Detective Sullivan stepped out of the elevator and took a look around. Everybody seemed to be very busy and it didn't surprise him; they had caught a difficult case that had kept all of them working nonstop. He went to Megan's office only to find it empty. Then, he tried the morgue and the break room but ended with the same result: she wasn't there.
He spotted Curtis walking out of his office and quickly intercepted him. "Hey Curtis! Have you seen Megan?"
"She stormed out of Kate's office about an hour ago, grabbed her things and left." Curtis told him.
It surprised him; it wasn't like her to disappear in the middle of a murder investigation, one that she had been more than eager to solve. "Any idea where she went?" Tommy asked.
"She was on the warpath. I'm smarter than standing in her way." He replied with a tone that clearly told Tommy how stupid his question had been.
"Yeah. Right. Thanks." Tommy said, his mind already set in asking Kate.
Kate's door was open so he knocked on the doorframe before walking right in. She raised her eyes from the paperwork and stopped writing when she saw who had just gotten in her office.
"Detective Sullivan, what can I do for you?" She asked him even if she was pretty sure why he was in her office.
"I'm looking for Dr. Hunt." He simply said.
"She took the afternoon off." Kate replied, leaning back on her chair and crossing her arms over her chest. Tommy gently moved one of the chairs in front of her desk and sat down, his eyebrow raised at her because he knew Megan wouldn't had done that. Kate took a deep breath and sighed. "I sent her home." She finally admitted.
"I bet she wasn't happy about that." Tommy said trying not to sound too accusatory but failing spectacularly.
One and a half hours earlier...
Kate was about to knock on Megan's closed door when she took a good look at the Medical Examiner and decided to dismiss her original plan. Instead, she quietly opened the door and took a step inside. Megan had her left elbow on her desk and her head was resting on her hand while she held her pen on the other one. To an untrained eye in all things about Megan Hunt, it seemed that she was just very concentrated in her work; Kate's expert insight could clearly see that Megan had fallen asleep.
She took a step back and gently knocked on the door, snapping Megan out of her improvised nap. She quickly tried to mask the fact that she had just woken up, running a hand through her hair and sitting straight on her chair.
"Dr. Murphy! To what do I owe the pleasure?" She asked, her voice still a bit rough after having been suddenly woken up.
"Why don't you make yourself some coffee and meet me in my office in ten minutes?" Kate gently said.
"I have work to do." Megan replied, her eyes fixed on the paperwork on her desk while she rummaged through it trying to look like she was busy.
"It wasn't a request." Kate sternly told her before walking out and returning to her office.
When Megan walked straight into her office, Kate invited her to sit down with a quick hand gesture. Megan complied, reluctantly, and waited until her boss began to speak.
"When was the last time you properly slept?" Kate asked even if she could guess the answer.
"That's why you made me come here? To ask about my sleeping habits?" Megan angrily asked back.
"You haven't been home in two days, Megan. You've been working nonstop for the past 48 hours, taking short naps on your couch, or on your desk. You are driving yourself, and everyone else in this office, crazy." She told her.
"I have a killer to catch." She replied as if that answer was enough to get her boss off her back.
"Something you won't be able to do if you don't take a break and get some sleep." Kate tried to reason with her. Without giving her time to reply, Kate continued. "Go home and take tomorrow morning off."
"Thanks, but no thanks." Megan said, standing up. "I'm fine."
She turned around and was about to leave when Kate's voice made her halt in her tracks. "Well, then, I'm taking you off the case and putting you on sick leave for the rest of the week."
"You wouldn't dare." Megan said, incredulous, walking back to stand in front of her boss.
Kate stood up and rested her hands on her desk, leaning a bit forward, adopting an authoritative posture that she hopped would make Megan back off a little before she said something she would later regret.
"You're going home either way. It's up to you how long you stay there." Kate told her, her voice not leaving room for an argument.
"Fine." Megan simply said before storming out of the office, resisting the urge to slam the door behind her.
After spending two nights at her grandmother's place, Lacey just wanted to go home. She headed there after school, once she had called Joan and she had agreed to come over if Megan decided to work all night again. It didn't surprise her to find a quiet apartment when she walked in but it did surprise her to find her mother's purse thrown over the couch.
