DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, Fox does. I'm only taking them out for a test drive.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story contains some adult situations, so be forewarned.
SPOILERS: Strap-on, Ryde or Die

After the Fall
By Sam

Part 15

Like any hot-blooded woman
I have simply wanted an object to crave
       - Alanis Morissette

Billie stood in front of the window, her blue eyes fixed on the scene taking place on the other side. She'd been in the same spot for nearly twenty minutes, her posture rigid and tense. More than anything, she wanted to be in there right now.

Felicia and her lawyer were sitting in the interrogation room. They were spending most of their time in silence, only occasionally putting their heads together and speaking in whispered tones. Despite the speaker being on, Billie couldn't hear what they were saying, but she thought it likely they were just discussing strategy.

The blonde's demeanor was cool and calm as she crossed one long leg over the other, revealing a moderate slice of creamy, white thigh under the rather form fitting black and white Prada dress she wore. The woman's attire gave one the impression she was attending a cocktail party, rather than coming in for police questioning.

Her lawyer glanced at his watch for the fifth time in about as many minutes, a look of annoyance flashing across his face. He spoke to the blonde briefly before getting up and exiting the room, obviously in search of someone in charge.

As Billie continued to watch, Felicia reached into her purse and removed something, keeping it clutched, tightly, in her hand. She rose from her seat and walked purposefully toward the mirror, coming to a stop almost directly in front of the young lieutenant.

The mirror was preventing Felicia from seeing anything but her own reflection, but as she stared into her own eyes, Billie could swear the woman was looking right at her. There was something in that dark gaze that felt as though it would burn right through her, and Billie felt a slight shiver run up her spine.

Felicia leaned in close and brought a thin lipstick to her mouth, slightly parting her lips as she applied it in slow, methodical strokes. She rubbed her lips together in a lazy, seductive manner, giving them a moist, thorough application. When she finished, she placed a gentle kiss on the mirror, leaving behind a set of blood red lips.

Billie stared at the mark as the tall blonde returned to her seat. Obviously, the bizarre display had been for her benefit, but what she couldn't decide was if it was a gesture of arrogance, or an invitation. Knowing what she did about the woman, it was probably both.

After a few quiet minutes, Felicia's lawyer finally returned, followed close behind by Captain Parish. Billie lifted a brow in surprise. When he told her he wanted her to remain an observer, she assumed another detective would do the interview. It never occurred to her that he would do it himself. It wasn't customary for someone of Robert's rank to do a routine round of questioning, although the brunette considered this particular situation anything but routine. She listened as the trio exchanged a brief greeting before Parish jumped right in with his inquiry.


"I appreciate you coming in today, Mrs. Ralston."

The blonde's smile was not entirely unfriendly. "Of course, Captain. I would like to set the record straight, as you police people are so fond of saying."

"Well, then," Parish continued smoothly. "Why don't we get right to it?" He opened a folder sitting on the table in front of him. "Can you tell me your whereabouts-"

"Shouldn't we wait for everyone to join us?" Felicia interrupted.

Parish glanced up from his file. "I'm the only one doing this interview, Mrs. Ralston."

The blonde's expression registered surprise. "I assumed Lieutenant Chambers would be present."

"The Lieutenant had other matters to occupy her," the captain informed her. "As I happen to be familiar with this case, I'm conducting the interview in her absence."

Felicia's eyes quickly glanced at the mirror. "I see." Her tone changed instantly. "I think my lawyer can speak for me."

"This is an informal discussion," Parish assured her. "There are no charges being filed at this time." He paused for effect. "It serves you better to be cooperative, Mrs. Ralston. I'm sure we can put this matter to rest if you would just answer a few simple questions."

"I don't feel the need to be cooperative, Captain," Felicia responded irritably. "In fact, I don't feel the need to even be here." She immediately stood up from her chair. "I believe, as this is an informal discussion, that I am free to end it whenever I choose."

Parish looked up at the woman. "Yes. But, it would be in your best interest-"

"Well, I choose to end it immediately." With that, she walked to the door and pulled it open, casting a final look toward her reflection before strolling from the room.


Billie watched the woman's behavior with a mixture of anger and curiosity. It seemed as though Felicia was extremely unhappy that she wasn't involved in the interview. Well, that made two of them. For a split second, the brunette had contemplated going in regardless of her captain's orders, but she had far too much respect for Robert to treat his authority with such flagrant disregard.

She saw Parish and Felicia's lawyer exchange a few words before exiting the room. Billie stood with her arms folded across her chest, her brow furrowing as she turned toward the door. Within seconds, Parish entered, closing the door behind him as he let out a heavy sigh.

"You were right about that one," his deep voice resonated through the small room. "We have to find another way to go at her."

Billie walked over and leaned her shoulder against the wall. "I'm open to suggestions."

"Maybe there's something we're not seeing."

"I've been over everything, sir." She ran a hand through her hair. "The only vibe I get is off her husband's murder."

"The detectives who worked it couldn't find any link."

"I know it was a hit."

Parish absentmindedly patted the folder against his open palm. "Knowing and proving."

"Right." She pushed off from the wall and began to pace the confined area.

The captain watched her, sensing her growing frustration. "Okay, run it down for me, step by step."

Without missing a beat, Billie started. "Harry Ralston stops in to pick up a newspaper after playing eighteen at his club. He's standing near the register when a guy comes in wearing a mask and waving a gun. demands all the cash and some drugs. Harry makes a move, gets plugged with two quick shots, one in the chest, one in the head. Dead before he hits the floor. Gunman freaks, drops the gun and splits." The brunette stopped, her gaze fixed on a spot on the floor.

"What?"

"I'm still stuck on that. Ralston's killer and McKenzie's killer both left their guns at the scene. That's too coincidental."

The captain lifted a finger to his lips, tapping them several times as he mulled over her suggestion. "Could just be a coincidence."

Billie resumed her pacing, though at a noticeably faster speed. "Could be, but I don't think it is. We're talking about two completely different murders here. And both are connected to Felicia Ralston."

"There's also four years between them. That's a long time for a hired gun to hang around."

"Assuming she used a pro."

"But, you're thinking is.?"

The brunette stopped and turned to look at him. "It's got to be someone she knows."

Parish's expression remained neutral. "This woman probably knows a lot of people, Billie."

"Yeah," she agreed. "But, it would have to be someone she trusted completely, and I think that list is a whole lot shorter."

The captain opened the folder is his hand, quickly skimming through its contents. "What about Kistler?"

Billie shook her head. "They haven't known each other that long."

"Employees?"

"I've already checked them out," she confirmed. "Nothing, so far."

The lieutenant's gaze seemed distant for a moment. Robert Parish was very familiar with that look. Having watched Billie work many cases over the years, he could tell when something was nagging at her. It could be the smallest detail, but if it didn't jive, she couldn't live with it. And right now, he could tell she was mentally searching for a piece of this convoluted puzzle.

"What's missing?"

Billie gave him a slightly startled look. "Jesus, am I that easy to read?"

Parish smiled at her, something he rarely did to anyone. "Only to me." Their gazes remained locked for a few more seconds before Billie finally turned away and resumed her pacing.

"Okay," she answered, her tone all business, once again. "From the time she took off from foster care to having her name changed, there's nothing. That's almost nine years. I want to know what she was doing, where she was, who she was with. I think it might help if we can fill in the blanks."

The captain nodded in agreement. "Then, you'll just have to do some more digging." As he turned to grab the doorknob, his eyes caught sight of the mark on the window. He stared at it for a few seconds before looking back at her. "Just remember, Billie, whatever you do, do it quick. Hill's already made his recommendation to Forsythe. I'll do whatever I can to support you, but with two dead cops, they're looking for someone to blame."

