Disclaimer & Notices

Copyright: I completely own all characters in this story.

Slash: This story focuses on women being together. If you don't like it then move on.

Violence: There will be some violence.

Summary: Ashley K. Carver, Maryland State Trooper #1153, is driving home one evening from her girlfriend's house when she comes upon a suspicious car. She tails the car to a cornfield and discovers a young woman, Katia, is about to be harmed. Ashley quickly acts and in the process finds herself in a new friendship that she never expected. This is the story about Ashley and Katia, who find that their opposite lives binds them closer than blood ever could.

Note: This is the revised edition of Maryland State Trooper #1153. I've decided to rework this story at the request of many MST fans, who want the sequel to continue later down the road. I hope this revise will inspire old and new fans, who favor Ashley and Katia as I do. I appreciate and thank all those fans that have stood beside this story for four years now. If you wish to read the original it is still available, but only at my website. Please follow the link below.



Feedback: redhope@redhope.net

Homepage: http://www.redhope.net

Write a Review: http://www.redhope.net/xena/review/series3-form.html

List: http://tv.groups.yahoo.com/group/redhope/

Started: August 28, 2003

Ended: January 17, 2005

Revised: July 17, 2007


Series 3: Putting the Puzzle Together – Story #26


Maryland State Trooper #1153

The Test Trial Über

by Red Hope

Chapter 1

Ashley Carver tried to stretch out her long legs as best as she could in her car. She was weary from her long day of driving to and from her girlfriend's place all the way in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The drive between Baltimore and Lancaster could be grueling, but Ashley was expected to drive the miles. Not that Ashley ever planned for it to work out that way. Laurel, her girlfriend, was from Baltimore, and one day sprung the news to Ashley that she planned to move to Lancaster. That was a couple of months ago, and Ashley seriously debated whether to breakup with Laurel. However, Ashley was driving back and forth.

Ashley needed some chilled air to help her wake up. She pushed the power button for her window and only released it once the window was completely down. The brisk wind brushed across her face and sharply took away her tiredness. For a moment, Ashley had to move her midnight hair out of the way. Once her view was cleared, she noticed the car she was catching up to on the quiet, back road.

The small sports utility vehicle was an old, worn Chevy Blazer that was mostly white. The right taillight was smashed and obviously not working properly. The car seemed fairly dirty probably from the local roads and recent rain.

Ashley was in the habit of assessing cars from top to bottom. She especially watched the driver's silhouette inside the car, but she spotted a person in the passenger seat as well. She didn't much like how beat up the car seemed. Then the car's slight swerving motions on the road really bothered her.

The driver was getting into a physical fight with the passenger, which caused the driver to steer improperly. Then the driver' silhouette showed a clear fisting motion just between the open space of the seats.

Ashley was briefly shocked when the passenger went slump, yet she knew exactly what'd happened. She inwardly debated what to do. She had to follow her instincts, and before she could make any move the Blazer suddenly drove off the road into a cornfield. Ashley went several hundred feet down the road then braked.

The white Blazer bounced up and down the bumpy road between the cornfields. Then the passenger door opened, and a young woman fell out. She stumbled a few times, but she tried to gather herself. The driver stopped the car, got out, and dashed around the front side.

The woman screamed and urged, "Just leave me alone."

"Hey, I gave you a ride... now I want a ride," the driver leered. He kept struggling with her and stopped her wild punches.

"Get off," the woman growled, and she tried to shove him away again.

The man became irritated, and he slugged her finally. He released her just as she fell to the ground. He stood over her then knelt down to get overtop of her. He used his hands to hold her down, but she kept fighting him furiously.

"No! Get off me!" She kicked at him, which only angered him more. She tried to push him off, but he was far larger and stronger.

The driver was prepared to grab his belt, yet he hesitated when there was a distinct click behind his head. He'd heard that sound a few times in his life. Next he felt metal pressed into the back of his head.

"You heard her, get off."

The driver slowly released his belt and carefully placed his hand back on the ground. He then climbed to his feet and held up his hands.

"Good," Ashley instructed. She remained behind the man, but she'd pulled her gun off his head. "Walk towards your car." She let the driver march back to his car, and she followed his steps. Just when he was going to turn around, she snapped, "Stay facing the car." She didn't need this pig identifying her later. "Now spread your legs and put your hands against the car."

The driver stepped closer to the side of his Blazer. He pressed his palms against the car, then he carefully spread his legs. Next he felt large hands check up and down his body as if he was a criminal under arrest.

Ashley slipped her hand into his right pocket, and she took his car key. She then pressed the gun's barrel against his temple. She leaned in closer and menacingly whispered, "Here's the deal. I don't like you much, and I think you'll do the world a favor by being dead." She paused and sensed the man was trembling at her words. She deepened her voice and growled, "I'm going to give you two minutes to run through one of these cornfields. After that I'm going to hunt you down like the pig you are."

"No, please," the man begged.

Ashley grew smug and further threatened, "I don't have any sympathy for you. Just like you didn't for that girl." She stepped back once then ordered, "Move around the car."

The driver was panicked, and he started to turn.

Ashley shoved him back around before he could get a look. "Move," she snarled. She followed him until he faced a cornfield. "Two minutes." She then removed her safety on her gun for added effect. "Now run!"

The driver was petrified, but he dashed off and jumped into the cornfield. The sounds of him rushing through the drying corn stalks could be heard quite clearly.

Ashley waited a beat, then she turned back to the young woman. She hastily turned the safety back on then shoved her gun between her belt and pants at her back. She approached the shaken woman and asked, "Are you okay?"

The young woman was fearful, even of her rescuer. She had long blond hair, but it was messy from the tussle on the ground. The white blouse she wore was now streaked with dirt and so were her jeans. She realized that the tall, dark woman was coming for her. She stepped back once.

Ashley halted her attempt because the woman saw her as a threat. She held up her hands and softly urged, "I'm not going to harm you. I just want to get you out of here." She wasn't sure if she was helping or worsening the situation. "My name is Ashley."

The shaken woman finally processed what was happening to her so quickly. She touched her forehead, which had a small gash on it. "I... I'm Katia." She swallowed and made eye contact finally.

Ashley offered a trusting smile. "I know you're probably not much for accepting car rides right now, but my car is just at the end of the cornfield. I'll get you back home."

Katia glanced at the Blazer then back at Ashley. She quickly made her choice and nodded.

Ashley was relieved and closed in the distance. "Come on." She walked fast because she was concerned the man may return, yet she mostly doubted it. She'd pretty well scared him to death.

Katia had to widen her gate to keep up with the taller woman. As they neared the end of the muddy road, she noticed a red sedan that was running but the headlights were off. Once close enough, Katia recognized the prestige car symbol for Mercedes-Benz. How did she manage to go from a beat up Chevy Blazer to a luxury car like Mercedes?

"It's unlocked," Ashley mentioned.

