LET THE GAMES BEGIN by Cathy Roberts

August 28, 2008

GEN version

Disclaimer: Without A Trace and all its characters are owned by Warner Bros. and CBS. No copyright infringement is intended.

Summary: Post-ep story for "Birthday Boy", so some spoilers for the pilot and "Birthday Boy", and one spoiler for the episode "Shadows" from season two. There are two versions of this story, a GEN version and a pre-slash version.

Part 1

Danny swore softly as he heard Jack yelling through the radio that they didn't have the perp, but in the clamor from the other agents who were bringing down the guy, Danny couldn't make out what else Jack was saying. Still, Danny noticed that while the New Mexican agents were a bit gentler as they steadied the man, they didn't move to unlock the cuffs. They didn't have any proof yet that this wasn't the pervert who'd been trying to meet up with Gabe Freeman.

Speaking of the boy, Danny stepped back and let one of the local police officers walk the boy over to the newly arrived ambulance so he could be checked over by the EMTs. This gave Danny the chance to oversee what the other agents were doing. So, while Jack was somewhere unknown, but hopefully still in the park, Danny was stuck babysitting someone who, if Jack was right, just might decide to go after them for false arrest. But, where was Martin? Danny looked around the park again, silently cursing the darkness as it kept him from finding the rookie. With that light blue denim jacket, the man should have stood out a bit, but Danny couldn't seem to see him.

Just where the Hell had Martin gotten off to? If he'd gone and gotten hurt again, then Jack would just have to wait in line, because Danny was determined to be the first to take Fitzgerald to task for it.

The suspect-not suspect was now calm enough to question why he'd been tackled to the ground and cuffed, but before Danny could talk, Jack's voice came over the radio. "We've got the perp, let the other man go."

"You're sure you've got the right guy?" Danny asked as he first eyed the man in front of him and then began to look around the park once more, hoping to see Jack and Martin. The boss had said `we', so Danny was hopeful, but it wouldn't hurt to make certain. "Um, do you have Martin with you?"

"Yeah, the man from Atlantis is here and he's gonna need a blanket or two once we reach you, so don't let the EMTs leave."

There was some amusement in Jack's voice, and Danny relaxed at hearing that. "Got it." Danny nodded to one of the other agents, and that man got out the key for the handcuffs and set the former suspect free, leaving it to Danny to quickly explain what had happened and apologizing for the mistake. Upon hearing what the perp had been there for, the man seemed understanding, and he quickly went on his way, which was a great relief to Danny.

Danny jogged over to the rig just as the EMTs pronounced that Gabe was unharmed, which considering that the perp had never been near the kid, was kind of a `duh' announcement, but one which was always good to hear. The kid looked scared, though, and Danny's heart ached a bit for him. He introduced himself to Gabe, then asked Linda Destea, the local cop he'd been doing surveillance with, to take Gabe over to the picnic tables for a bit. The kid didn't need to see or hear the rest of the cops taking away the man that he'd believed to be his father, and there wasn't time to explain it all to Gabe before Jack, Martin and the sleazeball got there.

Speaking of which, Linda and Gabe had only walked a few feet away when Danny spotted the rest of his team walking his way. Jack had the perp, who was handcuffed and walking funnily, and Martin…damn, but it looked as if Martin was stripping as he walked. As Danny watched them approach, he noticed that Martin was holding his jacket and shoes, and was working on removing his shirt.

Hands on his hips, Danny grinned as the trio came nearer, and he soon saw that Martin and the perp were soaking wet. Jack practically shoved the perp at the nearest cop, then grabbed Martin's arm and led him over to the back of the rig.

"Decided to forego the baseball bat to the head and went for a midnight swim instead?" Danny asked, not willing to pass up the opportunity to get in at least one dig. Martin deserved some retribution for stringing Danny along about the injured Korean deli owned. Danny could still hear the taunt in Martin's voice as he'd asked him if he wanted the man's address.

"Less blood this way," Martin replied with a smirk. He dropped his clothing at Danny's feet, and Danny tried to not stare as Martin finished removing the soaked T-shirt. Those suits had definitely been hiding a fit and well-defined body, Danny thought, secure enough in his own manhood to be able to notice when another guy looked good. Not as good as his own body, but hey, not everyone could be so blessed.


Danny blinked, not sure what Martin was asking, and then he shook his head as he heard Jack sigh. He then remembered Jack asking for a blanket or two, and he pointed at the rig. "They've got blankets."

Martin dropped his shirt on the pile and was already undoing his belt as he headed for the rig. Danny watched as one of the EMTs wrapped a blanket around Martin's shoulders, giving the man some warmth and privacy as he continued to strip.

The sound of someone clearing their throat got Danny's attention and he tore his gaze away from Martin and saw Jack looking at him, an odd look on his face. "He hit the water pretty hard, so make sure the EMTs check him over. I'm going to talk to Gabe."