Lacey left her backpack on the armchair. "Mom?" She asked out loud. When she didn't get an answer, she quietly walked to her mother's room. The door was closed, something unusual but not that strange, so she gently knocked before opening the door. The room was dark, all the blinds lowered and the curtains closed, but she could clearly see her shape under the covers. She approached the bed and carefully sat on the edge.
The slight movement made Megan open her eyes. "Lace?" She said, confused.
"Are you alright, Mom?" Lacey asked, her voice filled with concern.
"I'm not feeling well." Megan replied, sitting up on the bed and turning the bedside lamp on.
"Can I get you anything?" She offered.
"Oh, no, but thank you sweetie." She quickly told her daughter, reaching to tuck her hair behind Lacey's ear. "I've already taken something. I just need to sleep it off." She lied, hoping that her daughter wouldn't notice.
"Okay." Lacey said, not very convinced. "I'll be in my room doing my homework. Yell if you need anything."
Lacey hugged her, feeling that it was something her mother needed, either she admitted it or not. After receiving a kiss on the cheek, she broke the embrace and smiled at her mother before getting up and walking out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Four hours later, Megan was still in her room and Lacey was beginning to get worried. She had checked on her twice and both times she knew her mother had been pretending to be asleep. She wasn't sure what to do; something told her that her mother wasn't just not feeling well, as she had put it. Had something happened at work? Did she have a fight with Tommy? She could call her grandmother but, knowing Megan and her relationship with her own mother, it could just piss her off and Lacey didn't want that. At the end, she decided to call Tommy; he was her mother's boyfriend, after all, and maybe he could give her some insight about what was going on. Before she could grab her cellphone, someone knocked on the door.
She hurried to open it and sighed in relief when she saw Tommy standing on the other side. "I was about to call you." Lacey said, giving him a quick hug before letting him in.
"What's wrong?" He asked her, alarmed.
"Mom told me she didn't feel well but I didn't buy it. She said she just had to sleep it off. I checked on her twice and she wasn't sleeping, even if she tried to make it seem like it every time I walked into her room." She quickly explained. "I'm worried, Tommy."
Tommy put his arm around her shoulders and gently squeezed her arm. "Why don't you order some dinner while I check on your mom?" He suggested.
After a quick reassuring hug, Tommy left Lacey in the kitchen while he went to Megan's room. He opened the door without knocking and he saw Megan close her eyes and heard her sigh as soon as he walked in. Without saying a word, he sat down on the other side of the bed and kicked off his shoes before laying down, on his back, next to her.
He waited for a couple of minutes to see if she would even acknowledge his presence but, when she didn't, he decided to break the silence himself. "I know you're not asleep, Megan." He quietly said.
With a frustrated sigh, Megan rolled onto her back and turned her head to look at Tommy. Even in the dark, Tommy could see the sadness clouding her eyes. Instead of saying anything more, he just opened his arms. Megan quickly accepted the invitation and curled herself next to him, resting her head on his chest and throwing her arm and leg over his body, pulling him close. He embraced her and waited.
Neither said anything for the next few minutes. Megan needed someone who would understand what was going through her mind and she was glad Tommy was there for her to do that. It didn't mean that it was going to be easy, though.
"I’ve let this case get to me, Tommy." Megan finally said, her voice barely a whisper and on the edge of breaking down.
"You wouldn't be human if it hadn't affected you." He told her.
"A beautiful two-years-old boy, barely old enough to speak, beaten down to death and left on an alley." She continued, fighting the tears that were threatening to start falling down her face. Megan knew that, once she started, nothing would stop them. "He was still a baby." She said before burring her face in the crock of his neck.
"It's okay to cry, Megs." He whispered to her.
"I'm not sure I'll be able to stop." Megan replied, her voice cracking but muffled by his neck.
"I'm here." Tommy just said.
Her body began to shake, still fighting the urge to cry, but it didn't take long before she accepted defeat and she started to sob. Tommy tightened his embrace and gently placed his hand on her head, running his fingers through her hair while whispering reassuring words to her. He could feel Megan's tears on his skin and it broke his heart to see her like that.