Katia soon found out when she pulled on the door handle. She climbed into the warm car and reached for a seatbelt.

Ashley did the same, but she glimpsed at the Katia's face while the car light was on for a beat. She was surprised because of the rare green Katia's eyes showed. She buckled in then put her car in reverse.

Katia was still and rather quiet. She tried not to be obvious while she scanned about the car. What caught her eye more than anything was the shiny object that rest in the small cubbyhole in the center compartment. It only took her a heartbeat to place the object's familiar design.

Ashley had backed up the car to the end of the road. She braked her car until it was completely stopped, then she reached for her black gun. She quickly opened the center compartment and tucked the gun away in it. Finally she turned on her headlights, backed out onto the road, and continued the long drive home.

Katia tested her voice by clearing her throat first. She then softly questioned, "You're a state trooper?" She glanced over at the older woman. "From Maryland?"

Ashley grumbled at her badge, which she'd left out in the open. She inwardly sighed for leaving it out because she rarely made that mistake. "Yes," she answered. "My barrack is just outside of Baltimore."

Katia's interests were heightened. "Do you live in Baltimore?"

"No, no," the trooper insisted. She slightly grinned and explained, "I live north of Baltimore."

Katia tilted her head and brushed her hair back behind her right ear. "Near Hunt Valley?"

Ashley was surprised the young woman begged her location so perfectly. "Actually in Hunt Valley." She detected that Katia was calming down finally and was a little more relaxed. "How about yourself?"

Katia hesitated but gave into the question. "I'm from Chestertown, Maryland but I go to college at Salisbury."

Ashley didn't think she could be shocked again, but she was wrong. It was obvious that Katia was this far from college for a specific reason. "What year are you?"

"I'm a sophomore this year," Katia responded. "I live on campus too."

Ashley smiled at Katia's attempt to talk to her. "What's your major?"

The college student fumbled for the right response, but she honestly replied, "I'm between majors, I suppose."

Ashley softly chuckled and argued, "You can't decide?"

Katia sighed dramatically then shook her head. "My taste keeps changing all the time." She laced her hands in her lap and continued to chat. "I really enjoy writing, but I'm always told how little money I'll earn for a living."

The trooper softly grinned. "Well, you can't base your choices on the dollar signs."

"True," Katia granted. She then shrugged and let the topic go. Then it struck her that she felt a lot better than earlier, and she had to thank this woman for her amazing timing. "I..." She sighed and chided herself for stumbling over her words when she was typically so good with them. "Thank you for stopping him."

"My duty is to serve and protect," the trooper tried to tease.

Katia finally showed a smile for the first time, and then amazingly she softly laughed. She thought about how Ashley handled the man, and she quickly realized Ashley had done it so he wouldn't report her. Despite Ashley was a state trooper, he could report her for wrong doings. She had to admit that the trooper was fairly clever.

Ashley was in deeper thought, but it occurred to her that there was no way she could take Katia home tonight. It was a Friday, almost close to Saturday. However she didn't feel up to driving to Salisbury tonight then back home again. She estimated it had to be about three hours one way.

"You don't mind staying at my house tonight, do you?"

The college student broke from her own thoughts and focused on Ashley. "No, I mean if you're-"

"It's no problem," the trooper insisted.

Katia slowly nodded then smiled slightly. "Thank you."

"Well my duty is to..." Ashley let go of the joke, but she still managed a smirk from the younger woman. She settled back into her chair more comfortably. After a moment, she noticed how Katia seemed weary, and she couldn't imagine when Katia last slept. The dark circles under those green eyes told Ashley plenty.

The trooper turned on her radio and gently offered, "Get some sleep. The drive will go faster."

Katia recalled the last time she dozed off in a car, just recently. This time though she trusted the driver far more and not just because of the badge in the center slot. Something about Ashley's mannerism and those baby blue eyes settled Katia's fears. After a moment, Katia relaxed back into the chair and the music lulled her.

Ashley Carver found a certain enjoyment at having the company in her car. It also made her more determined to stay awake compared to earlier. She listened to the beat of her dance music, and she was grateful that soon she'd have to get onto a highway. She estimated she had another thirty minutes before she crossed back into Maryland then it'd be another forty minutes until she reached Hunt Valley. She couldn't wait to make it home.

Once the red Mercedes pulled onto Route 83, Ashley hit the accelerator and opened up her car to seventy-five. Thankfully I-83 had a higher speed limit than most inner states, and I-83 would take her right to Hunt Valley. Occasionally Ashley glanced over at the college student and made sure she was asleep.

Ashley tried to imagine why Katia was a runaway. She undoubtedly knew Katia was a runaway or else she wouldn't be empty handed and catching rides. She inwardly sighed once she realized she'd have to have a talk later with Katia. Ashley didn't want to see the girl back on the road again unless it was to go back to Salisbury University. From what Ashley could tell, Katia looked to be from a well-to-do family because of the dress style and especially that Tiffany's necklace and bracelet that matched.

Well the discussion would have to wait until tomorrow and after work. Ashley was due at the barrack by eight in the morning, and she wasn't looking forward to getting up early when she was getting home so late. Sometimes there were more perks to being single than there were to dating.

Finally Ashley took Exit 20 off of I-83, and she travelled down to the stop light. Once it turned green, she made the left onto York Road that would take her home. She found the roads rather quiet for midnight on a Friday, but then again Hunt Valley was nicknamed Death Valley for a reason. Ashley turned onto Loveton Farms Road and only went a few hundred feet before she pulled into her driveway. She reached up and clicked the button for her garage door.

When the garage door was high enough, Ashley zipped inside and closed the door again. She shut her car off then quietly climbed out of her car. She ended up stirring Katia when she closed the door, but she still came to the passenger side. Her movements caused the motion sensor lights to come on in the garage.

Katia took off her seatbelt, then she opened the door to find the trooper before her. She received a warm smile from Ashley, which eased her more. She closed the door and heard it lock remotely from Ashley's key click.

"This way," Ashley softly instructed. She went up three steps and shoved open the wood door that led into her kitchen. She quickly switched on the overhead light so that Katia could see.

"You know," Katia mentioned, "I have a Mercedes too, but it isn't as nice as yours." She was guided through the kitchen then into a living room and there were steps on her left.

Ashley's suspicions that Katia came from a well-off family were confirmed. She knew a college student couldn't afford a Mercedes no matter the vintage because the maintenance was ridiculously expensive. "My room is upstairs." She followed Katia up the long flight of steps. "I mostly like the car, but they're not what they use to be."

Katia didn't expect the comment. She went to the next step, but she stumbled and started to fall back.

The trooper was extremely fast, and she scooped up the petite blond into her arms without falling back herself. She adjusted Katia in her arms safely then slowly arched a perfect eyebrow at the obviously worn Katia.

"I'm really not this idiotic normally," Katia joked.

Ashley became smug and her voice deepened. "We all have our moments." She decided to just finish the climb, and her long legs bounded them up the steps.

