My only SheSpies attempt is thus presented. Just a little drabble that allows the characters to be just a tiny bit serious for once and have semi-adult conversation. Not that I ever wanted the show to do that, as it would have been no fun!

Falling Flames

He'd been gone too long, Cassie McBain declared to no one. She didn't dare, as no one knew they were together. Which they weren't. At least not this week. God, she missed him. Sleeping without him was impossible and waking unsatisfied was murder. But he needed to see someone and could only do so in person. The reason had been vague, but rumors of a change at the upper echelon swirled just as swiftly as those about Cassie's infatuation with Mr. Cross. If only they knew, she thought.

So she went about her days with her friends, fighting crime and having manicures within a lunch hour. But nights were dreaded. She had nowhere to go but home, which used to be all she needed. A little girl talk, a date or two. Normal McBain life. Except things had changed. And as much as she loved Shane and DD, they were no substitution for him.

It was well past quitting time when she finally saw Cross return to the office. Reading in his body how tough the trip has been, she had to glue her feet to the floor to wait for the expected summons. He was beyond fatigued, but hid it well. After an hour, the ladies were finally called to his office to report on their mission. Successful, of course, DD and Shane stated proudly as Cassie struggled to keep her arms from reaching out for him. He said little and avoided her eyes. While the two ladies departed amidst discussion of tonight's clubbing prospects, Cassie lingered behind until they were completely out of visual range. Sitting in the chair opposite him, she leaned forward with a knowing gaze until he was forced to acknowledge her.

"Yes?" Cross questioned as he booted his computer.

"You're exhausted," she announced and his eyes rose to find hers.

"I'm fine," dismissing her with a shake of his head.

"You were a much better liar before getting into my pants." She grinned, knowing how her vulgarity made him uncomfortable.

But he merely rolled his eyes, then returned to his computer. "Don't you have something to do?" His voice grew distracted as he scanned something she couldn't see.

"I'm doing it. This is called Interrogation. Next comes the cavity search. Lucky for you, I've already discerned what I need to know." A smug variation of pride entered her tone and Cross looked back to her, leaning back in his chair as mild frustration shadowed his handsome face.

"Discerned what?"

"Your tell." She nearly clapped her hands together, frighteningly seal-like, in her enthusiasm. Who doesn't like showing off in front of the boss? "See, when you're tired, your back hurts more and your oh so perfect posture suffers." There, she arched her eyebrow in challenge. Deny that, if you can. "So, conclusion…not fine."

"It's not that noticeable. And I am fine." Beginning to type a reply to something undoubtedly classified ended the debate, at least in his mind.

Making a quick sweep for observers, Cassie reached over to lay a hand on his face, forcing him to meet her eye. "You were gone for five days. Did you even manage an hour's sleep in that time?"

"I was busy saving your job," his voice grew defensive and she backed off, aware that pushing him rarely ended well. Reclaiming her seat, she studied him silently. Cross closed his eyes, and laid his head back on the chair. "I'm sorry." His whispered apology was followed by a sigh. "I am so tired."

Cassie's smile was slow and understanding. "I know," she agreed quietly. "Let me drive you home."

He shook his head with a measure of regret. "And stir the rumors further?"

Standing and smoothing her skirt, Cassie fixed him a deadly serious gaze. "I'm about to launch across that desk and confirm them." When he failed to lecture her on the need for discretion in their office demeanor, she sighed. "You need sleep. And at the moment, I don't trust you to drive." Heading for the door, she threw over her shoulder, "Let's go." And how could he resist following when her hips swayed that way? Glancing back, she found him just behind her and she smiled victoriously. Sleep first, she decided. Then… Well, the night was young.

He was quiet on the drive to his penthouse, which was not entirely unusual. Cassie did the majority of the talking in their relationship. But tonight he was somewhere else entirely. Like another planet. The scenery sped past them, his eyes taking in none of it. She would have chalked it up to exhaustion, but she'd taken to studying him lately and knew something troubled him. Stealing glances at him as she drove, he seemed unaware of her questioning gaze. Where had he been this week? And what transpired? Was her freedom in jeopardy? And why could she feel the unmistakable presence of his walls rebuilding around him? Cassie was determined to hold her tongue until they arrived, but this was a struggle. Maybe she should start carrying a staple gun for her lips.

