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.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Strap-on, Ryde or Die, Mighty Blue, Defense/Offense

After the Fall
By Sam

Part 21

All your life, you were only waiting
for this moment to arise.
       - Paul McCartney

Sara slowly wrapped her arms around Billie's neck, pulling the young woman tighter as she parted her lips and granted her lover the access she craved. Gentle fingers trailed down her spine and she shivered, involuntarily, as she pressed her hips against the brunette and moaned, softly, into her mouth.

Billie moved her hands lower as she smoothly slipped her leg between Sara's thighs, her hands gripping the young woman from behind and lifting her up onto the hallway table. She settled against the blonde, her hands coming up to cup her lover's breasts as she broke off the kiss to release a ragged breath. "Sara." Her passionate gaze locked on her lover's eyes as their lips came together, once gentle movements now giving way to a more frantic pace.

Slim fingers wound through Billie's dark hair as she took advantage of her superior position and leaned her upper body against Sara, pushing her back to the wall. The blonde wrapped her legs around her insistent lover's narrow waist, effectively trapping the young woman's body as she crossed her ankles and squeezed her tighter.

Sara shifted, slightly, feeling something jabbing into the back of her thigh. "Oww." She slipped her hand underneath her leg and produced Billie's badge. She held it up and smiled, ruefully. "Gee, I guess the law's out for my hide after all."

Billie was about to make a comment when she noticed Sara's smile faltering. "What's the matter?" The blonde continued to stare at the shiny object with a somewhat shocked expression on her face. "Sara?"

"Your badge number." Sara's voice sounded distracted, as if her thoughts were somewhere else.

The lieutenant furrowed her brow. "What about it?"

"36040." She pulled her other hand away from Billie's shoulder, tracing her fingers over the numbers. "I don't believe this."

Billie continued to look between her lover and her badge, her expression completely mystified. "What are you talking about?"

Sara lowered her hand and placed Billie's badge on top of the small manila envelope that lay next to her. "That was the combination to the safe where Felicia kept those pictures." She shifted her gaze to her lover. "She is really fixated on you, Billie."

The brunette released a soft sigh. "Don't worry about-"

"Don't tell me not to worry about it," Sara said forcefully, dropping her legs to the floor as she straightened up and looked at Billie in alarm. "God, I didn't even realize how bad things were until today." She frowned at the memory of her brief conversation with Felicia. "If you could have heard the way she talked about you, like she knew you. intimately."

Billie reached out and grasped Sara's hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "Well, she doesn't. Everything she knows about me came from a file, Sara. It's just details, okay? It has nothing to do with what's in here," she tapped a finger to her temple. "Or, more importantly," she took Sara's hand and placed it over her heart, her voice soft, but firm. ".what's in here."

The blonde closed her eyes for a brief moment as she felt the beating of her lover's heart beneath her palm. When she opened them, Billie's face still hovered close, her blue eyes filled with raw, naked emotion.

"Don't let her get between us, Sara."

Sara shook her head, slowly, giving the young brunette a determined look. "Never." She slipped her arms around Billie and squeezed her tightly, eliciting a soft hiss from the lieutenant. She pulled back immediately, seeing a brief look of pain on the brunette's face. "What is it? Did I hurt you?"

"It's nothing." Billie's voice was tight. The blonde immediately grabbed the hem of her shirt and pulled it up, instantly catching sight of the bruises on her body.

"Jesus, what happened to you?" Sara straightened up and Billie had to take a step back as she immediately hopped off the table.

Billie shrugged. "It's not that bad. You should see the other guy."

Sara could tell the woman wasn't joking. "Come with me." She took Billie's hand and promptly led her into the kitchen, motioning for the lieutenant to take a seat. "You should have iced it, at the very least."

"I was kind of distracted when I got home."

Sara sighed, heavily, as she opened the freezer and began to examine its contents. "I'm sorry about that."

"Don't be," Billie responded. "That was largely my fault, remember?"

"Right," the blonde agreed with just the slightest hint of a smile in her voice. She turned around and faced the brunette, a cold pack in each hand. "Take off your shirt," she ordered.

"I knew this was all a setup."

"Later, lover," Sara smirked. "Right now, you need a little TLC." She watched as Billie dutifully unbuttoned her shirt and slipped it off her shoulders, her slow, awkward movements making it obvious that she was in a great deal of discomfort. When she finished, Sara could better see the extent of the injury and said, "Umm.why don't you lie down on the couch? It'll make it easier to keep the ice on it."

"Yes, ma'am." Billie got up and walked back into the other room while Sara disappeared into the bathroom in search of some aspirin. The brunette seated herself and pivoted her legs, dropping them to the soft cushions as she stretched her body along the length of the sofa. "Ohh.that feels better already."

Sara smiled and knelt down on the floor next to her, carefully laying the packs across the young woman's torso as she tried to arrange them in just the right way. She could feel Billie's eyes on her as she fussed with them for a moment, finally satisfied with their position. "Here." She handed Billie two aspirin and a small cup of water, noticing the amused look on her lover's face. "What?"

"I'm just not used to someone making such a fuss over me."

Sara tilted her head, slightly. "Too much?"

"No," the lieutenant answered quickly. "I'm actually enjoying it. It was almost worth the bruised ribs." She laughed, softly, but it turned into a small groan of pain. "Almost." She took the offered medication and repositioned herself, trying to relax. As her eyes closed, she could feel Sara's fingers gently stroking her arm.

The blonde sat there, quietly, contemplating the young woman's prostrate form. She wanted to ask about where Billie had been this evening, and who had done this to her. But, since she hadn't offered any information, Sara knew that meant she didn't want to talk about it, at least, not yet. And for better or worse, it was time for her to get used to her lover's guarded ways.

"So, what happened between you and Felicia today?"

The sound of Billie's tired voice pulled Sara from her musings. She knew the question was coming, and she immediately went about mentally filtering through her confrontation with Felicia Ralston. "I only went there to try and scare her," she explained. "I thought, since Jill was gone, that maybe I could convince her to stay away." She released a heavy sigh as she ran her fingers through her hair. "But, needless to say."

"She isn't so easily put off," Billie finished for her, giving Sara a sympathetic look. "But, I appreciate what you were trying to do. Please, just do me a favor?"


"Stay away from her. Okay?"

Sara could see the concern in those cool blue eyes and she offered a wan smile. "I will if you will."

