ROADKILL

by Planet-solin

 

Disclaimers: These characters are of my own creation and may not be used without my written consent. This is an uber-fiction with gals that made seem familiar but I always liked tall dark and handsome and blond and beautiful.

Sexual content: This story is about a love and friendship between two adult women. If offended by two women in love, stop now.

Comments: If you have any comments or suggestions please write planet-solin@england.com.


Chapter One

 

The unmarked cruiser came to a halt outside the yellow police barricades and a small blond woman stepped out from behind the wheel. Sydney stood for a moment, sucking in a lung full of the crisp night air as her emerald eyes surveyed the scene. As usual a curious mix of onlookers had gathered across the street, drawn by the innate curiosity that was brought on by the brilliant flashing of emergency lights and the knowledge that some grotesque crime had been committed.

She scanned the crowd, peering into the individual faces and then looked beyond into the shadows around them, but she could sense nothing unusual. She had been told that the criminals were sometimes drawn back to the scene of the crime, pulled by the morbid fascination of the brutality they had committed. She had never found that scenario true in any of the cases she had yet worked.

She sighed and hunched deeper into the warmth of her leather bomber jacket. Gods it feels like rain, she thought and then gave a short laugh. This is Seattle, when doesnít it rain.

Abruptly she dismissed her thoughts and strolled towards the center of all the chaos, flashing the badge that hung on a chain around her neck at the patrolman who moved to intercept her progress. He nodded with an apologetic smile and let her pass. A quick sweep of the scene and she knew everything was under control, which could only mean that a veteran of the force was on site. A smile came to her lips as she recognized the man in uniform who was barking instructions to the others.

"Newlie, good to see you," she greeted the ruddy faced police Sergeant as she sidled up to him. The man turned his head at the sound of her voice and his eyes lit up.

"Hey kid, you pulled this one, did you?" He actually smiled, which according to his subordinates was something he rarely did

"Yep," she replied allowing her eyes to drop to the inert form that lay sprawled on the pavement in a large pool of blood. Truth was she was half an hour from finishing her shift when the phone rang. The Third shift was already on duty and it had been pure reflex on her part that had made her answer the call. To late she had realized her mistake but there was no grudge in her voice when she spoke again.

"What have we got?"

"Canít make out for certain but we assume heís an Asian male, 19-23 years of age, no identifying marks and appears to have been killed by a single shotgun blast to the face," the older man reeled off the little information he had already collected. "I have my men out doing a door to door, but so far the only thing weíve come up with is someone heard a shot followed by squealing tires."

"Shit," Sydney briefly allowed her feelings to show. "Iíve got two reds already on the board I donít need another."

"Is the Lieutenant giving you grief?" the Sergeant asked and she cast him a sarcastic glance.

"Heís made a bet with the Lieutenants on the opposite shifts," she said repeating the rumours that

had been circulating through the department for the last month. "The one whose shift gets the most

clearances by the New Year gets a big meal at the Space Needle and a night at the Regency."

The Sergeant snorted. The competition that existed between the different shifts in the Homicide Squad was common knowledge through the whole rank and file. Various precincts had even been taking bets on who would win and which detective would score the most clearances. He had put his money on the woman who now stood next to him.

Sydney Davis was still considered relatively new to the squad with under a year of service but she had shown signs of brilliance, clearing cases that the veterans considered impossible. He had placed his money on her knowing that he would probably lose it, but for him it was a matter of loyalty. He watched as she dropped to her hunches for a closer view of the body.

"Looks like another road kill," the Sergeant chuckled and the blond detective snorted causing the other uniformed officers nearby to laugh.

Sydney had been with the Unit only two weeks before she had responded to her first homicide where the victim had been rendered unrecognizable by their injuries. When the senior detective on the case had asked her impressions she had simply stated that the person looked like road kill, as the lifeless body had reminded her of the animals she had often seen lying dead alongside the highway.

Her honest assessment had been made without thought and she had immediately been embarrassed but it had made the officers present laugh and the term had stuck. Now nine months later the uniformed patrolmen took special delight in using the phrase in her presence.

Sydney pulled two pairs of latex gloves out of her pocket and snapped them onto her hands before starting her external examination. The body was stiff and rigour mortis had begun to set in so it was a good bet to assume that the victim had been dead for awhile before anyone had called in the shooting, which in this area of the city wasnít unusual. Other then the face which was completely obliterated from the blast, the body was in relatively good shape.

"Were there any witnesses?" she asked although she already knew the answer.

"None," the Sergeant replied and then added hopefully. "My men are still canvassing the area."

"Good," she nodded poking carefully at the body. "Did you see the game last night?"

"Part of it," the man replied marvelling at the way she so easily switched from one subject to a totally different topic in one breath. "Did they win?"

"They blew it in the last quarter," Sydney replied and continued her examination. "I want your men to go over this area with a fine tooth comb. I donít think weíll find anything but I want to make sure we donít miss anything."

The Sergeant nodded, jotting something down in his notepad before turning his attention back onto the small detective. He watched as she gingerly searched the dead victim, checking his pockets, looking for any means of identification. It wasnít surprising to any of them that she found no wallet or jewellery on the body.

"You think itís a gang hit?" he asked noticing the puzzled expression on her face.

"Hmm," was all Sydney would commit too.

Her gut instinct told her that when they finally ran the victims prints they would find that he belonged to one of the cities gangs. But if the patrolmen were right and the man was Asian then the location of the body and the absence of any identification was puzzling. This section of town was predominantly Black and Hispanic.

She glanced up in thought and noticed a rather grumpy looking woman making her way through the police barricades towards them. Not far behind was the bespectacled man from the Medical Examinerís office, his black wagon parked not far from her own sedan. She turned her attention to the woman.

"Hey, Janice," she called out in greeting and the woman with the curly brown hair glanced up with a sour look on her face.

"Hey yourself," came the caustic reply.

"Wow, some ones in a bad mood," Sydney teased taking a guess as to the source of the womanís displeasure.

"Well, you guys have the worst habit of calling at the most inopportune times," Janice grumbled looking with disdain at the limp form on the ground and making no attempt to hide the fact that she resented him for dying and spoiling her evening.

"Whatís the matter did we get you away from a hot date?" the blond detective asked trying to hide the smile that formed on her lips.

"Yeah, I finally got the guy from the payroll department to ask me out and what happens, just as things start to get interesting the damn pager goes off," she made her displeasure known. "Do you know how long I have been working at getting him to ask me out or how long itís been since I was laid?"

"Obviously to long," Sergeant Newlie snorted dryly and the detective laughed as the other woman glared at the patrolman. Sydney stood up taking control of the situation. It was already two in the morning and she wanted a chance to get home for some sleep before her shift the next afternoon.

"All right guys, I want the entire area mapped out," she instructed the police photographer. "I want shots from every possible angle."

The other woman nodded and pulled a camera out of the carryall that was slung over her shoulder. Sydney stepped back allowing the woman the chance to do her work, taking the opportunity to draw out her notepad and scratch her own notes along with a simple sketch of the scene.

"Sergeant Davis," an unfamiliar voice called and she turned as a young patrolman trotted up to join them.

"Yeah?"

"Just received a message for you from Desk Sergeant Baker. He says that Lieutenant Marshall is on her way down."

"Shit," Sydney cursed her luck. It was bad enough that she had pulled another case that looked to be going on the board in red ink. Lieutenant Messington was giving her enough grief, she didnít need another Lieutenant hanging over her shoulder. She scowled.

"Their sending a Lieutenant out on this?" Sergeant Newlie couldnít hide his surprise. "Whatís up?"

"Itís the D.A.," came the sour reply. "Itís an election year and the big brass are falling all over themselves. There is pressure from the D.A. on the Commissioner and we all know shit flows on down the line."

It was common knowledge that those who governed the city were unhappy with the way the Police Department was being run. Almost every day there were articles in the paper detailing the battles between the Commissioner and the DA who was claiming that the department wasnít doing enough to help the persecutors. The whole episode had dovetailed into a series of political manoeuvres as both men jockeyed for the upper hand in the political arena.

One of the biggest sore points had been the Homicide Unit whose clearance rate the year before had been abysmal. In response the Commissioner had gone and hired an outsider to move into the vacant Lieutenants position, ignoring those in the department qualified for the post.

Sydney took a moment to reflect on the situation. In the month since the woman had taken charge of the Second Squad of homicide detectives, she had managed to avoid meeting the new Lieutenant. It had been the result of a busy work load and careful planning. No one was particularly eager to get to close to the new recruit to the department, aware of the womanís own political connections. Everyone was afraid about their own careers.

She sighed. She had no political ambitions herself. She had joined the Police department for the sole reason that she wanted to serve her community in the best possible manner. She had worked hard to get onto the Homicide Unit and now resented the fact that she might be driven from her position by a stranger who knew nothing about her or, if the rumours were right, nothing about solving a murder case.

"It stands to reason," Sergeant Newlie said breaking into her thoughts. "Heard he was thinking of running for office."

"Yeah, didnít you know, he has plans of some day being our governor," she answered bringing her thoughts back to the present. "Come on letís get to work here, I want to go home tonight."

 

Alex manoeuvred the black sedan down the rain sleek roads. She could see the flashing lights of the

squad cars up ahead and mentally squared her shoulders, bracing herself for the reception she knew that she would receive. Not for the first time did she wonder if it had been a mistake to take the

posting in the Homicide Unit.

She sighed, bringing the car to a stop alongside a black and white. She turned off the ignition and then allowed her eyes to sweep the scene. It had only just begun to rain, the tears of heaven sending down a light mist that soaked the earth in a cool bath. She had been gone from the city long enough to forget about the rain. It was odd but she found that she had missed it.

She took a deep breath and swung her long legs out of the car. She had come back to prove a point not only to her family but to herself. The Commissioner had offered her a challenge and her competitive nature had not allowed her to turn it down. She knew it was a risky decision for her entire future balanced on how she performed and if the first month was any indication she had her work cut out for her.

She closed the door and hunched deeper into her dark trench coat, a shiver racing down her spine as a breath of chilly wind greeted her appearance. She knew that the Commissioner was watching her closely, monitoring her progress. He had given her a mandate to improve the overall performance of the Unit and better itís reputation, but his negative attitude to the existing members and their work only made her job harder. She knew everyone in the Unit resented her presence and in the month she had not yet met a friendly face.

Well, she hadnít been sent to make friends. She had been dispatched to clean-up a Unit that was in deep trouble. In the weeks since she had taken over she had spent long hours reviewing the Unitís procedures and its individual members. Already she had identified some weak points and some areas that desperately needed changing. In the next few weeks it would be her task to implement those changes and she was certain that feelings towards her would grow harsher before they got

better.

It didnít help that the other Lieutenants had a wager going over whose shift would get the best clearance rate. The idea behind the bet was inspirational if it was looked at one way but in her mind she thought it put to much pressure on an already overworked Unit.

She took a another breath and started moving towards the focus of all this police attention. She knew instinctively that her presence would not be welcomed yet she had been determined to meet each member of the Unit regardless which shift they worked. She was a fair person and before she made her recommendations she wanted to give everyone a chance to prove their value. Tonight she was determined to meet the only woman currently in the Unit, a woman who she guessed had been purposefully avoiding her.

A smile tipped her lips. If the girl was as smart as her file indicated then it was wise for her to distance herself from anything remotely political, and Alex was a political hot potato. Everything she had heard and read about the young woman had been positive and if she was right in her assumption the only thing holding the rookie detective back was the archaic old boy network who refused to give her the proper guidance and support that would allow her to blossom. She hoped to change that but that all depended on the woman herself.

Sydney worked steadily, going through each step of the routine she had built for herself when investigating a case. For the first six months she had been paired with Harry Strong one of the oldest serving detectives in the Unit. The forty five year old man had a decent clearance rate and a honest work ethic but he had been biding time until his retirement which had come into effect two months earlier.

Since then she had been pretty much left on her own, taking the calls that the other detectives passed. More often then necessary she was made lead detective and at times she felt that she was completely unprepared for the cases she was handed. But she plugged away determined to prove herself just like she did with everything.

"Psst, here she comes," Sergeant Newlie hissed and Sydney glanced up at the veteran patrolman who motioned his head to the left. She turned her eyes and watched silently as a dark figure emerged from between the parked police cruisers and moved through the crowd towards them.

The woman was tall with long dark hair which hung loosely down on her shoulders. She was slender and moved with the grace of a panther. All the guys in the Unit had remarked on the womanís incredible beauty but Sydney had never been close enough to the woman to see it until now. Tonight the small detective couldnít deny the truth of their assessments.

"Donít forget to breath," Sergeant Newlie chuckled giving the blond woman a poke with his elbow and she immediately jerked out of her stupor. She turned and glowered at the man who continued to smile while shaking his head. She knew what was going through his mind.

"Donít even think about it," she warned but he only continued to smile, his gaze shifting.

"Good evening Lieutenant Marshall," the Sergeant diplomatically greeted the commanding officer. He

had been in the force to long to worry about the politics. He was a line man and whatever happened in the upper echelons rarely affected how he did his job.

"Good evening Sergeant....Newlie right?" Alex nodded towards the patrol Sergeant. She made it a habit to get to know all of the precincts staff officers, recognizing their importance to the Unit.

"Yes," Sergeant Newlie straightened a little and Sydney had a hard time not smirking. As if sensing her amusement he cast her a disparaging look. It was rare for a Lieutenant to acknowledge a staff Sergeant unless they had trained or worked together.

"I donít believe we have had the opportunity to meet yet," Alex continued feeling a hint of resentment coming from the smaller woman. "Alex Marshall."

"Detective Sergeant Sydney Davis," the smaller woman was forced to accept the offered hand aware not to do so was an affront she couldnít afford, especially when her job in the Unit was in jeopardy. She placed her small hand into the much larger one, feeling at once the tall womanís strong grip and soft skin.

For a brief instant blue and green eyes met, and in that moment nothing else existed beyond the small space they occupied. It was as if the whole world had stopped moving. Neither woman was

conscious of the fact that they continued to hold onto each otherís hand.

Sydney felt the air leave her lungs. She stared into the bluest orbs she had ever seen and for a moment it felt like she was falling into their deep depths and into the womanís very soul. Her heart pounded fiercely in her chest.

Sheís the one. The unexpected thought jolted across the taller womanís brain and in response she pulled her hand back and shoved it into the pocket of her trousers. Her heart fluttered in a way she had never experienced. She turned her attention to the body laying sprawled on the ground caught off balance by this strange physical reaction.

"So what have we got here?" Alex dismissed the taunting phrase, deciding the best approach was to be totally businesslike.

"Asian male, early twenties, killed with a single blast from what was probably a 12 gauge shotgun," Sydney related what she knew focusing her attention back to the subject on the ground.

"Any suspects?"

"None so far," the blond detective shook her head.

"Gang related?"

"To early to say," Sydney said cautiously, unwilling to commit to anything at the moment, still uncertain about what they were looking at.

"Come on you must have some opinion?" the tall woman challenged and for a brief moment again

the two women looked at each other.

"Ahh, yeah," the smaller woman suddenly felt incredibly nervous tearing her eyes away from the other womanís and turning her attention back on the body. It was the only way she could remain focused. "My best guess would be that he belongs to a gang."

"But this isnít his turf?" the Lieutenant said and Sydney glanced sharply up at the tall woman. She had to admit that the dark haired woman was astute.

"No."

"Then whatís he doing here?" Alex asked pressing the woman for ideas, her azure eyes never leaving her companions face, hearing again the faint echo of an earlier thought bounce around her brain.

The small woman was more attractive then the Lieutenant had imagined with long blond hair that was now tucked into a neat French braid that rested against the back of the black leather of her jacket. She was of slender built but the grip of her hand had suggested a hidden strength. It was the eyes in the heart shaped face that had captured her attention for they were emerald coloured with a twinkle that made the taller woman think that her companion loved to laugh.

"Iím not sure but I think he was probably a message to the local hoods who control this turf," Sydney took a deep breath and decided to be bold. "Itís kind of a peace offering if a gang doesnít want to start a war. A few weeks back a Blood by the name of Hootie was killed in a fight at a local concert. At the time nobody knew who did it but it was suspected that the murderer was one Phu Vang Tu a thug with ties to a small Vietnamese gang that runs out of the downtown core."

"And you think that when the prints on this poor guy are run we will find out that he is none other then Phu Vang Tu," the other woman finished her thoughts.

"Yeah," the small woman nodded, growing more confident. "Itís a local curtesy, when one gang wrongs another and doesnít want to start a war, they sacrifice their own to save peace. Itís a sign. My guess is that Phu Vang Tu was a bit player and not worth the trouble of starting a feud."

Alex nodded her head silently as she considered the blond womanís thoughts. Sydney Davis was considered to be something of a minor expert in gang affairs and so the Lieutenant trusted the womanís instinct. She turned to her smaller companion and flashed a rare smile.

"Good work," she said before glancing once more about the scene aware that the ME was waiting to take the body away. "I see you have everything under control. Have a good night Sergeants."

Without another word the tall woman turned and strolled back towards her own nondescript police vehicle. Sydney watched her leave, unaware that her jaw had dropped until Newlie spoke.

"You can pick your chin up now," he chuckled at some private joke.

"What are you laughing at?" she turned her head and fixed him with a glare.

"Nothing," the man shook his head continuing to laugh as he walked away.

Sydney scowled before turning her attention back in the direction of where the taller woman had disappeared. Certainly the meeting had gone better then she had anticipated though she wasnít entirely sure what to think of the woman. She watched as the dark sedan pulled away from the curb and proceeded down the street before focusing back on the task at hand. She motioned to the coroner and the man immediately moved forward to claim the body.

It was nearly dawn before Sydney was finally satisfied she had gotten as much from the scene as she could. The street had been canvassed and as she had expected there were no witnesses. It wasnít unusual for people not to want to get involved, especially in this part of town. Sometimes silence meant saving their own life and she couldnít begrudge them for that, though many of her fellow detectives had a different opinion.

It was well into the morning before she finally fell into bed, aware that she had only enough time for a few brief hours of sleep before her alarm was set to go off. But she had learned to accept the few hours she got aware that there were days when she would get more.

 

Alex stared out the window of the Captainís office watching silently the goings on in the squad room

beyond the sealed room. She watched the detectives move with a pace all their own. She heard the phones ringing incessantly. It was a constant battle they fought and though at times it seemed that they were losing the fight they hoped at least to gain a few victories. For a moment her eyes latched on to the slender form of the young woman she had met the previous evening.

According to the log sheet Sydney Davis hadnít booked off from the crime scene until five thirty that morning. The desk staff on duty had checked in her paper work at nine which meant the woman hadnít had more than a few hours of down time between then and her shift which had begun only a half hour earlier. In spite of the obvious lack of sleep the younger woman looked fresh and eager to begin another day. Her eyes narrowed.

"Whatís the story with Sydney Davis?" she asked not bothering to turn around.

Captain Carner glanced up from the papers on his desk to look at the back of the tall woman who now occupied space in his office. He glanced past her slender form out the window to where the other woman was working at a desk at the far end of the squad room.

"Why?" he wanted to know and the woman turned slowly around leaning back against the shelf as she crossed her arms and looked at him.

"I went out to a call she was on last night," Alex said indifferently. "Sheís a rookie with barely nine months in the Unit. Whatís she doing out on a call by herself?"

The Captain shifted uncomfortably. He knew that he would have to answer a lot of difficult questions. The Commissioner had been blunt. His department was in shambles and Alex Marshall was the one hired to clean it up. That meant that he was forced to cooperate or risk losing his position and at this junction in his career that would mean an early retirement. Not for the first time did he long for the days when he was an regular officer in blue, patrolling the streets away from all the politics and garbage that now made his job almost impossible to do.

"If you hadnít noticed weíre more then a little short staffed and with our budget we canít afford to

bring on any one new until the next fiscal year," he responded more tersely then he had intended. If

his tone of voice had any affect on the woman it didnít show for she continued to look at him with the same stoic expression.

"Thatís no excuse," she didnít accept his argument. "According to the records sheís been doing a lot of cases single handed. Is there a particular reason for that?"

Once again the Captain shifted uncomfortably. He hated to get involved in the personal business of his officers but it seemed that this woman wasnít about to let things be. The others had warned him that she was tenacious and he was seeing an example of that now. He looked across the room at her. Though for outward appearances he was her superior, he knew in reality that she was the one now calling the shots.

"Come on, youíve read her file," he tried to ignore the obvious.

"Yes, but I want you to tell me what isnít in the file," the woman came back at him and he looked up

to see that those blue eyes that had first caught his attention were now narrowed into pale slits.

"Sydney Davis was a street punk before she joined the force," he blurted out the facts to which he had not been privy until after her appointment to the Unit. "She used to run with the same gangs who regularly put bodies in the coroners office."

"She canít have been all that bad, after all you have to have a clear criminal record to get accepted to any of the academies," Alex said clearly interested.

"She got nailed as a juvy on several charges but was always smart enough to wrangle out of them," he conceded. "After she turned of age we werenít able to pin anything on her. There was no reason to keep her out of the academy."

"But you think sheís still running with them?" it was a pointed question. One he was forced to answer honestly.

"No, sheís been a good cop," he admitted reluctantly. "But word of her history gets out. Thereís talk on the street and more then one officer has refused to work with her because of the innuendo. Internal Affairs keeps a close watch on her to make sure she doesnít screw up and some of the others donít appreciate the extra attention."

"What are they afraid of getting caught with dirty hands?" the question was asked but it wasnít meant to be answered and the Captain knew as much.

Alex stared at the man, seeing someone reaching his prime yet looking older then his age. She knew that the Captain was part of the problem the Unit faced but he had been installed by the previous Commissioner before he had been elected Mayor, a man who refused to admit it had been a

mistake. It was her delicate job to reshape the team without making to many waves.

"Listen Carner," she said straightening up and getting to the point. She was known for her bluntness and she was that now. "Iíve been here a month and what I see is one screwed up department. You have some good people but their talents are being wasted so we can do this one of two ways.

"You can help me and save your own ass in the process or you can make my life miserable and make it difficult for me. But let me remind you, I was sent here to do a job and I have the balls to do it. I have no loyalties to anyone and I donít care who falls under the axe. What happens to you makes no difference to me, itís your choice."

The Captain was silent. He knew it was a ultimatum and looking up at the woman now he knew that to challenge her would bring himself into ruin. He couldnít beat her and to put obstacles in her way when she had the backing of the Commissioner was career suicide. He sighed settling back into his chair in defeat.

"What do you want?"

"I want to mix up the squads," she responded without hesitation. "The main thing I have noticed is

that there is a lot of tension between various pairings. These detectives are supposed to be working

together not against each other. I like the competition between them but it has become the governing force in the Unit and has destroyed any type of cooperation."

The man could not argue with her assessment. He had seen the same thing but had been powerless to change things without battling his Lieutenantís which was something he had hoped to avoid. Now he saw that it would be impossible. He nodded his head mutely and listened.

"Hey Davis, did you hear the news?" a man with short curly red hair announced cheerfully as he

bounded up to her desk and perched on an edge.

"What?" Sydney glanced up absently from the paper she was reading. The report from the coroner had just arrived and as she had suspected the victim in her latest case was one Phu Vang Tu. His finger prints had positively identified him.

"Youíre moving," the man smiled sexily.

"What?" she straightened in her chair a horrifying fear clutching at her insides. Tears pricked the back of her eyes. She loved the Homicide Unit and desperately wanted to remain a member. She didnít want to move to another department. "Where are they sending me?"

"Down the hall to second squad," Vance Waylins laughed and for a brief instant the small woman felt like punching her colleague. He saw that his joke had angered her. "Sorry sweetheart but I heard it from Irving. The new Luey wants you on her team and is willing to trade Demco for you."

"Iím sure Messington jumped at that," she said sarcastically. There was no love lost between the Lieutenant and herself.

Lt. Messington hadnít been happy to have her on his squad from the beginning and had done nothing to encourage her growth as a member. He had been tougher on her then the other members and she had instantly known it was because she was a woman and therefore the weak link on his team.

Steve Demco on the other hand was a solid detective with a good track record. Besides that, his clearance record would automatically be transferred to the first squads score while hers would go with her to the second squad. Obviously the new Luey didnít seem to worry about losing the bet.

As if on cue Lieutenant Messington opened the door to his office and barked out her name. She looked at her colleague and decided that he would be the only reason she would miss coming in to work with the first squad. She closed the door to the Lieutenantís office aware that he was standing behind his desk waiting impatiently.

"Orders have come down from the powers that be," the tall blond man said without preamble tossing a paper on the desk for her to see. "The new Lieutenant over on the second squad seems to have taken a fancy to you and wants you on her team. Canít say Iíll miss you."

"The feelings mutual," she retorted sharply having learned not to take his attitude. The man had a

loud bark but she knew that he had been unable to do anything to get rid of her though he had tried

on numerous occasions.

David Messington was still from the old school who believed women didnít belong on the force and

the Commissioner had been insistent that there be at least one woman in each Departmental Unit. That made her the token member for homicide.

The man smiled. In spite of his gruff demeanour he had an odd appreciation for the small woman. She was a fighter and he admired that but she was a lot of work and had been promoted ahead of others more qualified. That promotion had brought along with it a well of resentment from the ranks and he commiserated with their feelings.

"Yeah, well Iíve been told to cut you loose for two days and have you report to your new Lieutenant on Monday morning bright and early," he said and she nodded willing down the feeling of happiness she felt over this move. As if sensing her elation he did his best to dampen her enthusiasm. He waited until her hand was on the door before speaking.

"I wouldnít go out and celebrate your good luck just yet. Marshall is a hard ass and she wouldnít let things slid like I did with you. Youíre no longer the only female down here anymore, so you are expendable. Have a good day."

It wasnít until much later that Sydney let his words sink in. Initially she had seen the move as a positive thing but now she wasnít entirely certain. She had gotten used to working under the tense strain of Lieutenant Messingtonsí command, she knew the man and what to expect. The new Lieutenant was a complete unknown. In spite of this she tried to be cheerful about the whole matter and left work that night intent on getting out of the city for a few days. She wanted to be relaxed for when she started her new shift on Monday morning.

Alex leaned back into the sofa and closed her eyes, revelling in the silence of the apartment that

surrounded her. She popped an eye open and saw that it was already five thirty and her parents were expecting her for dinner at seven.

She wanted to blow off this evening like she had done so many other invitations but the truth was that she had run out of excuses. To cancel out now would certainly send the clear message that she didnít want to see them. She sighed and closed her eyes again, unable to stop herself from wondering what a certain blond haired detective was doing now.

Shit, your obsessed, she chided herself angrily. It had been days and still she couldnít get thoughts of the other woman out of her head. She knew the whole idea was ridiculous. She didnít believe in love at first sight. It was something made up by writers and storytellers. It didnít exist in real life. She shook her head vigorously as if to dispel the notion and jumped to her feet.

She had been at the office until early afternoon and unwilling to sit in her empty apartment she had gone for a long run which had been effective in allowing her to clear her head and rid herself of some of the tension she felt. She didnít need to have it return now by thinking of the other woman. Absently she concentrated on her family, wondered if her brothers would be in attendance tonight.

She slipped out of her sweatsuit and stepped into the shower, standing for a long moment under the cascading refreshment and soothing her aching muscles. She could almost choreograph the evening. If her parents were up to their usual tricks they would have a pleasant meal where they would discussion how well her fathers law practice was doing. Then over dessert they would try a gentle persuasion to see if she would leave the police force and come join the family practice. It was an offer many would jump at but one she would politely turn down like she had done numerous times before.

There wasnít anything wrong with joining her fathers practice, it would give her a chance to use the law degree she had so tenaciously earned while on the force. No, she just wasnít interested in settling down yet. Maybe in a few years, she would tell them and perhaps that would keep them happy for awhile.

She washed her long dark hair and then rinsed out the soap. Once that issue was dealt with they would move on to their second favourite topic. When are you going to get married? She could already hear her mother ask. Never, she would answer for the hundredth time and then she would gently remind them were her real interest lay. They would of course say she was just going through a phase.

She sighed. Well, she had tried the whole normal way. She had even gotten engaged but thankfully she had realized her mistake before it was to late. Though she had only acknowledged her sexuality a few years ago, she knew it was no phase. At that thought the image of the small blond detective popped into her head and resigning herself, she allowed herself a few minutes to dwell on the other woman.

There was no denying the fact that she felt an instant attraction for the small detective yet there were two very important factors working against any involvement. The first reason of course was that she didnít have a clue as to where the womanís interest lay, but more importantly, she was now the womanís boss.

Just as well, she sighed turning the water off and stepping out of the shower and wrapping a towel around her slender body. She needed to concentrate on her work. She didnít need any more complications in her life right now. And she knew that the woman would be a complication.

The drive to Forest Bay where her parents resided was quiet and without much traffic. She was actually pleased to see that her brothers had also been invited for it had been a long time since she had seen any of them. Besides she knew that her parents would say nothing in front of them.

As usual it was a pleasant evening and Alex enjoyed the opportunity to reacquaint herself with her nieces and nephews whom, because she had lived in Chicago until a few months earlier, she hadnít gotten to know very well. She was also pleased to see Christie again, an old college friend who had ended up marrying her brother.

"Weíve missed you," the blond haired woman said sincerely, embracing her tall dark haired sister-in-law. "Kim has been bugging us about you ever since we learned that you had moved back to Seattle."

"Yeah, she already told me off for not coming over to visit yet," Alex chuckled remembering fondly the quiet tongue lashing she had gotten from her favourite niece earlier in the evening.

"Well, I donít know why but she adores you," the other woman said with a slightly mocking voice. "She thinks youíre some kind of hero. It doesnít help that Andrew encourages her."

"I wish he wouldnít," the taller woman said uncomfortably. "It only makes things worse for when she learns the truth."

"The truth," Christie smirked. "In her eyes you will never be able to do any wrong."

Alex blushed. She had been aware of her nieceís crush for a long time and couldnít figure out what she had done to deserve such adoration. At first she had been embarrassed by it but in time she had come to accept the affection and return it in kind. After all the girl was a sweet and thoughtful kid.

"Actually, everyone was wondering why you have been avoiding the family," the blond woman said

because they had been friends long enough for them to be blunt with each other. Alex turned another shade of crimson.

"I was busy settling into my new job and the condo," the dark haired woman said vaguely not looking at the other woman.

"Liar," Christie hissed and then decided to be honest. "Mom and dad were particularly hurt."

Alex took a deep breath and glanced shyly across the room to where her parents were seated on the

sofa talking to her other siblings. She knew that her actions had probably hurt her parents yet she

had avoided them anyway. She sighed.

"I guess I wanted to avoid all the usual questions," she admitted reluctantly. "I get tired of defending my life to them. Itís just so hard."

"I know," Christie agreed, "but donít make it harder by staying away. If it bothers you tell them. They need to know."

Alex knew her sister-in-law was right. Her parents didnít deserved to be treated the way she was treating them. She knew it could be worse because for the most part they had been supportive of everything she had done. It was for that reason that she stayed until all the others were gone.

"It was nice that you came," Marie said cautiously, worried that she might somehow offend her tall daughter. They had not had a chance to be alone all evening and the older woman suspected that the girl had been purposefully avoided them.

"Iím sorry it took so long," the younger woman said, "but Iíve been rather busy settling into my job and setting up my apartment."

"You could have moved back in here," the older woman said but the girl shook her head.

"Mom, Iím over thirty years old. I have to live my own life."

"Yes," her father agreed solemnly glancing at his wife briefly before continuing. "Sometimes we forget that. Itís hard for a parent to admit that their youngest child is all grown up and doesnít need them any more."

"I will always need you Dad," Alex protested. "I just need to live my life the way I want too."

"We understand," Warren nodded reaching over to take his wifeís hand in his own. "Thatís why we decided not to question you anymore about what youíre doing. Itís hard for us to let go but we are determined to do our best and accept the life you have chosen. We donít want to lose you."

"You wonít lose me..."

"No, then why has it taken you two months to come see us?" Marie asked pointedly and the younger woman flushed red glancing down at her hands which were folded in her lap. The older woman reached over and gently gave them a affectionate squeeze. "We know you have been avoiding us and we finally understood why. We apologize. We never meant to hurt you."

"I know," Alex said quietly. "I never meant to hurt you either."

"Good," Warren said firmly ending the discussion. "Then we will start over as of tonight."

They talked some more and Alex left her parents home that night marvelling that the evening had gone better then she had expected. She wondered why she had not been brave enough to speak with her parents earlier about the matter and realized that it was because in many aspects she was an emotional coward.

Isnít that the reason you have never been able to sustain a relationship? She asked herself bluntly and then had to admit that it was indeed the reason. She had never been willing to feel the pain that was involved in making a permanent attachment to some one.

She sighed reasoning once again that it was easier in her line of work to remain unattached. It was less complicated and avoided unnecessary questions. She had never wanted to be stereotyped and perhaps that was why she had failed to acknowledge her sexual orientation for so long even though she had figured out the truth many years earlier. Perhaps that was even the reason she had become engaged to a man she had barely liked. Certainly it had dispelled any rumours of her sexual orientation.

If you were honest you would admit that was the only reason you became engaged. Yes, she silently agreed. That had been the only reason. She had never intended on marrying Barry. She had used him yet she only felt a brief moment of guilt aware that the man had allowed himself to be used.

She shook her head and concentrated on the road ahead.

Admit the truth. You joined the Seattle Police Department to be closer to your family, and try to find what you know is missing in your life. It was the truth and the decision had come after a bitter fight with a former lover, a woman she had fallen into a relationship with but to whom she had invested no emotional energy. The break-up had been harsh and the cold words that had ended it had started her thinking. If she was grateful for one thing about the relationship it was that the woman had opened her eyes to a few truths.

Yet, she was at a loss to know where to begin and everytime she began to think about changing she was pushed back into that same cold emotionless state that she found comfortable. A state in which she could avoid feeling pain. For everyone she met she could find a reason not to become involved.

She had avoided her parents for almost the same reason. It was easier not to see them then to see the hurt they denied yet were unable to hide.

Well, tonight perhaps thatís changed. She tried to be positive. Certainly the reception from her parents had not been what she had expected and if she was to believe their words then she knew that they truly were trying to change. If they were making the effort then certainly it was also up to her to try as well, though she knew it wouldnít be as simple as making some wish. For some reason the image of a certain blond woman popped into her head once again giving her company for the rest of her journey home.

 

Chapter Two

 

Sydney returned to work on the Monday morning feeling better than she had in a very long time. She had put those two days off to good use by going north to Vancouver, Canada. There she had partied and let her inhibitions down. The sex hadnít been all that great but it had helped to relieve some of the tension she had been feeling.

She wasnít normally one to engage in casual affairs and her partner had hinted at pursuing a deeper acquaintance but she wasnít ready for a committed relationship especially a long distance one. Sure Vancouver was only a four hour drive or a quick flight by plane, but she wasnít interested enough in the other woman to make that kind of effort. She didnít want to tie herself down to anyone at the moment. It had been what it was, a one night stand.

She had expected a one on one interview with the new Lieutenant that morning but was instead surprised when she found the whole Second Squad assembled in the conference room. Sydney slipped into a seat at the far end of the table and glanced around the small room, seeing the familiar faces and realizing for the first time that she wasnít the only new face on board.

Besides herself, there was Norman Bridges, an old veteran from the Third Unit as well as a new guy named Roy Howard, who, she later learned had transferred over from vice. There was Max Armstrong a five year veteran of the Unit and his long time partner Milt Jabonski, a Polish man whom she remembered with a smile had an inexhaustible supply of relatives that always seemed to pop up where ever a person went.

There was Keith Bettman, an officer she had once worked with while on patrol duty, and whom until recently had been on the Third Squad. Finally there was Steve Reynolds, a comic who had the reputation of enjoying a good practical joke. Gone were Stu Burbaker, John Hollings and Steve Demco. With the exception of Demco, who had a moderate clearance record, the others were considered dead wood.

Sydney had a good feeling about the mixture of personalities that her new commander had assembled. They were all easy going individuals yet their laid back facade masked an intensity for their jobs that few people recognized. It was obvious that the Lieutenant had looked below the surface. At that thought she turned to look at the other woman and immediately felt her heart jump at the sight of the tall beauty.

Alex Marshall had a formidable presence and it was more than just a result of her height which Sydney guessed to be a good six feet. No, there was something in her no nonsense manner that told everyone she meant business and wouldnít tolerate anything less then a hundred per cent effort from everyone.

The Lieutenant was standing at the front of the room her arms folded across her chest. She was dressed in black dress slacks, turtle neck and matching blazer. She looked a very imposing figure yet Sydney felt a thread of unexplained excitement run through her body.

Alex scanned the small group intently. Her squad was grossly understaffed and many of itís

members were considered underachievers but she had seen something in each detective during the month and a half she had been observing the department. She was taking a gamble by assembling her squad from what the other Lieutenantís considered misfits but she was determined to make it work. She took a deep breath and began.

"All right, I donít think we need any introductions as I think you all know each other, and I think you already all know who I am but just so we can dispense up front with all the rumours and misconceptions I will tell you a little about myself," she said briskly including the entire group with one steady gaze.

"I am thirty four years old and I have been a cop for thirteen years, five of which were in the homicide squad in Chicago, so when I talk to you guys I know what Iím talking about," she paused allowing her blue eyes to roam around the room and seeing with quiet delight that they were all spell bound.

"Second, Warren Marshall is my father and he is friends with both Mayor Taylor and Commissioner Ford, but..." she paused allowing her words to sink in. "My appointment, though seemingly political was made with the best intentions. No, I am not sleeping with the Commissioner or the Mayor so if any of you guys wants to have a shot at them be my guest."

The little joke had itís desired affect for it brought a nervous chuckle out of the group and eased the tension that had been filling the room. For a brief instant she had even allowed a hint of a smile to play on the corners of her lips. But it disappeared as quickly as it came and when she spoke again her voice was serious.

"I donít care how youíve done things before but from now on weíre doing it my way... and just so you know, I donít play favourites and I donít keep unproductive workers around. I want results and I donít care how you get them, as long as it doesnít break the law."

There was a pause and she cast another sweeping glance about the room, her eyes coming to rest for a moment on the small blond detective she had thus far avoided. God she looks good, the thought flitted through her head and abruptly she shifted her gaze.

"I will be teaming you into pairs, unfortunately because weíre short on manpower that will mean an odd man out, but regardless I expect all of us to pitch in and work together. Anyone not willing to make a team effort will be gone," she paused and glanced over the individual faces. "Bettman and Reynolds, Armstrong and Jabonski, Bridges and Howard, those are your teams. Davis youíll be on your own for now."

Sydney didnít know whether that was a blessing or a curse. She noticed the amused and sympathetic glances several of her colleagues cast in her direction and she wondered if she were being singled out for a reason. She hated to think that the new Lieutenant was as prejudice as the old one.

"Every Monday after our shifts, we will have a team meeting where we will pool our resources on the cases that are currently red on the board. Are there any questions?" Alex looked around the room but nobody seemed inclined to say anything, all deciding to wait and see what happened.

"Okay then, letís get out there and solve some cases," she dismissed every one except the other

woman. "Davis could you stay for a moment."

Sydney sat back down, brushing her palms nervously against her dark cargo pants as the others filed out the door. She watched as the other woman casually strolled across the room and perched on the edge of the conference table. For a moment their eyes met and a flicker of something invisible but electric passed between them.

"Singling you out isnít a punishment," Alex sensed the detectiveís concern and instantly put her at ease. Her voice had lost itís edge. "Iíve read your file and know the reason you were promoted to Homicide. Youíre a good cop but you havenít yet lived up to your potential."

Sydney made to protest but the Lieutenant already had her hand up. It was as if she knew what the detective was about to say.

"I know you werenít given much help. Lieutenant Messington is a male chauvinist but donít get any ideas that just because we are the same gender and very much in the minority here that Iím going to give you any more slack then I give the others."

"I wasnít going to ask for any favours," the blond woman said tersely through clenched teeth. For a brief moment she thought she might have finally found a friend in the Unit but now she reconsidered that idea.

"Good," Alex nodded curtly. "As I said you are a good cop and I think you have the potential to be a great homicide detective. Messington didnít give you much chance to prove yourself. Well, Iím willing to do that. To that end I want you to come to me whenever you need help. You donít have a partner so unofficially Iím going to make myself available to help you if no one else is around. Do you have any comments?"

Sydney shook her head. She was to dazed to speak. In the same breath the woman had praised her talent yet implied she was wasting it. She looked across at the Lieutenant drawn in by the intensity of those blue eyes. For some reason the idea of working with this woman was suddenly not so unappealing.

"Okay, have you heard from the MEís office about the victim you caught the other night?" the abrupt change of subject almost caught Sydney off guard.

"Yeah," the blond woman nodded glad to be conversing on a topic with which she was familiar. "Our victim was one Phu Vang Tu, he hung out with the Little Dragons, a small gang that has territory near Chinatown."

"Then it stands to reason that the rest of your assumption may also be accurate," Alex said briskly rising to her feet. "I suggest you take another detective and get down to the hood to interview the boys from the Bloods. See what they can tell you."

Sydney nodded and then followed the taller woman out into the squad room. Without another word the Lieutenant disappeared into her office while the smaller woman wandered back to her desk. She collared the first pair of detectives she met.

"Come on guys, I need someone to ride down with me to visit the Bloods." Both men nodded but by the expressions on their faces she knew of their dislike for the idea.

Alex settled behind her desk, her eyes going to the blond woman, watching as the smaller woman cornered Detectives Armstrong and Jabonski and led them out of the room. It was there, she told herself. I could feel it. Yet at the same time she knew that she was crazy even thinking about the possibility.

If by some chance they had a relationship, they would have to be careful so neither of their careers were jeopardized. She shook her head, realizing it was insane just thinking about it, yet for some reason she could not dismiss the idea. She would have to talk to Christie about that, certain her sister-in-law would be sensible about the matter.

It just so happened that she was meeting the other woman later that day for lunch. They had known each other since college and there was nothing sacred between them. Even while she had lived in Chicago they had maintained their close relationship. Christie was one of the few people Alex considered to be a friend. She was the first person the Lieutenant had confided her sexuality too.

The blond woman stared across the table at her dark haired companion unable to hide her amusement. Alex was probably the most self confident woman she knew and yet the fidgety woman sitting across from her was nothing like the friend she remembered. There was something different, something unusual.

"Whatís up?" she said after awhile. They had finished the main course and were now eating dessert. Though the dark haired woman had listened and conversed throughout the meal Christie had the distinct impression that there was something on the other womanís mind.

"What do you mean?" Alex was slightly startled by her sister-in-lawís perception.

"Come on Alex, Iíve known you since college, I know when somethingís bothering you," the other woman chided with a hint of mocking. Alex was silent for a moment pondering her next words.

"Do you believe in love at first sight?" The question caught the blond woman by surprise.

"Yes, I suppose."

"Where you in love with Andrew the first time you met him?" Alex wanted to know.

"No..." Christie shook her head pensively. "I wouldnít call it love at first sight. Certainly I liked him. I liked him a whole lot, but I didnít know I wanted to marry him until our third date."

"Which was what, the third time you saw him?" came the sarcastic comment and the blond woman had the grace to blush.

"Well, yeah, but why suddenly all the interest in our courtship?"

"Iíve met someone," Alex confessed with a sigh, "and I donít know what to do about it. I was hoping you could talk some sense into me."

Christie was somewhat startled by this admission. Though her sister-in-law had come out of the closet a few years earlier, she knew that Alex was still relatively new at the dating game. The dark haired woman had gone out with several women but in her own words, they had been obviously gay and they had done the asking. Something about the knowledge that her sister-in-law was interested in someone caused her to feel a pang of jealousy.

"Is she gay?"

"I donít know," Alex admitted reluctantly. "I think she might be."

"Well then the first thing you have to do is find out if she is," the blond woman advised patiently. "Then you find out if sheís involved with anyone."

God I feel like a teenager, Alex thought to herself, and not a grown woman in her early thirties.

"I think it was much easier with guys," she admitted ruefully.

"Thatís because they did all the asking," Christie snorted. "I donít think it works quite the same way when youíre gay."

"No," Alex sighed. Somehow she had assumed it would be easier but now she knew that it didnít matter what your sexual orientation was, dating was just plain difficult.

"Whereíd you meet her?" her companion was curious. She knew her friend didnít hang out in the local gay bars, concerned for her reputation and career.

"At work," the dark haired woman confessed and her companion whistled. "Sheís a fellow officer."

"Whoa girl, you sure you want to go ahead with this?" Christie was serious. "Think about it Alex, if it doesnít work out you could be setting yourself up for a whole lot of trouble."

The dark haired woman knew the risk she would be taking. She heard enough over the years to know that cases of sexual harassment in the workplace was a rising issue. It was something she had to seriously consider before making any move.

"I realize the dangers," she sighed wondering if it was worth the effort especially now that she had so much on her plate already.

"Then all I advise is to be careful," her sister-in-law cautioned. "You donít want to ruin your life for just a roll in the hay."

Christie had always been blunt and that was one of the things that Alex liked most about the woman. That and the fact that she had never wavered in her support or friendship even after Alex had come out of the closet. She smiled.

"I knew youíd talk sense into me," Alex chuckled but the blond woman wasnít fooled. Christie knew that for the other woman to even mention the subject it was something, but she didnít press the issue, aware that her sister-in-law would continue the conversation when she was ready.

 

Sydney wasnít having a good day. Her visit to the Bloods earlier in the week hadnít turned up any new evidence. The gangbangers had refused to cooperate or answer any of her questions. She had come away more frustrated then she imaged was possible and dejectedly she knew that Phu Vang Tuís death would probably remain in red ink.

It was Friday afternoon and she was sitting at her desk mulling over her lack of evidence and typing out a report when the hairs on the back of her neck rose. It was a peculiar feeling but instinctively she knew that the Lieutenant was standing behind her. That suspicion was almost immediately confirmed when the woman stepped up beside the desk, leaning casually against it with her arms folded across her chest.

She hadnít talked to the tall woman since the meeting on Monday morning, unconsciously avoiding any contact. They had passed each other in the hallways and nodded greetings but other then that they had not spoken. Despite that she had remained acutely conscious of the dark haired woman.

"Howís everything going?"

After her conversation with Christie, Alex had promised herself to stay away from the smaller woman, afraid where her feelings might lead. However, after five days of covertly glancing at the blond detective she had found it impossible to maintain her distance.

"Not very good," Sydney admitted leaning back in her chair and glancing up at the tall woman. She was intensely aware of the Lieutenantís close proximity and her heart started to beat just a little harder. She focused her eyes on the computer in front of her. "Nobody is willing to say anything. Nobody is talking."

