Love, Honor, Duty

by Anais


This is the first of a series. Just in case something happens and those other two I have planned don't get finished, this will stand alone on its own.

My thanks go out to everyone who helped out. From Fanatic who gave me a very valuable piece of advice, to Barbara Davies, Midgit, Advocate, Phil and Medora MacD who read pieces here and there and gave me feedback or editing help.

This goes out to my special valentine. Thanks for sticking around for the ride all these years. I love you always.

All lyrics, prototypes and protocol used without permission. I mean no harm and I ain't making a penny from this endeavor.

Part I: Love


"Huh...what...who?" Erika was startled out of deep sleep.

"What are you...who are did you get in?"

Though barely awake, she was immediately sitting up at the ready, assessing the threat when she looked up at perhaps the most beautiful creature she had ever seen.

The only light in the sparsely furnished room was from moonlight filtering through the heavy curtains. Exceptionally bright tonight, it outlined the uninvited guest, providing a silhouette and just a tantalizing bit more. As she moved at a leisurely pace around the room, the light mysteriously followed her, highlighting different parts of her sinewy body and satin robe she was wearing.

Erika reached for her reassuring weapon which she always kept an arms length away but hesitated for a second, knowing on the street this faltering could be deadly. Her training had kicked her instincts into motion automatically, but something stopped her. Perhaps it was the fact that this intruder was clad in a robe, and not the type made for sleeping. Maybe it was because of her inexplicable mental haziness. Whatever the reason, Erika didn't know whether to grab for the gun, or to grab this woman and throw her down on the bed.

She was confused by her inaction, until her eyes met the eyes of the person standing only ten feet from the large, wooden bed. At that moment, there was something that fit into place...this whole thing made sense. Even though it didn't.

The unbidden visitor was the quintessence of every fantasy she'd ever had. The realization left her feeling out of control -- of the situation and of her emotions. Just by looking at this intruder produced tingling sensation in her stomach -- a deep aching in her soul.

"Do I know you? What are you doing here?"

Still the woman didn't talk. She only smirked...a slow sexy smirk. The light from the window reflected in her eyes which looked like a flickering glow. Erika shifted and swallowed hard, and rubbed her eyes.

Erika was glued to the bed. She didn't know what to do or say. Her emotions were in conflict with her logic. She tried to speak and was unable to do more than lick her lips trying to lessen some of the dryness which had suddenly taken hold in her mouth.

The stranger slowly brought a forefinger to her mouth, shattering the silence with her whisper.

"Sshhhhhhhhhh," she took a step -- deliberately reaching across her abdomen -- pulling the tie for the green silk robe off exposing matching pajama bottoms and a green lace bra under the robe.

Erika had never set eyes on this person before but knew, as soon as she saw her, there was something that spoke to her soul at the deepest level. So basic was this feeling, it went unquestioned. It was merely accepted. She was frightened of what was happening. Not fearing for her life. In fear of the unknown. She didn't deny this fear, she welcomed it, for it fed the fierce arousal she was feeling.

"Why can't I move?" thought Erika. "On second thought....why do I want to?"

Erika gasped as the invader allowed the robe to slip from her tanned, strong shoulders. It slid off fluidly, as if it were in slow motion. Erika began to speak, and again the stranger pressed a finger to her full, red lips, "Sshhhhhhhh". She sauntered over to the stereo and put a CD in the player, seemingly producing it out of thin air. Erika recognized immediately the song that was playing though it had been years since she last heard it.

The stranger turned back around and looked into Erika's eyes once again, capturing them with the overpowering draw of her desire. As the song played, the woman began to move in rhythm with the music.

Here we this big old empty room...

The trespasser rubbed her hands over her own abdomen while gyrating her hips in time to the steadily building beat.

Just staring each other down...

She reached down to the silk pants and, tentatively at first, then with a quick tug, pulled the drawstring, revealing shapely legs caressed by sheer white hose. As they fell to the wooden-planked floor Erika closed her eyes for a split second; drawing a deep breath and slowly letting it back out. She was trying to slow the beating of her heart and her hormones that were quickly spiraling out of control.

You want me just as much as I want you... let's stop fooling around.

The figure was standing in her matching forest green lace underwear, sliding her hands along the side of her hip, slowly lowering the bottom part of the lingerie daring anything to show.

Take me baby... kiss me all over... play with my love.

The woman stalked even closer -- slower than Erika thought was possible but faster than she wanted. She decided instantly to not fight anything that might occur. Not much thinking was put into this decision but this was not about thought or logic or decisions...this was about need and desire and passion. There really was no decision at all, this whole...affair...had been predetermined from the outset. It was inevitable. Tomorrow would be soon enough to deal with it...or the next day...

Bring out what's been in me for far too long...

The woman reached the edge of the four post bed and climbed atop of it. As she moved closer, Erika could smell the perfume of her desire. She could only breathe deeper and want for more. The scent was slight yet it was overpowering her senses.

Erika still couldn't move, couldn't think, couldn't do anything but concentrate on the gorgeous vision before her and the sensations coursing throughout her body. Erika was furious at her body. It was reacting without permission to this... display. Erika was also more aroused than she had ever been in her entire life. Her whole world was focused on the eyes and hands of the woman and the intense desire she was evoking to the depths of her very soul. Even stronger was the need for the eyes and hands only on her...and her lips. Erika watched as the woman deliberately licked her own lips wanting that tongue and mouth on her own. The only thing that mattered at this moment was the two of them and the yearning that already had far surpassed any feelings she'd ever had in her life.

Baby, you know that's all I've been dreaming of...

Erika felt as if she were drowning but the closer the figure came, the more she felt that, perhaps, she was being tossed a lifesaver. Next thing she noticed was the pantherlike divinity on all fours at the foot of the bed, languidly inching her way to the top. She dipped her body down and rubbed it along Erika's.

The first moment of skin on skin contact caused both to shudder. Erika was unsure if fright or desire caused this involuntary act. She fell, resting on her elbows, ebbing back as this unsolicited fantasy woman leaned in again, readying herself for another sensuous swipe.

As the stranger got closer, Erika tried to move further back. The feeling was so fierce, so intense. When she found herself lying prone on the bed she knew she was as far away as she was going to get...and as far away as she wanted to get.

Do Me Baby, like you never done before

Give it to me till I just can't take no more

Do Me Baby, like you never done before

I want you now, I just can't wait no more, can't wait...oh

"Who...?" Erika managed to croak out, "please...I just have to know, who are you?"

Here we are looking for a reason for you to lay me down

For a love like ours is never out of season,

so baby please stop teasing me

The visitor looked down at her. Leered actually. She opened her mouth as if to answer the question, then snuck her tongue out and ran it along the side of Erika's neck stopping only when she reached Erika's ear.

"I thought you said you would know me when you saw me?" the woman whispered. Erika closed her eyes, allowing the words to seep into her mind.

Ooooh, what ya do, I can never love no other, you're the best I ever had

Whenever we're not close to one another, I just want you so bad

Erika slowly opened her eyes, afraid the vision would disappear. She pulled her head back to look closer at her seductress. Realizing who it was, she moved her hand to the incredibly stunning face and caressed it.

"Cynthia? Are you you? I mean...are you her? What are you doing here?"

"Shhhhhh, no talking," the woman replied.

"Oh god, Cynthia...oh god."

The bodies merged together, skin on skin, sweat intermingling. Lips touched, tentatively at first then with ferocity. Raw eroticism and carnal lust filled the air in the guise of the scent of the two lovers.

Do Me Baby

Do Me baby, don't wanna do it all alone

I want your love

"Cynthia..Cyn.....ohhhh you feel so good........" came the mumble when finally the tongues disentangled. Erika began to pull back, but was held in place. The immersion into the depths of passion began again even stronger than before. The connection felt previously was mild compared to the wholeness now experienced as two hearts, souls, and bodies became one.

Much later, the women clung to one another, sweat intermingling and murmuring nonsense words to each other that finally coalesced into a single question, "How did you find me?"

Cynthia chuckled, "You see my friend, you are not the only one with many skills."

Erika then heard another laugh, a different laugh than before...a voice boomed from above. It was her roommate, Jesse.

"Dillinger...what the fuck are you dreaming about? Wake up and get that cheesy-assed smile off your face."

Erika quickly sat up, feeling the bed for the woman who was just with her. She seemed to have vanished.

"Shit...was *that* a dream?" she said aloud as she wiped the sweat from her face.


The sun was streaming in the quaint room, embracing the lone figure. As she lay in the simple wooden framed bed, the daylight began painting the form with varying shades of brightness. The seemingly lifeless shape moved when it felt the heat of the sun, swatting at the ray of light, as one would shoo away an irritating gnat.

"Morning comes wayyyy too early," Cynthia thought to herself as her alarm went off for the fourth time. She lay in bed for a few minutes longer, taking time to stretch and yawn. It was Saturday morning and the blonde woman was not ready to start her workweek. Cynthia pulled herself out of the bed and threw on her wrinkled workout clothes, brushed her white, straight teeth and ran a comb through her unruly hair. "If I hurry, I'll still make it to the gym and get to work on time," she mumbled to herself.

Cynthia Harris was a police dispatcher for the local police department and had been for the last 10 years. She loved her job but found it harder and harder to listen to the citizens when they had trivial complaints. Cynthia realized the complaints weren't insignificant to the callers but more and more it took all the energy she had to stay focused on her job. A few times Cynthia had considered changing employment but for someone as young as she was it would be hard to find a comparable job with the pay and benefits being a city employee gave her. "Well," Cynthia pondered, "at least I have some motivation to go to work." The thought brought a sly grin to her face.

At the gym, the blonde, slightly muscular dispatcher replaced the dumbbell she had been lifting. She bounced to the locker room and entered the shower section. When she finished washing up, she walked over to the row of mirrors at the back of the room and proceeded to get dressed. Pulling out a blow dryer, she swiftly completed her almost daily routine of working out then dressing at the gym. "Hmmm..wonder if she'll be there today... " Verdant eyes looked back from the mirror with a twinkle that seemed to appear whenever she thought about her "mystery" cop.

The drive to work was occupied with thoughts of her friend. More than that, her mind was trying to comprehend how she could have bonded with someone she had never met. Sure, there was lots of talk about the weirdoes one can meet on the internet, but this was different than the internet, this was more intimate. "Intimate," the blonde mulled that word in her mind, making her slightly blush. "I like that word. and it has been way too long since... " Cynthia's eyes glanced away from the roadway, her grin morphing into a frown as she remembered the last time she allowed herself to get close to anyone, emotionally or physically.

As she looked back onto the road, she realized very quickly she should have never looked down. The loud blaring of a car horn brought Cynthia back to the task at hand, which was driving.


Across town, Erika Dillinger finished up her run and went directly to the locker room in the police precinct. It was amazing how happy Saturdays made her feel lately. She dressed quickly to make it to roll call but still took the time to make sure everything was shiny and polished. "You never know who you might meet," she thought to herself. She actually felt...what is this strange emotion..." that the word that describes how I feel? No..must be just an adrenaline rush from the run...or that dream from this morning...yowza!" Somewhere down inside, however, Erika knew she was kidding herself, no...she knew where this new found happiness was coming from. With a quick glance in the mirror to make sure everything was in place, she left the locker room for roll-call.

When roll-call was finished, Officer Dillinger practically ran out to her car. She logged on to her mobile data terminal in the cruiser and quickly checked who was working. "Yes!" she quietly said to herself, "she's there."

A mobile data terminal or MDT was a great tool for police officers. It was a smaller version of the computer the dispatchers had at the dispatch center. It allowed for an officer to log on themselves, instead of the dispatcher entering the roster in the computer as they would come on the radio, ready for duty. This machine also allowed for access to different databases, including the National Crime Information Computer (NCIC). The further progression technology made, the more tools officers had to fight crime. The only problem it seemed as if the criminals also progressed at the same rate. The MDT also allowed for the officers in their vehicles to converse with the dispatchers in the Communications Room.

Cynthia noticed that unit 624 had logged on. She quickly checked to see who was working the unit. A grin came over the dispatcher's face when she saw Officer Dillinger's name. Funny how just knowing she is around makes me feel better, Cynthia thought to herself.

03/04/00 08:12:43 Message to: Dispatch 9 From: 624 (Dillinger, Erika M.) Hi, how are you today? :)

Cynthia brightened up when she got the message.

03/04/00 08:13:02 Message to: 624 From: Dispatch 9 (Harris, Cynthia G.) Fine . :) Just fine! Hey, don't forget we have a "date" tonight after work. Sappho's Place OK with you?

Erika smiled...Oh Yeah like I could forget finally getting to meet you...she blushed as she recalled her earlier dream.

03/04/00 08:13:04 Message to: Dispatch 9 From: 624 (Dillinger, Erika M.) Don't you worry, I haven't forgotten at all. Seems like it is going to be a slow day. I put in to get off an hour early. I'll see you there! And yes, Sappho's Place is fine.

03/04/00 08:14:25 Message to: 624 From: Dispatch 9 (Harris, Cynthia G.) One thing I didn't think will I know who you are?

03/04/00 08:15:01 Message to: Dispatch 9 From: 624 (Dillinger, Erika M.) Don't worry, I will recognize you. After all, You are my favorite dispatcher. I'd know you anywhere... Remember that I am a trained professional. I learned many skills at the Police Academy. <g>

Cynthia broke out in a broad grin. Oh yeah, this was going to be a good, good day! Especially since you are here now, Cynthia thought. Then she received a "hot incident", an armed hold-up in progress. Well it was going to be a good day, she thought, before sending "her" officer on an armed hold-up call.

Cynthia turned her attention back to her work, particularly since she was sending Officer Dillinger on the call. The report came in that the Locke Bank at Northeast 9th and Weidler was in the process of being held up. The caller had been going to make a deposit and saw 3 men dressed in black approaching the first teller and it appeared they had guns under their long, black coats.

The complainant fortunately had his cell phone with him and was able to relay the information before the suspects left the bank. This tends to allow for a greater arrest rate, but also can cause a hostage situation. Cynthia was very aware of this possibility at all times but even more so when Erika was on an assignment from dispatch. Sometimes, Cynthia wished she wasn't the one who gave her these radio dispatched calls, but she knew that everything they both did, or tried to do was for the greater good.

Cynthia was starting to ponder what that meant when suddenly in her headset she heard, "624 foot pursuit." shit shit shit.

Cynthia went into automatic mode, "624 , go ..Description and direction of travel."

"624...chasing two white males eastbound, both mid 20s, one has long hair shaved on the sides, the other is taller with a goatee, both have black long coats on " Cynthia could hear Erika gasping for air. "624 code three cover, send me code three cover to 13th and Weidler."

