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.
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 and this specific episode doesn't even rate a scale, please be aware that it does touch on these subjects.
NOTES: I'm not a detective, lawyer or journalist and don't profess to play one on TV.  Anyone who feels like writing to me, I'd love to hear from you but this is my first attempt at Fan Fiction, and even if it wasn't, 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
SPECIAL NOTE:  Thank you to Inga for her invaluable assistance and support.  It would not have been completed without her.

Song lyrics used without permission and are the copyright of Melissa Etheridge, Faith Hill and Celine Dion.

Thank you Calli for this wonderful cover!!


Wide green eyes met equally shocked brilliant blue as a vivid stain blossomed on the tall woman's upper chest.

The owner of the brilliant blue eyes blinked slowly and dropped her dark head to absently track red drops running down her chest before they fell and hit the wooden floor, radiating tiny splashes.  The curses that ran through her mind, when it occurred to her that the tennis shoes some of the drops were splashing were a whopping two days old, would not have been for general consumption.

The green eyed woman had stood up in a flash and moved quickly towards her friend, grabbing a dish towel along the way. 'Oh God, "Murder in the 'burbs - News at ten!"  Pushing her blonde locks behind her ears, she very gingerly dabbed at the soaked, formerly white, cotton before looking up at her friend with apologetic eyes.  She peeked from under long blonde bangs.  "Sam, I'm so sorry."

The aforementioned Sam softly grasped the blonde's wrist and took the towel, taking up the task herself before muttering angrily.  "You know, Kris... I..." she began, her glacial blue eyes flashing and her skin flushing slightly, and then stopped as another blonde head peeked from behind the smaller woman's legs.

Kris cringed inwardly, anticipating her friend's annoyance, when her attention was distracted by the feel of small arms gripping her legs very tightly.  A quick glance up at Sam showed that she too was watching the little boy now gripping Kris as if his life depended on it.  She gently placed a hand on his head and he tilted it up to look at her, tears pooling in his eyes.  "Justin, you know better than to run in the house.  Especially with things in your hands."

The little boy hung his head and tears started to fall to the ground.  "I'm...I'm sorry," he whispered.  "I didn't hurt Rascal did I?"  The small boy indicated the golden Labrador that was sitting on the floor, her tongue lolling out and her gaze shifting from human to human with hope of attention, food or play.  Not in any particular preference of order.

With a deep sigh, Sam's gaze flickered to Kris before dropping again to the young boy still curled around his aunt's legs. 'You're such a sap, Foster,' she thought.  Admitting to herself that she couldn't be angry with either of the blonde heads before her.  Casting a quick glimpse at Rascal, the dog that Justin had just tangled with to create the mess on her shirt, she added a third blonde head to the list.

Young Justin had taken quite a shine to her, of course the fact that she'd helped him build a castle in the backyard out of material that had been earmarked for the garden and back yard might've had something to do with it.   She bit back a tiny smile at that thought.  'Of course, you'd never admit that you had a ball would you? Oh yeah, doing wonders for that reputation.  What're you gonna do to the next bad guy, kiwi strawberry 'em to death?  Mushball!'   "She's fine, sport."

Kris couldn't help trying to analyze the tiny emotions flickering across her friend's face.   She knew that most would see only the ice queen facade, never noticing the play of muscles on her face, the flicker of emotion in those baby blues and the way her body shifted from coiled tension to Š 'Hmm.  I could never call it relaxed, perhaps uh...less tense,' she thought to herself with a touch of a grin as she knew Sam was weakening.

Rolling her eyes when she caught Kris' tiny grin and instinctively knowing what it meant, Sam knelt before the young boy.  Laying one hand on her jeans clad knee, the other still holding the towel, she waited for him to bring his gaze up to hers.  The tall woman found it difficult not to smile when she realized that it took the young boy far less time to meet her gaze than it took most adults. 'Brave kid, gotta be in the blood.'.

Instead of smiling, she held his gaze for a few moments, until his almost audible gulp did her in and her heart zinged a bolt of pain that was registered with a slight narrowing of the eyes.   Shaking it off, the tall woman brought a finger to the damp spot on her blouse and pressed it into the fabric before bringing it to her lips and tasting.  "Kiwi strawberry.  At least you chose my favorite," she said trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to keep a quirky half grin hidden for a bit longer.

Hope brightened in the little boy's face and he stepped away from his aunt, his hands twisting together.  "I know, it's my favorite too," he said shyly to his hero of the day, then looked down at his scuffed shoes.  "I'm ... I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to.  I know I shouldn't have.  I was just in a hurry..."

Sam forestalled the torrent of words from the boy by standing up and tossing the dishtowel at him.  "Help me clean up, hmm?  And don't be running around here with things in your hands again, got it?"  With a firm nod and agreement the boy went to work on the floor, offering her a huge grin to which she shook her head affectionately and tousled his hair.

Her gaze moved to Kris, only to find a carbon copy of the boy's grin staring at her from her friend.  'Oh yeah, definitely the blood.'   A flicker of feeling on her foot caused her to glance down and notice that the golden lab, who had scooted close to her, was happily licking the juice from her shoes.  'Or maybe it's just the water,' she thought with a sigh.


"How's it look?"

The blonde turned to answer, a wide smile gracing her face causing an instinctive quirky replica on the face of the tall woman facing her.  "Pretty good, think we got it out soon enough.  Almost dry too, even though you'd sure up Molson's sales if you ran around out there in that." She indicated the t-shirt her friend wore that, combined with comfortable jeans, showed off her impressive figure most admirably.   Kris' eyes sparkled with amusement at the sour look on her friend's face.  "Well?  It's true!"

A snort was Sam's only reply until she followed it with a roll of her eyes, which was interrupted when something caught her attention in the huge back yard.

Kris turned quickly to see if she could determine the cause of the sudden stillness in the taller woman.  Seeing only family playing touch football, some of the older generation watching and kids both watching and playing their own version of catch she turned back and stepped closer, laying a hand on her friend's now rigid arm and said quietly, "Hey?"

Sam's mind was caught firmly in the memory of another day.  A roar of laughter and split second touch of the sun on one of the football players was all it took to take her back to the last time she'd done this with her own family.  She'd been about eight or nine and she and her family were at the park enjoying a rare family outing.  They'd had a great day; it was the last time they'd all been together.

The dark haired woman swallowed hard, her face a stone mask until the smaller woman's touch and obvious concern in her voice, not that Sam had a clue what Kris had said, brought her back.  The Detective blinked.


Sam swallowed again and took a deep breath before smiling slightly, "Sorry, mind's wandering - that stake out last night must've tired me more than I thought.  Let me go get some caffeine."

"Late night.  Right," Kris replied, obviously unconvinced, an eyebrow raised slightly, as she watched her friend turn and walk back into the house.  She started to turn back to the game and changed her mind with a determined shake of the head and paced after her friend who had stopped in the front room obviously unsettled.  "Sam, what is it?" she asked softly, placing one hand lightly on the taller woman's back and the other on her friend's arm.

Sam's breath caught momentarily at her friend's touch, so few had she allowed to get this close and this comfortable with her that it still surprised her when Kris was able to get within her defenses so easily.  She closed her eyes for a moment as the warmth on her back and the strength in the smaller woman's gentle touch soaked in.

"Please?" Kris started as the normally non-vocalized word whispered out her mouth, but she prepared for the normal rejection.

That rejection was on Sam's lips, the normal, "I'm fine.  Thanks, though," response that she knew saddened Kris whenever she used it.  The dark haired woman forced a tight smile on her face and took the breath to say it, then risked a glance at her friend's face.  The last completely derailed her.

So many emotions flickered across the blonde's momentarily unguarded face and eyes that the taller woman's heart felt as if it lurched in her chest. 'I did that?' Sam thought with a swallow as the tiniest amount of hope on Kris' face was quickly followed by disappointment and sadness before the blonde noticed felt her gaze and put up a brave smile.

The officer turned to fully face her friend, the words forgotten.  Unconsciously, her hand reached up and caught the arm that had been around her back and grasped it lightly.

Kris looked up into her friend's eyes, unable to move, speared by the intense blue.  She felt her heartbeat increase as she began to hope.   The flicker of fear that Sam would close the door again before letting her in shot from her stomach to her throat and almost broke her resolve.  Kris swallowed, hoping that her heart would get the idea and get back to the place it belonged and kept her gaze firmly on her friend.

Glacial blue eyes narrowed at the sight of the fear in Kris' eyes, her heart ached at the idea that she'd caused that fear for her friend, 'I'm so sorry.'  She looked away unable to voice her sorrow at the obvious pain she'd caused to someone that meant so much.

Her heart fell, again, as Sam looked away.  This time Kris wasn't sure if she could keep the tears unchecked.  'I'm an idiot.  Why would I think it'd be different this time?' The blonde had stuck with Sam through some very tough times, had sat through so much silence and anger from the taller woman that she didn't even know how they'd made it this far.  Eventually, though, the barriers had started coming down.

Kris thought back to the time in the hospital when Sam was trying so hard to reach for her own drink without asking for help.  She'd been so obstinate but the blonde finally grabbed the water glass, tilted the straw and put it up to the dark woman's lips daring her to comment with a flash of annoyance in her normally sparkling green eyes.  She'd been very pleased, but hadn't shown it, when Sam had reached for the glass, then, with one more look at Kris, put her arm down and accepted the offered assistance.  It was the first very small step on such a long path.

In the same few seconds, Sam's mind flew through the past couple of years, how they'd gotten to know each other, how Kris had tried so very hard to simply be a friend.  How the smaller woman had broken through Sam's emotional barriers a tiny piece at a time, leading to a smile and joke here and there, an agreement to go to lunch, a movie and so far beyond.  Giving it serious thought, it was almost startling to realize just how important this person had become to her.  'And I'm not even sure I knew you were doing it until it was too late.  Or did I?'

The slightest of smiles touched the tall woman's face as she, for the first time, fully relaxed into the buffer that Kris' warmth provided and took a ragged breath of relief.  The ache and sadness of the memories were somehow instantly softened and then tempered by the memories of the good times from that day.  Still facing Kris, but still not yet able or willing to look at her, Sam sat on the edge of the couch and pulled a very surprised blonde next to her.  Then she let the memories play again, only this time she included her friend.

Kris listened quietly, carefully not moving the arm that Sam still held but instead bringing her other hand up around the other woman's fingers and holding them securely.  Inordinately pleased that Sam had talked to her and told her about the memories instead of leaving as she usually tried to find a way to do, the blonde smiled slightly and said softly, "Sounds like you had a great time.  Did you win all the games?"

A snort.  "Of course!"  And a shake of the head followed by a soft, "Thank you."

Without much thought, Kris reached up and softly but quickly wiped an unnoticed tear from her friend's cheek before leaning her head on Sam's shoulder and whispering, "Thank you."  After a few moments of sitting quietly she felt her friend stir and in an effort to lighten the moment and her taciturn friend, Kris freed herself and stood quickly with a smile.  "So, how about that caffeine or can I interest you in some kiwi strawberry?"

A mock growl was the response.

The petite blonde just chuckled and danced away, heading for the kitchen to get them both a drink whilst trying to hide the enormous grin that threatened to break out on her face because of the step she felt her friend had finally taken.  ŒGod, it shouldn't be such a chore to get this far but - Oh yeah!'  She thought; thanking the powers that be for the day the tall, dark and gorgeous woman entered her life...

The blonde looked around and quickly spotted her mother and two siblings down the mall a little way.  With a big grin she moved quickly towards them, her long hair swaying in time with her walk.  She'd dressed comfortably, the jeans and yellow cotton shirt showing her trim figure quite effectively, garnering her some very interested looks whenever she passed the male of the species.

'Note to self:  Come here when I need an ego boost!'  She thought with a chuckle that turned into a gasp when she noticed one of the guys watching her wasn't watching his path and ended up bent over one of the stone benches the mall had for people to sit on.  He was obviously trying not to grimace.  'Bruised his shins I bet.'  The smile that said "I meant to do that!" on his face kept her from embarrassing him by asking if he was okay.

That didn't stop her mother's eyes from twinkling as she watched what happened in amusement.  Stealthily walking by the injured man from the other direction, she whispered in his ear, "Ice is great for bruises," and moved on, not even looking at his face.

Kris tried, unsuccessfully, to hide a smile behind her hand and then simply turned to face the ice cream stand as the injured man's face turned a boiled beet red after her mother walked past him.

"Hi honey, trying to tell us something?"  Her mother asked when she walked up, eyes still twinkling, indicating the ice cream shop they were standing by.

"Weelll, since we're here and I am supposed to get whatever I want, right?"

"Any or all thirty one flavors, you bet." Lisa Scott kept the banter light but could see disappointment in her daughter's face that her father wasn't there.  "Go on, you two, pick out what you want.  Birthday girl and I will be right behind you."  Sending Brooke and Brian ahead, the older woman laced her arm around her oldest daughter's shoulders and looked into the face of the one so like her own. "Enjoy the show back there, dear?" she asked innocently.

"Mother.  The poor guy was blushing up a storm, what did you say to him?"

Laughing, her mother replied, "Just some advice about bruising, daughter of mine."

With a sigh, Kris shook her head.  "Mom, you're terrible."

"Yes, I am and you love it."  They watched the two younger Scotts pick out their cones for a few moments.

"Dad busy tonight?"

Lisa tried not to flinch at the hopeful tone in her daughter's voice.  "Dad'll be here, honey.  He just had to work a little late on a case.  So, let's eat something really full of calories before he gets here and not tell anyone, sound like a plan?"

"I love you, mom," and a brilliant smile were Kris' only answers to her mother.  "Let's do dessert!"

Sam had been shopping for her intended's birthday.  Normally, she hated shopping but Steve had a love of certain boxers that a specialty store in the mall sold, so she'd picked up several pairs with imaginative designs.  Chuckling to herself about what his reaction would be she was completely lost in her thoughts when screams and many people stampeding in her direction broke her out of her reverie.

She'd stepped back into a store opening and tried to look around for the problem when a pair of terrified green eyes, set in a frame of long, strawberry blonde hair, caught her gaze and kept it until several more people ran past breaking the connection. The connection broken, Sam spent no time wondering about the vague familiarity that had hit when the blonde looked at her.

Terrified, Kris looked around in a daze trying to find one thing that she could hold onto, one thing to ground her so that she could figure out what to do.  They'd been finishing their ice cream and her brother was trying to talk their mother into seconds when screams from behind had caused Kris to bolt up and turn.  She had frozen when she'd almost turned right into the gun barrel in front of her.  The man wielding it wasted no time in grabbing the small blonde.

Kris finally found her own version of a safe harbor in the guise of a tall, dark haired woman on the other side of the mall.  The blonde found herself steadied by the strength in the startling gaze of the other woman and took a short breath of loss when people running by broke the gaze.  It had been enough.

Tossing her bag behind a store counter, Sam searched quickly for the gunman and the blonde, until she saw a dark blonde woman a little way down and across the other side of the mall.  The older blonde shoved two people behind her and talked calmly to someone that Sam couldn't see.

Lisa held a hand in front of her in a calming motion as the other waved her other two kids back into the store, "Sir, please don't hurt her.  Take me.  I'll do anything you want."  A sharp intake of breath that was Brooke and an angry growl that was Brian let her know that her other kids knew what she was doing.  "I'll walk out of here with you, no trouble, I promise you."

"SHUT UP!!!" He yelled, whirling from side to side.  Sweat dripped from his face.

Both Lisa and Kris started as the man yelled, mother and daughter looked at each other across the expanse that separated them. Only a matter of perhaps twenty feet but it may as well have been the Atlantic.

Swallowing hard, Kris tried to smile at her mother but only managed a weak grin.  Still, it was enough to get her started. "Let's just get out of here, okay?  There are way too many people here that don't want you here.  We can go somewhere quiet." She told the man quietly.

A dark eyebrow raised as sharp hearing caught the blonde trying to talk to the man.  'You've got guts, kid,' she thought as she waited for a couple of stragglers to run by her and used them, as she'd been using others, to shield her progress towards the armed man.

The man pulled back on the arm that was tight against her neck and Kris winced in pain.  "I said, SHUT THE FUCK UP!" he yelled at her and then turned to his right, sensing movement.  The sound was deafening as bullets flew, shattering glass and flesh.  A security guard that had been sneaking up dropped immediately.

Several people, most of which had been hiding in stores close by too afraid to run by the man with the gun, were caught by the shattering glass or bullets.  Brooke screamed as the gun went off and the man swung his gun back in the direction of the three people trying to take cover between a trashcan and a corner of the store.

Kris could see what was going to happen to her family, she struggled, trying to grapple with his arm, yelling, "NO!" before a weight hit and she felt herself falling.

The distraction caused by the blonde was all that Sam needed.  Powerful legs exploded in a burst of speed and she pushed off to launch herself at the man, catching his arm in a strong hold, painfully bending the wrist back.  All three fell to the floor in a heap as Sam kept a tight grasp on the man's wrist and arm, forcing it down to hit the floor first in a bone crunching blow.

His finger flexed on the trigger one last time, tiny chips flew up from the floor when a couple of bullets hit the stone stinging Sam's left arm and side of her face.   The gunman started to struggle, fighting against the weight that held him to the floor when the gun slipped from his injured grip.

Lisa Scott started to shakily stand as the man holding her daughter was taken to the ground.  Reaching out a hand against the cold store wall to steady herself, she took a couple of deep breaths and noticed Brian's arm supporting her, as Brooke asked her if she was all right.

Sam's long legs straddled the gunman as she struggled with him, one of his hands clipped her cheek and her eyes teared momentarily from the pain. 'Dammit!' She thought before drawing her arm back and releasing it in a powerful blow against the man's face.  His head slammed back against the hard ground and bounced up slightly before his eyes rolled back in his head and closed.

Quickly turning him on his stomach, pushing her long hair behind her ears, the police officer looked for something to restrain the man with before reaching for her braided leather belt and pulling it from around her waist.  Using the belt to tie his hands behind his back as best she could, she quickly looked over at the blonde who was staring at her with those wide smoky jade eyes.  "You okay?" she asked as she stood up quickly.

'Wow,' thought Kris as she watched the tall woman tie up the man who she'd been sure was about to shoot her family.  She stared in unabashed admiration until she realized that the woman's incredible eyes were focused on her and she was being spoken to.  "Uh Šyeah.  Ye...yes, I'm fine, thank you so much."

A nod and the touch of a quirky smile was the only reply as Sam's mind worked on the problem. "Anyone with medical experience, we could use your help here!" she yelled before absently reaching down and grabbing the blonde woman's arm to help her as she tried to stand up.

'Wow.' Kris' internal thoughts repeated as she felt the strength in the arm of the dark haired woman.  "Hey, you're hurt," she said as she noticed the spots of fresh blood on the tall woman's face and the arm she'd just been holding, she didn't let go right away.

"It's fine," Sam absently responded as she pulled away and flipped open her cell phone to call in, get some help and let them know an officer was on the scene with suspect in hand.  She then hurried over to help the injured and detailed another security guard to watch the gunman and secure the gun.

Nobody had ever found out what set Rudy Larson off but whatever it was really dug deep.  They'd found hundreds of rounds of extra ammunition in his house afterwards.  They'd found no note and had consulted family, friends and his co-workers at the law offices.  Nobody could give them any reason for him walking off the deep end that day.  He died soon after in a prison fight, without giving any explanation, another case closed.


Hardly a breath of wind stirred, the dust and heat made the simple act of breathing an effort as the small woman crouched, trying not to move too much.  Annoying beads of sweat ran down her back.  She took off her cap momentarily and wiped her brow with the back of a hand before putting the cap back on backwards.  Strands of strawberry blonde hair stuck to her neck.

Watchful eyes narrowed.

A tiny breath of wind stirred up an even tinier dust devil before everything settled quietly again.

A breath held, 'Not this one!' The dark haired woman shifted her weight back slightly.

Silence broken by a cough, the sound of a hard impact and the creak of leather.

'Come on, come on.' Kris shifted slightly, ready to move in an instant.

'Oh yeah, you are SO mine.'  Anticipation from Sam as the target moved enticingly close.

A sharp retort and they were off, shouts coming from every direction.

Kris looked up to see that she was being waved on past third base to home and kicked her after burners into gear as Sam reached long legs towards first base.  The right fielder grabbed the softball with her bare hand as it rolled to a stop and turned, momentarily distracted by Sam's dancing towards second base, before she threw the ball to home with all her strength.  A cloud of dust heralded the safe return of the team's third basewoman to the home plate.

Several joyous bodies converged as Kris was wiping large amounts of dust off her legs, she would have toppled over had not a large hand with long, thin fingers reached out and steadied her.  She grinned up at the owner of the hand.

A dark eyebrow rose as Sam looked over her friend.  "I've never known anyone who revels in dirt like you do."

"Hey, it's good dirt!"  Kris laughed back and chuckled even harder when she recalled the time a few weeks ago when she'd gotten so filthy she wondered if she ever be free of the dirt that got in a few places she was sure she didn't want anyone to know about.

Sam simply rolled her eyes and smiled at the antics of her winning team but couldn't help but remember the last time the team had been out on the field like this.  In one of her first games, the other team's shortstop had been deliberately causing trouble all game, a couple of times to Sam alone, but Sam's whole team had poured onto the field when she'd quite obviously stuck an elbow in Sam's face as she rounded second.  Sam had ducked to avoid it and slipped in the dirt but then instantly bounced up to stalk after the other player.

Kris' hand on her arm had been an instant balm to her temper but the sight of her friend turning from her and instantly getting in the other player's face had really calmed her down more.  Sam just laughed at the memory of her slight friend standing up for her and then smiled at the sight of her beaming friend. 'Damn, she loves this.'

"PIZZA after we get the trophy!!" the blonde yelled to the approval of her team.


"Three pitchers of whatever Lite on tap and a Sam Adams please."

A dark eyebrow rose again as Kris took the lead and ordered for them all, lightly shoving Sam in the direction of the tables.  "Uh, outside okay?"  At the affirmative nod, Sam stepped back outside and chose a group of tables with enough room for all of them in the cool, shaded area.

She leaned against a table, placed the winning trophy on it and enjoyed the calm before the storm.  'The things I let her talk me into but I guess it's been okay, not that I'd admit that anytime soon.'  A snort at the thought of Kris' ŒI told you so!¹ ended that internal conversation.

Watching her friend, Kris noted that, as always, Sam chose a place where she could sit with her back against a sturdy wall and have a good view of the surrounding area.  At another clerk's question, Kris moved over to order the pizzas and then directed her arriving troops to where her friend was sitting.

Sam's eyes scanned the area constantly but her mind kept track of various conversations, the very bright uniforms would've stood out anywhere.  'Trust Kris to pick the brightest thing there was.'  It amused her that besides the pitcher, Anne, only Kris' closest friends on the team, Maria and Jen, had chosen to sit at her table.  The not-so-brave others spread out over the other two tables.

She was sure that the rest still weren't completely comfortable with her, not that Sam minded, but she knew that Kris would appreciate her friends' support.  She briefly considered how much cooler Jen looked with her short brown hair trimmed close to her face before shaking her head and smiling at herself.

Nodding in agreement to a question from the team's winning pitcher, Anne, she noted Kris' imminent arrival at the table with a brief flicker of attention and smiled slightly at the conversation the woman was having with the clerk she'd gotten to help her with the drinks and glasses.  'Amazing,' she thought.  'In the space of two minutes she's already found out where they go to school, what they're studying and where they live.  I wonder how much she'd charge to do interrogations?'   The quirky smile was still on Sam's face when she continued her discussion with Anne.

Kris soon got settled across from Sam and handed the dark woman her Sam Adams and a glass.  "Great game, hmm?" she asked everyone.

What had been a disorderly amount of chat suddenly became a loud babble as everyone talked at once, not only to those at their own table but across the couple of feet to the other tables as well.  It was quickly determined that the game had been the best ever; that Kris' excellent coaching, Maria, the shortstop's, amazing backhanded catch that led to an inning end double play and Sam's perfect run stopping throw from left field were things they all agreed they'd remember forever.  The babble continued with more things being added to the list.

The twinkle in Sam's eyes betrayed her amusement as she looked over the women and settled on Kris for a few seconds.

Somehow feeling the regard, Kris finished what she was saying and swung her head around to face her dark haired friend and flashed her a big grin before turning back to be caught up in another conversation.  It wasn't until after the pizza arrived that Kris had time to take a breath.  Most of the group were munching contentedly but the right fielder, Jen, was leaning around the back of Anne to ask Sam a question and the police officer was concentrating on the response.

She let her gaze wander around the table in front of her.  ŒI wonder if she realizes that everyone at the table is listening intently to what she says?'   Kris' eyes had swept the table a couple of times when she caught the faintest hint of a blush on Anne's face.  The blonde noted that the slice of pizza seemed almost forgotten in the pitcher's hands as she stole several side-glances at the apparently oblivious Sam.

"Yep, it would've been foul anyway," Sam told Jen, and then nodded at Jen's response.  Leaning back towards the table that held her pizza and neglected Sam Adams, Sam noticed Anne looking at her and gave the pitcher an absent minded quick but full smile then grabbed her half eaten slice of pizza to resume eating.

Kris drank a gulp of beer and glanced at Anne again.  'Wonder if she's okay?'    At Sam's smile, the lovely shade of pink that adorned Anne's face had become several shades darker.  Kris noticed the red haired pitcher was still watching Sam, her eyes blinking and mouth slightly open.   Her own hearty pizza chewing slowed down a little and an odd tingle began in her stomach as she watched the pitcher. 'Uhhh?'  Unfortunately, it was her turn to blush when Anne caught her staring; the blonde recovered with a smile.  "Great game, Anne."

"Thanks, but we have a great team leader," Anne graciously responded to said team leader, then turned her upper body to Sam and placed her hand on Sam's back with a wide, friendly smile.  "And what a ringer you brought us!"  Which resulted in a chorus of affirmative responses.

Kris swallowed a smirk when Anne moved her arm around the shoulders of the rather surprised at the attention, doing a great deer in headlights impression, Sam.  'Oops, wrong move, Annie!' Realizing it was time for her to say something, she figured she better get her mouth in gear, "Yeah, she's great, isn't she?  We've got a great team all around."

'God, why did I let her talk me into this

 ?' Ran through Sam's mind a few times as she tried not to let her skin crawl from her personal space being infringed upon and the unwelcome attention being given to her.

Anne's arm stayed where it was.

Kris' brow crinkled for a moment and then she stood suddenly, lifting her glass.  "To a great team!" she toasted loudly, raising her glass in the common gesture of salute.

Sam's thoughts were interrupted when she found herself standing, pulled up to toast along with Kris and the rest of the team.  Pleased that Anne's arm was no longer around her shoulders, Sam smiled and toasted along with the rest but almost spluttered in her ale when she felt Anne's arm now snake around her lower back.  'Shit!'

Kris sat down abruptly, barely catching the glass she'd absentmindedly placed on the edge of the table.

'I wonder if Kris would mind me slugging her pitcher?'

 Sam gritted her teeth and looked over at her friend trying to gauge how annoyed she'd be or if she could look to her for some help.  Kris' brow was furrowed in what appeared to be deep concentration of her beer.  'Dammit, next plan.'  Sam contemplated for a few moments.  'Maybe I could just accidentally knock her off the bench?'

Maria slid over to Kris' side and bumped the blonde's shoulder with her own, a grin on her face.  Kris looked at her quizzically and Maria leaned in with a whisper, "You and Deb have the clubs picked out for Jen's party on Friday?"

Kris nodded with a grin and turned her face away from the table as she whispered a response, "We're set to go.  Vicki will have her ready on time, right?"

"Yep, she promises to have her ready if she has to handcuff her."  They both laughed and even harder when Maria wiggled her eyebrows.

Jen looked up at the laughter.  "Hey you two, already had enough beer or what?"

Maria scootched back along the bench to her previous spot.  "Not enough if you ask me!"  She took a drink and distracted Jen with a discussion on the best type of softball bat, which moved to her fiancé¹s recent choice of bats, which then led to several people having a discussion on the general 'yumminess' of Jen's intended.

When Anne seemed interested in the discussion, the police officer dropped her gaze to Anne's bare legs to try to get an idea of how easy it would be to do what she'd just been thinking, then twitched as the pitcher noticed her gaze and the arm around her back got a little more snug.  'Crap! Maybe just break her arm?'   She looked over at Kris again.

Kris took a sip of her beer.  'It's not as if she can't change her mind about people being close.  She's said I've helped her a lot...  It's great that she's doing so...'

As Jen blushed wildly, they spent a couple of minutes teasing her about his rear end and various abilities he might have.  Jen flashed a picture of a light brown haired man, with warm puppy eyes and a button nose to those who hadn't met him yet or seen the picture.  Finally, the uproar died down and they got back to their pizza, drinks and softball discussions.

Not wanting to draw obvious attention to her discomfort Sam blurted out the first thing that came to her mind, "Excuse me, need the ladies room."

A tall form rising from the table and heading inside interrupted Kris' rapt appraisal of her beer bubbles.  Smiling at her dark haired friend and receiving the same in reply, the blonde allowed her mind to wander back to when she started to get to know the dark haired woman...

Kris had tried to find out everything she could about the woman whose strength had reached out and secured her by sight alone during the horrible incident in the mall.  Finding information on the ŒGolden Girl¹, as some coined her and not always kindly, wasn't difficult if you were looking for citations for catching this or that crook, awards for bravery and so on; but Sam kept pretty much to herself privately and so that information was much harder to come by.

Kris' father had told her that Sam had a bit of a reputation as an Ice Queen but Kris had seen the depth in those eyes and smile and always sought Sam out when visiting her father or getting information for a story or case.  Although Sam started out somewhat distant, 'Now there's an understatement,' the small woman thought, Kris had persevered.  She'd actually managed a lunch once with Sam once when Kris' car broke down in the court's parking lot and Sam had been there for a trial.

Work as a clerk at an Attorney's office and as a part time reporter for the local paper had curtailed Kris' efforts somewhat, well...that and not wanting to seem like a stalker.  So it hadn't been until a few months later, when Kris had been leaving the hospital after visiting a friend who had just had a baby, that she began to get some more information.

'Someday I'm gonna get one of those damned key rings that you clap to find!' she fumed whilst fumbling around in her purse for her keys.  She'd absently noticed the sound of more than one siren getting closer, as she dug around, and turned as two ambulances came into the parking lot, pulling up to the emergency room doors, followed by two Police cars, one unmarked.  As her father stepped out of the unmarked car, Kris' heart dropped...instantly thinking something had happened to one of her family and she ran to him. "Dad, Dad!  Is everything okay?"

Captain Scott had just come from a scene that he knew he'd see in his mind for the rest of his life.  Two of his officers had been specifically targeted and cut down in a rain of metal; one was dead and the other too close to call.  When his daughter stood before him, holding his arms - obviously concerned and upset - it was almost too much but he croaked, "Two Officers, honey.  I have to..."