"How much time do I have?"

"A few days...if that."

"Should be a piece of cake," she replied somberly.

Parish placed a supportive hand on her shoulder. "Show them how you earned that gold shield, Lieutenant." He opened the door and walked out of the room.

The young woman released a heavy sigh as she glanced over at the window. "Piece of cake," she repeated to herself before following Parish out the door.


Billie walked through the parking lot to her Corvette, fingers curling around the ignition key as she grabbed hold of the door's handle. Just as she pulled it open, a familiar voice called out from behind.

"Lieutenant Chambers."

The brunette paused a moment, rolling her eyes as she slowly turned around to see Felicia's head poking out of the back window of a silver Bentley. She swung her car door closed with an air of impatience and leaned back against it, folding her arms across her chest. The rear door of the expensive car opened and Felicia stepped out, her height outflanking the automobile by a considerable margin.

"What do you want, Felicia?"

"I was hoping we could have a chat," the woman answered smoothly. She motioned toward the interior of her car, giving the lieutenant a clear invitation to get inside.

Billie didn't move. "We can have a chat right here."

Felicia pouted, slightly. "I assure you, Lieutenant, I have no sinister motive." A seductive smile played across her lips. "I'll be a good girl." She lifted her arms and brought her wrists together. "You can even handcuff me if you like."

Watching her antics made Billie wonder whether or not she could just shoot the woman right on the spot and claim insanity, which wouldn't be far from the truth. She stared at the blonde for a moment before straightening up and walking toward the car.

The rational part of her mind was trying to convince her not to go. The idea of putting herself in such a dangerous position, given what the woman was capable of, was completely preposterous. Still, there was that other part of her, the one that thrived on challenge, enjoyed the risk. That was the part that usually won. And there was always the possibility that Felicia might give Billie something she could use. Just for that chance alone, she decided it was worth it.

"Make it quick."

The blonde's eyes followed her as she climbed into the back of the car and took a seat on the far side. Felicia got back in and took a seat beside her, leaving a small amount of distance between them. She pressed one long, manicured nail to a button on the console beside her. "Drive."

Billie watched the driver, his head tilting slightly in acknowledgement. She did a half-turn and faced the blonde, their close proximity putting all of her senses on high alert. "So, what do you want?"

"Why weren't you there?"

The directness of the woman's question threw Billie for a moment. She knew Felicia was somewhat irritated at her absence in the interrogation room, but the way the blonde was looking at her suddenly made it sound like the accusation of a jealous lover.

"I was told to stay away," she finally answered.

Felicia studied her for a moment. "But, you were watching.weren't you?"

The lieutenant didn't see any point in lying. "Yes, I was."

"I'd hoped you would be," Felicia responded with a sly grin. "Why were you told to stay away?"

Billie had no intention of divulging any details in regards to her recent dressing down, so instead she simply replied, "It's routine for an officer to be removed from a case when there's a personal component involved."

Felicia frowned. "That sounds very.procedural."

"Is that all you wanted, or are you going to confess now?"

"I do so enjoy your dry sense of humor."

"And I enjoy imagining what you'll look like in heavy denim." Billie shot back.

"Is that what they're wearing in prison nowadays?" The woman gave Billie a knowing look.

"Well, it isn't Prada, but I'm sure the pants come in tall."

The corner of Felicia's mouth curved up in a slight smirk. "You are precious."

Billie's patience was wearing dangerously thin. "Discussing the latest fashion trends for psychotics has been interesting and all, but is there a point to this conversation?"

"I thought, perhaps, you might want to ask me some questions."

That single sentence brought the young lieutenant up short. "What do you mean?"

"Well," the blonde shifted, slightly, one knee now touching Billie's leg. "Isn't that what you wanted...to conduct an interrogation?"

"It was only routine questioning," the lieutenant corrected her.

"Whatever you want to call it," Felicia said breezily, waving a casual hand in the air.

"Why?" Billie's tone belied more than a hint of suspicion.

"Because you've earned that right," she answered as she held the young woman's gaze. "And that is the reason why I wouldn't speak to your captain. This is strictly between us, Billie. I thought I made that clear."

"The only thing that's clear to me is that you want to play some kind of game," the brunette responded. "And, in case you haven't noticed, I'm not into playing games."

"Really?" The blonde leaned back and regarded the young woman with a cool expression. "Isn't that what you've been doing with Sara?"

Billie's gaze hardened. "Don't even try to fuck with my head, Felicia. That's been tried by people who were a hell of a lot better at it than you."

The blonde studied her for a moment before replying, "I wouldn't dream of it. I'm merely pointing out the fact that you're walking a very fine line, Lieutenant, and if you were found out, it would mean the end of your career...at the very least." She leaned back and draped a slender arm across the back of the seat. "I can't help but wonder if that isn't part of the attraction."

Billie could sense the underlying threat in the woman's words. "So, what's the thrust here? Are you concerned about my employment status, or just interested in probing my psyche?"

"As I said before, you do have a way with words." The blonde's hand brushed against Billie's arm, and she could feel the muscles tense beneath her fingers. "I believe I was the one giving you the opportunity to do the probing." She smiled as the brunette glared at her. "Are you interested?"

"Yes," Billie responded without hesitation.

Felicia laughed, softly. "So eager." She straightened up and moved in closer. "There is one favor I ask in return."

The lieutenant stiffened, eyeing the woman with distrust. "There's always a catch with you homicidal types."

The blonde's eyes flashed momentarily at Billie's comment. "I assure you, it's a very simple request."

"What?"

"I want you to kiss me."

A pair of dark eyebrows shot up. "You what?"

Felicia began to close the distance between them. "I said I want you to kiss me."

Billie suddenly realized that the incident in Felicia's office wasn't just a fluke. The woman was coming on to her again, only this time she was purposely dangling a carrot, and as the blonde had obviously anticipated, she was having a difficult time coming up with a single good reason not to comply.

If the woman had an angle, Billie couldn't honestly see it. For her, the kiss would mean nothing. And God knows, she'd done a hell of a lot more than kiss someone to get information from them. Not quite so openly, of course, but it still didn't change the fact that using someone's emotions to get something from them was a handy tool.

Of course, that's assuming the woman had any emotions, which Billie still hadn't been able to figure out. Felicia seemed far too narcissistic to have any real attachment to anyone. Even her relationship with Jill seemed driven more by possessiveness than any feeling of warmth or affection.

"Why?" she questioned.

"Does that really matter?"

"You know it wouldn't mean anything," Billie finally responded.

"Then, where's the harm?" Felicia was close enough to catch the faint smell of peppermint on Billie's breath.

The lieutenant closed the distance between them as she touched her lips to the blonde's, her eyes still open while she watched Felicia's close. After a few seconds, she did the same, placing a firm hand behind the other woman's head as she deepened the kiss.

Felicia parted her lips and slowly drew the tip of her tongue across the edge of Billie's teeth, nearly pulling back in surprise when she felt the brunette bite down gently, pulling on her lower lip. As their lips came together again, she uttered a soft moan into the young woman's mouth, her hands reaching up to cup the lieutenant's face.

The blonde's fingertips captured an earlobe, and she massaged it slowly, causing Billie to further tilt her head. The kiss was beginning to heat up as the women pushed against each another, one fighting for dominance while the other tried desperately to remain submissive.

