Part 6

Two bodies surged up off the couch at the insistent pounding on the door. Ranelle heaved a large sigh and ran her hands over her hair. Looking up, she threw the officer a look as if to say 'Now what?'

Dean shrugged and stood somewhat awkwardly in front of the couch as the blonde stomped to the door that was still being pounded on.

Swinging the door open Ranelle was somewhat startled to see her cousin standing there, arm raised to start another round of pounding. Before the blonde could say anything, Amanda marched into the apartment and rounded on her cousin.

"What's up with you?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean you look like you just got out of bed! It's 12:30 and we're supposed to go for lunch. I got worried when you never showed."

"12:30..." Ranelle sounded awed as she threw a look over her cousin's shoulder.

Amanda turned sharply to see Dean still standing in front of the couch, looking extremely uncomfortable. Amanada's eyebrow rose high on her forehead as she took in both women's appearance, scenarios flying through her mind.

"Is it really 12:30?"

Looking back over at Ranelle, Amanda nodded.

Dean sighed and ran her hands across her face. "I can't believe we slept that long," she muttered to herself. Suddenly, her head jerked up and a silent oath left her lips. Worried eyes locked in on Ranelle's face as the officer pointed vaguely at the phone, "I should call Anthony. He's probably out of his mind."

Ranelle nodded and waved her hand. "Go." She watched as the tall body slunk off to the kitchen and then turned to her expectant cousin. Seeing Amanda's look, Ranelle collapsed back into a chair. "Don't look at me like that. Dean came over for supper, we fell asleep on the couch. I guess we both needed it."


"I'm telling the truth!"

"I know that, geesh!"

Their argument was interrupted by the entrance of a certain Naval Commander. Looking briefly between the cousins, Dean's restless eyes finally settled on Ranelle. "Um, Anthony's fine. I told him I'd be home right away. Ao, um... thanks for dinner and I guess I'll see you later."


Dean turned to go but stopped. "Oh! Anthony said that he got a call from those detectives from Portland. They said the arson case is now officially closed, there are no suspects and little evidence." She shook her head. "Kinda hard to believe that no one saw anything when they're right in the middle of a residential district."

"So we're all free of suspicion?"

Dean blinked and looked up. "Do you really think they would have been that willing to let us all leave if we were seriously suspected for setting the fire? No, they were just covering their asses by making sure they checked everything out." The dark head nodded a few times, as if confirming something internally.

The officer moved to the door and stopped with one foot in the hallway. Looking back over her shoulder she met green eyes that had something new in them. Something she couldn't identify. Dean spent a moment staring, trying to figure out what it was. After a moment's hesitation she smiled, "See ya around, Ranelle."

And she left.

Amanda watched Ranelle as Ranelle watched Dean. She confirmed something that she had first recognized at the restaurant during Ranelle's celebration dinner. Ranelle looked over to see her cousin staring at her. "What?"

"You really love her, don't you?"

Ranelle just sat and blinked a few times. "Bu.. I... um, what did you say?!"

Amanda's eyebrows raised. "Please tell me that you recognize what you're feeling?"

"How did you know?"

"It's all over your face whenever you look at Dean. How could I not know? And give me some credit, please. After trying to set you up for more than a year I should hope that I realize when you fall in love." Amanda paused and shifted. "Does Dean know?"

"What!!" Ranelle surged up off her chair. "No," she shook her head rapidly, "nononon, she does not. I only just..." Ranelle stopped speaking and gestured helplessly at the couch.

Amanda looked at the couch and then at her cousin. Couch. Cousin. Couch. She spoke slowly and inquisitively, "You only just...." she looked back to her cousin, "figured it out for yourself, right?"

Ranelle groaned and fell back into her chair. "Yes." Terkers chose that moment to leap up onto Ranelle's lap. The blonde was more than happy to start petting her feline while her cousin watched. "This is such a mess."


"I don't know if Dean is gay."

"You don't know.... oh, for Christ's sake! Do you two even look at each other?! I mean really, truly look at each other. Obviously you don't or you'd see it in each other's faces."

Ranelle sniffled and looked up. "What do you mean?"

Amanda sighed and flopped back onto the couch. "If the expression that I see on that woman's face when she looks at you isn't love, then I don't have a clue what love is."

"What do you mean?"