"I really can walk," Katia insisted.

The state trooper chuckled, yet she went into her room and only then set Katia on her feet. "So, what clothes did you bring with you?"

The college student turned, folded her arms over her chest, and glared up at the woman that was a complete counterpart to her. "Are you always this charming?"

"It gets better," Ashley instantly shot back, and she grinned at Katia's head shaking. She leaned back and stretched out her arm behind. She switched on the overhead light then went to her dresser. "Do you want a shower before you sleep?"

Katia scanned over her body and realized she did need a shower after her roll around on the dirt road. She had an impish smile and replied, "That would be nice."

The trooper pulled out fleece shirt from one of her upper drawers. She then knelt and opened the bottom most drawer where she kept some of her older clothes tucked away. She hunted through the items until she found the pair of soft sport shorts from her high school days. She signaled for Katia to follower her to the bathroom, and she pulled out a fresh towel from the small closet inside the bathroom.

"Take your time," Ashley insisted. "And holler if you need anything." She stepped out of the bathroom and closed the door on the way out.

Katia listened to the door click shut. She was baffled by the trooper's kindness, but she was grateful. She sat on the edge of the tub and slowly unlaced her sneakers.

Ashley went back to her bedroom and prepared to get ready for bed. During the drive home, she'd already decided to sleep downstairs on her comfortable sofa. There were plenty of previous nights she'd done that so it wouldn't bother her. Soon enough, Ashley heard the shower running, and she figured she'd need to wash Katia's clothes tonight.

The trooper was in her loose workout pants that had a mesh holes to them. She then pulled out a white teeshirt and slipped her bare feet into a pair of plain, sports sandals. Ashley wandered downstairs and went to her kitchen. She poured a glass of water and took it to her living room. She sunk down in the middle of the soft couch and set her drink down. Soon enough she had on her satellite television and channel flipped.

It wasn't long after that the shower stopped running then eventually Katia came out of the bathroom. She wore the shorts that fit her rather well, but the fleece top was baggy on her. She wasn't about to complain in the least because it would get her through the night. She entered the bedroom again and debated what to do with her things.

"I'll wash your clothes tonight," came a husky voice.

Katia almost jumped, but she turned and covered her chest with her freehand. "God." She caught Ashley's apologetic look. "It's okay, they're-"

"Dirty," the trooper honestly stated. She stepped forward and collected the clothes.

All that Katia was left with were her shoes, which had her wallet in one and her belt and cell phone in the other. She nodded and smiled. "Thank you."

Ashley only mirrored the smile then left the room to go downstairs.

The college student took a seat on the foot of the double bed. She combed her hair with her fingers and took a minute to mentally catch up with what'd recently happened. She sighed in relief because she'd been so close to being raped or even worse. She peered up when she sensed that Ashley was back in the room with her.

"You should get some rest." Ashley tilted her head and studied the dark circles under the girl's eyes. "You look like you haven't slept in weeks."

"It feels that way too," Katia tried to joke, but neither she nor Ashley laughed. "Thank you again, Ashley… for everything."

The state trooper knelt down in front of the young woman. She softly smiled. "You're welcome. I'm glad I was there to help." She patted Katia's bare knee and instructed, "Get some sleep, alright?" She stood back up to her full height.

Katia was astounded by how tall the trooper was; she imagined Ashley had to be six feet at least. She was only five foot and four inches so she felt rather tiny in front of the trooper. Katia finally slid off the bed then walked around to a side. "What about you?"

Ashley shrugged and casually remarked, "I'm going to watch some TV downstairs." She didn't want Katia to feel guilty for taking the bed tonight. She could tell Katia needed a good night's sleep more than her. She finally went to the open door, switched off the light, and offered, "Sleep well."

"Goodnight," Katia called. She watched the door close, but Ashley left a crack in it. She then climbed into bed and went under the cool sheets. She briefly considered whether Ashley would sleep in the bed tonight, but the thought was only passing. She was so tired, yet she made sure to leave the one side of the bed open just in case.

Katia had drifted into a more sedate dream than normal. She slept rather hard, but awhile after dawn she was stirred by the low clank of metal. She roused and lifted her head. She blinked once then twice to get the fuzziness out of her vision. A surprised look passed over her face when she was able to take in the police officer in the room.

Ashley faintly grinned, yet she coaxed, "It's alright." She watched Katia settle down so she came around to the side of the bed. "How'd you sleep?"

Katia stretched a little then nodded. "Pretty well."

"Good." The trooper lowered her head and carefully worked to get her badge into place. Last night, she'd gone and retrieved her gun and badge from the car. She never liked leaving them out of her sight unless they were well locked up under lock and key. She finished with her badge then raised her head up. "I put your clothes on top of my dresser."

The college student was astounded, but she managed to say, "Thank you."

Ashley smiled for a moment. She then reached up and worked to put her hair into a bun so it wouldn't be in the way during work. "There's plenty of food in the fridge so help yourself." She wandered back to her dresser and picked up a large hair clip; her back was to Katia. "You should just stay and rest." Finally she had her hair pinned into place, and she turned around. She approached Katia again and produced a business card that had her information. "If you need me, call. I wrote my cell phone number on the back."

Katia was still at a lost for words, yet she accepted the card. "Thanks."

"I don't always answer my cell," the trooper admitted. "Sometimes I'm too busy getting shot at to answer."

Katia blinked then peered up from the card. She tried to determine how serious Ashley was by the last statement. She caught a glint in those crystal blue eyes. "Um… do you text message?" she tried.

Ashley smirked and replied, "When I'm not busy shooting back, yes."

"Right," the college student murmured. "You can always text back after you're done shooting. You don't need to go out of your way, you know."

The state trooper softly chuckled and walked back towards the open door. "I like that idea," she replied in a smart tone. She stretched out her arm and scooped up her trooper hat from the dresser. "I'll see you this afternoon." Then with that, the tall trooper was gone from the room.

Katia heard the faint footfall of the boots going downstairs. She was upright in the bed already, and she peered down at the business card again. She liked how the card had the yellow, red, and black colors of the Maryland flag as the header. In the center were Ashley's full name and title just underneath it.

Katia softly read aloud, "Ashley K. Carver, Corporal." She turned over the card and indeed found Ashley's cell phone number written in a bold, striking handwriting. "Damn… I wish my handwriting looked like this." She chuckled and decided to get out of bed.

The petite blond quickly dressed then made the bed so she wasn't rude. She then picked up her cell phone and wallet that she'd set on the foot of the bed earlier. She debated whether to turn on her cell phone or not, but she gave in and pressed the power button. She slipped the phone into the back jean pocket and opened her wallet. She carefully tucked Ashley's card into her wallet then just set the wallet on the dresser.

Katia made her way downstairs and into the kitchen. Her stomach indeed wanted some food since it'd been over twenty-four hours. Just after she opened the fridge, she jumped at sudden slew of beeps and vibrations from her cell phone.