Kris saw the raven hair slip over the edge when the gurney's wheels hit the ground and her heart felt as if it skipped a beat.  Even from a little distance she could see the blood that clumped some of it together and she turned wide, frightened eyes to her father.  "Is that Sam Foster?"  Her father responded with a tired nod and she moved her gaze back to the gurney and watched them take it inside.

He lifted his hands and squeezed his daughter's upper arms gently, then released her.  "I have to go, hun, I'll talk to you later."

She'd wanted to follow him in but could only guess at the things he had to do now and didn't want to be a burden.  Instead, she'd contacted her mother and asked that she let her know what happened as soon as possible.  It wasn't until much later that night that her mother called and gave the details.

First indications were that the two officers who had been shot were apparently targeted because of the Department's, and their own part in that, crack down on various illegal activities.  She'd discovered that Officer Steve Kelly had been killed and Foster was still critical and they weren't sure if she'd pull through.

"I wonder if I could visit.  Think her family'd mind?"

"Actually, from what I understand she doesn't really have family.  But she's in ICU; I doubt you can get in."

"Yeah, you're probably right."

"She's still touch and go, sweetie."

"Yeah, I know."

"Are you coming over on Friday?"


"Barbecue okay?

"Yeah, fine."

"Did you talk to Brooke this week; she said she was going to call you about a paper she's working on."

"Yeah, Tuesday."

"I saw a pink dragon today."

"Yeah, mom.  It's just...what?"

With a slight chuckle, Lisa Scott explained herself, "Honey, if you're thinking that hard about it - just do it.  Lord knows I can never thank her enough for that day in the mall.  You know, that's a great idea...why don't we try tomorrow?"

"I love you, mom."

Kris brought her attention back to the here and now as Anne moved over to her side of the table and sat on the very edge of the bench, next to her.  "Hey.  Jen stinking up that side again?" she said with a toothy grin at the spluttering right fielder.

Anne smiled easily.  "Naa, just thought I'd check out the view from this side."

"Ah, gotcha.  You didn't want to look at my ugly mug anymore!"

Anne rolled her eyes and let a few moments pass by as she tried to decide how to ask something.  Indicating the retreating figure with a jerk of her head she asked, "She really is good, we gonna get her back for the next league?"

"I think so.  I'll do my best."  Silence reigned for a few moments.


Two hands reached for their respective glasses of beer and Kris' mind drifted again as the babble from the rest of the table and the other tables continued.

In the days after the shooting, try as hard as she might, Kris was unable to find out anything about Samantha Foster's family.  Her mom was known at the hospital as both a volunteer and the Captain's wife; therefore both of them were able to visit the injured officer.  Her mother accompanied her the first two times and sporadically after that as her work and family life took much of her time.

The second time they'd visited, they'd come across some of the Kelly family keeping vigil over their slain son's fiancé.  It was then that Kris overheard Mrs. Kelly tell her mother that Sam had been about six weeks pregnant and had lost the baby due to her injuries.  Two pairs of green eyes met in shock and sadness over the bowed shoulders of the devastated woman that was firmly held in Lisa Scott's arms.

Over the next few days, Kris visited at least once every day and frequently saw one of the Kelly's in Sam's room or around the hospital.  Officers stopped by too and Kris fielded the occasional phone call from interested parties.  One phone call had interested her right away, Michele had said she was a very close friend of Sam's from college and wanted to know if she could visit.

At Kris' explanation that the police officer was still in ICU, Michele had extracted a promise from Kris that she would call her the instant Sam's eyes opened and to please give her a message from Micki.  The other woman had called every day after that and Kris couldn't help really liking the woman who obviously adored Sam.

Eventually, the doctors had advised them that Sam was out of immediate danger and would hopefully wake up soon.  Eager to assist in recovery, Kris and Mrs. Kelly took turns reading to the still unconscious Sam as Kris had mentioned to the older woman that she'd heard that people in these situations could sometimes be stimulated by familiar voices.  They'd both picked out various classics and would read a chapter at a time.  When one of the family wasn't in the room, Kris would also recount details of her day and funny family stories.

About a week after the shootings, Kris had finished reading a chapter from ŒThe Hobbit¹ and looked over to see Mrs. Kelly dozing in a chair.  She smiled at the older woman who obviously cared about her friend a great deal and walked over to her chair, picking up a blanket along the way and using it to cover her as she slept.

The blonde walked over to the opposite side of the bed and looked down at her friend, gently moving a few stray dark hairs from her face.  Kris lightly touched Sam's cheek with the back of her fingers and wiped off a tiny bit of baby powder that had obviously gone astray when the nurse was in earlier.  Then a finger gently covered the tiny scar the police officer had picked up by her eyebrow when the gunman holding Kris in the mall had fired into the floor and the bullet had thrown up stone chips.  She felt slightly guilty, though, as she did so since she was sure her friend would never allow such intimacy if she were awake.

"Come back, Sam, please," the smaller woman whispered as her hand moved to lightly grasp Sam's. "We need you to come back.  I need you to come back. Please," she continued, rubbing her thumb against the back of the dark woman's hand, jumping slightly as she thought she felt a twitch but shook it off when nothing else happened.

"Micki called again today, told me to tell you that you need to wake up so you two can party like old times.  I'm to call her when you wake up, she'll come visit.  She would've already but some case was holding her up and, I quote:  I only want her for those baby blues and witty repartee anyway, so why should I visit if I can't have them?" Kris said this with a smile but it slipped into a sigh.

The small woman continued to whisper, keeping an eye on Mrs. Kelly to be sure she didn't wake her, "She's funny, I like her a lot.  She seems to care about you an awful lot, Hero.  Oh yeah, she told me about the nickname, seems like I'm not the only one you've saved."

She pushed back an errant lock of hair from her friend's face.  "Going to need a trim soon.  You know, if you stay in here much longer we'll run out of good stuff to read to you and you'll end up listening to Harlequin romances and bad poetry."

Kris' glance darted to the hand she held as she thought she felt another twitch.  "Roses are red, violets are blue, you're lying in this bed and I'm going to read bad poetry to you."

Another twitch.

"Try Sam, please?"

A flutter of eyelids.

"Come on, open up those gorgeous eyes."

Mrs. Kelly came to the other side of the bed, apparently awoken by Kris' excitement.  Encouraged by Kris smile and words, she leaned closer to the prone woman, laying a gentle hand on her shoulder.  "Sam, love, c'mon.  It's time."

The muted sounds of the hospital outside the room faded as both women waited.  The only reality was right there, right now in that hospital room and even the sounds from the machines in the room itself were muted

Twitching as if fighting every step of the way, bleary eyes finally opened, blinking slowly but often.  Her eyes seemed dulled somewhat by pain and drugs as tried to focus on the people around her, a tongue slowly ran over dry lips.

"Would you like some water?"

A few more blinks and a slight nod.

Kris held the cup and straw very carefully as the injured woman took a sip.  "Slowly now."  Brilliant blue focused on smoky jade and then moved over to Mrs. Kelly.

A sharp intake of breath and Sam croaked out, "Ste..."  After a moment of searching Mrs. Kelly's eyes Sam's breathing became erratic and her eyes closed in pain, jaw clenched tightly.

Knowing instantly that Sam was aware, simply by reading her eyes, that Steve was dead - Mrs. Kelly laid her hand on Sam's shoulder with tears running freely down her face.  "Love, all that's important now is that you get better.  All the Kelly's have been praying for ya, don't be letting us down now."

Anne's voice once again brought Kris out of her memories and she quickly blinked back some tears that had been pooling as the redhead said, "... glad I got to meet your mom tonight, Kris.  She's really great, I don't see my mom ever coming out to one of these things and that was your sister right?"

"Mom is great; she's always been so supportive of us.  She told me last night that she wanted to borrow the trophy to put on her mantle so she can brag about it the next time she hosts a Bunco game," Kris replied with a laugh.  "And yes, that was Brooke.  She's on break from college for a couple of weeks.  Sorry you didn't get to meet her, it was a bit crazy.  I asked them to come here but they had shopping to do."

"Oooh, Jen and Maria talk about your shopping habits all the time, they're legendary!  So it's a family trait?"

"Oh yeah!"  Kris caught snatches of conversations around the tables and wondered if Anne was here to be friendly or if there was some other reason since she'd never been interested in her family before.

"I was wondering..."

'Ah, here it comes.'

"So, how long have you known Sam?"

"A few years." 'Oh Geez, is this going to be another ŒTell me about Sam¹ chat?  I could make my fortune as her dating consultant with all the guys ... hmm, I've never had a woman ask me before.  Then again, a fortune's a fortune however you get it!  Heh!  Wonder if Sam would have a fit if she knew I was thinking about that?  Oh yeah!' Kris barely contained the grin threatening to cover her face then bit back a snort as Anne's head bobbed a couple of times as the pitcher considered the next question to ask.  'Something about work next?'

"She been a cop long?"

"Yeah, a while."  Kris mentally licked her finger and put the number one in mid air.  'Let's try for two, something about how I know her?'

Lips pursed slightly, Anne's head bobbed a couple more times.  "I guess you got to know her through your Dad then, since you said she worked for him?"

"Yeah, she does and sorta.  She helped me out once." 'Just how do you spell "understatement", Kris?'  The blonde wondered idly where her highly vaunted Œway with words¹ had taken off to and if she should send a Search and Rescue team to look for it.

"Yeah, she seems to be a good one to have on your side." Anne's voice became little more than a whisper, "She must work out a lot.  I'd kill for abs like those.  Have you seen 'em?"

Glad she hadn't just taken a drink, Kris unsuccessfully fought the blush that felt as if it was taking over her entire body.  'When did...?'  "UnhŠ well."  A clue, in the form of a light bulb flashing on in Kris' mind, showed up.  "Uh yeah, we work out together sometimes, she's taught me a lot, so I've been up close and personal and they are awesome."  Kris flashed a wide smile at Anne and kept the smirk to herself.  Anne's eyebrow rose and the blonde could only think that Sam did it much better.  'Then again, what doesn't she do better?'

'Huh?  Up close and personal with whom

 ?'  The tall and dark Œringer's¹ eyebrows both shot high beneath dark bangs as she returned from the interior of the restaurant.  She briefly wondered if she shouldn't just turn right back around and return to the safety of the restrooms but decided to tough it out and continued on her path back to the tables.

Anne wasn't sure what she should be more curious about, the grin on Kris' face, her apparent reluctance to talk about her friend or the blush she'd caught.  'Interesting.'  Anne filed all of this away for future reference as she caught Sam's return and immediately smiled as she stood, indicating that Sam should lead the way back to their side of the table.

'Oh no, not this time.'  "Go ahead, I just need to ask Kris something real quick." As soon as Anne moved back to the other side of the table, Sam took the opportunity to sit by Kris still keeping the smile on her face.  'Okay, now say something.'  "Hey." 'Good God, need a dictionary much, Samantha?'  When Kris turned to her and smiled, Sam continued quietly "Great pizza, you sure I can't help with the money?"

Kris scrunched up her nose a little, "Naa, I collect a little extra at the start of the season to pay for stuff like this so it's fine.  You came in after I collected and we have plenty."

"You really sure?" 'Brilliant, Sam.  Writing a thesis next?  What are you doing here?'

"Yeah," Kris paused for a moment as she was caught in an ocean of blue then caught Anne watching carefully.  The blonde leaned slightly against Sam and loudly whispered, "Besides, we want you to come back for the next season."

Looking at the smiling faces who had heard that loud whisper, Sam could only groan inwardly and pray that the rest of the week wasn't shaping up the same way.



Two deep brown eyes set in a grizzled face watched the young blonde walk bounce through the door and hand Patricia, the copy editor, various papers.  He waited until she was close to his office and then motioned for her to enter his office.  "That the Anderson Mill story?"

"Yep, talked to the guy they fired yesterday and got some very good information.  I think you'll like it," Kris replied as she walked into the office and approached the desk.  Her fingers started up their normal twitching as she noticed his crooked tie and, as always, wanted to straighten it.

"Great.  I'll have Pat put it through quickly and take a look.  You're not staying too late tonight, right?"

"Naa, I won't.  Just want to get something started on an idea I want to run by you soon."  Before Leo could start to worry, she held up a hand and indicated she wasn't finished, "Don't worry, they're just some ideas I had for new stories that I wanted to run by you."

Leo nodded slowly and lifted his chin slightly, as if steeling himself for something.  "So when you giving up trying to be a lawyer and coming to work for me full time, kid?"

A light laugh answered him.  "You know that won't wash with the folks, Leo.  Plus, I think I'll make a fine lawyer." She put her hands on the front of his desk, leaned in and challenged with a sparkle in her eye.  "Don't you?"

He instantly folded.  "Aw kid, you know you would.  You could talk the tail off a donkey, those courtrooms have no chance against you."  Leo had a soft spot for the blonde who'd walked in one day a few years back and put several excellent stories, with pictures she'd taken, on his desk and then spent two full hours explaining not why she needed a job but why the paper needed her.  By the time she was finished, she had a part time job, the desk she wanted (by the window, of course) and had Leo so completely under her spell that he was speechless.  That was the first time the old time news hound recalled being without words in a very long time.

He bit back a fond smile, sensing she might take it as an insult with what he was going to say and softened his voice, "Kris, I know I don't say this often but you're a damned good reporter.  I really wish you'd consider it, the paper wou ... hell, I would hate to lose you when you get even busier at law school."

Kris pushed away from the desk and sat in the old chair behind her, it creaked and groaned, a shy yet brilliant smile on her face.  "Thanks, Leo. That means a lot," she said quietly.

Leo took a breath at the sight before him, knowing he'd put that smile on her face.  Just by the simple truth, she truly was an excellent reporter.  He'd never seen anyone so adept at bringing out the stories from nothing.  'And,' he thought wryly, 'having the stories come to her on more than one occasion.'  He started to remember one such occasion when Kris' voice brought him out of his memories.

"... enjoy this.  But I can do so much more as a lawyer.  Help the good guys, put the bad guys away and all that great stuff."  During Leo's musings, she'd stood again and had moved to one of the windows in his office.  Her eyes caught the people scurrying about in the rain down below and followed them for a few moments, saying nothing.

Leo frowned and wondered if he hadn't pushed too far about her staying with the paper.  As he took a breath to apologize she turned around, looked directly at him and smiled.

"It'll work out.  You'll find someone much better than me."  With a wink and a wave she was out of the office and sitting in front of her computer getting ready to type up a story.

Leo followed her progress and couldn't help saying very quietly, "Not likely, kid."

With a groan Sam turned to reach in the back seat for the jacket she'd thrown back there earlier.  'Had to stretch for that catch last night, hmm?'  She'd put on the black duster due to the rain but was far too cold blooded to wear it once she got settled in the car.  A last second was spent picking up the folders from the seat beside her and then the dark haired woman stepped out into the light drizzle, wondering for the umpteenth time when she was going to put the damned automatic garage door opener in.   With a half turn, she pressed the button her key chain and the locks clicked shut followed by the sound of a short beep.

In a matter of seconds, she was turning off the alarm, shifting everything to her left hand and arm, then opening the door.  She'd been in the house for more than a year now but it still gave her a bit of a thrill to walk in and know it was hers.  'Well, and the bank's.' It was the first house she'd lived in since being a young child and Sam had taken quite some time to pick out the place she really wanted after getting herself fit and back to duty.

Though in a quiet neighborhood, the alarm was still necessary due to her work and it certainly didn't hurt to have some extra protection since Kris, 'the trouble magnet herself', was frequently over.  Sam grinned at the thought of her friend and the cartoon cloud of trouble she seemed to brew up just by her presence.  Absently grabbing her keys from the door, she pushed it closed with her upper arm as she fumbled with the folder sliding out of her other hand.


Folder, keys and jacket all dropped as Sam reached for her gun and spun towards the door just in time to see a small black animal dart towards the kitchen, leaving a few black tufts of hair in the door jam.

"DAMMIT!  No you don't!"  Sam raced into the kitchen only to come to an abrupt stop to look at the placid figure waiting for her.

"Yow?" Blink.

"No, no.  Your mom isn't here.  Why don't you go visit her?  I'll rent you a cab."  She moved closer.


A quick grab attempt failed as the cat moved just out of reach garnering it an impressive lip snarl from the tall woman.  She shook her finger at the black cat.  "Listen, you.  You do not belong here.  I don't have time for a cat and don't care what your mom says.  Okay?  So let's get you out of here."

The cat moved to keep a distance from the woman but stayed in the kitchen.

Sam moved to the closer back door, opened it wide and then returned to the kitchen.  "SHOO!!"  She made shoveling motions with her hands as she approached the now seated cat.

Blink.  Blink.

"Calm.  I can do calm."  Sam nodded to herself a few times bolstering her confidence, one hand on the kitchen counter.  Softly, "You know, your mom should never have fed you and let you in when I was at that conference then used that slimy excuse that her apartments don't allow cats."  The human hunter stopped briefly and shook her head.  "I'm talking to a cat." Then sidled closer to her prey as said prey watched lazily.

It was convenient for the tall woman to forget that whilst it was true that Kris had let the cat in when house sitting, the blonde had taken great pains to apologize for the intrusion.  Kris had done so only because the cat had run right into the side of her car or tire one day trying to escape one of the neighborhood dogs that had gotten out of its yard.

Afraid she'd injured the unconscious animal badly, a trip to the local vet had been in order and although it seemed nothing was broken, the vet had suggested she keep a close eye on it for a few days.   Of course, Kris had persuaded Sam to keep food and water outside for it since then and it returned every night.  This wasn't the first attempt at getting in the house but Sam was determined it would be the last.

The human moved closer and closer, slowly and carefully closing the distance between them.  She cautiously reached out with a finger and petted the side of the cat.  Sam's experience with cats had found outdoor cats to usually have a rougher fur than indoor and it always surprised her that the fur on this cat was always very soft.  "That's it, good kitty." Still moving slowly, she moved the rest of her fingers towards the cat and, as she felt a little movement, tried to grab its midsection.

Her fingers closed around its skin and the cat did an amazing leap straight up to one of the kitchen counters, scrabbling once it got on top.  A claw caught in the drainage board and the board slipped over to the side.  Several pieces of silverware dropped on the ground making quite a clatter and a couple of the dishes that she'd done a less than stellar job of making sure they were the right side up to dry that morning tilted, dripping water onto the counter and floor.

"Dammit!"  Sam's frustration was growing, she stalked towards the cat and it took off like a shot or it would have if it's back legs hadn't slipped in some the water on the kitchen counter.  The hunter blinked at the cartoon sight and that was long enough for the prey to regain traction and take off.  Human eyes widened as she watched the cat run across the burners and brush her tea kettle to the edge of the stove, the tea kettle wobbled on the edge of the stove.

As she lunged for the kettle, the cat chose the moment to jump off the counter right next to her.  Attention divided she tried to catch both.  The cat easily slipped away and the kettle teetered on the edge of her fingers before also slipping away.  Physics and fate did their work, the lid came off and water showered Sam's lower half, the cabinets and the floor on the way down.

The sound of the kettle hitting the ground reverberated around the kitchen, not to mention in Sam's ears, and more water splashed against the cabinets and her Dockers clad legs.  The kettle settled between her feet, rocking wildly a few times before coming to a stop against the handle.

The tall woman blinked as she looked at the mess and turned to look for the perpetrator of this foul act and perhaps do something violent.  "I dare her to say anything when we bury you, I just dare her!" she yelled, presumably to the four-legged intruder.

As she moved, she noticed that the water on the kitchen floor had pooled in some areas and at the same time that, unfortunately, her tennis shoes had little traction left.  A split second later she slammed into the counter trying to keep herself upright, a groan escaped her lips as her already protesting muscles let her know they were not happy.


Kris propped up her chin in her hand and breathed a deep sigh that fogged the window slightly as her eyes tracked various raindrops moving down the pane of glass.   Even though she watched the drops, her mind was on the conversation she'd had with Leo when she arrived and the unease it created within her.  She loved working for the paper, it was a true outlet for her creative spirit and challenged her constantly but she'd wanted to be a lawyer and right the wrongs of the world since she was a kid.

The small girl looked to her father in awe, her green eyes wide and fixed on him as she absorbed what he'd said about his job and the dangers it held.  Kris' teacher had given the class a project to do that pertained to finding out more about their parents' jobs.

He tried not to smile at his obviously quite serious daughter.  As usual, she'd taken the project to her heart and he felt like he'd just gone through an intense grilling in an interrogation room.  He and Lisa had discussed dangers of his job and the potential dangers it could bring to the family with the kids, of course, but they'd never discussed the details as he'd done today.  He felt the need to try and take at least some of the fear from her eyes.  "I try to make a difference, punkin.  That's the most anyone can do."

She nodded slowly.  "I want to make a difference too, Daddy."

That's when it had started.  She'd thought about going into law enforcement like her father but it seemed as if every time she'd headed in that direction something had come up and gotten in the way.  Like the family trip to Aspen, somewhere she'd always wanted to go skiing, when she was supposed to go on the ride-alongs that had been setup with the police department by the job counselor.  'Not that I had to go to Aspen but of course I didWonder if they even do ride-alongs anymore?' she wondered and glanced over to Leo's office as movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention.

The blonde smiled softly, Leo did obviously not like what he was being told on the phone.  He was doing a great impression of a wounded duck with his flapping arms and mouth that was opening and closing rapidly.  Her nose wrinkled in pleasure at Leo's rapture over the interview she'd had with the man who had been fired from the mill and the records he'd Œaccidentally¹ taken with him when he left.

The records, along with the other bits of proof Kris had picked up, were certainly the final straw for Anderson Mills.  Public outcry would take over once the story broke of how the mill was illegally cutting through acres of protected forests.  Justice would be done. 'Yeah, justice will be done.  Wonder if I'll ever have to go to trial with something like that.'

Kris was pretty sure that if Leo could've eaten his tie in glee, when he called to hold the next day's front page until the story could be added to it, he would have.  His call to some of his friends at the Police Department to make sure they knew what was going on wasn't much better.  She chuckled softly.

He'd been so cute when he was talking about the police before making the call, "Gotta keep 'em on your side!" He'd said and then looked up at her with some chagrin.  "Guess you don't have to worry about that with tall, dark and gorgeous on your side.  What did she think?" He'd asked.   She'd found it odd at the time, this type of thing certainly wasn't Sam's bailiwick, but afterwards had realized that she did talk over her stories with Sam a lot.  'I wonder how he knew that?'

She smiled remembering Sam's protectiveness following Kris' disclosure that her lead from the mill had obviously found her attractive and she felt an invitation out was forthcoming.  Her tall friend had tried to insist that Kris shouldn't trust him, that he might be doing all of that just to get her alone.  Sam also insisted that she would come with her to the last interview and only Kris' fervent objections leading to that impossibly and endearingly cute "I'm sorry.  I ... well, I wasn't even thinking you might be interested too.  That was stupid," from Sam.  'As if I was interested in him.'  Kris chuckled to herself.

Kris' eyes continued to follow drops down the glass, one started almost at the top of the pane and she kept her eyes on it only to be bemused when another drop hit the window close by.  Both drops veered towards each other, eventually merging and continuing down the glass as one.  She threw another quick glance to Leo's office and picked up the phone.

After a couple of rings the other end of the line was picked up, only to have a loud "YOW!!!!" and out of breath, "Hel... Dammit!" mix together on the other end.


A hurried breath then, "Ah.  Judas!  Just the person!  Are you going to want to buy an urn for this damned thing's ashes when I take it off the bonfire?"

"Uh..."  The perplexed woman pulled the phone from her ear for a second and just looked at it before putting it back against her ear.  "Sam, what's going on?  Are you okay?"

"Am I okay?  Ask your damned CAT that!"

"Is Cat okay?"

"Your CAT is fine.  My dishes, silverware, kitchen floor and tea kettle aren't, though.  Neither are my tennies.  Again.  It's going to die tonight!"

"What the heck happened?"

"I should take it to the prison the next time I visit and leave it, it would fit well.  Better yet, maybe I can get it put behind bars for breaking and entering, malicious mischief and destruction of my property!"

Kris bit her bottom lip lightly to try and stop the laugh that bubbled up.  "Now Sam..." she compressed her lips to try to get control but Sam's continued annoyed muttering was not helping.  "It's ju... just a cat."  Never one for much control over laughter, it escaped and tumbled out of her as she unsuccessfully fought to control it so that her friend wouldn't be too upset.

"Are you finished?"  The out of breath and no nonsense voice asked when Kris' attempts to stop laughing took hold.  Sam was glad that her friend couldn't see the hint of a smile that was twitching to life on one side of her lips.  She shook her head ruefully and wondered idly if the fact that, more often than not, Kris was able to instantly take her out of a bad mood with just her voice or her presence was really such a surprise.  'Is it?'

"Yes, I'm sorry." 'Damn!'  Her mood was instantly dampened by her friend's tone.  "What happened?  Are you okay?"  When there was no response, Kris began to get a little worried.  ³Sam?  I'm really sorry, it's jus..."

"No, no.  It's fine," Sam interrupted, a decision made.  "Sorry, my mind was playing leap frog there."  She took a deep breath and spilled out, "You want to come over and maybe have some dinner?"

Kris blinked at this abrupt change and unexpected invitation.  "Unh...You sure everything's okay?"  At the confirmation from the other end, she continued, "Well ... er ... yeah.  I'd love to.  Can I bring something?"  She was still a little worried that something was wrong and a frown appeared on her face as her mind whirled around what had been said so far.

"Well, apart from yourself without the frown and maybe some of that green stuff you like, nope!"

"How'd you...hey wait, green stuff?  That green stuff is salad and it's good for you I'll have you know!"

"The lack of it hasn't done me any harm so far has it?"  Sam chuckled.  "And I can tell when you're worried, my friend, there's no reason to be.  I...well..."  She floundered a little, "I was pretty annoyed about the cat, you know?"  And then continued quickly, "And if you mention that to anyone I'll have to kill you.  So, just get over here so we can eat and you can get this damned furball."

Kris smiled into the phone.  "Aha!  I knew there was ulterior motive!  You just want me for my animal catching skills!"

Sam wasn't prepared for the twinge that hit her stomach at her friend's statement but she recovered quickly.  "Yep, that's it entirely.  So when will you be here with your green stuff?"

"My green stuff and I will be there in about forty five minutes, that work?"

"Yep!  Still have the key and codes?"  Hearing Kris respond that she did, Sam finished off, ³Okay.  Come right in.  See you in a few."


"Great, what do you do for an encore?  You've got water all over the kitchen floor, a cat running loose, a zillion files to go through before tomorrow and just offered to cook dinner for..."  Sam shook her head as she mopped up the mess on the kitchen floor with her handy dandy all-purpose mop buddy and put the tea kettle, etc. back where they should be.  "God, what'm I thinking?  What am I going to cook?" she asked herself aloud surveying the kitchen floor for any items she missed and running a hand through her dark hair.  "Okay, calm down.  At least you know how to broil stuff and you went to the store the other day."

Sam moved to the refrigerator and smiled when her memory proved correct.  The smile turned to a small frown of puzzlement when she realized that she was looking at two chicken breasts and two steaks.  The tall woman kept one hand on the fridge door to keep it open but turned her head to look at the bowl in which she kept her potatoes.  An eyebrow rose when she counted four Idaho spuds looking at her.  'What in the hell?  Buying for two now, Sam?'

Letting that thought lie, Sam stretched and grabbed two potatoes then turned back to the fridge.  A movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention when she started to place items from the refrigerator onto the counter.  "Oh don't even think about it, you're not getting one iota of this dinner," she announced to the small figure peeking around the corner watching her.

The figure merely looked at her, seemingly completely at ease, and continued to keep an eye on her as it set about cleaning fur when the various pans and cooking necessities came out of the drawers and cupboards.

She bent down to rummage through the door of the refrigerator.  "Ooh, I still have some of that ginger sauce stuff.  Excellent."  A plastic container of gooey, brown sauce joined the items on the counter, a quick glance confirmed it was still well within the date to use it.  One more quick glance netted some cheese and half an onion, still fairly safe to use, in a baggy, then Sam closed the refrigerator door.

Turning, she opened a cupboard and frowned when she didn't find what she wanted.  She looked in another cupboard with the same result.  "Crap!  I hope I have some."  Another cupboard was closed, another opened.  "Eureka!"  Placing the garlic pepper on the counter she set about preparing the food.  "Let's see if you remember how to do some of this stuff, kiddo."

A knock on the front door, about ten minutes later, found Sam singing quietly to herself and making her food preparations.   She looked at the door with a scowl but a quick look at the clock made her realize it was almost certainly Kris.  She yelled, "Kris, if that's you.  Come in!"  There was a pause of a few seconds and then Sam heard the key in the door and smiled, continuing with the final steps of basting the chicken.

"It's me, with green stuff in hand."  Kris admired the warmth of the home, as she always did.  The wood and earth tones were so very much Sam and yet showed a side of her friend that the blonde was sure not many knew about.

Two voices fought for space again with a, "Kitchen!" and "YOW!" at the same time.

Laughing, Kris poked her head around the corner of the kitchen and was instantly greeted by a joyous feline.  She looked down.  "Hey Cat.  I've missed you too, but let me put this on the counter, okay?"

The cat stopped trying to twine itself around her legs and watched her instead.

"I swear you talk more to that thing...," Sam muttered as she saw the cat waiting for her friend, then she brought her gaze to Kris and met her friend's warm smile with a smile.


"Hey.  Glad you could come," Sam replied softly.

"Thank you for asking.  I wasn't sure if I'd ever see you doing any cooking besides burning barbecue and cat flambé, of course."  Kris grinned broadly and crinkled her nose, catching her bottom lip with her teeth, as she watched her friend carefully.

An eyebrow rose high under dark bangs and the familiar glacial gaze pinned her in place.

"Uh, now wait, wait!"  Kris put her hands up in the air, package of pre-made salad and another brown bag as well, in a placating gesture and stepped back a couple of steps, still grinning.  "I just meant that I've never seen you cook anything but barbecue, that's all.  It wasn't your fault the thing caught fire and certainly not your fault that Cat loves you!  It's your natural charm!"  The blonde tried to put her grin away but just couldn't manage it.   It grew as she remembered the take out Chinese food they'd ended up with the night of the Œburning barbecue¹ and how much they'd laughed after Sam had finally calmed down.

The eyebrow stayed firmly in place.  "And you wanted to eat tonight, did you?"

