killers," he offered.

"Just like when you got shot on the leg?"  He nodded.  "Good deal."  She wiggled until she was on her side.  "You can climb up."  He climbed up behind her, letting her lean on him.  "Good little brother.  Now stay."

"Yes, dear.  I know you hate sleeping alone.  The nightmares are why you're on the stronger stuff.  When did they come back?" he asked quietly.

"Whenever I'm drugged."

"Ah.  Okay, I'll remember that for when we go home."  Horatio came in and he nodded him closer.  "Nightmares."  He kissed her on the ear and got up, pointing at his spot.  "Yours if you want it."  Horatio smiled and climbed up with her.  "Kate, I'm going to eat and call Dad.  You rest."  She nodded, waving her good hand.  He smirked at Horatio, who just nodded, so he left them alone for now.  He stopped at the nurse's desk.  "Detective Caine is up on her bed to help with the nightmares," he said quietly.  "She said they only come back when she's drugged stupid."

"Do you know the cause?"

"Her mother dying in her arms when she was six."

"Oh.  I see.  All right, as long as he doesn't interfere with her wires or anything."  Don nodded and walked off.  She went to check on her then make notes on the chart since nothing bad was going on.


Don hooked up with Catherine Saturday.  His father had taken him out to eat last night and she had went home to sleep some more.  He found her on the couch with the kids watching cartoons, grinning at the quiet children.  "You guys asleep?"

"We want Uncle Horatio," Gwen complained. "Right now!"

"Can't do that, sweetheart.  He'll come visit when he can.  All right?"  He gave her a hug. "You've still got me."

She looked at him.  "Why did you let mommy get hurt?" she asked.

"I didn't *let* her get hurt, Gwen."  He sat down next to her, letting Toni into his lap.  She was his lap stuffer most of the time.  "Your mommy got hurt guarding another officer from the bad men we went down there to find.  Horatio and I were guarding another spot.  If I had been there, your mommy wouldn't be hurt, but my job wasn't to be watching with your mommy.  My job was at the other spot."   She scowled at that.  "When you're old enough to understand I'll explain it better, but there wasn't any way for me to be there with her.  Your mommy made the assignments.  Not me."  She sighed and nodded.  "Okay?"  She shook her head.  "Then we'll talk about it more later."  He gave her a kiss on the head. "Watch Popeye there."  He smiled at Toni, who just beamed back.  "Good girl."  He looked at Greta.  "You too."

"Boy," she pouted.

"Okay, good boy."  Catherine laughed at that so he looked at her.  "Dad nearly pouted all the way through dinner that you didn't get promoted for this the way Horatio did."

"He did?"

"Yeah, the day you woke up.  Their chief came by after he reported in that you were awake and brought him his gold shield."  He shrugged.  "Dad said you should've gotten yours for not only figuring out the pattern but also figuring out the target and managing to survive when the big idiot landed on you.  By the way, backup is good."

"Timmy was up here," she said quietly.

"I know, which still sucks.  It won't be happening again.  Hell, even Taylor would've been better."

"I bet his shot wouldn't have been wide either."

"Your shot went wide because he grabbed your arm.  Not because you're a bad shot. You're better than I am, Catherine.  So quit pouting before I tell Horatio you do that."

"Yes, Don," she complained.

"Thank you!  Now, you going to claim recovery time on Monday?"  She shook her head. "Going to stay in the lab?"

"I'll have paperwork to wrap up."

"Yeah, me too," he admitted dryly.  He shrugged. "It happens.  At least we proved both profilers wrong."  He looked down at Tony, who was playing with his stubble.  "What?"

"You're cute."

"Thank you.  Now if you could find me a nice girlfriend and tell her that, I'd appreciate it."

"Can I date you?"

"No, you're my little girl.  We can't date. It's against the law."

"Oh.  Okay.  Then I'll find you a pretty girl the next time we go to the store."  She settled in to watch cartoons with the rest of the family.  She checked on her mommy and found her sleeping so that was good.  "Shh, mommy nap," she hissed to her big sister, who looked then nodded, pulling her over to hug her.

"Come on, guys.  Let's go to lunch then see grandpa," Don said quietly, gathering them up and taking them off, leaving her a note just in case she worried.


Year Twenty-Eight


Don looked at his new gold shield, then at his boss, then put it down on the desk. "Cavanaugh deserves hers more than I do," he said quietly.  "I don't want mine until she gets hers."

"You don't make that decision," he said coolly.

"Well, ya know what, compared to me, she's a fucking saint.  She's solved more cases, she's trained more rookies, she's run the damn CSI unit for the last six years.  She's saved more asses, including yours, than I have.  She deserves it more than I do.  So give her hers and I'll take mine back."  He got up and walked out, heading up to talk to her.  "Kate?" he called from the doorway.

"If you gave your gold shield up, I'm going to tell your father on you," she noted without looking up.

"You knew?" he asked, coming in and closing her office door.

"Yup, got it shoved in my face earlier today by Taylor."  She looked at his belt, then at him.  "Don."

"Shut up, Kate.  You deserved yours three years ago when you saved the damn school by figuring out who the arsonist was.  The only thing holding yours back is petty politicking and your father.  It's not right."

"No one ever said the world was fair and ya know what, I can sue the department over mine," she reminded him dryly.  "Including the fact that I passed the test with a higher score four years ago."  He looked stunned so she looked at him.  "Not that it did me any good.  So yes, I can sue for mine."

"You sure you wanna go that way?  They'll try ta make you leave."

"Hey, then I'll go be cranky in Miami."  She shrugged and got back to work.  "We're going to be remodeling this place next year."

"Good it's about time."  He sat down across from her. "It's still not right."  Someone tapped on the door.  "S'open!"  Two officers came in.  "Escorting me out?"

"Her, sir.  There's been a death threat against her."

"Really?  Like I give a shit," she said dryly.  "If I leave this lab in a body bag at least I know the ME will now have a clue what the fuck he's doing."  They looked stunned.  She glared at them.  "Out, boys.  I don't care if the fucking Pope is gunning for me.  Got it?"  They nodded and backed out of her office, taking off running.  "Good."  She glared at Don, then called his father. "Your son did something stupid.  You want me to beat him or you want the honor?"  She looked him over.  "You mean like he's still wearing his silver shield?"  She hung up and got back to work.  "Anything else, Flack?"

He snorted.  "Like that's going to save me," he said dryly.  "You're being a bitch, need some chocolate?"

"No, I need quiet so I can fill out this grant paperwork."

"Sorry."  He stood up and made her look at him. "I'm not taking mine until you get yours.  It's not right.  Especially if you scored high enough four years ago ta get it.  Even Dad'll back that up, Kate."  He walked out, glaring at Taylor. "She's doing grant stuff. You need help?"

"Yeah, actually I do.  We're figuring out a weapon."

"I can help with that.  Keeps me out of the line of fire upstairs for a bit.  I'm sure my dad's going to be throwing a fit soon.  It's his last month on the job, it's his right."  Mac nodded and led him to where he was working, making Don grimace at the photos.  "That's what's bothering me.  This is more explosive than an explosive tipped bullet, but it's clearly not a real explosive.  It's a bullet wound under it."

"Could the explosion be a coverup?"

"No, Sheldon said it's not.  He said it was still living when it was exploded."

"Doesn't mean the bullet killed him instantly, right?" Don suggested.  "Or did it?"

Mac looked at the autopsy report again then handed it to him.  "Shot from a distance of at least six hundred meters by type of bullet and depth.  Hit the vena cava vein.  He died within three minutes of being shot."

"So, one shooter, one explosives guy?" Don suggested, looking at the photos.  "Oh, hey, no."  He pointed at something. "That's debris.  What was it?"

"Metallic and charred.  Trace is still working on it."  He glanced at him.  "What's going on?"

"They're refusing her her gold shield because of who her father is.  Who she's not," he said firmly.  "The same as you keep watchin' her for who she's not."  He looked at him.  "You have a bright future, Taylor, but make your own decisions.  Not all orders are given by good sources.  Not even my father's."  He pointed at something.  "That's where the explosive was attached to.  Small piece, and I'd say nitro by the charred bits.  Slap and run job."  He looked at him, handing back the other photos.  "Leads to two killers instead of one and a planned action to do it this way."   That got a nod.  "Think about it."  He left, heading off to stop the shouting downstairs that was drifting up through the floor.  He walked in.  "SHUT UP!"  Everyone went silent.  "Thank you!"  He stared at his father and the Chief.  "What was her score four years ago?"  His father opened his mouth and he held up a finger. "Shut up, dad.  What was her score?"

"Ten off perfect.  Highest at that testing," the Chief admitted.

"And that should have automatically qualified her for her shield.  The last time I knew, the force wasn't about nepotism or punishment for being born into the wrong family.  She should have gotten more than a fucking piece of worthless paper after the Miami case when she got injured saving that one officer's life.  She definitely should've gotten her shield three years ago when she saved the damn school from the fucking arsonist," he finished.  "Now, get off your fucking ass, Chief.  She's not her father and her father was a damn good cop until he had ta go back there to protect his daughters from the fuckwads you play golf with now and then, like every third Thursday of the month."

"You're making accusations, Flack?"

"No, sir, stating a well known fact," he shot back, moving closer.  "If we actually looked at her record without bias, she'd be a Detective First Grade today.  She'd be behind a desk somewhere or still behind the desk in CSI.  Your little mind games are about to make ME sue the city since it's clear her record's clear and it's also clear her father's was.  So either it's because she's a woman, which hasn't stopped her yet, or it's because you don't like her father's family and having to go back to them to protect her and keep others of us unshot on the streets when that power vacuum got filled.  Take your pick, Chief.  We can sue you for either one."

"Don, shut up," she said from behind him.  "You know what, Chief.  Your actions today have just earned the department a lawsuit.  Since I'm not the only one."  She handed him the paperwork.  "Those of us with internal pissing structures want you out and want what we've earned.  Congratulations, it's an election year."  He looked horrified.  "Now, I believe you're stopping these officers from working.  By the way, who am I taking to the body dump this time?"

"Flack," the captain yelled.  "Go.  Calm her down."

"Fuck you, I am calm," she yelled back.  "Just because I'm female doesn't mean I can't do yours, mine, and his jobs all at once.  Now, who's turn is it really?"  One guy raised his hand.  "Then grab your shit and let's go.  We got called which means you've been called for at least an hour.  I'm sick and tired of having my guys held up at a scene for you guys not answering.  Get your shit together, people.  The victims deserve better."  They all slunk away.  "I'm waiting!"  The detective ran past her.  "Fucking little kids," she muttered as she headed out to their SUV.  "No damn respect or sense."   She glared at the desk sergeant, taking the note he held out.  "Thank you."

"Are you really suing us?"

"Yup, I passed the test four years ago with the highest score.  I've been passed over seventeen times because that's how many men have made detective in front of me.  Pity, but I'm not the only one."  She read the note and looked at him. "Give that to Taylor.  It's his scene.  I'm not dealing with him today."  He nodded and took it back, paging Mac to come get it.  "Tell him to pull the Detective next on call out by his nads if he needs to."

"Yes, ma'am."   He looked at Taylor when he came in.  "She said this one's yours and to force the detective if he's being lazy."

"I heard what she yelled when she walked out.  Who's up?"

"Not really sure, Taylor.  You might go yell at them yourself."

He nodded and walked that way.  "Who's up for this body?"  One guy hurried with him.  "Thank you.  Glad I don't have to send her back."  He got into the car with him.  "What in the hell happened?"

"She just handed the Chief a lawsuit over the discrimination against female officers.  Is it true she passed four years ago?"

"Yeah, she did," Mac agreed, considering it.  "I agree, she should've had it after the school.  Hell, I got warned I'm about to get mine if I can pass the test."  The detective moaned.  "So I'm guessing there's some merit there."

"Yeah, I guess so," the detective sighed.  "Why don't she and Flack just get together already?"

"They're too close," Mac told him.  "He can sleep next to her and nothing happens because they're that close.  Maybe if they end up in different precincts it'll help some, but I can't be sure of it."  He looked around.  "I hear we're getting a remodel next year.  She's working on the grants now."

"Good.  Some of your stuff is more ancient than ours."  That got a small smirk.  "It could use it.  It'll only make you faster and easier to deal with."

"Yeah.  I hope we get it.  The lab could use a makeover.  It's kinda grungy in spots."

"Kinda?  Ya think?" he joked.  "Did Flack give up his shield?"

"I think it was more like he's not taking his until she gets hers.  What else did I miss?"

"Oh, he said something about the Chief's golfing buddies every third Thursday.  You know, when he goes golfing with the expensive lawyers who officially work out of New Jersey."

"Yeah, I heard that rumor."

"She reminded him it was an election year when she handed over the lawsuit."

"Crap.  Well, this'll make the news."

"Probably too late.  Catherine will go after what she thinks is fair.  Like not hurrying on who killed the guy who was hurtin' his own kids last year. She caught him but she prioritized a case in front of him from what I heard."

"She did.  She put his kid's case first.  Said it was probably related, and it was.  Doing that one first led her to the father's killer.  Doing it the other way would've meant an exhumation and things.  More painful for the family and they agreed the child's murder should go first."  They pulled up at the scene and found Flack there.  "Your case?"

"Another body just got dropped off so you get two of us," he said dryly.  "Where did Catherine head?"

"Subway station two down from the precinct.  Guy got pushed onto the tracks from the report.  Electrocuted."

