DISCLAIMERS: Any similarities to Xena, Gabrielle et al are well, you guessed it.  Those characters are the property of Renaissance Pictures and MCA/Universal.  There is no copyright infringement intended in any way, shape or form.  However, the characters in this story are from my own rather warped imagination and are mine, mine, mine!  Not that anyone would ever possibly want to but just to cover all bases, this story cannot be used or sold for profit in any way.
RATING: PG-13 at worst. A few bad words.
RELATIONSHIP: Yep, if you do not celebrate love in whatever form it presents itself to us then please find another story to read.  Although I sincerely doubt this story will ever range beyond PG-13 but please be aware that it does touch on these subjects.
PREVIOUS STORY:  This is a continuing story and will make considerably more sense when you read what has gone on before.

It begins with Insight at http://www.academyofbards.org/fanfic/i/ins1.html
Continues in Realization at http://www.academyofbards.org/fanfic/i/idryth_realization.html
Continues in Emotion at http://www.academyofbards.org/fanfic/i/idryth_emotion1.html

NOTES: I'm not a detective, lawyer or journalist and don't profess to play one on TV.  I guess I can't say I'm new to this writing thing anymore?  <g>  Anyone who feels like writing to me, I'd love to hear from you but please don't be nasty.  Helpful critique is fine, wonderful praise is fine <eg>, "Hey, it was okay" is fine etc but bad stuff will be tossed and put where it belongs.  If ya don't like it, I don't need to know but I hope you do.  Idryth@aol.com

Thank you VERY much to everyone who dropped me a note about Emotion and the rest.  They were all greatly appreciated.  Please let me know if you like this too.

SPECIAL NOTE:  Thank you, as always, to Inga for her invaluable assistance with the stories.  Thank you also to Chris and Linda, two very special ladies that I'm pleased to call friends.  Their special insight and patience (or impatience, depending on who you're talking about <g>) have given my muse a swift kick more than once and I thank them heartily for that and their friendship.  The fact that I've come to know all three ladies mentioned here are reason enough to be forever grateful that I decided to sit down and write.  If you're thinking you'd like to try to write, please do, you just never know the treasures it'll lead you to.

Chris, Linda ... this one's for you.

Song lyrics used without permission and are the copyright of the Pointer Sisters and Kristine W.


It was an unusual struggle to open her eyes but the brilliant blue orbs did eventually crack open as the awareness of something ... not as it should be prodded her consciousness into activity.   Her hand traveled down the warm bod... pillow she had been clutching and that realization caused an eyebrow to shoot high up her forehead.

Pushing herself up from the mattress, she blinked the blue orbs sleepily.  A quick glance at the illuminated numbers on the alarm clock confirmed that she hadn't been asleep that long.  Actually, that they hadn't been asleep that long.  The question was, where was the 'they' part of the equation.

It was the pillow that really concerned Sam.  The fact that Kris had almost certainly took the time to reassure Sam with something she could hold onto was both troubling and a little annoying.  Troubling because Kris must have felt the need to stay away from their bed for at least a short while and annoying because Sam couldn't seem to stop herself from needing to be close to Kris, even in her sleep, and the blonde knew that.

Sighing at her complete descent into the deep, dark pit of mushdom, Sam flung back the sheet covering her and swung her legs out of the bed.  Still sitting on the bed, she listened carefully to the quiet.

She could hear the ticking of a clock, the faint clink of the icemaker in the refrigerator and the slow dripping of a faucet that betrayed the fact that the pair of women had been in a hurry to leave the shower and had been too busy to make sure the water was all the way off.

Not that they hadn't enjoyed themselves in the shower, oh no.  They had managed to use most of the hot water and very little of it was used to actually wash but it hadn't been enough.  It never seemed to be enough.

Sam sighed to herself, with just one look Kris could turn Sam's knees to jelly.  One touch would have her skin burning.  Her mind constantly turned to the blonde and her body fairly hummed when her lover was near.

'She's like a drug,' Sam mused as she padded to the doorway and looked beyond but couldn't spot Kris at first.  Instinctively, she headed for the living room and let a tiny smile free.  'The ultimate aphrodisiac.'

Sharp eyes quickly found their target standing by the sliding glass door to the back yard in a pool of silvery hued moonlight.   Sam paused for a sharp breath at the beauty of her lover's profile, dark against the gentle luminescence.  That the gentle soul of her lover chose to be with her still infused her with a sense of wonder and she prayed it always would.

Her eyes caressed the softly lit figure as she silently watched the blonde mumble to something on the floor, something Sam couldn't see but knew had to be the Demon Spawn, and then turn back to look out.   Kris' one size fits all purple nightshirt that Sam recognized as the one with Tigger proudly displayed on the front dwarfed her like a tent and only served to add to the entire cute package.

Sam couldn't halt the hint of a smirk as she thought about the fact that she had seen several of Kris' nightshirts and had even added to the blonde's collection but they never seemed to stay on long.

The fact was that they had been together more nights than they'd been apart since they had declared their love to each other but Sam prayed that her lover knew exactly what she meant to her.  Exactly what Sam felt.  She'd hoped to show her that this very evening but the party came along and then Mrs. Scott let her know that Kris' aunt was coming in and so the detective had put off her own plans for a later date.

'Wool gathering isn't finding out what's wrong, Sam.  Get with it.'  Quietly moving closer, she saw the Demon Spawn's sleek black form moving off toward the door to the garage where Sam had installed yet another pet door under Kris' watchful eye.   The cat had managed to worm his way further into their lives and was in the house as much as out, especially when Kris was there.

Then she was behind the blonde, easily seeing the tension in the shoulders and back that she loved without question.  Unfortunately, the tension meant that there was no doubt this wasn't just a touch of insomnia.  That hurt and Sam found that fact really curious.  That seeing Kris so obviously bothered about something made her hurt deep inside and want to instantly stop whatever it was that was causing the problem.

Resisting the urge to clench her fist and fight an invisible foe, she reached out a long arm and then paused, not wanting to scare the blonde.  Instead, she questioned softly, "Are you okay?"  Then completed the move and let her hand touch lightly on Kris' shoulder.

