In the eyes of Special Agent Sonja Percy, everything was right with her world when the NCIS team walked in the Second Line for Lt. Murray, until her partner Christopher LaSalle joined them. Given his feelings about death and funerals; this presence jarred her reality. She had tried to talk him into coming, but was taken aback when he had actually taken her advice.
After the funeral, everyone ended up at CFA where they partook in beer and shots while listening to Pride jam with his house band. As Percy sat shoved up next to LaSalle, their legs touched and the more she tried not to think about it, she couldn't stop. They exchanged barbs in their usual fashion. While it seemed everything was as it had been, she found herself staring more than once into his smiling eyes, thinking some very unprofessional thoughts.
When it was time to go, they all hugged. She and LaSalle embraced last. Was it her imagination or did they hold on longer than usual?
Later, Sonja walked into her dark apartment. Without turning on the light, she simultaneously put her keys on the counter while opening the fridge for a beer. Covering her hand with the bottom of her jacket, she deftly opened the bottle with one twist. She took a long swig, went into her living room, and sat down hard on the couch.
It had been an emotional few days. LaSalle narrowly escaped being shot due to a gun malfunction. That, and the subsequent arguments they had over his denial about the incident, forced Sonja to think about how she would feel if he had been killed. Her reaction scared her almost as much as his nonchalance.
She put the beer on the coffee table, sunk her head in her hands, and began to sob.
Sonja Percy had fallen in love with Christopher LaSalle.
Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.
After saying goodbye to the rest of the NCIS team that night, Chris LaSalle turned around to see his senior officer and surrogate father Dwayne Pride motion to him behind the bar with a steaming pot of coffee.
"Why don't you join me Christopher?" He said, pouring two mugs.
For about five minutes, the two men sat side-by-side on stools sipping in silence.
Finally Pride broke the quiet. "So, do you want to talk about it?" He asked.
LaSalle frowned. "About what?"
"Well," the older man paused, raising his eyebrows. "It seems to me, you've been wrestling with some mighty heavy issues lately..." he trailed off.
"Such as?" He knew, but it made his head hurt.
"Oh, life and death, good and evil, trust and distrust," Pride suggested.
Chris pursed his lips. It seemed all everyone wanted to do lately was talk about his feelings and, frankly, he was tired of it. But, he knew the man meant well, so he chose his words carefully.
"You know King, I'm good. Between you and Percy - I'm all talked out."
"Fair enough," Pride replied. "I will say, I'm pleased to see your relationship with her progressing..."
LaSalle felt his ears get hot. What the hell did Pride mean? What had he seen?
"You mean..." he started.
"Working together, having each other's backs. Sonja has come a long way. Hell, you both have," Pride said.
"I guess you could say we've reached an understanding," LaSalle conceded.
"She cares about you, son. We all do," Pride smiled as he drained his cup. "Just keep each other alive, OK?
"You got it, King," LaSalle got up to leave and offered his hand.
"Think you're getting away that easy?" Pride reached his arms out wide and the men gave each other a hybrid hug/pat on the back.
Chris went out to his truck. He turned back a minute to see Pride at the door waving, then go back inside the bar. LaSalle shook his head and smiled at his boss's paternal actions. He got in the vehicle and started it up. As he swung around the block, he saw the bar's lights go off and Pride emerge from the back and hop in his blue Cadillac.
Even though it was past 2 a.m., LaSalle felt unsettled. He had consumed less than his usual intake of alcohol, and the coffee intensified his alertness. It was a weeknight, and the streets were almost bare. He was in no hurry to go home as the NCIS agents were taking the morning off. Sure, there was paperwork, but that could wait until the afternoon; they were federal agents after all, being too efficient would only gum up the works.
As he drove on auto-pilot, Chris found his thoughts returning to Percy. People interpreted their back and forth as bickering, but it really was their way of playing. He found it fun and mentally stimulating to keep up with the verbal sparring and suspected she felt the same. He felt a kinship, but never knew the intensity of her feelings. He had been surprised seeing tears in her eyes when she urged him to discuss his violent encounter with Hansen.
He thought about those eyes now. He always considered Sonya as what his mom would call a "tough cookie." He smiled. Maybe a better term would be a "broad," a woman who could hold her own with any man.
Yet, on this night, he could only think of her in terms of softness - soft eyes, soft hair, soft round curves. In his revelry, LaSalle found himself in a familiar neighborhood, in front of a familiar house, not his.
It was her's.
LaSalle what are you doing here? He scolded himself. This wasn't some cute dolly from Columbus who drank too many Hurricanes. This was Percy; this was Sonja. But, if his brush with death had taught him anything, it was to not put things off and he had done that for too long. He had to see her to sort out his feelings once and for all.
And, he had to do it right now.
As LaSalle approached the house, he saw that Percy's apartment was dark. He almost turned away, until a fleeting movement caught his eye.
He sighed deeply. Time to piss or get off the pot, as his pepaw would say. He went to her door and knocked sharply. There was a loud crash in response, along with a barrage of obscenities. He chuckled first, but sobered up as he realized he would pay heavily for startling her in the middle of the night.
After a few minutes, the outside light clicked on and he heard several dead bolts being unlocked.
When she opened the door, he was almost afraid he had gone to the wrong place. Although he had only seen her less than a hour before, she looked different - faded. Her face was puffy, her eyes red.
"WTF, LaSalle! What do you want?"
No, it was definitely her.
"Sorry Sonja, this was a mistake." He turned to go.
She softened at his use of her first name. "No, Christopher, don't," she almost whispered, then regained her voice. "You just scared me. Come in."
He entered, detecting the scent of beer. The pile of wet paper towels on the floor confirmed what had been knocked over.
She sat on the couch. He sat down too, leaving two cushions between them.
"I'd offer you a beer, but that was my last one," she said.
"No thanks, I think we've both had enough tonight," he said.
"So, you came to lecture me about my alcohol consumption?" She gave him that "don't mess with me look."
Shit, this was not going well.
"No, I just..." he stopped. Why had he come? Five minutes ago in the car, he had been so sure, but now that he was actually here alone with her, awkwardness filled the air.
Maybe that was his answer.
"I just wanted to thank you again for helping me," he said. "I know I've been kind of an asshole..."
"And, that's different from usual because?" She raised her eyebrows.
LaSalle tilted his head. "Y'know, you have your moments too..."
Sonja showed a crooked smile. "Just keepin' it real bro."
"That why you've been crying?" He touched her cheek gently.
She closed her eyes. "Yep, too real."
He leaned over and kissed her softly. For a moment, pure bliss.
Sonja suddenly bolted straight up, "Why the hell d'ya do that?"
"Well, I, I, ah ...." He stammered.
She made a face, then flung herself on him and planted a big wet one on his lips. The force propelled him back, his head narrowly missing the couch armrest.
"Whoa, city mouse - slow down," he said.
They kissed again. It was long, it was deep - there were tongues involved.
They finally broke.
"Try to keep up, country mouse," she said.
He flipped her over, now on top. "Challenge accepted."
He began to kiss behind her ears. Sonja sighed. He caressed her gently, while making his way down her neck and shoulders. When he got to her blouse, she rolled her eyes and it went over her head in a second.
He was pleased to see she had a front-opening bra with one small clasp. He went for it and she stopped him.
"Unt-ah - you first," she smiled.
LaSalle grinned wider than Cheshire. "Never argue with a lady," he said, tearing off his shirt.
She sighed again as she ran her hands gently over the fine hair and kissed his bruises.
"Poor baby," she cooed.
He unclasped the bra and opened each side, like a present. As he imagined, she had round, firm breasts. "God bless America," he said as cupped them tentatively and began to suck softly.