"What about Phu Vang Tuís family?"

"He has a grandmother who speaks no English and an Uncle who is currently serving a two year sentence in a state facility on robbery charges," was the solemn answer.

"Whose taking care of the funeral arrangements?"

"No one has claimed the body yet. I told the ME to call when they received word where they were to send the boy," Sydney replied. "Iím planning to go back to Chinatown and speak with the Little Dragonís again. Their unofficial leader Van Phan has been out of the country, visiting cousins up in Vancouver. Maybe he can give me a clue about whatís going down."

"Sounds like a good idea, if you need any help let me know," Alex nodded and then jerked her head towards the board. "What about the others?"

Sydney knew the Lieutenant was referring to the other two names written in red ink. She didnít know what to say, she had stalled in her investigation on those cases. She thought she had covered every possible angle yet nothing had come to the surface.

"Dead," she admitted reluctantly. "Iíve just about fried my brain thinking about them. I know Iím missing something but I canít figure out what it is."

Alex opened her mouth, about to offer her assistance when the phone jangled. Sydney stared at it for a moment before answering, dreading the thought that it might be another call. She glanced fugitively around. Only Bridges and Howard were in the squad room, the others were already out on calls or various department business.

"Davis here," she almost barked into the receiver, listening intently before scribbling notes on the pad next to the computer. "Okay Iím on the way."

"A call?"

"Yeah, a body found off Elm and Worchester in the Valley district," Sydney nodded and watched as Alex straightened up.

"Bridges, Howard, Davis has a call, I want you to do backup," the Lieutenant made the decision and the two men nodded. Sydney looked up to find the tall woman looking down at her. "Iíll ride with you if thatís okay?"

Alex knew it was an impulsive decision but she wasnít ready to part company with the woman yet. She knew it was crazy. She had a stack of paperwork that needed wading through and several calls to various department heads to make. She really didnít have time to go chasing across town on a call. But now that she had made the decision there was no way she was going to take it back.

"Iíll just get my jacket," Alex breathed and hurried to her office for the aforementioned garment.

Sydney merely nodded, not quite certain what to say. A part of her was thrilled by the idea of the dark woman riding with her while another part of her dreaded the idea of having her commanding officer watching over her shoulder.

However, within a few minutes they were cruising through the streets in one of the stations battered yet sturdy grey sedans. It was midday and traffic was at its heaviest. The address the dispatcher had given her was in a middle class suburban area. An area where they didnít get many calls and those they did get usually involved nothing more serious then home invasions or stolen cars..

Sydney knew she was being watched so she took charge immediately. As primary on the case she was responsible for making certain everything was handled properly. As soon as she stepped into the inner circle of patrolmen she realized this was a case she didnít want to handle.

The dispatcher had not given her any information on the case other then to say that a body had been found. She was upset to discover that the victim was a Caucasian boy of approximately seven to ten years of age. There were dark bruises around his neck and his clothes were rumpled with the buttons misaligned or missing. There was almost complete silence as she stared down at the innocent looking face.

Investigating the murder of a child was perhaps one of the most difficult tasks that was ever asked of a detective and though Sydney wanted to turn and run away, she knew it was important to put aside her own feelings. She took a deep breath pushing down her emotions and concentrating on the task at hand.

"Who found him?" she asked tersely, already deciding that this was probably a sex crime.

"A woman walking her dog," the acting sergeant said stepping forward. Unlike other crime scenes here there would be none of the usual morbid joking. There was nothing remotely amusing about a childís death. "She was pretty broken up so I had one of the units take her down to the station."

Sydney nodded, glancing at her surroundings, before turning her attention back on the patrolman. She didnít recognize his face but the name on his ID tag was familiar.

"Sgt Charles, I want you to break your men out into pairs and have them do a house to house. I want to know if anyone heard or saw anything," she instructed and the man nodded. "Who was the first on the scene?"

"I was," a grisly veteran in a blue uniform stepped forward.

"Right. I want you to write down everything you can remember from the minute you got here on site until we arrived. Are there any schools or day cares in the area?"

"Thereís an elementary school about five blocks from here," the patrol driver jerked his thumb in one direction.

"Okay," Sydney glanced at her watch and then at the two detectives from her squad who had just arrived. "Itís a long shot but Norm and Roy, I want you to go down to the school and see if anyone missing from class, whether itís due to illness or whatever."

The two men nodded, the veteran detective pausing to take a hard look at the deceased childís face before dragging his partner away.

"Okay, the rest of you, I want you to start a perimeter search."

"What are we looking for?" one young patrol driver asked.

"Anything that looks remotely out of the usual," Sydney paused in thought. "Hell, look for anything, backpack, lunch kit, sneakers.....anything."

The men nodded and then dispersed to their individual tasks. Many knew this would be a long day but upper most in their minds now was to find this childís killer. Methodically the young detective slipped a pair of latex gloves over her hands and then bent to examine the boy.

One look at the body and Sydney knew that the boy had been dead before he had been carelessly

throw out of a vehicle. The skin was cold but not so cold that rigour mortis had started to set in, which was a good thing and meant that the boy had not been there very long. There were no bruises on his face and no other marks on his body. It would be up to the ME to tell her what the cause of death was even though she suspected she already knew.

The scene was uncommonly quiet and the officers moved about almost in silence, completing there tasks. Janice showed up to take pictures but unlike the previous occasion there was no teasing or joking. It was as if they all knew that to do anything but concentrate on the dead child would be sacrilege.

Alex stood back and watched quietly as the detectives and officers went about their assigned duties, content to allow the young detective to remain in control. She almost regretted her hasty decision to join the blond Sergeant, aware this scene was bringing back too many memories of her own days as a detective. It had been a different city with different faces, yet the cruelty had been the same.

She focused her attention on the small woman who was now bent over the tiny body, studiously examining his clothes. She could see the emotion, lurking just beneath the surface and admired the fact that in spite of everything the detective could still feel.

"What do you think?" she asked in a soft voice, dropping to her hunches on the other side of the innate body. The other woman looked up and for a brief instant Alex could see tears pooling in those green eyes.

"I wonít know until Bridges and Howard get back," came the quiet reply. "But I do know the bastard that did this wonít get away."

"You make sure," the Lieutenant said softly, "cause once the press gets a hold of this itís going to bring down a lot of heat."

"For Godís sakes canít you think of anything but the political ramifications of anything," Sydney allowed her burst of anger to escape, her green eyes flashing dangerously.

"I wasnít thinking of the politics," Alex replied quietly, not taking offence to the outburst, though the sharp words did sting. "I was thinking of the childís family."

Without another word the woman straightened and moved away. Sydney silently cursed and knew that she should apologize but she just couldnít bring herself to do that. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, realizing she would have to remain calm and focused if she hoped to solve this crime. Ignoring everything else she concentrated on the body.

It was late in the afternoon before she was comfortable enough to release the body to the patiently waiting ME officer. The scene had been thoroughly searched and the nearby houses canvassed, yet neither of those efforts had turned up any clues. She watched, feeling a sense of helplessness as the victim was bagged and put in the back of the coroners wagon.

That frustration grew once she returned to the station house. She sat at her desk and searched the computer screen for any clues. Detectives Bridges and Howardís visit to the local school had resolved nothing of the childís identity for everyone in the area had been successfully accounted for.

A scan of the local missing childrenís directory had turned up nothing so she posted a report of her own to all police departments in the state. Then she notified adjoining states and even sent a dispatch to the Canadian authorities across the border in British Columbia. She was still at her desk long after the shift was over, pouring over the files and punching in numbers.

 

It was late when Alex finally realized what time it was. She ran a tired hand through her dark hair and packed up her desk. The squad room was empty except for the cleaning staff and one blond woman who was seemingly glued to her computer screen. She slipped into her coat and quietly locked up her office.

"Hey, howís it going?" she asked softly stepping up beside the detective and peering at the screen. "Any leads?"

"No," Sydney admitted reluctantly, feeling awkward as she remembered the harshly spoken words that morning. She leaned back in her chair and for the first time noticed the faint and pleasant scent that surrounded the tall woman. She glanced up shyly, intensely aware of how near the other woman was standing. "Iíve sent out missing persons reports to all the various agencies in the state. Now its just a matter of waiting to see if anything comes back."

"Did the ME tell you when he might have an initial report?"

"They said I should stop by tomorrow," the smaller woman replied.

"Okay, well donít stay to late," Alex said before turning to go. Sydney watched the woman begin to leave and was pushed by a sudden impulse to act.

"Lieutenant?"

"Hmm," the tall dark woman turned to look at her with those piercing blue eyes.

"I... just wanted to apologize for my behaviour this morning," Sydney swallowed the lump in her throat. She was nervous and suddenly desperate for this woman to forgive her. She didnít know why but she wanted this woman to like her. It was an odd notion for most often she didnít care what people thought.

"Donít worry about it," Alex brushed the apology aside as if it were nothing. The truth was the womanís harsh words had cut very deep. "Itís easy to get upset, especially when your standing over the body of a brutally murdered child."

"Thanks, I appreciate it," the detective felt a huge sense of relief. "Iíll see you on Monday."

Alex nodded and turned to leave once again but she took only two steps before pausing. She knew the whole idea was insane but she just couldnít put the notion out of her head. She screwed up her courage and took a bold heap.

"Listen, I donít know about you but I havenít had anything to eat since lunch and thereís nothing in my kitchen at home. Would you like to go grab some dinner?"

The invitation was so unexpected that Sydney almost fell out of her chair. In light of what had happened in the last twelve hours, the last thing she anticipated was a dinner invitation from her boss. She felt the oxygen seep out of her lungs and her heart begin to race. Quietly she reminded herself to breath.

"If youíve got other plans, I understand," Alex felt like a complete idiot. It was obvious by the expression on the detective's face that the woman didnít know what to think. "Have a good night."

"No," Sydney jumped out of her chair knocking it backwards with a resounding crash and the tall woman looked at her with some amusement as she hastily picked the piece of furniture off the floor. "Thereís nothing in my fridge either. Iíd like to go grab something to eat."

"Good," an immense relief flooded over the Lieutenant but she let none of her emotions show. "I know this great little Italian place not far from here. Would you prefer to walk or drive?"

"If itís close, why donít we walk," Sydney suggested, hurriedly struggling into her bomber jacket, almost afraid the other woman would change her mind. They walked together through the building and out the front door.

"Maybe we should take a vehicle," Alex said when they stepped out into the night. "I didnít realized the streets were so dark."

"Come on, this part of town is practically crime free," the blond detective smiled, feeling absurdly happy in spite of the gloomy day she just had. "Who would be dumb enough to tangle with two good looking homicide cops?"

Good looking hey, the Lieutenant thought with amusement but the tone of her voice when she spoke was dry. "Some one who doesnít know weíre cops."

"Well, yeah, thereís always that....but then after the day Iíve had, I wouldnít mind a little work out," and to emphasis her point, the smaller woman laced her fingers together and stretched her arms to crack her knuckles.

"You think you could protect us?" the tall woman asked slightly amused, aware the her companion was practically bouncing on her feet.

"Absolutely," Sydney replied and then mimicked a few fighting moves. She knew that she was flirting but she couldnít help herself.

"Okay then, I will trust you to defend me," Alex said with a good natured chuckle liking the idea. "But if weíre mugged and my reputation is ruined, I will hold you responsible."

"I will do my utmost to make sure that doesnít happen," the blond woman bowed gallantly, feeling a little guilty over the light hearted way she was feeling. It had been a rough day and she needed a break from the stress of her job. Besides that she was alone in the company of the most gorgeous woman she knew.

The restaurant was several blocks away and their walk turned out to be uneventful. It was a cozy eatery and a single candle sat in the middle of the red chequered cloths that decorated each table. They picked a booth along the far wall.

"Do you feel like splitting a pizza?" Alex initiated the conversation once the waitress had deposited glasses of water and menuís on the table. After the first burst of playful conversation they had grown silent.

"That sounds good," Sydney agreed and on cue her stomach rumbled. Right now she would have agreed to anything.

"What do you want on it?" the question brought out a sheepish smile on the blondeís face.

"Anything will do," the young detective shrugged, hoping not to have to supply an honest answer.

"I eat almost anything," Alex said pointedly. "What do you want?"

"I usually order ground beef, onions, green peppers and pineapple," Sydney admitted reluctantly and her companion arched a finely shaped brow.

"I said almost anything."

The smaller woman blushed. "We can just get a basic cheese pizza."

"Iím just teasing," Alex chuckled again. "That combination sounds fine."

The blond detective didnít know whether to believe her companion until the waitress returned and took their order. There was silence again as she sipped from her water glass, her eyes shifting nervously around the room. She tried to look everywhere but at her companion across the table, thinking of how the smile had transformed the womanís features.

"You donít have to be nervous here," Alex said quietly sensing the other womanís discomfort. "When I leave the precinct, my work stays there, youíre not on trial here."

Sydney looked across at the woman and for a brief moment blue and green eyes met. She felt her heart beat quicken. The young detective had the distinctive impression she was on trial, but for a totally different reason. She summoned her courage.

ĎWhy did you ask me to join you, I mean I didnít particularly treat you very well today?"

The blunt question caught Alex off guard yet she let none of her emotions show. She could have told the truth but she didnít think either of them were ready for that. She had an innate sense that they were going to have a relationship. She didnít know why she knew that, it was just some instinctive knowledge. Besides she had liked the way the smaller woman had flirted with her. Quietly she willed herself to be patient. This was something she didnít want to screw up by being hasty.

"I like to get to know the people who work for me in a more social setting," she replied calmly. "It helps me get to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. That way I can use you to your maximum potential."

"So this is just an opportunity for you to analzye me," the words were out of her mouth before she could stop them.

Sydney saw the flash of hurt in the blue eyes before the curtain came down cloaking any emotion the woman might be feeling. She couldnít explain her terse reaction. She hadnít known what kind of response she had been looking for except that it was something else. For a brief while she had allowed herself to imagine that the woman was interested in her as a woman and not a police officer. Sheís probably straight, she decided not entirely happy with the thought.

"Iím sorry," Alex apologized momentarily confused.

"No, Iím the one who should be apologizing," Sydney could have kicked herself. "I shouldnít have said that, it was rude."

"No, you were being honest," the Lieutenant said quietly looking down at her hands which were folded together on the table. "You arenít the first person who has accused me of being too clinical."

"And I have been rightfully accused of shooting my mouth off," Sydney sighed desperately trying to think of a way to make amends. "Listen Iím sorry, I realize you probably just wanted to have a quiet relaxing meal. I should just go."

The blond woman reached for her jacket which she had shoved into the corner by the wall. She didnít want to leave but she was making a fool of herself and decided it best to retreat before the other woman thought she was a complete idiot. She physically jumped when a warm hand grabbed hold of her arm.

"I donít want you to go," Alex said in a low voice that sent an unexpected shiver up her companionís spine. For a moment their eyes met. "Truth is Iím not known for my social graces so.... please stay?"

There was a look on the Lieutenantís face that instantly melted her companions heart. Sydney knew with unexpected clarity that she was in love with this woman. All it had taken was that one look to send her heart plummeting to her feet.

Mutely she nodded stuffing her jacket back in a corner and Alex felt an incredible sense of relief as she withdrew her hand. Both women were equally grateful that the waitress chose that moment to appear with their drinks, welcoming the diversion.

"Iím sorry but one of the cookís is out tonight so your order might take a bit longer than unusual to prepare," the waitress apologized.

"Thatís all right, weíre not in a hurry," Alex gave the woman a smile before she hurried away. She turned her eyes back to her companion. "Iím sorry, I didnít even think to ask if someone was expecting you at home."

"No," Sydney shook her head, still dealing with this new revelation and wondering if this was the womanís subtle way of asking if she was available. "I take it thereís no husband at home waiting to be fed?"

"No," Lieutenant shook her head, relieved that the tension between them was easing just a bit. "I was engaged once but fortunately I bailed out before we actually walked down the aisle."

Damn, she is straight! the blond detective cursed her luck. Fortunately she was able to control her feelings. "Didnít you love him?"

"I cared about him but he wasnít what I was looking for," was the delicate answer. "I realized that I accepted his proposal for the sake of my parents rather then myself."

"Oh," Sydney felt her heart plummet again. "Were your parents upset?"

"They finally understood. Their main concern was that I was happy," Alex replied her blue eyes focusing completely on her companion. "Is there no one in your life?"

"With my work schedule?" she answered with a rhetorical question, an amused half smile painting her face. "Thereís not many people who would put up with my hours. Besides my parents had a really awful marriage so Iím kind of hesitant about making any kind of commitment."

"Did you really have such a bad home life?"

Sydney was about to make some sarcastic remark but managed to clamp her mouth shut in time, determined not to make another mistake, sensing that she could be friends with this woman. She shrugged with more nonchalance then she felt, focusing her eyes on the utensils she was fingering.

"You read my file."

"Files are very cold and impersonal," was the quiet reply. "Besides they only tell a small portion of the whole story."

"And you want to know everything?" Sydney said her eyes staring across at her companion.

"Yes," Alex nodded and saw the smaller womanís hesitation. "I know you havenít been treated very well by some people in the department and Iíve heard a lot of rumours. I want to know if there true or not."

"And youíll believe everything I say?" it was a challenge. Their eyes locked together.

"I never believe everything," the Lieutenant was honest. "But I consider myself a fair person. I like to judge people by what I see and not what I hear."

Sydney was silent for a moment as she contemplated this. She had heard those words before but it had been her experience that it was a rare person who was not at least partially influenced by the rumours. Without knowing why she believed that the Lieutenant was one of those people.

"My parents divorced when I was very young so I donít remember much about my mother. My dad had custody of us but when he wasnít working he was drinking so we were pretty much on our own most of the time," she was honest. It was useless to lie, she had found that out early in life.

"Is that how you got involved with the gangs?"

"Yeah," Sydney confessed feeling a little depressed. "My dad was never around so it was left up to my sister to look out for me. She was a good six years older and had fallen in with a bad crowd at school. Rather than leaving me alone she would drag me with her when they went out. I thought it was cool because nobody messed with me and I belonged some place."

"What changed?" Alex was genuinely interested and there was silence for a moment as the waitress arrived at their table with the pizza. For a long moment it was ignored.

"I was the youngest of the group, some of who were already adults, so I got tagged to do all the dirty work because I was a juvenile. If I didnít do what they wanted they beat the crap out of me. Finally one day I just got tired of getting kicked around. I was doing okay at school and had been selected for the varsity basketball team. I didnít want to lose that."

Alex knew there was more that the woman wasnít saying but she didnít push. She would leave that for another time, content in the knowledge that this woman was incredibly strong and brave. Not many people were able to break free of the bonds that trapped them in poverty and gangs. She decided to say as much.

"I think you are a remarkable woman," Alex said catching the woman off guard. "There are few people strong enough to break away from the life you had."

Sydney blushed. No one had ever said such a nice thing about her. She looked down at the piece of pizza in her hand, uncertain that she could handle the praise.

"So whatís your story?" Sydney asked in an attempt to divert the attention from herself. It was hard for her to talk objectively about her life and especially on an emotionally trying day as today.

"I had a pretty ordinary life," Alex shrugged aware it was time to lighten the mood. "I was one of those kids in high school you love to hate."

"Which one, the honours student or the sports jock?" the blond woman asked taking a bite from her piece of pie.

"Both," the other woman blushed unable to look at her companion concentrating instead on the piece of pizza in her hand. "I tried to be perfect in high school so it wasnít until after university that I rebelled."

"What did you do?" Sydney wondered curiously trying to imagine her dour companion as a hellraiser.

"I joined the police force," was the solemn admission and the blond detective almost choked on her food. She glanced across the table to see a wary smile on the dark haired womanís face. "It may not seem much but it meant a lot to my parents. They had certain expectations and ambitions for me and it didnít include walking a beat."

"How long did it take for them to forgive you?"

"I figure they should clue in any day now that it isnít just a phase."

Sydney glanced across at her companion and saw the smile on her face and couldnít help smiling back. She marvelled once again at how the womanís angular features changed with one mere expression.

"Do they give you a hard time about it?"

"No, theyíve actually been pretty good about the whole thing though I know they would like to see me doing something else," Alex was truthful. She swallowed a bite of food before speaking again. "What did your family think when you joined?"

The question was greeted by a long silence and the Lieutenant began to think her companion was going to ignore it. She didnít know that the blond detective was busy choosing the right answer.

"My dad didnít really care," she admitted hesitantly. "He kind of bummed out on us when I was in high school and hasnít really been a part of my life since then."

"What about your sister?"

Sydney took a long time to answer that question. She studied her pizza intently. How could she begin to explain her relationship with her older sibling? It was so complicated yet also very simple.

"Annie didnít exactly take it very good," she said slowly aware her companion was waiting for her to speak. "She thought Iíd gone over to the enemy, that I had betrayed her. I havenít seen her since."

"How long ago was that?" Alex wanted to know.

"Two years ago," the blond woman admitted with a deep flush.

"Whyíd you wait so long to tell her?"

"I guess because I knew what sheíd say," Sydney admitted with a sigh. "And I wanted to wait until I knew for sure that being a cop would work out. The last thing I wanted was to have her rub it in my face if it hadnít worked out."

As odd as it seemed Alex could understand the womanís sentiments. She had carried the same fears around with her when she had first joined the force, afraid that she would fail or worse realize it was a mistake. She didnít want to have to admit to anyone that she had screwed up but fortunately she had found out that she not only enjoyed being a cop but that she was also a good one.

"If you donít mind me asking why did you want to be a cop?"

Sydney could understand the reason for the question. It was rare that a person went from being in trouble with the law to enforcing it. Sometimes she didnít really understand it all herself.

"I donít know," it was an honest answer. "I guess I just woke up one day tired of looking over my shoulder all the time. I wanted to see what it was like being on the other side for awhile and I found I enjoyed it."

Alex remained quiet unwilling to push her companion for any more personal information, afraid to scare her off. She knew what the womanís file said and she had read the girlís essay explaining her desire to train as a peace officer. The poignant words had been the reason the younger woman had been accepted for police training. The recruiter had been impressed and reading the essay the Lieutenant had understood why.

"Well, Iím glad you did," she said at last, breaking the silence. Sydney looked up at the woman. She had expected the Lieutenant to say something, what she hadnít expected was what she did say. For a moment their eyes met and once again her heart fluttered.

"Iím glad I did too," she said quietly and there was a lapse in conversation as they concentrated on their food.

"I read in your file that you play basketball?" When Alex broke the silence it was to introduce a lighter topic of discussion. "Whatís your position?"

"Point guard," Sydney replied relieved to be discussing something less emotional. "Do you play?"

"Yes."

"Center, right?"

"Not really a tough guess," Alex crinkled her nose in amusement. "I had a full scholarship to Southern California."

"You didnít think to make a career of it?" If the woman was as good at basketball as she was a cop then Sydney figured she could have had a career as a professional.

"There was no pro league for women at that time," the Lieutenant shrugged. "I had offers from overseas but to me it was just a sport I loved to play. I didnít want it as a career."

"Maybe we can have a game of one on one sometime," Sydney suggested. "There are a couple of courts outside by the parking lot and the precinct downtown has a gym."

"Iíd like that," Alex agreed and the other woman felt pleased that she had made the suggestion.

The rest of the meal they chatted about impersonal things and Alex was happy to learn that while they had very different tastes in certain things, they also shared some common interests. But the time they walked back to the station house, both women were feeling relaxed and comfortable in each others presence.

"Hey listen, I know someone who has season tickets to the Sonics so thereís a chance I might be able to score some seats to a future game. Would you be interested in going?" Alex asked once they reached the parking lot where their vehicles were stored. The evening had gone so well, in spite of the few glitches, that she was courageous enough to make the next move.

"Iíd love to," Sydney agreed enthusiastically. The idea of going to a Sonics game and being with this woman was a combination she wouldnít turn down not for anything in the world.

"Good, Iíll see you on Monday afternoon then," Alex was unexpectedly pleased and the blond woman waved before climbing into her black jeep.

Alex waited in her own grey sedan until the other woman was safely on her way. She was in a good mood. A mood not even the pressures of her job could dislodge. All the way back to her apartment she hummed a silly childrenís tune.

 

Sydney had the weekend off but Saturday morning she was back in the squad room checking the Internet and the faxes hoping for some response from the inquires she had sent out the previous day. She was somewhat buoyed by one response she received from the authorities across the border in Canada, requesting an updated photograph of the child in question.

Using the pictures that Janice had taken the day before, she selected the best shot and e-mailed it to them. Knowing that it might take awhile for a response she drove down to the MEís office. Though it was Saturday and technically closed, she was still able to find a coronerís assistant at work.

"Youíre wanting to know about Boy Doe," the young man with yellow spiked hair said leading her through the building to the storage area where the bodies were kept.

"Yeah, what can you tell me?" she wanted to know, watching as the man paused by a steel table. He lifted the white sheet to reveal the chalk white face of the dead child before picking up a clipboard attached to the side of the table.

"Weíve just done the primaries but the cause of death was definitely strangulation by what at this time appears to be a cloth object, a towel, shirt, something like that."

"Was he sexually assaulted?" she wanted to know.

"Yes," the man was blunt and clinical in his analysis. Like the police, the people who worked in the Medical Examiners office had to learn to cope with the atrocities that came in every day on the meat wagons. They could not think of the body lying on the steel table as anyones father, son or child. To them it was only an object of clinical interest and nothing more.

Sydney listened intently to the list of injuries the examiner recited, jotting notes down in her ever present notepad. Her eyes watched as he indicated a particular bruising or injury. In the end she came away saddened and sickened by the abuse the child seemed to have taken in the hours and days leading up to his death.

"What do you think?" the young man asked, snapping the victims chart closed and looking over at the young detective.

She was prettier then anyone he had met in a long time and certainly better to deal with then the other members of the homicide squad who regularly treated him with disdain because of his appearance and age. None of them knew he had graduated at the top of his class in Medical School.

"Definitely a sexual predator," the blond detective said thoughtfully. "Anyone who does this too child isnít of their right mind."

The man nodded allowing his eyes to glance over the woman again.

"Listen, I donít know your situation right now, but if youíre available I was wondering if youíd like to go out some time," the young man knew there was no loss in trying.

"Thank you for the invitation but Iím not available," Sydney had learned the best way was to let them down gently. She was very private with her personal life, never openly admitting her sexuality to anyone. She had learned it was easier to invent a boyfriend then to explain she preferred woman. It also had a lot fewer ramifications.

"Cool," the man took the rejection without insult. He gave her a dazzling smile. "Heís a lucky guy."

Sydney merely smiled in return. "I like to think so."

Those few moments would be the lightest she would have for the rest of the day. Upon her return to the office she had a response from the Canadians and she learned that the boy now had a name. She picked up the phone and dialled the number of her counterpart across the border.

"We canít be a hundred per cent positive but your photo matches that of a child we lost about eight months ago," the detective from the Vancouver Police Department said after they had formally introduced themselves.

"Do you have a suspect?" Sydney wanted to know.

"Yeah we did, but there was no concrete evidence and we couldnít hold him. Later he just seemed to vanish," the voice on the phone sounded heavy. "How did you find the boy?"

Sydney described in detail the crime scene and the injuries found on the child. There was a few seconds of silence as the faceless voice digested the information.

"The suspect had distant relatives in Seattle," the officer said in an abstract voice. "We asked your people to run a check and interview them. The report we got back was that they were clean."

Sydney had a sinking feeling at the thought that maybe her colleagues hadnít done a thorough enough job. Maybe the people who had interviewed these relatives had been uninterested in the task. She hated to believe that this little boy had lost his life because someone hadnít cared. She tried not to think about it.

"Anyway, weíll notify the family. They will probably want to come down to claim the body," the detective from Vancouver said and Sydney knew instinctively the man was not looking forward to that ordeal.

They talked a while longer and Sydney got some more information before ringing off. She knew she had a solid lead and had to act fast. She paged the Lieutenant and then called the DAís office, then sat down and waited impatiently for things to happen.

Alex was in the gym when her pager went off. She recognized the number and using her cell immediately called back. She listened quietly as the blond detective brought her up to date on the case.

"Call the DA and see about getting a search warrant," the Lieutenant said absently, thinking of all the details that needed to be handled.

"Already taken care of," the blond detective replied.

"Good girl," Alex said glancing at her watch. "Iíll be there in thirty minutes."

"Right," Sydney nodded but the commander had already rung off.

It took less then thirty minutes for the Lieutenant to get to the station house and it didnít take much to convince the DA the need for a search warrant. Alex called the Judge on duty that weekend while Sydney arranged for several squad cars to be on standby.

Once the judge agreed to sign the papers, Sydney hurried off to collect the warrant and Alex arranged for several additional detectives from the third squad to accompany them. Within a few hours they were standing on the front porch of a nondescript house in a neighbourhood adjacent to the one where the child had been found.

The unsuspecting couple who answered their summons had no time to comprehend what was happening. They were handed the warrant before being escorted to a patrol car outside to be taken downtown to the station house for interrogation while police officers in plain clothes and uniforms fanned out through the house.

It was apparent that the couple had resided upstairs while the man had rented the basement suite. If they were thinking they might find a gold mine of clues they were sadly disappointed. The furnished apartment was immaculate and there was nothing personal in any of the small rooms.

"Donít touch anything," Sydney cautioned. "I want the Ident team in here to dust every square inch and then when their done I want this place ripped apart, piece by piece if necessary."

The others nodded. It ended up being a long day as Sydney remained on site determined to make sure no mistakes were made. Once the Ident team was done she locked up the suite and posted an officer in the house to prevent anyone from going near the scene.

"Weíll start fresh tomorrow," she informed her colleagues who nodded and while most of them finished their shifts and went home she returned to the station to interrogate her two witnesses.

It was late at night when she was finished both interviews. While the man remained tight lipped, the woman was not so eager to protect their former houseguest. With a few questions Sydney learned that Lucas Anderson had lived in the basement suite for four months with a child whom he had introduced as his son. The lines on her face grew grim as she jotted down the womanís answers to her questions.

Alex was still at her desk in the squad room working on some paperwork when Sydney knocked on her door after interrogating the couple. She motioned the other woman to enter and the small detective did so, dropping into an empty chair. The Lieutenant could see that the blond detective was nearly exhausted.

"What did you find out?"

"The man refuses to say anything which makes me think he knows something. His wife on the other hand doesnít want us to think she had any part in this mess."

"So what did you get anything out of her?" Alex wanted to know leaning back in her chair.

"The woman said Lucas Andersen had been living in the suite for the last four months," Sydney relayed what she had learned. "They had never met before he moved in, though the man had been in regular contact with her husband for several years."

"Didnít they think anything odd?" Alex was curious and didnít entirely believe that this couple was innocent.

"They believed the story he fed them," the blond detective shrugged. "Lucas told them that he was separated and that he had gotten custody of their son. He came to live in Seattle because he wanted to get away from all the unhappy memories and start fresh. He paid them four hundred dollars every month for rent, had a steady job and took the kid to school everyday. Beyond that the woman said she really didnít have much contact with the man or the boy. She thought they were strange."

"Strange how?"

"Well, she said that Lucas was just plain creepy and the boy, whom they called Peter, was abnormally quiet for a child. She said it was almost as if he were afraid."

"And she didnít think that odd?" Alex could barely contain her disdain.

"She thought the boy was being abused by his father," Sydney conceded, revealing what the woman had said.

"Why didnít she report it?"

"She didnít say but just from our conversation I got the idea that her own situation with her husband isnít much better."

Alex digested this information for a moment, her blue eyes turning thoughtful as they stared across the desk at the blond woman. She had the urge to invite the younger woman out for a late night meal but dismissed the idea. It was almost midnight and the young detective looked completely worn out.

"What excuse did he give for leaving?" the Lieutenant wanted to know, returning her thoughts to the topic at hand.

"He told them that the boy was homesick for his mother and that he needed to see his ex-wife to try and work out their problems," the detective answered. "The morning we found the body, he came and told them that he had to go back to Vancouver. He had gotten a call from his lawyer that he had to be in court with the child to review the custody agreement. The woman said he had quit his job and would pick up the boy from school and head out from there."

"Have we notified the border crossings?" Alex asked.

"I got the license number and description of the suspects vehicle and contacted customs. I also notified our neighbours to the north that he might be heading back in their direction," Sydney detailed what she was doing.

"And our guests?"

"I released them but told them to hang around or they would be considered suspects. I told them to find some place else to sleep tonight."

"Good," the Lieutenant nodded a pensive frown burrowing between her eyebrows. "Do you think they are playing it straight?"

"Yes," Sydney was confident. "The man is definitely hiding something but the wife is terrified. All she kept asked about was whether she was going to jail. My impression was she didnít like Lucas Andersen, in fact when she found out why we were looking for him she was almost hysterical."

Alex nodded thoughtfully. She wasnít certain that releasing the couple was in their best interest but she trusted the detectives judgement. She leaned back in her chair and studied the other woman. It seemed she couldnít stop looking at her.

"Are you done for the night?"

"I was going to go over a few more reports," Sydney began but was interrupted.

"Leave them, youíre tired. Go home and get some sleep."

Sydney nodded. For a brief moment she had been hoping that the Lieutenant would ask her out for dinner again but the dark haired woman only bade her a goodnight. She returned to her empty apartment feeling more lonely then she had in a long time.

She had gotten used to being on her own. Ever since her sister had been sent upstate when she was sixteen. To survive she had worked two jobs after school and on the weekends, just barely managing to squeeze in basketball practice between the two. It had helped that the coach had known her boss and both men had been sympathetic to her plight and fond of her talent.

Several universities had expressed interest but none had offered scholarships so she had ended up attending a local college. But the pressure of working and going to school had been overwhelming and she had dropped the team and then school altogether. After kicking around at a few jobs she had taken the police entrance exam and passed. Now after seven years she knew she was where she belonged.

She sighed moving through the dark apartment and switching on a few lights to brighten the atmosphere. Her busy schedule had left little time for socializing on any level. She had gone out and had the occasional relationship but they had all been superficial. She didnít know what she was waiting for or even looking for in a companion, at least she hadnít until now.

She pulled off her shirt and tossed it into the laundry basket in the bathroom. It was strange but for the very first time she wanted the very thing she had thus far been avoiding. She had been afraid of getting hurt yet now she was willing, almost eager to take the risk. She stared at herself in the mirror.

For so long she had run away from what she thought she might become. Everyone she had ever depended on had let her down. Everyone she had trusted had betrayed her in some form and for a long time she had wondered if she would ever be able to crack that wall that went up whenever she met someone who might be interesting. Strangely that wall had completely disintegrated the moment she had laid eyes on Alex Marshall.

She sighed, turning on the taps and letting the water run. She dipped her hands under the stream and then splashed her face looking back at the mirror as droplets ran down her cheeks. She wondered if she were being a fool.

The woman had said that she had been engaged so it seemed likely that she preferred men, but there was something in her eyes when they looked at each other that made her think otherwise. She wasnít an innocent that didnít know what was going on. She had had her share of lovers from both sexes though she had long ago acknowledged she was gay. For a long time she had been forced to play a role against her nature, perhaps that was the way it had been with the Lieutenant.

She turned the taps off and dried her face. She was hungry but was to tired to fix something so she rang the local take out joint and ordered a pizza. It wasnít the healthiest diet but it was the last thing she cared about now. She barely managed to stay awake until the food arrived and it wasnít long after she had eaten that she was sound asleep on the sofa, the television blaring quietly in the background.

 

Alex had been tempted to invite the younger woman out for dinner again but she had resisted the temptation. She had to be careful and regardless how much she was interested in the woman, she could not be seen to show any favouritism. It was a dilemma and one she was determined to find a way around.

She left the station house not long after the detective, returning to her empty apartment in the sourthwest corner of the city. She had always enjoyed the peace and quiet after a long day of work but now she saw it as something more then her respite from the world. Today she saw it as an empty and lonely place.

She dropped her briefcase on the coffee table and slumped on to the sofa, her blue eyes roaming around the room. One of the things she had liked about living alone was the fact that she wasnít required to compromise on anything. She could decorate the way she wanted and leave the bed messy in the morning if she so desired. Not that she did, being a neat person by trait, but it was the knowledge that gave her the freedom she thought she needed.

She leaned her head back and closed her eyes realizing with startling clarity that she would give it all up in a moment to be with a certain blond haired, green eyed detective. She shook her head wondering if that was what love was all about. Oneís willingness to abandon everything one treasured to be with that person.

She sighed and then dragged herself out of the chair into the kitchen. A thorough search of the refrigerator and cupboards revealed nothing of interest and after a slight debate she settled on warming a can of vegetable soup. It was a nutritious meal but tasteless and she decided that she would have to do some grocery shopping, a chore she always hated. Of course that would have to wait until after her visit to her parents. She had promised to join them for brunch the next day.

Idly she entertained the idea of ringing Detective Davis and inviting her along. As soon as she had that thought she dismissed it. It was to early to entertain ideas of Sydney meeting her family. Too early to give the woman a hint to what kind of family she would be joining. Alex shook her head not quite believing the thoughts she was having.

Youíre nuts, she chided herself. She had only just met the woman and the extent of their relationship outside of work had been a dinner at a cheap restaurant. That wasnít even a date so why was she already planning a future with the woman. A woman whom she hardly knew. There was even the possibility that Sydney wasnít even gay or worse not interested in a relationship, though she had seen a look in the girlís eyes that gave her cause to fantasize. And fantasize she did, allowing herself the pleasure of imagining what it would be like for them to be in bed together.

 

Chapter Three

 

I wonder what Alex is doing, Sydney thought as she wandered through the basement suite watching the search team methodically rip the place apart. Itís Sunday so sheís probably out with her friends, she concluded making herself miserable.

She had secretly hoped that the Lieutenant would show up at the scene but had to concede that the woman probably had a dozen better things to do then spend the day going through a middle class house, looking for clues to the murder of an eight year old child named Tommy Kennedy. With a sigh she dismissed all musings of the tall, dark haired woman and concentrated on the task at hand.

The primary report from the Ident team was that they had been able to take a lot of clear fingerprints from the scene. Prints that could be matched to the suspect and his victim. Nonetheless she knew that the DA would want an absolutely solid case.

The first on the scene that morning, she had carefully mapped off areas of the suite and assigned one individual officer to each section with the instructions to move anything that could be moved. That included carpets and pieces of plywood or drywall. It was early afternoon and three hours into the search when she was called into the bedroom.

"I think I found something," one young patrolman exclaimed and Sydney watched as he pointed to a hole in the wall that had been covered by a small, loosely nailed panel. "I think thereís a crawl space behind there."

The small detective dropped to the floor and stuck her head into the opening which was large enough for a child or a small adult to fit through. She flipped on her flashlight and peered around the small cubbbyhole. There was a blanket, a pillow, some dirty dishes and scraps of discarded food. There was even a small bucket whose contents were emitting a foul stench that made the bile rise up in her stomach.

It was pretty obvious what this place was. Tommy had not been in school during the time that Lucas Andersen was at work. Instead the boy had been kept hidden, imprisoned in this tiny space between the wall and the foundation.

"I need a camera in here," she said bringing her head back into the room, her eyes going to Janice who had been waiting patiently in the background. The woman nodded and they switched places, but the other woman was to large to fit her shoulders through the narrow opening.

"Iím sorry Sarge, but I couldnít get in, you need someone smaller," the woman shook her head and then eyed the tiny detective speculatively. "You just might be able to fit."

"No way, Iíll not a photographer," Sydney automatically protested, but that wasnít the real reason she didnít want to crawl back into that space. The smell and the tightness made her stomach lurch.

"Ah, come on, itís real easy, here Iíll show you what to do, just focus and snap," the photographer demonstrated by snapping off a few shots. It was simple and there was no excuse for Sydney not to crawl back inside. None except cowardliness.

She glanced up and around the room seeing the faces of her fellow officers. They were looking at her expectantly, waiting for her decision. She was in charge of this investigation and she could not ask any of them to do something which she wouldnít do. With a sigh she snatched the camera from her friends hand.

"I hope someone has the fire departments number handy for when I get stuck," she muttered in defeat. This brought a chuckle from the gathering.

"It would give you a good excuse to take a couple of days off," Janice smiled holding her hand up as if she were talking into a phone. "Ah, Lieutenant, I canít come into work today, Iím a little hung up."

"Yeah right," Sydney shook her head, trying not to smile but found it impossible. She kept shaking her head while she slipped her outer garments off until she was dressed only in a thin tank top t-shirt and her boxer shorts. She glanced up to see several of the patrolmen smirking.

"I donít want to hear a single comment about this. Besides, Iím a girl, Iím supposed to like things with little hearts on them," she warned with a serious frown as the tiny hearts on her underwear brought out several snickers. No one disagreed but nobody stopped smiling either.

She ignored them and instead concentrated on taking several deep breaths before laying down on the floor and wriggling her slender body through the opening. It was a tight squeeze and mentally she recited every motion, aware that she would eventually have to climb out of this prison.

"Everything is going to be okay," she prayed silently as she snuggled up against the cold cement of the foundation and the beams of the house. It occurred to her that this house was oddly built and mentally put a reminder to herself to check on who was the contractor.

It was not only smelly in the small cell but also hot and before long she felt tiny trickles of sweat begin to roll down her bare skin. When she had gone as far as she could go, she started taking pictures, positioning the camera at various angles to get as many views as possible. When the roll was full she handed it back to the police photographer who had stuck her head through the opening.

"Iím going to start handing back evidence," she called. "Make sure everything is carefully tagged and logged."

With those words began the odious task of clearing the hole of its contents. She didnít have any opportunity to study much of what she was handling, anxious only to get the job done and get out of this stifling prison. It was more then a hour before the last of the articles had been retrieved and she was sweating profusely by the time she climbed back into the bedroom. She lay on the floor for a long moment breathing deeply in an attempt to get her equilibrium back.

"Are you okay Sarge?" she opened her eyes to see a pair of twinkling blue orbs looking down at her and for a brief instant she thought it was someone else and then her eyes focused on the rest of the face and she saw that it was Robert Newlie. Like many others he had volunteered his time to help on this case. "Youíre looking awfully pretty today. Donít think Iíve ever quite seen an outfit like that at work before."

"Not another word," she warned fiercely, sitting up and her twisting her head around. "Whereís the evidence?"

"Everything has been tagged, boxed and put in a black and white for transport down to the station," the patrol officer said and Sydney nodded appreciatively, glancing around as she struggled to her feet unaware of the photographer who was taking great delight in getting several unique pictures of the detective in her underwear.

"Have we gone through everything?"

"Yes," the man nodded continuing to distract the small woman. "Officer Bagley found several boxes of photographs out by the trash bins. He sent them to headquarters for analysis."

"Thanks," Sydney was glad that these men knew what to do. Of course it was no surprise. Cases like this brought out the best in everyone and each officer was extra careful giving this case more attention then if it had been some bum on the street.

She plucked her clothes off the bed and though she would have preferred a shower before putting them back on, she had no choice in the matter. She would have to feel dirty until she returned to the station.

Once she was dressed, she strolled back through the suite seeing the mess that they had left behind. Right now she didnít care about the destruction. Her thoughts were only of the little boy laying on a steel table in the Medical Examiners office.

Sunday brunch was a monthly tradition whereby her parents invited the whole family over for food and games. As expected everyone was there, seated around the large dining room table enjoying the huge buffet meal that had been prepared.

It was a boisterous affair and Alex found herself enjoying it more then she had anticipated. There was a lot of good natured ribbing and teasing and then some intense discussion on several of the cases that were currently before the courts.

"Iím glad you came," Marie said sitting down on a chair next to her daughter. The adults had retreated to the games room. Her father and brothers were currently engaged in a pool match while their wives watched and talked. The children were playing quietly in another corner of the room. "I missed not having you here."

"I missed not being here," Alex was honest and she reached over and took her mother's hand between her own which made the older woman smile.

"Really?" Marie was surprised by this confession.

"Yes," the taller woman assured her with a smile which her mother returned and for a moment they both were silent as a roar of laugher followed some outrageous play made by her father.

Marie glanced at her daughters profile. The girl was so beautiful that it amazed her sometimes how she had managed to bear such a magnificent looking child. Of course the boys were all good looking, but there was something special about her daughter, something that she couldnít identify that made the younger woman stand out. She glanced down at their hands which were still joined.

"I was talking to Bertha Hallings the other day," the older woman dared to speak, breaking the silence between them. "It seems her son Bert just got divorced and is moving back into the city. She mentioned that he still remembers you from school."

"Mother, Iím not interested," Alex patiently reminded with a soft sigh. Perhaps she had only been fooling herself by thinking that her parents had accepted the situation. "Iím gay. Itís not something thatís going to go away."

"I know," Marie said with a sigh and a half smile. "Itís just that I see your brothers and how happy they are and I canít help thinking about what you might be missing."

"I donít have to be heterosexual to be happy," the taller woman was patient, aware that her mother was trying to understand. "Besides who says I havenít met someone."

"Have you?" this caught the older womanís complete attention and Alex turned to see her mother staring at her intently.

"Yes," she nodded her head, thinking of a certain blond woman. Her heart trembled at the image.

"When are we going to meet...her?" the last word came out somewhat strained and Alex gave the woman a wary half smile before squeezing her hand.

"Not for awhile," she was honest. "We just met and itís too soon."

"But sheís special?"

"Very," that was something that was not a lie. "I think she might be the one. I want to take it slowly."

Marie looked at the girl, somewhat surprised by this confession. It was unnatural for her stoic daughter to be so forthcoming about her personal life. Even as a child Alex was very private, never telling them more then what she thought they needed to know. She had been even more tight lipped about her intimate life since coming out of the closet four years previously and they had yet to meet any of her romantic interests.

Not that they really minded, hoping privately that their daughter was going through a phase in life which would eventually pass. If pressed Marie wouldnít lie, she hoped that Alex would find someone whom she considered more suitable. Someone the girl could settle down with and raise some children. She lifted her hand and gently combed strands of raven hair behind an ear.

"Well dear, whenever youíre ready just let us know and Iíll schedule a dinner."

"Thanks," the younger woman appreciated the offer aware how difficult it was for her mother to accept the truth. She was just grateful that the woman was trying.

Their talk gave Alex a sudden desire to see Sydney. After leaving her parents home she drove by the station only to find that the woman was already gone. She was barely able to mask the disappointment, a feeling that only persisted when Norm Bridges approached her at the beginning of their strategy meeting the next afternoon.

"Syd asked me to tell you that she canít make it today," the veteran detective relayed the message. "It seems her victims parents are coming down to view the body so sheís been at the MEís office all day and probably tomorrow as well."

