Life's Little Edge

Roselle Graskey

Disclaimers: This is an original work of fiction. It’s really not an Uber. This is my first foray on the web, so be kind if you can. Feel free to check out my website for my book October Echoes which is published by Renaissance Alliance Publishing. I’m not that good so please no copying this without my permission.

Subtext: Are you kidding? Of course there’s subtext and yes there’s sex involved. So if you live where two women aren’t allowed that sort of thing move on and I suggest moving toward a more enlightened state. If you are not of legal age, don’t force me to go to jail…just move along and wait till you’re of age.

Violence: Yes, nothing too graphic or bloody. A fistfight or two and the normal ‘went to war’ violence. There is mention of child abuse again nothing graphic.

Feedback: Only if you feel like it. If you have something to share I would love to hear it, but if you’re going to try and flame me or just feel like bashing be warned it’ll just get tossed in the bin. You can reach me at or you can check out my website:

Thanks to Carrie Carr and the gang on Carries e-group. It’s their fault so yell at them, I am totally innocent. Thank you Packer for doing the beta on this scary thing. Have I mentioned that I hate, just hate editing.

This one is for my girl. I love you best.

Chapter 17

Terri didn't wait for George to answer her harsh rapping on the door. She pushed the door open and barged into the Probation Office. He was, as usual, on the phone. He hardly looked up from his conversation as she stalked around the desk. She pulled the receiver out of his hand and put it to her ear.

"He'll call you back." She managed to sound almost pleasant. She slammed the phone down on the cradle and glared at him. "You find that son of a bitch before I castrate him."

"What in the hell do you think you're doing? Do you know who you just hung up on?" He shouted as he pushed out of his seat.

"You take one good look at me and then tell me if you think I give a fuck." She spat out.

George took a deep breath to contain the urge to strangle his officer and did as she demanded. In short sleeves the bruises on her arms were hard to miss. They were perfect black and blue impressions of a pair of hands. His eyes drifted up to meet hers.

"What happened?"

"Trey happened. I think you can safely say that he's crossed the line. Last night he and four of his boys jumped us at Spyder's little command get together. The plan was to beat O'Malley and then let her watch them take turns at me." Her voice caught as she finished. She sank into the closest chair.

"Are you okay?" George asked knowing it was a stupid question even as it passed his lips. He couldn't think of anything else to say.

Terri looked up with a wry sad smile. "No I'm not. They didn't get their chance thanks to O'Malley and her friends but I'm not okay. You have to get him pulled in. Talk to the office, trump something up and get him off the streets. If only for his sake. Spyder has him now and as much of an asshole that he's been, I don't want to see him killed."

"Terri, do me a favor. Try explaining from the beginning. You're talking in short hand again and I'm not getting it." He admitted.

Terri nodded and explained everything. She managed to only blush a little when she admitted that the relationship with O'Malley had turned physical. She wondered why he didn't look surprised and then let the thought go. She waited while he processed all the information that she laid out.

He let out a low whistle. "I think it's time we called in the Feds on this one."

"No." She almost shouted. "You do that and Spyder will have them pegged from the start. We know he's big but I'm beginning to get a picture of how big. Word around the bar is that he's got guys not just here but in Vegas, Washington and New Mexico. We didn't know this six months ago, at least not that Trey said. I can break this, I know I can. I really just need a little time." She wasn't too proud to plead with her boss. She knew deep inside she could do what she said. She'd had the same feeling with the drug gang in Texas.

"This one's getting too hot. You're a damn good cop Terri, but you're one apparently crooked cop away from getting a nicely folded flag on your mother's mantle." He hated being that brutally honest with her but sometimes it was his job.

Terri sobered for a moment. "I know that." She said softly. "I'm not coming off this one. Spyder and Trey both have managed to piss me off more than you can imagine. I'm not taking them lightly."

He looked into her eyes and saw a new determination there. Even her body language was different. Six months ago the Terri he knew would never have barged into his office and done what she had. He nodded slowly at her request and crossed his fingers mentally. He could call in reinforcements even if they weren't Feds. She might forgive him for it some year in the future. All he had to do was figure out whom to bring in that Trey didn't know.

"Two weeks. That's all I'm going to give you. Then we do it my way." His tone left no room for debate.

"One more thing." She started.

"Now what?" His growing frustration reared its ugly head.

"Get me what you can on Ellen Rivers. She died in a car accident three years ago at Moody's Gap. From what I hear, Hank Stillman and some of Spyder's boys were in on it. One of Hank's dancers was killed in the accident as well. If we can't get them one way, maybe we can get them another." She explained without guilt.

George thought about the implication for a moment. "Sounds like a good idea. It's gonna take a little bit for the office to get the files pulled but I think I might know someone who can get it for me."

"Good. And I'm sorry for earlier. Who was on the phone?" she apologized.

"Just the Governor." He answered and had to choke back a laugh at the horrified expression on her face.

"Please give him my apologies. I'll never do it again." She promised.


Callan leaned against the bathroom sink staring at her reflection then groaned out loud at the sight. Both eyes were black and the one was still impossibly swollen shut. She just knew the damage across her nose was going to scar. Joan had stitched as well as she could but the skin in that area could stretch only so much. She felt far worse than she looked. Everything hurt and every injury was stone cold from the ice packs. She hadn't been that cold since winter survival training in Alaska and she was exhausted as well.

She didn't even have the energy to show her anger at Trey or herself. She knew going into the previous night that Trey was going to jump her. She just hadn't figured he would do it so early in the evening. She pushed it all away. There were things to do today and as bad as she felt she had to get them done. Moving as slow as she could, she pulled open the bathroom door and walked into the living room. Several sets of stunned eyes turned to her.

"What?" She demanded like a child as she eased into her favorite chair.

"Just thought you were still resting. You shouldn't be up." Joan spoke up.

"Yeah but my vacation in the Bahamas doesn't start for another year. I got things to do, Joan." She wished she could grin just for the effect. "You got anything for pain that won't knock me out or make me fuzzy?"

"Hey O'Malley, maybe just once you should listen to someone when they suggest down time." Thomas let his concern show as he leaned forward.

"Quinn, you know me better than that." She looked around at her friends and sighed out loud. She was glad, for a change, that Terri wasn't in attendance. "You all know why I'm doing this and I thank you all for being here. I mean that more than you'll know. Yes, I feel like I hit more than one landmine today. Yes, I would love nothing more than to lie in bed and just medicate like a horse. I don't have that option so consider today a planning session. Tomorrow night we are all going to Stillman's club. We are going to act like we are having the best times of our short little lives and Sean is bringing Spyder's product in his truck.

In a little while I'm calling Spyder and tell him to meet us there. That will most likely piss him off. My presence alone is gonna freak a lot of people and that's good. I want them rattled. We are going to drink hard and play hard. Cage, when I tell you, I want you in his office and his safe. I need a count of how much he's got in there. No, you don't get to keep any of it."

"Kill joy." Cage muttered with a grin. "How long will I have?"

"I really can't say. But if you get caught in there, we'll get something else going to give you cover time. I have the layout of his office which I'll give to you in a little while. Cage, Sean, Joan and I will be wired for sound. Cover teams will not. I would hate to explain to any cop why you guys are wired. I'm not saying we'll get busted but just in case."

"Anyone bring bail money?" Thomas asked with his little boy grin.

"I'll call mom." Cage teased and laughed when he stuck his tongue out at her.

"Children, do not make me laugh." O'Malley ordered and they instantly came back to the issue at hand. "Jack, I'm going to give you a name and an address. I want you to ghost this guy. I want to know when and where he meets his mules. If you can find out where he makes his big sales, I want that too. If you have any trouble…" She halted when she saw him frown.

"O'Malley, you wanna be in my lap while I do this?" Jack couldn't keep his irritation out of his voice. "I am one of the best in the business you know."

O'Malley was just smart enough to know when she'd gone too far. "Sorry…habit. You can yell at me later when I don't have a headache. I trust you, I really do." She watched Jack nod his head and wondered when he was going to get rid of the platinum dye job.

"I'll pick the cover teams if you don't mind." Cage said without fear of pissing anyone off. She looked around and seeing no one disagree she continued. "Once I get the layout I'll spread it out. I will pick one leader for each cover team. I want three ways out from each team leader. Vehicles will not be valet parked. I want us to know where they are and I want them ready for a fast exit just in case." Everyone nodded in agreement.