"I'll do my best."

The two women fell into a comfortable silence as Billie closed her eyes, again, her mind beginning to drift, caught in the haze between sleep and wakefulness. Images of both Sara and Felicia filled her thoughts, making her realize how intertwined her life had suddenly become with these two very different women.

The best part of it all, of course, was Sara. And even though it was still inconceivable to Billie how she'd managed to fall for the young woman so quickly, and so completely, there was no denying the way she felt about her.

Before they met, so much of Billie's time was spent on the job. She lived and breathed it nearly every waking hour of every day. Everyone who knew her thought she was obsessed, but the young lieutenant preferred to think of herself as intensely dedicated. At times, it seemed as though there would never be room for anything else, and she never really mourned that idea, because nothing ever interested her more than her work.

Until now.

But, how ironic that the job she loved so much had also brought her the woman she loved. And maybe it was meant to be that way. The fact that she and Sara had so many obstacles to overcome seemed to only strengthen their bond, which probably said something about both of them. The ebb and flow of their whirlwind love affair would probably have scared off even the most resilient souls. But, for the two of them, the risk of it all.hell, the plain insanity of it, was like fuel on a raging fire.

How else could you explain a cop falling for a criminal, or stranger still, a criminal falling for a cop? Billie decided it wasn't even worth trying to rationalize anymore. Some things just defied explanation.

And under the heading of the unexplainable there was also Felicia Ralston. She, too, could definitely be categorized as someone who thrived on adversity, but in a completely different way than her lover.

Sara engaged in risk primarily for monetary gain, and maybe the underlying thrill that comes with doing what you're not supposed to, but underneath it all, she was still a decent person. For the most part, her victims had always been wealthy people who would hardly even miss what she'd taken. And on some level, Billie could even see it as her way of striking back at those whom she perceived to be so much more fortunate than her.

But, Felicia's motivations were far more difficult to ascertain. Lois Spencer believed her to be a sociopath, and Billie would certainly agree with that assessment. She had all of the identifiable traits, to be sure, but there was something else there, as well.

In the beginning, the lieutenant hadn't noticed it, perhaps because her focus had been on Jill. But, after their first few encounters, it quickly became evident that Felicia was concealing a much more dangerous side of her personality. Billie could sense it, feel it whenever she was around her, like a thick, cloying scent that pressed in on her whenever she got near Felicia.

Over the years, Billie had a number of encounters with people she considered to be psychotic. Usually, they were extremely violent, although that might not have been readily apparent at first glance. But, before too long, they would always reveal themselves, unable to keep up the pretense of normalcy for any real length of time.

But, there had been one or two individuals who'd managed to conceal their darker nature, skillfully manipulating everyone around them as they kept up a persona that fooled the outside world.

Skylar Kase had been one of those people. Her moves had been precise and calculated, like a master chess player. She could maneuver people with a few carefully chosen words, quietly encouraging them to do her bidding, but always making them believe the ideas or choices were all their own.

Billie had only minimal contact with her, but the repercussions from their brief encounter, combined with the woman's adept machinations, had nearly gotten her killed. What Sky had managed to accomplish was no small feat, and the lieutenant spent long hours pouring over every detail of the F.B.I. agent's life when it was all over, determined to educate herself on how someone like that had been able to conceal themselves so well, and for so long.

In college, she'd studied numerous cases of psychopathy and sociopathy, trying to get inside the minds of those whose thought processes were so completely different than her own. She learned a great deal about human nature, and the somewhat warped, often deeply troubled minds of criminals, both average and not. But, it wasn't until she became a police officer that she actually witnessed the most heinous side of humanity firsthand.

Her education had given her some helpful insight, but her experience gave her the know-how to engage people like Sky and Felicia. Both women were extremely cunning and dangerous, but they were not infallible. They had weaknesses just like everyone else.

In Sky's case, it had been greed, pure and simple. Her all consuming desire to get what she wanted caused her to make a grievous error: She didn't take the time to find out the extent of Billie's operation before deciding to lie about Cyrus' shooting. And that single misstep had been a fatal one, luckily for Billie. With Van and Deaq already in place, it was only a matter of time before they were able to uncover her deception, thereby exonerating their boss of murder, and exposing Sky for the rogue agent that she was.

But, what was Felicia's weakness? Billie hadn't yet figured that one out, except that the woman seemed to have a twisted fixation with her. The lieutenant had considered trying to get close to her, to use that bizarre attraction to her advantage, but Felicia was far too clever to fall for something so blatantly transparent. And after what happened in the car yesterday, it was clear that Billie was being outfoxed at every turn.

Felicia was methodical, taking her time as she endeavored to learn everything she could about the young lieutenant. But, Billie didn't have the luxury of time. Her neck was on the chopping block, and if she didn't have something concrete by the end of the week, it was likely she'd end up losing everything: Her operation.her boys.

Her badge.



"Were you really in prison once?"

The question took Billie completely off guard and she hesitated answering for a moment. She opened her eyes and looked at Sara, releasing a soft sigh as she replied, "That must have been quite a conversation you had today."

Sara lifted her right hand, tracing the thin scar along Billie's stomach with the tips of her fingers, her touch soft and gentle. "She said that's how you got this."

Billie could see how much it hurt Sara to have found out something like that from someone else, and the fact that it was Felicia only made it worse. When all of this was over, there were quite a few things she would have to sit down and tell Sara, but for now, she would handle the questions one at a time.

"If it bothers you to talk about, I understand," Sara said softly.

Billie could see the love and concern in Sara's warm gaze as she reached up and stroked the blonde's cheek with the back of her hand. "Do you remember the guy I told you about before, the one who hired people to kill cops?" Sara nodded. "Well, when I tried to arrest him, he pulled a gun on me. So, I shot him."

Sara furrowed her brow. "But, that was self-defense."

The brunette ran her finger along the edge of Sara's jaw. "Not according to the only witness." She could see the confusion on the blonde's face. "The guy's gun disappeared from the crime scene. Evidently one of his boys snatched it and split, and the woman who saw the shooting turned out to be an undercover F.B.I. agent who just happened to be dirty. I didn't even know she was a fed until she showed up and fingered me for murder."

Sara's eyes strayed back to the pale scar. "And this happened while you were in jail?"

