Into Your Hands

by Shadowriter


1) This is a dark story with distubing imagery. It explores abuse and it's aftermath, sexual promiscuity, and a highly disfunctional relationship that contains sado-masochism. But for some reason, I think it has a happy ending. Go figure.

2) This is an original work, copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

3) All comments, concerns, questions about the author's sanity can be emailed to

Author's Note:

A huge thank you to my cheerleaders and beta readers, YellowSmurf and Qbeck. You guys are awesome.

To my partner, Rhi Silverflame, thank you for reading, and I love you.

And thanks to Steph, who puts at least as much energy into the organization of these specials as we authors do into the writing. Including making room for last minute entries....

Final Note: The purest expression of love isn't a diamond, a teddy bear, or chocolate. It's seeing what someone needs and being willing to give it to them. Go give someone a hug. We all need those.

Friday afternoon, Katie Prescott finished court and headed for her office. She had an hour's worth of paperwork to complete before she could take off for the weekend. Already she could feel the smoothness of her well worn blue jeans, and she sighed, wishing she was wearing them instead of her standard office gear, which consisted of a grey skirt and jacket combo over a black shirt.

She had picked up a transcript of the court sessions from earlier in the week and opened the folder while she waited for the ancient elevator to crawl down from the seventh floor where the courtroom was located, to the first floor underbasement where the junior members of the DA's office were stashed away in their tiny dungeon spaces.

When the elevator arrived, she glanced up, then went back to reading as she stepped out of the lift. Without even realizing she was doing it, she counted the steps. Eight steps and turn left. Three more and move to the other side of the hall to avoid anyone coming out of the restroom. Another left, seven steps, a right, and four paces down the hall to end the journey in front of her office. Still distracted, she reached for the key in her pocket and unlocked her door, not even noticing that the tumblers didn't turn.

The door opened easily and she entered. As she turned toward her desk in the cramped but overly neat space she kept, something caught her eye and she finally lowered the transcript from her line of sight. The chair she kept for visitors held the long lanky form of Devon Tyler, whose body was stretched out to its full length, her arms over her head with her hands behind her head, and her legs crossed casually at the ankles. Before she could help herself, Katie's eyes followed the lean line of the woman's body, from the black motorcycle boots, up the faded blue jeans, and over the feminine torso clad in a red long sleeved t-shirt. A black leather jacket was tossed over the back of the chair, completing the image of the rebel that Katie knew sat before her.

"Aren't you going to say hi?"

"What are you doing here, Devon? And how did you get into my office?"

With an innocent expression, Devon spread her hands. "It was open."

"The hell it was. I locked it before court, and I know I did because I remember dropping the keys."

"Maybe someone else opened it." The expression didn't change. "Have you missed me, Katie?"

Katie looked away quickly, then edged around to the other side of her desk and sat down. "You took a big chance, picking the lock on a door in the D.A.'s office."

"And how do you know I did?"

"I know you can."

Devon shook her head and smiled. "Ah, but knowledge of ability does not equal knowledge of the action. For all you know, some kindly janitor saw me sitting outside and let me in so I didn't have to wait on the cold hard floor."

The attorney looked up quickly, catching the look on Devon's face. For a moment she wondered if that were true, but as the smile turned triumphant, she knew better. "Bullshit."

The woman across from her laughed and sat up straight. "You do know me well, don't you?"

"Very." The word was muttered by the attorney as she began to pull files from her briefcase. "What do you want, Devon?"

"Katie, we haven't seen each other in what, six years?"

The attorney's gaze flickered up, then back to her work. "Six and a half."

"I stand corrected." Devon folded her hands in her lap. "And your first question is what do I want?"

Katie sighed and sat back, knowing she wasn't going to get anything done while the other woman was here. "You didn't come by just to catch up, Devon. So what is it?"

Devon lowered her head, but before she did, Katie thought she saw a touch of hurt in the woman's eyes.

"You know, you could have told me you had a job offer in Chicago. We could have talked about it." She rubbed her hands together. "You didn't have to just run away like you did."

"I -- I didn't run." She knew her protest was a lie, but she'd told it to herself for so long that it was automatic to say it to Devon. "I just -- had to leave."

"Right." Devon looked up at her. "We got each other through law school, Katie. Long nights of study and sex and just holding on. I thought we had plans, thought you wanted San Francisco as much as I did." 

"It was a firm specializing in defense of scumbags. You know I didn't want to work there."

"You said you could do it for a year, until something in the D.A.'s office opened up." Devon stood. "If you'd changed your mind you could have told me. You didn't even mention you had an offer away from the coast. San Diego, San Francisco, Portland; you talked about all of those, but not Chicago. Why?"

Not sure what to say, Katie kept her eyes trained on the name plate that sat on the edge of her desk. "I-- guess I needed -- I just wanted --" She sighed. "You were so distracted that last month."

"Distracted?" Devon laughed and stood up to pace, making a circle around the chair she'd been sitting in before stopping behind it and putting both hands on its back. "I was graduating from law school, making plans to head home to see family, passing the bar exam, and then my baby sister disappears just days after her eighteenth birthday. Distracted? Goddamn right I was." 

Katie's hands found the personalized pen that had been her Christmas present from Mr. Clarkson, her supervisor. Holding it tight in her right hand, she began to rapidly click the button on it. 

"I didn't want to add to anything. I thought if I just left, it would be easier, you could concentrate on finding her, and we'd probably have broken up by now anyway, so --"

Leaning over the desk, Devon reached out and slowly encircled her wrist, holding it in place before taking the pen away and putting it back in the desk holder. "You can stop with the lies, Katie. I found Alex."

For a moment, she couldn't breathe. But Devon's eyes didn't lie. She'd finally found her younger sister. For Katie, the possible meanings of this flashed in front of her eyes, and she found herself unable to do anything but gape at her former lover.

"I -- I didn't --"

"You knew where she was. You knew because you bought her the bus ticket. And you bought it for her because you felt guilty."

"Why would I feel guilty?" If Devon had seen Alex, then she had to have seen -


Katie swallowed and she looked away.

Devon released her hands and turned away. She folded her arms and turned back to her former lover. "You can't imagine what I felt when I knocked on the door and it was answered by a six year old child who's the spitting image of Alex when she was a child. This beautiful little girl, and she was just looking up at me with this angelic gaze, and I -- I couldn't even speak. I was an aunt, and I always thought I'd love to be an aunt because I could spoil the kid and take her on horseback rides and fishing trips and all the things I loved to do when I was a kid." She looked back down at Katie. "And now six years are gone and my niece didn't even know I existed. I've been searching for six years, and Alex never even mentioned my name to her."

Katie sighed. "How do you tell a six year old about a relative they've never seen?"

"Ah, but she knew her Aunt Katie."

She winced, her hands going still on the desk. "You need to let me explain, Devon."

"There isn't much I don't know, Katie. I had a long talk with Alex." Slowly, she began to walk around the desk, taking the long way. "I know that you set her up on a date with someone. She asked you to, and you did." Her gaze dropped to the floor, her arms still folded, her voice soft. "While on that date she got drunk. Her date raped her. She went to you, and begged you not to tell."

"I wanted to."

"But she said not to." Devon chuckled. "She knew I would kill whoever did it."

"I didn't want--"

"Sh." Devon stopped walking and put a finger to her lips. "Just be quiet."

