Disclaimer: I don't own Perception nor anything associated with it. I just like to play around with the characters from time to time.


The heavy bag swayed rhythmically as Kate's solid right jab connected. With fire glowing in her brown eyes, she reared back before landing another angry hook to the left side of the bag. The sound of leather on leather echoed through the training gym and a strange feeling self satisfaction accompanied each blow as she took out her frustration on a faceless opponent.

It was late-afternoon and the gym nearly empty, save for a couple of more seasoned agents attempting to work off the damage of one too many late night pizza deliveries while on the job. Kate appreciated the solitude especially for the crappy mood she found herself in. Typically, she didn't mind sharing the space and had been known to enjoy a friendly sparring session every now and again. Today, however, anyone who tried to cross her would more likely be leaving with their arm in a cast than with a congratulatory high five.

Right, left, right, right… Kate continued her steady barrage. The tiny, calm voice of reason in the back of her mind applauded her for at least having the good sense to wrap her hands properly before coming out of the locker room. She wasn't a rookie, but this level of abuse would only do more harm to herself than the bag. Kate had lost track of time long ago. Her body was quickly tiring but the assault only seemed to marginally quell the white-hot needles of irritation flowing through her veins.

One last hard jab and Kate collapsed into the heavy bag; grabbing onto either side with gloved hands to keep herself upright. Exhausted and panting heavily, she closed her eyes and rested her forehead against its smooth, cool surface as she tried to regain control of her breathing. A few strands of brunette hair that had escaped her ponytail were now glued against the damp skin of her neck and her t-shirt clung to her still humming body. As she stood there, braced against the bag and willing her mind and heart rate to slow, Kate was transported back to earlier in the day.

It was a crisp, fall morning and things were slow at the bureau so Kate decided to stop by the CLMU campus, hoping to meet up with Daniel. Not for any particular case, no. She was on a mission of a different nature. It had been several weeks since their ordeal with the Ryland case and Daniel's hospitalization, but he seemed to be having trouble adjusting to the new normal. At times she would catch him staring off into space, lost in his own thoughts and sadness in his eyes. Of course, when Kate would confront him about it, in true Daniel fashion, he would plaster on a half-smile and claim he was fine. Up until now, Kate had always let it go even though she could plainly see he was hurting. She had hoped he would come to her when he was ready to talk, but it hadn't happened yet and his depression appeared to be worsening.

Daniel's broken-record answers just weren't cutting it anymore and Kate found herself growing more and more discouraged by his apparent lack of trust in her. Hadn't they made a deal not to keep secrets from one another anymore? Then, why was it like pulling teeth to get a simple, straight answer out of him? Some sort of insight as to whatever was bothering that brilliant, beautiful mind of his? They'd been through so much together. She had seen Daniel at near rock bottom and to think he was still shutting her out after all that cut deeply. She cared about him, dammit, more than she probably should, but every time she tried to reach out to him, he would simply brush off her concern and they would seamlessly go back to pretending nothing was out of the ordinary. Well, Kate had had enough beating around the bush. She couldn't just standby any longer and watch as one of her closest friends spiraled further downward…

"How can I help you?"

Kate startled as the barista at the courtyard café interrupted her internal pep talk.

"Oh, a large coffee, milk and two sugars, please, and a chamomile tea."

"Anything in the tea?" the young woman asked, politely.

"No," Kate replied, automatically, as she fished for a few bills out of her wallet.

Thanking the barista, Kate set off for the quad with tea in hand. Knowing Daniel, that is where he'd be since he didn't have a morning session; parked on one of the stone benches, working on a crossword, and listening to Mahler. Completely oblivious to the campus swirling around him. A cool breeze prickled her skin as Kate stepped out onto the busy yard which was surrounded by the beautiful old halls of her alma mater. She attempted to pull her jacket further around her as she balanced the two steaming travel cups in her hands. As she walked, her boots crunched on errant leaves that had fallen across the pavement; too quickly for the groundskeepers to keep up.