"624 copy, non emergency traffic off the air, I need code three cover for Northeast 13th and Weidler"

"624 BREAK. I have two at gun point, repeat two at gunpoint, continue cover code three."

Oh god, I hope she is ok. "624 copy. Cover units continue code three. Continue non emergency traffic off the air." Hurry hurry hurry.

"694. I'm here with 624. Next car in needs to go to the bank. We have one suspect still outstanding, we have two suspects in custody....Oh shit! We have the third suspect coming out now with a hostage. Code three cover, code three cover to the bank. The suspect has a hostage at gunpoint."

As much training as both police and dispatchers have, there is nothing you can do to prepare for the real thing. The extensive training and in-service lectures do allow for some of the actions taken to become automatic. Cynthia pulled out her map and marked where the officers had been assigned on the perimeter of the bank. She notified her supervisors she would be moving the cars on this incident from the primary dispatch net to a tactical channel. She also advised any news media monitoring to announce a special bulletin as the police were attempting to keep the area around the bank clear of all traffic.

Even though Cynthia was quite experienced in tactical situations, that didn't make the adrenaline rush go away. A gnawing in the pit of her stomach soon joined the feeling. "Oh god," Cynthia murmured to herself, "please let her be ok." Briefly she closed her eyes, inhaling deeply and quickly exhaling, trying to get a grip on her emotions.

As the dispatcher was going through the checklist in her head, an unidentified voice boomed on the radio, startling Cynthia and echoing loudly throughout the now quiet dispatch center.

"All units take hard cover, the suspect is reaching in his coat. Repeat, all units take hard cover."

Cynthia's stomach felt as if it were in knots when she heard those words. Normally when a suspect reached into a part of his or her clothing when officers were drawing their guns down at them, that would mean they were reaching for some kind of weapon. The dispatcher alerted the medical agent to send an ambulance to stand by. You could feel the tension from the scene infiltrating through the radio, the dispatcher preparing for the inevitable report of shots fired.

Radio traffic became very quiet. The sergeant whispered on the radio so the bad guy couldn't hear him.

"Dispatch, notify the Hostage Negotiator and SWAT to activate. The command center will be 2 blocks east of here at about 12th Avenue. I have command of the incident until more units arrive. Find all numbers listed for the bank, in case he goes back inside."

"Copy, sir. Consider it done," Cynthia said while quickly sending the request to her supervisors to handle.

Back at the bank, the suspect suddenly jerked his hostage up. When this happened, everyone realized the hostage was a pregnant female. Law enforcement personnel consider all hostages equal, but there is something about kids and pregnant women that makes everyone work just a little bit harder. It seemed as if everyone held their breath as the suspect pulled the hostage in behind him as he re-entered the bank.

The sergeant's whispered voice came over the radio again. "I need one officer to try and contact everyone who was in and around the bank when this happened. We need to find out how many people could still be in the bank. See if we can talk to an employee and get a roster."

At the dispatch center, Cynthia was studying the map. "Copy, Sarge. 654 I need you to collect the witnesses and take them to the command center," she said. Being a diligent worker, the dispatcher took the time to do a few extra things too. She had her supervisor call out the F.B.I. and robbery detectives. They would need every body they could get a hold of if this didn't resolve soon.

"Hey, Rickie, good collar," Erika's co-worker said to her. Since they had caught the first two suspects coming out of the bank, it was their responsibility to make sure the suspects were escorted downtown to talk to the detectives. However, Erika was also on the SWAT team, and about the time she was loading her suspect into the car, her SWAT pager went off.

"Thanks, Robocop," Erika said with a tense grin. She really liked her co-worker Tracy and when she wasn't teasing him about having a "girl's" name, she would tease him about his enhanced male parts. Tracy had been shot in the groin about 2 years ago by a guy whacked out on PCP and had to be rebuilt "down there". Since everyone already knew about the reconstructive surgery, he found it pretty funny to tell people to kick him since it didn't hurt anymore.

"Hey, Robo...would you mind grabbing someone to take my prisoner to talk to the detectives? My SWAT pager just went off."

"Sure, Rickie...No problem. Go play Terminator."

Erika smiled, grabbed her gear bag out of the back of her police car and ran to the command center.

She was shouted her assignment and went to take her position. She had dressed in her camo fatigues in the command center and now grabbed all her armor and bolt gun and took position across the street from the bank. Her weapon of choice was a Remington 700 .308 sniper rifle custom fitted with a Darryl Holland barrel. As she was getting organized, she could hear the street sergeant's PA system as he attempted to loud hail the suspect out of the bank, preferably without the hostage.

Erika could see other SWAT officers arriving at the scene and they, too, were given tactical positions in case the robber came outside.

Erika really enjoyed being a SWAT officer. You never knew when you would be called up for something, and when you were, it was usually a situation to get your juices flowing. At least at the beginning it was, then it was a lot of hurry up and wait. Erika always kept her mind on the situation at hand, but today, hearing Cynthia's voice over the radio...well after a couple of hours being static, she couldn't help but imagine the person behind that voice.

The first time Erika had heard Cynthia's voice she was hooked. Erika felt at ease when Cynthia was dispatching. Although she wouldn't admit it to anyone, she usually got a warm feeling surrounding her when she heard that voice...that sweet melodic voice.

Cynthia was a good dispatcher, probably one of the best, but it was more than that. There was some kind of bond she felt whenever Cynthia was on the air. "It's just my hormones. Been too long since I have gotten laid...Lord knows I am too old to have a crush on someone," Erika mused.

Over the course of about six months, they had forged a friendship over the police computer. Erika remembered the first message. She had been dispatched on a report of a power line problem. When she had arrived, there was indeed some sparking from the power lines. Erika then noticed what was causing it.

There was a squirrel who had somehow gotten itself tangled in the wires and was now in a position of being charred if it didn't find a way down.

Erika sent Cynthia a message about the squirrel. While Erika was waiting for the Power Company to respond, she and Cynthia were typing back and forth, creating a story for "Squiggly" the name they came up with for the squirrel.

After this, the women found themselves typing back and forth daily. Gradually, it became something they looked forward to, something to help them get through another day of crime, death and destruction. It was a good way to debrief. As time went on, it seemed as if they used...and counted on...the conversations...more and more.

Their messages began as jokes to one another. Then they started to talk a little about situations at work. When Cynthia had a question about criminal law she would ask Erika. Cynthia knew, from the scuttlebutt she had heard, that Erika's peers thought highly of her and Cynthia learned that respect was well earned.

Erika took extra classes on her days off and spent a lot of time in the community nurturing a relationship between the people who lived in the area she patrolled and herself.

Erika had also heard things about Cynthia. No one knew that she had been conversing with the dispatcher, but when others spoke of her it was with respect. There was one incident specifically that made Erika most proud of her friend. Earlier in the year, there had been a robbery of a Hallmark store. The suspect had eluded apprehension. Somehow, the vehicle had not been entered in the statewide computer as a vehicle of interest.

The day after this had occurred, Cynthia received a call that a subject was at the hospital to visit someone. The nurse believed this guy to be acting suspicious. As Cynthia got the description of the unwanted man, she recognized the description matching that of the robbery suspect from the Hallmark.

She asked the nurse to send someone outside to see if the vehicle described from the crime the day before was in the parking lot. It was. Cynthia notified the FBI who told her the suspect was believed to be an ex-police officer and a suspect in 19 other robberies and 3 homicides and currently a heroin addict.

Since Cynthia was on the phone getting the information, she relayed hew newly gotten intelligence to the dispatcher at the time, which allowed the coworker to send enough officers to the scene to successfully arrest the guy without further fanfare.

"Yes, she is damned good at what she does...I wonder if she is that thorough with everything..." the officer contemplated before being jarred out of the little happy place she had put herself in her head.

"!" Erika heard whispered in her ear. She turned and saw her SWAT partner, Mike.

"Shit, I hate it when you do that to me!" Erika said, taking a deep breath and trying to get her heart to stop racing.

"Hey, if I were a bad guy, you would have been history, you know. Anyway...paybacks are a bitch, just like my ex-wife," he paused, "not to mention I hate it when you do the same to me," Mike said flashing his white teeth. His dark hair was ruffled and his face unshaven. The policeman looked more like a criminal than a person sworn to protect and serve.

The two officers were at different ends of the spectrum when it came to their uniform attire. While Erika was shined, ironed and polished, looking like the consummate professional; her counterpart was disheveled, wrinkled, and wearing a baseball cap slightly askew and facing backward.

He was trying to assemble his gun with one hand and finishing up a sandwich he had grabbed from the command center with the other. Mike grabbed another wrapped sandwich out of his pocket and threw it at Erika. "Here, eat. Maybe this will help keep your mind on work."

Erika caught the sandwich in midair and the bag of broken chips that followed. "The whole reason I joined SWAT," Erika said with a grin, "all the free food. Thanks for grabbing some for me. So...what took you so damned long? I've been up here for a couple of hours at least." Erika realized as she glanced at her watch. She had been so deep in her thoughts she had lost track of time.

"Hey, it's my RDO, and I was trying to impress a new girl. What else would I do on my day off? We went rock climbing so I could show off my muscles. I got the page when I was about 1000 feet up."

"Oh," Erika replied, then added with a smirk, "so was she impressed?" jabbing her finger into Mike's muscular pec.

"Yeah, you could say that." Mike smiled, took a long drink of his Coke and nodded his head. "You could say that. Enough about me...Where the hell were you when I got here? It isn't like you to not be all over me when I try and sneak up on you."

"Just thinking..." Erika responded trying to change the subject. "So... what did they tell you in the command center?"

"Not much. They just said there is one, possibly up to three, hostages inside the bank. The two suspects caught haven't talked. Dicks don't know who the suspect still inside the bank is, His pals ain't giving him up. I do know that if anyone comes out, we have the best shot."

"Yep, that we do," Erika said and took a deep breath. Her partner discreetly glanced at her, checking Erika's demeanor. The last incident they had the best shot on had ended badly. Mike knew they were both thinking about the same thing.

A suspect had held a knife to an eight-year-old child's throat. When he started to cry, the suspect began to press the blade of the knife against the boy's larynx. The officers knew this was the time they must shoot or they would have to watch this man cut the throat of an innocent child. When the shots were fired, there was a stray bullet. It hit the child in the chest and instantly killed him.

It had never been released whose bullet it was who hit the boy. Everyone had to go through mandatory counseling over this situation. There wasn't anyone who wasn't affected deeply. In fact, most of the officers continued counseling even after the required period was over, Mike and Erika included. Mike knew this was going to be hard on both of them if they had to take the shot and that shot didn't hit its intended target.

"All units take position; we see movement at the front window," was the next thing heard on the radio.

The tactical situation was in its fifth hour. Fortunately, Mike and Erika had taken turns stretching out just ten minutes before. When they had to resume their crouched position, they were able to do so easily. Erika could see the suspect grab the pregnant hostage and throw her to the floor.

Just witnessing this, she felt her muscles tighten with anger as she re-adjusted her weapon against her shoulder. Mike did the same, his stress showing in the clenching and unclenching of his jaw. They were both preparing for whatever action would be obligatory.

From what could be observed, the suspect looked desperate. He was pacing back and forth, running his hand through his hair over and over. His actions were not unlike a caged animal. Erika and Mike had been on enough of these cases to know that things were going to be over soon, or get worse quickly. Of course, they were both hoping that it was going to be over soon but that wasn't usually the way things went down. This would be no exception.

The Hostage Negotiator made contact with the suspect. It was apparent from the start of the event that this man was delusional and had watched too many "B-rated" cop and robber movies. His demands were those of someone not in touch with reality: an airplane to Bolivia, a motorcycle escort to the airport, and 2 large pizzas with everything on them.

The negotiator tried all the stall tactics he knew; after all this time, the only thing he had agreed on was the edible portion of the conditions. A patrol car was sent to run to the precinct and get some petty cash and go pick up the 2 large deluxe pies. It took about 20 minutes and the officer had just arrived with them.

The suspect knew it was probably not a good idea for him to go out and get the food so he sent his hostage out. The officers who took the boxes to the front of the building stopped about 20 feet short of the door, placing them on the ground and backing away with their hands up. They were trying not to spook the frantic man.

The hostage came out to retrieve the food; as she bent over to pick them up, one of the SWAT officers ran by her, grabbing her arm and moving her out of the way. Simultaneously, Erika and Mike had gotten the information via command of how things were going to occur.

One officer was going to grab the hostage if the suspect sent her out. Hopefully, the surprise would allow for a clear shot of the suspect, as officers were still unable to determine if there were more hostages inside of the bank. The suspect still had his gun trained on the hostage even as the officer grabbed her out of the way. Erika and Mike took their chance.




Three shots went through the front windows. Glass rained down on the officers rushing to the front of the bank. No one could see the suspect under all the remnants of the shattered windows that had fallen on top of him. The air was suddenly quiet but filled with electricity reminiscent of the calm in the middle of a hurricane. Adrenaline was definitely running high, so it was eerie that all at once things were calm. The front officers located a lump under the glass. They pulled the bloodied body from under the mounds of glass while trying to neutralize the threat and also inspect him for injury.

Cynthia heard the magic words "suspect in custody" and let out a whoop. Even though dispatchers weren't on the scene physically, they were in every other way. When the officers caught a bad guy, everyone "caught" the bad guy.

Cynthia had been with the situation for the whole 5 1/2 hours and decided this was now a really good time to go to the restroom. Dispatchers wouldn't give up a tactical situation for anything, especially not one they started. Cynthia's philosophy was: finish what you start. This was even truer when she knew Erika was on the other end of the radio.

03/04/00 15:57:43 To: Dispatch 9 From: 624 (Dillinger, Erika M.) Well, that is what I get for saying it was going to be a quiet day, huh? Looks like I am going to have to head to detectives for a while...a long while actually and do some report paper on this. Can I get a rain check on tonight? By the way, you did an awesome job :)

Cynthia saw the message and felt so much better knowing that Erika was ok. Not to mention the little flip her stomach did with the compliment.

03/04/00 15:58:32 To: 624 From: Dispatch 9 (Harris, Cynthia) You did awesome too! Of course you can have a rain check anytime you want. If you need to talk about anything let me know, k? Although I think the fates are trying to keep us from meeting in person, you are still my friend and I am here for you if you need me. Well, except now, I HAVE to go to the restroom as soon as my relief gets here. I didn't want to miss any of the fun so I stayed the whole time!

03/04/00 16:00:01 To: Dispatch 9 From: 624 (Dillinger, Erika M.) I know you are here for me and you don't know how many things that has gotten me through. Thank you. After today, I think I am gonna have to agree with you about the fates <g>. I'm at detectives now, probably be here all night. I'll talk to you tomorrow.

