Part 5

by planet-solin

For disclaimers: see part one

Chapter Nine

It felt strange for Alex to walk into the office alone that Monday morning. In the nine days they had been gone Sydney had been constantly at her side. She missed the other woman's presence. She missed her smell and the gentle way the smaller woman put a casual hand upon her back or her arm to draw her attention.

She sighed, nodding a greeting towards the detectives in the room before stepping into her own office, tossing her briefcase unto the desk before dropping into her chair. Without Sydney she felt like an important part of herself was missing.

"Oh, you have it so bad," she chided herself, mentally speaking the truth. She was completely in love with the blond woman and falling in deeper with each passing day. She stared out the window. For once it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.

Sydney's birthday was coming up in a few weeks and she wanted to do something really special. For a few more minutes she indulged herself, unwilling to begin her day. Mentally she plotted several scenarios, reminding herself to call Andrew for a chat. As if summoned by her thoughts the phone jangled.

"Captain Marshall!" she answered briskly, but it sounded more like a bark.

"Mother Marshall, here," Marie responded with a hint of sarcasm. "Dear, do you always answer your phone like that?"

"No...yes.." Alex was momentarily confused.

"I taught you to have better manners then that," the older woman scolded gently. "What if the Commissioner had been calling?"

"I would have said, 'what the hell you want George?'," came the tart reply. Silence greeted her response and Alex winced realizing she had gone to far but before she could utter an apology her mother was speaking.

"My, we're in a fun mood today," the sarcasm was obvious.

"I just don't want to be here today," Alex sighed.

"Oh?" Marie was curious. "Then why don't you take the day off."

"Because then I'd be taking every day off," the younger woman said. "I miss not being with Sydney."

"She's not there then I take it."

"No, she's on evening shift."

The disappointment was evident in the younger woman's voice. Marie knew how much her daughter cared for the other woman. It was becoming increasingly more obvious with each passing day. The two women were growing closer and briefly Marie wondered if things would have been different for Alexandria if they had a closer relationship. She dismissed the thought aware that it had been brought on by that old familiar pang of jealousy.

"Well, then you have no excuse for not joining us Friday night for dinner," the older woman was not above taking advantage of the woman for her own benefit. "We've seen far to little of you lately."

"Okay," Alex agreed more readily then usual. The idea of being alone in the condo was very unappealing, especially on a Friday night.

"Good, be here for dinner at six thirty," Marie said and then hung up the phone.

Alex stared at the receiver for a minute before shaking her head. With reluctance she pushed all the thoughts of her family and her lover aside. Returning the phone to it's cradle she got down to work.

Sydney walked into the station house at twelve thirty, half an hour before their scheduled appointment to share lunch. Alex glanced at her watch and then at the small blond head which had poked itself through a crack in the door.

"You're early," Alex said unable to hide the pleasure she felt at seeing the younger woman.

"I was going crazy at home by myself," the small detective admitted with a sheepish grin. "I got lonely, I guess I kinda got used to having you around 24/7."

"Me, too," echoed the Captain and for a brief minute they smiled at each other in silence. "Ready for a game."

"Yep," Sydney's smile grew. "I have a feeling that today is the day that I'm going to beat you."

And she almost did, Alex realized over an hour later as the two exhausted women retired from the basketball court. They made their way back to the locker room both quietly wishing that their lives were different so that they could spend more time like this together.

"I missed this," Sydney said when they were finished in the shower and starting to dress.

"Yeah, me too," Alex sighed and then decided to change the subject before the yearning in her heart
became to strong. "Mom called, she invited me for dinner on Friday."

"Are you going?" Sydney asked curiously aware that the older Marshall woman liked it when their daughter visited them alone.

"Yeah," Alex nodded and then gave her companion a lopsided grin. "Otherwise I would just be sitting around waiting for you to get home."

"I'm glad," the smaller woman smiled. "I think you're mother likes to visit alone with you."

"My parents like you," the Captain interrupted hastily.

"No Alex," the blonde woman said bluntly. "Your father likes me because I can be one of the guys, but your mom still isn't happy about us."

The Captain was silent aware that her lover had spoken the truth. She knew that her parent was trying yet Marie was still having a difficult time getting used to them being together.

"It's because she thinks that she's failed in someway," she sighed. "I think she feels responsible for me being gay. Like she had done something wrong when I was growing up. It's nothing personal against you."

"I know," Sydney understood better then her partner realized. "She cares about you and that's really neat. I envy you for having that."

Alex stopped buttoning her shirt and stared for a long moment at her companion who was seemingly oblivious to her gaze. Finally something in the silence made the smaller woman look up and for a long intense moment blue and green eyes met.

"They are not just my parents any more," Alex said quietly. "You're part of the family now."

"Alex," the name came out as a whine.

"No," the taller woman was firm. "You are my partner Sydney and for as long as we are together, I want you to consider them as your parents as well."

"I'd like to believe that Alex, but that's really up to them," Sydney appreciated her lovers word's but inside she knew that her lover's statement wasn't quite true. Regardless of how long they were together, she would never truly be a part of the Marshall family. The pure nature of their relationship was such that she would never fully be accepted.

Alex sensed there was something that her companion wasn't saying and opened her mouth to speak but the door to the locker room opened then to admit two female patrol officers and she knew the time for any serious conversation was over.

That afternoon the tall, dark haired woman sat in her office and stared out the window at her companion. She knew that in spite of everything Sydney didn't feel apart of her family and she racked her brains to try to think of someway to change that yet she wasn't certain she could. She wanted to make Sydney a part of her family. There was only one thing that continually popped in her head. It was an idea that nagged at her for the rest of the week and it was what was on her mind when she went to visit her parents that Friday evening.

"You seem preoccupied dear, is everything all right?" Marie asked her daughter when they were sitting at the dinner table enjoying a delicious roast beef dish.

"Yeah," Alex was in no mood to discuss her thoughts.

"Well, it's nice to have you here," the older woman said. "We so seldom get to see you."

"Sydney and I rarely have any time off together," the younger woman said.

"You can come here without Sydney," her mother said and something about that statement irritated Alex beyond reasonable measure. Perhaps it was the direction her thoughts had been taking this last while.

"Do you tell Andrew, Lawrence or Charles to leave their wives at home too?"

"What?" Marie was taken aback at the fierce tone of her daughters voice.

"Alexandria, I don't think your mother was saying that," Warren interjected loudly sensing the beginning of an argument that none of them wanted. "I think you're mother was just saying that you don't have to wait until Sydney is free. You are welcome here anytime."

Alex closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She expelled it slowly aware that she had jumped to conclusions. She looked apologetically at her mother.

"I'm sorry," she was genuinely contrite. "There was no excuse for me to jump at you, I guess I'm just a little edge," she cocked a crooked and embarrassed smile at her parents. "I think I'm suffering from Sydney withdrawal."

"What?" both echoed in confusion and the younger woman grew sheepish.

"It was so nice being together all that time," Alex admitted. "I guess I miss not having her around all the time."

There was silence as the older couple absorbed this information. They looked silently at each other in quiet understanding, and Marie felt another pain in her heart, realizing that she had truly lost her daughter to this other woman.

"Have you given any more consideration to that talk we had a few months ago?" Warren asked breaking the silence and momentarily changing the subject.

Alex looked up at her father. After her talk with Sydney she had all but dismissed the idea of leaving the police department and going into private law practice. They were still building their relationship and needed all the time together they could get, leaving the department would cut into that little time they now had for each other.

Warren watched his daughter seeing the answer before any words came from her mouth. He was looking forward to the day when she finally joined the family practice. He was proud of his sons, but his ony daughter was special, she had a personality and a force that was stronger then any of her siblings and he knew that she would be impressive in any courtroom. She had been every time she had testified for the persecution. He couldn't wait for the day when she finally stepped across the courtroom and stood for the defense.

