Chapter Two

Good morning.

I think we both slept well last night. I wasn't awakened by any nightmares, at least not that I can remember. Damian seemed to sleep through the night as well. I consider that a miracle. I'm usually awakened at least once a night by her thrashing and groans.

We've switched the sides we sleep on, and that has seemed to help. For some reason, when she has nightmares, she always strikes out to her left. After I got hit a few times, and we figured it out, we made the switch. It's saved me from more bruises, and it's saved her some heartache. The first time she lashed out in one of her nightmares and her fist connected with my side, she wouldn't look at me, get close to me, touch me for two days.

That's not something I'm willing to tolerate. I need her touch. She's not a very touchy, huggy kind of person. Any violation of her personal space and she tenses up. The first time I touched her, I thought I had touched a piece of stone. She's not like that with me, now, though. It took a while, but I think she needs to touch me and have me touch her as much as I need it. It's the casual touches, the little scratch on the back accompanied by a small smile or a pat on the arm, that mean so much. The little details. That's what's important.

Let's see...where was I in our story? Ah, yes...the hospital.

I didn't see Damian again that day. I stopped off by the task force offices, but she was out, following up on something or another. I had a long conversation with Joe about the background of the task force, the purpose, and virtually everything else under the sun. That man can talk.

Naive or stupid, I'm not. I knew very well why I had been granted access to the task force operations. Did it bother me that he was using me to try and wrangle a promotion? Not at all. I wanted the story. There are prices you pay for everything. The real question is, whether it's worth the price or not. That was an acceptable price to me.

I learned that the New Orleans based group was a part of seven just like it at several port cities in the States. The group consisted of various members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, who, in cooperation with various international agencies and foreign governments, were attempting to stem the flow of trafficking human bodies around the globe. Quite a task they had bitten off.

Tangling with the slave traders meant you were going up against some of the most organized international criminal enterprises in the world. It was often a side business to drug smuggling and dealing in stolen weapons and arms. If you've ever gotten an inside look at an OICE, you'd be amazed. Corporate America could learn some lessons on how to run a business. Profit is the sole focus. Of course, their disciplinary policies are a little harsh, but very clear. Death. It's the penalty for everything from tardiness to embezzling corporate funds. And the word 'shark' takes on an entirely different meaning. The most ruthless legitimate corporate executive pales in comparison to the men and women who run the OICEs.

When our meeting was over with, I went out in search of a place to live. It looked like I would be here for a while. Apartments are a lot cheaper than hotel rooms. It's not that I minded hotel rooms. I've lived most of my adult life in them, traveling around the world, going where the story was.

But there were certain things I missed. Cooking was one of those things. It relaxes me. I'm not a gourmet chef by any stretch of the imagination. I can feed you without killing you, and it's reasonably palatable. I've got a collection of recipes from around the world. One or two of my favorite dishes from each of the places I've been. It's hard to write a story about people, my favorite subject, when you know nothing about their culture...their way of life. It's the little details that make the story.

The prospect of being in one place for a little while actually excited me. It had been seven, no, eight, years since I had lived in one particular place for more than two months. The maid at the hotel's brother was a real estate agent, so I found myself calling him and scheduling a viewing of several apartments in the French Quarter. By five p.m. that day, I had found a charming little apartment off of Dumaine Street. It reminded me of several places I had stayed in Europe.

It was small, three rooms and a bathroom. A tiny kitchen, a slightly larger room with a fireplace and a bedroom. The walls were all exposed brick and the ceilings were fourteen feet high with ceiling fans that spun lazily. French doors and windows ran the length and opened onto a small courtyard that had a lap pool squarely in the center. My mind gleefully pronounced it perfect, and I arranged to have some of my belongings shipped to me. It was Tuesday and they would arrive by Friday. I could cook this weekend. Life was good.

The next two weeks were fairly uneventful as far as the task force was concerned. There were no more raids and the agents worked at the more mundane tasks of law enforcement - phone calls, following up with leads, working their sources. Not really much for me to do, but I made sure I dropped by every day. I spent my time talking with the various agents and getting to know the secretary/receptionist well. That's who you really want to know - the lowest man or woman on the totem pole. They usually know the most.

Those same two weeks, though, from a personal standpoint, changed my life. I decided to go back to the hospital to check on Diego and the other children. That's when I saw Damian again.