Once inside, Cassie called the ladies and via a three way line, invented a quick excuse for her absence. The other two were debating which club had the hottest guys and she eventually just hung up, likely without being noticed or missed. Her eye caught him heading to the liquor case, a glass of bourbon being downed in an effort to calm him, she supposed. She joined him at the window, standing just behind him. Her hands drew around his neck as her cheek rested against his shoulder blade.

"Tell me?" She requested gently, not expecting much but hoping anyway. Until he moved out of her embrace, facing her but remaining too far away for her liking.

"Cassie…" he began and her fingers quickly lay across his lips.

"Don't," she cautioned, moving her hand to his face. "Don't walk away from me. Don't dismiss me. You once asked me not to let you run from me. I'm as good as my word where you're concerned so deal…"

"I was warned." He interrupted her.

Surprised into silence, Cassie considered the nature of a warning. The Chairman was hardly blind to their closeness. It fairly glowed like an aura around them. Why would the man suddenly protest now? Unless it wasn't him.

"Warned by who?"

Cross shook his head and she could feel his anger rising. "It doesn't matter."

"You said you saved my job? Does that include keeping me out of prison?" Fury at 'their' invasion rose in her veins. If only she knew who 'they' were. Apparently, Cross was not inclined to explain. "What sort of agreement did you have to make to protect me?"

"I did what I had to." His tone grew defensive and he left her side. Cassie followed him visually, while her feet remained glued to the floor. The distance he was putting between them didn't surprise her, but it hurt all the same.

"What did they want from you?" She forced any anger from her voice.

Cross sat on the leather sofa, resting his head in his hands for a moment before meeting her eyes. "My acknowledgement of their authority. And my assurance that there's no truth to the rumors. We have… a consortium of bosses now."

Cassie approached slowly, keeping her tone light. "And they're tougher than the Chairman? I won him over eventually. I can do it again. What could they…" She fell silent when he locked his gaze to hers and she read in his eyes things she didn't like. "There's more to this, isn't there?"

He said nothing. He didn't have to. But Cassie's new fantasy staple gun clamped down on further questions for the moment, knowing how little would be resolved or decided when a wound was fresh. Silence joined them in passing the next few minutes and Cassie imagined he was drawing strength from her presence. Until he rose, moving to the large window ledge, the night sky greeting his weary gaze. It was a lovely view, to be sure, but stars could have burst into falling flames and neither would have taken much note. Shaking her head in an attempt to climb out of it, she wondered if she could crawl into his. At least she'd understand what he was thinking.

Debating the wisdom of it, Cassie eventually joined him there, placing her hands on his shoulders and massaging the tension into submission. He immediately leaned into the contact, letting her work on his tired muscles. In the window's reflection, she could see his soft smile, welcoming her presence as well as her touch. It reminded her how far they'd come. She wanted to tell him in that moment, but dared not. Cross didn't want to hear the words. Not yet. As if sensing her thoughts, he bowed his head briefly, then turned in her grasp and took her hands from their place on his shoulders. When he released her and stood, Cassie felt a familiar chill in her spine. Would he try to end this?

"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" His question carried resignation, as well as a touch of hope.

"I'm sure I want to be with you. Nothing some suited, no-humor, unromantic consortium can throw at us will force me to leave you. Only you can do that."

Cassie watched his eyes darken at the power she was handing him. But it was nothing compared to what he'd already given her. Not just a place in his bed. His gift to her was his trust and a part in his life.

"I don't know what to do," he admitted. "Every choice seems wrong."

She'd never seen him this unsure of anything and it convinced her of the gravity of their circumstance. "What options do you see?"

"If I don't walk away, you'll be in danger. If we try to hide this, we'll live in fear of discovery, which assures it. If I let you go…" Every fiber in her wanted to rush to the defense of her choice, but more so, she needed to hear him acknowledge what he felt for her. "Cass, I… I don't think I can." His hand rose to her face as he let her see his emotions displayed in his eyes.