"Jesus," Katia muttered. She closed the refrigerator door then wiggled her cell phone out of the pocket. She was none surprised to find a plethora of text messages and voice mails from various friends. She grumbled, "You try to disappear then they notice you." She shook her head though because in reality it wasn't true. Katia's friends were quite dedicated to her, especially her college roommate and her best friend.

Katia soon sunk down in a kitchen chair, and she debated who to call first. She decided she should call her best friend first, and let him know she was alive. Katia opened one of his text messages that begged her to call him. She merely hit the send button. There were several rings, and Katia was convinced he wouldn't answer by now.

"You know, you have me half out of my mind!"

Katia smirked at the familiar voice coming from the ear piece of her phone. "Don't you mean completely out of your mind? You're already half out to begin with."

"Cute, really cute. Now, where are you again?"

Katia sighed at her best friend's rarely clipped tone. "I'm… somewhere." She scanned about Ashley's kitchen.

"Katia, does this somewhere have a name?"

Katia had to admit her best friend, Mike, was being rather patient. She finally gave into his demands. "Yes, Hunt Valley… north of Baltimore." She then heard an audible groan come from the other side.

"You're visiting your high school, right?" Mike received no response so he quickly questioned, "When are you coming back to the college?"

Katia chuckled and replied, "I thought I called my best friend… not my mother."

"Well, honey it would seem you require at least two mothers." Mike paused then joked, "I think Erin is applying to be your third as it seems you need a third."

"I'm so glad I called," Katia chided.

Mike groaned and tried to be more serious. "We're all worried about you, Katia. You just disappeared, and we thought you were still on campus. You didn't take anything… including your car so we figured you didn't go far."

"That was the idea," Katia muttered.

"Katia, just come back here." Mike hoped his pleas weren't falling on death ears. "Listen, you know we're all here to help you. Erin, Sarah, and I are out of our minds ever since…" He faltered because he hated to bring up the topic so he detoured it, like always. "This isn't worth ruining your future over."

"I don't know, Mike." Katia stretched out her legs then patted her thigh.

Mike grumbled and tried to think of something that would win Katia. He sighed and added, "Who am I going to get Mexican with, I mean really? Besides that, you're not thinking about what this is doing to me or Erin. We really worry."

"I know y'all do," Katia agreed, "but it's my problem."

"And running from it isn't going to solve it," Mike insisted.

Katia lost her fight at those honest words. She knew it was true, and she hated to face it. She lowered her voice, but promised, "I'll think about it, Mike."

"I hope so," Mike insisted. "Call me if you need anything, okay?"

"Alright." Katia lifted her head from staring at her lap. "Thanks, Mikie."

"Be safe, Katia. I love ya." Mike hated to leave his friend alone, but he knew Katia needed to think out her choices and carefully.

"I swear I'm as safe as I can get," Katia promised. She couldn't think of much else safer since she was in a trooper's home. "Talk to you later, Mike."

"Bye, Katia."

Katia shut her phone, and she internally debated whether to call Erin now or later. She didn't feel much like getting into a fuss with her roommate too. She decided to call later and face it then. Katia got up and started to organize something to eat. She ended up with a sandwich and some fruit even though she could eat more. She didn't need to take all Ashley's food too.

Katia ended up on the sofa and watched the television. After she ate, she felt fairly content and lowered down into the sofa. She placed her cell phone on silent and placed it on the coffee table. It wasn't long before Katia drifted to sleep.

Around four in the afternoon, the door to the garage opened and a quiet trooper come into the kitchen. She closed the door and strolled into the living room since that's where she heard the television garble. She stopped next to the sofa, placed her hands on her hips, and smirked at the sleeping college student. She noted the empty glass on the table so she picked it up and returned it to the kitchen.

Ashley reentered the living room and stood next to the sofa. She tried to decide whether to awake Katia nor or later, but she figured if Katia didn't get up then she'd be up all night. She noticed the dark circles under Katia's eyes were mostly gone, which was a relief to Ashley. The gash that was on Katia's forehead was well scabbed over and most likely would be gone in a couple of weeks. She figured she best awaken the young woman so she knelt and called, "Katia?"

Katia softly grumbled and muttered, "Five more minutes." She proceeded to roll onto her left side so that her back now faced the trooper.

Ashley smirked and shook her head. She stood up then grabbed the petite shoulder. "Come on, Katia. You've slept the day away."

"Not… the entire day," the college student muttered. She opened her eyes then flopped onto her back. "What time… is it?" She tried to wipe away her grogginess.

"Four in the afternoon," the trooper replied.

"Really?" Katia blinked a few times and stared at the older woman. "You're sure?"

Ashley chuckled and crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm pretty sure." She soon took the seat on the sofa after Katia sat up. She stretched out her long legs around the coffee table. She briefly watched the commercials on the TV, but she turned her head to Katia. "How'd you sleep?"

Katia had a quick yawn, and then she nodded. "Pretty well actually. This sofa is hard to resist." She shot a grin at the trooper. "I can see why you slept on it last night."

Ashley quietly laughed and nodded once. She placed her hands on her waist and grasped her wide leather belt. "So have you thought about what you plan to do?"

Katia bumped her shoulder against the trooper's arm. "Are you trying to get rid of me already?"

Ashley raised an eyebrow and teased, "Seeing how you just move right in?"

Katia acted offended and mocked, "Oh there's plenty of food in the fridge. I'll wash your clothes tonight. Let me give you a ride." She narrowed her eyes at the trooper, yet a grin wasn't far behind either. "You're just too sweet huh?"

Ashley smirked and shrugged, but she became serious again. "You still didn't answer the question."

The college student released a gentle sigh. She stared down at her lap for a moment then softly mentioned, "I'm not sure what to do."

The trooper tilted her head and inquired, "Why did you leave?"

Katia peered up and discovered concerned blue eyes. She had to look away because she felt like Ashley could read through her. "I… there were just a lot of things happening." She reached up and pushed her bangs back. "I couldn't stay there."

Ashley was silent, and she mulled it over carefully. She nodded once then asked, "Is it really worth leaving college over?" She tilted her head and pressed, "Or can it be fixed?"

"I don't know," the college student murmured. "I just had to get away."

The trooper raised an eyebrow. "Has running away solved the problem?"

Katia sharply turned her head, and she frowned at the question. She sighed and shook her head. "No." She grumbled and added, "I get your point."

"Do you," the trooper challenged. "To be honest, I wish I was in college. I've never gone."

Katia considered it, but she had to know. "Why didn't you?"

"Well… like you, a lot of things happened," Ashley replied. "I never went, and I do regret it." She stared down at her long legs and studied her well shined, black shoes. "I love my job, but I wouldn't have mind doing something else."

"The voice of reason," Katia gently teased in hopes it'd lighten the mood.

Ashley faintly grinned, yet she shrugged. "The voice of experience really." She patted Katia's knee and asked, "Are you hungry?"