A young man ran past Kate, most likely late and in a hurry to get to some unknown class. Another couple was seated on a nearby bench. Her head bent inside a thick textbook while he seemed to be intently studying her sweater at the moment. Walking these all too familiar paths and observing the students, for one brief moment, Kate saw herself at nineteen years old and scared to death as she made her way towards the Psych building for her first "Intro to Neuroscience" class. Her professor, Dr. Pierce, was touted to be one of the foremost authorities in the field. So, naturally, Kate was expecting some stocky, boring scientist-type with a few too many pens in his shirt pocket to be considered normal, and a comb-over that rivaled Donald Trump's. What she did not expect, as he strode confidently into her lecture hall in a pair of black Chucks and five 'o clock shadow at eight in the morning, was for him to be so young, so captivating, and so very, very attractive…

Kate shook her head lightly to clear it. She only rarely allowed herself to be taken in by that particular train of thought as it was such dangerous territory. Her relationship with Daniel was…complicated. They may have started out as teacher-student, but their mutual curiosity and passion for the inner workings of the human brain had allowed a deeper kinship to develop. By the time Kate recruited Daniel to consult for the FBI; their bond had evolved into a friendship that Kate treasured. Her short stint at Quantico may have temporarily severed that closeness and Kate still felt horrible about not keeping in touch with Daniel over that year; especially after discovering how he had committed himself shortly after her departure. But that hadn't lasted long and they fell back into the same groove almost as soon as she was back in Chicago.

While Kate had always sensed the possibility of something more between them, Daniel was much harder to read on the subject. Although there were times she would catch Daniel gazing at her so softly that it sent chills down her spine, Daniel seemed completely content to keep the status quo just as it was and the last thing Kate wanted to do was make things awkward between them.

As she rounded the corner around Porter Hall, into a side yard she knew Daniel liked to frequent, Kate was stopped in her tracks so suddenly that a student following a little too closely behind nearly ran into her. Kate stood in disbelief for a moment as she tried to process the scene in front of her. Sitting on a bench not more than 50 yards away was Daniel looking all too cozy with none other than Dr. Caroline Newsome, the fantasy girl come to life. Daniel, handsome in his black wool coat with a blue scarf, seemed more relaxed than Kate had seen him in quite some time. Newsome sat beside him, ramrod straight, but smiling gently. From Kate's vantage, they appeared to be deep in conversation but about what, she couldn't say. Daniel's forgotten crossword lay on his lap as he gestured wildly trying to make a point. Kate tried to remember the last time she had seen Daniel so animated but was coming up empty.

The lump Kate had felt form in her stomach the minute she registered the two of them together only grew as something Dr. Perfect said made Daniel smile, maybe even laugh a little. A sense of possessiveness like Kate had never known overtook her; turning that lump in her belly into an inferno. In that moment, Kate wanted nothing more than to go straight up to Newsome, steal Daniel away and declare him hers. But what right did she have to do that? She had no claim on him… For his part, Daniel seemed to be quite taken with the good doctor. How could he not be? He's only been dreaming about her for the past 20 years. Kate's inner voice reminded her, snidely. That cold, hard truth hit her like a punch to the gut.

Breathing had become increasingly more difficult and it felt as though the fire were licking at Kate's insides; a discomfort she never wanted to become accustomed to. She longed to just turn and walk back the other direction, pretend she never saw this, but stood frozen to the spot watching Daniel acting freer and happier than she had seen him in awhile. Newsome had managed to do, in a matter of weeks, what Kate had not in almost 10 years; get Daniel to open up. At last, Kate tore herself away and glanced down, allowing her dark hair to fall around her face like a curtain hiding away the hurt and jealousy she was sure were evident. She had to get out of here. Now.

"Agent Moretti?" A voice called to her from nearby.

Kate looked up, hastily; surprised to see the familiar face of Max Lewicki, Daniel's live-in grad assistant, approaching her, a book bag slung over his shoulder.