"Yes," the girl nodded looking down at her plate and picking at the food with her fork. "I talked to Sydney like you suggested but it isn't the right time."

"You didn't let her persuade you not to leave, did you?" Marie asked a little to sharply and it made Alex uncomfortable that her parents might blame her lover for her decision.

"On the contrary, she was very supportive," was the honest answer. "The truth is as much as I'd love to start getting my hands wet, I'm not sure it's best for right now. We are still new at this relationship and we hardly see each other now, when we work in the same department, we'd never see each other if I started practicing law." She paused hoping her parents would understand. "Sydney is too important for me to risk losing."

"More important than your career?" Marie asked.

"More important then life," Alex replied quietly leaving them in no doubt about her feelings towards the younger woman.

"Don't you think it's a little soon to be saying something like that?" the older woman said quietly and blue eyes looked up. "After all you haven't known her all that long."

"No, we haven't known each other that long but it's what I have felt since the first time I met her," the tall woman paused shaking her head, glancing down at her plate for a moment to sort out her thoughts before looking up at her parents. "I know you won't understand this, and I don't suppose you ever will, but I feel about Sydney the same way you two feel about each other."

"You couldn't have explained it better," Warren said quietly, reaching across the table and squeezing his daughters hand. "But you have to give us all time to adjust. We didn't expect to get four daughter-in-laws."

"I appreciate what you have done," Alex replied. "You have been more supportive then I expected."

"Well, maybe there is more we can do," Warren said an idea coming to mind. "Andrew just landed a
few big criminal cases and he could probably use some help."

"I don't know if it's wise I work on a criminal case," the Captain responded grateful for her father's attempt. "I think it would be a conflict of interest or something."

"Not necessarily," the attorney disagreed. "None of his cases involves your department and all you would be doing is research and help with preparing the case."

The idea sounded reasonably interesting though Alex wasn't certain how she would be able to fit it into her schedule. She admitted as much.

"What do you do when Sydney's working and you're not?" her father asked patiently.

"Work-out in the gym, mop around the apartment," Alex was honest.

"Exactly," Warren stressed his point. "Put that time to use. Andrew's bogged down right now and he could use the help of someone whose more than an assistant and you can come in when you're not busy."

Alex thought about the proposal for a long moment. She liked the idea and it would give her something to do rather than waste time in the condo waiting for Sydney to get home from work. She looked intently at her father.

"I'd have to clear this with the department and with Andrew," she said pensively. "And Sydney."

"I'll talk to Andrew," her father said but his daughter shook her head.

"No daddy, I want to make sure he's okay with this," Alex said. "If you talk to him, he'll think he's forced into the matter. I don't want that."

"Okay," he agreed seeing the logic in his daughters statement.

"Okay," Alex smiled.

"Good, now mother mentioned that Sydney's birthday is coming up," Warren changed the subject aware that his wife always got anxious when they discussed business.

"Yes," Alex nodded. "Two weeks from Sunday."

"Do you have an idea of what you are going to do?" Marie spoke for the first time in a while, still smarting from her daughters misunderstanding.

"Yeah," the taller woman had been thinking hard and had come up with the perfect idea of how she wanted to celebrate her lover's birthday. "Sydney isn't big into parties, so I thought the two of us would just go out to dinner."

"You have to let us celebrate with you," her father moaned. "At least let us throw her a barbecue with family and a few friends. We could have it on Sunday afternoon."

"Yeah," Alex nodded her head a smile forming on her lips. "I don't think she would mind something like that. But you don't have to do this just because of what I said earlier."

"We're not," Warren spoke for the both of them. "I know that sometimes we don't treat Sydney like family but I expect that she is, so it's no use denying it."

"Thank you daddy," Alex was extremely grateful for the acceptance that her father gave. It gave her courage to broach another subject. "Have you guys decided where you're going this Christmas?"

"Your mother mentioned she'd like to go to Greece," Warren answered.

"They have this lovely three week cruise that tours through the Greek Islands and makes several stops in Turkey," Marie enthused, her eyes narrowing slightly when she noticed her daughter begin to figet with her napkin. "Why?"

"When we were on Lopez Island, I told Sydney about all the vacations we had spent there as a family."

"Those are wonderful memories," Marie agreed with a smile.

"Yeah, that's what she thought," the taller woman continued thoughtfully. "Sydney didn't have much of a childhood. She doesn't have many memories like that. She never really had any special Christmas celebrations."

"Are you trying to get at something dear?" the older woman prompted sensing that her daughter was having a difficult time discussing something which was on her mind.

"I was wondering if you would consider postponing your plans and spend Christmas with Sydney and myself on Lopez Island," Alex finally managed to get out. There was silence as the older two people glanced across the table at each other. The younger woman missed the quiet communication.

"I think that would be a wonderful idea," Warren spoke for them both and Alex glanced from one face to the other for confirmation.

"Yes," Marie nodded her head in agreement.

"Are you sure?" the younger woman seemed uncertain.

"Absolutely," Warren was more enthusiatic this time. "I think it's a postively great idea. We haven't been out to the Island for Christmas in to many years. It would be nice."

"What about your trip to Greece?"

"We can go any time of the year," Marie waved her hand airly, liking the idea very much. "Truth is, your father and I get lonely in the Christmas' when none of you children come home. It will be nice to spend Christmas with someone."

The more Alex thought about the whole situation the more excited she became. She waited up that night for her lover to come home waiting only until Sydney had crawled into bed with her before settling down and turning out the light.

"How did dinner go?" the smaller woman asked snuggling into her companions arms.

"Better then I thought," the Captain said unable to mask the excitement in her voice. The blond woman listened as her lover spoke, telling her about the evening and its unexpected events.

"You know Alex, if you want to go into practicing law, I think you should," Sydney said ignoring her
personal thoughts and fears. "I'll support everything you decide."

"I know you will," Alex sighed, "but I'm not ready. This way I can try it out and see if I'll really like it or not. It would be crazy if I left the SPD only to find out I hated being a lawyer. Maybe I'll even be awful."

"You'll be a great lawyer,"

"You're too good for my ego," Alex chuckled and squeezed her companion in her arms. "But that's not the most exciting news."

"Oh?" Sydney twisted around in her companions arms so that she could look her full in the face.

"I talked to mom and dad about Christmas and they think it's a great idea," the dark haired woman could barely contain her excitement. "They are looking forward to spending Christmas this year with us on Lopez Island."

She felt an immense rush of love for her partner and not knowing what to say she leaned in and kissed the other woman soundly.

"I love you."

"I know you do," Alex chuckled pleased by her partners response. "Now tell me about your day. Did you land anything exciting?"

Sydney proceeded to tell her partner about the rather boring shift she had spent. Since returning from Lopez Island she had been bogged down on several rather mundane assignments. She was happy to report that after three weeks they were about to finally close the case of Louis B. Archer the black street vagrant that had been beaten to death in an alley.

That evening she had finally found Martin Steward, a homeless man, in one of the cities drunk tanks and after sobering him up he had admitted that his partner, one Melvin Vega and himself had beaten Archer to death because the man had refused to share the rest of his alcohol with them. The whole situation had been pitiful and she had walked away from the man with a sense of incredible hopelessness for the way some of the world was headed.

"It's times like this that I wonder about bringing a child into the world," the blond woman admitted her thoughts.

"It is a tough world out there," Alex conceded, "but we shouldn't give up hope. It's only when we give up that it truly becomes hopeless."