When her sobs subsided and all it was left was the occasional sniff, Tommy softly kissed her forehead. "Feeling better?" He gently asked.
"Yeah." Megan replied after taking a deep breath.
"Lacey ordered dinner. I'll go set the table while you freshen up a little bit." He told her, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed once Megan had moved off him.
"Poor Lace." She said, sitting up and using her finger to remove a couple of tears form her face. "I haven't seen her for the past two days and then I ignored her all afternoon."
"She's fine, Megan." Tommy assured her. "Just a little worried about her mom." He continued, smiling kindly at her. "You have a wonderful kid."
"I know." She replied, smiling proudly.
Tommy gave her a quick peck on the lips and left the room. He found Lacey sitting on the couch, watching TV, so he went to join her. As soon as he sat down, Lacey rested her head on his shoulder.
Tommy put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze. "She'll be out in a couple of minutes." He explained.
"Is she alright?" Lacey asked him.
"We have a difficult case right now. It affected her a little bit." Tommy simply said, not wanting to get into the details.
"I heard her crying, Tommy." She told him. "And you didn't answer my question."
"You know how your mom always thinks she can do everything by herself." When Lacey nodded, he continued. "She just needed a shoulder to cry on, get everything out of her chest. She'll be fine, Lace."
They didn't hear Megan walking out of her room so, when she spoke, she startled them. "Don't you two look cozy right now." She told them with a warm smile on her face. "Any room for me?"
Lacey quickly raised her hear from Tommy's shoulder and patted the empty space next to her. When Megan sat down, her daughter immediately hugged her. Megan dropped a kiss on the top of her head while her arms surrounded Lacey's body. Tommy looked at them, grateful that he could be a part of both their lives.
He had been daydreaming for a couple of minutes when Megan's voice snapped him out of it. "Tommy? I thought you said you were going to set up the table." She teased him, winking at him at the same time.
"Yes ma'am!" He said as he stood up.
It didn't take long for the doorbell to ring, indicating that their food had finally arrived. Tommy went to get it and, meanwhile, Megan took a couple of beers out of the fridge for them and a can of soda for her daughter. While they ate, they let Lacey do most of the talking, bringing Megan up to date about what she had done at school and all the things she had done while staying with Joan. Megan made a mental note to call her mother the next day; even if she knew for sure that Joan loved to spend time with her only grandchild, she should thank her for taking care of Lacey.
Once they were done eating, they cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher. Lacey quickly excused herself and went to her room after saying goodnight to them. Tommy grabbed two more beers and joined Megan on the couch. He handed her one of the bottles and patiently waited for Megan to start talking; he could see she was struggling with what she wanted to actually say out loud.
At the end, Megan just closed her eyes and let her head drop on the back of the couch. "I've been having nightmares." She said, her voice barely loud enough for Tommy to hear.
"About the case?" Tommy asked.
She nodded before opening her eyes and turning her head slightly to the side to look at him. "It always begins the same way, with me working on this case." She explained. "But, then, they shift and I'm not seeing the little boy anymore."
"You see Lacey." He finished for her.
"Yeah." Megan replied. "At the alley, at the morgue, on the case photos. Everywhere."
"We'll find whoever did this, Meg." Tommy assured her.
"I know." She said, grabbing his hand in thanks for his encouraging words. "I don't know what I would do without you." Megan told him with a sad smile.
"I'm pretty amazing, aren't I?" Tommy replied, earning a light smack on the arm before they both busted out laughing.
Megan left her beer on the coffee table and climbed on top of him. "You are." She whispered to him, their lips dangerously close. "But don't let it go to your head."
"Wouldn't dream about it." He told her before closing the gap and capturing her lips.
A few hours later, Lacey groggily walked out of her room in need of some water. She smiled at the sight of her mother and Tommy curled together and asleep on the couch. Before grabbing her glass of water, she made a small detour to cover them with the afghan Megan always kept on the back of the armchair.