Billie nodded. "The case was under such intense scrutiny by Internal Affairs that the fed panicked and tried to have me killed. A couple of people on the inside came after me, and I got cut during the scuffle." She reached out and touched the jagged line, absentmindedly. "If she'd been one step closer, I wouldn't be here."

The blonde's hand sought out her lover's, entwining their fingers as she brought it to her lips and kissed it softly. "Lucky for me you're quick on your feet."

A sudden knock at the door startled both women, and Billie quickly sat up, stifling a groan as she placed a finger to her lips in a gesture of warning. Sara nodded and got to her feet, glancing around as she tried to decide where she should hide.

"Go into the bedroom," Billie whispered. "And not a sound until I give the all clear."

`Okay', Sara mouthed silently as she turned and quietly headed into the other room. The lieutenant waited until she disappeared before walking into the kitchen to grab her shirt, slipping it on as she went back to answer the door.

With an impatient gesture, she yanked it open, one hand still on her shirt collar as she muttered, "This better be important."

"Hello, Billie," Felicia greeted, warmly. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."

The lieutenant blinked a few times before finally finding her voice. "What do you want?"

"I apologize for stopping by at such a late hour, but it's rather urgent." The statuesque blonde waited a few beats before asking, "May I come in?"

"No," Billie answered simply.

Felicia tilted her head, slightly, regarding the brunette with a somewhat wounded expression. "Please, Billie. I need to speak with you." She made a point of glancing around the outside hallway before resettling her gaze on the lieutenant. "I don't really think you want all of your neighbors to know your business, do you?"

"I'm really not in the mood to play, Felicia."

The blonde raked her eyes over Billie's somewhat disheveled appearance. "Yes, I can see you're all.played out "

The lieutenant stared at her for a brief moment, releasing a heavy sigh as she finally relented and took a step back, allowing the older woman to enter her apartment. She pushed the door closed with an angry shove, causing it to nearly shudder in its frame. "Alright," she said as she turned around and faced the blonde. "Speak."

Felicia turned around, her amused expression instantly falling away as she pinned the young woman with a serious look. "Something rather disturbing happened today, and I thought you should know about it." Her eyes strayed to the table next to her, immediately spotting the envelope. "Well.I see I'm too late."

Billie followed her gaze, but remained silent. Her last bastion of privacy had just been invaded, and she was not at all happy about it. There didn't seem to be anyplace she could go to get away from this woman.

Felicia took a cursory look around the modest apartment. "Is she still here?" She fixed the brunette with a suspicious look. "Hiding in the bedroom, perhaps?"

"If that's all you wanted to talk about, then we're done," Billie responded angrily as she placed a hand on the doorknob.

The taller woman ignored her gesture. "I want you to know that my driver took those pictures without my knowledge," she explained. "He can be a bit overprotective, at times. He's concerned about people taking advantage of me.because of my wealth, and such. When he presented them to me this morning, I immediately locked them away, fully intending to destroy them later." She could see the look of skepticism on the lieutenant's face and she clasped her hands, tightly, taking a few experimental steps into the living room. When she noticed Billie removing her hand from the door and following her, she continued.

"When Sara showed up at my office, waving a gun at me, demanding that I stay away from you.I just couldn't help myself." She jabbed a finger into the air for emphasis. "That young woman is clearly unbalanced."

Billie tensed, fully expecting Sara to come charging out at any minute. An image of the petite blonde tackling Felicia from behind suddenly jumped into her head, making her smile, inwardly. "So, you thought pissing her off would be a good idea?"

"Admittedly, I didn't take the time to consider her reaction," Felicia noted as watched the lieutenant, carefully. "I was merely determined to enlighten her."

Billie folded her arms across her chest and leaned, casually, against the doorjamb. "About what, exactly?"

"Her delusional ideas of romance."

Billie arched a dark eyebrow. "Oh, I see. So, you think Sara is the one who's delusional here?"

Something shifted behind Felicia's eyes, giving them a dangerous glint as she said slowly, "I'm fully aware of the nature of our current relationship, Billie. My desire to change that may seem unrealistic, but there is one thing you need to know about me: I've been known to accomplish the impossible."

Billie studied her for a moment as something clicked inside her brain. With sudden clarity, she knew what Felicia was trying to do. Her normally sharp instincts had been misdirected by the tumultuous events of the past few weeks, but now she finally realized it had been staring her in the face the whole time.

She thought the blonde wanted her, and perhaps she did on some basic level, but it wasn't a romantic obsession that drove the woman to pursue her so doggedly. What Felicia craved was infinitely darker.and far more dangerous.


All of the things Felicia had done: hacking her records, the attack on Sara, the explosion, they were all tactfully engineered to push the lieutenant, inexorably, toward an act of retaliation. And each time the two women had a confrontation, it was obvious that the blonde was getting off on it, wreaking havoc in Billie's life, not for Jill, or the often talked about excuse of revenge, but purely for the pleasure it gave her to do so.

She wanted Billie to do something, to strike back. When she brought U.S. Customs to Felicia's warehouse, she'd suspected that the woman was enjoying the whole thing on some level, particularly since she chose that moment to make her first romantic overture. And being rebuffed had most certainly spurred her on to do even more serious damage later, by destroying Alexa's house to get back at Billie, determined to make the lieutenant suffer for rejecting her.

And it worked.

Billie was now fighting her own self-destructive impulses. They were there, just beneath the surface, waiting for the right moment to be unleashed. She wanted to let go, to let her rage rule her actions. But, she was determined to keep it at bay, knowing full well the damage she could do if she gave in to that darker side of her own personality.

As she'd done before.

It was so easy to blame the heroin for her fall from grace. But, the truth was, she was so intent on getting what she wanted that she was willing to do anything, risk anything.

Risk anyone.

And she'd done just that, without so much as a second thought, even though she was not the only one jeopardized by her reckless actions. She had a partner, she had informants, she had a boss.and none of it mattered. Her only desire was to get the dealer, take him down, and put him out of business. With several years of hindsight, it was obvious where she'd gone wrong, but not so easy to admit that she was a victim of her own blind ambition, so determined to accomplish what she'd been sent in for that she willingly crossed the line in order to do it.

It's a funny thing, drawing that line for yourself. Just when you think you know your limits, along comes a situation that causes you to re-examine them. And suddenly, you discover that maybe you can go a little longer, reach a little further.

Push a little harder.