Alex was still thinking about the conversation the next day when she called her brother and made
arrangements to meet him at a local restaurant. She had never been to the place that her brother named and needed to look it up in the phone book to get the appropriate directions. She arrived early and was surprised to find that her brother was already waiting.

"The man that owns this place is a client of mine," Andrew informed her. "He's involved in a little bit of trouble so I thought to come early and talk to him before we met."

"Why? So you could write our lunch off as a business lunch?" Alex inquired drawing an embarrassed grin from her brother. "I can't believe you do that to dad."

"I don't use it against dad," the man hastily defended himself. "I use it on my tax forms."

Alex shook her head without comment before following the hostess to a table at the far end of the restaurant. She slipped into a chair and allowed her eyes to scan their surroundings.

The place was elegantly decorated and dimly lit providing a muted atmosphere. It was built in the likeness of a great hall in a distant castle with torches flickering along the wall. It was definitely a place where someone could be intimate.

"This is a cool place," Alex commented, aware that the menus where on simple pieces of paper that were rolled up like scrolls.

"Yeah I like it," Andrew smiled proudly. "I bring Christie here for our anniversary, they have some really neat private alcoves in the back, like your own private dining areas."

"Really?" Alex was definitely interested now as her mind shifted into high gear.

"Yeah, it's incredibly romantic," the man continued wagging his eyebrows suggestively. "The perfect place to take a lover."

Alex looked at him with one eyebrow cocked. "Are you suggesting something?"

"Well, mom let it slip that it was the Kindergartener Cops birthday coming up soon and I just thought..."

"What, that I needed some help in figuring out what to do?" the eyebrows disappeared beneath dark bangs.

"No," Andrew flushed. "I mean, I'm sure you know what to do but I just thought.."

"I know what you thought and I appreciate it," Alex smiled letting the man off the hook. She glanced around their surroundings. "The truth is that I was racking my brains for a place to take her. I didn't want it to be someplace ordinary."

"Well, there you go," a grin broke over the man's face.

"So, how much does it cost to rent one of those alcoves for an evening?" she wanted to know and watched as the smile on the older man's face disappeared.

"It's not more then you could afford however they are usually booked months in advance."

"Oh," Alex was disappointed, thinking that she would have to think of another idea. "Maybe you could speak with the owner, after all he is a client."

Andrew looked at his sister and a smile broke over his face. "Yeah maybe I could, however it's going to cost you."

"How much?" the tall woman wanted to know, her eyes narrowing.

"I don't know yet," the man grinned evilly as he leaned back in his chair and began to tap his fingers on the table thoughtfully. "I will need time to think about it."

"Don't think to hard," Alex drawled. "I am a resourceful woman and can find some other place on my own."

"But will it be as nice as this?" Andrew asked continuing to think that he had his sister over a barrel.

"Better," the woman smirked and the man laughed.

"I'll talk to him," the man conceded defeat. "And it won't cost you anything. Tell Syd it's my birthday present to her."

"I appreciate it," Alex was sincere.

The rest of the meal was spent in quiet conversation as the two siblings caught up on what was happening in their lives. Alex detailed what had happened during their brief visit to Lopez Island and the ensuing trip to Vancouver. Andrew sat rapt, listening to his sister and thinking that she lead such an interesting life.

"I envy you," he sighed when she was finished.

"Oh," Alex was slightly taken aback by his confession.

"Yeah," he smiled sheepishly. "You and Sydney seem to led such an exciting life. Something is always happening."

"Believe me brother I wish it was a lot less exciting," the woman retorted without amusement thinking of Sydney's shooting and the night in Vancouver when they were assaulted by the street punks. "It's not as glamorous as it seems."

"No, I suppose nothing is," Andrew agreed nodding his head. He glanced up at his sister. "I know we get along and all but you still haven't told me why it was important for us to meet for lunch."

Alex looked at her brother for a moment before revealing the reason behind this date. She related the
conversation she had with their father and then fell silent, waiting for the man to respond. She saw the pensive frown burrow it's way between his brows.

"Doesn't dad think I can handle the cases?" he asked unable to mask the hurt he felt in his voice.

"Not at all, he's just worried that you are overworked," Alex said hastily. "Aren't you spending longer hours at the office?"

"Yeah," the man nodded admitting the truth. Christie had complained more then once that he was getting home later and later in the day. Truth was that he would welcome some extra help with his caseloads and the thought of working with Alex was not unappealing. He liked his sister and enjoyed her company immensely.

"Is it something you want to do?" he asked turning his blue eyes on her.

"It's something I'd like to try," the woman confided. "I've been thinking of putting my degree to use but I'm not ready to leave the force yet."

"And Sydney, what does she think of this?"

"Sydney will support anything I do," came the quietly rejoinder. "Truth is she is the reason I want to do this."

"Oh?" this confession caught the man by surprise.

"Yeah," Alex nodded her dark head. "I feel practically lost without her around and the condo seems so empty without her in it. I need to keep busy when she's working."

"Oh," the man nodded his head in understanding.

"So it wouldn't be full time and I wouldn't let it interfere with the little time I have with Sydney," she paused. "That is if you're okay with it."

"Yeah, I think it would be great," the man answered after a moment of searching his sister's face. "I'd like to work with you and I know Christie would be happy knowing that there was someone else helping out. Truth is I think she is afraid that one of the reasons I stay late at the office is because I might be having an affair with one of the legal assistants."

"Oh," this admission caught Alex by surprise. She had never known her friend to be the jealous type. She caught the slightly guilty smile on her siblings face. She never expected this from her brother. "Do you want to tell me about this?"

"There is nothing really to tell," Andrew said not daring to look his sister in the eye. "There is a new legal assistant at the office and she is eager to get ahead. Too eager I'm afraid and she has volunteered on more then one occasion to stay late and help out. She is working on her law degree and thinks anything extra will help. It will but Christie thinks the woman might have a crush on me."

"What do you think?" Alex was blunt and saw the flush enter her brothers cheeks.

"I think she might be right."

There was silence as the woman contemplated the situation. She thought back to those long moments when she had first met Sydney's former lover in Vancouver. She had been more then mildly jealous and had been unwilling to allow the two out of her sight. It wasn't that she distrusted her lover, for Sydney's feelings for her were evident, it was just that she wasn't certain the other woman didn't still hold a torch for her companion and she knew how things could go.

"Well, then my presence might just be able to cool her intentions," she paused. "That is if you want that to happen."

"Oh, God yes," the man breathed heavily. "I love Christie and I don't think about being with anyone else. I'm just not certain how to handle this woman without causing an even bigger problem."

"Okay then I will handle it for you, provided of course you do me a favour," Alex said and her brother looked at her sceptically.

"What kind of favour?" he was suspicious uncertain he could agree to what his sibling would propose.

"Get me one of those private alcoves for Sydney's birthday," Alex said and the man grinned reaching out his hand.


Alex was still mulling over her plans, with a smile on her lips when she arrived home that evening. It was Tuesday and Sydney was only at the beginning of her seven day night shift rotation. She hated the fact that she would have to sleep alone for another five nights before her partner rotated back onto the day shift.

She stepped into the condo, surprised to find it completely silent. Usually when she arrived home, it was to find the stereo blaring full blast as her partner went about any activity that she was preoccupied with. For a moment she felt a sudden panic but that lasted only until she found her partner in the den, curled up on the sofa with a book propped open on her lap.

Alex smiled as she leaned against the door and watched her companion sleep. Sydney usually went to bed the moment she returned to the apartment in the morning, that way she was up for when she returned from work allowing them to spend the evening together, doing whatever they wanted.

The smile faded. Alex knew that the shift work was tough on the younger woman. It was tough on all the detectives but it was the most effective rotation that had been worked out.

