Disclaimers, et al found at the beginning of part 1.

Emotion

"Let me get this straight, you wine, okay water, and dine me and then chat me up about another woman?"   They sat at the wooden table and Kris smiled to herself as she realized they kept using less and less of it as their chairs got closer together each time they ate.

Sam grinned.  "Something like that."

"Uh huh.  Another woman who obviously wants to strip you naked and do some things I probably haven't even heard of yet?"

An eyebrow rose.  "You really think so?"

Hearing the teasing tone, Kris responded in kind.  "Don't even think about it!"

"Not even think about it?"

For some reason that hit a spot in Kris and she didn't like it much.   It brought about a question she didn't realize she spoke out loud until she saw Sam's eyes widen.  "Do you want to?"

'This is new, idiot!' Reaching over to grasp a smaller hand, Sam held Kris' gaze for several seconds before saying one word with quiet earnest, "Never."

Kris closed her eyes for a few seconds and then one lazy green eyeball rolled in Sam's direction, whilst the other was scrunched up beneath the wincing flesh over the other side of her face.    "I think I should apologize.   That just hit me wrong, I'm sorry."

That got the blonde a very soft smile.  "No need.  I was stupid to tease, I'm sorry."

"I'm pretty sure I could win the prize for most things I can apologize to you for."

Both eyebrows went high up Sam's forehead.  "You have to be joking."

"Come on, Sam.  I'm sure you got really tired of the puppy dog following you around."

Shrugging her shoulders, Sam confessed, "I don't remember ever minding."

With wide, disbelieving eyes, Kris recounted, "What about when I lost you those two suspects because I went for a walk in the park?"

"We caught them the next day."  Sam countered off-handedly as she sifted through her memories and finally found the one of Kris sauntering down the path, right into the middle of their operation to catch two guys who had injured a couple of people in their robbery attempts.   She had immediately compromised their setup by getting Kris out of the way, even though there really was truly little danger, much to her superior officer's annoyance.  'Shoulda known, shoulda shoulda!'  Sam's internal voice teased.

"And when I picked up those drugs and got arrested?"

Sam bit her lip on that one.  Although, initially worried, it had been very amusing to watch the Captain's face as he learned his eldest daughter was in jail.  Sam had deliberately delayed her explanation, just to be contrary, that Kris had walked right into the middle of a drug exchange and picked up the wrong box on an errand for the paper.  That Kris had immediately called Sam also needled the Captain.  "That was definitely a good one but we fixed it, if I recall."

Kris nodded.  "Yeah, was a good idea to have me take it back right away."  She shot a pointed glance at her lover.  "But, I still say you deliberately made it so that I had to act like a blonde bimbo."  At Sam's response of only a raised eyebrow, Kris continued, "And the roller blading thing?"

Stifling a laugh at that one, Sam merely said, "Well, you have certainly had some adventures.  And you still don't think you're trouble with a capital T?"

Making a noise that sounded suspiciously like 'Hmph', Kris thought a little more.  Her eyes lost the twinkle that had been growing.  "I still remember the time I walked into the middle of your arrest of that father who'd killed his kids."

With shocking ease, Sam was instantly back in that office building.   Her hand very steady and aimed directly at Samuel Wornley's heart.  Her jaw muscles clenched and her mind seeing the two kids, ages two and four, lying as if asleep in their bedroom.

With a bit of shock, at how quickly she saw Sam's gaze internalize, Kris registered the tensed muscles and fingers tightening on her own.  "I'm sorry, what a terrible example to bring up."  That experience had been one of the first times that Kris had seen the barriers drop, the aching tension in Sam's whole body and sadness flood those blue eyes.

Sam felt Kris' thumb rubbing the soft skin between her thumb and forefinger and blinked back the memories to the place they belonged.   Her focus beyond the wall in front of her, Sam said quietly, "You know, you probably saved me then too."

Unfortunately, Kris wasn't quite as lucky as Sam and felt her thoughts sliding down the time tunnel.

"Yep, signed, sealed and delivered to him personally."

"Good work!  Thank you!  Lunch is on me tomorrow."

Kris grinned and could almost see Connie beaming through the phone.  She released a sigh of relief.  They'd been trying to serve papers on the man for so long that it had become almost a joke as to how he managed to be out of town, had just left the building and so on.  Finally, Connie had sent in the big guns and promised Kris that she would pay for all her books for the next semester and give her some tutoring if she could manage to deliver.

Kris had managed to work her way into the office building and then straight into the guy's office by charming the pants, and skirts, off everyone she met.  Before they knew it she was smiling her sweet smile at D.L. Parkett and he was smiling back as he reached for the envelope.  "Oh, silly me!"  She disarmed with a hand against her mouth and muffled giggle, then replaced the envelope with an almost full signature list that she had filled out most of the names on herself just an hour before.

"They told me I had to get you to sign for these tickets or whatever they are first."  Leaning forward over the ornate desk she let her blouse, which had an extra button or two unbuttoned, fall open.  Looking up through her lashes, she asked innocently, "Do you mind?"

It was obvious that D.L. had no chance against her wide open green eyes and the story she'd concocted about needing to deliver some 'tickets or something' to the man.  He grabbed up the clipboard and signed, a beatific smile on his face.  "No problem, darlin'."  He drawled, looking her over with a large, and what he almost certainly thought was charming, smile on his face.

Fluttering her eyelashes, Kris preened a little under his gaze and tried very hard not to laugh her shoes off.  Whilst not something she would ever do or had thought she would ever do, this guy had been, at minimum, a witness to two of his buddies bilking at least five senior citizens out of their life savings.  Unfortunately, he'd managed to seclude himself nicely out of the country for some time and then was incredibly difficult to track down when he got back.  It had taken Kris three days, thankfully on company time, to track him down.

Unable to resist, Kris handed over the open envelope with a wink and very large smile.  "You've been served, Mr. Parkett.  Have a nice day."  She spun on a heel and flounced out of his office before he even began to splutter.  However, his rage reached her hearing as she approached the outer doors when his voice rose and something hit a wall.  She exited the building as if it were on fire and then let out a huge breath of air as she leaned against the exterior wall.

On her way back to her own car, she noticed Sam's car and her brain instantly went into "Find Sam" mode.  It hadn't been difficult; the building's security guard had most definitely noticed the brunette and remembered every word she'd said to him.  His daydreaming had been so complete that he spilled out what floor she went to in seconds.

Sam's rage had grown with each level the elevator had counted off.  All she could see were the children in her mind, the kids who hadn't done a damned thing and had been killed by the very person who was supposed to protect them.  An erupting volcano had very little on Sam Foster at this point, but she managed to keep it all inside.  Showing only the utter frozen wasteland of her eyes that promised nothing but trouble to anyone standing in her way.

Her gun drawn, Sam poked her head outside of the elevator very carefully.  Finding only empty, quiet hallways, she exited the elevator and got her bearings.  Several doors were in the corridor, as well as other corridors leading from the one she was in.  With another few moments spent listening, she turned to the right and paused before the corridor at her shoulder, listening and then looking around.  Nothing.

Sure she wasn't far behind, Sam focused everything she had and heard something back in the direction she'd come from.  Cautiously, she crouched and look back around the corner to the elevators.  Then she saw him, the side view of the thirtyish, balding man more than enough to tell her it was him.  The flash of color on the door swinging shut to his left showed that he'd likely hit the restroom on his way.