"Why do I always get stuck with making sure the heir apparent is okay?" Danny muttered, dropping back on his supposed dislike of Martin to hide the fact that he was now worried that the guy had gotten hurt again.

"Play nice, Danny," Jack warned as he walked away.

Danny shook his head and headed toward the rig and Martin. Once he reached the man, he grinned as Martin handed him a new pile of wet clothing. Danny placed his hand on Martin's shoulder, "Do I look like your butler or something?"

Martin grinned, "I think the term you're looking for is gentleman's valet, and no, you don't look like one, but I'd really appreciate it if you could just dump those with the rest of my clothes. It'll make them easier to find when we're ready to go. I also need my bag from the car, unless the Bureau is okay with me flying home in just a blanket."

Danny laughed, as he turned to the EMT. "Jack said that Martin hit the lake pretty hard, so if you could just give him a quick check, we'd appreciate it."

"The perp probably needs to be checked, too," Martin added, the smile gone from his face at the mention of that guy. "I hit him pretty hard before we landed in the lake."

"I've got to hear this story," Danny said, once more patting Martin's shoulder as the EMT directed his partner to check out the prisoner. "Let me dump this clothing, and then I'll think about getting the keys so you can change."

"Thanks." Martin replied with a smile.

"No problem," Danny replied, and he headed over to the pile of wet clothes. He dropped the rest of the clothes on the pile and headed for Jack, who was still explaining things to Gabe, and Danny took advantage of that and stood so that he could keep an eye on Martin and the EMT. He didn't have long to wait before Martin and the EMT stepped up into the rig and the EMT shut the door, giving Martin some privacy.

"You need something, Danny?" Jack asked, and Danny turned toward his boss.

"Martin needs his bag from the trunk. Do you know who has the keys?" They'd been picked up at the airport by some local cops, but Danny hadn't paid that much attention to who was driving.

"I think that Officer Destea was driving," Jack replied, even as Linda got to her feet and pulled a key ring from her pocket.

Linda tossed the keys to Danny, a wide grin on her face. "The bags are in the trunk." She took a step closer to Danny, keeping her voice low. "Think you can get him to get dressed out in the open? You know, a reverse of the strip tease he was doing?"

Danny grinned back, "I'll relay your request, but I've got a feeling that the show's over for tonight. Unless you're a big tipper? I might be able to talk him into an encore show if you can guarantee a big tip."

"Danny…" Jack's stern tone cut through the night air and Danny realized that he and Linda hadn't been talking as quietly as they'd thought.

Danny flashed a grin in Jack's direction and jiggled the keys. "Getting the Emperor his new clothes now." And that at least got the kid to laugh, making Danny feel better as he headed toward the parking lot.

Once Danny had found Martin's bag, he headed for the rig, noticing as he walked along that the other EMT and the perp were no longer in sight. He hadn't seen anyone leaving, so that probably meant that the perp was in the rig. With Martin.

Danny's gut clenched at that thought. It was hard enough to deal with the people they arrested and to have to transport them to the Federal holding facility, but some perps were worse than others. And a potential child molester was definitely one of the hard ones to have to put up with. Danny knew that if he were in Martin's place, he'd be doing his best to beat that bastard's head against the floor or something. He could only hope that Martin wouldn't be that hot-headed, but then reasoned that if he did get that way, then Daddy-dearest would most likely see to it that nothing happened. Danny liked Martin well enough, he could admit that to himself. But he'd like him a Hell of a lot more if not for his father.

Danny knocked on the rig door, and it was quickly opened by the EMT who'd been checking on Martin. The man's face looked tight and Danny figured that EMTs probably ran into a similar problem when transporting victims – they had to transport them no matter what they'd done. Didn't mean they had to like it.

"I've got Martin's bag. He okay?" Danny asked, since he couldn't fully see into the rig.

"He's all right," the EMT replied as he took the bag from Danny. "Thanks."

The door closed again, and Danny went to stand off to the side. There were windows in the back doors, but the bodies of the EMTs were blocking the view, and Danny wasn't going to press his face to the glass, hoping for a glimpse of a Martin so he could make sure that he was okay, and have it be obvious that that's what he was doing.

The door burst open and Martin jumped out, thanking the EMT and then closing the door. He was wearing another pair of jeans, and nothing else and Danny couldn't blame Martin for wanting to get out of the rig as fast as possible.

Martin grinned at him, "Thanks for getting this for me. I don't think I could have stayed in there another second. Those things just aren't meant to hold that many people, and I swear if that guy whined one more time about wanting dry clothes, I would have…" Martin waved his hand, then stepped over to Danny and set the bag on the ground.

"How's Gabe doing?" Martin asked as he pulled a hooded sweatshirt from the bag.

"He seems okay. I'm glad we got here first."

Martin smoothed the shirt down and nodded. "I wonder if Gabe will ever realize just how lucky he is?" A pair of socks came out of the bag, and Martin sat down on the ground to pull them on.

"Maybe one day. You can go over and sit on a bench or something, you know. Be a shame to get your clean clothes dirty."