When Billie stuck that needle in her arm for the very first time, she wasn't thinking about becoming a junkie. Her own arrogance didn't allow her to consider the possibility of getting hooked. She simply viewed it as a means to an end. And so she'd taken a huge gamble.and lost.


Now, she used that awful experience to guide her. And even though she still had those same reckless tendencies, she also had a firmer grasp on the proper way to channel them.

But, that wasn't to say that her somewhat tenuous hold on the straight and narrow couldn't still be shaken. There had been moments when Billie's fatal tunnel vision resurfaced, and that rash behavior that she so desperately tried to curb had gotten the better of her.

Felicia was trying to entice her, to lure that part of her out into the open, and Billie was having a difficult time not giving in to the siren's call. She wanted to get the woman so bad she could taste it, and she knew that was exactly what Felicia Ralston wanted. What she didn't know was where the woman wanted to lead her.

The only way to find that out was to follow.

"Let's see you accomplish the short walk to my door," Billie said as she straightened up and motioned to the hallway with her outstretched arm. "I'm through talking."

The blonde's dark eyes sought out Billie's blue ones as she took several measured steps toward the lieutenant. Standing before the brunette, she suddenly brought a hand up and pressed it against the young woman's side, applying gentle pressure.

Billie stiffened, gritting her teeth as she snagged the woman's wrist and pulled it away from her body. "Don't touch me," she warned.

"I could tell you were favoring your side. Who did this to you?" Felicia narrowed her eyes. "Was it Sara?"

The lieutenant knew a golden opportunity when she saw it. She wanted Sara out of harm's way, and in order to insure that, she needed Felicia to believe she'd succeeded in destroying their relationship. But, the woman wouldn't be so easily duped, which meant she needed to be extremely cautious, and play things just right.

"It's time for you to leave." Billie's tone was sharp. "Now." She saw something flicker across the taller woman's features, but it was too brief for her to interpret its meaning.

"You're right, it is very late." Felicia stared at Billie for a long moment, as if taking the young woman's measure, before moving past her and walking to the door. As her hand gripped the knob, she stopped and turned to look back at the brunette, her voice as soft as velvet. "Come to the house for dinner tomorrow night."

Billie closed her eyes, briefly, the term `be careful what you wish for' suddenly popping into her head. She was getting what she wanted, all she had to do now was to make Felicia believe otherwise. The brunette turned around and stepped into the hallway, shaking her head, slowly, as she replied, "You are persistent, I'll give you that."

"Does that mean you're accepting my invitation?"

"I think I'll pass."

Felicia sighed, softly. "Aren't you the least bit curious as to why I didn't call the police today?"

"You didn't want them to see the coffin in the basement?" Billie replied flippantly.

The blonde smirked. "I did it to protect you."

Warning bells were going off in the lieutenant's head. "Really. How so?"

"They would have wanted to see the tape from my security camera," Felicia informed her. "And I didn't want to have to explain to them about the pictures." Her eyes flickered to the envelope on the desk, then back to Billie as she arched a slim brow. "Your captain might think you have a thing for blonde criminals."

Billie could feel her cheeks heating up as she stared daggers at the woman. It wasn't bad enough that Felicia had pictures of them together, but now, she apparently had Sara's little visit caught on tape.

Irrefutable proof that she threatened to kill the woman.on Billie's behalf...with a gun.

Perfect. Just fucking perfect.

"What time?" Billie asked.

Felicia smiled, triumphantly. "Six sharp." She pulled the door open and walked out without another word. The lieutenant stepped forward and closed the door, her body slumping forward as she began to bang her head, repeatedly, against the door.

"Dinner?" Sara's voice chimed up from behind her. "You're having dinner with her? Are you crazy?"

Billie looked up at the ceiling and mumbled something under her breath before turning around and facing her lover. "Thanks for waiting for the all clear."

"You said you'd stay away from her." Sara stood there with her hands on her hips, all thoughts of concealing her presence now forgotten.

"I said I'd do my best," the lieutenant corrected her. "And did you hear what she said?"

"Yeah, I heard."

"You didn't bother to check for surveillance cameras?" Billie asked incredulously. "You were a pro, for God's sake."

"I wasn't thinking clearly," the blonde replied defensively, knowing she'd walked right into a setup, and seeing her lover preparing to do the exact same thing. "And you aren't either."

"Yes I am," Billie retorted. "This is what I need, Sara. There are cracks in that veneer Felicia wears, and the only way I'm going to find out what's underneath is to get next to her."

Sara couldn't believe what she was hearing. Felicia was a dangerous person, and the fact that Billie seemed to have no qualms about taking such an obvious risk was a major cause for concern. "Does my opinion on this mean anything to you?"

"Yes, of course it does," the lieutenant answered. "But, I can't let emotions get in the way here."

"What the hell does that mean?" Sara demanded, but she already knew. It was a done deal. From the firm set of her jaw, to the ice blue sparkle in her eyes, Billie would do this, regardless of how she felt about it. And that unwavering determination was somehow noble, maddening and frightening all at the same time.

"It means that if I don't come up with something within the next two days, I'm out of a job, which also means I'll be helpless to do anything." Billie held Sara's gaze, unflinchingly. "This woman came after me personally, Sara, and nothing is going to get in the way of me stopping her."

Sara looked at Billie as though seeing her for the first time. This was a side of her lover she wasn't really familiar with yet, despite the conditions under which they'd met. Even when the lieutenant had arrested her and offered a deal, her demeanor was more gentle and kind, not like this other side, which was obsessive, controlling.and reckless.

Billie's cell phone began to ring, and she walked over and grabbed the envelope off the table before heading into the living room. She could feel the blonde's eyes on her as she pulled the phone from her jacket pocket. "Chambers."

As the brunette began to pace the area from the living room to the kitchen, Sara listened intently to her side of the conversation.

"Hey, Hal. What have you got?"

There was a brief period of silence as Sara walked over and seated herself on the sofa. She watched Billie's expression change as the seconds ticked by.

"He's dead? Are you kidding me?" The lieutenant continued to move, restlessly, running an agitated hand through her hair as she spoke to the person on the other end of the line. "I didn't think there'd be any record of it." After a few more seconds of silence, Billie replied, "Yeah, well, thanks for getting back to me so quickly. Let me know if anything else turns up." She pressed a button to end the call, remaining rooted to the spot as she stared at the phone in her hand.

