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 25

'Cause it's only time before we all must bleed.
       - Ed Roland

Billie flashed her badge at the nearest officer as she came through the doors of the trauma center, her eyes scanning the area in search of a familiar face. She immediately spotted Captain Parish standing near a set of double doors to her left, speaking to a man dressed in an expensive looking suit. He caught her eye and gave a quick nod before resuming his conversation. She was about to approach him when she felt a hand touch her arm.

"Lieutenant Chambers."

She turned to see Lieutenant Rick Martell from Internal Affairs. The two had known each other for many years, having started out working together at Rampart when they were both still in uniform. He'd been something of a flirt back in those days, and every bit the overzealous rookie. But, he had good instincts and a strong ethic, and Billie had always liked him.

After Hill was promoted several months back, Rick's impressive record had easily managed to secure him the position of Chief Investigator. Unfortunately, his transfer put a slight strain on his relationships with his fellow officers, Billie included. People in his division were usually greeted with suspicion and animosity by their co- workers. It didn't matter who or what they were before, once they ended up in IA, they were seen as the enemy.

The last time Billie had even spoken to him was at Alexa's funeral. Despite the tension that existed between them, he'd been kind and supportive, and she hadn't forgotten that. But, the fact that he'd just addressed her so formally had not gone unnoticed.

She decided to dispense with the usual pleasantries. "What's the word on your boss?"

"Not sure yet." He glanced over at Parish, who made eye contact, briefly, giving Billie the distinct feeling that some silent exchange had just taken place. "Can we talk in private for a minute?" he asked, looking back at her.

"What about?" she questioned, her tone already bordering on argumentative.

"I'd rather do this somewhere else." Rick motioned toward an open door behind him. "How about in here?"

Billie shot him an irritated look. "Let's make this quick," she responded, brushing by him and walking into the empty office. When she turned around to face him, Rick stepped inside and closed the door.

"Look, Billie-"

"Oh, so now it's Billie, all of a sudden," she quickly cut him off, already fully aware of what it was he wanted to discuss with her. "Just get to the point."

The other detective stared at the floor for a moment, looking uncomfortable, before resettling his gaze on her. "Where were you tonight?"

The brunette's eyes widened, slightly. She wasn't surprised by the question, but it still smarted that he would even ask it. "You want an alibi from me, Rick? Is that it?"

"I need to know where you were...that's all." He stuffed his hands in his pockets and leaned back against the door. "It's just SOP."

The two colleagues stared at each other, the weight and severity of the accusation hanging between them. Billie drew a slow, deep breath before finally responding, "Go fuck yourself." She stepped up to him and put a hand on the doorknob, her hardening gaze clearly warning him to step aside.

"Jesus, Chambers, you're just as arrogant as ever," he remarked with a hint of frustration. "Why the hell are you so intent on digging your own grave?"

"Get out of my way," she advised him.

Martell let out a heavy sigh as he straightened up and moved back to give her some room. "If you had nothing to do with it, you should have nothing to hide."

"I don't," she said simply.

"Then, why not answer my question?"

"I already told your boss this once before," she informed him. "And now, I'm telling you. I file my reports with Parish. You want answers, talk to him." She opened the door and walked back out toward the main entrance. Martell followed her, casting a weary eye at Parish before moving off to speak with someone else.

Bob noticed Billie storm out of the office, studying her as she made her way through the throng of reporters that were collecting near the check-in desk. When an older, well-known newscaster purposefully got in her way, she practically shoved her badge in his face before using some off-color language to motivate him into abandoning his quest for an interview.

The captain sighed, inwardly, still unsure as to what motivated him to spend so much time and energy on her over the years. He genuinely cared about her, although her hotheaded nature often made that difficult. Still, there was no denying that he had thrown in with Billie Chambers for the long haul, and he intended to stick by her.

At her best, she was a steadfast, stalwart cop. During her days working undercover, she'd conducted some of the best investigations he'd ever seen. Her impressive list of convictions alone put her career on the fast track early on, and she remained one of the youngest officers in the LAPD to ever reach the rank of Lieutenant before her thirtieth birthday.

But there was always something about her that was both unpredictable and destructive, and he supposed it was those very qualities that enabled her to take some incredibly dangerous risks. She could also be amazingly calm in the most intense situations, which in most cases would be a valuable asset. But, where Billie was concerned, Parish often wondered if she didn't see herself as indestructible. He certainly couldn't ever remember seeing another officer with a cooler head, even when bullets were flying right over it. And it was that do or die bravado she possessed that made her an amazingly proficient detective. Unfortunately, he'd always been afraid it would also end up putting her in an early grave.

When they first met, he saw her as little more than a young, eager rookie, although somewhere in the back of his mind, he sensed there was something special about her. His only intention was to use her for a brief stint as a prostitute, and even though there were always risks involved in any operation, he didn't really think she could get into too much trouble...so long as she followed his instructions.

Which, of course, she didn't.

When the hulking, six foot-plus, psycho pimp she was after was too busy beating on a young girl to even notice she was there, Billie should have called for backup, despite needing to leave the scene to do so. She didn't. When her cover was blown, she was unarmed and barely dressed. She should have turned and run. She didn't. And even when the victim chose to save her own skin by pointing the finger at Billie, the young cop should have saved herself, instead of standing her ground to protect the person that put her life on the line. She didn't.

After the dust settled, Parish stood next to Billie in the emergency room as they set her broken arm, giving her just about the sternest dressing down he'd ever delivered. She sat quietly, only making the occasional expression of discomfort as the doctor patched her up, and her captain tore into her. When they both finished, she quietly laid back on the gurney and went to sleep.

Nerves of steel. With a head to match.

At the time, he thought her reckless behavior might have been some misguided attempt to impress everyone. But, after getting to know her better, he came to understand that her actions were not motivated by career ambitions or professional gain. She simply thrived on getting the job done. And she threw every bit of herself into that single pursuit, no matter the risk. He thought her determination was admirable, though he tried to convince himself it would temper with time. She certainly wasn't the first inexperienced cop to push too hard.