Kris started slightly, her mind had been very much elsewhere but it quickly reminded her that she should've known her pillow trick wouldn't work. A tiny smile slipped free and she reached up a hand to cover the one on her shoulder, and then tilted her head to cover that for a few moments as well.  "Didn't work, huh?"

The blonde waited for Sam's answer, her mood automatically better than it had been just seconds before.  She had found it impossibly endearing that Sam had been totally embarrassed by her inability keep her hands to herself when they were together, even when they were asleep.  She had tried to remind her lover that most of the time she draped herself over Sam's long body, giving the dark haired woman no chance to escape, but it hadn't mattered.

Slightly relieved, even as sure as she had been that it wasn't something she had done, Sam moved behind Kris and let her other hand creep up to the other shoulder.  "Kris, I can guarantee that a pillow will never be a good stand in for you."

Letting her hand fall in order to cross her arms against her body, Kris spoke again, "I think I should be glad about that but I didn't mean for you to wake up."

Using the opportunity to slip her own arms around Kris' waist, Sam pressed their bodies together, front to back, ever so slightly and was immensely relieved at Kris' sigh and immediate push back into Sam's warmth.  "What is it?" she asked in a whisper.

Kris felt a rush of tingling heat move down her body when Sam's breath stirred the hairs on her neck.  She closed her eyes and let her head fall back slightly against the tall woman's shoulder.  A long minute was spent just enjoying that embrace and the warmth and love that surrounded her before she spoke, "I'm in the arms of the love of my life, I have a job that I adore, just had the best birthday party ever and, for the first time, I feel like I finally have the freedom to make the world truly mine.  What could be wrong?"

Sam merely strengthened her hold and nuzzled the side of the blonde head in front of her.  Waiting and believing that patience would bring the answer was difficult but sometimes necessary.

Appreciating her lover's rare bout of patience, Kris turned in the circle of the arms and looked up into the moonlit angled features that she loved so much.  It took her breath away.  All of it.  The love she felt, the love she saw mirrored in those blue eyes, her lover's beauty and the fact that they had come so far, become so much.  Like a stream burbling over rocks in a cool, dark forest, the words spilled out, "I love you so much."

"Then I'm a very lucky woman," Sam replied softly and followed her words with a brush of her lips across Kris'.

Burrowing into Sam's upper chest, Kris tightened her arms around the tall woman's ... bare waist.  'Good lord, I must be out of it to not notice she was completely naked.'   Looking up, she asked, "Why don't you have any clothes on?"

An eyebrow rose high.  "Has your memory started slipping?"

Lightly slapping the dark haired woman's shoulder, Kris laughed.  "Not in a million years!"  Looking up, she lost herself in the farthest reaches of the sky.  "Never," she whispered and stretched up to meet the soft lips she knew would caress her own half way.

Even though the soft kiss traveled to her very toes, Sam wasn't going to let Kris change the subject for long.  But, she mused, an attempt to try and lighten the mood might be well spent.   "Thank goodness.  Hate to think I was boring."

"As if."  Kris shook her head.  "Didn't we have this conversation a while back?  You couldn't be boring if your life depended on it."

The tall woman's mouth quirked up in a grin, her teeth easily seen in the moonlight.  "Good to know."

Kris squeezed tightly and relaxed again, immersing herself in everything Sam was offering for several long moments.  A mental picture of a sea sponge that was being covered in water after being in the hot sun for a very long time made her lips curve in a tiny smile.

Then, she took a deep breath, savoring the warm scent of her lover and using it as a balm against the memories she was about to bring up.  "I saw him today."

Holding Kris tightly against her, Sam bent her neck and kissed the top of the blonde head.  She needed no further information to know who Kris had seen and only kept her temper in check because she knew from experience that the blonde would be even more upset if she let her anger show.  "I'm sorry, love."

Recognizing the tense set of Sam's muscles, Kris absently smoothed the back muscles under her hands.  "There was a press conference about a robbery ring on the back steps of the courthouse.  I didn't know he was going to be there.  Not that it would've stopped me from doing my job."

Easily recalling the cold anger in her father's eyes, Kris paused for a few long seconds.  "He's moved out, you know."  A tiny snort escaped.  "That's not quite true.  Mom told me tonight that she told him to shape up or ship out and he wouldn't shape up so she shipped him out.  She's pretty upset about it all but it's hopefully temporary."

Sam rested her chin on top of the blonde head and sighed, wondering just how long Kris had held onto that piece of information.  Still, she couldn't help the 'Good for her' thought that slipped into her mind, even as she wondered just how long the information had been festering for Kris.  "It's not your fault."

"I know," Kris mumbled into the soft skin.  "I really do know that but it still feels like it is."  Almost against her will, her mind traveled back to the last time she had really spoken with her father.  After he had shot Jimmy Hamilton, the man who had kidnapped her, and...

"SAM!!" Kris cried as the guard rail crumbled and the tall form was inexorably pulled over the edge of the bridge by Jimmy Hamilton's obviously dead weight.

"Oh God," she whispered as she tried to stand and was instantly reminded that not only was she tied up but that her various limbs had been bound and unused for some time and were not interested in helping her out.

Then, with one incredibly short flash of blue, Sam was gone and something fractured inside.

"NO!!" Kris screamed and held her breath against the terrible silence until a faint splash was heard.  The blonde felt as if she'd been socked in the gut by a battering ram.

Then, suddenly hands were at her back and someone was talking to her.  Struggling against the pull of what she finally figured out were her bonds tying her arms together being cut, she would have fallen flat on her face when the bonds broke if the other person hadn't held onto her.

Her abused arms and shoulders bellowed in protest of the freedom and movement and she tried to unsuccessfully push it back.  Finally, the other voice broke through into her awareness.

"Are you okay?" Lee asked anxiously as she came around to Kris' front, holding the other woman up by a hand on each shoulder.