She glanced at her watch and decided to leave the smaller woman sleep, retreating to the bedroom to change before strolling into the kitchen to make supper. She felt in an expansive mood and it was an hour later before the casserole she had thrown together was ready to take out of the oven. She set it on the counter to cool while she finished setting the table. Only when everything was complete did she go wake her partner.

Sydney rousted slowly, drifting casually from her slumber back into reality, aware of something very soft and gentle caressing her hair. It took her a moment to realize it was a hand and that it belonged to her lover.

"Hey," she smiled lazily allowing her green eyes to slowly open.

"Hey sleepyhead," Alex smiled, leaning in to brush her lips across the smaller woman's brow. "You hungry?"

"Starved," Sydney sighed and studied her companion intently. "Did you just get home?"

"No, I've been home for about an hour," the taller woman replied. "Dinner is ready."

"Oh Alex, you should have woken me."

"Why, you were sleeping so peacefully," Alex said tenderly combing loose strands of blond hair from her partner's forehead. "I didn't want to wake you, but dinner is ready and I am hungry."

"Okay," the blond woman smiled and then with the help of her companion eased herself off the sofa.

"I had lunch with Andrew today," Alex said once they were sitting at the table. "I mentioned to him that dad would like me to help him out doing research on some of his cases."

"What did he say?" Sydney asked swallowing a mouthful of casserole.

"At first he was offended but then I think he realized what Dad is trying to do," the dark haired woman admited. "In the end he admitted that it would probably be a good thing. It seems that there is a law clerk in the office who is showing him some unwelcome attention."

"Oh," the blond woman was surprised by that revelation. She glanced at her partner.

"Yeah, it seems she has developed a crush on him and he doesn't know exactly what to do about it," Alex continued. "I think he would welcome a third party in the office to help diffuse the situation."

"Then it could serve two purposes," Sydney said.

"I hope so," Alex sighed. "Anyway, I promised him I would pop around tomorrow evening after work so he could introduce me around his office and get me familiar with how he wants things done."

"So what time should I expect you?" the smaller woman wanted to know.

"I will be home by six," the Captain promised and then smiled. "If you're up to it maybe we can hit a movie before you go into work."

"Actually, I would perfer to spend the evening alone together if you don't mind," Sydney confessed.

"Done," Alex agreed only to willing to have the younger woman all to herself for an evening.. "What do you have in mind?"

"You'll see," the blond detective smiled coyly and then changed the subject. "I decided to go to see Anne tomorrow."

"Are you sure you're ready?" Alex was immediately concerned, reminded of an earlier conversation they had shared. She had faith in the older woman, there was something about Anne that told Alex the woman really cared for her younger sibling. She trusted that the convict wouldn't say anything stupid to her partner.

"Yeah," Sydney nodded her head. "I'm nervous but I have to see her some time. It will only get harder the longer I wait."

"I don't think you have anything to worry about," the Captain said confidentally.

I hope not, the smaller woman thought unable to dismiss the fears that she held. Immediately after work the next morning, she headed towards the state pentitary where her sister Anne was incarerated. She didn't even bother waiting for Alex to arrive at work, thinking how she might stay and talk to the woman and then change her mind. She shook her head, feeling incredibly fatigued, and trying to keep her thoughts focused on the drive. It didn't surprise her that her older sibling wasn't expecting her visit.

"Hey," Sydney greeted her sister as the older woman slipped into the vacant chair on the other side of the glass partition and picked up the phone.

"Hey, how are you doing kid?" Anne was geniunely concerned about her younger sibling.

"Good," the blond woman smiled weakly. "How have you been?"

"Staying alive," the prisoner flashed a cocky grin, her hazel eyes narrowing as she searched the other woman's face. She was astute enough to notice the red scars that were visible on her sisters' neck and lower chin. She sensed that the kid was reluctant to discuss what had happened and decided to bring up the subject herself. "Are you completely recovered?"

"The wounds hurt sometimes when I am overtired," Sydney conceded unconsciously running her fingertips over the scars on her neck. "They told you what happened?"

"Yeah, the Warden is a bit of a battleaxe but she's got a heart," Anne flashed another grin that disappeared almost as soon as it appeared. "She told me you were shot."

"Yeah, we went to arrest a guy in regards to a murder case and he came out firing," the detective admitted. "We weren't prepared and got tagged. It's lucky that he was a bad shot."

"Someone took care of him, didn't they?" the convict asked roughly feeling a measure of anger and hatred towards the unknown person who had harmed her sister.

"He was killed in an exchange of fire," Sydney said quietly not elaborating and unable to meet her siblings eyes which made the older woman's eyes narrow.

Anne was silent as she studied her younger sister. She knew Sydney better then anyone and there were certain traits that the girl had carried from her childhood through to her adult life. One of them was her avoidance in meeting their eyes when she didn't want to admit something. She couldn't at first think about what the other woman could be hiding and then it suddenly hit her.

"You killed him," the older woman said succinctly guessing the truth and all Sydney could do was nod her head. "He deserved it."

"No one deserves to be killed," the detective disputed the claim with a flash of anger. "No one has the right to kill another human being."

There was complete silence as the words sank into the prisoners head. For a long moment hazel and green eyes met as the two sisters stared at each other. Sydney held her breath not certain her sibling wouldn't just get up and walk out of the visitors room.

They had never talked about that night so very long ago. She knew her sister's feelings on the situation but Sydney had never confronted her about the events of that evening that had changed both their lives so dramatically.

"No, you're right," Anne agreed softly, "but there are always reasons why people end up dying at the hands of someone else."

"You mean excuses," the blond woman shook her head.

"No reasons," the convict corrected quietly. "I won't say what I did was right, but I was scared. That night when that cop came after me I was afraid of this. I didn't want to go to jail."

"So you shot him," Sydney said.

"I never meant to kill him..."

"But you did," the detective interrupted shaking her head not accepting that argument..

"Yes, but do you actually think I want to be here," Anne demanded with a hint of anger waving her free hand expansively to indicate her surroundings. "Do you think there is anyone who would intentionally want to waste their life in a dump like this?"

"No," Sydney shook her head again.

"Then why can't you accept it was an accident?" the older woman demanded.

"Because you never expressed remorse," the blond woman said bluntly and for a long moment there was a tense silence. "From the moment I realized that I had been responsible for that man's death, regardless of the fact that he had tried to kill me first, I felt horrible."

"That's why you and me are different kid," Anne said flippantly and her attitude stirred an anger deep inside the younger woman.

"I don't think we are so different," Sydney disputed the claim. "If there is one difference between us it's that you are a coward and I'm not."

"Bullshit..." the older woman was about to disagree but the detective wouldn't accept any argument.

"Yes," the blond woman affirmed. "You might have been scared when you shot that cop but you were a coward not to own up to it. You are so frightened of having someone see the real you, that you played at being the big shot, the tough guy. You always had to be the tough guy."

"Someone had to be, to protect your sorry ass," the older woman scoffed resentfully.

"Bullshit, you never protected me," Sydney disagreed thinking of all the times that she had been kicked around and beaten by the others. "If I remember correctly you stood by and watched them hurt me... when did you protect me from them?"

"Just by being there," the other woman snorted tersely. "Everything they did to you would have been worse if I hadn't been there."

Sydney was silent. She didn't want to argue with her sister. She was tired, exhausted by her long shift and the drive. She knew that in this mood she was liable to say something that would only upset the situation even more then it already was. She thought of Alex and wished the taller woman was there. She could use her strength and guidance at that moment.

"I'm not you, Syd," Anne said quietly breaking the silence between them and the younger woman glanced up. For a long moment green and hazel eyes met in a long gaze. "I will never be you."