But, he soon realized that just the opposite was true. As she became more immersed in undercover work, her tenacity steadily grew. The more complex and lengthy the assignment, the more she seemed at ease. She enjoyed the chase. It gave her an opportunity to pit her skills against a wide range of people, many of whom had previously escaped prosecution on numerous occasions.

Although, sometimes it seemed as though she measured her own worth by the size of the criminals she pursued. The bigger they were, the more desperately she wanted them.

And that was when the trouble really began.

"Thanks for the help there, Bob."

Parish was drawn out of his own thoughts by a familiar voice and looked to see Billie's angry face staring back at him. She stood there, arms folded across her chest, fully prepared to give him her best `I don't give a shit if you're my boss or not, because I'm pissed off' attitude, which he had to admit, he was absolutely not in the mood for at the moment.

"Let's get away from here," he responded, placing a large hand on her shoulder to guide her along. She resisted the temptation to shrug it off, despite being angry with him for not warning her about Rick.

They walked over to a small waiting area near the elevators. When he was certain the crowd was out of earshot, Parish turned to face her. "Before you decide to bust my chops, let me remind you that Martell could have had you report to his office, along with your advocate, and made the whole thing very official." He tucked his hands into his pockets and lowered his voice for effect. "Getting called in stays with you, Billie. It's a stigma you don't need. We both know that. He was doing you a favor."

"I don't need any favors," she replied somewhat petulantly.

He was about to point out how untrue that statement really was, given the current circumstances, but he knew she was well aware of her reputation with Internal Affairs. As she stared back at him, he could already see her switching gears.

"Where are Van and Deaq?" she asked.

"They're tucked away in a room down the hall," he informed her. "I didn't want their mugs showing up on the evening news."

Billie shot a quick glance across the room. The media was beginning to fill the lobby as a handful of uniformed officers battled to keep them away from the action. "What the hell happened?"

"Someone decided to use him for target practice. They popped him five times as he was getting out of his car at the downtown courthouse."

"And he's still alive?" she asked, disbelievingly.

"He was wearing a vest."

The lieutenant raised her eyebrows. "You're kidding me."

"Only one bullet made it through," Parish explained as he removed a hand from his pocket and pointed to his waist. "Right between his belt and his armor. He lost a lot of blood on his way in, but they seem pretty confident he'll pull through."

Billie shook her head, slowly, unable to hold back the tiny smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth. It appeared as though Hill's paranoia had finally paid off. In spades. "Where is he now?"

"Being prepped for surgery," Parish answered. "They wanted to get him stable, pump him up with a few pints before they go in to remove the bullet."

"Any suspects?" She had one or two of her own, of course, but she wasn't ready to show her cards yet, not when most of what she had was only pure speculation.

"It's a long list," Parish sighed. "They're looking in their own house, but they don't really think this was done by another cop."

Billie frowned. "Why is that?"

"Something he said to your boys at the scene before he passed out," Parish explained, as he gazed at her, solemnly. "He mentioned McKenzie's killer."

The young lieutenant froze. "He knows who it is?"

Parish shook his head, slowly. "We're not sure, but it sounds like he knows something."

"Jesus, Bob," Billie breathed. "If he really does."

"They might try again," he finished for her. "Believe me, he'll have so much protection he won't be able to have a dirty thought without me knowing about it."

"I think he's going to need it." Any doubts Billie may have had about Felicia's involvement were instantly erased, thanks to Parish, but she was still finding it difficult to grasp the reasoning behind all this.

For a brief second, she'd thought perhaps it had been because of her. If Felicia had somehow known about the meeting tomorrow, maybe she'd sent David after Hill as some kind of twisted way of protecting her. Put in the simplest terms, by removing him, her career would be safe. at least temporarily. And as extreme as that all sounded, even to her, it would probably seem perfectly acceptable to Felicia.

But, what did Hill know about Cathy McKenzie's murder?

"There are a lot of unanswered questions here," Parish commented, as if reading her thoughts. "Like how your guys just happened to be at the scene, for starters."

"Have you talked to them yet?" she asked.

"Only for a minute," he answered. "I've been too busy with security and the press."

"Which room are they in?"

Parish pointed toward a door just beyond the bank of elevators. "There."

"Can you give me a couple of minutes?" She knew he had people to answer to, as well, but Van and Deaq were in the middle of this because of her. And she was not about to let their asses swing in the breeze simply because they were in the wrong place at the right time.

"I'll go find Martell," he offered. "That should give you enough time to help them get their story straight."

"Thanks, Bob," she replied, gratefully.

He studied her for a moment before adding, "If they hadn't been there, Hill would probably be dead. Right now that's their only saving grace."

"I know."

As Parish turned to leave, he stopped and looked at her, curiously. With everything going on he'd only just taken note of her appearance. "You have a date tonight?"

"I was working," was all she would say.

He wanted to ask for more details, but decided against it. Sometimes, the less he knew about Billie's numerous activities, the better he slept at night. Without another word, he walked away, quickly disappearing into the sea of activity.

Billie took a deep breath and headed toward the closed door.

"Have you phoned the New York galleries yet?"

Don turned around to see his boss coming toward him. Her expression was calm, but he knew from the look in her eyes that she was furious. "Umm...not yet. I thought you might want to speak with them yourself."

"Yes, I suppose that's best." Felicia looked over the damage, making a mental note as to the dollar value involved. "How many paintings did we lose?"

"I've accounted for ten, so far." Don tossed aside a charred crate cover and peered down into the blackened interior. "Make that twelve."

"And what about the fire department?" she questioned.

"They took a look around, but since we were able to contain it, they aren't concerned about any structural damage. Our insurance rep is on his way over. He'll start the claims process, and probably take a few pictures."

Felicia stared at the fork truck standing against the wall. It was about the only thing in a ten-foot diameter that wasn't completely burned up in the fire. She found that annoyingly ironic considering the machine's faulty wiring appeared to have been the cause.

"I already called the company we bought it from," Don offered as he noticed her studying the piece of equipment. "The fire chief said he was almost positive it was the point of origin, but an investigator will be over to get a better look."