Sonja moaned as she clutched his back. He began to kiss his way back to her mouth. They went for each other as if addicted and getting a long-awaited fix.
She gasped in his ear, "I - have a - very big - bed.."
He got up, pulling her with him. She stood up on the couch and they began to kiss again. The friction of their bare chests charging the passion. He lifted her up and she straddled his waist with her legs, and flung her arms tight around his neck, still kissing him wildly. He held her beneath her butt and carried her to the bedroom. They fell on her bed.
"Hold on, hold on," she gasped. "Gotta take care of business." She ran into the bathroom to grab her diaphragm and contraceptive gel from the medicine cabinet. In a fleeting moment of clarity, she checked the expiration date - it had been a long time since she used them.
As she shut the cabinet door, she caught her reflection in the mirror. That Sonja was flushed and had some marks on her neck.
What was she doing, what were they doing? She wanted to slap herself and say, "Snap out of it." But, it was beyond her capacity. "I need him," she told the mirror Sonja.
She went back prepared, but determined to slow things down. "Christopher, maybe we should..."
Then he reached up to her and she saw that he was naked and come prepared too. Well, at least she could skip the safe-sex lecture. He lapped at her breasts and the intoxication took over. Her remaining clothes evaporated and soon they were one in motion, sound, and spirit. They reached climax and melted breathless in a damp, spent heap.
After their breathing slowed and the room stopped spinning, LaSalle cupped her chin in his hands and began, "Well, that..."
Percy put two fingers over his mouth, "No, no comments. No - lightning struck, I saw God, the earth moved..."
He glanced at her. "Because..."
"Because, we'll only screw it up," she snuggled into him.
He gathered her in his arms and held her close. For once, he couldn't argue.
Despite the earth shattering events the night before, there was no apocalypse. The next morning arrived with a cheery disposition and warm attitude. LaSalle awoke to sun in his face and kisses on his chest.
"Up and at 'em country mouse," Percy said. "It's nearly 10 o'clock-the chickens need to be feed." Then she giggled.
Wha? Percy giggled? Nah, someone else must have come in her place. Curiosity made LaSalle open his eyes wide.
"How about mama?" He said taking her in his arms and beginning his kisses.
Percy shot up. "Whoa-hold it right there. Mama? That some inbred redneck thing?"
"No, it's an endearment. Like I'm papa and you're mama," he said, and began to suck at her neck in the way that made her toes curl.
"Ooohhhh, kkkaaayyy," she sighed.
So, they enjoyed each other once more.
Afterwards, Percy grabbed some clothes and went into the bathroom. A few minutes later, he heard the shower go on. He was tempted to join her, but the door was locked.
Ut-oh, bad sign.
LaSalle got dressed quickly. He figured he had enough time to get home, shower, and change, then get to work around noon. It would not be good to show up wearing the same clothes or for them to come in at the same time. He didn't want any suspicion around him and Percy. They would have to be extremely discreet to continue their relationship. His top priorities were keeping Pride and Percy happy, but, obviously, not in the same ways.
After about 10 minutes, Sonja emerged fully dressed. She stepped in front of her vanity and began to apply her makeup.
"I thought you left." she said.
Chris grabbed her from behind. "Trying to get rid of me?"
She went slack in his arms.
"This can't happen again," she said flatly.
"If we are in the same room together, I guarantee it will," he said.
She looked at him. "That's the point." He gave her a look and sat down on the bed.
"Christopher, what we had here last night, this morning, it was...." She paused.
"Indescribable..." he suggested.
"Not the dreaded 'but'," he said.
"We have to work together," she said. "And Pride would kill us!"
He frowned, she was right. Pride would not be pleased to say the least. While not specifically banned, fraternization in such a small office was a disaster waiting to happen.
"So this was just a one-time thing - no fuss, no muss, huh?"
"Sucks to be on the other side of that argument, don't it?" she asked rhetorically. She sat down next to him.
"Chris, I have strong feelings for you," she said, putting her hand on his. "And, I think you have them for me."
"I thought that was obvious," he said, caressing her arm.
"So, we had a friendship that caught fire. There was sexual tension and - we released it," she said, biting her lip.
"I think there's still some floating around," he said going in for the kiss.
"No, it's gone," she said, standing up and letting go of him.
"Is there some kind of parallel universe in that bathroom? Cause, I swear you go in one way and come out another," he said.
"I have to look myself in the mirror," she said turning away from him
"Well, I know I like what I see," he said, reaching out for her.
She sighed and turned around again. "Well, I don't. I see someone who is just going to ruin a good thing by getting involved with her partner." She bit her lip again. LaSalle knew she did that when she was lying or holding something back.
He rubbed a finger gently on her mouth. "You say that, but your tell is showing."
"No, I'm good." She moved away from him, crossed her arms, and looked at him defiantly.
From their countless disputes, LaSalle knew that once Percy made her mind up, he couldn't change it - at least not in the same conversation.
"OK, I'm good too," he said, crossing his arms.
"Good." she said.
"Good." He repeated.
"Fine," she said.
"Good and fine," he said. That was too much. He threw his arms up in the air. "Well, if that's it. I'm going home."
She had turned back to her mirror and began applying mascara.
"See you later," she said.
LaSalle gave out a loud breath as he left the room. He hesitated at the front door.
"So, I'm going now." He yelled and waited a few beats. Not hearing a response, he went out and slammed the door behind him.
Percy put her head down. Shit, get it together girl. As she heard the door bang, she looked up and, as she suspected, long black lines tracked down her face.
She grabbed a tissue and ran out. "Christopher, wait!"
He was already in his truck. As she began to go down the steps, he peeled away loudly from the curb.
Percy stood on her porch and thought how only she could fuck up such a great thing in such a short period of time.
Chris couldn't remember the last time someone had made him so furious and frustrated. His brother Cade's behavior elicited similar emotions, but at least that could be explained by mental illness. Sonja's actions totally stymied his sense of reason.
In his fury, he nearly hit the tree in front of his house. He stormed in and shut the door so hard the glass shook. As he swung into the bedroom, he slammed his hand against the door jam.
"Mother-fuckin', son of a bitch!" he yelled. This physical pain amplified his inner turmoil.
He flopped down on his bed, staring at the ceiling. Her emotional flip messed up his mind and stomach. What was wrong with her? For the first time since Savannah was alive, he had made love to a woman, not just had sex. He couldn't stop thinking about last night - how she smelled, how she tasted, how she felt in his arms and on his lips. The way she responded told him that she was right there with him. Had he really been so wrong in reading her?
To make it worse, deep down he knew he was just getting was he deserved. Despite what he friends thought, he was fully aware that he had been a player. This was the payback, karma's bitter pill.
He looked at the clock. It was nearly 11:15. He really had to haul ass to get to work by noon. He stripped quickly and went into the bathroom. He looked in the mirror and thought of what Sonja had said about it. He saw a chump who had been well played.
Sonja became a woman of action. A few minutes after LaSalle left, she got her shit together in record time. Before she knew it, she was behind the wheel on a mission. She pushed away any negative thoughts to concentrate on getting to Christopher's in one piece ASAP.
As usual, the traffic sucked. She had lived in New Orleans her whole life, and was used to the almost constant festival atmosphere with parades and tourists everywhere. Still, at this moment, she would gladly trade a year's worth of parades for an expressway. To add to her agony, the French Quarter was the worst. Silently cursing Chris for living there, she simultaneously recognized that given his personality, he couldn't live anywhere else - and she wouldn't want him any other way.
Through some miracle there was a parking space near LaSalle's house. She took it as a good sign. But, almost immediately, her nerve began to waver. Would he even let her in? Could she handle his rejection? She frowned knowing she deserved anything but forgiveness.
