DISCLAIMER: The characters from Law & Order & Law & Order SVU are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf. The characters from Castle belong to ABC and show creator, Andrew Marlowe. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: It Takes Two is a collaborative crossover between the shows Castle and Law & Order: SVU. The story takes place after the episode "Ghost" has occurred and encompasses events from Seasons 1 and 2 of Castle and Season 10 of SVU. Parts of the SVU timeline have been altered to fit the needs of this story, but we tried to remain true to the characters and spirit of both shows. Credits: Acathla: Primary writer for Kate Beckett and compilation of the text. Diamond Crush: Primary Writer for Vicky Harrison/Alexandra Cabot, proofreading and final edit.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To CMSVU2010[at]gmail.com

It Takes Two
By Acathla & Diamond Crush


Chapter Six: Dinner and a Movie

Kate got back into Vicky's car after placing the grocery bags in the back seat. She checked the time and saw she had just under an hour before she had to get Vicky from work. Rather than let the groceries sit in the car, she decided to drop the food off at Vicky's house before she went to pick up the blonde.

Kate checked the key ring and smiled when she noticed the house key. The only problem was, she didn't quite remember how they had gotten to Vicky's the night before so she was going to need the GPS to find her way. The only problem was, she didn't have Kate's address, but always resourceful, she opened the glove compartment and found the car's registration. She typed the address into the unit and made the drive across town.

When Kate got to Vicky's house, she quickly transferred the bags of food to the kitchen. She had to fight the urge to snoop around a bit now that she was alone in Vicky's house. The detective in her was curious, but she knew it would be wrong so she quickly put the fridge things in the fridge and left the house. She got back in the car and took a deep breath before pulling away from the house and heading towards the gallery. It was almost 5:30 and she didn't want to be late.

Vicky was just finishing up some paperwork with Ms. Willows when she saw Kate walk through the door. She looked over and smiled, mouthing the words, "I'm almost done."

Catherine was leaning over on the counter as Vicky filled out the form, her chest resting against the marble in a very seductive way. This time, without Kate's presence, Catherine's advances were glaringly clear, but Vicky continued to remain professional, which only prompted Catherine to come on stronger.

She handed a pen to the redhead and said, "Just sign there and the artwork will be crated and shipped to your father's casino right away."

Kate watched silently from across the room as Vicky dealt with the flirty redhead. It didn't take a detective to see that she wanted to bed Vicky. Once again, Kate felt the jealousy rise up but this time, there was something else there…It was insecurity.

The redhead was beautiful, sexy, and a little exotic looking. Kate knew she herself was attractive, but she was also a bit insecure when it came to her looks and relationships. Kate's last two 'girlfriends' had left her for women who were...more beautiful, more feminine.

The thing that her exes failed to understand was that Kate couldn't afford to be as girly as she might like because she was always had to prove herself as one of the guys if she wanted to get ahead in the NYPD. She was who she was, but that didn't always make it easy when it came to meeting other women.

Vicky, on the other hand, was very feminine and Kate loved that about her but it also made her wonder if Vicky might want someone more like the redhead who was actively and openly flirting with her right now in her high heels and low-cut blouse. Kate sighed, knowing if Vicky made that choice there wouldn't be anything she could do about it...except maybe cry or hit something.

While Kate was waiting, Catherine picked up the pen to sign the form and deliberately added her personal number at the bottom, "Feel free to call me, I'm in town for a few more days... I would like to see you again in a less...professional setting."

Vicky put on the most polite face she could manage and said, "Ms. Willows, I appreciate the offer, but I'm afraid I have to decline. I'm actually seeing someone and I care about her very much. If that means you want to cancel your order, I'll understand, but I won't hurt her. I'm sorry."

Kate had to turn away when she heard what Vicky said. She had to hide the smile and the tears that had sprung to her eyes. She discreetly wiped the tears away and pretended to study the painting on the wall.

Catherine looked up at Vicky, obviously offended by the implication that she only wanted the art to get a date with her. "Ms. Harrison, I don't need to use guises to get a date and I don't appreciate you implying that I do. We want the art, dating you simply would've been a little bit of fun on the side. If you don't want to take the opportunity it's your loss. Have the art delivered within two days..." Then she picked up her bag and stormed out of the gallery.

Vicky raised an eyebrow and shook her head, "Wow, that was unreal." Then she looked over at Kate and smiled, obviously tired, "Hey beautiful."

Kate heard the woman leave and she hid another smile. Vicky's rejection made Kate happy but she knew she shouldn't show it. She shouldn't be smug. Kate turned around when Vicky addressed her. She smiled at the blonde, "Hey babe. You ready to go?"

"You have no idea. After dealing with that woman for 4 hours, I need a glass of wine, a good meal, and even better company..."

Kate smiled, "Well I can help you there. I have the wine and the food at your place, waiting for me to cook it, and now, I have you so if you'll come with me, we can get you home and relaxed, ok?"

Vicky smiled gratefully, "Thank you, baby. I don't think I've ever been happier to get out of work. I just pray that woman doesn't say anything to my boss about what I 'implied'. I'm sure he wouldn't believe her, but I really just want to forget the whole thing."

Kate stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Vicky's waist. She leaned forward and kissed Vicky's lips. "I hope she doesn't get you in trouble either, but right now there's nothing you can do about it so...let's go back to your place and I will make you a very delicious dinner, we will drink some wine and watch High Society while we snuggle on your couch and just forget about her. Deal?"

"Deal." She took Kate's hand and walked out, locking up before they walked to Vicky's car. She looked at Kate, unsure of who was going to drive. "Um, do you want me to drive?" she asked.

Kate blushed, "Um...yeah. It's your car so here." She handed Vicky the keys. She hadn't thought about who was going to drive because she'd forgotten that this wasn't her car. She had fallen into her usual mindset of being, for lack of a better term, 'the guy' and taking the lead. She had to remind herself that she didn't have to do that here...she could let Vicky take the lead and in all reality she should let her because the blonde was more familiar with the city and the streets.

Vicky opened the passenger door for Kate and then went around to get in. She started the car and pulled out into the street, the path home being like second nature to her at this point. "So, did you enjoy your afternoon out on the town?"

Kate smiled at Vicky, "Yes I did. I missed you though, would've been nice to have a tour guide." Kate slipped her hand over Vicky's thigh and she squeezed gently, "I had a wickedly delicious fantasy about you while I was in the grocery store...it was hot and, maybe soon...I'll make it a reality if you're willing." Kate grinned, wondering if Vicky would be open to fulfilling fantasies or not.

Vicky glanced over at her when they came to a red light, "Do tell..."

Kate demurred, "Not yet. It's too good to share right now. But I will, soon." She wanted to wait for the right moment, she wanted it to be...romantic.

"Tease," Vicky said with a grin and then started down the street again when the light turned green. The drive home took about the same amount of time as usual. The 5 o'clock traffic in Santa Fe unbearable. She didn't understand how a city so small could have such traffic issues, but then again, she figured that things moved slower out west, which led to congestion on the road. When they got to her house, she and Kate went inside and Vicky kicked off her heels, "So good to be home."

Kate smiled at Vicky and stepped behind her. She wrapped her arms around her and held her close as she kissed Vicky's neck and murmured, "I know that feeling. It feels so good to hold you again. I don't ever want to let you go." Kate squeezed a little tighter, "But I promised you dinner so I guess I'm going to have to, huh?"

"The sooner you finish, the sooner we can spoon on the couch," Vicky said, though she too was reluctant for Kate to let her go. She caressed Kate's arm and then said, "I know what will help. Let's get that wine..."

Kate didn't let go. She held on and moved her mouth over Vicky's neck, tasting the skin there and she grinned wickedly when she found a spot that could be hidden by a shirt and sucked on it. Kate wanted to brand Vicky as hers. She wanted a physical reminder that this wonderful, beautiful woman was hers...at least for right now.

Vicky moaned and gripped Kate's thighs, squeezing gently, "Oh Kate...God..."

Kate rubbed her hands against Vicky's abdomen, she lifted her head just enough to see the mark she'd made on Vicky's skin. She smiled and then licked the mark, soothing it just a little. "Mine," she whispered softly with a little bit of smug pride in her voice.

Vicky felt something warm when she heard the whisper and she leaned her head back against Kate's shoulder, "Say it again..."

"Mine," She whispered again, slipping her hands up to cup Vicky's breasts.

"Is that what you want, Kate? For me to be yours?" Vicky asked in a husky voice.

"More than I have ever wanted anything in my life." She whispered, "I want to wake up next to you every morning and fall asleep with you in my arms every night. I know it might be too soon to be saying this but yeah...I want you to be mine. More importantly though," she paused, smiled against Vicky's neck, and kissed her, "I want to be yours."

Vicky turned in Kate's arms and gazed into the brunette's gorgeous brown eyes, "I want you to be mine. I want to do all the things you mentioned and more... I don't want you to go back to New York...at least until I can go with you... I know that's not realistic, but it's what I wish for."

Kate leaned in and kissed Vicky. She let herself get lost in the kiss because she knew that, as much as they might wish to be together and change their reality, they couldn't. Kate had to go back to New York soon, she had her job, her dad, and her friends. Vicky couldn't up and move either. She had a job and a life here in Santa Fe. Kate liked the idea, though, of Vicky moving to New York because she wanted to have a life with her. Kate pulled away and said, "Um...does this mean you might...um...consider moving to New York?" Kate was scared to even ask but she needed to know.

Vicky felt a pang of sadness in her heart. She wanted to tell Kate that New York was her home, that she wanted to go back more than anything, but as long as Cesar Velez was in the picture, she would have to stay put. She could feel tears coming to her eyes, "Kate, I would move to New York in a heartbeat to be with you, but for right now, I have to stay here...I have some personal issues that I have to work out before I can think of moving, but someday..."

Kate pushed aside her own feelings of disappointment and smiled at Vicky, "I can live with someday. As long as you're not opposed to the idea completely and as long as you don't think I'm crazy or something for asking after only knowing each other for two days."

"Honey, I want to move to New York, I want to be with you, you can believe that..." she said with a sweet smile. "And I don't think you're crazy for wanting this...because I want it too. I know this is going to sound corny, but I feel something with you after two days that I've never felt with anyone else before."

Kate smiled, she let herself believe in Vicky's words, in her feelings and she stopped fighting her own. She pulled the blonde closer and rested her forehead on Vicky's chest taking a deep breath to prepare herself for what she was about to say. She'd never said the words to anyone who wasn't family. Kate pulled away and looked into Vicky's eyes, placing on her cheek as she said in a low but clear voice, "I think I'm in love with you. And I know it's too soon and I know it sounds unbelievable but...I do. And I will wait as long as it takes for you to move to New York...or if you want I can move here. I want to be with you. I want us to be together because I truly believe that what we have is real and worth the risk. So...I will wait for you. But tonight, I'm going to make us dinner and we are going to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie and just be together, ok?" Kate stopped then, hoping she hadn't messed up and scared Vicky away with her very honest admission.

Vicky was crying now. Kate's words had touched her heart and she was glad to know that she wasn't the only one who felt this way. She couldn't explain it, but she knew it was there. That's all that mattered to her. She stroked Kate's hair, "Ok…but you need to know that I love you too, Kate. I didn't want to scare you away by saying it because I wouldn't be able to stand it if you walked out of my life, but I do. And no matter what, we're going to find a way, Kate, you have to believe me, ok? Tell me you believe me..."

Kate looked into Vicky's eyes and gently wiped the tears away, "I believe you. We're going to make this work because we both want it and it was meant to be." Kate kissed her then, letting all the love she felt spill into it.

Vicky wrapped her arms around Kate and kissed her back with all the fervor and longing that she felt in her soul. It was as though she needed to convey her promise to Kate through this kiss. She needed her to know that no matter what, she'd find a way back to her.

Kate finally, reluctantly pulled away from the kiss and ran a hand through Vicky's hair. "Now that we've settled that, why don't you go slip into something more comfortable and I'll get dinner started, ok?"

Vicky smiled and chuckled, "Ok. Thank you, baby. You make me feel like life is worth living again…" She realized that she was probably revealing more than she should, but it was true. Kate made her feel alive again and she wanted her to know that. She kissed her one more time and then went to the bedroom to change into her pajamas.

While Vicky was changing, Kate was putting the finishing touches on dinner. She had decided to make fettuccini in a rich Alfredo sauce with grilled chicken breast. She had just put the garlic bread in the oven when she heard music start to play from the living room. She smiled. Vicky would be walking in soon and Kate glanced at the bottle of wine that sat on the counter. She'd picked a good year and she hoped that Vicky would like it.

Vicky walked in wearing a silk nightie that fell to just above her knees. It was a rich purple with spaghetti straps and the neckline dipped low on her chest. She had on a pair of lace underwear underneath and nothing else. She wanted to look beautiful for Kate and she hoped the brunette would like it. She had put on some light jazz and walked into the kitchen with a smile, "Hey, smells good in here."

Kate turned to look at Vicky and her mouth fell open. Kate stared at the blonde in the purple nightie and her mind went blank. "Um...uh..." Kate forced herself to turn away and focus on the stove, though dinner was all but done, it just had to be served onto plates. Kate felt her face grow warm and she knew she was blushing.

Vicky walked up behind her and wrapped her arms around Kate's waist, "Did I make you nervous?"

Kate took a breath, "Um...no...not exactly." Kate really didn't want to explain the reason for her reaction so she just stalled, hoping Vicky wouldn't push.

"Oh, something else then… I wonder what it could be…" She ran her hand over Kate's stomach, inching lower and lower until she reached her pants and then she stopped, "Am I making it worse?"

Kate closed her eyes and leaned back a bit, "No... Oh God." Kate moved her hand to turn off the stove. She slipped on the knob and her hand briefly touched the oven's door handle, the heat bringing her back to her senses, "But you're not making it easy for me to finish dinner."

"Mm-hmm," Vicky said, not believing Kate in the least. "I'll let you finish up then. Do you want me to pour the wine?"

Kate exhaled as Vicky moved away. "Um...yeah that would be great, thanks," she said distractedly. The reason she was reacting this way was because of the fantasy she'd had while shopping at the grocery store earlier. In her mind, she'd envisioned Vicky in a dark purple nightie, something that looked almost identical to what she was wearing now, which would be fine except for the fact that Kate wasn't a big believer in coincidences. Seeing Vicky like this was, to say the least, disconcerting for Kate.

While Kate was finishing up the meal, Vicky took a corkscrew from the drawer and opened the bottle of wine easily. She poured equal amounts into two white wine glasses and walked over to hand one to Kate. She brought the glass up to her nose to take in the scent of the wine and exhaled deeply, "This is an excellent vintage."

Kate took the wine glass from Vicky and took a sip, "I'm glad you like it." The brunette kept her eyes focused on the stove after she set her glass down. She was still trying to get over her little mind-melt over the nightie.

Vicky took a drink as well and then set her glass down. She peeked over Kate's shoulder, "Is it ready? I'm starving."

Kate smiled, "Yeah it's ready. Why don't you go sit down and I'll bring the plates? Maybe you could bring the wine with you?"

"You got it." She picked up both glasses and carried them to the table, setting Kate's down in the chair to her right and the other right in front of her. She sat down and smiled as Kate made her way over. This was exactly what she had always dreamed of when she thought about settling down with someone.

Kate brought the plates over and set them down on the table. Before she sat down, she stepped closer to Vicky and leaned down. She kissed her softly then said, "I'm sorry about before, in the kitchen...when I shut down like that. I promise you that it wasn't anything you did or said, it...it was my own thing. But I'm past it and maybe we can kind of forget what happened and move on from here?" Kate hoped Vicky wouldn't hold it against her.

"Kate, if there's something you need to tell me…" Vicky started, unsure of what to make about all of this. She wanted to believe that Kate's issues had nothing to do with her, but then again, what if she was just being nice? Vicky had to clear that from her mind. The last thing she wanted to do was start out their relationship being suspicious. If Kate said it wasn't her, then it wasn't.

Kate kneeled down next to Vicky's chair. The uncertainty in her eyes tore at Kate's heart and she decided to come clean. "Vicky, honey, do you remember in the car when I told you I had a little fantasy moment in the grocery store earlier?" When Vicky nodded, Kate cleared her throat, "Um...well...you obviously had a starring role in it and you were wearing something...um...well something very similar to what you're wearing now. Same color, same cut, but...shorter than what you're wearing now. When I saw you in that...I...I had a bit of a mini meltdown. I'm sorry."

Vicky caressed her cheek, "Honey, I don't understand. What's wrong with me wearing something like you pictured in your fantasy?"

Kate leaned into Vicky's hand, "There's nothing wrong with it. I just wasn't expecting it. It was like you had stepped out of my mind, my fantasy, into real life. It threw me I guess."

"Kate, I'm real, this is real…it's all happening. I know it seems like it couldn't be possible, like it's just a dream, but I promise you that you're not going to wake up from this, baby." She leaned down and kissed Kate on the lips, "I love you."

Kate smiled at Vicky, "I love you too and I know you're real it was just...unexpected that's all. Trust me, it's not an unwelcomed sight. You look so sexy and beautiful." Kate leaned up and kissed Vicky again.

"I'm glad you think so. I wanted to wear something that would turn you on," Vicky said with a grin.

Kate grinned, "Baby, you could wear a plastic garbage bag and I would still be turned on by you. It's not the clothes that matter...it's you. You're sexy and beautiful and funny and smart and that's why I was drawn to you. It's why I'm still here with you. It's why I fell in love with you. You smile at me and I get turned on. But don't get me wrong...I love this nightie."

Vicky chuckled, "I think you'll love it even more later…when it's on my bedroom floor." She kissed Kate and said, "Come on, have a seat and let's eat. I can't wait anymore."

Kate stood up and moved to her chair. She smiled and lifted her wine glass in toast, "To us."

Vicky echoed the sentiment, "To us." She sipped her wine and then started on dinner, her eyes lighting up when the flavor burst into her mouth, "Oh my goodness, this is amazing! Promise me you will teach me how to cook like this."

Kate smiled, happy that Vicky liked the meal. "I promise baby. I would love to teach you how to cook. Maybe one day, when we're in New York, together I can teach you how to make Malukuao." Kate knew it wasn't fair to talk about New York but it was something she really wanted. She wanted to live with Vicky in New York and teach her how to cook, spending lazy Sunday mornings in bed, Saturday afternoons in the park, weeknights, when she wasn't chasing down perps and leads, snuggling on her couch with Vicky. Kate wanted all of that and she hoped that one day they would have that together.

"I can hardly wait for that day," Vicky said with a hopeful glint in her eye. She went back to her meal and enjoyed everything about the evening. She used to hate coming home at night to an empty house, cooking dinner just for herself, so this seemed like paradise to her. When she was finished, she looked over at Kate and blushed when she saw that the brunette was still eating. "I guess I was really hungry."