"Fine," the blonde replied curtly. "I'll be in my office." She spun on her heel and stalked across the platform, leaving her foreman to handle the situation.

Felicia slammed the door behind her, attempting to block out the commotion on the other side, and turned to rest her forehead against the lacquered surface. The fire had been a small one, and she knew that if it had happened at a later hour, the entire building could have gone up in flames. The damage was considerable in terms of dollars, thanks to the unfortunate misplacement of some newly arrived paintings. But, overall, it could have been much worse.

And she didn't give a damn.

The evening was ruined. Her carefully orchestrated plans derailed because of a stupid mechanical malfunction. All she'd needed was a little more time, and Billie would have been hers.

She had the young lieutenant right where she wanted her: So desperate to know the truth, and so willing to do anything in order to get it.

An involuntary shudder ran through her as she recalled the feel of that young, nubile form beneath her. The mystery she'd pursued with such abandon, finally ready to be fully explored. She had been so close.

A hand drifted down to the apex of her slim thighs, long tapered fingers rubbing gently against the soft fabric of her pants. She closed her eyes, her tall, thin body pressing firmer against the door as her hand continued its smooth, stroking motions.

Eyes clear and cool as ice-water...dark hair so soft and silky...lips full, sensual and warm.

Felicia's breathing became slightly labored as she used her free hand to grip the doorknob, her knuckles turning white with the increasing pressure.

That incredibly erotic scent...a mixture of wildflowers and raw sex.

The blonde remained standing, the steady pace of her hand increasing with each passing second. Sounds continued wafting through the door, but soon the muffled voices and clattering tools began to subside as her mind continued to focus inward.

The subtle flavor of wine...the warm, unique taste of a beautiful young woman.

A quiet moan escaped Felicia's lips as she kept her body teetering on the edge, determined to hold on until the fantasy was complete.

The gentle flicker of candlelight...a coil of thick, white rope...a gleaming, razor sharp blade, tracing the exquisite contours of lightly tanned skin.

"Oh...Billie." The tall, slender figure arched her back and cried out, softly, to the empty room. Her posture remained rigid as she pushed against her own hand, dark, disturbing thoughts filling her mind and driving her body.

As the minutes ticked by, she began to relax, breath slowing, heated cheeks cooling to a pinkish hue. Her body twitched, slightly, and she finally released her hold on the door.

As an after thought, her brown eyes traveled to a small bookcase directly across from her. She walked over and pulled out an old, well- worn art book, lifting the cover to reveal a small digital camera mounted inside the binding. After making a small adjustment, she removed it from its mooring and pulled out the memory card, being mindful to insert a new one from her desk drawer before replacing the camera in its inconspicuous hiding spot.

She dropped, tiredly, into her chair and leaned back, studying the small card as she held it between her fingers. Her performance had been a silent one, but better to remove the chance of anyone becoming privy to her somewhat lurid behavior.

Her phone suddenly rang, the soft sound nearly deafening to her startled ears. She snatched it up in irritation. "What?"

"You didn't answer your cell."

Felicia recognized the voice immediately. "I told you never to call me at this number," she hissed.

"I needed to talk to you," Warren told her. "I'm at a pay phone."

The blonde sighed, wearily. "Just tell me it's done."

"Well, yes, but Ilsa-"

"Don't call me that!" Felicia shouted into the phone, her face twisting into an angry sneer as she shot up from the desk. "Don't ever call me that again! Do you understand?" There was nothing but silence on the other end of the line, and for a moment, she almost thought he'd hung up. But, of course, he didn't. He never did.

"I'm sorry." Warren's whisper was barely audible.

She glared at the phone still clutched tightly in her hand, wishing he were standing right in front of her, instead of being just a disembodied voice she couldn't see or touch.

And she wanted to see him.

Touch him.

Hurt him.

"I just wanted to let you know that there were some...complications," he explained.

Complications. She didn't like that word. Unfortunately, she didn't dare ask him to elaborate. Not over an open line. "Then, you'd better tend to them," she finally answered, her voice sounding much calmer than she felt. After skipping a beat, she added, "And don't disappoint me."

"I won't," Warren assured her. "I'll take care of it...I promise."

Felicia dropped the phone back into its cradle, one finger idly tracing the smooth outside edge while she fought to regain control of herself. The shake was barely perceptible, at first, as she brought her other hand down to grip the side of the base. With a sudden burst of rage, she yanked the cord, viciously, and launched the unit across the length of her office. It hit the wall and dropped to the floor in a broken heap.

She stood there staring at the pile of debris, one hand clutched to her chest, the other resting on the desktop as she took in small gasps of air. A tiny whimper escaped her lips, the sound reminiscent of a frightened child, and her dark eyes took on an almost feverish glint as she narrowed them to mere slits.

Her mouth began to move, soundless words forming on her lips as she repeated the same phrase over and over again, the volume steadily increasing with each passing second.

"De er min."

Deaq picked his head up as Billie walked in, noticing how his partner always seemed to stand a little taller and straighter whenever she came into a room. He knew Van had sported a little crush on the attractive lieutenant for some time. He also knew that nothing would ever come of it. She was their boss, and in their line of work, business and pleasure just didn't mix, despite Van's best attempts to prove that theory wrong. And besides the fact that they were like oil and water together.

...there was also the small matter of the woman she was currently involved with.

"Well, well," Billie folded her arms across her chest. "You guys have been busy." She cocked her head to one side as she asked, "Care to fill me in?"

"Okay, sir," Van piped up immediately. "Before you go all `Captain Dobey' on us, I'd like to point out that we did just save somebody's life." He glanced at Deaq, who merely raised his eyebrows. "Of course, considering who we saved, maybe that's not scoring us any brownie points."

"Why were you following him?" the brunette asked, glancing between them until her eyes finally rested on Deaq.

"We went to pay him a visit, but when we got there he was on his way out," the detective answered. "So, we decided to follow him. We were twenty...maybe thirty seconds behind coming into the lot...that's all it took."

