Disclaimer: omfg NOT MINE. Rating: PG.
Pairings: Sam/Jack, Sam/Daniel, Daniel/Janet, Sheppard/Weir.
Setting: AU. Think the 40's. Casablanca. Nero Wolfe. Except I haven't seen anything like that in ages, and, well... Notes: I have no frelling clue where this came from. This plot MAKES NO SENSE. As fair warning to you. I mean, honestly, this could go on a list of "Ways Not To Write". Probably -- no, Definitely -- A.j.'s fault for talking about Nero Wolfe and 40's wear.

by ALC Punk!

It was the legs that got me first. Old Nick down at O'Malley's can tell you that any time you ask. Any dame, any place, if she's got the legs I'll be all over her like a hot second. Or a New York minute. Old Nick, well, he's a great guy. Doesn't kick me out too often, doesn't let too many take advantage.

But the legs.

They were attached to a blonde. Not a bottle-job, she was too classy for that. She stepped into my office, leveled her gams at me, and I knew this was going to be a bad case.

She knew it, too.

"I've heard you're a detective."

"So they say." I wasn't gonna be helpful. Not with those killer legs promising sex, death, mayhem, danger -- all the things I'm not supposed to have. One day, I'd learn to bite my tongue.

"Got a job for you." Her hands opened the briefcase, and she tossed a sheaf of papers on my desk (I keep it clean just for this sorta instance). I took a minute to stare at her, take in the classically-tailored royal blue suit, the pristine white pearls in her ears. I was bettin' on her bein' a runaway school teacher.

"What's the deal?"

"No deal. Just a job." She placed her hands on my desk and bent towards me, giving me a better view down the v-neck of her white blouse.

"For?" I was willin' to prolong this, for a look at creamy-white skin and legs that went on forever. Either that, or my fifth of scotch was empty, and I thought a little money might be good. Or maybe I'm just ten kinds of fool.

"There's been a murder. A colleague of mine is being framed, Mr. O'Neill." She leaned a little further forward, and I wondered if black lace was standard issue for school teachers.

"Look, miss--"

"Miz. Carter." Her voice was crisp, but I could tell she'd had this argument a dozen times. "Please, Mr. O'Neill. Captain Hammond says you're the best."

Hammond. Damn. Knew that moment of savin' his life in a dark alley would come back to haunt me. "Hammond don't know squat, Miz Carter." I stood and came around my desk, watching her straighten. I'd thought she was tall (damn, but those legs went on forever), and I'd been right. She was almost the perfect height.

"Knows enough to send me to you." Her gaze was steady on me as I leaned against the desk and crossed my arms. "Anything, Mr. O'Neill. I'll do anything."

Good. My eyes dropped to her lips and I smirked. "Kiss me."

For a moment, I didn't think she would. Her eyes went wide and she stared at me like I was bonkers. Then she nodded, her shoulders firmed, and her mouth drew up slightly. "I did say anything, didn't I."

It was a light brush of her lips on mine. Too light. My hands caught her and dragged her back before she could do more than squeak in protest.

When I let her go we were both breathin' heavily, and my smirk was back.

"Will you take the case?"

"After a kiss like that? Hell yeah."

"Good." I'm an idiot. I didn't see her fist until I was on the floor seein' stars. Her voice came from a distance, and I guessed she was on her way out. "I'll leave this file with your secretary, Mr. O'Neill."

"You do that." I mumbled, wincing. My jaw hurt.

Why did the sexy ones always have to have the best right crosses?

A minute later, my secretary came bustling in. Lizzie Weir's a great gal, tall, slim, brunette. And she'd punch me in the balls before kissin' me. Apparently she's got taste. Although right now she's dating an up and comin' officer down at the precinct. John Sheppard and I don't entirely see eye to eye, but I let it pass, generally, since she keeps him in line.

"Boss." Her lips were quirked up, and I knew she was pullin' her 'laughing inside' routine on me. Girl could run for ambassador she's so damn contained.

"We got a new case."

