Actions

Work Header

A Byline With an Inside Source

Work Text:

Kate has had it.  She’s tired and she hates the dinky hotels near the tourist areas.  Unfortunately, that’s where her informant liked to stay.  She was working a case with NCIS, which is great, but not even working with Lucy and Jane’s excellent team isn’t enough to boost her spirits at the moment.  Walking into the nearest bar, she sends off a quick text to Lucy who is nearby interviewing the employees at a hotel with Jesse.  Whenever they’re done, she’ll buy them a drink too.  The case had seemed straight forward, but it’s turned into a can of worms.  After a minute or two the guy behind the bar makes his way over.  

“Glass of white wine?”  He nods and gives her a wink.  She’d give him a death glare, but just doesn’t have it in her right now.  

“Kate Whistler?”  Not now.  

Wait, she knows that voice.  


Glancing at her phone, Lucy nudges Jesse’s arm.  

“Whistler says she’s buying us a drink at a bar near here.  I’m guessing her lead went about as well as ours” she says with a sigh.  Jesse looks about as defeated as she feels.  This was the last thing any of them were going to do for the day, and a nice cold drink sounds perfect right about now, even if it will be overpriced in this area.  

She and Kate have been officially calling themselves girlfriends for the past few months now.  The word still feels new when she says it, but she senses a certain permanence to it.  One that she really likes.  Which is why she stumbles slightly at the sight of Kate cuddled up with a red head at the bar as the bartender comes over with a drink.  

“Relax, Luce.  She loves you.  There’s something we’re not seeing” says Jesse from right behind her.  Making her way over, she slides up to Kate’s other side.  

“Hey.”  Kate turns to look over at her with a smile wider than she’s seen in a while.  This case is wearing them all down.  Still, she looks down at where the red head has her arm wrapped around Kate’s.  

“Lucy!  This is Cindy, she was my roommate in college.  Cindy, this is my girlfriend Lucy and her partner Jesse.”   Lucy thinks for a moment.  Cindy from college.  That sounds familiar.  Cindy has to let Kate go in order to shake her hand.  

“Hi.  Sorry, I was just saving Kate from the flirty bartender.  We need him to serve us drinks, not his company.  Why don’t we get you guys drinks and then sit somewhere else?”  

When they’re seated at a table, away from the bartender that clearly had his sights set on Kate, they get more comfortable.  

“So, I was Kate’s roommate at Northwestern and then… don’t get bent out of shape, okay?”  Lucy raises an eyebrow, but Jesse heaves a heavy sigh.  

“You’re a reporter aren’t you” he says.  Lucy slumps in her seat.  This case wasn’t just complicated, it was getting a lot of attention, even from DC.  

“See?  Now, you’re all grumpy.  But yes.  At the Post in DC” confirms Cindy.  Kate looks over at her.  

“I thought you were at the San Francisco Register?  Crime desk” asks Kate.  Cindy nods as she takes a sip of her beer.  

“I was.  But for the past year and a half I’ve been in DC.  New start, but still crime desk.  You can imagine my disappointment to find out you’d moved when I got there.  But if you had to move, you really can’t beat here.  Maybe before I go back I’ll have time to see something other than my cheap hotel room.”  

“Cindy, I’m happy to see you, but you’re a reporter and I’m guessing that you’re covering the case we’re working.  I can’t be seen having drinks with you” explains Kate.  

“Good thing we’re in possibly the emptiest bar I’ve ever been in.  Except for those guys over there watching the tv, who I doubt can stand up, there’s no one else here.  But, maybe I can help.”  

“How’s that?” she asks.  

“Well, the case is here, but part of the story is from DC.  I can share that with you.”  

“In exchange for?” asks Jesse.  Lucy waits for her answer.  College roommate of Kate’s or not, Cindy is still a reporter.  They have to be very careful here.  

“An exclusive when the case is solved.  You guys don’t need to answer now, consider it, but the other thing I need is a good reasonably priced place for dinner.  That’s all the shop talk for tonight though.”  While Kate just look relieved to not be talking about work anymore, Lucy exchanges a look with Jesse.  

 

“Snowboarding” says Jesse.  He’s having trouble processing what Cindy just said.  Lucy gets it, she had trouble first too, but then Kate had shown her pictures.  “I’m sorry, but I just can’t picture Whistler snowboarding” he says leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms.  Kate glares at him.  

“You didn’t think I surfed either, but now I go with you and Kai most Saturdays.”  

“This I need to see!” interrupts Cindy.  Lucy grins and pulls up video on her phone.  She’s been known to join them on the beach every so often.  She stays on a towel and brings a travel mug of strong coffee.  In the travel mug that she’d never returned.  She might bring a book that she intends to read, but never really does more than glance at it.  She winds up watching Kate and sometimes records her.  She’ll never be setting foot on a board herself, but Kate was good.  Sure, Kate wiped out sometimes, but when she was riding the waves, there was a sense of peace about her.  She looked relaxed and watching her had the same effect on her.  

Cindy watches a video, one of the better ones, and smiles wide.  

“You’re a whole lot better at this than you are snowboarding” she comments.  Kate rolls her eyes.  

“I can swim and water is a whole lot easier to deal with than snow and ice.  Besides, in the water I might accidentally run into another surfer, but not a red head on a sled.”  

“That wasn’t my fault!  That hill was ridiculously steep!”  

“It was supposed to be!  That’s what made it perfect to go down.”  

“What happen?” she asks.  She can’t help herself.  

“Cindy bought one of those round plastic sleds and decided to push off after I was already headed down the hill.”  

“I went too fast and cut Kate off—”  

“By coming down the hill like pinball—”  

“And she took a spill.”  

“A spill?”  Cindy waves Kate’s incredulous tone away, something that has Lucy biting her lip to hold back her laughter and Jesse hiding his smile behind his drink.  