Sam's lip curled, her anger finally cracking the façade.  She'd called out to him, "Wornley! Police!  Freeze!"   His back was to her and her gun was pointing directly at his heart.

He'd jumped as if it was the last thing he was expecting and his body began to tremble.  Sam could see it from where she was.  Then the ding of the elevator had Sam moving, she didn't want anyone getting between her and the child murderer.  Preferably, she didn't want anyone there at all.

Then the amazing had happened yet again with the blonde kid that seemed to show up in the most ridiculous places.  A very familiar blonde head poked out of the elevator and just as familiar green eyes widened at the sight of Sam's gun.

It had been a distinct shock to feel those green orbs grab a hold of her and refuse to let go.  In confusion, Sam had struggled to forcibly pull her gaze away and hadn't been the slightest bit prepared for the crack in the ice that had been firmly holding her heart as she did so.

Blinking, she realized the trembling man was still watching her with a look of terror in his eyes.  But, she knew he had little to fear from her now, as long as he didn't do anything stupid.  The yawning pit of fire in her belly had been banked and the sword of vengeance that she'd been so ready to wield against this pathetic piece of humanity had been sheathed.

All by the presence of one short, sweet and incredibly naive blonde girl.   It was more than a little startling to the normally staid and unflappable detective.

Kris held the elevator open with her body and didn't say a word, in fact, she held her breath.  The look on Sam's cold, pale face and in those incredibly dangerous eyes was shocking.  So shocking that she'd been unable to look away, unable to do anything but hold the detective's gaze and will her friend to look at her, not the deadly predator she was seeing.

Putting her fear of losing her friend foremost in her eyes and heart, she refused to look away until Sam seemed to come out of a daze.   Kris drew in a shaky breath, coming to the realization that what had felt like hours had truly only been seconds and then Sam's voice rang out for the man to get on the floor.  Thankfully, he had done so immediately.

"I remember you looking back at me, after you'd handcuffed him.  The terrible sadness in your eyes."

"What he did to those kids.  They were like little angels until ..."  Sam easily recalled the horrifying sight that she wasn't willing to share with Kris and waited for a long minute until she was sure she was in complete control again.  "If he had even breathed wrong ..."

Kris stayed silent, just watching the fascinating play of emotions across her lover's face.

Sam finally met Kris' gaze.  "And then you showed up."

"You were furious with me."

"I was scared for you."

"Still, you wouldn't have done anything to him."

"I was a lot different then, Kris," Sam countered negatively.

Unexpectedly, Kris smiled.  "Some parts, yes.  You sure wouldn't have talked to me like this back then and ... well ..."  She looked at their joined hands.  "There are quite a few other things that are different now but you wouldn't have done it.  There's no doubt."

'Why do I even question her belief?  She makes me believe in me.'   It was yet another line crossed, another decision made without a conscious thought.  Another strand in their already very tangled web.  Love affairs could be very complicated and painful, Sam knew that this one would likely be both and yet, as she searched those jade depths, she felt as if a sliver of peace had been carefully inserted into a place she hadn't known was empty.  'Listen to yourself, you big sap.'

Intrigued, and feeling those blue eyes touch something so deep she couldn't even name it, Kris queried, "What're you thinking about?"

Without censoring herself, Sam responded, "What a ball of mush you turn me into."

Enormously pleased with the look of horror on Sam's face as she realized what she had said, Kris was not about to let the opportunity pass.  "I do that?" she asked around a huge grin.

'Do you have no dignity left with this woman?'  Whenever her mind had a second to wander, it wandered in the blonde's direction.  Catching people in certain movements would take her mind right to the blonde's side.  She was in so very deep that she doubted she could climb out and, sometime during all of this, it had occurred to her that she didn't want to.   Still, Sam's only response was a slow shake of her head and widening smile.

"Heh!  Too cool."  Kris grinned and wiggled in her chair.

Laughing, Sam admonished, "Kris!"

"Hey, I think that's quite an accomplishment!"

Sam could almost feel the web getting more tangled, but she smiled anyway and decided that perhaps it was time she played spider.  A full smile appeared.  "It is, you should be proud of yourself."

"I am, I am!" said the fly to the spider.

Putting the weight on her elbows, Sam leaned over the table and felt her heart jump for a second as if it realized what she was about to say.  Suddenly nervous, she latched onto the smiling face now closer to her and declared, "You make me believe in tomorrow."

Startled, the fly blinked and then recovered slightly.  "Just tomorrow?" came the quiet question.

Taking a deep breath, the spider flung out a few more strands and wrapped them tenderly around her prey.  "When I look at you, I realize that you're all my tomorrows."

Kris' heart did some interesting gymnastics in her chest and she let out a heartfelt sigh.  If there was any part of her that hadn't been Sam's, she sincerely doubted that was true anymore.  Latching onto the meaning behind the words, she saved them somewhere so deep that nobody would ever be able to pry them away and whispered, "You've always been mine."

As lips met with soft and sweet gentleness, the filtered evening light spun the final golden filaments to an age old tale of two hearts bound together for eternity.

-----------

Sam sighed to herself, poring over a long list of abandoned vehicles was one of the fastest ways to bore a person to death and her partner had made no bones about her dislike of it too.  This part of an investigation was very tedious but, unfortunately, very necessary.  This particular instance was made worse by the fact that Lee had far too recently done exactly the same thing for another vehicle.  This time they were looking for Raston's car but the few leads they had come across had led them nowhere.   With a silent prayer of hope for a quick conclusion, she went back to work.

Lee rolled her head around her shoulders and looked over at her partner's bent head, silently acknowledging that, at least this time, her partner was right there with her and had actually taken the even more annoying job of trying to find vehicle ID numbers that were even close to the one registered to the missing ex-police officer.

Sensing a regard, Sam looked up and over at Lee.  "Nothing, I assume?"

Rubbing her neck, Lee responded in a slightly disgusted tone, "Not a thing."  Stealing a look at her watch, she added a bit regretfully, "We have the burglary suspects in forty minutes.

"Ugh," the dark haired detective replied.

"Yeah, but at least we might get to have a little fun."  Lee replied and then had to smile as her partner perked up a little at that thought.

The ringing phone interrupted Sam's thoughts.  "Foster."

"Hi, it's Maggie.  I have a couple of test results for you."

"Hi there.  You do?"  Sam tried to think of what tests she might've asked Maggie to run.

"Yep, your recent rush request?"

"On the blood?" Sam asked, a bit surprised that Maggie was calling her up with those test results.

"Yes.  Hate to tell you but it's O Positive."

Groaning internally at the widely found blood type, Sam started to thank Maggie and was cut off by her next words.

"However, we had a bit more luck with one of the brooms.  If it means anything."

"Blood there too?"  Sam asked.

"No, chalk."

"Chalk?  As in a blackboard?"  Sam's mind furiously ran through the various uses for chalk.

"In this case, chalk, as in pretty much exactly the mix of what some of the larger complexes use to line softball and baseball fields with around here."

"Softball fields," Sam repeated with an even tone and brought her eyes up to meet her partner's.  "I don't suppose you can date it?"  Just how much comparison data the labs in their files constantly amazed the detective but she never questioned it.