Before she could stop herself, Katie nodded and lowered her head. She shivered as she realized she was following the same pattern Devon had drilled into her so many years before.

"So, about a month later, she comes back to you saying she's missed her period. She's afraid she might be pregnant." The slow circle started again. "You take her to the clinic to make sure. Once it was confirmed, she decided she didn't want to deal with telling our parents; I don't really blame her for that, they always doted on me and ignored her, and even though I tried to protect her, it was their love she always wanted and never got." She stood still, thinking. "I suppose if I had cared a little less, she might have ended up like you." Devon glanced at Katie. "Who's the latest lucky guy?"

Keeping her gaze on the papers on her desk, Katie dug up the strength for a muttered, "Fuck you, Devon."

Devon chuckled. "Right. That many. Just like college. Course, that was before me, wasn't it?" She reversed her course and started back to the other side of the room, taking measured steps. "So, she's pregnant, doesn't want to tell Mom and Dad, is afraid if she tells me I'll end up in jail for murder, and -- well, you're feeling guilty cause you set her up with the guy. You were going to turn down the Chicago offer, but Alex thinks it's a great place to hide -- for both of you. You accept the job, buy Alex a bus ticket to Las Vegas, and then give her the money to go on to Chicago, and make a reservation for her at a hotel near the station. You give her enough money to last until you get there, and then the two of you end up living together for two years while she has the baby and you go through another string of one night stands with men you don't know. She meets Michael, nice enough guy, and they decide to get married. You move out, even while getting a nice promotion from assistant to actual trial D.A. Have I missed anything?"

Katie shook her head. "Seems Alex told you everything."

"Almost everything." The slow walk had brought Devon around to stand beside Katie's chair. She knelt next to her former lover, taking hold of the swivel chair and forcing Katie to turn and face her.

"Do you remember?" 

"Remember what?"

"Remember us?" Devon watched the woman swallow and smiled. "Do you remember how you could confess your sins?"

Katie turned her head, but Devon grabbed her chin and turned it back. "You told me, when we first got together, that you felt you needed to be punished for what you had done." She put her hands on either side of Katie's face. "You couldn't tell your father; it wasn't like he cared anyway. And the priest at the church he dragged you to every week was too busy touching himself in front of you, or jacking off while you told him about the guys you slept with. So you pretended, and you felt guilty. Do you remember?"

She tried to push Devon's hands away, but her wrists were caught. Instead, she turned her head, finally able to shift her gaze away from the power brown eyes that demanded her attention.

"You'd slept with so many men. You wanted, needed, to be touched, to be held, and they wanted sex. So you traded; temporary affection for getting their rocks off. As long as they held you before and after, you'd spread your legs."

"Stop it."

"But with me it was different, wasn't it?" Finally wrestling both  of Katie's wrists into one large hand, Devon reached out for her chin again, bringing her head back around until she could see the shorter woman's face again. "I would hold you. I'd wrap my arms around you and let you sleep in them. No sex. Just us, holding each other. Do you remember?"

The tears began, just one or two at first, but quickly escalating to a flood that overflowed down her cheeks.

"But it wasn't enough for you. You couldn't handle the guilt. Lying to your father. Smiling at the priest at church. And having to walk down the halls to the whispers of men that you'd slept with. You told me you needed absolution."

Struggling in earnest, Katie finally jerked one of her hands free, meaning to slap Devon. It was immediately caught, but her chin was free again.

"You started it." Her voice was low, choked with the sobs fighting their way from her chest. "You're the one who said you could 'cleanse' me."

"And you always felt better after one of our sessions, didn't you?" Devon's voice was low and intense, taking on the dark tone that Katie remembered so well, that had haunted her dreams and woken her with wetness between her thighs. "You always said you felt freer, that confession was good for your soul."

In a surprise move, Devon snapped forward, bringing their bodies together, forcing her mouth over Katie's in a fierce kiss. "Has there ever been anyone else who could bring you to that place of absolution, Katie? Anyone but me? Did the men you slept with know what secrets you kept hidden from them?"

Finally, Katie raised her feet, high heels still intact, and pushed them against Devon's thighs. One of them slipped higher, into the kneeling woman's stomach, and her grip loosened enough to let Katie push the chair away, separating them again. Katie swiveled away and stood, keeping the chair between herself and Devon, who remained on her knees. Both women were breathing hard, though Devon quickly got hold of herself.

Slowly, once again measuring her pace, Devon stood. She kept her eyes on Katie even as she moved around the desk, reaching carefully for her leather jacket.

"There's one more secret, Katie. One final thing that Alex wouldn't tell me." She slid her long arms into the leather, watching the other woman's face. "She wouldn't tell me who." With practiced ease she pulled up the zipper, the sound loud in the silent office. "But you will, Katie. You're going to tell me the name of the man that raped my sister, that got her pregnant. You can either tell me now," she waited for several long seconds, "or you can tell me tomorrow night. I'll give you that long to think about it."

Three short strides and she was opening the door. "Tomorrow night, Katie, you can confess all your sins to me again. I'll see you at your place at seven."

With that, she was gone, leaving Katie trembling.

And wet.

She reached for the phone blindly, dialing a number from memory. It rang twice, then clicked to a machine, and she waited impatiently for the  message to end.

Her calendar told her it was Friday, February thirteenth. The irony wasn't lost on her.

At the beep, she took a breath before speaking. "Jamie, I need to talk to you, tonight. Please." She hesitated, feeling the tears in her throat again. "D-- Devon was just here. Please call me."

And she hung up, finally feeling the sobs come as she put her head on her desk and cried.

* * *

Jamie's office was quiet when she got there. She'd been told in the return message that Jamie's last appointment was at five, so she could show up any time after that. Jamie would stay at least until seven-thirty. After vomiting twice, she'd gathered her things and left the Courthouse, slipping quietly out of the building well after most of her colleagues had gone home.

Unable to sit still, Katie paced the length of the small waiting room, measuring the space in short strides, back and forth between the window and the water cooler. Her thoughts bounced in her head like a rubber ball between the walls, with the predominant idea being simple, "Devon's here." The emotions that short statement evoked ran the gamut between anger, fear, and extreme arousal, each of which was mixed with a healthy dose of guilt.

By the time the door to the inner office opened she was on the verge of throwing up again, convinced that Jamie would be disgusted with her. She turned to look out the window while the woman sent her last patient on her way.

A hand on her shoulder startled her and she turned to face her friend, her therapist. Jamie raised an eyebrow, but smiled softly at her. "Come in. Let's talk."

Jamie closed the door behind Katie, the soft click of the door enough to make the attorney twitch. She dropped her purse on the couch, but stalked toward the window, staring out into the night while the therapist sat quietly in her usual chair, just watching her.

"So. Devon showed up. At your office?"

"Yes. She surprised me when I got back from court."

"I see. And how did you feel when you saw her?"

"Happy. Scared." She laughed. "Terrified."


"What? No."

"You just said you felt happy."

"Did I?" Katie shrugged. "Maybe I did, just a little."

"If you were frightened, why would you be happy?"

She sighed, her shoulders drooping. "I don't know."

"Yes, you do. Is it because you know that she'll forgive you for running away?"

"She won't." Katie shook her head. "How can I? She'll want to know everything, and --"

"What do you mean, 'how can I'?"


"Katie, turn around." She waited until her friend did so. "Now, I asked if you were happy because you know she'll forgive you, and you said 'she won't, how can I?'. We both know there are many things you haven't forgiven yourself for. But do you honestly believe that Devon came all this way to find you and won't forgive you?"