The single knock on the door made Alex glance up from the paperwork on her desk. She was surprised at the sight that filled her line of vision. She smiled and gave the rotund man a firm nod before motioning to an empty chair. It was little more than a week since they had last seen the man.

"It's nice to see you Sheriff Ford," she greeted the man as he plunked himself down in a vacant chair. "What brings you up into this neck of the woods?"

"Hadn't seen George for awhile so I thought it was time to drop down for a visit," the man replied easily as he settled comfortably into the chair. "Figured I would pop in and bring you up to speed on what's happening on the Meyer's case. Thought you would be interested."

"I am," Alex smirked, "but I think this visit has more to do with being able to bill this trip to the taxpayers rather then bring me up to speed."

"I see now why my brother warned me to be careful with you," the Sheriff laughed not offended by the comment. He let his brown eyes wander around the room. "You've got yourself some pretty nice digs here."

"Not as good as your brothers," came the light reply which brought another chuckle from the man.

"I am thinking that he better be on his guard or you might soon be standing on his door step waiting to move in."

"Nope," Alex shook her head. "That's one thing George doesn't have to worry about. I have no ambition to go after his job, to much political crap to deal with."

"Yep, I suppose you're right there," the man agreed solemnly.

"So, anything new?" Alex was geniunely curious to know how the case involving Leanne Meyer's murder was progressing.

"Nothing major," the man admitted regretfully. "The searches of the boat and Armstrong's apartment did produce evidence that Meyer's had been at both locations."

"How did Armstrong explain it?" the woman was completely alert.

"She said that it might be from when Joanne Frost and her were still living together," the Sheriff repeated the answer he had been given. "It seems that Ms. Frost had brought Ms. Meyers there on several occasions when Ms. Armstrong was working."

Alex was silence as she contemplated this explanation. Any prosecutor would be hard pressed to dispute this claim and she had the sinking feeling that the woman would get away with murdering the popular news anchor.

"What about a weapon?"

"Nothing new on that front either," the Sheriff sighed, "but the detective from Vancouver said that she hadn't yet had a chance to visit every place where the woman would be able to obtain a weapon. We have learned that Ms. Armstrong was a member of a shooting club and had at one time owned several guns used for trap shooting. However, she said that she had sold them several years earlier."

"You might want to check with Joanne Frost to confirm that," Alex said without thinking and then remembered that she was no longer involved in the case. She had the grace to flush. "That's if you think it would be useful."

The man laughed easily, not offended by the suggestion. "Truth is I was hoping you could offer some more advice. I tried to get something out of George but he said I should talk to you."

"He would," Alex grinned aware of the Commissioners pendant for passing the buck. The smile disappeared from her lips as another idea popped into her head. "I think while you're down here you might want to stop in at the Coroners office and see whether Ms. Meyer's wound is consistent with the type that might be inflicted with a gun used for trapshooting, keeping in mind the particular type of ammunition that is used."

"Will do," the man nodded his head in agreement. He glanced about the room again. "How's your partner, I didn't see her out in the squad room?"

"She's on night shift."

"On night shift," the man was bemused by the response. "I would have thought that you would have used some pull to get her on your shift."

"That would be playing favourites," Alex replied easily knowing that the man's comments were not made with any malice intent. "And I don't play favourites, or did George tell you different?"

"Nope," the Sheriff laughed. "Fact is he only warned me not to cross you, said I would live to regret it."

"You would," Alex didn't dispute the claim. She glanced at her watch. "Can you spare enough time for me to buy you lunch?"

"I think that can be arranged," the man agreed amicably. "Provided that afterwards you accompany me over to the Coroners Office."

"I think I can arrange that," the Captain grinned.

It was suppertime when Alex finally arrived home from a rather long day. Lunch and their following visit to the coroner's office proved enlightening as Alex was not only able to have her questions answered but the Sheriff was able to collect the results of the chemical samples that the Coroner had taken earlier from the body. While no drugs had been detected in the woman's blood, it was clear that she had consumed a considerable amount of alcohol.

Alex pushed all thoughts of the deceased woman from her mind as she stepped into the condo, her senses delighted by the fragrant aroma that assaulted each breath. She could hear her companion moving around in the kitchen and immediately headed in that direction, dropping her briefcase at the door.

"Hey," she greeted the smaller woman as she strolled into next room. She walked right up to the blond woman and wrapped her arms around the slender waist to give her a hug while dropping a kiss on her head.

"Hey yourself," Sydney smiled, happy to see her companion again. "How was your day?"

"Busy," Alex sighed releasing her companion and leaning back against the counter to munch on a stray carrot she had snagged from the plate of vegetables her partner was preparing. "Had an unexpected visit from Sheriff Ford at lunch."

"Really," the smaller woman was surprised. "Did he have anything new to say?"

"Only that Michelle Armstrong had at one time competed as a trap shooter and that she had once owned several guns."

"So that puts another bit of evidence against her," Sydney remarked scooping up the vegetables and dropping them into a steam cooker, but not before Alex grabbed another raw carrot.

"It appears that way," Alex sighed, "however it is all flimsy at best."

"Yeah," the smaller woman agreed and then looked at her partner. "Hey, do you feel like going to St. Mary's tonight and playing some basketball."

"I thought you wanted to spend the evening in?" the taller woman was immediately suspicious.

"I changed my mind," the smaller woman simply shrugged her shoulders.

Truth was that since she had returmed from visiting her sister she had been unable to settle down. She had been to restless to sleep when she lay down and now the adrenalyn was still pumping through her body in spite of the fatigue that was just slightly at bay. Alex sensed there was more to the situation.

"How did your visit with Anne go?" she asked cautiously. She wished she could have gone with her companion but Sydney had not invited her along.

"It was horrible," the smaller woman sighed and the taller woman tensed.

"What did she say?"

"It wasn't her," Sydney sighed and smiled weakly at the sight of the confused look on her lover's face. "I was the one who was the bitch."

Alex didn't want to believe that but she sensed that her companion was dealing with several issues. "What happened?"

"I verbally attacked her," the smaller woman explained in a weary voice. "I told her because of my experience I couldn't understand how she could be so cool about killing someone."

"What did she say?"

"She didn't answer me," Sydney answered quietly and a solemn silence fell between the two women.

"How did it end?"

"We agreed to disagree," the younger woman said unable to mask the catch in her voice and Alex responded immediately by moving across the distance that separated them and wrapping her tightly in an embrace. They stood like that for a long while.

"You okay?" she glanced down at her companion.

"Yeah," Sydney nodded taking a deep breath as she watched her partner resume her position by the counter. "So you up to going to St. Mary's tonight?"

"Yeah, that might be fun," the Captain readily agreed, thinking it might be good way to get the smaller woman's mind off her visit to her sister's. It had been almost two months since they had been out to the evening basketball games. Matches that the older woman had begun to enjoy, reveling in the competetion that was offered.

"Why don't you go change and by the time you're done the vegetables will be ready."

The taller woman nodded and pushed herself away from the counter and retreated through the condo
towards the bedroom. Her companion was right and by the time she had washed and changed, the vegetables were done and the spicy cooked beef and rice was set on the table.

Despite their plans the Alex didn't rush through her meal, content to savour and enjoy the food that her companion had prepared. The game was just about to get underway by the time they arrived but they were greeted with friendly waves by their friends and soon they were placed on different teams.

"Didn't know if we'd see you here again," Skinny announced with a broad smile across his face. He had been the first to run across the court to greet them.

"Been tied up abit," Sydney answered returning the hug the man gave her.

"Heard," the man nodded his head seriously. "Glad to know that you're all right, we were all worried that you might not make it."

"You should know better then that," Alex chided the man goodnaturedly smiling tenderly at her lover. "Sydney is one tough nut."