Frowning, Kris nodded as she recognized Sam's partner and immediately tried to stand.  Once again, Lee came to the rescue, had provided a supportive arm to hold onto, and assisted her in standing up.

"We need to go to the other side of the bridge to get to the river side," an obviously horrified Lee informed.

"Go," Kris breathed out, frowning as Lee looked to her Captain and then back at Kris.  "Go!  Please!" the reporter repeated and gave the taller woman a push in the right direction.  "I'll be right behind you."

In a flash, Lee was gone and Kris took just a very short moment to look at her father. He hadn't really moved since he'd fired the shots and she spared a split second to worry about him before the blood rushing to her abused limbs almost made her buckle again.

Ruthlessly, she pushed it back and pointed herself in the right direction.  Some calm part of Kris told her that it had really only been a very short time since Sam had disappeared but the stumbling run from the bridge to the riverbank had been the longest in Kris' entire life.

It was even darker down here than it had been on the bridge.  The muted flashing lights that she hadn't noticed before, or perhaps it was new units arriving, and seemingly distant city lights cast sparkling multicolored gems on the midnight dark water were very pretty but did little for the vision.  Plus, unfortunately, her mind wasn't really on the beauty of the evening.

Still, even in the darkness, she caught a flash of Lee's tan jacket searching off to one side.  In a desperate rush her eyes strained to see any details in the rapidly moving water.  Heart pounding in abject fear, it took an unbelievably long and stressful minute before her peripheral vision caught a dark form in the brush off to the side.

Tensing, it only took the time to turn her head to know it was Sam's lanky form and in one of those moments where time seems to impossibly compress itself, she was in her lover's arms.

"Are you all right?" she asked, heedless of the river's chilly dampness seeping into her own clothes from Sam's drenched form.  Burrowing as close to the tall woman as she could, she felt the rumble as Sam responded affirmatively and almost fell to her knees in relief as strong arms finally held her in their firm grasp.

Vaguely understanding that Lee was telling Sam something, Kris would've been completely happy to just stay in this position forever.  Instead, she found herself muttering ever so quietly, "I was so scared when you went over that bridge.  I love you so much."  More soft words spilled out into Sam's chest before she could stop them.

She almost missed her lover's subtle shifting and the tensing of her muscles, so intent was she on thanking every deity in the universe for Sam's warm and breathing presence.

"Come away from her now, Kris!  I don't know what she's done to you but we're going back home to get this craziness over with!"

Kris didn't move, just closed her eyes tightly and wished her father were anywhere but there.  Unfortunately, the poison in her father's voice broke through all her barriers.

"Kris, she is an abomination in the eyes of God, you are not like her!  Get over here!  NOW!"

After several seconds of frigid silence, he yelled again, "You will let go of that piece of trash and get over here."

Kris tightened her hold, sensing that Sam was about to pull back and give her choices that she had no intention of ever wanting or needing.  "I'm right where I want to be," she said so quietly that only Sam could hear her and sighed appreciatively as she felt her lover gather her even closer.

"I will not tell you again.  Do not do this.  Do not disappoint your mother and me.  Get over here or else!"

The 'or else' argument had never worked with Kris and nothing had changed on that front.   She did spare a couple of seconds to worry about when her mother would tell him that she knew and was okay with the relationship.  Even when musing, some part of her realized that she would have to respond eventually but she refused to allow her father the pleasure of disrupting her reunion with Sam.

Kris could almost hear the froth in her father's words, "She is more important than your family?  Than me?  Is that what this is?  IS IT?"

Steeling herself against what she knew was coming up, she began to straighten very slowly and loosen her hold on the tall woman.

His tone dropped to razor like precision, "If you stay with her, you are no better than the crap of the earth that she is.  Do you hear me?!  Do you?"

A short pause, and as she began to turn, he spat, "You will leave her now or you will not be welcome in my house ever again and I will no longer have two daughters."

The blonde would have doubled over from the pain the words caused if she hadn't been holding onto Sam so tightly.  The hold served to keep her upright and also keep a certain tall form from rushing off to confront her father.  She could easily feel Sam's anger but the next words caused a rush of anger through her that she had never felt before.

"Too bad that one of those bullets didn't catch her, then I bet your tune would change!"

Keeping a part of herself in contact with Sam all the time, Kris completed her turn in a fast spin and realized the sparks must be flying from her face at her father's hastily concealed surprise.  "Yes, it would change.  It would.  Because I would want to die too.  Do you understand that?"

She swallowed down a huge lump of emotion as she felt Sam's sharp inhalation.  "Do you?  Dad?  Do you understand that kind of love?  That kind of devotion?"

Her clear voice started to shake ever so slightly but still easily found its mark, "She would've died for me, she almost did and it's not the first time.  She's shown her love for me in so many ways, so many times."

She gathered a breath and her courage, pressing forward before her father could speak.  "But you, you couldn't even make it home for our birthdays.  You couldn't find time to help me with my algebra or bother to show up for any of our 'Dad Days' at school.  You couldn't be there for Grandma and Grandpa."

Barely keeping control on the tears that threatened a flash flood down her face, she sniffed then back and noticed no change in her father's demeanor.  She struggled to continue, "You have no clue do you?  I used to think that you were so wonderful, so strong and powerful and would protect us from everything.  That you'd always be there."

She began to lose steam and that fact betrayed itself by the lack of power behind her voice.  Yet, it still cut through the night air. "But, you weren't."  Blonde hair swung as she shook her head lightly and her eyes dropped to the ground.  "You never were."

Bringing her eyes back up, she continued in a soft voice that cut through the damp night.  "Yet, you'd be happy to take away the thing that means the most to me in the world."  Now the tears flowed freely and her voice shook with emotion, she took a long breath before speaking, "Well... Dad.  I don't give a damn what your cost is because it'll never be high enough to make me give this up.  Get used to it."

With cheeks soaked in salty tears, Kris turned again and buried herself in Sam's solid, ready embrace.

Instantly aware that something had bothered her friend even more, Sam pulled back, moving her arms so that they remained around Kris but enabled her to look into the green eyes she adored.  "Kris, there's nobody with a better heart than you.  This is not your fault; this is nobody's fault but your father's."