"Dirt brushes off," Martin said, looking up at Danny with a smirk. "And if I miss any, then I'm sure you or Jack would be more than willing to get the rest off for me. Although, maybe I'm finally out of the doghouse, and Jack wouldn't use any excuse for a spanking?"

Danny smirked, "Yeah, I think that collaring the perp got you out. So, how'd you do that, anyway?"

"I was lucky enough to see him," Martin replied as he began to put on a pair of running shoes. "I sort of hit him with a flying tackle and we both ended up in the lake. He's slightly bruised," Martin added with a grin, "But I don't think the local cops or the EMT were really too concerned about those bruises. The man can walk, talk and breathe without pain."

Martin got to his feet and picked up his mostly empty bag. "Let me toss those wet things in here and then we can go help Jack with any paperwork. I'm sure he wants to get Gabe back to New York as quickly as we can. I'm just glad that we've got a Bureau plane and won't have to try to catch some redeye flight home."

"You and me both," Danny agreed as they walked over to the pile of clothing. The FBI plane had roomy seats, and they'd be able to get some shut-eye on the way home much easier than if they were on a commercial flight. Or rather, Martin, Jack and Gabe would probably be able to get some sleep. Danny never could sleep on a plane, it was just too risky. What if it crashed or something while you were sleeping? Nope, if he was going to die in a plane crash, he'd much rather be awake, so he could meet his destiny head-on.

Danny then thought about the paperwork that they still had to do for the case, and he couldn't help but chuckle at the problems Jack and Martin would most likely face in trying to write up their reports.

"What's so funny?" Martin asked.

"I was just thinking about how you and Jack are going to write up your reports on catching the perp," Danny smoothly replied. "It's not everyday that an agent gets to go diving and swimming just to catch the bad guy."

Martin grinned, "You forgot the tackling part, too. My old football coach would have been proud of that tackle, even if he always hated seeing me trying to tackle."

"You played football?" Danny asked, trying to not feel impressed that Martin had been an athlete back in school. "Receiver?" Danny guessed, since no coach would want a prized receiver risking himself by tackling an opponent.

"Quarterback," Martin replied. "I also played second base on the baseball team and did long distance track. Managed a season of soccer at one time, too. My Dad wanted me on the basketball team, but even though the coach said I had the heart for it, I just didn't have the height. I think Dad took that harder than I did."

They were now at the picnic table, and Jack nodded to them. "Stay here with Gabe," he told them. "I want to call Viv and let her know what's going on."

"Sure thing," Danny replied. He sat down next to Gabe, and Martin went to the other side of the table, taking a seat there beside Linda. Once Jack was done talking to Viv, he went to talk with the senior officer from the local police department, leaving it up to them to keep Gabe occupied. Even though Danny was starting to feel tired, he, Martin and Linda managed to keep Gabe talking, diverting his attention when the perp was finally led from the rig and taken away by two uniformed officers. Gabe had been greatly relieved to learn that the Korean deli owner was alive and doing well. Danny shared a loaded glance with Martin, knowing that Gabe had lucked out big time on that count. Danny could easily understand how an eleven year old would want to run after thinking he'd killed a man, and he was glad that Gabe had been spared that load of guilt.

Things began to wrap up, and Linda drove them back to the airport. By the time the jet reached cruising altitude, it was midnight, and Gabe was out like a light. Danny and Martin had ended up sitting next to one another again, and Jack had put Gabe in a seat across from them, in case the boy needed anything. But Gabe had quickly fallen asleep, and Jack had covered the boy with a blanket, then leaned against the seat across from Danny.

"You two should try to get some sleep," Jack said, handing them both blankets. "We're still running on New York time, and if Gabe gets revived by his nap, then we'll all need to be on our toes once we land."

"You think he'll try to get away from us?" Martin asked, and Danny noted the tiredness in his voice.

Jack shrugged, "I hope not, but it's a possibility. He didn't want to talk to his parents on the phone."

"Probably thinks they'd yell at him for running off like that," Martin said as he cuddled under his blanket.

Jack and Danny both nodded, and then Jack went to claim a seat a few rows behind them.

Danny spread his blanket out and followed Martin's example of cuddling under it. He looked over at Martin and saw that Martin's eyes were closed. Martin shifted toward the window, resting his head against the glass, and Danny closed his eyes, wishing that he could fall asleep as easily as the others had. That thought in mind, he let his mind go blank, looking for a bit of rest since sleep was out of the question.

Danny was having a really nice dream about Lissa, the lady he'd had his eye on for the past week. In his dream, he'd finally gotten Lissa alone, and he was stripping off her clothes, then pushing the naked woman backward onto his bed before having his way with her. It was a slow and leisurely lovemaking, and they lay together afterward, with Lissa resting her head on Danny's shoulder. She had her arm over Danny's chest, and one leg over his thighs, molding her body to Danny's side. Danny sighed, more than contented.