"You have that right," the black man grinned. "Come on, we're about ready to play, you're just in time."

It felt good to be back on the court with her old friends and for the first time since the shooting Sydney began to think that her life could completely return to normal. By the time the game ended she was panting, exhausted by the exertion she needed to keep up with the rest.

"I feel totally out of shape," she confessed to her partner who chuckled, rubbing her head affectationately.

"That means we will just have to get you back into shape," Alex grinned and their companion's laughed.

Sydney went to work that night feeling better then she had in a long time. She had been nervous about returning to the night shift but things had been going smoothly at work and she was beginning to feel a level of comfort that had been missing for so long after the shooting.

She thought of Alex, whom she had dropped off at the condo. She wished that she could have stayed at home with her but knew that wasn't an option. She was greeted almost immediately by Lieutenant Scarifrelli upon her arrival.

"There's a homocide over on Dunn Street I need you to take," the man advised, handing her a scrape of paper with an address. "There are cruisers over there now and as soon as Norm and Roy are available I will send them over. It sounds pretty routine."

Sydney nodded, schooling herself not to laugh. Nothing in their job was ever routine. She collected a set of car keys from the desk seageant and then made her way to the address. As the Lieutenant had advised there were patrolmen already on the scene. She was happy to see the Sgt. Rob Newlie was also there.

"Hey, Rob how are you?"

"Good," the veteran patrolman announced pleased to see his younger colleague. "How you been? Heard you were working an out of town case."

"Yeah, we weren't lucky with it though," the small woman bobbed her head glancing at the battered body that was lying sprawled on the ground at the edge of a dimly lit park. "What have we got here?"

"Looks like another gang hit," Rob surmised. "Fortunately we managed to snag a witness before she got away. She was sitting on a bench in the park when it happened. She's not real anxious to talk though."

"Where is she?" Sydney asked glancing around the scene before following the Seagreants finger to where it was pointed at a rather rough looking young woman who was sitting on a bench at a nearby bus stop.

She glanced over the inert body once more before slowly approaching the woman. A quick survey and she guessed that the young woman was probably still a little bit high from some chemical stimulant. She privately wondered if there was anything that this woman could tell them that they would be able to use.

"Hi," Sydney greeted with a smile. She had found that the friendly approach usually worked. "My name is Seageant Davis and my colleagues here say that you saw what happened to this man."

"Didn't see nothing," the woman denied the claim, shaking her head vigourously. Strands of straight brown hair fell across her face as she bent her head so that she would not have to look at the small blonde detective.

"Okay," Sydney decided to try a different tactic. "Can I ask what your name is?"

"Nope," the woman shook her head, her eyes glancing nervously towards the darkness of the park that surrounded them. Then she repeated her earlier claim. "I didn't see nothing."

The young detective stared at the woman. It was obvious to her trained eye that the girl's nervousness was the result of more then just the drugs that were slowly working there way out of her system. She dropped to her hunches so that she could look up into the bent face. Gently she rested a hand on the girl's knee. It was meant as a comforting gesture.

"Are you scared?" Sydney asked, deciding to work on instinct.

"Of course, you would be too," the young woman, whom appeared to be no older then her teens, hissed quietly through clenched teeth. For a moment brown and green eyes met and the blonde detective could see a real fear in the girl's eyes. It suddenly occured to her why the child might be afraid.

"Is the person who shot this man still in the area?" she asked, lowering her voice so that only the two of them could hear.

Sydney knew by the silence that greeted her question that the shooter was still in the vicinity. She took a deep breath, feeling suddenly uneasy, as a queasy feeling suddenly entered her stomache. She slowly stood up, stretching her body, one hand automatically reaching behind her to feel the cold steel of the gun that was tucked on her hip.

"Rob," she called the patrolman's name, summoning him to her side with the mere tone of her voice.

"Yeah, Syd?"

"Do you know this park?" she asked turning on her heel to glance casually at their surroundings. She had noticed earlier that it was ringed by a steel fence that was nearly eight feet high.

"Yeah," the older officer nodded suspiciously.

"How many exits are there?" she wondered quietly and there was silence as the patrolman contemplated his response. Sydney watched as the man's eyes narrowed.

"This is the only one," he replied softly, intimately familiar with the area from his long years of service on the force. He knew from experience that the steel fence ran down to the river and had been put up in response to the crime that engulfed the area. It was meant as a deterrent to criminals.

"I think our shooter is still in there," the small detective motioned her head towards the darkness. The officer was silent as he contemplated the suggestion and then without a word he turned and called out to the patrolmen standing around ready to assist in the collection of evidence.

"Okay guys, it looks like our killer might still be in the area," the Seageant addressed the other officers in a low voice, taking charge of his colleagues. "We are going to pair up and go into the park to do a methodical search. Officers Ernest and Sweetin you stay posted here to cover the entrance. Syd if you want to take our witness over to one of the patrol cars, we'll check the park out."

"No," Sydney understood and appreciated what her friend and colleague was trying to do, but it was not an acceptable option. She straightened her shoulders and the man nodded, glancing over towards another officer.

"Officer Seamus, take the witness to one of the patrol cars and wait with her there until I have someone relieve you."

The young patrol officer nodded and immediately took charge of the witness, escorting the young woman from the bus bench to a patrol car parked on the far side of the street. Only once the woman was safely out of the way, did the remaining officers turn their entire attention to the task at hand.

Sydney kept her hand on her gun as they began the quiet and methodical search of the dark park. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing on end and the ball in her stomach was beginning to tighten into a knot. She swallowed, narrowing her eyes as they scanned the blackness that surrounded her. On her left was Seageant Newlie and on her right another young patrol officer whose name she was not familiar.

They moved quietly, talking to each other so that nobody would mistake them for the suspect, the beams from their flashlights cutting through the darkness like a sharp knife. The tension in the air was thick and Sydney could hear the pounding of her heart, loudly in her ears.

Her green eyes followed the sweep of the lights beam, narrowing intently at every foreign object it encountered. In spite of her awareness the face that suddenly jumped out at them from the bush was startling. For a moment time froze and Sydney stood paralyzed, watching as a dark figure rose up from the ground. For one brief instant terrified eyes were reflected in the light and then an arm lifted, at the very end of it was a gun pointed in there direction. There was a flash and then nothing more.

The insistant ringing of the phone, rousted Alex from her slumber. She glanced with bleary blue eyes at the clock on the table next to the bed. It was almost three in the morning and she was perturbed by the idea of someone calling her so late. Absently she glanced over at the empty spot on the bed next to her and instantly she was wide awake, her hand plucking the receiver from the cradle.

"Yes?" she barked into the phone, her heart pounding erratically in her chest.

"It's Lou," the voice on the other end did not have to give himself a formal introduction. "There's been a shooting."

Chapter Ten

Alex barely waited for the car to come to a halt before bounding out the door. There were coloured lights of emergency vehicles everywhere but she was not interested in any of that. Her blue eyes narrowed, searching quickly through the crowd of city employees who were gathered in small groups. Her heart continued to pound fiercely in her chest as she strolled hastily passed the police barricades. She was looking for only one person and finally she spotted the blonde crown of her lover.

Sydney was barely able to turn around before her tall lover enveloped her into a tight embrace, making no pretense of the way she felt for the smaller detective. It was a hug that was returned.

"Are you okay?" Alex pushed the smaller woman away so that she could take a good look at her lover. The Lieutenant had said that Sydney was okay but she wanted to make certain for herself.

"Yeah," Sydney nodded and satisfied Alex embraced her companion tightly once more before releasing her.

"Is everyone else okay?" the Captain asked surveying the scene.

