Baby Business
Day 1

Author's Note: I actually wrote this a while back. I can't remember whether or not I posted it on here, but whether or not I did, I just realized today that it wasn't on here. So I thought I'd give it a good revamping and repost it. Or post it a first time if I didn't post before. The second chapter is already written, but also needs to be revised and expanded. It should be up in a couple of days. After that, it's all new stuff I haven't worked with before. I'm pretty excited to have this new/old story up! Enjoy!

Update as of April 24th, 2009- Please Read! I have now gotten two reviews saying that they don't like the report aspect of this story. While the first person didn't give an explanation to why this was so, the second did, which I'm thankful for. They said that they didn't believe that someone could relay intimate details about their home life to their boss without getting fired. My argument back would be that she probably (though I don't know this for certain) didn't read far enough to get to the strange way Elliot and Jane treat each other... it's definitely not the usual employee/boss relationship. Check out my reviews if you'd like to read the review(s) I'm talking about.

But anyways, I want to know whether or not you think the report aspect works for the story. I've got a poll up on my profile, but if you'd rather leave it in a review, that's fine as well. Thank you.

The only thing about the report angle verses the straight out story angle is that I have something planned that will only work through the report... But yes, PLEASE tell me your thoughts. If it really would work better as a straight out story, I would consider changing it.

Elliot, here's my report. And I swear, I'd better get some sort of bonus for this case. Yes, I mean besides the whole college thing. Thomas thanks you for that, by the way. But I still want a raise. There should be some kind of law against putting a pregnant woman through this sort of shit.

Day 1- June 10th 2008

On the thirty-first day of my materiality leave, which began four months into my pregnancy, I was rudely called back onto duty at my job for the FBI. (Elliot, I'd like to add that I was ordered to take this leave of absence by the higher ups because a field agent cannot be putting her unborn child at risk for the sake of her job. Hint hint—they're not happy with you). At the time that I received this news, I happened to be baking cookies for the baked-good obsessed man that is my husband, Thomas Fuller. With the amount of cookies he ingests each day, I have no clue how he stays so trim. It must have something to do with the two hours a day he spends at the gym… Or maybe it's the jogging he does in the morning before work... But whatever he does, he looks damn amazing.

But I'm getting off track. You're a guy. You don't care how hot my husband is. If you were a woman you probably would because I know you've seen pictures of Thomas, but you're not a woman, so I will return to my actual report now.

I was stirring up a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough while skillfully foiling Thomas's many attempts to stick his finger in and get a taste. This is the usual Saturday scene at our house, seeing as Saturday was officially dubbed Cookie Day last year. Every Cookie Day, I make somewhere between three or four batches of cookies to keep Thomas happy for the week. Yes, I know there are about three dozen cookies in a batch and that three or four batches equals one hundred six or one hundred forty-four cookies. Like I said, I have no clue how Thomas stays buff. Yes, I help eat the cookies too, but not that much.

Cookie Day is always a busy time for me, seeing as I forbade Thomas from helping me with right on the first Cookie Day when he mistook the baking soda for confectioner's sugar… He ended up proposing to me to remedy this mistake, and it worked more or less, but not enough to get his baking privileges back. Thomas just can't cook. It's unfortunate, but it's become a fact of life over the years. The day before this report starts, my darling husband accidentally set fire to the microwave. Don't ask me what he did. We still haven't figured it out. And no, it wasn't because he put metal in it. At least he's not that clueless.

After five minutes of keeping Thomas's fingers out of the bowl, I had had about enough of his games. I love him dearly, but he's ridiculous when it comes to his cookies. "If you stick your finger in that bowl one more time, I'll hit you with this spoon." I warned him, pulling the aforementioned weapon out of the bowl and shaking it at him threateningly. The dough was pretty stiff by now, so I wasn't that worried about it flying everywhere. And luckily, it didn't go anywhere. Unfortunately, I hadn't been thinking about the other possible consequences of bringing a dough covered cooking implement out of the safety of its bowl.