Kate smiled when she saw Vicky's empty plate. "It's the highest compliment a chef can receive when someone cleans their plate. It means the meal was made right. I'm glad you liked it. There's more if you're still hungry." Kate went back to her food.

"No, no, I'm full, thank you." She got up to clear her plate and then asked, "Do you want more wine?"

Kate smiled and said, "No thank you. Let me help you." Kate stood up and began to take her plate to the kitchen.

Vicky ran a little water into the sink to soak the plates and then looked to Kate, "We'll do it later. Come on, let's go settle on the couch. I've been waiting all day for this part..."

Kate stepped forward and placed her hands on either side of the blonde, effectively trapping her between the sink and her body. Kate smiled as she leaned forward and pressed her lips to Vicky's neck. Kate licked and sucked and nipped her way up Vicky's neck to her earlobe. She took the lobe between her lips and let her teeth graze the skin, gently nibbling on it.

"Or we could do this…" Vicky said in a whisper. She placed her hands on either side of Kate's waist and caressed her with fanned fingers. Her leg instinctively moved between Kate's legs while her hands slowly made their way to the hem of Kate's shirt. Vicky pulled it up slowly, exposing the tan skin of Kate's taut waist.

Kate moaned a bit and pressed down a bit on the thigh between her legs. Kate whispered in Vicky's ear, "Why don't we move this to the living room. I would love to lay down with you and snuggle close to you while we watch that movie."

It took all of Kate's will power to say that when what she really wanted was to skip the movie and go right to bed and lose herself in the magic they always found when they were together. But Kate had been looking forward to snuggling with Vicky and watching a movie. Kate was a romantic and she loved the little things that couples did together that didn't necessarily involve sex.

Vicky nodded and took her hand. They walked into the living room and Vicky said, "Make yourself comfortable, it'll take me like two minutes to get everything going." She went to the entertainment center, turned on the DVD player and TV, and found the movie in one of the drawers.

She slipped the movie into the player and turned on the surround sound before joining Kate on the couch. When the menu popped up, she pressed play on the remote and snuggled up with Kate. "Comfy?" she asked, settling her backside closer to Kate.

Kate smiled and shifted on the couch, bringing Vicky closer to her as she spooned her on the couch. Kate was thankful that Vicky's sofa was deep, it made it much more comfortable to lie down like this. Kate wrapped one arm around Vicky and used the other one to prop her head up so she could see the TV and reach Vicky's neck. She leaned down and kissed Vicky's neck. "Mmm I am now. I love holding you like this. "

"I love it when you do. It makes me feel so safe, Kate," Vicky said with a soft voice. Her breathing settled down and she focused on the screen, but she never forgot the warmth surrounding her and the feel of Kate's heartbeat as it pounded against her back.

Kate pulled Vicky closer and smiled, "I like that I can make you feel safe. I promise you will always be safe with me, I'll protect you from anything and anyone who tries to harm you." Kate sealed her promise with a kiss on Vicky's neck, hoping the blonde knew that she was being completely serious.

"It's the time that we're going to be away from each other that worries me," Vicky said. She was melancholy despite how comfortable and satisfied she felt with Kate because she knew it was fleeting. If she ever got back to New York, it might be 5 or ten years down the road and she wasn't sure if Kate could wait that long.

Kate heard the sad tone in Vicky's voice and it tugged at her heart. She leaned closer, ignoring the TV for a moment as she rested her chin on Vicky's shoulder, "I wish we didn't have to be apart, but let's not think about that right now ok? I just want to hold you and, for tonight at least, forget that I'm going to have to leave soon." Kate rubbed her hand over Vicky's abdomen, tracing small circles on the skin.

"Kate, I don't want to think about you leaving, I really don't, but it's going to happen, you're going to get on a plane and fly away and it scares me to think that maybe once you're not here, someone else will come into your life that you'll love more and you'll want her instead of me..." she said, her voice shaky.

Kate felt tears in her eyes when Vicky spoke. She decided this was a conversation best had face to face so she slowly turned Vicky over until she was on her back. Kate stayed on her side and rested her hand on Vicky's cheek, ensuring that she had her full attention before she said, "Vicky, listen to me. I have never loved anyone the way I love you. I had to come almost all the way across the country to find the one woman I could give my heart to, and you're it. I'm yours Vicky, heart and soul. Nothing and no one will ever change that...ever. I understand that you have issues to sort out here and that once that happens, and you make it out to New York, we'll be together. I can wait for you Vicky, no matter how long it takes because, I love you." Kate finished with a hopeful smile.

Vicky could feel her heart breaking. Kate had hope, she had faith and it killed Vicky that she had to lie to her about the real circumstances surrounding her inability to move back to New York. She might never be going home and she didn't think it was fair to lead Kate to believe that this was going to happen in a year or two. How could she tell her though? She loved Kate as much as Kate loved her and she couldn't hurt her, she just couldn't.

She searched deep inside and somehow found the strength to smile, "I love you too, with everything I have inside of me. It's just going to hurt like hell until I'm back in your arms. But we still have time and you're right, we shouldn't waste it thinking about it coming to an end. I'm sorry."

Kate smiled down at Vicky and leaned closer to kiss her. She deepened the kiss, enjoying the taste of the wine on Vicky's tongue that mingled perfectly with the blonde's natural essence. Kate pulled back and said, "No apologies, they're not necessary. We're together, here and now, and we'll be together again one day, I know it. So I can wait. Now, let's watch the movie and just relax ok?"

Vicky nodded and reached up to kiss her one last time before turning her attention and her body toward the TV. She watched the movie intently, laughing and aw-ing at all the right moments. She was so relaxed by the wine that towards the end of the film, she started to drift off. She closed her eyes just to rest and within moments, she was fast asleep.

Kate enjoyed the movie but she enjoyed watching Vicky's reactions more. There was something almost childlike in Vicky's enjoyment of the movie. When the end credits rolled, Kate looked down at Vicky and saw she was fast asleep.

Kate didn't want to wake the blonde up so she carefully lifted herself up and over the back of the sofa onto the floor behind the couch. She gracefully and silently stood up and checked to make sure Vicky was still asleep. Then she quickly and quietly went to Vicky's bedroom and grabbed the comforter off the bed.

She slipped back to the living room and, with the comforter in one hand, she slipped back in behind Vicky on the couch. She spread the comforter over their bodies and slid her arm around the blonde, pulling her closer as she nuzzled Vicky's neck and inhaled the comforting scent there. Kate closed her eyes and let sleep claim her.

In the middle of the night, the two women were sound asleep when there was a loud pop. Someone's car that was passing on the street outside had backfired, but within an instant, Vicky shot up and got into a defensive crouch on the floor, huddling tight with her hands over her head. "Not again," she said in a panicked voice as she listened carefully for the sound of more gunfire.

Kate was startled out of her sleep by the sudden movement. She sat up and, groggily, reached her hand out to Vicky's shoulder as she asked in a whisper, "Baby? What is it? What's wrong?"

Vicky lifted her head and looked around in the dark, her eyes blurry without her glasses. She uncurled and turned to look back at Kate, her face hot with embarrassment, "Uh, nothing. I fell off the couch, that's all. I think I hit my knee...that's why I said not again...I hurt it really bad the last time I fell out of bed."

Kate sensed that wasn't the whole story but she decided to let it go. Vicky would tell her when she was ready. For right then, she decided to just be the supportive...she was scared to use the word 'girlfriend' but that's what she thought of herself as.

Kate moved down to the floor and wrapped her arm around Vicky's shoulders, "Hey, it's ok. Like I said, you're safe here with me baby. I've got you." Kate paused, "Now, which knee did you hit? Maybe I can kiss it and make it better?" Kate smiled, hoping to lighten the mood a bit.

Vicky relaxed and lifted her left knee, "This one." She pouted because she did actually hurt it when she hit the ground and knew she'd have a very lovely purple bruise to show for it.

Kate grinned at Vicky's pout and she leaned forward and gently kissed Vicky's left knee. She lightly rested her hand on the knee after that and moved up to kiss Vicky. "How's that feel?"

"Much better." Then she realized that they were in the living room and she asked, "Did I fall asleep during the movie?"

Kate smiled as she remembered how peaceful Vicky looked when she was sleeping. "Yeah. You looked so peaceful and beautiful asleep so I didn't want to wake you."

"Did you make it all the way through? Did you like it?" she asked, eager to forget her fright.

"Yes baby. I saw the whole movie and I really liked it...although it reminded me of that other movie I loved, The Philadelphia Story. The only difference was the music and the blonde lead."

"It was based on that movie, actually. I love Katharine Hepburn, but she just can't compete with Grace in my eyes," she said with a grin. She was very alert and happy to be talking about something so light. She looked at the clock and it was 3 am. "Listen, I think I'm going to make some coffee, do you want some?"

Kate smiled, "Decaf? Because caffeine at this time of night isn't going to help me babe." She was already wide-awake and caffeine now would get her so wired that she wouldn't be able to sleep until the following night. She didn't like that feeling.

"I can make decaf for you, I think I'm going to have the regular stuff..." she said and got up off the floor. "Are you hungry at all? I think I could go for a snack or something..."

Kate stood up and pulled Vicky closer. She lowered her head to Vicky's neck and began nibbling on the skin there. She worked her way up to the blonde's ear and whispered, "I'm hungry but not for anything from the kitchen baby. What do you say we skip the coffee and we feed...other appetites?"

Vicky was pretty wired, even without coffee, but when she stopped to think about it, she realized that what Kate was offering might do her better than making it worse with caffeine and food. She nodded and put her arms around Kate, "I think I might like that more."

Kate smiled then began walking towards Vicky's bedroom. She felt Vicky behind her and she took a breath, tonight was going to be wonderful. She turned back towards Vicky and began walking backwards, holding out a hand to the blonde but always, teasingly, staying just outside her reach, wanting to make Vicky chase her a little.

Vicky kept trying to get Kate's hand, but each time, Kate pulled away just enough to elude her grasp. Vicky ran when she saw the bed behind Kate and gently tackled her down, straddling her with a triumphant smile. "Gotcha," she said with a mischievous glint in her eye.

Kate smiled up at Vicky and said, "Well, you have me...so what are you going to do with me?" Kate batted her eyelashes, smiling seductively as she ran her hands up and down Vicky's thighs.

"Things that'll make you scream," Vicky said in a husky voice. She started rocking her hips slowly against Kate's abdomen and dove forward, latching onto the soft skin of Kate's neck and sucking hard enough to leave a mark.

Kate felt herself get wet at Vicky's words and when she started sucking on her neck, Kate almost lost it. She did manage to hold on to enough sanity to whisper, "Oh god...um...oh man...hey Dracula, try not to break the skin ok baby?"

"Never," Vicky said in a whisper. She nibbled Kate's ear and then nuzzled her. She pulled back to look at the mark she left and smiled, "Now you're mine..."

Kate ran her hand up Vicky's back and pulled her closer, "I've been yours, probably from the moment you gave me the hot chocolate that had more whipped cream. And I will be yours for the rest of my life...if you'll have me that long." Kate pulled Vicky down for a kiss.

Vicky could hardly believe her ears when Kate mentioned forever, but she believed it with all her heart. She kissed her deeply, her body grinding against Kate's, hungry for everything she had to offer. It was like the fear, the agony over what she had gone through in New York was gone and there was only this moment with Kate.

Kate felt a change in Vicky during their kiss. She sensed something had altered for the blonde and she was worried that her talk of forever was going to scare her away. Kate held on tighter, determined to fix whatever she might've messed up with her confession.

Vicky moaned into Kate's mouth when she felt the brunette coming on stronger. Her body went with the pace that Kate was setting, her breathing growing shallow while her heartbeat started to race. She needed Kate deep inside of her. She needed that closeness more than her next breath.

Kate rolled them over and pinned Vicky to the bed. She leaned up, looking into beautiful blue eyes and said, a tremor of fear in her voice, "I'm sorry if I scared you with my mention of forever, I would never want to pressure you or scare you away, I just want to be with you. I love you, so please, don't turn away from me, from us just yet ok?"

Vicky looked up and brushed Kate's hair from her eyes, "I'm not scared, baby. Really, I'm not. I just really need you to make love to me, I need to feel you inside of me."

Kate smiled then, the fist around her heart easing up as she realized she wasn't going to lose Vicky. She leaned closer and whispered, "As you wish." Kate winked and without further delay she made Vicky's heated plea a reality...all night long.

When they finished making love, Vicky was curled up next to Kate with her head resting on Kate's chest. She was tickling Kate's stomach with her index finger and their scent was thick in the air as she slowly started to drift off to sleep. "Babe?"

Kate was being lulled into sleep by the motion of Vicky's finger but she roused herself enough to ask, "What, honey?"

"I love you so much," she said softly.

Kate smiled, she started running her hand up and down Vicky's arm as she pulled the hand that was tickling her stomach up to her mouth and pressed a kiss to the palm. "I love you too baby, so much that I can't even find the words to describe it." Kate began kissing each of Vicky's fingers one by one.

Vicky smiled and closed her eyes. She was happy, truly happy with this woman and the best thing of all was that she could be openly gay with Kate and it didn't matter. They didn't have to hide. It was the one thing she had always wanted once she came to terms with her sexuality and now she had it. She could only describe the feeling of freedom she felt as pure joy.

Kate held Vicky close and she felt her starting to drift off again, which made Kate smile. Being here, holding Vicky in her arms as they drifted off to sleep together, it felt right to her. It felt like it was meant to be, like they were destined to meet each other. Kate had never had this with anyone else. Her previous relationships and…dalliances were casual and light. On the rare occasions her companion spent the night, Kate usually left early, preferring to avoid the morning after tension by claiming she'd been called in for work. She'd never been with anyone that made her feel like this, she'd never before wanted to spend the whole night in someone's arms like she did with Vicky. Kate knew this was different, this was real and her only prayer was that she didn't mess it up and lose Vicky.

Kate whispered, "Goodnight baby."

Vicky had just enough energy to reply back to Kate, "Good night. Sweet dreams." Then she slipped back off to sleep, the sun just minutes from rising into the clear New Mexico sky.


Chapter Seven: Last Day in Paradise

As both women had feared, Kate's time in New Mexico quickly came to a close and they found themselves sharing their last evening together before Kate had to go back to New York. Vicky was sick to her stomach with the thought that in the morning she'd have to drop Kate off at the airport, but she was doing her best to enjoy the time they did have left to the fullest. She was in her pajamas, flitting around the kitchen preparing a meal for Kate.

Kate had been doing the majority of the cooking while she'd been there, so Vicky made her promise that this last night, she was in charge of the meal. A friend of hers from the gallery had agreed to teach her how to make an authentic New Mexican meal and although Vicky's prowess in the kitchen was usually very low, this time, she was handling it like an old pro. She was making enchiladas, posole, and red chili for the main dish, a small salad, and apple empanadas for dessert. Needless to say, the smells from the kitchen were intoxicating.

As per their agreement, Kate was staying out of the kitchen tonight. It wasn't easy but she had agreed, knowing this was important to Vicky. Kate sat on the couch and listened to the soft music coming from the stereo. The aromas that were emanating from the kitchen called out to her, begging her to go in the kitchen but she resisted. This was her last night in New Mexico; her last night with Vicky, and Kate wanted it to be perfect. If that meant staying out of the kitchen so Vicky could cook their meal in peace, she would do it.

Kate wondered how she was going to get on that plane tomorrow and fly away, knowing she was leaving her heart behind. She kept reminding herself that, one day soon Vicky would be with her in New York. She didn't know when it would happen but she was confident that it would happen. She just had to be patient. When Kate couldn't stand being away from Vicky any longer, she stood up and made for the kitchen. She was about halfway there when she stopped in her tracks. She realized that she was dangerously close to breaking her promise, so she rallied her strength and found a compromise. She closed the rest of the distance and leaned against the doorway, content to just watch the woman she had fallen in love with as she moved about the kitchen. In the silence, Kate tried to memorize every detail about Vicky so that she could think back and remember her when she was back home and missing the warmth of the blonde's arms in the night.

Vicky could feel Kate's presence and she turned around with a grin, "Couldn't stand it anymore, huh?"

Kate smiled, "Nope. Couldn't bear to be away from you. I was in there," she gestured to the living room with one hand, the other resting lightly on her belly, "and I just...I missed you. I had to come look at you. I hope you don't mind being watched."

"No, of course not. You can sit in here and keep me company; all I ask is that you keep your hands to yourself. I'm pampering you tonight, remember?" she said with a smile that lit up her entire face.

Kate smiled, "Deal." She walked closer and sat on a nearby chair and just watched Vicky as she cooked.

Vicky was carefully putting the enchiladas together, taking care to smother them just right. She turned back to Kate and said, "A lot of cheese or just a little?"

Kate thought for a moment, "A lot...please." Kate was in the mood to be bad, in more ways than one. She wanted to make the most of their last night together. "Something tells me we'll both be needing our strength tonight baby."

Vicky giggled and put a lot of cheese on top. She then ladled out posole into two bowls and tossed the salad with a special homemade dressing that Vicky had picked up at a small, family-owned restaurant in town. She looked over her shoulder at Kate and said, "Ok, I am going to need a little help getting all this to the table."

Kate smiled as she stood up and crossed the floor to Vicky. She leaned close and kissed the blonde. Kate pulled away and said, still smiling, "As you wish baby." She shifted then and picked up the two bowls of posole and turned to the table.

Vicky carried the main dishes and set them down before going back to get the salad. A bottle of wine was already on the table waiting to be poured into two white wine glasses. She sat down with Kate and asked, "Will you do the honors?"

Kate picked up Vicky's hand and pressed a kiss to the palm. Then she smiled and said, "Of course." She picked up the bottle of wine and poured it into the glasses. Kate set the bottle back down on the table before she lifted her wineglass with one hand while the other reclaimed Vicky's free hand. She held the warm hand in hers and looked into Vicky's blue eyes and said, "To us and our love. And to the day when you move to New York and we can be together forever. I love you baby."

Vicky smiled, her eyes suddenly glassy with tears, "I love you too, Kate. I can't wait until our dream comes true." Their glasses met and then Vicky brought it to her lips, taking a sip. She set it down and looked back at Kate, "I hope you like this."

Kate smiled, "If it tastes half as good as it smells I know I'll love it. Thank you for... for giving me the best two weeks of my life...for loving me." Kate fell silent as she took her first bite of the enchiladas. She gave a tiny moan when the flavors exploded on her tongue. It was really good and Kate was very impressed.

Vicky watched her and the look on Kate's face said it all. She had succeeded in cooking something delicious, which made her extremely happy. She wanted to show Kate that she was able to learn something new because she didn't want the other woman to think that she'd have to do all the cooking when...if they were living together.