When I watched them together, it was always with a little bit of wonder, a small amount of envy, and an enormous amount of love, even then. My two angels. I'm not sure I've ever seen a natural affinity for each other as those two had. Even with me, she still has walls, and it was a long time before most of them came down. But with him, there were never any walls. The only thing I've ever seen in her eyes when she looked at him was love and recognition of a kindred spirit.

Damian's an orphan. Her mother abandoned her at the age of eighteen months. She was a drug addict and prostitute who left her on the steps of St. Vincent's Orphanage for the Daughters of Charity to care for. That was in 1967.

I can't even imagine how that feels. To be abandoned. To not be loved by the one person who's supposed to love you beyond life itself - your mother. I grew up in a warm, supportive environment with a loving family. My life wasn't perfect. We had our own family problems and secrets. But I had a family. I knew who I was, where I came from, what my history was.

It struck me once, when I was at the gynecologist's office for the first time in New Orleans, filling out the medical history form. Next of kin. There was none for Damian. Maybe somewhere out in the world, but she didn't know and was too angry to find out. Known illnesses of mother. Drug addiction and probably sexually transmitted diseases, but that was it. Known illnesses of father. Father unknown. Damian has no history, other than what she has made on her own.

What a sense of loss she must feel at that. She says she's luckier than a lot of children who had families. No abuse, no molestation. She's correct in that regard. She's also correct when she says that she was better off in the orphanage than with her mother, living on the streets. Those are points I can't argue with her, at least from an intellectual standpoint.

But when it comes to the heart, no amount of intellectual knowledge stops the pain....the loss. Nothing can block out the knowledge that someone who's supposed to want you, treasure you, love you...didn't. Those things, I can argue with her. She used to tell me she had no soul. That it didn't matter. That she didn't feel. That she was damned from the moment she was born and she would be for eternity. That she had no hope. I told her she was wrong. Events proved me right.

Children are incredibly resilient. Thank God, or the human race would have been extinct a long time ago. When I arrived at the children's ward, Diego's bed was empty. A nurse directed me to the play room where I found Damian on the floor with Diego, playing with a fire engine that looked like it had seen one too many fires. She was making a noise which I took to be the truck's engine as he pushed the truck under the tunnel she made with her legs. His soft brown eyes sparkled from underneath dark bangs. What an angel he was. Damian tells me that he's in heaven now, watching over me.


I hate. I hate it all sometimes. Everything. I cannot find one good thing about this life. And I don't have the courage to end it. I want to. So desperately. But I can't. The urge to end it all is so strong sometimes. But then, invariably something happens and Jules needs me. And I am reminded that there is one good thing about this life. Her. I have no delusions about what would happen to me should she ever go away.

You're probably thinking that I'm in need of massive amounts of therapy. Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. I think there are some things that are so ingrained in me that nothing short of removal of part of my brain would modify my behavior or thinking. Maybe I'm just stubborn and can change. Maybe I'm just so used to it that I don't want to change.

I don't know why she wants to write about this. She's already written her story. Why does she want to torture herself again? She remembers too much as it is now. I just tried to talk her out of it. She's already back at her computer, typing away again.

I was outside, throwing the ball to Maya. I didn't want to go sit in front of the I imagine Maya's going to get quite a workout for a while. I suddenly found myself with an armful of Jules.

“Hey, sweetheart? What's the matter?”

She clung to me, not saying anything, her face buried into my shoulder. She's remembering, I thought. I sat us down in the grass, pulling her into my lap and holding her until she was ready to talk.

I heard a mumble against my chest as she asked in a small voice, “Do you really think he's in heaven, watching over us?”

“You...he's watching over you. I know he is.”

Religion's a funny thing, I've found. I grew up indoctrinated into the Catholic religion. That saying, “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic,' is so true. I still get the urge to raise my hand to answer a question and I have an unnatural fear of rulers. I don't believe in any of it, but it's kind of a hard thing to shake. There can be no god of any kind. Some things would not happen if there was one.

We humans do a marvelous job at rationalizing and justifying things. There have been wars fought and atrocities committed, all in the name of one god or another. Each is more righteous, more good, more just than the next. Each is the only one. All others pale in comparison. The TV evangelists...send me money and you'll be saved. No need to be kind to your neighbor or stop beating your wife and child. Just send the money and it will be okay.

Bull Fucking Shit! I don't want a god who will condone war and atrocity, greed, fighting...who will say, in my name, kill all who oppose me...brainwash those who will not believe. If there is a god, and there is a heaven, then I know Diego is in heaven, watching out over Jules. She was the only mother he ever knew.