Thomas caught my gaze with his and like always, I was hooked like a deer in headlights. Without a word, he took a slow step forward so that he was only inches away from me and gently grabbed the wrist that I was using to shake the spoon at him. Like every time he got this close, my mind turned jelly with a mixture of lust and adoration. I let him do what he wanted, attention fully consumed by his close proximity. With me now properly secured, he leaned forward and took a bite out of the dough, grinning seductively at me as he did so. My breath caught in my throat. Just like when we first met, he could still bring me to my knees with one smile. You don't get how much I love my guy.

Oh, right. And you're a guy too, so you don't care about this. Sorry. But I swear, this is what you get for sticking a hormonal pregnant woman on a case. Maybe this'll teach you not to mess with a girl's maternity leave.

Thomas finished his bite of dough and moved toward me. I gave him a small smile, my eyes now focused on his lips, and leaned forward as well. I knew where this was going. Somewhere in my mind I also knew that we'd have to put the dough down sometime soon, but we were already too far gone. Thomas wasn't going to get his cookies today. But for some reason I really didn't think he'd mind. And hey, we could reschedule Cookie Day for tomorrow.

We were an inch away now. Half an inch... And then finally, our lips were touching. We shared a tender, lingering kiss first, but the moment that was over and we had taken another breath, Thomas crushed his lips against mine in a much more passionate, demanding way. (And you said getting married would take the romance out of our relationship.) I closed my eyes and dropped the spoon back into the bowl so that I could wrap an arm to wrap around his neck. Thomas's arms snaked around my waist and pull me closer. It didn't work very well, as the damn bowl was in the way. But that was fixed quickly. Without taking his lips away from me, Thomas pulled the bowl out of my hands and pushed it onto the counter, before pulling me back into his tight embrace. There. That was better.

I let my newly freed arm wrap around his neck as well and Thomas's hands moved towards the button of my jeans. He had it open in a second and his hands slid into my pants. I knew what happened when Thomas got into a mood like this. We were like a couple of teenagers in high school. We never made it to the bedroom. This time it looked like we were heading for a quickie in the kitchen. Hmm. Classic.

At first we had been nervous about having sex while I was pregnant, but the doctor had assured us that I was still too early on for it to hurt the baby. There would come a time in the next few months when we would have to stop, but that time hadn't come yet… Until then we were making the most of our time.

His large, strong hands tightening around my hips, Thomas hoisted me up onto the counter and immediately stepped forward so that he was pressed up against the counter between my legs. I moaned, shifting my attentions to his neck, as he began to loosen his own jeans.

And then my cell phone rang (yeah, thanks for that, Elliot).

I frowned, beginning to pull away. "Janie, just ignore it," Thomas murmured into the hollow at the bottom of my neck. And believe me, I wanted to. And I would have. Except that the cheery tones of "Hail to the Chief" coming from my pocket alerted me to the fact that it wasn't just anyone calling. It was my place of work. You just don't ignore the FBI when they call you.

I sighed and shook my head. "No," I murmured, suddenly feeling tired. This really wasn't fair to either of us. They were supposed to be leaving me along until I came back to work. "I've got to take this. Sorry."

Thomas groaned, but complied, spinning around so that we were now back to front instead of face to face. He was annoyed with me and justly so. I knew how hard it was for him to stop like he had just done. I would definitely owe him something big for this later. Leaning forward, I rested my chin on his shoulder and wrapped an arm around his chest affectionately to show that I was interested in continuing what we had begun once the call was over. I pressed the talk button and leaned my cell against my ear.

"Jane Fuller speaking."

(Now, this is technically where I should have started my report and I know that. I just wanted to show you what you pulled me away from. Your timing couldn't have been any worse.)

"Jane, we've got work for you in the field." Elliot's voice told me, as uncaring and distant as ever. (I'd add more description in here, Elliot, but I don't think you'd appreciate it) "Get into the office so I can brief you on what's going on. You leave tomorrow."

I opened and closed my mouth a few times before I found the words I had been looking for. "Excuse me, what?" They weren't supposed to be giving me work! I was on maternity leave and I had arranged to be until my unborn child was a year old! They couldn't do this to me! Not now! My line of work was far too dangerous for someone in my position!

"Well, we've got a case for you." Elliot repeated in the same, blank tone. "I want you in the office at exactly sixteen o'clock." I glanced up at the clock. I hadn't been into work in a month and now he was giving me an hour to get ready and go back? Plus, it took a half an hour to get to work. That meant I only had a half an hour. This was ridiculous.