As Billie continued to deliver what she hoped was a convincing performance, a hand suddenly slipped into her jacket, brushing against her breast as it gently took hold of her erect nipple. The sensation was immediate, and her heart began to beat faster as those long, delicate fingers worked through the soft fabric of her shirt.

Felicia's insistent ministrations finally elicited a moan from Billie as her hands suddenly gripped the other woman's shoulders. The blonde held fast, using the hand on the brunette's head to pull them down together, slowly reclining against the seat as she guided the young woman down on top of her.

The sudden shift in movement was enough to snap Billie to attention and she immediately broke the kiss, both women gasping for breath as they lay there staring at each other, lips swollen and faces flushed.

"God," Felicia sighed through a series of ragged breaths. "You are every bit as good as I knew you would be."

Billie placed her palms to the seat on either side of the blonde's head and pushed herself up, backing toward her original position. For the moment, she could only sit there as she waited for her body's urges to cool down, all of the places Felicia touched still tingling with excitement.

Felicia sat up, brushing her hair away from her forehead as a grin slowly spread across her face. "Well, I suppose you'd like to ask your questions now, hmm?" After a few seconds of primping, she released another heavy sigh and looked over at Billie, clasping her hands together and resting them in her lap.

The brunette was silently cursing herself for allowing her hormones to get the better of her. It was something that had been happening all too frequently, only in this case, the situation was fraught with far more dangerous consequences. There was also the lingering effect her dream had left on her, coupled with her somewhat overeager affinity for all things blonde. Add to that her physical and mental exhaustion and it was all one big recipe for disaster.

"Are you still with me, Lieutenant?"

The brunette shot her a look. "I kept my end of the bargain."

"Indeed you did."

Billie looked away for a moment, suddenly wondering what the driver had been doing during those few moments. She was unable to catch his eye in the rearview, so she stared at the back of his head until she finally decided he was either completely oblivious, or amazingly discreet. She turned back to see Felicia still smiling at her.

"So, what would you like to know?"

"Were you expecting me to be in the house last night?" Billie asked.

The smile on Felicia's face faded instantly. "If I was, you wouldn't be here."

The lieutenant took a moment to digest the woman's response. "Then, why did you do it?"

"For Jill," she answered simply, her mind still focused on their brief physical contact. She wanted to reach over and take a hold of the younger woman, picking up where they left off. Unfortunately, that would have to wait. And Felicia had long since decided that Billie Chambers was definitely worth waiting for.

"You arranged the attack on Sara." Billie spoke it as a statement.

Felicia pursed her lips at the young woman. "You're supposed to be asking me questions," she chided softly.

Billie suddenly leaned forward with a menacing look on her face. "Don't pull that cutesy shit with me, lady. You're lucky I haven't broken your fucking neck for what you did to her."

"I made a phone call, nothing more," the blonde stated reasonably. "You were the one that failed to protect her."

A hand suddenly shot out and grabbed Felicia's slender throat. Her body went rigid, dark eyes boring into Billie's as the lieutenant tightened her grip. The two women remained perfectly still, only the sound of the blonde's labored breathing filling the interior of the car.

"You feel guilty, don't you?" Felicia rasped, bring her hands up to clasp Billie's wrist and pulling at it, ineffectually.

"I can think of a way to cure that," Billie whispered threateningly.

"Haven't...you...forgotten something?" The blonde's face had a decidedly pinkish hue.

"Where to dump the body?" the lieutenant offered.

Felicia was beginning to visibly struggle. "Cathy McKenzie's.killer." The pressure immediately ceased, although Billie still maintained a firm grip, and the blonde gratefully swallowed several gulps of air.

"Who is it?"

"I'm afraid we've run out of time."

Billie looked out the window and spotted her car just as the Bentley came to a halt. She turned back to Felicia. "We're not done yet."

"I agree," the wealthy woman responded, still trying to catch her breath. "Perhaps we can continue this discussion over dinner."

The lieutenant released her hold and backed off a bit as she regained her self-control. She fixed her blue eyes on the blonde as she replied, "I think we'll continue it inside."

Felicia slowly shook her head. "No.I'm afraid I can't. I'm due to meet Elizabeth Forsythe for dinner this evening." She reached a hand up and gingerly stroked her neck. "I suppose I'll need to wear a scarf now. I certainly wouldn't want to have to explain where the bruises came from."

"Your connections don't impress me," Billie replied flatly.

"They don't need to impress you. They only need to serve as a reminder of what you're risking." She suddenly reached up and touched the outer edge of Billie's bottom lip, wiping away a smear of red lipstick. The brunette pulled back, purely out of reflex, but didn't make a move to stop her. Felicia sighed, heavily, regarding the lieutenant with a saddened expression. "You have no proof. I'll deny everything. It will be my word against yours, Billie. And while my credibility might be in question here, yours is rapidly deteriorating. Roland Hill wants your badge. If you make a move against me now...he'll have it."

Billie's gaze was pure ice. "You've certainly done your homework, haven't you? Well, if you know so much about me, then you know I won't stop until I get you."

Felicia returned the brunette's look with equal intensity, although the emotions behind them were altogether different. "And still one more thing we have in common."

Billie turned away and immediately pushed the door open, one foot to the pavement as she felt a hand touch her arm. There was no resistance there, but the gesture stopped her all the same. She looked over at those dark, obsessive eyes, feeling as though they were holding her in place through shear force of will.

"I have no desire to hurt you, Billie. In fact, I think we could be powerful allies, if you'd give me the opportunity to prove it to you."

The loud blast of a car horn distracted the lieutenant, breaking the spell she seemed to be under, and she quickly got out of the car, slamming the door behind her.

Felicia stared down at the smudge on her finger. She brought it up to her mouth and closed her eyes, slowly running the tip across her lips as she savored the memory of those warm, soft lips.

It had been only a few weeks ago that she'd thought Jill Kistler might be the one for her, but she soon realized that it wasn't meant to be. The relationship had a purpose, of course, just as all of her relationships did. Only recently, though, had she discovered exactly what that was: Without Jill, she'd have never met Billie. And now that she had, it was clear to her that she would need to proceed with careful steps. But, no matter how long it took, it was inevitable that she would get what she wanted.

She always did.

Throughout her life, there had been very few people who challenged her, and even less who managed to bring about feelings of true desire. Despite the numerous affairs she'd had over the years, she never felt any strong emotion for a lover, until the day she met Harry Ralston.

He had been an obsessive, controlling, manipulative person. By most standards, people would have even regarded him as cruel. But, Felicia had understood him better than anyone. He was a survivor, just like her. And though, sadly, she'd had a need to remove him from her life, it had been a wonderful experience while it lasted.

And now, finally, it seemed as though she'd found someone else to incite her interest once again. There were some similar qualities between Harry and Billie, although the latter was far more honest and kinder of spirit. But, both were driven to excess, single-minded in their desire to obtain their goals, and willing to do what most others would not to get what they wanted. And it's those traits, the things that made them both so strong, that were also their greatest weaknesses.

Harry was ambitious. His selfish, boundless need to climb higher had ultimately been his undoing. Billie was like that, in some ways, although her needs were somewhat different. She was fighting the good fight, but she still pushed the envelope, always raising the stakes far beyond the safety of her own net. Most people could never understand a person like that. They would always see them as self- destructive. But, Felicia knew better.

Billie was not her own worst enemy. The real danger came from those around her, the ones who would try to stop her from reaching her objectives. And since it was obtaining those objectives that kept Billie going, Felicia wanted to help her accomplish them.