She smiled her approval of this step. "Then don't." Leaning up, she kissed him thoroughly, cementing their joint decision. When she broke away, she could see the weight of his exhaustion bowing his shoulders. "I seem to recall dragging you out of HQ to get some sleep, which you haven't done. Come to bed," she ordered lightly as she steered him toward the bedroom.

Once inside, Cassie pulled off his t-shirt and instructed him to lie on his stomach. He complied without argument, his arms sliding under his pillow as she rubbed her hands together to warm them. Positioning herself to his left, Cassie began to work on his tired muscles. Skillful fingers manipulated the tension of his shoulders and the pain she sensed in his back. The firm but gentle attention coaxed him into sleep, her overall plot succeeding. Lightening her touch, Cassie found it difficult to remove her hands from Cross's skin. Fingers traced the mark that was branded below his shoulder blade. Next, she caressed the scar of the bullet's entry, knowing well the pain it still caused. There were enough painkillers in his penthouse to attest to that, though she suspected he only took them when he could no longer function. Cross needed control too much to become addicted. Control. Something they had precious little of now.

Sighing, Cassie stretched herself beside him, draping half of her body over his in desperate search of closeness. There would be a conversation with the girls in the morning, if he'd agree to the disclosure. Plausible denial would be beneficial given the circumstances, but hiding their love from her best friends meant constant lying. Cross once told her he'd lived a lie too many times, so surely he would not begrudge her the freedom of truth. Plus, the added help may come in handy.

Inching ever closer, Cassie swore under her breath that nothing would take him from her. This was too right and they'd fought enough already to have this. There was nothing she wouldn't sacrifice for this man, including her friends and her life. With this decision made, Cassie allowed herself to join him in sleep.

The girls gathered around their breakfast table, antsy to hear why Cassie had been gone all night…again. They hadn't seen Cassie run a sweep for listening devises, nor took note of her nervousness.

Shane, ever patient, spoke up first. "So what's the deal, girl. You've been ditchin' our stellar company a lot lately."

Mock hurt in place, DD's hands went to her hips. "Yeah. Like you're hiding a guy or something."

"Which you wouldn't do to us, best girlfriends and all," Shane's voice dripped in saccharine. Her tiny little slip of a floral dress was not enough custom to cover the tough-girl stance she took.

Cassie stood firm before the inquisition. Cross had given his reluctant blessing for this conversation and she wanted to get it right the first time. Deep breath. They won't kill one of their own…right? "Listen. I haven't been…totally straight with you guys. And I'm sorry."

"Or is it a girl you're hiding?" DD's confusion contorted her face.

"Not like that." Cassie huffed her exasperation. "It's… well it's complicated."

Shane smiled. "No, no, no. It's not complicated. It's a co-worker."

Damn, she's good. "You could say that," Cassie conceded.

With a toss of her hair, Shane's gloating began. "Got my psychic vibe goin', read a few horoscopes, studied tealeaves and boom… soul mate found."

Maybe not so good. "Is that right?"

"And to think you put off confessing. But you can't hide stuff like that from us."

Finding her voice, DD muttered to no one. "A co-worker? Someone in the FBI? Cross isn't going to like that."

Cassie smiled past her cringe. This was harder than she thought. "Welcome to the conversation, Deeds."

Shane was practically jumping out of her chair. "So give! Who's the one you'd take on the wrath of Cross for?"

"Yeah. And…" DD turned thoughtful. "And why isn't it Cross?"

"Cross?" Shane nearly shouted. "The man's our boss. Hot, but our boss. And he'd never…not with one of us."

Cassie just rolled her eyes, fighting the wicked grin. DD failed to notice and launched her defense.

"True, but they're so good together. I mean, the temperature in the room goes up 10 degrees when they're both in it. There's a…thing there."

Shane waved her off. "Okay, okay. But really Cass, who is it?"

The task had suddenly become frighteningly easy. "Cross."

And two mouths fell open in dead silence. Cassie sat down, her eyes finding the waves outside the porch door. "We've been together for a little while. It's real, it's right and it's for keeps."

"So… you… love him." At Cassie's nod, Shane continued. "And… he… loves you."

"Amazing, huh?" Smile suddenly fading, Cassie turned her eyes back to her friends. "But there might be trouble coming."