Kate opened her eyes and noticed that Vicky wasn't eating. She swallowed her food and said, "Um...this is really good, why aren't you eating? Is something wrong?"

"I'm just...I don't know, I'm watching you, I guess. I wanted this to be perfect and I guess I'm just savoring this moment of enjoyment."

Kate smiled, "Well, the food is perfect, the company is perfect and despite being our last night together, it will continue to be perfect." Kate took Vicky's hand again and rubbed her thumb over her fingers. She looked at their hands, liking how well they fit together, then looked back up at Vicky. "Tonight will be perfect because we're together." Kate brought Vicky's hand to her lips and she kissed her fingers.

Vicky nodded, "I know… Even if I have to let you go tomorrow, at least I know you're out there. I'm not sitting here wondering if I'd ever meet someone who would make me happy the way you do. That in itself makes this a bit more bearable." She caressed Kate's chin and then worked on her food, wanting to get to dessert so that she and Kate could go sit together in the living room.

Kate frowned as something occurred to her. Vicky was talking as if they were going to cut off all contact. She knew she couldn't let her go on thinking that. "Vicky, sweetie, you'll have more than just the knowledge that I'm out there. Granted it's not the best solution, but there's e-mail, texting, phone calls, even webcams. We can talk every day. In fact, we're going to talk every day because I don't even want to think about going more than a day without hearing your voice or seeing your face on a webcam. It's not ideal but it's better than nothing. Right?" Kate suddenly wondered if that was something Vicky would want, to maintain contact. Kate felt something squeeze her heart at the thought that Vicky might not want to deal with the hassle of all of that.

Vicky nodded, but she knew better. The Marshal assigned to her case would never let her stay in contact with Kate, especially once she knew that Kate was from New York. She could maybe sneak in an e-mail here or there if she went to some public cafe, no traceable IP address. But anything after that…it was iffy at best.

Kate smiled, confident that Vicky wouldn't vanish from her life, that they would be able to talk and text and stay in contact. She went back to her meal, taking a sip of wine before taking a bite of her food.

Vicky continued on in silence, the only sound was her fork scraping against the plate. She finished her salad first, then the posole, but she kept her eyes on the plate. She was deep in thought about how she could sneak more than just e-mails to Kate. How she could call her every once in a while just to hear her voice. She knew she'd come up with something eventually.

After dinner, Kate gathered up the dishes and took them into the kitchen. She filled the sink with warm water and put the plates to soak. She took a breath and a moment to calm her nerves. She didn't know why but she had the feeling like there was something more, something that Vicky wasn't telling her.

It scared Kate to think that she might never hear from Vicky again after she left and she felt tears well up in her eyes at the thought of losing Vicky forever. Kate took a few deep breaths, trying to control the tears so they wouldn't fall and her eyes wouldn't get red because she didn't want to worry Vicky or make her feel guilty or anything like that.

She was so focused on trying not to cry that she didn't hear Vicky enter the kitchen.

"Hey, leave those, I'll do them tomorrow." She walked up behind her, slipped her arms around her, and whispered, "I have a surprise for you in the living room."

Kate put her hands over Vicky's and leaned back. She was glad her voice was steady when she said, "A surprise? I can't wait. Let's go." Kate made a move to head to the living room, not looking at Vicky, not trusting her eyes not to give her away.

Vicky followed behind her and said, "Sit down and close your eyes..."

Kate sat on the couch and closed her eyes, smiling. She was glad for the moment to close her eyes and get her emotions under control.

Vicky crept over to one of the side tables and opened the drawer, taking a small packaged wrapped in teal paper from inside. She knelt down in front of Kate and took her hand, turning it palm up. She placed the package in her hand and smiled. "Ok, open."

Kate opened her eyes and looked at the box in her hand. She didn't know what to say. "Baby, you didn't have to get me anything. What is it?" Kate took her eyes off the box and looked at Vicky when she asked the question.

Vicky smiled, "Open it."

Kate turned to the box and opened it. The paper fell away to reveal a light blue box. Kate looked at Vicky again then opened the box. Inside was a ring. It looked to be silver but Kate knew it was probably white gold. There were two hearts in diamonds facing each other, leaving the top of the ring open. Kate's mouth hung open. "Vicky, this is...um...it's very beautiful." Kate wondered what the ring meant, but was too scared to ask.

Vicky took the ring from the box and then lifted Kate's right hand. She slipped it on her finger and then looked up into her eyes, "It's a promise ring. I wanted to give it to you as a sign that I'm yours and someday I will find my way back to you."

This time when the tears came to her eyes, Kate let them fall. She felt the ring on her finger but all she could think was that Vicky really did want to be with her one day. Kate launched herself at Vicky and, wrapping her arms around her neck, she kissed the blonde, letting all her emotions, her love, spill into the kiss. Kate felt Vicky fall backwards onto the couch and she shifted to lie above her. Kate began moving her lips down Vicky's neck. "You...are...so...amazing," Kate said between kisses. She lifted her head from Vicky's neck to look into the blonde's blue eyes before she continued, "I don't know what I ever did to deserve someone like you, to deserve your love but I am glad I did it. This trip was only supposed to be about the Loretto Chapel and getting away from my job for two weeks but...then I met you and...everything changed. You showed me what love could be and I know, I know that you and I will be together again in New York. We'll be together and live our lives happy and in love. And I will wait, for as long as it takes for you to come back to me." Kate leaned down and sealed her promise with a kiss.

Vicky took on Kate's weight. She needed to have the brunette as close to her as possible for as long as possible. Her hands ran over Kate's back, tickling in some spots, rubbing in others, just the way that Kate liked. The kiss was sweet and strong and it made Vicky pulse with desire. She wanted to make love with Kate, but before they did that, she wanted to do something else first. "Baby, we should go share a hot bath together."

Kate smiled, "Oooh...I like the sound of that." Kate moved to sit up, straddling Vicky's waist and running her hands down from her shoulders, over her breasts and resting on Vicky's abs. She smiled down at the blonde and ran her tongue slowly over her lips, "Are you ready baby?"

Vicky nodded, "You have no idea." She caressed Kate's breasts in return and bucked her just a little, "You have to let me up if we're going to do that though."

Kate ground herself down onto Vicky's hips and smiled seductively, "Do you really want me to move?"

Vicky bit back a moan, "You don't play fair…but then again, neither do I." She squeezed Kate's ass and looked up into her eyes, "Wouldn't this feel better with us naked in the warm water?"

Kate bit her lip. She let out a whimper when Vicky squeezed her ass and she leaned down closer to the gorgeous woman beneath her. She ran her tongue up her neck, tasting the salty tang of sweat on her skin, and smiled at the shiver that passed through the blonde. She hummed against Vicky's neck, making sure to vibrate against her skin, "Mmmmm, baby you taste so good."

Vicky swallowed hard, her juices starting to flow, "I take it we're not moving..."

Kate smiled, "Well...we could move but that would mean stopping what I'm doing right now." Kate moved her hands under Vicky's shirt and lifted it up so she could wrap her lips around Vicky's breast. She teased her nipple with her tongue as one hand reached for the other breast and cupped it, running her thumb over the nipple to tease it to life.

"Y-yes, I realize that…but…wouldn't you, oh God…um, wouldn't you rather be somewhere a bit more…comfortable?"

Kate lifted her head and smiled, "Hmmm... Well when you put it that way..." Kate moved her mouth to the other breast and licked the nipple and grazed her teeth against it, "I guess we can move to another venue if you really want to." Kate's lips drifted down Vicky's torso, nibbling the skin along the way.

Vicky was growing wet and she realized that she was quickly losing this battle. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, her legs falling open in anticipation of Kate's attentions.

Kate felt a tiny sense of victory when Vicky's legs parted and she gave in to her. Kate smiled, she liked winning, but she also liked the thought of making Vicky cry out her name in the tub. It was something they hadn't done yet and Kate suddenly wanted to feel Vicky's wet naked body against hers. She leaned up and looked at Vicky. "On second thought, a bath together sounds really good. Come on." Kate slowly stood up and reached a hand down to Vicky, "Let's get naked and wet baby."

Vicky opened her eyes and watched Kate in shock. The brunette had given in just when Vicky was ready to surrender. The blonde took Kate's hand and stood, her body weak from desire. She leaned on the brunette and said, "I'm already one of those things..."

Kate grinned, "Oh yeah? Let's see what we can do about getting you naked." Kate pulled her closer and ran her hands under Vicky's shirt. She began lifting it up and swiftly took it off, smiling at the sight before her. Vicky wasn't wearing a bra and Kate leaned forward and pressed a kiss between the blonde's pale breasts. She slipped her tongue out and licked the skin, pulling back after a moment to look up at Vicky, "You and me in your bathtub with the warm water surrounding us as we make love...sounds like a great way to make tonight perfect."

Vicky grinned, a little smug, "I'm glad you see it my way…" She took Kate's hand and led her to the bathroom. There were candles already lit and all that had to be done was fill the tub and get Kate out of her clothes. She went over and turned on the water, dropping a container of fresh rose petals into the tub. Then she went back and started kissing Kate again while she took off the brunette's pants.

Kate let herself be undressed, enjoying the attention. She closed her eyes as her clothes seemed to melt away. Kate ran her hands over Vicky's waist, she quickly removed the blonde's pants and before she knew it they were both naked and pressed together, kissing like neither one of them would ever be able to get enough of the other.

Vicky slowly led Kate to the tub while they kissed and stopped when she felt the lip of the footed tub against her leg. She pulled back and then stepped in first, the warm water enveloping both legs up to her knees, she helped Kate in and stared deep into her eyes, "I need you so much." Her hand ran down over Kate's body, from her shoulder, over her breast, down her stomach and then between the brunette's legs. She was already warm and Vicky couldn't hold back any longer. She needed to be inside of her, making her feel loved and wanted.

Kate whimpered at the blonde's touch and whispered, "You have me. Forever." Kate surrendered to Vicky's touch and felt her knees buckle. They sank into the water, smiling.

They made love there in the warm water and then took a shower together before retiring to Vicky's bedroom and falling asleep holding each other tight.

The following morning, Kate woke up with Vicky's arms around her, her body pressed close behind her and a feeling of dread in her belly. That afternoon, Kate was going to be getting on a plane and flying back to New York. She would have to leave Vicky behind and fly away from her and Kate didn't know if she was strong enough to do that. She didn't want to wake up tomorrow without the blonde's arms around her but she knew that she didn't have much of a choice. Reality was calling, her time in paradise with the woman she had fallen in love with was over and now she had to go back to her life. Back to the precinct, the murder cases, the investigations...and the lonely nights. They would be worse now that she knew exactly what and who she was missing.

Kate closed her eyes and snuggled closer to Vicky, wanting to block out the truth for a little while longer, to ignore the fact that this was her last morning with her lover.

Vicky was in the middle of a dream when she felt Kate move and she opened her eyes just a little. "Babe, are you ok?"

Kate sighed and whispered, "Yeah, I'm fine. Go back to sleep baby." She didn't want to burden Vicky with her depression.

Vicky rubbed Kate's tummy, "You don't sound fine. Talk to me."

Kate closed her eyes, "It's nothing." Kate put her hand over Vicky's and traced small circles on her skin.

"You're thinking about leaving..." Vicky said with a deep sigh. She had thought about it all night until she literally couldn't stay awake anymore. Now it was Kate's turn and it hurt Vicky to think that her girlfriend was in pain.

Kate sighed, she kept her back to Vicky and said, "Yeah...I am. Can't help it." Kate felt tears in her eyes and she decided to let them fall. She didn't have the strength to hold them back anymore.

Vicky could hear Kate's quiet sob and it proved too much for her. Hot tears rolled down her cheeks and splashed on the bare skin of Kate's back. "I don't want you to go, Kate..."

Kate felt the tears falling on her back and she finally couldn't take it anymore and turned to face Vicky. She looked into her eyes and said, "I don't want to leave. I wish I could stay here with you, just quit my job and stay here and build a life with you but...I can't. Vicky, I love you and I want to spend my life with you but I can't just abandon my life in New York. It's killing me to think about going back to what things were before you. It was lonely then but I could manage... Now, after knowing how great it can be with you, it's going to be so much worse." Kate stopped talking as the tears became too much and she buried her face against Vicky's neck, crying for them and what they should have but couldn't yet.

Vicky cradled her, stroking her back, but her own tears were making it hard for her to stay still. She needed Kate and she didn't like the idea of going back to this life without her either. She couldn't bear the idea of coming home to an empty house, falling asleep alone, cooking for one. It hurt her heart too much that she thought it was going to break in two. She lifted Kate's chin and through the tears, she kissed her deeply, her need so great.

Kate gave herself over to the kiss. Needing to show Vicky that she loved her. Kate ran her hands gently over Vicky's skin, tracing the path from her thigh up over her hip to her ribcage, stopping only when she reached a firm breast and she cupped it. Kate shifted until Vicky was on her back and she was hovering above her. Kate lifted her head and smiled through her tears. She thumbed the nipple in her hand and said, "You and me, we're forever. No matter how far apart we are, we're forever. This is real between us and I know, I know that we're going to spend the rest of our lives together. We just have to get past this little obstacle. Once you sort out what you need to here and make the move to New York, we will be together. Until then, just know that I love you and I will wait as long as I have to." Kate then leaned down and began kissing Vicky's neck.

"I love you too," Vicky said, her hands raking through Kate's hair. She knew that whatever obstacles were in their way, their love was stronger. There wasn't an ounce of doubt about that anymore and it gave her the confidence that someday she would get back to her, Witness Protection be damned. For now, she wanted to just make the most of the time they had before she had to drive her to Albuquerque. She wanted to memorize everything about Kate that she hadn't already committed to memory so that when she was alone, she could call it back with total clarity.

Before Kate could really get lost in Vicky, her cell phone rang. The ring tone was familiar and she sighed as she stopped and placed her forehead on Vicky's left shoulder. "Dammit," she whispered. She lifted herself up and said, "I'm sorry baby but I have to take this." Kate kissed Vicky lightly before she left the bed and went over to the dresser where her cell phone was charging. Sighing she picked up the phone and hit the green button, "Hello Lanie...actually you are...no comment...no... Why'd you call Lanie...?" Kate sighed and brought her free hand up and pinched the bridge of her nose, "Yeah...no yeah I got it...yeah thanks for the heads up...ok...yeah um...if I remember right it's 10:30 pm... yeah...thanks again Lanie. Ok, I'll see you tonight...bye." Kate ended the call and she put the phone back down. She turned to face Vicky with a wry grin. "Sorry about that."

"Something important?" she asked, turning onto her side. She was curious to know who that was on the phone, but also, she didn't want to pry. If Kate wanted to tell her, she'd tell her.

Kate looked down, "Um...kind of. That was Lanie, she was calling to tell me she would be picking me up from the airport tonight." Kate didn't know how to tell Vicky that her best friend was also calling to tell her that she was on the prosecution's witness list for one of her closed cases and she was expected in court the day after tomorrow. Kate hated testifying, she hated courtrooms, she especially hated lawyers and their readiness to accept plea deals that let murderers walk free after only a few years in jail rather than taking them to court so that they would get the life sentences they deserved. Vicky didn't know she was a cop and Kate wanted to keep it that way.

"Oh, I see," Vicky replied. She had no reason to think it was anything other than a reminder call, so she just dropped it. "Do you want to come back to bed?"

Kate smiled, letting go of the reminder about court and walked over to the bed. She held her hand out and said, "Actually, I was hoping we could take a shower, together, and then I could make us some Malukuao for breakfast. As much as I would love to spend my last few hours here with you in bed, I think it might be easier on both of us if we did some normal stuff, you know?"

Vicky nodded, "Yeah, otherwise we might not want to get up and you'd miss your flight...oh wait, that actually sounds like a good idea..." She grinned at the brunette like a little kid hoping to get her way but she knew better. She chuckled sadly, "Just kidding." She tossed back the covers and got up, walking over to Kate to kiss her before taking her hand, "Come on."

Kate grinned as she followed Vicky. She was really tempted to give in to Vicky's suggestion but she knew that if she did, it would be even harder to say goodbye to her later. Kate pulled Vicky back after she turned on the shower and wrapped her hands around the blonde's naked body. She kissed her neck and said, "I love you. And I love watching you move, especially when you're naked. You're so sexy and beautiful." Kate lifted her right hand and quickly found the small bit of raised flesh near Vicky's collarbone. That scar was the only blemish on otherwise perfect skin but even that tiny imperfection couldn't detract from the beauty of the blonde. "And not even this can change that." Kate slowly turned Vicky around and lowered her head to the mark. She lightly ran her tongue over the scar and then kissed it.

Vicky closed her eyes. She hated that scar, hated what it represented, but mostly she hated lying to Kate about it. She wanted to tell her, wanted to ask her to stop, to stop touching it, but she couldn't. Instead she lifted Kate's chin and said, "Kiss my lips..."

Kate lifted her head and smiled as she leaned closer and kissed Vicky's lips. She let herself get lost in the kiss, her hands resting lightly on the small of Vicky's back, just above the swell of her ass.

Vicky lightly scratched her nails over Kate's back as they kissed. She pressed her breasts against Kate's and rubbed lightly, loving the feel of Kate's fuller breasts against hers.

Kate savored the contact of skin on skin for a few more seconds before she pulled away. "Baby, the water's going to get cold." Kate tugged Vicky towards the shower. She stepped in and waited for Vicky to join her. The water was just right, not too hot but just hot enough to cause steam to fill the room. Kate pulled Vicky closer and began to kiss and nibble her neck while her hands ran down her sides and caressed her thighs.

"Kate, baby…please, make love to me one more time…please," Vicky begged. Her voice was deep and throaty and her body was on fire, aching for Kate's amazing touch.

Kate lifted her head and let loose a feral smile, "Oh don't worry baby I fully intend to make you scream for me at least two more times. But since I've always wanted to make love under a waterfall, and there's no falls around here, the shower will have to do. So just relax and let me show you how much I love you." With that, Kate maneuvered the both of them under the stream of eater and lowered herself to her knees. She grinned up at Vicky as her hands slid up pale, silky thighs and she gently parted Vicky's legs. Kate leaned forward and reached her tongue out to taste her girlfriend.

Vicky let out a long, deep moan, her lips curling into a smile while the water cascaded down her face and breasts. She leaned back against the wall, lifting one leg to rest on the shower's ledge. That gave Kate better access to her core, which was dripping with her arousal. "Oh baby, yes, more..."

Kate smiled when Vicky moved and shifted a bit to get a little more comfortable. Kate leaned closer and higher and, with her hands holding Vicky's thighs, she wrapped her lips around Vicky's clit and sucked on it. Kate let out her own moan when she felt Vicky's thighs trembling beneath her hands and she felt her own wetness grow.

Vicky scratched at Kate's scalp as her hips started to rock back and forth. Her clit was so stiff and it was pulsing steadily while Kate's tongue worked it.

