Smothered By Love

2

Bothers

5

Families

8

Eternity

1

Search for Justice

*Disclaimer-This Fic is building up to a slash pairing. Non-Explicit. Don't like, don't read.* Thank you and enjoy. x Cobly'sGirl19

Prologue

As the last of the sun's rays slipped through the surrounding branches, Tessa Mawby couldn't help but fume about her day. As if working at the coffee shop wasn't bad enough, they were now breaking in yet another new manager. The fourth in six months and the worst to date in her opinion-Susanne didn't count as she hadn't even made it to the shop before she quit. What could Tessa do though? Ferris was her manager and just because he was an arrogant, lazy, inept twerp who thought he was God's gift to women did not mean that she was any less stuck with him.

Stopping briefly to nod at a passing jogger, Tessa ran her sweaty palm through her soft fringe in an attempt to clear her deep brown eyes. She was only small and yet the trail grew so narrow that she had to step sideways out of the big man's path. He held out a brief hand as a thank you but didn't stop nor hesitate for a second. Tessa didn't mind though, it was not as if she came jogging to purposely meet men. She was taking her health seriously and that meant sweating more than was humanly possible or physically attractive. Men, bah! She thought angrily as her thoughts returned to her boss once more. Not that she could tar all men with the same brush but Ferris had certainly put her off the idea of dating for a while, much to her friend's constant disappointment.

It was just irritating to know that Ferris could get away with being a jerk because he was 'the manager', as if that gave him licence to spend all day in the office sat on his lazy fat ass whilst the rest of them slogged their guts out below him, and then have the gall to try and shorten their breaks! When in fact he was so ridiculously incompetent at his job that most of the time his ineptitude meant extra work for the rest of them as they righted the 'messes' that he left behind. How they were supposed to respect him when he could not even manage a basic open without help she did not know. So much so that Tessa was convinced that Ferris would not even recognise a hard days graft if it rattled first before biting him in the ass!

Sighing audibly, Tessa gritted her teeth and tried to jog her frustration out, moving aside once more as another group of joggers passed. It seemed like every day was fast becoming an uphill battle for Tessa and somehow throughout it all Ferris was always at the centre of it all, like he was the eye of a tornado or the epicentre of an earthquake, leaving nought but frustration and resentment behind him as he continued to change their working environment for the worse. She couldn't remember the last time she hadn't woken and fallen asleep with a headache caused by that man!

What got to Tessa most, however, was the constant stress and drama that came with a job that she loathed. It was a basic menial job, not unlike any other. In fact Tessa was convinced that a trained monkey could do her job. There was just no challenge to it and she longed to be challenged.

Groaning internally, Tessa wept to herself as she pulled at the sleeveless jersey that was clinging to her round and rotund frame. Her Job actually infuriated her. It was supposed to be easy, a perfect stopgap between graduating college and becoming a known artist, but the truth was that most days she was surprised she even had the strength to go back when every instinct screamed at her not to. It was not because of her other colleagues-they were all mostly a good bunch, she could even handle the long boring hours and thankless customers because it was only supposed to be temporary. Six months later and the 'temporary' was starting to look a little too un-temporary for her liking.

Grinding her teeth with frustration, Tessa ran without abandon, praying that every step could take her further and further away. She was restless for a future she knew she deserved and had worked hard at college to achieve. Nevertheless as she carried on round a sharp bend in the path her treacherous mind couldn't help but wander back to the shop and that morning in particular. Just remembering the way Ferris had smiled and laughed at her like she was some simpering child that would wilt with gratitude that he had even glanced her way made her skin crawl and shiver with barely concealed disgust. She was no beauty, she was the first to admit that, but even she had higher standards than that snivelling twit. She would not call herself a bitchy woman, she just had a really low tolerance when it came to dealing with fools and Ferris was certainly a fool!

Out of breath and fed up, Tessa stopped running and kneaded the stich that had formed in her right side. Running was usually her release and yet today…today she was just too angry to properly relax. She had woken up knowing that the day was going to be a bad one, she just hadn't realised by how much, or that Ferris could possibly sink any lower in her already very low esteem. She had been dead wrong, however, and Tessa could not help but wonder if there was no depth to which his uselessness bum could not sink.

Sighing again, she tried her hardest to smooth the frown from her brow and forced her tired body over to a nearby tree that must have fallen in the last storm to hit LA's coast. It was a nice spot really, and the tree provided quite a nice impromptu spot in which to take advantage of the scenery. Letting the setting wash over her as she bathed her face in sunshine, Tessa let go of her last bitter feelings towards what had felt like the longest shift in the history of shifts. Why worry about what Ferris would no next when she could no more control him as the tree could have controlled the weather. She needed to relax, stop and smell the roses more, or whatever the pretty white flower at her toes was anyway.

