Author's note: You know what I hate about excuses? I hate that they are used in the worst situations. Poor excuses are given in the worst situations, which is to say, excuses are just a false justification. But some excuses have validity. I promise the one that follows is at least partially valid. I have been going through a lot in real life: preparing to visit my mother over the holidays; working on my story with another writer; having major relationship issues; and, finally, having the creativity of a walnut. I didn't want to write a chapter simply for the sake of filling space with empty words. That is my biggest pet peeve when authors do that. Anyway, I'm going to try to go back to updating twice every week, as things are slowly winding down again. I'll try. If not, expect a chapter at least ONCE every week.

This chapter takes place around Christmas time. It's fitting, after all. I do have some surprises up my sleeve, so stay tuned. I promise you won't regret it. As always, thanks for reading, both the chapter and my knack for pointless monologuing. Enjoy =). Please review.

Exhaustion did not begin to describe how Casey felt. In fact, on a scale from zombie to energizer bunny, the young attorney was as far to the right as was humanly possible. Between taking care of the baby and spending what little time she and Olivia could spend as a couple—a deficit caused by Olivia's crazy work schedule and their mutual exhaustion—Casey was as dead as a breathing person could be.

Leaning against the counter one chilly December evening, the redhead sipped her steaming cocoa. Samantha was with the babysitter, which left Casey and Olivia a night to their-selves. Sighing, Casey read the clock on the stove. The green numbers alerted her, for the fifth time that minute, that it was a quarter past ten. It was hardly unusual for Olivia to be late, but Casey couldn't deny how frustrated, how restless she was growing.

Five minutes later, she sighed, placing her drink on the counter. Wrapping her robe more tightly around her, she walked out of the kitchen, making her way through the living room to the thermostat at the base of the stairs. Merely reading the frigid temperature amount made her shiver. Twenty eight degrees seemed impossible, as it was only the end of autumn. Shaking her head, Casey turned the heat to full blast and walked calmly into the kitchen once more.

Casey had just set another pot of water to boil when the front door opened. Hearing it close again, Casey waited a few moments, after which, Olivia rushed in, laden with groceries. Casey quickly helped her place everything on the counter. "You went grocery shopping at almost eleven at night?" the attorney asked, eyebrow arched.

Olivia shook her head. "No. I went grocery shopping at nine at night. But then I had to go all the way back to the precinct, realizing I had forgotten my jacket. How it took me so long to figure that out is a mystery." The detective grabbed a freshly made cookie from the tower on the island. "Anyway," she continued. "By then it was about ten. I had to stop at the gas station on my way home, and by the way I got all the way across the city, a considerable amount of time had passed."

"What an interesting night," Casey murmured, returning the gentle kiss Olivia placed on her lips. As the older woman lifted Casey's blouse and rubbed the redhead's swollen stomach, placing a kiss there as well, Casey smiled. "Did you wrangle a confession out of Jameson?"
Olivia sighed. "No." She walked over to the refrigerator and opened it. Retrieving a bottled beer from inside, she used her foot to close the refrigerator, ignoring Casey's glare. Opening the bottle, she the brunette leaned against the counter. She took a long swig of her beer. "We were close though," she admitted, capping the drink once more and setting it roughly behind her. Seeing Casey's curious look, she smiled gently. "I should say, I was close. He demanded to be interrogated by 'That smoking lady cop'."

Casey groaned. "Why do the creeps always hit on you?" she asked, shaking her head. "Then again," she said, thinking logically. "There is another lady cop there. I won't say she's smoking, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

"He started reciting a poem about my 'long chocolate locks'," Olivia qualified.

"Okay, enough!" Casey cried. "I'm going to have to drown myself just to crawl out away from that visual," she protested, shuddering visibly.

Olivia chuckled. "My point being, he meant me. Anyway, after I walked in, I closed the door. I sat down in front of him and told him that it was time to get down to business. What I find ironic is that everyone knows about the extra cops behind the mirror. He, however, was completely shocked."
"Maybe he was just acting," Casey suggested. "How many freaks like him have we seen? They are a sadist in angel's clothing."

Olivia shook her head. "He wasn't acting." Something about the older woman's tone cut Casey off mid-protest. "I was just about to get a confession out of that weasel when he lawyered up." She shook her head sadly. "Damn shame. I had the bastard."
"You'll get him," Casey assured her. "No one is a better weasel wrangler than the beautiful Detective Benson." She kissed Olivia softly, just as the water on the stove boiled over. The redhead rushed over to it, quickly turning the flame down. Turning around, she faced Olivia once more. "So."

"I find it amazing that someone so stupid is capable of such feats of intelligence," Olivia lamented.