"So I see." She held a hand out.

I took it and let her drag me to my feet. "Gettin' too damn old for this, Lizzie."

"Right, boss." She set the file down and began pulling out the particulars. "One Dr. Daniel Jackson is accused of murdering a young archeology student under his tutelage. A Miss Sarah Gardner."

"Uh-huh." The fifth wasn't quite empty, and while a glass might have worked, I was more interested in drinking it.

"Miss Gardner was found by one of Jackson's competitors, a Dr. Steven Rayner --"

"So, we have our first suspect," I muttered into the bottle, tipping it back.

"If you can call it that, boss." her tone was dry. "Dr. Rayner claims to have heard Dr. Jackson threaten her several times. There were no witnesses, and it appears that she was strangled. This is a very thorough file. The police must have handed her all their notes."

"Yeah. So I don't know why the hell Hammond sent her to me." The bottle was empty. Damn.

"Because Hammond knows you have a weakness for blondes."

"Keep it up, Lizzie, and you'll need a different job," I muttered.

She smirked, "Need a new fifth of scotch, boss?"

"Yes, damnit."

"Then shut up and listen to the rest of this."

By the time she was done readin', I felt like there was cotton wadding stuffed in my head. But the particulars were simple. Now I just had to find out why Dr. Jackson couldn't provide the police with an alibi. And why one blonde with legs had decided to make me investigate.

I went to O'Malley's. You wanna know what's goin' down on the street, drink there for long enough. Besides, Old Nick'd give me scotch on my tab. He was looking good when I arrived, his cigar lit, his hands busy with drinks and towels.


"Nick." I straddled the stool. "Usual. Please."

A slight smirk touched his lips. "Business down, O'Neill?"

"Nah. Gotta new case."

"Huh." He eyed me, then shrugged, "No skin off my nose," The glass thunked in front of me. "But if you can't pay at the end of the month, I may have to turn you in."

"Me? Unable to pay?" I tossed back the shot, felt it burn all the way down. "'nother."

"Sure, sure. Luck'll be with you, you'll get lotsa dough outta this one. I know how it goes, O'Neill. Always excuses."

"Can I help it if crime don't pay?"

Nick chuckled but moved down the bar to deal with other patrons.

"Buy a guy a drink?" The voice was followed by a solid thunk as the owner settled next to me.

I glanced at him. He was smirking underneath his fedora. Harry Maybourne. Ex-kingpin of the Chicago Mafia, or so he'd have you believe. The man had fingers in more pies than even the government. But if you paid the right price, he was all yours. I didn't need to wonder how many people he'd sold out. I didn't want to know. Old Nick set a glass of vodka in front of him without askin'. "Maybourne."

"Jack." The glass in his hand tipped back. "Hear you're on the Jackson case."

"Word travels fast in the gutter."

"So do death threats."

"You tellin' me I'm a dead man?"

"Not exactly, Jack. But you gotta watch that blonde. The dame -- what was her name, Cabot?"

"Carter." And damn, she could kiss.

"Right. Some say she's been around a few too many times, know what I mean?"

"What are you now, Harry, a dating consultant?"

He snickered, "Just someone who wants you to stay alive, Jack. Her last two boyfriends ended up very messily dead."

"What about the current one?"

"Jackson? Well, look where he is now. In jail for murder."

So she did have a current man. No wonder the right cross had connected so hard. "Sayin' I should leave him there?"

"No. Just tellin' you to be careful, Jack." The empty vodka glass chimed against the bar. "I'll be seein' you."

"Not if I can help it." I muttered at the empty stool.

My next visitor was Lou Feretti, one of the best con artists known to the Colorado area, and possibly the best safe cracker known to man. If, say, I were hiring men for safe jobs. "Lou."

"Jack." He tossed me a look, then snorted, "You always were a sucker for legs."

"Great legs. Great lips, too."

"That, too. So. Whattya want?"

"Any news about this killing?"

"Just that she was young, pretty, and that Jackson's engaged to your client." Feretti looked almost apologetic. "Seems to be true love, or so the poets say."