Wanting to avoid a huge scene on the busy street, she went around to the back and banged on the door.
"Chris, Chris, it's Sonja. We need to talk." Duh, that was obvious. Fuck what the neighbors thought, she had to give it her all.
"Chris, I'm so sorry. I was a total asshole. Please, let me in." Still getting no reaction, she paused and thought for a moment. With no hesitation, she picked up the third flower pot on the right. Sure enough, there was the key - good old predictable LaSalle. She knew the hiding place after accompanying him home more than a few times when he was too drunk to see.
She grabbed the key and opened the door slowly. She soon heard the shower and decided that was why he didn't respond.
After being in such a hurry to get there, she suddenly stopped with her hand on the bathroom knob. Taking a deep breath, she went in.
"Who's there?" he said turning the water off.
"It's me Chris," she said, not giving him time to reply. She knew if she didn't say what she wanted in one piece, she never would. "I don't blame you if you hate me, if you never want to see me again. But, you - you scare me. The way I feel about you scares me. Shit - I love you. I love you so much I don't know if I can handle it."
The shower started up again. Crushed by the silence, Sonja began to turn away. Suddenly, she was dragged into the deluge by two wet arms that squeezed her so tightly, she almost couldn't breath.
He moved away and began to shake her. "Is this real? Because if you're just jerking me around, I swear, I..." he let her go and trailed off
Oh my God, was he crying? Shower water streaming down her own face, Sonja grabbed his shoulders.
"The minute I let you go, I knew I was wrong," she kissed him. Sweet relief washed over her as he responded.
When they broke, he studied her. "How can I be sure the evil Percy won't appear again?"
"I, ah, covered up the hell hole in the bathroom. She won't bother us again," she said.
He put his hand under his chin and crunched up his face. "You're all wet," he said. "The real Sonja hates getting wet."
She smiled. "It's all because of you, you big jerk."
"You said you loved me," finally giving his trademark smirk. She rolled her eyes.
He cupped her face. "Hey, I love you too Sonja. And, I'm terrified!"
They kissed again, clinging on for dear life and getting soaked for what seemed like an eternity.
Finally she broke the silence. "We are going to be so late," she said.
He laughed. "Not me, I have extra clothes."
She shook her head. "Maybe, but I gotta do something while mine dry."
Pride had spent the morning preparing some luncheon delights for his staff. At 11:45, he set the table and laid out shrimp salad, croissants, homemade potato chips, and chilled gazpacho - the last being a special treat for Percy, a vegan. However, that was a half-hour ago. Now, the senior agent, Meredith Brody, and Patton Plame sat watching the food slowly wilt.
Brody looked at her watch for the tenth time in ten minutes.
"It's 12:15 Pride, if we don't start soon, the food might spoil," she said.
"Yeah," Triple P agreed. "The cold food will get hot and the hot food with get cold."
"OK," Pride said, "I'll try calling again."
Just as he began to dial, his phone rang. It was LaSalle.
"Well, speak of the devil," Pride smiled. "And, he's on FaceTime." He propped the phone up against the salt and pepper shakers so they all could see.
LaSalle appeared on the tiny screen wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Pride spoke first. "Where are you boy? Lunch is awaiting!"
Chris gave them a panoramic view of his drenched bathroom, carpeted in wet towels. "Sorry y'all. I had a small leak in the shower, then the big pipe busted. I'm waiting for the plumber."
"Looks like quite a mess you have there," Pride sympathized. "You want me to come over and help?"
"Oh, no, King," LaSalle replied, a bit anxiously. "The landlord wants his guy to do it - he's got him on retainer or something."
"No problem," Pride said. "Take your time, get here when you can."
"Thanks King, it's a disaster area."
Pride added, "Hey, have you heard from Percy?"
"She's right here King," he said.
As if on cue, an equally soaked Sonja entered with a stack of towels.
"Flood boy called me at home before I left and, ah, asked me to stop by with some dry towels," she said. "Then, I get here and suddenly it's all Titanic."
Pride chuckled. "Well, take care of the situation. And for God's sake, dry off!"
"You've got it Pride!" Sonja said cheerfully.
"Thanks King!" LaSalle smiled.
The screen went blank.
Brody scrunched up her face. "Did that seem odd to you?"
"You mean LaSalle having indoor plumbing?" Plame offered.
"No," she scowled, "Sonja being all wet like that. Wouldn't the water only be flowing if he was taking a shower, and wouldn't he have turned it off?"
"If the bathroom floor was flooded, she could have slipped and fallen into it." Pride said.
"Still, didn't they seem just a little too happy for dealing with a flood?" Brody continued.
"Especially Percy," Plame said. "She hates to get wet."
"Yeah," Brody agreed, "And, she'd be really pissed at LaSalle about it."
"I was just talking to him last night about how they were getting along better," Pride said. "Maybe, she's just being a good friend."
"Or," Brody hesitated. "They're...you know."
"Putting email in the spam folder?" Plame suggested.
Pride wrinkled his brow. "What?"
Brody rolled her eyes. "Having an affair."
Pride looked agast. "No!" He paused for a moment. "You think?"
After a few beats, they all began to laugh hysterically. Then they stopped, looked at each other, and began laughing again.
"Oh, please stop," Plame said, tears running down his face. "That girl would tell him what to do and how to do it."
"She could whoop his ass," Pride stated definitively.
"He might enjoy that," Brody smirked.
"Aw, now I got a picture in my head," Plame whined. "A bad, bad picture."
They all sighed deeply and stopped laughing. A few silent moments went by.
"Nah," Pride said.
"If you say so," Brody said, helping herself to lunch.
"No way," Plame said as if saying it would banish the thought. Brody began to open her mouth. He held up his hand. "And let us never speak of it again."
Brody began to giggle and shook her head. "Yeah, you're right. What was I thinking?"
Pride wrinkled his brow, then shook his own head, before looking up again. "Hey could please you pass the salad?"
As soon as they hung up, Chris put his phone away.
"Mission accomplished," he grinned.
Sonja dropped the towels in the shower. She threw her arms around LaSalle's neck and gave him a huge kiss.
"That was fun!" she chirped. "Do you really think we fooled them?"
"More or less," he said. "But, I am sure that you enjoyed that. I think you like being bad."
"Oh you know I do," she said.
They kissed again.
"Now, if you don't mind," she purred, "I believe you owe me some make-up sex."
"My favorite kind," he said, smiling broadly as he scooped her up and took her into the bedroom.
LaSalle paid his debt to Percy. Then they partook in "I can't feel my legs" sex; "here comes Mr. Plumber," and a quickie on the washer.
By late afternoon, LaSalle concluded that, like a father with many children, he couldn't decide which one he liked best.
Later that night, they managed to make it out of the house-squeaky clean and shiny. But, after all their strenuous activity, they ditched the idea of going out and ended up ordering take out and lounging in the hammock on the patio.
Percy sighed deeply. "After we eat, I really should be go home."
LaSalle's heart quickened. This day had taken more twists and turns than a hurricane; he didn't know if he could survive another. Despite Sonja's earlier misgivings, he thought she had committed to their relationship. Was she waffling again?
"Why?" It took all his willpower not to show emotion.
"I need to get fresh clothes," she said.
Ok, that seemed innocent enough. Still, he'd spent the afternoon learning that nothing was innocent where Sonja Percy was concerned.
"Well, they have been through the laundry - twice," he said kissing her forehead.
"It's not that..." she said.
"I thought it would be obvious-" she paused and he had to suppress the urge to scream "What! WHAT? WHAAATTT!
She finished, "...y'know, if I came to work wearing the same clothes I had on the day before."
"They saw you for two minutes on an i-phone," Chris frowned. "I don't think they'd notice."