"Cage, once your teams are picked out recon the club today before they open for business, preferably… while all the little worker bees are asleep." O'Malley ordered quietly. She was losing energy fast and it showed.

"What about Terri?" Joan asked the question no one else was willing to ask.

O'Malley looked at her and blinked. "She's going with us. If she's not with us it won't take long for Trey to hear about it. I really don't want to risk Maria or the bar." She answered grimly. After last night she wasn't sure she could predict his behavior and she certainly didn't trust Spyder to control him.

"You going to tell her about this?" Sean was feeling brave behind his wife.

"Nope. If she asks, I'm always like this when I have business to do."

"Oh, that's a stretch." Cage drawled, her sarcasm leaking all over the room. Soft chuckles could be heard for a few minutes.

"I think that's it for now. We'll regroup later tonight after the recon. Let's get it done people." She started to move slowly out of her chair and sank back down. "Someone get me some coffee please?"

"That was damn close to whining." Cage grinned like a fool. She was on a roll since O'Malley was in no condition to come after her.

"Cage, just keep in mind that I'm going to heal and I do know where you work." Cage swallowed her grin and went to hide outside. O'Malley laughed even as she tried to keep it in. "Oh fuck, that hurts." She groaned.


Terri walked into the house and wondered where everyone was. She had noticed fewer vehicles as she pulled into the driveway. Letting her purse fall onto the couch with a muted thud she walked to the bedroom door and opening the door quietly peeked in at O'Malley. She felt the smile that tugged at her lips. Her battered lover was deep in sleepy land, her hair lying in all directions and snoring lightly. Joan had warned her that would happen with the broken nose. Terri closed the door and let out a low sigh.

"I heard that." Joan chuckled and almost laughed when Terri jumped.

"Damn it, I hate when you do that." Terri griped when she caught her breath. A moment later she joined in on the laughter. "It's sick but I think I needed that. Thank you."

"Any time." Joan promised with a smile. She wasn't sure why but she really did like the woman who'd been thrown together with O'Malley. She wrapped an easy arm around Terri's waist. "Come on, you look wiped out and I bet you didn't have any lunch."

Terri peeked at Joan with an arched eyebrow. "It's scary how you can do that."

"I'm Lakota Sioux. For me this is normal. I grew up on a reservation surrounded by elders who tried and are still trying to keep some of the old ways alive." She explained. "My grandmother was gifted with the visions and it still gives me shivers to think of how many times she told me things that came to pass. My grandfather was one of the best trackers the people had. He earned his eagle feathers for Korea. You think I'm quiet? Compared to him I'm a herd of buffalo."

"Well for a buffalo, you sure are light on your feet." Terri quipped and let herself be led to the kitchen. "How's O'Malley?" She tried to keep the worry out of her voice.

Joan opened the fridge and handed over a beer. "Drink that one slow." She stood in front of the door and surveyed the shelves. "She's a little better. She was up a couple of times today." Joan felt Terri's eyes on her and turned her head to make eye contact. "It's good for her to move around. It'll reduce the stiffness and she won't be nearly as much of a pain in the ass. How about a roast beef sandwich?"

Terri nodded and let herself rest. She hadn't gotten much of that the night before as she had lain in bed watching her lover until at last her eyes drooped closed and even then she only dozed lightly, listening for O'Malley's breathing. She had stayed pretty much in one spot not wanting to move and cause her lover more pain. On top of her own vigil, someone would come in every four hours to ask O'Malley questions until they got relatively coherent answers. Several times O'Malley woke long enough to throw up in the trash can. Some time around five O'Malley had finally started to make sense. Her eyes moved to the clock on the wall. She really didn't want to go work the bar tonight but Maria needed her. A stray thought rolled around her brain and suddenly work wasn't such a bad thing. Maria would be able to answer some of her questions about O'Malley's group of friends.

Joan set the plate full of sandwich in front of Terri and took a seat next to her. For a moment it looked like Terri was just going to push her food around the table until Joan glared at her. With a sheepish expression Terri dutifully bit into the sandwich and groaned with delight.

"This is good." She managed with a full mouth.

Joan chuckled. "You sound like Sean at dinner time. You eat then I want you to go and get some rest. I know you didn't get any last night and you have to work tonight right?"

"Yeah. I'd rather be here but Maria really needs me there."

"You go. We'll all be here." Joan promised.

"By the way, where is everyone?" Terri finally got a chance to ask.

"They were driving O'Malley nuts with concern so she told 'em to get out and do something." Joan answered easily.

"Sounds like O'Malley. How lousy a patient is she?"

"If she gets sick, just book a vacation somewhere. Alone." There was no teasing in Joan's eyes and Terri suppressed the urge to shudder.

"And you want me to go in there and sleep? Joan I thought you liked me." She pouted.

Joan laughed but didn't answer. Sensing that Terri might need some alone time she wandered out to the back yard to spend some time with Sean.

Terri sat idly on the stool enjoying her lunch and letting her mind wander. Each time a job related question popped into her head she pushed it away, honestly too tired to try and contemplate an answer. She would tackle her professional life after she got some rest. By the time she finished her sandwich and beer she was more than ready for her nap.

Walking quietly into the bedroom and gauging how much time she needed for a shower, she set the alarm for the last possible minute of sleep without being late. She slid out of her clothes, got into bed tugging the blankets up as she rolled over and stared at O'Malley for a moment. Even as beat up and bruised as she was, she still looked good to Terri who ran a gentle finger over the woman's eyebrow and whispered a wish for good dreams.


Maria barely gave her time to drop her purse in the office before she started asking questions. It had not taken long at all for the rumor mill to grind full force. She would have been there in an instant but she couldn't get away from the bar. The night before had been busy for everyone.

"So, is she dead yet or does she just wish she was?" Maria grumbled.

Terri took a seat. "The second one. Joan took care of her. I'm sorry we didn't call you, it's just been a damn long night and day."

Maria waved her off. "I understand. We were packed here anyway. Had to finally get Gato to kick some guy out on his head and I mean that literally. I heard rumors but I want to hear it from you. How bad is she?" The worry in Maria's voice was overwhelming.

"Joan said she has some bruised ribs, an egg size lump on the back of her head, her nose is broken and you don't want to see her left eye. I think she put in close to thirty stitches in all. Her nose looks the worst. Nasty cut across the bridge." Terri explained and then went into detail about the fight including how scared she was that O'Malley really meant to pull the trigger.

"Damn. She hasn't done that in a long time. He must have really pissed her off." Maria let out a low breath.

"Well, Trey said they were going to make her watch them take turns with me. That's when she got really serious about fighting." Terri said quietly.

Maria shook her head. "That boy just isn't right in the head."

Terri had to chuckle at the obvious. "It doesn't seem so does it? Maria, Joan's a good nurse right?"

"Yeah. She is. If she worked on Callan then it's gonna be okay. Just don't get within arms length of that big baby if there's a needle around."

"I don't get it. She's…well let's face it, she's a bad ass and she's afraid of needles?" Terri was completely bewildered.

Maria gazed at Terri for a long moment. "We all have our weaknesses, Terri. Even O'Malley."

"Yeah, I guess we do." She allowed after thinking about it. She stood and flashed a tired smile at her friend and boss. "I'll get to work now and I promise that we'll keep you updated."

Maria nodded and waved Terri to work. When the door to her office closed she leaned back in her chair closing her eyes in relief. She would call Joan later and get the full update but at least she knew that the rumors weren't completely true. If O'Malley held true to form, she would be up and moving despite everyone's protests.

She smiled at the memory of a certain Army Sergeant who was a complete pain in the ass until she was allowed to actually move around the halls of the hospital ward. O'Malley had been a handful and there had been times when Maria pulled rank to get the woman to slow down. She could still see the wistful smile on Ellen's face when she gazed on the stubborn soldier. She knew her favorite nurse was in love before Ellen ever realized it.

Maria sent a mental prayer upstairs and turned back to her paperwork. It was a long time before she was able to think clearly enough to make a dent in her liquor order.

Chapter 18

O'Malley led the way into Stillman's strip club and since it was still relatively early, there were plenty of seats allowing the group to commandeer three tables dragging them together. Terri, sitting next to O'Malley, still wondered if maybe the biker needed to go to the hospital after all. She had almost fallen over with shock when the biker announced that the entire group was going to the club. She wasn't sure if it was the look in O'Malley's eyes or the lack of protest from the others that frightened her the most. She was sure that something was going on.