"Elliot." I said, trying to keep my voice calm and reasonable. It was a hard task. "I am on a leave of absence. The definition of a leave of absence is that I stay at home and I do not get called into work, no matter what sort of assignment you have for me. I'm not doing the case. There's twenty other people in our department. Find someone else."

I heard a sigh on the other line. "I know you're on a leave of absence, and you don't have to define the term for me. I know what it is. I also know that there are twenty other agents in my department. Even so, you have to take this case. You're the only person who can do it."

I'll admit it. I'm vain. It's a personality flaw that's nearly been my downfall a few times in my job. What did Elliot mean pnly I could do this job? That caught my interest. Really, it would have caught the interest of any vain person, self-proclaimed or not. "What's the job?" I asked grudgingly.

I glanced over at Thomas to see what he was making of this whole thing. As I had expected, he was giving me a look that said. 'You've got to be crazy.' Yeah… I was kind of feeling the same way at the moment too. But even so, I gave him a look back that said. 'Anyone who works for the FBI is crazy.' Hey, at least in my department it was true.

"Just get into the office and I'll brief you on it there." Elliot said. "As much as you'd like to believe, your cell phone line is not a secure tool of communication."

"Fine, fine." I replied, rolling my eyes. "I'll be there. But do not think that means I'm taking the job!"

Before he could say anymore, I pushed the little red 'End' button on my phone and it beeped, announcing the fact that I had just hung up on my boss. Oh well. One more time didn't make any difference, and besides. Elliot had to be used to it by now. I had done it to him nearly every day before I had gone on my leave of absence. I was even known for hanging up on him in the middle of a sentence sometimes if he dared to call me on weekends. Elliot, seriously. If I'm not on a case, you have no right to call me at home, especially not on my days off. I have every right to do what I do, at least at times like those.

"You're going into work?" Thomas asked, disapproval virtually seeping out of his voice. Remaining in my grasp, he turned around to face me once again. His expression was just as disapproving as his words.

"Yes, but I'm not going to take the case." I assured him soothingly. "I just want to hear what it's about." Giving him a quick kiss on the cheek, I motioned him to step back as I slid off the counter with only a little difficulty. My stomach wasn't big enough that I had trouble doing things yet, although the baby bump seemed to be becoming increasingly evident each day.

I knelt down to retrieve a few cookie sheets from one of the cabinets below the counter. "We can finish what we started when I get home, okay baby? I'm sorry, but Elliot wants me there in an hour so I've got to start getting ready now." I stood up, cookie sheets in hand. With the help of two spoons from the drawer next to me, I began to scoop balls of dough onto the sheets. "I'm starting the cookies now, but I'll be gone by the time they're ready. Do you think you can handle getting them out of the oven when the timer goes on?"

Thomas rolled his eyes. "I think I can manage that much," he told me. "But I still don't think you should be going in. I know how much you like new cases, but you've got more than just yourself to think about now." He gave me a meaningful look. "Please, Janie. Don't go to the office. They're not even paying you for the next sixteen months. You don't owe them any of your time."

"They're holding my position for me," I reasoned, continuing to scoop out the dough. If I thought about it that way, I really did owe them some of my time. Not much, but a little. Just enough to hear what Elliot wanted and then refuse him. I had no idea why he actually thought I'd consider taking the case. As a field agent, I was almost always in danger of being shot. That wasn't the sort of risk I was willing to take while pregnant.

I placed the last ball on the first sheet and then paused, looking over at Thomas. He was still watching me with that concerned look on his face. I smiled, touched by his concern. He was a wonderful husband he'd make just as good a father, if not better. "I'm going in to hear about the case." I told him. "Elliot won't tell me what it's about over the phone, so if I don't at least drive over, then I won't be able to suggest a better agent for the job and Elliot won't stop bugging me until I take it."

"You're just going to refer someone else?" Thomas asked skeptically. He crossed his arms across his chest unhappily.

"I'm just going to refer someone else." I repeated, still smiling.

The kitchen was silent for a moment. Then he sighed and nodded. "Fine," he replied. "But don't take too long."