"Everything all right?" Lewicki's eyes turned concerned as he drew closer, scrutinizing Kate carefully.

Flight mode kicked in and Kate started searching for the perfect avenue for a fast escape. Lewicki was just as perceptive as Daniel, maybe even more so. He would surely tell Daniel of Kate's visit, but her only objective right now was to be well away and nursing her wounds before that happened. With one last glance over at Daniel, still unaware that she was even there let alone the inner turmoil she was going through, Kate awkwardly stammered.

"Fine…Max. Hey, listen, I gotta run. I just got called in to the office. SAIC says it's urgent; wants me there yesterday. You know how it is…"

Kate wouldn't make eye contact with Lewicki and was certain she looked like a complete fool, but she didn't really care. She didn't want to give Lewicki the chance to question her further.

"I..I wasn't here for anything major. Don't worry about bothering Daniel."

Kate's words came out in a rush as she blindly thrust the two, now lukewarm, drink cups into his chest. Lewicki barely had time to grab for them before Kate darted around him and back across the main quad. He turned to watch her go.

"I gotta go! Tell him I'll call him later!" Kate called.

Liar, Kate's inner voice berated her as she walked away, briskly. As if she could feel like a bigger idiot…

Kate slowly opened her eyes, pulled herself straight, but still held tight to the heavy bag. Her limbs were already heavy and aching from the intense exertion but her thoughts were as tangled as ever.

Kate should have been happy that Daniel was returning to his old self, but she couldn't seem to get past the jealousy that was welled up inside of her chest. As irrational as it may have been, Kate deeply resented Caroline Newsome. Just the thought of the haughty, overly -ideal psychotherapist had sparked Kate's ire anew. It had started back when they first met; when Newsome had refused to allow Kate to see Daniel in the hospital. Kate had desperately needed to get into that hospital room. She had to let Daniel know that he wasn't conjuring all this up in some schizophrenic hallucination and Wesley was real, and really dead. But Newsome had asserted her authority, informing Kate that her visiting would only harm Daniel's progress.

Present-day Kate shook her head and made a disgusted noise. Back then she had known what Daniel needed to hear. They weren't so dissimilar, and a part of her would always understand him better than the best psychotherapist. Just because Newsome was Daniel's former physician, had read his books, and had talked to him maybe a handful of times does not mean that she knew Daniel! Kate knew how his mind worked. She had spent so much time painstakingly peeling away his protective layers bit by bit, trying to get through to the man beneath, that when some new bitch came along thinking she knew better, it made Kate seethe.

Kate blew out a harsh breath blowing a flyaway strand of hair from her forehead. She stared into the side of the heavy bag, her only witness in the now empty training gym. Alone, in the privacy of the gym, it was much easier for Kate to be completely honest with herself about the real reason for her jealous temper. For the sake of their friendship, she had grown so accustomed to burying her emotions that when they finally caught up to her, they hit hard. The fact of the matter was that she had fallen in love with Daniel Pierce long ago and was absolutely powerless to do anything about it.

For years, Kate had convinced herself that the feelings she harbored for Daniel were nothing more than the crush of a shy undergrad on the handsome authority figure. But crushes were supposed to be fleeting, right? That's how Kate had figured this wasn't any run-of-the-mill attraction. Each day that had passed, each new detail that Daniel had cautiously revealed about himself, had only made her want him more. Yep, Kate had long since abandoned the belief that her longing for Daniel was merely a crush, however every time she would show even the slightest bit of caring towards him, he would run so far the other direction that Kate couldn't help but feel the rebuff keenly.

That's what had hurt so much about seeing him with Dr. Newsome on campus today. Kate had always thought that Daniel's discomfort with anything remotely intimate stemmed from the shame he felt about his condition. If no one gets close enough to witness it, then they won't identify him by it. But seeing him out there today, with Newsome, acting for all the world like any ordinary guy made Kate wonder…Was it just her he was trying to keep at arm's length?