Cynthia smiled at the message. She knows I am here for her, why does that make me feel so good? For goodness sake, I have never even met her and I feel like a freaking teenager having their first crush. Cynthia just shook her head, grinning to herself.


The next few weeks flew by with prior commitments on one side or the other preventing the two women from spending any time together. Erika was going to be gone for a whole month because of specialized SWAT training at the National Tactical Officers Association. They just couldn't get their schedules synchronized. The only thing either of them could think of was to go on a picnic as soon as Erika was back.

Even without meeting, the relationship had gone beyond what either of them were looking for. The two women had forged a relationship that had gone beyond banter and, no matter what happened, they both considered the other a friend. The question was...would it go beyond that?

Cynthia knew that Erika would be back and go directly to work from the airport. The plan would be to meet afterwards and if that didn't work out then they would do it the next day as that would be Erika's RDO. Cynthia found herself daydreaming about the unseen police officer. What would she be like in real life? Would her fantasies ruin the meeting for her? For both of them?

Erika had an in-service class before she had to fly to the National Tactical Officers Association symposium for SWAT training. The in-service class however, was going to be a joint effort with dispatchers and police and firefighters learning the newest information about biological and chemical weapons on a smaller, localized level.

Cynthia had arranged to take the required class on the same day as Erika. They could at least have lunch together even if they weren't able to sit together in the class. Although these classes tended to be long-winded and dry, Erika was really looking forward to going because today was to be the day she got to meet Cynthia in person.

Cynthia arrived at the downtown precinct for the class, but was met at the door with a directive to return to work; they needed all dispatchers to come and help as there was a total computer failure and the radio system was threatening to fail as well.

"You just HAVE to be joking!" Cynthia snapped at the desk person. "I just can't freaking believe it!" She rolled her eyes, slumped her shoulders and let out a deep breath.

"Hey...don't shoot the messenger! I was just told to turn you, Gina and Alex around when you showed up. Besides, the class isn't all that exciting, I don't know why you are getting your panties all in a wad."

"Oh I know, I am sorry. This is just beyond belief though. Ok. Let the dispatch coordinator know I am heading back to work, would you?" As she started to turn around, she paused. I don't suppose you've seen Erika Dillinger around have you?" Cynthia asked hopefully, her eyes brightening at the mention of her friend.

"No, haven't seen her through here yet. Want me to give her a message?"

"Yeah, just tell her what's up will ya? We were going to try and have lunch together...Just so she knows what is going on." Cynthia dejectedly began to walk toward the revolving door.

As she was going through the door, another person was entering it from the other side. Cynthia didn't notice this because at that very second her attention was diverted to her shoelace being drawn under the door, jamming it. She pulled and at the last moment she freed herself and the door, nearly falling on the floor.

Once she got her bearings and stood up straight, a strange feeling enveloped her. The dispatcher slowly turned her head, looking behind her but unable to see anything through the tinted glass. "Hmmm weird", she said to herself, rubbing her arms to flatten the goosebumps that had developed.


"Damn," thought Erika as she gazed out the window of her airplane. "I thought for sure we were going to be able to spend some time together in person before I left. Something always fucks it up. There has got to be a way..." Briefly she noticed that the clouds resembled a sword.

About the same time, 1200 miles away, Cynthia was sitting on her back porch. The horizon was blooming into vibrant colors of pink, red, orange, purple and blue blending into one another providing a spectacular backdrop for her thoughts, which right now were on a certain police officer.

"I thought for sure we were going to be able to spend some time together in person before she left. Damn them for changing my class date. Something always messes things up. The blonde tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear. There has just GOT to be a way..." she said aloud determinedly while looking at the cloud formation she was sure looked very similar to a quill.


The first day of the training center went well for Erika. She learned some new techniques and acquired about some new weapons. She returned to her temporary quarters exhausted after the physically trying day. The tall, dark-haired woman lay in her hard, double sized bed. She tried to watch the television, but with the offer of no cable and only one public access station available, she quickly gave up.

There was an AM/FM clock radio next to her bed. She turned it on, scanning the channels for something to catch her attention. She chose what seemed to be a light jazz station -- not necessarily what she would listen to ordinarily, but it suited her mood.

Erika sat up in the bed using her arms that had been behind her head to lift herself up. She felt every bit of the training she had done earlier in the day. She walked to the window overlooking a large pond.

The water was very still, reflecting the moon and stars as if it were a mirror. A large bird flew by , landing with a plop into the pool of liquid, disrupting the reflection. "Isn't it weird, one disturbance changes the pond forever, even when it looks the same --it isn't. Like me." Erika realized.

Erika leaned up against the window, wrapping her arms around herself. The music in the background changed to a popular, but older, song. She leaned her head against the window as the familiar strands of music began:

Somewhere out there beneath pale moonlight

Someone's thinking of me and loving me tonight

Somewhere out there

Someone's saying a prayer

That we'll find one another in that big somewhere out there

And even though I know how very far apart we are

It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star

And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby

It helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky

Somewhere out there if love can see us through

Then we'll be together somewhere out there out where dreams come true

And even though I know how very far apart we are

It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star

And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby

It helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky

Somewhere out there if love can see us through then we'll be together

Somewhere out there out where dreams come true...

The blue-eyed woman wrapped her arms around herself tighter. "What is it lately with me and songs...shit, I am even dreaming music in my fantasies."

Flashes of the woman from Erika's dream came to haunt her. "When did this happen? When did I start thinking about her as more than a friend? How can I think of her as more than a friend? I don't even know how she feels about me...hell we haven't even met in person yet. Now I am acting all geeky and getting teary-eyed over a freaking song! How can I feel anything for someone I don't know...the thing is, I *do* know her. do I get to *know* her?" Erika contemplated.

"How am I going to fix this from over a thousand miles away? How do I find out how she feels...if she feels anything at all?" A notion started in the back of the raven-haired woman's head. "Hmm.." she said aloud..."Well what was that line from that movie...'If you don't play, you can't win.' '" She finished the thought with a resolved smirk.

Twelve hundred miles away, the sun had set about an hour before, and the gentle breeze now chilled the warm air. Cynthia was sitting on her porch in an old wooden swing left behind by the previous owners. With one leg tucked under her and one leg pushing against the wood of the floorboards, she allowed the swinging to become rote.

Her mind was on everything and nothing all at once. In the distance she could hear her phone ring. Since the phone was at the opposite side of the ranch style house, it took about 4 rings for her to get up and over to answer it.

"Hello?" the honey-haired blonde answered, slightly out of breath.

"Uh...hi!" said the voice on the other end of the line. "I hope I wasn't interrupting anything. I your number from work, I hope you don't mind. I was just thinking about ..and umm..wanted to say hi." The tall woman was practically babbling on the phone.

"Erika?" the startled woman said questioningly.

" I said, I got your number from work, I hope it is ok, I want you to know I don't usually do this kind of thing, but since we haven't had much time to talk before I left..and I uh.."

"Hey, it's ok," the blonde said, "I am glad you called" I miss you.

"Oh good!" the voice said, obviously relieved by the answer. "I was bored and listening to the radio and there was a song that kinda reminded me of you." Erika dealt with things in her line of work that sometimes threatened her life.

Even so, she generally wasn't frightened by these things. However, she was couldn't remember the last time she had been as afraid as she was at this very moment.

"Of me? Really?" the blonde said genuinely surprised. "I wonder if I should ask what the song was?" she thought to herself.

" hey so about that picnic..."

Suddenly Erika's front hotel room door flew open and slammed.

"Hi, I'm Liani. You must be Erika, I'm your roommate." the tall, very attractive woman said loudly, trying to force a handshake.

"Can you hang on, I'm on the phone," Erika said pointing at the obvious phone held to her left ear.

"What is that commotion?" Cynthia asked.

"Apparently I have a roommate and she just got in. Um...I guess I just wanted to say hi and to say I am looking forward to our picnic. Unless the plane crashes, nothing is going to get in our way this time." Erika lowered her voice while saying this giving an air of intimacy.

"Ewwww...don't say that!" Cynthia cringed. "We don't need to tempt fate!"

Erika chuckled, "Don't worry, nothing will stop me. Not even a plane wreck. Listen, I'd better go now. We are going to be out away from phones for a while so I might not be able to call you or anything." Erika hesitated then cupped the phone closer to her lips, "You have pleasant dreams," again lowering her voice.

Cynthia's heart leapt at those four words. Smiling she responded, " too. Be careful please. Bye bye."

Erika placed the receiver back on the phone base, holding it a little longer than necessary. She turned around after about 20 seconds facing her new roommate.

"Hi...I'm Liani." The woman held out her hand in greeting. Erika stood still, looking at the very beautiful, 5 foot 8 inch tall officer. "I'm from Honolulu PD. How are ya?" she said congenially.

"Fine," the taller woman said. "If we have to share a room, let's get a few things set. Do NOT interrupt me when I am on the it?" Erika stated bluntly.

"Sorry man, didn't know you were talking to your old man...or..." Liani looked Erika up and down, eyes showing proper appreciation for the blue-eyed woman's attributes. "Actually it would be better for me if you were talking to your girlfriend," almost leering.

Erika just stared at the other woman, slowly raising one eyebrow. "Why on earth would that be better for you? It is absolutely no concern of yours nor would it ever be." Erika had a repertoire of facial expressions that were very effective when she wanted them to be. She wanted them to be effective right now.

"Hey, baby, " the brown haired knock-out put her hands up in front of her. "No harm, no foul. Just thought if we were going to be up here together for the next month...sharing a room and all..well I just thought we could be friendly...real friendly for a while is all. Sorry if I offended you. Look. Why don't we start over ok? I didn't know you were straight."

The indifferent woman continued to glare, then like the sun coming out in the middle of winter, a smile started to crack the chilly exterior of Erika's face. In a deepened voice the response came, "I never told ya I was straight...I only told ya I wasn't interested." "What the hell is wrong with me? My god she is gorgeous...look at that body...and she made it pretty obvious she was interested.'s been a long time too. I am single and not even seeing anyone..."

All sorts of thoughts were swirling in Erika's head, things previously not considered also made an appearance. "What would Cynthia think? Would I disappoint her, would I hurt her?" All of this happened in a matter of seconds, almost overwhelming Erika's thoughts but not affecting her impassive façade.

"So...are ya?" the younger woman asked.

"Am I what?" the disinterested raven-haired woman asked in response.

"Are you family?" the newcomer questioned.

"What? mean am I gay? Yeah 'spose I am. Still, there is someone back home I am kinda involved with." She doesn't need to know anything more than that.

"Well....lucky gal I'd have to say" Liani again cast a sidelong glance, practically undressing the taller woman with her slate blue eyes. Hope she knows how to keep her mitts on you.

Time at training camp passed quickly with the students working in the field and in the classroom from practically dawn till dusk. Exhausted most days neither had found much time to do anything but keep their mind on the instruction. Because of the critical nature of making one little mistake, it wouldn't do to be less than 100 percent present in the seminars, mentally and physically, so the faculty followed strict guidelines not allowing outside trips or contact for the entire course.

The night before graduation from the academy, the students were allowed to go out because only the completion ceremony remained. Erika would have preferred to skip the ceremony having an extra day back home but it was a requirement to attend the celebration.

"So, bud...whatcha wanna do tonight?" Liani asked her training partner and roommate. The rocky beginning with which the women began had forged into a tenuous friendship molded through many hours of intense training and de-briefing, not to mention the sharing of a bathroom.

"No thanks, I'm not in the mood." The woman responded, not looking up from the first newspaper she had read in weeks.

"Aw come on...we made it through this hell training, least we can do is paint the town." Liani marched over to Erika's side of the room and grabbed the paper out of the older woman's hands, forcing her to look up. "Pleaseeee." She pleaded with an exaggerated pout, grabbing the muscular forearm of her friend and pulling her up from the bed.

"Ok...ok, but I have to throw on something to wear and I don't want to stay out late, I have to go from here to the airport then to work tomorrow afternoon."

"I promise, cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, scout's honor we'll get home early." the chestnut haired beauty held up four fingers.

"Somehow," Erika declared "I doubt you were ever a Girl Scout."

"Yeah well, you're right, but I have had my share of brownies." Liani grinned, putting her tanned arm around Erika's waist and then guided her toward the bathroom. "Go get ready will ya? There is a whole fresh market of women who haven't met me yet and I certainly don't want to deny them the pleasure." she finished with a push.

"You are such a dog, you know that?" Erika chuckled as she closed the bathroom door.

The taxi ride to the cop "hang-out" was uneventful. Erika and Liani each had a beer and played a game of pool. They were evenly matched in their skill, Erika getting the winning edge when a blonde woman in a tight leather skirt walked in front of the table when Liani was ready to hit in the last ball. Instead of the clack of balls meeting, she heard the whoosh of air as she missed the cue ball altogether.

"Damn, you sure are easily distracted." Erika playfully teased.

"It's been a month and you haven't exactly been cooperating with my needs you know." Liani joked in return.

Erika began to speak but Liani interrupted before she was able to say anything.

"Yeah I know, there is someone back at home and you are being a good girl. Well everyone is naughty given the right circumstances. I just haven't figured out your weak points yet." Liani paused, "that doesn't mean I have given up looking though."

Erika rolled her pale blue eyes. "I thought we were done with this subject."

"I am never done, but I'll back off...for now anyway." She said flashing her white teeth. "Hey, let's blow this joint. I heard of a more, ummm, comfortable place for us girls to relax in. It's not far from here, we can walk over there."

Erika was feeling relaxed due to the beer and the friendly banter. "Ok, but remember your promise, I need to get back and get some beauty sleep."

"Yeah, right. That is definitely not something you need, if you get any better looking I won't be able to control myself dear. But yeah, I remember, get you back to the room early. Got it. Now...can we go?"

Erika crunched her eyebrows together in an exaggerated thinking expression, then halfway lifting the side of her mouth in a smirk, she responded. "Ok fine...I won't have you to bug me anymore. Come on." She hopped off the uneven wooden bar stool and with a flourish, motioned for Liani to follow her.

The women walked the half mile quickly, filling the time with comfortable raillery. Arriving at a large warehouse, they opened the heavy, wooden door to enter a dim hallway pulsing with the sounds of thumping bass, turned up so loud the words were unintelligible.

Erika coughed when she took the first breath in the building. "Damn, I hate when I can see the air I breathe. I think I'll just throw away my clothes after tonight too, they are going to stink. Yuck!" She commented, squeezing her nose shut with two fingers.

"Aw, it's not *that* bad. You're exaggerating. But, hey, feel free to throw away your clothes anytime you want to as long as I am around to see."

The women reached the heavyset door person and paid their money to gain entry to the club. The casually dressed women walked into the main chamber of the establishment, bypassing the dance floor and finding themselves pushed up against the bar by the wall of sweating human flesh crowding the night club.