Maggie laughed.  "Why did I know that was next and oddly, I may have a little help for you."

"Shoot."

"There were tiny bits of grass mixed in with the chalk and dirt compounds we found.  Assuming they were all collected at the same time, which it appears they were, it looks like right around the time your first murder victim was found in your current case."

Sam's lips pursed.  'Dammit, do they all have to be so freaking smart?' It wasn't that she didn't trust Maggie or that the coroner didn't have the right to know certain things, it was just that she was trying not to draw attention to it.  Attention meant other people found out things. "And when's that?"

"Nice try, Sam, but I have another piece of information that shoots you down and the real reason that I'm calling you and not one of the lab guys.  I figured this was something I should keep to myself until I spoke to you."

Sam fought the urge to hold her breath.  She could sense something very important coming up and the urge to either yell at Maggie or build a statue of her warred inside.   Part of her was annoyed with Maggie for the obvious grandstanding, another part very pleased with both her skills and ability to understand the necessity of keeping quiet and yet another amused at how much the coroner was obviously enjoying this.  She settled for a quiet, "Okay?"

"There were two sets of O Positive blood in those samples and one is definitely Robert J. Curtis'."

Sam blinked.  "There's no doubt?"  She was well aware that if Maggie was telling her this then it was a fact but having actual physical evidence, beyond a photograph, of the connection between Curtis and Raston was a huge leap for the investigation.

"You want to run the spec ..."

"Sorry, Maggie," Sam interrupted.  "It's just that this hasn't been an easy one."

"Are they ever?" queried the coroner.  "It's definite, in writing and I'll send the report up right away."

"Thank you.  I think I owe you big time on this one."

"Just doing my job, ma'am," Maggie replied, obviously pleased.

Curious, Sam responded, "Really?  I didn't think that you normally looked over routine reports and put puzzles together?"

Maggie paused.  "Well, honestly, you tend to get involved in interesting things and the rush you asked for caught my eye but ..."  A sigh.  "I hate to burst your bubble about me on this one but two of the guys from the Physical Science unit were talking about the fact that one of them knew Raston.  How he used to be a cop, how he was missing and so on.  That made me look at the files and note your rush.  I still have the notes I made from when you brought this series of murders to my attention, so things just fell into place after a while."

"Just fell into place?"  A faint smile appeared on Sam's face.

"Yeah, yeah.  Just be glad I'm a regular Vidocq."

"A regular what?"

"Never mind, just be glad I'm nosey," Maggie admitted with a hint of a grouch in her tone.  "Need anything else on this?"

"I'll let you know.  You've been awesome, as always.  Thanks, Maggie."

With profound thanks at the gift that had just been given to them, Sam hung up the phone and recounted the conversation to Lee, albeit quietly.

Lee huffed a breath and sat back in her chair with a creak.  "Nothing like something going right to make reading through these records easier, huh?"

"Got that right."

"Wow.  Well, on that note I think I'll grab a sandwich before the interviews.  Want something from the deli?"

"Hmm.  I haven't had one of their Reuben's in ages."

Pleased, Lee smiled.  "Got it."  As Sam started to dig out some money, Lee waved her hand.  "You get the next one, partner."

"Deal, thanks."

Sam watched Lee leave and then leaned back in her chair, rolling her head back on her shoulders.  'Want your statue made of granite or marble, Maggie?'  A grin appeared at that thought and the idea that Maggie probably wouldn't care for pigeons too much anyway.

The detective closed her eyes for a few seconds when a bubble, filled with thankfulness, relief and even a little anxiousness, suddenly let itself be known in her gut.  Sam was more than ready to get started on this next stage but recognized that they couldn't drop everything else in the meantime.

The brunette felt the desire to share her good mood with someone and, of course, Kris' face appeared to her quite easily.  It had been some time since she'd felt the need to share herself like this with anyone but she quickly chalked it up to 'Just another Kris moment' and smiled to herself.  It was just unfortunate that she really couldn't share any more details of the investigation. She would like to have done something to thank Kris in a better fashion for her help.

Her attention was diverted for a few moments when someone raised their voice in annoyance.  Glancing over, she verified that it was Cardin, one of the older detectives and bit back a wince when he slammed his phone down.  The resulting verbiage that he loosed on his partner consisted mostly of the failings of the poor man's wife.  'I mean,' Sam thought with an accompanying roll of the eyes, 'How dare she be upset that it was their anniversary yesterday and he forgot.'

Her seat creaked heavily as she sat up in a hurry and her eyes roamed over desk, unseeing, as a thought shocked its way into Sam's mind.  Again, not something she had thought of for a long time.  'I think I need to make a moment for Kris for once.'  This brought the inward facing smile to the outside, as it twitched across her lips.  'Yeah.'

------

"Hey, girl!  Am I glad to see you."

Kris felt herself swept up in a huge hug and returned it as enthusiastically as possible.  "Hiya Pam.  How're you doing?"

"Me?  I'm great!  How're you?  Looking quite a bit better than the last time I saw you," Pam replied as she tucked her skirt underneath her and sat down in the booth.

Kris sat down and scooted around the table.  She started to speak but the waitress interrupted with their menus and her little pat greeting.  Green eyes rolled at Pam as the waitress left.

White teeth shone when Pam grinned.  "I know.  She couldn't be less interested to be here could she?"

"Nope, sure couldn't."  The blonde head shook back and forth.  Truth be told, she was still in a bit of a daze after Sam's phone call.

"So, kiddo, what's been happening?  Even with the stuff I can still see."  Pam waved a hand to indicate the cast and the rest of the injuries that were still apparent.  "You really do look good."

She tried really hard but Kris couldn't stop the beam that appeared on her face, it continued through her best attempts to stop it.  "I feel great.  I really do."  Her gaze dropped to the table and she traced a pattern idly.  "It's been ... well, it's been a heck of a time."

Bemused, Pam looked at her friend.  Something was obviously different with her friend and she hadn't known many things to put that kind of sparkle in a person's eyes.  "Looking at that face splitting grin, I'd guess so.  Give!"

"What?" Kris dissembled or tried to.  The fact that Sam had called her and asked her out tonight, for what seemed very much like a date, had put her mind in a complete whirl.

"Come on," Pam coaxed.  "You have something to tell me, don't you?"

Annoyed at herself for still not discussing the issue of who should know what with Sam, Kris was caught in a quandary.  A huge part of her wanted to share her news with her friend but she couldn't just ignore Sam's feelings.  'Maybe I can talk with her tonight.'  She shrugged at Pam.  "It's just been a really crazy time."

"Uh huh."  Pam wasn't going to spoil their time by pushing, so she let it go to think about at a later time.  "Okay, I'll go with it.  Want to hear what's up at work?"

With a quiet but very grateful sigh, Kris nodded.  "Yeah, what's up?"

------

Lee watched her partner's broad shoulders and back walk through the doorway, dark hair swaying slightly, with wide, deep blue eyes.  She had just watched Sam dissect their burglary suspect with nothing more than words and a crackling aura of danger that even scared her.  It had been ... amazing.

'Mental note:  When Sam says she plans to make it fast, believe her.'  Lee chuckled to herself.