"She didn't come to find me, she came to find Alex."

"Did she?"

"Yes. They talked. She knows everything except who the father of Alex's daughter is. Alex wouldn't tell her."

Jamie nodded thoughtfully. "Did she ask you who it was?"

Katie dropped her head, but nodded.

"You didn't tell her?"

A shake of her head, no.

"Are you going to?"

"Not if I can help it."

"Why not? It's been six years. Why can't Devon know the truth?"

Katie sighed and turned back to the window. "Because I can't lie to her."

"What does that mean?" Jamie sounded puzzled for the first time.

"It means if I tell her the name, then I have to tell her the whole story. And I can't. I can't do that to her, to Alex. To Kendra."

"You think the truth will make that much difference?"

Katie nodded.

"I don't believe you."

She turned and stared at the woman. "What?"

"I know you better than that, Katie. Oh, I believe that you don't want to lie to Devon, and the truth might cause some friction. But I think you don't want to just tell her truth because that would be too easy. You want her to work for it. You want her to make you tell her." She paused, watching as Katie's eyes got bigger. "You want her to make you confess, just like you used to."

Katie was away from the wall and pacing within a moment, her arms folded, her head shaking in denial. "No. No, that's not true --"

"Tell me you weren't immediately aroused when you saw her in your office."

"I --" She couldn't say she wasn't, but she wouldn't say she was. "It doesn't matter, I can't --" Turning, she glared at her therapist. "Jamie, you know what she put me through."

"Yes, and I know what you put you through. Katie, you were tortured by two people: Devon and yourself. But you've described what Devon put you through, and even if it was painful and occasionally violent, you've done worse to yourself. When we met, you'd been starving yourself until you were dangerously ill, you had cut yourself, you still have the scars on your ribs. You would spend days punishing yourself for sleeping with a stranger, then wait until you healed and go out to find another stranger to start the cycle over again." She leaned forward, hoping that this was the time she could get through to the woman.

"Everyone in your life abused you, Katie. Your father, the men you slept with, you, even Devon's sister Alex. All of them used an abused you, without your consent. And this is the thing. Devon may have tortured you, but I have my doubts that it was truly abusive. You told me that you had a safe word, and a permanent phrase with Devon that would end things, and you used both of them. Did she ever not stop when you absolutely needed her to?"

Slowly, Katie shook her head. "No."

"No. She never forced you beyond what you were willing to give. She never injured you, cut you, like you did to yourself. She never simply had sex with you and walked away. Devon was with you for two years. In that time, were you ever truly afraid of her?"

Another head shake, and the tears began.

"Katie, you lived with her part of that time. You took classes, passed them with high grades, graduated from law school with her. Can you look at me and tell me you weren't happy when you two were together?"

"But it was wrong! It was -- vicious! Depraved! She beat me and I let her!"

"Who's talking right now, Katie? You or your father?"

"I --" She stopped. Her mouth moved, but her throat had closed on the words.

Jamie stood, slowly approaching her. "Do you want to know what I find depraved, Katie? A father who tells his friend that sure, he can play with his thirteen year old daughter and tells his daughter to shut up and take it. That's what I find sick and wrong. And it's exactly what your father did to you. And then he took you to that church, where you had to face that same priest every week, who told you it was your fault, because you were dirty, because all women are dirty. He forced that guilt on you and you've lived with it ever since." She stopped for a moment, watching the fear and guilt pass over her friend's face.

"How can I condemn you for reaching out for the one person who could absolve you of your guilt? Who took it all away? I can't say I approve of her method, but when you were with her, you were alive. You've told me that."

"I've been alive without her."

"You've survived. But the only time I've truly seen your eyes come alive is when you talked about her. When you told me of the weekends that she'd take you up into the Sierras, to Big Bear, or down to the bay in San Diego. Those are the times that you remember being alive, and your eyes show it." She put a hand on Katie's arm. "Can you tell me you've known such happiness since then?"

She couldn't. There hadn't been happiness since the day Alex knocked on her door and told her what happened. That was when the pall of her guilt settled over her and she knew not even Devon could absolve her of all of it.

A wave of nausea came over her and she turned and practically ran for the small bathroom. Making it just in time she let the bile come up from her stomach in short bursts that burned her throat and made her chest ache. When it was over, she leaned against the porcelain, her head on her arm, her mouth filled with the leftover bitterness. 

Moments later a hand touched her shoulder and a wet washcloth was held out to her. She took it, giving a painful smile to Jamie, and wiping her face and mouth.

"Take a moment. Rinse your mouth. Then come on out and we'll sit and talk a little more." Jamie squeezed her shoulder and moved toward the door before looking back. "I know you probably don't want to answer this, or even hear the question, but when's the last time you ate?"

Managing a wry chuckle, Katie closed her eyes. "About eleven this morning. Judge Carlson likes early lunches."

"Right. That's probably a big part of why you're nauseated. I'll order some soup and sandwiches. Don't be too long."

She nodded and waited till she heard the door close before struggling to her feet and facing herself in the mirror.

Her skin was white, the pinched paleness brought on by her nausea and fatigue. But after a moment, she had to admit that Jamie was right. There was something in her own eyes that she hadn't remembered seeing there before. A little fear, for sure, but also something -- alive. Slowly, she took a deep breath and let it out.

The truth would be known, and things would fall as they must. But the guilt that had plagued her was only a burden if she chose to carry it. Devon had always told her that when she was ready, she could put it aside.

And she had until seven o'clock the next night to be ready. That's when absolution in the name of Devon Tyler would walk through her door.

* * *

Her preparations were finished by six-thirty, and she stared out the window, waiting.

Her apartment building had four floors, with either a view of the alley or the street out front. She'd chosen a place on the third floor with new appliances and the back view, since it was fifty dollars cheaper and the view didn't matter to Katie anyway.

This meant she couldn't even tell if Devon was walking up to the front of the building, but she didn't mind. She knew the woman would be there, on time. The fact that it was a security building meant little; she knew that Devon would somehow walk right inside and find her apartment, bypassing the little buzzer that would let her in.

When the knock came at twenty seconds past seven, she took a deep breath and answered the door.

There was no subtlety in Devon's clothes or demeanor. Dressed in black leather pants and a white wife beater, with the same jacket from the previous day, she had one hand planted to the right side of the door frame and was leaning on it, her expression at once serious and playful. Slung over her left shoulder was a black leather duffel bag. Katie had never seen it before, but she knew instinctively what it held and her pulse quickened at the thought.

"Inviting me in, Katie?"

It was the opening line in their ritual, and Katie swallowed as she nodded and stepped aside. But she knew Devon would demand the words.

"Come in, Dev." She shortened the name out of old habit and was rewarded with a raised eyebrow as Devon took three long strides into the apartment. Biting her lip and breathing through her nose, Katie closed the door and turned around.

Devon was turning slowly, taking everything in. It wasn't a luxury apartment, but it was spacious, with a good amount of sunlight in the afternoons. The front door led into the dining room, with the kitchen to the right, and the bedroom on the left. The living room was directly across from the entrance with the big picture window that overlooked the alley.

"Nice place, Katie. You've done well."

She shrugged. "It's better than my old place. Decided a year ago that I might as well find a place that was comfortable instead of one that was just cheap."

