Author's Notes:

This is not a typical BatB story. Stories in this fandom have a very common pattern that this won't follow. I say that up front, because I've written BatB fic before -- about ten years ago -- and been flamed to 'well done' for not following the unspoken rules. A decade ago, I wrote a story that wasn't 'formula' and people objected and said I missed the point of the show. This is a fairy tale spun into the world of Vincent and Catherine -- the story's theme is about identity, and what happens when everything you ever believed to be true in your life is suddenly changed.

(Oh, and for anyone wondering about my Rurouni Kenshin series ... I'm still working on it. And the Inuyasha/Buffy crossover, too -- expect a couple of new chapters for both of those series in the very near future.)

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"Hey Radcliffe," Joe said, sticking his head into her office. "Here's a reward for all your hard work."

He had three thick manila folders in his hands. She rolled her eyes at him. "Right. The reward for doing a good job is more work. Thanks, Joe."

"Ah, you'll like this one. It's right up your alley." He held the folder on the top of the pile up. "Jane Doe got identified."

"Yeah?" she said, with both interest and a bit of a mental flag of warning.

"Twenty-five years old."

"So they got a break on an old case?" She guessed.

"Yeah. Dead body has an ID, at last, and a suspect to go with." He sat down on the corner of her desk, and placed a somewhat protective hand on the folder. "You might not want to eat before you look at the photos."

"Thanks for the warning."

"Mmhmm."

After he'd left she poured herself a cup of coffee and turned her attention to the case. Joe was correct in that the case had some gruesome pictures -- they'd been taken in 1963, according to notes. A woman, dressed in jeans and a floral print shirt, lay dead in an alley. Catherine's coffee went untouched -- the body had been brutalized.

Catherine frowned at the autopsy report that followed. The woman had died of deep slashing wounds. Somebody had taken something akin to a machete or sword to her body. She had fought hard, despite her attacker's weapon -- she had a number of defensive wounds on her arms and hands. There were photos, and Joe was right that they were best viewed on an empty stomach.

Her name, it turned out, was Alice Andrews. Had she lived, she would be in her fifties now, Catherine realized -- old enough to be Cathy's own mother. According to the report, Alice had been identified from the crime scene photos by her eighty year old mother, who had been looking for her for twenty-seven years. The woman's mother was from Maine, and Alice had disappeared from her family home two years before the murder -- a seventeen year old runaway, then. They had solidly confirmed the ID with fingerprints. Alice had a history of petty crime as a teenager.

The suspect was an old boyfriend who was now sixty-two, retired, with grandkids.

Catherine pinched the bridge of her nose, headache building, as she read the case files. Gordon, the boyfriend, had a history of domestic violence and minor convictions. He'd also spent a couple years in jail for aggravated assault on a neighbor, twenty years before. However, that had been his last conviction -- he'd gone clean after that, by all accounts, and had run his own bike shop until retiring. He was also involved in a somewhat controversial group that patrolled inner city neighborhoods, seeking to stop crime.

However, the case that the detectives had built was purely circumstantial: he'd run away with seventeen year old Alice, when he was twenty-seven himself. A strike against him, from a moral standpoint -- though she'd have to check the laws back then to find out if it was legally statutory rape. She wasn't sure when the age of consent had been in the 1960's, or if there was a statute of limitations.

A year later, Alice had been the victim in one of his domestic violence convictions. And again, the same thing, a month later. He'd broken her nose in the latter case, in a drunken rage. He'd been put on probation but not jailed and she had rejoined him.

And the cops had found a buddy who swore, twenty-five years ago, he'd overheard Gordon threaten to kill the girl if she ever looked at another man.

Friends of Alice's, from two and a half decades ago, had told the investigating detective that she'd broken up with Gordon a year before she died. They claimed she'd said she was leaving because she had met a new man. They thought she'd done that -- that she'd left her old life behind and moved on to something new and perhaps better.

Gordon had been infuriated.

A year later, Alice Andrews had been found dead in an alley.