As religiously indoctrinated as I was, Jules was not. I find it ironic that she takes comfort in the fact that I believe that there is a heaven, a place for little boys like Diego, where life is what it should have been for them, not what it was here.

“He watches out over you, too, Damian.”

I held her tighter and stayed silent. If it helps her to believe that, so be it. But I know he's not, because I didn't watch out for him here. That's not how it works in the heaven of my construction.

“Do you remember that silly noise you made with that beat up old fire engine at the hospital?” Her hand touches the side of my face and urges me to look down at her.

I made the noise and she smiled...a soft little smile as she remembers. I reminded myself that remembering isn't always bad.

“That's one of the things I love about you.”

“What?” I gently teased. “My ability to make strange noises?”

A small hand pats my chest. “No,” she says in mock exasperation. “It's that you can be silly sometimes.”

I laid my cheek against her head and smiled, thinking about the fire engine and Diego and his laugh and Jules cutting his bangs that day.

We were playing with a fire engine in the play room at Charity. It seemed like he was pushing his black hair out of his eyes every two minutes. I didn't know that Jules was standing there watching us until she spoke.

A clear, bright voice called out across the room. “Looks like somebody could use a haircut.”

Her voice must have struck a chord with him, because Diego stopped pushing the truck and looked up at her. I knew he didn't understand the words because he only spoke Spanish. He had the most beautiful smile on his face and there was an answering one on hers.

“Su nombre es Juliana.” Her name is Juliana.

“¿Juliana?” It's Juliana?

“Sí, Juliana.” I smiled at him, then reached over and pushed his bangs out of his eyes. “Cree que necesitas un corte de pelo.” Yes, Juliana. She thinks you need a haircut.

He giggled and looked back at Jules. “¿Puede hacerlo?” Can she do it?

“No lo sé. ¿Por qué no le preguntas?” I saw the hesitation in his face. “Adelante, está bien. No te hará daño.” I don't know. Why don't you ask her? Go ahead, it's okay. She won't hurt you.

He stood and walked over to her. She crouched down, getting to eye-level with him.

A tiny hand went up and tugged on his bangs as he looked at her. “¿Puedes cortarme el pelo?” Can you cut my hair?

It was the first time I saw Jules at a loss for words. She looked at me questioningly.

“Diego, repite lo que diga, ¿vale?” Diego, repeat what I say, okay?

“Vale.” Okay.







Jules and I both smiled as his please came out as “pwease.'







Her blonde head nodded yes as her green eyes twinkled.

He looked excitedly at me. A head nod is yes in any language. He didn't need a translation.

He came over to me and tugged at my bangs. “Córtate también el pelo.” You get your hair cut, too.

I laughed. “No, no necesito cortarme el pelo.” No, I don't need my hair cut.

“Sí, por favor." Yes, please.

So like Jules. I could never say no to him either. I ended up having my bangs trimmed.

Jules borrowed a pair of bandage scissors from a nurse. Not the best thing to cut hair with. It took several weeks for my bangs to grow out and get trimmed with a real pair of scissors. Every morning, though, when I looked in the mirror, I thought of her when I saw my bangs.

Diego absolutely adored her. He was fascinated by her eyes and chattered incessantly as she cut his hair. She stayed with us, playing with fire engines and trucks and building blocks until, finally, it was lunchtime and time for me to leave.

He kissed her goodbye on the cheek. It was so incredibly sweet and the look of absolute joy on her face caught me by surprise.

She turned those green eyes on me. “Please tell him that I will come see him tomorrow, if he wants me to.”

I told him. The enthusiastic head nod and the squeal of “Sí, Sí,” needed no interpretation, either.

She smiled at him and kissed him again before we left, walking out together.

We walked toward the elevator silently. “The nurses tell me that other than an infection, he's in pretty good shape, considering.”

“Yeah, considering....” I could feel myself getting angry as I thought of how we found him, and swore to myself again that I would find the people that did this to him, to all those children.

I felt the warmth of a hand on my arm and my body stiffened. “You're very good with him.”

I didn't tell her that I'd had years of practice calming scared kids at the home. I shrugged instead. “He...he's just scared.”

“I can certainly understand why. And I'm sure it's even harder when no one speaks your language.” She pressed the button for the elevator. “Where did you learn to speak Spanish?”

“At...around. I...something I picked up.”

“Will you teach me a little, so I can talk to him, make him feel better?”