After Maggie's phone call, it was as if Sam had been put into overdrive.  The blood connection had vitalized the dark haired woman and she had breezed into the interrogation room, totally overwhelmed both suspects in a row and they now had two confessions, complete with the location of some of the booty they hadn't sold yet.

With one look at the uniformed officer standing by the door to take the suspect back to his cell, Lee left the room as well.  She quickly found Sam leaning over her desk with her arms supporting her.  As she approached her partner, Sam looked up.

"I think this calls for another trip to Curtis' and Raston's as well."

"I agree.  Now?"

Sam sighed.  "I very much want to but I have a deposition at four for a case from a while back.  Why don't we see if we can get the paperwork started to get into the warehouse those two gave us and then tomorrow we take a day trip?"  As uncomfortable as she felt putting it off, she really did have plenty to do and, in a completely selfish mode, she also wanted to be sure she had time to be ready for her evening with Kris.

"Sounds good to me.  Should we clear it with the Captain?"

"How about one of us get together the information for him, Maggie said she'd send her reports right up, and then the other work on the burglary stuff?"

"Deal."  Lee grinned for a second and said quietly, "Don't suppose we're going to work this so that the Captain sees it after we leave?"

Sam quirked a tiny grin of her own.  "Would we do that?"

---------

Sam really did mean to say something, she really did.  But the vision that greeted her at the door made her jaw move but no sound issued forth. 'Hello brain?  You in there?'  She swallowed as Kris visibly blushed at the appreciative gaze.  "Uh,"  The brunette made an abortive gesture with her hands.  "You look ... wonderful."

Dipping her head, in order to keep the mile wide grin threatening to explode under control, Kris replied, "Thank you, you look pretty awesome yourself."  Referring to the burgundy silk blouse and short leather skirt that made Kris' heart beat faster just looking at it and even faster at the length of leg beyond.

With a slight pause to get her mind operating in the right direction, she moved to the side and allowed Sam to enter the apartment.  "I was afraid I might've gotten too fancy."

"Oh no, it's perfect."  Casting a quick glance around the apartment, Sam said quietly, "Robin still gone?"

Kris closed the door and turned with a "Mmhmm."

With hungry eyes, Sam looked at her lover again and took an involuntary step towards her.  Dressed in a lightly beaded work of art that kissed just the right spots and draped itself so that what it hid was just as evocative as what it didn't and ended just above the blonde's knees, Kris looked, for lack of a better word, delicious.  Another step, voluntary this time and she stopped, bending her neck very slowly so that she had the time to whisper, "You are so beautiful," before she captured Kris' lips with her own.

Opening her eyes and drawing back slightly was quite a feat for Kris but she managed, just barely, even though she leaned forward to brush her lips against Sam's quickly before stepping back.  As always, the tingles on her lips persisted even as she smiled and rested her arms on her lover's shoulders, loosely grasping her hands together in mid air.  "Nice," she lazily declared, waiting for her rapid heart beat to slow.

"Uh huh," Sam replied, her eyes following the tip of Kris' tongue as it made a brief appearance on the blonde's bottom lip before retreating back into the depths that Sam very much wanted to explore more of.  'Down girl!  This is her night, remember?'  The detective thought to herself, trying to offset the blaze that their kiss had ignited.  She took a calming breath and then another, finding it a little hard to do with those green pools so close, but eventually managing.

Sam's arms uncurled from the back of Kris' back and she brought one hand up to trail a feather light touch along down the side of the blonde's face and along her jaw line.  "No more of that or we might not be going anywhere."

The slightly bashful look opposite her was quite charming, Kris mused.  And, it certainly was true.  The two of them seemed to create instant heat when they were together and that was a little overwhelming at times.  "You're probably right."  Kris nose crinkled up a little bit as she spoke.

"We're worse than teenagers!"

That crinkled the nose up further.  "Nothing wrong with that."

Sam's mouth formed into a quirky grin.  "No, nothing at all."  She drew an elegant arm and hand away in a sweeping gesture.  "However, your chariot awaits, my love.  Shall we leave?"

Kris had one of those unexpected moments where her heart felt as if it skipped a beat when Sam said "my love".  Unable to really find voice to what she was feeling and not wanting to draw too much attention to her normally very reserved friend's words, she nodded and stepped away.

The widening in Kris' eyes was Sam's first hint that she'd said something she probably hadn't meant to.  The increase in the warmth and love radiating from the blonde caused her to not really care, even when she realized what she had said. 'Well, she is that, is she not?  Live with it.'  Of course, she couldn't help adding to herself, 'You romantic, mush filled goofball.'

Able to regain control of her vocal cords as they walked towards the car, Kris gave Sam a quick rundown of her day.  By the time they were settled in the car, Kris had regained all of her faculties and asked, "Where are we going?"

"Firenze, if that's okay?"

Kris' eyebrows rose slightly and her eyes widened.  Sam was talking about one of the best Italian restaurants for hundreds of miles.   Confused, she asked, "I thought you just decided to do this?"

"I did."

"But Firenze requires god knows how long in advance to book."

A slight shrug and compressed lips later, Sam replied, "Got lucky."

"Got lucky?  Uh huh."  Kris looked over at Sam and tried to figure out how the detective would've gotten the reservations.  "Sure wish I didn't have this."  The blonde looked down at her cast with a bit of annoyance in her gaze.

"Believe me, that's the last thing they'll be looking at."

Kris blushed and then she realized that even though her friend was being truthful, she was also doing a nice job on changing the subject and an answer came to her, "Let me guess, you know the owners?"

'Oh this is just getting too annoying.  I'm not only mushy, I'm predictable!'  Not willing to give up just yet, Sam responded, "What would make you think that?"

Kris chuckled.  "That's it, isn't it?"

Sam shook her head, keeping her eyes on the road.  "I know a few people, who know a few people."

Grinning, Kris teased, "And so on, and so on?"

Sam shot a quick look of mock annoyance at her friend.  "Are you going to be a brat all night?"

"All night?"  Kris leered at her lover.  "Oh no, I think I can come up with better things to do than be a brat all night."

Risking it, Sam peeked again and couldn't help the quirk of her lips at Kris' attempted leer.  A variety of things spoiled the attempt but the blush and twinkling eyes were top of the list.  Kris' blush deepened at her obvious failure and Sam relented instantly. "You do realize that they're probably going to put us in one of the tables in the middle of the room because of you?"

A frown creased Kris' forehead.  "Because of me?  Why?"

Keeping her eyes firmly on the road, Sam replied evenly, "No, because they'll want to show off the most gorgeous woman in the restaurant."

Unfortunately, Sam missed the flush deepen to rosy red.  'If she keeps this up ... Dammit, I don't know what I'll do.'  Refusing to let Sam run away with the night, Kris got herself back on track.  "Then they'll be putting you in the spotlight, love."

Sam felt the light rush of blood to her cheeks at the endearment but kept her eyes facing forward and her tone light, "I beg to differ but I'll just be happy looking at you."

Her skin lightening in tone, Kris felt a little more centered.  "I think we'll both be blessed there."

Sam grinned.  "Maybe so."

Traffic had been fairly light and they made it to the restaurant in short order.  They were a little early, but Sam stepped forward to give her name just in case, stopping instantly at the loud booming voice that rang through the restaurant.