"They're criminal investigators, LaSalle" she said. "They notice shit like that." She paused. "You'd notice."
He nodded reluctantly. He had to give her that, he would notice and would say something about it too.
"I would only notice, because I always pay attention to what you're wearing," he said solemnly. "And..." He added with a smirk, "I would be imagining what you would look like without wearing anything."
She gave him a look. "And see where that got us."
"C'mon," he whispered in her ear. "Is this such a bad place?"
"All I'm suggesting is a few ground rules," she said.
He nibbled on her ear and began kissing her with soft, small nips taking an anguishing leisurely pace.
"We just need to keep it low key," she murmured, eyes closed.
He stopped and looked at her, "Publicly only, 'cause as far as you and I are concerned, I'm high key."
"The highest," she nodded her head, pulled him closer, and proceeded to touch his tonsils with her tongue.
And so, they crowned their day with slow, yet intensely deliberate sex, which is the only safe way to do it in a hammock; although you still end up with rope indentations on your butt and face.
Chris grabbed a paper from the printer and had handed it to Sonja cross the kitchen table. She read it intently while munching on her vegan Esmeralda salad from Carmo.
"So wha'ja think?" he asked.
C and S Ship Rules
1 No PDA at the office or on the field; this includes kissing, hand and/or butt holding, or other non-regulation touching. If you wouldn't do it with Pride, don't do it.
"Pride. Really?" Sonja said.
"He's our boss, like a dad to me and well, like a stern, older uncle to you," he said. "Figured that was a good emotional firewall."
2. Always call each other by last names. Absolutely no pet names.
"Not even country mouse or city mouse? We did that before," Sonja pointed out. "And
Brody's the one who first called you my 'work husband.'"
2. (SP Amended) No pet names, except those established before the big bang.
"Really? The big bang?" he said.
"It's both metaphorically and factually accurate," she said.
"I think you just want to show me you could use the word 'metaphorically' in a sentence," he said.
3. No coming to work together.
"Now wait," she said. "Coming in at the same time isn't bad as long as we don't do it a lot. There would be times when we would just coincidentally come in at the same time, even if we were coming from different places, and then not trying to come in at the same time would make it more obvious that we were trying to hide something."
"Huh?" he said.
"Oh, and, by the way, are we really gonna spend every night together from now on?"
"I'm guessing no," he said.
She put down her fork. "Here let me fix it."
3. (SP Amended) If spending the night together, no coming to work together in the same car, especially wearing the same clothes as the night before.
"See," she said. "Isn't that clearer?"
4. If anyone asks what's that mark on your neck say, "It's a rash."
"Really? What are we, 16? How many times do you think that'll be a problem?" She stared at him intently.
He mentally scrambled for an answer and suddenly smiled. He went around the table, came from behind her, and began to nibble and suck on her neck in the way that made her insides vibrate. "How many times do you think you can go without this?"
"Rash it is," she said.
5. Mandatory oral sex three times a week.
"Ha, ha, very funny," she said. 'Thought you'd just slip that one in?"
"Metaphorically and literally."
She threw a plastic spoon at him.
6. Keep ogling down to 20 seconds.
"Hey, self-absorbed boy, I do not 'ogle,'" she said.
"Ah see you looking my way, undressing me with your furtive glances," he said.
"Furtive glances?" she laughed. "Ok, I'll try to keep it under control."
"Thanks, Percy, because it hurts me when you objectify me like that," he said in mock anger.
She threw a plastic knife at him.
7. No dancing together at company get togethers.
"What, now we can't get our groove on at Pride's place?" She made a quizzical face. "You know that would be a red flag."
"Yeah, but if it turns to a slow song, how long can we trust ourselves to not give into temptation?" He raised his eyebrows.
7. (SP amended) If dancing together at company get togethers, make it look like a chore.
She looked over his shoulder as he read. "Better?"
He got out his phone, tapped on it, and "Unchained Melody" began playing. He offered her his hand. It only took a minute before her knees went weak.
7. (Stet) No dancing together at company get togethers.
8. Make it look like we're dating other people.
She considered throwing a plastic fork at him. "Seriously dude? Do I have to create a fake boyfriend, named Otto?"
"It's a name."
"Yeah, for Hitler's dog."
"I once went undercover in a gang called Hitler's Angel's. There was no Otto, but there was a Wolfgang."
He shook his head. "We'll just make it look like we're going out separately and we're not involved with each other's plans."
"So wait, if I'm still going out, then why can't I have a hickey?" She squinted her eyes, "You Bama boys leave special marks or something?"
He crossed his arms, "For someone so concerned with appearances, you don't seem to be taking this seriously."
"Why do I have to sign this in blood or pinky swear?" She was far too amused.
Now, he was pissed, "It was your idea to set down ground rules."
"Yeah, but now that I see them written out, it seems kinda stupid," she looked at him. "Christopher, we're adults. We know what's appropriate. Right?" She took his hands swaying them back and forth.
"I was just trying to please you," he said sheepishly.
"I know, I know," she soothed him like a small child. "So, to reward you, I'm going to do something veeerrry special."
"Oh? And what's that?"
"Admit I was wrong."
A little smile played on his lips, "I'd rather if you let me give you a rash."
Sonja took a deep cleansing breath and entered the office. No one was at their desks, but she could hear laughing in the kitchen. As she placed her things on her desk and grabbed a mug, she heard Chris' voice sail over the rest.
"And then, Percy put her tongue in mah mouth, and well, let me tell you, that girl has more talent than a Bourbon Street hooker."
"You should know LaSalle," she heard Brody reply.
Sonja stormed into the kitchen, and stopped dead in her tracks to see the whole team - LaSalle, Brody, Pride, and Plame - standing around the island drinking coffee totally naked (well, Triple P wasn't standing, but he was still sans clothes).
Chris put down his coffee. He walked over to her with a huge grin and an even bigger erection. "Here's the girl of the hour. We wondered if you'd ever get here!" He began to kiss her and pull at her clothes. She struggled to get away.
"Yes, we've all been waiting Sonja. Christopher's given you quite the buildup," Pride smiled as he approached her with open arms and an equally stiff member.
Sonja backed up hoping to feel the wall, but instead found herself in the soft arms of Meredith Brody.
"I'm so glad you've joined us, Sonja," Merri whispered in Percy's ear, embracing her from behind. "I was getting real tired and very sore. Now, I can concentrate on Pride as you take care of LaSalle."
"Hey, what am I? Sloppy seconds?" protested Plame.
"No way," Brody said. She murmured in Sonja's other ear, "You haven't lived until you've had wheelchair sex - talk about the earth moving!"
Percy wriggled out of Merri's arms and ran over to the open courtyard. "What's going on? Why are you like this?"
"You crossed the line Sonja," Pride said, suddenly serious. "Everything is different."
"But, I don't want it to change, I want it to be the same," Sonja cried as her co-workers surrounded her. She could feel their skin press against her, suffocating with their touch and smell. She felt herself getting lost in a tangle of limbs.
Sonja woke up breathing rapidly. Her heart was beating like a rabbit. She looked at the clock. It flashed 7:25 AM. Alone in her own bed, she remembered leaving LaSalle at midnight, making him swear their relationship wouldn't change their work life. They both seemed resolute, but her subconscious was telling her otherwise.
Were they just fooling themselves? Sonja wasn't sure, but she did know that she wasn't yet willing to give up either her job or LaSalle. To that end, she had pull it together and go to work like it was a normal day.
In other words, fake it.
Across the city, Chris LaSalle whistled through his morning routine. Everything in his home was brighter since she was here. His bed, his bathroom, even his Mr. Coffee seemed to shine since she touched them.
