Chapter 1

Laila was a mess -- as usual.

Frederick couldn't help noticing it every morning she walked in. She was always the meticulous one at work, the one who never left until every bit of paperwork was done, but when it came to early mornings, all of that seemed to go forgotten.

Half-buttoned blouse, wet, stringy hair, lack of bra…

Somewhere along the line, It had become a running theme with her -- not that Frederick really minded. It was just… things like that made him worry. The little things. Whether it was a pencil out of place, or the hint of alcohol on her breath. It was more concern than paranoia, but Fred didn't think anyone would understand. Laila was his partner. In many ways, he felt responsible for looking over her, but over time he'd learned that she didn't see it that way.

Even though she was younger and had less on the job experience, Laila had always taken the role of boss between them. She oversaw his work, took the lead on every case, and made damn well sure he didn't know a thing about her personal life. In fact, just last week she'd chewed him out for inquiring about her weekend plans.

"Hmph…" Frederick sighed out and pushed a set of three pencils across his desk. He was far too old to be bossed around by a woman, let alone one that was only 5'3.

All of a sudden the smell of fresh flowers, lavender to be exact, filled his nostrils. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Laila approaching. She had a knack for wearing those flowery scents, and though it killed Frederick to admit it, they were lovely; a stark contrast to her usual stern and proper demeanor.

"Freddy, hey." Laila clicked past his desk in a pair of black heels, a hairpin in her mouth.

Frederick had to fight to keep his eyes from dropping to the front of her half-open shirt. Not trusting his voice, he cleared his throat a few times and gave her a little wave with one of his pencils. The other two rolled free and toppled off the side of the desk.

She was the only person who could get away with calling him Freddy. Not even his mother called him that. It was strictly "Fred" or "Frederick," and he preferred it that way. Yet on the first day she transferred in from the White Collar Crime Unit, during their first case together, the nickname had stuck and he hadn't had the heart to say anything against it. With anyone else, he would have set it straight, but with Laila...

There's just no use.

"I didn't have any time to get anything to eat this morning," he heard her mumble under her breath.

Laila took her seat at the desk beside his and Frederick took in her change of state. Her short, black hair was pinned away from her face, her shirt was buttoned all the way up, and her heels were covered up by the hem of her long, black slacks. She looked put together now, but part of him always wondered if that was the best way to see her. He wondered if she ever went out for drinks with her friends… if she let her hair down and acted like a slob…


Frederick let his gaze wander back down to the front of her shirt. She wasn't wearing a bra again, and he found that if he stared hard enough, he could catch a bit of nipple.

"What the hell is your deal?" Laila looked at him expectantly.

"What?" Frederick's eyes shot back up to her face.

"I mean... what are you looking at?" she seemed generally pissed.

"What? Nipple—n-nothing!" Frederick whipped his head back down to his paperwork, cheeks burning red. He wasn't like her - not in the slightest. Frederick wore his emotions on his sleeve, and that, coupled with his clumsiness, surely pissed Laila off.

'I can never get a moment's peace with you,' she had commented one evening while they stayed late to fill out paperwork. That night, in the span of one hour, Frederick had managed to topple over four chairs, break a coffee mug, and spill Chinese food into her new purse. It was odd, the way he could do such things, but he really couldn't help it. Fred had a knack for getting distracted - for tinkering and toying until disaster struck. Laila knew it, but she couldn't stand it.

After a long, awkward silence, she sighed out irritably and clicked her way over to the snack machine.

Meanwhile, Frederick cursed himself. That wasn't like him at all. He wasn't a lech towards her. Sure, he looked at her cleavage when it was showing, and tried to spot a nipple or two, but he did that with every woman he came across. The problem was that now, it had become too difficult. He hadn't had a steady relationship in months and Laila was currently the only woman in his life. He was letting his fantasies take over, and reality was beginning to distort himself.

Next thing I know, I'll be day dreaming about doing my 79 year old landlady.

"Do you have that report for me, Fred?"

'Speaking of fantasies…' Frederick broke out in a smile as he lifted his head. Before him stood another good friend of his, and subject of many lecherous thoughts, Abigail "Abby" Francis. She worked mostly in the file rooms, storing and organizing the closed cases, but Frederick loved it when she came up from the basement to pick up a file or two.

Word from the other guys in the office was that she had been single for a month now. To Frederick, that was a travesty. A girl like her should never be alone, he thought.

"Yep," Frederick pushed the completed paperwork into a manilla folder and handed it to Abby. It was their most recent case, and had taken nearly three months of nonstop work to solve.

29 year old white female went missing after a trip to the mall. Her body and car was found weeks later at the bottom of a lake. She had her hands and feet dismembered after a shot to the back of the head. It was the work of a serial killer who had been on the run for ages, and finally, with Laila's help, they had been able to put him behind bars.

Truthfully, he was glad to be rid of the case. He had been working homicide for six years now, but it hadn't ever gotten easy. No, he no longer cringed at the sight or even smell of a dead body, but the emotional part of it certainly wasn't easy. It was hard for Frederick not to feel mad or disgusted at those who took the lives of others. It wasn't as though he was free with his feelings before, but the job made him much more withdrawn, more...apprehensive.

"Glad you guys caught the son of a bitch," Abby gave Frederick's shoulder a little squeeze.

As she looked down on him, he couldn't help but notice her smiling blue eyes. They looked so gentle and loving, framed by that wavy blonde hair…

"Yeah, me too." Fredrick took his hand off the papers and reclined in his chair as he watched her walk away. He really loved the way her skirt hugged her—

"--glad you've got the paperwork done, but you can't relax yet." Laila clicked in front of him suddenly, crunching piece of a Twix bar in her mouth. "We've gotta go out."

Frederick looked around the office. Everyone was suddenly on the move.

"Out? What's happened?"

"18 year old black female found dead on Chicago U campus," Laila briefed him as she threw on her coat and scarf.

"Eighteen…" Frederick pulled on his own jacket with a sigh. "So it was her freshman year?"

'How depressing.'

Laila gave him a strange look. She had never understood the way Frederick's mind worked. He was oddly emotional at times...

"Yeah, I figure," she finished her "breakfast" and brushed the crumbs from her shirt. "Life sucks, huh?"

As always, when it came to work, Laila was far more detached than Frederick. Nothing seemed to bother her, and if it did, she sure didn't let on. Laila gave him an expectant look and began clicking her way out to the squad car.

Frederick followed her out dutifully and buttoned up his coat as soon as the cold air hit him. Winters were always rough in Chicago, and the cold made his mind heavy. All he could think about was going away somewhere. Jamaica, Tahiti, someplace where he could lay on the sand and relax. Just thaw out for a few years.

The daydream wandered on a little longer and before he knew it, Abby was stretched out next to him in a red bikini. The only thing missing was…


Fred flinched. He could hear Laila leaning on the car horn. The blast of sound shook him out of his daze and had him running for the car.

"What's the matter with you lately?" she asked as she pulled out of the parking space.

Frederick just looked out the window absentmindedly. He honestly couldn't find a reason for how empty-headed he'd been over the past few weeks, so he thought he'd just chalk it up to one thing.

'I need to get laid.'