"Guess we're not eating barbeque tonight," he noted bitterly.  "Stay out of it, Taylor.  I mean it.  This is family stuff."

"I understand fully and I agree, I thought she should've had it after the school thing.  I got warned I should be taking the test this year or next," he said quietly.

"If you get yours before hers, then something's seriously wrong.  Especially since you're her trainee."   He pointed at the bodies.  "Okay, first is the bottom one.  You take that, Benny."  That got a nod.  "Second is mine. Second we know there was a blue Ford that spun by, gravity flung the body out the open door, and then they sped off."

"Charming, couldn't even take time to properly drop him off?" Benny said sarcastically.



Catherine walked off the plane and into the Miami heat.  "I hate humidity," she complained, heading out of the airport and to a hotel.  She had called Horatio's home and left a message saying she was going to be in for a few days and her cell number.  She took the airport shuttle since it was nearby, and relaxed in the air conditioning.  Someone had left a newspaper so she picked it up to scan it, stopping at the headline.  "Fuck, Horatio.  You didn't tell me," she said quietly.  She scanned the article.  The viewing was tonight.  Well, she had good timing.  Once at the hotel she checked in and found the suit she planned on wearing back since she was overnighting it late Sunday night.  She showered, changed, pushed back her hair, and headed down to get a cab to the funeral home.  She walked in and signed the book, nodding at the officers standing there. A few recognized her and nodded back.  She found the widow and son up front, his wife sobbing.  She walked up to her, kneeling there.  "Yelina, let me take Ray into the other room," she said quietly.  "Just for now."  She locked eyes with her, they knew each other.  "Please."  She nodded.  "I'm so sorry.  If I had known, I'd have been here sooner.  If you need me to stay, let me know."  That got a nod so she got up and whispered in Ray's ear, taking his hand and lead him into the other room, sitting next to him.  "Go ahead and cry, Ray."

"Who're you?"

"Horatio's friend Catherine."  He looked up at her and she nodded.  "Yeah, that one."  He gave her a weak smile.  "Listen, I'm here if you need to cry on.  I know you're being strong for your mother and uncle, you don't have to do that for me."  He nodded and sniffled.  "Let it out, Ray.  That's why I'm here."  He nodded and let go, losing that horrible non- emotive mask he had been wearing.  She saw the door open and nodded at Horatio, who slipped back out.  She went back to soothing his nephew, letting him know he was still okay and still there, still cared for by the rest of his family.  When he was done, she took him into the bathroom and cleaned his face off.  She didn't care about the damp spots on her jacket, just wiping at the little bit of snot.  "Think you can go back in there?" she asked quietly.  "Stay goodbye now?"  He nodded so she took his hand and walked him back in there, taking him up to the casket and saying her own goodbyes before backing off.  She looked at Yelina, nodding at her.  "If you need me, I'm at the Raddison.  Got it?"  She nodded, giving her a weak smile.  She gave her a hug instead and Ray came back to sit beside her.  "I'm so sorry, Yelina."

"It wasn't your fault."  She kissed her on the cheek.  "Stay?"  She nodded, sitting with her and holding her hand.  When everyone had left, she looked at her.  "Why are you down?"

"I'm suing my department for passing me over yet again for promotion.  Don just got his gold shield."  Yelina looked pissed at that.  "I don't begrudge him his.  I earned mine years ago though and I'm not the only one.  The kids are with the twin's dad for the weekend so they're safe and I came down here to get away from the backlash for a few days.  I didn't even know until I saw a paper.  You should've called."

"I thought Horatio would've," she admitted.

Catherine nodded.  "I'm guessing he forgot."  That got another weak smile.  "Need escorted home?"

"I've got it," Horatio said from the doorway.  "I didn't want you to have to see this."

"Like I haven't before?" she asked quietly, getting up and coming over to hug him. "You'll find who did this," she whispered.  "Even if I have to watch over your shoulder and help."  He nodded, hugging her back.  "Let's get them home.  If you need me, I'm in the Raddison."  He nodded, letting her go.  "Yelina, call me.  I'll be there tomorrow with you and then home on Monday.  You call, even if you just need to send Ray up to play with my girls for a few days of quiet contemplation."  That got a nod so she left, going back to her hotel room.  On the way she called Don's cell, leaving him a message.  "It's me, Donny.  Horatio's brother just died.  I'm down here for the funeral.  I'll be back Monday probably.  The kids are with Gilliam."  She hung up and sighed, getting comfortable.

The cabbie looked back.  "You knew that cop?"

"Kinda, I worked with his brother on a serial case a few years back and he introduced us.  I wish I had known sooner, I'd have been down here for them."

"It's good they've got friends at a time like this."  He pulled up in front and she paid him, giving him a tip.  "You have a good night."

"You too.  Good tips."  She checked to make sure she had everything before closing the door and heading inside.  She checked the desk for messages, none, and headed up to her room.  She got her jacket and skirt off, hanging up the jacket so she could handle the stain on it.  Then she got out of her shirt and underwear, putting on a pair of pajamas.  She doubted he'd want more than held but if he did, she'd be there for him.  She heard the knock a few hours later and opened it, finding Don there.  "Hey."

"Hey."  He looked her over.  "Horatio?"

"Probably watching over his family."  She let him in and closed the door.  "Am I putting you up?"

"Yeah.  I didn't have time to make a reservation and Monday's payday."  She smiled at him.  "If he comes, can I borrow enough for a room?"

"Of course."  She sat down.  "If I had heard, I'd have been down here already.  That would've made your little drama flare this morning go a bit smoother.  Unnecessary but smoother."

"Shut up, Kate."  He looked at her then tossed her her badge.  "It's yours."

"It's not mine.  It's got the wrong number."  She tossed it back.  "You can tell him I said that.  Your dad's very sweet, dear, but I want what I earned, not what he pulled strings for.  If I wanted that, I would've complained to my father and since he golfs with your dad...."

Don sat down with a sigh.  "You're making things really hard, Kate."

"Don, I *earned* mine, the same as you did.  All I want is what I earned.  Or else I'm fucking well leaving.  There are tons of labs across this country that would jump to have me and forget I wasn't an orphan.  Hell, Vegas wants me bad enough to tapdance and offer me a showgirl if I swing that way."  He let out a small smirk at that.  "So no, I want *my* badge.  Not your dad's, not my dad's, mine.  And if I can't have it, I will sue their asses until they beg for mercy and then I'll take it and leave.  That way I don't have to get caught up in the petty politicking going on."

"The Mayor's doing a review this weekend.  Who called the press?"

"The attorney.  I was offered a chance a month ago to join them and I called him today.  He sent over the paperwork and I handed it to him.  He thought I had the strongest case of all of them and he told me I was stupid for not doing this at least two years ago.

"I can agree with that," he offered dryly.  Someone tapped on the door so he got up to get it.  "Horatio.  She called and told me.  I'm sorry, man."  He pulled him inside and gave him a hug, then took her wallet.  "I'll see you two in the morning."  He left, closing the door behind him.

"You told him?"  She nodded.  "Thank you."

"Not an issue."  She got up and held him, letting him let go for now.  He didn't have to be strong for her either.  She got them onto the bed, just holding him for now.


Catherine walked in Monday morning, putting an excuse for her tardiness on the Captain's desk. "Sorry I was needed at a funeral."


She put down the paper.  "His brother Horatio was the one who worked with us in Miami.  We're very tight.  Don was on the same flight so that's his excuse for tardiness as well."  She turned and started to walk off.

"Cavanaugh." She turned to glare at him.  "What was your score?"

"Nine and a half off perfect," she said quietly.  "Upgraded to ten due to the suddenly instituted rounding issue that year."  He nodded at that.  "All I want is what I've earned.  And hey, I can always leave afterwards.  After all, Vegas could use me and they've offered me better salary and showboys."  She walked off, heading back down to her office.  She found a lackey in there and bluntly shoved him out, closing the door behind him.  "I'm busy, go away."  She sat down and got to work on the grant applications again.  They needed to be filed within the next few days.  Someone knocked.  "I'm doing paperwork."

Mac stuck his head in.  "The Mayor's on his way down."

"Yay.  Then I can hopefully have these done and he can mail them as a gesture of good faith toward the lab and the remodeling project he promised us," she said dryly.

"I don't think that's why he's coming.  Where were you?  We had a call Saturday."

"I wasn't on call Saturday and Horatio's brother was buried then."  She focused on the paperwork, writing out what she wanted the lab to be and stand for after the remodel.  He left her alone but left her door open.  She finished the last form and sealed them in the envelopes for them, then got to work on the weekend's folders.  A few she set aside to ask about things that read wrong to her, mostly in Fingerprints.  "Taylor," she called.  He came jogging in.  "Have these looked over by someone more competent and figure out who the problem is," she said quietly.  He nodded, looking outside. "What?"

"They're here and touring."

"Fuck," she muttered, getting up and smoothing out her skirt, then picking up the four envelopes, having to bend over for the one that fell.  "If your eyes are where I think they are, I'm going to remove them."

"Sorry, but I never see you in a skirt."

"Nor will you ever again."  She walked out and Mac went to deal with fingerprints before they could get in there.  "Mayor."  He smiled at her.  "The grant applications you wanted me to file for you for the lab remodel."  She handed them over. "Just finished them this morning."

"Thank you for getting right on this.  Had a long weekend?"

"A friend was buried in Miami, I was down there with his family."

"I'm sorry.  Who?"

"You remember the serial case that sent us down there?"  He nodded.  "The liaison officer's brother.  He was a very good officer and helped us as much as his brother did."

"I see.  I'm sorry for their loss.  Pass on my condolences?"

"Of course."  She looked at the camera crew.  "At least you're following protocol and I had better not see any evidence on tv later," she warned.  They all shook their heads.  She looked at the Mayor again.  "What did you need to see today, Mayor?"

"Well, let's talk about the remodeling that needs to be done.  How are you envisioning it?"

She led him back to her office, handing over the drawings that had been done by her sister's boyfriend.  "My sister is dating an architect and I asked his opinion on the matter.  Those are the thinking sketches he did while he was coming up with a probable figure for me to let you know."  She flipped to one. "With the building the way it is, I like this one best so far.  It's what I'd hope for roughly to happen."

"The different floors?"

"In this building it's a necessity, but we can group the various areas that we use together into single areas.   Put AV, fingerprints, and Computers all in the same area near DNA and Chem.  Put the less computer intensive areas, like Trace, which has microscopes and other machines that are computer run but not necessarily strictly computers, together.  Then upgrade the break and locker rooms, plus the morgue."

"What about that unused floor?" one of the cameramen asked.

"If we could get funds, I would gladly take that over.  I can see the need for a serious bio- hazard lab in the city, which NYU has but it's also older.  Anything that's CDC related that the PD has to handle would go to them and they need to upgrade, but they don't have the funds.  If we could get the funds to renovate that floor, the upgrades we'd need to handle that load could be done easily at the same time."

"I never knew that," the Mayor admitted.  "That's the only bio-hazard lab like that?"

"That's CDC and Federal quality?  Yes, sir.  There's a few that're research capable but not investigative capable. They'd have to work with us anyway and we are the closest CSI unit to the downtown area, which is the main area that would be hit either by some paranoid person with big dreams or if we had a visitor that started to spread some sort of disease.  We've had them before and they've had to take over this lab.  Even if we don't use it, having it here would be a benefit to the city and the state, plus those of us who do private research could work out of there instead of taking up lab space."

"That's right, you did your Masters in this lab on...." the mayor prompted.

"Different types of DNA sequencing and their rate for misidentification."  She found a copy and handed it to him.  "There you go, sir."

"Thank you.  I'll read it later."  He smiled at her.  "Detective."  She quirked an eyebrow.  "It was an oversight, Detective Cavanaugh."

"Was it?" she asked quietly.  He nodded.  "If you say so," she mouthed.  He nodded again.  "Then I accept the city's humble apologies and my backpay.  Plus my shield."

"I thought I gave Detective Flack...."

"That was my father's, sir.  With all due respect, I'm not him.  I earned my shield on my own."  She stared him down and he nodded.  "When can we start taking bids for the remodeling and plans?"

"We'll need a fairly free weekend for them to tour."

"I can lead a midnight tour.  Nights are usually calmer after ten on any weeknight.  Most weekends are bad unless they'd be willing to come in Sunday morning.  I can lead a tour at any of those times and explain exactly what equipment is needed, including catalogs of the models for their reference."

"You do?"  She pointed at the stack beside her desk.  "Oh, good.  That would help a lot.  Does it have general outlines?"

"No, and design itself can be nearly anything that's needed as long as some standard features are added.  I'd like it to not only be useable but something that didn't drag someone's spirits down, like our interrogation room can."

"I understand.  My office will work out a time with you, Detective."  She nodded.  "Boys, go ahead and get exterior shots."  They left and she closed the door, glaring at him again.  "That was...."

She held up her badge.  "This is my badge number.  I earned my badge four years ago by test scores and three years ago for bravery and sheer dumb fucking luck.  I've solved more cases than Don Flack Sr. and half his department put together.  I *earned* mine.  And that's all I want.  And if you're going to make me drag this out, I will.  I can do that.  I might leave afterwards, but I can do that too.  After all, it's not like I'll give a damn and I can always invite Don to visit."  He nodded.  "All I want is what I earned.  My father was a damn good cop until he had to go back to protect myself, my sister, and the rest of those ungrateful bastards on the street in blues from the war that would've started. I'm an even better cop and I've been here since I was nineteen and you tried to kill me on purpose.  So therefore, blow it out your ass.  All I want is what I've earned.  I'm not asking for special privileges, or anything.  I earned my badge.  My own badge, not my father's."