Kris dropped her chin and spoke very quietly, "That might not be true."  When Sam moved to pull away and almost certainly argue against any role Kris had in the problem the blonde stopped her with one quick look and shake of her head, then she took a deep breath.  "When my mom took me out to lunch today, we had a long talk.  I learned a lot of stuff and found out that there's probably a lot more that neither of us knows."

Frowning, Sam found herself trying to figure out what might have been said during Kris' talk with her mother and only becoming more confused.  "Something you can tell me?"

Kris snuggled her way back against her lover's silky skin.  "You're involved in this too, my love, it wouldn't be fair if I didn't talk to you about it."  She took a breath.  "We don't honestly know if it's got anything to do with anything but I found out that my father was adopted by my grandparents when he was ten."

Feeling her stomach drop like a free falling elevator, Sam calmly queried, "And before that?"

Her mind on the earlier conversation with her mother, Kris replied, "Mom isn't really sure.  She actually got most of the information from my grandparents before they died, Dad doesn't ... didn't talk about it much."  Frowning, the blonde tried once again to make some sense out of all she had learned.  "She said that Grandpa told her that Dad had been through a few homes before he came to them but it wasn't until Dad started showing an interest in Grandpa's police work that he seemed to settle in."

"And you're thinking of finding out his history."  Sam knew Kris a little too well and didn't bother to phrase it as a question.  Her heart twinged for the pain this path might lead her lover to.

"Well ...what if there's something we don't know?  Something I can try to reach him with?"

"And what if there isn't?"

"What if it's just him and it'll never be better?" Kris choked a little on the last words.

Strengthening her hold, Sam spoke quietly, "Kris, I'll support you and help you in anything you want to try but I pray this doesn't hurt you even more than you've already been hurt."

Not sure that she'd heard the tone in Sam's voice that she thought she had, Kris felt protective instincts rising nonetheless.  "I don't regret one single second of being with you and I plan on staying with you for as long as you'll have me.  You better know that."

'How does she do that?' Sam wondered.  "Then I guess we'll need to prepare for a long siege, M'lady."

"We can do that."  Kris smiled slightly to herself.

There was quiet for a few minutes as they simply relaxed into each other.

"Should I do this?" Kris broke the silence suddenly.

Sam's eyes focused on long past events before she brought herself back with a savage mental jolt, concentrating on the present and the fact that Kris would pursue this as far as she could.  "I think that you'll find out all the facts and, if there is any justice in the world, you'll be able to find your way back to your father."

"Could we be right about it?"  Kris instantly wanted to take back the pleading tone in the words.

"Well," Sam sighed.  "It's a fact that sometimes it takes a while for a kid to adjust to that kind of change.  To have to do it a few times ... would be really hard. Maybe ... I don't know, maybe there's something out there to find.  If there is, you will."

Kris felt the rumble of the tall woman's words but that wasn't the only thing she felt.  Tilting her head back, she looked at Sam's face and instantly noted the tight jaw muscles.  Her forehead creased and she asked in a worried tone, "Sam?"

'Dammit.' Sam mentally shook her head, realizing that she should've known Kris would pick up her feelings so easily, just as she had been able to do for some time.  She angled her eyes down to the other woman's face and let her lips gentle into the hint of a smile.  "Ancient history."

She watched as Kris searched her face, obviously trying to decide if she should question more.  Before the blonde could decide, Sam solved the problem in her own direct way.  "I ... "  After taking a deep breath to curb the annoyance she felt at the prick of tears tickling the back of her eyes, she continued, "I ... would maybe like to um ... talk to you about it some day?"

'And just when I didn't think I could love her any more she does something like that.'  A smile blossomed on Kris' face.  "I would like that.  Just know one thing, okay?"

Sam swallowed down her emotion.  "What's that?"

"That I love all of you, no matter what."  Pleased at the ease of tension in her lover's lanky frame, Kris brought up something that she had meant to mention when they got home.  Before they'd gotten ... involved.  She lifted a hand to Sam's cheek and her thumb moved very slowly back and forth over the smooth skin.  "Tonight, what you sang to me was beautiful."

Sam caressed Kris with her eyes and said quietly, "It was for you."

"I know," the blonde whispered.  "We've come so far since the first time you sang to me."

Exhaling in a bit of a laugh, Sam replied, "That damned dress."

"It made Jen very happy to have you sing it at her wedding."  Kris' thumb ran over Sam's lips.  "And, me very happy to have you in that damned dress.  You were gorgeous."

Pressing a kiss into the thumb, Sam responded, "So were you."

"We sure are mushy, aren't we?"  Kris grinned and caught her bottom lip with her teeth.

"Uh huh."  The dark head nodded and then tilted to the side in question.  "Did you have a good time with your aunt?"

"Yes!"  Kris beamed and hugged the tall woman again.  "Jeez, she's great and Holly too.  So much fun."  She inhaled sharply.  "I almost forgot!  We're invited to lunch tomorrow, will you come?"

Knowing that it would make Kris very happy was all Sam needed.  "Of course.  They do seem really nice."

"Yeah.  She's spending time with Mom too and that's going okay, I think."  Kris thought back to the interaction between the two sisters.  "I actually think that Aunt Kate never really blamed my Mom but knew it would cause Mom trouble to try and stay in touch."

"That's great, I'm glad it's working out."

"Me too and Holly is perfect for Aunt Kate.  They're so cute together and have been together so long.  It's amazing."

"Yeah, it is.  It's good to see," Sam replied, her mind moving again to what she wanted to tell Kris but decided to put off because of the party.

"Very much so."  Kris spoke up again, her heartbeat speeding up with the thought of what she was going to say, "Is it presumptuous of me to hope that we're together after that long?"  She paused for a second, biting her lip.  "And, even better, rocking on the porch together in sixty years?"

'It's scary how we think along the same lines sometimes.'  Sam shook her head, needing a moment before she spoke, "No.  No, it isn't."