“Yeah, she could have broken something, but she didn’t.  She was fine.  I was the one who hit a very solid tree.”  That has Lucy laughing.  

“So, then I had to get up, go down and get Cindy, and then we trudged back to the car where I then took her to the ER for a concussion.  In thirty degree weather in a foot and half of snow.  We’re lucky we didn’t get hypothermia.”  

“Ah, that sounds like it was your fault though” says Jesse.  Kate arches an eyebrow at him and he chooses his next words carefully.  “I mean the both of you.  You were out in that weather anyway…”  

“That’s his Dad side kicking in” she explains.  Cindy nods at the explanation, but it does nothing to lessen Kate’s glare.  

 

After a while, Jesse has to take off and Lucy gets a ride with Kate.  They offer Cindy a ride back to where she’s staying, but once they get there, Kate tells her to grab her stuff.  

“What?  Why?”  

“Because a strong gust of wind is going to have your hotel falling over or rolling down the street” explains Lucy.  

“The Post might be one of the top ten papers in the country, but we still stay in budget rooms” says Cindy with a shrug.  

While Cindy grabs her stuff and takes care of her room, Lucy turns to Kate.  She still has a few concerns.  

“When was the last time you heard from Cindy?”  Kate smirks.  

“We haven’t talked in a while since my number changed when I moved here—”  

“Over two years?”  Kate shakes her head.  

“That’s just over the phone.  Every few months, I get a novel length email from her.  Nothing about work, just keeping in touch, various things she’s learned.  And by that, I mean things she’s heard, learned from articles she’s seen, or read on a Snapple cap.  It always makes me laugh.  I try to write something back, but I don’t ever know what to say.  She gets it though and is never offended.”  The smile on Kate’s face is one she doesn’t see often enough.  They’re working on it though.  Kate’s become closer to their team and part of their family.  

When Cindy gets back in, they take off.  

“So, am I going to hotel with a name I recognize?”  

“No, you’re staying at my place” answers Kate.  

“Weren’t you saying earlier that you can’t be seen with me?  Normally, offensive, but seeing how you’re part of the investigation, I get it.  What’s changed?”  

“Nothing really, but I can’t leave you there.  We’ll leave at different times or something.”  


They grab something quick to eat and turn in.  Cindy sacks out on the couch and she and Lucy get ready for bed.  Kate can tell Lucy still has questions, but waits until they’re under the covers and comfortable before trying to explain.  Lucy can read her pretty well now, so she turns towards her, takes her hand, and waits.  

“Cindy and I were roommates all through college.  We never dated or anything, but we’re close.  She’s more high energy and outgoing than I am, but that was a good thing for me.  Got me out of my room.”  

“She was your roommate when you found out about Noah.”  

“Yeah, and she was there for me.  Well, she was there for me all through college, but especially after Noah.  She was there when my mom called, kept me from throwing up on my laptop, and had the trash can ready.  She was there for a few days after, stayed in the room with me, got us food, looked after me.  I think that involved an argument with one of her teachers, probably about how I lost my brother not her, but Cindy managed something.  When she did go back to class, she made sure I was set until she came back.  Got me out of bed and back into things by dragging me to the diner near campus and ordering me as many pancakes as I wanted.”  

“That had to be expensive.”  Kate smiles.  

“It was sixty degrees and I just pulled a sweatshirt over my pajamas and grabbed some shoes.  I wasn’t up to much more than that, but she didn’t care.  We were having pancakes.  I couldn’t… it was hard to see that everything else just kept going while it felt like my world stopped, but Cindy stayed with me.  Noah was killed during my sophomore year, so Cindy and I knew each other pretty well.  She didn’t handle me like my parents do, just got me back into things.  When I changed majors she didn’t argue, just double checked that I was sure.  I changed, closed myself off, but not with her, she wouldn’t let me.  She went back home to San Francisco after college when her dad got sick, but we kept in touch.  She brought me along one summer and we had fun.”  

“Well, now I love her too.  This exchange for an exclusive thing…”  She’s already shaking her head at Lucy.  

“Cindy’s a reporter, but she wouldn’t use me like that.  If she says she has something to trade, then she does.”  She can tell Lucy’s taking that in, but she knows Cindy.  It’s been a long day and as much as she loves Cindy, running into her had taken a lot out of her when there hadn’t been much left.  Sleep comes easy.  

 

In the morning, she gets up to find Cindy and Lucy already up and having breakfast.  Lucy teases her about being one of the only people left on the planet who reads a paper newspaper and has a landline, but it works for her.  She got into the habit of picking up a newspaper when she was in DC as she got off the Metro and the landline is the number she gave her parents.  Right now, though, she’s having second thoughts about the paper.  She’s not sure how to get out of this one, but it doesn’t matter because Cindy’s spotted her.  

“Good morning!”  

“Hey” she answers as Lucy hands her a mug of coffee.  Today is going to be complicated, she knows that much already, and she’ll need all the help she can get.  “How’d you sleep?”  

“Great!  And now I’m reading Eugene Robinson’s column from The Washington Post that you get delivered to your door every morning.  While I love that you get a paper copy, I’m even more offended that you didn’t know I was writing for them, because I checked with Lucy and she says you read this from cover to cover.  I know you and your attention to detail, also your habit to call the reporters dumb when you don’t agree with them, and am hurt that you haven’t spotted my name.  I just figured it’d be a name you’d recognize, you know?”  

Rolling her eyes, she heads to the fridge and grabs a yogurt.  

“It just means I agree with what you write.  Don’t let that go to your head though.”  

“So, what are you planning today?” asks Lucy.  Cindy sets the paper aside.  

“I have a few things to look into.  If you guys want to give me the morning at least to run somethings down?”  She thinks for a moment before nodding.  