"Bella!"

With a tiny grimace, Sam turned and was immediately engulfed in a hug of gargantuan proportions by a distinguished looking men dressed in a suit of the finest cut.  "Gino," she said with a smile she couldn't contain and returned the hug.

Kris just stared.  She thought she had seen all sides to Sam but the woman just kept pulling out another one.  'Although,' she thought, noting the man wasn't that much taller than she was and the brunette simply towered over him.  'At least this gives me some idea of how the two of us look together.  I must look like a shrimp!' That didn't fill her with good thoughts. 'Then again.' She tilted her head a tiny bit and tried not to grin, 'I very much like where those couple of inches put my head.'

At that point, Sam looked over and raised her eyebrows in a 'What can I do?' motion, and stepped back.  "You look wonderful, Gino.  How are you and Sophia?"

"Ah, she will be sad she missed you.  You must come to the house for dinner, very soon!  Yes?"  His voice had a faint foreign clip but his words betrayed his alternate nationality more.

"Oh, that's very ..."

"No!  You must come, no excuses," he insisted, knowing instinctively that Sam would find excuses.  Then his eyes lighted on Kris.  "And this bellezza must come with you."  He moved towards Kris and picked up her good hand with both of his.  His appreciation quite evident.

Sam spoke up, "This is Kris.  Kris Scott, a very dear friend of mine."

Feeling very much as if the older man was looking deep inside, even though it only took a few seconds, Kris fought the urge to squirm and kept her gaze steady.  Even with what Sam had said earlier, she was still inordinately glad that her wrap was draped over the cast on her other arm.  However, a faint smile appeared on her face when Gino apparently made his decision and tiny nod was followed by a broad smile creasing his weathered skin.

"Samantha chooses her friends wisely and sparingly.  My Sophia and I, we are blessed to be chosen also.  You are most welcome here, Miss Scott."

"Kris, please, and thank you.  It's a pleasure to meet you, I had no idea that she knew the owners of such a highly acclaimed establishment."  Kris started to let her hand fall back against her side, after Gino patted it lightly and released it, but found it scooped up and tucked into the corner of the man's now bent arm.

Gino released a huff of air and threw his free hand up in the air.  "She does not come by, she does not come to eat our food and now I find out that she does not even claim us!  Bah!"  He twinkled a grin at his new compatriot.  "But you and I, we have much to talk about, yes?"

Kris' laugh came out as a chortle in her efforts to not react to the look on Sam's face.  And, the chortle turned into a tiny giggle at Sam's 'Thanks a lot!' look.

"Are you two quite finished?" Sam asked, obviously not as annoyed as her tone indicated.

Not looking the least bit repentant, Gino grinned widely.  "Ah, you still have no patience.  You just wait and see what my Sophia has to say!"

"Your Sophia is as much of a tolerant fraud as you are, so don't even bother."

Gino's hand slapped against his chest in mock despair.  "You wound me!"  When Sam simply shook her head in response to his dramatics, he reached over and grabbed her arm as well and bracketed himself with the pair of women.  "Now see, I am the envy of the city!" he proclaimed proudly.

"Gino!"

"What?  Is true!" he replied indignantly.  "If my Sophia were here, I would have the three most beautiful women in the world surrounding me."

Sam couldn't help but laugh at Gino's comments.  A quick glance over at Kris showed that she too was enjoying the exchange.

Gino started to lead the two women into the restaurant.  "I will take you to a table where everyone can see the bellezze who eat in my ristorante!"  He breathed out, "Bah!"  At Sam's exasperated look.  "I will do as you wish and put you in a corner, not to be seen by anyone."

Sam frowned at that, she hadn't meant to make it sound as if she wanted to hide Kris but it was true that she had asked him for a quiet, out of the way corner.  She wasn't really comfortable flaunting, as she felt it to be, their relationship in full view of everyone else and wasn't a huge fan of expansive public displays of affection anyway.

Kris had her own ideas about that.  She wasn't ready to be ogled in the middle of the restaurant either but it did push her to put the discussion of who should know high on her priority list.  Then they were at the table and Gino was gallantly seating her at a lovely table that overlooked an expanse of what appeared to be a vineyard and was surprisingly isolated.

"Gino, is this your ...," Sam began to ask.

"Si, it is the table I always keep for family."  His tone brooked no argument and if he was surprised at Sam's softly spoken gratitude he hid it well.

"It's wonderful, Gino, thank you."

"I will bring you a bottle of my best wine," Gino spoke up, as he seated Sam, after noticing where Kris' attention was.

"It is yours then?" Kris said, delighted with the idea that the restaurant did indeed have its own vineyard and wine.

"Si!"

Sam piped up, "They've won awards for their wine, as well as their food."

"Ah, I did not even think you noticed!" Gino said in an aggrieved tone.

When Sam noticed Kris grinning, she felt the need to defend herself.  "Gino, I did call and congratulate you."

"Yes."  He sniffed.

At his aggrieved tone, she hastened to add, "I know, I know.  Only because you sent me three bottles with the awards printed on the label.  But, you know that I don't eat at this sort of restaurant often and rarely drink wine.  It was excellent, though!"

Gino grunted a "Hmph" then turned to catch the eye of a waiter with a simple gesture, causing the waiter to make his way to the table immediately with menus in hand.  Upon his arrival, Gino said to him, "You will take the very best care of them."   Then turned to the women.  "I will be back in a moment."

Very soon after, wine was on the table, dinner was ordered and the two were left alone with their breadsticks.  Gino walking back towards the kitchen with the waiter, speaking too quietly for even Sam to pick up.  Sam wondered idly if Gino had noticed her twitch as her lip threatened to curl when the very handsome waiter made his appreciation of Kris just a hair more than he should have.  She cut short her musing when she noticed Kris trying not to smile at her.  "What?"

"He's just a kid."  The blonde grinned, referring to the waiter who had been oblivious to the narrow eyed look Sam had been trying to spear him with.

"I don't ...."  Sam squirmed a little at the knowing look from Kris, she obviously wasn't going to get away with acting as if she had no idea what the blonde was talking about.  Switching gears, she declared, "Like you're that much older."

Kris leaned over the table just a little and spoke quietly, staring straight into Sam's blue eyes, "Ah, but I already have what I want and it isn't a young boy who doesn't have a clue."

Sam took a deep breath as the warmth of that regard traveled through her and her face gentled as the faintest hint of a smile touched it.  She began to reach over the table to take Kris' hand but then leaned back, her eyes sliding over the other patrons in the restaurant before coming to rest on her wine glass, along with her hand.   Looking up with just a tiny bit of a nervous smile, she lifted the glass.  "It is very good."

Kris felt a pang of disappointment at the abortive gesture and leaned back herself, not sure if she was more unhappy with Sam's retreat or the abrupt change of subject.  'You knew this, Kris.  She's never been demonstrative in public.  Suck it up.'  Bringing the wine to her lips, she sipped and was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was indeed very good.   "Gino's wonderful.  How do you know him?"

Sam thought about that, her mind's eye instantly formed a vision of a skinny Italian kid who tried to be tough and was picked on constantly.  His dark eyes so expressive amidst all that black hair that drooped over them.  Finally, she spoke up, "His son, Gino Junior.   I took exception to the other kids picking on him."