Sara jumped, slightly, as Billie suddenly launched her cell across the room, knocking a small table lamp to the floor.

"What's wrong?" the blonde asked, quietly.

Billie turned away from her and dropped into a chair at the kitchen table, laying her head back as she stared up at the ceiling. "Everything."

The ex-thief rose from her seat and walked over to her lover, who looked utterly defeated and exhausted. She knelt down beside Billie and placed a comforting hand on her knee. "What was that call about?"

"I got a lead on someone from Felicia's past and I was hoping to track him down." The lieutenant covered Sara's hand with her own, enjoying the feel of her lover's warm body so close to hers. Despite the chaos surrounding them, it somehow kept her grounded. She began toying, idly, with a ring on the blonde's finger. "Unfortunately, the only person that had the answers I needed died ten years ago."


"A judge in Sacramento."

"Was it some kind of legal issue?" Sara asked, hopefully. "Maybe there would be records, or something?"

"It was a back door adoption," Billie explained. "There aren't any records."

The young lieutenant's frustration was almost palpable, and Sara wished there was more she could to do help. Unfortunately, she knew her presence was only making things more complicated for Billie.and more dangerous. She couldn't keep moving in and out of the young woman's life forever. Sooner or later, the police were bound to catch up with her, and the last thing she wanted was to pull Billie down with her.

"I wish you'd reconsider tomorrow night," Sara said softly. "I don't like the idea of you being alone with her."

"I'll be okay," Billie reassured her. "I doubt she'll try to poison me."

"That's not funny."

Billie looked at her, solemnly. "I know." She gave her lover's hand a squeeze and let go, immediately changing the subject. "Hey, how'd you get in here, anyway?"

"Trade secret, Lieutenant." A tiny grin tugged at the corner of Sara's mouth. "If I divulge anything, they throw me out of the union."

Billie sat forward and cupped the blonde's face in her hands, her voice a low, throaty growl. "Ve have vays of making you talk." She leaned in and kissed her lover, tenderly.

As their lips parted, Sara smiled and whispered, "Do tell, Natasha."

Billie settled herself between Sara's legs as she planted a trail of soft kisses along her flattened stomach. She could taste the salty remains of their exertions on her lover's slick skin, and she rested her cheek on the young woman's chest, listening to the steady pounding beneath her ear.

"Okay," Sara said breathlessly. "What do you want to know?"

The brunette chuckled, softly. "I knew you'd be a pushover." She felt a hand reaching down to stroke her hair, the soothing touch eliciting a soft sigh of contentment as she closed her eyes and reveled in the comforting sensation. For a while, at least, she could try to block out the world.

"Only for you, baby."

Billie lifted her head, her blue eyes peering up at the blonde. "Did you just call me baby?"

"Ahh.I think so." Sara lifted her head from the pillow, meeting her lover's surprised look. "What would you rather I call you.my bitch?"

The lieutenant blinked a few times into the darkness, feeling the sudden urge bubbling up, and she knew, instinctively, there would be no holding it back. So, she didn't even bother to try.

The sound of Billie's laughter caught Sara by surprise, mostly because it wasn't a sound she was very familiar with. They'd had a few laughs here and there, but she'd never seen the young woman really let loose, as she was doing now, and the thought that she'd managed to rouse it made her feel exceedingly happy.

As the brunette reached a hand up and wiped her eyes, she lifted her head again. "I think I prefer the first one."

Sara's hands gently tugged at Billie's arms. "Come here." The brunette complied, lifting her body up and moving higher, until she was poised directly above her lover's beautiful face. A pair of arms wrapped around her, holding her gently, as soft, warm lips reached up and caught her in a slow, sensual kiss. Her body's response was immediate, and she lowered herself down, pressing their bodies together as passion ignited all over again.

Billie lay on her side, her breathing slow and deep as an arm wrapped around her from behind and squeezed her, gently. She seemed to sense the warmth of the body lying spooned against her and she moved closer, nestling herself into the welcoming embrace.

Sara tightened her hold as she pressed herself against her lover, her head propped up on one arm as she leaned over and kissed the brunette's earlobe. Her lips continued to hover there for a brief moment.

"I love you, Billie," she whispered softly.

As she continued to listen to sound of her lover sleeping, she was suddenly gripped by a feeling of anxiety. Despite everything else, what was happening between her and Billie seemed to good to be true, which was precisely why Sara was convinced that something was about to go terribly wrong.

She couldn't help it. It was part of her father's legacy to her, to always be waiting for the next blow, the next hit that would knock her back down to the ground. But, this time, it wasn't her own safety she feared for, and that was so much worse.

There had been other women before Billie. Sara always had a tendency to drift from one romance to another, never really having time to process one disastrous relationship before moving on to the next, always telling herself that this one would be different.

But, now it was finally true.

She thought she'd been in love before, but it was never like this. Her body ached for Billie when they were apart, no matter whether the distance was ten miles or ten feet. And now that they'd been able to admit their feelings for each other, Sara couldn't comprehend leaving her.

Even though she knew she had to.

It wasn't fair. She didn't want to go. Billie was playing a dangerous game with Felicia Ralston, and Sara hated the idea that she had to stand aside and let her lover go it alone. But, she knew she was a liability, a weakness that Felicia could use against Billie, as she'd demonstrated earlier in the evening. And Sara had absolutely no intention of giving that woman an edge.

She just had to resign herself to the fact that this was Billie's job, and she was very good at what she did. The lieutenant had obviously faced down worse than Felicia, and each case only made her better. She would win this one, as well. She had to.

With quiet stealth, the blonde carefully extracted herself from her lover's bed and picked up her clothes as she came around and gave Billie one final look. She bent down and kissed her forehead, her lips smoothing out the small crease between the young woman's eyes.

Upon reaching the door, she gave the sleeping form a parting glance, blowing a kiss as she soundlessly crept out of the room.

Part 22

Oh, a storm is threat'ning
My very life today
If I don't get some shelter
Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away
       - Mick Jagger

"So, here's how it'll go down." Billie spun around to look at the screen behind her. "I'll bring a team to the warehouse at midnight. The place is already tripped out, so all we have to do is get comfortable and wait for the sunrise." The warehouse schematics were displayed next to her as she motioned to the areas displayed in red. "Ellis' M.O. is to get there at least two hours ahead of time, so he can scope out the area. But, our hardware is so small he'll never find it."