“We can go over what we have again.  No offence, but if we can do this without your help, that’s better.”  Cindy nods.  

“Okay, now give me your number so that I can call you later.  After you guys are ready, can one of you drop me off at a car rental place?”  She looks over at Lucy for a moment, long enough to get her to pause in eating her cereal, while she thinks.  

“Luce, I’ll be at your offices most of the day, so why don’t I just ride in with you.  Cindy, you don’t have the budget for a decent room, I doubt you have the funds to rent a car.  Just take mine.”  

“You sure?”  Cindy looks hesitant and so does Lucy, but she just grabs her keys and tosses them to her former roommate.  It’s only after Cindy has them that she rethinks the decision.  Judging by the look on Cindy’s face, she knows exactly what she’s thinking.  

“I promise to give it back without any damage!”  

“Not a scratch, Cindy.”  The red head gives her a pleading look.  

“You know I can’t promise that, but I’ll try!”  

“I’m sensing a story?” asks Lucy.  

“I may have caused some damage to Kate’s car before.”  

“More than once” she clarifies.  “The last time she hit a lamp post in the middle of an empty parking lot.  Nothing else around in the whole place, but she breaks my rear headlight hitting the cement base.”  

“I also said I was sorry and that parking lot was covered in ice.”  Lucy’s grinning at them, probably thinking that if Cindy damaged her car and lived, some of the stuff she does won’t get her killed either.  

“Yes, I love my car, but I love you more.  I’m still going to be super pissed at you the next time Jane or someone else from your team says you’ve been injured.”  Shifting her glare over to Cindy, she’s getting rid of her hope there too.  “Still going to be pissed if there’s damage.”  Both of their faces fall but they agree to be careful.  


They spend all morning going over things while Kate’s in Jane’s office explaining her connection with Cindy when she gets a call from a DC number.  

“Hello?”  

Hey, Lucy, it’s Cindy.  Kate gave me your number.”  

“Oh, um hey.  We were just talking about bringing you in on things, but--”  

This isn’t about that.  I think I have a suspect for you.  Do you know the roadside motel on Fairmount?”  

“Yeah?”  

Great!  There’s a guy here you should probably talk to.”  

“What makes you think he’s a suspect?”  

I’ll explain when you get here.  This isn’t so much of a tip call, this is a rescue call?  As in, when he finds out what I have, if he’s who I think he is, I’m going to be in trouble.”  

“Cindy, where are you?”  

Parked a little out of sight in Kate’s car.”  Lucy throws her notepad at Kai and motions for Jesse to follow her.  

“Stay in the car and lock the doors, we’re coming.”  

 

She explains what she can to the guys on the way there, but the second they pull up, they spot a guy they’d questioned before.  One of the victim’s coworkers.  He could have tried to pass it off as a coincidence, but the second he spots them, he takes off for his truck.  Jesse stops their car and she and Kai get out and take off after him.  The suspect manages to get in his truck and backs out and then heads for the other exit.  He might have gotten away if it wasn’t for his panic.  That’s what has him overdoing his turn and clipping the back of a parked car.  

Still not thinking straight, he bails out of the passenger side of his truck at that point and takes off on foot.  He makes it all of about thirty feet when she and Kai catch up with him.  She gets to him first and was ready to try and tackle him.  Runners generally keep running, it’s a rule or something that everyone follows.  Once you’ve made that choice, you stick to it.  Lucy didn’t expect him to skid to a stop, turn around, and deck her.  Catching it on the side of her face, she goes down hard, but sweeps his legs out from under him a second later.  Then Kai is on him and has the cuffs out, but the guy is still trying to scramble away.  He’s a big guy and Kai’s trying to wrangle him onto his stomach but he manages to kick out twice before Jesse’s there too.  With a groan, she brings her arm up to her chest.  The punch to the face hurts, but the kick to the chest knocks the wind out of her.  That last kick was unnecessary and caught her face again.  She waves the boys away and gets up a minute or two later.  

Walking back towards the motel, she spots Cindy who is waiting for her.  

“You okay?”  

“Yeah!  Yeah, I stayed in the car like you said, which if you ask Kate, you will know is a first for me.  Kate’s going to kill us both though.”  Lucy raises an eyebrow in confusion.  Then she looks behind Cindy.  The car the suspect clipped was Kate’s.  Of course it was.  And just as she lets out a sigh, she feels blood drip from her nose.  Great.  

“Give me a minute?”  Cindy nods and Lucy goes to talk to the guys.  

 

Letting the guys take the suspect, she drives back with Cindy.  Now, the reporter is definitely involved.  

“So, let’s wait on discussing the case until we’re back at the office with everybody else.  I do want to say something though.  Thank you for being there for Kate when her brother died.  I gather that her parents weren’t.”  

“It hit her hard.  You could practically see it, how it was even hard for her to breathe afterwards.  Noah was a good guy.”  

“You met him?”  

“No, but he wrote her when he could and said the important things.  That he loved her, was proud of her, and she could always write him.”  

“Tell me about college Kate Whistler.”  That has the red head smiling.   Cindy fits in three stories by the time they reach the offices and Lucy’s laughing so hard her possibly bruised ribs ache even more.  All laughter abruptly stops though as they turn to park and spot Kate watching them pull in.  Cindy slumps in her seat as they see Kate wince when she sees the back of her car.  

“One of the guys must have called and updated Tennant” she explains.  Kate says nothing as they get out and walk over to her.  

“You guys made an arrest!” says Cindy with as much enthusiasm as she can muster under Kate’s fierce glare.  

“We don’t know he did it” says Kate.  

“Oh, I do.  The damage to your car and hurting Lucy?  I saw him do it.  You should be angry at him” replies Cindy with a confident nod.  Lucy looks over at the red head with a smirk.  It’s a nice try, but Kate’s still upset with them.  Kate’s face softens as she carefully takes in the damage to her face and lightly touches her cheek with her fingertips.  

