(I own nothing. This fic begins the night of Sam's gala in "Cycle of Violence". This chapter refers to events of my drabble Placeholder, which is a part of Never Told You, Never Told Anyone. You may want to look it up, although everything should be self-explanatory.

This upcoming trilogy is by far my most ambitious fanfic endeavour ever. My intention is to write shorter chapters for this story, which will hopefully make for quicker updates than in my other stories. On with the show... Buckle in, cos it's gonna be a loong ride. Thanks to demonchilde, my beta reader!)


As Sam was tucking a sleepy Chloe in for the night, she thought about the night they'd had. Against all odds, she'd managed to have fun. She hadn't rambled during her thank you speech, and her friends and date had distracted her enough so she hadn't felt too uncomfortable with all the attention. She smiled when she remembered playful argument she'd had with Bailey over the trophy; she'd been insisting that he should take it with him so it could be displayed at the VCTF as soon as may be, whilst he had been adamant that she should enjoy at her house for a spell. In the end, she'd relented. She was planning to keep it for the weekend, and she'd take it to work on Monday and make sure that everyone so inclined would get a chance to take pride in it. After all, the trophy had been a group effort.

She left her daughter to her slumber, switched the light off in Chloe's room and headed to the living room. Angel was in the process of finding a good spot for the trophy Sam had received for her service in the Bureau. She decided on the dining table. She noticed Sam emerging from the kitchen. "Chloe asleep?"

Sam nodded and stretched her frame, starting to feel the lure of her bed.

Satisfied, Angel left the trophy alone. "You game for one more celebratory drink?"

"Sure, hit me," Sam muttered and plopped down on the sofa. Whilst Angel busied herself with the drinks, Sam let her eyes drift shut and let her mind wander, most of her thoughts focusing on the evening.

"Here you go," Angel offered her a champagne flute. They clinked their glasses in silence, having toasted Sam many times at the gala.

"So, did you have fun?" Angel enquired with a gleam in her eyes.

"Yeah, I did," Sam replied with a happy smile dancing on her features.

"Hey, who was Bailey's date? I didn't recognise her at all," Angel asked, eager for some gossip.

"Oh, her name is Ellen Behar. They were involved last year," Sam murmured as she swirled the champagne in the flute.

"And now they're back together again?"

"Maybe. It would seem so," Sam pointed out, sounding a bit dubious.

"Huh. Why did they break it off before?"

Sam took a sip of her champagne, mulling over her answer. "I think it had something to do with Frances, and Bailey's shooting. Plus, the situation with her ex husband was messy. They were only separated at the time."

"So... she broke it off when the going got tough? Okay," Angel remarked with a question in her tone. Lord knows she hadn't always seen eye to eye with Bailey, but over time he'd started to grow on her.

Sam shrugged her shoulders. Although she had met the woman one time before this evening, she didn't have the most glowing opinion of her. But, as long as Ellen made Bailey happy, it was none of her business. She changed the subject. "Did you have fun tonight?"

A smile blossomed on Angel's face. "Sure. My best friend was honoured, I was surrounded by hot FBI guys and the drinks were free. Who wouldn't have fun?" She left out her inkling that she might want to pursue the feelings she'd felt when she was dancing with John. She was trying to take it a day at a time, not make any long-term plans for the foreseeable future. No use getting your hopes up for nothing.

Angel spared a warm look at her friend. "I'm so proud of you, you know that?" They shared a hug, after which Angel announced that she was going to bed. Sam stayed on the sofa for a while before deciding herself to call it a night. She gulped down a huge glass of water in the kitchen, petted Denzel for a moment and withdrew to her room. As she drifted to sleep, the last conscious thing on her mind was Bailey's praise.

Frances stirred awake on the sofa when she heard keys hit the kitchen counter with a clang. Her dad had come in through the door to the garage. She sat up and rubbed her face. "Hey, how was it?"

Bailey, preoccupied by the events of the evening, hadn't noticed his daughter dozing on the sofa. "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you."

Frances shook her head. "I wasn't really asleep. How did it go?"

Bailey smiled. "It was a good evening, all in all."

"And... how was Ellen?" Frances asked hesitantly. She didn't think too kindly of the woman, who seemed to reciprocate the sentiment herself. Frances wondered if Ellen's overture at this point in time had anything to do with the fact that she would leave before long for college, leaving the coast clear once again for a hassle-free affair. Still, she was determined to make an effort for her dad.

Her question surprised him. He was aware that there wasn't exactly any love lost between the pair. "I don't think I'll be seeing her again."

She felt a rush of relief and surprise. "Oh. Why, if I may ask?"

He angled for a breezy smile, even though the rejection he'd suffered at the hands of the woman stung a bit. "I guess you kids would say that I was blown off."

That fact cemented Frances' bad opinion of the woman. "Sheesh. I dare say something, or rather, someone better will come along." Her dad didn't seem as confident as she was. She decided to distract him from his current misery. "Did you take any pictures? I'd love to see some."

He thought about the enquiry. "Sam's friend Angel took photos, and there was a photographer taking shots for the internal bulletin. I'll see if any float my way."

"You do that. I'm off to bed. Night, daddy." She gave her dad a light kiss on the cheek. Bailey watched her daughter head to her room and pondered her words. Who knew, maybe someone better would come along. For the time being, he would concentrate on enjoying his daughter's company before she left for college. As he readied himself for sleep, he wondered how long it would be before Sam brought the trophy to work. Now that she'd gotten over the mortification of being singled out, she might learn to appreciate the item and keep it to herself for a time.

Still, he only gave it a week.

To his dismay, he turned out to be wrong by as many days as four.