Leaning down to investigate closer, Tessa marvelled at how such a precious flower could grow and survive on such a popular and well used nature trail as this one. How long it took for her tired brain to acknowledge the small dirty fingertips poking through the rough soil next to the flower she did not know…all she knew was the sudden sharpness in her chest as her heart skipped several beats as the horror of the situation dawned upon her unprepared and fragile mind. Screaming her surprise and stumbling backwards in an effort to get away, Tessa tripped over the log in her haste. Looking up and down the trail Tessa screamed for help but for once there was no one around. For such a popular trail she found herself quite suddenly alone.

No longer warmed by the sun's harsh rays, Tessa shivered violently as she shrank further backwards, half running half crawling into the sheltered cover of the wooded area behind her and as far away from the tiny grave as her short legs could carry her. Looking about her to make sure she was as definitely alone, Tessa bowed her head in distress as her stomach heaved and her weak legs gave way beneath her. Sinking to her knees, Tessa leaned forwards and retched repeatedly as her body shivered and convulsed with unconcealed fear and revulsion, all the while the dry and brittle grass scratched at her exposed palms and legs.

How long she knelt like that, Tessa did not know. All she knew was that the sun was dipping dangerously low in the darkening sky and that her fragile body had nothing left inside to give. Afraid of the encroaching darkness, Tessa wiped her small mouth on her bare arm before spitting the last of the bile from her dry mouth and stood up. Less than ten meters away, out of the corner of her eye, Tessa could just about make out the child's small curled fingers next to the small white flower that had drawn her attention in the first place. That she could have easily chosen not to stop and the child's body could just as easily have never been discovered chilled her to her core. Nevertheless she had stopped and she had discovered…well God knew what she had actually discovered, whatever it was she knew that it wasn't good and that now it was her duty to report it.

Finally retaining her common sense, Tessa reached deep into the pockets of her jogging shorts and pulled out her mobile phone, dialling as fast as her trembling fingers would permit. All thoughts of Ferris and the coffee shop long forgotten, Tessa waited patiently as the dialling tone kicked in, thanking God once more for the decent signal on a trail known for usually having none.

Thoroughly creeped out beyond words now because after all she was alone in a forest…with a dead body. Tessa tried to level her uneven breathing as a raspy female voice cut across her scrambled thoughts of the dark, dead children and flesh eating zombies, "Emergency services, how may I direct your call?" She rasped down the line, her tone uncaring and anything but friendly. Desperate for the woman or anyone to help her, Tessa half laughed half wept her relief as she found the strength to ask for the police and then explain the situation to a second and much friendlier sounding woman.

"Yes…yes…a…a…bo…bod…body," Tessa half stammered half whimpered in response to the woman's questions, at least she thought she did, the weak throttled sob on the word 'body' sounded so unlike her voice and far removed from her own body that she had to double check once more that she was still alone. "Please hurry," She added desperately, just in case.

Chapter 1

Looking at the daunting stack of reports on his large mahogany desk, Don Eppes started to seriously reconsider his choice to accept the AD's offer of promotion to SAIC. He had barely been the Special Agent in Charge for three months and already the pressure was mounting as Assistant Director Nick Callaghan breathed down his neck for reassurances. Being old friends from Quantico, all eyes in the department looked to Don as if waiting for him to muck up and fall flat on his face.

He wasn't deaf either. He knew that word around the water cooler was that he had only gotten the promotion because he was the best man at the AD's wedding. Truth was Don had come real close to quitting when he had lost his gun three months previously. It was Nick who had finally convinced him that the bunch of vigilante killings that occurred because he had let some passer by pick up his service weapon was not a good enough reason to quit. The FBI was his life. It was what he did, what he was damn good at! He wasn't about to be run out of the job just because the rest of the team leaders grumbled that he didn't deserve it-that he hadn't earned it!

At first he had just assumed that they were jealous because he had gotten a large corner office that could fit his old team's cubicles in it five times. With massive celling to floor length windows, a large desk, couch, conference table and secretarial anti chamber-Don had just assumed that the others were envious of the space. If only they knew that it also came with long hours, boring briefings, budget meetings, tedious office squabbles and never ending paperwork that the last SAIC had left scattered across the desk, floor and conference table with no real structure.

Regardless, Don was determined to enjoy it, to make the space his own. Behind his desk, on the furthest wall, Don had filled the large bookcase with his extensive LP collection and record player. On the cupboards by the wall length window he kept his signed baseball collection and on the back of his door hung a large basketball hoop. He figured if he was going to spend a lot of long nights in his office, he might as well enjoy himself. What it really meant was that his old team often spent more time in his office than at their desks, not that he would complain as he was glad for the company.