"You have," he agreed.  "Why do you not have medals?"

"Because I'm female.  Ask the Chief, he'll tell you that."

"You saved that officer in Miami.  You saved that school.  All you got were commendations."

"Yeah, well.  This makes my tenth year on the force too.  Eight years in this lab, six running it.  I'm still not seeing the gratitude for upping the lab to it's present standard.  We do more work singly here than most detectives do in pairs over their careers.  Now if you'll excuse me, there was a problem in fingerprints while I was at the funeral in Miami.  I need to see why."

He nodded.  "I understand.  You're right, it does suck.  Your father was a very good officer."  She nodded.  "You still won't work with that one precinct."

"Would you?"

"No," he agreed quietly. "I wouldn't.  Fine.  You want your own badge, I can agree with that.  You want backpay, I can agree with that.  Anything else?"

"Call Taylor off my ass.  It's not like I'm a dirty cop that needs watched."

"That was not my idea."

"No, but you can make him stop."  She opened the door and waved a hand. "Please mail those for me.  They do need to be in by the end of the week."  He nodded, letting her lead the way.  "Taylor?"  He looked over.  "The problem was?"

"Night shift, dod."

"Wonderful.  Fired?"

"Suspended.  No pay, two weeks, rehab."  He handed it back. "I had ours recheck and evaluate, she's doing quality control.  She could use the help."

"Go."  He nodded, doing that.  She looked at the mayor.  "We really do need that remodel to go through, sir.  So if you can push for those grants it'll save the city a hell of a lot of money by paying for it all, including the equipment and all new break machines."

"I'll see what I can do," he promised, heading off.  He counted the envelopes, finding one was in one of the reporter's hands.  His assistant got them.  "In the mail by this afternoon.  Certified only.  Also, get me a phone interview with someone from the CDC to see if we can put in a lab like she thinks we should.  If so, it would be an asset to the department and the city."  His aide took off to take those to the post office.  He smiled at the reporters.  "As you can see, the outside of this precinct is one very old building but she's still got a lot of good left in her. They don't build buildings this strong anymore."  He smiled at them.  "Anything else you need?"

"No," they chorused and packed up to leave.

He waited until they were gone to look at the officers peeking out. "We're done.  Go back to business as usual."

"Thank you, Mr. Mayor," one called, lighting his cigarette and taking a deep drag.  "Break, finally."  That got a smile and the mayor walked off.  He needed to have a talk with a few people it seemed.  There were some female officers in the fire department who were threatening to join in on the suit.


Don leaned into Catherine's office.  "You're needed upstairs."

"Another brawl?"

"Well, no, Sheldon took care of that.  Just you.  And me."

"I'm not marrying you, Don."

"You're pissing away your opportunity to change and making them come down here to see your fingerprint tech drunk."

"Fine."  She got up and went to change clothes, stopping in Taylor's workarea to get him onto that tech again, or else she was fired, and then upstairs by the back elevator.  She walked into the squad room, pushing the camera out of her face.  "You blind me I can't work later."

"I think you should be celebrating later," the Captain offered, tossing her her shield.  "That's yours, right?"

"It had better be mine."  She checked the number then took it.  "Thank you.  Finally.  Do I have a new case?"

"No, Detective, you don't."  He smiled at her.  "Come in here please."  She walked into the office and he shut the door.  "Can you try to be a bit more gracious?"

"What? You want me to burst into tears and hug his legs while chanting 'finally it's mine'?"  She shrugged.  "I know it's mine. I earned it."

"Point, and I do agree with you.  Just thank the nice Chief so he can go home and you can go home early to celebrate with Flack."

"I am?"  She walked out, shaking hands with the Chief. "Thank you for fixing this oversight."

He nodded. "I'm sorry I had to be shown that there was one.  I will be watching more closely."

"I think you've already got that down in my department, Chief.  Do we have tour plans yet for the remodel?"

"We do."  He handed that over and a small case.  "That's also yours.  Another oversight."

She looked inside, then nodded, looking at him.  "For?"  He looked stunned.  "Which case was it for?" she prompted again.

"Outstanding service for the department."

"Thank you. I'm happy I spent my last ten years here.  I hope to make it to twenty serving the department that I love."  She shook his hands again and put her new shiny medal in her pocket.  "Would you like to do a trial tour of the lab?" she asked with a smile.

"No, I'll go when they do so I can hear the contractor's comments."  She smiled and nodded.  "Now, a new case?"

"That's what I was wondering.  Boss?"

"Not yet, Cavanaugh.  Paperwork?"

"I sent it up with Taylor earlier.  That's all I had.  It was a quiet few days."

"Thank you."

"May I be excused, Chief?  I still have a few cold cases I'm working on."

"Here, the Mayor said to hand this back," he said, handing her the copy of the thesis.  "He said it was very enlightening and he even understood it, which he doesn't always understand the science stuff you do.  I thought the same.  Very nicely done, Cavanaugh."

"Thank you, sir.  And thank you for letting me do the experiment after hours."  He nodded and she backed off, saluting him before turning and walking off with her thesis and her new badge.

The Chief smiled at the press.  "See, the oversight is being fixed.  I'm sure the rest of those who had merit will get theirs by the end of the review."

"Backpay?" one reporter asked, a female one. "Are they going to get that too?  When was hers supposed to have been awarded, Chief?"

"About four years ago," he admitted.  "We're still working over the issue of backpay due to the budget.  We'll see what we can do about that.  They do deserve it but it may not be possible with how tight things are.  Ah, Detective Flack."  He nodded and walked in.  "I believe this yours," he said, handing him his badge as well.  "Thank you for helping us see that oversight had occurred."

"I love this department, Chief, I wouldn't want it to be brought down by those who do petty politicking to force discrimination on us."  That got a smile. "Did you need shown around?  I'm next on call for a body so I'm not busy at the moment."

"No, that's fine.  We'll let you get back to work, Detective Flack."

"Thank you, sir."  He saluted him and shook his hand, getting a nod in return.  He waited until they were done to let out his 'yes!' of triumph.  He smiled at his boss.  "I'm better now.  We got a case?"

"No, not yet, Flack.  Are you staying here?"

"If I can, sir."

"You can.  I don't have paperwork with your name on it."

Don nodded and got back to work.  It was what was expected of him anyway and he knew there'd be some hell coming from the backlash.  He only hoped she didn't leave.  His phone rang.  "Flack?"  He listened.  "Horatio.  How are you?"  He smiled.  "No, she's in her office, or possibly fingerprints.  Are you okay?"  He listened, then nodded.  "I don't know, let me check and call you back in an hour?"  He smiled.  "Sure, man, if possible."  He hung up.  "Boss.  Do I have call this weekend?"

"No, Benny does.  Why?"

"Caine needs me and her in Miami."  He called down to the lab.  "Taylor, put my bitch on."  He smirked at the spluttering.  "Tell her I said that too."  He smirked at her complaint.  "No, Horatio just called. Are you on this weekend?"  He smirked.  "Yeah, him. I said we'd call within the hour.  I've got it off."  He smirked.  "Yeah, I know you need a third level three person.  Pity.  Thanks."  He hung up, letting her handle that and the travel arrangements.  She was better at that stuff than he was.


Year Thirty


Don walked into Catherine's house, finding the gun pointed at him.  "Whoa, just me," he said calmly, holding up his hands.  "Put it down."  She sighed and put it down, then leaned forward to rest her head on the table.  "What's up?  Gwen called me, said you were jumpy and nervous."  He moved closer.  "Catherine?"

"Taylor's at it again," she said quietly.

"Okay.  Why?"

"The new Chief."

"Ah."  He nodded, sitting down next to her and giving her a hug.  "You good?"  She shook her head. "You paranoid?"

"Yup.  Misty was taken out of her home by some of the new Chief's thugs last weekend."

He stroked her back.  "Then how about I stay this weekend?"

"Don't you have something to do, dear?"  She gave him a bland look.

"No.  No dates.  Bowling on Saturday night but nothing else and I can call off with the guys."

"Don't do that," she sighed.  "They hate it when you do that."  She patted him on the cheek, then tensed up when someone pounded on the door.  "Hold on!"  She got up and went to answer it with her gun in hand.  Her trainee was standing there.  "What?"  She didn't let him in.

"I heard what happened to Misty.  I know why."

"So do I.  Her daughter."  Taylor shook his head and handed over the photos in his hands.  "Who took these?" she asked, letting him inside and shutting the door.   She handed them to Don and looked at her trainee again.  "Taylor? Who?"

"Marigold did.  A few months back.  Her aunt gave them to me today," he admitted.  "I used the lab to blow them up."

"Okay."  She took them back, then looked at him.  "Is she still missing?"  He nodded.  "Don?"

"I'd say bring him in for questioning."

"We do that the press is all over us and our jobs are gone within an hour," Mac reminded him.  "Even if it was him."

"Okay, what we do is this.  Taylor, you're to treat this as a missing person's case.  I'm sure someone has."  He shook his head.  "No?"

"No.  They were told not to deal with it.  It was a special case since it was an officer and Internal Affairs would."  He moved closer and sat down.  "I know a guy down there and I gave him a copy of those.  He didn't look happy and I'm not sure he's not reporting back to the Chief."

"Well, if he is, someone's never going to find the body," Don noted bitterly.

"Yes they will."  She got up and went to get something, bringing it out.  "Here.  Misty had a GPS unit on her watch for her daughter.  Her daughter was paranoid about her getting taken thanks to her job in SVU.  That way her daughter could turn it on and find her.  Her daughter should know the code."  Mac pushed it over.  "She mentioned it?"

"No, she wrote that out and gave it to me."  He looked at her.  "I don't like this."

"Neither do I, but a guy who murders his mistress is a murderer, even if they're the Borough Chief," she pointed out dryly.  She sat down to type in the information then sighed and handed it to Don, who nodded and got up to track it.  "Mayor's Island."

"Damn.  Doesn't the Coast Guard have that?"  She nodded.  "Then what?"

"You're a former Marine.  Go with him, hand them those pictures when they find the body.  Don't dispute jurisdiction.  Let them decide it.  It'll be easier if they do it."  He nodded, taking the pictures back and the GPS coordinates with him.  She went back to staring at the door.  Her kids were playing with their friends today, it would be fine if someone did break in.


Catherine came to the hospital later that night, finding Don in there.  "Hey.  What did you do?"

"I went to question the idiot.  I even had backup," he said, moaning as he shifted.  "Kate, we need to leave the city."

"I agree, Don.  Fortunately I do have a place in mind," she said quietly.  "And you're being moved as soon as there's an ambulance available for an out-of-town transport."  He nodded, grimacing again.  She looked at his IV, then out the door.  "Nurse?"  She came hurrying in.  "Is this supposed to be empty?"

"Oh, crap."  She changed his IV out, putting in his next dose of medicines.

"Thank you.  By the way, we're getting ready to move him by private transport. All right?"  She nodded.  "If anyone asks, you never saw us.  He was shot by a suspect."  The nurse nodded and hurried out to spread that around.

"Nicer, thank you," he said, the hazy, feel-good tone came back to his voice.  "Much nicer."

"You rest, Don.  Let me handle this."  She went out to wait for the transport.  She saw Taylor coming up the hall. "Is it done with?"

"No."  She handed him a letter.  "What's this?"

"Don needs someone to watch over him and so do my kids.  Someone made a move on the twins earlier.  That's to go to the Captain tonight.  Nellis is in charge until I can make it back.  The Captain and Horatio know how to reach me.  Got it?"  He nodded, hurrying to do that.  The ambulance crew came up and she smiled at them, nodding behind her.  "You know where we're taking him?"

"Yes, ma'am.  Are you riding with us?"  She nodded.  "What about your children?"

"My bodyguard has them."  She looked at the order and stopped them.  "This is not where he's going."

"That's where we were ordered to take him, ma'am."

"Try detective, and no, you're not."


"Touch him again, little boy.  Watch you need this bed more."  They backed off.  "Nurse?"  She came back and Catherine handed her the orders.  "Not where he's going.  He's going out of town."  That got a nod.  "Remove them before I do."  That got another nod and they were removed.  She called Taylor to alert him to that feint and continued to wait.  Her choice of paramedics came and they had the proper orders so she let them take Don with her help.  "Someone just gave orders to take him to Central Park and drop him off," she said once they were in the ambulance.  "You know who?"

He nodded.  "The same people who were arrested on the news twenty minutes ago."

"Thank you.  You never saw this place once you drop us off."

"I understand, ma'am."  He checked the copy of the chart he had gotten from the nurse, then his vitals and IV.  "What are we meeting there?  Since I know that's a mall parking lot."

"Limo.  He'll be able to stretch out."  That got a nod.  "Thank you for this, guys."

"Detective, we respect you two.  You two take down the bad shit before it kills us."  She smiled at that. "Good luck."

"You too.  Easy days while we're out of town."


She got Don out of the limo and into the house, helping him the whole way.  "Guys, don't crowd your uncle," she warned.  "Gwen, go ahead and open doors for me, okay?"

"Should I call the doctor?" she asked as she did that, Timmy coming over to pick Don up for her.

"Thank you, dear."

"Not a problem, boss."  He settled him in bed and hooked the IV up to the post beside it, taking the spare she had gotten off the paramedic that was already laced with the proper medicine.  "Will we need the doctor, Catherine?"