The only snag in the whole dream was that he wasn't able to put his arm under Lissa's head, instead his entire arm was trapped by her body. Under most circumstances this wouldn't be a problem, but Danny's arm was falling asleep, and it was getting pretty damn uncomfortable. Danny tried to move a bit, hoping to gently dislodge Lissa enough so that he could free his arm, but movement only seemed to make Lissa move in even tighter. And that was when Danny began to realize that, one, he'd been asleep, and two, he was no longer asleep, and three, the body snuggled up next to him wasn't Lissa's. Martin had shifted while they'd both been asleep, and was now resting his head on Danny's shoulder, while also resting his arm across Danny's chest. And Danny's arm was somehow trapped between the arm rest and Martin's body. Despite the awkwardness, Danny did have to grin at that, his mind already looking at this as prime blackmail material. His grin quickly faded though as he realized that someone was watching him…watching them. He looked around and saw that Gabe was now awake and had switched seats. The little shit was sitting directly across from Danny, an absolutely evil grin on his face.

"So," the evil child began, "Is he your boyfriend or something?" Gabe looked from Danny to Martin and then back to Danny.

Shit, shit and triple shit, Danny thought. He shook his head and was about to say no to Gabe's question when Martin decided to not only snuggle in closer, but to also murmur Danny's name, or at least something that sounded an awful lot like `Danny'. Gabe snorted with glee and Danny swore he saw a glint of pure evilness in the kid's eyes.

It was definitely time to drop back on the defensive. "I don't really like the guy," he said, hoping that his sneer looked convincing. "He's stuck up, reckless, has no sense of humor and only got his job because his father is some big shot back in Washington."

Gabe nodded, but his smirk didn't seem to abate any. "I see. Kinda like being the teacher's pet, huh? The kid nobody in class likes."

"Exactly, my man." Looked like Gabe was buying it, Danny thought, and he began to relax a little. "I'll be getting a lot of blackmail material from this." Danny motioned toward Martin with his free hand, although he had no intention of letting the women back at work know that Martin had cuddled up to him while sleeping, AND called out his name in his sleep. Resting his head on Danny's shoulder was one thing, but cuddling next to him and murmuring his name were totally different, and not something Danny wanted to admit. Besides, it would be far too humiliating for Martin. It was one thing to blackmail the guy into fetching him coffee every morning, and quite another to totally humiliate him.

"So, you pick on him a lot?" Gabe asked, looking thoughtful.

"Every chance I get," Danny affirmed.

Gabe nodded. "Yeah, I pick on Marta a lot, too." He then grinned. "She's cute, but I'll never let her know that I think that. Give it a few years, though, and I'll be hitting on her from every angle. `course by then, she'll be so anxious to have me liking her that she'll practically be beggin' for it. Think he'll be beggin' you for it?"

Danny vaguely remembered that Gabe had visited a porn site or two, and he found himself thinking that he wasn't quite as bad as that when he was eleven. Almost, but not quite. And what was with this kid's obsession about him liking Martin that way?. "Gabe Freedman, does your mother know that you talk like that?"

The boy's face immediately fell, and Danny felt like shit for making the boy feel badly. Gabe was still hurting over finding out he was adopted, and it wasn't really right for Danny to bring the kid's mother into the picture. "She probably doesn't care what I do," Gabe said with a pout.

"Gabe, your mother loves you," came a voice close to Danny's ear, and he didn't know whether to be relieved or shocked that Martin was now awake. The warmth that had been pressed up against Danny disappeared as Martin sat upright in his seat, and Danny was pretty quick to get his arm back on his side of the arm rest. "We might have figured out where you were going a lot sooner if her and your dad had told us that you were adopted, but they didn't, not until we actually asked. You're their son, and they've never thought of you as anything less. I do think you'll find that your internet privileges are going to be cut back. They weren't too thrilled to hear about all of the different sites that you've visited."

Danny smirked as Gabe actually blushed at that. "That's okay. They were worth it. Hey, do they have anything to eat and drink on this plane? I'm starving."

"Yeah. I'll go and see what we've got on board," Danny said. He tossed his blanket onto Martin, undid his seatbelt and got to his feet. "Any requests, or do you want to be surprised?"

Martin threw the blanket into the seat beside Gabe and looked up at Danny. "Surprise me. I'm feeling too reckless right now to be picky. I'm sure that my father has ensured that all of the Bureau planes are well stocked with decent food."

Danny swore that he saw a flash of hurt in Martin's eyes, but if it had been there, it passed quickly and the next thing he knew, Martin was grinning at him. It was left to Danny to simply nod before walking toward the front of the plane and the galley. Just how much had Martin overheard? And even more importantly, just how much of what he'd said had Martin believed? Maybe if Danny just kept going on in a teasing manner, then Martin would come to believe that Danny had just been bullshitting Gabe. Or maybe even think that Danny knew he was awake, and was saying all of that just to get at Martin? Either thing would be better than Martin feeling hurt because he truly believed that Danny felt that way about him.

