DISCLAIMER: Copycat is the property of Jon Amiel and Warner Brothers, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A very special thank you to Debbie for taking on the job of beta for this fic as well as the 22 others and especially for agreeing to write her specialty, Birds of Prey, as part of this 24 fandom series. Thanks, Deb, I truly do appreciate it.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The blacktop road wound its way through an expanse of tall trees, their leaves bright with the explosive colors of fall. The driver of the mid-size SUV had long lost interest in the beauty that stretched out before her as both the road and trees seemed endless to the exhausted woman. MJ Monahan had been on one road or another for eight hours and was ready to see her journey come to an end. It had certainly been a long time in coming. She'd been intending to make good on her promise to visit Helen for six months now.
It had only been two weeks after she'd shot Peter Foley dead that MJ had discovered Darryll Lee Cullum's mail input and output had tripled. She'd cursed the privacy laws that hadn't allowed her access to the content of the letters, but she'd really had no need to see inside the envelopes. MJ had known exactly what communications had transpired between the psycho and his followers. He was looking for another disciple to take Foley's place, someone who wouldn't fail him, someone who would carry out his sick fantasy of killing Helen.
It had upset her to have to be the one to inform Helen of her suspicions, especially with the progress the other woman had made as she'd slowly begun to overcome her agoraphobia. Being forced outdoors to escape the maniacal Foley had proven to Helen that she could step into a world that previously had only existed behind the glass of her windows; not only that, but to survive it too. She just needed to learn how to do it on her terms, not solely because she was running away from a madman whose intent had been to kill her.
MJ had hoped to be the one to show Helen the light she'd been missing, but her discovery of Cullum's letter writing campaign had forced her to send Helen away. Currently, the only communication that existed between the pair had been daily e-mails. As far as the detective inspector was concerned, it certainly wasn't the right medium to establish something other than friendship. And something other than friendship was what MJ had hoped for.
She was old school, believing that a true and lasting relationship could only be established through personal contact, face-to-face, one-on-one the way they'd met initially. MJ had known she'd felt something special the first time she'd laid eyes on Dr. Helen Hudson, but the circumstances then were much too dire to think past solving the case. Now, the circumstances had changed, but Helen was gone and no longer living in the city. Her publisher had found her a quiet spot in the country, and with a slight change of the buyer's name, Helen had happily called it home, saying she'd felt safer than she had in some time.
MJ sighed and turned her attention back to the road. According to the directions she'd been given, her turn-off should be coming up fairly soon. She sat up straighter in her seat and scanned the area, looking for the one and only landmark that marked the dirt road that led to Helen's hideaway. Squinting through the windshield, she spotted a sign and slowed the car to get a better view. There it was: an advertisement for a chicken farm with two chicks sitting close together, side by side, the slogan proudly proclaiming Fresh Chicks Daily. MJ laughed aloud and turned left just past the sign, the obscure road practically hidden by the overgrown trees and shrubs.
A mile down the dirt-covered road, MJ's thoughts were still on the sign. Helen had only said that it was an advertisement for a chicken farm; she hadn't mentioned a thing about what else she'd painted on the sign, leaving MJ to wonder if the slogan had just been a play on words or perhaps it was a play with words. It was the type of 'play' that had MJ's brain working overtime, and by the time she'd pulled up in front of the log cabin home, her mind had played out way too many scenarios.
Reaching for the door handle, MJ literally climbed from the car, her legs stiff from the long drive. She slowly stretched her arms overhead as she surveyed the area, pleased with the results. There was no way anyone would have a clue that a house was located this far off the road, and any lost drivers would have turned around after the first two miles. MJ reached into the back seat and lifted her suitcase, easily pulling the small weekender free. She was finally going to have that face-to-face with Helen.
A bright yellow post-it note greeted MJ at the door, and lowering her suitcase, she pulled it free and read the neat print:
Gone fishing. :)
No, really, I have. Follow the trail from the back of the house down to the pond. With any luck, we'll have fresh catfish for dinner.
Grinning, MJ slid the note into her pocket and started around the side of the house, leaving her luggage just outside the front door. This was much better than she'd hoped. Helen felt comfortable enough to leave the house.