I studied her face...looked into her eyes. Why, I wondered, why would a reporter who traipses around the globe want to know a few phrases of Spanish just so an orphan from Mexico could feel better? Did she want to get close to him for her story? Why should she care? Most don't. Hell, aside from the people on the task force, the slave traffickers and the hospital staff who had come in contact with him, no one knew he even existed.

As if she was reading my mind, she added. “It's not for the story, if that's what you're worried about. I won't exploit him.”

How did she know what I was thinking? How did she know I was worried about that? It was my first experience with Jules' knowing what I was thinking and feeling without me having to say a word.

I felt a warm hand on my arm again. “He's been exploited enough, don't you think?”

I looked into those impossibly honest eyes and knew she was sincere. “Yes.”

The elevator came and we got on it. “So, Lieutenant D'Avanti, was that a yes to the Spanish lessons as well?”

“'s Damian.” I looked into her eyes again and was captured. “And yes, I'll give you Spanish lessons.”

“Good.” Her smile was so bright. “Want to start at lunch? My treat.”


“I'll take that as a yes. Where shall we go?” She asked as we got off the elevator.

That's the thing about Jules. Give her an inch and she'll take more than a mile. She'll take your heart. She certainly hijacked mine.


She came back inside a little while ago and started typing. I thought the keyboard was going to break there for a minute. She gets so angry, and there's no one for her to take her anger out on but herself. I've tried to get her angry with me, but she won't fight. Fighting with me scares her to death. She thinks I'll go away if she says she is angry with me.

Sometimes I don't know what to think. Maybe I should push harder for her to go to a therapist. Is it idiotic that we're trying to handle this alone, without professional help? She's refused so far, telling me that they'll only make her start at the beginning and it will be years until they let her talk about us and what happened.

As angry as she can get is as gentle as she can be with me. Not once has she ever pushed me away. Not once, even when I know she's hurting as bad as I am, has she done anything but support me and love me and soothe me. I am sorry to say that I have failed her miserably in that regard.

Those first two weeks, we spent every morning at the hospital. Sometimes Damian would take me up on my luncheon invitation. At other times, she wouldn't. After the fifth day, she told me that she had been going to the hospital at night, before they put the lights out for sleep. She was so incredibly shy when she asked me, haltingly, if I'd like to meet her back there that night. Wild horses couldn't have kept me away.

I must admit that I was absolutely fascinated by her and captivated, charmed and totally in love with Diego. He was very small for his age, which the doctors estimated to be seven, most likely due to the malnutrition and disease he suffered from living on the streets somewhere in Mexico. We did...Damian and with the other children, but it was clear from the start that both of our hearts belonged to him. More than once I laughed in delight as she played human gym for all the kids, but we spent most of our time with Diego.

Those two weeks passed so quickly. We saw each other in the morning and then again at night. I spent my time in between, doing research, stopping at FBI headquarters and exploring the city. I managed to talk her into a dinner once. The first time I'd run into her at the agency, she ignored me. I didn't know whether to be just angry or really furious.

I learned that she was very good at defusing my anger. It wasn't a particular skill she had that made her so good at it. It was that adorable, confused look she got on her face when I told her I was angry with her. I cornered her in the ladies room at the agency, away from prying eyes and told her that I was angry about the way she was treating me.

The look I received when the words left my mouth would be one that I would expect most people to give an alien exiting a spaceship that had just landed in their front yard. She stared at me, her jaw agape.

“Do you not understand what I said?” I asked, becoming even more irritated.

“You're angry?”

I looked at her in disbelief. This woman, who could speak two languages, was clearly not ignorant in any sense of the word. What, exactly, about my saying I was angry with the way she ignored me did she not understand?

“Yes, I'm angry. You ignored me. Why did you do that?”

“'re not yelling or anything.”

“Huh?” My anger left, only to be replaced by confusion.

Damian looked at me suspiciously. “People yell when they're angry. You're not yelling. You're talking.”

“Well...yes, of course I'm talking. I mean, I've been known to yell on occasion, but...” I was sure I sounded like a blubbering idiot right then. “Actually, I yell when I'm frustrated, not angry.” I started to feel like I wanted to yell.

“You're angry?”

“Now I'm frustrated.” The words came out louder than I intended.

“Ah, now you're angry. You're yelling.”

“No! I was, I mean...oh, forget it.” I wanted to stamp my foot. “Why did you ignore me?”

She shrugged. “Wasn't sure if you wanted to be associated with me in public.”

“What on earth are you talking about?”

She fidgeted like a small child. “Most people...they...never mind. Can I go to the restroom now?”