The college student softly laughed and replied, "That answer is always a 'yes'."

The state trooper laughed and quickly stood up. "Let me get change, and then we'll get something to eat." She made a beeline for the stairs, but she called, "You're not a vegetarian right?"

"I love chicken too much," the college student replied.

Ashley's laugh echoed down the steps. She grinned on her walk to the bedroom, and she whispered, "My kind of woman." She never liked the fact that her girlfriend was not just a vegetarian, but a vegan. She respected Laurel's choices; however, it made Ashley's choices for dinner quite narrowed. Ashley entered her room and went to her dresser and removed her badge, gun, and finally her belt. She locked up her weapon and badge in a small, hidden box inside her dresser. Then she hurried to get ready because she was quite hungry. She hadn't eaten since this morning.

Katia had the television still on, but she was hardly focused on it. She kept thinking about Ashley's words, and she agreed she couldn't run from her problems. They were her shadows. Soon enough she broke from her thoughts when heavy boot steps came down, she turned, and smiled at the trooper.

Ashley was warmed by the smile, and she easily returned it. "How about Outback for dinner?"

Katia pushed the remote's power button. She hopped out of the sofa and came over to the tall, dark woman. "Let me grab my wallet." She went to step around Ashley so she could get up the steps. The large hand on her shoulder stopped her so she questioningly peered up.

"I've got it." Ashley then turned Katia around by her shoulders and gave her a gentle push. "Let's go."

The college student debated whether to put up a fight, yet she'd lose ultimately. She pretended to sulk, but she went into the kitchen and out the garage door.

Ashley climbed into the car, started it, and waited for the rolling garage door to open up. She casually mentioned, "It's a fairly cool day."

Katia considered it then nodded. "October is just starting."

"Mmmm." The trooper put the car into reverse and backed out. She hit the close button for the garage then off she went onto the main road.

Katia studied the beautiful fall trees as they went down York Road. She always enjoyed this area, especially since she'd spent four years of her life here. Those days seemed too far away now. She pulled away from her teenaged memories of high school and focused back on the present.

Ashley glanced at the young woman and inquired, "Do you have any siblings?"

The college student chuckled and bobbed her head. "I have a younger sister, who's still in high school. How about you?"

Ashley grinned and replied, "I have an older brother and a younger brother."

"Ah." Katia smirked and teased, "So you're the middle child huh?" She deepened her smirk and her eyes glowed. "What is that? The cream in the Oreo?"

The trooper rolled her eyes, yet she grinned. "Something like that." She made a right turn at the first light in Hunt Valley. She drove parallel to the new mall until she needed to make another right. "I've wanted to go to the Outback for awhile."

"It's one of my favorites," Katia revealed.

Ashley grew light hearted at the news. "Mine too." She drove into the restaurant's parking lot and was lucky enough to find an open spot. Typically the restaurant was packed by seven or even six pm. She hoped they were early enough that they wouldn't have to wait.

Together the pair got out of the car and strolled up to the restaurant. Ashley led the way and made the request for the table. Once they were guided into the right side of the restaurant, Katia became quite comfortable and looked forward to a good meal. Ashley stretched out her legs under the table, and she accidentally hit Katia. They both apologized at the same time, but Ashley moved over some so she wouldn't do it again. Ashley then offered a menu in apology, which Katia took.

Katia silently fussed over what to get for an appetizer, but she lifted her gaze over the brim of her menu. She grinned and lowered the menu to the table. "You like coconut shrimp?"

Ashley already had her menu on the table. She kept her head down and glanced over at the coconut shrimp on the appetizer section. "I can be persuaded to split them with you."

Katia laughed and shot back, "What I have to do to win you over?"

The trooper finally lifted her sharp eyes. She grinned devilishly. "I get four… you get two."

"I think that's blackmail, Officer Carver."

Ashley laughed and lowered her head back to the menu. "No, it's a reasonable proportion. I'm six feet and you're…" She raised her head up again. "Five foot, four inches." She smirked at Katia's surprised features. "I have more to fill up."

Katia went serious despite the glow in her eyes and the tease in her tone. "And if I don't agree?"

The state trooper gradually inclined her right eyebrow into a perfect arc. She leaned forward and prepared to reply, but another voice stopped her.

"Good evening, ladies."

Ashley lost her words, closed her eyes, and mentally cursed the waiter, whose voice she recognized. She tried to remain calm when she met the waiter's gaze. "Hello, John."

"Well, Officer Carver," John lightly teased, "it's been awhile."

The trooper smiled and nodded. "How ya been, John?"

"I've been pretty well." The server unexpectedly scooted into Katia's side of the booth. "College has been really busy."

"That's good to hear," Ashley commented. "Any speeding tickets lately?"

Katia chuckled when John sighed dramatically.

"Luckily none yet." John set his order pad on the table then pulled out a pen from his pocket. "I suppose it's been because I haven't seen you on the roads lately."

The bemused trooper couldn't help teasing the young man constantly. "Oh I've been keeping an eye out for you."

"I'm sure." The server chuckled then turned his head to the woman that he'd sat beside. "I'm sorry. I'm John." He held out his hand and soon took Katia's.

"Katia," the college student simply replied. "So you know Trooper Carver huh?" She laced her hands in her lap.

"I sure do." John leaned closer to Katia. "Never go beyond seventy on I-83. There's no doubt that Trooper Carver will be waiting for you."

Katia laughed and quickly asked, "How fast were you going?"

"I was pushing eighty-five," the server sadly admitted.

"Eighty-three," the trooper clarified.

John gave a disgusted look. "It's been six months, and you still remember?"

Ashley just laughed and kept her smart remark to herself. She lowered her stare to the menu.

"So what would you like, officer?" John put his pen to paper and patiently waited.

Ashley quickly gave her order, and she made sure to get the coconut shrimp. She then signaled for Katia to go ahead.

After the orders were finished, John left and promised to swing by with the drinks and bread. He was relieved to make an escape too from the witty trooper.

Katia had put her and Ashley's menus back. She now toyed with the coaster in front of her or with her still wrapped utensils. She met Ashley's curious gaze and mentioned, "You're right about what you said."

"Which part?"

The college student could tell that Ashley wasn't going to make it easy. She sighed and reminded, "That running isn't going to fix my problems." She leaned back into the wood booth. "I know that… I've known that, but… I suppose I started to reach my limit."

"Everybody does have a limit," the officer agreed. "Although that's why it's a good idea to find somebody to talk to… or help."

Katia decided to keep her hands busy. She unrolled the napkin that held her forks and knife. She slowly set the utensils out in a proper setup.

Ashley slowly observed how Katia properly set her flatware then folded the napkin onto her lap. She could tell that Katia's mother most likely raised Katia to be a proper young woman. It seemed these days that not many younger people knew how to do place settings.

"I'm not use to finding help… or asking for it," Katia finally revealed. "I prefer to do it on my own."