Perhaps, that would be the way in that she needed. By proving to Billie that she could be just as ruthless, just as focused on achieving the ends by any means, maybe that would open the young woman's eyes and make her see what they could be capable of doing together.

And then, Billie Chambers would fall for her.


Billie sat in her car, head resting on the seat as she stared, unseeing at the sky above her. There were a myriad of thoughts pulling at her, but her tired mind wasn't being cooperative in helping her to put them in some type of coherent order. The last week had proved to be one of constant chaos, and sleep was fast becoming a distant memory.

After the Bentley had pulled away, she'd been left standing there, royally pissed off.and though she was loath to admit it, maybe even the tiniest bit aroused. Lately, it seemed as though those two emotions were inextricably linked, and the primary reason for that, of course, was a beautiful blonde-haired thief named Sara Matthews.

There was something almost comical about the whole situation, and if she wasn't so utterly frustrated at her own inability to gain control of it, she'd probably just sit down somewhere and have a good laugh.

Like maybe in the middle of the L.A. Freeway.

And speaking of beautiful blondes. Okay, so she'd kissed Felicia. So what. Yes, it had felt good, for all of two seconds. For whatever reason, she'd found herself enjoying it.but the reality of the cause was perfectly clear: She was tense. She missed Sara. Felicia was blonde. End of story.

She blew out a frustrated breath and slammed the clutch to the floor as she turned the ignition. The Corvette roared to life and she listened to it momentarily, finding herself feeling almost apologetic to it for the abuse she'd been heaping on it recently. Maybe after everything was over, she'd take it for a nice long ride along the coast for a few days. Just the two of them.

"Chambers, you are really losing it," she muttered as she threw the car in gear. She backed out of her space and was heading for the exit when her cell phone rang. She pulled it from her jacket pocket and gave her usual friendly greeting. "Chambers."

"Billie?"

"Yeah?"

"It's Aquarius."

Billie felt her gut clench. "What's wrong?"

"Seems your lady friend decided to hit the pavement."

Shit. Shit. Shit. "How long?"

"Maybe thirty minutes...no more."

"Thanks." Billie immediately dialed another number as she tried to tuck the phone between her chin and shoulder, nearly taking out a young couple as she blew through the open gate.


Sara pulled in to the parking lot and found a spot near the back of the building, sandwiched between a beat up old van and a dumpster. She got out and looked around, hoping to keep the car out of sight long enough to meet with Jill and get the hell out of there before the cops found it. Or her.

Since Billie's friend, Aquarius, had other things to occupy him, she'd managed to slip out without alerting him. After a brief walk around the neighborhood, she'd spied an old Chevy Impala parked in an alley and immediately decided she could get where she was going much quicker in a car than a bus. And even though it had been years since she'd hot-wired a car, it was just like riding a bike. Less than thirty seconds under the front dash and she'd been on her way.

She walked casually toward a side door, heading up the cement stairs as she kept one eye on the street to her left and the other on a group of teenagers hanging around near the corner. Images flashed through her mind as a torrent of memories came back to her, most of them unpleasant, save for a few rare exceptions.

"Hey, blondie."

Sara had been so lost in her thoughts that she hadn't noticed the door opening in front of her. She stopped in her tracks, hand still resting on the railing, until she recognized the face.

For a split-second, she felt as though someone had turned back the clock. It had been eight years earlier when Jill had greeted her for the first time, and in exactly the same way. Only then, Sara was bruised and bloodied, and barely able to stand on her own two feet. Things had certainly changed.except for maybe the bruised and bloodied part. No matter how far she'd come since those awful days, her life still seemed destined to be mired in violence.

"Hey, Jill." She quickly stepped inside, moving passed the taller woman so she could get off the street. With a quick turn, she found herself face to face with her old roommate for the first time since the day of their arrest.

Jill's pale green eyes held Sara's for a moment before shifting focus to the bandage on the young woman's forehead. The blonde thought she saw a brief flash of guilt there. She reached out and clasped Jill's hand, giving it a firm squeeze.

"I'm fine," she offered. "Just a little headache. It could've been worse."

"It could've not happened at all," Jill said remorsefully. "If I'd confessed."

"Yeah, and you'd be in jail," Sara reminded her. "Not a good alternative."

"Looks like we could both end up there, now."

"Yeah, well, I'm not planning on testifying." She waved a hand in the air. "So, whatever happens...happens."

Jill pulled Sara aside, tucking them into a darkened corner as she lowered her tone to a near whisper. "Sara...I'm leaving. Now. Today." She placed her hands on the blonde's slight shoulders. "I've got plenty of money." The brunette hesitated before adding, "For the both of us."

Sara's eyes widened. "You want me to go with you?"

"Of course, I do," she answered, her eyes shifting about nervously. "Listen, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything. I shouldn't have taken off when the cops showed, but I was scared. I didn't know what to do. And then Felicia flipped out and sent someone after you," she blew out a frustrated breath. "I didn't know about that. I swear to God."

Sara smirked. "Well, at least for once you're in the right place."

A corner of Jill's mouth turned up, slightly, as she looked out over the pews. "I haven't seen the inside of this place in a long time."

"Me either."

Jill turned back to her. "Come with me. We can go anywhere we want. But, it has to be now. When Felicia finds out I've taken off." Her voice trailed off, but the implication was clear enough to Sara.

"She's crazy, Jill."

"You don't know the half of it," the brunette replied cryptically.

"Why is she after Billie?" Sara could see her friend bristle at the mention of her lover's name. It wasn't unexpected, certainly, but she'd hoped Jill had come to understand the reasons behind what Billie had done by now. Apparently, that had been asking for too much.

"As far as I'm concerned," Jill responded angrily. "Those two deserve each other."

"You didn't answer my question."

"Sara." Jill looked away for a moment. There were plenty of things she could say about Felicia, none of them pleasant. But, the last thing she wanted was to give Sara more reasons to stay. And if she knew how bad Felicia had it for Billie, she'd never leave.

The incident that had opened her eyes to Felicia's obsession had been the explosion. She'd been pushing for revenge, without a doubt. However, the scale to which her lover had endeavored to raise that desire was far beyond anything Jill could have comprehended.

But, it was the immediate aftermath that had left its most indelible image. Having kept a vigil out on the deck as she watched the situation unfold down shore, Felicia had finally come back inside and instigated an extremely passionate round of lovemaking, the likes of which the brunette couldn't ever remember being so good. Toward the end, as the blonde was about to finish, she called out a name.

It wasn't Jill's.

She'd been so shocked to hear Billie's name that she froze for a moment. Felicia's rather loud protestations fueled her to complete what she'd started, and when they were done, she realized that her lover hadn't even been aware of the slip she'd made.

The voyeurism.the explosion.even the chaos that erupted after it, Felicia had gotten off on it. All of it. She'd had the cop's house bombed, while she stood by like a spectator at a ball game. And when there was no more destruction and pain to lay witness to, she proceeded to fantasize about that very same cop while she fucked Jill's brains out. It was at that moment that the younger woman realized it was way past time to get the hell away from her.

Having been the object of Felicia's affections for a short while, Jill knew how obsessive she could be. The whole idea of getting revenge on Billie had been her idea, of course, but when Felicia had taken up the mantle like it was some kind of crusade, even she realized how out of control the woman really was.

Originally, she'd decided to stick it out for a while, figuring she could kill two birds with one stone. She'd be able to siphon off enough cash from Felicia to take off without her knowledge, and still have a chance to wreak a little havoc on Chambers before she left. All in all, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

But, after the bombing, Felicia was different. Jill was beginning to get the feeling that the woman was planning something. Something big and nasty. And her fear for her own safety was more than enough to motivate her. After receiving Sara's call, she decided it was the perfect time. Convince her friend to come away with her, and leave Felicia and Billie far behind. Hell, with any luck, maybe they'd end up killing each other.