"What ya thinking baby?" O'Malley asked as she leaned in close to Terri's ear.

"I'm thinking that you are out of your mind." She answered honestly. "Is this smart?"

"Probably not. You remember what I said about a feeding frenzy?" She watched Terri nod her head. "I'm trying to cut it off before it begins. Spyder's boys hang out here a lot and he'll be here later. I'm going to finish business with him and then we are all going to have a good time."

"I still think you should be in bed resting and not out here."

O'Malley leveled her eyes at Terri. "This is not up for debate Terri. Business is business." There was a hard edge in her voice.

Terri nodded her head once. "One of these days I'm going to remember that." She answered flatly. "And everyone is here for backup?"

"That and after being there to save my ass, it's also a thank you." She admitted and waved a waitress down.

The waitress took one look at the group and let out a low sigh. She had a funny feeling that this was going to be a long night. O'Malley and Terri she recognized and the group with them gave off the rowdy vibe. Hopefully they would tip well enough to make up for the trouble she knew they were going to be. She walked over and took their orders in sequence. Most of the orders were for the hard stuff. Sometimes she hated her job.

O'Malley didn't miss the sly cat like grin on Cage's face. "What?"

"Boomer's here." Came the unmistakably happy answer.

"You can go play but…" O'Malley didn't bother to finish the sentence.

"Just let me know when business is business." Cage managed before she bolted from the group.

Terri shook her head and laughed with the others. Cage was not one to waste too much time from what she had been hearing from Thomas and the others. She wasn't sure that she believed all the stories but with Cage, anything was possible. She looked around and took a good look at the crowd, mentally dividing them into different categories. She could figure who was going to be an ally and who was going to be an enemy.

She listened with half an ear to the conversations going on around her as Hank Stillman walked out of his office. Barely noticing when the drinks were delivered she kept a surreptitious eye on him noticing that the girls had been right. He looked like a ghost was chasing him. Terri suppressed the smile. A part of her hoped that he suffered every night for what he had done. In the entire time that she had worked in the strip club he had always seemed so arrogant and cocky, now all he could do was look over his shoulder and sweat.

She turned her gaze back to O'Malley when she felt a hand gently squeeze her thigh. She smiled and tried to figure out what it was that she had missed.

"You okay? You were like a million miles away." O'Malley asked, her mouth close to Terri's ear.

"Yeah. I just got a look at Hank. What did I miss?"

"Not much just another bullshit story. You can't trust these guys. The stories get bigger every year." There was a teasing quality in her voice and Terri knew that the biker would have smiled if she could.

"You really love these guys don't you?" Terri asked sincerely.

"Can't stand any of 'em." O'Malley joked and took a careful sip of her beer. "They're okay." She admitted and was cut off when the music in the club changed. It was grinding and raw. Most eyes turned to the stage and Donna stalked out as the lights flashed. Her tight body suit left little to the imagination and Terri was sure she could hear the drooling begin.

The group watched, drank and played until Spyder walked in with a couple of his bikers in tow. He walked passed O'Malley without a word and the biker knew that he was not a happy man. He was used to giving orders and having them followed. He was not accustomed to being ordered around and from the look on his face he was less than pleased. O'Malley cleared her throat softly knowing that those who were wired for sound would understand the signal. Sean and Joan looked up from their conversation and each took a sip of their drink. They were ready. Cage wiggled her way out of Boomers grasp and whispered something in his ear. She cleared her seat as Spyder made his way to the table.

O'Malley listened to Cage greet Spyder and head the gang leader grunt in response.

"Charming bastard ain't he?" Cage asked her sarcasm leaking all over the place.

Terri wasn't sure what caused Sean and Joan to chuckle and she had no idea what to make of the twinkle in O'Malley's eyes. She decided to just chalk it up to an inside joke and let her eyes roam over Rhea's body as the dancer performed her pole dance. She had seen the dancer perform before but she'd never really taken the time to actually watch. She was supposed to have been involved with Trey, there would have been too many questions to answer if she'd been caught staring. Now she could appreciate how good Rhea looked. There was no doubt the woman was hot and for once she could understand O'Malley's one time interest.

"See something you like?" O'Malley's voice growled in her ear and she almost jumped.

"I was just figuring out why you would want her." Terri turned her head and answered into O'Malley's ear then let her tongue trace a wet trail. She was sure she felt the biker shiver.

"She was fun but let's just say that I could tell she was more into men." O'Malley said. "You, on the other hand, are definitely into women. I enjoy that."

"Nice save O'Malley." Terri teased with her voice and her tongue.

"God I wish I wasn't tin canned." O'Malley groaned. Both women missed the grins from three of their friends.

"Get a room." Cage grunted as she plopped down next to O'Malley. She was sure that she saw the hint of a blush on O'Malley's face. Terri on the other hand was in full bloom crimson. Cage let out a roar of laughter.

"I can still kill you, Cage." O'Malley returned.

"And I am more than willing to help her." Terri tossed in with a less than shy smile.

Their banter was cut short as O'Malley noticed Spyder standing up from his table. She watched as he made his way through the club and had a few words with Hank and then turned towards their table. As he came closer he nodded. Cage turned her head to keep an eye on Spyder's boys. Only Boomer left the table and slipped out the back exit. She figured that he would be the one to back up his boss.

"Sean, let's go." O'Malley was suddenly all business. Sean nodded and gave Joan a quick kiss. She handed over the keys to the truck and patted him on his leg.

"Be careful." Terri requested and received a gentle kiss on her lips.

"Roger that." O'Malley said.

"Well she must like you." Jack piped in suddenly. "She only uses army talk with people she likes." He explained at her questioning eyes.


O'Malley and Sean followed Spyder out the door and walked passed him without a word. They walked to the truck confidant that if he wanted to start something they would be able to finish it, especially with the back up inside the club. O'Malley doubted that he was doing this alone but then he didn't have the advantage that she did. They halted in front of the truck and Sean used his key to open the passenger door.

"I was beginning to wonder if these were ever going to come in." Spyder said slowly.

"I don't fuck around when it comes to business, Spyder. It's bad for my reputation." O'Malley answered in a low tone.

He said nothing as he opened the two cases and inspected the 9mm's. They looked to be in good condition and he noticed that the serial numbers were gone. He closed the cases and set them on the ground by his feet.

"You're beginning to worry me O'Malley." He met her gaze with hard eyes. "It's not like you to deliver late, this thing with Trey got personal and now it looks like you got a posse with you. A man in my position might come to think that you wanted to take over."

O'Malley barked out a laugh despite the pain it caused. "You can have this shit hole of a town. I'm not interested in your band of delinquents. I can make my money anywhere, Spyder. I've said it all along… you don't want to do business with me fine. But get this straight… I freelance because I don't want any more jail time. What you do with those is none of my business and to tell you the truth, I don't want to know. As for my posse, they're friends and business associates. Trey is a non-subject. I don't expect to see him again and if I do, there is nothing you can say that will save his ass again." Her voice remained calm and there was a certain expression in her eyes that Spyder could not identify.

"You're a loose end for me." Spyder's voice was just as calm. "I don't like that."

"You don't get it both ways. You say you want me tied to your club but you don't enforce your rules where I'm concerned." They both knew what she was talking about. "Maybe I'm a loose end because I don't see where there's a benefit for me to be a full blown member. Hell, Spyder, I copped to your dope and did the time for it."

"And that's the only reason you ain't dead yet, O'Malley." Spyder grumbled.

Sean tensed and O'Malley waved him off. "It's cool, Sean. He's just telling the truth. If I was in his position I'd be saying the same thing." She turned her vision back to the biker. "Do you believe in honor among thieves, Spyder?" She asked.


"Neither do I." O'Malley's voice was flat in her honesty.

Cage picked her drink up and walked towards the bar with her half empty glass. She took a deep calming breath as Thomas and Jack joined her. She had been waiting for O'Malley's signal and was almost surprised that it came so soon. She whispered her short instructions in her brother's ear and peeled off towards the women's room.

The men took their drinks from the bartender and made their way closer to the dancing stage. They stood off to the side and watched the action. Jack exchanged a glance with Thomas and pushed his way closer, jostling a couple of men who stood in his way. From the expressions on their faces they were not happy with the activity. When he did it again they pushed back. It was all the excuse Jack needed. He missed the old days with this group and bar fights had been a big part of the old days.