“I’m okay.  Some ice and a painkiller and I’ll be fine.”  Taking a deep breath, Kate nods.  

“You okay?” she asks Cindy, who nods and they head inside.  

 

While Kate introduces Cindy to Tennant, she goes and grabs the painkillers and a cold soda to hold to her face.  They all meet up in one of the conference rooms and wait for Cindy to explain how they ran into the suspect.  

“So, I’m sure you guys know that your victim was in DC recently.  While he was there, he went to a few meetings?”  The team nods, they knew all this already.  “Well, in addition to those, he also met with a research scientist who had recently been let go.”  

“We thought he might have” says Jane as she pulls up a photo on the screen at the end of the table.  “This guy?”  Cindy nods, confirming that they were on the right track.  

“We showed his photo around though and no one around here recognized him” says Jesse.  Cindy gives them an awkward half smile.  One that has Kate tilting her head at her.  

“That’s a file photo.  Back in DC, the folks from the lab where he used to work all headed to this bar on Fridays.  Drinks and darts.  They have competitions and photos of the winners.  I went around with that photo of him” says Cindy as she pulls that photo from her bag.  The research scientist looks more relaxed a few beers in.  Lucy could see Cindy asking if anyone had seen her friend.  When they asked, the photo they had made it obvious he was a suspect.  

“What had you headed out to that motel?” she asks.  

“He likes a certain beer.  His wife says it’s called Duck Bunny?  It’s a dark beer and not all that common.  I figure if you’re lying low, you get your comforts where you can, right?  It’s served at a bar that’s within walking distance of the motel.  The regulars at the bar recognized him with your guy four days ago.  The family that runs the motel cleaned out his room two days ago when he didn’t come back.  I asked about his stuff and—”  

“Cindy, please tell me you didn’t steal anything” interjects Kate in exasperation.  

“No!  Most of the stuff they’d already thrown out, but their daughter liked his small notebook.  She’s four and likes to color.  I went out and bought her a stack of coloring books and we traded.”  Cindy then reaches in her bag again and pulls out not one, but two small notebooks.  “I met with his wife before I came out here.  She lives over in Wolf Trap and gave me one of his earlier notebooks.  It’s from about a month ago.”  Jane motions for Ernie to take them and he flips through a few pages.  

“There’s nothing in here but symbols and scribbles.  And a few eye catching crayon drawings” he says after taking a quick look through both.  

“Yeah, his wife said he wrote in code?  A personal code.  She gave me a few hints and it’s a really long flight here—”  

“You decoded it, didn’t you?” asks Kate with a grin.  

“It’s a fourteen hour flight and my laptop battery lasts maybe three hours with Word open?  I had nothing else to do.  I got through most of the old one, you guys can probably fill in the blanks.  I can help with the new one too if you’d like.”  

“What would you want in return?” asks Tennant carefully.  

“An exclusive once the case is solved.  The details and wording we can work out later.  I can name both agencies or just say sources close to the investigation, however you want it.  I want the story, I came for the story, but not at the expense of your case.  I publish after the case is over.”  


Jane has kept her face blank, but when Cindy is done, she visibly relaxes in her seat.  Kate smirks.  Cindy had come up with a lot.  On the downside, it sounds like they had a second victim.  Jesse looks between her and Cindy and she raises an eyebrow at him.  

“Miss Thomas—”  

“Cindy.”  

“Cindy, did you know Whistler was working the case?”  

“I didn’t even know Kate was in Hawaii.  All I knew was that she left DC before I moved there.”  Cindy turns to look at her.  “When you came into the bar, I thought it looked like you, but I wasn’t sure.  Then I heard you order.  It was you and you had a shit day.  You’d never pay that much for a drink otherwise.”  

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns…” says Ernie in an awful Bogart impression.  If it was anyone else, she’d agree that it looked like a setup, but this is Cindy.  She’s a great reporter because she has good instincts but also tends to magically be in the right place at the right time.  


Cindy had looked after her in college and she has Lucy, Jane, and the others looking after her now.  Explaining it to Jane this morning, she knows how it probably looked and she appreciates Jane making sure that she isn’t being used.  She explained Cindy's offer to Jane first, because if she wasn’t willing to take a chance on Cindy, she wasn’t going to try running it by ASAC Curtis.  She trusts Jane’s experience and Cindy would have understood if the answer was no.  There was classified information involved and multiple agencies, being cautious was smart.  Jane had agreed though and said she trusted her judgement.  

The rest of the afternoon is spent in Ernie’s office with Lucy and Cindy, decoding the notebook and trying to fill in the blanks.  That had gotten them a whole lot closer to knowing what they were dealing with, but had also been fun.  Cindy showed Lucy what she knew about decoding the journals while she and Ernie went through the files they had and tried to fill in what else they knew.  Cindy and Lucy work well together and Lucy picks up the code fast.  She can’t help her smile at how Ernie seems overwhelmed with the two of them working behind him, a mess of talking, shorthand, and gesturing towards the notebooks.  

“How are you keeping all this straight in your head?” he asks when there’s a momentary lull in their chatter.  

“Eidetic memory.  If I knew it, read about it, heard about it, it all stays up there” explains Cindy.  

“That had to come in handy in college” says Lucy.  Cindy grins.  

“You’d think so.  I mean, it did, but Kate still got better grades than me.”  That has Lucy looking over at her with a smile and an expression that says she has no problem believing that.  Kate rolls her eyes.  

“Memorization is one thing, I just wrote better essays.”  That has Cindy’s head snapping up and glaring at her.  

“Hey!  That’s hurtful and not true.  Which one of us is the writer here?”  

“Just means you got better at it” she replies with a smirk.  Cindy throws a ball of paper over at her and she whacks it out of the air.  