"Ah, that knight in shining armor thing again.  Should I be worried that he's in love with you too?"

A smile broke through on Sam's face.  "Gino Junior?  No.  He's very happily married to an architect in LA and has three kids."

Curious at Sam's phrasing, she asked, "Any brothers ..."  A tiny smile appeared.  "Or sisters, I should be worried about?"

Sam grinned.  "As far as the last time I heard, hmm, probably a few months ago everyone was very happy.  Two sisters, both married with kids and another brother, happily partnered to an aspiring actor, I think it was."

Picking up the hint, Kris asked, "Partnered?"  Then smiled when Sam nodded to her obvious question.  "Ah," she acknowledged, suddenly realizing that Gino might be aware of the relationship between Sam and herself.  "Does Gino know about ..."  The blonde paused and then made a tiny gesture to indicate the both of them.

"I didn't say a word, but since he told me that I better not ever let you go when he sat me down, I'd say so, yes," Sam replied with a wry quirky grin.

"Oh," Kris said, blinking.

"Does that bother you?"

"Actually, I was more concerned about it bothering you.  We haven't really talked about this."

"No, we haven't," Sam replied slowly.

"I almost told Pam today but didn't want to ..."  Kris frowned at the look of apprehension on her lover's face.  "You... you don't want people to know?"

"I didn't ..."  Sam shifted and leaned closer, looking into Kris' eyes.  She had hoped not to have this discussion for a while and mentally cursed herself for being so dense as to believe it could be put off.  "I ... "  'Come on, Sam.  People aren't blind.  You can hardly keep your hands to yourself, she's always on your mind.  What are you trying to accomplish?'

Looking down at her hands, Kris felt a piercing stitch of sadness deep in her heart at what she felt was Sam's indecision.

Sam felt her own heart contract at the slight slump of Kris' shoulders.  Making Kris sad was never to be part of the plan.  Ever.  "Kris ..."

Kris looked up from her hands, a minute sparkle of something in her eyes.  "Are you about to tell me that I don't know what I'm in for?"

"It's part of what I was going to say, yes," Sam replied honestly.

"Okay.  I obviously can't say I have experience with it but I'm not as innocent as you seem to think, Sam.  I've done several stories on AIDS, remember Tommy?"

Sam nodded.  "I was so proud of you when you won that award and dedicated it to him and all those lost."

A sliver of resolve fell into place at Sam's words.  "He was so great but those stories were really tough.  People can be so horrible.  And, last year, some gay bashers tried to make an example of a couple of the team when they were on their way to the parking lot.  They didn't stay long when they saw us running with our bats."

"What?!  Kris!"

"What?  The rest of the team wasn't having that, what were we going to do?"

Ever practical, Sam asked, "Why didn't you tell me?  What if they'd had guns or something?"

"They didn't and don't even try to tell me that you wouldn't have done something or that it's your job anyway.  We both know you would've even if it hadn't been your job."  Knowing she'd won her point by Sam's inability to answer with something immediately.  Time for straight talk.  "Sam, I know it won't be easy at times but as long as I'm with you, it'll be all right.  I truly believe I can handle anything with you there by my side."

'A gift. She is such a gift.'  "Can I confess something?"  she asked in a rush of air.

Kris looked up in surprise and nodded a little apprehensively.

Sam took a deep breath to try and take the edge off her nervousness.  "I have never, ever felt this whirlwind of emotion inside myself about someone."

Kris listened carefully, the other woman's voice was quiet but carried easily to her ear.

Sam's eyes dipped to the table and back again before looking around again and cursing herself even as she did.  "I have never loved someone this much."  The brunette bit back a snort of wry amusement.  "Think about it, Kris.  I haven't seen Gino in years and he knew instantly.  Your mother knew.  Micki guessed before I even dared hope and lord knows who else."

"Is there a 'but' in this?"  Kris wasn't sure she really wanted the answer but something in Sam's eyes kept her stomach from plunging to her toes.

"I guess what I'm trying to say, badly, is that I don't think it's possible to keep this completely under wraps.  You don't know what it's going to be like, Kris, and I'd spare you that if I could, I swear it."  She tried to let the truth of what she was saying show in her eyes, her face ... everything.  "I'm so very blessed by you and I want to show that to the world, but let me ask you one single question.  What happens when your dad finds out?"

Closing her eyes didn't stop the apprehension shooting through Kris at the thought of her father finding out about them.  "God, he'll have a heart attack."

"And I should already be looking for a new department."

Kris flashed her eyes up.  "What?!"  Then winced when it came out a bit more sharply than she'd intended.

"He's my direct supervisor.  It doesn't matter which way he goes on this, either way will have problems for all of us.  I guess I've been deluding myself a bit that I could stay there but it doesn't really matter."

"How can you say that?  You love working there.  It's your life!"

A warm, yet wry smile draped itself over Sam's lips and she shook her head.  "I really have been doing a terrible job, haven't I?  Kris, if there's one thing I've come to realize, it's that you are my life and you have been for a long time.  Nothing is more important than that.  Nothing."

She heard the words but couldn't really believe them until she searched deeply into Sam's eyes and found the truth glowing brightly there as well.  It was all there.  Sam had just told her that she would give up her job for her.  That she would, basically, give up everything.  'I'll never let that happen but I will not demean what she's offering me by arguing or refusing it.   This means everything.  She means everything.'

If there was any reward Sam could've asked for, it would've been dropped in favor of the shine that appeared in the smoky jade eyes across from her, the smile that lit Kris' face like a beacon in the blackest night or the depth of feeling that was almost sweet pain when Kris mouthed 'I love you.'.  There was no gift more precious than the woman she loved with everything she was.

Unfortunately, before she could respond with anything but her look and her smile, the waiter was back with the first course.   Sam kept a close eye on him and couldn't help but smirk a little when the man made a point to only look at Kris when he had to.

Kris noticed the sexy smirk and shook her head, drawing the attention of a certain blue-eyed brunette who proceeded to shrug as if she had no idea what Kris was shaking her head at.  As soon as the waiter left, she admonished with a laugh, "Brat."

"Never!" came Sam's wounded response, including a hand on her chest as if struck by an arrow.

Kris grinned and whispered, knowing Sam would hear it, "I really do love you."

The detective resolved to make sure she did a much better job of letting Kris know how she felt in the future.  Even if everything was so tumultuous right now that she could hardly keep her head on straight.  But for now ... for now what she said right now would have to be enough until she could.  The words were simple but full of everything she felt, "I love you too."  Making sure she had Kris' attention, she concluded, "So very much."

The rest of the dinner was everything that Sam had hoped it would be when she had come up with the idea, as if the discussion at the beginning had been necessary to put everything on an even keel.  They had reaffirmed what they felt for each other and, indeed, clarified just how much that meant.  In a word ...

Everything.

Gino personally escorted them out to the car, extracting a promise from both to visit very soon.  The fact that he gave Kris every number in the world to contact him and made her promise to come to dinner, made Sam realize it was a lost cause.

Still, she waited until they were in the car and had been driving for a little while to ask the question that had come to mind as she watched Gino fawn over her friend.  "So ... have you noticed that my friends always seem to lead us to food?"