“Uh, yeah, sure.” I watched her make her way into the nearest stall. My own head was shaking as I left the restroom.

I left her a note on her desk. I'm proud to know you. She never mentioned the note, but she never ignored me again.


I don't have a valid point of reference about some things in life. You are what you know. For example, when I did something wrong at the home, you were either yelled at or beaten. I don't mean beaten as in abused beaten, but you got spanked. It hurt your pride more than your ass. Pretty much, throughout my life, when someone's upset with me, they'd yell at me. The beating part doesn't work anymore because I'm a little too big for that.

But when Jules is upset with me, she wants to talk about it. She really doesn't yell. Sometimes I'd prefer the yelling. It's not that it's any better than talking, but it's what I know. See? That's what I was talking about as a valid point of reference.

It's caused problems for Jules and I. But she's so patient with me. She's taught me so much about life and the way things can be, not the way they were for me. I've learned new points of reference, and while it's not always easy...okay, most of the time it isn't...I can talk about some things now first, without us having to take the long way to get there.

I think, all my life, I've wanted a family. It was one of those things that I dreamed about as a child, but never told anybody, because it was an impossibility. The nuns told me when I was four that my mother died. I knew I should be sad, should feel something, but I didn't...couldn't. I tried, but I had no memories of her.

I saw Jules again that night.


A phone call from Joe Duncan woke me up at a little after one in the morning.

“I'm sending D'Avanti to get you in fifteen minutes. We're conducting another raid.”

I made sure I was ready well before the fifteen minutes was up. I walked out through the gate onto Dumaine and she was there already, leaning against the car, waiting for me. She glanced at her watch. “We've got twenty minutes to make it. Get in.”

When we pulled up on the tarmac at the naval air base eighteen minutes later, I was sure my hair was standing on end. I know it took me three days to get my heart out of my throat. I glanced at the speedometer once during our trip as the siren blared and the red and blue lights flashed. The needle was sitting at the 110 miles per hour mark, which was the last one on the speedometer. I didn't look again. Seconds later, Damian and I were running across the tarmac and getting into a Huey, headed for a Coast Guard cutter waiting for us somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.

Did you know that helicopters aren't really supposed to be able to fly? I'm not sure if that's true or not, but when I was in Saudi during the Gulf War, I happened to hear a pilot of an F-18 and a Cobra helicopter pilot arguing about it. That was what I thought of as Damian hauled me up into the Huey. I momentarily froze and was not so gently shoved onto the bench seat as Damian slapped one of those flight helmets into my gut.

Landing on a Coast Guard cutter in the black of night as the boat pitched back and forth on the waves like a giant seesaw is not something I want to experience again, unless I have to, of course, for a story. I must be crazy to do some of the things I do. It's not that I don't get scared, because I do. I get downright terrified at times. It's the pursuit of the story that makes me do the things that I do. I've got to tell the story.

I have no idea how the helicopter pilot landed that thing without killing us all, but he did. It was then that I realized I had a death grip on Damian's arm. The only thing tighter in the world than my grip at that instant was the tenseness of the muscles in the forearm my fingers were gripping. My hand came off her arm as if I had touched a hot iron. She unceremoniously yanked my helmet off my head and half carried me out of the helicopter, rolling her eyes as she set me down and stalked off to find Duncan.

If anyone tells you that because a ship is big, you really can't feel the effects of the waves, they're lying to you. Even on a carrier, Mother Nature makes you very aware of her power. I must have turned thirty different shades of green during the next hour as the ship pitched and rolled towards its target. Damian, of course, stood there, seemingly unaffected by it all. Duncan had ordered us all into a small room to go over the plan for the raid one last time. The last thing I remember is someone handing me a cup of water and a pill and mumbling something about seasickness. Oh, that, and the irrational anger I was feeling towards Damian for being so damned nonchalant about driving at warp ten, taking a death-defying ride on a vehicle that defied the laws of aerodynamics and looking like she was enjoying each roll and pitch of that damn ship.

There are profound moments in our lives, usually truths we realize when we are able to see things with a clarity that is beyond crystal. For me, that hasn't always been the case. One of the most profound moments of my life came when my brain was addled from the drugs they had given me.

The next thing I remember after taking the pill that had been handed to me was that my brain felt like it was in a fog...a thick, soupy fog. I hovered on the edge of consciousness, feelings and thoughts flitting in and out of my awareness. I don't know how long I was like that. It could have been seconds or hours. I remember gentle rocking motion. I imagined that's how it must have felt when I was cradled in my mother's arms as a baby. Safe, secure, protected, loved. It felt so good.