Part 2

Danny quickly found some sandwiches in the built-in refrigerator, and he selected two of each kind, just to be on the safe side. He then grabbed some sodas, bags of chips and bagged cookies, then found a tray to toss it all on. Danny made his way back toward his seat, and as he neared that row, he could have sworn that he saw Martin passing something to Gabe. He definitely saw a flash of white and green, but as he stepped them, everything seemed normal, so he didn't ask about it. He pushed the blanket out of the empty seat and placed the tray there seat. "I grabbed soda, chips, cookies and sandwiches," he told them as he grabbed one of each item for himself. "Tuna, ham and cheese, turkey and cheese and chicken salad."

Danny sat back down as Gabe and Martin made their selections. "So you're not gonna make me drink milk or something healthy like that?" Gabe asked as he grabbed one of the more highly caffeinated drinks.

"Nope. We want you nice and awake once we reach New York," Danny replied with a grin. They had almost an hour left before reaching New York, so Danny had no problem with letting Gabe's parents handle him on a sugar and caffeine high. The seats in the jet came equipped with tray tables that tucked down out of the way to the side of the seat, and Danny pulled his up, then started to open and unwrap his various items. He took a bite of his ham and cheese sandwich, nodding as he found that it was fresh and actually had a taste, unlike the sandwiches usually found in the break rooms back at the Jarviks Building.

Danny glanced sideways at Martin, slowly chewing as he watched the other man attack his own sandwich as if he were a starving man. Quickly swallowing, Danny grinned, "Damn Martin, slow down. There are more sandwiches back there, so you don't have to worry about the food running out."

Martin's response was to roll his eyes and grab another sandwich from the tray, his gaze almost daring Danny to even think about taking it from him. After a moment, Martin swallowed, wiped his mouth and turned slightly in his seat. "I tend to get cranky when I'm hungry, Taylor. It's best that you remember that. I don't have much of a sense of a humor when it comes to food." Martin took a drink of his soda, and then continued. "Oh, wait, never mind. I forgot that I don't have any sense of humor to begin with."

The intensity of the look that Martin sent his way, coupled with having his words thrown back in his face made Danny lose his appetite. And it was a shame, too, because the sandwich really did taste good. Feeling disgusted, Danny slammed his sandwich down to the table tray top. Across from him, Gabe seemed to sink back into his seat, eyes wide as he continued to munch on his chips. Danny was angry, but he really couldn't say for sure if he was angry with himself for his earlier comments or angry with Martin for reacting to them. The guy was supposed to have been asleep, dammitt, and not listening in to Danny and Gabe's conversation.

"Now children, play nice before you scare the kid," Jack said. Danny looked up to see Jack leaning against the seat that was across from Martin, shaking his head. He leaned over the seat back and picked up each of the remaining sandwiches, checking them out. "Tuna, ham and cheese, and two turkey and cheese. You guys didn't leave me much of a choice there, did you?"

Jack was staring at Martin and his extra sandwich, since it was now clear that Martin had taken both of the chicken salads, and for a moment Danny's anger was hoping that Jack would order Martin to hand the sandwich over, thereby putting the younger agent in his place. He watched as Martin's hand lingered protectively over the chicken salad sandwich even as he stared right back at their boss. Danny had to admit that Martin did seem to have balls of steel, he just also seemed to have the knack for using them at the wrong times.

"This one is mine, Jack. Danny said that there are more sandwiches in the galley, so help yourself." The words were said pleasantly enough, almost lightly, Danny thought. Too bad that the look Martin was giving Jack wasn't a pleasant one. The two men stared at one another until Jack finally looked over at Danny, and Danny didn't really like that look one bit.

"I see that you were nice enough to get food for everyone," Jack commented. "Everyone but me, that is."

"Sorry, boss. I thought you were still asleep," Danny easily replied. The tension level was dropping, and he was glad of that. If there was going to be any tension around Martin Fitzgerald, then he preferred to be the cause of it, and not a witness of it. And maybe it was that attitude that caused him to be daring enough to grin at Martin. "Why don't you go on and give Jack that extra sandwich?"

The deadly glare that had formerly been trained on their boss was now trained on Danny, and Danny swore that Martin actually growled at him. Hell, he must have made some kind of noise, because both Jack and Gabe were now grinning like a couple of fools.

"Right. I'll just get another sandwich. What kind of drink would you like, Jack? Soda, milk…?"

"Soda will be fine," Jack replied. "Cola of some sort."

Danny grinned as he handed his food over to Gabe. "Watch this for me, okay? I'm not so sure that I trust the endless pit next to me." Gabe simply nodded, but at least the kid was now grinning again, which was a plus in Danny's book. Danny headed back to the galley to get Jack his early morning snack. He quickly returned with the sandwich, soda, cookies and chips, but obviously not fast enough. Jack was still standing there behind the other seat, but he was munching on cookies, Danny's cookies to be exact, and damn if those hadn't been the last of the oatmeal cookies, too!