"Good decision." There was approval in her voice, and it warmed Katie, bringing a small smile to her face.

After looking around for several moments, Devon finally looked up at the ceiling. She smiled at what she saw and looked at Katie. "Are those new?"

Dropping her gaze to her toes, the attorney nodded. "I installed them this morning."

"Especially for me?"

She hesitated but nodded.

Devon smiled, then moved over to the coffee table in the living room. She set her bag down quietly, then slid her leather jacket off, dropping it negligently over the easy chair that faced the television. Then she turned and slowly made her way back to Katie.

She stood before her, her boots making her seem even taller as she gazed at the barefoot woman in front of her. Katie, knowing what would be expected, had worn only a black t-shirt over her bra, and a pair of baggy sweats. She knew most, if not all, would be stripped from her quickly.

"I'm asking you, Katie, to tell me the name of the man who raped my sister."

With a deep breath, Katie shook her head. "I can't tell you that, Devon."

"Can't, or won't?"

She looked up, meeting the deep brown eyes. "Both."

Devon nodded. "I'm going to take it from you."

"I know you'll try."

Leaning a little closer, Devon spoke into her ear. "You know that I will."

Katie did know this. But she wouldn't admit it to Devon.

"Your safe word tonight is the name."

Their gazes locked. "How will you know which one is the right one?"

"I'll know." Devon smiled, her lips curving wickedly. "I've always known when you were telling me the truth."

Katie nodded, acknowledging the fact.

"Do you have any requests before we start?"

"Only one."

"And that is?"

She bit her lip but gazed at Devon unflinchingly. "That whatever happens between us, you'll be here in the morning."

Devon's smile turned gentle and she tenderly touched Katie's cheek. "I promise."

Another nod, a swallow, and Katie was ready. Taking hold of the hem of her shirt she raised it slowly over her head, letting it drop away and onto the floor. She watched Devon's gaze trail down her body, saw the eyebrow rise at the faded scars along her rib cage.

"I'm ready, Dev." It wasn't necessary to say it out loud, but it brought Devon's attention back to her face instead of the lingering scars.

Devon nodded, then pointed to the floor. "On your knees. Arms up, hands behind her your head."

With a nod, she moved into the first of many positions Devon would put her in this night.

* * *
They had begun slowly, gently, with the soft touch of a flogger to warm her back, then her breasts. She'd held still while Devon took careful aim at her nipples, showing an even more precise aim than she had years earlier.

Then Katie had been raised to her feet, her sweats gone, her hands fastened in cuffs that hung from the eye bolt she'd drilled into the ceiling that very morning. Devon had switched to a cat, had paid attention to all of her body, her back, ass, thighs, and shoulders in particular. There'd been a few observations, a compliment on how well she was doing, how beautiful she was.

Another switch and the true pain had begun. A cat with knotted tails, which snapped at her skin, leaving a sting like a snake's fangs, even as they were recoiled for another strike. Every crack of the leather against her brought a whimper from her mouth, a gasp of air from her lungs.

"Tell me the name, Katie."

She shook her head, biting hard on her lip as the whip bit viciously into the back of one thigh.

"Fine. Let's start with something  a little easier. Who's the last man you slept with?"

The name wasn't hard to come up with. "Jeff Wright. He's a cop."

"And how long ago was this?"

"Over two years ago."

There was a break in the rhythm of the whip and she knew Devon was surprised. "You haven't slept with a man in two years?"

She shook her head.

"What made you stop?"

Another shake of her head. "I'm not ready to tell you that."

The whip bit again and she moaned.

"Let me know when you are, hm?"

It was a particularly strong blow against her back that brought out the first confession.

"I slept with a married man."

"Who was this? That Jeffrey fellow?"

"No." Another strike and she felt her hips move forward, the pain having long filled her with the endorphins she craved. "Three or four years ago. It only happened once."

"Who else have you slept with?" The timing remained steady, even as Devon switched hands.

"I slept with a judge. Only he wasn't a judge then, just a D.A."

"Your boss?"

"Not directly."

"But you feel guilty for it?"

She breathed in deeply as the next strike landed. "I did."

"Good girl. Want to give me a name?"

Katie shook her head.

"Fine. How about telling me about those scars you've gotten? Who gave them to you?"

She wasn't ready to talk about those either. "No."

"As you wish."

The strikes ceased, and Katie could hear Devon switching implements. The next blow finally came, landing across her ribs and making her scream.

Devon stepped in front of her. "Single tale. You never liked this part. Now, tell me the name, or tell me about the scars."

Doggedly, she shook her head.

With a sigh, Devon raised the lash and let it fly. It curled around her, leaving a long red welt from her back to her front, on the opposite side of her body as the first.

Several minutes later, her ribs aching, Katie was screaming with every blow, the tears flowing down her face.

"Who cut you, Katie?"

She had one last denial in her.

"I'm getting tired of this." Devon moved behind her, the blows landing across her ass viciously.


"Do you have something to tell me? Who scarred you like that?"

Katie had to take a breath. "I did."

"What? Why?"

She gave her the only truth she knew. "You weren't here."

Devon's body was against hers, a kiss placed on her cheek. "I'm here now. Tell me why you needed to do that to yourself."

"I -- please."

"How long ago did you do it?"

Her breath was coming easier now. "Two years or so."

"So, about the time you stopped sleeping around?"

For the first time, Devon's words hurt more than the blows had. She nodded, swallowing.

"From what Alex told me, that's about the same time you two stopped talking. Is that right?"

Another nod.

"You two fought over something? What?"

This time Katie shook her head.

She felt a kiss on her shoulder. "Tell me, Katie. Don't make me draw this out of you."

"I can't."

Devon sighed. She ran her fingers over the last welt she'd left on Katie's ass, then reached around to show the woman.

There was blood on her fingers. Katie stared at it, even as Devon stepped around in front of her. She watched raptly as her tormenter tasted the blood on her fingers, licking it off, then leaning in and kissing her thoroughly, her tongue ravaging her mouth, plundering. Katie could taste her own blood, and she felt her pelvis tighten at the thought. It reminded her of just how sick this really was, and she turned away, fresh tears of shame coming from her cheeks.

Knowing how wrong it was didn't lessen how much she wanted to be punished.

Devon reached up and unhooked the cuffed hands from their chain. "I think your skin is a little thinner than it used to be. Let's find something else to work on, hm?" Towing Katie behind her, she moved into the bedroom.

* * *

If it wasn't for the welts, she'd be rather comfortable, Katie thought. Devon had placed her on her back, her head and upper back cushioned on several pillows that raised her enough so she could see what her tormentor was doing. Her hands, still cuffed but not secured to the bed, had been placed atop the headboard with the admonishment that if she moved them, they'd be tied to her ankles.

From this position, she watched as Devon picked up a lighter and a candle. She knew what was coming next. Normally hot wax didn't bother her, but her skin was already sensitive, and warm to the touch. The heat from the wax would burn, especially when dripped onto the welts that crisscrossed her body.

As she heard the flick of the lighter, her thighs clenched, and she took a breath, surprised at the depth of her own arousal.

"Looking forward to this part?" Devon smiled. "I chose a spiced candle. The oil in the wax will hold the heat longer."

Just what she needed to hear, and she steeled herself as the candle was tipped over her ribs, the first drop splashing just under her breasts.

"So, you were cutting yourself. You needed absolution that I couldn't provide. What did you do that made you feel so guilty?"

