A Ross-centric story. NYPD is short staffed as a Major Task Force has been readied to assist Homeland Security against a 'credible threat' forcing Captain Danny Ross to take a patrol shift to relieve his already overloaded detective team of Goren and Eames.

The rights to all recognizable characters belong to Dick Wolf, NBCUni, and possibly others, but not me. All other characters exit only in this work of fan fiction to advance the plot.


Danny Ross wearily looked over his paper-covered desk, wishing for a better answer than what tumbled from his mouth. "Goren, I promise you. We'll make it work, and I'll make it up to you. I just can't cut you and Eames loose right now."

If he hadn't been an experienced Goren watcher, Ross would have missed it; the imperceptible shift of weight, the hand that flinched but didn't quite ball up into a fist. The protesting voice was deceptively calm. "We've gone nearly three weeks without a day off, Captain. That doesn't even count the extra hours. We need a break."

Ross struggled to keep the impatience out of his voice. The situation wasn't any better in his office than it was in the bullpen. Even though Goren was in the right, Ross didn't appreciate him pressing the point. "I'm well aware of that. Unfortunately, we're not discussing whether you deserve the time. We're discussing whether I can give it, and I can't." The brown eyes across the desk from him closed briefly. From any other officer pushed this far, he would have read it as simple fatigue, but from Goren, it was more likely an effort to control his temper.

Ross's gut twisted. He didn't have any other options, but he couldn't ignore his detective's pallor, the dark smudges under tired eyes, or the slightest slump in the normally erect carriage. "Look, Goren, you and Eames did a hell of a job closing those murders. No one could have gotten a more professional resolution, and we both know how much pressure was coming down – from the media, politically…" He stopped and sighed. He was preaching to the choir. He rose and came out from behind the desk, dropping into one of the empty chairs, gesturing to Goren to do the same. "You both deserve better, but I only have two teams tonight, and you're one of them. Every department has had to contribute to the task force. We're cut to the bone."

Goren snorted wearily. "Homeland security. Right. Does someone really think the regular criminals take a holiday because Al-Qaida might show up on the coast somewhere? Sometime? Maybe on Tuesday under the full moon?"

Ross was sick of parroting the party line, but he did it anyway. "It was deemed a credible threat. My opinion wasn't exactly requested, as I'm sure you can imagine. If it's any consolation, the governor probably wasn't asked, either."

"Right… I feel so much better."

"Enough Detective." Ross made the effort to muster an administrative air. "The sarcasm is wasted on me. You know better. The port security alone would break any organization, and they have a hell of a lot more to watch than just the port. If they need our personnel, we have an obligation to be there."

Goren's only answer this time was to stare into the gathering gloom, dusk came early in January. When he finally spoke, there was no missing the edge of rebellion in his voice. "Eames' took off about half an hour ago, and I'm not calling her back in. I don't care if the shift starts at six or not. I'll work a couple hours solo. She needs some rest." He stared at Ross defiantly.

Ross was on the verge of barking out a reprimand, and held it back. He vowed not to let his irritation turn him into a total jerk. His people, Goren and Eames included, deserved better. "Is this about Eames? Or is she just your excuse?"

Goren's eyes flared, but his voice stayed level. "Isn't that the drill, sir? You don't want the details? 'Work it out', isn't that what you keep telling us?" Goren looked away, and continued. "You should keep that in mind, Captain." The last comment had a touch of extra venom.

Ah, so we've both taken our cheap shot, Goren. Ross forced a rueful smile, hoping to remove a bit of the tension on both sides. "You're right. I have a better idea. I'll cover until nine or ten. Make it ten. Go home and get a couple hours rest yourself. On your way back, pick up some food for the three of us and I'll brief you while we eat. I'm sorry, Goren, it's the best I can do."

The sudden change of direction in the conversation seemed to take Goren back. He pulled at an imaginary thread on the seam of his pant leg. "I know you're doing what you can, Captain. I was out of line," Goren said quietly.

"No, you weren't," Ross retorted. "A tired cop can be a dead cop. I won't fault you for watching out for your partner." And yourself, not that you'd admit that, either. "Get out of here. And bring something decent back for dinner! None of that crap from Wonder Burger."

Ross watched from his doorway until Goren disappeared through the main doors of Major Case and had time to make the elevator. Satisfied that those particular set of sensitive ears were out of range, he stormed back to his desk, muttering a few choice expletives on his way. He pulled the duty rosters out of his desk drawer, tempted to relieve his frustration by tearing them to bits.

Ross shook his head, recognizing the futility of feeding his own temper. There had to be some slack in the assignments somewhere. Eames and Goren were in no shape to chase all over town tonight, and then follow it up with double shifts and triple workloads. A few hours of sleep just weren't going to cut it.

His cryptic scribbles covered the roster sheets, changed over and over trying to make the impossible at least probable. Apparently, it was time to add a few more revisions.

It was a beautiful city. Even in the rain of winter, it was a beautiful city.

Armand Fischer sipped his cappuccino, watching the elite and powerful of the city as they left their offices, hustling to their homes, dinners or charity events. Comfortable, complacent, well-educated people. He had grown up in their world and come to despise it and them. He hated their immorality, their selfishness, their wealth, and their absorption with the latest electronic gadget or tonight's party. There should be punishment for their blindness and superficiality, and he was just the man to rain down punishment on them. Clearly now, not everyone understood his vision or his methods, but that would change. The moment was drawing near, just a few more days.

As dusk approached, the rain began. His day at the office was complete. His business, importing German goods and exporting certain American specialties, was thriving. He was a well-respected man within the business community, known as a supporter of the arts, a contributor to local charities. He was welcomed into that rarified world as an insider.

He always allowed himself these few moments at the end of the day to contemplate his life, his goals, over a quiet coffee, sometimes a pastry. Then he would walk to his apartment, hang his suit neatly in the closet, perhaps make himself a sandwich, and gracefully slide into his other role, the one that held purpose and promise and passion.

As he raised his umbrella, he smiled at the irony. He had waited for so long. The fools would never know.