Danny smirked as he handed the food over to Jack. "Guess you won't be wanting the peanut butter cookies now, will you?"

"I'll take them," Martin said as he reached out for the bag.

"You're hogging the peanut butter cookies now?" Danny asked, wondering just where Martin put all that food. From the all too brief glimpses of skin that Danny had gotten earlier, he knew that Martin wasn't carrying any fat on his body.

"It's not my fault that I have a high metabolism," Martin replied, and damn if the man wasn't pouting about it, too.

Danny had all sorts of come-backs ready to that, most involving huge appetites, but Gabe's presence pretty much put a damper on the innuendoes. Danny sat back down instead and got his food – minus his oatmeal cookies – back from Gabe. "I hope you charged him a high price for those cookies," Danny commented and Gabe grinned broadly in response, nodding. And damn if Danny didn't believe him. Any 11-year-old smart enough to sell his Yankees ticket to a scalper AND for a good price, no less, would definitely be able to sell someone else's cookies to Jack.

"It was either sell them to me or risk Martin being suspended for attacking his superior when I tried to steal one of his cookies," Jack said in Gabe's defense. "You'd think you liked being in the dog house or something," he added to Martin.

Martin shrugged, but he looked far from apologetic. "Never come between a Fitzgerald and his food."

Jack laughed. "I'll keep that in mind. Well, if you kids think you can play nice now, I'll go back to my seat. Gabe? I'm leaving you in charge. Just yell if they get out of hand."

Gabe looked back over his shoulder at Jack and nodded. "I can handle them, Mr. Malone. I won't let you down."

Jack winked at the boy, then headed toward his own seat. Danny felt himself relaxing as Jack got further away. He liked Jack, but there were times when a person just felt more comfortable without the boss around, and this was one of those times.

Appetite now back, Danny picked up his sandwich and glancing over at Martin. "Did you growl at me before?"

Martin opened up the first pack of peanut butter cookies, and at first Danny thought that he was being ignored. But then Martin looked over at him. "Never come between a Fitzgerald and his food," he repeated. He then grinned and leaned across toward Gabe, "Gabe? You want a cookie?"

"Thanks." Gabe reached into the bag and took one of the cookies, then sat back in his seat.

Martin slowly eased back into his seat, but he shifted the angle of his wrist, and held the open end of the bag toward Danny. "Want one?"

"Sure." Danny really didn't want the cookie, but hey, Martin was offering, then he was willing to stuff himself.

"You're both welcome," Martin said as he finally moved his arm, but not his gaze.

As Danny began to nibble on the cookie, he was aware that Martin was still looking at him, watching him eat. "It's good," Danny mumbled.

Martin smiled slowly and nodded. "I'm glad you like it. After all, I did risk getting suspended for insubordination by keeping these," Martin jiggled the bag, then got one out for himself.

"You should learn to eat dessert first," Gabe said as he crushed his cookie bag in his hand, and Danny noticed that the kid had not yet taken a bite out of his sandwich.

"I'll try to keep that in mind next time," Danny replied.

Martin shook his head. "That sounds like a good theory, but I much prefer saving the best for last."

Danny pointedly glanced at the other sandwich, then up at Martin. "You consider chicken salad to be the best?"

Martin gestured to the unopened bag of cookies. "No. I consider those to be the best, which is why I made sure that I'd have them."

"Peanut butter cookies are okay, but I like chocolate chip best," Gabe chimed in, and he reached for the remaining bag of chocolate chip cookies. Since his sandwich was still untouched, Danny was tempted to stop the boy, but then he figured, what the Hell? Gabe had been through a lot in such a short time, so why not let him stuff himself with junk food?

"Snickerdoodles are the absolute best," Martin declared with a nod. "But since we don't have those as a choice…"

"Snicker what?" Danny asked. He was pretty sure that Martin, being from a rich family, had eaten plenty of things that Danny had never heard of, or even thought about eating. But, snickersomethings just didn't sound all that rich to his ears.

"Snickerdoodles," Gabe said. "They're really good, but I don't think you can buy them. I know that whenever we want them, Mom makes them instead of buying them. She usually buys the chocolate chip cookies."

Danny shook his head. "Still never heard of them."

"It's basically a sugar cookie, but it's rolled in cinnamon," Martin said. "My Aunt Bonnie will sometimes put chocolate chips or nuts in hers, just to be different. Hers are the best, no matter what she puts in them." There was a warm smile on Martin's face, and it was clear that whoever this `Aunt Bonnie' was, she obviously meant a lot to Martin. Her and her snickerdoodles. Maybe Martin had a normal family hidden away somewhere, a family where someone other than the maid or cook prepared food. Then again, from what Danny had seen of Victor Fitzgerald, that seemed doubtful.

The three continued to make small talk about cookies and soon the food, except for the turkey and cheese sandwiches, was all gone.

"Well, if everyone's done, I'll take care of the clean-up." Martin got to his feet and picked up the tray. They'd all tossed their trash on it, so it wasn't going to take much work to clean things.