"Who said I felt guilty?" She winced as a burning drop landed on her nipple, then again when one hit a fresh welt across her opposite breast.

"Are you saying you didn't? You cut yourself because you felt -- what, happy?"

Katie hissed. "I never mentioned guilt."

"You didn't have to. Guilt is what you do, Katie." Another drop splashed down, and Devon guaged the reaction before pressing on. "So you were feeling guilty about something. What else were you doing to yourself?"

"I --" She jerked away from the next drop, squirming as the hot rain began to settle into her body, making her skin ache for more touch. "I wasn't eating right."

"Not eating right? As in, eating a lot of junk food?"

"As in, not eating." Her hands twisted on the headboard. "There was a point I was under ninety pounds."

Devon stopped, staring at her. "You were starving yourself?"

She nodded. "I -- I got better." It hadn't been what she was about to say, and they both knew it.

"What are you right now?"


"Is that a good weight for you?"

Hesitating, she shook her head. "The doctor wants me to try to get up to a hundred twenty-five."

"What did you weigh while we were together?"

Katie shrugged. "Maybe one-twenty-eight."

Devon nodded. "Okay, then." Another drop hit, then another, as she began to let them fall fast and furious. "What were you doing, trying to kill yourself?"

Katie couldn't answer. She stretched as far as she could on the bed and put her head as far back as possible, her teeth catching her bottom lip and holding tight.

Deliberately, Devon pulled back and held the candle over Katie's crotch, using one hand to clear the path as the wax landed directly on the most sensitive spot on her body. Katie cried out and her body bucked.

"Answer me, Katie."

"Dev, I --"

She blew out the candle and leaned over, holding the woman's jaw in one hand. "Tell me, goddamnit."

"Please --"

"Were you trying to kill yourself?"



She shook her head, slowly getting her body back under her control.

"Tell me why."


For the first time a look of fury passed over Devon's face and she straightened, twisting her neck to loosen the tension.

"Fine. Wanna give me the name?"

Katie silently shook her head.

Devon nodded, quietly contemplating.

"Turn over. I want you on your knees, facing the headboard, holding on to it."

She wasn't sure what Devon had in mind, but Katie knew that all games had stopped. This was serious. Dev was about to do all she could to break her.

What would happen then was anyone's guess.

"Spread your legs wider." The sound of Dev's hand slapping her ass was loud in the quiet room. "I said wider."

She complied, struggling to stay in position when Dev also had her raise her body. In this position her knees were taking most of the strain, her quads bulging from the effort of holding her body steady.

Devon had settled behind her after retrieving several items from her toy bag. "You should enjoy this. After all, you like pain so very much."

Katie frowned at this, her eyebrows pinching together on her forehead. "What are you doing?"

"Relax, it's just an oil I found." Slowly she began to rub it into the welts on Katie's back and ass. "You should start feeling it any second now."

And Katie did. While the wax had burned and stung a little, this was like an acid burn, and she began to squirm within seconds.

"Dev, what --"

"Give me the name, Katie."

"No, I -- fuck, Dev, that burns, what --"

"Okay, tell me about two years ago, when you wanted to die."

The pain was getting intense. "Dev, I -- God, please --"

"Talk to me, Katie."

The tears started again, but this time she didn't notice. "It hurts, Dev, fuck!"

"Why did you want to die?"

"Cause I -- I did. Dev!" Her hands almost came off the headboard as she tried to squirm away from the other woman's touch.

"Why did you and Alex fight?"

"She was pissed at me, oh, God, Dev, please stop! Please!"

Dev stripped off the glove she'd been using, then leaned forward, letting her body rest against Katie's. "Why was she angry, Katie? Hm? Come on, baby, tell me."

"She -- I -- " The pain was beginning to slacken just a little, letting her form words again. Without thinking she gave Devon the answer she was looking for. "I had an abortion."

Devon couldn't stop the slight gasp. "You what?"

"I'd been --" She took a breath, the pain easing off another notch, "-- sleeping with this guy, and I got pregnant. I didn't tell him. I had the abortion. Alex was angry at me."

"Because she had to have the child and you chose not to?"

"Because -- she wanted another child -- and can't have one. There were -- complications from -- Kendra's birth." The pain was slowly seeping away and she was gasping for breath. "Devon, what the hell did you do to me?"

"High intensity citric acid, combined with a nerve stimulator. Doesn't last long, just enough to make your nerves sizzle for a few minutes." Devon kissed her shoulder. "So, Alex was pissed off at you because she can't have another kid and you chose not to have one at all. Have you two talked since then?"

"Not often." Katie squirmed as the endorphins caused by the pain settled between her legs. "We still keep in touch because of Kendra."

"She lets you stay in Kendra's life?"

"Michael does. He says she shouldn't lose a friend just because her mom's being an idiot." She sighed. "Sometimes I like Michael more than Alex."

Devon chuckled. "I can see that."

Katie tensed. Her voice went very quiet and soft. "I didn't mean it like that, Dev."

For just a moment there was a ghost of a hand along her back. "I know you didn't, Katie." She put a small kiss on her shoulder. "Give me the name. Let it end here."

The need in her made her shake her head.

"It's been six years. Why can't you just tell me?"

She shook her head again, not willing to explain just how much truth was left unspoken.

"Last chance, Katie. I promise, I will break you."

Katie lowered her head. "I know."

She felt herself repositioned, her legs still wide, but her hips pulled further back from the bed. Something cold was slathered over her rear entrance and she jumped. "Dev, I --"

"Unless you're ready to give me what I want, shut the fuck up."

Katie clamped her mouth shut.

She kept it closed all through the insertion of the vibrator. When it was turned on she let out a whimper, but clenched her jaw tight.

Fingers started to play with her, stroking up and down her center, touching her main point of need before moving away.

When the second vibrator entered her, she closed her eyes and tried to lean backward, her mouth coming open to gasp in air. One firm hand pushed her forward.

"Keep your hands on that headboard." Her hips were pulled backwards a little more, impaling her harder, as Devon began working both shafts inside her.

Katie hated this, and she knew Devon knew it. Being penetrated from this angle, with no one she could see, and no one's arms around her, made her feel like less of a person and more of a thing. A sex toy. Something someone would pay to be with. Like she wasn't human.

She knew the feeling well. It was the one that accompanied her every time she'd left a man's apartment in the middle of the night, feeling dirty and ashamed for bartering sex for the momentary affection a man would give her.

"Devon, please."

"Got a name for me?"

"I --"

"Then shut up." The gentle pumping got faster, and she could feel the arousal that had been building all night blend into the shame, making her hotter and yet more disgusted with herself. She didn't want to come this way, but at least it would end this whole thing.

But suddenly, all movement stopped. The hands had been pumping the vibrators in and out of her moved away, turning off the machines as they did. Katie could feel Devon behind her on the bed, but there was no touch, not even through the hands holding the toys, and she found herself yearning for one tiny shred of connection between them.


There was nothing.

"Dev, please?"

"Please what?"

"Please touch me?"

"Touch you?" Devon laughed. "Is that what you really want? Or do you want this?" The power came back, and once again she was being filled and emptied, over and over. But Devon was careful to not touch her skin, and even as the arousal grew again, there was another desire overtaking her.