In addition to the constant pressure to prove himself, as if that wasn't headache enough, Don was also under pressure to find a replacement for David, who had secured his own promotion in DC, and himself on their old team. For the time being Colby headed the team, though the paperwork was wearing his patience thin as he waited for Don to pick a decent candidate to take over. Problem was several interviews later, Don still couldn't decide. He didn't mean to sound arrogant, but it wasn't like he could just let anyone head the team and the recent applicants had left a lot to be desired.

The only one to stand out in the crowd had been Special Agent William Chase to replace David. A psychology major and tutor at Quantico for four years, Chase was still pretty green and had as yet to prove himself in the field, Don just hoped his instinct upon meeting the man proved him right. Besides Don could still remember when David had first joined the team, he had been pretty green back then as well and he'd turnout alright. Moreover they needed a psychological profiler on the team and Don was convinced that Chase was it. He had already proved that he fit in well with the team dynamic. Now it was just a case of testing how well he could perform on a real case. It was his reactions to his environment and suspects that would truly test the mettle of the man. Don's instincts were rarely wrong but even he was holding his breath on this one.

Running his long fingers through his roughly combed black hair, Don leaned back in his large swivel chair and counted to ten before pulling the top file into his lap. One problem at a time, he told himself sternly, making a mental note to review the applications again that night before bed. After all he made all his best decisions late at night. Robin, his fiancée, hated him bringing his work home with him but even she could understand that there was bound to be a transition period as there had been when she was promoted to District Attorney. He just hated that his work drew him away from her so often, especially as they were still planning their wedding for the coming months.

Opening the thick file, Don sighed and loosened his tie, the more he got done now, the less he needed to do later, he reasoned with his consciousness. The report was of a recent triple homicide involving two court officials and a judge several weeks away from retirement. He knew the case well, not only because it had been all over the news for weeks but more than that Don had known the judge personally. He had been a fair man, ready to hand out the harsh punishments but also ready to show mercy to those that warranted it. Don couldn't help but wonder how Judge Tompkins would have sentenced his murderer…

Lost in thought and barely a page into the report, Don was conveniently distracted by a soft tap on his office door. He recognised the tap immediately and was already on his feet and half way across the room by the time his fiancée opened the sturdy door. She wasn't alone, which told Don that it wasn't a social call.

Stopping in his tracks, Don took in the small disapproving frown pulling at the corners of Robin's red painted lips as her sharp eyes surveyed the messy office. Robin was a neat freak. Everything about her was immaculate and precise, from her white suit jacket with black cuffs, to her pencil black skirt with the smallest of slits in the back. Her brown hair was meticulously groomed and up in combs. She looked stunning and Don longed to mess her up. Swallowing his desire, Don counted to ten. It took more self-control than he thought he had, not to pull the combs from her hair and tip her onto his ridiculously soft leather couch.

As if she could read his thoughts, Robin shook her head fractionally, the smallest of smiles playing at her supple lips as Don closed the gap between them, narrowly avoiding a mishap with the files before finally reaching her and her companion. Taking her hand in his, Don planted a brief kiss on her cheek before sliding his arm around her waist, his hand resting on the small of her back.

Turning to greet her unexpected companion, Don recognised Michael Burnett instantly even though they had never met before. He was a tall man, mid-thirty's with light blond hair and grey piercing eyes. He and his family had also occupied the news for the last month, not that Don could quite remember the story. He tried to avoid the news when he could. Journalists tended to misquote and deal only in half-truths. They also had an annoying habit of making his job ten times harder than was necessary!

"Don Eppes," he politely offered a hand in greeting when Robin failed to make the appropriate introductions.

"Michael Burnett," Burnett grimaced as he grabbed Don's hand in reply and shook it firmly. "Forgive me," he added when a minute passed and they were still shaking hands, "I…I…seem to…erm…" Unsure how to continue, Burnett dropped Don's hand as if he had been electrocuted and opted for silence instead. If he knew why he was in Don's office, it didn't come across.

There was just something about him though from the hunched posture, the glazed eyes, and the mismatched suit, that screamed bereavement to Don. Perhaps it was just a case of having worked too long as an FBI officer or that he had informed enough families over the years to recognise what he referred to as the 'the brush of death'. That moment when life is halted and suddenly you realise that the world is a dangerous place where evil often wins and the world rarely makes any sense. It was a moment when faith is tested and lives are changed, not always for the better. He could understand the man's pain, he had lost his mother several years back to cancer and the wound was still a raw one. Even nowadays he found the odd moment when his mind wondered, the words 'what if' on the tip of his tongue as the world melted away around him.

Scrubbing his tired face with his free hand, Don looked at his fiancée's distressed face, any lingering desire extinguished. Whatever had brought them to his office, it wasn't good and Don had a sinking suspicion it meant extra work and more headaches for himself. "You'd better take a seat," Don gestured to them to sit in one of the two soft padded chairs before his desk.