I laughed, moving onto the next cookie sheet. "Don't worry. I'll be in and out. You'll hardly miss me at all."

Thomas chuckled and slid his arms around my waist. "Promise?"

I turned my head to the side and brushed my lips against his in a quick kiss. "Promise. Now we've only got three cookie sheets and I'm guessing this is going to make about four dozen, so you're going to have to put the rest of the dough on one of the sheets when I'm gone, okay? I've got both oven's heated up, so you'll only have to worry about getting the cookies out of the oven twice. Although there's always the chance I might still be around when the first two sheets come out. Are you going to be okay with this?"

"I'm going to be fine," he told me, laughing. "You worry about me in the kitchen too much."

"No, I worry about you in the kitchen just enough." I told him good-naturedly. The second sheet was done. I started on the third. "But if you have that much faith in your abilities, you can go put the first two sheets in the oven now and put the timer on for fifteen minutes."

Thomas immediately grabbed the two I had already finished. "Consider it done," he said, walking over to the double ovens we had splurged on when first moving into our house. He slid the cookies in and then set the timer without a problem. Maybe there was hope for him in the kitchen after all. I'd have to remember that next time I didn't feel like making dinner. Maybe he could manage a pot of pasta or something…

By the time he was finished with the oven and timer, I was finished with the third sheet. Finished with my work and ready to move onto my next project, I glanced down at my outfit dubiously. I highly doubted Elliot would appreciate me waltzing into the FBI wearing one of Thomas's old gray sweatshirts and a pair of particularly beat up second hand maternity jeans. The only problem was that anticipating months of never having to leave the house except to go to the store and other such casual places, I had never bothered to buy anything work appropriate during my trips to Mimi Maternity. I also wasn't sure if my work clothes would even fit me any more now that my pregnancy was really beginning to show. What the hell was I going to do? This was completely unfair. Elliot hadn't given me nearly enough time to get ready for this.

"I'm going to get changed now," I told Thomas. I had twenty five minutes left before I absolutely had to leave the house and I had a sneaking suspicion that I'd use them all up while attempting to get dressed.

"Okay, hon." Nodding, he grabbed the timer off the counter and wandered into the living room, probably to watch TV.

"Don't you dare touch that dough." I warned as I hurried upstairs.

In the end I got lucky. I mercifully found a pair of khakis from my freshmen fifteen days in college that had been residing at the bottom of my bureau for God knows how long. They fit… but just barely. As for a shirt, I pulled on a clean reddish colored t-shirt and then threw a gray blazer over it. The end result looked professional… enough.

With ten minutes until departure time, I hurried back down the stairs and into the kitchen to check on the cookies. One peak through the oven's window told me that they were done now… "How much longer?" I called into the living room. It couldn't have been much longer.

"One minute!" Thomas called back. The dulcet tones of Looney Tunes drifted into the kitchen from the living room. I snorted. And he calls himself an English teacher.

One minute wasn't much longer and I did have a little more time before I had to leave. It would fine for me to pull them out now so that Thomas wouldn't have to deal with them later. They'd just be a little doughy, but we liked them like that from time to time. Grabbing the oven mitts, I opened the top door and moved the sheet onto the stove so that I could pull the other one out as well. With that done, I began to move the cookies onto the set of cooling racks that had become permanent addition to our kitchen. We never put them away. What was the point when you were just going to use them in a couple of days?

Thomas walked back into the kitchen as I was scraping off some of the burned cookie remnants off the sheet we would have to reuse. He made a beeline for the cookies I had just put on the rack. "They're hot." I warned.

"Just like I like them." He replied, taking a bite. A second later he gasped, his eyes wide. I could only guess that one of the hot, melted chocolate chips had hit his tongue. I knew it was going to happen. Calmly, I put down the cookie sheet and reached up into a cupboard above the sink for a glass. Filling it with cool water, I handed it to him.

"Thanks." He took the glass gratefully, and chugged its contents.

"No problem."

The clock told me I had four minutes now until I had to leave. Hurrying up my pace a bit, I filled the last sheet up with dough and stuck it in the oven along with the other sheet I had already put together earlier. Good. Now Thomas would only have to worry about taking them out in fifteen minutes and putting them on the cooling racks. I was pretty sure he could do that without burning down the house.

