Yo, I'm still here guys! I'd liked to say I went on holiday, but alas that's not the case. Just, life. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay happy! And review... CHAPTER 12 -Quite a case!-, Mac called from the doorstep to Jo's office. She nodded, without looking up from the screen of her computer. After a little while, she turned it off, giving her complete attention to the man. –It's
kind of sad to see a guy like Ted Carver go out like this. He was one hell of a cop in his day. -, she told him sincerely. -Well, there could be worse. He could have been arrested, or charged criminally. -, Mac observed, taking a couple of steps inside his superior's office. Jo shook her head, necklaces dangling with soft clinks against each other. -The department was his life. Being fired and stripped of his pension's far worse than any charges the DA could file. They made the right decision. -, she retorted, as a grin slowly formed on her partner's face. -You must be one hell of a poker player. It's a pity you never attend our card game nights. -, he observed, getting a blank stare in response. -What are you talking about?-, Jo wondered. -Come on, Jo! "They made the right decision"? I just got back from the DA's office, where we were meeting about Jay's case. You know, one of my greatest assets is that I know whose coffee to buy. Folks usually open up as a result. They tell me things. Things like you going over there and persuading them not to charge Carver criminally. -, he told her bluntly. -It was the right thing to do. -, Jo sentenced with a challenging look on her face. –You're right on that one. Come on, it's time to pull a disappearing act, or else Ellie's gonna send a searching party for the both of us. -, he nodded, helping Jo shrug on her jacket with a chuckle. –Hey, are you by chance free sometime next week?-, he added as an afterthought, catching Jo completely off guard.

***MJ***

Jo entered her apartment in a daze. Later on that night, she wondered when (and where) exactly she had put her keys away and shrugged off her shoes. The situation at work was becoming extremely dangerous. For a moment she'd feared Mat Taylor would ask her out. She still couldn't tell whether she was more happy he'd actually not asked her out, or disappointed for the very same reason. In the end, he'd actually asked her to accompany Ellie shopping. That was easy, she could do it. He had pleaded with her to agree because otherwise his daughter would have made up some excuses not to go, and on the one part Mac was worried Ellie was always busy either studying or exercising, on the other he really needed her to start on their Christmas shopping. Jo could understand Ellie's motives, since she didn't appear to have made many female friends at the University, and Mac's as well; he was a man, after all. They were allergic to shopping or something. Granted, mid-November was a bit early even for her standards, but still. Throwing open her fridge with way too much force, and spying the meager contents, Jo's thoughts went back to Mac. She was really glad he'd fit in with her team so easily, almost too easily. He sure seemed too good to be true. Maybe he kicked puppies in the streets for sport or something, otherwise he came damn close to perfect. She snorted loudly, fishing out some lettuce and cheese from her fridge and kicking it shut. The last time she'd thought she'd found perfect, well… it turned out not to be so perfect after all. She still knew too little about Mac, she decided. Slicing a loaf of bread, she wondered what Mac was doing. He was probably preparing something healthy but equally delicious with Ellie, her mind supplied. Jo sighed; she envied the bond the two shared, and found herself missing Tyler more than ever. Maybe she could introduce her son to Ellie, in the hopes the two would become friends? That could give her an excuse to spend more time with… whom? The kids, or Mac himself? Pathetic, Danville!, she mentally slapped herself. Her phone rang while she was drying the dishes. Hoping it was not about a new case, she retrieved the offending device from her bag; not recognizing the ID caller, she picked up the call with a brusque: –Danville!- The voice at the other end of the line was not unknown, though. –Jo! Hi, it's Ellie. Sorry to bother you, but Dad just confessed what he did, or rather tried to do, today…-, the girl said quickly, and the indignant male cry she heard in the background had Jo think that maybe her father was chasing her, trying to get the phone. -You don't have to accompany me to the mall. My father should know I'm not twelve anymore and mind his own business!-, Ellie added, and again Jo had the distinct impression she was talking more to her father than to her. –Okay. But I don't mind, really. I actually need to pick up some stuff myself. God knows with Christmas coming up we'll be swamped with cases and I won't have time later on. -, Jo added lamely. She truly didn't mind going with the young girl, but somehow the thought of Mac eavesdropping on their conversation was preventing her brain from functioning correctly. -Are you sure? I don't want to be a nuisance. -, Ellie wondered dubiously. Jo nodded, but realizing Ellie couldn't see her, actually voiced her opinion. –Sure thing, dear. It will be fun. It's been a while since I've gone out chillin' with another girl, I miss it. -, she confesses sincerely, feeling more like herself. –Right. Okay, you can text me the details. I imagine I can be more flexible with my hours than you. Sorry to bother you tonight, Jo. Goodnight. – Five minutes later, her green tea perfectly brewed, her phone rang again. This time it was Mac. –Ellie must have gotten some of my detective skills. She's onto me like a bloodhound on a prey. Thanks for backing me up, I owe you one. -, he said as a greeting, causing Jo to grin. –No need to thank me. I was serious when I told Ellie it will be fun. It will be good for both of us. -, she replied easily, placing her smartphone in between her cheek and shoulder. -Well, thanks again. What are you doing tonight?-, he wondered, surprising the woman. Such a simple question, and yet so intimate. –Nothing special. I was actually preparing a tea when you called. Maybe I'll find a movie on TV later on. -, she replied, hoping it didn't sound too lame. –What kind of movies do you like?-, Mac countered, seemingly genuinely interested. Now that sounded suspiciously like something one would ask on a first date, Jo mused. She decided to play along, suddenly excited. –Would you like to guess?-, she drawled, getting a chuckle from Mac. –Mmm… I guess you're a closet Sex and the City fan, but apart from that, beats me. -, he joked, causing Jo to laugh. – You're actually right about Sex and the City. As for movies, well… I'm pretty flexible. I mean, I space from the Marvel movies to the Downton Abbey one. -, she explained, actually turning up the TV. –What about you, Mr. Nerd?-, she quipped. -Well, apart from the usual nerd package? Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and the like? Let's see… Alien, Predator, Rocky, Rambo…-, he listed off, stopping when he heard Jo snigger. –Ok, ok, cowboy, I get it. Nerd stuff and macho stuff. -, she joked. –Basically. But I can be flexible too. I watched all kind of stuff with Ellie over the years, from cartoons to science dramas. -, he added quickly. -I wouldn't expect anything less from you. -, Jo purred over the line. -Well, I'll leave you to your movie. I think I'm gonna call it a night. I got something special planned for Ellie tomorrow morning. -, Mac told Jo, a smile evident in his tone. –Let me guess, something involving a lot of running, push-ups and the like?-, Jo quipped, equally admired and exasperated. –You got it. Night Jo, sweet dreams. – Later that night, as Jo slipped under her covers, her last conscious thought went to Mac, and a shiver ran down her spine. Man, she got it bad! She squirmed, trying to get the image of her partner out of her head, but it only got worse, leaving her hot and bothered.