All was right with his world. He was young, healthy, and had a great woman he worked with and loved. He knew he had it bad, but he didn't care. Sure, they had to cool it at work, but that only made their time together sweeter.
Who could ask for anything more?
As Sonja got out of her car, she felt a sharp pinprick of pain near her ear. She instinctively swatted to feel a large fuzzy bee.
'Fan-fucking-tastic.' She thought. Not a good sign.
She entered the office and got a chill. It was empty just like in her dream. Again, she heard talking coming from the kitchen. It took all her will to get her mug and walk in. Brody was drinking coffee at the table while Pride worked at the island stove. To her relief, they were fully dressed.
Pride looked up and gave her a big smile, "Percy! Glad to see you made it out of LaSalle's alive!"
Sonja's heart jumped until she remembered the flooding ruse she and Chris had made up.
"Oh yeah," she chuckled lamely. "It was touch and go there for a while." Touch and go! Way to be obvious. But, of course, no one else noticed.
"Well, sit down girl, 'cause I whipped up some scrambled tofu and soy cheese for your dining pleasure!" Pride placed down a steaming plate with a fork. Sonja grabbed some coffee and sat down next to Merri.
She silently talked to herself as she ate. 'Don't be paranoid, don't be paranoid.' Still, she felt she was being watched. She looked up to see Brody's half-moon eyes scrunched up and staring.
"Percy what's that on your neck?" She reached out her hand.
"Oh nothing," Sonja said a bit too annoyed as she moved away. God-damn LaSalle and his talented mouth.
"No, let me see, it looks swollen," Merri said. "I think you got stung!"
Inwardly, Sonja breathed a sigh of relief. Of course, the bee! .
"Here, come look at this Pride," Brody said, "I think the stinger's still in there. Do you have any tweezers?"
"I do, I do," he said rummaging in a nearby drawer, until he produced the tiny tongs. "Here they are." He deftly lit the gas stove and sterilized the tips.
"Now, don't squirm Percy. This will just take a second," Pride said. Merri was holding Sonja's shoulders steady as King knelt down to do his surgery.
That was the precise moment Chris LaSalle entered the kitchen.
"What the hell's going on!" He yelped loudly, causing Pride to dig the still hot tweezers into Percy's flesh, making her neck jerk in an unnatural position.
"Shit!" Percy and Pride yelled in unison.
Brody turned to him. "LaSalle, be quiet! Percy's got a bee bite and Pride is getting the stinger out."
"Gotcha!" King proclaimed, holding up the tweezers with, well, pride.
"I think I wrenched my neck," Sonja winched twisting her head around. "Thanks alot LaSalle!"
"Sorry, I just..." he had no words. "Are you OK?"
"Oh she's fine," Pride said getting a band-aid from the tweezer drawer. "You aren't allergic, are you?" he asked.
"Not that I know of," Sonja said.
"Well, you might want to take Benedryl, just in case," Brody said. "Although it could make her drowsy."
"We wouldn't want that," Pride said. "Did you get enough sleep last night?"
"Oh ah'm sure she did," LaSalle said. "Sonja's a regular early to bed, early to rise sort."
Percy threw a few visual daggers at him.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," she babbled. "Thanks guys, for helping me. I'm going to my desk, now. Thanks for breakfast Pride. It was awesome as always."
"No problem," Pride smiled and turned to LaSalle who looked suddenly pale.
"You alright boy? Never saw you flinch at the sight of a little blood," he said.
"Yeah, I'm good King," he managed. "Got any of that breakfast left?"
"Here's some eggs," Brody said, pushed a platter over. "You sure you're OK?"
"Yeah, just with my flood yesterday and everything, I'm, ah, a bit tired," he said.
Percy got back to her desk and turned on her laptop. Her hands were trembling.
"Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean," she mantra-ed.
An hour later, their phones went crazy.
"Dead Marine found in his home," Pride said after hanging up. "Foul play suspected. Let's go. Brody you're with me. LaSalle, Percy, we're going to 675 Broadmoor."
"Heard," LaSalle said motioning to Percy.
They got in the car, with LaSalle in the driver's seat.
"Well, that went well," he said.
"Oh yeah, until you yelled, and Pride nearly sliced my jugular," she said.
"Hey, all I saw was everyone crouched around your head," he said. "I was worried, you know?" He touched her hand; she jerked it away.
"That is precisely the kind of thing we have to be careful about," she said.
"What, I can't touch you in my truck?" he asked.
"Someone could see," she said softly.
As if to prove that point, Brody tapped on LaSalle's window making them both jump. He rolled it down.
"Hey, Pride said the address is 765, they mixed it up before," she looked at the startled faces. "Anything wrong?"
"No, Brody, 765, got it," LaSalle said.
"OK, then. See you there," Brody turned and walked back to the other car.
LaSalle rolled the window back up. He turned to see Sonja's pissed off face.
Her voice was steady and measured. "You have got to Settle. The. Fuck. Down."
With that she faced forward. "Now drive."
"Yes, ma'am," he said, properly chastised.
Brody got in the car where Pride was waiting.
"Ready?" he said.
"Yep," she said looking straight ahead.
A few minutes went by, Brody kept her gaze on the road.
"You and Plame both owe me twenty bucks," she said matter-of-factly.
"What?" he frowned. "How can you be sure?"
"They jumped about ten feet when I knocked on the Awindow," she said.
"They could have been deep in conversation," he countered.
"They sure were," Merri chirped. "LaSalle also had his hand on hers. And she snapped it away."
"So, wouldn't that mean she didn't want him touching her?" Pride said.
"Or, she didn't want anyone seeing him touching her," she said. "Big difference."
"And you can tell how?" he raised his eyebrows.
"Years of experience," she smiled.
"Mmm, let's call it being an astute observer of human behavior," she said smugly.
"I need more than just circumstantial evidence," he frowned. "I still saying you're seeing too much into this."
She turned to him. "Willing to put your money where your mouth is?"
"I thought I already did," he said.
"How about raising the ante to fifty?" she offered.
Pride put the SUV in park; they had reached their destination.
He had a look of resignation. "I suppose if I don't, you won't let it go?" he frowned.
"No way. This is too much fun," she said.
"OK, but keep it in here, not at the crime scene. We're professionals right?" he looked her straight in the eyes.
"When have I been anything but?" her eyes wide with innocence. She opened the door and got out.
Pride shook his head as he climbed down. He had to admit, Meredith Brody was the consummate professional - when she wasn't betting on the sex lives of her co-workers.
As soon as the team entered the crime scene any frivolity stopped. The Marine wasn't just killed. His body looked like something from Saw: his eyes were gouged out; his chest muscles and external genitalia sliced off neatly, like prosciutto from the bone.
"They suspect foul play?" LaSalle said. "No shit."
"Maybe he really pissed off his girlfriend," Sonja said, as she put on her gloves and knelt near the victim.
"Or, it's the work of Jill the Ripper," Sebastian's voice came from the other side of the room. He had his camera and a specimen bag.
Loretta's came from behind him. She put a motherly hand on his shoulder. "Now dear, what did we just talk about?"
Sebastian hung his head, "No conspiracy theories at the crime scene."
Loretta smiled sweetly, "That's right dear." She joined the others near the body and began taking out her instruments.
The team went to work and "learned things."
After about 15 minutes they regrouped. The victim was Corporal Henry Vance. He was an information specialist for the Marines and had lived in New Orleans for five years. This was the home he shared with his longtime girlfriend Vienna.
"Like the city?" Pride asked when LaSalle told him.
"Exactly." the younger man replied.
"Oh, she mentioned that a few times," Percy added. "As she inhaled about a dozen Newports."
LaSalle threw her a look. Percy hatred for smoking bordered on the pathological. "C'mon, it's a very stressful situation."