The next morning, Lacey woke up and got ready for school. When she stepped out of her room, she found Tommy and her mother already up and eating breakfast together.
"Good morning, sweetie." Megan said as soon as she saw her. She got up from her seat and gave her daughter a quick kiss on the cheek before grabbing the plate she had prepared for her and setting it up on Lacey's usual place.
"Thanks Mom." Lacey said, smiling at her. "Morning Tommy."
"Morning, Lace." He replied after swallowing the sip of coffee he had just taken from his mug.
Megan took the orange juice out of the fridge and left it on the kitchen's island. Then, she opened one of the cabinets to get a glass for her daughter. Before she could give it to her, her hands went numb, immediately followed by the painful sensation she always felt when that happened. The glass broke as soon as it hit the floor; tiny pieces of glass flying everywhere.
"Damn it!" Megan exclaimed, angry with herself while she massaged her hands and moved her fingers, trying to regain some feeling on them.
Tommy and Lacey jumped out of their seats, wanting to help. Seeing that her mother was barefoot, Lacey quickly ran to Megan's room to grab her slippers. She returned and handed them to her mother. "Thanks, honey." She simply said as she put them on. Megan, then, saw that Tommy had grabbed the broom to clean the mess she had made.
She quickly tried to take it out of his hands but he just moved it away from her. "Sit and finish your breakfast. I've got this covered." He told her, gently but leaving no room for discussion.
"Tommy." Megan said, a bit exasperated while glaring at him.
"Megan." He firmly replied.
Lacey looked at them, amused by their short exchange and how a couple of looks and words were more than enough for them to understand each other. Megan sat down again, still rubbing her hands, and smiled at her daughter in a reassuring way. While Tommy cleaned the mess, mother and daughter finished their breakfasts. Lacey quickly cleared the table and went to her room to grab her things. When she returned, ready to go, she found her mother and Tommy having a whispered conversation next to the couch.
Megan looked at Lacey over Tommy's shoulder. "Give me five minutes and I'll drive you."
"I can drop her off on my way to the station." He offered.
"Thanks. I have to give my mother a call and get ready. I'll meet you there." Megan told him.
"I thought Kate gave you the morning off." Tommy said, lowering his voice.
"Like that was gonna happen." She replied. "Kate won't let me go to the office, and I'm sure she has forbidden Ethan to give me any updates, but you can get them." She continued, smiling sweetly at him. Tommy rolled his eyes but agreed with a nod. "I promise I won't get in your way, you won't even notice I'm there."
"If Kate finds out..." He began.
"I'll let her lecture me without opening my mouth." She interrupted him.
"That's something I'd like to see." Tommy teased her, words that made him earn a non-so-gentle smack on the arm.
"Go or you'll make my daughter late for school." Megan told him before giving him a quick peck on the lips.
Tommy kissed her one more time and turned around. "Let's go, kiddo."
After spending the morning working at the police station, invading half of Tommy's desk, Megan went out to lunch with him and Adam before going to the MEO. As soon as her feet touched the seventh floor, Ethan ran to follow her while she calmly walked to her office. She only had time to take off her sunglasses before he began to talk.
Raising her hand, Megan stopped Ethan's babbling. "Slow down, Ethan."
"Sorry." He quickly said, toning down his excitement. He handed her his iPad with the lab results. Once he was sure Megan had read them, he continued. "The lab wasn't able to identify the foreign matter we found so they're running more tests but they found DNA on the sample from the fingernails. No match in CODIS, though."
iPad in hand, Megan sat down behind her desk and stared at the results, her mind going over all the details of the case and trying to make some kind of connection. Ethan observed her, in silence, knowing that soon enough she would share her thoughts with him. Out of the blue, Megan stood up, leaving the iPad on her desk before taking off her jacket and grabbing her lab coat.
"Did the family give us DNA samples?" Megan asked while she put on the white garment.
"Yes, this morning." Ethan replied.
"Did the lab ran them against the DNA found on the body?" She continued, clipping her security badge on the hem of her skirt.
"Uh ... I don't know?" He told her, unsure of his answer. At her raised eyebrow, Ethan quickly raised his hands to protect himself of her possible outburst. "I'll find out. Right now. Yes, I'll go now." He said, walking out of her office.