Looking into the eyes of the woman she loved with her entire being, Sam made a decision that would change her life forever and was utterly shocked at how easy it had been.  Releasing Kris, she stepped back a half step and lifted a hand.  "Stay right here for just a minute, please?"

Confused, Kris asked, "Sam, did I..."

Sam lifted her hand and pressed a finger against Kris' lips.  "Shh.  Please, just stay there?  I'll be right back."

Kris' brows scrunched closer together but she nodded and watched as Sam smiled warmly, then turned and headed off toward the bedroom.  The blonde thought about what they'd been talking about and a tiny knot of worry started to grow.  'Could she have thought I was pushing or something?'

Then Sam was back in the room, a white button up shirt covering the important parts and a single button holding it together.  That normally would've been enough to keep her attention but there was a sense of ... shy wonder about her lover that completely captured the blonde's attention.  Something that seized her and drew her in, like the proverbial moth heading toward the flame.  And then the tall woman was pulling her to the couch, seating her on the arm as she dropped to the plush carpet.

Kris was completely nonplussed by her lover's actions and searched for some insight into what was going on but couldn't quite grasp it.

Wondering if she'd suddenly swallowed a desert, Sam licked her lips.  "What ..."  She cleared her throat and tried not to be too terribly disgusted at herself.  Tried to not suddenly lose her nerve.  "What's presumptuous... is the fact that I want you by my side... forever."

Tears pooled and she spared no thought to stop them.  "What's presumptuous is to tell you that my heart will always be yours and to pray that I'm not so terribly wrong as to assume you feel the same."

As the realization of what was going on started to sink in, Kris' heart began to pound.

A tear sparkled a path down Sam's cheek.

To Kris, the moonlight seemed to give the tear an ethereal glow and she watched it in fascination as it traveled the soft skin.  Her attention was so complete; she missed the movement of Sam's hands.

"I love you.  More than life.  More than simply love.  Whatever it is between us, whatever it is that seems to bind us so tightly, makes me want to never be without you... whatever brought you to me..."

Sam took a couple of quick breaths and studied Kris' face before continuing, the words seemed to spill out as if a dam had broken, "Kris ... I need you."  Another lone tear forged a path down the smooth skin.  "So very much.  So very badly.  For the rest of our lives."

She wanted Kris to truly understand and couldn't seem to stop the words as they continued to pour out.  Shaking her head she spoke again, "My life would be... nothing without you in it and I'm sorry it took me so long to understand that.  I want you with me always."

Kris' jaw dropped open, as Sam's trembling hand rose and she was quite sure that she couldn't have spoken if her life depended on it.  Positive that the emotion of the moment had stunned her to complete speechlessness, she was also finding it difficult to breathe.

Licking her lips again, Sam continued, "Please be with me in those rocking chairs.  Be with me wherever we go after we leave this life and beyond."  Almost plaintively, she concluded, "Be mine.  Forever.  For... Eternity."

Still stunned, Kris finally closed her mouth and moved her gaze between Sam's face and the unbelievably gorgeous light metal, diamond and emerald ring nestled gently in the coiled loops of a roped necklace.

She tried to speak and finally found the right information to send to her brain to get her jaw working but hadn't quite connected with the speech center yet.  This caused her mouth to open but only a shaky breath escaped.

Sam decided that it was only the absolute shock in Kris' face that kept her in place.  Waiting for the blonde's answer was killing her and she prayed she hadn't been so very wrong to have purchased the ring.

She had been with Lee, on their way to question a robbery victim.  On their way to the victim's place of business in one of the local malls, they'd passed a jewelry shop.  Lee had gotten a call and stepped off to the side as Sam waited, window-shopping in a very bored fashion.  Bored until she noticed a sign that read, "Eternity Rings."

It had been the name that pulled her in, but it had been one of the rings she'd seen in the window that seemed to whisper at her during the interview with the victim.  When Lee had left to go home from the mall, Sam had gone back inside and looked again at the ring in question.

What an Eternity ring was normally purchased for hadn't been on Sam's mind, just the fact that it was perfect was.  The name and the mix of diamonds and emeralds in the platinum's plaited setting took her breath away.  It reminded her of Kris' eyes at her happiest, at her moment of release, and when she looked at Sam with all the love she felt.


Sam swallowed hard as she fretted that seconds could sometimes seem like years and then Kris finally spoke.

"I ..."  Kris pulled at her bottom lip with her teeth and then released it.  "I ... already am," Kris choked out as a cascade of tears began.  "So, the answer is easy.  Yes.  Yes.  Absolutely, yes.  If you'll be mine."

"I already am," Sam repeated as her pooling tears finally spilled over.

Reaching out her own trembling hand, Kris touched the ring in wonder.  "It's beautiful."  She wasn't even sure she said the words out loud.

"The necklace has a special catch for the ring so you don't have to wear it or wear it all the time," Sam advised.

Kris shook her head as she smiled and cleared her throat around the huge lump of emotion stuck in her throat.  "You're amazing but I think I'd like to wear it as much as I can.  Can I wear it now?"

That question forced out a chuckle from Sam.  "As often and as long as you like."  She lifted the ring between two fingers and noted that both her hand and Kris' were shaking terribly.  As the cool metal slipped on Kris' finger, Sam found that she was holding her breath only releasing it when the ring winked from the finger.

It fit perfectly.

Kris looked at the ring and, in an instant, dropped to her knees beside Sam.  Turning, she waited long enough for Sam to put the necklace around her neck and then spoke with every thing she felt inside, "I love you so much that I can't even put words to it most of the time."

A gust of air escaped as Kris didn't quite laugh at herself.  "Pretty stupid for someone who writes for a living, huh?"

Cupping Sam's face with her hands, she placed her thumbs over the mouth she knew had been about to defend her from herself and instantly noticed that the contrast between the warming metal and the heat it was trapped between was almost startling.

Looking into the almost translucent orbs she adored, she smiled slightly.  "You're in my thoughts... in my dreams... on my mind all the time."