"We saw Hill drop," Van continued on with the story. "But, by the time we got to him, the shooter was gone."

"Were there any witnesses?"

Deaq shook his head. "A guy from the D.A.'s office was heading to his car when he heard the shots, but he was too far away to see anything. Other than that, there was no one else around."

Billie's eyes narrowed. "Who was the guy?"

"His name's Colby," Van answered. "We checked him out."

"I know who he is," she responded. "So, what exactly did Hill say to you?"

"He mumbled something about McKenzie's killer," Deaq told her. "But, all those slugs knocked the wind out of him, and then he ended up passing out." He moved his head back and forth, slowly, as he added, "All I can say is it's a good thing they didn't go for the head shot."

Van gave a derisive snort before replying, "It's probably harder than his vest."

"Why were you going to see Hill in the first place?" Billie pressed.

Van looked over at his partner before answering, "We wanted to know what was going down tomorrow." He quickly shot Billie an irritated look. "And since no one seems interested in keeping us on the up, we thought we'd just go straight to the horse's ass."

The lieutenant pinched her nose with a thumb and forefinger before placing her hands on her hips. "I told you what you needed to know."

"Like hell you did, Billie," Deaq retorted, mirroring the other man's expression. "You're keeping things...things we should be in on."

Billie raised an arm and pointed her finger at him. "In case you've forgotten, I happen to be the one in charge, Deaq," she replied angrily. "And I am sick and tired of the two of you always questioning my decisions." She immediately held her palm up to Van as he opened his mouth to respond. "This is my problem, okay? My problem, my call. You get that?"

"Why can't you just be straight up with us, Billie?" Deaq held his hands out in a pleading gesture. "I mean, if bad things are comin' down on you, they're comin' down on us."

"Okay," the brunette started, clearly frustrated with the entire conversation. "You know what? The only thing you two have to worry about right now is the bust. Period. All this other business is just a lot of bullshit. Do your job and I'll do mine." She turned and yanked the door open, almost walking into Parish and Martell. Billie stepped aside and gestured to the two men to enter. With a quick glance at her watch, she pinned the latter with an impatient look. "Ten minutes, and they're out. We have a play going down tonight." The lieutenant walked out, slamming the door behind her.

"I guess we better make this quick, then," Martell noted.

Part 26

I can go where no one else can go
I know what no one else knows
       - Dave Pirner

For anyone who didn't know the purpose of The Candy Store, they might think it some kind of museum; a room filled with the remnants of some long forgotten society whose sole purpose was the pursuit of decadence and excess.

But, for the young woman seated on the floor near the center of this vast monument to greed, it was little more than a tool shed, a pile of nuts and bolts she put together to aid her in bringing down the very type of people who continually fortified it.

Billie sat with her back against a chair, her jacket tossed, casually, over the arm as she threw a tennis ball at the outside wall of her office. It bounced back to her and she snatched it in mid-air, pausing to rotate it once in her hand before launching it again.

Her eyes remained fixed on the small, green object as she hurled it in a high arc, watching it fly briefly before coming into contact with the clear divider and returning to her in a single bounce. She cocked an ear, slightly, hearing the sounds of approaching footsteps, but even as two pairs of legs entered her peripheral vision, she never took her eyes off the ball.

Her two operatives stood a few feet away, waiting for their boss to give them her attention. Van dug his elbow into Deaq's side as he gestured toward her. "See? What'd I tell ya? She identifies with Steve McQueen."

Deaq's only response to his partner's comment was to shake his head and walk away from him. "Yo, Billie."

"Hey, guys," she responded as she kept up her monotonous exercise.

Van approached her, his eyes following the ball as it traveled the length of its appointed trajectory. "So, what's the word?"

"We bagged `em," she replied, a small note of satisfaction in her voice. "It looks like the trail leads all the way back to a port in Guatemala. According to my contact at the DEA, they've been moving everything through to Mexico with a fleet of go-fasts. Since Ellis and his group were handling the trucking over the border, we've just managed to plug up their flow. She paused a few beats before adding, "You guys did good work."

Deaq dropped to the floor beside her, leaning back on his hands as he watched her cock her arm back for another throw. "How's Hill doin'?"

"He made it through surgery," she answered, launching the ball again. "They got the bullet out, but he's still unconscious." As she reached up for it, another hand suddenly snatched it out of the air in front of her. She turned and gave Deaq an annoyed look. "Get your own ball." She started to grab it from him, but instead, he tossed it to his partner, who caught it and immediately started to bounce it on the floor.

Deaq got to his feet and held a hand out to Billie. "Ain't we supposed to be havin' a meeting?" The brunette released a heavy sigh and allowed him to pull her to her feet. She picked up her jacket as she turned and walked to her office.

"Come on," she called back to them.

The three cops seated themselves in their usual places, Billie behind her desk and the two men settling in across from her. There was an uncomfortable tension in the air as they all sat, quietly, each waiting for the other side to begin.

The lieutenant could see that the responsibility for getting underway was resting, squarely, on her shoulders. She sat forward, clasping her fingers together and placing her hands on the desk. The conversation they were about to have would not be a pleasant one.

"My meeting was cancelled," she started in a matter-of-fact tone. "For obvious reasons." Van and Deaq remained silent, knowing there was more to say. After a brief hesitation, she continued. "But, I omitted one small detail. The meeting was actually with the DCP." The two men exchanged surprised glances.

"That wasn't exactly a small detail, Billie," Van remarked irritably.

"I'm with slick on this one," Deaq agreed. "Why the hell didn't you tell us?"

"And don't say it was `need to know'," Van quickly added.

Billie resisted the urge to get up and leave, not liking the feeling that she was somehow accountable to anyone. Deaq and Van worked for her, and although her professional troubles would most assuredly end up affecting them, she still didn't feel any real sense of obligation to disclose the details.

But, there was a part of her that knew their attitude of righteous indignation was somewhat justified. The Candy Store was certainly a unique and intimate operation, and the two men who now shared this inimitable space with her had come to understand the most basic tenet of its foundation: Without Billie Chambers, there was no Candy Store.