If O'Malley and Cage wanted a distraction he was more than willing to give them one. With one good shove he knocked one of the men into the side of the stage. The dancer fled the stage quickly, tables emptied and bouncers rushed in. In no time at all a brawl was on it's way to being started. It was more than Cage had hoped for as she exited the women's room. Thomas threw his glass in the direction of a large, drunk participant aiming a little high. As he hoped it hit the wall behind Cage and as it exploded into a million shards she ducked into Hank Stillman's office.

Working quickly from the memorized office outline she found the hidden safe and went to work. The small electronic device she carried might have looked like a beeper but it was much more than that. She sent a silent thank you to CIA training as she felt the safe door give. She shifted the stacks of cash and did the math in her head. She managed to stifle the low whistle when she came to a total and was sure that Hank Stillman was an idiot. There was no way she would keep seventy grand in her safe. She was about to close the safe door when two black cases caught her eye. Cage would have ignored the first one if not for the date on the label. It could not be a coincidence.

From the sound outside she knew she had to make a quick decision. She pulled the case out, careful not to disturb anything and took the videotape that was inside. It took her only a couple of seconds to hide the tape in her leather jacket. Closing the case she set it back in its place and quietly shut the safe. She turned the tumbler back to the number it had started on and settled the carpet patch in place.

"Coming out and off wire." She whispered, stripped off the wire assembly and tucked it into her jacket next to the tape. She took a breath and listened, sure enough the action in the club renewed itself. She counted to five and opened the office door. Jacket in hand she stepped out, closed the door and ran right into Boomer.

His eyes narrowed in suspicion. "What the fuck are you doing in there?" He half shouted over the noise.

"Someone threw a glass and this door was the closest place to hide," she explained "is it safe now?"

Boomer's eyes swept the ground taking in the sight of shards. Seconds later another glass crashed against the wall and they both ducked. "I guess not. C'mon." He grabbed her hand and pulled her quickly down the hall, pushing his way through the worst of the crush with his bulk.

"What were you really doing in there?" He demanded once they were clear by the bar.

Cage leveled a dangerous gaze on him and she set her jacket down on a chair. "I told you what I was doing. If you don't believe me go ahead and frisk." She challenged without breaking eye contact.

He grunted and did frisk her. His hands did not linger and he was all business as he traced the contours of her body. He stopped at her hip.

"What's this?" He questioned harshly.

"It's my beeper." Cage's tone implied his idiocy.

He heard the tone in her voice and ignored it. She was cute enough to let that one pass and continued his search. Only when he was satisfied did his eyes change expression.

"You're clean." He said needlessly and turning to the bar ordered two beers.

"Thanks so much."

Thomas slid to a stop next to his sister. "You okay?" He asked nearly breathless.

"Yeah, are you? What the hell happened?" She asked needlessly as Boomer handed her a cold beer.

"I think Jack got stupid. One second I'm watching the dancer and then all hell broke loose. If he gets busted I am not bailing his ass out again." Thomas Quinn's ire sounded genuine.

Boomer smiled and grunted his agreement. "I'll catch up with you later." He said looking at Cage.

"Whatever." Cage's voice was flat as she remained in character. She watched the large man shrug his shoulders and walk away into the crowd.

"You really okay?" Thomas' voice changed into real concern once the biker was out of earshot.

"Yeah, that was a close one." She admitted and sipped on her beer. She caught sight of O'Malley and Sean as they walked into the club. Even though the two knew what was going on they did a very good job of looking both surprised and concerned.

Sean and O'Malley moved quickly to their respective partners and made sure that they were not hurt in anyway. It took a while to straighten everything out and O'Malley had to hand over a large quantity of cash to the club in order to keep Jack out of jail. He managed to look sheepish as she made verbal mincemeat of him. When he offered to leave the offer was accepted and those on his 'team' volunteered to go with him to keep him out of trouble. Thomas retrieved his keys from Cage's purse.

"Keep this with you, no one else knows. Our eyes only." Cage whispered in her brother's ear as she subtly exchanged their matching jackets. He nodded once and from the look in her eye he knew that it was important. He owed O'Malley his life but he owed his sister his sanity.

The rest of the group stayed only long enough to make it look respectable. To prying eyes, they looked like any other group of friends out on the town. They laughed and drank with ease. Finally Terri noticed O'Malley's energy start to lag and called an end to the night. There were only half-hearted protests as they settled up the tab and gathered their things.

Terri settled her head on O'Malley's shoulder during the drive to the house. "How are you?"

"I'm tired and my head hurts." O'Malley answered honestly. "I probably shouldn't be driving."

"You want me to take over?" she asked quickly alert.

"Nah. We're not that far."

"Did you get stuff finished with Spyder?" Terri yawned through the question and snuggled in deeper.

"Yeah. It's done for now." O'Malley matched the yawn and rolled down the window for some fresh air.

"Good. What do you say we take some down time soon?" There was hope in her voice. "Just you and me."

"Just you and me? What would we do?" O'Malley teased with her voice since smiling was a painful thing.

Terri whispered her answer in O'Malley's ear and watched the woman flush.

"Can I keep you?" O'Malley answered with a question.

"Well if you don't, I don't know who would." Terri joked lightly as she stroked O'Malley's hand. She was finding it harder and harder to not show physical affection when she was with the woman.

O'Malley's fingers played back and they settled into a comfortable silence for the rest of the drive. She found her thoughts wandering and for the first time in a long time it didn't bother her.

Chapter 19

O'Malley opened her good eye and stretched her legs out slowly under the blankets. It took her a moment to realize that she was alone in bed and she missed Terri's comfortable warmth. Rolling over to steal the woman's pillow she was struck by the absolute silence that filled the morning then smiled as much as she was able. She let out a relieved sigh deciding that the next visit would have to be much shorter and not involve damaged body parts. In the five days since the impromptu raid on Hanks club, she had been subjected to more pampering than she ever thought was possible and had nearly driven her up the wall.

She rolled over and peeked over the edge of the bed, relieved when no headache or dizziness assaulted her. Having had been hit in the head more times than she could count she knew the after effects of a concussion well enough to know that the worst was almost over. Now if she could just wait out the next four days she would be rid of the stitches as well.

O'Malley decided, in a moment of laziness, that she didn't want to get out of bed. With no friends to entertain she could be a slug without feeling guilty. Closing her eyes again she let herself drift into that comfortable space between sleep and wakefulness.

Terri walked into the room noticing right away that the naked woman under the blankets had confiscated her side of the bed and her pillow. Instead of being irritated she leaned against the doorframe and watched O'Malley sleep. The worry she'd felt since the night of the party was finally starting to ebb away but not the nagging feeling that O'Malley and her friends were up to something. She could see it in the way their eyes would not meet hers all the way. She had been trained to look for half-truths and she was not fooled when they managed to joke touchy questions away.

It had been five days of stories that matched too closely, like they were rehearsed and they all seemed to leave the same information out. If it had been one story or two she wouldn't have noticed but almost every single one was missing something. She looked down and wondered what it was that O'Malley and her circle of friends were hiding from her. She had not missed the quiet meetings when they thought she was entertained and she didn't miss the subtle coded signals that passed through the group. They must have been something to contend with in the army, her mind supplied with something close to admiration.

The way members of the group would defer to O'Malley confused her until Thomas explained the rank structure of the military. The only one's not to defer were Cage and the man she knew as Jack. There standing against the doorframe she suddenly realized that aside from Cage, Thomas, Sean and Joan she had no last names. She let out a slow breath to still her mind and failed. There were too many reasons for the omission.

"Why are you standing by the door and not in bed?" O'Malley asked without opening her eyes.

Terri didn't flinch even though she felt like someone should peel her off the ceiling. "I was just looking at you sleep."

"You have got to be incredibly bored in that case and I'm not asleep." O'Malley's voice was teasing.

"I can see that now. How are you feeling?" Terri pushed away from the doorframe and walked to the bed, shedding her nightshirt on the way.

O'Malley rolled over and opened her eye when she heard Terri move. "If I never hear that sentence again, I'll be happy."

"Well if you never get your ass kicked that bad again, I'll be happy." Terri countered and sat on the bed. She let her hand run gently through O'Malley's hair then traced a gentle line down the battered nose. "Promise me you won't do this again."