Ashley could relate because she was much the same way, yet she knew the price for being lonely too. "It's not easy to do." She held Katia's gaze then honestly offered, "If you do need help with anything, then I'd be happy to help."

Katia smiled at the gesture, but she shook her head. "You've done plenty already."

"And I can do plenty more," the officer emphasized. She waited a beat and put her thoughts together. She leaned closer and sincerely spoke again. "I don't pretend to know you. I've only seen a tiny fragment of your entire life." She hesitated when Katia's face darkened, but she pressed forward anyway. "You're a good person, Katia. I know you have potential and maybe a lot of that is set aside because you're too busy running from your problems." She could tell she was impacting Katia so she quickly finished her speech. "I'd just like to get to know you and help you… if you'll let me."

Katia couldn't hide that she appreciated Ashley's concern and honest words. It'd be a long time since Katia heard somebody press so hard to be close to her. The last person that'd tried, she'd chased off on purpose. This time though, it seemed like chasing off Trooper Ashley Carver would be far too hard, and Katia didn't really want to either.

Katia finally nodded, and her earlier defenses faltered. "Thank you."

Ashley could tell she'd won a large battle with the young woman's fears. She flashed a smile and leaned back just when John showed up with their drinks and bread. Then coconut shrimp arrived next, which made her stomach gurgle in excitement. Indeed Ashley pretended that she'd eat four of the six shrimp, but she never did and pushed the last one at Katia.

Katia laughed and accepted the shrimp in triumph. For some reason, she felt some of the prior weight gone from her, and she had Ashley to thank.

The rest of the dinner went quickly. They never made it to dessert because they were both fairly full. Ashley had ordered a prime rib, and Katia had the seafood special, which was a swordfish steak. On the walk to the car, Katia silently swore she'd never eat that much again. The ride back to Ashley's house went quietly, and they decided to watch TV when they returned. Ashley was too worn from work and Katia really wasn't in the mood to do anything.

Katia sunk into the sofa but only after she grabbed her cell phone. She flipped open the clamshell phone and saw that Erin had called her, again.

Ashley worked the television. She peered over at Katia's twisted expression. "Everything alright?"

"Yea… it's just my roommate worrying about me." Katia touched the trooper's knee and mentioned, "I'll be back." She stood, walked around the backside of the sofa, and disappeared into the kitchen.

Ashley did her best to ignore the low conversation between Katia and who she presumed was her roommate. She instead channel flipped and came to a stop on a show she often enjoyed.

The college student entered the living room again and closed her cell phone. She quickly noted the television show that had her new friend's interest. "You have got to be kidding me."

Ashley scooped up the remote and hastily flipped to another channel. "What's that?"

Katia laughed and approached the seated officer. "I know what I saw. You mind as well put it back on." She heard Ashley's low grumble, but the officer switched the channel back. Katia softly laughed at the FBI Files episode on Court TV. "Like you don't get enough of this at work?" She came around the couch and sat again. She gently tossed her phone onto the coffee table, and it landed on the magazines.

"This is different," Ashley argued. "I really don't do this at work."

Katia tilted her head and nodded. "I guess not. You're a corporal, right?"

"Mmmm," Ashley softly murmured. "I'd like to do detective work." She then flashed a grin at Katia. "I'm terrible to take to a murder, horror movie."

Katia raised an eyebrow and asked, "Why?"

"Right at the beginning I typically figure out who did it."

Katia laughed and shook her head. She focused back on the television. "That really doesn't surprise me." She sunk deep into the sofa and leaned her head against the sofa. "Thank you for dinner, Ashley."

"It was my pleasure," the trooper insisted. "You ate well."

The college student patted her full stomach. "I can pack it in." She enjoyed Ashley's quiet laugh. She sighed contently and tried to follow the storyline from the FBI Files. She wouldn't admit it, at least not to Ashley, that she too often watched the FBI Files. She hadn't seen this one though, but she'd heard of the Zodiac Killer in prior news articles. She could almost bet that there'd be a movie made about it later down the road.

As the night wore on, Katia felt herself slip away into her sleep. She pulled away from her weariness when Ashley's voice startled her.

"You should get some rest, Katia."

The college student rubbed her face and sleepily replied, "What about you?"

"I'm pretty tired too." Ashley picked up the remote from the armchair. She didn't have enough sleep last night so she was happy to get to bed early.

"You have to work tomorrow?" Katia forced herself to sit up better.

"Not until the afternoon."

Katia peered up with a confused face.

Ashley grinned and only explained, "I have the nightshift."

"Oh." Katia nodded a few times and leaned forward more.

The trooper could tell that her friend needed to get to bed despite it was only ten at night. She stood up and ordered, "Come on." She held out her hand.

Katia grabbed Ashley's hand, and it was obvious she didn't expect the fast lift. She was suddenly on her feet, and she blinked away her shock. She then tilted her head. "Why don't I sleep here tonight? You can sleep in your bed."

"Thanks, but I'm fine." Ashley stepped back so that Katia could move.

"I'm serious," Katia argued.

The trooper grinned and replied, "So am I."

Katia's shoulders dropped, and she shot back, "Why don't we just sleep in the bed together?" She then realized what she'd offered. She had no chance to take it back.

"Alright… fine." Ashley walked to the steps, but she paused and partially turned back towards Katia. "I prefer the left side." She then climbed the steps and a very smug grin went over her face.

Katia stood rooted and stupefied at what'd happened. She realized she needed to hurry so she hastily went up the steps and into the lit bedroom. She and Ashley took their turns changing and going to the bathroom until they were ready. Katia was first into the big bed, and she indeed took the right side. Just before she climbed into the bed, she noted the photograph on the nightstand that she hadn't seen last night.

The photo was in a plain black frame. The picture was far more interesting though as it showed Ashley Carver's smiling face brushed against another woman's face. The other woman was about Ashley's age, but her features were the opposite of Ashley's. She had bright blond hair that almost seemed white, and her face was thin. She then had amber eyes, and a smile that wasn't quite as beautiful as Ashley's.

Katia thought maybe it was a family member, but she figured it wasn't because Ashley had no sisters. She climbed into bed and finally decided it was probably a best friend. Katia closed her eyes but in a minute she heard Ashley enter the room.

The trooper first turned off the light then silently climbed into the bed and became comfortable in her favorite spot. She worked her hands under the pillow and closed her eyes.

Katia felt her dreams call her, but she fought them awhile longer. She turned her head to Ashley. "You don't work until late tomorrow?"

"Mmmm… I'm not due in until five." Ashley could tell Katia had something on her mind, and she hoped it had something to do with college.

Katia internally fought with herself, but her resolve broke down. She gently asked, "Do you mind driving to Salisbury tomorrow?"

The state trooper slowly smiled and replied, "Not at all, Katia." She opened her eyes and turned her head to Katia. "I don't mind if it means getting rid of you."

Katia was offended so she smacked the trooper's side from under the sheets. "I can see why you probably don’t have any friends."

