Author's Notes: Sorry about the delay in a new chapter of Wrong Place, Wrong Time. I hope to have the next chapter up tonight. I know several people have done post-eps from Exit Strategy but the scene that stuck in my mind after watching it was right at the very beginning and this came to mind. I guess you would call it more of a character study than a post-ep. I hope you like it.

Disclaimer: They aren't mine; if they were, there'd be no question of whether we'd get an eighth season or not.

More Than A Picture

It had become a ritual for him. They all had one even if they didn't talk about it or sometimes show it. Kevlar in place, check. Gun loaded and ready for use if needed, check. That part of the ritual was the same for everyone. What followed changed from officer to officer. For him, it was all about a small square piece of paper.

Danny Messer pulled out the small square photograph of his daughter. He drank in every detail of the picture. That blue jeans jacket was still a little too big for her but it had been a Christmas gift from Stella and Lucy loved it. He couldn't remember if Lucy had been trying to take the adorable pink hat off or was in the process of pulling it down over her eyes in a game of peek-a-boo, with her it could have easily been either one. Her vivid blue eyes that came straight from him were almost twinkling. Her little button nose was so much like Lindsay's. If he reached out and poked her nose her whole body would reflexively draw inward in a giggle, much the way he always saw the Pillsbury Dough Boy react to someone poking his belly button. But it was the grin that made it his current favorite picture of her. She must not have seen the camera in hand before the picture was taken because it wasn't the patented Messer "cheese" grin as Lindsay called it. He had taken offense the first time Lindsay had called it that until she produced photo after photo of both him and Lucy when they knew the camera was turned on them and in all of them they had the same wide almost comical smiles on their faces. His little Lucy was as much of a ham as he was and he couldn't deny it. This was her real grin, the one that reminded him of Lindsay when she was taken by happy surprise by something. His little girl, the person who had him wrapped around her tiny finger and who had stolen his heart from the moment he first felt her kick inside her mother's womb. Before a big bust like the one they were about to embark on, he had to spend this moment letting the image of his daughter wash over him.

It was more than a picture however. Much more and he didn't know that he could really articulate it to anyone what it truly meant to him if he tried. He'd probably come the closest to explaining it to Lindsay once but then she was the one he could tell anything to. But even though she had cried and said she understood and thought it was beautiful, he didn't think he even did an adequate job of explaining it to even her. It was a mixture of many different images and reasons, and on any given day the reason that stood out the most could change in an instant.

Usually looking at the picture before a bust was a neon flashing reminder to him of what was at stake for him. If he wasn't careful at his job, Lindsay would have to explain to that angelic little face that Daddy wasn't coming home. She wasn't old enough to fully understand what that meant and he didn't want her to grow up wondering why Daddy wasn't around anymore. True, his job was dangerous and he couldn't ever fully guarantee that nothing would ever happen to him, but he owed it to Lucy and to Lindsay not to recklessly endanger himself just for the thrill of it. It was a lesson that had sunk into him a couple of weeks after he married Lindsay and a couple of months before Lucy was born when he was in the locker room bathroom washing a suspect's blood off his hands, blood that very well could have been his own. He had decided right then and there that his maverick days were over; he'd play by the rules because that was dangerous enough. Too much else was at stake for him to do otherwise.

She was also a reminder to him that he was capable of good things. For so long in his life and career he'd always felt like he lived up to his name. He was a Messer, and if anyone could "mess" something up, it was him. He could be his own worst enemy and had sabotaged himself, his career, his relationships too many times to count. Even his relationship with the best woman who had ever entered his life had been in jeopardy after his self-destruction following Reuben Sandoval's death. Sometimes he still wondered what he had done to deserve Lindsay taking a second chance on him but he was sure he wasn't going to do anything to risk not getting a third shot. But Lucy was pure perfection and he had had a hand in creating her. If he, in all his imperfection, had manage to co-create such an amazing little girl, perhaps he had it in him to do other great feats of greatness. He had promised Lindsay on the day he married her that he wanted to be the man she needed him to be. Now with Lucy in his life, that promise had never seemed more important. Failure to be the daddy she deserved was not an option.

As he prepared to go out and take one more criminal element off the city streets, she was the visual he needed to remind himself why his job was so important. She was counting on him to make this city, this whole world, a better place to grow up in. Crime couldn't pay because of the cost it would mean to his little angel. He couldn't wrap her in a plastic bubble to protect her from all the darkness that existed in the world but he could work to make it a safer place by taking the criminal element off the streets one criminal at the time. Every time he made an arrest, it was one more criminal who could not impact his daughter's life. That made every long shift, every moment he couldn't spend with his family worth it.

But most of all, staring at that little square of colored pixels that recreated his daughter's image was the reminder that he was his little girl's hero. He was the one in her life that could slay the imaginary monsters who hid in her closet threatening her sleep at night. He was the one who could read her favorite stories with the funny little voices that made her laugh. He was the one who could fix chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast using twice as many chocolate chips than Lindsay would ever approve of. He was the one that could fix the toilet and clean up the mess before Mommy came home and discovered that Lucy had accidentally flushed her favorite bounce ball to see if it would "come back" like she'd seen in a cartoon. He might not wear a costume or a cape, but in his little girl's world, he was the only superhero that she needed or wanted.

Yep, this was more than just a picture. It was a snapshot of all that was important and necessary in his life. He gave the photograph a little kiss and slipped it beneath the Kevlar into his shirt pocket, right above his heart. He gave it a little pat knowing he had Lucy right where she belonged. He looked at Mac and Don who were finishing their own little rituals.

"Let's do this."