"How `bout bug hunters?" Deaq asked as he leaned back in his chair. He knew from experience that the more sophisticated the technology, the more likelihood for something to go wrong.

"I guarantee you there's nothing out there that'll spot these babies," Billie replied confidently, noting his skepticism. "But, just in case he somehow manages to scramble us, we'll have some remote units at the ready."

"So, all we have to do is show up with the cash," Van added.

Billie nodded. "The money always goes first. Once his runner splits, we just have to follow the trail. Everybody else gets to hang back and have breakfast with the LAPD."

"Just remind the boys I like my coffee black," Deaq offered with a smile. He glanced at his partner. "What about you, player?"

"I like a decaf cappuccino, low-fat, no whip." The other man just stared at him. "What?"

Deaq shook his head in dismay and looked over at their boss. "Next, he'll be wantin' tea and crumpets."

"Hey, what's wrong with tea?"

Billie grinned, slightly, as she dropped back into her chair. "Well, that's it. You guys can take off. We'll meet back here at eleven." Her tone was clearly dismissive as she turned her chair and began to type on her computer.

Van eyed his partner, jerking his head toward Billie. Deaq rolled his eyes and discreetly pointed a finger at the brunette, before holding his hands out in a helpless gesture.

The lieutenant watched their silent, but increasingly animated exchange out of the corner of her eye before finally spinning back to them and dropping her hands to the desk. "What the hell is going on with you two?"

"Uhh." Van pointed a finger at the man seated beside him. "Deaq wanted to ask you a question." Said man glared over at him before flicking his dark gaze back to his boss. He could see her eyes widening, that familiar look of impatience firmly affixed to her face.

"What?" she asked, expectantly, now looking between both men.

"Is this gonna be our swan song?" Deaq finally asked

The meaningful question took Billie by surprise. She hadn't given much in the way of details to either man in regards to her career woes, mostly because she'd been hoping for an eleventh hour stay of execution. Plus, with a major bust looming, she didn't want them distracted by internal politics. But, it was obvious they'd sensed trouble, and judging from their somber expressions, they knew it was going to be bad.

Just as the brunette opened her mouth to answer, her phone rang. She stared at them for a moment before snatching up the receiver. "Chambers."

"The word just came down, Billie." It was Parish, and he didn't sound happy. Of course, he never sounded happy, but the young lieutenant could immediately sense more glumness than usual.

"Tell me."

"Meeting in Forsythe's office tomorrow morning. Nine o'clock."

This was it. The other shoe was about to drop. Swan song, indeed. "I'll be there."

"So will I. And, so will Hill." There was a brief pause. "You know I'll do whatever I can."

Billie closed her eyes for a few seconds, the only outward indication of her distress. "I know." And she did. "Thanks, Bob." She dropped the phone back into its cradle and folded her hands in front of her, glancing back and forth at her two operatives, unsure of how much she wanted to tell them.

"What's up with Parish?" Van queried.

"I've got a meeting with him tomorrow." That part was true. "It's just all part of IA's follow up on their investigation." Also true. "Don't worry about it. Everything will be fine." Okay, there's the big, fat lie.

Van looked at her somewhat doubtfully, but decided there wasn't much point in pushing his boss further since it wouldn't do him any good anyway. "Whatever you say, sir." He stood up from his chair and stretched, languidly. "I think I might catch a few Z's before tonight."

"Still working off your big night?" Billie smirked. The young cop was such an easy mark, and teasing him always seemed to help her get out of a funk.

"Hey, I held my own, thank you very much," he replied, indignantly.

She shook her head, slowly. "That's not what Deaq said."

Van shot his partner an accusatory glare. "What? What did you tell her?" He looked back at his boss. "I was just about the last man standing. The only other guy that even came close was too busy puking his guts out on his Bruno Magli's."

"I hate to be the one to break it to you, my man, but that was because of your singing."

"Is that supposed to be funny?"

"It's very gratifying to see the three of you carrying on as if you didn't have a care in the world."

The two men didn't even have to turn around to know who was standing at the entrance to Billie's office. Only one person could put that look in her eye.

"What do you want?" Billie questioned.

Roland Hill walked in and came to stand next to the lieutenant's desk. He glanced over at the detectives seated across from her. "If Itchy and Scratchy can make themselves scarce, we have a few loose ends to tie up before tomorrow."

"We were kinda in the middle of something," Deaq commented as he shot the man a hostile glare.

"Yeah," Van piped up as he came around his chair and walked over to where Hill was standing. "Maybe you should've made an appointment. We're very busy around here, what with fighting crime, and all." He leaned forward, slightly, giving Hill a curious look. "You do know what that is, right? Fighting crime? Going after bad guys? Or, didn't they teach you that at the pencil neck geek academy?"

"Guys," Billie held a hand up in a gesture of silence, seeing Hill readying himself to make some caustic remark. She knew it would be in reference to tomorrow's meeting and she wanted to keep the details under wraps for as long as she could. Unfortunately, they would both know soon enough. "We're done here, okay? So, just take off. Go, relax.or whatever." She could see their hesitance, and though a part of her was grateful for the way they were so protective of her, another part of her got profoundly annoyed when they didn't follow her orders.

Deaq looked thoroughly unconvinced. "Maybe we should stick around.you know, do some paperwork?"

"Yeah," his partner agreed. "You're always telling us we don't do enough of that." He kept his gaze locked on Hill.

"I wouldn't worry about that much, if I were you gentlemen," Hill's mouth turned up in a smarmy grin. "After tomorrow, I'm sure you'll have plenty of time to get caught up."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"Alright!" Billie nearly shouted as she stood up from her desk. The motion got the attention of all three men. "That's enough. Van, Deaq, I want you to go. Now."

Deaq got up and pushed his chair back in an angry gesture before immediately heading for the door. Van stood his ground for a few more seconds, finally relenting as he shot a glance at Billie. "If you need us."

"I won't," she replied firmly. "See you at eleven." She watched as both men slowly made their way out the door, waiting until they were out of earshot before turning her attention to Hill. "I should knock your teeth out for doing that to them."

"You mean, telling them the truth?" Hill folded his hands and turned to her. "I do realize that it's an antiquated notion around here."

"They have a big deal going down in the morning and they need to keep their heads in the game," the lieutenant replied in an angry tone. "Despite what you may think about me, or this operation, they are still your colleagues, and you shouldn't be trying to undermine them."