Leaning over, she brushed a feather light touch of her lips against the other woman's lips. "You possess everything I am.  My heart, soul and body are completely in your hands."  Then pressed her lips harder and pulled back just far enough to speak, "You... are everything to me and always will be."

Their bodies met, cloth rubbing against cloth.

"I wish I had something as beautiful as this ring to give to you," Kris breathed hotly.

Hands touching, pressing and caressing.  Skin sensitized underneath thin cloth grew more so as the moments ticked by.

"But, since I don't, I guess I'll just have to show you."

Lips captured lips and breaths mingled in the heat of the moment.

Soon, only the moonlight bathed the two lovers as they sealed their love in the depths of passion.


Kris' smile grew as she saw the three women sitting at the table, apparently chatting and completely unaware that she was there.  Absently stepping out of the way of a waitress, she slowly approached the table and was very pleased to note the ease that they seemed to be dealing with each other.

In fact, she hesitated to intrude for a second as her aunt flung her head back in laughter and her mother joined in right afterwards.  It was Holly who caught her flat footed.  Twinkling brown eyes caught and held her before a broad smile and gesturing wrist movement welcomed her.

Before she'd reached the table, both her mother and aunt were on their feet and drawing her into hugs.

"Sam still coming, honey?"

For some reason, Kris found the fact that the first thing out of her mother's mouth was asking for Sam amusing.  Yet, she let it go.  "Yeah, Mom.  We couldn't find a parking space, so she let me out in front and went to find a spot," she responded as she allowed herself to be steered to the table.

"Maybe that's what's keeping Brooke too," her mother mused as she sat on one of the padded chairs.

That her sister was going to be there surprised and pleased Kris, she really hadn't had much opportunity to talk to her recently and had found herself missing it.  "I didn't know she was coming, that's great!"

"It seems as if both my nieces are interested in their wayward aunt and Brooke is home for the next few weeks."

"Our very successful, popular, gorgeous, wayward aunt, you mean?  That one?"  Kris' nose wrinkled up as she grinned impishly, playing on her aunt's self depreciating comments to her the night before and charmed by the blush that pinked the other woman's cheeks.

"God, Kate, she not only looks like you, she has your cheek too!"  Holly emitted a rich, deep chuckle that was very difficult not to smile along with.  "I think the world needs to worry!"

Kate lightly smacked a hand against Holly's arm in retribution.  "Brat!"  Turning to her sister, she whispered conspiratorially, "I can't take her anywhere!"

Lisa Scott grinned, marveling at the changes in her life recently.  She started to speak, "You kn..."

At her mother's abrupt stop, Kris turned her attention from her occasional 'Sam watch' back to the table.  However, she didn't need to ask what had caused the hesitation in speech when she found her mother's eyes firmly centered on the ring on her finger.

Kris' fingers began to curl instantly but she refused to hide this special gift and everything it meant from anyone, especially not her family.  Lifting her chin, she met her mother's gaze squarely and, with a force of will straight from her heart, kept her hand and fingers right where they were.

Feeling her breath catch at the obvious meaning of the ring on Kris' left hand, Lisa tore her eyes from the beautiful piece of jewelry and lifted her eyes to meet her daughter's.  It wasn't difficult to note that Kate was also watching her reaction carefully and she refused to blow this by saying something stupid.  "It's beautiful, Kris."

She was rewarded by a slightly dazed smile from her daughter as she regarded the ring herself with an obvious sense of wonder.  "Thanks, mom.  She gave it to me last night," Kris blushingly and very quietly admitted.

Kris caught her aunt flashing her mother a smile of approval before Kate was reaching over and grabbing at her hand to examine the ring closely.

"Gawd!  It's platinum and real stones too.  Definitely not dish washing material!" Kate teased in an effort to lower the elevated tension at the table.

"Kate!" Holly pleaded even as she chuckled.

Kris laughed, silently agreeing with her aunt, and then found her head turning as a tingle ran down her spine.

Sam found a blossoming smile taking control of her mouth as Kris' green eyes smiled into her own and the blonde's lips curved into their own grin.   It never ceased to amaze Sam that this woman caused so many wonderful emotions in her body.

"She is one tall drink of gorgeous water."

"Whew, no kidding."

Kate and Holly's matter of fact statements made Kris laugh and she turned back to look at them, bottom lip firmly held in between her teeth, catching the trail end of Holly wiping her brow in an exaggerated fashion.

"What?  You want me to lie?  Forget it.  If I were twenty years younger..." Kate trailed off her tease and followed it with a wink at Kris.

"You'd end up with me anyway," Holly finished the sentence for her lover.

Kate couldn't help the beam that spread across her face.  "Yes, I would and a happier person could not be found on the planet."  She moved a hand to cover one of Holly's and captured her lover's gaze with her own, conveying everything she felt in that lengthy glance.

Feeling as if she were almost a voyeur, Kris spared a glance for her mother who was gazing at the pair of women with an almost wistful look.

Then Sam was there or close enough that Kris could feel her presence as if she were sitting right on her lap.  When the expected fingers touched her shoulder she grasped them and pulled to the side.  "Gotta spot for you right here," she stated and nodded at the chair to the left.

Pleased that Sam immediately moved to the chair, it took a moment to realize that she still held her lover's hand.  Looking over at the tall woman with widened eyes, she loosened her grip but felt her embarrassment begin to fade as she met twinkling blue.

Sam squeezed Kris' hand tightly for a long second, refusing to let the blonde be embarrassed by her presumed public faux pas, and was rewarded by the press of the Kris' ring against her skin.  Releasing the hand with a gentle thumb swipe against the soft skin of the palm, Sam leaned back in the chair and turned her attention to rest of the people at the table.  "Hi, thank you for inviting me."

"Please, you're part of the family, right?" Kate replied with a smile.

Noticing that Kate's eyes strayed to Kris' hand, Sam felt the a blush sting her cheeks but the look in Kris' eyes settled her down enough to want to reply, only to be beaten to the punch by Mrs. Scott.

"Yes, she is," the older woman interjected to most of the table's immediate surprise.