"Arghh!! Are you listening to me here? When we were at that restaurant, Dean was very tense and kinda dour looking. But when she looked or spoke to you everything softened. Her posture, her eyes, even her voice. That was the only time she really laughed or smiled fully. When she was looking right at you. I'm saying that it's obvious she loves you."

"You think so?"


Ranelle nodded her head a few times before Amanda interrupted. "Come on, get changed. We'll go out for lunch, or brunch in your case. I'll feed the little monster." Amanda walked off to the kitchen with the little monster at her heels.

The blonde stood and moved off to her room, thinking of what Amanda said. 'It's obvious that she loves you.'

Ranelle grinned.


She pulled up to the house and parked. Rachel smiled as she got out of the car and looked up at the sunny sky. It was a nice day, not too hot, just nice. The Italian walked up to the heavy wooden door and walked in.

Looking around, she once again marveled at the house. As an architect, Rachel had a fondness for just looking at buildings. But this house, once belonging to her grandfather and now her sister, took her breath away every time she walked in.

Shaking off her admiring stupor, Rachel looked around and realized that the house was very quiet. "Decano! Hey, where are ya?" She started walking, poking her head into the kitchen and then knocking on her sister's door. It was odd that no one was around, not Dean or Anthony or Carmen.

Her sister tended to keep to the front end of the house, so Rachel decided to conduct her search in that fashion. After several minutes of opening doors she finally found her quarry.

"Ah-ha!!" Rachel moved into the weight room where her sister was sitting. "I swear, Dean, you have to put an intercom in this house or something."

Dean looked up and grinned at her little sister. "That's a good idea."

Rachel went over and sat, just watching Dean finish up. Finally, the weight was put down and Dean turned to look at her sibling. "So, what brings you out here?"


"Christmas." Dean repeated as she stood to fetch her water bottle. "What about it?"

"You do know that it's almost Christmas, don't you?"

"Yes, Rachel. I do."

"Good. I want to actually see you this year, for dinner, instead of three of four days after."

"I dunno, Rach."

"Oh come on. It'll just be us, you, I'll invite Scott and Maria will be there. Anthony and Carmen are more than welcome if they're still here. You can ask Ranelle, too. We just want to see you. Sarah and Kris will be ecstatic. They can't figure out why you always show up but not on the right day."

Dean winced. Sarah and Kris. Her niece and nephew. If Rachel was brining them into this, it mean her sister was determined and not above laying on the guilt. Dean took a long drink from her water bottle and set it on the bench. "Fine, I'll come."

"Whoo!!" Rachel got up and did a little jig before she flung herself at Dean. The officer caught the flying body and administered a bone-crushing hug. "Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!!!"

Dean laughed. "You're welcome, but if it meant that much to you, you could have just said so."

"Whatever, you're coming and that's all that matters." Rachel peeked over Dean's arm at the floor that was much further away than she was used to. She patted the bicep closest to her and looked up, "You can put me down now, big guy."

She was lowered gently to the floor by strong arms. "Hey, where are Anthony and Carmen?"

"Huh, oh, I gave them my car and told them to get out of the house. Have some fun. They're due."

Rachel just nodded and looked down at the floor. Dean picked up on the changed in attitude and knew that her sister had something else on her mind. "What's up?"

"Um, mom called me." Rachel looked up to see Dean staring back, a dispassionate look on her face. "And she, um, asked me about you. I said you were fine. I think she wants to see you."


"No? Dean you didn't even give it any thought!"

"I don't need to. If she really wanted to see me, she would have called me and asked. Not you."

"But you would have said no for sure."

"Damn straight. And I don't appreciate her using you to try and influence me." Dean turned and left the room with Rachel scurrying after her.

"Won't you at least consider seeing them? It doesn't have to be for Christmas. I told her I was cutting my visit to them short so I could spend it with you, but I'm going up for New Year's Eve. Would you at least think about it? It'll be a little more than a day, how bad could it be?"

Rachel looked up to see Dean's jaw working. It was a sign that she was thinking and that was usually good. "Please?"

"I'll think about it but I'll make no promises. And don't expect me to say yes. Got it?"

Rachel nodded. "Got it."


They meandered back into the kitchen and stopped. "You hungry?"

"That depends, you got any food?"

Dean looked over and smirked. "Smart-ass."