Kate slid her right hand down Vicky's thigh and then swept it up the inside of her leg. She began to stroke Vicky's pussy, gathering the wetness there that had nothing to do with the water raining down on them and she grinned at the knowledge that she caused it. Kate flicked Vicky's clit with her tongue, lightening up on the suction as she slowly slid two fingers into Vicky's core, pausing a moment to let the blonde adjust to the penetration. Kate began a slow in and out motion, curling her fingers as she pushed in.

"Kate!" Vicky exclaimed when she felt the brunette enter her. The muscles around Kate's fingers tightened and her hips rocked harder now. She brought her hands up and cupped her own breasts, kneading the soft flesh in time with Kate's strokes. She wanted to touch the brunette so badly, but her turn would come soon, especially if Kate kept things up the way she was going.

Kate picked up her pace when she heard her name fall from Vicky's lips. When she looked up and saw the blonde's hands on her breasts, she grew even wetter and her desire doubled. Kate slid her left hand to the back of Vicky's thigh and up to her ass. Kate used her new grip to pull Vicky closer to her, unable to get enough of Vicky.

Vicky was already weak in the knees, but when Kate pulled her forward and her fingers went deeper, she knew that she was going to come hard and fast. It was like Kate knew exactly how to read her and deliver just what she needed. Her pussy was quivering as each stroke brought her closer and closer until she finally exploded. She screamed out Kate's name and moaned, shaking from head to toe. The waves washed over her for several moments, but when it all died down and she could speak again, she said, "I love you."

Kate felt Vicky come undone and she loved the sensation of it. She kept her fingers inside of her as Vicky rode out her orgasm and she gently brought her back to reality. She looked up when Vicky finally spoke and smiled, her lips and chin coated with the blonde's juices and she licked them up quickly before she smiled and said, "I love you too baby, so much." Kate slowly pulled her fingers out and she brought them to her lips. She kept eye contact with Vicky as she licked her fingers clean, making sure to keep them out of the shower's spray.

Vicky could feel herself shaking and the sight of Kate licking her fingers made her pulse again hard. A moan escaped her lips and her normally pale skin was a pink hue. "I need you, now…" She traded places with Kate and pushed her backwards until she was up against the wall of the shower. Without warning, her hand slipped between Kate's legs and she kissed her deep and hard as she started to stroke her.

The sudden reversal of positions coupled with Vicky's actions made Kate's head spin. She knew she was wet and ready and it wouldn't take much at this point to make her come. Kate closed her eyes and surrendered to the kiss and to Vicky's hand.

Vicky massaged, tugged and tickled Kate's clit while her tongue caressed Kate's, inviting the brunette into her mouth.

Kate slid her leg up and rested it on the edge of the tub, giving Vicky more access as she slid her tongue against Vicky's, losing herself in the kiss.

Vicky's fingers were quickly getting coated and she figured Kate was ready to have her inside. She moved between Kate's pussy lips and found her entrance easily. She slipped two fingers in and started pumping in and out with ease.

Kate gasped at the sensation of Vicky's fingers inside of her and she began to move her hips in time with Vicky's thrusts. Kate felt her orgasm building rapidly and she gripped Vicky's shoulders to brace herself as she started to lose control. A few more thrusts and Kate broke their kiss to rest her head on Vicky's shoulder. She was gasping into Vicky's ear, the blonde's name coming out in fast bursts. When her orgasm finally hit her, Kate couldn't stop herself from biting down on Vicky's shoulder.

Vicky grunted when she felt Kate's teeth on her skin and slowed her fingers, drawing out Kate's orgasm for many more seconds until the muscles stopped pulsing.

Kate slowly came back down from her orgasm and she lifted her mouth from Vicky's shoulder. She looked at the indentation of her teeth against the light skin and she started to feel sick, unable to believe she had done that. Kate swallowed hard and turned her head away from the sight. She lifted her hand and rested it on Vicky's shoulder as she looked into the blonde's eyes, her voice thready and a little weak, but also sad and regretful, "I'm so sorry baby, I...I would never hurt you...I don't know what happened." Kate was close to tears by this point.

Vicky brought Kate close and held her as the water stung the bite. "It's ok, you didn't know what you were doing…" She had never known Kate to be violent, so she realized that it must've been the loss of her senses during her orgasm that led her to do it.

Kate shook her head, "No, no it's not ok. I hurt you, I...I almost made you bleed...I'm sorry baby." Kate couldn't look at the mark again and she was barely hanging on to her own control. Vicky was being too nice about it. Kate flashed back to Amber, the first woman she was sexually involved with before she became a cop, and she remembered the pain she endured in that relationship. Her first girlfriend had a mean streak and, well...biting was the nicest thing she had done to Kate. Luckily, Kate's best friend Lanie had seen the bruises and she had helped Kate get away from Amber.

Kate had vowed to never be in a violent relationship again, regardless of who was dishing out the pain. Kate pulled away from Vicky and stepped out of the shower. She needed some space so she left the bathroom and sat on the corner of the bed, wrapping her arms around her midsection as if she was trying to hold in the pain. Kate felt the tears well up and they fell silently and rapidly. She let herself cry and began rocking back and forth as the memories and the recriminations flooded her mind.

Vicky came running into the room, a towel wrapped around her and a fresh one in her hand for Kate. She approached the brunette slowly and spoke in a quiet, soothing voice, "Kate?" She wrapped the towel around her carefully, "You must be cold. Are you ok?"

Vicky's voice cut through the fog that had invaded Kate's mind and she slowly looked up at her lover. The blue eyes, the concern in them, pushed through the memories and the fear she was experiencing and Kate whispered, "Vicky?" Kate finally noticed where she was and she pulled the towel closer around her. She broke free from her daze and managed to smile up at Vicky, "Um...yeah, I'm ok now. Sorry about before. Are you all right? Your shoulder..." Kate's voice drifted off, not able to say what she had done to her girlfriend.

"It's ok. It's just a little mark, see?" She showed her shoulder to Kate and there was only a crescent shaped red mark that would fade in a couple of days. She knelt down and touched Kate's knee, "What happened in there, Kate? Why did you run out like that?"

Kate shook her head as she stared at the mark. It wasn't as bad now as it was before, it looked harmless now. Kate slowly lifted her hand up and brought it up to Vicky's shoulder but before she could make contact, she stopped herself, her fingers were less than an inch from the mark. She hovered over the mark and she noticed her hand was shaking. Kate pulled her hand back and rested it on her own knee. "I...I can't believe I did that. That's...that's not...I'm sorry baby." Kate couldn't wrap her mind around what she had done. It was unreal to her.

"You were coming, Kate. No one thinks clearly when they're having an orgasm. I know you didn't mean it," Vicky said and then sat down next to Kate. "Why is this bothering you so much?"

Kate took a breath and just said, "Amber." She stood up and adjusted the towel to cover herself better before she walked to the dresser and rested her hands on the top of it, her fingers tracing the patterns in the wood. She knew she would have to tell Vicky about Amber in order to explain why she had freaked out but she didn't know if she was strong enough. Kate's mind brought up an image of the bite mark then and she admitted that, strong enough or not, she didn't have a choice now.

"Who's Amber?" Vicky asked, watching Kate carefully from her place on the bed.

Kate took a deep breath. She had anticipated the question and now she had to answer it. She spoke, low but steady, "She was...my first girlfriend. We met during college, before I knew who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. She was the first girl I'd ever liked...as more than just a friend and I...I got lost in the relationship. She was nice, sweet and kind...at first, but then, after a few weeks, she changed. She started becoming angrier and she started drinking and she...she was violent sometimes. She...did things...to me and I...let her." Kate paused to take a breath as the old, familiar feelings began rising up again. Feelings she'd buried a long time ago but had never really resolved. Kate's head lowered, she stared at a line of grain in the wood and let her mind travel back to her time with Amber. "She always used to tell me it was my fault. That I made her act like that...she convinced me that I was nothing. She would hit me, yell at me over the littlest things, and she bit me...a lot, and almost always during sex. She left bite marks, breaking the skin more often than not, while she came in my hand." Kate stopped talking then as she realized she'd done to Vicky what Amber had done to her. Kate felt the bile rise again and this time she didn't fight it. She ran to the toilet and emptied her stomach of the remains of last night's dinner.

Vicky ran to the bathroom and when she found Kate kneeling, she went over and rubbed her back, "It's ok, baby. I'm here, I'm not going to leave you." She didn't know what to do to make things better for Kate, so she just tried her best to comfort her.

When Kate had nothing left to throw up, she leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes as she caught her breath. She looked at Vicky and saw the concern in her eyes, feeling even more guilt. Here she had hurt the blonde, marked her in a way that wasn't sensual but violent, and she was sitting there, comforting her as she threw up. Kate didn't know why Vicky hadn't run away yet but she was glad she hadn't. "I'm sorry...I didn't mean to lose control like that...or like I did in the shower. I never meant to hurt you Vicky." Kate closed her eyes.

"Honey, I told you, I know that. You would never knowingly hurt me and I know that you feel bad for doing it, but you really don't have to. I'm going to be just fine, baby, ok?" She smiled and stroked Kate's hair.

Vicky's gentle touch and her words broke through the final wall and Kate nodded, feeling herself letting go of her fear. She would always have issues about this but she let it go for now. When she got back to New York and she was with Lanie telling her about her vacation and Vicky, her best friend would work her magic and she would finish putting the pieces back together. She would remind her that Amber would never hurt her again and Kate would be fine again. Right now, she needed to be in Vicky's arms. Kate reached out and pulled Vicky closer and hugged her, sighing, "Thank you."

Vicky held her close and rubbed her back, "You don't have to thank me, Kate. I love you and one little accident isn't going to change that. You are not a violent person, I know that in my heart, and if you had known, you wouldn't have done it."

Kate rested her head on the unmarked shoulder and let herself relax into Vicky's touch. She mumbled, "I love you," over and over again, like a mantra.

Vicky could tell that this had shaken Kate to the core, but she meant what she said: it didn't change anything. She loved her and she'd help her though this no matter what it took. "That's right baby. I love you too, so much."

Kate opened her mouth to say something when her cell phone beeped a text. Kate jumped a little at the sound. She hadn't been expecting it. Kate looked into Vicky's eyes and she smiled, "I don't deserve you...but I'm glad I have you." Kate leaned forward and kissed Vicky lightly.

"You need to give yourself more credit, baby," she said with a genuine smile and then helped Kate to her feet. "Do you want to check your phone?"

Kate nodded as she stood, "Yeah I think I should, it might be important." Kate walked over to her cell phone and picked it up. She checked the text message and frowned, it was an automatic alert from the airline telling her that her flight was on time and scheduled to depart at 3 pm. Kate checked the clock on her phone and saw that it was 11 o'clock. She turned to Vicky and held up the phone as she said, "The airport, an alert about my flight." Kate held out her free hand and said, "Come here."

Vicky went to her and took her hand, her blue eyes clouded with tears.

Kate pulled her close and wrapped her arms around her waist. She touched her forehead to Vicky's and smiled before pulling back to look at the blonde, "We have about three hours until I have to be at the airport. How about we go out for breakfast and take a walk in the sunshine?" Kate needed to get out and get some air before she got on that plane or else she'd end up taking the negative feelings that arose from the bite with her on the plane and she didn't want that.

Vicky nodded, "We can do that. Come on, let's go get dressed." She led Kate back into the other room and helped her dress, knowing that the brunette needed a little looking after given the morning's events. Once they were ready, Vicky grabbed her keys and walked out of the house with Kate, opening the door of the car for her.

Kate stepped into Vicky's car and settled back into the seat. She fastened her seat belt and waited as Vicky walked around to the other side. Kate smiled at Vicky, determined to keep the mood light and upbeat. "So, where are we going for breakfast?"

"I was thinking we could drive to Albuquerque and get something there, if you don't mind waiting 45 minutes…" Vicky said and started the car.

Kate smiled, thankful they had thought to load her luggage into the trunk yesterday, "That sounds fine to me." Kate reached over and held Vicky's hand.

Vicky squeezed her hand and then pulled out of the garage and onto the street. She headed in the direction of the interstate on-ramp and made the 45-minute drive to Albuquerque. When they got into the city, Vicky pulled off onto a side street and found a little place that she liked to go for breakfast.

She pulled into the lot, turned off the car, and then got out. She walked around to open Kate's door and smiled, "I hope you like this place, they have the best breakfast in the whole city."

Kate smiled as she got out of the car, keeping hold of Vicky's hand. She loved being able to be open with Vicky, not having to hide the way she usually did back home. As she sat down in the booth that Vicky led her to, she smiled and decided right then that when Vicky moved to New York and they were finally together, she wasn't going to hide it, at least not from her friends, Lanie, Ryan, and Esposito.

Kate picked up the menu and skimmed it, quickly picking what she wanted, then she slipped out of the ballet flats she was wearing and she slid her foot slowly up Vicky's leg, thankful the blonde had chosen to wear a skirt today. Kate kept her eyes glued to menu, not really reading it as she let her foot graze Vicky's leg.

Vicky peeked over the menu and raised an eyebrow, "Frisky?"

Kate called forth all her training as a cop and her poker face and she glanced up at Vicky and with a blank face she asked, "What do you mean?"

"Are you telling me that's not your foot creeping up my leg? Cause if it isn't, we might have to make a call to the health department..."

Kate raised her eyebrows and leaned down, glancing under the table where she saw her foot touching Vicky's leg. Keeping up the act she said, "Huh, look at that...I guess it is my foot." Kate sat up again and looked at Vicky, "Do you want me to move it?"

Vicky shook her head, "No, well, unless you plan to move it higher..."

Kate looked around the crowded restaurant and grinned, "Well, I would if we weren't in such a public place. I mean there's a difference between playful fun and lewd public behavior, right?" Kate's voice was half serious, half playful because she really wanted to move her foot higher. She had a vision of Vicky sitting there fighting her arousal as Kate's toes teased her and brought her to orgasm in a public place but as a cop, she knew that it wasn't worth the trouble they could get into if they were noticed and arrested. So she slowly lowered her foot, resting her toes on top of Vicky's toes.

Vicky grinned, "Chicken." Then she went back to reading the menu, though she already knew what she was going to order, she just wanted to tease Kate a little.

Kate had a brief 'Marty McFly' moment but let it pass. She grinned, "That's not going to work baby. I am not about to do something that could get me arrested and make me miss my flight, not to mention the embarrassment of the arrest, just because you call me chicken." Kate grinned as she looked up.

Vicky just chuckled to herself and then set down the menu. "Somehow I think it'd be worth it. Besides, there are plenty of loopholes to get around it."

Kate's eyes glowed with something almost devilish as she said, "Trust me, there aren't any loopholes for what I would do to you if there were a few less people in this restaurant." Kate was picturing being under the table with Vicky's legs spread and her panties around her ankles as she buried her face in Vicky's folds and used her tongue to make the blonde come.

"Ooh, that sounds dangerous and a little kinky. Better keep things on the up and up in that case," Vicky said with a grin.

Kate just nodded and went back to her menu. The waitress came over then to take their drink orders. Both women ordered coffee and water. The waitress nodded and within a couple of minutes returned. She set down two cups and two glasses of water and poured the coffee for Kate and Alex.

"Do you need a little more time to decide?" she asked politely.

Vicky nodded and the young woman returned to her work.

Kate was about to say something when a text came through her cell. She checked it and saw it was from Lanie:

[Can't wait to see u girl! Missed u! Have a safe flight & I'll see u at Kennedy tonight!]

Kate just grinned and put the phone away, deciding to reply later.

"Lanie?" Vicky asked and set down her menu.

Kate looked at Vicky, "Um...yeah."

Vicky chuckled, "She's like a big sister making sure you're doing ok… I hope she likes me when she meets me."

Kate smiled, "Yeah she kind of is." Kate looked out the window for a moment then turned to Vicky, "And I know she'll love you."

"You sure? She's not going to make me answer 20 questions or submit DNA or run a background check, right?"

Kate chuckled, "She might. But I won't let her. Don't worry baby, she'll love you because I love you and you make me happy." Kate knew that Lanie would be cautious until Vicky proved herself to the overprotective woman, but she was confident that Vicky would pass inspection.

Vicky nodded and then the waitress came back to take their orders. Once she had them down, she disappeared again. "I was thinking that maybe we could go to the park and walk before we go to the airport. You mentioned that you wanted to be out in the sunshine."

Kate grinned as she leaned forward on the table, "I'd like that. Thank you."

"There's a place near here, very quiet, very green…" She sipped her water and looked at Kate with sad eyes, "Seems like a dream, doesn't it?"

Kate looked at Vicky then and saw the sadness in her eyes. She felt it too but knew there wasn't a way around it. "In some ways it does. I never expected to meet someone on this trip; I never expected to fall in love. This has been the best two weeks of my adult life and now I have to go home...alone. But I know this is real. I know we're meant to be so I know that I can wait for you." Kate reached over and grabbed Vicky's hand, lightly brushing her thumb over the blonde's knuckles. "I have no regrets about these two weeks... Well that's not true. I do regret what happened this morning in the shower when I..." Kate broke off not able to verbalize what she'd done. "But other than that, no regrets. I just wish I didn't have to leave you."

"Same here, Kate. But it won't be long before we're together. I don't know why, but I feel it in my heart. I know that you're the one for me and that gives me hope."

Kate smiled, "We're going to be together Vicky and once we are, nothing is going separate us again." Kate brought Vicky's hand closer and she kissed it.

A few minutes later the waitress brought their food and Vicky smiled, "Mmm, this looks so good." She picked up her fork and started eating and through it was good, it was nothing compared to Kate's breakfast.

Kate looked at her short stack of chocolate chip pancakes topped with whipped cream and sliced strawberries and smiled. She took a bite and almost moaned at the way the flavors mixed on her tongue.

Kate looked up at Vicky and got an idea. She speared a strawberry with her fork and made sure to dip it into the chocolate sauce she'd asked for on the side and then scooped up some whipped cream and held it out in front of the blonde. "Want to have a taste, baby?"

Vicky nodded and opened her mouth. It looked great on the fork, but she was sure that it would taste even better.

Kate watched as Vicky's lips closed around the fork and she found herself wishing they were alone...Kate was getting jealous of a fork! Kate pulled the fork back, watching almost mesmerized as it slid out of Vicky's mouth, those talented lips sliding against the metal. Kate swallowed hard, forcing her sudden arousal down.

Vicky closed her eyes and moaned. Kate was right: it did taste amazing. The flavors blended and she swallowed it down. She wished that they were back at her house sharing this, preferably naked, with a glass of champagne.

Kate focused on her food. Vicky's little moan was threatening to send her under the table and public lewdness charges be damned.

"I wish I'd gotten what you did. Do you want to try mine?"