"Well, you sure know how to take a gal to a classy spot, doncha?" Erika was almost yelling above the pounding music to be heard.

Liani shrugged her shoulders. "Hey since you are just standing there, why don't you get us some drinks?"

Erika leaned against the mirrored bar and caught the eye of the bartender at the other end. Piercing blue eyes in a steeled stare tended to get quick service. The bar keep picked up a rag to wipe her hands but when she saw the expression on Erika's face, she dropped the towel and went to take her order passing over others who had been waiting longer.

"What'll ya have?" the blonde asked attempting a smile.

Before the brunette woman could answer, another bartender came over handing two drinks to her. "Here, compliments of the ladies." Nodding her head towards two women at the other end of the bar. Erika accepted the tall drinks, smiling at the women. Turning around, she handed one of the libations to her partner.

"What are these?" a perplexed Liani asked. "I thought you would order a beer for me."

"The gals down at the end of the bar sent them over. Far be it for me to be rude." Liani shrugged again at Erika, then grabbed her hand to guide her through the mass of bodies. They stopped at a semi-secluded spot underneath a set of stairs where two tables had been shoved to utilize the small space. The walls and ceiling covered with red synthetic carpet helping to absorb some of the loud throbbing melodies.

"So, is this really the kind of place you like to come to?" Erika asked after taking a taste of her drink. "Hey this is pretty good," she said after taking two more sips of the amber liquid. She quickly downed the rest of the delicious drink and indicated to the waitress to bring another round.

"Whatever they put in this is really, really good!" Erika slightly slurred after her third drink. Liani was humored by this. She had been nursing her drink and not even started on the second one. Since neither of them had eaten anything since the dry vending machine turkey sandwiches this afternoon, she hadn't wanted to get drunk. Liani enjoyed seeing the usually reserved woman become a bit more animated with the more she drank.

One of the women from the bar approached. "Wanna dance?" Erika responded too quickly. "Sure! I love this song!" Liani looked at the duo astonished at Erika's willingness to dance with someone she didn't know. Wow, she's another person when she loosens up. And boy can she dance, who knew?

As the strands of Gloria Estefan's latest hit wound down, the dancers slowed down with the beat of the new song. Walking resolutely over to the two dancers, Liani snuck up behind Erika sliding her arms around her from behind and pulling her close. The other woman merely walked away assuming there was a relationship between the two women and didn't want to interfere.

Liani's hands allowed themselves permission to roam along the taller woman's hips, moving her in time to the slow, Latin beat...

A smoky room, a small café

They come to hear you play

And drink and dance the night away

I sit out in the crowd And close my eyes

Dream to mind But you don't know

You don't even know that I'm there

Erika closed her eyes and leaned into the heat coming from behind her. Let it be her. I want this to be her touching me.

 Larger hands covered the smaller, insistent ones moving with bold caresses, rapidly igniting out of control.

I wish that I was in your arms

Like that Spanish guitar

And you would play me through the night

Till the dawn

Liani led the ardent display; Erika didn't resist. Bodies were pressed together so tightly not even air was able to penetrate between them. Swaying to the erotic music, the two moved toward the cubbyhole where they had formerly been seated.

Liani's progress was abruptly stopped by a wall. Leaning further into the object of her desire, and she used the obstacle as leverage, permitting her to rub up and down against the firm posterior.

I wish you'd hold me in your arms

Like that Spanish guitar

And you would play me through all night long

All night long I'd be your song, I'd be your song

Erika had her eyes closed throughout this exhibition, not feeling the jealous stares of most of the patrons upon them. It was unusual for the normally poised police officer to allow herself the freedom to relax, especially not in public. Her emotions, and the alcohol, overloaded her senses.

Liani, keeping her hands on her prize, moved around the front of the bigger woman.

"Don't stop." Erika whimpered. She threw her head back against the wall, offering her throat to be explored. Liani took no time in accepting the proffered gift.

Kisses, deep and passionate, were deposited anywhere a bit of skin was exposed. Signs of desire were left behind as dark marks on the previously unblemished skin. Moans became more insistent as the quest for mouth to mouth contact came closer to fruition.

Still hypnotized by the beat of the song, Erika grabbed hold of the back of the smaller woman's head, pulling her lips to the target.

"Oh Cynthia...god yes." She murmured into the other woman's mouth. The words came without thinking. Gradually, the blue eyes opened to the face of the woman she........loved?

Finding the now familiar features of her roommate, Erika was jarred back to reality. She pushed away, thoroughly disgusted with how far she let things go.

Liani's brows were furrowed reflecting the confusion at the rapid turn of events.

"I'm sorry. I have to go." The usually unflappable woman ran out of the dance bar, leaving behind a very perplexed and excited, lady.


The extraordinary brightness of the sun elicited a groan out of the dozing woman. She opened one bleary eye to look across the room to see if her roommate was waking up as well. Instead of seeing a sleeping figure, she was looking at a bed that hadn't been slept in, or at least appeared that way.

"Great," Erika said aloud, "just great. Hell, I don't know what is worse. Dealing with this right now or having it drag out until I can explain what happened last night."

Erika padded to the bathroom. Cupping her hands under the water, she collected a handful and splashed the ice cold liquid on her face. Blindly reaching behind her, she grabbed the fluffy white towel draped over the door handle. She briskly dried her face, then turned to her toothbrush. As she looked at herself in the mirror with foam from the vigorous brushing surrounding her mouth, she noticed something on her neck.

"Shit." Erika rummaged around in Liani's make-up bag looking for concealer. "Wouldn't you freakin' know." Appalled once again by her actions the night before, she applied the cosmetic thickly. Unable to cover the blemishes completely, she ambled to the closet to look for a dark blue turtle neck shirt to wear under her uniform.

Reminiscent of the first day they met, the door barged open with Liani looking unaffected from the night before.

"Hiya, just wanted to make sure you made it today. Didn't want you to get in trouble."

"About last night..."

"No," Liani interrupted holding her hand up "you told me you weren't interested and I pushed. I just thought you were into it too is all. "

Erika took four long strides and was standing beside the person with whom she had shared the last few weeks. Grabbing her by the arm, she directed her to the bed and pushed her to sit.

"I have to explain and you are going to listen. *I* was the one who had too much to drink. *I* was the one who allowed things to get out of hand. *I* am the one who has all the problems. Not you. Look, I didn't want to like you...but I do. I didn't want to be attracted to you...but I was. But...there is someone else who is in my mind...someone I was pretending you were last night and that wouldn't have been right. I can't use someone like that." Erika paused, a hurtful remembrance passed through her memory, obvious by the darkening of her pale blue eyes.

Taking a moment to compose herself, "I...ah...I've done it before and all it does is leave me feeling empty and guilty that I hurt someone. I don't want to feel that way again." deciding to leave any further explanation for another time.

"You are a great person and I really like you-- as a friend. You are gorgeous and I am sure the right person is out there for you. Just like she is for me. I can't risk losing anything right now until we figure out what it is we have. If I had let it go any further...and I did want to go further, I would have taken that risk of screwing up. I don't know why, but I do know I am not willing to risk that. Just know that there isn't anything about you that is the problem. I am not really good at this sensitive chat thing but ..."

"Well...aren't you awfully full of yourself." Liani interrupted. "What makes you think I wanted anything more than to jump your bones? Come on, I wasn't asking for a lifetime commitment you know. I just wanted sex. No biggie. We don't need to get all worked up over this. You said no. Someone else said yes. I'm happy. I shouldn't have started it anyway." She paused then visibly mellowed.

"Look...I thought about it a lot after you left last night. That is why I decided not to follow you. I don't want to screw up what *we* have." Liani pointed at Erika, "you," and then set her hand on her own chest, "and I."

"I like you, it would be nice for a change to have a friend," she paused then added quietly "not another notch on my lipstick case." In a rare moment of vulnerability, "I can get laid anytime, but well, I don't have too many friends.'d ya like to be one?" Reaching her hand out toward her chum, she offered, "friends?"

"Friends." Erika said with a genuine smile. "So wanna put last night behind us?"

Liani rose off the bed. "One last thing I want to say and then we will put this all behind us. I have never had anyone turn me down before in my life. I've also never had anyone be faithful before in a relationship. I hope this girl of yours knows what she has."

"She will, trust me, she will." Erika declared, then added with a twinkle in her eye. "If not, I might be giving you a call."


Cynthia was becoming more and more excited about the upcoming introduction. She didn't want to take any chances so she checked the vacation book to see if the day that Erika was coming back was available. It was. She requested that day off on vacation. When it was approved, she called Erika's sergeant to see if she could surprise her friend and be assigned as Erika's ride-along. He agreed and it was all set a week in advance.

Cynthia made it to the precinct in time for roll call. She kept looking at all the female officers who sat down, glancing at the nametags, looking for the one that said 'Dillinger'. Nothing. Roll call came and went and Cynthia was sent out with another officer.

The officer Cynthia was riding with was named Lance...Lance Justice. "I'll bet you get lots of jokes about your name," Cynthia said to him when they were introduced. "Ummm, no...why would you say that?" he deadpanned back to her. Then he smiled...big. He had a gleam in his eye and his cheeks were crimson when he smiled. They were going to hit it off just fine.

Before they were going to leave the precinct, the sergeant came up and said that Erika would be in, but her flight had been delayed. They would not say anything to Erika but the desk officer would type a message to Cynthia when Erika made it in and they could come back to the precinct and still surprise Erika.

Right when Cynthia and the officer left the precinct they got a call from dispatch.

"674. A report of a family beef, male versus female, male half is armed with a gun. He is threatening to kill himself, has gun to his head according to the female."

A family disturbance is the most dangerous call of all outside of a traffic stop. The information gathered from the neighbor was that the male half of the disturbance had recently found out his wife was cheating on him and he had also found out he had cancer. This made for a very volatile situation all the way around.

Lance turned on his siren and took off quickly to the address they were given. The dispatcher was sending three additional cars along with Lance and Cynthia.

"674 and the other cars responding on the disturbance. The male half has gone outside still armed with the gun. Described as a white male, 34, 6'1, 190 pounds, brown hair, goatee, white t-shirt and red shorts. Keeps pointing the gun to his head and then points the gun at the house. Made statements to wife earlier today that he wanted to die and he wanted officers to kill him."

When they heard this information, Lance turned to Cynthia and showed her where the shot gun was in the car, just in case anything happened. Suicide by police was becoming more and more common as they both knew. It is one of the most cowardly acts, making someone else kill you. Not to mention selfish. Fortunately, the police bureau had done lots of training in this area to exhaust all avenues possible to get the people the necessary help, not to mention the use of less lethal weapons.

"Hey, Lance...over here." Mike was on duty and was one of the first officers on scene. Lance was trying to find a place to park a little way away from the situation, as it is not a good idea for an officer to park right in front of the bad guy's address.

Lance maneuvered his police car behind Mike's rig.

"Hey, Cynthia...You stay here, ok? Mike and I will go in and handle it. We should be able to catch up with Erika over coffee or something...don't worry, we'll find her." Lance jumped out of the vehicle and ran over and put his arm around Mike. "Man...I just hate these kinda calls. We always end up to be the bad guys!"

Mike and Lance stood back until more cars met up with them. They were trying to make the best of a bad situation. They were joking back and forth...trying to lighten things up. The sergeant had come on the radio and advised he wanted no one to go inside until he was able to get to the location.

Suddenly a red-headed woman in a yellow print dress, came running over toward the group of police officers.

"I climbed out through the bathroom window...He is berserk...You have to help, you have to help...My daughter is still inside...I couldn't get her out." The woman ran to Mike and was shaking him by the shoulders. "PLEASE...please help us!" she pleaded to him.

"Yes, ma'am. That is what we are here for; we are going to help him. We'll get your daughter out safely, don't you worry," Mike said to her while looking over at his buddies hoping someone would interrupt.

"Please...please...I don't know what I am going to do...Please don't let him hurt our daughter."

"Shit..!" thought Mike..."I am really no good at this stuff." "It's ok, ma'am. We are going to do our best to get everyone out and get your husband the help that he needs." Mike was starting to sweat on his upper lip and his brows. It wasn't because of the seriousness of the situation but rather having to do the comforting thing.

"Man...Where the hell is my slacker partner," Mike mumbled to himself.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a husky out of breath interrupted Mike's conversation with himself. "Here I am" Erika said from behind.

"Fuck...where did you come from?"

"Paybacks are a bitch, huh, Mikey?" then in unison, they both announced, "just like my ex-wife." causing both to chuckle. Realizing this was probably not a good time to be joking around, Erika cleared her throat and straightened her posture to appear more professional. "Anyway, I came straight from the airport. My plane was delayed and, right after I got to my car in long-term parking, I got the page that there was a problem out here. I made it as fast as I could."

The woman was looking back and forth between Erika and Mike. Erika looked at Mike. He had these great eyes he could use to put a puppy dog to shame. Right now he was using them to their full advantage. Erika just grinned at him...she went over and put her arm around the woman.

"Ok, ma'am. Can you tell me what prompted this today...?" was all Mike heard as Erika gently guided the frightened woman away from the scene.

Erika came back after about 15 minutes, in her full SWAT gear and with a few new toys on her utility belt.

"You don't have to thank me, Mike. I dumped her off with the Sarge. He is trying to gather some info 'bout the lay-out of the inside of the house."

Mike gave Erika his practiced "cute" smile...the one that usually attracted all the girls. "I knew you would save me, partner...I got this feeling you would be here in time," he said in his most innocent voice.

Cynthia had the radio tuned to the tactical channel. It was going on an hour since they first arrived and she had been monitoring the incident on the radio. It didn't seem to be progressing very much. She did hear that Erika had arrived and had been trying to get a look at her but was too far from the action to get any kind of view. "I can't believe I am only about 100 yards from her.,.Damn.,.What is it going to take?"

"SWAT62 We have a visual on the male," came screaming out on the radio. "He has what looks like explosives strapped to his chest."

"Dispatch," the sergeant's voice boomed over the air, "we need to make arrangements to evacuate at least a 3 block radius for now. Contact the transit police and get a bus out here for the residents, and get me the PIO and the hostage negotiation team."

"Oh, man," thought Cynthia, " ...this isn't looking good. It seems so exciting out there. It's even exciting when I am sitting at the dispatch center because I know what is going on. But this really sucks being stuck in a car not able to do anything. I am so far away from the action..maybe I can just get out and stretch my legs."

Cynthia snuck out the driver's door, not wanting to let anyone see her get out. It was so hot and stuffy in the car, not to mention the inherent stench from wayward bodily fluids that is prevalent in police cars.

