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Family Imperfect: Chapter 1: Worry Trickles Through The Mind

“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” ~Arthur Somers ************************************************************************   Carly pushed the stroller through the police department doors while an officer, who was on his way out, held them open for her. Smiling a thank you, Carly didn’t make it past the first desk before the Chief of Police appeared.

 
“Hey, Carly, I see you brought our mascot to visit.”

 
Margo smiled at her and then promptly bent over to see Emmy.

 
“Hello there, Gorgeous! Did you come to visit us with your mama?”

 
Emmy looked up from her multicolored teething ring and gave Margo a wide gummy smile as she babbled back unintelligibly.

 
“Well, in case you didn’t quite get the gist of that, yes we’re here to see Jack.” Carly said, putting a smile on her face, even though everything inside of her was screaming for her to cut the conversation short. “In fact, if you could just watch her for a second while I talk to him about…”

 
Carly trailed off and Margo immediately nodded in understanding. “Of course, I’d be happy to.”

 
Before Carly could say anything else, Margo took control of the stroller and headed over to where the coffee pot was situated in the corner of the bullpen. As she pushed she began talking to Emmy about the fine art of making coffee so strong that it would wake someone up with just its smell. Carly amusedly watched her go but her attention was instantly drawn to her husband when he entered the room, his eyes completely focused on a small stack of papers in his hand.
 

“Jack?”

Carly met him just as he reached his desk and his eyes flew from the paperwork to her face in surprise.

“Carly, what are you doing here?” Jack asked, frowning. “Where’s Emmy?”

Carly just pointed and they both couldn’t hold back a grin when they caught sight of their youngest daughter.

Margo had taken her out of her stroller and the two were now surrounded by at least five or six uniformed officers chattering away in baby talk. Emmy, who was always happy to be the center of attention, was soaking it up and willingly putting on a one baby show of, “Look How Adorable I Am, Don’t You Just Love Me”.

“Right, so at least she’s occupied for the moment.” Jack said in amusement and Carly nodded, but then directly turned her attention back to the reason she had come into the station in the first place.

“Jack, is there any news at all about Rosanna? Did they find her?”

At her question, Jack’s smile also disappeared and he sadly shook his head. “No, there’s nothing new, which isn't surprising since it's been less than 24 hours. I called the clinic again and there’s still no sign of her anywhere on the grounds. I put in a call to some guys I still know at the FBI and they are working with Interpol to try and get some answers but, so far, there isn’t a trail to follow.”

“This is ridiculous!” Carly said, running a frustrated hand through her sleek locks. “She couldn’t have just disappeared into thin air, Jack! What about the note?”

“I just got the preliminary results from the lab and so far it’s clean.” Jack said, holding up the papers he had been so engrossed in a few moments ago. “The paper is generic, the ink that it was written in is from a standard ballpoint pen, and there was no trace evidence to suggest where it had come from. We’re still waiting to hear back from the handwriting analyst to see if it matches James Stenbeck’s penmanship, but that might take a couple more hours at least, if not a full day.”

“I hate this!” Carly sighed and tried to blink back the tears of disappointment she could feel welling up inside of her. “I just…I just wanna know where my sister is. Or if she’s alright! Couldn’t he have even at least given me that?”

Jack placed the papers down and came around to the front of his desk, wrapping her in his embrace and letting her head rest against his heartbeat.

“I know, Baby.” He said, rocking her side to side slightly as he pressed soothing kisses to the top of her head. “It’s going to be okay.”

Neither of them knew if his assurance was true but it was enough, for now, to allow Carly to gather herself together. She pulled away and tilted her head up to kiss him gently on the lips before fully extracting herself from his arms and taking a step back. He let her go and leaned against the edge of his desk, crossing his arms over his chest.

“How are our house guests doing?” Jack asked curiously.

“As well as can be expected.” Carly answered and gave a small sigh. “Poor Cab…I mean, Josh…was so tired that he barely managed to eat some breakfast with the rest of the kids before they left for school. Then he fell back asleep, practically on the table. Nicole wasn’t faring much better so I made her go lay down with him in the guest room again. When I left the house, they were both out cold.”
 
“Is the guard still outside?” Jack said and Carly nodded.
 
“Yes, both of them; the one out front and the one across the street in an unmarked car.”
 
“I was hoping you wouldn’t notice Tony. How’d did you pick him out?” Jack asked surprised but she just smiled.
 
“I’ve been a cop’s wife for a while now, Jack… quite a while, actually, if you total all the years together. It would be pretty sad if I couldn’t pinpoint an unmarked police car with a undercover cop inside.” Carly said, shrugging. “Not to mention, we’ve needed them ourselves few times.”
 
Jack didn’t say anything at that last statement, just hung his head briefly and frowned.
 
“Jack?”
 
At the sound of uncertainty in her voice as she said his name, he looked at Carly with a questioning gaze.
 
“Jack, I don’t mean to sound insensitive, really I don’t, but…we have our own children’s safety to worry about and…”
 
“You’re wondering how long Nicole and Josh are going to be in our house.” Jack finished for her and though she looked slightly regretful, Carly nodded.
 
Jack couldn’t blame her, with everything they had all been through in the years, it was a legitimate concern. The fact that whoever was behind all this, whether it be James Stenbeck or not, had taken Carly’s sister was bad enough. But to be harboring the two people that were the most likely cause of it all was just putting added target signs on their backs.
 
“We’re going to move them to a safe house nearby this afternoon and hopefully within the next couple of days, we’ll get some added help by way of federal bodyguards. We’re just waiting on the official okay from the right channels. Um, but until then, I’m going to be staying with them at the safe house.” Jack said, causing Carly to frown.
 
“You’re what?”
 