Kate looked at Vicky's meal and she smiled as she leaned forward, "That looks really yummy." Kate opened her mouth, waiting for Vicky to give her a taste.

Vicky scooped a little of everything, egg, hash browns, red chili, and cheese, onto the fork and carefully fed it to Kate, grinning. She pulled the fork away slowly and lifted an eyebrow, "Good?"

Kate swallowed the food and smiled, "It's very good, but the chili is a bit much for breakfast, for me anyway. I think I'll stick with my pancakes, but thank you for the taste."

"You're welcome," she said and took another bite. When she swallowed, she continued, "You get used to it when you live here. I wasn't a big fan when I first moved, but now, I can't get enough."

Kate thought about that and nodded, "Yeah that makes sense. I wish I could've stayed here long enough to learn to like it too."

"I'll start making it more often when we have our place together," she said, her eyes twinkling with the idea.

Kate grinned, "I like the sound of that." She liked hearing that she wasn't the only one having mini fantasies about her and Vicky living together in New York, happy and in love.

"Would you be opposed to moving to Chelsea when we get our place?"

Kate leaned back and said with a smile, "Baby, I'd live anywhere if it meant I was with you." She knew that Chelsea might mean a bit of a commute to the precinct, but it would be worth it if she had Vicky with her.

Vicky smiled. Though she had always lived on the Upper East Side, she'd longed to move to Chelsea someday and buy a cute little loft. It was a very gay friendly area and she felt it would be perfect for her and Kate.

Kate enjoyed hearing Vicky making plans. She liked knowing that Vicky wanted this too, but it was more than that. Over the past two weeks, whenever Kate mentioned them living together in New York and that she'd wait as long as she had to, Vicky would either change the subject or start almost warning her that it would be a long time before she could move to New York. It gave Kate the impression that Vicky didn't really want to be with her after she left. But now, hearing Vicky making plans, it gave Kate hope.

Vicky finished up her meal and checked her watch to make sure they still had plenty of time for their walk. When the waitress brought the check, she snatched it up before Kate could get to it and handed the girl the money to cover the bill, plus the tip.

Kate grinned at Vicky's actions, "You know, I would've taken care of that."

"Yes, but you've practically been cooking every meal for the last two weeks. I figure I should pitch in at least a little…" she said, returning the grin.

Kate chuckled, "Well I love cooking and cooking for you is even better because you're easy to please." Kate reached out and took Vicky's hand in hers, "It's going to be hard to go back to cooking for one again." Kate decided she didn't need to mention that she would probably revert to her usual habit of take out. She loved to cook but between her job and her loathing of cooking for just herself, she kept the take out restaurants near her apartment in business.

"Tell me about it. I won't even bring up the fact that I'm not a very good cook, so that makes it even worse," she chuckled, though Kate couldn't probably tell how sad she was.

Kate realized a change in topic was needed so she said, "Hey, come on. We have enough time for that walk so let's get out of here ok?" Kate hoped that getting into the fresh air and being able to walk together might help beat back the sadness.

Vicky nodded and got up from her seat, walking out with Kate to the car so that they could head to the park. The blonde got back on the freeway and took an exit about a mile down the road to a little side street that led to a huge park near the downtown museums. She pulled into a parking space and got out of the car with Kate.

Kate stepped out of the car and looked around, smiling. The park seemed like the perfect place to just spend time with Vicky. They could forget about her leaving and just enjoy being together. Kate held out her hand to Vicky, wanting to hold her hand as they walked around, and grinned, "Come here."

Vicky took her hand and willingly went closer to Kate. Her only thought was to be as close to Kate for as long as possible before they had to leave for the airport. The sun was shining brightly still, not a cloud in the sky, and the birds were chirping their songs while the two walked beneath the trees. It seemed odd that the day could be so nice when it was going to end up being so sad.

Kate saw the trees on their right and she had an idea. She looked around to make sure they were alone and then she moved to her right, she pulled Vicky along with her. "Come here I have an idea." She smiled at Vicky and kept walking backwards until she felt the trunk of a tree behind her. She leaned back onto the tree and pulled Vicky as close as she could get her, placing her hands on the blonde's waist to keep her in place. She grinned and wiggled her eyebrows before she leaned forward and kissed her.

Vicky kissed her back with fervor, her tongue darting into the other woman's mouth swiftly. She loved when Kate took control like this and her aforementioned desire to be close to the brunette kept her glued in place.

Kate smiled at Vicky's eagerness. She loved how Vicky never held anything back when they kissed. Kate ran her hands up Vicky's back and back down to just above her ass. Despite letting herself get lost in their kiss, Kate still had the presence of mind to keep it clean enough to avoid getting arrested. She pulled back from the kiss and lowered her lips to Vicky's neck and Kate had to admit, if only to herself, that she had a bit of a fetish when it came to Vicky's neck. She just loved tasting it and sucking on it and she really liked how easy it was to mark, to claim Vicky as hers. Kate was careful though, not to use her teeth at all.

Vicky tilted her head to give Kate room to work, her hands on Kate's hips to keep herself steady. She was Kate's and that's why she gave herself freely to her. She wanted the brunette to know that she trusted her completely.

Kate smiled when she felt Vicky move to give her better access. She drifted her lips lower to the collar of Vicky's shirt and she reached her tongue out, licking the valley between the blonde's breasts. Kate was getting turned on and she felt herself getting wet. Kate slid her hand around to the front of Vicky's jeans, she kept it hidden between their bodies but she slid her fingers between Vicky's legs, lightly cupping her. Kate felt Vicky jump a little in her hand and she grinned. She lifted her lips to Vicky's ear and whispered, "Do you like that?"

Vicky's cheeks were flushed and she nodded, "Yes. …Don't start something you can't finish, babe, please…cause I need you..."

Kate pulled her lips back but kept her hand where it was. She glanced quickly at Vicky's car and then back to her girlfriend. She grinned, a little evilly, and said, "Well...what do you say we go back to your car and I show you how much I need you too? I can definitely finish what I'm starting if you're willing to let me." Kate looked at Vicky, waiting for her answer, while her hand slowly stroked back and forth with just enough pressure to be noticed.

"Yes," she said in a heavy breath and pressed down on Kate's hand, her underwear getting drenched with her arousal.

Kate grinned, she hadn't wanted to fool around in a car since her teens but she needed to be with Vicky one more time. Carefully she pulled her hand away, loving the little whimper that escaped Vicky's lips. She took Vicky's hand and said, "Come on." Kate pulled Vicky back to the car and she opened the back door. She motioned for Vicky to get in first and then followed her in. Kate shifted and gently lay Vicky down, "Just lay back baby and enjoy the ride, ok? I want to give you something to remember when you're in bed alone." Kate was suddenly really glad that Vicky's car has tinted windows as she took the blonde's shirt off and dropped it on the driver's seat. Kate took a moment to admire Vicky's breasts in the white lace, demi-cup bra she was wearing. It was very girly and very...Vicky. Kate smiled as she unhooked the front clasp and set the blonde's beautiful breasts free. She lowered herself down and took one breast in her mouth and began to lick it while her hand began playing with the other one.

Vicky moaned and her back arched, pressing her breasts up against Kate's mouth and hand. Her nipples were stiff, straining for as much contact as possible. She was breathing heavily, her eyes closed and her hand running through Kate's short, brown locks. She hadn't done anything like this in years and there was something about being in a public place, even if they were concealed, that turned her on like nothing else.

Kate knew they didn't have a lot of time but she was determined to make Vicky come, hard. She switched her mouth to Vicky's other breast while her hands slid down her torso to the waistband of the blonde's jeans. She unbuttoned the jeans and slid down the zipper. She slid one hand inside to cup Vicky's sex, her fingers getting coated with the wetness she knew she'd caused. Kate began to kiss her way down Vicky's body to join her hand.

Vicky was gripping the seat with one hand and Kate's hair with the other. Her legs were parted as much as they could be given the tight space and her breathing had evolved into moans, each one louder than the last. "Oh, god, Kate…yeah…like that, baby, like that."

Vicky's moans and her words only served to turn Kate on even more and she quickly slid Vicky's jeans off and closed her lips around her clit to suck on it. Kate moved her hands around to Vicky's butt to cup her cheeks and lift her up a little to give her mouth more access of the blonde's soaking wet center. Kate smiled as her actions increased the moans coming from the blonde.

"I'm so close, Kate…please, baby, don't stop," Vicky pleaded, her hips rocking, her breasts heaving, and her folds quivering. She had her eyes open staring down at Kate situated between her legs. It was pushing her closer and closer to climax to watch Kate's head bobbing as she licked, sucked, and thrust.

Kate lifted her head long enough to say, "Come for me baby." Then she lowered her mouth back to her task as she brought one hand around to the front and slid one long finger into Vicky. She curled her finger and felt the spongy patch of nerves that she was looking for. She increased the motion of her tongue against Vicky's clit as she applied gentle but firm pressure to the spot deep inside of her blonde girlfriend who was writhing and moaning. Kate knew Vicky was close and she wanted her to come in her mouth, on her hand.

Vicky couldn't hold back, though she was trying because she wasn't ready for this to end. Her back arched up and her muscles tightened around Kate's finger, her clit pulsing against Kate's tongue. Her moans were rhythmic until she finally lost control and then it was Kate's name on her lips. She came hard, her body rigid as she repeated Kate's name over and over.

Kate felt Vicky come apart in her hand and her mouth, shouting her name and she loved it. She slowed her finger and gently helped Vicky ride out the wave. When the blonde had come back down, Kate slowly slid her body up, rubbing against the sweat-slicked skin of the body beneath her and she looked into Vicky's deep blue eyes. Kate smiled down at her and whispered, "Thank you baby." Kate leaned down and kissed Vicky deeply, letting the blonde taste herself on Kate's lips.

Vicky licked and sucked at Kate's tongue, the salty familiarity of her essence filling her mouth. She pulled back, her eyes a dark blue color, and grinned at Kate, "Thank you. That was amazing, baby…" She took a deep breath and sighed, "Mmm, I want to return the favor."

Kate smiled and opened her mouth to speak but before she could say anything, her cell phone began chiming. Kate dropped her head to Vicky's chest and sighed. She reached around to the front seat where her purse was and pulled out her cell phone.

She checked the phone and let out a growl, "Damn it." She turned back to Vicky with a look that was half apologetic and half filled with frustration. She gave Vicky a light kiss as she turned off the alarm. "I would love to take you up on that baby but that alarm means I have less than 15 minutes to make it to the airport before I miss the one-hour check in window. I am so sorry baby, but we need to get going." Kate dropped her head to Vicky's chest again. She couldn't look into those blue eyes and see her reaction.

Vicky could feel her heart drop and then there was a squeeze, like it was stuck in a vice. She choked back her tears and caressed Kate's hair, their sweet scent thick in the car. She wasn't ready. That was all there was to it. But she knew she didn't have a choice, she'd have to take her, give her a good-bye kiss, and then go home to an empty house. The thought made her want to crawl into a hole. She sighed heavily and kissed the top of Kate's head and then began putting herself back together again. In minutes, she was behind the steering wheel and Kate in the passenger seat.

Kate felt like she was dying. She sat in the passenger seat and looked out the window. She didn't want to leave. She wanted to stay here with Vicky forever but she knew that wasn't an option. Kate turned her head and looked at Vicky. Her mind went back to a few moments ago when the blonde was naked, writhing beneath her, moaning. Kate would always treasure that memory. She reached out and placed her hand on Vicky's thigh, squeezing gently before she said, "I'm so sorry about this Vicky. I wish we had more time." Kate felt the tears coming on and she took a breath to fight them back.

Vicky could feel her throat close from the size of the lump inside. "I know…but it's not forever…it can't be. We'll be together again somehow, I promise. No matter what I have to do—or what you have to do. We'll be together."

Kate felt herself smile, "Yes, we will be. It will happen and I will wait for you. I just wish it could happen now." Kate had never really been a patient person but she was getting better at it and for a chance to spend the rest of her life with Vicky, she'd be patient.

They stopped at a red light and Kate turned in her seat to face Vicky. She lifted her hand to Vicky's cheek and she lightly ran her thumb over the cheekbone. Her voice was confident and firm, "Vicky Harrison, you and I will be together again one day and when we are, I'm going to spend the rest of our lives together making sure you know exactly how much I love you." Kate leaned forward and sealed her vow with a kiss.

There were a lot of things in this world that Vicky thought were certain only to find out that they could be yanked away in the blink of an eye, but this, Kate's vow, she believed was real with all her heart. Kate didn't take things lightly nor did she enter into them without giving it her full consideration. Vicky had seen this over the past two weeks. So she knew that no matter what it took, she and Kate would be together forever.

The honking of the cars behind them alerted them that the light had changed. Kate settled back into her seat as Vicky got the car moving again. They arrived at the airport within a few minutes and Vicky parked in the visitor's lot. They got out and entered the airport.

Vicky insisted on accompanying Kate to the gate so she got a gate pass. They went through security and soon they were sitting in the chairs at the gate as they waited for the plane to arrive. Kate took Vicky's hand and smiled at her, "Thank you."

Vicky smiled, "For what?"

"For these last two weeks, for making this vacation the best of my life." Kate lowered her voice, "For loving me and letting me love you, for forgiving me for what I did to you this morning, for knowing it wasn't intentional, but most importantly, for believing me that we will be together one day and for planning ahead for it. Thank you for...being you. No pretenses, no lies, and no false promises just...being Vicky. I love you." Kate leaned forward and kissed her girlfriend.

Vicky nodded, but she didn't feel like she deserved Kate's gratitude. Yes, she loved her honestly, and yes, everything she had done or said or felt, was true, but there was one part that was not. It was the reality of who Vicky really was. It wasn't that she didn't want to tell Kate, she wanted to more than anything in the world, but she couldn't tell her the truth. She hated herself for that, but she hated Velez even more for taking that away from her and her girlfriend. She leaned her head on Kate's shoulder and said, "I love you too, Kate. No matter what happens, you have to believe that everything has been real and will always be real. Tell me you believe me."

Kate looked at Vicky and frowned, "I'm not sure I like the sound of that but yes, I believe you." Kate didn't normally trust so blindly but there was something about Vicky that inspired her trust.

Kate was in love, she knew it as surely as she knew her own name, and she knew Vicky loved her too, that much had become obvious these past two weeks. There was nothing Vicky could say or do that would change that.

Vicky kissed Kate again and then the call came over the PA system that Kate's flight was boarding. Vicky couldn't hold in her emotion anymore and her tears surfaced in the blink of an eye. She embraced Kate and held her tightly. "Please, get home safe and I love you. When you feel alone at night or when you're not sure how you're going to make it through your day, remember that I'm here and I love you with all my heart."

Kate held on to Vicky as if her life depended on it. She didn't want to let go, but Kate eventually pulled back and smiled through the tears in her eyes and said, "I will. When you get home I want you to look in the bottom drawer of your nightstand, I left you a surprise. I want you to remember me and know that whenever you look at what I left you, I'm thinking of you and loving you and waiting for the day when I can hold you again. I love you Vicky." Kate kissed Vicky, letting her love pour out of her, and then she pulled away as she heard her row being called. "I have to go baby, I'm sorry." Kate reluctantly stepped away and moved towards the door to the tunnel.

Vicky held onto herself, feeling as though a part of her heart had been ripped away. She watched Kate's plane pull away waited until it had taken off and was out of her sight. She walked with heavy legs back to the parking area to get into her car and go home. The only comfort she had was the surprise waiting for her. Anything that came from Kate would be cherished until the moment she could be with her again.

Kate sat in her seat on the airplane and looked out the window as she watched the ground fall away. With every moment that passed, she was being taken further away from Vicky, so it made her glad that the seat next to hers was empty. It allowed her to cry in peace. She let the tears fall, not even trying to stop them. She felt the tightness in her chest as she thought about going to bed alone and waking up without Vicky. Idly, wondered if one could actually die from a broken heart. If so, she was sure she would land in New York as a corpse.

When Vicky got home, she closed the door behind her and heard the deafening echo as it bounced off the adobe walls. She continued to sob, her eyes red from all the tears, and slowly made her way into her bedroom. She sat down on the bed and reached for the drawer that Kate had told her to look into for the surprise and sure enough, she found the little package that Kate was talking about.

A few days ago, when she finally allowed herself to face the reality that she was going to be leaving soon, Kate decided to leave something for Vicky to remember her by. Vicky had to work that day, so she'd let Kate borrow her car again. Kate had typed a search into her cell phone to find the places she needed to go and then entered the addresses into the GPS unit in the car. Three stops later, Kate had everything she needed and went back to Vicky's house. She'd been staying there since their fourth day together after Vicky asked if she'd be interested in checking out of the hotel early so that they could spend more time together. Kate was thrilled at the invite and moved all of her things to Vicky's place.

As she sat in the kitchen, Kate prepared Vicky's surprise by carefully writing out the exact recipe for Malukuao, and framing it in a beautiful brushed metal frame that she'd bought at Borders. She then picked up the copy of Rick Castle's first book, the one she'd bought at the bookstore during their first date, and carefully wrapped the book with a sheet of tissue.

Kate wanted to leave Vicky this book as a gesture that they would see each other again. She knew that Vicky knew how important the book was to her and that by leaving it with the blonde, she was saying that she knew they would be together again.

She placed the book into a gift box and then set the frame on top of it before closing the box. She then took out the stationery she'd also picked up at Borders and began writing the letter she was going to leave. She wrote down all of her emotions and thoughts about their future and then carefully folded the letter.

She slid the letter into the matching envelope and after sealing it, she kissed the flap and left a medium red impression of her lips on the white paper. Kate wrapped the box with the nice silvery wrapping paper she'd bought and then taped the letter to the top, Vicky's name written in Kate's handwriting. Kate slipped it into the bottom drawer of the nightstand and knew she would have to make sure Vicky didn't find it until she was gone.

Kate smiled as she thought of all the ways she could distract her beautiful, sexy girlfriend from looking in the drawer as she cleaned up the mess she'd made with the wrapping and soon though, it was time to pick Vicky up from work. After returning to Vicky's house for the night, Kate had cooked dinner and they'd snuggled on the couch, the blonde none the wiser about the surprise waiting for her in the nightstand.

Now, Vicky held the recipe and the book in her hands and smiled. "Oh, Kate," she said, her tears still falling, but this time, they were happy. She knew how important the book was to Kate, so to be holding it at all meant that Kate believed they would be together again. She resolved that somehow she'd find a way to get Rick Castle to sign it for Kate, even if she had to use her Cabot pull to do it and the rules be damned. She set it back in the box carefully and then took the recipe into the kitchen to practice making Kate's signature dish.