The dark haired woman looked over at her lover's mother in stark shock as her brain scrambled for something to say.  "Thank you.  It's a good place to be."

Kate reached over and patted Sam on the shoulder.  "That it is.  Welcome," she said with a grin.  Then had the grace to look over the table and ask her sister, "So, what's good to eat here?"

As the women chatted about the menu and waited for Brooke to arrive, Sam leaned back and kept her eyes moving around the restaurant.  She doubted she'd ever truly relax out in the open, especially without a firm wall at her back.  That's when she saw the malevolent eyes and the gossiping women a couple of tables over.

Sam followed the track of their eyes and saw the tail end of Kate kissing Holly on the cheek; a chaste kiss but their body language betrayed them.  They were just that much too close, touched each other that much more and just seemed to fit together.  She looked over at Kris and noticed that she too was sitting very close, leaning slightly towards her lover and if they had been touching, it was certain those eyes would have been on her and Kris as well.

An eyebrow rose, causing her lover pain was not going to make her happy and the blonde seeing these women obviously scorning and gossiping over Kate and Holly would indeed cause her pain.  That wouldn't do.  Her eyes swung back to the other table and a cold mantle dropped over her face.  Blue eyes speared one of the women, someone around Lisa Scott's age, one who had been looking with the most disgusted look on her face.

The woman's eyes widened as Sam tensed her jaw, a lip partially curled up and she gave the woman a look that would've scared the devil.  The woman immediately looked away and when a couple of her compatriots in stupidity looked over, they felt the ice blue glare slice through them too.  Until, suddenly, lunch at this particular restaurant on this particular day seemed a very bad idea for the women.  In a matter of minutes, they were paying their bill and heading out without a last glance.

Sam watched each of them leave, more than ready and willing to stand up and escort them out if they seemed to have a problem finding the way.  That was when she noticed that her table seemed to have quieted.  She swung her head around, meeting three sets of amazed eyes and one set of green amused ones.  She raised an eyebrow to her lover's amused stare and Kris burst out in a giggle.

"I don't think I ever want to know just what you did to those women, love."  As soon as it was out of her mouth, Kris realized she'd never used that term of endearment in public and she worried for a split second until Sam smiled.

"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about," she protested.

"Sam, I saw part of that look.  Believe me, if I were them, I would've left too."  Kate paused for a couple of seconds and then added sincerely, "Thank you."  She had realized from Holly's annoyed glare just where the women had been staring and she realized that Sam had made it her business to get rid of the distraction.  Grateful didn't cut it.  "I mean that."

Sam smiled a quirky smile.  "After all, I'm family, right?"

Kate and Holly burst out laughing and when Brooke arrived very shortly after, they were still trying to explain to Lisa and Kris exactly what had tickled their funny bone.


Sam watched in bored fascination as her breath clouded up and dispersed into the cool night air.   A burst of hard rain had come and gone when they had been in with the last witness to a shooting that had happened two days prior and that had made the evening even cooler than it had been.  After a nice, quiet weekend with her lover, the beginning of the week had been rough.  She and her work partner were overloaded with cases but overtime was running at a high for everyone it seemed.

Pursing her lips she blew a stream of air up to the heavens, angling it towards one of the few remaining unbroken street lamps, and waited for her partner to return after being called back in by the witness.  It wasn't that Sam didn't want the jerk caught; nothing could be farther from the truth.

However, the dark haired woman was tired; it had been a fourteen-hour day so far after not enough hours of sleep the night before.  After this call, they could both go home and home was where Kris was.  As far as Sam was concerned that meant heaven in a small blonde package and that was exactly where she wanted to be.

'Ooookay, Sam.  Haven't you explored enough levels of mushdom yet?  Heaven in a small blonde package.  Oh my.'

Scrunching her eyes together and then opening them wide, she tried to divert her mush-tention to something else.  'Ah!'  Remembering the sturdy steel flashlight that Lee had taken from the car when she stuck a leg out of the car and almost stood in something she would very much regret.  Her partner had then handed the flashlight to her before the tall blonde had gone back inside and Sam now pulled it back out of the pocket she'd placed it in.

Tossing the flashlight end over end a few times, she began to twist the end back and forth, debating on whether or not to take it apart.  Taking things apart had always been a fun pastime and might do the trick for the moment.

A sudden sharp cracking sound, followed by what sounded very much like a very faint, perhaps animal, cry sliced through the air from a dark opening about six feet to Sam's left.  Her attention shifted completely to the opening as her body froze completely.  Listening. The tiredness was gone, adrenaline replacing the sluggishness that had run rampant just a short time before.

Pausing to crane her neck into the doorway that Lee had gone through, Sam was about to call out quietly to Lee when she heard another sound.  The whimper sounded even more like a wounded animal and the tall woman found herself at the side of the opening before she had spared a conscious thought.

Carefully positioning her body against the wall next to the alley, the detective listened very quietly for several long moments and then swung her left arm into the alleyway, flicking the flashlight's bulb on at the same time.

Following her arm's movement with a cautious glance around the corner of the wall, she watched as the bright beam cut a swathe through the darkness, lighting up each closer area it touched with almost floodlight efficiency.

Unfortunately, as bright as it was, the flashlight's effectiveness was severely diminished before reaching the end of the long alley.  Therefore, there remained a large part that was shrouded in darkness.

From what she could see, some less than pristine and quite dented trash cans stood off to one side and further down stood an overflowing dumpster.   The other side held some large cardboard boxes, what appeared to be a sofa with no upholstery and various other items that are sometimes found in dark alleyways on cold rainy nights.

Sam took a step away from the wall and into the dark culvert.  Even if she hadn't seen enough scary movies to last a lifetime, her own experiences would have been enough to have her senses alight with warnings about dark alley ways and strange sounds.

As was her wont, she ignored the warnings and, keeping her senses on full alert, took step after cautious step further into the dark maw.  She was convinced that an injured animal was in the alley somewhere and that spurred her on to continue.