"Poetry sucks."

"Yeah, man." Feretti clapped a hand on my back. "I'll nose around a little. See if there's anythin' I can hear."

"What's it gonna cost me?"

"I'll let you know."


He stood and smirked, "Don't worry, Jack, you'll be able to afford it."

The next visitor wasn't a visitor at all. It was a bottle to the back of the head. Someone had started a bar brawl without warning me.

By the time I got my way outta there, I'd acquired a black eye, cuts, bruises, and a cracked rib if the way it felt was anything to go by. The rib was from a huge German bruiser who'd smirked at me and told me I had his master's compliments. Probably an old debt.

Lizzie was suddenly there, sticking a shoulder under my arm and dragging me along the street. "Heard there was a fracas, boss. Who'd you piss off this time?"

"Wasn't my fault," I objected. Well, it wasn't.

"This time."

Fine. "This time." I blinked, then stared, "Where're we goin'?"

"Fraiser's." She replied, her lips tight.

"Oh, no, you're not takin' me to that woman."

"Shut up, boss." Her free hand poked me in the side, jarring the rib. I winced.


Doc Fraiser's a perfectly nice woman -- as long as you aren't a patient of hers. Once you've become a patient, you're suddenly fair game for terrorization. I'm sure it drove her kid nuts, but Cassie never let on. By the time we got there I was actually kinda glad. My ribs all hurt, and there was sticky blood in places I didn't want to think about.

"Bar brawl," Liz informed Fraiser when the door opened.

Fraiser snorted, "Bring the idiot in."

After she'd patched me up, read me the riot act, and stuck me with a hundred needles, Fraiser finally kicked me back out into the street with an admonition to 'take care of myself'. Liz stayed behind. Probably for gossip.

"Mr. O'Neill." The voice from behind me was a cliche.

I turned anyway and eyed the very large black man. "Who's askin'?"

"My Master wishes a word with you." There was no emotion on his face, simply cold simplicity.

"About what?"

"I am not privy to his reasons." The man reached out and took my shoulder in a large hand. "You may come with me now."

"And if I don't?"

There wasn't a response, just a tug. And I found myself unceremoniously dumped into the backseat of a Studebaker. Another man was sitting in the seat next to mine, he also seemed to have no emotions as he eyed me. He was older than the driver, his hair white, his eyes wise. Or some crap like that. I was more interested in finding out about the inside of my door, which had no knob.

"Hey! This is kidnaping!"

I got no answer, and spent the next hour cursing every God known to man and wondering if they'd stop at a bar (even if Fraiser had said no booze). Finally, we pulled into the drive of a mansion, the gates closing behind us with a clang.

They dragged me from the car and up the steps. The interior was gold leaf and decadent art deco that would have made an IRS man scream for an audit just so he could get his hands on all the lovely money. A flight of stairs, three turns and four hallways and I was shoved unceremoniously into a room. There were two other people inside. The blonde I recognized, and with a sinkin' feeling, I saw the ropes they'd used to secure her to the chair.

"Ah, Mr. O'Neill." The other occupant turned and smiled at me. He was slim and dark, his eyes grave as they looked at me. "How nice of you to join us."

"Didn't plan on it." I remarked, sidling away from the two impassive bodyguards.

"No, I'm sure you didn't." My host smiled. "I am Lord Apoplauis."

"Nice ta meetya, Pops." Having finished a quick survey of the room, I settled against the wall near Miz Carter. "Whatcha want?"

A shudder rippled his frame. "If you insist on addressing me, at least call me by my title."

"Which'd be what, Pops?" The ropes were tight, the knots obviously already tugged against. One of her hands was still at the back, fingers shifting along the coils. If she'd been able to see, she might be free.

"Lord, you imbecile."

"Oh, right. So," I stepped closer to the chair, dropping my hand to the knots, "Lord Pops, what'd ya want me for?" Damn, they were tight. I paused to take a glance down her blouse, happy to see she was still wearing the black lace number.