Half-way down the trail, MJ spotted Helen, sitting in a lawn chair and staring out across the pond. She eased further down the path and passed a critical eye over the other woman. She smiled when she noticed Helen's relaxed posture, but then she found herself mesmerized by the way the sun kissed the smooth, tanned skin, caressing it with its warmth. MJ froze as a sudden realization came over here these past months, she'd been the one with the true fear, she'd been the one who kept putting off the visit. Helen had been ready; it was MJ who hadn't.
A head turned slowly toward her and a smile slowly formed on Helen's face. Lifting a lazy hand, she beckoned MJ toward an empty chair she hadn't noticed earlier. With a return wave, MJ continued on the trail; she, too, was ready now.
Just as MJ stepped onto the small wooden deck, a loud splash sounded to her left, and she reached to the small of her back for her gun. Helen reacted just as quickly, standing and pulling back hard on her fishing pole. Smiling widely, she began to reel the line in, but the fish seemed to have another agenda as he began to fight mightily to get free.
"Oh no you don't; you're not getting away this time," said Helen, determined not to lose the large catfish. She propped the pole against her stomach and set her feet, her hand still working to reel in her catch.
MJ eased her hand away from the handle of her gun and watched the action unfold. She did have a question though. "What do you mean by this time?"
"This isn't the first time I've hooked this fat guy."
"How do you now it's the same fish?" MJ eyed the line that seemed to be moving away instead of moving closer.
"Oh, it's him alright. He's already tricked me three times before, but this time, he's mine!" Helen gripped the rod tighter and continued to slowly reel in the fighting fish.
MJ laughed. "There's no way it's the same one."
"When I get his fat ass out of the water, he's going to have three hooks sticking out of his mouth."
"No way." MJ shook her head and stared at the taunt line. She just hoped it didn't break.
"You'll see; get the net and scoop him out when I get him closer." Helen's full concentration was on the line now as she slowly turned the reel, careful not to turn too quickly as that had been the cause of her line snapping the last time.
MJ grabbed the net and moved to the end of the deck, her eyes on the water. She smiled to herself as she waited for Helen to reel the fish in closer. Helen wanted this fish badly. He was so was not getting away.
A splash near the deck alerted MJ to the location of the fish, and she moved into the ready position, kneeling down and placing her hand on the end of the deck. When the catfish made another return trip to the surface, MJ leaned over and scooped beneath him, just missing as he landed back into the water. Overstretching, so did MJ.
Helen dropped her rod and raced to the end of the deck. "MJ!"
Sputtering to the surface, MJ blew out a mouthful of water and side-stroked to the ladder that was attached to the deck. A hand appeared in front of her face when she latched on to the middle rung.
"You okay?" Helen kept a hold on the top of the wooden structure and reached toward MJ. "I'm so sorry, MJ. If I hadn't been so obsessed with catching Lucifer, this would have never happened."
MJ stayed in the water. "Lucifer? You named the fish?"
"Yeah, well, he is the fish from hell." Helen smiled. "One day, I'll catch the son-of-a-bitch."
Tightening her hold on the rung, MJ swung her submerged right arm up hard, the net breaking the surface first, followed by a loud splashing noise as the large fish came into view. When she'd fallen, MJ had made damned sure that she'd netted the bastard.
"You got him!" Helen grabbed the net from MJ's outstretched hand and stepped backward onto the deck, leaving MJ to make her way up the ladder unassisted. She let out a chuckle every rung of the way, sprawling on the deck when she'd managed to pull herself free from the ladder.
"Shit!" Having a fish thrust in her face was not exactly the welcome MJ had hoped for.
"See, three hooks, it's the same fish," said Helen, holding the fish out for MJ to inspect.
"Yeah, I see." MJ rolled away from the smelly fish and pushed to her feet. "What now?"
Helen grinned evilly. "We eat the son-of-a-bitch." Scooping her pole from the deck, she headed for the trail. MJ eased out of her soaked shoes and had just leaned over to pick them up when Helen's voice called out, "You coming?"
MJ swallowed her initial thought, and instead, answered, "Be there in a sec." Helen smiled and continued on her way. MJ stood on the deck and watched the other woman walk away. Her thoughts were no longer muddled with confusion.
Helen was totally at ease outdoors, and MJ was totally at ease with Helen. From the looks of things, they were both well on the way to overcoming their fears. Barefoot, she made her way back to the cabin to find out.
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