"Oh yeah!  I can't wait, I'm sure it'll be great!"  Kris gingerly stepped closer to the counter and placed the salad on top along with a couple of bottles of different flavored salad dressings from the bag.  She kept an eye on her friend as she tried to dig the last bottle out of the bag.  "I think I remember you liking Honey Mustard but I wasn't sure so I picked up ... Augh!"  Kris smiled slightly.  "You love doing that to me, don't you?"  Referring to the fact that Sam was now standing on Kris' side of the counter and Kris had no idea how she'd gotten there.

"Doing what?  Talking to you about fires and so on?"  Sam asked as blue met green from now only a few inches away, a dark eyebrow still raised and jaw set.  'No need for her to know I forgot about the floor still being wet and almost dislocated my shoulder doing that move.'

Kris swallowed and drew a breath as she folded up the bag in her hand.  "I ..."  She looked up into a pair of twinkling baby blues and swatted at her friend's arm.  "Brat!"

With a low rumbling chuckle, Sam said, "Honey mustard's great.  Guess that means I have to eat green stuff, huh?"

"Naa, not if you don't want to."  Kris stepped out of Sam's way as her friend went back to preparing the food.  Unable to control the curiosity she'd kept inside for quite some time, she blurted out, "Ever going to teach me how to move that quietly?"

The twinkle dwindled somewhat in Sam's eyes and she turned to the oven.  "It takes a lot of practice."

Kris wanted to pursue that but felt a barrier coming up and that was definitely not what she wanted tonight.  The cat distracted her by wrapping itself around her legs and so she stooped to pet it, then picked it up and brought it to her chest, stroking all the while.  "Come on you, let's put you out."

"Thank you!" Sam sighed with relief until she noticed the direction the blonde was headed.  "Uh, where you going?"

"To the garage?"

"Garage?  But it can't get out if you put it in there."

"It's raining, Sam.  I'll put some food and water out there, plus his litter box is out there anyway."  Seeing her friend start to get that "clenched jaw" look, Kris quickly adjusted,  "Please?  I'll let him out before I leave, okay?"

Inwardly sighing at her complete inability to say no to her soft hearted friend, Sam just nodded and closed the oven door on the food.

Fearing she'd already worn out her welcome, Kris turned away and looked at the cat for a few moments before altering her direction from the garage to the front door.

Sam looked over her shoulder in time to see a tiny bit of a dejected slump in Kris' shoulders and instantly frowned.  'Dammit, Sam!  What the hell are you doing?'

Kris had only taken a couple of steps when she ran into a tall and warm body.  "Gack!"

Miraculously, Sam spilled neither food or water bowl in the slight collision.  "Garage is thata way," she pointed with her head.

Kris opened her mouth to apologize and stopped at the warm smile on her friend's face.

"You're right, c'mon."  Sam moved a step away and then looked back at her friend, smiling gently.  "I'm sorry, guess I'm a bit crotchety after a long day and chasing that devil in a cat's body.  Let's get it settled in the garage and then work on our dinner, okay?"

Kris simply smiled and followed the tall woman.  'Dinner and an apology in one night?  I gotta write this one down!'


"Sam, this is great!  The cheese and filling in the middle of the chicken is wonderful.  You've been holding out on me!"

"Naa, not really.  I can cook three things, you've just had a taste of two," Sam replied, somewhat sheepishly, as she indicated the few remaining pieces of chicken and steak on Kris' plate.

"Well, you can cook them for me anytime.  You have to tell me what this ginger stuff is, it's great."  The blonde glanced up at her friend.  "So, what's the third?"

Sam peeked up through dark bangs.  "Spaghetti."

Amused, Kris took a sip of her wine and looked over at her friend, then waved a fork over her plate as she said, "Let me get this straight, you can whip up a great tasting steak, put together a wonderful chicken dish and then spaghetti?" A blonde-red eyebrow rose slightly.  "Where did the spaghetti come from?"

"My wonderful college career, of course," was the snorted response.

"A roomie?"

The dark haired woman's chair creaked slightly as she leaned back, glass in hand and a smile quirked the corners of her lips as she nodded.  "Micki.  The Italian part of her mixed heritage comes with a wonderful recipe for spaghetti, I had to learn or risk being disowned and thrown out."

Kris chuckled.  "As if she'd ever disown you."

Sam just chuckled softly.

"Have you spoken with her lately?" the blonde asked as she speared another piece of chicken from her plate.

"Yeah, she hopes to be coming down for a case in a few weeks.  It'll be nice to see her."

"Think I can meet her this time?" Kris asked, after a quick swallow.  She'd missed Micki's promised visit after Sam regained some of her strength in the hospital due to a long planned family vacation.  At the lack of an immediate response, she looked away from her plate and was a bit surprised to see the thoughtful look on her friend's face at the request and the curiously telling gesture of Sam plucking at a non-existent thread on her sleeve.

"I think she'd like that, she was sorry to miss you last time," Sam replied.  'Not to mention full of questions about you.  I hope you're ready for more of the same, Sam.  Her memory played back Micki's response to her own "She's a good friend, Mick, that's all," the laughing response of "Uh huh." echoed around her brain a couple of times.  She knew that Kris was able to understand her better than just about anyone ever could and didn't want to pursue this line too far with her all too perceptive friend.  "You still gonna help me find an outfit for Jen's wedding?"

Kris looked at Sam with mock disapproval.  "Dress.  We're going to find a dress."

"Aw, Kris.  There's some great stuff out there that I can be comfortable in."

"Nope!"  Kris waggled a fork at her friend and grinned mischievously.  "You promised that I could help you choose a dress and that's what we're gonna do.  Got me?"

The dark haired woman frowned.  "It's not like I'm actually taking part in anything and I don't even know how you talked me into this anyway."

A tinkle of a laugh from the blonde.  "As if I could talk you into anything you didn't really want to do!  I could probably make a fortune selling the rights on how to do that if I ever figured it out."

Sam spluttered a little, "Hey!  I'm not THAT bad."

Kris looked away and whistled.

"Oh fine.  Be that way," Sam teased and then asked as she mentally smacked herself for not asking sooner, "Hey, how'd the story go over?"

"Well..." Kris blushed slightly and paid enormous attention to her glass of wine.  "Looks like front page headline material for tomorrow."

Sam smiled a rare full smile and gazed fondly at her friend.  "That's great, Kris!  Then again, you deserve it and more for the story you got.  You worked really hard on that and you're great at it."

Jade green eyes flashed up filled with gratitude and Kris flushed slightly.  "Thanks, Lou seemed really happy."   She ran her finger around her glass and smiled a full smile.  "It's my first real first page scoop."

Slightly stunned by the smiling vision across the table, blue eyes blinked a few times as their owner's mouth got very dry and her stomach seemed to contract.   She licked her lips as she quickly admonished herself, 'No, no, no, you can't do this,' and then tore her gaze from the blonde and cleared her throat.  "Definitely won't be the last."

Kris watched her finger as it traced meaningless figures on the wine glass.  "Lou ... Lou wants me to work with him full time."

Dark brows contracted and Sam looked up in surprise as she mentally kicked her recalcitrant body into order.  "He's a smart man."  She then sipped from her glass and twirled it very slowly between her fingers, watching the tension play across the blonde's face before carefully asking, "Is that what you want to do?"

Troubled eyes looked up.  "I'm supposed to be a lawyer, remember?"

The chair creaked again as the occupant leaned forward and protective instincts flared up.  "You're supposed to be whatever you want to be, Kris.  Nobody has the right to decide but you."  Sam knew that Kris' parents wanted her to become a lawyer but Sam had never been sure that was really Kris' preference.  At her friend's silence, Sam pressed, "Kris, what do you wanna do?"

Sam's all too seeing gaze was too much for Kris.  Her eyes wandered the floor picking out the tile pattern she'd thought her friend was crazy to use and ended up working out so well.  'What doesn't she do well?  Well, besides talking and even that's gotten better lately.'  That cheered Kris up a bit and she wrapped her mind around the question she'd just been asked.  After a few moments, she responded quietly and looked across the table again, "I want to make a difference."

A slight smile touched Sam's lips as she shook her head very slowly at her friend and held her gaze.  "Kris...," Sam paused briefly to try and think of something profound but could only speak the truth as she felt it sensing this was something very important for Kris.  "You'd make a difference no matter what you chose to do, my friend.  It's in you, it's...it's everything you are, everything you can be and will be."  She leaned forward further.  "If there's something I believe in it's your ability to make a difference."

Kris tried, she really did but tears pooled in her eyes and poured over as soon as she closed her eyes.   It was just too much.  Someone so loathe to speak her feelings just handed everything she'd wanted to hear over to her and there was no doubting the truth of what Sam was saying.  It was in her voice and definitely in her eyes, there was so much in her eyes...

It happened before she knew what she was doing, perhaps an automatic response to the contraction in her gut at the sight of Kris' tears and anguish.  In a movement born of a silent predator and the skills they use so effectively, Sam was kneeling on one knee by Kris' chair.   Without conscious thought and to her own amazement, her hand rose to cup the side of her friend's face and a gentle thumb swept the tears from one side of the blonde's face as the other steadied herself against the table.

A tingling warmth spread from Sam's touch, Kris' breath caught as the warmth began to spread.  She covered Sam's hand with one of her own and leaned into the welcome touch.

After a long moment, Sam realized that the pounding she was hearing was really her own heart and with that realization came the knowledge of just how badly she'd erred.  'You are so out of line, Foster.'

The ringing of the phone almost knocked Sam off balance; she gently snatched away her hand from Kris' face and rose quickly to answer it.  She kept her face turned from her friend, the flush she felt covering it was not something she was interested in sharing after what had just happened, as she grabbed the receiver.  "Yes?  Hello?"

"Detective Foster?"

"Yes?"  Sam was suddenly aware that her pager was happily vibrating on the coffee table in the living room and absently noted her hand was still very warm.

"Ma'am, we have a homicide.  The add..."

"Wait!  Jackson's on duty," Sam shot back.

"He wasn't feeling well and asked us to call you, ma'am."

Sam's lip curled in annoyance.  'Wasn't feeling well my ass.'  "Where...," she started to snap and then whipped her head around as she felt a small hand curl around her wrist.  As her eyes met swollen green, Sam's face and body softened noticeably and she turned back to the phone and writing pad there.  "Sorry.  What are the details?"

The dark haired woman listened to the information and wrote down the necessary details before hanging up with an approximate time of arrival on scene and thanks.   She noted the absence of warmth on her arm and mourned it for a moment before steeling herself and turning to face Kris so that she could explain.  She was forestalled by Kris' upraised hand.

"You need to go, I'll clean and lock up."

Uncomfortable under the gaze that wasn't letting her escape, Sam nodded and tried to think of something to say and wondered if she was really happier to have this interrupted or not.

Indicating the front door with a sharp movement of her chin, Kris added, "Go on."

The tall woman was halfway to the door when Kris' voice stopped her, "If this is over the scanner and we don't have anyone covering will you mind if I show up?"

"No, of course not.  You know that I can't give you any special info, though."

"I'd never ask, Sam."

With a hint of a smile, Sam responded, "I know, habit I guess.  Sorry.  This is your job after all, right?"

Kris smiled.  "Yeah, that it is."

"Listen, Kris.  I'd... I'd like t..."

The blonde head shook from side to side.  "We'll talk later."

Sam nodded and quickly grabbed up her keys and jacket before leaving with a smile at her friend.


Even in the rain, the location of the homicide was easy to spot with the various lights whirling and reflecting eerily off the pools and drops of water in various locations.  A quick flash of her badge got her access inside the perimeter and allowed her a parking spot close by.   She'd spent the time getting there thinking about her dinner with Kris; how good it felt to comfort her and how wrong it was that she was not able to control her feelings.

Her stomach was in complete turmoil by the time she turned off the engine, but by the time her duster cleared the car door her mind was firmly on business.  She positioned her badge in plain sight and headed towards the busy house.  She needn't have bothered, the officers recognized her immediately.

Sam's eyes missed little as she walked up the path to the house, shaking her head at the sign of far too many footprints and a whole lot of mud on the path, and around the front of the house in general.  'Not going to find any help there.' She thought in regard to any chances of getting any out of place footprints.  'At least it's not raining too hard now.'

Before entering, she stopped to look at the front of the building and back along the path until she could just vaguely make out figures watching the show from a distance.  Sam took a moment to consider the area, it was a fairly quiet neighborhood, murders were definitely uncommon.

She grabbed the arm of one of the officers walking by her.  "Make sure someone gets pictures of the crowd."  She hadn't found the pictures helped that often in these cases but once was more than enough for her.  The officer nodded and moved past her as she turned and entered the building.

Immediately upon getting closer to the living room, a cloying sweetness touched with rusty iron and copper assaulted her senses and she instantly found herself trying to breathe less through her nose to cut the influx.  She paused for a moment to catch a breath, knowing instinctively that this was going to be a bad one.

"Thought Jackson was on?"

She turned to the tall, skinny dark-haired man coming down the stairs, "Yeah, so did I.  Whatcha got?"

"Ah, that's why it's been so long.  Well, it's a bad one.  Body's in there...," the man indicated the living room with a wave of his protective suit covered arm.  "Badly cut up, been there for probably a coupla days.  Looks a lot like the one we had a few weeks ago on Mercer's beat."

"I wasn't on that one at all.  I better call him and get him in on this.  Thanks.  I don't suppose anything's being handed to us?"

"Sorry," he responded quickly.  "We've done the sweeps, taken the pictures and collected up pretty much everything.  Coroner's in there now."  He jerked his head in the direction of one of the rooms.  "If we'd known you were coming we'd have slowed them up a bit, I know how you like to see everything as fresh as possible."

"Thanks, appreciate that."  The tall woman let a small smile through in recognition of the seemingly macabre courtesy.  "Send me a copy of the pictures as soon as you can?"

"Of course.  Let me get out of here and get started on what we've got so far."  He stepped down the last step and dug around in the pocket of his protective jumpsuit, then held out a package for her.  "Here's the ID we found in the purse on the coffee table.  We're done with it since there wasn't anything upstairs to compare it to, would you give it back to the Coroner?"

She looked at the ID through the plastic bag, noting the picture was the normal half-closed eyes type and the address matched. "Sure, thanks."

He turned as he was getting close to the door and tossed Sam a package.  "Sam, we're done with collecting the evidence in there but better suit the shoes.  Knowing you, you probably have some in your pocket but here's another pair just in case."

She caught the package and winced at his words.  "Thanks, will do.  Safe to leave this out here?"  She held up her duster.

"Yeah, we're pretty much done here.  Jackie's upstairs finishing the bathroom and the guys are still fingerprinting, of course."

She hung up her duster on a peg and opened the package of protective booties, slipping them easily on her tennis shoes and placed the wrapper in a pocket of the coat, then took out a packet of latex gloves and slipped them on also.  Taking a quick breath, she then steeled herself for the sight waiting for her before walking through the doorway.

It didn't really help.  The savagery of the attack was quite apparent as soon as she looked around the door.  'Purgatory.'  Blood spatters vividly stood out against the wall and carpet in a couple of locations and the body lay in a pool of dried blood close to one of them.

The upper body and head were blocked by the dark jacketed back of the coroner.  Most of the body's jeans were incongruously blood free, the only part of the upper body she could had considerably more bloodstains.  She looked around the room, noting the obvious path of the fleeing victim along with the neat placement of items in the rest of the room.

Sam got out her notepad and started making notes about the room; noting the fact that the TV was off, no radio, no glasses or cups anywhere, and nothing obviously out of place beyond in the path the victim had taken.  She could see into the dining room over the top of the coroner's head and noted no dishes or anything out of place there either.  The beige carpet appeared, if not brand new, at least in good shape, as were the wallpaper and the furnishings.

The coroner's sandy blonde head turned and shoulders jumped slightly at seeing a figure at the corner of an eye.  "Christ almighty, Sam!  Please say something when you're hanging out back there, you'll scare a decade off me one of these days."

Sam had the grace to look a little chagrined.  "Sorry Maggie.  Got anything for me?"  Sam had quickly learned to respect Maggie; she did her job very well, didn't mind working over, was meticulous and as quick as humanly possible under the circumstances.  They'd had a rough time with a case when Maggie had started and it had been quite obvious to many that Maggie's exceptional skills had made the difference.

Sam had not been stingy with those facts in her report and Maggie had taken the time to thank her.  Since then, they'd worked well together having the opportunity to learn a little about the other's methods and back each other up when necessary.

"Well, before I fall over from the heart attack, I'll give you what I have which isn't much, honestly.   White Female, probably mid-twenties, death almost certainly caused by massive blood loss from two, perhaps three, neck wounds.  From a quick look, I'd guess something very, very sharp, in other words not just a normal knife, caused them.  Best initial guess is that she died about thirty six hours ago."  The Coroner stood and stripped off her gloves.  ³No ID on the body, just in the purse.  Can't give you more until after the autopsy."

Sam nodded.  "Davis mentioned it looks like one from a few weeks ago, Mercer was on it.  Did you happen to take that one too?"

"A few weeks ago?"  Maggie looked at her in mock disbelief that she'd remember one case from weeks ago.  "Actually no, it doesn't ring a bell but it could've easily been someone else.  I'll take a look when I get into the office for anything close."

"Thanks.  Done with her?"

"Yeah, just going to see about getting her out of here.  Need a few minutes?"


"You got it.  I'll be back in a few."

Sam stepped closer as Maggie left the room and got her first view of the entire body.  She swallowed hard at the first glance of the neck damage and forced herself to continue the visual examination.  Even though it had been cool inside and out, the body had begun to show signs of being there for a day or two.  'Sometimes I wonder why I do this.'

It was just a reaction.  Sam was well aware of the reasons she did the job and did it well; at least that's what she was told.  As Kris had mentioned earlier, she too wanted to make a difference and getting justice for people cut down like this was definitely making a difference.

As she concentrated on taking in as many details as she could, something niggled at her senses.  The Detective forced herself to concentrate on examining the body closely, the head was turned slightly away from her and strands of hair were stuck to the side she could see.  She stepped around one of the finger printers and moved to the other side of the body to get a better view of the face.

'No, that can't be?'

 Sam felt her whole system slow down for a split second and then reverse direction into overdrive.   She crouched by the body and took a good look at the face, then removed the ID Davis had given her from her pocket.  Comparing the two, it was obvious now that they weren't the same person.  The body was, however, someone that Sam was fairly sure she knew.

She stood quickly and quickly walked towards the front door, gathering her jacket and removing her protective coverings along the way and throwing them in the bag left for that purpose by the forensics team.

Kris pulled up about forty-five minutes after Sam arrived, one of only a couple of reporters who had braved the weather so far.  She sat in the car and watched for a few moments until an unconscious smile touched her face at the sight of a familiar tall, dark head stalk out, 'Yes, definitely stalk,' Kris chuckled to herself, and speak to a couple of uniforms stationed at the gate to the house.

She tracked her friend for a few moments, unable to see her face, as she replayed the evening they'd had.  When Sam went behind a van, Kris closed her eyes briefly and found her mind wandering to the support and the warmth of her friend's large hand held tenderly against her face.  With the memory, her heartbeat sped up as it had earlier that evening and several clues, as obvious as bright red flags, flew fluttering off into the wind.

'Okay, Kris, knock it off.  Get some work done.'

 She cringed as a gust of wind brought a wave of rain into the car just as she opened the door. 'Now Mother Nature's conspiring to chastise me?' She snorted and stepped into the rain, closing the door firmly and quickly zipping up her kelly green jacket the rest of the way, then lifting her hood over her head.  She immediately started picking out the interested neighbors from the nosey passers-by and made a bee-line for the neighbors.  Her first stop was an elderly woman, standing off to the side.  Putting on her best winning smile, she greeted the woman, explained who she was and began one of her well-tested methods of obtaining an interview, specifically chatting.


The coroner turned from the dark removal van and looked up at the dark haired woman whose blue beams of light froze her in place.  "Yeah?"

"Do you have an ID on the body besides this?"  She held up the packaged ID that Davis had given to her and handed it to Maggie.

"Thanks."  She took the package, "Just this but it's not confirmed yet, of course."

Sam's gaze seemed to focus inward for a moment as she remembered the face she was sure she knew and then back at Maggie.  "It's not the woman's ID.  I'm pretty sure I know her."

"Pretty sure?"  The coroner raised her eyebrows slightly and looked carefully at the tall woman as she blinked away errant drops of rain.  "Sam, we both know your 'pretty sure' is basically a definite.  You know her name?"

"No, I don't but I'm pretty sure I know where I've seen her before.  I might be able to bring someone over for an ID, though.  Can we get in tonight?"

"Sure, I'll be there for a while anyway.  I got a little worried when you said this might be a repeat performance and wanted to go check it out."

"Okay, let me find out if they'll come.  About an hour?"

"That'll be fine.  I'll follow the van in..."  Maggie dipped her head and moved her wrist to catch a little light on her watch.  "I might be able to catch Doug before he leaves and ask him if remembers anything about it."

"Great, I'll give you a call and let you know one way or another."  Sam turned and looked out over the crowd again, her eyes narrowed at she focused on one figure talking to another.   She looked back over her shoulder at Maggie and had to shake her head slightly as a few errant drops hit her square in the face.  At Maggie's amused look from her fairly protected spot by the van, Sam let her eyes ice over.

Maggie hid a gulp and took a gamble, "You really need to register that as a dangerous weapon you know."

Sam held the glare for a moment longer and then let loose the hint of a quirky grin.  "I'm gonna make a call and then see what else I can find out here."

"Okay, I'll get her out of here then.  See you later."

"Thanks, Maggie."  The tall woman grabbed the cell phone from its clip on her belt and used the speed dial.  Looking out into the crowd, she watched Kris fumble with her jacket as she waited for it to be answered.  "Hey."

"Hi!"  Kris started to smile but it faded as she realized that it was odd for Sam to be calling her so quickly after her arrival.  "Everything okay?"

'Dammit, I really do not want to ask her this.'

 Sam gripped her phone tighter.  "Kris, There's no easy way to say this.  I need to ask you if you'll do something that isn't going to be pleasant."

There was no question of Kris' trust in her friend and her ominous tone.  "All right, what do you need?"

"I also need you to promise to keep this to yourself for the moment, I realize that's not very fair but it may have a bearing on the case and I can't have a leak right now.  Will you agree?"

"Yes.  Sam, just tell me what it is."

"Meet me at your car in about thirty minutes?"  Sam wished she could just get it over with but the house was a live crime scene and that was strictly against the rules of common sense and a murder inquiry.

"Sure, I'll see you then."

"Thanks, Kris."  Sam ended the call and put the phone back into place before heading to the neighbor that the uniforms had told her was inside her house.

Kris looked at her phone as she hung up and wondered what was going on. 'Guess I'll find out soon enough.  For now, back to business with the interviews.'

"No, thank you, really.   I'm afraid I'm on quite a tight schedule.  You were trying to remember where the woman from next door, Mrs. Ryan, works?" Sam asked.  'Dammit, you need to take lessons from Kris.  She'd be in here drinking this freaking coffee she keeps offering and getting every bit of information this woman has.'

"Oh yes," the older woman sipped her coffee and tried to remember where Donna had told her she worked.  "I'm not positive but I think it was Midtown General?"

"Do you know what she does for a living, Mrs. Simmons?"

"Oh yes.  She's in charge of personnel there."

"When was the last time you saw her?"

"Well now, I couldn't really say.  It was probably the end of last week sometime."

"Is it normal for you to not see her for several days?"

"Oh yes.  She works very long hours."  Mrs. Simmons looked up at the Detective with fearful eyes and asked with an almost childlike voice, "Is she dead?"

"I can't answer that, Ma'am, I'm sorry.  We can sure hope not."

Kris turned her body to protect her writing pad from the few drops of rain that were still falling but kept her attention firmly on the man in front of her.  He was about the tenth person she'd talked to since she'd arrived and most hadn't really had any information that she could use.  "So, Mr. Monel, you live several doors down the street but know you know the woman who lives here, Mrs. Ryan.  You haven't seen her since last week and haven't seen anything out of the ordinary?"

"That's right."  He nodded.

"Okay.  Can you tell me who you have seen around?"  She'd asked this question of everyone too and nobody seemed to find anything out of the ordinary.  Kris saw a hint of a frown move quickly across the man's features as he considered her question.

"Well, postman, of course.  Couple of delivery guys."

"Any companies you remember?"

"No, one was that big brown van, though."

"Anyone else?"

"Bug guy was out, I need to call them myself before the wife chews me a ...well, I just better do that."

The blonde hid a smile.  "Do you remember the name of the company or did you see the driver?"

He shook his head.  "I just glanced, was in a hurry to get to the store.  Didn't see nobody, just remember thinking it was pest control 'cause of the bug on the side."  He shifted a bit.  "Listen, you spell the name right, okay?  M O N E L.  I have to get back home.  The wife'll be after me soon."

"Thank you for your help, I'll make sure it's spelled correctly, don't worry."

Sam sent one of the officers to check out the hospitals for more information on Donna Ryan then checked her watch one last time before giving herself a few minutes extra to locate Kris' car.   She headed off as if she had a specific destination in mind, knowing that not many were brave enough to get in her obviously determined path.  Still, it was rather surprising when, after a minute or two of walking, she slowed to look around only to see Kris' car across the street with a slightly bedraggled Kris sitting inside.

Kris had arrived just a few minutes before and taken the time to remove her damp jacket once she'd gotten inside but that left her a little cold in her thin sweater.  She turned on the engine and let the car warm up slowly and kept an eye out for her friend.  She'd just started to feel the warmth when something made her swivel her head to the side and notice Sam materialize from the gloom.  With a slight smile, she unlocked the passenger door and waited for her tall friend to enter.

Sam ducked her head and entered the car, noting her friend's smile of greeting with a tight lipped smile of her own.  "Listen, I'm sorry to be so ...I don't know, clandestine?"  She shook her head with a little frustration at her inability to put things into words.

Kris noted the spark of annoyance in her friend's eyes and resisted the temptation to move some of Sam's longer bangs from her eyes, 'Get a grip!'  Instead she made a loose fist with her hand and rested it on her own thigh.  "Sam, just tell me what's going on."

"Well, as I said, this is absolutely off the record."  The detective kept her gaze on Kris' attentive face.  "The body we found in the house isn't the person who lives there but I'm pretty sure I recognize the person.  It's just that I don't know the name but..." She took a breath, "I think you probably do."

A look of pale shock fell over the blonde's face as the words hit home.  "I know the person who died?  Are you sure?"

"I can't be a hundred percent sure unless you..." Sam winced.  "Šidentify the body."  Kris started to say something but Sam stopped her with a raised hand and then let the hand grasp one of Kris'.  "This isn't easy to ask and it's sure gonna be horrible for you to do but I'm pretty sure it's someone from one of the softball teams we played within the last month or two."

Kris just closed her eyes and also her fingers around her friend's hand.

"Kris, you don't have to do this.  I can get the records for the teams from the rec. departments and do it that way."

"And that'll take you a day or two at least, I know how that works."  Stark green eyes looked directly at Sam and then away.  "Will you be there?"

"Yes, definitely.  Even if I wasn't on the case... Well, I'd be there."  Sam's heart felt as if it was contracting at the misery in the set of her friend's shoulders. 'I can't stand this.  Yet another reason to not let her this far into your life.'  "Look, let me see if I can rustle up those records."

The blonde head shook slowly from side to side.  "When do we go?"

Sam glanced at her watch and then back at the woman across from her.  "I need to call the Coroner.  She's waiting to see if we're coming by."

Kris looked up with an unreadable face and simply nodded.  "Let's go."

"I'm going to have to come back here, so why don't I go get my car and..."

"No," Kris interrupted, "can you just come with me, please?  I don't mind bringing you back at all."

Knowing how tough this might be on the blonde, Sam thought for a moment and then suggested, "I tell you what, let's drive to my place, leave your car there and I'll drive us both.  I'd suggest your house but the Coroner's on a time frame.  That sound okay?"

"Yes, I'll meet you there."

"Okay, I'll tell them we're on our way." Sam opened the door and started to get out but ducked back in.  "Kris, if I could save you this, I swear I would."

A slight smile full of tension met her but Kris nodded.  "I'll see you in a few minutes."


Sam alerted Maggie to their imminent arrival and got everything set at the scene until she could get back there.  The drive over was a somber affair, Kris was unusually quiet and seemed to sink further into the car seat the closer they got.  Sam sincerely regretted even suggesting they do this but this might give them quite a time boost on the investigation and the detective was well aware how much that might help even as she mentally berated herself.  'You always find a way to hurt them don't you?  Did you have to do this to her?'

In the meantime, Kris' mind was far away, remembering stories she'd heard over the years about the state of bodies.  As a reporter, she'd seen a few from a distance before but never up close, even when her grandparents had died they hadn't let her see the bodies and her family didn't go for open casket services.

So, she was concerned about her ability to handle it but confident that Sam would have told her if the body was in bad shape and it was going to be a particularly grizzly affair.  'Not as if it isn't grizzly enough as it is,' she thought as she noticed a flicker of movement from the other side of the car in the reflection from the window.

Kris' face was turned from her and the only hand she could see was lying on her friend's thigh, clenched tight enough to appear white in the limited light available from the car's dashboard and street lights.  Sam glanced over at her friend a couple of times before she started to hesitatingly reach over and put a hand on Kris' shoulder to get her attention.

The hand had only gone a short distance when she realized that likely wasn't a good idea with how on edge the other woman appeared to be.  With a look of sincere regret at what she was going to put her friend through, she let her hand fall to the car seat and tried to keep her attention on the road.

Kris turned her head and regarded her friend's profile from the corner of an eye.  'It's odd,' she thought with a little wonder.  'I wonder how many would be able to see that the thought of me doing this is giving her as much pain as it's giving me?'

With deliberate intent, she reached over with her left hand and grasped Sam's free hand, squeezing gently.  To Kris' eyes, Sam appeared slightly startled, as if her mind had been miles away.  Her friend had looked at her for a long moment before turning her attention back to the road and returning Kris' gentle squeeze with a firm one of her own.  Kris smiled slightly and asked quietly, "So, what's the plan?"

Sam swallowed down an irrational answer of "Taking you home and not letting you do this." and responded instead with, "Everything should be ready by the time we get there, we get you in and see if you know the name of the person and get you out.  I'm hoping it won't take more than a few minutes."  A breath.  "I really wouldn..."

"Un nuh."  The blonde head shook from side to side a couple of times.  "I know how important it is to get things figured out quickly.  My dad's a cop, remember?  You need me to do this and it'll be okay."  She kept her hand firmly grasping her friend's.  "Anything I should know?"

"Not really, just let the attendant know when you're ready and then when you're finished, and we'll get you out of there as quickly as possible."

Kris just nodded.  It seemed but minutes later that she was being led to a room, with Sam's solid and very welcome presence behind her all the way.  She swallowed hard and her breathing started to speed up as the sheet laden body was wheeled before the window in front of her.