Ice blue eyes locked on to Terri's. "I can't promise that." O'Malley admitted and held Terri's hand when she tried to move it away. "It's not always up to me."

Terri cast her eyes down and nodded her head in understanding then felt herself being pulled into O'Malley's arms. She nuzzled her head against a strong shoulder and sighed. They lay together in the silence listening to each other breath. Terri heard the steady beat under her ear and smiled wishing she could lock the rest of the world out. Fingertips danced on her back in a gentle pattern. For some reason she knew it was Callan touching her, not O'Malley and that stilled her doubts for the moment. Callan seemed to be surfacing more and more if Joan's description of the alter ego was correct. She closed her eyes laying a soft kiss on the shoulder.

"I should move. Your ribs have got to be killing you." She whispered without looking up.

"I like where you're at so don't move." O'Malley whispered back tightening her hold. She looked down at the top of Terri's head and wondered when the hell it was that the woman had gotten under her skin. She could count on one hand the number of women in her life that she was comfortable and content enough with to just lay in bed and hold without expectation of anything else. The last woman had been Ellen.

"Your hand stopped." Terri murmured. "What's wrong?"

"Starting to doze." O'Malley covered smoothly. She wasn't ready to share that with Terri. She didn't know if she would ever be ready.

"Did you know that your breathing changes when you start to fall asleep and when you lie?" Terri asked quietly as she lifted her head. "You're thinking about her, aren't you?"

O'Malley kept her face neutral. "Who?"

"Your girlfriend. The one who died." Terri answered searching O'Malley's face. When O'Malley said nothing she brushed her fingers along the marred chin. "It's normal to think about her and I would be worried if you didn't think about her. You two had three years together, O'Malley, she deserves that."

"I do think about her." O'Malley defended and shifted slightly.

"Then why lie about it?" Terri asked the obvious without judgement in her voice.

"It doesn't bother you that you're laying here in my arms and I'm thinking about another woman?" O'Malley's tone was unidentifiable.

"Yes and no." Terri said and placed a finger over O'Malley's lips to quiet her words. "Let me finish. You said you loved her like crazy and I believe you. I know that if she were still alive she would be here instead of me. I'm in your life because we got tossed together. I'm in your bed because that's where I choose to be. I know you don't love me O'Malley, but you treat me with respect and I think somewhere inside you like me. I'm okay with that. There, I'm finished now."

O'Malley was silent for a few seconds. "How the hell did you get so smart?"

"A lifetime of losing, O'Malley. It'll grind you down or it'll make you smarter. It's up to you to decide which one it's going to be." Terri said as she rested her head back on O'Malley's shoulder.

They settled back into silence as O'Malley turned the words over in her head and Terri closed her eyes. The even heartbeat and steady breathing under her ear were making for a very good lullaby. She was almost asleep when the cell phone rang waking her up.

"I'll get it." She offered and reached across O'Malley to pick up the offending machine. "Hello." She listened for a moment and handed the phone to the woman she was laying on. "It's the public defenders office for you."

O'Malley took the phone. "O'Malley." She said and listened to the voice on the other end.

Terri watched the woman's face feeling slightly frustrated when she got no hint as to what the conversation was about. The specter of trumped charges had been lingering over the last week but with everything else going on they hadn't talked about the situation.

"Okay, thanks." O'Malley finally said then cut the connection. She moved to put the phone back and stopped suddenly. "Note to self, don't move in that direction."

Terri took the phone setting it back on the nightstand. "What was that about?"

"They dropped the charges. Seems Bates can't come up with the complaint." She smiled as much as her damaged lip would allow.

Terri settled back in bed and propped her head up on her hand. "Nice to see justice finally working for a change."

"Yeah. I figured they would call but damn did they have to take so long?" O'Malley turned slowly in bed mindful of her still sore ribs.

"We should celebrate." Terri decided. "Or at least let Maria know. I think she was planning a protest on the court house steps."

O'Malley laughed then groaned almost instantly. "God, Terri, don't make me laugh. Parts of me still hurt."

"What parts?" Terri asked with an almost innocent tone.

"My ribs."

Terri ducked her head and placed a series of soft kiss on the mentioned area then let the tip of her tongue trace a wet line between O'Malley's breasts and up to her neck. She felt O'Malley suck in a deep breath. Sliding further up the bed she laid her lips softly on O'Malley's in a gentle kiss and heard the subtle moan.

"As much as I would love to continue this, I think we should both get some rest. You're broken and I have to work tonight." Terri said as she reluctantly pulled away.

O'Malley chuckled. "You are in for a long night when I recover."

"I am so looking forward to that. Should I ask for the next day off?"

"You might have to ask for the next week off when I'm done with you." O'Malley teased.

"Promises, promises."


Cage shut the hotel room door and listened to the ice fall into the glasses. Turning her head she watched Thomas make their drinks and noticed that his hands shook slightly. She kept in the frustrated sigh, mentally damning politicians and their choices. Her heart went out to her little brother for everything he had experienced and seen. Some things were just not fair and the part of her that cared the most railed against the fates.

She moved their bags to the space between the beds so she could unpack. For a woman who lied as a matter of job description she was feeling an inordinate amount of guilt for lying to O'Malley. She owed her so very much and she knew that somehow the woman might not forgive this betrayal. She unzipped the first suitcase and dug under the clothes to find her weapons. They were almost comforting in her hands as she let her skin become reacquainted with cold metal.

"You really think you're going to need those?" Thomas asked from the small table where he was mixing drinks.

"I hope to hell not but after the other night what do you think?" Her question really didn't require an answer.

"I think you might need bigger guns." He joked as he poured a generous amount of alcohol into both glasses. He poured a soft drink to cut her drink, he didn't bother with his. "She's gonna be pissed you know."

"Boy do I." She blew out a breath. "Don't worry little brother."

"Famous last words." He chuckled and passed the glass to his sister. "Slainte."

"Naztrovia." She countered and took a sip of her drink. "That has got to be the second worst drink I've ever had." She sputtered after swallowing.

He smiled. "What was the first?"

"Something called a 'hardship'. Basically you mix every dark liquor you have and kick it back really fast."

"You spooks have some really odd habits." He teased without mercy and settled on his bed.

"Yeah and you MP's are mine magnets." She teased back as she placed her drink on the nightstand.

"Cold big sister, very cold. And that's multi purpose." He corrected before turning his attention back to his drink.

Cage had to smile when he wasn't looking. She had learned the hard way that treating her brother with kid gloves only bothered him. His time in the Persian Gulf bothered him more than he would admit to others. Even their parents had no clue that on each anniversary of the war he would shut himself away until the memories and tremors passed. Cage was the only one who knew the depth of his memories and his fears. It was her cabin that he retreated to and once he'd admitted that other than his team that night she was the only other one who might be able to understand.

"You sure you're up for this?" She asked as she took the stolen videotape from her bag. It felt heavy in her hand.

Thomas looked up from his drink. "No but put in anyway. I'll be okay, Cage." He promised with a little boy smile.

Cage nodded then walked to the TV/VCR combination. She took a deep breath and pushed the tape in the machine. She turned on the TV and hit the play button. The screen went from royal blue to recorded night on a two-lane highway. She sank to the bed next to her brother and drew her legs up, wrapping her arms around her knees as she watched.

The picture bounced around a little and the view was from the back seat of a car looking through the windshield. Cage sucked in a hard breath when she recognized the back end of Ellen's car. She could make out two figures in the front seat. She knew that Ellen was the driver and for a moment wondered if she could really watch the video.

"Run that bitch off the road."

Hank Stillman's voice cut through any doubts Cage might have had. It was full of callous anger. The picture sped up and jumped when the vehicle slammed into the back of Ellen's car. The two women in the front seat bounced and Cage could almost taste the panic. Recorded laughter and boasting sounded out. Several times the action repeated until finally, at a curve in the road, Ellen lost control of the car. It plowed through a guardrail and went over the side leaving a trail of debris.

Stillman and several others looked over the edge and he ordered someone to check the occupants. Boomer's large form started down the embankment and the camera followed his progress to the wreckage. He stepped over and around the car parts that littered the area until finally he reached the passenger side and he ducked his head in through the shattered window.

"Your girl's gone." The shouted information came and he moved to the driver's side. "This one is still alive." He shouted after a few seconds.