Another shudder, and the man strode away from us, his steps agitated. "You are investigating a death. I want you to stop."

"You coulda just asked nicely." One of the knots came loose.

"He needs a scapegoat," Miz Carter said, her tone scornful.

"Uh?" Hey, I was articulate, but I was also in pain. And the next set of knots was provin' difficult. Not to mention that Miz Carter had noticed the direction of my gaze and had glared at me.

"For what Sarah Gardner had been about to reveal, she is now dead," Lord Apops stated grandly.

"And Daniel framed for it, his credit destroyed within the archeology community." There was fury in her voice. I took advantage of her distraction to decide if she had any freckles. "You won't get away with this."

"Oh, my dear Miss Carter, you much mistake the matter."

"Wait, wait," I waved a free hand, "Lemme get this straight. You killed Gardner, for... what?"

"She was about to reveal that his lineage was broken three generations ago. The Lords of Apoplauis have been living a lie." Venom now tinged her words, her eyes were bright with malice as she stared at the other man.

Damn, she looked gorgeous when she was angry. "So... he's a false Lord?"


"I am NOT! I am a true Lord! I am your Lord!"

Yeah. Whatever. Almost all of the knots were now undone, and I stepped away, guessin' she could finish the last on her own. "Look, Pops, I don't give a crap about your lineage, genealogy, astrology, or whatever. I just need this month's rent. So, if you wanna pay me NOT to investigate..."

His lordship stared at me, then shook his head, "It's too late for that, Mr. O'Neill. You know my secrets now. And so, like Miss Gardner, you shall meet an unfortunate end. I believe," he tilted his head to one side, "Yes. You eloped with Dr. Jackson's fiance and perished in an automobile crash -- stolen, of course." A terrible smile stretched his lips. "And then no one will ever know --"

"You're wrong. Daniel knows. He figured out Sarah's notes this morning, that's why I went looking for help, that's why I had to hire Mr. O'Neill." There was triumph in her voice, and I glanced at her. She was also hot in this state.

"Murray. Brandon. Restrain them until I have prepared the rest of my plan. I shall make a visit to Dr. Jackson, and reassure him of my continuing support in his endeavors to be proven innocent." And he was gone, stalking from the room before either of the two men could comply with his demands.

I eyed them, "You don't have to do this, you know. I'm sure he's insane. You wouldn't be implicated at all."

The older man tilted his head to the side, "Are you proposing we abandon our Lord?"

"Well, he is a falsie." I pointed out.

Miz Carter abruptly stood, "We have to stop him, call the police and have him arrested."

"You're cute when you're all indignant." I reached over and touched her nose. "Hold that thought, darlin'."

She growled at me. Honestly. Growled. Damn. What a pity she was engaged. I turned back to the two thugs, who were still eyeing us. "C'mon, guys. Think about it. I'm sure the force would love two beefy men like you."

"I am Murray." The black man held a hand out to me.

We shook. "So, you thinkin' of defectin'?"

"Indeed. I was unaware of this participation in a murder. As well as being an irritating man, Lord Apoplauis is now revealed to me as a false Lord. I can do nothing less than leave him with my honor still intact."

The other man half-waved a hand. "Yeah, Brandon. What he said."

"Let's go, then."

Within minutes we were on the road and heading to the police station.

Miz Carter took the time to inform me in a low voice exactly how much she disliked me, thought I was a coward, an idiot, a thief, and even said I wouldn't get paid. Now, there, I had to take issue with. And we spent the next half hour arguing my fee. I had a feeling Liz would have done a better job of it, but I'd be able to pay rent. For a month.

We arrived to find that his lordship had come and gone. The cops were overjoyed to see me, of course, but less happy to see the two gentlemen I brought with me. Apparently, the cut and dried case was now blown wide-open.

Jackson was released into the tender mercies of his fiance.

He was a nice kid, probably. He just made me feel old, and in the mood for a drink. I nailed the blonde with a look that said I'd better get my fee, and left them all to their rejoicing.