"Look, guys," she responded in a weary tone. "It's no secret that Hill has been gunning for me for months. He's obsessed with shutting this place down. And with everything that's been going on lately, he's more convinced than ever that our operation is out of control."

Deaq met her steady gaze. "You think he's got something solid?"

"I don't know."

Van narrowed his eyes, slightly, giving his boss a suspicious look. "Does this have something to do with Sara?" Even Deaq looked a bit surprised at his partner's candidness.

The brunette's jaw worked as she tried to formulate an answer to his question without biting his head off. "Again, I don't know."

Deaq saw his partner gearing up to say something else, undoubtedly intending to irk their boss even further, so he quickly intervened. "Look, Billie, we both get that something big is goin' on between the two of you, alright? But, we got some concerns of our own."

"Such as?" Billie asked, her tone sounding a bit on edge.

"Such as, why the hell you'd risk exposing this entire operation just for a little piece of ass!" Van's voice boomed as he shot up from his seat and slammed his hands down on the edge of Billie's desk. Deaq put a hand across his eyes and slumped back into his chair. He knew this was coming, he was just hoping to be miles away when it finally happened.

Billie immediately stood up, a furious look in her eyes as she jabbed a finger in the young officer's face. "Who the fuck do you think you are?"

"I think I'm the guy that's gonna end up writing parking tickets because you couldn't think with your head instead of your pussy!" Van hollered right back.

"Woah!" That comment was enough to galvanize Deaq into action as he jumped up and placed a restraining hand on his partner's shoulder. "You'd better back it up there, my man."

"You hypocritical son of a bitch," the lieutenant breathed. "You stick it into every goddamn hole you can find, and you've got the fucking nerve to call me out?"

"Oh, yeah?" Van continued his tirade, completely ignoring Deaq's attempts to reel him in. "Well, at least when I'm fucking someone, I'm not fucking you at the same time!"

"That's enough!" Deaq bellowed.

Billie's face was red with rage. "You're absolutely right," she responded, her voice deceptively calm. "It is enough." She glared at Van with open hostility. "The next time you mouth off to me like that, you can bet your ass you'll be trading in your alias and your posh little bachelor pad for a skirt and a fucking scooter." She tore her jacket off the back of the chair and started to leave.

Deaq caught her arm as she passed him. "Billie, wait. Come on, now, don't leave. Not like this."

She yanked her arm free and pinned him with a sharp look. "You, of all people, should know the way things are, Deaq." With that, she turned and stormed from the room. The young detective watched her leave, those final parting words causing a painful ripple to course through him.

He did know the way things are...or were, at least, for him. How things just happened, whether you wanted them to or not. How two people, who might never have crossed paths under normal circumstances, suddenly found themselves holding on to each other, so tight that it seemed as though they would never let go.

But, he and Alexa didn't get the chance to find out how long they could hold on, or how far they would go together. She was taken from him, ripped away in a single, heinous, act of violence. And because of that, he would never know what might have been.

"You were way over the line."

Van dropped down, heavily, into his chair and laid his head back to stare at the ceiling, all the anger he'd been expressing now having seemingly fled from his body. "I know."

Deaq turned to look at him, resisting the urge to smack him on the back of the head. Hard. "What the hell got into you?"

"Everything I said was true, Deaq."

"Even so," he replied. "We've both been there."

"This is different."


"It just is," was all Van would say.

"Man, you sound like a goddamn five year old, you know that?" Deaq shook his head and started to walk out, pausing at the door as a thought suddenly occurred to him. He leaned against the doorjamb, his arm stretched against the opening as he looked back at his partner in understanding. "You're jealous."

"I am not," Van replied adamantly.

"Are too."

"Now who sounds like a five year old?" The young cop got to his feet and turned to face his partner.

"Hey man, it's me, okay?" Deaq prompted. "I know you got a little thing going on for the boss lady."

Van's eyes widened in astonishment. "What?"

The detective gave him a sympathetic look. "It's kinda obvious."

"You don't know what the hell you're talking about." Van walked to the door, waiting for the other man to remove the arm that was blocking his exit.

"We gotta set this right, V."

"Would you move your arm, please?"

Deaq did as he asked, allowing his partner to walk by him. Van followed the same path Billie had taken only moments ago, quickly disappearing from view. The loud slam that echoed through the warehouse seconds later confirmed that he was now completely alone. The young man turned his dark gaze skyward and sighed.

"How the hell did I end up with these two, `Dre?"

Billie walked through the front door of her apartment, heading directly for the kitchen with a pile of mail clutched in her hand. She dropped it on the table, shrugged out of her jacket, and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge.

Too tired to even care what correspondence may need her attention, she walked down the hall to her bedroom, the bottle tilted to her lips as she drank the cold liquid, greedily. With only one foot across the threshold she froze in her tracks, immediately spotting the figure less than ten feet away.

She stared at the blonde hair, noticing the way it spilled, lightly, across her pillow and she moved closer, taking soft, quiet steps so as not to disturb her unexpected guest. The young woman seemed oblivious to her presence, and she found herself kneeling down to study her peaceful, beautiful face.

Sara lay on her side, facing Billie, with one arm tucked under the pillow, the other draped over her slender waist. Her breathing was slow and deep, giving the lieutenant the impression that she'd been there for quite a while. She was still fully clothed, although her shoes were lying on the floor at the foot of the bed. Obviously, she'd been waiting up for her and just happened to fall asleep.

With hardly a moment's debate, Billie set down her water and stood up to begin removing her clothes, quietly stripping down to nothing before climbing onto the bed and settling in beside Sara. She covered the young woman's arm with her own and rested her cheek on the pillow, soft strands of blonde hair tickling her nose. She lay there, quietly, enjoying the feel and smell of her lover, both sensations comforting to her in a way she could never explain to anyone else.

Sara stirred a bit, but quickly settled back down, and Billie pressed her lips, gently, against the warm skin of her exposed neck. She could feel her body relaxing for the first time in what seemed like days, and she closed her eyes, falling asleep almost instantly.