"Yeah, and she seemed really broken up about her boyfriend, in a not-giving-a-shit way," Percy said.
Brody saw LaSalle twitch when Percy said boyfriend for the second time. Oh, they were so knocking boots.
"She claims that she came home and found him like this," LaSalle said.
Brody motioned to a small knot of people at the door. "That might not be all she found. Some neighbors said that Hank often entertained when she was out, which apparently was her favorite place to be."
"Still there's no sign of a struggle," Sebastian said. "And no blood splatter. It's almost too clean. If you could be too clean, then I'd guess you'd be sterile..." he trailed off.
Pride just shook his head. "LaSalle, you and Percy go to the base, see if you can find out more about our vic."
"Sure King." LaSalle said. He motioned to Percy and she rolled her eyes. "Yes, master."
Pride turned to Brody, "Canvas the area and see if you can find out anything else."
"Ok, Pride," she said and left.
Pride squatted next to Loretta. "Can you make any determinations?"
"Sebastian's right about it being too clean. He was definitely killed somewhere else and placed here. Also, the external damage was post-mortem," Loretta said as she got up. "I won't be able to determine COD until I get him on the table."
"Anything else?' he said.
Loretta stood up and took off her gloves, "Christopher and Sonja are hooking up."
Pride winced, "Not you too!" He paused. "Hooking up?"
Loretta smiled. "I hear that's what the kids are calling it these days."
Sebastian had been preoccupied taking pictures of the scene. He looked up suddenly, "Calling what?"
"Fucking, dear," Loretta said and walked away.
"OK." was all the young man could manage. He turned to Pride.
"Whaaat is she talking about?" He said to Pride.
Pride put his arm around Sebastian. "Apparently it's something only women can see."
Sebastian shook his head slowly, "I'll add it to the list."
LaSalle and Percy drove awhile in silence, still absorbing all they had seen. About halfway into the ride, Chris got the distinct feeling that Sonja was staring at him. As they slowed down for a light, he turned to see that she was indeed gazing at him with a semi-wistful/psychotic smile. She suddenly grabbed his shoulders and kissed him hard.
While he enjoyed it immensely, he couldn't resist teasing. "So I can't touch your hand, but you can kiss me?"
She put her head on his shoulder and sighed. "No one's around. And, you're right, I went kinda cray cray this morning."
"What changed your mind?"
"After seeing that guy all rippered, talking to that girl. I realized how lucky I am to have you," she said.
"Yeah, I still have my nuts."
She frowned briefly and sat up. "I talking about the way we work together. It was tres sexy, seeing you in action," her frown turned to a sly smile, she began to slowly stroke his arm with the nail of her index finger.
"You've seen me in action plenty of times before...in many ways," he smirked. The light changed and he looked forward.
"But it's different now that you're my, my ..." Sonja searched for a word.
"Lovah?" he suggested and she rolled her eyes. "Boyfriend?" he laughed
She tilted her head, "I was leaning toward sex-slave." Now, he rolled his eyes. "But, if you insist, then BF."
He grinned as he kept his eyes on the road, "Then that makes you my ..." he stopped talking; the grin disappeared.
"Can't say it, can you?"
"I can, but...hey, give me that picture of our vic with eyes attached." He swerved to the curb.
She handed him the man's military photo. He looked at it and looked again up at something else.
"So Ken, what is so distracting?"
He pointed to the left. "Well Barbie, I think I just saw our dead man go into that building."
Back at the morgue, Loretta was making some discoveries of her own. Before she was ready to call him. Sebastian burst into the lab, holding a forceps with a piece of tissue in one hand and a print out in the other.
He chattered away. "Aha! Vindication! So, I'm paranoid, I read too much, I go down the rabbit hole. Well, Loretta Wade, M.D., I just found out that..."
"Yes, dear, I know. Try to curb your enthusiasm while I call the team," she said.
She clicked the NCIS office number into Skype. Pride and Brody appeared on the screen. The senior agent had a pained look on his face.
"Please tell me you have some answers Loretta, because apparently this isn't the only body. NOPD also found three others with similar mutilations," Pride said.
Loretta smiled. "We have good news. I think you can tell the city to calm down..."
"Oh please, let me tell them...please, please, please," Sebastian begged as he protruded his lower lip and tilted his head down to show sad puppy eyes. "It's all I have."
Loretta waved her hand. "Go on." She stepped back.
Sebastian displayed an uncharacteristically smug face. "First answer me this. Were the other victims a cheerleading coach, a tailor, and a florist?"
Pride and Brody looked stunned. "Yes. But how...."
Sebastian put up his hand. "And further, did the coach have her breasts removed, the tailor's fingers and toes were switched, and the florist had his mouth and anus sewn up."
Pride shifted his feet, his arms akimbo, "C'mon Sebastian, what do you know?"
Sebastian paused. "First, I want everyone to apologize for making fun of my 'crazy' theories." He used air quotes for the word crazy. "And, I want all of you to accompany me to the next Conspira-Con."
Loretta leaned forward, "Don't negotiate dear, just tell them."
"The bodies were faked."
Pride's eyes went wide "What! Loretta, wouldn't you have picked up on that?"
Loretta looked at Sebastian, who gestured for her to take the lead.
"I did think that something was fishy at the crime scene, but I didn't want to say until I got a chance to study it further. It's a very sophisticated model," she said.
Sebastian couldn't help himself. "If I may doctor," he interrupted. Loretta squelched a smile. He held up the specimen he had brought into the lab. "It's artificial skin grown from real human epidermis. The same stuff they use for skin grafts. Have never seen so much of it before, or any of it actually..." he trailed off again as was his fashion.
Loretta continued, "Only the area around the parts we thought were removed were covered with the good stuff. The rest of the body is just a standard dummy."
Brody pursed her lips. "That doesn't explain how Sebastian knows all about the other murders," she said.
"I'd like to know that too," Loretta said, crossing her arms.
Sebastian stepped up again. "Well, as someone mentioned at the scene - oh, I think it was me - this looked like the work of a serial killer," he said.
Pride gave Brody a side glance. "So?"
"So, I looked up serial killers from New Orleans in Wikipedia, and that lead me to the upcoming premiere of a horror movie, 'Hatchet Harriet.' Loosely based - and I mean hanging by a thread - on the Axeman attacks in the early 20th century."
"Axeman murders?" Brody said.
"Serial killer who killed about eight people in the city and Gretna," Sebastian said. "Used axes he found in the victims' homes. Sent a Jack-the-Ripper style letter to the press saying when he would strike and would spare anyone who was playing jazz music."
Pride's face finally broke into a smile, "Jazz saves souls."
Sebastian continued, "Except in this new version, set in the tumultuous '60s, the killer is a woman who takes revenge on people who mocked her for being fat or a bad baton twirler or something like that, anyway: her victims are her step-brother, a Marine; a cheerleader coach; and a tailor. Oh, and a florist, but, I'm not quite sure why the florist mocked her."
Brody shook her head. "So this was all a publicity stunt?"
"Yep!" came from the front door, LaSalle and Percy came in dragging a very fidgety Henry Vance.
"Huh!" Pride said. "Looks pretty frisky for a dismembered man."
"I didn't do anything wrong," the man yelped. "It's the producers, it was all their idea."
"Shut up!" LaSalle and Percy both yelled at the same time.
Sonja rolled his eyes, "He won't stop talking! Even after we Mirandized him."
"Then maybe we'll wrap this up by lunch," Pride said. "Take him to interrogation room."
"With pleasure King," LaSalle said as he and Percy wrestled the man though the office. Pride turned back to the plasma.