An hour later I was sunk into a fine gloom, the fifth glass of scotch well on its way to my belly when a man sat down next to me. "So, Jack, how'd it go."

"Fuck off, Harry."

"Awww, that bad, huh? I see Black Widow Carter's struck again."

"Oh, would you quit that?" I glared at him, "She's got beautiful, fabulous, wonderful legs. But she hasn't struck me with anything except her sour disposition."

"Big words, Jack."

We were both silent for a while, then I finally relented. "So... tell me about this dame."

"Well, she dumped her first fiancee about a month before the wedding was scheduled. Apparently, it made him a little cuckoo. He went off and thought he was God. Ended up killing himself by trying to walk on water at Niagara Falls."

"Ouch." I sipped at the seventh scotch.

"Second guy was apparently in love with a woman who she resembled. Followed her around like a puppy for a while until she accidentally shot him with her father's pistol." Maybourne gestured. "Least, that's what the official reports say. But I've heard he tried to kill someone, and she had to stop him."

"Great. Hush-hush G-men crap." The last of the scotch didn't even burn, this time. Maybe I was drunk. Nah.

"Excuse me." This was a vaguely familiar voice, and I turned to stare at the newly-released Dr. Jackson. "Uh, hi. We met earlier, Mr. O'Neill, wasn't it?"

"My cue to leave." Maybourne smirked at me.

"Don't die too quick, Harry."

"Try not murdering your liver, Jack."

"So." I inspected my empty glass. "What'd you want?"

"I just wanted to thank you, Mr. O'Neill. Sam, well, Sam seemed to think you were..."

I snorted, "She's a great gal, Doc."


"She was your alibi, wasn't she." No question, really.

"You guessed."

I shrugged, "Made sense. You didn't want her reputation in shreds, so you didn't give an alibi. Is she really your fiance?"

"Yeah." He shoved his hands into his pockets and looked away, "She doesn't love me, though."

Great. Did I have a damn sign that said, "tell me your problems" above my head? No. Didn't think so. "C'mon, kid, it can't be that bad."

"No. I realized that this morning. She loves me, but she doesn't love me." He shook his head and looked over at Old Nick who was standing there. "Could I have a glass of Chardonnay, please?"

"Give him a scotch, Nick." I said before the dumbfounded barkeep could say something crude.

"I don't drink--"

"You do now, kid." I clapped a hand on his back. "Tell me about your life." I was feelin' expansive. I was getting paid, after all.

"I don't love her, either, you know." He was staring into his glass with an abstracted gaze.

"Oh?" I was non-committal. The scotch was happily rolling through my veins.

"We're too different. She needs someone who won't be constantly distracted by books and artefacts." Jackson sighed, "And I... I need someone who isn't closed in, hiding her feelings forever."

This wonderfully heart-felt conversation was interrupted by a hand closing on my shoulder. "Mr. O'Neill?"

Great. Deja vu. "Who's askin'?"

The ensuing bar brawl did little to raise me in Dr. Jackson's esteem. At least, I assumed that's why he simply stood and watched, eyes wide until a stray punch knocked him back into the bar. I was drunk enough to give as good as I got -- the pain from earlier wounds completely unnoticed until one of them slammed me through a table.

O'Malley's must've been empty of the wrong type this time around, since the cops showed shortly and began hauling the lot of us off. Fortunately, Sheppard was one of them, and rolling his eyes, he stashed us behind the bar with Old Nick, who gave us scotch. I knew I liked Liz's boyfriend for a reason. Dr. Jackson had a split lip, a black eye, and a bloody nose. He'd also bloodied the knuckles on both hands, and I was pretty sure he'd done fairly well. As for me, I probably had a matching black eye, and more cracked ribs. And one finger that was bent the wrong way. Old Nick had taken one look at the finger and considerately popped it back into place.

I didn't thank him.

I was not looking forward to the trip to Fraiser's that would occur shortly.

Sheppard returned to drag us off to Madame Anise's. I didn't ask why, yet.