Skin crawling, Sam paused to listen.  Her eyes searched every crevice, trying to find the source of her unease or the sounds she had heard.   The smell had become fouler with every inch of progress she made into the darkness and therefore that was once sense that was fairly useless to the detective.

"Sam?" came Lee's concerned voice from a distance away.

Her attention diverted for a split second, Sam almost missed the glint of light on a metal edge as it moved in the flashlight's rigid beam.  As it was, she had already partially turned towards Lee's voice.  'Stupid!' she mentally berated herself for allowing her fatigue to get in the way of common sense.

Feeling that her heartbeat had increased substantially, she used that extra jump to whirl herself back around and face the oncoming threat.

Fully emerging from behind the dumpster, a woman began pounding her way down the alley way right towards her, a very large carving knife raised high in the air.

With a scream that was almost shocking in the quiet dark and definitely painful to the ears, the woman insisted, "You will NOT take them!"

Instincts began to take over and Sam's hand began to reach for the gun nestled in the holster at her hip.  'No time!' her brain insisted as the woman's enraged face became firmly etched in Sam's eyes.

Swinging her left arm in a curving arc, Sam parried the blade away from face with the steel flashlight as if she had been doing it all her life.  The scrape of steel against steel crawled a path down her spine and then both blade and flashlight impacted hard against the alley's brick wall.  The detective immediately felt the sting of fragments from the cover to the flashlight's bulb as it shattered and bits of the chipped wall against her hand.

In a flash, she spun her body around behind the other woman's, pushing her body into the wall as she held on with one arm around the other woman's neck and the other angling the suspect's arm behind her back.

As the woman struggled, Sam stated, in a firm, and most definitely annoyed, voice, "Knock it off!  I'm a police officer and, believe me, you don't want to piss me off tonight!"

Hearing the mumbled expletive, Sam ignored it and then Lee arrived, gun drawn.  Taking her partner's backup, the dark haired detective snapped open the leather loop she kept her handcuffs on, maneuvered them with one hand and let out a sigh of relief as the locks snicked shut around the attacker's meaty wrists.

Lee didn't wait long to say her piece, "Dammit, Sam!  I really can't leave you al..."

One arm stretched to hold the prisoner against the wall; Sam craned her neck around to see what had interrupted Lee.  Her eyes met those of a child, probably three years old.  His arms were firmly wrapped around a squirming ball of kitten fur, which was making a sound that was suspiciously similar to the sound that had drawn the detective there in the first place.


Kris looked up from her ministrations with wide eyes.  "What on earth was a child doing there?"

With a wry fondness, the corner of Sam's mouth twitched up slightly at Kris' earnest demeanor.  The flashlight's impact with the wall had caused a couple of tiny abrasions and the blonde had instantly spotted them, then started to question Sam, when the detective had come home.  "Turns out the woman was homeless, the kid was hers."

Kris returned her gaze to Sam's hand and carefully wiped the dried blood from one of the tiny cuts away, dabbing some anti bacterial cream on it.  "And she attacked you because?"  The blonde moved onto the next cut, noting how Sam's hand continued to stay rock still even though the abrasions had to sting.

"Guess she thought I was coming after the kid, it's hard to say.  The paramedics were saying with how she was raving it could be she needs medication and can't afford it but we won't know for a while."

Kris finished with the last cut and carefully looked Sam's hand over for anything she might have missed.  "What will happen to the boy?" Kris asked, thoroughly enjoying her lover's capitulation and the resulting care she had been able to give to her.  Not too much, mind you, Sam was being very, very good but too much attention would probably end that very quickly.

Sam thought about the question for a few seconds, she really didn't know what would happen to the boy.  He'd been so upset at the people taking his mom away that he'd let the kitten squirm out of his arms, it had limped away and that had made him even more upset.

That she'd chased the stupid damned kitten from underneath the dumpster, only to have it crawl behind some boxes and then up an open fire escape before Sam finally caught it were facts she had no intention of passing along.  She also had no intention of admitting that she and Lee and dropped the kitten off at the vet's and would be paying the emergency bill.

And, she really had no intention of letting Kris know that the boy would have definitely been in the line of fire if she'd had time to get her gun out.  Oh no, that one was a bit too scary to think about.

Instead, she replied, "Family services took him.  Hopefully, they'll find a relative."

"Will you help if they can't?" Kris asked, her eyes peeking up through long bangs.

Sam began to shake her head.  "Kris, I'm not ..."  With a deep sigh, she nodded.  "Yeah, I'll keep an eye on it and help them look for his family if need be."

Grinning, Kris brought the hand she was holding up to her lips and kissed it gently.  "Thank you."

"You know I probably would've checked on him anyway, don't you?"

"Yeah, but it's fun making you admit it."  Kris' nose wrinkled up and she playfully bit one of Sam's fingers.

"You're too much, you know," Sam ruefully admitted.

Still grinning, Kris stood, her bottom lip held firmly between her teeth, and tugged on the hand she still held.  "So I'm told."

"Trying to tell me something?" Sam asked, teasingly.

"Uh huh."

"And what's that?" Sam queried, sitting firmly right where she was, a smirk very evident on her face.

"Why don't you come find out."

Delighted at her lover's playfulness, Sam allowed herself to be pulled to her feet.  How tired she had been just a few minutes ago seemed to have faded into the distance.  "Have something in mind?"

"Uh huh," Kris repeated as she snaked a hand out and twisted a button on Sam's shirt open.

"Something specific?" Sam teased.

"Oh yeah."  Pressing forward quickly, Kris found her arms full of the tall detective.  Using surprise to her advantage, she drew the dark head down to her own and firmly captured the lips heading towards hers.

Nibbles and touches later, Kris drew back and looked into darkened blue eyes that were absolutely intent on her.  One hand remained against Sam's chest and could feel the pounding heart underneath.  "That give you an idea of what's on my mind?"

"Uh huh," Sam replied, bending her head down to claim the prize that awaited.

They parted again a minute or so later, their breathing even more elevated than before.

As Kris pulled her lover into the bedroom, she asked, "So, what happened to the kitten?"

Part Two