Alex nodded and pushing down her feelings of disappointment she called together the rest of the detectives and started the meeting.

 

Sydney had been forced to deal with difficult situations over the course of her career yet none were as strenuous as facing the parents of a murdered child. She met Donald Brewster of the Vancouver Police at headquarters and they spent some time reviewing the case before driving over to the hotel where the young couple had checked in for an overnight stay.

The Kennedyís were a young couple, not yet in their thirties, who had been doing fairly well for themselves. Drew Kennedy had a job with the Provincial Power company while Alison worked as a receptionist at a dentistís office. All in all they had a good life until the day that their son was kidnapped. Since then it had become a trial, a nightmare from which they seemed incapable of waking.

Sydney hoped that today the end of that ordeal would begin though she wasnít certain anyone could ever fully recover from what this couple was forced to endure. She knew it would be impossible for these people to forget what happened and realized that in the end their lives would be inevitably scarred.

She noticed two things the moment they were introduced. One that the couple was very much in love with each other and two, the strain of the situation was testing that love. She desperately hoped that in spite of everything the pair would stay together though statistics were definitely against them.

The couple had dozens of questions that she tried to answer as delicately as possible. She wanted to hide the worst of the truth yet wasnít always able too and she could see the pain etched in the depth of their eyes as they realized the extent of the terror their child had been forced to endure. It was then she learned that sometimes there was no way to soften some blows.

Sydney wished there was a way to absolute some of the pain but there was nothing that could comfort or prepare them for the heart wrenching sight of their sonís body. Their anguished sobs were enough to touch even the most hardened veteran and she felt tears pool in her own eyes. It was only the strict control she kept over her emotions that prevented her from breaking down.

It was evening before she finally returned to the squad room. With the exception of Det. Bridges and Howard, who were working the phones on one of their cases, the place was deserted. Even the Lieutenantís office was dark. Sydney felt alone at that moment for she had been hoping to talk to the other woman. It had been an emotionally exhausting day and the images of the forlorn parents was still clear in her head.

"Where is everyone?" she asked in an odd voice.

"A suspicious death in the Lakeland district," Norm said returning the phone to its cradle. "The rest are out chasing down leads."

"And the Lieutenant?"

"Some meeting with the brass," he shrugged, his eyes narrowing perceptively as he studied the young woman face. He could see the distress which was just barely held in check. "How you holding up?"

"Iím okay," Sydney lied trying not to seem weak. She had learned early the consequences of showing any vulnerability.

Norm stared at the young woman. He had been in the Unit long enough to know the emotional cost their job exacted. Some could handle the pressure while others broke under the stress. He knew what the woman was going through. Over the course of his career he too had run across some situations that even to this day, years later, brought tears to his eyes.

"If you need to talk or anything, just give us a shout," the man offered gruffly not unaware of her hesitation to seek help.

"I appreciate that," Sydney welcomed the offer though she knew she would never take him up on it.

She went over to her desk and sifted through the messages that had accumulated in her absence. She was undeniably weary, more tired then usual. She would have liked to ignore the rest of her cases but that wasnít the way things worked in homicide. She had to be organized enough to handle them all at the same time.

She spent the next few hours returning calls and catching up on some paperwork aware she was scheduled to be in court the next morning on another case. She was just preparing to leave when the call came in. It was Van Phan the Little Dragonís unofficial leader.

She hesitated only for a moment before agreeing to meet him at a restaurant in Chinatown, aware that she might not get this opportunity again. She replaced the phone and glanced around the squad room to where the other detectives were working.

"You need help with something?" Norm asked glancing up and seeing her pensive expression. Sydney debated for a minute and then decided against asking for their assistance.

"No, Iíll take a couple of uniforms with me," she said pulling her jacket off of her chair. "Have a good night."

The man eyed her for a moment and then shrugged. Sydney grabbed a patrol unit on her way out of the station house. In less than an hour she was in Chinatown parked in a stall behind a popular Chinese restaurant.

 

Alex was in a foul mood by the time she returned to the squad room. Her meeting with the Captain and the other Homicide Lieutenants had gone badly and her disgust for them all was evident in the scowl on her face. Rather then getting anything accomplished the men had spent most of the time bickering amongst themselves.

She glanced around the room as she entered. It was empty except for Det. Bridges and Howard who were drinking coffee and arguing over a case they were working. She knew where the other detectives were or at least she thought she did. A frown burrowed across her brow.

"Hasnít Sgt. Davis come in yet?" she directed her question towards the veteran detective.

"Yeah, but she left again about half an hour ago," Norm answered

Alex nodded not entirely pleased. She had hoped to see the woman before she went home. Mentally she shook her head wondering what the hell was happening. She couldnít even go a day without seeing the woman.

"Gods, you have it bad," she muttered to herself and started towards the office, but paused after a few steps. "Did Det. Davis say where she was going?"

"No," the veteran shook his grey head. "All she said was that she was off to meet Van Phan of the Little Dragonís."

"Who went with her?"

"She took a patrol unit for backup."

"Christ!" Alex exclaimed angrily, her blue eyes turning pale. "What in the hell is she thinking?"

It was a question that wasnít meant to be answered and she strolled purposefully into her office, taking the time only to toss her briefcase on the desk before picking up the phone and dialling the desk sergeant. She waited impatiently for the phone to be answered.

"What unit went out with Det. Davis?" she barked over the phone.

"Twenty seven," came the startled reply.

"Whatís their location?"

"97th and Dover in Chinatown."

"If you hear anything from them, I want to know about it, ASAP," Alex instructed the faceless voice.

"I also want to know when Det Davis releases them."

"Yes, maam," the man stammered and then listened as the phone crashed down.

Damn that woman, Alex sputtered furiously, aware that she would not be able to leave until she knew the detective was okay. She couldnít understand what the blond had been thinking. The knock on the door interrupted her silent tirade.

"Enter," she barked glad to have her attention diverted at least temporarily.

 

Jimmy Chowís was a popular gangster hang out. A lesser person might have been nervous entering the restaurant alone but Sydney was familiar with the routine. She had been around gangs all her life and knew how to act. Besides she had the patrol until parked down the street waiting for her return.

"Phan!" she nodded her head towards a slender man who was sitting in a booth at the far corner of the restaurant. She recognized him from the half moon scar that ran from his left eye to his jaw. A lasting reminder of a knife fight almost lost.

"Sergeant Davis, it is nice to see you again," the slender man nodded in acknowledgment. He waved his hand, motioning the men sitting on the bench across from him to move, which they did, making room for her to sit down.

Just by looking at the man one would think he was not a nice fellow and it was more then just the scar on his face. His features were sharp and angular, his eyes a dark brown. Even the pencil thin moustache over his upper lip and the Fu Manchu beard added to the mystic. He was the most ruthless man she knew. She slipped into the vacated bench and smiled.

"I canít say the same thing for you," was her reply. Any sting her words held were taken out by the smile on her face. "Tell me about Phu Van Tu."

"There is nothing to say," the man said coyly, smiling through the smoke that curled up from the tip of his cigarette. "Heís dead."

"I know, I pulled his case," she nodded glancing covertly at his friends.

"I heard you were in homicide now," the man nodded and took a puff of his smoke. "It is to bad, you will never find his killer."

"No, I will never bring him to justice, there is a difference," she corrected. "I know you had him killed. What I donít know is why?"

The Vietnamese man studied her for a moment before speaking. "There are many reasons for a person to die. You know the code of the streets, we have our own justice."

"Did you sacrifice him?" she wanted to know and for an instant something glinted in his eyes.

"Why would we do that?" he asked benignly.

"Maybe because you donít want a war with the Bloods," she shrugged and then tipped her hand. "Did you kill him because he killed that Blood at the Areosmith concert?"

Van Phan took a deep breath on his cigarette and then idly blew out the smoke, his sharp eyes focused intently on the womanís face. He could see the hint of fear in her eyes but he also saw the animal in her soul. He knew this woman was not afraid of him and for that he admired her.

"Many say that you have gone soft," he mused with a lazy smile. "I think they underestimate you."

"They always did," she agreed and the man chuckled. "Did you kill him to prevent a war?"

"Phu was a foolish man," Vang said quietly the smile disappearing from his face as he tapped the ashes from his cigarette into a nearby tray. "He was very hot tempered and too eager to draw blood. All he wanted to do was fight. He could not understand that he needed to chose his fights wisely." He paused and took another drag of his cigarette. "We took care of an internal problem. If we hadnít there would have been many more bodies in the morgue for you to investigate."

Sydney wasnít certain she didnít agree with him however it did change anything. Van Phan had ordered Phu Van Tu killed. She knew it and he had pretty much told her so. Only thing was that she would never be able to prove anything.

She looked at him for a moment longer and then glanced casually around the restaurant. She could see that his minions were watching her intently. A lesser person would have been intimidated but Sydney was beyond that type of fear. She turned back to the man and gave him a seductive smile.

"Maybe we can help each other," she said and the man waited for her to continue speaking.

 

Alex snatched the phone out of the cradle before the first ring was finished. She listened intently to the desk sergeant only then allowing the knot in her stomach to loosen. She put the phone down with a sigh and leaned back in her chair wondering whatever possessed the young detective to go off on her own. She stood up and packed up her desk, allowing anger to replace fear. Tomorrow she would tell the girl exactly what she thought.

 

Sydney was feeling quite pleased with herself the next day. She had remained calm and believable throughout her testimony not flinching under the badgering questions that the defence attorney had thrown at her. The District Attorney was certain that her testimony would convict the defendant. However, her happiness wasnít entirely the result of a good day in court.

Last night she had reached a tentative agreement with Van Phan. She had bartered a deal that would put one of the red names on the board into the black column. All she had to do was convince the Lieutenant which she was confident she could. Then all Alex would have to do was persuade the DA. She was convinced everything would work out.

"Youíre in a good mood," Keith Bettman commented when she walked in the squad room.

"Itís a great day," Sydney replied with a bright grin.

"Weíll see how great it is in awhile," the older man snorted. "The Lieutenant wants to see you and sheís not in a good mood."

"Oh," the blond detective turned and looked in the direction of the Lieutenants office. "Did she say what she wanted?"

"Nope," the man shook his head. "But Iíd advise you to get in there ASAP and find out. Sheís been a bear all afternoon."

Sydney nodded and paused only long enough at her desk to remove her coat before continuing onto the Lieutenantís office. Her knock was answered by a gruff voice that barked for her to enter. She grimaced, mentally squaring her shoulders before stepping into the room.

"Good afternoon," she said cheerfully.

"Youíre late!" came the terse reply and the smile was immediately wiped from the blond womanís face.

"I was in court," the small woman stammered in her own defensive, fiercely racking her brain for what she might have done to deserve this type of reception. "Iím suppose to be in court all week."

"Why didnít you let me know?" the tall woman wanted to know.

"I forgot," Sydney sputtered, confused by this reception. "I never had to report before. I filled out the appropriate paperwork."

"Well this isnít like before," Alex said tersely surprising even herself with the emotion she felt. "From now on I want to know exactly where you are and whose with you. Is that understood?"

Sydney stood silently facing the brunt of the womanís rage. Her heart trembled and tears pooled in the back of her eyes. Despite how undeserved this tongue lashing was she was determined to remain calm and unemotional.

"I didnít hear you?"

"Yes," the blond detective replied in a cool voice and green eyes watched as the Lieutenant slowly stood up and leaned towards her with hands on her desk until their faces were only inches apart.

"Secondly, I donít ever want to hear again that you went off by yourself to interview a suspect," Alexís voice was colder then the small detective had ever heard it before. "What the hell were you thinking, you could have been killed?"

"I wasnít thinking," Sydney replied through clenched teeth.

"Obviously you werenít," the Lieutenant replied with a sneer. "If I ever hear you doing that again you

will be busted down to foot patrol so fast your head will spin. Is that understood?"

"Yes," the blond detective nodded, the colour draining from her face. She knew without a doubt that the Lieutenant would make good on the threat.

"All right, because this is your first offence I am only going to suspend you for one day," Alex breathed angrily and then pointed towards the door. "Now get out of here before I get into a really bad mood."

Sydney nodded mutely. Without another word she turned and walked with dignity out of the office. Tears smarted in her eyes as she thought of the confrontation, the older womanís words shredding the happiness she had been feeling. She stalked across the room and grabbed her jacket, aware that everyone in the squad room had been witness to her humiliation.

Norm Bridges watched as the young detective stormed out of the room. He felt sympathy for her and being a veteran with a good record he decided that he would intervene on her behalf.

Alex didnít know why she was so angry with the young woman. She wouldnít have gotten as upset if one of the men on the squad had done the same. She would have disciplined them but in a more professional manner. She knew that she had allowed her emotions to govern her actions. She slumped into her chair. A knock came on the door.

"Come in," she bade in a normal voice and glanced up to see Norm Bridges enter. She saw by the expression on his face that he was not here on any normal business. She suspected he had come in response to her actions. "Speak your peace."

"Iím thinking you were a little harsh on Syd," he said shoving his hand in his trouser pockets.

"How so?" Alex asked her eyes narrowing and pinning him to the wall.

"Fact is until now Lieutenant Messington sent her out alone with units on a regular basis," the detective said unintimidated by the woman. "He didnít much care for her and tried to set her up for failure as often as he could."

Alex was silent, feeling a confusing mixture of emotion. She felt sympathy for the woman yet it wasnít enough to alter her decision. She looked up at the man, happy that he had gone out of his way to defend the blond woman.

"I appreciate what youíre saying Sgt and I will take this into consideration next time something happens," she said and the man nodded. With that he turned to go. "Sgt. make sure sheís logged out at the end of the shift."

The man looked at the woman and nodded, waiting until he was out of the room before letting the smile cross his lips. He was a good judge of character and his first impression had been that the new Lieutenant was a fair person. He wasnít disappointed.

Sydney fumed as she left the station, cursing the Lieutenant for humiliating her. Even though she

wanted to cry, she stubbornly refused to let herself, thinking that it would be like admitting defeat. She would show that bitch what she was made of. With that thought in mind she guided her jeep towards Rourkeís, a tavern that was frequented by members of the police department. It was here that she proceeded to get drunk. It was also here that Sgt Robert Newlie found her several hours later.

The patrol Sergeant stepped into the dimly lit bar and pausing at the door glanced around the room. There were off duty policemen scattered around the place, but the one he was looking for was seated at the bar, nursing a half empty beer. There was a forlorn expression on her face. The bartender glanced up as he wandered over and slipped onto a stool next to the woman but he waved him

away. He had not come here to drink. He had come to rescue a friend.

"Hey Syd, what are you doing here?" he asked when the detective turned to look at him. He knew the woman rarely ventured here unless it was for a special occasion.

"Getting drunk," the woman replied with a lopsided grin. She looked at him through bleary eyes.

"Why?" he asked quietly and watched as the grin disappeared. She turned away taking another sip of

her drink.

"Does it matter?"

"Sometimes it does," he said and then waited for her to speak. Of course he knew the source of her unhappiness. His friend Norm Bridges had called, briefly explaining the situation. "Whatís going on Syd?"

"Nothing," the woman shook her head. "The Lieutenant just dressed me down and then suspended me for the shift."

"Itís not the first time," the man reminded her.

"I know but this is different," she said staring down at her beer.

"Why?" Rob asked and then watched intently as she picked nervously at the label on the bottle. He was astute enough to notice that she didnít look at him.

"It just is," she replied with a pout. The man knew then that she would not be any more forthcoming. He stood up, digging some money out of his pocket and putting it on the counter.

"Come on Iíll take you home," he said reaching out to help her to her feet.

"I donít want to go home," she protested but the man was insistent.

"Okay, then come home with me," he looped his arm around her waist and helped her towards the door.

"Wonít Ashley be upset?" Sydney asked leaning against him for support when her legs refused to cooperate.

"Nah, Iíll explain, besides she will be happy to see you," he replied and then helped her out of the tavern and across the parking lot to where his car was parked. He settled her into the passenger seat before going around to the drivers side. Thirty minutes later she was sound asleep on the couch in his den. Her light snores vibrating through the quiet room.

"Do you want to tell me what this is all about?" Ashley Newlie asked her husband when they retreated

from the room. The older woman was not upset with her spouse for bringing the younger woman home. She genuinely cared for the girl who was only slightly older then their own children. They often thought of the Sydney as a surrogate daughter.

"The Lieutenant disciplined her for something," Rob told her as much as he knew.

"That isnít anything new," the woman was puzzled.

"No," her husband agreed. "But the Lieutenant is."

"Do you want to explain that?" Ashley asked raising an eyebrow and the man chuckled, wrapping his arm around her waist as he lead her towards the kitchen.

Sydney woke up to a fierce headache the next morning. She was profusely embarrassed by her situation and apologized to her friends for her unusual behaviour. The couple only dismissed it with wide smiles and as soon as she dared she hurried off mindful that she had to be in court by nine that morning.

She was glad that she had that respite from the office yet when it was time for her to report for her shift she purposefully avoided the any contact with the Lieutenant. For the next week the two women only spoke to each other when necessary and when they did it was in a cool detached voices. Her feelings were hurt more so then if it had been with any of the others. Mistakenly she had thought they had made a connection.

The coldness Alex felt coming from the blond detective was almost killing her though no one would have known from the dour expression on her face. The more time she had to think about the matter the more time she had to reflect her actions, though she did notice a marked change in the other detectives who had overheard the exchange.

Furiously she tried to think of a way to resolve the situation. She didnít want to be enemies with this woman. On the contrary she still had fantasies of them being more then friends though privately she had to concede that she had probably blown any chance of having a relationship.

By the next Saturday her patience had reached the breaking point. She figured there was only one way to solve the situation though she realized the results probably wouldnít be pretty. She knew that they couldnít go on this way.

"Davis, in here now!" she hollered curtly from her office.

Sydney glanced around suspiciously at her colleagues and then squared her shoulders before walking across the room and into the Lieutenantís office. Defiant green eyes met blue ones.

"Close the door," Alex barked when the woman left it open. She waited until her instructions had been carried out before speaking. "Youíre pissed off at me and I understand why. However, I wonít tolerate your type of behaviour on my shift. I know you are upset at me and I may have jumped the gun when I yelled at you, but I think itís gone beyond mere apologies."

Sydney said nothing, silently listening and waiting for the other woman to complete her speech. Alex moved around the desk, grabbing the basketball that was perched on a shelf. She flipped it over to the smaller woman who was barely able to react fast enough to catch it.

"I know you want a piece of me so Iím going to give you the chance," Alex said in a curt voice. "Meet me outside on the basketball court in half an hour and weíll have a game of one on one, no holds barred."

"How do I know I can trust you not to discipline me again if I bump you to hard?" the blond detective

asked sceptically not quite trusting the Lieutenant.

"You donít," the dark haired woman said. "You only have my word, so the balls in your court. You have a chance to take your best shot at me. Or maybe youíre chicken?"

"Iím not scared of anything," Sydney hissed through clenched teeth aware that she was being baited. "Iíll meet you outside in thirty minutes. You might want to put on some extra padding because Iím not going to take it easy on you."

"I hope not," Alex replied and smiled when the other woman turned and stalked out of the room.

Less then thirty minutes later they were out on the court facing each other like two combatants about to go to war. Sydney had changed into a pair of light grey sweats and a matching sweat shirt while Alex was dressed in a pair of light grey shorts and matching t-shirt with a loose dark blue basketball jersey overtop.

It was a cool day with overcast skies. The air smelled of rain but neither woman was aware of anything but the other person and the tension between them. Sydney bounced the ball on the cement pad eyeing her opponent for a long moment.

"Who starts?" she wanted to know her entire body itching to go. She had visions of banging this woman around the court. Part of her success in the game had been her physical play which often caught her opponents off guard.

"Be my guest," Alex was gallant, but the blond detective only smiled.

"No, I think age before beauty," she sneered snapped the ball at the Lieutenants face. Alex snatched it out of the air and returned the smile.

"If you insist," she said and then took up her position.

For the next hour they went at each other banging and bumping, working off the frustration they felt. Alex used her size and ability to out manoeuvre her smaller opponent while Sydney utilized her quickness and body to unbalance the taller woman. More then once the blond detective charged her opponent knocking her to the ground. The Lieutenant merely nodded and picked herself up and went back to the game.

Both women were competitive and it showed in their play and unbeknownst to them they attracted attention from all corners of the property. Officers at their desk in the station house moved to the window to watch while patrolmen coming and going stopped in the parking lot to view what was happening. To them it was a good game of one on one, but to the participants it was something different altogether. Neither noticed when it started to rain, a light mist falling from the sky.

Sheís good, Alex conceded privately when the younger woman deftly out manoeuvred her and drove in for a lay up. She had a hard time keeping the smile off her face at the sight of the triumphant look on the blondeís face as she flipped the ball over to her.

"Your turn Lieutenant," Sydney sneered, but it was without the contempt she had felt earlier for the

woman.

Alex caught the ball and bounced it a few times before driving for the basket. Sydney stepped in at the last moment slamming her body against the taller woman and knocking her off balance but this time the Lieutenant didnít go down though she lost the ball.

All right you little bitch I think Iíve given you enough free reign, the Lieutenant smiled inwardly. Time to get serious before she gets too arrogant.

When Sydney drove for the basket this time Alex was waiting and when she attempted a deek the Lieutenant moved in and with a hard slap knocked the ball out of the detectives hands. Sydney flinched at the painful attack. She looked up to see a seductive smile on the taller womanís face. It did nothing more then insight her to further physical play. This time when she slammed her hips into the Lieutenantís buttocks in an attempt to unbalance her, Alex was waiting and shifted her elbow so that it smacked into the smaller womanís ribs.

"Ouch," Sydney couldnít prevent the groan that escaped her lips as the older woman circled around her and scored a basket. The Lieutenant laughed and arrogantly tossed her the ball which only made the smaller woman seethe.

When Sydney tried another deft move Alex was there, slamming her body into the younger womanís and stealing the ball before putting up a shot that soared through the hoop. The blond detective stood for a moment catching her breath and scowling at her opponent.

"Do you want to give up?" Alex asked with a cocky smile.

"Never," Sydney glared and grabbed the ball, bouncing it for a few minutes before making her assault on the basket. Like before Alex was waiting and it seemed that whatever Sydney tried she was there slapping the ball away or blocking a shot. The younger woman was growing increasingly frustrated and it showed in her play as the banging became even more intense.

They had been at it for more then an hour and Alex was beginning to feel the affects of their play. She had only to look at her companion to know that it was also taking itís toll on the other woman. Sydney was breathing heavy and both their shirts were damp not only from the rain but from sweat.

Alex stared at the other woman and felt an ache in her heart. She didnít want to battle this woman any more yet she knew that she couldnít concede and knew that Sydney wouldnít concede either. Perhaps that was one of the things that attracted her to much to the blond. It was the fierce independence and pride that shone from her eyes. It spoke of a woman who would fight until the very end. So she decided to end it now before either of them got hurt.

Alex took the ball and then drove for the basket not moving around the woman as she usually did but instead going straight through. Sydney wasnít entirely prepared and her fatigue made her reactions slower then normal. She took the full force of the blow as the woman crashed into her, knocking her off balance and sending her tumbling to the court floor. She hit the cement with a thud and just lay there listening as the ball sailed cleanly through the netting.

She looked up to see the Lieutenant leaning over her, noticing for the first time how damp the other womanís clothes were and how stingy her long dark hair had become. Despite that she couldnít

help thinking that she was still the most beautiful creature she had ever met.

"Donít try and mess with me," Alex said with a curled lip as she stared down at the blond woman, afraid for a moment that she had hurt the detective yet seeing that she was all right.

Sydney didnít try to get up, giving in to her exhaustion. Against her will she capitulated, as the fatigue she had been fighting for the last month and the strain of her case load came crashing down. Tears pooled in her eyes and started flowing unimpeded as quiet sobs came from between slightly parted lips.

"Christ," Alex swore and dropped to the ground, scooping the smaller woman into her arms and cradling her against her chest as Sydney cried uncontrollably. She tenderly stroked the young womanís hair and rocked them in an attempt to settle the other woman down. Finally Sydney was able to get herself under control. She pulled out of the taller womanís embraced, embarrassed by her reaction and unable to look at her companion.

"Are you okay?" Alex was genuinely concerned. "Did I hurt you?"

"No," Sydney shook her head, brushing the back of her hand across her eyes to wipe away the tears that remained. "Sorry, Iím not usually like this. I donít know whatís come over me."

"Itís been a tough week," the Lieutenant was understanding. "Are you feeling better now?"

"Yes," the blond detective conceded almost grudgingly. "Iím sorry I havenít been very nice lately."

"I shouldnít have yelled at you," Alex sighed. "Itís just that I was very worried for your safety. I donít want anything to happen to you or anyone else on the squad."

Sydney nodded and then reluctantly struggled to her feet glancing down at her soaking wet outfit.

She felt completely exhausted and didnít feel like going back to the squad room but there was a desk load of work waiting. She watched as the Lieutenant picked herself off the court.

"Listen, why donít you let me buy you dinner?" Alex suggested. She could almost tell what the woman was thinking by the expression on her face.

"Iíve still got lots of work to do," Sydney hesitated, uncertain how she should respond.

"It will still be there tomorrow, besides youíve put in enough overtime to justify a couple hours off," the Lieutenant said and then another thought occurred to her. "But maybe you have other plans?"

"No," Sydney said hastily, mentally kicking herself for almost blowing the opportunity to be alone with this woman.

"Good," Alex smiled and it transformed her dour features and the younger woman felt her heart tremble. She reached over and ruffled the damp blond strands of hair on the smaller womanís head.

"Weíll kill two birds with one stone, bring along those cases that are still in red on the board and weíll go over them and see if we can come up with something."

Sydney mutely nodded masking the disappointment she felt and then silently chiding herself for letting her expectations soar.

"Great," the Lieutenant nodded digging into the gym bag she had brought out to the court. She found the card she wanted and handed it to the smaller woman. "Iíll meet you at my place in an hour."

Sydney nodded and walked back with the other woman into the station house. Suddenly all the disappointment she felt was gone and she found herself smiling like a teenager. It didnít matter that they would spend the evening working, she was happy that they would be together. It was amazing how this one simple invitation could turn her emotions completely around.

It was an hour and a half later before Sydney finally turned her jeep down the street. She peered intently at the numbers on the buildings, searching for the address on the card that Alex had given her. This was a quiet neighbour with trees and plenty of open spaces and only two blocks from the beach. It was a middle class area and very different from where her downtown suite was located.

She found the building number and was fortunate enough to find a parking stall just out front. She unloaded the huge box of files she had taken from the office before locking up the jeep. She buzzed the appropriate number and was immediately let into the building The few moments it took for the elevator to arrive on the main level was enough for her to decide that the place was luxurious by any standard.

Alexís apartment was on the sixth level, the very top of this low rise complex, in the corner. The Lieutenant was waiting at the door when she arrived, dressed casually in a tight pair of faded blue jeans and a white t-shirt. Her feet were bare.

"Did you have any trouble finding the place?" Alex asked taking the box from the smaller detectives hands.

"No," Sydney shook her head, feeling her heart race uncontrollably.

"Come in and make yourself comfortable," the tall woman invited.

Sydney left her jacket and shoes by the door before following the woman from the hallway into a huge sunken living room. Her eyes roamed around the room, taking in the large fireplace and the French doors that led out onto a balcony which overlooked a small park. She shoved her hands into the pockets of her cargo pants and watched as her hostess set the box down on a glass top coffee table.

"You have a nice place here," Sydney commented taking in the plush white cushioned furniture and the exquisite paintings on the wall.

"I like it," Alex agreed glancing at her surroundings. "Come on Iíll give you a tour of the place."

It was larger then Sydney imagined and she figured she could easily fit two of her small apartments in this one with plenty of room to spare. It was a one bedroom suite with a den. They started in the kitchen and ended in the bedroom. It was an elegantly decorated place and quite feminine in nature.

They returned to the living room.

"Make yourself at home while I fetch us something to drink. What would you like?"

"A soda would be fine," Sydney replied feeling slightly awkward and Alex nodded before disappearing

into the kitchen. The blond detective sat down on one of the sofaís thinking how comfortable she could be here. Alex was back almost immediately carrying a tray with several cans of pop, two glasses and a small bucket of ice. She set it down on the table and then sat down cross legged on the floor.

"Help yourself," she instructed and Sydney tentatively reached out and took a can of soda.

"Is this place expensive to rent?" she wondered curiously.

"I donít know, I own it or I will own it once Iíve finished paying off my mortgage," Alex replied glancing around the room again before slipping a pair of glasses on her nose. "I was fortunate to get it, apparently there were several offers on it when I placed my bid."

"Donít you feel lost, itís so huge?"

"Nope, I like space and solitude and it has both," the Lieutenant agreed. "The other suites are owned mostly by older couples or single professionals, so I donít have a lot of problems with my neighbours."

"Must be nice," Sydney smiled relaxing with the conversation. "In my place when the neighbour down the hall turns on his television I can hear it."

"Thatís why I went to a condo in a place like this," Alex conceded. "I didnít want to deal with my neighbours. Are you hungry?"

"No," the blond detective shook her head. Actually she was a little but for some reason she didnít want to admit it.

"Well, just let me know when youíre ready to eat and Iíll order some Chinese food," the Lieutenant said digging a thick file out of the box and laying it out on the table. "Tell me about this case?"

Sydney had to leave her chair and sit down on the floor next to her hostess which wasnít an entirely unpleasant experience, though she had to keep her mind focused on the file and not on her companion.

For the next several hours they went through each of the unsolved cases and Alex quizzed her in detail about every aspect. The Lieutenant frowned for she had noticed a definite pattern and wondered mutely if the coincidence was that great. She didnít think so.

"How was it that you came to be the primary on these cases?" she asked and Sydney glanced sideways at her companion getting another whiff of her perfumed scent.

"The Lieutenant assigned them," she shrugged not knowing what difference that made. "Messington would accept the calls if he was in, take the primary details and then assign the case."

"Did the detectives have any specific order of rotation?"

"Not really," Sydney shook her head. "He would assign the cases as they came in. Why?"

Alex said nothing of her suspicions but once again she thought about what she had already learned. It was becoming clearer to her everyday what was going on in the homicide unit.

"Nothing," she replied with an awkward grin and as if on cue the younger womanís stomach protested. The grin turned into a full fledged smile and Sydney wanted to bury her head in her hands.

"Sounds like someone needs attention."

Alex chuckled and reached out and patted the younger womanís stomach before jumping to her feet and moving across the room to pick up the phone. Sydney watched spell bound as the woman dialled the number to a nearby Chinese take-out restaurant. After placing the order the tall woman returned to her spot on the floor and her younger companion was grateful.

"Thereís something your not telling me," the blond detective accused looking at her companions finely sculptured features.

"No," Alex shook her head not wanting to trouble her companion with her thoughts. She changed the subject. "Howís the case with the Kennedy boy coming along?"

"Iíve got APBís out on the man," Sydney conceded not happy that she hadnít gotten a complete answer. "Iím going to talk to his landlord Eddie Williams again. Lucas Andersen didnít show up in Seattle until four months after the kidnapping so he had to have been somewhere."

"He could have been moving around," Alex suggested.

"True but I have a feeling he wasnít," Sydney revealed her thoughts. "The case was very high profile so he wouldnít have wanted to attract any undue attention. The plates on his car were from the state so if he was hanging around here no one would have been unduly suspicious. Besides the police in Vancouver put a bulletin to his home state of New Mexico to watch out for him but they turned up nothing."

"So what do you think?" Alex asked musing thoughtfully over the womanís words.

"I think heís still in the state, hiding some place and I think Eddie Williams knows where. I checked him out and he has a record though its petty stuff and he hasnít been in trouble with the law since getting married."

"Lean on him and see what happens," the Lieutenant said. "Could be he thinks he has nothing to lose."

Sydney nodded and made a mental note to have the man brought in the next day.

"What about the Tu case?"

She took a deep breath. Here was a golden opportunity to present her case to the Lieutenant yet she worried that she would reject the plan.

"The little Dragonís definitely killed him as sort of a peace offering to the Bloods for Hootieís death. Phan said as much but with the evidence we have there is no way we would be able to charge him

let alone get a conviction."

"So?" Alex prompted.

"Well, we were talking and Phan admitted that Tu was the one who killed Hootie," Sydney chose her words carefully. "I offered him a deal that if he signed a witness statement to that affect I wouldnít hassle him anymore about Tuís murder."

Alex was thoughtful. It was a novel idea but she wasnít certain the DA would go for that type of plan. Relations between homicide and the persecutors office was at an all time low.

"Are you sure there is no way we can get anything on Phan?"

"Yeah," Sydney answered honestly

"Let me think about it for awhile and weíll see what I can do," Alex said certain not to make any promises. The buzzer to the apartment rang and the Lieutenant scrambled to her feet. "Foods arrived. Clear away the files. Weíll eat in here."

Sydney nodded and while the tall woman dealt with the delivery person she cleaned up the files and put them back into the box which she set down by the sofa. The rest of the evening past quickly and

after an initial awkwardness they talked about things other then work.

Sydney wasnít surprised to learn that her companion had travelled extensively and particularly enjoyed the Carribbean. It was understandable for the Lieutenant was surrounded by an air of sophistication. At last they got around to discussing their basketball match.

"I think Iím going to be covered in bruises tomorrow," Alex said wryly with a hint of a smile. "I didnít think anyone your size could pack such a wallop."

"You forget I come from the streets," Sydney replied with a little embarrassment. "You had to be tough there not to get trampled."

"I can see that someone would only challenge you once," the Lieutenant sniffed.

"Does that mean you wonít take me on again?" the idea made Sydney unhappy.

"On the contrary I enjoyed todayís game very much," Alex drawled looking at her solemnly though there was a twinkle in her blue eyes. "You are very good. Do you practice?"

"I still play every week in a pick-up league in my neighbourhood. I donít get out as much as Iíd like because of my hours but I try to join them at least once a week," the blond detective replied. "Do you play anymore?"

"No, I did when I was in Chicago, but I havenít had the time lately."

"Well, maybe you could come out with me sometime," Sydney offered. "Iím certain the guys would love having someone like you to compete against."

"Maybe we could be a team," Alex suggested lightly. "I think the two of us together could be an unbeatable combination."

Yes, Sydneyís emotions screamed as her heart thudded loudly in her chest. She felt a rising warmth in her body that was threatening to get out of control. A glance at her watch told her it was later then she thought. She reluctantly rose to her feet wishing she could stay yet knowing it was impossible.

"I better get going,"" she said grabbing the box and moving to the hallway where she had left her coat and shoes. "Will I see you tomorrow?"

"I wonít be in until later," Alex answered. "I have a meeting."

Sydney nodded and then dressing moved out the door. Alex followed her down to the jeep and waited until she climbed in. Both women felt slightly awkward and Sydney wished she had the courage to lean forward and kiss the other woman. But she merely waved before driving off.

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

Alex glanced around the restaurant. It was an expensive eatery that featured the finest European cuisine. It was a place on this Monday afternoon that was filled with businessmen. She recognized several faces as those belonging to the cities corporate elite.

"Anything new on the Kennedy case?" the question brought her attention back to her luncheon companion.

"No," she shook her head wincing inwardly and wondering if this were the reason the Commissioner had invited her to lunch..

"The press isnít being kind," the man reminded casually and Alex frowned staring at the food on the plate in front of her.

The man was being polite in his evaluation. The News media was still playing up the case and questioning the Departmentís competence in handling the murder. She knew the public was nervous at the thought of a child killer loose in the city and the Lieutenant wished quietly that some other scandal would develop to take their attention off the matter.

"There isnít much more we can do right now," she said. "The detective in charge is building a solid case. We have identified the suspect and posted advisoryís to all agencies across the country and even up into Canada."

The man nodded eyeing his beautiful companion thoughtfully before taking another bite of his food. He knew the Unit was doing itís best but he was in an awkward position, getting flak from not only the media and the public but also from the Mayor who was seeing this as a black mark for his upcoming re-election campaign. He decided not to press the issue for the moment.

"Otherwise, how are you settling in Alexandria?" the Commissionerís voice made her look up. "Are they giving you a hard time?"

"Did you expect them to welcome me with open arms?" she answered with a hint of sarcasm.

"No," the man conceded with a reluctant sigh. "I had hoped that they would be civil."

"They are...just barely," Alex admitted taking a bite of her food. "I have to admit George, the place is a mess. Iím not even sure I can make a difference."

"Is it that bad?" the man asked with a grimace.

"There is a prevailing apathy among the detectives and the other Lieutenantís are to busy with their political posturing to worry about solving cases," the Lieutenant allowed her frustration to show. "Hell, you have them assigning cases to whomever on a random basis. If itís solvable they give it to their favourite detective, if itís not theyíll assign it to someone they want to screw.

"They send lone detectives regularly out to interview suspects. Hell, theyíve had one detective working on her own without veteran supervision for close to six months of the ten sheís been in the Unit."

"Are you talking about Sydney Davis?" the man was not unfamiliar with some of the details of what was happening in the Unit.

"Yes."

"You know sheís gay."

"And that makes a difference?" Alex felt her nostrils flare. She wanted to shout with joy over this small bit of news, yet she kept her emotions in check. If nothing else was accomplished with this meeting then at least she had learned some valuable information.

"Not officially," the Commissioner said vaguely.

"What about unofficially?"

"Well, you know....," the man was suddenly uncomfortable. He knew that his companion had once been engaged to a man, but since the engagement had been broken off he had heard rumours. Not that it made any difference to him. "The reality Alexandria is that in spite of policy, the homicide unit is still very much an old boys bastion. The only thing they resent more then women in their ranks, is

women who want to be men."

"Bullshit George," this time Alex did explode. "Thatís the most archaic thinking Iíve heard in a long time. If the men think that way itís only because the top brass allows them too. Change your attitude and they will change as well. Christ, I donít know any gay women that want to be men."

The Commissioner sat for a long moment staring at the woman. He had known her since she was a child and had watched her grow up into the beautiful woman she had become. He had been absurdly pleased when she had decided to attend the Police Academy. In all that time he had never seen her as anything but calm, even in anger, and that was why this emotional outburst was puzzling.

"Whatís going on Alexandria?" he was a blunt man, not afraid of asking the delicate questions. "This display of temper isnít like you. Iíve never seen you this passionate about anything."

"The thing is George, I have a several young sergeantís on my team who could have been great detectives if they had been trained properly and treated right. Iím hoping I can still salvage them but it makes me angry to know that all my work could have been avoided if someone from the top brass had just stepped in and put his foot down. I just wonder how many other good cops are only just mediocre because of poor leadership."

George Ford sat back and allowed the woman the chance to say her peace. He respected her opinion which was the reason he had hired her in the first place. She had a proven track record and he was depending on her to clean up the Homicide Unit. Now that she was doing it he couldnít back away when the criticism was turned in his direction.

"There are problems but we are all human," he conceded and then looked intently across at her. "What I need to know is how can we solve the situation?"

Alex knew it was more difficult then just replacing people. But she also knew that they had to start some place. There were tough decisions to be made if the Commissioner was serious about turning things around. Some of those decisions would be unpopular. She bluntly told him what she thought and then left the man with several ideas how to improve the situation.

The next week was unusually busy with a higher then normal amount of suspicious deaths. Fortunately most were either suicides or easily explained by coroners reports. However, there were two legitimate murders and they were given to the officers at the head of the rotation that the Lieutenant had implemented.

Sydney didnít get a chance to see much of Alex during that week as the Lieutenant was busy with meetings. It wasnít until Thursday morning that she had a chance to talk to the tall, dark haired woman.

"Listen, I donít know whether youíre busy tonight but weíre getting together to have a pick-up game

and I was wondering if you were interested in coming along?" she felt nervous asking, afraid of being rejected.

"I have a meeting this afternoon," Alex said wishing she could think of some excuse to miss the

appointment. "What time do you play?"

"We usually start about five and go until everyoneís exhausted," Sydney said feeling a measure of disappointment.

"Well, give me the address and Iíll see if I can get out early," the Lieutenant said and the blond detective hastily scribbled out an address on a blank scrap of paper.

"I hope I see you there," Sydney called as she watched the other woman walk away. She didnít hold her breath though. Lately the Lieutenant had been in constant demand by the Commissioner and most of her day was spent in Departmental meetings.

As it happened the meeting was cancelled and Alex was called into the Commissioners office to meet with the Mayor. For more than an hour they discussed the situation before finally coming to an agreement on a solution that was acceptable to all of them.

Alex left the meeting with a slight headache, aware that she should be pleased by the results yet she was left strangely dissatisfied. She would have liked to think that the Mayor and the Commissioner had worked out a compromise for the best interests of the Department but all she could think of was that they had resolved the situation to the best advantage for their individual careers and that made her feel disgusted and dirty.

She sighed, aware of how their decision directly impacted her own life. She did not look forward to the next few weeks and mentally began to prepare herself for the hostility that she knew would be thrown in her direction. She had been placed in awkward positions before and was able to handle it,

the only thing she worried about was the situation with Sydney.

What situation? she thought morosely to herself. She wanted a relationship with the younger woman. She was more attracted to the blond detective then she had been to anyone in her thirty four years. Yet now she wondered if she was willing to risk her future for such an involvement. Despite those thoughts, an hour later she found herself at the corner of King St and Marion Ave.

St. Maryís was an inner city school whose fenced in yard housed a dozen basketball courts. On each court there were about a dozen people and her blue eyes searched for a familiar face. She finally found it amongst a group of tall black men. A smile came to her lips. Not only was Sydney one of the few women on the court but she was also the only white person.

Alex collected her gym bag from the trunk of her car and then strolled casually around the fence taking up a position at the side of the court where the blond detective was standing. She glanced sideways at the few others who were lounging nearby. She saw the weary and somewhat insolent looks they cast in her direction but she ignored them as she turned her attention back towards the court.

As if sensing her commanderís presence Sydney glanced up. She felt a smile break across her face and her heart skipped a beat at the sight of the tall woman. She left her companions and trotted over, wishing she could give the woman a kiss or a hug but she was limited only to nodding a casual greeting.

"You made it," she smiled and Alex was reminded of how pretty the woman was. She saw that the smile reached up into the flashing green eyes and her heart swelled with emotion.

"The meeting was cancelled," she shrugged.

"Iím glad," Sydneyís grin widened. "Come on Iíll introduce you to the guys. Iíve already told them

about you."

Alex nodded and followed the smaller woman over to a group of tall gentlemen who were shooting hoops and warming up. The blonde detective introduced her and while the men werenít overtly hostile she sensed a suspicion on their part and she guessed that many if not all of them had been in trouble with the law at one time or another. Not that she cared. She was here for only one reason. Sydney. Even the game of basketball took second place. If the younger woman had played softball, she would have taken up the sport.

The players were divided up with the women being placed on opposing teams. It was obvious at first that the men were sceptical of Alexís playing ability but by the first break they were nodding their heads with grudging respect.

"Youíre good man," a tall thin man with a wide smile said and Alex knew then that she had been accepted. "Sydney said you were but we all thought she was a little bias seeing that she likes you and all."

She likes me, the Lieutenant thought with glee but ignored the swell of happiness that surged through

her body, keeping her attention on the man.

"I played university ball at Southern Cal, though itís been a few years since then."

"You ainít lost nothiní lady and if you have you must have been awesome," the man called Skinny raved. His praise did not go unnoticed by two black women who were standing nearby. They seemed to have taken an instant dislike to the new arrival.

"Youíre pretty good yourself," Alex replied. "Did you play college ball?"

"No, werenít recruited," Skinny shook his head regretfully.

"Itís too bad, whoever scouted you wasnít very smart, youíre a good player," the Lieutenant praised the manís talent and he blushed shyly.

"Thank you," he said and Alex knew that she had made a friend.

"Donít be thanking her for nothiní," one of the black women watching shouted, having overheard the conversation. "Sheís just jacking you up Skinny. You play like shit, thatís why no college recruited you."

Alex looked at the heckler and felt the hair at the back of her neck rise. She could sense trouble and

these two women were that, but she wasnít one to back down from anything. The people around them had grown silent as if sensing a confrontation.

"Come on, ignore them," Skinny said hoping to defuse the situation but Alex wasnít in a mood to be messed with.

"You think you can do a better job?" she baited the women who smiled and straightened up.

"I could wipe the court clean with your skinny white ass," the black woman taunted.

"You think so," Alex felt her temper rise though it was completely under control. "Then we should have a game and see."

"Anytime you want bitch."

"How about right now? Your friend and you against my friend and me," the Lieutenant challenged and felt a gentle hand come to rest on her arm. She looked down to see Sydney standing next to her with a concerned expression on her face. She ignored it and turned back to the women. "What do you say?"

"Iím for it bitch and when we win you will have to each kiss my black ass," the woman smiled crudely.

"And when we win, you will keep your black mouth shut," and with that she grabbed the ball and walked to the center of the court to wait for their opponents to warm up. Sydney trailed slowly behind.

There was a frown on the younger womanís face as she rubbed the side of her nose thoughtfully. "Whatís wrong?"

"Iím not one who likes to kiss anyoneís ass," Sydney was honest not entirely happy she had been dragged into this mess. "You should have just ignored Chandra. She likes to think she owns this territory."

"Then how did she let you in?" Alex asked almost afraid to know the answer.

"She hasnít, she canít stand me. The only reason Iím still here is that the guys run interference."

"Iím sorry if I mucked things up for you," the Lieutenant sighed aware that she had allowed her temper to rule her better judgement. "Itís been a rough day and I really hate braggarts."

"She is that," Sydney agreed reluctantly, resigning herself to her fate. "You should know that both of them played for Washington State and were scouted for the national team."

"But they didnít get selected did they?" Alex pointed out and the smaller woman shook her head. "Then donít worry. Just play like you did the other day against me."

"That was different," the blond woman groused and the Lieutenant smiled and ruffled her hair.

"Trust me," Alex smiled impishly, "and if we lose Iíll kiss your ass too."

Her promise didnít give Sydney any incentive to win. The thought of the Lieutenantís lips on any part of her body was enough to make her grow warm all over. However, the idea of deliberately losing was completely extinguished by the arrogant and cocky attitude of their opponents.

Skinny and another black gentleman by the name of Watson volunteered to referee. As expected the play was rough and Alex recognized early that their opposition had considerable talent but she was confident in her own skill, reassured that they were no match for Sydney and herself. As she had thought, they worked well together instinctively anticipating the others move.

The two black women started off by talking trash but their words had no effect. Alex smiled to herself, realizing that these women had obviously forgotten that they were cops and therefore mentally immune to the verbal jibs and harassment that was being tossed at them.