Chapter Eight: Facing the Music

US Marshal Mary Shannon was not in a good mood. She was furious and frustrated and she hoped the 45-minute drive from Albuquerque to Santa Fe would cool her off enough so that she wouldn't shoot her witness on sight. Mary never really had a problem with Alex Cabot, now Vicky Harrison, before today. The blonde former ADA wasn't usually a bother. She followed the rules, kept a low profile, had a nice job that was completely unrelated to her former identity and never gave her any problems. Her only complication was her request to move from Albuquerque to Santa Fe for the job at the gallery. It had been approved and resolved easily enough, but today…today was different.

The day had started out normally enough, nothing too bad, until a few hours ago when Mary had gotten a call that Vicky Harrison's ID had been used to request a gate pass. Mary had read the report, seen the security footage, and saw Vicky accompany a brunette to one of the gates. She watched as they waited at the gate and kissed goodbye before the brunette boarded her flight. Mary had called the airport and, using her credentials, she'd got the flight number and the destination. When she saw that it was a nonstop flight to New York, she'd gotten a sinking feeling in her stomach. Mary was well versed in Cabot's file. She knew that the blonde had talked Hammond into letting her tell two of her detectives she was still alive and that she'd gone back to New York to testify, which led to her relocation to New Mexico. Mary started wondering if one of those detectives had found Vicky and came to New Mexico for a visit.

It was already five in the evening, but she didn't want to leave this until tomorrow if there was an actual problem. Mary pulled up at Vicky's house and took a breath before getting out to ring the bell. She waited patiently for Vicky to answer the door and did her best to keep her aggravation in check.

Vicky was in the kitchen when the doorbell rang. She turned off the stove and went to the door, surprised to see Mary through the peephole. She opened the door and smiled, "Hi Mary, come in." She had no reason to think there was a problem.

Mary walked in the door and went to the living room. She turned to face Vicky and without smiling, asked, "Hi Vicky, um...is there something you maybe want to tell me?" Mary wanted to see if Vicky would be honest with her or if she would have to drag it out of her with the facts she'd learned.

Vicky smiled a clueless smile, "What do you mean?"

Mary nodded. The hard way it was going to be. "I mean, is there any you want to tell me about what you did today? Maybe somewhere you went that you shouldn't have gone?" Mary struggled to keep her anger in check, now wasn't the time.

Vicky raised her eyebrow, "I'm not allowed to go to Albuquerque?"

Mary took a deep breath and started pacing, "Vicky, where in Albuquerque did you go today? And before you try to keep up this dumb blonde act, let me remind you that I am a US Marshal and I have great connections."

"The airport," she replied matter-of-factly. "But I'm still here, so obviously I didn't go anywhere, which means I didn't break any rules..."

Mary just stopped and looked at her. "That depends on why you went to the airport, Vicky. I can't keep you safe if you won't be honest with me."

"I took a close friend to catch her flight. I got a gate pass, stayed with her until she left, and came home. End of story."

"A close friend who just happened to get on a flight to New York? Please tell me it wasn't one of those detectives that know you're alive. Tell me you did not just risk your safety and identity for a few nights." Mary was suddenly convinced that she had told one of her NYPD buddies where she was and the woman had come to town to find her.

"Yes. She was on vacation here, we spent two weeks together, and she went home. That's all. If you want to check the passenger manifest for the flight, you'll see that Detective Benson's name is not on it."

Mary just glared at her, "I have a Marshal doing that as we speak, but let's assume that you're telling me the truth and it wasn't Benson. Does this woman know who you really are? Did you break cover for her?"

"No, Mary, I didn't. She thinks I'm Vicky Harrison just like she's supposed to."

Mary let out the breath she was holding. "Good. That's good. Well, I hope those two weeks were worth it because you are not allowed to contact this woman again do you hear me? No e-mails, no phone calls, nothing. As long as you're in the program and in danger, this woman is off limits and if I find out that you have been contacting her I'll have you transferred back to Agent Hammond's care." When her threat didn't produce a reaction Mary added, "You probably didn't know this but he's been transferred to Alaska. So if I send you back to his care, you'll be moving to Alaska. No more contact." Mary didn't like being so heavy handed but she didn't have a choice. She liked Vicky. After all, the woman wasn't some criminal who had turned on her partners or her bosses for a new life in WITSEC. She was a prosecutor who had tried to do the right thing and lost everything she'd known. Mary was sympathetic to a point but she still had a job to do and that job was to keep Alexandra Cabot alive until the threat against her was eliminated.

"So to be clear, you're going to be checking my e-mails, calls, whatever until further notice? I just want to know how invaded my privacy is going to be," she said in an icy tone. She didn't like being watched for any reason, so this was the worst thing that could happen. "Oh and to answer your question, yes, she was worth it and given the choice, I'd do it again."

Mary sighed, "Vicky, I don't like having to do this but I have no choice here. It's my job to keep you alive. This woman is from New York and the threat to your life came from New York. If she were to find out who you are, or if someone else were to find out that she knew you, you'd be in even more danger. So I'm truly sorry but yes, the Marshal's office will be monitoring your e-mail, internet activity and your phone lines until we're satisfied that you aren't in contact with this woman." Mary hated having to invade her privacy and basically treat her like a prisoner or a child who just got grounded but she didn't see any other way to keep her safe. Keeping in contact with this woman could prove to be very dangerous.

"Why don't you just put a detail on me 24-7? They can follow me around the house, to work, to the store, pretty much everywhere I go. That way you can be 100% sure I'm not texting or calling her no matter where I go," she said with total anger. This wasn't fair. She knew the risks and she wouldn't put Kate or herself in danger and it bothered her that Mary didn't see that.

Mary's own anger calmed as Vicky's grew, "Vicky, I know this sucks, believe me I know it does but I don't have a choice here. If I don't do my job and something happens to you, I'm the one who's going to be held responsible. I think I know you enough by now to understand that you wouldn't put yourself at risk, at least I hope you wouldn't, but look at the facts. You broke the rules right out of the gate and let two people from your former life know you were alive and going into Witness Protection, then you broke cover and ran to New York with Hammond to testify against Liam Connors when there was really very little you could testify to. Not only did you let him know you were still alive, but you let his bosses and basically all of New York know it too. Hammond requested you be transferred to my care in the hopes that I could keep you in line and you've been the model witness, until now. I know you say that none of this was planned, but it's a hell of a coincidence that this woman from New York just happens to show up in Santa Fe, where you requested to be moved to from Albuquerque, and you spend two weeks with her. It makes me think that you're up to something and that's why I'm going to be extra cautious about this." Mary hoped Vicky did understand her position. It would make her job that much easier.

"Up until two weeks ago, I didn't even know she existed, but yes, we grew close. I'd never do anything to endanger her, but if it'll make you feel better to watch me like a hawk, be my guest."

Mary tried a different angle, "Well, you may not have known that she existed but can you say the same for her? How do you know she doesn't work for the drug lord who's after you? How do you know she didn't deliberately show up here looking for you? How do you know that she won't tell someone about her vacation fling and that information gets around to the wrong person? Vicky, you're smarter than that. I'm asking you nicely, please don't try to contact her, ok?" Mary was suddenly very tired, the long day, coupled with the long drive and this argument was draining her energy.

"Fine, but I know she didn't come here to kill me. She would've finished the job by now, don't you think? Anyway, I'm going back to making dinner. I can cook for more than just myself if that detail is planning to be here..."

Mary grinned, "There won't be a detail Vicky, just the usual electronic traces on your e-mail and phone lines. But if you don't mind the company, and don't try to poison me, can I join you?"

She nodded even though she was pissed. She knew where Mary was coming from but it still bugged her. "Have a seat, it's almost ready."

Mary watched as the blonde moved around her kitchen, she looked almost comfortable in the space. It was a vast difference from the last time Mary had been in Vicky's house. Shortly after she'd moved to Santa Fe, Mary had come out to make sure she was settling in ok, and Vicky had invited her to stay for dinner. Vicky's movements weren't as fluid as they were now and Mary wondered if the change was due to time and experience or something else. She smiled at Vicky but didn't try to ask her, something told Mary she might not like the answer.

Vicky finished up on the stove and served two plates of Kate's special mixture. She carried them over to the table and set one down in front of Mary. "I hope you like it," she said and sat down to join the agent.

Mary took a moment to look at the strange dish of food before her and then looked at Vicky, who was already eating. "Ummm...what is it?"

"Malukuao. It's amazing, trust me," she said and took a bite.

Mary quirked an eyebrow, "Malu--what?"

"Special made-up old family recipe. Just try it, you'll love it. I've been learning to make it and though it's not as good as it could be, it's still wonderful."

Mary wasn't convinced but she decided to keep an open mind. She picked up her fork and poked at the food. She moved things around, trying to identify all the components and after a few moments she scooped some up on her fork and tried it. She chewed carefully and swallowed with a smile. "OK, it looks weird and a little like leftovers but it's really pretty good. I like it."

"I'm glad. I made 3 batches before I got it edible," Vicky said with a chuckle. "I'm not the best cook, you know."

Mary chuckled, "Join the club. It seems to be a trend among women in the law enforcement field."

Vicky nodded, though she remembered that Olivia was a really good cook, unless she was just a fluke. Either way, it didn't matter. Vicky never planned to go back to anyone in law enforcement because she had Kate now and Kate was an amazing cook.

Mary continued to eat, kind of glad that she didn't have to resort to take out tonight for dinner. Mary looked up from her plate and decided a new topic might be a good idea so she asked, "So, how's it going at the gallery?"

"It's been steady. I've had a few big sales over the past few weeks and we're getting ready for a show. There's this artist who just came out of the College of Santa Fe and she's really talented. You should come by and check it out."

Mary smiled, "That sounds really nice. I'm not very into art but I'll swing by. When is it?" Mary decided to be supportive of Vicky in an effort to establish a truce of sorts.

"November 15th through the 22nd. We're having a small opening party on the 14th and it might be more fun if you came that night. There'll be lots of champagne and good food."

Mary pulled out her PDA and checked her calendar. She smiled when she saw the opening in her schedule and she said, "I can make it."

"Great! You can see Vicky Harrison in action," she said with a chuckle and then finished her meal. "Do you want some dessert and coffee when you're done?"

Mary grinned, "Well what's for dessert?"

"I have peach cobbler or pumpkin pie..."

Mary thought about that for a few moments and then checked her watch, "Those both sound really good but I should really get on the road back to Albuquerque, early day tomorrow. Can I take a rain check?"

"Of course. I could wrap up one of each for the road, if you'd like?" Vicky said, heading toward the refrigerator.

Mary chuckled, "Yeah that would be good, thanks."

"Sure." Vicky packed two containers, one with cobbler and the other with pie, and put them in a small paper bag. She handed the bag over to Mary and said, "Enjoy it. They're delicious."

Mary looked down for a moment, thinking about her options and then she lifted her eyes to look at Vicky, "Listen, Vicky, I really am sorry about having to be so heavy handed with you about this woman from New York. It's my job to keep my witnesses safe and if I'm going to continue to be really good at what I do, then I can't always be the good guy. But um, how about I make you a deal?" Mary had been thinking about it and she figured that since Vicky wasn't a criminal and she did seem genuine when she said she wouldn't put herself or this woman in danger, she would make a bit of a compromise.

"What sort of a deal are we talking about?" Vicky knew a lot about making deals. It was part of her old job as a prosecutor.

Mary smiled, "Well, if you can keep yourself from contacting your lady friend in New York for say...six months, I'll take off the electronic surveillance at that time and give you the privacy you want. What do you say?"

Vicky looked her over, "Hmm, you're probably not going to budge from six months, so I'll take your deal. I'll be on my best behavior."

"The six months is a minimum time limit. Keep your nose clean and don't give me a reason to tighten the noose further by adding a physical detail to follow you. When the time's up, I'll back off."

"You have my word, I won't use my e-mail or my cell to contact her."

Mary smiled, "Good, then we have a deal. But Vicky, if I find out that you've contacted her at any point during the next six months, the deal's off and you'll have a permanent shadow, understand?"

"Perfectly. Don't worry, best behavior, remember? Now, have a safe trip back and I'll see you on the 14th," she said as she walked Mary out.

Mary walked to her car and got in. She sat behind the wheel for a minute and just grinned. It didn't escape her notice that Vicky had spoken very specifically, carefully crafting a loophole to get around their deal. Mary already knew she was going to have to keep a close eye on Vicky's communications.

In the meantime, she wanted to find out as much as she could about Vicky's mystery woman, so she decided that once she got back to her office, she was going to see who checked in before and after Vicky in the hopes of getting the woman's name. She was grinning to herself when she noticed that Vicky was still at the door. She waved one last time and then turned the car on and drove away.


Chapter Nine: Freedom and Hope

September 5, 2009

Mary Shannon was in her office, makeshift as it was, finishing up some paperwork on a new witness when the door opened and an imposing man entered. Mary looked up and she instantly recognized the man. Even if his face hadn't been so familiar, the cut of his suit and his demeanor practically screamed US Marshal.

Mary got a sinking feeling, but she hid it well as she stood up and said, "Agent Hammond, what brings you to my little plot of heaven?"

Agent Hammond grimaced as the air conditioning in the office took a bit too long to affect him. He looked to the other Agent and said, "Agent Shannon, you're the lead on the Cabot case now, right?"

Mary nodded, "Yeah, why?"

Hammond smiled, "Because I have good news for you. Cesar Velez was found murdered in his cell last night. He was taken to the morgue early this morning for an autopsy and I verified his death myself. Intelligence confirms that the threat against Ms. Cabot died along with Velez and she's free to return to her former life, if she chooses. I came here to brief you and accompany you to Ms. Cabot's house to tell her the news."

Mary took a moment to process that and then she smiled, "That's great news. Come on, let's go."

Mary led Jack Hammond out to her car and they drove off towards Santa Fe and on the way, Hammond finished his briefing. Mary pulled up to the sidewalk outside Vicky's house and cut the engine before she and Hammond got out of the car and headed to the front door. Mary rang the bell and waited for Vicky to answer. It was a Saturday so she knew Vicky wasn't at work and her car was in the driveway.

Vicky was sitting on the couch in her pajamas watching a movie when she heard the bell. She got up and walked over to the door, checking to see who was standing outside. When she saw Mary and Agent Hammond, she knew something big was happening. She opened the door and looked at both agents, "Hello..."

Before Hammond could say anything, Mary took the lead, "Hi Vicky, there's been a development in your case, can we come in?" Mary decided this news was too big to bully their way through it so she went the polite route. She knew Hammond was like the proverbial bull in a china shop and she wanted to be the opposite of that.

"Of course. Please excuse the mess, I've been lazy all morning." She closed the door and walked in behind them, "Can I get you anything? Some coffee or juice?"

Mary and Hammond walked into the living room. Hammond declined coffee but Mary smiled, "Coffee actually sounds really good, thanks Vicky."

"Sure," she said and then went into the kitchen. She called out to the agents while she poured a cup for Mary, "So, what's going on?"

Mary looked at Hammond and whispered, "Don't just blurt it out. Try some tact ok?" Mary raised her voice, "Um, why don't you come sit down and we'll talk about it."

Vicky nodded and brought the coffee, along with cream and sugar over for Mary. She set it down on the coffee table and took a seat, "Ok. What's going on? Good news or bad?"

Mary sipped her coffee as she waited for Hammond to speak. Jack looked between the two women and shifted in his seat before clearing his throat, "Um, Miss...uh..." Hammond floundered for a moment but then he remembered her cover name, "Harrison. Cesar Velez was murdered last night in his prison cell. I went to identify the body and verify his death personally and it seems that the contract on your life died with him. Miss Harrison...um Miss Cabot, you're being released from the Program. As soon as you complete the necessary paperwork and counseling sessions, you'll be free to resume your old life… if that's what you want." Hammond shut up then, giving Miss Cabot a few moments to process the information. Mary just sat quietly, letting Vicky think about her situation.

Vicky stared down at the floor as the news started to sink in. She was Alex Cabot again, just like that. How strange it sounded to her… Alex Cabot. She repeated it over and over in her mind and suddenly it was like she was home again. New York was possible. Going back to Kate was possible. It was nothing short of a miracle. "How soon can I return home?" she asked, her voice eerily calm despite the news.

Hammond shifted again, "Well, like I said, there's a lot of paperwork to be done and we require that you meet with an exit counselor at least twice before you can get on a plane to New York. You'll also have to meet with a therapist once you've returned home. Best case scenario, you're looking at two weeks." Mary hated rain on her parade, so to speak, but she didn't want to mislead Alex in any way.

"Oh come on, can't you bend the rules just this once? I don't need counseling and if you bring me the paperwork, I can have it done tomorrow. I'm really ok with everything that's happened..."

Hammond scowled, "Sorry Miss Cabot, but this is non-negotiable...even for a lawyer. Rules of the program aren't flexible."

Mary grinned because she knew why Alex was so eager to get back to New York. She turned to Hammond, "Um, Jack, I think we can speed the process up a bit can't we?" Hammond looked as if he was going to argue, but she cut him off, "How about this, I'll handle the paperwork and I'll personally deliver her to the New York office ok?"

Hammond thought about that and then said, "Fine. But she has to have at least one session with the shrink before she leaves for New York."

Mary turned to Alex, "Can you live with that?"

Alex nodded, "Yes. I'll answer all the questions, do whatever it takes. I just want to get home."

Mary smiled, "Good. Well since it's Saturday, there's nothing more that can be done until the office opens back up on Monday. It'll probably take me a couple of days to get everything in order, but I'll give you a call on Monday to let you know when I'll be coming back to pick you up. In the meantime, I suggest you take this time to pack up your things and prepare yourself to leave Vicky Harrison behind. Come on, Jack, we should get going. Alex, um...congratulations. I know how much you've wanted this." Mary took a moment to let everything she'd said sink in before she pulled Hammond off the couch and they left Vicky's house. Mary made the drive to Albuquerque in silence. Hammond just sat in the passenger seat and sighed, his head resting on the headrest. It had been a long flight.

Alex remained on the couch for almost an hour after the agents left. She was still trying to process the news and figure out the most efficient way to get her things together and ready for the move. She didn't have that much to take with her, but still, it had to be packaged up for the shippers. She decided that she'd save the heavy thoughts until tomorrow and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening out in the city. She wanted a chance to make peace with the place that had brought her together with the woman she loved.

Alex spent a wonderful evening out on the town taking pictures and making a few purchases at some local shops before heading home. She slept comfortably for the first time since Kate left and got up the next morning with a renewed purpose. She started the task of packing up her things and it surprised her how much she wanted to take back with her. The furniture, dinnerware, appliances, etc., were there when she moved in, so she just cleaned up and left the house the way she found it when she moved in.

Mary had called on Monday to let Alex know that she'd be by on Wednesday, so the blonde finished up late Tuesday night and placed the six boxes she ended up with near the doorway for the movers. She couldn't wait until the morning came and she could finally do what needed to be done and get back to New York.