The camera moved to Stillman as he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and hit speed dial. "Spyder, it's me. We caught up to 'em and did like you said. Wait a second this connection sucks." He moved and then stopped. "Can you hear me? Okay, look we ran 'em off at Moody's Gap. Tina's dead and the nosy bitch is alive." He listened to the instructions from the other end. "You got it." He cut the connection and walked back to the edge.

"We gonna get an ambulance out here or what?" Boomer's voice came from below. "She's bleeding bad."

"Spyder says we make sure no one gets out of that car." Stillman shouted back.

"What? No way man. I'm not getting tagged for murder." Boomer's tone was one of shock.

Stillman turned to the camera. "Get some of the boys to back track and pick up all the glass and shit. If we got any empty cans toss 'em around. It'll look like they were drinking and had an accident." He turned back to Boomer. "You just tell me when she's dead and then get your ass back up here." He ordered.

"I'm not gonna watch some woman die." Boomer protested.

Stillman pulled his 9mm and pointed it down the embankment. Boomer halted in his tracks. "You fucking do what I tell you. Spyder doesn't want any loose ends and I don't either."

After what seemed like an eternity Boomer left the wrecked car and made his way back up the hill, a defeated slump to his shoulders. Stepping around what was left of the guardrail he looked at Stillman.

"She's gone." His voice was low and rough. He started to move away.

"Don't you ever…" Stillman began.

Boomer turned on him. "What are you gonna do? Kill me? Like you let her die? Fuck you. I'm outta this."

"No one gets out." Stillman answered. "You like the money and the chicks. You're not going anywhere and if you try Spyder, will make you disappear." Stillman turned to face the camera. "Turn that fucking thing off." The picture suddenly turned to fuzz.

For a long moment neither Quinn said a word. Cage turned to face her brother. Tears flowed down his cheeks from closed eyes.

"Those mother fuckers." He croaked. "She was such a sweet woman. They just let her die out there."

"I know." Cage found it difficult to speak with the lump in her throat. They had all known that it wasn't an accident as the official police report stated and now they had the truth. Cage felt the ball of fear start in her stomach. There was no way she could let Callan see the tape. It would destroy her friend or send her right over the edge.

"What do we do now?" The younger Quinn asked after finishing his drink in one long swallow.

"We don't do anything. You go home. I'll take care of this." She answered bluntly.

"No way."

"Thomas Glenn Quinn you are going home."

"I can't. I owe Callan my life and I owe the Nurse. She…before you got there she kept me sane. She would come in to check on me and for a little while everyday it was like everything was normal again. She did it for all of us." He pushed off the bed and walked to the table pouring another drink. "Night was the worst. I could hear Sean breathing and those damn machines kept going off. He was so doped up he just slept.

"Me, I would just remember. I would close my eyes and I was there again running like hell. Hanson was in front of us. He kept turning his head cause he couldn't hear from the mine going off. The Sarge and me, we had Sean between us. He was busted up the worst. The Sarge was always telling him to line the floor with sandbags and he never listened. That's what saved her ass you know. She had zero legroom and her knees were almost to her chin but she was right." He sipped his drink.

"You don't have to do this Tommy." Cage whispered.

"Yeah I do." He sighed and sank to the chair. "When two five started shelling those bastards most of 'em were too busy to think about chasing us. The one's that did chase us were pissed and they didn't give up until it was almost too late. She kept turning and capping off rounds. I don't think she hit many but she hit enough of 'em to keep them back a little. When she got hit it was like she tripped. I mean one second she's up and the next she's in the mud. All I could think of was that we were fucked if she was dead. Then she rolled over and capped off major rounds, screaming like a fucking pissed off banshee. I don't know how she got up and helped me drag Sean out." He took another drink trying to ignore the shaking of his hands. He looked up with tortured eyes.

"I didn't know how bad she was hurt from the beginning. I thought the blood on her uniform was from getting us out of the Hummer. She was the only one who could have gotten us out of there. Sean was fucked. Hanson couldn't hear shit and he'd torn up his knee. I was seeing five of everything and my shoulder was blown. All I could do was help her with Sean. I felt real low about it at night in the hospital."

"And Ellen helped you with that." It was not a question. Ellen had given her tips about how to help her little brother. The nurse had seen what the night in combat had done to the young soldier.

He nodded his head. "Yeah. Every night she would come in and just talk to me about everything and nothing. Sometimes it was just silly word games. Sometimes we would talk about that night. I talked and she listened. It kept me from going nuts." He admitted softly and sighed.

Cage knew he was done talking about it and that he might never repeat those words again. She slumped against the headboard, thinking. She would give anything to keep him from reliving the hurt feeling powerless because he always would. She didn't want to put him in harms way and he was fighting hard to be there. She closed her eyes damning Hank Stillman and Spyder for taking away a woman who gave so much to the people around her. She made her decision.

"You're in. You earned it. Now make me another drink and we'll figure out together how to get these fuckers."

Chapter 20

O'Malley kept her eyes closed as Maria cut through the stitches across the bridge of her nose. The sensation of the material sliding free of her skin did nothing to ease the nervous stomach. They had already taken care of the rest these fifteen were the last. Maria was as gentle as she could manage but there was still pain involved and Maria noticed her friend's complexion turn pale.

"You okay?" Maria asked in the calm, soothing tone she had used as a nurse.

"Nope. If I feel the urge to pitch cookies I'll let you know." O'Malley promised.

"Just remember who has the scissors, Sergeant." Maria threatened lightly, easing the last stitch free. "Okay, you're done."

O'Malley opened her eyes, blinking several times as she scrunched up her nose. "Much better." She sighed.

"Doing your exercises?" The bar owner teased sweeping everything into the trashcan and pulling off her rubber gloves. "Joan did a good job on those. They're not going to scar badly at all."

O'Malley looked up at her friend. "Since when has that bothered me?"

"Pardon me, I forgot who I was talking to." Maria exaggerated a bow taking no offense at O'Malley's words. "How are the ribs?"

"Not bad. I won't be doing crunches anytime soon but better than I expected. I'm more pissed about my nose." She groused pulling her over shirt on. "All those years of breaking up bar fights and I never broke it. I was hoping to go my whole life without doing that."

"Quit leading with your face then." Maria advised with a sly grin rising from her seat. "You up for tequila night?"

"Oh no. Not ever again. I must have puked up most of my stomach lining last time." She complained. "Besides, I want to take Terri out someplace nice tonight. She still has tonight off, right?" There was a hopeful expression on the woman's face.

Maria cut off the urge to call her friend a chicken. "Yeah she's got tonight off. You really like her, don't you?" She asked softly.

O'Malley suddenly found her boots interesting. "Next question." She mumbled quietly.

"I think it's cute."

"You would. Carina, what good would it do for me to say it? We are worlds apart. When this is all said and done…"

"You will get back to your life. Would it be so bad to share it with someone like Terri?" Maria interrupted quickly. "You don't have to live it alone."

"Quit." O'Malley snapped. "I don't have a life after this. I had the one I wanted and it's gone now. I wouldn't know how to live." She said softly leaning against Maria's desk. "It's all up in the air you know. Anything could go wrong."

"And everything could go right. You have always been a pessimist." Maria sputtered finally losing patience. "I love you Chica but you are such a pain in the ass sometimes. Ellen was a wonderful woman but don't go putting her up on some level where no one else can touch that place she held in your heart. She had her faults as you did and do."

"Holds." O'Malley muttered in a tight voice her arms crossing over her chest. "It's still there."

"I know it is. She will always have a piece of you but she would not want you to be alone. It was one of her biggest fears." Maria admitted. "Don't look at me like that. We used to talk about you all the time. You were her favorite subject."

"So she could tell you what she couldn't tell me?" O'Malley stiffened at the thought that Ellen couldn't talk to her.

"She wanted to but you went to Bosnia sooner than we all expected. She didn't get the chance. It's no one's fault Callan. It was just fate." Maria suddenly wished that they'd had this conversation a long time ago.

O'Malley nodded her head remembering how hectic that time was for all of them. Between her preparations, professionally and personally, there had been little time to spend with Ellen. Both of their schedules had become suddenly impossible. She finally sighed her defeat and let her shoulders slump.

"What if I can't let her go?" She asked sounding almost scared.

Maria smiled gently. "You don't have to let her go. Just let someone else in."