When it became obvious that their insults were gaining them no advantage the two black women began to play a more physical game. More then once Skinny called a flagrant foul though mostly he allowed the match to proceed of its own accord and as the game progressed so did Sydneyís confidence.

The blond detective was amazed by her companionís ability, awed by the moves Alex displayed. It was obvious that the Lieutenant had not played anywhere near her potential in their game of one on one. Chandra and Aretha were good yet they seemed quite ordinary as the tall dark haired woman dribbled easily through their defenses. More then once her actions and movements caused their growing audience to cheer and clap. Sydney felt an inordinate amount of pride at her companions

skill.

"Are you ready to give up yet?" Alex asked with a sneer as she looked at the two women whose exhaustion was beginning to show. She had just finished scoring her third unanswered goal.

"Never, bitch," Chandra replied with a curl of her lip.

"To bad for you. I can go all night," the Lieutenant taunted glancing at her blond partner who was drenched in sweat. Their eyes met. "All night."

Sydney felt her heart flutter, somehow knowing that her companion wasnít referring to basketball any more. Perhaps it had been the subtle drop of her voice and its low seductive tone. She wasnít certain but it caused a delicious shiver to run through her body.

Play started again and even as the other women felt their energy dropping Alex seemed to become more invigorated and her aura enveloped Sydney who was determined to keep pace with her companion. It was Skinny who finally called an end to the match, much to the protests of Chandra and her partner.

"What you talking about girl?" the man snorted in contempt. "Whitey done whipped you asses. Theyíre so far ahead, youíd have to play by yourself for an hour to even come close."

"Ho bitch, we ainít done," Chandra pointed a skinny finger in their direction as Alex and Sydney started to walk off the court.

"Yes we are," Alex turned and stepped up to the woman. "You lost, be gracious, and if I ever hear you have been giving my girl over there grief, Iíll come back and I wonít be so polite next time."

Then without another word the Lieutenant turned and walked over to where Sydney was standing. She casually draped a long arm across the smaller womanís shoulders and gave her a hug which did nothing good for the blond womanís composure. Even sweaty the tall woman smelt great.

"You were fantastic," Sydney stammered conscious of the way the womanís presence set her whole

body aflame.

"Well, there wasnít any way I was going to lose to those women. I donít just kiss anybodies ass," Alex replied with a sly grin. "I told you we were an unbeatable combination."

"Yeah you did," the smaller detective agreed and felt the warmth of the woman leave as the arm dropped away.

"You guys were great," Skinny gushed as he strolled over to join them. There was a huge grin on his face. Both women lifted their hands and they gave the man a friendly slap. "I didnít recognize you but some of those moves they sure were familiar, what did you say your last name was?"

"Marshall," the Lieutenant said easily and if the smile on the manís face could get any bigger, it did.

"I know you," Skinny let out a laugh. "You played for the National Squad."

"Yep, for three years," came the modest reply.

"Whyíd you quit girl, you still have all the moves?" the man wanted to know.

"I also have a job I love," Alex said quietly aware that the blond detective was watching the exchange with intense interest.

"Too bad girl," the man shook his head sadly. "Are we gonna see you here again?"

"That depends on my friend," came the solemn reply and for a moment blue and green eyes met.

"Sheíll be back," Sydney spoke for the first time and Alex nodded feeling a weight lift off her shoulders. She turned to look at the man and grinned.

"Iíll be back," she said and the man nodded before wandering back to his friends.

"You never told me you played for the National Squad," the blond woman accused when they were alone. She could understand now why the woman had been so arrogant.

"You never asked," the Lieutenant shrugged. She was never entirely comfortable discussing herself.

"So when we played, you were taking it easy on me," the small woman said and her companion

snorted.

"Donít give me so much credit, youíre good Sydney, way better then those women we just played against," Alex straightened and looked down at the other woman. "They tried to be fancy which doesnít work with players who have real skill. You work hard and thatís more important then any tricks."

Sydney glowed under the praise and hastily averted her eyes least she show something that she

didnít want the other woman to see.

"Listen, we still have a few hours before we have to be on shift, do you want to grab something to eat?"

"Yeah, Iíd like that," Alex nodded. "It will have to be some place where they donít mind a few smelly women."

"I know the perfect spot," the blond detective smiled. "Itís a small pub just down the street. It looks like a dive but the foodís great and the Italian couple welcome everyone."

"Letís go," the taller woman agreed.

The restaurant was packed with what Alex concluded was several football clubs but they were still able to find an empty table against the wall. They sat down, savouring the delicious aromas that filled

the place.

"I had fun today," she said once they had placed their order. "Thanks for inviting me."

"Youíre welcome, any time."

"Are you sure?" the Lieutenant was serious. "Some people are pretty tight on having their own space. I donít want to seem like Iím moving into your territory."

"Iím not the territorial type," the blond woman smiled easily and stretched out her aching muscles. "You know I almost considered throwing the game."

"Oh?" finely shaped eyebrows disappeared beneath damp bangs. This admission caught Alex off guard.

"Yeah, the thought of my boss kissing my ass was almost to tempting," Sydney chuckled.

It might yet just happen, Alex thought and allowed herself a moment to fantasize about that moment. She felt the heat of her body rise and swiftly thought of something else.

"So how was it you got too hang with these guys?" the Lieutenant asked sipping on the cold mug of beer that the waitress brought.

"We all went to St. Judes down the street," the blond woman explained. "Skinny and Watson were

on the boyís varsity squad the same time I was on the girlís team. During road trips we used to hang together because we were from out of the district and not really apart of the groups that the others hung with. We stayed friends after high school."

"Are they tied in with any of the areaís gangs?"

"Not really," Sydney was careful with her response. "Theyíre loosely affiliated but only because they live in the area. Both have wives and children and good jobs with the city. They donít want to mess

that up."

Alex nodded realizing her first impression of the men were correct. She had seen the gang colours on some of the players but most of them seemed to be independents which was probably a tough decision if they were living in this neighbour.

"Listen I managed to get a hold of a couple of tickets to a Sonics, Bulls game for next Friday and I was wondering if youíd like to join me?" Alex asked feeling more nervous then she looked. "Of course youíll have to put up with my brother and his wife, but theyíre huge fans."

"Iíd love to go," Sydney accepted feeling a burst of happiness swell her heart.

"Great," the dark haired woman was delighted. "I could pick you up and we could go out to dinner first."

"That sounds great," the blond woman agreed wondering if she would be able to contain her excitement. Seven days was a long time and not even the thought of meeting members of the Lieutenantís family could dampen her enthusiasm.

Fortunately it was a busy week and her time was occupied but she was unable to keep the smile off her face when she saw the Lieutenant that Thursday evening at St. Maryís. She shook her head trying hard to remind herself that she wasnít a teenager anymore but a grown woman.

Like the previous week they were put on opposing teams but neither of them minded for they personally put themselves in charge of defending each other, something the others players naturally accepted.

The game was competitive with allot of good natured trash talk and plenty of physical contact between the two women. It was more playful in nature then mean spirited and both women noticed that their hands stayed on each others back or hips longer then was necessary. It was as if they needed this connection.

"Do you want to grab a bite to eat?" Alex asked when they were packing up to leave after the game.

"Sure," Sydney was delighted. "I know the perfect place."

"Then Iíll drive," the Lieutenant offered and together they drove the few blocks to a popular sports bar.

"Do you just have the one brother?" Sydney asked once they were seated. She hadnít had much chance to talk to the other woman over the week.

"No, I have three brothers. Iím the youngest in the family and the only girl. Andrew is three years older then me, then thereís Charlie who is six years older and finally Lawrence who will be turning forty four in a few days."

"Do they all play basketball?"

"All except Laurie," Alex replied with a hint of a smile at the thought. "He was never much interested in sports though there were numerous colleges who tried to recruit him. All he ever wanted to be was a lawyer like our father."

"What do your other brothers do?" The blond woman wasnít normally interested in other peopleís families yet she had a desire to know everything about her companion.

"They are also lawyers," the dark haired woman admitted with wry amusement. "The fact is all of us graduated with law degrees and everyone with the exception of myself, practice at my fathers legal firm."

"Which one is that?" Sydney asked out of curiosity uncertain how to feel that her companion was also a lawyer.

"Marshall and Fryer," Alex said absently studying their surroundings and missing the startled reaction of her younger companion.

The blond detective recognized the name. It was a highly respected legal firm that was nationally known and the Marshall family were the cream of Seattle society. She hadnít even considered that Alex was related in any manner to those people. Everything began to make sense now, especially the swanky apartment.

"How come youíre the odd man out?" she asked feeling slightly numb and it had nothing to do with the alcohol she was consuming. "Didnít you want to work for your father?"

"I will eventually when I want to settle down but right now Iím happy with what Iím doing," the other woman conceded.

"You havenít met anyone then who you want to settle down with?" Sydney asked casually. She knew the question was intensely personal yet she had an deep desire to know where this woman was standing on the emotional level.

Yes, you, Alex wanted to say but she kept her mouth shut and was relieved that the waitress chose that moment to bring their food. When she spoke again it was on a different subject and Sydney took the hint and didnít prod the tall woman for an answer.

Before parting that evening they agreed to meet at four thirty the next afternoon. Sydney stood on the stoop to her building contemplating what she had learned about the Lieutenant. She watched as the lights to her companionís car faded down the street before turning and entering the apartment.

Sydney left work early the next day wanting to be ready when Alex arrived to pick her up. At precisely four thirty she was sitting out on the stoop waiting. A wait that wasnít very long for barely had she sat down when a familiar grey sedan pulled up to the curb. She hopped up and climbed into the passenger seat.

"Hi," Alex smiled and immediately felt a change come over her mood. It had been a stressful day and

she had been in meetings all morning and afternoon. She looked forward to this evening.

"Hi," the blond detective beamed extraordinarily pleased to see the woman. The Lieutenant hadnít been in the office all day.

The restaurant Alex choose was a popular place near the arena. Sydney was half afraid that the womanís brother and sister-in-law would join them but they were alone and for that she was grateful. She was nervous about meeting the Lieutenantís family, anxious to make a good impression, particularly since learning who her companion was. As if sensing her mood Alex did everything in her power to put her companion at ease by keeping the conversation light.

They discussed an amazing range of topics and over the course of the meal Alex came too realize that they were very compatible. She had never felt that way about any of her previous relationships. Not even Barry the man she had been engaged too. She thought about that for a minute as she stared across the table at her companion who was telling her some story.

Today more than ever before she was happy that she hadnít made the mistake of marrying the man. She had never felt even half the emotion for him that she did for her companion and something told her that the feeling would only get more intense and stronger as time went by. She would have missed this wonderful feeling if she had gotten married the way everyone wanted. She would have missed knowing what real love was all about.

"Hey are you still in there?" Sydney said uncertainly, seeing the distant look in the other womanís eyes. She worried that she was boring her companion.

"Iím sorry," Alex focused back on the present. "I was just thinking of my ex-fiancee."

"Oh," the blond detective didnít know what too say as a lazy smile crossed the other womanís lips.

"I was just thinking how glad I am that I didnít get married. If I had I wouldnít have been able to be here with you," was the unexpected reply and there was something in the blue eyes that made Sydney blush.

"Oh!"

Alex smiled, memorizing the pretty features that were suddenly stained pink. Her heart beat wildly and she wished they werenít going to the game but back to her apartment. She shook her head to dispel those thoughts and casually glanced at her watch.

"We better go if we donít want to be late."

She likes me, she likes me, the words bounced giddily around Sydneyís head making her feel happier then she had ever believed possible. She knew for certain now that her companion was interested in more then just friendship.

The arena was almost full by the time they arrived and Sydney was pleasantly surprised to find that

their seats were courtside though after what she had seen in her companionís eyes at dinner they could have sat on the roof and she would have been content.

Andrew Marshall was a male version of his sister, only marginally heavier. His wife Christie was also tall, only a few inches shorter then Alex, but with short blond hair. They were polite and friendly when her companion made the introductions.

"I feel like a dwarf," Sydney muttered standing amongst the trio.

"Good, until now I have always been the short one in the family," Christie laughed. "Itís nice to meet you Sydney, its so seldom we get to meet any of Alexís friends."

"Thatís because Iím afraid youíll scare them off," Alex growled good naturedly.

"And you didnít think Iíd be scared?" the blond detective asked inquisitively and for a moment blue and green eyes met.

"No, I think you can handle them," came the amused reply before the Lieutenant looked at her brother. "Arenít you going to buy us some beer?"

"All right, on my way," the man bobbed his head before sauntering off towards the concession stands.

The women sat down with Sydney on one side of Alex and Christie on the other. For awhile the smaller woman listened contentedly as the two women traded family gossip. From the little she could discern Andrew and Christie had three children, a girl and two boys of which only two were of school age.

Andrew returned with their beer just before tip off and from then on they concentrated on the match. Sydney had never been to a Sonics game but she knew all the players and cheered as loudly as the others when a great move was executed and a basket scored.

Alex watched her companion with amusement and pride, noticing that she got as excited and vocal as her brother who had a tendency to jump out of his seat when there was a bad call by the referees.

"I think they make a good pair," Christie said with wry amusement as she looked from her shouting husband to her sister-in-lawís excited friend, both who had gotten to their feet to give their opinion on a disputed call.

"Yeah," Alex smiled indulgently unable to hide her adoration for the smaller woman. Her sister-in-law chuckled and squeezed her hand affectionately.

Sydney was having the best time of her life. Not only was it a good game but the company was exceptional. More then once Alex lay a hand on her thigh to catch her attention to whisper something in her ear. Then the taller woman would leave it there longer then necessary which made the blond detective careful not to jump out of her chair to often. Finally the half time buzzer rang with the score tied.

"Come on," Andrew said grabbing his sisters hand. "We need more beer."

Alex had no option but to join the man, aware that he wasnít bringing her along just for the company. He had the grace to wait until they were standing in line at the concession stand before speaking.

"Sydney seems like a nice girl," he remarked casually uncertain how to open the conversation.

"Sheís a woman Andrew," was the dry response and the man flushed.

"Sorry," he looked at her intently. "Are you serious about her?"

"We arenít even dating," Alex sighed aware that her brother would persist until he had all the answers he wanted. The man raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"Youíre sure cozy for not dating," he snorted sceptically.

"Weíre friends," came the stoic reply. "Weíve only known each other for a few weeks."

"Only known each other for a few weeks and youíre already bringing her to a Soncis game. She must be special."

"She is," Alex conceded simply unable to lie and her brother chuckled.

"So when are you taking her home to meet the folks?"

"I donít think any of us are ready for that yet," the woman shook her head. "Besides I donít want to jinx this."

Andrew knew then that his sister cared deeply for her friend. Alex had always been a very private person and they had rarely met any of the men she dated. She had been engaged for a month before they had met her former fiancee and since she had announced that she was gay none of them had seen her with anyone. He knew it was in her nature to keep things low key which was why this appearance tonight was a bit of a surprise.

He glanced sideways at her profile. She was a beautiful woman and more then one of his friends had begged him to set them up with her. He had always thought he would feel weird about her new situation but watching her with the smaller woman it had seemed okay. No, it had seemed better then okay, it seemed strangely right.

"She is cute," he said with a smile and a corresponding one broke across his sisterís normally dour features.

"I think so," Alex couldnít help the grin that spread across her face.

"And short," he burst out laughing and she playfully slapped him on the arm.

 

Sydney watched with some trepidation as Alex was marched off by her brother. She leaned back

in her chair not entirely sure that they werenít being set up. She glanced pensively at the other woman uncertain what to say.

"So how long have you known Alex?" Christie opened the conversation aware that her husband would pump her for the details later. She was more then a little curious herself.

"Several weeks," Sydney replied deciding to keep her answers to a brief uncertain how much Alex wanted her family to know.

"Where did you meet?"

"We work together," she said simply not comfortable talking about herself. "How long have you been married?"

"More then ten years," the other woman admitted with a little amazement and then smiled. "It was

Alex who introduced us. We were playing basketball at university together and she invited me home

for Thanksgiving, and the rest as they say was history."

"Did you get married right away?"

"No, we dated for about four years," Christie answered. "Andrew wanted to be set up as a lawyer before we got married. Thatís one thing you will find out about the Marshall family. They set certain objectives for themselves and then work towards them with the exclusion of everything else."

"It must have been hard for you," came the quiet reply but the taller blond woman shook her head.

"No, I knew that Andrew loved me so I was willing to wait until he was ready."

There was silence as Sydney contemplated this information. She glanced sideways at her companion realizing that this woman could probably answer a lot of questions that she was afraid to ask Alex.

"You must have known her fiancee?"

"Yes," Christie nodded.

"What was he like?"

"He was polite, respectable, from a good family," the woman thought hard on how she could describe the man. "He was a solid character."

"But?"

"But I never thought he was right for her," the woman sighed. "I adore Alex, she is my best friend outside of my husband, but she never seemed completely happy. Not like with you."

"With me?" Sydney squeaked and the other woman smiled.

"Yes," Christie nodded. "Maybe you donít notice but her face positively glows when she looks at you."

The smaller woman was stunned into silence. Her heart trembled, as the womanís words bounced around her head. She didnít know what to think.

"Alex is like the rest of her family," the other woman said aware that she had put her companion off balance. "They are slow to act, almost methodical in nature but when they fall in love they are absolutely devoted to you. So many people in their position use it as a licence to do what they went but not the Marshallsí. I think what I like most about the family is their sense of responsibility, the fact that they care for others as much as they care for themselves."

There was time to comment as Alex and her brother choose that moment to return with their refreshments. For a brief instant blue and green eyes met and the Lieutenant suddenly felt concerned. From the exit she had seen Christie and Sydney talking. She was curious about what had

been said.

"Are you all right?" she asked quietly and Sydney smiled softly, laying her hand upon the other womanís thigh and rubbing gently.

"Iím fine."

Alex wasnít certain she could accept that answer at face value but she knew she could trust Christie not to say anything stupid. Before they could continue the conversation, the whistle blew to start the second half and everything else was forgotten as they turned their attention back to cheering their team onto victory. In the end, after an exciting fourth quarter, the Bulls upset the home team by four points. But it didnít seem to matter to the fans who had been treated to a good game filled with lots of action.

Both women were silent as they drove through the city. Sydney wished the night didnít have to end but all to soon they pulled up to the curb outside her building. She looked at her tall companion, her mind going round in circles. She thought of inviting her companion inside but then tossed out that idea, still uncertain about what was happening between them.

"Thank you, I really enjoyed myself."

"Iím glad," Alex smiled wanting nothing more than to reach out and kiss the other woman. But she contained herself. "My brother really liked you so I donít think it should be hard to get a few more tickets out of him."

"Iíd like that," Sydney said and for a moment an awkward silence filled the car. She was indecisive but she turned to look at her companion. "Alex can I ask you something?"

"Sure," the other woman nodded.

"Were we just out on a date?"

Alex caught her breath. It wasnít the question she had been expecting. She swallowed the lump that suddenly appeared in her throat. She knew she could lie but she didnít want to. She wanted to get

to know this woman more intimately and to do that she would have to be honest.

"Yes," she said softly and then watched as a brilliant smile lit up the other womanís face. Before she

could guess her companionís intentions, Sydney was leaning across the seat kissing her.

Alex felt the touch of the womanís soft lips against her own, at first tentatively and then with more passion. Neither could remember how long the kiss lasted but it was still to short. She gasped when the younger woman finally leaned away.

"Goodnight," Sydney said before bolting out of the car, not believing what she had done, yet unable to feel any regret. She would worry later, right now she was content to savour the happiness she felt.

Alex sat staring after the other woman until she had disappeared safely inside the building. It took all

her self control not to rush after the blond detective and demand more than a kiss. Her whole body was inflamed and quietly she accepted the truth. Despite her best intentions she would not be able

to leave this woman alone. She would risk everything to be with the Sydney.

She turned the car back out onto the street and wondered how she would get through the next couple days, without seeing the younger woman. She couldnít and early the next morning she got the girlís number from work and called.

"Hello," the voice on the other end of the line sounded groggy.

"Sydney," Alex was suddenly very nervous. She was still relatively new at this dating thing and she wasnít entirely certain what was acceptable. "Itís Alex, Iím sorry if I woke you."

"No, itís all right I wasnít sleeping," the blond woman lied sitting up in bed and peering at the clock. It was eight in the morning. "Whatís up?"

"I was just going to take the sailboat out and I was wondering if youíd like to come along," the Lieutenant felt like a nervous school girl.

"Yes," Sydney barely waited for the woman to finish speaking before giving her answer. She knew that this was an invitation she wouldnít turn down for anything. "Where do you want to meet?"

"Iíll pick you up," Alex said a wide smile breaking out on her face. "Can you be ready in an hour?"

"Yes, should I bring anything?"

"No, just dress warm, the wind can get pretty chilly out on the water," the other woman said before ringing off.

"Yahoo!" Sydney shrieked replacing the phone and jumping out of bed. She bounced around the room giving in to her excitement for a moment before rushing into the bathroom to start getting ready.

Precisely at the hour Alex pulled up outside the building where Sydney was once again waiting on the

stoop. She couldnít keep the silly grin off her face, her heart brimming with emotion.

"Good morning," she greeted cheerfully as she climbed into the vehicle.

"Good morning," Alex smiled and then because the other woman had broken the barrier between them, she leaned over and kissed her. Sydney returned the embrace aware that her action the previous evening had given her this reward.

"I think we better get going," the Lieutenant finally breathed breaking the embrace, aware that her heart was thundering inside her chest and that certain parts of her body had grown very warm.

"Yeah," Sydney nodded her lips tingling and her body flushed with desire.

The boat to which Alex had been referring was a single mast sailboat. The sky was grey but the sea

was calm and Sydney eagerly anticipated the trip. So often she had watched from shore as the boats in the harbour had sailed out to sea and wondered about the people who were on them. Today she

was one of those people and it felt great to be on the other side of the scene.

The craft was small enough for one person to handle so the blond woman sat back and watched as her companion deftly manoeuvred the boat out of the channel traffic before swiftly setting the sail. She stared at her tall companion memorized by the sight of the long dark hair flowing in the wind. She took a deep breath and looked away realizing she could get lost in the woman.

The day was beautiful but as Alex had suggested the wind was chilly, cooling off considerably the further they got from shore. Sydney had dressed warmly, covering her body in several layers of sweaters and flannel shirts with a down vest over top yet she couldnít help the shivers that raced across her skin.

Alex glanced at her companion. She usually liked to take the boat out on her own and didnít know what possessed her to invite the woman along. But of course she knew. She liked Sydney and she wanted to share everything in her life with the blond woman. Just as she had that thought she saw the girl tremble.

"Hey," she called out and capturing the blondís attention she motioned to a spot just in front of her.

Sydney eagerly scrambled across the deck to the padded seat in front of the other woman, settling in a spot between a pair of long legs. Once she was seated Alex grabbed a thick blanket and draped it over her friend before pulling her back against her own body. The blond woman immediately felt the warmth of her companion and the possessive weight of the Lieutenantís arm which was casually draped across her chest. She leaned back and enjoyed the ride.

The smaller woman didnít know how long they were out on the water and she didnít really care. She was just incredibly happy with her companion wrapped around her body. More than once she allowed her imagination to soar, wondering what it would be like to make love to this woman. She trembled at the thought.

"Are you still cold?" Alex whispered in her ear having felt the shiver run through her companionís body.

"No," Sydney shook her head with a blush wondering what this woman would say if she knew the truth. She turned her head slightly to a point where their faces were side by side. "What would you do if I was?"

"This," the other woman chuckled and wrapped her long legs around the woman drawing her more tightly against her body.

Sydney closed her eyes, moaning softly at the contact and wishing she could just turn around and wrap herself around her companion. But she pushed down that desire, willing herself to remain in control. They sailed for several hours before Alex turned the boat back towards land.

"Would you like to get something to eat?" Alex asked when the boat was moored once more

alongside the dock. They had shared some sandwiches earlier in the day but that had seemed like hours ago.

"Iíd love that," Sydney agreed. She wouldnít turn down any invitation that meant spending more time in this womanís company. The restaurant Alex chose this time was a seafood place and the younger woman dug heartily into her plate of food.

"I really enjoyed myself," Sydney said contentedly and Alex stared at her for a long moment, seeing the healthy flush of her cheeks. "Iíve never been on a sailboat before."

"Well, then Iím glad I invited you along," Alex was unexpectedly pleased with this knowledge. She wanted to be there for as many firsts with this woman as she could.

The rest of the meal was spent in quiet conversation and the tall woman found herself laughing more than she had ever done before, realizing that her companion had a vicious sense of humour and a talent for telling a good story. She was sorry when it was time to leave.

"Listen would you like to come over and watch a movie?" she asked not ready to end the day. Sydney nodded quite content to let this woman make the decisions. "What do you like?"

"Action adventures," came the impish response and Alex laughed casually draping an arm across the womanís shoulders as they left the restaurant.

"How could I not guess?" she rolled her eyes.

They stopped at a video store not far from where Alex lived and after much debate they settled on an action film called Ronin starring Robert De Niro. They returned to her apartment while her hostess put a bag of popcorn in the microwave, she popped the video into the machine and settled onto the soft leather sofa in the den were the television and VCR were located.

Alex wasnít usually a fan of action movies, she had seen to much of it in real life to want to watch it on film but she was pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed the video. Sydney enjoyed as much as she saw before the long day finally caught up with her.

The Lieutenant smiled as she noticed her friend sleeping soundly. She waited until the movie was over before deciding what to do. She knew she could wake her companion yet she was adverse to doing that. Instead she simply decided to let her spend the night on the sofa.

Carefully she swung the small womanís legs unto the couch, loosening the button and zipper on her jeans and pulling off her socks before draping a blanket over her slender frame and tucking a pillow under her head. She dropped a light kiss on the womanís brow before turning off the lights and retreating to the bedroom.

 

 

continued in part three

disclaimers: see part one

 

Chapter five

 

Sydney landed on the floor with a resounding thud. She lay for a moment in a daze, blinking rapidly and trying to recover her wits when a bleary, blue eyed woman peeked over the end of the sofa. There was a look of anxiety on the drowsy face, but Sydney saw none of that, concentrating instead on how incredibly sexy the woman looked with her tousled dark hair and long bare legs.

"Are you all right?" Alex asked with genuine concern. She had jumped out of bed, roused from her slumber by the crash, and had rushed into the den worried about her friend.

"Yeah, I guess I rolled off the chair," Sydney nodded rubbing the back of her head as she struggled to sit up. She glanced around suddenly realizing where she was and what had happened. She looked up at the other woman sheepishly. "Gosh, I fell asleep on you, thatís so embarrassing."

"No problem, it happens," the tall woman replied with a lazy shrug. "Listen, itís still early, do you want to try to go back to sleep or do you want me to take you home?"

"Iíll try to sleep," Sydney said realizing it was the middle of the night and unwilling to drag her friend out at this late hour.

"Okay," Alex nodded and made to turn away but paused, scratching her head. "Come on, my bed will be more comfortable then the sofa."

"Are you sure, the sofa here is okay," the blond woman said tentatively.

"Yeah," the dark haired woman gave her a lopsided smile and then reached out to help the smaller woman to her feet, letting the blanket fall to the floor. "I think I have a t-shirt that might fit. It will be more comfortable then what youíre wearing."

Sydney nodded mutely allowing her hostess to led her into the bedroom all the while wondering how she was ever going to be able to sleep in the same bed as this woman. She swallowed her trepidation and watched as the tall woman dug an old Sonics t-shirt out of a drawer and tossed it at her.

"The bathroom is through there," she pointed to a door and Sydney nodded.

Just be calm, she told herself taking several deep breaths before exiting the bathroom. She looked across the room to where the Lieutenant was already lying in bed, her back turned in her direction. I can do this, the smaller woman thought before quietly switching off the lights and crawling under the sheets.

"You okay?" the dark haired woman asked drowsily rolling over to face her.

"Yeah," Sydney yawned.

"Good," came the muffled reply and it was followed not much later by a slight snore.

Sydney lay listening to the silence and willing herself to remain calm. She closed her eyes thinking that she couldnít be closer to heaven if she tried. Almost against her will she found herself drifting off to sleep.

By a strange coincidence they woke at the same time the next morning. During the night their bodies had naturally gravitated towards each otherís heat and now they lay with their faces only inches apart and their limbs entangled beneath the sheets. Neither of them moved and for a long moment they just lay there silently, green eyes staring into blue, their hearts beating in rhythm.

Alex reached out and gently combed strands of blond hair behind the other womanís ear. So many mornings she had woken in the same fashion and each time she had felt awkward and anxious to be on her way. But there was no such feeling that morning. She began to lean forward when the phone rang. She was tempted to ignore it but it wouldnít stop ringing. It was almost as if the caller knew she was there.

"Yes!" she barked into the receiver making no attempt to hide her irritation.

"Good morning to you too dear," a slightly sarcastic voice answered and Alex cursed under her breath. She sat up and swung her long legs over the edge of the bed.

"Sorry mother, I....you just woke me up."

"Then itís a good thing I called," the older woman continued in a dry voice. "Have you forgotten about brunch today?"

"No... I mean yes...I canít make it," Alex replied glancing over her shoulder at the young woman who was laying quietly in bed. Total silence greeted her announcement. It was the kind of silence that told the dark haired woman that something was wrong.

"Have you forgotten we are celebrating Lawrenceís birthday today?" there was a hint of reprimand in the voice. "You did promise to be here."

Shit! Alex thought closing her eyes. She knew her mother would never forgive her if she didnít show up. She glanced at the clock on the bedside table. It read ten.

"What time are you serving?" she asked with resignation.

"Eleven and donít sound so happy about it," the woman replied dryly. "What time will you be here?"

"Give me an hour," she said and watched with some dismay as Sydney rolled out of bed and padded over to the washroom.

"All right, weíll hold lunch until you arrive," her mother replied and by the time they rang off Sydney

had returned to the room fully dressed.

"Sorry," Alex shrugged helplessly as their eyes met.

"I understand," Sydney smiled though it didnít reach her eyes.

"Can I at least make you some breakfast?" Alex asked, inwardly cursing the phone call, aware that if she hadnít answered it she would be making love to this woman now.

"No, itís all right, I know youíre in a hurry," the smaller woman shook her head running her fingers through her hair. "Iíll just call a cab."

"If you can wait a few minutes until I shower, Iíll drive you," Alex said rising to her feet, her eyes not leaving her companion.

"No, I can catch a taxi," the blond woman said unable to meet the intense blue gaze that was turned in her direction. Her companion moved so quietly that she didnít hear her cross the distance that separated them.

"No," the taller woman said softly grasping the smaller womanís chin and lifting it so that their eyes could meet. "I want to take you home...please."

For a long moment Sydney was captured by the fierce gaze and briefly she felt herself falling into those blue orbs. Her breathing became ragged and not trusting herself to speak she closed her eyes and nodded her head. A flood of pleasure washed over Alex and unable to resist she leaned forward and brushed her lips across the smaller womanís mouth before hurrying into the bathroom to shower.

The blond detective swayed and grabbed at the end of the bed so she wouldnít go crashing to the floor. She was no innocent but she had never been so overwhelmed by any one individual before. Somehow she managed to walk out of the bedroom into the living room, slumping into the nearest chair, still afraid her unsteady legs would give out.

She sat quietly, staring at the wall and thinking about the last forty eight hours. She had never felt such a whirlwind of emotions and she knew without a doubt that she was in love with her companion. It was a love that would have been consummated if the phone hadnít rung.

Damn, she cursed the invention and leaned her head back against the sofa, closing her eyes to wait for her friend to finish getting ready, knowing in her heart that with this woman it would be all or nothing.

She wanted to give it all. For the first time in her life she could see herself having everything that she had ever dreamed about but was afraid to go after. With Alex she could see herself settled with a family and all the things she never had as a child. For a long moment she allowed herself to daydream about that fantasy.

Alex hurried through her morning routine, showering and dressing quickly, aware that her companion

was waiting. She paused in the hallway, her eyes coming to rest on the young woman who was so casually lounging on the sofa. It was strange but of everyone who had visited, Sydney was the only one who seemed comfortable. It was as if she fit into the picture. The thought caused her heart to skip a beat.

They had known each other for such a short time yet this woman had become so important to her.

In that moment she realized she would do anything for this small woman. She would go to the ends

of the earth and back to protect her.

"You ready to go?" she asked abruptly, realizing that if she lingered any longer neither of them would be going anywhere.

"Yep," the blond woman was immediately on her feet.

The ride back to Sydneyís apartment was done in almost total silence as both women were content to dwell on their own thoughts. There was an awkward moment when they finally arrived at their destination. Neither knew what to say.

"Thanks, I really enjoyed myself," Sydney said breaking the silence.

"I did too," Alex nodded. "What will you be doing with the rest of your day?"

"Iíll probably do my laundry and clean the apartment," the blond woman crinkled her nose with a light smile.

"Sounds like fun," the Lieutenant flashed a tentative grin but it quickly faded. "Listen, if you get bored give me a call. I should be home later this afternoon."

"I will," Sydney nodded and then before it got any harder she hopped out of the car and hurried up the steps to her building.

The family had already sat down to eat by the time Alex arrived. She flashed an apologetic smile at her frowning mother as she slipped into a vacant chair and then pretended to concentrate on what was being said. As usual the topic of discussion revolved around a recent ruling by the Supreme Court.

She tried to show interest but her thoughts were elsewhere, unable to stop thinking of Sydney and wondering what the other woman was doing. Briefly she began to speculate how long she would have to stay before it was acceptable to leave. Certainly her mother would not be pleased if she only ate and ran, so she took a deep breath and resigned herself to remain at least for a few hours.

After dessert, they moved to the sitting room where the gifts were brought out and the toasts made. Alex had never been close to her eldest brother, the ten year difference in their ages sometimes seeming like a lifetime. They had nothing in common, not even sports, which was an interest she shared with her other siblings.

Of all her family, Lawrence was the one who most objected to her lifestyle, not that he dared to

express his opinion. They had been all brought up to respect other peopleís choices, but she could sense the subtle hints that he disagreed with how she lived her life. Not that she cared what he thought.

She glanced absently at her nieces and nephews who were sprawled on the floor playing a board

game. They were having a slight argument about whose turn it was and with an amused smile she

heard one accuse the other of cheating.

She felt a special warmth towards them and for the first time she thought it might be nice to have children of her own. Until now she had never seriously considered having a baby, theorizing that her life as a cop was to unstable. Yet there was still a part of her that hoped to have a family of her own.

Her thoughts drifted for a moment as she wondered whether Sydney had ever considered being a mother. It would be something she would have to ask the younger woman, though she knew it wouldnít matter what the answer was.

"Hey sis," Andrew tapped her arm, bringing her out of her thoughtful reverie, as he slipped into the chair next to her.

"What?"

"You seem to be way out there for a moment," he said with a wry smile. "Should I ask what or who you are thinking about?"

"Nothing important," she replied with a slight blush, embarrassed by the fact that he had caught her daydreaming. Her momentary confusion caused him to chuckle.

"Nothing important, right," he snorted. "Iíll bet it was five and a half feet of blond hair and green eyes."

"Stop," she hissed with a glare, glancing fugitively at the rest of her family and glad that they had not

heard any of their conversation. "That subject is strictly off limits."

"Okay, okay, I can take a hint," he said putting his hands up defensively.

"Good," she said and without another word she stood up and walked out of the room. She was quickly followed by several adoring children.

Andrew watched her retreat. He knew by his sisterís reaction that the blond woman was no casual fling and that gave him cause for concern. He wanted Alex to be happy yet he was also worried about her future. He glanced about the room seeing that the rest of the family had not noticed her departure. By the stream of conversation it was unlikely either of them would be missed and so he slipped out after his younger sibling.

He found her by the garage on the basketball court surrounded by a rapt group of youngsters to whom she was demonstrating a few simple ball handling skills. He hung back and watched not missing the intelligent way she treated each child. It occurred to him that she would be a good

mother. He waited a few minutes before joining them.

"So this is where youíre hiding," he smirked, snatching the ball out of her hands and firing a shot at the basket. Their nephews shouted with glee as the sphere swished through the net. He turned to grin

at his taller sibling.

"Iím not hiding," Alex retorted grabbing the ball as it came bouncing back towards them. "Iím just enjoying the company of my nieces and nephews."

She flashed a charming smile at the small group of children before spinning around on her heel and releasing the ball. They paused to watch as it sailed through the air and into the net. Her effort was rewarded by a cheer from the girls whom she acknowledged with a bow before trotting over to the retrieve the bouncing orb. With a quick spin she flipped a pass at her brother who was barely swift enough to grab it.

"I hear youíre making waves over in homicide," he commented bouncing the ball a few times before tossing it into the air. The ball banged against the backboard and dropped into the net.

"Just doing what I was hired to do," she replied softly doing a lay up before flipping the ball back at the older man.

"Word has it that youíre being bumped up the ladder," he commented quietly and Alex looked at him intently.

"Where did you hear that?" she demanded. Information about her new appointment wasnít supposed to be released until tomorrow at the press conference. It bothered her that someone had already gone ahead and leaked the news.

"I have friends all over the city," he replied flipping the ball and watching as it dropped neatly through the netting. His sister retrieved the sphere and bounced it a few times. "Is it true?"

"Yeah," she nodded relieved that she could finally confide in someone. "George Ford is serious about cleaning up the Department. He couldnít trust anyone currently in the chain of command to be objective so thatís why I was hired."

"You realize there is going to be a hell of a fall out," he commented and she mutely nodded tossing

the ball at the basket and watching as it swooshed cleanly through the netting.

"Iím used to it," she replied, seemingly unfazed by the prospect. She caught the bouncing ball and one handed it to her brother. "Thatís what I did in Chicago and L.A.. You forget that I have another degree besides law. Iím used to being the bad guy and taking all the flack."

Andrew thoughtfully bounced the ball a few times. He knew that Alex was a intelligent and tough character. She had graduated from Southern Cal with two degrees and then in the intervening years had earned not only a law degree but also a Masters of Business Administration. Her success at times was intimidating.

He had heard all the accolades from the Chicago and Los Angeles Police Departments where she had spent the last twelve years before accepting the job here. Everyone was familiar with her reputation and it was no secret why the current Commissioner had hired her. He concentrated on the shot for a moment before tossing the ball and watching as it hit the backboard and bounced into

the hoop. This time he retrieved the ball.

"Christie told me that you met Sydney at work," he said idly and Alex glanced sharply in his direction as he snapped her the ball.

"Yes, sheís a Detective Sergeant in the Homicide Unit," the woman confirmed, instinctively knowing that her brother was trying to get at something.

"Under the circumstances do you think thatís wise, hanging around with her?" he was blunt with his question and without looking at him she tossed the ball sinking another clean shot.

"What are you getting at Andrew?" she grabbed the bouncing ball, and then in a tiny display of temper, flung it at him with more force then necessary.

"Nothing," he said shooting the ball and watching as it hit the rim and bounded away. Alex had to move quickly to catch it before it bounced off the court. "But can I give you a word of advice?"

"What?" she asked in a tight voice, briefly leveling a cool gaze in his direction.

"Watch yourself," he cautioned as she made a shot from outside the circle. They watched as it sailed through the air and into the basket. "Your installation has caused a few people to be bent out of shape. Theyíre going to feel even worse with this new appointment."

"You know I donít care about that," she chided gently as she strolled over to him, the ball tucked

under her arm. For a moment dull grey eyes met piercing blue ones. "What are you really trying to say?"

"I want you to be careful sis," Andrew said flatly, knowing there was no way out of this conversation and briefly wishing he had kept his mouth shut. "I havenít got anything against the way you conduct your life but there are others who might be prepared to use it against you. They will be looking for anything."

"I appreciate your concern bro, but Iím a big girl. Iíve been through this before," she handed him the ball and he looked at it thoughtfully, turning it over in his hands.

"I donít think you have," he shook his head and she turned to look at him. "You werenít gay before."

"What?" Alex was stunned. She had expected this kind of attitude from others but not her brother who

had always been supportive.

"Come on sis. Whether you want to believe it or not it makes a difference and you are in an old boys network," he continued hastily recognizing the glint in her eyes. She snatched the ball out of his hands and bounced it a few times before tossing it at the basket. It sailed through the net but unlike

before this time she did not try to retrieve it. She turned to face the man.

"The fact that Iím gay means absolutely nothing," she said in a terse voice. "It doesnít affect my job in the slightest. I had hoped you would know that."

"I do but others might not," Andrew sighed aware that this conversation was going badly. "Nobody wants to see you get hurt. You might be tough enough to survive this, hell you have a hide of leather but what about Sydney? When they find out about whatís going on between the two of you, they will roast you alive. Neither of you will come out of this unscathed."

He paused to catch his breath, unable to stop now that he had started. "I know you, youíve got a horseshoe up your ass and will be able to find something else to do but what about her? if sheís lucky she might still have a job on foot patrol writing citations on illegally parked cars. Do you really want to put her through that?"

There was silence and the tension was so thick that it was almost visible. He looked at his sister, aware of the intelligence behind the pale eyes that were now focused intently on him. There was a curtain over those orbs so that he could not tell what she was thinking and unconsciously he shifted on his feet.

"Think about it Alex, you are her boss," he said quietly, wanting to make her understand what was all at risk. "I liked your friend but do you think it wise to set yourselves up for that type of fall? I donít think you want her to get hurt. I know, I donít."

Alex was silent. The manís words struck a cord that run right through her heart. She hadnít thought about it that way and that realization made her angry. Perhaps she hadnít wanted to think about it. She turned away unable to show him how deeply the words cut.

"No, I know you donít, but it seems you donít want me to be happy either," she said in a cool voice before stalking away leaving the man standing alone on the court.

As much as she tried to dismiss his words they just wouldnít leave her head. She went over the conversation, and no matter how she analyzed it, the conclusion was always the same. Andrew was right about everything and that realization made her crazy. If the Department found out about Sydney and her, it would be the end of someoneís career.

She returned home to slump listless and weary on to the sofa. She lay her head back and allowed the tears to spill from her eyes. It was ironic that she had finally found someone she could give her heart too, and she couldnít give it. She couldnít risk the chance of Sydney getting hurt that way. She wouldnít be able to live with herself if their involvement cost the other woman her career. It would be better to let go now before they were unable to turn back the clock.

As if summoned by her thoughts the phone rang but Alex didnít answer, instinctively knowing who was on the other end. Her emotions were to raw to talk to anyone, so she merely stood up and walked out of the room while it was still ringing.

Sydney put the phone down unable to quell the flood of disappointment that washed over her senses.

All day she had moped around the apartment going listlessly about her chores and feeling more restless as the day worn on. She had watched the minutes tick by, waiting for an hour when she thought that the other woman might be home.

I wonder where she is, she thought impatiently. It was already the dinner hour and she was certain

that the woman would have been home by now. But perhaps something had come up. She has her own life that doesnít include you, she chided herself trying to find some explanation.

"This is stupid," she admonished out loud. "Iím not a schoolgirl any more who has to sit by the phone and wait for it to ring."

That decided she threw on a pair of cargo pants and a casual shirt before grabbing her car keys. There was work down at the station awaiting her attention. At least she would be able to accomplish more there then at home where her thoughts were centring around one tall dark haired woman.

 

Alex woke the next morning feeling tired and uneasy. She dressed in one of her best black suits, aware that the press engagement was scheduled for mid-morning and that she had a breakfast appointment with the Mayor and the Commissioner prior to the conference. It was a meeting that she was not looking forward too. It certainly wasnít the way she wanted to start a new week off.

She sighed and strolled out into the living room, glancing at the phone by the sofa. The answering machine was blinking red and she hesitated a moment before pressing the button to review the messages. As she suspected it was from Sydney.

"Hey, just called to say hi," the voice sounded shy and insecure. "I guess youíre not home yet. Hope your day went okay. Call me when you get in."

There was a slight pause and then silence as the phone hung up. A wave of misery rolled over her emotions and she closed her eyes to prevent any tears from escaping. She took a deep breath before collecting her keys and walking out of the apartment.

 

Sydney arrived late for work that Monday, feeling better than she could ever remember being in spite of her inability to reach Alex the previous evening. It had been a wonderful weekend and today her testimony had helped convict a known felon.

She noticed something different the moment she stepped into the station house that afternoon. There was a thick tension in the air. As usual, the first thing she did upon arriving at the squad room was to glance at the Lieutenantís office but it was empty. It seemed she needed to look at the woman to begin her day. She took off her coat and plunked down at her desk.

"Whereís Marshall?" she asked of Norm unable to keep her curiosity to herself, more then a little worried that the Lieutenantís absence was related in some way to her inability to reach the other woman the previous night.

"A meeting with the brass I think," the veteran detective shrugged.

"Why is everyone so moody around here?" was the next question and the man leaned back on his chair and eyed her intently. Somehow he thought she would know before anyone else.

"You didnít hear the news?"

"What news?" she asked looking at the man. Inexplicably she felt a wave of panic flood her senses. "I was in court all day. The verdict was being read in the Reid Jones case."

"Howíd it turn out?"

"He got convicted of second degree murder," she said. "What news did I miss?"

"Captain Carner is out. He was transferred over to North Division along with Lieutenant Messington. Lt. Gill took an early retirement."

"What happened to Marshall?"

The question caught the older detective off guard. He had naturally assumed that she would know for he had noticed what was going on. He had no problem with the two women being together but perhaps he had read the situation wrong, though he would have bet money against that.

"Sheís the new Captain," Norm replied watching the woman for some reaction. "Lt. Scarferelli from Vice has been moved in to do the evening shift and Lt. Howe from Northside Division was moved in to do nights. The Captain is going to handle the day rotation. Personally, I think its a good move for the unit."

But not for me, Sydney thought dismally and then wondered why Alex hadnít mentioned anything to her. She couldnít of course, she realized yet there was something about the whole situation that left her feeling terribly uneasy.

She didnít ask any more questions and Norm didnít voluntary any more information. She tried to focus on her caseload but often found her mind and eyes wandering towards the Lieutenantís office, as she considered the ramifications of this new development.

Surely it wonít affect our budding relationship, will it? She wondered and then realized with fatal clarity that it did. One consequence would undoubtably be that she would see Alex even less then she did now. Morosely she wondered if their fledging relationship could survive or if Alex would even want to continue pursuing their friendship.

They were two very different people yet they had found some common interests and the few times they had been out together had proven that they were more than compatible. Neither could deny the fact that they were attracted to each other. Yet she wondered if that would be enough.

She sighed, the jovial mood she felt earlier disappearing under a cloud of despair. For the first time in her life she had been ready, no eager, to give herself completely to someone else. She cursed that fateful phone call that had interrupted them that morning, instinctively knowing that had they made love it would have been a totally different situation. Determined not to give in to the depression that

threatened to engulf her, she threw all her attention into her work.