 

By the time they decide to call it a day, they’ve decoded a quarter of the new diary.  While Lucy fills out some paperwork with Cindy, Kate heads into Jane’s office.  Jane looks up from some paperwork of her own.  

“How’d it go?”  Kate takes a seat in one of the chairs.  

“Made a decent sized dent.  Cindy is showing Lucy how to decode it as they go.”  

“They getting along okay?”  Kate smiles.  

“Like a house on fire.  You know, just this morning at breakfast, Cindy promised to have my car back to me without a scratch and Lucy promised not to get hurt.  They didn’t even last six hours and both happened in the same incident.”  That has Jane laughing.  

“This is job related though for the both of them.  That has to get them a pass or at least some leniency.”  Kate shakes her head with a smile and looks over her shoulder at the two of them.  

“They both bring a certain level of chaos to my life, but in a good way.  The best way really.”  She thinks about that for a moment, but then Cindy and Lucy appear in the doorway.  The two of them together, ready to go back to her apartment for the night.  There’s something about that that sticks out to her for some reason.  “I need you both to remember that I’m a federal agent.  I don’t make a lot.”  Lucy gives her a confused look and Jane does too probably, but Kate gives a pointed look to Cindy, who winces slightly.  “If or when it comes to it, I can’t afford bail for you both.  I love you both, but I will be bailing Lucy out.”  Cindy slumps against the doorway slightly.  “It’s not the first night you’ve spent in jail.”  Lucy looks between the two of them before guiding Cindy to last empty chair and then making herself comfortable on Kate’s lap.  

“Explain please.  I’m sensing a good story here” says Lucy as Kate shifts her a little.  Jane raises an eyebrow at the reporter.  

“You’ve been in jail before?”  

“The charges are usually dropped, but yeah.”  

“Does this have anything to do with Kate asking if you stole the notebooks earlier?”  It’s clear from Jane’s tone she knows she might not want to know the answer.  

“Sometimes stuff is very well hidden.  Like in drawers with a false bottom or a can light fixture” explains Cindy.  

“Can light fixture?  What?” asks Lucy.  Then Lucy turns to look at Kate.  “You knew about this?”  

“I’ve paid her bail what, four times?”  Cindy gives a guilty shrug.  

“What’s a little bail money between close friends?  That’s love, right?”  

“The first time was when we were in college.  We went into town to see this band.  When we decided to head back, we found our car had been towed.  Turns out there was a sign that said it was a tow zone.”  

“You missed it too!”  

“I was on the passenger side.  You couldn’t miss it when you got out on the driver’s side.  Practically hit it with your door.”  

“Wait, you tried to steal your car out of impound?” asks Jane.  

“No.  Agatha had the notes to the exam I had the next day and I had to get them.  The exam was a quarter of my grade.”  Jane sighs and winces.  

“I know I’m going to regret asking this, but who is Agatha?”  

“The car I had in college.”  

“You named your car?” asks Lucy.  Kate tightens her hold around Lucy’s waist and presses her smile against her shoulder.  

“You don’t?  Anyway, I just needed my notes, the car was going to stay there and I was going to pay the fine to get it out.”  

“What happened?  Did you get your notes?” asks Lucy.  Cindy smiles proudly.  

“I did!  I threw the notebook over the fence to Kate before the dog and his owner caught up with me.  Dogs love me and he was all bark, it was fine.”  

“Right.  I was just out two hundred dollars and then had to arrange a ride back to campus for us at one in the morning” she finishes in a sarcastic tone.  She can feel Lucy laughing against her and Jane looks like she’s still processing the story.  

“You named your car Agatha?” asks Lucy after a moment.  

“Like Agatha Christie?” adds Jane.  

“Sure.  It’s the only name I could think of that started with an A, but naming her after Agatha Christie sounds better when people ask.  And it has to be a girl’s name, like a boat, you know?”  

“What are you driving now?” she asks around Lucy.  

“A VW Jetta I’ve named Tallulah.”  

“Wait…  With your eidetic memory, why did you need your notes?” asks Lucy.  Kate has to think about that for a moment.  Why had Cindy needed her notes?  They’re all looking at Cindy now.  

“Well, I had to have something to memorize!  Our teachers said a lot of things during their lectures, but I didn’t need to remember all of it.  Just the parts that would be on the exam.  Rarely were their personal anecdotes helpful.  Occasionally, they show up as an extra credit question, but if my grade hinges on remembering something from my teacher’s personal life, I’m doomed.”  Cindy pauses for a moment.  “Did you ever start naming your car?”  

“I just try to keep mine running and in one piece” she answers with a pointed look.  Cindy rolls her eyes.  

“Okay, I get it, but it’s not like it was my fault.  I was parked when the guy hit it.  Lucy too, it’s not like she ran into his fist.  Be mad at him.”  

“I am mad at him, but the murders we suspect him of rank over Lucy being hurt and my property damage.”  


Lucy trades a smirk with Jane.  Cindy had been there for Kate when she needed someone, but it sounds like there was a deep friendship between them even before that.  It’s getting late though and they should get going.  Any second now her stomach is going to make an embarrassingly loud growl.  

“Let’s go get something for dinner.  Something you can only get here” she says as she gets up from Kate’s lap.  Jane gets up from her desk too.  

“I have to get home to my kids and check homework.  I have a feeling decoding that notebook is going to be easier than making sense of Alex’s math homework.”  

 

Over a dinner from a local hole in the wall place, Lucy listens to Kate and Cindy recount various memories from her college days.  While she and Kate have been taking the time to get to know each other better, this is fun too.  Kate’s working on communicating better, but some of things she’s learning from Cindy are things she wouldn’t mention.  Not out of deception or shame, it just wouldn’t occur to her.  Wouldn’t seem relevant all these years later, but Lucy wants to know everything.  Not just because it might help her understand Kate better, but because it’s fun.  She’d grown up watching Duck Tales and Goof Troop.  Kate had watched superhero series like X-Men and Batman.  Comic books that her brother used to read with his friends and the one where Luke Skywalker did the voice of the Joker.  

