Name: The Process of Thought

Summary: Frank returns to a changed place which gets him thinking about the present and the past.

Set in the Timeline of...: After the series final episode of 'Cats and Pigeons', but there is no George Newhouse - it's just Alex and Mick as the detectives.

Disclaimer: Anything/anyone you recognise from "Water Rats" unfortunately do not belong to me. They belong to Hal McElroy & co.

Frank sat at his old desk, pondering in thought. He was only allowed in because he was back in the service, his police ID could get him anywhere. But the place had completely changed, he didn't recognise anyone. When he had walked through the main entrance, he had been expecting an audience, all delighted to see him. But Taylor and Helen were no longer at the front desk, Taylor had transferred to Pol-Air and Helen had been granted a promotion and was now seated comfortably in the Chief Inspectors office at Manly. Taylor had been replaced by a young Constable Donna Janevski, who told Frank that even Chief Inspector Jeff Hawker had retired, and he cursed himself for not asking who had replaced him. That he knew of, the only people who were left that he actually knew were Gavin, Emma and Mick. He wasn't surprised at Gavin and Emma staying; Gavin wouldn't transfer out to anywhere else, the Sydney Water Police was his life. And Emma, well she was a diver; she was a core member of the team and greatly needed. But he was surprised that Mick hadn't transferred too, he remembered how Mick had once told him that the Water Police was his way to working for Homicide.

Frank smiled sadly at the losses that he seemed to have missed. He knew Jack had died; he'd been killed by a fellow police officer. Well, a corrupt police officer. Although Frank had never really liked Jack, he still felt sorry for the jerk, no one deserved to die. Rachel would be proud if she could have heard him, Frank thought.

And then there was Dave. He couldn't accept that Dave was dead; he had always been there, sticking his nose in things where it wasn't needed. And he had just been forgotten after he went on stress leave. Frank hoped he hadn't been forgotten, Rachel too. He wondered where she was and yet again he looked over at her desk. Well, what was her desk. The name card now read 'Senior Constable Alex St. Clare'. Frank pondered what this Alex looked like. Would he be old like Frank or quite young like Mick? He also contemplated whether he'd be any good. And Frank had mixed feelings on whether he wanted Alex to be a good detective: of course, a part of him wanted him to be, for the good of the team, but then again, he didn't want someone good to replace Rachel. Truthfully, he didn't want anyone to replace Rachel.

Gradually becoming quite bored, Frank's fingers hesitated over what looked like a case file that was lazily placed on Mick's desk. After a moment he casually picked it up, glancing through the glass windows of the office to check no one was around. Excitement filled him as he read the contents, even though he was officially back in the service, he hadn't done any actual police work as he'd only just arrived back in Sydney. It seemed the current detectives were working on a murder case.

After a few moments, Frank was engrossed in reading the case file, and he didn't seem to notice the oncoming footsteps that were slowly approaching the office. Voices streamed down the corridor, deep in discussion.

"...We're gonna' set up surveillance in the house opposite his and we'll get someone to follow him. It seems he does all these murders on a Thursday, so by then we'll be able to have someone from Undercover on the case." said an experienced, commanding voice, who was probably superior to the officers she was talking to.

"I could do it if you want Chief, I have the experience." this time the voice was from a younger woman, but one that was also quite sure of herself.

"No, Alex. If we used you and then we had to pull someone in, your cover would be blown. I'm not risking it. Understood?" content with the small 'yep' she heard in reply, she continued, "Oh and Mick? Wipe that smirk off your face will you? Or I'll make you wear these blues too." Frank became quite interested in the conversation once he heard Mick being talked to, finally someone he knew. And Frank was sure that Mick wouldn't mind him looking at the case file, he might even let him help a little!

"Sure, Chief." replied Mick, sarcasm overflowing through his voice. And his voice was quite clear now, as he was only just standing outside the office. The chief inspector walked away, presumably to her own office.

"Right, Alex, do you reckon..." Mick abruptly stopped when he walked into the office. It was only then that Frank looked up.

"Hey Mickey boy!" Frank greeted, standing up, the case file still held in his hand.

"Frank! Welcome back! When did you get here?" Frank was suddenly being ambushed by masses of questions, which his brain was slowly organizing as he tried to answer them all.

Alex stayed quiet. She'd heard about the legendary Frank Holloway, as well as the legendary Frank Holloway and Rachel Goldstein partnership. Everyone who had ever heard of them in the Water Police tried to live up to the image they had created. It was a hard image to follow. She could feel Frank briefly looking at her, he was realising that this Alex St. Clare wasn't a man, she was a woman.

The chief inspector stopped in the corridor. She couldn't have heard right. Mick was talking to a Frank? As she turned around, she saw him. His hair had greyed slightly, he had plenty more wrinkles and he wasn't wearing a suit, but it was most definitely Frank Holloway stood in front of his old desk. And he was joking around with Mick, just like old times. She wanted to march right into the office and hug him, or kiss him, or slap him, or just smile at him, she couldn't make her mind up. But her feet wouldn't let her, they wouldn't move. She was immobilised, she could only stare at him.

That's when her saw her, stopped in the corridor and just staring. The sight of her had the same effect on him too; he couldn't talk to Mick any longer, his mouth didn't seem to work.

Mick turned around to where Frank was staring at and also saw her. A slight smile played on his lips and he motioned for Alex to follow him into the meal room. He knew they would need some time alone.

Frank and the chief inspector slowly walked towards each other, their gazes not dropping from each other's faces. Afraid that if they did look away, the other would be gone again.

As they met each other half way, she settled for just moving her hand to his cheek, rubbing it softly. He really was there.

"Nice duds." he said, a smile forming on his face and not leaving.

Finis.

Author's Notes: Hope you liked it! Feedback please? Suggestions for other stories and challenges too?

Also, if you don't like the ending and you think I could do more, just tell me!

I've just realised, yet again this story is set on Frank returning!

Note to Self: Must do other plots, must do other plots, must do other plots that aren't set on Frank returning!