Alex was in meetings all afternoon and couldnít help wishing for the day when all the hoopla settled

down so that they could get on with the business of fighting crime. More than once her thoughts drifted to Sydney. The blond detective would have heard the news by now and she wondered what the woman would think. She would be happy for her of course, but what else the smaller woman would think, she couldnít say.

It was early evening when she was finally done with the top brass. She wandered back to her office in the squad room. She had been given the choice of moving into the old Captainís office in the First Squadís room but had decided to keep her own office where it was. She had grown accustomed to the space and had only to glance up to see Sydneyís blond head. The young detective was at her desk when she entered and looked up, flashing a tentative smile.

"Can I see you in my office?" Alex said in a voice so formal that inwardly it even made her wince. The blond detective stood up and followed the Lieutenant, squaring her shoulders and bracing herself for what she knew was to come.

"Congratulations," Sydney spoke first hoping to delay the bad news. She continued to stand even while the other woman sat down behind her desk.

"Thanks," Alex nodded unable to look at the woman as she tried to form the words in her head. Subconsciously she knew that it was so difficult because she didnít want to say anything. "Sydney, I think we should cool things between us."

Suddenly hearing the words spoken out loud she realized how badly they sounded. Alex felt a wave of panic rush through her body. She glanced up and briefly saw the look of indescribable hurt before the normally expressive green eyes went blank.

"Itís just that..." the dark haired woman began to explain but she was interrupted by a sharp voice.

"You donít have to say anything," Sydney said finally able to push down the incredible pain that threatened to overwhelm her senses. She took a lung full of air and realized that it hurt even to breath. "I understand that with your new position we wonít be able to see each other any more."

"Itís not my career Iím worried about....," Alex tried once again but her words were brushed aside by the other woman who impatiently interrupted.

"Of course it is. Hell, you could lose your job if they knew you were slumming around with me and I understand how important your career is to you, so nothing more has to be said."

With that she turned on her heel and stormed out of the office not even pausing to grab her coat

before stalking out of the squad room. Alex watched the woman leave her heart shattering into tiny pieces. She had thought they could end it before anyone got hurt but it was already to late.

Oh God, what have I done? the tall woman asked herself. You threw it away, came the unspoken answer. But I had too, she reasoned intelligently. Did you? came the reply and burying her head in

her hands she tried to figure out if that was the truth.

The next few weeks were torture and the only relief that either woman felt was that they didnít see each other that often. In an attempt to alleviate the pain, Alex threw herself completely into her new job, undertaking the huge task of revamping the Unit so that it would work more efficiently. After careful consideration she re-wrote several of the Unitís existing policies and circulated memoís with the new guidelines that she wanted the department to follow.

Meanwhile Sydney buried herself completely in her caseload, putting long hours in to solve the murders that came her way. Her clearance rate, as well as those of the other detectives, began to climb and morale in the unit seemed to lift. There were changes to the way the Unit was to be run and with it came a new mood and the beginning of cooperation. Anyone who fought the changes were quickly reassigned.

"Is your friend coming tonight?" Skinny asked when she showed up that Thursday night at St. Maryís for their regular basketball game.

"No," Sydney shook her head though she held out a faint hope that by some miracle Alex would show up. But in the same thought she realized that the other woman wouldnít do that to her. If anything Alex would purposefully avoid being anywhere that they might meet.

"Too bad," the man commented sensing something more in the solemn voice of his small friend.

"Yeah," the blond woman nodded and then grabbed the ball from his hands determined not to let thoughts of the other woman ruin her evening. "Letís play."

 

Alex briefly considered going over to St. Maryís that evening but then realized it wouldnít be fair to the other woman. That was Sydneyís domain and it would be inconsiderate of her to impede on her personal space. It was strange how she missed the other woman even though they had known each other for such a short time.

She sighed and flipped over the document she was reading, glancing briefly at the clock on her desk. It was already eight in the evening yet she had no desire to go back to an empty apartment. She didnít want to be alone, so she merely opened another file and continued working.

 

"Okay listen up folks," Lt. Scarferelli barked in a loud voice in an attempt to get the attention of the detectives who had gathered in the conference room just prior to the beginning of the night shift. He waited until there was silence before continuing. "We have a few new policies that are to take affect immediately."

His words elicited a series of groans from the detectives gathered and Sydney glanced curiously at her colleagues wondering why they were voicing their objections to something they didnít yet know. She accepted the sheet of paper the Lieutenant was disturbing around the room.

"Now I want you to read these very carefully," the commander said once he was back up at the front

of the room. "The Captain is serious about these policies and she wants them enforced. Anyone not complying with these rules will automatically be subjected to disciplinary measures."

Sydney scanned the paper curiously reading the new policies, one of which was a mandatory

provision for all officers to wear bullet proof vests when going out to make a collar. There were others outlining new interview techniques and fresh guidelines for the filing of reports. In all the policies seemed to be positive but then she knew that Alexís first concern was the Department. Unlike others the new Captain had no personal agenda except to improve the overall performance of her command.

"All right, now that we have that business cleared up, I need some volunteers for the holiday season," Lt. Scarferelliís announcement was greeted with a collective set of groans. Sydney glanced around the room and saw that most eyes were turned to the floor.

"I volunteer," she spoke up lifting her hand. She had no place to go and most of her colleagues had families with whom they wished to spend the holidays.

"Good," the man smiled appreciating her support. "All right I need at least one more of you."

In the end Sydney signed on for double shifts right through the holiday season. It wasnít the overtime she was after, she just had no desire to sit home alone on the holidays. Even working murder cases was more appealing. Besides she hadnít really celebrated Christmas in such a long time, she had pretty much forgotten what it was like.

Alex was in her office staring out the window watching the rain come down. In spite of the progress the Department had made in the last few weeks she felt like something incredibly important was missing. She knew what it was yet she failed to admit the truth. The knock on the door rousted her from her thoughts.

"Iíve finished up the holiday schedule for you," Lou Scarferelli said upon entering. He handed her the sheets and she hastily glanced at the names.

"Why is Davis scheduled for all those doubles?" there was a frown on her face.

"She volunteered. Says she doesnít mind the overtime and sheís got no family, so she figures to let some of the other guys take the time off," the man said and Alex felt as if a giant hand had reached inside her chest and squeezed her heart.

"Thanks," she abruptly dismissed him not waiting for the man to leave before accessing the Departmentsí personnel files. She punched in Sydneyís name and the information she required and within seconds all the data she wanted was up on the screen.

According to payroll records, Sydney had worked every Christmas and New Years since joining the police force nine years earlier. The knowledge made tears pool in the Captainís eyes as she realized the girl probably had nowhere to go.

She felt utterly miserable. She had never believed that one person could so completely influence

another personís life yet here she was living proof of that truth. It was ironic that her emotions, once so tightly under control, were now dependent on a single person. This must be what itís like to be in

love, she admitted in defeat. Her misery was only compounded by a call from the receptionist

informing her that her mother was there to see her.

Alex stepped out into the squad room, her eyes briefly glancing over to where Sydney was sitting at her desk talking on the phone, before continuing on to the elegant grey haired lady who was sitting primly on a wooden bench by the door. Her gloved hands were clutching the strap of her purse which was sitting upright on her lap. Today as everyday the older woman was dressed elegantly in a green tweed wool suit with a long black leather coat.

"Mom, what are you doing here?" she asked giving the woman a brief hug.

"Iíve never seen where youíve worked," the older woman said her grey eyes surveying the scene around the room. Briefly they came to rest on a small blond woman who was looking at her daughter with the oddest expression. She turned her attention back to her tall off spring. "Itís been a while since anyoneís seen you and as you havenít come to brunch lately, I thought Iíd come to you."

"Mom, Iíve been busy," Alex started to protest but the older woman held up her hand to silence her daughter. She was not willing to hear any more excuses.

"Too busy to see your family?"

The taller woman remained silent, unwilling to answer the pointed question. Marie saw something in her daughters blue eyes before a shutter went over them blocking out any opportunity for her to see what the girl was thinking.

"We need to talk," Marie decided in a firm voice that said there would be no more discussion. "Go get your coat."

Alex knew it was useless to argue and so did as she was told, muttering softly to herself as she retreated to her office to collect her jacket, almost afraid of what her mother would have to say. The older woman rarely interfered in her childrenís life and when she did it was because she thought that child was in trouble. Now she wished she had gone to brunch instead of making excuses.

Marie glanced thoughtfully around the dull room wondering what her daughter saw in the place. Her eyes came to rest briefly on the slender blond woman again and this time the girl was looking at her with interest, but when their eyes met the younger woman hastily averted her attention.

The older woman pursed her lips together and looked across at her daughter who was emerging now from her office. Like before those piercing blue eyes settled briefly on the blond woman with an expression in their depths that caught her totally by surprise. She thought about what Andrew had told her.

"Now, what is so important that you have to drag me away from work?" Alex asked once they were settled into the quaint Italian restaurant that she had first visited with Sydney several months earlier.

"You are," Marie said succinctly, glancing up from the menu to stare across at her daughter. "Whatís

going on?"

"What do you mean?"

"You have been moping around for weeks and donít deny it," the woman paused fixing her daughter with an intense look. "Who is he?"

"She, mother," Alex let out an exasperated sigh. "She!"

"Okay, I know, I just thought Iíd give it a shot," her mother chuckled. "Who is she?"

"What makes you think this has anything to do with anyone?" the younger woman asked irritably.

"Give me some credit dear, Iíve watched all three of your brothers go through the same thing," the older woman said with wry amusement.

"There is no one mom," Alex sighed heavily.

"Thatís not what you told me a few weeks ago," Marie disagreed and watched as her daughter closed her eyes. Alex wished she had kept her mouth shut. "Whatís wrong?"

"Nothings wrong, it just didnít work out."

"But obviously you wanted it to," Marie said staring intently at her daughter trying to read what the girl wouldnít say.

"Yes," the younger woman admitted reluctantly, something she had been trying to deny herself now for several weeks. "Sheís a cop. So you see the difficulties."

In a flash of insight Marie knew exactly who her daughter was talking about. She thought back to the small blond woman she had seen in the police station. There had been a similar sadness in her eyes. The same expression of unhappiness that now decorated her daughters face.

"Do you love...her?"

Alex was silent for a long moment and her mother had her answer. She had such high hopes for her youngest child and though Alex believed she had disappointed her parents, that was the furthest from the truth. More then any of their sons, they were prouder still of their only daughter. She had grown into a beautiful woman who had independently carved out an impressive career in the law enforcement field.

"Itís career suicide," the girl finally said unable to meet her motherís probing eyes.

"I know your career is important dear, but twenty years from now is that all you want," Marie paused deciding to be blunt. "Is your career keeping you warm in bed at night?"

"Mother!"

"Well!" the older woman was pointed.

"I thought you didnít like the idea of me being gay," Alex said defensively.

"I donít," the older woman was honest. "But worse then that I donít like the idea of you being alone and unhappy. All I want for you Alexandria is happiness and if this woman makes you happy then I can say nothing against it."

The older woman paused her grey eyes narrowing as she studied her daughters face. She could see the hurt in her childís eyes and the sight bothered her. Alex had always been so resilient, even as a child. But she had learned that the tough exterior her daughter showed was a mask for a gentle and emotional soul.

"I know you dear, you donít give your affectations away very easily, so this must be one special lady."

"She is," Alex conceded in a soft voice.

"And you willing to throw her away because of your career?" Marie asked bluntly.

"I donít want to hurt her."

"Donít you think youíre doing that now?" her mother wanted to know. "Dear, we only go around once in life. Unfortunately we rarely get a second chance. Can you really afford to miss this one?"

"Itís not so simple mother," Alex felt weighted down with her burden. "I am her direct supervisor. If anyone one in the Department found out we were together the chances are that one or both of us would be fired. I have my law degree to fall back on but the Police Force is Sydneyís life. I couldnít risk that."

"Did you ask her how she felt about it?" Marie wanted to know and from the guilty look on her daughters face she knew the decision had been made independent of the other womanís feelings.

The older woman sighed. "You were always such a stoic young woman, even as a child. It was like you had the burden of the world on your shoulders.

"I know growing up with three older brothers wasnít the easiest thing and that you were always forced to compete. I also know there were plenty of times when you sacrificed herself to fit in at school and at sport.... even with your family in regards to your sexuality," the older woman paused aware that she had her daughters complete attention. "Itís time to stop sacrificing things. Donít forfeit your happiness, dear. A successful career means nothing unless you have someone to share it with."

 

Sydney was glad for the call that took her out of the office. She didnít want to see Alex again that afternoon. There was something about seeing the tall woman with her mother that made her realize how empty her own life was.

She had missed so much growing up without a stable home life. There were times like now when she desperately wished there was someone she could turn too. Sure Robert Newlie and his wife were good friends but she hated going to them with her problems. What she wanted was a family of her

own, but she sadly realized that she probably would never have that.

 

Alex was relieved when she returned to the squad room and found that Sydney was out. It gave her time to think about what her mother had said but before she had a chance the phone rang. It was Dawn Taylor, a woman in the persecutors office with whom she had become friends over the course of the last few months.

Dawn was a vivacious woman who was quite open about her sexuality not allowing it to interfere with her career in the District Attorneys office. Alex had spoken to the woman several times about that over the course of their friendship and unexpectedly she now found herself pouring out her troubles to the woman.

"I think what you did was the right thing," Dawn said cautiously after her friend blurted out the reason for her solemn mood. "Eventually it would have run into problems."

"But I canít stop thinking about her," Alex sighed. "I close my eyes at night and all I see is five and a half feet of blond hair and green eyes."

"Have you gone out lately?" the other woman asked practically.

"No."

"Well, thereís the problem," Dawn announced. "Instead of trying to get over her, youíre sitting home stewing about this. Honestly, Alex you wonít know for sure how you feel until you start going out again."

"Perhaps," the dark haired woman conceded reluctantly, even though the whole idea of dating made her cringe.

"Listen, my partner Lisa and I are going out tomorrow with a mutual friend. Why donít you join us and make it a foursome?"

"Youíre not trying to set me up are you?" Alex was suspicious.

"No, Karen just got out of a lengthy relationship, sheís not ready to get involved with anyone," Dawn assured her. "It will just be a fun night out."

"Okay," the dark haired woman agreed, realizing that maybe her friend was right. Perhaps all she needed was to go out and meet someone different. For the time being she dismissed her mothers words of advice.

Sydney was restless. It was Saturday and though she had nothing to do, she purposefully stayed away from the station house, afraid she might accidentally run into Alex. It was growing harder for

her to see the other woman.

Unable to spend another night alone, she decided to go out. Maybe she would be lucky and find someone and then for at least a few hours she would be able to forget about the woman who had broken her heart. With that thought in mind she soon found herself in one of the cities most popular gay clubs.

She wasnít really into the bar scene yet it would be the only place she would find what she was looking for. She glanced around the dance floor, watching without any real interest as the women moved their bodies to the beat of the music.

During her survey she captured the attention of several women but she ignored them. None compared to a certain tall dark haired woman she knew. Finally her eyes settled on a small woman with short curly red hair. She wanted to find someone as different from the Captain as she could get and this woman seemed to fit the bill.

 

Alex followed her companions into the club. The bar was full yet somehow her friend Dawn managed to find them an empty table near the dance floor. While the couple went off to fetch drinks, she was left to entertain the fourth member of their party. For once she was grateful for the loud music for it prevented the need to make conversation.

Karen, her companion, was a tall blond computer specialist. She was intelligent and had a certain appeal but Alex wasnít even remotely interested. Over the course of the evening she had discerned that the woman was high maintenance and her own tastes were for a more independent partner.

She smiled politely at the woman before focusing her attention on the dance floor. Almost from the outset of the evening she had realized going out was a mistake. She wasnít ready to start looking for someone else and she wasnít certain she even wanted too. Just as she thought about Sydney a startling image entered her field of view. At first she thought she was imagining things but then with gut wrenching certainty she knew the scene was all to real.

At a table on the opposite side of the dance floor was Sydney. Next to her was a young woman with curly red hair whose her hands were all over the blond woman who, didnít seem to mind the attention. For a moment Alex forgot to breath and her heart stopped beating.

Tears pooled unexpectedly in her eyes and she fought to control the expression on her face but she couldnít look away, not even when her friends returned to the table. She remained completely focused on Sydney and the other woman who was crawling all over her friend.

Alex felt a sense of panic. Her first instinct was to turn and run away but then her mothers words echoed in her head. Marie Marshall had always been very fairminded and blunt with her opinions. Whenever a situation arose her mother would step back and assess it and then come up with a solution. Ninety nine per cent of the time she would be right, much to the chagrin of the rest of her family. Alex had grown up learning to heed the advice her mother dispensed. She wondered why she had not listened to the woman now.

There were so many reasonís not to get involved with the young detective yet she had ignored the one overriding factor. She had never been as happy as when she was with Sydney and she knew that given the chance they could be more than just lovers. They could be friends. With startling clarity she knew that she didnít just want Sydney in her life, she needed her.

She took a swallow from her beer and stood up, ignoring her companions inquires. She was completely focused on only one thing. She wasnít going to let Sydney get away and she didnít care what it would cost her. She made straight for the other table her eyes never losing track of the

blond woman.

"Excuse me, would you like to dance?"

Even through the blare of music Sydney recognized the warm tremor of the voice and for a moment she closed her eyes and savoured the sound. Her heart was pounding so wildly she was afraid to look, scared that her heart would shatter if it wasnít the woman she wanted.

"Sheís taken if you canít already see," the red headed woman said in a shrill voice. Her green eyes narrowed and the expression on her face became unpleasant as she looked up at this tall intruder. As an extra measure she put a possessive arm around her companionís waist.

"Are you really taken Sydney?" Alex asked afraid that she had hurt this woman to much to be forgiven.

This time Sydney did look at the voice and her heart melted. She wanted to be angry, to make this woman hurt and jealous as she felt but there was such a beseeching look on the tall womanís face that she was powerless to resist.

"Yes," she answered in a low voice and she watched as a crestfallen look came over Alexís face before the stoic mask once again curtained her emotions.

"Iím sorry to have bothered you," she said in a trembling voice, her whole heart crumbling into tiny pieces.

Alex turned to go and Sydney knew in that instant that if she didnít act the other woman would be gone for good. She broke free of the red headed woman and grabbed the Captainís arm. For a long

moment green and blue eyes met.

"You have me Alex," she confessed laying out her emotions for the other woman to see. "You own me, heart and soul."

Alex felt her heart soar. It was like it had suddenly grown wings and was flying. She held out her hand and Sydney tentatively placed her own inside.

"Hey," the red headed woman complained angrily grabbing Sydneyís arm and tugging. "Where are you going?"

"Sheís coming with me," Alex said softly, her lips curling in a firm line as she stepped menacingly

towards the other woman. For a brief instant their gazes locked. "Do you want to argue about it?"

"You bitch, youíre not worth the trouble," the girl sneered and released her grip and with a tender smile the Captain lead her out onto the dance floor. They stood there for a moment just looking at each other.

"Listen, I donít really want to dance," Alex said reaching out and combing a strand of blond hair behind her ear. "Can we go some place and talk?"

There was a hint of pleading in the solemn voice that reached into the smaller womanís heart and twisted it around. She would never deny the dark haired woman anything and so mutely nodded her head.

"Where do you want to go?" Sydney asked once they were sitting in her jeep outside in the parking lot.

"Would you mind coming over to my place?" the tall woman asked. She didnít want to pressure this woman into anything but she wanted to be some place secure and comfortable when she said her piece. "I can make some coffee?"

The blond woman nodded her head though she wasnít certain it was the best idea. She pushed down her fears and started the vehicle. They drove in silence through the dark streets, the occasional sound of a siren punctuating the night. Within half an hour they were walking through the doorway of the apartment.

"How do you like your coffee?" Alex asked breaking the silence as she tossed off her coat and headed towards the kitchen.

"Actually, Iíd rather have a beer if you have any," Sydney said and the other woman nodded.

"Make yourself at home," she said before disappearing into the next room.

Sydney did as she was told, shrugging out of her bomber jacket and hanging it on a hook by the door. She moved into the living room and sat down on the edge of the sofa. She had missed visiting this place, liking it more then her own small apartment. In a short time her hostess reappeared with an two bottles of beer. She passed one to her companion and then sat down on the chair opposite the other woman. There was a moment of silence as both women took a sip of their drinks.

"Iíve missed you," Alex began, glancing nervously across at the other woman. Now that she had the woman here she wasnít sure what she wanted or needed to do.

"We see each other at work all the time," Sydney replied softly not making it easy.

"Iíve missed spending time with you," Alex sighed. "Iím tired of watching you from a distance."

"You were the one who decided it wasnít good for either of our futures to be seen together," the younger woman reminded quietly. It was the truth and Alex nodded solemnly, picking nervously at

the label on her bottle. Sydney watched quietly her heart quivering with emotion.

"It was a mistake. I thought that staying away from each other would be the best thing for both our careers," she said fumbling for the right words to convey her feelings.

"You had no right to make that decision for me," Sydney said and the tall woman nodded their eyes meeting briefly.

"I realize that now," she looked away with a flush of embarrassment, aware of the intense green eyes that were staring at her. "My mother brought that point to my attention."

"I thought she didnít like that you were gay?" the blond woman said softly.

"She doesnít which is why this advice is all that more remarkable," Alex sighed. "I didnít want to

listen to her even though my heart told me to believe it was true. But when I saw you tonight with that other woman, I knew that she would get to do everything with you that I wanted to do and I knew I couldnít let you go. You are too important to me. More important then my career."

There was a pause as the dark haired woman glanced up and captured her with those intense blue eyes. Alex was willing to sacrifice her career for a relationship, all she needed to know was if this woman felt the same.

"I need to know if youíre willing to risk your career, to be with me?" Alex said with a deep breath.

There was silence for a long moment as Sydney didnít immediately trust herself to speak. Her heart was trembling and it took all her self control to prevent her limbs from shaking. She took a sip of her drink suddenly aware how dry her throat had become and then looked back at her companion who was quietly waiting for her to say something..

Sydney knew what kind of effort it was taking for this woman to say these words as so she put down her beer and moved around the coffee table until she was kneeling beside the woman. Gently she reached out and removed the drink from Alexís hand, setting it down on the coffee table before taking both of the Captainís hands in her own. Their eyes met and held for a long moment.

"Iím willing to take the risk," she whispered softly.

Alex felt an overwhelming sense of relief flood her body and she bent her head to accept the kiss, her entire body trembling as their soft lips joined in a tentative exchange that was followed by one with more passion and urgency.

She slipped from her chair onto her knees and then leaned back, pulling the smaller woman on top of her, their lips never losing contact. Finally she broke the embrace, aware that their breaths were ragged and their hearts pounding. The heat of their bodies was searing through their clothes.

"Are you sure about this?" Alex asked in a serious voice as she reached up to comb blond strands of hair behind her companionís ears.

"Iíve never been more sure about anything in my life," Sydney replied bending her head so that their lips could meet.

 

 

Chapter Six

Neither could remember how they got from the living room to the bedroom, but the one thing they didnít forget was the instant their naked bodies touched and the moments of ecstasy that followed.

Alex was the first to wake the next morning and for a long time she lay basking in the warmth of the naked woman that was draped over her body. Carefully she reached down and combed strands of blond hair off her lovers face, savouring the memories of the night they had spent together.

They had made love well into the wee hours of the morning until they had finally fallen exhausted into each others arms, their bodies warm and sated, their limbs tightly entwined. She was not inexperienced, having had her share of lovers from both sexes, but last night had been a revelation and she knew it was because of the way she felt.

She sighed and tenderly ran her fingers down the smooth cheek of the sleeping woman cradled in her arms, an aching sadness in her heart as she realized how close she had come to missing out on this. She knew in that moment whatever happened she would never regret this decision.

She glanced at the clock on the bedside table and saw that it was already getting close to mid morning. Carefully she extracted herself from her new lovers embrace and slipped out of bed grabbing her night shirt from off a nearby chair. She put out a clean t-shirt and shorts for her friend before retreating to the bathroom to wash.

After splashing water over her face and brushing her teeth, she wandered through the apartment collecting the clothes that were scattered in the hallway and the living room. A grin tugged on her lips at the memory of the frantic way they had discarded their garments the previous evening.

She dumped the clothes into a pile and then slumped onto the sofa, leaning her head back and closing her eyes. She was tired but it was a glorious fatigue and another smile came to her lips as she remembered the various ways Sydney had made love to her body. The younger woman certainly wasnít shy when it came to being passionate. The phone rang and she hastily snatched it up afraid that it might wake her companion.

"Hello, Alexandria?"

"Hello, mother," the woman replied stretching her body out like a waking feline.

"You sound like youíre in a good mood," came the amused response.

"I had a very good night," came the grinning response.

"I donít think I want to know about that," Marie said dryly trying not to think about what her daughter

meant. "Iím just calling to see if you are coming to brunch today."

"I am," Alex said and then hesitated. "Is it okay if I bring a friend?"

"A friend?" the request momentarily caught the older woman off guard.

"Yes," she took a deep breath and plunged ahead. "Iíd like you to meet a special friend of mine."

"Oh....OH!" there was a sound of surprise in the older womanís voice and Alex smiled. She had never heard her mother so flustered. "Oh, dear, I didnít have anything special planned for today."

"You donít have to have anything special," Alex groaned wondering if she was making a mistake.

"Dear, we want to make a good impression," Marie said recovering her composure. "One does like to prepare for these things. Does your friend like anything special?"

"Me," Alex couldnít help saying and her mother sighed in exasperation which made the younger woman laugh.

"I didnít mean you!" Marie pretended to be annoyed while privately she was thrilled and a bit nervous.

"No," the tall woman sobered, growing serious as she heard movement coming from the bedroom. "Weíll see you in an hour."

She hung up the phone and glanced down the hall. Sydney was leaning against the wall her blond hair tousled and her features still shrouded by sleep. Her heart leapt at the sexy sight.

"Good morning," she greeted in a soft voice, a tender look in her blue eyes as she gazed at the woman she loved. She was so happy she ached.

"Good morning," the blond woman gave a lopsided smile.

"I see you found the clothes I left out."

"Yeah," the grin grew wider as she glanced down at the oversize t-shirt and baggy shorts that covered on her slender frame. "Theyíre a bit big."

"I think they look just right," Alex disagreed and stood up, opening her arms. The smaller woman immediately moved into the embrace, hugging the woman fiercely.

"Last night was incredible," Sydney sighed her voice muffled from burying her face in between her companionís breasts.

"Yes," the tall woman agreed giving her companion a squeeze before gently disengaging herself. "We have to talk."

Oh, oh, the younger woman felt a brief moment of panic as her companion took her hand and lead

her to the sofa. They sat down facing each other and Sydney held her breath afraid to know what was coming.

"Are you sorry it happened?" she blurted out her fears before the other woman could speak and Alex immediately lifted her hands to cup the womanís face.

"No, I adore you Sydney," she smiled gently allowing all the love she felt to shine forth. She glanced away, letting her hand drop to her lap. "Itís just that we have to be discreet."

She paused as if expecting some comment from her companion but there was only silence and she looked up but could discern nothing in the gentle face that was looking at her. She took a deep breath and continued.

"Iím not ashamed of who we are or what we have together but I think we have to be practical and exercise caution when we are at work together."

"You donít have to worry Alex, I wonít do anything to jeopardize your job," Sydney promised solemnly reaching over to grasp the other womanís hand and give it a gentle squeeze. "I wonít do anything to hurt you."

"I know you wonít," Alex smiled her heart aching. "I just need you to remind me of that sometimes, when I come close to overstepping the boundaries."

"I will."

"Good," Alex smiled and leaned forward to grab a quick kiss before bounding to her feet, dragging the other woman with. "Now itís time to get dressed. Weíre going over to my parents place for brunch, that is if you donít mind meeting the rest of my family."

Sydney was startled by this unexpected revelation. For a minute she was at a loss for words as a mixture of thoughts raced through her head. Suddenly it felt like everything was happening to fast and some invisible force made her resist the pull of the other woman.

Alex paused to look down at her companion and saw the flash of panic that whipped across her features before a curtain came down over the green eyes. She stopped pulling and released her grasp on the smaller woman, swallowing quickly and wondering what she had done wrong.

"Did I say something wrong?" she wondered out loud stifling the panic that was threatening to overtake her emotions.

"No," the blond woman shook her head and folded her arms defensively across her chest and stared down at her bare feet for a long moment.

"What is it Sydney?" Alex couldnít keep the anxiety out of her voice.

"Itís too soon," she finally managed to whisper, she looked up with a pleading look in her eyes. "I donít think Iím ready to meet your parents yet."

Alex went very still, her happiness reeling for a moment as her emotions spun out of control. She stuffed it all down, quietly nodding her head and opening her arms for the younger woman to move into their circle. She kissed the top of the blond head trying to understand, but failing.

"Whenever youíre ready," she whispered tightening her embrace for a long moment before slowly

disengaging herself. She smiled down at her companion. "I better get dressed."

Sydney nodded and watched as the taller woman turned and hurried down the hallway into the bathroom. She knew she had hurt her lover and that made her feel miserable, but she couldnít bring herself to join her companion regardless of how much she wanted to.

She loved Alex yet she wasnít ready to meet the whole family. The complete idea made her nervous. If she was honest the notion was terrifying. She knew families had certain expectations and because Alex was the Marshallsí only daughter it was likely their expectations were higher then normal. If she was completely honest she was afraid that they would find her lacking in some respect.

She walked over to the chair where her companion had dumped their clothes and quietly picked her garments out of the pile before starting to dress. She normally wasnít an insecure person but nothing had ever been this important. The last thing she wanted was for the Captainís family to think her unworthy of their daughter, afraid that their opinion would influence the dark haired womanís opinion

of her. It was an unbearable thought.

Alex stood under the shower for a long time hoping that it would wash away some of the pain she felt. She had woken up so hopeful that morning, ready to fling caution to the wind. She had been so busy thinking about how she felt that she had never considered that Sydney might not feel the same way. Tears unexpectedly sprouted in her eyes and streamed unabated down her cheeks. She felt like such a fool. By the time she came out of the bathroom Sydney was dressed and ready to leave.

The blond detective jumped to her feet and turned to look at the taller woman. She had been tempted to leave before her hostess got out of the bathroom but she knew that was the stupid thing to do. She fidgeted nervously with her keys aware of the blue eyes that were watching.

"Will you call me later?" Alex asked solemnly.

"Yes," the blond woman nodded. She would call because she didnít want to lose this woman. Maybe then she would have an explanation for her. "I better get going so you can get ready."

Alex watched silently as the woman moved from the sofa into the hallway by the door. She was quiet while the woman slipped into her jacket and shoes, waiting until her hand was on the door before speaking.

"Last night wasnít a one night stand," she said quietly swallowing the lump of emotion in her throat.

Sydney pursed her lips together aware of the tears that were pooling in her eyes.

"I know," she said and then hurried out of the apartment afraid of what she might do if she stayed.

Marie was surprised when her daughter showed up alone. She had been busy preparing herself to

meet this friend and felt a confusing mixture of relief and disappointment when Alexandria walked into the house on her own.

She wanted to ask what happened but she decided to wait. The dejected look on her daughters face

gave her reason to hold her tongue. It was so different then the buoyant mood that had echoed in the girlís voice that morning when they spoke.

"If everyone wants to retire to the sitting room Iíll go arrange the coffee," Marie said after everyone was finished eating. "Alexandria would you help me in the kitchen."

She had mulled over various ways to get her youngest child alone where they could talk without interruption. She was concerned, for throughout the meal the girl was her usual dour self. Alex nodded and dutifully followed her mother into the kitchen.

"Itís all right Leza, Alexandria and I will get the dessert," Marie addressed the cook who nodded and moved into the dinning room to start clearing away the dishes. "So, do you want to tell me what happened?"

"Nothing happened," Alex replied nonchalantly as she watched her mother collect the cups out of a cupboards and begin arranging them on a tray. The older woman arched a dark eyebrow.

"You are an awful liar Alexandria," her mother said dryly. "I thought you were going to bring your friend."

"She didnít want to come," was the simple reply but Marie didnít miss the slight catch in her daughters voice.

"Did she say why?"

"No."

Marie was quiet, her mind analyzing the possibilities. She glanced up covertly and saw the downcast expression that marred her daughters beautiful features. Her heart ached. It had seemed like forever since she had seen her little girl happy.

"Did you say something that hurt her?" she wondered cautiously.

"I donít think so," Alex sighed impatiently. "I have been going over our conversation in my head and I canít figure out what I did wrong."

"Well, if you were talking about family, maybe she got lonely for her own," Marie suggested.

"No," the younger woman shook her head. "She doesnít really have any family."

Her daughters admission gave Marie a sudden inspiration. She thought of the young woman she had seen at the station house and the wistful way she had looked at them that day. She finished arranging the cups on the tray and paused to fix her daughter with an intense look.

"Maybe thatís the problem."

"What do you mean?" Alex was momentarily confused.

"What did she tell you when you asked you to come today?"

"She said she wasnít ready to meet you," the younger woman said slowly remembering the moment.

Blue eyes suddenly fixed on the gracefully aging face of the older woman. "Do you think I scared her?"

"I donít know," Marie shrugged casually. "What have you told her about us?"

"Not a whole lot," Alex said thoughtfully, thinking back to the little she did say about her parents. "I did mention that you werenít particularly pleased by the fact that Iím gay."

"Aaah," the older woman clicked her tongue knowingly.

"What? Itís the truth," the younger woman defended herself.

"Yes, but did you have to tell her that," Marie was plainly annoyed. "You probably terrified the girl. Itís hard enough meeting your .... girlfriends parents, without filling her head with these negative images. Goodness the poor thing was probably intimidated at the whole prospect of meeting your whole family."

"Sheís already met Andrew and Christie," Alex protested though she was starting to believe what her mother said had some merit.

"Yes, you went to a basketball game together," the older woman waved her hand in the air. "But exactly how much socializing did you actually do in between the cheering and shouting and whatever it else is you do at those games."

"Not much," the girl agreed slowly. She hadnít thought that Sydney might be intimidated by meeting her family.

"Sometimes people who donít have a family of their own, find it difficult to adjust," Marie volunteered cautiously. "When someone has been independent all their life, and not part of a traditional family unit, it frightens them when they become involved in a situation that they arenít familiar with."

Alex wanted to deny the claim. Sydney was a feisty and brave woman yet what her mother said made sense. Perhaps she was rushing the other woman, pushing her towards something instead of gradually introducing her. Silently she berated herself for not being more sensitive.

"Thank you."

"For what dear?" Marie asked.

"For being so gracious about the whole thing," Alex answered quietly. "I know this has to be difficult

for you."

"Iíve never denied the way I feel," the older woman was honest fixing her with a intense look. "But I

know what it feels like to be in love and I donít want you to miss out on that. If it just so happens

that you have fallen in love with a woman....well, I canít begrudge you that happiness. Now come on, the others will be wondering whatís keeping us."

Alex nodded grabbing the tray of dessert dishes and following her mother out of the kitchen, her mind already dwelling on what the older woman had said. It made sense and now she chided herself for not thinking of it on her own. She had turned the happiest moment of her life into a painful one. She knew that she had to apologize to Sydney. She didnít even wait to finish dessert before excusing herself.

 

Sydney moped around her small apartment. There was nothing on the television that held her attention and she had no desire to go in to work, so she wandered around the suite doing the small little tasks that she had been putting off for sometime. She had just finished scrubbing the bathroom when there was a knock on the door.

"May I come in?" Alex asked nervously. She had never been inside the other womanís apartment. Sydney had always seemed reluctant to invite her over and she wasnít certain that she was welcome there now.

"Yeah sure," the blond woman stepped aside, anxiously wiping her hands on her jeans, glad that she had spent the time cleaning the place up. She glanced around the tiny suite slightly shy about her meagre surroundings. It was nothing like the spacious apartment that the other woman occupied.

Alex glanced quickly around the room. It was small compared to her place and the furniture was worn yet it had a warm, comfortable feel to it. She noticed the bookshelves along one wall and a quick glance at the titles gave her a before unknown clue as to what interested her friend. She turned on her heel and smiled weakly.

"Are you going to offer your friend a beer?"

"Sure," Sydney nodded. "Have a seat, Iíll be right back."

Alex watched as the other woman disappeared into an adjoining room before moving over to a sofa and sitting down. She sank into the couch and felt an unusual familiarity. She realized this place had more warmth then her own home.

"I hope you donít mind this kind," Sydney said reappearing with a bottle which she handed to her

companion, before sitting down the arm of the sofa. "I didnít think you would be home so early."

"Normally, my mother doesnít let us leave before evening," Alex confessed, "but the truth is I should have never gone in the first place."

Sydney was silent not certain what this woman was trying to say. Blue and green eyes met in a long

intent gaze where Alex did nothing to hide her feelings.

"What we shared last night was incredible, and being an idiot I left you to spend today alone when I should have stayed with you," she paused to take a deep breath, not able to look at the other woman for a moment. "I was so happy this morning, I never thought it was possible to be that happy and I blew it. First I try to rush you into something that you arenít ready for and then I leave you alone. Can you forgive me?"

"Thereís nothing to forgive," was the quiet response. "I was incredibly touched by your desire for me to meet your family but..."

"Itís too early, I know," Alex nodded. "Iíve never felt this way about anybody before and I guess I just wanted to share it with everyone. I never considered what you might be feeling. Itís been a long time since Iíve had to think about anyone but myself."

"I think weíre both in unfamiliar territory here," Sydney said her voice barely louder than a whisper. "The truth is Iíve never gotten to a stage in any of my relationships where my partner has wanted me to meet her family."

"Yeah," Alex agreed running a shaky hand through her dark hair. "Iíve never been involved with anyone who Iíve wanted to introduce to my family and.... I guess its partly my fault for scaring you."

"How?"

"By making my parents seem like ogres," the tall woman replied sheepishly. "Truth is theyíre good people and theyíre okay with you and me being together. Sure they wish it were different but they wonít do or say anything to break us up. They want me to be happy and I want to be happy and Iíll do anything to make our relationship work."

"I want it to work too," the blond woman confided. "I guess thatís why I want to take it slowly."

"Then we will," Alex agreed standing up. "I should go and let you get back to what you were doing."

"You donít have to leave," Sydney said hastily not wanting the woman leave. "I was just cleaning up, and thereís supposed to be a good movie coming on later, a Hallmark Hall of Fame production. I forget what it is but theyíre usually pretty good."

"Do I get popcorn?"

"Yeah," the blond nodded and Alex smiled pealing off her leather jacket. "Where do you want me to put this?"

"Anywhere," Sydney shrugged. "Iím not big on formality here."

"It must kill you when you visit my place," the tall woman quipped goodnaturedly.

"I donít go to your place to visit the furniture," the smaller woman replied with a soft smile. "Make

yourself at home, I just want to change out of these clothes."

Alex nodded waiting until the other woman was gone before wandering around the room. Her first destination was the bookshelves and she scoured the titles, smiling to herself as she recognized the

various authors.

From there she moved over to the television where a whole collection of small animals were perched. She picked one up and examined it carefully, noticing the fine detail of the intricately carved piece. It was a small ornament with a wooden body and glass eyes.

"Every Christmas while my mother was alive she got me a small gift, a statute or figurine of an animal," Sydney said and Alex turned her head to see the younger woman leaning against the door jam, her arms crossed over her chest. "My dad wasnít big on celebrating the Holidays yet every year my sister saw that there was a present for me, an ornament of an animal. She kept giving them to me even after we were grown up. She only stopped two years ago when I told her I was a cop."

"Iím sorry," Alex could tell that her friend was upset about the broken relationship with her older sibling. "Have you tried to see her since then?"

"She took me off her visitors list but I always go at Christmas to drop off some gift for her," Sydney said quietly. "Even though I know she doesnít want anything to do with me any more, I still canít stop caring for her."

Alex didnít know what to say. She had always been surrounded by a loving and supportive family. There had been moments of strain and tension with her parents yet they had always managed to work through the situation. She put the small figurine back in place and nodded towards the books, sensing it was time to ease the tension.

"I would have never guessed you for a history buff," she commented and Sydney smiled losing some of the sadness that had been brought on by their conversation.

"It was my major," the smaller woman confessed. "I particularly enjoy reading about ancient cultures, especially the Greeks and Egyptians. Some day I hope to travel there and tour through their antiquities museums, just to see the old artefacts."

"You have several art books," Alex remarked and the blond woman blushed.

"Another passion of mine. I love the 17th century Dutch paintings, the artists were so meticulous in detail."

"Then we have another thing in common," the tall woman smiled. "When I was in college I took

several courses in art history as my Fine Arts electives."

"Thereís supposed to be an exhibition of Egyptian antiquities coming to the city early next year, maybe we can take it in," Sydney suggested hoping that they would still be together by then.

"Iíd like that," the tall woman agreed holding her hand out. "Come here."

Sydney went willingly and they spent the rest of the afternoon cuddling together in front of the television. Later she cooked them dinner, a simple a stir fry and rice dish, and after cleaning up they settled back onto the sofa to watch the movie.

"This is nice," the younger woman sighed snuggling up against the taller woman who draped a possessive arm across her shoulders.

ĎYes," Alex mumbled burying her face in the other womanís hair for a moment breathing in the scent of her shampoo. She realized she could get quite used to lazy days like this.

The movie wasnít a Hallmark Hall of Fame production but it was surprisingly good, keeping them both guessing about the outcome until the very end. All too soon the film was over and with some regret Alex stood up to leave.

"You can stay if you want," Sydney suggested hopefully.

"I wish I could but I have an early breakfast meeting tomorrow with the Commissioner and Iím afraid that if I stay I wouldnít make it," Alex said with a tender smile as she slipped into her jacket. "Do you want to come over tomorrow?"

"Iím on the evening shift," Sydney reminded glumly, aware that it would probably be several days before they got to spend any time together.

"Call me," the Captain said leaning over to kiss the blond woman. "Iíll see you tomorrow, goodnight."

Sydney followed the other woman to the door receiving another kiss for her efforts before the taller woman slipped away. She wandered to the window and stared out into the night, watching as a tall dark figure hurried across the street to the gray Lexus sedan that was parked along the curb. She waited until the vehicle drove away before switching out the lights and retreating to the bedroom.

She glanced around the empty room. With the womanís comforting presence gone the place seemed lonely and sterile. She had wanted Alex to spend the night but instead she had left and now all the blond woman had to hold in her arms was a oversize pillow. She curled up under the bedding and closed her eyes hoping her dreams wouldnít be to vivid.

 

It was harder getting together then either of the women expected. Their conflicting schedules and the vary nature of their work made it almost impossible for them to find any time to be alone. After a few weeks both were feeling the strain.

There has to be something I can do, Alex mused to herself one day as she sat at her desk twirling a pen around in her fingers. In the past two weeks they had only been able to see each other away from the station twice and she was beginning to feel the frustration. The situation had to change if they were going to stay together.

She sighed feeling once again a fit of restlessness. It was the same restlessness that had made her leave Chicago to come to Seattle. She had accepted the position here because she had been looking for something different yet now after the initial newness had worn off it began to feel like the same old grind, just as it had in the Windy city. The only difference was Sydney. She spun her chair around and stared morosely out the window.

It was the end of November and the sky was grey and filled with clouds. A light mist was falling like it

had all week. It made her feel depressed, a depression that only one person could help erase. After some thought she picked up the phone and punched in a number.

Sydney arrived for her shift two hours early that afternoon after receiving a cryptic message on her answering machine telling her to be in at that time. It had ordered her to report directly to the Captain. The tone of voice had sent a shiver down her spine and she wondered what she had

done wrong. She braced herself for the worst, as faint memories of another summons echoed through her brain.

She glanced nervously around the squad room as she made her way across to the Captainís office, tapping lightly on the door and waiting for the invitation to enter before stepping over the threshold. She tried to hide her fear behind a tentative smile.

"You wanted something?"

"Yep," Alex nodded rising to her feet before plucking the basketball from a shelf and flinging it at the smaller woman. "Change into your gym gear and met me outside in fifteen minutes."

"Itís raining outside," the smaller woman snorted in astonishment.

"Nah, itís just misty," the taller woman dismissed the claim and Sydney grinned like a little kid.

They had not played against each other since that last game at St. Maryís and both had missed those hours they had spent jostling each other around the court. Sydney was the first out on the court and so was able to watch as her tall beautiful lover strolled towards her.

They played for the next hour, enjoying the physical aspect of a game that allowed them to clutch and grab each other without suspicion. It allowed them an opportunity to work off some of the frustration that their separation brought. Both were covered in sweat by the time they quit.

"I missed this," Sydney panted.

"So did I," Alex grinned and reached out to ruffle her companions blond hair. She would have liked to give the woman a hug but knew it was out of the question, conscious that they were in a very public place. "Can you come down tomorrow night?"

"I donít get off until eleven," the smaller woman reminded sadly as they strolled back towards the main building. They were walking close enough so that their bodies touched as they moved.

"I can wait up," Alex said, aware that this game had only heightened her desire for the smaller woman. The blood rushed through her body, warming all the wrong places. "I want to see you."

"Okay, Iíll be there about eleven thirty, unless I get called out."

"Just donít answer the phone," the taller woman barked playfully and Sydney grinned. They separated once they got to the change room, maintaining a discreet distance from each other.

"What a body?"

"What?" Sydney was startled by the hushed whisper.

She turned in the direction of the speaker, recognizing the voice as belonging to Carmen Martens, a patrol officer who did nothing to hide the fact that she was gay. Covertly she followed the womanís gaze and saw that she was staring at Alex. She felt a pang of anger but pushed it down.

"How do you stand being around her?" Carmen gushed and Sydney carefully averted her eyes from her lover, aware that if she stared to long she might reveal some lustful designs of her own. "Donít you just want to grab her?"

"Sheís not my type," the small blond woman could have tried to lied about her sexual preference but decided against it, aware that this officer probably knew the truth anyway. "Besides sheís my boss."

"But you spend so much time together," the other woman prodded.

"We both enjoy basketball," came the honest answer.

"Have you asked her out?"

"Why would I?" Sydney was becoming annoyed at the womanís persistence and the way she continued to leer at Alex.

"Well...but if youíre not interested then I might just give it a try," the woman said with a delicious grin, her eyes still feasting on the Captain so that the blond detective had to struggle not to hit the patrolwoman.

"I donít think sheíd be interested. She was engaged to a man a few years ago."

"Rumour has it sheís changed teams since then."

"Then go for it," Sydney shrugged, hoping to appear nonchalant. "But donít be surprised if she turns you down. I think sheís seeing someone."