Just as the days had flown by for Alex, the same was true for Mary Shannon. She'd gotten the paperwork ready and scheduled Alex's therapy session without the help of Agent Hammond. He was ready to get on a flight back to Anchorage first thing on Monday morning. It wasn't that he didn't like or admire Alex for what she'd done with the Velez cartel, but the fact was, she would always be linked in his mind to the death of his old partner, Tim Donovan, and it was easier for him to leave than to stay and have to relive it. Besides, he knew that Mary was very capable and he had no doubt that Alex was in good hands.

Late Wednesday morning, Mary drove out to Santa Fe to pick Alex up and take her to the airport. She could only imagine how anxious Alex was to get back to New York and to the mystery woman that she hadn't seen in almost a year. She just hoped that a year without communication hadn't damaged whatever it was that they were building.

When Mary pulled up to the house, she got out and rang the doorbell. She knew this was a very important day for Alex and she was glad to be a part of it.

Alex nearly jumped off the couch and sprinted for the door. She'd been on edge all morning as she waited for Mary to arrive and had already had two false alarms, one being the mailman and the other an Avon lady. She hoped the third time was a charm. She looked through the peephole and grinned when she saw Mary standing on the other side. She opened the door and said, "Finally."

Mary chuckled, "A little eager there Miss Cabot?"

"That would be an understatement. I already double and triple checked the house. I'm ready to go."

Mary smiled, "I see. Mind if I come in?" Mary asked, still standing on the porch.

Alex sighed just a little. "Um, yeah, sure, come in." She had no idea what Mary was waiting for.

Mary smiled as she walked into the house and went to the table in the kitchen. She sat down and looked up at Alex, "I have something for you, sit down."

Alex reluctantly walked over and sat, but she was itchy and it was obvious. She watched Mary and waited for this something that Mary mentioned.

Mary could tell Alex was getting antsy and while she wanted to draw it out just to mess with her, she couldn't be that cruel.

Mary reached into the briefcase she'd brought with her and pulled out the folder that contained the papers Alex needed to sign. She handed Alex and pen and slid both papers across the table to the anxious blonde. "Go ahead and look these over and then when you're done, sign at the bottom of both forms. I also want to let you know that you have an appointment with our exit therapist next Wednesday. I know you don't want to wait a week, but that's the earliest I could get you on her schedule. I'm sorry."

"It's fine, let's just get this going." She looked over both sheets of paper, the lawyer in her boiling it down to just the important bits, and then picked up the pen. She started signing the paper with a "V" and then blushed, "Right…" She tried it again, this time signing her name "Alexandra Cabot" on the two forms and then handed them back to Mary.

Mary nodded and then tucked the paperwork back into her briefcase. "Ok, well, that should be everything. Are you packed yet?"

"Are you really asking me that question?" Alex asked with a chuckle.

Mary smiled, "I just wanted to be sure. The movers will be by this afternoon to pick up your things and they'll be holding them in storage until you get settled in your new place. Since your therapy session isn't until the 16th, I was thinking of staying in New York with you until the 18th to help you get settled and make sure that everything goes off without a hitch."

"Um, I appreciate the offer, Mary, but I'm sure I can handle myself and I can always stay at my mother's townhouse until I find my own place."

Mary hesitated, "Well...the thing is… when your mother died, you were presumed dead, so the townhouse went on the market and it was sold. I'm really sorry, but we'll be staying at a hotel..."

"Whoa, wait…did they sell the house upstate as well?" she asked with concern. Those properties were important to her and she couldn't stand the idea that they were sold just because she wasn't around.

"No. We're not exactly sure why, but in early 2003, your mother transferred the deed into your name, so when we took control of your assets and placed them in a dummy account, the house became a part of your net worth. Once we finish processing your departure paperwork, which usually takes between seven and 10 days, we'll transfer everything from the dummy account back into your name. Once that happens you can decide where you want to live. Officially you'll be Alex Cabot again."

Alex sighed heavily, but she knew there was nothing she could do about it. She was happy that at least the one house she cared about was still hers and she knew exactly why her mother had put it in her name. Elisabeth Cabot wanted to give Alex and her girlfriend Olivia a home where they could settle down and raise the family she knew that Alex wanted. The problem was, by this point in their relationship, Alex and Olivia were quickly starting to decline thanks to Olivia's hesitance to be open about her sexuality and because she didn't want to upset her mother, Alex had kept that a secret. It wasn't until after the shooting that she'd wished she'd been honest with her mom, but if it meant that she still had possession of her childhood home, to the last link she had to her mother, then she wasn't sorry.

She'd do whatever she had to, wait as long as she had to, to get back to New York and the life she'd missed so deeply.


Chapter Ten: The Return and Adjusting to Home

Within an hour of leaving the house in Santa Fe, Mary and Alex arrived at the airport and quickly made their way up to the gate to board the plane. The flight took about seven hours thanks to a layover in Chicago, so the two women didn't touch down at JFK until well past midnight. Alex was exhausted, but luckily Mary already had a car waiting for them to take them to the hotel so they didn't have to wait for one to arrive. The agent had found a nice place on the Upper West Side that honored the government rate and booked adjoining rooms for her and Alex's weeklong stay.

Alex had her meeting with the federal psychiatrist on Wednesday, but she would've been more than ready to meet with her the minute she arrived. She wanted to get all of this over with so that she could get on with her life, but all she could do was be patient until her appointment was over and her paperwork was processed.

In the days that followed their arrival, Alex opted to spend her time outside smelling the New York air and taking in the sights and sounds of home. It was like getting back together with an old girlfriend; it was familiar but at the same time, the effects of the years gone by were evident as she explored her once-familiar concrete jungle.

Of course the week passed by in the blink of an eye, which had been known to happen in New York, and Alex found herself sitting in the psychiatrist's waiting room early on Wednesday morning. There was a plaque on the door that read "S. Gordon" and Alex could only speculate about the woman who was waiting for her on the other side. Naturally, when the door opened and Alex finally got to see at her, the doctor looked nothing like what the blonde had envisioned.

Dr. Sarah Gordon was used to dealing with WITSEC releases and the majority of her practice focused on treating people with PTSD that stemmed from one cause or another. Sarah had treated everything from abused children and women to rape victims, to former military personnel. A third of her patients, however, were referred to her through the Federal Government. The Marshals required their releases to anyone that was being released from the program to be in a healthy and stable frame of mind before they could be integrated back into their old life. Sarah's assessments satisfied the Marshals while still keeping her patients' confidence. Sarah had been studying Alexandra Cabot's case file when the secretary announced Miss Cabot's arrival. Sarah closed the file and stood to open the door, calling out to the blonde as she sat in one of the waiting room chairs, "Miss Cabot, please come in."

Alex stood up and walked towards the office, Sarah stepping aside to let her walk in.

As she passed by her, Alex looked over the young woman. She was a little shorter than her, maybe 5'8", with long brown hair and blue eyes. If Alex had to take a guess, she figured the doctor to be about 28 or 29. All in all, she was the complete opposite of what she anticipated. She thought the doctor would be a stout older woman with graying hair pulled tightly into a bun, but she wasn't going to complain. She sat down on the leather couch near the bookcase and smiled politely, "This is a nice office."

Sarah smiled as she noticed Miss Cabot studying her. She knew her appearance sometimes threw people off, but she couldn't help it that she was a child prodigy and earned her PhD at the age of 21. She was now 29 and was already well known and well respected in her field. She cleared her throat when Miss Cabot spoke, "Um thank you. Would you like something to drink before we begin?"

"No, I'm fine thank you. I'm just ready to get this over with. No offense."

"None taken. It seems to be a common theme with WITSEC releases. So tell me, how long were you in the program?" Sarah already knew the answer, but she liked to start with something simple before she moved into the emotional areas.

"Since 2004. I was moved 3 times while I was in."

Sarah nodded, "I see. So five years of pretending to be someone you're not. And not just one person, but three, during that time. How did you manage it?"

"I did what I had to do. I followed the rules, I stuck to my story, and I did my job… I survived," she said, trying to keep all emotion out of her voice.

"Miss Cabot, why were you moved three times?" Sarah noticed the lack of emotion in her voice and wanted to find a way to crack through the façade she was hiding behind.

"The first time was because I was recognized by someone in the office where I worked. I was moved to Wisconsin and I became Emily Summers. I stayed there until there was a development in the case I had been working when I was 'killed,' so I came back to testify and put away the man who shot me," she said, her eyes staring off into space as she remembered sitting on the stand and confronting Liam Connors. "After that, I was sent to New Mexico and that's when I became Vicky Harrison..."

"I see. You said you survived. What does that mean?" she asked, wanting to understand where Alex was coming from.

"I got up, I went to work, I came home, and went to bed. I'd repeat the same steps day after day, sometimes going to the store after work or the mall, but that's about it. I got by while I waited to come home," she said honestly.

"Yes, but there was no guarantee you would ever return to your old life, it would be natural to want to find some...security and companionship. Didn't you want that? A relationship, maybe a family someday?" Sarah was curious to know why an attractive woman like Alex would hide in her house like a hermit instead of trying to find someone to share her time with.

"Of course I wanted to find someone. In Wisconsin I dated a man from work…but it wasn't what I wanted. I just did it to make life easier… He was a good cover for me in a small town…he kept people from talking, you know? But it didn't take long for me to realize that I couldn't live anymore of a lie than what I was already living and I gave up on finding someone. Until I met Kate in Santa Fe..."

Sarah noticed that when Alex mentioned the man in Wisconsin, her eyes were impassive, but when she mentioned Kate, a spark flared briefly. It was the first sign of emotion she'd witnessed since the blonde had walked into her office. Sarah smiled, "Tell me about Kate in Santa Fe."

Alex smiled, "I wouldn't even know where to begin. Short version: She was in town on vacation, we met one evening and spent the next two weeks falling in love with each other. I honestly thought my heart was going to stop beating when she came back to New York…" She lowered her eyes and let out a sigh, "It's been almost a year since she left me, since I talked to her. I don't even know how to explain all of this to her."

Sarah was amazed at the transformation that came over Alex's face when she spoke about Kate. "So she lives in New York? That must have caused quite an uproar with your handler when she found out about her. Did Agent Shannon ever learn of Kate and where she was from?"

"Not that I'm aware of. All she told me was that I was not allowed to contact her and I was monitored for six months. No e-mail, no phone calls, nothing…" She didn't want this doctor to know that she had in fact found a way around Mary's orders, but only once and only to let Kate know that she'd be out of touch while she was taking care of some important things. She couldn't let her girlfriend think she'd forgotten about her.

Sarah nodded, "So it's been a year since you've had any contact with her? That must've been hard for you, to cut off all contact. I assume, now that you're back in your old life, that you'll try to find her. Tell me, what if you do find her and she's moved on? What if she's with someone else? How will you deal with that? I ask because I want to let you know that this doesn't have to be our only session." Agent Shannon had already told Sarah that Miss Cabot wasn't receptive to the optional extra sessions but she decided to make the offer anyway.

"I—I don't know…I don't believe that Kate would move on, but I suppose if I'm going to be realistic, then there is a possibility. …If she has—" She cleared her throat in an attempt to keep her tears at bay. "Then I'll be happy for her and deal with my pain on my own…I've done it before."

Sarah felt a stab of sympathy for her patient, "I have no doubt you would be selfless enough to not stand in the way of her happiness, but if she has moved on, you don't have to deal with your pain on your own. I can help you because there are some situations you really shouldn't handle on your own." Sarah paused to let that sink in before she said, "Now, on a less emotional topic, you've been in town for a few days now, how is the transition going?"

"Great. I love being here… I feel like I'm alive again. I haven't felt like this since I was with Kate and now I'm home and I just keep telling myself that if I can find her, maybe we can make all of this work… I have hope for the first time in five years and it feels amazing," she said, her face glowing from the sheer happiness she felt from being back in New York.

Sarah smiled, "So, other than finding Kate, do you have any plans for your life now that you're back? Any thoughts on what you will do job-wise? What about reconnecting with old friends or colleagues?"

Alex shrugged, "I haven't figured that out yet. I mean, I enjoy law, but I'm not sure if I want to go back to the DA's office and I'm not really a fan of private practice… As for my friends, I'm sure I'll figure it out with time, but for now, I just want to absorb everything and then, when the time is right, I'll get in touch with old them. I need to re-learn how to be Alexandra Cabot and I'm not sure I can do that with my friends around influencing me."

Sarah nodded, "That's very natural. It can be difficult to find your own identity when others are imposing their expectations on you." Sarah took a moment to think about how to word her next question. Sarah had read a notation that Agent Hammond had made about some rumors that he had overheard when working on the original case about Alex and Detective Benson and she'd been wondering how to work it in to the session. "Um, Miss Cabot, your file mentioned that when you first entered the program, you insisted on letting two detectives know you were alive when the rest of the world thought you were dead. Detectives Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson. Detective Stabler is a happily married man so I don't think you were trying to spare him the pain of thinking you were dead. It's my theory that you were trying to spare Detective Benson. Where does she fit in now that you are back and focused on Kate?"

She took a moment to think about how she wanted to answer. "Well, the thing is, Olivia isn't ready to admit to herself or her closest friends the truth about who she is. She is well within her rights to not say anything, but I don't feel comfortable with lying about who I am anymore. Kate is willing to be open and that's what I want. So I'm not sure if Olivia fits into my life at all anymore."

"I see...and what if she's ready now? What if she learns you're in town and she finds you and wants you back? What if she's willing to come out? Miss Cabot, have you allowed yourself to consider the possibility that Olivia might be ready to be what you need?"

"No, I haven't. I'm in love with Kate. That's not going to change regardless of where Olivia stands on her sexuality. If she's open, then I'll be happy for her. If not, then I'll continue to hope she finds the courage to accept who she is."

Sarah nodded and hoped Alex would find her happiness with Kate. She would've continued on this line of inquiry but she noticed that their time was almost over. "Miss Cabot, I'm sorry, but we're almost out of time. Like I said before, if you ever need to talk to, someone impartial, I'm here."

Alex nodded and stood up. She extended her hand to the doctor and said, "It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope everything is satisfactory for my file…"

Sarah shook her hand and then stood up and turned to her desk, "It was a pleasure to meet you as well, Miss Cabot." Sarah turned back to Alex, "I sincerely hope that your transition into your old life goes smoothly, but here's my card just in case." She handed Alex her business card, which contained both her office and personal numbers. "Yes, your file will be properly settled."

Alex took the card and looked at it. "So that's what the S. stands for…Sarah Gordon…You know, I seem to recall a character with that name…she was on that soap…what is it? One Life to Live?"

Sarah grinned, "Yeah, I get that more often than you'd think. But if I recall correctly, I was born before the character was brought on the show. That's why I have only my first initial on my door, keeps people from forming preconceived notions about me." Sarah had already run into some issues with her patients because of her age and she'd grown tired of not being taken seriously. The last thing she needed was to add to that by having people recognize her name thanks to some soap opera.

"Well, your secret is safe with me, Dr. Gordon. Just a happy coincidence," she said with a smile. "Thank you for everything and if I ever do need to talk to someone, I'll keep you in mind." She left the doctor's office and met Mary, who was outside in the waiting room.

Sarah watched her leave and smiled. She liked Miss Cabot. She waved at Agent Shannon and then closed the door to go back to her notes. She was going to meet with Agent Shannon the following day to discuss Alex's mental state, but in the meantime she went back to her desk to sort out her notes and prepare her report.

Mary Shannon had arrived about 15 minutes into Alex's session and sat down to read a magazine while she waited for Alex to finish. As the blonde approached, she stood up and asked, "So, how'd it go?"

"Great. She's very nice," Alex said, not wanting to reveal anything she'd talked about with Dr. Gordon.

Mary smiled, "Good. So, how about we go grab some lunch and you show me something in this city that you love?" Mary decided to let Alex take the lead and show off her town. It was a way for Mary to help Alex transition back to her old life.

Alex nodded and asked, "Are you a fan of sushi? I know a great little place near here that we can go to before I take you to one of my favorite places."

"Sounds good, lead the way." Mary held her hand out in a gesture for Alex to walk ahead of her.

They left the building and walked down the street past the courthouse, Alex stopping for just a moment as she recalled many memories about that building. She sighed heavily and apologized to Mary, "Sorry. I forgot we'd be walking by here. I used to come here almost every day for work."

Mary look up at the courthouse and really studied at it before she returned her gaze to Alex, "Nothing to be sorry about, this place is important to you, to who you were before you went into the program and now, you have to figure out where this place fits in with who you are now...if it even does. Come on, let's go eat I'm hungry." Mary gently tugged on Alex's sleeve in a playful manner.

Alex snapped out of her melancholy and chuckled, "Ok." She led her about two blocks up the street to a small sushi restaurant. There was a small crowd of people, but they were seated quickly and the waiter brought them two bowls of miso soup to enjoy while they were looking at their menus. "No matter how good the sushi was in Albuquerque, it just couldn't compare to this place."

Mary grinned, "Yeah well...considering that it's mostly desert, I can understand that." Mary looked over the menu and decided on something simple. She looked up at Alex, "So, tell me, what's the one thing that you held on to from your old life, that helped you through the program?"

"I guess if it was anything, it was the memory of my mother…that's why I was so afraid that the house in Amherst had been sold. I grew up there…I wanted to have some sort of connection to that time, to my mom. It was the only thing I had left after she died," she said, the pain still clear in her voice.

Mary nodded, "Then I guess it's a good thing that she transferred it to your name. I'm curious though, why did she give you the big house rather than the townhouse? It seems to me that the house in Amherst is more suitable for a family, not a single lawyer."

Alex took a sip of water and thought about how she was going to answer. "Well, probably because she always wanted me to settle down and have a family. She wanted me to get out of the city and have a couple of kids with a partner that would treat me right. I understand why she wanted that, but it wasn't going to happen as quickly as she wanted." She thought back to when she'd introduced Olivia to her mother and how the elder Cabot had come to accept Alex for who she was.

Mary smiled at the fond tone in Alex's voice, "Yeah it seems to be a common theme with moms to want grandkids and for their own children to be settled...especially the girls. Did she know about...you know, your...affinity for the fairer sex?" Mary tried to be tactful with her question.

"She did. I told her about Olivia about a month after we started dating and she met her one evening for dinner. She came into the city and we stayed at the townhouse overnight. She was nice to her, but I don't think she fully understood our relationship. It wasn't until much later that she accepted me for who I am and thankfully nothing changed. She loved me just as much as always and I was happy."

Mary noticed something in Alex's tone, "So um...now that you're back and free, I know you're going to want to find Kate, but what about Olivia?"

"She and I aren't good for each other. She's got her demons and I can't watch her get sucked down by them. If I see her, that's great, but I'm not going to seek her out. I can't."