"Oh, much better," Cynthia said to no one in particular. "I wonder if I should take the shotgun?" she thought to herself. "Nahhhhh, I am right here by the cars and the house is far enough away.,.I'll be fine." Cynthia sat down on the street in between two police cars and did some stretches. She leaned her head against the car door and shut her eyes, letting out a heavy sigh. She focused on the radio ignoring all other sounds around her.

With her eyes closed she could relax enough to allow herself to feel the tension but feel safe at the distance from the incident. She tried to make out the voices in the distance that were not coming over the radio. She could hear a command from the sergeant every now and then. The afternoon had been hot and sunny. Sweat occasionally would build up on her brow and the dispatcher would wipe it off without even thinking about what she was doing. Her mind was focused on her reason for being at this place at this time. That reason being a police officer that was more and more often invading her thoughts.

"How can someone I have never even met do this to me?" she thought. An automatic grin surfaced on her face. It was slight but it was there. In fact, it was there whenever she thought of the person who had become her friend. "Or is she more than a friend?" Cynthia pondered. "Well, whatever..,We'll never know if this doesn't hurry and get resolved." With that thought, the woman again wiped her brow and lifted her sleeveless blue blouse away from her skin several times creating an artificial breeze to cool down.

The man had gone back inside his house...every now and then he would come outside taunting the police officers. He knew they wouldn't do anything because he had his 6-month-old daughter with him every time he came out. Not to mention the flashbangs and hand grenades he had bought off the internet. He knew they wouldn't mess with him. He would show his wife who the important person was around here! Yeah he would show her what a real man was like.

The officers still had sight of the man when suddenly he put down the infant on the front lawn and went inside. The baby was clad only in a diaper and a thin t-shirt. Mike and Erika looked at each other, perplexed at the man's actions. They certainly had not anticipated this turn of events.

The sergeant came on the radio and directed Lance to go and retrieve the child from the front lawn. Naturally, the babe had no clue what was going on and was gooing and cooing to itself, happily laying in the yard. Lance had prior training in the Explosive Device Unit when he was an EDU officer a few years before. He quickly checked the kid for any visible booby traps. The blond officer carefully grabbed the child with his broad, strong hands and took the doll like creature over to where the sergeant and lieutenant were standing at the command post. Lance held the child close, in a way trying to shield her from any more of the trauma she had unknowingly suffered.

The mother of the infant was inside of the command post and almost tripped over her own feet trying to get to her child. The sense of relief was apparent as Lance walked with larger than normal steps, trying to reunite mother and daughter as sweat visibly ran down his face. The officer, having seen worse situations, was deeply affected by this scenario. He trembled as he gave the child to its mother knowing how he would feel if one of his kids had been in the same position.

Parent and child were unharmed and together. Probably one of the biggest challenges in these situations was getting the innocent people out safely. Now the main goal, getting this man out of the house and to mental health treatment he desperately needed.

Erika lifted her arms above her head after putting her weapon down. She stretched her arms as far over her head as they would go, hearing her joints pop. She stood up straight and tried to touch her shoulder blades together. Erika rested her head against her right shoulder and rotated it around to the other shoulder trying to elongate her neck muscles. She was stiffening up after being in the same position for hours. She had nothing to do but watch the house. Mike was nearby, but not within speaking distance. It was hard to be ready for the worst yet just have to sit while waiting for it to happen.

"Hey...need some help?" Lance came up to Erika's position on the perimeter, putting his hand on her shoulder and gently rubbing it.

"Nah...just sitting around, doing nothing, waiting for that weirdo to make a move. Ohhhh, that feels gooooood, thanks," Erika moaned. "Hey! What are you doing here anyway?" She turned to face her friend, then added in a serious tone, "You aren't supposed to expose my position, you know."

"Not to worry, dear. I had permission from the sergeant. I just wanted to come tell you something." The blonde man smiled one of his trademarked big smiles and didn't say a word.

"And that something isssssssss...?" Erika raised her eyebrows and looked at him expectantly, widening her eyes.

" hey, you know that hot little number up in dispatch that plays for your team?" Erika's eyebrows squeezed together in a confused expression then as if a light bulb came on above her head, she responded, "Cynthia?" Slightly tilting her head to the right averting her eyes from his, "What about her?"

"You know, you don't fool me. I know there is something going on between the two of you. I have seen the way she gets all goo goo eyed talking about ya." Lance elbowed Erika in the ribs.

"What do you mean, the way she gets all 'goo goo eyed' talking about me? You don't even know her, " Erika stated confidently. "Don't be making up crap and spreading rumors, dude. It's not your style."

"Oh, that's right...You don't know yet, do you?"

"Know what?" Erika gave Lance one of her trademarked scowls, the one that usually would get the criminals to confess everything rather than face her wrath.

"Your girlfriend...she's right over there," he said with a throw of his head toward the sea of police cars a block away. "This was our first call out, she was supposed to ride with you, remember? I took pity on her. Ok, well, the Sarge asked me to take her out until you got in from the airport to pick her up."

"Remember...? I had no idea."

"Oh, how cute! Your little girlfriend was going to surprise you, huh?"

Erika grabbed Lance's arm tightly. "Look, " Erika said in a low and threatening voice, "she is not my girlfriend and don't be making fun of her or me, got it?" She tossed his arm aside.

"Hey...hey...Don't get all psycho on me. I was just messing with ya. I just wanted to come over and tell you that she was waiting for you over at my car. She's been there since this thing started and I'll bet she is tired of waiting. I was going to go offer to call someone to give her a ride home. Just thought you would want to know is all. You know I wouldn't say anything to anyone else. Like you said, it ain't my style."

"Yeah, I know...Sorry." Erika backed down. "It's just all this tension. I get tired of all the waiting," she explained.

Suddenly, there was a noise that got the attention of the officers; a loud, undecipherable yell came from above. All of the officers surrounding the house looked up to try and determine the source of the discord. It was the disturbed man. He had somehow gotten onto the roof and had some of the weapons behind him scattered haphazardly.

His state of mind was apparent in his appearance. He still had explosives of some sort strapped to his chest. His shirt underneath looked tattered with the buttons misaligned. His pants were white denim and stained with oil and with what seemed like blood. His dishevelment was overshadowed by the wild look in his eyes. So obvious was this lunacy, the officers surrounding the house were all able to see it. It was the look that would make mothers hurry their children to the other side of the street, a look that would evoke terror in the hearts of someone alone in an alley...the look of a madman.

Erika and Lance both looked up as he looked down seemingly right at them, and simultaneously whispered under their breath, "Oh shit." The 'oh shit' phase of an incident was something that even experienced cops hated as it usually meant things were either out of control or soon going that way.

The man ran his hand through his hair, standing proudly. When his eyes met the eyes of the officers, a slow, savage smile crossed his face. He had picked his target. He put his gun down and within a split second he moved back inside the house.

A voice in hushed tones came across the radio. "All units get ready, we are going to shoot tear gas inside." Then, in a slightly louder tone, "Dispatch, we are going to shoot the street lights out, in case you get any calls about shots in the area, then we are going to shoot tear gas in. Any calls are probably going to be about us."

"Dispatch copies, sir," the composed voice on the other side spoke.

The sergeant walked over to Mike and Erika.

"Dillinger, I want you to take the .22 and shoot out these four lights," indicating the street lamps directly in front and across the street from the target house.

"Jones," the sergeant looked at Mike, "you cover Dillinger. After she takes out the lights I want you to blast his ass with tear gas. You need to try and make the entry at this point," he said pointing out the northwest corner window on the hand-drawn map of the house.

"Gotcha Sarge," Mike nodded his head in understanding.

Looking seriously at both of his officers, he continued, "You two are the best I have. There is no doubt in my mind we can get this resolved without hurting any innocent parties. Hopefully the gas will work, but if it doesn't, we can use the remote camera from EDU and get a visual inside the house. I had a situation go down a while back where the bad guy holed himself in the bathroom and shoved towels under the door. The gas never penetrated. We kept shooting it and he never came out. I swear I thought for sure he'd offed himself. I get the feeling though, this guy isn't going to off himself, he wants to go in a blaze of glory, so let's not give him the chance, ok?"

"You got it Sarge," Erika braced the small caliber rifle against her shoulder, preparing to fire at the streetlamps.

With sure, exact shots, she eliminated the light source, completing her assignment. Within seconds, a louder report followed by the sound of breaking glass, confirmed the placement of the gas canisters.

Erika automatically lifted the front of her t-shirt she wore under her kevlar vest over her mouth and nose. Too many times had she gotten too close, or had the wind bring the smell of the tear gas to her. It was a smell hard to describe but impossible to forget. Probably the closest description would be that of sulfur, harsh lye toilet cleaner and thick smoke all mixed together. Just the thought of smelling that odor again made her nose burn and her eyes water all over again.

As Erika walked to put the .22 caliber weapon away, she remembered when she and Mike first went through the SWAT training together. They had to go into a gas chamber. This was done to get the SWAT officers used to its effects so they could operate in it.

Erika went first. She was led into what looked like an old warehouse. It was reminiscent of a bad cop movie with a solitary chair in the middle of the echoing room. Bare light bulbs hung from the ceiling by a solitary strand of electrical wire. A spotlight focused all its intensity on the chair, appearing that the room was set up for a confession rather than training.

As Erica moved to the chair, she was handed a gas mask to put over her face. Her orders were to: after the trainer left take the gas mask off, do 10 push ups, sing The Star Spangled Banner, 30 sit-ups, 30 jumping jacks, count to 20 and then leave.

The whole affair lasted about five minutes but it felt like hours. Erika finished what she had to do and ran out, gulping at the fresh air and wiping the secretions coming from her eyes and nose.

Mike was next up. He entered a few minutes later after the air had been cleared. He was given the same instructions. When he had completed everything asked of him, he reacted much more strongly than Erika had. He ran from the building heading blindly to the nearby stand of trees, vomiting everything he had eaten that day and wiping the trails of mucous pouring from his nostrils with the back of his hand.

Erika laughed as Mike crashed face first into a tree. He regained consciousness only to be the butt of all the jokes made that day. I'd forgotten all about that, Erika thought with a sly grin, I'll have to remember to call him "bark face" today.


Everything that could be done had been done at this point. It had gone from some light from the setting sun, to no light in a matter of 30 minutes and with the street lights out it was totally dark.

The heat of the earlier day had dissipated. Cynthia had considered leaving the incident earlier but it was hard to walk away from a situation. It was like a car wreck or a house fire; human nature draws us all to tragedy. Plus it was fascinating to watch the other part of her job in person.

"Oh quit fooling yourself, you know why you are still here, and it sure isn't for job experience," Cynthia mused. "It's just because you want a glimpse of her. Once you heard her taking her position over the radio, you knew you would be here for this to play out."

Cynthia was still trying to stay hidden, after all she didn't want to be a target, but she wanted to take a look. She could make out shadows about a block away. "One of those is probably her, damnit. What the hell is trying to keep us apart?" she whined, sounding not unlike a petulant child refused her favorite toy.

While Cynthia was lamenting her luck, Erika was focusing on the easternmost window of the blue house. It was the kind you had to crank open. Erika was staring at the window so hard it was amazing she didn't create a hole in it with her steely glaze.

The hairs on the back of the officer's neck suddenly stood on end. She wasn't sure if she saw the window move slightly or if she imagined it. Again the window appeared to move and again, there was a sinking feeling in her stomach...but yes it was a definite move. The end of the gun came out of the window. Due to the angle, it was not pointed at her and Mike's position, rather it was pointed at the police cars nearby.

"Oh my god, nooo." Erika's gut tensed when she realized where the gun was targeted. "Mike, cover me," she said tersely.

"Where the hell are you going?" he questioned.

"Shit, didn't Lance tell you? Cynthia's over there," she said, pointing at the cars. "I've got to go."

"Cynthia the dispatcher? " Mike said in a surprised voice to Erika's departing backside. She heard him but didn't want to take the time to slow down her sprint to answer. Mike continued the watch and 10 seconds later was rewarded with the entire window popping open and the gas-masked miscreant taking a shot in the direction of the cars and the running police officer who had almost reached them.

"Cynthia, get down!" Erika's scream coincided with the all too familiar pop of a discharged firearm. With all her being, she willed herself to make it in time to find her friend. Out of the corner of her eye she saw movement and just threw herself in that direction.

If anyone were watching they would have said it was not humanly possible for the cop to cover the distance she did in one leap, but she attained the impossible. Erika knew the projectile was coming just from the sound but this didn't deter her, it only strengthened her resolution. With every ounce of strength in her body, she leaped a distance of 20 feet finding her target and tackled the smaller woman trying to stay out of the way of the tactical incident.

She landed over Cynthia's back, wrapping her arms around her and then rolled away further from the cars. In doing this, she ended up on her back and then shoved the dispatcher away, taking the full brunt of the explosive that went off next to her head.

The man shot a stun grenade at the officer about 5 seconds before Mike applied his training and fired one clean shot into the man's forehead with his bolt gun. The last thing said on the radio before the explosion was Mike, breathing heavily, saying, "The suspect has been secured." After that, chaos reigned.

An ambulance was already at the scene, parked back behind the police cars, waiting, hopefully in vain, for any injuries that could be incurred with the high-risk event. Unfortunately, this was not the case. As soon as there was clearance to enter the scene, the paramedics rushed to the two women near the patrol cars.

One of them was obviously more injured than the other, both having been hit by some type of fragments from the explosive. The crew quickly triaged the patients, grabbing the more injured patient and calling for a second lights and siren ambulance for the other one.

The crew determined that both patients were stable and their injuries really looked worse than they were; but due to the severity of the burns on the police officer's face, they took her code three with lights flashing and sirens blaring to the hospital.

By the time they arrived, there was already a sea of blue waiting to greet their injured colleague. Grimaced expressions appeared as the co-workers saw the condition of their associate. A large, jagged cut ran alongside her face. Her entire face and chest was bright red almost as if she had spent the day at the pool. It was the cut that looked the worst. Blood had soaked the upper part of the blue uniform shirt making it appear black.

The second transport didn't appear as critical. She also had facial lacerations, including a sizable one across her face. There were multiple small cuts and scrapes along her arms and back where her sleeveless shirt hadn't protected her. Because she was thrown out of the way of direct danger it looked as though she had avoided critical injuries.


The ambulance pulled up to the emergency room entrance. The paramedics gently removed the gurney from the back of the vehicle. Although she hadn't fully regained consciousness, Cynthia could hear the paramedics reassuring her.

One of them she had met when he had come to sit along at the dispatch center. He was trying to make jokes about how much blood she had spilled in the rig and how he would get her back when she was dispatching. The other one was saying Cynthia owed them lunch after this, since they were having to clean up her mess. Both hiding their concern for one of their own.

A nurse dressed in regulation whites approached the crew. "Is that one of the ones from the hostage scene?" The nurse's demeanor demanded respect.