When Kate first started college, she was interested in humanities.  Cindy had been too.  Kate talks about the plastic skull Cindy kept on the bookshelf.  How, depending on Cindy’s mood, it stood for Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, or whatever asshole pissed her off.  Its name was George though, not Hamlet.  The top hat Cindy insisted she needed every semester sitting in a large box in their closet, even though it never left that box or that shelf.  Cindy is still adamant that she needed it.  

College Kate Whistler sounds very different from the woman she knows, but at the same time, a lot like the woman Kate’s letting herself be again.  They don’t talk about Noah or the aftermath of his death, but that wasn’t something Lucy was going to ask about anyway.  There are various things Lucy makes a mental note to Google later.  She’d learned her lesson from last time, but once the two of them get started, they’re on a roll and she can't get a word in.  She knows they’re talking about food, at least she’s pretty sure.  Italian beef sandwiches definitely sound like food.  Pierogi sounds vaguely familiar, but she has no idea what a horseshoe sandwich is.  

 

The next morning, she wakes up slowly, nestled against Kate’s chest.  The first thing she’s aware of is that she loves waking up this way, with Kate.  The second thing is that she can practically hear Kate thinking.  

“What has your mind spinning this early?” she murmurs softly.  

“Didn’t mean to wake you” says Kate just as softly.  She feels Kate’s fingers gently skim up and down her back.  

“You didn’t and I love waking up with you here.”  

“It’s my apartment.  Where else would I be?”  Lucy smiles and swats at her, but nestles in further.  

“Anything I can help with?”  

“Not a problem, just a realization.  It started to hit me yesterday.  When I met Cindy, I was so happy.  I was away from the pressure of my parents, I had Noah in my corner, and he was off doing what he wanted.  We were both happy.  I finally had a chance to figure myself out.”  

“You mean being a lesbian?”  

“No, I already knew that, I mean everything else.  Noah would have been the first person I came out to though, I knew he wouldn’t judge me—”  

“But you didn’t?”  

“Didn’t have to.  He already knew and supported me.  I’m not very subtle now, which is how your team knew about us, but as you can imagine, I was even worse as a teenager.  More nerves too and still awkward.  Not really a surprise that my brother picked up on it.”  She hides her wide smile against Kate’s collar bone.  

“After meeting you, I finally felt motivated to figure myself out again.  I focused on my career because it was safer.  After Noah died, I went numb and then sort of shut down for a long time.  When I tried to open up again, let people in, I got burned.  More than once.”  She presses a kiss to Kate’s skin.  She knew Kate had been really trying to figure things out.  “You’re worth it though, struggling through all the emotions I’ve ignored for years and forgotten how to deal with.  I knew that already, but your smile during our almost date when I said we could eat at a regular restaurant was so big and bright.  You were so happy and figuring things out didn’t seem so hard if it meant I got to see you smile like that again.”  

Kate’s still working on communicating better, but she’s getting better at helping her get things out.  Getting her to stop overthinking everything.  Sometimes she thinks Kate tries too hard to find the right words, thinking they’ll make things clearer.  Instead, they just tend to muddle her meaning.  Then there are times like this, where Kate just talks, and she can be so sweet.  

“It’s just… weird having the two people who made me feel safe while figured myself out in my apartment.  In a good way, but it’s just never something I saw happening you know?  The two happy sides of my life, when my brother was still alive and after he was gone, meeting.”  Kate goes silent again.  She’s not sure it’s the right thing, but she feels like she should say something.  

“Well, your brother would want you to be happy.  I’m glad I can do that.  Especially since you make me happy too.”  Kate hums and presses a kiss to the top of her head.  A few minutes later the alarm goes off.  

“Why don’t you get your shower first.  I’ll go out and see if we still have stuff for a decent breakfast or if we’re going out for some.”  With a sigh she gets up.  She’s pretty sure the fridge is empty.  Usually, there still some of the fruit Kate always has around, but she thinks that’s gone too.  

 

Hurrying to get dressed so that they have time to grab a decent breakfast, she can hear Kate and Cindy talking.  She’s about to tell Kate she'll right out when she hears Cindy ask a question.  

“So, how’d you wind up here in Hawaii?”  

“Got offered a position.”  

“Well, I can see why you wouldn’t think twice.  The little I’ve seen is beautiful, but I thought you saw your future in DC?”  

“DC was more complicated than I thought, but I was sure my job was still what I wanted to be doing.  I came down here for the interview, but I also met someone.  Six months later, I was here for good and found out we worked together.”  

“But your FBI now.”  

“Yeah.  My old job… I still think it’s important, but I felt like I was getting in the way instead of helping.  I also couldn’t see Lucy and be in my old position.”  

“Wait, wait, wait.  The person you met on your interview here, which was like what, two days?  Was Lucy?”  

“It was a great two nights and three days.”  

“I know you, Kate.  You consider everything when deciding things, especially a big decision like your career.  Lucy factored into you taking the job too, didn't she.  You hoped you’d run into her again.”  She can hear the smile in Cindy's voice.  

“There wasn’t anything for me in DC.  My job wasn’t the kind where you make friends.  Here, I could advance my career here the same way I would have there.  And yeah, I hoped I’d run into Lucy again.  Went to the bar where I met her every night I could the first month.  Just didn’t see running into her where I worked.  My old job made seeing her a conflict.  Being FBI gets rid of that and it’s work that means something.  The kind I want to be doing.”  

“You know, that’s the kind of story they make Hallmark movies out of.  Or the kind Nora Ephron might have come up with.  Might need a little more drama though.”  Lucy can’t help her slight grin at the sound of Kate groaning and a thud.  She knows that sound.  It means Kate banged her head on the table.  