"Ok, that makes sense I suppose." Mary paused a moment then she smiled, "Well I hope that things work out with Kate then, you deserve to be happy now that you're back in your life." Mary wondered how long it would take Alex to realize that she was using Kate's name when, as far as Alex knew, Mary shouldn't know her mystery woman's name.

The waiter brought their food and set it down before leaving. Alex took out her chopsticks from their package and picked up a roll, "So when exactly did you find out who Kate was?" She peered at the Marshal and popped the roll into her mouth.

Mary grinned as she picked up one of her spicy tuna rolls. She looked at Alex and replied, "I checked the manifest and ran each of the women's names through the DMV database. Once I had all the photos, I ran a comparison with the security footage of you and the mystery woman at the gate and came up with a name. After that it wasn't too hard to run a background check on her." Mary brought the roll to her lips and winked as she ate it.

Alex shook her head, "Of course. You had all bases covered, didn't you? I forgot how fun the chase can be." She picked up another Philadelphia roll and held it in the air for a moment, "So, are you planning to help me find her?"

Mary just grinned as she chewed another roll then she said, "Nope, that would be taking the easy way out and true love never takes the easy out Alex." Mary liked the thought of Alex finding Kate on her own, despite her urge to be there when they were reunited.

"You don't play fair, Mary," Alex said after swallowing her food. "But you're right. I want to find my Kate on my own…it'll make it right. I just bothers me that you know everything about her, but soon I will too and she'll know everything about me, for better or worse."

Mary took a little bit of pity on Alex then and said, "Well, that sounds great, but I will tell you this, when you find her...I think you'll be surprised about where you find her." Mary knew that Alex's reaction to Kate being a cop just like her ex, Olivia, would be something she would gladly cash in her vacation days to see.

Alex raised an eyebrow, "That sounds ominous. She's not a stripper, is she?" Alex knew full well that with her body, Kate could easily be an exotic dancer, and although she didn't figure her for the type, it didn't mean she wasn't.

Mary just shook her head, "I'm not saying anything more. Just keep an open mind. Now, where are we headed after lunch?"

Alex rolled her eyes, "Since you're planning to keep me in the dark, I think I'm going to do the same. You're not afraid of heights, are you?"

Mary smirked, she would play along, "Not that I know of, but since I've spent most of my life in Albuquerque and there's not a lot of high places there, I honestly don't know."

"Well, you'd better prepare yourself then, and no, I'm not taking you to the Empire State Building…" she said with a grin. They finished up their lunch and Alex was going to pay, but Mary snatched up the bill. "Hmm, let me guess, it's included in your per diem?"

Mary nodded, "Yup, so don't worry about it, ok?" Mary placed her credit card into the black leather case and handed it to their waitress as she passed by. As they waited for the girl to return with Mary's card, Mary looked at Alex and said, "I like this side of you, must be because you're not pretending to be someone else, huh? You know, I haven't had a lot of witnesses return to their old lives. Most of the time, they're in the program for life, never able to be who they used to be. I like that I was here to see you like this…being yourself again."

"It feels good to be back here. In all honesty, I'd given up on the idea of ever coming home until I met Kate. That's when I knew that somehow I'd make it home. Like fate, you know? I just felt it in my heart."

"She must be something really special. I'm glad you're going to have a second chance with her Alex. And, now that you're safe again and no longer in the program, there's nothing stopping you from being with her." Mary could relate to Alex's idea of fate, she sometimes let herself believe in that ephemeral concept...usually when she was trying to forget that she hadn't found that special someone yet.

The waitress brought back Mary's card and once everything was settled up, she and Alex left the restaurant. Alex hailed a cab and got into the back seat with Mary, "So, I know you've been keeping busy since Monday, but now that things are slowing down, are you planning to take in the sights of the city?"

Mary looked out the window for a moment then turned to Alex, "I had thought about seeing the 'real' New York, but without a tour guide, I've sort of decided to stick to places like Times Square and Central Park."

"Hey, if you really want to see what New York is all about, I do have someone I could call that could show you around…" Alex still had several male friends and she did have someone in mind who might be good for Mary. She just figured she'd use this as a means to introduce them and let things take their course...

Mary thought about that for a minute then chuckled, "Thanks for the offer but I'll be fine. Tomorrow I'm going souvenir shopping since I promised my partner, Marshall, that I'd bring him back one of those 'I Heart NY' t-shirts. After that I'm going to the Empire State Building, since that's not where we're going."

"Where we're going is much better, I promise." The cab driver took them to mid-town and pulled up just outside of Rockefeller Center. Alex paid him and then stepped out of the car with Mary, "We're going to the top of the Rock."

Mary smiled, "Sounds like fun, let's go." Mary decided to let go of her Federal Agent persona and just be another tourist in New York.

Alex led her inside and went to the ticket booth to pick up a pair of tickets. They were taken to an elevator and along with all the other tourists, they rode up to the observation deck. Alex stepped out and smiled when she felt the sun on her face. She inhaled the scent of New York and exhaled, "Ahhh, how I've missed this."

Mary just grinned as she watched Alex revel in the crisp air. She turned to look out at the city and was amazed at the sight. Even without the iconic twin towers that she'd seen in almost every movie set in New York prior to was 2001, the view was breathtaking. Mary kept her eyes on the skyline as she said, "Well, you're here now..." Then she turned to Alex, "How you proceed from here is up to you Alex. I hope you make the most of the second chance you're being given."

"I intend to," Alex said. She walked over and peered out at the city, her city. "I'm sure you're wondering why I brought you here instead of the Empire State Building. This is much quieter and it's closer to Central Park. Offers a better view of the north end of the island, which is where I've spent most of my adult life."

Mary nodded, "So this place has sentimental value to you. I like that...it's a part of you." Mary smiled at Alex, "You should bring Kate here, show her who you really are, let her decide for herself if she can love 'Alex Cabot' as much as she loved 'Vicky Harrison,' you know what I mean?"

"That's a good idea. Maybe once I track her down I can plan something special. I have so much I have to get done before I can even start looking for her, but I want to be settled when I do find her. I want to be able to invite her over and have a quiet talk together."

Mary just smiled. She could understand where Alex was coming from. She wanted to be on an even level with Kate. Mary took out her cell phone, opened the camera, and began taking pictures of the view. Then she turned to Alex, "Can I get one of you with the skyline behind you, sort of a success story type of thing?"

Alex blushed but nodded, "Sure. Right here?" She had downtown behind her since it offered more of the iconic landscape that people were used to seeing.

Mary smiled, "That's perfect. Hold still." Mary snapped a picture and then lowered the camera phone. "Thanks."

Alex chuckled, "Anytime. I'm glad I can be one of your success stories." She gazed downtown and smiled. All of it was real. She spent about half an hour up there with Mary and then said, "Do you want to go down to the gift shop? Pick up some souvenirs?"

Mary looked at Alex, "Are you sure you're ready to leave this spot? I don't mind if you maybe need a little more time." Mary didn't want Alex to feel rushed in this moment, plus she was enjoying herself just watching the blonde's reactions.

"Well…maybe a few more minutes," she said with a grin that made her look like she was five years old. She liked seeing the city rushing by down below while she was standing so still. She could just think of her and Kate being up on that roof together, Alex nervous because she was planning to ask Kate to marry her. She could see it all: the ring, the pink of the sky as the sun was setting, the look on Kate's face just before she said yes, and then the two of them kissing to seal the moment.

Mary smiled, "Take your time Alex."

After she finished putting the finishing touches on her fantasy, she took one last deep breath and said, "Okay, I'm ready now."

Mary smiled and turned to leave but then turned back to Alex, "Ok, lead the way."

Alex laughed and said, "Come on." She led the agent to the elevator and stepped in when the doors opened. The decent was quick, as was the way with New York elevators. Alex could never seem to get over how slow elevators in other places were. When they reached the bottom, she and Mary walked to the NBC store so that Mary could look around for some things to take back to New Mexico with her.

Mary followed Alex into the NBC store and looked around. She noticed Alex had wandered off a little bit and she decided not to trail her, opting to look around at all the merchandise from the various NBC shows on her own. She was walking around, not paying total attention to what she was looking at when she saw a t-shirt that made her grin. She walked closer to it and noticed a few shirts next to it. Mary picked up a black shirt that read "Team Jillian" and a blue shirt that read "Team Bob" and decided that her mom and her sister would like them. They both loved watching The Biggest Loser.

Mary kept walking and found a coffee mug with the logo for The Office on it and picked that up for Stan, her boss. She was wondering what to get for Marshall when Alex found her again.

"Looks like you've gotten some nice stuff there. Did you want to look around a little more?"

Mary grinned, "Yeah a few things, all I'm missing is something for Marshall and I'll be all set."

"Great, take your time, I'm just going to pick up one little thing. I'll be right back." She smiled and then headed off in a different direction.

Mary watched her walk off and she shook her head. She seemed a little like a kid in a candy store. Mary turned her head and she saw a sweatshirt with the logo for Marshall's favorite show, Friends. Mary grinned, she knew it would be perfect for him so she found one in his size.

Alex quickly picked out a little something for Mary and checked out so that the other woman wouldn't see what she'd bought. When Mary was finished making her purchase, Alex met back up with her and said, "I guess we should be getting back to the hotel. I'm sure you have plans for the evening."

Mary saw that Alex had a small bag and while she was curious, she figured that the blonde had found something for Kate. Mary wasn't the type to pry when she didn't have to so she let it go. "Um, actually it's just going to be me, some room service, and the TV. What about you, any plans for the city tonight?"

"No, not really. I thought maybe I'd just stay in, but we could always do something if you don't feel like staying at the hotel..."

They were walking out of the building when Mary had an idea, "Actually, I'm kind of in the mood to find a bar and have a drink. Just relax and take in the natives of this strange place." Mary's voice took on a humorous tone.

Alex nodded, "I can arrange for that. We can go change and I'll show you a night out on the town."

"Sounds like a plan." Mary walked with Alex back to their hotel, requesting that they walk so she could really see the city. The blonde had said it was a bit of a walk but she gave in when Mary asked nicely, even saying please.

The two days following Alex's psych appointment and their trip to Rockefeller Center flew by and before she knew it, it was time for Mary to fly back to Albuquerque. Earlier that morning, Mary had taken Alex to Manhattan Bank and Trust and had the blonde sign all the necessary paperwork to transfer her assets the dummy account to a new account in Alex's name. Within two hours, Alex Cabot was financially independent once again. The only thing she had left to do was take a drive up to the house in Amherst to see what, if any, repairs needed to be made to the property. One thing she did know was that she wanted all of the beds to be replaced, but she'd take care of that after dropping Mary off at the airport.

Once again, Alex got a gate pass and they sat at the gate to wait for the plane to start boarding. Mary turned to look at Alex after a few moments of silence, "Alex, I am very impressed with how well you've adapted back into your old life." Mary was smiling as she said it, truly proud of the blonde woman sitting next to her.

"I've been waiting for this to happen for over a year. New York has always been my home and I'm grateful that I got a second chance." She smiled at Mary and said, "Thank you for being here to get me settled in. As independent as I like to think I am, it was really nice to have someone by my side to do all the things that needed to be done. Do you think, maybe some time, I can come visit you in New Mexico again?"

Mary grinned, "You can do anything you want to do now Alex so, yeah if you want to visit me you can...I'd like that." Mary didn't think Alex would go back to New Mexico though...it would always be where she was trapped as someone else.

"If all goes as planned, I'd like to take Kate there on our anniversary so that we can enjoy it again, only this time I can actually be myself," she said with a smile.

Mary smiled, "That sounds like a very good idea. I hope you find her and that it all works out with her. You deserve to be happy now Alex, especially after everything you've been through."

"Thanks, Mary. I really appreciate that. I just hope that she can forgive me... I know it wasn't my choice to lie, but not everyone can get past it."

Mary turned to look out the window at the tarmac for a moment before she turned back to Alex, "If she loves you, if it's real, then she'll forgive you. It might not be easy, or immediate, but...it will happen." Mary knew that Kate was a cop, and cops had an inside track to things that civilians didn't. Mary hoped that this knowledge would help Kate forgive Alex for the deception.

Suddenly a voice came over the PA system to announce her flight and her row was among the first called. Mary stood up, "Well, it's time for me to leave and take the training wheels with me. Are you going to be ok?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine. Living at the hotel somehow makes life a bit more bearable, especially since I don't have to cook. It'll be harder when I get my own place. Wish me luck with that, by the way." She hugged Mary and said, "Have a safe trip and thank you for everything."

Mary pulled out of the hug grinning. "I have total confidence in you. Good luck with your girl. Take care of yourself Alex and stay away from the cartels ok?" Mary joked.

"Aye, aye," Alex said with a salute. She watched Mary as she disappeared onto the ramp and then made her way back outside to pick up a cab to go back to the hotel.

Mary boarded the plane and got comfortable. She was going to miss Alex Cabot but she was glad that the blonde was free to be herself again. She hoped Alex's Kate was the forgiving kind. Mary closed her eyes as the plane took off. She was heading home...a smile crept onto her face at the thought of being in her own bed later that night.

A few days later, after giving things some serious thought, Alex decided that she wanted to give Jack McCoy a call and see if she could get a job with the DA's office again. She knew that private practice wasn't really for her and neither was being a public defender. She didn't like the idea of defending guilty people, so her only other option was asking McCoy for a job with his office. She planned to be smarter about things this time around and not let her job become her entire focus, not to mention that she missed her colleagues.

She picked up the phone and dialed the familiar number and when prompted, she entered the extension for Jack's office. His secretary answered and Alex explained that she was a former employee looking to meet with the DA. The woman checked his calendar and scheduled her for Wednesday afternoon. Alex accepted and put the meeting into her phone. She was happy she had a few days to think things over so that she could approach Jack the right way

Tuesday night, she picked out a gray suit and light pink blouse with black stilettos and had a glass of wine to calm her down so that she could fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

When Jack McCoy heard that his 2 o'clock appointment was with Alex Cabot, he was surprised. He had thought the former ADA was gunned down in 2003, but she'd surfaced for a very publicized trial and he, along with the rest of the legal community in New York, was stunned but pleased to hear she was alive. Jack had heard the rumors that the cartel that wanted her dead was no longer a threat and there were whispers among the political elite of the city that Miss Cabot might return to Manhattan. Jack was looking forward to seeing Alex and finding out why she wanted to talk to him. He couldn't imagine that after what she went through she would want to return to the DA's office, even though she would be a very welcomed addition.

McCoy was in his office waiting for Connie Rubirosa to finish the 441 motion that she and Executive DA Michael Cutter were seeking in their latest case, when his secretary buzzed him to tell him that Alex Cabot was in the lobby waiting to see him. McCoy told her to let her in and he sat up straighter as he waited.

Alex walked in and smiled when she saw Jack. He had always been a great resource for her when she needed help with a case and she was thrilled that he had been elected DA in her absence. "Jack, it's great to see you," she said, walking over to give him a hug.

Jack returned the hug then motioned for Alex to sit down. He sat behind his desk and smiled, "Alexandra Cabot, as I live and breathe. This is quite the surprise, you look remarkably well for a ghost." Jack's smile and affable tone revealed he was joking. "What brings you to these 'hallowed halls' Alex?"

Alex got comfortable in the soft leather chair and crossed one leg over the other, "Well, as unbelievable as this is going to sound, I'm here to apply for a job..."

Jack looked at the blonde for a few moments, "You're not serious. You actually want to come back here?"

"Yes, but as you can imagine, I would like to avoid working with my old unit. I just don't feel comfortable with SVU anymore," she said, though there were more reasons than she was letting on, namely Olivia.

Jack looked at the blonde for a few moments. "That's too bad, SVU seems to have had a run of bad luck with their ADAs lately. Casey Novak had her license suspended for a year after and then we brought in a rookie named Greylek who seems to be having a hard time fitting in with the squad. I'm sure they wouldn't mind it if you came back, but I can respect your decision not to return." Jack said with a smile. He paused for a moment as he looked at his roster to see where else there was an opening. "Well, we are happy to take you back but there are only two openings for ADAs right now. One is in Appeals and the other is with the 12th Precinct's Homicide Division." Homicide was such a big division of the DA's office that it was divided up by precincts to make the caseload easier to manage.

Alex thought about her two options and decided that Homicide seemed like the lesser of two evils. She hated Appeals with a passion and even though Homicide could be gruesome, she would be working with detectives and doing what she had done with SVU, just without the living victims. She looked at Jack and said, "I'd like Homicide."

Jack grinned, "I figured you would. In that case, welcome back to the team Alex. I'll call Human Resources and tell them to expect you tomorrow to get the paperwork started so you can come back. You'll start on Monday. The Captain at the 12th is Roy Montgomery, you might want to meet with him first thing on Monday and, um, get acquainted." Then he paused a moment before he said, "I'll see what I can do about getting you your old office back...unless you want a different one…" Jack realized that maybe her old office would have too many memories lingering and she'd prefer a fresh start in that department too.

"Actually, I wouldn't mind something new, if that's ok," she said. She didn't want that old office, again, for many reasons. She needed a change of pace and a new office would definitely be welcomed.

Jack nodded, "No problem. I can't guarantee it'll be ready by Monday but I'll do my best. If you have to, you can always use one of the interrogation rooms at the precinct until I have your office sorted." Jack paused for a moment as he thought of how to ask Alex what he was thinking without overstepping his bounds. "Um, Alex, have you um...have you called anyone from the Special Victims Unit? To let them know you're back in New York I mean. From what I remember, you were a fairly tight-knit group before you...went away and you might not want them to find out you're back through the press, or do you?"

"I haven't contacted them, no. I think I just need a little bit of time to get settled in before I call. I'd appreciate it if you would keep all this quiet. I don't want them to know that I've been assigned to the 12th precinct."

Jack nodded, "I'll keep a lid on it for as long as I can but Alex, you should be realistic here. You essentially, came back from the dead, there's going to be some press, so you should prepare for that." Before he could say more, there was a knock on his door and his secretary popped her head in, "Sorry Mr. McCoy but Mr. Cutter and Ms. Rubirosa are waiting for you in the conference room, along with Mr. Davidson and his new attorney Mr. Langan." Jack nodded and she left the room. He turned to Alex, "I'm sorry to cut this short but I think Davidson's about to take a deal and he made it clear he won't talk unless I'm there."

"Of course. Thank you again for everything Jack. I'll take the weekend to consider my return strategy. Good luck," she said and then left his office.

Jack watched her go and sighed, she was going to have a rough road for a bit as she settled back into the job and dealt with the press but he knew she would handle it with grace. Jack went to the conference room to deal with Davidson and Langan.

Alex returned back to the hotel and started to think about how and when she was going to tell her old friends that she was home. It wasn't going to be easy, that much she knew, but she figured she'd have a flash of brilliance and come up with some way to make it less painful.

Part 11

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