Megan took a few seconds to smile at Ethan's antics; he was months shy of finishing his fellowship and finally becoming a "full" forensic pathologist but she could still make him melt into a puddle with a simple look. Still smiling slightly, Megan walked to the lab station just outside her office, where Curtis was working on something.
"You're smiling." Curtis said when he saw her approach him, as if it was something uncommon.
"What?" Megan asked, confused, taking the seat next to him and logging into the computer.
"You know, that thing when the corners of your mouth turn up indicating a feeling of pleasure or amusement." He replied, grinning himself.
"Ha ha ha. Very funny." She told him, rolling her eyes at his teasing.
Curtis stopped what he had been doing and turned to look at Megan. "You okay?" He asked, the teasing tone gone and replaced with one of concern. He had been a witness of how much this case had affected her and he just wanted to make sure she was alright.
"Yeah." Megan sincerely replied, acknowledging his concern and gently patting his arm in thanks.
They continued their work in silence for a few minutes until Ethan returned. "They're running it right now. We should know something in half an hour or so." He informed her, handing her the iPad on his hand.
"Thanks, Ethan." Megan told him with a smile. Then, she turned to look at her boss. "Need help with anything?" She asked him.
"Are you offering to give me a hand?" Curtis replied, surprised.
"I'm waiting for my lab results and could use some distraction." She said. At Curtis raised eyebrow, Megan felt the need to defend herself. "I'm in a good mood and offering to help. The offer expires in ten seconds; take it or leave it."
Without another word, Curtis gave her the tissue samples he had set aside to study later. For the next forty-five minutes they worked side by side, talking about Curtis' case and reviewing the facts they had so far. When they heard the sound of an incoming email, they both stopped what they were doing to look at the results.
Curtis, who had stood up and was looking at the screen over her shoulder, smiled widely. "Go. I'll tell Kate."
Megan jumped out of her seat and looked at him, her grin matching the one in Curtis face. "We've got him."
He raised his hand and Megan hand-fived him. "We've got him." He replied.
At the police station, Tommy and Adam were interrogating the suspect while Megan watched them from the other side of the glass. She had agreed to let them do the questioning, after a non-too-pleasant conversation with Tommy, and was waiting for one of them to do their agreed signal that would tell her it was time to go in and join them.
She wasn't expecting anyone to join her in the observation room but it didn't actually surprise her to see Kate walking in. She stood next to her, looking through the glass at the two detectives. Neither of them said a thing for a couple of minutes until Megan, without looking at Kate, broke the silence.
"Thank you." She told her. Kate turned to look at her, a bit astonished after hearing those words. Megan, feeling that she should elaborate her statement some more, focused her attention on her boss. "For yesterday. I needed to take a step back and take a break to look at the case with fresh eyes."
"You looked ready to break my neck in two." Kate said, recalling the furious look on Megan's face when she told her to go home.
Megan snorted at Kate's comment. "Yeah, well, the thought crossed my mind." She joked, making Kate laugh.
They both saw Tommy do the signal and the laughter died. After a deep breath, Megan walked to the door. Before she could grab the doorknob, Kate stopped her. "Megan." Once she had slightly turned around, Kate continued. "Nail this son of a bitch."
Smiling, Megan replied. "You've got it, boss."
Tommy was waiting for her, sitting on her office's couch, when she got back from releasing the body to the family. He stood up as soon as he saw her crossing the threshold and engulfed her in a tight embrace. Megan rested her head on his shoulder and allowed herself to relax into his protective arms. A few seconds later, Tommy dropped a kiss on her forehead before loosening his grip on her. Without saying a word, he helped her take off her lab coat and put on her jacket. He waited while she gathered her things and, with his arm around her waist, they left her office and walked to the elevators.
"So..." Tommy began. "What do you say about me taking you and Lacey out to dinner?"
Stepping inside the elevator, Megan looked at him and smiled. "Dinner with my two favorite people? I'm in." She replied.
As the doors closed, Megan put her arms around him, stood on her tiptoes and kissed him.