“Oh no, I provided that too.  You know me, I’m socially inept and awkward and really dense when it comes to relationships of any kind.  I screwed up a number of times with Lucy.  I’m just glad she gave me a second chance.”  From the way her voice sounds muffled, Kate still has her head resting on the table.  

“Well, you look happy.  Sound happy too.  It’s a good look on you.  As for you being awkward and socially inept, yeah, you are” says Cindy.  

“Thanks?”  

“But it’s also kinda fun to watch.  The NCIS team likes you, you guys all seem like friends, so you’re not as awkward as you think.”  

“That’s me, good at my job, a friend, and unintentionally entertaining.”  

“Beautiful too” she adds as she walks out with her boots in hand.  Kate lifts her head and smiles at her over her shoulder.  “We have nothing in the fridge.” 

“I thought that might be the case.  Let’s go to that place with cinnamon rolls” she suggests as she grabs her badge and phone.  

 


They’ve just reached the bullpen when Kate gets a call from ASAC Curtis wanting an update.  With a sigh, Kate hangs up and is about to head back towards the elevators when she turns back and points at Cindy.  

“You stay out of trouble.”  Then Kate turns and heads for the elevator.  

“I’ll do my best.  But you weren’t serious about bail, were you?  I’m not going to go looking for it, trouble just happens to find me.”  

“Cindy, I’m serious.  While I was in DC I had to wire you money in San Francisco for bail twice!”     

“And you haven’t the entire time I’ve been in DC!”  

“What?  New city, new start?”  

“Exactly!  C’mon!  I’m the reporter who couldn’t even afford a decent place to stay.”  

“Stay out of trouble and it shouldn’t be a problem.”  

“You sound like a mom!”  Lucy has to bite her lip at the glare Kate gives Cindy.  It’s not just her watching, it’s the whole team.  “No, wait…”  

“Or hope the charges are dropped” calls Kate as the elevator doors close.  

“Kate!  Crap.”  Cindy’s shoulders slump and she notices her grinning at her.  She isn’t really trying to hide it though.  “It’s not like I go looking for trouble…”  

“You just accidentally trespass and remove evidence?  You’ll need a better excuse than that to get any charges dropped.  Just so you know, I can bail myself out if I need to.”  

“You couldn’t have mentioned that while we were arguing?”  

“I was having too much fun watching the two of you.  C’mon we’ll come up with some convincing excuses while we work on the rest of the journal.”  

“When I’m usually arrested, whatever I’m after and how it connects to everything usually helps the case.  That’s what usually gets the charges dropped.  My doe eyed charm helps some too.”  Lucy grins and they head to Ernie’s office.  

 


It takes three days to close the case.  The journals reveal that there’s someone else in their victim’s office that’s in on the deal.  After they figure out who, the phone records reveal they’ve pulled their brother into the mess too.  The brother is a general foreman for a construction company.  Unfortunately, that’s where the guy is when they go to pick him up.  

Her first time seeing Kate in the field was when Kate got injured.  Jesse points out that it’s hard to look capable when the person you’re up against is an assassin.  Lucy knows that.  She also knows that she had a whole lot of rage fueling her when she went after Andrea Medina.  She’d hurt a lot of people, but she’d also hurt Kate.  

After that, Kate trained with Jesse and Kai, probably to make her feel better.  Lucy trusted their assessment more than she would someone else’s and Kate knew that.  Turns out, Kate is a pretty good fighter.  According to Jesse, it was probably the difference between training and being in the field.  It’s different, but with them she held her own pretty well.  There was stuff they could help her with though and they did.  And again, an assassin isn’t the typical person they’re up against.  

The new suspect goes to talk to his brother, but the brother is at his job and can’t level the construction site.  It’s a good thing.  Out in the open and they can surround it pretty easily.  It’s just all the tools and lumber that they have to worry about.  Shouldn’t be a problem.  You say ‘Federal Agents, hands up’ and that’s that.  Even if they run, their hands are empty.  

When they get there, it’s the team and Kate.  Jane covers the front; the guys go in one side and they take the other.  Kate gets hit with a brick, but only because Lucy hadn’t seen it coming.  It would have hit her right in the face.  Kate shoves her aside and it hits her in the jaw.  In the seconds it takes them to recover, the guy swings a plank of wood at them and it catches Kate in the chest.  It hits Kate’s vest but she still goes down.  Then the asshole tries to run and she takes off after him.  After his first two moves, maybe she should have seen it coming, but the shovel being thrown at her catches her by surprise.  It hits her hard in the shins and then nearly trips her up, but she has her gun leveled at him and Kate’s there a second later aiming her gun at him too.  Out of things to throw and unable outrun bullets, he puts his hands up.  

When they get back to the office, she and Kate head to the break area for some ice.  That’s where they run into Cindy and Ernie, who have been working on tying everything from the journals to the rest of the case.  Kate puts a bag of ice on her jaw while she puts one on her shin and Ernie makes them both a smoothie.  

“You look like you were hit with a two by four” says Cindy as she takes them in.  She can’t help the snort of laughter that comes out of her at the scowl Kate gives her.  The reporter arches an eyebrow and then it registers.  “You were hit with a two by four?” she asks in shock.  Ernie sets glasses of his kiwi something something smoothie concoction in front of them.  She drinks it like she always does and it’s different.  As long as he doesn’t tell her what’s in it, it’s never a problem.  There’s always something in the ingredients that sounds like it was never meant to be digested.  The less she knows, the better.

When they question them, after hearing that the others are in custody too, they offer up everything they can.  The victim’s coworker tells them the whole plan.  The brother tells them where the body is of the guy Cindy tracked down.  The victim and the guy from DC had had second thoughts and tried to back out and that’s when they killed them.  Kate and Jane spend the last part of the day going over what Cindy can write in her article and then they all go out to dinner.  