Even with the separating window, the odors in the building were pungent enough but her very active mind started conjuring up all different things, from smells that seemed to make her nostrils contract to what she would be seeing in a few moments and noises that seemed unnaturally sharp.

A close warmth at her back and a familiar hand on her shoulder, accompanied by a few words she knew came from Sam, but was unable to make sense of in her current state, had her closing her eyes in relief.  'You can do this.'  She opened her eyes and nodded to the white coated attendant, who looked behind and above her shoulder for a moment and then drew the sheet back from the face of the body.

Kris' world narrowed to an impossible tunnel, her field of vision was completely centered on an extremely pale face she did indeed know.  She looked away for moment before looking back again and realized she needed to take a breath.   She took the shaky breath, felt Sam's hand squeeze her shoulder harder and simply turned into the welcome warmth behind her, nodding her head and assuming that her friend would realize that meant she did know the victim.   Kris felt arms hold her securely and realized that if she could only burrow her way deeper into Sam she'd be much happier at this moment, it hardly registered that they were moving.

Sam carefully maneuvered them away from the room and through to the corridor, keeping her arms firmly around the miserable blonde in her embrace.  When they stopped, she allowed Kris as much time as she needed.  Simply lightly resting her cheek on her friend's head and letting her deal with the shock she'd just gotten by providing as much support as she could.  The only words between them, since they'd left the room, were Sam's softly rumbled apologies for putting her through this experience.  The only extraneous movement was the tall woman's hand lightly stroking a small area on Kris' back.

They stood for a few minutes as the smaller woman composed herself.  Kris' arms were tightly wrapped around Sam's waist and her head was resting quite comfortably in a warm, soft and slightly spicy nest which was composed of Sam's chest.  In fact, Kris felt incredibly safe and every moment spent in her safe haven was building back her confidence and strength and allowing her a buffer between what she'd just seen and answering the questions she knew Sam had.  At the sound of a door opening close by, Kris stirred slightly. 'Okay, get with it.  She needs to know who this is and can't be babying you all night.'

Maggie's gray eyes met Sam's over Kris' shoulder and she winced in sympathy even as her mind fought the surprise of seeing Sam so solicitously comforting someone obviously close to her. 'I can't imagine anyone else getting that comfy.'  She noted the tall woman's nod, assumed it meant that the smaller woman knew the victim and popped back inside the office to wait for the Detective's arrival.

As Kris moved, Sam loosened her grasp and would've stepped back but the blonde kept a firm hold around her waist.  "How're you doing?"

The tall woman's rumbled concern seemed to resonate through Kris' body, starting from the spot where her head still rested.  She knew she had to move, even though she really had no desire to do that.  Still.  With a sigh, she lifted her head and released her strangle hold on her friend.  Stepping back, she took a moment to collect herself and took a shaky breath and wiped tears from her face before saying softly, "I'm okay."  The desire to head right back to the comfortable spot she'd just left was overwhelming 'Grow up, Kris!' "Her name is Stacy Morris," her breath caught and more tears spilled out.

Sam desperately wanted to find a way to remove the pain she'd just given to her friend but ended up clenching her fists in frustration instead.

"We've played her team a bunch of times, sh ... she was on a couple of weekend tourney teams I was on as well.  So was her sister come to think of it.  She wasn't the nicest person but Sam..."  The blonde shook her head a few times.  "She doesn't deserve that, nobody deserves that."

"No.  No, they don't."  The tall woman couldn't stand it, she reached out a hand and tentatively touched the blonde's shoulder and kept her eyes carefully on her friend's face in case the touch wasn't welcome.  "I'm sorry."

"Don't."  Kris felt Sam's hand start to move from her shoulder, she quickly laid her own hand on top of it, wiped the latest tears from her eyes and looked directly at her friend.  "It's your job and this might help catch the person who did it."  The blonde looked around at the empty corridor.  "Do I need to do anything else?"

"Let's go talk to Maggie and get you home."


Sam frowned as she glanced over at Kris' face which was, at that moment, highlighted by the stark white of the headlights they were meeting along the road.  Her friend looked even younger when asleep but the poor lighting seemed to bring out a darkness about her visage that drew a bolt of worry into the detective's stomach.

She pulled into the driveway and parked next to Kris' bright blue Beetle.  The car had been paid for by part of a trust which had come to Kris on her twenty fifth birthday and was the only thing on which she'd splurged so far.

Sam easily recalled Kris' look of delight as she wandered the many car lots, playfully and shamelessly returning any flirting that any of the salesmen initiated and then looking at Sam with devilment twinkling in her eyes.  She'd been amazed at her friend; she'd never seen this side of her before and had found herself barely holding back her annoyance at how forward some of the men had been and how well Kris had dealt with them.  Sam had stayed in the background mostly, discouraging any hopeful attention directed at her with a look or raised eyebrow and watched Kris carefully.

One particularly hopeful young man had flashed his "winning" smile repeatedly and had preened under Kris' ministrations.  'Fiddle, meet thy maker,' Sam had thought as she watched her friend play his strings so very effectively.  Her jaw had almost dropped when it appeared that Kris was exchanging phone numbers with him, the feeling in the pit of her stomach was not pleasant.

At the time she'd discounted it as worry, 'Yeah, right,' she thought as she rounded the corner of her street.  She could still remember the snarl that she'd had to fight to keep in check when he directed his cheesecake smile at her in what she had viewed as some sort of triumph.

Barely hearing her friend's chattering, they had headed towards Sam's car to leave the lot, until Kris finally stopped the taller woman by jumping in front and placing a halting hand on her stomach.  "Hey? You okay?" Kris had asked and that worried tone had brought Sam out of her fog.   Her affirmative response had obviously not quite convinced the blonde but she'd appeared to have gone with it until they'd gotten in the car and she'd turned a brilliant smile on the dark haired woman.

An unconscious smile had found its way onto Sam's face then, and again now as she remembered the shining green eyes, wrinkled nose and laughter.

"I hope he has a good time."  At Sam's confused look, Kris had gleefully explained that the number she'd given to him was actually for a therapy slash dating service named 'Singles In Need!'  This had sunk in and Sam had just chuckled and shook her head in amazement at her friend, well, until she'd realized the acronym and then Kris was gifted with what she called a rare full laugh from her almost always incredibly reserved friend.

A tiny smile remained as she turned off the engine and looked at Kris, who was now fast asleep.  Sam leaned over and said softly, "Kris, we're here.  Kris?"  There was perhaps a twitch in response.  She tried again with about the same success.  Carefully placing a hand on the blonde's arm, she shook her gently and tried again, "Kris?  We're here."  After a couple of incomprehensible words, green eyes blearily blinked a couple of times and opened, focusing on the concerned face opposite.


Kris focused on Sam, utterly confused for a moment before the evening's events came back in a rush and she had to take a deep breath to keep in control. 'Damn.'  "Not a bad dream, huh?"

Sam's face tensed up and she shook her head.  "No." She tried a warm smile.  "Let's get you home, hmm?"

"Yeah, okay." The blonde stirred a bit, "I wish Rob was home, though."

Dark eyebrows scrunched together.  "She's not home?"

"No, my partner in rent sharing is in the mountains with James."  Kris shrugged her shoulders and continued with a small wry smile, "Oh well, least I can play my music up loud or take a very, very long bath with no interruptions."  Opening the door, she swiveled her legs out.

Sam stared at her friend's back for a moment and then backed out of the car, closing the door carefully.  By the time she walked around the front of the car, Kris had opened her own car door.  Sam started to say something to her but no words came out.

Kris turned.  "Thank you for holding my hand in there, Sam.  I..."

"No need to thank me, you were fine."

"Yeah, right.  Fine when I was using you as my walking security blanket and handkerchief."  The blonde head hung a little.

"Kris?"  The taller woman stepped closer, ignoring the couple of rain drops that still fell, and waited for her friend to look up.  When Kris looked up, Sam cocked her head and continued with a tiny shy smile as she shifted slowly from one foot to another.  "You're welcome to use me as either, anytime."

Surprised eyes flashed up again and a warm smile accompanied them, followed by a soft, "Thank you."

'Okay, let her go now before you make an even more complete fool of yourself.'

  She watched as Kris turned back to her car and threw in her purse, the smaller woman's shoulders appeared weighed down.  "If...if you want company..."  Kris threw a tired look over her shoulder.  'Uh, what are you doing?'  "You're welcome to stay here with Cat.   The damned thing loves it when you come over."

Kris blinked.  'Okay, that tears it.  Aliens have kidnapped the real Sam.'  Turning the rest of her body, she rested her arms on the top of the car door and looked closely at her friend.  She was rendered speechless for several moments.  'A rare event indeed,' her mind threw in, by the utter confusion evident in her friend's eyes.  This confusion was in direct contrast to the ramrod appearance of the tall woman's body and the control showing in the rest of her face.

Neither really registered that the house's safety lights had come on and they shone off the pools of water and drops on the cars.  Sam's dark hair appeared completely black by the backlight and her face was close enough for the other woman to see easily but still shadowed.  On the other hand, Kris seemed to be standing in a spotlight of garish light and her face appeared almost shockingly white.

Sam felt completely out of control and unable to stop the words from coming out, "I'll be back as soon as I can and ... and you'd have the alarm.  It's much safer than your place."

Knees almost buckled with the strength of the intense longing to do exactly what Sam was suggesting.  The safety and warmth offered by her presence, Kris realized with a start, was somewhat intoxicating.  The smaller woman shook her head minutely as if to clear it, "I can't..."  Kris paused for a moment as several thoughts flashed through her mind, 'Just what are you doing here?  She offers and you start running? Picking up bad habits from her, hmm?  Well knock it off!'

'Well, wasn't that just stupid of you.  Jeeezus, you're getting softer than a Kelly quilt and a hell of a lot more ridiculous!  Knock it off!'

The blonde noticed the change in her friend and her internal muse switched off with an almost audible click.  "Š Pass that offer up can I?  If you're sure?"

A blink of surprise was the initial response, followed by a quirky grin.  "Lock up and come on, I'll get you settled and then I'll be back as soon as I can."

Sam opened the door carefully and tried to be as quiet as possible when she arrived back at the house.  As she'd hoped, and her friend had promised, Kris' car was still in the driveway and, since it was so late, the tall woman didn't want to wake her friend up.  She'd called to give Kris an ETA and was a bit earlier than that, but still, it was pretty late.

At the muted noise from the doorway, Kris looked up from her book instantly and felt her heart rate start to increase as a tingle of fear ran down her back.  It only intensified when the person entering was obviously being very careful about the entry.  It was before the time Sam had mentioned she'd be back and the blonde didn't want to risk calling out to see if it was her.  She pushed blonde hair behind her ears and unfolded herself from her comfortable corner.

A shadow of movement by the kitchen caught the dark haired woman's attention as she hung up her jacket; her eyes flickered there as her always alert status kept working.  When she realized it had to be the demon spawn her lip curled and then her thoughts turned to the conversation she'd had with her friend a couple of hours ago.  'Kris said she'd put him out when she went to sleep. Surely she's not still up?'

"Hey," the blonde said softly as she poked her head around the wall to look at her friend.  She'd heard the sound of keys being placed on the table close to the front door and moved away from the fireplace and handy poker when she'd realized that the muted sounds coming from the doorway were probably made by Sam trying to be quiet.   Of course, she hadn't really moved from the poker until a quick glance at the reflection in the glass door of the sound system confirmed it.

"Hey, couldn't sleep?"

Kris couldn't fail but notice the concerned look from her obviously tired friend and smiled.  "Just got interested in a book."

The dark eyebrow rose to the response but it was quickly followed by a short nod of her head.  "Uh huh."  Sam regarded her slightly disheveled friend and silently wished she could've gotten back earlier but things had come up, as they always do.

They'd discovered that Donna Ryan was on vacation and had been for the past week but not much beyond that due to the late hour.  The neighbors had given them bits and pieces only, they'd found very little additional evidence in the house and a visit with Stacy Morris' family had proved as awful as they always did.  No matter how stoically a death was taken, it was never less than excruciating to have to tell a family and watch them deal with the intense pain of loss.

That sort of experience was exhausting beyond the physical and Sam felt like she could feel every ache and right muscle in her back and neck.  Resisting the urge to rub her aches, she removed various instruments from her belt and put them in a drawer and glanced over her shoulder.  "Cat kept you company, hmm?"

Watching the various emotions flicker through Sam's face and body was fascinating, the tiniest of flickers in her eyes could mean so much and the play of muscles on her powerful body was like trying to understand a new language.   Kris smiled to herself.  ŒLuckily, I'm pretty good at learning new things and have a vested interest in this one.'  "Yep, sure did." She moved towards the kitchen.  "I uh...made some tea.  Would you like some?"

It was unfortunate that Kris' back was turned; she missed the look of quiet regret and the gaze that followed her movements, which her journalistic tendencies would almost certainly describe as something close to wistful.  By the time she partially turned to ask again, Sam's face had become impassive again, "I was going to make myself another cup, if you're interested?"

'Far too interested.'

 Sam snapped herself to attention.  "That'd be great but I can do it, you don't have to."

Kris' brow crinkled up.  "Don't be goofy, I'm here and have everything ready.  You sit and I'll bring it to you."

"Kris, you don't have to ser..."

The blonde interrupted her, "Humor me, please?"

Sam wanted to argue but the green eyes across the room were obviously tired, upset and even somewhat pleading.  'What's the harm and it's something she wants.'  "Okay, I'd like that.  Thank you."

A full smile broke out on Kris' face.  'Hey, that wasn't so bad.' "Great, I'll bring it to you in there."

Sam couldn't help the automatic response of her own smile.  'Maybe I need to give in more often if it makes her that happy?'  When Kris turned away, she rolled her eyes at herself.  'Oh god, listen to yourself, mushball!'

Sometime later, Sam watched over Kris as she slept in the corner of the couch.  The blonde had steadfastly refused to go to the spare bedroom, preferring, she had said after putting Cat back outside, to "read a little more."  In reality, they'd talked for a little while and, even as Sam's eyes had gotten heavier, she's watched her friend drift closer and closer to the sleep she desperately needed.

After a while, Sam had carefully laid a blanket over her sleeping friend and paused with some concern as she thought she'd woken her up.  She'd quickly realized that Kris was having a dream, 'Nightmare,' she amended.  It had actually amazed her when the smaller woman had calmed back down so quickly after a few quiet words from her.  Sitting back down, she'd gotten rather comfortable herself and kept watch, her tired mind flicking through various facts from the murder and the other cases she'd brought home to work on.

It was now getting close to dawn.  'A new and hopefully better day,¹  she thought as she too drifted off for some very well earned sleep.



"What's going on?" Kris asked her co-worker, Pam, as they deftly avoided colliding with one of the law clerks who was rounding the corner with an armful of books.  They'd met up as Kris was heading back from delivering some paperwork to her boss' secretary.

The glass doors were quite elegant, a medium shade of wood curled through them and set off the rest of the pleasant interior.  Tasteful paintings were set in strategic locations on the walls and the various busy but tidy desks scattered about were obviously just as good a quality as everything else in the office.  The muted colors were warm and inviting to help keep the clients comfortable and the atmosphere friendly.  The separate offices built into the outside walls of the huge office were just as nicely decorated but several of the doors were closed today.

Pam shrugged as they continued to walk.  "I wish I knew.  It's been crazy this morning.  One of the guys said that someone lost some very important case files and they're going nuts trying to find them."

The blonde studied her friend, who was dressed in an elegant burgundy suit with perfectly coifed short dark brown hair, with her eyebrows raised as high as she could get them.  "Pam, sometimes I think we keep backups of the backups.  That's impossible."

"Yeah, I know but that's the story.  So, what's up with you, girl?  You look beat."  Pam turned to look at the blonde with bright, wide eyes.  "Ooh, have a hot date?"

"I wish!"  Kris took a quick moment to think something that wouldn't be the talk of the office within an hour.  "Was up very late with a story for the paper.  That's a really great outfit," she mentioned both in true appreciation and an effort to change the subject.

"Yeah?  Thanks, cost a mint," the dark skinned woman chuckled.

"Well it was worth it."  Kris smiled and started as she noticed the time on the wooden wall clock.  "Ugh, I better get back to work.  I need to leave on time, for a change, so I can make sure everything's set for Jen's party tonight."

Pam shook her head.  "I don't know how you do it, softball, volleyball, paper, stuff you do with your mother and everything else.  You know, it's no wonder you can put away a whole cow at one sitting."  She laughed quietly and moved quickly to her own desk as the outraged green eyes turned to her.

"Ooh, you're gonna get it," Kris whispered in Pam's ear as she walked by.

"Promises, promises!" was the impudent reply.

'God, I am surrounded by brats!'

 The blonde thought as she rushed to answer her ringing phone.

"Hey, it's Sam."

Kris chuckled into the phone.  "As if I wouldn't know it's you? Silly. What's up?"  Before her friend could answer, Kris frowned.  "Wait.  You are not canceling on me are you?"

The pained silence was answer enough.

Disappointment waged a war with knowledge of her friend.  She'd promised to be there tonight for at least a couple of hours of Jen's bachelorette party, after a considerable amount of 'probably unfair' pressure from Kris.  Even so, Sam had never gone back on a promise.  "Sam, there is a good reason, right?  You're not just finding a way out of it?"

Still mentally cringing but feeling a little better that Kris was, at least, making an effort to believe she wouldn't go back on her promise Sam responded, "I'm really sorry.  We got a special request for help with a serial rapist earlier this week, I worked with them on Monday and they need me again."  The words tumbled out as she tried to explain to her disappointed friend, "We need to catch this guy, Kris.  He's already attack..."

"Stop, stop.  I'm sorry, I just wanted you to be there but this is definitely more important.  Please be careful, okay?"

"Always.  You guys have a great night and give my apologies to Jen please?"

"Of course."  Kris' always active mind toyed with asking Sam to call her when she was done with whatever dangerous thing she was doing tonight. 'She never gives me details when it's dangerous.  Well, grow up, Kris.  You're not her mother and she's got an important job to do.' She toyed with a pencil from her desktop.  "I better get back to work, it's crazy around here."


 Sam blew a few strands of wayward hair away from her forehead.  "Kris, I'm sorry."

"I know, don't worry about it.  I'll give you a full report tomorrow on our debauchery, okay?" Looking for and receiving the appropriate snort of response from the other end of the phone, she concluded, "I really do have to go but you be careful and I'll expect to get the full report on how you caught the jerk tomorrow too."

"Okay, I'll do my best.  Have a great time."

Kris sighed as she hung up the phone.  ŒOkay, stop acting like a kid.' She turned as one of the other clerks grabbed her attention as he approached with a huge pile of files, her eyes widened.  "Uh, Tim, what're these?"

"Roger said to pass these off so I could help a couple of them with some depositions they have to do today," the crisply dressed young man responded as he piled an armful of files on her desk.

"Aren't these part of the stuff we all had to do last week?"

"Well yeah, but I couldn't get to mine because I was helping with that Peters case."

Kris' eyebrow rose, along with her temper.  "Helping with the Peters' case?"

Tim ignored the warning flashes in crackling green eyes and whispered loudly, "Yeah, remember all that research I gave them?  It was great, they were able to work an extra two fifty out of them because of it."  He smiled widely at her, knowing she'd understand that 'grand' needed to be added to the amount, and waved, "Thanks, appreciate it!"

Since Kris had done most of that research, she easily remembered it and started fuming as her eyes went from Tim's back to the pile of files and back again. 'Shit.'  She struggled with her temper, wanting desperately to go and confront the man who'd almost certainly taken credit for research that took Kris days to do.  'Perfect, just perfect!'

Looking up, she saw that Tim was out of her eyesight and started muttering.  When a passing co-worker stopped to make sure Kris wasn't talking to them, she got control of her temper and started working on some call backs she had to do.  "Oh yeah, making a big difference, aren't we?" she said under her breath.


'Well, it could've been worse?

 '  Sam winced a little and sent another mental, 'Sorry,' to Kris before nodding to the rest of the team to indicate she was ready to go to the briefing.  It was with more than a bit of thought that she waited for the briefing to begin, it constantly amazed her how important it was to her own well being that Kris not be mad at her.  'Of course that could be because she can flay me with just a few words, hmm?' She almost chuckled aloud at that thought and closed the case file in front of her.

The briefing had taken a couple of hours, even though they had learned their roles for the evening easily.  Sam's job was to coordinate one team out of several and keep an eye on a couple of the women officers who were along the lines of the rapist's tastes.  She'd had a lot of experience in this type of undercover operation and didn't expect any difficulties but it didn't hurt to be very prepared.

As they had little to go on, beyond vague descriptions of him being in his late thirties, light brown hair and white, they were placing teams in different locations in the area, trying to target places that might attract him and, indeed, in the past had.

She had worked with several of the same people before, indeed, most of the members of the band had been there the last time she'd had this type of assignment.  The past Friday night, the guy had hit again and his victim had been badly injured.  Each attack seemed to increase in savagery and the Commissioner had approved bringing in extra help from outside departments to expand their net.  They were going to try each weekend night and hope they were able to catch him.  Sam made a mental note to tell Frank that she'd help out Saturday too, if they needed.

She re-read the file, he preferred women in their twenties and early thirties, slight, nobody taller than five feet seven inches so far and always short to shoulder length, red or brown hair.   He'd attacked mostly at night but a couple of afternoons and he had attacked at least fourteen women, some of whom got away unharmed.  'As much as you can be unharmed by an attack from a jerk like this.'

Sam was impressed by the detail of the report and then noted the Detective's name and smiled.  ŒPatrick Kelly¹ was typed under a mostly undecipherable signature.  Pat was very good at his job. 'Just like Steve was.'  Sam swallowed hard and was saved from memories by the ring of the phone, which she answered.

"Sam, love.  How are ya?"

An unconscious smile slid across her face at the familiar tones even with the amazing timing.  "Mrs. Kelly, how're you doing?"

"A lot better if we'd see more of ya.  Come to dinner on Sunday."

"Uh, well..."

"Sam, it's been months.  Six o'clock and you don't need to bring a thing but yourself.  It's just family, I have to go to my bridge club now but I'll see you on Sunday."

Sam stared at the buzzing phone and closed her open mouth.  'I do not believe she can still do that to me!'  It was somewhat of a mystery to the tall woman why Mrs. Kelly kept up with her but she had basically taken Sam in from the day her son, Steve, had brought her home and introduced her as his latest partner.  That was the first of many visits with Steve and his family, and it wasn't long before that first time that they'd split up as partners and become lovers.   She closed her eyes to rid herself of the feeling of the pain that always hit hard when she thought of that night, when he put himself in front of her to try and protect her from the bullets.

She replaced the receiver as she went over the fact that this was one of the reasons she didn't like to go over, on top of her normal aversion to gatherings.  The memories were right under the surface there, just too many of them and as much as she cared about the Kelly family it was just too hard sometimes.  Just talking to Mrs. Kelly had gotten them started; she headed to the restroom and splashed some cold water on her face.  It didn't help.

"Get over here and play with us or do you enjoy seeing the unbelievably handsome object of your affection pounded?"

A dark eyebrow rose into a sweaty brow, "And where were you when I was scoring half the points our team has?  Hmm?" Sam gazed fondly at the man who had captured her heart from her lazy position on one of the comfortable lounge chairs.  His dark blonde hair was streaked from so much time in the sun and slicked back with sweat as he lay on the ground a few feet away, waiting for his brother to get off him after his latest tackle.

"They needed expert help with the game on TV, it wasn't my fault!"

"Sure, sure and that took how many helpings of nachos and beer again?  Plus, I wouldn't dream of depriving your family of their favorite poundee." She said with a grin.  Her smile broadened as he put on his best puppy dog face and stood before moving closer.  "Won't work, dear, now shoo!"  She motioned him away with a wiggle of her hand.

"Sure I can't persuade you?" His eyebrows wiggled suggestively as he tucked the football under one arm and leaned on her chair with the other.

When he leaned in to brush her lips with his, she couldn't stop the goose bumps that rose on her arms and knew he was well aware of the effect he had on her.  "Brat!  Get back there and kick some butt!" She said whilst pushing him back towards the other players who had stopped to watch the show.  Most were grinning and Sam simply shook her head before calling out, "Take too long and I might have to come back out there and show you how it's done."

A tired grin lit up her face as they all got back to business and she settled back into her chair having no intention of going back into the game.  She hadn't told anyone but she hadn't felt well all day and wasn't about to risk the nausea, that had risen when playing, again.

Sam cut off the memory with a shake of her head but couldn't stop the final thought, 'They all die.  God, they all die.'   She rested her head against a forearm that was resting on the tiled wall and then mentally slapped herself, hard.  'Christ, Sam.  Where in the hell is this coming from?  Maybe it's a good thing you're not going with Kris tonight.  In fact, I think I see a lot more extra night duties in your immediate future.  Get your mind on the job!'

She breathed deeply a few times and headed back to her desk to try to get some more details on the various case files she still had open and had already been working on for several hours, including Stacy Morris'.  Her attempts to contact Detective Mercer about the other murder had not been successful yet, due to his vacation, but she'd been checking various leads in the meantime.  'Always so many.'  She rubbed at her face with her hand.  ŒOkay, that's enough of this 'sorry for yourself' crap.  Get a cup of coffee and get back to work.'


"You have got to be kidding?"

"Nope!" the perky brunette replied to Jen as they stared up at the bright neon sign that read ŒPeppers¹.

"Hey, we want some dancing and this place is supposed to be hot.  Deb worked hard on research, ya know," Kris added, indicating the same perky brunette, dressed in a form fitting drop dead red dress, with a wave of her hand.  All of the women laughed at that, knowing quite well just how thorough Deb was with her research.

"Oh yeah, three clubs a night for this research.  It was tough but someone had to it!" Deb responded and they all laughed again as they passed the guys on the front door and entered the club.

They'd been out for several hours already and had visited a few clubs so far, this was to be their last and so they intended to have a lot of fun.  Peppers was one of the hottest clubs going at the moment and, luckily, Deb had a friend who had a partial stake in the club.  Getting in was easy as Deb had made sure to get introduced to the guys who would likely be at the door the night before.  During one of her "research" visits, of course.

The group of eight certainly wasn¹t rip roaring drunk but they were definitely happy with life.  Maria had volunteered to be the sort of designated driver of the group, even though they had a limo for most of the way home, and was watching them all with quite a bit of amusement as they looked around inside.  Kris was telling a story about how she and Jen had gone back out to the limo to get an earring Jen had hopefully dropped in there.

They had come across a woman bending to pick her purse up, only she was wearing a very tight, short dress and, as they discovered to their horror, had no underwear on.  This, of course, led to several gynecologist jokes and Deb making sure she called them all prudes before laughing at herself too.

They found a table just being vacated and sat, it was in the back and didn't really have a view of much but it worked fine for them.  Maria went to order drinks as they got settled and began to nod their heads, in some oddly coordinated move, to the music the band was playing, she just shook her head and chuckled to herself.  By the time she returned, some of the group was on the dance floor and the others were waiting for her return to drag her out there too.  She laughed and went willingly with them.

By the time the first hour was over, several of the very well dressed group had been approached by various males but they'd made a promise to keep it girls night out and to limit any other dancing to two per club.  They'd all been very good about that promise, even the normally incredibly extroverted Deb had kept to it.  Of course, it didn't help that it seemed a considerable portion of the guys in the club knew her and another large portion would like to.  Still, they'd all received some attention tonight and they were all feeling pretty happy about life in general, even Kris was feeling somewhat better.

Most of them were taking a break at the table when Deb leaned over the table.  "No offense, Kris but I just can't see Sam having a great time here."

Privately, Kris was wondering about that herself but it didn't mean she wasn't wishing she was there.  "You never know, Deb.  She might surprise you."

"Oh yeah, still waters run deep and all that, eh?" asked Maria with a wide grin.

Most of them laughed at that, Maria was usually termed the sensible one and was teased frequently about 'still waters'.

"She just seems so focused and serious all the time, not that I've seen her away from the softball field often," added Jen.

"She is focused, she is serious and very good at her job but she's also a lot of fun, you just have to know her."

"Sure Kris, sure.  We'll just take your word for it," chuckled Pam.

Kris stood.  "On that note, I'm heading to get in line for the restroom.  Be back in a few hours," she said with a wry smile about the fact that there were usually lines at the restrooms in the clubs.

Jen also stood.  "I'll come too.  You guys try to behave whilst we're gone, eh?"

Deb simply shook her head, which was picked up by Pam and the rest of the women who then laughed.

Kris smiled at her friend as they walked to the other side of the club; Jen was dressed in a cobalt blue silk dress that really suited her very well.  "You look really happy, Jen."

Jen smiled back.  "I am and this has been a load of fun.  Thank you for putting it together."

"Believe me, it was a combined effort.  Where'd you get the dress?  It's really gorgeous." Kris had decided to not spoil Jen's night with anything and hadn't mentioned last night's events to anyone in the group.  It was also a way for her to let her mind switch directions.

Jen chuckled.  "I was going to ask you where you got yours.  I mean, wow, Kris.  That green is perfect for you and it fits...well, you're giving Deb a run for her money."

Kris felt the blush move over her skin, she swatted at Jen's arm.  "Please, as if!  I got it from that new store on Taylor and er...Fifth?  Yours?"

"Ooh, haven't been there yet.  Mine's from Nordy's, of course."

Sometime later they both headed back towards the table and Kris noted the band had changed; the new band was doing a great job one of her favorites.

...wait by the light of the window

Come to my window

I'll be home soon

By the time they got back to the table, most of the women back on the dance floor enjoying the music to the fullest.   Kris sat down and found herself listening carefully to the music, squirming slightly as the singer's voice seemed to wrap its way around her and capture her almost completely.  Wishing she could see the stage from the table, she watched the goose bumps as they rose on her arms in a strange but pleasurable reaction to the timbre of the clear alto voice.

Keeping my eyes open

I cannot afford to sleep

Giving away promises

I know that I can't keep

Nothing fills the blackness

that has seeped into my chest

I need you in my blood

I am forsaking all the rest

Just to reach you

Just to reach you

Oh to reach you

Kris closed her eyes for a minute to just listen without any visual clutter and found herself really pulled along by the strength of the voice she was listening to.  A slight smile touched her lips as she enjoyed the music.  Then she opened her eyes and was thinking of joining the crowd when Deb shimmied her way back to the table and pulled both Jen and Kris to the very crowded dance floor.  The women laughed and danced, enjoying the company and music.  Kris quietly sang along to the chorus and then looked up at the band.

I don't care what they think

I don't care what they say

What do you know about this love anyway

Kris blinked a couple of times.  'Oh shit.'  Closing her mouth with what was to her an audible click, even with all noise, she waved her hand to hopefully indicate to the others that she was hot, smiled and turned back to the table trying to hide her surprise.  She was almost back to the table when a hand touched her back, she whirled.