"I never let that stop me before," Carmen chuckled.

Apparently she didnít for the next day Sydney overheard several patrol officers in the squad room laughing. Pretending to be interested in something else, she purposefully eavesdropped on the conversation, always anxious to know the gossip that was circulating around the office.

"Heard Martens hit on the new Captain," one of the young uniformed officers laughingly told his

colleagues as they gathered before going out on patrol.

"What happened?"

"The Captain wasnít so polite in telling her, she wasnít interested."

"What did Martens do?" a curious colleague asked eager for more details.

"Persisted by telling the Captain in somewhat graphic detail on what she was missing out on," the man laughed. "Whereby the Captain quoted her the official policy on sexual harassment and reminded her that includes not only men but women. Now I hear sheís been transferred over to Northside Division."

"Good," another officer snorted. "She was one pain in the ass dyke."

With that the group moved off and Sydney returned to her desk with a huge smile on her face. She didnít like anyone leering at her partner and Carmen Martens was known to be pushy. More then one female at the station had made a complaint about her aggressive attitude.

Sydney couldnít wait until that night, making certain she didnít answer any phone calls that came in towards the end of the shift. She wanted to be with Alex and didnít want anyone interfering with

those plans. As promised her lover was waiting.

"Are you hungry?" she smiled helping her partner out of her jacket before enfolding her in a tight embrace, dropping a series of kisses all over her face.

"Can we wait with the food?" Sydney asked shyly. "Iíd like to work up an appetite first."

"No problem," Alex chuckled her eyes glinting with passion as she grabbed the smaller womanís hand and pulled her in the direction of the bedroom.

It was several hours later before they made it into the kitchen, sitting at the table in their night clothes and eating the sandwiches that Alex prepared. It was a compatible time and they talked about their day and what they had done since the last time they had been together.

"I hear Carmen Martens asked you out," Sydney said with a mischievous grin. The other woman scrunched her nose in distaste.

"I said no but she persisted."

"So you transferred her to Northside," the blond woman chuckled.

"I hate pushy broads," Alex muttered and then narrowed her eyes. "Does that bother you?"

"No, actually Iím glad," Sydney said taking a bite out of her lettuce sandwich. "The other day when we were in the shower she was leering at you. I could have punched her."

"Iím glad you didnít," Alex smiled pleased by the younger womanís display of jealousy. She savoured the feeling for a moment before growing serious. "I donít tolerate that type of behaviour from anyone, men or women." The younger woman nodded.

"How did you hear about it?"

"I overheard the guys in the squad room talking, not many people liked her, too pushy."

They talked for awhile longer until the food was finished before heading back to bed. Sydney snuggled up against her tall companion who wrapped her arms tightly around her and that was how they fell asleep.

"Have you decided what youíre going to do for Christmas?" Marie asked her daughter several days later when they met for lunch.

"Iíll be home," Alex knew that was what her mother wanted to hear.

"And your friend, will she be joining us?"

"No," the younger woman shook her head. "She has volunteered to work."

"Thatís not terribly convenient," the older woman mused thoughtfully.

"She put her name in before we started going out," Alex shrugged.

"Well, weíll just have to save some food for her and you can take it over later in the afternoon."

"I appreciate it mom," the taller woman was genuinely grateful.

"Itís my pleasure," Marie smiled, pleased to see that her daughter was happy.

Despite her nonchalance Alex was concerned about her young lover. Christmas was a difficult time, especially on those without family with whom they could share the holidays. She glanced out of her office towards the desk that Sydney usually occupied. Right now it was empty as the detective was on the midnight shift.

She had been pondering for awhile what she could get the other woman for Christmas. There were the usual small gifts that would be easy to pick out but she was looking for something special. Something that would make their first Christmas together special.

There was only one thing she could think of that would make Sydney happy. With that thought in mind she picked up the phone and dialled the number that put her in touch with the corrections officials that handled the State facilities. Belatedly she hoped she was making the right decision.

 

Anne Davis didnít have visitors. In the past two years she had only had one and that was from an old boyfriend looking to make connections with some of her old buddies. She had sent him away uninterested in helping him out. After all it was those same friends that had caused her to be in prison in the first place.

She mutely followed the guard down the corridor towards the visitors room. As much as it galled her

to admit the truth, she should have listened to Sydney when she had the chance. The girl had turned

out to be smarter then the rest of them combined.

It had been two years since the kid had come to visit. Two years since she had angrily told her baby sister to leave and never come back. She had regretted the harsh words as soon as they had left her mouth yet something had prevented her from retracting them. Sydney had taken the words seriously and never come back.

The guard had said that a cop wanted to speak with her and privately she hoped that it was Sydney but she knew the girl no longer tried to make contact. She still got the packages at Christmas, small gifts that she treasured.

She pushed all thoughts of her sister from her mind as she stepped into the caged room. Her hazel eyes went automatically to the chair where a dark haired woman was sitting. She was a bit puzzled, recognizing this woman from the news broadcasts she watched on television. For a moment Anne wondered if someone on the outside had given her name up to get themselves out of some mess. That was something her former friends would do.

Then another thought occurred to her and for a brief instant she felt panic, wondering if Sydney was okay. She hadnít heard anything on the news but she knew that they didnít always report everything. She slipped into the chair across from the other woman and picked up the phone.

"Is she all right?" she hadnít intended those to be her first words but her fear had transmitted itself into verbal actions.

"Sydney is fine," Alex confirmed. She had wondered how to begin this conversation and was almost glad that this woman had done the hard part for her.

It had been easy enough to get the Warden to agree to the interview and in the ensuing days she had brooded over her decision to try and reunite the sisters. She had said nothing to Sydney and she had worried about her reception from this prisoner, but now those fears were partly alleviated. She was happy to acknowledge that this woman, harden and aged by the system in which she was placed, still cared enough to ask about her sibling. It gave her hope that her trip here wouldnít be wasted.

"Then what do you want?" the lines on the prisoners face turned harsh. Just for a brief instant this woman had reminded Alex of her lover yet other then the blond hair and the hazel eyes there was no real resemblance. "Did someone blame something on me, because if they did I didnít do it, Iíve been in this hole for the last eight years."

"I know," the Captain had read the womanís file and knew her history. "I came to talk to you about Sydney."

"I thought you said she is fine," the womanís eyes narrowed, displaying the distrust she felt for the

system.

"She is," Alex took a deep breath. "I just wanted to come introduce myself, seeing she has no other family."

"I know who you are," the woman snorted with a scowl. "Youíre that bitch Captain in Homicide."

"Yes," the dark haired woman nodded.

"Sheís your bitch isnít she," Anne growled with a sneer before Alex could say anything more. "Youíre

fucking her and you want my permission."

"Sydney isnít anyoneís bitch," Alex retorted angrily feeling her temper rise. She hated the word and the way this woman used it.

"But you are fucking her arenít you?" the womanís laugh was hollow and without amusement. The

lines on her face were deep and angry. She hated to think that her sister was being used like she was being used here in prison. It was no way for anyone to live and she hated this woman for making Sydney do that.

"I am in love with your sister," Alex said quietly, admitting something to this woman that she had not even told her young lover.

"Love," Anne snorted in disdain, her scepticism of the concept evident. She leaned back in her chair. "Why are you here, to seek my permission to court her?"

"Sydney is a woman capable of deciding on her own what she wants," the Captain said her own voice hardening as she reassessed her earlier thoughts. Perhaps coming here hadnít been her smartest idea. "I just wanted to meet the most important person in her life."

The words caught the hardened criminal off guard and for a moment Anne didnít know what to say. She looked at the dark stranger on the other side of the glass. She had known her sisterís preference for women. She had ignored it for the longest time and Sydney had tried to deny the truth by sleeping with perhaps a dozen guys to prove that she was normal. But Anne had never been fooled.

"What do you want?" she finally growled.

"I donít want anything," Alex said shaking her head then changed her mind. "No, thatís not true. I came here hoping I could convince you to see Sydney."

"Why?"

"Because I love her and I can see how your estrangement hurts her."

"I hate that sheís gay and I hate that sheís a bloody pig," Anne blurted out forcibly.

"Do you really?" Alex asked, her blue eyes boring through the glass into the other woman. "Or do

you hate her because she represents everything youíre not?"

A tense silence fell between the two women and Alex waited a moment before continuing to speak, allowing the chance for her harshly spoken words to sink in. She stared at the woman sitting across from her, seeing nothing in the stoic expression on her face. Only the tiny pulse of a vein at the corner of her eye gave her any indication that her words might had gotten through. She took a deep breath.

"Why are you ashamed to be proud of her? Sydney is an incredibly strong and brave young woman with a compassionate heart. Itís an honour just to be associated with her."

Anne made no response. She looked at the dark haired woman and saw the fire in the pale eyes. She knew that this woman spoke the truth. She lowered her head, struggling with the emotions she rarely allowed to surface.

"I donít want her to see me like this," the prisoner confessed in a tense voice, defiantly lifting her head to meet the other womanís gaze. "Youíre right, she is everything you said, but I knew that it was only a matter of time before she starting looking at me in the same way all you cops look at criminals."

"So you pushed her away." Alex suddenly understood what had happened. "She was a police office for five years before she told you. If she would have hated you, she would had done it by then."

"No," Anne shook her head. "She would have kept coming, but one day I knew I would look up and see the shame and disdain in her eyes. I killed a fucking cop and almost took her down with me. How much longer do you think it would have taken before she learned to despise that fact?"

"Sydney isnít like that," Alex disagreed. "Sheís not someone who would desert you. She isnít that

type of person. If you looked past all the garbage you would see that."

"I donít know," the other woman shook her head. "She waited five years to tell me she was a cop and a lesbian. Tell me why she waited so long?"

"Because she was afraid to lose your respect," the Captain answered quietly.

The prisoner looked across at the other woman wondering whether she could believe that. She shook her head and felt a pool of tears in the back of her eyes, not understanding how her younger sister could respect her when she was so messed up.

"Because she loves you," Alex said quietly as if reading the other womanís thoughts.

 

 

 

continued in part four

 

disclaimers: see part one

 

Chapter Seven

Sydney always enjoyed the holidays but this year she was especially looking forward to it. For the first time in years she had someone else to think about and she didnít allow anything to dampen her enthusiasm, not even the fact that she had volunteered to work double shifts throughout the season. She was certain that somehow Alex would find time for them to be together.

She bought a few small items she knew Alex would like but she was looking for the one thing that would be able to communicate all the love she felt. At every available opportunity she went out to scour the local shops in search of the perfect gift but it took until the week before Christmas before she found what she wanted.

It was sitting in the display window of a small jewellery shop in the downtown market and for a long time she just stood admiring itís simple beauty. With one glance she knew it was perfect for the woman she loved and it didnít matter how much it cost. She went to work that afternoon feeling quite pleased with herself, unable to keep the smile off her lips as she wondered about her partners reaction.

The one thing Alex despised about Christmas was the fact that it forced her to go out and spend endless hours in the midst of pushy crowds looking for the appropriate gifts. More then once she had given money to her nieces and nephews in order to avoid having to waste time searching for presents, however, this year she actual looked forward to the ordeal and attributed this new mood entirely to her young lover.

She eagerly searched through the various shops and stores looking for one special gift. She had already bought Sydney several books and a Sonics basketball shirt but neither of those offerings were capable of expressing the importance of the womanís presence in her life.

It was at the end of a frustrating day and she was on her way home from a late afternoon meeting when out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of an interesting looking art shop. She pulled over and went to investigate the small store and emerged an hour later blissfully happy at discovering what she considered the perfect present. She wrapped her parcels, quite pleased with her purchases and eagerly looked forward to when she could give them to her companion.

The holidayís proved to be busier then usual for the Homicide Unit. It was the time of year when mankind showed itís greatest acts of kindness and the darkest side of itís nature. The pressures of the season brought with it a sharp increase of domestic violence that often escalated into murder. Simple arguments, fuelled by alcohol, exploded into outbursts of uncontrollable rage that often ended up with someone dying. Fortunately those were the cases where suspects were quickly identified and arrested.

When Sydney wasnít out on a call, she was at her desk pouring over the outstanding files. The one involving eight year old Tommy Kennedy continued to haunt her. She had used the evidence collected from the basement to build a solid case against the suspect. A man who had mysteriously disappeared.

Not even repeated visits to his distant cousins could produce any viable leads as to Lucas Andersonís whereabouts. Calls in regards to the case had dropped off and even the newspapers had moved onto a new topic of scandal.

The Phu Vang Tu murder was already consigned to the cold file. Everyone had concurred with her analysis that it was an unsolvable case. However, Alex had been able to persuade the persecutor to accept the deal Sydney had made with Van Phan in regards to the murder of Hootie Carleton. Two minor gang members came forward as witnesses and signed independent statements that Phu Vang Tu had killed the black gang member. All in all it was turning out to be a pretty good year because save for those two cases all of her murders were in the black.

 

Alex listened impatiently as the official from the persecutors office complained about some screw up that had been made during the investigation of a case which would now result it the suspect being released. It was an unfortunate incident and the detective involved would be reprimanded but on a whole she wasnít overly concerned.

The detectives in the homicide unit had begun to show a marked improvement in their attitude towards their jobs and that had reflected on the quality of their investigations. The diligent work had paid off with tighter cases, thus giving the persecutor less to complain about. Today she waited until he finished speaking before politely agreeing and then hanging up. She wasnít in the mood to listen to any more bitching.

As she put the phone down she glanced up and noticed that Sydney was at her desk. Whether it was out of habit or so that they could spend more time together the younger woman was working longer hours. Not that Alex minded looking out to see the woman there, it was strangely comforting, but she worried that her lover was pushing towards a burnout which was a major concern in all Homicide Units.

She sighed, twirling a pen around in her fingers as she leaned her head back against the chair. It was only five in the afternoon and Sydney had only started her shift, which meant that the detective wouldnít be off until much later. If she asked they might meet and have a few hours together before the younger woman would go home to sleep. It was an awkward arrangement and unsatisfying to them both.

Over the last few weeks they had worked hard at seeing each other, arranging time to be together, whether it was facing each other on the basketball court several times a week or an overnight stay at one of their apartments. They even managed to slip in several lunches while they were on the same rotation. But it never seemed enough.

In spite of the short time they spent together Alex found her feelings growing stronger every day. She knew without a doubt she loved Sydney, loved her as she would care for nobody else. What she wanted though was more. More then a few stolen hours or the occasional night of passion. They were so close yet at the same time so very far apart.

It hit her then with startling clarity and Alex knew for certain what she wanted. It was all those things that her brothers had, a nice home and children. More importantly she wanted it with Sydney. It was

as simple as that.

Her eyes flew towards the blond woman, her heart pounding erratically. She wanted them to live together and having made that decision, she knew what had to be done. She picked up the phone and dialled a number, issuing a few instructions when the line was picked up on the other end. Once that was settle she stood up and stepped out of the office.

"Hey, howís it going?" she asked wandering up to the smaller womanís desk and putting a hand on a slender shoulder.

Sydney gave her lover a weary smile leaning into the touch so that for a brief moment their bodies made contact. She hadnít realized how difficult it would be to remain discreet and the longer they were together the harder it was becoming.

"Busy," the younger woman sighed feeling bereft when her lover moved away.

"What time do you get off tonight?" Alex asked keeping her voice low so that they couldnít be

overheard.

"Iím here until ten," Sydney answered and then smiled. "Provided that is, no one succeeds in killing someone else."

"Hmm," the tall woman nodded, folding her arms across her chest.

"And youíre in all day tomorrow and the day after?"

"Yep, seven until eleven," Sydney replied wondering why the other woman was asking when she already knew the answer.

"Do you feel up to going out for dinner tonight?"

"Sure."

"Youíre not too tired?" Alex asked genuinely concerned. She knew that her lover had been pulling extra shifts since earlier in the week.

"Iím never to tired to spend time with you," Sydney smiled and it was a look that reached inside and touched the taller womanís heart.

"Iíll pick you up outside at ten."

"Do you promise to have me home and in bed early?" the blond detective asked with an impish grin.

"You can count on it," the Captain winked before straightening and walking across the room to speak with another member of the squad.

The smile on Sydneyís face grew as she watched the woman walk away. With a sigh she turned her

attention back to the papers strewn across her desk, hoping that the next few days would be quiet.

Exactly at ten that evening they met outside the station house. Sydney jumped into the sedan and leaned across the seat to give her lover a passionate kiss which only served as a reminder of their desire for one another.

Alex ignored the twisting in her gut and the warmth that flooded her nether regions, concentrating instead on manoeuvring the car away from the precinct. She had made late night reservations at an exclusive restaurant, the perfect setting in which to announce her intentions.

"Miss Marshall, itís a pleasure to see you tonight," the maitreíd gushed at the tall woman casting a curious glance at her short blond companion. "Your table is waiting."

Alex acknowledged the greeting with a curt nod and then gestured Sydney to follow the pencil thin man through the dimly lit restaurant to a table in a corner. It was secluded from the rest of the diners and afforded them the privacy that Alex had been seeking.

"Youíre food should be served shortly," the man bowed and then hurried away.

"Donít we get menus?" Sydney asked in amazement and her companion smiled benignly.

"I hope you donít mind but I took the liberty of ordering our meals in advance," the dark haired woman said casually and Sydney couldnít help notice how comfortable her lover seemed in this atmosphere.

"That depends on what you ordered?" the blond woman eyed her companion suspiciously. She received a seductive grin in response.

"Itís a simple chicken dish with a special sauce and French fries on the side," Alex said and the smaller woman blushed.

"I suppose they probably laughed when you requested the French fries?" she muttered.

"No, they know better then that. Besides they are used to getting odd requests," the woman shrugged nonchalantly.

"Do you come here often?" Sydney asked glancing around the place and noticing that most of the other tables were occupied by couples or parties of four. "Is that why the maitreíd knew who you were?"

"This is one of my parents favourite places," Alex explained aware that her companion would be curious about their surroundings. "When we go out this is usually where we end up."

"Oh," the blond woman nodded and then fidgeted with the cutlery until the dark haired woman leaned over and put her hand on the smaller one, stilling the action.

"Youíre driving me crazy," she said with a tender smile. "Whatís wrong?"

"Iím not used to such a fancy restaurant and I get the weirdest feeling that this is the kind of place you come to make some dramatic announcement, " Sydney shrugged and then looked up to meet intense blue eyes. She swallowed the lump in her throat unable to hide the panic in her own green orbs. "You arenít dumping me are you?"

"No," the other woman laughed at her friends fears and squeezed her hand reassuringly, unable to wait until their meal was served. She had planned to ask her then but now she found she couldnít wait. She reached inside her pocket. "I got you something."

Sydney watched as the other woman placed a small box on the table. She stared at the object for a long moment, before glancing across at her companion. Her heart was hammering so loud in her chest that she was certain the whole restaurant could hear it.

"What is this?" she stammered, afraid of what was in the box.

"Itís a key," Alex said quietly. "I want you too move in with me."

"What?" Sydney was shocked and wondered if she heard correctly.

Before Alex could explain the waiter arrived with their wine and briefly her attention was diverted as she tasted the vintage he brought, declaring it satisfactory. She could barely contain her impatience as the man poured them each a glass of the red liquid before hurrying off.

"I know I promised not to rush you but this being apart is driving me nuts," the older woman said continuing from where they had been interrupted. "We hardly get to see each other and then when we do itís always rushed. I want to come home and find you there and not have to worry that you will have to leave in an hour because you have to work in the morning."

Alex paused again as a second waiter arrived setting plates of salad down in front of them. The man opened his mouth to ask about garnishes but the dark haired woman impatiently waved to dismiss him. One glance at their joined hands resting on the table and the serious expressions on their faces and he knew to beat a hasty retreat.

"I guess more then anything I want to be able to roll over in bed at night and know that the only reason youíre not there is because youíre working," Alex paused again taking a deep breath. "I love you Sydney and if our situation was different I would be on my knees begging you to marry me but as thatís not an option this is the next best thing I can think of."

Sydney was stunned. They had only really known each other for a short time and moving in together was a big step in any relationship. Though she didnít doubt her lovers sincerity she wasnít certain she was ready to make that type of commitment.

There was silence for a long moment as she thought about what to say. She was tired and unable to think straight, worried that if she gave this woman an answer she didnít want then it would be over between them and she didnít want them to be over. She glanced up unable to hide her anxiety.

"Are you sure of this?"

"Iíve never been more certain about anything in my life," Alex breathed, her heart trembling. She had seen the shock on the blond womanís face but she pushed ahead anyway hoping that she hadnít made a mistake. "Iím sorry, maybe I spoke to soon again, but Iím afraid that if we donít do something we will lose what we have and I donít want to lose that. Do you understand?"

"Yes," the blond nodded dropping her eyes, no longer able to look at her companion.

"Itís all right," Alex saw the moment of panic that flashed across the other womanís face and she squeezed the small hand reassuringly. "You donít have to decide tonight, I want you to take your time and think about it."

Sydney was saved from making any response by the arrival of the officious maitreíd who looked at them and then at their untouched meals. He clasped his hands together anxiously.

"Is something not to your liking Miss Marshall?"

"No, everything is fine Paul," she answered the man with a polite smile, her voice revealing none of the anxiety that she felt. The man nodded his head not certain he believed her but graciously bowed and moved on to the next table. Alex turned her gaze back to her lover realizing that their hands were still together.

"I didnít mean to spoil the evening for you," she said softly.

"You didnít," Sydney assured her, glad for the brief respite that had given her a chance to compose her thoughts. "There are just so many things to consider like where would we live and wouldnít it cause a problem with the department?"

"We would find a place that was neither yours or mine, a place we pick out together," came the earnest answer, "and as for the department, it might cause a problem but Iím willing to take the chance."

"And what happens to us if I say no?" Sydney asked hesitantly finally looking up. This time it was her turn to see the flash of panic in the blue eyes of her companion but it was immediately gone, replaced by a brave smile.

"Then weíll go on," the dark haired woman assured her quietly, aware that the atmosphere around them had grown tense. "Whatever you decide Sydney, know that I will accept it because no matter what I donít want to lose you."

The blond detective wondered if that were the truth. She knew of her companionís impatience over their situation and of Alexís desire for more commitment in their relationship, yet she was so uncertain, afraid to take that step. She felt her hand being gently squeezed before it was released. She looked up into shining blue eyes.

"Come on letís drop the subject and eat, I know you must be hungry," the Captain said lightly

revealing none of her thoughts.

Sydney had lost her appetite but she managed to eat what was served, though she couldnít have told

anyone later how it tasted. At her request, she was dropped off back at the station. She was in a mood to be alone.

"I love you Sydney," Alex said and the younger woman merely nodded before shutting the door and walking over to her jeep. The Captain waited a moment before driving away feeling a hint of moisture in her eyes.

By the time Alex arrived at the office the next day Sydney was already out on a call. She felt a twinge of relief, not certain she could face the other woman this morning. She had been unable to sleep the previous evening, realizing the mistake she had made. In stead of bringing them closer together, her actions had only served to push them further apart. She locked herself away in her office and remained there until it was time to leave, grateful that she was going over to her parents place for the evening.

Sydney paced around the crime scene, rubbing her temples with her fingers in an attempt to rid herself of the ache that had been pounding in her head since she had woken that morning. She glanced at the corpse on the bed and the blood stains that were splattered on the headboard and walls.

The victim was a twenty seven year old woman who had ended up on the bad end of an argument with her common-in-law husband. According to witnesses at the house, the evening had begun as a simple Christmas party. Though no one was certain how it started, all agreed that a verbal fight had erupted between the pair with the suspect becoming enraged and accusing his wife of infidelity. Then before anyone one could stop him, the man had dragged his wife into the bedroom and shot her three times.

It was a simple open and shut case, for at the first signs of violence several guests had fled to summon the police. When the authorities had arrived it was to late for the victim but they had found the suspect in the house, laying passed out in the hallway, the gun still in his hand.

It was Christmas Eve and Sydney hated the sight of the blood and the chalk white features of the victim whose life had been ended so abruptly. It didnít matter how many times she saw the results, she didnít think she would ever get used to the sight of a body, laying in the position where the last breath of life had ebbed away.

Fortunately the officers on the scene where familiar with the routine and by the time she arrived the appropriate measures to secure all evidence and detain the witnesses was already underway. She glanced across at Janice who was methodically taking the necessary photographs.

"You working again this Christmas?" she asked casually of the other woman.

"Yeah," the photographer gave her a wan half smile. "My parents are spending the holidays in Mexico so I figured I might as well be working."

"What happened with the guy from payroll?" Sydney asked curiously, wondering if the womanís love life was going any better then the last time they had spoken.

"All talk and little action," Janice scrunched her nose at the memory wagging her little finger and the detective laughed before moving across the room to examine something that caught her attention.

It was noon before they were finished and she was on her way back to the station when she received another call. Normally it would have been taken by someone else but they were short staffed and the others were already out on cases that they hadnít finished. Fortunately like her earlier investigation this one appeared to be another clear cut situation.

An old woman had been found dead in her house by a relative who had come over to start preparations for Christmas dinner. A thorough investigation of the scene and an inspection of the house showed that there were no signs of foul play or any evidence of burglary. She had the scene thoroughly logged and photographed before letting the MEís take the body away. If she was correct in her assumption, they would find that the woman had died of natural causes.

It was evening before she got back to the office and with one glance about the room she knew that Alex had already left for the day. She took a deep breath, staring for a long moment at the dark room and feeling an incredible surge of loneliness fill her heart. She pulled out her chair and settled in to do the necessary paperwork, hoping that the phone wouldnít ring before it was time for her to sign out, and wishing she had made some arrangements to meet Alex later. No sooner did she have those thoughts when the phone rang and for a long moment she stared at it before reaching to answer its summons.

"Detective Davis," she spoke into the receiver mentally preparing herself to take down the details of another murder.

"Sydney..... is that you?"

The blond woman caught her breath. The voice was familiar yet she didnít dare want to believe that it was someone she hadnít heard from for so long. She closed her eyes and took several deep breathes.

"Anne?"

"Hey kid, Merry Christmas," the voice on the other end said casually and it was like no time had passed since they had last spoken.

"Merry Christmas," Sydney was wondering if she was imagining this. She had been working long hours on little sleep. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah," the other woman snorted in a gruff voice. "I just thought Iíd give you a call and see how your doing?"

"Iím fine."

"And your job, I hear youíre solving murders now?"

"Yeah," Sydney nodded her head, realizing the irony of the situation. "I got promoted a year ago."

"I hear youíre pretty good at it too," the woman said.

"I donít know about that," the detective replied modestly.

"Well, your boss seems to think so," Anne said hesitantly. "Sheís a pretty smart lady."

"Are you talking about Alex?" Sydney was surprised and confused at the same time. "When did you talk to her?"

"She came up to see me a couple of weeks ago," the prisoner replied and the nervousness of her voice came over the line. "Listen I havenít got much time here and I was thinking about it and maybe I made a mistake by jumping all over you for what youíre doing."

Sydney remained silent, hardly able to breath as she listened to her sisterís voice. The woman to

whom she was talking was so different then the one who ranted and screamed at her during their last visit.

"You were always a hard ass about everything," the other woman continued. "You had to go your own way and it always seemed to be different then which direction the rest of us were going. In the

end it was you who was on the right path and the rest of us who were running in circles."

"Then youíre okay with all of this?" Sydney dared to ask.

"I wonít lie to you Syd, I donít like that youíre a cop and I donít like the fact that youíre gay, itís not something I can really understand even though Iíve learnt a few things since being in the joint," the older woman said with a sigh. "But youíre my sister and I would be a bigger fool then I have been if I were to lose that."

"Anne."

"Yeah?"

"I love you." There was a lengthy silence following the confession.

"I love you too, kid," came the mumbled reply.

 

Alex wandered around the festively decorated house, idly sipping from the glass of egg nog that she was holding. Dinner had been the usual family affair with everyone in attendance. After a big evening meal they had retreated into the sitting room where everyone had been presented with one gift. The rest under the huge tree would be opened the next afternoon when the family gathered once again.

"Come on kiddo, donít look so glum itís Christmas," Christie said draping an arm around her

sister-in-lawís shoulders. "If you donít cheer up, Santa isnít going to come down your chimney tonight."

"Itís not Santa I want," the dark haired woman replied with a wry smile.

"Aah, then it must be a short blond detective that youíre hoping to find under your tree tomorrow," the blond woman teased with a grin.

"I wish," Alex sighed shaking her head. "Sheís working tonight and tomorrow."

"Tough luck," Christie said taking a sip of her own glass of egg nog.

"Yeah, life sucks," the taller woman commented dryly causing the other woman to glance sharply in her direction.

"Me thinks that there is something more then your inability to be with your friend that is making you so grumpy," the blond woman prodded. "What gives?"

Alex was silent for a moment, allowing her eyes to sweep around the room where everyone else was gathered. The adults were esconed in chairs with drinks of egg nog in their hands, chatting amicably while the children were playing quietly with their Christmas treasures on the floor. It was such a warm scene and one that she wished to share with Sydney.

"You know the one thing that really sucks about being gay," she said startling her friend.

"What, that you canít blame a man for all your problems?" Christie asked lightly and received a growl from her companion.

"No," Alex scowled motioning to the scene before them. "Itís that you canít have this. I mean you can be a part of this but you canít have any of it for yourself. Take Andrew and you for instance. It was all so simple, you fell in love, got married and had children. Me, I can fall in love but I canít get married and having children isnít a simple thing."

"It doesnít have to be that way," Christie said cautiously not certain what her sister-in-law was getting at. "If you arenít happy Alex, you could change."

"I am what I am Chris, it ainít going change and I donít want it to," the taller woman shook her head.

"Then whatís really going on Alex?" the blond woman wanted to know.

Alex was quiet, taking a sip of her egg nog. She wondered if she should mention anything to her friend and then decided to bare her soul knowing she could trust this woman.

"I asked Sydney to move in with me."

"What did she say?"

"She wanted to think about it."

"Ouch!" Christie grimaced.

"Ouch is right," Alex sighed staring at her drink. "I donít know what I will do if she says no. I donít

know if we could even go on."

"Why did you ask her?" her sister-in-law asked and the other woman looked at her with a puzzled expression on her face and the blond sighed impatiently. "Why do you want her to move in with you?"

"Because I love her," came the honest reply.

"Then focus on that," Christie counselled. "And if she says no then settle for what she wants. You guys havenít been going out that long and moving in together is a big commitment. If you love her donít give up. Donít get scared off by rejection, show her how much you care."

Alex looked at the other woman for a long moment and then wound her arm around her slender waist and squeezed her.

"Youíre a good friend," she said. "Youíve always been there for me even when everyone else didnít know what to think. You never even gave it a second thought when I told you I was gay."

"It didnít make a difference to me," Christie shrugged nonchalantly. "Besides I figure I owe you big time. You introduced me to your brother and there ainít no way I can repay you for that."

"I knew youíd be good for each other," Alex smiled.

"And I think Sydney is good for you," the blond woman said quietly. "Falling in love is easy Alex, itís making that love grow that takes all the work. The only thing you have to decide is if Sydney is worth the effort."

"She is."

"Then you have your answer," Christie said squeezing her sister-in-lawís waist before wandering into the room to join her husband. Alex watched as the woman sat down on the armrest of her husbandís chair and saw the way his arm naturally snaked itís way around her waist. She turned and wandered into the kitchen.

 

Sydney managed to make it home by eleven that evening. She knew that she had to be in at work in less then eight hours but she was to wound up to sleep. Instead she took a quick shower and then slipped into her pyjamas before slumping onto the sofa. She flipped on the television and watched the broadcast of a Christmas service from one of the local churches.

Her eyes were focused on the screen but her mind was on the phone call she had received earlier in

the evening. It had been totally unexpected and the best Christmas present she could have ever

received and if she was to believe her sister then she had Alex to thank for it.

Her thoughts paused to dwell on that situation, a tiny smile tipping the corners of her lips. She could just imagine the meeting between the two women. They were both hard headed and opinionated but somehow whatever Alex had said had gotten through to her sister. If she hadnít loved the other

woman before she certainly did now. She closed her eyes and let the music from the television wash over her, thinking about the last twenty four hours.

 

Alex pulled up in front of the small apartment block and glanced up. There was light in Sydneyís window and she felt a measure of hope. She climbed out of her car, juggling her parcels before locking up the vehicle and making her way up the steps. It had started to snow and small flakes clung to her long dark hair.

The knock on the door rousted Sydney from the light doze that she had fallen into. She sighed and struggled to her feet, padding across the apartment to answer the summons. She looked through the peep hole and swallowed the lump that gathered in her throat.

Alex stared at the younger woman for a long moment her heart expanding inside her chest. It seemed that every time she looked at Sydney, the smaller woman became more beautiful. Tonight dressed in an oversize white t-shirt and baggy plaid pyjama pants she looked especially adorable.

"Merry Christmas, love," she said softly holding out the gifts. Tears pooled in emerald eyes as Sydney bit down on her lower lip in an attempt to stop it from trembling and Alex knew in that instant her decision to come over had been the right one.

"Merry Christmas," was the tremulous reply as Sydney accepted the parcels.

She retreated into the living room, placing the packages down on the coffee table and waiting nervously as the taller woman peeled off her coat and shoes before moving into the room to join her. She watched as Alex sat down on the sofa and almost in reflex she reached over and flicked the remaining white flakes of snow off her dark hair. Suddenly she paused as if realizing what she was doing but before she could draw her hand away Alex had captured her wrist and brought it down to her lips.

The kiss was soft and gentle against the inside of her palm but it was electrifying and a jolt of energy shot up her arm and through her whole body. She didnít resist when the dark haired woman drew her down into a tight embrace that she automatically returned.

"Iím glad you came," Sydney whispered in her lovers ear laying a tender kiss on her neck.

"So am I," Alex whispered leaning back and reaching up to brush blond bangs off her lovers face before laying a tender kiss on her lips. "Come on, open up your presents."

Sydney gave her a brilliant smile and then like an eager child she pounced on the bundle of gifts that the woman had brought. She opened the first one, a brown paper bag, and Alex chortled with laughter at the younger womanís expression as she looked at the plastic container. The Captain

snatched it out of her hands and put it to the side.

"I brought you some turkey and stuffing," the dark woman explained and her blond companion leaned over and kissed her.

"Thank you."

"Come on," Alex prodded. She was almost more eager then her companion anxious to see the

reaction to the gifts she had bought.

Sydney tore into the next gaily wrapped package and cooed with delight over the trilogy of books by one of her favourite authors. It was followed by a second larger present that revealed a Sonics basketball shirt and shorts as well as several pairs of tickets.

"Youíll come with me?" the blond detective asked and her companion nodded.

"I was hoping you would ask," Alex smiled and accepted the kiss that her lover bestowed on her. "You have one more."

Sydney nodded setting the opened parcels aside before she started undoing the ribbon that bound the last gift, a large flat box that was almost as large as the coffee table. She gasp as she drew the framed picture out of the packing box. It was a print of a Dutch painting, a replica of a canvas that she admired. She stared at the gift not knowing what to say, aware that it must have been tremendously expensive. She turned to her companion who was looking at her with a sheepish expression.

"Alex this is beautiful!"

"I knew as soon as I saw it that it was meant for you," the taller woman felt immensely pleased that

the smaller woman was so delighted by her presents.

"Thank you," Sydney murmured staring at the picture and knowing instantly where she was going to hang it. She set it aside and lunged into her companions arms and for a long moment they remained on the sofa exchanging a series of passionate kisses. It was the smaller woman who finally broke off the embrace her breathing ragged. "I have something for you."

"You didnít have to get me anything," Alex protested.

"I know but I wanted too," the blond woman smiled and then scrambled off her lap and across the room to the small Christmas tree standing next to the television. She returned with several brightly wrapped packages which she handed to her taller companion.

Alex grinned, feeling like a little kid as she stripped the wrapping from the first present and found a beautiful black silk shirt with a colourful scarf. The second package revealed an expensive and intricate wooden model kit of a sailboat.

"I know you like the sea and I want to know what youíre doing when Iím not around," the blond

admitted sheepishly.

"I needed something to occupy me while youíre are work," Alex returned the grin and reached for the last gift, a small box. Her heart pounded loudly in her ears as she carefully opened what she knew was a piece of jewellery.

There was a long silence as she flipped open the lid and stared as the brooch inside. It was circular in design with a sailboat, encrusted with tiny diamonds, in the middle. Alex lifted it out of its velvet bed and held it up.

"Itís gorgeous," she whispered entranced by the beauty of the object. She looked at her companion and for a long moment blue and green eyes met. "This must have been expensive."

"Nothing is too expensive for you," Sydney whispered in reply and was rewarded with a soft kiss filled with love.

The blond woman leaned into the embrace savouring the taste of the other woman. It didnít matter how often they touched, it was never enough. This time it was Alex who leaned away aware that their passion was close to getting out of control and she had one more gift to give.

"I have one more present for you," the taller woman smiled and reached back over to her jacket and withdrew a small box from a pocket. She handed it over to her lover who stared at it for a long moment.

Sydney looked at the small gift for a long time before unwrapping it. She gasp reaching in to retrieve a small intricately designed animal carved out of teak. It was the image of a small elephant. She looked up at Alex who reached over and tenderly combed a strand of blond hair behind her ear.

"You have given me so much," the smaller woman whispered her voice thick with emotion as their eyes met again.

"I love you Sydney," came the sombre response. "Because of that I can never give you enough."

The blond detective stood up and moved across the room, placing the elephant on the top of the television amongst her collection before moving back towards the sofa, holding out her hand. Alex placed her hand inside the smaller womanís and stood up allowing the younger woman to led her to the bedroom.

"Are you sure?" Alex whispered gently caressing the smooth skin of her companions cheek, a gentle smile on her lips. "You have to be up early tomorrow."

"I donít care if I get any sleep tonight," Sydney said with certainty reaching up and pulling her companions head down so that their lips could meet.

They made love then, sharing the love they felt, but Alex made sure that their love making didnít go on all night. After their desires were satisfied they settled into each others arms.

"Go to sleep love," the dark haired woman whispered kissing a blond brow and with a yawn her companion complied.

 

Sydney leaned back in her chair and tapped her pen thoughtfully on the pad of paper on her desk unable to keep the smile off her face as she remembered the previous evening, basking in the love

that filled her heart. Even though she had to work, she couldnít remember a better Christmas and it

was all a result of her thoughtful partner.

Idly her eyes surveyed the quiet room, appreciating the fact that it was a slow day. Not one call had come in to the Unit and it was already four in the afternoon. The silence was a blessing for she had gotten the chance to catch up on her paperwork, but now she was just plain bored, as were the others who had volunteered to work this day.

Her eyes lingered on the two men in the corner. They were playing some card game to which she had originally been invited to join but had initially turned down. Now she wished she hadnít been so hasty. She sighed and stared at the blank computer screen in front of her.

It had been so typical of Alex to show up on her doorstep lastnight. So typical that she had actually waited up instead of going to bed. She had not been disappointed, then again the other woman had never done anything to disappoint her. The woman had always been there for her, always ready to go the extra step. There was no denying the fact that she loved Alex more than she had ever loved anyone else.

She thought of the phone call from her sister. In all the excitement of the previous day she had forgotten to thank her lover. Too talk to her sister again after all those years had been the best present she could have gotten. She closed her eyes as tears pooled in their depths.

 

Alex stepped into the squad room, pausing a moment to let her eyes absorb the quiet scene. She nodded to the two men in the corner and then proceeded to where the blond detective was sitting with her eyes closed. A smile came unbidden to her lips as she came to a halt by her lovers desk shifting her bags so that she could lean over to whisper in her colleagues ear.

"You know youíre not supposed to sleep on the job," she said only loud enough for them to hear. "You should tell your lover to go home at night."

"Nah, that wouldnít be any fun," Sydney grinned back, basking in the warmth of the voice that washed over her senses. She opened her eyes to see blue ones not far away and she fought the urge to lean forward and kiss the woman.

"Howís the day been?" Alex smiled straightening out her tall frame.

"Quiet," Sydney reconfirmed what the Captain had already learned from the desk Sergeant downstairs.

"Good, then youíve had a chance to catch up on your paperwork," the dark haired woman mused.

"Thereís only so much paperwork you can do," the blond detective drawled, flexing her muscles, "especially when youíre an action person."

Alex gave a low chuckle, patting the smaller womanís shoulder affectionately before moving on into her office where she deposited the brown paper bags she was carrying. Sydney watched for a

moment as her companion moved about her office. Her heart filled with love for the other woman.

Alex looked over the memoís on her desk before filing them away. Only then did she unpack the bags and set everything out. She glanced at the desk and then at her watch before stepping out of the office and over to where the two male detectives were playing cards.

"It looks to be a slow day so why donít you guys take off," she said with a smile. "Iíll stick around here with Det. Davis, so if you guys hurry you just might make Christmas dinner with your families. Oh, donít forget to have your pagers on just in case."

"Yes, Captain," both men grinned before immediately jumping to their feet and grabbing their jackets.

"See ya Syd," they called before rushing out the door.

"What? Was there a call?" Sydney wondered out loud taking her feet off her desk and swinging

around to look at the tall woman who was now leaning casually against the door jam leading into her office.

"Nope," Alex smiled seductively. "I thought we could handle the rest of the shift on our own."

"Oh...Oh!" the blond detective grinned. "I like that idea."

"I thought you might," the Captain returned the smile and then motioned her head towards the office. "Come on, I brought something for you."

Sydney was immediately on her feet and quickly across the room. She paused at the door, her jaw dropping in shock as she spied the elegant dinner setting that were carefully laid out on the desk. In the very center was a single candle and a rose.

"Seeing you couldnít come to Christmas dinner, I thought Iíd bring a little bit of Christmas dinner to you," the tall woman said motioning for her companion to take the empty chair on the other side of the desk.

Sydney nodded still in shock as she glanced over the small feast. There was a platter with the traditional turkey meat and gravy, another with mashed potatoes and stuffing, and a third dish filled with steamed vegetables. There was even a bowl of salad. She looked up at her lover, her green eyes shinning.

"Is it okay?" the Captain asked shyly.

"Itís great," the blond detective said breathlessly. "You know if we werenít at work, Iíd kiss you so hard your knees would melt."

"Save that for tonight," Alex beamed, proud that her actions was the reason for the glow that appeared on the younger womanís face. "Right now letís eat before it gets cold."

"This is wonderful," Sydney remarked filling her plate with the delicious food. "Did you make this?"

"No," was the sheepish confession. "I stole it out of my momís kitchen. She has this thing about preparing the big meals, says itís all a part of the whole family celebration thing. They should be sitting down for dinner anytime now."

"Gosh, youíre missing your Christmas dinner," Sydney suddenly felt self-conscious.

"No, Iím not," Alex disagreed with some amusement. A pair of eyebrows disappeared under dark bangs as she motioned to the food that cluttered the desktop. "What do you call this?"

"Yeah well," Sydney flushed with embarrassment. "But you should be with your family."

You are my family, Alex wanted to say but instead she merely shrugged.

"I wanted to be with you," it was an honest enough answer. Sydney felt her heart swell at the response and it took several deep breaths to steady her heart beat.

"Thank you," she whispered softly her eyes glowing with emotion and Alex smiled, her own heart

swelling with love, aware that she had done good. "You have been so good to me I donít know how I can repay you."

"I donít want repayment," Alex said quietly. "I do this because I love you."

"I know," the other woman nodded solemnly, then hesitated briefly before continuing. "Is that the reason you went to see my sister?"

Alex caught her breath, uncertain if her intrusion was welcome. She searched her companions face hoping to gain some clue as to what the other woman was thinking. She took courage in the soft expression that gazed back at her.

"Did she call you?"

"Yes," Sydney confirmed softly. "She called yesterday when I was at work. We talked for quite a while. I donít know what you said to her but thank you."

"I only told her the truth," Alex was slightly embarrassed. "It seems to me like she was only looking for an excuse to make up with you."

"Iím glad you gave it to her," the blond said solemnly and the tall woman smiled deciding it was time to lighten the mood.

"Have you decided where youíre going to hang the picture yet?" Alex asked and Sydney bobbed her head with an impish grin.

"Iíve got the perfect place," the blond woman replied with a broad smile. "I thought it would look good right over the sofa in your living room."

For a moment Alex frowned and then felt a moment of concern. "Donít you like it?"

"I adore it, thatís why I want to put it where Iíd get to see it all the time," Sydney said and then laughed when her companion didnít seem to understand. "I want it in our place."

"Really?" Alex sat straight up in her chair. Her eyes were huge. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," the blond detective nodded her head.

"But the other night you seemed uncertain," the dark haired woman said, swallowing compulsively.

"Any doubts I have about living with you were completely swept away by the way youíve treated me these last few days," the smaller woman said quietly. "I would be a fool to think I could ever find someone better then you."

Alex flushed at the compliment. "Well, we donít have to live at my place."

"But I kind of like your place," Sydney replied shyly.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," the blond nodded her head definitely. "I donít think I have ever been so certain about anything in my life."

Alex couldnít restrain herself and in one quick motion she was on her feet and around the desk. Sydney barely had time to put her fork down before she felt the soft lips on her mouth. The kiss went on for a long moment before the taller woman finally withdrew and the blond woman had to gulp for breath.

"The only problem is that my lease doesnít run out for another three months," Sydney said once they were both back in their chairs and eating once again.

"Iíll pay your rent," Alex breathed and the blond detective laughed.

"I hope you donít regret this," she said instead briefly growing serious. "Iím not the greatest roommate."

"Weíll work it out," the dark haired woman promised and somehow Sydney knew that they would.

"Youíll tell your mother that I really liked this food," she said and that drew a broad grin from her companion.

"You can tell her yourself," Alex smiled tentatively. "They really want to meet you and I thought it might be a good idea for us to go out to dinner with them this week, that is if you feel up to it?"

Sydney bit down on her lower lip, feeling the old nervousness return. She glanced at her companion and then at the food spread out on the desk between them.

"I think it would be a good idea," she agreed, expelling a deep breath.

"Are you sure?" Alex wanted the most important people in her life to meet but she was afraid of pushing the other woman.

"Yes," Sydney smiled shyly and then winked. "I think they should probably meet the person you intend moving in with, donít you?"

"Oh..." the taller woman said and the blond detective chuckled.

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

Sydney fidgeted nervously with her hands, unable to keep her digits still on the drive over to the restaurant that evening. Though she had several days to get used to the idea she was still anxious about meeting Alexís parents. In spite of her loverís quiet reassurances she was fearful about their reception and to appear less ignorant she had discreetly gone about doing her own research on the family. Unfortunately what she learned only served to increase her feelings of anxiety.