Her exclamation was louder than she had intended, and Jack sent reassuring smiles to the fellow officers that looked their way as he simultaneously shooed Carly into the empty interrogation room behind his desk. Shutting the door, he turned to see her standing by the table, her expression still incredulous and her foot tapping impatiently.
 
“Carly, listen, it’ll only be for a couple days, until Friday maybe, and then I’ll be home again.”
 
Before he could even finish his sentence Carly was shaking her head.
 
“No. Not going to happen.” She said, tensely. “Why can’t someone else do it?”
 
“I’m the only one with former FBI training and while there will be a couple other officers posted around the house area, I’ll be in charge until the federal agents are sent down from Chicago. And, Carly, honey, it’s not like I’ll be five states away. The safe house is only a few miles from the farm, so I’ll still be close by.” Jack said, reaching out to pull her closer to him.
 
Recognizing the stubborn set of her jaw, he could see that she was still far from being placated about his new role, so he was forced to pull out the big guns.
 
“Besides, right now, you and I are the only ones they trust. Rosanna loved that little boy so much that, even while she was giving him up, she made sure that his new family knew to come to us, if something like this ever happened. And you know why? Because, like you said, we’ve been in similar situations as they are right now. Do you remember how scary they were for us as adults? Imagine what that little boy is going through. It’ll probably be a really nice thing Josh to see at least one friendly face around until he and Nicole get adjusted.”
 
Jack could tell that his argument had hit home by the way she wouldn’t meet his direct gaze and the shifting of her body. He didn’t say anything more, only lovingly played with her slender fingers, as he waited for her to say something.
 
“I still don’t like it.” Carly said after a long moment of silence, a small pout on her face.
 
“Me either, but it’s my job, Baby.” Jack said and tugged her hand, so that she took a few steps closer to him. “Come on, you know I hate it when I can’t fall asleep with you in my arms. Your warmth curled into my side; the feel of your skin against mine; the way you always seem to know that special way to wake me up in the morning especially on the days I don’t want to get out of bed.”
 
As Carly listened to him speak, his voice dropped lower and lower, while he subtly pulled her closer and closer to him until she was merely inches from his body.
 
“It’s only…a few days…right?” Carly murmured, her blue eyes darkening as she unconsciously licked her lips.
 
“End of the week at most.” Jack said, watching her movement intently.
 
Carly placed a hand over his heart and stepped closer so that their bodies were now touching. Jack tilted his chin down as she lifted hers up, bringing their lips together in a soft kiss. Carly’s hand slid up around his neck to weave itself in his hair that, thankfully, was once again at just the right length. Her lips parted with a sigh and Jack took the opportunity to advance the kiss, letting his tongue caress hers as they grew more passionate.
 
However both of them recognized that now was neither the time nor the place for such a display and mutually pulled apart. Their breathing was slightly heavy, but they both wore smiles on their faces.
 
“How many days did you say until the actual FBI agents take over for you?” Carly asked, her mouth still relatively close to his.
“I’ll cash in some favors.” Jack said immediately, causing her to smile wider and brush another kiss against his lips.
 
“Good.” She said and then stepped away, albeit a little reluctantly. Then looking around the room, she gave him a pointed look. “You know, this is the second time we’ve made out in this room on Valentine’s Day.”
 
Jack remembered quite clearly the first time they had done so, images of her dressed in a skimpy red corset and black trench coat flooding his mind. He also remembered how quickly that outfit came off as soon as he had gotten her home.
 
“Technically,” Jack said, clearing his throat and forcing himself to come back from those delicious memories. “Valentine’s Day was yesterday.”
 
“Details, details.” Carly said, waving a hand in the air and catching it he pressed a kiss to her palm. She stroked her thumb over his lips and then gave a sigh.
 
While the past few moments had been a nice distraction, the reality of what was going on in their lives washed over her again. Worry and fear for her sister rose inside her, even as she tried to dampen the emotions. Jack noticed the change in her demeanor and instinctively knew the reason why. Placing an arm around her shoulders, he pulled her to him in a side hug.
 
“We’ll find her, Carly.”
 
Carly didn’t say anything in response. She just nodded and tucked her face into his side for a moment, allowing his presence to comfort her, before straightening up again.
 
“Okay, I’m going to go pick up some things that Nicole and Josh might need for the safe house. Extra clothes, toiletries, that sort of thing.” She said and Jack smiled at her take charge attitude. There was his Carly; ready for anything.
 
“I’m sure they’d appreciate it.” He said and they moved to leave the interrogation room. “But first, I want to say hello to my daughter.”
 
Upon exiting, the first thing they noticed was that the small crowd of admirers had not dissipated around Emmy. In fact, one officer had somehow acquired party balloons and was creating balloon animals for the highly amused baby girl. While Emmy didn’t know what they were, she did know that they were brightly colored and made fun squeaking noises when the silly man in blue twisted them into different shapes.
 
“Hanson, I really hope you don’t carry those around standard with your handcuffs.” Jack said as he and Carly made their way over to the group.
 
As amused as Emmy had been a moment ago, at the sound of Jack’s voice her head whipped around. Spotting him she lunged forward out of Margo’s arms and happily toppled into Jack’s waiting ones.
 
“Whoa! Hey there, Angel!” Jack said, catching her and raising Emmy to kiss her hello. The baby smiled and reached up to pat his cheeks with both hands, babbling away at her "da-da-da".
 
“Daddy’s girl?” Margo asked Carly in amusement.
 
“How could you tell?” Carly joked back and the two women shared a smile.
 
But when Margo’s attention turned back to Jack and Emmy again, Carly’s smile faded as her thoughts drifted once more to her missing sister and the nagging feeling of dread that just wouldn’t go away.