"Whoa!"  Maria backed off, wide eyed.  "Hey, are you okay?"

Kris' mind whirled as her eyes strayed back to the stage.  'Okay, figure out what to do.' "Ugh.  Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, sorry.  Just too many people I guess." 'Maybe it's not a problem but maybe it's not safe?  Oh hell, where's safer?'  She collected her scattered thoughts in a mental bucket and smiled at Maria.  'Let's see.' "So what do you think of the band?"

They band had already started up a new song and were in the midst when Maria turned around from getting her drink to watch them with Kris.  She indicated the singer with a nod of her head, "You think that dress could get much tighter?  Not that she doesn't look gorgeous, Dammit."

Kris simply nodded and forced herself to remain calm as she took a mental inventory of their group.  A couple had paired off with guys, two were talking off to the side but she couldn't see the others.

...left to prove, baby all we need is just to be

Caught up in the touch, the slow and steady rush

And baby, isn't that the way that love's supposed to be

I can feel you breathe

Just breathe

Sam's eyes surveyed the mass of bodies, she was tired.  This was her second turn of the night and she knew she was going to pay for this in the morning.   Her feet hurt, her back hurt from the heels, her eyes hurt...'Buckle it up, Sam'  She felt her attention pulled to the rear corner of the room, her eyes searched the faces even as they kept an eye on the two women they were guarding.

In a way I know my heart is waking up

As all the walls come tumblin' down

The Detective felt her breath catch slightly as her gaze slammed into eyes she would know anywhere.  'Oh Dammit to hell!'  She recovered instantly and tried not to let her surprise show.

Closer than I've ever felt before and I know and you know

There's no need for words right now.

Maria chuckled to herself and let her eyes wander over the crowd for a few moments.  Deb and her red dress caught her attention briefly as the woman paired off with a happy guy and then her eyes moved back to the stage.  'Sorry, Deb, you might have met your match there.' Then she looked more carefully.  "Hey, that singer look familiar?"


 !¹  Kris turned to her friend and whispered in her ear, "'Ria, we may need to get out of here."

Maria turned to Kris in surprise.  "What?"  Then it hit, she snapped her head back to the stage and watched the singer move seductively through the song, bringing her hands up to the music and taking the room through the song with her.

Caught up in the touch, the slow and steady rush

And baby isn't that the way that love's supposed to be

I can feel you breathe

Just breathe

Kris stood mesmerized for a few moments as she too was caught up.  She noted that the dress Sam had on fit like a second skin, Œand what a skin,' before noting that some of the group were starting to wind their way back through the press of bodies.

Maria continued to watch the woman on the stage and let her mouth fall open.  "Holy shit."

Kris moved closer.  "Don't say anything, she told me she's on special duty tonight.  We probably should leave."

Maria looked up at Sam on the stage and then back at Kris before leaning close to the blonde.  "This is duty?"  She looked back at the stage.  "Wow."

I can feel the magic floatin' in the air

Being with you gets me that way.

They stayed close together.  "Let me see if I can talk to her and see if she wants us to leave.   Don't say anything, okay, it may be really important."  It was some measure of the trust she held in Sam that it never even occurred to Kris to question her friend's presence in the club.

"Yeah sure, I'll keep them all sitting.  Can't see a damned thing from the table and most of them don't know her anyway."

Sam watched as Kris edged her way around the crowd.  She had to admire the blonde¹s form; someone would have to be really paying attention to notice her intent to get to the stage. She told the band to play something without her until she got back, they were prepared for that and moved right into the next song as she stepped to the side, telling the plain clothes officer lurking there that she needed a minute.

Bending her head slightly she spoke into the mike, which was placed in a strategic location, "Sorry guys, I need a few minutes for something private...gonna go silent.  Frank, you got the watch for a bit?"  At the affirmative response, Sam reached down and turned off her mike, then headed around to the door to the club.

Cracking it open she waited until Kris had gotten close and then opened it enough for her to see it was open.  Then the detective stepped back.  Within moments, the blonde stepped through and Sam pushed the door closed.  They stood and stared at each other, Kris simply speechless at the amazing sight before her and Sam trying to figure out what to say to her very own trouble-magnet and pretty impressed with the sight before her too.

"Urgh."  The blonde threw her hands up and tried to grapple herself for control of her amazement and the heat working through her body.  "Uh, we had no idea.  Should we leave?"  She looked towards the stage.  "By the way, you look awesome.  To quote Maria, Wow!"

The tall woman hoped the blush would be hidden by the lack of lights by the door and smiled at her friend as she shook her head.  "Of all the clubs in the world?"

"Yeah, I know." She looked Sam up and down.  "Where've you been hiding this dress?  And why didn't you tell me you sang professionally?  There's no way that was lip synching."

Sam held up a hand and smiled slightly to take the sting out of her words, "Can we discuss fashion and stuff later, not that you don't look pretty great yourself but I have to get back to work."  Without waiting, she continued, "Who knows?" 'And who the hell am I going to have to pay off to not say anything?'

"Just Maria, I think, and I asked her to keep it quiet.  Jen, Deb and Pam have had quite a bit to drink, they may never notice.  The others really haven't seen you more than once briefly or not at all."

Sam nodded.  'Well, I'm almost done and it keeps her in my sight, at least.  God knows the trouble she can attract.'  "All right, I'll make sure it's okay with the rest of the group but I only have a few songs left and I can cut a couple of those out and watch from the floor instead so it'll probably be fine.  Just make sure that you all watch out for each other, okay?  I don't want to worry about you guys, and if Jen, Deb and Pam sober up a bit, let them know so we don't have any problems."

"Okay, I really am sorry."

The Detective looked at the smaller woman with a definite twinkle in her eyes and smiled wryly.  "Kris, I should know better with you.  Just scoot and be careful."

"Yes, Mom," the blonde said impudently as she headed back to the door and glanced back for a quick second to look again at her friend.  'Heh.  Is Deb gonna be jealous if you go out on the floor like that.'

The band finished up a number and Sam waited for them to get half way through the next before checking herself back in and moving back to the stage.   She'd made sure that the rest of the team knew about the potential problem but her no-nonsense attitude stopped any thoughts of ribbing her before they started.  'Well, how about we keep 'em hopping and their minds away from me, hmm?'

Inexplicably her pains from earlier had seemed to fade away into the background and s

 he indicated to the band which song she wanted to go with next.  Keeping her eyes on the two plain clothes women and preparing to tire the audience out with a snappy Gloria Estefan tune.  'Gotta love those Latin rhythms!'

Sam's position on stage gave her a really good view of the two women they were guarding, the club wasn't dark like some, the lights were geared to highlight the crowd as well and 'Thank god' the no smoking ordinance applied. 'I'd hate to think what my voice'd be like if I had to do this with smoke, not gonna be able to speak for days as it is, I'm sure.'

They moved into an upbeat Shania song as Sam cast her eyes over Kris' group and Sam realized that with another two or three songs she was finished.  Then they'd keep an eye on the plants for another hour or so and clean it up.  She finished up the songs, grabbed her small purse from the drum stand and gratefully moved out of the bright lights to lean back against a wall as the final band moved to their places.  'Maybe I won't volunteer for tomorrow night.'

She closed her eyes for a moment and spoke into the necklace microphone again, "Okay guys, what's up?"  She listened to the report through the earphone including a rundown from the rest of the teams and reconciled herself to probably not catching the jerk tonight.  'Damn.' Running a finger over an earring to make it more comfortable against the earphone 'At least nobody questions this earphone as a singer, though,' she took a deep breath and moved to the door to the club again.

Even though Maria was helping, Kris had really taken it upon herself to keep an eye on everyone in the group and had done a good job so far.  'Apart from when Deb wandered off with that guy, I'm gonna kill her, I swear.' I few frantic moments of searching had found the errant Deb in a corner with her latest conquest and Kris had to explain to her, once the guy left, about why she was so bothered.

To her surprise, Deb had gone pale at the explanation and apologized before she turned a corner and reprimanded Kris for not saying something.  An extra set of eyes had been great, until Jen's sister, Vicki, had headed to the restroom and Jen had gone with her on yet another search for her perpetually missing earring when Kris was getting a new round of drinks.

Kris returned with a tray of drinks and emptied it quickly before handing the tray to a passing club employee.  She shook her head with a wry smile as she watched three of the group back on the dance floor, the rest were sitting at the table starting to look as if they were feeling the lateness of the hour.

"Does anyone else feel like they're too old for this stuff anymore?" Vicki asked.

Kris and Maria laughed and agreed as Deb looked shocked at even the suggestion.

"I'm exhausted!  It's been great, though." Kris agreed and smiled as the rest nodded in appreciation of the night they'd had.  "Hey, where's Jen?"

"Still looking for her earring, I guess.  She wanted to ask one of the guys if it had been turned in." Vicki responded.

Kris looked around and her heart sped up a bit when she could find no sign of Jen.  'Cool your jets, she's probably fine.' Ignoring her inner voice of reason she stood up.  "You guys stay here, okay?  Deb, Maria?"  With nods of understanding from them both she left the booth and started to look around the club.

Sam walked through the door to the club, only to be greeted by what she felt like was half the club.  After clearing various human hurdles and smiling so much she felt it would stick she craned her neck to keep an eye on the plants and then over to Kris' group.  Noting Kris' absence she quickly glanced around and spotted her talking to one of the club employees.  Her body language screamed at the tall Detective and she moved purposefully in her direction and spoke into the microphone, "Eyes open guys."

Kris' worry was increasing the longer it took and she spun from the latest guy she was talking to only to almost run into Sam's hand, which had been reaching for Kris' shoulder.  Sam snatched it back as Kris started to speak, "It's Jen, might not be anything but I can't find her.  I know you..."

The taller woman held up her hands and cut right to the chase.  "How long?"

The blonde shrugged her shoulders and shook her head.  "Probably fifteen or twenty minutes since Vicki saw her last."

A picture of Jen flashed through Sam's mind and she felt a clench in her gut.  She held up her index finger to Kris and turned away from the crowd.  "I want an exit check.  Now."  Holding a hand over the necklace, she turned to Kris.  "Go get everyone together and keep them together, okay?  We'll find Jen."

Kris started to protest but Sam was in full professional mode and when the Detective turned her high beams directly on Kris she capitulated moving back towards the table, the protests dying in her throat.

Sam listened as the reports of all clear on the exits came through.  "Okay, listen up.  We may have a live one, guys.  About five six, short, dark hair, late twenties.  Been missing for about fifteen minutes.  I want everyone on alert.  Leah out front and Jack to the west side please, I'll take the east and Frank, you keep a close watch on our own fishes with the rest."  At the expected affirmatives, Sam moved to the door outside and opened it when she saw Frank move to the door panel.  "Keep it tight, guys, no mistakes."

Sam stood still and listened for a few moments to give her eyes an opportunity to start to adjust.  Before she could move off, her earphone crackled.

"Sam, we've may have a problem."


"The door you went through didn't light up on the panel."

Sam instantly tried to control the anger that fairly crackled in dark energy around her.  She was well aware that recriminations and anger would only waste time and that might be devastating for Jen.  "We're blown.  Frank, get the ladies and then you three stick with the group of six or seven women in the rear corner who are with the strawberry blonde, the one in a green dress you saw me talking to, the missing woman's with them.  Jack, take someone with you and check the buildings next door.  Leah, take someone and check across the street.  Someone call it in.  Everyone else, I want you moving NOW!  Don't leave anywhere unchecked.   Be careful people!"

Looking around the alley, she couldn't help the, 'Be okay, Jen,' thought that popped up.

Several minutes later her team had found nothing, Jen hadn't turned up and Sam reported that she was on her way to check the river walkway just down from the club.  She'd removed her gun from her purse, hung her ID around her neck and thrown the now empty purse aside in her growing anxiety. 'Dammit, remind me to bring better freaking shoes next time.' She arrived by the river and looked around, her heart dropping down further with each passing minute.

The walkway was patrolled regularly downtown and was actually a very nice to be most nights but this wasn't downtown, it was still patrolled but not regularly and the occasional pools of darkness held menace for Sam.  The ground was concrete, therefore showed no tracks, and she didn't hold hope for any bread crumbs to lead her to Jen, so she extended her hair trigger senses as far as she could.

"Whoever's left up there, see if you can get some of the regular patrols to help look down here by the river."


?'  Sam analyzed the split second sound she'd heard from the left.  "Going left on the walkway." She said quietly to team and quietly but firmly walked in that direction, her gun held still on one side.  Her eyes scanned the area, but some inner sense she couldn't explain picked up the presence of someone behind one of the fences ahead that apparently were part of some restoration on the bridge close by.  'Two someones?'

She kept walking as if she did it every night and didn't have a care in the world, she got closer.  Her heartbeat increased and she felt the thrill of danger flicker through her.  'Definitely two.'  Somehow she knew she was on the right path, now was she in time.  'I feel you, asshole.  You are mine and if you've hurt her....'

She got within a stride of the fence when she saw a patch of darkness move further back into the shadows.  She could smell the perfume that Jen liked to use; the one Sam herself had complimented her on in one of her rare attempts at conversation and received that next Christmas from Kris.

She could almost feel the fear and excitement coming from the shadows.  Forcing herself to walk past quickly, she moved onward several steps, her shoes making sharp noises on the pavement.  Every muscle was coiled and prepared for anything, her breathing was coming faster now.  She moved past some distance and moved off the path, taking off her shoes.

"Possible contact, river bridge.   Moving in."

Several voices instantly urged that she not follow that course of action and she tuned them all out.   The Detective moved stealthily but quickly back towards the bridge, gun now resting on her upper right chest, held in both hands.  She stopped to listen for a moment as she got close.

She was rewarded by a hissed, "Shut up!" and a whimper that made her lip curl in anger.  Her mind kept up an internal monologue, 'Hang in there, Jen.  Did you see me?  I'm not leaving you,' as she listened to get the positioning of the two people correct.

Sam started when she heard, "Time's up, bitch," from right around the corner of the bridge.

Even though it was far too soon for anyone to have come to help, she wasn't willing to put Jen in any more danger.  She swung around the corner, with one shoulder on the cool stone, and put herself in the standard cover position, "Police, freeze!"

The suspect was so startled that he backed instantly and tripped backwards over Jen's leg, which put him within easy grabbing distance of Jen.  He took good use of it and pulled the half conscious woman over to cover his body, then brought his knife to her throat.  Sam couldn't shoot, there was no clear shot but she held the gun steadily and kept her gaze on his eyes.  "Let her go, you can't get out of this."

He pulled Jen to her feet with him and kept the knife firmly against her throat the whole time.   His eyes flickered from one side to the other and Sam slowly stepped closer to try to get a better angle.

Jen gasped as the knife bit into her neck.

"Back off and put the gun down!"

Sam couldn't stop her eyes from straying to Jen's frantic eyes for a split second, 'Son of a bitch!  This caring about people crap has gotta go.'  Surely help couldn't be too far away, she kept the gun steady.  "Just let her go."

He stepped back further with her friend and laughed.  "You don't seem to understand, I have nothing to lose."  His wild eyes bored into hers and he smiled insanely at her as his arm tensed.

Jen closed her eyes and prayed.

"All right!" Against all the rules she lived by, Sam stooped over carefully and laid the gun down in front of her.  "All right, you have it.  Now let her go."

"Back up!"

She started to step back when a noise cracked in the stillness.

The rapist's hold loosened slightly as he partially turned his attention towards the potential new danger.   He wasn't able to correct the error before Jen pushed his arm away and slammed her foot down on his.

At the first movement Sam was already surging forward, mentally yelling at Jen to get away.

Jen saw Sam coming and dropped to the side before the rapist could recover.

The Detective took quick advantage and threw herself at the man, grabbing his knife arm as he went after Jen with it.

They both ended up on the ground, Sam tried to keep a tight hold of his hand and arm as he tried to free it but she was in an awkward position and he had the leverage.  She could vaguely hear people getting closer as he slammed a fist into her jaw and tried to pull his clenched fist free.

She retaliated by bringing an elbow up sharply into his face, connecting nicely with his cheek.  He reeled backwards into a crouch, pulling her with him and she used the opportunity to get to her knees, then bring her head forward in a slam against his.  His head whipped back and the rest of his body followed, slightly stunned, into the river.

Sam was off balance and still had a hold of the man's arm.  She had no intention of letting him get away and so kept a tight hold and followed him into the dark water.

"Sam!" Kris scrambled over to the edge of the water and frantically looked for some sign, then quickly moved over to Jen as the other woman tried to scramble to her feet.  "Are you okay?"

A shaky "Yeah," any other words were forestalled by the arrival of several other people, all with guns drawn.  The first arrival threw off his jacket and shoes and then jumped into the water.  One came towards Jen and Kris as two others walked along the river's edge, searching.

Kris could feel that Jen had started to shiver from the shock and the one who'd earlier identified himself to her as Frank removed his jacket and put it around Jen's shoulders.  Jen just stared at the water and Kris smiled briefly at him, "Thanks," as she kept her arms around Jen and her eyes on the river.

"Paramedics are on their way." Frank said to both and then directed his stare to Kris, "You should never have left the club, you put people in danger."

Kris dragged her attention away from the river to look at the man in front of her, "I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking."  He turned and walked towards the water, still obviously annoyed, as Kris whispered words of comfort to Jen and kept her arms tight around her.  Her eyes followed his back for a few moments, her heart dropping at her impulsive run outside.

She hadn't even thought, just knew she had to go and wasn't even sure how or where but when she'd seen another figure head in the direction of the path she went that way too, her eyes went back to the river.  It hadn't been more than a matter of minutes butŠ 'Just how long can she hold her breath?'

Sam's breath was starting to give out, they'd struggled underwater for what felt like an eternity to the Detective and the rapist was deliberately keeping them under.   He'd tried to free himself repeatedly and she'd tenaciously held on.  Knowing time was short, Sam made a decision.

Dragging them both to the bottom of the river, not wanting to think about what she was standing in, Sam bunched her leg muscles up.  She launched off the bottom, not towards the surface as he'd obviously expected, and used the power to push her head and shoulder backwards and bring her feet into his chest.  Then punched out her legs out as hard as she could and what little air they both had left went bubbling to the surface.

Sam managed a neat backward flip in the water and grabbed the knife as it came free from his hand and swam quickly to the surface of the water.  Breaking the surface, she took deep gasps of air into her burning lungs.  She looked up as quickly as she could to see Jack swimming with the rapist dragging behind him.   The flow of the water had moved them somewhat but in a matter of moments she was at the edge of the river, being helped up by several pairs of hands.

Still trying to take in air, she sat on the ground panting and looked over to the now handcuffed man further away.  He too was panting, they had his head turned away from her and several officers surrounded him.  She wiped water from her face and looked around for Jen, then let out a snort of incredulity that a certain blonde was standing with Jen. 'Why am I surprised?'

Kris waited for the eyes she desperately wanted to see to find her, it never occurred to her that they wouldn't.  She smiled widely as the dark haired Detective spotted her, then shook her head back and forth and chuckled.

Frank came up to her side and crouched down, placing a hand on her shoulder.  "You okay?"

Still enjoying the sensation of air entering her lungs far too much to waste time on talking, Sam nodded.

Noticing where Sam's attention was focused, he felt the need to explain.  "She ran out of the club like a bat out of hell.  I turned my back to talk to Lani and Jane and by the time I turned around she was already at the door."

"Don't worry about it," Sam breathed.  "If there's trouble, that one'll find it."

"You know her then?"

"Oh yeah, you could say that.  She's Captain Scott's daughter."

"No shit?"

"No shit," Sam responded wryly.  "Let me guess, she the first one down here?"

"Yeah.  Jesus, she scared Jack to holy hell when she started barreling down the path ahead of him.  I had to tell him who she was so he wouldn't take her down."

"The scary thing is that she was probably the one who took his attention for the moment we needed.  Amazing."  Sam thought about that for a few moments.  'Suppose I can't yell at her too much for that?  But dammit, she attracts enough trouble; does she have to go running into its arms too?'

"She's damned lucky you had gone the right way, she might've been his second victim tonight otherwise."

Sam thought about that for a minute, 'How did she know to come this way?' and looked up at Kris with a quizzical glance.


Kris cringed slightly as Sam looked her way again with an odd look in her eyes.  The paramedics had just arrived and were helping Jen, so she took the moment to move away and go to Sam.  She knelt carefully, oblivious to anything but the tall, very wet, dark haired woman sitting on the pavement.  "You're a mess."

Sam spluttered, definitely not expecting that and then looked down at the ruin of what used to be her best and most expensive dress, her bedraggled and very wet hair and felt the inner bruise in her mouth with her tongue.  "Yeah. I guess I am," she replied with a quirky grin.

Kris started to reach for Sam's face but paused for an instant and reached for a hand instead, gripping it tightly before whispering, "I was so scared for both of you but when you went into the water."  Her face seemed to pale significantly.

"With you as backup, how could we possibly fail?"  Dark eyebrows rose high to add to the question and she squeezed Kris' hand with a smile.

The blonde released the Detective's hand and embraced her in a full hug, not caring about how damp Sam's clothes were and how that was transferring to her own.  Then she rocked back on her heels.  "You're not going to yell at me?"

Sam's dark head cocked to the side and regarded Kris.  "You know, I really should.  You put yourself in danger and you could've put Jen and I in danger too but..."  She lifted her hands and let them fall again.  "You made that noise on purpose, didn't you?"

Kris swallowed and nodded her head, not looking at Sam until long fingers settled under her chin and lifted her head.

"You probably saved Jen's life.  I can't be angry with you for that, even though I really want to be."

Kris looked as if she'd been hit in the face with a particularly smelly fish.

This didn't escape the Detective.  "Kris...if there's one thing that I've learned about you, it's that you care for others more than you care for yourself.  I don't know how you knew to come here and I fully intend talking to you about running heedlessly into danger when I'm not sitting dripping wet and exhausted on a riverbank but, for now, I just thank God we're all safe."  She watched the blonde stare at her openmouthed. 'Hey, I think I have her speechless.  I have to remember this method!'

Kris was saved from any more surprises by the arrival of a paramedic to check Sam out.  She moved out of the way and he carefully placed a warm blanket around the dark haired woman's shoulders, which Sam drew closed with one hand after he had initially looked her over.

Sam watched everything moving around her and started to realize just how bone deep tired she was.  Her eyes strayed to Kris, who had moved back to check on Jen when Sam was being looked over, then the rapist, who was still facing away from her, and then they moved aimlessly from one figure to another.   Her breathing and heart rate had dropped back to near normal and she paid very little attention to the paramedic as he fussed around.

Finally, she'd had enough and stood up after pulling her head away from his ministrations.  She ignored his disapproval and thanked him, sending him on his way to look at someone else.  He persisted, but a final, "I'm fine," with one of her icy looks was enough to make him back off and move onto another victim.

Jen looked up as Sam stepped close and took a half step in the tall woman's direction, keeping her eyes on hers, before stopping and shaking her head, unable to say anything.

Kris stayed a step behind Jen but kept a warm hand on her friend's back.  She smiled over Jen's shoulder at Sam, feeling Jen's emotion and said simply, "Thank you, Sam."

Sam couldn't help but see that Jen's body language was screaming for comfort.  'Oh geez, no?'  Sam's eyes flashed to Kris' and then back to Jen.  'Oh man, do I have to?' She stole a glance at Kris again and saw what looked suspiciously like a smirk cross her friend's face.  'Aw hell.'  Taking the bull by the horns, Sam stepped forward; tried to clutch the blanket closed to keep the damp from Jen and enveloped the shaken woman in a warm hug.

After a moment of stiff surprise, Jen simply melted into Sam's hold and started to cry.

"Shhh, it's okay.  It's over and you're safe."  Sam held her tightly and let her fingers run in a tiny pattern on the other woman's back in an effort to soothe her.  "Shhh," she whispered as Jen sobbed out her fear.   She looked over at Kris for some help and was instantly rewarded as the blonde smiled widely.

Kris stepped close into Jen's back and slid her arm up to run along Sam's arm, frowning slightly at the goose bumps that rose on the other woman's arm.  Interpreting this as a sign that Sam was chilly, she covered Sam's arm with her own, then slipped her other arm in-between to the two bodies to wrap it around Jen's waist and laid her cheek against the back of Jen's head.

They stood there together for a minute as Jen gathered the tattered ends of her composure and tied them in as neat a knot as she could fashion.  The hairs on Sam's neck would've risen from the fact that she was so uncomfortable if they'd hadn't been so damp but the it didn't change that fact that she felt incredibly conspicuous anyway.  Luckily most of the people were busy but Jack had already sent a startled look their way and that hadn't helped Sam's comfort level.  'Reputation.  What reputation?'

Sam stepped back half a step and slid her arm free under Kris', until only their hands were touching on Jen's shoulder.   Then that contact was gone.

Kris stepped to Jen's side and kept one arm around her back.

"You okay?"

Jen looked up at the tall Detective's question and smiled tremulously at her.  "Sam...." she tried to find the words.  "Thank you, I was so scared until I saw you."

Sam smiled.  "Don't thank me.  You saved yourself after that one there," she indicated Kris with a nod of her head, "distracted him.  I just went for a swim."

Jen seemed to have collected up enough of her composure to show a bit of disdain for that response, "Yeah right.   You know, I thought I was dead until I saw you." She half turned her head to look at Kris and then leaned her head against her blonde friend's.  "You are so right."

Kris noticed Sam's confusion and quickly moved the conversation along with a grin.  "Aren't I always?"  She looked at Sam.  "Any chance we can go back to the club, at least?"

Sam turned around to look for someone to ask when she noticed the rapist was being led back up the path to the waiting police vehicles, dark energy crackled around her again as he started to turn his head.  She shifted her stance to put her body between him and the two women behind her just as he looked back at them.

Jen watched in trepidation as Sam's demeanor became what she could only refer to later as deadly.  She exchanged glances with Kris and swallowed hard.

Unconsciously, Sam's lip curled and eyes narrowed as she stood up straighter and let the blanket fall from her shoulders.  Beady scavenger eyes met the icy glare of a true predator and fell away long before the blue gaze softened at a touch and soft words.

Jen's trepidation turned to amazed fascination as she watched Sam's body relax the instant that Kris had touched and spoken softly to her.  If she'd been more composed she likely would've tried to stop Kris from walking up to the dark woman, the aura of danger was that great, but standing there in the cooling late night air, she instinctively knew that anyone else's approach would not have garnered the same response.


"I think that'll do, Ms Brettan.  We have all the facts and we can contact you if we need more for the initial investigation."  The investigator, Leah, concluded.  They'd emptied the club slowly, questioning various people and taking statements.  Mostly club employees and various law enforcement officers remained.

"Actually, I'm getting married next weekend and have a honeymoon to go on.  Please tell me you can work around that?"

"Don't worry, we'll make sure we work around it."  Leah smiled.  "Congratulations."

Jen looked up at her with a pretty good attempt at a smile.  "Thanks." She looked over to where Sam was talking with one of the other Detectives and then back at Leah and blurted out something she'd been keeping inside since it ended, "How do you repay your life?"

Kris watched as the investigator struggled for an answer to Jen's question and came up empty, then spoke up from her seat next to her friend, "You don't, you can't and she wouldn't want you to.  That creep is behind bars and, most importantly, you're safe.  That's all that matters to her in this, not thanks, not praise.  That just embarrasses her because she truly believes she's simply doing her job."  She smiled gently.  "Take it from someone who knows."

Leah watched quietly with interest.

"Boy do you know.  I didn't realize what you meant when you explained how she just makes things right.  One second I was sure I was going to die and then this..."  She chuckled nervously.  "Force of nature called Sam came within sight and it was like someone wrapped a warm flannel jacket around me.  I knew she'd fix it somehow."

"Yeah," Kris agreed and then tried to switch channels to get Jen's memory away from her recent experience.  She noticed the object of their discussion heading their way.  "You watch, next time tall, dark and full of flannel talks to you her first question will be something about your state of health and then something about getting you home."

Sam looked down at the three women who were seated around one of the tables in the club and greeted them, "Hey."  She felt much better after changing into some ill fitting but wonderfully dry clothes she'd bummed from some band members.  The ribbing she'd taken about swimming at night and the interestingly placed rips and tears in her formerly gorgeous dress was even worth it.  She directed her attention to Jen.  "How're you doing?"

With a smile, Jen responded, "Great, thanks."

"Good, as soon as Detective Lyons is done we can get you home."  Sam frowned as all three women broke out in grins.  When Leah and Jen looked to Kris, Sam cocked her head and looked quizzically at her as well.

"I didn't say a thing!" Kris said with a mischievous grin and just laughed as Sam shook her head.

Shoving herself up from the table Leah said, "I'm done here, Detective.  We'll have some follow up in the next few days but it shouldn't take long."

"Great, thanks.  The friends they're here with are chomping at the bit to make sure we haven't whipped and beaten them for confessions about stealing ashtrays."

Leah looked with some surprise at a side of the serious Detective she'd never even heard of, never mind been witness to, but recovered quickly.  "Well, let's get them out of here before the bruises show then, eh?"  The flash of a quirky grin she received in response surprised her even more.

It took some time to get everything settled, since the limo driver wasn't able to stay and none of the group was leaving without Jen and Kris but they were finally heading out of the club.  Leah had offered to take half of the women home and Sam was going to take the rest.

A little earlier, an exhausted Kris had taken Sam into a quiet corner and insisted that she wasn't leaving without her.  Sam had tried to argue but Š 'it's worse than talking to a brick wall when she gets her teeth into something!' Sam thought with not a little exasperation.  Sam had no intention of leaving but Pat Kelly had shown up and assured her that he'd make sure everything was finished up at the club if she'd come in the next day to finish the reports.

Since Pat was in charge of the project and Sam had made her initial report, even though she'd have to give it again the next day in even more detail, she took another look at the group of women waiting for her and did something she'd never willingly done before; left a scene before the entire report was closed.

Berating herself for leaving as she drove along, Sam glanced in the rear view mirror and saw Vicki holding her sister tightly, Jen appeared asleep on Vicki's shoulder and Maria was watching the scenes pass by the side of car but had a tight hold on of one of Jen's hands.  They all looked gaunt in the gloomy light.  A glance to the side found Kris leaning her head against the window.  She seemed to feel the regard and turned to look at Sam, a tired smile on her face.  Sam's lips quirked up in response.

Kris straightened her body in the seat and leaned closer to Sam to say quietly, "Did I hear that you have to go in tomorrow?"


"Is that because you left with us?"

"I'd probably have to go anyway.  The guy was injured, they tend to be really picky about that stuff."

"He tried to kill you and Jen!" Kris hissed.

"It's okay, standard procedure." Sam smiled at her friend's protectiveness. "Really."

"Hmm.  Well, I'm exhausted so I know you must be tired too.  Thank you for driving us home."