Stopping only once to right a knee high pile, that Burnett had gotten a little too close to, Don plonked himself back down in his own large black swivel chair and folded his hands in his lap. He could just about see them for all the files on top of his desk.

"Forgive the mess," Don said as way of apology as Burnett eyed the large pile without really seeing it, "my assistant and I have yet to file some of these away…" He pressed further to fill the awkward gap in conversation. Not that he thought Burnett heard him anyway.

"Don," Robin practically whispered when Burnett made no attempt to explain for himself. "They found Connie's body this afternoon."

Eyes lighting with recognition, Don finally understood the man's terrible composure. As the assistant district attorney, Burnett had become known for his ability to win and close cases, hell it was why Robin had hired him in the first place. It didn't matter to her that he hadn't graduated top of his class or scored too highly on his LSATS. He knew the law but more importantly he knew people and it was for that reason alone that she had sought him out and offered him the position on the spot. Was he popular amongst his fellow lawyers? No, but his clients loved him and he saw justice served. Thinking about it, Don couldn't remember the last case Burnett hadn't won for the DA's office.

It was not, however, his reputation that had Don cursing internally. It was his sudden memory of Burnett at a press conference pleading for his daughter's kidnappers to bring her home. Clearly his daughter Connie Burnett was the latest victim to fall fowl of what the press was dubbing the 'LA Child Snatcher'.

Don didn't know the case particularly well, just that the child was normally snatched from a park and killed a week later. The last two victims had been found on popular jogging paths, Don would bet his right arm that Connie would have been found on one too. Charlie, Don's younger brother, was the mathematically genius not him, but even Don could count to three-the number at which the bureau specified a murderer becomes a serial killer. Sitting up straighter in his chair, Don felt his heart race. "I'm sorry for your loss," he stumbled to tell the devastated father in front of him and meant it whole heartedly. If there was one crime that Don hated above all others it was the murder of a child. After all it was child serial killers that made Don believe in the death penalty to begin with and now they had one loose in LA. The press would eat this up.

"Don?" Robin asked hesitantly, "I…I was hoping that you would take the case," she had never sounded less certain in her life. "I realise we can't bring Connie back…but the LAPD…I trust no one else to bring her…her murderer to justice."

"Of course," Don rushed to placate her with his words, wishing that he could hold her instead. He had forgotten that Robin knew Burnett's family personally. A single father-the mother having died in a car accident-Connie was all Michael had had left...and now? Now he didn't even have that. In all honesty, it was days like this one that had Don questioning if he ever wanted a child. The pain that Michael must be going through was…unthinkable. "A child should bury their parents…not the other way round…it's not…right!" Don's father Alan had once told him when Don's team had been called in on a school shooting in Palm Springs and Don couldn't agree more.

Getting up to pace behind his desk, Don dug his hands into his suit pockets. "You understand, it means that my team will have to investigate everything, however insignificant it may seem. Serial killers often stalk their victims…I'll have to know every aspect of your lives if we're to catch this SOB. My team may have to ask you and your family some difficult, trying and at times tedious questions to get to the truth…" Don informed Burnett, his pacing having broken him out of his trance.

"I just want the bastard that did this to my little girl," Burnett spat at Don from across the desk. "Ask your questions. I have nothing to hide!"

"Then I will make the necessary calls," Don nodded to his fiancée and her companion. Realising it was time to leave, Robin pulled Burnett to his feet before shepherding her assistant DA out of Don's spacious office, stopping only once to mouth thank you to Don over her shoulder, before pulling the door closed behind them.

Slumping back down into his chair, Don buried his face in his hands. He had more work than he could physically complete and he had taken on an extra case? Was he mental? Remembering his fiancée's red rimmed eyes from crying told him that he wasn't because Robin didn't cry. It was her thing, she was tougher than that-or at least that's what she wanted everyone to believe. Being the District Attorney in a profession dominated by strong men wasn't easy. She couldn't afford to show weakness.

Don knew the truth though. At home she was a kind, funny, beautifully sensitive woman and he loved her for it. Hell it's why he wanted to marry her and though she rarely needed it, Don loved those moments of weakness. When she let down the barriers and exposed her soul to him, letting him protect her as he enveloped her in his arms and kissed the tip of her nose and cheeks before claiming her mouth with his. She probably didn't need saving but it made him feel needed all the same and this had been one of those moments. Though she hadn't said as much, he could see it in her eyes. That was reason enough for him to take on the extra work. He loved her and knew in his heart that he would do anything for her.

Shaking his head at his own mushy thoughts, Don lifted the receiver on his desk phone and called Nick. He'd need the AD's support to call jurisdiction over the LAPD and take their case. Nick wouldn't be happy, but what could they do? The FBI couldn't ignore a serial killer in their own city. He just wished his brother wasn't teaching in Cambridge, England. He missed him and he had a sinking feeling he'd need a mathematical edge in the days to come.