"Yeah, probably soon."  She handed him the copy of the chart.  "Anything exciting happen on your end?"

"No, not really.  Yours?"

"Yeah, some guys came to remove him to Central Park."  They shared a look.  "They found Misty."

"I heard.  I'm sorry.  Want to call Sheldon?"

"Yeah, soon."  She went back out to talk to the kids, telling them what was going on.  "Timmy, call Horatio, tell him we're up here instead of at home so he doesn't worry.  Tell him what's going on too."  That got a nod and he did those while she made dinner and talked with her offspring.


Don woke up later that night with her sitting beside him on the bed.  "What's this place?" he asked sleepily.

"Mine.  Feel honored."

"You didn't tell me you had another house."

"I bought it the same year I got Timmy."  She stroked over his forehead. "You'll be okay.  It shouldn't be too long before we can go back."

"We ran?"

"We retreated to succor the injured, Don."  He grimaced at that. "You needed medical care and a lot of it.  The kids were almost snatched," she said quietly. "Hell yes I retreated and I left a note with Richards about what was going on, in full, with Taylor."

"At least he's honest enough to not lie about it. Does he know about this place?"

"No."  She smiled at him.  "You rest, Don.  I've got to go back for the funeral."

"If you do they'll try for you."

"I promised her I'd carry her, Don.  I'm going.  I've got kevlar and if you were walking I'd let you make that decision.  Since you got shot in the thigh, you're not walking."  She stood up.  "You rest.  I'll be back on Tuesday.   The kids and Timmy are here with you.  The doctor lives on the edge of the woods and he's already seen you twice.  So just rest.  I'll be back soon."  She kissed him then walked out, heading to put on her uniform and kevlar vest.  Gwen came in.  "Watch your Uncle Don for me."

"Where are you going?"

"An officer I went to the Academy with and am friends with died, I'm in her funeral."  Gwen shook her head.  "I owe it to her, Gwen.  I'm wearing body armor."  She loaded her guns and put them on, looking at her daughter. "Timmy is staying, Don is staying.  I'll be fine.  I've got most of four boroughs behind me at the moment."

"Was this about the guy who got arrested?"  She nodded.  "Did he kill your friend?"

"Sometimes you're so smart," she sighed, kissing her on the head.  "It doesn't matter, Gwen, I owe her my life.  Got it?"  She nodded.  "So for now, watch over your uncle.  Timmy's still here.  No one else knows where here is."

"Even Grandfather?"

"Neither of them."  She nodded, accepting that.  "Go rest with your uncle."  She nodded, heading that way.  Catherine put on the rest of her weapons, then her hat, heading out to her car.  This wasn't the car everyone knew, this was the car for this resort.  It was registered under a different name, her great-grandmother's on her mother's side.  The resort was under her mother's name and supposedly held in trust for first born grandson.  The paperwork would hold up to all but the most diligent searchers.  She headed for the city, her stereo on quietly so she had some company.  She glanced back in the back seat, not seeing a lump, so she knew her kids were safe. If something happened, Horatio knew where the former resort was, they had spent a few weekends up there together. By the time she got to the city it was almost light.  By the time she got to the funeral home it was seven.  She parked and got out, glancing around before heading inside.  She nodded at the honor guard.  "I'll stand."  The honor guard stared at her in horror.  "I'll stand."

"Agreed, Cavanaugh," he said quietly.  "We didn't think you'd come out of hiding."

"Misty was my friend, only my kids and Don are in hiding.  If he dares disrespect this I will be there to honor her and protect her family."  That got a nod and the officer walked out to call the others to let them know she was there.  She checked the casket, seeing it sealed.  The funeral director came in an hour later and she looked at him.  "Check the body?"  He looked stunned. "Please.  Just in case."  He nodded and opened it, making her flinch. It was her friend. "Thank you."  He nodded and put the lid back down, sealing it again.  The hearse pulled up and she followed the casket out, watching around to make sure no one disrespected this body.  She rode in the front, getting out first at the church.  She nodded at the others, going back to open the door.  "As promised, sir," she said, saluting her captain.

"She would've understood."

"No she wouldn't have.  She'd be here for mine.  I take left front."  That got a nod and the alternate stepped out of place.  She pulled the rolling bed out and got into place.  "Three, two, one, lift," she said quietly.  They lifted and the funeral director pushed back in the bed, allowing them to take a step back then turn her around and lead her up the stairs to the church.  "Step," she called quietly, noting each one.  At the top, there was a threshold and a closed door.  The alternate opened it.  "Small threshold," she ordered quietly.  They walked the casket inside and put it down where it was supposed to be, then stepped away and saluted it.  She stepped off to the side as one of the honor guards here, going to parade rest.  Misty's mother looked at her and she nodded subtly.  The woman looked relieved and nodded back, paying attention to what was said.  When the time came and everyone was done, she and the others stepped forward and picked up the casket again.  Again she called out each of the steps and the threshold when she came to them.  The hearse was reloaded and she was put into one of the cruisers following the hearse this time.

She saw him at the graveside and glared, nudging her Captain, who nodded silently.  The honor guard would get him quietly during the service.  They all knew he wasn't allowed anywhere near the family even if he had made bail.  They carried the casket into place and stepped back, again saluting it.  Then they melded back into the crowd, their duties done for now.  She and the Captain moved into direct line of sight of the idiot who had killed their friend and coworker.  As the priest moved on with the ceremony, the honor guard slowly moved back, surrounding the man's personal police guard.  The Captain stared down one, getting a helpless look.  He got an eye order to move.  And did.  So they knew.  She pulled out her cuffs and moved into position.  "Chief Wadlingdel," she said very quietly, "you are under arrest for the murder and mutilation of Detective Misty Peterson.  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 cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.  Do you understand these rights?"  He tipped his head and she tightened the cuffs.  "Make one sound and you go under her.  Her family deserved better."

"I was already arrested on this."

"No you were arrested on homicide, not mutilation after murder. Different charge."  She looked at the other guard.  "Don't worry, you're going with him," she promised quietly.  One of them started to inch off and a familiar body moved into view, shaking his head.  She smiled at her mate, getting a nod back.  When the service was done and the family gone, she gave the Chief a shove toward the squad car.  "Have him.  See if you can also pin the conspiracy to kidnap my daughters, the shooting of Detective Flack Jr., and the conspiracy to remove him from the hospital and have him killed in a different location on him as well."  Her captain nodded and she walked over to Horatio, hugging him.  "Thank you."

"You were there for me when I needed it.  Misty was as close to you as Don was," he said quietly, stroking down her cheek.  "How long are you off for?"  He looked at the Captain.  "Captain, Horatio Caine.  Miami CSI."


"No, she's mine."

"I thought she was Flack's."

"He's my little brother, get it right," she ordered dryly.  "Don's still in a drug haze.  He got shot in the thigh.  The doc in my hideyhole said it'll be at least a week before he can even think about crutches."

"That's fine.  You've got about a month of leave saved. Take a week of it.  Come back when it's safer.  Nice to meet you, Caine."  He walked off, going to call her bodyguard to get what information he could about the other charges so he could break his former boss.

She looked up at him.  "I drove."

"I took a cab."

"That's fine."

"Cavanaugh, want a ride back to the Lexus?" her captain called.

"Please."  She took off her hat and took Horatio's hand in the other, walking off with him so they could go back to the resort.


Don looked up and groaned when he saw Horatio.  "How's Miami?"

"Hot.  Muggy.  Filled with suddenly appearing bodies.  New York?"

"About the same but we have seasons," he joked sarcastically.  "She okay?"

"She's fine.  I just put her to bed.  I came to check on you."  He looked him over. "Painful?"

"Oh, hell yes.  I hate pain."   He shifted and grimaced.  "How long am I hiding for?"

"A week."  He smiled at him.  "We'll be here with you if it doesn't bother you."

"Like I told you, you're the sorta guy that I want her to settle down with.  Please, keep her happier and calmer.  Just move back to New York so I don't have to move to Miami yet."

"As you order," he assured him with a smirk.  "We'd be on different shifts anyway.  I'm leading my lab."  That got a smile.  "Megan retired after her husband was killed."

"I'm sorry ta hear that."

"I'll tell her you said so."  He handed him something.  "Gwen told me to give that to you and say she was cooking dinner with Timmy.  It'll be about a half hour.  She said that has to be taken with food."  He winked and tossed over a package of crackers he had gotten for him.

"Bless you, Horatio.  I needed this."  He took the pill dry and then ate some of the crackers, letting him get him some water from the bathroom sink.  "What is this place?"

"A former resort that the owners died in.  It was never very popular, but it has some wonderful grounds. Maybe the girls can find you a wheelchair and take you outside tomorrow."  That got a smile.  "Just relax and enjoy the vacation, Don."

"Yeah, yeah, I know I needed one."  Horatio nodded.  "Don't you have a woman to spoil with your attention?"

"Indeed I do," he agreed with a smirk.  "Call over at room 112 if you need us.  The kitchen is 105.  Living room is 119.  Timmy's room is usually 128.  They kids are on this side of the resort with you so they can spoil you rotten."  He left, leaving the door slightly open.

Toni peeked in.  "Can you have a story?"

"Sure, I could stand to be read to."  She smiled and climbed up, sitting on his good side since she had learned not to bump the other side last night, and opened her book.  "Grimms Fairy Tales," she read.


Catherine followed Don into the station, watching him hop up the few stairs to the bullpen.  "I brought him back," she announced.  That got some clapping.  "He's on desk duty until he can walk."  That go some boos.  Don would drive them insane. "It's not like he can hop after suspects."  She looked at the Captain.  "Sorry we're late, we stopped off to drop Horatio at the airport and let Don change.  It takes him forever to find clothes for some reason."  That got some laughs.  "Do I have a case at this moment?"

"No, but who did you leave in charge?"

"Nellis.  That big, tall, redheaded guy with skin the color of good coffee?"

"The guy who quit two days before you left?" he offered.

"Oh, shit.  Sorry.  Stress, I plead stress."

"Well, Taylor did it anyway.  He also put the drunken fingerprint artist on suspension pending you firing them for real."  She took the forms and signed her name, handing them back.  "Thank you.  Also you have three interviews today to take her place and to get you a new CSI level one."

"Oooh.  Anyone good?"

"A few.  Have fun with that."

"Oh, I shall. The walking tour?"

"Taylor did it," he assured her. "They were talking bulletproof glass and tables and machines I can't pronounce the name of."

"Cool.  We might not need all that.  Anything else, Captain?"

"Yeah, call the Mayor about the CDC lab."  She squealed and hugged him, then Don, before bouncing down the stairs to her office.  "That's one happy bitchy woman."

"Eh, you made her PMS cycle," Don said dryly.  "She'll get Taylor's vision straightened out again I'm sure.  What's mine in this stack of shit in front of me?"

"All of it," the Captain said with a grin.  "Including reports that need to have some spelling issues corrected."

"I hate you."

"Yeah, I know," he replied with a grin.  "You'd be bored without it though."

"Fuck," Don muttered.


Year Thirty-Two


Catherine looked up from her crying as Don walked into her room.  "I don't know what's wrong."

"I do.  Same source."  He laid down beside her, hugging her.  "It's time, Catherine.  Either switch boroughs or make Taylor switch boroughs."


"Shh."  He laid a finger over her lips and made her look at him. "You can.  You need to.  The last time I saw you cry, you were in labor with the twins.  You've come home crying every single day this week according to Timmy and he pinpointed the cause.  Taylor's on his track again and it's going to kill you.  He's making you depressed and I can't have that.  Therefore, I will give up the comfort of your daily presence to make you happy again.  So either ask for and transfer to one of the other boroughs to take over their CSI departments, or switch areas for a few years and keep up with your continuing education stuff."  She sniffled.  "Or have him transferred to Queens."

"I tried that already. They said they don't need another manager and I'm the only one that might quit this decade."

"Don't think of it as quitting, think of it as letting your baby fledge and you going on to new, brighter things.  And hey, dad's old spot in Queens is open."  She looked at him.  "Really.  I got offered it and I turned it down but I know it's still open for at least another week.  Bigger salary, quicker drive in.  We'd still see each other after hours and on lunch and stuff.  Plus you'd get away from the fuckwad for a few months.  Tell the Chief you need a break, you're burnt out.  Tell him to keep you in Homicide, but not with me.  That you need a total break for a bit."  She nodded, curling up against him.  "Besides, it's not like I've been around for the last few months.  I've been so busy after the budget cut I haven't even gotten to see my parents recently."  Someone tapped on the door.  "She's dressed."

"I'd hope so," Gordon, formerly Greta, said as he came in.  "Mom?"  She looked at him. "I'm going to college next year."

"Okay.  Columbia?"  He nodded. "Okay."  She held up a hand and he smiled, climbing in to be next to her.  "I can drop you off every day because there's no way you're living in a dorm."  He giggled and nodded, hugging her.  "I love you, son, even if you are smarter than me and Don combined."

"Thanks, mom."

"Good job, kiddo," Don praised, smiling at him.  "Whatcha goin' for?  Science stuff like your mother?"


"That's a good thing," he agreed. "I'm proud, son."

"Thanks, dad."  He hugged them both.  "Can I call Uncle Horatio?"  They both nodded so he hurried out to do that.

"Gwen's getting ready to go too," Don sighed.  "Damn they grow up too fast."

She laughed and pinched him.  "Gwen will be heading in another year.  Don't push her yet."  She snuggled onto his chest.  "You really think so?"