"Yes ma'am," one of the paramedics answered. They both were feeling a bit scrutinized right now.

"It's not the suspect, is it? I hope you people are smart enough to take the suspect to a different hospital from where you transport the police. You do know that don't you?" she spat disdainfully. Then she added with an equal amount of contempt, "Take her to room 3, next to the police officer."

The men looked at one another. One was becoming rather perturbed; the other felt as if he were back in 5th grade parochial with Sister Mary Margaret. He was the one who answered. "Yes ma'am. We know the protocol. This is one of the victims," he said sheepishly.

At the answer, Nurse Alison Carpenter turned up her nose in an exaggerated fashion, turned on her heel and stomped away clutching her ever present metal chart holder.

Two hours had passed. Cynthia's wounds had all been tended to. She had regained consciousness and was awaiting transport to her room for at least the night. Since head trauma is such a precarious thing, it preferable she be kept under observation in a hospital just in case there were unseen complications. A plastic surgeon had been called to look at her facial laceration. It would probably leave a scar, but in time, that should fade. Cynthia was bored. She felt like she'd done nothing but wait - first at the hostage scene, now in the emergency room.

"Geez, nothing is going to be easy is it?" she asked herself. Somehow I think it is going to all be worth it.

"Hey there!" The dispatcher was surprised to see Lance enter the room. "So who knew that a ride along with me would be so exciting?" he said smiling.

"Yeah," the dispatcher responded. "After someone's been with you, they are ruined for all the rest," she joked in return.

"Lemme take a look at you," he said, noticing the bandage over her face and the IV hooked up to her arm to re-hydrate after the long hours spent in the sun. "Well I must say, you looked a little better a few hours ago, but all in all, not too bad. At least you look better than your next door neighbor," he said pointing his thumb to the next room.

"Is Erika over there?" she asked astonished.

"Oh yeah. Like you, they are just waiting for a room for her."

" tell me, what happened? I mean, one minute I am sitting there listening to what is going on, and then the next I am being tackled from behind and thrown to the ground. Then I wake up and I hear the paramedics talking about how much of my blood is in the ambulance. What's the scoop?"

"Hasn't anyone told you? Mannnn, word is out all over that Erika is a hero. Mike says that just like seconds before the dude got taken out he shot some kind of explosive thing at y'all. Erika took off and threw herself on you or something."

"Took him out?"

"Yeah, they had to shoot him. He's in the big loony bin in the sky now, dealing with whoever he has to deal with. It's a shame his wife had to see what happened."

"So he's d..."

"Yeah," Lance responded, lamenting the end result of the day, "he is." Regardless of what anyone ever thinks, the last thing a police officer wants to do is kill someone; when it does happen, it is something that follows them throughout their career. "Mike'll be OK, and well your buddy, she looks like she was rode hard and put up wet...umm so to speak." Lance joked to lighten up the mood.

Cynthia blushed at the implication. "Uh you think you can help me get up and walk me over there, I'd like to see her for myself."

"I bet you would," he answered with a wag of his eyebrows.

"What's that supposed to mean?" she questioned, her forehead crinkled at the insinuation.

"Absolutely, positively nothing!" He quickly backed out of the dangerous territory. "I got into this earlier with Rickie and ain't going there again...nope not me."

"What did...?" she began to say as Nurse Carpenter entered the cubicle.

"It's time for your pain killer. And you, " pointing a finger at Lance, "what are you doing here? Visiting hours are over. Get out."

"I'm a peace officer ma'am. I was here getting Ms. Harris' statement." He flashed his badge to verify his story.

"Hmph, well just be quick about it. I am in charge of her and I make sure my patients stay on a schedule." She retorted while administering the medicine in an expert fashion, and swiftly left the room.

"Whoa, what's up with Nurse Ratchet?" Lance shook his hand as if he had touched something hot.

Cynthia smiled. "Well she doesn't have the best bed side manner, but she gets the job done. Every time I am just starting to feel some throbbing, she is in here with my medicine. Maybe we should try and wait till she is off duty before you sneak me over to the next room? Now, back to what we were talking badly is Erika hurt?"

Lance tried to be very aloof in his answer but Cynthia was trained to get straightforward answers out of the most difficult callers at work. Lance was no match for her proficiency.

"So what you are telling me is: they can't tell the damage to her eyes yet, and she lost a lot of blood and has a gash on her face too?"

"Yeah, and her hearing is kinda difficult right now. She can hear but you have to speak a little more loudly than normal. They think that she'll work through that in the next few days though; there was no physical sign of damage. The rest of the stuff is just waiting for a while."

"How long is 'a while' ?" Shit, this is all my fault! Cynthia suddenly felt anxious.

"That's the problem; they don't know yet." Lance's head and shoulders drooped just a tad, enough to show Cynthia how very serious the injuries were.

Both inhabitants of the small, stuffy room were lost in their own thoughts. Neither of them willing to share the worries coursing through their heads.

Luckily, the stern nurse chose this time to pull the curtain back and make her presence known.

"Ms. Harris, we have a room for you; the orderly will be right up to get you. I suggest you finish up whatever you are doing here. It doesn't sound like police business if you ask me." Leaving the curtain open, she walked away.

"I'll take that as my hint to leave," he said, secretly a bit relieved.

"Thanks for stopping by, Lance, and thanks for the exciting afternoon. I can now say I have been injured in the line of duty. How many dispatchers can say that, unless they fall out of their chair or get burned by a latte?" she quipped.

With an overstated bow, he retorted, "I always say to a pretty woman, I aim to please...and with that, fair maiden, I'm off. I bid you adieu and god speed." Backing out of the room, still hunched over, he ran right into Nurse Carpenter.

Cynthia put her hand to her mouth trying to stifle a laugh, realizing for the first time that when she moved, it hurt. Lance was not quite as lucky. He laughed right in the face of the methodical woman who again turned on her heel with a sound, "Hmph."


Erika was settled into the room which would be her temporary home while recuperating. The past few days were haunting her. The thoughts would abruptly end when she got to the part when she saw Cynthia sitting next to the police car, unaware of what the very near future held. Erika would then question everything that had happened.

Could I have done anything differently to get her out safely? Maybe I should have called out to would have gotten her out faster. But then I would have given away her position. Maybe I should have just stood there and taken him out. Surely I could have shot him. No...then he would have still maybe had time to get a shot off.

Erika continued to argue with herself. She didn't accept less than perfection from herself and when she fell short, she would overanalyze the situation, ultimately finding fault in her actions. Most of the time, her actions had been exactly right given the circumstances. Regardless of that fact, she would always guilty for whatever went wrong.

After several moments of self-condemnation, Erika gave up her battle for the unattainable quest for resolution.

What happens if I am permanently blind? What will I do, how can I live?

The television was turned on but only to provide a background sound. She couldn't locate the remote to switch the station, so one of the afternoon soap operas was droning in the background.

"Oh Jack, don't be silly, of course I love you. I'll always love you. Didn't I stand by you when you had the brain tumor? And when you had the split personalities. Not to mention when your twins came back when you thought they had died in the car accident. Just because you can't see now won't change a thing."

"Are you sure Sarah? I don't know if I will be able to please you like a man should."

"Damn...this is the last thing I need to hear," Erika lamented. "Nurse," she yelled abruptly. The on-call nurse ran into the room.

"What's wrong?" She looked around to make sure her charge was not injured.

"Turn the damn TV off," she mumbled.

The nurse couldn't make out what was said. "Are you hurt?"

"Can't you hear me? I said turn the god damned television off....NOW!" she growled.

The mousy nurse promptly did as she was directed then scurried out of the room.

Shit...I sooo didn't need to hear that. I wonder how Cynthia will react if I am blind? Well, I'll probably never find out. She'll probably leave like everyone else has.

A slight rapping on the door interrupted the morose contemplation.

"Ah, Erika?"

"Yesssss?" still in her gloomy place, her answer was surly to say the least.

"Hi. It's me....Cynthia." So immediate was the change in the atmosphere, one could almost visualize black storm clouds parted by the warmth of the sun and blue skies. The glow radiating from the woman in the bed, however came not from sunbeams but rather from the brilliance of her smile.

" are you?" Erika fumbled for adequate words to say, unfortunately, she didn't come up with any.

"I'm doing good. They're releasing me from the hospital today. How about you?"

"Little stiff." She accentuated the point by rotating her shoulders.

Cynthia chuckled. "Just a little stiff, huh? Let's see, you fly in yesterday, get called out to a tactical incident, spend hours in the sun waiting, save my life, and have some kind of device explode just about in your face, and you are only a little stiff?"

"Yeah...something like that."

"Well...I can see we are going to have to do some work with you getting in touch with your feelings, I think."

We? Erika's heart lurched at the casual use of the simple two letter word.

"I wanted to do something to thank you besides just saying, thank you. Um, I've never had anyone save my life before. It seems so inadequate to just say thanks, but thanks." Cynthia went up to Erika's bedside and gave her a small kiss on the cheek.

"So...I was thinking, I didn't exactly have a chance to go find a Hallmark card suitable for the occasion. I had to do the best I could given the circumstances. Besides, we had a date today, do you remember?"

Erika's lopsided grin and slight blush said more than just her quiet, "Yes."

"Since you have those pesky bandages covering your eyes, I am going to describe everything to you." Cynthia sounded rather pleased with herself.

Moving the hospital tray in front of Erika, Cynthia produced a covered plate containing a turkey sandwich, some cooked vegetables and a cup of red Jell-O.

"First for your dining pleasure, I have brought from the finest dining halls in Europe some delicious succulent luscious breast." It was Cynthia's turn to blush. "Um, turkey breast that is, placed delicately over a bed of lettuce and thickly sliced beefsteak tomatoes. The master chef has lightly coated two pliant slices of a light rye grain product with a tangy mustard condiment." With a flourish unseen by her friend, she proceeded to put hospital food down on the tray.

Cynthia, feeling extremely proud of herself, pulled a paper napkin off the tray and put it under Erika's chin. When she did that, she moved the medium length hair to the back, uncovering marks apparent from their partial fading and shape, weren't caused by the explosion.

"Oh." The joyous mood suddenly deflated along with Cynthia's smile. "Uh...I have to be going soon," she said flatly.

"What's wrong?" As soon as she felt the air on her neck, Erika realized what the problem was. Her hand automatically covered her neck.

"Nothing...look, I have some papers to sign and then I am going to have to go and make sure everything is OK at home. I just wanted to stop in and say hi." Cynthia spoke with a calm, controlled voice, the same voice she used at work to keep in charge of volatile situations.

Only this situation wasn't volatile, in Cynthia's world, it was unbearably sad. Her heart felt like it was stuck in a vise and being squeezed tightly. She wanted to get out of the room so she could breathe.

"Cynthia, wait, I can explain," knowing exactly what caused the mood change.

"There is nothing to explain; you don't owe me anything." The words were painful to say and even more so when she heard them spring out of her mouth.

"Yes...yes, I do. I need to tell you want happened. Please sit down. Please." Erika's voice was pleading. "Dammit! I wish I could see you could look into my eyes and see what I am trying to tell you is true." The words were so beseeching, Cynthia couldn't turn away.

"Go ahead and say what you want to say." She stood aloof, not wanting to hear but couldn't make herself not listen.

"The person who came into the room that day I called was my roommate, Liani. She stayed with me and was my the work sense only...during the training camp." Erika's voice started to slow down, the urgency quelled, once it was apparent from the chair scraping the floor that Cynthia had taken a seat.

"Yeah, she hit on me but I told her that there was someone back at home -someone that I was attracted to and that I wasn't interested in her."

The devastation Cynthia felt when she first realized what the marks on Erika's neck were was nearly entirely reversed hearing the words. If Erika had been able to see the astonished but delighted look on Cynthia's face, this conversation would have been done and ending in a kiss.

"You're interested in me?"

"How could you not...why do you..." the words rattled out of Erika's mouth, unable to form a coherent sentence. Erika scolded herself for her loss of imperturbability. "Please, don't doubt that. I thought you knew, that you have known all along, there is something about you. I don't know what it is, but..."

" But we just clicked…I felt it too. It seems like I've known you much longer than a few months..."Cynthia trailed off after finishing Erika's thought.

"And you can finish a sentence for me." Erika smiled for the first time since the explanation began. "I just love.." Erika stopped abruptly, stopping what almost came out with a short, but gaping, pause, "um...that about you."

"Just for the record, Erika. I'm interested too."

Feeling like a child who had just been given the keys to a toy store, "You are?"

Cynthia rolled her eyes. "Yes, very. Even before you saved my life. And before I saw how beautiful you are. I just hope I can live up to your expectations."

"You already do."

Erika spent the next hour explaining everything, in detail, of what happened between her and Liani. She made clear they were now friends, nothing more. Embarrassed about her more than friendly thoughts of Cynthia, she didn't let on that when Liani first approached her, in her mind, it was Cynthia, not Liani touching her.

The on-call nurse tiptoed into the room, afraid of re-igniting Erika's ire.

"Ms. Harris?" she interrupted.

"Yes? How can I help you?"

"Nurse Carpenter called up here looking for you; she asked that you go and sign the papers that need to be signed."

"Sure, I'll be right down. I'm just trying to get this big lug here to eat her food." Cynthia swatted at her hand. The nurse cringed, but when she saw Erika smile instead of explode, she left the room with a perplexed look upon her face. By the time their discussion was over, both women were contented with where the future was taking them.


Erika was still smiling about the visit when her next caller entered the room. Actually it was more than one visitor. Her coworker Tracy barged in, behind him followed two carrot topped freckled-faced clones.

"Howdy partner!" his voice boomed over that of the children who were in awe of their surroundings.

"Look at all the flowers," exclaimed Doug, the oldest at 7 years.

"Daddy, does Aunt Rickie have an owie?" questioned Sally who was 4.

"Yes baby, Auntie Rickie has an owie."

The curly headed girl climbed on the chair to get a better look.

"Honey, I don't know if it is a good idea to get too close to Erika, she might not be feeling too well yet."

"It's ok Tracy." She directed, then in a gentler voice she spoke to where she thought the child was. "Yes Sally, Auntie Rickie got hurt. I'm not in a lot of pain. I probably look much worse than I feel."

The little girl smiled, "When I get hurt my daddy or mommy will kiss my boo-boos and make them feel better. I can make yours feel better too." Said with a confident tone.

"If it is ok with your daddy, it's ok by me." She smiled back.

The pre-schooler reached over, standing on her tip toes to reach the injured parts.

"You sure have a lot of boo-boos to kiss." She said finishing up with a peck over each eye.

"Yes honey I do but don't worry, I'll be back over to push you on your swing set before you know it."

"Me too?" Doug chimed in.