"Yes," the smaller detective said following her lovers gaze to where a pair of ambulance attendants were hurrying towards an emergency vehicle with a gurney which was occupied by an individual of unknown nature.

"What happened?" Alex wanted to know, becoming businesslike once more, now that she was reassured that her companion was all right.

"It looks like a gangland hit," Sydney replied filling the taller woman in on the details. "As a part of the initiation our shooter was supposed to hit the victim over there." She pointed to the white sheet that had been placed over the first victim. "Unfortunately, it appears he panicked once he made the hit and then raced into the park, thinking that he would be able to escape. However, he was unfamiliar with the park and didn't know there was only one entrance and exit. By the time he realized it, the police were on the scene. It appears some residents of the neighbourhood called in the shooting as soon as it happened, they have a neighbourhood watch program in effect.

"Anyway, he hid in the bushes, hoping that he wouldn't be found out and when we did a search, he panicked again jumped out of his hiding place, firing his gun."

"Nobody was hurt?" Alex asked aware that she had been holding her breath.

"None except the shooter Captain," Sgt. Newlie interjected as he moved up beside them. "Sgt. Davis took down the subject with a shot to the perpetrators shoulder and leg."

"Did we recover the perb's weapon?" Alex wanted to know.

"Yes, mam," Rob nodded his head. "We retrieved it from where he fell. He was just a kid to young to know what he was doing and scared shitless."

"They usually are," the Captain confirmed, relieved that the only thing she would have to worry about this night was the investigation into the shooting. Sydney was a good shot and if what the Sgt. said was true then the kid would recover from his wounds. She looked down at her smaller companion.

"You okay?" she asked gently tapping her forehead with a long finger.

"Yeah," Sydney confirmed, nodding her head. "I was afraid that I might freeze again like in Vancouver but when I saw that gun I just automatically reacted."

Alex felt an immense wave of relief wash other her body. She had been worried about her partner, afraid for the same reason as the younger woman, but in truth the woman had reacted on instinct and the Captain knew that her companion would be all right.

"How much more you got to do before you wrap everything up here?" she asked wanting to take the smaller woman home with her.

"It will be a few hours yet," Sydney conceded regretfully.

"Would you be upset if I hung around until then?" Alex didn't want to interrude upon the smaller woman's space but knowing that she would be unable to catch anymore sleep that night.

"No," Sydney didn't want to admit it but the other woman's presence gave her a strength that she didn't always feel and after what happened tonight she needed that.

"Good, what do you want me to do?" the Captain asked flashing the other woman a smile which was immediately returned.

Birthdays had never been special for Sydney. Growing up the date of her birth had been largely ignored by her father though on occasion Anne, her sister, would try to do something to mark the passage of time. However, there were no birthday cakes or parties and only rarely a gift to mark the occasion. Sydney had come to accept it as another ordinary day so when Alex had asked her what she wanted to do for the occasion, she merely shrugged.

"It's not a big deal," she replied honestly. She had learned not to get her hopes up.

"Of course it is," the tall woman had replied with some surprise, already in her mind she had the evening mostly planned out.

"No Alex," Sydney was serious, "growing up we never celebrated birthdays."

"Well, that's changing," the Captain had announced with finality. "I'm not going to let your birthday go by without doing something."

"I don't want a big deal made of it," the blond detective whined aware of her companion's tendency to get carried away when doing something.

"Okay, will you at least agree to dinner?" Alex asked seemingly disappointed by her partners unwillingness to join in on the fun.

"Just the two of us?"

"Oh, yeah," the dark haired woman swore, crossing her fingers over her heart.

"Okay," Sydney finally agreed and received a brilliant smile for her effort.

Well, it had turned out to be more than dinner for Alex had insisted she take the day off work. Because she was pulling the midnight shift Sydney was only to happy to agree. After sending her lover off to work, she took a nap to refresh herself and then spent the rest of the day doing the odd little things she needed to do. By the time Alex came home at five o'clock she was suitably relaxed and ready to enjoy the evening.

"You know we could just stay in," Sydney remarked as they were dressing to go out. "I could cook

"Not on your life," Alex answered with a scowl as she stepped out of the bathroom, her body still wrapped in a towel from her shower. "I've made dinner reservations and if we don't show up I get billed for the meal anyway." She paused to look at her companion. "Come on Sydney, you're twenty nine today, let's celebrate."

The blond woman said no more, suddenly aware that this was probably going to be fun for her lover. Alex enjoyed treating her and to be honest she loved the attention and the special little things the other woman did.

They dressed up for the occasion with Sydney donning a white summer dress with blue flowers embroidered in the material. Alex wore black trousers and a matching black silk shirt with a simple gold chain around her neck.

Sydney swallowed a few times as she looked at her beautiful companion. She was always proud to be seen with her lover, aware of the sensual charm that radiated from the woman. Sometimes she couldn't believe she was that lucky to have met someone like her. It was the same way Alex felt about her, which was even more incredible.

On the outside the restaurant was a nondescript place but that changed the moment they stepped through the door. It was as if they were entering a Castle with a dark interior which was illuminated by the torches set along the wall.

It had an old world flavour with a muted romantic setting. They were led by the hostess through the main dinning area into a private alcove with a single round table and a large leather padded seat that curved around the table with a candle in the centre.

The setting was completely private as the walls surrounding the booth stretched up to five feet high and then was further obscured by the filmily white curtains on top. The narrow entry into the alcove was curved so that no one could see directly into the private area. Sydney looked at the place and a shiver raced down her spine.

"This is beautiful," she wasn't quite sure that ideally described the environment. "However, did you know this place existed?"

"The owner is one of Andrew's clients," Alex conceded. The truth was in spite of her considerable connections she had needed to turn to her sibling to secure the reservations. There were six such private alcoves all similarly decorated and they were generally all booked up to six months in advance. "He brought me here to show off and I thought you might like it."

"I do, it's incredible," the blond woman paused and looked intently across the table at her lover, their hands automatically reaching for each other, their fingers intertwining in a loving embrace. "Alex you are such a romantic."

The Captain blushed but was saved from making any comment by the timely arrival of the waiter who brought a delicious bottle of wine for their consummation that was followed by an appetitizer and then the main course which turned out to be a succulent roast beef dish cooked in a special marinated sauce with green vegetables on a bed of brown rice.

"Thank you," Sydney said, her stomach completely sated by the delicious food. She leaned back in her seat her green eyes intent on her lovers face. "This has been the best birthday ever."

"Yeah, well it's not over yet," Alex smiled nervously filling their glasses with wine before taking a hearty sip. "I haven't given you your present yet."

"I don't need a present," Sydney disagreed and then became genuinely concerned. Her lover had seemed nervous throughout the meal which was entirely uncharacteristic for the tall, confident Captain. "Alex are you okay?"

"Yes," the dark haired woman nodded and then slid out from her seat and stood up. She walked around the table and knelt down beside her companion who turned to look at her with apprehension. The tall woman grasp the smaller woman's hands.


"Please don't say anything until, I'm finished speaking," the dark haired woman said with a distinctive plea in her voice. She knew that Sydney loved her and already knew the answer to her question yet it was incredibly hard asking. She wondered if her brothers had been as nervous.

"Okay," the blond woman agreed watching her companion running her tongue over her dry lips.

"I don't think I've ever made it a secret the way I feel about you," Alex began reciting the words she had repeated so many times in her head. "If it were possible I would marry you but as it isn't, the only other option I have is to make a commitment to you," she reached back into her pocket and withdrew a small box which she flipped open the lid to reveal an exquisite diamond mounted on a gold band. She swallowed in an attempt to ease the dryness of her throat.