"I know so.  Take Dad's old spot for six months and then move to their CSI or even the Bronx CSI division.  The old fart over there should retire any day now."

"He's only seventy and he said he's staying.  Plus he's trained three possible successors."   She wiped her cheeks off.  "Are you sure it's open?"

"I'm sure."  He pulled out his cellphone and handed it to her.  "Call.  Now."

"Yes, dear."  He dropped a kiss on her head as she dialed.  "Sheila, it's Cavanaugh, is he in?"  She waited while she was on hold.  "Boss, it's Catherine."  She smiled.  "A lot.  Can you kill Taylor or make him go away magically?"  She nodded.  "I know.  But it's gotten to the point of him or me, boss, and Donny thinks it should be me but I like my job.  I finally got the lab I wanted."  She nodded. "I know. That's what he's suggesting.  Well, I did just hire the new Level One, Bonasera.  She'll take over my mouthy bitch spot.  Give her some time and she'll get the rest too."  She relaxed and smiled.  "That's what he was suggesting."  She pinched him, making him yelp. "You went behind my back, asshole."

"Well, yeah.  That's what family does."  He grinned at her. "You'll be happier over there, Catherine. Plus you'll get to straighten out more guys in that borough.  Their CSI department could use a swift kick like you anyway."

She listened.  "Six months and then can I send him over there and have my lab back?"  She sighed.  "Fine, we'll see.  But it does run better under me than him, Chief.  We both know this, right?"  She smiled. "Thanks, boss.  No, not tomorrow.  I managed to throw my back.  Thank you."  She hung up and handed him his phone.  "Rat."

"Yeah, well, you crying makes me paranoid."  He stole another kiss and smiled at her. "Just think, bigger salary, you can renovate the house and put in that curved staircase you wanted."

"Maybe," she agreed, making him come back so she could cuddle in again.  "When are you going to start dating."

"You're turning into my mother."

She grinned at him.  "I hired Bonasera to give you eye candy and a less bitchy version of me."

"I'll tell her you said that.  When are you transferring out?"

"My tenth anniversary party.  Which is next week."

"Okay.  What's wrong with your back?"

"Those stupid cramps again."

"Flip over," he said patiently.  She nodded and did that so he got to work on her back.  He frowned when she winced and hissed.  "How often are you getting these?"

"A few a week."

"You've seen someone?"

"Not yet."

He popped her one on the back of the head and leaned down next to her ear.  "You're seeing someone tomorrow, Catherine.  Or else I'm handcuffing you and dragging you to my doctor.  Understood?"

"Uncle Don, are you molesting mommy?" Gwen asked from the doorway.

"No, honey, your mother's being stubborn about her back pain," he said, looking back at her.  "I'd never molest your mother, dear.   I usually like her to much for that."  They shared a grin.  Gwen was every bit the daughter he always wanted.  "Can you get me her phone book?"

"My doctor retired," she pointed out.

"That's fine."  He called his doctor and looked up the name of hers once she brought it for him.  "Thanks, pumpkin.  You know, if I ever get around to having my own kids, they're going to have to live up to you guys."  She beamed at that and headed off. "Hey, Sue, it's Don Flack.  No, not me.  Fortunately.  Catherine. Her doc was Montgomery.  Yeah, she said he retired."  She moaned so he cradled the phone between his ear and shoulder.  "Hold on.  No, she's having these roaming back cramps now and then. Yeah, like spasms only they're tightening up her back horribly.  No, I'm working on it."  He switched sides so he could hear better.  "No, I want to drag her in. Cavanaugh.   Yeah, just like that.  Thank you.  When?"  He put it back against his ear.  "Can you repeat that?  Thank you, you're a sweetie, Sue.  Yup, twenty minutes."  He hung up and got off her, then helped her up and back into a shirt over her tanktop bra, then down to his car.  He grabbed her shoes on the way.  "Eat without us!" he called before closing the door.

Gordon grinned.  "Yeah, that was Uncle Don.  He's dragging mom to the doctors.  Something about her back.  He was giving her a backrub and her doctor retired so he's dragging her to his.  Sure.  Of course.  Yup, that's his cell.  Love you too, Uncle Horatio.  Have a good night."  He hung up and looked at his sisters.  "Uncle Horatio is having to cover part of night shift at the moment. There was a bad case of fish tacos last night."  They shuddered at that.  "What's for dinner?"


Don looked at the number on his phone.  "Hey, Horatio.  It's only mildly annoying back spasms.  They gave her as needed muscle relaxers.  Well, part of that is Taylor. He's a good guy and a good investigator but he's a lousy second since he's still watching her.  No, they're moving her to Queens Homicide the day after her tenth celebration.  Yeah, we agreed.  Well, the Chief and I agreed after Timmy said she'd been crying every day this week after work. So she's moving there next week.  No, my dad's old spot."  He grinned. "Yeah, he's thrilled, he's dancing around. Sure.  No, she's asleep.  I'm on her couch and she's asleep.  Please, Horatio, do you know how often I used to bring dates here when I babysat for her?  All my natural kids are going to have to live up to hers.  Otherwise they're going to sorely disappointing."  He grinned.  "He told us.  I'm so proud of the mini- cookie monster boy.  You've never seen him eat my Ma's cookies either," he joked.  "So, when are you coming up?"  He smirked.  "That'll be good.  Yeah, that'll be the switchover weekend so it'll be good for her.  Just watch out for her back, so let her be on top for a while."  That got a laugh so he grinned.  "Yeah, if you need me to, I'll watch the kids over the weekend so you don't get blasted by Biker Mice from Mars on Saturday morning either.  Good enough.  Have a better night, Horatio.  Yup, can't wait. Have fun."  He hung up and sighed, shaking his head at Toni, who was staring at him from under his arm.  "Horatio."

"I figured that much out.  I'm not quite as smart as Gordon, but close enough."

He poked her.  "Don't put yourself down.  I hated it when your mother did it."  She nodded and left it there.  "Thank you."

"When is he coming up?"

"Late Friday.  He'll leave overnight on Sunday.  Then next time it's her turn to travel again."

"Fine with us.  Are we camping at your place?  If so, you need to clean."

"I can clean by then.  Unless you or Gwen have a friend you'd rather stay with?"

"No I'm good.  Most of the girls my age are giggly and sweet and I'm sweet but not giggly. I'm having an ill-fitting moment."  He grinned at that.  "I am!"

"You're eleven.  You'll have those on and off through your teenage years and then you'll realize that they're all bitches and you don't care anyway."

"No, that's Gwen.  I'd rather be like Aunt Mirin."

He nodded and cuddled her.  "Yeah, she's a good role model, even if her husband does suck ass."

"Dog and donkey ass," she agreed dryly.

"Language until you're at least sixteen."

"Yes, sir."

"Thank you.  You girls can take the bed and I'll take the couch, and hey, maybe we can invite someone fun, like Stella, over to play some games?"

"Do I know her?"

"She's the new girl your Ma just hired.  Reminds everyone a lot of her.  She's got that same blunt personality but with a wicked sense of humor now and then.  She hired her to take her place when she left."

"She sounds okay.  Will we meet her at the party?"  Don nodded.  "Then that's okay.  I might like her.  If not, I forbid you to date her or else we'll have to break you two up," she offered.

He grinned at her.  "You sneaky little brat," he teased.

"Of course. What else would I be with my natural father and you running through my head, plus mom."

"Good point.  What if she and Horatio finally pull it together?"

"I like the guy and he's very calm.  Even when he's mad he's very calm."

"He is.  I like that about him too," he admitted.  "I yell, your Ma yells, he just kinda seethes and lets it out better.  Less chance of getting hit by him than me that's for sure."  She giggled and hugged him.  "Thanks, Toni."

"Welcome, daddy."


Catherine smiled from her spot on top of the table, since she wasn't up to standing at the moment.  "Guys?" she called loudly.  Everyone looked at her.  "Two small announcements.  The first, Stella has passed her trial period and will be taking over my job as the lab's smart ass."  That got some whoops and hollers from her crew, which made the poor girl blush.  "And the second is that she's going to have to do that sooner than she expected.  I'm being moved to Queen Homicide starting Monday."  She sipped her punch.  "We all know my back's been getting worse over the last few months, and with the addition of the bending and pushing issues we have up that one hallway, which Taylor will be fixing on penalty of having his back used to smooth it out, it's getting worse.  So, Don, the Chief, and I all talked about it and we decided, mostly without me, that I'm doing the less strenuous job in homicide over there, but without all the bending, lifting, pushing, hauling, and towing we do here.  We decided I start Monday so I don't have to say ten years minus a day."  That got some laughs.

"So if you need me, you know where I'll be for a bit at least.  And you know how to find me.  Most of you know where my house is. It's not like I'm moving.  My kids would kill me."  She pointed at them, who were huddled around Mac and Don.  "So, you kids play nice for Don while I'm gone.  I expect to come back once my back is better," she said, staring down Taylor.  Who nodded at that.  "And no, you don't get my office.  Everything in my office is being moved to the upper lab.  So find your own desk chair."  That got some laughs.  "Party on, it could be worse, you've still got the lab bitch nipping at your heels!" That got a loud cheer and a lot of the crew hugged Stella, a few getting in a small grope, which she slapped most of them for.  "Don't make Taylor's first day as head be one full of sexual harassment forms.  That's mean even for my kids."  Her oldest daughter burst out laughing and shook her head.  "It should be."  That got more laughs when the kids all shook their heads - with Don.

Stella came over.  "So what's the real reason?" she asked.

"If you think about it, you'll know, but my back is shot at the moment," she admitted.  "Think you can handle the macho bullshit he'll pull?"

"Yeah, I'll beat his ass, probably with a paddle but possibly with a sign or something."  That got a smirk.  "What about the lab upstairs?"

She pulled out a small box and handed it to her.  "I'm not giving it to him.  That is my lab.  I petitioned for it, I pushed for it, the same as I did this remodel.  This whole lab is my lab and will remain my lab."  Stella smiled at that.  "But you can have the keys to my sandbox.  In there is the elevator key and the passcode.  Give out as needed."  That got a nod.  "Good girl, Stella.  You'll do fine here and in nearly thirteen years, you too can start complaining about your back aching when you've taken over and driven Taylor mad."

"It's not that hard, he's a bit uptight."

"Yeah, that's a Marine for you," she noted dryly.  Don laughed as he came over.  "Don, I'll expect you to mentor her into the finer points of lab bitchdom.  Some of these guys need the helping foot up their ass now and then."

"I know.  I'll do what I can.  Actually, I was going to ask if you wanted to come over and play board games with me and the kids tonight.  She's got a date."

"Oooh, really?" Stella asked.  "Is he cute?"

"Horatio?  Yeah.  Redhead, tall, blue eyes.  Very calm," she said with a smile.  "Likes to cuddle and gives excellent backrubs."

Stella smiled at her.  "You go girl. So, Queens homicide?  They couldn't move you upstairs?"

"They thought I'd interfere."

Stella and Don both nodded.  "You would," they agreed.

"That's why they're moving me allllll the way to Queens."  She grimaced.  "Different morning commute definitely."

Don grinned.  "You'll be fine and it's a bunch of old white guys over there that'll be shocked as hell at you for not wearing a skirt, speaking your mind, and swearing.  Have fun playing with their minds and hey, maybe you'll make Lieutenant and come back when the Captain leaves."

"I think they want you for that," she noted dryly.

"I'd hate desk work.  I'd get bored and have to come down here to bug you guys."  He grinned at Stella.  "I am always available to help on any experiment you might need help with.  I'm down here most of the time anyway.  I seem to clear pretty fast."  She grinned and nudged him and Gwen poked him.  "What?"  He pulled her closer.  "Stella, this is Gwen.  The other daughter is Toni.  And the son is Gordon."

"Hi. Are you going to become a cop like your mom?"

"I'd rather be like Uncle Donny.  I hate the science stuff.  Maybe motorcycle patrol."

"You need more muscles for that," Don assured her.

"I know," she sighed.  "I'm starting to work on it now.  It's not like I'm that old.  I'm only twelve.  I'll be in college at sixteen and then in the Academy by twenty, like mom was."  They all smiled at her.  She sighed.  "I'm going to peel Gordon off Sheldon again.  Mom, we're going home with Uncle Don since you've got a date."  She walked off, then suddenly pounced her little brother, dragging him to the ground.  "Behave."

"No!  Get off my, psycho bitch!"

"Hey, language," Don yelled.

"Get her off me then! She weighs a ton!"

"Son, did I ever tell you how I fought off a three hundred pound attacker?" Catherine asked dryly.  "I was about the same weight then.  Gwen, get off your brother before someone starts chanting 'incest' or something."

"Eww!"  She got off him and dusted herself off. "Mother, I'm going to be scarred for life because of things like that!"  She stomped off, going to pout.

"Ah, the teenage years have arrived," Don complained.  "I'm having fun, are you?" he asked them.

"Loads.  This is more than enough to make sure I never have any."

Catherine looked at her.  "Not like I planned them."  Don groaned and shook his head.  "Kids just kinda appear at the wrong moment.  Right, Don?"

"Bitch," he said fondly, shaking his head.  "Not my fault your son ran away to come live with me the last time I had a really hot date."

"Actually, I was talking about Marcy and ya know what, she's got seven now."

Don shuddered.  "I'm happy for my high school sweetheart, but I'm sure her body is tired and sore by now."  He looked at Stella.  "I make a very good uncle if you do decide to have a few.  They're so smart partially because of me."  She laughed and hugged him, then went to talk to her fellow lab rats a few feet away.  "How are you getting home?"