"The woman just gets off on other people's misery, alright? I wanted to get back at Chambers and she took it too far. But, the truth of it is, I don't give a shit. The house went up, Felicia got her rocks off watching it, and no one got hurt." Jill reached over and placed a gentle, but firm hand on Sara's forearm. "Now, let's just get the hell out of here while we can."

Sara frowned. "Jill, how can you say no one was hurt? You don't know what that place meant to Billie."

"Yeah, well maybe I didn't, but you can bet your ass Felicia did." Her tone became more insistent. "Look, we have to go." She glanced about nervously, as though expecting someone to appear at any minute. She could feel Sara pull away from her.

"I can't."

Jill narrowed her eyes. "You mean you won't."

"Whatever."

"Sara," Jill responded in exasperation. "How can you still care about her?"

"It's complicated," was all the blonde would say.

The brunette's expression hardened. "Fine. I'm done with this shit." She turned and headed for the door.

"Jill, wait."

Sara followed in close pursuit as Jill pushed the door open and rushed down the cement stairs. When she reached the bottom, she turned to face the blonde as a familiar voice rang out from behind her.

"Well, this is certainly the last place I would've expected to find you."

Sara stood poised at the landing, her hand resting on the wrought iron railing as she felt her stomach start to turn. "Shit."

"Actually, the correct term is deep shit, because that's what the two of you are in now."

Jill turned back to see Billie Chambers standing a few feet away pointing a gun at her. Her body tensed as she moved a hand toward her back.

"You move and I'll kill you."

"Billie, this is-"

Billie pointed a finger at Sara. "Keep your mouth shut. I don't want to hear a fucking word." She took a few slow steps, her eyes and weapon never wavering from Jill's shocked face. "On your knees," she ordered. "Hands on your head."

Jill stole a glance at Sara, who could only stand there, feeling helpless.

"Now!"

The brunette immediately complied, moving carefully as she lowered herself to the pavement. She clasped her fingers together and rested her hands on top of her head.

Billie walked around her at a safe distance and approached, cautiously, from behind. With a quick move, she produced a pair of handcuffs from her pocket.

"Wait," Sara spoke up as she came down the stairs. "What are you doing?"

"What the hell does it look like I'm doing?" Billie responded angrily as she pressed the muzzle of her gun against the back of Jill's head. "Now, stay out of this."

Sara knew Billie couldn't afford to take her eyes off of Jill, so she took a few tentative steps toward the two women, not at all sure what she could do.

"You know, Jill, so far, today has really sucked," Billie told her. "But, if you're carrying, you are really gonna make my day." She snapped a cuff on one wrist and closed it firmly.

"Billie, no." Sara came up from behind and grabbed Billie's arms, pulling them down to her side.

Jill immediately sensed an opening and dropped her hands to the ground as she kicked her leg out and swept the lieutenant off her feet.

The sudden attack brought both women to the ground in a heap, causing Billie's arm to hit the pavement with enough force to knock the gun from her hand. She immediately scrambled to her knees and put a hand on it, only to have a booted foot slam down on top of her fingers.

"Looks like I'm gonna make your day, huh Chambers?"

Billie picked her head and found herself staring down the barrel of a gun.

Part 16

Here in this lonely place
tangled up in our embrace
there's nothing I'd like
better than to fall
but I fear I have nothing to give
        - Sarah McLachlan

Sara quickly got to her feet, cursing silently as she watched the scene unfolding in front of her. She'd only wanted a chance to reason with Billie, to try and convince her not to make an arrest. Unfortunately, her careless actions had given Jill the upper hand, and now the situation had suddenly become extremely volatile.

"When I lift my foot, you're going to take your hand off that piece, you understand me?"

Billie's eyes remained fixed on Jill as she gave a quick nod. "Yeah."

Jill took a step back, carefully watching the lieutenant's movements as she slowly took her hand off the gun. She immediately kicked it away and walked around the young woman, all the while keeping the gun pointed at her head.

Billie tried to keep an eye on Jill as she made a move to get to her feet. The barrel of the gun suddenly pressed against the back of her head.

"Jill," Sara warned.

The brunette didn't spare her a glance. "Put you hands on your head." This was it, the moment that Jill had been fantasizing about for the last two weeks. Unfortunately, the combination of Sara's presence, and her own need to speed things along was almost completely ruining any chance she had of enjoying it. Almost. "Amazing how quick things change, isn't it?"

"Let's see," Billie responded, still on her knees. "You with a gun. breaking the law." She shrugged her shoulders. "Doesn't sound like much of a change to me."

"And you with that smart mouth," Jill replied jamming the barrel against the brunette's head in emphasis.

"Stop it."

Jill finally turned to look at Sara. "Get the key," she instructed, holding up her cuffed hand.

Sara hesitated for a moment, her eyes darting between her friend and her lover. She knew how much Jill hated Billie, but she was fairly certain she could convince her not to do anything foolish, so long as it meant she could still get away.

Of course, Billie wasn't about to agree to let Jill walk. The only way that was going to happen was if she was physically incapable of stopping her, and right now Sara could only see two ways of accomplishing that. One was clutched tightly in Jill's right hand; the other was dangling from her left wrist.

She stepped forward and bent down to look over Billie's shoulder. "Which pocket?" Her question was met with an icy glare and silence. "Just trust me, okay?" she said softly as she went about checking the young woman's jacket, quickly producing the key. She could tell by the look on Billie's face that trusting her was about the farthest thing from the lieutenant's mind at that moment, and Sara certainly couldn't blame her for that. More than anything, she wanted to explain herself, but that battle would have to be fought later. She stood up and turned around to Jill, quickly freeing the brunette's wrist.

"Somebody's going to come along any minute." Sara moved to stand in between the two women, but Jill held a hand up, signaling for her to back off. "You need to get out of here. Now."

"And have little miss bloodhound sniffing my trail?" the brunette queried. "I don't think so."

Sara could tell by Jill's posture that she was preparing to take some sort of action. In desperation, she stepped forward and held out the handcuffs. "I'll take care of it."

The brunette hesitated. "How?"

"We'll get in her car," she explained reasonably. "Take a drive for a while. That should give you enough time to get away."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Billie spoke up as she tried to twist around enough to catch a glimpse of the two women.

"Billie, please."

Jill glanced around nervously. "I don't know." She pushed the gun against Billie's head again. "What if she gets away? Something could happen. I should just-"

"Nothing's going to happen," Sara interjected, once more attempting to step in between them. She locked eyes with Jill, the tone of her voice soft, but firm. "I won't let you hurt her."

The last thing Jill wanted was for the two of them to go at it, especially over Billie Chambers. They already walked that rode once before, and it had ended very badly. "Do it," she responded, gesturing toward the handcuffs as she walked around to face Billie. "You so much as flinch and I'll put a new part in your hair."

Billie stared at the woman in defiance. "You won't be able to run far enough, you know."

Jill smirked. "With the pair you've got on you, Chambers, I don't know how Sara can even get near you."

The lieutenant was about to regale the woman with a string of colorful epithets when she felt cool metal attach itself to her wrist. She jerked out of reflex, and Jill reacted swiftly by slamming the butt of the gun against her temple.

Sara jumped back in shock. "Billie!" She dropped to her knees and bent over the brunette's prostrate form, her hands cradling the young woman's face.