"I ask you to accept this ring as a token of the love I feel for you. To me it represents the three things I hold most important in life. One, it's a promise to stand with you through sickness and health, through all the truimphs and tragedies that occupy our everyday lives. Two, it's a commitment to always be at your side until death do we part, and three it's a symbol of the deep love I feel for you every moment of everyday," the woman paused her blue eyes intently gazing up at the small woman.

"Sydney do you accept this ring knowing everything it entails and means to me? Do you accept that for me you are my first and last, the reason for me to open my eyes in the morning and for every breath I take? Will you stay with me and complete my life?"

"Yes," the blond woman cried, tears coursing down her face as she lunged at her partner wrapping her arms securely around a laughing and crying companion who was overjoyed by the reaction her request had received.

"I love you Alex," the smaller woman grasped her face between her hands and showered her with wet slobbering kisses. "I love you... I love you...I love you."

They clung together tightly savouring the moment until finally Alex delicately disengaged herself, watching as the younger woman gently removed the ring from the box taking time to read the short inscription which read.

"Eternally yours, Alex"

"Will you put this on me?" Sydney asked and the tall woman, still on her knees eagerly agreed, taking the ring and slipping it on the smaller woman's ring finger. It fit perfectly and for a long moment the younger woman stared at the ring admiring it's beauty. She looked at the dark haired woman.

"Can we go home now?"

"I wish we could," Alex chuckled seeing the desire in her companions eyes. "But I promised my parents we'd stop by for a birthday drink."

"Do we have to Alex?" the blond detective complained wrapping her arms around her companion and burying her face in her neck. "I want to show you how much this means to me."

"You can, later, I promise," the dark haired woman smiled not unaffected by her lovers desire. "But I promised them." She paused and gently disengaged the smaller woman, smiling tenderly at her. "Besides I want to show off my new partner."

"I love you," Sydney smiled with tears moistening her eyes. No one had ever wanted to show her off before.

Neither woman completely remembered how they managed to leave the restaurant and make it to their car, their hands tightly entwined with each other. They continued to hold hands as they drove through the city towards the suburb where the Marshall's lived. Neither woman felt the need to speak content with the touch and the emotion that was passed between them with the simple gesture.

"Alex?" Sydney broke the silence when they pulled up in front of the sprawling mansion. Alex turned the ignition off and turned to look at her companion through the dim light.


"When?" the blond woman needed to know. "When did you know you wanted this?"

"The moment I first laid eyes on you," the tall woman was honest. "But I was certain that night in Vancouver when we were attacked. I wanted to protect you in a way I have never wanted to protect anyone before."

"I felt it," came the corresponding whisper and Alex leaned over and kissed her companion.

"Come on," the taller woman said gently aware that the sooner they got this over the sooner they could get home. They rang the bell twice and then walked in.

"Mom, Dad, you home?" Alex called out.

"Yes, we're in the living room, just come on in," Marie called back and Alex motioned her lover forward.

The surprise was complete. Sydney stepped up to the threshold and was greeted with a voluminous roar of "Happy Birthday" from the crowd of people that were gathered. Her mouth dropped in shock and she turned to look at her lover who was standing behind her with a silly grin on her face.

"I know, I know," Alex said unable to stop smiling. "I promised but I couldn't resist. I know you said you didn't want any parties but I know you also never had any when you were a kid. I thought I would try and make up for some of what you missed. Everybody has to have at least one big birthday celebration."

Sydney couldn't speak she was so overwhelmed with emotion for her partner. Uncaring who was watching she lunged into her lovers arms, tears streaming down her face and kissed her soundly. That action brought about a flood of cheers and whistles as both women's faces flushed with embarrassment.

"Thank you," the blond detective whispered before releasing her hold.

"Your welcome," Alex smiled tenderly and turned her companion around and pushed her further into the room. "Come on time to greet your guests."

Sydney was surprised by everyone who turned out. There was Rob Newlie and his entire family, along with Norm Gage and his wife and several other detectives who weren't on duty. Even Skinny and his wife had turn up for the occasion. In one corner of the room was a small table with a variety of beverages and pastries and a huge birthday cake.

Sydney waded into the crowd with Alex's niece Kim the first to rush up and grab her hand. Alex watched happily before strolling across the room to where a table of drinks had been set up. She wasn't alone long.

"Hey, sis," Andrew snuck up behind the taller woman and casually wrapped an arm around her waist. "How was the restaurant? Did the Kindergarten Cop like it?"

"Oh, yeah," she was unable to stop the broad grin that spread across her face. "I owe you big time for that."

"How about a rematch of one on one?" he asked.

"You want to get trounced again?" Alex asked with amusement one eyebrow raising in amusement. "Do you think you're ego can handle it?"

"You bet because I'm going to beat you," Andrew promised and then added casually indicating that he had noticed the ring on the smaller woman's hand. "That's a beautiful ring on Sydney's finger, it must have cost you a fortune."

"It's worth every penny," Alex shook her head unable to stop smiling and yet blushing at the same time. "It was her birthday present."

"So, you've decided to give up the single life then?" the man said quietly, suddenly very serious.

"I gave it up the day I met her," the Captain was honest. "It just took a while to make it more formal."

"What took you so long?" he wanted to know and she arched her eyebrows.

"I suppose you proposed to Christie on your first date?"

"Well no," he flushed, "but sis, I'm glad for you. I don't think I've ever seen you this happy."

"I've never been this happy," the woman replied glancing across the room at her blond lover. "There is something about Sydney that makes me feel complete."

"I feel the same way about Christie," Andrew admitted. There was a brief silence as the two siblings looked at each other embarrassed by their mutual declarations of love for their partners. Both were somewhat relieved with Christie came up to them and wrapped her arms around her sister-in-law.

"You're such a romantic," the blond woman whispered in the other woman's ear and then stepped back. "Sydney showed me the ring and told me how you gave it to her."

"It's only going to happen once, so I figured I better get it right," Alex blushed again.

Throughout the evening the tall woman watched her lover, feeling all the love she had for the woman fill her up completely. She had been nervous proposing to her partner as that small part inside of her feared rejection. But like usual Sydney hadn't disappointed her.

It was late before they were finally able to get away from the party and head home. Sydney was happier then she had ever been and had all sorts of ideas on how to treat her companion once they returned to the condo, but Alex had other plans.

"What have you got there?" Sydney asked eyeing her companion curiously as the taller woman popped a CD into the player in the living room. She put it on before gathering the smaller woman into her arms as the words and music filtered through the room.

"This is for you, love," Alex said softly. "Listen to the words, they speak my heart."

Sydney did as her companion requested aware of the comforting arms around her body as they swayed in unison to the music. She recognized the singer and rested her head on her partners chest as she listened.

When you hold me like this
So many memories fill my eyes
The first time we kissed
The times we nearly said goodbye
But still here we are
Tested and tried and still true
And stronger than we ever knew
Love is all
The laughter and the tears that fall
The mundane and the magical
Love is all
All is love
The careless word, the healing touch
The getting and the giving of
All is love

There's me you've always known
The me that's a stranger still
The you that feels like home
And the you that never will
But still here we lie
Tender and trusting and true
With everything that we've been through

Love is all
The laughter and the tears that fall
The mundane and the magical
Love is all
All is love
The careless word, the healing touch
The getting and the giving of
All is love

All the glory
All the pain
All the passion
That turns to ashes
Only to rise again

Love is all
The laughter and the tears that fall
The mundane and the miracle
Love is all
All is love
The careless word, the healing touch
The getting and the giving of
All is love

"I love you Alex," the smaller woman whispered as the music slowly faded.


* words for "All is love" from the Marc Anthony album titled "Marc Anthony".

**copyright...October 2002 ...Planet-solin

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