The information was easy enough to obtain for the couple lead a high profile life amongst Seattleís social elite. Warren Marshall was a well known litigator who headed a large Legal firm that represented more than a few officials from every level of government. Marie, the matriarch of the family, was actively involved in several National Committees that raised millions of dollars each year for the various charities the couple supported.

Everything she found out about the couple re-enforced her belief that they were a formidable pair. A couple who conducted their lives with the highest morale standard. They were an affable pair well liked in the community who were known for never allowing their personal opinions to cloud their judgement. She hoped in her own case that was true because the rest of what she had learned, had left her feeling completely intimidated.

Sydney had never placed much importance on money, reckoning she had enough as long as she was able to pay her bills and have a little extra to buy the luxuries she sometimes wanted. She knew by most standardís she would be considered poor, after all her salary as a police detective wasnít enormous which was the reason many of her married colleagues worked at second jobs.

She sighed, feeling an unknown burden. She had known that the Marshallís were rich, but the extent of their wealth was beyond even what she had imagined. Her own lack of riches had never before been an issue but she feared now that Alexís parents would consider her friendship with their daughter in a more dubious light. As if sensing her distress the other woman reached across the seat and grasped a smaller hand in her own.

"Relax, sweetheart, itís only dinner," Alex flashed a reassuring smile.

"Thatís easy for you to say," Sydney shot back. "Itís not my parentís weíre going to meet."

"Do you think it was any easier going to see your sister?" the taller woman asked pointedly and the blond woman had to concede that her lover was right. "By the way have I told you yet how beautiful you look?"

"Only a dozen times," came the grinning reply and the smaller woman felt her fears lessen.

She glanced down at her outfit. She had fussed for a long time before selecting what clothes to wear finally choosing a red silk jacket and matching skirt for the occasion. A black turtleneck and a single strand of pearls completed the ensemble. She had carefully arranged her blonde hair into a French braid that rested in the middle of her back.

She cast a glance at her companion. Alex was dressed in a black turtleneck and matching trousers with a red jacket overtop. With her long dark hair left loose around her shoulders she looked absolutely gorgeous and Sydney stared for a long time at her lovers appearance. Unbeknownst to either of them, their different heights and colourings made them a strikingly beautiful couple. Which was the exact thought that popped into Marie Marshallís head when she saw the pair step into the restaurant.

Her heart stopped for a minute at the sight, her eyes narrowing perceptively as they focused in on the couple as they stood in the foyer waiting for the maitreíd to escort them to their table. She saw the way her tall daughter reached out to clasp the smaller womanís hand and the intimate look they exchanged. There was a chemistry, an invisible bond that wove a tiny spell around the couple. It was so strong it was almost palpable.

She knew in that instant that she had lost her daughter to the other woman and that realization caused an intense wave of jealousy to thread through her body. They had never been as close as she would have liked and Marie had often envied her friends and the relationships they shared with their own daughters.

She glanced around the room and saw that she was not the only one who had noticed the couples

entrance. There were others, both men and women, watching the pair as they casually threaded their way across the room and the expressions on their faces mirrored their thoughts. She saw a mixture of awe and surprise but none of the hate or disgust that she had imagined.

"Remember, their not snobs," Alex whispered to her companion as they followed the maitreíd across the restaurant towards the table where her parents were already seated. As if to prove her point she lifted the smaller hand and kissed it to reassure her companion. Sydney smiled in appreciation but didnít have time to say anything before they were at the table and she was looking into the faces of the people who had created her lover. She could see parts of them both in the younger woman.

"Mom, dad, Iíd like you to meet Sydney Davis," Alex made the introductions. "Sydney these are my parents Marie and Warren Marshall."

Handshakes followed the polite greeting and the usual pleasantries were made before they sat down to order their food. A chilled bottle of wine had already been opened and Warren poured each of the younger women a glass for which Sydney was grateful because she immediately took a sip.

"Sydney, Alex hasnít told us much about you," Marie initiated the more personal conversation once the food had been ordered.

"There isnít really much to tell," Sydney offered with a tiny smile. "I get up in the morning, go to work and then go home at night."

"Do you have any family in the city?"

"No," the blond woman wondered how much she should tell these people. She wanted to make a good impression but she also wanted to be truthful. If she was going to live with their daughter the secrets were libel to come out so she decided to be honest from the beginning of what she hoped

would be a long relationship.

"My sister lives upstate and I havenít seen my father in over ten years. Last I heard he was on his way to California."

"And your mother?" Marie asked carefully.

"I havenít seen her since I was seven," came the blunt answer and the older woman nodded while casting her daughter a look of censure, clearly telling the girl with the one glance that she should have been slightly more forthcoming about her companionís situation. Sydney saw the look and correctly interpreted it.

"I donít tell many people about my private life and those I do, respect my privacy enough not to say anything," she said softly. Marie was slightly startled by the girlís defence of her daughter.

"I hear you play basketball," Warren interjected quickly, aware of the tension that had sprung up. He was anxious to avoid any type of scene, determined to be supportive of his daughterís situation. "Did she tell you that she played in college?"

"Yes," Sydney was appreciative of the change in subject. An impish smile flashed across her face as she glanced sideways at her companion and saw the flustered look on the taller womanís features. "I learned the hard way that she was also on the National Squad."

"How much money did she take from you?" the man asked with a laugh.

"Money?"

"Yes," Warren couldnít hide his amusement or his pride as he glanced at his daughter. "She likes to pick a mark and challenge them to a match and then take as much money off them as she can. I can only imagine how much money she has earned in that fashion."

"She pounded me into the court but we never put any money on the game," Sydney said

remembering the match they had played. The man seemed surprised and chuckled heartily.

"She really must have liked you." The comment brought a faint colouring to the dark haired womanís face and Alex hastily changed the subject again.

The meal turned out to be a pleasant affair and Sydney naturally felt herself relaxing. Warren had a keen sense of humour and more then once he had them in stitches regaling them with antics of their only daughter. Alex suffered through the humiliation with grace.

Marie was content to sit back and observe the scene, her sharp brown eyes scrutinizing the pair. The smaller woman was certainly pretty with a heart shaped face and twinkling green eyes that looked at her daughter with nothing less then adoration. The two women looked so different yet at the same time it was like they were perfectly matched.

Even their personalities seemed to compliment each other, the blond womanís friendly openness

offsetting her own daughterís stoic demeanour. It was eerie how well they seemed to fit together and on a certain level it only increased her dislike for the small woman.

"What kind of childhood did you have?" Marie directed the conversation back to their guest when there was a lull in the conversation. Despite everything that had been said they still knew very little about this stranger.

"I got into my share of trouble," Sydney admitted. "My father was working or out most of the time so it was left up to my sister to look out for me. We used to hang out with her friends who were all quite a bit older so I naturally learned a few things a little earlier than most kids. Fortunately I didnít get into the kind of trouble that would have ruined my life."

Marie recognized the answer was vague. Experience told her that there was more that was left unsaid and that made her uneasy but she knew better then to press the subject. She sensed that the younger woman had come from an unstable background and because of that she told herself that the girl was all wrong for her only daughter.

It was at the end of the meal when they were preparing to leave that Sydney decided she better visit the restroom before departing. She was a little surprised when the older woman decided to tag along for she had the distinct impression that Marie Marshall didnít like her.

She exited the stall and went to the sink to wash her hands aware that Alexís mother was glancing at her make-up in the mirror. The older woman was beautiful and Sydney had a fair idea from looking at the matron of what her lover would look like in the years to come. Their eyes caught in the mirror and the blond woman blushed with embarrassment.

"Iíd like to thank you," Sydney said hastily, feeling awkward.

"For what dear?" Marie looked startled.

"For telling Alex to follow her heart. I know how hard it must have been for you to do that especially as you donít approve of her lifestyle."

The impromptu display of gratitude was unexpected and for a brief instant the older woman was rendered speechless. It was easy when I couldnít put a face to the person that Alex loved, Marie thought to herself examining the girl critically.

"Alexandria is my only daughter and I would have preferred had she had fallen in love with a man instead of you, but she is happier than I have ever seen her and because you are the cause of that I should be grateful...."

"But?" Sydney knew there was more.

"But I canít help thinking that you are all wrong for my daughter," Marie was bluntly honest giving in

to her jealousy. "You come from a rough background and I fear because of that you will only end up hurting her and that Miss Davis is something I wonít tolerate. I love Alexandria and I only want the very best for her so be warned, if you break her heart you will pay."

Without another word the woman turned and stalked out of the restroom leaving Sydney staring dumbfounded at the mirror. She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths, fighting the tears that threatened to come. She had tried so hard to make these people like her and she had failed. The pain that realization caused was incredible.

Marie caught up to her daughter outside the restaurant where the girl was waiting with her father for the valet to bring around their cars. She noticed the way Alex glanced passed her, searching for the smaller woman.

"It would have been nice if you had the curtesy to let us know a little about your friend before introducing us. It could have saved some awkward moments," the woman said dryly diverting the girlís attention.

"Iím sorry mom, I didnít think," Alex sighed. "Truth is Sydney doesnít talk much about her family. She didnít have the greatest upbringing. Her mother deserted the family when she was quite young, her father was an alcoholic and she sister is currently serving a life sentence upstate for the murder of a state trooper. Sheís had a hard life and was in trouble as a juvenile, but sheís turned her life around."

"She seems like a pretty amazing young woman," Marie said quietly barely masking the sarcasm she felt.

"She is," Alex agreed with a deep breath not disguising the emotion she felt and completely oblivious to her motherís true feelings.

"I like her Alex," Warren interjected as the valet brought up his car. "She will make a nice addition to the family."

"Thank you," the younger woman breathed grateful for his acceptance.

"I can just imagine what the family brunchs are going to be like from now on," the man chuckled. "If she is as competitive as you are, your brothers are in trouble."

Alex laughed aware to what her father was referring. She was certain that the first get together would undoubtably result in a basketball challenge. A grin etched itself across her lips as she thought how much money she might be able to get off her brothers. She accepted the keys from the valet before kissing her mothers cheek farewell and nodding to her father as he climbed behind the wheel of his own Mercedes. She was exceptionally pleased by how the evening had gone.

By the time Sydney appeared the other couple was gone and for that she was relieved. She had taken a long while to compose herself, unwilling to let on to her companion what had occurred.

"You okay?" Alex asked with concern once she saw the odd expression on her partnerís face as the

girl climbed into the jeep.

"Yeah, just a slight headache," Sydney lied, keeping her eyes focused straight ahead. "Youíre parents seem very nice."

"I likeíem," the dark haired woman agreed with a low chuckle as she thought of her fatherís last words.

"They love you very much," the blond woman continued and turned her gaze onto her companion who was concentrating on the traffic on the road.

"And they liked you," the taller woman said reaching out with her free hand to grasp the smaller one and giving it a comforting squeeze.

Sydney said nothing to dispute that claim though she knew differently. Alex believed that her parentís had accepted her and she would do nothing to change that belief. She had dealt with hostile situations before and this would only be another one.

In Alexís mind the meeting with her parents had gone better than she hoped though she had no reason to suspect otherwise. She loved and respected her family and felt the same for Sydney so there really hadnít been anything for her to worry about. However, she had no such grand illusions about the lunch meeting she had arranged with the Commissioner.

She waited until after the New Year to set the appointment. Sydney had committed herself to working over the holiday but still they managed to be together, stealing their way onto the roof of the station house to ring in the New Year with a glass of non-alcoholic champagne and a kiss. It had been a wonderful night in spite of their surroundings and she surmised it had simply been because they had been together.

She turned her thoughts away from her partner and concentrated on the ordeal ahead. She knew that she could keep her relationship with Sydney a secret but she also knew that it wouldnít be fair to the man who had put his trust in her. The one thing she hoped was that George would not think to badly of her. His opinion had always been very important.

"So Alex, whatís up?" the man initiated the conversation once the normal pleasantries had been dispensed with. He knew the younger woman well enough to know that for her to approach him there

had to be a huge problem. An issue she was unable to resolve.

"We have a problem George," Alex said confirming his suspicions. "Iím in love."

"Congratulations," the older man smiled amused by her confession though somewhat confused. "However I donít see a problem with that."

Alex gave him a cryptic smile. "The problem isnít that Iím in love George, the problem is that Iím in love with one of my detectives."

"Ohhh," comprehension slowly dawned on the man as he realized the gravity of the situation. "That

is a problem."

"Right," she replied seriously, pushing the food on her plate around with her fork.

"If I may ask, how long has this problem existed?"

"Weíve been dating for about three months."

The man pursed his lips together thoughtfully, his grey eyes narrowing preceptively as he gazed at the woman across the table. He knew Alex well enough to know that this was no passing fancy. She would not have put her career at risk for a simple roll in the hay. In that way she was very much unlike many of her colleagues.

"Do you mind if I ask who it is?"

"Thatís the second problem George," Alex swallowed rubbing her temple briefly. She had not discussed this with Sydney and hoped that she wasnít betraying the other womanís trust by sharing their secret. "Iím gay."

"Ohh..," this was almost as big a shock as the first announcement had been. His mind started wandering over the list of detectives who worked in the Homicide Unit wondering who this woman could be involved with if she was gay. All the detectives were men except for...

"Sydney Davis," he spoke his thoughts out loud.

"Yes," the woman nodded solemnly, almost feeling a relief at the confession.

"Christ Alex, donít you know what youíre doing," the Commissioner exploded as the full impact of what she was telling him sank in. He was struggling to keep his emotions in check. "We have policies prohibiting stuff like this. What was going on in your head?"

"I wasnít acting with my head," Alex admitted wondering if it would have made a difference if she had been involved with one of the male detectives.

"Obviously," the man sputtered. "Hell, do you realize what could happen if you break up? She could take the department to the cleaners."

"Sydney isnít like that," she defended the absent woman. She knew what could happen if they broke

up but she had a firm trust in her young lover.

"Shit Alex you donít know that, no one can predict what will happen in a break up," George showed his irritation. "I thought you were above that sort of thing."

"Above what George, falling in love?" the tall woman asked balefully unable to mask the hurt she felt at his comment.

"No.." the man immediately knew his mistake. "I didnít mean that."

"Then what did you mean?"

"Everything," the man waved his hand in the air. "This isnít like you."

"I suppose youíre right," she sighed. "If itís going to cause a problem Iíll resign."

"Christ donít start talking about quitting your job," the man continued in the same tone of voice.

Despite her admission he was reluctant to lose the woman. The Homicide Unit had never been in better shape. The clearance rate had gone up by fifty per cent and the whole team of detectives seemed happy. Even the complaints from the DAís office had diminished. He didnít want to lose the stability that the womanís presence had brought.

"Weíll just transfer her to another department."

"No," Alex rejected the offer. "Sydney is a good detective and she likes her job. I donít want her penalized for this. If anyone moves it should be me."

"Come on Alex, use youíre common sense, youíre more valuable then her," the Commissioner debated. "I donít want to lose you."

"Then weíll have to come up with a compromise," the woman said, "because if it comes down to choosing between Sydney and my job, Iím gone."

The man eyed her critically. Not for one minute did he believe that she was bluffing. He knew that Alex didnít issue threats that she didnít back up. If she said she was leaving, she would be gone.

"Okay letís not do anything hasty here. Exactly how long have the two of you been seeing each other?"

"More than three months," Alex repeated her earlier statement and the man peered at her intently.

"I take it then that this is serious and not some passing fancy?"

"We are moving in together," she was honest

"Does anybody else know about this?"

"Not that I know of," she replied honestly. "Weíve tried to be discreet."

It was obvious to the man that they had been successful in that capacity. It was normal for the department to be rife with rumours, however nothing of a romantic nature had circulated about the two women. Perhaps it was possible to keep the matter quiet.

"If nobody knows anything why did you bring it to my attention?" he was curious, realizing that the woman could have kept the relationship quiet. He knew she had taken a big chance by advising him of the situation.

"I respect you George and didnít want you to get blindsided by this if it ever did come out."

"I appreciate the consideration," he commented dryly eyeing her for a long moment. "Against my better judgement Iím not going to do anything. Youíre a smart woman Alex and Iím surprised to find you in this type of situation but Iíve learned to trust your judgement. Iím going to continue to trust you on this one and pretend I know nothing, however if something happens Iím not certain I can protect you."

"I wouldnít expect you too," the woman said.

"I appreciate that," the man nodded and then added as a caution. "Be careful Alex, there are others in the department that wonít be as forgiving."

All in all the interview didnít go as badly as Alex suspected it would and she returned to the station house feeling happier then she expected to feel. She immediately sought out her partner, uncertain how the younger woman would feel about her actions. She found the blond detective in the change room.

"How did your meeting with the Commissioner go?" Sydney asked as the Captain sat down on a bench.

"Better then I expected," the older woman conceded and then glanced pensively at her companion.

"I told him about us."

"Oh..." the single word escaped from between pursed lips. "What did he say?"

"He wasnít happy," she was honest feeling a wave of relief. She had envisioned a slightly different reaction from her young lover.

"Is it going to cause a problem?"

"I donít know."

Sydney was quiet for a long moment as she contemplated that answer. Unconsciously she reached up and rubbed the side of her nose as a frown burrowed itís way across her brow. It was a familiar and cute gesture and Alex fought the urge to smile.

"I donít want you to get in trouble Alex," the younger woman finally sighed and for a brief moment blue and green eyes met. "If itís going to be a problem Iíll ask for a transfer."

"No," the Captain gave her lover a tender smile. "Heís not going to do anything, as long as we continue to be discreet."

"Will it affect our moving in together?" Sydney asked hesitantly.

"I wouldnít let anything do that," Alex replied truthfully. "When do you think you will be ready to move?"

"The weekend," the blond woman allowed a smile to crease her face.

"Do you need any help?" Alex couldnít hide her eagerness and the grin on the smaller womanís face grew.

"No, just make sure thereís room for my stuff."

"In that case I better get home and start clearing out some closets," the Captain returned the smile as she rose to her feet and then added hopefully. "Will I see you later?"

"You can count on it," came the solemn promise.

Sydney watched her lover leave. She was nervous and excited all at the same time, afraid that she was making a mistake by moving in with Alex so soon into their relationship. After all she had never lived with anyone and she didnít know how they would adjust to the changes that this would make to both their lives.

She went through the week hardly thinking about what she was doing, yet somehow managing to make all the right decisions. It was Thursday when a curious note landed on her desk. She had just gotten back from a call when she found the message and fax sitting by her computer.

"Where did this come from?" she asked glancing at the other detectives who were in the room.

"It came in a few hours ago," Norm supplied leaning back in his chair. "That police officer from Vancouver you were dealing with on the Kennedy case called to say that he had managed to get some more info for you on Lucas Anderson."

Sydney nodded and sat down flipping open the folder and consuming the contents with a voracious appetite. No matter how hard she tried, she was unable to get the thought of little Tommy Kennedy out of her head. More then any other case she wanted to solve this one. She wanted to nail the man who had kidnapped, abused and then ultimately killed the young boy. She picked up the phone and dialled the number that her fellow officer had included with the fax.

"Apparently our guy has a remote cabin up in the mountains out in your area," her Canadian counterpart said after they had exchanged the usual pleasantries. "A distant relative, a cousin, contacted us with the information. Unfortunately he was out of the country until a few days ago and didnít know we were looking for Andersen."

"Damn," Sydney muttered, her mind already working through the possibilities. "If itís true then that was probably where he disappeared too after kidnapping the kid."

"And more then likely where he could be hiding right now," the man on the other end of the line continued her thought.

"Did he tell you where the place was?" she wanted to know.

"He couldnít remember the location because he had only been up there once a long time ago, but he

did say that his cousinís in Seattle knew where it was."

"I always had a suspicion that Eddie Williams wasnít being entirely honest with us," Sydney sighed, deciding on her next course of action. "I think, Iíll pay another visit to the cousinís and this time I wouldnít be so nice."

"Sounds good," the man voiced his approval. "Let me know what happens."

"I will," the woman promised before ringing off. She glanced at the clock. It was six in the morning

and the dawn was just beginning to light the sky. She saw no reason for waiting to roust the couple in question.

As expected, Eddie Williams and his wife Alice were still in bed when she pounded on the door to their house. The man answered the summons, dressed only in a pair of white boxer shorts and a t-shirt. Without waiting for him to speak, she grabbed his arm and twisted him around, slapping a pair of cuffs on his wrists before turning him over to the two patrol officers who were standing behind her on the steps.

"Hey, what is this?" the man stammered, stunned by the action.

"You are being arrested for accessory to the murder of Tommy Kennedy," Sydney replied motioning for the officers to take the man to the patrol car that was parked on the curb

"I didnít do nothing to that kid," the man protested as he was led away.

"Whatís going on here?" a softer voice asked and Sydney turned to face the manís wife who had been rousted by the commotion.

"Your husband is being arrested for accessory to the murder of Tommy Kennedy."

"My husband didnít know anything about what Lucas was doing," the woman proclaimed the manís innocence.

"You husband knew that Lucas owned a cabin in nearby Dade county. His failure to disclose that information makes me believe he might also know where Mr. Andersen is."

"No," the woman gasp, her eyes widening as she stared at the patrol car where her husband was now sitting in the back seat. There was a look of panic on her face.

"Yes, Mrs. Williams, your husband is in serious trouble if he continues to protect his cousin. Right now my bosses back at headquarters are reassessing his role. We could be looking at some very serious charges, accessory to murder, especially the murder of a seven year old boy isnít something he wants to be charged with."

"Thatís a lie, all of itís a lie."

"No mam, with the information we have I could make the charges stick and the only thing thatís

going to help him is if he starts cooperating. Itís the only way we are going to start believing that your husband isnít involved in the whole affair."

The woman looked terrified, her fearful eyes centred on the half dressed man who was slumped in the back seat of the police cruiser. She turned worried eyes on the blond detective.

"Can I talk to my husband?"

Bingo, Sydney thought to herself and struggled to keep the grin off her face. "Sure, go ahead."

Alex arrived early for work that morning. As usual her eyes automatically went to Sydneyís desk and she felt a huge measure of disappointment when she saw that it was empty. After settling her briefcase in her office she ventured across the hallway to speak to the Lieutenant who was on duty during the night shift.

"Anything I should know about?" she asked casually scanning the nightly occurrence reports.

"Nope, it was pretty quiet," Lt. Howe said happy to be heading home. "Davis brought in Eddie Williams for interrogation on the Kennedy murder."

"I thought she cleared him of any involvement," Alex mused out loud, her eyes narrowing as a frown spread across her face.

"She thinks he knows more than heís saying. She got a fax from Canada about some cabin Andersen owns in the mountains. Apparently this guy knew about it," the Lt. said. "If youíre interested sheís got him in interrogation room number three."

"Thanks," Alex nodded and bidding the man a good day, wandered down the corridor towards the interrogation rooms. Sydney emerged from one of the rooms just as she approached.

"Hey," the Captain greeted the younger woman unable to keep the affection out of her voice.

"Hey yourself," Sydneyís weary features suddenly lit up at the sight of the taller woman. She leaned forward and the two women bumped their foreheads together, their bodies needing that brief physical contact.

"Howís it going?" Alex asked folding her arms across her chest in an attempt to restrain the urge to reach out and embrace the younger woman. She glanced over the smaller womanís shoulder into the room beyond where a half dressed man sat slumped in a chair.

"Good," the blond woman replied feeling quite pleased with herself despite the fatigue that was gnawing at her senses. "Got a call from the RCMP up in Vancouver. They found out that Lucas Andersen owns a cabin in nearby Dade County. I used a little motivation on Mr. Williams here to give us an exact diagram to its location. Apparently he has used it extensively in the past."

"You think Andersen is there?"

"It sounds like the perfect place to hide," Sydney shrugged. "Anyway I was just on my way to see about getting the necessary paperwork to go and have a look at the place."

"Youíll need the local troopers help," Alex reminded thoughtfully.

"Yeah, I know a guy who works out there on the force. I was going to give him a call," the blond

woman hesitated. "Iíll probably have to drive down there tomorrow right after my shift ends."

Alex was silent as she contemplated the situation. Tomorrow was Saturday and the day that they had set aside to move most of Sydneyís things over to Alexís condo. She looked across at her lover and saw the pensive expression in the green eyes that were looking up at her.

"Tell you what, go make all the arrangements then go home and get some sleep," the Captain made the decision. "Tomorrow weíll drive out there together."

"Are you sure?" Sydney asked and Alex knew that the younger woman was referring to something besides the trip out of town.

"Yeah," the dark haired woman smiled easily giving her lover reassurance that she was okay with the situation. "Besides if you take this guy down you will need someone to help bring him in."

"Sounds like a good idea," the smaller woman agreed thankful that her lover wasnít upset.

"Now get going," Alex motioned before turning and beginning to walk away. "Call me later."

"Yes boss," Sydney gave her a mock salute.

It was a three hour drive to Dade County and they left Seattle as the first rays of dawn cracked the horizon. It was an unexpectedly clear day and Alex gazed over the scenery, marvelling at the beauty of nature that surrounded them. It was only January but everything was so rich and green, the dew on the grass sparkling under the brilliant caress of the sun. She glanced sideways at her companion, her heart swelling with emotion as a tiny grin etched its way across her lips.

They had left as soon as Sydney had booked off her regular shift and she had insisted on driving aware that her partner was tired after a long night of work. The small blond woman was now curled up in the passenger seat, her head resting on the window and her jacket pulled up tightly around her body. She looked so beautiful and innocent that Alex couldnít wait until she could wake up every morning and watch her partner sleep. She turned her attention back to the road.

It had taken repeated reassurances for her to convince the blond detective that she wasnít upset by

the change in plans. She knew better then anyone else how their work would interfere in their lives.

Besides she knew how important this case was to the younger woman and she wouldnít let her own personal agenda affect the way the woman performed her job.

As it was, Sydney slept the whole way and then was profusely embarrassed when her companion finally woke her as they arrived at their destination. She ran her fingers through her loose hair a few times feeling the tingling of her skin. She glanced sideways at her partner.

"You should have woken me," she claimed.

"Why?" Alex wondered, her dark eyebrows raising in amusement. "You were tired, you needed the rest."

"But that left you all alone," the blond woman protested.

"I didnít mind," the Captain reassured her with a sincere smile. "It was a nice drive."

Sydney was reminded again of all the reasonís that she loved this woman.

"I love you," she said simply.

"I know," Alex replied her smile broadening.

They met with the local authorities and established a plan of action before heading up the mountain on a remote logging road that led deep into the bush. The sense of anxious anticipation filled every member of the party as they stopped about a hundred yards from the cottage, parking behind a thick

growth of new shrubbery.

Quietly they deplored in a circle around the property, silently closing in on the peaceful cottage which was perched on a slight ridge overlooking a small valley. The place looked vacant but they did not take any chances, cautiously sneaking up to the building.

Sydney took a couple of deep breaths, inhaling the chilly air into her lungs as she clutched the gun in her hand. Though it was a clear sky and the sun was shining brightly, the thick bush and fur trees cast a dim shadow over the place. She glanced across at Alex and nodded her head before creeping onto the porch and sidling up to the front door. She tapped loudly on the wood.

"This is the police, open up," she shouted so that there would be no mistaking her words. But only silence greeted her entreaty. She glanced at her partner and repeated her earlier announcement.

"I think itís empty," Alex said when there was no response and nodded towards the state trooper who had trailed their approach. They stepped back as the man hurried up the steps with the small battering ram that was used to gain entry to sealed locations.

The door craved easily against the assault and Alex and Sydney carefully slipped into cabin with their guns drawn. Much to their disappointment the place was empty, though a thorough search of the place revealed that it had been recently occupied.

"Thanks," Alex said, dismissing the State Troopers once they had collected all the evidence they could find. The men nodded before returning to their cruisers leaving the two women alone.

"What do you think?" the Captain asked wondering what was going through the blond detectives mind. The woman had been unusually quiet.

Sydney slumped onto one of the chairs and glanced with weary eyes around the place. It was a

simple abode consisting of a single room. A set of bunk beds and an old sofa were the only furnishings besides the wooden table and chairs set in a corner. There was a fireplace along one wall and a hand pump at the sink to draw water.

"I think that Williams tipped him off," she answered in a sour voice.

"No, I donít think so," the taller woman disputed the suggestion. "Our suspect was here but there is enough dust in the place to suggest that itís been awhile."

"I donít care," the smaller woman spat, allowing some of her emotion to show. "I have no doubt he was here and if Williams had fessed up sooner we might have caught him. I think once we get back to the city Iím going to go over and rattle his cage. If he was anxious about going to jail before he better be plenty nervous about it now."

"No," Alex decided shaking her head. "We are going back to the city and youíre going to leave it until Monday."

Sydney glanced up at her companion who had moved across the room and was now towering directly over her. She could see the look of caution in her lovers eyes and sighed. Until now she had been running on adrenalyn and the short catnap that she had snatched on the way down had not been enough to wipe away her fatigue. Numbly she nodded her head in assent.

"Come on love, letís go, we got everything we could from here," Alex said and held out her hand which the other woman reluctantly accepted, allowing her partner to help her up. They closed the door as they stepped out of the cabin and walked back towards where their car was parked, carrying the small box of evidence they had collected..

"Are you hungry? I think I saw a fairly decent looking restaurant in town."

"I could use something," the smaller woman mumbled and as if on cue her stomach rumbled. Alex chuckled.

"It will still be early once we get back to the city, maybe we can get some of my stuff moved over," Sydney suggested as they climbed into the car.

"No," the other woman shook her head. "When we get back you will rest and tomorrow we will take the day off and go to my parents."

"But...," the blond paused looking across at her companion uncertainly. She knew how anxious Alex was for her to move in and couldnít guess why she would now want to delay the process. Besides

after the last meeting she wasnít particularly eager to meet the Marshallís so soon again.

"Youíre not changing your mind about our living together are you?" she asked hesitantly still very insecure about her position in this womanís life.

"No, I want you to move in," Alex confirmed the truth, "but youíre tired and need some time to relax. Iím not going to risk you getting sick from exhaustion."

Sydney was appreciative of the other womanís consideration and felt a warm rush of love sweep through her body. It had been a long time, perhaps to long, since anyone had consciously looked out for her best interests. She knew that Alex would always do that. That night they retired early, yet despite the restive sleep, she was still unprepared to visit her loverís parents.

The Marshall home was an ocean front property located on the outskirts of the city in an exclusive neighbourhood. It was a large place with a gated entrance that opened unto a curving drive that snaked through a tall stand of fur trees and ran parallel to an immaculately trimmed lawn.

The house was a three story affair built in the traditional colonial style with red bricks and huge white pillars. It sat in the middle of the property and behind it was a small rose garden and another lawn which sloped down to the beach where a dock had been installed and to which two boats were now tied.

To the right of the house was a four port garage and a large cement pad upon which a small basketball court had been set up. Sydney wasnít surprised to learn that Marie and Warren had designed the place themselves.

"Itís huge," she marvelled to her companion, overwhelmed by the grandeur of the place and feeling a bit of anxiety return.

"Yeah well it had to be to fit us all in," Alex joked derisively about the families height, not certain what else to say. She had never thought much about where she had grown up. It had simply been home. She wondered how different it must feel to Sydney who had lived in apartments all her life.

The family was all there and Alex didnít doubt that her mother had summoned them specifically for the occasion. She wasnít worried about the reception her lover would receive from her family for they all had been raised with the strictest of manners and she knew neither of her parents would tolerate any other behaviour. Not that she was concerned for her brothers were all liberal minded and no one had given her grief about her lifestyle although she knew that two of her sister-in-laws were leery about spending any time with her.

Sydney listened attentively to all the introductions of the brothers, their wives and their assorted children. She wasnít certain she would remember all the names and the comment Christie had made in regards to height suddenly hit home. With the exception of the children she was the smallest one in the room, dwarfed in size by everyone else. It was all quite intimidating and she was glad for Alexís nearby presence.

"Are you Auntie Alexís girlfriend?" a small girl asked when they were finally seated at the table in the

dinning room.

Sydney found herself between Alex and one of the older children, a delicate dark haired beauty with large brown eyes. She remembered the childís name was Kim and that she was the eldest of

Christie and Andrewís brood of three.

"Yes I am," she answered somewhat hesitantly uncertain that the situation had been explained to the child.

"Do you like her?" the girl asked seriously.

"A whole lot," Sydney smiled gently and the child responded with a smile of her own.

"Iím glad," the child pronounced and then studied her profile for a long moment before casting a fugitive glance around the table. She leaned over and Sydney automatically mimicked her actions listening carefully as the girl continued her observations in a conspiratorial whisper. "I think youíre nice and a whole lot prettier than my other auntieís, except for Auntie Alex, who I think is very lucky to have you as a girlfriend."

"Thank you," Sydney stammered slightly stunned and embarrassed by the compliment.

"Are you okay?" Alex asked seeing the flush of colour on her lovers features.

"Yeah," the blond woman nodded. "But I think the rest of the world is in trouble. Your niece here is quite the charmer. She just told me that she thought I was nice and a whole lot prettier than her other aunties, with the exception of you of course."

"Sheís got that right," Alex chuckled and then glanced around her partner to look at the little girl who was watching them with fascination. She wagged a slender finger at her niece in mock warning a twinkle in her blue eyes. "Sydneyís my girlfriend, donít you try to steal her away."

The child flushed but giggled and Sydney knew that if the rest of the day turned into a disaster at least she had made one friend. Somehow the childís acceptance did wonders for her confidence and she felt better about herself and the situation.

The meal was a casual affair with lots of noise and some stimulating conversations. It was nothing like what Sydney had imagined and she watched with fascination at the interchange between the various individuals. Everyone was given a chance to offer their opinion and their views were respected even though they might be in the minority.

Sydney was able to relax and enjoy herself and conversed easily with Christie who was sitting on the other side of her daughter though she was constantly aware of Mrs. Marshall sitting at the end of the table and watching.

Once the meal was over they retreated to the sitting room where a lively discussion about the local professional sports teams ensued. Sydney didnít know how it happened but suddenly she found herself in the midst of a sibling rivalry.

"Whoa, just a minute," she tried to stop her partner from accepting the challenge but instead felt a warm hand on her forearm. She turned to see Christie standing nearby with an amused grin on her features.

"Forget it dear, you havenít got a chance in hell of changing her mind," the taller blond woman said with a smile. The woman nodded towards the group of siblings. "Iíve never seen a more competitive bunch and Alex is the worst of them all. I think it comes from being the youngest and only girl. While growing up she had to compete with them in everything."

"Christie and I will go against Sydney and you," Andrewís voice carried over the others.

"Youíre on," Alex nodded rising from her chair.

"I donít think so. Iím not bounding around on court in this outfit," Christie interrupted, motioning to the delicate skirt she was wearing. She looked at Sydney and winked.

"Has this happened before?" Sydney whispered with curiosity.

"More times then I care to remember," the other woman sighed and then smiled leaning over and whispering only loud enough for her to hear. "Thatís why I took to wearing dresses to this casual affair."

"All right then take Charles," Alex offered her brother who stared at her with a gaping expression.

"Come on sis, nothing against you or Sydney but thatís not really fair."

"Are you making a derogatory remark about Sydney and me?" Christie asked cryptically eyeing her husband critically.

"No, no, no.." Andrew quickly realized his mistake and he looked appealing at his wife. "No offense to anyone but both Charles and I played on NCAA teams in college."

"So did I," the tall blond reminded her husband with an arched eyebrow.

"Yeah, but come on honey you know youíre not as good as Charles," the man tried to smoothen out the situation. "It wouldnít be fair, after all, no offense meant, but Sydney didnít even play college ball."

"No, but weíre willing to take our chances," Alex said with a coy glance at her lover. "What kind of

bet shall we make? We both enjoyed those tickets to the Sonics, how about season tickets for next year?"

"That sounds reasonable and in return if we win you will pay for my seasonís tickets next year,"

Andrew said and Alex nodded.

Sydney watched as the two siblings shook hands in agreement. She glanced around the room and saw the smiles on the faces of the others and the triumphant look on the manís face. She wondered

what her lover had gotten them into.

"Alex, do you know how much season ticketís to the Sonicís cost?" she hissed to her lover as the taller woman dragged her out of the room.

"Yeah," the Captain nodded with a glint in her eyes. "But I donít intend on paying for anybodies tickets."

"But if we lose..."

"We wonít lose," the dark haired woman was confident and she saw the questioning look in her smaller companions eyes. She paused and pulled her into a quiet corner aware the others were grabbing their jackets to relocate outside to watch the contest. "You forget I am the only one who

knows how everyone in this room plays. Andrew has never seen you play."

The implication of what the taller woman was implying sent a warm rush through her body and she shook her head and Alex chuckled quietly before bending her head and capturing her lips in a passionate kiss.

"You really think Iím that good?" she had to ask.

"We are that good," Alex corrected. "Separately we might not work out so well, but together we are an unbeatable team."

"What about clothes?" the smaller woman asked and received another chuckle.

"Iíve got our bags out in the jeep."

"You knew this was going to happen?" Sydney accused, placing her hands on her hips and trying to glare but unable to make it last.

"I had a hint," the other woman smiled and then reached over and ruffled her blond hair. "Come on letís get changed and show them our stuff."

 

Sydney walked around the small court bouncing and shooting the ball at the net to get comfortable. She glanced at Alex. The earlier amusement was gone replaced by a competitive look, one she recognized from their own games. She turned her head and looked at the two tall men who were warming up at the other end of the small court. She hoped that Alex was right. She had trusted her before and trusted her now.

Lawrence volunteered to act as referee and there was much playful jeering and ribbing when he called them to the center of the court to outline the rules. Then with a whistle and a toss up the game was on.

Despite the difference in height between the two teams it was a surprisingly even match with both sides exchanging baskets. It had been several years since either man had played a serious game yet their skill was such that Sydney realized they much have been excellent players in their younger years. However, she had an advantage over them and that was her quickness which Alex intelligently utilized.

There was goodnatured trash talk and comments that made the spectators on the sidelines laugh and cheer. By the time a short half time was called the score was even. Alex and Sydney stood together at the side of the court sipping from the pitcher of water that Kim had brought out from the house.

"Thank you," Sydney smiled her appreciation and the little girl blushed before rushing over to stand near her mother who was sitting in a lounge chair by the garage.

"Youíve made another conquest there," Alex chuckled and her lover blushed.

"Itís a pretty tight game," the smaller woman commented changing the subject.

"Nah," the taller woman shook her head. "We were just warming up."

"Maybe you were but Iím playing as hard as I can," the blond woman shook her head. "Why are you so confident?"

"Because I know my brothers," the taller woman chuckled. "They may still have the skill but their out of shape. They have already started to tire."

"And you knew this?" the younger detective asked slyly.

Alex shrugged unable to stifle another chuckle. Playfully Sydney swatted her lovers arm which only resulted in the woman teasingly ruffling her blond hair.

"You are so bad."

"Hey, I canít help it their egos are so big that they think their still kids," the dark haired woman protested.

"Theyíre not the only ones with a big ego."

"Are you implying Iím arrogant?" the Captain asked pretending to be offended.

"Cocky is a better word to describe you," Sydney snorted rolling her eyes. "Despite that, I donít know why you thought we could beat them."

"Because I believe in us," Alex said with a low voice and a seductive smile. "Charles and Andrew are two people playing together, but you and me, we are a team. A good team that will be together for a very long time."

"Is that a promise?"

"You bet."

"I love you," Sydney shook her head unable to keep the smile off her face and Alex laughed, wrapping her arms around the smaller woman and giving her a tight embrace allowing all the love she felt to flow through to her partner.

Marie pulled the edges of her coat more tightly together. Normally she didnít come out to watch these sibling challenges but she had been curious. She knew her husband encouraged these friendly matches believing it built character.

"I think Andrew bit off more then he could chew this time," the older man chuckled and his wife looked at him curiously.

"You really think Alex and her friend will win?"

"Yes," Warren smiled feeling pride for his only daughter. "Sydney is a good player and she has been handling Charles very well. Alex and her make a good team, they compliment each other."

Marie said nothing turning her attention back to the game which was under way once more. She was not a big sports fan but because it had been a huge part of her childrenís lives she had learned to follow the game. She watched critically thinking about what she knew and what her husband had said. It was true the two women played well together, instinctively knowing where the other would be on the court. Once again she felt a pang of jealousy.

She was proud of Alex. She had always been proud of the girlís accomplishments even though she

had hoped so often that she would choose a much different path in life. She had always had such

hopes for her only daughter and the most crushing blow had come when Alex had announced that

she was gay.

It had been the last blow to their relationship and though she tried to remain positive about the whole situation, it hurt. She could not help wonder what she had done wrong or if there was something she could have done differently. It was hard for her to discount the idea that she was to blame somehow.

She dismissed her thoughts and concentrated on the game

Sydney didnít think she had the energy to keep up with the others but as the game continued she felt herself growing stronger as she kept pace with her tall companion who clearly had reserves that no one else possessed. More then once she fed her lover a pass and then watched in awe as Alex pulled some graceful move to get passed her brothers and sink a basket. It was easy to tell that her partner thrived on this type of competition.

"How you doing?" Alex asked sauntering over after completing a perfectly executed lay-up.

"Iím still hanging in there," Sydney smiled in awe of her companion and the taller woman laughed bumping her hip gently against the smaller woman as she took up her position.

Marie witnessed the intimate exchange and caught her breath realizing something that she had missed at their earlier meeting. She could see it, just as she had seen it in the restaurant, an invisible energy between the two that bound them together in a special way. There were the intimate glances and tender smiles that they cast at each other. It was like watching two people who were very

much in love and the older woman was enlightened in a way that she had not understood until now.

She had worried that Alex had more emotionally invested in this relationship but she suddenly had the faint suspicion that it was the other way around. She felt ashamed of the way she had treated the girl and hoped that she had a way of making it up.

By the time Lawrence finally blew the whistle the two women were more then a few points up and in celebration Alex enveloped her companion in a huge embrace kissing her lover soundly on the lips, uncaring that everyone was watching. The women watching blushed while the men laughed.

"Congratulations girls," Warren sauntered over and gave both young women a hug and a wink. "I

won fifty bucks off Lawrence."

"Is that all you people do is bet?" Sydney asked shaking her head in wonder.

"It makes everything more interesting," the older man laughed and hugged his daughter again. "You girlís make a good team. I hope you donít plan on breaking up this combination any time soon."

"No, dad," Alex smiled placing a possessive arm around her smaller companion. "I intend keeping her around for as long as she will have me."

"Good," the man clapped them both on the back before turning to go talk to his defeated sons who were sheepishly approaching them.

"You snookered me sis," Andrew extended his hand and the taller woman clasp it to ensure that there were no hard feelings over the contest. He turned to Sydney. "I should have known something was up when Alex was so eager to accept my challenge. She doesnít play unless she figures she can win. Sorry I misjudged you, youíre a damn fine player."

"I have a good partner," the smaller woman glanced up at her lover whose eyes were shining.

"It wasnít just her," the man assured them. "Iíve watched Alex play for years and believe me, she

has never played better then she is now. I think that is due to your influence, you really seem to

anticipate her moves, better than I ever could."

Sydney flushed at the praise and buried her face in her lovers chest. Alex laughed and wrapped her arms around the smaller woman squeezing her tightly and lifting her off the ground.

"You know sis, I had reservations about Sydney and you," Andrew admitted later once they were back inside the house. They had showered and changed out of their gym clothes and were now waiting around for lunch to be served. "I didnít think she was good enough for you but I donít think Iíve ever seen you like this."

"She brings the best out of me," Alex said quietly, barely able to hide the hurt she felt at her brothers admission.

"You look really good together," he continued not realizing his error and then chuckled. "Hell, Iíve

never seen you give anyone as many hugs as you have today. What happened to Ďtake a look but donít touchí?"

"She changed that," his sister breathed.

"I can see that," Andrew smiled and then did something he would have never dared do before. He leaned over and gave her a hug. "Good game sis, Iíll have the tickets sent over, but donít think weíre done. I want a rematch."

"Anytime," Alex smiled. "Oh and I donít want tickets in the nosebleed section."

This time it was the manís turn to chuckle as he wandered away. Her smile grew wider as she watched her brother intercept Sydney by giving her a huge hug, lifting her high off the ground. She

was happy that her family seemed to accept her lover. It was something that she really wanted.

"Andrew wasnít the only one who deserves to apologize," Alex turned to see her mother standing only a few paces away. She hadnít known the older woman was there. "It seemed I misjudged your relationship as well."

"Oh?" the younger woman stiffened not certain to what her mother was referring and the older woman looked a little surprised.

"Sydney didnít tell you about our little talk at the restaurant?"

"No," Alex shook her head and watched as her mother took a deep breath. Marie wished she had kept her mouth shut but she had expected the girl to say something.

"When we were in the bathroom together, I didnít behave very nicely towards her," the older woman admitted the truth. "She didnít deserve that. I think I took my jealousy out on her."

"Jealousy?" Alex was stunned and she glanced over her shoulder to where Sydney was engaged in an animated conversation with her older brothers. She turned back to her mother.

"Yes," the older woman sighed. "Iíve always wanted a closer relationship with you but for some

reason that never happened. Then I saw you with Sydney and I was jealous because she was closer

to you then I could ever be."

"Weíre lovers mom," the younger woman reminded in a slightly embarrassed voice.

"You are more than that," Marie disagreed. "You are friends. You have more in common with each other then we ever had and I guess thatís what made me feel like I had lost you completely."

"Iím not going anywhere and.." Alex paused glancing briefly at her smaller lover. "I know that Sydney would appreciate having a mother. She hasnít really ever had one and I think she misses that."

"Iím not certain she would trust me now," the older woman was honest. "That night in the bathroom she was thanking me for telling you to follow your heart and I rewarded her by warning her not to

break your heart. Iím not sure anyone could forgive that."

"You would be surprised how forgiving Sydney could be," the taller woman disagreed. "When our relationship first began I treated her miserably but she forgave me and now Iím glad that she did."

"So am I," Marie was sincere noticing that the other woman was slowly making her way towards them. "I better go and see if lunch is ready."

"Before you do that, why donít you apologize to Sydney," Alex suggested softly reaching out to put a hand on her mothers bare arm. Marie looked up at her daughter and saw how important it was to her child. She nodded and waited for the other woman to reach them taking a deep breath to steady her

nerves.

"Congratulations," she said with a small smile as the blond woman joined them. "You played very well."

"Not as well as Alex," Sydney gave her lover a glowing look and then glanced at the older woman. "But thank you."

"I just told Alexandria that I owe you an apology," Marie continued, aware of the way her daughters arm snaked so naturally around the smaller womanís shoulders. "You didnít deserve the way I treated you that night at the restaurant. I promised I would never interfere in any of my childrenís lives and thatís exactly what I did."