Billie had taken her fair share of knocks to the head over the years, but very few of them hurt more than the hard metal of a gun handle. She lay there for a moment, her eyes shut, tightly, as she waited for the pounding in her head to ease off. She could feel Sara's hands on her, and she pushed the young woman away, roughly.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Sara shouted at the woman standing over them. "I told you I'd take care of this, now just leave her alone." The anger in her voice caused Jill to look at her in surprise.

"I can't believe this. After everything she's done-"

"Well, believe it." Sara ignored Billie's gestures of protest and helped her to a sitting position. "Are you alright?"

Billie shoved her hands away. "Get off me."

Sara noticed a trickle of blood running down the brunette's cheek. "Shit." She shot Jill an angry look. "She's bleeding."

"That's the least of her problems right now," Jill replied unsympathetically as she gestured to the lieutenant with the gun in her hand. "Get up." Billie slowly climbed to her feet, swaying unsteadily as she put a hand to her head.

Jill tapped her forehead. "Now we're even."

"Fuck you," Billie responded.

"Let's just get the hell out of here, alright?" Sara interjected as she watched the two women stare each other down. "Billie, turn around and give me your hands."

The lieutenant shot her a look. "So, you're adding kidnapping to your repertoire now?"

"I'm trying to help you," Sara said softly.

"Yeah," she replied flippantly. "So far, you've been a real big help."

"If you don't do as she says," Jill warned as she lowered her aim. "I'll make sure you don't follow me."

"Jill, stop it!" Sara stepped between them, effectively blocking the woman's view. "Billie, just do this, alright?" She could see the feeling of betrayal in those blue eyes, and it cut through her like a knife. "Please."

The lieutenant turned around, reluctantly, and placed her hands behind her back. She closed her eyes as Sara fastened the other cuff to her wrist, feeling the blonde squeezing her hands, firmly, before letting go. Billie knew the gesture was intended to be reassuring, but as she felt those same hands slip inside her pocket to remove her car keys, it only felt like another kick to the stomach.

Sara turned around and fixed Jill with a hard stare. "I'll be right back," she said pointedly as she held up the keys clutched in her hand. She stepped away from them, stopping to pick up Billie's gun and tuck it into the back of her jeans. She shot a parting glance over her shoulder before turning the corner of the building and disappearing from view.

Billie turned around to face Jill, her eyes narrowing, slightly, as she tried to ignore the throbbing in her head. "So, Felicia can't be too happy about this."

Jill shot her a venomous glare. "That crazy bitch is your problem now." She took several calculated steps toward the lieutenant, moving close enough to press the gun into her stomach. "And you better make sure Sara doesn't get caught in the crossfire."

Billie met the woman's steady gaze. "Yeah, I can see how concerned you are for her, what with taking off, and all."

"I wanted her to come with me," Jill informed her. "But, for some stupid reason, she wants to stay here with you." She jabbed the gun into Billie's ribs. "I honestly don't know what she sees in you."

"Ditto."

The sound of a car engine brought their conversation to a halt as Sara pulled up beside them in Billie's Corvette. Both women turned to look as the blonde got out and made her way toward them.

Jill leaned in and said softly, "The next time I see you, will be the last time."

Billie glanced at her. "I can hardly wait."

"Okay," Sara said as she came around and opened the passenger door. She gestured to the lieutenant to get inside. "Come on, Billie."

Billie suddenly received a not-so-gentle nudge from behind, forcing her to take a few steps toward the car. Without so much as a parting glance, she climbed in and dropped into the leather seat.

Sara closed the door and turned back to Jill. "I'll give you as much time as I can."

Jill tucked her own gun away. "You sure you won't change your mind?"

Sara nodded as she shot a quick look over her shoulder. "I'm sure."

"Okay, then"

The two women stared at each other in silence.

"Take care of yourself," Sara finally said.

"You, too." Jill's voice was slightly rough as she leaned in and gave Sara an awkward hug. When she pulled back, she jutted her chin toward the car's lone occupant. "Watch yourself with that one."

"We'll be okay."

The brunette rolled her eyes. "If you say so."

A loud siren suddenly began to wail, startling both women as they turned to see Billie jamming her foot against the dashboard.

"Shit." Sara waved a hand at Jill as she ran around the car. "Get going!"

"Later, Sara!" Jill called out as she ran for her own car.

The blonde yanked the driver's door open and jumped in, pushing Billie's leg aside as she started pushing buttons frantically. "How do you shut this thing off?" She glanced over at the brunette, only to realize that the young woman wasn't even looking at her. She followed Billie's gaze as the two of them watched Jill drive away.

When the car disappeared from sight, the lieutenant answered, "Bottom left button."

Sara quickly pressed it, sighing in relief when the siren immediately shut off. She slumped back against the seat. "God, that was loud." She noticed someone coming out of the side door of the church. "We better go." She pulled the door closed, giving Billie an apologetic look as she reached over and fastened her seatbelt. "I'm sorry about this."

"Save it."


"It's not a good idea for us to meet like this."

Felicia smiled at the young man. "You worry too much."

"And you don't worry enough," Warren replied tersely. "They're watching you, you know."

"I'm well aware of the Los Angeles Police and their inept surveillance tactics." She sat down on the edge of a small sofa and crossed her legs. "I'm here to see a man about a painting, nothing more. The room was rented under an assumed name. They'll never even bother to check."

"I'm concerned about you, Ilsa." He stepped forward to look her, squarely, in the eyes.

She reached over and patted his cheek. "You needn't be."

"You're playing a very dangerous game."

Felicia grinned mischievously. "They are my favorite kind."

The man turned away from her and began to pace. "Everything is getting completely out of hand."

"You were the one who decided to shoot the young woman."

He spun around and pinned her with a dark look. "She killed another cop. It was only a matter of time before she was caught. And I was going to have to do it, eventually, anyway."

After a brief pause, she replied, "Then, you did the right thing."

Warren tucked his hands into his pockets, eyeing her warily as he shifted from foot to foot like a nervous child. "You really think so?" His expression registered self-doubt as he waited for her to respond.

"Of course." She smiled like a proud mother. "You always do."

His face lit up as she offered her hand to him. "So, what's your next step?" he asked as he walked up and eagerly accepted it.

"Actually," Felicia responded with a firm squeeze. "I've decided to give Billie a little gift."

The young man frowned. "A gift? What kind of gift?"

Felicia arched a thin brow. "You're not jealous, are you?"

The young man looked wounded. "No...no, of course not."

"That's good, because you have no reason to be." She stood up and placed her other hand on his shoulder. "No one can ever replace you. You do know that, don't you?"

Warren looked at her with loving eyes. "I like hearing it."

The blonde regarded him for a long moment. "Now, as I was saying, I want to give her something, a token of my growing affection for her."

"She's not like the others," the man warned.

"Mmm...I agree." Her hand moved from Warren's shoulder to his face, stroking it softly. "I sense a kindred spirit in this young woman."

"I've heard a lot of things about her," he continued, hoping to discourage her from having anything to do with the young lieutenant. "Very bad things. She's not the kind of person that can be led around by the nose."

"I'm well aware of what she's capable of," the blonde mused. "And that is precisely what makes her so worthwhile."

"You thought that about the last one," he pointed out, looking somewhat crestfallen as she removed her hands and stepped away from him.

"Well, I may have been mistaken about Jill," she relented, her voice sounding a bit distracted as she wandered her way around the near empty loft. "But, it wasn't a total loss, now was it?"

"I don't see what makes her so special," Warren said impatiently.