Vicki and Maria added their voices to the thanks and Jen stirred as well, adding hers as well.

"It's my pleasure to see you all safely home.  You know, that 'Serve and Protect' thing." Sam smiled into the rear view mirror.

"Well, you've certainly done both tonight."  Vicki's earnest gaze momentarily trapped Sam in the mirror.

Not sure what to say, Sam returned her attention to the road and looked for the turnoff to Jen's parents' hoping that the gloom would hide the flush she felt on her face.  The sisters had decided to stay with their parents tonight and their parents were almost certainly anxiously awaiting them after the middle of the night call.   The four women that Leah took home had all met at Deb's house and so Leah had the easiest taxi job, Maria and Kris had been picked up at Kris' and Maria's car was still there.  They'd all gone in the limo to pick up Vicki and Jen.  Kris had, of course, insisted on being the last one to be taken home which Maria insisted she didn't mind.

Kris smiled at Vicki's comment and watched with wry affection as the slight flush crept over Sam's face.  There was so much she wanted to say but the strong profile she was looking at caught her imagination.  The silvered streaks that hit the dark hair glinted

'like stars in the night sky,

risking all to show us a way home.'

She watched as the pale eyes shifted around, taking in everything around them

'beacons in the darkness,

bringing us safety when we roam.'

Kris watched as Sam's eyes flickered to the side, 'probably discarding a danger before we even saw it.  Dear god, Kris.  Are you making up bad poetry?  Are you crazy?'  She chuckled to herself and patted Sam's hand with a smile, the smile getting bigger at Sam's startled glance, and then tucked herself back against the door to keep her own vigil against the darkness.   Concentrating her mind on the story she was going to write about the rapist's capture she let her mind piece it together.

A few minutes later they pulled into the Brettan's driveway.  Two people exited the house and started to come towards the vehicle.  Sam opened her door quickly and stepped out to make sure Jen and Vicki got out safely only to find herself held tightly in Vicki's grasp. 'Shit!' Slightly startled, she wasn't sure what to do with herself for a moment until she hesitantly patted Vicki's silk clad back.

Vicki stood back, brushed her long hair back over her shoulder and looked up at Sam with tears and a bit of embarrassment in her eyes.  Her gaze dropped to the ground and then back up again.  "She's always been my protector, my guardian angel.  Thank you for being hers."  With a squeeze of Sam's arm and a smile, she moved off to greet her swiftly approaching parents.

Jen fondly watched her sister move off for a moment and then brought herself up to Sam, trying to find something to say that would truly express her feelings.   Sam's low rumble interrupted her train of thought.

"You were great tonight.  It was great to watch you use the stuff from the class to save yourself."

Jen let out a surprised breath.  "You don't get it, do you?"  When Sam looked at her with confusion written all over her face, Jen continued, "He'd hit me with something, I was having problems remembering my name, never mind the classes.  Until I saw you.  Then I knew I was gonna be okay."

Jen grabbed the taller woman's hand as her parents came to stand by them.  "Until my very own flannel jacket showed up I was completely out of it.  You saved my life, Sam."  Slipping her hand from Sam's grasp, Jen gave her a hearty hug.  "Take your punishment gracefully."  Then she squeezed hard.  "Thank you."

Sam returned the hug, trying not to be grumpy about all this contact. Luckily her mind was caught up in something Jen had said. 'Flannel jacket?'

Kris watched from the car and tried to keep her smile down to minor wattage as she watched her tall friend receive the dues that Kris knew she rarely stayed around long enough to receive.  She laughed to herself at Jen's punishment comment, 'Guess she's more fun than you guys thought, hmm?'   As Jen's parents stood by, Kris waited for the normal "This is Kris' friend, Sam" introduction that Sam always got when being introduced to someone by one of the blonde's friends.

"Mom, Dad, this is my friend, Detective Sam Foster.  She saved my life tonight."

Kris couldn't help the sharp intake of breath as the normal introduction was replaced by Jen's firm statement of friendship.  Several emotions hit her at once as she noticed the split second flicker of surprise in Sam's eyes. 'Big fraud.  I know you notice and care about a lot more things than people give you credit for.'  She quickly flicked away the moisture pooling in her eyes.

Several handshakes and teary thank you's later, they were back on the road.  Kris had gotten her dues from the parents and sisters as well when they dragged her out of the car to thank her for the contribution she'd made to the rescue.  Sam hadn't bothered to hide the smirk as she stood watching as she leaned against the car, arms folded and legs crossed at the ankles.  But now the sisters were safely ensconced in their parents' house and Kris had turned in her seat to talk with Maria.

Sam felt as if her skin was going to crawl off, between not wanting to think about what she stepped in after she took her shoes off and in what was in the river and the fact that she'd been hugged more tonight than in 'forever!' she was more than ready to be home, taking a long, hot shower and then getting into a very comfy bed.

She sighed as she realized that her gun was going to have to be cleaned before she went bed, it was filthy from the fact that she'd dropped it in a handy mud puddle by the bridge to try to discourage the rapist from going for it.  She looked at her hand and realized she didn't want to think about what was in the puddle either since she'd had to dig a little around to get it back.

Her mind wandered a little as Kris' rhythmic voice wrapped around frayed nerve endings and soothed them as only Kris could.  How strange it'd been to wake up with the smell of breakfast cooking that morning.  Sam had actually been mortified that not only had Kris gotten up and moved around without her waking up but she'd almost prepared an entire breakfast before the Detective's nose had woken her up.

Sam didn't have an adult memory of that happening before, not even Steve was able to get up without Sam knowing about it.  'True,' she thought as dark eyebrows scrunched together in a frown.  'It's not like we were in the same bed but, still, she made breakfast!'

Absently noting that the upcoming street was one she needed to turn on for Maria and Kris she flicked on the blinker.  She continued to listen to the soft tones and her mind drifted back to the morning.  It had been surprisingly pleasant to share her mornings with the blonde.

Sam had found herself smiling across the table at her friend a lot as Kris got herself in work mode by telling the Detective amusing stories about various happenings at the office.  The unpleasantness of the previous evening was there but softened by the daylight and by two friends who were truly enjoying their time together.

'You did enjoy it, didn't you

 ?' Sam thought about that for a moment and realized with a tiny snort of surprise that she had indeed enjoyed starting out her day with Kris and even, she realized with a start, taking care of the blonde the night before.  She rolled that around her mind a bit and winced as someone's high beams, 'Idiot,' shone in her face for a split second.  Her mind homed in on Kris, 'When did she stop being the grateful kid and become someone I'm that comfortable with?'

She pondered as several scenes flashed through her mind, it wasn't until she felt Kris' warm hand on her arm that she realized that one or both of the other occupants in the car were obviously talking to her.  She flashed a grin.  "Sorry, was thinking."

"Obviously!"  Kris smiled gently at Sam.  "I was asking you if wanted to stay for a cup of coffee or anything but I'm thinking you need to get home and get some sleep perhaps?"

Sam nodded gratefully.  "Yes, but first I really, really want a shower."

Maria and Kris chuckled at that and prepared to exit the car as Sam pulled up in front of Kris' apartment complex.  Sam started to get out but Kris stopped her.  "We'll be fine.  Maria might stay the night, actually."

Leaning over and hugging the dark haired woman tightly, Kris said, "I know you've got to be nuts with all this hugging, I'm sorry."  It surprised her to feel the hug returned with sincere strength.  "I...I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay?"

"You bet and try to stay out of trouble?"

Kris tried to look shocked at the thought and pointed to herself.

"Yes, you!" Both Sam and Maria said in unison and all three chuckled.

"It's not like I try to find it you know."

"And I thank God for that because I'd never get any work done, " Sam teased.

"Ooh, you'll pay for that."  The blonde swatted the Detective's arm.

"Yeah, yeah."  Sam grinned then said her goodnights and smiled at Maria, who was on the opposite side of the car.  She waited until they were both safely inside before pulling away and heading for her final trek of the night.

Sam started in surprise at seeing Pat open the door before she'd even knocked on it.  "Hi!"

"Hi."  They stood there awkwardly for a moment.  "You better come in before Ma comes after me with her umbrella for keeping you on the doorstep."

Sam laughed.  "It'd probably be a close foot race, eh?"

"Hey! Be nice or I'll make sure that I give her a count of days since you've been here last!"

"Ooh!"  Sam looked at him with outraged eyes.  "Straight for the jugular.   Hit you in a sore spot did I?"

"That does it!"  He turned and moved towards the kitchen.  "Ma!"

Sam surged towards him and grabbed his arm.  "I can't believe you did that!"

Pat turned, laughing, "She's next door inviting the Mrs. Blakely over for dinner.  She just found out that Mr. Blakely moved out and I'm sure they're discussing the general evilness of the male population as we speak."  The laughter brought out the sparkle in his eyes and definitely added to his already healthy Kelly looks.

"Hmm, maybe I should go add my own thoughts to that."  One of Sam's eyebrows rose in question.

Pat held his chest as if wounded to the core.  "I am the epitome of a gentleman and scholar I'll have you know."

Sam cleared her throat and the other eyebrow joined the first.

"Hey!  I am."

"Sure, sure.  Whatever you say, Patrick."  She gave him a look to show what she thought of that.

"Well in that case..."

Another voice interrupted, "Pat, who're you doing keeping out there?"

Sam smiled at Sarah, Patrick's sister, as she came into the hallway.  She was dressed in a soft light colored dress.  "Hi, Sarah."

Sarah smiled softly.  "Sam."  She stepped forward and hugged the tall woman.  "It's so good to see you."

Sam felt a surge of pain hit her chest, Sarah was Steve's twin sister and his death had been especially difficult on her.  Steve and Sarah had always been so very close, Sam just hugged her back.

Holding Sam at arm's length, Sarah looked her over.  "You look great, as always."

"So do you.  I guess it's been a while."  The tall woman felt a little chagrined at just how long it had been.

"You guess?"  Sarah looked incredulous.

Sam blushed a little, looking down at her toes and back up again.  "I'm sorry.  I've just been so busy and th..."

"Oh, don't ya be givin' us those excuses now.  Get over here and give me a hug!"

Sam's eyes widened and she stood up straight then turned to face Mrs. Kelly, missing Sarah and Pat's gleeful grins.  As the older woman put her hands on her hips to indicate her feelings about being made to wait, Sam gathered herself and stepped forward, grabbing the older woman and hugging her tightly.

"About time it is too!"

Sam smiled through pooling eyes and surreptitiously wiped the dampness away before anyone saw.  "I'm sorry. Thank you for inviting me."  She unbent herself from Mrs. Kelly's five foot frame and tried hard not to look like a child in the principal's office.

"You're always welcome here, Sam," she said as she absently patted Sam's arm and looked at Pat.  "Mrs. Blakely's not coming tonight.  We're going to go shopping tomorrow, though and discuss the evil ways of man."  A wink at Sam and a waggle of the finger at Pat later, she continued, "We eat in twenty minutes!"

In the announced twenty minutes, Sam got a reminder of what an affair Sunday night dinner was at the Kelly's.  She'd managed to greet just about everyone and then it was time for lots of family and lots of food around the table.  'Of course she timed it so I wouldn't have to make small talk for too long,' Sam thought to herself sadly as she passed the mashed potatoes, she thought of all the invitations she'd turned down from Mrs. Kelly and how long it had been since she'd been the one to try and contact her. "I don't know why she's so attached to you, kiddo, but you've been treating her like crap.'

Sarah sat back at the table and watched Sam carefully.  She was one of the few people able to read the tall woman better than most and see beyond the normal emotions and into what Sam hid in her eyes.  She thought for a while that she was a major reason why Sam stayed away from the family after Steve died, because Sarah could so easily see the pain, grief and terrible guilt.

Sam puzzled over how to make it up to Mrs. Kelly, thoughts of flowers, candy and various other assorted ideas ran by but nothing settled until ...'Kris.  Kris'll know.  I'll talk to her.'  Feeling much better, Sam quietly smiled to herself.

Sarah looked at Sam again and could see the tiredness and the rest of the normal emotions.  Her deep brown eyes saw the honest pleasure of seeing the Kelly's but as she watched they saw something she could only describe to herself as a bit of peace. 'Isn't that excellent?  Now where is that from, I wonder? Or is it who?'  Sarah felt her own pang at the thought of Sam finding someone else to love but couldn't begrudge the woman her happiness.  She tried to let the pain fade as she wondered who or what had put that particular look in her friend's eyes.

'The way it should be,'

 Moira Kelly thought as she surveyed her domain.  Patrick Senior sitting in his comfortable recliner, the kids spotted around the rooms, grand children in the den playing together. 'Probably trying to figure out where I hid the shoot 'em up games,' she thought with more than a bit of glee.  Her eyes fell on Sam and she nodded to herself before moving closer to the Detective, who seemed to be chatting with Patrick Junior about a case.

"...like we have enough to put him away for a long time.   I read Frank's report.  Jesus Christ.  The Captain's daughter was..."  Pat shook his head.  "Š Crazy!  What in the hell did she think she was doing?"

"Patrick!  This is not a street corner, you'll not be using that sort of language in my house!"

Sam barely kept her smile from showing whilst Pat rolled his eyes.

"Patrick Donovan Kelly, ya better not be rolling those eyes at me."  Mrs. Kelly stood with her hands on her hips glaring at her son.

"I'm sorry, Ma."  His countenance was remarkably like a chastised puppy dog.

"Hmph." Then to Sam, "I read the paper this mornin'.  This Captain's daughter, it was Kris, yes?"

Sam smiled.  "Yes.  She forgot ..."  Now Sam's eyes rolled.  "Š to mention that she probably saved Jen's life by causing a distraction."

"But still!" Pat added indignantly.

Mrs. Kelly watched Sam closely.  "And she came out there because ya were there?"

"She was worried about Jen." Sam frowned.  "I don't know...," she trailed off thinking back to when she saw Kris with Jen and was still surprised by how inevitable that seemed to be.  That Kris was simply meant to be there.

Sharp deep brown eyes, the match of Sarah's, watched Sam's face as the Detective thought through things.  "Ya don't know?"

"I still don't know how she ended up there.  Doesn't matter now, I guess.  Everyone's safe and the guy's behind bars."

Pat looked at her in shock.  "Sam, she endangered an investigation and put all three of you in danger!"

Sam straightened her back and looked at Pat, trying to keep the bristle out of her tone, as she met his gray eyes with steady blue. "The fact of the matter is that, as crazy as it was, she put herself in danger and saved a life, maybe two with her quick thinking."

Pat started to speak and his mother interrupted, "She's a good person, would do anything for a friend.  I can see her doing that."

"You know her?" Pat asked his mother with some surprise.

Mrs. Kelly smiled quietly.  "She would have nurses and patients listening as she read to Sam in the hospital.  They would mull around the door and listen."

Sam smiled widely.  "I had no idea."

Mrs. Kelly looked at her with a twinkle in her eyes, "Neither did she.  They never wanted to interrupt but I caught them at it a couple of times when I was coming in."  She looked over to her daughter, "And she played babysitter to Sarah's brood a few times when Sarah was visiting you."

Sam shook her head in amazement.

"That doesn't change the fact that she interfered last night.  I think I should say something or make a report." Pat crossed his arms in somewhat of a huff.

She drew a breath,  ŒCalm,' and tried to tone it down.  "Pat, she's a very good friend of mine and was trying to help.  She did.  Let's drop it, please?"

"Aye.  Enough shop talk."

A grumpy Pat started to argue, then took one look at his mother and agreed, "All right."

Mrs. Kelly smiled at Sam and stood up.  "Ya tell her I said hello please.  Maybe ya can bring her too the next time ya come by."

Sam looked up in surprise.  "Bring Kris here for dinner?"

"Well, of course, for dinner.  What did you think I meant?"

"I ... guess I wasn't thinking, sorry."

"Don't be sorry, just do better." Mrs. Kelly laughed and leaned over to pat Sam on the cheek before moving away.  "Next time, ya bring Kris with ya."

Sam blinked and watched Mrs. Kelly walk off, remnants of her brogue slipping out slightly here and there along the way.

Pat wasn't terribly happy about how the conversation had gone but decided he better move to something else, "Did you think about those tickets I told you about yesterday?"

"I did." She looked at him and winced internally.  "I'm sorry, we do have a game that night."

"These are great seats, you'll be missing a lot just for a softball game."

Sam stared at the carpet for a second and then blew an annoyed mental breath up through her bangs.  "I know, thank you for asking but it's an important game and I promised I'd be there." 'He doesn't need to know it's Kris I promised.'  She turned her head and smiled at him.  "I'm sure your Kelly charm will fill that seat in no time."

'Not the person I want filling it.'  "

 If you change your mind you'll let me know?"

"Of course but please don't wait for me, I don't break my promises." She glanced at her watch.  "On that note, I really need to get going.  I have an early morning meeting and too many files waiting for me."  She stood.

"All right.  Thanks again for coming in yesterday to finish up."

"It was good to get it finished and I certainly appreciated going home a little early to take a shower.  The river's definitely something to be appreciated from afar, not up close and personal."

Pat laughed.  "Doesn't look like it did you any permanent harm."

"Amazingly enough." Sam chuckled and then made her way towards the front door.

It took quite a while to get through the goodbyes and she still wasn't sure how a promise to bring Kris for dinner one night had been extracted by Mrs. Kelly but it had been.  'Maybe Kris can keep Pat busy.  Hmm, talk him to death maybe.'  Feeling a bit better she picked up her cell phone and dialed a number from memory.

At the answer, she smiled.  "Hey."

"Hi!  How'd it go?"

"Oh, Mrs. Kelly is still running roughshod over everyone."

"But it was nice."

"I haven't seen them in a long time."

"But it was nice."

Rolling her eyes, Sam gave in.  "Yes, it was nice to see them again."

Sam could hear the grin in Kris' voice.

"Told ya!"

"Yeah, yeah, well maybe you won't be so happy after I tell you that you're invited next time I go to dinner."

"Me?" Kris squeaked.

"Yes, you.  Mrs. Kelly thinks you're wonderful and you're invited for a dinner the next time it works for you."

"She's a pretty special woman herself and I'd love to go."

"You would?" Sam said with a little less than tremendous joy.

"Yes?" On the other end of the phone Kris frowned.  "Would you prefer I not go?"

"No!"  Sam felt like slapping herself.  "Of course not.  You'd probably fit right in.  Heck, you already know some of them anyway."

"Yeah, Sarah was very sweet and so was Mr. Kelly."

"I heard you were a good babysitter for Sarah's kids.  The things you don't tell me!"

Kris laughed.  "Oh, you can't be knowing all my secrets now, can you?"


It'd been a long week and it was only Tuesday afternoon.  Sam shook her head in irritation and tried not to slam the phone down as she finished the latest in a series of useless phone calls.  Absolutely nothing was panning out in the Stacy Morris murder.

The only bright spot wasn't a bright spot at all, and that was she'd gotten together with Mercer and they'd reached the nasty conclusion that both murders were almost certainly related. The same very sharp cuts, victims left in houses temporarily vacated by people on vacation, which they'd discovered Donna Ryan had been on and just hadn't told her neighbors.  Needless to say, the woman was horrified to discover that her home was the site of a murder but, as with the other murder, the homeowner seemed to have nothing to do with the victim.  Maggie's autopsy had tightened down a few details but nothing they weren't already pretty sure of.

Sam ran it over again.  It had been pure luck that Sam had been the person called to the murder location that night and that Donna Ryan had taken her brand new replacement driver's license with her and left her still valid old one at her house.  If it hadn't happened that way, it would've been up to the coroner to notice it wasn't the same person as the ID or fingerprints and could have taken days longer to get where they were. 'Not that where we are is very far,' she sighed to herself.

The phone rang and she barked into it, "Foster."

"Ooh, having a bad day are we?  Perhaps I shouldn't ask for the favor I'm going to ask for anyway."

Sam smiled in reflex as she recognized the voice, "Micki!   I'm sorry, just having one of those days."

"Don't I know it.  Speaking of which, can you pick me up?"

"Pick you up?"

"Yes, dear.  Pick me up.  In about an hour at the airport?  I'm on the plane now."

Sam laughed, "That's what all that noise is, figured you were driving with the top down again." She glanced quickly at her watch as Micki laughed on the other end, "Yes, of course I'll pick you up.  Which airline and flight?"

They got the details sorted out and Sam clocked out.  She'd already worked more than her forty hours for the last week and since overtime was frowned upon, she figured she'd take some time for herself for a change.  She usually gave plenty of over forty time to the department for free anyway.

Sam angled her head out of the open car window as she waited for the light.  The sun felt good on her face and she smiled in anticipation of Micki's visit.  Micki had mentioned that she'd hopefully be visiting soon but the Detective hadn't realized she meant that soon and with such little notice. 'Something must've happened in her case.'

Micki's unmistakable form was striding out to the sidewalk as Sam pulled up.  They'd decided to meet at the curb since it was very unlikely that Sam would get to the airport much before the flight's arrival.  She jumped out and smiled broadly at her friend who, as always, was dressed to kill.

A cream silk blouse was topped by a dark blue business suit, complete with a skirt long enough to be in good taste and short enough to show off long legs narrowing to feet encased in spiked heels.  Her auburn hair hung straight down beneath her shoulders and her makeup was as perfect as always.  She stopped in front of Sam and hugged her tightly before brushing her lips across her friend's.

It'd been a while since Sam had gotten one of Micki's trademark special greetings but she recovered quickly and chuckled as she put Micki's overnight bag in the trunk.  "How in the hell do you walk through an airport in those things?" Referring to Micki's heels.

"Just one of my many skills that you'll never have," Micki responded with a wink.

Sam looked at her and laughed.  "I think you can keep that one.  I have many skills of my own."

"Yes, I seem to remember hearing about a few of those," Micki replied with a bit of an eyebrow wiggle.

Sam refused to blush at the implication, it didn't help. 'Have you regressed to a teenager?'

"Why Sam, have I made you blush already?  Is that a record?"

"No!" Sam answered too quickly and that didn't help the blush.  "Just the sun, I haven't been out in it lately."

"Oh yes, the sun.  But of course, what else could it be." Micki just looked at Sam and grinned wickedly.

Sam glanced over at Micki.  "Stop teasing me, I could just drop you off in the middle of some bad area you know."

Micki laughed.  "And then you'd have to explain it to Amy, good luck!  So where are you taking me to eat, I'm starving!"

"Damn, doesn't Ames feed you?"

"Amy feed me?  Perhaps you forget that two cooking classes threw her out and a third wouldn't take her?"

Sam laughed and felt some of the weight on her shoulders lift, she looked over at Micki for a moment.  "I'm glad to see you."

Micki looked over, startled. "Are you having that bad a time?  You know, if you have things to do just drop me off and I'll fend for myself," she said seriously.

Sam chuckled.  "No.  I'm just glad you're here."

One of Micki's eyebrows rose and she tapped her fingernails on a crossed knee.  "Okay.  Spill it."

Sam's brow crumpled in confusion, "Spill what?"

"Something's up, kiddo, and it's not just the sky."


"Samantha, I've been talking to you for what...five minutes and I've already made you blush and you've said something mushy!"

"I did not say something mushy!"

"Ah, that's more like my Sam."  Micki decided to drop it for now and cocked her head to the side.  "So, where are we going?"

"Um, how about Travelli's?"

"Ooh, yes, perfect.  Haven't been in a good Italian restaurant since hmm, last Tuesday."

Sam laughed again.  "Micki!  Don't you two ever cook?"

"Samantha, dear, that's what restaurants are for and I don't ever remember you being the cooking queen yourself.  So don't be a pot calling this kettle black."

Sam's mind flashed back to dinner with Kris the other night and she smiled.  "Did you want to change clothes or anything before we go?"

"I'm too starved.  Do you mind if we eat early?"

"Not at all, I don't remember eating lunch to be honest."

"Me either.  I was just told to be on that flight with one of the senior partners and be here for a briefing tomorrow morning.  I had time to grab an overnight and that was it.  Had to call Amy from the car."

"Ouch, I bet she liked that."

"Tell me about it.  I was supposed to go to some artsy thing tonight with her.  Definitely going to have to go home with flowers."

"Amazing how she puts up with you."

"It is, isn't it?"  Micki smiled at nothing in particular.  "The only saving grace was that I was coming to stay with you.  I swear she thinks I get propositioned by everyone I meet when I'm on a business trip."

A dark eyebrow rose, "Don't you?"

"Very funny!"

Sam looked over at Micki and started to say something but stopped and turned her attention back to the road.

However, Micki had noticed.  "What?"


Micki rolled her eyes.  "And I thought we were making such progress.  What were you going to say?"

"Oh."  Sam smiled and shook her head.  "Nothing."

"I knew this new blushing, mushy side of you was too good to be true, spit it out."

Sam knew both Micki and Amy from college.  Micki had been the head cheerleader and brain of the century and had, to her initial horror, been forced to share a room with Sam, the resident ultra-jock, as Micki teasingly called her.  Amy was quiet, reserved and somewhat of a nerd who lived with a very rowdy roomie a few doors down.

After a mid season football game, Micki had been cornered by some of the angry visiting team's fans as they headed back to their vehicles.  Later, a couple of them had confessed to being a bit drunk and taking their team's loss far too much to heart.  They had spotted one of the rival team's cheerleaders waiting in the parking lot and had just meant to play with her a little.  A minute before they arrived, Amy had stopped to shyly ask Micki if she knew where Sam was when the guys started to harass the cheerleader.

Micki had thought she had things in hand but realized quickly that it was spiraling out of control and pushed Amy away from the group.  Amy had managed to squirm away from the one guy that grabbed for her and had run for help.   She'd literally run right into Sam and gasped out what was going on.  Sam took off a dead run and her spectacular defense of Micki had left the other team short a few mobile fans for some weeks.  After that, Sam and Micki made a point to include Amy more often and a very odd version of the three musketeers was formed.

Still, it had been quite a surprise for Sam when she watched Micki take Amy under her wing and Amy had blossomed into a confidant, beautiful and extremely talented woman under Micki's watchful eye.  Even though it originally seemed that never a more unlikely couple was to be found, eventually the two women recognized their feelings and they'd been together since, much to a lot of people's amazement.

Sam had realized early on that Micki fueled Amy's confidence and creativity and Amy gave Micki the stability and complete acceptance that she needed.  They'd both become wildly successful.  As far as the critics were concerned, Amy's artistic talent was off the scale and Micki started her career on the fast track and hadn't stopped.

Sam was a little apprehensive to say what she was thinking but she could feel Micki's gaze boring into the side of her head and squirmed a little, "She's not really worried about you, is she?"

Micki looked over with a frown.  "Worried about..."  She smiled her surprise.  "Sam, I'm proud of you!  Just wait until I tell Ames!"

The Detective spluttered, "No, no, no."

Laughter.  Micki patted Sam's hand.  "All right, all right.  I can't believe we're having a sensitive chat, though.  I can't pass this up."  She gave Sam a warm smile to take away any sting she might've felt from the words.  "Even after all this time, Amy still worries, I think.  Well, I know she does.  She has no idea that I worry more about her than me."

"About Ames?" Sam's voice rose a notch in surprise.

"Sam," Micki chided.  "We both know that she's still an innocent, no matter how bad an influence I am."

Sam rushed to say her piece, "And we both know that she worships the ground you walk on." She looked over and caught Micki's eyes.  "And vice versa."

Micki looked over with a touch of wonder in her eyes.  "I don't know who you are but can you stay around a while before sending the real Sam back?"

Sam snorted.  "Fine, fine, enough of that stuff.  So why are you here?  Problems in the case you were telling me about?"

"Yes." Micki shook her head and went with the topic switch.  "He wants to do his own defense now."

"He what?"

"I know!  Believe me, if the idiot didn't have more money than God I'd tell Bill to stuff it."

"Oh sure you would.  Of course."  Sam nodded and smiled.  She knew that Micki was an excellent lawyer with some huge cases under her belt.  She was actually on a fast track for a partnership and the chances of her doing anything to damage that were pretty slim.

Micki chuckled at Sam's response and they chatted easily until they arrived at the restaurant.  Before long they were seated at the restaurant waiting for their orders.

"So, will I meet your very own paragon of virtue tonight?"

"My what?"

"That cute little blonde who took such good care of you in the hospital?"

"Kris?"  Dark eyebrows scrunched together.  "How did you..."

"Know she was a cute little blonde?"  At Sam's nod Micki smiled.  "I asked around when I was here before.  She's got quite a reputation you know."


"Oh, not a bad one.  In fact a very, very good one.  Sounds like she turned down half the staff when she was there."

"She did?"  Sam's eyebrows rose high under her bangs.

Micki's smiled widened.  "Ooh.  Protective, aren't we?"

"Oh don't start.  She's just a friend and that's it."

Micki blinked her eyes teasingly.  "Am I 'just' a friend?"

"Yes, and sometimes I wonder why I keep you!"

Sensing she was pushing a little hard, Micki backed off and tried a different tack.  "Because you're desperate to learn some of the skills I won't teach you, of course.  Like walking through airports in these." She wiggled an ankle in Sam's direction.

Grateful of the lightening mood Sam chuckled.

"Honestly, though.  I was sorry I missed her last time, would you mind terribly if we met?"

'Oh god, the two of them together.  Will I survive?'  Sam tried not to gulp too hard.  "Of course not."

Micki smiled.  "Great!"  Then she pulled out her cell phone and Palm Pilot.  "The latest version, of course."  Micki grinned referring to her Palm Pilot, from her purse.

"Uh, what are you doing?"

"Making a phone call?"

"To whom?" Sam asked suspiciously.

"Oh, just a cute little blonde I know."  Micki took in Sam's wide eyes and grinned.  "I always keep phone numbers, Sam.  You know that if I ever had an affair it'd be with the person who created the Palm Pilot."  She tapped a fingernail on the table, "Kris?" Pause.  "Hi, this is Micki, Sam's friend.  Remember me?"  Another pause.  "Nice to talk to you too.  Listen, I'm in town tonight and staying with Sam.  I'd love to get together if you're able?"

Sam shook her head slowly.

"Really?  That'd be wonderful.  Let me make sure with Madam Grinch, just a second."  Micki looked over at Sam expectantly.


"Your place at eight?"

Feeling as if she was walking the last steps to the gallows, Sam just nodded.

Micki lifted up the phone again.  "She'd be delighted to have us as guests at eight.   I'll even persuade her to pick up some nibblies at the store, how's that?"  Micki's eyebrow rose slightly.  "She does?  Well, that'll save time and leave us more to gossip about her then.  Let's make it seven thirty."

Sam lifted her eyes and prayed for a divine intervention.

"Sure, hold on.  I'll see you at seven thirty."  Micki handed the phone to Sam with a smirk.  "She wants to talk to you."


"Hiya, it's okay right?  I don't want to come over if it's not good."  Kris didn't want to annoy Sam if this wasn't what she wanted.