Of course, I'd forgotten that Madame Anise had a special place in her heart (and her pocketbook) for me. Her smile was effusive when we staggered in. One of her other girls came over to help Jackson. The five of us ending up in her private suite.

"Mr. O'Neill, so pleasant of you to visit us."

"Uh, Jack, are we...?"

The kid was slightly glazed around the eyes, so I wasn't going to object to callin' me by the first name. Besides. Maybourne did it. "Daniel, this is Madame Anise, and...?" I gestured at the girl who had attached herself to Jackson's arm.

"I am Freya." She smiled sweetly, "And I can --"

"Ah!" I waved a hand at her, "We're not interested."

"Oh, come on, Jack, let the poor girl speak." Jackson was definitely concussed. "Freya. That's Ancient Babylonian, isn't it?"

"No." I turned to Sheppard, "Why the hell did you bring us here?"

"Fraiser's not free for another hour," he muttered. "Figured this was safer than the station house or the bar."

Jackson looked over at us, having gotten Freya to go off and get him a drink. "Jack, we're in a whorehouse, aren't we."

"Welcome to Madame Anise's, Dr. Jackson," I muttered.

"That's great, Jack."

"Hey, kid, I didn't drag us here, this idiot," I pointed a thumb at Sheppard. "Did."

"Hey!" Sheppard objected.

"Mr. O'Neill." Madame Anise was back, her hand on my arm, a sweet smile on her lips.

I tried not to shudder. She was probably a very nice woman. Just not to my taste. Besides. There was a blonde out there with incredible legs, and three freckles on the top of her left breast. "Madame Anise, your hospitality has been great. We gotta go."

"Go? But you just got here."

"Yeah, well, we gotta run, Madame."

"Please. Call me Anise."

"Ah, no." I patted her arm, then looked at Jackson who was fending off Freya, his eyes a little wild. Sheppard was snickering at the both of us. "Jackson, we're blowin' this popsicle stand."

"Not so fast, Mr. O'Neill." Her nails dug into my arm like claws and I winced. "I have a client who wishes to speak with you."

"Oh, crap." Sheppard was staring over my shoulder, his posture tense.

"Going so soon, O'Neill?"

Damn. I looked over my shoulder at Lord Apoplauis. The gun in his hand was big, black, and shiny. Great. "Heya, Pops."

"For your destruction of my life, O'Neill, I believe I'll take yours." And he raised his hand, the gun pointed unerringly at my heart.

Luckily for me, Lady Luck was still on my side. As his lordship pulled the trigger, a lamp smashed into the side of his head, wielded by one avenging fury. My blonde goddess had apparently arrived in the nick of time, Liz in tow. Or maybe it was the other way around.

"You ok, boss?"

"No, Liz, I've almost been shot."

"You'll live." She rolled her eyes at me and moved over to help Sheppard tie Apoplauis up.

"Nice place, Mr. O'Neill." Miz Carter was eyeing me frostily.

I shrugged, then winced.

"Are you injured?"

"Yes. You could kiss it and make it all better," I suggested, smirkin' as she blushed, then glared.

"I don't think so."

"Pity. Well, go see to your fiancee, then."

With a snort she left me to stand there on my own, Madame Anise having disappeared as soon as the gun appeared.

"Oh, god!"

I turned to find Miz Carter on her knees, cradling Jackson's head. "Daniel's been shot."

And here I'd tried not to think it was going easy. I moved to inspect the wound and found it was merely a graze. "He'll live."

"How can you be sure?" She was glaring at me still.

"Seen worse," I replied. "Let's get him to Doc Fraiser's. Sheppard!"

The cop came and between us we got Jackson on his feet. The kid was in and out of it, and I had to admit the bloodloss was worrying. But Fraiser'd fix him up, so I wasn't too worried. Once we got down to the street, Liz began arguing softly with Sheppard while Miz Carter walked at my side and shot glances at her fiance.