Instead of heading for the galley, Martin went back to where Jack was seated, and Danny could hear the two men laughing over something. As Martin passed by on the way to the galley, Danny just couldn't resist. "Suck up," he hissed, grinning up at Martin.

"Hey, I can't help it if I'm smart enough to remember the boss," Martin replied.

"Now boys, play nice," Gabe said with a smirk.

"Give some people a little bit of power, and they let it go straight to their heads," Danny muttered, but he was grinning at Gabe, and the kid grinned right back.

Gabe leaned over to look toward the galley, and Danny glanced back that way, but didn't see Martin. He looked back at Gabe and now Gabe was handing a cell phone out toward him. "My cell phone can take pictures," Gabe said, looking more smug than a kid his age had any right to look.

Danny slowly nodded as he looked at a photo of him and Martin snuggled up together, asleep, and damn if it didn't look as if he was kissing the top of Martin's head. If it had been anybody else, Danny would have thought it was a cute a picture, but it wasn't anybody else. Danny had no doubts about what Viv and Sam would say if they saw the photo. He also had no doubt about why this spawn of Satan was showing him the photo. "How much?"

Gabe pulled his arm back and tried to look innocent. "How much for what?"

"How much to get you to delete that photo?" Danny asked.

"You don't like the picture?" Gabe asked, and he looked at it. "I thought it turned out pretty well, myself. The lighting in here isn't all that great, but the picture looks okay. I was lucky enough to snap the pic just when you kissed the top of his head. Mom does that to me when she tucks me in at night." Gabe turned the phone so Danny could see the photo again. "Looks cute, don't you think?"

"Gabe…" Danny growled. "How much is it going to cost me to get you to delete that picture? Ten dollars?"


As if. "Fifteen."

"Twenty-five, and you better have it on you."


Gabe grinned and held out his hand. "Deal."

Danny reached for his wallet and quickly found a twenty dollar bill. He reluctantly handed it over to Gabe. "There. Now delete it."

"Gladly." Gabe touched a few buttons on his phone, then held it up so that Danny could see that the phone wanted to confirm the deletion. Danny nodded and Gabe hit another button and the photo disappeared.

Danny sighed as he put his wallet back in his pocket. "You are definitely headed for the business world, aren't you kid?"

Gabe put the phone back in his pocket and shrugged. "I'm just a regular kid looking for ways to earn money. I've got my eyes on this really great skateboard, and since I blew most of my savings on the bus ticket to get out here…" the boy shrugged, looking a bit lost and Danny felt a momentary pang of regret for thinking of him as the spawn of Satan. And then he remembered seeing Martin handing something green to Gabe earlier, and Danny was pretty sure that Gabe had taken more than one photo and Martin had paid to have a different one deleted. They wouldn't be landing in New York soon enough, Danny decided. And he definitely wasn't going to risk falling asleep again as long as Gabe was around.

An hour later and they were in a Bureau car and headed back to the Jarviks Building. Jack was driving, and Danny had taken the front passenger seat, leaving it up to Martin to keep Gabe entertained in the back seat. Either nerves or the sugar and caffeine had kicked in, because Gabe kept up a running conversation for the entire ride downtown. If he wasn't asking Martin questions, then he was busy relating stories to the agent, and Danny found himself glad that he'd called shot-gun for the ride. It was bad enough having to listen to the conversation, he certainly didn't want to have had to participate in it. And from the looks that Jack was giving him and the rear view mirror, it was pretty clear that he was glad to be out of it, too.

Once they were parked and headed for the elevators, everything changed. It was as if someone had reached out and turned off a switch in Gabe. The boy became quiet, and his steps slowed. Danny couldn't blame the boy for feeling more than a bit reluctant, since he knew that the Freemans were waiting upstairs for him. As they all entered the elevator, Danny leaned back against the wall and inwardly sighed, glad that this case was over. Happily over, no less. It was always a relief when they found their missing person, more so when it was a kid, and as Danny looked over at Martin, he found himself glad that it had turned out this way for Martin's sake, too. The rookie needed to have some good cases under his belt before having to deal with ones that didn't turn out good in the end.

Martin was leaning his back against the back wall of the elevator, looking tired, but he smiled at Danny, and Danny smiled back quickly and easily before they both looked over at Gabe as the kid began to pester Jack about his parents and what they knew. Yeah, Gabe had a lot of explaining to do, but he was still one lucky kid.

The elevator doors opened, and they headed to the bull pen. The Freeman's were ecstatic seeing Gabe whole and well, and Danny and Martin went to their desks, talking to Viv and Sam. Danny was touched that Viv had gotten him Mets tickets, even if she kept picking on his team.