Ashley now acted offended and debated, "I have plenty of friends. Thank you." She then became smug and chided, "Most of them I don't pick up out of cornfields."

"I'm sure the rest are from the trashcans." Katia narrowed her eyes and reminded, "And it was between the cornfields, thank you."

"Oh my mistake" Ashley emphasized. "Between the cornfields."

Katia groaned and rolled onto her side so that her back was to Ashley. "You are infuriating."

Ashley smiled at the perfect description. In an amused tone, she replied, "Thank you."

Now Katia rolled her eyes then closed them. "Goodnight."

The trooper chuckled at her friend's curt response. She had to admit she truly enjoyed Katia's company. "Goodnight, Katia." She shut her eyes again and slowly drifted off.

The morning came rather quickly, and the pair were up by eight o'clock, which was the right time. Ashley reminded that they'd need to leave early if she were to make it to and back from Salisbury in time. She had to be back at the house by four so she could get changed into her uniform and have time to drive to the barrack. Katia didn't argue the point a bit so she quickly got ready. After a fast breakfast, they were in Ashley's car and headed down the road.

Katia and Ashley remained quiet and enjoyed the friendly silence. The music that Ashley had put on was something different than what Katia listened to, but she liked it. Ashley seemed quite content with the music so Katia became curious.

"Who's the music artist?"

Ashley reached for the radio's volume, and she turned it down. "It's Lasgo. They're a Belgium group… it's dance music."

"Not the annoying kind either," Katia muttered. She felt Ashley's glare on her so she warmly smiled at the trooper. "I like it."

Ashley chuckled and reached for the CD player again. She flipped the track back to the second song and mentioned, "This was their most popular song from the album. It's called 'Something'." She turned the volume back up.

Katia quickly figured out why the song had become popular. She loved the catchy beat and the lyrics were well suited. She softly hummed the song too, and she realized that Ashley had noticed her. She slightly flushed, but luckily Ashley said nothing.

Ashley soon slowed down because she was coming upon the Bay Bridge Toll. She pushed the small, hidden door for her ashtray, which slowly rolled open. Ashley picked out the right amount of coins and put her window down.

Katia was amused when the trooper handed over a handful of change. She snickered at the toll collector's annoyed face. Once Ashley put the window up, she teased, "That was sweet of you."

The trooper smirked and replied, "Well, I have to get rid of my change." She pushed the gas fairly hard and zipped up the gradual incline that was on the first part of the bridge.

The drive across the bridge and through Kent Narrows went quickly. Ashley went took the right split when Route 50 and Route 301 separated. She estimated it'd be another hour and half before they'd make it to Salisbury. She didn't know if it was worse driving to Lancaster or Salisbury.

Katia caught the trooper's slightly driving worn expression. "You want to switch?"

Ashley smiled at her friend's offer, but she shook her head. "No, I'm okay."

"Ashley, you're driving both ways."

The trooper nodded then reminded, "I'm use to driving the roads."

Katia felt defeated, but she still had to insist. "Just tell me if you want to switch."

"Thanks," the trooper sincerely replied.

The drive continued at a leisure pace. Occasionally Katia brought up a topic or Ashley asked about something. For the most part, Katia just enjoyed the various music that Ashley played and decided she'd have to get a Lasgo album later. Finally, Ashley took the exit for Salisbury and entered the very large town that was the centerpiece of the lower eastern shore of Maryland. She hadn't been to this neck of the woods in a long time.

"So which way do I need to go?"

Katia debated whether to go the back way to the college, but she figured it'd be easier on Ashley to stay on the main roads. "Just keep going down 50. After we get across the bridge, there'll be an exit for Route 13… just make a right onto it."

Ashley silently agreed and followed the instructions. She soon made it onto Route 13 and headed southbound. She found that the traffic wasn't much better than what it was like in Hunt Valley or Towson. She disliked stop and go traffic.

"At the third light, you'll want to make a right. That's West College, and we'll make a left onto Camden Ave."

"Your dorm is near there?"

Katia nodded and explained, "I live in Severn Dorm. It's a sky rise type of dorm."

Ashley came upon the traffic light for West College, and she instantly noticed the new building that was under construction. "It looks like your college is doing well."

The college student smiled and nodded. "Yea, they started on that building this past summer."She moved her head some so she could get a better view of the skeleton structure of the building. "It's a new building for the School of Teaching and Technology."

The trooper was impressed because she could tell the building required plenty of money. She drove down the street until the next light showed up. She made the left and stole a few glances at the beautiful campus. She'd heard that Perdue Farms well endowed the business school.

"Right there," Katia pointed off to the left.

Ashley turned on her blinker and waited for an opening to make the turn. In a beat, she turned and slowly rolled into the quiet parking lot. "I imagine this lot gets packed on week days."

"You have no idea." Katia pointed off to her left. "Anywhere over there is fine."

The trooper debated an open spot and pulled up along side a champagne colored Mercedes. She then had a second thought and glanced at Katia. "Is that your car?"

The college student shyly smiled and replied, "Yes, actually." She brushed back her bangs, which only fell back onto her forehead after a moment. She felt Ashley's curious stare, and it was as if she read Ashley's mind. "I didn't take it because I didn't want to get tracked down."

"Oh," the trooper murmured, "I see." She turned off her car then reminded, "You are over seventeen, you know." She saw Katia roll her eyes, which made her laugh. "Come on, Katia." She climbed out of the car and waited for the college student next.

Katia stretched some and felt better to stand up. She came to the rear of the car and met Ashley there.

The state trooper pushed a button on her remote key and waited for the trunk to pop open. She pushed the trunk hood open more and leaned into the trunk.

Katia curiously watched and realized that Ashley was pulling out a CD from a six changer. She soon found a CD held out to her from her friend, and she stared at it oddly.

"Take it," Ashley insisted.

The college student realized it was the Lasgo CD. "Ashley, it's yours." She stepped back once.

"I didn't notice," the trooper deadpanned. "Go on." She saw that Katia was halfway giving in so she added, "Please."

Katia sighed and carefully took the CD from her friend. "Thank you. I'll make a copy of it and return it to you."

The trooper had a grin curling at her lips. "That's the idea."

Katia chuckled at the subtle hint that Ashley wanted to see her again. She then realized something and bashfully mentioned, "I didn't give you my cell phone number, did I?" She dug around in her back pocket with her freehand and produced her cell. "Let me call you."

The trooper unclipped her cell phone from her side and waited for Katia's number to appear. She only had a few seconds to wait when the number showed up on her front screen display.

Katia closed her cell phone once Ashley's phone started to vibrate in her hand. She slipped her phone away and mentioned, "Danforth."

Ashley took a second then realized it was Katia's last name. "Social security number too?"

Katia swatted her friend on the stomach and shook her head. "I'm sure you can look it up anyway." She received a wink back, but she stepped back once. "I better get up to the room." She hesitated and came back to Ashley. "Thank you again, Ashley."