"Car.  I did drive."

"You can't move your feet, much less drive, Kate."

"I can so."

"You can not!"

"Maybe her date can pick her up," Stella offered.

"I'm suppose to pick him up from the airport."

"He's not local?"


"Oooh, nearly a foreign boy," Stella teased.

"Horatio?" Mac offered.  "He sounds like a nice guy.  I've talked to him a few times while she was running to smack someone in the lab."  He shrugged.  "He seems pretty quiet and nice, which she could use."

She pinched him on the cheek.  "You behave and let us be ourselves and we'll be just fine," she assured him.  "The first time you try to put us into the military mindset, you're going naked and ducttaped into the next snowfall."  She walked on, going to talk to Sheldon.  He was a nice guy. "Hi, Sheldon."

"Hey, Stella."  He grinned at her.  "She never told me she was having back problems."

Don looked at him.  "I had to drag her in handcuffs to my guy.  You know how she feels about doctors.  Come on over to look at her if you want."

Sheldon, their ME, came over to look at her back.  "You really shouldn't drive like that."

"See," Don told her, smirking at her.

"Bastard.  I only have to make it to the airport."

"Then have one of the guys drive you there and then head home," Don countered.

"Go away," she whined.

"No.  Because if you crash, Horatio will blame me and cry on me.  So no.  Sorry."

"I can drive mom and then take the train," Gwen offered.

"The last time I knew, you were only twelve and didn't even have a learner's permit," Don countered.  "Nor have we given you driving lessons yet."

"You're going to teach them how to drive?"

"Not like I want them driving like you do."

"You two really do sound married," Sheldon teased.

"Yeah, well, I've known her since I was eight.  She walked in on me in the shower, I learned what PMS was from her, and how to fend it off quickly, and why girls shave from her.  There's not too much I don't know about her, Sheldon.  Hell, I even watched her breastfeed all the kids."

"Try to sneak some?" Stella teased.

"It shocked the hell outta me when she just whipped one out and put Gordon on it in public."  She giggled at that.  "But no, I ended up using a bottle of it into my coffee one morning.  That's a dangerous habit to start. That shit's addicting.  No wonder kids go on for years and have to be forced off it."

She giggled, leaning on his arm.  "You're so bad, Flack."

"Thank you," he said with a little boy's grin.  He grinned at his buddy. "I'm telling Timmy to drive you and then drop you off before he heads to wherever tonight.  Okay?"  She shook her head.  He reached over and grabbed her by the back of the head.  "Argue with me.  See what I do," he offered.  Then he walked Stella off to talk about a few of the recent cases.  He hadn't worked much with her yet.  He and Taylor had a grudging respect for each other's talents and a deal in place not to talk about Catherine, or else Taylor's head was going to find itself under a garbage truck some morning.  Possibly by itself but definitely his head would be there.  They could and did work together fairly well, complimenting each other's styles, but he'd miss teasing Catherine and Stella seemed like the sort to play with him.


Horatio took one look at his girlfriend and smiled, kissing her gently.  "Back hurt?"  She nodded, looking pitiful.  "I can drive."

"Good, because I can barely walk right now.  Timmy drove me over."  He nodded, helping her up and under his arm so she could rest against his side.  "Can you move up here?  They're moving me to Queens and Homicide."

"I heard.  I called Don a few hours after I heard he was dragging you to the doctor's."  He smiled down at her, and she grinned back, taking a kiss.  "Good girl.  We'll see what we can do about that backache this weekend."  She nodded.  "I'm trying so hard to run my lab like yours," he offered as they walked outside.  "You'd like some of my kids, Catherine.  Speed's a trip and a half at times.  Dark, brooding, pouting.  And then suddenly he's brilliant and sarcastic.  He's like a kid between you and Don at times."  She grinned at that. "Calleigh's from New Orleans, she's blonde and cute and perky.  She reminds me of you but she's more delicate and swears less.  Eric, the new kid, is, well....  He's very free with his attention at times, but he gets the job done with some very good insights now and then.  Plus we still have Alexx.  She said hi by the way."

"Tell her I said hi back and give hugs."  She yawned.  "I hope you remember the way to the house."

"I do."  He got her settled into the car and walked around to drive, patting her down gently for the keys.  "You definitely need to take some leave time to visit," he offered quietly.  "You could use the vacation, love."  He got the car started and backed out of the parking space, noticing the toll ticket on the dashboard with money on top of it.  He liked Timmy, a lot.  He was a nice guy.


Year Thirty-Five


"Cavanaugh!" the old guy in the office bellowed.

"She's with a suspect, boss."

"Joy."  He came out of the office and looked around.  "She's being moved, finally!"  The guys all snorted and gave him dirty looks.  She made them all look good.  Catherine came up the stairs slowly.  "Your back out again?"

"No, my knee aches after he kicked it last week, thank you," she said snidely.  "I heard you bellowed like we finally castrated you and your supposed bull-like balls?"

He smirked. "Yup, and that image is why you're going to Manhattan SVU."

"Oh, no," she warned.  "I'm not. I refuse to transfer."

"The Chief said they've go at serial. You're good at those."

"A serial what?"

"He didn't say, but he said you're going.  That way you make the lab kids do it all on their own and you get to use your cane more often."  He smirked at her.  "You're to report after lunch.  Have fun with that."

"Hmm, then I can do this," she said, tipping her cold coffee over his head and strolling as casually as she could to her desk.  "Thank you, Cap, I've been wanting to do that for weeks."  He glared and she sneered back. "Try me again."  He went into his office and she called the Chief. "You're moving me where?" she demanded.  She heard the reason why and groaned.  "Boss, not exactly my thing.  Yes, I know I have a good touch with victims, but even I have a limit."  She heard the snide comment. "The last person who mentioned that just got hit with cold coffee, you I'll piss on.  I'm not retiring yet.  I'm too damn young to retire."  She hung up and gathered everything, heading that way.  "Timmy!" she yelled.  He came out of the break room.  "We're being moved to SVU."

"Why?" he asked as he followed her.

"Because they want me to retire and can't force me to retire."

"Ah.  Okay.  Should I call and warn Don we'll be back in the same borough again?"

"No, I'll email him when we get there.  Go check my desk for me?"  He nodded so she waved at the desk sergeant.  "I'm off to unhappier hunting grounds.  Have fun without me, tell the kids to behave."

"Of course."  He called down to the CSI unit.  "They just transferred Catherine.  Hey, Tim?"  He looked up as he came down the stairs. "Where and why?"

"Trying to make her retire and so she'll quit fussing over the CSI's shoulders, and to Manhattan SVU."

"Cragen's over that.  They'll get on.  Especially with Munch."

"I liked him," he said happily. "Anything back there for her?"

"Yeah, weekly letter bomb," he said, handing it over.  "Oh, and this."  He handed over the padded envelope.  "No idea what that was.  Just came today.  Should I have it scanned?"

"No."  He grinned. "I can do that."  That got a smile. "Have fun without us."  He walked out to the car, handing her the stuff she had missed, including the little brass cow that Don had gotten her for some reason.  He didn't understand those two at all.  Well, really the three of him.  With Horatio it was a hot mix to watch play. "He's not sure what the padded envelope is."

"Joy."  She felt it, then snickered.  "Hey, Timmy, can we stop at bomb squad?"

"Sure.  Is it?"

"I don't know.  I want it x-rayed."  He nodded and they drove off.  Letter bombs only exploded if you opened them so it was safe enough for now.  She wandered inside and to the elevator, coming off on the bomb squad floor.  "Guys, can we please x-ray this?  I have no idea who it's from and it feels like a rocker switch."  They snatched it from her hand and took it to the portable x-ray they had.  She followed, looking at what was in there.  "What is it?"

"It's a bomb," one of them decided.  "Either that or it's really odd jewelry."

"It could be.  Where's it from?  Gwen's in Texas at the academy down there for their state mounties.  Gordon's in Florida with his Master's."  The shipping number was looked up.  "Huh.  From Miami.  Gordon is in the flat part of the state."  She called Miami.  "Horatio, dear, did you send me something?  Or anyone?  No, I have an odd package here and we're trying to decide if it's explosive or not."  She handed over the phone.  "My guy."

"Um, sir?  Oh, Lieutenant Caine."  He frowned at her.  "That one that was up here on that case?"

"Yes, and we had a fight after that since he didn't even call," she pointed out dryly.

"Oh, sorry.  Um looks like a flat bar with squiggly lines behind it and a solid mass.  Could be some sort of pendant or something.  Sure, I can hold."  He looked at her.  "He's asking his sister-in-law?"

"Detective Salas.  She works with their CSI lab. Pretty woman, widow.  Sweet at hell but she's got that infamous temper.  I think her mother was Brazilian."

"Oh.  So really pretty, huh?"

"Yeah, if I liked girls I'd go for her."

He listened and then smirked at her. "He said he heard that and you'd better not try, she's dating someone named Stetler."

"Does she need body elimination?" she asked.

"He said no, they've still got alligators."

"Poor things. So...."

"He said it wasn't them, it sounds like an explosive they've had going around, and it was focused around his lab and him personally."

"Cool.  You know the drill.  Send it to Taylor so he can get chatty with him again."  She took the phone back.  "Thank you, dear.  No, I'm being moved to Manhattan SVU today.  No, still on it.  My knee aches," she said as she headed back to the elevator. "Have fun with that, guys.  Get someone to dust for fingerprints first."

"We know," they called, all shaking their heads.  She was horrible about that stuff.

She grinned. "They did," she said once they were in the elevator.  "Of course.  Well, expect some crying calls if they keep me there.  I can't say rape cases are my favorite and people who hurt kids will get hurt by me."  She smiled.  "I love you too.  It's my turn to come down, right?  Sure.  I'll see if I can do that.  Thank you.  Love you too.  Be safe.  Call if you need me.  I'm bored without my lab."  He laughed and hung up.  She went out to the car and got in.  "Okay, onto the new home."

He laughed.  "How was Horatio?"

"Okay, that was a bomb against him.  They're going to explode it soon."  He nodded, pulling out into traffic.  "Which one was Cragen again?  I kinda remember Munch."

"Cragen was the older guy.  Used to be over Brsico's unit?"

"Oh, him, yeah.  Okay."  She nodded and decided to nap.  "Wake me when we get there."

"Of course."  He glanced at her at a stoplight, then reached over to lean her seat back.  Then he moved on at the honks.  She worked too hard.


Catherine came off the elevator.  "Thank you for putting that in for me."

"And you are?" the guy in the corner asked.  He was bald, African-American, and looked like he knew the streets even before he patrolled them.

"Cavanaugh.  Eternally damned."  He laughed at that.  "Seriously. Had an argument with the Cardinal when I was fourteen.  Cragen is...."

"Still at lunch with the chief."

"Oh, great.  Probably being warned about me.  Cool.  Tim!"  He came up the stairs.  "Daily dose of exercise?"  He nodded and handed her the box and the bag.  "Thank you, dear.  This is Tim.  He's my bodyguard/driver/babysitter/regulator of my crankiness.  Get used to him, he's always somewhere near me."  She looked at the guy coming in.  "You I know."

"You're our new detective?"

"Yeah, sucks ass to be you, Stabler," she said dryly, smirking at him.  "Me with a bum knee at the moment thanks to a perp last week too."

"Aw, shit," he said, looking at Timmy.  "Couldn't you complain harder?"

"I tried.  She tried.  They're trying to make her retire and you guys apparently needed more help with the evidence stuff."

"We have had two cases blown," the other guy admitted.  "What's your thing?"

"I ran Taylor's CSI lab for ten years and trained him."  She looked at him.  "Then I got switched to Homicide."

"Damn.  So, you know your shit?"

"I rebuilt that lab's image, personnel, and then had it remodeled."  That got a smirk and she sat on the end of the empty desk. "Is this one mine?"  Everyone nodded. "Good."  She dropped her stuff onto it.  "Okay.  My thing, secondary of course, is serial stuff.  Though my kids will tell you I'm more an oatmeal sort now and then, I've worked a great many serial cases."  Cragen came in and she waved.  "I'm eternally damned to your hell."

"I heard.  My office."  He watched her slide off the desk and grab her cane.  "What happened?" he sighed.

"Perp kicked me wrong, bent it the other direction."

"Ow," Stabler hissed, shaking his head.

"Yeah, so it's gonna be a while.  That and my back love all you guys and that's why Timmy fetches whenever I have to run."  Timmy laughed at that but she went into the office.  She let him close the door.  "Besides the fact that they want to retire and I just got told you guys are having evidence issues, why else am I here?  Are you running low on smartasses?"

"Not yet.  Not with Munch here.  Sit, you look like you're in pain."

"I am.  Queen's homicide wasn't exactly handicap accessible.  Thank you for having an elevator."  She sat down and moved the chairs so she could put her sore knee up.  "Okay, I'm listening."

"We're short a detective at the moment.  She's on a case out of town."  She nodded at that.  "That and we tend to switch pairings a lot.  Do you trust my judgement, Catherine?"

"I didn't even remember who you were until Timmy jogged my memory and you know I only trust him and Don Flack."

"Point.  Well, my guys will back you up.  You won't need Timmy."

"Bet me.  Not like I can run."

"Okay, you can keep him, I'm not going to complain. He can help you all he wants.  But, you're the only female in this unit now."