"I believe my work is done here," Sebastian said. "Now about that apology..." Loretta and Pride both clicked the done button and the young man blinked out of sight.
Brody laughed, "Ahh poor Sebastian, his moment of glory."
Pride shook his head, "And he won't let us forget it for a long time. So, do you want to do the honors?" He nodded toward the courtyard.
"I think we both want a piece of this guy," she said with a straight face.
Pride cringed. "That was painful."
"That's what he said," she chirped. Pride just turned and walked away.
Meredith followed. "I still think I'm right about the Mouse Twins," she called after him.
News of the Hatchet Hannah hoax rippled through the town garnering reactions that ranged from disgust to awe. Eventually, the public collectively laughed. In a city that had been to hell and back, a few mutilated mannequins seemed minor in the grand scheme of things. Plus, New Orleans loved a good prank. However, the various police organizations, including the NCIS team, didn't find it amusing. They protested the waste of manpower and resources.
Ever pandering to the producers so they would continue to bring their film-making dollars to the city, Mayor Douglas Hamilton appealed to the police chief and his old frenemy Dwayne Pride. In the end, the producers schmoozed them with swag including tickets to the premiere.
The event was held at the Pegasus, a refurbished movie palace. Pride, Brody, and Loretta graciously declined, but Sebastian conjoled Chris and Sonja jnto going with him. The tickets included a meet and greet with the actors, one of whom was Eve Grant, a comely actress who first achieved success on TV as the sexy, but brilliant forensic scientist on "Gotcha!" She also turned out to be Sebastian's secret crush (besides the agent from Michigan).
Chris and Sonja saw this as the perfect way to have a date out in public without anyone catching on. After all, they were just three friends going to the movies. Once they got in, Chris used his persuasive charm to procure the seat next to the lovely Miss Grant, which he graciously gave to the star-struck lab rat. Once Sebastian was taken care of, LaSalle and the lovely Miss Percy scampered to the balcony.
In the great tradition of the theatre, a velvet rope was drawn across the stairs with a "Closed" sign.
"Seriously?" Percy said, her smile disappeared.
"Watch this," LaSalle said. He looked quickly left to right, then clicked the rope open and motioned to Percy.
"Didn't know I had super powers did yah?" he grinned. He replaced the rope, and they tore up the stairs as if the devil himself was after them.
With Sonja on Chris's lap, they sprawled across two seats munching the popcorn that Sebastian insisted on getting. They listened patiently to the speeches before about the history, the hoax, yada, yada, yada. But, once the lights went down, Percy threw her arms around LaSalle and ...
Sorry, what happens in the balcony stays in the balcony.
Once in awhile, they did give watching the movie the old college try (Roll Tide), but just gave up by the second murder. As the lights went up, they reassembled themselves. Sonja worried that Sebastian would notice they were gone.
LaSalle smiled, "Darlin' don't worry. He won't remember his own name."
Sure enough, Sebastian was so enthralled, he barely acknowledged them when they met up at the after party. It turned out the actress had been a biology major in college with a thing for nerds-tall, skinny ones with glasses.
When queried later by the team members, the three together could not produce a coherent summary of the film's plot.
"What'cha readin'?" Chris peered over Sonja's shoulder as she focused on a crumbled piece of paper. She was sitting crossed-legged on his bed, leaning against the headboard, and wearing his favorite UA t-shirt. He loved how she stretched it out in all the right places.
They had just celebrated their six-week anniversary, in much the same way they celebrated their first, second, third and subsequent week anniversaries - making love followed by intimate conversation. Neither would admit it, but each cherished the times when they put aside the clever quips and innuendo. They spoke of inner fears and dreams, moments when they discovered truths about the world, stories they never shared with anyone else. It was as if combining their bodies created a open space of unconditional acceptance.
Then they ordered Thai and ate it straight out of the cartons with a couple of beers.
When Sonja didn't answer him right away, Chris grabbed the paper from her hands.
"Hey!" She yelled standing up on the bed.
Chris glanced at the sheet; it was their original rules of do's and don'ts. "Hard to believe we wrote this six weeks ago."
Sonja laughed as she fell back on the bed, "Not so hard to believe we already broke all of them.."
"Did not!" he said.
"Really?' She got out a pen. "Let's go down the list, shall we?"
1. No PDA at the office or on the field.
"We broke this the first day," she said.
"I just took your hand. You're the one who gave me a kiss when we were driving."
"You were stopped at the light," she defended herself. "Besides that technically was not on the field, no one could see."
"So, every time we're in the observation room together, you grab my ass!"
"You don't seem to mind it," he scowled. "Besides, remember we can see them, they can't see us"
"Still, technically it is PDA in the office," she said, crossing it off.
2. No cute pet names.
"We are good on this," he said confidently. "I don't think you called me 'Country Mouse' more than once."
"You called me Barbie once!" she said.
"When we were working on that embezzlement case, and I said it was the bookkeeper. And you said, 'I don't think so Barbie.'"
"I wasn't using it as a pet name. It as a put down because I thought your theory was stupid."
"Like that's so much better," she took a few bites of food. "It's still a pet name, and I did see Brody raise her eyebrows," she gestured with her chopsticks.
"Nobody else said anything," he countered.
"Yeah, that's cause Plame came in shouting 'I got it, I got it!'" She waved her hands in the air, some pad thai went flying.
"And what did he find?" he asked, digging deep in his own carton.
Sonja sighed, "It was the lawyer."
LaSalle smiled, "Yep, Barbie it's always the lawyer."
3. If spending the night together, no coming to work together in the same car, especially wearing the same clothes as the night before.
"This is on you, Captain Obvious," she glared.
"Oh c'mon!," LaSalle whined. "I only did that one time, and only because we got called to the scene at 6 am."
"You made up that lame story about being with another girl and the picking me up because I had a flat tire," she countered.
"All perfectly plausible," he said, "Besides, that was in line with number 8."
"Oh, we'll get to that," she said.
4. If anyone asks what's that mark on your neck say, "It's a rash."
"Bug bite." she said. "Next!"
6. Keep ogling down to 20 seconds.
"This is on you Percy. I've caught you several times staring at me with those bedroom eyes," he said.
"I'm looking out the window. Your big head just gets in the way," she said.
"If you insist," he said, not convinced.
"Well, maybe I do look at you once or twice. Just to make sure you're not looking at me," she said.
"No worries, there," he said. "Because I look at you in 10 second stealth like bursts, so no one's the wiser."
"Yeah, you're stealthy alright," she shook her head and crossed it off.
7. No dancing together at company get togethers.
She began to cross it off.
"Now, wait," he said. "When did we dance together?"
"Two weeks ago at Pride's bar?" He still looked clueless. "Wolfman and the Roadmasters?"
He made a face. "That wasn't an official company gathering."
She sighed. "Everyone was there and we danced."
"True, but they were all pretty wasted, so I think we squeaked through." He began to grin, "It was nice."
She sighed. "It was...until, you know."
LaSalle nodded his head, "Yeah, next time no tequila shots after gumbo."
8. Make it look like we're dating other people.
"So what was wrong with what I said that morning?" he said.
"It wasn't what you said it was how you said it," she remarked.
She imitated him, "Hi guys, gee, ah, I was with mah date, ah, at a bar, um that is, her apartment on Burgundy, ah, St. James. I think. It was dark..." she stopped. "You sounded like you were making it up as you went along."
"Well, you could have given her a better name," she said.
He scrunched up his face, "What name did I say?"
He smiled, "Yeah-always wanted to date an Esmerelda-one of Cinderella's evil step-sisters."
Percy just gave him a look, then continued. "The bad girl?"
"That's why I love you darling," he went to grab her.
She moved away. "Oh, but when I tried to make up a date, you and Patton totally mocked me."