"Spare me the `we're all in this together' speech," Hill responded. "You and your boys have been running amok for too long, Billie, but as of tomorrow, that's all going to change. In fact, by the time I'm done with you and your renegade operation, they'll be giving you your own entrance at the big house. It could be like one of those swinging doors people install for their house pets."

Billie dropped back into her seat. "You know, Hill, if you weren't such an asshole, that would almost be funny."

He leaned in toward her and dropped his voice to a near whisper. "I guarantee you, once Forsythe hears my department's findings even your Captain in shining armor isn't going to be able to save you. But, don't worry," he remarked, making a show of looking around her office before finally settling his gaze on her again. "I'll clean up the mess you leave behind."

"Well, that is what you're best suited for, isn't it?" Billie's tone was beginning to climb, along with her blood pressure. "It must be really gratifying to watch everyone else do the actual police work while you wait around for the opportunity to stick it to your fellow officers in the hopes that it'll get you that big corner office."

"I think you misunderstand my motivations, Billie."

The brunette glared at him. "That's Lieutenant Chambers."

"Not for long." Hill narrowed his eyes at her, his voice belying an intimate quality as he said, "Are you aware that your little `Candy Store' here currently holds the distinction of having the highest kill rate of any division in the LAPD?"

"I'm flattered you're keeping score."

"That's exactly the type of response I want you to give to the Deputy Chief when he asks you the same question."

Billie's jaw clenched as she struggled to keep her temper in check. "All of our shoots were clean, and this division's record speaks for itself. We've busted some major players over the last year, people that no one else could touch. And if our kill rate seems so goddamn high, maybe you ought to match it up against our arrest record. We go all the way in, Hill, further and deeper than you could ever imagine, and we do whatever it takes to get the job done."

"Your ability to pontificate about your brutal and reckless methods is equaled only by your capacity to justify said methods with an inflated ego and an overblown sense of self-righteousness."

"Wow," Billie leaned back in her chair as she looked at him with raised eyebrows. "You must have been working on that one all morning."

"What can I say, Billie? You bring out the beast in me." He opened his mouth and took a bite at the air.

The brunette looked nonplussed, still not quite sure what to make of the man's bizarre antics as she stated firmly, "As this is still my office, I want you out."

"I have a few more questions before concluding my investigation."

"You can shove your questions up your ass," Billie shot back. "Whatever happens tomorrow, I'm done giving face time to you." Her cell phone suddenly rang, and she plucked it up from the desk, eyeing Hill with a look of irritation. "Chambers."

"I'm sorry I slipped out without waking you."

Billie could feel Hill's eyes on her as she dropped her gaze, making a concentrated effort to suppress any emotion from registering on her face. "I tried to reach you earlier."

"I thought it would be less complicated for you if I just left," Sara explained.

"Apparently, although I can't say I agree with that assessment," the lieutenant replied, a hint of frustration creeping into her tone, despite her attempt to mask it.

"Someone's there with you?" Sara questioned.

"Yes," the lieutenant confirmed. "I'll have to get back to you, assuming I can get you at the same number."

"Yeah, of course."

"Okay, then, I'll talk to you later." With the press of a button, Billie got to her feet and grabbed her jacket, tucking her cell phone into the pocket as she pinned Hill with an impatient glare. "We're done here." She breezed by him and walked out of her office door without so much as a backward glance.

Hill turned and watched her leave, unable to resist a final parting shot as he called out, "I'll see you tomorrow, Billie. Oh, and you might want to think about packing your toothbrush."

She held her hand up and made a gesture just before disappearing through the side entrance.

"I'll just assume that was a thumbs up, Lieutenant!"

"Sophia, you have marvelous hands."

The dark-haired woman smiled as she continued her ministrations. "Thank you, Madam."

Felicia released a heavy sigh as her muscles melted under her employee's deft touch. She was stretched out on a massage table, her head resting on her hands as she lay there enjoying the special attention being lavished upon her. She lifted her chin and craned her neck to look at the older woman. "Although, you do seem a bit distracted."

"I'm sorry."

The blonde waited for her to elaborate, but soon realized that no further explanation would be forthcoming. The woman never offered anything more than what was asked of her, and never gave anything less, which was precisely why Felicia was so fond of her.

The sound of a cell phone caused Sophia to halt her motions. "Would you like me to answer that, Madam?"

"No, thank you." Felicia propped herself up onto her elbows and reached over to answer the phone lying on a small table beside her. "Yes?"

"I'm having some difficulty, Ilsa."

"Sophia, I'd like a moment of privacy, please," the blonde informed her as she indicated the phone clutched in her hand.

"Of course, Madam." She nodded once and immediately left the room, closing the door behind her.

Felicia put the phone back up to her ear. "We are running out of time," she responded tersely.

"I didn't realize we were on a schedule," Warren snapped.

"Don't take that tone with me, David."

There was a weighted pause. "I'm sorry."

She immediately continued on as if nothing happened. "If Elizabeth Forsythe's drunken ramblings are in any way accurate, then I need this errand completed by tomorrow morning."

"When you said you wanted to give her a gift, I didn't think you had something like this in mind."

"I'm a firm believer in seizing an opportunity when one presents itself," she replied smoothly. "And what better way to prove my unerring devotion to Billie than by ridding her of any.troublesome obstacles."

"Somehow, I don't think she'll be grateful for your intervention," Warren commented wearily.

A malicious smile curled Felicia's lips. "It's not her gratitude I'm after." Thoughts of the young lieutenant began to flit through her mind, and she had to mentally shake them off in order to keep her focus on her younger co-conspirator. "And remember, once this is done, it will be necessary for us to refrain from contacting each other for a while."

"I still don't like that idea."

She could almost envision the childish pout on his handsome face. "I know, sweetie," she replied in her most soothing tone. "But, it has to be this way. There will be a great deal of attention focused on me afterwards. Billie will most assuredly see to that. And I don't want to do anything that might reveal our connection." Her only response was a heavy sigh.

Knowing the young man as she did, his resistance didn't really come as a surprise. But, Felicia sometimes found it difficult to balance her desire to keep him emotionally needy, while still trying to nurture his violent tendencies. It was a balancing act she was growing increasingly tired of, and realistically, it was only a matter of time before he was discovered. Sadly, she knew the day was fast approaching when he would become a serious liability for her.