Sam held Micki's eyes.  "It's okay.  I'll try to make sure that the barracuda here doesn't get too wild."

"And who's going to make sure that I don't?" Kris asked teasingly.

Sam snorted.  "Some friend you are!"

Kris chuckled and then continued seriously, "I won't stay long, okay?"

"Are you serious?  I'll probably go to bed and you two will still be talking when I get up."

"Ooh, promises, promises!"  Kris laughed.

Micki put on a fake innocent face when Sam glanced over, then looked up at the waiter with a smile as he put the plate down in front of her.

'I am so dead,'

 Sam thought as the waiter placed her plate down.  "Listen, the food's here and the chow hound, who might even put you to shame, is famished so I better go.  We'll see you at seven thirty, okay?."

"With bells on!  Talk to you later.  Bye."

Sam's mind flashed on that last sentence and she almost forgot to say goodbye before she hung up and fumbled with the phone, much to Micki's amusement and her own annoyance.  They started on the food and the Detective was more than happy to have Micki's mouth occupied with it since it gave her time to think up a defense, if one was possible.


Sam looked at the clock for the umpteenth time in the last ten minutes. 'Fifteen more minutes.'  She pondered for a minute.  'You know, the problem with time is that sometimes there's too much of it!'

Micki sat back in her comfortable chair and just watched, she couldn't recall a time when she'd seen Sam this antsy.  They'd had a really good time for the last few hours, talking about both their lives, 'Well, more mine than anything,'  Micki thought with more than a little chagrin.  They'd laughed and teased, then called Amy and laughed with her as well.  But the closer it got to Kris' arrival the more Sam seemed to start to fidget.  As Sam got up and paced to the kitchen Micki decided that her friend had suffered enough, she followed her and leaned on the kitchen counter.  "Sam, are you okay?"

"Hmm?  Yeah, sure, I'm fine."  Sam dug around in the refrigerator for something she wasn't sure she really wanted.

Micki frowned and stepped around the corner, reaching out and grasping Sam's arm. "Hey.  This is me.  What's wrong?"  She moved to stand by the side of the taller woman.

Sam tried to laugh it off.  "I'm fine, really.  Just looking for something to drink."

Micki looked at her friend carefully.  "Sam, I tease you to death but I also love you to death and you know I would never, ever do anything to hurt you.  Ever. "  She fumbled for what the problem was.  "I'll be on my best behavior tonight, okay?"

'God, I am such an idiot.  She's going to think that you're crazier than she already knows you are.

 ' Sam looked over at her friend with a slight smile.  "I'm sorry." Then looked away for a moment.  'Kris says that people who love you sometimes need to hear stuff.' Taking a breath, she added, "I'm being silly.  I just want it to go okay."

Micki was both astounded that Sam had confessed the problem and touched that it obviously meant so much to her friend, "Sam, we both care about you.  How can that not go okay?"  She held her arms out with a teasing grin.  "You chose me as a friend after all!"

"Actually, I think you chose me?"

"Details, details.  If nothing else we'll just sit and tell stories about you to each other all night."

"And this is supposed to make me feel better how?"

Laying her palm against Sam's cheek, Micki stepped close and smiled fondly.  "Thank you for being honest with me.  Someone seems to have had a very good influence on you and I'd guess it's your cute little blonde.  I was already pretty sure that I liked her but now there's very little doubt."  She patted Sam's cheek and stepped away.

'I wonder if it's too late to be on call tonight?'

"Even if I didn't, diplomacy is an art form and one that I can give lessons in now.  We're going to have a great night."  With that, Micki winked and moved away to sit back down.  "By the way, just how does she know what sort of nibblies you have?"

The doorbell rang at that moment causing them both to look at each other and laugh.  "Fine, fine, saved by the bell.  This time!"  Micki stood and followed Sam to the door.

Twin thoughts of, 'Wow, she's gorgeous!' ran through the minds of the two people meeting each other for the first time in person after many talks on the phone during Sam's hospital stay.

"Coming in?" Sam asked teasingly of Kris after they had stood there for a few moments.

Kris blushed slightly and walked in, removing her jacket and hanging it on the stand without a word.  She then placed her purse on the table and turned with a bright, yet somewhat shy, smile.

Micki noticed the obvious familiarity with the surroundings and filed it away carefully.  Then she made a snap decision after a quick glance at the blonde and stepped forward to hug her.  "I'm so glad to finally meet you.  If you haven't guessed, I'm Micki."  She smiled as the hug was returned easily and then winked at Sam.  "And if we waited for this one to introduce us it'd be next year, probably."

They stepped back from each other and Kris chuckled.  "And I'm Kris.  I'm sorry I missed you last time."

"Oh, don't worry.  I kept the scourge of the hospital pretty busy."

"Yes, I heard," Kris replied with a wry grin at Sam.

"Oh did you now?  Well, why don't we just go sit down and discuss a few things, hmm?"  Micki headed off to the couch and Kris trailed behind, laughing as she glanced back and saw Sam lift her hands in the air in a gesture that screamed, ŒTake me now!¹

'And I was worried about them?  I'm dead!'

Several hours later the trio were still chatting, actually Kris and Micki were still chatting and Sam was just watching them both with amazement.  They'd both obviously been keeping Sam in the conversation and making her add to the stories but the fact was that they had gone through just about every Sam story there was and were now catching up like they'd known each other for years and both were still making sure she involved, somehow. 'Unbelievable!'

Micki had found Kris to be every bit as charming as she'd come across on the phone and was completely taken with the small woman.  She'd quickly realized the depth of Kris' intelligence, caring and wit.  After hinting around the issue and finding nothing to worry her, she'd even tested the blonde on her relationship with Amy.

Kris hadn't batted an eye and they'd ended up discussing the merits and detriments of being out in various business fields.  After that they'd discussed everything from their work, to relationships, to good and bad points of their individual cities and, of course, Sam. 'Oh yes, this one will do very nicely,' Micki thought as she caught Kris glancing at Sam with a quick smile and Sam's returning beam.

In turn, Kris was charmed by Micki.  She hadn't really known what to expect beyond someone with a quick wit and obvious love of Sam.   She likely would have been surprised to know that the keen intelligence and wit she had identified in Micki were also seen in herself by both of the other women in the room.  Kris had seen that Sam seemed quite tense when she'd walked in, so she'd deliberately started off carefully and had drawn her friend into the stories carefully.

It hadn't gotten past Micki that Kris had chosen stories that portrayed Sam in the best light when they'd first started talking.   She'd chuckled to herself when Kris had shown a skill with a story that Micki wasn't sure she'd seen duplicated 'And that's saying something with the bull-shitters I work with!'  Micki sat back and recalled a time earlier in the evening when she'd given Sam a quick glance of her own and had caught the tall woman completely captured by the blonde's story.

Sam stood to get her guests a refill and stopped as Micki spoke up.

"I better not, I have to be at the office at eight."

Sam turned to Kris with a raised eyebrow in question.

"Not me either, I really should be going." She looked at them both with some chagrin.  "I had no idea it was this late, I'm really sorry."

"Whatever for?" Micki asked.  "I've had one of the best nights I've had in a long time.  I think I'll tell you all of Sam's secrets and have you do a tape recording of your interpretation, you're an amazing storyteller."

Kris blushed deeply as she stood.  "Thank you."

'Oh she is just too cute.'

After getting past the spluttering at the idea, Sam added her own thoughts, "She is very, very good.  Maybe I'll tell her all of your secrets and we'll see if there's enough tape in the city to record them."

Micki stood and stalked over to Sam.  "Ooh.  Well maybe I'll just have to tell her what happened after that football game when mmph hph fmnh."

Sam smiled at Micki's outraged eyes but kept her hand right where it was as Kris looked on and burst out laughing.  The Detective removed her hand.  "Just remember, I have even better ones about you."

"Maybe, but Kris doesn't want to hear them."

Kris smiled wickedly and treasured this gift she was being given.  "Sure I do!  How can I do you justice on the tape if I don't know all the details, Micki?"

Sam grinned widely at Kris' support.  "That's right!"

"Oh, that's how it goes is it?  Outnumbered I see and I had such high hopes for you, Kris!"

Micki stood imperiously with her arms folded, tapping her foot until they all started chuckling.

Kris spoke first, "I had a lot of fun.  Thank you for having me, it was so great to finally meet you."

"It was definitely my pleasure.  The next time I'm down, we will absolutely do it again and if you're in San Francisco please look me up?"  She smiled. "Do you still have my numbers?"

Kris nodded. "Sure do, thank you.  You obviously know where to find me, I'm sorry you're leaving tomorrow.  Hopefully we can get back together next time you're down?"

"Count on it." Micki paused for a moment to consider what she wanted to say next.  ŒGo for it!'  Then continued with a wry smile, "Sam seems to have found herself a treasure and I'm not letting you go."

As Kris took a breath to respond, Sam looked at the ground and said very quietly, "I think she found me."

Kris looked over at her friend with a quiet smile and met Sam's rising gaze with an even wider smile, "It's worked out."

Micki looked enormously pleased with herself as she looked between the two women.

"Whatcha got?"

The Officer turned his head to greet the tall, dark haired woman, who had walked up as he was finishing talking to his partner, with a warm grin, "Hey, Sam.  Looks like three guys in there.  One of the witnesses thought about fifteen, maybe twenty hostages.  Nobody hurt that we know of, no contact beyond asking for you.  You know why?"

"Not a clue, Jimmy.  Who's been trying to talk to them?"

"Jackson," Jimmy replied with a barely audible sigh, swinging his head around and indicating a spot where a rumpled looking man stood close to a graffiti painted brick wall smoking a cigarette.

"Okay, thanks.  Let me go see what's up."

Jimmy turned to watch the woman move away.  Even if she hadn't stood up for him against his old partner he would still be in complete awe, never mind lust, of her.  He watched her move towards Jackson in her favored feral stalk.  'Not just her favorite either.' He grinned to himself as he caught a couple of the other guys watching her also.  Realizing that half the guys there were probably checking out the gorgeous detective forced the grin out as a wry smirk before he turned back to business.

Jackson believed cigarettes needed to be savored and were good to the last drop and he was definitely taking his time on this one.  'Christ, why her?'  He thought as the woman walked his way.  He cursed to himself as he felt his pulse pick up a bit as he watched her lithe form glide his way.

'Crap.  As if my stomach wasn't protesting lunch enough already without having to deal with this idiot.'  The woman raked long fingers through her dark hair and then pulled her black windbreaker around her as if steeling for battle.  "Jackson." She said with a statement and a nod, waiting expectantly for the man to give her an update as she glanced briefly over to see the news cameras already filming every detail.  'Guess it's good that Micki's already on her plane or she'd be having a fit.'

The man took a long deep drag and then stubbed the cigarette out with his foot, crushing it with not a little sadness before returning his gaze to the woman.  "I've tried repeatedly, they want to talk to you only.  We've got people running the voice but no IDs yet.  Three men from what we got out of a couple witnesses.  Too many frickin' hostages.  One of the witnesses said a second security guard came in and all hell broke loose." He stood up straight and looked eye to eye, albeit from a couple of inches below her level.  "I'll let you know if I want you to talk to them."

Sam's response was cut off as a phone rang inside the building they were standing outside and Jackson moved quickly to answer it.

"Put her on," the voice said simply.

With a silent sigh at the wonders of technology and an annoyed glance at the busily whirring cameras some distance away, Sam stepped inside, removed her sunglasses and took a quick glance at the plans tacked up on the wall before moving to several phones close to Jackson.  She knew that some of them would be additional sets to the line Jackson was on.

Jackson shook his head and moved his hand in a sharp gesture indicating she not touch it. "I'm glad you called, let's talk.  Need anything in the..."  A click and empty line signaled the end of the conversation.

Sam frowned at the abrupt conversation, then ran the three words through her mind repeatedly but finally shook her head at Jackson to indicate she hadn't recognized the voice.  The detective stepped outside, angling to put several tall SPD vehicles between her and the cameras before leaning up against the corner of the wall to get her first good look at the location.

A local bank, as opposed to one of the majors, lots of glass windows in the front and the blinds were closed.   The plans had indicated the normal layout.  A few desks, a line that indicated where the tellers would be, safety deposit area, ATM and vault.  She started to put her mind inside, to wonder where the men had put the hostages, when the door to the bank opened.

Instantly, everyone was on alert and pointed in the direction of the door and then guns were trained on the figure of a well dressed, middle aged male with his hands up as he slowly moved out into the parking lot.  He stopped and glanced back as the low rumble of a voice could be heard coming from inside the bank.  The man looked slightly confused and very rattled as he turned back and said with a shaky voice, "They say Foster only or more of the same."

The crack echoed around the buildings and Sam jumped, quite unprepared for this turn of events.  It was almost slow motion, the impossibly brief flare of the gun going off from the bank's darkness and the man's descent, face down, to the parking lot floor, his chest fountaining blood for a split second before it hit solid ground.

ŒDear Lord,'

 she thought as she fought herself to not run out and try to help the almost certainly dead man. 'What in the hell is this?'  Her insides roiled and she closed her eyes to steady herself for a moment as the man's blood pooled on the parking lot floor and he lay very still.

The phone in the building rang again.

Sam had turned at the ring and moved quickly back into the building, glancing up at Jackson before putting a hand on the phone.  At his nod, she picked it up.  "Foster," she said simply.

"Thought that might do it," the voice smirked.

"What do you want?"

"You.  Get your ass in front of the building.  Five minutes to make your peace."

The click of the line going dead signaled the end of the conversation and Sam simply stared at the phone for a moment before replacing the receiver on the cradle.  Her brain took a moment to register the whitened knuckles, from gripping the phone too hard, before it started working on the problem at hand.    With a last quick glance at the plans for the building, the woman turned to leave.

"Foster, remember you're not in charge here."

Without turning, the dark haired woman replied, "Gonna let them die, Jackson?  You saw what they just did."

"I'm the officer in charge, Foster.  You don't go unless I say you go.  Understand?"

Her lips curled in anger as she realized the ŒI'm the boss¹ game Jackson was playing with the lives of the hostages and she whirled.  Her eyes were icy chips as she stalked towards him and he quickly dropped his gaze, moving backwards a half step.  Then she was there. "You going to tell those cameras out there that the rest of them died because you had to play Simon says?"

A deep voice interrupted Jackson's answer, "Something I should know about?"

Before Jackson could start up, Sam turned and took the proverbial bull by the horns, slightly surprised to see the two people standing there but recovering quickly.  "Sir, three perps have hostages in the bank.  They want me in front of the bank and they've already killed to prove their point."  She kept her level gaze on the man in front of her and jerked her head slightly towards Jackson.  "Jackson's lead."

A familiar crease between the eyebrows appeared on Captain Scott's forehead as he took this in and added it to the small amount he already had discovered on his way to the location.  He kept his gaze on the woman in front of him, knowing exactly what she was capable of and just how many enemies she had.  His wife and kids had been saved by her once, more than once in Kris' case, but he wasn't about to allow her to walk into a death trap.

Lisa Scott stood back a little and saw her husband's shoulders tense up even more as Sam gave her terse report.  Her worried gaze moved to the woman whose depths still somewhat frightened her.

"Put a vest and earphone on and do not go inside, understood?

Sam nodded in reply, already picking up one of the new hands free phones and slipping one part around her neck, the other over her ear, before heading out to her car for the vest.

Lisa reached out a hand to hold Sam's arm as she moved by.  "Be careful, Sam.  Please?"

Stopping for a moment to nod and send a reassuring smile to Mrs. Scott, Sam picked up one of the extra vests and started to strap it on.  A protest began when Mrs. Scott started to help but stopped at the woman's level gaze and let her continue with some embarrassment.  'And I've been told I'm intimidating?'  The Detective chuckled to herself.   She was soon ready, standing across the parking lot from the bank.

"Keep this line clear!" the captain barked into the unit he held in his hand, intending this to basically be Sam's private line.

On her way across the parking lot, one of Sam's eyes winced at the Captain's voice wishing she'd checked the volume of the unit before starting out.  'Too late now, don't want 'em thinking you're gonna do something stupid.'

Officer Jimmy Hamilton licked his lips and swallowed hard as he kept his eyes on the Detective as she continued her even pace.  He had seen her work before but never in a situation like this.  'Damn, how does she look so calm?'  Registering his fear that Sam was already close enough to have little chance of avoiding shots sent her way from the bank, he forced himself to be ready in case she needed him.

Captain and Mrs. Scott watched the tall woman make her way closer to the bank from a safe distance away.

The soft whisper of her khakis brushing against each other as she walked, the wind gently touching her uncovered arms and face and the many thoughts racing through her mind all tried to wash over the increased heart beat, static in her ear and the crinkling of the protective vest as she walked.  It wasn't working very well.

Her stomach was still rolling a bit as she scanned the front of the building.  'Lesson one, don't inhale your lunch.'  She could see someone was tracking her from behind the blinds and her heart stepped up another notch.  'Kris says you always look calm, believe in that.'

As Sam approached the man lying on the ground, she stooped for a second on the slight miracle of a chance that he wasn't dead.  It seemed the Saints were busy that day, she closed her eyes briefly in sadness before straightening.

"Message again." Lisa snapped her cell phone closed, frustrated from not being able to get a hold of her daughter and let her know why they weren't able to meet her for the late lunch they'd planned to discuss a present for Jen's wedding.  Kris had taken the afternoon off in expectation of buying the present as well.  'Dammit, she's going to be frantic if she finds out about this before we tell her.'

Her hand caught up in unconscious flexing as white knuckles clenched and loosened about the cell phone, the Captain's wife found herself remembering the first time she'd spoken with the Detective who had almost completed her approach to the bank.

"I have some nursing experience."

Sam glanced up quickly and frowned slightly trying to place the face that held the same green eyes as the younger version she'd helped from the floor earlier before returning her attention to the man she was helping, "Great, have a bleeder here.  Could use some extra hands."

"I'm Captain Scott's wife, Lisa.  Officer Foster isn't it?" Remembering Sam from a couple of times that she'd seen the officer when visiting her husband.  Lisa knelt down on the opposite side of the man's body and started working on him immediately.

"Yes, Ma'am."

"What do you need me to do, Mom?"

Lisa glanced up at her eldest daughter and caught a glimpse of uniforms arriving in the distance, "The cavalry's on the way, why don't you take Officer Foster's place so that she can deal with them."  A raised eyebrow at the Officer got her a nod, "Keep the same pressure on the wound, we need to keep the bleeding down."  The two younger women switched places.  "Brooke, Brian, see if you can get some a first aid kid, blankets and towels from one of the stores."

As Sam stood, she considered the Captain's wife, realizing now why both the mother and daughter had seemed familiar somehow.  The older woman's hair was darker but they were about the same height and had the same soft, smoky jade eyes.  Within moments of having her family's lives threatened, Mrs. Scott had  freed Sam up to deal with the other officers arriving, gotten her kids to help and brought a solid, competent strength to the situation that the police officer appreciated.  Nodding her approval, the officer turned to deal with the various uniforms that were approaching and spared a tiny wry grin at the cavalry's arrival.

Later on, the Captain's wife found out that Officer Foster had been very quietly complimentary of the Captain's family, especially his wife and oldest daughter, to the Officers that had arrived after the capture.  The older woman would never have known had not one of the Officers been the son of a good friend who had called the next day to find out the details.

The friend had also told her that Sam had insisted the Captain's family be allowed to assist until the medical teams arrived since they'd been so helpful.  Being a Captain's wife, Lisa was so used to people playing political games within the department that she'd assumed Sam would use this opportunity to score points with the Captain but she hadn't and that act alone had endeared the young woman to Lisa.

Lisa's thoughts were broken as the door to the bank opened and she noted the absolute silence that reigned for several seconds before the sound of a motorcycle engine in the distance seemed to signal an end to the quiet and a voice rang out from the darkness beyond the open door.  She could barely see the legs of someone in jeans inside but that was it.

"Get in here!"

"You know I can't do that, no matter how many people you kill and the more you hurt the less chance you'll get anything you want." Sam's voice was cold, betraying no feeling beyond utter competence and strength.

"Then I guess you d..."

Sam tensed, hoping she'd get at least a chance to move but ears that had always been incredibly sensitive picked up an inflection, a tone...something from inside the building that froze her muscles, made her breath catch and her heart pound much faster.

Clearly expecting Sam to try anything but what she was doing, Captain Scott frowned deeply.  'What the hell?'  A sharp bark of an order, "Foster!  Get out of there!"

"I can't," she breathed back, expending all her energy in keeping herself rooted to the spot.  Jaw muscles tensed, eyes became pin points of ice as she fought the urge to do something, anything but stand there and wait.

"That is an order, Detective.  Get back here now!"

"Captain, trust me," she responded quietly, pitching her voice to not carry in the stillness of the area.

A rather furious Captain muttered quietly, "Dammit to Hell!" before clicking the line open again.  "Do not push this too far, Foster."

Jackson, who'd been listening to the Captain talk to Foster, leaned back against the building and waited for Foster to do exactly the opposite of what the Captain ordered.

It was very difficult to do but Sam kept her face like granite when the woman stepped into the doorway of the bank, shielding her eyes from the afternoon sunlight.  It became even more difficult when Sam noticed dried blood on the side of the blonde's head.  Her right hand clenched into a tight fist and her eyes narrowed for a split second.

"Dear Lord." Lisa Scott clutched her husband's free arm, one hand grasping at the coarse material as she fought to stay calm.

The small blonde waited for a moment and then she drilled her stare right into Sam.  "They'll let five hostages go if she comes in.  It's that or they'll start shooting."

The Captain simply stared as his eldest daughter repeated the robbers' demands, communication forgotten for that moment.

Already knowing she was the prize to this bizarre game, Sam was prepared.  She shouted, "Five now and five when I get to the door!"  Then her eyes narrowed and heart seemed to skip a beat as a gun barrel appeared by Kris' head and a man appeared close behind the blonde, standing in the shadows.

A gasp of indrawn breath from the Scotts was rewarded by an interested glance from Jackson.

Kris started slightly as the man pushed at her back and then slid the gun by her face.  As she felt the cool metal, she turned her head slightly and leaned away from the touch.  She was very afraid the furious man behind her was going to shoot her friend despite all of her attempts to circumvent that.  As soon as they knew Sam was on her way, the men had already decided to kill the police officer the instant she showed any reluctance to come inside.  Kris had made every effort to ensure that didn't happen, using the best of her abilities to make the men realize how much better it would be for them if they got Sam inside.

Her chin dropped with a slight sigh as it hit her that she'd made a huge mistake.  She'd seen Sam start to coil her muscles for rapid movement and then suddenly stop, coinciding with Kris' last discussion with the robbers.  'Dammit, Kris.  Must you always be an idiotYou should've trusted her to protect herself.'   Kris was sure that it was only her presence which kept Sam standing there looking as if she couldn't have made a better target if she'd been wearing Day-Glo colors.

Captain Scott forced his mind back on business, trying to get his eyes to move from his daughter and keep on the scene but failing miserably.  'Jesus. I can't do this!' He thought before closing his eyes to try to gain some perspective.  A stiff arm raised the radio unit and the eyes remained closed as he said painfully, "Sam, going in there would be completely against procedure."

"Understood."  Sam waited, more uncomfortable in the heat every minute.

Kris turned her head as the man holding her breathed a fetid breath past her ear.

"Lemme take her now, Joey.  She's easy meat."

An amused snort came from behind Kris and the gunman.  "She's got balls, no doubt about it."

"Come on, Joey.  She killed my brother!"

"And miss the up close and personal chance?  Oh no.  If it's the last thing I do, I'm gonna enjoy this.  Let's get her in here.   Kill Blondie if she won't come in, maybe that'll change her mind."

Kris felt herself freeze at those words and tried not to stumble as she was dragged back inside a few steps to clear the doorway.

Sam forced herself to stay calm as she saw Kris pale dramatically right before she was taken back inside the doorway.  It took a huge force of will to not follow her friend inside.

Kris took her first chance to carefully look over the man named Joey.  'A romance writer's dream,' she thought to herself.  Tall, handsome, olive skin, a full, dark head of wavy hair and what appeared to be a nice body that was currently covered in an obviously expensive tailored suit.

Joseph LaMont turned from his appraisal of the hostages to catch the blonde obviously looking him over.   A slight smirk became even more obvious as he noticed a flush flood her face.  He walked over to her, watching her face every moment and laughed quietly when she broke eye contact after he'd gone just a couple of steps.

She tried not to flinch when LaMont lightly caressed her cheek with the back of his fingers but Kris couldn't help the twitch that caused her head to move aside by a fraction and her facial muscles to contract for a split second.   The smaller woman kept her eyes averted; knowing she would want to slap the smile she knew existed off his face.

More beads of sweat slid down between Sam's shoulder blades and she blew an impatient breath into her bangs as she waited.  The difference between the afternoon sun and the darkness inside the bank made it next to impossible to see much inside but Sam could still see part of Kris' jeans clad legs and her tennis shoes close to the doorway and contented herself with that for the moment.

As Kris flinched, Joey grabbed her chin tightly.  "Pick five to go."

Misty green eyes looked up in surprise as he spoke to her and removed his hand at the same time.


Kris started slightly and looked at the hostages helplessly as they looked to her with faces full of both hope and fear. 'I can't do this, I can't pick and choose who might die!'   It was very clear in her mind that everyone was aware that the last person to leave was still laying out there.  'He wants Sam, though.  Badly.'

Amused, Joey watched the blonde struggle with the choices offered.  "Of course, I could just pick five but you might not like what I pick 'em for."  He raised his gun and swept it in the direction of the largest group of hostages.

The smaller woman fought to not close her eyes from the emotions that were all too apparent in the group of people looking to her for some type of salvation.  'Get it together, girl!'  One last sweep over the rest of the people, then at Joey and she had her choices.   She had to repeat it after clearing her throat, 'Great control, Kris,' but finally she took a step forward and said firmly, "All right."

Sam idly wondered why the sound of her own breathing was so very loud when there was so much going on around her.  A warm breeze flowed around her right side gently but her attention was firmly on the bank.  When she lost sight of Kris her ears strained for any noise.

Sixteen pairs of frantic eyes tried to catch Kris' as she stepped closer to bulk of the hostages.  Moving to about three feet away she gestured that an obviously pregnant woman with a slight smile.  "Come on, let's get you out of here."

The woman stole a look at Joey and then carefully stood up.  Her face was stricken but she kept her eyes on the solid certainty in Kris' gaze, not willing to look at any of the other hostages for fear it might be her undoing.

Kris nodded as the woman stood by her side and then moved to look at a child who appeared about twelve or so.  The boy was firmly entrenched in his mother's arms, Kris looked at her.  "Can we get him out of here?" she asked quietly.

The mother looked down at her son's head and then leaned her cheek on the top of it, silent tears rolled down her cheeks.  She released her arms from around him.  "Stand up, baby.  It's time for you to leave."


Kris winced at the boy's reluctance and indicated that an elderly woman she'd seen almost collapse earlier come to her.  With help from one of the tellers, the woman stood gingerly and made her way to the blonde.  Listening to the mother try to persuade the son, Kris turned to the smaller group of hostages and spoke to the man who had been helping the injured security guard, "Bring him?"

He nodded in surprise and stood.

The young boy was still clinging to his mother and Kris knew that even though less than a minute or two had passed time was running out.  "Hey, what's your name?" she asked softly as she crouched close by.  With no answer, she looked at his mother.


With a brief smile and nod, Kris thanked the mother.  "Hey Zach.  I know it's a lot to ask but we really need a brave man right about now, can you help us with that?"

Silence and then the mother whispered something to the boy.

"Zach, we need you to do something really important.  These two ladies need you to get to safety and your mom and I believe you're the only one who can help us.  Please?"

The pregnant woman spoke up, "Zach, please help?"

Zach's mom rose to her knees, pulling her son to his feet and then gave him a fierce hug, followed by a smile.  "Go on, honey. I'm so proud of you and I'll see you in a bit.  Promise."  Her rapidly filling eyes almost betrayed her.

The boy looked at his mother carefully and then at Kris before looking back at his mother.  "Promise?"

A firm nod and smile was the reply.

The boy tentatively moved towards the waiting group, swallowing loudly and looking again at his mother, who smiled at him and pushed him towards the waiting ladies, before clasping a hand of each of the ladies waiting for their escort.

"Didn't pick yourself, Blondie?" Joey asked.  "Figuring on coming with me to Rio?"  He laughed.

Kris chose to ignore the statement and move her group towards the door.  "Can they go now?"

Joey slowly looked Kris over, from head to toes and then back again, languishing his gaze on various areas before stepping right next to her.

Kris had chosen to keep her eyes firmly on the floor, refusing to watch him look at her, but wasn't surprised when his hand came up and lifted her chin.  She lifted her gaze, 'He's probably two or three inches taller than Sam even,' and looked into his almost black eyes for several seconds before looking down to an indistinct spot on his arm.

Seemingly satisfied, the man moved away with a smile and indicated, with a flourish, that the five should leave.  He raised his voice slightly, "Mike, watch the back carefully.  They might try something while we're doing this."

The third member of the group pushed himself off a wall in the back and moved towards the rear of the building.

"Vinnie," Joey called to the man by the door, "if she tries anything funny she's yours."

"Something's happening," Sam spoke quietly as she watched people come out of the bank.  When she realized that it was almost certainly the hostages they'd promised, she waved them off to the side, away from the bank's glass windows, where she knew officers waited.

'Move move!' She thought impatiently, half afraid these people would become targets as well. The young boy looked at her fearfully, still holding the hands of the two women who saw her signal and moved as quickly as they could towards the side of the building, followed by the injured guard and the other man.  "Five out, check 'em," She said, indicating that she had no idea if these people were truly hostages or perps trying to pull a fast one.

When the five were halfway to safety, Kris appeared at the door to the bank again and then was roughly pushed to her knees by a hand from the darkness.

Sam took a half step forward in simple instinct.

'Get out of here.  Hear me, Sam.  Leave, please. Oh God, please leave.'  Kris tried to put everything she was thinking into her face.

Tearing her eyes from Kris' face, Sam looked into the darkness beyond her friend to try and gauge the next step.

"Oh baby," Lisa Scott whispered to her daughter, she could feel her heart pound a fast beat.

Her husband's radio was forgotten, the hand holding it fell limply to the side and his other hand sought his wife's, grasping it firmly.

"Take off the jacket and radio, then turn around and come to the door!"

Eyes narrowed for a split second in recognition of the voice.  Even as her heart betrayed the knowledge deep inside by speeding up the beats, her mind warred with disbelief.  'Can't be?'

'No, please Sam.  Please.'