"Kate?" A hesitant voice chimed in from across the gym.

Kate remained motionless. She could tell from Daniel's tone that hadn't spotted her yet; her petite frame practically hidden by the large piece of equipment between them.

"Hello?" Daniel called again, his voice echoing slightly.

Using stealth skills acquired during years of FBI training, Kate peered around the bag searching for the source of her inner torment. When her eyes fixed on Daniel, she saw he was standing just inside the doorway at the far side of the exercise floor, scanning the room for her. Kate could tell he was nervous, even from this distance, by the way he held his brown messenger bag clutched protectively to his chest. She may have been upset with him, but her rebellious heart couldn't help but admire how good he looked with his hair slightly unkempt and shirt halfway tucked in. Kate was positive she looked like hell right now…

For a few short seconds, Kate debated ignoring his queries. She wasn't really in the mood to talk to him and definitely needed more time to get her emotions back under control. All she had to do was stay quiet and still for one final moment and he would give up and go search for her elsewhere. Kate sighed almost audibly as she watched him shift from one foot to the other. Even if Daniel was adept at rejecting her, she had yet to be able to say no to him.

"Over here, Daniel."

Kate backed out from behind the bag and took another swing at its solid form. Her arms were sore and knuckles raw underneath her gloves, but if she was going to be having this conversation now, she needed to be doing something. This way she could avoid having to meet his questioning eyes. Daniel heard her reply and made his way towards her, making sure to give any of the weight equipment he passed along the way a wide berth.

Kate returned her full attention to the sparring bag sending a fresh pattern of rights and lefts its way and dodging a few imaginary ones for good measure. Daniel showing up here had rekindled her earlier anxiety and she pounded the bag with a renewed vigor. He had yet to speak again so when Kate glanced in his direction she was surprised to find him close by, silently watching. The tiniest of smiles played upon his lips while his eyes sparkled with a combination of awe, amusement, and something more. Something Kate couldn't quite put her finger on, but whatever it was caused a warmth to flow through her that was both comforting, and a little unnerving.

As soon as he felt her eyes on him, Daniel snapped out of his trance. He cleared his throat and glanced down quickly at the floor as he spoke at last.

"Ah, hey., Lewicki said you stopped by earlier but took off right after he saw you. Is, uh, everything all right?"

Kate barely registered the words he was saying as her mind spun in a million different directions trying to come up with a believable excuse for her unannounced visit and abrupt departure that morning. After her initial panic had subsided, Kate settled on keeping as close to the truth as she dared. After all, how could she expect Daniel to confide in her when she wasn't willing to do the same? All the same, she was still having trouble meeting his gaze and found herself addressing the heavy bag as she spoke.

"Yeah, fine. I was coming to see you. We haven't really had much of a chance to talk since the Ryland thing, and I was kind of hoping to, you know, catch up and make sure everything was ok with you," Kate didn't mention the words "hospitalization" or "medication" though her meaning was implied. Daniel was touchy about discussing his condition so Kate avoided any phrasing she feared might shut him down completely. "But I got called back into work at the last minute…" She winced inwardly at the outright lie. You are such a hypocrite, Kate's pesky inner voice chided her, but she ignored it and plunged ahead anyway. "I told him not to worry you."

Daniel nodded once and blinked slowly. "Yeah, he told me that too…but he also said that when you left you seemed a little upset…" He tapered off. Kate took a sidelong glance over at him. She could see how uneasy he was with the personal direction of the conversation, but at the same time his eyes held genuine worry for her. Again with the mixed signals.

All at once, the ridiculousness of the situation struck her and Kate let out a hearty laugh. Daniel's eyebrows nearly shot up to his hairline at her sudden outburst. For once, he was looking at her like she was the crazy one, but Kate couldn't help herself. After her laughter had died down, Kate began to wander aimless circles around the bag as she tried to explain herself.