About the time we got to Fraiser's, I was nearly ready to hand the kid over to his beloved. Damn fickle women.

Doc was in, luckily. She took one look at Jackson and swore at us, then dragged him off with the help of Sheppard. Which left me standin' in the hallway with Miz Carter and Liz. My secretary snorted and disappeared after her boyfriend, muttering about giving them a hand.

"So." I shoved my hands into my pockets, having forgotten about the injured finger. "Ow!"

"You're hurt."

"It's nothin'." I waved the hand.

She seemed to soften, catching my hand and looking at it. "I've been a real..."

"Yeah." I caught her chin, lifting her gaze to mine. "Still, I'm gettin' over it."

"Mr. O'Neill," she was stroking my hand, and I'm not sure she realized it. "Do you believe in love at first sight?"

"Hearts and flowers and poetry crap? Nah." My other hand cupped the back of her neck and I pulled her against me and kissed her. "I believe," I mumbled against those delectable lips, "In this, though." She stiffened, and moved, her knee swinging up (even in that skirt, and, damn, she had long legs) and slamming into a rather vulnerable portion of my anatomy. I released her to double up and protect myself. "What the hell was that for?"

"For being an ass."

"Carter --"

Her hands closed on my shoulders and she hauled me upright again. "My name," she was leaning against me a second later, "is Sam," her breath touched my lips. And then she was kissing me.

Suddenly, my finger didn't hurt. Neither did my ribs. Other things still kind of did, but there was also this interestin', tingly feeling.

And then she let me go and stepped back, her eyes oddly sad. "Thank you, again, Mr. O'Neill."

I didn't have time to regain the power of speech before she'd disappeared out the front door of Fraiser's. I simply stood there against the wall, and wondered how the hell Jackson got to be so damn lucky.

Cassandra came in, then, and spotted me. "Jack!"

"Heya, kid."

She hugged me carefully. "Mom says I need to bring you in, now. Dr. Jackson --" she paused to wrinkle her nose. "You should see the way he's lookin' at mom. Like a starving man."

"Ah. He's engaged, y'know."

"Not anymore, he says." She smirked at me. "C'mon, you need stitches. And that finger looks awful."

Three weeks passed without a case, and only infrequent visits from Jackson. He'd let me know that Miz Sam Carter had broken it off with him. He didn't seem unhappy, and since he talked about Doc Fraiser a hell of a lot, I figured the reason why. Cassie was gonna have a new father, probably. Liz and Sheppard still dated, although she'd given him hell for Madame Anise's.

Lord Apoplauis was thrown into an asylum, until such time as he was fit for trial. His brain had snapped. The force hired Murray and Brandon on as consultants and soon found that they were more than worth their weight in gold.

Three weeks and two days after the most incredible pair of legs had walked out of my life, Liz called me and said she was takin' the afternoon off.

Since I was halfway through a brand new fifth of scotch, I didn't really care.

A little while later, my inner door opened. "Thought you was takin' the day off," I slurred, without bothering to look up.

"I did." My head jerked up at the voice, which was definitely not Liz's. Miz Sam Carter walked into my office and towards my desk. She leaned across it and eyed me. "Liz was right. You do need a keeper."

"Hey, I'm a perfectly --"

"C'mon, Jack. Drinking in the morning?" She grabbed the scotch and made a face. "This has got to stop."

I struggled up out of my chair and growled.

And she laughed at me, her eyes bright with amusement. "You'll have to come around the desk to get it back."

With careful, deliberate steps, I made my way around the desk until I was standing in front of her. "Well?"

"Shouldn't drink in the afternoon, either." Her eyes weren't looking at mine.

"Fine." I was perfectly capable of following a hint. My head dipped towards her, and then I stopped. "What do I get instead?"

Her fingers threaded into my hair. "Me." The word was barely spoken, as if she were suddenly afraid.

I'd do a hell of a lot for a killer pair of legs, freckles, creamy white skin and blonde hair. My arms slid around her, "Sounds like just compensation."


Then she was kissing me and I was kissing her back.