Casey arched her eyebrow curiously. "What do you mean?" she asked. "And about whom?"

Olivia sighed deeply. "Jameson," she continued. "He didn't know about the magic mirror, and that disturbs me. Anyone who has been on the planet for five years knows about that trick. And yet...he didn't. So there's this stupid, seemingly innocent creep...and yet he's enough of a mastermind to elude capture for fifteen years? He had to have a partner."
"I thought that theory was ruled out," Casey answered, reaching for her cocoa again.

Olivia finished her beer, tossing it into the recycle bin. Opening the refrigerator, she grabbed another one. "I don't know," she admitted, opening the bottle with a loud pop. "The theory was ruled out, but even the best crime scene analysts have to be wrong once in their careers. It just pisses me off that that bastard cannot tell the truth for five seconds. The closest I got to a confession was him telling me that I was hotter than his ex, who he referred to as a mosquito on society's thumb."

"Interesting metaphor," Casey observed, shaking her head. "Do you have any other proof that he might have a partner? You know how my boss thinks."

"Casey, think about it. The first reason is the one I already mentioned, regarding his odd combination of stupidity and pure genius. And someone cannot avoid capture for as long as he has without having a partner. Someone had to have sheltered him, and one does not walk into someone's house begging to be hidden from the police without being forced to explain why. If whoever harbored him knew, then that makes them an accessory."
Casey nodded. "That's true," she conceded. Olivia's argument made perfect sense, as much as the young attorney hate to think about Jameson's partner in crime, equally as sadistic and free as a bird. Again, the water threatened to boil over. This time, Casey shut it off altogether and set to work preparing a new batch of hot chocolate. "What else?" she asked, stirring the chocolate in.

Olivia reached for her beer again and replied "I've seen enough weak links over the years to know that, if he does have an accomplice, he is the weak one. It would explain why he was captured and his possible partner was not. It would also explain why he had no knowledge of some of the crime scene photos that we showed him. Maybe he was not present at every murder."

Casey voiced her theory for the second time that night. "Maybe he's just a damn good actor."

"Casey, he wasn't acting!" Olivia insisted. Casey shrank back against the counter, refusing to argue anymore. Olivia sighed. "I would bet my badge, pension, and life that the sick freak has a partner. If I have to work twenty five hours a day to prove it, so be it."

It was Casey's turn to sigh. "Olivia, I'm just trying to be logical here. You of all people know that it is damn near impossible to get an indictment on the basis of a theory."

"I know," Olivia conceded. "But I'm sure of this, Casey. I won't stop until I'm proven right. Or wrong. Whatever the case may be, we have to know. Can you get a warrant?"
"What kind of warrant?" Casey asked skeptically. "I have to tell you right now that a search warrant for his house is unlikely; an arrest warrant for his phantom partner is next to impossible to procure; and an arrest warrant for him will be pointless, because he was already in interrogation."

Olivia nodded. "I know. You've gotten warrants on less before. Think about it this way. The son of a bitch raped, tortured, and murdered over thirty seven women in three years, and he was harbored for the past fifteen. Either we bring his ass back in, and this time manage to obtain more jury-loved evidence, or we're screwed and he is free to continue his crusade."

"Olivia, I know that, but you know as well as I do that there is not a judge on this planet who will give us any sort of warrant without more evidence. That is, unless, I can find one who has a personal drug addiction."

"You've gotten more on less," Olivia reiterated. "Please, Casey. Don't let there be a woman number thirty eight."

Casey sighed, placing the wooden spoon she had been using on the counter. She turned to completely face Olivia, having previously only looked up at her occasionally. "I'll try," she said. "Okay, I'll try. But I can't promise anything beyond that."

Olivia pulled her closer, kissing her passionately. "Has anyone ever told you that you're the perfect wife? And who do you belong to?"

Casey smiled. "You and only you," she replied, returning the kiss, nibbling on Olivia's tongue gently. Olivia's soft groan sent a spark of arousal through the young attorney, and they forced themselves to pull apart a few moments later. "When you're done with your beer, I made cocoa if you want some. Has it warmed up any in here?"

"I haven't given it much thought," Olivia admitted. She paused for a moment, thinking. "It feels pretty warm," she answered finally. She smiled, looking into Casey's eyes. "Why do you ask?"

Casey sighed. "Because it was under thirty degrees in here before you got home, and before I turned the heater up." She paused, her gaze wandering down Olivia's body. "Olivia, what were you doing before you got home?"

"I told you. Shopping. And I had to go back to the precinct. It took longer than I expected to get home." Olivia paused, noting Casey's curious gaze. "Why?"

"Because your fly is down." Casey smirked and grabbed a cookie, nearly skipping out of the kitchen.