"Oh, Daniel…Look at us! We're both dancing around the same issue here but neither of us is able to just come out and say what we really mean." Kate chuckled a little. "Why do we have such a hard time being honest and admitting that we care about each other?"

At that question, Kate stopped short and turned to face Daniel, who had been following her. Despite the ample space between them, Daniel still backtracked at her sudden movement as if he were going to run into her, his eyes wide with surprise. Kate rested her gloved hands on her hips as she studied him. She wasn't really expecting a response. Deep down, she knew she was going to need to be the one to make the first move if they were ever going to break the stalemate they currently found themselves in.

"I'm here, Daniel! I'm right here." Kate threw her hands up in a helpless motion and continued. "I do care about you and I'm worried about you. I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable, but I'm getting tired of walking on eggshells around you about how you're going to react." Daniel just stood there, stock still. Might as well go for broke, now. She mused. Amid her insecurity, Kate's inner voice was cheering her on for finally putting it all out there. "It's only been a few weeks, but I don't feel like you've really been dealing with the break and your hospitalization. You may think you're doing a good job of burying everything that happened, but I can still see that something's off."

"Wait just a minute, now!" Daniel interrupted, holding up a defensive hand. His hazel eyes had darkened and started to smolder. "I am dealing with things just fine, thank you very much!" As Kate had expected, Daniel turned immediately to denial and anger as his defense. "In fact, there's nothing to deal with. I'm fine!"

"Quit bullshitting me, Daniel!" Kate's voice raised and she took a weak swing at the heavy bag next to her in frustration. "Ever since you got out of the hospital you've been sullen, quiet even for you. I've known you long enough to know when something's wrong, and I've offered, frequently, to lend an ear only to get turned away every single time!" Kate realized she was losing focus and letting her emotions get away from her so she took a deep, calming breath to steady herself before making her next appeal. The words were like stones. "Now, I know I may not be your first choice when it comes to someone to confide in, but you should talk to someone whether it be your shrink, or Dr. Newsome, or whoever. If you can't trust me, trust someone." Kate shrugged, feeling increasingly defeated. "I'm here, too…if you need me. You know you don't have to do this alone, but you really need to start facing whatever it is instead of hiding and hoping it just goes away."

The fire that had ignited in Daniel's eyes at her initial accusation died instantly, confusion taking its place. "What are you talking about, Kate? You know that I trust you more than almost anyone…"

"Do I, Daniel?" Kate asked, sadly. "Because it sure doesn't feel like it sometimes. We rarely talk about anything personal. When I do try to get you to open up, you always deflect. Hell, you physically cringe at the mere suggestion of grabbing a bite to eat with me after a long case. I've always just kind of accepted it assuming this is the way you were with everybody, but after seeing you in the quad today, with Dr. Newsome, I started thinking that maybe it's just me you've been trying to avoid…"

Kate tore open one of the Velcro straps on her sparring gloves and it was as if she were ripping the band-aid off her freshly wounded heart. She hated feeling this vulnerable. After she had discarded her gloves, she looked back up at Daniel to gauge his reaction. He wasn't looking directly at her. His arms were crossed and his head was shaking slightly. Kate was usually pretty good at reading Daniel but this, now, was like trying to read a stranger. So she waited.

Finally, after taking a few moments to absorb everything Kate had said, Daniel exhaled softly and spoke. "Man, I can't believe how badly I've screwed this all up." He chuckled, sardonically. "Here I was thinking I was protecting you, protecting our friendship, and I was actually helping along the one thing I had been trying so hard to prevent."

"And what was that, Daniel?" Kate murmured.

"Losing you." Daniel's voice was barely above a whisper. His eyes shifted back to Kate. They were as unguarded as Kate had ever seen them and filled with such a profound fear and disappointment that she could feel her heart crack right alongside of his.

"What are you talking about, Daniel?" A stunned Kate had to force the words past her constricted windpipe. This was absolutely not the answer she had been expecting out of him.