"Please --"

"You want it faster? I can do that. Or, I know what you want. You want me to talk dirty to you. Tell you what a naughty little girl you've been. How dirty you are. You're just a dirty little girl who needs to be punished--"

"NO! I'm not--" She tried to pull away, one hand coming off the head board. "Devon --"

One hand pushed her hard against the head board, the other began to slap a small whip across her ass.

"I told you to keep your hands still! I told you not to move!"

"Devon, I'm sorry!"

"You're sorry?"

"Devon --" The decision made itself in her mind, the French words coming naturally to her even after all their years apart. Not a safe word, but a plea, an entreaty. A surrender. "Entre tes mains, je remets mon esprit!*"

Instantly, even before she finished the phrase, Devon's arms were around her, holding her tight. She felt herself being entered again but this time there were also hands touching her, a mouth on her neck, a body against hers.

"You wanna come?"


"Will you come for me, Katie?"

"Yes -- oh, God, Dev-- I -- " And then there was only the shattering of her soul and Dev's soft words of comfort as she found herself breaking and coming together again, screaming out her guilt and pain even as Dev gave her the absolution she craved.

"Good girl, Katie. Just surrender. You're so beautiful. Just let go of everything." A gentle kiss to her cheek. "I forgive you. I love you."

She couldn't tell how long it lasted, but it left her weak and crying, hanging on to Devon with every tiny bit of strength left. Great, noisy gasps came from her as she clung weakly. Devon carefully turned Katie in her arms, keeping a hold on her, but easing her gently down to lie fully on the bed. Pulling away slightly, she brushed several sweaty tendrils of hair out of the woman's face, looking at her in concern.

"Katie?" The gray eyes opened for just a moment, then closed again. Katie mumbled something and Devon leaned forward. "What was that?"

"It wasn't 'illy." And then she was asleep, her body drooping further into the mattress, a slight snore coming from her.

Devon sighed and reached for the covers. She'd give them both a few hours of rest before cleaning up the apartment. Then, she'd get a shower and make some breakfast.

After all, she'd promised Katie she'd be here come morning. And Devon always kept her promises.

* * *

Katie awoke with the sunlight in her eyes. The bedroom drapes had been pulled up, and she blinked several times before turning her head further into the pillow.

As she did, she took a deep breath and noticed an unusual scent. Devon. In a moment, her memories flooded back and she opened her eyes and looked around.

There was no sign of the taller woman, but a bottle of water, a note, and a red carnation, were lying on the chair next to the bed. Moving carefully in deference to the aches in her body, she inched over to the chair and picked up the note. The flower came with, its stem having been carefully threaded down the side of the note through tiny tears in the paper.

Take a shower when you get up. There's a warm robe waiting for you, and breakfast.
And me. You wanted me to stay.
Call me if you need me, I'm just in the other room.

She smiled at the shortened signature, suddenly hopeful about things between them. It faded a little when she remembered that there was still a truth to tell Devon.

Testing both her body and her balance, she rose from the bed, heading for the shower. She took the bottle of water with her, sipping at it as she turned the faucets on. As the shower warmed, she looked herself over in the mirror.

There were bruises, as she'd expected, and several welts that were still visible. She ran her fingers over them to feel the raised skin. A couple on her buttocks showed dried blood and she knew she'd have to be careful for a day or two with those. At least they were in a spot she could reach, and she pulled out the first aid cream for after her shower.

Other than that, there was a tightness in her muscles, as if she'd run a marathon, or gone too long in her aerobics workout. She stretched carefully, wincing a little as the soreness between her legs made itself known.

She'd forgotten just how well Devon could abuse her body. And how ultimately free she could feel afterward.

The shower woke her up fully, the water stinging her welts and yet soothing her skin. Katie dried herself carefully, then rubbed some salve into the red welts near the top of her ass, coating them well. She slid on underwear, more to keep the salve in place than anything else.

She found the robe that Devon had left for her. It truly was a warm robe, as a heating pad had been turned on and placed inside of it. As she unplugged the device, Katie had to smile, imagining Devon searching everywhere for the heating pad. She thought it had still been packed in a box in the bedroom closet, which meant she'd been tired enough to sleep through whatever noise Devon had made.

Finally, she was ready, and she tied the belt loop tight around her waist and opened the door.

Devon was standing at the living room window, looking out. She turned slightly, gazing at Katie for a long moment before going back to her contemplation.

"Good morning."

"Morning." With a head motion, Devon pointed toward the kitchen. "Breakfast is waiting for you. Go eat."

"Okay." She was a little disappointed with the subdued reaction, but felt better when she saw the plate sitting on the warming tray with a lid over it. Lifting the lid, the smile grew as she found four perfectly round pancakes with strawberries on the side. There was butter already melting on them, and syrup on the table.

"You need to finish them all, Katie."

Devon had followed her in, and was gazing at her with a gentle expression, her arms crossed, her heat tilted, a smile hinting at the corners of her mouth.

"Join me?"

"I already ate. But I'll sit with you."

Katie nodded and moved to her normal seat at the table, as Devon sat across from her.

There was orange juice, and a glass of water.

"Why do you have lowfat yogurt in your fridge?"

"Because it was on sale." She took a bite of her pancakes and chewed slowly before swallowing. "I'm not on a diet, Dev. I try not to have too much fat in my diet cause it bothers my stomach."

"How much damage did you do?"

"They caught it in time. It's been two years. I'm still a little under weight, but the doctors are pleased with my progress."

"Can you tell me what happened?"

Katie sighed and chewed a strawberry, thinking about how to answer. "After the abortion, and after Alex, I just -- I didn't care anymore. About anything. And then I was assigned a case where a man had abused and killed his neice. And even though I won the case, I seemed to lose -- me. I started working non-stop. Stopped eating. Would sit behind my desk all day. The only thing I had was water, and an occasional coffee or something. I barely went home." She chuckled a little. "Guess it was a good thing I never bought that puppy I wanted, huh?"

Devon smiled back. "How did it end?"

"I collapsed. At work, just outside of the courthouse. I was rushed to the hospital, and when the doctor told my boss even the barest little bit of what he was allowed to tell, my boss came roaring into my room and suspended me." She sighed. "I missed a promotion because of it, and I've had to work hard just to get back to where I was before, but -- it was worth it. I'm up for promotion again, and this time I think I just might get it."

"So, just like that, they suspended you and you started eating?"

"Not exactly." She paused for another bite, savoring the taste of syrup drenched hotcakes. "I had to stay in the hospital for a few days. They had a psychiatrist come in, who diagnosed me, not with anorexia, but with passive suicidal tendencies. In other words, I didn't want to kill myself, I just wanted to die." She shrugged. "The doctor wouldn't let me leave the hospital until I'd gained three pounds and made an appointment with a therapist. So I did."

"You went into therapy?"

"Yeah. Her name was -- is -- Jamie Coventry. We worked on me for a year. And I told her -- everything."

Devon's eyebrows rose. "Everything?"

"Yes. I told her about my mom dying, about my dad's indifference, about Father Jack and about him telling me I was the dirty one while he held me on his lap and jerked himself off." Taking a breath, she also reached for her orange juice. "And, yes, Dev, I told her all about you."

"I'm flattered."

"You should be. For some strange reason, she thought you might actually have been good for me."


"Yeah." She shrugged. "Kept me in school, made me face my fears, kept me safe, even when -- well, even in our scenes."

"She didn't tell you I was a sick fuck for what I did to you?"

There was a pain in Devon's voice that Katie hadn't heard before, yet she knew exactly where it came from.