"Alright," I said, grabbing my purse off the kitchen table. "I'm leaving the rest up to you." I pushed myself up on my tip toes so as to kiss him on the cheek. "There better be a house for me to come home to when I get back."

"How about half a house?" he teased, giving me a quick hug in return.

"Only if you move us into a four star hotel while we get it fixed up." We shared one more quick kiss and then I was off to the office.

I was outside Elliot's door with a minute to spare. But, seeing that I was still early, if only just a minute, Elliot wasn't ready to see me yet. Usually, I would have rolled my eyes and grabbed whatever magazine he had on the table next to his office, but I wanted to get home ASAP. Leaving Thomas in charge of any sort of cooking was never a good idea.

And Elliot? I know for a fact that whenever you have me waiting for that extra minute or whatever until the exact time you wanted to see me, you're just twiddling your thumbs waiting for it too. I know you think this makes you look cool and important, but really it doesn't. You want to know why? Because everyone knows that you're not working up to that last little second. You're not fooling anyone. Not even the newbies. The security guy who mans the video cameras lets everyone know about that little secret.

One minute later, at exactly sixteen o'clock, I was called into Elliot's office. "Come in."

Unsurprisingly, nothing had changed since the last time I had been in Elliot's. There was the antique porcelain lucky cat figure on a little table just inside the door, a few certificates on the paneled walls, two leather chairs in front of a large, dark wood desk, and a few stacks of paper on said desk next to a sheik, silver laptop. How like Elliot. God forbid one thing be out of place. As I walked through the door, I contemplated knocking the cat over just to see Elliot's expression when something went wrong in his overly perfect office. Yes, I admit to this. I also admit to the fact that I think about it every time I walk through your door. I'm telling you, that cat drives me nuts.

As expected, just like the clean office, Elliot was sitting in front of a clear desk that practically screamed the fact that he hadn't been doing anything for the past five or ten minutes.

"Good afternoon, Jane." He said in his usual bored-polite tone.

"Afternoon Elliot." I said as I sat down in one of the chairs. Crossing my legs, I looked straight at him in mock seriousness. "So tell me about this case of yours you want me to take."

Elliot frowned, knowing quite well that I wasn't as serious about the whole situation as I sounded to be. "It concerns jewel thief in California."

Was that it? I had dealt with far worse people in my four years at the bureau. So far I had no idea why only I could pull this case off. We foiled thieves' plots everyday. In fact, they were usually the easier cases to close and most of the time we gave them to the newbies to make them feel important. There had to be more to this than a simple robbery. "Okay… what about him?"

"His name is Juliet Potpourri." Elliot told me, picking up a paper from his pile and skimming over it.

I raised an eyebrow. "His? Juliet Potpourri? Are you sure we're dealing with a guy here?" As far as I knew, no self respecting man would let himself be named Juliet Potpourri. Juliet was one thing. It could be remedied with a good nickname. But Potpourri? If I were a man I would have changed my name to something more masculine the moment I had a chance.

"It's a man." Elliot replied, nodding. "In fact, he's becoming quite famous in the criminal world. I'm surprised you haven't heard about him. He's stolen over two hundred jewels from maximum security centers this year alone."

"Over two hundred?" I repeated. Sure, I hadn't worked on a thief case since I had first arrived at the FBI, but maybe this could be interesting after all. Stealing over two hundred jewels was definitely impressive. Maybe this guy deserved a little of my respect after all. Only the best thieves could manage a record like that. "How many robberies did it take him to rack up that number?"

"Twenty six."

I was still impressed. Even the best jewel thieves were caught around robbery number ten or so. By then the police, or the FBI if it was a big enough problem, had been able to figure out how they thought, predict their next target, and catch them there. But skilled thief or not, I still didn't know why I was in here and not some other capable agent working for Elliot. I decided to voice my curiosity.

"So why did you call me in here? Why can't someone else catch the guy? I mean, I'm honored that you think I'm the only one who can catch him, but I am on a leave of absence and I'd really prefer to stay that way."

"It's not that you're the only one that could catch Potpourri, Jane, it's that you're the only one who'll fit his criteria." Elliot explained, sounding rather tired.