I moved deeper into the embrace, breathing in a familiar scent and letting out a contented sigh. No lover had ever held me like this, but surely that must be who is holding me, my foggy brain reasoned. Who else could it be, but the person that I loved beyond life itself? I had always dreamed of finding this...feeling this perfect peace, perfect contentment. But dreams had never even come close to what I was feeling. This is real.

I became aware of warm breath rhythmically tickling my neck. A strong arm wrapped around my shoulders. Another circling my waist. Oh God, it felt so good. I swore, right then and there, that as soon as the fog I was in lifted, and I could remember who this was, that I would never, ever lose this person. That I would do whatever it took to make sure I could feel what I was feeling for the rest of my life...this one true moment of perfection.

I struggled to remember what it was like to make love to this person, because, surely, if simply holding one another felt so good....but no memories came forward. How does this person's skin feel? Their lips? Their touch? I desperately needed to know, hoping that the memories would spring forth in my mind. Nothing. How could I not remember?

I felt tortured...feeling so good and yet, unable to recall what this person's touch felt like. My soul cried out in anguish as my hands started to move over the body I was entwined with, seeking something, anything to trigger the memories. Muscles shifted underneath my fingertips as my hands moved upward, stopping as they found two mounds of flesh. A woman, my brain registered. I had been with both men and women, but I always knew in my heart that the”one” would be a woman. Nipples hardened beneath my fingertips. My mouth ached with the need to taste them. I could hear her breathing stop for a second, then restart...shallower, more rapid.

Skin...I needed to feel the skin that was hidden under the material I was touching. It's heat beckoned me. I needed to know what it felt like, because the memories wouldn't come forth. Why couldn't I remember? My lips found soft flesh in the crook of the neck that my head was resting on and I sucked insistently as my fingers pulled and teased the nipples even harder. A wave of desire washed through my body, reaching every cell. My hips started to move, finding a hard thigh to straddle. A moan escaped my lips. My foggy mind wondered what she looked like.

I felt strong hands grasp my wrists, stilling my movements. Open your eyes, my mind whispered. See what she looks like. How can I not remember? my brain screamed back. I opened my eyes and knew instantly why I couldn't remember. It was Damian. For an instant, our eyes locked, and then she scrambled out of the berth so fast and disappeared that I didn't even have time to say anything. And what would I have said?

My head dropped onto the pillow with a small groan as my mind and body went into shock. My thoughts whirled as if caught in a cyclone. What just happened? It's something I still think about, but my conclusions today are much different from the first thing my shocked mind grabbed onto in the early hours of that morning. A drug-induced nightmare..that's it, my mind uttered. It was nothing more than some type of drug-induced nightmare. I realized sometime later that my body had recognized what my heart already had. Neither, however, decided to let my mind in on the secret.


I laugh now when I think about what happened that night. Laugh and thank God for Jules' seasickness. We choppered out to a cutter, prepared to make a raid on another ship that was off the coast. Between the trip to the naval air station and the ride in the Huey, Jules was already green. When she caught sight of that ship pitching in the waters, well, I don't think I've seen eyes go that wide in my entire life. By the time we were all off the Huey and below deck, she was so sick. I don't think there's a color in the big sixty-four Crayola box that matched the shade she was.

By this time, I had developed a grudging respect for Jules. I wasn't happy that I had to babysit her, but on a personal level, she was okay. I still didn't trust her. She was, after all, a reporter. So I had mixed feelings as I watched her turn more and more green. I felt bad in one way, but I also was hoping that maybe she'd be too sick to follow me around during the raid. Yeah, that would be best. She can stay on board the cutter and I can do my job, unhindered.

I watched someone hand her a pill and a cup of water and she downed it in one movement. The next thing I knew, she was up and out the door, heading topside. I scrambled after her. She was, after all, my responsibility. I could only imagine the paperwork and the grief I would get if she went overboard out in the Gulf in the middle of the night. Damn! I didn't even know if she could swim. I flew up the steps to find her teetering at the railing. How did she move so fast?

I grabbed her by the shoulder and spun her around. She looked up at me and then passed out. “Well, you got what you asked for,” I muttered as I scooped her up off the deck and carried her below. The Lieutenant Commander instructed me to take her to the medical treatment room, which I did. I put her down on the berth and watched as she promptly started to roll off when the ship pitched again. I caught her just in time.

