Author's Note: I started writing this almost two and a half years ago (beginning of season 8), and forgot about it for a long time. I edited it and changed it to fit the season 10 storyline, so there's spoilers for 10.01 in here, but nothing from the later part of the season. Eventual Eric/Calleigh.

There was nothing better than, after a long day at work, taking a long shower and letting the grime, both literal and figurative, wash off her. The case was closed; tomorrow would bring another case, and another would follow, the only things changing being the facts and faces. Calleigh wouldn't trade her job for anything, but sometimes the cases hit her harder than other times.

Especially this one, especially today. The look on Austin's face, the plaintive begging for her to take him and his sister - it was a harrowing reminder that there was a human cost to crime beyond the offenders and their victims. Innocent children could be, and were, in this case, caught in the crossfire. She'd promised him that she'd come to see him, wherever the foster parents ended up being - she couldn't be another broken promise. One more broken promise from one more person, and that could be the straw that broke the camel's back for Austin.

She stepped out of the shower, wrapped a towel around her hair, and shrugged her shoulders into her well-worn terrycloth bathrobe. A cup of hot tea and the company of her television awaited her, allowing the demons of her career to be chased into a corner for another night.

She spent most of the evening channel surfing before settling on a movie she had seen multiple times before, one that she seemed to remember enjoying the last time she'd seen it. Emphasis on seemed, as she had nearly turned off the movie two or three times, before it ended. As a spokesperson droned on about the amazing amounts of time that would be reduced by purchasing their unnecessarily complex kitchen gadget for "a low, low price of $19.95," she nudged a loose throw pillow under her head and closed her eyes, seeking relief in the form of a good night's sleep. She drifted off, the sounds of people chattering about the parties they could now throw fading into silence.

A little girl no older than about six or so came up to Calleigh. "Hi," she said, extending her hand in an exaggerated greeting, before dissolving into a fit of giggles.

"Hi there," Calleigh said brightly, shaking the little girl's hand. "What's your name?"

"My name's Monica." Cue another set of giggles. Calleigh hadn't heard someone giggle this much in a very long time, but it was oddly kind of endearing.

Calleigh nodded and thought for a moment. "Monica, where are your parents?"

The long brown braid across Monica's back swished rapidly back and forth as she shook her head. "I don't know," she said, her previously wide smile collapsing into a marked pout. "Will you help me find them? Please?"

She looked around, scanning the landscape for the trace of any other person who might know who Monica's parents were and where they could be found. After seeing that it was solely the two of them as far as the eye could see, Calleigh took the girl's hand in her own. "Let's go find your parents." They walked together, hand in hand, Monica's fingers nearly digging into Calleigh's hand. She has a vice grip, Calleigh thought. The giggling had subsided once they started walking, only to be replaced by an almost-eerie silence.

Calleigh didn't recognize the place she was walking in – the place Monica evidently knew so well. There was a nice cool breeze, and she could feel the warmth of the sun on her back. It was nice. If anything, it felt like it could be home.

Except it wasn't anywhere in Miami, that much, she knew.

She turned to glance at Monica, and opened her mouth to ask her where they were headed, or where they were, or what was going on.

And then she woke up, the infomercial on the television having shifted to weight loss supplements in the intervening time. Had it really all been a dream? If so, it was the most vivid dream she'd had in the longest of times. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock.

As she shifted into the line of light from the lamp, she let out a gasp: imprinted into the side of her hand was the unmistakable outline of small fingers.

"Like that of a little girl's," she thought, as she made her way back to her own bed and buried herself under the covers.

She didn't fall back asleep right away, the image of the little girl with the long brown braid and the infectious giggles begging her to help find her parents having made an indelible imprint on her mind. It was no surprise to her that she had dreamed of a child asking for her help, considering her conversation with Austin earlier in the day. Maybe it was nothing, and she just had children on the mind tonight. It would make sense.

Or maybe it was something after all. Dreams have meanings, she reminded herself, even the ones about upside-down worlds with purple grass and yellow skies. By comparison to that, this one had been downright normal, despite the series of tiny imprints burned into her palm. Burrowing deeper into her covers, she cast her blanket over her face and distracted herself from the thoughts swirling through her head.

Morning came too fast, too bright, and too early.

It always did.

-to be continued-