As Gabe and his parents were busy hugging and crying, Jack came over to let everyone know that they could go on home. He'd stay to escort the family downstairs. He also let them all know that they didn't need to be in before noon, so they could all get some sleep. Making small talk, Danny, Martin, Viv and Sam headed out, some to the parking garage, and Martin to the sidewalk to catch a cab. He'd apparently taken the subway to work, and wasn't going to risk riding it that late at night. Danny almost asked if he wanted a ride home, but that would make the guy think that Danny just might like him after all, so that was a no-go. Besides, Martin could easily afford the cab fare, and he'd already turned down ride offers from Vivian and Sam.

The next morning came all too soon for Danny, even if he was able to get up much later than usual. He was still dragging a bit as he entered the bullpen, and he stopped short of his desk, suddenly aware that he was being stared at by his teammates. Vivian and Sam and Jack just looked amused, while Martin looked like the proverbial cat that just ate the canary. Danny knew that he'd shaved before dressing, and he'd put on all of his clothing, as usual. He'd picked out a nice suit, shirt and tie, something that went together, unlike the rookie, who seemed to have a color blindness issue going on.

Not feeling awake enough to verbally spar with the others, Danny merely stared back and then went to his desk. He dropped his bag by his chair and then sat down. He could have sworn that he heard someone snickering as he turned to his computer, ready to log-on, and saw that someone had beaten him to it. Not only was his computer on, but he had a new screen saver. He looked around the office, and saw that everyone seemed to have the same screen saver.

"I've got to say that that's one of the cutest pictures I've ever seen," Vivian said as she came up behind Danny to look over his shoulder.

"If I ever see Gabe Freeman again, I'll…" Danny shook his head as he stared at an enlargement of the picture that he swore Gabe had deleted from his cell phone.

Danny glared at Martin. "I should have known that the little brat had taken more than one picture. What? Were you too cheap to pay him to delete the other one?"

Martin laughed, then got to his feet and came over to Danny, resting one hip on the edge of his desk. "Hell, no. I paid him to e-mail the picture here…and to send it to Jack, Viv and Sam's cell phones. Only cost me ten bucks, too, which I thought was a pretty good deal."

"You paid him ten bucks to send the picture?" Danny shook his head, wondering how he'd let himself be so gullible as to have paid blackmail to Gabe.

"Sure did. It was worth it, too." Martin looked back over at his desk as his phone rang. "I better get that. It should be Margaret, letting me know that she got her copy."

As Martin literally bounded over to his desk, Danny looked questioningly at the others, since Jack and Sam were now crowding his desk. "Who's Margaret and who am I going to have to pay to get that picture back?"

"Well, how much did you pay that little boy to get him to delete one of the photos?" Viv asked, as if Gabe was the victim in all of this.

"Twenty bucks," Danny reluctantly admitted.

"Then I think we can all be generous and let them go for that same amount, wouldn't you two agree?" Jack asked, looking at Sam and Viv, who both nodded. Danny felt relieved at hearing that. He'd thought for sure that they would have gone for the jugular vein.

"Sure," Viv said. "Twenty dollars each sounds reasonable to me."

"Each?" Danny asked, his voicing only squeaking a bit on the word. "You guys are real friends, you know that?" He pulled out his wallet and pulled out three twenty dollar bills that he just tossed in their general directions. "Blood suckers is what you are. Now, someone get this off of the computers…" Danny saw the look on Jack's face and he groaned. "Don't tell me that I'm going to have to pay someone to do that, too."

"No," Jack replied. "Martin's already volunteered to remove them all during the afternoon, so don't worry about it. What you all need to worry about right now is finishing up your paperwork on Gabe's case. I'd like to have it all on my desk before we go home tonight."

Viv and Sam headed back to their desks, and Danny hit the space bar, making the screen saver disappear for the time being. He couldn't stay but so angry with Martin, even if what he'd done was sneaky and underhanded. It was a bit hard to keep on disliking, or pretending to dislike, someone who might be as sneaky and underhanded as himself.

From the corner of his eye, Danny saw Jack start to walk away, but then he turned back. "As an fyi, Margaret is Victor Fitzgerald's secretary. I'm guessing that by now, Martin has given her the instructions for printing that out so she can put it on the Deputy Director's desk. Just think of it, Victor will come back from a power lunch with some senator or another, and see proof that some of us are taking really good care of his baby boy up here." Jack tapped Danny's nameplate, a shit-eating grin on his face, then turned to leave. "I hear that Anchorage is nice this time of year."

Danny glared at Martin's back…no, make that Fitzgerald's back. That man was going to pay for this, and pay big. As if knowing that he was truly back on Danny's bad side, Martin turned around, still on the phone. The smile and wink that Martin gave him were almost enough to get him back on Danny's good side, but not quite. There was no doubt about it, Martin Fitzgerald had balls of steel, and Danny found himself hoping that the rookie lasted, because one of these days, Martin would actually use them at the right time, and he wanted to be there when it happened. In the meantime, he was going to have to work hard to find a sweet revenge for this, and then to carry it out. Martin was going to find out that Danny was much better at this little game than Martin could ever hope to be.

Oh, yes, the game was just beginning, and Danny found himself looking forward to finally having a worthwhile opponent.

The End