There was other evidence -- a man's boot prints, in Gordon's size, at the scene, and motorcycle tracks. Blood that had typed the same has his -- O negative -- had also been found on Alice's clothing. And finally, he'd been arrested for drunk and disorderly the next day, only ten miles away -- the cops had noted he had a black eye and scratches on his arms. He had refused to say how he had been hurt. Given the number of times that Gordon had been arrested for being an idiot, Catherine thought it was entirely possible that this was coincidence.

The detective on the case had put a lot of weight on that arrest, and on the injuries, but Catherine really didn't want to face a defense attorney with the case as it was. Any decent lawyer could dismantle that theory easily. None of the evidence proved he was the killer -- at least, not to a degree that Cathy wanted to push for prosecution.

However, one point that stood out to Catherine was that Alice had very recently given birth. There was no sign of her baby -- a baby who would be twenty-five now. It made her wonder what the truth was -- and where that baby was.

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"I don't know if we have enough evidence to convict." Catherine leaned against the railing of her apartment's balcony, and looked up at Vincent. He stood, reassuringly calm and thoughtful, with his back to her dutch doors. It was early -- just past ten -- and she had been a little surprised to see him show up so soon. Usually, he waited until the streets were quieter to come to see her.

However, it was snowing, and bitterly cold. Anyone with any sense had gone inside, and wasn't out and about. Vincent had taken advantage of the cover of the snow storm to make his way to her apartment.

Vincent bowed his head, appearing deep in thought. "Do you believe the man killed his girlfriend?"

"Honestly?" Catherine said, with some hesitation, "I don't know. I'm not comfortable with this case, Vincent -- if he really killed her then he should go to jail, yes. If he didn't ... he's a sixty-two year old man with grandchildren. He was obviously an idiot when he was younger, but he's been a reasonably upstanding citizen for quite awhile. And I'm not sure that it's possible to collect enough evidence to prove he's guilty, in any event. Dragging him through a trial ..." she trailed off, then added, "... and his children, and his wife, and his grandchildren ... they'll be punished for something he might not have even done."

She rubbed her hands up and down her arms; the turmoil in her soul had drawn Vincent to her, because he knew she needed to talk. However, it was damned cold outside. She was torn between the comfort of talking to him and appeal of central heating.

He started to shrug out of his cloak, to offer it to her. However, this would simply mean that Vincent would be the one to shiver. She gestured inside, "Vincent, why don't we step into my apartment, where it is warm?"

She saw concern in his eyes -- not really fear, but a certain worried awkwardness. He had been in her apartment, yes, but never for purely social reasons. She hugged herself again, tucking her fingers under her arms, and said, "It's cold out here and -- and I'm very glad you came, I don't want you to leave."

Still, he hesitated.

"You can help me make some cocoa ..." she offered, uncertainly.

He relaxed, a little. Making cocoa put them on safe ground. Vincent was scared of getting too close to her, for all sorts of complicated reasons. Making cocoa undoubtedly sounded less threatening to his ears than let's go inside and talk.

She bustled about her kitchen, getting out a carton of milk, chocolate syrup, and a canister of whipped cream. Vincent watched, looking somewhat uncomfortable, until she thrust a whisk into his hands and aimed him at a pan of milk on the stove. "Stir."

With a smile, he did as she'd ordered, after rolling his sleeve up one hairy arm so it wouldn't dangle into the milk. It was her turn to watch ... Vincent was in her kitchen, cooking. The scene was utterly surreal. And yet, somehow, it felt just right. Cozy.

"I'm sorry I don't have any marshmallows," she said, after squeezing a generous amount of chocolate syrup into the hot milk.

He surprised her by smiling broader. "I loved marshmallows as a child. I haven't had then in cocoa for years. But this is fine, Catherine."

"Next time, there will be marshmallows," she promised.

"Next time," he murmured.

"Will you have a seat?" She gestured at her kitchen table. It was scattered with papers, including the case report in question. None of the disturbing photos were on display, but there were plenty of police reports. She started to pick them up and sort them by date before putting them away.