Rachel moseyed into the living room to see Dean sitting on the couch and staring out the window with the most forlorn look on her face. She just watched, her sister unaware of her presence in the doorway.

After a time, Dean sighed and shifted, catching a glimpse of her sister from the corner of her eye. "Hey."

"Hey." Rachel went over and sat beside Dean. "What's wrong? You going stir crazy?"

Dean shook her head, "No, not yet."

"Well, that's good."

"I suppose."

Rachel turned so she was facing the large body that was still staring out the window. She cocked her head while studying Dean. "So, if you aren't getting cabin fever, what..." Rachel trailed off as her mind lit upon the answer. "Oh." She has seen this exact behaviour from Dean on several occasions while they were growing up. At first, she hadn't known the cause and her big sister hadn't been inclined to elaborate. But eventually, as she got older, Rachel figured it all out.

Dean got homesick. She missed Italy with an intensity that was somewhat mind boggling.

And Rachel had also learned that there was little she, or anyone else, could do to bring Dean out of this morose mood.

With her eyes still firmly planted on Dean's face, Rachel was surprised to see a sudden brightening in the taller woman's attitude. Looking out the window, Rachel saw a car pulling up that was soon exited by a certain blonde woman.

Well, Rachel thought, maybe I was wrong. Maybe there is someone who can bring Dean out of this funk.

The siblings watched as Ranelle made her way up onto the deck and knocked gently. Dean was up off the couch instantly to answer the door. Just as quickly as she had left, she returned, with Ranelle in tow.

"You don't have to knock, you know. The door is always open as long as I'm here. And I usually don't go anywhere. Except at night. I lock the door at night."

"Okay, I'll remember that." Ranelle turned to see Racehl sitting on the couch. She smiled and stepped forward. "It's good to see you again, Rachel."

Rachel nodded and smiled. "You too."

They all sat and just started to chat. Nice and easy, flowing chat that really meant nothing. The youngest Italian kept her eyes and ears open, absorbing the interaction between her sister and the kind blonde woman. And what she saw there made her very happy. That same something that she had seen between them after fixing the roof was still present. But stronger. And it seemed to Rachel that Ranelle had figured it out.

Good for her! Rachel's mind crowed happily.

Ranelle's brow scrunched slightly as she studied Dean. All of a sudden the officer was getting antsy. She started fidgeting and tapping her foot and looked decidedly uncomfortable. "Um, Dean?"

Blue eyes looked up questionably.

"Are you alright?"

"I'm fine." Dean saw Ranelle raise her eyebrow and sighed. She's getting way too perceptive for her own good! Dean thought. "It's nothing, I just... um..." The officer trailed off helplessly, gesturing around the room. She didn't know how to explain it. She had been feeling unsettled since leaving Ranelle's place this morning. Add to that her sudden bout of homesickness and it made for a very unhappy Commander.

Ranelle thought she knew, and could only come up with one possible solution. "Go on."


"Go on," Ranelle made a shooing motion with her hand, "go do whatever you need to do to feel better, okay?"

"Uh," Dean looked around, "you sure?"


"Okay, thanks." The officer stood and left the room swiftly.

Rachel watched her go to the front door and step outside, then shifted her gaze to Ranelle. "You really know how to read her, don't you?"

The blonde turned to face Rachel more fully. "I suppose."

"You love her, don't you?"

Ranelle blinked a few times. Am I really that transparent, she thought, that two people have told me that in the same day? Guess so. "I do. More than you could imagine."

Rachel nodded as if expecting that very answer. "I thought you might say that. So, what's keeping you from telling Dean?"

"Uh..." she opened her mouth a few times and closed it, no sound emerging. After a moment she got her brain together and came up with a hopefully coherent answer. "I, um... I don't know if she's gay?" She said it as a question, suddenly uncomfortable under the scrutiny of this near stranger. It was obvious Rachel was looking out for Dean, and that touched something in Ranelle.

The Italian nodded. "I see." She fell silent, debating how much she should relate to this woman. Oh, what the hell! "Well, to tell you the truth, I'm not sure if Dean's gay. But that doesn't really matter. I do know that she is very much in love with you. I see it in her face and hear it in her voice." Rachel shook her head. "I've known Dean my entire life and most of hers, and I've never seen her as open and relaxed as she is with you except, with family. But she's stubborn and hardheaded and probably doesn't have a clue that she's falling head over heels in love with you."