The feel of something warm against her body roused the young lieutenant, and she rolled onto her back, pale blue eyes blinking against the bright sunlight streaming in through the window beside her.

The sensation grew more acute and Billie uttered a soft moan, the touch on her bare skin awakening her desire, even as her body struggled to shake off the cobwebs of sleep. Moist, warm lips took possession of her left nipple, and she arched her back in response, eyes now closing tightly as she pressed her head further into the pillow beneath her.

Soft fingers trailed along the inside of her thigh, the light, feathery touch bringing forth a surge of heat in their wake. The brunette raised her leg and bent it at the knee to allow her lover easier access, and the gesture was immediately rewarded as she felt a hand moving closer to her core.

The brush of a tongue across her breast switched her focus for a moment, and she gripped the bed sheet, bunching it tightly in her hand, as her breathing grew somewhat labored. The sensuous assault became more intense as that same hand parted her, the pad of a thumb stimulating her suddenly throbbing center with a smooth, tender caress.

"Sara." Billie gasped.

The blonde smiled against her lover's flushed skin. With deliberate slowness, she dragged the tip of her tongue around the gentle swell of her lover's breast, her warm breath teasing across the sensitive skin, causing the dark areola to pucker in response.

Sara moved up and took the other nipple into her mouth, teasing it as she flicked her tongue against the tip, bringing it to full erectness almost instantly. After a long moment, she released it and kissed her way further up, her mouth still forging a trail of fire.

She pressed her face into Billie's neck, feeling the brunette's racing pulse against her lips. Her thumb continued to move about in lazy, uneven strokes, accompanying fingers constantly breaking whatever steady rhythm her lover started to grow accustomed to and she could feel as well as hear the young woman emit a low growl deep within the base of her throat.

"Ssh." Sara admonished gently as she lifted up and captured Billie's luscious mouth, using gentle, but insistent persuasion to part her lover's lips.

Billie laid there, her body aching with need from head to toe, the only thoughts in her mind focused on the beautiful creature on top of her, and inside her. She began to thrust her hips against Sara's hand, desperately trying to draw the young woman's talented fingers deeper, as her heart pounded rapidly in her chest.

The kiss broke for a second, and Sara gazed down at Billie, seeing a longing in those gorgeous eyes that made her pulse race. She bit down on the brunette's lower lip, tugging it gently and sliding her tongue along the edge before releasing it again. The hand between Billie's legs continued its seductive dance, and she could feel her lover's body trembling beneath her.

She began to kiss her way along the young lieutenant's cheek, and Billie turned her head, slightly, in a deliberate gesture of submission. Sara flicked a delicate earlobe with the tip of her tongue and whispered softly in her lover's ear.

Billie could feel her life's blood racing to a single point, the very essence of her being drawn to Sara, as if wanting to be carried away by the hand that commanded her body so completely. Her muscles began to tighten, rapidly, her lips parting in a silent plea as she reached the pinnacle of her climax, and gave her lover everything she had in a single cry of utter rapture.

Sara could feel the young woman's body shuddering, and she kept her motions steady to make the pleasure linger a bit longer. Her lover's chest heaved with the effort of her exertions, and the blonde's hot breath tickled Billie's ear as she said, "That's what you get for coming to bed naked." She could feel the smile that broke out on Billie's face.

"I'll never wear clothes again," the lieutenant quipped, still somewhat out of breath.

"Fine by me," Sara replied as her hand began to travel up the length of the young brunette's body. She brushed her moistened fingertips over soft, supple skin and settled to one side, a blue-jean clad leg still thrown casually over Billie. Seeing her lover's blue eyes watching her, intently, she lifted her hand and slipped the tip of one finger passed her lips, sucking on it in a stunningly erotic gesture.

Driven by a wicked impulse, Billie suddenly flipped over on top of the blonde and seized her wrists in a gentle, but firm hold, pressing them down against the pillow on either side of her head. She stared down into those seductive, cornflower eyes, desire pulsing through her veins like thick, hot lava. "Do you have any idea what you do to me, Sara?"

"You mean, besides what I just did?" The blonde's momentary look of wide-eyed innocence slowly dissolved into a sexy smile.

Billie flashed a smile in response. Still holding Sara pinned, she leaned down to kiss her lover, moving in and pulling back in a teasing fashion, their lips barely making contact. After repeatedly denying the blonde's insistent attempts to meet her halfway, she pushed her mouth down on top of Sara's and kissed her, passionately.

Sara moaned into Billie's mouth as she felt a thigh pressing between her legs. One of her wrists was quickly abandoned, and a strong, skilled hand began moving down across her body, nimble fingers making fast work of the buttons on her blouse.

With one hand now free, Sara placed it on the warm skin of Billie's bare back, feeling heat and muscle as her lover moved over her. Her top quickly fell away, and gentle fingertips traced delicate lines along the black lace trim of her bra. The brunette began to tease the creamy flesh through the soft fabric, and Sara arched her back into the young woman's loving touch.

Just then, the soft, annoying ring of a cell phone could be heard in the other room.

The two women's mouths parted and they both released ragged breaths. Sara looked up at Billie, her eyes glazed over with lust. "If you answer that," she warned in a throaty rasp, "I'll kill you."

"I'm sorry." Billie hesitated for a few seconds before reluctantly climbing off both her lover, and her bed, as she went in search of her phone.

The blonde released a frustrated sigh and glared at the ceiling. She could hear Billie's voice in the other room, speaking in that familiar tone of authority, indicating that it was probably a work call.

"Big surprise," she mumbled, unhappily.

Billie walked back in and perched next to Sara on the edge of the bed, reaching out and touching her hand. "I have to go."

Sara's gaze remained fixed on the ceiling. "I can find my own way out."

"I would much rather stay here with you," the brunette told her with complete honesty. Coming home to find Sara in her bed was something Billie was deathly afraid she could get used to, given half the chance. Sadly, with the current state of things, it seemed as though that possibility was little more than a pipe dream.