"I'll think about it." O'Malley said. It was the best she could do for now. She walked to her friend wrapping her arms around the shorter woman. "I promise."

"I'll accept that. For now." Maria smiled returning the hug. "Now get out of here and have a good time with your girl." She ordered handing over the black motorcycle helmet.

O'Malley took the brain bucket with a weak smile. She didn't look back as she made her way out of the bar office to the front door. Her mind alive with questions that she had avoided acknowledging for a very long time.

Tugging on her helmet she knew that Maria was right and hated admitting that even to herself. Shaking her head she let her finger touch the starter button and the Sportster roared to life. Today it didn't have the same vibrant sound. With a million thoughts rolling around in her brain, everything else was sure to be muted. She went through the motions of getting the bike off the stand and into gear.

Driving through the city streets she was aware of how alone it felt. Once upon a time riding had been a joy but that was when she had a certain woman sitting behind her. Warm hands that would hold tight were no longer there. She rode feeling the emptiness for a long time while her brain kept up a litany of questions and non-answers.

What are you going to do Callan? Live alone without anyone to really love until you die and then rejoin her in heaven? What if you do that and then you find out there is no heaven? What if there is and she's mad at you for hiding away?

She pulled to a stop at a traffic light, a headache forming deep behind her eyes. Rubbing them with her fingers an unexpected realization came to mind. As much as she had been in love with Ellen Rivers, she hadn't told her during the stay at the hospital. She'd had months to speak her mind and heart and said nothing. On her return to the states she had kept the nurse at arms length in letters. Ellen had told her almost everything in those pages. They had been filled with hopes and dreams, fears and joys.

Callan opened her eyes when the car behind her honked impatiently. Pulling forward and changing lanes she knew she had to get off the road for a little while. She managed to keep her composure until she got to the house.


Terri closed the file, letting out an audible harsh breath. Looking up at her boss she read from his face that he'd seen the contents. Without a word he took the file and locked it back into the file cabinet. Her hands cradled her chin as her stomach rolled over on itself. She had seen many things in her time as not only a beat cop but also as an undercover cop. There wasn't much that could compare to what had been done to the two women on that road.

"I don't believe they are still getting away with this." Her voice was as bewildered as she felt.

"No one will talk. Hell Terri, he's got upper brass in his pocket here. The politicians and cops he doesn't own have their heads so far up their asses they couldn't organize a cluster fuck." The frustration was evident in his voice. "Now you know why we only met Simpson. He's the one we know Spyder doesn't have."

"Did you know this when we pulled the assignment?" She couldn't help the question or the thought.

George shook his head without breaking eye contact. "No. There were a few rumors but nothing solid. While you've been playing biker babe I've been doing some quiet digging. I have enough on a couple of city councilmen to get the State Attorney General salivating. If we're lucky they'll turn on each other for consideration." He hated the idea enough to let it show up in his voice.

"And in the mean time Spyder and Stillman get to play their little games and hurt how many more?" She wondered out loud.

"I don't know. We have to do this right or they'll walk and they will be watching over their shoulders even more." He reminded his favorite officer. "When the club started here it was nothing more than a bunch of delinquents playing games and riding bikes. Milton came in from the Angels and organized them but he was more into using dope and women than anything really criminal. He was a wannabe. It changed when Spyder took over after Milton got busted on the statutory rape. If you ask me, Spyder set that one up. Gut feeling." He explained when her expression turned curious.

"I'm guessing right now he feels pretty bullet proof." Terri summed up what she'd seen of the club leader.

"Yeah and right now it seems like he's out to prove it. His girlfriend's been seen with another biker so I guess he's done with her. He's stepping out more and more to places he gave to other associates for safekeeping. He spent a long time building up then sort of sat back to reap the rewards. Now he's back to being actively in charge. What ever is going on with him might work in our favor." George fell into silence for a long moment. "You have any thoughts on the accident?"

"You mean other than it wasn't an accident?" She couldn't stop the sarcasm and was grateful for a moment.

"I mean you brought it up. Is there something you know about it that I don't?" He asked as his eyes watched her closely.

Teri closed her eyes. "I heard two dancers talking about it at the party. One of them seemed to know enough details for me to believe that it went down like she said. The file confirms it for me. The passenger autopsy found major track marks between her toes. I heard Stillman got her hooked on drugs and then sold her nightly."

"Will your dancer talk?" He couldn't contain the curiosity or hope in his voice.

"Maybe, if we can bust Spyder and his circle. If she feels like she can be protected, we might get testimony."

"That's all you have?" It was a cop's question.

"Rumor has it there were club associates on hand that stood by and watched the driver die." She answered bluntly lying down the card she hoped would be enough. She didn't want to have to use O'Malley. She did not want to have to admit to her boss that the ghost trailing Hank Stillman was the same woman she was sleeping with. The woman who was bringing out feelings that she only thought she'd forgotten about. The woman she was willing to try and protect.

"Get me a name and I can work from there." George ordered even as his gut told him that his officer wasn't telling everything she knew. "You're down to four days, Terri. I'm not budging on the two weeks."

Terri opened her eyes knowing he was serious as she watched his face. Once George brooked that father knows best tone he was more than serious. She nodded her head and picked up the truck keys. Holding them in her hand loosely she wondered if she were doing the right thing. She could back up right now and tell him everything she knew or thought about Callan O'Malley.

Her hands tightened around the key ring and she walked out the side door of his house not completely confident of her choice. It might blow up in her face and if it did she would take the consequences. She drove mechanically barely aware of her surroundings as she made her way back to the house.

Pulling into the drive she saw O'Malley crouched next to the Sportster. There was something comforting in the knowledge that the woman was home. The smile greeting her was enough to let her know that on some level she had for now made the only choice she could. It would have to be enough. She rolled the truck window down as O'Malley stood.

"Hi there. What's wrong with the bike?" She hoped that she sounded normal.

"Just tweaking her a little. She sounded kinda rough today." O'Malley answered as she rubbed her hands mostly free of grease with an old rag. "How's your day?"

Terri killed the engine. "It was okay." She answered as she exited the truck and closed the door. "You look hot, want a beer?"

"I'm done. How about I push the bike in the garage and join you for that beer in the house?"

Terri nodded with a smile and walked through the garage side stepping tools. She heard O'Malley groan a little as she moved the bike. The normality of the actions hit Terri as she was twisting off the caps. Looking around for a moment she could pretend that this was her life. She would come home from a day of errands and find her lover waiting for her. Sighing, she let the caps fall into the trashcan knowing that she had long ago stopped pretending.

O'Malley snatched a beer bottle stealing a kiss in the process. "You okay? You look a little down." There was real concern in O'Malley's voice.

"Yeah. I just wish…" her voice trailed off. "I don't know what I wish." She finished with the truth and then figured out why O'Malley looked different. "You got the stitches out."

O'Malley smiled with less pain than usual. "Give the girl five points for observation."

"Wow, five whole points." Terri teased after a sip of her beer. "Mmm. That taste's good."

"You get enough points and you can trade them in." O'Malley winked as she walked into the living room to pick up the mail on the floor. She shuffled through it, stopping short at a letter for Terri. The yellow mail-forwarding sticker came as a little bit of a surprise. "You know anyone in Michigan?"

Terri's almost ran O'Malley over in her enthusiasm to take the letter. She looked at the return address and grinned. "My mom. I don't believe it." She ripped the envelope open and poured over the words. When she was finished reading the smile was still there as she blinked back tears. "She wants to see me." Terri's whisper was almost unbelieving. "I've looked for her a long time. I was going to give up."

"Are you glad you didn't?" O'Malley wondered out loud almost uncomfortable with the tears falling from the woman's eyes. For a moment she didn't know what to do. She had never been good with tears, not even her own.

"You better believe it." Terri practically bounced around the room, letter still in hand. "She wants to see me. You have no idea what this means to me. I haven't seen her in so long." The brunette suddenly stopped and looked at O'Malley with a new insight. "Actually, you might be the only person I know who would. She wrote that she's got some vacation time coming up. I really want to go see her."

"Why wait?" O'Malley wondered as she watched Terri try to contain herself. "I could fly you to Michigan." She offered simply.

Terri halted in her tracks. "You would do that for me?"

"It makes you smile, of course I would." O'Malley answered rolling her beer bottle in her hands. "I was going to ask you if you wanted to go some place nice for dinner but we can make it a celebration dinner. Just tell me when you want to fly."