Daniel couldn't look at her as he began his explanation. Instead he focused, again, on the ground and ran a hand roughly through his hair, making it stand even further on end. He started to pace anxiously in front of Kate. "I – I never wanted you to see me like that…like I was that night. Sure, you've known about my diagnosis for awhile now, but it's…different, knowing about it and seeing it for yourself." Daniel paused for a moment. "I guess I was afraid that once you had seen the reality of my condition firsthand you would…see just how crazy I really am and leave; or worse, stay because you feel sorry for me."

Kate wanted to interject then and there, to deny vehemently everything he had just said, but she sensed that Daniel wasn't finished, and was having difficulty so she choked down the words, for now. "You're important to me, Kate. I'm sorry I haven't told you sooner, but how you think of me means something. Even if it's true, I couldn't stand the thought of you seeing me as a stark raving lunatic. You deserve better…"

It was obvious to Kate how mentally demanding it had been for Daniel to admit as much as he had. His shoulders were slumped, his head still hung; trying to hide in plain sight. Taking a chance that he wouldn't refuse her again, Kate moved to close the distance between them. Cupping the sides of his face gently in her hands she lifted his head, forcing him to meet her tear-filled eyes.

"Give me a little more credit than that, Daniel. Please?" Kate's voice was tight. "Did I enjoy seeing you broken that night? Of course not. Did it scare me a little? Yes. Did I, for even a minute, think about giving up on you, leaving that hospital and never looking back? No way in hell. And while I appreciate that you care so much about what I think, you have to know that I never, ever think of you as crazy."

Daniel looked as though he were about to protest, but Kate cut him off before he could even take in a full breath. "No, my turn to talk now. In my mind, when I think of you, I think of someone who is funny, sweet, smart…a genius in his field, in fact. A talented professor. Someone who values the truth and can't resist a good puzzle. Someone who is infuriatingly stubborn, at times, but also endearingly quirky. Someone I consider one of my best friends," Daniel's eyes had darkened and appeared a bit watery as Kate kept speaking. "But never crazy. You said before that you didn't want to be defined by your diagnosis, but you're not taking your own words to heart here, Daniel. Right now, you are the only one putting your condition on the pedestal that it's on. Let that go. Let the fear go. Trust me. I'm not going anywhere."

Kate fell silent. Daniel had closed his eyes and his breathing was labored. If Kate didn't know better, she would have thought he was trying to refrain from breaking down completely. She should give him some time to collect himself. They were standing infinitesimally close and Kate was becoming acutely aware that she had not yet let go of Daniel's face. The feel of his bristled jaw beneath her fingers, a tempting distraction from the comfort she originally intended to offer. It would have been so easy to move her hand, caress his cheek, up to the nape of his neck, and bring him closer…

Kate needed to back away immediately, but her body was having trouble responding to her mental command. After only an instant of uncertainty, her logical brain overruled her heart's desire and Kate started to retreat to a respectable distance, but before she could release him fully she felt Daniel shift. His hands came to rest lightly on Kate's shoulder blades, drawing her flush against him, before snaking around her small form to envelope her in a full-on bear hug. Kate tensed briefly as she was transported back to a different time and place, but, after the initial surprise had worn off, allowed herself to relax into Daniel's embrace. Kate laced her arms underneath his and wrapped them securely across his sturdy back as she settled her head softly against his shoulder. If it were even possible, his arms tightened further in response. Daniel turned his face toward Kate imperceptibly, and she felt him let out a jagged breath that teased the shorter hairs at her temple.

"Thank you."

It was barely more than a shallow whisper, but Kate heard it loud, as if it had been shouted in her ear. Kate merely nodded against him. Words weren't necessary and Kate wasn't sure she could get them out if she tried. They clung to one another for what seemed like an eternity, but what was likely only a matter of minutes, before Daniel broke the silence.

"You need a shower."