I frowned. His criteria? What was Elliot getting me into here?

As if reading my mind, he handed me the paper that he had been reading off of. I took it from him, scanning it over quickly. The most noticeable part of the document was what looked to be a classified ad at the top of the page.

Wanted: One pregnant woman willing to work with Juliet Potpourri to find and steal the Dominique Jewel. A payment of one million dollars in precious gems will be given once the jewel has been stolen.

"Criminals have their own classifieds?" I asked in amazement. Sure, I was one of Elliot's undercover agents, but I had seen something like this before. The rest of the paper consisted of Potpourri's personal FBI file. Apparently we didn't have much on him except for the police reports corresponding with his robberies.

"If you look in the right places on the web, yes, criminals have their own classifieds." Elliot replied with a nod. "We were lucky enough to find this one. The FBI has been trying to get a hold on Potpourri for the past year. This might be our lucky break. I assume now you understand why we need you?"

I nodded. Although I understood why he thought I was the only one for this job, I still didn't want to take the case. It might have been open and close, but those sorts of things had their own dangers as well. "Can't you just use another woman who's wearing one of those fake pregnancy belts?" I asked.

"We thought about it," Elliot admitted. "But we're assuming that the agent we send in will be coming into close contact with Potpourri. It's not difficult to tell the difference between a real pregnancy and a prop when one has their hand on a woman's stomach.

I scowled, unable to argue this. On the upside, it wouldn't be hard a hard case at all. I'd fly over to California, meet this Potpourri guy, arrest him, and get back home. It would take three days tops. Plus, I couldn't see it getting too dangerous, especially if Elliot let me take along four or five other agents as back up. I could wear a bullet proof vest or two too.

"But there's more to the mission than just arresting Potpourri." Elliot continued in his bored drawl, picking up another paper. I eyed it curiously. Was it another criminal classified? Did he want me to take out some gang member in Chicago on my way home or something? If that was it, I wasn't going to do it. I didn't care how hard he tried to convince me.

"The Dominique Jewel was stolen from a museum in Louisiana a little over two months ago." He explained. "It's one of our low priority cases to find it and it appears that Potpourri happens to know where it is. It would be easier to let him locate the jewel instead of us having to waste agents on it. Therefore you will be working with Potpourri just like the job description says. You will arrest him as soon as he has the jewel in his possession."

I grinned as an agreeable thought came to mind. "Does that mean I get the one million in jewels?" I asked jokingly.

Elliot frowned at me. He could never take a joke. "Of course not. The jewels he will be giving you are stolen as well. But yes, you should wait to arrest him until he has given you those. That way we can return them to their rightful owners. Your plane to California leaves tomorrow."

"Hey!" I said, alarmed. "I never said I was going to take this case!" It certainly sounded interesting, but I couldn't! Not only Thomas would be angry with me, but I would be putting the baby in tremendous danger. And who knew how long this case could take! I only had five more months of my pregnancy. If I gave birth away from Thomas… No. I wasn't even going to think about this. It was not something I was willing to do in a hundred years.

"Elliot, no." I said, serious for once. "I can't do this. I took a leave of absence so that I wouldn't get into this sort of situation and endanger my child. Jewel thieves searching for previously stolen jewels? No. I'm sorry. I just can't accept this job. We don't even know why Potpourri wants a pregnant woman as his assistant!" All sorts of strange ideas appeared in my head and I closed my eyes in disgust.

If it had been any other time in my life I would have jumped for the chance to work undercover with a jewel thief and find a stolen jewel. It sounded like an amazingly fun opportunity. But now I was married. I had more than myself to think about.

Elliot nodded. He understood my problem and he would tell me this any moment. The real question was whether or not he appreciated it.

"I understand your predicament." Elliot told me with a sigh. (See, Elliot? You're so predictable) "Because of that I'm willing to send you to California with two back up agents and, along with your pay for the case, pay for three years of your child's education at any sort of private school you might choose to send him or her to. We need you on this case, Jane. We have no other alternatives but to send you."