"No, Devon. She told me that she'd worked with other clients who had sado-masochistic relationships. She said the world was a painful place, and sometimes life sucked, and the people who made it through, who had the best lives, weren't the ones that follow the rules the best or only had sex in the missionary position."

"Yeah? Who are they then?"

"They're the people who find what they need to be happy in life, and then embrace themselves and their needs fully." Another shrug. "As long as those needs don't include harming others without their consent, why should society dictate how we get off, or what makes us feel safe, or loved?"

"Let me guess, she's a regular at the leather bar."

"Hardly. She's married, to a man, with a child, and she goes to the Unitarian church six blocks from here."

"And the missionary position?"

"She said she likes it, but also enjoys being on top." Katie popped a strawberry into her mouth and smiled. "Jamie's awesome."

"Sounds like it. You still see her?"

She shook her head. "No. After a year, she said I was ready to try things on my own for a while. I kept her number around for emergencies, but I did okay. And then six months ago I was asked to volunteer my services for a group of advocates for child services. I did, and found out she was on the committee. Somehow, during those meetings, we became friends."

"Isn't that difficult for you? What if you need her professional judgment?"

"I can still get it on an emergency basis. But she also has another woman who she introduced me to if I feel I need more than one session."

"Covering the bases, that's good. When's the last time you saw her?"

"Professionally or personally?"


She stabbed another bite of pancakes. Devon had to know the answer, but Katie knew she'd still make her say it.

"I called her Friday night, just after you left my office."

"I figured."

"Thought you would have."

They were quiet for a few minutes. Katie continued eating, feeling her stomach and spirit both filling up after her long night. Devon seemed content to watch, her hands folded on the table in front of her as she watched Katie eat. When Katie finished her orange juice, Devon took the glass and refilled it, taking a sip before handing the glass back to her.


"Sure." She leaned back in her chair, turning slightly. "I lied to you, you know."

"What?" Katie looked up, startled. "What are you talking about?"

"The name. Alex told me who it was."

Katie's mouth dropped open.

"But I knew she was lying, Katie. And I have to know the truth."

"Who did she tell you it was?"

"Billy Richardson."

Katie looked back down at her plate. "Thought so."

"You confirmed the lie."

"I did?"

"Yeah. Right at the end, before you fell asleep, you murmured that it wasn't Billy."


"So, who was it? And why did my sister feel the need to lie to me? Again."

Ever so slowly, as if she was doing her own version of torturing Devon, Katie reached for the final bite of pancakes on her plate, stabbing her fork through it and rolling it in the leftover syrup. Moving slowly, she lifted the fork to her mouth, sliding the bite in and closing her mouth around it, closing her eyes as she pulled the utensil out. For a moment, she just enjoyed the taste, savoring the sweetness.

"Are you finished trying to tease me?"

Katie smiled and reached for her water. "Me? Tease you? Never."

Devon chuckled and waited. "Who is it, Katie?"

Moving the plate aside, Katie folded her own hands and made eye contact with the woman across from her. "This is the thing, Dev. Alex doesn't know she lied."


"She truly believes that Billy Richardson raped her. That he was the father of Kendra."

"But he wasn't."

"You don't think so?"

"Billy was gay. Everyone knew that."

"Did he ever tell you that?"

"No, but --"

"Did anyone you know ever say they heard that directly from Billy's mouth?"


"Did you ever see him kiss a guy, or make a pass at one?"

"No, but he never kissed girls, either."

"That doesn't mean much. My point is that while Billy certainly appeared to be gay, and we all assumed he was, he never said it. He never came out of the closet, not to his friends, not to his family, and certainly not to his overly masculine little brother who was the star defenseman on the football team."

Devon raised an eyebrow. "Okay. So, you wanna tell me what you know?"

"You know how Billy died?"

"He was killed. They said Ben did it, but I didn't hear the resolution of the trial. I was a little busy."

"Right. Ben went to jail for Billy's death. The D.A. in Los Angeles wanted it ruled a hate crime and Ben put away forever. The jury disagreed, said it was negligence, and Ben was out in less than two years."

"You know a lot about it, even though you were gone by then."

Katie shrugged. "I'm a D.A. This was a case that changed my life. I wanted all the information I could get."

With a nod, Devon shifted. "Okay. So, what does this have to do with Alex and who raped her and why she ran away?"

Taking a deep breath, Katie began unraveling the secrets she'd kept for so long. "Alex begged me to set her up with someone older. Someone handsome. She wanted to be an adult for just one night, she said. So, I set her up with Billy. I thought, he's gay, he's safe. Billy agreed -- told me that it would make his parents happy. He picked her up that night and I went back to studying."

"Where was I?"

"You were driving Kelly home because her grandfather had died."

"Oh, right. Go on."

"Billy took her to a frat party. At his brother's frat house. The one time I spoke to him about it afterward he told me he just needed to put in an appearance, show his date to his brother. But someone put a beer in his hand, and one in Alex's and they just started drinking with everyone else."

Devon shook her head but didn't say anything.

"Now, the story from Alex has always been that she was more than a little drunk, and she didn't really get it when Billy pulled her away from the party and into a room on the second floor. Next thing she knows, she's naked and being raped, with someone's hand over her mouth." She held up her hands. "This is important, Dev. Her glasses had been broken earlier in the evening. They were in her jacket pocket. How well can she see without her glasses?"

"Not very well." She pinched the bridge of her nose.

"So, she told me the next day she'd been raped. I suggested we tell someone, and she freaked. Told me to let it be, she was okay, she didn't want to be a laughing stock among the guys or a pity project for the girls on campus. And she didn't want you to know because you'd kill Billy."

"Which I would have."

Katie nodded and continued. "About a month later she came to me and said she was pregnant. You know what happened from there. She said she wanted to leave town. I helped her. Right?"


"What you don't know is how she made me go with her."


She got up to get another glass of water from the sideboard, not wanting to see Devon's eyes for this part. "She told me she knew about us. About how you treated me. And that it would get worse. She said you'd eventually find out I'd been the one to set her up with Billy, and that you'd blame me and --"

"You believed it? You thought I'd --"

"I didn't know, Dev. Back then, I -- I didn't know. I'd been with you for two years, but I'd lived with my father for so much longer and he -- I couldn't take the chance. I felt -- guilty." She swallowed. "Just like always, huh? And your little sister knew exactly how to work that against me. She played me. Just like she played everyone."

Devon looked like she was about to either strangle something or throw the table across the room. She looked away, then stood, pacing through the room. After a moment, she moved back to the table but didn't sit down. "What are you talking about? How did she play everyone?"

Katie sighed and leaned against the wall. "I took her to see Billy. She told Billy that he'd raped her. He swore he didn't remember. And then she told him that she was pregnant and he was the father. And Billy cried. He said he was sorry, he was so sorry, but he'd do what was right. They arranged to go see Billy's parents. Then I took Alex home. And Billy was killed late that night."

Devon didn't say anything, she just stared down at the table top.

"They said that Billy and Ben were out in the back of the frat house talking. Then there was shouting, and then nothing. When Ben came back in, he went directly to his room and told everyone to leave his brother alone, he was sleeping. By the time anyone went to check on Billy, he was dead. He'd asphyxiated on his own vomit. They found traces of alcohol, but also a blow to the back of his head. The defense said the two had argued while drinking and Billy took a swing at his brother and stumbled against the tree where he hit his head. The prosecution said Ben punched his brother, smashed his head against the tree until he was unconscious, and then left him there to die."