The woman eyed him, dubiously. "Is it so important that you understand my motivations?"

"Since I'm the one that usually has to clean up after you, than I'd have to say yes," he shot back.

Felicia stared at him, coldly. "If you find our relationship to be so tedious, than why are you here?"

Warren blinked a few times, clearing his throat as he held his arms up in a gesture of supplication. "I didn't mean...I'm just worried, that's all." When she didn't immediately respond he asked, "Are you upset with me?"

The blonde moved, gracefully, taking slow, measured steps toward him as he stood there, watching her, a knot of fear twisting in his gut. He suddenly dropped to his knees, burying his face against her legs as his muffled voice pleaded, "I'm sorry, Ilsa. Please forgive me."

She reached down and placed her fingertips under his chin, gently coaxing him to lift his head. As he looked up at her, she could see his eyes were filled with tears. "Of course, I forgive you," she cooed softly. "You're my one and only. Don't ever forget that."

He shook his head, vehemently. "I won't."

"Now," the blonde whispered softly. "Would you like to help me arrange my little surprise?" Warren wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand and nodded. "Good." She prodded him to his feet, straightening his tie as he stood there watching her, intently. After a brief moment of fussing with his collar, she took a step back and looked him up and down. "You are a handsome one."

He smiled, proudly. "So, what would you like me to do?"


The car rolled to a stop near the edge of the ravine, pointing outward over the spectacular view of the valley. The area was completely devoid of any signs of life, save for the two people sitting in the parked vehicle.

"A secluded area. So, is this where you're planning on dumping the body?"

Sara undid her seatbelt and reached over, doing the same for Billie. "I thought this would be a good place for us to talk."

Billie glared at her. "Take these goddamn cuffs off my wrists and maybe I won't haul your ass off to jail. There, we've talked."

The blonde sighed, heavily, as she leaned back against the headrest. "I had to do something otherwise Jill would have probably shot you."

"You were the one who gave her that chance."

"I told you I was sorry about that."

Billie stared at her in astonishment. "Do you honestly think that makes everything okay, Sara? You go around doing whatever the hell you want, and then come back to me and say `Sorry, Billie', and that just wipes it all away? While my career flushes away like piss down a toilet, you sit here and apologize. You even helped Jill get away. She has a gun, and a friggin' attitude to match, and now she's merrily wandering the state in search of some other poor son of a bitch she can pop. And, thanks to you, maybe she'll even end up killing the next person. But, hey, don't worry, because when that happens, you can always look me up while I'm serving ten to fifteen for aiding and abetting and let me know how fucking sorry you are!"

Sara raised an eyebrow. "Are you done?"

"Yeah," Billie nodded, vigorously. "Yeah, I'm done, all right. In fact, I've had it. I've had it with Jill, I've had it with Felicia, I've had it with Hill, and most importantly," she twisted around in her seat and used her hands to lift the door latch. "I've had it with you." The lieutenant spun around and kicked the door open, quickly pushing herself out of the car.

The blonde put a hand to her forehead and muttered, "Jesus." She quickly got out of the car and followed Billie as she marched down the empty road. "Where are you going?"

"Away from you."

"Billie," Sara called out as she picked up her pace.

"Leave me alone, Sara." The brunette continued to walk, briskly, along the edge of the road, kicking at an occasional clump of dried grass.

"Why won't you give me a chance to explain?"

The lieutenant stopped in her tracks, turning around slowly as she pinned the blonde with a furious look. "Explain what, exactly? How you've screwed up my life to the point where I can hardly even recognize it? Or, how, because of you and you're little buddy, I get to star in my own personal version of `Fatal Attraction'? Or, maybe you'd like to explain how I'm going to tell my boss that I've completely lost any and all of my objectivity to do this job because I've been too busy getting fucked until I can't see straight!"

Sara frowned. "What happened between you and Felicia?" Billie rolled her eyes and started back down the road without a word. "Billie!" The blonde set off in a jog until she dropped in step beside the lieutenant. They walked side by side for several minutes until Sara finally grabbed Billie's arm and forced her to stop. "Tell me."

"It's my problem and I'll handle it."

"God, do you ever play a different tune?"

"Yeah," Billie retorted. "Here's a golden oldie, for ya." She pulled her arm free. "Fuck off."

As she began to walk away again, Sara cut off her path, placing her hands firmly against the woman's shoulders. "Don't talk to me that way."

Billie pressed her face up close to the blonde's, drawing the words out slowly as she repeated, "Fuck. Off." Sara's immediate response was a hard slap to the face. The lieutenant's expression remained cool as she turned her head back to look at her. "Do you ever play a different tune?"

Sara stared at her for a moment. "I'm sor." she stopped herself before the words were out of her mouth. "Right." Billie took a step back and walked around her without a second glance.

An unpleasant sensation was gnawing at Sara as she looked over her shoulder, watching the brunette's retreating back. How the hell had things gotten so out of control? All she wanted was to help the people she cared about, but she only seemed to be making everything worse.

And now it looked as though she had managed to wreck the only thing that really meant anything to her. Billie was beyond upset, and with good reason. Everything she said was true. She'd put everything on the line for her, and Sara had paid her back by betraying her.

So, what did Billie want from her, exactly? Sara supposed the very same thing she wanted in return: Trust.and truth. Well, so far, she'd managed to blow it on both counts. The only chance she had of salvaging anything meant that she would have to start giving Billie what she wanted.

The blonde broke into a run, swiftly closing the distance as she caught up and grabbed Billie's hands from behind. The lieutenant was about to turn around and have another go at her when she felt the first cuff being released from her wrist. The second immediately followed, and as Billie finally turned to face her, Sara had the empty restraints dangling from her fingers.

"My mother left my father and me when I was six. He was a drunken son of a bitch who could never forgive me for looking so much like her, so he used to beat me. And I don't mean an occasional slap, or a spanking. I'm talking curled up fists giving me all he could dish out. When I was fifteen, he pounded the living shit out of me so bad I ran...well, more like I limped away as fast as I could. I was hurting badly, so I went to the only place I thought I might be safe."

"When I climbed the stairs to that church, a girl opened the side door and gave me the once over. She wasn't much older than me, but I figured I was pretty much screwed. She'd call the police, or have the priest take me to a hospital, which meant they would call my father. But, all she did was take me inside and help me get cleaned up. She treated my wounds, convinced the priest to let me crash there for the night, and eventually, she found me a place to stay."

"Almost a week after I left, my father found me at this shelter. He was pissed as all hell, ready to beat the living daylights out of me, and I knew if he got his hands on me again, he'd kill me for sure. But, this same girl was there that night, and she got in between us. I couldn't believe the way she talked to him. I had never seen anyone with more balls in my life. She actually threatened him, and when he swung at her, she took him down with three hits. The cops came and arrested him, and before they had a chance to question either one of us, she pulled me out of there and we bolted."

Billie studied Sara for a moment. "Did you ever see your father again?"

"No."

"Lucky for you she was there."

"I owed Jill," Sara said softly. "I can't make it any clearer than that."

Billie's expression was still a bit guarded. "I know a little about owing a debt."

"What I did was wrong, Billie. I know that. But, I was the one who asked her to meet me there. You would never have known she was taking off if you hadn't somehow managed to follow me." Sara suddenly paused, giving the brunette a curious look. "By the way, how did you know where to find me?"

"I put a GPS in your cell phone."

Sara smirked. "Nice of you to tell me."