The shrill scream of a beeper interrupted Rachel's next words. The Italian stood and looked at the small black device. "I have to go." She looked up and straight into Ranelle's green eyes. "I suggest you make the first move. You'll be waiting an eternity for Dean to wise up."

With that, she turned to go.

"Wait!" Ranelle stood and rushed to the door. "Do you know what's wrong with Dean?"

Rachel pursed her lips. "She's homesick, for one. But there's something else. I have to go."

"Yeah, okay, bye. And thanks."

"No problem."

Ranelle collapsed back onto the couch and just thought. That pretty much cinched it. Two people, one who had known Dean for the better part of the officer's 32 years and one who had just met her. They both said they saw love in the officer's face. For her.

And damned if she wasn't going to listen to them.

Ranelle surged up off the couch, her resolve solidified. She nodded to herself and stepped outside to look for her friend. She didn't give much thought to how she's find Dean, just let herself wander until the tall form came into view.

Dean was standing her back to Ranelle staring off to the east. Approching quietly, Ranelle came up next to the tall form and stepped up onto a convenient rock that brought her just about to Dean's shoulder level.

Ranelle's quiet voice broke the stillness. "You miss home, don't ya?"


"You ever thought about taking a vacation back there?"

The dark head nodded. "A few times." They stood in silence some more, listening to the lively bird songs.

"What else is bothering you?"

"I'm not sure. I just feel..." Dean trailed off looking for a word. "Unsettled." The shoulder's shrugged.

"Hmm." Ranelle turned so she was facing Dean and slowly, the officer turned as well.

"Rachel leave?"

"Yeah. She got beeped."

"Did you have a good time with Amanda?"

"Yeah, I guess so. We stopped in at Hego's... Stacey said she misses you."

"Really? I'll have to go there soon."

Ranelle looked up into eyes that were, for once very close. She just stared and felt Dean staring back. The blonde looked deep, searching for the very thing that two people had easily identified. And as she looked, Ranelle saw the usual wary, guarded look in those eyes fall away.

What she saw took her breath away. She teetered a bit, but felt strong hands gently clasp her waist. Ranelle raised her own hands to Dean's shoulders and steadied herself.

Now they were face-to-face. Breathing each other's air.

Ranelle stood up on her tiptoes and made her decision, hoping that Amanda and Rachel were right.

She moved her arms up to Dean's neck and felt the officer shift, bending over. And very gently their lips met, in an explosion of love that had been a long time in the making. They took their time, very gently exploring this new emotion and making gentle promises.

Because they both knew, in the depths of their souls that this was real and right, one of those forever things.

Breathing eventually became a necessity and they pulled away, looking at each other. Ranelle smiled and leaned her forehead against Dean's chest, wrapping her arms around the taller woman and squeezing. She felt a return squeeze and for the first time Ranelle felt all the emotion that came with a simple hug.

It felt indescribably wonderful.

"Can I stay here forever?" Ranelle felt a deep chuckle move through Dean's chest in answer to her whispered question.

Dean moved her head down so her lips were right by Ranelle's ear. "Whatever you want, Ranelle. Whatever you want."

The blonde sighed happily and gave another squeeze before stepping back slightly and looking up.

And she said it with quiet conviction. "I've fallen in love with my best friend."

"Am I really your best friend?"

That hadn't exactly been the answer she was expecting, but Ranelle answered readily. "Without a doubt."

Dean smiled and leaned her forehead against the blonde woman's. She whispered very quietly. "We can start a club, then. Cause I seem to have fallen for this cute little blonde woman with an amazing personality and the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen. She also happens to be my best friend."

"Yeah? What should we name it?"

"I dunno. But I do know that I love you, Ranelle. So much that it hurts sometimes." Dean moved forward and their lips met again. They spent long minutes standing outside, kissing. Eventually moving back inside when it started to spit.

Ranelle turned as Dean closed the door and laughed when the officer turned around. She reached up and wiped a raindrop off the tip of Dean's nose.

The ringing phone interrupted any conversation. Dean walked into the kitchen and grabbed the cordless before stepping back into the hallway. "Hello."


"What's up Scott?"

"I have two extra hockey tickets for the game tonight. You and Ranelle wanna come?"