The door popped open and Joe Duncan stuck his head in. “What the hell happened to her?”

“I dunno. She passed out.” The bigger question in my mind right then was what was I going to do with her. The seas were getting rougher and my eyes searched in vain for straps on the berth so I could tie her in. At least she wouldn't be tagging along on the raid.

“Stay with her.”

“What!?” I almost dropped her at his words.

He puffed up and his face started to turn red. “You heard me D'Avanti. Stay with her.”

I started to protest.

“What part of that order didn't you understand?” he growled at me.

“None, sir. I....” I shut up. I was in charge of his precious little journalist and if she had wanted to ride the anchor up and down, I'd have to make sure she did it safely. Fuck this.

He made sure to slam the door very hard on his way out. It didn't disturb her in the least. Me, I seethed with anger. I got her back up on the berth and figured that if I could wake her up, at least I could get the hell out of this room and have a shot at going on the raid. I found a towel and was running cold water on it when the shipped rolled to one side and she rolled right out of the berth with it.

I picked her up yet again and put the cold cloth on her forehead. I couldn't move more than a foot away from the berth because of the violent rocking. My eyes scanned the room for something, anything that I could use to secure her to the berth, but there was nothing in the room. I eventually gave up and sat down on the floor, one of my hands pushing against her back to keep her in place. You don't even want to know what I was thinking right then. Let's just say it's something the Sisters at the orphanage wouldn't have been too thrilled with.

I don't know how long I sat there, but my butt went numb and my arms started to fall asleep, despite the fact that I was alternating them as I held her in place. Duncan came back to check on his prize a couple of times. She's fine, sleeping like a baby, I assured him each time. Oh, and me? Happy as a clam. Only thing I could think of more pleasant than this would be bamboo shoots under my fingernails or maybe clamps on my nipples wired to a car battery while I was being drenched with cold water.

I couldn't take it any more. I climbed up into the berth next to her and grabbed her, anchoring her into the bed. I might as well be comfortable while I babysat. I have no idea what happened. I must have been more tired than I thought because I fell asleep with Juliana in my arms. The next thing I knew, I could feel sunlight touching my eyelids and I was hot. Very hot. Something felt so good. It took my breathe away. I had never felt anything like it before.

I was so hot. Was I in hell? my half-awake mind wondered. Can't be. It feels too good. Maybe that's what hell is...if I open my eyes that good feeling will go away. Then I'll just be hot. I kept my eyes shut longer. Maybe this is heaven? No, it couldn't be. It's not supposed to be hot in heaven. Heaven is cool and blue and wonderful. Besides, I'm not going to heaven. I know that. Must be hell. Keep my eyes closed just a little bit longer.

Don't know what those nuns made such a big deal about. Hell isn't that bad. I felt movement. There's somebody in hell with me. Someone who makes me feel so good. It's nice not to be alone in hell. My eyes popped open and looked straight into the green eyes of Juliana Hayden.
The next thing I knew I was up on the deck, feeling like I wanted to throw up and wondering what the hell had happened. My head was pounding. My body was on fire.

I wasn't supposed to feel like this. She...she was...touching me...kissing me. It felt so good. My head pounded more. I wasn't supposed to feel like that. It wasn't supposed to feel like that. What was going on with me?

The sun was rising to my right and the weather had cleared considerably, the waves barely rocking the ship. We were headed back in. What in the hell was going on? I missed the raid. What in the hell was going on with me? I took deep breaths, trying to calm my body down as my mind raced. “Sinner! Sinner! Sinner!” Sister Mary Patricia's words echoed in my mind. My knuckles ached as I remembered the sharp crack of the ruler against them. “You have committed a sin against the Lord. Go to Father Robert and tell him you must confess. Now!” A sharp crack of the ruler, this time against the back of my head. I'm not supposed to feel this way. Why am I feeling this way?

I almost jumped overboard when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I knew it was her. I didn't turn around at first. I looked at the water and prayed fervently. I don't know why. It had never worked before. Why was I expecting it to work now? A tap to my shoulder again, harder. I turned around. She was still there, standing with her hands on her hips. Praying never works.

“What the hell did you do to me?” she demanded.

I felt trapped, cornered. My mind reeled. What did I do to her? Had I done something in my sleep to her? Did I cause her to do those things she had done to me? Touch me? Kiss me? I couldn't look at her. “N...nothing...I swear it...nothing...I didn't...nothing.”

“What's wrong?”