"Now, the question is, are you up to the task?" she asked. There was no denying the challenge being made, and she knew he would readily accept it. He always did.

"I told you I'd help you.and I will."

"I knew I could count on you," she said softly.

"I may have to take some extreme measures," Warren reasoned. "It's very risky."

The blonde contemplated his words for a moment. "I trust your judgment, David."

"Thank you, Ilsa," he replied gratefully.

Felicia put the phone back on the table and sat up, a tingle of excitement working its way along her nerve endings as she anticipated the evening ahead. The opportunity to have the sexy young detective all to herself for a while was more than she could have hoped for, considering the circumstances, and she was going to take advantage of every single minute.

She didn't have any preconceived notions about what might happen, preferring instead to let the endless possibilities reveal themselves in time. But, there was still something exquisitely arousing about the idea of seeing the look on Billie's face when she received her gift. It would most definitely be a thrilling moment for Felicia.

Unfortunately, it would be murder on Roland Hill.

Billie stared out at the water as she leaned back against her car, one hand resting on the edge of the door while the other held the phone to her ear. She'd spent the better part of an hour driving aimlessly, not really sure where she was going, but just wanting to have some time alone.

Amazingly, she ended up at the ocean, which wasn't usually her first choice for a little respite. She actually preferred the mountains, probably because of her upbringing. When you grew up in the shadow of Mount Hood, it was hard to look at the horizon and see nothing but a straight line.


The lieutenant cleared her throat, surprised at the lump that had suddenly formed in it. "Hi."

"So, did I interrupt some big important meeting?" Sara questioned.


"Too bad," she replied, teasingly. "I'd really enjoy talking dirty to you while you tried to keep your cool in front of your boss."

The corner of Billie's mouth turned up in a smirk. "I'm sure you would." There was a brief period of silence until the lieutenant finally spoke up again. "So, is this what you consider to be `less complicated'?" she asked, quoting her lover's earlier comment.

"Even I can't avoid the cops forever, Billie," Sara explained. "The further away I stay, the better for both of us."

"At least, tell me where you are," the brunette insisted.

"I'm in California."

Billie could hear the humor in Sara's tone, but she wasn't the least bit amused. "If anything goes wrong-"

"Then, I'll call you to bail me out."

"Sara." The lieutenant let out a heavy sigh, frustrated at her own inability to adequately express herself. It was nothing new, certainly, but now that she and Sara were involved, it was becoming increasingly difficult to just let her actions speak louder than her words, particularly since words were all she had at the moment.

"So, what's your plan for tonight?" Sara asked in a deliberate attempt to steer Billie away from their current topic of conversation.

It was obvious from Sara's tone that she was still very unhappy about Billie's pending dinner date. "I don't really have a plan," she answered. "I'm just going to try and make conversation. If she opens any doors, I'll see where they lead."

"Just be careful, okay?" Sara pleaded. "I've been thinking about something Jill said to me the other day. I meant to tell you about it, but with everything else going on it kind of slipped my mind."

Billie frowned. "What?"

"When we were talking about the explosion, she said that Felicia got off on watching it."

The lieutenant furrowed her brow. "Now, why would that surprise you?"

"She watched it, Billie," Sara stated pointedly. "As in, she was there."

Billie was about to come back with any number of scenarios on how Felicia could have witnessed the bombing.from being parked down the road, to seeing it caught on videotape.

But, she knew instinctively what Sara was implying. And she had to admit, knowing what she did about Felicia, it did seem possible that the woman had devised a more elaborate viewing of her handiwork rather than settling for a video or a car window.

"So, you're thinking she set herself up someplace nearby?" Billie surmised.

"I know it might seem like a stretch, but look who we're talking about here."

The lieutenant's mind was already buzzing with the possibility of finding a connection between Felicia and Malibu. If she could somehow prove that the woman was staying somewhere on the beach at the time of the bomb blast, that might be just enough to get her a search warrant.

"Umm.you're not saying anything," Sara commented. "Is that bad?"

"You should have been a detective," Billie responded.

"Now there's an idea for a career I've never thought of before," the blonde replied good-naturedly. "Just imagine the fun we could have on those late night stake-outs."

The brunette smiled. "The city would be doomed." The sound of Sara's warm laughter wrapped around Billie, making her wish for about the millionth time that they could just take off and leave everything behind them. Her mood suddenly darkened as her thoughts turned to what lay ahead in the next twenty-four hours.



"I...ah...I have a meeting tomorrow morning," Billie stated haltingly. "Things aren't looking too good right now...for me, that is. My job." She released an impatient sigh. "What I mean to say is that my career is in serious trouble. It wouldn't be the first time, but this is...different. The guy I told you about, the one from Internal Affairs-"

"You mean Hill?"

"Yeah. He seems to think he's got enough to get me tossed out on my ass, and to be honest, I'm not so sure he's bluffing."

There was a brief moment of silence on the other end. "Is this because of me?"

"What?" Billie questioned. "No...no, Sara. Trust me, I was headed in this direction long before you came along."

"Well, how bad could it be?" Sara asked. "I mean, are you actually out there breaking laws?"

"Left and right."

"Anything they can prove?"

Spoken like a true criminal. "I guess I'll find out in the morning."

"I'm a little surprised you told me about this."

The lieutenant gave a mental shrug. "I wanted you to know...just in case." Her cool gaze wandered out to the horizon, taking in the beautiful blue sky as it touched the shimmering water. "Hey, Sara?"


"Have you ever climbed a mountain?"

"No," she answered. "But, I've fought an uphill battle. Does that count?"

Billie grinned in spite of herself. "When this is all over, you and I are going to take a nice long, relaxing vacation."

"And climb a mountain?" the blonde asked dubiously.


The lieutenant straightened up and checked her watch. It was almost time for dinner. She opened her car door and slid in behind the wheel, glancing toward the sky one last time before starting up the engine. With a quick check in the rearview mirror, she shifted smoothly, easing up on the clutch as she pulled out onto the coastal road.

"You find mountain climbing relaxing, huh?"


"Then, tell me something, Lieutenant Chambers." Sara's throaty timbre caressed her ear like a warm breeze, causing a shiver to run up Billie's spine. "What do you do for excitement?"

The brunette smiled behind her sunglasses. "I catch bad guys."

Part 23

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