"But, duty calls, right?" the blonde's tone was somewhat resentful. She was really beginning to hate Billie's job, even more so than before.

"I assume you heard about Hill?"

Sara finally looked over at her. When she first heard about a cop shooting, her heart leapt into her throat, dreading that it was Billie. The newscast had been decidedly vague with information, and even though the chances were so remote, she couldn't deny the overwhelming feeling of relief when they confirmed that the shooting victim was a man. The initial scare had been enough incentive to make her re-think her decision to keep her distance, even though she'd promised herself she wouldn't get in Billie's way.

"It was all over the news last night," she confirmed. "That's actually why I decided to stop by." Her hand reached up and cupped Billie's cheek. "I'm worried about you."

The lieutenant pulled Sara's hand away and kissed her palm before setting it back down on the bed with a reassuring squeeze. "I know," she said softly. "I'll be careful. I promise." The blonde sat up and planted a soft kiss on Billie's lips.

A heavy silence descended on the two lovers, as they sat there looking into each other's eyes. Both women had words that needed to be said, but neither could seem to give voice to them.

Sara finally broke the mood by asking, "So, how's Hill doing, by the way?"

"He's holding his own," Billie answered. "The department is pulling out all the stops to find the shooter. At this point, they're still working through a long list of suspects."

"Considering what you've told me about him that's not so surprising," the blonde commented. "At least, they can't point a finger at you."

The lieutenant looked at her, curiously. "Why is that?"

Sara shrugged. "You have an alibi." She adjusted her position to lean against the headboard. "Speaking of which, how was your evening?"

Billie immediately pushed back the guilt she was feeling about last night, telling herself she did what was necessary, although she doubted Sara would see it that way. "It was cut short."

"Oh?" Sara looked at Billie with interest. "Because of the shooting?"

"Actually, no. I didn't get the call about Hill until I was already on my way out."

"Then, what happened?"

"Felicia got called away in the middle of dinner. I found out this morning it was because of a fire at her warehouse last night. It wasn't anything major, but since she left so abruptly, I'm afraid my efforts didn't amount to very much." She knew there were a series of lies in that statement, but it was better if Sara didn't know anymore than she already did. Sometimes a little knowledge could be a dangerous thing.

The blonde's mood seemed buoyed, suddenly. "Gee, you'll forgive me if I don't share your sense of disappointment."

"You're forgiven." Billie got up and walked over to the bureau, opening drawers and rummaging through their contents. She grabbed a few items from her closet and tossed them on the edge of the bed. As she started dressing, she could feel Sara's eyes on her and she turned to look at the blonde. "Things are getting pretty crazy, aren't they?"

The blonde nodded. "Anything I can do?"

The lieutenant was about to pull up the zipper on a pair of tan pants, when she suddenly stopped, arms dropping to hang at her side as she said, "Tell me where you're staying."

Sara just stared at her, eyes moving across the brunette's body. She couldn't help it. Billie looked so sexy standing there, pants still hanging open, and the stark whiteness of her bra a delicious contrast to her tanned skin. Even with her dark hair still in disarray, she was the most beautiful thing Sara had ever seen.

And she wanted her. Now.

She got up from the bed, slowly, eyes remaining fixed on her lover. "I'm staying right here, in this room," she replied, huskily, one finger pointing at the floor. "Until you make love to me."

Billie raised an eyebrow. "Did I mention that I have to leave?"

"Did I mention that if you so much as even try to walk out of here right now, I'm going to make enough noise to raise the dead?" Sara flashed Billie her sweetest smile.

The young lieutenant merely stood there, watching with growing interest as Sara came closer to her. Once again, she felt the young woman's seductive charms bearing down on her, and like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, she didn't have a prayer of getting out of the way.

"My boss is."

Sara knelt down in front of Billie and ran her fingers along the edge of the brunette's pants, inching them down as she planted moist kisses on her stomach.

"...expecting me."

Billie's hooded gaze stared at the top of Sara's head as she moved just a little bit lower.

"Sorry I'm late."

Bob Parish looked up from his desk to see Billie standing in the doorway of his office. "Come on in," he responded with a wave of his hand as he leaned back in his chair. She walked in and shut the door before seating herself across from him.

"So, how'd it go with fric and frac?" Parish seldom addressed Billie's two operatives by name.

The lieutenant's shrug was non-committal. "They've been brought up to speed." It was immediately clear that no more details would be forthcoming.

He pushed a folder across his desk and motioned for her to take it. "Since this one is a multi-jurisdiction, I thought everyone should be sharing information."

Billie immediately opened the folder and quickly scanned its contents. "This is all there is?"

"I know it's not much to go on," Parish acknowledged. "Until Hill can be questioned all we've got is a few statements, phone records, and alibis up the yin-yang." He watched the young lieutenant as she continued to study the pages, carefully, as though searching for something specific.

She finally glanced up at her boss. "No ballistics yet?"

He shrugged. "They just called a few minutes ago. The slugs were .40 caliber...nothing special. What we need is the gun that fired them." The captain sat forward in his chair and clasped his fingers together. "Take a look at Colby's statement."

The lieutenant flipped through the remaining pages until she found the lawyer's official account of the shooting. After reading a few lines, she glanced up at Parish. "He was supposed to meet with Hill?"

"Apparently. He claims that Hill wanted to ask him a few questions about the Kistler case," the older man explained. "In particular, Sara Matthews' plea agreement." He could see something flash across Billie's eyes in response to that bit of information, but, as quick as it appeared, it was gone again.

The brunette furrowed her brow, the tip of one finger running along the page in front of her as she gave an overview of the detailed version. "According to Colby, Hill was a no-show. He got tired of waiting and decided to leave, but just as he got to his car he heard the shots."

Parish nodded. "Unfortunately, he didn't see anything. Neither did any of the security people."

"I wonder why Hill was so late, though," Billie commented without looking up. "That certainly doesn't-"

The captain tilted his head, slightly, waiting for Billie to complete her thought. She appeared to be reading something when he noticed her eyes widening dramatically. "What is it?" She looked up at him, but at that moment, Parish got the distinct impression that she wasn't even seeing him.