"What does this have to do with Alex?"

Katie moved back to the table slowly. She slipped into her chair, realizing she was shaking a little. She placed her hands flat on the table as she continued.

"You were still caught up with studying for the bar, so Alex was hanging out with me a lot. We'd do a little drinking, though I tried to tell her it wasn't good for the baby. One time she laughed and said she'd stop when she got the money. I asked her what money, and she said, well, it would be pretty embarrassing for the high class, holier-than-thou Richardson family if it was discovered that their baby boy had not only been murdered, but had gotten a girl pregnant. So, she sent a letter to Billy's parents saying exactly that. And that she would make the accusation to a news crew unless they paid her a quarter of a million dollars."

Devon dropped heavily into the chair in front of her. "But -- that doesn't make any sense. If Billy was the father --"

"Then the prosecution's case that Billy had been killed by his brother because he'd come out to him about his homosexuality would have been shot to hell. Right." She sat straighter in the chair. "But it would have been strengthened if there had been a paternity test and the father was found to be, not Billy, but --"

"Ben." Devon put her head in her hands and shook it back and forth.

"Right. Ben. But this is the thing. Who is the one person who could have told the family or the defense attorney that they had to get rid of the girl because Billy wasn't the father?"

"The person that raped her."

"And if it wasn't Ben, it had no bearing on his case, and Ben's parents would have outed her themselves as a scheming girl trying to winnow some money out of grieving parents."

"So, they pay her the money?"

"Not just pay her the money. They send it with a man. A man who carries a very large and lethal sidearm. Who tells her, here's your money, now leave town or you won't live long enough to be able to spend it." Katie took a sip from her glass. "And that's when she came to me with a sob story about how you'd be angry with me and it was all my fault and I had to help her and --" She shrugged. "I wimped out. I'd been afraid you wouldn't need me after graduation anyway, after you passed. So, I believed what she told me, and I called Chicago and told them I'd take the job." Another sip. "The crazy thing was, she didn't even tell me about the money until after I got here. All I knew was that someone had threatened her. So, I spent my savings to get her to Chicago and put her up in a decent room in a hotel, and I find that she's suddenly moved into the penthouse and is having room service constantly."

"She always did like expensive things." Devon stood again and walked around her chair, stuffing her hands in her pockets. She looked a little lost, and it worried Katie.

"Dev? Are you all right?"

"No." She shook her head. "No, I'm not." After a moment she took a deep breath and turned to the woman still seated at the table. "But I think I will be." She smiled. "The truth can be -- cleansing."

"Yeah." Katie gave her a tiny smile. "You taught me that a long time ago."

With a soft chuckle, Devon turned away, meandering around the apartment until she found herself in front of the window again. She stood there for several minutes, just staring.

Katie left her alone. Instead, she took her place and empty orange juice plate to the sink and washed them. Leaving them in the rack to dry she filled her water glass again and took it with her as she moved to stand beside Devon.

The taller woman glanced down, then smiled at the offered water glass. She sipped before handing it back.



"Are you going back to California?"

She sighed. "No. Actually, I thought about looking for a job here. I'd like to see Kendra grow up."

"That's great."

"Yeah." She tucked her hands into the back of her belt. "Do you -- think we could . . . "

"Could see each other?"

Devon looked down at her. "Yeah."

Gazing out the window herself, Katie let herself remember the time she spent with Devon. There had been pain, but also a release. The guilt had lessened in her arms at night.

And been so painfully there in the six years since she'd run away.

Before saying anything, she shifted her body, feeling the aches, the muscles that protested even as she stood. But inside, where it counted, she could feel a hope, a happiness, that had been missing for far too long.

"It couldn't be like it was, Dev. Things have changed. And -- we've both gotten older."

Devon nodded and sighed, her gaze returning to the Chicago horizon.

"But -- I'd like that. And maybe -- if you're willing -- we could think about couples therapy? I'm sure Jamie would know someone."

The vague reflection Katie could see in the window showed the edges of Devon's mouth curling up in a gentle smile.

"I'd be willing." She turned once more to her lover. "You know, if we do get into therapy -- things may change between us. We may find out -- we don't need each other any more."

Katie let out a full blown laugh for the first time in a long time. "Devon, you've been here less than forty-eight hours and already I feel freer  and more alive than I have in six years." She ran a hand over her face, surprised to find a few tears leaking from her eyes. "Do you remember the night we went up to Big Bear?"

"That early spring?" Devon smiled. "We drove up on my bike and stayed awake all night wrapped in a couple of blankets, just watching the moon and the clouds."

"It was too cold to sleep!" Katie bumped her shoulder against Devon's. "You were always taking me somewhere like that. On the back of your bike. I'd wake up thinking it was going to just be a long day of studying, and then you would whisk me away, to do something out of the ordinary, to find the extraordinary, to see something so completely spectacular that you couldn't even tell me what it looked like, always saying I had to see if for myself."

Devon shrugged, the smile turning a little shy. "I wanted to be a lawyer, not a writer."

"But you did write. You wrote reams into my life in those days and nights. Beautiful, ugly, and everything in between. You wrote it in my mind, in my skin, and in my soul. Late nights on the beach in the autumn to watch the sun sink into the water; early mornings in the woods in summer to watch the world come alive." She tilted her head. "Even Jamie pointed it out to me on Friday. I haven't been alive since I came to Chicago. I haven't lived since you. I've survived."

She took a breath and looked back out the window. "Mostly, I think I've been waiting for you. I've always needed you, Dev. And I think I always will. The question, and one I'm willing to wait for an answer on, is will you always need me?"

They stood quietly together for several minutes before Devon nodded. She took a deep breath and put her hands on her hips. Her whole attitude was one of having made a decision.

"Yesterday was Valentine's day."

Startled, Katie turned to her and nodded. "I know."

"Well, I didn't get you anything."

She smiled. "Devon, you --"

"Sh." She raised a finger to her lips. "Just be quiet."

Katie felt her head drop automatically in reaction, but she smiled a little.

"So, I'm declaring a do-over. Today is Valentine's day. And we have plans, places to be, things to see." She looked intently at Katie. "And you are woefully underdressed. Off with you. Jeans, boots, tee, sweatshirt. Now. Chop-chop."

"Where are we going?"

"Ah." Devon slid an arm over her shoulders and squeezed gently. "My tender flower, that is part of the gift of the day. The city will be ours to explore, it shall be our playground, and our paradise for the day."

"We're talking Chicago in the winter, not Los Angeles in springtime."

"So you'd better dress warmly if we're going to take that romantic cruise on the lake." Katie blinked while Devon smiled smugly. She leaned over and kissed the shorter woman. "Off with you. And don't be long. The boat won't wait forever."

A slow smile lit up Katie's face from the inside and she pulled Devon back to her, winding an arm around her as their lips met, their mouths opened, and she put all the emotion she could into the kiss.

When it was over, she smiled and moved slowly toward the bedroom to dress, glancing back every few seconds.

As Katie disappeared behind the door, Devon sighed, turning back to the view of Chicago. Her smile remained firmly fixed on her face as she contemplated the city, and Katie, and their future.

The End.

*Entre tes mains, je remets mon esprit, "Into your hands, I commend my spirit."

Thank you for reading. Happy Valentine's Day.

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