The following day is thankfully her day off.  Kate’s up early to go surfing and Cindy tags along.  Grabbing the travel mug and large towel, she decides to join them.  

“So, is she better at this than she is snowboarding?” she asks the red head.  Cindy watches Kate on the water.  

“Well, she’s right.  Water is easier to deal with than snow.  Snow always looks soft and fluffy until you’re headed down a hill and you crash.  Then you find the snow is kind of crunchy from the layer of ice on top.  Hard to tell how deep it is or what’s underneath too.”  They watch as Kate rides another wave.  “She also looks really relaxed, serene, out there.  Do you surf?”  

“Oh no, I don’t do water.  What about you?  Were you getting up and going for runs with her in college?”  

“No.  First of all, it’s ridiculously cold before the sun is up so I’m not leaving my sheets before that happens.  Second, I don’t run.  We tried it once, when we were still getting to know each other.  I nearly died.  Went back to bed all sweaty and more exhausted than when I first got up.  I think getting another hour of sleep is more beneficial for me.  I can get that endorphin rush and extra energy from coffee.”  

“Thank you!  Exactly.  Some mornings she’ll go running instead.  Still invites me along every time.  The only reason I’m awake then is because the bed is a whole lot colder without her in it.”  

“Well, it’s not like you don’t get a workout on the job.  I saw you and Kai, you guys caught up with that asshole’s truck.”  

“Because he hit Kate’s car” she points out.  “But yeah.  During any case, there’s at least one instance where someone tries to run.  They know it makes them look guilty, right?”  

“When I’m caught, I just put my hands up.  Like I said, I don’t run, but I’m also doing something illegal and I know it.”  

“Well, if I ever have to arrest you, I’ll appreciate you not running.”  Cindy makes a face.  

“That would really suck.  You being the one to arrest me.  It would also pretty much guarantee that Kate wasn’t going to pay my bail.”  Lucy laughs.  “So, how much of our conversation did you overhear yesterday?”  Lucy nearly chokes on her sip of coffee.  

“How did you—”  

“The way you’ve been looking at her when we’re back at the apartment.  Like you want to ask her something.  If it was anything else, you probably would have.  Which means it’s means it’s just between the two of you.  That and the sound of your bare feet on the floor stopped.  If it was just you putting on socks, you would come out right after.”  Lucy gives her a look.  

“You know, if this whole reporter thing doesn’t work out for you, you could become an investigator.”  Cindy smiles.  

“Yeah, but then you guys would never talk to me.  You all hate private investigators even more than you do reporters.”  Lucy smirks.  It’s true.  

“You didn’t know all that, did you?”  Lucy shakes her head and Cindy sighs.  

“I get it though, her not telling me.  It’s a lot to hit someone with.  Especially, from that early on.”  She can’t help thinking that knowing that would have helped though, knowing that Kate felt something real between them even then, like she had.  

 “You make her really happy.  And when I say that, I’m comparing it to the happy she was when we first started college.  She was pretty happy then too.”  Lucy nods and lets out a deep sigh of relief.  That’s something she’s been wondering.  “And as someone who also loves her, I have to do the thing now.”  That pulls Lucy from her musings.  

“The thing?”  

“The thing where I say if you hurt her, I’ll ship Tallulah down here just to run you over.  I don’t think you will though.  Not intentionally.  She never means to either, she’s just—”  

“Socially inept?”  

“Lovably dense about somethings.”  That has her laughing.  It’s an accurate description.  

“We’re working on things.  Trying to communicate better.”  

“Well, working on it tells me you’ll probably figure it out.”  Kate’s walking back towards them with her board.  

“We haven’t stocked the fridge yet, so where are we getting breakfast?”  

“Well, it’s Cindy’s last day here.  Let’s take her to the things she has to see.  Same with food” suggests Kate.  Lucy nods, a few things are already coming to mind.  


They pack as much into the day as they can.  When they finally get back to the apartment, it’s with a couple malasadas and with barely enough energy to make it to the couch.  She might be taller than both of them, but Lucy and Cindy have more energy, or at least that’s the excuse she’s using.  Despite her long stride, she was still a few steps behind the both of them all day.  Thankfully, Lucy had ideas for what to do.  Kate knows the tourist spots to avoid, but not the ones that have to be seen.  

They talk long into the night too, Cindy telling them all about herself and updating her on things in DC.  She shares the vague things she remembers.  The fact that they're mostly places to eat and museums has Lucy biting back a smile.  

Cindy assures them that should they ever find themselves in DC, she’s got… well, at the moment she has a loveseat and a hammock, but they’ll figure something out.  

“Alright, the both of you get off my bed, I have to sleep.  I have a flight in nine hours where I’ll run out of things to do three hours in.”  Kate smiles and staggers to her feet and tugs Lucy along to bed.  

 

Seeing Cindy off was harder than expected, but they send her off with a book of crosswords and a couple shitty airport novels.  Cindy’s column is in the paper the next day and they save it.  She feels Lucy rest her chin on her shoulder.  

“She writes really well.  We’ll have to keep an eye out for her articles.  I like her.  I still don’t know what a horseshoe sandwich is though.”  

“I can’t describe it and do it justice.  You have to have one.  I’ll see if I can find a recipe online and make you one.”  

“You’re offering to cook for me?  That’s a big deal!”  

“Not when I’m making you a horseshoe.  It involves cheese sauce and a bunch of French fries.  That should give you an idea of how unimpressive this dish will be when it comes to cooking.”  

“Don’t care.  Still can’t wait.  We’ll send a photo of it to Cindy and I’m sure she’ll be jealous.”  She smiles and pulls Lucy around for a kiss before heading to the bathroom to get ready for work.