Vincent reached out to help, then stopped, hand hovering over a photocopy of a document so old it was typewritten. Alice's file had quite a progression of technology shown in it: the oldest papers were handwritten or typed, and only later did dot matrix printing take over. Too, she could tell the difference between Xerox copies and mimeographed copies -- and vague Xexor copies of mimeographed and originally typed papers, in some cases.

He looked at the paper, then up at her, then back at the document in his hand. His expression was odd.

"What?"

"Catherine," he said, "this woman was killed on the day I was found, and only a block away." He shook his head. "It's probably unrelated, but it is a very strange coincidence."

"She had just given birth," Catherine said, quietly.

He reached for the stack of photos that were tucked into the folder. Before she could warn him, he'd flipped them face up ... the picture on top was of a piece of jewelry the woman had been wearing, much to Catherine's relief. The item was distinctive -- a celtic design, inlaid with precious stones. She put a hand down on top of the photos. "Vincent ..."

He met her eyes. There was mulish stubbornness there; she'd seen him turn that expression on Father a number of times, but had rarely been a target of it herself. Then he tugged the next picture free and looked at it. She heard his indrawn breath, saw his lips pinch together and his nostrils flare.

"I'm sorry," she said, reaching for the photos. The stark black and white did little to conceal the woman's terrible injuries."I wish you hadn't seen that."

He looked away from her. His adam's apple bobbed. He said nothing.

"She's probably not related to you," Catherine said, wanting to sooth him somehow. "It's probably just a coincidence."

"A coincidence," he echoed her words. He still did not meet her eyes.

"I'll ... I'll look into it, Vincent." She rested a hand on his arm, trying to draw him back to her.

He finally looked up. His gaze was startlingly intense. "May I ... read this case?"

Technically, the information was confidential. She shouldn't let anyone else read over it. However, this was Vincent ... it wasn't as if anyone would ever find out, and she had a keen appreciation for his intellect. Her primary concern was a fiercely protective one. She didn't want him to get involved in something that might be a painful dead end, and would likely hurt even if it turned out to be true.

On the other hand, he'd have a living grandmother. And we might find out what, precisely, he is.

"Please," he said, quietly.

"Okay." She could sense the emotional turmoil in his soul -- this case could, perhaps, be closure for him. Or not. But he wanted to know. And, in truth, so did she.

He set the photos aside, clearly having no stomach to see any more, and held a hand out for the stack of papers. She passed them to him, then sat down at the table. He pulled his own chair out, and started reading.

It was funny -- Vincent was no blood relative to Father, of course, but in that moment, he looked very much like the man who'd raised him. It was entirely in his body language. He stared intently at the work, occasionally massaging the bridge of his nose. He held each piece of paper individually before setting it precisely aside, and she could tell he was being very thorough.

"There's no name for the man she left Gordon for," Vincent observed.

"Yeah. That's an angle I'd look into. I'm not sure why they're trying to pin this on Gordon without finding him, first."

"If this boyfriend even existed," Vincent observed. "She may have invented a boyfriend as an excuse to her friends for why she was running away. Perhaps to keep them from worrying ..." he trailed off, then said, "But she did have a baby."

Catherine forbore mentioning that having a baby didn't require having a boyfriend, just sex. "Finding the father is on my agenda."

"Mmm." Vincent said, a noise of agreement. "And you will be speaking to her friends?"

"Yeah. That, too." She rested a hand on his wrist. "Vincent, what would you do if she turned out to be your mother?"

He covered her fingers with his. "I don't know, Catherine. I am not certain it would change much about my life. Though, I would like to know who killed her."

"The law will deal with them," she said, in mild alarm.

He sighed and said, with some considerable cynicism, "The law. Justice." He tapped the photographs, turned face down on the table. "Where is the justice for this woman, and for her mother, who mourns her? Where is the justice for the loved ones of the man accused of killing her? Justice."

She rose, suddenly, and impulsively wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders. His arm went around her waist, and he hugged her tightly. "Catherine ... in this woman, I know that I am merely grasping at straws. But I have questions that I would desperately like to have answered. Perhaps she will lead me to those answers."