Kris thought about that for a few moments, her mind going over the experiences she had undergone with Micki, Mrs. Kelly and now Gino.  The smile blooming on her face indicated her agreement.  "Wow, that's nifty.  Got anymore I can meet?"

Having anticipated a similar reaction, Sam sent over a droll look and then turned her attention back to the road, trying not to smirk too much.  "On the other hand, you and your friends seem to lead us to danger or dirt."

Kris turned to her, jaw sagging.  "What?"

"The softball team is the dirt part.  Then we have Jen's club adventure and your buddy Tim."

After laughing for a second, Kris realized something.  "God, the team's gonna kill me, you know."

"What?"

"Well, not only am I out of action but you haven't gone either."

Sam frowned.  "I want to be sure you're okay."

Smiling softly, Kris responded, "I know and Jen has all my info.  We had one woman who signed up and had to bow out before our first game because her job sent her overseas for a few months.  She's back in town, so Jen's going to see if she'll play.  It'll be fine."

Sam nodded.

Kris watched the blue eyes take in everything going on outside.  Always restless, never ceasing their vigil.  "Plus, I'm glad you want to be sure I'm okay.  That you are taking such good care of me."  The blonde was rewarded by a slight tensing of Sam's lips, she leaned forward just ever so slightly to be sure it was a hint of a smile.   "Oh and Tim wasn't a buddy."

Sam's lips changed to a smirk.

"Well?  He wasn't!" the blonde insisted.

"He would've liked to have been."

"Never in a million!"

"Nice to know you have some taste."

The look Kris sent towards her friend was all trouble.  "Some might question that with my current choice of romantic partner."

"Oh really?"

"Yep!"

"Current?"

In a remarkable, if not nearly as dramatic as Sam's, rise of her eyebrow, Kris managed to convey a suitable amount of mock disdain at her lover's question, "Yes?"

Kris was spared further questioning by Sam's attention being suddenly drawn to flashing lights that had just become visible beyond a large parked truck that had blocked any earlier view.   Her keen eyesight picked out a police car on its side and two other cars smashed into each other.  With the absence of any emergency services, she immediately slowed down and spared a second to say, "Sorry, I need to make sure it's being handled."

The response was immediate.  "Of course!"

The appearance of an apparently uninjured uniformed figure walking out from between the police made Sam's anxiety drop a notch.  She had already rolled down the window on that side and heard a familiar voice indicate that all was fine and they should move on.  "Dearl?"

"Yeah?"  The officer stepped closer.

Thankfully, Sam had slowed to almost a crawl when the flashlight almost blinded her.  She winced, hit the brakes to stop and held up a hand to block the light.  "Whoa!  Turn the damned thing off!"

'Oh shit!'  The new officer cursed to himself.  'It had to be her?' "Sorry, Detective."

"Christ, Dearl.  Are you trying to kill someone?"  A hand on her arm reminded her who else was in the car and she paused long enough for Kris to get in on the conversation.

"Are you all right, Officer Dearl?" Kris asked, biting back a grin at the shy smile that greeted her question.

"Yes, ma'am."  He frowned slightly and took a step closer and his eyes widened as he realized he knew the detective's passenger as well.  He gulped and then lost track when his shifting caused both the street and colored lights to mix in an odd tableau that resolved itself into a wonderful length of leg he could see stretching out from under Sam's leather skirt down to ... well ... forever.

Now Kris did grin and tried to hide it by turning her head and looking at Sam.  Unfortunately, the exasperated look on her friend's face didn't help at all and a chuckle escaped.

"Dearl, what the fuck are you doing over there?" A disembodied and annoyed gruff voice asked from the darkness.

A groan slipped from Sam's mouth when she recognized Jackson's voice.  Never so glad to see backup, she breathed a sigh as more lights and a couple of sirens approached from the distance.  "I'll get out of your hair.  Good luck."

Dearl smiled a tiny shy smile and not even the odd lighting situation could hide his blush when Kris told him to take care of himself.

They pulled away just as another police car approached quickly and pulled to an abrupt halt.  Sam concentrated on getting out of everyone's way as two more officers exited the new vehicle and rushed over, waving her out of the way.  Noting that one of the officers appeared to have changed their wave to a friendly one, Sam smiled back at the silhouette and continued.

Kris' voice broke the silence of the last few moments, "Glad they're okay."

"Yeah.  They must've been after someone.  Trust Jackson."

Noting the wince on Sam's face, the blonde asked, "Jackson's still no better?"

"God, no but don't pass that on."

"And who the heck would I tell?"

"Sorry, just habit."

"Hmm."  Kris replied thoughtfully.  "Dearl was sure cute, though."

"Yeah, he sure thought you were the cat's pj's."

"Me?  It wasn't the sight of my legs that caused him to almost faint, dear."

Spluttering, Sam asked, "What?"

"Oh puleeze!  You had to have seen his face when he saw your legs?"

Sam used the turn she was making to spare a glance at her friend and give her a fondly exasperated look.  "He couldn't take his eyes off you long enough to see anything about me."

Kris laughed.  "Sure, honey, you just believe that but I can guarantee that your legs will be a big part of his dreams tonight."

They teased each other back and forth for the rest of the ride to Sam's home.  Sam's somewhat tentative request of Kris earlier that evening had taken the blonde by surprise, but she'd immediately agreed to spend the night.  Even if she had laughed out loud at the teasing suggestion she could stay in the guest room if she preferred.

Exiting the car, Sam sensed movement and swiveled her body around neatly to face the threat.

Yellow eyes greeted her and then blinked.  "Yow!"

Letting out a relieved, for more than one reason, breath, the detective looked over as Kris came around the front of the car.

"He's back!"

"Unfortunately," Sam replied dryly and then fought the urge to squirm when Kris gave her a look of utter disbelief.

"Sam, you were worried about him too.  Don't give me that."

"Worried about the Demon Spawn?"

Grinning, Kris replied, "Don't even bother, Detective Foster."

They spent a couple of minutes checking Cat over, to be sure he wasn't injured and then Sam leaned back against the car as Kris fawned over him for a couple more.   Eventually, the door safely closed behind them.

Sam kicked off her shoes and groaned at the ecstasy that brought her.  "Damn, I'm glad I don't do that often."

Laughing, Kris took off her own with a little more restraint but kept her eyes on her lover.  "I know how you feel, but you did look gorgeous tonight, love."

Sam had noted the endearments they both had been using over the last few hours and this latest one didn't bother her either.  It seemed that her plan of showing Kris how much she meant to her had worked out in more than one way.  The detective looked over and smiled, beginning to stalk her prey and making no question about what her plans were.  "And you, my love, were the belle of the ball."

Kris grinned as Sam approached, the playfulness evident in the twinkling blue eyes.  "And just what are you up to?"

"Me?  What makes you think I'm up to anything?" Sam asked as she slid into place right in front of the blonde.

"Oh, just about everything."  Kris chuckled as she fastened her arms around Sam's neck and tilted her head back to let her eyes feast on the face she loved.

"Why, Ms Scott, it appears as if you have an agenda!" Sam exclaimed, even as she pressed her body closer to Kris' and dipped her head very slowly.

"Oh, do I need to make an appointment, Ms Foster?"