Sam's fingers fumbled slightly with the first Velcro strap on her jacket, her head was performing a drum duet with her heart and she was finding it somewhat difficult to concentrate.  'Get a grip!!'  The rest of the jacket was much easier and she laid it on the ground, followed by the communication equipment.  She then turned around with her arms away from her body and faced the door again.

Vinnie aimed at Sam from the darkness, his finger pressing lightly on the trigger.

Dark hair blowing gently about her face, Sam stepped forward towards the doorway and closer to Kris.  She only spared one quick glance at her friend; it wasn't too difficult to realize that Kris would be in even more trouble if they realized what she meant to Sam.  Another step.  'What she means.  Jeeezus, what's the going price on everything?' and another.  'Oh sure, let's get philosophical now.  Great idea!'   She mentally chastised herself for another couple of steps and then she was at the door, standing a step or so away from the still kneeling Kris.

Vinnie tightened his trigger finger and then looked over to Joey, who was watching the approaching cop intently.  Not willing to risk Joey's wrath, he allowed Sam to approach.  "In!" He spat towards Sam, twitching his gun towards the inside the bank to indicate she should go inside.

"I said five more at the door."  The urge to reach out to touch her friend was overwhelming.

Faster than she could move Vinnie had his gun at the back of Kris' head, pressing it forward slightly.

Kris closed her eyes, praying that Sam and her family would hear her last thoughts.

"Here's one of your five!" Vinnie smiled evilly and tightened his finger again.

"NO!" Sam lifted her hands in supplication.  'Hang in there, Kris.'  "Look, I'll come in.  You don't have to hurt anyone." 'Train the gun on me, asshole!'  She kept talking, shifting closer to Kris, "Let me in."

Lisa Scott closed her eyes and prayed, her entire body shaking as she buried her face in her husband's side.  Thankfully, he pulled her closer but kept his eyes on the scene before him.

Sam lifted her arms into the air.  "See, no guns.  Nothing I'm going to hurt you with if that's what you're afraid of, " She'd said it with a snide tone in an effort get his attention.  It worked.

Vinnie snarled and pushed Kris down to the ground in his haste to get to the officer, "You bitch!"  He pulled Sam by the arm and then pushed her in the bank, following until Joey's irritated voice cut through the heat of his anger and lashed him once again.

"You fucking IDIOT!  Get the blonde before you get yourself shot by a sniper or were you just planning on letting her go? Christ!" he ranted before turning to look at the woman he'd finally gotten into the bank.

Sam watched LaMont, her eyes laser beams of anger, hate and dismay that it was the man she'd thought long dead.

"Sammy, Sammy, Sammy.  How the hell are you, girl?"  He smiled cruelly at the tall woman, sliding the barrel of his gun down her cheek.

An eyebrow raised as the cool metal left her cheek.  "Having trouble with your..."  She slid a mocking glance towards Vinnie before returning her gaze to LaMont.  "...associates, Joey?"

Kris felt her head being pulled back by the hair and was forced to stand awkwardly before being dragged back into the bank.  When they got inside, Vinnie shoved her hard from behind and she stumbled before dropping to her knees.

Sam's senses kept track of Kris' movements, noting that the blonde was shoved violently to the floor behind her and adding that to the list she was going to make Vinnie pay for.

"Insulting my friends, Sammy?" Joey asked, nodding to Vinnie as he stood behind Sam.

'Go with it, go with it,'

 Sam said to herself, feeling Vinnie's approach and swing.  Joey kept a smirk on his face and his gun waving towards the hostages but she managed to move her head slightly and avoid the full blow.  Still, it rang through her head and she dropped to her knees and then all fours trying to stop the stars.

Unfortunately, that was just what Vinnie was waiting for and he viciously kicked her in the ribs, lifting her slightly from the floor with the force.  He laughed to himself as Sam tried to get her breath and then kicked her again and again.

Kris started to stand to go to Sam's aid, not able to watch her friend being pummeled, but caught Joey's eyes and the menace of the gun.  Then she felt her hand covered by another, as one of the tellers whispered that she should sit before she got them in trouble.  Heartsick, Kris followed the actions of several others and turned away but was unable to block the sounds.

It was a shock to several people, including Joey and Vinnie who both blinked, when a blonde topped body was suddenly standing in front of Vinnie.  "Look, she's a cop.  You kill her and they'll never let you go and then we're gonna die.  Use her to get out.  I don't want to die."

Vinnie lashed out with a backhand and knocked Kris off her feet, unable to direct herself she tripped over Sam and started to fall to the ground.  That is until she found herself supported in mid-air by a firm, albeit roughed up, body and an arm around her thighs.  She glanced down and saw that Sam had somehow gotten partially up and was now supporting Kris on her shoulders and chest.

Even with the ever present stoic face, the blonde could tell that just these couple of seconds were costing her friend and she hastened to stand up.  She held a hand over the side of her face and tried not to wince.

Sam cocked her head and said painfully, "She's right, they'll never deal without me."  'I wonder what else we can get them to believe. Jesus listen to me - 'we' - she's got me completely twisted!' She thought as she tried to catch her breath and get an inventory on damage.  'One,' she thought as she tried to concentrate on something useful.  ŒNo, two Dammit.  Maybe even three.'  Her internal bruised rib monologue continued for a few moments as she took stock and found a way to get precious air back into the places it needed to go.

Vinnie started to step forward again, his foot rising for another kick when Joey looked between the blonde, who was now kneeling by the tall woman, and Sam.  He sighed.  "That's enough, Vinnie."

"I want a ..."

"I don't give a flying rat's ass what you want."  He turned his attention to Sam.  "Oh do get up, Sammy.  I have such plans for you and I do so hate a boring guest."

"Yeah."  She took a careful breath.  "Well, Joey.  You've always had trouble being able to... entertain, haven't you?" Sam replied with a smirk, bracing herself with her hands and then pushing herself to her knees very painfully.  "At least that's what I remember," she added.  'Keep it on yourself, Sam, keep it there.  Give the good guys time to work out a plan.'


And I seem to recall quite a few people being witness to your inability to ... entertain after I was through with you the last time we met," she continued; keeping the smirk on her face and grabbing a center table with a hand to help pull herself up, only to find Kris on the other side helping.

'What the hell?'  Kris fumed at Sam's obvious baiting, wondering if her friend hadn't taken several hits to the head instead of the ribs.

"I'm gonna enjoy this."

From behind, Vinnie grabbed the arm Sam was raising to block Joey's swing.  She twisted out of his hold easily and pushed Kris out of the way as Joey's hand, and part of the gun in it, hit the officer on the side of the face.  She dropped again, dazed.

Joey was in a rage, his face an ugly contortion of the handsome version it normally was.  He grabbed hold of Sam's hair and partially pulled her up before she was able to fight through the haze and pain and come again to her knees.

"Thought I was dead, didn't you?"  He pulled her hair so that her head moved all the way back, exposing her throat and leaned over her face.  "But not me, no.  Not me.  You weren't going to catch me, bitch.  I didn't go that night."  Joey stopped and leaned towards Vinnie.

Kris watched as Joey holstered his gun and reached over to Vinnie, then snapped open the man's knife holder, withdrawing a wicked looking hunting knife which he then moved back towards Sam's throat.  Her mouth went dry and green eyes frantically searched for an object that she could use to distract them or against them.

"How does this feel, Sammy?" Joey asked as he lightly drew the blade across Sam's throat.

Sam felt the knife dig in a couple of times on the tight skin and winced, it felt as if drops of blood were sliding down her neck and the urge to wipe them away as they crawled down her skin was almost overwhelming.  "Typical, Joey, just typical.  Your father wanted you to be a man so badly, did you know that?  Did you know he talked to me about you?  Do you wanna know he said?  Do you know how disappointed he was when you were never man enough to simply deal with me, or anyone else, straight?  Did you talk to him, Joey?"

For a split second the knife pushed deeper into her throat and Sam wondered if she hadn't pushed too far.

Then Joey's eyes flashed in something akin to astonishment and he stepped back a half step, letting her hair go.  "Straight? You dare talk to me about dealing with people straight after you betrayed them all?" he growled in a quiet, deadly voice.

Shaking her head, Sam replied, "That wasn't me."  At Joey's snort of disbelief, she continued, "Oh, I would've done it in a heartbeat but I didn't have to."  She smiled slightly.  "You mean you never bothered to find out?"

"Let me finish it, boss!" Vinnie requested; his gun ready to finish the deed.

The knife returned to Sam as Joey slowly slid the tip down her cheek and rested it on her jawbone.  He glanced up at Vinnie for a moment, "Oh no, she's mine," and then back to Sam, "Do you really think I'm going to..." the knife dug deeper, "believe anything..." and deeper "you say?"  A small amount of blood pooled at the knife tip and Vinnie just smiled.

Kris stood back and watched the scene, instinctively knowing that Sam had somewhere she was going and Kris' interruptions were not going to help.  'Still, doesn't someone teach that being prepared is a good thing?' She thought as her eyes rested on an object on the floor.

Deceptively mild blue eyes looked into Joey's face.  "I have nothing to lose here, Joey.  We both know I was dead the moment I walked in here."  She ignored the barely audible gasp from Kris.  "I'm telling you the truth.  I didn't do it, but I know what happened."  She paused and glanced behind her but couldn't see anything.  "Don't I, Vinnie?"

Vinnie looked at her in surprise, then darted a glance to Joey before returning his gaze to the Detective.  "You lying piece of shit!"  He strode towards her, his gun moved up to point at her head and he squeezed the trigger.

Sam anticipated the charge and looked for a way to move before realizing that the only directions in which she could go would be putting the hostages right in the middle of the gunfire.  She started to stand but Joey pushed her away from him with the knuckles of his knife hand and she lost her balance, dropping to the ground.  He swung his other arm around to knock Vinnie's gun arm away from the prone woman.

Sam flinched and involuntarily closed her eyes as she fell back and the gun fired.

The noise was almost deafening and seemed to echo in strange ways around the building as hysterical screams sounded from several of the hostages.

Outside, anyone who had been otherwise occupied now found their attention glued to the bank.  Lisa Scott sobbed into her husband's arms and he held her tightly as he tried to regain some focus.  "Get me a line in there, NOW!"

The sound of footsteps from the back soon coalesced into third gunman as he came running in to check on what had happened.  The room quieted with the only background noise being machinery and muffled sobs.

Sam opened her eyes immediately and they quickly found the bullet hole in the floor not a foot from her head.  From her position, propped up on her elbows, she was able to spare a quick glance at Kris' stunned green orbs.  'It's okay. It'll be okay.'

'Oh my God

,' Kris thought as her racing heart slammed in her chest.  She stared at the bullet hole that was far too close to her friend and then her gaze was drawn up to meet Sam's.

All eyes looked up as the sudden crack of Joey backhanding Vinnie across the face reverberated in the room.  Joey's fury was evident in his voice, "This is my plan and I make the decisions!"  He struggled with his anger, then moved over and grabbed Vinnie's shirt and bunched it up in his free hand, his other hand gripped Vinnie's knife so tightly the knuckles were turning white.

Joey looked straight into Vinnie's eyes.  "If anyone gets the pleasureŠ"  He jerked his head at Sam.  "It's me.  Do anything like that again and I'll kill you myself.  You got me?"  He shook Vinnie.  "DO YOU?"  When Vinnie nodded, Joey pushed him away violently and he fell back into one of the middle tables.

The sound of the phone ringing speared through the almost silent room; muffled sobs filled the background noise.  With eerie precision, just about every head turned towards the noise.

"Shit!"  Joey turned abruptly towards the phone.

Vinnie wiped the blood away from where Joey's ring had carved a notch on his lip.

Kris watched the two of them separate and couldn't miss the hatred she saw in Vinnie's eyes as the other man turned his back to him.

Looking at Mike, Joey waved his hand back towards the others.  "Watch them.  They try anything, kill the cop first."

The phone continued to ring and Joey watched it for a minute before picking it up.  He began to speak immediately, "I want a van with darkened windows outside the door in twenty minutes.  It's not there and two hostages die, then two more every five minutes after that."

Joey started to hang up but stopped when he heard the negative response to his demands from the handset.  "Then you'll have the pleasure of watching one of your own die first."  He slammed the receiver down then turned and headed back to where Sam was now sitting on the floor.

"Hear that, Sammy?  Better talk fast."

Sam's mind was running over the options, there weren't many.  The forces outside wouldn't allow anyone inside to leave the immediate area, there was very cognizant of that fact.  Keeping Joey talking and trying to find an opportunity to do 'something' was all that she could do.   She looked up at Vinnie and then over at Joey.  "I got in on a bust of one of the smaller Barelli holdings and found out a few things.   One of them wouldn't shut up he was in such a hurry to make a deal.  Seems like a couple of people in your camp didn't like how things were going and made a deal."

Joey savagely jammed the knife into the top of one of the desks and then spat out, "Yeah, yeah.  At least try to be original."

"I don't have to be original when it's the truth."

In a parody of a yawn, Joey placed his hand over his mouth and then drew his gun.  "If that's the best you can do..." he let the sentence trail off.

"The guy laughed about some of their stash being yours and how stupid the two guys had been to believe that the Barelli's would allow traitors into their operation."  Her eyes flickered to Vinnie.  "Seems as if these two guys were not happy with their roles in life and were going to be paid lots of money and promised high positions in the Barelli business to use their codes to open the door by the docks."

Joey didn't look interested.

"The Barellis came by boat, had a nice blood bath and then left with the money that your father was buying the drugs with and the drugs as well.  The guy bragged about how the Barellis cut down one of the traitors as he was reaching for the money but they weren't happy that they couldn't find the other one.  They went ahead and blew up the warehouse anyway"

"This is old news and stuff I was told you did, can't you make up something good?"

"Yeah, but I couldn't make up the partial pre-payment from the Barellis that showed up in the hidden bank account that the two guys opened.  Barelli's boy laughed about how they figured that one of the guys had a feeling something was up and sent his brother to the slaughter.  That what you did, Vinnie?"

"YOU LIE!!"  Vinnie's face turned bright red in rage and he moved towards her again until he saw Joey's gun pointed at him.

Sighting down the short barrel, Joey moved closer, "I already told you, she is mine and I want to hear what she has to say."  He motioned for Sam to continue.

"The figures lined up and they traced the account back to Vinnie here.  He'd made himself very scarce and they figured he was in deep hiding or dead, so they let it go until he surfaced again.  One way or another."  She kept her gaze on the two men.  "Think about it, Joey.  You know how Vinnie was with being in the middle of everything, afraid he'd miss out and where was he when the biggest deal in recent memory was going down?  Let me guess, he's the one that told you all that crap about me doing it, right?"

She laughed mirthlessly.  "You may not have paid attention to much, Joey, but surely you knew that your father would never have trusted anyone that new with those codes."

Joey looked hard at a sweating Vinnie and started to grab his throat, still holding his gun in Vinnie's face.

Mike's voice from the rear broke the silent tableau, "Joey!  I think something's going on!"

It all happened so fast, too fast.  In what seemed like slow motion, the movements played out one by one.  As everyone's attention was distracted, Vinnie squirmed away from Joey's grasp, brought his gun up and fired point blank.  Before Joey had hit the floor Vinnie was turning towards Sam, a smile on his face.  She dove towards him but jerked her head to the side as she caught something flying forcefully through the air from the corner of her eye.


Kris cheered internally as her chosen missile impacted against Vinnie's head with a solid crack.  It bounced off and rolled some distance away, right to the feet of the approaching Mike who raised his gun in her direction.

The missile's impact had caused Vinnie to move a step to the left and Sam impacted more with his side when she hit.  They dropped to the ground and Sam found herself partially supporting Vinnie on the floor.  She saw movement on the other side of the room and looked just in time to see Mike lift his gun.

Kris froze.  'No, not like this, please.'

Knowing who stood in the direction Mike's gun was pointed, Sam mentally thanked whoever was listening for giving her long arms and fingers as she grabbed at Vinnie's wrist and pulled his hand closer even as she stretched.  Her ribs protested the weight and movement but she pushed the pain behind her.  Mike must have noticed what she was doing, he swung his gun towards her, hesitated for a moment then fired, the impact bounced her back to the floor but she put pressure on Vinnie's finger and the gun barked out several times in response.

"Sam?" Kris whispered and held her breath, then let out a sigh of relief as the other woman wrestled the gun from Vinnie's grasp and pushed his inert body away from hers.  Kris didn't even think, she skidded to a halt at Sam's side and helped her push Vinnie away frantically looking for the source of the blood that covered her friend's arms and patches of her clothes.  "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I think I am."  Sam said with some surprise as her eyes flickered quickly over the downed men and then to Kris, she breathed a silent sigh of relief to see no apparent injuries on her friend.  She was fairly sure that Vinnie was dead; a quick feel of his pulse confirmed that. 'Vinnie saved my life.  How's that for irony?' She moved as rapidly as her sore body would allow to Joey's side, kicking his gun towards Kris.  "Grab that," she asked her friend and then increased her volume, "and nobody move!"

Kris bent down and picked up the gun very gingerly. 'Knock it off! It's not like you have to use it.'

Sam slid over to Mike and kicked his gun away too and confirmed what her eyes had already seen that he was dead.  She spared herself a quick moment of confusion. 'What in the hell just happened?"

Several people jumped when the phone rang again, Sam moved to cover Joey but spared a glance for Kris.  "Get that please, tell them we're secure, that I'm in control and we'll be sending the hostages out one by one as soon as soon as you're off the phone."

Kris picked up the phone.  "Hello?"

Captain Scott started as he recognized the voice on the other end of the phone but wasn't sure of the situation and had to play it carefully.  "Is everyone all right in there?"

Kris' face lit with a huge smile as she recognized her father's voice.  "Dad."  She tried to say more but the emotions were a little too much and she had to take a breath to collect herself.

Her father held his wife's eyes as he asked, "Kris?"

A smile touched her lips again.  "Yeah, it's me." She took one more short breath.  "Dad, listen.  It's okay in here, Sam's in charge and says to tell you we're secure and that we'll be sending the hostages out one by one as soon as we're done here."

He couldn't help himself.  "And you're okay?"

"I'm fine, daddy.  We'll get everyone out and I'll see you in a few minutes."

Lisa Scott looked at her husband, hope rising even as she tried to keep it under control.

He hung up the phone and smiled at her.  "She's okay."  Then a little louder to the room, "They're coming out."

Lisa tried to not let her weak legs collapse and reached for the edge of the table close by.

The Captain spoke into radio, "Situation appears secure, hostages coming out.  Keep them under watch until we're sure!  Move it people!"

Lisa looked around for a chair but didn't have to worry about it as she found herself in the strong arms of her husband.  They held each tightly for a few moments before he pulled back, "I have to make sure they get out safely."  At a nod and smile from his wife, he left the room and walked outside.

Sam knew things would be much faster and safer if the hostages were sent out first and backed up enough to be able to look at them occasionally as she watched the stirring Joey.  'Damn, wish I had some handcuffs.'  She didn't see anything handy and so turned her attention to Kris instead who had walked up to carefully hand her the other gun.  'I want her out and safe.'  She kept Joey in her sight but looked into Kris' eyes and prepared to tell her.

Kris' eyes narrowed as she noticed Sam look at her carefully, 'Oh no you don't.' "Tell me how you want them to go out and I'll get them started."

Sam frowned but recovered quickly, "You can show them yourself by going out first." Kris started to interrupt but Sam continued, "Go slowly, one by one, with your hands up.  The people outside will take it from there."

Kris just shook her head in resignation and walked towards the doorway, "Nice try but I'm not leaving without you."

Sam couldn't help the amazed snort.  'Why do I bother?'

Kris smiled to herself in victory after Sam warned her about not making any sudden moves as she stood by the doorway.

Soon it was just Kris, Sam and Joey left along with the two bodies.

Kris approached Sam but stopped a short distance away in deference to the situation.  "That's it."

"Thank you."  Sam spared Kris an affectionate glance.  "You need to go now too."

"Sam, I wasn't kidding.  Not without you."  She shifted closer to her friend and whispered, "And don't tell me that you're fine, I know you're not."

"Shiiit.  So Blondie's with you."  Both women looked Joey as he spoke, "I shoulda known you came in here too easily."  His eyes raked over Kris.  "Always knew you had good taste."

Sam flashed a glance at the blonde and smiled slightly, raising an eyebrow.  "I think so."  She sighed a little.  "Kris, they're going to be waiting for you to come out."

Kris shook her head obstinately.  "Dad knows me well enough to realize I'm not leaving without you and I told him that we'd get everyone else out."

"Your dad?" Joey asked from the floor as he shuffled back slightly on his rear end to put his back against the wall.

"Yeah, you know.  Captain Scott.  The guy you were talking to on the phone."  Kris smirked as Joey looked at her open mouthed then looked disgustedly at Sam before settling down again.

With a rueful sigh, Sam leaned back against a table as the day's pains started to gang up on her.  She was far too tired to argue and Kris was likely right about her father knowing she wouldn't leave.  "Then I guess we wait for the cavalry?"

Soon the bank was filled with various law enforcement officers and, once the scene was definitely secure, paramedics who started to take care of a grumbling Joey under the watchful eyes of two police officers.

Sam had turned over the guns in her possession to Captain Scott who was one of the first people inside and was now sitting at one of the desks with Kris and Sam and holding his daughter's hand very tightly.   Sam was enjoying resting her body for a short time as they'd quickly gone over the basics, including Kris' contribution, the other weapons, basic report details and other necessities.  The Detective was more than ready to get out of there, having already pushed away the paramedics twice after they'd done some preliminary work.

The Captain had already tried to thank Sam a couple of times but they'd been interrupted, he wasn't going to be denied this time.  "Sam.  I can never, ever thank you enough.  I don't even know what to say."

Kris squeezed his hand.

Sam smiled slightly at him.  "Sir, we're cops.  Someone had to do it."

He started to reply and found his lips covered by laughing Kris' hand.

"Don't even start with that tough as nails cop stuff!"

"Mn mnhat."  He smiled behind her hand.

"Yes, you were." Kris smiled at her father and tried to control the trembling in her hands.  It'd gotten worse as the time had gone by and she could only assume she was feeling the after effects of the day. 'I have a tested cure for that.'  "Dad, since Wonder Woman over there refuses to go to the hospital, I'm going to help her get cleaned up in one of the bathrooms here, okay?"

Sam started in surprise.  "I'm fine, Kris.  I've got what I need at home."

"Humor me."  Kris put the full weight of her seriousness into her green eyes.  "Please."

Now a little worried, Sam agreed and followed Kris to the empty bathroom.  It wasn't until the door actually closed and Kris turned that Sam saw the obvious strain.  She quickly stepped close and asked, "What is it?"

Kris wasn't able to do anything about the tears now rolling down her face; she reached a hand to Sam's hip.  "I really need..."  She stopped and fell into Sam's arms as the long arms surrounded her and held tight, warmth seeped through her body immediately and she breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Sam let loose a deep breath, wincing as her ribs reminded her quite painfully that they hadn't been treated well lately.  Kris was attached to them now, however, and Sam mentally told them to shut up as she pressed her lips against the top of Kris' head and then laid her cheek right on that spot.  She held her friend tightly, back against the bathroom door and just took a moment to drift quietly.

It took several minutes but finally Kris got out, "You know, this is just too much damned excitement for me."  She both felt and heard Sam's chuckle and tried to explain.  "I'm sorry, I almost lost you a couple of times today and I just needed a minute alone with you."

'I think I needed this too, kiddo

 .' "May Martha forgive me but it's a good thing."

"Is it?"

Sam smiled and shifted back slightly, unable to stop the narrowing of her eyes at the jabs of pain various parts of her body were shooting at her.  "Yes, it is."

Kris smiled and slowly stepped back from her comfy spot, not terribly happy about leaving her very own safe harbor but recognizing the necessity.  She caught the pain in the taller woman's eyes.  "I suppose it's stupid to think that you'd go to the hospital?"

Sam smiled down at the blonde and softly wiped her tears away, "Can I ask you to stay away from trouble?"

"It's not my fault!  I don't do it on purpose you know."  Kris' bottom lip started to poke out slightly.

The tall woman squeezed the blonde's shoulder.  "Hey, as long as you come out okay that's the important part but please be careful."

Kris looked up.  "You too, please always be careful."

"I'll do my best."

"Well that's very good indeed then."  She took a breath.  "Sam, thank you, thank you so much."

"Don't forget how awesome you were."

"Yeah, yeah."  Before her hard headed friend could respond she continued, "Let's see about cleaning you up a little okay?"

Sam considered very briefly.  "Okay, as long as I get to help you.  Vinnie hit you pretty hard."

Kris laughed slightly.  "I'd forgotten all about that.  It doesn't even hurt now, I'll check it out later."

"What's good for the goose."

"Sam!  I got a slap, you were beaten up.  I'm fine, really."

They were still discussing it when they walked out of the bathroom after Kris had looked over some of the cuts that Sam hadn't given the paramedics time to look at.  At least until Sam noticed one of the evidence techs pick up a round object from the other side of the room and throw it up in the air a few times.  Sam looked at the woman by her side in astonishment.  "Is that what you used?"

Kris dropped her head and mumbled a, "Yes".

Sam laughed out loud.  "I do not believe it."

"I needed a distraction, seems I have a talent for those."

"That you do," Sam conceded.  "And many other things as well but where in the hell did you get a baseball from?"

Kris flushed.  "Zach, the little guy that got out earlier.  He had a glove and ball with him; I thought it might come in useful."

"Do you think that if I bought it from Zach and had you sign it that it might be worth a bunch of money in the future?"

Privately, Kris relished her friend's seldom used wit and was glad to see it coming out, that didn't stop her from faking a backhand into her friend's stomach.  "Knock it off."

Sam just shook her head and smiled, then both women joined the waiting Captain before walking out into the sunlight side by side.



"See, that wasn't so bad.  I mean, you didn't spontaneously combust when you walked into the church and I think several people were waiting for it too."

Sam chuckled.  "Cute. I'll remember that."

"Hey, you were the one worried about not being in a church in a long time."

"So I was and just how did I get persuaded to be here?"

"Your friend asked you to be here."

"Your friend."

"No, no.  Most definitely your friend."

"Pfft.  She probably needed more people in the seats."

"Give me a break!"  Kris laughed and then looked over at her friend seriously.  "Hey, you don't really believe that do you?"

Sam pouted at being put on the spot after building up her righteous indignation.  "I suppose not."

"No supposing.  You were asked to attend long before that whole club business."

"Yeah but you don't have to sing they song they're going to dance to first at the reception."

"That's because I can't sing."

Sam looked at her friend and narrowed her eyes, "Don't start that.  You can too sing."

"Yeah, so surely you can tell me now which song it is.  Wedding's over with."

"Jen says you'll know it when you hear it."

"Hmm." Kris noticed Sam fidgeting in her dress, "Your ribs hurt?"


' "Remember, I heal fast.  They're fine."

'Yeah right!'

 "Then would you stop that!  You look great."

"Easy for you to say, Ms Cosmopolitan.  I'm much happier in jeans and tennies."

"Yes, but you're brightening up everyone's horizon today, believe me."  The blonde grinned.  "I promise, you're making a lot of people happy."

"Oh please.  If anyone's gonna get stopped and smelled, it's you."

Kris burst out laughing.  "Stopped and smelled?"

Sam looked around, quite embarrassed.  She felt like scuffing her toe in the dirt.  "You know, the prettiest rose of the bunch and all that."

Slack jawed, Kris looked at her friend.  Pole axed.

'Heh!  She's speechless again!  I need to remember that one too!'


The very happy bride smiled as she stood up to start the first dance with her new husband.  But she had a mission first; walking to the stage she took the microphone from Sam's hand.  "Hi everyone.  Thank you so much for being here." She paused and blushed when the crowd clapped and wished the new couple their best.  "The song that you're going to hear, it's a special one for me.  It's the song that was playing when Tom proposed.  He asked them to play it because he knew it was my dream man song."

Several mushy sounds were sounded out but Jen shushed them down.  "Anyway, I needed someone special to sing it and I thought I was going to be out of luck.  What I didn't realize was that a special friend of mine had been hiding something and recently I discovered she had the voice I needed to hear."

Sam hung her head and chewed on her cheek, refusing to look up.

Kris smiled widely.

"I'm not going to embarrass my friend any more but I do want to dedicate this song to my husband."  Jen smiled tenderly at the man of her dreams.  "And to all those whose hearts..."  Her gaze strayed to capture Kris', long enough for the blonde to look at her in question. "Šknow what their heads refuse to acknowledge." She turned and held Sam's gaze for a long moment.  "May they find their way as I've found mine."  She mouthed ŒThank you¹ and handed the microphone back to Sam.

Sam smiled warmly at Jen and the music started up.  Sam's eyes swept the crowd and then settled on the happy couple as they started to dance.

You're the bravest of hearts, you're the strongest of souls

You're my light in the dark, you're the place I call home.

Sam glanced around again and found her eyes resting on Kris momentarily.

You can say it's all right, but I know that

you're breaking up inside, I see it in your eyes

Even you face the night afraid and alone

That's why I'll be here.

A vision of soothing Kris' nightmare flashed through Sam's mind.

When the storm rises up, when the shadows descend

Every beat of my heart, every day without end

Every second I live, that's the promise I make

Baby, that's what I'll give if that's what it takes

If that's what it takes

Kris watched the couple dance and then shook her head and smiled as Jen waved to the other couples and insisted they join them on the floor as well.  Her eyes turned to Sam who was starting to move a little to the increased beat.

You can sleep in my arms, you don't have to explain

When your heart's crying out, baby, whisper my name.

'Cause I've reached out for you when the thunder is crashing up above

You've given me your love

When you smile like the sun that shines through the pain

That's why I'll be there.

Kris closed her eyes for a moment as the warmth of being comforted in Sam's arms flowed through her.

When the storm rises up, when the shadows descend

Every beat of my heart, every day without end

I will stand like a rock, I will bend till I break

Till there's no more to give, if that's what it takes

I will risk everything, I will fight, I will bleed

I will lay down my life, if that's what you need.

Sam found her eyes back on Kris and felt her heart pounding far beyond the circumstances as she remembered Kris kneeling in the doorway of the bank.

Every second I live, that's the promise I make

Baby, that's what I'll give, it that's what it takes.

Kris politely turned down a request for a dance and turned her attention back to the couple.

Through the wind and the rain, through the smoke and the fire

When the fear rises up, when the wave's ever higher

I will lay down my heart, my body, my soul

Smoky green met brilliant blue.

I will hold on all night and never let go

Every second I live, that's the promise I make

Baby, that's what I'll give, if that's what it takes

Another set of eyes saw the interaction and watched with some trepidation even as Jen looked at both her friends and smirked to herself.

If that's what it takes

Every day

If that's what it takes

Every day


I hope that you enjoyed the adventures of Kris and Sam.  Please let me know if you did, Idryth@aol.com

The story continues with "Realization".

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