The rushed words and almost shy sounding admission burned itself into Terri's heart. "O'Malley, I would be more than happy to go to dinner with you even without the celebration." She said and almost instantly felt the self-doubt raise its ugly head. "You should know that I'm nothing special and I know that some day you'll get tired of me being around…"

"Is that you or him talking?" O'Malley cut her off quickly.

Terri lifted her head caught in the gaze of ice blue eyes. "Him?"

"Yeah. Is that your thinking or your father's or each and every guy who ever told you that?" O'Malley asked as she closed the space between them, wrapping her arms around Terri's waist. "I see someone special, Terri. Maybe I can't be what you might want me to be but it's not because of you. I told you that I didn't want anyone in my life because my life is fucked right now."

"I remember." Terri was horrified to find more tears coming and she buried her head in a strong shoulder.

"If my life wasn't fucked up, if I could love someone, you would be her. It would be because of who you are and not because I get off on doing the knight in shining armor thing. Maria's busted her ass getting me to understand that you don't need me to save you. When Trey and his boys were kicking my ass I was fighting almost as hard as I know how and I still couldn't save you. You did that yourself." O'Malley finished with a tight voice. She wasn't used to speaking this honestly. The years of living as she now did took their toll.

"Do you ever cry, O'Malley?" Terri asked knowing that if she had been the one speaking those words they would have been accompanied by a well of tears.

"Sometimes, when no one is watching and even then it's only on the inside."

"Who told you that?" Terri felt O'Malley sag just a little.

"No one had to. It's just the way I've always been."

"You can cry with me. I won't tell anyone." Terri promised with a whisper.


Cage trailed him from a distance knowing that in the non-descript sedan she wouldn't attract much attention. Smiling to herself she admitted silently that it felt good to be back in the field so to speak. She still had the touch and he had not noticed she had been there all day. She missed this part of life. The chase was thrilling. O'Malley and her friends might have their night rides but she thrived on walking the shadows. She was the consummate actress never quite seeming to be what was expected. She could become anyone… anything… and she got off on it.

There were a hundred stunned expressions left in her wake. She doubted any of them knew that she was the one who had brought about their fall. Her favorite was the small group of would be spies in New York. It had taken her months to get the mannerisms and accent just right. It took her only weeks to break through the carefully constructed maze to get to the truth. They had played a dangerous game not understanding the consequences until well after the gavel fell.

Cage jotted down the location of her quarry's latest stop after pulling into a convenience store. The soft drink she bought felt good going down. Not as good as hundred-year-old vodka but it would do in a pinch. She tracked his progress through the rearview mirror as she sat in her car and tried to predict his next move. Prey always had a routine, whether they knew it or not. She had learned long ago that everyone fell into complacency when going about everyday life.

She gave him a minute head start before resuming her tail. When he pulled out onto the street she knew where he was going just by the direction he turned. When he eased into the parking lot of Hank Stillman's strip bar she smiled and slowed just a bit with traffic. She watched him stiffen his shoulders a bit before pulling the door open. It made her feel just a little better about what she was going to have to do to him.

She found an out of the way place to park her car near enough to watch. Settling down in the car for what she knew might be a long wait she focused her thoughts. The mental list wasn't very long. There were things she needed in order to make her plan work. Tugging her cell phone free she knew that forgiveness was going to be a long time in coming but she did have a job to do. She dialed the number without guilt and waited for the other end to answer.

"Demler." The voice answered without being rude.

"Cage. I'm in. I need four SAW's ready for me by the end of the week." She relayed as she let her seat recline just a bit.

"How 'bout you just ask for a tank?" Demler choked out in disbelief.

"Well, if it'll end this sooner, sure." She couldn't help herself. Sometimes it was just too easy to push Demler's buttons.

"Do you have any idea how hard that might be?"

"Unless you want me to toss all this hard work out the window, they'll be ready. You want to be the one to tell the boss why an entire network of gun runners got away?" The question was mostly rhetorical. She listened to the deathly silence on the other end. Sometimes the purr to her voice was not an entirely pleasant thing.

"Fuck. End of the week. You picking them up?" Demler asked with a short sigh.

She could just imagine him sweating behind his desk. "Yeah. I'm flying in, picking them up and delivering back here. I need 'em used but clean if you get my drift."

"Yeah, I get it." He grunted and promised they would be ready just before he hung up.

Cage pocketed her phone and watched the sun set in a brilliance of colors.


Terri settled between O'Malley's thighs leaning back against her chest. Warm arms circled her body holding her close. She felt content despite the turmoil she just knew lurked in the daylight. In the dark here with O'Malley she was safe from the real world. Tonight only showed her something she knew instinctively. O'Malley was a better person than she let on.

"Thank you for tonight. Dinner was wonderful. I don't remember the last time that someone made me feel special. I especially like that whole chivalry thing." She chuckled at the memory of O'Malley opening her doors and pulling out her chair.

"Hey, my mother raised a gentleman… even if she didn't know it at the time." O'Malley laughed.

"So where does the whole knight in shining armor thing come in?" Terri asked with a smile.

"Too much television."

"Did you ever think about being the evil knight?" Terri teased playfully.

O'Malley heard the change in Terri's tone and decided it was definitely good to hear. "Nah, he never got the girl." She admitted.

"So the truth comes out. You're just in it for the reward."

"Wouldn't you be?" O'Malley asked ducking her head to whisper the words close to Terri's ear knowing full well that the woman loved that.

"Depends on the reward and the knight." Terri managed even as her breath caught. "What was the usual reward?" She asked with a tone that implied the answer was already known.

O'Malley traced the ear with her tongue leaving a wet trail. "I could show you." She promised in a husky timbre. "Of course there are degree's of reward. What would this knight have saved you, the fair damsel, from?"

Terri almost forgot the question as O'Malley's hands stroked from fingertips to shoulders. "That feels good," she whispered trying to remember to breathe. "Ogre's?"

"Ogre's are very low on the scale. You want to try again?" O'Malley asked with a smile. She was enjoying this little game they'd fallen into.

"How about an evil guardian and a disgruntled wizard?" She tried again.

"At the same time?"

"If it's higher on the scale, oh yeah." She chuckled.

"Well, in that case, the knight's reward would be…" O'Malley's voice drifted off as she shifted in bed slightly to reach the back of Terri's neck where she planted tiny kisses. Her hands slid down and off Terri's arms, moving across her belly until they met each other in the middle. She switched direction, her palms dusting over ribs and breasts. She felt Terri's nipples harden as she circled playfully.

Terri arched her back as O'Malley's hands closed over her breasts, cupping and gently squeezing at the same time with her nipples trapped between fingers. The multiple sensations were exactly what she wanted. Desire rushed through her body in abundance as O'Malley alternated between gentle and almost rough.

Terri woke suddenly, not sure what had roused her from her dream. The weak light through the curtain told her that the sun was not quite up yet and she listened to the sounds of the house. Everything sounded normal, even the soft snore that came from the warm body next to her. Settling her head back on the pillow she stared at O'Malley with a satisfied smile.

Last night had been more fun than she'd had in forever. The times with O'Malley and her circle of friends were good but they were all socially oriented. Last night had been just the two of them. There was just something about sharing parts of their lives with no one else around to laugh or tease or take pity. She shared the memories of life with her mother before her parents split. She had even recalled a thing or two she only thought she had forgotten.

O'Malley, with an air of insecurity, talked about being the second of three children in a family where only the best effort was expected. In her eyes she had never been able to live up to those expectations, too much of a free spirit to be caged with rules. Together they laughed over dinner and desert at their most embarrassing moments.

Terri let out a happy little sigh. It had been a good night and one she would treasure. Their activities after dinner would be fodder for those lonely nights when self-exploration was her only outlet. If she closed her eyes she could hear the sounds of two women taking pleasure of and with each other. She had never really thought of herself as vocal during sex but O'Malley was starting to bring that out in her.

The woman sleeping next to her was in no way shy or timid about voicing her own pleasure and was explicit in her desire. Terri was almost embarrassed in the silent admission that she found it incredibly sexy to hear the husky whispers of want and need. She snuggled closer, wrapping her arm around O'Malley's waist wanting to feel her skin and just be close to her. She closed her eyes again, praying to whomever was listening for a way not to hurt the knight of her re-emerging dreams.



To be continued…

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