The young woman jumped up from her seat and headed for the door, her hand clutching the folder in a near-death grip. "I have to check something."

"Check what?" Parish questioned as Billie practically ran out of his office. "Billie!"

Warren was stretched out in an oversized leather recliner, the television remote dangling from his nervous fingers as he flipped channels, indiscriminately, not even paying attention to whatever appeared on the screen. His gaze was almost vacant, as if his mind and body weren't currently occupying the same space.

And in some regards, they weren't.

The young attorney's thoughts were currently in another time and place, as a dizzying array of memories assaulted him with their vivid imagery. And the pictures of his past were always filled with the same face.


She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. The fact that she showed even the slightest interest in him had been nothing short of a miracle. He had tried to steal from her, and in return.she saved him.


Useless garbage.

That's what his mother always called him. From his earliest memories of her, it seemed as though she'd always hated him. He never knew his father, and she never spoke of him, unless it was to compare the two, which usually meant that he was being particularly bad.

She worked sometimes, but keeping a roof over their heads was difficult, and the two of them had spent most of his young life living on the streets, occasionally procuring a bed or two at a wayward shelter. It was in such a place that he woke up one morning and found himself alone, abandoned by the one person he depended on...the only person he loved.

He was eight years old.

It didn't really hurt to think about her anymore, although there were times when he thought of searching for her. But, when those moments of weakness would arise, he would simply tell himself that she was dead. It was better for a little boy to have a dead mother, rather than one who just didn't give a shit about you.

Once on the streets alone, the young child had been a fast learner. With his puppy dog eyes and forlorn appearance, he quickly figured out how to hustle people, barely existing on spare change and the occasional hand out, while still managing to avoid the local and state authorities.

At one point, he'd met a group of boys that hung around at the train stations, and they'd taught him how to earn more money. Initially, he was disgusted by the acts he began committing, but it was amazing how a few extra dollars and a full belly could help him overcome his strenuous dislike for such deviant behavior.

He would occasionally rob people, as well. His primary method was purse snatching, as he was a fast runner and could usually get away clean. Despite the terrible conditions under which he lived, he still couldn't bring himself to commit some of the more serious crimes that others did.

When he first saw the tall, blonde figure walking down the street, his only thought had been the contents of her bag. Judging from the way she dressed, it looked like she had money.

He approached from behind, using the crowded street to his advantage. Once he had the purse in his hand, even the most athletic person would be hard pressed to follow him, let alone a rich woman in heels.

The theft had been easy enough. The strap hung, casually over her shoulder, and with his expert timing, he deftly removed it and was already in motion before it even registered on his victim's face. But, when he spared a glance over his shoulder to convince himself he was home free, the sight of her sprinting up behind him was such a shock, he ran straight into a group of young girls peering through a storefront window.

He plowed into them, knocking several people to the ground, including himself, and quickly set about trying to disentangle his body when he felt a strong, firm hand close around his arm. Immediately, his hand curled into a fist, the need to flee overruling his normally docile nature. But, he froze when he realized that the person who had a grip on him was actually a police officer.

As he tried to fumble for an excuse, he could see the woman approaching, the firm set of her jaw a clear indication that she was about to rage at him for what he'd done. But, for the second time that fateful day, she completely surprised him by taking the officer aside and speaking a few quiet words to him. Seconds later, to the young boy's utter amazement, the man proceeded to let him go with a stern warning. He was grateful, but suspicious of her kindness, and when he opened his mouth to question her, she simply told him it was time to go home.

And that was when she first called him David.

A knock at the door jarred Warren from his thoughts and he quickly sat up, glancing at his watch. It was still early in the evening, but he wasn't expecting anyone to stop by. After being at the police station all night answering the same questions over and over to what seemed like more than a dozen different detectives, all he wanted was to be left alone.

He got to his feet and walked to the door, hands resting on the knob and the deadbolt as he called out, "Who is it?"

"It's Lieutenant Chambers."

Warren froze. That was certainly not a voice he'd been expecting to hear. He took a step back from the door, a momentary feeling of panic seizing him. What did she want? Was she here about Hill's shooting?

Of course, that had to be it. She probably wanted to ask him a few questions, just like every other cop in the LAPD had done in the last twenty-four hours. There was absolutely no reason for Billie to be suspicious of him. No one knew of his connection to Ilsa.or Felicia. He was a good, upstanding citizen. They were colleagues. He'd worked with her once before, and she seemed to like him.

Plus, he'd been careful. He made sure that Hill never saw his face. The gun was safely hidden away, and there had been no witnesses. Even the two cops who just happened to be nearby at the time hadn't been suspicious of him. He'd carefully planned everything out, and the execution had been nearly flawless.

Except for the fact that Hill was still alive.

Warren took a deep breath, turning the bolt and knob, simultaneously. He pulled the door open just a bit, at first, as if to convince himself that a SWAT team wasn't about to burst into his apartment.

He saw cool, blue eyes looking back at him, but the young lieutenant's expression gave nothing away. With growing trepidation, he pulled the door open, fully, and that was when he noticed the others standing behind her...the same two officers from the scene of the shooting. Inexplicably, their names suddenly popped into his head.

Hayes and Ray.

"Uhh...Hi, Lieutenant," Warren greeted, eyes darting, nervously, at the men flanking her. "What can I do for you?"

Billie held her hand up and produced a warrant. "I'm here to search your apartment."

The young attorney just stared at her, blankly. "I don't understand." A sickening feeling was beginning to roil his stomach as he watched her demeanor change almost instantly, and he realized that his initial concerns about her were not unfounded. He didn't know how it could even be possible, but there was no mistaking the look in her eyes.

She knew.

"This piece of paper allows me to search the residence of the person against whom it's been issued," Billie replied in a steady voice as she held it out to Warren, who accepted it and quickly studied its validity. She peeked over the top edge of the paper and pointed out a specific spot. "That is you, isn't it?" The younger man remained silent as he stared at his name in bold type.

David Warren Colby.

Part 27

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