Kate laughed genuinely, a sort of catharsis after the gamut of emotions she had just run. "I know, but thanks for pointing it out anyway." Kate teased, her voice muffled against him.

The moment officially broken, the two slowly separated; smiling shyly at each other. Kate felt cold now as the warmth of his body ebbed away, and the chill of the air surrounding them began to seep into her skin through her lightly damp clothes. She really did need a shower, but was hesitant to leave for fear of breaking whatever newfound connection had just formed between them.

"So, um, what now?" Daniel, again, was the first to speak. "Are you off, or do you have to go back to work?"

"Well," Kate looked around at the clock on far wall, near the entrance Daniel had first come in. "It's only six o'clock. It's usually a miracle if I can get out of here before eight or nine, but seeing as it's been such a slow day Boss might be willing to let me knock off a little early." Kate said as she began to collect her discarded gloves and towel.

Daniel was smirking at her when Kate caught his gaze again. "Slow day, huh? So that whole 'called into work last minute' thing…?"

"Ummm..." Kate froze in place. "Right. about that…." She should have known Daniel would pick up on that particular item.

Daniel's smile grew into a full-fledged grin that made Kate go weak in the knees, as grabbed his messenger bag and looped it over his head. "It's OK. I think I get it."

Daniel started walking towards the exit a few steps ahead of Kate before she was able to catch up. She was trying to piece together what exactly it was that Daniel thought he 'got', but before she could solve that particular puzzle, he managed to throw her yet again.

"I was jealous of Hathaway, you know? But, for the record, Caroline's just a friend." Daniel glanced over at Kate, whose jaw had dropped at his statement. Daniel chuckled a bit before his teasing tone turned more somber. "Losing Natalie…has been hard. I had thought that, maybe, talking to Caroline might help make the transition easier, but I'm finding more and more that she's no Natalie, and she's definitely no you."

Daniel graced Kate with one of his soft smiles, and Kate returned it with one of her own. She was taken aback by Daniel's blatant honesty, and by his flattering words. This new brighter, more optimistic side she was seeing could easily make her fall for him all over again. Boy, was she in trouble…

"Thank you, Daniel. For that and everything else."

Kate cleared her throat as they continued their slow stroll towards the door; not so much unlike a first date that neither really wanted to end.

"This isn't it, right?" Kate asked.

Daniel caught her eye, a confused expression on his face.

Kate continued quickly, "I mean we've still got a lot to talk about. Neither of us is ready to go there today, or even tomorrow, but we will bring it up again someday, right? We're not just going to drop it and never speak of this again the moment we walk out the door?"

Daniel shook his head. "I don't think I could go back after this, even if I wanted to."

Kate grinned. To hear that from him was like a small surge of confidence to herself. She decided to toe the line one last time for tonight.

"So, I've gotta go get cleaned up and check in upstairs, but if I get the OK from the Boss to leave, I could drive you home and maybe we could grab some dinner on the way. You game?"

Kate refused to glance over at Daniel until he had given her an answer. She was still feeling a little vulnerable and didn't want to see that look of rejection in his eyes in case it was all too soon. Fortunately, he didn't keep her waiting long.

"Yeah, that sounds great. I think the Cubs are on tonight. If you wanted to stick around, we could get take out…but no pizza," Daniel replied at last.

Kate silently let out the breath she hadn't even known she had been holding and nearly laughed out loud in relief, but Daniel didn't seem to notice.

"I don't even want to think of all the mechanically processed foods that are in once slice of Piorini's. And don't get me started on those hamburgers you love! All those hormones they inject into the animals just before they…"

"OK, Daniel! I get it! You pick, all right?" Kate groaned, as the duo headed out the door.

A/N:Brief introduction: Long time reader (lurker), first time writer. Please be gentle. This was written in a fury of procrastination and a caffeine-induced haze. I'm not sure how thrilled I am with how it came out. The characters played it out so much better in my head, but hopefully for a first attempt it was worth the read. Reviews are most definitely welcome.