"I think I can find some free time for you."  Sam stroked her cheek against the other woman's and nuzzled her neck.  The subtle fragrances, which always seemed to surround her lover, were a source of constant enjoyment for Sam.  She spent a long minute simply enjoying them and trying to pick out the ones she knew, such as the trace of fruity shampoo and perfume that Kris knew she liked.  During that long minute, her eyes, as they always did, closed and she reveled in the deep connection they shared.

Losing her train of thought was something Sam seemed to be able to make Kris do with some regularity.  She fought to hold onto it as Sam began incredibly soft kisses on her neck, pausing for a nip here and there.  "Yes.  Fi ... find me some time.  Yes, definitely."

"Mmm?"

Feeling Sam's rumbled question vibrate down to her toes but not having a clue what was asked or if anything was, Kris just shook her head and let her hands begin to move over the warm body close to her.

"Kris?" Sam murmured into the other side of the blonde's neck a few minutes later.  There was no answer, so she asked again, "Kris?"

"Huh?  Yeah?" came the breathless response.

"As much as I love you in this, there's such a thing as too many clothes."

Having already managed to insert nimble fingers in-between buttons and material, Kris definitely understood that sentiment.  "Mmmhmm.  Let's see what we can do about that."

-------------

A low hum of approval was how Kris greeted her day.  Even before cracking open her eyes, she had decided that waking with the warm length of Sam against the back of her entire body was definitely a wonderful way to welcome a new day.  The strong arm holding her close, even in Sam's sleep, just solidified that feeling.

She felt really, really good.  Sated, rested, warm, safe and most definitely loved.  Idly her fingers traced over the fine hairs on Sam's arm and she smiled as the muscles pulled her minutely closer.  The smile grew when she felt a warm breath on the back of her neck, just before a soft kiss was placed behind her ear.  "Mornin'."

"Mm, it definitely is," Sam replied with a still sleepy voice, as she settled herself even closer to her lover and then cleared her throat, looking around Kris' shoulder at the clock.  "And why are you awake so early?"

Covering Sam's arm with her own and linking the fingers from the top, Kris squeezed gently.  "Not sure, just woke up I guess."

Sam thought about that for a few moments.  "Everything okay?"

No hesitation. "Perfect."

"Wow, perfect?"

"Yes, perfect."  Kris moved away slightly to give herself enough room to turn around.  Facing Sam, she curled her good arm in the short distance between them and traced the other woman's lips with her index finger of the other as she continued, "I feel really good, was taken out to an awesome dinner, made a new friend and spent an incredible night with the love of my life.  I only wish they could all be this good."

Sam's view of the truth in Kris' green eyes was very up close and personal.  Her heart began to speed up at the thought running through her mind.

Kris frowned, easily noting the slightly widened blue eyes and change in the brunette's demeanor.   She let her finger trail down until her hand rested on the pillow.  "Hey, what's going on in there?"

In an almost defensive reaction, Sam's eyes moved and focused on a seascape that was on a far wall as she tried to fight both her fear and find the right words.  When Kris' hand touched her face again, she blinked and brought her attention back to the blonde.

"Sam, what is it?  You're scaring me."

'Dammit!'  Quickly reassuring by shaking her head and saying, "No, don't be." Sam moved her body as close as she could, even as their bodies pressed together in a very delicious way and threatened to take her off track.  Pressing a lingering kiss against Kris' forehead, then a touch on her nose and lips, Sam licked her lips and said, "I was uh ..." 'God, why is this so scary?  Okay, start slow, don't scare her.  Or you.' She thought.  "Just wondering if maybe um ..."

"Yes?"

Sam had been so lost in thought, she looked up in surprise at Kris' voice.  "Uh well, I have extra room and was wondering if you'd want to maybe leave some clothes here and maybe yourself sometimes?"

Kris grabbed her bottom lip with her teeth in an effort not to smile but it didn't work very well.  Sam's wince after her question had been priceless, as were her alternating looks of utter confusion and hopeful optimism.  Rather than trust her voice, Kris decided that direct contact was a quicker method and leaned forward, moving her cast around Sam's waist.  Then greedily covered the other woman's lips with her own and pressed into the expanse of soft skin eagerly.

Once more surprised, Sam returned the kiss with enthusiasm.  Her optimism was winning out and as much as she wanted to be careful, she couldn't seem to stop it.  When they drew apart, hearts beating in a fast rhythm, the detective just waited and watched.

Kris smiled, feeling the flush in her face from the enthusiastic answer.  "In case you aren't sure, I'd like that very much.  I know that took a lot for you to ask and it's an invasion but we'll take it slow, okay?"

Knowing that she wasn't exactly a wonderful person to live with, Sam eagerly accepted the offer and felt a huge weight leave her shoulders as her worry flew away.  She was aware that Kris' apartment was in a great location for her friend to commute to her jobs and school and there was no rush.  In some strange way, just the idea of Kris having things in her house made Sam feel better.  More settled.

They kissed again, a sweet, soft kiss of affirmation and Sam tucked Kris's head under her chin, holding her gently.   They stayed that way for several quiet minutes.

"Sam?"

"Hmm?"  Sam pulled back to look at the blonde.

"Since this seems to be a morning of changes and decisions, I've decided about my jobs."

"Okay?"

"As much as I'll miss Pam and Connie, and some of the others, I'm not going back to the office."

"I'm guessing you're sure."

"Yeah.  Talking to Pam yesterday made me realize that I just don't miss it.  She was telling me about everything's that's happened and how people are even more crazy because they feel the whole company's being watched."  The blonde head shook.  "I don't want to go back to that."

"Leo's going to be ecstatic, assuming you're going to stay with him?"

A grin.  "Yes, that's what I want to do.  I think I'm going to see what classes I can jump to at the college too.  I may be able to get some credit."

"That's a great idea.  It sounds like you've thought about this a lot?"

"Yeah, I have.  I need to start living my life how I want."  Green eyes focused on Sam's face.  "I have you to thank for a lot of it, thank you."

"No, love, it's all you.  I'm just the bouncing board, remember?"

Kris' grin grew.  "I love it when you call me that."

Sam thought for a second.  "Love?"

"Mmmhmm."

"You've made me into a mushball."  Sam sighed sadly.

The blonde chuckled, leaned closer and stole a quick kiss.  "My mushball."

Nodding, the detective responded, hoping for more, "Uh huh.  All yours."

"Yep, all mine." Kris grinned.  "Soooo ... since you're my bouncing board ..."  Kris pushed herself up to a sitting position and looked down with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.  "Why don't you..."  She threw a leg over Sam's hip, resting easily on her own knees and then leaned forward with fingertips resting on each of her lover's shoulders.  As Sam's large hands covered and warmed the skin on her thighs and then began to move slowly towards her waist, Kris continued, "Um ... Show me the many uses of a bouncing board?"

As Sam's hands slid further up Kris' body, the detective levered herself up to nip and then capture the lips that taunted her from their position of domination for a long minute.  "Gladly," she breathed as she released Kris' mouth and began an intimate exploration of every inch of skin within her reach.  Happily, there was quite a lot.

Closing her eyes against the rush of sensations from the other woman's roaming hands and feasting mouth, Kris groaned out, "You know ..."  And continued between breaths, "I think I could get to like this early morning thing."

Continued in Part 7