"Yes you too." Erika smiled toward the boy.

"Daddy said that your eyes got hurt. Does that mean you are going to get one of those dogs to help you?"

"Honey! It's not nice to ask questions like that" Tracy wish he had told his children not to ask questions before they came to visit.

"No,'s alright. The doctor says there is a good chance my eyes are going to get better. But if they don't then I might have to get one of those dogs."

"A white stick too?" Sally queried.

"Yes a white stick too."

"Wow." The children said in unison.

"Daddy said that you are a hero. You saved a friend of yours from getting killed by a bad man."

Erika blushed. "I was just doing my job. I got lucky and was able to help my friend. The bad man won't hurt anyone anymore." It was the first time the fate of the man had come to mind. Erika swallowed hard, trying to keep the sadness she felt at bay.

Tracy cleared his throat trying to break the melancholy that suddenly filled the room.

"Well, I just wanted to stop by and bring the kids. Oh and I set a basket of flowers over by the television. Is there anything you want us to do for you while we are here?"

"No, but thanks for offering."

"Ok then kids..go say bye bye to your auntie."

Doug reached over and hugged Erika's arm, trying not to hurt her. Sally, still on the chair, reached over and kissed Erika's eyes again for good measure. "Auntie Erika, my daddy and I are going to add you to our list when we say our prayers. I know you are going to get better."

"Thank you honey." She uttered, thankful that the bandages on her eyes didn't allow anyone to see that a four year old could reduce her to tears.

After they left, Erika sat alone for a while with no interruptions. The questions the children had asked brought forth her own again. She seemed relatively sure that Cynthia would not be put off by a temporary injury, but what would happen if it were permanent?

The funk she had been in before the visit from Cynthia was back again in full force, further disgruntled with her pathetic attempt to feed herself from the tray of food Cynthia had left behind.


"Hey there, bud!" Liani poked her head around the half shut hospital room door.

"What is this fucking Grand Central Station?" Erika asked in a huff.

"Well hello to you too...sheesh, after flying all the way over here, and then driving for a couple hours this is the greeting I get?" she voiced in a light-hearted manner.

"Liani?" Erika questioned even though she recognized the voice. "What are you doing here?"

"Well I was hanging out, and I overheard the team leader talking about you. So I did this stealth thing and snuck up on them and heard that you were injured. I did some fine detective work and well, here I am. I actually had some time scheduled in Seattle because I haven't been there before, but heck, this is close and I have a few days to spare before I have to go back."

Liani glanced over at the partially eaten tray of food beside the bed. The only thing nibbled on was half of a sandwich. The rest of the food was blended together, apparently by the attempts to eat. " enjoying the exquisite hospital cuisine?"

"Oh yeah, it's why I am here, gotta love it."

"Yeah, figured as much. Just didn't have time to go grocery shopping when you got back, did you?" Liani played along with the joke.

"Well, you know no one makes Jell-O quite as well as they do here."

"Oh, let me tell you what happened when you left ..." Liani let Erika in on some of the gossip from the training center. After a few minutes of idle chitchat, Liani could hear Erika's stomach rumble.

"Hey, you really sound hungry; do you want me to help you eat something?" Erika bristled at what was intended to be a considerate act.

"No," she said, a bit too harshly. "I don't need help eating." The messy food tray was in direct contradiction to the statement. "I don't need help with anything. You don't have to waste your vacation trying to feed a beat up blind cop you know."

"Chill. It just so happens I had a chat with the nurse. They are pretty confident about your sight returning. I know you can do things yourself. I just want to help." Liani silently chastised herself for upsetting her friend. "I just figured it would help to get you fed faster if I helped out."

"I'm not an infant. I can do it."

"Alright, alright, suit yourself." Liani tried to lighten the mood. "What would you do if I told you that your gown was on the wrong way and the front was open?"

"I'd say you were fantasizing again." Erika's lopsided grin showed that all was forgiven. "I bet I look like crap, huh?"

"Yeah, you look like you have had better days. Tell me something: how are you feeling?"

"I'm alright," Erika responded in her usual cool manner.

Liani walked up to the bed. "No, I don't mean physically. After that month at the conference, I am convinced you can recover from anything." She tapped Erika's head with her finger, "I mean up here, how are you doing?"

Liani took a seat in the chair situated next to the bed. "I know when I have been involved in big incidents...deadly incidents, like the one you were just caught up in... it kinda screws with my head. I go over and over it thinking I could have done something different, that I should have done something different. But you know do what you can, help the most people. Just make sure you aren't dwelling on anything. Especially things you can't change."

The stoic mask almost broke. "I guess you do know where I am at right now. Yeah, I have a few things to work out, but I'll get through it. I've gone through worse in my life," she said unemotionally.

"Ok, I'm here if you need to talk, ya know." Liani reached for Erika's hand and gave it a firm squeeze to show she was sincere about the offer. Neither woman said anything further, making for a few awkward moments of silence. Liani continued to hold Erika's hand, uncertain of how to break away.

The hospital room door opened with a creak, startling both women. Liani rapidly let go of Erika's hand in an overstated movement, making it appear more was going on than really was.

"Um, hi." Cynthia said, looking between the two. "I ...ah...hope I didn't interrupt anything," she said questioningly, of course not," Liani answered too quickly. She reached out for Cynthia's hand and turned on her charm. "Hi, I'm Liani, and you are...?"

Cynthia's voice immediately became monotone trying not giving away the slight bit of jealousy that remained. "I'm Cynthia."

"Oh wow, I've heard a lot about you. I was at the training conference with Erika."

"Yes." Cynthia cut her off. "I know about you." Making sure the double meaning wasn't lost on the woman. Turning her attention to her friend, "Erika, I was on my way to the mall and I wanted to stop and ask if you needed me to get you anything. Pajamas, slippers or whatever." Although her voice softened a bit, it was very obvious to everyone in the room there would be some explaining necessary. Just not now.

Erika was touched by the considerate gesture. "That is very sweet of you, thank you. I don't need anything right now. Thank you so much for asking," she said with a smile.

"Alright then. I'll be on my way." Then with a nod of her head, "Liani, it's nice to meet you," she said without meaning it. Directing her attention back to Erika, "I'll be back later." Cynthia left the room but made it no more than ten feet away from the doorway before she had to lean against the wall to regain her composure.

Tilting her head against the wall, she closed her eyes and made a conscious effort to breathe deeply in order to slow things down. Shit, she's gorgeous. I'm no competition for that. It's not like Erika and I have anything right now. To hell with that...I have something for her. I know I do, that is why this is bothering me.

After figuring out what the real problem was...that she had feelings for Erika, Cynthia felt the need to think. I'm going to go to the café and have a cup of coffee. The mall is just way too noisy to think there.

Cynthia took the stairs to the main floor and made her way over to the coffee stand. She ordered her favorite coffee concoction, a quad breve latté macciato, and found a corner table to let her drink her elixir in peace.

While Cynthia was considering what her next step would be, Erika and Liani were deliberating as well.

"What do I do?" Erika asked. "I told her everything, and she walks in here and we are holding hands. How is that going to look? She'll never trust me." Erika felt desperate. Of course, her voice didn't give away the emotions she was experiencing.

"It's not that bad. We weren't doing anything. But hey, Rickie, I'll tell you what...I sure understand now why you were minding your p's and q's. She is a total hotty."

"Tell me what she looks like, " Erika asked quietly.

"Why?" Liani was puzzled. "You know what she looks like." After a long second. "Don't you?" she questioned, raising an eyebrow.

"Not really. I saw her from the back before I tackled her. That is the only time I have seen her."

"You mean you turned me down for someone you have never even seen? Shit..." Liani was incredulous. "You managed to leave that information out of every conversation we had about her."

Erika sighed. "I didn't tell you, because I thought I would sound stupid if I said that the person I was interested in....that we had never met. I didn't want you to think it was like we were meeting in the World Weekly News or something, " she explained.

"I have problems expressing myself, but with her it's easy. No, we hadn't met in person, but I swear, she touched...touches something in me. I am not sure what it is, but it is definitely something I want to, something I need to explore." Erika seldom revealed this much information about her emotions, but she had held them in so long she couldn't stop the words from escaping her mouth. She needed someone to listen.

"I've never been one to think that beauty is everything. To me, she is already beautiful. Her voice, her compassion, her gentleness, her trust." Erika's voice almost imperceptibly quivered. It was enough though, to give away her feelings.

"That's what 's important, what's inside... that is all that matters. And that is the stuff I know about her." Erika stopped and gathered in her emotions. "I sound like a Hallmark card now, don't I?" she quipped trying to dissipate the suddenly serious mood.

Liani didn't want the opportunity to pass. "You sound like someone who has it bad, that's what you sound like." The smile on her face was evident in her voice. Then, quietly, she asked, "One thing I am curious about, how do you know you can trust her? I don't want to see my buddy get hurt."

Liani pushed on. "You've pretty much proven she can trust you and she gets all bent out of shape for no reason. But what about her? I've always found the ones who act jealous are the ones who are guilty."

"I trust her with my life," Erika stated plainly.

"Hmm..well...I can't argue with that. You know, ever since meeting you, I have gotten into these heavy duty chat's too much for a shallow person like me, " Liani said with a chuckle. "I'm going down to get some coffee, you want some?"

"No...imagine what I could do to myself with a cup of coffee." Erika felt relieved that this conversation had come to an end.

"Ok then, I'll be back in a few." Liani left the room, trying to figure how to best assist her friend. I've got to be able to do something to see if she is worthy of Erika. It just seems too weird.

Liani unknowingly followed in Cynthia's footsteps. After getting the coffee, she spotted her sitting in the corner, both hands wrapped around the cup. It was raised to her mouth but she wasn't drinking, just staring out into space. Liani gathered her courage and went over to the table.

"Hi, fancy meeting you here." Her voice snapped Cynthia back from her thoughts.

Great just exactly the person I wanted to see the least.

"You mind if I sit with you? I kinda want to explain some stuff." Liani sat without waiting for the go ahead. "I know it looked kinda bad up there, when you walked in. I was just trying to let Erika know I was here if she needed me," she justified.

Yeah right. Cynthia downed the remainder of her drink in a single swallow. "You don't have to explain anything to me. I'm not her keeper. She's free to do whatever she wants with whoever she wants to do it. Now...if you'll excuse me." Cynthia pushed the table away from her a bit. She casually walked over to the trash can and threw her now crumpled cup inside, walking with a confidence she didn't feel.

As soon as she thought Liani couldn't see her, she ducked into the first door she came to. It happened to be the women's restroom. Leaning over the sink, she looked at her image in the mirror. Fuck. You'd think that Erika and I were married, the way this is making me feel. You have to control yourself; don't let that woman get the best of you.

Cynthia splashed her face with some water. She pulled down several towels from the dispenser and cleaned herself up. She threw the paper towels away while reaching for the door. As she pulled it open, there was pressure from the opposite side making it open too fast. It was Liani.

"We have to stop meeting like this." She smiled.

Cynthia was not pleased. "I have stuff to do, pardon me," she stated brusquely.

"OK Liani," she said to herself, "here's your opportunity to see if she is trustworthy or not. You have to do this's what friends do for each other."

Cynthia reached over in front of Liani to pull the door open further. As she did, Liani grabbed her arm and somehow turned the positions around. Suddenly, Cynthia was pressed against the door. The turn of events startled Cynthia. Liani looked into frightened eyes then before she could be stopped, she kissed Cynthia.

Without time to react, Cynthia was at the disadvantage. She tried to pull away; Liani deepened the kiss. Using all the strength she had, she pushed Liani away.

"What the fuck do you think you are doing?"

"What do you mean, don't you want this too?" Liani innocently asked. "Erika won't have to know anything. All I am offering is a good time. And I can guarantee a good time...maybe even the best time in your life," she said smugly.

"You are a freak. Don't you ever touch me again." With a look of pure disgust, Cynthia bolted from the small room, intent on getting out of the hospital and away from Liani.

Liani was nonplussed by the whole scene. She had expected for Cynthia to kiss back at the very least. Hmmm... she turned me down. I think this is a first, twice in one week. Not good for my ego that's for sure. Oh well, it was for the sake of friendship...who knows, maybe she's serious about this whole thing too.


True to her word, Cynthia came back to the hospital room. She of course asked the nurse if anyone was in the room with Erika before going in. The last thing she needs is for me to beat the crap out of her friend in her room.

Erika was asleep by the time Cynthia went in. Tossing and turning, the slumbering woman was mumbling something unintelligible.

Cynthia went to her; any unpleasant feelings from earlier in the day melted away as she stroked Erika's face. Gently caressing her, Cynthia tried to convey in her touch the not yet acknowledged feelings that were bubbling so close to the surface.

"Shh,'s ok...relax, I'm here now," Cynthia whispered, brushing a strand of hair away from Erika's face.

"I've got to save her," was the only thing Cynthia could translate out of the maundering.

"I'm here, I'm safe. You rescued me. Shhhhh...go back to sleep."

Erika, still clearly deep in the arms of Morpheus, calmed hearing the soothing words.

"Yes that's it...relax, everything is going to be ok. We are together now; everything is OK"

"Together," Erika repeated smiling, her sleeping mind readily accepting this possibility.

"Yes...together," she commented, inaudible to anyone but herself. She leaned down and kissed the cheek of the sleeping beauty, giving her time for her own head to try and grasp this idea too.


These chairs were definitely not made for sleeping in, Cynthia thought as she tried to work out the kink in her neck. I must have been tired to fall asleep here or maybe not. A small smile made its way to her eyes as she looked at Erika still sleeping. She started to rise from the hard foam chair, something prevented her.

She looked down and noticed for the first time the hands of her friend intertwined with her own. The sight of this caused her heart to flutter, skipping a beat. Smiling, she reached over with her free hand and tried to gently disentangle their fingers without waking Erika.

As she tried to lift her fingers, Erika's grip became more firm and she turned to her side, tucking the joined hands in close to her heart. Look at how beautiful she is. Even with these bandages, she is incredible. My god, what she can do to me with just a touch.

Cynthia quickly pulled her hand away. Erika stirred just a bit then curled up with her pillow. Cynthia looked down adoringly, her emerald eyes becoming misty with the thought of everything they had gone through in the last few weeks.

There is always a reason for everything. I just have to believe there was some reason for us to meet...something that drew us together. She pulled herself away from the lure of crawling into bed with Erika.

Cynthia walked out to her car. She opened the trunk and pulled out the gym bag with extra clothes and shoes in it. Returning to her friend's room, she silently changed into the clothes and left. Remembering there was a school behind the hospital, Cynthia jogged over to see if there was a running track. There was. She walked over to the area near the track and began doing some stretches, unaware of the eyes intently watching her from afar.