"I knew you were making it up,' he said.
"Yeah, but Patton didn't," she said. "When I said I was going with 'Otto,' you said..."
"...you otto know better, hehehe," he chuckled and took a swig of beer. "Classic."
She threw up her hands, "Well, that's it. A total disaster all around." She put the paper down, he picked it up again.
"Hey you skipped number 5," he said.
"I don't believe we took number five seriously," she said
"What! It's the only one we kept to, and then some," he said, taking the carton out of her hand and putting his arm around her shoulder. "You know, some rules aren't meant to be broken." They fell back on the bed and began to kiss.
5. Mandatory oral sex three times a week.
The next Wednesday, LaSalle and Percy were out investigating a Navy contractor suspected of funneling food from a commissary to his suburban restaurant. Brody and Pride stayed back at the office clearing up some paperwork and other administrative duties. Around 3 p.m., a large man Pride recognized as Griffin Whitman, a NOPD vice detective, walked in.
"Griff!" Pride said, greeting the man with a hearty handshake. "What brings you down here?"
"Professional courtesy," he said, tapping a Manila envelope on the desk. "Can we talk in private?"
Ten minutes later, the men were walking down the stairs from the second floor interview room.
"Take care King," White said.
"Thanks for the heads up, Griff," he said. The men shook hands. The detective tapped his forehead to Meredith, "Ma'am."
"What was that all about?" She said glancing at envelope. Pride exhaled deeply. He reached into his wallet and pulled out fifty bucks. "Here, you were right."
He gave her the envelope and went back to his desk. She opened it and looked at the photo inside. "Wow, I sure was," she whistled.
Pride gave her a sour look.
"Oh c'mon, don't be a sore loser," she said, pocketing the money.
"It's not that," he said tapping his fingers nervously. "But, now that I know, and other people know I know..." he trailed off.
"You're obligated to say something," she finished for him.
"Puts me in an awful position," he said rubbing the back of his neck.
"Well, I know you'll do the right thing," she said.
"If I could figure out what that was," he said.
"What time are they due back?"
She looked at her watch. "So, that gives you some time to sort it out." She got up and put on her jacket.
"Wait," he said "Where are you going?"
"Dentist appointment?" she widened her eyes. "I told you this morning."
"That's right," he sighed. "I guess this is something I just have to do myself."
She gave his shoulder a squeeze. "Heavy is the head that wears the crown," she said.
Chris and Sonja came into the empty office around 5:10.
Sonja was talking. "Seriously, I'll never forget that guy's face when you caught him with those Yeti coolers."
"Yeah, if he only dropped them," he said shaking his head.
"Those suckers are like $500 each," she said. "Of course, they're shit now, with the bullet holes."
"Better those, than him...Too much paperwork," He looked around. "Where is everybody?" He called out. "King! You here?"
Pride popped his head out of the kitchen. "Can y'all come back here for a minute?"
LaSalle grinned. "Dinner surprise."
Percy grabbed his arm. "I have a bad feeling about this."
LaSalle gave a reassuring smile. "It's Pride in the kitchen, what could go wrong?"
The entered to see Pride sitting at the kitchen table. There was no food. He had a Manila envelope in front of him.
Now LaSalle had a bad feeling.
"Sonja, Christopher, sit down," he commanded.
Pride looked across at the highly skilled agents he would trust with his life. He also saw two young people who had no idea of the trouble they were causing. His duty as their senior lay heavily on his shoulders; he knew he had to reprimand them, but he wanted to be compassionate. He always thought of Christopher as a son and, given her age, he couldn't help but feel paternal toward Sonja.
Friggin' millennials - probably thought they'd invented clandestine sex. But, this was a old story. His coworkers at the Sheriff's department had affairs back in the 80s. Hell, they probably went back to every workplace since Noah built the ark.
He took the pictures out. "Remember that movie premiere a month ago. Seems some working girls like to use the balcony to do business. NOPD Vice keeps a motion sensitive surveillance camera up there. One of the officers recognized LaSalle, but not Sonja, until they saw you at an investigation."
LaSalle looked first and glanced at Percy, who had gone pale. He pressed the photo in her hand. "It's OK, Sonja." he said. The pictures weren't very bad, PG-13 maybe a soft R. But there was no doubt it was them, especially with the close up of Sonja's ice cream tattoo.
Pride said two words, "How long?"
"Six weeks," LaSalle spoke up, Percy unable to speak.
Pride gave them a few minutes. "I just wish you two had come to me first. It would have been better than finding out like this," he said.
"Yeah, but King, isn't that the point?" LaSalle retorted. Pride tilted his head in a challenging manner. LaSalle lifted his chin defiantly and carried on.
"I mean, you had to catch us like this. Our work hasn't been affected," he said. "You told me yourself, you've never seen me happier and you were glad I'd gotten my act together."
Pride took in a breath. "For now."
For the first time in several years, LaSalle felt a flush of anger toward his boss. "What does that mean?"
Pride continued. "It means, where is this going?"
Sonja and Chris looked at each other sheepishly. Pride put his arms out as if trying to beseech them. "Chris," he turned to Percy, "Sonja. I don't want to get in your personal business," he said.
"So, don't," LaSalle spat out.
Sonja put her hand on his arm. "It's OK Chris. Hear him out." She hated to think that their relationship would ruin the special bond between the two men. She was no Yoko Ono.
Pride pressed ahead. "For right now, you're together. You're happy, everything is fine," he paused and continued. "But, if you would say, have a bad fight or break up - just saying - that's when things can get ugly and work goes down the drain."
Chris took Sonja's hand. He took a deep breath. "Well, King, I can only speak for myself, but, I don't see that happening." He looked at Sonja.
Sonja gulped, gave Chris a small smile, and squeezed his hand. "We are committed to each other." She looked Pride straight in the eyes. "This isn't a casual hookup. I don't do those."
LaSalle wondered if that was a dig against his former man-whore ways, but she gave him such a sweet smile, he knew she was telling him she loved him. He thought of that tattoo and how he liked to lick it...
Pride broke into the moment. "Still, if Washington finds out - and they have ways - they will not be pleased. But..."
"But?" LaSalle raised his eyebrows.
"But, they don't like losing good agents and training new ones is very expensive," he added. "And they HATE expensive."
"So..." LaSalle asked.
"So, keep it professional at work, and, I'll look the other way," he added. "But, for God's sake, be discreet." He came around the table and gave both a fatherly hug.
"Go on. Get out of here," he motioned with his hand.
"Thanks King," LaSalle said. Sonja just smiled and nodded her head.
Pride watched them hold hands as they walked away. Although he still felt they were an accident waiting to happen, they seemed right together. He hoped to hell they would make it.
The couple stepped out of the office doors and went over to their cars. Behind the gate, Chris swung Sonja around, took her in his arms, and gave her a deep soulful kiss.
"Were you listening to one word Pride just said?" she teased when they broke.
LaSalle grinned. "We're out of the office..."
He took her hand. "Yeah, but we don't have to hide anymore."
Sonja sighed, "I do feel like a weight's been lifted." He pulled her close for another kiss. They stayed in an embrace for awhile.
"So did you mean it in there," he said in her ear.
"About this being a committed relationship," he said.
She took her head off his shoulder and looked at him.
"Trying to get rid of me?" she looked scared.
"Never," he stroked her chin. "I love you, Sonja."
"I know," she demurred.
"No," he put his hands on her shoulders. "I really, really love you."
"I know," she said. "I love you too, Christopher."
They kissed again.
"So Barbie," he said, eyes twinkling. "Wanna take a walk to Framboise and celebrate our coming out?"
"Whatever you say Ken," she responded. "Your treat right?"
"Every single night, darlin', every single night."