"Just a sec. I'll ask." Dean lowered the phone and looked up at Ranelle. "You wanna go to a hockey game tonight?"


"Sure Scott, we're in."

"Great. I'll see you guys there. 7 o'clock."

"Okay, ciao, man."


Dean hung up and put the phone back. Glancing at her watch she noticed that it was now approaching 6 o'clock. Ranelle walked over and wrapped her arms around the officer's body and just stood, reveling in the delight she got from that simple task. She felt long arms wrap around her and heard a gentle sigh move through Dean's body.

"Was that a good sigh or a bad sigh?"

"Good. This feels... wonderful."

"Yeah." Green eyes looked up at the face that was so far above her head. "This might prove to be a problem, though."

Dean looked down and smirked. "Not at all." And she tensed her arms, lifting Ranelle right up to eye level. The blonde grinned.

"Ohhh, I like this."

"Mmm... me too. I love you."

"I love you too, Dean."

And they kissed again, with more certainty and familiarity. When they pulled apart Dean raised an important issue. "Dinner. You wanna go to Hego's?"


"Great, we better get a move on, then."

Ranelle found herself being lowered to the ground and they were soon ready to leave for a night on the town. Dean scribbled a quick note for Anthony and Carmen, grabbed her jacket and they were off in Ranelle's car.


The hockey game was about as boring as it could get. The players seemed to have had a distinct lack of energy, making for a long game with no goals scored until the end of the second period. The Dallas Stars had won, one to zero.

The threesome spent the time making conversation and catching up. Scott took the opportunity to smooth a few things out with Ranelle concerning her future employment at the company. All in all it had been a pretty satisfying night. Stacey had been overjoyed to see them at the cafe, making lots of lively conversation.

The women pulled up in front of Dean's house. All the lights were out and the light rain that had started earlier had turned into a downpour. Just as Ranelle moved to exit the vehicle, Dean put a hand on her arm. "What?"

"I'm not sure. Something's not right." Looking around, Dean couldn't see any evidence that Anthony and Carmen had returned. The house looked as normal as ever, but her instincts were screaming. "Stay here."

"What?! No way. I'm coming with you."

Dean looked over her shoulder and nodded. "Alright, but stay behind me, 'kay?"

Ranelle nodded and they both stepped out into the driving rain. There were large puddles everywhere, and the wooden deck was slick with the rain. Dean approached the door carefully, studying it for signs of forced entry or anything out of the ordinary.

The door was very thick, aged wood. The chances of someone getting in without a key were slim, but you never could be too sure. Dean inserted the key and turned, hearing the lock click open. She looked over at Ranelle, her eyes glinting in the low light, and gestured the blonde to stay off to the side. She complied without hesitation.

The officer eased the door open, staying off to the side herself. Nothing unexpected happened and she listened for several moments. For things that shouldn't be there. Everything sounded normal. But still, her instincts had never failed her before.

Dean moved her large body into the house, feeling for the light switch that she knew was on the wall. Just before she turned it on, a sound to her right caught her attention. The officer turned her head to have extremely bright, white light flash into her eyes. She raised her hands to her face, trying to shake off the shock and disorientation. Dean shook her head, stepping back from the body she sensed in front of her.

The intruder surged forward and Dean backward, right out the door. She heard Ranelle's startled cry and felt herself slip on the wood, land on her back and slid down the three steps to the ground. Her head smacked the pavement and Dean lay still, fighting to stay awake. Her eyes were shut tight, they hurt for some reason.

Ranelle heard the commotion inside, the startled yelp Dean gave off right after a bright flash. Just as she moved to the door, Dean's tall body came stumbling out and slipped. The blonde moved forward and stepped to the door. She looked inside and just as she located the moving form that shouldn't be there, heard a loud pop.

Ranelle jerked backward and onto the deck, falling and landing just outside the door. She didn't know what was going on, just that her shoulder hurt like hell.

The rain gathered around the two still forms, running in rivulets down faces and arms.

Green eyes fluttered and watched, with a sense of detachment, as the water around her turned red with blood.

To be continued...

Well, that was fun. I know of at least one person who has been waiting for that 'I love you' thing to happen for awhile. Hope it was to your satisfaction. Nice little cliffhanger... haven't had one of those yet. :) As always, feel free to contact me.

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