"Thatís all right," the smaller woman bit anxiously down on her lower lip shifting nervously from one foot to the other. She didnít have the courage to look at her lover. "I understand how you must feel and I know that you love Alex very much."

"I think you do too," Marie said then turned and walked away. Silence followed her retreat and then quietly Alex turned her lover around so that they were looking at each other.

"How come you didnít say anything about what happened in the restaurant?" the taller woman wanted to know.

"I didnít think it was important," she sighed running a hand through her blond hair. "And I thought it might upset you. It wasnít really a big deal. She was just looking out for you."

"And itís my job to look out for you," the dark haired woman said seriously. "I want to know if anyone treats you badly, especially if itís my family. Promise me that next time something happens you will tell me."

"Next time something happens Iíll tell you," the smaller woman replied and Alex gave her a hug.

"You feel like coming over to my place and watching a movie?"

"Throw in some popcorn and you have a deal," Sydney grinned.

Several hours later the two women were curled up on the couch in the den with the smaller woman nestled against her taller companion and a huge bowl of popcorn perched on her stomach. They had changed into their sleepwear before popping the video into the machine. After some debate they had settled on watching a romantic comedy.

"Thanks."

"For what?" Alex wondered snatching a handful of popcorn out of the bowl.

"For inviting me along with you today," Sydney said. "I really enjoyed myself."

"It was a pretty good day," the taller woman chuckled. "Weíre going to have a good time next year."

"You arenít really going to make him pay up are you?" the blond was surprised.

"Damn straight I am," Alex growled and her companion laughed.

"Youíre as bad as your father said you were," Sydney said shaking her head as she popped another cornel of popcorn in her mouth feeling her companions body rumble with another chuckle. "I really like your family."

The taller woman was silent for a long moment and then suddenly the bowl was gone, placed on the coffee table. Before the blond woman knew what was happening she was grabbed by the shoulders and turned to face her companion.

"Theyíre not just my family anymore," she said softly as their eyes met and held. "Theyíre your family now too Sydney."

The younger woman didnít know what to say so she did the only thing she knew how to convey the emotion she felt. She leaned forward and kissed her partner and in response she was quickly drawn into a tight embrace.

All in all the day had turned out better than either of the women expected and that night they went back to the condo and spent the evening watching movies and eating popcorn before retiring aware that Alex had to be in at the office early the next morning.

 

 

 

 

concluded in part five

 

 

 

 

 

disclaimers: see part one

 

Chapter Nine

 

By the end of February Sydney was comfortably settled into the condo and the transition from living alone to sharing space went smoother then either woman expected. It helped that they shared the same commitment towards each other which made it easier for them to talk about their irritations before they turned into major problems.

They also developed a smooth routine at work whereby they were discreet about their relationship but did nothing to hide the fact that they were friends. Often Sydney would come in early for an evening shift so that they could play a game of one on one on the court at the station house. When she was on the midnight shift she would wait for Alex to arrive in the morning and together they would go running before she would head off home to sleep.

Both women enjoyed the time they spent together and their relationship deepened to a point where they individually came to the realization that they couldnít live without the other. For the first time Sydney began to believe that it was possible to have a family unit that worked.

"You look happy sis," Anne commented one afternoon when the blond woman made the trip to the state prison to visit her sister. The detective had made the journey several times since Christmas.

"I am happy," Sydney was honest.

"I take it that youíre still involved with that woman."

"Her name is Alex, and yes, weíre still involved, in fact weíre living together," the younger woman was honest.

"Next thing I know youíll be telling me youíre going to have some kids," Anne said with a smirk and Sydney blushed.

"We havenít talked about it...but I think we both would like children...some day."

"Youíre really serious about this arenít you?" the other woman seemed almost amused. "I remember a time when you wanted nothing to do with the family thing."

"I didnít think I was meant to have that," the blond woman confessed, "but I always wanted a family, a regular mom and dad with a nice house in the suburbs."

The confession didnít really surprise the older woman because she had sensed that desire in her younger sibling all along. There was a time when she had hoped to give her baby sister all those things but she had never been strong enough.

"Iím glad youíre getting all that kid," she was sincere.

"And Iím glad that youíre not mad at me any more," Sydney said and the other woman flushed.

"I wasnít so much angry as I was jealous," Anne confided reluctantly. "I always liked to believe that I was the strongest one in the family and that you needed me to look out for you, but it turned out the other way around."

"It can change," Sydney said tentatively. "You wonít be in here forever. When you get out you can make a new life."

"Iíve heard all the stories kid," the prisoner smiled wearily, "but Iím afraid once youĎve been in this place itís pretty hard to leave that behind. I donít think Iím strong enough to resist the temptations."

"You wonít be alone," the younger woman said quietly. "You will have Alex and me to help you."

"Thanks, I appreciate the offer kid," the older woman smiled but knew she would never accept the overture. Sydney had built a good life for herself and she didnít need someone to mess that up.

 

By the time Alex returned to the station it was late in the afternoon but she was feeling pretty good. She had just finished a productive meeting with the other department heads at the downtown Precinct and was anxious now to see her lover before heading home for the night. Sydney was working the evening shift that week.

"Howíd the visit with your sister go?" she asked, giving her companion a lengthy hug after determining they were alone in the womenís change room.

"Good," the smaller woman sighed. "I worry about her though."

"Why?" Alexís eyes narrowed.

"I think sheís kind of given up on life," Sydney confided. "She only has four years to go before sheís eligible for parole and yet she has this fatalistic opinion that she will be behind bars the rest of her life."

"Sheís probably scared, not wanting to let herself think about the future, just in case things donít work out," the taller woman tried to be practical. "Itís not unusual for the parole board to turn down a first request."

"Yeah I know," the younger woman sighed, tentatively biting down on her lower lip and glancing slyly at her companion. "I told her that when she got out we would be there for her. I hope that was all right."

"Yes," Alexís smile was reassuring. It pleased her to know that Sydney was thinking of them together in the future.

The blond detective smiled and gave her partner another hug, realizing again why it was that she loved this woman so much. There wasnít any further opportunity for them to talk privately as a patrol

officer came to use the facilities. They stepped out into the hallway.

"Donít forget to stop at the grocery store on the way home, weíre out of coffee and milk," Sydney reminded her lover.

"I will," Alex promised heading for the door. "Have a good night and donít forget to call me later."

"I will," the blond detective agreed with a smile and then watched her tall partner disappeared out the door. The phone on her desk rang and she picked it up. It was Alice Williams.

"My husband just received a call from Lucas," the womanís voice was barely intelligible and the young detective instinctively knew that the woman didnít want her husband to know she was calling. "Heís staying at an apartment downtown."

Sydney listened silently grabbing a pen and jotting down the number that the woman gave her before quickly hanging up. She immediately dialled the operator and after revealing her identity she managed to get a fixed address. After a few more phone calls to iron out the details she was ready to move on this information.

"Heís going by the name of Simon Le Bond," she told her colleagues as they headed for the door.

"Like the singer," Roy mused.

"Yep," Sydney nodded strapping on her bullet proof vest and glancing at the other men. "Arenít you guys going to put on your vests?"

"I have never worn one in my entire career and Iím not starting now," Norm said solemnly. "Besides the guyís a child killer and itís not likely he will try to hurt anyone. Knocking off innocent kids is more his style."

Sydney nodded having a tendency to agree with the man but Alex had issued a memo regarding the matter and then extracted a solemn promise from her that whenever she went out on a take-down she would wear one for protection. It was a cumbersome piece of equipment and hot but she had no intention of incurring the wrath of her lover.

They made a brief stop at the court house to secure the appropriate warrant and then rode in silence to the address the operator had given her, parking down the block to prevent alerting the suspect to their presence. Sydney was pleased to see that her friend Robert Newlie was amongst the patrol drivers sent to help with the arrest.

She directed the uniformed officers to take up positions surrounding the block before leading the way into the run-down apartment and up the stairs to the fifth floor. The number on the door at the top of the steps revealed that it was the room they were looking for. She motioned for the other men to take up positions and then knocked on the door.

"Mr. Andersen this is the police, open up the door," she called knocking loudly. There was no response. "Open up Mr. Andersen this is the Police."

"Letís break in," Norm decided and then lifted his leg and displaying a strength that shocked his

colleagues, kicked the door in before entering.

Sydney followed more cautiously, her gun drawn, alert to the possibility of danger. Regardless of how

harmless they thought a suspect might be, they had to be careful not to under estimate their quarry. She peered cautiously around the front room and then down the corridor that led to the back of the suite. It was instinct more then anything else that made her react. She didnít see more then a shadow but the hair on the back of her neck rose in fear.

"Heís got a gun," she shouted and then flung herself in front of Norm as a tall thin man stepped into

corridor from a room at the end of the hallway and pressed the trigger on the gun he held. She fired her own weapon in response.

The sound of a shotgun blast filled her ears only to be drowned out by a roar of noise as the place seemed to erupt in hail of gunfire. That was followed by loud shouting and the acid smell of smoke until finally silence reigned once more.

Sydney felt a burning pain in her body that stretched from her hips to her neck. She felt funny and she tried to lift herself up off the floor but her head hurt and she was dizzy, besides there seemed to be blood everywhere.

"Sydney!"

There was panic in the voice that called her name and she tried to turn her head to respond but the effort was to great. She saw a uniformed officer kneeling over her and recognizing her old friend Robert Newlie, she tried to smile but then her vision went blurry before she tumbled into a well of darkness.

 

Alex had just gotten back from her run and was about to head into the shower when the phone rang. She glanced at the clock with a smile on her lips. If she guessed correctly it was Sydney calling to make sure she had stopped at the market on the way home. She lifted the receiver expecting to hear her lovers voice on the other end.

"Captain?"

"Yes," she recognized the voice of the Lieutenant Scarferelli.

"Thereís been a shooting," the man said and immediately Alex felt a wave of panic rush through her body. She willed herself to remain calm thinking of Sydney but realizing it could be any number of things.

"What happened?" she remained businesslike.

"Detectives Davis, Bridges and Howard went on a take-down. Apparently Syd got a tip as to where Lucas Andersen was hiding. They went in and according to the uniforms present there were shots fired."

"Was anyone hurt?" she asked in a calm voice even though her senses were screaming to know what happened. There was a long pause.

"All three were hit," the Lieutenant on the other end said and then continued in a rush. "The Sergeant in charge of the scene didnít relay the extent of their injuries other then to say that they have all been transported to City General."

"What about the suspect?"

"Apparently he was killed in the exchange."

"I want you to get down there immediately and take charge of the situation. I want the entire scene secured. Whatís the address?" She hastily scribbled the location down an the nearest scrape of paper. "Okay, Iíll see you in a bit."

"Yes Captain," the Lieutenant said before hanging up.

Alex stared for a long moment at the receiver before she put it down with a trembling hand. She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths in an attempt to steady the beat of her heart. She always knew that something like this could happen yet she had pushed it from her mind.

"You canít leave me, not when we just found each other," she breathed as hot tears slid down her face.

It took another moment before she reigned in her emotions and then rushed to the bedroom and snatched up her clothes. Everything was forgotten but her need to get to the hospital yet her first stop was at the crime scene which was cordoned off by a multitude of patrol cars. She was greeted by the officer in charge and quickly led up to the apartment.

It was a harder experience then she had ever imagined and she felt only hatred for the man who lay slumped in the corridor covered in blood. She felt no pity for the dead man, her emotions hardened by the sight of blood that filled both ends of the corridor knowing that some of it was Sydneyís.

"What happened?" she asked when Lieutenant Scarfirelli made his way to her side. The man shifted nervously. Though no one said anything, they all knew of the Captainís relationship with the young female detective.

"Apparently when the suspect didnít respond to their summons they entered the premises. According to the little information we were able to get from the detectives before they were taken away, Det. Davis saw the man and then flung herself in front of Det. Bridges firing as she went. Her shots stuck the accused but not before he was able to discharge his weapon several times."

"Did they have the proper warrants?" Alex wanted to know realizing that a lot of hard questions would be asked before this situation went away. There would be more then one investigation as a result of what happened here tonight. She had seen this same scenario more than once.

"They had all the proper documents," came the reply and the Captain felt a measure of relief over

that.

"I want the scene thoroughly investigated," she instructed in a clipped tone. "Shots were fired and the suspect was killed. I want to make sure that the collar was being handled by the book."

"What if it wasnít?" the man asked quietly.

"Then I want to know about it," she said tersely.

"The man was a suspect in the death of a child," the Lieutenant reminded softly and received a cool glance from his superior.

"I donít care if he was John Gacy himself," she retort in a cold voice, all to aware of the ramifications.

She could already see the headlines in the morning paper. The news would report that a suspect was shot and killed during an arrest. The fact that the arresting officers were also injured would be almost ignored. She was certain that some do-gooder would have a criticism of the policeís actions ready for the afternoon byline.

"Yes, mam," the Lieutenant nodded and then barked out a series of instructions to the uniformed officers standing nearby.

Alex glanced around once more and then without waiting for further information she turned and stalked out of the room. Her stomach churned violently and she was just barely able to get out of the building before she throw up in a nearby garbage can. She had seen much more violent crime scenes and never reacted like this but this was the first time it was personal.

"Are you okay Captain?" a uniformed officer nearby asked with genuine concern.

"Yes," she nodded feeling slightly ashamed. She could not say that the sight of her lovers blood had made her ill so she merely continued to her car. Twenty minutes later she was at the hospital.

"I need to know the status of several of my officers who were just brought in," Alex flashed her badge at the nurse manning the admitting desk in the emergency ward.

The intense expression on the tall dark haired womanís face told the nurse to comply and she nodded before picking up a phone and dialling a number. Within minutes a young man in a white medical coat came out of a room behind the desk.

"My name is Doctor Riverira, how can I help you?"

"I need to know the status of several of my officers who were just brought into emergency," Alex said crisply. "They were wounded and I need to know the extent of their injuries."

"Detectives Howard and Bridges will be all right, they received only minor wounds," the doctor relayed the information having been in charge of the trauma units that worked on the officers who were brought into the ER only an hour ago. "However, Detective Davisí injuries were much more serious.

Itís probably better that I speak with her family first."

Alexís whole body tensed at his words. Her emotions wavered between fear and anger. It was

painfully obvious that Sydney was badly hurt. She looked at the doctor struggling to control her emotions.

"Detective Davis doesnít have any family in the city," she said abruptly.

"Then you might want to call them in," the doctor sighed. "She received several shot gun blasts to

her body. We managed to stabilize her before rushing her up to surgery. Sheís there now being operated on. The situation doesnít look good."

"Where is surgery?" Alex demanded, her whole body feeling cold.

"Fifth floor," the man answered and without waiting for more the Captain was stalking down the hall in the direction of the elevators. She found Roy Howard sitting quietly in the waiting room outside the operating theatres. There was a small bandage on his neck and cheek.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah," he nodded unable to meet her gaze. "She saved our lives. She saw him before either of us did and threw herself in the line of fire."

The rest was left unsaid and Alex was momentarily rendered speechless. She had always known that her companion was brave and selfless and today her actions had once again proven that point.

"Is someone coming for you?" Alex asked quietly.

"My wife is on her way down," he said quietly. "I told her I was all right but she insisted on coming. If itís all right Iíd like to stay until I know that Sydney is okay."

The Captain merely nodded not trusting herself to speak aware that her heart hurt to much. She turned and stared down the corridor towards the glass doors that separated them from the operating theatres. She knew how things worked, she had been through this scenario before. The doctor would be out when he was done so all she could do until then was wait.

The hours dragged by and the waiting room slowly filled up, as officers no longer on duty stopped by to offer their solidarity. She was appreciative of their presence for she knew of the close fraternity they were in. But their show of support did little to help the pain she felt. It was so intense at times she thought she couldnít breath.

It was well after midnight before the doctors walked out through the doors that led to the operating theatres. The head surgeon detached himself from the others and walked steadily towards them. Alex felt her heart jump into her throat at the expression on his face as he looked over the crowd waiting in the room.

"Is there any family here for Miss Sydney Davis?" he asked glancing around the room.

"Iím family," Alex said without a second thought, bravely straightening her shoulders and following the man over to a private corner.

"Iím not going to candy coat this," the doctor said when they were alone. "Sheís damn lucky to be alive. If she hadnít been wearing her vest she would be dead now, as it was fragments of the shotgun shells found there way into her neck and lower torso, areas where the vest didnít protect."

With his hand he indicated the parts of the body that had been struck as he continued to speak. "A fragment nicked the artery in her neck and it was only the fast response by those on the scene

that saved her from bleeding out. We managed to remove all the bullet fragments but she has lost allot of blood and her wounds are very serious. It will be touch and go for the next forty eight hours."

"Can I see her?"

"Sheís in post op right now and heavily sedated. We will be moving her into the ICU in about half an hour. Wait until sheís settled in and then you can go up," the doctor advised and she nodded, thanking him before he left.

She took a deep breath and walked back towards the waiting room, realizing that sometimes her job

really sucked. In a voice that was unnaturally calm she passed the information along to those officers

who were waiting for news.

"The doctors wonít know any more until later so you might as well go home, thereís nothing you can do now," she said and wearily the others nodded and without another word they silently filed out of the room leaving her alone.

For a moment she slumped against the wall and then closed her eyes gulping desperately for air as she struggled to remain in control aware that she was perilously close to breaking down. She stood like that for a long while before she regained her composure, straightening up, reminding herself that she had duties to perform.

She found Norm Bridges in a bed on a general ward at the other end of the hospital. She could see a bandage on his shoulder but other then that he looked okay. He wasnít alone when she arrived and for that she was grateful uncertain that she would have been able to contain her composure.

"How are you feeling?" she asked nodding briefly to the woman and young man who were sitting on chairs by the bed. She guessed that they were his family.

"Like shit," the man was honest, unable to meet her eyes. "Howís Sydney?"

"Critical," Alex said quietly. "She was just wheeled out of the OR and the doctors say the next forty eight hours are critical."

There was an awkward silence as the man digested this information. Though no one said anything he was aware of the relationship that existed between the two women. He, at least partially, blamed himself for what happened.

"She saved me," he said quietly with shame. "She knew I wasnít wearing a vest. She kidded me about that when we left the station this evening."

"Well, itís lucky she was," Alex breathed suppressing the anger she felt. "Iím glad youíre all right."

There was nothing else to say. It wasnít the right time to address the issue regarding his failure to follow policy. She had sent out a memo instructing all officers to wear a vest during a take-down and it was obvious that this man had failed to follow the procedure and because of that Sydney lay unconscious and close to death. She suspected that he had learned his lesson and wouldnít need

the required reprimand.

Alex checked on the surgical ward to ensure that Sydney had been transferred to a private room in the ICU ward before making her way down to that floor. She stopped at the nurses station to find out which room her lover had been put in.

"Are you a relative?" the middle aged woman at the desk asked briskly barely looking up from the papers she was shuffling.

"No," Alex said absently.

"Iím sorry but only relatives are allowed in to visit," the nurse continued in the same brisk voice.

There was something about the nurses manner that made the tall woman lose control of the last shreds of her patience. She slammed her hand on the top of the desk drawing startled eyes to her face.

"I am only going to say this once so you better understand it the first time," the Captainís voice was terse. "I am not in anyway related to Miss Davis, however, we live together and if the laws of our state where different we would be married and I would be considered her spouse."

She paused to allow her words to have there desired affect. "Now that you understand our relationship I would like to know the number of Miss Davisí room."

"I am sorry but hospital policy forbids us from allowing anyone but family members in to visit patients while they are in the ICU ward," the nurse shook her head seeming unconcerned with being compassionate.

"Fuck hospital policy," Alex slammed her hand down on the desk top again. "If you arenít going to let me in to see my friend I will just go and find her room by myself."

"Then Iím afraid Miss that I will have to call security," the nurse was unbending.

"You call security and then you see what kind of trouble youíll have," the Captain replied seethingly.

"Whatís the problem here?" a reasonable voice interrupted and both women turned to see an older man in a white coat step up to the desk. The nurse looked relieved.

"Dr. Walsh, I was just trying to explain to this woman here that only relatives are allowed into the ICU ward."

"Who is it you wish to see?" the grey haired man asked patiently seeing the strain on the younger womanís face.

"Detective Sydney Davis," Alex said through clenched teeth, her patience strained by the lack of compassion exhibited by these hospital administrators. "My name is Alexandria Marshall."

"If you donít mind me asking what is your relationship to the detective?" the doctor questioned aware that the name was faintly familiar.

"We are lovers," the Captain said without embarrassment. The man nodded and then turned to the nurse.

"I donít see any problem with letting. Miss Marshall in to see Det. Davis," the doctor said and the nurse looked at him for a moment before pursing her lips together.

"Room 351."

"Thank you," Alex said through clenched teeth before strolling purposefully down the corridor. The hospital staff watched the tall woman for a moment.

"I hope we donít get into trouble for disregarding policy," the nurse said briskly not appreciating the doctors interference.

"I think we have just saved ourselves a lot of trouble," the doctor replied calmly returning the file he was holding to the rack on the desk. "If Iím not wrong Alexandria Marshall is related to the same Marshallís who are on the Hospitalís Board of Directors."

Without another word the man turned and strolled away from the desk leaving the nurse to stare after him with wide eyes and gaping mouth, suddenly aware of how close she might have come to losing her job.

Sydneyís room was at the far end of the corridor and Alex paused at the doorway hoping to calm her senses before entering. She stood there, staring through the door at the slight form now wrapped in bandages and hooked up to various monitors that beeped and belched out information regarding her lovers condition.

She had foreseen such a long and brilliant future for them but it appeared now it might never happen.

It was a sobering thought but she had never given the dangerous nature of their job a second thought. The possibility was always there but she had always felt immune. Even with the numerous times she

had drawn her gun she had never killed anyone. Hastily she brushed away the tears that collected in her eyes.

She slowly made her way into the room, her eyes fixed on the still form lying on the bed. She pulled

up a chair and then sat down, gently curling her fingers around the small hand that was laying on top

of the white sheets.

"They say you are supposed to talk to those who are unconscious, to help them get better," she said with a raspy voice a tired smile touching the edges of her lips. "Unfortunately they didnít know that I donít talk much, but I would do anything for you Sydney. I guess I donít tell you that enough, just like Iíve never really told you what I hope for the future."

She paused and took a deep breath. "I never thought I would find anyone that I wanted to spend my life with. I saw what my parents shared and what my brothers had and I wanted that but I didnít think I would ever have the same thing. I convinced myself that because of who I was and what I was, it would never be a possibility and I donít think it would have been if I hadnít met you."

She paused again reaching up to stroke the bare arm with her free hand no longer hearing the electronic machines that broke the stillness of the room.

"I have been in love with you from the first moment I saw you and from that moment my priorities have changed. I thought I would be happy staying on the Police force until I could take my twenty five year pension but now I want to move on with my life. I want to provide a nice home for you and I want to have children with you."

Alex reached up and tenderly combed the blond bangs off of the small womanís forehead. She allowed her hand to caress the soft skin for a long moment savouring the feel of the woman.

"I wish you were awake to hear this, of course I probably wouldnít have the courage to say it if you were. But even if I donít say anything I think you know how much I love you and how much I need you, so rest for awhile and then come back to me okay love."

Alex fell silent then and rested her head on the bed her forehead touching the small hand, feeling itís warmth. She closed her eyes and let the tears flow.

"Captain?"

Her name was tentatively called and Alex hastily lifted her head and brushed away the tears that were cascading down her cheeks. She took a deep breath and turned to face the intruder, recognizing Sgt. Newlie.

"Yes, Sgt. what can I do for you?"

"I just came to see how Syd was doing," the man said quietly stepping into the room his eyes on the still face of his young friend.

"Sheís stable but in critical condition," Alex said trying to compose herself aware how it must look to this man. "Youíre a friend of Sydneyís arenít you?"

"One of the few sheís got," the man nodded with a slight smile. "I was her first partner and weíve just stuck together since then."

"Then you know everything about her?"

"Pretty much," the man agreed, shifting uncomfortably on his feet, aware they were entering an awkward territory.

"Did she tell you about us?" the woman wondered.

"She didnít have too," the Sergeant admitted with a nervous chuckle. "I knew she had it bad for you the day I had to drag her out of Rourkeís drunk. She told me she was reprimanded by her boss. I knew something was up because it never bothered her before when she was reprimanded."

"Oh," the woman said and then glanced at the woman laying unconscious on the bed. "She means everything to me."

"I know," the man nodded solemnly.

Alex was silent. She looked across at him no longer hiding her emotions. She saw the blood stains on his uniform and then realized a truth without being told.

"You saved her life," the Captain said quietly. "The doctor told me that the officers on the scene saved her."

"We just did the same thing she would have done for anybody else," the man brushed aside the praise.

"Thank you."

"Youíre welcome," the man nodded shyly. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"No but there is something you can do for Sydney," she said and the man listened quietly to her request, staying only a few more minutes before taking his leave.

 

Anne wondered what kind of trouble she was in. It was unusual to be brought to the Wardenís office in the middle of the night and she knew something had to be up. She wondered if someone had implicated her in some scheme. There was always some kind of scam going on in the joint and someone always looking to get a few credits by ratting the others out.

"Sit down," the red headed warden instructed once she had entered the office. The prisoner glanced at the two guards who had accompanied her and then did as she was requested. She looked at the older woman, Warden Hayes was fair but her discipline was strict.

"We had a call from the Seattle Police Department," the Warden began deciding to be blunt. There was no easy way to say this, no way to soften the blow. Anne Davis was a hardened criminal but she still felt compassion for the woman under the circumstances. "It seems that last night during an arrest your sister was shot."

Anne took a deep breath and held it, her body going very still as her mind raced over their last conversation. It had only been that afternoon and the kid had been so happy.

"Is she dead?" she was barely able to mouth the words, overwhelmed by the pain she felt.

"No, sheís still alive but in critical condition at Seattle General," the Warden said. "The SPD has promised to keep me updated as to her condition."

Anne nodded and stood up, her mind reeling with the knowledge that Sydney had been shot. She had realized it could happen yet she had always thought the kid was smart enough to avoid getting tagged.

"Itís a little ironic donít you think," the other woman said as the prisoner turned to leave. Anne

looked back at her and saw that there was no expression on the Wardenís face. "You are in here for shooting a police office and your sister, who is a police officer, is shot. I guess that old saying is right, what goes around, comes around."

Anne remained mute afraid to think that her actions had somehow shaped her sisters destiny. She knew that Sydney had been devastated by her crime and maybe that was the reason the younger woman had become a cop. In that respect it was ironic.

 

The darkness gave way to dawn and a brilliant stream of light filtered through the window bathing both women in its luminous glow. Alex lifted her head, shifting her gaze from her lovers face for an instant to gaze at the new day. She hoped that it would bring with it a new hope.

"You should go home and get some rest," a nurse said when she came in to check the IVís and the monitors. "It will probably be hours before she regains consciousness."

Alex knew the woman was right. It might be hours or days before Sydney regained consciousness but she couldnít risk leaving the blond woman alone, afraid she might awaken to an empty room. After the experience she had suffered Alex didnít want the woman left alone. However, she did stand up and stretch her stiff muscles while the nurse moved around the bed to check the bandages.

It was midmorning before Sydney received her next set of visitors and Alex was stunned to see her parents walk into the room. It was a comfort seeing them and she rushed to her father feeling safe in his strong arms. Marie watched in silence as her daughter sobbed quietly.

"It will be all right dear," Warren consoled, though a glance at the still woman on the bed did not give him any reason to believe those words. For his daughters sake he had to trust that they would be true.

"When was the last time you had something to eat?" Marie asked practically when her child stopped crying.

"Lunch yesterday," Alex said realizing that she hadnít had a chance to eat before she left the apartment the previous evening. Once the call had come she had forgotten everything else.

"Then go with your father and get something," the older woman said and then held up her hand when the taller woman made to protest. "I will stay here in case she wakes up. You need to eat dear, you canít afford to get sick now, Sydney will need you when she wakes up and gets out of here."

Alex saw the wisdom of her mothersí words though she was hesitant to leave her lovers side.

"Your mothers right," Warren prodded his daughter gently and suddenly Alex felt incredibly weary and gave in nodding mutely.

"Weíll be in the cafeteria if anything changes," the Captain said glancing back at her lover as the man guided her towards the door.

Marie nodded and watched as her husband led their daughter down the corridor towards the elevator before turning her attention to the girl lying silently in the bed. She wandered slowly across the room and sat down in the chair that her daughter had vacated. The girl looked so calm and if it hadnít been for the machines that monitored her heart and pulse it would have seemed that the girl was sleeping.

"I know we havenít really gotten along but I was hoping that I would get a chance to know you better," she said out loud, speaking to the sleeping woman. "I wanted to find out what captured my daughter because even though she told us she was gay I was hoping that it was a phase."

She tentatively reached out and stroked the blond womanís free hand, feeling how soft and smooth the skin was. "You would be surprised what goes through a motherís mind when she hears that her daughter is a lesbian. At first I wondered what I had done wrong and then I wondered what kind of woman she would be attracted too. Then of course there are the other things....

"But if I had really been watching I should have expected this because even when Alexandria was engaged she was almost disinterested in the relationship. In hindsight I see allot of differences. Alexandria has never been one to be comfortable with touching, even with her fiancee, yet it seems she canít keep her hands off you. Iíve never seen her that way."

She paused and stared at the gentle face and the neck that was thick now with bandages. "Iíve never seen Alexandria this happy. You have brought love into her life and for that I am thankful."

She fell silent not knowing what else to say, so she merely reached out and gripped the smaller womanís hand and held it tightly.

"Is Miss Davis your daughter?" a feminine voice disturbed her thoughts and Marie turned to see a kindly nurse. She glanced at the blond woman and then at the nurse.

"Yes," Marie nodded and replied in a soft voice. "Sydney is my daughter."

 

Alex wasnít really hungry but she forced herself to eat the food that her father had bought and strangely her weariness evaporated. She sucked back several cans of pop and then closed her eyes for a moment.

"Are you feeling better?" Warren asked.

"Iíll only feel better when I know Sydneyís going to be all right," she replied and the man understood.

"Sheís a fighter," the man said with a faint smile. "I donít think sheís going to give up easily."

"No, she wonít," Alex agreed fingering the plastic cutlery that came with her meal. "These last few hours have given me time to think and maybe itís time to make a change in my life."

"What kind of change are you talking about?" Warren asked quietly, taking a sip from his coffee cup.

"Maybe itís time that I left the Police force and settled down and started practicing law."

This news shocked her father but yet at the same time it didnít come as a surprise. Alex had always said that she would start using her law degree once she had decided to settle down and though he knew her relationship with the other woman was serious, he couldnít help wondering if the shooting werenít the real reason behind her decision.

"What does Sydney say about this?"

"I havenít talked to her about this," Alex admitted.

"Then I think you should before you make any decisions," Warren advised. "Remember Alex youíre not on your own any more, you have a responsibility to someone else now."

Alex hadnít realized the truth of that statement until her father made it. The man was right, she wasnít alone any more and any decision that was to be made should be done together. She looked across at the man seeing someone more then her father.

"Youíre being awfully nice about this," she said and the man smiled.

"I would have liked things to be different," the man didnít lie. "But if you have to get together with someone Iím glad itís Sydney. I like the girl, sheís funny and competitive and more importantly she loves you. I donít think a father can ask for anything more."

"Thanks dad," Alex was sincere aware how much his approval meant to her. "I appreciate Mom and you coming down. It means a lot to me."

"Well, Sydneyís a part of our family now," Warren said with a little embarrassment. "Itís the same thing we would have done for anyone else."

The fact that her parents were accepting their relationship and Sydney meant a lot to Alex. The last thing she wanted was to have to chose between her lover and her family. She was glad that it didnít have to come to that.

Her parents stayed for awhile before promising to come back later and over the course of the day officers from the force who knew Sydney drifted by to see how the young detective was doing. The doctor stopped in to check on his patient and he seemed encouraged by her progress. The man had just departed when the Commissioner stuck his head in the room. The feeling of hope she felt gave

way to one of trepidation as she looked at the expression on the manís face.

"How is she doing?" the Commissioner asked glancing at the small woman in bed.

"Sheís holding her own," Alex replied wryly. She was on edge, weary about what he wasnít saying. "Whatís up George?"

She deliberately used his first name making the conversation personal and she saw the man wince as he shifted uncomfortably on his feet.

"What makes you think anything is up?" he parried aware that he was approaching a delicate subject.

"I know you George," she replied, "and without sounding callous I know your appearance here is motivated by something other then concern for a fallen officer."

"Youíve become very cynical," he said his eyes narrowing as he looked at her. "I care about all the officers under my command."

"Especially politically sensitive ones," she retorted sometimes hating the politics of her job. She realized that it wasnít fun any more and that maybe it was time to get out.

"I need to know if you are going to be in at work tomorrow?" he said and Alex took a deep breath.

"I wonít be in until I know that Sydney is okay."

"You realize that your continued presence here will give rise to rumours, which means that you wonít be able to keep your relationship secret."

"At this point I donít care," Alex was honest, feeling the frustration of no sleep and the uncertainty of her partners condition. "I canít believe you asked me that question."

"Have you forgotten you are a Captain in the SPD?" the man reminded in a harder voice.

"I am also her partner," the woman growled, "and right now Iím here not as the Captain of the Homicide Unit but as her companion. If you have a problem with that I can give you my badge right now."

George said nothing aware that at this moment the woman was not rational. He could see by the weary lines on her face that she was exhausted and that meant that her emotions would be heightened. He knew that her only concern now was for the young woman lying in the hospital bed.

"I wonít be able to protect you."

"I donít want protection," she retorted hotly.

"Youíve made your decision then," George said and the dark haired woman nodded as he turned to leave. "I hope she makes it."

"So do I," Alex answered, her words softly spoken so that no one else could hear.

Sydney woke slowly from a long sleep and the first thing she thought was how much her body ached. It seemed that there wasnít any part of her frame that didnít hurt and the beeping that was pinging through the foggy darkness of her brain was beginning to get annoying. She groaned in protest to the misery she felt.

"Sydney?" Alex heard the soft sound and lifted her head from the blankets, her blue eyes searching the still face. There was no movement and she felt her hopes plummet thinking that she had imagined the sound. She was about to turn away when she heard the sound and this time she saw the other womanís lips twitch.

"Sydney?" she repeated the womanís name swiftly rising to her feet so that she could lean over and brush the blond bangs off of the warm forehead.

"Alex?" Her name came from a raspy voice and Alex watched as eyelids fluttered open and closed before opening once more. The green eyes were clouded and filled with pain.

"Hey sweetheart, Iím here," Alex felt a wave of happiness flow through her body as she continued to stroke the womanís brow. "How are you feeling?"

"Like roadkill," Sydney croaked her chest rising and falling heavily as she struggled to breath. Alex couldnít prevent the smile that edged across her features. It faded as the younger woman lifted her hand to the bandages that circled her neck. "Do I look like a roadkill?"

"No," Alex reassured her lover. "Youíre as beautiful as ever."

"Youíre just biased," the blond detective sighed, closing her eyes. "What happened?"

"What do you remember?" the Captain asked quietly uncertain if she wanted her lover to remember the shooting.

"We were going to arrest Lucas Andersen," the blond detective struggled to remember but she couldnít break through the dark barrier that clouded her brain. "What happened? Were we in an accident?"

"No, love, you were shot," the taller woman said in a soothing voice hoping that this information wouldnít upset her companion. "When you went to arrest Andersen you were shot."

"I remember now," Sydney sighed closing her eyes and feeling very exhausted.

"Thatís okay," the older woman smiled faintly. "You donít have to remember."

"We had just entered the apartment," the blond detective related the events as they filtered through

her brain. "I wasnít paying attention because I was thinking how Norm had kicked in the door. I was

thinking how they only ever did that in the movies."

The small woman paused her throat achy and dry. "I should have been paying more attention, Iím sorry I screwed up. It seems Iím always doing that."

"Oh God no, donít ever think that," Alex whispered reverently her heart breaking. "You did everything right, you saved Norm and Roy. You were pretty damn selfless."

The blond woman nodded mutely, breathing deeply from the oxygen that was being pumped into her nose through the clear plastic tubes fastened around her face. The green eyes popped open again and for an instant Alex saw a look of panic and fear.

"Are they okay?" she wanted to know.

"Yeah, they are both okay, just a few scratches and bumps," the Captain smiled, stroking her lovers cheek affectionately. The smaller woman closed her eyes for a long moment and Alex thought the other woman had fallen back asleep. She lifted her hand away and was about to sit back down when the eyes popped open again, filled with the same panic and fear.

"Donít leave me," there was a pleading look in the green eyes.

"Iím not going anywhere," the taller woman assured her companion with a tender smile. "Iím going to stay right here until you are all better."

"Will you hold me?" there was a desperate plea in the quiet voice that Alex was unable to resist and though she knew that it was probably against hospital regulations. She lifted herself up unto the bed and then stretched her frame out next to the smaller woman, carefully placing her arms around her companion to ensure that she wasnít hurting the woman in any way.

"Is this okay?" she asked softly and the blond woman nodded her head.

"This is nice," Sydney mumbled before closing her eyes again.

"Okay sweetheart, just sleep now and Iíll be here when you wake up. I love you." The younger woman mumbled something unrecognizable before slipping off to sleep and Alex sighed with relief.

She closed her own eyes and breathed a deep sigh of relief as the tears swelled within their blue depths. She knew in her heart now that her lover was going to be okay and it was a joy that she had never before felt. For the first time in two days she slept.

When the nurse came later to check on the patient she saw the two women together on the bed. Her first instinct was to wake the taller woman. Hospital regulations generally forbade this type of familiarity but something changed her mind.

Perhaps it was the look of peace and contentment on both womenís faces or the reminder that the dark haired woman had spend the last two nights sitting in the chair by the bed keeping a loving vigil. Maybe it was just the lateness of the hour, or the fact that she knew who the dark haired woman was. Either way she ignored the scene and went quietly about her business before exiting the room to leave the two women sleep in peace.

Alex slept until the first rays of sunlight pierced the sky. It had only been a few hours but the nap had been enough to refresh her senses. Upon waking she showered in the change room to which a kindly nurse gave her access.

"I understand," the woman said sympathetically. "My brother is a police officer in Spokane."

Alex had been appreciative of the special considerations she was given not questioning the kindness the stranger displayed. By the time she returned to her lovers room she was feeling better and ready to face another long day.

"Sheíll probably wake again sometime today and this time she will probably stay awake longer," the doctor pronounced after Alex told him of their short conversation the previous evening. He was satisfied with the way the situation was progressing and his prognosis gave the tall woman a huge measure of comfort.

It was late morning when Marie walked into the room carrying a small bag. She moved straight to her daughter and bent to place a small kiss on her childís cheek.

"Good morning dear," the older woman said briskly. "How is Sydney doing?"

"She woke up last night," Alex said with a smile. "She was tired and didnít say much but the doctor said it was a good sign."

"Iím glad," Marie patted the taller womanís shoulder affectionately. "I donít suppose you have had anything to eat yet this morning?"

"No," the younger woman said sheepishly unable to look her mother in the eye.

"I thought not," the woman shook her head disapprovingly. "Here I brought you breakfast."

"Thank you," Alex was grateful for her motherís thoughtfulness. She opened the bag to find a bagel and coffee inside. She took a bite of the food. "I really appreciate you doing this."

"Well some one has to look out for you," Marie said nonchalantly her grey eyes glancing over the still woman lying in bed. "Your work will only begin once she wakes up."

"I know," the younger woman nodded solemnly.

"It wonít be easy and there will probably be allot of strain," the older woman paused. "I want you to know that if you ever need to talk to someone I will always be there for you."

"Thank you," Alex appreciated the gesture but hoped that it wouldnít get to that point. "I think once

she is well enough Iíll take her away, on holiday."

"That sounds like a good idea but just be careful you donít push her to hard," Marie advised cautiously. "You must remember to give her time to heal physically and mentally."

Alex knew what her mother was saying. She had a habit of steam rolling through a situation and she knew that in this circumstance she had to be patient and give her lover time.

It was early afternoon when Sydney became conscious again. She sighed heavily as the fog over her brain lifted and she opened her eyes faintly confused until the memories came pouring back over her

senses. She closed her eyes for a long moment struggling to remain in control.

"Are you okay?" the familiar voice cut through her fears and a flood of warmth cascaded through her body.

"Now I am," the blond woman smiled faintly as she turned her head and gazed into intense blue orbs. "How are you doing?"

"Iím doing good now that I know youíre going to be okay," she was honest.

"Iím sorry I had you worried," the blond woman apologized.

"Donít apologize," Alex gently chided her lover and then confessed somewhat reluctantly. "Truth is I never thought I would find someone who I would care enough about to worry like this. I always saw my life as a puzzle with all these pieces joining perfectly to make this one picture and until I met you the pieces came together but I couldnít see any picture forming. I thought at first that you were a piece that didnít fit and therefore didnít belong in my life, but now I canít imagine living without you."

She paused and swallowed the lump that caught in her throat. "You arenít just a piece of my life. You are the very core around which I was to build everything else and for the first time I can see a picture and itís beautiful."

"For someone who doesnít say much you sure manage to say the sweetest things," Sydney croaked with a faint smile.

"Well just donít tell any of my brothers or I wonít be able to live it down," Alex chuckled with a hint of embarrassment and there was a brief silence.

"How are Norm and Roy doing?" Sydney asked quietly.

"They will be fine though they were both more than a little shook up," Alex said and paused. "Iím glad you were wearing your vest."

"Your memo said it was mandatory," the blond woman reminded.

"Yeah well Iíve noticed a lot of people seem to ignore those memoís," the Captain said cryptically.

"Yeah, but they donít have to live with you," the blond woman chuckled. "I considered not wearing it but I knew what kind of temper tantrum you would throw if I didnít and you found out."

"Damn straight," the taller woman growled with mock fierceness and then turned serious. "The vest saved your life."

"I know," the blond detective sighed wearily and then dismissed the dark thoughts that threatened to

overtake her senses. "How long do you think Iíll have to be in here?"

"As long as it takes for you to recover completely," Alex said and the smaller woman knew by the tone of her lovers voice that they would be following the doctorís orders to the letter. "Then we are going to have a long talk."

"Youíre scaring me," Sydney didnít hide her fear and the other woman smiled tenderly.

"Itís a good kind of talk," the dark haired woman reached out and stroked the other womanís features, caressing the smooth skin. "Stuff we should have talked about before this."

"Oh," the blond woman didnít know what else to say and the other womanís smile broadened.

"I believe I have rendered you speechless," Alex chuckled and then laid a tender kiss on her lovers lips.

It was almost two weeks before the doctors were comfortable in releasing Sydney from hospital and by that time she was chafing at the restrictions her convalescence was placing on her. At Alexís insistence she spoke with the Police psychologist who paid her several curtesy visits while she was still in hospital. Mostly she concentrated on getting out of hospital and back on the job.

Alex took the day off when Sydney was released from hospital and found herself acting like a mother hen, fussing relentlessly over her companion until the younger woman exploded from all the attention. It was an emotional scene which ended with the blond woman storming out of the apartment. The taller woman waited a few moments before following, knowing where she would find her companion. It was on the beach a few blocks from their condo. She sat down quietly on the bench next to her partner.

"Iím sorry," Alex apologized shoving her hands deep into her trouser pockets. "I promised myself I wouldnít behave like this."

"Itís okay," Sydney groused not looking at her companion. "I never had any one fuss over me before. Iím not used to it."

"I know," the taller woman nodded her head. "One of my biggest faults it that I am too possessive. I guess that comes from growing up with three older brothers."

"I like that you are possessive," the smaller woman countered and her companion smiled wistfully for

a brief moment before growing serious.

"I worry about you," Alex confessed. "I worry about us."

"You donít have too," Sydney said. "I think we are both strong willed so that we are always going to

fight about stuff, but that doesnít mean Iím going to leave."

"My common sense knows that," the other woman nodded, "but my emotional self isnít so secure. I

have never cared about anyone the way I care about you....I donít think I will ever care for anyone

else more. This whole business really scared me."

Sydney turned then to look at her companion. Alex had bent she head and was staring blindly at her feet which were stretched out in front of her.

"When I thought you might die, I realized that I would lose my soul. I love you that much," the older woman confessed unable to look at her lover. "Until you came along I didnít know what love meant. I had read about it in books but the emotion didnít touch me until you came along and the thought of being without it is just overwhelming. Iím still trying to come to terms with the intensity of the feelings I have for you and sometimes, like today I canít control them."

"I donít want you to control them," the blond woman said softly. "But just understand that sometimes they will be to much for me and I will have to back up a bit. It doesnít mean that I am going to leave, it just means that I need some breathing space."

"I will try to understand that," the dark haired woman nodded and then fell silent.

"Alex," Sydney said her name in a soft voice and the other woman turned to look at her. "Can you do me one favour?"

The other woman nodded mutely and the other woman continued in a serious voice. "Remember that I love you with all my heart and no matter what happens I have every intention of being with you until I am a very old lady."

Alex nodded and allowed a relieved smile to etch itís way across her angular face lightening the mood between them. Sydney smiled alongside her companion.

"So was this the serious talk that you mentioned back in the hospital?"

"No," the smile disappeared from the dark haired womanís face as she grew more serious. She was nervous about bringing up this subject. "I know we have just moved in together but I want something more permanent. I want to know that if anything happens to either one of us the other wouldnít have to go through a whole load of bullshit."

She paused and took a deep breath, thinking of her experience at the hospital. "I am going to make you beneficiary to all my pensions and my contact person if anything happens. I want to know that in case I am incapacitated that you will be making all the decisions that will affect me...us."

Sydney knew what the other woman was saying. It was a gigantic step and she understood the

significance behind the decision. They could never be legally joined so this was the only way that

there union would be respected.

"Unless of course.. you arenít ready for that type of permanence?" Alex worried about her

companions silence.

"No," Sydney shook her head. "I think we both should go down and change our forms."

Alex smiled, her heart warmth by the fact that her lover was on the same wave length as her. She

took a deep breath and looked intently at the other woman.

"Would it be all right if I moved over and gave you a hug?" she asked and the blond woman nodded.

Alex scooted across the bench and opened her arms and the smaller woman settled comfortably in their warm folds. They sat back and stared out at the grey ocean deep in their own thoughts. The future would not be easy but at least they would be together. And for both of them that was enough for now.

THE END

 

Thank you for reading. I hoped you enjoyed the story and perhaps there will be a sequel with our girls in another adventure.

 

copyright @ April 2000/ Plant-solin

beyond uber index <> homepage