Cynthia had run about 4 laps of the track when she finally became aware of another person running. Their pace was just slower than Cynthia's. A shiver went up her spine. Cynthia began to run a little faster, listening for the footsteps. They increased as hers did. Cynthia was already nervous, and the scraping of the other runner's tennis shoes on the asphalt was adding to her tension.

She allowed herself a quick discreet look to the side she heard the scraping noise coming from. She sped up when recognizing the figure just behind her. Ugh, her again. What the hell does *she* want? Taking the velocity of the other runner as a personal challenge, Cynthia went from jogging to nearly running in an all out sprint. She drew the other person into a race, hoping she would the one who would be the victor.

After about four times around the oval both women began to slow. In a last burst of energy, Cynthia, with a speed even she didn't know she possessed, got about 1/4th of a length ahead, then stopped.

Her rival trailed behind her, slowing her pace once she realized Cynthia had stopped running. Cynthia was bent over, breathing hard, yet the other woman was doubled over, gasping huge breaths of air. When the panting subsided, the loser extended her hand in congratulations.

"Hello, Liani," Cynthia retorted tersely, obviously not happy to be seeing the woman again.

"You're a pretty decent runner. Not bad for having a desk job."

"What do you want?" Cynthia was still a bit displeased at the underhanded tactics the police officer used to get the information she sought.

"I was looking for you to...umm...well to say I am sorry." The words stuck to her tongue like glue. Liani was unused to feeling responsible for any actions she took, much less apologizing for them.

"And you think that is going to make it all better? Just what were you trying to do? You claim Erika is your friend and you try that kind of stuff behind her back?" Cynthia spat out. "I know the way we met might be strange to you, but give me a little credit."

Liani interrupted, "Hey calm down! Look, I was only watching out for my friend. I know there are a lot of cop groupies out there and I didn't want to see her hurt. She has real feelings for you, you know. She's kinda gruff on the outside but once you get past a few really big walls, she's a big softy."

"How dare you think I am a groupie. I am not some kind of whore who goes around trying to fuck everything that walks."

A pained expression formed on Liani's face. "Touché," the woman whispered.

"I am not trying to attack you or your lifestyle, but don't think everyone is that way. I'm not." A sudden realization stopped Cynthia in mid-thought.

"Wait a minute, what do you mean she has 'real feelings' for me? Did she talk about me?" Cynthia's voice softened a bit.

"Well, duh, yeahhhhh...all the freakin' time. That is why I couldn't believe it when she told me she had never seen you before. I mean, look at you, I could see..." Liani grimaced realizing the poor choice of words.

"Well I could understand a little if she knew what you looked like, but only talking to you on the computer and then, like, once on the phone. Get real! That stuff only happens in fairy tales. No one in real life ever meets that way. Then she goes and saves your butt. " She shook her head, the idea so foreign to her it wouldn't find a place in her consciousness.

"I just don't get it. I've heard about love at first sight, don't believe it but I've heard stories. at first e-mail? It just doesn't make sense."

"Love? Who said anything about love?" Cynthia quickly interjected trying to get a reaction.

Liani smacked herself with a hand to her forehead. "Damn, you guys are so dense. Do you need me to hit you upside the head with a clue by four? It is soooo obvious. So I just think you guys are freaks...or geeks... or something. Whatever. I can tell there is something there...Even if I think it is weird, I'm not stupid."

"Shit." Liani took a deep breath. "I really hate all this touchy feely talking stuff," she said, looking off into the distance. "I'm really bad at it." Then she turned and looked Cynthia in the eye. "All I want to say is: I am sorry. I wanted to be sure about things, and you proved me wrong, ok? I don't know what I can do to fix things."

Cynthia stared at Liani. What should I do? I'm still pissed at her, but she *is* Erika's friend. The smaller woman's gaze made Liani feel uncomfortable. She shuffled her feet a bit and averted her eyes to watch the small rocks kicked up by the childlike gesture.

"I'm not saying everything is ok. I don't forgive that easily. After all, first impressions are lasting and the first impression I got of you was...well you don't want to know that, " Cynthia expressed pointedly.

"But...I do see you are Erika's friend, therefore a part of her life. I won't interfere with that. I have one thing to say: don't fuck with us again."

With an abrupt nod of her head Liani agreed. Somehow I'll make it up to them.

With nothing more to say, the two women walked away from the track in separate directions. Both lost in thoughts of the conversation that had transpired.


The hospital room had been eerily quiet since the stream of visitors had abated. Erika could hear the occasional clanging of metal on metal coming from other rooms. She tried to make out what the sounds belonged to what objects. Funny, I thought being blind you were supposed to have this incredible sense of hearing and smell. I don't feel any different and I don't smell different. Erika laughed out loud. She grabbed the front of the hospital gown and sniffed it. Ok well maybe I do smell different. Maybe I can talk the nurse into letting me take a shower today.,.yuck.

She sat in her dark world with her thoughts. The shrill ring of the phone broke the subdued atmosphere. Erika reached around for the telephone, feeling her way until she felt the shape for which she was looking.


"Erika, is that you?" the voice on the other end of the receiver questioned.

"Mom?" Erika felt her breath catch in her throat. It had been at least three years since she heard the voice.

"Someone from the police bureau called me as your next of kin. They said you were hurt," without a shred of emotion in her voice she continued, "what did you do this time? Why is the police bureau calling me? Did you kill someone again?"

Low blow Mom.

"Actually, I work for them now. I have for the last five years. I was out on a ..."

"Whatever. Don't think this changes things. I just wanted to make sure you didn't leave me with loose ends to tidy up. I think I have done my share of that," the clipped tones hid the warmth and tenderness she felt for her oldest child. She couldn't bear the heartache again. If she were to be honest, she just wanted to hear her daughter's voice, to make sure for herself she was alive and well, that would be enough.

"All my ends are tied up, I'm different now, trust me."

"Trust?" The word was spat out. "The last time I did that my life changed forever. I don't know if I have it in me to trust again."

Erika took a moment to respond. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I know there is nothing I can do to make it up, but I have changed, everything is different now."

"I hope so, for your sake, but this is not something 'I'm sorry' will fix. Maybe someday... just not now. Goodbye Erika."

The line disconnected. Erika held onto the mouthpiece, trying to keep open the connection to her past. The years since she moved away from her family and tried to start her life over felt non-existent.

She tried to replace the handset back on the base of the phone. Frustrated at her inability to complete a simple task, she threw it across the room. Placing her head in her hands, she tried hold back the tears that were right at the surface. "What is it going to take for them to believe in me again? To believe I have changed? " Her mind drifted to a time long ago and far away. A time when she was another person.

"I miss you so much," she said aloud, no longer able to contain the tears. "Since you've been gone, I kind of lost my way," she continued speaking to her past. "Now, I found it. I thought I could start over. But no-- They don't trust me. Not even Mother. I can't blame her. She can't see into my heart. But I've got to believe that you can. And I wish you were here. It's hard to be alone."

"You're not alone." The blonde woman said from the doorway she just entered. And if I have my way, you'll never be alone again.


"Cynthia." smiled at the remark. She sat up straight, wiping at her eyes by reflex even though they were still covered by bandages. "Thank you for saying that."

"What's going on? You look you could use a friend about now."

"Just family stuff. No big deal."

"Well, I don't have anything to do right now and it just so happens that I think you are a big deal. Why don't you give me a try, huh? I'm a pretty good listener."

Come on Erika, Liani was talking about trust...let's see if I can do the same. Trust her.

Erika took a deep breath and slowly released it. "There isn't a lot to say." This is going to be hard. A long time ago...about ten years or so I guess, I got into a bit of trouble; ran with a bad crowd --you know the story."

She had never discussed her life with anyone before. She'd never wanted to before. She'll leave me after this. Better now than later though, I want her to know the truth.

Cynthia remained quiet. She gave Erika the time to go at her own pace. Whatever it is, I need to be supportive.

"I hurt a lot of people back then. Due to some of the stuff I did, my dad got hurt. Died actually." Another pause, the pain as fresh as it was when the incident occurred. She felt as if someone had sucker-punched her in the gut. I can get through I *have* to get through this...

"My family tried to help me. They finally gave up a few years ago. I kinda hit bottom when the people I hung out with turned on me. They tried to kill me, but I survived. It made me come to my senses. Get my life back on track. I tried to get back in touch with my family, to apologize for what I put them through, but with everything that happened they didn't want to listen to me. Not that I blame them."

Oh God, no wonder she has such a tight rein on her emotions. I can't imagine how that would make her feel.

Erika stopped to take another drink of water. Although she had her eyes covered with the bandages, she still felt that Cynthia could see the shame on her face and felt in her heart.

"My family only knows I live here, they didn't know until a few minutes ago when my mom called that I am a police officer. They didn't even know if I was alive or dead." She shrugged trying to minimize the pain. "Probably didn't care."

Cynthia had to do something; she couldn't let her go on.

"Oh Honey, that's not true. If they didn't care then your mom wouldn't have called." Cynthia went to the bed and grabbed her hand. "They just don't know that you have turned your life around. I can personally attest to you being a hero. You saved my life, for that I am eternally grateful. Just give me a few minutes in a room with them. I'll make sure they understand you are a different person now."

She didn't run away. Erika's breath quickened with the thought. I have to make sure she understands everything I've done.

"Am I a different person? You don't know everything I have done..."

"Hold it right there! I don't need to be told in detail." Cynthia stated a bit too strongly. She quieted her voice. "I know you...the person you are now is who I l...who I know." Cynthia caught herself before she said something she wasn't ready to reveal.

"You are a good honest person. I don't care what you have done in the past. Whatever it was brought you to this point." Then she added quietly, "here with me."

Tightening her hold on Erika's hand, "I know you still have stuff to deal with, but you know what? I'm here and I'll help. I meant what I said earlier. You aren't alone. Let me help you." Cynthia followed this up with a hug. In hushed tones she spoke into Erika's ear, "please, let me be here for you."

Erika's mind was reeling. She's still here. I've never told anyone because I knew they would leave me and she is still here. The emotion filled Erika to the brim and she couldn't hold back anymore. The sobs so long kept within her, broke free. Cynthia held onto her until the last bit of weeping ended with a whimper. Stroking the dark hair on the head resting on her chest, the blonde spoke soft words of comfort.

The women remained embraced for what seemed like a brief moment but was, in fact, almost an hour.


Cynthia had no problem getting up the next morning. She had a goal. The objective was to do what she needed to do to get to the hospital and eat lunch with Erika. After tidying her already neat apartment and running a few errands, she headed over to see her friend.

Oh boy, today is meatloaf day. Yuck! It doesn't matter, they could be serving some of that stuff those people eat on that "Survivor" show and I'd eat it. I don't care how crappy the food is there. I feel like I am eating in a four-star restaurant when I am around her. Hell, even a four-star restaurant wouldn't matter. I don't even pay attention to what I am eating.

Before she knew it she was in the hospital parking lot looking for an available slot to park in. When she found one, she drove her 1999 Lime Green VW Beetle and parked it.

She was getting quite familiar with the layout of the hospital, able to make it to Erika's room in under two minutes once she entered the white brick building. Unless she encountered Nurse Carpenter, who liked to interrogate Cynthia about how often she had been changing her bandages. Today, however, there was no sign of the good nurse.

Cynthia wished Erika could see the sincerity in her eyes. "Don't you know by now? That's what friends do-- They stand by each other when there's trouble." Cynthia reached over and grabbed Erika's hand.

No one had ever said those words to Erika before in her life. Or if they had, didn't convey the wealth of meaning as they did being said by the person sitting next to her.

What do I say? What do I do? I don't want to screw this up like I always do.

So she said the first thing that came to mind. "All right, friend." Then she reached over and clasped her free hand over their joined hands.

By the glowing expression on Cynthia's face, it was the perfect thing to say.



The time had come for the doctor to remove the bandages from Erika's face. Cynthia grimaced when she saw a bit of skin come off with the bandage as the doctor pulled.

Erika's face looked pale and there was still some bruising around her eyes. As the bandages were removed, it was evident by the flinching that her eyes were still quite sensitive to light.

Although Cynthia knew that Erika's sight was more than likely going to return, her stomach still clenched, waiting for the word that everything was ok.

The doctor stood back allowing Erika the space and time she needed to open her eyes.

"Cynthia, please," Erika pleaded, "come stand over here," pointing beside the bed. Cynthia moved as if her life depended on it...and perhaps in some way it did.

Cynthia reached out and touched her friend on the face, expressing in one touch that everything would be ok, no matter what.

Erika's eyes fluttered a bit before she opened them as tentatively as a butterfly would open its wings for the first time. Her whole being was scared, holding back, afraid of what would happen once her eyes were open. Yet, she was comforted knowing, if everything went as it should, she would soon see the face that for the last 8 months has made life worth living, that gave her the motivation to keep going. This thought gave her the courage to open her eyes, as she could no more prevent them from seeking out this inspiration than she could stop breathing.

Cynthia sensed the apprehension and tried to ease it. "We will never know unless you try," she said to her friend, again bringing her hand to Erika's face. This time she tenderly traced an angry red scar left by the stun grenade. Cynthia looked up at the doctor, her eyes questioning his.

"We fully expect her to heal completely," he volunteered.

Cynthia heard a deep breath as Erika gathered her strength. Erika blinked. Once, twice, three times. She then held her eyes open completely.

Things were out of focus and foggy. She could make out the figure standing before her but it was almost like there was gauze left over her eyes. Slowly, as if someone was removing filters, things started coming into focus. And the focal point was standing right before her. Erika returned the earlier caress, reaching to Cynthia's face, not quite believing she was *finally* looking into it.

"It's you," Erika whispered, while her thumb rubbed along Cynthia's eyebrow.

Cynthia gasped...she lifted her hand, covering her mouth smiling through her tears at the news. "Of course it is me, silly," she said, full out laughing now and wiping her tears of joy.

"No," Erika grabbed both of her shoulders . "It's you, from my dreams, it's you. I've known you in my dreams forever. All my life it's always been you." Softly, she touched the cheek of the person who had stayed with her, even through all the turmoil. "Thank you, thank you for being real."

Cynthia had no words, she was drawn in like a moth to the fire; her lips reached Erika's and delicately placed a modest kiss on the mouth. To anyone looking it would have been innocent, but the sensations that surged between the two women were anything but virtuous. In those few seconds of contact there was the promise of life, love, of...a future.

Cynthia rested her forehead gently against Erika's, nose touching nose, eyes looking deeply into eyes.

"It's nice to meet you, Officer Dillinger," Cynthia wiped a tear from Erika's eye with her finger. Erika gently reached out for the digit, moved it to her mouth and placed a gentle kiss on it.

"Nice to meet you too, Dispatcher. about a cup of coffee?"

 The End

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