Three years? My mind was racing. At any sort of private school? Forget the private school. The public schools were fine around us, Thomas and I had already looked into that, but what about college? Would the FBI pay for three years of my child's college education. Maybe taking this case wouldn't be so bad after all… and if I had two people to watch my back… And bulletproof vests really were useful…

"Does your education offer include college?" I asked. If the answer was yes I would have to take the offer. Three years of college prepaid! We'd only have to worry about one year that way. Unless of course our child wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or something else that required more than four years of schooling. Then of course we'd happily pay for more. Anything was better than paying for the whole set of college years! Hell, at this rate maybe we could have the second kid Thomas had always dreamed about.

I could see Elliot flinch at my mention of college. He knew even better than I about the expenses of college. After all, he had just put his eldest daughter through three years of pointless college schooling only to have her drop out at the beginning of her fourth year to run off with some skater punk. It was every parent's worst nightmare. Really, Elliot. What did you do to the poor kid to make her do that?

"If it will get you on the case, yes, my offer includes college." Elliot told me, a hint of irritation in his voice. I grinned. Who would have guessed? The government was going to pay for my child's college education. "You have a deal." I said happily, standing up. "Give me the plane ticket and I'll be on my way tomorrow."

He pulled the ticket out of one of his desk drawers and handed it to me. "A one way ticket to the Los Angeles International Airport. Arrival at the airport, seven o'clock AM. Departure time, ten o'clock AM. Estimated time of landing, twelve o'clock PM, California time. The agents looking out for you will be on different flights. You will not know their identities."

"Sounds like a plan." I said checking the times again on the ticket. "And what about the other stuff? Under cover identity? Information on Potpourri? On the Dominique Jewel? Do I have some sort of stipend?"

"You'll get all the information you need on the plane." he replied. "Now go, I've got other things to do. And isn't it your Cake Day or something like that?"

"Cookie Day." I corrected, walking out the door. My hand brushed past the cat figurine and I once again had the urge to knock it over. But today wasn't the day to test my theories, I had left Thomas home alone in the kitchen. The sooner I got home, the better. Maybe I'd get back before he got the chance to blow the house up like he had the microwave.

The house was still fully intact when I arrived in front of it a half an hour later. That was a good sign. There was still a chance that the inside could be a disaster area though. Pulling my keys out of the ignition, I hurried into the house as quickly as I could.

Luckily, it seemed as if my worrying had been for nothing. As I walked into the front foyer, I could hear the TV. This time, instead of Loony Toons, the unmistakable sounds of a PS2 game—a wrestling one most likely, floated into my ears. Thomas hadn't managed to kill himself. That was a good sign as well. I wandered into the kitchen for the real moment of truth. What would I find inside? An exploded oven with dough all over the walls? The cookies still on their baking sheet, resembling little black rocks? Or maybe they were still in the oven—on fire. These were all very realistic possibilities.

Luckily, the sight that greeted me wasn't bad at all. In fact, I was sort of impressed. The dough was gone and the bowls and baking utensils were washed and sitting in the drainer. As for the cookies, they were all stacked up on one cooling rack. However, the oven was also still on. I sighed, shaking my head.

"Did I do good?" Thomas asked hopefully. He placed his hands on my shoulders, looking into the kitchen as well.

"You did good." I admitted. "I was expecting much worse. Much, much worse."

"Hey!" he said laughing and giving my shoulders a quick squeeze. "Don't underestimate me that much!"

I laughed as well and walked over to the oven, turning it off. "Just wondering though. Why's the oven still on?"

Thomas looked down at his feet sheepishly. "I, uh, couldn't figure out how to turn if off…"

I smirked, shaking my head. "For future reference, the off button's here." I pointed to the little button in the top corner marked off. Guys could be ridiculously blind sometimes. "Just press it once and the oven will turn off."

"Oh. Okay."

"And you shouldn't stack cookies six levels high on a cooling rack, but that's okay. No harm done" I pulled the last two empty tins off the top of the refrigerator and started putting the cookies in them. This would last us until next Saturday. What he would do after that was beyond me though. I frowned on store bought baked goods.

"So how'd you get Elliot to agree about you not taking the case?" Thomas asked conversationally, settling himself in one of the kitchen chairs. "I thought you'd be gone a lot longer."

"Actually," I began nervously. I rubbed my hands together in an attempt to channel my stress out of them. Thomas wasn't going to like this next sentence one bit…

"I took the case…"