"You're welcome, Katia." Ashley folded her arms over her chest after she hooked her phone into its home again. "I'm glad I had the right timing."

"Me too," the college student finally agreed. "You helped me make the right choice."

Ashley smiled at the news, and she felt that it meant something to Katia. "If you need anything then call me. Or call just to talk."

Katia nodded, then she debated with herself. She quickly set the CD down on the trunk and stepped into Ashley's space. She was happy that Ashley figured her out because Ashley opened her arms. Katia accepted the warm hug from her new friend and held on for awhile.

Ashley enjoyed the hug, which was rare for her because she didn't often like physical contact. She pulled away from the hug with a smile and said, "I'll see you, Katia."

The college student picked up the CD and back stepped a few times. "Thanks again, Ashley. I'll talk to you soon." She turned and hurried for her dorm's front door.

Ashley went to her driver's door, opened the door, and stood there for a moment.

Katia felt that the trooper was watching her, but she refused to gaze back. She pulled out her student card from her front pocket where she'd put it this morning. She swiped the card through the reader then opened the door. She wasn't going to look back at Ashley, but she faltered and turned her head.

Ashley offered a final smile.

Katia returned the smile and gave a wave. She then hurried into the dorm's lobby.

The state trooper climbed into her car, started it, and drove through the parking lot. She hoped she'd make it home in time since it was already one pm. She hurried down the roads that Katia had directed her to take earlier.

Katia wound up the steps to the third floor, which was the all girl's floor. She hurried down the quiet hallway but made a left into a smaller, short hallway that was apart of a cluster. She again swiped her keycard through the door and was greeted by three of her closest friends.

"Well, look who surfaced for air," Sara joked.

"Funny." Katia closed the door and put her keycard down on the desk. "It was just a weekend trip," she tried to joke.

Erin, who was Katia's roommate, glared from her spot at her bed. "I'm glad it was only a weekend trip." She spotted the cut on her roommate's forehead, but she wouldn't bring it up until later.

Mike had been silent, but he bounced off Katia's bed and came over to his friend. "So who was your ride?"

Katia rolled her eyes at Mike's first and unexpected words. "She was a friend."

Sara was smug, and she folded her arms. "You never mentioned any friend like her, Katia." She was seated next to Erin on the bed. "Does she have a name?"

Katia laughed and sat in her desk chair. Long ago she'd learned that Sara was a lesbian and an 'out' lesbian to boot. "I can't quite recall."

Sara laughed and urged, "Come on, Katia."

Mike reclaimed his seat on the foot of Katia's bed so that he faced his best friend. "So what's her name?"

Katia stared at Mike like he was crazy. "It's Ashley."

"So you disappear for a weekend with this mysterious Ashley?" Erin chided.

Katia sighed and slumped into her chair. "She's a state trooper… not some terrorist or something."

Mike smirked at how defensive his friend became about the trooper.

"A trooper?" Sara leaned forward and pinned Katia with her dark eyes. "Tell me more."

Erin slapped Sara on the arm and ordered, "Quit it."

"Well," Mike started, "I'm glad the runaway decided to come back. I'm sure this Ashley inspired you to come back."

Katia rolled her eyes at Mike's smart attitude. "Please," she muttered under her breath.

"Oh come on, Katia," Sara challenged in a sly tone, "We all saw how long you hugged that cop." She devilishly grinned. "I know it wasn't over that CD." She pointed at it in Katia's hand.

Katia flushed when she realized she still had the CD through her index finger. She carefully pulled it off and set it down on her desk. "No, it wasn't just because of the CD."

"I bet," Sara tormented, "She showed you a good weekend, right?"

"Christ," Katia muttered. "Sara, I am not gay! Get that into your head."

Erin scowled her friend, Sara, and teased, "You're making something out of nothing."

"Bullshit," Sara shot back. "I don't recall Katia ever hugging any of us that long."

"I do to," Katia argued.

"Only when you're upset or want something," Mike teased.

Katia darkly glared at her best friend. "I'll remember you said that."

Mike just smirked and crossed his legs. He then casually inquired, "So what's she like?"

Katia groaned, got up, and collected her student card. "I'm going for lunch."

"Wait, we're all coming with you." Sara popped up and dragged Erin to her feet. "We want to hear this story."

Katia wasn't about to give them the real story. She just marched out of her room with her three friends on her heels. She somewhat wished that Ashley was indeed here, yet she knew her friends would only pick on her more. However it was why Katia adored them so much.

The day wore only slowly for Katia despite the morning had gone too quickly. Katia caught up on her homework once her friends left her alone. She then sent a text message to Ashley around four pm because she figured the trooper would be home by now. She thanked Ashley again and told her to be safe at work.

Ashley was in the middle of getting ready for work when her cell phone vibrated from its spot on the bed. She finished putting her belt on, then she went to her bed. She scooped up her phone and smiled at the text message from Katia. She quickly replied to it.

Soon enough, Corporal Ashley Carver made it to her barrack. She first had to get a key and radio for her evening on the roads. She recalled though that she needed to stop in the lieutenant's office so she knocked on his door first.

"Enter," the lieutenant called.

The trooper entered and removed her light brown hat. She held it at her side and approached the lieutenant's desk. "How are you this evening, Lieutenant Grissom?"

"I'm well, Carver." The lieutenant stopped from his paperwork then dug around for something else on his desk. "I assume you're in here about your request to transfer?"

"Yes, sir." Trooper Carver patiently waited for her superior officer to find the paperwork she'd filed awhile ago.

"Have you found a place?" The lieutenant finally found the paperwork, and he set it down in the middle of his desk.

"Yes, sir." Ashley tilted her head then added, "I had some trouble selling my house here, but I finally had a bite this past Thursday."

"That's excellent." Lieutenant Grissom smiled but became serious. "I've also put in request that you should be reevaluated for a promotion. I hear Barrack E needs a new sergeant too."

Ashley didn't show her shock, but her words showed otherwise. "Thank you, sir. I appreciate the chance."

"Well Captain Smith at Barrack E will be happy to take you on. He's wanted an excellent, dedicated trooper such as yourself."

The trooper nodded and suppressed her smile. "Thank you again, sir."

The lieutenant nodded then handed the approved transfer papers to the corporal. He then stood up and came around the desk. "Thank you for your years of service here, Carver." He held out his hand. "I wish all my troopers were as dedicated."

"Thank you." Ashley switched the paperwork into her left hand then shook hands. She smiled finally and sincerely stated, "It's been an honor to work with you, lieutenant."

"You as well, Carver." The lieutenant walked the trooper to the door and wished her good luck in her transfer.

Maryland State Trooper Ashley Carver strolled through the barrack and left the out the backside. She placed her transfer paperwork into her vehicle then went to her patrol unit. Tonight would be her second to last night on duty at her barrack before she went to the new one. She planned to enjoy the final hours.

To be continued.

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