"And I'm still being forced to retire due to emotional stress."  He nodded.  "Got it.  Can I hit 'em when they've raped their little kids?"

"No.  Not unless you can find some way to do it before they're in custody and out of sight of the others."

"Damn.  Well.  My thing is, of course, CSI stuff, and then serial cases.  I got told you had one for me?"

"I do and it's not pretty."

"Think about what I saw as a CSI, Cragen.  I'd have seen it anyway."  He nodded and handed over the file, kicking the trashcan closer.  "I've seen worse, trust me."  She flipped a few pictures and held one up.  "Atypical?"  He nodded.  "Okay, are we sure?"

"Same DNA on it."

"Wonderful.  Who's doing DNA?"

"Taylor."  She looked at him.  "That's our CSI unit too."

"Fuck.  Well, at least I know most of them."

"The DNA tech moved in recently.  She's only been there a year."

"Hmm.  Yay me.  Any other new staff that Stella didn't tell me about the last time we emailed?"

"Yeah, a Danny Messer and an Aiden Burns.  Both newish.  Aiden's only been on a few months. Danny's been there nearly a year.  He's a good kid."

"Is that a hint I've got another mentoree?"

"If he needs it, I'd suggest you.  Especially with the problems you ran into with Taylor."  He grimaced. "Why did you leave anyway?"

"Taylor.  The stress had me cracking at the seams."

"Ah.  Good to know.  He rights a tight ship."

"Which is nice, but I can still kick his ass in the labs."

"True.  I always liked working with you as CSI."  She smiled at that and shifted some, grimacing a bit more. "You okay?"

"No.  My knee's not real steady.  My back's still spasming now and then.  So now I'm the brains and Timmy goes to chase people down."

"If it works for you, it works for me," he assured he.  "I still can't believe you've been here now for fifteen years?"

"My fifteenth anniversary is next month," she sighed, looking at him.  "I'm too damn young for this."

"You are.  Can you handle this?"

"No.  But I'll have to.  The Chief made it clear it was this or retirement.  I had no options and no way or reason to complain."

"Yeah, I think you do."

"I know I do, but another lawsuit won't help any and it'll take away from the Vice guys."   She stood up and rested against her cane again.  "Okay.  That's my desk?"  He nodded.  "Am I questioning the victims?"

"If they need a female officer, yes.  Some won't want it."

"Fine with me.  Do I get to interrogate?"

"If we need it, yes.  No violence."

"I'll try really hard."  He nodded at that.  "Any other orders?"

"I want you to go over every single piece of evidence on that case with Stella.  Down to the last microfiber.  I want it unchallengable in court."

"I'll call her tonight.  Have her bring it to me."  That got a nod.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  Make me proud and leave Stabler alone."

"Sure.  You really got Munch, from Baltimore?"  He nodded.  "Wow.  You're good."  She walked out and headed back to her desk, finding the man in question leaning against it.  "I stab unwelcome sitting people on my desk."  She stared at him and grinned.  "Hi, John."

"Catherine.  Why are you here?"

"They gave me a choice, here or retirement.  I'm three weeks from my fifteenth anniversary."

"Ah.  The pretty numbers."  He kissed her on the forehead.  "How's Don?"

"Hasn't been able to come by.  They cut his department and he's been working hellish hours."  She shrugged and sat down with a sigh.  "I see Timmy arranged stuff and then disappeared. Lunch or Don?"

"Don.  To warn him."  He grinned at her.  "You got our serial?"

"Yuppers.  Let me call Stella before I forget."   She dialed the lab, getting a cheerful voice.  "Well, you're not the one I wanted.  Where's Bonasera?  Tell her it's Catherine, I'm in SVU, and I just got handed her serial, dear.  Thank you.  Yup, she can find me here or at home tonight.  Thank you."  She hung up and shook her head.  "They get younger and younger."

"Yeah, because you're one to talk," he scoffed.  "You were nineteen when you graduated the academy."

"Yeah, I was.  And my daughter Gwen will be when she graduates," she said proudly.  "Gordon is doing his masters in Florida for his languages and he want to join Horatio's department.  He'll be seventeen since they don't have an age barrier like we do."

"What about the other brat?"

"She's enjoying being the only one at home and chatting with her friends.  She is just like her Aunt Mirin.  Smart enough but doesn't want it."

"That happens even in the smartest of families," he reminded her.  "Any other good news?"

"Yeah, Horatio's running his lab."  He smiled at that.  "Off the desk, let me get to work."  He nodded and did that so she got back to work, doing what she normally did, starting with the evidence first.


Don hauled three boxes into her house, smiling at her.  "You caught the serial?"

"Of course.  They moved me today," she said dryly, nodding at the table.  "Let's lay it out there so I can put my leg up."

"Sure."  He put things down.  "I volunteered to bring it since Stella's got the flu and Mac tried to volunteer."

"Yeah, like he's welcome," she said dryly.  "New DNA tech any good?"

"Yeah, okay.  Not exciting but okay."  He laid out everything for her, taking her leg to rub while she looked over everything.  "It started out in our precinct and then got moved due to the sexual assault post mortem."

"Yummy.  Pick what we're having for dinner since Toni's got a dance tonight and is spending the night with Sheila so they can do their hair."

"Charming."  He tapped one thing.  "This I'm not very sure about.  I have no idea what it is or what it's for."

She picked it up. "It's a tongue gag.  It basically clamps onto the tongue and then straps would normally go around the head to hold it in place, usually slightly sticking out.  In this configuration, the metal fingers, here, would go onto the cheeks."

"Eww.  No dinner. Stella couldn't figure that out."

"Yeah, not exactly happy making.  But these haven't been in modern use in about a hundred years.  See, the same as the bride's scold," she said, tapping another picture.  "That's ancient female torture to shut up a nagging spouse."

"And we've found the more modern cock gag and ring gags too," he offered, tapping those bags.  "We checked where you can buy those.  There's way too many places."

She smiled at him.  "Trace the manufacturer.  See who in the city sells that model."

"We tried.  There's hundreds of those sold plus the online stuff."

"Don, computers cross-check those things."

"I know, but no one down there can do that at the moment.  The AV guy is out and Messer can do it somewhat but not that great."

"Ah.  Okay.  Well, I can do it on my laptop if you can get lists."

"I've got lists," he promised, handing her a diskette.  "There's ten thousand on one list and nearly two on the second one. That doesn't count things like swap meets and stuff."

"Ah.  But we do have an in."  She tapped the first piece of hardware.  "Did anyone go to Hardware?"

"Munch did.  They didn't like him."

"Of course not," she sighed.  "Fine.  That's where I'm going tonight."  She looked at everything else, finding a few things.  "Okay, whoever did these, do them over."

"Messer did one and he said he did it that way because of the shape of the metal?"

"Yeah, and did he run it upside down and backwards?"  She pointed at something.  "The powder stuck to the tape line before there was a tape lift."

"Oh."  He blinked.  "Well, he was pretty beaten down.  Lots and lots of cases."  He yawned. "I'm hoping you don't expect much tonight."

"No, dear.  Go nap on the couch."  He nodded and went to do that while she got back to work.  She sealed everything but the few problems back up and made notes on them of what needed to be done and what she wanted done, then she took the two pictures and the piece of hardware with her once the boxes were resealed and the other stuff in a sealed bag of their own.


Catherine walked into the club Hardware, getting a few looks.  "Bugger off," she said sweetly to one.  She headed for the bar, putting her badge down on it.  "Teeth in or out this month?"

"In the back room.  Why?"  She put down the piece of hardware and he grimaced.  "What the fuck?"

"Tongue gag.  Ancient, ancient thing.  They used a bride's scold too.  Some more modern gags too.  I'm hoping he can identify a source I can go see about who might have it."  Teeth was an oral surgeon who liked gags.  He knew about everyone who had gags in the city.  She sat down and winced.  "If that's a hand, move it forward or back, not there."  The hand moved. "Thank you."  She put her badge back on.  "He'll remember me."

"Sure."  He went to get the guy himself, leaving her there.  She could hold her own.  "Teeth, visitor."


"Some brainy little bitch with a badge.  Wants to talk to you about some old gags."

"Sure.  Be right out."

"Tell him to take his time and zip up this time," she called.

He flung open the door.  "Catherine?"  She nodded.  "What the fuck?"  He came out and then zipped up, coming over to hug her.  "What you are here?"

"I got moved to SVU earlier today."  He moaned.  "And handed a serial case up your alley.  Not the back one," she offered with a grin.  He laughed and she hugged him.  "I miss you guys from college."

"Me too.  How's Don?"

"Napping on my couch.  He's been worn out at work and this was originally his case. They handed it to me to make sure of the evidence and stuff."  He grinned at that.  "Yeah, twelve years as a CSI, I ran the lab for ten, and then I got bumped ta homicide. Now SVU."

"I'm so sorry."

"Me too but at least I'll get to see you guys again."  She held up the tongue gag.   He moaned and touched the bag.  "He's using them on bodies and that means it's evidence and evidence....."

"Is usually destroyed," he complained.

"Help me find him, maybe you can buy his collection when he goes to the chair."

He wrote down three names.  "The only three of those I know in the city - and if I don't know, they will - are owned by these two men and one woman.  She's a writer before you ask."  He handed them down and kissed her, then grinned.  "Bring Donny down for drinks this weekend?"

"Sure.  Don't tell them I'm coming tomorrow."

"You should be coming tonight, princess."

"I would, but my guy's in Miami and my wrist is sore.  It's been a while since a visit."   That got a loud laugh from the guys around her.  "Who's still around?"

"Me, Peter Piercer.  Robot Boy.  Um, last I knew Walla Walla was uptown now and being a sub."  He shrugged. "Most of us left it after college."

"Yeah, Donny too.  Me mostly but my guy lets me bite at least."

"Oooh," Teeth moaned.  "Biting.  I miss biting.  Now you've got to have tests and things out the ass. And not in the fun way."

She nodded.  "I know.  We need quarterly ones for work."

"Damn," he said, looking unimpressed.  "You're still going at least."  He kissed her again. "Pass that on and see if he's still got the scar."  He grinned and wandered off. "I'm going back to my entertainment."

"Thank you.  I'll try this weekend."  She picked up everything and grinned at the bartender.  "You still don't remember me, do you?"


"Fifteen, sixteen years ago.  You only had the two tattoos and you'd never show the other one.  No matter how many times Donny tried to bribe you?"

"Oh, Mother of God," he moaned, looking at her.  "Katie?"  She nodded.  "Oh, shit.  You're doing SVU now?"  She nodded.  "Oh, honey."  He hugged her.  "I miss you guys.  Bring Donny home, okay?"

"Okay."  She grinned and made sure she had everything, bending to pick up the gag that had fallen.  Those same fingers came back.  "Unless you're planning on doing that for real."  She turned and found Don there, smirking at her.  "I thought you were crashed on the couch."

"I was. You don't go out without backup."

"I'm fairly safe here.  Here.  Go lock these in the glove box of the safer car."  He nodded and did that.  She shrugged and sat down.  "Guess I'm having a drink." That got a laugh and the bartender poured her some of her favorite former drink, blood wine.  She saluted Donny with it and sipped slowly.  "God it's been ages."

"Tell me about it," he complained as he sat next to her.  "Rookie patrol sitting outside.  I bagged it and sent it back.  Names?"  She handed them over.  "Who?"

"Teeth. He's in the back and wanted to know if you still had the scar."

"Yes, and I've had lie about it numerous times over the years.  Any more I say it's a dog bite."  That got some laughs.  "Hey, I try to be straight," he assured them. "Most of the time."  That got another laugh, including from her. "You never told Horatio about this."

"Bet me.  He asked.  I answered.  I told him all the shit I used ta do."  Don looked horrified and she nodded. "Yeah.  He got a bit shocked but in a good way.  He doesn't mind being spanked or anything either."  That got a smirk and a snicker from him.  "Of course, I'm not supposed to tell you that."

"I can see why."  He kissed her again, then grinned at her. "We have got to have a reunion this weekend.  I'm single again.  Your guy's still in Miami.  I promise nothing will happen."

"We're not fully exclusive since I won't move and he won't move.  He knows it's going to take some effort for exclusive.  I'm still tired of my right hand."  She took another drink and looked at it.  "Ice cold, honey, ice cold."  He dropped a small drop of dry ice in, making it fog up and chill considerably.  "Thank you."  She fished it out and flicked it toward a guy wearing a parka, making him shiver.  Then she winked at Donny.  "Playtime?"

"Your knee?"

"I'm pretty sure I can fix that."  That got another few laughs and she walked over to her old picture, looking up at it. Then she smiled at everyone and pointed. "That was me when I was littler."  They all looked awed.  She moved down the wall, finding her other one, with Donny.  "That's Don."  They broke to in applause.  "Yes, some of us are in the PD."

"Hey, you know that uptight guy?" the bartender called.

"Taylor?" Don asked, smirking at him.  "She trained him.  Bourbon?"

One was poured and handed over.  "He came in like we were scum and sneered."

"He'll be getting his," she assured them.  "Even if I have to tie him down myself."  That got a few more claps and cheers.  She walked back to the bar.  "You took down my third one?  From my undercover?"

"Yeah, that wasn't really you."

"You sure about that?"  He shook his head. "It was the only way I could let loose, dear. It's not like I could do it in the *lab*."  He smiled at that. "Put it back up."

"Yes, ma'am."  He went to find it in the back room and put it back up, including calling the owner to tell him what she said.  He was happier and his toys would be treated well for the night.  He had missed them too.  They had been the life of the party when they were younger. They had all missed Donny and Kate.