My mind screamed with almost a maniacal cackle, “What's wrong? Everything!” Instead, I answered. “You got sick. Someone gave you a pill. passed out. Fell out of the bed. I was just....” Of all the places on the planet, this was the one place I didn't want to be. I looked over the side of the railing. I was a strong swimmer. The thought of jumping overboard ran through my head. “You kept falling out...seas were straps.”

A warm hand grasped my forearm. Overboard...go overboard, my mind urged me. “Damian...thank you...for taking care of me.” The warmth of her touch brought back my thoughts of a few minutes ago and I felt the heat rise to my face.

“You''re welcome.” I fled.


I really just came in to turn our computers off, but I have to write this last little bit. Damian wants to go to the lumber yard. She decided that she needed to build something. I haven't even asked her what. I don't care. I'm on cloud nine right now because of what happened at lunch.

We just finished a wonderfully long and leisurely lunch. We had bologna sandwiches and those spicy potato chips Damian loves. I never knew something as simple as a bologna sandwich could be so wonderful and mean so much. I feel like it's the best lunch I've ever had. Not because I love bologna. It's what it represents.

Diego loved bologna sandwiches. Plain bologna sandwiches - two pieces of bread, white, not wheat, and two slices of bologna. A hundred memories, each as clear as the next, of the three of us eating bologna sandwiches, are stored in my mind.

When Damian first got home after everything, I had gone to the store and picked up a few things. Bologna was one of them. Habit, I imagine. She threw it away. It became a ritual. I bought bologna. She threw it away. We've never talked about it until lunch today. We've never had bologna until today.

Damian was standing at the refrigerator, door open, looking at its contents. I walked up behind her and rested my head against her back as my arms slipped around her waist. “Anything in particular you want for lunch?” I asked lightly.

I felt her draw a deep breath. “Bologna.” It came out as a strangled whisper.

A rush of conflicting emotions overwhelmed me as my arms gripped tighter around her waist. I could feel her struggling to maintain her composure. Her breathing was in gulps. I held on even tighter. A drop of something wet landed on my arm. A tear. Oh was a tear.

I pushed everything I was feeling down. I needed to be supportive. My heart wrenched in pain for her. Tears are good, I told myself sternly. You've been saying for months that she needs to let this out. Be there for her. Let her cry. Let her get it out. All I wanted to do was take away the pain. Say something, do make it all go away.

We must have stood in front of the refrigerator for ten minutes before her breathing quieted. I felt the occasional splash of hot tears on my arms. She didn't say anything. I didn't say anything, although my mind was racing. I had always been scared that if she didn't let her grief and pain out, that I would lose her. I realized something during that ten minutes...that I was as equally scared of losing her if she did.

Damian has such a powerful mind. The things I've seen her do by force of will alone.... It used to scare me. Now, it terrifies me. I've seen that powerful mind off track. She almost died because of it. Many did.

She took a deep breath and I felt her arm shake as she finally reached inside and took the bologna off the top shelf. I suddenly realized that it had been sitting there, in the place we had always kept it, for two days. It had become such an automatic thing for me to buy the bologna and for her to throw it away, that I hadn't even noticed it was still in the refrigerator.

I removed my arms from around her waist and rubbed her back lightly. I felt like another door had opened inside her. I wanted to talk about what had just happened. I had so many questions, but I knew Damian wouldn't talk until she was ready to talk. So I stepped quietly inside the door she had opened, as I had learned to do, and would patiently wait until she was ready. Instead, I said, “Guess we better shut the fridge door.”

“Yeah,” she answered as she swung the fridge door closed.

“White bread?” I asked softly.

She turned and looked at me. The tear-stained cheeks, the redness of her swollen eyes...almost broke my resolve not to say anything. Those beautiful blue eyes were full of pain and grief. Her hand lifted and stroked my cheek softly. “Always.”

We quietly made the sandwiches and went outside to eat them. I sensed some sort of change and I was nervous. When I'm nervous, I usually babble, but I remained quiet, allowing Damian to dictate what would happen. We ate silently and I busied myself with looking at the bird bath Damian had put up and the birds that were splashing around in it.

I was startled as her hand reached out and captured mine. “Jules?”

My eyes found hers. “What, baby?”

“We're going to be okay.”

It was half question, half statement. I saw a tiny spark of something in the blue of her eyes. Hope, I realized. I allowed my soul free rein as it soared on that hope. “We are going to be okay.” Belief. That's all we need.

Chapter 3

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