"I did it for your protection," Billie stated firmly. "Not so I could follow you." She threw her hands up in frustration. "Don't you see, Sara? This is exactly what I'm talking about. I'm so blinded by you that I'm making a lot of stupid mistakes. I should have brought backup when I went to find you, but I didn't want you to get arrested. So instead, I almost ended up getting myself killed."

"Do you think I should turn myself in?" Sara asked.

"And to top it all off, I-" Billie looked at her. "What?"

"Do you think I should turn myself in?" she repeated.

The lieutenant cocked an eyebrow. "Why would you want to do that?"

"You just said it yourself," Sara pointed out. "You were so concerned about me getting arrested that you put yourself at risk. You've put your career on the line...you could even end up going to jail. I don't want you to ruin your life over me."

Billie blinked a few times, but didn't respond. Logically, she knew what Sara was suggesting would probably be the smartest thing, if only to help the young woman get her life back on track. She would definitely have to serve time, but there was still a good chance she could get a lighter sentence if she turned herself in now. It was her first offence, and coupled with the circumstances surrounding her attack, a judge would likely find it difficult to go hard on her.

But, there was still a part of Billie that couldn't bear the thought of it. Her own brief stint in prison was enough for her to know that it was the last place on earth she would allow Sara to end up.

"No," she finally answered.

"Billie, how can we ever get anywhere living like this?"

"No," she repeated vehemently. "I told you I would keep you out of prison, and a person is only as good as their word."

"That deal wasn't a free ride, and I didn't keep my end of the bargain," the blonde reminded her.

"A lot has changed since I made that offer, Sara."

The blonde tilted her head, slightly, as she reached out and touched Billie's cheek. "I am sorry I hit you."

"I know you are."

"I'm just like him," Sara commented, a touch of irony in her voice.

"No, you're not," Billie responded as she folded her arms across her chest. "You just need to work on your problem solving skills."

"You're acting pretty blasť for someone who keeps winding up on the receiving end of those skills," Sara commented.

Billie gave her typically vague response. "I've had worse."

"Speaking of which," the blonde replied, "You should let me take a look at that cut on your head."

"It's fine."

Sara held a hand out to her. "Come on, I promise I won't bite."

The lieutenant's lip curled up in a slight smirk. "Hardly seems worth it, then."

"Well, Billie's feeling playful all of a sudden," Sara said in mock surprise. "So...does that mean we're okay?"

"I wouldn't go that far."

The two women fell in step beside each other, slowly making their way back to the car in relative silence. Billie took the keys from Sara and removed a first aid kit from the trunk, sitting quietly on the grass while the blonde went about patching up her wound.

When she finished, Sara sat down beside Billie, studying the young woman's profile. "So, will you tell me what happened with Felicia?"

The brunette shrugged. ""There's not much to tell." The lie was automatic. She didn't want Sara within a hundred miles of Felicia Ralston. The woman was clearly unbalanced, and without being able to anticipate her next move, the lieutenant knew that everyone around her was now at risk.

She turned and fixed Sara with a serious look as she immediately switched the subject. "I have to call it in now." Billie was just about to get to her feet when she felt a hand grab her wrist. She gave the blonde a sympathetic look. "I've already waited too long as it is."

"I know."

Billie looked at her, expectantly. "Then...what?"

Sara released her grip as she turned to gaze out over the valley. "Once we leave here, things will have to change."

"What do you mean?"

The blonde expelled a heavy sigh. "I'll have to go...at least, temporarily."

"You can still stay with Aquarius."

"No, Billie," she said firmly. "Not this time." Sara knew Billie couldn't maintain this juggling act for much longer, which meant something had to give. Or more accurately, someone had to go.

The lieutenant reseated herself, reaching over to place a hand on the young woman's knee. "Where?"

Sara pulled at the grass, absently, her blue eyes cast to the ground. "I think it's better if you don't know."

Billie frowned at her. "I'm not sure I like that arrangement." That was putting it mildly, of course. Despite the difficulties of keeping Sara hidden, she felt better at least knowing where she was. "What if you needed...something?"

The blonde shrugged her narrow shoulders. "I'll keep the cell with me." She quickly shot her companion a look. "Minus the GPS, Lieutenant."

"I don't suppose there's anything I could say to change your mind, is there?" Billie already looked resigned as she leaned back on her hands and stretched her legs out, her gaze wandering out to the horizon. Only this morning she had told herself this was bound to happen. It would be hard to let Sara go, but in the long run, it was necessary. She was absolutely right when she said they couldn't continue to live like this. And since jail was out of the question, there weren't a lot of other options.

Sara eyed the young woman with concern. She knew what Billie was thinking. It wouldn't be a temporary arrangement. If she left now, it was unlikely she would ever come back.

But, she had no intention of staying away. Her only desire was to give Billie the space she needed, both to do her job, and to work out how she felt. Their relationship was fraught with complications, and even though Sara was sure of what she wanted, she couldn't say the same for her lover.

They had been so close. It seemed as though the difficult circumstances that surrounded them had actually served to bring the two women together that much faster. She knew Billie had been about to tell her that she was in love with her, but then, in one explosive moment, everything had changed. Her only hope now was that, if given time, she would get the opportunity to finally hear those words.

"It'll only be for a while," Sara assured her as she placed a soft kiss on Billie's cheek. "Just until things cool down. And then, when we're both ready, we'll see where we go from there." Her lips moved to tease a partially exposed earlobe.

Billie pulled back, slightly, pinning her with a serious look. "It could be a long while."

The blonde smiled. "Then you better make this one count, Lieutenant." She placed a hand behind Billie's head and pulled her closer, uttering a soft sigh as their lips came together in a gentle kiss.

Billie's response was immediate as she cradled Sara's face in her hands and began to kiss her with ever-increasing fervor. Her fingers worked into silky, blonde hair as she shifted her position, pushing both of their bodies to the ground. She rolled on top of her lover, her breathing growing more ragged as her hands began to roam across soft, familiar curves, all other thoughts shoved to the back of her mind in the wake of her rising passion.

Sara could sense something different in Billie's movements, an urgency in the way she kissed her, touched her, as though her lover were trying to take every ounce she had to give. But, there was also a feeling of desperation in it, a kind of finality, and she found herself being overcome by the torrent of emotions that seemed to emanate from the young woman.

"Billie." The word came out in a gasp as Sara fought to catch her breath. Her lover seemed not to hear and she called out her name a second time with the same result. She could feel lips, tongue and teeth along the contours of her throat, insistent hands that seemed to be everywhere at once, and the brunette's rapid heartbeat pounding against her own. She squirmed against the onslaught of sensation, finally shouting her lover's name as she grabbed her face and forced her to stop. "Billie!"

The brunette's pale blue eyes were dark with arousal as she stared down at Sara, her expression a mixture of surprise and uncertainty. She couldn't move, kept frozen by the weight of Sara's gaze, waiting for the words that would either save her.or condemn her.

Instinctively, Sara knew she needed to be cautious. This was truly a side of Billie seldom seen by anyone. A complex surge of the young woman's emotions had pushed their way to the surface, and she seemed as unsure of how to deal with them as Sara did.

Gentle fingers stroked the brunette's flushed cheeks as soft lips placed feathery kisses on her slightly parted lips. Sara could feel the tension in Billie's body slowly draining away as she wrapped her arms around her and held her close.

"I'm sorry," came the soft whisper in Sara's ear, and she shivered as she pulled Billie tighter.

"Don't ever apologize for wanting me."

The brunette's only response was a heavy sigh.

"It won't be forever, Billie."

"I'll miss you."

Sara closed her eyes. "I'll miss you more."

Part 17

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