Catherine wandered into work the next morning, looking very tired.  She handed Munch the three names.  "Don has a copy of them and I looked over the evidence. I found three problems.  You upset my former drinking buddies horribly."  He looked horrified so she smiled.  "Yes, that was my college hangout.  So call Don and coordinate."  He nodded, doing that, not looking at her.  "Thank you."  She walked over to Stabler.  "This place," she said, handing over the slip of paper.  "Requires consent forms, signed consent forms, and safe words.  You don't get in there unless you have one signed, you have bloodwork on file, and they know you.  If that rule is broken, the people beat the hell out of them who break it.  I've heard you've been in there?"

"I had no idea it was a consent-only place," he said quietly.

"That's what they said. And if someone in there doesn't like it, there's a big sign on the wall that tells you what to yell out and they'll let you out of there, free and clear, and call you a cab."

"Thank you.  Any other places I should know about?"

"There's a whole underground in the area but it's been *years* since I played in it.  There's generally, if it's an older club, a monitor of some kind.  The Super Dom of the night sort of thing.  Some of the newer ones don't go by the old rules. Those I worry about.  Places like Ferris and Hardware? It's all consensual.  They'll run you off if you're a newbie playing games.  Or if you're just looking for a cheap thrill.  These guys are the people who live the life every day of their lives."

"Got it.  Thank you."

"Welcome."  She went back to her seat and sat down with a moan.  She opened her drawer, found the tylenol, the warm coke cans, and the aleeve.  Then she downed copious quantities of all three.  "Ah."  The captain came in.  "Got a break, possibly."

"Good.  Evidence?"

"A few things.  One of the fingerprints was put there.  Don said the guy who was running them had worked about eighteen every day that week. A few issues of misidentified things and having to identify things. The few things I sent back with a note and the stuff I borrowed to get a lead went back last night.  Donny got the rest from my house a bit ago."

"You went with Don Flack?" Cragen asked.

"It was his case originally and no, I went alone.  These were some of my college friends."  She stared him down then blatantly put her knee back up.  "According to the pattern, the next body is tomorrow so they're being prepped today.  We need to know who's buying large quantities of rubbing alcohol.  They were using that when they shaved them according to the ME's report.  They found traces of it in some of the cuts.  We also need to know about the enemas they're being given because it's very hard to find 'shrooms in New York City.  Native, natural 'shrooms at that.  The third thing is that it's very hard to find that particular brand of soap that was used in the pre-'shroom enemas.  It's an all natural herbal blend; I only know of one shop that sells it."  She wrote that down and tossed over a bar.  "That's really old and I want it back.  They can compare it to see if it's changed formulas or if it's got a different scent.  I repeat, I want that back."

"Okay, anything else?" Cragen asked.

"Yeah, I spent most of my night there.  I'm staying here unless it's a new case."

"Agreed.  Thank you."  He went into his office, then came out.  "Where did you go?"

"Hardware.  John and Taylor pissed 'em off.  Like I said, old college buddies."

"Um, those pictures on the walls...." John started.

"Yes, I'm in a few.  Yay me."  She smirked at him.  "Anything else you want to know?"

"Can you sit?" he asked.

"Aren't I?"

"Not really. You're more slouched."

"Yeah, well, I've got a bad back too.  Deal with it and move on."  John blushed at that and went to check out their leads with Elliot.  They could pick up Don Flack on the way.

She smiled at the other guy.  "Just remember, I can't run, Timmy fetches people for me.  That and he claims I swear at traffic."

"Good to know.  I'll drive."

"Sure.  We can take my car so Timmy can and I can stretch out.  I've got a decent stereo and I allow anything but hard-core rap."

He smiled.  "Fine with me.  What'cha got in there now?"

"Don put a pop one in and I had The Arrogant Worms in."  He looked confused.  "Canadian, comedy, some political.  You'll like 'em.  I'll let you listen later."

"Sure.  I'll try anything once.  Unless it looks painful."

Cragen came out.  "Rape case at Women's.  CSI is backed up."

"When aren't they," she said dryly, grabbing her cane and standing up.  "Who?"  The slip was handed over and she nodded, heading that way.  "Tim!"  He came jogging out of the bathroom.  "Dear, heading."  He nodded, going down to start the car.  "Put in my CD so he can listen to it."

"Sure," he called. He had the car warmed up and waiting by the time she got there and the music already going.

He got in and listened, then burst out laughing.  "Okay, I kinda like this one," he admitted.  They took off and he buckled up. "Women's."

"Wreck on fifth," Timmy countered.  "We can swing around and get there faster."

"Sure."  He nodded.  "Sounds good ta me."  He looked back at her.  "How do you rate this special treatment?"

"Easy, the department tried to kill me for who my father is."


"My father had to leave the PD to go back to his family job to keep myself and my sister safe.  The PD started me off in my first case tracking down dirty cops."

"Oh, shit, you're that Cavanaugh."  She smiled and nodded. "Okay, understood.  No wonder you carry your own backup."  She nodded.  "Can you trust us to do that?"

"What makes you think I trust anyone but Timmy and Don Flack?  I trust you to work in your best interest.  Most of the time on the street that means protecting your partner so you're protected too.  In some it doesn't.  I protect myself, Timmy has my back, and if you do, that's good."

He turned to face her better.  "I'm not a follower."

She touched the tattoo she could see through his shirt.  "I can see that.  That doesn't matter to me either.  It's ingrained.  Like I said, most of the time it's in your own best interests.  Sometimes it isn't.  At those times, I've got it or Timmy does."

He nodded, getting that.  "Okay.  I'll work to change your mind. What about the other CSI people?"

"Taylor watched her for a decade for people to make sure she didn't want to go back to her family," Timmy said quietly. "Even I got bothered by him."

"You were proof they were right," she reminded him.  "I wish like hell I had stayed and the Chief had moved him but they didn't.  He got my lab and I got moved to homicide in Queens.  With the old white guy club.  I poured my coffee on my last captain before I left."  He smiled at that.  "We're talking 'you're a little girl, you can't do that' club members. But hey, I got a vacation when I tortured Mirin's husband at least.  I got a whole week in Miami."

"At least he drove you around," Timmy joked. She kicked the back of his seat.  "Watch your knee."

"I am.  I know it's sore."

"Where did you and Don go last night?"

"Hardware."  He moaned.  "Old college hangout." He moaned louder. "We're going back this weekend and you can't come."

Timmy looked back in the mirrors. "Bet me."

"Unless you like wearing a collar, you're not coming."

"Yes, ma'am.  Can I wait in the car?"

"No.  Don can drive. Or we can cab."  He sighed and nodded, leaving it at that.  "And no, you can't nark either."

"Yes, ma'am," he sighed, looking at the new guy. "See what I have to put up with?"

"Yeah, and see why you're getting your gold shield next year," she countered.

"I don't want it."

"Suck it up, Timmy.  Just move on with life for now."  She pointed. "Hospital.  ER entrance."  He nodded, heading there.  She got out and headed for the front desk, showing off her badge.  "SVU," she said quietly, glancing back at her partner, then at the nurse again.  "Where is our victim?"

"He's in room three, detective."  She nodded, going that way.  "I'm not sure who should talk to him."

"Let me start," she offered.  "Has the kit been done?"  That got a nod.  "Thank you.  Has CSI been in for trace?"

"No, ma'am."

"I'll do that.  Get my kit from the car, just in case, okay?" He nodded and went to get it from Timmy.  She tapped on the door before walking in.  "Hi.  I'm Detective Cavanaugh, SVU.  Can you talk to me? I have a male partner if you'd feel more comfortable."

"No, I'd rather not."

"At all or just him?"

"Him."  She nodded, taking the kit. "Thank you.  Stay."  She walked in and let the door shut.  "My name's Catherine.  I used to be a CSI so I'm going to look for anything the nurse missed, okay?"  He nodded.  She pulled out her tape recorder and loaded in a clean tape, bagging the last one.  She wasn't sure where it was from.  She'd figure it out and forward it later.  "Okay, what's your name, dear?"


"What's your last name?  I'm taping this as I work so I can type your statement off it later and have you sign it.  Okay?"  He nodded.  "Out loud please?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Good boy, Philip.  Why don't you tell me where you went last night, say starting when you got home from work?"  She pulled on some gloves and smiled at his hesitant look.  "Like I said, I'm looking for trace.  I'm going to start with your hair and comb it.  Go ahead and tell me. I'll ask questions when I need to."

He nodded.  "I came home from work and had dinner.  A microwave something.  It was pretty nasty and forgettable.  Chicken I think."  He watched her as she did his hair, gathering little bits and pieces.  "What's that?"

"That's what I'm going to find out.  Did you go out?"

"With some friends.  We were planning on going to Icehouse, but it was closed for a party so we went to Julio's instead.  Down in the Village....


She walked the kit into the lab, looking at Stella.  "Got my notes?"

"Got your notes, Detective."  She smiled.  "What's that?"

"Rape kit and trace off a young man who ended up at Women's.  Tape's in the bag.  The other tape is, I think, from my last interview at Homicide in Queens.  Not really sure so I thought I'd hand it to you in case it was or wasn't.  That you could figure that out since I'm doing that serial.  Send it to whoever so they can use it for the DA."

"You're so helpful."

Catherine grinned. "I know.  And I bet you still don't remember me.  And it's only been a few years."   She turned and walked out, heading back to the car.  "Okay.  Done," she said as she slid in.

"Fun," Timmy said.  "Home precinct, boss?"

"Yeah, unless you wanna stop off and get the daughter."

"Not really."  He drove them off, heading for home.

"You did good today," he offered.

"I know.  Not the first one I've done."

"I noticed.  You always do that with the evidence?"

"I was a CSI for twelve years.  I ran the lab for ten. Yes."  He smiled at that.  "Someone's got to do it and no one had."

"Point.  Thank you.  I can't stand to work male rape cases."

"Yeah, most women feel the same about female ones.  But most of the time, the victim won't talk to a male."  He nodded at that.  "The same as usually women work the kiddy cases better too," she said sadly.

"Catherine, you can always retire or fight this move."

"Cragen knows not to put me on a kiddy case, Tim."  Her partner looked back at her.  "The last time I cracked the guy's jaw during apprehension.  Made confession a bit difficult since it was down the center and he kept blacking out."

He nodded.  "I can see that.  You're sure he knows?"

"Yeah, he's a smart man, he looked up my record.  Including what I did to my sister's former husband when he hit her.  Why he's still on the force I'm not sure."

"IA refused to take his badge until the DA prosecuted and they're being slow since you did that to him," Timmy told her.

"Well, I can almost guarantee you it won't happen again.  He's gonna have a bit of a problem getting a girlfriend now."  Timmy smiled at that.

"Your sister's Mirin Cavnaugh?"  She nodded.  "Nice work with her husband."

"Thank you.  He's still on the force though.  At least they put mine away for it."  Timmy nodded at that. "Timmy.  Where are we going?"


"Fine.  Let's hope she's a bit more subtle today."

"Oh, I don't know, the day she taunted the murderer was kinda funny," Timmy offered.  She kicked his seat again. "It was."

"It was, but still!  She's not old enough to do that yet and she's not that good in self defense yet either."

"Good point.  I'll work on that this weekend while you and Don recover from your outing."

"Thank you.  That would be very helpful."  They paused long enough for her daughter to slide in and she smiled, kissing her on the head.  "How was school?"

"Sucks, like usual.  Hi.  And you are?"

"One of her new coworkers in SVU.  You might wanna change."

"Not my idea, dude.  The nuns want them that short."

"Change," her mother ordered. "When we get there."  She nodded, more than happy to comply at the moment.  "Why did it suck today?"

"Because some little mouthy ass bitch came in and started to taunt me about how her daddy once bit Uncle Donny."

"Her daddy an oral surgeon?"  She nodded, grimacing.  "He did.  I can't say as Donny didn't realize it considering he's got a scar, but he did."  She looked at her, looking horrified.  "Honey, when you're ready to go to college, we're going to have a longer talk.  Okay?  I can give you all you ever need to know about most of the drugs on the street except for meth, but I can tell you what it's like.  I was your age once and I remember most of it.  Some of it was pretty hazy now and then, but most of it."  Her daughter gave her the most horrified look. "Really.  I used to give your Uncle Don beer all the time."

"I'm going to go see Uncle Don and make sure he's normal okay?"  At the next red light she hopped out and headed for the subway.

She chuckled. "See, now she'll never do drugs or drink."  Both men laughed. "She wouldn't be caught dead doing something I had done and enjoyed when I was her age.  It works."

"It probably does," Timmy agreed.  "Close the door again."  She reached over and reshut it, then they continued on.  "So, work?"



Year Thirty-Seven

Don Flack, one of the more decent detectives in New York City, favorite and beloved of the borough's CSI team, walked toward his desk, noticing his Lieutenant's office door was closed.  That wasn't the normal way she started her day but every now and then meetings did happen.  He sat down at his desk and looked at the things that had sprouted overnight.  A few reports from the lab.  A few case files.  An email from someone that had been printed out.  He read that and looked toward the office.  Only one person in the whole city gave him a head's up when they were going to be nearby.  Usually he found that kinda silly, he liked the girl, he always had, but this time he was sensing a deeper dread in the simple words.  He got up and went to the office door, looking inside, and sure enough there she was.  He knocked and walked in, giving her a hug.  "Catherine, what're you doing here?"